May 17, 2004

They got a pepper bar!

We love the subs! 'Cuz we are filthy rats!Lachlan recently wrote about Quiznos' now-infamous spongemonkeys commercial at My So-Called Blog, declaring it the worst commerical of all time. I tend to agree. As I commented on her entry, the ad disturbed me from the first time I saw it a few months back. In fact, all I could think while watching these freaky little creatures dance across my television screen was, "Quiznos has rat meat in its sandwiches. Those things are rats, and they’re in the sandwiches." At that point, I swore that I would never set foot in a Quiznos.

Perhaps I spoke too soon. A few weeks ago, my wife and I decided on a whim that we would try a Quiznos sub (I guess rat meat sounded tasty to us at the time for whatever reason). So, we went to the local franchise and hopped in line. After a couple of minutes of studying the menu, I turned to Kourtney to ask what she was thinking about ordering. It was then that I noticed her eyes were bloodshot, streaming tears, and becoming swollen. And by "swollen," I mean that her corneas were literally swelling up around her contact lenses.

Naturally, we left Quiznos immediately. After about five minutes in the car, however, all of Kourtney's symptoms had disappeared and she was feeling fine. Needless to say, we concluded that it was something in Quiznos that caused the flare-up. Her theory was that the much-ballyhooed toasting of the Quiznos subs essentially aerosolized the oregano and other spices used in preparing the sandwiches, irritating her eyes in the process. My theory was, and remains, that she's allergic to rat meat.

Meanwhile, on the ride home, we began composing our own ad jingle: "We love the subs! They make our eyes swell shut..."

Posted by Jess at 11:26 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

May 14, 2004

New Orleans, May 2004

As I mentioned a few posts back, my wife and I spent the last few days vacationing in New Orleans. In the past, I had always wondered what people did when they went on vacation and ended up getting rained on for much of their trip. Well, now I know the answer: they make do and try to enjoy themselves anyway.

Yep, we were caught out in the rain more than a few times while in the Big Easy (and enjoyed overcast skies for much of the remainder of our vacation). Nevertheless, we still had an absolute blast. We walked the French Quarter diagonally and then from side to side, toured the Garden District, rode the St. Charles Streetcar, visited an above-ground cemetary, got accosted by street performers, loitered around on Bourbon Street, and ate some delicious cajun cuisine. Sure, the rain forced us indoors a few times, but we made the most of it by catching a 3D IMAX movie and a showing of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (great flick, by the way). All in all, it turned out to be a restful and fun trip -- despite the rainy weather.

Several photos from our trip are included in the extended entry. Hover over the images for a description and click to embiggen.

A festive Mardi Gras statue standing in front of the Louisiana State Museum. Some lovely shuttered doors in the French Quarter. Two birds splashing around in a fountain in Jackson Square.

A Bourbon Street sign -- just just around the corner from our hotel. A creepy Mardi Gras something or another. Yet another in a long line of flower close-ups -- this one taken, appropriately enough, in the Garden District.

A Jackson Square lamppost during an evening rainshower. A secluded alley in the French Market. French Quarter architecture at the corner of St. Philip and something.

An old timey bicycle, somewhere in the French Quarter. St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square.

Posted by Jess at 07:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 13, 2004

It was the one-armed man!

Kourtney and I just returned from a lovely little vacation in New Orleans only to discover a letter from our car insurance company informing us that they have canceled our policy due to my involvement in an automobile accident in early March. Fair enough, right? Well, here's the catch: I haven't been involved in any accidents. Nevertheless, since there's an alleged accident from March showing up on my driving record that we didn't disclose to the insurance company, they've chosen to terminate our policy -- effective next week. The next step, I suppose, is calling the DMV and attempting to get to the bottom of this.

My theory? I bet the same guy who framed me for a parking violation I didn't commit a few months ago is behind this somehow. Either that, or I'm suffering from multiple personality disorder, which would explain both the mysterious accident and the parking ticket.

Bah. I need sleep. I'll post some photos from the Big Easy tomorrow.

Posted by Jess at 10:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 09, 2004

Moral dilemma

My lawn mower and my VCR both gave up the ghost today. Which shall I replace first?

Posted by Jess at 11:09 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

May 05, 2004

I take back everything bad I ever said about the journal submission process...

I just received word from what is now my favorite journal that it's going to pubish my first-ever refereed article! For those keeping score at home, it's a co-authored piece on environmental scarcity and interstate/intrastate conflict -- you know, fun stuff.

Posted by Jess at 05:28 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 01, 2004

Like a real-life Dr. Dolittle

Congratulations are in order; my wife Kourtney received her doctorate of veterninary medicine this morning!


She and I are still discussing whether I'm now required to call her "doctor" around the house, or if that only applies in public.

Posted by Jess at 12:45 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 26, 2004


I used to think that my tendency toward feelings of stress and anxiety while grocery shopping at Wal-Mart suggested an emerging case of agoraphobia, but upon further reflection, I've decided that I'm just an antisocial jerk.

Posted by Jess at 03:57 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 23, 2004

Parking ticket update

So, I finally asked to speak to enough people's supervisors at campus parking services to find someone who acquiesced that something about the whole parking ticket situation seemed at least slightly unfair (see here and below for more details). She eventually agreed to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to run the license plates and figure out who actually owns the mysterious blue Honda -- assuming, as I have claimed, that it's not me. The process, however, will apparently take three to four weeks to complete. I can only assume they're using carrier pigeons to transmit the information back and forth.

In the meantime, the parking services representative suggested that I pay the fine now in order to clear the flags on my account and allow me to register for classes. Then, if they ultimately decide to reconsider my original appeal and overturn the ticket, they can reimburse me the forty bucks. Yeah...right. I'll get right on that.

Posted by Jess at 04:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Campus justice

Some of you might recall my run-in with campus parking services from earlier this semester. To make a long story short, I received a $40 campus parking ticket in the mail several weeks ago. Since I didn't remember actually parking illegally at any point, I contacted parking services for more information on the violation. They informed me that a car I didn't own, registered in a state in which I don't have a license, was cited for being "out of zone" in a parking lot in which I had never parked. I suggested there must be a database error or a problem with duplicate parking sticker barcodes, and they assured me that neither was possible. Therefore, they claimed that I had either lent out my parking sticker to someone who had parked illegally or it had been stolen (and returned to the windshield of my car, I suppose, with no trace of the crime). Needless to say, I filed a written appeal; you can read all the details in the original entry.

Anyway, I received the results of my appeal via e-mail this morning, which I have reproduced below (emphasis is mine):

The appeals committee has reviewed your appeal of the below listed citation. Student Appeals has determined that a violation has occurred and that it was avoidable; therefore, your appeal has been denied. As the committee is an independent body solely charged with the task of reviewing appeals, this decision is final.

As a student of this university, it is your responsibility to know where you can and cannot park. In the future, please be aware in which lot you are parking and utilize alternative transportation (buses, carpooling, walking) when needed.

You are responsible for the citation and associated fine. If this citation has already been paid, no further action is needed on your part. However, if the citation has not been paid, it is now due and payable. If you have not already received a bill for this citation, you should during the next billing cycle. If the citation is not paid within 10 days of the invoice date, your academic records will be flagged and you will be unable to register for classes until all debts are paid. Vehicles with three or more outstanding citations are eligible for immobilization or towing.

Apparently, the fact that I don't own -- nor have I ever owned -- the car ticketed for the violation wasn't enough hard evidence to get me off the hook. You have to love the part toward the end, too, where they remind me that my academic records will be flagged and I won't be able to register for classes until I pay up. Now I know how the A-Team felt -- unjustly fined for a crime I didn't commit.

I'm going to cool down for an hour or so, call back parking services, and ask to speak to someone who isn't insane. Tactics like presenting rational arguments, offering empirical evidence, and asking to speak to supervisors haven't served me particularly well up to this point. It could be time to implement Plan B: irate yelling.

