Thursday, December 29, 2005

How to order wine

As many of our friends know, Doug and I really enjoy a good bottle of wine. For those of you who occasionally like to order wine when dining out, Waiter Rant has put together a good guide on how to order wine in a restaurant. If you have time, read the comments as well. A few of the folks are right on track, especially about the Spanish wines. Rioja is one of our favorite varietals. As for wine from Argentina, our Women of Wine and the Men Who Adore Them group had an Argentinean tasting in October and we did like them. Still, my money is on super Tuscans. I will take that most any day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Barbecue wars

Today we are on a day trip to Shiner. On our way we stopped in Lockhart for lunch. Lockhart is known for it's barbecue and more importantly, its family feud between barbecue joints own competing family members. Today we sampled the barbecue at Kreuz Market. It was okay, but to be honest, we prefer Cooper's in Llano. We may need to do a road trip up there next week.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Who's the biggest snooper?

The other day I wrote about how Doug was snooping and found his Christmas present. I also talked about how I have been known to occasionally try to catch a peak at my presents. For the last few days we've been arguing on who is the biggest snoop in the house. On Christmas Eve we figured it out.

It's the dogs. Dante & Allegra are the biggest snoops.

It seems as though lately the dogs have been into presents. They haven't always been, and for several years they ignored presents under the Christmas tree. About a year ago that started to change. Somehow they figured out that there were presents suitable for dogs, and even if they weren't dog gifts, they were fun when you tore open the paper. Of course, you had to hide anything you opened because mommy and daddy would be mad. Their fascination with presents extends beyond Christmas; at any gift giving occasion the dogs insist on being right there to help you open your present. It has become quite annoying. As such, we didn't place any presents under the tree for fear of the dogs destroying them.

Christmas Eve we spent most of the day cleaning the house to have guest over for Christmas dinner (another post to come). I decided it was time to put presents under the tree to have the finishing touch. That night we were going to a couple of Christmas parties so we decided to lock the dogs outside. After all, it was a nice night and they should be okay. We left the house that evening with the knowledge that everything was secure.

We were wrong. Our first hint that something was amiss was when we pulled into our driveway after 1 a.m. As we headed inside, we could hear Dante scratching at the door, excited that we were home. "Those bastards got inside," Doug said as he reached to unlock the door. Sure enough, they did.

As Doug went to find out how they were able to get in, I saw the scraps of Christmas wrapping shredded on the carpet and begun to assess the damage. The stock that Doug's mom sent me was not under the tree where we left it, but in the dining room. There were pieces of wrapping paper around it. As I took the stocking back to the tree, I looked at the presents. "Make sure your gift from me is still there," Doug yelled from the kitchen, still trying to figure how the escape artists did there trick. Yes, that present was there, as were most of the rest of them. The only ones that were missing were the four presents for the dogs -- special treats about the size of candy bars. The dogs went straight for those, eating them whole, and leaving everything else intact.

We're still not exactly sure how the dogs did it, but they ended up popping out the metal door to their doggy door. This metal door slides down to close the door. Doug hadn't been able to get the door shut all the way, but the crack at the bottom was too small for a cat, much less a couple of labs. The dogs must have put there paws under the door and pulled until it popped off its hinges. This from dogs who, like this morning, were let outside through their doggy door, which was left open, but forgot and wouldn't stop scratching at the bedroom door until we let them in.

Of course the net result of this is that dogs ruined their own Christmas. Because they ate their presents on Christmas Eve, they had nothing to open Christmas morning. They wanted to help us and sample what we received, but we weren't in an accommodating mood.

At least Doug and I don't have to argue any more. We now know who the biggest snoops are in the house when it comes to presents.

Friday, December 23, 2005

No snooping at Christmas time!

We have a tradition each year of purchasing a few ornaments for the Christmas tree that are symbolic for the year. For example, the year Doug ran his first marathon we purchased an ornament with 26.2 on it (that’s the distance of a marathon). This year we hung an ornament we purchased on our trip to Hawaii with Santa doing the hula.

Last January we went to Disney World, and while there we purchased several Christmas ornaments. When we arrived home we put the ornaments in a safe place where the dogs wouldn’t get them. Unfortunately, the place was a bit too safe as we couldn’t remember where we put them. For the last week I have spent some time each day searching for the box that the ornaments were in. I knew they had to be around here, but I just couldn’t find them.

Yesterday I was looking yet again in our bedroom. Doug kept swearing they were in there, but that’s where I had the Hawaii ornaments. I opened one of his dresser drawers and noticed a stack of gift cards. “Hey Doug, look at what I found.” He has a really bad habit of putting gift cards given to him in safe places and forgetting about them. One of the cards in the stack was a gift certificate I gave him when we first started dating in 1998.

Doug comes in and looks, and as I am putting the gift cards back, he decides to help me look for the Disney ornaments. He turns to the top of armoire, looks behind a stack of books and grabs a bag. “Hey, here’s a Best Buy bag, do you think they could be…”

Before he finishes the sentence, my head rotates 180 on my body, like something from the Exorcist. “Put that down!” I command, sounding like I am accusing of stealing the gold from Fort Knox. He just stares at me a minute and then sets the bag down. “You know better than to poke around at Christmas time!” I yell. With this, he starts laughing. I walk towards him saying, “you shouldn’t be such a snoop.” As the words come out of my mouth, he starts laughing harder, grabbing his belly and falling to the bed. The dogs think he’s having a seizure and start barking and licking him. As he wipes the tears of laughter from his eyes, he manages to say, “That’s the pot calling the kettle black – you have no room to talk.”

Okay, he has me there. I have quite a reputation for being a snoop, especially when it comes to presents. I like to say it was my journalism training combined with being a woman, but I was snooping long before my first journalism class. When I was young, I would take the wrapped presents from under the tree, slit open the tape on the side of the present, and see what was in the box. I knew that mom kept the Santa presents hide in her closet. I know peaking was horrible, but I was a kid.

Now that I’m older, I’m still a snoop, but not to the extent of purposely trying to find presents or unwrapping them. Still, Doug takes precautions. One year, when we were still living in Dallas, he decided to hide my present in the clothes dryer. I’m not really sure why, but I guess he figured I’d wouldn’t look in there. One morning I got up and reached in the dryer to grab a towel before heading to the shower. Luckily, I didn’t have my contacts in and was blind as a bat. Doug, however, wasn’t and saw this happen. He didn’t say a word, he didn’t even breathe, until I got into the shower. I missed the present by a half an inch and he decided he wasn’t going to let that happen again, so he grabbed the present out of the dryer and hid it someplace else while I was in the shower.

Of course he knows I have this insatiable curiosity and tries to bate me with it. “You know, your present is just sitting unwrapped on the front seat of the green car,” he tells me last night. He wants to see if I’ll go look. One year, to throw me off, he took huge box, filled it with computer manuals, just so I wouldn’t guess that inside was a pair of earrings. He loves trying to get me and makes a game of it. Unfortunately, when it comes to presents he doesn’t care. If his present was in bag in the front of the red car, he would take the car to run errands and never look in the bag. He makes me so mad that he doesn’t care, which he thinks is hilarious.

So of course, when he grabbed the bag, which had his present in it, I knew he wasn’t purposely peaking at his present. I also realized that the top of the armoire was a stupid place to hide it, even though he never looks up there and it was just temporary spot until he left the house and I could wrap the present.

Now he knows what one of his presents is, which he loves because he can tease me about it, only not too much, he he’s not quite sure if I will return it like I said I would, disappointing him because he wants that present. He also continues to taunt me about the present he got me. It’s just not fair. Luckily, we finally found the Disney ornaments this afternoon and they are on the tree. Too bad we could find them before Doug decided to snoop.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

International Santa, Austin edition

This year as I was setting up my International Santa display, I started wondering what the Austin version would look like. After all, the Australian Santa is wearing swim trunks as it is summer down under, and the Irish Santa wears green instead of red. What would an Austin Santa look like? This is what I came up with:
  • He would be wearing sandals, preferably Birkenstock.
  • Instead of a red wool coat, Austin Santa would wear a red guayabera with white embroidery.
  • Austin Santa's beard would be silver, in the aging hippie style, instead of white, and his hair would be long as well.
  • He'd wear a funky pair of wire-rimmed shades and some sort of bead necklace. He would also be sporting a yellow LiveStrong bracelet.
  • For a hat, he'd wear a straw, raffia western-style hat, one that was Austin-cool, NOT cowboy.
  • He'd have his wireless laptop with him, so he could connect most anywhere in this wireless mecca.
  • In his hand, he'd be carrying either a margarita or a Shiner Bock.
  • He'd have a tattoo on his forearms.
  • Instead of carrying a bag full of toys, Santa Austin would have a guitar strapped across his back. After all, he never knows when he could get into a jam session in the Live Music Capital.
  • Austin Santa would have traded in his reindeer for a more eco-friendly hybrid sleigh.
  • At the various houses, he would expect soy milk (not cow's milk) and cookies from the bakery at Whole Foods.

So where would you find Austin Santa? This time of year he'd be hanging at the Trail of Lights and catching "Santaland Diaries" at the Zach. He'd probably be hanging out on Sixth Street, playing the guitar, hoping to catch a few coins. Maybe he'd even chat it up with Leslie a bit. Most of all, Austin Santa would be doing his part to Keep Austin Weird.

Santa, My Santa

My obsession with Santa Claus continued this week when I purchased more International Santas. My collection began in 2001 when Doug saw them at Dillards and thought they would be a great gift for me. My collection has since grown to 56.

