30 December 2007

Helllooo Nurse!

Sarah picked up a nasty bug on our way back from Texas. Okay, let's be blunt. Sarah's sister gave her some nasty bug which jumped on Sarah last Thursday. Since then, she's gone through almost every cold phase possible -- fever, chills, head congestion, runny nose, cough, and chest congestion (which is where she's at now). Not to mention an utter lack of energy. Sarah has passed some of that on to Eleanor, who has a runny nose, no appetite whatsoever, and has been running a fever. Fortunately, I have avoided all of it (knock on wood). This means I have been playing nurse these past few days for my wife and daughter. Sarah helps out with Eleanor as much as she can, and my dad came into town yesterday to bring our Christmas presents, so he's helping out a bunch as well. Dad's staying tonight, too. It's been a rough couple of days, but we are getting by, and I have gained increased respect for all of those folks who make running a household their primary responsibility.

28 December 2007

Oh, the burning!

Sarah, Eleanor, and I made it back from Texas on Wednesday. We had a wonderful time with Sarah's family, eating, exchanging gifts, watching Eleanor chase the cat, and playing Rivers, Roads, and Rails (I never win at that game, but I like it anyway). Our trip back was marked by a few delays, the longest one being at the Charlotte airport while waiting for our luggage. That was rather ridiculous, as it took probably 45 minutes for our stuff to make it around. It was also marked by a brief but pleasant visit with Nearly Normal Jimmy, who was connecting through Dallas. We were both delayed enough to see each other for a few minutes, which was cool.

We finally made it home about 8:30, then I promptly almost set the house on fire. I essentially turned off the furnace before we left, so it was 55 degrees inside when we got back home. I turned on the furnace, turned on the little space heater we have in Eleanor's room (she did wonderfully on the flight, but was about at the end of her rope by the time we made it back home), and lit our gas log fireplace to get the place warmed up faster. I went into the kitchen to talk with Sarah for a minute, and when I came back into the living room, thick black smoke was coming out of the fireplace! That's not supposed to happen. At first I thought our stockings has started to smolder, since they were hanging over the fireplace, but I quickly realized the smoke was coming from in the logs. Odd, considering the logs weren't supposed to burn. I told Sarah to grab Eleanor and hang out in her room away from the smoke. I turned off the gas, but something was still on fire in there. I yanked the ceramic logs out of the fireplace, then ran into the kitchen, grabbed my good grill tongs, then used those to pry out this ball of something that was on fire. I tossed it out the front door, then stomped on it to put out the flames. Crisis averted. At first, I thought a mouse or something had died in the fireplace, then had roasted when I lit the logs. But later, after telling this story to my dad, he recalled the last time he was here with his dog, loosing one of her toys, probably in the fireplace. Mystery solved, but problems remained. I had a house full of smoke. So I opened up all the windows and doors and turned on all the fans. That cleared things out fairly quickly, but didn't really do much for our heating situation. SO we closed the house back up, bundled everyone up in the car, then drove to Wendy's for some dollar menu chili. Eleanor didn't get to bed until almost 10:00, but was a trooper through it all.

So remember to check those gas logs for foreign objects before lighting them, folks!

23 December 2007

Things I Like About Texas

1. The sky. Friday here was beautiful, with a high about 75 and little while clouds strung across a light blue sky. The sky is big here, it lets you know you are in THE WEST. As the beautiful Friday faded, the sky turned a light yellow that gave way to a soft orange, almost a peach color, before the sun set. We witnessed this sunset on the way to dinner, which brings me to. . .

2. The food, specifically places like Babe's Chicken. Babe's is a family style restaurant, where they bring you big plates and bowls and you pass it around. The menu was simple -- fried chicken, roast chicken, chicken fingers, chicken fried steak, and fried catfish. They had three sides -- corn, green beans, and mashed potatoes -- that all got brought to the table. For $10 you got half a chicken and all the side dishes you can eat. There were biscuits, of course, which were incredible, and white gravy that I just wanted to eat by itself. The wait staff had attitude and stopped whatever they were doing to dance to the hokey pokey whenever it came on the jukebox. Oh, and it's BYOB, so Sarah's dad walked in with a brown paper bag stuffed with a few bottles of Shiner Bock and no one batted an eye.

3. The radio. I like radio, but most radio is really bad, especially the radio we have in Rock Hill. Dallas radio has lots of interesting options. The option we've been availing ourselves of the most is Lone Star. Their web site says they play "classic rock and roll, outlaw country, and alternative county." I've heard Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Charlie Robinson, Pat Green, the Allman Brothers, The Eagles, David Allen Coe (we were all singing along to the Perfect Country Song on the way home from church) and lots of others. They lean a bit to heavy on the Lynyrd Skynyrd for my tastes (I've heard "That Smell", "What's Your Name," "Gimme Three Steps," and, of course, "Sweet Home Alabama" since I've been here), but generally it's good stuff.

There is plenty of other stuff, like the fact that some movie theater here in Dallas is showing Labyrinth this weekend at it's midnight show. You can beat young Jennifer Connelly, muppets, and David Bowie in tights on the big screen.

21 December 2007

The Center of the Big D

I am sitting in the main branch of the Dallas Public Library, looking out thirty foot high glass windows at Dallas City Hall. Three pairs of (presumably) homeless men sit on the benches beyond these windows, between the library on the street. Everyone seems to be smoking. A yong black man with a laptop case approaches one of the pairs -- two older black me who appear to be sharing some powdered doughnuts -- and gives them some sort of flier. The young man, who I now see has big, black, thick glasses, makes the rounds to each of the pairs of men sitting on those stone benches, giving everyone that same flier. Most seem to nod politely, then fold the flyer and put it in their pockets when the man walks away.

I am in downtown Dallas because I rode to work with Sarah's father. Roger is putting in a half day at his legal aid office, then we're headed to Half Price Books' flagship store (if a small chain of used bookstores can be said to have a flagship store). Sarah, Eleanor, Leanna, and Marilyn are doing some shopping this morning; we'll all rendezvous sometime this afternoon and then go for a big dinner out.

Sarah and I arrived here Wednesday; we'll be in Dallas until the day after Christmas. We flew, deciding against driving after figuring out how long it would probably take us and after finding $255 flights on American. I was a little concerned about how Eleanor would do on the airplane, but she did great. She napped on Sarah for takeoff and about 30 minutes after, then wanted to see everyone and everything, so Sarah walked up and down the aisle with her for awhile.

I'll keep you posted on the happenings in the big D.

17 December 2007

How to Save a Life

The answer, according to Tim O'Brien, is to write stories. "By telling stories, you objectify your own experience. You separate it from yourself. You pin down certain truths. You make up others. You start with an incident that truly happened, like the night in the shit field, and you carry it forward by inventing incidents that did not in fact occur but that nonetheless help clarify and explain." (The Things They Carried, 179-180).

I just finished this memoir/novel, and what impressed me the most about it was O'Brien's meta-commentary on writing, or rather, on storytelling. The book repeatedly makes a note of itself as fiction -- it's underneath the title, it's in an epigram, O'Brien keeps telling us he's making stuff up. Yet it certainly reads like a memoir, like O'Brien trying to tell us these Vietnam stories that, we think, he just can't be making up. When he writes about the smell and slop of that field of shit where he and his platoon set up camp, where he lost his best friend in a mortar attack, and where he revisits 30 years later with his daughter, we say to ourselves "He can't be making this up. It's too real, too important, too personal."

Yet that's the point. Sometimes, in order to get at Truth, you have to make stuff up that did not actually happen. Truth is occasionally independent of fact. At least in the realm of story (this makes a dangerous political ideology, though).

O'Brien is trying to save himself (and us, too) with these stories. Save both in the sense of rescue and preserve. Maybe those are the same. Because when we rescue ourselves, aren't we just trying to preserve ourselves as we were when we were free, happy, and innocent. The final line of the book reads: "I'm skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt beneath the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap in the air and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy's life with a story."

Two other semi-random notes about The Things They Carried: First, it reminds me of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius a bit, minus the snark and plus, well Vietnam. Second, I first heard about this book when working at Barnes and Noble. It was on some high school reading lists, so we carried a bunch of copies. I think it's cool this is taught in high school, but I wonder how it gets done -- just as a Vietnam memoir, or does the meta-narrative aspects of the work come into play?

I am going to look for a new book for our Christmas travels this afternoon. I've also polished off Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Coco Puffs, which I will comment on soon.

13 December 2007

Thoughts on high and popular art from John Updike

I am finished with all my grading and everything is turned in. We have graduate commencement tonight, which I plan to attend to see some of my students from 600 walk. Then, my immediate obligations for the semester will be finished. That just means, however, that my thoughts will return to research and preparing my pre-tenure review, due in February.

Some of those research thoughts are on the difference between fine and popular art and what that difference means for education. A few weeks ago, I checked out Odd Jobs from the library. It's a collection of essays from John Updike. I've never read much Updike and still haven't gotten to Rabbit, Run, but I enjoyed the essays in this collection. I certainly haven't read them all, but one essay in particular struck me. Indeed, the essay called "High Art Versus Popular Culture" is the main reason I checked out Odd Jobs.

In that essay, Updike says "High art, we might say, is art which presumes knowledge of other art; popular culture is prepared to deal with the untutored."

There are some interesting things about Updike's statement. First (one I just noticed as I typed it in) is his terms of distinction -- high art and popular culture. Is he trying to avoid using the phrase "popular art", and, thus, somehow acknowledging that art can be popular? Given what he says in the rest of the essay and the fact that he writes "literary" fiction that is usually pretty popular, I don't think that's where he is going, but it's an interesting way of phrasing that distinction.

