Thursday, January 31, 2008

I want candy...

We had some friends over last night (tv night!), and here's an actual snippet of the conversation:

friend 1: I love M&Ms...they have the perfect kind of chocolate.

me: Of course, M&Ms are better when you only eat the same colored ones and pretend that they're pills of some sort, like amphetamines.

friend 2: I do that too!

friend 3: I sort them out by color, but then I eat one of one color, one of the next color, one of the next color, and go around like that.

This explains a lot, no?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


In case any of you are curious after reading my post last year or hearing me and the spousal unit talk about it, White Castle is doing their Valentine's Day candlelight dinners again. Get your reservations quickly...the spouse and I are all set.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

another in the long line of stupid commercial products

While I was at the grocery store waiting on my prescription, I saw, in my wanderings, some company that's making something called...wait for it..."artificial honey." What's even worse is that it was, for some inexplicable reason, grapefruit flavored.

It's the consumer industry gone horribly awry, and it makes me want to reconsider communism.


I have, for two weeks, been suffering through what I've dubbed "The Cold That Will Not Die" (and yes, the capitalization is important). It's bad...I even canceled a class last week, and that's something I never do. I tried Mucinex, but no mucus was moved (stubborn phlegm!). I tried Zicam, but the cold did not speed up. I've been going through boxes of echinacea tea, but the only thing that's done is make my breath all herb-y. Chicken soup has been of no help. I've been ill so long, I'm seriously thinking about finding a voodoo specialist to see if they can help.

So after my spousal unit telling me that she'd brain me if I woke her up coughing at 4am one more time (she's actually been really sweet and concerned about the whole deal, but that doesn't make a good story), I made a doctor's appointment yesterday. First, though, I had to get through three classes, and my throat was raw like sushi afterwards...and I found myself flying through the lecture parts because I just wanted to get home and lay under my blankie. I did note, however, that I have several students who have also been sick for several weeks, and each of them has not yet missed a class because they were at home laying under their respective, they were tough, tougher than I.

(incidentally, for one of my readers, they only become blankies when you are ill...I'll accept no childish names otherwise)

My appointment was this morning, and I came away with a startling (for me) revelation: doctor's offices are full of sick people! But you get a better class of sick people at a clinic then you would at, say, an urgent care place.

My doctor thinks it's my sinus infection holding on, even though the symptoms are totally different...but, as one doctor to another, I guess I'll have to offer the professional courtesy to give him the benefit of doubt and see if his drugs will work before I offer a contradictory judgment, even though I strongly suspect some type of super-flu.

If this really is the sinus infection holding on, then I've been sick for a while now. Most of the time, though, I don't find it painful or debilitating but merely annoying. The throat doesn't bother me too much if I don't talk (one wonders how the spousal unit feels about this), and my biggest inconvenience is finding somewhere to dispose of the used tissues...but that's bad enough to make me want this to just go the heck away.

When horror novels talk of super viruses, they always end up being immediately lethal, with the victims dying slowly under mountains of mucus and phlegm. What's probably a more realistic scenario, and one that I personally predict, would be if the victims just had really bad colds that never got better. Society would grind to a halt, because everyone would be at home drinking herbal tea and laying under their blankies instead of working. What industry would be left would center on tissue production, and the tattered remains of our government would be run by the Kleenex family, who would open our national forests to harvesting so they might have enough paper to meet the increasingly steep demand for said tissues. Chicken soup would become the mandatory meal for everyone until we as a nation ran out of chickens. Humanity as we know it would collapse first in the Great Chicken Soup Riots of 2010, Puffs and Kleenex would then, as the only two remaining superpowers, get locked into open warfare, and the battles would rage until we all suffocate because the last tree in existence got cut down for tissue raw materials. When the space aliens finally arrive a decade later, all they find is a mound of used herbal teabags and a pile of medical waste.

Maybe that's just the phlegm talking, though.

