Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Live on Location

The end of the semester came and went, my hurriedness finally reaching a zenith when I stayed up and worked on my final of final papers for a good 24 hours straight. That was in addition to the several hours I had already put into it. I ended up getting an A- in the class for which I wrote this paper, while I managed an A in my remaining classes. I blame this lone discrepency on the fact that no human can possibly compose a decent 20-page paper within a 48-hour timeframe, going on approximately 7 hours of sleep and having to do all the proofreading and edits immediately upon conclusion of the paper (when one is as sleep deprived and sick of writing as one can possibly be). All things considered, I should be quite happy, but I admit I was a tad disappointed. Oh well.

Melanie and I returned to the Salt Lake City area to spend the holidays with our beloved families. Living the student life, we have the good fortune of being able to spend a full three weeks here. We're halfway through it, and it's passing quickly. In fact, it doesn't even feel like we've been visiting with people all that much. We are staying with Melanie's parents (and two brothers who still live at home), but on a daily basis, we still spend a decent amount of time tending to Edison and not feeling like we're being all that social. People do their own things a good deal of the time. We visit my family, but it always feels over all too quickly. It's amazing how much we feel we haven't visited, considering we're here. But I don't want to give the wrong impression. We're having a good time, and it's been a great joy to be around those people we love. I also realize how much I miss being in a city I know like the back of my hand. Assuming I leave Atlanta when I'm done with my master's degree (which is the plan), I'd be 58 before I could even possibly have lived in another city as long as I've lived in SLC. And that's if I move somewhere in 2008 and don't end up leaving it for 28 years. Not likely. I guess my point is that comfortability means a lot. And I miss it.

I thought I'd write a few times while I'm here in SLC, and I thought I'd write within a day or two of getting here. Obviously that hasn't happened, and I'm not sure it'll happen again before I head "home" to Atlanta. That'll be on January 4th, so this will likely be my final post until a few days after that. Although my in-laws acquired high-speed Internet whilst we were away, blogging isn't my current priority. In fact, this week is quickly becoming loaded with plans. There are several friends Melanie and I have yet to visit, and we're realizing time is running out. We have to have plans almost everyday now in order to see everyone.

I guess this is a fairly boring post. I'm not taking the time to be creative. Again, that's something that'll have to wait until the new year. I believe there'll be plenty to say, so stay tuned. Oh, and a belated Merry Christmas to all those who celebrate it. Li'l Eddie scored a decent amount of stuff, which leaves Melanie and me to figure out how we'll ever get it home. It's questionable that we will. But that's something I'll have to tell you about after the fact. For now, I'm on the verge of falling asleep. I did take the time to update my sidebar, if that's of interest to you. And I may update In the Key of Orange in a moment. Check it and see. Until then...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Busy, Happy, Alive

One week of classes left to go. One final exam still to be taken, thirty pages of essays still to be written. I’m alive and well, all things considered. It will be a difficult week, but I could certainly be feeling worse about it all. As I recently mentioned, this has been a fantastic and rewarding semester. One benefit of loving what you do is that you … well, you love it. I’ve got a lot on my plate, but it’s all stuff I’m interested in. The time constraints are the only things making it even slightly negative. But I feel pretty confident. More often than I should admit, I’ve had to rush the writing of my papers, and yet they’ve always turned out being rather good. I’ve been quite flattered by the comments I’ve been receiving from my instructors. It’s nice to feel that I’m waxing strong as a graduate student, honing my skills and becoming more and more of a professional. It’s exciting.

In further great news, the philosophy department at GSU recently revamped the requirements for a master’s degree, which means I have more flexibility in the classes I choose to take. This opened up new possibilities for me regarding next semester. Of course, being such an indecisive bloke, this initially sent my head spinning, unsure of what classes I most wanted to take. But I think I’ve finally made a permanent decision. If all goes according to my current plan, the classes I’ll be taking in the spring are as follows: Philosophy of Mind (which deals with issues like, is there a difference between the brain and the mind?); Hegel (a 19th-century German philosopher whom I’ve never studied); Wittgenstein (a 20th-century Austrian philosopher whom I’ve never studied); and a Seminar in Religious Studies. As a bonus, I will not have any classes on Fridays, which will be absolutely lovely. I’ll have to be disciplined and spend the day on homework, but it’ll be nice for those occasions (such as Spring Break or my sister’s upcoming wedding) when I may want to leave town or otherwise extend my weekend.

That’s life at the moment. Thanksgiving was great and I should probably say more about it, but I probably never will, knowing me. If you’re looking for some good entertainment, I’ve run into a handful of it lately. For a good read, try A Clockwork Orange. For a good flick, go rent Lucky Number Slevin. If you’re more into TV, The Amazing Race and Top Chef both have at least two more episodes in their current seasons. As for music recommendations, I’ve been quite taken with a double-disc anthology of The Doors titled Legacy: The Absolute Best. ‘Tis not to be missed.

Fare thee well for now, faithful readers!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Pics From a Proud Papa

Usually it is Melanie who keeps up with posting photos of Edison, but I’m so in love with the kid, I have to share some too. In just the last couple of days, he’s started being able to sit up by himself. He’s even raised himself to a sitting position a couple of times. Needless to say, we’ve gone a little crazy with the camera over it. Most of the photos below demonstrate this, as you will see. Enjoy!

I tried to nonchalantly snap this photo over Melanie’s shoulder, but Eddie was a little too smart for such antics. He looked right at me.

Here he is, looking a little tired but studly in his button-up shirt. The whole “growing up too fast” phase is officially upon us.

This is Eddie in what I believe they call an “exersaucer.” We tried it out for the first time just yesterday, and he seems to like it pretty well as you can see. While the frequency of his smiling has gradually been on the rise for quite some time now, it seems to have increased in its increasing just this past week.

And here are a slew of photos taken just today, with Ed in his studly button-up again but taking it to the next level of coolness with the addition of a denim jacket. I find these so cute, I had to post a few. Darn camera had a hard time with the lighting and ended up blurring my very favorite photo, though—and slightly washing out Eddie’s face in a couple others. Such is life. They’re still adorable pics.

And in case I don’t get to say it later this week, HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL!

(We certainly know what I’m grateful for!)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Potpourri No. 15

It seems like everyday, there’s a good 24 hours worth of crap going on. Here’s some of the most recent happenings…

Feeling Peachy
Melanie and I finally got our Georgia State driver’s licenses and license plate. It felt weird, kind of like we were moving all over again. All those strange feelings of thinking, “hey, we’re no longer Utahans!” came flooding back to us. It was like consummating our marriage to a new part of the country. It’s still bizarre whenever I open up my wallet and see my smiling face superimposed onto an official, Georgia-government issued piece of plastic. But, perhaps an even bigger change, I’ve now chosen to be an organ donor. I just couldn’t see any rational basis for a posthumous coveting of my ooey-gooeys. I used to be adamantly opposed to organ donation, at least for myself, but I could no longer justify it in my mind and decided I’d much rather err on the side of charity. So … certified Benny K bits available (hopefully not too) soon!

The Buck Starts Here
Sensitive to our current financial situation and vastly limited by our four-month-old son when it comes to recreational activity, Melanie and I have started taking advantage of those movie rental kiosks that are springing up at grocery stores and fast-food joints all over the country. On the chance that you don’t know what I’m talking about, these are movie rental vending machines where, for the low price of $1 per day, you can check out a movie just by swiping your credit or debit card and following some simple onscreen prompts. The machine spits out your DVD and, once you return the movie, charges you for the number of days you’ve kept it. If you’re diligent, it’s an incredibly cost-effective way of renting movies, far cheaper than running to Blockbuster or Hollywood Video. Of course, I’m just waiting for the day we get an incredibly scratched-up DVD or return a movie that somehow fails to get “checked in” and then have to call an 800-number and be put on hold for 45 minutes before we can talk to someone to get it all straightened out. It’s bound to happen. I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t. And yet I’ll keep going back until that day comes. Don’t worry, you’ll certainly hear all about it when it does.

Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
Speaking of money, the other day a transient woman came up to me and blessed me, “in Jesus’ name,” that I would find $5,000 in my backpack. So far I’ve only found two out-of-ink pens and a smashed up pack of peanut butter crackers, but I’m keeping my eyes peeled and my fingers crossed.

Write On!
I’ve done the math and it looks like I’ve got about 60 pages worth of essays to write over the next few weeks, give or take. That’s a bit intimidating. But, before I get too exhausted and frustrated to admit it, I have to say this has been the most productive and rewarding semester of school I’ve ever known. I’ve never felt so personally enriched as I have over these last few months. I’m learning a ton, and I’m excited for the future. What more could a student possibly want?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Music to My Ears

Melanie has made a grave mistake.

