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I haven't posted in a while, so here's an update:

The summer has been a little OOC  (out of control). Pretty much every weekend I'm jaunting off to some far-flung destination for a bachelor party, or a camping trip, or weddings or engagement parties or what have you. Last weekend tinytortfeasor and I tried to go to the beach in South Carolina, specifically, Edisto Island. We were not successful. After seven hours in the car, we were not yet to the South Carolina border, because we decided to take the classic "short cut" through the mountains. So we decided to stay at Hamilton Branch State Park on the shores of Strom Thurmond lake, so-called for the late, cantakerous old racist bastard of a Senator. It was an enormous amount of fun, and very beautiful. Pictures can be found, among other things, at william-elms.tumblr.com/ .

I'm 3 weeks into my 5 week teaching stint of German 101, and so far it's going swimmingly. The primary goal now is just to get paid. The students are awesome, but I'd rather just have the money and not be working ;-) C'est la vie.

Speaking of teachers who would rather be doing something else:  go see The Hangover. My face hurt from laughing so much, if that gives you any indication as to the quality of the film.

On a differnet note, I was at the gym on Thursday, and met the president of the Kung Fu club at my University. He's an enourmous, intimidating man. We sparred for about an hour, and now my hands are bleeding (still). He showed me some very cool exercises, and some excellent throat strikes. Because you never know when you're going to have throat-punch somebody. Apparently, this guy does Tai-Chi, and Northern Kung Fu. For those of you not in the know, these are the type of people who do Northern Kung Fu:





Needless to say, this guy is way more awesome at ass-kicking than I will ever be. But that's OK.

I'm still trying to find a weekend this summer, in the midst of the ridiculousness, to go visit grorx. 'Cause he's the man. Hopefully that will work out for me. TTFN.

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I am a yonkyu...

Which is a green belt in Shingitai jujitsu. I tested for the belt last night, which was equal parts awesome and really hard. Last week I broke a toe and hyper-extended an elbow, which, as you may imagine, reduces my ability to kick ass. After 80 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 25 medicine ball sit-ups, 50 jump squats and a 2 minute wall sit, I got down to the business of remembering my jujitsu. Which I did. And I now have something that looks like this:

Which is pretty cool. I've been wearing the white belt for so long, it's wierd to have a belt that's new and not filthy... It's exciting. Also, since I'm in the doctoral program, I can do this for another four years for not much money. My sensei is awesome, and I feel that the martial arts are the perfect break from academia.

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Seriously. I defended and subsequently submitted my Master's thesis last week. As the Germans say, it was the hammer. The last week was one of the most frustrating and stressful weeks of my entire life. After the defense on Tuesday, which was itself pleasurable, as it somehow morphed into simply a high level discussion of German literature and literary history, I had 72 hours to make final revisions and submit the thesis to the graduate school. I did that with one hour and forty-five minutes to spare. I had the Stress. My emotional states fluctuated between euphoria at being done and having my department's approval to graduate, and murderous (seriously) rage when varying iterations of OpenOffice and MSWord played havoc with the formatting of my 133 page paper, and I had to spend hours correcting meaningless formal minutea. Rage.

On another note, my thesis committee was incredible. They read and re-read the thesis, and have helped me prepare it in modified form for publication, which I plan to do this summer. Speaking of this summer, I'm teaching, and hopefully will also help the faculty administer the placement exams for the department, which would not only give me good expereince in academia, but bring in some extra income as well.

So tomorrow I will finall move the 60 books I brought home from the library over the past 5 months out of the office and back to school. I have recycled allt he rough drafts of my thesis and put away the texts. I'm basking in the freedom of only having one class to take and one to teach, both of which are nearing completion. As one would expect, writing thesis was the most rigorous, painful, but finally rewarding aspect of my academic career. I'm glad to have it behind me, and begin the journey toward the doctoral degree in May.

With the Graduate Teaching Assistantship and the SpiveyFellowship, I should be able to have a reasonably comfortable first year of my doctoral studies. I'm looking forward to it.

into the fold

One of my students asked me how he could become a German major today. He said he really liked my class and wanted to continue in the program. Chalk one up for the good guys, I say. The department is under review by the board because of supposedly "low enrollment numbers", which is bollocks, but that's the way it is. As a result, everybody counts, so this is indeed exciting news.

It continues to surprise me that people have the desire or the ability to learn a foreign language well in college. It may be a university requirement to take four semesters, but the fact that adults can develop reasonably competent language skills with how little actual contact time they have int he classroom is remarkable. And then to want to continue to learn the language, after the struggle of the first two years, is even more so.

All that is to say that I feel a mild sense of accomplishment this afternoon. Prost!

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Twitter

I find Twitter to be fascinating. It can be a very Zen form of communication: minimalist, precise, therefore meaningful. I'm following Stephen Fry, who is one of my new favorites. He is erudite, well-read and traveled, and of course, British, and thus much more fun to listen to than, say, someone from East Tennessee. On the other hand, I'm also following Forest Griffin, who, while an icon in his own right (of combat sports, a former UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion), is, shall we say, very much different than Mr. Fry. Though not less contemplative, I think. I met Forest at a talk given by author Chuck Palahniuk at the University of Georgia. Both interesting fellows. Anyway, my original point was that the idea of communicating in 140 characters or less is interesting. It can contribute to a further breakdown of language, precipitated by lazy texting and facebook, but there exists also the opportunity to the Twitter-er to distill his or her thoughts, musings, and W- words (who, where, when why (how)) into a 140 character packet, wrapped up and sent out in simply, meaningful prose. Twittering has the potential to be a very nice literary excecise (idk, brb LOL).

