Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why I Love the NFL's Replacement Refs

I have complained about refereeing here before. Well, I’ve complained about fans tendency to view referees as “part of the game” thereby naturalizing their authority and removing it from the realm of critical scrutiny. Whenever this happens, the masses become docile and arbitrary authority becomes legitimated.

I should say that there is a lot of this going on (there are many players/fans/analysts who have said something like “I don’t mind replacement refs if they don’t affect the game” as though authority figures should be thought of as neutral cogs in the wheel of a benevolent game) but I’ve tread that ground before (every time I say “before” I’ll link to my blog complaining about naturalization of authority in the NBA finals). Today, though, I’ll look at the other side of the coin, so to speak.

Whenever the masses challenge authority, an angel gets its wings.

The main reason I love the NFL replacement refs is that every time I turn on sportscenter, or sign in to twitter/facebook after an NFL weekend I see my friends, analysts, players, and coaches challenging authority and it makes me happy.

There are too many articles to cite, but go to the sports section of any major news website (or, for that matter, search for “roger goodell” or “referees” on twitter) and you’ll find a barrage of articles/tweets condemning the replacement officials in the NFL, declaring them inept, or telling the NFL bureaucracy to get the “real officials” back. One of my favorites was Steve Young’s response that the system (video) – the owners – the people making the money – do.not.care.about.fans.or.players.just.money. The apparatus of the game is set up so that we don't notice.

If we watch the game, they make lots of money. If the refs are bad, we watch. They make lots of money. If the refs are good, we watch. They make lots of money. I don’t like this arrangement. I’ve said that sports are a great distraction from all the money changing hands before (see, I said “before” again…shameless self promotion). The difference this go-round is that the conflict between the “real” referees and the owners has reinforced this skepticism towards the motives of owners and those making real money (of course I don’t mean the players).

Professional sports is not about the players. Professional sports is not about the fans. Professional sports is about money. When the “real” referees do their job they distract us from this fact by letting us get "lost in the game." When the system runs well, everything fits – everything’s natural, and nobody questions it.

So while the calls to get the “real” refs back in order to “restore the integrity of the game” make me want to vomit, I thoroughly enjoy this skeptical turn in the conversation. I, for one, am enjoying the NFL season more than ever as “the joy of the game” isn’t being allowed to distract the masses from the apparatus of the state. I mean game.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tommy Revolutionizes the Olympics

Let it be known that I am not on the US Olympic committee: but I sure as hell should be. After doing quasi-meticulous wikipediaing (I checked three different entries to provide the facts of this post) and following team USA basketball religiously since I wrote an essay in first grade about the original Dream Team (which would, btw, beat the current iteration by about 15) I feel that I am more than qualified to offer the following proposal:


I don’t know anything about handball except that you or one of your…6ish? Teammates try to throw a ball into the opposing team's goal. I mean no disrespect to current American handballers (is that what you call them?), but our great nation would be well served to start sending college kids to compete in basketball (if for no other reason than to create a situation where the NCAA isn’t the only organization exploiting college athletes) and let the more athletic pros compete in handball against what I can only assume are smaller, less athletic foreign handball players. This is an event in which, according to Wikipedia, the United States has never won gold at the summer olympics. NBA players would put on an entertaining, and dare I say DOMINATING show.

But that’s not the end of my proposal. It would be fun to watch a bunch of professional NBA players play handball but…

What if…

Other sports.

Recruit NFL players. Recruit a hockey or soccer goalie (or even keep the current handball goalie – I guess it would help to have someone on the team who knows how to play the game). Recruit MLB pitchers who can throw a ball 100 miles per hour and outfielders who can throw someone out at home from 275 feet.

Imagine: Lebron James hands the handball off to Adrian Peterson who jukes by an overmatched Croatian and chucks the handball back to Cam Newton who fakes to Roy Halladay (who is hanging out near the opposing goal because US pitchers will be allowed to cherry-pick) before rifling a cross-court pass to Rob Gronwkowski who GRONKSLAMS the ball through the opposing goalie’s sternum.

Or…Ray Rice tosses the ball to RGIII who is sprinting down the sideline (are you allowed to do that?). RGIII hands off to Kobe who fades back then tosses it into the parking lot to Josh Hamilton who rifles a goal in from 500 feet away – A NEW OLYMPIC RECORD!!!

There’s no end to the possibilities.

Olympic Committee: Add me or make this happen. Or both.


Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Mildly Depressing, Sporty Blog Post

Apologies in advance for a mildly depressing, sports-related blog post. Also, the NBA Finals has made me a more cynical skeptic so…be prepared for some skeptical cynicism.

I’ve seen/heard/been among the many people complaining about referees making terrible calls. Responding to those who complain, it is often pointed out that “bad refs/calls are part of the game,” “bad calls go both ways,” or “players determine the game not the referees” (or some combination of the three claims - not to be confused with clams, as those are mollusks). I find all three excuses to be intellectually lazy and borderline irresponsible.

I take the first statement – that bad refs/calls are part of the game – as an attempt to re-locate authority on a value-neutral – and therefore uncontestable – plane. This is at the heart of all three responses to complaining about the referee - that somehow the authority figures shouldn't be analyzed as they are just "part of the game" and should be dealt with rather than questioned, analyzed, and corrected. To carry the analogy to the social sphere, it seems that this excuse is akin to saying “corrupt or inept enforcers/managers/creators of the law are just a part of the way the system works: deal with it” or “unjust application or omission of punishment happens: deal with it.”

The second comment – “bad calls go both ways” – flows from and is, in some senses, a variation of the first. The logic goes that if the refs are missing calls, then it will adversely affect both teams in the same way and the referees are therefore neutral. Beyond another attempt to re-cast authority as value-neutral, this theory fails once it leaves the theoretical plane and enters the game. Yes, both teams can be said to be the victims of bad calls but they don’t affect both teams the same way at any given point in the game and all blown calls aren’t equal (the team behind late in the fourth quarter is affected more by a blown call than they would be in the first quarter). To extend the idea that both teams are victims neutralizes the authority figures in the game and sets up the straw-man base for the third claim that “players determine the game not the referees.”

As stated by the profound contemporary theorist, Lil Wayne, “Players play. Coaches coach. Cheerleaders cheer.” This logic states that in a game, as in life, people have roles to play and they should play them. The role of the referees is to apply an ordered set of rules to a disorderly game where rules are sometimes transgressed. This, again, is an attempt to place the authority figures of the game above reproach (lazy and irresponsible) as well as an attempt to cast the players as the sole determiners of their own fate regardless of their in-game situation. In this scenario, the referees and players are elevated to the theoretical plane (as opposed to being placed within the game) and the players on either team who may feel slighted are, again, told to “deal with it” or “make the play anyway.” This third variation of the argument that “the refs are neutral” is, perhaps, the most irresponsible because it suggests that if the players just play harder then, even if there are unfair circumstances, they can and should be overcome. I don’t think this is the case and I don’t think I need to explicitly draw the social parallel.

To say that the referees determine the outcome of the game, however, is equally lazy, irresponsible, and possibly dangerous in that it denies the players agency and places all power in the game in the hands of the on-court authority figures. No one person or group of people determines the game – and that’s the point – locating all the blame for a loss solely with the refs or all of the accomplishment for a win solely with the team is simplistic, denies the fact that luck and circumstance play a role in the game, and cuts off any form of complex analysis in favor of a more simply summarized result. The three aforementioned excuses simply shift authority from the realm of what is able to be questioned to the value-neutral sphere wherein it is dismissed as "part of the game" and therefore beyond the purview of what might be accepted as rigorous analysis. I firmly believe that it is intellectually lazy and arguably dangerous not to question authority or to make exaggerated claims to discount those who do.

Now some may say that I am overthinking all of this and that my drawing of social parallels is blowing a simple sports game out of proportion. But that is the point and the source of my cynicism: the game itself is a distraction from the sheer volume of capital being exchanged. Cheering for/tweeting about/blogging about a team or a game is a way to pacify the masses by allowing them to pretend that they have a voice and can make a difference and further distract them from the reality of the financial discrepancy between they and those they cheer for, but especially to distract them from those who own and run the organizations. It is a system of inequalities that constantly distracts attention from inequality within a larger system of inequalities that constantly distracts attention from its inequalities and I’m blogging about it.