Friday, January 25, 2008

computer update

Thanks to a marvelous friend's help, the laptop is up, running Ubuntu, and doing so marvelously. There were installation pains, and I know I couldn't have done it by myself, but I'm told that such installation issues are not normal. At any rate, I like this OS a hell of a lot more than Vista...if for no other reason than Ubuntu is faster and has a better built-in selection of games/time wasters.

It's weird having a laptop. I'm using it a lot this week, because being sick, I'm spending a lot of time under a blankie on the couch, and I can still get work done. Luckily for me, tv writers are still on strike, so I have less distractions in that regard. I wonder, though, how much I'll use this and how much I'll favor the desktop.

work update for the week ending 1/25/08

In terms of fiction, I have finished a short's an interesting dialog with a man and wife, where the wife is discussing the pros and cons of marrying a ninja. I'm gonna sit and let it percolate for a few days, but I think it's good. Also started the novel and one other short story.

Scholarship: I have been contacted by an editor of a contracted anthology, and he has convinced me to write a chapter for him on Captain America prose novels. I have the source material, and I've finished one book, almost done with another. I think it will be an interesting article. I do, however, worry about being typecast as the comic guy...I guess I have to work out another way of selling this.

Also, I have been invited to speak at a graduate student conference's roundtable of life after graduation. Long time readers of this blog know I have a lot to say on the matter.

There's no real motion on the rest of the scholarship, although I still hope to get a section of the NO paper done this weekend.

Teaching: Kind of a weird week for this. With the holiday on Monday and my cold, I didn't conduct a class this week. The main thing I spend my time on is sorting through the 1,285,377 students who want to either drop or add.

(Incidentally, this will hopefully become a regular feature. I'm not sure how interesting it is, but if I hold myself accountable, I should hopefully get more work done.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

an anniversary

I remember it well, like it was five years ago today. It was snowy, cold, but throughout the blustery weather, I knew I had an appointment with...destiny.

I came home to the apartment, and I saw her...the woman with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life. She was still unconscious from the medication, so I quickly bound her arms and legs. I knocked on my across-the-hall neighbor's door...we had met him earlier that month, when he had locked himself out of his apartment...we let him go out on our balcony, climb onto the roof of our three story building, and jump into his own apartment. He was more than happy to help me (as I'd turned a blind eye to the emanating weird chemical smells from his apartment and the unusual visitors coming all hours of the night), so together, we picked up the woman of my dreams and hauled her down to my car. She just started to come to when we got to the city hall, and she was just awake enough to slur through the wedding ceremony. Boy, she had a shock when she fully regained consciousness.

No, not really. The truth is, she had to work later than I, so I was to meet her at city hall, where we would be married by the mayor...who demanded our assurances that we didn't just meet in the bars the night before. I got there about a half hour early and waited...and waited. I was, for some inexplicable reason, fairly nervous, and the future spousal unit not showing up immediately didn't help.

Finally, she came through the door, also looking fairly nervous. It seemed that she had parked out on the street, didn't see my car, and decided to wait in hers until I showed up.

Since it was finally made clear that neither of us were running away from the other, the mayor came, introduced himself, and then married us...I think his secretary was our witness. We then went to a fancy dinner and then home, where we watched High Fidelity.

Later, the spousal unit's co-workers were upset with her not telling them about the wedding "because I thought we were family." My co-workers were upset with me not telling them because they wanted a party and cake.

It's been five years. In many ways, it seems like much longer. I have problems remembering what life was like before I met my beautiful life. She still comes home to me. We still laugh. We still hold each other. I can't imagine loving anyone more than I love her.

Ah, the joys of half a decade of contractual obligation!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

cough, weeze

I started off my Christmas break with a horrible cold which then morphed into a sinus infection. It caused me to hold my head (which then weighed 287 pounds) in horrific pain. It also caused me to not do any of the tons of academic work which I had on deck. At least, however, I was over the whole cold thing for a season.

