Finished with Furloughs

IMG_0463.jpg

I never posted an update about my furlough status but like all other federal employees, I went back to work once congress got it's act together and passed a budget. Because I was in the middle of job training, getting me and my classmates back to Frederick Maryland was a little more complicated and it took about another full week to get back into the swing of things. 

In short, I headed back to Frederick on 21 October and have been studying government stuff ever since. In case you were wondering, being furloughed generally sucks. I should clear up any misconception that being furloughed is like an awesome paid vacation. It is not. What it is like is being let go from work with no income coming down the pike and nothing but uncertainty ahead of you. Plus, as you can see from the photo above, I didn't quite get the vacation of my dreams. I won't rant on about it all but legislators that use federal employees and citizens that depend on those federal employees as pawns in their political games really should be dealt with severely at the ballot box.  

What you do when you are furloughed is try to make the best of things. I enjoyed being with my family and tried not to worry to much about the future. And to that end, I did get to see Mary the kids off to school in the mornings, and cook diners for them in the evenings. I am pretty happy that the furlough at least corresponded with the final   games of the Philadelphia Union's season. I certainly enjoyed going to all the games this year with Steve and Paddy. I also managed to take care of a bunch of things around the house that I couldn't do while I was a way. That said I was pretty have to get back to the training center and moving on with my new career. Here are some photos of various and sundry things that went on while I was home. Also there are a few photos from Halloween. 

 

The rest of the summer

The entrance to the Barns Foundation. 

The entrance to the Barns Foundation. 

Besides visiting North Carolina we have been quite busy with other stuff. Back toward the end of June Mary singed us up for a volunteer day at the Chester County Food Bank where we helped removed stones from a potato field in Spring Manor County Park. 

Spring Manor is a working farm where the produce is all contributed to the food bank. We were astonished to learn that while Chester County, Pennsylvania, is one of the wealthiest counties in the country, there are still over 80,000 residents here that go hungry every day. Being able to contribute to an effort to help eliminate this was a great experience. We wanted to sign up for more volunteer sessions but hey have more volunteers than they know what to do with. So, we may not be able to do that again until the fall. 

Also at the end of June I turned 30 for the 21st time. I had a nice birthday where the Fozards came over for cake and ice cream. The following day I went to see the Union play Dallas FC to a 2-2 draw, which is not a loss, which was a nice birthday present for me. Even nicer was the fact that my friend Lee Pavorsky and his son Jake joined Steve and I for the game. Lee and I go way back to Rome Italy where we shared many great adventures. His son Jake is a budding sports writer. See some of his work here and here.  

Shortly after my birthday it was our neighbor Miranda Fozard's birthday. Mary treated both Miranda and I to a day at the new Barns Foundation galleries in Philly. If you are not familiar with this fantastic collection of early twentieth century collection of art, you should be. It is fantastic. The collection use to be in Lower Marion but was recently relocated to Center City Philadelphia under much controversy. I was lucky in that I got to know the collection quite well when I was going to school at the Tyler School of Art. I have to say that former location was special and unique, the new building in Center City is world class. If you come to Philly go see it. You won't be sorry. 

We will be at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware for the next two weeks enjoying a pleasant summer vacation with Mary's family. I'll update the blog with new and exciting news when we get back!  

See photos of the rest of the summer here.  

Russell

 

Bicycle Botany: Rare Junk

IMG_4886.jpg

Actaully, it should be rare Juncus, and I should change the name of this post from  Bicycle Botany to Soccer Botany, or perhaps Fotbol Botany. 

One of the fun things about being a biologist is that I can often find great surprises in the strangest of places. For example I remember back in the early 80's when I was in college I visited New York City. It was a fall day and I was in lower Manhattan when I walked past a tiny park with only four of five trees in it. I heard a strange call coming from the top of one of the trees. I looked up to see a Western Kingbird. A rare bird for anywhere on the east coast, especially NYC. 

As I have stated on my blog before, I enjoy going to see the Philadelphia Union Soccer games with my friend Steve. Also, as I have made mention of I have been knee deep in learning as much about Pennsylvania's plant life as I can this summer.  

The photo above is the back end of parking lot C, where Steve and I like to park on game day. As you may notice, it is like any parking lot with various and sundry weeds around it's edges. This end of the parking lot is usually a mud puddle, or what a biologist would refer to as a wetland. Below is another look at the "wetland." That is our friend Dave looking back at me wondering what kind of nutcake would be so excited about a little mud puddle. 