There is something that seems right about Updike's statement. Impressionism wasn't just about making pretty blurry paintings, it was about interrogating the conventions of painting itself. Matisse makes the most sense when seen against an artistic and historical backdrop, within and beyond certain conventions of art. It's even easier to say this about literary art, like, say, "The Waste Land" which is packed with allusions and references.

I wonder, though, if this approach doesn't give to much power to the artist and too little to the spectator/viewer/reader, whathaveyou. The high/popular distinction rests in the object and is placed there by the artist. What role does the reader (we'll go with that one) have here? If I bring a copious knowledge of high art to an unabashedly piece of popular art (like, say, comic books) and am thus able to see parallels to myth, poetry, and even impressionism, does the comic then become high art, even if the writer and artists just wanted to tell a fun story and have it look cool?

Seems like I am still stuck in the author intent/reader response dichotomy, when there has to be more here. I do, however, like the way that Updike puts it -- popular art deals with the untutored. Updike doesn't see that as a negative thing.

What do you folks think about Updike's distinction?

11 December 2007

Up to . . .

My neck in grades and grading, as it's finals time here at Winthrop. My students have a final project that they present on exam day. All the presentations are done and two sections are graded. So I just have one more section to grade and then the final averages to compute. Then, I will be able to relax a little.

09 December 2007

Christmas Thoughts

At Mass this morning (which had guitar -- arrgh -- more on that later), there was "The Christmas Pledge" for the 2nd Sunday of Advent in a bulletin insert. It reads:

"Believing in the true spirit of Christmas, I commit myself to:

Remember those people who truly need my gifts
Express my love in more direct ways than gifts
Examine my holiday activities in the light of my deepest values
Be a peacemaker within my circle of family and friends
Rededicate myself to my spiritual growth


That's good stuff, and follows many of the things Sarah and I have been talking about already. I'd really just like a Christmas where I can spend time with the people I care about. More on our plans to make that happen later.

06 December 2007

Eleanor's Place


I've added a link to Eleanor's Blog in the sidebar. Check it out! She's waving now!

03 December 2007

Conversation at a Gas Station

Yesterday, Sarah, Eleanor and I left the house to get a bite to eat and pick up a few things at Target. We drove the Subaru, which needed gas, so we stopped at the Flying J Travel Plaza down the road from our house, just off I-77 at exit 73. We pulled up to the pumps next to a brand new candy apple red Corvette that was being gassed up. The driver of the Vette and I proceeded to have a conversation while fueling our vehicles that went something like this.

Corvette Guy (CG): "She could have pulled up a little further, couldn't she?"

Sarah was driving, and had parked where I had to open my door carefully or risk hitting the grey metal posts that prevent wayward automobiles from crashing into gas pumps).

Me (a bit puzzled by being taken up in conversation by a guy at a gas station): "Um, yeah. I had to kinda squeeze outa there." I then proceed to answer the 12 questions from the gas pump to dispense my fuel. No I am not a loyalty customer. Yes, I want a receipt. No I do not want a car wash.

CG: "Ya'll from around here?"

Me: "Yessir. Rock Hill. You?"

CG: "Yep. Not to far down the road. Great Falls."

I get a better look at Corvette Guy now that I have answered the riddles of the gas pump. He's short, maybe 5'6" or so. He has on cheap looking dark glasses, even though it's cloudy. His denim shirt is unbuttoned three or four buttons down, displaying four necklaces -- two silver, two gold. His jeans are tight and his boots are worn.

Me: "Taking the Corvette out for a Sunday drive?"

CG: "Just getting some lunch. A buddy of mine told me the KFC in Richburg has an all you can eat lunch buffet. All you want for only about seven dollars. Chicken, livers, gizzards, all the fixins. Good stuff."

Me: "Yeah, we're going to get some lunch ourselves."

CG: "You should get you sum! You can feed the whole family for under twenty dollars!"

Me: "Well, it's kinda far."

CG: "It ain't that far. Just down the road a piece."

Here, I may have offended CG by inadvertently rebuffing his suggestion of KFC. I went to get the nozzle out of my gas tank and, when I turned around, he had headed inside.

I was flustered by the whole exchange. I left the gas cap on top of the car and the gas door open. We noticed the cap when it flew off as we drove up the ramp to 77. I had to get out and grab it from the middle of the road.

Sundays in Rock Hill.

28 November 2007

November Reading

Saturday I finished The Gentlemen of the Road, by Michael Chabon. Simply put, it was wonderful, striking all the right chords with me. In some ways, it's a genre tale of medieval adventure, which is alright by me in and of itself. Yet Chabon does wonderful things that extend the genre. First, even as a genre tale, it reaches beyond many conceits while embracing others. It's medieval, but it's a different location -- the multicultural crossroads along the Volga river near the Caspian Sea. The protagonists are familiar, yet original. A scarecrow of a Frank partnered with a stout African evokes comparisons to Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser in many ways, yet the fact that they are both Jews puts an interesting twist on the pair and their adventures. (Chabon admits in the afterword that the working title of the book was Jews with Swords). So it's an interesting take on the adventure tale in it's setting and characters alone. But what really makes it stand apart is the language. Generally, I am all for economy of words. I love Hemingway. Sometimes it's best not to tell the reader every last detail of every last meal (here is where a lot of genre fiction, particularly serial fantasy, falls very short y being too damn long). Though the book is fairly short, less that 200 pages, Chabon spins these sentences that are simply wonderful. He knows when to give us details -- usually in decribing a scene that reveals a lot about a character. He also knows when to not to say things and just have the protagonists acting against or within events. There are battles and massacres, but those are never described, just related as background as the protagonists move on.

I love Chabon's langauge in this book so much I will quote it at length (again). This is a couple of sentences from the book's climax, when the protagonists are figuring out a way to restore Filaq, the lost prince (who is actually a princess) to her throne: "Filaq remembered ho her brother looked on the summer day she last saw him, tall and gangly, speaking tenderly to the falcon on his arm, as he rode to hunt amid the plane trees and the cicadas and the wild surge to the grapevines in the hills. She looked away so they would not see her tears, and notices, on its carved and gilded stand, the giant illuminated Ibn Khordadbeh that had so enchanted her as a child, with its maps and preposterous anatomies and flat-foot descriptions of miracles and wonders, page after page of cities to visit and peoples to live among and selves to invent, out there beyond the margins of her life, along the roads and in the kingdoms." (167)

Wonderful!

24 November 2007

Thanksgiving Weekend

Apparently I have been in a turkey coma for two days, because I just never got around to doing the rest of my Thanksgiving updates.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I have a lot to be thankful for. Most of all I am thankful for my great wife and amazing daughter. They make all the problems bearable and all the joys sweeter. I am also thankful for my extended family. Dad, Teresa, and Andrew drove all the way from Knoxville to eat with us, then drove back. I have many other wonderful family members who were in our thoughts if not at our table -- Andre, Heidi, and Harley; Roger and Marilyn, Leanna and Bobby, Jen, Robert, and Mikayla; Mom, Grandma, and Lauren. We are just blessed with a great family.

The turkey turned out well, although I think last year's was better. That may be just colored by memory, because this year's was good.

Yesterday, we just played with Eleanor and watched football. Sarah and Eleanor did not even leave the house. I would not have gone anywhere, either, except that I got a craving for some chips and dip, so I ran to the store for that and picked up some Shiner Bock for Sarah to drink while watching the A&M game.

It was a good game, but even the win reaffirms Coach Fran's suckitude. If McGee can throw like that, then why spend two entire seasons running the option (and hurting your quarterback's development in the process). I was also happy Arkansas won. I am all for a Kansas/West Virginia national championship game.

Not much more on tap for today. More football and I am going to try and grade some papers.

21 November 2007

Thanksgiving -- Prep

This year marks the second year in a row Sarah and I have hosted Thanksgiving for family. Last year Sarah's parents and sister came. This year my dad, Teresa, and Andrew are coming for the big meal. Prep has begun. My turkey is brining. I tried this technique last year, using a recipe from the newspaper, of all places, and the bird turned out wonderfully. Now, our all-natural turkey is in a cooler full of ice, soaking in a bath of salt water, garlic, onion, chili powder, and honey. It will sit there until tomorrow when we take it out and put it in the oven.

I've relinquished the kitchen to Sarah, who even as we speak is making a pumpkin pie. Mmmm. . . pie.

I like Thanksgiving a lot, especially when Sarah and I can cook. Planning and executing a big meal like this is really fun for me. I think I enjoy it so much because it engages both sides of my brain. The left side gets the creative cooking aspect, while the right side gets the planning and scheduling of cooking times to do. It's whole brain goodness.

That sounds like zombie Thanksgiving. Mmmmm. . . whole brain goodness. . .

20 November 2007

Hooray! and Boo!

The family is back, so yeah! Sarah and Eleanor went to visit Sarah's sister and family in Baltimore (and got to see Sarah's parents while they were there). The returned last night. I am glad they are back. I didn't even mind getting up twice to help feed Eleanor. Hooray Family!

The booo! is I am feeling a little overwhelmed. Thanksgiving is coming up, so we have that to prepare for. I have lots of papers to grade at work. My office is a wreck. I've got a couple of other research projects I need to get rolling on. Then there are some lingering home issues I need to take care of, some other work things, we have to figure out what we are doing for Chiristmas . . . aacck!! Boo busyness!

18 November 2007

A great first sentence

"For numberless years a myna had astounded travelers to the caravansary with its ability to spew indecencies in ten languages, and before the fight broke out everyone assumed the old blue-tongued devil on its perch by the fireplace was the one who maligned the African with such foulness and verve."

