Wednesday, August 26, 2009


This marks my 300th post since launching my blog in September 2004 under the title Follow the Bouncing Ball…. In traditional ten-pin bowling, 300 is a perfect score. And that seems a good enough connection to me to let this post be about some of the things that seem to be going perfectly in my life right now. A great deal of my jubilation stems from matters of stress and/or concern that now seem to be resolved. Hence, there will be some darkness before the dawn in each of these items. But bear with me. There’s a happy ending to each.
  • On Saturday, my right ankle started to ache a little bit. My right foot is my “good” foot – i.e. the foot that was not partially reconstructed after its heel was smashed to pieces in a car accident two years ago. I figured the pain had something to do with the way I walk now, which is probably a bit off-center and with my weight shifted differently than it once was. But by Sunday, my right ankle was quite swollen and it was quite painful to walk. It was a little bit better on Monday, thankfully, because I had to start school. But by Monday night, my right big toe started to hurt a little bit. This worried me because I’ve had mysterious swellings of my toes before, and they’ve been quite painful and sometimes quite debilitating. On Tuesday, which was also a school day, my big toe was in a lot of pain. It was way more sensitive than my ankle, and even the slightest touch really hurt. This made it difficult to walk, and I could bear to do so only if I put a lot of weight on the right side of my foot, which I worried would just re-upset my ankle, which was finally getting a lot better. Well, lo and behold, walking is bearable again, just as of today. My big toe is still stiff, but not exactly painful. I can also still feel some tension on the right side of my ankle, but nothing compared to a few days ago. So I’m healing, and I’m incredibly happy about it. I don’t have any classes on Wednesdays, so it helps immensely that I’m not walking around campus. By the time I go back to school tomorrow morning, I hope to be 99.9% normal ... or at least 99.9% as normal as I ever get.

  • In my previous post I mentioned that, as a Florida state resident, I’m now supposed to take 12 credit hours per semester. I was not fully resolved as to what I would take to fill the extra three hours required of me as a Florida resident, and it was stressing me out. To make a long story short, due to budget constraints, they’ve now changed their policy and are asking us to cut back to nine credit hours unless we really need to take 12 right now. I don’t, strictly speaking, and so I’m dropping the moral psychology course I was originally going to take. I’ll only be taking a class on intentional action and another on early modern philosophy, but other than that, I’ll be doing my TA work and doing research that I hope will ultimately feed into a dissertation. I’m genuinely interested in the moral psychology course, but I think my time will be better spent elsewhere. Besides, after speaking with the professor of the course and soliciting his advice, I was going to take the moral psychology course only on a pass/fail basis, rather than for a grade. In doing so, taking the course would not have contributed to my degree requirements, so I’m really losing nothing by dropping it altogether. I can still read the literature if I’m interested, but I won’t have any official obligations whatsoever. That’ll be very nice.

  • There are a couple of other perks to dropping the moral psychology course. First of all, the class goes from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursday nights. If that isn’t bad enough, the early modern philosophy course that I need to take goes from 2 to 5 p.m. on Thursdays. So, with a one-hour break in the middle, I would have spent every Thursday sitting through six hours straight of graduate level philosophy. Not exactly ideal. And I’ve already done a class that went from 6 to 9 p.m., and one that went from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., and I assure you, I’d much rather be home by that time of the day. I feel all the more disconnected from my family when I’m not home in the evening, especially when I miss out on my kids getting ready for bed and saying goodnight. There’s something sad about going to school and knowing I won’t see my kids until the next morning. That’s no good. So, not only will dropping the class free up a lot of time during my week, but it will also make my Thursdays much more tolerable, and it will allow me to be at home with my family in the all-important evening hours. That means a lot to me. And to top it all off, feeling quite excited about the plan, I told Eddie that my really long day of school wasn’t going to be so long anymore and that I wouldn’t have to be gone until it was dark on those days. He seemed just as excited as I was, and he said to me, “One of my favorites is when you’re home!” Almost makes me want to drop out altogether!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

On the Brink of Another Semester

School starts on Monday. It’s a bit sad. The time off always flies by, and yet it always feels like I’m just getting used to the idea of being home and available to my family when a new semester starts and I’m too busy to do anything with them. I know, I bring this up all the time, and plenty of people out there would consider me a jerk for complaining when I get regular breaks like I do. They have a point, but there’s always something to be said about consistency. Whatever your routine may be, it’s hard to have it shaken up too much. It’s hard to go from being ultra busy to not being busy at all and back. The adjustment period does not match what I’m given, in either direction.

