28 October 2007

Dawgs and Gators and Bears - Oh My!

First off, congrats to the UGA football team. I figured we wouldn't put up fourteen points against Florida, let alone beat them. Go DAWGS!

Now on to the more interesting part of my fall break.

Instead of heading down to the world's largest outdoor cockt - erm, sorry President Adams - Florida-Georgia Football Classic (I like the WLOCP title better), I headed up to the North Carolina mountains for some hiking and time alone with God while enjoying his handy work. So on Thursday, the first day of Fall Break, I did what any college student would do. That is to say, I woke up at six in the morning, hopped in the car with my dog, and drove four hours to spend the day without a computer, an MP3 player, or even a GPS. Just me, my dog, and the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway. I was originally aiming to hike along Mount Mitchell, but inclement weather changed that. So, still in the spirit of a college student, I pulled over at the first trail head I saw and hiked for two hours along a primitive trail (appropriately title the Big Butt Trail), with nothing more than a few red placards and fallen trees to guide me, without seeing or hearing another person until returning to my car. Of course the problem with trails like that is that animals tend not to stay away from the road less taken. On my way back to my car, about fifteen minutes out from the pull-off I had parked in, I came upon a small black bear. Luckily, it had heard me coming and wandered off just as I realized, "Hey, that's a bear. And it could kill me." I made it safely to my grandparents' house and then called everyone I could think of to say, "OMGZ!!! I SAW TEH BEAR!!!1!"

The next day brought a much-needed day off, including a tour of Lake Lure (think Dirty Dancing) and a very nice dinner at a local hotel. Saturday was more hiking at Chimney Rock. No where near as isolated as the trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway, nor as cheap, nor as bear-ish, the views were stunning. I spent the day hiking almost every trail the park had to offer and enjoying the view of some of the most interesting rock formations to be found in North Carolina. Chimney Rock is one of those rare geological anomalies that has been purchased and turned into a park, but somehow has avoided the cheese-level of places like Stone Mountain. And the North Carolina Park Service has just bought the sight, so its nice mix of popular tourist destination and serene, tranquil retreat is secure.

This was the first real vacation I've ever taken by myself. Sure, over the summer I drove up to Columbia, SC, for the Harry Potter book release and to see my sister, but that wasn't so much a vacation as a - something that's not a vacation. I don't like driving, and mountain roads have always freaked me out, as much as I love the mountains. Especially when driving through a cloud. But I managed the drive quite well and even enjoyed the time driving through the windy, narrow roads of the Blue Ridge area. As cliché as it sounds, the first road trip really is a coming-of-age event. It's something that you do with your family most of your life (hardly a summer went by where my parents didn't toss my sister and I into a car and drive around for at least three or four days). To be able to set off on your own with only a list of destinations to guide you is one of the most liberating experiences that one can imagine. And after spending my summer in classes, the freedom was well-received.

People have places where they feel closer to God than others. For some, it's during a mass. For others, it's a modern worship service. Most people feel God's presence on retreats. As for me, it's nature. As much as I enjoy Athens, the constant sound of cars, music, and college kids on cell phones, the lack of any real place to get away from the city (even the most secluded part of campus is right next to a highway), and the eerie red glow cast on the sky at night make me feel isolated. But the freedom and beauty of nature gives me a sense of God's power and creation. Nothing man can ever make will amount to the awesomeness of the Grand Canyon or the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains in the fall. And after three days of being in the mountains, it was amazing what had the ability to move me. Something as simple as the sunrise while driving home this morning left me praising God - with Santana and Rob Thomas in the background.

Rock on.

20 October 2007

Parties Have Too Much Power

In a stunning blow to democracy, the South Carolina Democratic Party might keep Colbert off of their primary ticket. Story here.

Ok, so we know he's running as a joke. But the requirements that could keep Colbert off the ballot are much more serious. The SC Democratic Party states that the candidate must have spent a set amount of time actively campaigning in the state and be a "viable" candidate (viable as determined by the party's executive council). While this is not detrimental for Colbert (if he wanted to, he could turn this into an hour-long Colbert Report Special Edition), other candidates could run into serious issues. It is not far-fetched to say that Obama, as a black midwesterner, is not a viable candidate in the southern state famous for flying the Confederate Naval Jack over its statehouse into the 21st century (I was living in Columbia the year the flag was taken down), or that Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, besides having not spent much time campaigning in the state, but also coming in last in fund raising, are not viable candidates (total, the two have raised less than a quarter of what Clinton has raised, and of that, 90% goes to Kucinich) are not viable candidates.

Considering that party primaries (oddly, not in the Constitution) are all but vital to making it onto the ticket, to rule out a candidate in one state primary is an electoral death sentence and a major attack on free and fair elections (I just love that as an independent, I have not voice in primaries).

But then again, the entire party system is a barrier to democracy. This, however, is an discussion for another time.