Great stuff from Michael Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road, which I picked up last Sunday.

16 November 2007

A few fun links from Wil Wheaton

Not all of you are geeky enough to follow Wil Wheaton's blog, so I thought I'd share a couple of things he posted recently.

First, the writers of the Daily Show explain the writer's strike:


Funny stuff. I wonder when TV will run out of new material. It doesn't seem like some of the shows I watch regularly (Pardon the Interruption and Jeopardy) will be affected, but I could be wrong.

The other is a book review site, The Compulsive Reader. I will admit my first reaction to the site was "This is a little low rent." But I am not sure if that says more about me or the site. Am I a book snob?

Anyone got any other links (especially book review/literary links) to share?

14 November 2007

The glories of the grid

I sometimes wonder why I keep a notebook AND a blog. It seems a little redundant. Granted, I can write things in a notebook I don't want to put out into the world. A notebook is portable (although I could twitter from my phone if I really wanted to). But one of the big reasons, I think, is that the notebook inspires me in ways the blog does not.

I started a new notebook today after filling up my Moleskin Pocket notebook last week. I've had this new one for awhile, ever since my 29th birthday/dissertation defense party. It was a gift, but I am sorry to say I forget from whom (the Moleskin was a gift, too. I think I received four notebooks/journals at that party. All of which have been used). This new notebook is thick, perhaps 200 pages, with a leather cover that is flexible and soft. It reminds me of the black King James Bible that seemed a staple of the churches I attended in my youth. In what is a first for me, it's neither lined nor blank; it's gridded.

The fact that I have a notebook full of graph paper leads me to think it was a gift from one of my gaming group friends. I remember someone saying "Hey, graph paper! You can use it to plan some D&D adventures."

I am not sure a page full of tiny squares has significance to any group of people the way it does to those of us who grew up in the 1980's playing Dungeons and Dragons. graph paper meant dungeons (hex paper meant wilderness). I bought, collected, and hoarded graph paper. It was necessary equipment, like 50 ft of rope or a large sack. I had so many dungeons I needed to draw, I could never have enough graph paper. I'd ask for an extra sheet in algebra class, then take it to my dad's office after school and make copies, storing them in a red folder on the shelf with my D&D books. But this copied graph paper was always inferior to the green or blue lined paper you could buy. I preferred the green lines. That was the good stuff, because your pencil lines always showed up easier on the green paper. It was harder for me to get a hold of, so I was very pleased when my cousin gave me a big pad of green graph paper and a nice automatic pencil for my birthday. She worked at a bookstore and was well acquainted with my love for D&D. I immediately wrote on the front of this pad, in a 13 year old's feeble attempt at medieval script: "You are now in the realm of Dungeons and Dragons!", thus marking the pad for its designated purpose. It was for drawing dungeons.

Dungeoncrafting was some sort of esoteric science that was part art, a mixture of alchemy and cartography. There was a special vocabulary of symbols to master, special signs for secret doors, doors that opened only one way, pit traps, crossbow traps, stairs that went up, stairs that went down, and stairs that collapsed on the unwary adventurer. There was always a compass rose, so you'd know that "the corridor stretches 50 feet to the north before ending in a stout looking wooden door." As a dungeon master, I'd do my best to communicate these directions, dimensions, and secrets to the players who, armed with their own graph paper (hopefully with green lines), would attempt to map the dungeon. This never, ever worked. Invariably, something went awry. Corridors didn't match up. Stairs ran into rooms. Dimensions didn't make sense ("uh, it's a magical room!"). So we'd spend what seemed like hours pouring over the player's map, trying to figure out if they had added 10 feet to a corridor or I'd forgotten to mention the side passage halfway down.

In high school, my friends and I played in a game set in Undermountain -- a giant, giant dungeon under a city. I cheated and didn't make it all up. I just bought the $25.00 boxed set with the four poster sized maps and the two books that detailed the place. I had the pre-made posters, which I copied in sections so I could keep them hidden behind my DM's screen, but I made the players draw their own map. It really didn't take that much convincing. They started with a 10x10 room at the center of a sheet of the green lined paper -- the well in the common room of the Yawning Portal Inn -- and expanded from there. Soon, the dungeon ran off the edge of that first sheet of paper, so they'd add others, labeling each new sheet "A, B, C" and so on. I think we got to K by the time I went to college. These guys would tape the new sheets to the old ones, being careful to allow enough room between the pages so that they could be folded and put away. At the beginning of each new session, they would take out the map and carefully unfold it, laying it gently on the green felt of the pool table that served as our gaming table. (We ruined that table for pool, by the way, with our pencil marks, drink spills, and tears in the felt). The group would tell me which unfinished corridor they wanted to explore next, and off we'd go, lanterns at the ready, carefully marking of 10 foot increments of stony corridor on a little grid of green lines.

We were exploring the unknown, fighting the evil that threatened to plunge the city above into chaos. The graph paper helped us keep track of it all. Otherwise, we would have been lost.

09 November 2007

Saved by Shuffle

Let me be clear about this: today was a big pile of suck. I screwed up at work -- twice -- in a pretty big and public way. I faced up to it, did my best to fix it, and so hopefully it won't be one of those things that lingers (over me) for a long time.

I have trouble letting stuff like this go. While I was in a better mood by the time I got home and an even better mood after seeing my great wife and amazing daughter, the stuff still lingered in my head, a tape playing again and again.

Sarah went to babysit. Eleanor and I hung out for a bit before I put her to bed. I turned on iTunes to listen to a Blue Merle song that was stuck in my brain for some reason. I forgot it was on shuffle.

I started unloading the dishwasher. Blue Merle gave way to REM. I felt the loop inside my head giving way a bit. The REM gave way to The Shins ("New Slang", to be precise) and that loop stopped altogether. I felt better. To make sure it was all gone, Ryan Adams followed The Shins.

Sure, there were other songs that could have perhaps made me feel better. But there were more songs that probably would not have helped -- the Pink Floyd that is playing now, for example. But I can't have picked four better songs to lift my mood.

Thanks, shuffle.

08 November 2007

Stuff I've Been Watching

We've been back on the Netflix train recently. After holding on to movies for weeks at a time, we've been through three in a week. Well, two movies and a comedy special, to be technical.

Transformers was utterly, completely, and totally bad. Bad, Bad, Bad. I want to take Michael Bay out to the airport and repeatedly slam his head in a closing airplane canopy while vaguely inspirational music plays in the background and we are perpetually backlit by a setting sun. I want to go all Jules Winfield on him, misquoting the Bible while threating to beat him with a copy of Apocalypse Now: "It's called story structure, you ass! Can you see it! How can you make Turoturo into a bad actor?! Why does the f#$@^& army decided to take the McGuffin into the middle of a city?!! JESUS MAN, ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS SHOW ROBOTS FIGHTING AND YOU WOULD HAVE HAD A PILE OF AWESOME BUT YOU STILL MANAGE TO SCREW IT UP!!!!"

Knocked Up, however, was really good. It had crudity, humor, and almost painful honestly at times in equal measure. I laughed hysterically at times (Seth Rogan's message to the obstetrician, the bouncer's confession to the sister). I said to myself "I've had that fight with my wife" at least twice. And it made Sarah and I talk about having another kid, which won't happen anytime soon but it was nice to think about anyway. Apatow certainly has an uncanny ability to blend truth and humor.

We also watched Dimitri Martin: Person last night. Funny stuff. I especially like the flip chart. I also discovered I only have about a 45 minute span for stand-up. I nodded off at the very end. But it was some musical number about how his jokes spread into the universe, so I don't think I missed much.

07 November 2007

1:00 AM Update

1:16 to be precise. The Pope family has been stricken with some cold bug. Eleanor is stuffy and sounds like Darth Vader breathing over the monitor; I just got her back to sleep. Sarah has a sore throat. She just took some Advil and went back to bed. I have a runny nose, but am pretty awake at this point, so I am giving an update.

Saturday was my 10 year college reunion. I guess that makes me old, but I don't particularly feel it. We traveled back to Furman for the day. We didn't do any official reunion activities. In fact, the only real homecoming activity we participated in was the philosophy department drop in. I was especially glad to see Jim Edwards, my undergrad mentor. He was seriously ill for awhile, but seemed to be in good shape now. It was neat and more than a little odd to be speaking to Jim and David Shaner as a fellow professor, when it just seems a short time ago those guys were Dr. Edwards and Dr. Shaner and I was asking about paper extensions or the relationship between Buddhism and existentialism.

After the drop in, we cruised by the fraternity tailgate. I didn't seen anyone I knew. I thought better of using the secret handshake to get us some free bar-b-que and so we just walked around campus some more, taking photos with Eleanor in the Rose Garden and by the lake. We then headed downtown so I could show Sarah the new park by the Reedy falls, ate an early dinner at Barley's, and were back in Rock Hill by 7:30. Our friends Jeannie and Jason came over for a bit that night, but we were too tired to play Apples to Apples like we had planned.

The night before we got to hang out for a bit with Josh and Jessica, two former students. Josh is in his internship, so he'll be graduating with his Master's in December and was giving us all the details of his initial foray into teaching high school English.

Sunday was typical -- church, some football on TV, and trying to rest.

It's 1:30 now, hopefully I can get back to sleep soon.

01 November 2007

Closing some Loops

For the past two or three days, I was in a bit of a funk. Nothing really wrong, everything going okay, but something not quite right. I wanted to sleep more, was easily distracted, and just not feeling right. Some of it may or is physical. There are all kinds of cold germs floating around the university now and I am no doubt fighting them off. But there seemed to be something else. I think what was happening was there were a lot of open loops, to use a phrase from Getting Things Done, -- things that I had not completed and had not written down to complete. Two loops got closed recently that have made me feel better. There's a third thing that I need to close soon, but is a bit harder.

