The secret life of VandyGirls

After spending some time in DuPont’s Kramerbooks tonight I couldnít resist picking up a copy of Alexandra Robbins’ new book, Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities. (Is it creepy that the first two books on my currently reading list are Pledged and Lolita?) Robbins went undercover to report on what modern sorority life is really like, and found that reality is often worse than the stereotype. Having attended a southern university where fifty percent of the women are in the Greek system, I find that scary, believable, and sad.

Though complaining about the Vandy Greek system was, and is, a favorite hobby of mine, the fact is I kept my distance from that scene. For me Greek Row was simply a rowdy and obnoxious street I had to cross on my way to Borders, or a malicious force that transformed previously interesting women into vapid VandyGirls. How did this black magic work? Pledged promises to be an illuminating and disturbing read.


Sometimes, one gig just isn’t enough

Courtesy of my wonderful flatmate, I’m now enjoying my very own Gmail account. If you want to send me a big file for some reason, (take that, spambots!) is the place to send it.

I like Gmail. I’m going to use it. But I promise, this Hemingway Star story isn’t going to be the least bit autobiographical.

[Correction 4/26/04: Chad, who I believe enjoys spotting my mistakes entirely too much, informed me that “Kevin Phillips” mysteriously began the above story as “Kevin Fleming.” That’s what happens when I try to edit immediately after drinking a Long Island. It’s corrected now.]


Joe knows joe

The Bean Central weblog has received a sharp new design since the last time I visited. Besides being a great site for buying coffee, it features occasional updates with coffee-related articles. Speaking of, how did I spend four years at Vanderbilt without knowing that this existed?


Jen Cohen — last Nashville show

My remaining Nashville readers should drop their plans for tomorrow and head over to Centennial Park for the American Artisan Festival. That’s where local singer Jen Cohen is giving her last Nashville performance before heading to cantorial school in New York.

I saw Jen in concert three times while at Vanderbilt and every show was a hit. The Tennessean has called her voice ” a great, big soulful treat” and I couldn’t agree more. See her and Rick Plant tomorrow from about 12:00 – 2:30 or, if you can’t make the show (I wish I could!), check out her CDs Jen Cohen and Far Enough Away.


Blasting off


My final column as a staff member of The Torch was about the X Prize competition and how itís encouraging entrepreneurs to invest in affordable space travel. On Monday, leading competitor Scaled Composites will launch SpaceShipOne on its first test flight into suborbital space. If all goes according to plan, this will mark the first manned space flight accomplished with no government funding. SS1 will later have to launch twice in a two-week period, with three passengers, replacing no more than ten percent of its mass between launches to win the competition.

More important than the technological advances made in this project, winning the X Prize has the potential to provoke a sea change in how people think about space flight. Just as Charles Lindberghís crossing of the Atlantic demonstrated the practicality of air travel and ignited growth in the aerospace industry, Scaled Composites may represent a great stride toward opening space to the private sector and fulfilling the promise of space tourism. (I confess to thinking that a trip into space is one thing that my life may feel oddly incomplete without, so Iím excited about this for reasons beyond my libertarianism.)

From the press release: “This flight is one of the most exciting and challenging activities taking place in the fields of aviation and aerospace today,” said Paul G. Allen, sole sponsor in the SpaceShipOne program. “Every time SpaceShipOne flies we demonstrate that relatively modest amounts of private funding can significantly increase the boundaries of commercial space technology. Burt Rutan and his team at Scaled Composites have accomplished amazing things by conducting the first mission of this kind without any government backing.”

Thanks to Chad Wilcox, who gets credit for sending me my first news tip via a text message to my cell phone.


Of tacos, couches, beds, and Thomas Friedman

Itís been five days since I last posted and Iím running out of lame excuses for my unprolificity. But I havenít run out yet, so hereís one more: tomorrow morning I head to Brown University to work the IHS Globalization and Poverty Summer Seminar. Thatís the one I went to as a participant last year. We have a very smart, very well dressed faculty lined up, so I know the lectures will be good. Supposedly weíll also have Net access, so I may update from the road.

I have about two weeks of couch hopping behind me, the highlight of which was the Giant Chalupa Couch in my housemateís old living room. I call it that because the placeís other occupants have a habit of dining on Taco Bell there late at night, letting copious amounts of cheese, tomato, and occasionally entire gorditas fall between its cushions. Thus, if one is desperately hungry in the night, one need only reach into its depths to emerge with a well-preserved (if dusty) midnight snack. I was never that hungry, but it was nice to have the option. Iím sure Taco Boy would have loved it.

