Friday, January 30, 2009

Let's Get This Straight

By now you should've realized the following:

  1. You like being scared.
  2. You hate being too full.
When you were younger you thought it was the other way around. But you were wrong.

No, you were wrong.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Snow Day Pics

Cute drapes, eh?

The haunted house out back.

Eaves are for thieves.

Columbus Road. You can't see it, but just off to the left is a
Coke machine outside the mechanic's place.

As If That Wasn't Enough

I dreamed of true love. It lasted for one whole second this morning at about 4:47 before the power of the unadulterated imaginary emotion woke me right up.

I looked at the clock, took a sip of water, and went back to sleep.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Meaning of Serendipity

Yesterday was a very productive day. From 6 in the morning on I was moving in the right direction, marking things off the list, capitalizing on the minutes. It's hard work being that focused, but the reward is a good night's sleep, and I wanted it.

Seriously, remember being a missionary (or, for the rest of you: "Imagine being a missionary.")? Your time is consecrated so you're mildly obsessed with not wasting any of it. You're on your feet all day, in a perpetual rush, and any time when your body might rest—say, waiting for the bus—you instead work your mind, trying to memorize something or other, in my case, the dictionary. By the end of the day you're exhausted and you lay down on your mat and you fall asleep in 17 seconds and there's no worrying about dreams waking you or tossing waking you or anything. Did anyone ever have a bad night's sleep after a good day's missionary work?

That's what I was ready for, and I was ready for it at 9 on the clock. So as not to be troubled by a frenzied mind, I spent that last hour slowing down. I cleaned up and packed my bag for the morning. I turned the lights down low and sat by my bed and read Emerson. I emptied my memory bucket of whatever needed to be remembered for the next day by writing it all down. I breathed deeply, a little pranayama, if you will. I prayed. And then I jumped into bed, turned out the lights,

And proceeded to not fall asleep.

I did crossword puzzles on my Gameboy. I read about Shackleton's incredible voyage. I thought; I tried not to think. I got up and wrote an email. I got hungry (the very worst part of insomnia). I did more puzzles.

The point of going to bed at 10 is that I have to get up at 6 to be ready for class. I watched my clock tick away my 8 hours:

7, 6, 5, 4.

I fell asleep sometime after 3.

Did I mention that part of what made me so productive was the fact that Athens was covered in snow? The grade schools were cancelled, but not the university. Still, there wasn't much to leave home for after getting back from class. Kate and I had barely got there in the first place, despite 4-wheel drive, and the walk home had been, uh, slushy.

When the alarm went off at 6 I was too tired to be furious. I looked out the window at the sidewalk I had trudged home across the day before and imagined trudging it again in a few hours. It looked like the footprint-pocked slush had refrozen into icy, peaked, death. I grew crafty: I could cancel class. I'm the teacher, after all. I don't need the school's authority to call it off, and it being only 6, none of my students would be up yet—they'd wake in an hour or so and see my email and rejoice!

Wait, this sounded suspiciously like the promises I make to myself in the morning. If my brother were there he wouldn't have even bothered to point out the flaws in my groggy reasoning; he'd have just said in disgust, "You're not making any sense—go back to SLEEP."

I didn't care. I found a piece of paper and wrote on it in marker, "Kate, No class! See ya!" and hung it on the door so she wouldn't wonder where I was. I grabbed my lappy, logged into Blackboard, and wrote an email which said, "Hooray! We won't be having class today, so go back to sleep!" Once sent, it couldn't be rescinded. I pressed send before my waking mind could think better of it.

I ignored the feeling of guilt and lay down. As I began to drift, I dimly realized that both those messages might be misinterpreted to mean that the University, not just me, had cancelled classes. 20 people's days might take an odd turn because of me. Oh well.

This is the meaning of serendipity:

At 9 I awoke to the cheers of my roommates: Athens had declared a Level 3 snow emergency; the University was closed. Not only was my class completely justifiably cancelled, but the 4 hours of class I should've attended that afternoon were history. Even Institute was cancelled. All homework postponed.

A less lucky guy would've had insomnia and a snow emergency on a day he didn't have class anyway. He would've lost power or heat or realized he had nothing to eat.