Those loops:
1. A number of financial things have been stressing me out lately. Sarah did a big breakdown of all our finances and came up with a solid "this is all we get to spend every month" number. That number is not very big, but it makes me feel good to have that set in stone to work from. It's much easier to NOT EAT OUT when you see how that stupid combo meal from Taco Bueno is taking away from your ability to do other things, like buy books or put gas in the car.
2. I picked the texts for my graduate course next semester. I didn't realize this was bugging me until I turned in the forms today and instantly felt better. I am trying to get my students to read some primary stuff that also dovetails with my research interests. We will be reading: Experience and Education (Dewey), School and Society (a quasi-textbook on social theory and education), the Ethics of Teaching (another quasi-textbook), Tinkering Toward Utopia (Tyack and Cuban), and The Closing of the American Mind (Bloom). It's pretty ambitious, but I think it will work out.

The third thing is I need a book to read. I've been floundering a bit on the reading side of things the past two weeks, ever since finishing The Lions of al-Rassan, which was very, very good. I just can't decide what I want to read now. The financial side of things suggests getting a book from the library, but I kinda want a graphic novel or something rather escapist. I think I'll feel better once I figure out something to put my nose in.

31 October 2007

Happy Birthday Grandma

Today is my grandmother's 80th Birthday. Azile Allen is still pretty spry for 80. She's accomplished a lot -- working at General Electric for over 30 years, a union organizer and secretary, raising two daughters and having a pretty big hand in raising four grandchildren, and lots of stuff I no doubt don't know about.

We were at a birthday dinner in her honor on Saturday in Conway. Like I said there, my grandmother embodies so much of what it means to be a good person -- hard working, patient, kind, smart, insightful, a person of deep faith who is never overbearing, and appropriately reserved. One of the things I admire is her timing. She doesn't talk just to hear herself speak and does not step into things unless she knows she's needed and it's important for her to do so.

Happy Birthday, Grandma! We love you!

30 October 2007

Sports and Writing

Since the World Series, I've been reading a lot of espn.com at lunch, digesting and, let's face it, reliving the Sox win a bit. The Sports Guy has a really nice piece about watching the end of the series with his daughter.

I also discovered that Chuck Klosterman writes a monthly column for ESPN. Who knew? I particularly enjoyed this one about the NBA; Klosterman is a good writer.

That column made me think of an interesting question: We regard college basketball as a "purer" version of the sport than the NBA. College football and the NFL are a bit of a wash. Both are popular, but seem almost like different sports. But it's professional baseball we regard as the true strain of that sport, with almost no regard for college ball at all. Why is that?

29 October 2007

World Series Thoughts

I am at work, bleary eyed a bit from watching TV until 12:30 AM. I've been doing that for two weeks, watching the Red Sox come back from a 3-1 deficit against the Indians and then clobber the Rockies. Here are some random thoughts about it all:

-- I will admit to not being horribly upset that the Indians were up 3-1. I root for the Sox. I thought they could come back. After all, my Green Pillow and I hung on every out for the 2004 comeback against the Yankees. And, deep down, there was a tiny part of me that thought it would be cool to be in a city where the World Series was happening, since I was going to Cleveland on the 25th. I did go to Cleveland and was just as happy to see it kinda bummed out. I watched game 2 from a bar in downtown Cleveland, but when it wasn't on for the pre-game, I was nervous about asking them to change the channel.

-- The Sox had two cancer survivors start in the Series and both were great. Lester got lots of attention, but I didn't know until today that MVP Mike Lowell fought off testicular cancer in 1999. The fact that these two guys could fight off cancer and come back and win the WS is pretty inspirational.

-- Shilling wants one more year, and I hope his very impressive post-season gets him one. It's just one more year, but I'll understand if management does not think he can hold up for another entire season.

-- One of the great things about baseball is how one swing can erase almost everything. Yes, I am looking at you, J.D. Drew.

-- Papelbon scares me, more than a little.

-- In 2004, we had the Roberts' Steal that turned it around. For 2007, I nominate the Drew Grand Slam. Or, if you are into smaller events, Manny throwing Lofton out.

-- What kind of asses are Boras and A-Rod? They make their big announcement for not coming back to the Yankees in the early innings of Game 4. That just reeks of no-class. Even Cashman, et al waited until the series was over before announcing Girardi as manager.

-- Please, for the love of all that is holy, don't let the Sox sign A-Rod. Please. (I don't think they will, since he clearly, clearly, sucks in the post-season and the Sox are built for post-season success).

-- We put Eleanor down to bed at her usual time, but she was pretty restless, getting up at 11:00 to eat. Even after that, she didn't really want to go back to sleep. My awesome wife got out of bed to try and calm her down so I could watch the end of the game. That didn't work, so after the game was over I went in and rocked Eleanor back to sleep. Personally, I think she was nervous about the outcome of the series and would not calm down until she knew the Sox had won. We did, after all, watch their opening game in Fenway this year when Eleanor was one day old. Our little fan. . .

17 October 2007

Back from the 'ville

Sarah, Eleanor, and I made it back from our Fall Break trip last night at about 9:00. Although we left Charlottesville about 2:00, it took a little longer than normal. A normal stop for gas turned out much longer than expected when we discovered Eleanor's diaper had "failed containment", so we had to do some changing and cleaning. Then, we were stopped in traffic on I-77 north of Charlotte after we had eaten dinner. I bailed on the interstate and took some back roads that took us through Davidson and Cornelius, bypassed the traffic, then got back on 77.

Aside from some grumpiness caused by being up so late on Friday night (we didn't get to Richmond until 11:00), Eleanor did great and garnered us lots of compliments.

We stayed at our friends Chuck and Kellie's Friday and Saturday night, visiting with them and their two daughters. They fed us well and we had a good time just hanging out. On our way out of town Sunday we spent some time with Kurt, Kristen, and their two kids. Sunday night in Charlottesville Rich and Laura fed us along with Matt and his new girlfriend (who was very nice). Monday we had Bodo's and I spent some time at UVA visiting with my advisor. Sarah had put together a gathering at Amigo's with some ACAC folks, which proved amusing due to a very congenial host. It looks like Amigo's has some new ownership and they are working hard to impress. Tuesday was more Bodo's, more visiting (we spent some time at Rob and Laura's Migration gallery), then the aforementioned trip home.

As always, it was a whirlwind and I don't feel like we spent enough time with anyone, but it was fun. We certainly miss C'ville, mainly for all the wonderful people we got to know during our time there.

12 October 2007

Friday and off!!

Haning out with Eleanor on a Friday morning while Sarah puts some time in at Cupps. Feels like a Friday for random things, so here goes:

Eleanor's 6 month checkup was Wednesday. Tale of the tape: 14 pounds 6 ozs (25th percentile); 25 inches long (25th percentile); 24 inch head (90th percentile!). My daughter's large cranium, combined with her ever-changing eye color and her uncanny ability to wake up just as Sarah and I peek in to check on her, caused me to remark that we would soon have to check and see if The Xavier Institute for the Gifted had any openings. My wife doesn't appreciate applying my geek humor to descriptions of our daughter.

Heading out today to Virginia. Winthrop's fall break is Monday and Tuesday, so we are visiting some friends in Richmond and Charlottesville. Looking forward to the trip, but of course it means I have 172 things to do at the office today in addition to the two big meetings I have to go to.

Andre remarked a few days ago how he loved VH1's Hip Hop Honors. I caught it on Tuesday. I've never been into hip-hop as much as my brother, but do like a lot of it that crosses my path. The show rekindled my interest in it a bit, so I am listening to the newest Common album (very good, supplied by my brother) and am going to try and restock my Tribe Called Quest & De La Soul stuff. Plus I need to get a GIANT multi-finger ring like Snoop wore at the VH1 honors that says "iPope" (my hip-hop/on-line persona).

One other thing about that show: Harvey Keitel introduced Snoop Dogg. Now, I like Snoop and I like Keitel, but how did those two get paired together? Did I miss something?

Will try to post from the road. I hope everyone has a good weekend!

10 October 2007

Writing patterns

I've been working pretty hard these past few weeks on two writing projects. The first is a paper on reflective equilibrium and education that I hope to submit (in some form) to the Philosophy of Education society meeting. The second is on Dewey's aesthetics, film, and social class that is for the History of Education society meeting at the end of October. It's the later I've focused on exclusively this week, because I really need to send it to the session chair by Friday (two weeks before the conference). I've banged out about 10 footnoted pages; that was working from texts, with only the roughest of outlines going in.

I procrastinated all to hell on the Dewey piece, but it's helped me better understand my writing process. I write in spurts, with an almost exclusive dedication to writing during that period. I am sure everyone does to some extent, especially when faced with a deadline, but I feel it's different for me. I've been thinking about this Dewey paper for two months -- going over what I want to write in my head, looking at references to use, rereading portions of Dewey -- but it's only very recently I felt ready to write anything. Hence the procrastination and the spurt of productivity.

This wasn't a real problem when I was writing my dissertation. My advisor was fine with my disappearing for three weeks then surfacing with 20 pages. I also didn't have much else to concentrate on during that period, so I could NOT think about writing for awhile (and just ruminate over things in the back of my mind), and JUST think about writing when it came time to bang it out. With teaching, that's a lot harder. Now, even though I am in the writing grove, I have to worry about meeting students and preparing for class. I can't just write. Of course, I should be honest and clear here. Even when I am in my writing grove, it's not like I write eight hours per day. It's more like four. Pre-teaching, however, I'd spend that other time not really doing very much mentally taxing -- cooking, working out, debating the merits of Lost episodes, etc. I think that not writing time helped me write.