Rock on.

19 October 2007

It's Pronounced "Fronkenshteen".

Only during election season (What the crap? It's still 07!) do you get headlines like "McCain Names Mannequin". But still, I think this one takes the cake.

Stein Crosses Party Lines, Helps Franken

I just hope they run for president in 2012. I'd support the Franken/Stein ticket.

Also, if you have no clue what the title refers to, shame on you.

Colbert '08

For all of my readers (ha, like I have readers) in South Carolina (ha, like South Carolina's a state...it's not like I've ever lived there...oh, wait...), be sure to vote for Stephen Colbert in both the Democratic AND Republican primaries (yes, he's running on both tickets).

If you haven't heard, over the course of the past couple of days, Stephen Colbert has lead up to this announcement (seriously, like only three days; it took Obama and McCain, what, half a year to actually make a formal decision?) and announced on The Daily Show that he would make his official announcement on a more prestigious show - only to make the announcement fifteen minutes later on his own show. Full story here.

Wait, I think I've seen this movie before. With the help of Lewis Black and a flaw in the computer systems created by Jeff Goldblum's company, doesn't he actually win? And address congress dressed as George Washington?

Robin Williams movies aside, this is perhaps the funniest thing Colbert has done. Aside from his interview with Richard Branson.

01 October 2007

Starbucks, High Schoolers, and Drew's Infamous Coffee Rant

Driving home from Kroger tonight, I heard an interesting story on NPR. Starbucks is considering marketing their products to middle and high schoolers. What I don't get is why people think this is such a big deal. Surely caramel macchiatos are inherently aimed at kids. The US will never cease to amaze me. In our attempt to seem more sophisticated (simulated culture, but I've beat that horse to death...for now), we have turned towards corporate coffee houses to produce drinks that we can (barely) pass of as coffee that amount to nothing more than liquid candy. I like a cappuccino or a spiced chai as much as the next guy, but come on, even when we do get coffee we dump so much flavored syrup, sugar, and cream into it that all we've made is a warm, liquid Werther's Original.

My first experience with coffee (namely, cappuccino) was while I was living in Germany. It was an occasional thing for when my family went out at night. This was normally during vacations. And it was good. But it was also bitter. If an American college student got one sip of straight espresso or a traditional latte, they would spit it out. There's a reason I didn't start drinking straight coffee (and by straight, I mean sans-sweeteners) until late in my junior year in high school - coffee is an acquired taste too strong for most young people - and many older people.

The satirist who discussed the marketing change made a few good points. Saying that he's been to too many birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese and that the café atmosphere would do American youth culture good, the reporter supported the idea (the downside, he mentions, being that kids who are already hyper might very well ruin the mood of the café). And I'm all for giving kids some culture. I take the success of SpongeBob as a sign of the falling of American culture and love the idea of ninth graders discussing philosophy as non-mass-produced music plays gently over the stereo. But is Starbucks really the best place for that? Starbucks, the mass-produced counter-culture? I enjoy coffee shops, I really really do, but because they offer this unique feel. One of my favorites is an old service garage in one of the prettier parts of Athens. But every Starbucks I've ever been in has looked the same, including the one in downtown Athens (and the one on the west side of Athens...yeah, we have a lot of coffee shops). I'm willing to bet that your local Starbucks has a light-stain hard wood for tables, the floor, and chairs. lamps hanging over the cash-register; a black counter. a selection of pastries on display to the immediate left/right of the register; and on the other side, five feet away, a black table where orders are delivered. It probably has trendy music for sale - really, it's just old classics repackaged, with some Nora Jones thrown in for good measure (no offense meant to Ms. Jones).

On another note, why do we wonder why kids are such discipline problems if we let them guzzle coffee, soda, and energy drinks? "Here, kid, drink this. I don't know what it is but it has three times the caffeine of a Red Bull." (On this note, they are now marketing caffeinated gum to college students). I can't really talk about coffee addiction too much - my daily habit is four cups, at least. But at least I waited until college. I was a one cup a day type of guy back in high school. Maybe a second if I went to a coffee shop later the day.

In short, I think if we want our kids to have an appreciation for the café culture, then we are going to have to reexamine our coffee houses. There's nothing wrong with a ninth grader enjoying a dark roasted coffee over jazz and a philosophical discussion with a friend, but if they (or we) think that Starbucks is high culture, we're very, very screwed.

Rock on.

BlendTec Presents: Chuck Norris

Chuck Norris doesn't sleep. He waits.
The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain.
Chuck Norris has two speeds: walk; and kill.
Chuck Norris doesn't go hunting. He goes killing.
Chuck Norris - the only force in the universe strong enough to survive a BlendTec Total Blender.

Catch the video here.

The best part is if you look closely enough, you can see him at the top of the blender roundhouse kicking everything else.