I'm a lucky guy. I now will have had no reason to be at school (except one hour tomorrow morning) for 6 full days.

I spent the day doing absolutely nothing productive. I didn't shower. I didn't do homework. The power didn't go out. I made a leftovers omelette and ate it with toast and baked beans. I spent the afternoon doing a puzzle and listening to Billy Joel and the Grateful Dead. We ordered pizza for dinner and watched TV on DVD.

It's called "The Wizard's Observatory."
As is my style, I did it without looking at the picture.

Now, having squandered my time and created more to do tomorrow, I'm of course going to sleep like a baby.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Two things:

Number one, you may not know this, but I'm the Managing Editor of an online literary magazine called Brevity. It features creative nonfiction of 750 words or less, which is an interesting conundrum for a writer to face. For readers it's nice, because if you don't like the piece you're reading—BAM!—it's over, on to the next one.

So if you're interested in that kind of thing, issue 29 just went up and it's got some gems, including a great odd piece by Lance Larsen. (Note: Some people may find some of the content very edgy or even offensive. If you're easily bruised, just ask me which ones to steer clear of.)

Also, Brevity keeps a blog which usually features the contributors talking about how a particular piece came about. So if you like something and want to know more, check that out.

Secondly, check out this premium analogy riffed out by Rolf Potts. It's not every day you find such a good one.

Indeed, to get a sense for what it’s like to be 18 and Cuban these days, imagine going to a high school that won a miraculous and inspiring football championship in 1959. The guy that quarterbacked the team some 50 years ago is still wearing the same damned uniform—only now he’s the school principal, and he’s decreed that all academic subjects must be studied within the context of that bygone championship game. Everyone at your school is now an honorary member of the football team—though the stadium is condemned from years of neglect, no actual games have been played in decades, and anyone with the temerity to point out this discrepancy is summarily sent to detention. On most school days you’re required to study your principal’s old pass-routes and blocking schemes and tell him how ingenious he was to have devised them. All of which would seem insane were it not for the fact that tourists from wealthier schools—schools with actual, functioning football teams—are constantly visiting your class to marvel over how wonderful it was that your team triumphed 50 years ago, and gush about how proud you must be to have such innovative role models. In this context, it’s easy to understand why young Cubans are underwhelmed by the idea of Che: To them, he’s just another sepia portrait in the trophy case—handsome and intriguing, perhaps, but hardly relevant or revolutionary.

Read the rest of Pott's essay, "Che: The Ronald McDonald of Revolution," at (You may recognize Potts from my reading list last year; he wrote Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Right Now! Friendship in Jeopardy!

Don't wait! Go to and register to take the online contestant test this week!

You have to register ahead of time to take the test at the exact same time as the rest of your time zone later this week.

I know what you're saying: "I'm not smart enough to be on Jeopardy! I don't want to be on Jeopardy!" (not that you're that emphatic about it—those exclamation points are part of the spelling of Jeopardy!, not indications of inflection).

Who cares? The fun of taking the test is two-fold:

  1. You can be positively sure that during the moments you are struggling to answer those 50 questions (standard I-don't-know response: "Who is Otto von Bismarke?"), thousands of your time-zone compatriots are doing the same thing, facing the same struggle. To me, that means much more than thinking of all the people who are watching Lost at the same time as you. Then, you're all just admiring J. J. Abrams' handiwork; with the online test, you're admiring you—us—America!1
  2. You get to find out how much you still don't know. You might discover something you want to know about very much; ten minutes on this test now will give you a week's worth of Wikipedia-ing later. Failure is like a drug to me. Or at least a big vitamin.

1 Besides, half of everyone watches Lost online later anyway. With the Jeopardy! test, we stand together. Like this.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I get up these days around 6 because I teach a class at 8 am. Most days this involves extravagant lies told in the semidarkness by my responsible self to my groggy self—promises of eggs and bacon and sausage, promises of naps taken in warm beds with my clothes still on, my shoes hastily deposited by the door upon arriving home from class. I rarely make good on these promises (I've been to Wendy's only once, and as yet the only naps have happened in my chair at my desk).

