Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hope, indeed.

I work at a lovely college.  I work with great folks, and I enjoy my job immensely.

I'd like to retire here, many moons from now.

But the only way to stay here is for the philosopher to find long-term employment in the same general geographical region as my lovely college.  And that has... not always proven to be an easy thing.

He's been teaching as an adjunct for several semesters (I started in the summer three years ago, and I think he started teaching two classes the following spring.)  This past spring, he was offered a full time temporary position to replace someone who had moved up the administrative chain.

Recently he was asked to continue the full time temporary position through the next academic year.  So for the first time in a long while, the philosopher will have a good job.  Yes, it's only for a year.  But that's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, amirite?

So here's where the hope comes in.

This position will be posted as a full time, tenure track position next spring.  And of course the philosopher will be eligible to apply at that time.

Of course, there are no guarantees.  He has to do a good job for the next academic year, and then do well in an interview (assuming he gets one).  In the meantime he'll be networking, and getting to know folks, and doing his best to fit in and prove his worth.

So yes, this is the most hopeful we've been in several years.

If you're of the praying sort, I know you've been lifting us up lo these many lean years.  Please continue. We're ready to put down some roots, and be settled.  And goodness knows we're both ready to not fret about where his next teaching gig will come from.  He's meant to be a teacher.  His oft-prickly exterior, once breached, shows a man who's dedicated to his students. He wants nothing more than to teach them how to think critically and take what they've learned on into their "real lives" in some meaningful way.

Hope, indeed.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

20th Anniversary Adventure: San Francisco

I admit it.  I was not all that keen to spend the day in San Francisco, killing time while waiting for our midnight flight to depart.

But the philosopher was willing to drive, and I was willing to navigate, so off we went!

Driving to the city from Napa entailed a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge.


 It was a bit foggy and hazy, but not too bad for seeing the sights.

We started our visit by parking near the most important place in San Francisco.... Ghirardelli Square! (Yes, I bought chocolate.  We bought an entire case of wine in Napa... why wouldn't I buy some treats for myself??!?!)

We walked down the coastline, and saw Alcatraz in the bay.

From there we headed to Fisherman's Wharf.  We ate lunch at a delightful place called Alioto's.  Clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl.  Fantastic!  We also walked through the Musee Mechanique, an incredibly quirky collection of games, from air hockey and old penny games to Pac Man and such. It's free; they make the money to keep the place open by asking folks to play all the games!

So that was the easy part.  Now we headed back to the car for a death-defying trip to ....

Chinatown!

We had some lovely tea at Ten Ren Tea, and browsed all the quirky shops.  I will say we bought some gifts, but I won't say what, or who they're for!  ::grin::

Old St. Mary's

An interesting view of the Transamerica building from Chinatown.  Talk about a class of cultures!

Our final destination was completely inadvertent.  We were trying to find the interstate on-ramp, but because of  road construction, we were thwarted, and ended up driving the length of Market Street!  

Aieeeeeeee!

Here's the problem with Market Street.  TOTAL INSANITY!!!!  You actually can't make left turns. (Which is of course where we needed to go.)  And if you get into the "car" lane, you can't turn right, either.  Now, those of you know are familiar with the city might say - just continue straight and head into the Mission District and you can get wherever you need to go."  Nope.  The main roads were blocked off for the 2014 Carnaval Festival.  ::sigh::

We finally ended up on the 101 headed back to the airport.  There was a brief conversation about trying to go somewhere else... Haight Ashbury, or Coit Tower, or Lombard Street, but by then we were both so exhausted that we decided to go to the airport, drop off the car, and be incoherent for a few hours before our red-eye home.

And that's just what we did.

20th Anniversary Adventure: Napa Valley

From the wilds of Yosemite, we traveled northwest to the serene civility of Napa Valley.  We encamped at a lovely Bed and Breakfast called Hennessey House.

We stayed in an hidden upstairs room away from the hustle and bustle.  Ahhhhhhhh.

DAY ONE
Our first day we signed up with Platypus Tours, a quirky company that visits off-the-beaten-path wineries.  Our driver/guide was named Chris Largent, and he was awesome.  There's a great pic of our whole group on the Platypus FB page... 

Anyway, there were four very different places on our tour.  We started at Honig Winery.

It's a small, lovely place.  Our host was great, telling us about about the family history and each wine we sampled.  (I say "we"... though I only actually tasted a bit of the philosopher's tastings!)

 This is not an uncommon scene - vineyards stretching in every direction!

Our next stop took us to Benessere Vineyards up the valley in St. Helena, where we got a very different feel.
Instead of sitting around a table and tasting, the host encouraged us to wander about on the grounds and come back in when we wanted the next sample.

