Alcohol, Sex, and Smith County, TX

April 2, 2010

I’m currently at a university nestled in East Texas, the former retirement destination of Tyler. It’s a small city, steadily growing over the last decade, but it has one huge flaw – prohibition of alcohol sales to the public.

In this town, I can go to a restaurant, and for a $5 fee, I can join a "club" that allows them to sell me alcohol by the glass, for prices well above what a bar would normally sell. I’m talking a $10 rum and coke. That is the only available way for me to buy alcohol in town.

If I desire to buy a fifth of rum, or god help me, a 6 pack of beer, I have to drive no less than 25 minutes to leave Smith County. Unfortunately, that 25 minute location just doesn’t have that great of a selection, which leaves me with a 40 minute drive in a different direction. It’s horrible.

But something else stood out as I took the travel to the store 25 minutes away this afternoon: Smith County has a drive in XXX movie theater with adult book/movie store within it’s jurisdiction, but alcohol is prohibited. If there was one potential "moral vice" out of alcohol or sex, I would have bet my life savings that sex would be the one banned. I’m shocked that it’s allowed, although I’m not against banning XXX businesses either. I’m just amazed the conservatives in the area would allow it.

Hopefully this Sam Adams Summer Mix Pack and a Michigan Baseball win will have me feeling better about that gross injustice sometime soon.

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Meltdown Happening

January 10, 2010

So the last week and a half have been one whirlwind after another for me. With classes soon approaching, I have no idea what classes I’m taking, much less at what school, much less in what state. In the last 72 hours, I’ve gone from everything being taken care of to go to McNeese State in Lake Charles to now taking an impromptu trip to Tyler, Texas tomorrow morning.

So things are a bit hectic.

The last month has been busy enough as it is. I researched apartments, visited with advisors, arranged my financial aid, scouted various local sporting teams. Things were going well.

I spent all day Wednesday driving around Lake Charles and learning the different areas. You couldn’t get me to rent on the 5th avenue area for my life. Cars were on blocks. A hooker was outside one of the complexes with a cardboard sign. I ran a stop sign to get out of the area.

Closer to campus was a bit more friendly. I found a complex that I fell in love with, even if their idea of flooring is sealed concrete. It actually made it that much more interesting. As I continued past campus, I visited the high end apartments. Faking interest in them just to look around was a great waste of my time.

In the end, I sent in my application for housing to the one right across the street from campus. The building hadn’t even opened yet, but the community seemed close, and the buildings were all brand new. By Friday at 2pm, I had my application in and the deposit ready to go in the mail.

But then fun started. I’m not sure if the University of Texas at Tyler intentionally mailed their acceptance letter to me in an attempt for me to get it on my birthday, but if they did, I want to beat that person over the head with a baseball bat. While I’m sure that wasn’t their intention, I received the acceptance letter in the mail Friday at 4:30pm.

At first hearing this, you may say, well, you’re probably past the point of no return right? McNeese move in is a week from this and classes at UT-Tyler start this upcoming Monday. There’s no way you’ll be ready to go to Tyler in just 3 days.

Yeah, no. I spent the next 30 minutes of my Friday afternoon calling every office that was still open in Tyler. Admissions tells me I can’t register online and that I’ll have to late register on Monday at my advisor’s office. Great.

So I call my advisor’s office at the civil engineering department. The lady’s response to my telling her my story, "Oh, well, dear."

I told her, "I know," and she went to get the advisor’s office hours for Monday. Apparently he doesn’t have normal office hours on Monday so she had to set up a tentative appointment at the end of the day Monday.

So I’m driving up to Tyler, about a 5 hour drive, on Monday without any idea what’s going to happen.

Friday night was all about calming my nerves. Being my birthday, my two best friends took me out to Sherlock’s in Clear Lake and totally "alleviated" any concerns I had. After 8-9 drinks, I was just where I needed to be to forget all about Monday’s impending last-minute life decision.

Yesterday’s hangover didn’t help the situation, but it at least distracted me from thinking about things too much. Today, though, I’m hitting the googles hard trying to sort out a life in Tyler. I’ve gone through every academic information I can muster.

The good news is most of the classes I need and can get into still have a few openings, so I should be able to get into them – I’ll be attempting to at least sit through some of them tomorrow. The bad news is my transfer credit leaves me with a few oddly placed classes. I took a senior level course as a sophomore at Michigan (just differences in different schools’ teaching order) and I’m missing one course, Statics, that I really need to move on. Statics is basically a prerequisite for everything and I haven’t been able to take it since leaving Michigan.