Barring acronyms, pictures of cats with stupid captions, and txt sp33k, through the flash of prose that is the tweet, I think we can all re-gain some interest in and respect for the English language. Just a thought.

interesting things

Yesterday, I saw three drunken bums fighting on the sidewalk. It was awesome. Two of them could barely stand up. They were right outside my car while I was sitting in traffic. I had the windows down, but I couldn't understand what they were saying because of the thick East-Tennessee awfulness and the slur of Colt 45 and Thunderbird (which I'm not sure they actually sell in Tennessee). The reasonably sober one walked away from the argument to smoke a cigarette, and the other two continued arguing. The taller of the two punched the shorter one in the head, and they both fell over. Then they got up, sat down on the retaining wall, and smoked a cigarette.

What. The. Fuck.

Today I went to a dog park with my dogs, where similar things happened, minus the speech, drinking and smoking, and plus fur and barking. Also, I was nominated for a $15,000 Fellowship for the next academic year. Though I might not get it, it means I automatically get a $5,000 stipend. Today was a good day.

I am Chuck Palahniuk

What's the best way to get blood out of a martial art gi? Cold water, baking soda, and a tooth brush. Alternatively: club soda and a paper towel. Why do I know this? Because people keep bleeding on me. What's the fastest way to choke someone unconscious? Cut off the flow of blood to the brain using an arm or leg, and your opponent's shoulder. :-) I know this, because it's all I do for 3 hours on Monday and Wednesday. After grappling for 15 minutes, though, I come to realize: I need to run more. It's EXHAUSTING. I imagine much more so than, say, raining down sulpher, or--dare I say it? Soccer. Anyway, it's a good time, and not only doesjujitsu strengthen body and mind, it has the added advantage of giving one access to good housekeeping tips.

AWAL

It's been a while. Allow me to update: I'm engaged, and 3 months from a Master's degree. I have another dog, more movies and video games, and a slightly smaller beer gut. I have begun practicing shingitai jujitsu, which, if I'm honest, is freakin' awesome. I'm teaching, writing, reading... spending far too much time being sedentary, but all in all, things have been well. My fiance has a fabulous ring, and we have a place and a date. No arguments here... thats all for now. Too much has happened since September for a detailed update, but hopefully I can being to post regularly, again. Cheers.

calling all freaks

I've long maintained that Walmart parking lots are a haven for weirdos and crazies. Take Friday, for instance. I was at the Walmart in Bumblefuck, TN, and I was walking across the parking lot to my car. Before I could navigate the mine field of failed social structure and economic nuclear holocaust, I was accosted by a man. A man named Dave. Dave was sitting in the cab of his early-nineties Ford Ranger. He asked if he could talk to me. Unwittingly,  I drew myself into a conversation. With Dave. Dave owns a wrestling company. Supposedly. And as the owner of this organization, he has the priviledge, nay, even the right, to hang out in the parking lots of sundry Walmarts in his sketchy-as-all-hell Ford truck and scout for 'talent'. Dave said I looked like I was a wrestler (I don't) and asked me if I'd ever done any (I haven't. Ever.) Accordingly, I responded in the negative. He asked me if I was interested in it. I then questioned him: Are we talking about NCAA wrestling, or WWF wannabe, red-necks-in-the-back-yard-smashing-twelve-year-olds-with-flourescent-lights wrestling? He looked surprised, as evidenced by his large, jaundiced eyeballs and prominent, yellow horse teeth. Huh?

I said, what kind of wrestling company do you own, a legitimate one?  He continued to stare at me with that same vacant expression.  Then I walked away.

Speaking of rednecks and kids playing in the shallow end of the gene pool, there's nothing else, short of the Walmart parking lot, that attracts so much human garbage as a Tennessee football game.

Allow me to elaborate: I and my girlfriend worked very hard and pay, or have paid for us (because we swim in the deep end of the aforementioned pool) extravagant tuition costs to attend graduate programs at the University. Some people do not. Unfortunately, all football tickets seem to be created equal.  A collection of frat boys led by, well, we'll call him Guy le Douche, didn't have tickets for the seats they were occupying. I know this, because they were in our seats. They refused to leave, and the arena staff did nothing to rectify that. Operating with at most a 15 word vocabulary, these fine representatives of their fraternity and university told me (and my girlfriend) where, how, and when, we could fuck off. Fortunately, the football team, like some of the fans there to watch them, was flaccid and pathetic, and we didn't feel bad about leaving before the end of the first half, or before there was a law-breaking and probably bloody confrontation.

To conclude: (parts of) Knoxville are representative of all that is corrupt and rotting in the heart of America. A large minority, or a small majority, of the people that live here are the reason we're hated by so much of the world, and stand as glaring stereotypes that more than fulfill the dismally low expectations the cultured people in our country have for those living in the South. The simple fact that people were raised in a family, and live in a society, where they can act like they do is frankly apalling. My gut reaction at the time was first one of blind revulsion, and then, loathing. That feeling has not as yet fully subsided.

Cormac McCarthy was correct in condemning this city all those years ago (in his novel, Suttree). It was filled to the brim with garbage then, and it has by no means improved. To quote Spike Lee: fuck this city and everyone in it.

Ilsa, take 2

Spent another afternoon with Mistress Ilsa. I found out I have weak wrists. Apparently it's genetic, but can be partially overcome with exercise. So that's it, then. She had another girl, equally sadistic but slightly more encouraging, working with her today. They're both very sweet, very relaxed, and make my whole self hurt. I'm hoping that this trend continues, as I can only assume that the horrible, horrible pain is good for me.

On another note, I started writing my thesis last week. It's not going quickly. Actually, it's going to probably be one of the hardest things I've ever done. So I'm going to get back to it. Half a page down, 99 1/2 to go.