halloween [and pictures] galore!

I wish I could claim this excellent creation as my own, but I would be a big fat liar. My brother Nick made this huge (and delicious) pumpkin cake from scratch, using two bunt cakes stacked on top of one another. It was my sisterly duty to each three slices... not all at once, but one with breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This, however, is all mine! The very first pumpkin I've carved solo, and I'm overly proud of it. I wanted something that was more "Fall" than "Halloween" so I could keep it for a few weeks. It looks pretty cute all lit up on my dining room table, in my biased opinion.

But making a pair of ruby slippers was my big undertaking of the Halloween season. I started with a pair of plain red shoes from Walmart, and added spray-on glue, a few layers of chunky red glitter and finished them off with clear acrylic sealant. VoilĂ !


...and after.

The result: The Wicked Witch of the East
[Testing out my new ride]

[My fabulous, costumed co-workers... and my legs]


bioluminescent dinoflagellates

A big name for this microscopic miracle of nature.
October 20, 9:00 PM, Fajardo, Puerto Rico: Along with a dozen others, Ryan and I paddled a kayak out across a breezy saltwater bay, toward a dark, Mangrove-lined passage. With nothing but glow sticks on boats in front of us to mark the way, we followed single-file behind the tour guide through a narrow, winding canal. At first there was nothing remarkable about it — except that we did get a good laugh out of how remarkably bad some couples were at paddling a kayak.

But gradually, as we maneuvered along and it got darker and darker, you noticed the water. At first, the glow was barely visible, like your eyes were playing tricks on you. But twenty minutes later, as we approached "Laguna Grande," every time the paddle hit the water, it was as if a giant, silent, blue firework exploded under the surface. When the water is disturbed — whether by a fish or a human hand — a few thousand of these bioluminescent plankton light up like the Fourth of July.
It was incredible... something Walt Disney could have dreamed up... except it was so much better, because it was real.
[I couldn't bring my camera because by the end the trip we were soaked. I've patched together a few visuals, courtesy of Google and YouTube, but unfortunately they don't do it justice.]


hola puerto rico!

A giant GRACIAS to my Aunt Pam and Uncle Kurt, who gave us their timeshare week at a clearance-rack price. They'd tell you that I owe them tons of hours of babysitting, but I never signed any official agreement ;)

Ryan and I will rendezvous at Hartsfield-Jackson tomorrow morning and head for San Juan. Be back next week! Until then — peace, love & go dawgs.


big laugh for a little baby

Even on the crappiest of days, this will put a smile on your face.


my history with history

I watched the movie "The Great Debaters" last night. Liking it, I went online to do some research on the actual Wiley College debate team from 1935. And I'm glad that I did. While the movie is based on a true story, I found this article, written by a daughter of one of the real debaters. She reveals some key truths about History vs. Hollywood (i.e. Wiley's triumph was over the University of Southern California, not Harvard).

I'm embarrassed to admit that, until recently, I haven't had much of an interest in history. In fact, I've been satisfied for the better part of my life to live in complete ignorance on the subject. (I didn't help myself out much by sleeping through my college history class... but seriously, when you have 200+ kids in a lecture hall, it is an invitation to nap.) The past few weeks though, as I've been watching HBO's WWII miniseries Band of Brothers, I've become keenly aware of two truths: 1) I'm even more ignorant about U.S. history that I thought, and 2) any piece of history can be interesting if it is told in a compelling manner. (Because what little historical knowledge I do have was obtained through novels, lit classes, documentaries, movies, etc.)

Sometimes I feel I live my life on a soapbox, but I guess it's better than the alternative (not having an opinion). But the simple fact that as little as 53 years ago an African American woman could be imprisoned for keeping her seat and today we have an African American presidential candidate, makes me both grateful and ashamed in the same breath. Ashamed because, any way you twist it, America has an ugly past... and 1955 wasn't that long ago. But grateful that for every individual in our history who has acted out of hate and violence, there has been an individual brave enough and strong enough to stand up for liberty, justice and equality. The fact that a nation such as ours can undergo tremendous change in just 53 years gives me hope for mankind. In the words of W.E.B Du Bois, "As you live, believe in life. Always human beings will live and progress to greater, broader, and fuller life.”
[Du Bois's house in Accra, Ghana, which I visited in 2005. Among other things, he was the first African American to receive a Ph.D from Harvard in 1895. Du Bois lived in Ghana from 1961 until his death in 1963. He died the day before Martin Luther King Jr.'s march on Washington, where participants held a moment of silence to honor his memory.]

I'm setting a new goal to learn a thing or two about U.S. history. So if you have any recommendations (books, documentaries, etc.) I'll gladly take them.


under the sea

On Saturday afternoon I ventured to the Georgia Aquarium with my brothers and Grandmother, who is visiting from North Carolina. Although I live in Atlanta, I had no idea that this aquarium is the world's largest (clearly, I live under a rock). It's definitely worth checking out, but I would recommend going on a weekday. That is, unless you like large crowds, close quarters, rubbing elbows with tourists, strangers breathing on you, etc.

My favorites were the Weedy Sea Dragons (above) and the Beluga whales. I was actually so transfixed by the Belugas that I forgot to snap a picture. The Moon Jellies were also fascinating — I was one of the numbskulled visitors who walked up to their tank and exclaimed, "they're changing colors!" only to be corrected by my seventeen-year-old brother, "Dev, the color of the light is
changing, not the jellies" (after that they didn't seem quite as cool). But I think the best part about a trip to the aquarium is how, at least for one moment, everyone lets their inner 8-year-olds out and gawks, open-mouthed and wide-eyed, amazed by the beauty of nature, in all its strange forms.


typology test

I'm veering off topic for a moment, and completely stealing this from my friend Marissa, because I'm strangely fascinated with it: The Jung Typology Test or Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, "personality test." It's comprised of 72 yes/no questions, and evaluates your answers based on four dichotomies [pictured].

