Wednesday, December 31, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

Melanie and I learned a lot while visiting Utah this year. One of the most important things we learned is this: there’s no place like home—our home, which is no longer in Utah. While it’s great to visit family that we rarely get to see, nothing compares to being in your own place, with your own things, on your own schedule. Anything else is emotionally and psychologically (not to mention physically) draining. With a growing family, this has become all the more obvious. Edison in particular had regular emotional meltdowns while we were in Utah, meltdowns unlike any he’s experienced before. I can only assume it’s because of the abrupt shift in … well, everything! And so it is that, in all likelihood, we have just spent our final Christmas in Utah.

This is not to say that we did not have a wonderful time. We had a very white Christmas, which never would have happened here in Tallahassee. And Edison actually did enjoy playing with his aunts and uncles, his grandparents, and various dogs. But in many respects, it was an exhausting trip. 12 days seems a bit much to be away from home, and traveling during winter and the holidays only accentuates the difficulties. Perhaps we’re just spoiled now, but neither I nor my children enjoyed their being bundled up in so many layers of clothes before we went anywhere. And what a pain it is to stuff an overly puffy child into a car seat! I won’t miss that. Then, once you’re finally settled into the car and the temperature has increased enough for you to drive, you slip and slide all over the road. All this, and because it’s the holidays, you’re trying extra hard to see everyone you love and care about. So you’re pushing harder and harder, and you’re constantly shoving your children into what (in their eyes) are complete strangers’ faces, generally half a dozen or so new ones at a time. It’s a bit too much, too fast. At times—sadly, at times that come too frequently—it does not quite seem worth it.

The good news: Melanie and I hope to start visiting Utah in the summertime. Though it may not seem like it, I expect that doing so would make a world of difference. It will be easier, calmer, and will carry less expectations. And, so long as we live in the South, it will likely be a pleasant weather experience to visit Utah in May or June rather than December. Of course, we’ll still want to shorten our stay—no more two week ordeals, I’d say. Maybe one week. But that’s probably the limit.

It’s good to realize these things. Realistically, the larger we become as a family, the less practical it will be to travel anyway. The adjustments had to come at some point or another, and I guess that time is now. It’s bittersweet to view this as the last Christmas with our families of origin, but it’s exciting too. It almost seems odd that Melanie and I just celebrated our fourth married Christmas together, and yet we still talk about what traditions we’d like to carry on once we’re celebrating Christmas with our own children. It sounds like some future consideration, yet we have two children! Shouldn’t we be starting these things now? Yes, indeed. And so we will.

Here’s looking forward to an exciting 2009, and to our continued leaps into adulthood.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

So This is Christmas

Melanie, Edison, Peter, and I were blessed to have two Christmases this year. We celebrated as a small family on December 16th, the day before we flew out to Utah. Then, on December 25th, we had Christmas again, this time with “extended” family—that is, the families we grew up in.

We took plenty of pictures of our December 16th Christmas, but because I'm in Utah, I only have access to photos from our trip. I thought I'd share some with those of you who are interested. And so, here is a photographic tour of our Utah Christmas, 2008.

In Melanie's childhood home, as in my own, as in many others I suspect, oranges are standard at Christmas. Here is Peter getting ready to take a bite out of one.

Eddie got a bowling set from his Uncle Mark and soon-to-be Aunt Trina. The ball looks like a cow and moos when you roll it, and the “pins” are milk bottles. So far, Eddie prefers having the pins set up and then running and jumping into them himself rather than rolling the ball into them.

Eddie also received some cars, which are one of his favorite things. Here you can see a Mickey Mouse car that drives away if you push down the engine. Just below it, you can see an Elmo car.

Here is Eddie, playing with Peter's gift. I'm not sure what to call it, but it has balls inside and when you push the button on top, as Eddie is here doing, the balls inside start spinning around. It's a pretty cool gift, once again from Uncle Mark and Aunt Trina.

Here is Peter, playing with Eddie's gift. A set of three Curious George books were the perfect gift for Edison, who is quite the Curious George fan at the moment.

Grandma and Grandpa seemed to think Eddie needed a pair of really sharp knives for Christmas.

After opening presents at Melanie's parents' house, we headed to my parents' house. Here's Aunt Khrystine, holding Peter.

Eddie enjoyed the perfect sized glass of hot chocolate that Grandma prepared for him.

We then enjoyed heading to my brother's house, where Peter had the chance to play with his cousin, Hunter, who is just 11 days younger.

The day after Christmas, we decided to go sledding. Peter fell asleep in the car, so I stayed with him while Melanie dragged Edison on a sled to a hill next to a nearby elementary school. It had snowed quite a bit, and the truck we were borrowing did not have functioning four-wheel drive, so we weren't able to pull into the school parking lot. Thus, Melanie ended up having to walk quite a way through deep snow in order to even begin sledding. It wore her out before they'd even begun. (That's Uncle Tom on the right, if you're wondering.)

Edison was worn out after just two trips down the hill. He didn't like the snow flying up in his face as he descended the hill, so he made Melanie bring him back to the truck fairly soon. Due to the depth of the snow, Melanie carried him the whole way. I was happy to be on sleeping-baby watch duty.

My family and I in front of the Christmas Tree at Melanie's parents' house. We did actually get a photo with everyone looking at the camera, but it didn't turn out quite as well as this one. So here you go.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Need a (Guitar) Hero

In my youth, I was, like many children of my generation, a video game fanatic. Video games were my foremost form of entertainment. I subscribed to two different video game magazines, and my allowances were typically reserved for purchasing new games. Somehow, despite all this, I failed to advance beyond the Super Nintendo. When the N64 arrived, I did not rush out and get one. I did not request one for my birthday, nor for Christmas. And that was that. Video games no longer dominated my life.

Years passed and the game systems evolved. When I again attempted to play video games with my friends as a high schooler and beyond, I found myself crippled by inexperience. The number of buttons on a typical controller had doubled since the last time I owned a game console, and I lacked the “depth-perception” necessary for traversing the 3-D video game landscapes. The side-scrolling games of yore had given me no trouble in estimating how far my on-screen character needed to jump in order to successfully clear a pit, but I couldn't last for 30 seconds in Crash Bandicoot's world.

Several systems later, and the video game industry seems to be taking a new turn. While previous games relied on the skillful manipulation of the control pad and the deft precision of button pressing, the hand-eye coordination that was once only the means of playing the game has now become an extension of—nay, the very focus of—the game itself. Dance Dance Revolution seemed to instigate this trend, while Nintendo's Wii has extended the concept beyond a single game and made it the focus of an entire game system and all of its supported titles (with great commercial success). And what's the latest smash hit? Guitar Hero, which Melanie and I played for the first time just two nights ago.

Well, guess what? We both love the game. We're tempted—though nothing will come of it—to buy a game system just to buy this one game. It's that awesome. I can see just why so many people have become addicted to it. Rather than merely dancing to music, as you do with Dance Dance Revolution (which I also thought was great fun), Guitar Hero has you (fairly literally) performing the music. And we're talking about some fantastic music at times—Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, Aerosmith, Guns n' Roses, Van Halen, Billy Idol, and much, much more. As a youngster, I would listen to CDs while playing my video games. Guitar Hero combines these activities by making some of the very same music to which I used to listen the very center of the game itself. Had this game come out when I was 14 or 15, it would have been the realization of all of the wildest dreams I never knew I had.

But aside from its addictive game play, I think Guitar Hero is a great video game for other reasons. I see this as a move in the right direction for the video game industry. Not only is Guitar Hero a more group oriented video game than many others (for example, you can have up to four players—one on guitar, one on bass, one on drums, and one on vocals), but it's bound to inspire many youth to pick up a real guitar and start learning to play. That can't be a bad thing. What's more, I appreciate the fact that many teenagers of today are being introduced to music—good music—that they might otherwise never hear. I'm thrilled to think of these teenagers being turned on to quality rock n' roll (which is not all rock n' roll, I admit) and listening to something other than the pop and hip-hop crap that has dominated over the last decade or so. Seriously, I think this is a very good thing.

Long live rock n' roll.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Father of Lies

The other day, Melanie got out our Christmas decorations. One of them is a tin, such as you might fill with candy. On the lid of the tin is an image of St. Nick himself. While Eddie was looking at the tin, I thought I would give my first attempt at explaining who the jolly fellow in red is. Thus far, Edison has no concept of Santa Claus (or scarcely of Christmas, for that matter). I didn’t think he’d get much out of my explanation of Santa Claus, but I thought it would at least familiarize him to the idea.

