Berlin Day One – Observations

I’ll leave you all with a few observations from today – Hopefully I’ll be inspired enough to do this everyday.

Today’s main observation is confirmation of my whole reason for being here: Berlin is quite the international city. Obviously, I believe this enough to base my senior Scholars project on it, but I’ve already gotten some examples that help back up that thesis and are encouraging for what is to come in the next two weeks.

After my last post an hour or two ago, I left the hotel to look for a place to eat. The hotel desk staff suggested I stay away from the Kurf├╝rstendamm (one of West Berlin’s main streets, and just a few feet from my hotel) but rather to check out the Pariserstrasse which is a couple streets south of the hotel. They obviously knew what they were talking about, and within a few minutes I had walked by two sushi restaurants, an Italian pizza place, two or three typical “German” pubs and a Mexican (Hispanic) restaurant. The diversity, like I said, just points to the modern, international nature of Berlin that I will looking for and documenting all week.

(Side note: One thing you should understand about German restaurants – most are outdoor cafes that double as bars because they all have large selections of alcoholic options. Most Germans eat large breakfasts and make lunch the main course of the day, so in the evening they get together with friends at one of these outdoor cafes for drinks and appetizers until late. Also, I decided to eat at the Mexican place – Poco Loco – and had a burrito which might have been slightly more expensive that it was worth. But at least now I’m settled in, clean and full. Now I just need to go to bed.)

See you all in the morning.

Berlin Day One – Arrival

I’m here! It took long enough and I’m quite tired/hungry, but I’m now in my hotel room (very nice) and I’ve talked to Karen for a while, unloaded my stuff, and taken a shower. Now I’m going to go find a bite to eat somewhere around here.

Getting here was interesting: the bus that I thought would take me very near my hotel was nowhere to be seen outside the airport, so after I bought a 7-day travel card I hopped on one of the other buses and planned my way to the hotel using the subway. It was going well until I got off the first subway and learned that the subway line (U1) is closed for construction until October. So that put me a few blocks more than I planned away from Hotel Bogota, but I walked the six or seven blocks from the subway (called the U-bahn) to the hotel.

I’ve only taken a few pictures of my room so far, so I’ll try to get them up soon for everyone to see.

I think I’ll be sleeping in late in the morning, but I need to find out when breakfast is served so I can eat that meal for free everyday. It’s a good thing that something is free – as it turns out, the Internet is not free. It costs 13 euros per day, which as you all know, I will cough up to stay connected with the world.

Talk to you all later!

Berlin Day One – Travel

So far, so good on the travels to Berlin. I am now at the Amsterdam Airport, exhausted and hungry, but I’m just fine otherwise.

Checking in at Memphis was simple enough, and after the family and I ate supper, I went through security and walked to the terminal (at the end of airport, no less.) Fortunately, they were already boarding, so I stood in line and then got on the plane. Not waiting around was pretty nice.

The flight was good despite my inability to fall asleep. Northwest Airlines has improved their overseas planes; they are now using Airbus A330s which have a much better entertainment system (built into the back of the seat in front of you with myriad movie choices.) I watched “21” and nibbled at the provided dinner (not so good) before attempting to fall asleep. I mostly spent the evening with my eyes closed, wishing myself to sleep, struggling with the seat to find a comfortable position (I had some bad lower back pain which was finally solved by putting the provided pillow behind it) and watching both the flight map and information on my screen. We had significant tail wind at 38000+ feet, upwards of 100 mph most of the way here, so we arrived in Amsterdam early.

There were a few interesting moments: there were several children on board, and at least three of them had tantrums sometime while we were in flight. Also, around half way through the flight we were awakened by the stewardesses asking over the intercom if there were any nurses or doctors on board. A man fell (passed out) in the aisle just behind my row of seats. It wasn’t all that entertaining, but it was interesting to note that there were at least 4 doctors and a med school student on board. I had just started to fall asleep at that point, too.

My flight to Berlin doesn’t leave for another 3 hours, and my 6 Euro/30 minuted internet is going to run out soonish, so I’ll update you again when I arrive at my hotel.


Observations from Governor’s School for the Humanities

Over the past few weeks I have had the fortune of helping Dr. Robert Nanney, chair of the Department of Communications, with the Governor’s School for the Humanities newspaper.

In case you are unfamiliar with the idea of Governor’s School, the program is one of several in the state in which exceptional high school juniors and seniors go to a university for five weeks to gain some experience in higher education. They take a class or two for college credit, attend lectures on various topics and work on a variety of extracurricular projects, including the newspaper (or yearbook, photography, videography, etc.)