So it goes.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

On Blasphemy

[with insincerest apologies to those who return to this blog wishing for something funny – truth is, not a lot of funny things have happened lately…at least nothing funny enough to be blog-worthy, though my purse is still awesome]

I just finished a silly workout and can’t really move around all that well. Since I landed at the computer I decided I should do something useful…as I have spent a good amount of time translating Arabic already today, I decided to put this impulse to use on the blog/getting thoughts together for an upcoming sermon. I’m preaching at First Pres Tallahassee on June 10th and the sermon will be on blasphemy – specifically, a verse in Mark 3 (which is also in Matthew 12 and Luke 12 so I’m not getting out of it by claiming Markan Anomaly (the idea that if a verse only occurs in one gospel it is to be taken with a slightly larger grain of salt than the rest of the bible)). The verse states the following:

“truly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” –Mark 3:28-9

Anyone who knows me and has enjoyed (or not enjoyed) my company amidst theological musings (including, but not limited to those involving alcohol) will be well aware that I think this verse is hogwash – balderdash, if you will. Further, I am perfectly fine saying that I disagree with Jesus…or, more specifically, that one sentence he utters after a group of people call him the devil may not be the best starting point for forming any sort of systematic theology. However, if a Christian were inclined to grapple with passages like this, she or he must come to terms with the fact that, from time to time, the Bible says some disagreeable things. Fine – but two can play that game.

As a matter of fact, I think that two should play that game, which is, I guess, where my views tend to conflict with those who adamantly adhere to the proposition that the Bible and the Christian tradition include very little wiggle room – away from the theological sphere, this type of thought pervades problems I have with extreme partisanship generally (that the term “moderate” has become nothing more than artillery in the never-ending mudslinging of contemporary political discourse is ridiculous). I find, then, that it is less helpful to engage those with whom I disagree on this issue as they tend to have an unfair advantage – they can say “you are wrong and I am right” while all I can say is “my what an interesting interpretation.” That’s fine, so I take that – the act of interpretation – as the starting point of my analysis of blasphemy, or, as I prefer to think of it, the act of cordoning off a section of the interpretive milieu in order to declare one group “in” and another “out.”

From this starting point, I tend to wonder what is at stake for the person or persons doing the declaration? Who wins what and who loses what in the act of drawing harsh lines between what is orthodox (see: will get you into heaven – or, for a more “this-worldly” perspective, will get you welcomed into our community) and what is heretical (see: will get you into hell – or, will keep you from being fully welcomed into our community, be it religious, political, social, or any other categorization one wishes to impose on a group of people). What sort of dynamics allow for someone to dictate what is the proper reading and what is not? What does the line drawer gain or lose based on his/her conformity with a set of givens and their insistence that others think, act, and read in the same way?

There are many more questions, but these come to the forefront of most tommythinking. It should be said that it is not lost on me that I am engaged in a sort of line-drawing myself, in which case the same questions apply to my work and musings (and then apply to my musings about my musings ad nauseum). While there is a lot more to say (and I’ll say most of it on the 10th), it will suffice, for now, to state that while many things are at stake when one charts the boundaries of orthodoxy, I don't believe that god’s forgiveness or mercy are among them.

As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Experiment in Blogging

I'm presenting a paper tomorrow at my department's Colloquium (bi-weekly or so gatherings throughout the year where students and professors can discuss each other's ongoing work). I know it's sort of late notice, but for those looking for a way to spend some time and do some thinking, I thought I'd experiment with getting the conversation going via this blog.

The paper looks at the idea, expressed in Wael Hallaq's book "Shari'a," that the modern conception of the nation-state is incompatible with what was referred to in the medieval period as "Shar'ia." (an article that became the book is available online here ) Looking at the case of Nasr Abu Zayd - a man whose marriage was legally annulled after he was convicted of apostasy (turning from faith) in the Egyptian courts in 1995. More [here] and yes, in my scholarly opinion, wikipedia is fine for brief info gathering.

So entertaining the premise that Shari'a is incompatible with the workings of the modern nation-state and examining the role of "Shari'a" in the Egyptian court system, the paper raises the following questions:

In Abu Zayd’s case, the lawyers’ appeal to state power in the name of the religious command to promote good and forbid evil in order to maintain socio-religious unity (by attempting to prevent/punish apostasy) highlights the tension between the state and religious law.
Can one claim that an appeal to the state is a religious act? What does it mean that a "secular" state/legal system has cordoned off a section for religious law? How is one to think of the judge – as an arbiter of religious orthodoxy or enforcer of state mandates?

So for those who wish to answer: what are your thoughts on religion and politics, generally? For those who don't wish to delve into the Nasr Abu Zayd case - what work is done in the act of distinguishing between "religious" acts/codes and "political" or "legal" mandates?

My full paper is available [here] for those who are really seeking to kill some time.

