Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

Soon enough, anyway. I just thought I'd pop in and give everyone a quick update, focusing on those things that are making me happy to see 2007 come to a close.
  1. All the hubbub surrounding the September car crash is finally dying down. I went to court on December 20th and the judge dropped the charges, meaning I am not at fault for the incident. Of course, this doesn't make the other driver automatically at fault, legally speaking -- it's just that nobody's at fault at the moment. That means the damages suffered will still come out of my insurance, but at least I don't have to pay a ticket or pay for the other guy's losses.
  2. Connected with the above, I am theoretically just days away from walking without crutches. I have a doctor's appointment on January 8th, and when I last saw my doctor a few weeks ago, he told me I should be able to walk into his office without my crutches by the next time I see him. I'm a tiny bit skeptical that this will end up being true, but I have sampled walking with only one crutch (or even no crutches) for just a few steps. There is potential there, but I'm far from sturdy. We'll see if I really think I can dump the crutches for good within just a week.
  3. I have officially submitted two of my graduate school applications. I am only going to apply to five or six schools, so this puts me well on the way to completion. Getting the first applications off is the toughest anyway, because once you've done those, you basically repeat the process without having to come up with anything new. I've done a rush job on these things, but I think I feel better about them than I expected I would. Unfortunately, I find myself increasingly hopeful that I can get into University of California-Riverside, which means if I don't, I'm going to be really sad. I'm supposed to know by the Ides of March, but you know what they say about those...
  4. I'm in Utah visiting family. One of the biggest perks of living the college life is that you get a few weeks off at the end of the year, which means you can (if you so choose) immerse yourself in the friends and family you are otherwise forced to neglect. While I've had to work on Ph.D. applications during the holiday break, it's been nice to spend some time with loved ones. It's also nice to be back in a city where I know my way around! Furthermore, it's nice to be back in a city where I know what restaurants are worth patronizing, and I assure you I've been doing my best to revisit all those beloved eateries that I have sorely missed since being in Atlanta.

That's it for now. I've got to go hobble into the shower and head off to visit my side of the family. My mother has promised me cheesesteaks from Grinders 13, the most unbelievable sandwiches I have ever eaten. You would think a bigger city like Atlanta could outdo a little sandwich shop in Salt Lake City, but so far nothing even comes close to rivaling Grinders 13. Vacationers, take note!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Manic Depression

There are so many things to be accomplished over the next several days that I fear a nuclear meltdown. The good news for everyone but me is that I’m referring only to my own nuclei, the ones that make up my cell structure. People who live within a 50 mile radius of my home needn’t worry. Even my neighbors needn’t worry. But I sure am worried. And I’ve got reason to be. And I’m about to tell you those reasons.

Here’s what, theoretically, should be accomplished between now and Thursday night:

