Gainesville Ramblings

This is a blog, and thus it barely qualifies as writing, let alone formal writing, so I'd not let it bother you.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

This is what happens when you're bored at work

The following is an email conversation between me and Mel, a secretary here at work:


Just letting you know that I’m going to take an extended lunch tomorrow, as I have a dermalogist appointment at around 1:20. I don’t think it will take till three like it says in my calendar, that’s a ‘just in case’ thing. I’m not taking a lunch today to make up for it.


Thank you,


Matt McKenzie
Office Bitch
Office of Technology Licensing
Does not compute. Please try again.

Thank you,
OK, let me see if I can explain this in words that even you can understand:

I have acne. I want it gone, because I want a girlfriend (also on the to-do list: lose weight, talk to girls). To do this, I must go see a dermatologist. I have an appointment at 1:20 tomorrow. You may be forced to watch the phones longer than usual. Get over it.


Thank you,



I hate you. Just thought you might like to know that.

Hugs and Kisses,


Heh. I win.

Heartfelt Regards,


Monday, September 25, 2006

Oral History

A pretty good article in the Gainesville Sun on my favorite UF program. I'm quoted pretty well too, so I thought I'd throw it on this:

There must be hundreds of stories inside Julian Pleasants' head, and he delivers them with a passion that's only slightly tempered by his distinctive southern drawl.

Pleasants, a University of Florida professor of history, has spent the past decade collecting the spoken memories of Floridians.

Some of Pleasants' interview subjects have been governors and influential judges. Others, like Depression-era laborers, may be less prominent in the history books but have proven fascinating to Pleasants in their own right.

Everyone, he says, has a story worth telling.

"We realize that a lot of people in the state of Florida have incredible stories to tell. And if we don't get those stories before they pass away it's lost and it's gone and it can't be retrieved," said Pleasants, who will step down as director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at UF next year. "As someone once told me, when an old man dies,
a library burns."

Now heading into retirement at UF, 67-year-old Pleasants has pulled together the story of the university he's served for the last 37 years. In his new book, "Gator Tales: An Oral History of the University of Florida," Pleasants sets out to document the history of what became the state's largest university and one of the nation's biggest as well. The aptly timed book arrives with UF celebrating 100 years on its Gainesville campus.

Partly told from the point of view of past UF presidents and sports greats, "Gator Tales" covers
everything from the comical - the great panty raid of 1952 - to the terrifying - the student murders of 1990.

The taped and transcribed interviews printed in "Gator Tales," which hit local bookstores and this month, are among some 4,000 collected by the program since 1967 when it was founded by the late Samuel Proctor.

Supporters of the program say it's an essential tool in gathering the history of the state, and the project is working to digitize its massive library to make it more available to the public. In addition, the program is slated to have offices in the new Graham Center for Public Service at Pugh Hall, which is scheduled for completion in November, according to UF's Web site.

But efforts to stem the debt in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which is proposing cuts to programs and staff, may compromise the future of the program, Pleasants says. The program's budget is set to shrink this year by 62 percent, and Pleasants says he won't take on any new projects given the uncertainty of the program's future.

"That (cut) means there's really not enough money to pay the staff," he said.

Matt McKenzie, a UF graduate who interned with the project, said he was disappointed to hear that the program was being scaled back. McKenzie conducted interviews on the current state of race relations in St. Augustine for the project, and said it's the kind of work that allows people to tell their stories who might not otherwise have the opportunity. "History isn't always the stories of generals, presidents and kings," he said. "It's more of the story of everyday, normal people who don't get to have their stories heard. To take the chance away from them to have have their stories heard is a shame."

There are plenty of legends, however, that appear in the annals of the oral history program, and football heroes are among those who get their share of ink in "Gator Tales."

"Of course we have a lot on Florida football," Pleasants said with a bit of a smirk. "We have to include that ... Perhaps for most people, the most interesting comments were about Steve Spurrier, naturally."

In interviews with Ray Graves, UF's football coach in the 1960s, Spurrier is painted with a familiar brush as a mastermind of the game and a take-charge quarterback. But the most intimate portrait of the former UF coach may came from John Lombardi, who was UF's president during Spurrier's tenure.

