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Back to the Forest

We had an interesting weekend: nearly eight months after our move to Richmond, Kelly made her first return trip to Woodberry. (I had made a brief visit in early September to finish up a bit of business.) The main reason for our trip was to see a Black Box production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile, one which featured our cousin, but we also wanted to see a few familiar faces and places. (I also wanted to be able to tell everyone about Kelly's recent promotion/raise, but she's probably too modest to mention that.)

Not all the places were all that familiar. For example, the new math building was finally open. Having watched it go up during the 2014-15 era (and having watched its predecessor, the Gray Science/Math Building, go down in destruction before that) it was nice to get to see it being used by the students at last. 

Classrooms, offices, and a shiny new lecture hall lie behind those columns, as does this decidedly more-Mad-Men-style-than-classical-architecture lobby. (Note also the mathematical relationship between the various wall panels and the window panes:

DSC02946.JPGThe building's main purpose, however, is in its basement, where the new Terry Dining Hall lies. We took two meals there, a relaxed Saturday night dinner of steak and mashed potatoes, plus plentiful choices in the salad bar area and even a permanent panini station. The layout is new, but the carpet remains just as, um, busy as that of the old Reynolds family dining hall, wherein I and my family consumed several thousand meals in our twenty-year tenure. 

DSC02944.JPGOne nice feature is the view. The building overlooks the Rapidan River valley, and from the third-floor lounge, one can look across to the hill where Grelen Farm lies. The first four years of our lives at WFS were spent living in the farm manager's house at Grelen--WFS rented the place for us--and though the current owners have made the property largely inaccessible today, it's nice to get even a glimpse of the big house there.

DSC02947.JPGThe lounge also features this painting, a rather startlingly colorful depiction of the Residence, the old yellow farmhouse that once housed the whole school and now houses the Headmaster and his family. In the eerie light of the canvas, the shadows look rather like tentacles, the window over the porch looks ominously like a singular eye, and the whole scene is filled with portent. Frankly, it's a bit more Lovecraftian than the typical landscape painter's take on the place. That makes it much more interesting, albeit much more unsettling.

Our hosts were our pals and former next-door neighbors Greg and Shari Jacobs, who let us play with their dogs, eat their macaroni and cheese, and watch the Super Bowl on their big-screen TV. For Greg and me, it was a chance to get back to the many hours we've spent yelling at football players who can't hear us, but for the rest of the crew, it was more of a chance to watch us, and to enjoy the various anthems and entertainments presdented when the game wasn't being played. (I won't go into detail on that, except to say that I wish people were half as upset about Flint, Michigan's drinking water as they appear to be about the black berets worn by Beyonce's backup dancers.) All in all, Kelly and I had a lovely time, even if her commitment to the gridiron action is best expressed by the hoodie she's wearing in this pic with Greg:

DSC02955.JPG(For those having trouble reading the fine print: "GO SPORTS! I'M SUPER WORKED-UP BECAUSE MY TEAM DID STUFF! MOVE THE THING TO THE OTHER THING!")

Thanks for having us, WoFo. See you again soon.

5:07 PM

Winter, Discontent, etc.

It's been a busy few weeks. 

First, Kelly celebrated the first anniversary at her new job by accepting a promotion to Acting Assistant Branch Manager, with a shot at taking the position permanently. (Getting her second raise of the year in the process was not an unwelcome development.) Basically, when her regional manager describes her as a "rock star" at work, the label seems pretty accurate.

I went through the time-consuming but necessary process of tallying grades and writing comments for all my students. This is in no way a new experience, but I do have to say Seven Hills makes the process easier in at least one way: instead of having all comments due on the same day, the deadlines are spread out: grades for Bridge (our version of 5th grade) and 8th grade students are due on Friday; 6th graders' are due on the following Monday, and those for the 7th grade come due on Wednesday. This gives both the teachers writing them and the administrators reading over them a much more reasonable opportunity to finish the comments in a timely manner.

