I have two campus visits scheduled at top-notch DC Schools: Georgetown Day School, and Highland School in Northern Virginia. As much as one can tell about people from a 30 minute interview, I think I’d be happy working with either of their faculty.

This has been a really good day, and it’s not even 5 PM. Fabulous. Phew. Ready for a beer.

On a related note, the professional website is now live. Click here for my new public face online.

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Or at least, an awesome cocktail. One which I’m not finding described elsewhere on the internet. Which makes me inordinately smug and happy. Especially given the way this thing came about. Here’s the story:

This evening after dinner – fried tofu coated in basil, oregano, garlic and sea salt, mushrooms and onions, a fairly kick-ass tomato salad with artichokes – I retired for a bit of Hemingway and a drink. It had been an unceasingly beautiful day, with the sun, sky and flowers conspiring to make you feel the world truly was being reborn. Thus my drink of choice recently, tawny port, seemed very much out of the question. Too old, too heavy and woody by far. It was definitely a night for good tequila.

But I didn’t want to dirty another glass, and I already had one with the barest residue of port in the bottom sitting on my desk. So I said to hell with it, and poured a finger of tequila into the port-stained glass. At the first sip, I could taste the difference – a hint of wood, and the slightest additional sweetness preceding the tequila. Just the whispering of a further idea. And my eyes grew large, and I surveyed the bottles in my collection, and with epiphanic clarity I knew what I needed to do. I present, for your mixing and sipping pleasure, the following:

  • Two parts good tequila (preferably a reposado; in my case, Don Julio)
  • One part  tawny port (the port was somewhat cheaper; 10-year-old Porto Morgado from Trader Joe’s)
  • Garnish with orange (I didn’t actually do this, but the drink wanted orange in the fragrance)
  • Stir gently; serve in a martini glass

Yowza.

The combination of floral, spice, and just a hint of wood in the tequila ties perfectly to the heavier wood, fruit, chocolate and earth notes of the port. The key here is not using so much port that you overwhelm the tequila.

Since the liquors are fairly exposed in this cocktail, I think it’s important to have good ingredients. Both should certainly be sipping grade on their own, and the final drink will likewise be for considered consumption. I wouldn’t mix it on ice, but this might be a good tack if using cheaper tequila and port. Also, this might be a variant worth exploring if using a lighter-weight port than tawny.

Part of the fun, though, is that this drink still needs a name. Any thoughts or suggestions?

My mother always highlighted cleaning the bathroom as one of those chores that was exponentially easier if performed once every week as opposed to, say, once every three. Updates on life, especially when the metaphorical pedal has gotten mashed to the floor and you’ve already made it to a different state, are similar.

(Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that was an intentional use of “mashed.”)

I’m moving to Washington, DC this August after Outward Bound wraps up. The goal is to teach math at a private or charter high school. DC has the strongest job market in the nation right now, with 5 of the top private schools hiring upper school math, and a large number of smaller independent, parochial and charter schools offering positions as well. I began a job search two weeks ago, and got my 6th application out on Tuesday. I had a very positive preliminary phone interview with Maret School the same day. And I found out this afternoon that Carney Sandoe, the premier national teacher placement agency, accepted my application to be represented, and has recommended me to three of the schools where I already applied, and another charter school I’ll be cranking out an application to in the next couple days. I’m buying a new suit tomorrow. I should be done populating my resume website Saturday. My business cards arrive some time next week. Here’s a preview:

(I’m designing business cards. This is a little surreal.)

Honestly, I guess it’s about time.

For the past few years, I’ve said I wanted to teach math. For the past few months, I’ve said I wanted to teach high school math. And I’m just coming to the edge of “it’s been too long.” I would start to lose significant mathematical ability with another year in the woods, and that would be a shame. Honestly, I have plenty of retraining to do already. Math is so much like a sport; there’s too much of it that’s flexibility and stamina for a lack of practice not to show. But I trust I’ll get back to speed pretty fast. And this past year, this impending summer working with the North Carolina Outward Bound School are opportunities I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Nor do I intend to. The beauty of teaching: I can still run summer programming with NCOBS and work at a high school in DC. I can keep one foot in the woods even as my other is planted in the city. Continuing with NCOBS is a large part of why I’m going to DC, and not, say, Boston. It’s the only East Coast city with lots of excellent secondary schools and equally excellent whitewater. The Potomac, my friends! Living in DC, when I’m not killing myself with lesson plans and running extra-curriculars, I’ll be able to gain the river skills I need to move up to Lead Instructor with Outward Bound. And there’s climbing close by. All told, better opportunities than I could find almost anywhere else.

