Tuesday, November 27, 2007

book learnin' about ecology

in my short (and failed) quest to read more before cable started to rot my brain (too late), i had checked out 3 books from the library, two i'd heard of and one i had not. the former ones, river of grass by marjorie stoneman douglas and their eyes were watching god by zora neale hurston, gathered dust and i only got a chapter or two into each of them. river of grass was a recap of all that i knew of the everglades. a great book for me to read had i never experienced the majesty of the swamp, or one to collect dust on my bookshelf for pretentious purposes. hurston's tale was described as a seminal work of african-american fiction. a great novel. i barely made a dent in it before lee sent a walk in the woods by bill bryson. no classic american literature, but a great, fast read nonetheless.

having renewed all three books, and returning two unread, i felt obligated to at least crack open the latter of the three: janisse ray's ecology of a cracker childhood. boy, am i glad i did! much like one of my favorites a land remembered, it details a natural history of georgia's longleaf pine forests. juxtaposed next to her poor upbringing in rural baxley, it certainly is an interesting read. the descriptions of the pine lowlands in southern georgia and how mankind has raped and pillaged them were vivid and disheartening. the book ends with this call to arms:

We Southerners area people fighting again for our country, defending the last remaining stands of real forest. Although we love to frolic, the time has come to fight. We must fight.
In new rebellion we stand together, black and white, urbanite and farmer, workers all, in keeping Dixie. We are a patient people who for generations have not been ousted from this land, and we are willing to fight for the birthright of our children's children and their children's children, to be of a place, in all ways, for all time. What is left is not enough. When we say the South will rise again we can mean that we will allow the cutover forests to return to their former grandeur and pine plantations to grow wild.
The whippoorwill is calling from the edge.

if you call yourself a naturalist, conservationist, ecologist, environmentalist, Southerner, woodsman, forester, READ THIS BOOK.

Monday, November 26, 2007

the issues

election season's heating up. less than a year until we'll have elected a new president. far be it from me as someone who doesn't really pay attention to the primaries to criticize any candidates. perhaps this is why.

there was an article in the washington post today with excerpts from the recent democratic debate in las vegas. (in case you're curious.) i know this wasn't the only issue brought up, but why is money and class such a huge issue for the campaign? they were debating who was rich and who was merely middle class. excuse me? i can see how that factors in to debates on taxes, but is that really a pressing issue right now?!

i seem to recall there's a war on, and i haven't read a single article or heard a single candidate mention anything whatsoever about education, except perhaps where they went to college in their online bios.

why can't there just be a candidate i want to vote for instead of choosing the lesser of two (or 10) evils?

Friday, November 23, 2007


this year, i am thankful for...

the courage to make a new start.
family and friends to help make the change, despite having no job and no home.
the continued blessing of family and friends as i adjust to the change.
new friends.
old friends.

tabula rasa.i've been saying it since i left. it took a while for the blank slate to actually exist. letting go of the last 10 years was hard to do, especially leaving the grgers.

this took on a new meaning as well. in the last 3 years or so, gainesville finally became home. i belonged. i never had that sense of home in so.fla. yes, my parents are there, but i never had that bond with my surroundings as i did in the 'ville. i am thankful for that sense of home that i was blessed with for that most recent home, but i also know that it was indeed time to move on.

...and i am immensely thankful that i chose to do so.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


going to the grocery store on the sunday before thanksgiving is positively insane! everyone in their sunday best after church, cart bumper to bumper traffic. young folks like me, young couples celebrating their first or second thanksgiving at their house, older couples guiding their children through the store. ordinarily, i try to avoid such insanity. oddly, i didn't mind the craziness at all.

thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays for one simple reason: it's incorrubtible. commercialism cannot corrupt this holiday. the true meaning can be lost, but rarely is that the case for those who celebrate it. for me, it's about thankfulness and togetherness. no matter what disruptive events of my life lead up to the holiday, i always make sure that i step back and smile about that which is good in my life. a big meal is one thing; being thankful for all else in our lives is another. i know i lead a blessed life. trials come and go, but much causes smiles.

this is the first year that i've not been in florida for thanksgiving. i'm excited for my parents to see the new life i'm carving out. i hope i don't screw up the turkey!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

the giving tree

since the leaves began changing, this tree has been assaulting my senses with its fiery red splendor on my way out of school every day. this picture does not do it justice by a long shot. enjoy!