Who knows, maybe it's a crock. But some of it seemed to ring true. And, lets be honest, reading about one's self is always an interesting topic. With that said, you don't have to read the rest of this, as it is all about me. But if you want to read all about you, go here: Typology Test

My results: INFJ
Me, in a [verbose] nutshell:

INFJs are scarce, little more than one percent of the population, and can be hard to get to know, since they tend not to share their innermost thoughts or their powerful emotional reactions except with their loved ones. They are highly private people, with an unusually rich, complicated inner life. Friends or colleagues who have known them for years may find sides emerging which come as a surprise. Not that INFJs are flighty or scattered; they value their integrity a great deal, but they have mysterious, intricately woven personalities which sometimes puzzle even them.

INFJs are sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people — a product of the "Feeling" function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or obvious "soul mates." While instinctively courting the personal and organizational demands continually made upon them by others, at intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates. This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload to which they are so susceptible as inherent "givers." As a pattern of behavior, it is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the enigmatic INFJ character to outsiders, and hence the most often misunderstood.

Beneath the quiet exterior, INFJs hold deep convictions about the weightier matters of life. Those who are activists — INFJs gravitate toward such a role — are there for the cause, not for personal glory or political power. INFJs are champions of the oppressed and downtrodden. INFJs are distinguished by both their complexity of character and the unusual range and depth of their talents. Strongly humanitarian in outlook, INFJs tend to be idealists, and because of their "Judging" preference for closure and completion, they are generally "doers" as well as dreamers.
INFJs have an exceptionally strong desire to contribute to the welfare of others, and find great personal fulfillment interacting with people, nurturing their personal development, guiding them to realize their human potential.

Usually self-expression comes more easily to INFJs on paper, as they tend to have strong writing skills. Since in addition they often possess a strong personal charisma, INFJs are generally well-suited to the "inspirational" professions such as teaching, religious leadership, psychology and counseling. INFJs do quite well with individuals or groups of people, provided that the personal interactions are not superficial, and that they find some quiet, private time every now and then to recharge their batteries. INFJs are both kind and positive in their handling of others; they are great listeners and seem naturally interested in helping people with their personal problems. Not usually visible leaders, INFJs prefer to work intensely with those close to them, especially on a one-to-one basis, quietly exerting their influence behind the scenes.

More explicit inner conflicts are also not uncommon in INFJs; it is possible to speculate that the causes for some of these may lie in the specific combinations of preferences which define this complex type. For instance, there can sometimes be a "tug-of-war" between NF vision and idealism and the J practicality that urges compromise for the sake of achieving the highest priority goals. And the I and J combination, while perhaps enhancing self-awareness, may make it difficult for INFJs to articulate their deepest and most convoluted feelings.

Blessed with vivid imaginations, INFJs are often seen as the most poetical of all the types, and in fact they use a lot of poetic imagery in their everyday language. Their great talent for language — both written and spoken — is usually directed toward communicating with people in a personalized way. INFJs are highly intuitive and can recognize another's emotions or intentions — good or evil — even before that person is aware of them. Accurately suspicious about others' motives, INFJs are not easily led. These are the people that you can rarely fool any of the time. Though affable and sympathetic to most, INFJs are selective about their friends. Such a friendship is a symbiotic bond that transcends mere words.


finally fall?

This morning weighed in at a damp 64 degrees. Cloudy and drizzling, but finally, a day where it doesn't hit 80. (Not to complain — the weather has been beautiful lately — but it is hard to get into the Autumn spirit when it's as hot as July.)

But the heat hasn't stopped m
e from dressing like it is actually Fall (consequently, I've been sweating my face off for the past 2 weeks wearing jeans, scarves and closed-toed shoes.) And the heat definitely hasn't kept me from Fall festivities...

[Farmer Nick and the pumpkins he grew in the backyard. Impressive, don't you think?][The fam at R&A Orchards in Ellijay, picking apples. This has become an annual outing that I coerce them into... but they like it.]


i am the rain king

What do you call a birthday gift with five months of anticipation attached?Tickets (in May) to the Counting Crows concert (in October). It was worth the wait. Highlights:

>The concert starts at 8:00. Adam Duritz is onstage at 8:00. No frills, no bullshit, no introductions. Except he did take a moment to explain that two band members, Dave and Charlie, weren't present because their wives/girlfriends had babies over the weekend (a bizarre coincidence). In lieu of the two Crows, the Augustana band (also on tour) stepped in. The resulting band = what they dubbed "Augustana and Everything After Dave and Charlie leave" (their first album was titled "August and Everything After"). Love it.

>Soul that leaves me speechless and lyrics that never cease to amaze. Anyone who knows me has probably heard me say before that Counting Crows songs are poetry put to music.

>At the end, Adam states that he doesn't understand encores and thinks it is a waste of time to walk offstage, wait
for a minute and come back on. So he says they will just play a few more instead. And they proceed to do a folksy (yet spectacular) rendition of "Cecilia" that would have made Simon & Garfunkel proud.

A big shout out is in order: Thanks Trey and Nick (and Mom) for the tickets. Thanks Nick for coming with me (but too bad you didn't win those backstage passes, aha).