Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Potpourri No. 25

The following potpourri post has been brought to you by:

Florida’s faux fall season seems to be upon us. Sort of. During the last few mornings, it has felt pleasantly cool outside. It’s quite exhilarating, though it’s a darn shame when the afternoon comes and the temperature once again hits the 90s. Still, I anticipate the drop in temperatures that must surely come. Bring it on!

The first crunch time of the semester is also upon us. Last week, one of my instructors assigned a 209-page reading assignment, plus another reading assignment, plus a 3-4 page essay on that first reading assignment, all due within a week’s time. If that weren’t crazy enough, I have another 5-7 page essay due just a few days later, not to mention 40-45 essays that I need to grade for undergraduates within a few days after that. This has brought about a roller coaster of emotions, including stops at both “suicidal” and “murderous.” Fortunately, I’m currently in a better-than-not state of mind. I think it’s because I’m doing something wrong.

A week ago, the janitor who cleans the building housing the philosophy department asked to borrow a dollar from me. Blame it on my old-fashioned values, but that somehow struck me as a breach of social protocol. Not that I was offended. But what will offend me is if I never get paid back. He told me when he accepted my loan that he would have it back to me last Friday, but I haven’t seen it yet. That’s fine. When I gave him the dollar, I didn’t necessarily expect to see it again. I still don’t have much hope in getting repaid, but the janitor did tell me, “I didn’t forget about you!” the last time we passed each other, and that was more than I expected from him. So who knows. It sure beats having a janitor who uses your office to look up naughty sounding things on MySpace when he thinks you won’t be coming in. Oh wait, my janitor does that too. Shucks!

I recently received some super-exclusive junk mail from Barclays Bank Deleware, informing me—a grad student living largely on student loans—that I am pre-approved for “the world’s most prestigious” Visa card ever—the “Black Card.” What amuses me is not so much that I was the ill-selected recipient of said advertisement, but that anyone would find the offer alluring in the first place. It amazes me how much some people must thrive on feeling socioeconomically superior to others, yet that is the primary sentiment on which this advertisement hopes to thrive. Two elements of the card offer stood out to me as utterly ridiculous. The first is the annual fee—$495! And the ad highlights this as though it were a nifty feature of the card! Sadly, this means there must be people out there who will feel better about themselves knowing they have a credit card with such an astronomically high (and asinine) fee. “I pay $500 a year just to have this card in my wallet!” I guess there are some bragging rights there??? Secondly, I was amused by the following non-sequitur, which I urge you to really think about as you read it, asking yourself if it makes any genuine sense: “For those who demand only the best of what life has to offer, the exclusive Visa Black Card is for you. The Black Card is not just another piece of plastic. Made with carbon, it is the ultimate buying tool.” Huh? So, if you want the best things in life, you should make sure your credit card is not made out of plastic, even though the plastic credit cards do the very same things that a non-plastic credit card could do? And what does the last sentence of that quotation really mean? How does the carbon affect your purchasing power or buying opportunities whatsoever? It makes no sense. I think the final sentence is probably meant to say something like this: “Made with carbon, there is a decent chance, at least for a while, that any cashier who takes your card will experience the following fleeting realization: ‘Hey, this credit card is made out of different stuff than I’m used to. Strange.’ Don’t you think that will give your irrational sense of pride a great big boner? We do.”

Thank you and good night!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Water vs. Soda

In my previous post, I announced that I was attempting to keep track of how much water and how much soda I drink. I’ve now compiled just over two weeks of data. I thought I’d go ahead and report on it.

To start off, allow me to provide some general information concerning recommended fluid intakes. If you’re like me, you’ve heard that you should drink eight glasses of water per day, or 64 ounces. Looking around at various Internet sites, I’ve learned a few things about this claim. First off, according to the Mayo Clinic, “all fluids count toward the daily total,” so if you drink 50 ounces of water and 14 ounces of other beverages, you’re probably serving your body fairly well (in terms of fluid intake, anyway). Furthermore, it is possible to drink too much water. Water intoxication, as it’s called, can occur when someone drinks too much water in too short a period of time. Results can be fatal.

Truth be told, once I started looking at my daily totals, I started to worry about water intoxication. One day, I consumed 218 ounces (just over 27 cups) of fluids, almost 200 ounces (nearly 6 liters!) of which was water. The following day, I consumed 230 ounces (almost 29 glasses, or nearly 7 liters) of fluids. But these days were atypical. My throat was feeling scratchy, and I felt like I had to be constantly drinking in order to avoid a coughing fit. However, it turns out I do drink a fair amount. If we rule out the few days when I had a scratchy throat, my average water intake is approximately 85 ounces per day. But I also drink an average of 49 ounces of soda per day. That’s quite a bit, though my soda intake is much more irregular than my water intake. While my daily water intake remains fairly stable, there are days when my soda intake spikes, usually because we’ve gone out to eat. This means that although I might only drink 24 ounces of soda on one day, the whopping 84 ounces I consume a few days later bears heavily on the calculated average.