UT Martin hosts both the Governor’s School for the Humanities (GSH) and GS for the Agricultural Sciences. There are also GS’s for the Arts and for the Sciences somewhere else in the state.

Bu enough of the background, right?

Earlier in the year, I gave consideration to being a counselor for the GSH students, but decided I would be able to make more money in my usual job at the Instructional Technology Center (money being the primary motivation for having summer jobs, especially for a poor college student with the insatiable itch to travel overseas…)

So instead, I volunteered to help the GSH newspaper (luckily for me, they are paying.)

Every day, the newspaper staff meets in a classroom next to The Pacer office to discuss stories and the progress being made toward putting together the final product: a 16-page newspaper that will cover all the important events at Governor’s School.

My job is to do whatever needs to be done (note to self: reword that description for the resume…) I’ve set up an e-mail account and distribution list for the staff. I’ve kept a list of all the stories assigned and e-mailed them out in a story budget to the staff. I’ve organized the network space for their stories, photos and pages to be stored where they can be accessed from The Pacer office. I’ve worked with the executive editor on how to organize the paper, and early next week we will start working on page layout.

For those of you who know how much effort I put into production of The Pacer every week during the school year, the work I’m doing for the GSH newspaper may seem tedious or insignificant. I seriously do have to tell myself to let them have their fun and not do too much for them, but the real fun for me is helping with the instruction. Nothing confirms my choice to become a professor more than working with younger students on something hands-on.

Another observation I have made is that I’m glad I have chosen to teach at the collegiate level. Much as I love the enthusiasm of these high schoolers, I’m frequently reminded of how far they will need to come before they are fully able to handle college life in a mature fashion.

Don’t get me wrong, I see it in some of them, but the majority of them currently demonstrate their lacking by frequently vocalizing hatred at middle school and high school cheerleaders on campus for UT Martin’s Cheer Camp and the Ag Governor’s School students. I feel like making a speech telling them to get over themselves and learn to get along, but that is one life lesson that is often quite difficult for even the smartest high school student.

Anyway, I make no promises on if I will update the blog again during the GSH experience, but if sometime sparks my interest or thought, you’ll probably read about it here.

Vacation, The End

Eagle Falls So much for updating more than once.

Things got busy, we had fun, I didn’t want to update the blog. So there.

The UK visit was a little lack-luster. The Geography Department was less than helpful as far as having information available (they pointed me to their Web site) and the Office of Graduate Studies was closed for a two-hour meeting while we were there. But driving around Lexington was fun, and useful for getting a feel for the town.

Today we drove back after stopping at Lexington Greens at some kind of cool grocery store (similar to World Market, I think? You know, the kind that Karen goes ga-ga over…) and a bookstore, where I promptly spent 40 bucks on a primer book on architectural styles, a Berlin-specific moleskine and a copy of The Iliad for $3.50.

Now we are at home, and we were hit by a couple small showers as we unloaded, so Karen and I decided to stay at the house until it quits raining. Mom also mentioned the words “pizza” and “supper” so we’re sticking around supper.

I uploaded a few more photos to Flickr, but the shots from UK and Lexington are on my camera in the car.

Vacation, Take One

Cumberland Falls
Vacation is here!

Yesterday my family left on vacation for Cumberland Falls State Park in southeast Kentucky. After about six hours of driving in the rain, we arrived and checked into a very nice two story cabin that could sleep about 10 people. Three TVs. Cable. Kitchen. 2.5 bathrooms. Very nice. We win.

Aside from taking in the rainy Kentucky scenery yesterday, Karen, Rachel, Blair and I played Wii Fit for several hours last night, while Mom and Dad did their own thing.

This morning we got up relatively late and then walked/hiked around the falls area on the Cumberland River. It was very pretty, and I’m uploading pictures to Flickr right now. I’ll keep them updated as I can throughout the week.

Vacation has, of course, had its humorous anecdotes.

Take just a minute ago for example: Karen and I have been in the lodge using the Internet for the last hour, and she was getting thirsty so we went to find a drink machine. Because she brought her laptop in her purse-bag-thing, her wallet is at the cabin, and I just have one, $1 bill. We got down to the vending machines and were so excited to see that they have Diet Dr Pepper.

Only one problem, though: the Diet Dr Pepper is in the bottle vending machine, which costs $1.50. Our excitement slightly lowered, we then tried to put our dollar in the 12 oz can vending machine which costs $1. It didn’t take my money. Instead of being smart and going to the front desk to ask for change, we tried to put it in an older looking food vending machine to get change (Karen’s idea, I might add.) Did we get our change? You guessed it. The machine sat there staring at us blankly.



What’s your problem? Why do you want change? You put in your $1.00.


