The Weirdness of Going North

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SouthConsidering the fact that I lived in the Midwest for the first 11 years and 9 months of my life before moving to the South, it wouldn’t seem like it should be such a big culture shock to be back up North. But I guess that over the past ten years, I’ve gotten more accustomed to being a Southerner than I realized. That is, I’ve gotten accustomed to being around Southerners. I’m not sure I ever entirely counted as a Southerner; I’ve gotten into the habit of interchangeably referring to myself as a Southerner or Northerner depending upon the context. For example, if it’s too hot, I can complain about it because I’m a Northerner and am not used to having temperatures exceeding a hundred degrees for weeks on end, but when it’s cold, I can complain about it because I’m a Southerner and don’t even know what’s happening when there’s white stuff falling from the sky. I can drink iced tea either with or without sugar. I can make nostalgic and affectionate remarks about both corn fields and cotton fields.  I can claim that everyone else has an accent, and when someone tells me that I have an accent, I can attribute it to ancestors who came from fascinating distant places, even though those ancestors died years before I was even born. If someone asks me whether I consider myself a Northerner or a Southerner, I can tell them that I have the best of both sides. At the moment, though, I feel like a Southerner living in the North.

Roll TideFor one thing, the “Roll Tide” bumper sticker on my car is the only one I’ve seen since coming here, and I have not seen any Razorbacks references, either. I also haven’t heard anything about LSU, Auburn, or any of the other various teams whose names make up at least forty percent of conversational topics in the South. People around here aren’t as obsessed with college football as they are in Alabama, and any individuals who do watch college football are going to cheer for different teams and are probably not going to be particularly devoted to football this time of year, since it’s not even football season. Actually, I myself have never been a really big football fan. I think that the fan culture is actually just as important to me as the game itself. And really, I’ve been a Chicago Cubs fan for much longer than I’ve been an Alabama Crimson Tide fan, and I understand and enjoy baseball more than football anyway. But I’m sure that one of these days, I’m going to slip and use the phrase “Roll tide” in public, and it’ll come as a shock when no one knows what I mean. In fact, I’m a little tempted to start saying, “Roll tide, y’all”, instead of “Hello”, just to see how people react. In Alabama, this would not be a weird or unusual thing to do.

Another weird thing is that it’s cold here. I don’t mean that it snows more in the winter; that’s obvious and I’m prepared for the fact that next winter is going to feel long and cold to me no matter how mild it is by Northern standards. I mean that non-winter temperatures are surprisingly cold here. It’s still a bit chilly now, in the middle of June. There have been days that it’s been in the 60s. In Alabama, we have a word for this kind of weather, and that word is “freezing”.  Admittedly, I’ve always been amused by the way that Southerners panic every time it drops below eighty degrees, but even I have gotten to the point that it really doesn’t feel like summer unless it’s so hot that you can bake things by holding them out of an open window for a few minutes. Okay, I admit that I’m exaggerating there, but it’s literally true that in the summer, you can brew tea in just a couple minutes using no heat source except sunlight. I’ve done that in my dorm room many times. Then I’d stick it in the refrigerator for a while and put some sugar in it. There’s something very satisfying and summery about a cup of sweetened iced tea, or, as we call it in the South, “tea”.

NorthThen there’s the accents. I don’t have a Southern accent at all, and neither do I use the word “y’all”, but I no longer really notice Southern accents unless they’re very strong. Now, Midwestern voices sound unusual to me. For the first few days after I got here, I thought that everyone’s voice sounded clipped and harsh. But at least around here, talking takes little enough time that it’s a useful and efficient means of communication. In the South, it’s rather inconvenient to have a four-syllable first name because it takes the average Southerner about five minutes to get through each syllable. Each vowel is a meticulously crafted work of art, the kind that leaves the observer wondering what it’s supposed to be, but agreeing that it is certainly aesthetically pleasing. The stereotype says that Southerners are more talkative than Northerners, and I wonder if that idea comes from the amount of time spent talking rather than the number of words spoken. (Actually, Southerners probably talk more than Northerners according to either form of measurement. But I still think that the difference is much greater if we’re measuring time rather than words.)

