Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The One Constant: Change: Life at Mason Farm Biological Reserve

Our life is one grand season of change, nothing is ever the same. As soon as we find stability, it seems that the players are taken away, and new characters are ushered in before we know it. Inevitably, remembrance of things past overtakes us, becomes more important than what is happening today, and we are poisoned into stagnancy by our thoughts. In these changing seasons we should take lessons from the lesser, the plants and animals that go about their duties, adapting to change without complaint, flourishing in the new opportunities it provides. In cold coastal waters nutrients billow up from the sea floor, making the coldest, not the warmest waters, the ones teeming with life.

So yes, that was all billowy writing, but the point is this: We can take a lesson or two from the changing seasons around us. Some of us are blessed to be spending this segment of our life, this season, in the Spring in Chapel Hill, where everyday we see change without realizing it. Let's take a closer look.

The best classroom is within a stone's throw of Franklin Street. Mason Farm Biological Reserve, an expansive wilderness that lies behind Finley Golf Course(so that all you punk-ass city dwellers can get oriented).

As you can see, this is a map.

To enter the reserve you must ford a weir that crosses Morgan Creek, a challenge capably handled by most vehicles... However on days after heavy rain, it is sometimes necessary to ford by foot, a scintillating adventure. Here is the ford below:

One must go no further than the ford itself to witness the drastic changes of the seasons. Take a look:

Looking upstream on March 25th, 2006. In the winter, mixed-species flocks of chickadees, titmice, kinglets, creepers, and finches forage busily through the treetops.

The same view, just over a month later. May 4th, 2006. During the summer, the trees that line Morgan Creek are filled with Prothonotary Warblers, American Redstarts and Louisiana Waterthrushes while Belted Kingfishers patrol the banks.

Let's learn something today. Why do the boxelder, sycamore, and ash that line Morgan Creek drop their leaves every winter? Here in the temperate deciduous forests of North Carolina, the main reason is temperature. Growth only occurs during the warm summers and leaves drop during the fall so that the trees sit dormant during the cold winter. The loss of leaves helps conserve water that would otherwise be needed to maintain the leaves. And even though this system requires the tree to regrow new leaves in the Spring(a taxing chore), it is still more favorable than having to maintain functional leaves in the depths of winter.

Some of you may be thinking now, but what about the pine trees? What about the holly trees in my backyard that keep their leaves all winter? Why are they doing that? Are they retarded? No. Being evergreen in North Carolina is usually an adaptation to low nutrient levels in the soil. Deciduous trees must have high nutrient levels to regenerate their leaves every season, and in some soils there are insufficient nutrient levels to do this. In these situations, evergreen trees have an advantage over deciduous trees. In temperate climates, evergreens are real smart and can reinforce their own survival; evergreen leaf and needle litter has a higher carbon-nitrogen ratio than deciduous leaf litter, contributing to a higher soil acidity and lower soil nitrogen content. These conditions favor the growth of more evergreens and make it more difficult for deciduous plants to persist.

Wow. Isn't that a neat thing to know! Let's get on to some more pretty things. Not just trees change with the seasons. Many animals escape the winter, doing so in a variety of ways. Reptiles and amphibians choose to hibernate, and some mammals up north do so as well(even big old bears).

The most easily visible changes from season to season occur in the bird populations. There is a group of birds, most likely the most familiar ones to you, that spend the entire year here. Woodpeckers, bluebirds, chickadees, titmice, robins, goldfinches, blue jays, crows etc. But not all birds that breed in the summer here have the fortitude to stick it out for the winter. Instead they migrate south, some as far as southern South America, others just as far as the Caribbean. Simultaneously, many of the birds that breed in Canada and the northern U.S. migrate south as to take up winter residence in the Carolinas. Thus, as each season comes, a predominately new group of birds shows up, keeping things lively and new. For me, there is nothing more exciting than the first Spring walk at Mason Farm, anticipating the summer arrival of Prothonotary Warblers, Scarlet Tanagers, and the many other summer beauties.

Scarlet Tanager

Prothonotary Warbler

But the beauty is not reserved for summer alone. Oh no! Even in the frigid mornings that we loath so much, when the windshield wipers are frozen stuck and layer upon layer of clothes cover our true figure, there is beauty a plenty in the woods and fields. The food may be harder to come by in the winter, but holly berries, myrtle berries, and winter seeds provide enough.

