November 30, 2005
November 29, 2005
I know, I promised photos. But I'm at the university, and my photos are on the home computer. Sorry. We made the last 850-mile trip between Carbondale and Baltimore by car. Can't say I'm sad, though I do get sentimental about things like that. In my mind, the car's already gone, though. It's sitting at home, while I rode my bike to school, with a package of mixed-paper recycling strapped to the rear carrier. How "poetic" is it to walk to a local market, get some goodies, pack paper for recycling in a paper bag and then bike it to the recycling center a mile or two up the road on a cold day? Then to have some hot coffee and do some research? Yeah, I can't be unhappy with the way my life goes. It's sweet.
November 28, 2005
Leaving very soon for Southern Illinois. I mean in like a half hour or less. Very tired. Itching to not have to drive this way anymore. No more thinking so hard about being rested enough. Fed just enough (too much would be bad). Do my shoes feel Okay? Is this big cut on my finger gonna affect the way I drive through the Appalachian Mountains? Is the $25 in change I'm carrying gonna be Okay even though there are not any toll roads the way we are going? Are the "strong storms" in Kentucky gonna affect the drive? I miss the whole, "We packed?" "Yes." "The train leaves at 6:25, right?" "Yes." "Okay, it's 6:00, guess we should call a cab." Bickety bam, on the train, done and done and done and seated and reading and relaxing and looking out the window like the curious little dog I used to be. Can't wait.
November 26, 2005
I'm not. Good news, no? I did manage to get pretty fat in a few days' time, but I'm telling myself that some bike-riding next week will help that. I'm telling. Myself. Not that 13-16 hours of driving Monday is going to help. At least it's the last time we have to do that. No more telling myself that I don't mind, thinking that I have to do it for three more years. Or using it to prove my "manhood" -- "Yeah, well, can you drive 850 miles non-stop?" With how hairy I am, you'd think I wouldn't do things like that. For Christmas, we're taking the train. Yes, it's more expensive than flying, and it takes longer than driving. But it's my favorite way to travel. I'm not fond of flying. Land at Logan enough, and you won't be either. I love trains. Always have. I'm actually looking forward to some travel. Gonna treat myself to a new Timbuk2 bag for it, since I'm sick of suitcases and am about to start saving a ton of money not having a car. And I really really really want to go to New York in December (hear that, Bowman? get Jen and Tom to planning!). I'm trying not to get stuck up about the no car thing or the bike thing, though. We'll probably have to get a car a few years anyway, if we get jobs far away or totally away, etc. You never know. I tried not to get all self-righteous when I went veggie and quit smoking. It's easy not to, though, since I often miss each thing I decided to do without. It's not like I ever had to force myself to feel a certain way about meat. I stopped eating it because of a feeling, but I still get crazy around turkey. (Yeah, Thanksgiving is fun now.) I do love to drive. Won't forget that. And I certainly have nothing against people with cars or who eat meat. Etc. You know this. Me be gentle on the beings on wheels and furry ones, too. Word.
