Category Archives: UTM

Surprise Choral Concert

Now that we’re safely home I can tell you about our unexpected choir concert tonight! The New Pacer Singers are currently on tour in Tennessee, and while Karen and I knew they are not scheduled to sing in Knoxville on this tour, we were planning to go with them to hear them sing at a nearby high school tomorrow. Well, courtesy of the inclement weather, our usual Monday night activities with the Knoxville Choral Society were canceled, so we drove the 1.5 hours (more like 2 with the snowy conditions) to Cookeville to hear them sing at Tennessee Tech.

It was completely worth it! Dr. Simmons has expanded New Pacers into a 40-member touring ensemble, and they are performing some very difficult pieces, including the 40-part Tallis piece “Spem in Allium.” I hope to have some acceptable-quality photos or videos to post from the concert.

For those wondering, I-40 conditions were not a problem at all. The hardest part of the drive was getting in and out of our neighborhood!

Living in the Clutter

Today I had a sneaking suspicion that everyone — even the most clean among us — have one place or space in their lives that are utterly void of organization, and perhaps, cleanliness.

I think it’s human nature.

It’s what separates us mere mortals who claim to be OCD-esque in nature from those who truly have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. (No matter how much you think you are like Adrian Monk from, well, the TV show Monk, you probably don’t have OCD.)

And that utterly unorganized space in your life? Well that’s just proof that you’re human.

I started thinking about this when I walked by my coworker Josh’s car this morning. Despite maintaining a cubicle that tops the office in terms of organization and feng shui, his car had to have at least half a dozen empty plastic water bottles in the passenger seat, bowling shoes in the back, and I have his word that up until a week or two ago, his tuxedo from the David Johnson Chorus had been in the back of the car since the end of their performance season in April.

For geography professor Dr. Mark Simpson, it’s his UTM office that is catastrophically cluttered. The man is a meteorology/climatology professor, but it looks like a tornado might be sneaking through his windows at night. (No offense, Dr. Simpson.)

For The Pacer staff, it’s pretty much the entire office. Everyone’s desk space mimics that of former Pacer managing editor Will York to some degree. Now that I’m gone, I think cleanliness will fall even further from the priority list.

My mom has her scrapbooking room, a room for creative clutter (though I’m sure she’ll tell you it’s not that bad).

My sister and her husband have…their entire house. OK, maybe they don’t fit into that “most clean” category I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Rachel has a nasty habit of rearranging every four to six months anyway, so whatever works for them…

But for Karen and me, it’s our “office” or “study” at home. The office is the one room we have yet to fully tackle in our new half-duplex. Nevermind the dishes in the kitchen that never seem to stop piling up (our dishwasher is small). It’s the office that I can’t stand.

Maybe we just have too many things going on in there.

For one, it’s home to our music, and that means a keyboard on one wall and my bass guitar rig next to it in a corner, not to mention our extensive collective sheet music library scattered in boxes and bags everywhere. We need a filing cabinet. Badly. I keep thinking to myself that if we could just get that done, then the rest of the room might fall in place. I think we’re going to buy a filing cabinet or something from Wal-Mart or look at office product stores in Jackson this weekend.

It can’t wait any longer.

Then there are our desks. I bought mine for (get this) $15 on and it’s a very nice desk. Karen’s came from her mom, and it, too, is a nice computer desk. But there’s the problem of drawer space. Not a single drawer on either desk. This is a problem, especially when you consider that we both “moved desks” from our apartments in the University Village, which came with three-drawer desks and an upper shelf in the provided furniture. Most of my “desk stuff” is in two shoe boxes on my desk’s shelves; everything else is clutter and crammed on top of the desk. Karen’s stuff is everywhere, from the floor to on top of her desk.