This morning I got up feeling cold. The average temperature here for the last week or so has been a single-digit number, often with a minus sign in front of it, and today was no slouch. I hobbled downstairs to a bowl of Cheerios, realized I should've checked into the bathroom first, came back up to grumble in front of my email while all my systems came online. Consciousness: check. Internal Clock: check. Sensitivity to Light: fading.

Senses of Humor, Self, and Responsibility: check, check, check.

Better Judgment: standing by.

Internal Combustion: nothing.

I'm not a morning person, which is why waking at 6 is requisite to teaching at 8. I have to plan in advance not to be grumpy if I know interaction with others is on the docket for the am. I leave myself a detailed plan of the first 2 hours of my day so that there isn't any dependance on a mind process of any kind; every morning I mark off the words "breakfast," "vitamin," and "prayer" without questioning the wisdom or the order. Despite all this crummy biology, however, I never worry about being warm. It's a given with me.

I'm one of those warm hands types—I sleep with my feet hanging off the end of the bed and the window cracked. I don't own a pair of gloves. When Kate came to pick me up the other day and I was wearing jeans and a puffy vest, she expressed her worry that I'd freeze walking home later. I showed her the odd-square foot of wool in my hand: "It's okay; I've got a hat."

But this morning I was cold, and I don't know why. I didn't warm up with the return of consciousness and I didn't warm up with the application of clothes. I waited in vain for the needle in the dash of Kate's Explorer to sidle over from C to H and the floor vents to begin blowing warm air over my feet. When we got to school I excitedly ran into my office expecting a familiar rush of snugness, but instead I found the room drafty. I taught. I napped. I was cold.

All day this went on. I wore my heavy coat indoors all day and never felt good. Is this how the rest of you feel all the time? Jeez.

I'm about to jump into bed with a giant pair of thick sweatpants on. I have two quilts and a bottle of water. I'm going to dream of true love.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winter Barbeque

Last night we celebrated something with a winter barbeque. Everyone came over and feasted, and then we watched Spirited Away, one of my favorite movies. Sorry I didn't get any pics of everyone looking so attractive and having such a good time—I was too busy having a good time and looking so attractive to take pictures then.

Grilling on the front porch. Average temperature: 10ยบ F. My landlord was taking his trash out and shouted across the street, "Something wrong with your kitchen?"
"Nope," I smiled."
He shook his head: "Now I've seen everything."

See guys? I told you a headlamp would come in handy.

Darrin and Dave keep me company.
I should admit right here that this was all Dave's idea.

Here's the feast, minus Matt's chicken enchiladas and Dave's tapas sides: mega mashed potatoes and Italian meats-wrapped asparagus. Notice his roasted red pepper salad already on the table.

If I had 4 wishes, the fourth would be to live in this bathhouse, always barefoot, sleeping by day and working by night.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Leftover Pictures: Group C

Behold the annual Jump-in-the Truck-and-Look-at-Christmas-Lights party. I don't think I got a single Christmas light in any of these shots:

Oh, there's some Christmas lights, back there behind Charlotte. My bad.

Here's Mary trying to sweet talk her way into the cool truck.
Too bad—we had a strict no-matching-accessories policy.

Me, Liz, Faith, Luke, Harris, Ike, Ethan, and Matthew. If it wasn't for this slightly cold
night and the 25-mph windchill, it'd have been a total waste
to bring home anything I'm wearing here.

Hello, Luke.

I'm out of clever captions.

Bonus Pics!

3-D IMAX, people. 3-D to the MAX!

Unwashed, unshaven, unabashed. This is EYE-MAX, people!
(I'm talking to you old folks in the second row there—I need to see more MAXing).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Leftover Pictures 2

Here's a few shots from our Halloween party last year.

Kate got some farmer to up and donate an Explorer full of pumpkins to our cause.
That smile? That's the "It's so early I'm not even sure what day it is" smile.

Awww, Boo House is all dolled up for the party. I wish you could see the inside; it's
completely covered in streamers and bats and candles. And pizza, mountains of it.