"Since he wants to win so bad, he won't tolerate cheating," Lombardi said of Spurrier in a 2002 interview printed in "Gator Tales." "A very interesting mind-set, very interesting. He's that way when he plays golf, he's that way when he does everything. People who play golf say he's no fun to play golf with because nobody can get a gimme, nobody can move their ball, nobody can do do anything that isn't within the rules. Because then when he wins, it doesn't count. And he wants to win. ... He's a winner, but it has to be clean or it's no fun.

"That's why he used to get so angry when he thought something wasn't done fairly on the field. It was a spoiled win."

Lombardi goes on to say that Spurrier, for all of his talent, was "single-minded" and "wasn't easy to deal with." On the other hand, Lombardi says he "forgave him everything for that," and counts himself as a supporter of the coach.

Throughout Pleasants' career, he's followed a fascination with figures like Spurrier - calculating personalities who rouse strong emotions. Through exhaustive interviews, which stretch on for dozens of transcribed pages, Pleasants' body of work indicates a relentless desire to nail down seemingly insignificant details - to get it right and find out what makes people tick.

"I've always been fascinated with what motivates people," he said.

When Pleasants set out to write the history of the 2000 presidential recount, he found that there was a singular motivation shared by both political parties: winning. In interviews with 43 insiders, from attorneys to judges to journalists, Pleasants recorded the history of the controversial election in a book called "Hanging Chads." Published in 2004, the book led Pleasants to a troubling conclusion about the state of democracy in America.

"I found in many, many cases that democracy was not at the issue; it was who was going to be in power," he said. "And people didn't so much break the law as in many cases they sort of bent the rules and used coercion and used court challenges and that sort of thing, which is all fair in American politics. But I was a little (disappointed), I think, that the objective of the election was not to determine in a democratic sense who had won."

There are plenty of politicians, including governors, who've lent testimony to UF's archive in the history project since it began in 1967. But the project is far from preoccupied with politics and its sometimes seamy underbelly.

Mountains of tape have been collected on somewhat esoteric subjects, like Italian immigrants living in Ybor City, highway patrolmen and black midwives of Florida.

The project has also proven a link to major UF donors who've had their histories recorded. The UF Foundation occasionally pays the program to record the history of a prominent alumnus who may have given to the university or does so thereafter, said Paul Robell, vice president for development and alumni affairs.

"We don't use oral histories to try to get gifts out of people," he said. "But people who qualify for oral histories (are often donors)."

The program's role in recording the histories of alumni, among other Floridians, is one of the reasons people like Pleasants say it's so important to the state.

But it's the span of the subjects, collected in some 100,000 pages of transcribed interviews, that make it unique, Mckenzie said

."You get some people who lived in the swamp in the Everglades and people who are senators, presidents and governors," he said. "All of it shows humanity."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Football Reflecitons: What The Hell is Going On Edition

- I love the Patricks. So friendly, so accomadating, so willing to give me food right before a game. Its truely awesome. Nothing better than after a day of slaving over a hot grill than walking to a tailgate right next to the stadium, being welcomed with a cold bottle of water and a cold can of beer, and then being pointed to a table full of some amazing food. Plus it helps that they're nice and funny too.

- I'll start chanting Tebow's name when he actually, you know, throws a ball. He can run, great for him. When he can do what Leak did at the end of the second quarter, or throw a ball 40 yards for a touchdown, like Leak did at the beginning of the first, I'll yell his name. Until then, cheer for Leak, because he deserves it. Look at these stats: Tied for 1st in Touchdowns (12), number 4 for QB Rating, number 8 in yardage (1066). He broke two UF career records at this game, and he'll break total yardage (most likely) by the end of the season. So shut up. I want to hear more Leak chants next week. Make it happen.

- We seem to have problems in our secondary. They can't seem to cover recievers very well. And we seem to have problems committing to tackles. We touch whoever has the ball, we bump them, but actually bringing them to the ground presents problems. Just throwing out an idea here, but maybe we can work on this.