These 5-inch figurines represent various countries and each come with a different story about the Christmas tradition in that country. Santas come from such countries as South Korea (Santa Grandfather) to Italy (Babbo Natale) to Finland (Joulupukki ). There is a Santa from Australia who is wearing swimming trunks as it is summer down under, and there is an Eskimo Santa with a husky by his side. Each December as I unwrap them and put them out, I think about the various ways Christmas is celebrated around the world.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Leading survey

I just received a telephone call that was a 1 minute Texas political survey. The first thing I noticed is that it was all automated -- I wasn't talking to a real person on the other end and could just answer yes/no. I wasn't too fond of that. Especially since I would have given an earful to the person regarding the questions.

This survey was full of leading questions -- you know the ones, sort of like "do you still beat your wife?" Obviously this survey had an agenda and I decided to ride it out. In my Intro to PR class I spend a day covering surveys, and while not in too much detail, I would think that my students would know not to ask questions like this. By the time they graduate the PR majors take a Research Methods class and in there they darn well learn not to ask those questions. Maybe this pollster should go back to school.

So what were the questions? Things like "Do you think Ronnie Earle is once again playing politics with the Tom DeLay indictment?", "Do you think the government should be allowed to take about your house to build a building?" and "Do you think the government should allow school vouchers so that parents can send their children to the best school possible?" How do you answer these questions -- no, I don't want to send children to the best possible schools.

The more the survey went on, the more frustrated I got. I realized whoever was doing this poll was going to use it for their own agenda and own spin. Still, I was curious and didn't want to hang up, so instead I became a bit obstinate. School vouchers? No. Would I vote for Gov. Perry? No. Am I a Republican? No. Am I a Democrat? No. Is Ronnie Earle playing politics? No. Is my property tax too high? No.

After a minute all the questions are asked and the automated voice thanked me for my participation and informed me that the survey was sponsored by the Texas Republican Party. Yeah, I definitely think they need to go back to school.

Famous blogger :-)

Austinist cited my Napoleon Dynamite post as one of the posts of the week for last week. I appreciate all the visitors who are coming to the blog to read the post. Feel free to poke around. I try to post several times a week about things I see around Austin and things that we are doing.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

An apple for the teacher

This semester went pretty well, although there were some bumpy spots. But I was learning and everything ended up fairly smooth. I was actually surprised, but several students said they really enjoyed my class. I got hugs, comments like 'you're my favorite teacher' and others, like:

This class was very helpful and if I wasn't so far along in my academic career I
would pursue a PR degree.

I really enjoyed having you as my teacher.

I just wanted to say thank you for an awesome semester!! I feel like I learned so much in your class. When I first came to college, I thought I wanted to major in broadcast journalism and didn't declare a major until last year when I became a Public Relations major, but I was still a little unsure of what I wanted to do. But I loved your class so much and now I know for sure that I want to major in Public Relations.

I even got a gift from a student that I helped by introducing her to some potential employers.

All of these comments were unsolicited. I truly expected that my first semester would be mediocre at the best. These comments made me feel good, and more importantly, made me feel like I was reaching the students and giving them something that would be helpful in their careers. After all, I tried to approach it from what I would want them to know if I were hiring them to work on my PR team.

But I guess some profs might not get it. The other day I was at school and passed a certain prof in the hall. I mentioned that I was grading my finals and then my first semester of teaching would be finished. The prof asked how it was and I responded positively, and mentioned how several of my students said they really liked the class and how I was their favorite teacher. The prof's response, "They are just trying to butter you up for a better grade."

I love the warm, caring support of senior faculty to new teachers. Screw it. I wonder when the last time this prof got a thank you note from one of their students.

At least my students and I know the truth. :-)

The wait is over

The wait is over, I finally received my grades. The prof never did email them, though. I just had to wait until the university posted them. As such, I still don't know what I received on my paper. But I guess the paper doesn't matter as much as the final grade.

One more class, and my thesis, and grad school is over.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Topper, aka Napoleon Dynamite

This Dilbert cartoon from Monday reminds me of a guy in our department. I call him Napoleon Dynamite.

Napoleon Dynamite is a second-year masters student/graduate assistant in our department. Just like the movie, Napoleon is tall, lanky and annoying as hell. He creates these fantastic stories and tends to piss people off; the guy has few friends. The only difference between our Napoleon and the movie is that ours doesn't have a 'fro and his voice is more whiney.

Our first inkling that this guy was Napoleon was a party last fall that a prof threw. Out of 8 GAs, 7 of us were new and we were all just getting to know each other. K had been a GA the previous semester and just a sweet as could be. We started talking and I found out she was training for the Chicago Marathon. I was envious, as my leg was in a brace from a car wreck. Come to find out that the previous year we had both trained for the same local marathon under the same program; she in the town where she was an undergrad, me locally. She actually ran the marathon while I got a stomach virus the night before. I was very depressed about doing all my training only to be sidelined. This was going to be my year until the car wreck two weeks before the program started.

Needless to say I was interested in her training for Chicago and was discussing what we had heard of the route. We were talking paces and finish times when Napoleon jumped. "You know when I was in the Army I ran a marathon in full gear up a mountain. I finished in 3 hours." K and I just looked at each other. The fastest marathon time ever is just over 2 hours -- you have to be damn fast to do a 3 hour marathon -- that's a 7 minute pace for 26.2 miles. Impossible with full gear and up a mountain. It took the fastest guy I know 6 hours to complete Pike's Peak -- the lack of oxygen at higher levels can just drain you.

Yeah, Napoleon, whatever. And you hunted a pack of wolverines last summer in Alaska.

As the school year progressed, we found this guy full of wild stories. No matter what you've done, he's done it too, only better. One day I told K, "You know, if I said I was pregnant, he would say he had given birth to triplets last year." We started associating the song from Annie Get Your Gun with him.

"Anything you can do, I can do better. Anything you can do, I can do too."

So the school year went on. Napoleon had a tendency to latch on to sweet young girls who would be too nice to him to tell him to get the F*&% away. When one girl broke up with her Army Ranger boyfriend, Napoleon was right there, borderline stalking and just way creepy. There were actually some girls who made a complaint against him when he got in their face about something after a class. I wasn't in that class and the details are fuzzy, but I know the girls and Napoleon had to go discuss it with university officials.

Then there was the incident about getting out of the reserves and not going to Iraq. Evidently he got called up to go to Iraq but was too sick with some phantom disease to go. This drama went on for a couple of months and he had a lawyer to try to get out of it. The Army kept denying his claims. It was high drama. Not that you ever want someone to go to war, but most of us weren't going to be sad if he was sent, especially since several of us grew up in military families. At the last minute the Army decided he didn't have to go. It was like, "oh, yeah, I don't have to go to Iraq." Two months of high drama and all he could talk about, and then it was just a passing thought. Go figure.

We never imagined that Napoleon would be back this year. One, we didn't think he had the stick-to-it-ness needed for the job. After all, he told us he's had more than 30 different jobs, including his time in the Army. Second, we couldn't imagine the department allowing him to continue as a GA, and if no GA, we knew he wouldn't be returning to grad school. Third, as a GA you have to keep 9 hours per semester, unless you get special permission to take less. Last spring Napoleon dropped one of his classes mid-semester.

We were wrong. The first day of the semester I walked into the office I share with five other people, including Napoleon, and there he was, holding court with one of the newbies. I was there 15 minutes before I decided to interrupt and introduce myself to the newbie as I knew Napoleon wouldn't do it. Napoleon went right on with his pontification of something or another about what companies look for when doing this and that, yada, yada, yada. Anyone who has worked in the corporate world for six months could tell he was full of BS.

I finally had enough of his misplaced theories and whiney voice, so I left the office to grab some lunch. On the way, I called K, who has since graduated and is in another state. I left a voicemail, "You'll never believe it, but Napoleon is back -- they let him stay as a GA. Go figure. I hadn't seen or heard from him all summer (thank god), but within 10 minutes of being in the office with him, I was ready to punch him." Sometimes Napoleon just brings out those feeling in you.

Of course, little has changed with Napoleon. He is getting his assignments/professors switched for the spring semester, and he emailed everyone the changes before certain individuals were told themselves. And somehow over Thanksgiving, our office was left unlocked and he pretty much blamed everyone else.

I'm still not sure how Napoleon gets to stay in the department. Maybe it's because we need more GAs than we have applicants and Napoleon is better than nothing. Maybe it's because the university just won't fire anyone.

Whatever the reason, I don't have to hang a poster of Napoleon Dynamite in my office when I actually share an office with him. I think, however, I will hang this Dilbert comic in the office after the holiday break.

The waiting game

I check my email. It's not there. I go do something else, come back and check my email, it's not there. We run errands, I come back and check my email, it's not there. It's 5:15, grades were due to our department office at 5. I check my email and it's still not there. I review the email memo about turing in class grades; if we (meaning us teachers) don't have our grades in to the department by Wednesday at 5, then we have to personally take them to the registar's office by 9 a.m. Thursday. I wake up this morning and check again, it's still not there. I check several times this morning. It's 10 a.m. and I still haven't received it.

Of course, I'm talking about my grade for my Theories class. At one point, I had an A in the class, but when we got our focus group project back, I started worrying that my A wasn't a sure thing. We got a B on the project, which was 25% of the grade. Although the prof had the projects for almost two weeks, and there were only two groups to grade (and the papers were only about 10 pages long), she admitted that she didn't spend a lot of time grading the projects and probably should have spent more time on the front end explaining how to conduct focus groups. However, she didn't take either fact into account when grading grading the projects, so we got a B.