My sixth-grade US History students have, for some reason, developed a fascination with the saga of the Malheur NWR occupiers, greeting me at the start of every class with, "What's up with Vanilla ISIS?" Part of this, I recognize, is the universal desire among students to talk about anything other than the actual lesson. At the same time, they seem genuinely interested in some of the issues being raised, possibly because we're after all studying the American Revolution, and ideas about what the government can and cannot do are kind of important in our discussions. Mostly, though, they're happy to learn more terms for disparaging the Bundy gang. "Vanilla ISIS" is far and away their favorite, but a few enjoyed "Wal-Martyr" as well. A recent reference to one of the remaining four occupiers as "Gunhaver" provoked some puzzlement, at least until I showed them the relevant video of the Cheat Commandos from Now they're walking around campus singing "BUY ALL OUR PLAYSETS AND TOYS!" so I can feel that my attempts at making them culturally informed are being successful

They're also starting to spout off occasional opinions about the presidential election, which, given the fact that most of them are 11 or 12 years old, don't have the benefit of broad experience or deep historical foundation. Still, given our nation's current level of political discourse, they're probably about as well-qualified to analyze the candidates' behavior as anyone. I myself have settled comfortably into a position where I don't feel the slightest concern about deciding who to vote for, which is frankly a little surprising.

My various political posts over the years have probably left little doubt that I am a firmly left-of-center kind of guy, and in an election where there are multiple left-of-center candidate, you'd probably think that I'd be thoroughly worked up about which one is deserving of my support. But in fact, the opposite has occurred, primarily because of the horrorshow that the modern Republican party has become.

Even if you ignore the damage done to our nation by the last Republican administration--and that's one hell of a thing to ignore--it's just about impossible to look at the seemingly dozens of GOP candidates without seeing them as a mob of unfocused reactionaries, raging against anything remotely outside their comfort zone. If you support the idea that maybe American Muslims are, y'know, Americans, with the same freedom of religion that belongs to Christians, you've got no place in the party; if you think perhaps police officers shouldn't be so quick to shoot unarmed black people, or god forbid openly claim that those people's lives actually matter, you've got no place in the party; and if you're of the opinion that providing preventive health care for millions of Americans might not be the greatest crime against our nation since slavery, you've got no place in the party (except maybe at one of Mitt Romney's parties.)

Consider, for example, that the three leading GOP candidates in this post-Iowa/pre-New Hampshire moment have all explicitly condemned the Supreme Court's decision on marriage equality. Donald Trump has complained that it should have been left to the states. Ted Cruz has proposed that Congress strip federal courts of jurisdiction over the issue, a plan that does at least have a certain creativity about it, whatever Antonin Scalia ends up saying when the dispute inevitably comes before him. And Marco Rubio has claimed that he will fill the Supreme Court with justices who will reconsider the issue and "interpret the Constitution as originally constructed," which should concern anyone who wouldn't have been allowed to vote or own property in 1789.

In short, I may have disagreements with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, just as I have had them with Barack Obama, but those disagreements pale when I compare them to the disagreements I have with even the most moderate GOP candidate. And when I consider what a Republican president, backed by a Republican Congress, could do to our country, I'm ready to vote for anyone who'll keep the White House unoccupied by anyone with an (R) next to his/her name. I don't know if Sanders or Clinton could actually fix all the problems facing the US (particularly with a Republican Congress), but I do know that those problems would multiply like Zika-bearing mosquitoes once Congress approves President Rubio's Supreme Court nominations: Cliven Bundy and Sarah Palin.

In short, feel free to argue for either HRC or Bernie to your heart's content I don't care. Maybe aspirin won't fix my headache; maybe acetaminophen would do the job better. But given that the other party supports either shooting up opium, sprinkling powdered black rhino horn in my tea, or sawing through my own neck, this November I'm gonna go with a little white pill.

11:43 AM


How much snow have we gotten so far?