Hey -- forty bucks is nothing to sneeze at when you're a graduate student.

Posted by Jess at 11:36 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

April 12, 2004

The system is down

The new workspace (a/k/a Apropos of Something Central) -- complete with Ralph Wiggum on the Simpsons daily calendar and Go Fish on the monitor:


Now, the story behind the new workspace. Simply put, we dodged a bullet here at Casa de Jess yesterday afternoon. My previous computer desk -- an uncomely MDF monolith with an integrated printer stand, monitor platform, shelving unit, CD rack, tire-mounting center, and more -- completely collapsed while my wife and I were moving it back against the wall after painting our living room/computer room. Apparently, Tab A somehow slipped out of Slot H, countervailing forces took effect, and the entire thing just started breaking apart. Wood was splintering (well, simulated wood), dowel rods were snapping, screws were shooting across the room, and chaos reigned. Fortunately, we were able to rescue the monitor just before the breakdown proceeded to the molecular level and the entire desk dissipated into a cloud of atoms and wafted out the door.

Now that's what I call a computer crash.


I'm so sorry.

Posted by Jess at 04:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 07, 2004

"Welcome to my grad lounge," said the spider to the fly.

I received this e-mail message from my department today:

We have recently learned that this week is "Graduate Student Appreciation Week." The Graduate Office would like to express appreciation for each of you. Please stop by the Graduate Lounge on Thursday, April 8, 3:00 - 5:00 for a special "treat."

Why do the quotation marks around the word "treat" fill me with an odd sense of forboding -- as if I'm being led into a trap or similar skullduggery?

Posted by Jess at 06:14 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 05, 2004

Livin' larger than P. Diddy

Bathing in bottled water (see the previous entry) isn't nearly as glamorous as it sounds. Especially when you're not doing it by choice...

and you're doing it in the bathroom sink...

and the bottled water is ice cold...

and it's not so much bottled water as jugged water from Wal-Mart.

Posted by Jess at 08:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 04, 2004

Stinkville, USA

It's an exciting day here at Casa de Jess. Our next-door neighbor had a party last night, and one of the guests broke the water main while driving through her yard to park -- flooding the street and leaving both our houses without running water in the process. It looks like nobody can get out to repair the break until tomorrow morning at the earliest. So, until then, we're living with no water. Oh, irony of ironies -- if only there were some way for me to put my years of scholarly research on water scarcity to work!

I honestly can't remember the last time I went an entire day without a shower. I'm almost certain it's been at least a decade. Worse still, I have to teach in the morning. It may be time to start calling around to see if any of my friends will let me come over and shower at their place sometime around sunrise tomorrow.

I know, I know -- I'm such a wimp.

Posted by Jess at 04:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 03, 2004

Back from Hotlanta

Back from the game. Stuffed from dinner in Little Five Points. Sunburnt within an inch of my life. Perplexed over which is a cheesier name for a ballpark concession stand: a hotdog place called "Frankly, My Dear..." or a french fry place named "I Only Have Fries For You."

Posted by Jess at 07:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who will win the base-ball matches?

I'm off to see a spring training game between the Braves and the Red Sox with some friends (including my main man Justin) this afternoon. To celebrate the occasion, I thought I'd post this great image that showed up over at Gothamist yesterday:


"I hope you achieve more and more!" You've got to love Japanese fans. In New York, the sign would probably read more along the lines of, "Try not to blow it, pretty boy!" Most likely with a few misspellings, too.

By the way, the title for this entry is borrowed from one of my favorite Onion editorials by Publisher Emeritus T. Herman Zweibel.

Posted by Jess at 08:29 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 26, 2004

Dining in the Classic City, Part Deux

My friends and I had the strangest lunch experience the other day. We went out for Mexican, and immediately noticed that our server seemed a bit "off," so to speak. For instance, she insisted on calling us "boys" and engaging us in small talk that I would place somewhere along the continuum between flirtation and outright ridicule. Eventually, we got around to placing our orders, and Justin, a vegetarian, asked our server if the cheese and onion enchiladas combo would contain any meat.

"Here's what's going to happen," she explained. "You're going to get a cheesy sauce on your enchiladas instead the usual tomato sauce, since the tomato sauce has meat in it. Then, you're going to get a double order of black beans and no rice, because the rice is cooked in chicken stock."

Sure, her delivery seemed a bit matter-of-fact, but I had to give her credit for knowing the restaurant's menu and looking out for her vegetarian customers. Things got even stranger, however, when the other member of our party placed his order for a chicken burrito.

"Good choice -- my personal favorite. Now, do you want black beans or refried beans with that?"

My friend asked which she would recommend, to which she responded, "You'll get black beans. You know, it's great that you boys trust me so know, not to spit in your food or anything." She then walked off laughing.

Now, I've never worked in a restaurant, but I'd assume rule number one is to avoid the phrase "spit in your food" whenever possible -- even if it's preceded by such phrases as "I promise not to," "I didn't," or "I won't."

This kind of wackiness continued throughout the meal, including the waitress chastising Justin at one point for not finishing his refill. I think it was all in good fun. Of course, I'm also relatively sure that our server was completely insane. You just had to be there.

Posted by Jess at 07:06 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 21, 2004

Desperately seeking Ashley

Dear Guy Who Has Been Calling For The Past Two Days,

By my count, you have phoned our number twelve times in the past two days -- including calls at 2:30 and 7:30 this morning. Each time, I pick up and you grunt into the receiver, "Lemme talk to Ashley." I then explain that you have the wrong number, you ask me if this is 555-1212, I respond affirmatively, you make an incredulous grunting noise (if such a noise is even possible), and we hang up. Then, you call back approximately an hour later and we repeat the process.

I've been thinking this over, and I believe I have broken down our predicament down into two smaller problems:

  1. You would like to speak with Ashley, and
  2. Nobody named Ashley lives here.
Now, I've devised a solution on my end for problem number two: when you call, I tell you that nobody named Ashley lives here. As it stands, however, you have yet to formulate a satisfactory approach to resolving problem number one.

Might I recommend dialing another number and asking if Ashley is there? I understand that you probably have some reason to believe that you can reach her at our number, but I assure you that your odds of tracking her down are just as good if you simply dial random numbers on the keypad. As much as I have enjoyed getting to know you in the past 48 hours, I am quite certain the outcome will remain unchanged no matter how many more times you call here: no Ashley.

Please consider this proposal and let me know your thoughts on it. Thanks for your time, and best of luck in finding Ashley!

Your friend,


Posted by Jess at 04:18 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 20, 2004

Shock and Awe: Flashback to March 20, 2003

Friday, of course, marked the one-year anniversary of the launch of the U.S. strike on Iraq: March 19, 2003. I actually didn't hear about the strike until the following day, however. My wife and I were on our honeymoon in San Francisco at the time and woke up on the morning of March 20 to the unmistakable sound of protest chants from outside -- loud enough that they reached us through our closed tenth-floor hotel room window. Looking down to the streets below, we saw a sea of anti-war protesters and a handful of police in riot gear trying to maintain some semblance of order. Flipping on the television only confirmed our suspicions; Operation Shock and Awe was underway in Iraq.

After we showered and got dressed, Kourtney and I headed down to the streets to check out the action. As a social scientist, I was dying to get an even closer look at the protests, but I would have hated to have ended up getting arrested in the pandemonium and spending a day of my honeymoon in jail. Even from a distance, though, I could see that the protesters were a savvy bunch. Some had locked their arms together in metal sleeves wrapped in electrical tape and were blocking intersections throughout the Financial District, creating some serious gridlock. Others were just sitting in the streets and chanting, waiting for the police to drag them away. As the police would begin to load people into the paddy wagon, the protesters would use their cell phones to coordinate with order protest groups around the city, helping to make sure that they would be where the police weren't.