- Marcus Thomas, please come back. Please? We did fine without him once the D-Line got used to the new lineup in the second half, but still, we can really use him. I think its feasible, if not likely, that the tale he's telling the appeals board is possible. Three conditions determine the amount of time THC stays in your system. The first is body size. Thomas is a large guy, making the THC stay in his system longer. The second is dehydration. If you get dehydrated often, the THC stays longer. Thomas plays football in Florida in August and September. The third is chronic use. If you use pot often, it takes longer for it all to clear. I'm theorizing that this time in the summer was not his first time (note for libel lawyers: I don't know for sure. I'm just speculating). So hopefully he'll be back by LSU.

- Where the hell did that trick play come from, and can we do things like that more often? It was awesome.

- You know, I think the Gators now need to be behind. It focuses the team. Last year, the year before, when we got behind we paniced. Now we buckle down and do what needs to be done in a completely calm and professional manner. That 70-odd yard drive at the end of the 1st half was completely amazing. And once Kentucky pulled ahead, the entire team suddenly pulled together and made the game happen.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Reflections on Football: Heart-Pounding Edition

- I know this is becoming rote at this point, but being Grill Master is still awesome. I do have to say I like propane grills better, as they're just so damn easy. Also, I'm glad I told Matt and Mark to get better burgers, as now we get to use actual ground beef.

- Can I just say how glad I am that Notre Dame got the shit pounded out of them? I always thought they were overrated, and the loss to Michigan proves it. Maybe now that this Charlie Wiess suckoff that had been going on in the media is over, we can start talking about, I don't know, maybe the Florida Gators.

- Watching this game nearly gave me a heart attack. It probably didn't help that I was watching it with Oded and Shawn, two of the most excitable about sports people I know. When something bad happened, the entire room felt like every person was getting their intestines slowly pulled out. When something good happened, Oded started teabagging Shawn. Clothed luckily, but really, there’s nothing to help get a room more pumped up than a nice round of teabagging.

- I'm not really writing too much about the team today, as I can only repeat what more talented writers have said before: We're tough, we have a running back, Leak is good, Baker 'hits back.' It seems that the entire sports writing world is engrossed with the prospect that, yes, bad calls are occasionally made. I think the Gator Nation figured this out around this time of year two years ago. But of course, when it happens to Oklahoma, its big news.

- I will say this: A co-worker mentioned that on a radio show, many people were pissed off that Leak slid on that third down, meaning UF had to go for it on a 4 and 1. Yeah, he did slide. He made one bad decision (one that was corrected the next play) in a game that was nearly perfect. He leads the nation in touchdown passes and efficiency. So once again: Everybody, shut the hell up.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

You're On Notice

I would in particular like to point out the 'Girls' and remind them of the rules of being on notice: You have 90 days to appear on my show, or you're dead to me.

In this case, my show is dinner and a movie. Get on that.

Edit (6:47PM): OK, fine, I'll take the Office of Technology Licensing off the list. I found out that I may have my benefits as early as tomorrow. Sweetness.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Where I Was

Today, in case you've been living in Antartica for a while and haven't heard, is the fifth anniversary of the attacks on 9/11/01. I've been reading and thinking a lot about that day five years ago. And after reading a post on DailyKos and its comments, I thought that I'd say where I was on that horrible day, what I was thinking, and what I was doing. If anyone else wants to leave their memories in my comments section, feel free to do so.

I was excited for September 11th for a few reasons. The first was that Bob Dylan's new album Love & Theft was coming out. I planned to buy it that afternoon. The second was that I was going to do my first (and it would end up, only) college visit. My dad and I were going to get up early and drive to Gainesville for the tour and orientation.

I was also looking forward to the drive because it meant that I could spend some quality time with my Dad. He had just been laid off from his job, and he was getting tired of the cycle of him being hired, fixing a company's problems, and then getting laid off. I was happy to help my dad talk through his problems, something that I'd found that I wasn't bad at with some other friends.

So early that morning, we got into his grey Saturn and headed west on 210. We turned on Lex and Terry on Rock 105, but we weren't really paying attention to it. Instead, I was listening to my dad tell me about how he really wanted to start his own consulting business. I was telling him that if it made him happy to do that, he should. I had no doubt that if he was happy what he was doing, we would all be just fine.

Then the clock struck 8:46AM.