Thumbnail image for DSC02916.JPG
After adjusting your axes of measurement, that's just over the height of one large coffee cup from Crossroads. Call it 6+ inches on the Richmond scale.


Updates as warranted.

12:42 PM

Snow Day

I started my teaching career in Fayetteville, NC, where during my four years at Pine Forest Senior HS, there was only one measurable snowfall. If I recall correctly, we had a two-hour delay.

I then spent twenty years at Woodberry Forest School, where all the students and the vast majority of the teachers live on campus. Though there was one day (after a 29" snowfall) on which I was unable to drive to campus from the house across the river that WFS had rented for us, I either drove or walked to work every other time it snowed, and not one class was ever cancelled.

All of this is a shorthand way of pointing out that I am today, for the first time in my professional life, enjoying a real, honest-to-god Snow Day.


12:52 PM

Serious Moonlight

Had you asked me last week, "Are you a David Bowie fan?" I would have responded with some kind of dithering.

"Kind of."

"Sure. I guess."

"I like a lot of his stuff, but I'm not, y'know, a fan."

And those would have been accurate responses, in some ways. I've never owned a lot of Bowie albums. On vinyl, I think I had only Scary Monsters. When I went to CD, his catalogue wasn't available for a few years, and when Rykodisc finally released it in 1990, I managed to snag a promo copy of Changesonebowie, their remastered version of his first greatest hits collection (which featured a really stillborn remix of "Fame.") Over the years I've picked up a couple more--Heroes, Station to Station, the 2002 Best of Bowie collection--but I never dug into the back catalogue, despite knowing the name (and cover art) for everything he released from Hunky Dory through Never Let Me Down. And yes, I saw him live, at the Dean Dome, on the Sound + Vision tour that paralleled the Rykodisc releases, with Adrian Belew as the opener, but I still wouldn't have called myself a fan, exactly.

But for all that, Bowie kept turning up. My favorite musicians kept covering his songs--Rhett Miller doing "Queen Bitch" on The Interpreter, Peter Gabriel opening Scratch My Back with a triumphant orchestral take on "Heroes"--and of course he was famously collaborative with many artists I love dearly, most notably Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, not to mention Queen, with whom he recorded the soaring, spectacular single "Under Pressure."

Nor did Bowie himself ever quite disappear from my radar. In 2002, he recorded a version of a song I'd loved for years, the Pixies' "Cactus." And in 2004 there was Seu Jorge delivering a half-dozen acoustic covers in Portuguese for the soundtrack of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, such as this lovely "Life On Mars."

Intellectually, I knew all this, but I still didn't think of myself as a Bowie fan. Maybe I was distancing myself from official fandom out of some discomfort--Bowie was always aggressive in violating borders, including those around comfort zones. Perhaps this was a lingering adolescent fear of violating heteronormativity or something. Even when Poor Judgment, my own loosely-constructed and under-rehearsed faculty band at Woodberry Forest, decided to cover "Space Oddity," I didn't quite get why we worked so hard on the arrangement--harder than we'd worked on most of the songs we performed for the public, I'd argue--of a song by an artist I didn't consider all that important in my life.

But whatever the reason for my distance, I woke up Monday morning to learn he was dead--a complete shock, as it was to just about everyone, since he hadn't publicized his illness. And as I processed that shock, I began to realize that I was feeling a real sense of loss. 

That sense of loss increased as I saw people responding on Facebook and Twitter. Friends, acquaintances, total strangers were all reeling, sharing their memories, posting photos and artwork links and snatches of song. My own favorite artists--everyone from Robyn Hitchcock to Simon Pegg--were similarly struggling to come to grips with it. What we were to make of this strange new world where David Bowie didn't exist?

It was somewhere around that point where I began to realize that I wasn't a Bowie fan because you're not really a fan of things you take for granted. You choose to become a fan of something when you discover it and pick it up and hold it for your own. But Bowie was too big for that, too mobile, too variable. His influence was sometimes subtle, but it reached everywhere, drawing millions of people toward his songs, his passions, his experimentation. His identity kept changing, and just as you got used to one face, it was gone. You couldn't be fan of Bowie any more than you could be a fan of the moon.