The other day I was telling my wonderful wife how, on a rough average, I own a CD for every 21 days that I’ve lived. I jokingly said that this is a trend I need to continue. In response, she told me that, as soon as I listen to all of the CDs I already own but have never opened, I can start buying a new CD every three weeks.

Big, big mistake.

I have spent the last half week or so listening to CDs fairly constantly, and what a great deal of fun it’s been. Some of these CDs I’ve owned for years and have never taken them out of their plastic. That may sound odd, but CDs are a weakness of mine. Then again, it’s not as if I purchased these CDs all willy-nilly like. They weren’t bought on impulse. Most of them are albums I’ve already heard, ones I know I want to own, and I just haven’t gotten around to listening to them since they rightfully became a part of my personal property. Some I initially checked out from my local library, put them on my computer so I could conveniently listen to them, and then decided they were good enough to keep. So I bought them but left the original copied version on my hard drive. Because I can listen to these albums at any time without having to open anything (other than Windows Media Player), it only makes sense that the CDs themselves have been collecting dust ever since. Only a handful of these unopened CDs have been albums I’ve never heard whatsoever, and yet these are all by artists I know and trust. Those have been the fun discoveries of the week, seeing as how the majority of songs on those albums are completely new to me. Musicians with albums falling into this latter category include Edie Brickell, Collective Soul, Stone Temple Pilots, and Weezer. What fun!

Melanie admitted she’s surprised I’ve dived into this challenge as aggressively as I have. Initially, even as she witnessed my determination, she was always quick to remind me that she’s “not worried in the slightest.” She said she expects it to take me up to five years to get through all of them. But I think she’s finally beginning to worry. And rightfully so. We don’t have money to spend on such frivolities as CDs. But it’s too good an offer to pass up, so I have to pursue it. When we end up homeless because I insist on keeping Melanie to her word, I’ll definitely have to get one of those shopping carts that are so in vogue with vagabonds these days. I’ll beam with pride as I push my cart full of 600 CDs about town, mocking my fellow transients and their clich├ęd carts full of pop cans. Sure, I won’t have anything to listen to my myriad CDs on, but in that case, I’ll be getting as much use out of them then as I am now. Only my collection will steadily be growing—once every three weeks…

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Honeymoon's Over -- Or is It?

Melanie and I have now lived in Atlanta for almost three months (is that all?). The feeling of being enamored of our new apartment is gradually beginning to subside, especially as our upstairs neighbors suddenly find themselves very enamored of each other. What’s odd is that we’re fairly certain it’s the neighbors we’ve always had, yet their romantic habits have changed dramatically in just the past two or three weeks. It’s been less than subtle, which makes me wonder why, in my approximate four years of living in apartments, I’ve never heard such outpourings of love from an upstairs or next-door neighbor before. It can’t be a thinness of the walls or ceilings, for (overall) I’ve heard less of my neighbors here than anywhere I’ve lived previous. I guess my current neighbors are just a little more enthusiastic about their relationship. Or a lot more energetic. Or both.

The reason we’re so certain it’s the same neighbors we’ve had all along is that we’ve heard their affections before. Only once or twice, with weeks passing in between the occasions, but those past performances bore a strikingly similar cadence to the one we now know by heart. In fact, these passionate trysts have turned into a nightly ritual, occurring up to three times in one 24-hour period, anytime between 8 p.m. and sunrise. Recently, I even woke up around 4 a.m. and was surprised that I hadn’t heard them at all during the night. I turned to Melanie, who gave up sleeping altogether about four months ago, and said that, if we didn’t hear something within the next hour, I’d have to go upstairs and make sure they were okay. About 45 minutes later, we were relieved to hear that our upstairs neighbors were as twitterpated as ever.

Initially rather disturbed and annoyed, I’ve come to accept their romantic romps, much like you’d get used to the rumbles of a passing train car if you lived near the tracks. The episodes are relatively brief; I’m fairly certain we’ve only been privy to the last act or two of their amorous play. Still, the grand finale is quite a showstopper, something that would definitely threaten a deep sleep. Thankfully that lasts only about 30 seconds, so the total sleep lost remains fairly minimal. With these neighbors having so graciously opened up to us, I now feel obligated to take the next step, to go upstairs and meet them in person. I’m just afraid they’ll want Melanie and me to make something quite different than cookies as a way of introducing ourselves. Unfortunately, I’m not one to show off, which means Melanie and I will just have to remain our anti-social selves. Oh, and we’ll also need to buy some earplugs, just in case we do want a full night’s sleep sometime in the near future...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween '06: Passing Down the Ladle

Halloween has been Melanie’s and my first major holiday away from home. Halloween itself has never been that special to me, but there are traditions that our living in Georgia has caused us to miss out on. Case in point: my mother-in-law’s annual stew and breadsticks extravaganza. For as long as Melanie can remember, and for as long as I can remember Melanie, Halloween dinner has consisted of a hearty homemade beef stew and garlic parmesan breadsticks. Being away from home, we’ve missed out on this ritual for the first time in years. Melanie, however, has quite charmingly taken to the reins, simulating with commendable precision the aforementioned dish. It’s not only kept us mindful of the people and places we love, it’s marked an official transition from childhood to parenthood. While too young to eat any of it himself, Edison will always associate this meal with his mother, and it started this very day.

The stew also served to remind Melanie and myself that it was indeed Halloween. Not having dressed up, not having carved a pumpkin, not having received even one trick-or-treater at the door, it was hard to tell it was a holiday at all. Our plans to dress Li’l Eddie as a professor fell through when we had trouble finding a li’l bow tie and some li’l glasses (not that he would have let them stay on his face anyway). And the only costume ideas I had for myself were all very last minute and unimpressive—for example, a student who actually enjoys his Kant class*, a nudist in denial, or just plain nudity.

So while Halloween was a near bust, we made do. And now there’s a whole bowl full of candy for Melanie and me to steadily work into our diets. Furthermore, one of my classes did coincidentally get canceled, meaning something special did occur other than our having some delicious stew. But being able to watch Melanie step into a role so characteristic (in our minds at least) of motherhood was by far the biggest treat of the day.

*Lest there be any confusion, I actually find Kant’s philosophy quite exquisite. My Kant class, on the other hand, can be a bit drab.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Don’t adjust your monitors. There have indeed been some slight changes in the appearance of Sucking on Oranges. In honor of this, my 150th post, I’ve updated to the new, more customizable format being offered by Blogger, and I think good things will come of it. For now, it’s wreaked a bit of havoc on my sidebar—namely, deleting the vast majority of information once found there. But never fear; the superfluous information will be reinstated all too soon. And if I once featured a link to your page, you will continue to receive my wholehearted endorsement. The thousands of people who visit your site purely because of the link on my page will not abandon you.

So while it is true that, for all intents and purposes, my page is “under construction,” I urge you to give it a good perusal. One of the features I am most excited about is the ability to “label” individual posts. That is, you can assign categories to a post, such as “Pets” if you wrote about your dog, or “Pests” if you wrote about Peter Gallagher. Then your readers can click on the label “Pets” (or “Pests”) and see all the posts you’ve written that also have that label. I’m still working on going back and labeling my posts accordingly, and I may tinker around a bit with the actual label names before I’m completely satisfied. But if you’re even slightly intrigued, give it a test run by clicking one of the labels at the end of this post (i.e. Blogging, Special Occasions). You can also find a comprehensive list of all the labels I’ve ever used in, of course, the sidebar.

Until then, keep checking in. Some exciting posts are on their way, and you won’t want to miss out! I’ve got tales of sexual intrigue, cosmic perplexities of the most unintelligible kind, culinary catastrophes, and all of it’s true! So continue to stop by when time permits, enjoy watching me redecorate, and know that I’m doing this because I love you.

By the way, if you’re interested in updating your own blog, you’ll have to have a Google user account. If you don’t have a Google account, they’re worth getting, if for nothing else than their superior email system (Gmail). Currently, you have to have an invitation to open a Gmail account, either by requesting one to be sent to your cell phone or by having another Gmail user send you an invitation via email. I’ll happily send you such an invitation if desired—just leave me a comment (and your email address if I don’t know it) and let me know that’s what you want. You won’t regret it, and it will make the switchover to the new blog format all the easier.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Lazing Sneezing on a Sunday Afternoon

Once again it’s a lazy Sunday, which means I actually have an opportunity to write. I wanted to write sooner, but life’s been crazy—the normal excuse. Here’s what’s been going down…

Last Saturday I celebrated my 28th birthday. My parents came to visit and took me to The Cheesecake Factory. A wonderful gesture. I gorged myself on Avocado Egg Rolls (which Melanie and I had discovered on our honeymoon), Steak Diane and Chicken Madeira, and Mixed Berry Custard Almond Crunch Cheesecake. The latter proved disappointing, despite its decadent name. It’s easily the least impressive of the 8 or so flavors of TCF cheesecake I’ve tried in my life (though I’m not a big chocolate fan, so I’d probably opt for it before any chocolate-based cheesecakes—maybe). Still, TCF has continued to blow me away with all of their other culinary creations, and so they remain one of the best (if not the best) chain restaurants I’ve ever been to.