One of the most common, and beautiful, winter residents. The Cedar Waxwing loves berries.

Once much more common, the Purple Finch is another winter arrival. It has been outcompeted by the introduced House Finch, a bird native to the western US.

Wait, so where is this taking place? Mason Farm itself, a combination of forest and old fields, is a fascinating place to walk, and having a little history of it makes it all the more easy to appreciate. The reserve proper is 367 acres, but is contiguous with the much larger 41,000 acre New Hope Gamelands to the south. According to the North Carolina Botanical Garden, the reserve supports approximately 800 species of plants, 216 species of birds, 29 species of mammals, 28 species of fish, 28 species of reptiles, 23 species of amphibians, and 67 species of butterflies. In fact, more different species of animals have been recorded at the Reserve than in any other comparably-sized area in the entire Piedmont.

Within the reserve lies the Big Oak Woods tract, a 65-acre bottomland woodland that is well-known for its giant trees, with some of the larger white oaks exceeding 300 years in age. This section has been continuously forested since before European settlement.

In the open areas of the reserve are several old fields that have since been rehabilitated into prairie-like habitats, some being seasonally flooded wet meadows, others being drier upland habitats.

The land was first acquired by the University in 1894 upon request of one of the last living descendants of the Mason family, Mary Elizabeth Morgan Mason. The family first settled in the area during the 1740s. The biological reserve itself was officially established in 1984, and is used both as a natural area and a biological field station.

Here are some of my photos of the reserve:

The Dead Marshes! Don't follow the lights! Nope, no Gollum sighting yet, but you never know. As the water table rises in the winter, many areas that are dry in the summer became seasonal wetlands.

Pine uplands at Mason Farm, early Spring. Breeding birds in this habitat to name a few include Wood Thrushes, Ovenbirds, Hooded Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated Warbler, Scarlet and Summer Tanager, Red-eyed Vireo, Broad-winged Hawk.

An early Spring arrival, the Atamasco Lily bursts from bottomland soils as days first begin to warm.

Perhaps no group of animals need warm weather more than butterflies. They need nectar and warmth to function. And seriously, who doesn't? Here is one of the first Zebra Swallowtails of early Spring.

The vast cattail marsh. Here, birds such as Green Heron, Red-winged Blackbird, Red-headed Woodpecker and Common Yellowthroat breed, and in the winter the marsh is full of sparrows, and if you are lucky like I was once, an American Bittern.

A straightaway through some of the open field habitat at Mason Farm. Yellow-breasted Chats, Indigo Buntings and Blue Grosbeaks are just a few of the colorful birds that take advantage of it.

So if you wonder what this was all about, go back to the top and find out, because I can't really remember either. I think I just wanted to share a wonderful place with you guys, a place that most of you don't know about.

There is much to be learned in the wilderness. The very concept that allows an ecosystem to survive is change. Nothing is sedentary, every day is different than the next. For those of you that are experiencing transition and change and find it unpleasant, I ask you to rethink your opinion of it. You must accept that change is going to exist your entire life, there is no constant in life except change itself. Thus you must become an ironclad changer, loving the endless opportunities it provides. At the same time, have the wisdom to acknowledge the peoples/places/things that are worth sacrificing to hold on to. :-)

So, here lies the rub. I'll now be offering tours of Mason Farm for 300 dollars an hour. Why? Because I hate my jobs and I'm looking for change, and that's the change I decided on. I'm bucking my constancy. Obviously I'd be untrue to myself if I didn't. So, contact me at akneidel@gmail.com if you are interested. More details available upon contact.

If you aren't willing to pay me 300 dollars let me know, for there are substitute payment options.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What Lies Beneath, being Part 1 of The Outcast Rising

You think alleys are dark? You think you know dark? This tale is for all those who have never been beneath the city. It is time for you to know. It was little over 5 years ago that I first slipped beneath the surface of Chapel Hill. It all began as I passed through the woods behind Emyn Muil casually looking for birds, scouting my freshman territory. But as I balanced myself on an ancient pipeline I came across a gaping mouth carved into the hillside. Beneath it sat a forbidden pool. Despite knowing that to enter a forbidden pool bears the penalty of death, I peered closer. This is what I saw that day:

Startled as I was of this discovery, I performed quick reconnaissance on the area, and, being one of the Mindaloo Rangers of the East, I came across several troubling signs of habitation, including used needles, cigarette butts, and empty bottles. Signs of warriors. Upon further investigation, there were several scouting towers scattered discreetly along the hillside. Though they were all vacant at the time, the stale scent of human bodies still lingered, and the walls around me were covered in crude writings and symbols, signs of the Pagan uprising that had settled into this region. I slipped away undetected, and as I looked back I saw a glint deep in the entrance. Gold. I would return soon with my band of outcasts.

