June 30, 2004

Good to get work done.

The view from my office window. I have been in the bad habit of trying to get work done at home, rather than in my office at the university lately. That means, of course, that I have not been getting through the reading I have been meaning to. I went in yesterday and today, however, and I finished the admittedly short Man's Place in Nature by Max Scheler by very early this afternoon. I read very slowly, so this is a big deal to me. So I took off early today, went to the bookstore to get a notebook for some Scheler notes, took a walk and had a Red Bull (my first one). I lead such an exciting life. In big-time excitement, though, Scheler does sum up the thesis I am kicking around which will be the topic of my dissertation. Along with William James, Sartre and Thoreau Scheler is one of the most insightful and human individuals to have walked the earth (or sauntered, Henry). No, I am not ready to embarrass myself by sharing that dissertation topic with anyone yet. One day.

June 28, 2004

Sideling Hill.

Sideling Hill, in Western Maryland, June 2004. This photo was taken on the way back to Illinois a few weeks ago, from our five-week stay in Baltimore, Maryland. Sideling Hill is a mountain that literally has a road (highway, now) cut right through it. You can see the layers of rocks and such on the sides, and the view off of the mountain is killer. Everytime I actually stop there, I am above the clouds, and this was the first time in a long time I could even get the view such a height affords.
This is another photo of the same "hill" in January, taken on the way back from the holiday. The ice reflected so much light that this is the only photo worth posting. That's a very cold spot. Even this June, I had to put on a sweater while I was taking those photos. The morning sun made so much fog there in August (the spot was very cold from the evening and then was heated quickly in the summer sun) when we moved out here to Southern Illinois that I could barely see the road, let alone the view.

June 27, 2004

Some guy's feet: A Stolen Picture.

A fellow early barefooter in front of Morris Library, April 2004. Because winter never really came much to Southern Illinois this year, I've been in sandals for all but maybe ten days since late February. I like when, on a chilly day, I find someone else strutting their toes. We sort of exchange knowing glances, enjoying the brisk tingle of cold between our toes and knowing what everyone else is missing.

June 26, 2004

Poe Tay Toes (in Sam's voice).

Carbondale Farmer's Market. We got up early enough today to go to the farmers' market on the west edge of town in Carbondale. I've never actually bought fresh veggies from a table that is six feet off of the back of a pick-up truck before. The farmers actually park behind their tables, which are placed along a sort of corridor of greens, reds, yellows and persons. The table pictured is one that we came back to three times: once for new potatoes, once for green beans, and once for green peppers. The peppers still had the dirt from being harvested. We also bought three tiny (softball-sized) heads of cabbage and some corn that you selected from a heap in the back of a red truck. We followed this all up with a trip to the orchard down the street from our apartment, where we bought some tiny onions, a quart of fragrant peaches, and a sizeable watermelon. Buying veggies from fine folks who still have some dirt under their fingernails certainly makes one appreciate the toil that goes into growing these treats, at least a little. Everything we bought today will taste extra good knowing where it came from. And the distance from where it came from to its consumption gets shortened. I wonder if that makes me closer to the dirt, the sun and the rain? [That sounds hoaky, no? Oh, well.]

June 25, 2004

Ricebowls and butting.

We had Chinese take-out for dinner tonight. My wife had a mid-term today, and I spent all day being entirely unproductive. After being fuller than a person who didn't accomplish anything today really has a right to be, I suggested that we head to the local Panera Bread for some after-dinner coffee. After not cooking or washing dishes, who feels like making coffee in a French press and then cleaning it up, really? And it is unseasonably cool in Southern Illinois tonight. The moonroof and some Van Morrison would be nice ("Moondance" comes to mind). Our Panera Bread has a doorway on the corner of the building, and there are two sets of doors that lead into the vestibule and the one set of doors that actually enters the cafe'. I politely held the door for these two country-styled gents, and they didn't thank me. Okay, not everyone actually thanks you for that. Whatever. But then they decided that it would be a good idea to pretend they were looking at the pastry case -- and then butt in front of me. Jerks. The same thing happened last Sunday, when my friend Chris was in town. Only that day, I actually stood there for a second holding the door for the geezer who butted in front of us all that day. Jerk. When we were on our way out tonight, a nice father held the door for my wife and for me. He got two "thank you"s, and we got two "you're welcome"s. I think it's funny that it has happened twice now -- not really mad, or even annoyed, at all. Being from the South*, holding doors and opening doors and thanking people comes pretty naturally. Well, being my father's son makes it come naturally. What the people in the Heartland sometimes lack in politeness, they usually make up for in charm and warm hearts. I always say that the people I have encountered in Southeastern Missouri (around Cape Girardeau) are some of the nicest people in the world. I loved my two years in Massachusetts, but I never felt at home there. These nice Heartlanders made me feel reasonably welcome right away. The folks around here would bend over backwards for you if you needed them. Just don't hold the door for anyone at Panera Bread. *[If you don't think Maryland is part of the South, you've most likely never been to much of that great state.]

