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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Time Flies...


I can't speak for the rest of the country, but the Washington, DC area is awash in cicadas right now.  I actually don't mind; as far as bugs go, I think cicadas are kind of cool.

The funny thing is, though, that the cicadas we are currently seeing came out of the ground four years ahead of schedule.  And to the best of my knowledge, no one knows why.  Were they having such an awesome time under ground that they lost track of the time?  Or were conditions crowded and awful to the point that some of them bailed years ahead of schedule?

My theory is that the cicadas who came out of the ground early are history or political science buffs who wanted front row seats to the various spectacles currently taking place around us.  I think I would have chosen to stay under ground, myself.  But if my theory is correct, it gives me hope that the cicadas sense that in four years politics will be more routine and normal again.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Random Travel Tip

I unintentionally took a blogging break, thanks to a convergence of a sick kitty and looming final exams.  I've been wanting to write, though, so I'll get back into it with a travel tip I learned on my recent trip to Vermont.

I learned this tip when we were flying out of the Burlington, VT airport, which is a small airport.  In my experience, TSA screeners at smaller airports tend to be more pleasant but less efficient than their larger airport counterparts.  Anyway, our belongings were scrutinized in great detail, making me glad that I arrive at airports early.

At one point, the screener who was swabbing my belongings for explosives held up a bag of trail mix and told me that if we were going to go through security again, she recommended that I remove it from my bag.

"You mean I could put that in the bins with my shoes and liquid toiletries?" I asked.

She gave me a weird look and said yes.  She added that if the screeners could see what it was, they wouldn't have to unpack my bag and everybody could save time and effort.  I can get on board with this plan, particularly considering that most TSA screeners I've encountered are far more talented at removing things from my bags and strewing them about than they are at putting them back neatly.

So, there you have it.  If you're traveling with something that might look sketchy when X-rayed, but really isn't, put it in the bin with your shoes and toiletries.  In addition to the trail mix, we've had the following items scrutinized (not all of which are ones everyone carries, I realize):

  • bags of change
  • blocks of cheese
  • jewelry
  • seed beads
I'll try this myself the next time I travel.  I love experiencing new locations, but don't enjoy flying to them, and I'm happy to save any hassles I can.

Monday, May 1, 2017

A Few Random Vermont Pictures

Here are just a few pictures from Vermont that I like but that didn't make it in to any other posts:

I'm not sure if this is for moose who want tattoos (of what?) or for humans who want to demonstrate their love for Bullwinkle.

Layers of mountains and sky.

Church Street, Burlington at night.

Clear Lake Champlain.

Lake Champlain with ice and birds.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

DC March For Science

One of my friends and I attended the DC March for Science yesterday.  Due to various constraints we had, we decided to attend the morning rally portion, and miss the actual march.  The rally seemed to have a great turnout, and by the time we left, we could see lots of people on the outskirts of the rally and lots of people still in lines to have their bags checked to get in.  I'm not a scientist myself, but I have tremendous respect for science, and wonder why there seem to be people who don't.  Anyway, the speakers at the rally were great, and it was wonderful to see so much enthusiasm.  I took some pictures, with emphasis on the signs I could see from my vantage point.

A number of people were photographing the police horses.

Most people who have had medical care should be able to buy in to this one.

"The purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences." Dr. Ruth Benedict





"I'm with her."  There were lots of signs with this slogan and a picture of Earth.



It's hard to see in this picture, but the bottom of the "What a long, strange trip it's been" poster depicts human evolution. I liked the idea, particularly since I'm a fellow Grateful Dead fan.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Car Decal Mystery

Today while I was riding the bus to work, I looked out the window and saw a noteworthy decal on a car in the next lane.  It was a break from the usual political/ideological/sports/stick figure family stickers and decals I usually see.  It had the following simple phrase:  I pooped today.

Questions have been swirling around in my mind all day:

  • Did some little kid win this decal as an award for finally being potty-trained?
  • Or is some adult kindly lowering the achievement bar for the rest of us?
  • Assuming that the owner of this decal isn't constantly removing and replacing the decal in response to his/her current defacatory status, could the phrase "I pooped today" be considered a promise to continue pooping on a daily basis?
  • Am I just being extremely insensitive about a constipation epidemic that's been going on right under my nose?
It's terrible to start out the week in such a state of confusion.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Raptors!