Friday, November 16, 2007

is chivalry dead?

since relocating from the north of florida (read: the south) to the north of virginia (read: the north), i'm noticing a distinct difference in people. people in my neck of the woods, so to speak, tend to be friendlier than your average hustle-and-bustle northern city. at least the ones i've visited before, i.e. chicago, miami (yes, i know it's down south and warm, but it ain't southern by a long stretch!). strangers will smile at you on the street if you make eye contact and initiate. busy businessmen and women will thank you if you hold open a door for them. politeness is not absent up here, which is really nice. it has made an adjustment to city life that much more bearable.

today at work, speaking with the guidance counselor, i was venting about one of my kids. he'd hit a girl. in the face. repeatedly. generally, i like this kid. he's bright and pretty interesting. i had to restrain myself from blowing up at him for this "incident." ordinarily, back in the countrified world of alachu-ay, i'd have gotten real close and said in no uncertain terms, "gentlemen don't hit ladies. ever. i don't care if she hits you first, you don't do it. period." that made the point, and i never had to repeat it to him.

that argument fell on deaf ears today. he looked at me, "but it's not fair!" i continued with, "ladies first. get used to it. yeah, it's not fair, but as a guy, you get used to it. that's the way of the world."

same response, "but it's not fair!"

the guidance counselor's assessment, "there aren't too many guys like you left, mr. j." that of course got me thinking, is chivalry dead? have men really regressed so far from being polite and good to women that such concepts are going to die out with the generation of kids in my classroom? have "equal rights" or feminism or independent female pride eroded what was left of what i consider to be a decent way to act? why is it that i need to worry about teaching such things to my students?

the fact that i have to teach such things to some (not all) students explicitly is very telling. i'm sure that the majority of my kids' fathers embody the very spirit of chivalry, though few probably explain it as such. i know the fathers certainly will expect it of any boy their daughters date in the future, but who's really teaching it? there's been at least a few kids each year that have gotten my don't-hit-a-woman speech. (is it only male teachers that get on that high horse, or is it just a southern thing?) each year, i need to teach the basic manners of don't eat until everyone's been served. i'm going to bounce this idea off two markedly different groups of people this weekend and see what they think.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

one of those days

i don't know if it's the rainy weather that's sapping my motivation at the j-o-b. this week, i've figured out that i can be entirely productive for the course of the day and get it all done before i leave in the afternoon. perhaps it was a lack of meetings earlier this week. perhaps it was sunshine. perhaps it was a bit more sleep. i guess i'm struggling this week from a few too many midnight bedtimes and too much tossing and turning.

today will not be one of those days where it all gets done. i'd really like to figure out what the trigger is to raise my productivity. i know distracting myself with such things as writing is not helping the cause. HELP!!! ideas?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


woke up yesterday morning, and got the dreaded d.c. news. overturned semi on my way to work. back ups from the exit i take off 395 to the district. that'd be roughly 15 miles. guess that's what happens when 6 lanes need to become one.

so, i had to improvise. back roads around here are harder to come by and traffic lights are harder to predict. traffic patterns are fickle at best. what's clear one day is snarled the next for no discernible reason. leaving 5 minutes earlier or later can cause smooth sailing or tension headaches. yesterday took about 15 minutes more than usual because it included the beltway. today, i got a late start and it took me 5 minutes less because 395 was practically empty. i can't quite wrap my head around it.

one thing's for sure, there's far more roads than the two-lanes i got used to zipping down in the 'ville. far more cars, too, but that's immaterial for the most part. what still takes the most adjustment for me is flat-out not knowing how to get somewhere without a map. but i've mused on that recently, so i'm gonna hit the sack. stay well!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans' Day

in honor of Veterans' Day, we've been reading a lot of books, doing a lot of activities, talking a lot about veterans' sacrifices for us to live the lives we lead. i slacked yesterday. i should've been outside, enjoying the beautiful fall weather that our deployed friends and neighbors, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters (well, not for me, but some of you) cannot enjoy in iraq, afghanistan, or other military posts around the globe. i should've gone to arlington nat'l cemetery to pay my respects to our lost loved ones and those we never knew. (i went today instead. somber, chilly fall day.)

last week, as with every year, i read the wall by eve bunting to my class. for those of you that don't know, it's about a boy who visits the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial with his father. they look for his grandfather's name. maybe it's because the memorial still gives me chills everytime i see it. maybe it's bunting's phenomenal writing, or the somber illustrations. whatever it is, i can never get through the entire book without getting choked up. i read the book, and my voice gets softer and softer so it doesn't crack as the tears well up in my eyes. maybe those of you with more of a connection to that memorial, a lost loved one or friends can explain it to me.