Or so I thought. I've had a moderate cold for about a week, but I didn't really feel bad until yesterday, when I was achey and just didn't want to move. Woke up this morning, and my throat was throbbing. The red glow from the soreness actually woke up the spousal unit.

I had to cancel class today, because I was afraid that my voice wouldn't hold up through one class lecture, let alone three. It's a shame, because I had the "How to invade Canada" lecture for my tech writing class, and that one's always a favorite.

I just realized that with my cold and with my grandmother dying, I'm just like one of my students! Oh, the humanity.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Mabel Carnell RIP

Just got word from my sister that my Nanna (my mom's mom) passed away this morning. Last I heard, she had been hospitalized with fluid on the heart. She was 92. Luckily, my parents did get over there to see her.

Nanna was a fun, cheerful, warm, hopeful person. My earliest memories of her were of the summers we used to spend at her house in England when Dad was stationed in the Air Force. It was always important to Nanna to set out a warm house, make sure everyone was welcome and well-fed...her dinners and teas were enormous (and, of course, delicious).

Her husband (my grandfather) died a number of years back, and I know it was a shock to her to be alone. After a while, she spent half the year with my uncle (the less said about him, the better...I'm trying to block out the hatred) and the other half with my I got to see her on a normal basis, and she even came up here for my graduation. Luckily, the spousal unit and I got to see her this past summer when she was staying with my parents.

It wasn't the easiest of visits...we knew her health was declining to the point where she wouldn't be able to come back, so we knew it was the last time we'd see her. But even though she had visibly declined, she was still warm, still funny, still happy to see us. Lori and I got our photo taken at one of those "old time-y photograph" places, and gave Nanna a copy...she loved seeing us as "the outlaw and the hussy."

When she went back, she went into a retirement home, and my mother went over there with her, to help her settle in. Her fellow residents, she made a point of telling us, saw the old timey photo of Lori and I and asked Nanna if we were movie stars. Nanna liked that.

There's so much more, so many memories, but frankly, I don't have the energy right now. The only thing I can think of is the words of a favorite writer, on the passing of his mother...after apparently getting one too many sympathy e-mails, he said something to the effect of "while I appreciate the sympathy, every day we have here on earth is a blessing, a bonus."

I'm happy I got to know Nanna, even if not as well as I wanted. I'm happy that she had my parents to look after her for half the year. I'm happy that she was in a good retirement home, where they looked after her. I'm very thankful to my cousin for looking after her.

This is what I'm trying to hold onto...the happiness.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

a new addition to the family

After a while of being a one computer family (at home, at any rate), the spousal unit and I decided it was time to welcome a new bundle of joy. Many reasons for this, but with spousal unit working on the 'puter in the evenings, I could either watch television or stare at the ceiling...and they're about on equal levels in terms of productivity. I simply have too much writing to do, and I need to be able to do it more often, not less. Being lazy is fun, but it's not a career-positive move.

After a bit of hunting and comparing online, I decide on a nice-looking Toshiba laptop on sale at Best Buy. From work, I call the closest Best Buy store right before I leave, and they assure me they have 3 left. I get there, the sales guy can't find one after looking for about an hour.

So they call another store. I go there and get one. The sales guy can't understand why I want to buy a full-size mouse to go with my laptop instead of a notebook mouse. Frankly, I didn't feel like explaining that my desire for a laptop wasn't just because I like tiny, dainty things (resisting the urge for a sexist comment here). I also buy a router, so my humble abode can become a wifi hotspot in addition to typing zone...after all, I also need the ability to waste time effectively from the couch.

I get home, start to unpack, read through all 283 pages of the manual, and look at the's sleek, sexy, and gorgeous looking. I then boot it up, and it takes forever to start. Toshiba has also loaded about 20 icons on the desktop, because they assume (I guess) that anyone wanting a new computer must also want Vonage, Napster, or one of a thousand other pay sites/services. Damn you, corporate synergy.

So I delete the icons and try to erase some of the extra crap from the computer itself...but Windows Explorer then freezes and crashes....all within five minutes of work.

