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    Sunday, December 24, 2006

    A Christmas Greeting from Al-Qaeda?

    This is pretty funny, yet it delivers a great message by the end. Enjoy the Scrappleface video featuring a rare translation of Al-Qaeda's second-in-comman, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, delivering a Christmas greeting.

    Merry Christmas everyone.

    Monday, December 04, 2006

    ISI soiree at Vanderbilt

    So I got into town in Nashville and stayed on the outskirts of the city (way out in the burbs about 30 minutes south of downtown) with my friend Dustin and his fiance. They have a nice home and they are getting ready for their wedding in the summer of 2007. Dustin and I are both alums of FAU, but I only really know him since I have been at ISI, due to our conservative activism.

    That night, I headed over to Vanderbilt for another ISI soiree (my 7th in the past 10 days). On Day 17 of my trip I was tired, but each of these soirees and the students I meet seem to energize me. I got on campus, parked, found the building and the Elizabeth, the editor of The Vanderbilt Torch, which is a fantastic conservative publication on the Collegiate Network. I told Elizabeth that I remember when I first started The Terrapin Times at Maryland and went to the CN's Start the Presses! Conference for new papers in the summer of 2003 - I remember meeting some other students from the Vanderbilt Torch - they were just starting out then too, a few years before Elizabeth's time at Vanderbilt.

    Almost all the time, I feel like these things come full circle on me. Now, I was at Vanderbilt, meeting new students and introducing them to ALL the resources that ISI has to offer them. About 15 students came, which was pretty good for the week that final exams were getting ready to begin. They were all great students too... very excited and energized. Maybe it was because I was leaving them with so many materials and free books - it was my last stop and I told them I didn't want to bring any of this stuff back with me. They happily accepted them. One graduate student won 3 books in our "conservative trivia contest." He was already an ISI member before the soiree and as he was getting ready to go back home he told me, "I'm going home with 3 free books and all this pizza... I love this organization!"

    The ISI gravy train... next stop... back to Philly.

    Tennessee: my 39th state!

    On Sunday, December 3rd, I drove from Atlanta to Chattanooga, Tennessee. I entered the "Volunteer State" and counted them up: I've officially been in 39 of the 50 states in the Union. Once I entered Tennessee, my destination of Chattanooga was barely over the border. It is also the city my mother was born in back in 1956. But she really has no recollection of this place - her family moved from there to Florida when she was only two years old. So, I figured since it was Sunday, I'd explore the historic downtown area of the city that I was staying in.

    First, I had lunch a block from my hotel at brewery. (I'm forgetting the name off hand). I had a sandwich and a local lager which they microbrew right there at the bar. It was pretty good. Then, I went to the Chattanooga Regional History Museum, which took me maybe an hour to go through. I learned a lot! (as usual) I didn't realize how much influence the Native American population had on the city... that is before they were forced out of there and onto the Trail of Tears in the 1830s. After that, the white man settled the land and it became an industrial boom. The city prides itself that it was also the first bottler of Coca-Cola. Ironically, I had just come from the town that invented Coca-Cola.

    I was overall very impressed by Chattanooga. The city seems to be doing a good job keeping its historical elements as it becomes something new. I also thought it was pretty scenic with the Tennessee River going through it and the mountains nearby overlooking it.

    Sunday night I had dinner with a former ISI student who is now a secondary school teacher, Carter Todd. Carter had been in touch with me for a while and he often requests ISI Student's Guides to pass out to his high school students. Now, he teaches middle school. He was also a former student of UT-Chattanooga professors Bill McClay and Lucien Ellington, who met me for breakfast on Monday morning. Professor Ellington and I have been in touch for quite some time as well. I help provide him with some complimentary ISI Student's Guides for his classes each semester (which he uses as part of the curriculum) and he helps promote ISI by encouraging interested students to sign up for membership.

    I had an enjoyable breakfast and conversation with professors McClay, Ellington, and one of their colleagues, before we ventured over to the university, where they set me up with an ISI tabling opportunity in their student center. For about 2 hours during the lunch period, I passed out ISI materials to students and faculty walking by. I only signed up about 5 people on the spot, but I passed out nearly 100 copies of the Intercollegiate Review as well as some ISI brochures. Planting the seeds, planting the seeds. It was great to see how committed these professors are to the ISI mission. They went out of their way to help me out and even to hang out with me at the table for as long as they could.

    About 1pm, Professor McClay (who is the author of the ISI Student's Guide to U.S. History) and I went to lunch and then I was off on my way towards Nashville, where I met up with my friend Dustin Hawkins and did an ISI soiree at Vanderbilt University. More to come on this...

    Sunday, December 03, 2006

    Hot-lanta and the SEC title game

    Ok, more like cold-lanta during my final few days there, but "Hot-lanta" takes on many meanings in reference to the city of Atlanta. This city really made quite an impression on me. First, it's HUGE. The downtown area has really grown. The last time I was here was in 1996 for the summer Olympics. I remember it being a big city then, but it just really feels like it has grown so much more.

    What has really grown is the ever-expanding suburban sprawl. It goes almost a mile out in each direction - and Atlanta expands in a circle. The traffic is a mess too. Thankfully, my hotel was situated near downtown and I didn't have to do too much driving in and out of there, but I get a good view of the mess on I-75 from my hotel window. They said Atlanta has the longest average commute time in the country. I believe it (although L.A. always just seems worse).