Speaking of the police, they made a valiant, if ultimately hopeless, effort to keep the city functioning smoothly in light of the widespread protests. Even behind their riot-gear face shields, though, it was obvious that they were on edge -- if not downright afraid. They were afraid that the protests might get out of hand and turn into a full-fledged riot. They were afraid that they might get blindsided by an angry protester (some were allegedly firing bolts from slingshots). They were afraid that they might find themselves with no choice but to use force against the protesters to maintain the peace. They were afraid that they might accidentally do something wrong and end up on the nightly news with a caption under their photo reading "Police Brutality in San Francisco." Frankly, I can't say that I blamed them for being a bit edgy. I imagine these civil disobedience situations can be among the most nerve-wracking in a cop's career, and these officers seemed to be handling themselves about as well as one could expect under the circumstances.

As fascinating as it was to watch these events unfold, Kourtney and I had to leave for the airport that afternoon and couldn't stay any longer. Somehow, the airport shuttle made it our hotel to pick us up despite the protests. Getting back to the airport, however, was another matter altogether as the protests continued to move from intersection to intersection, growing in intensity as the day wore on. Every time the driver would head down a street, his dispatcher would signal over the radio that the street was closed just a few blocks ahead. The driver would then curse under his breath and attempt to formulate another detour. Eventually, he devised an alternate route and got us to the airport (and by "alternate route," I mean a route that took us through most of Nevada and parts of New Mexico before we eventually arrived at the San Francisco airport).

All in all, it was an amazing experience that helped make our honeymoon even more memorable than it already was. Plus, we had the chance to witness history -- even if just a footnote in history -- firsthand. In my book, that's just as good as a trip to Fisherman's Wharf any day.

Posted by Jess at 12:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2004


Naptime at Casa de Jess:

Jess y El Perro Notorio

Posted by Jess at 03:34 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 04, 2004

Putting the system on trial

I received an invoice from campus parking services in the mail today saying that I had a $40 balance on my account. It seems that I parked "out of zone" on February 23 and received a citation as a result. Fair enough, but try as I might, I couldn't recall parking outside of my designated lot -- much less receiving a ticket for doing so. So, I went to parking services this afternoon to sort things out.

Once the parking services employee finally managed to pull up the original citation in the database, she revealed that I was ticketed for parking without the proper permit -- in a lot where I have never parked during my two and a half years at the university. Stranger still, the car that was ticketed was a blue Honda with Georgia tags. My car is a white Honda with Virginia tags. Obviously, they sent the ticket to the wrong guy, right? Problem solved.

Well, not exactly.

I explained to the parking services employee that I hadn't parked in the lot in question and that it wasn't my car to begin with, suggesting that perhaps another student had been issued a parking sticker with the same barcode (the entire ticketing system is based on scanning the barcodes).

"No, that's not possible, sir. Our system prevents that from happening."

I then hypothesized that it might be an error in the database, listing someone else's car under my record.

"No, the barcode system more or less rules that out, too."

At that point, I explained again that I don't own the car described in the original citation. Obviously, it couldn't have been me, right?

"Are you sure that you didn't own a blue Honda at some point in past and sold it recently, sir?"

Yeah, I'm pretty sure. Realizing that I wasn't really getting anywhere, I gave in and asked the parking services employee what possible explanation there could be for me receiving a ticket for parking somewhere I've never parked before in a car that I've never driven.

"Sir, have you loaned out your parking sticker or allowed anyone to copy it?"


"Could someone have stolen your parking sticker?"

No, it's never left my windshield.

"Well, sir, you have to realize that we can't just take your word on this, right? After all, if we believed everyone who walked in here told us they didn't really violate parking regulations, there wouldn't be any point in issuing tickets in the first place."

So, I'm going to have to pay this ticket even though someone who wasn't me and who wasn't driving my car is the one who parked in the wrong place?

"Well, you always have the option of appealing the citation -- but it's very rare that citations are actually overturned."

And, just to recap, there's no chance whatsoever that the whole thing could be the result of a clerical error or a problem with the barcode system, right?

"That's correct, sir."

I filled out the appeal form, but I get the distinct feeling that I'm going to be $40 poorer in the very near future.

Posted by Jess at 05:40 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

February 22, 2004


After much deliberation, my cable company has determined that a week's worth of broadband Internet access is worth precisely $7.34 -- i.e. the amount that the customer service representative somewhat begrudgingly agreed to deduct from my cable bill next month to compensate for my recent week-long service outage. Woo-hoo! I'm heading to Subway!

Naturally, I brought up my numerous late-night trips to school to administer the online portions of my course, as well as the four or five hours I spent on the phone with technical support, but they wouldn't budge. Oh, least my Internet connection is running smoothly again. For now.

Posted by Jess at 11:03 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 17, 2004

Resisting the urge to glue silk flowers to the walls

As part of our ongoing quest to transform our house into a bit more livable space, my wife and I spent the better part of Isolation Day weekend painting and redecorating our bathroom. First up is the cool rug we scored at Target:


Meanwhile, here's the view of the bathroom coming in from the hallway:


For what it's worth, the shower curtain also repeats a "colored circles" pattern not entirely dissimilar from the aforementioned rug. Here's another view of the room:


We found some great junky plates (also at Target) that matched the color scheme we were going for, and that's what you see above the towel rack (two smaller plates were flanking the mirror in the previous image). Meanwhile, the framed piece is just some wrapping paper that happened to match the overall design scheme -- an idea that we more or less stole from an episode of Trading Spaces.

Finally, since he's just too cute in this photo, here's the Notorious K.I.P.:


He loves that cheeseburger. Loves it.

Posted by Jess at 09:09 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 14, 2004

Saying something stupid like "I love you"

Isolation Day was going so well today. My wife busied herself with spackling the many cracks in our bathroom walls, while I prepared my lesson plans for next week. Then, she went and surprised me with a copy of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind -- an act that I can only interpret as the bestowing of the first-ever Isolation Day gift.

Frankly, I'm not sure what this means for the future of our treasured holiday.

Posted by Jess at 07:24 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 12, 2004

Magic plastic, it's fantastic

As reported by CNN, it's splitsville for Barbie and Ken. With a surprisingly straight face, the article notes:

After 43 years as one of the world's prettiest pairs, the perfect plastic couple is breaking up. The couple's "business manager," Russell Arons, vice president of marketing at Mattel, said that Barbie and Ken "feel it's time to spend some quality time -- apart."
Isn't it odd that this announcement comes just as the controversy over same-sex marriage is heating up? Not that there's anything wrong with that, Ken.

Posted by Jess at 03:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

His name is Jared...

I dropped by Subway yesterday for lunch, and in the process of preparing my turkey breast and ham sub, they ran out of lettuce. So, one of the sandwich artists shouted over her shoulder to an unseen co-worker in the back, "Jared, could you bring up some more lettuce?"

I can't tell you how disappointed I was when it turned out not to be that Jared.

Posted by Jess at 10:20 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 03, 2004


I woke up this morning with what I'm sure is my usual semiannual acute sinus infection, so I went to the health clinic to see a doctor this afternoon. Unfortunately, the doctor I saw was reluctant to prescribe any antibiotics for my condition, arguing -- no joke -- that it may very well be my "destiny" to get better on my own in a day or two. If so, he said that he didn't want to "interfere with that destiny."

Let's just hope that it's not my destiny to die two or three days from now from complications stemming from an untreated sinus infection.

Posted by Jess at 03:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tale as old as time

I think it's safe to say that there are few places in the world more miserable and soulless than the laundromat. Well, maybe there are a few war-torn countries that are less pleasant -- but just barely. Unfortunately, my wife and I needed to clean a couple of comforters over the weekend, and our washing machine simply wasn't big enough to get the job done. So, we embarked on a trip to the local laundromat to take advantage of their industrial-sized "mega-washers."

