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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Theodore Roosevelt Island

We've been trying to prioritize fun on the weekends recently, and last weekend, we made a trip to Theodore Roosevelt Island. Scott in particular had been curious about it since the last time we lived in the DC area.

Theodore Roosevelt Island is an island in the Potomac River.  There is parking off the island and a short walk on a bridge to get there; no cars or bikes are allowed on the island itself.  We currently don't have a car, so we took the metro to Rosslyn and walked a little extra from there.

It was peaceful to take a walk away from all the urban traffic.  There is a memorial to Theodore Roosevelt on the island, as well as some water fountains and a restroom, but otherwise, it was just nature trails.  There were some mulberry trees, but alas, the ripe berries were too high for anyone but the birds to reach.

I love DC's more mainstream tourist attractions, and never tire of seeing the monuments that everyone knows and recognizes, but sometimes it's fun to veer off the usual beaten path and do something different.  I would certainly go back.  It would be fun to see the island in all the seasons.

View from the island

I think the filigree-like pattern on the leaves is probably due to bugs munching on them, but it's still pretty.

Theodore Roosevelt!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Contemplating Cane Toads, Just Like Everyone Does Sometimes

I wonder sometimes about the things I learned in school.  Some things were odd enough that I questioned them even at the time, but other things I've taken for granted until relatively recently.  One of those things is Chapel Hill, NC's proud cane toad documentary tradition.

I hadn't thought about cane toads in a long while, but I found a Washington Post article the other day about Australia's attempts to control their populations, and it took me back.  Back in high school, we all watched a documentary about Australia's cane toads.  The larger point of the documentary was to demonstrate the ecological damage that may ensue from bringing a new species into an area (in this case, importing cane toads to eat the cane beetles that were plaguing sugar cane crops).  The point that many of us took away was that there was some dude in Australia who swerved all over the road when he drove trying to run over as many cane toads as possible, and a little girl who had taken one as a pet and named it Dairy Queen.

I emailed the article to my sister, who, despite being ten years my junior and a graduate of a different high school in Chapel Hill, had also seen the cane toad documentary.  She reacted with incredulity, both because they were still such a problem in Australia after all this time and because I had seen an article about them.

So strong is the cane toad documentary tradition in my home town that I'm pretty sure I saw it mentioned on one of those "You know you grew up in Chapel Hill if..." lists some years ago.

I started to wonder, though, after seeing the Washington Post article.  I had thought of watching this documentary as a Chapel Hill idiosyncrasy, but maybe that was just a sense of Chapel Hill exceptionalism.  Maybe other people had fond (?) memories of the cane toad documentary.

I did a Google search on "cane toad documentary."  I learned that the documentary is called Cane Toads: An Unnatural History.  It was released in 1988, before my sister was even born.  And, according to Wikipedia, it's considered a cult classic and has a sequel!  So, a good number of people who didn't even ever live in Chapel Hill must have seen it at some point.  Maybe this should be a point of small talk for me next time I'm at a social gathering and facing an awkward silence after the obligatory conversation about the weather has ended.

I don't currently know anybody attending high school in Chapel Hill, so I'll just have to wonder whether they're still watching this documentary.  Maybe they've upgraded to the sequel, or maybe the new generation is watching a documentary about another homely, not-widely-appreciated animal.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Troubling Times

Whenever possible, I like for life to be entertaining and humorous.  Looking for humor is a coping mechanism for me, so I indulge in a fair amount of dark humor, which I fear not everyone appreciates (to put it mildly).

Sometimes, though, there is nothing funny about a situation.

Like most people, I am shaken by the shooting at Pulse in Orlando.  I'm horrified by the number of dead and injured.  It is also chilling to reflect on the level of hatred some individuals harbor toward the LGBTQ community, in spite of all the progress that has occurred in the US.

My thoughts are first and foremost with the victims of this attack and their loved ones.  But I also worry about the ripple effects yet to come.  Hate often begets more hate, and I worry that more innocent people may suffer.  Because the attacker was Muslim--and particularly because we've been exposed to a very nasty stream of rhetoric from politicians recently--I fear that distrust and prejudice toward Muslims in the US will grow.  Syria, a country where I lived for one year and still care deeply about, has been embroiled in a civil war for five years now.  There has been much discussion in the US and elsewhere about what to do with the refugees from that conflict--where they should go, which countries should take how many in, etc.  I worry that our openness to helping others--including possibly admitting refugees--will suffer as a ripple effect from this horrible incident.  I hope that in the midst of our fear and anger that we can remember to view each person as an individual, and remember that there are sometimes very compelling reasons to extend compassion.

Here's hoping for healing for the people of Orlando and better, happier times for all.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

I'm One Of Them...But I Don't Know Who They Are

This morning, I walked from our apartment to a local shopping center, purchased a few items at T.J. Maxx, and carried them home.  I got stuck behind a group of slow-moving people on the sidewalk on the way back.  After I successfully maneuvered around them, I overheard one of them remark that there were certainly a lot of strange people around here.

The timing of her comment made her think that she was probably referring to me, among other people.  I'm not going to deny being strange--though I may also question her normality--but I wondered what in particular tipped her off.  I'm also curious who the other strange people around here are.  It's entirely possible that I have a ready-made community of friends right in town, and I'm not even sure who they are.  The moment has probably passed to find out.