Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fantasy update

My fantasy football team had its first win this week, thanks in large part to Carson Palmer who earned 21 fantasy points. I went from 10th, or last, place to 8th. I'm not too happy with my wide receivers right now. Hines Ward didn't earn any points for me this week. None of my receivers are scoring many points for me this season. In fact, I'm the player in the league with the lowest number of points. I'm thinking I won't make the playoffs this year unless something changes.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Killer semester

My first semester teaching four classes -- three different courses, one of which is a writing course. I'm forever feeling like I'm grading papers and prepping lectures. Little time is left for blogging.

Thursday was the first test in my Intro class. Ninety-one students were all freaking out. Several students earned extra credit by participating in a focus group for students in my campaigns class. According to my campaigns class, the intro students were stressing out about my test.

As usual, the first students were done in 15 minutes. A few minutes later a student rushes back in. "Ms. Quackenbush, one of the girls blacked out!" I look out the door. Sure enough, one of my students left the test and was now in the prone position in the hallway. I look back to the class. Eighty-something students left in a crowded lecture room. There was no way I could step out of there during a test. The girls were buzzing around the passed out girl and someone called 911. I try to keep one eye on the girl and one on the class.

Then I remembered J. Every day he sits on the front, taking notes. An attentive student. He looks a bit older than 20, or at least has a maturity about him. His haircut and demeanor are military-issue and quite often he wears a t-shirt from a local fire department. "Excuse," I whisper as I walk towards him, "aren't you military or a firefighter or something?" He tells me he's a fireman and I tell him the problem. Two seconds later he's out the door.

Eventually the EMT arrive. The girl is awake, but shaken. She has low blood sugar and doesn't eat much. The Coke and M&Ms they are feeding her is as much as she's eaten all day. By this time, most of the class has finished the test and have seen the girl in the hall. Given nasty bump on her head, she agrees to go to the hospital. I offer J an opportunity to take his test another time, but like the trooper he is, he finishes his test.

I piece together the story from other students. The girl finished the test and as she walked out the building she collapsed on the concrete steps. She revives enough to be helped back into the air conditioned building, where one of the other girls called the EMT. Before the ambulance takes her to the hospital, I ask who her next teacher is. It's my friend G, so I call him and let him know one of his students won't be in class. I ask the girl if she wants me to throw out her test and allow her to take it another time. This is the one time I am willing to bend my absolutely no make-up tests policy. The girl shakes her head, saying she thought she did well on the test.

The girl leaves. The final three students finish their tests and we leave, talking about what happened. I walk into the Mass Comm office and folks what happened. "Guess you'll now have the reputation of giving hard tests now -- ones where the students pass out when they are done." The jokes are funny, but I am worn. "What to do when I student passes out during a test" wasn't in the faculty handbook and I hoped I handled the situation okay.

I head to my office where I take a minute. Then I start grading the tests. This semester is going to be a doosey.

Concert Luck

Saturday night we attended the Strings Attached Beatles White Album concert. It's difficult to describe Strings Attached, but it's sort of like chamber music, with violins and cellos, meets rock 'n roll. There are six shows a year, each with special guest stars, Austin muscians of note. The White Album concert featured 20 artists, such as Trish Murphy and Guy Forsyth. This concert was outside, at the Nutty Brown Cafe.

Before the concert, we were worried if it was even going to happen. All day the sky was ominous, with the threat of a storm. As we left Pflugerville for Dripping Springs, the sky broke open and it downpoured. However, we called Nutty Brown and it wasn't even raining there. As the show started, there was a light show in the background -- some city to the south was getting a huge lighting storm.

The concert was great; it was interesting to hear the various muscians put their own spin to the classic music. We heard some singers we weren't familiar with and they were great. Carolyn Wonderland, in particular, blew us away. Think Janis Joplin meets the Beatles; it was cool.

A drawing was held during intermission. Guess who was a winner? Doug's name was the last called, but of course, it was called. He won a backstage pass, but after 5 minutes of just standing around not knowing what to do, he came back to our seats, grumbling that he would have rather won the CD.

We really enjoyed the show and are looking forward to seeing more Strings Attached shows.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Lucky bastard

Sometimes I get really annoyed with Doug. On these occasions he just laughs. He thinks I over react, but really, it's not fair.

Doug has this uncanny ability to win raffles. If we are somewhere and there is a drawing, he wins. I, on the other hand, never win. Once we were at a dinner event with 100 people. The event had door prizes -- about 90 of them. Everyone at our table, except myself, had won a prize. Doug had probably won two. Close to the end of the drawing, I gave up. "I'm not going to win anything," I said as I threw down my ticket. Doug picks up my discarded ticket. Next number called was my former ticket. I glare at Doug; he just laughs.