A beautiful eagle standing still!


Toward the end of our time in Vermont, we visited the Vermont Institute of Natural Sciences Nature Center.  Our main interest in going was to see the raptors they had on the premises--they have a program that rehabilitates injured raptors, and they also care for raptors whose injuries prevent them from being re-released.  We turned out to be very lucky.  We had planned a couple of other activities that day, and we were concerned once we headed out from Burlington that we'd gotten too late a start or planned too much.  But our timing was perfect in that we arrived about 45 minutes ahead of raptor feeding time.  So we had some time to wander around the premises, check out the injured songbirds that were being rehabilitated, and then familiarize ourselves with the raptors before their feeding time.  They had a great variety--bald eagles, golden eagles, various owls, various hawks, falcons, turkey vultures, and ravens.  One thing that surprised me was that the raptors came from all over the US.  Another thing I found interesting is that many (maybe even most) of them had been injured in collisions with vehicles.  If I remember, most of them had impaired flight ability, although I think at least one had impaired vision.

At feeding time, a volunteer went into each raptor enclosure in turn and left offerings of dead mice and rabbits.  I expected the birds to make a beeline for the food, but they weren't too interested initially.  The volunteer who fed them said that because it was a warm day, they weren't all that hungry.

About midway through the feeding time, we learned that they were having a special program where they would bring out a few of the raptors who weren't on public display, so we went to see that.  It was interesting to compare to our visit to the Sunkar falcon farm in Kazakhstan.  I remember having the raptors there swoop in on us from overhead, and being concerned that one would land on me and gouge me with their talons.  This time, the birds were carefully tethered to the leather gloves they were perched on so there was little chance of them escaping or causing havoc.

It's sad to think of raptors not being able to return to the wild because of their injuries, but I love the fact that there are so many humans invested in caring for them and giving them the best life possible.  It was fun to get to see them up close.  Unfortunately, as is often the case for animals, they were not particularly cooperative about posing for pictures, although I think I caught the bald eagle at the top of the page in a pretty good moment.

And a sculpture that can't move about!


Monday, April 10, 2017

Lake Champlain Chocolate Factory!


Scott and I first tried Lake Champlain chocolates when we were living in Virginia a few years ago.  A local natural foods store near us carried their Five Star bars, which are miniature candy bars.  They are expensive, but delicious!  For some reason, we ended up looking up the Lake Champlain chocolate factory at some point and discovering that they offer free factory tours.  So when we decided to go to Burlington, VT, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to go.  I checked all the information about days and times for tours, and we made sure to get there a little early because the website said tours were first come, first serve.

Only we got to the factory and immediately saw a sign that there were no tours today.  Scott asked an employee who said that they had stopped giving tours the week before Easter because they were usually so busy.  He told us we were welcome to watch the chocolates being made in front of the glass window and to watch the video that was on continuous loop.

Fortunately, one of the other employees decided that they weren't really that busy at the moment, and came over to explain some of the machines and processes to us.  She also brought us free samples, which, let's face it, are a highlight of going on tours of this kind.

I'm not terribly knowledgeable about factories generally, and I was under the impression that just about every process had been automated at this point, so I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people doing work behind the glass.  The employee who came over to talk to us also told us that this was the only factory for Lake Champlain chocolates, so I was also impressed by the output of a fairly small factory.  Visiting the factory gave me some insight as to why the chocolates are somewhat pricey--the company is paying actual human beings to do a fair amount of the work, and it's a small operation.  I don't foresee being able to buy Lake Champlain chocolates for all of my chocolate needs (ha!), but I can feel happier about the occasional splurge.  This is a lucky thing since we did splurge a bit today, reasoning that there was a much better selection at the factory store than there would be back home.


This was not part of our splurge, but I'm curious which kid will receive this ginormous $99 chocolate bunny.  It seems like it would fuel sugar-induced bad behavior for the next several weeks.  There was also an even larger chocolate bunny that you could buy raffle tickets to win.