As I began to tell Eddie about Santa Claus, I felt this pang of sadness in realizing that I was lying to my son. I was incredibly surprised by this. I have always intended to raise my children with the myth of Santa Claus. No part of me has ever seriously questioned that I would do so. I never worried about it. And it is not as though, once I started explaining Santa Claus to my son, I thought about the fact that I was lying, and then felt sort of bad about it. I felt sad the second I started saying it. The sadness was immediate. Here is my boy, looking up at me, believing whatever I have to say, and for the first time I am blatantly saying things to him that are not true. I, on whom he has relied for his understanding of the world, am now deceiving him. For the first time, I am purposely causing him to believe something that is false. It honestly felt really sad.

I am betting that most of you who read this will think I am insane. Or you will think my reaction is some weird consequence of being a philosopher. Something like that. I disagree entirely. The reaction was so immediate and natural that I really believe it was rooted in nothing more than the fact that I was deceiving my sweet, loving, trusting child. The fact that this particular lie is customary and generally regarded to promote a sense of magic and fun does not change that. I admit that I still plan to carry on the Santa Claus tradition, but the fact is, because of Santa Claus, something that has never happened before has now happened—I have lied to my child. That is kind of sad, and those of you who want to sugar coat it fail to see that the innocence of my relationship with Edison has been lost. Yes, that’s a part of growing up, but until now, nothing was a lie. Does nobody sympathize?

(Note: this post from March 2005 may prove an interesting backdrop to today’s post.)

Friday, December 05, 2008

61 Down, 2 to Go

As I noted a couple of posts ago, the final week of the semester consists of nothing but grading and writing essays. Just a few days ago, I had approximately 60 essays that needed grading as part of my TA responsibilities and, for my own classes, three essays that needed writing. I'm happy to report, all of the essays that needed grading have been graded, and one of the essays I need to write has been written, printed, and submitted. That leaves two essays to be written between now and Thursday morning. Fortunately, I got an extension on one of the papers, since the professor who is requiring it is also the professor for whom I had to grade the 60-or-so essays. That got me some sympathy. If not for that, I'd have two essays due within two hours of each other early Monday evening. I'd be panicking if that were the case, especially because I'm not even sure what I'm writing for one of them.

I'm in relatively good spirits, all things considered. Usually, I'm so frazzled at this point that it's hard to look forward to the end of the semester. I can't even look that far ahead. But I'm incredibly excited to be done. I look forward to spending lots of time with my own family, lots of time with family and friends when we go home for Christmas, and lots of time not thinking about school. Funny enough, I almost bet I will be less likely to write once I am free of my school responsibilities, in part because I will not be looking for a distraction (which is often how a post gets written). I'll try, though, and I feel like I've had a lot of ideas for posts lately. So stay tuned and we'll see if something doesn't pop up. Until then, be wishing me luck over the next 120 hours or so. I'll be needing it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Gobbler Gobbling 2008

Never before has Thanksgiving dinner been entirely up to Melanie and me. We were a bit unsure of how everything would turn out, but it was fantastic. I’m incredibly proud of us! Well, I’m incredibly proud of Melanie, but I’m also proud of the itty little bit that I did. Absolutely everything was great. Learning that we have it in us to make Thanksgiving dinner—in its entirety!—is really amazing and, as Melanie noted, it seems to kick us one step further into adulthood. Yikes!

Looking back, I wish I had invited you all to join us. I had no idea it would turn out so splendidly, or perhaps I would have invited you. Well, allow me to offer a belated invitation. But for those of you who don’t have access to a time machine, I’ll offer you the next best thing—pictures. Here’s a photographic tour of Thanksgiving 2008:

Melanie wanted to make stuffing from scratch. I was a bit unsure it would be worth it, but luckily I didn’t make the call. Thanks to Melanie’s ambition, we dined on the delicious stuffing pictured above. (I helped cut up the bread!) The stuffing consisted of bread chunks, golden delicious apples, walnut pieces, sausage, and then some. The recipe called for sage sausage, which I had never heard of, but which is apparently a big Thanksgiving item, since it had sold out at Wal-Mart. To compensate, we added basil. Truly the best stuffing I have ever had.

The star of the show. No, not the meat thermometer, which we bought especially for Thanksgiving, but the turkey. In my opinion, turkey can only get so good, but I’m proud of the beautiful golden brown to which our turkey was cooked.

A couple of things to notice here. First is the vegetable tray. I mean the actual tray. It’s made from an old REO Speedwagon vinyl record. Literally. Isn’t that awesome? I got that from my parents for Christmas a few years ago, but this is the first time we’ve used it. We didn’t think to take a picture until some of the vegetables had been eaten, but you get the idea. Second thing to notice is the squishy looking thing in the upper right corner, just above the regular stick of butter. What is it? It’s homemade honey butter! It’s still wrapped in the plastic wrap we used to keep it in the fridge, which explains its appearance. But it was delicious and incredibly simple to make—you just add honey, cinnamon, and a bit of vanilla to regular butter and go to town with the mixer. It was delicious on the warm rolls we ate with dinner.

When we turned our backs to the table, Eddie decided to save everyone a step and dump all of the vegetables from the above pictured vegetable tray into the accompanying ranch dip. Efficient!

Yours truly, “carving” the turkey on too small of a plate with too small (and crappy) of a knife. It was more of a scraping than a carving.

I love when you have big meals and one of the side items is something sweet, perhaps even dessert like. I love the contrast between the sweet and the savory, and as you alternate between the two, it somehow refreshes your palate and makes every bite taste full-flavored and new. Thus, I insisted we have something sweet with our Thanksgiving dinner, and this was it—Jell-O salad. More specifically, blackberry/raspberry fusion Jell-O accentuated with blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries and topped with whipped cream. There’s always room for it!

Alas, Melanie’s homemade pies. Pumpkin in the back, pecan up front. Both were delicious, but I can’t get enough of Melanie’s pecan pie. She’s only made it a few times, which makes sense given its primary association with Thanksgiving and Christmas, but every time I’ve had it, I think about making it a part of our weekly menu. It’s just too good. Mmmmmmmmmmmm!

And after all that, we somehow failed to get any pictures of us as a family. Is that lame or what? Oh well. That’s pretty much the only part of Thanksgiving for which we weren’t entirely grateful. Not too shabby.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful for Thanksgiving

This year, I feel especially thankful for Thanksgiving itself. It’s the calm before the storm. As of tomorrow, I’ll have 10 days to do everything that remains to be done for my first semester as a Ph.D. student. This includes writing three essays of my own and grading 60 essays written by nearly-illiterate undergraduates. Wish me luck!

Happy Thanksgiving to all! If you read this, you are probably someone I am thinking of and grateful for today!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Eddie Boy

I feel like I’ve really been delighting in being Edison’s dad lately. I have always felt this way, but as he grows and develops, there’s always some aspect of (or dynamic to) our relationship that feels special and new. Recently, he seems to have grown even more fond of me than he already was, and, perhaps not too coincidentally, I feel like I’ve been a much better father. It seems like we’re always playing around and joking with each other, if I’m available. Sure, I’m very often not available, but when I am, it seems our interactions are about as perfect as I can imagine. It’s a wonderful thing. As such, I feel like celebrating my little boy, and so I present a few cute Eddie stories (and two adorable pictures) from fairly recent.

Story #1
Throughout Edison’s life, I’ve called him Eddie Boy. Lately, he’s started referring to me as Daddy Boy. If we’re playing our rudimentary version of hide-and-seek (in which there is no counting and only I hide), Eddie will say, “Where’s my Daddy Boy?” or “I lost my Daddy Boy” as he searches for me. So far he hasn’t adapted to calling Melanie “Mommy Boy,” but I can’t help thinking it’s likely to happen sometime soon—especially after I referred to Melanie as “Mommy Boy” while talking to Edison this afternoon. Ha ha!

I get a kick out of this photo of Eddie in a sweater vest, enjoying a pair of oatmeal cookies that I baked (all by myself!). Though Cliff Huxtable comes to mind, I actually see a bit of my dad in this photo. I think it has something to do with the sweater, but it might just be the cookies.