Now we are down to the final paper, which is another 25% of the grade. She has 10 papers, 15-20 pages in length, turned in Monday night. She thought she might have the grades Tuesday night, but Wednesday was more likely. She mentioned that grades were due 9 a.m. Thursday and she had until then to finish. This was news to me, as I thought they were due Wednesday, until I went back to read the memo. Either way, she said she would email us our final grade.

It seems like my grade in the class may come down to what I make on the paper. If I do well, I keep my 4.0. Unfortunately, I feel like the grading is fairly subjective, and it depends more on if you give her what she wants. Too bad that none of us knew what that was.

So I check my email and wait, and then check email again. Maybe if I check one more time, the email will arrive.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Come Monday, it's going to be alright

This morning I get off the bus that brings me from the stadium parking lot on to campus. I am listening to my iPod Shuffle and feeling fine. My final paper is done, minus some minor tweaking. I am heading up to my office so that a few of my students can review previous tests in preparation for their finals. The sun is shining and a lot of the pressure is off.

I think very few people realize how difficult this semester has been for me. It's been a lot of work, and thankfully, a lot of reward. I've questioned both my present and future and have second guessed a lot of my decisions. And worries have been hanging over my head so much so that I've been focusing on what's not happening versus what is happening. It hasn't been a pretty sight.

Still, the end of the semester is in sight. I turn in my final paper tonight, my students take their finals today and tomorrow and I turn in their grades tomorrow night. I can finally stop for a moment. Just then a new song plays, Jimmy Buffett's "Come Monday." I dig this song. "Come Monday, it's going to be alright..." Looking around, I take a deep breath, smile, and know it's true.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I am a Pod person

For a couple of months I have been giving my friend V a ride to/from school on Mondays. She's living in Round Rock now, near our house and it has been absolutely no bother. In fact, I enjoy the company on the long commute. V has been wanting to chip in for gas, but I haven't let her -- I mean I'm going down anyway and it would just be bad karma. I told her after we finish our Theories class, she could take me out of drinks. I thought we had a deal.

Evidently we didn't, as this week she gave me an iPod Shuffle. That was way more than she should have done, but it is cool. It would have not been anything I would have bought for myself, but already I'm getting enjoyment out of it, so that makes it the perfect gift. I spent one morning sifting through CDs and loading the right music on my shuffle. The shuffle is just the right size for working out (which is why V got it), so I loaded all my favorite 80s dance and rock music -- the stuff that just makes me want to get up and dance. As I'm listening I think of other songs I wish I had and am so tempted to buy a few more CDs or download the songs for $1 from the iTunes store. I may be a late adopter when it comes to iPods, but I am really digging being a Pod person.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Let me tell you a little secret

All semester I've been keeping a little secret that I want to let you in on -- I actually like my students and enjoy teaching.

Sshhh...don't tell anyone.

I feel like this is quite an anomaly in my department and the university. After watching Declining by Degrees in class last night, I realize teacher apathy towards students is more common than people want to admit. A professor, liking his or her students? It's time to throw them out of the academy. Be sure not to give them tenure, as they must not be doing enough research.

You think I'm joking, but I'm not. I'm not sure I'm even over exaggerating much. As a graduate student, and a non-traditional student, I am privy to more info than I want to be at times. I have had teachers complain about how students are lazy, unmotivated, etc., etc., etc. Of course, it's all the students' fault. There is no way a teacher could be to blame for unmotivated students.

I'm not saying that I don't have lazy students, and I'm not saying that many times I wish they would put in more effort. But I don't dwell on those students. I focus on the students who are there to learn and participate. I work really hard at preparing clear and interesting lectures. It may not always work; sometimes I fall flat, but given that I have never been given any training on how to teach (until the one grad-level class I'm taking this semester), I think I am doing an okay job.

At various times throughout the semester the students would crack me up. Our last lecture I was being a little bold and cheeky, the students really got it. And it's not just my students. Earlier in the semester I guest lectured in a different class taught by another TA, and those students, who didn't know me from Adam, were getting into the topic and asking a lot of questions. One student came up to me after and said that he wished he hadn't already taken Intro to PR because he would want to take it with me. That made me feel great.

It makes me feel good when my students feel like they can come to me for career advice; I will tell them like it is and they know it. Yesterday I was chatting with a girl in the locker room at the campus rec center and told her how she could incorporate her major and her interests into something that she would like to do. I had never met this girl before but we were talking and I asked her major and all of a sudden I've giving career advice. I'm working with some of my students on intern contacts and I had another student tell me that she got a special project at work because of something she learned in class. Students tell me that they can see how what I am telling them applies to their career goals; they know I am not full of shit and that I will deal with them in a straight-forward manner.

Of course there are days and there are students, but most of them are bright kids and want to succeed. At least that's been my experience. Most days I feel happy and successful when I walk out of the class. The last thing I am going to do is bitch and moan about my students.

But remember...don't tell anyone. We can't have it getting out that a teacher actually likes teaching snot-nosed, bratty, undergraduates. After all, undergraduates are the bane of the existence to a university.

Ice storm

Maybe about once every year or two we get an ice storm in central Texas. Generally it's not bad, but everyone freaks out. Then again, everyone freaks out and can't drive when there is rain, so it's not surprising with the ice thing. Yesterday was our ice storm.

First off, understand that we Texans think that temperatures in the mid 40s are arctic. Yesterday our highs were in the 20s. It was actually colder in Austin than it was in Anchorage, AK. Oftentimes the cold is enough to freak us out. Add just a hint that there might be snow or ice and the schools close down.

I woke up yesterday morning, looked outside and saw nothing on the street. Of course it could be the dreaded "black ice" that people worry about around here, but it looked fine. I go into the kitchen and make my famous tiramisu for the potluck we were having to celebrate the last night of Instructional Communication and I tune into the local news radio channel. Listeners start calling in about the ice. Now one must understand that there are still plenty of rural communities surrounding Austin and ice in the Hill Country must not be that pleasant. But the announcers continue to talk about various wrecks, urging folks to stay home, and people are freaking out.

I had told students that I would hold special office hours yesterday so they could review for the final. On a nice day, I would need to leave the house at 10:30 to make it to my office by noon. Today, I'm thinking it's 10 a.m. and then I'm thinking it's 9:30. The more I hear folks freaking out, the less inclined I am to drive. Often I refer to I-35, the main and pretty much only direct route from Pflugerville to San Marcos, as the "Death Highway." Even on a beautiful day with little traffic, my commute takes an hour. Add rain, construction or a wreck, expect delays to last hours, which just stresses me out. So I'm hearing these folks on the radio talking about this horrid traffic and ice, and knowing that the finals aren't until Monday and Tuesday, I inform my students that I'm rescheduling the office hours to Monday morning. Since ice on the road lasts no more than 3 hours, I figure the roads will by dry by Monday.

I'm actually glad I did this, from what I saw later in the afternoon when I had to drive down, after the radio said the roads were clear and it was safe to venture out. First, as expected, the only ice on the roads were the chunks falling off the vehicles. Still, people were idiots. Doug and I went to lunch at a local restaurant and as I was driving in the parking lot to leave, this guy approaches me in the wrong lane and just looks at me like I was in the wrong lane, and he would not move over. I had to actually pass him on the right to get around him.

Later, as I was driving I-35, traffic at times was stop-and-go, for no discernable reason. If there was an overpass, traffic would stop. At one point, this truck in front of me used the shoulder to pass the car in front of him. I'm still not sure what was up with that. People were driving like idiots; I can't imagine what it would have been like earlier in the morning when folks were freaking out.

At least it's over and now we don't have to worry about ice again for another two years. Still it's cold with temperatures below freezing. Never fear, by Sunday temperatures will be in the mid- to upper-60s, which is plenty cold enough for most of us.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Finalizing the finals

Last night I FINALLY finished the first draft of my take home final, which is due tomorrow. I still need to proof and polish it, but it's done. It only took me four days. Actually, it took me two days of writing and two days of wondering what the heck I was going to do and stressing over it and being ticked about a grade on a group project in that class. However, I'm feeling confident about it and now know I only need a 76 on it to get an A. Depending on how he grades it (i.e., is he looking for right and wrong, or is he looking at how we defended ourselves), this is a B paper, if not an A.

Now I just have a 15 page paper due for Monday. Pretty behind on that and don't like the feeling, but I think I can get it done. I hate to say this, but I don't know how much time the prof will get to spend on the grading. Everyone says she will spend some time and thought on it, and I agree, but the papers are due Monday night and grades are due Wednesday afternoon, and she will have 10, 15-20 page papers. It's been 10 days and she still hasn't graded our focus group projects, which were just two groups at 10 pages each.

By this time next week, classes will be done, grades will be in, and I will be on holiday.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Last day of the semester

Yesterday was the last day of the semester. As the final I am giving is optional -- students will either take it as a make up a missed test or to try to drop their lowest test scores -- I am realizing that I may not see some of my students again. At the very least, I will just see them passing in the halls. With my early morning schedule next semester, and that I only have one class and it's a 3 week, intensive Friday/Saturday course, chances are I will see very few people next semester, even my officemates.