We'll see if this garners any sort of discussion, if not, at least I updated the blog twice in a week!

Either way, as always, thanks for reading.

Monday, May 14, 2012

First Year Reflections

At Christopher Newport University, every time I went to the Philosophy Department Website, I was greeted with the Socratic dictum that “An unexamined life is not worth living.” While perhaps it was repetition that created the truth of that sentence or maybe there is something self-evident about it, I have found it helpful. Perhaps the retrospective blog was spurred on by the recent evaluation of my first year by a jury of my professors (I was found to have had a productive first year and was declared on/a little ahead of schedule with regards to the goal of finishing coursework and exams in the next year and a half to two years). Regardless, I figured that it would be good to get some thoughts back on the blog and keep everyone who reads and/or gives a damn an update on my activities and plans for the next few months.

This year I’ve taken 2 semesters of Arabic, coursework on methodology in the field of religion/comparative ethics, and two courses on Islam. I’ve read more books than I can recount and the number of articles I’ve printed and read is likely responsible for the sizable depletion of a forest somewhere. This summer I will keep up with Arabic, take a course on Human Rights, French for Reading, and be trained to teach a course called “Multi-cultural film” which is, essentially, applied cultural theory. In the fall, I’ll be taking more Arabic, and courses on pragmatic theory in the study of religion, Muhammad and the Qur’an and possibly sitting in on some lectures in a feminism course. My area of study has narrowed to the justification of violence and/within "subversive" religious/political discourse (I’ve been told by a prominent ethicist that my area of interest scares her…happens I guess). I assume that this will be the subject of later posts, but suffice it to say, Abbey and I are having a kid (still working on transitioning more smoothly from one topic to another in my written work).

Bringing a child into the world is rather daunting (I mean…have you seen this place lately?!), doing so in the middle of a semester should be a lot of work, but Abbey and I are both thrilled to become parents in October. Fortunately a couple of my closest friends are a couple steps ahead of us on this journey so we have plenty of great examples to learn from (of course, in addition to the sterling examples set by our parents who raised brilliant, good looking, and quite humble children like Abbey and I).

There’s plenty more to say, but if I say it all now then it will be another long hiatus before I think of anything interesting to share…and that’s just no damn fun. I’ll leave with the statement that, despite my typical cynicism towards the state of the world and pessimism towards the possibility of any substantial change, the thought of becoming a father certainly has given me some sort of hopeful outlook for the upcoming year (hope in what, I’m not exactly sure, but stay tuned).

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Kindle Fire Review (pt. 2)

For the first part of this review where I discuss outfitting my Kindle Fire for graduate work, click Here

Last week, I was assigned 3 books to read for two of the classes I take aside from Arabic: Black Mecca: The African Muslims of Harlem by Zain Abdullah; On Suicide Bombing by Talal Asad; and Holy Terrors: Thinking About Religion after September 11 by Bruce Lincoln. My purpose here, in Part Two of this Kindle Fire review, is not to summarize or evaluate these three books, but rather to reflect on the process by which I read them – via Kindle Fire e-Book. I believe that, during the course of the week, I accidentally talked most of my classmates out of buying a Kindle Fire (or other e-book for that matter). I would, however, like to clarify that I certainly recommend the Fire, though it’s shortcomings in both class discussion as well as in paper writing (alongside skepticism that e-books will have the longetivity of their bound counterparts) make me reticent to recommend that this mode of reading should usurp the more traditional bound, paper and ink books. My criticisms with e-books generally, and my experience with the Kindle Fire in particular, do NOT have to do with portability, ease of reading/highlighting/notetaking, or affordability of books which are extremely positive aspects of the device (I’m currently reading a book that costs $22-$24 on Amazon hard copy that was $10 in e-book form and reading/notetaking is very easy and intuitive). The problems, rather, arose from class discussion, reviewing my notes, and keeping up in a discussion with colleagues using traditional, rather than “e”, books.

E-Books – Writing Papers and Discussion

Out of the three books I read, I wrote a paper about one of them and participated in class discussion on all three. After writing the paper on Asad’s On Suicide Bombing, I found the greatest advantage of the Kindle Fire was found alongside its greatest weakness: citation.

Side note: if you own a kindle, I would highly recommend downloading the “Kindle for PC/Mac” app from their store. It is free and allows you to purchase and read e-books on your desktop/laptop/tablet (further, if you already own a tablet, I dare say that this app negates the necessity of purchasing a Kindle Fire, but if you are new to the tablet game (comme moi) the Fire is the way to go).