Story #2
Edison is becoming such a smarty. Just in the last week or so, he’s started to be very interested in letters. He’ll frequently ask either Melanie or me to tell him what the letters are on different things. And now he’s starting to memorize them. So, at less than two-and-a-half years old, Eddie can identify half a dozen letters or so. He’s especially good with the letters O and T. In fact, it was the letter T that he first amazed us by identifying. Several years ago, Melanie and I bought a souvenir blanket while in Seattle. The blanket is folded nicely over the white chair in our living room, and the word “Seattle” is written in capital letters across the bottom of it. One night, Eddie was sitting on the chair looking at the blanket, when he informed us that the blanket has two T’s on it, and he pointed out the correct letters. Smarty farty, indeed!

Story #3
Yesterday, Melanie, Eddie, and Peter came to campus to meet me for lunch. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a while, especially because it’s so much easier to do here than it was in Atlanta. Eddie was excited to come to campus because, on the handful of occasions when Melanie’s given me a ride to school, he’s enjoyed seeing the water fountain in front of the Westcott Building (which is near the building housing the philosophy department). We ate at Panchero’s, a Moe’s-type eatery located inside the Circle K right across from the Westcott Building. The food was so-so, but it was a fun experience. After eating, we headed across to the water fountain so Eddie could get his first up-close view. He wasn’t as excited as I’d expected him to be, but he did enjoy throwing in a few leaves. Melanie, Eddie, and Peter then walked me back to the philosophy department. They are doing construction right outside of my building, so Eddie had an opportunity to spend a few minutes watching bulldozers and the like digging up and moving around dirt. He watched intently, but didn’t react much to it until later. According to Melanie, he talked about the trucks quite a bit on their way home. That was the first time he’s really seen those kind of trucks in action. It was a nice perk in my day to be able to spend some time with my family. Check out this picture perfect photo of Eddie in front of the Westcott Building fountain. He’s looking studly in the jacket given to him by his Uncle Steve and Aunt Heather:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Literal Video

Some comedic geniuses have created a series of (well, two so far) “literal videos.” The idea is this: take a music video, strip it of its original vocal track, and insert a new vocal track featuring lyrics that more fully and accurately capture the goings-on of the accompanying video. It’s actually quite funny, and it’s all the better that the targeted videos thus far have been 1980s pop classics. Here is the literal video version of “Head Over Heels,” by one of my favorite 80s bands, Tears for Fears:

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Prior to the “Head Over Heels” video, the literal video team had their way with A-ha’s “Take On Me,” commonly regarded as one of the awesomest music videos of all time. The result was not quite as humorous, but it has its moments. Take a look:

Monday, November 10, 2008

Half Black is the New Black

I admit, I'm excited about the election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States of America. I've voted in the last four presidential elections, but I felt much more invested in this election than I have in years past. Perhaps I merely jumped on the bandwagon that everyone else was riding, the bandwagon that said this election was going to be pivotal in oh so many ways. Perhaps I was simply more informed this time around. Perhaps I have matured over the last four years and actually care more about these things. Perhaps some of all of this is true. Regardless, for the first time, I have found myself wondering if it's possible—and I almost think it might be—that the person we're putting into the oval office will have a positive impact on my life. Perhaps it's naïve, but it's also kind of exhilarating.

Another reason it was so rewarding to be a part of the political process this time around is that I live in Florida, a swing state that is not guaranteed to go either Republican or Democrat. I was able to believe my vote actually mattered. That was a neat feeling, and it made me all the more eager to vote. I wasn't able to head to the polls until half an hour before they closed, so I was relying on this enthusiasm sustaining me as I waited in a horrendously long line. But, amazingly, the polls were practically empty. I literally walked right in, right up to get my ballot, and right up to an empty “booth” to cast my vote. Things could not have gone better. (And to top it all off, Melanie and I caught wind of an offer from Chick-Fil-A that those wearing the “I Voted!” sticker that gets handed out at the polls were entitled to a free chicken sandwich. Incentives aplenty! God bless America! If genuine political interest cannot inspire one to vote, surely some deep fried meat will!)

Yes, last Tuesday was an exciting day. I wasn't quite as ecstatic as my neighbor, who ran out of her apartment shortly after 11 p.m. and spent a good ten to fifteen minutes hooting and hollering because Obama (or, perhaps more accurately, half of Obama) was projected to become the nation's first black president. For me, none of the excitement is about race, even if there is something to celebrate in America's embracing of a black presidential candidate. The fact is, I was overwhelmingly more impressed by Obama than by McCain while watching the presidential debates, and while I sided with McCain on at least a few issues, I'd say that Obama was my better match on a good 65-75% of the issues that I was semi-informed about. I never thought about it being an awesome thing to vote for the first non-white U.S. president. I don't know if that speaks well or poorly of me, but it's the truth.

So there you have it—me being as politically zealous as I get. I haven't said anything enlightening, but I'm pleased that this was an election that I could care enough about to want to post something about it. For a guy that generally eschews politics, to say anything at all is to say a lot.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Freezing in Florida

So, it’s been a mere three days since I raved about the delightfully crisp weather we were experiencing here in Tallahassee. Well, already I’m beginning to sing a different tune. Not that things have turned horrible, but today marked the first day of my (thus far brief) Floridian life when I have officially been cold. That’s cold, as in uncomfortably cool.

It actually started in the night. Shockingly, we had to turn on the heat because we all felt too chilly. Eddie even woke up in the night asking for his blanket, which is an extremely rare request. As if that weren’t enough of a warning sign, I stupidly dressed in my normal shorts and a short-sleeve shirt combo, assuming it would be pleasant by the time I was out and about. But it wasn’t. It was extremely brisk, and every time the wind picked up while I was walking around campus, to and from the bus stop, etc., I had to brace myself and think warm thoughts. My fingers ached from cold if I didn’t keep them shoved into my pockets. As I waited for my 9 a.m. bus today, the temperature being flashed on a sign across the street was a mere 42 degrees Fahrenheit. I never would have guessed that Florida could be so nippy.

To be honest, I did some research, and I think this is slightly abnormal for Florida. At least for this early into the autumn/winter part of the year. The average high in October is supposed to be 81 degrees F with a low in the upper 50’s. Not too shabby. It’s only December through February when the lows are supposed to dawdle in the lower 40’s and the highs typically max out in the mid-60’s. But somehow I thought even those temperatures would be more tolerable than I now expect them to be. In Atlanta, there was a sign across from the philosophy department that flashed the time and temperature, and I always wondered if it could be accurate because no matter how low the displayed temperature got, it never felt as bad to me as the number would suggest. I guess I expected Tallahassee to be similar. Now I’m being faced with the cold, hard truth, and I’m really glad I brought some sweaters.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Awesome Autumn

I never thought I’d say this living in Florida, but autumn is in the air. As bizarre and unexpected as it may be, Tallahassee has thus far proven a more seasonal city than Atlanta. One of my complaints about Atlanta was that, even when it looked beautiful outside (i.e. gray and rainy), it actually felt muggy. But despite being four-and-a-half hours south of Georgia’s capital city, Tallahassee has been tickling my fancy with a week of rainy and crisp, brisk, breezy weather. It actually feels cool outside when it’s raining here lately! And when you head out in the mornings, you almost feel a little too cool! How amazing is that???

Granted, Atlanta got chilly in the winter. I was surprised how much I’d freeze on January mornings while I waited for the train. But it always seemed to warm up by the afternoon. It didn’t necessarily get hot in the winter months, but it didn’t stay cool. It would eventually level out and become that temperature where you can’t even feel it, neither warm nor cool. But Tallahassee has remained cool, even in the middle of the day. It’s rather pleasant! The only thing I miss about Atlanta is that the leaves actually changed color up there. The change went quickly, but at least you got a day or two of vibrant oranges and reds to ogle.

It was especially nice to have cool weather today. We attended our local church’s “Trunk or Treat,” an early Halloween celebration where children dress up in their costumes and collect candy from the open trunks of participating vehicles. In my mind, Halloween and brisk weather go together like caramel and apples, so I was delighted to feel the temperatures a little more in sync with my memories than I had expected. We all had a good time. Edison was too intimidated to try the hay ride, but it is admittedly a somewhat pointless practice. Can it really be all that exciting to be slowly driven around a parking lot, just because you happen to be sitting on straw? Apparently.

For the record, Eddie scored a nice purple plastic pumpkin full of candy. When given a choice of what candy to take, Eddie would always take lollipops (if they were available), and he systematically sampled his whole collection after making his way down the row of parked cars. He’d dutifully unwrap each sucker, give it one or two licks, and promptly return it to its paper packaging. Something tells me we won’t have to worry about him wanting to eat all of his Halloween candy in one night. Just a sample of everything will do him fine.