Now, I know a large number of computer guys (from various mailing lists and such), and none of them have much positive to say about Microsoft Vista, the new "state of the art" operating system. I have, in fact, been overwhelmed with an enormous amount of spite and vitriol aimed towards this operating system. In spite of it, I swore I was going to keep an open mind, but after less than a half hour of dealing with this OS, I hate it almost as much as I hate Word 2007.

This evening, a friend is going to help me rework the whole damn thing. We are going to downgrade to XP (luckily I have an extra legal copy) and then install Ubuntu as a dual booting operating system.

This is very much an experiment for me. I have toyed with open source software before...I'm currently weaning myself off Office and onto OpenOffice. Never before, though, have I made such a large-scale change, as we're basically going to go Total Recall on the unit. I have a techno-savvy friend coming over tonight, however, so we'll see how it goes. More importantly, we'll see if it's all technology that hates me, or just that technology coming out of a major corporation.

Updates to follow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

the future of my writing

I've decided that my return to fiction-writing is long overdue. Although I certainly don't have the time to do more work (especially work that isn't really going to help my scholarly career), I have story ideas that have been bursting in my head, and I need to get them out. First off, I have a short story about a manic rest area attendant, and then I start work on a novel loosely based on my Minnesota trip of a few summers ago. I also have thoughts of a fictional biography of a rock star and a novel about grad students surrounded by zombies, but they are both in the future.

I tried to become a fiction writer before, but right out of high school, I just didn't find my own life that interesting or remarkable...and I didn't feel I knew people well enough to successfully comment or understand the lives of others. Maturity has helped a lot in this regard.

Why am I telling y'all this and thus risking ridicule in case this new push fails? Because it's possible that this burst of activity might influence my blog...although I have no idea how. If the fiction ever does see the light of day, you might have to start looking on this blog as at least in part research notes.

I will, however, never stop blogging. As I have wrote, I have also noticed my sanity increase. And I am thankful for all of you who's nice to be able to keep in touch in some way.

a one day low country vacation

random notes from the road:

  • At one of the early rest areas we hit on Friday, I saw my first waterless urinal. Apparently, Ohio is looking for more ways to turn their bathrooms green (ugh, that sounded bad). I hope it works well enough for them to continue installation, but it was weird.

  • It seems to always be cloudy or raining whenever I have to go on a long drive. And let me tell you, there's nothing to increase the "gahhhhh!" factor of a 14 hour commute than inclement weather.

  • I-77 has to be my favorite interstate, because they have two separate tunnels under mountains. I love tunnels. I always expect to exit in a different country than I enter...or at least drive out and into a video game.

  • Somewhere on the road in a gas station, I found some gummi candy that was in the shape of breakfast cereal...eggs, bacon, and so forth. I was quite disappointed to find out that it wasn't actually egg flavored (or bacon flavored, or so forth). The package claimed that it was actually fruit flavored, but after tasting, I suspect ear wax.

  • When it's gray and overcast in South Carolina, it's still more cheery than the gray, overcast days in Ohio for some must be the beach.

  • The parts of Myrtle Beach that we traversed were not tremendously picturesque...they looked like the endless strip malls and subdivisions of my hometown of Jacksonville, and I've moaned about this one before.

  • If I were in charge of the world, I wouldn't allow people to consciously live up to their stereotypes...but it was somewhat amusing to find out that the priest performing the wedding (the reason for this trip) was heavily Irish.

  • Receptions are always better with a beach view. And my admiration for my friend the groom grew when he (1) had Bushmill's at the bar and (2) insisted that the cuisine include South Carolina low country cuisine, including bbq pork sandwiches on biscuits or sweet potato rolls. They also had venison potstickers, and I love the opportunity to eat game.

  • When the bride told me that she fought to have shrimp and grits on the menu, I instantly figured out why my friend fell in love with her.

