Sunday, June 28, 2009

twinkie, deconstructed

And here it is, book number one of the summer reading blitz under my belt. Twinkie, Deconstructed is an interesting book that sometimes reads like a PR spot for processed food manufacturers.

Who am I kidding? It is pure propaganda, plain and simple. Each and every industry Ettlinger gets a nod to greatness from the author, all because of the simple question his kids posed about ingredients on a Twinkie label. Brilliant in in its concept, fell short in execution.

In the end, he does make some good points about why manufacturers have moved away from natural ingredients in supermarket-ready foods. All in all, I think books like this will certainly drive me more towards organic grub and being a locavore, so as to avoid all these additives and processing that are in the seemingly innocuous Twinkie.

Honestly, I can't recall the last time I ate a Twinkie, but I know for sure now after reading this book, it ain't just Twinkies that get the scientific treatment by food scientists. I could go home right now and find all sorts of additives and preservatives and replacements for "natural" ingredients. Sure, they're "generally regarded as safe" by the FDA, but the acids and chemicals used to produce them are anything but.

To be perfectly honest, that kind of scares me.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

what a week

Writing has trickled lately, huh? Cardboard haunted me for a good while before, during, and still after my simultaneous moves. I hate moving. Thankfully, next time around, it ought to be for a good long while. After that, it might pay to get movers to go from house to house whenever I get old.

Hmm. Something big to write about? My photos will be gracing the walls of our new apartment. I can't wait to get out and shoot some new stuff when my summer finally begins in stride. I'm not real sure when that will be. This picture of mine won a contest in one of the photo groups I've joined to challenge my creative eye. I've entered a few more shots for this month's contests. Post processing of photos is something new I'm trying. It fights with my purist spirit, but I'd rather take an average photo and turn it into something great than toss it and have wasted an opportunity. Shots like that one that are nearly perfect are hard to come by. I know Ansel Adams played with exposure in the darkroom when he developed his prints; digitally, this is my darkroom so to speak.

That's all. I'll try to be more exciting soon. Sorry, readers.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

dad's day

We really should realize this every day, but we often don't. We take our dads for granted, and reading Postsecret this afternoon makes me realize how lucky I am to have a dad like mine.

One that's a part of my life. One with far more character than flaws. One that has guided me through times of difficulty. One that has been there in times of joy. My dad is a man of few words, speaking more like a Hemingway than a fillibustering Senator. He's full of one-liners in my memory, the strong, silent type like Eastwood.

There wasn't a whole lot of cause for him to worry when I was a kid or teenager. Sure I got dirty and caused more mischief with my friends than I should've, but I stayed on the straight and narrow. I'd guess I got more solicited advice about women from my dad than on any other subject. On that timeless debate among men, Pop's advice is usually on point, though I sometimes don't want to hear it. In hindsight, I realize the wisdom in his words. It took a few years to straighten myself out and realize I didn't know it all.

In describing my father, I see myself. He is the man I've become. Though we are wildly different in some ways, our similarities abound. I am my father's son in so many ways now. I'm certain there are many more to come in the next few years.

Learn something. Take care. Love you too, Pop. Happy Father's Day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

one helluva guy

Have you ever met someone so selfless, so giving that he or she would give free rein of their house for the weekend at a moment's notice? Friends like that are hard to come by in this increasingly fragmented world we live in. Everyone who was blessed to have crossed paths with Chris Hale would agree, "He's one helluva guy."

Chris moved to Chattanooga before the rest of my climbing buds from Gainesville. His tiny apartment was often covered with fifteen or twenty crashpads and the accompanying dirtbags sprawled on the floor. Not just for one weekend once a year; almost every weekend when the weather was right during climbing season. He didn't seem to care; good times with friends and good times climbing. Working just enough to climb. He lived the life.

Before I knew him, I never would've considered calling him on Thursday or Friday to say I was climbing for the weekend and asking to stay. Every one did it, but it was because he loved being around other climbers, even if not at the crag. One time, I was passing through Chatty, planning on staying with some other friends, but I'd called Chris to see if he wanted to climb while I was in town. We got in a few hours at Little Rock City, and I still hadn't heard from my other friends. He offered his place without a moment's hesitation. Stories like this were left in his wake when he left Chattanooga to follow the climbing seasons around the country.

We lost a great friend this week. I hope we can honor him with his spirit and love of life every time we pull hard on sandstone, granite, or limestone outdoors. He will be sorely missed.

Friday, June 12, 2009

one thing

One thing that's always lacked from my teaching career has been a sense of consistency. I came into my first school in the middle of the year and struggled with my first class. Thirty-three weeks later, I said goodbye to them still asking questions about Mrs. Browning, the teacher I replaced at retirement. Normally, in teaching second grade, you get to see the students pass through the grades before going on to middle school. Not so in that school. Second grade was as high as they went, so off they went "up the hill" to the other elementary school that dealt with the third through fifth grades. It was kind of strange to see second graders get senioritis as they puffed up at the responsibility of being the oldest students in the school.

Four years later, change needed, though feeling some sense of consistency. I knew many of the students at the school, kindergarten on up. Many of the parents knew my face and vice versa. Working with siblings of former students makes things easier at the beginning of the year without a doubt.

Here, I won't get that chance. At a larger school grade-wise, it's even harder to feel that sense of consistency. You get to know the outspoken students in other grades, the ones your colleagues are always talking about, but you don't know them from Adam. In any case, I lost the chance to know two classes of students by looping this year. To top it off, I'm off to a new school next year.

I sure hope that I can get some roots at the next stop on my teaching journey. If I don't, I think I may have to get out of this teaching game. It's too hard to adjust to a new place this often.

cleaning house

It ain't that exciting, but it must be done. Now begins the arduous task of cleaning house and merging two into one. It is amazing how little I brought with me when I moved. Some of that little would be best suited for storing in the attic for no good reason and forgetting about. With my nomadic nature, I can't be toting things to new abodes without using them. Books and folders and notes from college are probably getting the permanent boot this time. I reckon what I want to keep is on my hard drive anyhow. The comments of long lost instructors and professors haven't really helped me since college, and I doubt that it'll change in the near future.

Currently, I have four bags of clothes and such that are going to wind up at Goodwill. I believe what's left of my mismatched dishes and plates and bowls will join that stack.

This will be the last stop in my itchy feet twenties. Lord willing and the creek don't rise, the following roof will be one with a proper mortgage that will allow me to resume my pack rat ways and acquire gobs of outdoor sports toys like a kayak and a mountain bike.

To top it all off, I need to pack up my classroom better than usual so that the county can move all my materials to my new school. Gathering boxes is hard enough; try doing it for two simultaneous moves. This month is going to be rough. At least I've got kickball and climbing and bicycling to keep me sane.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

a long, wet spring

"Stupid rain."

Josh's text wakes me up a little too early, and I get a little too anxious. I look out my window, see early rays of sunshine peeking through the trees, and think him to be crazy. Presumably, it rained Saturday night. I was fast asleep. My balcony was indeed wet. After much deliberation, we decided to go anyway. We soon found out that the boulders and flora were wet at our destination too.

Oh, well. New crag, new car smell, exploration feeling. Rocky Gorge Reservoir is in Montgomery County, Maryland. It's a bit past our least favorite local crag/crack den Northwest Branch. From what we can tell, it seems like it may be our new favorite local home. From descriptions online, we were able to locate 4 or 5 boulders. What the crag lacks in quantity, it makes up for in normal boulder quality. Nothing exceptional, but enough to get a fix for the morning when Coopers is too far away, and a week-long trip to the Southeast is out of the question.

We'll be back.