After an enjoyable weekend, I came crashing down into the worst illness I’ve had in years. I consider myself to be the kind of person that gets sick only rarely, so catching a cold was quite a doozy to begin with. And, though I’m generally inclined to view colds as the least debilitating illness one can contract, this one held no punches. I was miserable, I was devoid of all energy, I had the worst headache I think I’ve ever had. Fortunately I don’t have any classes on Wednesdays this semester, so I only had to miss one day of school. But my homework suffered terribly, which means I’ve spent this whole weekend preparing for a presentation I have to give tomorrow, which means I’ve yet to start on the 10-page paper I have to do for Tuesday. Yikes! All prayers are welcome.

The sad thing now is that Edison has come down with the cold. He’s sneezing, he’s coughing, he’s a bit fevery. Poor little fella. And yet he still has the energy to smile at me, quite often in fact. What a perfect kid. (More evidence of his perfection can be found here.) Melanie’s also feeling a bit blah, but she’s keeping strong. She’s an impressive one, she is. Feel free to offer some prayers on their behalf as well.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Potpourri No. 14

It’s been five months since I’ve busted out the potpourri and it’s starting to get a bit stuffy in here. It’s time to clear the air!

Gas Pains
In moving from Salt Lake City to Atlanta, I was certain gas prices would be a bit steeper. This hasn’t been the case. In fact, it turns out SLC has some of the highest prices in the nation (as my friend recently discussed here). I’m Shell (and Sinclair, and Chevron, etc.) shocked, but obviously pleased that at least one aspect of ATL is going to be cheaper. In fact, I filled up my car for about $21 the other day, the least I’ve paid in who knows how long. How much did I pay per gallon? Just $2.11! Blimey!

Plenty of Time for Chinese Fire Drills
While on the theme of transportation, I initially reported that Atlanta traffic hadn’t bogged me down as much as I’d expected. When it comes to the Interstate, that is mostly true—it does tend to keep moving, even when horrendously slow. However, I’ve had plenty of experiences since that time that have made me feel livid, and almost all of them have been on the regular roads. There is one street in particular, about 2.5 miles from my apartment, where many a business resides. When I went for a haircut this week, I had to drive this road for just under two miles. Thanks to my receding hairline, my haircut took about five minutes. Getting to the haircut establishment took about 35-40 minutes. No, I’m not kidding. And when Melanie and I braved this road for the sake of buying the new Barenaked Ladies album, it took us even longer to go even less distance. I’m starting to doubt that I’ll feel heartbroken when I leave Atlanta two years from now.

Do You Hear What I Hear?
Speaking of the new Barenaked Ladies album, there have been some pleasant developments in the world of entertainment. In conjunction with their new music, BNL has added Atlanta to their list of tour stops. Melanie and I have been to four BNL concerts over their last three tours, so we’re incredibly hopeful that we can make it to their November 9th performance. We’re looking for babysitters, so please leave your pertinent info in a comment! Aside from music, Amazing Race debuted its tenth season a couple of weeks ago. Catch it Sunday nights on CBS. And did I mention that Melanie and I have cable TV? This is not something we had ever planned on acquiring, but I’ll write more about it later—it’s a story worthy of its own post.

Does This Baby Come with GPS?
Question of the week: why do babies want you to be standing when you hold them? How can they tell a difference? Edison has followed infantile tradition and, quite often, fusses unless you’re on your feet whilst you hold him. And I thought I’d read my schoolbooks while taking care of the little guy. Silly me.

My Better Half and Then Some
Melanie has done a much better job getting pictures of Edison on the web and reporting on his latest habits. I discreetly added her blog to my sidebar a few months ago, but I’m now giving it a wholehearted and boisterous endorsement. Check it out here! I guess it’s sad that I have to point my readers to another page in order to keep up on the most important facets of my life, but so be it…

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Atlanta Chronicles: Homeland Security

As I reported in my first posting about Atlanta, I’ve felt safer in my new town than I ever could have expected. Even now, having grown accustomed to a daily commute downtown via public transit, my opinion hasn’t changed. I have never felt leery of the situations or places I’ve encountered. Still, when it comes to safety concerns, there are a few things Atlanta has taught me, namely that…

1. Gated communities provide about as much protection as standing behind the automatic sliding doors at the supermarket. I know because now I live in one—a gated community, that is, not a supermarket. Luckily, this wasn’t a selling point when I signed my lease; otherwise, I’d be sorely disappointed. To begin with, it’s incredibly rare that one actually needs the gate keycard to get in. During my first week of living in my new apartment, I had to use my card about 30% of the time. The rest of the time, another car had entered recently enough that the gate was still wide open and you could just pull through. On the rare occasion that the gate isn’t already open, you can just as easily pull over and wait one or two minutes before someone else will let you in (whether wanting to or not). When I do use my card, it’s not uncommon for two or three other cars to make it in on my swipe. And, for about two weeks now, the “out” gate has been stuck open anyway. Heck, I’ve stopped to swipe my card for access to the “in” gate and had impatient people zoom around me to go through the “out” gate just to save those few seconds of waiting. So, while I may be slightly less likely to be the victim of a random act of crime, I hardly feel protected.

2. Beggars can be stingy. On my first day of school at Georgia State University, I came out of the downtown train station feeling somewhat disoriented. As such I took off in the exact opposite direction of my school. Before long I was skeptical about my whereabouts, and as I tried to figure out where I was and where I needed to go, a man started following me around asking me for money. I offered him some change, but he quickly quelled my apparent naivete by explaining that his cross-town rendezvous would require several dollars. I then offered him a dollar, which apparently offended him, or so I’m guessing by his disgusted retort of, “Oh c’mon, man!” I told him that I too had to take a bus trip later that day and could spare no more, and finally he obliged to accept my donation. Which leaves me thinking, homeless people would simultaneously save money and eliminate 80% of begging if they stopped making appointments all over town (what appointments are they making anyway???). I understand their wanting to hold homeless conventions in the nicer, suburban parks, but why not cross the street to the downtown park that you’re planning to sleep in that night anyway? Beggars may not be able to be choosers, but surely they can be more pragmatic! (Momentary Academic had a similar run-in with an ungrateful vagabond—see here.)

3. Cellular phones cause crime sprees as well as brain cancer and car wrecks. It seems everywhere here has a policy against using cell phones while transacting business. While I could make sense of this if you were, say, at a gaming table in a casino, I’m talking about the mundane business we all take part in on a regular basis. Convenience stores, banks, and the like all have signs prohibiting the use of cellular phones while one is at the counter. I even heard a bus driver tell a passenger not to talk on his cell phone while he tried to ask the driver a question. Surely there’s a reason for this, and it’s easy enough to assume it has to do with security. But, failing to be a criminal mastermind, I’ve yet to figure out how a contemporaneous telephone conversation could aid you in committing armed robbery. I suppose you could be instructing your get-away driver when to pull the car around, or describing something key about the particular situation you’re in (number of employees on the premises, guards, cameras, etc.). But, with plenty of people text-messaging more fluently than they can speak, couldn’t all of this “sensitive” information be getting passed along from the discreet confines of one’s own pocket? If an actual phone call were in progress, at least you’d know what information is being communicated.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Two Years and Still Sucking

Happy birthday to my blog. It was two years ago today that I first made my Weblogging appearance, and I’m proud to see that my page just keeps on sucking (though sometimes more than others—read that how you will). I remember announcing my one-year anniversary in 2005, and it’s hard to believe another year has already passed. And what a monumental year it has been! I’ve gone from being a single, childless, classics student in Salt Lake City, Utah to a happily married father and master’s student of philosophy in Atlanta, Georgia. My day-to-day life scarcely resembles what it did the last time I celebrated a blog birthday. For the most part, this is a wonderful thing. I’m inching ever so slightly toward the life I’ve always dreamed of and anticipated. I wouldn’t go back one year for a million dollars … I’m not sure how literally I mean that, but it’s fairly accurate.

Although I feel there’s much I could ramble on about, it would be inappropriate to commemorate the passing of another year by talking only about these last few weeks. But, rather than rehash the self-congratulatory and self-serving annual recap I provided last year, I thought I’d present an interactive (re: fun!) quiz to test your knowledge of the previous twelve months of Sucking on Oranges. This way we forgo the self-congratulations and stick purely to the self-serving. It’s as close to a win-win situation as we’re going to get.