November 22, 2005
We went to the automatic car-wash Wednesday to wash the car, put the bra on and then not think about it. We had to take our bikes in for check-ups Thursday anyway. The "touchless" carwash decided to get stuck on our car. The soap ate through some paint by the time I got to the manual carwash to wash it off. And I noticed that some coal that blew out of the powerplant at school did a sand-paper job on the front of the car last week. Fucking hell. Not to mention what a bitch the lady at the gas station was about the whole thing. You know, I'm sorry your expensive piece of shit of a machine fucked my car up. Sorry! The wife and I were talking about how much we wanted to get rid of the car next year anyway, just the day before. But the loss on the sale would equal paying for it for a year. So we though, Okay, we'll just keep an expensive car we don't need or want. But I got pissed Wednesday. Really pissed. So we decided to get rid of the car as soon as we get back from Thanksgiving break, start saving money for our last months in the Dale and just bike around. When I rode my bike Thursday downtown to the shop and then home again in the evening, I had the same big stupid smile on my face that I had the day we bought them, when we thought we were getting rid of the car. (I call it my Bike Smile.) The decision to keep the car has never sat right with me, and I feel guilty for driving to school and good for biking. So that should tell me something. Thursday, I woke up, feeling better about getting rid of a car I'm sick of owning, worrying about and paying for. And, I'll say this, too: sick of driving. Carbondale drivers make driving in Washington D.C. at rushhour on a Friday seem like fun. I'm sorry. Maybe it's not the locals but the kids at school or the people from out of town who come to the "city" and have no idea how to drive around other people. Whichever, driving in Carbondale is scary. I've driven there and in D.C. enough times to know this. Being stuck in traffic is better than almost dying at the hands of someone who never pays attention to the people they walk into at Wal-Mart, let alone the people they almost run over in their big-assed land-yachts. I didn't want to drive to Baltimore on an hour or two of sleep Friday. I was too keyed-up to sleep. So I announced that I wanted to leave forthwith. Damn. Right away. As in, it was 11:00 p.m., and I wanted to drive nearly half-way across the country non-stop right away. And I did. On the way, the damned Focus got hit with tons and tons of rocks from asshole truckers who can't even do what they do for a living (drive) properly. Mind you, I love truckers. I'm talking about like one in a hundred that drive like assholes and will probably kill someone one day. I drank enough coffee (some good, like from 24-hour Starbucks, some terrible) to kill several horses, I think, provided said horses are not caffeinated to the extent that I am. I only almost fell asleep once, and that's not my fault. It's Ohio's fault. Thank you. We saw three wrecks. The first was some little white boy in a Neon with a damned wing on it. I said outloud, as he passed us on the right in Columbus rush-hour traffic, "Damn, dude, it's only a Neon," as in, "you're going to blow up your small car driving like that and I should know since I'm driving one." A minute later, he was in the far left lane, having totalled the damned thing on the back of a very nice pickup truck. He was Okay, though. Standing, not bleeding. Another was I don't remember where. There was a Land Rover with a wheel missing, the windows smashed and the other wheels buckled in. There was no one there, save for a state trooper directing everyone around it. The people were gone. Don't know if they were hurt, dead or Okay. But their luggage was in the trunk still, and it made me feel sick. After everything that happened to the car and the two accidents, I decided to accept three wrecks as a sign/indication that we should indeed get rid of our car as fast as we can. The third accident we saw was when we were only an hour from Baltimore, and we were stuck there for well over an hour. The chopper came three times. When we finally passed, we saw too mangled wrecks of what used to be cars (one with the roof cut off) and someone's body under a white sheet, with their feet sticking out. We drove the rest of the way in almost total silence, and I won't be sad if I never drive a car again.
November 21, 2005
Yeah, so I'm tired of convincing myself that I don't wish I were back in Baltimore, especially since I'm here now. It's nice to feel welcome and that people are happy that one might be back next year. Very nice. So I'll take some photos. And post them here. And all will love them. And etc. It's a good program! I don't feel welcome in Carbondale. I said it. I'm sick of people staring at me because it's fall and I don't have any camouflage on and that my wife is not some over-fed white lady with big hair. Yes, I wear sweaters and sandals. Yes, I shave like once a week or less. Yes, I'm "not from around here." Yes, I read for fun. Yes, I think you're funny-looking, too. There, I'm staring back via the net.
