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....