Friday, December 31, 2010

Ring out the old...

It's New Year's Eve.  Here in northern Florida, we finally had a northern Florida type day, sunny with temps at or near 70.  This provided the excuse for a five-mile walk through the Julington-Durbin Preserve with our little terrier, Tinker Belle.  The only hitch was that about ten minutes into the walk, I started having those nagging doubts about whether I locked the car up or not, so we walked to where I could check with the remote. It was reassuring to hear the beep of the alarm.

Even on the last day of 2010, some Fall colors linger here, and the subdued reds and browns of the deciduous trees make a nice contrast with the always-green evergreens, as you can see in these photos. The trails itself mostly winds over and around a prehistoric sand dune, at times skirting cypress swamp.  There are relatively open areas, and there is also pretty thick forest.

We see, from time to time, deer, raccoons, possums, armadillos, squirrels of course, and various birds including hawks, crows, pileated woodpeckers, wild turkeys, and smaller modern dinosaurs that I can't identify.  Reptiles are my strength, and we've seen, in warmer weather, gopher tortoises, terrapins, box turtles, yellow and red rat snakes, black racers, and even a water moccassin down in the swamp.  The ranger says there are lots of pygmy rattlers, but in all my miles of walking this place I have yet to see one.  I haven't seen the family of bobcats that are said to reside here, either.

There's one place in the woods where people have left a couple of strange items.  One is what looks like an old trap, large enough for a bear but with the trap door rusted open.

Another is what appears to be a bath tub, accumulating leaves and whatnot which has gradually provided sufficient organic material so that now a small tree is growing in it.

Anyways, this walk was a nice way to end the year.  It also provided me with time to think about how the year went, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  First, the Good:
  • We had several opportunities (including now at the end of the year) to visit with our son and his new family, which includes our grandson Gabriel, who turned two yesterday. Sometimes, he's a Terrible Two, but mostly he's a Terrific Two.
  • Our daughter, the offspring that inherited my passion for critters, successfully completed her first semester of veterinary school, and she too is home for the holidays.  She's studying in the Caribbean, and her semester began with a hurricane, but things went ok after that.
  • In August Willy and I got to revisit the place where we were married, Barbados, 36 and counting years ago.  We had an excellent time, enhanced by our attendance at the conference of the Society for Caribbean Linguistics, a group that includes so many positively marvelous people who are both fun and intellectually stimulating to interact with.
The Bad?
  • By returning control of the House to Rethuglicans and reducing the Democrats' majority in the Senate, Americans once again proved to the world that they are the stupidest, most gullible, most easily manipulated voters on the Planet, perhaps in the Galaxy, if not the Universe.
  • Our President, questing ever for "bipartisanship" and "consensus," did not win for us national health care, a living minimum wage, or free education through university. Instead, he allowed viciously mean-spirited Republicans to dictate the terms of engagement at every turn, and in the end what we got was an ever-widening gap between the wealthiest 1 or 2 percent of the country and all the rest. I'm not saying he didn't get us anything at all, but it has been disappointing to say the least.
  • Our President upped the ante on the GW Bush administration by expanding a hopeless and idiotic "war on terror" in Afghanistan, so that now Afghanistan is really Obama's War.  And it's stupid.  And every US military person who is injured or dies in this Kafkaesque nightmare is a sacrificial lamb on the altar of our addiction to "war."
  • The increasing stranglehold of the corporatist/capitalist "business" model on higher education is most upsetting. Professors at universities are treated, now, like stock persons at Barnes & Noble, or Books-a-Million.  We are "evaluated" by our students, who are notoriously unqualified for this task.  And the students themselves have devolved. I started out teaching high school and middle school in 1969. When I came to UNF in 1989, the students were mature, eager to learn, happy to be in a classroom. Now, 22 years later, I feel like I'm back in middle school. It may take an entire semester to convince some of them that yes, the notes they take in class are important, and no, I am not going to provide them with a "study guide" for the test. [Disclaimer: Not all our students are like this, obviously; we have many great students, especially in our Anthropology Program.  But the general feeling, that the quality of intellectual life is going down, remains. Added 1/1/11 at 6:15 pm.]
The Ugly? 
  • The following people, listed in no particular order, are walking around, free to go pretty much where they want, with little likelihood that they will ever pay for the crimes they have committed on ourselves and many, many others who share the world with us: Henry Kissinger; George W. Bush; Dick Cheney; Richard Pearle; William Kristol; Donald Rumsfeld;  Condoleeza Rice; Karl Rove; The Koch Brothers; John McCain; Etc.
  • The following people are dead, but they should be exhumed, placed on trial, and postemptively hanged at The Hague for what they did to us and others in the world:  Richard Nixon;  Ronald Reagan; Augusto Pinochet; Etc.
So, I have mixed feelings about 2010.  Most of the non-good feelings go away when I'm with my grandson, though.


  1. Sounds nice! I would like to drive down to Florida in the next couple of years. I'll make it a point to visit this preserve.

    Glad you have a grandson that helps cheer you up against imminent doom.


  2. This is my favorite summary about the elections: "By returning control of the House to Rethuglicans and reducing the Democrats' majority in the Senate, Americans once again proved to the world that they are the stupidest, most gullible, most easily manipulated voters on the Planet, perhaps in the Galaxy, if not the Universe."


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