Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An Upcoming Moment of Silence

I just emailed myself a backup copy of a paper that is due tomorrow evening. I haven’t yet slapped my name or a title on it, but I think it’s done. I’ll read through it again in the morning, and it’s very likely that I’ll make minor adjustments to it, but mostly these will be insignificant changes—a word change here, a change in punctuation there. Once this paper is turned in, I will be officially done with the semester. Then, 11 days of bliss. No homework. No classes. Nothing.

OK, I’m exaggerating, but it will be close enough to nothing to feel incredibly good. I will have minor things. I meet with a professor on Monday for what might as well be called my annual review. In a manner of speaking, this professor will sponsor me at the annual faculty meeting wherein they decide whether or not you deserve to keep your funding, etc. I first meet with the professor, then he meets with the faculty en masse and tells them what’s right and wrong with me. I guess that’s the idea. I also need to meet with a fellow grad student who will be teaching his own summer course and for whom I will be a TA. That’s how I’ll be spending six or seven weeks of my summer vacation. It should be good. It will be interesting being a TA for another grad student, but the guy seems pretty cool from what little I’ve talked to him. I was a TA for another grad student last year, and it seems a bit more relaxed. It should be nice.

There are other things I could mention about the end of the semester, but they’re all over and done now and it seems rather pointless. I took what will likely be the last traditional exam I ever take. That’s exciting. I felt really good about it, but I’ve yet to see the results. We’ll see. I have also spent quite a bit of time recently responding to desperate emails from students wondering why they lost points simply for not doing things, or asking if I can bump them up a grade because they’re oh so close. I’ve learned that every student is, from his or her own perspective, oh so close to getting a higher grade than they did. I’ve also learned that being oh so close to the next higher grade simply means that the student received the grade that comes before that one. By default, getting a B makes you oh so close to getting a B+. That kind of thing. Funny, I could have used that information when I was an undergrad.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010


What a day. I’d intended to spend the day studying for my upcoming final in ethics, but instead, I’ve ended up getting a whole lot of little but important tasks out of the way. I’ve spent a large part of the day reading, writing, and responding to emails. With the end of the semester upon us, many students have been writing to me about their paper grades, attendance points, and the like, either asking point blank if they can somehow magically receive more points for no real reason, or making up tall tales that they hope will salvage their suffering grades, such as how they’ve only missed three classes this whole semester even though I’ve recorded them as missing 12. In addition to these TA-related goings-on, I’ve signed up for student health insurance for the 2010-2011 academic year, I’ve applied for financial assistance for the 2010-2011 academic year, I’ve paid some bills, balanced the checkbook, renewed some library books, watched a video about how to make your own laundry detergent, registered for classes for the fall 2010 semester, updated my Facebook status, held family home evening, made (i.e. picked up) dinner for my sickly family (Melanie and Peter are sick, anyway), checked the mail, and solidified some of my summer academic plans. OK, not everything on that list was incredibly important, but it felt like I got a lot done. And now I can add posting a new entry on my blog to my list of completed tasks for the day. Not too shabby if you ask me. I’d love to stay and chat about some of this stuff in more detail, but I better get some studying done now. And by studying, I mean vegging out in front of the TV. Let the studying begin!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

CBS: Crappy Broadcasting System

Pardon the lameness of the title of this post. I’m sure there’s something much wittier that can be constructed from the letters CBS, including some more colorful options that I omitted in order to keep my blog family-friendly. Nevertheless, the given title will suffice for the purpose of this post, which is to complain about the absurdly difficult activity of watching CBS television.

For several years now, CBS’ The Amazing Race has been one of only a few television shows that Melanie and I have consistently watched. However, this seemingly simple task has become much more difficult in the last two or three years. You see, The Amazing Race is scheduled to air on Sundays at 8 p.m. (Eastern). However, because CBS almost always broadcasts sports programming during the daytime hours on Sundays, and because sporting events rarely conclude at the appointed hour, The Amazing Race is basically guaranteed not to begin at its scheduled time. Quite honestly, I’d guess that the Race begins on time less than 10% of the time. The aggravating thing is, you have no idea when it will begin. It could be 8:10, it could be 8:40, it could be anywhere in between or later. Trying to watch the show when it actually airs is pointless.