In what must be an attempt to stem the number of mid-cycle suicides, this particular laundromat has installed several televisions throughout the facility and shows movies to while away the washing and drying hours. Unfortunately, as my wife and I discovered this weekend, the people running the audio/visual division at the laundromat haven't quite worked out all the kinks yet.

It started out innocently enough as they loaded the Monsters, Inc. DVD. The disc then began to play through its generous selection of previews -- including trailers for the DVD special edition of Beauty and the Beast, Lilo and Stitch, Inspector Gadget 2 ("Inspect the unexpected!"), Treasure Planet, and Finding Nemo. When it was all said and done, this amounted to roughly fifteen or twenty minutes worth of previews. Then, it was time for the anxiously-awaited feature presentation. The DVD menu loaded up, the person at the switch selected "play," and we were taken to a screen asking us to choose between the widescreen and fullscreen presentations.

Apparently, this is where the entire process broke down. After sitting at the widescreen/fullscreen selection screen for about five minutes, the "DVD technician" simply gave up, ejected the disc, and reloaded it.

So, we're back to the previews. "Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme," and the whole nine yards. We spent another fifteen minutes watching the previews -- who was the genius that greenlighted Treasure Planet, anyway? -- before rencountering that tricky widescreen or fullscreen menu. Perplexed once again, the person at the switch ejected the DVD, reloaded it, and we were back to watching the (completely skippable) previews all over again.

How sad is it that Disney couldn't even get Matthew Broderick back for the Inspector Gadget sequel? It's not like he's busy doing anything other than being married to Sarah Jessica Parker. Meanwhile, if I'm not mistaken, it looks like the Finding Nemo trailer on the Monsters, Inc. DVD is an early rough cut; the animation doesn't seem quite as polished as the final release. But, that's neither here nor there.

Two more times the laundromat attendant restarted the disc rather than gambling on the all-too-risky widescreen/fullscreen issue. All told, we spent over an hour watching the five previews on the Monsters, Inc. DVD. By the fourth time around, I thought my wife was going to beat the person running the DVD player to death with a jug of detergent. Eventually, however, the attendant simply cut her losses, gave up on the film, and decided to give Shanghai Knights a try instead. Thankfully, the disc only offered the fullscreen option, so we were able to get it up and running with no major glitches.

My wife and I had the distinct pleasure of watching about five minutes of the film before our comforters finished drying and it was time to leave. Now I'll never know if Jackie Chan actually managed to avenge his father's death! Or if Stitch returned to his home planet. Or if the Beast was transformed back into human form. Or if Inspector Gadget captured Dr. Klaw. Or if Ellen DeGeneres regained her memory. Or if Treasure Planet is as stupid as it looks.

Posted by Jess at 11:01 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 26, 2004

Sliding through a winter wonderland

I've been known to complain on occasion about the lack of genuine wintertime weather here in Georgia, but it turns out that we had a fairly severe ice storm last night. Unfortunately, I found out about it the hard way -- by completely wiping out down the stairs on our porch this morning while taking out the dogs. One moment, I was standing on our welcome mat; the next, I was flat on my back in the iced-over driveway. One of my sandals flew about ten feet through the air before landing in the yard. The other is yet to be found.

Oh, and to add insult to injury, both our cars were frozen shut, too.

Fortunately, I am strong like bull and only suffered minor cuts, scrapes, bruises, and a nasty blood blister on my left hand. I suppose a wise man would learn a lesson here about being careful what he wished for, but I choose to blame my enemies instead.

Posted by Jess at 07:39 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 25, 2004


Did you know that over 80 percent of women wear the wrong bra size? I didn't either until I heard a Wal-Mart employee with a thick Southern accent announce that bit of trivia over the store PA earlier this afternoon. She went on to proclaim that a "fit specialist" would be available later in the day to offer "free bra consultations" in the lingerie department.

Free bra consultations at Wal-Mart? Fit specialist? Honestly, it sounded like a scam perpetrated by some guy desperate for a few cheap thrills to me. That was until I saw the van.

As I left the store, I was surprised to see a large van covered in images of lingerie models and touting itself as part of the Playtex Fit Patrol sitting outside in the fire lane. Words really can't do it justice; you'd just have to see it to believe it. Since they have such a cool customized van, I can only assume that the Fit Patrol is basically the Fab Five of women's support undergarments. Would the models pictured on the van be the ones offering the consultations, or would there be a licensed "bra-ologist" on-hand? Exactly what does a "bra consultation" entail? Who would submit themselves to such a consultation in public--especially in the middle of Wal-Mart of all places? Does the Fit Patrol fight crime when they're not busy helping women discover their proper bra sizes?

Who knew that a trip to pick up some groceries at Wal-Mart could raise so many burning questions?

Posted by Jess at 03:41 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 23, 2004

My (toilet) brush with greatness

A couple of years back, I was invited to speak at a policy forum hosted by a prominent former U.S. Senator who, for reasons that will become apparent in a few moments, shall remain nameless. After the senator delivered his opening remarks, there was a short break in the proceedings before the next speaker took the stage. Taking advantage of the recess, I excused myself to the lobby for a quick trip to the restroom.

So, there I was, standing at the urinal, when who else but the senator himself sidled up to the urinal right beside me -- already a serious breach in male restroom protocol considering other urinals were available, mind you. That was only the beginning of my discomfort, however. As we both stood there relieving ourselves, the senator did the unthinkable; he decided to strike up a urinal conversation with me.

Now, my wife assures me that women speak to one another in the restroom all the time and in fact are known to carry on full-fledged conversations in the lavatory, but that's not the case with guys. We just don't do it. Ever. You go in, do your business, and get out. Apparently, nobody told my new-found friend the senator that.

"So, are you here for the policy forum?" he asked cheerfully.

"Uh, yeah," I replied, staring straight ahead at the wall and avoiding eye contact at all costs.

"Excellent! It's splendid to see young people like yourself actively engaging important issues like these. Are you a graduate student by chance?"

"Um, yep," I responded. By this point, my body had completely given up on the prospect of completing the task for which I had come to the restroom in the first place. Instead, it had shifted into full-on fight-or-flight mode and was focused solely on extracting itself from the situation in the least awkward way possible. Game over, man. I'd just have to wait a day or two until I was comfortable going to the bathroom again.

So, I zipped up and prepared to leave the restroom. Unfortunately, I timed my departure poorly, and the senator finished at the same time -- and was clearly intent on continuing our conversation. First, however, he had to introduce himself.

"My name is Senator So-and-So. Where do you go to school, son?" he asked, extending his hand to me.

That's right -- he wanted to shake hands with me. Right after he finished going to the bathroom. Without a trip to the restroom sink in between.

What was I supposed to do? Leave the man hanging? That hardly seemed patriotic. Should I have said something like, "Nice to meet you, Senator. Let's just get washed up and we can continue this conversation in the lobby." That didn't seem quite right either. Honestly, there was only one thing that I could do.

I shook the man's hand.

You'd think that a politician who had spent his entire career shaking hands with people would have known better than to commit such a social and hygienic faux pas. Thankfully, the honorarium I earned for my participation in the forum almost made up for any psychological and/or urological trauma I suffered at the unwashed hands of the senator. Almost.

Posted by Jess at 05:58 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 16, 2004

Dining in the Classic City

While out at lunch today, one of my friends bit into his fillet of fish only to discover a long, black hair in his sandwich. When our server returned to the table a few minutes later, my friend pointed out the hair to her. She studied it for a few seconds before announcing that it looked like one of her own. Then, she just walked away.

No apology. No offer of a free meal. She didn't even ask if he'd like another sandwich.

That's one way to ruin a decent dining experience.