November 17, 2005
My "mentor" in philosophy once told me that philosophy is "the science of everything." I'm certainly not into philosophy of science, but I've always liked science, regardless of not really having a talent for it (patience, focus, imagination, etc.). I was in the Biology Club in high school; I was even the dude holding the skeleton in the yearbook photo one year. I helped a friend of mine dissect something after school (I held the skull open) even though I wasn't taking science during my last year of high school. What I mean is, I think science is really interesting, fun, etc. My old metaphysics professor writes a lot about the nature of science in his magnum opus on metaphysics, a discipline which he counts as the science of being qua being. I took a year long course with him and argued about some things (he hates Pragmatism, and I can't seem to stop being a Pragmatist) and really admired the sheer rigor of his thinking. I've never known anyone to be more on top of practical concerns (paperwork, meetings, grading) than this gent, and he was in his mid-70s! I don't know why I mention this, but this is just disturbing: Kansas is changing their definition of science to leave room for the supernatural. Now, I'm not against accepting the unseen. Hamlet's words to Horatio are true, I think. Any good Pragmatist and any good Jamesian (which I suppose is a fair label for me, in a way) is aware of the strange mix of science and religion/belief in the supernatural that we inherit as Pragmatists and the openness which characterizes Pragmatism and calls us all to accept all parts of human experience. Even -- and especially, I think -- the parts we can't quantify. What I mean is that I am not against exploring what goes beyond the physical in human inquiry. But science is the not the universal study of the universe. Sciences are particular. Philosophy is universal. There's really no such thing as "science" anyway, just sciences. They all have their own methods and subject matter, as Blanchette points out. So the solution is clear. Less science for the youngins, and more philosophy. Come on, learning about cell structure is over the head of a fourth grader anyway, else the youngins would not learn that same stuff again in middle and high school. Maybe the whole idea of intelligent design or humankind's place in the universe is over the little dudes' and dudets' heads, too. But come, on. It's good exercise! There, Kansas. Your solution. Someone should start paying me for my services now. Kansas State School Board, call me. We'll talk. You can pay my student loans and buy me a laptop, and I'll teach ten teachers Plato, Aristotle, James, Nietzsche and Sartre (good start for the youngins). I have never taught before, and I probably don't know what the hell I'm talking about. But I just kick enough ass that you should pay me for this anyway. Okay? Okay. I'll check the mail for your check when I get back from Maryland, for which I am leaving first thing in the morning.
It went from spring-like storms (and my complaining about it) to very cold weather which requires even the likes of me to wear shoes and socks, over-night. Hell, our heat come on last night, and this completely charmless shoebox (eggwhite, of course) is pretty damned airtight. I even went shoe shopping for a brief bit, with no fruits. Turns out that I have extremely wide feet and skinny ankles. Damn it. Nothing like Tevas for that custom fit. I wonder if I can pull off that freaky Bohemian sandals with fleece socks thing...then again, Teva makes shoes now. And some are non-leather. I think Teva even makes running sandals now, too. Hmm.
November 16, 2005
So Carbondale is still here. I saw on the news yesterday that part of downtown got flooded a little. Then we had another round of storms. But the tornadoes missed us. Missed Jackson county. Someone un-named whom I know said it's because Jackson was the one blue county in this part of the state -- which would of course confirm my theological suspicion that God's not quite on Bush's side, regardless of who thinks whom is an avenger for Goodness and all that is Right. But yeah, I don't know anything about that.
November 15, 2005
One tires of the constant "severe weather" we get in this part of the country. And it's not like it's even as bad as what the folks a little further North and West get. A "Tornado Watch" until 5:00 a.m. in November is a bit much. Come on. And all of the major weather networks are calling for the end of the world tomorrow. So, like, if you don't hear from me for a while, Carbondale's gone. If you do, then it's not. See, very easy. Simple. Teach Mother Nature that. November is for cold. Cold rain, maybe snow. Not thunderstorms and tornadoes. Geez. Not weather such that Johnny is still in Tevas and that Johnny wore shorts today to the market. And you know, I've never been a fan of warm weather, but it's not like I'm always hot and that I'm crazy for wearing shorts and sandals. I saw one of those Moms who thinks she's hot at the market today wearing flip-flops, too. And the Mrs. wore them today, and everyone knows she's the sane one. Etc. Oh, Mom who thinks she's hot? Come on, you know what I mean. Leathery skin from too much tanning, half the make-up aisle on her forehead, dangerously low-cut shirt to take her daughter to the market and that "I want me a bagboy" smirk. Come on, you know. You know you know. Hot Moms are Okay; don't misunderstand. If you have a hot Mom, please don't send me hatemail, nor if you are offended by the term "Hot Mom." My Mom's hot, but not in the leathery way. And my Dad, well he's one sweet piece of Southern tail!