A common type of plant that you see in places like this are rushes in the genus Juncus. Juncus tenuis is particularly common, I see it just about everywhere here in Southeastern PA. This small "wetland" has a patch of Juncus growing around it and I assumed it was most likely Juncus tenuis, however, there are 29 different species of Juncus found in Pennsylvania and they are all very similar in appearance. So, after one game, I yanked a specimen out of the "wetland" to bring home to put it under my microscope for a closer look. 

Much to my surprise, it wasn't Juncus tenuis, but instead Juncus dichotomus, one of the rarest plants in Pennsylvania! Commonly known as the forked rush, it is known from only 15 sites in Pennsylvania. Perhaps Parking Lot C is number 16. In an incredible stroke of luck, about about a week after identifying the plant from the mud puddle of Parking Lot C, I found another small population in the serpentine barrens of the Stroud Preserve, perhaps site number 17. Here is a poor photo of the plant. Even if the photo was great, it ain't much to look at, but pretty darn exciting if you are a biologist! Oh, by the way, it is the weed with the very straight grass-like leaves in a bunch in the middle of the photo. The fruit pods are the brownish-orange things that are out of focus. 

FORKED RUSH Juncus dichotomus Elliott 10 June 2013, Chester, Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

That was a cold one!

IMG_2958a.jpg

Dang nation, spring soccer can be really tough sometimes, I hear it is even tough for the players as well! Being the hardcore fans that we are, Steve and I suffered through the rain, sleet  and snow to see the Union come out on top of the New England Revolution 1-0. All I've got to say is that it's a good thing they won this one because if they hadn't I think Steve and I, along with a few other fans, would have taken the field and taught them a lesson! Luckily, most of the rain and sleet occurred before the game started and at half time. See photos of the day here

Life with the Boys

IMG_2651 - Version 2.jpg

Paddy, William, Steve and I have been living it up lately. This past weekend,  Steve and I were especially excited because it was the start of the MLS season! We also have new seats where we are actually allowed to sit down (we use to be in the supporters section where you had to stand the entire game and shout obscenities at the opposing team, and sometimes we shouted obscenities at he home team. It is Philly after all). The first game of the year was with Sporting KC (Kansas City). We started off great with a goal in the 17th minute from recently reacquired Sebastian Le Toux. Then memories of the last season came flooding back with Sporting KC made three unanswered goals. Oh well, the boys in blue will do better next time. Check out photos of us all here

Le Toux on Le Blog

IMG_1578 - Version 2.jpg

About a year ago The Philadelphia Union traded one of their star players, Sebastian Le Toux, to the Vancouver Whitecaps. They then held a going away party for him at Kildare’s Irish Pub in West Chester, just a few blocks from our house. Since it was walking distance, I went, had a beer, and met Seba. He spent half the season playing for Vancouver then got traded to the New York Red Bulls where he finished out the season. The last game of the year, we all got to see him play before his real home crowd at PPL Park.

When the season was over, we were all surprised the hear that he had been traded back to Philly! Again, they held his welcome home party at Kildare’s last night starting at 6:30. Which was very convenient for me, as the boys religious education classes are just a block down the street at St. Agnes. I dropped the boys off at church then, like a good Irish dad, I headed to the pub. Again, I got to shake his hand and get a photo with him. After which I headed back over to church and picked up the boys.

As you probably know from reading Le Blog, Paddy likes soccer and has gone to many games with me. I asked him when he got out of religious ed if he would like to meet a famous soccer player. “Sure! I’d love to!” He asked “When we could do that”  and I said “hummm…how about now?” He said “what? You can just do that?”

So, we walked the short walk back to he pub and went in. Any kids that came to the pub to meet Seba were ushered up to the front of the line and were given the royal treatment. Paddy, who happen to be wearing his Union hat, was over joyed. William on the other hand, could have cared less and asked if he could get something to eat.

Nonetheless, it was a big thrill for Paddy and a lesser thrill for William. Seab bent down and talked to Paddy. He asked if he liked soccer and if he could expect to see Paddy in the stands at PPL Park next season. Paddy skipped all the way home. Check out photos of the evening here along with a few other recent family photos as well. 

The Last Game of 2012!

IMG_1099-2.jpg

Well, the last game of the Philadelphia Union's 2012 season was yesterday. They played the New York (New Jersey) Red Bulls (pink cows). We had high hopes that the Union would put a hurting on them, but in the end, they put a hurting on us: Union 0, Pink Cows 3. 