But now we must imagine living in a world where the moon has set, forever. The light that silvered the hills and the cities and the fields, just a little bit differently every night, no longer shines down, and the sea that heaved its immense weight to be a little nearer has settled forever into its bed, dreaming.

Rest well, all you earthlings.

10:11 AM

Late Sunday night one of the NYT's op-ed editors emailed me to ask if I wanted to share a birder's opinion on the takeover of Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by armed gunmen.

8:27 AM

2015: The Blog in Review

All in all, I think the word "eventful" describes the past 12 months pretty well.

It's a year that altered my day-to-day living profoundly, as it saw me changing jobs, homes, and towns. My youngest child graduated from college and went off to seek his fortune, while my last grandparent passed away at the age of 99 and was laid beside her husband. My wife at last obtained the full-time librarian position she'd long been training for, and six weeks after she was hired, we dashed down to North Carolina to be at her mother's side during a quadruple bypass operation. Our beloved 2004 Subaru Forester, Kirby, gave up the ghost in late February with not quite 200,000 miles on him, and in early March we replaced him with a 2003 Subaru Forest, Figwit, who had just over 100,000 miles. And, as you may have noticed, I haven't been posting entries in this journal nearly as often as I once did.

This last can probably be explained by the change in my job. At WFS, I had numerous breaks in my daily routine; not only was there over an hour for lunch, I could count on planning periods several times a day, and when no students were signed up for conferences, I had ample time to sit quietly in my classroom and record my thoughts here for posterity.* At 7HS, however, I have almost no built-in downtime. There are five periods in a day, two long ones in the morning and three short ones after lunch. I am scheduled to teach or serve as the "oversight" teacher (basically, the one on call to deal with disciplinary or other issues) for all but two short periods on Monday, one long period Tuesday, and one short period on Thursday. Moreover, during our 30-minute break and lunch periods, I'm required to supervise and/or observe the students outside; I don't get to do class prep during those times. And even then, my class prep is done in the teacher workroom, which I share with three other teachers, so there's not much opportunity for contemplation.

(There is the not-inconsiderable fact that I don't go to campus at all on Wednesdays, which helps A LOT, but that day tends to fill up with errands, grading, and desperate attempt to catch up on sleep.)

All of this drives down the amount I get posted here, but as I try to begin the New Year, I'm going to make a concerted effort to post more regularly. Among other things, it's a very helpful release valve for me, one that allows me to blast away on topics that distract me, making it much easier to work on larger writing projects.

At the same time, it's probably worth considering how online writing has changed over the years. Blogging has always been something like writing messages, stuffing them in bottles, and hurling them into the Sea of Internet. Even when this site had a functional reply feature, it was never really a place for the exchange of dialogue; it was basically a place to look and see what weird thing had driven PC to the bottle most recently.**

My intellectual exchanges, for many years, took place largely at, and there's no question that when Rville closed up shop, it took me a while to figure out how to replace it. I tried posting at the Zigga Zoomba Lounge, the off-topic forum for UNC fans at Inside Carolina, but the lack of moderation led to some fairly frustrating exchanges there, and after several years of having the same arguments with the same people, I bailed. drew me in through the promise of continuing many of the literary discussions that first attracted me to Readerville, but I've never quite been able to claim it as a homeplace the way I did with Readerville. My fascination with the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates led me to become a regular contributor at his blog at The Atlantic, eventually becoming an enthusiastic member of the so-called Golden Horde, but as TNC's notoriety attracted more and more trolls, and he had less and less time and energy for moderating the comments there, that venue withered away. What was left?

