Monday, March 31, 2008

It's Going to Be a Long Summer...

And, unfortunately, a very short fall for the Florida Marlins.

Yes, I am usurping my husband's position as the baseball blogger in this family. But I feel compelled, as I sit here and watch the first of probably hundreds of Marlins games this season, to point out a few things that will make my weeknights truly depressing for the next several months.

The Marlins' payroll is $21 million. Let me give you an idea of just how small that is: Not only is it the lowest in professional baseball, it is less than some minor league teams.

The average professional baseball team payroll is four times more than the Marlins, about $90 million. The New York Yankees have a payroll of more than $200 million.

Owner Jeff Loria makes excuses, saying the team doesn't profit from stadium usage fees, because the team doesn't own the stadium. But any fan knows, it's simply greed.

Every bright spot the Marlin's have had during the past several years are shipped out as soon as they are able to command a decent paycheck. Such is the case this year with our all-star, Miguel Cabrerra, and pitcher Dontrelle Willis.

So why do we keep watching?

Pure and simple: The Marlins consistently represent the future of professional baseball. Players, such as NL Rookie of the Year Hanley Ramirez:

Or slugger (and, if I might add, looker) Josh Willingham (who has already hit a home run today):

will be something to watch this year. They are glimmers of hope that, once they're traded to a team that will respect them in another year or two, we Marlins fans can say we got to root for them once upon a time.

As Jeremy said, "It's like seeing Bon Jovi in 1982, before he was anybody!"

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to pay attention to tonight's devastation so I can attempt to find some semblance of silver lining.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I Knew It!

For those of you keeping up, we have a new addition to the family!

It's a girl!

Valerie gave birth to Gabriella Chloe at about 5:30 p.m. She's a healthy 5 lbs. 5 oz., which is good, considering she is nearly a month and a half premature.

Val is doing great. She had to have a C-section, but it went quickly, and she is recovering well.

More tomorrow after I get to visit!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Baby Watch '08 Continued...

Got this picture and message from Val on my phone at 5:30 a.m. ET:

"See, I'm fine!"

No news beyond that yet!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Baby Watch '08...

We have some news on the Valerie baby front.

As many of you know, my aunt (really more like my sister) is pregnant with her first child.

She is due in early-May, but it seems the baby may have other plans.

This morning, Val went into pre-term labor. So far, they have given her four shots to stop the contractions, and they seem to be taking. They have also given her a steriod shot to strengthen the baby's resperatory system. They hope she will not have to deliver the baby before they have time to give her a second shot tomorrow.

She is on strict bed rest at the hospital (no getting up to even go to the bathroom!), and she will likely stay for at least a week, unless she gives birth before then.

The good news is, the baby is doing great, Val is in good spirits, and my bag is packed and waiting by the door!

More as it comes in! Meanwhile, please keep Val, Mark, and the baby in your prayers!

It Keeps Pulling Me Back In...

So, the time has come to make a big announcement. Last month, I received a letter from the University of Florida, which began like this:

Congratulations! It gives us great pleasure to inform you that the College of Journalism and Communications Doctoral Application Review Committee has approved your application for doctoral studies for the Fall, 2008 semester.

Last weekend, I received a call from Dr. Dodd at the university, offering me a teaching fellowship.

Today, I formally responded:

I would like to extend my gratitude to the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications regarding my acceptance into its doctoral program. I am writing, with great pleasure, to inform the school of my decision to attend the University of Florida during the Fall 2008 semester.

Here I am, signing the letter of acceptance: (this is more for posterity than anything else!)

Here's Jeremy celebrating my new status as a Gator!

I will be teaching two sections of mass communication writing lab (about 40 students) while attending classes to obtain my PhD. in journalism. My research will involve something in the social science realm (likely inter-newsroom work), but I am a long way off from deciding on a dissertation topic.

It's going to be a long three years, but right now, we are excited! Thanks to everyone who was "in the know" for your support during this LONG application process!

And to my friends and family back in Florida, see ya real soon!!!

Still Got That New Marriage Smell...

Hooray! Today is mine and Jeremy's 1-year wedding anniversary!

It's been a great year, filled with laughter, surprises, and togetherness in the face of adversity.

Since our wedding day we've traveled to Antigua, Washington D.C., Savannah, all over Florida, and to parts of North Carolina, including my alma mater in Boone.