Now I know my posting frequency has dwindled since I got married, and even more so since I’ve had a son and moved across the country. In turn I believe few people even look at my blog anymore, and if they do, they don’t do so very often. That means nobody should expect to do well on the quiz. But that’s beside the point. Taking it will both bring you up to speed on my life and, hopefully, cause a modest amount of amusement to swell within your breast (or, in certain cases, boob).

Without further ado, I now present the Sucking on Oranges Two-Year Anniversary Quiz o’ Spectacularity!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Atlanta Chronicles

Having just moved to a new city, it seems fitting that I would document my acclimatization to that city. While some people are well versed in cross-continental moves, it is a wholly new experience for me. Of my near 28 years of existence, 18 of them were lived in the same house. And until three weeks ago, I had never changed cities. So, although my readers may not be interested in Atlanta per se, it seems pertinent to catalog an event as monumental as my moving across the country. And so begin The Atlanta Chronicles…

In this first edition of TAC, I shall address the subject of the weather. A hackneyed topic of conversation to be sure, but one cannot speak of comfort zones—nor the breaking through thereof—without confronting something so rudimentary. Atlanta has proven to be no exception. It’s humid. Very humid. And this is something I’m still adapting to. Whenever I step outside, it feels as though I’ve entered a sauna. Oddly enough, I find it cooler here than in Salt Lake City, but the moisture makes the air thick and unpleasant. On a handful of occasions, I have gotten out of a nice, air-conditioned car only to have my eyeglasses immediately fog up, which can be quite a nuisance. Furthermore, I feel like I’m sweating a great deal more than I did in SLC. But does this make sense? Intuition suggests that heat would influence sweating more than humidity would, but Atlanta seems to prove otherwise. If you’re scientifically inclined, please feel free to enlighten me.

Apart from the extreme humidity, Atlanta has also introduced me to severe thunderstorms. Now, the meteorologists in Utah were known to issue severe thunderstorm warnings from time to time, but they apparently have quite a different conception of the word “severe” than Atlantans do. The best way I can describe the Georgian thunderstorms I’ve experienced thus far is to say this: imagine the sound of empty freight train cars dropping from the sky. Going for accuracy over poetry, I do believe this captures the essence of it. The disappointing thing is that, when the sky goes gray and the rain begins to fall, my brain is accustomed to expect a crisp, cool breeze when I walk outside. But it remains muggy, and then I feel gypped. Looking at it from behind your living room window, Atlanta does a pretty good job of emulating Seattle. Stick your head outside and it’s a brutal reminder that you’re far from the Pacific Northwest.

Luckily, our apartment has central air. The outside world has little bearing on how comfortable we feel inside our home. Prior to the move, I mentioned this as a key incentive to embarking on this adventure. Now that I’m here, I’m all the more convinced that central air alone has made the move worthwhile.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Greetings from Atlanta!

At the risk of repeating myself, “Greetings from Atlanta!” This post will be nothing more than a postcard of sorts to let y’all know that Eddie, Melanie, and I are doing just fine. We’re settled in, we’re safe, we’re healthy, we’re happy. In order to get this message to you (and to do some other highly important things), I’m relying on my philosophy department computer lab (correction—philosophy graduate student computer lab … I’m in the big leagues now!). My home Internet service won’t be active until this weekend, at the very earliest. But once I’m all setup at home, I’ll post much more regularly. Honest.

In the meantime, here are some of my first observations of, as the hip people call it, ATL:

1. The water tastes fine here. Not that I heard it didn’t, but you know how different water can taste from state to state. Earlier this year I experienced the rancid taste of Arkansian water, and given its greater geographical proximity to Georgia, I was a bit worried that Atlanta water would taste just as nasty. But, I’m very pleased to say, our Georgian water has no noticeable taste to it at all—which is just the way I like it.

2. Georgians are quite friendly. At least when it comes to those persons working in the customer service industry. I’ve yet to chat it up with strangers, but when I’ve been dealing with people on a professional level (whether bankers or fast-food employees), I’ve found them to be extremely pleasant. Utah may have a reputation for churning out super-congenial personalities (think Osmonds), but Georgia has quickly charmed me.

3. Georgians love their chicken and waffles. I’ve never seen so many varieties of fast-food fried chicken. Church’s Chicken, Popeye’s Chicken, Mrs. Winner’s Chicken, as well as the more nationally recognized KFC (which, believe it or not, made its debut in my hometown of Salt Lake City). And there are others I can’t even remember. Almost equally as prevalent is the number of waffle houses. Foremost among these is, coincidentally enough, Waffle House, a restaurant chain whose myriad locations outnumber Georgians at a ratio of about 3:1. Atlanta even features restaurants that specialize in both chicken and waffles. So, if you get a hankering for either (or, better yet, for both) these foods, just let me know and I’ll setup my guest room. Of course I won’t give you my address, but you’ll be in my thoughts nevertheless.

4. Atlanta is not nearly as intimidating a city as I had expected. Coming from Utah, I expected Atlanta to feel threatening on many levels. I expected to feel overwhelmed by the traffic, by the crime, and by the sheer magnitude of the city. So far I have not felt any of those things. While the downtown traffic (including the most central parts of the Interstates) is undeniably tedious, it somehow manages to keep itself moving. It slows down—way down—but I’ve never seen it altogether stopped. That’s something. And if you stick to the belt route, traffic is even more tolerable. Whenever I’ve needed to, I’ve been able to go from one side of the city to the other within 25-35 minutes. I wouldn’t have expected such. Downtown Atlanta also houses the city’s most seedy-looking areas, but I’ve yet to run into a neighborhood that fills my heart with anxiety, much less terror. Now, I realize I’ve come to these conclusions rather quickly, and I’ve yet to try anything adventurous enough to really prove myself wrong. Yet the fact remains that I feel much more at ease here than I would have expected. And I wager I’ll only feel more and more at home as time goes on.

So there you have it. Those are my most immediate and initial impressions. There’s plenty more I can write about, but don’t expect anything before next week. I promise I’ll write then. In the meantime, thanks for checking in…

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

One Week and Counting

One week from today, Melanie, Edison, and I will be moving to Atlanta. It’s that close. It’s that unbelievable. We’re not nearly as packed as we should be. The four weeks or so since Eddie made his post-utero debut have kept us plenty busy. On top of providing for our newborn, we’ve been: switching out our health insurance, reserving hotel rooms, filling out forms for students loans and graduate assistantships, faxing and mailing those forms, hunting down proof of my immunizations, canceling our local phone service and other utilities, figuring out how to forward our mail when we’re not sure of our forwarding address quite yet, etc. etc. It’s surprising the work this move entails that doesn’t involve packing boxes.

Luckily, we’ve had a lot of support from family and friends. People have been kind enough to bring us dinner—lasagna, hamburgers, lasagna, meatballs and rice, lasagna, pizza, and lasagna, for example. With the support of loved ones and the passing of time, I’ve actually started to feel like I can handle this whole fatherhood thing, let alone the move. The first couple of days of Edison’s life, before we had even left the hospital, I was filled with monumental anxiety. Now life almost feels normal again—a vastly new and improved kind of normal, but normal. And though everything will change again next Tuesday, I’m actually kind of excited. It’ll be nice to de-junk, which moving always encourages one to do, and I’ll be thrilled to live in a new apartment (for various reasons attested to in posts past). Despite the fear of Southern humidity, the prospect of a Georgia apartment equipped with central air is much more titillating than my Salt Lake City apartment, which features a semi-functional air conditioner that cools—at best—most of one room.

I hope this won’t be my final post before embarking on this journey. Once we lave Salt Lake City, I’m not sure how quickly I’ll have Internet access or the time to write. But surely I’ll do my best to chronicle the adventure. For now, I hope everyone is enjoying August. More importantly, I hope you’ll enjoy these new photos of my son.

Eddie’s favorite sleeping position involves crossing one leg over the other. If he’s asleep (and not in our arms), there’s good odds you’ll find him striking a pose similar to this one.

Edison at his monkey-ist.

Purely of his own accord, our sleeping baby took on a pose that demanded we grab the camera. Only his drying umbilical cord—admittedly somewhat ghastly—would prevent an observer from being all smiles.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Eddie or Not

With a matter of hours—days at best—remaining until my son is born, it seems I ought to expound upon this silent post from March. For those who don’t know, Melanie and I are on the verge of having our first child. His name is Edison. He is due Thursday, July 13th. He will be born much sooner. Or so we are fairly certain. Melanie has been having contractions for over a week and, at last check, was dilated just past a 3 and 80-90% effaced. Contractions get more intense, they get closer together, but then they gradually subside, keeping us just shy of what would be deemed “active labor.” The hospital doesn’t want to see you until you’re in active labor. And so we wait.