We never spend much time in the office. Why bother when you can hardly see the floor? I don’t even use my Macbook much anymore, though that’s partly to blame because I sit at this computer at work seven to eight hours a day, plus there’s the iPhone in my pocket. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the Internet are in my pocket, so why bother climbing through the office to use my laptop? I blame this for my lack of posting pictures to Flickr, by the way. I’m so far behind on that. I think I’ve uploaded six or seven Costa Rica photos out of several dozen, then there are plenty of photos of our puppy, and the Tennessee Safari Park from last Saturday…

It seems never ending.

So what should we do with this office? There’s no where else in the house to put stuff; we’ve finally improved the other rooms of the house to the point that they are livable and the floor is visible. We’ve thought about putting shelves in the office as one possible solution, and certainly the music library going into a filing cabinet will help, but what are your thoughts?

The most interesting UTM experience to date

(Jennifer Cook’s Caption: Jenny and Matt prepare to capture our office birdie.)

(Photos courtesy of Jennifer Cook’s cell phone)

As promised from my tweet yesterday, I have to blog about the crazy experience yesterday afternoon involving rescuing a little wren from Gooch Hall.

It all started when I went to Gooch to meet with Kristy Crawford and Michael Poore from the College of Education/Education Department. We ended up rescheduling the meeting for today (Thursday) instead, but since I was already in Gooch I decided to see if Tomi was around in the Communications Office or if anyone was at The Pacer office.

Of course they weren’t.

I was about to leave by taking the stairs near the vending machines on the third floor when I was startled by a flapping sound.

A young wren had found its way into the building (probably through the doors to the smoke deck/balcony.)

So I went back into the Communications Office where only Mrs. Glenda, the department secretary, was around. I told her about the bird, but she said she had already seen it and called Maintenance but they weren’t going to do anything about the bird. (Let’s face it…who is going to have experience catching birds and wants to waste that much time? I don’t blame them.)

But against my first instinct to just leave the building and let the bird die, I decided to try to work it toward the balcony doors to free it. I figured I owed it to bird-kind…since last week I accidentally hit one of those suicidal birds that like to fly across the street at the exact same time that cars are coming. I also thought Karen would be impressed at my humanity…and it did seem pretty inhumane to just not do anything.

Well…needless to say, it is practically impossible to get a bird to do what you want it to do. I probably spent 10 minutes walking slowly after the bird in the hallway outside of the Comm office. It would fly from the vending machine area (where there is a large window, but like every single window in Gooch, it doesn’t open!) down the hall to the stairwell where it would sit on the door or the handrail. Three or four times I walked toward it in the stairwell only to have it fly back down the hall toward the vending machine area with the window.

Then I got the idea to try to work it downstairs. (I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea.) When I got to the stairwell on the third floor, I tried to fill the doorway by holding up my arms and it actually worked to get him to go down the flight of stairs instead of back over my head.

But then things went wrong… it flew down the hallway toward the second floor vending machines (the layout in Gooch is basically the same on each floor in case you didn’t know). So I went after the wren again, and this time when he flew away from the vending machine/window he landed in a fake tree at the corner of the hallway.

“Great,” I thought. “If I could only pick up the tree and work IT outside…”

As I approached the tree, of course, the wren flew out and back down the hallway. Only this time…he stopped on the door frame of an open office! (At this point…I thought “Oh crap. I just made this somebody else’s problem.”) I went to the office where a professor (I think?) was reading a book. She must have been really engaged in the book, because she didn’t hear the bird fly into her office and she didn’t even hear me walk in until I knocked at her door.

“Did you just see a bird fly in here?”

“No…” Then I pointed it out to her.

“Well I don’t want the bird in here.” Then it flew around the corner as I started to approach it. I heard screaming. The office connects with a suite of offices that houses the Educations Student Services. The wren had flown into Jennifer Cook’s office. (Jennifer is the director of the ESS, and many people have asked me if she and her husband Doug are my parents over the years, since their daughter and I are the same age/went to grade school together.)