But here’s the good news. In an attempt to be more than fair, I chose always to overestimate my soda intake and always underestimate my water intake. This means that, on those presumably high-soda-intake days, the numbers are likely grossly exaggerated. Say I take my 32-ounce refillable cup to Circle K and fill it up with Mountain Dew. Before the Mountain Dew cascades beautifully into the cup, I fill about half of the cup with ice. I’m not saying that drops my soda intake to a mere 16 ounces for that particular refill, but it certainly drops it by at least five or 10 ounces, I would think. And so on those crazy days when I’ve had more than one such drink, I’m probably reporting upwards of 20 ounces of soda that I didn’t really drink. And because I often drink a soda over ice, I’d say most of the reported daily intakes of soda are off. Fortunately, though I underestimate my water intake when it’s difficult to be exact, the numbers should be fairly accurate, thanks to the drinking vessels I tend to utilize (one-liter bottles that I drink in their entirety, refillable plastic water bottles with markers on the side to denote how many ounces remain, etc.). I also did an online survey that asked for details concerning my weight, my exercise habits (ha ha!), and the climate in which I live. According to that site, based on the statistics I provided, I should be drinking somewhere between 112 and 141 ounces of water (fluids?) per day. So I think I’m sitting pretty, about where I should be.

P.S. For those who tried to watch the Michael Jackson tribute video I included in my last post but found it unavailable, I have since updated the link. You should be able to scroll down and watch it now, if you couldn’t before.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Potpourri No. 24

And now it’s time for more of my thoughts and happenings, in brief.

Knock on Wood
Thursday, September 10th marked the five-year anniversary of my blog. (Here’s the post that started it all.) Melanie introduced me to blogging, and therefore is responsible for the fact that pretty much my entire family blogs now. I’m very grateful for that. It’s been a wonderful way to keep in touch with people and to feel somewhat involved in their lives, especially now that I live so far away from everyone. It’s pretty wild to me to think that five years of my life has been documented on here (more fully at some times than others). Looking back on some of those early posts, it’s hard to believe it’s only been five years. They seem like memories from a decade ago. I wonder how long this will last. Well, at least until 2012, I guess. (Oh, and in case you’re wondering, wood is the traditional fifth-anniversary gift material.)

Water Works
Out of curiosity, I’ve decided to (try to) keep track of how much water I drink versus how much soda I drink. It’s not so easy to do that. On school days, it’s actually not too bad. We own some refillable plastic bottles that have markers on the side indicating how many ounces of fluid are contained inside. If I drink the whole thing, it’s easy enough to do the math, but even if I only drink a partial bottle, I can quickly deduce how many ounces I’ve drunk. When it comes to soda, if I have a can of Mountain Dew, that’s easy. If I get a 32-ounce fountain drink, that’s easy. If I go to a restaurant and am brought a glass of Coke, drink some of it, get topped off, drink the whole thing, get a refill, drink most of it … not so easy. I guess my results will have to be taken lightly. But we’ll see what comes of it. I’ll report on it in within another two or three weeks, I’m sure.

Must See? We’ll See.
Over the next week or so, a barrage of television programs are debuting and/or having their season premiers. I’m kind of excited about that. I watch a decent amount of stuff on DVD, but it’s been a while since I’ve had a weekly TV show to tune into. It sounds kind of fun for a change. On Monday, I’ll be checking out Jay Leno’s new show, out of curiosity. I always liked Leno myself, and I think he’s immensely better than either Letterman or Conan. We’ll see how it goes. On Thursday, The Office has its season premier, and I admit to being one of the incredibly many who think this is (or at least has been, at certain times) one of the funniest shows to have been on television. We’ll see if it can keep up with itself. (It hasn’t always.) And, I’m super excited that I get free HBO at my apartment because, come Sunday, September 20th, I can for the first time watch Curb Your Enthusiasm while it’s actually on TV! That too is one of the funniest television series I’ve ever watched. How cool to have that to look forward to! In slightly sad news, I just learned that The Amazing Race, another long-time favorite (though I don’t believe it’s one of the best shows ever), is not premiering its new season until Sunday the 27th. Up until five minutes ago, I had thought it was debuting tomorrow. What a bummer!

Who’s Bad?
One singer, some nice overdubbing, trick photography, and an awesome medley arrangement of Michael Jackson songs makes the following video pretty darn cool.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Alligator Point Beach

Because I don’t have school on Fridays, Labor Day provided me with a lovely four-day weekend. Homework precluded me from lounging around all weekend, but I slacked a bit more than I normally would. This resulted in some great family time, which was really refreshing. And, to make it especially special, we spent Labor Day itself venturing down to Alligator Point Beach—the first beach we’ve visited since moving to Florida. (We’re swoh bokes, what can I say?)