The radio show came to a halt as news of a plane hitting the World Trade Center. My first thoughts were "Oh, that sucks." I was thinking a Cessna hit the tower, which is a problem, but not a huge one. Then an airplane mechanic got on the radio, saying that only an airliner, like a 737, could have made that size hole in the building. Things got scary.

The second plane hitting, and hearing the DJs start to panic, made my stomach drop. A cold chill pervaded my interior, and I went momentarily blank. All I could do was listen. We managed to find a feed from the BBC on the radio, so we kept it on that. And reports started coming in.

A helicopter crashed into the courtyard of the Pentagon (to which my reaction was, "They infiltrated the military too!"). A unsubstantiated rumor that a plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania ("That can't be true."). I started yelling at the radio. "Where was the NSA? Where was the CIA? Where was the government?" Interestingly, questions that are, to some extent, still being asked.

In the confusion, we got lost in Gainesville. We somehow couldn't find the University of Florida. We stopped in a gas station, that I now think was somewhere around Waldo Rd and 39th Ave. I went to the bathroom, where a college age kid was throwing up into the sink. I'd like to think that he was disgusted and shocked about what was happening in New York and Washington. Most likely though, he was just trying to recover from a very harsh Monday night at the Swamp. I came out and waited next to the counter while my dad used the restroom. I listened to the portable radio that the clerk had set up there.

That was when the first tower came down. By the time we were pulling into a parking space at Criser, the second tower had come down.

We parked and walked into the welcome center, but I honestly couldn't believe that they would be giving a campus tour at a time like this. However, knowing UF now, of course they were giving the tour. We had gotten there late, so we missed the orientation but still got to participate in the campus walk. And it was bizarre. The campus was about to shut down, people were running around aimlessly, and a few people came up to the tour guides, even as they were talking, and asked if they were OK (a moment, that a year later, would allow me to answer the essay question for a Gator Booster's Scholarship. The question was 'Why do you want to go to the University of Florida?').

In the middle of the tour, we went into Jennings to see what a dorm would look like. And on the TV in the first floor lounge was video of a moonscape. I had yet to see pictures of what was happening in New York, and finally, here they were. I saw clouds of dust, people slowly coming into focus as they walked out of the haze, a fireman, completely gray, yelling at something off camera. Pictures of the tower collapsing. Video of people running into stores to escape the advancing cloud of debris. I stood transfixed. I was herded into the 'stereotypical dorm,' but I never actually saw what was in that room. My mind was still on that television in the lounge.

We wandered around campus a bit more, but eventually the tour was over. I literally don't remember anything between that dorm lounge and walking with my dad behind Tigret. I decided that I wanted to go to UF then, not due to any allegiance, but simply its size, its offerings, and its cost. We started home.

The road home takes you through Waldo and Starke. Neither are the most attractive of places, but both are a sort of highway crossroads, with many trucks coming through both towns. And I felt outrage and shock that trucks were still running. How dare they continue doing what they've always done. Didn't they know that everything had changed?

The most important thing I learned on that day wasn't about the honor and traditions of the University of Florida. It was that no matter how horrible things are, no matter what catastrophic events happen, life goes on. Bread must be delivered. Butterflies still dance in the sun. It all continues happening. I actually think I went home and wrote a poem about that, though for the life of me, I can't remember what I did with it. My mom probably has it hidden away in a box somewhere in my room.

When thinking about 9/11, the next most prominent memory actually comes from that Sunday. It had been raining since Wednesday, which I felt appropriate. Nature crying for this tragedy. Sunday was still rainy and cloudy, though it was a lot less persistent. I was working at Target that day, pushing carts from the outside to the inside. Football had been canceled and the president had told America to go shopping. So Target more crowded than I had ever seen it. Moreso than Christmas. So there I am, tired, hot and wet, sick of these stupid red carts. I had about 150 people come up to me asking if we had any American Flags. The answer, of course, was no. In my head, I'm thinking "You don't have one already? Shame on you."