Well, as most people probably know, what was left was Facebook, and that's largely where I've been since late 2009. I've also been a Twitter user for the last two years, knocking out roughly 5000 Tweets per year under the imaginative handle @petercashwell. That averages out to about 2000 characters a day, so I can't really claim that Twitter is doing that much damage to my tendons. But there's no question that the give-and-take of Facebook and Twitter has drawn my attention away from the more-giving-less-taking style of blogging.

But as I dive into the just-about-all-giving-and-hardly-taking-at-all style of manuscript writing, I think it might prove helpful to drop some knowledge here more often in 2016. At the very least, it will offer me a chance to get away from watching other people's takes on the upcoming presidential race. That's enough to drive anyone to the bottle.

*For a given value of posterity, anyway.
**So to speak.

3:55 PM

A Waffle House Christmas

On Hashbrown! On Pancake! On Sausage and Biscuit! On Coffee! On Creamer! On Omelet and Fixins!

This is what happens when I see Ursula Vernon tweet about her Christmas Eve trip to Waffle House.

If you celebrate, do so merrily, and have a happy New Year, everyone!


4:49 PM

The Rhetoric of Jessica Jones

Important note: if you have any intentions of watching Marvel's Jessica Jones (currently available for viewing at, you may want to skip this post, because SPOILERS.

In the midst of our holiday preparations, with the menorah flaming and the Christmas cards as yet unaddressed, Kelly and I took the time to plow through the thirteen episodes of Jessica Jones, Marvel's second Netflix-only series. As a dramatic experience, it is intense, which slowed us down from making a full-on watch-it-over-a-weekend binge, preferring to take it one or at most two episodes at a time. Like its predecessor, Daredevil, it is dark, gritty, and very unlike the bright Kirbyesque adventures seen in the films based on Iron Man, Captain America, and the various other Avengers. 

And boy, does Jessica Jones ever Provoke Thought.

That "boy" is only partly accidental, because there's no question in my mind that show creator Melissa Rosenberg was out to provoke thought in boys, particularly those boys who have not yet given a lot of thought to the topic of womanhood. Or perhaps more particularly, those boys who think they HAVE given womanhood a lot of thought, but haven't. As a result, I find the series fascinating not just on a dramatic level, but on a rhetorical level, because it sets up its arguments about men and women with remarkable care, awareness, and effectiveness--not something I really expected from a TV show about a former superhero who's taken off the tights and become a hard-drinking private eye.

But Jessica is more than that quick summary might suggest. Played by Krysten Ritter, she's a woman who has been through wringer after wringer, repeatedly forced to examine the worst behaviors humanity has to offer, and thereby stripped of her ability to tolerate bullshit on any level. Despite her superhuman strength, she has nothing like Superman's invulnerability, so she resorts to a variety of defenses: anesthesia (the aforementioned drinking), armor (a wardrobe of jeans, boots, leather jackets, and scarves which exposes as little skin as possible), and distance (pushing away nearly everyone who might care about her, or about whom she might care.) It's not long before we realize why she uses these tools: she's pathologically unable to leave a victim unsaved.

This isn't just the garden-variety Great Power/Great Responsibility guilt that lies at the core of Spider-Man's behavior, either. Jessica says it herself: "I can't help it." Driven to save the innocent at any cost, she not only opens herself up to hideous damage, but risks damage to everyone around her. She wrestles with moral complexities that get brushed aside in a single caption in most comics, and her wrestling leads those around her to jump into the ring as well--whether they want to or not.

Jessica's origin is left to simmer a good long while in the reader's mind, but we very quickly learn about her defining experience: an indeterminate length of time in the thrall of Kilgrave (David Tennant), a cultured Briton with the ability to control others' minds. Having managed to escape, Jessica lurches from gig to gig, drinking away her memories of slavery, along with the profits from every missing persons/cheating spouse case, right up until the point when she realizes that Kilgrave wants her back. And then she's hell-bent to catch him and kill him.