If a random stranger does exchange small talk with you, that’s weird and kind of creepy around here. I had forgotten this because in the South, it’s perfectly normal for people to chat with people they see in public places. I’ve never been the type of person to strike up a conversation with a random passerby, but I’m so used to the normality of such encounters that I thought nothing of it when a random man who saw me applying for jobs one day stopped me to offer information about the town and to welcome me to the area. In fact, I appreciated his friendliness until I realized that he was flirting with me and thought that I was going to go on a date with him. Then he continued to follow me even after I said goodbye and told him to have a nice day. In order to escape, I had to give him a fake phone number and then pretend that I was in a hurry to go someplace else. Then I ran away and hid in my car and said to myself, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Alabama anymore.” I really hate lying; I am still very bothered by this even now that it’s been something like two weeks.

Speed Limit infinitySomething else I’ve noticed is that people drive differently here. I think that every single place in the world, with the possible exception of uninhabited areas such as the ocean floor, is known for the fact that people drive more quickly there than anyplace else. This would seem to be statistically impossible, but it would also seem to be true. I definitely have noticed that, both in Alabama and in Illinois, people drive faster there than they do in the other state. This is slightly less paradoxical when you take into account that the speed limit is drastically different; people are supposed to drive significantly faster in Alabama.

In my experience, Alabama drivers are terrible about changing lanes abruptly and not looking where they’re going when they do so, and indeed, I have seen for myself that Illinois drivers are much better about this. But they have their own idiosyncrasies here. (Which is fairly obvious considering that this is, in fact, what the word “idiosyncrasies” means.) For instance, drivers around here tend to pull so far forward at stop signs and stoplights that they’re actually in the intersection. They really will block traffic rather than give up that tiny little head start when it’s their turn to go. It annoys and confuses me, but absolutely everyone does it.

Also, tollways are weird. I don't like tollways.

Also, tollways are weird. I don’t like tollways.

Drivers around here also aren’t very nice about letting someone make a lane change. If you accidentally get into a turn lane when you want to go straight, or don’t get into a turn lane when that’s what you were trying to do, your mistake cannot be rectified. Last-minute lane changes are not things that happen in Illinois, apparently. I am sure this relates to the aforementioned fact that Illinois drivers are slower and safer about their lane changes than Alabama drivers are, but it makes life very difficult for people like me who are unfamiliar with the area and don’t always know which lane they want to be in until the last minute. This issue has in fact inspired the song (To be sung to the tune of “Come Ye Thankful People Come”) which goes like this: “Let me over, let me by/ You don’t want to make me cry/ If I get lost I’ll be sad/ I am likely to go mad/ At this rate I’ll ne’er arrive/ I will never end this drive/ Let me get into that lane/ You are driving me insane.” Yes, I did make this up on the spur of the moment and sing it out loud with my windows open when it was entirely possible that other drivers could hear. I apologize for the irreverent use of a hymn tune, but I could not help it, for the song was so relevant to the situation that my conscious mind was not involved in its invention.

One thing that I do not miss at all is the cockroaches. I don’t think I’ve seen a single cockroach since I left campus, and that is definitely a very good thing. And there are fewer mosquitoes and wasps, as well. And the roads tend to go in straight lines and intersect other roads frequently, which makes it easier to get back on track if you’ve gotten yourself lost. Around here, there seem to be fewer car crashes, probably because of the aforementioned reckless lane changes in Alabama. Also, there is no risk of hurricanes in this area, and storms can usually be predicted somewhat farther in advance. So these are all good things.

Yay Snow!

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101_9788Once again, my plans have been diverted. The blog post that I began a day and a half ago is still sitting unfinished in a folder titled “Future Blog Posts” while a new and more pressing topic has presented itself to me. It snowed today, and snow changes everything. Granted, it only snowed for a couple hours, and very little snow actually accumulated on the ground. (And I missed most of it because I was in class.) In fact, even that small amount started melting immediately and now, just a few hours later, the snow is mostly gone from the ground. Fortunately, I live on the fifth floor of a building on a steep hill, so the view from my window mainly consists of trees and the tops of buildings, where there still is snow. It’s very, very beautiful. My window is wide open; I don’t care about the cold nearly as much as I care about the sight of the snow.

