Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pure Fun in Greater Flint

I spent the last three days in Flint, Michigan and am happy to report I am back safe and sound in Oxford. Flint is home to Kettering University (, formerly called General Motors Institute. Up until recently, it was where people went if they wanted to get management or engineering jobs with General Motors. The school is still mostly for engineers, but they leave the school and go into all industries, not just working for GM. An intersting thing about Kettering is that the students go to school for a quarter and then go work in a co-op with a company for a quater. School is year round so bascially, they spend two quarters in school and two quarters working. All of the students are split up into two sections (A&B) and when one is working in a co-op, the other is in school.

As far as chapter operations go, there are basically two chapters at Kettering. They have A section and B section and even though they go to the same school, there is very little interaction or socialization between the two sections. When I talked to the Greek advisor he mentioned that in some chapters, the two sections do not get along. Its amazing to me that they can be in the same fraternity and the same school and not get along with the other section.

I leanred more about cars in my short trip to Flint than I ever had. Most of the students there do their co-ops with either the big car companies or companies that build car components. Some advice I picked up along the way:

1. Don't buy a car that was built on a Monday, Friday, or around a major Holiday. Workers get lazy.
2. Don't buy the first year or the last year of a model.
3. Don't buy a car that features a new technology (i.e. Hybrid, electric) until it has been on the market for more than 3 years.

Good advice to know. I have not yet looked, but I am going to check what day my car was manufactured on to find out if I should be worried.

Okay, now time for a disclaimer: I allowed other people's opinions to shapre my view of Flint before I even got there. After hearing about previous visits to the chapter and the city, I fully expected that we were being dropped into East Fallujah.

I don't think I have ever heard anything good about Flint. I even watched the Micael Moore movie about how depressing a place Flint was. All I could think about while we were driving there was the fact that I heard they were the murder capital of the US.
As you can clearly see on the above graph, Flint is not the murder capital of the US after all.
Flint (, I am sorry I judged you before accurately researching. I also expected to see every house boarded up with weeds growing up in the front yard. We did see our fair share of them (in some cases, it seemed like every other house was abandonded), it was not nearly as bad as I expected. As for crime, all of the houses had good lighting and high fences. The members were very proud to report that they had not had an incident in "Months."

All in all, Flint was a rough, scary place that I enjoyed I got to experience but hope I never have to go back to. The guys in the chapter were very stereotypical engineers but nice guys and I really enjoyed hearing about the latest car technology. I am after all, a real dork at heart.

On Wednesday, we got up real early to visit Ann Arbor and see the University of Michigan. Michigan was a very pretty campus, but huge. One thing I thought was interesting was that the school's newspaper refers to Ann Arbor as A Squared (I was looking for how to put the little 2 above the letter like you would in math to denote squared, but I have no clue how to). After a search that was much longer than it should have been, I got postcards and a pint glass to add to the collection.

And because we were close and in the college visiting mood, we stopped in to see Bowling Green State University. The real reason for the visit was to visit a past president of the Phi Delt governing board and take him out to lunch. Bowling Green is not the prettiest city nor does it have the prettiest campus, but I am still a fan.

Three universities in one day. A new record for me.

Very shortly, I will begin travelling and I expect to fill this blog with more of my adventures.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Through Painted Deserts

As promised in an earlier post, here is my review of "Through Painted Deserts" by Donald Miller. My brother mailed it to me along with a few other things. I picked it up and begin to read the back cover. It read, "a road-trip memoir about three months spent crossing the country in a Volkswagon camping van..." I was sold from that sentence alone.
The basic story is two men who meet each other in Houston and decide to do take a road trip. As these ideas usually go, it began with a group of friends who wanted to see the country but as plans became more concrete they began to drop out one by one. Why is it that this happens so much in life? It seems that everyone wants to believe in a nice idea but quickly drop off once the dream threatens to become reality.
The two men are Don and Paul. Don is the author and is from Houston. Paul is his travelling companion and grew up in Oregon. They set out with the general idea that they will end up in Oregon. There are some great quotes about Texas in the book like, "I don't mean any disrespect. I truly don't. But Texas isn't nature. Texas is city and smog and humidity and heat. If you want to hunt and fish, that's fine, but if you want to climb and kayak and all, no luck."
The writing is very personal and describes Don's journey across the country and his developing friendship with Paul. I won't spoil the book but the last chapter is one of my favorites and really made the book for me. Its possible that I rate this book very high because the whole way through it all I could think about is how badly I want to take a roadtrip as well.
It is light reading and a good book overall. Check it out if you have the chance.
Some other quotes That I really like:
"The greatest desire of man is to be known and loved anyway."
~ Donald Miller, Searching For God Knows What
Okay, so that quote isn't from Through Painted Deserts but it is by the same author and I really like it. The following are actually quotes from the book:
"Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons."
"I told her of the need to travel, to gain memories, and to be, for a while, completely free."
"When with certain people, one is confronted with the notion that life may be much easier than the rest of us believe it is, that most of the things we worry about are not worth worrying about."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