Monday, October 20, 2008

One Drop in the Romance Bucket

As of today, Melanie and I have been married for three years. You would probably expect me to follow that sentence with some sort of romantic sentiment, expressing just how much love I have for my wife or how the last three years have been the greatest of my life. But what I really want do is laugh. Three years? It seems absolutely absurd. Ridiculous!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do love my wife, and the last three years have made the previous 27 years of my life seem relatively insignificant in comparison. So much of my identity today is being a husband and a father. I consider it a monumental blessing that I can say this. What a wonderful identity to have! But I can hardly believe that the depth of these roles extends back only three years. How can that be? Three years is nothing! How is it possible that I was not Edison’s dad three years ago? How could Peter not have been around just six months ago??? These are incredibly bizarre facts for my mind to make sense of. But certainly nothing out-boggles the mind like the fact that Melanie and I have been married a mere three years—that three years and one day ago, Melanie was not my bride!

Here are some further reasons that a three-year marriage sounds so laughable:
  1. Melanie has now occupied a full 33% of my life, a pretty cool fact given that I’m not really all that old.
  2. As she herself recently noted, Melanie has celebrated my last ten birthdays with me. Wow!
  3. Melanie and I knew each other back in the 20th century, for crying out loud!
Is it any wonder that three years sounds so silly?

My dearest Melanie, I hope you know how much you mean to me. I hope you know how much I appreciate and admire your commitment to our love and happiness, and how much you selflessly invest into making joy a daily reality in our home. I hope you know the influence that your values and priorities have on us as a family, making every one of us a better and happier person because of you. I hope you know the awe and reverence I feel toward you as I watch you somehow becoming more and more perfect as time goes on. And I hope you will forgive me if the thought of a three year anniversary makes me want to break into hysterics.

Happy anniversary, MelanieMine. I love you endlessly!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


I'm 30 years old today. I admit, it sounds funny to say it. I've never been the type of person to think age is a big deal, but there is something a little more noticeable about entering a new decade. Who cares about going from 28 to 29? You only spend a year as a 28-year-old, so it's easy enough to give up. But I've spent a whole decade—a significant decade—in my 20's. It's the decade I most closely identify with at this point. The first two decades of my life—well, I've changed a lot since then. Will I one day say the same thing about my 20's? Actually, I hope so, at least in some respects. But it's ... fascinating, I guess ... to think I could view my 20's in a way similar to the way I now view my teenage years. But why wouldn't I? By the end of my 30's, I will (hopefully!) have published articles in scholarly journals, be working as a professor in (odds are) some other state, be living in a house, and I'll be months away from having a teenage son of my own (not to mention an unknown number of children I haven't even met yet). Those aren't exactly minor changes.

On a more lighthearted note, you know you're an adult (or at least more of an adult than not) when your birthday wishes start to revolve around home improvements. This year, here are some of the (sincere, mind you) ideas I've had for gifts to myself: stapling up the coaxial cable that connects our television to the cable jack (so it's not loose and dragging), putting up a rod in my bedroom so I can hang up a curtain and better block out the light, and (as if I have the money to do so) a new couch. Not that any of these things aren't nice. It's just that my thoughts used to turn to CDs and DVDs when I thought about treating myself to something fun. I didn't think about new furniture or making trips to Home Depot.

In the end, I realize that 30 isn't any bigger of a deal than any other age. It's just that turning 30 is one of those existential rest stops where one can look back on the road traveled so far and marvel at how much ground has been covered. One can also look ahead and try to get a glimpse of what's to come. (One can stop and do this at any point, of course, but it just so happens that, due to convention, they've erected a very prominent rest stop at the 30-year-mark and most people tend to stop at it.) There is some idea of what the future holds, but the eyes can only see so far. The terrain doesn't change too much between here and there, where your vision fuzzes and fades. Nevertheless, you know that some day soon enough, this rest stop itself will be long gone and you won't be coming back. You know this isn't the end of your journey (though some never make it this far—a jarring thought, in and of itself), but sometimes you have to stop, sit down, and kick your feet up before you see just how worn your shoes really are. You take it all in, take a deep breath, (blow out your candles), and head on your way. And in 10 years, you'll do it again.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Potpourri No. 22

Little bits of stuff...

Wait a Second ... I'm Sick!
Last weekend, Edison ended up getting a fever. We weren't sure what it was all about. We thought perhaps it had to do with new teeth coming in or something like that. Then, a few days later, Peter ended up waking up in the night with a high fever that came and went over the next few days. Yesterday, Melanie said that she was feeling a little bit under the weather. By the end of the day, I felt the tiniest inkling of a sore throat, but I hoped nothing would come of it. When I woke up this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find my throat feeling better than it had the night before. But as the day has progressed, I have felt more and more exhausted and achy. In fact, I was feeling rather blah for quite a while before it occurred to me that I am sick. I was clammy, my body was sensitive to touch and movement, and I had no motivation to do anything whatsoever. For some reason, I was amused that I could feel that way for so long before realizing that I'm already ill, that I'm not just waiting to see if I will be. As final confirmation, Melanie touched my head just a few moments ago and said I'm rather warm. So it's fever time around here. Sucky.

Friendly Reminder: You're Still Not Wanted
To understand the absurdity of what I'm about to tell you, you should first revisit this post from early June. Did you read it? Okay. Well, two days ago, now that we're well into the fall semester, I received another rejection email from University of California-Riverside, informing me that I have not been admitted into the philosophy Ph.D. program this year. I guess they want to make sure I didn't think the first rejection was a humorous, sarcastic way of telling me that I'm in. You'd think the fact that I didn't show up and start taking classes would clue them in that I've moved on. But why haven't they?

Get out of My Face(book)!
A modest pet peeve of mine is when people with whom you've never spoken suddenly ask you to be their friend on Facebook. There were a few people in Atlanta that, while I knew who they were and (visually) saw them regularly (e.g. at church or at school), I had never spoken to them. Nevertheless, the time would come when I would receive a notice on my Facebook account that these people had requested me to add them as a friend. It seemed potentially uncomfortable to reject them when I knew I would see them all the time, so I added them. But even after adding them on Facebook, we would never so much as say “Hey” when passing each other in the “real” world. These online friendships were a fraud, a way to push someone's Facebook friends total up into the triple (if not quadruple) digits and give them a false sense of popularity. Well, fortunately for me, I've moved to Tallahassee and have now dumped several of these faux friends. And I'm abstaining from adding anyone in the future with whom I've never spoken. At least if they want to ask me why I haven't been kind enough to announce to the world that we're friends, it will give us a chance to meet.

My Son, the Musician
Edison is quite a fan of music. He's eager to dance, he likes to sing, etc. In that respect, he's probably like a fair amount of two-year-olds. But I take pride in the fact that, once in a while, Eddie will demonstrate some keen, musically perceptive abilities. For example, Eddie once pointed out that some jazz music we could hear was like the music at the beginning of Monsters, Inc. (which, if it isn't obvious, has jazz music over the opening credits). Even more impressive, he has twice pointed out what instruments he can hear when we're listening to music. The other day, he took notice of the drums in a song that was playing at a restaurant. Several weeks earlier, Eddie noted that he could hear a guitar in the music we were listening to. I personally find this rather cool for a two-year-old.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I Finally Have Gas!

Last Friday afternoon while I was driving, I noticed a whole bunch of cars all turning into the same gas station. I noticed that the gas station’s sign was not displaying a price for any gasoline other than diesel. I found it odd that so many cars were going to the gas station at once, and because I couldn’t think of anything else to explain it, I thought to myself, “You idiots, just because the gas station isn’t displaying a price for gasoline doesn’t mean it’s free!”

As I would find out a couple of hours later, the real reason so many cars were pulling into the gas station was that the fear of a gas shortage had set in. Apparently Florida gets some of its gasoline from Texas, and because Hurricane Ike was scheduled to hit into Texas at any moment, there was concern that we, as Tallahasseeans (?), would be without gasoline for who knows how long. And there you have it – self-perpetuated disaster. The price of gasoline shot up to as high as $5.45 per gallon for regular unleaded, and the cars lining up to buy the stuff stretched halfway down the block. I assure you, you have never seen so many cars crammed into a gas station parking lot in your life.