Snow 3Technically, this snowfall wasn’t nearly major enough to be a big deal. It’s nothing compared to the kind of snow that people who live farther north get at least a few times every single winter, and it’s nothing compared to the snowstorm that my family experienced on Christmas day. But I personally feel that this snow is due cause for excitement and obsession. For one thing, I kind of have a thing about snow. If it snows, it’s a very noteworthy occasion; that’s just the way things work in my world. In particular, it is necessary that I alert the internet to any snow that I see. But I’m not exactly unique in that way. At my college, everyone does that. This is Alabama and Alabama snow is a rarity almost as significant as if the Alabama Crimson Tide loses a football game. (The difference, of course, is that it’s good when it snows and it’s a major disappointment if Alabama loses a game.) Alabama snow happens maybe once or twice a year, and there’s never more than a couple inches. Every snowfall I have seen here in Alabama, even the tiniest of flurries, is worthy of acknowledgement. In fact, I know a number of people who automatically apply the word “blizzard” to any sighting of snow.  This particular snowfall actually is a greater than average one, even though it will be nothing but a distant memory by mid-morning tomorrow.

Snow 1The presence of snow on the ground or in the air entails certain changes in my rules of life. Basically, that means that I rewrite my to-do list if it snows, and that the revised version is more likely to include things like sitting on my bed and watching DVDs on my laptop late into the night. I’ve actually done that a number of times in the past couple of weeks, mainly because it’s been so cold and rainy that I’ve slipped into a mentality similar to that of a snow day, except without the joy and excitement. Now that it’s finally snowed in actuality, I have an excuse to act that way. Besides, I now also have an excuse to follow the dietary traditions which I associate with snowy weather.

101_9790It goes without saying that one should have hot chocolate when it snows, and this especially holds true when one lives at college where one’s mother is not present to place limits on the amount of hot chocolate one may consume or the quantity of chocolate that one should put in one’s hot chocolate. (In case my mother is reading this, or anyone else’s mother for that matter, I would like to point out that it’s called hot chocolate, not hot chocolate-water.) I take some pride in the fact that I don’t use hot chocolate mix to make my hot chocolate. I make it with cocoa powder, sugar, and hot milk. Really, hot chocolate mix is just cocoa powder, artificial sweetener, powdered dairy products, and various substances that offer no contribution to flavor and are present only because of the tacit rules of food packaging companies that all prepackaged foods must contain several ingredients that are named with long and unfamiliar words. You can get more or less the same thing just by heating up some milk, (It’s best if you actually scald it a little) and add the correct proportion of cocoa powder and sugar. (This is done by estimation, not measuring.) Then, if you want to make it extra special, you can just add some marshmallows and/or chocolate chips. This, dear readers, is how hot chocolate is to be made.

101_9793Even besides the hot chocolate rule, dietary practices should change in accordance with the weather. Basically, that’s my way of saying that I eat loads of junk food when it snows. Today, for example, I discovered that the campus store has finally restocked bagel bites, and I naturally bought a box. Those will be my supper, along with an excessive amount of Oreos and a chocolate bar. This, of course, is in addition to the aforementioned hot chocolate.

snow 4Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to post an annoying amount of snow pictures to tumblr.

Various Aspects of My Life Today

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Every now and then, generally on a Sunday afternoon, I like to open a Word document and just type random things at intervals throughout the day. Later in the evening, I then give the whole thing a very quick and cursory edit and stick it on my blog with a few pictures added. I am not sure if anyone else in the world is particularly interested in reading such random collections of stuff, but it’s fun to do, so I keep doing it anyway. Without further ado, here is a list of stuff that I felt like typing at some point between noon-ish and 8:30-ish PM this evening.

I found this online and edited it a little. It used to say Missouri, but I've been to Missouri many times and I can assure you that it is more true of Alabama.

I found this online and edited it a little. It used to say Missouri, but I’ve been to Missouri many times and I can assure you that it is more true of Alabama.

1. Alabama is such a weird place. Today’s weather feels more like an example of the proverbial April Showers than like typical mid-January weather. The temperature is high enough that I would have the windows open if it wasn’t raining, and it’s so humid that my hair is just as curly as it is on a ridiculously hot summer day. The current weather system is interestingly reminiscent of the rain that occurred during the first week of June. In fact, I am now experiencing much nostalgia regarding the beginning of last summer.

2. On the way to and from church today, I discovered that I still know all of the words to all four verses of “Today Thy Mercy Calls Us”, “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted”, and “Be Still My Soul”, the first three verses of “Salvation Unto Us Has Come” and “Soul Adorn Thyself With Gladness”,  and the first two verses of “By Grace I’m Saved”, “We All Believe in One True God,” and “Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands”, even though I haven’t sung in the car much since about late September. Ironically, despite being able to do all that singing in the car today, I still couldn’t sing in church due to the cold that I had almost two weeks ago. Also, I can’t remember all of “Christ is Arisen”, which is odd given the fact that it’s only one verse long.

No, there is no reason for this image to be here. Should there be a reason?

No, there is no reason for this image to be here. Should there be a reason?

3. When you think about it, it’s really amazing and incredible to have a body. It’s a concrete and physical representation of your entire self and identity, like an avatar in a computer game except that it’s more real. And you can do stuff with it, like walking around and like eating. I might not like everything about this physical self-container; I might wish that it had a prettier face or that it danced better, but the fact remains that it’s a pretty cool thing.

4. I feel very proud of the last couple chess games I just won. None of them were particularly interesting tactically; they mostly involved things like races to get pawns queened and slow maneuvers to chase the opponent’s king around. But now I’m sad because I just lost a game. Yes, I am typing and playing chess at the same time. I might be playing better if my attention wasn’t divided. (Update a couple minutes later: I won a game by resignation because my opponent made a really stupid mistake and lost his queen just a couple moves into the game. That blunder would have been unusually bad even for me. The moral of this story is that you should always think very carefully before moving your queen that soon.)

A picture of me and my sister. As you can probably guess, it's a rather old picture. I'm the one in pink.

A picture of me and my sister. As you can probably guess, it’s a rather old picture. I’m the one in pink.

5. It just occurred to me that last summer, when my sister and I fought a spam war, (the evidence of which can be seen here and here) this was before we used tumblr. I think that the time is coming when I should plan my next attack.

6. It’s mid-afternoon and I’m still wearing my church dress. I’m lazy and I hate changing clothes. Also, I happen to particularly like this dress. It fits me nicely and it’s comfortable, which always win major coolness points for dresses, especially dresses that still look as nice as this one does. I like the pattern, too; it’s brown and white with pink flowers. The really appealing thing about it is that, unlike most of my clothes, it doesn’t have a super low neckline or a very short skirt. I suppose I could see it as a compliment that the fashion industry assumes that anyone who wears my size would want to wear revealing clothes, but they happen to be wrong. I would prefer to dress more modestly than most clothing manufacturers allow, and this dress happens to be adequately modest.

I posted this on tumblr this morning

I posted this on tumblr this morning

7. I have two jigsaw puzzles in progress right now. I’ve been too busy to really work on them, so right now, they’re just sitting around and I put a few pieces in place every now and then. That’s not the way I like to do jigsaw puzzles; I have been known to stay up ‘till the wee hours o’ the morn to finish a puzzle that I started earlier that evening. Puzzles are fun because they’re somewhat intellectual but take up little enough mental energy that you can use that time to let your mind wander wherever it wants. And they’re metaphorical for life in that the point is to take hundreds or thousands of little pieces and put them together in a way that makes sense and allows you to see the big picture. The difference is that, in the case of a jigsaw puzzle, it really is possible to get the whole thing put together properly, and it usually doesn’t even take very long and isn’t very stressful in the meantime. Still, the metaphor is accurate enough that there’s something comforting and reassuring about accomplishing a jigsaw puzzle, particularly if you do it in a short time frame. The fact that life is significantly more complicated than jigsaw puzzles is the main reason that I decided to do two at the same time. That setup is still much simpler than real life, and it’s less fun that just focusing on one puzzle.

In progress

In progress

8. I’ve made a list of my top 100 favorite songs four times over the last three years or so, and it’s always a pretty long process. Making a list of my top 250 songs is taking forever. But it’s a great excuse to find time to listen to a lot of good music. That includes some music that I haven’t listened to since the last time I made a top 100 favorite songs list.

9. Speaking of music, I’m a little bit obsessed with Judith Durham of the 1960s Australian folk band The Seekers.  I think that she exemplified everything that a female pop singer should be. Most importantly, she had a very beautiful voice and she sang songs that I like, but besides that, she had a pretty face and dressed nicely. Also, she was married exactly once and divorced zero times, she never did drugs or got in trouble with the law as far as I know, and there was nothing even remotely provocative about her image. But mostly, I like her because she had a very beautiful voice and sang songs that I like. Examples of Judith Durham’s awesomeness can be found here and here and here and here and here and here and here. Those are about half of the songs by The Seekers that are going to be on my top 250 favorite songs list.

On days like today when there's lots of stuff I want to do and none of it involves leaving my room, I just stack everything I intend to use on my bed or desk.

On days like today when there’s lots of stuff I want to do and none of it involves leaving my room, I just stack everything I intend to use on my bed or desk.

10. I have experienced an utter lack of schedule since my car broke down on Friday. Even though it’s working again, and even though it got me to and from church just fine this morning, my life still isn’t following a predictable and controllable chain of events. Because I have obsessive-compulsive tendencies regarding my schedule, this feels like an anomaly in the space-time continuum. Note to self: get to class early tomorrow so I can ask my physics professor how to solve anomalies in the space-time continuum. If he asks what I mean, inform him that my car broke down on Friday. This should clarify matters entirely.

11. I don’t know what to make of the fact that I barely have any homework to do. It’s not that I have a problem with this situation; there are an infinite number of things that I’d rather do than homework. It’s just that I am unaccustomed to having as little homework as I’ve had this last week and a half. It’s an aberration that baffles me even while it brings me pleasure. I am content to spend the rest of the evening reading, writing, playing online games, and recording snippets of my favorite songs, but my brain tells me that this is not the way college students are supposed to live life.

In case it isn't obvious, I don't care if my pictures are relevant. Here's a random picture of Oswin from Doctor Who.

In case it isn’t obvious, I don’t care if my pictures are relevant. Here’s a random picture of Oswin from Doctor Who.

12. Here is a fun fact which my sisters told to me over Christmas break: Liquid Paper (which is a certain brand of correction fluid) was invented by the mother of Michael Nesmith, who went on to become one of the Monkees. In case anyone reading this doesn’t know who the Monkees are, The Monkees was a television show in the mid-1960s featuring a band by the same name. As a musical group, the Monkees were successful and talented enough to earn themselves the reputation of a serious band in their own right, despite the fact that the television show was anything but serious and clearly modeled after the Beatles. (To my sisters: Sorry, but it is true. I’m not criticizing them. I’m just saying that they were intended to be very, very similar to the Beatles.)

13. And now it’s time for a fun grammar fact! The contraction “ain’t” stands for “am not”, and technically is grammatically correct. Or at least, it was grammatically correct until it departed from common correct usage because it had become so prominent in common incorrect usage. It is frequently used in cases where the correct contraction is “aren’t” or “isn’t”. For example, “Ain’t those some funny-looking chickens?”  or “That one ain’t a chicken at all; I think it’s an ostrich.” But if the word “ain’t” can be correctly replaced with “am not”, it would have been grammatically acceptable. For example, “Actually, I ain’t sure if it’s an ostrich or a penguin.” On an unrelated note, I take pride in my ability to come up with brilliant examples of sentences with which to discuss grammatical points. Just kidding. I was only trying to come up with a relevant way to mention an ostrich in this blog post. Mission accomplished.

A picture of my beautiful cat that I think should go viral

A picture of my beautiful cat that I think should go viral

14. It’s raining very heavily outside, I’m feeling extremely lazy, and I’m not particularly hungry, but I feel like eating. Besides, it’s suppertime. It’s a good thing that I’m a college student and that popcorn and hot chocolate constitute a perfectly valid dinner under such conditions.

15. This popcorn has utterly failed to live up to my expectations, and I feel that my expectations were entirely justified on the grounds that the bag in which the popcorn was packaged clearly indicates that this popcorn is butter flavored. This, as it turned out, is untrue. However, I do have some cause for satisfaction, because there are notably few unpopped kernels. This is not a condition for which the popcorn or the corporation who packaged and sold the popcorn can be commended; rather, it is a sign of my own impressive popcorn popping skills.

16. I recall those days when I was a young child who had no fear of thunder and lightning, for I was brave and bold, not in general, but in regards to such phenomenon. Those days are long gone, and now I live in a world where storms are to be feared, not because of a paranoid phobia or a childish terror of vague and uncertain causes, but because I know I must drive my car tomorrow, and my brakes screech something terrible when it has just rained.

17. Once again, I am engaging in an interesting experiment where I periodically time myself attempting to memorize a string of digits acquired with a random number generator. The history of this experiment can be found in these blog posts from last summer. I find it relevant to mention this point now because I am pleased with my statistics recently. Despite the fact that my life is currently in turmoil, as indicated by other statistics regarding my quantity of sleep and my emotional state at various points throughout my daily life, my brain appears to be functioning at higher than normal efficiency. Out of the past six runs of this experiment, I have succeeded four times in memorizing a string of twenty random digits in less than a minute, holding them in my mind for more than a minute while not consciously thinking about them, and then writing them down accurately in just a couple seconds. This game does have some practical applications. Early last week, for example, I instantaneously memorized the speed of light (299, 792, 458 meters per second) without having to actually put any effort into it. Clearly, I am well on the way to turning my own brain into a robot, and I expect that the fact that this doesn’t bother me is evidence that I’m getting quite close. Now, if only I was as good at things that actually matter in real life.

I made this sign for my wall this evening. Aside from the obvious fact that I can't draw or write properly, I think it's an awesome sign.

I made this sign for my wall this evening. Aside from the obvious fact that I can’t draw or write properly, I think it’s an awesome sign.

18. In order to make hot chocolate, I microwaved some milk. It scalded a little, and when I took it out of the microwave, I observed that there was a sort of film across the surface of the milk. I lifted it, and it had the texture of wet paper. This fascinated me. I am easily fascinated.

“Roll Tide!” and additional opinions about sports

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My opinion of sports and the degree of my interest in my favorite teams are not constant values. For all of my life, they have fluctuated and changed according to various factors such as my schedule and the degree to which my family and/or friends care about the particular team or game in question. As far as I’m concerned, interest in sports is a social thing; sports are only relevant as they relate to other people.  My favorite teams have generally been my father’s favorite teams, and when I was little, my primary reasons for enjoying sports was that it was fun to watch games with my father and that he let me and my siblings snack on pretzels during the game. Even now, I think that the main appeal of cheering for any given team is the spirit of community between fans.

A picture I found on Google of Cubs fans at Wrigely Field

A picture I found on Google of Cubs fans at Wrigely Field

I have good memories of the weekend when my family was in Saint Louis for my cousin’s wedding on a weekend when the Saint Louis Cardinals were playing the Chicago Cubs. We were staying in a hotel room near the baseball field, and we watched the fans through the window while we waited for the game to start on TV. When the Cubs won that game, we put on our Cubs hats, stood at the window, and cheerfully waved at the fans departing the game until my parents told us to stop; that’s not a polite thing to do in a city where most people cheer for a different team than you do. But there were a lot of Cubs fans in town, too. Coming back from my cousin’s wedding reception the next night, we met a group of them coming back from that evening’s game and we chatted with them briefly. They informed us that the Cubs had lost, but we all agreed that they were sure to win the next day and that the rest of the season was going to be great. It was cool to share our enthusiasm with some random strangers.

Roll TideIn the same way, it’s cool for Alabama football fans to use the phrase “Roll tide!” as a substitution for “Hello”, “Goodbye”, “Have a nice day”, “Good luck”, “Thank you”, “Congratulations”, “That’s cool”, “Good talking to you”, “Nice day, isn’t it?”, “Would you like fries with that?”, and basically any form of small talk or routine conversation. For those of you who haven’t spent much time in Alabama, I can assure you that this isn’t even an exaggeration. If every other word and phrase in the English language suddenly ceased to exist, most Alabama fans wouldn’t even notice because they’d be able to communicate just fine with the phrase “Roll tide!” I’m pretty sure that’s actually literally true. I don’t even think that’s a bad thing necessarily, although I do sincerely hope that the English language does not suddenly cease to exist. Language is a useful thing, particularly when one is communicating about things other than football.

CubsMy point is that I think that social connections are what make sports cool. There’s also something fun about the spirit of competition and the suspension of more relevant concerns and problems, but those things can be said for board games and game shows, too. (For the record, I think that board games and game shows are also cool, especially board games. But that’s irrelevant here.) As you can probably guess by this opinion, I’m not a really huge sports fan. When I was little, I enjoyed basketball and absolutely loved to watch the Chicago Bulls on TV with my father, but that interest dissipated completely when most of my father’s favorite players retired. Now I don’t like basketball at all and haven’t watched it for years. In the fall of 2003, my slight affinity for the Chicago Cubs turned into a full-blown obsession, and like every other Cubs fan, I was elated when they won their postgame series against the Atlanta Braves, optimistic when they started their series against the Florida Marlins, and horrified by the incident that occurred in the eighth inning of game six. (I wouldn’t normally post links to Wikipedia, but it’s better to do it this way than to relive the terrible tragedy that took place on that fateful day.) When the Marlins won the series and the Cubs were done for the season, it was a devastating disappointment, and I have hated the Florida Marlins ever since then, even though it’s been a few years since I really paid a lot of attention to baseball. I still consider myself a Cubs fan and I intend to regain my interest in baseball at some point, but lately it just hasn’t been important to me. Its place in my life has been at least temporarily taken over by SEC football. I used to think that football was an incredibly boring game, and I still don’t understand it as well as I understand baseball, but I have become an Alabama fan. SEC football is a very big deal in Birmingham. Pretty much everyone cheers for either Alabama or Auburn, except a few individuals who cheer for other teams like Tennessee, Florida, or LSU. It’s extremely rare for someone to be disinterested, and the few people who really don’t care still have to hear all about it from everyone else they know. I could have become one of those people who are frustrated and highly annoyed by the cultural prominence of college football, but I found myself being actually interested in whether or not Alabama won. When Alabama won the championship in January 2010, I was very happy about it, and by the start of the following season, I was as interested and hopeful as many long-term football fans. For two years, Crimson Tide football was a very big deal to me. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was an extremely important part of my life as a whole, but it certainly was an extremely important part of my Saturdays, and Saturdays were things that I experienced every single week. I usually was able to watch the game online while doing homework. When Alabama won, as they nearly always did, it brightened my week. On the very few occasions when Alabama lost, it depressed me. When Alabama lost to LSU on one otherwise lovely October day in 2011, I vowed to hate LSU as long as I lived, and when Alabama beat LSU in the championship game three months later, I was delighted.

For the last year, though, sports in general and football in particular haven’t really mattered to me.  Spring semester was so incredibly busy that it didn’t even occur to me to pay any attention to baseball, and in the fall, I always had ballet on Saturday and barely saw any football at all. I’ve had enough things to do and to think about that I haven’t really invested any emotional interest in sports for a while now, but today I’m going to temporarily change my mind about that. Today is the championship game, and I’m pretty sure Alabama is going to win. It’s going to be awesome. Roll tide, y’all!

Roll Tide

This one is just about the weather

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When I left work at 5 PM yesterday, it was a remarkably beautiful day. The sunshine and the clouds were lovely, the temperature was unseasonably pleasant, there was a gentle breeze, and there was something in the air that somehow emphasized the fact that I had the rest of the day completely free to do whatever I felt like doing on such a summer evening. So I opened my window wide, microwaved some pizza, ate it, rearranged a few stacks of books, and then spent several hours alternatively writing science fiction and reading, with an occasional internet chess game thrown in there for good measure.

It got late, and I got tired, but I didn’t feel like calling it a day, so I decided it would be a wonderful night to do a full-length practice GRE test. (For the record, that was a bad idea. My brain doesn’t appreciate being asked to do that kind of thing after 11:00 at night.)As I finished at about 1 AM, I noticed something odd. The sky was flickering pale purple. I thought it was lightning at first, but it was unnaturally constant and predictable, and the thunder was unnaturally nonexistent. Besides, the clouds were still lovely, the temperature was still unseasonably pleasant, there was still a gentle breeze, and there was still something in the air that underlined the fact that it was one in the morning and I didn’t have to go to sleep yet because it’s summer vacation and I’m not a little kid anymore and I can do whatever I want. So I decided that I wanted to stick my head out of the window and watch the sky flicker and flash for a couple hours.

The view from my window at about 8 or 9 this morning

As it turned out, it was lightning, and it was one of the most spectacular lightning shows I’ve ever seen. About once a second, several blazes of light streaked across various parts of the sky simultaneously. Gradually, the thunder realized what was going on and decided to join in, and the wind decided it wanted to share in the fun and began to spread a presage of doom. The air turned ominously red and filled with mist. Then it began to rain. First, it was a light, misty rain, but by the time I eventually went to sleep, it was stronger. When I woke up a few hours later, it was a torrential downpour. The fog was so thick that not only could I no longer see the Birmingham skyline, I couldn’t even see across the street.

Now, it’s late morning and the rain and lightning have stopped, the fog has cleared, and the clouds are dissipating. I can see patches of blue in the sky. It’s going to be a beautiful afternoon.