Moving on, here’s what this semester entails: because I’ve been in Florida a year now, the school makes me file as a Florida resident in order to receive a full tuition reimbursement, but they also require that I take 12 credit hours rather than just nine. 12 credit hours is a lot for graduate school, especially when you consider the TA responsibilities that we’re given. Some professors don’t require that much of their TA’s, but some require a considerable amount. I don’t know yet how grueling my TA tasks will be this time around, but regardless, there will be plenty of other responsibilities to make me a busy man. As far as graduate seminars are concerned, I’ll be taking a class on intentionality and another on moral psychology. I’m also taking an Early Modern Philosophy course to satisfy my history requirement, but I’m looking forward to it. Early Modern Philosophy was one of my favorite classes as an undergrad, but I think I could benefit from a more advanced study of it. There are several big names from that era that I never learned about during my undergrad career, so hopefully this course will rectify some of that. Those three seminars will take care of nine of my required hours. Then I need to figure out what to do with my final three hours. Nobody recommends taking a fourth seminar. Rather, you’re encouraged to take a fluff class (my words) such as “directed independent study” or “supervised research,” which are fairly easy going. I did some of that this summer, but I’m a bit unsure of what to do now. I could do more of the same, but I don’t want to just waste my time. I think I should be researching something that could tie into a dissertation, and yet I’m wondering if that would make it too serious and too demanding. Maybe it’s better if I can do something into which I don’t have to invest much concern. I need to have my schedule finalized by Thursday, so I’ll let you know.

Until then…

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Raleigh Great Trip

During the past week, Melanie, Edison, Peter, and I have been in no less than four states. We loaded up the car last Friday and drove to the Hinesville, Georgia area to stay the night at Melanie’s brother’s house. As I’ve noted concerning previous visits, driving to Hinesville from Tallahassee without going unnecessarily out of the way requires that one drive past one of the stinkiest places I’ve ever encountered, a production plant for the “forest products company” Rayonier. For the first time that I can remember, Edison took particular notice of a bad smell. The Rayonier plant smells nothing like fecal matter—it smells more like death—but as we passed by, Edison asked me if I was “farting and pooping.” I tell you right now, the smell of farts and poop would have been lovely.

It was a brief visit to Hinesville, as we left early Saturday morning and headed to our primary destination, Raleigh, North Carolina. Melanie’s good friend from college now lives in Raleigh, making the big bucks as a dental hygienist. She let us stay at her apartment and even fed us quite nicely during our two-night visit. As a bonus, Edison warmed up to her right away, so he felt comfortable lounging around in his underwear and eating all her food. We didn’t see much of Raleigh itself, but it was a nice little trip. We ate at Texas Roadhouse, a restaurant I haven’t patronized in years (in part because it hasn’t been located near me since I moved across the country), and during some aimless driving around, I saw a couple of interesting sites: Andrew Jackson’s home and an old school Krispy Kreme with a gigantic, charmingly dated marquee—two great nods to American history.