More good news is that the couple of other courses I REALLY need to get out of the way are offered in the summer. There’s at least 2 classes I’ll be taking this summer, and that should get me caught up to graduate AT LEAST one year quicker at UT-Tyler over McNeese State.

The one year difference between out of state tuition fees and a year of tuition could save me over $20,000 dollars in debt. This is why I feel like the point of no return on going to McNeese hasn’t passed. So while things like having a University of Texas degree might be more valuable than a University of Louisiana (McNeese State is part of the UL system), just the overall cost saving and time saving measures make this headache well worth the initial mental suffering.

The rest of the day is going to be spent researching housing options around campus and even the greater Tyler area. My head is going 1000 directions and close to exploding. I’m just glad I’ve stopped yelling F@#$ every time I think about Monday.

More on this soon.


Colin Cowherd Blew My Mind

August 27, 2009

And it wasn’t even for saying something so totally mind-blowing-ly stupid either, which was really surprising. The moment came a few days ago as I was driving from the post office to the gas station and hit some major static on my iTrip. I don’t often listen to the radio anymore these days, especially in Houston. Everything is repetitive and censored to death.

When I do listen to the radio, I often find myself hooked into ESPN’s fairly new station for the Houston area, 97.5 The Ticket. While most of the morning shows are pretty weak as far as content, occasionally Mike & Mike in the morning or Tirico & VanPelt (now just VanPelt) would at least humor me. When I turned on the radio this time, it was Cowherd, my least favorite sports radio guy, okay, maybe second least favorite behind Carl Dukes.

Cowherd is the shock jock type of sports radio personalities. He continually comes up with the weirdest ideas (some of which he steals right from blogs) and is a constant center of hate. He hates everything. It’s his shtick. He gets people riled up over placing blame or calling players worthless. It’s normally sickening.

This time was a little bit different. During one of his regular, non-sport tangents where he talks about life in a rambling and nearly incoherent manner, he said something along these lines (not paraphrase):

The nature of society is that the intelligent become more intelligent while the dumb become more ignorant. Smart people read smart things like the news and the Economist, while the ignorant watch television that is tailored to the lowest denominator. It helps create and steepen the divide between the intellectuals and the non.

This might have been the most intelligent thing Cowherd has ever said, not that it would be too difficult to top.

I think that description perfectly describes my school as well. Being at a community college, I see the two groups put together all of the time. Many of the soon to be ignorant show up in my classes all the time. Each semester there is "that douche" who comes in and acts all big. The kid acts like he’s top of the heap, but all he’s really doing is stalling before he enters the work force at a menial job.

The other example was my English class last semester when I was lectured on how Christian God must exist because "the world is beautiful." Or the girl who spent 20 minutes arguing with me that global warming doesn’t exist. Hell, half the people here in Texas have some sort of screwed up world view, but that’s because when you go out to a restaurant, all they show during the day before sports is FoxNews.

On the other end, there are quite a few at the community college that I relate to as they are there to increase their knowledge. They want to be educated. I had a conversation with a kid just a few days ago on the merits of RSS feeds as a condensed internet content filter. It was pretty interesting.

To bring it back to the point, the thought Cowherd throws out is definitely an interesting one from the standpoint of philosophy and sociology. I guess even sometimes a village idiot can say something truly enlightening.


Mr. Anonymous Visits Washington

July 18, 2009

…or at least a guy who works in Washington.  This is going to be long, so yeah, the page break is included. Long story short, I saw my US House Representative speak today.  He’s hardcore republican, I’m moderate with some liberal tendencies.  This is an overview of the political arena of my area as well as my thoughts on things he discussed, as well as the general meeting itself.

Read the rest of this entry »


Options Limited

July 15, 2009

So since I received that email stating I wouldn’t be accepted into UofH, I’ve been doing a bit of soul searching.  While the initial response was all doom and gloom, I think there may be some options for me at the end of the tunnel.

Option A1

The first option I have is to still apply to UH but as an undeclared undergraduate.  From this step, I am faced with another decision: do I beg the Dean of Engineering at UH to accept me despite my grade point deficiencies?  With my recent string of high grades, as well as mass improvements in several classes, I might have a shot at being admitted as a probationary engineering student, but only if the dean is feeling particularly charitable that day.  This strategy really doesn’t carry much risk.  If I get accepted into engineering I win, if I am rejected again, other than a bad taste in my mouth, I’m no further down the ladder than I was.  If anything, at least I’m in a university.