Skip forward to February 12th, 2005 in the Gregorian calendar. Under the veil of darkness I returned. Equipped with mag-lights and a thirst for a territorial advantage, I and a crew of fellow rangers of the North slipped down the hillside.

Under council of Merthel the Wise we made sure to avoid all contact with the treacherous water that passed in bronzy rivulets beneath our feet. It spoke in fell whispers as it cascaded into the forbidden pool. We continued on, the water quickly penetrated our elvish moccasins, but the coldness of it seemed to have little effect on our spirits as we continued. Thankfully we were significantly blunted for this foray.

Here is Eothain the Red in the entrance tunnel at its widest girth. A crude drawing on the right can be seen.

Other than the animals that had taken up residence in the tunnels, there was little other sign of habitation. In every cranny there lay the dense, senseless strands of Black Widows, and out in front dispersed rats of varying sizes, all muttering to themselves as they surely fled to inform others of our movements. But our eyes continued to lust over the golden flow beneath us, the metallic scent was irresistable as we continued deeper, deeper.

As the tunnels continued to split, fears of never seeing the light of day again built in all of us.

But the lust controlled our judgment as we pushed deeper. Meanwhile the tunnels got narrower and narrower.

The lust in my eyes.

At this point, our party had become fragmented. The females turned back, escorted by two of our men. Would we ever see them again? The group was down to three. As the water approached our calves in depth, I sensed that we were getting closer to the source of water. Suddenly I sensed an opening to the left, and redirecting the flashlight I discovered a passage upwards. A surge of excitement and trepidation filled Samuel, Matthew, and I as we clambered up the ladder, corroded in its disuse.

What luck we found! The trapdoor at the top of the ladder was unlocked. I felt the magnitude of the situation as we entered the unknown above us. Lo and behold! We found ourselves in the courtyard of Dingbat the Dark's mighty fortress. As we crouched in hiding we could see the glowing signs of propaganda all around us and the lush grass of his fertilizing fields.

It looked like we were in the armoury, for a pile of aluminum clubs sat stacked beside us, and ivory balls of death lay scattered about the floor. An unknown entrance into hell itself! What could we do but allow a moment to celebrate? We snapped a few photographs to document our quality, not to mention for use in the warroom.

Quietly we slipped back into the tunnel. In the revelry of our newest discovery our judgment became a bit clearer. The golden hue of the tunnel bottom seemed a little less important, most likely it was nothing more than rusting metal seeping from the castle smelters above. Our backs aching, we each took a swig of the tonic given to us by Galinda Blanton of the Wood.

We then turned back towards the entrance of the tunnel, but as we slipped out into the still, dark atmosphere we saw glowing lights around the forbidden pool. Around it sat living corpses drinking in silence, inhaling smoke like reversed chimneys. This wasn't a warrior hideout after all, it was an outcast meeting place, outcasts like us. We discussed our discovery with them. Eagerness glinted in their eyes as we forged plans to forge ahead, weaponless as we were.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Behind every great fortune is a crime.

...and so begins The Godfather.

The Godfather. Classic, correct? Correct. A movie in all its wonder. Brando, Pacino, yes yes! Take it to the mattresses... But before all that there was Mario Puzo and his 1969 novel of the same title. The film may seem more enduring these days, but it is in the book where the true treasures lie, in its brilliant, breakneck drive, all of which is so engrossing. terrifying. Let us learn some lessons from the Godfather himself...

Book 1, page 19
"...He(Don Corleone)was comforted by the knowledge that in this world there comes a time when the most humble of men, if he keeps his eyes open, can take his revenge on the most powerful..."

God: Here is hope for everyone. Keen advice: all comes to those who hustle while they wait.

Book 1, page 20
"...From sheer habit Paulie Gatto wondered just how he could go about hijacking that fat pocketbook. The idea amused him. But he knew it was idle, innocent dreaming, as small children dream of knocking out tanks with shotguns..."