It's not like I find the act of writing harder now. I find clearing the mental and caldenderial space to write harder. Given that I must write for my profession, I either need to readjust my writing habits or work my other duties around those habits. I could, for example, try to get ahead on my teaching prep and not schedule appointments when it's a writing week. I am not sure that my writing schedule is that predictable, though. Maybe it needs to be

08 October 2007

SAPES weekend

Friday and Saturday Winthrop and I played host to the South Atlantic Philosophy of Education Society (SAPES). It turned out wonderfully; we had good presentations, a great keynote from Jim Garrison of Virginia Tech, and wonderful accommodations provided by, well, me. I was able to arrange the banquet on Friday night, breakfast on Saturday, and a boxed lunch for everyone after the meeting was over. The hotel (the Hilton Garden Inn in Rock Hill) worked out well for everyone as well. I had lots of help, especially from the dean's assistant and our departmental assistant. SAPES is small (we had 20 or so attendees), but that makes for a very personable atmosphere. I had two students present papers as well, both of which were well received. At the business meeting on Saturday, I was elected program chair for next year, which will be at Virginia Tech.

After the conference ended on Saturday, I was beat. So beat I didn't make it to the Obama rally on Saturday night. :( I went to bed at 9:30 after falling asleep on the couch even earlier, but work up with Eleanor at 10:30 and couldn't go back to sleep. I stayed up until almost one reading my book -- The Lions of Al-Rassan -- and finally was able to crash.

Sunday was just recovery for me. My late night and Eleanor's early morning combined to have us all in and out of bed until 11:00. We missed church. I spent the rest of the day getting a few things into the attic and setting a trap for the critter we occasionally hear scurrying about up there. But mostly I spent the rest of the day resting. Eleanor and I hung out while Sarah went to see Antigone at the university. We watched some baseball and football. I grilled a London Broil after Eleanor went to bed, then Sarah and I watched Blades of Glory. Which was dumb, funny, and not as good as say, Talladega Nights.

03 October 2007

A night out

Sarah's parents are hanging out for the week to visit with us, so last night Sarah and I got a nice night out. We waited until after we put Eleanor to bed, then we went to dinner at The Inn at Baxter. It was nice and quiet, with an open kitchen, one big open dining room, and a nice looking bar across the way. Sarah and I went all out (largely because it was Roger's treat. His Christmas present was a contest. We won, so we got a nice dinner). Sarah had a glass of wine, pecan crusted catfish, Butterfinger cake with a glass of port for dessert. She enjoyed her wine and fish very much, but the port was a little strong and the cake a little dry. I opted for some Grey Goose Pear for my cocktail, then had duck with a molasses/Tabasco glaze for my meal. No dessert for me. The duck was wonderful; I described it as a "party in my mouth" which sent Sarah into convulsions of laughter just as the waiter (who was great) came by to ask how everything was. The only downside of the night was how tired I was -- I had taught all day and was worn out.

It was great to get a nice quiet dinner to ourselves out. Thanks to Roger and Marilyn for looking after Eleanor and for giving us a great Christmas present!

01 October 2007

Eleanor's baptism

Yesterday, Eleanor was baptized at our church, St. Phillip Neri in Fort Mill. It turned out wonderfully. Lots of people were in town -- Sarah's parents; her sister from Texas; her other sister, her husband, and daughter from Baltimore; my dad and his wife; my mom, sister, and grandmother; my brother and his wife (Andre braved kidney stones to make it!) and, of course, Sarah and Eleanor. Saturday night cousin Robbie hosted a cookout for everyone. Sunday was the baptism, of course. Sarah's dad performed the ceremony (Deacons can do that sort of thing). The big family crowd was joined at the church by our friends Lee and Marrianne, Josh, Bernie, and Sarah's friends from her mom's group. John Harper is Eleanor's godfather, so he was there with Amelia. Sarah choose her college friend and roomate, Erin to be Eleanor's godmother, but due to a job change and a sooner than expected move, Erin could not make it. Leanna stood in for Erin.

My daughter is a huge ham and loves the spotlight already, so she just beamed up there in front of the church, enjoying all the attention.

After church we all went back to our house for brunch. All in all, it was an awesome weekend and our daughter is awesome.

Photos on her blog: Eleanor's Place

20 September 2007

No Obama

Obama had to cancel his town hall here in Rock Hill today. Something about staying in Washington to, you know, vote on stuff. How dare he stop his campaigning to do his job?

There are plans to reschedule, but we will see. York County is pretty firmly Republican, so we can't be at the top of his priority list, even for the primaries. Still, I hope he makes it back.

18 September 2007

For Sale: One Country

Someone put Belgium on EBay.

Cute nation seeks willing buyer, price negotiable. Good neighborhood, occasionally used for invasion into France. Close to everything!

Obama in Rock Hill

Barack Obama will visit Rock Hill Thursday. I am going to try to go. I already have my ticket, but they key will be getting there early enough to get a seat. This may be my only chance, as I doubt any Democrat will set foot in the state after the January primary. I am not a Democrat, although I lean left.

McCain was here last week. But I am not really interested in McCain any longer (not that I was ever really interested). Out of the Republicans, I think I would go see Rudy if he came here and maybe Thompson. Of course, I'd really only go to see Thompson to see if he would help me make the following exchange:

Me: "Mr. Thompson, do you have a plan to get us out of Iraq?"
Thompson: "Plan? Russians don't take a dump, son, unless they have a plan."

Ah, they joys of having an actor run for president.

16 September 2007

Bookbuying Sunday


Today I hit The Book Rack, Rock Hill's independent, semi-used bookstore. I have some issues with the store, but I like to try and patronize independent booksellers when possible and they occasionally have some decent used stuff. I picked up a few things for Sarah and found this copy of The Talisman. I am not after every Stephen King book, but I'd like to have hardback copies of all the books that relate to The Dark Tower series in some way. The Talisman does, so I was happy to find this hardcover. Since it is smaller than most hardcovers, I thought it was a book club version. Inside, however, I found these Chinese characters on the dedication page. There is also no Library of Congress information behind the title page like in most U.S. books. I wonder if this is some Asian version or something. But then why isn't the whole book in kanji? Maybe I've bought some Chinese forgery!

13 September 2007

Cool blog on digital and youth culture

I just ran across this blog, written by a Ph.D. student who is focusing on digital and youth culture. She has a lot to say about Facebook, MySpace, etc that is pretty interesting.

12 September 2007

Entourage

Last week? (it all blurs together), Sarah and I netflixed the first disc of Entourage. For those who have not heard of it, it's an HBO series about an up and coming actor (Adrian Grenier) and his pals from home who now hang out with him in Hollywood. One of his buddies is his manager, one is his driver/general lacky, and the other member of the Entourage is his cousin -- a TV actor who is now scraping for work and living in Adrian's shadow(nicely played be Kevin Dillon, especially when the role has to hit close to home).

Basically, I was "meh" on the first disc. So "meh" I didn't bother to put any more in the queue. I am not really that interested in the lifestyles of the rich and famous (even the subtle mocking of the lifestyles that goes on in the show). I also find the whole idea of the "entourage" a little strange and subtly distasteful. I have to wonder, if a good friend (let's say John Harper, for the sake of argument) somehow made it in Hollywood, would I and Winston and Jimmy and the rest of the crowd now be living in some mansion cooking his breakfast, picking up his dry cleaning, and using the "Come and meet John Harper" line to get laid? I just don't see myself being very happy with that scenario and find it hard to understand those who do.

I realize that, like The Sopranos, the point of the show (well, the point of the show other than the cameos) is to contrast the normal (in this case the male friendship dynamic) with the surreal (the Hollywood lifestyle) and thus illustrate that friends are friends, even if the situation outside of the friendship is weird. The best part of the show is certainly that male friendship dynamic. The characters' banter is a very accurate portrayal of how guys talk to each other -- constantly making fun of one another in crude ways, repeatedly bringing up past embarrassments to taunt each other, and letting no good deed go unpunished. I just think something like The Sopranos does that normal/abnormal dynamic much better.

It's probably just East Coast bias. I prefer Virginia to Berkeley, the SEC to the PAC-10, the Atlantic to the Pacific, and mobsters to movie stars.

11 September 2007

I have friends who work in waste management.


Since it's Tuesday (a day I teach), I am wearing a tie. Specifically, I am wearing a black shirt, grey and black stripped pants, and a black tie with a tiny silver and white pattern. I like this outfit; Andre and Heidi gave it to me for Christmas. Yet, two people today have said I look "very mafioso." Does black shirt = Tony Soprano now?

Marshall said next time someone says I look like I am in the mafia, I should sneer and say "Do I look funny to you? Do I amuse you? Am I some sort of clown to you?". He also cautioned that I should avoid bludgeoning colleagues or students with the butt of a gun.

I'll get Sarah to take a photo when I get home so I can get some other feedback. Notice that all of the men in the photo above are wearing WHITE shirts.

07 September 2007

Almost. . .there. . .

I came to work today with one goal -- to clean out my email inbox. I had a bunch of stuff in there that required some action, so it had accumulated over this past week. It's now 4:00 and I have one thing left -- this ethics training thing every researcher at the university who works with human subjects has to complete. It's like an on-line course. I sent away for my password (I set up my account about a month ago) but still haven't gotten anything back.

I am torn. I am getting pretty tired and want to go home, but having this one thing left in my in-box is sticking in my craw. It's been 20 minutes since I requested my password, so I really don't know what's going on.