After the screaming, the people in the office (Jennifer, Jenny Hahn and Debbie Stigall) were kind of frantic, and I heard Jennifer tell them that a bird just flew in their office. So I ran down the hall and entered the ESS from the other door (the one the bird didn’t fly through). They quickly told me that there was a bird in their office…and I, of course, trying not to laugh, told them that I had seen the bird fly in through the other door.

To make a long story a little bit briefer, we managed to get the bird out of Jennifer’s office, only to have it fly in Jenny Hahn’s office where we closed the door to make sure it wouldn’t get out. Armed with a sweater and a plastic cup, Ms. Jenny and I tried to catch the bird but to no avail. It kept flitting from the window to the door to sit on some hangers on the back of the door, then back to the blinds…it was interesting to say the least. After a few minutes, we rushed out of the office, closing the wren back in, to try to figure out what to do next.

I told them that maintenance wouldn’t do anything about it, so while Ms. Jenny went down the hall to the Dean’s Office to fetch a grad assistant, Jennifer called the Biology and Ag departments. None of the professors were in (keep in mind that it was 4:30 by this point and it’s summer term). She was about to call Dr. David Pitts, a biology professor with lots of birding experience, at home. But in came the graduate assistant from the Dean’s office. He walked very calmly toward the office and closed himself in with the wren.

We heard lots of interesting noises, some of which involved the bird flying from blinds to hangers again and the opening of an umbrella. A few minutes into this, Ms. Jenny walked back into her office to try to help.

After a few more minutes, Ms. Jenny opens the door and the grad assistant has the wren tightly in his hands. The umbrella is open on the floor in the office. I’m both impressed and curious how he caught the wren, but evidently he has some experience with birds. He let it outside Gooch Hall, where hopefully it can now live in peace.

As for me — well let’s just say that I don’t plan to take up the bird catching business.

More Scholars Project Thoughts

I had a scary realization today.

I have approximately five more meetings (going by the current schedule) with Dr. Rogers until I defend my University Scholars project. This means that insanity might be setting in a little more often in the next month and a half. I work well under deadlines; everybody knows that… but this is one heck of a deadline.

So the moral of the story is that I’m almost to the point where I have to drop everything but the essentials. Sorry if I seem unavailable until May 9 (graduation). That’s just how it has to be. Life after I defend my project (don’t have an exact date yet — I’m shooting for as late in April as possible) will be miserable if I don’t shoot for as high as standard as I want to because so many other things got in the way. That’s my spiel and I’m sticking to it.

Lessons Learned

I learned a valuable lesson today about myself. I should never give blood in the morning.

I got up around 9 a.m., ate at 9:30 and went to give blood around 10. I didn’t think about the possibility of not having digested that food yet. After donating I was really lightheaded and stayed on the bloodmobile until nearly 11. The staff took great care of me and a friend of one of my roommates made sure I made it back to the village without passing out.

On top of being lightheaded (which eventually went away with more fluids and food) the whole experience wasn’t as great as the last two times I’ve given. My biggest problem? Arm hair. Their tourniquet really hurts when it pulls arm hair, and since I’m a slow giver for some reason (they always have to tell me to do something different or tighten the tourniquet to get my blood flowing faster) I always end up with a sore arm. This was compounded today because I ended up with a bruised arm from the needle. That’s nice and sore now.

So the moral of the story is to give blood in the afternoon. And possibly go to bloodmobile #4, because I ended up with a bruise from the staff on #3. Maybe that’s just a coincidence.

Scrambling the Troops

We found out late yesterday that every Academic College at UT Martin is meeting today at 4 p.m. to hear the latest information about budget cuts from the administration. According to a major administrator, this round of cuts will only be affecting administrative staff, but plans for up to a 15 percent cut for Fall 2009 must be made in case Gov. Bredesen must make that large a cut from the state’s universities.

