Round-Up Round-up

Ah come on, you knew I was going to do that play on words with Round-up. What did you expect? I am not better than that. That is all I have. All I am is a few puns and some hastily srcibbled paragraphs. Stop reading my blog. It is amateur. I hire a five year-old to write it.

But wait, did you even consider that Roud-Up Round-up was a triple entendre? No? I did not think so. Does this change how you think of me? Are you still reading?

Let me explain.

Round-Up is the annual debaucherous celebration that fraternities and sororities use to throw the biggest parties of the year. The hope is that high-school students will illegally attend Round-Up and be attracted to a particular frat or sorority. Then, in the fall, that student will rush whatever Greek group appealed to him/her. The rest of UT uses Round-Up as an excuse to wear neon sorority tees, go to the biggest parties of the year, and revel in the weekend-long absurdity.

Round-up means wrap-up or summary.

The Round Up was a particularly intense two-day period of rounding up Jews in Paris and sending them to concentration camps. July 16-18, 1943, Nazis and French gendarmes rounded-up 13,000 non-French Jews and sent them to the French equivalent of the Superdome. They were kept there for five days with inadequate food and sanitation necessities, and then transported to Drancy internment camp. From there they were periodically shipped off to Auschwitz.  Just about everyone died. Several thousand children were also killed, because the French collaborationists did not want to have to provide federal care for the orphans of deceased parents.

“Woah, Mark,” I bet you’re saying, “that was depressing. Why would you even think about The Round Up while you are giving a round-up of Round-Up?

The irony is that our professors decided to teach us about The Round Up (La Rafle) the week that preceded Round-Up weekend, about which I am now giving you the Round-up.

Boom.

I love Round-Up, but I cannot really explain why. Ask my friends and they’ll tell you that I love it, but they won’t know why either. It is inexplicable, but for the second year in a row, I had an amazing weekend. I worked really hard during the week in order to be worry-free for Friday and Saturday night, and that added to my pleasure. Mostly though, the fun comes from being with my friends on an adventure.

Friday night Mike and I went to Sammie, the Jewish frat in which Michael and I have a lot of friends. Also, a lot of other people were there for the performer. See at Round-Up, most frats hire a rapper or band to play on one night. On Friday at Sammie, T-Pain was hired. That’s right, T-Pain.

Funny story, though, T-Pain cancelled the day of the concert. We found out on the way to the party, and emotions were mixed. I was ecstatic. We each received a refund for the tickets we purchased, another rapper just played a full-length show instead of opening, and I got into a fun party. I am not a massive T-Pain fan, and so I was not distraught that he cancelled. Michael, on the other hoof, was inconsolable. He is a big fan of T-Pain and a lot of luster dissipated from the party when he cancelled.

We arrived and saw the performance by the opener, which was not great. We did, however, see almost all of friends in the frat, as well as a bunch of our other friends. We danced and talked most of the evening, but it was certainly not raucous. Michael had crew the next morning at six in the morning, so we headed back around ten-thirty. I was satisfied, but certainly not elated. If the following night was the same caliber, then I would have been disappointed in Round-Up.

The following morning most of my friends went to get free tacos, because many sororities sell food to give the proceeds to philanthropies; but as is the case with many Round-Up events, if you are wearing the t-shirt or tank of the sorority sponsoring the event, then you get free food. They get publicity for their Greek organization and you get food, so everyone is happy.

I did not go because I had homework to do, so I labored in the library (my second home this semester) until mid-afternoon. After that I found out that Michael did not want to go out to find another party that night. Miraculously, Sean, Zach, and Jerry all said they wanted to go out, and so I had a crew with which to roll.

First we hit up the Sammie Adams concert at Kappa Sig, but we arrived right as he was finishing. Unfortunate as it may seem, the timing was perfect. We did not have to pay to get into the party because the show was over, and we knew some guys in the frat. They gave me some wristbands that were instrumental to us getting into a party later that night. As it was early, around seven in the evening, we went back to Dobie to grab some food.

We left from Dobie intending to get into a party with our wristbands to see Young Joc. Like most Round-Up parties, this one was packed and they let almost no one into the frat house. We waited outside among an enormous crowd of drunk, neon-clad collegiate students. We decided to ditch and try and get into another party. We knew our chances for this second party were very slim, so we met up with some of our friends in the frat to see if we could get in with them.