June 22, 2004

The Mahtay Mississipp: A Stolen Picture.

An old man contemplating the Mahtay Mississipp, er, the Mississippi River, Cape Girardeau, Missouri. This is what I like to think of as a Stolen Picture. I turn off the sounds and focus-assist and flash on my camera and steal pictures of old men looking at rivers (I have more from Paducah, Kentucky), of men with babies, people's bare or sandaled feet, cool tatoos, big hairstyles at the Hon Fest, nice couples, etc. My Stolen Pictures are of people or things who have no idea that I am taking their candid pictures at all. I like to think of these photos as capturing the small and random things that I notice without corrupting them. This is not, however, peeping. None of my Stolen Pictures are of people in the potty or up ladies' skirts, or of people in dressing rooms. That's not my game, man. Not at all. That's nothing interesting or hard to notice -- and thereby worth stealing a picture of -- anyway. That I leave to dirtier men than me. I have a lot of Stolen Pictures to post, including a recent one of a kitten asleep in Makanda, Illinois and one of my parents in Baltimore, Maryland. My wife's favorite picture of my brother and his girlfriend is a Stolen Picture from New Year's Eve. These will get posted when my new domain and host are all set up. Shortly, I hope.

June 21, 2004

The new car at Cape.

Our new Mazda3 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri this past weekend. I promised some photos of the car, and this is the first.

The late Focus.

This is the Focus. The late Focus. The one that jerk in the land-yacht* smashed. Crushed. Totaled. Not quite as sporty as the Mazda3, but I still wish the accident never happened. [*As Chris would say.]

June 20, 2004

A Mustang, hiking and Panera Bread, oh my!

This is Chris posing next to his extremely fast car at Giant City State Park, where we went hiking yesterday. It was a real treat to get to hang out in Carbondale with someone whom I have been friends with since I was 13. True to form for us, we bought some cold Sam Adams Summer Ale last night -- and then just made French press coffee instead. Two of the beers blew up in the freezer, though, which is true to form for me. We had two -- count 'em, two -- great breakfasts at the new Panera Bread in Carbondale, the place I have missed ever since moving away from Massachsetts almost a year ago. It was also very nice to go hiking with Chris, especially since we were in Boy Scouts together as teenagers (that's actually how we met). We used to stay up all night talking about everything in the world on camping trips. We did that so much one year at summer camp that we needed 64 once cups of coffee in the mornings to get going. Yes, that's a half of a gallon of coffee -- not to mention the copious amounts of sugar and powdered creamer. We were bad enough to smoke on camping trips: cigarettes and other things. We even drank a bottle of expensive red wine on one camp-out when we were both seventeen and waxed philosophical in the mountains of Western Maryland. Sitting in downtown [sic!] Carbondale after a nice hike, chugging and sipping huge coffees at a nice coffeeshop is pretty much the best way to spend a June Saturday wherein a life-long friend is in town for only one day. Lucky for me, Chris lives in Florida, now, which is a whole world closer than where he had been living for a few years, i.e., Sicily. I'm sure that we'll both end up in Maryland again one day, as the leaders of our old Boy Scout troop, trying to catch the kids doing the bad things we used to do, wondering how the hell we turned out so sane and "with it" after the trouble we used to get into.

June 16, 2004

Oh! Said Rose.

This is a paper flower from a sea of them hanging from the porch of Oh! Said Rose, the little shop on the Avenue in Hampden. I was waiting out on the porch with my brother while his girlfriend and my wife shopped inside. It's a tiny store, and it was very crowded, and I get claustrophobic sometimes.