God: Idle, innocent dreaming. I am a guilty as charged for this activity. But what else can you expect? Our brain is always processing and hypothesizing, whether we want it to or not. We call it survival instinct. Jealous girlfriends call it cheating.

Book 1, page 22
"...He gave the baker a Di Nobili cigar and a glass of yellow Strega and put his hand on the man's shoulder to urge him on. That was the mark of Don's humanity. He knew from bitter experience what courage it took to ask a favor from a fellow man..."

God: If men could overcome this... If I could overcome this... How much easier would life be?

Book 1, page 27
..."'Oh,' Kay said, then asked curiously, 'why didn't you adopt him?'
Michael laughed. 'Because my father said it would be disrespectful for Tom to change his name. Disrespectful to his own parents...'"

Book 1, page 31
"You did not need me(Don Corleone). Very well. My feelings were wounded but I am not that sort of person who thrusts his friendship on those who do not value it - on those who think me of little account."

Book 1, page 38
"Friendship is everything. Friendship is more than talent. It is more than government. It is almost the equal of family. Never forget that. If you had built up a wall of friendships you wouldn't have to ask me for help. Now tell me, why can't you sing...?"

Book 1, page 39
"'He's a businessman,' the Don said blandly, 'I'll make him an offer he can't refuse.'"

Book 1, page 45
"...Ah, men understand friendship more than we women..."

God: Do men understand it better, or do they just perform it better? The principles of a male friendship are rigid and simple, revolving around one word. Loyalty. Female friendships are a little more complicated, full of vanity preened in flattery... swirling in suppressed jealousy and FEELINGS, ugh. I could go on and on.

Book 1, page 45
"The doctor was a young man, serious-faced and with the air of one born to command, that is to say, the air of one who has been immensely rich all his life..."

God: Having always been rich, you have been denied the evolution of humility. Humility will have been replaced by a sense of entitlement and also the belief that you have the ability to manipulate people to your will, like all those poor people beneath you. Maybe good things can come from money after all...

Book 1, page 46
"'My dear doctor,' said Don Corleone, 'is it true he is dying?'
'Yes,' said Dr. Kennedy.
'Then there is nothing more for you to do,' said Don Corleone. 'We will take up the burden. We will comfort him. We will close his eyes. We will bury him and weep at his funeral and afterwards we will watch over his wife and daughters."

God: A good Doctor must know when to step away.

Book 1, page 52
"A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more that a hundred men with guns."

God: I guess that's a real shame. But at least they get paid accordingly. I still think 100 men with guns is a more glorious thing to be a part of. Rather than sheisting men with technicalities, sheist 'em with a Tek. At least you'll be a man about it.

Book 1, page 53
"He took Hagen into his arms for a quick embrace and afterward treated him more like a true son, though he would sometimes say, 'Tom, never forget your parents,' as if he were reminding himself as well as Hagen.

God: If you're lucky, you'll find surrogates for members of your life who have failed you.

Book 1, page 146
"Tom, don't let anybody kid you. It's all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it's personal as hell. Accidents don't happen to people who take accidents as a personal insult."

God: Damn straight. Don't separate your feelings from the game. If you do, you'll fail. You'll get taken advantage of. Sensitivity isn't a pussy characteristic. It's survival and it should be heeded.

Book 1, page 147
"There are things that have to be done and you do them and you never talk about them. You don't try to justify them. They can't be justified. You just do them. Then you forget it."

God: It's not always a bad idea to "suppress." If you rethink and question everything you do, you will find a way to let it eat you alive. Sometimes you've got to follow your gut and not look back. Sometimes there is no right. Sometimes there is no wrong. Sometimes there just is.

Book 2, page 158
"His[Johnny Fontane's] glass had considerably more brandy in it than hers, he needed it to warm himself, to cheer himself, to charge himself up. His situation was the reverse of the lover's usual one. He had to get himself drunk instead of the girl."

God: I relate with this. That's all.

Book 2, page 159
"He hated girls who turned on all of a sudden as if their bodies were motors galvanized into erotic pumpings by the touching of a hairy switch."

Book 2, page 159
"He didn't like her quite so much now. She was sweet, she was witty, she was intelligent. She hadn't fallen all over herself to screw for him or try to hustle him because his connections would help her in show biz. She was really a straight kid."

Book 2, page 188
"Every man has only one destiny."

God: You can try to buck the truth all you want, but your destiny will win out. I am the best example. God-I-Am.