This morning Melanie was having quite regular, fairly strong contractions that made us think it could happen today. But, as always, they’ve mellowed a bit. (Then they return. Then they decrease.) Being teased like this gives us plenty of opportunity to ponder the idea of having a baby on the fourth of July. Though Melanie has become rather indifferent and just wishes Edison would be born, there are pros and cons to having a July 4th baby. On the pro side is the fact that I’m home from work. Melanie won’t have to call me and wait 20 minutes for me to get home, or end up relying on somebody else to get her to the hospital (which she wouldn’t do unless she really didn’t think she could wait). It’d also provide an extra day off of work. I had already planned on missing five days, so I could have a full week at home with Eddie as a newborn. If he comes on a holiday, that’s just a bonus. And, most importantly, he’ll be here sooner, which Melanie and I are very eager to have happen.

On the downside, Edison will forever be associated with Independence Day. People will act like he should be ultra-patriotic or have red, white, and blue birthday decorations every year. For gifts he’ll be given sparklers or t-shirts with the flag on it. He’ll always have to choose between celebrating his birthday with fireworks, or working his birthday plans around the fireworks, or just not seeing the fireworks at all. Either way, being born on a day that celebrates freedom will greatly diminish his own. That’s irony for you. And, in a prideful way, Melanie and I prefer he not be born on July 4th merely because everyone we know already thinks that’s when it will happen. I guess they find the notion cosmically profound. Or, as my cousin Aunt Grandma recently said, “We need another July 4th baby around here,” referring, of course, to my great-grandfather whom I never knew. Yeah, that makes sense.

So, if you don’t hear from me for a while, you’re probably safe betting that Edison has finally arrived. My life will completely have changed. But I promise to write at least a few more times before I head off to Atlanta on August 8th. We already have our plane tickets. It’s enough to give me contractions myself. My, how life will change over the next several weeks. Stay tuned…

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Yin and Yang of Foot Comfort

I recently purchased sandals for the first time. Not that I’ve stolen them in the past, I’ve just never owned a pair—at least not that I remember, and certainly not as an adult. I’m still getting used to them, as I wear them primarily on weekends and remove them whenever occasion permits. They’re convenient, no doubt, but they’re sweaty and call upon muscles I did not previously know God had created. If I walk at a continuous, brisk pace for more than a few minutes, the outer edges of my feet begin to cramp. If I’m not careful, I’ll stumble going up or down stairs. If I go too fast, the flip-flops will flip and flop right out from under me. It’s like learning to walk all over again, an event so traumatic that I, like everyone else I know, have blocked it from memory.

But poise and social grace aside, there are other reasons to opt for regular, comparatively-bulky shoes, even when one is doing nothing more than sitting at a computer, typing a blog post or taking phone calls from angry customers. By removing one’s footwear, a person is immediately at peace with the world, at ease, relaxed, sedate. Once that person achieves an adequate level of inner tranquility, restoring the shoes to one’s feet fills the individual with a sense of comfort, security, love, protection. A pair of lightweight sandals simply lacks the breadth necessary to come in handy—er, footy—at these times of emotional and psychological need. It’s like comparing a handshake to a hug, a high-five to a kiss. Forget about it!

I kicked my shoes off for a little while at work today. Seeing as how no one complained of an odd smell, I think I’ll make a habit of the practice. It was refreshing. I felt like I was somehow getting away with taking a nap, right in front of everyone, right on the phone, right while talking to a customer. And when I finally slid my feet back into their dress code-friendly abodes, I had mellowed to such a degree that the enveloping synthetic material felt like nothing more than a foot rub—a gentle massage, magically paused with pressure perfectly applied to my appendages.

Anyone whose childhood took place largely during the penultimate decade of the 20th century is already familiar with the wise words of Mr. Miyagi: “wax on, wax off.” Not wishing to compare myself to this sage, let me nevertheless borrow his simplistic formula in offering some wisdom of my own—shoes on, shoes off. Herein you’ll find peace.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Sound of One Hand Washing

Few, if anyone, are indifferent toward their public restroom experiences. Most of us have strong opinions regarding the method in which we publicly relieve our bladders, or at least regarding those who relieve their bladders in close proximity to us. The most commonly expected courtesy, for example, is to preserve as much spatial distance between two urinating persons as possible—never, never, never use the urinal or stall closest to another restroom patron unless extenuating circumstances require you to do so.

Beyond the realm of etiquette, restroom preferences still exist. You may opt for a hot air dryer, or you may prefer the quick-and-easy paper towel dispenser when it comes to drying your hands. Still others may choose the communal towel roll, a seemingly endless piece of cloth on which everyone wipes their dampened digits (though why you’d seek this option is beyond me). I personally opt for the environmentally-ignorant paper towels, and one perk of my new old job is the restroom’s motion-detector paper towel dispensers. They’re not only convenient and sanitary, they’re fun, utilizing technology reminiscent of the Starship Enterprise.

But be careful what you wish for. The new location of my new old job has brought such improvements to the restroom department that relieving myself is no longer a mindless activity. The luxurious state of these comparatively contemporary restrooms has played upon my obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Each of the three interconnected sink basins has its own soap dispenser, and each dispenser is filled with a different kind of soap. They’re all the same brand, I’m sure, and they’re all foam soap, but they are different colors and different smells. Luckily, I didn’t discover this until recently. Now I find myself alternating between the different scents with each lavatory visit. The peach-colored concoction, located at the sink basin I had consistently used until last week, turns out to be my least favorite, but I can’t decide if I prefer the rose-colored soap on the far end of the restroom or the blue raspberry-colored lather located smack in the middle. Multiple restroom visits per day have yet to yield a definitive answer.

And despite the advancements, the restrooms do feature one major flaw. The sinks are operated by those push-button faucets rather than by handles, knobs, or motion sensors. You’ve seen this kind of sink before, no doubt; it’s the kind where you’re given about five seconds worth of running water every time you press down, forcing you to either hold the button down with one hand while attempting to wash the other solo, or to press the button again and again with soapy hands, making their eventual cleanliness highly questionable. It’s an experience rather akin to the behaviorism-experiment videos you’re shown in high school psychology classes. Tap, tap, tap on the button, little mouse—you’ll get your reward.

Philosophically speaking, I can’t figure out the rationale that would lead to the selection of this type of plumbing. Does it avoid excessive use of water by controlling the amount of H20 dispensed in any given use? Perhaps that is the goal, but it seems to have the opposite effect, for all the reasons stated above. Rather than turning on the faucet, using precisely the amount of water I need, and immediately shutting it off, I am forced to hit the button repeatedly until the flow-time exceeds that which is actually necessary for proper washing. There’s no way to time it exactly, so one must choose excess. And, more than once, I have seen a faucet become stuck and remain flowing for significant amounts of time, with whoever was using it long since having departed the room. Had those responsible for designing the bathrooms done a poll, would they really have found anyone who prefers this type of fixture? I’m doubtful, and even more so that a majority would have chosen the contraption. C’mon, people! Get with the flow!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Survey Says...

I was petitioned to participate in the following survey. I've been a bit slow getting around to it, and I've had to do it piecemeal rather than in one sitting (not that that should affect anything). Anyway, here goes...

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, and find line 4. - On the 18th page, the 4th line says:
Page 18 is blank. On page 19, the 4th line (in its entirety, nothing more nor less) reads, "terranean basin, extending deep into the lands traveled by Herodotus". Is that really what I'm supposed to type or is it the 4th sentence? If it's the latter, then it reads, "The legions who quaked under the pharaoh, or the multitudes who scratched out a living from the soil of Persian kings, also experienced the world as a precarious place, served up by their social betters and delivered from on high."

2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can. What can you touch?
Nothing if I go straight out to the left. Otherwise, there is plenty within reach--a telephone, the book I used for question #1, my glasses, a water bottle, and miscellaneous work forms.

3. What is the last thing you watched on TV?
NBC's Last Comic Standing. It's somewhat of a crock, as they blatantly choose their participants not based on how funny they are but based on how diverse their personalities seem to be. Some of the comedians that have made it so far are laaaame. Other comedians were much better, but apparently too "normal" to convince the producers they would make for good television. It's irksome.

4. Without looking, guess what time it is.
6:50 a.m.

5. Now look at the clock. What is the actual time?
6:28 a.m. Dang it! But I should have known because the call volumes haven't picked up quite yet (yes, I'm doing this portion of the survey at work--shame on me).

6. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?
The staccato typing of other customer service representatives, the low-chirps of certain buttons being pushed on our work phones, and the rote sympathies of my co-workers as they try to appease displeased customers.

7. When did you last step outside? What were you doing?
I stepped all the way to my car at 5:00 a.m. so I could come to work and utilize my highly-developed customer service skills.

8. Before you started this survey, what did you look at?
Um, the Blogger log-in screen I s'pose.

9. What are you wearing?
A dark blue button-up plaid shirt with a white t-shirt underneath, khaki pants, socks, shoes, a watch, a wedding ring, my unmentionables, and a beard.

