Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I'm Ready for Those Flowers

They say that April showers bring May flowers, which I’m hoping is true because I’ve certainly been rained on during the last month (both literally and figuratively—it’s been a wet month here in Atlanta). Among the figurative torrents have been a deluge of student papers in need of grading, numerous hours spent on a master’s thesis that seems to be going nowhere fast, a final paper for a seminar on ancient ethical theories that needs more revision than I wish it did, and a wife whose latest hobby is making me think she’s going into labor.


I know the May flowers won’t be starting too quickly. Everything I’ve just mentioned has yet to be fully resolved. I’ve still got a handful of papers to grade. I still have to write a complete draft of a master’s thesis in just over two weeks (and it seriously isn’t very far along the way yet—can you say, “impossible”?). I still have to rework my ancient ethical paper (by Monday!). And, speaking of Mondays, unless something crazy happens between now and then, Melanie and I are already scheduled to go to the hospital and make this baby boy show his face. But, by May 16th, I hope to start feeling a little more sane. Granted, I’ll be adjusting to fatherhood part deux, and I’ll start teaching an intensive summer course on May 12th, but once the 16th gets here, I won’t have any super pressing deadlines. Perhaps that will make life feel a little bit calmer.

Sheesh, who am I kidding? As I write this, I feel like a big fat liar! Good thing I’m writing this post without my pants on, because something tells me they’d be uncomfortably warm!

So, that’s life at the moment. I’m glad to be nearly done with grading papers because I find myself literally getting angry as I grade them. I get angry because so many students do such idiotic things and can’t follow directions to save their lives. Sometimes I want to give them all zeros and say, “You friggin’ moron, you can’t get away with this crap in college! Don’t spend two minutes writing an essay and expect a decent grade!” But instead I have to insert comments like, “Gee, I’m sorry to say that this appears to be slightly off the mark though you’re definitely making a very good point.” This is teacher code for, “Huh?!?!? Have you ever read or even spoken an intelligible sentence in your life??? If you walked around talking like this, you’d be thrown into a mental hospital! What you just said is total gibberish! Let me spell it out for you in a way that you can understand: J-I-B-R-I-S-H!”

To tell you the truth, I didn’t know where I was going with this post when I started writing it. That’s probably not much of a surprise now that you’ve read it. Oh well. I just needed a little venting time.

On a lighter note, go rent the movie Lars and the Real Girl. I watched it last night and it’s a winner. Don’t be too quick to judge it by its plot. If you don’t know what it’s about, maybe that’s for the better. Just rent it and start watching it and don’t turn it off even if you think it initially seems a bit askew.

See you next year, April.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Seminal (Seminole?) Post

As the six of you who read this blog know, I’ve been accepted into the Ph.D. program in philosophy at Florida State University. For those of you who were a little confused by the last post, if you had clicked the words “It’s official” that ended the post, it would have taken you to the FSU philosophy department webpage. Anyway, it’s an exciting offer, it comes with a tuition waiver, a better stipend than I’m receiving now, and paid health insurance. I’m pleased, though I still have to ask Melanie if it’s for real. I’ve spent the last several years of my life wondering what school I’d end up at for my Ph.D., avidly researching my options, and it’s just a bit unreal to think all of that wondering and planning is over and done. (See, for example, my very first post on this blog, written in September 2004.) But now I know it’s FSU. That’s it. That’s what it will always be. Another significant chunk of my life history just got unveiled, and it’s weird that it’s no longer a mystery.

Tallahassee, Florida

There are, of course, pros and cons associated with going to Florida State. I seem to be in the habit of telling people the cons, which probably makes me seem unexcited or unappreciative. That is not the case at all. It’s just that I’ve been thinking about some schools quite heavily for over a year, and even more so within the last few months since I’ve officially applied out. Most of my friends and family knew I had my fingers crossed for University of California-Riverside, so most of the downsides of FSU are only downsides relative to UCR. I’ll start with the cons and finish with the pros, thereby hoping to end on a positive note. Here goes.