Moving on…on my laptop, I was able to highlight and make notes in the e-book with a bit more ease than on the Fire itself (despite using my stylus/wand of pretentiousness). I was also able to copy sections of the text and paste them into the word document – below is a text copied directly from the e-books as it appeared in the word document:

The modern nation, in direct contrast, originated in Europe with attempts to expand capacities for organized violence by peoples who felt themselves menaced by more powerful neighboring states.

Bruce Lincoln. Holy Terrors, Second Edition: Thinking About Religion After September 11 (p. 63). Kindle Edition.

The perception that human life has differential exchange value in the marketplace of death when it comes to “civilized” and “uncivilized” peoples is not only quite common in liberal democratic countries; it is necessary to a hierarchical global order.

Asad, Talal (2007-06-22). On Suicide Bombing (Kindle Locations 1504-1505). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

That is, are differences between culturally distinct groups in pluralistic societies necessarily divisive, and do they automatically lead to conflict?

Abdullah, Zain (2010-09-30). Black Mecca : The African Muslims of Harlem (Kindle Locations 1070-1071). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

The citation appeared as soon as I pasted, making writing the paper a bit more convenient. This technological trickeration was the highlight of my reading/writing/discussing experience with the Kindle Fire. As you’ll notice, the first citation notes that it is from page 63 of Lincoln’s text while the other two are noted by their “Kindle Locations” – as you read the e-book, the tracker at the bottom tells you that you are at Location X out of Y – I am not sure how the locations are determined but it makes it difficult to “sync” with those who are citing page numbers rather than locations. For this reason, the following e-mail had to accompany my paper as I sent it to the class to consider for discussion:

"I used the kindle version of the book so the page numbers are...nonexistent in my citations - technology has its advantages but lack of synced pagination has been a frustration with me for ebooks. There are 2238 "locations" in the book, and the epilogue ends and notes begin at location 1524 so those more talented at math can follow the kindle pagination. Sorry for any confusion."

My professor even quipped that he wondered what type of book I had been reading as he read my paper. In another class, while discussing Abdullah’s book, someone asked which page we were on, to which I replied “location 1517.” When another student cited a passage, it was easy for me to search for a phrase and end up at the correct passage rather quickly, but it was difficult for me to proffer passages and find/cite them in a timely manner (I’m thinking of when I stated in class “this paragraph is probably about halfway through chapter one after the author cited Surah 18”). The e-book certainly met its limitations head on in class discussion (and may find similar limitations in book clubs and/or reading groups). But should the lack of pagination and difficulty of discussants to – quite literally – get on the same page really be deemed a damning criticism or reason to avoid e-books in the academy? I think not.

The Future of [My] Kindle Fire

I will not be purchasing all of my books on Kindle Fire from now on. I will, however, be buying at least one e-book per course per semester. Despite the difficulties of searching, re-reading my notes, and keeping up with class discussion, my suspicion is that the difficulties I faced had much as much to do with the format of e-books as it has to do with being conditioned, through experience, to think of the transmission of ideas from author to book to pupil to discussion in a certain way for my entire life. The pagination issues were nothing that I haven’t faced before due to being too cheap to buy a new version of a book while all the other students had a fancy, re-issued anniversary edition. I believe that by replacing the tactile experience of flipping pages, making notes in the margin, and carrying the book around with the experience of searching for phrases, making notes alongside highlights, and “flipping through” the scroll bar at the bottom of the page I will be challenging myself to think/engage a “text” in a different manner, thereby (hopefully) growing as a thinker and scholar. Plus I will have several books and ALL of the .pdf files I will ever hope to need in one place. I also intend to use it for lecture notes in the fall/whenever I end up teaching my own class, so keep an eye out for an evaluation of how that goes. And I’ll be able to play Angry Birds. And Tweet.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Kindle Fire Review (pt.1)

I received a Kindle Fire this past Christmas and have been eager to see how it could augment my graduate work. Having used it extensively for about three months, these are my first impressions.