From South Carolina

I went home to South Carolina this past weekend and it was exactly what I needed. I left Oxford at 5 and finally got into Greenville around 12:30. Kentucky is a deceivingly tall state. Some highlights of the trip included seeing a car spon in several circles and eating Chick-Fil-A.
Right as I cross over the I-75 bridge into Kentucky the car in front of me slammed on their brakes. I look up ahead in the road to see a car spinning in circles. He started off in the far left lane and spun through all of the lanes to the right, narrowly avoiding getting t-boned by a truck, missed hitting a streetlight by less than a foot, and ended up in the grass beside the highway. I have never seen a car wreck so a small part of my mind thought about what it would have looked like. The rest of the drive was rather uneventful and I got to stop and eat some Chick-Fil-A in Lexington. It was the first I Chick-Fil-A I have had in months. I don't know how I went so long without it. The only other stop I made after that was to take a picture of the "Welcome to South Carolina" sign. Call me a dork if you want.

I spent Friday in Clemson visiting my grandparents. Each time I drive into Clemson I am reminded how much I love it there. Every time I drive in, I find myself thinking about what it would have been like to go to school there and how different I would be because of it.
I don't have any regrets and I wouldn't trade my undergraduate experience for anything, but I can't help but think about it. Maybe if I get lucky, there will be an opportunity to go to Clemson for graduate school. We shall see. I stopped and walked on campus a bit and took some pictures of Tillman Hall and saw the football stadium.
On my way out of Clemson, I finally picked up a beer glass with the tiger paw on it to add to my collection. Now, I only have a few more glasses to go to complete it. I also picked up some clemson shorts to wear around.

On Friday night, I took my mom out to the Pita House in Greenville. (

Pita House is amazing. I had the lamb plate with rice, pita bread, and a salad. It is in a very nondescript building on a rather unimpressive stretch of road, but is a great and cheap place for dinner. Check it out the next time you are in Greenville.
The next day, I took my mom up to the mountains to go hiking. We dediced on a 2 mile hike to Falls Creek Falls. It seemed to be uphill the whole way there. The review I read online said that it was a little hilly, but a nice moderate hike. It was a great hike but it seemed like we were climbing the mountain, not walking up it.

After about two hours of hiking we made it to the falls and sat and relaxed. The water level was a little down but the falls were still impressive. There was a nice breeze coming off the bottom of the falls and I could have sat there for hours.
On the hike back down I ran across a few interesting things. On a rock in a small stream there was this frog. He just sat on the rock while I snapped several pictures of him. My mom was less than pleased when I mentioned the frog would make a very nice meal for a snake.

A few hundred yeards from the frog, I stopped for a water break and heard a rustling in the leaves. Upon closer inspection, I saw this bug dragging a spider. I think the bug is some form of wasp and had killed the spider. Who knows what a wasp does with a very large spider after it kills it.
All in all this weekend was exactly what I needed to kick the wanderlust into high hear for the coming semester of travelling. I am going to make it a point to do more outside activities this semester. The hike was really amazing.
More to come soon. I will be driving to Flint, Michigan next week for a training visit for the new consultants. If anyone has an extra bullet proof vest laying around may I please borrow it?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Long Weekend and the Road Calls

Since I have Friday off I am taking advantage of the long weekend and am going home to South Carolina for the weekend. I am in need of a break and really just want to get out of Oxford. My wanderlust has really kicked in this week and I am ready for summer to be over and to get back to travelling. I have spent so much time working on my schedule and finding interesting things to see and do during the semester that I am to the point I just want to experience them. Enough planning and talking; time for action.
On a different note, I finished a great book and saw a very average movie this week.
First, the book. My brother sent me a CD and a couple of books this week and one was called "Through Painted Deserts" by Donald Miller. The book is written about a trip Miller took with a good friend across the country in a VW bus. They started in Houston Texas and ended up in Oregon. It was good of some really great quotes (which may or may not make it into future posts) and really appealed to my romantic side. I have always wanted to do exactly what they did; jump into a car and just keep going until the money runs out. I think it would be amazing to see what you could find just by wandering.
And now for the movie review. I went and saw Step Brothers last night and came away unimpressed. As a disclaimer, I am not a huge fan of Will Ferrell movies and normally do not like them until after I see them several times. The one thing I was struck with was that the movie tried too hard to be over the top and crude. I almost felt like they thought of the most shocking things possible and then filled the script in around it. Some of the people I went to see the movie with laughed the whole way through and I was just overall unimpressed. I guess I really just don't appreciate dumb humor.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

All Tuckered Out

ELI 2008 is finally over and the only thing I want right now is to climb in bed and not wake up to an alarm tomorrow.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

16 Hour Work Days

Well, maybe not grumpy, but very tired.

We are in the middle of our annual leadership conference here in Oxford it has been crazy to say the least.

I will post when I have more time and have had more sleep.