My solution is to write myself a sticky note (or put it on my to do list) that I have to finish this thing, delete the email, and leave. If I don't get the password over the weekend, I'll just set up a new account on Monday.

Edit: I got the password, but there are 10 "learning modules" to complete. Ugh. No way I am getting that done today, so I've just bookmarked the page and will chip away at them next week.

Still, clean inbox!!

The Canadian Rockies

One of the guys on Circvs Maximvs has a friend that's a professional photographer. His blog has some recent pics of the Rockies that are amazing.

04 September 2007

No Coke!

I did not have a Coke at all yesterday. That was a pretty big deal, since I usually have one per day and am really trying to cut down. I had some tea in the morning and a diet Mountain Dew in the afternoon. It's the sugar in the Coke I am trying to avoid, so I was pretty proud of myself for yesterday.

I did have one today, but have been pretty good about limiting myself. Hopefully, I can increase those "no Coke" days until they are the rule rather than the exception.

30 August 2007

Car Update

Thanks for all the good advice on the car. Not only did I post my dilemma here, but also to the messageboard I frequent. I also emailed my dad and brother directly. Most of the advice I got was pretty consistent -- work to pay off the Subaru and/or put money aside for a new car. Thanks to Cthulhu's Librarian, Winston, and Rel for really good thoughtful advice. Special thanks to my dad, who hit the nail right on the head when he said "You're not unhappy with the car. You are unhappy with the deal on the car." That was right on, and made me realize that my unhappiness with the deal would not be solved by getting another not-so-great deal on a new car. Thanks to my brother who told me to get a new car because that would make me happy. :)

We're sticking with the Subaru for now. I am going to make an effort to pay more on the Subaru to get out of being upside down in the car. We will reevaluate the situation in December, when more good car deals can be found. I will probably still periodically complain about the car -- so big big thanks to my wonderful wife for putting up with my whining AND for offering to let me drive our nicer Ford Escape that we got a much better deal on. She, as always, is awesome.

Juxtaposition

Is it odd that a man dressed in a sportcoat, tie, and khakis was listening to "I turned into a Martian" by the Misfits at loud volume in his Subaru on his way to work this morning?

I thought it made an interesting image, at least, as I got out of my car in the Withers parking lot.

There's interesting things lurking beneath the surface of us all.

28 August 2007

This car thing -- help needed!

I am having a vehicle dilemma so I am soliciting advice from all quarters.

Summary -- Totaled my trusty Mazda in December. Sarah and I shared a car until March, when our frustration and impeding baby led us to Carmax and a Subaru Impreza Outback Sport. We had some bank issues, so we had to finance through Carmax. The Impreza has 99K miles, but runs great and looks fine for being 10 years old.

So what's my problem? Well, it bugs the crap out of me that I may very well be making payments on a car with 150K miles, since we financed for five years. I feel I made a number of mistakes in buying this car. It's too old to have paid what I paid for it. The interest rate kinda sucks. Also, while it runs great and looks fine, it is ten years old and that shows in spots (a few seat stains, lamp covers that no longer fit, etc). Additionally, the insurance on this car is relatively high, for some reason. I have 55 payments left. Ugh.

I've been whining about this car for awhile now, so I am trying to take action. This is a good week to get a new one, as it is model-year clearance on most of the 2007's.

The way I figure it, I have four options:
1. Get a new car, probably a Civic.
Pros: I have a new car, which I have never had before. It will be reliable, under warranty, and I'll be able to drive it for a long time. It will look good and I'll feel good driving it. I'll get a lower interest rate. My insurance will probably go down, or will at least not go up.
Cons: My car payment will double. This will stretch our finances a bit. I'll have to add the money I still owe on the Subaru to any new car purchase. Taxes will be higher on the new car.

2. Get a different used car, probably a Civic
Pros: A nicer car, one I can drive for a long time (hopefully even after it's paid off). Reliable, maybe a warranty. Feel better about driving it.
Cons: Still a used car. Maybe not as much wiggle room on the price, especially when you factor in the Subaru balance. Still a used car, even if a nicer one.

3. Keep Subaru, but make new car payments on it to pay it off quickly
Pros: Subaru paid off faster. Can then trade it in or dive it till it quits.
Cons: Still have Subaru AND big car payment, at least for a couple of years

4. Suck it up and keep on keeping on
Pros: Manageable payment on decent car
Cons: Will be paying on the car awhile. Will continue to be annoyed at my car mistake. Will car make it until paid off?

So, any advice? I have to make a decision quickly!

23 August 2007

Priorities: Comic Books

This is the first post in a series, where I will be musing on my free-time priorities in order to reassess how they all fit into the Nakia-as-Dad domain. I recognized the need for this process earlier, and am going to try and look at my free time activities in some sort of systematic way to determine what stays, what goes, and what gets modified. I think it's important to do this honestly and systematically, otherwise stuff gets lost simply due to inanition, attrition, and neglect. It's better to choose to let something go, to make a conscious decision about how I am going to spend my time and money, that to just let something wither because I can't decide or am avoiding it.

I know it may seem weird to talk about comics as a priority, but 4+ long boxes in my spare bedroom say otherwise. In my reassessment of my leisure priorities, I am tackling this one first because it's fairly easy. Comics, at least "collecting" them, is going. I don't spend a ton of time or money on them. Thirty dollars a month or so; a Saturday driving into Charlotte; a Sunday afternoon reading my monthly books. It's easy to let this one go for a number of reasons. First, it's a pain to get to the store. Heroes is a great comic store, one of the best. But getting there is a 30-40 minute process. Once I am there, it's not like I spend hours browsing, reading, and talking about comics. I get my stuff then leave. Second, and most telling, is the stuff itself. My pull list is pretty small. Conan, Amazing Spider Man, Knights of the Dinner Table Magazine, Hellboy, The Dark Tower (they've been doing some comics based on the Stephen King books), and the occasional other mini-series. Out of those books, nothing is stellar enough to make me want to get it on time every month. Conan is the most consistent book there. It's been great from month to month and I got in at the beginning, but now they are doing a "re-launch" with a new team next year. And it will still come out in trade paperback. Amazing has been really, really bad ever since this Civil War stuff started. KotDT is amusing and provides some neat game fodder, but the strips are all collected in paperbacks anyway. Hellboy is always good, but is infrequent and comes out in trades. The Dark Tower has been a big disappointment. It was billed as adding to Roland's story, but the comic portion of the books just recapped Wizard and Glass in poor, abbreviated, PG form. I HAVE READ THE BOOK. THAT'S WHY I BOUGHT THE COMIC. I DON'T NEED THE CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED VERSION OF THE STORY AGAIN. The "new material" came from stories (and I use that term loosely) at the end of each issue about the mythology of Mid-Word. These were poorly written and, in many cases, bordered on the silly.

Thus, I am not really excited about any comics any more, at least in single issue form. I will miss getting Amazing Spider Man monthly, since I have LOTS of those issues. and a nice run of 5 years or so going on. Likewise with Conan -- I have every issue of the new series. So I'll stick with my monthlies until their current arcs end, then phase them all out gradually.

What to do with the 4+ long boxes of stuff I have is a bigger question.

21 August 2007

Another Miss at GenCon

Another thing I missed at GenCon was my friend Scott and some other folks I know from ENWorld getting to play in a secret D&D game run by E. Gary Gygax. For those of you not remotely of the geek persuasion he, well, invented Dungeons and Dragons. That's like getting to play basketball with Naismith.

I now officially have a belly fully of burning jealous rage for Scott.

20 August 2007

The First Transport Is Away!

I just submitted my major research project for the summer to the journal Teacher and Teacher Education. It's a paper I wrote with some colleagues titled "Examining Teacher Ethical Dilemmas in Classroom Assessment" based off some surveys we conducted last year. I am pretty proud of the paper. It's good work and I think it will help kick start a research agenda on ethics that has, honestly, been floundering a bit. SO keep your fingers crossed that the reviewers like it.

Big thanks to my writing partner and publishing machine, Susan Green.

Missing GenCon and friends

This past weekend was GenCon -- the big honkin' gaming and general geeky goodness convention. Since my fall contract started Wednesday , I didn't go. Apparently, I missed a big announcement -- Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition will be published next May. I am not sure how much I care. I have never been a rules gnome -- someone who cares all that much about a rules set for a given game. There are things about 3rd edition I like, things I don't, the same that there was about 2nd edition. It's easy to ignore things I don't and focus on the things I do. That only becomes problematic when playing the game with new people, but then you adjust or don't play. One thing that does look promising about 4th edition is the attempt to integrate or support on-line elements, which may make it easier to play with my friends who are scattered all over the country.

Which brings me to what I really miss about GenCon. Last summer, I didn't do too much official Con stuff. I mostly hung out with and played games with friends I don't get to see except at GenCon (or other events like NC Game Day). That's what I am missing now -- not being able to game (or eat or have a drink with) Tim, Rich, Scott, Phil, Dave, Christy, Liz, Kennon, and all those other people I have met over the years. I especially miss not hanging out with Tim and Rich, two very good friends whom I met though gaming but are more than just "gaming friends". Tim and his family, at least, will be here next weekend on the way back from their family vacation. I'm excited about that.

13 August 2007

Back from the beach

I'm back at work this morning after taking a tiny-mini-vacation to Myrtle Beach. We stayed at my brother's place. We got to hang out with Andre and Heidi and Harley. They are both really busy with work, but we got in some quality time (no, not the chopping wood kind of quality time) with them regardless. Sarah got a pedicure. I got lots of compliments as I walked around the mall with Eleanor in the Baby Bjorn. Sarah and I snuck away Friday night after Eleanor was in bed and walked around Broadway at the Beach. We rode The Pirate, rescued from The Pavilion and set up at the "Nostalgia Park" at Broadway. We had a good dinner and family time Saturday with my mother, aunt, cousin, and grandmother -- all of whom gave Eleanor lots of love and kisses.