From what I’ve read, we (that is, Floridians) needn’t be so worried about gasoline. We get some of it from Alabama, and we supposedly have a decent amount of it stored away for safe keeping. But that hasn’t prevented Tallahassee from freaking out, and because of this fact, it has become quite difficult to buy gasoline here in the state’s capital. For the past week, almost every gas station has been bone dry. No prices are being flashed on the gas station marquees, and plastic bags cover the gas nozzles to signal drivers that there is no petroleum on site.

It has only been over the last few days that some stations have once again had gasoline. The problem is, this merely instigates a surge of gasoline consumerism that quickly leaves the station’s fuel supply depleted. Within hours, there is nothing left, and again the plastic bags are returned to the nozzles telling hopeful customers not to bother. Because Melanie and I don’t drive all that much, I have never bothered participating in this charade, figuring things would be back to normal by the time we were really desperate for gas. But last night, the low fuel indicator light in our Toyota Corolla finally sprang to life. Only hours before, I had seen overpriced gasoline available at a station very near our apartment, so as I made my way home from school after dark (Thursdays are my late days), I stopped at this same gas station hoping to buy at least a gallon or two. But they were out. I didn’t dare keep driving around, so I just went home and figured I’d try again in the morning, hoping that a new shipment of gasoline would have been delivered by then.

This morning, I hopped online and read some reports that at least a few gas stations near my home had gasoline available. I figured I better join the crowds and go fuel up before it was all gone. But by the time I was out there, which was shortly before 9 a.m., the locations I had read about were empty. Nothing left. Fortunately and finally, the fifth gas station I came to had gas, and at the not-too-shabby price of $3.56 a gallon. I had to wait in line about 15-20 minutes in order to fill up, but I’m just glad my fear that the station would run out of gas while I was waiting in line did not come to fruition. I’m also glad my car doesn’t hold much more than 10 gallons, since that was the maximum purchase allowed by this particular gas station.

Long story short: I have gas, and I am happy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

First Four Weeks

I’m into my fourth week of my doctoral program. So far, so good. And so busy. No surprise, I guess, but it sure didn’t take long to feel overloaded and behind on everything. I’m taking three classes, all of which are just one day per week, but two of them in particular require quite a bit of reading. Combine that with my GTA responsibilities and there isn’t much free time whatsoever. As a GTA, I am grading just over 60 multiple choice quizzes per week (not so bad) plus just over 60 one-page essays per week. Sure, these essays are short, but it takes a decent amount of time to go through that many. As long as I stay constantly busy, I am managing, but I’m not sure what will happen once I start having my own essays to write. I don’t know how those can possibly fit into the picture.

Commuting isn’t so bad here in Tallahassee. I was used to an hour (average) commute in Atlanta, so the 45 minutes it takes here doesn’t seem bad at all. I have a lot less distance to go than I did in Atlanta, but now I’m riding only buses instead of a bus and a train every day. Regardless, the buses seem nice enough. Most of them run hourly, which initially worried me. It would seem that, if you missed a connection, you could be in real trouble. Fortunately, Tallahassee is small enough that all of the bus transferring takes place at a downtown depot at the same time. You don’t need to worry about missing your connection because all of the buses wait until all of the other buses have arrived before they take off again. In fact, I was talking to a Tallahassee woman on my first day of riding the bus and asking about potential missed transfers. She said that if you miss a bus, someone who works at the bus depot might just drive you home in their own car. She said she knew a couple of people who had had that happen. Now is that a small town or what?

I have driven to campus a few times. Parking is notoriously bad at Florida State, but I’m not sure of a major university where that wouldn’t be the case. Fortunately for me, there is a newly opened parking garage very near to the philosophy department, and I’ve never had a problem parking there as long as I get to campus by 9 a.m. or so. I figure it’s just because people are still learning that it exists. I keep thinking one day I’ll show up and there won’t be any spots. This is not irrational to suppose, for the other student parking lots and garages that are fairly near to this one are always completely full by 9 a.m., and a swarm of cars is always circling about waiting for someone to leave. It probably doesn’t help the parking situation that FSU gives every student a free parking pass. Of course, if it weren’t for the free parking pass, I wouldn’t be trying to drive there, so I’m just part of the problem, right? Once in a while, anyway.

So that’s my update. And this is my abrupt ending.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Putting My Foot Down: One Year Later

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the car crash that resulted in my calcaneous fracture. By writing this post, I certainly don’t mean to be celebrating the event. But it’s been a while since I’ve written about my left foot in any detail, so I thought I’d let you know where I’m at.

I limp. Given that I’m at the one-year mark, I guess it’s fairly likely that I always will limp. That sucks when I think about it. Not that others don’t have it worse. But it’s weird and admittedly a bit heartbreaking to me when I think back to days when I would just walk—walk without thinking about it, walk without feeling at least a little bit of pain—and realize that, as far as my mortal life is concerned, I’ll never do that again. Ever. I think of one day playing in the yard with my children, running around after them, and I know I can’t have what I’m imagining. Not quite, anyway. I can’t just chase after them. I can speedily hobble to them, sure, but gone are the days when I could hold Eddie up above my shoulders and “fly” him around. Yes, yes, I can sort of do it, but speed (not to mention comfort) is greatly reduced by limping. It makes it too exhausting to do it for more than half a minute, too. So even though my oldest child is only two-years-old, some activities are already lost—or at least greatly impaired. And yes, I get sad when I think about it.

My left ankle is still a tiny bit swollen. At least it’s a bit rounder than my right ankle. My doctor had told me it would take about a year for the swelling to reduce as much as it ever would. But it’s always going to be a little swollen I guess. A little. It’s been a while since I’ve tried to squeeze into size 10½ shoes, but I suppose I’m forever an 11 now. Not that I really need a size 11 shoe for anything other than my left ankle. 10½W should do the trick, but how often do you really see W shoes when you’re just looking at basic sneakers? I never see it. So 11 is my shoe size now.

I don’t have full range of movement in my left foot. That’s the first thing my doctor told me I’d never get back. Here are some of the most noticeable ways in which this impacts me on a daily basis. (1) I can no longer spread all of the toes on my left foot apart from each other. In particular, I cannot get my pinky toe to pull away from my next-to-smallest toe (that is, without manually pulling it apart with my hand). That may sound like a petty thing to complain about, but I really want to spread my toes apart sometimes. It used to be that after I showered, I’d spread all my toes apart and wave my feet around to aid in the drying of my feet. I enjoyed feeling the cool air moving between my toes. Now I cannot get the full experience with my left foot. The area between my pinky and next-to-pinky toe will remain forever moist unless I wedge a towel down in there and rub. But that just never feels satisfactory. I always want to spread the toes and wave them and feel like the job is complete. But I can’t. I really miss that sometimes. (2) I cannot squeeze into my shoes just by stepping into them. Again, not a big deal in any grand sense of the term, but it used to be possible for me to just step into my shoes, wiggle my feet around, and within seconds I’d have the shoes entirely worked onto my feet. Now I just can’t do that. I always have to sit down (or lean against a wall) and use both hands to put on my shoes. I can’t manipulate my left foot well enough to get it into a shoe by itself, and it’s tricky to do it with my right foot because it requires keeping my balance on just my left foot, which is not as strong as it used to be. So it’s a recipe for failure if I try, no matter which foot I’m using. I miss the convenience I once knew. (3) The most notable impairment is when I’m going down a set of stairs. Up isn’t so much a problem. But going down, I pretty much always have to drop onto my right foot. This is because I lack the strength and agility in my left foot to be able to roll forward onto the ball of my left foot. So, when I start to step down with my right foot, I can only go so far before I have to just “let go” of trying to hold myself up with my left foot, and I then basically just fall onto my right foot. I don’t even know how noticeable this would be to someone watching me, other than that I’d probably look like I’m stepping hard when I go down the stairs. But I worry that, over time, I’m really going to do some damage to my right knee. It's taking a lot of impact.

So there you have it. In so many ways, I was very fortunate to sustain only the injury that I did. It would be easy to think that I’ve got little to complain about. But the ramifications of the injury are far more reaching than it might appear at first glance. And probably the worst part about it is simply that the injury (and the car accident) are inescapable for me. So many moments throughout my day cannot help but remind me of what has happened. That can be sad, not to mention tiring. Again, I know my family has been incredibly blessed that nothing worse came of the accident. But these are the facts of how the accident has forever left its mark on my experience of the world, of how a few seconds of time that took place one year ago today will ever accompany me into the future.