We met them at a restaurant in West Campus called Quattro’s, where I met some very friendly women. They asked for my number and then group-texted me all night which was hilarious. We set off towards the second party, but stumbled upon a stumbling drunk girl. Sean’s raison d’etre in life is helping drunk girls. We used moral obligation to coerce us into walking her to safety. We went on an adventure to connect her to a friend she knew in the area, and on the way we ran into several more of our friends.

After we dropped her off, we arrived to wait outside the next party. Again–a massive crowd awaited us. The frat was hosting Baby Bash I think, and no one was let in. The cops showed up and moved everyone off the street, and I got to hear a tazer for the first time. Let me tell you, the whole “don’t taze me, bro” thing is funny until you have heard a tazer. The crackle noise they make scared the bejeezes out of me. We left that party and headed for another.

At that point, we were running out of options but still having a fantastic time on our adventure. I suggested we go to Sammie again, who this night was not having a rapper, but was having their “chill” party, with just a DJ and other stuff. I got in easily because I had my wristband from the previous night that I had paid for (and then been reimbursed!), so I got into two parties for free. I asked a friend inside to help get Sean in, and then another friend of mine let Zach into the party. Jerry had jumped ship a few parties back.

When we arrived in the party we ran into our good friend Aaron Schulze, and the fearsome foursome was born. We mingled with our friends outside for quite awhile, but then went inside to dance.

We tore it up.

We left around one-thirty completely drenched in sweat (I was, at least) to go to our traditional, late-night Kerbey Lane post-Round-Up. Michael met us there, as well as some girls that wanted to meet up with us. The eight of us arrived at Kerbey and got in around two-thirty, and left about an hour later. The fearsome now-fivesome got back and everyone just crashed. The party was so much fun and it was totally free for all of us. Kerbey Lane went off perfectly, and the entire night was the perfect mix of adventuring for a party and then getting into a really good one and tearing it up. So much fun.

The next day, everyone was sore and tired from the night before, but Round-Up was a complete success. I went back to the library to do more slave-labor and we all went about getting back to school-duties. For the freshmen in our group, Round-Up was phenomenal. For the veterans, it was even better the second time around.

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Round-Up Round-up

The One-Year Anniversary of Several Important Things

A year ago (more or less), several key things changed in my life. I mentioned in an earlier post that I think I have done fewer things this semester than I would like, and that is mostly due to Normandy. In light of that realization, I began thinking about some of the things that happened to me roughly a year ago and realized how much they impacted me.

Having My Jaw Unwired: It has been nearly a year that my jaw has been healed and I think about that experience constantly. Introspection and silence changed me significantly for the better, despite the fact that it was one of the most lonely times of my life. I grew more confident and happy in being alone, I realized the value in listening to someone well, I cultivated many of interests that I did not encourage when I was surrounded by people, and I realized how alienating physical impairments are.

Deleting My Facebook: Slightly more than a year ago I deleted my Facebook, and I certainly do not regret it. I originally deleted my Facebook because I wanted to spend my time doing self-improving, cultivating things. The same for television. Instead of doing those things, I told myself it would be better to read, write, practice banjo, talk, cook, walk, think, or any other action that produced something, rather than something that just stole time away with nothing to show. The biggest benefit I received from deleting my Facebook is that it significantly increased my self-confidence. I incessantly checked my Facebook and saw pictures of people doing fun things without me, and I was distraught at why I was not there. Instead of giving me a feeling of inclusion, all Facebook did was exclude me from my friends and make me unsatisfied with doing something alone. I wanted to be in pictures, tagged in statuses, and have a lot of friends, instead of being happy with what I was doing in the moment. Now I can enjoy time with my family, time reading a book or grocery shopping, or time sitting in my backyard because I am not plagued by the constant worry of what other people are doing. Deleting my Facebook was one of the best things I have ever done.