DAH! So Karen and I decided to buy the least thirst-causing candy available in a land of salty, sugary goodness: an Almond Joy bar.

We now have $0.25 and nothing to solve our thirst problems.

I’ll update again when I get the chance!

My Weekend

And then came the rains...
The past few days have been interesting. With Karen gone over the weekend, I found myself at times bored out of my mind, and at others occupied in some of the strangest ways…

Take for instance Thursday night. While a lot of my friends were hanging out at D201 (University Village apartment of Rhett, Zach, Dennis and Chris) apparently giving Zach a mullet I was uninformed, sitting in my room playing Super Smash Bros. Melee. (Note that the link is to a Facebook photo; those of you without a Facebook account won’t be able to see it.)

But then on Friday I went to lunch at La Canasta with Joe Caldwell, something we haven’t done since our first summer on campus (I think.) I spent a good part of the afternoon working on a Powersearch It! widget for one of the Weldon Library’s Web pages. It was the most complicated coding I’ve had to do in a while. Nothing at UTM requires that much work.

Friday night I successfully made plans to head to D201 to hang out and play video games with the guys (at which point I saw Zach’s mullet in person…) We got in some good Super Smash Bros. Brawl before watching Battlestar Gallactica (I was completely lost.)

Then things got more interesting on Saturday. Blair and I helped Dad put up a new set of attic stairs to the attic in my parents’ house. We all almost died at one point or another. In case you didn’t know – attic stair units are basically all one piece and very heavy. When we got the old one out (hard enough) we then had to lift the new one through the hole in the ceiling vertically and then angle it around to fit in the hole correctly. While doing this we found out that 1) the hole wasn’t cut perfectly by whomever back when the house was built, so the hole was slightly snug, and 2) Blair’s head and my right hand are really strong.

Because the hole wasn’t exactly perfect, one end of the stairs’ frame wouldn’t fit into the hole. This caused it to fall on Blair’s head at one point (he was standing on some makeshift scaffolding directly underneath the opening.) While Blair was readjusting the scaffolding a few minutes after that, Dad decided to hammer at the snug end and that was all it took to loosen the entire opening. Since it was staying so perfectly, nobody was keeping the stairs in place and I barely caught the falling attic door/stairs with my right hand. Guess my fingers are stronger than I thought. Must be from all the video game playing.

So there’s a public service announcement for all of you: Play video games. It might just save your life.

News du jour

Karen and I made a couple of important decisions today, after we spent a good deal of time discussing things after work.

In no particular order:

We decided to begin looking at apartments around Martin, so after a Taco Bell run, we drove to a few spots in town. We looked at different apartments from the outside and got names and numbers. We won’t need one for a year, but one can never start the data gathering process too early.

Second, we decided that we are going to get a Westie when we get married. We have discussed on and off every few weeks for the last six months what kind of dog we want to get, when to get it, etc. We recently began looking for dogs that don’t shed much and that have hair instead of fur, because we are 99.5 percent sure that Karen is allergic to certain dogs (Rachel and Blair’s Murray, for instance).

So we decided on Westies. They fit our carefully planned list of criteria, and besides, who could resist something this cute?

With all this busyness, I didn’t get to have my photo adventure. Oh well. Suggestions are still welcome, and on top of that challenge, I’m issuing a new one!

I’ve been on Flickr a LOT lately at work (seven hours a day, only one or two hours of work to be done) and I’ve noticed that many of the top photographers on Flickr have at some point in the recent past shot a year-long series of self portraits. I thought this was a fabulous idea, and was contemplating taking on such a project myself.

But then Karen reminded me that I’m not so photogenic. And she didn’t exactly volunteer to model and be my subject, either.

I’ve thought of a few more ideas: 365 days of UTM, 365 landscapes, but there are problems with these ideas. I’m not at UTM every single day of the year, and there are plenty of days where no interesting landscapes come into focus on my camera.

So therefore I’m extending the challenge to you. What can I photograph for 365 days? Be original. Best of luck. I’ll let you know when one of you/I come up with anything.

In the meantime, enjoy more Westie photos.

Now accepting suggestions

I’ve been crazed today with a desire to go take pictures of something/anything cool. Problem is, West Tennessee is covered with clouds this afternoon and will continue to be through tomorrow’s thunderstorms.

So I want suggestions of what I can do to scratch this metaphorical itch. Post comments here. E-mail me. Call me. Send up smoke signals. Whatever works.

I promise to post the photos on Flickr in a timely/becoming manner that will recognize the person who comes up with the best suggestion.

And if, by chance, no body reads this until tomorrow or the weekend, your suggestions are still welcome!


Geographic Musings