On Monday, we headed back toward Tallahassee, stopping in Savannah, Georgia, which I had never visited before. Driving into town, we crossed a massive-looking bridge that somewhat intimidated Edison (and, admittedly, myself—there’s something unsettling about being reminded just how piddly-small we humans are). We had no hotel reservation and didn’t really know where we were going, so we just drove around for a bit. I knew Savannah was supposed to be the quintessentially charming Southern town, but I quickly wished we had planned more time to visit. It looked like a fun place to walk around, but the top priority was finding a hotel room and getting our antsy children out of the car. We pulled into a Quality Inn that didn’t look so great, thinking that might offset the fact that it was in a prime location and would undoubtedly be quite expensive if it were any higher class. Sadly, it was still more expensive than we had hoped for, and so we stayed in the hotel parking lot and pulled out our laptop to test the hotel’s Wi-Fi connection. It worked, and soon enough we were online and checking out hotel options from the front seat of our car. (Pretty nifty day and age we live in, eh?) We found something in our price range about 10 miles from downtown, plugged our current location into Google Maps and found a path to the new hotel, and set off. A short while later, we were checking into the Sleep Inn, which had a pool, free Wi-Fi, and a free continental breakfast, which sounded perfect to us. Eddie was very excited about being in a hotel. When we visited Tallahassee a month before moving from Atlanta, we had stayed at a Motel 6, where we ordered a pizza and watched TV as we ate on the beds. Apparently, this is what Edison expects from a hotel visit, since he immediately asked if we could have a “pizza bed picnic” once we told him we were staying at a hotel. We obliged and ordered pizza once we were settled in our room. Aside from a brief 5-minute power outage that affected the entire hotel, the pizza bed picnic was a smashing success.

Edison insisted that our hotel feature wireless Internet access and be welcoming of children without pants. He was satisfied.

On Tuesday morning, we headed to the dining room of sorts and helped ourselves—in a manner of speaking—to the complimentary breakfast. In actuality, we were all too helped by an elderly hotel employee who insisted on doing everything for us. That wouldn’t necessarily be so bad, except that she seemed to watch us like a hawk and didn’t seem to care for much of what we did. She replaced anything we took the moment we took it, and it seemed to cause her great distress when we kept the syrup pitcher at our table, even though she had originally told us just to take it and keep it. (She had since re-collected it, so I guess we were out of place to get it again when we needed more.) She even tried to come over and help Edison pour syrup on his waffle when he struggled a little bit with the pourer. Melanie and I were letting him try to do it himself, since he was very determined to do so, but the Sleep Inn lady was on top of him in no time, telling him she would do it. I informed her that he didn’t want any help, and she informed me that he didn’t know what he was doing. I let her know that I would be the one to help him. She loomed until the job was complete. (In fact, that’s when she first took back the syrup, so I guess that’s why she was dismayed to see us get more a few minutes later.)

My proposed revision of the current Sleep Inn website banner
(I couldn't make it appear larger than it does above, so click on it to see it better.)

Despite power failures and power struggles, we enjoyed our stay in Savannah. On Tuesday morning, before hitting the road to head back home, we drove around a little bit more, including a brief stint through the famous Bonaventure Cemetery. It wasn’t quite what I expected. I thought it was supposed to be a rather ornate cemetery, but it was more antiquated than anything. It felt somewhat gothic, and the graves were certainly crowded together, which made it interesting. But it wasn’t anything incredibly captivating, in my opinion. So we didn’t stay there as long as I had expected, and although we were tempted to do a few more things, we felt it was time to just get home. We stopped at a Parker’s gas station, refueled, and got the best fountain Mountain Dew I’ve tasted since moving from Atlanta (we miss you, QT!), and we then hit the interstate and drove and drove and drove. We stopped for lunch when the rain started coming down a bit too heavily for us to feel comfortable behind the wheel, but other than that, it was fairly smooth sailing. It had been a nice trip. Edison was sad to leave the swimming pools behind, which is kind of funny since we have a swimming pool at our apartment here in Tallahassee. But he swam more on our little vacation than he has during our entire year of living in Tally, I think. Or close to it. He swam a couple of times at Melanie’s friend’s place, and he swam in Savannah while we waited for our pizza. He wanted to hit the pool again in the morning, but we didn’t let him. That wasn’t a highlight of the trip. But most things were. It was a lot of fun. And that’s that.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Exit Summer Semester 2009