The horror that Kilgrave presents, however, isn't as simple as him showing up and commanding Jessica again. It's far more terrifying than that. He uses his powers to control the people around her: her clients. Her neighbors. Her allies. Her lawyer. The man she might be in love with. And perhaps worst of all, the various strangers she encounters, any of whom might be Kilgrave's unwilling agents. Jessica is strong, and smart, and a pretty good detective, for all that she's not much of a superhero, but she's very much the brawn in this contest, and Kilgrave is the brain. He has to keep her in check, or she'll tear his head off; meanwhile, she has to keep herself in check, or innocent people will suffer--such as Hope, Kilgrave's latest conquest, whom he instructs to perform an unspeakable crime that puts her on trial for her life.

If it's not obvious, this is a series about consent.

Or maybe it's not so obvious, if you're the kind of MRA (Men's Rights Activist) who finds it deeply unfair that women can say no to sex. Yes, such men are out there, as hard as that may be for some to believe; they believe that when a man has fulfilled enough of a woman's desires, or at least enough of what he IMAGINES a woman desires, he has earned the right to have sex with her. For a woman to withhold sex in these circumstances, the MRA believes, is both unreasonable and a clear example of the way our society denies men their rights.

I leave the task of finding the sentence where John Locke or the U.S. Constitution lists the right to have sex with any desired individual as an exercise for the reader. In Kilgrave's case, however, his powers turn his belief in that right into a reality: he CAN have sex with anyone he wants, but never with their consent. That paradox explains his pursuit of Jessica: she is the only woman who's been able to escape him, and that makes her the most desirable woman on earth.

The rhetorical brilliance of this set-up is that any MRA viewing it will see Kilgrave's behavior as entirely reasonable: he lavishes attention on his women, putting them up in luxurious hotels, showering them with gifts, and treating them to the best meals NYC has to offer. In this light, Jessica SHOULD be willing to sleep with him. But while his pursuit of her involves no direct attempt to control her, he exercises control over those around her with the most callous kind of abuse: forcing his household servants to watch for her, not allowing them to blink until she appears; forcing people to stand and stare at the wall, soiling their pants during their long vigils; and most horrifyingly, severing the trails to him by commanding those he uses as couriers to commit suicide, often in the most gory and expedient fashion--or sometimes the fashion most likely to send a message to Jessica. The MRA who tries to view Kilgrave as a role model cannot avoid seeing what his role model does when consent is not an issue.

But for all this, the word that would send MRA viewers fleeing is not heard until roughly halfway through the series. We get to see what it means in the face of every person Kilgrave has controlled, even though it is never explicitly stated until Hope finally says the word aloud: "rape." Jessica herself does not utter it until she's in Kilgrave's presence, spitting it at him and sparking an instantaneous protest that it's not rape if she never told him no. He hasn't committed any crimes, either; it's not robbery when people just give him the things he asks for, nor is murder when they kill the people he wants dead. And if everyone around Jessica is ready to commit suicide should she refuse to cooperate? It's not his fault that everyone does his will.

In one harrowing sequence, Kilgrave actually buys and reconstructs Jessica's childhood home, desperately hoping this will show his good faith. (The horrifically stalker-like aspects of this plan do not cross his mind.) Having blackmailed her into a visit, he asks Jessica to stay with him and teach him right and wrong--basically to devote her life to the task of turning him good. It's a terrifying possibility. We know Jessica's devotion to saving innocents is strong enough to leave her tempted; we also know that, when she's not around, Kilgrave is using his powers to wreak havoc around the neighborhood, so her intervention might be the only thing that stops him. In the end, however, she's still under duress. In a legal and philosophical sense, she can't consent to this--but in a personal sense, she can. And she's entirely willing to suffer; indeed, she's pretty thoroughly convinced that she deserves to suffer--but she is not willing to be complicit.