The host was very generous with his pours, so it's a VERY good thing we also stopped here for our picnic lunch!

Favorite Picture from the Entire Week (well, at least from Napa!)

After lunch we shook off the sleepies and headed yet further north, to the Calistoga area, and to Tedeschi Winery.
Talk about small, family-owned!  Our host (who also helps with the winemaking) liked to say "each year we store fewer barrels of wine than some wineries spill!"

 (That's Chris, our Platypus guide, telling us a bit about the family!)

We got a full tour, from a talk about the grapes and how they're espaliered to a look at the de-stemmer and wine press.  (I won't bore you with pictures of everything... you'll have to come see my scrapbook when it's done!)

From there we headed to our last stop, and the largest winery on our list, Ballentine Vineyards.

Another absolutely lovely spot!  

Chris actually gave us the full tour, taking us into the barrel room and "behind the scenes".

 Then we got to the tasting.  We were all pretty tired - and totally happy - by this time.  ::heh::  But here is where I finally found a wine I adored. Their 2013 Malvasia Bianca Frizzante.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I bought two bottles...  ::sheepish grin::  ...the only double-up we did all day!

We ended the evening at a lovely Italian restaurant called Ristorante Allegria in downtown Napa, and crashed for a long nights' sleep.

DAY TWO
We spent the first part of the day at Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa.  We had lunch at the Oxbow Cheese and Wine Market, and had a cheese sampler with a flight and pairing.  Yum.  We visited the spice market and bought fenugreek, and hit up the honey stand too.  We *really* wanted to grab some fresh strawberries and cherries, but how the heck do you pack those in a carry-on?

After all that we staggered back to the B&B, rested a bit, and then it fell to me to drive to our afternoon destination: Stag's Leap Wine Cellars.

This is what the philosopher has been waiting for.

Unless you're a wine fan, you probably don't know the story of the Judgment of Paris.  In brief, in 1973 a Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag's Leap, in a relatively unknown-at-the-time Napa Valley, took on France's best Bordeaux wines and won in a blind tasting.  That win, plus another Napa win in chardonnays during the same event, is what put Napa Valley on the map.  Of *course* the philosopher was looking forward to this!

It's another beautiful place.

(That's stag's leap promotory there in the background)



  This is where we went big.  We'd made reservations for the tour and estate tasting, and it was worth it.  We got to go through their caves, which immediately called to mind Gimli's exultation of the Glittering Caves of Aglarond!  (And as obvious it is that the philosopher was looking forward to this tour, of *course* I have to come up with a Tolkien reference!!)

(He didn't drink them all, just the four in front of him, and... well... most of mine, too!)

We finished the tour with an estate tasting, which basically means we tasted their best wines.  And according to my resident expert, they were indeed excellent.  We tasted a chardonnay and three cabs, and it's a good thing we didn't have unlimited funds for this trip, because this place could have blown our budget. We did end up with four bottles of Artemis, and plan to lay them down for several years.

We capped off our last night in Napa with dinner at Brix Restaurant.

The food was magnificent.

And so was the view of their gardens!

This endeth our stay in Napa.  I've already promised the philosopher than when he scores a tenure-track position, we'll come back again, take another Platypus Tour (or two), and I'll buy him a bottle of Cask 23 at Stag's Leap!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

20th Anniversary Adventure: Yosemite National Park

So this is the first in a series of posts on our trip.  (A short series, I assure you.)

We went to Yosemite National Park for the first leg of our journey. We stayed at the Blue Butterfly Inn on Highway 140.
This is the front.  The B&B has a quirky story.  The land has been owned by the innkeepers since the late 70s, but only built in 2007.  In the meantime, a huge lodge and hotel complex has been built up right up against their tiny plot.  But - good for them - they refused to sell, and now they have a lovely space nestled up against the park!

This is our room - note the antique English Arts & Crafts furniture!   You can't see it, but to the left is a hug bay window and sliding glass doors leading to a balcony overlooking the Merced River.

We took this from upriver - see that umbrella?  That's on the main deck where we had breakfast every morning. Woot!

The B&B was about 5 miles from the arch rock entrance to the park.

DAY ONE
We saw most of the major sites the two days we were there.  The second day we planned to go to Glacier Point and Mariposa Grove.  But a late season snowstorm closed the roads, so we made the wise decision to stay in the valley.  (We didn't think the lime green Kia Soul would do well in ice, and oddly enough, Dollar Rental didn't offer us chains when we rented the car in San Francisco!)


Because all the streams were in full flow, we got some beautiful views of Bridalveil Fall.  And the first day the sky was gloriously blue (though a bit chilly for us Georgians in the mid-50s).  We took the picture of El Capitan from the West Valley Trail.
This is Cathedral Spires and Cathedral Rocks, which is also along the West Valley Trail.