November 13, 2005
Yeah, so we're out of here. I like Southern Illinois. I like SIU. I can stand Carbondale on good days. Time to leave before it gets so that I hate them all. For crap sakes, I was wearing shorts and Tevas yesterday. It's November. Hello, Southern Illinois, it's November. I haven't resorted to shoes and socks yet. I'm in for it when we leave to visit Maryland in a few days. I haven't Okayed anything with my department of my disseration director. But I don't think they'll mind that I don't expect them to pay me for the next two years. And I don't think many people will notice anyway. I suspect that my wife is unhappy in her department anyway. There are a few unpleasant people there. Why the hell would you send someone an email with social advice, when you're a veritable shut-in and nasty person who is just...creepy? I can understand the nosey questions she gets about her degree progress and her pre-SIU background. But some people just cross lines that even freaky graduate students don't usually traverse. A crazy white lady tried to tell her how to be black! That just takes the cake. (My wife is black, in case you're new here.) At least I'm lucky enough to not have that bullshit in my department. Half of the folks there don't even know me, since I don't go to parties enough and since my fellowship relieved me of teaching duties since I've been here. I don't have any beef with the philosophy department at all. In fact, I maintain that the philosophy department has to be the one full of the most "normal" people of any graduate student body of philosophers in the nation -- despite one or two people I'll celebrate never having to see again. I really like my department. It's just time to go. In thinking of being here for five years when I got to SIU and Carbondale, I think I thought of that as semi-permanent. I mean, I hadn't been in one place for that long since I started this academic circus game of jumping through stupid hoops and trying to learn something along the way. The idea of leaving, working on my dissertation full-time next year and applying for jobs next year (rather than in two years) and of even looking for a job outside of academia is a strange thought and an unnerving feeling. It seems risky, unwise and likely to end with me working at a bookstore again but with "Dr. Johnny" on my nametag and a serious chip on my shoulder. But this was inevitable. I'm just pushing it up a year and getting through with my very long education a year early and getting on with the rest of my life. I think some people think of graduate school as the start of a academic career. They are very concerned with publishing, presenting, teaching and what they can put on their precious C.V.s. Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that approach. The free time and flexibility that comes with being a graduate student can't be beat! But I just want to get it over with now. I'm stagnating. Whenever I get a "good idea," I have to do something else, and it has to wait. Such is my dissertation topic. I've been thinking about it since the month I got here, but I haven't been able to do much with it. And having a fellowship has made me lazy and bored. I know myself and how I sometimes need what my father would call "a swift kick in the ass." With teaching for the next two years (assuming I even get the funding) and writing, I know what's going to happen. I'll take longer. I'll get depressed. I'll be too scared and too busy to go to the conferences I need to go to. I'll start to hate SIU, Carbondale, philosophy and academia altogether. So this is me kicking myself in the ass -- swiftly. I just hope my foot doesn't get stuck and that I don't wind up living in my parent's garage.