Some of my students realized too that they won't see me again and that class was over. I'm sure a few were happy about that, but I did have a group that had to hug me as they completed their last test. It was very touching. They said I was their best teacher this semester. That makes me feel good because I want to be an effective teacher and I want students to learn about PR. A few of the students know how they want to focus their careers after this class, so I feel I've accomplished my goals.

I don't know if the students have realized how much they have meant to me or how much they have given me. I truly enjoy teaching and the interaction with the students. Yes, it's been difficult balancing teaching and my own studies, and yes, it has been a baptism by fire. Luckily, Dr. Mottet and my instructional comm class has really helped me know what I'm doing, and has helped me become a better teacher. Are there things I'll do different next semester? You bet. Will I be a better teacher? You bet.

I always say you don't want a professor their first or last semester of teaching. Still, for my first semester, I don't think I did that bad of a job. However, I think that a lot of that was due to my students and I appreciate their patience with me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Last lecture of the semester

Today was my last lecture of the semester. Like yesterday, I was teaching my MW class about blogging and other trends and issues in PR. All that is left now is the last test and finals. I know the students are looking forward to the semester break.

Speeding toward the end of the semester

I know I haven't posted much lately. It seems like closer it is to the end of the semester, the faster it is that the time goes by. I seems like the entire month of November has only been two weeks long.

I'm skipping my workout this morning to finish something for class tomorrow night. Because of conferences and Thanksgiving, we haven't had a Thursday night class since Nov. 10, yet still I struggle to finish the homework. Part of that is the amount of work. The prof said we had 120 pages of reading, but two of the articles were photocopied two pages per sheet, so in reality, it was 200. I truly spent time working on it every week, but it was just a lot to get through. I am still working on answering the objectives from the readings so I can study for the quiz tomorrow.

I've also spent a lot of time on what I'm teaching. I assigned both classes papers, which took me two weekends to grade. They have a test this week and then finals in two weeks. I've developed their test for this week, but still need to do their final. Plus I need to work on their final grades.

I also had a group project due this week. We conducted a focus group on blogging and then wrote the results. The project went well. Unfortunately I have been so busy I haven't had time to work on the 15 page paper due for this class in 12 days. Ugh! But before that's due, I have a take home final for my Thursday night class, which will end up being a 10 page paper. I hope to knock it out this weekend and then spend all next week on my paper. As for my thesis, I just haven't had time to work on it.

Sigh. I am looking forward to the semester break for no other reason that to get caught up.

Serial killer or computer programmer?

Can you tell the difference between a serial killer and a computer programmer? Take this quiz and find out.

You would think that with all the CSIs, Law & Orders and various serial killer biographies I watch on A&E and the History Channel, plus all the computer folks I hang out with, I would be good at this. However, I only got 2 out of 10 correct and one was the Son of Sam. How well can you do?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A new way to meet the neighbors

Evidently we have a busted pipe in our house. We realized this today when our next door neighbor stopped by to tell us that there was a foot of water by our water meter. It was freezing last night, so I don't know if something busted then or not. Since that time, several people walking by the house noticed it and stopped to tell us. I figure that is one way to meet new people. The plumber is coming tomorrow; we hope this will be covered by our home warranty.

Teaching about blogs

Today I am teaching my TTH class about trends in PR. Specially we are discussing search engine optimization and search engine marketing, podcasting, and of course, blogging. I am discussing moBlogging, or mobile blogging, by taking their photo on my cell phone and posting it on the blog in just seconds. I only wish the camera phone had a wide-angle lens so I could have included the other side of the classroom in the shot as well. :-)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Power shift

Normally in our house it is the dogs that terrorize the cat. As a general rule, Dexter stays as far away from the dogs as possible. However, recently Dexter learned how he can terrorize the dogs.

Our dogs have been trained not to go after food until we give them the command. They will sit there for 5 minutes with food in their dish, waiting to go after it. In fact, once I walked away to do something and forgot all about the dogs -- 15 minutes later I notice them outside, with a big puddle of drool on the ground and food in their dish, waiting for mommy to say they can eat.

Of course anyone who has ever had a cat knows that it's very difficult to train one, and waiting for food is just not in their nature. Dexter is using this to his advantage with the dogs. The other night Doug and I were having ice cream and placed the empty bowl on the floor for the dogs to lick. As they were waiting for us to let them go at it, Dexter comes up between them -- which is normally like Odysseus trying to navigate the Scylla and Charybdis. Feeling confident, the cat licked the ice cream bowl while the dogs looked at us with big, sad eyes. "Why is kitty getting the bowl and we can't have it," they seemed to say.

Dexter had his fill and went back to his lair, knowing that at least momentarily, he had the power over the dogs.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Teacher's pet

Tonight Dexter is helping me grade papers. I know I haven't blogged much lately but it's been real busy.

Monday, November 14, 2005

All's quiet on the Austin front

In the no news is good news department, it's been a busy, yet relatively uneventful week. I was fighting a cold and it won, but other than that, it's just been school work. Finals are in less than a month, so it will be crazy between now and then.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Cyber kitty

Tonight Dexter is helping with my homework. He is helping create a list of questions for a focus group on blogging -- a group project for my theories class. I'm lucky to have such a helpful cat.

My name is Dara and I am a slave to technology

Tomorrow I have a two-page due on why, "New technologies are not improving the quality of our lives, they are making us slaves of technology." I'm not really sure what this has to do with mass communication theories, but I will leave that to another post. Of course, I don't believe the point of view that technology is evil, but I do believe in making an A in a class. G, one of my classmates, read the paper and thought I did a good job of meeting the paper requirements, but proving my side. For this reason, I thought I'd share.

I am a self-admitted technophile; almost 10 years of working with technology companies will do that to you. I think of most things in terms of technology. If I need to talk to my sisters about the holidays, I email them; if I want to check a local move time, I look it up online. It doesn’t help that I live in a city that is a technology hub and that most of my friends are also techies. I strongly believe that technology is a positive force in our lives. Still, I realize how easy it is to become a slave to technology.

Today we can be plugged in 24/7 and communication is at our fingertips. We can access email from work, school, home, and even the local sandwich shop, but this isn’t always a good thing as often we forget to unplug. I get home from class after 10 p.m. and my first urge is to check my email and see what I missed in the last four hours. I wake up in the morning and grab my laptop and get online before I get out of bed, reading the morning headlines and checking email. With my laptop and wireless Internet, I can be online anywhere at any time and when I’m not, I feel disconnected. In this way I have become a slave to technology.

The ease of accessibility and the immediate nature of technology is what make us slaves to it. When I started my career working at the corporate offices of Wal-Mart, we had a strict “sundown rule” which said all telephone calls had to be returned before leaving work. The thought was that if it was important enough for someone to pick up a phone and call you, then it was important enough for them to receive a call back. The Internet takes the thought out of communication. For example, I often get email questions from students that they could easily have found the answer to themselves by looking on Blackboard. This is not unique to students – in general, people would rather email someone for an answer instead of finding it themselves. Unfortunately, the receiver often feels that it is necessary to respond immediately. As I am working on this paper students email me with questions regarding their class projects. Not wanting to slow down their progress, I interrupt my writing to answer their questions, which actually slows my progress. Yet because it was a personal message to me, I feel like I have to respond now. This is another way I am a slave to technology.

Sometimes technology can become a crutch, becoming so engrained into our way of thinking that we can’t possibly imagine doing something without using technology. Last Thanksgiving Doug and I went to Little Rock to see my family. Doug was contracting for Dell and had a project report he had to finish that weekend. His laptop was configured so that he could only access the Dell network through a wireless connection. We didn’t see this as a problem because we thought that all bookstores and coffee shops had hot spots and we could just spend a day there. Unfortunately we found that there were very few hot spots in Little Rock. Even when we found one, Dell’s external network connection crashed. We cut our trip short, driving back to Austin late at night so Doug could go into the office to complete his report.

I am old enough to remember the days when we had only four television channels, microwave ovens were science fiction, and telephones were rotary dials. Maybe that’s why I appreciate it that now I can take my laptop into a coffee shop and sit for hours chatting with a friend on the other side of the globe. I believe that technology has allowed us to become less isolated and more connected to the world around us, but it is that convenience and connectivity has also enslaved us. It is almost too easy for us to communicate and allow others to think for us and provide us answers. Because of the immediate nature of technology, we are more likely to respond to communication as though it is urgent when it is not, and it is difficult for us to imagine completing a task without technology. Still, we must remember that the rise of technology has taken only a few years; perhaps if we give it a few more, we will learn how to make technology work efficiently for us instead of us working for technology.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Welcome to sweeps month

Four months a year television stations pull out all the punches to try and get ratings. These months, known as sweeps, are important because ratings from these months will set advertising rates for the rest of the year. November is probably the most important sweeps period because is the first ratings period for the shows introduced at the beginning of the new television season.

Local news is not immune to sweeps; this is when you get the most sensationalistic stories. Often, it's stories that would not normally make the news and usually it is sensationalism over substance. Last night KXAN aired one of these stories, about prostitution on South Congress. More specifically, it was about how some Katrina evacuees have joined the working girls on South Congress. The reporter interviewed a vice cop and evidently the cops have noticed five more working girls on the street.

What got us was the tone the reporter took and how she was trying to make a big deal out of it. It sounded like she was reporting on a horrendous disaster rather than just 5 more prostitutes. Heck, I bet at least 100 working girls come to town during SXSW. Of course, SXSW happens in March, which is not sweeps.