Fortunately, Iím now in my own room with my own bed. I bought it at Ikea. Up to now, all I knew of the company was its blatant abuse of eminent domain law. They were defeated in that venture, and now I can say I like their store. They have exactly the business model they should for modern consumers who are looking to buy inexpensive furniture: online catalogue, their stock of items networked and connected to a database, and most of their pieces ready to take home right away.

This is in stark contrast to my attempt to buy a mattress at a local chain. This place had no idea what they had in stock, having to go into the backroom and check for every little thing. They had to call each of their other stores individually to see if any of them carried an item that was out of stock. And if one mattress wasnít available, the wait was about a week to get it delivered. The manager was an ass, too. I left thinking that if I were Thomas Friedman, or even if Iíd just had a fake bushy mustache handy, I would have put him in his place.

ďSir, youíre still trying to sell mattresses like itís 1989,Ē Iíd have said. ďThatís when all the walls came down. I know youíre the biggest discount mattress company in Virginia, but you have to learn to adapt. Youíd better put on the Golden Straightjacket, or youíre going to wake up one day and find yourself asleep in the Duvet of Despair. You donít believe me? I was eating lunch with Prince Hassan of Jordan the other day, and he said that the American mattress salesman is a thing of the past. Thereís an Electronic Herd out there, and its ready to trample your precious box springs and lay down on a Sultan Fšngebo.Ē Iíd have kept that going till closing time, even if no one were listening. Not really. But I do think that mattress company needs to get with the times.

Now that Iíve wasted the last minute of your life (ďlastĒ indicating previous, not final, I hope), I will bring this post to an end. With any luck a week at an IHS contest will inspire something more profound for the next one.


The “Big L” salute

The results are in from the Libertarian Party National Convention, and it looks like the “Big L” Libertarians will once again be raising the L to the forehead in the official LP election year salute. The 2004 presidential candidate is none other than Michael Badnarik. I’d tell you to go his website to learn more about him, but it is still “being updated.”

Tim Lee provides a few excerpts from an interview with Badnarik, however. His conclusion: “Any fringe political movement has its share of crazies. The LP is full of losers who get a kick out of pretending they’re part of a real political party, but who wouldn’t have the first clue what to do if they actually got elected. What’s remarkable and depressing is that for the first time, one of those crazies is the standard-bearer for the national party. For the first time, the LP has nominated a candidate who is completely unqualified to be president.” Tim’s website also includes a letter he wrote in January of ’03 resigning from the Minnesota LP after deciding the enterprise was hopeless.

For a somewhat more positive take on Badnarik, see this report from Reason’s Brian Doherty.

I’m a “small l” libertarian, but in the past I have enjoyed throwing votes the LP’s way when the opportunity presented itself. The only times I haven’t are when the local candidates have been just too nutty to consider. As Tim demonstrates, Badnarik is close to being one of those kinds of guys: deeply ideological and completely clueless as to what he’d actually have to do if by some amazing miracle he won the presidency.

Even so, there’s a decent chance that I will vote for him anyway come November, as opposed to staying home or voting for Kerry. That will be especially true if I’m still registered to vote in Texas, where Bush is sure to win. I doubt the LP will get enough media coverage to do much actual harm to libertarianism and he’s the best protest vote available.

If I really cared about the LP I might have to refuse to vote for him. By potentially doing so I’m pretty much saying, “You guys are hopeless and irrelevant, so I’ll vote for whomever you put up just for the hell of it.” Ironically, if you do care about the future of the party you should refuse to vote for him and tell the party to get serious. Given the attitudes of the people in the LP these days, I don’t think that’s going to happen.


Smooth talkin’ Jaro

Actual conversation with the girl at the table next to me at Common Grounds today…

Her: “Could you tell me the time again?”

Me: “Sure, no problem.”

*awkward silence*

Her, repeating: “Could you tell me the time?”

Me: “Oh, you mean now.”

There are a few things I could say in my defense, but I think I’ll just leave it at that.

In other news, today was my first day on the job. And you know what I found on my desk? A one pound box of rubber bands. Associates from my previous internship know that this is a bad, bad, very bad idea.