November 10, 2005
If you know me, then you know I'm not wild about the idea of teaching next year, when my fellowship runs out in mid-August -- assuming that I even get departmental funding, which is likely but not certain. I've developed a stuck-up and bratty life-style with this fellowship. Not getting paid in the summer and getting paid less the other months will make it necessary to either move to a cheaper apartment, get rid of the car, stop my gourmet coffee affection (never!), take out student loans, or several of the above. No matter what, I want to get rid of half the junk and bullshit I've been dragging around the country with me over the last few years and to move to a smaller apartment. I'm sick of lining my landlord's pockets paying for an apartment I don't need. And I am sick of car ownership, regardless of the recent decision to keep the Focus we made a few weeks ago. I biked to school today, and I feel good about it. When we bought the bikes, we boughter "nice" ones, because we had an eye to not owning a car and to using them for transportation. And you know, I don't at all feel guilty about how much those bikes cost. Plus, I don't know how I'm going to write my dissertation with teaching four sections of logic, intro or ethics. Let's put aside the absolute horror I feel with a sickness in my stomach when I picture myself teaching next year. If you know me, you know how good of a public speaker I am. Or am not, as the case certainly is. So apparently my wife wants to leave Carbondale and didn't think I would want to. She was wrong. We've been talking about it, and it looks likely that we're moving this summer. At the very least, to another apartment. More likely, out of Carbondale. Perhaps to Baltimore or Boston. We both miss the East Coast and the city. And Dunkin' Doughnuts. We will apply for fellowship after fellowship. And the worst case scenario is that we will have to take out student loans and live in Baltimore for a year and finish our doctorates. I did the math, and the amount I'd have to take out to stay here for two years and make the amount of money I make now (which is embarrassingly little) is more than enough to live in Baltimore city for one year of full-time dissertation writing. Finishing with school is a weird thought. I suppose I've ignored the fact that it's around the corner anyway, even if we were to say here. I've been in "higher education" since 1997, a few weeks before I met my wife. I've had my eye on the prize for so long, that the idea that I might finish my doctorate and be Dr. Kickass in a year and half is strange. Freeing, but scary, too. It's definitely high time that I quit screwing around and thinking about the future ("Can I put that on my C.V.?") and making a career out of being a student. If leaving here, busting my ass over my dissertation and job-hunting for a year of grad-student no money, that's fine. This cushy fellowship has made it too easy to waste time with things which are not work and that in fact get the way of work. And these days, I'm not so sure about how much I want to be an academic or teach. The more I get into Pragmatism, the less I want to be a "philosopher" in the academic/professional sense of the word. We have some professional connections in Baltimore and Boston, and I think that having a PhD won't exactly hurt me on the job market. And damn, I miss my friends and my brothers. A lot lately.
November 09, 2005
My cycling exemplar, philosophical cohort and very very good friend Brian has a blog. But he hadn't been posting to it. Now it he is! And you should read it. Because he is awesome, and you know I reserve that word for things like coffee and pencils. So you know it's true. I figure that, if people read Brian's blog, Brian will continue to post. And he's into collages now, so we're in for treats as his readers. He made me one for my birthday called "Current Still-Life With Babbling Buddha." I won't post a photo of it, since that would be best on Brian's blog. See, you always learn something cool here. Hug me, dudes. Now we have to work on getting Chris to post more of his awesome photos on his blog...
November 07, 2005
So I have that George Michael song "Freedom 90" in my head, and I have for two or three weeks. Hell, I arranged it for the mandolin and learned the bassline and downloaded the video. Come, you know you like that song, regardless of whether or not you are a reasonable George Michael fan like I am. (Reasonable fan: like the music and think he's a cool being, but I have no posters of the Faith era look, regardless of the fact that I totally wore a cross earring like that in the early 90s because I've always thought he was an awesome guy.) Our philosophy conference was this weekend, and it was a big success. That seems like it's par for the course these days. Carbondalies throw a kick-ass conference. And myriad thanks go to the dudes and dudets who made it happen. Anyway, there was a paper Saturday morning (and I confess to being groggy, foggy and froggy that day) wherein the presenter argued for a notion of moral responsibility without the necessity for free will. There's all this "science" and all these "statistics" that point away from free will. She said that Buddhists don't require it. Etc. Maybe I'm too much of a Sartrean, Jamesian, or maybe my Catholic upbringing in a Catholic city is something I can't get over. But the whole idea that anyone would believe that we don't have free will was completely abhorrent to me. When I see closed-minded people, fundamentalists, evangelicals and moral dinosaurs (yeah, I said it) get all upset and indignant at the idea of gay marriage, inter-racial couples and religious pluralism, I always look down my nose at them. "I'm more enlightened than that," I tell myself. "I would never have a gut reaction to something that is entirely alien to me and say that it's wrong right away and that I am right and that the perpetrator is evil. Not me." But I did it. I had a gut reaction. I got really upset inside. Turns out that I didn't have the intellectual bravery that I thought comes with being a philosopher. For at least a few minutes (or hours) Saturday, I was as bad as the hags that protest gay rights and who protested racial equality decades ago. I was talking to a colleague after a guest lecture Thursday about not being able to turn off being of a philosophical mind-bent. I think it can be a sickness at times, and the inability to turn off the hyper-critical world-view leads to nothing but unhappiness or discomfort very very often. I can't help but approach most things critically, whether it's finding ten things wrong with a particular pencil or feeling nauseous when I see obese mothers buying their already obese 8 year olds $6 coffee ice-creams from Gloria Jeans. These are not sources of pleasure at all. But I turned it off Saturday and thought just like a moronic, unreflective ape of a person who gets upset because someone disagrees with him and is ready to piss his pants. I was told not to feel badly, that "everyone" does that. But that's the worst excuse I have ever heard for doing anything. I was going to blog about free will, and I might work on an essay on it just to make myself feel better. But not here, and not now.