Book 2, page 191
"He knew his buddy needed human contact with someone he trusted and Nino felt an enormous sadness that Johnny didn't have anyone better than himself to touch in his moment of glory."

Book 3, page 197
"Clemenza was a storyteller; Vito Corleone was a listener to storytellers. They became casual friends."

God: Simple as that. I for one am the listener.

Book 3, page 221
"The Don considered a use of threats the most foolish kind of exposure; the unleashing of anger without forethought as the most dangerous indulgence."

Book 4, page 258
"Time erodes gratitude more quickly than it does beauty."

Book 4, page 268
"He had kept his composure and the old woman had not noticed anything amiss. Not that she could not have, if she wanted to, but in her life with the Don she had learned it was far wiser not to perceive. That if it was necessary for her to know something painful, it would be told to her soon enough. And if it was a pain that could be spared her, she could do without."

Book 5, page 292
"We are all men who have refused to be fools, who have refused to be puppets dancing on a string pulled by the men on high... We will manage our world for ourselves because it is our world, cosa nostra."

Book 5, page 304
"The days before she saw him again her body was in torment. Their passion for each other was of the most elementary kind, undiluted by poetry or any form of intellectualism. It was love of the coarsest nature, a fleshly love, a love of tissue for opposing tissue."

Book 5, page 319
"Truth telling and medicine just didn't go together except in dire emergencies."

Book 7, page 365
"My father is a businessman trying to provide for his wife and children and those friends he might need someday in a time of trouble. He doesn't accept the rules of the society we live in because those rules would have condemned him to a life not suitable to a man like himself, a man of extraordinary force and character. What you have to understand is that he considers himself the equal of all those great men like Presidents and Prime Ministers and Supreme Court Justices and Governors of the States. He refuses to live by rules set up by others, rules which condemn him to a defeated life. But his ultimate aim is to enter that society with a certain power since society doesn't really protect its members who do not have their own individual power. In the meantime he operates on a code of ethics he considers far superior to the legal structures of society."

Book 7 ,page 365
"I[Michael] have no intention of placing my fate in the hands of men whose only qualification is that they managed to con a block of people to vote for them."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What is That Smell? Oh, God That's Pretty!

Out the door and along the street there lies a familiar nemesis. Tall, white, and beautiful, round around in the belly. No, I'm not talking about Gerald. Nope, not Katie either. It's Bradford actually, Bradford Pear, also known as Snow White of early Spring.

Have you seen this before? I'm guessing yes.

Unfortunately, at least to my nose, Bradford also smells like a stew of rotting mushrooms and semen. Nevertheless, Bradford Pears Pyrus calleryana have undoubtedly been a staple of all of our childhoods, lining the streets and making us gag as we walked to school, biked away from home, or rolled the window down to peep at Spring dresses.

In the ornamental world however, noses are overlooked in favor of the benefits of planting Bradford Pears. Namely, they are one of, if not the earliest blooming tree, with their white flowers often opening by the end of February. By April, the flowers have fallen to the ground to be replaced by round, glossy green leaves which will turn a winy red by the end of summer. A native of temperate China, the tree is also one of the last species to lose its leaves in autumn. All of the branches sprout out of the trunk in a central location which provides the distinctive pear shape, but this design also makes them susceptible to splitting in high winds, a phenomenon that is all too easy to witness during summer thunderstorms or hurricanes in the South.

For those true Fascinati out there(those who are fascinated), I will continue a bit further so as to blow your mind. Bradford Pears are tolerant of a variety of soil types, drainage levels, and soil acidity, and are also amazingly resistant to sicknesses and blight. Basically, they are on their game when it comes to survival, even thousands of miles away from their native territory. Sadly, the wimpy "pears" that grow on the trees are inedible and wildlife seems to care little for them.

What about those other flowering trees that we see this time of year? Perhaps you are seeing Flowering Cherries, Flowering Crabapples, or maybe some native species.

Here is a Weeping Cherry Prunus sp. on the campus of UNC Chapel Hill.

Even though they are susceptible to a variety of diseases, Flowering Crabapples Malus sp. continue to be a popular flowering landscape plant because of the tremendous show of flowers they provide.

Nicknamed the Breath of Spring, the native Redbud Cercis canadensis can be spotted blooming by mid-April.