“So watch it online,” I can hear some of you saying. Brilliant idea. In fact, that’s what Melanie and I do now. But that doesn’t put an end to my frustrations with CBS. I’d be more than happy to watch The Amazing Race online if I could watch it through Hulu or Netflix Instant Streaming, both of which I find to be quite satisfactory services. I’d even prefer to watch the Race online if I could watch it through one of these services, since it would reduce the amount of commercials I’d have to sit through. But, as it stands, online viewing of The Amazing Race is (legally) available only on CBS’ own website. And, wouldn’t you know it, CBS’ online video player sucks. I’ve used NBC’s several times and been relatively pleased. But CBS’ video player has lower quality resolution, does not stream in widescreen, and somewhat regularly malfunctions, forcing me to refresh their website and figure out exactly how far into the show I had watched so I can skip ahead and not re-watch everything. What’s more, their commercials are quite the nuisance. Often, I get identical commercials back-to-back, as if watching the same commercial twice in a row makes me doubly likely to buy the advertised product. (Never mind the fact that every commercial break is likely to feature the exact same commercial, almost always played twice.) In addition, the commercials almost always kick the video player out of full-screen mode, meaning that if you want to watch your TV show at its maximum size, you have to resize the video player every time you sit through a commercial.

These are petty complaints, perhaps. The reason I get so aggravated with CBS is because they are so much worse than any other online movie/TV-watching service that I’ve tried. It’s offensive that CBS won’t offer the same quality of online viewing that you can get from most everyone else. It suggests that they don’t really care that much about their viewers, as long as they’ve got them.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Did God Create Water?

Point to ponder: I was recently reading from the first chapter of the book of Genesis as found in the Old Testament. It struck me that in no way does it sound like God created water. It speaks as if water was already there. God created the heaven and the earth, says the opening verse. In the following verse, it speaks of “the Spirit of God [moving] upon the face of the waters.” Granted, this may be water that God has created, but that is not made evident by anything Genesis says. Rather, after God creates light and divides it from the darkness, thereby creating day and night, God goes on to create a “firmament in the midst of the waters” (my emphasis). Again, this sounds like the water is already there. He then gathers the waters while causing dry land to appear—an interesting discrepancy. In the tenth verse, God calls the dry land Earth, but he does not call the waters Seas—instead, he calls the gathering together of the waters Seas.

I’m not saying there’s something deep and significant about the idea that water has always been around. Many in the Judeo-Christian tradition would reject this, I’m sure. But I find it interesting. I especially find it interesting because so many believers of the Bible are adamantly opposed to going beyond what the text says, though I think pretty much everyone does this (including these people).

Food for thought … at the very least, a light snack.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Ten Day Tour

The last ten days may have been the Top Ten days of the year so far. We’ve spent a lot of time together as a family, what with Melanie’s birthday, Easter, general conference, and a cancelation of my Thursday afternoon class all taking place within the same week. It’s been really wonderful. Here’s a rundown of some of the things that have been going on.

Melanie Hits the Big 3-0

As I quipped on my Facebook profile, my days of making out with 20-something girls are over—Melanie turned 30. We spent almost all last week celebrating, to some extent or another. More than anything, we splurged in the food department by eating out a bit, which was nice for Melanie because she is almost exclusively the person to do any cooking or preparing of food in our home. Our big indulgences were Famous Dave’s and Reangthai, a nearby Thai restaurant. We hadn’t tried the latter restaurant before, but we really enjoyed a Thai restaurant we had tried in Atlanta and were hoping for something similar. It wasn’t nearly as fabulous as the Atlanta restaurant, but it was pretty good. Probably not worth the price.