The other thing that got us was the interview with the owner of Opal Divines, a local watering hole. Opal Divines has an outdoor deck and during one police roundup of hookers, customers on Opal's deck would sit there with their beer, watching the arrests and would applaud every time the cops napped someone. The police would then look up at the restaurant crowd, wave, and get another girl.

Now that's Austin for you.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Fun beer game

Jim Small sent this fun little beer game. Enjoy!

No news is good news

This weekend has been very low-key and no news to report. Yesterday Doug and I went to see the movie North County, which was really good. Other than that, he played poker and watched football while I did homework.

I turned in my final draft of my book chapter for Instructional Comm on Thursday. Glad that project is over; it frees up a bit of time while my other class is starting to heat up. Just a little over a month until the send of the semester. I am so looking forward to the spring.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Making headway on my thesis

Not sure how, but I have a bit of time to breathe this week. This means I have was able to finish and post my survey for my thesis. The survey examines the reliance on the Internet as a source of news and information. This survey will take less than 10 minutes; if you could take it, it would really help in completing my thesis.

What would be most helpful, however, is if you could forward this survey to people that you know, people in your address book, and mailing lists that you might be a part of. The issue of doing surveys regarding the Internet is that there is no centralized database of Internet users. As such, the academic community generally conducts what is called the "snowball technique" with these types of surveys -- basically asking people to forward the survey on to others. The fact that I don't know who you send it to, and that it can go anywhere, allows this survey to be more random. However, this only works if you forward it to others, and ask the people you send it to do the same.

All responses will remain confidential; I will not know who takes the survey.

I appreciate your assistance with this.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Texas state of mind

It's 10:30 a.m. and I am driving down the "highway of death" (aka I-35); I'm just south of Austin on my daily commute to San Marcos. My mind is racing, thinking about school and an issue that I have to deal with. My brain wanders, thinking about what I will do after I finish grad school. As I play out various senarios, I suddenly realize that ZZ Top is on the radio. The song is "Tush," and at this point I have to crank up the stereo. The song takes me to a completely different state, the state of Texas, where being is all that needs to be. A smile crosses my face and my problems seem to fade. I look at at the road ahead of me and I notice what a blue, clear sky it is today. At this point, I crack open the vent on my sun roof; I don't even mind that there is still a nip in the air; temperatures in the 40s feel nice, especially as it will warm by the afternoon. I am happy and content. This is what is great about living in central Texas. This is what I would miss if we ever moved.

My mind begins to wander again, this time thinking about how great a band ZZ Top is. I have loved them since I was a teen, but appreciate them more now that I am older. You hear parents today talking about bad lyrics in songs, but let's face it, ZZ Top was the worst. Not that parents ever knew it. Heck, even as a teenager we had no idea what they were talking about.

I remember when my friend Mary first told me what a pearl necklace was. I think we were seniors in high school. After I spent a minute thinking about it, I asked Mary "do you think that's what the ZZ Top song was about?" Mary answered that she wasn't sure. Of course the next time we were in the car and the song came on, we turned it up and sure enough, that was what the song was about. We thought that was so cool.

I don't remember how old I was when I realize that "La Grange" was about the Chicken Ranch. I must have been in my 20s. Even today I get into discussion with folks about the lyrics. I'll admit, part of the problem is that they are singing "home out on the range," and unless you know the title and know about the history of the Chicken Ranch, you don't put two-and-two together.

I'm tapping the beat with my fingers on the steering wheel when the song ends; I come back to reality. I don't want the Texas state of mind to leave, so I start punching the buttons on the radio to find the right song. Nothing works. The CD has John Mellencamp -- mid-western boy is just not the same. I realize that the Texas feel-good moment was fleeting and now it's gone. I turn down the radio, as what is on is not worthy of being blasted through the speakers, and I close my sunroof. I slip back to thinking of the issue of the day. Tomorrow I have to remember to grab a ZZ Top cd and put it in the car.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

If you don't like October in Texas you don't like Texas

Believe it or not, I'm actually quoting former UT football coach Darell Royal, which I know could cost me my Razorback card. However, Coach Royal's saying is true -- October in Texas is the best. The weather is perfect today. Doug and I took his parents to Lucy's Boathouse Grill for dinner on the pier. I could sit here forever.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Who do Sudoku?

It seems as though the French family has gotten caught up in a craze, and Doug and I have become a part of it. A few weeks ago Doug's mom emailed us that Aunt Margaret had gotten into sudoku puzzles and told Doug's dad about it. His dad bought a few books and was hooked. Doug's mom thought Doug might like it. Doug, ever looking for another hobby, downloaded a few puzzles; when he found an online electronic version, I got hooked.

Sudoku is a puzzle with a series of boxes, numbered 1-9. A few numbers are filled in, and you have to deduce the rest. I like the electronic version because I know right away if I made a mistake or not. It's like crosswords, but with numbers.

An article in Yahoo today said that Sudoku is really taking off and the books are selling like crazy. Nice to know we are trendy in something.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Dissecting the blogosphere

As part of Mass Comm Week we are have folks talking blogs. It's quite interesting.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Late nights, early mornings, long days and wrong shoes

I am exhausted and my body hurts. There is not enough time in the day to get everything done, especially this week. Monday night I had a midterm; it was three, 2-page essay questions and a 1-page bonus essay. Dr. R thought we could answer each question in a half hour and be out of there by 8. I'm glad she didn't hold us to time. In my effort to be complete, my essays went over two pages and I had to ask for a second blue book. My hand hurt. I also stopped to talk to someone on the way out, so it was after 9 when I left, which is normally what time we get out of class. No biggie.

Usually on Tuesdays I can sleep in, but not yesterday. I had to be back at school at 8 a.m. for a meeting regarding a group project. That means leaving the house by 6:30. Unfortunately this week is a lot of early mornings just to fit everything in.

Yesterday I went to lunch with my friends G and R; we walked to a Chinese restaurant across from the university. For whatever reason, G decided to cut across the grass and go down a muddy hill -- the closest point/straight line theory I guess. I was wearing these open-toe slip-ons and my feet got caked. R laughed and said no one would notice because no one did when I wore different shoes.

A couple of weeks ago it was a busy Thursday morning and I went to slip on a pair of shoes. I have two open toe-shoes I like, one is black with two straps and one is navy with one. I put on the navy shoes, or so I thought. Once I got to campus I looked down at my feet as I walked to my office and noticed I was wearing two different shoes. One navy and one black. I was mortified. Just the day before I left my work clothes at home when I drove down to work out with my trainer at the campus gym; I ended up doing a short workout and driving an hour back home, getting ready, and driving an hour back. I might have cancelled class if I didn't have guest speakers.

But here it was the next day and two different shoes. There wasn't enough time to go home and get shoes. I knew Doug couldn't bring me the right shoe. I was embarrassed, but I decided I just had to live with it. Once in my office, R came in to visit. I pointed it out to him my two different shoes, but he said he hadn't noticed. Later, I taught and had a guest speaker, so I didn't stand the entire time in front of the 55 students. That night I had class, but we sit around a conference table and no one can see my feet. I went the entire day, at least 9 hours, and no one said anything about my mismatched shoes. I didn't have to die from mortification!

Until yesterday. I worked to get the mud off my shoes, but there is always a residue. At least they matched. As the students arrived, one of the girls who sits on the front row noticed the shoes and asked what happened. I explained, making the comment how no one noticed when I wore two different shoes the other week. "Oh, I did," said one girl. "I thought you were just doing it to see if someone noticed." Yeah, I'm doing an ethnographic study...I don't think so. "I noticed too," the first girl said. Evidently my students did notice but just didn't say anything. I was so embarrassed to think that everyone saw my fashion faux pas. Obviously I am just too exhausted to pick the correct shoes.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Brew your own damn wine and beer

Yesterday we saw a business idea that at first blush, seems great. It's Water 2 Wine and they call themselves a custom winery. I'm not sure if that is accurate, but what you do is make your own wine. The store wasn't open yet, but the guy let us look around. The set up is a tasting room, where they say they have more than 100 wines from 12 countries. You get to taste wines and when you find the one you want, you can make it. Since they are technically selling you grapes, there is not the taxes.

We didn't get to see the process, but we think they are selling wine kits that have the crushed grapes. It's almost as simple as adding the yeast and there you go. The store takes care of the primary and secondary fermination for you, so you simply come back in 45 days and your 5 gallons of wine is ready. You pick out your bottles, make labels and you have 2 cases of wine.

Doug and I thought this was a great business idea and started working through the idea. Basically we do the same process at home when we make wine (from the kits -- although generally we make it from scratch, where we have to crush the fruit). For folks who aren't homebrewers, they could get a taste of what it is like to make wine without being worried about equipment costs or being intimidated by the process. We actually pictured folks getting together like at a Paint Your Pottery place and making their own wine.

Then we did the numbers. The cost for wine kits, yeast, bottles, etc. Would run about $150. Of course that's retail, but that's what we had to go on. The store would almost have to sell the process at $200 per batch. That's not unreasonable, but the store would have to do quite a few $200 kits to pay for rent and turn a profit. We just started wondering how many folks a week would be willing to pay $200 to make their own wine. Of course, we didn't talk prices with this guy so we don't know what they are actually selling the wine for. We still think it's a great concept, we're just not ready to start our own store.