Hopefully you don't need me to tell you what this is. Our state blossom, The Flowering Dogwood! Cornus florida. The flower of this species is actually quite small. The large white petal looking things are bracts, modified leaf-like structures. The flowers are also bisexual for all you thrill seekers out there.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stocking Excess: The Trader Joe's Beginning

New Job. A competitor to substitute teaching. Is it a heavyweight contender?

While shopping at Trader Joe's the other week I asked them if they were hiring, and when they answered in the affirmative, I applied. After a week or so I was hired. I work in 8 hour shifts, each one longer than the green mile. My interview basically consisted of 1.) swearing unerring fielty, 2.) convincing them that I would not get bored at this job 3.) that I was available every day of the week. I should have known through these requirements that this would not be the most stimulating opportunity, but, being my first experience in retail, I think it could worthwhile.

First day consisted of some employee throwing a cigarette in a trashcan which sparked a gigantic bonfire that "required" two fire tucks. Other than that, I was indoctrinated and taught all the contents of my Trader Joe's Passport which shall reside in my back pocket, burning a hole in my independence. I am anxious to learn the location of all the goods so that when a customer asks where the Canned Sputum is, I can give them the proper TRADER JOE's WOW experience, and lead them there while cordially flossing through their every need. Currently when a customer asks me, I'm like "Maaaaan, this is my first day, let me go find someone for you."

After the store closes at 9, someone puts on soft rock loudly and stocking begins as I learn the proper way to stack, the proper way to cut open boxes and appropriate lingo for absolutely everything.

That's okay though. I've still got my enthusiasm, and when it disappears, so shall I.

Subbing, Part 2. The Gangsta Profile

Thursday, March 5th, I subbed again.
Location: Carrboro High School
Position: math teacher, 2 classes of geometry, 1 of tech-math, 2 honors pre-cal, 2 study halls.

I was without a teaching assistant this day, and as I settled into Mr. Griffin's desk at 830 a.m., I felt self-sufficient and in control, with an arsenal of writing utensils and emergency contacts.

The geometry and honors pre-cal classes were dull beyond belief. That is the curse of good, responsible students: you are not needed. The lesson plan told me to assign classwork and homework, and for the most part the students followed orders so well that I did absolutely nothing. I sat at the desk and gave permission to use the toilet and told them that no, I didn't know how to do their homework so don't ask me to help you.

The only amusement in the pre-cal classes was overhearing a group of senior girls discuss their social plans. One was about to have a birthday, and the group was emphatic in their celebration plans: GOING TO PLAYERS. GOING TO DANCE. (Players is the skeezy club in downtown Chapel Hill for all you nwbs out there) I was startled, as it finally became clear to me that OF COURSE HIGH SCHOOL KIDS WANT TO GO TO PLAYERS, BUT OH GOD, WHAT IF I WAS THERE ONCE AND... OH... GOD...

The true thrills of the day arose in tech-math. Tech-math by definition is the math class you take if graduation isn't a foregone conclusion for you. Filled with mostly juniors, the problems were along the lines of 3x = 27, with the last, most challenging problems on the worksheet perhaps showing a square root. The clientele of the class consisted of kids who hated school, hated each other, and had a LOT of pent up energy.

The lesson plan was to have them do some classwork individually. This quickly devolved to me doing the problems for them on the board, as they screamed out obscenities and told each other how retarded they were.

The best part came when I asked one particularly rude kid why they all hated each other so much. His answer was simple and to the point.

"This a gangsta class, Mr. K. It's everyone for themselves."

My desire to be accepted reached it's zenith here, and as one kid began rapping Kanye West, "Go Hard,"

"I go the hardest flow so retarded..."

I couldn't resist, and cut him off to continue the rap, "I'm disgusted with myself, I mean uhhhh where do I start?"

This caused immediate uproar, and all hate towards me vanished as exulations and demands for my return as their Forever Teacher ensued. Next, they demanded to know whether I freestyled or not, which I responded to with:

"Asking me if I spit
Is like me asking if you breath
So believe my game is as straight
As your ruler, so don't call me Teach
Just call me The Ruler"

This brought the house down, and the bell, thank god.

Study hall was my favorite period of the day, as I was allowed to send some students to the library, while others stayed and did homework, and the others, my favorites, decided not to work but to talk to me instead. One girl talked to me about everything under the sun and I told her what I thought, or at least what she wanted to hear.