Posted by Jess at 04:42 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 15, 2004

The Surreal Life

Which of the following is more surreal?

1. Showing Monty Python and the Holy Grail to a room full of upperclassmen and then conducting a "serious" discussion of the film's political implications while filling in for a professor earlier this week.


2. Finding out from a friend at school that his father is a relatively well-known former professional wrestler.

Posted by Jess at 07:38 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 08, 2004

Working the barbershop circuit

My hair grows fast. Freakishly fast. We're talking I-need-a-haircut-every-two-weeks fast here. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to wait closer to four or five weeks between haircuts. Without fail, this leads to the following conversation every time I go to the barber shop:

Me: Give me a number-one clipper guard on the sides and back, faded up to the top. Thin it out a bit on top and leave it just long enough not to stick up.
Barber: Are you sure? That's pretty short, you know. How long has it been since your last haircut?
Me: About a month.
Barber: Wow! Your hair grows fast!

Now, in the immortal words of Bill Cosby, I told you that so I could tell you this.

Each time I have that conversation with my barber, I make the exact same joke in response. When she comments on how quickly my hair grows, I reply, "Well, I guess it's better the alternative!" We both politely chuckle, and she begins cutting my hair.

I realize that the joke is lame. I also realize that my current barber has heard me share my little bon mot a dozen times already, which makes it even lamer. Each time that I go to the barbershop, I tell myself that I'm not going to make the same joke, but it's like a knee-jerk reaction at this point. She says "grows fast," and I say "better than the alternative." Try as I might, I can't resist. In fact, I did it again just last week.

I'm starting to feel like a Dangerfield-esque one-trick pony in the barber chair. I can just imagine my barber looking at the appointment book on the day that I'm going in and telling her co-workers, "Oh, look--I'm cutting the 'better than the alternative' guy's hair today. Joy." Clearly, I need to work up some new material before my next haircut.

Posted by Jess at 09:30 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 06, 2004

The check's in the mail

Our new checks arrived in the mail today.


Now, every time I pay a bill, I can smile at the irony of using checks emblazoned with images of money bags and robber barons throwing around cash to draw from a bank account with little or no actual money in it.

Posted by Jess at 08:42 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 02, 2004

Tell 'em, Steve-Dave!

As I mentioned a few entries ago, my trip to New Jersey included a brief stop in Red Bank to visit Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash, the comic book shop owned by writer/director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Jersey Girl).


I swore off visiting comic shops years ago, but the Secret Stash is the home to several one-of-a-kind props, costumes, and other memorabilia from Kevin's films, and I'm a sucker for memorabilia (just point me toward a Hard Rock Cafe, and I'm there). For instance, here's a shot of the original Bluntmobile--complete with Bluntman and Chronic mannequins--from Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.


That's not the important part of the trip, though. While I was at the Secret Stash, I met one of the "stars" from Kevin's films.

No, no--it wasn't Ben Affleck (sigh). It was Walter Flanagan, part time actor and Kevin's longtime friend. You might remember him as the Egg Man or one of the offended customers ("Cute cat. What's his name?") in Clerks, or from his slightly more prominent recurring role as Walt the Fanboy in Mallrats, Dogma, and Jay and Silent Bob. When he's not busy doing bit parts in Kevin's films, Walter works behind the counter at the Secret Stash, slinging comics, posters, and t-shirts.

Seeing him there working in the store, however, raised a rather perplexing question: what is the proper reaction to meeting a D-list celebrity?

I've often seen teenage girls on TRL squealing when meeting someone like Justin Timberlake or grown men and women inexplicably crying like babies when coming face to face with Michael Jackson (of course, that could be chalked up to fear), but what do you do when you encounter a quasi-celebrity like Walter Flanagan? Tell him how much you enjoy his work? His entire filmography amounts to about three minutes of screentime. Take a picture? Over 99 percent of the population isn't going to recognize him. Ask for an autograph? "Hi, Walt! Since you're marginally more famous than I am, would you mind signing this?" Eventually, I settled for just saying "pardon me" and moving out of the way when I was standing in front of some merchandise that he needed to bring up to the counter. Somehow, that seemed like enough.

Besides, he wasn't the only celebrity there. The infamous Buddy Christ statue was in the house, too (dig that groovy lens flare).


On an unrelated note, the Secret Stash also sells action figures of Walter's fanboy character. How weird would it be to sell someone an action figure of yourself, knowing that they're going to take it home to (best case scenario) display it or (worst case scenario) play with it? Creepy.

Posted by Jess at 04:03 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

January 01, 2004

Domestic violence warning

My wife and I are painting together for the first time today, transforming our bland, white hallway into a vibrant "Ripple Green." If I don't post anything over the next two or three days, it's probably because my wife beat me to death with a paint can after she didn't like the way I used the roller. Please call the police should this come to pass and make certain that she faces the swift hand of justice.

Posted by Jess at 09:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 31, 2003

Top Five of '03

Since either a list of New Year's resolutions or a year-in-review is seemingly mandatory for all bloggers today, I think I'll go with the latter and take a look back at some of the more notable events that transpired in my life over the course of the past year. So, you take the good, you take the bad, you take 'em both and there you have my five most memorable moments of 2003.

5. Getting hit by a car (February)
Here's a piece of advice that I learned from personal experience: just because a car stops for you at a crosswalk, it doesn't mean that the driver won't decide to put the pedal to the metal and run you down anyway. To make a long story short, my wife and I were walking across the grocery store parking lot back in February when we were both struck by a car. My knee was jacked up a bit (nothing serious), but my wife ended up with a concussion. It turned out that the driver was paying just enough attention to what he was doing to stop at the crosswalk, but not quite enough to make sure that nobody was actually crossing it before he continued on his way. Anyway, for about five months after the accident, I still got a churning in the pit of my stomach every time I crossed a street. I think that counts as memorable.

4. Honeymoon in San Francisco (March)
From start to finish, every moment of our honeymoon was a moment to remember--even sitting through the otherwise forgettable Far from Heaven on the flight to San Francisco. Upon arrival, Kourtney and I literally walked the city from end to end, dropping by all the major tourist sites: the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Pier 39, the sea lions, Lombard Street, the Japanese Tea Gardens, Coit Tower, and the rest. More importantly, however, we discovered the divine joys of tapas in a little restaurant called Ramblas in the Mission District. Anyway, after a few days in Frisco (I understand that the locals hate hearing it called that), we drove out to spend the remainder of our honeymoon in the breathtakingly beautiful--even in the off-season--Yosemite National Park. When it was all said and done, we ended up not only with an absolutely spectacular honeymoon, but what was easily the best vacation I've ever taken. Oh, and for those who might be interested, here are a few pre-digital camera photos from our trip.

3. Passing my comps (October, November)
It was a long road, but I finally took the last class of my graduate career (American Foreign Policy) during the summer. Unfortunately, the completion of my coursework meant that it was time for me to take the dreaded comprehensive exams in comparative politics and international relations. As expected, the written comps were positively dreadful. I spent a month studying roughly eight hours a day, seven days a week, reading and re-reading countless books and articles along the way. The hard work paid off, though, and I managed to pass my written comps--with the added bonus of distinction in comparative politics. Of course, as one of my cohorts reminded me, passing with distinction simply means that I studied too much. Heeding that advice, I barely studied at all for my oral comps and nearly had a nervous breakdown in front of my committee when that fateful day arrived. Nevertheless, I passed and received a new title (ABD) for my trouble--not to mention a complimentary audio cassette of my oral comps session. Speaking of which, I really should get around to destroying that thing before I'm overcome with the morbid curiosity to actually listen to it one of these days.