But the once incident I really remember was one guy coming up to me. I'm pushing a long line of carts, and walked by and started talking to me. "We're gonna bomb the shit out of Afghanistan," he said with a thick Southern accent, "Get us some fucking Towelheads." At this point, I noticed the amount of teeth he was missing. At this point, I was fed up. I had heard all the horrible things said about Arabs, and I'd read books on Islam, something that very few people in my area could claim. I was just about to jump all over this guy, but I didn't feel like getting yelled at by my managers (and I probably would have been. Everybody was on a short fuse that day). So I just looked at him and said, "Ummmm...alright," and looked away.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Reflections on Football: Shutout Edition

1) OK, I really really like being grill master. I'm not giving the spatula up. And also, I get to use it for self gain. Two good looking girls came up to the grill asking if we were selling hotdogs. I said no, but since I'm a nice guy, I gladly volunteered to cook them two. We talked for a bit, I gave them hotdogs, and they left. Nothing exciting, I know, but the prospect for future gains for slaving over a fire are there. Also, Matt's new grill is amazing. I prefer charcoal, but this propane one was one of the nicer ones I've cooked with.

2) I really really hope that people stop talking about how great Tebow is now and how we need to dump Leak. Cause in this game, I saw Leak being near perfect. Calm, collected, throwing amazing passes left and right, finding his recievers, and not afraid to run when he had to. Tebow was also good at running, but everything else needed work. When he was comfrontable in the pocket, he could throw fine. When he wasn't, he made mistakes. One fumble, one interception, and a collection of bad calls. I said it last week and I'll say it again: Tebow will be amazing. He isn't now. Leak is the much better quarterback. Lets stick with him.

3) Tebow may have made mistakes, but that was OK because our defense more than made up for it. I mentioned last week how the d-line suffered from a Meyer suspending the two starting tackles from the game. This week, they were back, and it showed. When our starting D was in, UCF was unable to move. Period. It just wasn't happening. Our offense is good, but our Defense is amazing.

4) Concerning UCF: Give it time. Central Florida has a very good coach in O'Leary (he was hired by Notre Dame once). He knows what he's doing, and he's doing the best with what he has. UCF may never be at UF, FSU or Miami's level, but I have no doubt that they will be good, and sooner rather than later. They weren't up to playing the Gators yet, but very few teams are. We are ranked 7 (last I checked, that may have changed). Also, I agree with my friend Josh: the school should have remained Florida Tech. UCF is kinda stupid. Florida Tech reminds us of schools like Georgia Tech and Texas Tech. Central Florida reminds one of schools like Eastern Michigan or Western Carolina. Not a good group to be in, football wise (well, academically too).

5) I'm fairly surprised at the civility that reigned before the game. There were alot of UCF fans wandering around, and everyone was very friendly. I think on the UCF side, it was due to the happiness of being playing UF and being in Gainesville. Tailgates here are fun. On the Gator side, it was because the outcome of the game was never in any doubt. So you might as well be friendly. Plus, just about everyone at UF knows someone who went to UCF, so that makes it easier too.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Learning from the Army of the Potomac

Since I'm not in school, I thought I would take Garrison Kieller's advice and continue my education. First up: The Civil War. I know next to nothing about this war. While I don't plan on being an expert, knowing the general course of the war, as well as the political underpinnings of it is probably a good idea.

So I started with Bruce Catton's excellent series The Army of the Potomac. Its a three book series documenting the struggles of the Army of the Potomac, which most often faced off against Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Also: Lost alot to Lee.

I'm two books in, and I think I can start documenting what I'm learning from this book. I'm not talking about the movements of troops during battles, but rather what I'm learning about leading people and about people in general. So here we go:

  1. If you have a strategic advantage, use it immediately. The first general of the Army of the Potomac, Gen. McClellan, managed to find the complete orders for Lee's army for the following few days. Instead of forcing his army to march quickly, he set a leisurely route. This gave time for Lee to get ready for the Union troops, and resulted in the Battle of Antietam. This battle ended with a draw, though strategically important for the North. If McClellan had moved faster, he might have been able to hit Lee when he wasn't expecting it, ending the war much faster.
  2. Good men led by bad leaders can still do great things. The generals who led the Army of the Potomac, up until maybe Meade but definetely Grant, were not good at thier jobs. McClellan was unusually passive. Burnside was a disaster. Hooker lost his nerve easily. And through all this, the Army never gave up. They were good soldiers, well trained, and willing to see this war till the end. They did it at first because they loved McClellan, but after a few battles, they continued because they were soldiers. Professionals. They fought because that is what they did. And they did it well. The Battle of Gettysburg is a perfect example. Meade had just been made commanding general, and so was mostly unable to get everything together for a battle. But when a battle was forced at Gettysburg, the Army fought. They weren't led. And they won one of the most brutal battles in American history through almost force of will. That is amazing.
  3. Don't get cocky. McClellan was hailed as the 'savior of the Republic.' Serious politicians offered to make him dictator if he won this war. It went to his head. Soon, he was sending letters to Lincoln, telling him how to run the country. After Antietam, he could probably have stayed on as General if he hadn't pissed Lincoln off.
  4. Train your subordinates well, and trust them on the field. The battle of Chancelorsville was a disaster because Hooker didn't listen when his XI Corps reported that there appeared to be huge Rebel forces gathering on thier left flank and refused to let the Corps change positions. This let the Rebels hit hard from the left and roll up the Army.
  5. Be willing to change your plans. They only work for a short time. Then something new happens, and you must adjust. This happened at Fredricksburg, at Chancelorsville, at the Second Bull Run. Lee was quick and smart, and in general, the Union generals were not. Lee took advantage of that and scored many victories even though outnumbered, outgunned and outsupplied.
  6. Sometimes, you have to give it everything you've got. McClellan could have won Antietam outright if he had committed all his troops. Instead, he held thousands back because...well, that's never adequately explained. The same goes for Burnside at Fredricksburg. If he had just committed all his troops to the battle, it may not have been a victory, but it wouldn't have been the disaster it became.
  7. Oh yeah - Wars suck. Don't have them if at all possible. The Civil War had to happen, but its still a horrible business that should be avoided. I know, a profound lesson. But something that should be repeated often.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Reflections on Football

1. I like being grill master. At the tailgate, I threw myself into the task, grilling burgers and hotdogs. I know, not the hardest thing in the world, but it was fun. Everyone was asking me if I was hot standing over the grill, and my response was, "What are you talking about? Its beautiful out." And to quote Michael, "I like you as grill master. Your alot less of an asshole than the others who do it." Truely, that was one of my goals in life.

2. I've thought this for a while, but Gator fans have it all wrong when it comes to making noise. The Swamp can be incredibly loud, but we tend to do it at the wrong times. People start yelling and shouting when the opposing offense lines up to run thier play. This is a good time to be loud, espeically when an audible is run. But the best time is when they're in the huddle. That strikes me as the most likely time for someone to make a mistake, to hear something wrong. True, I've never actually been in a huddle, so I don't know if its mostly nonverbal, but if one lineman hears the play wrong, or one receiever misunderstands his route, then things look up for us.

3. The defense was dominating. I would have liked more pressure on the quarterback, but when you have a backfield that dominating, it makes up for it. We had trouble stopping the run, but hopefully Meyer will put our two starting tackles back in, which will help with that considerably.

4. Our O-line is not good. Leak can work under pressure, but he was almost constantly harrassed. Southern Miss' defense is good, but not outstanding. Against an Alabama or a LSU, we could be in serious trouble. Hopefully, they become more comfrontable after this game and are able to hold thier own. My feeling is that they will remain UF's weak link, but maybe they won't be an incredibly weak one.

5. Can everyone just shut the hell up about Chris Leak? He did amazing this game, especially with the previously mentioned weak O-line. Its great that people cheered when Tebow came on, and when he scored, but to hear chants of "Chris Leak Blows" or "Leak Sucks" is just horrible. Tebow is going to be really good, no doubt. But Leak is more experienced and better overall. Don't forget, Tebow screwed up when he was put out at first, leading to a 5-yard penalty and a wrong formation. The fact that he was able to recover from that speaks well for his ability and talent. But Leak is the best quarterback. Don't forget that.

6. My favorite moment was after Tebow scored his touchdown. Leak ran out onto the field, Tebow jumped on him, and they hugged. It speaks well for the mentality of the team that two competing quarterbacks can be excited for each other and be friends.

7. Second favorite moment: Reggie Lewis' interception return. He ran all the way to the left of the field, then ran all the way back to the right. But what I loved best was another player (I don't remember who) who was next to him, waving for Lewis to follow him. For some reason, I found that really funny.