And this is from the Merced River, looking east back down the valley.  You can see El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall, and farther in the distance a hint of Half Dome.

Here's a look of the same valley, taken from the Wawona Tunnel at an elevation around 5000 feet. Again, that's El Cap in the foreground, and in the center right you can see Half Dome.

So that was the morning of Day One.  After lunch we drove towards Glacier Point and stopped at the Sentinel Dome trailhead.  We donned our boots once again, and journeyed to 8000 feet.  (!!!!!)

An exhausting climb, but TOTALLY worth the views.  (It was also 15 degrees colder at the summit  ...  BRRRR.)

This is Sentinel Dome from the lower part of the trail.

And this is what we saw from the top.  Friends and family, I give you the Sierra Nevadas!

(And the philosopher, standing on the marker atop the dome.)

DAY TWO
Day two was spent on Mist Trail headed up to Vernal Fall.  This was Plan B - Vernal Fall is considered part of the Valley, not the higher elevations.  So it wasn't snowing, but there was a misty/rainy/cloudiness to most of the day.  Know those of you who know me know I hate being wet (think "cat").  I figured we should hike anyway, and if it was going to rain anyway why not do Mist Trail?  

So off we went.  (Can you see the look on my face? "I'm gonna get wet and I'm not gonna like it but by golly we're in Yosemite, so how can I not be outside?!?)

This is from Vernal Fall Bridge, which is about halfway up.  Oh my, the power of nature was awe-inspiring!

This is Vernal Fall.  All that fog?  Not fog.  Mist.  Pouring out of the canyon.


The brave philosopher made the final quarter-mile trek up the stone stairs to get to the very top.  This is looking back down the fall, and he even managed to get a rainbow in the shot!  Way to go!

The rest of the day was spent poking around Yosemite Village, visiting the Ansel Adams gallery, going through the Indian museum and the welcome center.  Then we ate dinner at Mountain Room, a yummy restaurant at the Yosemite Lodge.

So those are some of the highlights.  (I'm working on a massive scrapbook, so when it's ready in a few months let me know and I'd be happy to show it off.)

Post two, "On to Civilization.... Napa Valley" will be coming soon!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hope on A Gray Tuesday

It's Holy Week.  It's Tax Day.  It's cold and raining when it should be spring.

But there's hope, indeed.

Warmer weather is coming this weekend, and 10 days from now is the last official frost date for my town.  Tomatoes will be in the ground soon, yes indeed.

But the best hope?  The best good news on this gray day?  I'll leave that to Max Lucado to share, excerpted from his book And the Angels Were Silent:
_____________________________________________

It’s nearly midnight when they leave the upper room and descend through the streets of the city. They pass the Lower Pool and exit the Fountain Gate and walk out of Jerusalem. The roads are lined with the fires and tents of Passover pilgrims. Most are asleep, heavied with the evening meal. Those still awake think little of the band of men walking the chalky road.

They pass through the valley and ascend the path that will take them to Gethsemane. The road is steep, so they stop to rest. Somewhere within the city walls the twelfth apostle darts down a street. His feet have been washed by the man he will betray. His heart has been claimed by the Evil One he has heard. He runs to find Caiaphas.

The final encounter of the battle has begun.

As Jesus looks at the city of Jerusalem, he sees what the disciples can’t. It is here, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, that the battle will end. He sees the staging of Satan. He sees the dashing of demons. He sees the Evil One preparing for the final encounter. The enemy lurks as a specter over the hour. Satan, the host of hatred, has seized the heart of Judas and whispered in the ear of Caiaphas. Satan, the master of death, has opened the caverns and prepared to receive the source of light.

Hell is breaking loose.

History records it as a battle of the Jews against Jesus. It wasn’t. It was a battle of God against Satan.

And Jesus knew it. He knew that before the war was over, he would be taken captive. He knew that before victory would come defeat. He knew that before the throne would come the cup. He knew that before the light of Sunday would come the blackness of Friday...

He then turns, steps into the garden, and invites Peter, James, and John to come. He tells them his soul is “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” and begins to pray.

Never has he felt so alone. What must be done, only he can do. An angel can’t do it. No angel has the power to break open hell’s gates. A man can’t do it. No man has the purity to destroy sin’s claim. No force on earth can face the force of evil and win – except God.

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Jesus confesses.

His humanity begged to be delivered from what his divinity could see. Jesus, the carpenter, implores. Jesus, the man, peers into the dark pit and begs, “Can’t there be another way?”