call a friend. call a loved one. thank them for their sacrifice. the more i learn about what they've been through, the more blessed i feel that millions of brave men and women who don't know me do what they do for me.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

quid ad aeternum?

found this latin expression in one of the bazillion manuals from orientation stuff i've been through for fairfax county.

quid ad aeternum? what does this mean in the eyes of eternity?

oddly enough, i found this today, as i was getting a little touch of agita at verizon for wasting my entire day instead of just the morning. they called, they bailed, then recommitted, then showed up. go figure. quid ad aeternum?

not a damn thing. when all is said and done, one more settling in bit of nonsense will be over with. now if i can just manage to get my emissions inspection, new tags, and a driver's license, i'll be set.

yeah, about that...


woke up this morning, looked out my window. SNOW!

not really, in my delirium and my watery, waking up eyes, i thought i saw a dusting on one of the cars in the parking lot. by the time i got my camera out and ran out to my balcony, the mirage was gone. maybe my mind just wanted to see snow...

in any event, this is the view i've been waking up to. today, the skies are a little grayer, but the leaves are just as colorful.

Friday, November 9, 2007

autumnal bliss

gray dreary skies. bright cheerful leaves. sure takes the edge off of a drive to work! guess which one i paid more attention to...

i need to get some pictures to share with y'all. this cold keeps up, the leaves are going to be on the ground before too long.

directionally challenged

i haven't been lost for over a month. thank you, thank you. as doc always said when we were out in the everglades, "you're never lost unless you care where you are." the biggest challenge with adjusting to non-gainesville is that i can't just find places by knowing the street address. i'm getting better, but in this google map world, people who can do that are becoming rarer.

the worst part about trying to avoid mapping everywhere (i may as well get a gps if i want to do that!) is that giving directions is becoming somewhat of a lost art. people around here seem to not know the names of roads as they give you directions, or it's a local thing. you've got to know the "trick." ask for directions at a gas station this day, and you're more likely to get a look taht says, "why do you have two heads?" than one that includes clear directions. further, you not only need to know how to get somewhere, but also how to get back. more often than not, i'm taking a different route each way. i'll blame it on signage, but i'm pretty sure that it's often not possible to use the same path. last weekend, i took 4 different ways to and from BWI to get clowe and drop him off at the airport. i never figured out how to get back to bubba's house from arlington when i was interviewing in august. i am getting better with navigating the district, but i still can't keep straight the lettered streets. i know named ones will just give you a headache trying to figure out where they go.

winter is going to be awfully disorienting. i see the sun now when i leave for work, but it's pretty dark when i'm headed home. good thing i know my way pretty well. lord help me if i need to make a stop along the way!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

almost done

aunt barb gave me a table that had been passed around by my cousins. i'm the fourth one to use it. as i loaded it in my truck a month ago, both dom and angela said i couldn't bring it back. i think i'll keep it. it was oak on the bottom, ugly faux-wood formica on top.

yes, the paintjob is my doing. (ok, that's not entirely accurate. so thank you, msz. picasso.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

movies, round 2

"Budster, there's a half-naked woman in your bedroom feeding pizza to some fish and she's all yours." (guaranteed unless you had HBO in the mid-90s, you have not seen this movie!)

"Welcome to Hollywood! What's your dream? Everybody comes here; this is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don't; but keep on dreamin' - this is Hollywood. Always time to dream, so keep on dreamin'." (women, I'll be utterly dumbfounded if'n you don't know this one. men, i'll be dumbfounded if you do).

"Everything. OK! I'll talk! In third grade, I cheated on my history exam. In fourth grade, I stole my uncle Max's toupee and I glued it on my face when I was Moses in my Hebrew School play. In fifth grade, I knocked my sister Edie down the stairs and I blamed it on the dog... When my mom sent me to the summer camp for fat kids and then they served lunch I got nuts and I pigged out and they kicked me out... But the worst thing I ever done - I mixed a pot of fake puke at home and then I went to this movie theater, hid the puke in my jacket, climbed up to the balcony and then, t-t-then, I made a noise like this: hua-hua-hua-huaaaaaaa - and then I dumped it over the side, all over the people in the audience. And then, this was horrible, all the people started getting sick and throwing up all over each other. I never felt so bad in my entire life. "

"The man from the moon. But I think you've killed him already." (if you don't know this one, do not pass go, do not collect $200, and for God's sake, get out from under that rock of yours and see an 80s classic!)

fortune cookie

"you have an unusually magnetic personality."

i think i should play the lucky numbers on the back of this one!