June 15, 2004

Hampden, Hon.

This past Saturday was the annual Hon Fest in Hampden, hon. It's where Baltimoreans get together to celebrate the...colorful side of life in Baltimore -- the one that ignores the crime, drugs, etc. that plague the great city. Folks even celebrate the newly-hip Hampden, where I grew up, as the epitome of Baltimore. The Hampden that, at times, lurks below the surface is racism and teen mothers who really had no idea that there was a birth control pill. Baltimore is sorta like that. It's Southern, and the racism goes both ways, to be sure. There is a lot of crime. Drugs abound. Poverty is a serious problem. But I think that it's great that, for one Saturday a year, we get to remember and celebrate that Baltimore is a great place to live. There are a lot of history, hipsters and galleries. Great food, and even better camping and hiking. Sports. Nice Southern folks. Lots of good reasons to go there, if you have never been. Many many reasons to be glad to live there or to say that you come from Baltimore, hon. I used to get a lot of flack from my friends when Hampden began to become "cool," and I resented my neighbors. In the 80s and early 90s when I was growing up there, it was anything but cool. I had friends at home who hated that my best friend in grade school was black. The Avenue only became the hip place to drink and eat and shop that it is now in the late 90s. The famous Cafe' Hon was a feed store until I was in high school. I'm not saying at all that I dislike the new Hampden. Hell, I love it! I'm glad that I can go home to Hampden and get good coffee and shop in a used bookstore. I just don't think that the Hon Fest celebrates our Hampden heritage so much as the escape from it -- the escape from racism and being broke white kids. When I ran around Saturday with my camera, I was soaking in the Hampden that I wish I grew up in -- and reveling in the demise of the Hampden I used to reluctantly call my home. I even scored an Edgar A. Poe action figure at Mud and Metal. In all, I am glad that Hampden is not the place it used to be. And, despite some belly-aching I sometimes hear about all the "yuppies" (they are Bobos, really, people) that are taking over the city, I am glad that Baltimore is changing, too. All of the giantic SUVs and even bigger bookstores are better, to me, than not being able to walk around with my African-American wife in certain parts of the city, wherein one of us was always getting looked at strangely. For the pain that shopping there can be, I'll take a Whole Foods market over a crackhouse anyday. No matter what, I'll take my favorite city and hometown over anywhere else, today. I've only been back in Illinois for a day. And even though it's good to be back to where I actually live, with my books and gear and new Ikea goodies, I miss Baltimore a lot when I am gone. And everyone in it, too.

June 13, 2004

Returning to Illinois.

Again with the delayed posting. We're leaving Baltimore at dawn on Sunday morning. It's very weird to have left Illinois with one car and to then return with another. On the bright side, the speed limit in the mountains in West Virginia is pretty high, and I'm dying to open up the new Mazda3. The car is packed from the 5th door/hatch all of the way to the front seats. The back seats are down, and there is just so much room in that car. It's going to be a nice trip. There is a lot to do Monday. My wife starts her class, and I have boxes and boxes of books waiting for me at the post office -- for my summer study. And our bathroom was already disgracefully dirty when we left. That will be fun. Geez, listen to me whine. Talk at ya'll later from the Heartland.

June 11, 2004

Gearing up at Ikea.

Took my third trip (during this visit, that is) to Ikea today. I had to put the finishing touches on my wedding gift to my office-mate M2. We wound up getting a ton more stuff, including bright red curtains for the office at home and bright yellow ones for the bedroom in the summer, a dozen new glasses, and various other goodies. We are very lucky that the seats fold down in the Mazda3 and that I always insist on hatchbacks. Very lucky. When we went back to Illinois after the holidays, the Focus was riding low in the back, since we had so many Ikea finds and Christmas gifts and other things to take home. Hopefully, it won't be so bad this time. We also found a nice quilt the other night, but not at Ikea. My wife has been wanting one for a long time. She actually made me one once, for my nineteenth birthday, just before she went away to college -- a long time ago, really. It had various symbols of our individual heritages and of things we shared today. But I would not dare actually put that handmade treasure on our bed. It's too precious. Tomorrow is Hon Fest in Hampden, a neighborhood in northern Baltimore City, where I grew up. There is a nice chap in my department at the university from Baltimore. We were talking one day, and he asked where in Baltimore I was from. I told him that I grew up my whole life before college in Hampden, and he said, "Oh, you're from the real Baltlmore!" I suppose he's right. I'll bet there will be plenty of people and things to get some photos of tomorrow. More on all of that later, for sure.