Mostly, though, we just tried to avoid the heat. With all the humidity close to the beach, heat idexes were in the 110's on Friday and Saturday. There was also this terrific lightning storm Friday night that kept us all awake for awhile.

This was also the first time I can ever remember that I visited Conway/Myrtle Beach and did not go to Pope-Martin road. I feel a little guilty about that.

09 August 2007

Damn Hot

At 5:30 AM it was 82 degrees in my house.

We have a programmable thermostat that keeps our house at 78 when we are home, but cuts the AC off at night. So it was 78 when we went to bed at 10:30. That means the temp in our house INCREASED 4 degrees overnight, when things supposedly cool off.

Damn hot.

08 August 2007

July Reading

July books read: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostava
July books bought: None :(

When I told a friend I was reading The Historian, she remarked "It's pretty good, but about 200 pages too long." That sums it up nicely, I think.

Spoilers below.

There were many things to like about The Historian. The idea that Dracula is, in some sense, a historian himself, is first among them. Coupled with this idea is the other very cool idea (which I am totally stealing for a game someday) that Dracula selects his victims at least in part based on their knowledge of and access to books of history. I also enjoyed the layered narrative -- with letters and flashbacks detailing most of the plot. In some ways, reading The Historian was like being a historian, finding patterns and layers of meaning in primary sources.

The book took awhile to get moving and there were characters and episodes that didn't add that much to the story. I am not sure, for example, what function Barley served. Upon occasion, those layers diffused the story rather than added to it, especially toward the end, when 85% of the narrative was from Paul's point of view and told as a letter/flashback. It was easy to forget what was happening to Eva (or really care, for that matter. Just when you thought her story would pick up steam with her leaving Amsterdam, not much happened other than avoiding a creepy stranger in the train and her sexual comsummation with Barley. I saw that coming as soon as he entered the story, but it did make a nice parallel with her father and Helen).

Still, and enjoyable take on the Dracula story. And I am a sucker for stories that have academics and protagonists. :)

07 August 2007

Priorities

My friend Tim is having a big crunch adjusting to life as a father of two. I feel his pain, to a smaller degree. One of the biggest challenges to being a parent thus far is simply the time demands. Those demands create logistical challenges, which creates stress, which creates frustration and (to be perfectly honest) occasionally resentment. Add to this the fact that no one wants to hear or really talk about that part of parenthood, and it gets even more complicated.

People ask me all the time "How's that little girl?" My response is usually "Great!" or something glib like "Growing like a weed!". I know I would get all sorts of social sanction if I said what I occasionally feel:

"Well, she doesn't nap unless you hold her. Which a bunch of books say is wrong, so we feel like we're doing something wrong. And it leads to one of us sitting on the couch holding her for two hours at a time, so that's two hours of just watching TV (which, you know, we're not supposed to do with her in the room. Maybe she's being turned into a mindless consumer even in her sleep). And while we're sitting there, holding our daughter so she'll sleep, we wish we could be doing something else, even something like cleaning the kitchen because it's so dirty, yet we also feel guilty because (again) everyone keeps saying things like 'You'll miss those days of rocking her and holding her' which, while it may be true, does not help us get the laundry done or prevent us from turning into fat slobs because we can't seem to make it to the gym."

I am sure that would not go over well.

I love my daughter more than anything except my wife. There's nothing I wouldn't do for her. But I am still adjusting to the sheer amount of time it takes to give her what she needs. I'll cop to some selfishness here, selfishness that should be shed like an old skin, a remnant of a time when I was younger and smaller. It may be just a matter of reprioritizing, of determining which of my own pursuits fit in with these new demands I've taken on. (Note to self: watching Predator on TV should be low on that list.) Maybe now's the time to take stock, to figure out what I need to carry with me and what can be left behind. My marriage and my daughter are my priority. My job, which I generally like very much, is certainly up there. It is the means to support the family, and also gives me a lot of intellectual fodder and personal validation. I am not really talking about that stuff. I am talking about personal stuff, self-centered (which is not always negative) pursuits -- hobbies, if you will -- that I've carried on in some form or another for awhile and have become part of who I am. It's time to take stock and (probably) clean some shelves.

Stay tuned.

02 August 2007

On parenting advice

I've made an observation:

When other parents offer advice about what to do with your children, it is often phrased "Well, we did X with my kids and it worked great. Look how awesome they are!"

When other parents offer advice about what NOT to do with your children, it's often phrased as "My neighbor did X with their kids, and now their kids are in jail for selling crack."

No one ever says "We did X with our kids, and boy, was that the wrong thing to do."

Just an observation. . .

31 July 2007

Proposals Away!

Apparently, I jinxed myself. After my last post, I said to Sarah "Hey! The blog is back. It's only mid July and I've already written as many posts as I did in June." Of course, that was two weeks ago and I haven't posted anything since. :(

I just submitted two research proposals to AERA. AERA (The American Educational Research Association) is the big giant educational research conference -- tens of thousands of people, hundreds of research specialties, everyone goes, etc. It's next March in New York City. It's important for me to go for professional reasons, but the one time I went in didn't have a very good time. It's just too big and spread out for me to really meet people or learn much. Now that I know people and won't be going by myself, however, I think it will be different.

I am excited about my two proposals, though. I am first author on both. One has to do with ethics and assessment. The other with preservice teacher's (i.e. my students') visions of what school should be like. The former I am working on with a colleague here; the latter with a former student. I hope they get accepted.

14 July 2007

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Zzzzzzzzzz

I am going to bed early tonight. Want to know why?

Three loads of laundry.
Grocery shopping.
Three articles read.
Three powerpoints made for those articles.
Midterm exam written.
Final exam written.
Big update for on-line course.
Answered miscellaneous posts/messages for on-line course.

And I am still thinking about going to the gym.

Eleanor napped on me today, while strapped into the Baby Bjorn. If I set the laptop up on the kitchen counter, I can type while she sleeps in there.

Boy, am I busy!

12 July 2007

Have a Cupp!

Sarah has started back to work this week at a new coffee shop called Cupps Cafe.. It's (hopefully) opening next week and sits in a prime spot, on Cherry Road, right across the street from the two largest dorms on campus. The owners are great and clearly have a passion for coffee. They'll also have beer and wine, with organic/local food for lunches and stuff. I am very excited about the place and excited for Sarah, because she likes working in an environment like Cupps. It's one of her dreams to own her own cafe one day, and this gets her a little step closer.

Of course, Sarah started the same week my face-to-face class started, so we've been doing a bit of juggling with Eleanor. We're trying to avoid daycare, as much because of the expense as anything else. So I've been watching her in the mornings, or bringing her to the office for a bit. That arrangement has been okay, except that Eleanor isn't really napping like she needs to -- she only wants to sleep in her car seat. So she gets fussy and I can't get work done, which makes me fussy.

It's forced me to reevaluate my work habits and routine a bit. In many ways, I am a morning person -- I work best until lunch, then find it really hard to be productive (especially writing) after 2:00 or so. But this week, I have been able to get things done after class, which ends at 4:00. Yesterday I recorded a podcast for my on-line course and did some other odds and ends from 4:00 -- 6:00 before heading home.

So many balls are up in the air, but Sarah and I are figuring out how to sort things so that both of us can work, we can take care of our little girl, and spend some time together as a family. It's hard, but we are working it out.

11 July 2007

GEICO does not cover Autobot Matrix of Leaderships

It's been a real busy week, with my face to face class starting, Sarah starting back to work, and facing research deadlines of August 1st.

But my friend Josh sent this, and I laughed a lot. Love McSweeney's!

A Letter to Optimus Prime from his GEICO Insurance Agent.

06 July 2007

Bill Pickney, 1925-2007

On Wednesday, Bill Pickney died. He was the last surviving member of a group many know -- the Drifters. He was also a decorated WWII verteran and former Negro League Pitcher. They had big hits with "Under the Boardwalk", "Up on the Roof", "This Magic Moment," and others. Pickney didn't actually sing on any of their big hits; he had been fired from the group by then for asking for more money, another victim of a studio system that exploited black talent. But I paused when I heard he had died and was a little saddened, primarily because of my father.

Dad is a big fan of The Drifters and other similar groups of the time period, which many call Beach Music. I am not sure if the Drifters really fit into that category. They're R&B, really, and were much bigger than the regional bands that constitute that sub-genre. But you can shag to them, which is all that really matters, I suppose.

The Drifters and groups like that are an indelible part of my youth. We'd be working around the house on Saturday, or grilling out after church on Sunday, and dad would put on a record or turn the radio to a beach music station, where they would play The Drifters and other bands all afternoon. Those are good memories, even though on into high school I (like every teenager, almost) sneered a bit at the quaint music of my father. But, like any good adult, I've reconciled with all that, and enjoy the Drifters, Tams, Platters, and other groups of my father's youth.

Bill Pickney, RIP.

03 July 2007

Let's start an argument

Here's a story/column where guys from bands I have never heard of talk trash about "Great Albums".

I don't even know where to begin and, were I to begin, I would spend the rest of the day writing about it, so I am not even going to start.

Thanks to The Evil Genius (Myrtle Beach's resident blog king) for posting it first.

And everything they say about Nevermind is right.

01 July 2007

Movie Binge

Last week, Sarah's sister Leanna was in town. This weekend, Sarah and Eleanor have been gone to North Dakota for Sarah's grandfather's 80th birthday. The babysitting and free time have meant lots of movie time for Professor Pope.