On the other hand, Doug is taking the beer brewing to the next level. He wondered if he could started a brew your own beer business, but I reminded him there is a cooking process involved and it's a bit more complicated. Not that he couldn't do it, but with wine, you can get that going in a matter of minutes, not hours. Anyway, Doug and Robert are going to take the final step and go to all grain brewing. Right now they do what's called mini-mash, which is some grain and some extracted. Robert is building an all-grain set up which will be brought to our house Monday. In the meantime, Robert has bought a fridge that he is going to turn into a kegerator for his house. That means that we are getting his two tap kegerator here at the house. Doug says that will get the kegs out of the extra fridge we have in the garage.

I was happy about that until he told me that freeing up the fridge will allow them to use it so they can make lagers. Somehow he is pulling one over on me because when he brought that fridge home he told me we would use it to chill wine and soft drinks and that I could use it for food storage when we had a party. I can't even fit a tiramisu in it, much less party trays. Oh well, who needs to serve food when you have beer. In fact, I think we now have beer in some form or another in every room in the house except our bedroom and the bathrooms. I'm sure if he thinks about it, Robert will figure out a way to but a kegerator in the bathroom as well.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Favorite study spot

Today is beautiful day, temperatures in the 80s. I have some time before I teach so I in to one of my favorite restaurants, River Pub. I can grab a bite, work on the paper due tomorrow and enjoy the serenity of the river.

Flipping the bird

Nothing too exciting this week. I have just been busy as heck. I had a presentation and two summary papers due Monday and tomorrow I have a 20 page book chapter due. Friday I am guest lecturing for my friend David Cohen in his Info Gathering class, talking about PR data sources. Then Monday I have a mid-term. No wonder my brain hurts!

Yesterday I flipped off my class, giving them the bird several times. I had them laughing. The lecture topic was clear communication and I was trying to get it across the idea that you have to be careful when communicating to other cultures because words, symbols and gestures have different means in different cultures. The example I was giving was that in some countries a thumbs up is the same thing as when we hold up our middle finger. "In some places, this [doing a thumbs up] means the same thing as this [flipping the bird]." They all laughed. In fact one of the students said his roommate, who is from Europe, said that the two finger, "V" peace symbol, is also flipping the bird if you show the other person the back of your hand.

We also had an interesting conversation about discriminatory language. I gave an example of a person calling a young, rookie African-American baseball player a boy (as in, "that boy can hit") and getting in trouble for it. One of the white boys in my class said, "I don't get it." Immediately, one of the black guys in my class spoke up, "I do." He was quickly followed by a few other black students who said "I do." I used that as an example to illustrate that you have to be aware of your audience and how they will perceive the communication.

The students had me laughing so hard yesterday. I am giving the same lecture in today's class. I think I'll flip them off as well.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Razorback in Longhorn country

I truly think that burnt orange is the ugliest color that God ever created. Yet living in Austin the color is everywhere. Being from Arkansas you learned from a young age to despise the University of Texas, and all their evil, underhanded doings on the football field. Frank Broyles was God, Darrell Royal was a want-to-be.

At times it's difficult being a Razorback in Longhorn country, but no time more than this weekend -- Texas/OU weekend. The capture of Bin Laden would go unnoticed if it happened during the game. And it doesn't matter if the Longhorns win the Rose Bowl if they don't beat OU, which they hardly do. This is the first time in years that it looks like they have a chance.

Being a Razorback since the age of 2, I secretly root for the Longhorns to lose, especially for OU. Of course, in public I say nothing, as I don't have a deathwish. "Do you want to come watch the game?" folks ask. I tell them we have plans. Doug knows he has to sneak out to a bar because for some reason we can't get UT football on our TV. Heaven help him if he ever wears a t-shirt with something less than derogatory about the Longhorns on it. Back home that would be a valid defense for stabbing him 54 times in the heart.

Unfortunately I live in Longhorn country and this is OU weekend. It's a good thing I have a ton of homework. There will be little opportunity to venture out to the sea of burnt orange.

Fall weather

We think autumn has finally arrived in Austin. Two days ago the temperature was in the 90s and we were running our air conditioner. Today the high is 69 and the windows are open. In fact it was down-right chilly last night. We are, however, enjoying this weather.

Strange, but we don't really get much of the 78-82 degree temperatures around here. The joke is that central Texas has only two seasons. The first lasts 8 months and it's called HOT. The other is 4 months and it's called Not Hot. We probably have about another month of being able to wear shorts and then we will move to the Not Hot season.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Here kitty, kitty

Robert is trying to talk up into adopting one of his kittens. He brought this tiny thing over the other day, but as expected, it didn't work out. She wasn't being mean, but Allegra wouldn't leave it alone. She held it between her paws and wouldn't stop licking it, rolling it over and over on the floor with her tongue. Finally Robert took the slimy mess away from Allegra and took the kitten home. Allegra was noticeably upset and waited by the front door an hour for Robert to bring back her kitten. Alas, it will be status quo in the house for awhile.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Fall Sundays

I really think fall is Doug's favorite time of the year. Not because of the cooler weather (meaning 92 instead of 102 degrees), not because of all the various activities, but because of football. Specifically NFL football. I think he would allow me to be in grad school indefinitely if it meant that I would leave him alone on Sundays. Somehow he can watch five or more games on any given Sunday, and what he doesn't watch on Sunday, he watches later during the week.

He has this ritual where he gets up Sunday mornings and reviews the games and the players. Then he makes his picks for the various fantasy leagues he's in. Then comes the noon kick-off. Later in the fall, when the weather is right, he'll cook chili to go along with the game. I'm usually in the other room, studying away, but I can tell when one of his players scores, as I can hear the cheers. He'll watch the games most of the afternoon and then go play poker in the evening, remembering to set the DVR for the night game. After poker, he'll come home and stay up a bit to watch one of the games. Monday nights I have class and inevitably when I come home, he's watching Monday Night Football. At least by that time he's willing to pause the game to spend time with me.

I think some women might get upset at their S/Os for spending so much time with football, but I don't mind. As it is, I'm busy and I actually look forward to Sundays myself. At least if he's busy watching football I don't have to feel guilty spending all day with the books.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Spring teaching schedule

Yesterday I learned what my teaching schedule will be in the spring -- MWF, 8-8:50 a.m. and 10-10:50 a.m. Ouch! One thing to understand is that I live an hour north of campus (assuming I don't hit any traffic backups going through Austin), so just to make sure I make it to class on time and allow plenty of time for commuter parking, I will need to leave the house between 6:15-6:30.

Besides that, I'm thinking that I will have a high student absenteeism, especially on Fridays. Most of the classes offered at the university are MW or TTH so a lot of students don't have Friday classes and when they do take them, they have a tendency to skip. I don't tend to be a hardass, but I think I am going to have to be. I figure if I can get my tail out of bed and traverse through traffic, they can get there.

But there are a couple of upsides:
  1. I only have to go down to San Marcos 3 days a week instead of 4.
  2. By getting there so early, I can park close. There is a commuter lot down the hill from Old Main, so I won't have to wait for the bus.
  3. Since my classes are basically back-to-back, it makes it easier for guest speakers. Right now I have trouble to find the same guest speaker to come two days in a row.
  4. I will be done by noon; and I have two days off in the middle of the week.

Unlike previous semesters, I won't be taking any night classes. I only need one class, plus my thesis. The class I am taking will be an intensive, three-week course, that meets Friday nights and all day Saturdays. So I will have three Fridays where I start at 8 a.m. and end 9 p.m., then drive home, go to bed, and get back up early the next morning and head back to class.

But after those weeks, it will be okay.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Austin -- allergy capital

Upon hearing the names of our newly adopted pups, our friend T asked, "Did you name them Dante & Allegra because you live in allergy hell?" That was almost four and half years ago and while we've received some ribbing about the names, no one doubts that Austin is allergy hell and a new study proves it.

BTW, for those interested, we did not name Allegra after the allergy medicine. We had selected the name Dante before we even selected the dog. After all, it fit with the household naming convention -- Dara, Doug and Dexter. However, when we found Dante (named Inky by the shelter) he was with a litter of abandoned pups. Doug really wanted two, so we adopted his cute sister (who the shelter had named Luna), but we couldn't agree on a D name for her. Dinah? Dixie? Delta? Diana? Nothing seemed right. Plus we wanted the names to go together. Dante & Delta just didn't seem to work. Then we thought about The Inferno. Dante's guide was Beatrice, but let's face it, that name doesn't work for anyone under 80. Plus imagine, "Beatrice, here Beatrice! Come!" No thank you.

For those who don't know, Dante's (the writer, not the dog) last name was Alighieri -- Dante Alighieri. Alighieri, Allegra, not too far off. In music, allegro means lively and that seemed to fit her. In Italy, Allegra is a somewhat popular name. Best of all, the names Dante & Allegra seemed to fit together. So Allegra it was.

Of course, we never even thought of the medicine. If we had, Allegra's name may have ended up as "here, girl." The irony of the whole thing is that Allegra has some wicked airborne allergies and has to take allergy shots. Guess it was a good thing we decided against naming Dante "Claritin."

Monday, September 26, 2005

Late night phone call

I was raised under the edict that there were to be no telephone calls after 10 p.m. Thinking that possibly everyone was raised under that strict rule, I have come to believe that any time the phone rings after 10 p.m. that there is not anything good that could be on the other end -- someone has died, is in the hospital or in jail.

Last night it was 10:45 and I was exhausted. Doug was out playing poker and would be home around 11, but I just couldn't stay up any longer and I was getting ready for bed. Just as I was getting ready to crawl under the covers, the phone rang.