Option A2

If, for some reason, I decide that it’s not worth it to plead to the dean or even if I’m rejected, I’m left with at least two backup majors that interest me.  The first backup major probably makes the most sense, construction technology (CT).  CT is a major that covers most of what I actually want to do with my Civil Engineering major, but it lacks the technical background that would open more doors for advancement and diversify me as an employee.  Civil engineering obviously makes me more versatile, not only as a commercial construction manager, but also as a general contractor who deals with engineers and architects quite often.  CT would teach me the business side, but it lacks several key parts of the actual structure.  That is really the part I’m most interested in, and losing that would be regrettable.

Option A3

My second backup major is a much more drastic change.  Having covered the Michigan baseball team on the blog(s) over the last season, I’ve become slightly interested in sports information.  For those of you not familiar with it, sports information is a department of the athletic departments of universities, or the marketing/media relations of professional teams.  I’ve had several positive experiences with the associate sports information director for baseball this previous season, and I really find his job to be fascinating.  Not only is he working with sports, but he’s also doing it with a flair of journalism.  I’ve found myself entrenched in journalism and media news over the last year.  After sports, journalism discussing journalism is often the next thing I read every day. Probably one of the more important aspects of it are the limited number of semester hours I’d have to put forward towards it.  To get the degree, I’d have to take about the same number of credits as I need for my engineering degree.

So while this sports information (communication) backup major is a possibility that sounds enjoyable, I’m somewhat cautious about jumping at it.  It’s a pretty drastic change from what I’ve been engaged in before, and I’m worried that it might just be a phase I’m going through.  The pros sound good now, but I think it is definitely in the back seat for now.

Option B

My second initial option is something that I’ve begun to mull over more and more of late.  There is a decent chance that Michigan could reinstate me as a student in the College of Engineering (COE).  I’ve taken the initial steps already to find out what this would take, and the returns have been mixed.  While I’ve run into little problem with the Scholastic Standing Committee (SSC) and my previous adviser, I’m not sure how the Civil Engineering Department will receive me.

The way the reinstatement process works is that my advisers, the department I’d be enrolled in, and the SSC all have to agree that I’m ready to attend, and they set up a list of rules and goals that I must achieve during my semester I return.  If I consent to those rules, they will admit me back in under probation.  I’d be limited to 12 hours, couldn’t score below a B-, and required to attend a certain number of hours of advising/mentoring every month.  The good news is one semester of probation would be enough to raise my GPA out of the probationary status.  So things could be good there.

Option B – Problems

One of the problems I see is that all the classes I’ve taken while away from Michigan won’t help my GPA, and many won’t transfer at all.  Of the classes I took the last two semesters, none will count towards my degree at UM.  They will count as electives only.  Of the classes I plan on taking this semester, I doubt any will count either.  I’m hoping that perhaps my taking differential equations might, but that’s only because I made a D in it the first time I took it at UM, therefore earning me credit in the class.  If I take it this semester and get a better grade (one that would count for prerequisites), I’m not sure that it will count.  I’m planning on calling tomorrow to make sure.

Another major con would be the cost.  Michigan isn’t cheap.  The out-of-state tuition rates are $37,389.  That’s just TUITION.  That doesn’t include room and board, books, or other costs of living.  The estimated costs according to the financial aid department is $49,451.  That’s steep.  I’m sure I’d receive a little bit of financial aid, but I’m already behind the curve there.  I need to adjust my FAFSA asap.

Also, when it comes to backups, I’ve got nothing at Michigan.  If I don’t get this Civil Engineering degree, any more time I spend at Michigan is a waste of tens of thousands of dollars.  Not having a backup frightens me pretty badly.

Option B – Am I Ready of It?

After getting past those initial pros and cons, I’ve also have to deal with a lot of “intangibles.”  I’ve got the general thoughts in my head that UM >> UH.  That goes without saying, but along those lines, I have to question on whether I can handle it in Ann Arbor.  I’ve already near failed out.  I’ve tried to rationalize with myself that I’m a different person now.  My time away from campus has seen me grow up quite a bit.  The 07-08 school year working on the road broke me of many 0f my undergraduate habits that were detrimental to my studies.  I’ve spent a year working hard at my academics and even made the Dean’s List in the spring.  I’ve rediscovered what it is to do homework in classes.  I’m just too pessimistic based on my previous results.