Pirates of The Caribbean 3: At Worlds End -- Like the second one. Parts were great. parts were a lot of fun. But there were too many parts; the film was needlessly complicated, adding in unnecessary elements (the whole Calypso subplot, and possibly even the whole trip to Singapore, although that part looked very cool). And while they added all this random stuff that seemed extraneous, they failed to deliver on a very, very cool possibility. All I am saying is, if you set up a huge, epic sea battle between the pirate lords and the British Armada, then I want to see a huge epic sea battle, dammit, not just a fight between two ships! It was as if the Battle of the Pelennor Fields just turned out to be Eowyn and Merry fighting the Nazgul and everyone going home after that. NAVAL BATTLES, PLEASE!

Live Free or Die Hard -- Ummm. . . Awesome, anyone? This was great. An old-school action film that holds the fine line between believability and camp. Sure there's no way anyone jumps from the back of a jet fighter onto some concrete onramp. But there's no way anyone jumps off the top of a building with a fire hose tied around them, shoots out the windows below, and swings to safety. Yet we go along with this outrageousness because of John McLane. In many ways he's so very human -- he's incredulous at his own situation, he does get hurt -- we're willing to buy it a little when he does the super human. Just good stuff all around, with only a few flat notes -- the villan was a little generic (although Rickman set the bar so high) and Kevin Smith has begun to get on my nerves. Still, it was awesome.

The Rise of the Silver Surfer -- There are four tiers of comic books: the ridiculous (see most of Marvel comics in the 1990's), the perfectly fine for comic books (where most books fall most of the time), the excellent example of the craft (I'd put a book like Powers here, or Amazing Spider-Man from 2003-2005), and the transcendent (Sandman, Watchmen, etc). I am not sure it's possible to have a transcendent comic book film. We've seen a few recent examples of excellent comic book films (Batman Begins, Spider-Man 2). Both Fantastic Four movie fall into the perfectly fine for comic book category. They are fun, light, have a fast plot and a bunch of cool moments. Not a bad way to be entertained for a couple of hours, but not really much more than that. The Surfer was cool. It was neat to see the Quinjet. But couldn't they have thorwn me a bone and anthropomorphized Galactus just a bit? One hand of cosmic dust cloud reaching out to crush the Earth? Wouldn't that have been a cool image?

Eleanor and Sarah are back today, so who knows when we'll get to the theatre again, but it was fun to binge while I could.

Oh, and while I was waiting for the Fantastic Four to begin, a family came in. The girl was maybe 5 and the book looked 4 or so. How much fun will it be when I can take Eleanor to movies? LOTS! One of my earliest memories is standing in line with my Dad to see Empire Strikes Back. Very excited about that future possibility.

June Reading

Books Bought: Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susana Clarke.

Books Read: Guns of the South, The Double (by Jose Saramago. PBOS (Put Back on Shelf))

Well, I moved away from magazines back into real prose for June. I wanted something genre-ish and easy to read for the beginning of summer, which led me to pick up Guns at the local indie bookshop for $2.00. It was okay, but I expected better from a book I had heard so much about and an author who is the leader of a sub-genre (alternative history). The basic premise is some guys show up at The Army of Northern Virginia circa 1863 and give them all AK-47's. With this firepower, the Confederacy wins at The Wilderness, captures Washington DC, and wins the Civil War.

There were three ways Guns could have been very cool. It could have been a neat mystery (who were these guys who gave the Confederacy machine guns? what do they really want?), an interesting character study (the complexities of the southerners way of thinking in regards to their cause, slavery, etc) and/or a big sprawling historical epic, where we get to play out the Civil War with the advantage to the south. We get elements of all three, but none of those really succeed. The mystery element lingered too long and wasn't ever really resolved. The main characters (Robert E. Lee and a Sgt. from NC) go through predictable changes (hey! maybe owning people isn't such a good basis for a nation. And it may even be Wrong!). Finally, all we see of the actual war is The Wilderness and the capture of DC. Thus, Guns was entertaining but not really good. I'm not rushing out to buy any more Turtledove.

After Guns I started The Double, but put it back on the shelf after about 15 pages. It's an interesting premise (a lonely, lost teacher sees himself (well, the self of five years ago) in a movie), but Saramago's style gave me a bit of a headache. The narrator adresses the reader directly, goes off on asides, and makes references to things the reader isn't aware of. It reminded me of talking to a socially challenged person at a gaming group -- they spend a lot of time talking about people you have never really met and ramble on about stuff you are not really interested in. You can't be interested in them, even if you want to, because she has never really bothered to give you any context. I am not claiming the guy who won the Nobel Prize for literature is a socially challenged gamer. I am sure he chose his voice deliberately and for good reason. I just don't want to listen to him right now.

I picked up The Historian and Johnathan Strange at Borders on Thursday. Both were in the outside bargain racks, so I got them for a total of $12.00. I've started The Historian and like it so far.

30 June 2007

The Mix Up

Wow? Has it really been two weeks since an entry? Time flies. I can't believe it's already July.

We'll kick of the renewed blogging with something short and easy:

As a late father's day present, Sarah bought me The Mix Up -- the new instrumental CD from the Beastie Boys. I have always liked the Beasties playing instruments and this album of all new music delivers. It's jazzy, funky, and groovy in alternating amounts. There are unique keyboard sounds on many tracks and some unique noises (a whistle, for example) thrown in (not sure if there are samples or loops in there as well). Some songs remind me of a simpler Medeski, Martin, and Wood and the whole album has a nice, urban, NYC vibe.

Good stuff! Thanks Sarah and Eleanor.

15 June 2007

Random Friday Ranting

Look out. . .

Is it that hard to throw some shorts and sneakers in the back of your beater truck so that when you go to the gym after working your construction/manufacturing job you DON'T HAVE TO WORK OUT IN MUDDY WORKBOOTS AND JEANS?

Oh, I'm sorry, I guess I didn't sufficiently analyze the "No smoking" rule for my lunch resturant. I guess since it doesn't specifically say "Please smoke outside, and by smoking we mean both inhalation and exhalation" it's okay to take a big long last drag off your cigarette, then EXHALE IT WHEN YOU COME BACK INSIDE. I guess we need to be more specific about these things.

Dear "Real World Reunion Las Vegas Cast": I can give you some latitude for being young, wanting to be on TV, and thus doing dumb stuff in Las Vegas for my amusement and occasional embarassment at being part of the same culture as you. But now that all of you are 30ish and one of you has a child, all of you just look sad. Really, was it a surpise to you that MTV would try to get the former couple (Alton and Irulan) to be together as much as possible and, thus, create drama? Are three more years of quasi-celebrity endorsements and bar tours worth it?

That's all I got for today.

11 June 2007

Richard Rorty, 1931-2007

I just found out, thanks to my friend Lee, that Richard Rorty died on Friday.

This makes me a little sad. Rorty was a philosopher who had a pretty large influence on my intellectual development. My great teacher Jim Edwards assigned Rorty's Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity in the 20th Century Philosophy class I took my senior year. That book had a pretty significant impact, particuarly the idea of contingency: that things (our culture, our history, ourselves) could have been very different. There were no metaphysical guarantees for anything. This results in irony, as we realize our most sacred possessions are merely historical contingencies, yet cling to them anyway. Rorty was no nihilist; he argued that we love and defend our deeply held, important beliefs and practices even though they were contingent. He just wanted us to realize that this stuff -- who we are, who we want to be -- is up to us.

Rorty via Jim Edwards led me to Dewey via John McDermott. And there you have it.

I saw Rorty speak twice. I drove down to Rice University when I was at TAMU to hear him give an ethics lecture. I remember that lecture pretty well; he argued that, in a contingent worldview, ultimate ethical principles didn't make sense from a metaphysical standpoint, but did from a personal one. Ultimate ethical principles were those which one could not imagine oneself giving up and still being the same person. I briefly shook Rorty's hand and babbled on about Dewey for a few minutes afterward.

I also saw Rorty and UVA, where he defended his position against charges of relativism. I thought that talk was a little less interesting, simply because Rorty had gone over that ground before. Still, he was an engaging speaker and took questions and comments from annoyingly pretentious graduate students who clearly hadn't read him very well with equanimity.

I hadn't read his stuff in awhile. I've drifted away from those positions a little. But Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity was certainly a right book at the right time situation.

RIP, Richard Rorty.

10 June 2007

A Beach Weekend

It's about 7:15 AM. Eleanor and I are up at my brother's house in Myrtle Beach. Everyone else is still sleeping, except the five young stray cats that hang out along the ditch at the edge of my brother's back yard. Eleanor is in her chair, looking out the back glass (and one of the cats is looking back at her), taking in the world and occasionally making baby commentary.

We've been here since Thursday. WE came down to visit my family and help my dad do some work at the old homestead. He cut down some trees earlier in the week. On Friday, in 95 degree heat, I helped him saw some of those trees into boards. It was hot and occasionally frustrating work. Who knows what the boards will be used for. But that wasn't really the point. The point was my dad LIKES to do that kind of stuff around the house. It's actually a stress reliever for him. I can't say I fully understand it, but I was happy to help him out on Friday. We worked and we talked and I know, in some weird way, he had a good time. And I did too.

We also took Eleanor on her first trip to the ocean yesterday. We covered her up and put on a hat and walked out on Springmaid Pier. Of course, she fell asleep in the car on the way over, so she was only semi-conscious for her first look at the ocean. Still it was fun to take her. I wonder how many things parents drag their kids to so their kids can do it, when actually it's really so the parents can say they took their kids to do it? Probably a lot.

Well, Eleanor is getting fussy, so that's all for now.