There are some advantages to being a graduate student and using the Kindle Fire – particularly the fact that, between my apartment and the FSU Campus, I very rarely am without (1) cheap/free easily accessible electricity and (2) wireless internet. If this is not the case for you then the Fire will not be as effective for general computing purposes outlined below. Another is that on campus and at home I have access to a computer lab and my laptop (respectively) and, therefore, utilize the Fire to supplement the services of more capable computing devices rather than as my primary mode of computing. That being said, the Fire has certainly been a great addition to my graduate work – it fits conveniently in my purse (between the wallet and cel phone pockets) and I no longer have to bring my laptop to school. This lack of transit for my laptop will hopefully add a year or so to its life enabling it to survive through another couple semesters of coursework.

Due to the Fire’s versatility, this review will be in two parts. In addition to internet capabilities that I’ve been emphasizing so far its primary purpose is as an e-reader. Last week, I wrote a review paper on a book read entirely on Kindle and engaged in seminar discussion of two others. Part One of this Kindle Fire Review will focus on general comments about the Kindle Fire as well as apps that I’ve found most helpful in outfitting the device to fit my grad school needs. The Second Part of the blog (to be posted later in the week) will highlight the advantages and disadvantages of writing papers and engaging in class discussion using e-books.

Part One: Outfitting the Kindle Fire for My Graduate Work

The first two apps that I looked for were Dropbox (cloud-based storage and sharing program) and G-mail (my preferred e-mail). After some googling I realized that these apps are unavailable from the Kindle Fire app store. Based on some further googling, there is a way to “sideload” these apps by downloading them elsewhere, extracting some files, emailing the extracted files to yourself and opening them/downloading them on the device itself. I am damn near computer illiterate – this blog is about as tech savvy as I get and, as a good light-skinned American, I am sometimes ok with working within systems that are already in place (but only sometimes). My question then became how to gain access to apps that would allow the cloud storage of dropbox as well as access to gmail.

For Dropbox, I downloaded what seems to be regarded as one of the top “Office” type apps on the Kindle Fire market: QuickOffice Pro (which was on sale for I believe $9 when I purchased it). This program will sync with Dropbox (as well as Google documents, Evernote, and others) so I can access all files stored there, open .pdf files, and edit word documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. If there is a lot of editing to be done, I still prefer a computer, but this has proven excellent for last minute changes to papers, a quick switch on an attendance spreadsheet from “absent” to “excused” and is phenomenal for opening and reading .pdf files.

As far as emails go, I do nearly everything from my gmail account, so the lack of a gmail app is still frustrating, but I’ve found that the Kindle Fire email client is fine for checking and quickly responding, but I have to wait until I’m at a computer to label/file/meticulously organize emails…which may be for the best as I am what some may call “anal retentive” regarding email organization. Further, an app called “CalenGoo” (which runs about $5 I believe) syncs with the Google Calendar quite well – you can edit events, set reminders, add events, etc. fairly easily. If this is something you use for keeping track of your calendar, Calengoo is also a must-have on the Kindle Fire.

Accepting the limitations of the device, the email client has proven useful and QuickOffice pro has proven indispensable for using this device for graduate work (all articles for classes and for papers are saved on my dropbox and therefore accessible on the Kindle Fire). A few other apps that I’ve found to be handy: dictionary.com app, wikidroid (Wikipedia), Pulse (a news app that I think came preloaded on the Fire – handy for brief headline-reading), iQuranPro (a full Qur’an with Tajwid (recitation)), and...a Facebook app and tweetcaster for twitter – because, let’s be honest, these are absolutely essential for grad school. Also Amazon Cloud storage for music is great provided, as mentioned above, that you have reliable access to wireless internet. While I would not rely solely on the Kindle for computing (which is not its intended purpose) I would highly recommend it to carting a laptop around provided you will have access to a larger computer at some point. Some have complained that its browser is slow but I have found it to be fine for the quick reference and online BSing typical of graduate work. Its primary purpose, however, is as an e-reader – a function to which I will turn in the second part of this review.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Three Vehicular Requestdemands

Having spent a good amount of Spring Break 2012 on the road, I feel qualified to make the following (sort of) humble requests (demands). My observations take the form of sort of humble requestdemands due to my general suspicion of the establishment of rules and/or guidelines. Feel free to disregard these requestdemands, but feel freer to contact me and tell me how right I am should you choose to do so. My observations on the roads from Tallahassee, FL to Lynchburg, VA and back have left me thinking that the average driver (but certainly not the average reader of this blog) would be unlikely to read anything for an extended period of time. Following this hunch, I have provided pictures (though if SOPA ever ends up gaining traction again they will be promptly removed).