2. Milo passes away, Kip joins the family (October, November)
In October, we had to put our beloved 19-year-old cocker spaniel Milo to sleep after he became ill and just couldn't go on any longer. It wasn't an easy decision--my wife and Milo had been together since she was in elementary school and he was in puppy obedience school--and hardly a day goes by that we don't think back fondly on our little muffin head. Just a few weeks after Milo passed away, however, my wife found a wonderful young cocker spaniel at the local animal control shelter. After meeting Kip (née Ben, a.k.a. the Notorious K.I.P.), it was a no-brainer to adopt him. He's no replacement for Milo--no dog could be--but he's been an absolute joy to have in the family. Here's hoping that he'll make it to at least 19 so we'll have plenty of time to keep spoiling him.

1. Tying the knot (March)
The entry about my honeymoon above probably gave away the number one spot, but what could be more memorable than marrying the most loving, caring, beautiful, intelligent, and all-around amazing woman that I've ever met? You know, the one who let me take a half-hour out of our New Year's Eve festivities to write this entry. 'Nuff said.

In conclusion, an honorable most memorable moment mention should go out to launching this blog back in August. At first, I wasn't sure if I would actually enjoy the whole blogging thing, but I've had an absolute blast over the past five months or so and look forward to many more months to come. Here's wishing everyone who reads Apropos of Something a very happy New Year! I'll see you in 2004...

Posted by Jess at 10:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 26, 2003

Better than a lump of coal--and it moisturizes!

Despite what the Onion and might suggest, there are certain advantages to having your mom read your blog. For instance, I woke up Christmas morning to find a stocking hung by the chimney with care, overflowing with the various shaving products mentioned in this post from a couple of weeks ago.

Is it a little strange to receive an assortment of personal care products in one's Christmas stocking? Then again, now that I think about it, maybe it's a little strange for a 26-year-old to still receive a stocking in the first place.

Posted by Jess at 11:31 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 13, 2003

One man's fight to end razor bumps in our time

There's not much in this world that I hate more than shaving--due in large part to a history of annoying razor bumps. Unfortunately, my facial hair tends to grow just enough to necessitate shaving every other day, but not enough to keep any attempt at a beard or goatee on my part from being a complete embarrassment. Anyway, as part of my ongoing battle against razor bumps, I've gradually added several additional steps and countless personal care products to my shaving regimen over the course of the past year.

The rigmarole begins the night before I plan to shave with me washing my face using Aveeno Clear Complexion foaming cleanser and applying a healthy dose of Neutrogena Healthy Skin face lotion. The next morning, I get up early and scrub down with ultra-gritty St. Ives facial exfoliant to get rid of as much of that pesky epidermis as possible. Then, I wash up with St. Ives moisturizing facial cleanser--and I'm almost ready to shave.

With my triple-blade razor at the ready, I lather up using Aveeno therapeutic shave gel for sensitive skin (with natural colloidal oatmeal, of course) and begin to shave--methodically and always with the grain, as instructed by Kyan Douglas. After about ten minutes, I'm finished and it's time for the post-shave wrap-up.

First, I wash my face again--this time with Neutrogena skin clearing face wash for men. Then, I splash down with a faceful of cold water to close the pores before beginning to mop up the puddles of blood that are typically beginning to form on the bathroom countertop by this point. When all that's done, I finish up with a generous coat of a Nivea after-shave balm that allegedly "moisturizes the skin and helps soothe the irritations caused by shaving," but in fact tends to leave me running around the house with my hands on my face and screaming like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone.

The end result? I still get razor bumps, although not quite as many as before. On the downside, the entire shaving process now takes about six hours to complete by the time I factor in all the pre-shave prep, the shave itself, and the post-shave denouement--not to mention requiring about $40 worth of facial products. Oh, and I'm completely emasculated now. I almost forgot that last part.

Why do I sometimes get the feeling that soaping up with a bar of Irish Spring, shaving with a single-blade disposable, and splashing on some Aqua Velva when I'm finished would be just as effective? Then again, those new quadruple-blade razors are pretty tempting.

Posted by Jess at 07:56 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 12, 2003

A study in uncool

Which is lamer: A) deciding to catch a late showing of Freaky Friday alone at the local dollar theater on a Friday night when your wife is out of town, or B) purchasing a ticket for Once Upon a Time in Mexico and sneaking into Freaky Friday instead just to avoid saying the phrase "One for Freaky Friday, please" to the high-schooler working the ticket booth?

This scenario, of course, is completely hypothetical and should not be confused with any events transpiring in my own life.

Posted by Jess at 11:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 09, 2003

Good things come to those who wait?

I've had a day of waiting today. First, I had an appointment at nine o'clock this morning to proctor a two-hour make-up exam for a student who never showed up. Then, I had to stick around the department until one o'clock to meet with another student and talk about the upcoming final exam. She didn't show up either. After that, it was off to Wal-Mart to wait around for two hours while their automotive department changed my car's oil and rotated the tires. As an added bonus, I even got to watch most of The Santa Clause 2 with a couple of preschoolers while hanging out in Wal-Mart's "automotive customer hospitality room."

Posted by Jess at 08:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

I thought it was a euphemism. A euphemism!

In downtown Athens, about a block from my department, there's a dingy little Chinese restaurant that everyone I know refers to as "bad Chinese"--as in "I'm in the mood for bad Chinese!" or "Who wants to go downtown for some bad Chinese?" Before I finally tried bad Chinese for the first time yesterday, I had operated under the assumption that the nickname was in jest since my friends seem to eat there all the time. After all, who would eat at a Chinese restaurant that he or she consciously acknowledges as not being good? Having sampled their cuisine, however, it looks like it's time for a new working theory.

Posted by Jess at 08:13 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 06, 2003

In space, no one can hear you clean

To help celebrate the eighth anniversary of my other website, a guy going by the handle of "Marty McFly" sent me this image depicting a cartoon version of yours truly dressed as Roger Wilco, space janitor extraordinaire and star of the Space Quest games. If you ask me, the likeness is pretty eerie. Thanks, Marty!

Posted by Jess at 11:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 03, 2003

Smelling good for fun and profit

Every time I see Ally Hilfiger prancing around on MTV's latest so-bad-it's-good reality series, Rich Girls, I can't help but reminisce about the brief period that I spent as a foot soldier in the Tommy Hilfiger empire. In fact, it was right around this time of year in 1996 that I began working as a Tommy Hilfiger "fragrance model" in a department store at the local shopping mall.

For those who might not be familiar with the fragrance modeling industry, I was that person who wanders around the store spraying cologne on little cards and attempting to pawn them off on unwitting shoppers. Or, to put it another way, I was a scented magazine insert come to life. To draw yet another analogy, the fragrance modeling biz--and make no mistake, despite all the glamour, it's still a business--is surprisingly similar to telemarketing. Basically, one's entire job as a fragrance model consists of rudely interjecting oneself into people's lives in an attempt to sell them a product that, far more often than not, they have no interest whatsoever in purchasing. Unlike telemarketing, however, fragrance modeling transpires face-to-face, so the would-be customers (or "marks," as we called them) don't have the easy option of simply hanging up--or even slamming their doors as in the case of door-to-door salesmen and proselytizers. Needless to say, this can create a wide range of rather uncomfortable scenarios.

In my experience, most shoppers recoiled in an odd mixture of fear and disgust when offered a card that I had generously sprayed down with Tommy cologne, shouting "No, thank you!" over their shoulders as they ran away to hide in the shoe department. In other words, they reacted just slightly more positively than if they had been offered a vial containing a live strain of the bubonic plague. We usually referred to these customers as "maybes."

On the other hand, a sizeable portion of the shopping populace apparently suffers from severe allergies, and they're not at all afraid to share this fact with a well-intentioned fragrance model if he or she approches them with a sample. In fact, it wasn't uncommon to receive a thorough dressing-down right there in the middle of the store. It usually went something like this: "How dare you, you insensitive clod! Get that freaking card out of my face this instant, or I'm going to have a talk with your manager!" Meanwhile, the customer would cover his or her mouth and nose with one hand while clutching their children close with the other to protect them against my olfactory assault. I can't really blame them, though. By the end of my eight-hour shifts, I would inevitably end up with watery eyes and a sinus headache to end all sinus headaches thanks to the noxious wares I peddled.