Monday, September 01, 2008

I Have the Power!

On August 11th, I successfully defended my master's thesis. “Successfully,” meaning my thesis committee did not forbid me from graduating. This does not mean they were in any way convinced by that for which my thesis argued. No matter. It is over and done, and aside from the degree officially showing on my transcript (which may take until December), I am now a Master of Philosophy.

It has been a crazy few weeks. For a variety of reasons, getting an Internet connection established in my Tallahassee apartment has been a pain in the rear end. Even now that I have a connection, it has not been without problems. Just tonight, I spent a good hour trying to get the connection reestablished after who-knows-what went wrong. I'm hoping, hoping, hoping that this will be the end of the trouble. We'll see.

Now that I'm reconnected, I hope to increase my blogging again and let you all know what it's like in Tallahassee, how the Ph.D. program is going, etc. So far, so good. I've only had one week of classes, but I'm hopeful. It doesn't seem any different than my master's program, as far as the workload is concerned.

For those who were worried, Melanie and I (and Eddie and Peter) survived our first tropical storm. It didn't do much to us other than rain quite heavily for a couple of days. Flooding was the major concern around here, but I wasn't that worried about it. We live on the second floor of an apartment complex located at the top of a semi-steep hill, so it would have taken a Noah-sized event for our home to get flooded (barring a severe roof leak, I suppose). I don't watch the news enough to know how worried I'm supposed to be about Gustav and/or Hanna. Nobody seems too concerned yet, so I guess I'll just happily follow the crowd and hope it doesn't result in our untimely deaths.

That's it for now. I haven't had time to revamp the format of this blog like I had planned to do once I got to Tallahassee, but perhaps a new format will be a nice way to celebrate the fourth-year anniversary of this blog. Can you believe it? Time is flying....

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Atlanta Chronicles: Goodbye to You

I wanted to write one final blog entry while still living in Atlanta. This will be it. As soon as this is posted, I’ll be tearing down my computer and putting it into a box. This will not be my last post about Atlanta, in part because I’ll probably compare Tallahassee to Atlanta during my first few months living in Florida, but also because I never posted about some things I had always intended to. So those will (probably) still come, at some point.

The real tale to tell has to do with the horrible experience Melanie and I have had getting our Tallahassee apartment all squared away. It’s too much to go into here, but sadly I can already tell people to avoid any apartment properties owned by Concord Management Limited. Aye carumba. To tell you the basic point, Melanie and I were only guaranteed as of approximately 5 p.m. today that we had a place to live in Tallahassee this upcoming Monday. Concord just gave us the run around and kept making it sound like we’d be approved any second, but then kept telling us they needed something else and something else and something else (and they never called us, mind you, it was us constantly calling them to see what was happening – and I’m not kidding when I say they literally never called us, not once).

OK, I won’t wallow in that. Hopefully I’ll be able to post again soon. Tally is such a small town, I haven’t been able to figure out who offers Internet service down there. Everything I’ve looked into is a no-go, so right now I don’t have any Internet service coming my way. Which freaks me out, because I’m totally Internet-dependent (for school, if not for leisure). I don’t know what to do about it, though. I’m clueless.

Alas, that is all I have time to say. Next time I write, I will be in Tallahassee. Here’s hoping I’ve smiled a lot between now and then. The frustrations of the past two weeks have been unbelievable.

Oh, and for the record, I do defend my thesis on Monday at 10 a.m. Right before I leave for Tallahassee, because I have to be out of my apartment by 11 a.m. Fun, eh?

To be continued….

Friday, August 01, 2008

Thesis the Third

Third draft of thesis officially submitted.

Pages: 52

I’ll either be defending it on Monday, August 11th, the same day I move to Tallahassee, or I’ll be giving up on it until at least September. Either way has its perks, but let’s hope for the 11th…

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I Want My Mtv

When Melanie and I first moved in to our current apartment approximately two years ago, we discovered we had cable television. We were under the strong impression that our apartment did not come with cable, but there it was—roughly 80 channels to choose from. Initially, this made me nervous. Had the people who lived in our apartment before us simply failed to turn off their cable? Even worse, did the previous tenants have illegal cable from which we were now benefiting? Would it catch up with us if we did nothing about it? All I did was plug my television set into the wall. If 80 channels were available to me, what fault was it of mine?

As time went on, my anxiety subsided. Surely, I thought, our apartment just comes with basic cable. It is just one of the amenities of living in a self-proclaimed “luxury apartment complex.” Nothing about this seemed far-fetched. I’ve known several people whose apartment complexes did include free cable. I figured I must have misunderstood the leasing office when they told me what I needed to do if I wanted to get cable. Presumably, they were just talking about fancier cable packages, what to do if I wanted to upgrade and get things like HBO and Showtime.

Such was my thought process. Naïve? Perhaps. But I really believed it, especially after a few months went by. Fast forward to this afternoon, and guess who should knock on my door? An employee of Comcast.

“Yes?” I said, peeking out from behind my front door.

“I just need to know if you want to keep your cable,” the Comcast employee replied. “It was never requested that it be turned on, so if you want to keep it, you just need to pay $30 and fill out some paperwork.”

I was baffled. “You mean, I’m not supposed to have cable??? I’ve lived here for two years and have always had cable!”

“Nope, it was never supposed to be turned on. Do you want to keep it?”

I was stunned. Nearly 24 months of cable television and now that my apartment is filled with moving boxes, someone is showing up and asking me if I want to pay $30 to keep it? “Um … well … no, I guess not. I’m moving out in a week and a half.”

The Comcast employee looked me over momentarily before putting a pen to his clipboard. “Tell you what,” he said, jotting down some notes as he spoke. “Since you’re moving out so soon, I’ll just keep it on until you’re gone. But I’m telling them that I’m turning it off today.”

Humbly, I stared back at the man. “Okay. Thanks, man. Have a good night.”

I almost wrote about the mystery cable when I first moved in. Now I wish I had, just because it would be funny for those who might have remembered it. Of course, I know there are those who are thinking, “So why didn’t you just ask your leasing office about the cable in the first place?” Perhaps that would have been the smart thing to do. Or, if not smart, at least honest. And the honest response is that I probably didn’t want to lose the cable any sooner than I had to. And there was that tiny chance that I had simply misunderstood, a tiny chance that seemed to grow bigger and bigger by the week. 102 weeks later and I never would have guessed that I wasn’t supposed to have cable.

Fortunately, I won’t have to lose cable anytime in the near future, thanks not only to rule-bending Comcast employees, but to the fact that Melanie and I have applied for a Tallahassee apartment that includes free cable for the first year. Looks like it will be August 2009 before I’ll have to look for new ways to steal it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Thesis, Part 2

Second draft of thesis just submitted. Several old pages cut, several new pages written. Final page count? 49, identical to the last draft. Hopefully of a much better quality. As long as this time around my thesis advisor doesn’t respond with things like, “I’ve attached my comments on your draft. I’m afraid they are not very encouraging” and “I hate to have to be so negative,” I’ll be relatively happy.

Countdown to Tallahassee: less than 18 days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How High Gas Prices Breed Irresponsibility

Melanie's and my car gets approximately 200 miles per tank of gas. The last time we filled up our gas tank, it was over $40. Luckily, we only have to fill up the tank about once every three weeks. Still, it's a sobering thought to realize it's costing us $.20 per mile to drive. I remember filling up for $15, and though I am young, I needn't even go back as far as my high school days to have such memories. With the same mileage I am getting now, a $15 fill-up would have been equivalent to paying just seven-and-a-half cents per mile driven. Wow.

My library is located 2.5 miles from my home. That means it costs me a buck to drive to my library and back. In contrast, the late fee on overdue books is $.15 per day. Hence, if ever I have plans to visit an establishment that is located near the library (e.g. Wal-Mart) within six days of a book being due, it is in my best interest not to return the book on time, but to wait until I am going to that nearby establishment and to return the book as part of the same outing. Even if I wait the maximum six days, I will have saved myself ten cents by being delinquent in my return of the book than I would have spent returning the book on its proper due date. The more books that are due, the less leeway I will have, but under typical circumstances, procrastination stands a good chance of being a financially viable option.