This season was hard for the Union fans, the team went through many painful changes and their performance showed. That said, Steve and I had a blast going to the games and yelling obscenities at the opposing team (and sometimes at the home team). We missed the third member of our party, Enrico, who only made it to one game this year. He was faced with a big decision, soccer or art. He chose art. Who could have guessed that his studio/gallery Parallel Art Space would be such a success! Congratulations Rico! (Just for the record, Steve and I have devised a alternative soccer plan for 2013 that he will not be able to back out of).

I wanted to thank Mary for allowing me to slip away a couple times a month to see the games. Also, thanks to Rico for allowing us to bring some friends to the game every so often in his place. Steve and I are already looking forward to the 2013 season. We have moved our regular seats from the supporters section to a corner section. Mainly because in the supporters section you must stand for the entire game. Steve and I both turned 50 this year and we have discovered that sitting down is a good thing! 

See some photos of the last game here

Doop, doop, doop, do, do, doop, doop, doop! 2013!

Russell

Open Practice

Whoa! Has it really be three weeks since my last post? You would think that being unemployed I’d have all the time in the world to blog away, but I’ve been so busy with other miscellaneous and sundry things that I just haven’t gotten around to it. From earlier post you might have noticed one of the things that keeps me off the street corner is that I have season tickets to the Philadelphia Union Soccer team.

IMG_0227.jpg

Back on June 21, the longest day of the year, the Union held an open practice for season ticket holders. Paddy and I, along with my friend Steve, jumped at the chance to see the players up close and see how they prepare for a game.

The practice was held at PPL Park where the games take place. Our regular seats are down at the “River End,” or as some would call them the “cheap seats” where all the hooligans sit. For the practice we got to sit in the midfield seats. The first thing that we noticed was that our regular seats are really cheap. The midfield seats are cushioned, and have armrest and cup holders. Plus you have an awesome view of the field!

I was a little afraid that the practice would be nothing more than watching a bunch of skinny guys run up and down the field sweating profusely. Luckily, this was not the case. Since this was the last practice before a big game on following Saturday, they did mostly ball handling activities and practiced setting up plays. It was truly amazing to see athletes at that level (i.e. professionals) kick the ball around.

Paddy, however, was unimpressed. He was there for two reasons. The first was to get a hot dog, fries, and some ice cream. The second was to get his Union tee shirt signed by all the players on the team. He got his hot dog, fries and ice cream and then had to endure the kicking of the ball for a while. As soon as the practice was over, they announced that the team would be available for autographs down front. Paddy immediately said “hey dad, can I go up front now?” Before I could even open my mouth, Paddy worked his way through the crowd and up to the front leaning over the rail talking to the players. Within a minute, I saw his little head pop up and head him say “hey dad! I got a goalies glove!” and he held up a blue and white goalies glove.

I said “dang nation Paddy! You give that glove back to whoever you took it from right now!” I said to Steve “you can’t leave that kid alone for even a minute without him getting into trouble.” Thinking that he conned the glove off of some other kid down there, I worked my way up front to let him have it. When I got there I asked him where he got it. A lady who was standing next to him said he just asked the goalie for it and he gave it to him. She said he gave the other glove to her son.

So it was, Paddy didn’t get his shirt signed by the team. Instead, he got his new, well slightly used, goalies glove signed by the team! I still think he is a little con artist. See photos of the event here.

Russell

IMG_0268.jpg

Soccer Season?

Major League Soccer has been underway now for almost a month. Today Steve and I went to the third home game of the year for the Philadelphia Union. 

Up until today, we have not had much to be happy about, other than our intrinsic need to be present at the games. Not only have the Union been winless, but the last game had weather more appropriate for a outdoor hockey game. Here is our friend Nancy trying to keep her sprits up at our mini tailgate. 

Image 3.jpg

The last home game was particularly hard because the opposing team was the Vancouver Whitecaps, whose star player is Sebastian le Toux who was formerly the Union's star player. On the up side of that game it was a draw at 0-0, so it wasn't a loss. 

Today however things turned around with the Unions first win of the season! A 1-0 win over Columbus. Steve predicted that the Union would win 1-0 with a controversial call in the last five minutes of the game. That was close as they won with a controversial call in the last five minutes of the first half. The call was a hand ball at the net against Columbus which resulted in a penalty kick for the boys in blue. The best part of today's game was the weather which was great, a little overcast but temperatures in the low 70's. 

One thing about today that was a downer was that Rico couldn't make it down for the game as he was busy moving to his new studio in Brooklyn. The next home game is against the San Jose Earthquakes on April 28th. 

Check out photos from our soccer foray's here.

Russell