10. Did you dream last night?
Probably. Nothing's coming to mind at the moment.

11. When did you last laugh?
Within the last 12 hours, I'm sure. Well, I've fake laughed plenty of times already today, but that's all part of my bonafide customer service skills (as mentioned in question #7).

12. What is on the walls of the room you are in?
Fire alarms and clocks.

13. Seen anything weird lately?
My cousin, aka Aunt Grandma.

14. What do you think of this quiz?
I think I'd rather fill it out than do my job, which I'm coming pretty close to doing.

15. What is the last film you saw?
I saw a decent amount of Mission: Impossible III but I fell asleep. I saw The Break-Up in its entirety, and I wish I had fallen asleep and spared myself the agony.

16. If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy?
A new car (see here), a new computer (see here), a nice home in Atlanta so I could do away with the apartment search (yes, I'd still go to school), probably some new clothes, several CDs, and some good meals. Those would be my impulse purchases.

17. Do you like to dance?
Not for money or praise.

What happened to 18 & 19? Good question. Well wait, is that question #18 or #19???

20. George Bush:
I think this is a finish-the-sentence type of thing. Hopefully I edited the question correctly. Anyway, George Bush is ... the president. Um, I'm really not into politics so I probably don't have much to say. I know it's crazy not to have strong opinions on him one way or the other. I've heard enough that I feel less comfortable with his presidency than I'd like to, which is sad. But I'm also sure he gets plenty of underserved flack, as would almost any president (or public figure, for that matter).

21. Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?
Well, I've been calling her Eddie because she has a penis. If it weren't for the whole penis thing, Melanie and I would probably have named her Aislyn (hey readers, there's been some discrepencies with how people say that name when they read it. Decide how you'd pronounce "Aislyn" and, if you can, sound it out in the comments. I really want to know how many people get it right -- currently, we're running at about 50-50).

#22 is also missing, eh?

23. Would you ever consider living abroad?
I would. I think it would be a really cool experience, though I'm not adventurous enough to live somewhere that isn't highly westernized. Europe or Australia works, but that's probably about it.

24. What do you want God to say to you when you reach the pearly gate?
Welcome home.

25. Four or Five people who must also do this quiz in THEIR journal:
I hate to be a party pooper, but I really don't like forcing these things on anyone. This is probably because I doubt most people would comply, but by all means feel free if you're interested. There's probably only four or five of you reading this anyway...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Still Sucking it Up

The carpet cleaners did show up on Friday, albeit ten minutes after I called to check on them. They sucked more water out of the carpet, sprayed it with some kind of deodorizer, and set up fans to help dry the various rooms. It’ll be this afternoon before they do the real, hardcore cleaning. And let’s hope it is hardcore, because, despite the efforts made on Friday, the stench has swelled and taken over our home. It’s vicious. Melanie and I have taken to living with her parents for the time being, and if the smell doesn’t improve we’re thinking it may be time to abandon ship. That’d save us a few months of rent before heading to Atlanta, but I don’t suppose Fartblow (the management) will be too keen on letting us end our lease early. But can they really deny us if the place is unlivable? They probably can, dang them…

Otherwise, all things considered, it’s been a good weekend. With all efforts being made to stay away from our apartment, Melanie and I have enjoyed a life of dining out, hanging out with family, and seeing a handful of movies. We even hit the drive-in on Saturday—always a fun experience despite the guarantee that I’ll sleep through the second half of the requisite double feature. This playtime has been good for us, as we’re beginning to realize all the things we’ll miss about our hometown and striving to cram it all into the few remaining weeks we have (which really are few, given that Li’l Eddie is less than four weeks away from his “Best if Born By…” date). Speaking of movies, one thing we’ll certainly miss is the Broadway Centre Cinemas, Salt Lake City’s only major independent movie house. If not for the independent film, we’ll lament the loss of a treat we’ve only recently discovered at this theater: RitterSport Cornflakes in Milk Chocolate. These little German delicacies really help accentuate the positive, and by positive I mean popcorn. Should you find such fancy-shmancy candy at your local theater, I heartily urge you to splurge.

As for tonight, Melanie and I are hoping for a quiet evening at home. Let’s hope this will be possible. Feel free to pray for me, Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Atheists alike. In the meantime I’ll be crossing my fingers and plugging my nose…

Friday, June 09, 2006

Not Again!

My new old job continues to hinder my presence in the blogosphere. For three weeks or so, I have not even looked at other people’s blogs, much less written something for my own. Computer problems and Melanie being off-track and always available have further directed my attention away from Blogger. But, as bad luck would have it, I’ve had to stay home from work today for yet another flooding on the home front and, thus, I have the time and motivation to gripe write.

This flood was the worst one ever (sad that I’d have to note this) in terms of magnitude, but it fortunately did not damage anything irreplaceable. The culprit is my upstairs neighbor, the one whose child runs back-and-forth at all hours of the day, causing Melanie and me to have a shameful death wish against the kid. Ever since this family moved in, the upstairs garbage disposal has turned our kitchen sink into a fountain of sorts. It’s never done anything very horrible until last night, however. Melanie and I came home and found our kitchen completely saturated. The water spread well through the hallway, into the bedroom (especially the closet), and also into the living room. The worst of it is the soggy carpet smell, which now, once again, permeates the air. Someone came over last night and vacuumed up an incredible amount of water, but nowhere near enough to prevent the stench. Carpet cleaners are supposed to be here sometime today, though I’m beginning to worry I’ll have to call and remind them this is supposed to be the case. They told me it would be around noon, and it’s now going on 1pm without any word from anyone. Anyway, the plumber who came by this morning told me the flood occurred because the people upstairs are using their garbage disposal as a trash can, putting all kinds of food down it and, subsequently, clogging the pipes. When they ran their dishwasher last night, the pipes had finally become impassable and the water ended up in the areas of my apartment that I’ve already mentioned. As I’ve also said before—no more bottom-floor apartments for me.

In better news, I’m feeling okay about my job although there’s always plenty of inconsistencies and lacking judgement on the part of both the customers and my superiors that can become quite agitating. It’s good to know it won’t last long. Over Memorial Day weekend, Melanie and I went on an awesome mini-vacation that I’ll have to write about, not that it involved anything or took place anywhere particularly noteworthy. And, of course, there’s the fact that I’m going to be a father very shortly, a fact with which I’ve teased my readers but have kept in the dark otherwise. I’m sure you’re all brimming with excitement to hear more about that—and you will. That should give me plenty to write about now that my schedule may be easing up just a tad. I know I’ve promised posts before and failed, but I truly believe I’ll at least drop a line or two more regularly now. With Melanie having gone back to teaching, I’ll have at least an hour or two everyday when I’m sitting home alone with nothing to do. If I’m not reading blogs, I’ll probably be writing one. Stay tuned, as always…

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Return of the Native

18½ months of my life seemingly disappeared this morning as I once again found myself working for The Paper. It was a very normal experience, which was the oddest thing about it. If it weren’t for the fact that The Paper changed locations after I quit in the fall of 2004, I’d honestly wonder if I had ever left. (And when I tried my old email password on a whim and found hundreds of emails spanning my entire 18-month absence, I realized they weren’t too sure I’d left either.)

The day started relatively slowly. I was intimidated by the prospect of what I wouldn’t know or wouldn’t be able to remember. Changes come quickly at The Paper, so a year-and-a-half can do a lot of damage. They started me on email customer service, allowing me time to re-familiarize myself with the system. My greatest challenge was the infinite list of codes—pricing codes, subscription codes, complaint codes, comment codes, log-in codes—many of which had long since been retired. And, of course, being in a new building meant that the various baskets in which various forms were to be put had to be learned anew. But nine hours later, I’m practically a pro.

There are many goods and evils of my new old job. Being comfortable with the job and the people is obviously a great advantage, but the new building itself brings a fair share of perks to the table. The break room is extravagant compared to the old place, for example, with refrigerators, microwaves, toasters, and vending machines galore. When it comes to the work area, employees now have their own designated workstation, which will ultimately provide stability and comfort. And the restrooms are light years ahead of the dungeon pits we used to be stuck with when The Paper was downtown. I’ll take automatic paper towel dispensers over cockroaches any day.

On the downside, we’ve lost any access to free, cold water. There are no water coolers or fancy water fountains to be found. Just regular old drinking fountains that I’ll probably do my best to avoid. And the extravagant lunchroom comes at a cost, as the soda pops that were once only $.75 are now $1.00. I guess that’s still cheaper than a gas station, but it’s a misfortune nonetheless. Then, of course, there’s the new location, sans the improved building that rests thereon. I’ll have to get up by 4:35 a.m. every day to make it on time. But perhaps the most disappointing aspect is my lunch schedule. Because I start at 5:30, I’m forced to take “lunch” at 9:30. This seems rather absurd to me, but if I’m ever jonesin’ for an Egg McMuffin for “lunch,” I guess I’ll be pretty happy. Sadly, I also have to take a full hour for lunch, when I’d much rather start (or leave) work a half-hour later (or earlier) and only have a 30-minute lunch. But that’s workplace politics for you, and I guess I shouldn’t complain.