  1. I need to write up a three-four page thesis prospectus. In order to complete my master’s degree, I have to write a thesis, but prior to writing the thesis, I have to write a thesis prospectus that basically summarizes what my thesis is going to be about and how it’s going to be structured. I’m even supposed to include a working bibliography. I have to do this prior to spring semester, because this prospectus has to be approved before I can enroll for “Thesis Research,” and I have to complete six hours of Thesis Research in order to graduate. While that’s sufficient reason to complete my prospectus ASAP, I also need to show my prospectus to those instructors who are writing me letters of recommendation for various Ph.D. programs, so they can make more detailed mention of what I’m doing as a master’s student. It’s all very overwhelming, especially since I’m only barely beginning to feel like I have a concrete idea of what my thesis will be about!
  2. Speaking of having people write me letters of recommendation for Ph.D. programs, I should probably complete the bulk of my applications this week. The earliest application is due on January 1st, but it is vital that my letter writers have all of the necessary materials before I leave town on Friday (to go home to Salt Lake City for the holidays). It would probably also be beneficial to arrange for transcripts and GRE score reports to be sent sooner than later to the schools where I’m applying. If these things don’t get to their destinations in a timely fashion, it could hurt me. Ph.D. applications also require a personal statement or statement of purpose that explains my interests and goals. It would be good to have my thesis advisor look it over and give me feedback, so I should probably also finish this before I leave town.
  3. I need to pack so I can leave town.
  4. Thursday, Melanie and I are going to be in court. I pled not guilty to “failing to yield while turning left,” which is what I was charged with when we got into the car accident in September. There’s no doubt in my mind that the other driver should have stopped. Of course, I’m being punished for pleading not guilty because now Melanie and I have to spend time in court that, normally, we would have spent in SLC. If not for this, we probably would have done everything in our power to head back home a whole week earlier. Then again, given the other things on this list, it may be a good thing that we didn’t have the option of leaving earlier. So, not only will going to court probably take up a significant portion of the day, but we do want to get a little bit prepared for the hearing. For example, we still need to hunt down the witness that came up to our car on the day of the accident and told us he thought we were in the right. Interestingly enough, we later found out that the cop that charged us with failing to yield also spoke to this same (and this only) witness before legally condemning us. That means that either the witness was totally confused (since he told the cop one thing and us another), or that the cop was totally confused (and did not understand what the witness was saying about us not being responsible). Either way, it certainly casts doubt on our guilt, which should work in our favor—but only if we can get this witness to help us out!
  5. I need to take a bunch of graded final exams downtown to my school and leave them in the philosophy department for my now-former (is that an oxymoron?) students. Even though dropping off these tests should only take about two seconds, it will require me to train downtown, hobble around a bit, and then train home. I estimate that this two-second venture will require at least two hours of time, assuming everything goes well.
  6. I should probably call my insurance company and find out what’s going on with my coverage. I get cheap insurance through my school as part of my assistantship, but it may turn out I’m getting what I pay for – which is not a lot. While I sometimes get as many as four or five postcards in my mailbox on a single day informing me that the insurance company has received a claim and will let me know if they need any further information, they do not seem all that eager to pay any of these claims. Naturally, the hospitals, doctors, surgeons, anesthetists, emergency response units, and so on are all getting quite antsy to get some financial compensation for their hard work. Now they’re harassing me, telling me they’ve given up on my insurance company and expect me to figure it out. So, despite the bounty of postcards that daily litter my mailbox, I’m finally told by my doctor that the insurance company needs me to fill out and mail them an accident report, giving them the pertinent details of the car crash, before they’ll pay anything. I have long since sent that to them, and I was told by an insurance company customer service representative that they’d go back and have everything re-processed and paid by the beginning of December. Well, it sure doesn’t look like that’s the case. Instead, we’re now getting letters from, among others, the ambulance company, informing us that our insurance company does not cover this type of thing. Um, so the $500 ambulance coverage specifically mentioned in my policy is for what, exactly? It’s all in error, obviously, but the customer is the only one with an incentive to get it straightened out. I should probably figure it out before someone comes along and repossesses my new heel.

That’s a sneak peek at this week. Eek! Is it any wonder I’m about to freak? (And does rhyming make me a geek?) You may wonder why I haven’t gotten much of this taken care of by now. Well, it could have had something to do with giving finals, grading finals, studying for and taking finals, grading final papers, writing up numerous reports of academic dishonesty due to several cases of plagiarism that I discovered while grading those final papers, and so on. The plagiarism cases probably deserve a post of their own, but I tell you, it’s a nuisance to deal with them. You have to write up a report, print off several copies of the student’s paper, print off several copies of the source from which the student plagiarized, highlight any portions that were copied (on both the student paper and the source), set up a confidential meeting with the student, give the student one copy of the report, the paper, and the plagiarized source, listen to them repent and/or gripe for up to an hour, and get several other copies of the aforementioned materials to various other people in the department. It almost makes you want to just let the students get away with it rather than bother. But that’s another story. Thanks for listening to my own griping. Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Potpourri No. 18

So, it’s been over two-and-a-half months now since my heel got shattered like a wine glass in a Memorex commercial. There have been a handful (footful?) of positive developments over the last few weeks, so I figure I should update y’all. Also, it’s been quite a long time since I’ve done the potpourri thing. So, here I go, although I warn you, this potpourri will smell of nothing but feet.

