Friday, May 28, 2010

Philosophy on Fire

With me being a philosopher and my sons (especially Eddie) being so into firefighters lately, I found the following spoof news article from The Onion particularly amusing. Give it a read!

Existentialist Firefighter Delays 3 Deaths

*Note: what I do in philosophy is far from existentialism. Please don’t think my career revolves around the sentiments expressed in this article!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Two weekends ago, Melanie and I took Eddie and Peter to the Tallahassee Automobile Museum. I’ve been wanting to write about it ever since, but Melanie finally beat me to the punch. Oh well. I’m still going to write about it. Here goes.

First off, it should be noted that neither I nor Melanie are car enthusiasts. Our trip to the museum was, more than anything, an attempt to do something that we haven’t already done a hundred times. Tallahassee isn’t exactly brimming with culture, and the auto museum is about as close to a tourist attraction as the town offers. (Which is not to say that the museum is among Tallahassee’s most notable locations—I’ve never heard anyone talk about it, quite honestly. Still, if I were forced at gunpoint to give Tallahassee tour stop recommendations, it’s one of very few things that might prevent me from getting shot.) Eddie and Peter like toy cars quite well, and they enjoy seeing real live fire trucks and buses, but I didn’t necessarily think they’d be all that excited by the museum, either. Still, we went. And I’m happy to report, it was moderately interesting.

While the main attraction is obviously the museum’s extensive collection of vehicles stemming from the early 1900s to the 2000s, there are a bunch of items on display that you’d never guess at based on the museum’s auto-centric name. There are antique cash registers, sports equipment and memorabilia, slot machines, knives, guns, dolls, pianos, and more. Some of these “extras” were among the most fascinating. I was particularly impressed by the pianos, many of which I thought my mom would admire. Take a look:

A replica of the first White House piano, if I remember correctly.

But of course, the cars are the main attraction. If you don’t find cars special in-and-of-themselves, you probably won’t find the bulk of cars at the museum particularly special. But there are a few “stars” among the bunch. These include:

What is believed to be President Lincoln’s hearse. Eddie is probably smiling a bit too much, considering.

The yellow duck driven by the Penguin in Batman Returns.

The Batmobile from Batman Forever.

One of two Batmobiles used in, if I remember correctly, Batman Returns.

The original Batman motorcycle from the old television series. Notice Robin’s sidecar.

The original pedal car used by the Little Rascals.

The museum also featured a model train display that wasn’t very exciting at all. It costs an extra $6 per person for admission to that part of the museum. Fortunately, we didn’t pay to see it. We just happened upon it. It’s just a large room, and you just walk into it. We walked in not even realizing we were going into that part of the museum. You can’t really tell until you’re in there. Nobody is there to stop you. As we looked around, we assumed it must be the display they were talking about, but we wondered why it was unguarded if you were supposed to pay extra money to see it. As we left the room, we saw a sign on the door (that was propped open, causing the sign to face those who are exiting the room) that asks museum patrons not to enter the room if they have not paid the extra money. Oops. But, if you’re ever at the museum yourself, I’d recommend paying only for the model train room, because you could pretty much see everything else on your way into it. The cashier at the front of the museum told us we could come back and visit the model train room separately sometime, so that would be your best value right there.

The end!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Summer Games Have Begun

The first six-week summer session started last Monday. It feels like we’ve just begun, but because everything is condensed, we’re already 21% of the way through the semester. You’ll get no complaints from me. I eagerly look forward to the latter part of summer, during which I’ll be engrossed in my own program of study. That will be nice enough in and of itself, but it will also be nice to go a couple of months without grading undergrad papers. I know I keep going back to this, but it is absolutely disheartening—soul-crushing, even—to read through a stack of borderline incoherent papers. If I’m feeling charitable, I chalk it up to the fact that the public school system has failed, that these students have never been required to write an intelligible sentence in their lives and so cannot be held fully responsible. But sometimes you can’t help feeling like they just don’t really give a crap or want to exert much effort. (Case in point: you can explicitly require in the essay instructions that the papers must be stapled together, which should go without saying, and still you’ll get 10-20% unstapled essays—I’m not kidding.) It’s probably a mixture of the two, but for crying out loud, I feel like it’s the teachers (and TA’s) who suffer for it!

Yes, as you may be able to tell, I’ve been grading again. Today marked the due date for the first essay of the semester. Fortunately, the essays in this class are only about two pages long. And, I’ve probably got less than half the number of essays to grade this semester that I did last semester. That thought keeps me sane. They’ll go quickly and easily compared to the last couple of semesters. That doesn’t make each individual page any more enjoyable to read, but still. The end is near. The end is near….

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Fit for a King

The week continues to be a productive one in terms of home improvements. Since my last post, I have built two more bookshelves (another three-shelf bookshelf and a five-shelf bookshelf), both of which turned out looking as they should. Then, yesterday, Melanie and I went out and bought all of this:

Nearly everything you see in that picture is brand new. The pillow inside the pillowcase on the left side of the bed (i.e. the right side of the picture) is not new, which explains why it’s a little more crumpled looking. There is also a turquoise body pillow barely poking up in the very back that is not entirely new, though it’s only a couple of weeks old. The filing cabinet just to the right of the bed (i.e. the left side of the picture) and the things thereon are not new. Neither is the carpet or the wall, or the paint on the wall. But other than that, everything is new—all of the bedding, the unseen bed frame, the unseen box springs, and the king-size mattress.

Last night’s sleep was blissful. Heavenly. The most sound night of sleep I’ve had in a long time. As some of you know, I’ve bemoaned the state of our former bed for some time now. It was a hand-me down, and though it was not in horrible condition, it was clearly beyond its prime. The former box springs were especially problematic, and Melanie and I eventually moved the old mattress to the floor and have been sleeping all but on the ground ever since. Of course, sleeping on the floor can be a bit tiring, and it’s only getting harder and harder on Melanie for obvious reasons. So, having researched beds a little while back, and having gathered some tips from those who know more than we do, Melanie and I headed to a recommended bed store (a nod of thanks to Downtown Guy) and made what we trust will be a very good investment. We weren’t certain we’d get a king, but the value was unbeatable—I’d say $200-300 less than I’d expected to spend even on a queen, and not a fancy queen at that. (I’m sure there’s a transvestite joke just waiting to happen, but I’ll leave that to your imagination.) Part of the reason is that we bought a “blemished” mattress, but I couldn’t care less about that. As I see it, even if the mattress lasts only half the time that it should (which I have no reason to suppose), it will have been a worthwhile purchase. We really got a good deal. Melanie even called her mom to tell her about our purchase only to learn that her mom had just bought a new queen-sized bed for one of Melanie’s brothers who is still living at home. We spent less than Melanie’s mom did, and I’m willing to bet we have not only a larger bed, but a nicer one.

Edison and Peter like the new bed, as well. I said something about the bed looking like a hotel bed, and now Eddie likes to get in our bed and pretend he’s at a hotel. This morning, he climbed into our bed for a few minutes, then got up to “go downstairs for breakfast,” hearkening to the free continental breakfast we enjoyed the last couple of times we’ve stayed at a hotel. He’s also played “bed store,” having Melanie pretend to be a customer who comes in to buy a new bed. Eddie sells her the bed, then he and Melanie pretend to deliver it. I never would have thought that Melanie’s and my buying a new bed was going to be so much fun for the kids. If only they were so excited about their own beds. It would make the nighttime routine go a lot more smoothly.

Monday, May 03, 2010

I'm Handy-something Alright

Melanie and I have been entertaining modest ideas of how we can spruce up our apartment. One thing I’ve been dreaming about for a while now is getting new bookshelves for our home office. I’ve got a couple of hand-me-downs that look like they’re ready to pull apart at the seams. But aside from aesthetic concerns, we’ve officially run out of room for the many books I’ve acquired, not to mention my hefty CD collection. The current bookshelves we own are full, and piles of books and CDs are now appearing to the side of them. And so, when we recently spotted some cheap bookshelves available from Wal-Mart, we decided to go ahead and splurge.

I spent an hour or so piecing together a three-shelf bookshelf this afternoon. Eddie helped me out, though he in no way is to blame for the great gaffe that I made while constructing it. I didn’t notice my error until the bookshelf was complete and the blunder was permanent. I doubt I’ll need to explain anything. I think this picture will suffice.

Looks like it’s time to invest in some black paint. In the meantime, my plans for putting the computer printer on top of the bookshelf have proved quite serendipitous. It doesn’t completely conceal my mistake, but it helps immensely, as the following picture makes clear.

There are times I’m especially thankful my wife didn’t insist on marrying your stereotypical handyman. It sure wouldn’t have been me.