That would translate into major cuts from the UTM Division of Academic Affairs up to $2 million. We are projecting that Dr. Jerald Ogg, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, could cut every lecturer and instructor and campus and not reach the $2 million level, so major changes (READ: CUTTING PROGRAMS OR COLLEGES) could be in store for UTM.

Because this is so important, The Pacer is scrambling to cover each of those meetings this afternoon in order to report on the findings for each college to the student body. We will be running online updates this afternoon and possibly putting out a special print edition to spread the information to students.

This coverage will be supplimented with news about the sudden closing of the Skyhawk Card Office on Monday, including the firing of the staff in a manner that can only be described as without tact. The Student Government Association will also meet tonight at 9 p.m. to discuss these issues.

Stay tuned to for more information as it becomes available.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

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.

Cleaning House

No, this isn’t a post about my favorite dusting devices. Nor is it about the fact that I need a vacuum cleaner. Badly.

This is a post about Communications Career Day. I cleaned house.

I didn’t really know what to expect going into the luncheon today, an annual event at which the Communications Department gives out a few scholarships and other awards to its students for their work over the year(s). I guess I thought it would be nice to win a scholarship.

Well, fortunately and maybe amazingly, I won three. It’s basically incredible, because I’m losing my Tennessee Lottery Scholarship after the fall semester. Unless, of course, Tennessee’s lawmakers get off their duff and do something with the scholarship revision legislature instead of passing it from one committee to another, to the Senate/House floor and back again.

So assuming that our state government will follow its style of incapacitation, I needed these scholarships pretty badly, if for no other reason than to save the money from fall for spring.

I’m going to bet that not too many of the Communications faculty read my blog on a regular basis, but if you’re out there, thanks for thinking of me.

Photo Lesson for Wednesday

I know that there are myriad photo lesson Web sites out there in the vastness of the Internet. (It is a series of tubes, after all.)

Today I reminded of a very valuable lesson about the importance of white balance that I think the world should at least have the opportunity to read. So with a little Fleetwood Mac on the iTunes (Don’t Stop/Yesterday’s Gone – the live version with what sounds to be a marching band accompanying them) let’s get down to it.

Backstory: As I was riding my bike to Gooch today from my voice lesson I passed the awesome tree shown above, which is right outside of the Honors Center. You can tell spring is coming just by looking at the tree, and for once I noticed it. Hey, sorry tree. I’ve been busy lately.

So as luck would have it, my camera was waiting for me in The Pacer office. I let Will borrow it yesterday to photostaff Cheryl DeYeso’s art show. He left his in that place that he lives. Not sure where that is exactly…

Anyway, I get up to the office and throw my stuff in my chairs—yes I need two, one for sitting and one for stuff—and then grab the camera.

Unsure of go about shooting the beauty in the world outside, I headed to Tomi’s office for a morning Reese’s break. Then it occurred to me: Tomi’s window looks down on the tree, adding a unique perspective to my tree.

“Perfect!” I think. Only there’s one problem. The blasted rain has covered Tomi’s window in a stippling of water droplets, but I decided they would just have to add to the effect.

I saddle up to the window and move the blinds, then take my first few shots. It takes a little time as I wait for students to be out of the shot (or in the shot if they are interesting enough).

Tomi comes in about half-way through my shoot.

“What are you doing?!” she asks in a typical Tomi voice that could just have well been asking why I had been stupid enough to staple my fingers together or something.

“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to shoot this tree. Have you noticed it lately?” I responded. Her curiosity satisfied, we both went about our business like nothing was strange about me hovering over her computer desk to photograph a tree. She’s cool like that.

The lesson here: I kept wondering what I could do to fix how gray/blue my first few photos were. I couldn’t capture the light as it actually showed up in front of me, and it was frustrating. But then I came to my senses—too blue (cool) means white balance! A quick switch from auto white balance to the cloudy preset was all it took to yield the difference shown in the comparison photo at the top of the post. Pretty much awesome.

That does it for today. Just remember to keep white balance in mind when in the field on a cloudy day!