Giving Me the Boot

At this point, I am done with both the “soft cast” and “hard cast” stages of recovery and have moved on to the “walking boot.” Compared to the previous casts, the walking boot is a podiatric behemoth. The perk is, I can now begin to actually walk. I mean, like sort of kind of really walk. In fact, that is the sole (no pun intended) purpose of the walking boot, to once again start walking (cue Nancy Sinatra--bad quasi-pun fully intended). While I am currently only supposed to put half of my weight down on my left foot (and although I sometimes stumble a bit and put down at least 52 or 53% of my weight), this makes a world of difference, ambulatorily speaking. I can now walk a whole block without wanting to keel over. And even though the walking boot does not yet prevent me from using crutches, I sometimes feel like I’m almost walking like a “normal” human being. It’s exciting. Over the next few weeks, I am supposed to gradually increase the amount of weight I am putting on my foot, and I am also supposed to work my way to abandoning one crutch, then the other. The thought of walking crutchless, even within the confines of the walking boot, is inspiring. I’ve even gotten quite used to the walking boot’s dramatically curved base, which causes me to feel as though I am somehow walking on a basketball. It’s exciting times for me. But just so you understand how stormtrooper-like I feel when I strap myself into the boot on a daily basis, I have inserted the preceding picture. The blue bump near the top of the boot’s left side is there to pump air into the boot and make it more cushiony. Honestly, I’m not sure I notice much of a difference – well, aside from getting the urge to sing “Pump Up the Jam” even more frequently than I used to.

Shower Power

Another reason I am so excited to have been upgraded to the walking boot is that I can now take showers. In casts past, I had to take baths, with my left foot dangling over the edge of the tub. Because the walking boot is removable, I am allowed to shower. Of course, this does not automatically make me a very skilled showerer. Standing on one foot for the entire duration of even a quick shower can be a challenge, and turning around to ensure my body gets thoroughly and completely rinsed always makes me feel as though I am participating in some highly dangerous stunt. I am, after all, hopping on a wet foundation in order to get my body to turn. It can be unsettling, but so far no further injuries have been incurred. Showering is also helping my foot shed itself of the disgustingly marred skin that was the feature of my most recent post. It amazes me just how similar wet, dead skin is to wet, dead paper. It possesses a silky-like quality and is apt to disintegrate if you rub it briskly between your forefinger and your thumb. One flap of browned, dead skin that dropped off of me during my first post-injury shower actually reminded me of a scrap of potato peeling. I almost convinced myself that it was a scrap of potato skin, perhaps from an old Russet potato peeled by our upstairs neighbor as he or she prepared the mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner, put down the garbage disposal and, the metal teeth of the disposal somehow failing to properly masticate the potato-flap but hungrily swallowing the peeling nonetheless, eventually regurgitated by my shower drain a good 7-10 business days later. But nope, it was really just my skin. Kind of creepy, eh? But kind of fascinating.

I’m in with the In(valid) Crowd

Even though I’m more mobile than I’ve been in a couple of months now, I just recently was granted a handicap parking permit. My doctor gave me the form a few weeks prior to my going to the tag office and actually getting the permit, and at that time I felt I could truly benefit from having the permit. Of course, I still think I can benefit from having it, it’s just that it doesn’t always seem quite as necessary to benefit from having it now as it did then. For the record, Melanie and I avoid parking in handicap parking spots if another spot is available nearby. And if I’m not getting out of the car, which I quite often avoid nowadays, we don’t park in a handicap spot. But it’s nice to have the permit for those times when I do happen to need to get out of the car. This is especially true here in Atlanta, where I swear they have made the parking spots insanely tight so as to accommodate the oversized population. Sometimes the parking lot at our apartment complex is too crowded for me to think I can get myself out of the car. Lack of svelteness notwithstanding, I cannot squeeze out of a tightly parked car like I did in days of yore. So the permit has been a good thing. I’m just wondering if I can take it to Utah and use it despite the fact that it quite clearly states “GEORGIA” across the top. We’ll be going home for Christmas for about two weeks, so it’d be nice to know I’m more-or-less always guaranteed a parking spot. We’ll see…