We've quit our jobs, gone back to school, moved to Alabama (for school), made new friends, gotten a new puppy, and made life-altering decisions about our future careers.

We've also had some hard times. We lost my beagle, Pickle, my beloved great-grandmother, Grums, and a dear friend, Gregory Lang. We've missed our friends and family back home, and dealt with some minor medical issues and the ensuing bills.

On our honeymoon we spoke to a couple who laughed at us and said our first year of marriage would be terrible and difficult. Maybe I'm being premature in saying this, but we really have had a wonderful first year.

Jeremy's support as a partner, spouse, and friend have been unwavering. Like any married couple, we suffer bouts of miscommunication, but they are always quickly resolved. I love him with all my heart, and it's obvious from the pillow he carries me around on that he feels the same way. (And it's not just because I bought him the MLB Extra Innings package for his anniversary gift!)

I know we've been blessed with each other, but we couldn't be who we are without all of our friends and family. So, to you all, thank you for your love and support in our first year. We hope you'll all be with us when we celebrate our 50th!

Artsy Fartsy...

While we were in D.C., Jeremy and I stopped in at one of my favorite attractions, the National Gallery of Art. We had some great discussions about several paintings, but I just wanted to highlight some of my favorite points.

This oil painting is titled "Daniel in the Lions' Den," by Flemish artist Sir Peter Paul Rubens.

This is one of my favorite paintings in the gallery. For starters, it is impossible to miss; It is 88 1/4 x 130 1/8 inches! It was painted in 1618, and it depicts the famous Old Testament story of the prophet Daniel, who was thrown into a lion's den and escaped unharmed.

Some notes: I love the facial expressions in this piece. You have Daniel, whose face reads as a mixture of terror and hope. He is fervently praying and obviously humbled, despite having God on his side. Also, his body language is interesting, because he is closed off and partially naked, despite the cloak laying beside him. This, to me, also represents humility.

I am also fascinated by the expressions on the lions' faces. Normally, you don't view lions as being expressive, but here we see lions basically being bored and uninterested. While the lions are obviously vicious (note the bones of previous victims on the ground), they appear to be unaware of Daniel's presence. It's just an excellent and telling depiction of a familiar story.

This is "The Adoration of the Magi," a 1440 Italian painting by Fra Angelico and Fra Filippo Lippi.

We talked about the revisionist history that exists in this work, like many others of its time. This piece indicates Jesus' birth was celebrated by the masses. Seemingly wealthy masses, at that. As I recall, this was not how the birth of Jesus went down.

Additionally, we noticed a few other features. It appeared, from this and many other works, pink was a masculine/royal color at this time. Bright blue also seemed to indicate prominence.

An intriguing question from this work: There is a young man positioned behind Joseph who appears to be mimicking his emotions. His face is turned down in the same way, his feet are similarly positioned. Who is he? He doesn't have the symbolic gold halo (found in every 15th Century depiction of Jesus and Mary), yet he is given a position inside the huddle of the "royal family."

And finally, Jeremy's favorite, "Ginevra de' Benci," by Leonardo da Vinci.

This was the only work of da Vinci's at the gallery. It was painted in 1474. She is the daughter of a wealthy Florentine banker. It was likely commissioned to celebrate her engagement.

Although this woman was supposed to be a great beauty, we found it interesting how da Vinci seemed to tone down her features. She is very plain, seeming almost melancholy. This is particularly notable set against the background of a rich and glorious landscape.

The painting is supposed to represent virtue as beauty. I think da Vinci nailed it, as usual.

Anyway, those are only a few of our thoughts. Let me know what you think, or if you have a favorite piece of art to share!

Tales from the Mysterious Metro...

Jeremy and I returned from our trip to Washington D.C. last night. We had a wonderful time!

We arrived Saturday and went out for dinner and drinks at a brewery with one of my best friends, Mara, and her boyfriend, Paul.

Here's us on the Metro. We're still smiling, because we have no idea the drama that awaits us. The Metro managed to breakdown or have issues EVERY TIME we got on it that day. It was awful!

Here's a shot of the Capitol, and the traffic!

And the last picture before my camera battery died, a T-Rex at the Museum of Natural History.