June 10, 2004

My alma matter and great men.

(I hope I spelled that correctly.) I drove around the school, where I received my undergraduate degree, today. I held my camera out of the moonroof and drove around in circles taking pictures. Unfortunately, it was sorta grey today, and the photos are not very good. It was weird to be back to the place that used to be home to me for four years, though. I will never ever feel the same affection for where I got my Masters, perhaps not even where I go now. My parents actually insisted on getting me a school ring from Goucher, being the first person with my last name to get a BA and all that mess. I never think of my education as a very big deal. To me, it's mandatory training in order to get the job I want: professor of philosophy. Why the hell else would I be almost 25 (August 30th!) and still in school? Besides, I have little to show for it. Hell, I majored in thinking. I have a master's degree in thinking, and I am spending the rest of my 20s getting a doctorate in thinking. I am at a loss as to understand why anyone is impressed the way that my family seems to be sometimes. My friend Chris from Blog Collective, who is a brother to me, is in the US Navy. He's had wine, women and adventures in places I will never even go to, and he is one of the most honorable people I know. That is impressive. My brother survived bootcamp last year, after voluntarily enlisting -- right before the start of Bush's "war" in Iraq. He plays the saxophone in the Maryland Army National Guard Field Band, and he is a full-time student. That is impressive. My other brother is training to be a CPA, and he does his own taxes. He can even build and program a computer by himself. That is impressive. I won't even go into the hero that my father is. He just retired from almost 36 years of military service. He started a Boy Scout troop on his own and has run it for 14 years. For these and a myriad of other reasons, he is the greatest man I can imagine, and everyone knows it. That is impressive. I know lots of great men (and women, too, but that's another post, to be sure). I just sit around, read Phenomenology and American Pragmatism and write papers about dead guys' ideas. I'm a professional thinker already, it seems. I have lots of time for a weblog, for obsessing about pens and Moleskines, for reading poetry and driving around country roads at questionable speeds. But I'm not doing anything like the great men whom I know. Maybe I should be doing something more...or at least, something different?

Quite an interesting story at Vanilla Sky.

Read about Nicola's Whit Walk adventures. The photos are excellent, too.

June 09, 2004

Yes, I am an Eagle Scout; what are you gonna do about it?

In other news, my father and I just went to the Scout Shop and bought the new Boy Scout Field Book. It's very nice, and the new covers are excellent. I've been looking forward to getting it since Christmas time. I also saw a kid who was in our troop way back when (he's an Eagle Scout and in college now), and he has a new Silver Mazda3, too. Funny. Too bad the side or ours is messed up on the side-skirt. It seriously looks like that raccoon I almost killed last week went at the car after I stopped and missed him. Really. I tried to fix it with official Mazda touch-up paint, but with no real success. I will let the professions handle it when I get home to Illinois. Unless they want to charge too much, in which case I'll have to live with it.

Locusts, part I.

The locusts in Maryland are crazy. Their red eyes make them look like they slam into your windshield and scare the hell out of you with that loud thud on purpose.

June 08, 2004


This is a test of the newly-awesome-ized Blogger and whether or not Pragmatik will be back here from Typepad. This is only a test. Or is it?

June 07, 2004

Going home soon.

We are heading back to Illinois this weekend, for a restful summer wherein I have an independent study in Max Scheler, and the wife has a short history seminar. We were to be in Baltimore for five weeks, the longest time I would have been in town since way before I moved to Boston three years ago. We got some family visits out of the way during the first week, but then the car accident pretty much ruined our plans. We never got to go to Toronto, New York, Washington DC, Niagara Falls, to see more family, etc. There are friends that I never got to see and probably won't. All this is because of that idiot and his huge SUV. We are heading to Ikea (again) today, since some of the goods we bought were on sale, and well, you can always use more coffee cups. I also have to go to the dentist this afternoon. My second-to-last molars seem to be genetically gimpish. There is some kind of internal cavity that happened by itself that I have to get drilled out. The same happened to the tooth on the other side a few years ago. Just goes to show you: you can brush all you want, but sometimes the teeth have a mind of their own (just like being a good driver can't always protect you and your car from idiots who can't drive at all). I hate that drill. A few years ago, my front tooth got broken (long story). Both it and the tooth next to it had to be ground down to nothing and covered in caps (which were ordered in the whitest shade available, to match my teeth, thank you very much). I was horrified that at the tender age of 20, I had done life-long damage to my chompers. I need a nerve-block for dental work, and tonight, I'll be going out to dinner with my mother-in-law and her super-nice boyfriend -- most likely still drooling. Hopefully, I'll be able to talk enough without dribbling to talk about my Ikea goodies. :)