Monday, November 5, 2007

train wreck

oh, how it made me laugh! no, it wasn't a real train wreck. clowe and i were witness to what was definitely a first date, possibly also a blind date or a match.com disaster. we were eating at a restaurant in chinatown yesterday. the place was pretty much empty. behind us there was a chinese couple, getting along very well. smack in front of us was a train wreck. some tips i gleaned from eavesdropping (yes, i know i should've minded my own business, but he was rather loud and hard to ignore. like bond week on TBS during finals week).
  1. stop and breathe. when you talk too much, you're not listening at all. at that point, the other person on the date loses interest because you're only interested in talking about yourself. this guy barely paused to let his date talk, and immediately jumped in as soon as she finished speaking. isn't the point of a date to decide if you like this person sitting across from you? wouldn't letting her speak often show your interest more than yammering about every job you've ever had, and stuttering when you finally do ask her a question about what she does?
  2. pay attention. if your date tells you she's a vegetarian after you've ordered, don't launch into a story about how you and your buddies used to go to golden corral to study in college. (for the uninitiated, golden corral is to steakhouses what ramen noodles are to asian cuisine). it's been my experience that this tends to turn most vegetarians off. they're ok with meat-eaters, just so long as they don't have to hear all about it.
  3. manners. elbows off the table, napkin in your lap. basics, right? let's take it one step further. if/when your food comes out first, DO NOT begin eating before your date's arrives. i teach this to my second graders, how did a military officer miss that bit of etiquette from his mama in west texas or elsewhere?
  4. restraint. just as you wouldn't get rip-roaring drunk on a first date (or any for that matter), don't gorge yourself with food either. i know i've been guilty of this one before, but i'm learning. however, when a heaping plate of food comes out, i've never loudly proclaimed, "wow! that's a lot of food...and i'm going to eat every last bit of it!" (remember, that date's food had not yet come out). a wing-eating contest might be attractive to some, but gluttony is not one of the seven deadly sins that i generally look for in a mate! save some for later, take it to go (usually poor form), and give it to the first hungry person that asks for it. that should score some brownie points. worked on me...

i don't mean this to be an exhaustive list by any means. just humorous. lord knows i'm not any sort of dating guru! as pop told me recently, you don't ever really want to get "good" at dating. the ultimate goal is to stop dating, right?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

soul food

oh, how i've missed you! i should've been an addict at mom's kitchen (no, not from the rocks being sold on the street corner outside). their fried chicken and greens (of the collard variety) were always pretty amazing. always out of sweet tea and lemonade that'll rot your teeth instantly.


clowe and i just returned from flavors in falls church. for about $10, i got more food than i could handle at one sitting. mac & cheese that i could eat by the pound, great greens, and pretty much two entire fish. and cornbread.

oh, sweet tea, how i've missed you!

i'll reserve my final judgment until i have their pork chops and fried chicken. yes, that means i'm going back at least two more times. who's with me?

Friday, November 2, 2007

i. love. music.

last night, i treated myself to a long-awaited night of live music in the district. the venerable black cat club in northwest. a run-down of the acts.

the headliner. for a reason. his set was awesome. gravelly voice, great songs. less indie, more springstein. straight up rock set. unfortunately, we had to leave before his set was over. cabbie strike in the district left us with little choice but to make sure that we made the last metro train from u street/african-american civil war memorial/cardozo (affectionately, longest metro stop name EVER). i hope i can catch his act again sometime.

bobby bare, jr.

odd. that's the best i can say. odd. phish meets nickelback on an acid trip. a rockin' jam band. their songs were all over the place. first few songs were somewhat demonic-looking. maybe because he had all the red lights on stage and devil horns on his head. i guess it was halloween and all. "the heart bionic" was one of the first songs, as catchy and odd as it sounds. it's on his myspace page. downhill from there. maybe i'll try catching him again sometime, only if i want to see the other acts performing.

whiskey & co.
opening up, i got to see my favorite gainesville band i'd yet to see. for over a year now, i've been jamming to their cd that i procured from the library. completely being against my principles for local, independent music, i've been trying to see them pretty much for that entire time span. it was worth the wait. they're as good live as they were on cd. vocals were spot on. if you've never heard them, their songs of misspent years in gainesville usually make me chuckle. i did indeed purchase their latest disc, haven't gotten to listen yet because my truck is sitting in a garage (getting a new battery, nothing major). i'm super stoked. i had to leave gainesville to finally catch their act and get their cd, all proper like. go figure.

great music + great company = great evening.