Finally, there were the customers who simply walked by and pretended they could neither hear nor see (nor smell) me. If I had my guess, these were the customers who were in fact most likely to buy a bottle of the cologne when it was all said and done--assuming, of course, that anyone actually bought a bottle of the cologne as a direct or indirect result of my efforts.

To add insult to injury, since I was selling a Tommy product, I also had to sell the "Tommy look." This meant dressing head to toe in Tommy Hilfiger couture, which at the time consisted primarily of button-up shirts emblazoned with unspeakably gaudy red, blue, and yellow flags and chinos featuring an almost implausible number of pleats. At first, I was somewhat comforted by the assumption that I would be taking these hideous garments home with me as a perk, where I could then properly dispose of them with a ceremonial burning. Much to my surprise, however, at the end of each day, the store manager would simply reattach the tags to whatever clothes I had just worn for eight hours (and in which I had presumably perspired) and place them back on the racks.

Needless to say, it wasn't the most fulfilling job I've ever worked, but as a poor college sophomore, I certainly couldn't complain about making $15 an hour. Plus, I can't overemphasize the added bonus of being able to spend the rest of my life telling stories that start out, "Back when I was a fragrance model..."

Posted by Jess at 05:54 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

November 25, 2003

Free Stuff!!!

Did I mention that my department finally got desperate enough for instructors that they offered me my own section of intro to American politics for the spring semester? Well, they did, which means I'm now in the process of developing my own course for the first time--choosing textbooks, writing a syllabus, developing lectures, planning assignments, and so forth.

It's a fair bit of work, but I've discovered an unexpected bonus along the way. I just found out that the publisher whose textbook I adopted is sending me a free selection of overheads, PowerPoint presentations, handouts, and other course supplements to go along with my desk copy of the textbook. How much of a dork does it make me that I'm already excited about the package arriving?

Then again, since it's being shipped to my home address via UPS, I'll probably never see it.

Posted by Jess at 11:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 19, 2003

Since too few people are blogging about Michael Jackson today...

Actual headline from the front page of today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Jacko is Backo Atop the Tabbos."

I'll begrudgingly accept "Jacko" and "backo" (mostly out of respect for the "Jacko on his Backo" sketch from SNL a few years back), but abbreviating "tabloids" as "tabbos" is a bit of a stretch as far as I'm concerned.

The Journal-Constitution--yet another reason why the city of Atlanta remains little more than a Delta hub with a bunch of professional sports teams.

Posted by Jess at 08:30 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack


It was a grueling hour and a half, but I passed my oral comps! I shall now consume copious amounts of celebratory sushi.

Posted by Jess at 05:18 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

ABD Dreams

The big day is here; my oral comprehensive exam is at two o'clock this afternoon. As of right now, all I really know about the process is that I'll sit down in a conference room with the four members of my doctoral committee, and they'll ask me a series of questions about political science for a couple of hours. Of course, I would probably know more about it if my e-mail client didn't keep filtering messages with the word "oral" in the subject line as spam.

current music: Talking Heads, "Psycho Killer"

Posted by Jess at 07:58 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 18, 2003

My precious...

Sweet sassy molassy, the extended edition of The Two Towers is an amazing film!

Posted by Jess at 03:44 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 17, 2003

Baby, it's unseasonably warm outside

In what's already becoming an annual tradition, my wife and I celebrated our make-believe mid-November holiday over the weekend. Basically, a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, we set aside a Saturday or Sunday to decorate our Christmas tree, listen to carols, and prepare a holiday dinner complete with turkey cutlets, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and Kourtney's Stupendous Fat-Free Pumpkin Pie(TM). This year, we were lucky enough to add a viewing of Elf to the festivities.

We're still trying to settle on a good name for the holiday, though. The Seinfeld fan in me wants to go with Festivus, but the Homestar Runner fan in me prefers Novemberween. Any suggestions?

Posted by Jess at 07:28 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 12, 2003

Since I know she reads the site...


Sign courtesy of the thoroughly awesome Church Sign Generator.

Posted by Jess at 05:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 05, 2003

Vanity of vanities; all is vanity

The weekly Carnival of the Vanities is up over at Wizbang, and it turns out that my "Masked Fisherman" entry made the cut. Now, I just need to get in touch with some high-powered network executives and make this thing happen. Actually, as teedz suggested, I should probably contact PETA first to check up on that whole "fishing with hand grenades" thing.

Meanwhile, to change the subject completely, my wife and I adopted a dog yesterday from the local animal control shelter. He's a black cocker spaniel puppy, and we've named him Kip. You can see his official mug shot from the shelter here. Sadly, our beloved 19-year-old cocker spaniel, Milo, passed away a couple of weeks ago, but we're looking forward to making Kip a part of the family.

Posted by Jess at 05:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 03, 2003

Here I come a-wassailing

One of my favorite times of year is officially here; Spinner has started broadcasting its annual slate of Christmas music stations. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I'll probably end up listening to at least an hour or so of Christmas music per day over the next two months. Sure, that would probably drive a lesser man insane, but I'm confident that I'm up to the task.

current music: Frank Sinatra, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
current mood: holly jolly

Posted by Jess at 04:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 02, 2003

Home, where my thought's escaping

There's not much in this world that I love more than the smell of decaying leaves in the crisp autumn air.

My wife and I are visiting my parents in Southwest Virginia this weekend--the first time in months that we've spent any significant amount of time outside of Athens. We were a couple of weeks late for catching the autumn leaves at the height of their color, but it's still beautiful. We went on a gorgeous six-mile hike to the Stoney Creek Falls in Dungannon yesterday (photographs forthcoming), briefly dropped by my alma mater, had dinner at the incomparable Ridgewood Barbeque, and got home in time to watch my other alma mater beat Miami in a great football game. Quality time was spent with my parents and my beloved cat, Ringo. Much homemade fruit salad was devoured. Dr. Enuf was quaffed. What more could I ask for?

I've missed being home.

Posted by Jess at 08:11 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

October 27, 2003

Good news and bad news

The good news: My department has finally set me up with an office--a swanky little third-floor affair with a decent enough view. I'm sharing it with two or three other graduate students, but it's still a definite step up from operating out of our crowded graduate lounge.

The bad news: It looks like I'll be working as a teaching assistant again next semester, leading discussion sections instead of operating as an independent instructor. I really had my heart set on teaching my own classes in the spring, but I was informed earlier today that some inscrutable graduate school policy would apparently cut my pay in half if I taught next semester--even though working as an independent instructor would require significantly more work than leading discussions. Oh, well...there's always next fall.

Posted by Jess at 02:49 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 03, 2003


As promised yesterday, here's a grainy webcam pic of our 19-year-old cocker spaniel, Milo:

Oops! Image accidentally deleted.

He doesn't always look like that. Occasionally, he's awake. Meanwhile, Kourtney assures me that Dexter doesn't look his best in the photo I posted yesterday, so here's another shot of him.

D'oh! This one was deleted, too.

I promise that's the last time I'll post pictures of my pets. Unless they do something really adorable, of course.

Posted by Jess at 09:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 02, 2003

Just when you thought this site couldn't get more self-indulgent...