Sad news for libraries, eh? It seems a $.15 fine will no longer be adequate for encouraging those of us who live more than a couple of blocks from our library to be responsible patrons. It may even result in people frequenting the library less and less often, and before you know it, literacy rates will be plummeting. All because of the price of oil. Crude, indeed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Going for Broke

So it’s now been 10 months (give or take a couple of days) since the car crash. I still limp, and it’s quite possible I always will. All of the time and money put into physical therapy couldn’t bring me back to normal, but my doctor had told me as much from the very beginning. He said that I had sustained a “career ending injury.” Bummer.

But here’s the good news. The surgery and follow-up treatment (not to mention pre-surgery treatment) of my foot was enough to put me well over my “maximum out-of-pocket” (hereafter “max OOP”) insurance expenses for the year. In other words, I got jacked up enough that my insurance was eventually covering my expenses 100%. Of course, I had to reach my deductible and pay 20% of much that came after that, but eventually they were contractually obligated to take financial pity on me.

I’m bringing this up now because, a few months after my last physical therapy session, I have learned that a decent-sized reimbursement check is on its way back to me from the physical therapists. The physical therapists had made me pay my 20% up front, and it was only when I got my report from my insurance company that I realized my insurance should have been (and indeed was) covering the therapy at 100%. So, the 20% I had paid was unnecessary. Of course, the slowness with which these things get processed did not allow me to prevent shelling out the money in the first place, as I was unaware that I had met my max OOP.

Melanie and I consider ourselves quite fortunate. July and August are always a bit more financially straining, due to the fact that the previous year’s school loans have been depleted and nothing more is coming in until September-ish. It doesn’t help when you have unexpected medical bills as we did, all of which resulted from a car crash that happened on the same day we found out we were going to have another baby (which in turn brings more expenses). It also doesn’t help that we have to move to Tallahassee in a few weeks. Fortunately, because I am set up on school insurance, my insurance “year” goes from August to July, so my September 2007 surgery and my January 2008 (and beyond) physical therapy both worked toward the same deductible, OOP, etc. If we had been on traditional insurance, I probably would have had to meet my deductible again just a couple of months after meeting it in the first place. The only downside to our insurance is that Melanie and I have separate max OOP’s, so even though I reached the cap, Melanie did not. Otherwise, I guess we would have had a free baby! Shucks.

Lesson of the day – when you get injured, try to make it expensive. Try to sustain maximal harm, and try to do it as early in the year as possible (based on when your insurance considers the year to begin). You then needn’t worry about any more injuries occurring during the year, because if they do, you’ll be fixed up for free. And who doesn’t like to get things for free?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Thesis Peanut Butter Cups

Forgive the nonsensical pun that is the title of this post. It doesn’t mean anything, and I can’t even pretend it means anything, but it’s what came to my head as I set out to write this. As you may be able to guess, I am writing about my thesis. Hence, “Thesis Peanut Butter Cups.” There is absolutely no connection. I haven’t even had a peanut butter cup since I began writing my thesis.

You are being treated to some random jabber, stream-of-consciousness “la la la la la la”-ness because this post is being written by a man whose brain is fried. Which reminds me of a song McGruff the crime dog used to sing to my fourth-grade class back when I was the privileged kid in the class who was allowed to move McGruff’s mouth. (He was a puppet.) I don’t feel like writing out the lyrics to that song though. It was about cocaine frying your brain, as you could have guessed. (Eggs!)

So, I just sent off a complete draft of my thesis. Complete as in it has a beginning, middle, and abrupt end. Not complete as in “not much room for improvement.” It will need a substantial overhaul, I’m sure, but I had to send in a completed draft by tonight in order to have any chance of getting my M.A. degree completed before I move to Tallahassee. Two weeks from now I have to have an even completer version of the thesis sent out to my entire thesis committee, who shall then proceed to intellectually defecate thereupon, and then about a week later, I’ll have to defend my thesis, hoping the big gaping hole I realized my thesis had as I finished writing the last few pages will not occur to them. (Not really, but kind of really sometimes sort of.)

Guess how long my (!) thesis is? 49 pages! OK, not a novel, but easily the longest thing I’ve ever written. Uberfun.

Can you totally tell that this is the most random stream-of-consciousness post I’ve ever written? I can. I’m hardly even allowing myself to stop typing. I just keep going, like my high school creative writing class when we had to write without stopping and see what kind of geniusistic gems would pop out of our minds. Jeepers, non-stop writing sure isn’t making me look creative today is it? What a waste that class was! LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!

Posted without re-reading or editing. Yikes! LOLOLOLOLOL!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Picture Books Not Included

At the end of January, I was quite surprised to realize I had already read over 1,100 pages of books during 2008. (See here.) Well, 2008 is now halfway over, and while I cannot say that I’ve maintained the reading intensity that January offered, I’m pleased to report that I’ve now read 4,801 pages. And counting.

It’s interesting to look back at my monthly statistics. After a knockout first month of the year, you can see the numbers taking a steady dive. February, the shortest month of the year, still managed to accumulate 1,070 pages, but as we hit the midterm of the semester, everything changed. March came in with 833 pages, while April, the last full calendar month of the semester, churned out no more than 449 pages. It’s obvious that as the semester progresses, the time I have available for reading quickly dissipates. Instead, I find myself writing papers for the classes I’m taking while grading papers for the classes I’m teaching. It’s time-consuming.

I managed to read 628 pages in May, a respectable amount given that I had a baby at the beginning of the month and spent three weeks of the month teaching five days a week. Teaching so frequently probably helped me, really, because it meant I was spending roughly two hours per day on public transit. I think the fact that I am now finished with teaching and am working on a thesis almost exclusively from home explains why my numbers haven’t skyrocketed back up since school let out. June brought in an additional 700 pages, but surely it would have been more had I spent a few more days on the train.

This makes me question what will happen to my reading habits when I move to Tallahassee. No matter where I live in Tallahassee, I don’t expect my commute to school to be very lengthy. It’s sure to take a toll on the amount of reading I do, and oddly enough this almost makes me wish I could have a longer commute to look forward to. Of course, I could just invest that same amount of time into reading without being in transit. But somehow that’s not ever the way it works. When you’re on a bus or a train, you can’t help but have time to read. If it’s a matter of choice, though, reading for pleasure always gets low priority. Sad, but true.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Thesis Writing is Fun!

I just wrote what may very well become my favorite line of my thesis. It reads as follows:
It is an issue of concern for this project whether Strawson is correct about this, especially since he is not.
To quote Drennon Davis, "Who put that in the muffin house?"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

YouTube Killed the Video Star

Many moons ago, Edison got addicted to a video on our computer featuring a singing hippopotamus with noodles on his back. (I wrote about it at the end of this post.) In the interest of my own sanity, I eventually tried to find other videos that Edison could watch, something new and unfamiliar that could keep his attention while also sparing me a 32,846th straight listen to the hippo song. Of course, this just added another video to Edison’s repertoire, and soon enough I’d be sick of that one as well. I’d then have to find another new video, and the process would repeat itself. Over time, the video collection has expanded to a dozen or so standards, but at least that’s enough to prevent me from having to watch or listen to any one video multiple times in a row … usually, at least.

So, I thought I’d go ahead and share some of these videos with you. Today, I am sharing one of the best and one of the worst. I’ll begin with one of the best.

At nearly three-and-a-half minutes, this video is the longest in Edison’s playlist. It’s a bit predictable, but I have to admit, I find the dramatic slow-motion part that begins just shy of the two-minute mark to be quite humorous. It made me laugh, even on multiple viewings (though not so much anymore). At least that’s something. Take a look:

In contrast, here is an absolutely abysmal video that Eddie and I stumbled upon. It’s one of the very first that Edison became a huge fan of, but it’s painfully unfunny. Its existence can be blamed on a computer program that allows anyone with a microphone to record themselves giving voice to an animated shark whose mouth is supposed to move in response to auditory input. This must be a fairly accessible computer program because there is a whole slew of equally unentertaining videos on YouTube featuring the same animated shark, singing along with Britney Spears or what have you. So, without further ado, check out this video abomination:


Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Atlanta Chronicles: Fact, Fiction, & Forwards

Over a year ago, St. Mac G forwarded me an email designed “for anyone who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, has ever lived in Atlanta, has ever visited Atlanta, ever plans to visit Atlanta, knows anyone who already lives in Atlanta, or knows anyone who has ever heard of Atlanta.” The email is intended as a humorous hyperbole of life in Georgia’s capital city. I always intended to post about it, to examine what the email gets right and where it goes wrong, but for some reason it never happened. Now that I’m less than two months from moving to Florida, I figured I’d better get all my Atlanta commentary out on the table, before it seems entirely irrelevant.