  • My aforementioned respect and love for my friend did not, however, stop me from making fun of how he danced (typical "I'm a man and therefore don't dance" moves...that is to say, very little movement at all). I largely made fun of him while talking to his father, whom I met on the Great Trip to the North Country (previously chronicled here and in earlier posts). Both his father and mother are awesome, and they treated me like a long-lost relative.

  • There seems to be a certain order to wedding reception music: first gentle "let's not offend anyone" music, then the obligatory round of required dances, then the "let's get the kids on the dance floor" songs that no one would ever listen to outside of weddings, then finally the "what the couple actually wanted to hear" music. Whenever the dj played a song from a band I introduced the groom to, my friend would look at me and wink.

  • The spousal unit and I went for a brief walk on the beach, and if I ever actually update my Flickr page, I'll post some shots.

  • After the wedding, the spousal unit and I went to a Piggly Wiggly (the best-named grocery store ever) for some supplies, found a bar strangely dedicated to all things Baltimore where we had the best crab dip ever, and then went somewhere else and had the most mediocre oysters ever.

  • The next day (Sunday) was spend back on the road. Highlights included a stop at my new favorite chain restaurant ever called Biscuitville and lunch at a great NC barbecue place whose name is esca. Otherwise, it was just me driving through dreary weather and the spousal unit sleeping or reading.

  • Monday was recovery day...I sat and watched four football games back to back.
  • Monday, January 07, 2008

    psychedelic oompah

    This Friday, my favorite bar in the world had a band that I had heard about and desperately wanted to see: Polka Floyd. I managed to get a friend to meet me up there, because it was one show I did not want to miss.

    Polka Floyd is exactly what you would expect: a Pink Floyd cover band that plays all the songs in the style of polka. My friend argued that they occasionally leaned over into zydeco, but he's an academic, so you can expect him to overanalyze at least a little.

    They opened up with "In the Flesh?" but then went on to play the entire Dark Side of the Moon album. They then delved into Floyd's back catalog, including a few Syd Barrett songs. The only time they left Pink Floyd is when they did a medley joining "Pigs" into Black Sabbath's "War Pigs."

    They were all phenomenal musicians. Musicianship aside, though, me and my friend spend most of the time just laughing our heads off. It both rocked and was funny as hell.

    Friday, January 04, 2008

    on identity and hubba-hubba flicks

    Wired continues its run as one of the best magazines around. They just posted a very intriguing article called "Deaf Porn Gives Viewers an Eye-Opener."

    I find this interesting. The porn industry has always been on a weird sort of cutting edge. If there's a new media technology out there, chances are that the porn industry is among the first to take advantage of it. Many people argue that videocassette players really only saturated the home market because of porn. I've also read that porn is largely responsible for the push of broadband internet access.

    Now, however, porn is being used as a tool of a minority group...and, if I'm reading the interview right, this is more than just "someone's finally catering to us as a group"...which would be weird enough, because I really doubt that having subtitles is really that enlightening to anything other than how stupid the dialog normally can be. This reminds me of when Trio used to be on DirecTV and played classic porn with all the dirty stuff cut out under the name "Good Clean Porn"; it is admittedly entertaining, but only in a B-Movie kind of way, and there's a limited market for that kind of stuff, the continuing success of Steven Seagal aside.

    No, porn here is being used as a tool of enlightenment. The company founder makes his goals explicit: "The fact that we are marketing porn with a "disability" actually invites people to discover what we're about."

    I'm torn. Is the goal here to gain mainstream acceptance for their group? If so, could having their own brand of pornography really do that? Or is this just going to further mark them as a separate group? Could they instead be pushing themselves as a fetish group? If so, is this a positive step for deaf America?

    I like to tell my students that you should be willing to analyze anything and think about anything in depth, that they should take everything seriously as a subject for pondering. And I am glad that I get to think more about deafness as a social group, and the community building versus mainstream acceptance is a debate well worth considering. However, I just never thought that debate would be prompted by a company that produces titles like Naughty Deaf Roommates.