Probably the best thing about working for The Paper is that I feel no stress regarding job performance. Because they already know I’ll be leaving by the end of July, it’s hard to worry much about making mistakes or maintaining phenomenal stats. Not that I’ll intentionally sabotage the place, but I’ll be fine with mediocrity. My experience, intelligence (compared to my co-workers, anyway), and integrity will collectively insure I’m one of the better employees regardless. But it’s nice not to worry about winning anyone over for the long haul…

Friday, May 12, 2006

It's Called "Temporary" for a Reason

On Monday I reported that I had found a job at American Express (Amex) through a temporary employment agency. Yesterday morning I went and took all the necessary tests (grammar, basic Windows knowledge, drug, and typing—on which I scored 73 wpm with no errors!) and filled out all the necessary forms to make my employment official. I even stopped by the American Express building to have my photo taken for my temporary work badge. I was all set.

Meanwhile, I had contacted my previous employer (let’s call them “The Paper”) earlier in the week and asked if they had any temporary positions available. I had never known them to use temporary employees, but I figured I’d cover all my bases. I didn’t expect anything to come of it, and I was fairly certain that, if something did miraculously arise, the work schedule would not be as ideal as the one offered by Amex. So although I was still waiting to hear back from The Paper, I more or less put them out of my mind.

As it turns out, The Paper is fairly eager to have me back. They have offered me a schedule almost identical to Amex, but I’ll never have to work weekends. And they’ll take me back at the pay rate I had when I originally left the company in October 2004, which is $1.70 more per hour than I’d get at Amex. That’s rather significant. Needless to say I have accepted their offer and will begin working with them on Tuesday or Wednesday.

I’m thrilled by this. I didn’t realize how much I dreaded my return to Amex until I knew I wouldn’t be returning. The relief I feel is surprisingly grand. As I’ve gone to the American Express building a couple of times this week, I’ve been filled with this sad realization that this part of my distant past is being resurrected. Not that I hated Amex, but they feel so removed from my psyche that I really want it to stay that way. It may sound silly, but I feel totally refreshed knowing the memory of it can totally rest in peace. I just don’t want to feel like I’m going back in time—not that far, anyway.

While it’s been a year and a half since I’ve worked for The Paper, it doesn’t seem quite as psychologically archaic. And I know I’ll be doing the exact same job I was doing before, so I’ll adapt very easily and be immediately comfortable with my co-workers, many of whom I’ll already know. I finally feel at ease and ready to enjoy the summer for what it is, something I’ve been struggling with as I’ve prepared for Amex. I’ll still be working, of course, but I won’t have the anxiety of learning a new job or meeting new people. So, once I put in my eight hours and punch out on the time clock, I’m done, physically and mentally. Everyday at 2:30 p.m., it’s summertime. No Greek, no Latin, no deadlines, no 20-page essays. Why, the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades…

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Chased Away

I am now petitioning anyone and everyone to avoid getting a credit card through Chase. Before Melanie and I got married, we both had our own Chase cards. During our engagement Chase suddenly catapulted Melanie’s annual percentage rate (APR) through the roof, even though she’s always had great credit. She closed her account and was unimpressed that the company did not even ask her reasons for doing so. They took no action to potentially save their customer and seemed completely indifferent as to why they were losing her business.

Flash forward a bit, and here I am with an almost identical experience. I opened my Chase account with an outstanding offer of a fixed 7.99% APR. As we all know, “fixed” means absolutely nothing, but I was confident it would last long enough to make it worthwhile. I’ve now had the card for two years, but last month my APR shot up to a staggering 29.99%. I have never been late on a payment and I have never exceeded my credit limit, not with Chase or with anyone else. So I called Chase and asked why my APR had been changed, and they said it was because my credit report shows me carrying too high of balances on other cards. This doesn’t really make sense to me as I’m not anywhere near the credit line on the other cards I have, and my cumulative debt has done nothing but steadily decrease over the years. But what irks me the most is that I was given absolutely zero notice of the change. Sure, there was probably some fine print somewhere in my initial application that said no such notice would necessarily be given, but you’d think they’d give you the courtesy. I’m offended. And we’re not talking a minor increase to my APR. It almost quadrupled!

Needless to say, I closed the account and paid the balance off in full. As was the case with Melanie, Chase did not try to stop me from closing my account whatsoever. It’s their loss—had the APR stayed the same, we would have been paying them interest for several more months, I’m sure. The only pity is that Melanie and I were hoping to put all of our extra money toward our MBNA card, which was, and now is again, our highest APR. I haven’t been overly impressed with them, either, but we’ll see how they react when I try to close my account with them. They had given me an unbelievable 5.9% “fixed” APR, which lasted about three or four months before shooting into the low 20’s as a variable rate. What a scam. And that increase had nothing to do with my payment history, credit report, or anything else. They simply decided to change to a variable rate. But at least they sent me a letter ahead of time…

Monday, May 08, 2006

My Car Won’t Give Me the Cold Shoulder, But it Can’t Stop a Semi-Nude Man From Finding a Job

Mixed feelings about this last week. Being done with school has been great, but I haven’t done half of the stuff I planned on doing. I didn’t write an Orange Theology post, even though I have a couple of ideas for one (keep watching, I swear it’s coming). I didn’t watch a single movie. I didn’t read nearly as much as I thought I would (books, blogs, or otherwise). And little chores and responsibilities keep getting in the way of feeling completely oblivious to discipline, which is what I’ve been craving. Melanie and my car has lost its A/C due to a leak which, according to one mechanic, is almost always a defunct compressor, the replacement of which would cost somewhere between $600 and $1,000. With plans to move to the Deep South, this is a highly frustrating twist of fate. No A/C just as we hope to move to the hottest region of America and live the life of a poor graduate student? Very funny, thanks.

Today I did begin my job hunt, and I think I’m already done. It only took twenty minutes of actual effort, and I was able to do it in my underwear, so that’s not too shabby. Actually, nothing’s guaranteed, but I think it’s as close to certain as it can get without being so. I’m going through the temporary employment agency for which I worked several years ago. They are constantly placing employees at American Express, where I worked for just over three years back at the turn of the century. My sister, who recently got hired on as a temp, informed me that they were looking to hire several more people. Because it’s been several years since I’ve worked for them, they will require me to come in and interview tomorrow, just like a new person (which only makes sense). But aside from that, it sounded like they were ready to hand me the job. If all goes according to plan, I’ll begin work next Monday. I’ll work from 6am – 2pm Monday through Friday during a four-week training period, and then I’ll have a day off during the week and have to work Saturdays from 8am – 430pm. Of course I’ll be quitting not long after that, but that’ll be our little secret.

Potentially good news: while writing this post, the car people called. They can’t find a leak after all. They’ve recharged the A/C and, as far as they can tell, it’s working pretty well. All for $33.57, knock on wood. It cost me over fifty bucks just to have Jiffy Lube tell me I have a leak in the first place. Apparently these guys disagree. Let’s just hope that’s the end of the story…

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

My First Parcel Post

Since posting my email address in the sidebar several months ago, rarely does a day go by that I don’t not receive email. Nevertheless, as a service to my faithful readers, I will now answer several letters that easily could have been written to me had anyone bothered to take the time. Enjoy.

Dear Benny K,
So when do we get to find out what the “K” in “Benny K” stands for? I’ve been dying to know ever since I discovered your high-quality blog! Please let us know soon!

Thanks for writing, JP. I’m glad you enjoy the blog. To answer your question, there are several things the “K” could stand for—“Kwality,” “Karing,” “you’ll Knever Know” (ha ha ha!). But seriously, I guess I am kind of extreme about protecting my anonymity. Not because I’m paranoid about strangers, but more so because I don’t want people from my “real world” to stumble upon my site when they decide to google me out of boredom. I’ve googled most people I know, so I know this can easily happen. As for my obscured profile pictures, that has just been a fun way of adding to the mystique. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday you see an actual picture of me. Someday. But, to show my appreciation for taking the time to write, I’ll let you in on a secret – I’ve never gone by “Benny” in real life. I’m just plain old Ben to most people. “Benny K” was a moniker I made up eight or nine years ago when my friend and I used to entertain thoughts of becoming radio DJs. I thought it had a bit more playful pizzazz than the monosyllabic “Ben.” As such it’s become the name of my public persona.

Benny K,
What the [expletive] is the “don-don plentitude” you aspire to, per your profile? Or do I even want to know???