Most of the action took place on borrowed lawn furniture under the twinkle of borrowed lights. The lights are hung very unprofessionally from house to tree and back. Basically I strung them through the windows and tied them to door knobs and (mostly) heavy-enough furniture. Ken, on the other side, tangled them in the branches. Très romatic.

Zach (tourist) and Danielle (horse girl) play Twister while
I (my branch president biker) mope about losing.

Typical Court Street reveler.

Quit checking out my butt.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Leftover Pictures

Here are some pictures from the 2nd annual Grover Family Game Night.

Mary blows out the candles on what I am required to say
was not a birthday cake because we were not celebrating her birthday.

The funky papers hanging on the bookshelf are our attempts to rip pieces
of paper into Christmas tree shapes behind our backs.

Props to Mom for funding the whole thing.

We like to keep winning in the family: my sister-in-law-in-law won
the jar of M&Ms by guessing closest to the right number.

Mary won the jar of Nerds. That's right—I counted every single one.

Oh, and here's us actually playing a game at Game Night. Fancy that.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Elder Dave

My roommate's name is Dave, as you may have gathered. He's taller than me. He's lived in Athens longer than me. He's several years ahead of me in our program. The utilities are in his name. He's engaged to a lovely woman.

Whenever I'm giddy and need someone to gloat to, I find him, as I did this morning when an essay I was working on went very well. Whenever I need to vent about the department's functioning or a particular assignment, I find him for sympathy. If there were any bullies about, I'd probably ask Dave to walk me to school.

There's only one problem: Dave's well over a year younger than me.

Not a problem, I guess, but interesting all the same.

(note: In composing this I went downstairs to confirm our mutual ages. Dave fed me something spicy he had just whipped up that included, as far as I can tell, black beans, onion, peppers, almonds, kidney beans, Granny Smith apples, corn, and tomato sauce. We ate it over Fritos. Vive le Bachelorhood!)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lovesick, or

The Weapon of the Future is the Montage

I can't explain why, but I'm feeling lovesick right now. (Okay, that was a dumb thing to say, since the whole point of typing this is to try to explain it anyway.) You may remember the feeling: the mild anxiousness, the fluttery guts, odd swings between elation and despair. I've wanted to listen to the saddest songs I know all afternoon. My usually paralyzing nostalgia (for foreign lands and other days) has ebbed in favor of a new flavor of angst. I haven't felt this way in years, literally.

Alright, before I go any further, let me lay down some ground rules. Number one: no, Mom, I'm not actually in love, so don't get your hopes up just yet. Number two: yes, Internet Girlfriend(s), I still think you're sweet; let's flirt later.

If I was really in love, I wouldn't be talking about it—for one, it wouldn't be noteworthy enough for a blog post; for two, I'd be discreet (see post, 12.11.2008). The reason I'm talking about it, the reason it's worrying me, is that I can't explain it.

Here are the possible reasons I can come up with for why I might be feeling this way:

1. I watched several episodes of Freaks and Geeks this weekend at the behest of my roommate. I liked it. It made me feel like a high school again, which is where I spent a lot of time feeling lovesick. So maybe I'm just over-identifying with the characters.

2. I haven't had access to a (steel-string) guitar for two months. I didn't think this would bother me, being such a casual player, but it really has. I've found myself wandering around aimlessly at odd hours recently, and when I come to my senses I realize I'm looking for a guitar. Jeez, I sound like a hippie. Or a high-school cry baby theatre kid.

3. I've been on several dates in the past few months, all with charming women, and that's more than my average for a few years now. It could be an overdose of romance feeding back into my consciousness.

4. I could be in love. With who, though? The girl on Freaks and Geeks? She is a T-babe, but I don't usually go for imaginary girls. With you? Are we in love?

5. Perhaps I'm having a prescient emotion: perhaps love is on the way. How exciting!

My money's on the tv show. There's something about the mixture of film and music that is completely unfair to the senses. Throw on some dated t-shirts, intercut with shots of good times and slow-motion smiles, and choose a soundtrack of Journey-like proportions and you can't help but create something both completely false and inexorably compelling. I'm opposed to montage! (And yet, somehow, they're the best around. Nothing's ever gonna take them down.)

So what are your hypotheses? Why might I be feeling this way? (No PMS jokes, please.)