Jeremy and I enjoyed a romantic trip around the city in a limo on Sunday night to celebrate our 1-year anniversary (which is actually this Monday, the 24th). We decided we would rather spend it on the town in D.C. than in Anniston!

Our hotel was great. We got upgraded to a suite, because of the dogs (apparently they are only allowed in certain rooms). One issue, however, was thin walls. Our neighbors were a bit noisy ALL NIGHT, if you catch my drift...

We spent part of St. Patty's Day with Mara and Paul, and the rest down in Arlington with our friend Tim, who used to work in Naples, but now works at The Washington Post. Tim and his boss, Rob Curley, are new media whiz-kids. And, lucky for us, they have asked us to join them for our internship period in May! Hooray!

On Thursday, Jeremy and I visited my aunt and uncle, who were kind enough to take us in for a few days. They also put us on their horses!

Here's Jeremy's first EVER ride on a horse! Apache was very kind to him!

Cher, however, enjoyed running me into the fences and nearly knocking me off by running under a tree branch!

After this, we went down to Asheville and stopped at a couple of nice wineries on the way. We had wonderful food and wine while in Asheville, and I got a beautiful anniversary gift.

Jeremy and I went "gem mining" in a town about 50 miles from Asheville and found some emeralds, one of which, as I type, is being made into something like this:


Christos Anesti!...

As they say in Greece! But in America, it's just "Happy Easter!"

Here are some pictures from our Easter basket hunt this morning!

The puppies found their Easter buckets filled with treats all by themselves (under the pillow):

Jeremy did well searching for his basket:

Jeremy got a very "Jeremy-friendly" basket, filled with root beer, baseball cards and football-shaped Snickers!

For dinner we had some pork ribs cooked in the slow cooker, baked mac and cheese, and veggies. It was very delicious!

Hope you all had a great day!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Talking Taboos...

Here is my most recent class video. I taped some of the auditions from The Vagina Monologues, a very powerful play, written by Eve Ensler.

The material I had to work with contained some material many might find offensive (although I found it to be amazing and inspiring). I cut any offensive material, but left in many "uncomfortable" scenes, because I wanted to capture the rawness, the embarrassment, and the acceptance cycle these actresses endured.

Let me know what you think!

Silence is Red, White, and Blue...

On this blog, I make a lot of comments about a lot of things. But you may have noticed the glaring absence of political comments on this page.

With today being a fairly monumental day on the Democratic campaign trail, I thought now might be a good time to explain my silence.

My friends, family, and I all have very different beliefs, be they political, religious, or otherwise. I enjoy the diversity of opinions possessed by those around me. My friends and family make me think and debate, which helps strengthens my beliefs or helps me change my mind for the better.

Because I value this diversity of opinion, I think it would be inappropriate for me to use this site, which I try to keep conversational, informative, and fun, to lecture about the merits of my politics.

I will tell you these things:

1) I am a registered Democrat.
2) Jeremy and I are divided on who we support for the Democratic nomination, which has lead us to numerous fun and colorful debates.

If you want to talk with me about my beliefs, ask me. I would much rather have a spirited, face-to-face discussion/debate with you than print a one-sided diatribe. As you may recall, editorials are not my forte.

That being said, I would like to make one comment about the media, of which I am a member. There has been a lot of talk about national news outlets visibly favoring Mr. Obama. Not every organization is guilty of this, but, overwhelmingly, I believe it is true.

As a journalist, I can tell you truly unbiased reporting is impossible. You cannot undo who you are, how you were raised, or outside factors that contribute to why you do the job you do.

However, this kind of irresponsible reporting is unacceptable. Whomever you support, be it Obama, Clinton, McCain, or someone else, you should find this contrast striking and appalling.

From the New York Times (of which I am, generally, a huge fan):

The day was the latest installment in the riveting drama between two formidable, historic candidates: the first woman to be a serious contender for president and the charismatic young black man who has packed arenas across the country and overtaken Mrs. Clinton in many polls and the delegate count.

An "unbiased" article would have said, "the first woman and the first black man to be serious contenders for president."