Became a Vegetarian: I think the true anniversary of my vegetarianism is in two or so weeks, because I believe I committed to avoid meat at the end of Lent. Nonetheless, giving up meat has changed my life. I have had a relatively easy time of it, though. I do not know how to explain it, because my family eats a regular amount of meat, and I have always enjoyed eating it. Inexplicably, I have not struggled with meatlessness. Perhaps it is because I am not draconian in my limits: I try bits of just about every meat entree my friends or family eat, I just do not order it; I eat venison because it is better for the environment to kill the deer than to let them run wild; and on my birthday I intend to eat meat. Heck, I was even a vegan for awhile, but that was so difficult that I mostly stopped. I still do not drink cows’ milk if I can avoid it, and I try to only eat cheese when the cheese is not an afterthought of the dish, but a highlight. Butter I am a slut for. I enjoy cooking vegetarian and explaining my dietary choice to others (better for the environment!) And, I have indirectly (thanks, Katlin) convinced at least two people to try being vegetarian, and my mom and dad have adopted the tradition of Meatless Monday, which is fantastic!

Becoming a Catholic: This also occurred at the end of Lent, April 23rd if I am not mistaken. This has definitely changed my life for the better. Partially because I have met so many new, fascinating people through my Catholic faith. My experience would be different if I abandoned my Protestant traditions like going to church with my family and seeing my friends from those churches, but since I did not leave behind that part of me, Catholicism has only added onto my faith. I love many things about Catholicism, including the theology and tradition in it, the stern old-people like nature of the church’s teachings (which is good in today’s society), prayers like the Rosary, its outspoken viewpoints on controversial topics, and the regality of Mass. God has changed my life through giving me this gift, and it is certainly one of the biggest changes to ever occur in my life.

Joining Younglife: Although I am in between teams currently, my experience on Travis Younglife was superb. I had no idea that my time there would be so rewarding for me. I know that Younglife focuses on helping high-schoolers, but it also benefits leaders’ relationships with God. The whole “you have to know your stuff to teach it” thing applies big time. I met many amazing students, and many of my fellow leaders changed my life. I love what YoungLife is about; its ministry is pure at heart and fueled my honest love. Sometimes the bureaucracy got annoying, but I always could see through the rules  and know that at the heart of it I was being given the privilege of talking to kids about God and helping them through thickets in their lives. I know I will continue in YoungLife somewhere else, but a year ago when I was placed a seed was planted in me that is still growing larger.

I Began Blogging!: I did not start this particular blog until last May I think, but right around this time I had another blog on the interweb that I have since discontinued. I have been lax with blogging lately because my mind has been elsewhere, but do not think for a second that I do not love it. People ask me why I blog or if it makes me feel vain, and I do not have a good answer. Not that many people read my blog. The people that do (and comment) I love! But, I firmly believe I would do this if no one else read it, because that was how it was for the first three weeks. Blogging is a great outlet, even if I misspell words, ramble and go on tangents, or take terrible pictures. I enjoy it, and I really appreciate that you guys read it!

I Solidified my Friendship with Sean and Michael: These two doods have changed my life big time. I roomed with Sean last year and it was a life-changing choice that was absolutely God-sent. Sean is a great Catholic, an amazing friend, good to Ashley and his other loved ones, passionate about sports and God, kind, helpful, driven, red-headed, old in the mind, hilarious, and lovable. Michael has taught me how to care about people, ask insightful questions, expanded my music tastes, make hard choices, and persevere, and he is hilarious, congenial, people-pleasing, well-dressed, self-improving, and sharp minded. My friendship with these two guys is unlike any other friendship I have ever had. I know them so well, and they know me as well as anyone on the Earth. Their faiths have grown me; their patience has improved me; their genuine natures have strengthened me, and their jokes have given me a sexy six-pack from laughing so much.

The One-Year Anniversary of Several Important Things

GC4SB Explained

I posted pictures of my trip, but I did not give many details about it, so I thought I would explain it.

My break started last Friday when Patrick drove me and him from Austin to San Antonio. We met up with Aaron and Luke in San Antonio to buy food and plan the final details of our trip. I ended up going to bed around one, and with that I began the series of sleepless nights that were to follow.

Patrick and I awoke at seven the next morning and left with Luke and Aaron around eight. We drove almost nonstop until we reached Albuquerque and spent the night there. We went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant that pulled out all the stops. We ate famous green hatch chiles and fresh tortillas, sopapillas, and a weird red sauce that was tangy and unidentifiable. We retired to the Hampton Inn afterwords.