Westcott Building, courtesy of Florida State University

The Cons
  1. Climate. I’ll still be living in the South, which is not something I’m in love with. I admit, I don’t miss the harsh winters of my hometown Salt Lake City, but I’m not overly keen on the humidity that comes with living in the South. I can only imagine that living in Florida will be worse, even if it is only 4.5 hours from where I am now. The average summer temperatures in Tallahassee aren’t very different than in Atlanta, but I suspect the increased humidity will make it feel a ton worse. The winters are slightly warmer than Atlanta, so they should be very nice. (Oops, I guess that should go in the pros section.). Of course, with the climate also comes the gigantic bugs—bumblebees that look like flying eggplants, cockroaches that could tackle a small child, etc. I’m still not thrilled about them.
  2. Geographical Location (climate issues aside). It would have been nice to live somewhere closer to home. I really liked the idea of being able to drive home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other special occasions, which would have been possible had I gotten into UC-Riverside. Now the chance of seeing family is greatly reduced. Melanie and I were kind of spoiled during our first year in Atlanta, when we happened to have a lot of family and friends visiting us. I think that time has passed, so if we’re still on the opposite side of the country from our family, the visits will be very few and far between. Sad.
  3. Cost of living. Rumor has it that Florida is pretty expensive. When Melanie and I first moved to Atlanta, we were shocked at the difference in prices out here compared to Salt Lake City. And not just in obvious things, like rent. Milk, vegetables, and just about everything else costs lots more here than in SLC. When we complained about this to some of our newfound Atlanta friends, they told us that they moved here from Florida, and so from their perspective, Atlanta had good prices. Now, it’s possible that Tallahassee itself won’t be as horrible as other places in Florida, but chances are it will be at least as expensive as Atlanta, and thus still a lot more expensive than Salt Lake City. I’m coming up on two years in Atlanta, but I still get mad when I go to the grocery store. I expect this will continue in Tallahassee.
  4. The limited strengths of the FSU philosophy program. FSU has a great program for what I’ve been focusing on in philosophy so far (see the pros section below), but their strengths aren’t quite as diversified as other schools to which I applied. Part of me fears being limited in the areas of philosophy that I can study in depth, and I think other schools would offer me a greater opportunity to branch out. Not that I won’t get a well-rounded education at FSU. It’s just that my interest in, say, philosophy of religion will remain largely unexplored, simply because FSU is unlikely to offer anything other than a survey course in this area.
The Pros
  1. The strengths of the FSU philosophy program. The main reason I applied to FSU is because they are considered the second best program in the world when it comes to the main area of philosophy that I’ve been studying so far—action theory, which includes the topic of free will. They also rank among the top 25 or so philosophy programs when it comes to certain areas of ethics, which is a secondary interest of mine. Beyond philosophy, FSU’s overall reputation is a noteworthy one. U.S. News and World Report apparently gave FSU “Tier One” status, and FSU appears on a handful of “top 100 American universities” lists and on at least one “top 200 universities in the world” list. Many of their academic programs are ranked among the top 25 for public universities nationwide.
  2. Living in a “small” town. Tallahassee is much smaller than Atlanta, a fact I’m very excited about. With a total population just shy of 160,000, Tallahassee is even smaller than Salt Lake City! It will be the smallest city I’ve ever lived in! And that appeals to me, because I’ve found Atlanta to be rather daunting. I look forward to living somewhere where I can feel comfortable getting to know the whole city, feeling like I can take ownership of it in its entirety rather than just the few streets I happen to drive down everyday. I want to feel like I live in Tallahassee, not just like I live in an apartment that happens to be in Tallahassee. In Atlanta, it sometimes feels more like the latter. (Well, not like I live in an apartment in Tallahassee, but you get my point.)
  3. Being on a traditional campus. Actually, I have mixed feelings about this. I think it will be neat to finish out my college student experience at a more traditional university, to have that kind of community and ambience. But I admit, it’s been kind of fun to go to a school at Georgia State, where the philosophy department is located on the 11th floor of a skyscraper, which gives it a very modern, businesslike atmosphere. Nevertheless, it will feel more college-y to spend my days on a traditional campus. I’ll enjoy walking around a more peaceful setting, feeling like I’m at an institution of higher learning and not just walking around downtown. Landscaping is going to be an exciting addition to my graduate school experience! (In fact, from photos I’ve seen, there may even be palm trees! How funny!)
  4. Proximity to Atlanta. Not that I plan on coming back to Atlanta in particular, but it will certainly help when it comes to moving. Granted, loading up (and unloading) the moving truck is the hardest part of a move, but given that Melanie and I will once again be moving with a newborn (thankfully a slightly older newborn this time around), it will be nice not to move all the way across the country. 4.5 hours in a U-Haul is manageable. Spending a week in a U-Haul … not so pleasant. So, that’s yet another perk.
Dodd Hall, home of FSU's philosophy department

When all said and done, I’m very excited. It’s taken a few days for it to really sink in that this is real and not just something that might happen, but the further in it sinks, the more excited I get. As a final note to any family and friends who are reading this, we should be living in Tallahassee for at least four years. This means you all have plenty of time to save up some dough and come see us at least once. I’m talking to all of you! Start saving now!

Note: A decent amount of information in this post was taken from various Wikipedia articles, including but not limited to those on Tallahassee and Florida State University.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mascot Evolution

Ram (1984 – 1991)
Warrior (1991 – 1993)
Panther (1993 – 1997)
Bruin (2000 – 2002)
Ute (2002 – 2006)
Panther (2006 – 2008)
Seminole (2008 – ?)

It’s official.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Stick to the Cookies, Girls

Here is a picture of something you would think would taste soooooooo good!

Here is a picture of something that tastes a lot better than what is pictured above.

When I saw the former ice cream at my neighborhood grocery store, I thought I had stumbled upon one of the greatest ideas in frozen dessert history. Is there a person on this planet who enjoys cookies but does not love the Girl Scout Samoas? No. In fact, Samoas are the only Girl Scout cookie I ever hear anyone talk about. (Despite the fact that, according to the ever-dependable Wikipedia, Thin Mints are the Girl Scouts biggest seller.) So, when I saw that some genius had decided to blend Samoas with fudge and caramel-swirled vanilla ice cream, I did not think it a recipe that could possibly go wrong.


While Edy’s Limited Edition Girl Scouts Samoas Cookie ice cream sounds like a dream come true, it is surprisingly mediocre. It turns out the relatively soft interior of the Samoas cookies does not translate well to ice cream mix-in. They get lost. Their presence is barely noticeable. It’s some of the plainest tasting ice cream I’ve intentionally purchased in a long time. I thought the concoction would be … amazing. (I was going to say orgasmic, but putting “orgasmic” and “Girl Scouts” in the same sentence is likely to bring a host of web surfers to my blog that I’m not sure I want visiting.) Sadly, it wasn’t.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a cheap and decent ice cream, you can try to the above pictured Kroger Deluxe Nutty Waffle Cone ice cream. It has bits of chocolate dipped waffle cone and chocolate covered peanuts. It’s nothing amazing, but at less than half the price, it flogs those Girl Scouts like there’s no tomorrow.

I’m always looking out for the consumer.