    My brother Tony and his girlfriend Jen came into Atlanta for the weekend for their own reasons: their Gators were in the SEC Championship game. My brother covers the Gator football games for the school paper and for other papers, such as the Orlando Sentinel. Great gig. So, he gets to sit in the press box and then interview the team on the field and in the locker rooms after the game. Jen, on the other hand, needed someone to go to the game with, and since I was already going to be in Atlanta, I bought myself a ticket so we could watch together.

    But, first came Friday night - where I met up with two old friends from high school - Fergus and Catie (Marrero) Thomas. It was great catching up with them. Fergus is working for Coca-Cola, where Tony, Jen, and I visited their "World of Coca-Cola" museum on Saturday before the game. Fergus and Catie were headed down to Macon that night, but they recommended some Atlanta bars for us to hit up on Friday night. Fergus pointed out a cool one, "The Spotted Dog", which is in an old firehouse in downtown Atlanta. It was a very cool place. It was quite quiet for a Friday night, but that gave us a chance to talk. The place is really cool - the bar stools, for example, are the actual old fire poles. The lamp shades are made out of fire extinguishers. And, the place just had a great feel to it. The firehouse had been there since 1907 - before the days of fire engines.

    On Saturday, after visiting the "World of Coca-Cola" and "Underground Atlanta", we got ready for the big game. As we made our way to the Georgia Dome, Tony departed us for his press box and Jen and I went across the way to check out "The SEC Experience," which was like a mini indoor carnival. Then, we headed to the Georgia Dome and sat in the upper deck, only 10 rows from the very top. 70% of the people in our area were Arkansas fans, but we were cheering for the Gators. Ironically, our entire row was full of Gator fans, so we had our own little cheering section.

    And what a game! I only cheered for the Gators because my brother goes to school there, but it was thrilling! I've never seen such a crazy game. I've been at some great Miami-FSU games (Wide Right 2 and 3 and Wide Left 1) but this was right up there. Florida eventually came away with the win, with an SEC title, and with a berth into the BCS Title Game. By the end of the game, my brother was on the field, only feet away from the SEC trophy as it was presented to the Gators. Jen and I were about 100 feet away, as we made our way down to the first rows near the 50-yard line (most of the stadium had cleared by this time). It was a fun night and fun times in Hot-lanta.

    Friday, December 01, 2006

    ISI Soirees in Georgia

    I spent most of this past week in Georgia, where we did ISI soirees at Mercer University (Macon), the University of Georgia (Athens), Georgia Tech (Atlanta) and the University of West Georgia (Carrollton). A lot already seems to be happening.

    At Mercer University, a Christian school in Macon, GA, Nathan Edmondson put together an ISI soiree on Tuesday, November 28, and has used the timing of the event to launch an ISI Group. His father, Henry Edmondson, is an ISI author and teaches at nearby Georgia College and State University (GCSU). They plan to launch a joint group which will combine students and faculty from both campuses.

    (Photo: Nathan Edmondson and myself at the ISI soiree at Mercer University.) Posted by Picasa

    On November 29, I visited the University of Georgia, David Kirby, the Editor of the CN paper, The Georgia GuardDawg put together the soiree and turned out nearly 30 people, including Professor Dwight Lee who lectured at ISI's National Leadership Conference in Indianapolis this past spring. Earlier in the day, I also attended the weekly meeting of the ISI Group at UGA, the C.S. Lewis Society where we discussed C.S. Lewis' views on the role of women in marriage. At the soiree, I finally met Tim Echols, founder and President of TeenPact, a Christian home-school network. Over the past two and a half years, I have exchanged many emails and phone calls with Mr. Echols and it was great to finally meet him in person. He has introduced hundreds of his students to ISI over the past few years alone.

    (Photo: Some of the students and faculty at the ISI soiree at the University of Georgia.) Posted by Picasa

    On November 30th, I drove up to Dawsonville, GA and had lunch with about 10 students and a professor who are launching an ISI Group at Southern Catholic College. Ann Marie, the nephew of a long-time ISI employee and colleague, Paul Rhein, used the timing of my visit to bring these students and faculty member together to start an ISI Group. Southern Catholic College is only in its second year and has a total of 120 students that go to the school.

    (Photo: Students at Southern Catholic College.)

    Later that day, we held an ISI soiree at Georgia Tech in the heart of Atlanta. Chris Dempsey, the state chairman of the Georgia Federation of College Republicans put together the event. There wasn't a large turnout, but at least Chris, myself and a few other students were able to connect and I'm sure Chris will spread the ISI word around his state.

    On Friday morning, December 1, I had breakfast with a Faculty Associate and Honors Program mentor, Patrick Allit, who teaches in the history department at Emory. We had a great converation. He's a great person and every time I have seen him, he is always smiling.

    Later that day, we held an ISI soiree at the University of West Georgia. Again, the turnout was small, but we had a great conversation. One professor I met even told me she read Hayek's The Road to Serfdom back in the early 1950s, before ISI was even started. WOW! She has been a member of ISI and a subscriber to National Review since the beginning. She told me I made her feel old when I played the ISI history video. Thanks to Adam Woodward for putting this soiree together. He certainly has an upbeat and positive personality! It was also great to meet him in person after being in touch with him for more than a year. My time in Georgia was busy... but after the week was over I was ready to relax and enjoy the city of Atlanta... more to come...

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