That Saturday night, my dad hooked us up with two free hotel rooms he got from “points.” He travels all the time and never uses the points, so he provided us with two rooms to stop and rest in, instead of driving through the night. The rooms provided a bed, a free breakfast, coffee, and a mental break, so we appreciated them.

The next morning we drove until we reached the Petrified National Forest. We drove through that and got out at most of the vistas to take pictures. Patrick is a great guy with whom to vacation because he is great at stopping and smelling the roses. My mindset urges me to go go go and smell the dead roses at the end, so our yin-yang balanced the trip perfectly between seeing all the sights, but doing everything we wanted to do.

We got back on the road later than we had intended and arrived at the Grand Canyon around seven in the evening. We hastily set up camp and unloaded, then grabbed our gear and went for a short walk to the canyon. The view at night was surreal, because the canyon gets so dark. It becomes a chasm that exists only because you see the darkness of it, like a black hole (I would imagine.)

That night I cooked dinner and we made a campfire and Patrick played guitar. I do not think I can type three subjects of any sentence that could  make me happier. I love cooking;  I love campfires;  I love hearing guitar at campfires. Goooosebummmppppps.

The next morning we awoke at six and threw on our packs. Prior to throwing on our packs we ate breakfast; and, one of my favorite traditions about backpacking breakfast is consuming banana instant oatmeal. I only eat it backpacking, and I totally hoarded it away this time so there was no funny business. It proved itself as a fuel on the hike to come.

We walked two miles to the trailhead and arrived around eight thirty. The walk over was beautiful, and the sun illuminated the canyon, juxtaposing the view I had of it hours before. We got to the trail head and began a slow, icy descent behind the fastest burros in the world. They outwalked us and pooped on the trail the whole time: very Mario Kartesque.

The hike down was pleasant because it was easy on muscles and we got to talk. After awhile my toes began smushing against the front of the boot, and if you could see them now you would probably wince unless you are a battle hardened mangled-toe viewer. I took most of the pictures on the way down because we were carefree, perfectly temperatured, and breathing light.

Soon we began to worry because we knew that we still had to reach the Colorado and turn around, and with every step downhill we took the thought flashed in our minds: we have to come up this later today. There was almost no one behind us which scared us a smidge. We did leap frog with several groups, including a gorgeous French couple in front of whom I kept ignorantly farting.  Amurica.

We reached the Colorado two minutes before “the time at which we would turn back because we wouldn’t make it.” We supped there and at one in the afternoon began our ascent of the Grand Canyon. About four minutes into the climb, we were winded on the side of the trail, sweaty and red-faced, contemplating suicide. Things did not get better and honestly, the climbing did not get one bit easier until the very end. We trudged uphill in the heat with diminishing water resources and ONE clif bar each. It took us almost four hours to get back to the top, which is actually relatively quick.

Hear me now. I have done a lot of backpacking. Call it bragging. Ok, it is bragging. But, it is true. I have hiked a lot and I am very proud of it. This hike was one of the hardest hikes I have ever done; and, we only had light daypacks on our backs. Patrick and Luke had essentially never backpacked before that trip, and they steamrolled one the hardest climbs I have ever done. Mad props to them, as well as Aaron. All three of them were mentally rock-solid. As long as everyone is mentally guarded, then I knew we could just put one foot in front of the other until we reached the top. I did not have to worry that any of those guys would quit, and that relieved me so much. They killed it and I was really proud of Luke and Pat. Luke because he was working hurt and was inexperienced, and Pat because he was inexperienced and probably tired from talking to LITERALLY every person in the Grand Canyon.

After getting out of the Canyon, we walked around for another two miles trying to catch a sunset. That failed, and we trekked home, incredibly proud of ourselves. We hiked almost twenty miles that day. I have never walked or ran twenty miles in a day, and never have I hiked seven miles straight uphill.

That night we ate a lot for dinner. Patrick played guitar. And we had a campfire. Gooooosebummmpppps.

We woke up the next morning (late, because my phone died in the night) and hurredly packed the car. We drove to Sonoma which was about two hours south. There, despite the fact that my contacts eviscerated my eyes and I took them out and was walking blind, we did a dayhike. Patrick said that the trail was one of the best in the nation, but I do not know how they rank those things. The trail was fine. It was a good leg workout and released some of the tension I had from the previous day’s hell-hike. I did not take any pictures because my phone was dead, but this is what it looked like.

Ok, this is Mars.