The summer 2009 semester is over, and I’m happy to say it was quite a success. Or, at least it felt like a success. Final grades won’t be in until tomorrow, but I felt very good about the only paper I had to write. When I spoke to my professor about my paper idea, he thought it sounded like something that might be worth publishing, which is quite a nice thing to hear. We’ll see what he thinks now that I’ve written it. But, part of the reason I think this semester was such a success is that it was so much more manageable than I ever expected. As I’d mentioned on here before, I was only taking one class and TA’ing for one class, but because they were both six-week summer courses, the responsibilities for each class was rather intense—grading 25-30 essay exams a week as a TA, plus reading quite a bit of material and writing several short reading responses per week for my own class. It kept me busy, for sure, but it wasn’t quite the headache I’d expected. I thought this weekend would be especially terrible, with final exams to grade on top of writing a paper, all of which had to be completed at pretty much the same time. But it worked out. I even got done earlier than I thought I would. Very cool.

So what’s on the horizon for the next 14 days, until I’m right back at it? I’ll tell you what I’d like to do. Watch a bunch of TV and movies, read for pleasure (which I’ve actually done a decent job of lately), sleep. Some of this might happen. More likely than not, I’ll be doing productive things. I should. One thing I absolutely have to do is register myself as a Florida state resident with the school. They make you live here for a year before they allow it, but the philosophy department also will not fund me as an out-of-state student after the first year. So, there’s a really narrow window in which I have to file some papers showing that I’ve lived here for a year, but before my tuition bill comes due. I don’t remember what all has to be done, but it involves going to the courthouse downtown, etc. It will probably be a bigger pain than it should be. But I’m not trying to complain. I’ll also have some fun, and it will be nice to be involved with my family. We’re already planning to take a weekend trip up to see Melanie’s good friend who lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. We’ll pass Melanie’s brother in small-town Georgia along the way, so we’ll see his family too. Not too shabby. We’ll take two days getting to Raleigh, even though it’s only 9 hours away, just to make it easy on us and the kids. Still, it’s been a very long time since we’ve done a road trip of this proportion, so it should be interesting.

That’s life for me at the moment. Adieu.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Smoking: Why Not?

Smoking: Why Not?
A Reasoned Response to the Current Anti-Smoking Trend in 21st-Century American Thought

Smoking gets a bum rap. All you hear nowadays is, “Smoking causes cancer, blah blah blah.” Well, you know what I say? Carcinogens, shmarshminagins! Here’s what all those hyped up, fascist, anti-smokers out there will not tell you. Those who smoke have a veritable license to litter! They can literally litter and it does not matter! How cool is that??? But does anyone tell you this when they’re passing out the “Dare to Be Drug Free” t-shirts in fifth grade? When they start brainwashing you, at the tender age of four or five, to “just say no”? Ironically, I’m forced to “just say no” to that question! Here, you turn on the TV and CNN’s telling you that cigarettes cause everything from emphysema to low birth weight (hello! I’m already born!) to “yellow” fingernails, but nobody’s promoting the fact that, whether you’re just a social smoker or a chain smoker who downs three packs of cigarettes a day, you’re endowed with a special privilege that only a select few of the U.S. population enjoy – the right to treat the world like your own personal garbage can! And who would want to pass that up?!? Granted, just because you smoke, it doesn’t mean you can get away with littering just anything. You’re still an A-hole if you drop a McChicken wrapper out of your driver-side window as you cruise down Main Street. But only smokers know the pleasure of littering something without having to let it weigh on their conscience. And I don’t think we should be so quick to pass that up.