    Yes, the world is more complex than anyone would imagine. Porn is just exhibit one.

    Wednesday, January 02, 2008

    up & down again

    Finally got to the Black Eyed Peas & Rice. It was awesome, and I hope that helps the luck. However, I had the added fun of losing my cell phone, which my darling spousal unit found in the snow outside my car. It still far...

    It's a general tilt-a-whirl of luck!

    the dualities of the new year thus far

    I started the Christmas break with a mega sinus infection. This sucked and was very bad. I laid around in pain until I got antibiotics. They were good in that they cured the infection, but they were bad in that they turned it into a 2 week-long cold. Weee...I was mucus city.

    My parents decided to come up for the holidays, and it's always nice to see them. However, with infection/parent visits/in-law visits, I haven't gotten anything on my ambitious winter research agenda accomplished...and that's not so nice.

    New Year's party, good. Lotsa good friends, conversation, and I learned a lot about the Orthodox Church, which was unexpected. New Year's Day hangover, also good. I didn't get up to anything notable last Dec. 31 and the year I'm hoping that my moderate hangover this time around is a good sign.

    New Year's Day dinner, traditional black-eyed peas, rice, cornbread, greens...but I forget to turn the beans from "boil" to "simmer." As a result, the liquid boils away, and a layer carbonizes on the bottom of the pot. I also forget to turn on the rice cooker. This meal is supposed to bring luck. What does it say about the approaching year that I ruin the lucky meal and have to do takeout?

    One of my favorite bands, Two Cow Garage, finally comes to my favorite bar in the world, Howards Club H no less...and it's a weekend when I'm away for a wedding...damnit. They also came to Toledo a month ago, when I had plans with the in-laws that I couldn't cancel. Is this a further sign of my upcoming luck?

    However, I am looking forward to the wedding of my best friends, plus we get a weekend around Myrtle Beach SC...that's gotta be good.

    I don't know how much I really believe in omens, but if the above are any indication, this year might just send me into the arms of lithium.

    the rest of 2007 best of

    Best Movies

    1. Zodiac—David Fincher shows restraint and directs one of the best films of his career. Quiet, subtle, and deep.
    2. Sweeney Todd—Tim Burton’s usual eye for amazing visuals is once again rejoined by plot, and the result is his best film since Beetlejuice.
    3. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters—Surprisingly engaging, with frightfully strong characters.
    4. No Country for Old Men—The Coen Brothers finally ignore mainstream standards and once again put out a brilliant film.
    5. The Darjeeling Limited—Lilting, playful, and nowhere near as depressing as The Life Aquatic. Visually stunning.
    6. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford—Perhaps the best looking film of the year, and Brad Pitt kicks ass.

    Not Opened in the Area Yet, Salivating Over:

    Horrific Disappointment:
    • Spider Man 3—Five plot lines inadequately shoved into one film, and it doesn’t work. Also, why in the hell would you give Spider Man a happy ending? His whole character note is that his life sucks.


    1. The Shield, season 6—Took the intensity of season 5, ramped it up, and made it downright creepy.
    2. House—Still fresh…the best mainstream television program today.
    3. Dr. Who (repeats)—Brilliant sci-fi. Why doesn’t America produce characters this deep? I’m stuck on season 2, but it has been amazing.
    4. Life on Mars, season 2—There has been no quality drop at all since the marvelous debut. Now, can we sabotage the upcoming American David E. Kelley-produced version?
    5. Torchwood—Not at the Dr. Who level, but close.


    1. Docktor Sleepless—The “shrieky girl” segment was the best writing I’ve seen in years…in any medium.
    2. Powers—Consistently brilliant and still working out issue one plotlines.
    3. Fell—Sadly in hiatus, but it’s always brilliant when it comes. Issue one is available online, for free.
    4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8—It’s early, but this is still as solid as the show.
    5. Desolation Jones—This is only low because it’s been stalled for so long on issue 8…but that issue is one of the best things ever.