Did he know the answer before he asked the question? Did his human heart hope his heavenly father had found another way? We don’t know. But we do know he asked to get out. We do know he begged for an exit. We do know there was a time when if he could have, he would have turned his back on the whole mess and gone away.

But he couldn’t.

He couldn’t because he saw you, and one look at you was all it took to convince him...
He saw you in your own garden of gnarled trees and sleeping friends. He saw you staring into the pit of your own failures and the mouth of your own grave. He saw you in your Garden of Gethsemane – and he didn’t want you to be alone.

He wanted you to know that he has been there, too. He knows what it’s like to be plotted against. He knows what it’s like to be confused. He knows what it’s like to be torn between two desires. He knows what it’s like to smell the stench of Satan. And, perhaps most of all, he knows what it’s like to beg God to change his mind and to hear God say so gently, but firmly, “No.”

For that is what God said to Jesus. And Jesus accepted the answer. At some moment during that midnight hour an angel of mercy came over the weary body in the garden. Jesus stood, the anguish gone from his eyes. His heart will fight no more.

The battle has been won. The sign of the conquest? Jesus at peace in the olive trees.

On the eve of the cross, Jesus made his decision. He would rather go to hell for you than go to heaven without you.

Lucado, Max. And the Angels Were Silent. New York: Walker and Co., 1993. 165-169. Print.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Rant... against lovely flowering trees

I have to admit something.  It's not a popular opinion I hold, especially here in Georgia, where subdivisions proliferate.

Some people might accuse me of "hating nature", or even being a "flowering tree denier".

But here it is.

I loathe Bradford pear trees.

You know the ones I'm talking about, right?

 
Yeah. These.


So why do I hate a tree that is the harbinger of warmer weather?  That signals the end of another cold winter, and promises hope for spring?

#1: THEY STINK.

I'm not going to say what they *really* smell like. (Google it if you dare.)  I think they smell like a rotting deer that got creamed crossing the road up from our house.  My neighbor has EIGHT of these darned trees lined up down the property line.  So right now I can't be in the back yard without thinking "is there another dead beast in the gully?".

#2: THEY ARE A MESS.
So all those lovely white flowers.  So beautiful.  So clean and pure.  Until you have to clean them out of your garden.  Off your driveway.  Out of your gutters.  Off your car.  Out of your dog's fur (not that we have a dog, but you get the idea).  Have you ever tried sweeping up those darned things after a heavy dew or - God forbid - a light shower?  AIEEEEEEEE~

3#:  THEY ARE A MENACE TO LIFE AND LIMB.
Literally.  This point has several subpoints.  1)  Where do most folks plant these?  Near the road.  How do these trees grow?  Out.  So when you pull out of the driveway, what do you see?  Tree branches, not oncoming cars!  2) I used limb literally here.  Do you know how darned breakable these stupid trees are?  After the last snowstorm, we had pear branches all over the streets.  They snap off at the trunk, and the whole limb just lays there, waiting to kill an oncoming driver.  (And then, to top it all off, the tree looks horrendous with a whole side missing!)

#4: THEY ARE EVERYWHERE.
Look at any subdivision.  You'll see them ranging up and down the street.  No variety.  No interest. Booooooooriiing!

Just. EEEEEWWWW.

Say No to Bradford pears!!!

Want a nice alternative? How about a lovely native tree?  I really like the apple serviceberry.  It blooms about the same time as the Bradford, with lovely white blooms that have a light, sweet scent.

 
Native.  Non-stinky.  Disease-resistant.  Hardy.



Our next house, whenever we take that step again, will not have Bradfords.  If it does, I will hack them down with glee and replace them with something much more palatable!

End rant.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Snowpocalypse! (x2)

So, y'all probably heard about the tremendous snowstorm that happened nearly three weeks ago, right?  That mighty 2 inches of snowfall that shut down Atlanta, trapping thousands of folks on the interstate?  (Yeah, there was a joke or two made at our expense...)  for those of you interested in the "what happened with the weather forecast" side of things, here's a blog post from the awesome Alabama metereologist James Spann.  He talks about the botched forecast, and how that little bit of snow can cause such catastrophic results.

The philosopher got stuck in it for 9 hours, and it took him a mile walk plus two different rides with strangers to make it home.  But we persevered, and thought we'd finished with winter.

But NOOOOOOOoooo.....

Round two hit us late last Monday night.  We got just less than a quarter-inch of ice.  Then we got 3 inches of snow Tuesday night.  And things looked like this:


 
But the sun finally came out on Wednesday, and brought blue skies and hope for a thaw...


 And then I discovered the best hope of all.... daffodils braving the cold and peeking their heads above the earth, the real signal of a warm spring to come.
(And I gotta say, it won't be here soon enough!!)