KH, I can assure you that “don-don plentitude” is nothing to be afraid of. The “don-don” part of that phrase—pronounced with a long “o,” mind you, so that it rhymes with “loan-loan” or “bone-bone”—is actually my own personal nickname for donuts. I’m not exactly sure where it started, but I do believe it captures the happy nature of donuts quite well. Feel free to use the term if you find it appealing. For example, the next time you take donuts to the office with you (assuming you’re a nice enough person to do something like this), come through the door and announce with glee, “Look everyone, I brought don-dons!” This charming phrase will only add to the jubilation in the air, I assure you.

Benny K,
I am writing a report for english [sic] about oranges but keep finding your page instead when I search google [sic]. Why are you so obcessed [sic] with oranges? What are you like a pervert for oragnes [sic] or something? LOL, just kidding ;-) But really why are you so obcessed [sic]? Your [sic] not even from orange county [sic], your [sic] from UTAH! I drove threw [sic] their [sic] once with my family. BOring [sic]!! My aunt and uncle and two cousins live in orange county [sic] so they should have a blog about oranges[,] not you. LOL, just kidding!!! But really I think your [sic] a little too obcessed [sic] with oranges! NEway [sic] I better get back to my homework but i'll [sic] probly [sic] just end up on your blog agAIN [sic]!!! Dont [sic] eat too many oranges!! ROFLMAO!!!

Thanks, AD. (Are you sure it’s not ADD? LOL right back at ya!) Actually, the title Sucking on Oranges was inspired by an epiphany I had several years ago. At that time I decided I wanted to treat life like a big, fat, juicy orange that I would suck all of the juice out of. It became a personal metaphor for living life to the fullest. My other pages were given “orange” titles simply to match the theme of this, the “main” page. For the record, I rarely eat oranges although I do enjoy them. Thanks for writing!

Have a question for Benny K? Write to him by deciphering his email address as listed in the sidebar of this blog. If you’re familiar with email addresses in general, you should have no problem figuring it out.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Goodbye to U

Ladies and gentlemen, my time at the University of Utah—lovingly (lazily?) nicknamed the “U of U”—has come to an end. I am a now a Bachelor of Arts twice over, and, perhaps even more exciting, I have taken the last Greek test of my entire life. No more Greek homework, no more Greek books, and no more Greek teachers’ dirty looks. Believe me, I’ve had my fill of all three of those things. And I did get everything worked out for graduation, so the only question that really remains is just how poor my final Greek grade will be. Given that my teacher had a hardcore vendetta against me and is known for grading students quite subjectively (I’ve even had other teachers in the department admit this to me), this is a genuine concern. I suspect I’ll be less than thrilled, but the fact that I’ve completed my degree will significantly reduce any negative reaction I may otherwise feel. At this point, then, the next time I’ll formally be a student will be in Atlanta, Georgia. That’s a wacky factoid that I just can’t get over, but the shift back to philosophy will be an immensely welcome change.

As for this summer, it’s time to seek employment. Melanie and I need to bulk up on our financial savings, as graduate school will prove an expensive move, both literally and figuratively. Because we have great insurance through Melanie’s work, I’ll probably do just fine going through a temp agency. I may even end up back at American Express, the place where Melanie and I met seven years ago and where I personally worked for just over three years; they’re always bringing on temps. It’ll be interesting to do the work thing again, and it may provide for some interesting posts. You’ll know if it does. For now, I’m taking a week off to relax, maybe watch some movies, and do a tad more writing than I’ve been able to lately. I’m planning on updating all of my blogs this week, so keep your eyes peeled. (I could especially use a bit more participation on In the Key of Orange, which is nothing more than a bunch of one-question musical surveys. How hard can that be? See you ‘round!)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Potpourri No. 13

Days of Hour Lives
It’s that time again. I’m now viewing life in terms of hours and not days. As I write this post, I have less than 67 hours until I’m done with school. While the semester ending is always a joyous occasion, I’m actually graduating. I did this once with my philosophy degree, but because I was sticking around to complete another degree, it didn’t seem as significant. Now I’m leaving the school I’ve gone to almost daily for four years (including most summers). Wild.

Bustin’ a Cap for My Cap and Gown
Speaking of graduation, I’ve not actually applied to graduate quite yet. Given that graduation is only about a week away, this undoubtedly looks problematic. Because I’m not planning on walking, I’m not all that worried about having my name on the graduation program, nor am I worried about the $10 late fee I will be charged for applying after the deadline (which was last September). I’m only concerned about getting my degree, and it’s fine with me if it doesn’t post until later this summer. But, wouldn’t you know it, the same instructor who has made my education a living Hades for three semesters in a row is also the undergraduate advisor. This means he has to sign my graduation application. For some odd reason, he doesn’t want to do this until I’ve completed all of my graduation requirements. This doesn’t make sense, of course, because, as I said, you’re normally supposed to turn in your application at the beginning of your senior year. Other students have certainly applied for graduation by now, but I guess my procrastination has been just long enough for the man’s senility to set in. He seemed quite leery when I asked him to sign the application, like I was trying to get away with something. Anyway, I had another class to get to at the time so I didn’t push the issue, but it looks like I’ll have some confrontation to look forward to. What joy.

Striped Coca-Cola?
Having spent the last couple of weeks locked in front of my computer working on final papers, I’ve had to the chance to listen to some new CDs (some of which I purchased long ago but only recently opened). One album I’m quite fond of is The White Stripes’ latest, Get Behind Me Satan. I think this duo is seriously threatening to become one of my favorite bands. And, though I haven’t yet seen this on TV, the band’s frontman, Jack White, has written a pretty cool jingle for a pretty cool Coke commercial. Some may find it weird, but you can’t deny that it’s intriguing. Through the magic of YouTube, I now present the commercial to you:

You Had to Be There
A quote-that-could’ve-been has kept me laughing all week long. While attending a wedding reception over the weekend, a woman came and sat at the same table where I was sitting. Someone else sat down with her, but my glance was so brief that I felt temporarily uncertain as to who the person was. After a brief moment of careful observation, everything became clear. In the meantime, however, my mind had imagined the following exchange which, I am quite happy to report, did not actually take place:

Me (quite friendly): And is this your life partner?
Person that sat with the woman (quite perturbed): I’m her son!

Yeah, as I said, you had to be there.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Heads Up, 7UP

School is keeping me too busy to write anything of merit. Or even anything slightly interesting. In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy the below video, which comes courtesy of YouTube. It’s a 7UP commercial from 1982 and it reeks of the 80s. If you think about it too hard you’ll realize it’s quite nonsensical. It seeks to capitalize on the Pac-Man phenomenon that was then underway, but it really gives you zero reason for thinking you yourself ought to drink the beverage (alternative “Bette Davis Eyes” lyrics notwithstanding).

I’ve ran into a handful of quirky and/or cool videos on YouTube. I’ll probably post some at a later date. Until then…

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

If I Weren't an Optimist, I'd Kill Myself

I have good news and I have bad news.

The good news: in just over two weeks, the semester will be ending. The bad news: in just over two weeks, the semester will be ending.

The amount of reading, writing, translating and studying that I must accomplish over the next sixteen days is absolutely terrifying. On the one hand there is a tangible giddiness swelling daily within, on the other hand I am paralyzed with dread. I continually take comfort in the thought that, because it must get done, it will get done. Somehow that will be the case. Don’t ask me how. I haven’t time to feign a scientifically feasible reply.

Should anyone be interested in the final results of my applications to graduate school, I’ve now heard back from every institution to which I applied. Five of the ten programs have accepted me, but Georgia State University remains the lone school to offer me an assistantship. As I reported a couple of weeks ago, I’ve already accepted their offer. This means my recent acceptance by Virginia Tech is beside the point, but in the interest of pride I thought I should report the final outcome. To refresh your memories I was also accepted by Claremont Graduate University, Northern Illinois University, and Saint Louis University.

P.S. Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” contains some of the greatest guitar soloing in New Wave history.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Math by Chocolate

Today I received the email shown below. It is a mildly amazing way of proving two not-so-amazing facts:
  1. Math is consistent and reliable
  2. If you make something complicated enough, you can impress just about anyone


This is pretty neat.

It takes less than a minute .
Work this out as you read ...
Be sure you don't read the bottom until you've worked it out!
This is not one of those waste of time things, it's fun.

1. First of all, pick the number of times a week that you would like to have chocolate (more than once but less than 10)

2. Multiply this number by 2 (just to be bold)

3. Add 5

4. Multiply it by 50 -- I'll wait while you get the calculator

5. If you have already had your birthday this year add 1756 .... If you haven't, add 1755.

6. Now subtract the four digit year that you were born.

You should have a three digit number

The first digit of this was your original number (i.e., how many times you want to have chocolate each week).

The next two numbers are

YOUR AGE! (Oh YES, it is!!!!!)