What follows, then, are just some of the Atlanta “facts” presented in the aforementioned forwarded email. After each “fact,” I will offer some commentary, hoping to dispel any unwarranted rumors while acknowledging those things that are spot on. Enjoy.

Atlanta is composed mostly of one-way streets. The only way to get out of downtown Atlanta is to turn around and start over when you reach Greenville, South Carolina.

I feel like the “one-way street phenomenon” is less pronounced in Atlanta than it is in other major cities I’ve visited. I’m actually surprised there aren’t more one-way streets here. The problem for me is that, in Atlanta, there are tons of streets with nearly identical names. What’s worse, the street names change without warning. In some cases, you have to make a hard right or hard left just to stick with the same street name, whereas if you drive straight through the intersection and keep going straight, you’re no longer on the same road. It’s all very counterintuitive. Interestingly, I was told that the apparently random change in any given street name is a relic of legalized racial segregation. In order to make it clear when you had crossed from a white neighborhood into a black neighborhood (or vice versa), the street would bear a new name.

All directions start with, "Go down Peachtree" and include the phrase, "When you see the Waffle House." Except in Cobb County, where all directions begin with, "Go to the Big Chicken."

I can’t vouch for Cobb County, but seeing as how I live on one of the many streets that contain the word “Peachtree,” it’s hard for me not to include “Peachtree” when giving someone directions. And yes, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I suspect there are more Waffle House restaurants in Atlanta than there are human beings.

Peachtree Street has no beginning and no end and is not to be confused with: Peachtree Circle Peachtree Place Peachtree Lane Peachtree Road Peachtree Parkway Peachtree Run Peachtree Terrace Peachtree Avenue Peachtree Commons Peachtree Battle Peachtree Corners New Peachtree Old Peachtree West Peachtree Peachtree-Dunwoody Peachtree-Chamblee Peachtree Industrial Boulevard

This barely scratches the surface. According to the Frommer’s Atlanta guide I perused shortly after moving to Georgia, Atlanta has over 100 streets with the word “Peachtree” in the name. I’m not kidding.

Atlantans only know their way to work and their way home. If you ask anyone for directions, they will always send you down Peachtree.

Very true. After two years of living here, my knowledge of how to get anywhere other than my school, the post office, the grocery store, church, and Papa John’s is next to nil.

Atlanta is the home of Coca-Cola. Coke's all they drink there, so don't ask for any other soft drink unless it's made by Coca-Cola.

More true than I’d like. I generally prefer Coke over Pepsi, but as anyone who has read my blog more than once or twice can tell you, my number one beverage choice is the Pepsi-produced Mountain Dew. In Utah, this was not a problem. It seemed any gas station you went into had both Pepsi and Coke products available in the fountain. For some reason this seems incredibly rare in Atlanta. When I first moved here, I had a dickens of a time finding a gas station that featured Mountain Dew on tap. Luckily, Melanie and I eventually discovered QuikTrip (or QT, pronounced “cutie,” a charmingly appropriate nickname). QT not only has the cheapest gas prices in town, it also has some of the best tasting fountain Mountain Dew (or Fountain Dew, as I lovingly call it) in all of America. QuikTrip will be sorely missed when I move to Tallahassee. (For the record, the first gas station that I found with Fountain Dew in Atlanta was a BP. The Mountain Dew tasted heavily watered down, but at the time it was considered a joyous discovery. I almost wrote a celebratory post about it at the time, entitled “God Save the Queen.”)

The gates at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport are about 32 miles away from the Main Concourse, so wear sneakers and pack a lunch.

The Atlanta airport is big, and supposedly it is the busiest airport in America. But if you use the airport train to get from one concourse or terminal to another, it doesn’t strike me as a difficult airport to get around. And if you fly Delta and take the public train (not the airport train) to the airport, you’ll be dropped off right at the Delta check-in desk. It’s ultra convenient.

The 8am rush hour is from 6:00 to 10:30 AM. The 5pm rush hour is from 2:30 to 7:30 PM. Friday's rush hour starts Thursday afternoon and lasts through 2am Saturday.

Sad, but pretty much true. I originally thought the traffic in Atlanta wasn’t so bad, but I quickly had to recant that view. The 5pm rush hour is exaggerated a bit here, however. I’d say it doesn’t get too horrible until about 4 PM, but depending on where you’re headed, it might not clear up by 7:30. One time when Melanie and I were returning to Atlanta from a weekend out of town, the freeway traffic became dead stopped approximately 30 miles prior to reaching Atlanta. That was on a Sunday afternoon.

The falling of one raindrop causes all drivers to immediately forget all traffic rules. If a single snowflake falls, the city is paralyzed for three days and it's on all the channels as a news flash every 15 minutes for a week. Overnight, all grocery stores will be sold out of milk, bread, bottled water, toilet paper, and beer.

This is exaggerated, particularly when it comes to the rain. It does snow in Atlanta on occasion, and it has even snowed for us a handful of times (though it didn’t snow at all during out first winter here). True, they canceled our church 24 hours ahead of time because of the snow, which strikes a native Utahan such as myself as very premature, but nobody acted like it was a big deal. As for the rain, Atlanta is very used to it. The most treacherous thunderstorms I’ve ever experienced have been in Atlanta. Often enough, a Georgia thunderstorm sounds like multiple freight trains are dropping out of the sky and landing in a giant pit a few miles away. Lightning flashes, and almost immediately you are treated to a long, tremendously loud, booming reverberation. It’s quite an experience.

I-285, the loop that encircles Atlanta, which has a posted speed limit of 55 mph (but you have to maintain 80 mph just to keep from getting run over), is known to truckers as "The Watermelon 500."

I don’t know anything about the watermelon nickname, but you’re definitely causing problems if you’re going only 55 mph (assuming it’s not one of the 12-hours worth of “rush hour” in which you’re not moving at all). Atlanta drivers are horrible.

There are 10,000 types of spiders. All 10,000 live in Georgia, plus a couple no one has seen before.

Coming from the relatively dry Intermountain West region of the United States, Melanie and I have had to get used to the horrific bug problem that the South harbors. The word “bug” has a completely different connotation to me now than it did when I lived in Salt Lake City. Thanks to Atlanta, I’ve now encountered insects that are the size of bugs I had previously seen only in museums, pinned to a piece of corkboard. This goes not only for spiders, but for roaches (the dreaded Palmetto having made one too many appearances during my Atlanta tenure), millipedes, bumblebees (so big they look like flying eggplants), and other unidentified crawling objects (UCO’s).

If you notice a vine trying to wrap itself around your leg, you have about 20 seconds to escape, before you are completely captured and covered with Kudzu, another ill-advised "import," like the carp, starling, English sparrow, and other ''exotic wonders."

I noticed the Kudzu right away, but it looked rather cool to me. I had never heard the word before, and I didn’t know it was considered a weed. It does cover tons of trees here, but to me it looks lush and ivy-like. It makes my train commute a little more scenic.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Donuts Make My Brown Eyes Blue

Last Saturday, I wrote about a surprise package from two wonderful friends, a package that included a box of delectable snack cakes—Hostess Chocodiles—available only in the western United States. In passing, I mentioned another scrumptious Hostess product that has limited geographical distribution. More specifically, I mentioned these:

And how did I acquire a photograph of these particular treats? By snapping it myself, because I received yet another surprise package from these same wonderful friends! I’m almost embarrassed by the generosity these two friends have shown Melanie and me over the years. If I didn’t know any better, I’d be worried that one day I’m going to be approached by these friends and asked to whack somebody, and just as I’m about to protest, I’ll be confronted with a list of all the things these two have done for me, and I won’t be able to say no, and I’ll suffer the shame of being a contract killer who was partially paid off in jelly-filled donuts. Luckily, these two friends are wonderfully wholesome people and I don’t have anything to worry about. And if they ever decide to kill someone, I don’t think they’d trouble their friends with it. Heck, they might even ask if there’s anybody they can kill for me while they’re at it. That’s how sweet they are.

So, as officially as I am capable of doing so, I am now beatifying these two friends. They shall now be known as the patron saints of Hostess products. Commence veneration.

NOTE: I appreciate those of you who have, sincerely or otherwise, offered to send along similar packages of goodies currently unavailable to me in Georgia. Do not let the generosity of these two friends dissuade you. Your package will be every bit as appreciated.