November 04, 2005
For Photo Friday: Warmth. I know, it seems like there's nothing warm about this photo. But there is! It's from last holiday season when I was visiting my parents in Maryland. This is the back roof from where the second floor does not extend as far as the second on their house. They live on a hill in Hampden, which is already on a hill, and you can see all the way to the Key Bridge and Harbor from there. If you look West, the direction the photo is facing, you can see the sunset. One of my brothers and I used to go out there when we were teenagers and when my parents weren't home to play bass and guitar for the whole neighborhood. I distinctly remember cranking out a decent version of Bush's "Everything Zen" one time and getting compliments from the drumming low-life who mooched off his girlfriend and "lived" up the street. I used to go out there to smoke and to think when I was 15-19. The first time I inhaled the cigarette properly, i.e., made myself sick from the sudden rush of nicotine, was on that roof. I used to write bad teenage poetry there by the fading l ight of the sunset, since it was too high for street lights to reach. Whenever I am in Baltimore for a visit, I like to look out that window at dusk and remember. Because while I thought I was going through the worst time of my life back then, I can see now that I was lucky and that everything is probably downhill from there. I just wish I appreciated it more when I was sixteen.
November 03, 2005
The winds have kicked up enough today that I think any leaves which are not the most hardy will find their way to the ground and off of the trees where they have been shining against the bluest sky all week. There are some oak leaves that I'm sure will make it, but oaks usually just turn brown before they lose their leaves. There's a small oak tree behind my apartment that actually kept most of its leaves (in a tan, leathery form) all winter two years ago. Seriously. I have pictures of them with snow on them, but I don't really feel like digging them up. Come on, you trust me! At any rate, I'm sure my landlords are happy about the wind. The parking lot which was full of dead leaves and the dust of dead leaves being driven over repeatedly by autos and my bike is now bare. The winds have swept it completely clean and pushed all the mess into the woods behind the place. That's good, since the dudes would just wake me up with a leaf-blower and pick up the leaves with a shovel, put them in a pickup truck and probably throw them away in the trash. I prefer it this way, and not just because I can sleep until 9:00 a.m. All you Southern Illinoisians and Salukis, don't forget the Building Bridges Philosophy Conference that kicks off tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 p.m., with a keynote talk by a Boston University gent tomorrow evening. I'm sure there will be free coffee, and comtemplation is always free, not to mention good for the soul.
November 01, 2005
I always get sad when October's over. I think I spend half the month waiting for fall to "really" start (cooler temperatures and leafy color) and then miss my favorite month. But November is a nice substitute for October, since it includes a holiday and a trip home to Maryland. So I can't complain too much. And for those of you in Southern Illinois enjoying the nice day today, stop to think about your existence and it's meaning and your place in the universe for a second. See? Fun? Good. Come on out to the Philosophy Department's conference this weekend, Building Bridges. You'll be glad you did and sorry if you don't, and come on who really wants to be sorry?