Through the years, I've had quite a bit of luck in terms of my friends feeling sorry enough for me to give me computer hardware when they just can't stand to watch me muddle forward with out-of-date technology any longer. For instance, when I first arrived at college and got on the Internet back in 1995, my computer boasted a 14.4 Kbps modem (which, at the time, wasn't nearly as bad as it sounds today). My friends Chris and Andy, however, couldn't stand watching me surf at those speeds and eventually hooked me up with a 28.8 Kbps modem--and, a few months later, a rockin' external 33.6 Kbps--free of charge. If I recall correctly, it was Andy who later gave me 16MB of RAM for my system (back when 16MB of RAM was a lot of RAM), bringing my old 486-33 up to a total of 32MB of RAM. Along the way, other friends have donated network cards, speakers, CD-ROM drives, and all kinds of other good stuff to my pitiful cause.

That being said, I've always wanted a webcam to play around with, but I couldn't think of a single reason to justify wasting money on one. Somehow I just knew if I waited five or six years, one would fall into my lap sooner or later. Just as I planned, a package from my parents arrived in the mail earlier today with an Ezonics EZCam II enclosed. It turns out that one of my aunts got a dozen or so webcams through a Pepsi promotion, gave one of the cams to one of my other aunts, who in turn gave it to my parents, who sent it to me. So, I finally have a webcam up-and-running at no cost whatsoever. All it took was a little patience. ;)

Anyway, Andy suggested a couple of days ago that I needed to upload photos of Milo and Dexter, my and my wife's beloved cocker spaniels. As per that request, here's Dexter:

Image deleted in a fit of stupidity.

Isn't he cute? Unfortunately, Milo wasn't in the mood to pose today, but I'll try to lure him in front of the webcam tomorrow.

Posted pictures of a pet? Check. What other blog clichés are left?

Posted by Jess at 01:39 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 01, 2003

File under 'D' for 'disorganized'

I've noticed that much of the correspondence that comes across my desk these days--whether it's school-related or just day-to-day bills and so forth--includes the friendly reminder that I "save a copy" for my "records." Lately, this helpful bit of advice has been making me feel a little self-conscious (dare I say inadequate?) since I don't actually have what you would call "records" per se. All this paperwork, however, is starting to give me the distinct impression that everyone else apparently does. I mean, sure, I hold on to all the stuff that seems vaguely important (correspondence related to my student loans, bank statements, advertisements from Lerner New York), but I'd estimate the odds of me actually being able to find a specific "record" if I ever needed it (which, of course, I probably never will) at approximately slim to none. After all, I would need a decently-sized file cabinet just to hold my "records" from the past year.

Still, I can't shake the feeling that everyone else out there actually has records. Very creepy.

Posted by Jess at 02:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 28, 2003

My favorite time of year

I got up this morning to take Milo and Dexter outside and was surprised to discover that autumn had suddenly arrived in Georgia (or at least the Georgia equivalent of autumn). Crisp air, a bit of a breeze, the smell of fallen leaves--absolutely perfect. Now, I get to spend my Sunday afternoon engaged in one of my favorite autumn rituals: watching football on television while grading essays for my class.

No, seriously.

Posted by Jess at 10:13 AM | Comments (4)

September 27, 2003


I finished my comprehensive exams yesterday! w00t! For the first time in about a month, my stomach isn't churning from stress. When it was all said and done, I ended up writing 36 typed pages for my comparative politics exam in just under seven hours--all closed-book. Of course, it will be a couple of weeks before I know if I passed or not, but I'm cautiously optimistic.

Posted by Jess at 08:35 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 23, 2003

The graduate ethic and the spirit of poverty

One comprehensive exam down (international relations), one to go (comparative politics). I spent most of today reacquainting myself with the works of Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber--arguably the founding fathers of modern social theory. While pondering weak and weary, over a quaint and curious volume of forgotten Weberian lore, I stumbled across the following passage:

In the United States, the academic career usually begins in quite a different manner, namely, by employment as an 'assistant'.... For it is extremely hazardous for a young scholar without funds to expose himself to the conditions of the academic career. He must be able to endure this condition for at least a number of years without knowing whether he will have the opportunity to move into a position which pays well enough for maintenance.

In the United States, where the bureaucratic system exits, the young academic man is paid from the very beginning. To be sure, his salary is modest; usually it is hardly as much as the wages of a semi-skilled laborer. Yet he begins with a seemingly secure position, for he draws a fixed salary.

That's an excerpt from a speech Weber delivered in 1918. You can say what you will about the guy, but one thing is certain: he was a keen observer of the graduate student condition.

Posted by Jess at 05:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 16, 2003

Athens 0wn3d j00, Melos

I've spent most of the day knee-deep in Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, and I've come to the conclusion that my general distaste for Athens extends beyond my current surroundings to encompass the Athenian Empire--or, if you prefer, Delian League--of the fifth century BC.

In related news, I really need to stop studying so much.

Posted by Jess at 03:40 PM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2003

Speaking of Homestar Runner...

Assuming I survive comprehensive exams, I'm considering rewarding myself with a stylish Homestar Runner t-shirt. I'm having a bit of trouble deciding which one I want, though. I'm currently torn between Trogdor Lite (with Majesty), the Homestar Classic, Homestar Running, and the Star Shirt. In classic weblog style, I implore you to help me make a decision on the day-to-day minutiae of my life.

Posted by Jess at 05:07 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 13, 2003

Science is what you know. Philosophy is what you don't know.

It's now less than a week until my comprehensive exams begin. A couple of days ago, my committee chair told me that I should try to enjoy these next couple of weeks as much as possible since I will never know as much about such a wide range of topics in the field again at any other time in my career. I still haven't decided whether that prospect falls into the category of encouraging or disheartening.

Oh, and big ups to Bertrand Russell for the quotation in the subject line.

Posted by Jess at 05:16 PM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2003

Two weeks from Friday

Today was the official Go-Around-And-Get-Pep-Talks-From-My-Committee Day in the comprehensive exams preparation process. Between that, a full day's worth of quality studying, and a good old-fashioned two-mile walk around the neighborhood, the overall freak-out factor is actually on the decline for the first time in a few weeks.

Posted by Jess at 09:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 17, 2003

My head is in the sun

Today is the last day of my summer break, and I feel compelled to do something fun, exciting, and (by necessity) inexpensive before school starts on Monday. I think the answer might lie in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area, but I'm not sure.

You know, I'm not usually what you'd call a fan of "browser enhancing" doo-dads, but the Google Toolbar kinda rocks.

Posted by Jess at 10:11 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 15, 2003

Executive, legislative, and... uh, the other one?

It's time for the Fall semester to start, and I'll be back at the front of the classroom for the first time in a couple of years, teaching an introductory American politics class to undergrads here at the university. It's not quite my specific area of expertise, but it should be a great experience all the same. Maybe it's just me, but nothing compares to the adrenaline rush I get when I'm up there teaching, things are going well, and the students (or at least some of the students) are actually getting into the material, asking questions, and engaging in discussion. Ah... pedagogy.

When people find out that I'm a political scientist, they're usually interested to hear my take on current events. Just in case you're wondering, I'm anti-heatwave-in-France, but I haven't decided yet whether I'm pro- or anti-power-outage-on-the-East-coast.

Posted by Jess at 05:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 12, 2003

Will Discuss Political Science for Food

Could applying for and, in turn, actually receiving federal financial aid possibly be a more circuitous and needlessly complex process? No, probably not--unless it required the borrower to perform a certain number of pull-ups in order to qualify.

Posted by Jess at 06:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 08, 2003

And I submitted it a full two hours before the deadline...

In other news, I just turned in the last paper for the last class that I'll have to take for my doctorate in political science. The topic? "U.S. Foreign Policy and Democracy in Postwar Iraq." Thrilling stuff, believe me. Now, all that's left is passing my comprehensive exams...

...and writing my dissertation...
...and defending my dissertation...
...and finding a job...
...and getting tenure.

Once I have tenure, though, it's going to be smooth sailing.

Meanwhile, in the world of computer games... whaddaya know? LucasArts canceled its sequel to Full Throttle. Hopefully, the new Sam and Max game will survive.

Posted by Jess at 03:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack