Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Space Between

Every once in a while, as I lie in bed trying to sleep, I drift off to that special place in between wakefulness and dreaming. Often when I haplessly mosey into this murky territory, my thoughts turn into a string of ludicrous non-sequiturs that would do Lewis Carroll proud. Now and then, however, rather than going cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, I think all but my logical side shuts down. There have been a few times when, as I linger in somnolent limbo, I am struck by what I regard as profound insights. Usually, it’s when I’m pondering something to do with philosophy, and then as I lapse into semi-sleep, I find that my logical brain carries on without me, almost automatically, and it sees connections or makes inferences that are rather astonishing. In many ways, I feel like I’m just listening to my brain as it computes things and spits out the results. I’m very much an observer, or so it seems. Unfortunately, because I’m delicately balanced on the precipice of sleep whenever this occurs, the insights are typically lost. Even if I were to try to wake myself enough to grab a pen and paper and jot down the brilliance with which I’ve just been inspired, to do so would almost certainly cause me to lose hold of the ingenious thoughts. By the time I scrambled to the surface, reverse-plunged my head back into the warm air of full-blooded consciousness, and gulped the air of lucidity back into my mental lungs, I’d find the deep thoughts I was trying so desperately to preserve had long since slipped through my fingertips and sunk back into the deepest recesses of my mind, never again to be recovered. What a crapper.

Last night, I had no such brilliant thoughts, but I was entertained by my semi-conscious thought processes. Not quite a riddle, not quite a deep thought, I came up with this little gem:

“Round” turns five words into six.

There’s something hauntingly beautiful about it, don’t you think? I was also treated to a half-dream in which I was driving around in a parking garage in Seattle. At some point, some guy tried to get into my car when I was going kind of slow. It was kind of creepy, and I thought I should circle around and crush him by pinning him between the hood of my car and the wall. But then I was disturbed, thinking that if I pinned him hard and punched the gas just a little bit, to make sure the pressure killed him, his insides would probably start shooting out of his mouth and all over the windshield. Pretty silly, eh? LOL!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Potpourri No. 30

Random tidbits o’ life:

Ah, Summer
It’s February in Florida, which means the first signs of summer are upon us. As in years past, the shortest month in the calendar has given rise to the first sunbathers by the pool. Lately, I myself have been wearing t-shirts and shorts and driving with the A/C on. It’s uncomfortable not to, which sucks considering we’ve got about six months of steadily increasing temperatures to look forward to. Currently, afternoon temperatures have been reaching into the high 70’s, and tomorrow it’s supposed to top out at 79 degrees. Crazy!

So What Else is New?
Guess who’s sick? Trick question! The real question, of course and as always, is who’s the sickest? That’s a tough one right now. Melanie’s just starting to get over something terrible, and I think I might just be descending into it. In a family of five, it seems impossible to fully exorcise illness from the home, which sucks a donkey. I somehow thought I might scrape by this round with barely a scratch—or scratchy throat, I should say. My throat had been sore and swollen for a few days, but nothing major. It seemed to be getting better, but last night, my throat suddenly feels like it’s coated in sand. It’s not sore again, but it’s obnoxious and I’m occasionally seized with coughing fits that leave me seeing stars and tasting blood. I assume it’s salt and not blood, but I always think of blood when I’m hacking my lungs out and get that distinct flavor in my mouth. It would have to be snot, methinks. Or, maybe I’ve just got tuberculosis! LOL!

Taking Teaching to a Whole New Level
Some exciting (dreadful?) news this week: I’ve been given a teaching position for the latter part of the summer semester. That means I’ll have full responsibility of a class, the first time in several years that this has been the case. During my time at Georgia State, I taught seven classes completely on my own. But my teaching gig this summer will be quite different. First of all, I’ll have as much control over the course as a genuine professor would. At GSU, we grad students didn’t have much say over anything other than what work-appropriate clothes we wore while we taught. The syllabus, textbook, lesson schedule, exams, etc., were all selected and written for us. Very little was left up to us. At FSU, I’ll be calling the shots. That’s cool, but it’s also a lot more responsibility and work on my part, so I’m sure it will be stressful. But, funny enough, I think I’ll have a TA of my own to help me out. Wow, I’m growing up! But anyway, another huge difference between my time at GSU and my upcoming teaching gig is that I’ve now been assigned to teach a 3000-level class. A symbolic logic class, no less. Reductio ad absurdum! Symbolic logic is not my specialty, by any means, but I guess that’s beside the point as far as the department is concerned. It’s assumed that I know the material at this stage of the game, and of course, I do. I’ve taken symbolic logic twice, after all. (“I’ve been going to this high school for seven and a half years. I’m no dummy!”) I took it at the U of U even though I didn’t have to, and then I had to take it as part of my master’s program at GSU. I always kind of liked the subject and did exceptionally well with it, but it’s also one of the most intimidating subjects I’ve ever studied. It can easily confuse people, and I’m not excluded from that. I often have to think through matters of symbolic logic very slowly, and I can’t help wondering how inept I might sometimes appear to my students this summer. But that’s OK. It should be quite an experience teaching the class. An overwhelming but interesting and good experience.

It’s Official—I’m a Twit
Yup, I’ve made a Twitter account. Why? Why ask why? No reason, really. I decided to follow a bunch of celebrities just for the heck of it, and also because most of them excel at being witty in 140-characters or fewer. (Bam! Bet you thought I’d say “less”!) Probably everything I put on Twitter I’ll also put as a status update on Facebook, but in my experience, Facebook status updates are much easier to miss. One reason is the fact that Facebook friendships are practically meaningless, so people have way more Facebook friends than they could ever keep up with. Another reason is that status updates on Facebook have to compete with updates about someone’s horse dying on Farmtown or with the results of someone's survey to determine what kind of legume best captures their personality. (You are a garbanzo bean, but your besties call you chick pea!) On Twitter, depending on whom you follow, you’re not getting so much excess baggage and fluff. That’s nice … even if it is pointless.

Two-Line Poetry
While walking home from the bus stop the other day, I thought maybe I should start writing simple, two-line poems. It would give me a chance to be more artsy without demanding too much of my time. And, as we’ve all learned from haikus, short and simple can be truly beautiful, just like Dudley Moore. So, anyway, I came up with these gems. Hope you enjoy them!

Suntan while you can, little turtle
For tonight, it’s turtle soup

I thought she’d never ask
Turns out I was right

The end!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Gettin' Baked

Warning: this post is bi-polar. The next paragraph has basically nothing to do with the one that follows it. It is the second paragraph below that is the real subject of this post.

Sitting down to write this entry, I am torn between writing about the ceaseless stresses that come with being a relatively poor, married, graduate student father and discussing something much less gloomy. Suffice it to say, the more people in your family, the more often something is wrong. I dare say, this has been the most stressful, and at times dreary and depressing, my life has felt in several years. I’m not in a constant state of sadness or anything, but I’ve felt more despair since Creegan was born than I’d care to admit. Good thing he’s a cutie. It’s not like it’s him causing the problems, anyway, at least not specifically. It’s just that he’s one more person in the equation. Our resources—emotional, psychological, and physical alike—are further tapped. Add that to the endless supply of demands that are upon you—familial demands, professional and academic demands, even personal-development demands—and it’s rough, especially when someone is always sick, an errand always needs to be run, a meal always needs to be made, a van always needs to be taken into the repair shop, an essay always needs to be written, a test always needs to be graded, a call always needs to be made—to the apartment maintenance staff because something’s falling apart, to the hospital billing department because they can’t figure out my insurance, etc. It never ends. I don’t know how Melanie does everything she does, and she does a lot. But as a family of five, it’s harder and harder for demands not to impinge on everyone, and I sometimes don’t know if I can take the stress and/or blah of it all.

OK, I guess I had to get some of that off my chest. You’d never guess that I had decided not to write about stress, would you? I actually chose to write about something happier. And what’s that, you ask? One of my favorite food discoveries of the past year—baked chips. Two or three months ago, Melanie and I were at some friends’ house for a barbecue, and they served Baked Cheddar & Sour Cream Ruffles® to go with their burgers. I’ve tried baked chips before, but I didn’t remember caring for them all that much. However, Cheddar & Sour Cream Ruffles have long been one of my favorite kinds of chip, so I thought I’d try out the baked variety. To my surprise, I found that I liked them even more than the “normal” kind. I’ve since tried other baked chips from Frito-Lay, including Baked Doritos®, and I find them all surprisingly good. With the exception of Doritos, I genuinely like the baked versions better. That’s happy news for my health, since a serving of baked chips has roughly one-third the amount of saturated fat that the “normal” chips have. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that reducing my saturated fats seems to be having a positive effect on my weight. The cool thing is, even if the “normal” and the baked varieties of chips were equally good (or bad) for you, I would opt for the baked versions almost every time. They really do taste better. (Bear in mind, I’m the kind of person that also thinks French fries, McDonald’s hash browns, and the like taste better if you squeeze them really hard with a napkin first and get rid of a lot of the grease. I’ve been like that for years, so it’s not merely a change in my diet that has prompted me to enjoy the less greasy version of chips. I like the more natural taste.) On the downside, baked chips are a lot more expensive. If I remember correctly, a bag of baked chips is at least dollar more than “normal” chips, and I don’t think you get as much. Depending on how much you eat chips, switching to baked chips could be expensive. Of course, if you eat them very frequently, you’ll be much better off switching to the baked variety.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


After I ate breakfast and showered this morning, I set my wet and naked body (sorry for the unnecessary erotica!) on the bathroom scale. It is a digital scale that measures to the nearest 1/10 pound. According to this morning’s measurement, I weigh 18.6 pounds less than I did at my mid-December doctor’s appointment. That’s encouraging, because during the week between Christmas and New Year’s (and probably for a few days afterward), I wasn’t very disciplined at all, and up until two days ago, I hadn’t tried adding exercise to my routine. All I did was boost my fiber intake—which on a typical day is now around 30 or more grams per day—and watch my saturated fats. I was encouraged to watch my carbs, too, but I haven’t been as concerned with that. I tracked them for a while, but generally, the kinds of foods that would throw off my carbs were also the kinds of things that would throw off my saturated fats—most notably, baked treats and sweets. Of course, I eliminated regular soda from my diet, which itself probably reduced my average daily carb intake by the hundreds. Other than that, I look at carbs only secondarily, to break ties between which brands of tortillas and bread I should buy, for example.

As noted above, I did start exercising two days ago. Nothing major. I’m going for walks, and right now, I don’t even plan to go for walks on days when I go to school because I walk around a bit on campus anyway. I’m open to increasing this, but for now, I figure this can only help matters. Thus far, then, I’ve only gone on two official walks. That hardly warrants any commentary on my part, but I enjoyed them. And I think I will enjoy them. This morning, it was crisp and cool and a bit gray from the early morning rain. It’s nice to get out there and just walk, enjoying the scenery but also being able to be so in tune with one’s own thoughts. Having an iPod is wonderful for this. (You can’t help but turn introspective when you’ve got music playing right inside your ear canals, blocking out much of the noise from the outside world.) Many years ago, I used to walk on a treadmill and use a Discman. That was clunky, awkward, and the Discman was prone to skip as you would walk. Needless to say, iPods are a tremendous improvement. I love it. And it’s so much easier to exercise when you’ve got John Parr’s “St. Elmo’s Fire” blasting away in your eardrums. (I just wish I had had a banana yellow sweatband and some electric blue running shorts to make me feel even more inspired.) I can imagine myself wanting to go on daily walks for the rest of my life. The major hurdle, of course, is going to be weather. In a very short time, it will be disastrously hot around here, even early in the morning. What a way to ruin a good thing.

I guess that’s all I have to say. I thought there would be more to it, but apparently not. Okay, then.