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Archive for April, 2011

While Wills and Kate were enjoying a posh party with 300 of their closest friends, Eddie, the boys and I were on our way to the Vidalia Onion Festival, which included a rodeo.

Here’s a photo essay.

Jesus is in the market for a stuffed member of the Rat Pack?

Vidalia, the Sweet Onion City

The city’s bounty comes in regular and jumbo sizes, and in five-, 10- or 25-pound bags. I chose a 10-pounder.

The city's harvest dipped in batter and drowned in oil. Yum! Dominic is not so sure.

Paramedics at the rodeo. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

The boys enjoy an up-close-and-personal view of cow hide.

Nothing says "festival" quite like a funnel cake.

And nothing says "festival in the country" quite like boiled peanuts. Gideon likes them too!

Ridin' and ropin' with a generous helping of Toby Keith and Garth Brooks over the loudspeaker.

Where have all the cowgirls gone? Here, "cloverleafing" around barrels.

The rodeo was entertaining, even though the cowboys and cowgirls were high school students and not professionals.

Everyone we talked to kept inviting us to the “street dance.” I don’t know what that was, but we didn’t go. We had already been a little spooked by the first thing we heard upon arriving:

We need parents to help out with the goats, please.

That’s not something I’ll bet Wills and Kate heard at their soirée.

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… ‘Students and the enormous revenue they bring in to our institution are a more valued commodity to us than faculty,’ Dean James Hewitt said. ‘Although Rothberg is a distinguished, tenured professor with countless academic credentials and knowledge of 21 modern and ancient languages, there is absolutely no excuse for his boring Chad with his lectures. Chad must be entertained at all costs.’ (from ‘Professor deeply hurt by student’s evaluation‘)

Thank you to The Onion for providing this little bit of levity regarding the serious business of student evaluations. (I’ve mentioned my feelings about them before.)

Just this morning, one of my coworkers was lamenting the “age of entitlement” and mourning the death of professor respect. I’m not sure I’m in a position to really complain about narcissism, though. My activity on Facebook, Twitter and this blog is not exactly bucking the trend.

Let’s look at the concept of narcissism as defined by Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, authors of “The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement.”

Narcissists believe they are better than others, lack emotionally warm and caring relationships, constantly seek attention, and treasure material wealth and physical appearance.

So I’ll narcissistically comment on my narcissism in my narcissistic blog: One out of the four is definitely true, and I think someone could make a case for two others, although only in specific areas.

But enough about me. What about you?

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Some friends are staying with us this weekend and introduced us to “Web Soup,” an odd (inferior) mix of “Talk Soup” and “Tosh.0.”

I mention this because there was a video of someone squeezing a boil. (Shudder.)

Guess what that led to.

Yep, a ride on the YouTube highway to hell. (You know how I get.)

That’s how I found the nastiest video ever. (I had no idea people posted all of this kind of stuff. Ignorance was not necessarily bliss in this case.)

Warning: Do not watch if you have a weak stomach.

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… you have a portalet on the back of your pickup.

My neighbor might be a redneck.

I’m not sure if I am becoming one, or am one already, but I certainly live next to some.

With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy, here’s my take:

Your neighbor might be a redneck if …

  • He doesn’t own a shirt. (If my next-door neighbor has one, he never wears it.)
  • She drives to the mailbox.
  • You had to put up a taller fence to keep your neighbor from peeping over it to see what you were doing.
  • Her free-range terrier tried to kill your chicken. (Wait — that might make me a redneck too.)
  • She operates a beauty salon in her garage.
  • He has an RV in his back yard, and his kids live in it. (To be clear, they are grown.)
  • There has been a refrigerator box in his yard for three months.

Including the portalet, there are eight examples of redneckery afoot in my neighborhood. Yet I’m only talking about four different neighbors.

Redneck is as redneck does (apologies to Forrest Gump).

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Procrastination takes many forms. With me, it takes the form of a dive into the information vortex.

Specifically, a vortex swirling with images of bed bug-infested mattresses, STD outbreaks, Meth Mouth and bad plastic surgery.

This week’s topic is (drumroll, please) Awful Parasites. (Yes, I do love the show “Monsters Inside Me.”) Here are my favorite horrible kinds:

  • Human Bot Fly, native to South America and parts of North America
  • The Filarial Worm, which completes its entire lifecycle inside its human host
  • Candiru, the “toothpick fish” attracted to urea. Guess where you find urea? Bad news for the fellas. The following image shows one just removed from a poor guy’s (ahem) parts.
  • The Guinea Worm, contracted by drinking contaminated water in South Asia and Africa
  • Cymothoa exigua, or the tongue-eating louse, which, unlike the above, is not a human parasite. This creature attacks fish by going in through the gills, attaching to the tongue, and extracting the blood so that the tongue atrophies. Then the parasite acts as the fish’s tongue. Shudder.

Now I feel all gross and itchy, but I’ve succeeded in wasting plenty of time. Enjoy!

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Words of wisdom

Entertainment Weekly has a breakdown of Katie Couric’s book, “The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives.” Some lives are clearly more extraordinary than others. Let’s compare Joyce Carol Oates and Madeleine Albright with Ryan Seacrest. (On second thought, let’s not.)

Here are some select bits of advice:

Never follow anyone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path; then, by all means, you should follow that path. — Ellen Degeneres

Yeah. Um. Whose path am I going to follow? What other person has degrees in English, geosciences, performing arts and journalism? I think I’m on my own here. If I could follow a career path, though, please sign me up for J.K. Rowling’s. I’m OK with the whole living-on-welfare-until-book-sells stint. Or Oprah‘s. She’s kind of awesome.

Say yes. Accept the job, agree to that meeting, catch up over a cup of coffee, lend a helping hand … You can always say no later — or so I’ve heard. — Ryan Seacrest

I have been learning how to say no. I’m not good at it. I’m overscheduled. I’m a Type A kind of gal.

So the pie isn’t perfect? Cut it into wedges … Stay in control, and never panic. — Martha Stewart

Amber, you want me in your pod. I will remain calm under pressure, think about all the possible alternatives, and examine fully the consequences. One of my mottos is “Keep calm and carry on.” (Another is “If it ain’t broke, don’t spend three days and four trips to Home Depot trying to fix it,” but that is a story for another day.)

Resist the urge to write lists, especially if the list is Pros and Cons. Just go with your gut. — Hugh Jackman

While my gut is lusting after Jackman as Wolverine, the rest of me is making to-do lists. It’s what I do.

Don’t sleep with your boss. — Chelsea Handler and Barbara Walters

This one is easy. No offense to my former bosses (OK, offense definitely meant toward one of them), but I never had the desire to do the horizontal mambo with them. Never. Ew. Especially as many of them were women. (Wonderful women, but still.) I know many of the students in my department fantasize about my current boss because he is very cerebral, does yoga, gets acupuncture, and is very much in touch with his sensitive side. Fine. I can’t look at him that way. Ew, again.

Katie Couric didn’t ask me for my advice, but I’ll share it anyway. (Don’t expect anything too fresh. Isn’t all advice recycled?)

  • Decide what you like to do, then figure out how to get paid for it. (I like to observe and report.)
  • If a big project is causing problems, break it into smaller, more manageable tasks. (How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.)
  • Write to-do lists. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when you mark off completed tasks. (Sorry, Hugh.)
  • Take time to do things that are unproductive but enjoyable. (All work and no play makes me a dull person.)

Uh oh. That was another list. Sorry again, Hugh!

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I attended a lecture last night by Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.” I was very interested in what he had to say because I have written about Carr before, and I have had his book on my shelf for nearly a year.

Sadly, I’ve been too distracted to read it.

And, sadly again, that’s his point.

What he says is true: The constant barrage of information via smartphone, iPad, desktop computer, laptop, iTouch, etc., is eroding our ability to concentrate. We’re reverting to cavepeople distracted by all the sights and sounds of our environment, as opposed to the erudite focusers we became after Gutenberg invented the printing press.

One of his slides gave me great pause.

People claim they check email a couple of times per hour. Once research participants were fitted with eye-tracking paraphernalia, researchers discovered they checked email 30-40 times per hour.

Yikes.

No wonder I’m not done with my dissertation yet.

To his credit, Carr identified the many ways the Internet has improved our lives, including enhanced visual-spatial skills. And he admits to being distracted as well.

Here’s the point I’ve made before: The Internet is not going away. So what do we do to maintain and improve our ability to focus?

We turn it off. Use it sparingly. Have conversations without checking email, Twitter, Facebook, texts, etc. In Carr’s words to me in the book he signed, “Stay deep.”

I’ll be looking for a nice WiFi-disabled cave to hang out in while I finish my dissertation.

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