Alligator Point Beach is located on the Gulf of Mexico, just over an hour’s drive south of our apartment. We had no particular reason for choosing this beach—Melanie learned of it while researching another beach online—but we liked that it was slightly closer than other beaches which had been recommended to us, and we liked that Alligator Point was touted as being “secluded,” “beautiful,” and “uncrowded.” I don’t know that it was particularly beautiful—sand and water are a naturally pretty combination, but this didn’t seem special in any way (in fact, the water seemed quite brown)—but it was a surprisingly unpopulated beach, which was nice. Aside from us, there were only four or five other groups there. This may have been due, in part, to the weather. It was a largely overcast day, and we hit some rainy patches on our drive to the beach. But the beach itself was nice, despite the clouds. It was dripping here and there, but nothing that would deter you from hanging out. Personally, I was happy it wasn’t too sunny. By the time we left the beach, the rain was picking up, but we’d had about enough by that point anyway. (It didn’t help that there were no public restrooms around.) All in all, I’d say it went just about perfectly.

Here are some pics. Enjoy!

Edison loved pretending that each and every wave that came crashing in was, in fact, a shark. The following three photos demonstrate this. I assure you that Edison is laughing and squealing with delight in each of these. He's not crying!

Taking a rest after playing in the water:

See you later, Alligator Point Beach!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Plato Speaks

“When a man is ready and willing to taste every kind of knowledge, and addresses himself joyfully to his studies with an appetite which never can be satiated, we shall justly call such a person a philosopher[.]”

- Plato, Republic, Book V, 475c

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

King of Wishful Thinking

Melanie and I own a queen-size bed. It was originally Melanie’s brother Mark’s, but he bought a new bed and donated his old one to us when Melanie and I got married. I don’t know how long Mark owned the bed before giving it to us, but since Melanie and I got married in 2005, I’d guess that it’s at least five years old, and almost certainly a few years older than that … and maybe even a few years older than that. I don’t know how long beds are supposed to last. And though it sounds like I’m setting this up to say we need a new bed, I’m not. Not exactly, anyway. In my opinion, our mattress is just fine. I find it very comfortable. But the box spring is, and I think always has been, incredibly noisy. Squeaky and creaky, like the floorboards of a 120-year-old house. And even that wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t so darn sensitive. You can’t move a muscle without the bed groaning. It’s amazing REM sleep itself doesn’t cause the bed to squeak. On restless nights, I worry that our neighbors must think Melanie and I are still in the honeymoon phase with all the creaking they must hear. (On the plus side, when Melanie and I do get romantic, our neighbors probably can’t fathom that we’re doing anything romantic—it must sound like lumberjacks deconstructing a rainforest.)

Confession: I’ve never purchased a bed before. I have no idea how it works. I don’t know if you buy the box spring separately or what. I would think so; I know not everyone has one. But in the little bit of research I’ve done online, I don’t see any stores saying anything about box springs for sale. I can find mattresses aplenty, but nobody mentions box springs. What’s the deal? Not that we’re likely to buy a new box spring even if we can find them. But it’s nice to know our options, just in case we someday make our dream a reality. We’ve been talking about buying a new box spring for a long time, but it’s never seemed absolutely necessary, so it’s hard to do it. Of course, this is based on my assumption that it would be a fairly expensive purchase. I’ll be angry at remaining ignorant for so long if it turns out they’re not too pricey. But I assume they are. And so, let the creaking continue.

Noisy box spring aside, my real motivation for writing this post is how crowded I’ve ended up feeling in a queen-size bed. Before you bust out the fat jokes, I only feel crowded when Peter and/or Edison ends up in bed with us. But, so far, that happens almost every night, at least at some point. More often than I’d like, I end up lying on my side on the very edge of the bed, which not only feels unstable but can cause my arms to go dead and ache. (Thankfully, I don’t have nearly the problem with dead arms that I used to have, though it helps immensely if I’m not stuck lying on my side.) I wouldn’t have thought that a king-size bed could make much of a difference, but I learned otherwise when we recently stayed at a hotel in Savannah, Georgia. We had a room with one king-size bed, and to my great astonishment, all four of us fit in the bed rather comfortably! I couldn’t believe it! Consulting the omniscient and infallible Wikipedia, it turns out a king-size mattress is wider than a queen by a whopping 16 inches. I guess I didn’t think it’d be that big of a difference, but now that I’ve seen just how beneficial those extra 16 inches can be when you have children, I’m eagerly awaiting the day when I’ll have a king-size bed of my own. The problem is, I probably can’t afford one until my kids have all grown up and moved away. (Cruel non-literal irony!) Realizing just how lovely a king-size bed would be also discourages me from investing in a new box spring – why invest in a new queen-size box spring when that would pay for a substantial portion of a king-size mattress and box spring? Fortunately, being a grad student precludes me from worrying much about making these kinds of decisions. A more realistic decision I’m currently facing is whether or not to splurge and buy bread that costs over a dollar.

The preceding message was in no way brought to you by Oxfam International.