Tommy’s Three Vehicular Requestdemands


This is a driveway. If you are unwilling or your automobile/truck/tractor is unable to reach a speed of five miles per hour under the speed limit please leave it here. If you live in an apartment complex, please replace “driveway” with “parking lot.” Should you choose to move your unwilling person or unable vehicle from the driveway/parking lot, you will not cease to agitate people until you return your vehicle to your driveway/parking lot.


This is a two-lane highway. If you (a) drive like a maniac (15+ miles over the speed limit) you should avoid these as you will become quite frustrated by vehicles that do not share your need to reenact any of the 7 Fast and Furious movies. Should you choose not to avoid these roads you will become agitated.

If you (b) are unwilling or your automobile/truck/tractor is unable to reach a speed of 5mph under the speed limit, please see Requestdemand 1. Should you choose not to avoid these roads, please use your emergency flashers and be aware that you will not cease to agitate people until you return your vehicle to your driveway.

If you (c) typically maintain a speed of the 5mph under the speed limit to 10mph over and feel the need to pass someone, your spouse/passenger will likely tell you to never do that again. Be prepared to be agitated by those who disregard Requestdemand 2(a) and 2(b).


This is a four lane highway – Maniacs, this one and those with higher lane counts are for you. If you (a) drive within 10mph of the speed limit, utilize the left lane to pass those who remain closer to the speed limit than yourself. Only utilize the left lane to pass after checking your rearview mirrors for maniacs. Be prepared to be agitated by those who drive like maniacs as well as those who disregard requestdemands 1 and 2(b).

If you (b) drive like a maniac (again, 15+mph over the speed limit) you may remain in the left lane and may not use the right lane to pass. Should you choose to pass in the right lane, be prepared to be agitated by a driver who seeks to move out of your way but is not doing so at a speed that endangers him or herself, his or her passenger(s), or innocent bystanders.

So ends my simple list of three requestdemands. While these requestdemands are not (nor do they seek to be) exhaustive, following them will help a great deal in ameliorating my general disdain for that wide swath of humanity that I do not know. Please feel free to spread the word as these requestdemands likely only apply to those not enlightened enough to have come across this blog.

Bonus Picture:

This is the Paris Metro. I miss it.

As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, January 16, 2012

It's Back

You may recall a heated exchange between the Tommys at the end of last semester. [Here it is]

*note - with links, if you hold the Ctrl button when you click them it should open in a new tab instead of taking you away from the current post*

Well, papers were written, books were read, and winter break was relaxed during. During that time, however, the Tommys remained in conflict until one fateful morning at the household of Centieme and Garcon. The whole family was ready to drive down to visit some family friends (and the apple store in Richmond which was mildly crowded a few days after Christmas). The problem: American Tommy had gone to the gym that morning with his mother and somewhere between waking up and returning from the gym his wallet had gone missing. Florida Tommy sprang into action retracing the steps of his meatheaded, absentminded counterpart while French Tommy smugly watched on saying “if it was in your purse you’d know where it was” while American Tommy said something like “Tommy angry, Tommy want wallet” and Abbey started looking for the 800 number to call to cancel our credit card.

Long story short (not too long, just involving several phone calls to mom and a roughly hour-long concerted search party with all of my in-laws) I had left my wallet in my pants pocket. Le woops. This incident confirmed something I had known all along but had suppressed behind a fa├žade of fantasy-football-playing, beer-drinking, violent-movie-watching, good-old-Amurrican masculinity. I had regressed to referring to my school purse as a backpack and my poor, awesome French purse had been relegated to the sack within which Abbey carried her keys when she went on a bike ride. Every time my keys stabbed me in the right thigh or my wallet created a painful sensation in my right buttocks I briefly thought “you need your purse back” before being corrected by a voice boldly stating: “this” Well, losing my wallet followed by losing my patience with any and all sentient beings in my presence was the reality check I needed in order to finally proclaim:

The Purse is back.

It has a compartment for my wallet. My keys. My chapstick, a pen, my cel phone, and a book. Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty my pockets are free at last. Again. This purse also is, providentially, the exact dimensions necessary to hold the kindle fire that my parents got me for Christmas and has since become an indispensable tool for graduate study (more on that in the coming weeks as Florida Tommy is dragging his feet in completing his feature-length blog debut). After two full weeks of carrying a purse in addition to a school purse (and on Wednesdays a gym purse) I believe the purse is here to stay. Social norms be damned. Again.

Thanks for reading.