I’ve already been blessed with some great friends in the DC area. The prospect of reestablishing and developing those connections – with my cousin, with friends from Wake Forest, with others – is lovely. To know that I am going to such good people, people already helping me in the transition with contacts, recommendations and seemingly ceaseless offers of help, is an amazing feeling.

There’s also something bittersweet in this prospect. It’s an incredible new beginning – the beginning of a career (which is indubitably scary, but also exciting), and the beginning of a life with more, if not greater, responsibilities. But it will also be the end of several years where I could drive to be with my family whenever the opportunity struck. Years where the mountains, and not just any mountains but my mountains, were never more than a half-day’s journey away. Years where, for the past 5, I’ve had the same North Carolina Appalachian Trail commemorative license tag, and where owning a Subaru wasn’t just for snow, it was for snow and hills!

Maybe the greatest change, though, and a change I already feel, is from the more-or-less constant uncertainty of future I’ve embraced for the past several seasons. I’ll probably be in DC for a few years. And I haven’t considered spending that long in one place since I graduated high school.

But again, I guess it’s about time.

This will all be good, and exactly as it’s supposed to be. I can see and feel God leading me in this. Once again, it’s a matter of keeping my eyes focused on him, and not getting sucked into believing the importance of my own worries and plans. He knows what he’s doing. And his itineraries are always more interesting than my own. I have peace and joy in the prospect, and the firm knowledge that this will be good. This will all be very, very good.

The robins are back –
flocks of them in the trees
around Carrington
making the sidewalks beneath
hazardous.

I was in Winston-Salem this past weekend, visiting Kathryn and Chase, and decided to drop by Wake Forest for the first time since I graduated last May.  I went to the Catholic Community Mass in Davis Chapel, got roped into singing by Father Jude, and afterwards walked across the upper quad to my old office.  This particular episode from PhD Comics was still taped to the outside of the door, right where I’d left it ten months ago.

Wake Forest the campus no longer impresses me.  I remember as a first-year how over-awed I was.  How I described the brickwork as oozing money, and marveled at the absurd protectionism of the groundskeepers towards the lawns.  How I knew of an undergrad who had given his new girlfriend a tennis bracelet for Valentine’s, and others who drove Porsches and collectible BMW M3s.  How I saw girls who at times wore in excess of $1500 in clothing and accessories to class.

I’d known that a large number of people at Wake Forest were unhappy.  But being very unhappy myself, I noticed it less.  Being happy now, though, and coming back, the difference was more striking.  Looking out over the faces at Mass from my vantage in the choir, it was sad how few people were smiling.  How many folks looked down, looked inward, or were simply blank.  I know what the glazed eyes of self-preservation look like in a crew of Outward Bound students, and that’s what I saw on too many of these kids’ faces.

I remember when I used to wear that look.

It’s a dramatic juxtaposition with Chapel Hill.  There are plenty of unhappy people here, too, but there are also lots of very happy people.  There are some happy people at Wake, but not so many.  And very few of those are joyful.  Joy – joy is the thing.  I see a great deal of joy in Chapel Hill.  I do not see so much in Winston.  I hope there are plenty of folks who will disagree with me on this, especially Winston natives and others allied with the town.  But when I’m there, I have a hard time finding the spark.

Chase made an interesting point this evening when I mentioned my dismay over the faces on campus, the apparent lack of joy.  He said “But Nathan, people don’t come to Wake to have fun.  They come here to work, to succeed, and to advance.  They aren’t here just to have a good time.  Plenty of people go to Chapel Hill to have a good time.  And think about it – the towns are the same way.”

And I think he’s right.  I don’t know of anyone who moved to Winston because it sounded like such a happening place.  It’s nice, but I don’t think anyone would claim it’s got much bounce.  It moves slowly, methodically, and gets the job done.  A Southern industrial town buoyed by a hard-ass university.

I guess you get what you came for.  And it was exactly what I needed to realize that’s not what I want.  Back in Chapel Hill, heading back to the woods in April, I’m resting a whole, whole lot easier.

I know, it’s happened a bunch already this year, but each time it’s still worth reveling in the sheer beauty:

It’s snowing again in Chapel Hill.

Off to go wander…

Update:
And in the course of wandering, I bumped into one of my second year officemates from Wake Forest on Franklin Street. Speaking of anomalies…

Foodiness – n., A conjuction of “food” and “happiness”; see happiness.

I’ve been feeling a little down the past two days.  On any other Tuesday night, the normal solution would be grabbing a Clif bar, filling up the Nalgene, and heading to the Chapel Hill community center for Tuesday night climbing.  But today the downness came in conjuction with enough fatigue that I really didn’t relish the thought of flogging my core and forearms for two and half hours on 50 feet of overhanging plywood and plastic.