After that, our legs, knees, toes, eyes, hips, groins, hair, teeth, buttocks, bellybuttons, and beeswax were thoroughly wiped. Still, we went to the Chapel on the Rock. It was an authentic experience for me, because I felt like a man wandering through the desert who had stumbled upon a mirage or holy site. I walked into the elegant building with dust all over my body, squinted eyes, a crusty shirt, disheveled hair, and an insatiable thirst for Gatorade. I left with only an insatiable thirst for Gatorade. It was a cool experience and a good stop.

After that, we could not be more wiped if we were cafeteria counters. Patrick summoned the superhuman endurance to drive us to Las Cruces where we bedded. We stopped at McDonalds on the way and I ate a pb&j and the whole dirty affair took like five minutes. We limped into the hotel around one, and woke up the next morning at six, so we were still quite pooped. Patrick, again, conjured up some inner Gronk and drove us until mid-afternoon. That man fights slumber with a grudge on his shoulder.

The whole ride back everyone was pretty quiet, but no one was in a bad mood. I think we were mostly contemplative, and tired, yes. When we talked it was good and funny, but the whole experience was so quick, overwhelming, physically demanding, and unique that we needed a good eight hour drive to let it dribble down through brains.

Patrick dropped us off at my house where we said our goodbyes. Luke said bye to Pat, and I think things between them went really well. Neither had met the other before the trip, but they are each one of my closest friends and I knew they would get along. Aaron too, meshed well with other guys. Everyone, I hope and think, had a splendid time. I laughed so hard I literally bust my gut and died.

BEST SPRING BREAK EVER

GC4SB Explained

SXSW (South by Southwest) for Idiots

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not an expert on South by Southwest. In fact, I am not going to lie to you, I probably know less about it than the average Austinite. Heck, let’s just go the whole way: I know less about SXSW than the average American.

What is South by Southwest?

Jk, I know a little about it.

So, at the risk of telling you something that is not true, I will stick to telling you things that I know are true. In order to tell you things that I know to be true, I will tell you about the parts of South by Southwest that apply to me.

First, South by Southwest takes place on the side of river I like to run along.

Second, people with bluetooth headsets invade downtown Austin and South Congress.

Third, SXSW attracts business people because start-ups come there to pitch their ideas. I know that Twitter got started here, and probably some other ones too, but remember: I am only telling you what I know, so if that means offering you very little information than so be it.

Fourth, bands play free shows! I may or may not have tickets to a Mumford and Sons, Edwarde Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show concert at Austin High School on Saturday. The tickets are allotted randomley, so I will not know till next week if I get them or not.

Fifth, food blogs blow up about Austin food! My surrogate city finally gets some nationwide love, and I increase my list of places where I have to eat. (This may be my favorite part of SXSW).

Sixth, it means it’s Spring Break! And Spring Break means no school! And post-SB means less than seven weeks of school!

Seventh, tickets for SXSW are like more than $1,000 or something crazy, but most kids my age work for free for companies and get special passes to see shows.

Also, comedians perform. I do not know how that ties into the business innovation theme. Comic relief?

Finally, real Austinites call it Southby. And even if you’re not planning on going to ANY OF THE EVENTS AT ALL, tell anyone who asks that “you might stick around for some Southby shows.”

Oh, I remembered there are movie screenings too! A lot of my friends’ movies were rejected….  Awk.

SXSW (South by Southwest) for Idiots

In a Norman Funk

I sat down to download “The Last Metro,” a movie that I have to watch for my “France in World War II” class, and I thought that while it loaded I would blog.

Then, I realized there is not much on mind that would be interesting to anyone. The reason I say that is because there is not much on my mind. Not to say that I am not in the midst of some game-changing life events, but because besides those anomalous events, I have been reduced to a Normandy Scholar without much to say.

I will cover the game-changing events briefly, so you get some perspective into my mind-set. First and foremost, I have to change YoungLife schools. There was a fiasco at Travis High School that altered the future of YoungLife there, and I am just one casualty of it. I chose to move to another school instead of quitting YoungLife altogether, but switching schools is harder than changing, in my opinion.

