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.

109 minutes

I was frazzled by the time I got home last night. Class ended at 9:15 p.m., exactly as scheduled. I had moved my car to the parking garage before class started so I packed up my laptop, grabbed my stuff and split rather quickly. Within 9 minutes I was waiting at the light to turn to the main road that heads to I-35. Time was 9:24.

Unfortunately it was 11:13 by the time I pulled into my driveway -- 109 minute drive. Normally it takes about an hour to get from my house to school -- it's about 48 miles. Of course that's midday traffic. I don't even want to try to go during rush hour. Last year when I had to be on campus for a 9 a.m. class, would leave the house at 5:30 a.m. to beat the traffic and workout at the campus rec center. That time of day the drive only took 45 minutes.

But last night, and every night since school started, there has been construction and this year there is so much more construction than last year. I got on I-35 at mile marker 206 and by the time I got off at mile marker 248, I drove through three construction zones. Since most of the zones were about 2-3 miles long, that means all total there was 9 out of 42 miles of construction. That shouldn't be a big deal, right? Wrong!

During these zones the interstate goes from 3 lanes to 1 lane. And it's not the 1 lane that's a problem -- the traffic actually moves -- the issue is getting the traffic to merge. This is a harrowing experience. At times you know you could walk faster than you could drive. In fact, at times you are just parked. At this one point I had two 18-wheelers in front of me. One was in the left lane, one in the right and I was in the middle. Since this was a new construction zone (unlike the one in Kyle that has been there every night in the last two weeks), I didn't know if this zone went down to one or two lanes. So I'm sitting here behind these two trucks, but couldn't drive between them as they were both partially in the middle lane (only a mini-Cooper could have driven through). But I could see between these trucks and neither had any traffic in front of them. So we are going 5 miles an hour, being blocked by these trucks. Finally one 18-wheeler moves in front of the other, the interstate goes down to 1 lane and we get moving.

There were probably about 15 miles between the various construction zones, so you could make decent time for 10 minutes and then be at a virtual standstill for 25 minutes. It was so frustrating, especially because after 10 p.m. I just wanted to be home, having dinner and getting ready for bed. I swear it would have been better if they had just kept that entire stretch of highway to one lane, at least we would have kept moving. Since the last construction zone ended at my exit, I was pretty stressed out by the time I got home (not to mention the fourth construction zone I went through -- they are expanding the road to my house, but at least this one doesn't stop traffic).

Of course it takes at least an hour to wind down, so I don't get to bed until after midnight. Unfortunately there are not alternative roads -- if you want to drive from San Marcos to Pflugerville, you have to drive I-35, aka "The Highway of Death." The only bright spot is that I only have to drive through the construction two nights a week (the other two days I drive home through rush hour, but it's not as bad as the construction). Luckily I can sleep in mornings after the drive. Since Monday is Labor Day, I don't have to deal with the construction traffic again until next Thursday. Maybe it will get better. If not, maybe I can get a prescription for Prozac.