Strange, New World...

published March 4, 2008 12:15 am

BOONE — Appalachian State University locked down all campus buildings for more than an hour Monday as authorities searched for a man seen carrying a gun nearby.
Students on campus were alerted over campus public address systems and by e-mail, said Forrest Gilliam, president of the school’s student govern-ment association. “Everyone’s relieved,” Gilliam said. “With the technology we had in place, I think communication to the students went well.”
Some students said they appreciated the response in the wake of school shootings last year at Virginia Tech and last month at Northern Illinois University, said Clair Baxter, editor-in-chief of the Appalachian, the student newspaper.
Baxter said she and her staff were locked in the second floor of the student union. Officials with walkie-talkies had students sign in, and no one could leave the buildings.
No shots were fired, and no injuries were reported. Officials canceled night classes before lifting the lockdown shortly after 6:30 p.m., after no further sightings of the man were reported.
Appalachian State police and Boone police consulted before the school ended the lockdown, school spokeswoman Lynn Drury said.
Baxter said she was surprised the university did not immediately cancel classes after the gunman was reported trying to break into a student apartment.
“I thought they could have had just a little quicker response,” she said.
The lockdown came just hours after school officials sent a campuswide e-mail to students updating them about plans for an emergency messaging service. Many universities are deploying such systems in a response to last year’s shootings at Virginia Tech, where a student gunman killed 32 people and himself.

I'm Still Standing...

Just wanted to let everyone know we're doing fine. The storms passed pretty quickly. No damage, no debris. Anniston lived to see another day!

Checkin' In...

Sirens just went off (3:30 a.m. CT) warning us of severe thunderstorms and a tornado watch.

Here's what's happening right now:

We're doing fine. Just some really bright lightening flashes (which are driving the dogs nuts, and, therefore, us nuts!).

Going back to bed now. Will update at a more sane hour.

Auntie Em, Auntie Em!...

For those of you still awake and watching the news, I just wanted to update you on the storms hitting Alabama.

There were tornados hitting the ground in Tuscaloosa, but the storm is moving quickly. It is headed in our direction, and we're under severe thunderstorm warning now.

Here's what's going on right now (1:20 a.m. CT):

As you can see, we are on the right side, near the center of the storm. We're getting some strong wind gusts, but no rain yet.

We're not too worried about storms hitting here, as they seem to be moving north of us. However, we are prepared.

You never know how long you have to get downstairs when the sirens sound, so we inflated the air matress downstairs, near our windowless bathroom hallway.

Here's Oscar enjoying the downstairs slumber party:

Please don't worry. I promise to keep everyone posted as these storms continue and pass through.

On a lighter note, check out tomorrow's weather forecast:

Only in Alabama!!!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Caving In...

Jeremy and I went to Desoto Caverns today, and we had a good time. The caverns are about an hour from our place, and we've been wanting to check them out for awhile.

The inside of the cave was huge. The main room is about 100 yards long and tall enough to fit a 12-story building.

Here's Jeremy playing with his stalagmites and stalactites:

During the cavern tour it became abundantly clear the caverns are not government-owned. They put on a light show that consists of an unrelated reading of the creation story from the Book of Genesis (See also the Epic of Gilgamesh!)

At the end of the reading (which depicts God's voice with a flashing light and steam), they really drive home the exclusion by focusing on a flashing cross hanging from the cave.


Good thing there are no Jews in Alabama...

Outside the caverns were dozens of theme park activities, which the gift shop lady seemed surprised we didn't want to partake in. Bumper boats, a wall climb, and water balloons...

Thank God they provide all these recreational distractions so kids don't actually have to learn anything.

Some other educational highlights: According to our tour guide, Southerners in the mid-1920s were still called "Confederates." And, apparently, the waterfalls in the cavern dried up because "they had been running for too long, and they just got tired of running."

History according to Alabamains. Fantastic...

Weekend Visitor...

We've had a tiny visitor this weekend. Our neighbor's puppy, 12-week-old Fleck, is sleeping on my lap as I type.

He's a sweet boy, and he's been pretty good, other than lots of barking and REALLY bad gas! Oh well... at least he's cute! He's got huge paws and tall legs, so he's extremely clumsy, which is adorable!

He's a blue tick hound, and he'll eventually get to about 40 pounds. But for now, awwwwwwww...

On a related note, Nacho got neutered this week. He also had to have two of his teeth pulled. He's doing great, though.

It's everything we can do to keep him from rough housing with Oscar and Fleck. Poor baby doesn't know he needs his rest! He's surely getting us back for torturing him. He's spent much of the weekend screeching in his cage!