Rice and beans was on the docket for some night this week, and tonight seemed as good as any.  The can of Trader Joe’s Cuban black beans suggested white rice and fried bananas as suitable accompaniment, to which my mind shrugged and said “Yeah, whatever” as they slumped into the saucepan.  A baked sweet potato would have to do.

Enter my housemate Buz.  He was puttering around, heating chili, when he mentioned “By the way,  if you want any, I’ve got an overstock of bananas…”

I excused myself to go find a recipe for fried bananas.

Understand, I’ve tried to make fried bananas at least twice before, but it’s never worked.  I could never determine my failing, but the resultant confection was always gooey, never crisp.

Enter the missing element: breading.  Hah!

Slice your bananas in half across the middle and then into ~3/8 inch lengthwise strips.  Dredge the slices in a mixture of flour and cinnamon, and let rest.  Bring about twice as much butter as you think you need to a sizzle in a heavy frying pan.  Add your strips of banana.  Cook on both sides until crispy brown.  The key here is to get a toasted, crunchy shell with a soft, gooey banana center.  If you really hit it, you caramelize the banana’s sugar in the outer layer.  But be careful – you’re flirting with the burn zone to accomplish this.  Remove from heat and sprinkle with raw sugar.  Consume with relish.

If you have a sweet potato baking in the oven, now would be the perfect time to let it get in on the fun in that hot, buttery, cinnamony frying pan you just cleared…

So, tonight’s supper: hopped-up black beans, jasmine rice, a diced fresh Roma tomato, fried bananas, and half a buttery sweet potato.  Oh, oh, YES!

And, now I know an answer to being down other than raw endorphins.  Get thee to a cookery!  Go!

Things that make me happy:

A fast-paced southern college town slowed down by 4 inches of white.

Sidewalks pressed smooth by hundreds of pairs of feet, still clean, sparkling silver under street lights.

Cold sharp enough to nullify the best efforts of road salt and liberate a campus for snowball fights and sledding and wild games of capture the flag.

A birthday party with spiced lamb meatballs and bacon-wrapped, almond-stuffed dates where all but one of the guests arrived on foot.

The soft silence of a cold blanket draped over all without exception, softening edges, hiding scars, reminding us that we’re not in control, and that it’s possible to enjoy that, too.

A small part of why I love my coworkers at Outward Bound:

I heard a friend refer to an athlete’s musculature as “shredded” a few days ago, and I couldn’t get over what an absurd word that was to describe a well-developed physique.  How the word bore absolutely no relation to either the form or the function of the body in question.  And my mind started spinning on the question of why….why has such a word entered into even occasional usage, and where the *heck* did it come from?

It might be possible to do this in a scholarly manner.  Work to determine the first print usage of “shredded” describing physique, search for use of related adjectives in the same article, trace them backwards, etc.  But this is inconvenient whilst one is brushing teeth.

Brains being brains, they do their own behind-the-scenes connecting, and this was my personal resolution of the mental discord while scrubbing the old pearly whites.

Shredded generally refers to the state of being torn, rent, of something having been separated into lots of little pieces.  So it’s a more dramatic form of ripped. Aha!  Here we have a track back to another word in the fitness lexicon! But ripped still doesn’t make much sense when talking about fit bodies.  I’m left with images of separated achilles and crippling hamstring injuries.  Uuurghhh.  But the brain is still spinning, burning clock time mining the internal thesaurus.  Ripped: less controlled, more raw act of dividing something.  Bisect.  Wound.  Draw-and-quarter.  Slash.  Pillage….no, no, wrong direction.  Refocus.  If I was angry or rushed I might tear a rag, or a bandage, or rip off a piece of tape instead of cutting it.  Win.  Cut.  Pause to spit toothpaste.  But no, really, while this is surely another valid term, used by any high school male to describe the body he wishes he had, why, why on earth someone refer to muscles as cut?  (Why have I referred to muscles as cut?  Because really, I’m far more of a linguistic cultural lemming than I’d like to admit…)  Cut, cut….ok…  Is cutting an edgier form of another process?  Edgier…haha….But wait!  Actually, yes!  BAM.  Lightbulb.  Chiseled. Marble sculpture.  The idealized masculine form.  Statuary.  Michaelangelo.  Rome.  Greece.  The Olympians.  Bingo.  Because cutting, stonecutting, actually is a synonym for cold chisel work in stone.

The funnier part, though: the imagined dialogue of one-upsmanship running through my head as I switched out lights and climbed into bed.

“Man, my deltoids are chiseled.”
“Oh yeah?  Well my abs are cut.”
“Hah!  But check out my ripped pecs…”
“Man, y’all got nothin’.  Look at these
shredded bi…….

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz