Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pre-Pitt Visit

We visited Pittsburgh for a mandatory session required for all incoming freshpeople this past weekend, during the great heat wave of 2011.  Last summer we made our campus "do I want to come here?" visit during similar conditions.  We seem unable to visit Pittsburgh when the temperature is less than 100 degress F.  I was actually glad we had spent the extra money to stay in a Holiday Inn that is literally right on campus.  My daughter Olivia stayed in the dorms and got a bit of a taste of what that will be like.  She enjoyed her roommate and they were apparently visited by a couple of boys who "just wanted to talk, honest!"  (HA!  Shotgun, please.)  She was scheduled into her Fall Semester classes, which include Biology 2 and its appropriate lab (thank you, AP exam!), social psychology, an advanced English composition course (again, thanks AP exam), and, since she is in a Learning Community appropriately named "Konnichiwa," she is taking Japanese 1.

Olivia met with her advisor and got along well with him.  She is signed up for a bank account that links to her student ID (which she also received) and thanks to Dad's credit card, her books will be set aside and paid for by the first day of classes thanks to a program that the Pitt Book Store conned, er, talked me into joining.  It will save her waiting in line to buy her books.  I remember the insane lines at the University of Virginia bookstore when I was an undergraduate, and having her books pre-purchased will be a considerable convenience.  Of course, I also remember having to collect punch cards in order to reserve my seat in a class in order to build my U.Va. schedule  Technology just shy of sacrificing a goat....

We still have lots to do and to prepare, but it looks like we will make it.  Moving in to a 14th floor dorm room on the same day that 7,000 other families are doing the same should be...interesting.  In a Chinese curse sort of way. 

Friday, July 15, 2011


I am amazed at the wide disparity that exists between the everyday obscenities that can hide in the human heart and the remarkable act of selflessness that surfaces sometimes.  I'm thinking of the true American hero who was interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show this week, Sergeant First Class Leroy A. Petry.  Sgt. Petry was wounded in Afghanistan when he helped lead an assault on a compound in Paktry.  After being shot through both legs, he continued to lead his inexperienced men to safety and lost his right hand when he picked up an armed "pineapple" grenade and threw it away from his men, only to have it explode just as he released it.  This action, while costing him his hand, did serve to save his men by directing the force of the explosion away from them.  After tying on his own tourniquet, Sgt. Petry continued to fight until relieved.

Then I compare that level of behavior to that of, say, the idiots who see you trying to merge your car into traffic and speed up to prevent you from doing so.  Or who cut in front of you at the checkout line.  Or who engage in any number of idiotic, unnecessary and uncharitable behaviors on any given day.  Not to mention the greater, grosser evils of murder and abuse and other criminal activity.

We are capable of greatness.  It's why I love science fiction, particularly things like Star Trek or Green Lantern, things which automatically assume that there is hope for human beings, that we have a future where we finally set aside our differences in the pursuit of greatness.  Selfless acts like those of Sgt. Petry give me hope for us as a species.

Then, of course, I go to the grocery store and see a fight over fresh corn.

It does give one pause.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ageing Gracefully (Ha!)

Coming up on my 58th birthday later in the week.  This is how I look at it:  at 57 I can round my age down to 55.  After the birthday, I will be mentally rounding UP to 60.  I'm 60.  I can read all the comic books and play with all the robot toys I like, but I'm still pushing 60 in a handcart.  60.  Yikes.

How am I celebrating?  Not too much.  I already got the phone call yesterday from my gastroenterologist's office reminding me that I'm due for a colonoscopy in September.  (Happy birthday!!)  They will be sending the necessary instructions and prescriptions via snail mail, but the bottom line is that one night in September I will be essentially tied to the toilet while chugging a gallon of lollipop-flavored horse sweat.  Oy.  (I was actually going to type "Oh joy!  Oh rapture!" just now, but my hands beat me to "Oy."  A Freudian slip of the fingers??)

So there's that.  And yes, I realize fully the importance of regular examinations, particularly as a sufferer from Crohn's Disease, which means, among other things, that my risk of colon cancer is approximately a hundred times greater than that of the general population.  So if you're over 50, see your doctor and set up an exam.  Colon cancer is a lousy death.  Doesn't mean I'm looking forward to anything but the exam being over for another two years, though.

I'm sure my family will do something lovely for me, and we're planning to dine out on the semi-big day, but for some reason I can't get that colonoscopy out of my head today.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Best of 2011 (So Far)

Now that 2011 is half over, I was thinking about what pop-culture-type things really got me excited this year.  And here they are, in no particular order:

• The new season of Doctor Who on BBC America

The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman

Green Lantern, the movie

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

• "Brightest Day" in DC Comics

Thor, the movie

Outcasts on BBC America

• The Chieftains, live in concert in York, PA

• Steve Martin's "Atheists Don't Have No Songs" (and singing it with Jim Haines and Phil Hoskins-Helm!)  (and nailing that F at the end!)

Bridesmaids, the movie

• "Hands," the new single from The Ting Tings

Bones on FOX

The Lord of the Rings extended trilogy on blu-ray.  Heavens, it's just lovely.

Call of Duty: Black Ops on the Wii

I'm sure I've forgotten some things, but...that's why the Edit function exists.  ;)