The other thought that I’m wrestling around with has to do with quitting.  I quit Michigan.  That doesn’t sit well with me.  I’m not a quitter.  To complicate it, I was failing.  I don’t take failure lightly.  And here’s where things start to get confusing (if they aren’t already).  I’ve begun to second guess myself.  If by wanting to go to Michigan to prove I’m not a quitter/failure, am I just playing to the stubbornness that caused all my troubles the first time I was enrolled?  During my last few semesters on campus, I refused help.  I ignored mandates by the SSC to go to advising, see a mentor, get help.  I wanted to prove to everyone that I could do it.

Is this the mindset that I’m succumbing to in my decision to go back?  I’m not sure.  I feel like this time around it’s about proving to myself I can not only do it, but that I can ask for help.  I’ve read so many articles about engineers entering the workforce unable to work well in groups.  While I don’t worry too much about my social behavior, I think I’ve been one of those loner engineers the last few years.  The question then becomes, have I broken that habit?  I’d like to think I have.  Looking back at some of the work I did during my year off from school, I can recognize me working better with groups.  But will that translate to my studies, that’s hard to tell.  The last year didn’t see much of it.  I did things on my own, but that wasn’t because I wanted to; I did things alone because my peers just weren’t up to my level.  That’s the problem with JUCO’s I guess, the people who attend them aren’t generally future engineers.

So I’m left with scant examples of me working well with others.  I think the few examples that I can look at as solid proof of me accepting collaboration has to be my trips to the writing lab for my English paper.  My professor was more of my peer than the students in my class.  We were able to discuss not just the endless grammar lessons she preached in class to the students who continually failed at it, but we also discussed things such as paper writing philosophies.  How to go at it.  It was interesting and taught me more about my own writing (which yes, if you’re still reading, you know how bad it can still be).  So I find that to be at least a slightly positive sign.  Hell, the fact I was even in a writing lab is far and beyond what I would have done while at UM.

Wrap Up

This post has ended up quite a bit longer than I’ve wanted it to be.  I’ve got a few more weeks to decided what I’m going to do.  The deadline for the winter semester at UM is October 1st, but the deadline for UH is December 1st.  I have an appointment to call the Civil Engineering Department at Michigan on Tuesday, so I’ll know more things then.

Meanwhile, I’m only 2 P.E credits and a public speaking class from getting an associate’s degree in General Studies, which, like, who cares?  My other conundrum of the summer is do I pay $533 to get a degree I’m going to do nothing with?  I mean, $318 for the two PE credits.  WTF.  I could pay that and get a gym membership for a year (maybe?).  I find that to be a ridiculous scam.  So yeah, I probably won’t get the associate’s degree, although it would be nice to at least get a degree with my name on it.  I think I’ll just hold out for a bachelor’s.  Bah.


Formerly Against: Rick Perry

April 15, 2009

Perry says Texas can leave the union if it wants to
Texas Politics Blog via chron.com
Posted by R.G. Ratcliffe at April 15, 2009 02:27 PM

What the hell is with Rick Perry lately?  Is this guy just that uninformed?  Is he just that radical?  I know he’s been one state’s rights guy for a while, but what is with this current streak of comments.  Well start with this video of his endorsement of HCR 50.

Where do I even start with this? Let’s just bullet point as we go.

  • Let’s start a fairly ad homenim attack (might as well get this out of the way first) with the frog metaphor.  Even the people there audible say “oh, come on.”  What a weird and strange way to start.  On top of that, I’m sure there’s some PETA nut who went nuts hearing that. (2:00 minute mark)
  • To say the U.S. constitution has been “slowly turning up the heat on the states” is wrong.  They only set forth improvements that states wouldn’t do themselves.   See:  Slavery, Women’s voting rights, (2:20 mark)
  • The leaders in the 1780s realized a multi-sided approach of state governance  doesn’t work.  See: Articles of Confederation being replaced.
  • Texas economic strength only happened because oil stayed high due to OPEC and the speculators’ driving the price way up.  Texas isn’t all that solvent in the budget lately.  See:
  • “[…] but when it comes down on the side that favors the side of state’s right over unrestrained federal power, that’s the message.  That’s the right place to be.”  You say that with absolutely no back up evidence.  Why is that?  Is it because it lets the rich over run all of the poor?  Is it because business can overtake the workers?  Government is nothing more than a moral tool.  It has become obvious that corporate greed requires that moral tool to be exercised to protect the lower and middle classes.  Even the lower upper class (those who live in comfort but lack wealth) need help at the current times. (3:54 mark)
  • The U.S. Constitution does give the U.S. Government power over the states. (4:18 mark)  It’s called the supremacy clause:

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

  • Texas has learned to live with one form of oppression.  The republican party and their exclusion and hatred for anything resembling liberal.  This includes calling the state congress to meet to only gerrymandering congressional districts to gain republican seats in a year when there was not supposed to be redistricting. (4:31 mark)
  • Did he just say that you either side with political members in Washington or do I side with a group who wants to overthrow the government? (5:03 mark)
  • Does he realize it was George Bush who put together the bailout?
  • He’s promoting Tea Parties? Those are the stupidest thing going on right now.  I planned to protest them but unfortunately had class today.  Most of them happening here are just republican camps protesting socialism.  These people are totally uninformed (much like the governor) and doing it just because FoxNews and Rick Perry are telling them to do it.
  • So Rick, you have spoken in favor of TANF grants from the US Government in the past.  Are you against those dollars returning to the state now?  Those are federal dollars given to you that help needy families.  That’s a string attached.
  • He’s drawing lines in the sand?  Why on earth is he drawing a line in the sand for?  What does that mean?  Is he saying, stop or else?  Is he trying to run for president?  Haven’t people learned what a weak office the Texas governor is?
  • He admittedly is against not protecting new taxes on the people, but the job creators.  BAH!!!

It gets better…
Via R.G. Ratcliffe

That’s an mp3, wordpress.com won’t let me embed it or play it unless I buy more space.  Here’s a transcript of much of it:

“Texas is a unique place. When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that,” Perry said. “My hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention. We’ve got a great union. There’s absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that.  But Texas is a very unique place, and a pretty independent lot to boot.” […]

“I don’t believe we quite get into [terrorist state] category.  I have no idea who that numb skull was that wrote that, but I would suggest to you that you probably can’t find them at the Department of Homeland Security Department today.”

The terrorist state comment comes from the recent string of satiring of the Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment document put out by the Department of Homeland Security.  It would seem to me he is threatening the dissolution of the United States.

The thing that stood out to me more was the wrong notion that Texas agreed to split out of the Union if it wanted to.  Realistically, the only privilege the state has is to divide itself up into as many as 5 smaller states.  At this point I’m not sure if Rick is buttering up his consitutents for re-election or a run for President (either US or the Republic of Texas).  Regardless, the guy isn’t coming off intelligent.

As for pitting the state against the nation, I think its a crappy move, but I’m sure it motivates way too many republicans in these parts.  Far too many of them hear Democrat and they naturally assume they want to make the nation communist.

General disclaimer: I don’t necessarily like the use of all the tax money in the bailouts to financial institutions or especially the auto industry, but the increased limited unemployment insurance is good in my opinion.  There are several good things Perry and our state legislature will not allow to be brought into the state.  That I don’t like at all.


Getting Tired of Social Networks?

April 9, 2009

Far from the Twittering crowd
Several Americans are tiring of online social networks
By MARTHA IRVINE
ASSOCIATED PRESS
April 9, 2009, 1:33AM

Lots of good stuff coming through the former.ly.cious today, including this article on a growing number of people becoming “online sociability fatigued” or “ambivalent networkers.” Basically, these people are growing away from the large social networking trends of facebook and twitter. I can’t blame them, I’m one of them myself. I’ve gone so far as to deactivate my facebook account. I’m alright with twitter, but with the rumor of buyout from google looming to bring more changes (twitter beta woo!), I’m not certain how long I’ll keep twitter either.

As for facebook, cutting the ties was a bit stressful. How do you disconnect yourself from a tool that could potentially be so valuable? How do you leave behind the one place that connects you to all of your friends for the last 6 years, many of whom you will just forget about otherwise? It was hard. In the end, I finally got fed up enough with the multiple mass changes in just a few months. I felt as if facebook was trying too hard to please the myspace and twitter crowds. It became a cluttered mess that wasn’t worth my time. I visited once every two weeks generally, never doing anything substantial. Why leave my information open on the internet for just that? It wasn’t worth it, I left.

I guess this article just made me feel a bit better about doing it.