June 05, 2004

Trip to Harper's Ferry.

The wife and I drove to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia yesterday, home to John Brown's famous raid. We've always liked going there, and we even thought about getting married in the church on the hill for a while -- when we were still considering getting married anywhere near a church. To me, Harper's Ferry has its own magic, much like Salem, Massachusetts always has. Those are two cities that I have always wanted to live in, at least a little. Last time I was at Harper's Ferry, it was the day after Thanksgiving 2002. It was bitterly cold, and we hiked all of the way up Maryland Heights, the mountain across the river from the town. We ate lunch on a cliff, and I decided then that I hoped I would end up in a PhD program away from a city. But all of the PhD mess was up in the air -- everything was just a mess. Even with the recent wrecking of our car and the harrowing hunt for a new one, I think my life has come together much more now. I don't live in or even around a city (unless you consider Carbondale a city, which, living my whole life in real cities, I do not). The PhD thing is taken care of. I'm married and happy. That said, I do miss the city -- bookstores and Ikea and Dunkin' Doughnuts coffee and just seeing different people around. In Carbondale, I usually feel like a serious hipster. But in Baltimore, I feel pretty square. Not that being square is bad.

Raining in Baltimore.

The Counting Crows song of that title used to make me incredibly sad when I lived in Baltimore and my girlfriend [now wife] lived in Massachusetts. The song begins with "The circus is falling down on its knees/ The bigtop is crumbling down..." There is an old adage in Baltimore which states that it always rains when the circus is in town.

June 03, 2004

Ikea, here I come.

Going to Ikea today. We don't have them anywhere near Southern Illinois. Yes, I am a big sissy-man who likes housewares and such. It could be worse. I could wreck people's cars with my SUV's unnecessary brush-bar. My affinity for hoarding French presses and coffee cups doesn't really hurt anyone:).

June 01, 2004

Why I no longer own a Ford.

I have never owned anything but Fords. At the time of the Focus wreck of 2004, the immediate family at my parents' house owned five red Fords. With the total lack of injury from the accident wherein an SUV wrecked our 2003 Focus, the decision to get another Focus was easy. But Ford messed around with their dealerships, and no one has the 2005 Foci (!) they were promised. The black one we ordered was never going to come in time for the return to Illinois. And Ford was no longer making the 170 horse power SVT Focus, since they were replacing it with the Focus ST, a sedan with only 150 horse power and none of the coolness of the SVT. So my friend showed me how to drive a stick shift with his 1979 Honda Civic (a very cool car), and we test-drove the all-powerful SVT. Well, the wife -- who has no driver's license, mind you -- hated it. We had a huge fight. And that was that. It was either get a 2004 Focus with no ABS or anything else we wanted just to get a damned automatic transmission -- or get a different car. Enter the 2004 Mazda 3 s-series hatchback. I've had a jones to drive that mean-looking car since I first saw one. We took one out, and we loved it and bought it. Simple as that. And it has so many space-aged safety features (including three I'd never heard of) that our insurance went down a lot -- which is good, since the car was a hell of a lot more expensive than a Focus. We're happy. It's faster than any Focus made now, and we really didn't want a 2004, since it was the same car we had and would only make us sad to drive it -- reminding us of the wreck and all that. It has one of those auto-manual transmissions, a moonroof, 6-disc CD player, power everything, 17 inch racing wheels with performance tires, and a level of coolness that the cutesie Focus never quite achieved (excluding, of couse, the SVT). It's silver, with a black interior that has red trim. Being a foreign car doesn't bother me at all, but I'm still feeling weird that the logo on the grill is not that blue Ford oval. I keep promising pictures, and there will be some soon.