"What the...?" was my first thought, and then panic overtook me. Maybe something was wrong with Doug. I didn't even bother to put my glasses back on and I ran for the phone. I picked up the receiver and realized it wasn't Doug, the area code was 816. As I pressed the button, the call went into voicemail.

"816, 816..." I knew that area code was familiar, but I couldn't place it. No, it wasn't my folks, Doug's folks, or my sisters, so that was okay. "816, 816..." Is it Los Angeles, could there be something wrong with Doug's Auntie M? Is it Idaho and my Aunt G? Is something wrong with her cancer treatment or is she calling me about Aunt M?" All these possibilities ran through my mind in a matter of nanoseconds. My laptop was on the table so I looked up the area code. Since I didn't have my glasses, my nose was pressed against the screen so I could see. 816 -- Kansas City. At that point I was frantic. Something had happened to Doug's dad and they had him in the hospital in Kansas City. There would be no way Doug's mom would wait until the morning to call.

It had only been 30 seconds since I missed the call but there was already a message. I called the voicemail box. Thinking it was going to be Doug's mom, it took me a minute to register it was a man and it wasn't Doug's dad. I finally realized what the guy was saying, "I'm calling to see if you are any relation to James Q____; I think we might have some relatives in common..."

"What the F*%$!?! Who the hell does a genealogy call at 11 p.m. on a Sunday night?!?" At this point I slam the phone. Having an unusual last name I am used to occasionally receiving a random call and generally I don't mind it, but not late at night. When the phone rings late at night you get that sinking feeling in your stomach, you know there is nothing good at the other end. You expect something to be wrong with one of your loved ones; you don't expect it to be someone looking for a long lost relative who you've never heard of.

As I headed back to bed, I thought at least this late night call found all my loved ones safe.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Too freaking hot!

Austin temperatures set a record high today -- it was 108 degrees. The paper said it was the fifth day in a row that we reached triple digits. Has anyone told Mother Nature that October is just 6 days away?

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I did not experience any of the heat today because I was too busy studying, as was the deal yesterday and Friday. I'm still not done, although I think I may just stop here.

An eye on the eye of the storm

It's been a really weird week with Hurricane Rita. Starting about Tuesday that was all that anyone could talk about. Even being 4 hours inland, Austinites went crazy. Store shelves were bare as folks bought up all the supplies. I even heard about some folks being ugly just to get the last of the bottled water.

It's weird, but I got caught up in the panic a little as well. Even when it looked like the storm might through Austin, I knew that the most we'd get was electricity outages and heavy rains. I was never worried for our safety, but I was worried. Then the storm moved east towards Galveston and I wasn't so worried for us -- again heavy winds and rain -- but I was worried about my aunt and cousin. My aunt was in the hospital in Galveston for cancer treatment and my cousin was told to come get her. He lives south of Houston near NASA and they decided not to leave. I guess he figured where he lived was better for his mom than getting out on the highways. People were averaging less than 1 mph on the highways and running out of gas. A trip from Houston to Austin which is normally less than 3 hours was taking 20. Motorists who ran out of gas were just stuck as none of the stations had gas. Unfortunately the situation is the same as folks are trying to head back to Houston even though state officials are asking them to wait a day or two.

Luckily for Houston, the storm moved east and hit Port Arthur (the home of Janis Joplin, fyi). I feel sorry for the folks where it hit, but it hasn't seemed that the damage wasn't worth the over hype. Here we are in Austin with no bottled water, no canned goods, and we haven't seen a drop of rain. In fact it's been sunny with temperatures near or above 100.

For 4 days you couldn't turn on a local television or radio station, or read the news paper without hearing about preparing for Hurricane Rita. Austin alone had more than 3,000 evacuees and 11 shelters. The closest available hotels were in El Paso or Oklahoma. (Just to give you a mental picture, El Paso is almost halfway between Houston and Los Angeles.)

I hate that the storm brought out the worst in people. I also hate that many intelligent people got caught up in the panic. But I guess for the media it was better to be safe than sorry. We didn't have the loss of lives that we did for Katrina, so I guess that means something.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Weathering the weather

It's hard to believe that October is just around the corner. While other parts of the country have started wearing cool fall fashions we are still just trying to keep cool. You still can't go outside without sweating up a storm. Today we are going to break records with temperatures reaching 101. Ugh!

Of course there is the concern of Hurricane Rita. We originally had plans to go to Galveston this weekend with friends, but even before the hurricane warnings we cancelled because of all the homework I have this weekend. Even being 4 hours from the coast, it is expected that Austin will feel the effects of the hurricane in the form of rain and possible flooding. Not that I want flooding but maybe the rain will help cool the weather and usher in fall (meaning 78 degree temps).

Monday, September 19, 2005

It's way too early in the semester to be this far behind

It's 7:30 Monday morning and I finally finished my homework for the weekend. Actually, that's not true. I only read and summarized three -- not five -- research articles because those were the only ones I could download electronically. I still have to go to the library and find bound copies of certain academic journals. I also didn't finish reading everything about the fathers of communication theory, but I did read the most important stuff. I can't believe Dr. R really expected us to read 150 pages -- that's almost triple what she usually assigns. I also didn't get to even touch my thesis work and I still don't have all the guest speakers I'm trying to get nailed down for both Mass Comm week and for my classes. As for writing thank you cards to the speakers I had last week...

Maybe the better statement is that I have finished everything I could get done in this weekend. I only had three days and worked an average of 9-10 hours each day. No movies, no dinners out, no spending time with friends. Doug and I did watch Shall We Dance on tv Saturday night -- the movie was mediocre at the best. No wonder I'm having difficulty sleeping.

I stayed up until midnight last night reading for Dr. R and woke up at 5:30 this morning with my mind started racing, thinking about today's lecture and tomorrow's lecture and finishing the summaries for instructional comm and everything else. On one hand I am looking forward to working out with my trainer today just to relieve some stress. On the other hand, I could spend that extra time working on school stuff.

My workload this semester has started heavy and there is no sign that it will let up. I've already had to cancel a weekend trip to Galveston and decline an invitation to a day trip to San Antonio and a weekend camping trip/birthday party in the hill country. I really miss the fun I had over the summer doing things with our friends and am looking forward to the time when I can have my weekends back. It's just three months until semester break! Also, next semester I am not taking as many hours and the one class that is actually a class is an intensive, 3-weekend class. Once that's over, it will just be wrapping up my thesis. As for teaching, I should be able to use the class lectures from this semester; this means I might actually have a bit of fun in the spring.

People, particularly my professors, continue to ask me about getting a PhD. I'm not so sure I want one. The idea of spending four more years like this just to do a PhD, and then six years after doing research to earn tenure is looking doubtful. The good thing is that in this field I can teach, either full- or part-time, without a PhD and the research headaches. Working and teaching one night a week is looking very appealing right now.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Are we required to buy the textbook?

I got that question a lot at the start of the semester. At first I was a bit floored by that question, until I found out that the text for the Intro to PR class ran more than $90. So I told my students that the department requires that I use the text in class, but they could share a copy if they want or they could buy a version online if they could find it (this is a new text this year). I also had one of the other profs put their extra copy on reserve in the library.

Yesterday I was reading The Phantom Professor blog and they linked to an op-ed from the New York Times about the textbook issue. It's a really good piece and something to think about if you haven't been to college in years. This semester I am taking two graduate level classes that I need books for. Each required multiple books and my total was $300. I didn't mind so much because last fall I only needed one book and I figure it all comes as part of grad school. Plus, I keep all my graduate books and as such buy new when possible.

But I can feel for the students. I was floored to learn that the Intro to PR book cost so much. To be honest, it's not worth it. I look at the PR texts and wonder if the writers ever worked in an agency. I wonder when the last time was they dealt with client service issues or pitched a member of the press. They actually say in the book to create a pitch letter and fax it to a reporter. Hello? I don't even think I knew how to use the fax where I worked this summer and if I did, I don't think any reporters I pitched knew where theirs was either. It's email all the way baby.

To be honest, I don't know if I would use the text at all, except I have to and the other profs want to try to standardize. Again, I'm not sure when the other profs ever had Mr. Schitzoid Client demand that you get his quickly sinking dot-bomb in Wall Street Journal or else you would lose a $30K/month client.

The NYTimes piece talks about all the bells and whistles the textbook companies put in the books for the students. The other reason they are getting adopted is what they are putting together for the profs (besides money). We get a CD-Rom with the text and access to a special Internet site. They basically have a 'class in a box' approach where I can take their lectures, their test questions, their whatever and teach. At least one of the other profs was excited about this. However, I opt to do my own thing. The reason is that I know from past experience (and even just experience this year), when I take a lecture that is mostly someone else's, I make a muddle of it. Like public speaking, you have to make it your own, talk about what you believe. So yesterday I spent 4-5 hours developing a test for my students when I would have rather been at a winery or doing my own homework. Still, it's the right thing to do.

How do I handle the "are we required to buy the textbook?" question? I still don't know if I have the right answer; I just hope at the end of the semester my students will look back and realize that I was able to teach them stuff that they could actually use in the real world.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Underpetted dogs strike again

As reported earlier this week, there is an epidemic of underpetted dogs. I guess today the dogs thought that if they couldn't get Muhammad to come to the mountains, the moutains would have to go to Muhammad .

Nice email

I got a nice email the other day from a student. She said that she was really enjoying my class. It made my day.

