I am a weather nerd. As a kid, I pretended I was covering severe weather from my bedroom (and sometimes the front yard in the middle of a monsoon). I learned about latitude and longitude tracking hurricanes, copying coordinates from The Weather Channel onto a photocopied map. In elementary school, I visited not one, but two of the local television meteorologists.
Storms frightened me and yet I was drawn to them. I swear I was destined to be a weatherman until I discovered how many calculus courses they have to take (College Algebra put a strain on this brain).
The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season remains the most active on record, with 28 tropical storms – so many that the list of names was exhausted, leading to six storms named for Greek letters, including one forming in December and another in January of 2006 – the latest on record. There were 15 hurricanes, 7 major hurricanes (Category Three or greater), and 4 Category Five hurricanes… all records. The strongest hurricane that season was also the strongest ever recorded in the Atlantic (and, no, it’s not the one you are thinking).
The first forecast models for Katrina predicted a weak hurricane brushing the Florida coast and turning off into the Atlantic. Instead, Katrina went through the peninsula and into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. And when it finally did make its northern turn, it was toward the Gulf Coast.
Driving home for Christmas, I was doing my best to get into the holiday spirit by listening to carols on the radio.
Have a holly jolly Christmas
It’s the best time of the year.
Well I don’t know if there’ll be snow
But have a cup of –
The National Weather Service has issued a Tornado Warning for the following counties…
Bah humbug, indeed.
If you traveled across the Deep South on Festivus, you likely encountered similar conditions. While the carolers on the radio were content to Let It Snow, I was thankful I remembered to replace my windshield wipers that morning, lest I drive off the road and into the lake… which was quickly becoming one with the road.
Rather than tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago, my family back home manned their laptops and smartphones to find out exactly where the storms were and whether I needed to stop, detour, or push the pedal to the floor.
I hate Christmas shopping. Not because I’m bitterly opposed to the commercialization of the holidays. Not because I can’t fight for a bargain (one infamous Black Friday, I bobbed and weaved through a crowd at a now-defunct electronics store to physically lie atop a row of desktop computer boxes my dad needed for his office). In fact, I love surprising my loved ones with gifts that I know they’ll enjoy.
It’s just that sometimes those gifts are awful hard to find. Maybe I’m just not creative enough. Maybe I don’t have the gift of gifting. My aunt can find everyone in the family the perfect gift every single time, despite only talking to us a handful of times each year. Meanwhile, I’ve never known what to get her. A candle that smells like the ocean? Socks with jingle bells? A toaster?
When you don’t know what to get, hunting for gifts is painstaking, and usually fruitless. It was even worse for me when I lived in Arkansas and the nearest shopping destinations were over an hour away. So, one Christmas, I dug into the family traditions and revived something a fellow displaced relative began some seasons ago. In lieu of the perfect gift, I made a charitable donation in honor of that family member.
For the second straight year, my fantasy baseball team sprays fake champagne and lights up faux cigars in celebration of a fictitious trophy. It was a dominating year, until injuries threatened our championship hopes. But thanks to deft roster management, forsaking real friends and real responsibilities, we are again victorious.
And let us not forget Craig Gentry. You’ll likely never be relevant again, but in fantasy land, you were the perfect pickup for the final day of the season. Thanks for the stolen bases.
A special thank you to the real-life Twins and the Astros. Your horrendous lineups made stars of even my worst pitchers (when’s the last time Scott Kazmir won anybody anything?).
I’d like to thank my loving girlfriend, who has stood reluctantly beside me since before my first fantasy nerd blog post two years ago today (the blog post, I like to think, spurred my current winning streak). Without the use of her iPhone, my team might have never escaped the semifinal round. I still hope to enter my waiver claim one day, and have her join me in rotisserie bliss. She, meanwhile, tries to get me to play some Harry Potter game on the Internet. I tell her that I don’t have time for that fake stuff, at least not while I’m proposing trades to my nearest rivals, “The Flying Pancakes” and “Mr. Balls.”
Finally, as athletes are inclined to thanking the true God of the universe for their actual sporting victories, I express my deepest appreciation for the blessing of the Flying Spaghetti Monster – a fake deity fit for a pretend game.
The offseason begins tomorrow. Five-plus months to build meaningful relationships*, advance professionally**, and improve upon my draft strategy to ensure a 3-peat in 2014.
* – Thus gaining access to more smartphones for emergency roster updates (as I still reside in the dark ages with no data plan) ** – Earning more time away from work during the baseball months
Indeed, life as a doctoral student quickly overtook side projects like this blog. There’s a reason the home page describes me as “an on-again off-again blogger.”
My first semester at Alabama went well. Papers were written, books were read… statistics were even largely understood. I enjoyed my first experience in a large-lecture setting, teaching a 220-or-so student Intro to Mass Com course. I hope to one day write about the social media and technological implementations into the curriculum. The student experience seemed to be quite positive. The most common complaint on my evaluations was that the class met at 8 a.m. Allow me to second.
The 2012 presidential election provided a wealth of research opportunities. As conferences and (cross your fingers) publications arise, you can check here for summaries that aren’t near as tedious as the full papers.
Otherwise, the blog is likely to remain quiet during this time. As always, you can follow me on Twitter, where I do still find time to comment on all manner of thing, 140 characters at a time. I do enjoy writing for those of you who enjoy reading. Hopefully, we will reconvene soon.
Go vote. It’s a right and a privilege, and as I found out this year, there are a heckuva lot of people involved in making elections work.
For the first time in my life, I voted absentee. Barely. In early October, I requested my ballot from my home county circuit clerk’s office, only to see the weeks pass without a ballot arriving. When communication with the office failed, I sought the aid of my secretary of state’s election division to remind the folks in my county to do their job.
It was a mess of phone calls, record keeping, and legal actions. I was thankful for the good I saw in public servants – I must have gotten aid from five or six different people in the S.O.S.’s office, many of whom called me. Yet, the well-documented incompetence of one county’s election infrastructure seemed too much to overcome in time to exercise my right to vote.
This was going to a blog post about voter disenfranchisement, a system that failed its displaced constituency. Fortunately, the cogs and gears fell into place, and the system came through for me without a moment to spare.
So it seems my ballot will be among those counted this year. And it should feel better than ever before. This time, it took real time and effort – to make the calls, to fill out the paperwork, to find the notary, to beat the deadline. This time, my vote came with hardship. This time, I valued the notion of our representative democracy and what it meant to have a voice.
It should feel better than ever before. But it didn’t.