It's gotten to the point that I won't fill out raffle forms. I have Doug do it. Last month we were at a home and garden show and I have him register for a few things. Of course, he wins a draw for a $200 gift certificate for window treatments. Then he wonders why I hate him.

This weekend we took a glass fusing class. One of the projects in the class was to make a community bowl, meaning all the students make a part of the bowl and then the bowl is fused together. The teacher put all our names in a drawing and the winner got to keep the bowl. As I write my name and put it into the drawing I comment, "you know, Doug is going to win this." I went on to say how he wins everything and I never win anything. I think the other students thought I was joking. Later, the teacher draws the winning name and it was, of course, Doug. I look at him and growl. He laughs.

Even when he thinks he loses, he wins. At one raffle they called the number 6968. Doug looked at his ticket and has 8969. He didn't win. I looked at his ticket and realized something -- he's holding the ticket upside down. He was the winner. Go figure.

Doug likes to attribute his winnings to good living. He is so full of it. Then he tries to rationalize it, saying I should be happy when he wins as we both share in the winnings. I'm a constant loser and I should be happy? I don't get it.

The thing is, I should be winning. It runs in my family. Like Doug, my grandmother was lucky and always won things. From winning a turkey at bingo, to winning cash prizes, if she played, she won. I inherited her father's clock, her glass Virgin Mary, but not her winning streak. What is wrong with this picture?

Granted, I earn things through hard work, but just once I want my name to be picked in a drawing. I want to feel the adrenaline rush from having won something. I want to be lucky. Instead, that thrill goes to Doug. He's the lucky bastard and I'm envious.

Monday, September 11, 2006

5 years ago

I remember that morning -- it was surreal. It was a Tuesday and I already was worried about the future.

That spring it seemed like you couldn't go a day without hearing that one Austin company or another had layoffs. Even the PR agency I worked for, which had prided itself on never having a layoff, had let some folks go earlier that spring. It was tough for our clients, which in turn meant it was tough for our business.

In March Doug and I bought our first house; the afternoon of the closing I walked into my VP's office and asked him if there was any reason we shouldn't go through with it. "Dara, I'm your boss, but I'm also your friend. I would tell you if you had a reason to be concerned. Believe me, you are the last person in this office who needs to be worried about losing their job." In a strange twist of events, he was right.

Doug and I moved into the house the first weekend of May. We were excited and although we knew the economy was on a downturn, we were optimistic about our future. Doug worked at a start-up and he was spearheading a customer implementation project for big names in the real estate market, which were investors in Doug's start-up. On June 15, the weekend before Doug's project was to go live, the new CEO of the startup decided to pull the plug on the project with no warning. Doug was let go.

Still, I had a good job with the PR agency and we knew we'd be okay. Doug felt he could afford to be picky and find the right job. Then came Friday, Sept. 7. The founder and CEO of my PR agency flew in from Dallas. Business was down and a few months earlier we had been bought by a larger agency. The Austin office had to close. I was one of three people asked to continue with the company on a freelance basis to help close the office. I ended up being the last one out; I turned off the lights.

It was Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 and I was driving to the shell of an office. What once was bursting at the seams with 35 employees now only had three. I was listening to my favorite radio station on my commute when the deejays started talking about a plane flying into the first tower. I called Doug to tell him. I keep driving to the office and then the other plane hit. I called Doug again. I didn't think he was paying attention, but later I found out he turned on the tv after my first call. He saw the second plane on tv as it happened. He was stunned and couldn't speak.

I got into the office and shortly after I arrived, my colleague Jack arrived. We were both a little freaked out. Besides being concerned for our country, because we were out of work, we were concerned about our future. The phone rang. It was Doug. A plane just hit the Pentagon. We didn't know what to think. The third person in our office arrived. She was young, maybe a year out of school. We told her what was going on and it didn't seem to register.

Eventually the three of us left the office and went home. There was no work to be done that day. We knew our lives had changed.

It was 11 months later before Doug found a job, a contract position for the state. To date, Doug continues to contract, working for several months and then being out of work for several months, simply because the jobs are still not back. I started freelancing, working as a consultant for a marketing company, but it was a tough go, both in terms of lack of business and also in terms of the personality of the CEO. After two years I had to leave for the sake of my sanity. A year, and a retail job later, I started grad school. Now I'm teaching, but earning 30% less than what I was making five years ago and 50% less than what I could be making now, that is, if there were jobs at my level. Those are few and far between.

Quite honestly, Doug and I have struggled these last five years. Often we feel like we are treading water, just trying to stay afloat and not moving ahead. Still, we've somehow managed to stay together. That says a lot about us; many couples would not have survived the stress. We still have the house, and have several new, dear friends we've met since then. Without permanent jobs, we've found other ways to define ourselves, through our hobbies and interests, not through what we do. Things which were important then, like would we get married, what about the promotion, those all important stock options, are just not that important any more.