I’ll tell you what I think’s going on. I think congress is chock full of chain smokers who do not want to share the metaphorical wealth. They want to retain the special privilege of littering their cigarette butts anywhere they please all for their dang selves. That’s why cigarettes are kept under lock and key and can’t even be purchased by 18-year-old adults! Adults, people! You know, as in fully grown, mature, and reasonable!!! What is this, communist Russia!?! Nope, the lawmakers up on the hill want to make you wait another year before you can start huffing and puffing, just so they feel a little bit more special for a little bit longer. And that’s why they outlawed everything that could tip a kid off to the coolness of smoking! Joe Camel? The dromedary equivalent of Don Johnson? (Remember him? Either of them?) Too cool for school, they said! Yanked all the Camel ads out of the elementary schools! Can’t put him in a commercial, but you sure can put some dude with a hole in his neck telling you not to smoke in a commercial! That’s fine and dandy! Nothing wrong with showing a three-year-old that, is there! And candy cigarettes? Can’t have those! They make kids feel grown up and special! That’s a no-no! Kids aren’t special! You’re all the same! You don’t know anything yet! Just listen to us adults and repeat what we say! Don’t think for yourselves! Phooey on you, Congress! I say it’s about time we start lightening up about lighting up!

Thursday, August 06, 2009


A short while ago, I took two Tylenol in order to fight a pounding headache. For me to take pain medication, even of the over-the-counter variety, is quite a big deal. I rarely pop pills. In fact, I could probably count the number of pills I’ve taken in the last five years on one hand (if I had enough fingers). But, for whatever reason, over the last few years, I am highly prone to headaches. Don’t get a full night of sleep? Headache. Physically exert myself? Headache. Noisy kids? Headache. Stressed about something? Headache. Given that at least one or two of these things is almost always going on, my headaches seem unstoppable. I have a newfound appreciation for what my wife has gone through her entire life, as she herself is especially prone to headaches (which are usually much more intense than mine, I’m sad to say). I used to get headaches only rarely, but now they’re practically a part of who I am. Which sucks. And yes, they’re usually worse than what I ever remember getting when I was younger. I’ve even had headaches set in where it literally feels like my skull is suddenly, rapidly shrinking. That’s honestly what it feels like to me. I didn’t come up with that description as I thought back on my worst headaches and thought about how to describe them. No, it’s that when those headaches set in, I thought to myself, “Holy crap, my skull is shrinking and crushing my brain!”

I don’t think I ever understood just how debilitating a headache could be, but I understand it now. And it’s not something I’m happy to understand.

I guess that’s all I have to say. Just getting out what’s in my head.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Tastes Like Chicken

Melanie and I live just a block or two from a Chick-Fil-A. They have a “play land” inside, complete with a twisty tunnel slide, that Edison is quite fond of. Recently, Chick-Fil-A closed down for remodeling, and because we drive past Chick-Fil-A anytime we go almost anywhere, Edison was quite aware of the fact that they were not open for business. He started asking us on a daily basis if Chick-Fil-A was open yet. (You’d think we go there all the time, based on Eddie’s badgering, but honestly we’d only been inside the place a couple of times.) Finally, a few days ago, they had a sign up announcing that their grand re-opening would be the next day. We informed Eddie and promised to take him there for the special event. The next evening, we headed to Chick-Fil-A, ordered a couple of milkshakes, and let Eddie play his heart out. While we were there, we also entered a drawing for “Free Chick-Fil-A for a Year!”

The above picture was taken just a few short hours ago. And what I am enjoying? The first of some 50 or so free combo meals I’ll be eating at Chick-Fil-A over the next year. That’s right! I’m one of the lucky winners of the “Free Chick-Fil-A for a Year” drawing! I was really quite surprised. I’ve never won any sort of drawing or contest like this. And what does it amount to? 52 coupons, each of which entitles me to a regular chicken sandwich combo. Truth be told, I’m splitting the winnings with my beloved bride, since if not for her, I probably wouldn’t have entered the contest anyway. Oh, and I like her company while I’m there. So I won’t be gorging on 52 combos over the next year. I’ll eat a modest 26. And it’s not as if it’s completely free. I had to pay $.30 for the lettuce and tomato, since that’s not part of the regular sandwich combo. And then there’s the matter of feeding the little ones, Eddie and Peter. That also costs extra. So, see, it’s not all glitz and glamour. But it is pretty cool.