At her core, Jessica Jones will not say "yes" to a rapist because her doing so would transform him; "yes" is the magic word that would allow him to see himself as a suitor, a seducer, a lover. It is the kiss that would transform him from the frog he is into the prince he has always imagined himself to be. It is a testament to the power of the show that Jessica finds a way to cut through this Gordian knot in her own inimitable style--and that when she did so, I was not merely happy at the result, but actually proud of her for resisting. There are plenty of heroes who will protect the innocent, but it's satisfying to see one who cannot be forced--who will not be forced--to submit to the guilty.

Jessica Jones can be rather gruesome, and it occasionally takes a little too long to get where it's going, and sometimes spends too much time making connections to the rest of the Marvel TV Universe. But none of that really matters, because this is a show that delivers one of the most powerful and well-constructed messages I've ever seen on television: that a hero is sometimes defined not by what she does, but by what she will not do. It's fitting, then, that the show's rhetorical approach is in some ways defined not by what it says, but by what it refrains from saying.

6:15 PM


*It would appear that the case of writer's block that has been nagging at me recently has extended to this journal. Part of me feels bad about that, but part of me feels that it's kind of inevitable when a writer is struggling to get things down on the page.

*I'm probably the last person on earth to mention it, but if you haven't already given a listen to the soundtrack of Hamilton, you are missing out. This is an audacious and energetic production that celebrates the history of both America and American musical theater, all while injecting a spirit of inclusion and innovation that would do the Founding Fathers proud. I'm hoping to see it live someday soon, but in the meantime, I'll be singing "You'll Be Back" and "Take a Break" and "The Room Where It Happens" and marveling at the complex political braggadocio of "Cabinet Battle #1." By all means, feel free to join me.

*I got my first winter birding session in, though technically it was still autumn. Still, any time I take the spotting scope out and set it up to look at waterfowl, I feel I'm doing winter birding, rather than the binocular-driven walking-through-the-woods birding I do in the spring and summer. In this case, I was setting up near the Farley Vale ponds that line route 3 east of Fredericksburg; I'd stopped at them a number of times on my way to another favorite waterfowl spot (Pope Creek, at the George Washington Birthplace National Monument), but this time I was headed there with a specific species in mind: the Sandhill Crane. Rare bird alerts had noted a quartet of cranes in the area over a period of several weeks, and I hadn't seen one in several years, so it seemed like a good place to start, and sure enough, it was. The broad, shallow ponds are wintering spots for not only migrating cranes, but for dozens of mature and juvenile Bald Eagles, not to mention hordes of gulls and ducks. As a result, the year list grew nicely over the course of my morning in the area, including a few surprises like Tundra Swans and Northern Shovelers, and I enjoyed the chance to get out of Richmond traffic for a few hours. I'm looking forward to visiting a few other spots in the neighborhood when the cold really sets in.

*Kelly and I are about halfway through the thirteen episodes of Marvel's JESSICA JONES series, and let me tell you, I have Thoughts about it. I'm going to wait until we're done watching before I record any of them, but let's just say that you'll look long and hard to find a series that comments on gender issues as well as this one. It's not at all easy to watch at times, but damn, as a dramatic production it's excellent--and as a rhetorical statement, it's almost unique.

*For the first time in twenty years, Thanksgiving was not a working vacation for me. In Woodberry's trimester system, teachers spend the break finishing up the grading of exams, the calculating of trimester grades, and the writing of comments on each student's performance. Because Seven Hills is on a quarterly system, however, I did all my grading and commenting earlier in November--and was able, for the first time since the late 90s, to drive south for Thanksgiving with my extended family. My brother and his wife played host, and the twenty-odd relatives who attended brought a truly spectacular array of foodstuffs, including fried turkey, roasted turkey, ham, stuffing, rice & gravy, green bean casserole, squash casserole, black-eyed peas, and some of the best hush puppies it has ever been my pleasure to consume. I think we'll probably go back.

*If I can get my block to step aside for a bit, I can see myself writing at some length in the near future about a couple of topics: JESSICA JONES, the ongoing controversy over UNC's academic scandal, social media, and my middle-school experience(s). Watch this space.

10:24 AM


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