It did not surprise me that she was in my T/TH class -- that class is fairly lively and we get good discussions. Fast forward the next day to my M/W class. Same class size, similar mix of students and it can be like pulling teeth. The only difference is the class starts 90 minutes later. Can 90 minutes make that much of a difference? This week we had guest speakers talking about interships and the person from Career Services made the comment about the difference in class personality. I just need to focus on doing my best and not having different expectations for each class.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Closing a part of my childhood

I was the big winner, the girl with the golden egg. To be honest, I know this more from stories my parents told me and photos in old albums. I was either 2 or 3 and we had gone to Houston to visit my grandmother, my aunt and my cousins. While we were there we went to the amusement park Astroworld. It was Easter weekend and there was an Easter egg hunt with a special prize going to the kid who found the golden egg. From what I've heard, it was a bit of controlled madness and I am sure one of my sisters was in the middle of the fray.

But I was little, so my dad took me by my hand to go search for eggs. Mom recalls at one point there was this guy from the park who kept looking at me out of the corner of his eye. This was the early 70s so there was no thought of stalking or pervs. The man watched me as I approached a tree with an egg in it and my father lifted me up so I could grab it. Suddenly there was this big commotion -- I had done it, I was the girl who found the golden egg.

I'm not sure what all the prizes were but I do remember one of them was a year's membership to the Astro club. The other was a big blue and white bear named Astro. When I mean big, there are photos of me hugging this bear and he's bigger than I am.

Thirty-some years later I still have Astro, although he's worse for the wear. Since our junior high and high school mascot was the bears and our colors were blue and white, Astro was a part of teenage life -- lasting way beyond the average kid stuffed animal. I'm sure he also got a bit abused, getting spirit ribbons stuck in him and occassionally taking him to pep rallys, although I think we made this much of a habit. Throughout my 20s Astro lived in my parents' attic. Now he resides in ours. He is so filthy and matted that I wouldn't want a little kid getting near him, yet I just can't seem to bring myself to part with him.

Needless to say, I was sad to read in today's paper that Astroworld is closing. I felt as if a part of my childhood is closing with it.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Construction update

I am in a very happy mood right now. No construction on north bound I-35 night. Not sure if all the guys called in sick or what, but unlike other nights, it was a breeze getting home. I was worried because I stayed a bit after my class to talk to Dr. R about how my teaching was coming along. She offered to sit in on my class and evaluate me. I am looking forward to it, especially after I incorporate some of the clarity strategies I am learning in my instructional comm class.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

More evidence of being underpetted

Doug is out playing poker while I am at the kitchen table reading about teacher clarity and message relevance for my instructional comm class. I realize the house has been way too quiet for way too long so I decide to in look for the twin terrors. I find them asleep on our bed, yet another off-limits place. Maybe there is truth to the article after all!

Underpetted dogs

My friend G sent me this article from The Onion. Our poor dogs are so ignored, never get any petting or attention, that it looks like the predictions are coming true.

Nation's Dogs Dangerously Underpetted, Say Dogs

May 7, 2003

NEW YORK - At a press conference Monday, representatives of the Association of American Dogs announced that the nation's canines are dangerously underpetted. "Every night, thousands of U.S. dogs go to bed without so much as a scritch behind the ears," AAD president Banjo said. "If this sort of neglect from our masters continues, it could lead to widespread jumping on the furniture." Upon his owner's arrival in the press-conference room, Banjo abruptly ended his speech, frantically barking, leaping, and rolling over on his back in an effort to communicate his need for a vigorous belly rub.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Teaching ups

Fifty-six students in each class. That's 112 eyes looking at me each day. Okay, really it's probably in the 90s on any given day, but still that's a lot of folks who are counting on you to teach them something of value. I've always said you don't want a teacher on their first semester teaching or their last semester teaching as they either don't know what they are doing or really don't care any more. Most of my students don't realize that it's my first semester and I am way more scared of them then they are of me. Damn, I wish I had stayed with Toastmasters when I moved to Austin. Still, with Toastmasters you know the folks you are speaking to and your speech has preset objectives. I don't know these students and I am the one creating the objectives, although it's usually just one step ahead of the students.

So some days it's good and some days are fumbles. Yesterday was a bit of both. We were talking comm law. Originally I had that scheduled for two days, as that is what Dr. S did last year and I was just parroting it. Then I looked at the material. There was a lot of over explanation in the slides from last year and I felt I could streamline them. Plus I tend to under estimate the length of the class, so I figured this was a chance the class could go the full 75 minutes and on the second day bring in a guest speaker to talk internships and job hunting. However, the students really got into the discussion of law, defamation, misappropriation of image and copyright. Go figure. We barely got into puffery and the class was over. Damn, I should have had this chapter go two days.

Later in the afternoon I saw one of my students in the hall. He's really quite and sits in the back. He's a little geeky, but somehow has always caught my eye. Recently he moved from sitting on the aisle to more in the middle. So I asked him how things were going and if he's liking the class. I really can't tell if my students are finding it valuable or if I'm rambling. He said that my class was his favorite this semester. "Wow," I thought, "he must really have some bad classes," only I kept my mouth shut. I thanked him. He doesn't know how much I appreciated that comment. It made my week.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Needing to step up to the plate

The other day I wrote about being proud of how Texans are pitching in to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. I am truly proud of all we have done in our state. Texas has taken in almost 250,000 refugees. Austin alone has taken in 4,000. This includes people at the centers as well as others staying at motels and friends and family.

Other neighboring states have taken their fair share. Small states (talking economics and population) have really opened their hearts. Arkansas has taken in 70,000 refugees. More than 10,000 people are in Memphis. Mississippi and Alabama are also taking in Louisiana refugees, despite the fact that they are struggling with their own hurricane victims.

I think it's time for other states to step up to our plate. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has called for other states to help. Right now there are more refugees in Austin than there are in California, Missouri, Colorado, Arizona and Illinois combined. And Austin doesn't have the facilities to handle this, unlike the larger cities of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio; I can't even imagine how those cities are handling it. Texans are always glad to help, and let's face it, it's the right thing to do. But we are struggling with our own economic problems -- we couldn't even pass education funding during the summer's legislative session. What happened in New Orleans was not a Louisiana disaster, it wasn't a southern disaster, it was an American disaster and I think it's time for some other states to pitch in and help.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Earlier this week I wrote about my friend G, who is now a tenure-track faculty member. As such, he got a goodie bag with all sorts of useless paraphernalia, while I can't even get a grading program installed on my computer. It's actually very comical in a Dilbert sort of way.

However, I got one up on G the other day. The department had a reception for new and transfer students. Dr. R, who always looks out for the grad students, made sure to tell us about it so at least we'd get fed before class. It ended up that I was the only 2nd year grad student to show up, but then again I was waiting for the start of my Thursday night class and studying for the quiz I was going to have in there.

It also turned out that I was the only person there who taught any of the PR courses. However there were a lot of students there who wanted to major in PR. For the short time I was there, I was kept pretty busy talking to students.

G was there as well, but no one wanted to talk to him. I looked over at him a couple of times and he was just standing there. If other teachers started talking to him, like myself or one of the electronic media guys, the academic advisor would send students towards us so we would interact with them instead of each other. Generally the students were either interested in electronic media or PR, leaving G standing by himself.

G teaches an upper-level comm law course that all journalism/mass comm majors are required to take. More than likely students will have him at some point during their studies here and I think his students like him. But let's face it, to most incoming freshmen or transfer students, comm law just sounds boring. PR, on the other hand, sounds fun and exciting (little do they know the truth).

While G got the university coffee mug and the paperweight, I actually had the attention of the students. I was Miss Popularity that evening. I just keep thinking how much better it would have been if I hadn't had to keep one eye on the clock and wasn't thinking about the quiz I had at 6:30.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Hurricane efforts

My mom forwarded an email this morning from my cousin Kimberly who lives in Mobile, AL. While not hit as hard as New Orleans, it's been rough. They have been out of power for five days and while they have a back-up generator they can't buy gas to power it. She's been able to make it to work, but won't be able to go once the car's gas tank is empty. She said the devastation has been horrible, but realizes that it was much, much worse elsewhere.

There's a new grad assistant who is originally from Mississippi and said he's been impressed with the way Texans have responded to the emergency. The Astrodome in Houston is now so full with refugees that they are turning people away. Austin is taking it's share, but since we don't have a big center, we can't take as much. Now San Antonio has started taking refugees. Our schools are opening up to victims -- even the president of Texas State has said that we need to allow students who want to attend classes into our classes, despite the fact that we have been in session for two weeks now. I'm on some dog email lists and they are talking about finding shelter for displaced animals as well. People have brought their pets with them but the Austin hurricane shelter won't take them so an animal shelter has been set up outside the human shelter to take care of everyone's pets. You can't turn on a local radio station without hearing some sort of plea for donations to help the victims. Companies seem to be very generous.

The only thing that has bothered me about the situation is the way some folks are trying to politicized the devastation. Over the past few days on my commute to school I have been surfing the AM radio channels, listening to both the right- and left-wing talk shows. The liberals have been complaining about how the President has been slow to respond and trying to say that if this had been a biological terrorist attack that we would have been SOL. But on the conservative side I was actually hearing one guy yesterday talking about the racial and economic makeup of the folks left in New Orleans (i.e. poor and blacks). I'll admit I didn't hear what he was talking about because I had to change the channel.

These people have lost everything. I wish these pundents would do more than talk about this or that and actually do something to help in the relief efforts.