Often, I wonder what would have happened if 9/11 hadn't happened. How would our lives be different? It's difficult to say. Maybe things would be better, maybe not. But like most everyone else, we've had to learn to pick up the pieces, do the best with what we have left and hope that tomorrow is better.

Isn't it ironic

Saw this posting on Craigslist. A student wants to hire someone to write his/her term paper on ethics. Seems like the student has already flunked the ethics lesson.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Thank you for smoking

Doug got a new toy yesterday -- a smoker. It's small, but we hope that it will do well. Tonight we are attempting to smoke a brisket, but we may have started a bit late to have it ready for dinner. Doug is so looking forward to Sundays for the new few months, what with football and smoked meat.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Calling all bats

Last night there was a strange signal in the Austin sky. Austin was going batty and we needed the help of a super hero.

Actually it was the 2nd annual Bat Fest. Austin loves its festivals and we love our bats, which makes me wonder why it took us so long to start a festival to honor our bats. But finally we did, with the proceeds going to Bat Conservation International. Instead of the usual cars and trucks, the Congress Avenue bridge was crowded with arts and crafts booths, food and beer vendors, kiddie rides, music stages, and of course people, all doing their part to keep Austin weird.

Doug and I took the dogs down there last night and spent some time looking at the sights. One of the things we noticed was the Batmobile Corvette (okay, not authentic) and the Bat Signal on the Hyatt. It must have worked because we saw both Batman and Robin walking around the festival. I asked if I could get my photo taken with them, but they kept walking away. Maybe bats don't much like dogs.

Welcome to my fantasy

Put me in coach, I'm ready to play. Yes, I am now a coach of a NFL team. Okay, not a real team, but a fantasy football league team.

Last year Doug coached his first fantasy football team and really got into it. That's fine. I'm not much into football other than my blood bleeds Arkansas Razorback red. Even living in Austin, to me the proper way to do the hook'em horns sign is with the horns pointing downward. Doug, on the other hand, has always been a huge NFL fan and I try to go along, if, that is, going along means that I leave him in peace to watch football on Sundays.

Doug had such a great time with fantasy football last year, saying it really helped him to get more enjoyment from all the games, that he's playing again this year. Because they had an odd number of teams, Doug decided to put my name in the hat and draft a team for me. I was there, and I put the names of my players on the board, but let's face it, I don't know Ronnie Brown from Josh White. I know a few of the Chiefs players because Doug is a fan, I know a few of the older Dallas players from when I lived in that city and they were the only thing talked about (but most of those guys are retired), and I know the big names that everyone knows, like Peyton Manning. Let's just say I saw Doug Flutie's name on the draft list and thought, "didn't that guy retire 10 years ago?" I really don't keep up with this stuff.

Except I did know Matt Jones, a receiver for Jacksonville. Of course, he is a former Razorback quarterback who turned receiver in the pros. Luckily, I drafted him. Of course, no one else even cared about him except Doug. Even if he wasn't predicted to have a break-out year, I would have drafted him simply because he was a Razorback. Unfortunately Doug didn't let me draft my other favorite former Hog, Cedric Cobb, because Cobb may not even be picked up this year and even if he did, he wouldn't play much.

My roster is below. Make any comments you want, but keep in mind, I don't know who is who. I also picked last, so often I didn't get much of a choice. However, according to Doug, I had a pretty good draft and should be in contention to make the league playoffs. He's really hoping we come in #1 & #2 this year.

Running backs
  • Ronnie Brown, Miami
  • Julius Jones, Dallas
  • Chester Taylor, Minnesota
  • Lendale White, Tennessee

Wide receivers

  • Hines Ward, Pittsburgh
  • Joe Horn, New Orleans
  • Andre Johnson, Houston
  • Matt Jones, Jacksonville


  • Carson Palmer, Cincinnati
  • Jake Plummer, Denver

Tight ends

  • Randy McMichael, Miami
  • Chris Cooley, Washington


  • Josh White, Seattle


  • Indianapolis

Friday, September 01, 2006

That's hot

This week Austinites are excited about the weather. The temperature has finally started to drop. Several days were only in the 90s, instead of the 100s. Today's Statesman reports that this year was the hottest recorded August ever recorded in Austin. It's not that we set a lot of record highs, but we were consistently high and our lows were just not that low this year.

Yesterday was the History of PR lecture in my Intro to PR course. At one point I talk about how PR really shaped the idea of Manifest Destiny and the push west. I then mention Texas and comment about how great Stephen F. Austin must have been with PR to get all these folks to move to Texas, enduring our summers without air conditioning, much less electricity. At this point I ask the students would they move to Texas without air conditioning. For the first time, someone said yes. It's a guy on the front row who is usually into the lecture. "You would?" I ask in front of the class. "Yes," he answers, "that way I would have the whole state to myself." I think this guy is the epitome of a true Texan.