On Melanie’s actual birthday, we got bagels for breakfast at Panera Bread, went to a movie (How to Train Your Dragon, which was the only family-friendly movie of even remote interest to us), went shopping at a variety of places, and had the aforementioned Thai food for dinner. In the midst of it all, we stopped by Lucy & Leo’s Cupcakery, which Melanie had been wanting to try for a long time. Melanie tried a chocolate peanut butter cupcake, Eddie and Peter both had a Cookies n’ Cream cupcake, and I had a carrot cake cupcake. They had a nice texture, some crunchy around the edges, but they weren’t as fantastic as you would hope, especially Melanie’s (unfortunately).

And that was it, basically. The fun didn’t completely stop after Melanie’s official birthday, though. The cupcakes had served as a birthday cake of sorts on Mel’s birthday, but I made her a raspberry cheesecake a couple of days later, which is her traditional birthday cake of choice. We also continued to have really nice meals, even when we were eating at home. One such meal was a decent knockoff of CafĂ© Rio’s unbelievably delicious salads, made with beef roast, fresh sprigs of cilantro (mmmm!), freshly made guacamole, and more. ‘Twas muy bueno!

We had a fairly low-key Easter, but it was still lots of fun. Eddie and Peter both quickly found their Easter baskets, which had some candy and, for fun, some swimming goggles in them. The Easter bunny also left a big bottle of bubbles, a Connect Four game, and some new shirts/ties for Eddie and Peter. I was pleased that Eddie and Peter both wanted to try on their new clothes, even though we weren’t going anywhere right then that would require wearing such fancy clothes. Likewise, they really enjoyed wearing their swimming goggles around the house, even though they weren’t too interested in wearing them yesterday when we went to the swimming pool for the first time this year. Here are some Easter pictures:

Other Random Bits of Fun
Some other fun and/or interesting events of the last week include the following:
  • Last Tuesday, Barenaked Ladies released their new album, the first since the departure of Steven Page. BNL remain Melanie’s and my favorite band, and they play significantly into the history of our relationship, so it was really cool that a new album came out the week of Melanie’s birthday. Naturally, I think the new album is great, but it does stand out as one of their most unique albums. That hardly needs to be said, with Steven Page’s conspicuous absence from the band, but it is more than that. I hope to write about it in greater detail sometime in the near future. Then again, every time I’ve said that about something, I haven’t done it, so who knows. You can listen to at least a couple of the band’s new songs via their MySpace page. Check it out.
  • Up until a couple of days ago, Edison has never pretended to get married. I know you hear frequently about kids saying they are going to marry their moms, but so far this hasn’t happened to us. Well, Edison surprised me the other day when seemingly out of the blue he wanted to pretend that he and I were getting married. He “drove” us to the place to get married (which is as specific a location as he made it), we held hands, and I even let him put my wedding ring back on my finger. Then there was nothing left to do but spin. I held his hand, and we spun around in the living room for a minute. Kind of funny.
  • Probably only Melanie and I can appreciate this one, but I had to laugh when Peter nodded for the first time just a couple of days ago. His way of saying “yes” has changed a lot over the last while, but he’s very consistent in whatever he does. For a while, it was a simple “mmm-hmm,” with the latter syllable quickly rising to a squeak. Then he went through a period of saying “yes,” never “yeah.” Now he always says “yeah,” never “yes.” So, it cracked me up when I asked him something the other day and he just stared at me very somberly and nodded his head, all so seriously. He hasn’t done it since, but we’ll see if it becomes the next trend.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

For the Fools Who Read My Blog

In the spirit of April Fool’s Day, I thought I’d share a couple of items from “America’s finest news source,” The Onion. I frequently find The Onion’s humor to be quite poignant, and I fear this first item all too believably captures the attitudes of many present-day American parents. Click the below headline to see the article in full:

Increasing Number of Parents Opting to Have Children School-Homed

The second item is a video news clip with an existential bent. As a philosopher, I probably get an extra kick out of it.

Scientists Successfully Teach Gorilla It Will Die Someday

Here’s hoping you’ve had a good laugh.