Other boys called me over to watch videos on youtube, which I allowed, as long as the door was closed and they told me what they were watching. The favorite, by far, was "On a Boat," which I refuse to post the link to because it is obnoxious.

The most challenging decision arose when two particularly annoying kids asked me if they could go to Wendy's. This was only 3rd period and they weren't allowed to, but both of them were distracting the entire class so I cut them a deal. I granted them permission as long as I was allowed to play innocent and aloof. I told them that the story was going to be that I had let them go to the bathroom and then they chose to go on their own. They accepted and they were gone. Unfortunately for them, they were caught in the parking lot and returned like vagrant baggage to their homeroom.

In these novice days of my substitution, I have decided upon my agenda. It is to follow the intended lesson plans to the best of my ability, but not if it compromises my coolness in their eyes. The chance that they are going to learn anything that day is negligible, and I would rather grant them an enjoyable day while seeing the wonders of a good substitute. After all, I am only 22, and can relate to them all too well and can still remember the vivid misery of an Evil Sub.

Expecations Changed

My state of unemployment has taken a drastic turn in the past few weeks. I now found myself completely and dispassionately employed. A freeloader in Chapel HIll-Carrboro no longer, I have revitalized the local community by harnessing the coveted double-threat of substitute teacher and Trader Joe's worker.

To put it bluntly, substitute teaching is absurd. My first position was at East Chapel Hill high on Monday and Tuesday, substituting for a regular and honors biology teacher that was gone at a conference. I, unhealthily eager to get my first taste of money, was thwarted on the first day, March 1st, by 3 inches of snow. Tuesday began with a two hour delay, but I arrived ready to work at 10:45. Any anxiety of actually having to accomplish anything was quickly erased when I discovered that the teacher's teaching assistant was going to be there and teach the class. She informed me that my duties during the honors biology classes would be to simply stay awake and sit in the classroom, which I did flawlessly. The students continued a respiration lab and I sat in the teacher's chair and attempted not to stare too intently at the students. The TA even forgot to introduce me, and I, lacking any sort of courage, decided not to introduce myself either. The only acknowledgement I had from the students was when an outspoken girl blurted out if I was the TA's boyfriend. I secretly enjoyed the mortification on the TA's face as she blushed and denied the claim. I, of course, said nothing.

I quietly ate carrots during lunch and played scrabble on the computer as the other teachers around me warned me of the 9th grade biology students that would be entering later. They were wild and uncontrollable they said, and I was going to actually be needed. The TA told me to walk around the class and make sure the students stayed on task, so I did just that. Three hoodlums, there is no other word for them, except Blossoming people who scare the hell out of me, were determined to leave the class and never come back, and I was more than willing to oblige them. One came up and informed me that he was going to the bathroom. Not asking, telling. When I stared at him for a bit too long, he reared back his shoulders and jutted his jaw out at and said "What! You ain't gonna do nothing." "You're right! Go ahead!" I said.

I was happy to see the hoodlums leave, as I was needed to attend to the various missles being projected around the room. One boy was attempting the most antiquated trick of all, spearing a pencil into the ceiling. I advised him to sharpen it and go over to the other side of the room so that I could pretend I didn't see him. The students were supposed to be working on a research project concerning genetic diseases. The only enriching moment of the day came when I was talking to one of the kids in the hemophilia group. For some reason we were talking about AIDS, and he had a very interesting argument, something I believed was impossible in the class. He, unprovoked, soliloquized on his AIDS belief. He argued that in a couple where one person infects the other, the only one who should receive treatment is the victim, not the one who did the infecting. But, I guess the flaw in this is that the one doing the infecting was infected himself at one point, and was a victim at one point. But to hear this kid consider the morals of such a situation was refreshing.

As the day came to a close, the teacher I was subbing for came back. After a little chatting, she informed the TA and myself that in fact the conference had been canceled due to the late start, and that her boss had called her telling her that it was too late to cancel the substitutes so she had a free day off. She went shopping.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

An Accidence to the English Tongue

1724. Virginia.

Minister Hugh Jones writes The Present State of Virginia, and in the process reveals the mass opinion of the colonies to his north and south. Quoted from the text he says:

"If New England be called Receptacle of Dissenters... Pennsylvania the Nursery of Quakers, Maryland the Retirement of Roman Catholics, North Carolina the Refuge of Run-aways, and South Carolina the Delight of Buccaneers and Pirates, Virginia may be justly esteemed the happy Retreat of true Britons."