At the crux of it all, YoungLife helps kids grow their faith through our relationships with the students. The relationships are the most valuable thing in YoungLife, and now that I have to move, I am losing them. I am sad, very sad, but it is out of my hands. Abandoning the kids that I promised I would watch graduate sickens me. Kids at Travis need stability before all else, and here I am, just one more transient figure in their life. I promised them myself, and I could not even give them that.

Still, the fiasco at the school was in no way my fault, but the miasma that hangs over the school makes me question whether I would be effective at all if I continued there. So, I am leaving Travis and moving to another school. I do not know which one yet, but it will most likely still be East Austin, that is to say urban. I will happily inform you about future events.

The second game-changer in this last week was much more positive. I accepted a job offer at the Laity Lodge Youth Camp this summer as a cook, where I will work with five other cooks for five weeks to feed the campers and staff. I will work at the same time as my friends Sean Flack and Luke Harle, and that alone is exciting. I am also looking foward to testing the waters of cooking in a semi-professional manner. Lately I have been considering chefdom more, and the fact that I was offered a job–not as a counselor at the camp–but as a cook, encourages my desire. Plus, I will not be simply cleaning dishes or cutting vegetables, because a seperate crew takes care of that. My job is to work with the few other cooks to actually prepare three meals a day. A perk of the job is that I will have more free time than I would as a counselor, so I will be able to help with skits, practice banjo and write, hang out with my friends, interact with campers, and get paid for all of it.

The final game-changer, and something that is more indicative of my average life, is that school last week was a burner. Perhaps it was the hardest week of school I’ve had, at least in recent memory. I loved it though, and now it is over; but, between the sleep-depravity, the high of receiving a cooking job, and the low of losing Travis YoungLife I was tossed through an emotional ocean.

All of which brings me back to my first point: I do not have much to say anymore. Normandy has ground me to dust, despite the fact that I have managed time well. There is no way to avoid the work-load: there is no amount of time-management expertise that can deflect the hours I need to commit that I do not have. It has made me question my choice, because I feel that I am doing much less than I was doing last semester.

I changed a lot last semester, mostly because I had time to think and grow. I broke my jaw, and that evolved me as a person. I converted to Catholicism, and that certainly changed me outside and in. I solidified life-long friends in the process, and I cultivated my interests as a person. Last year at this time I had much more free-time to grow, whereas this year free-time is rare.

When I signed up for Normandy I knew it would limit what I could do during the semester, but I did not anticipate how much I would like being limited. I walked through West Campus this weekend thinking about how I spend my time. I am constantly at the library because there is no panacea to cure me of my assigned reading. My mood has darkened as I am bombarded by anecdotes, memoirs, pictures, and documents that tell stories about death, death, death. The morbid theme bludgeons me every day as I read about it, watch movies about it, takes notes about it, and have nightmares about it. Audrey warned me that Normandy is depressing but I thought it was because (sorry for being sexist) she was a girl. Girls are more emotionally acute(typically) than guys, and so they are more effected by things like this. I have found that it has affected me harshly too, and we are not even to the darkest parts.

I am a Normandy Scholar and not much else it seems. I am involved with Bible Studies and Environmental Awareness groups, and a few other activities, but my free time has been sacrificed. I like choosing to limit myself, but I have found that I do not like being unable to lift that limit. I enjoy placing austere Lenten limitations on myself, because it is a short period and it is voluntary; but NSP is not a short period and I underestimated it. I do not regret it, and obviously the best is still to come (the Maymester). I was prideful in my abilities and have been humbled, and that is such a good lesson. I enjoy knowing that I am in the midst of what may be my hardest semester ever and I am doing quite well by all outward appearences. I just cannot shake the gloom this program has brought: the time-committment, the macabre lessons, and the constant languor.

What do I have to talk about? World War II? Not YoungLife. Not a new club I’m trying, a new experiment I am undertaking, and certainly not free time downtown I am embracing. I have war on my mind, and a war in my mind. I am an automaton of facts and literary references that few people care about, and my relationships with others have suffered. On top of everything I am going through, my roomates are in the midst of their own struggles. Herculean struggles, with much greater emotional tolls than my battle. Yet I have been unable to be there for them because I have been all-consumed within myself. This semester has been hard for all of us–in fact Michael and I have discovered that we will probably look back on this year as the most depressing for us as a group. But it has been a pleasure to spend it with such fine people, and it pleases me daily to be tested as much as I am.

In a Norman Funk