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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.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Some Days I'm A Disaster

Yesterday, Scott and I flew to Burlington, Vermont!

In spite of my years of practice traveling by air, I did the following ditzy things yesterday, all of which I will chalk up to being tired and hungry:
1.  Almost took the wrong exit out of the National Airport Metro Station, which would have taken me to the wrong terminal in the airport.
2.  Whizzed past the arrivals and departures screens, only to realize that I didn't know which gate I needed to go to and have to double back.
3.  Failed to remove our boarding passes from my backpack until we were right at the security line and I realized I would need them.

Sigh.

I wasn't the only one who was a disaster yesterday morning, though.  TSA was also a disaster, though I think that's a more or less permanent condition with them.  My favorite part of going through security was the TSA agent who was crowing to the world at large about how we needed to put our laptops in a bin by themselves, even if that meant taking more than one bin, while failing to notice that our line had completely run out of bins.  OOPS!

Fortunately, Burlington, VT is not a disaster.  Check out the beautiful view!  And the water fountain shaped like a fish!


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Forgotten Truths About Being A Student

When I started taking classes last semester, I had an idealized notion of the sort of student I would be.  I was imagining taking pages of meticulous, well-organized notes and consistently studying a little bit every day so that there would be no studying time crunches before exams. Post-work exhaustion would never defeat me, and when I needed to study or do homework, I would never be distracted by the desire to go out somewhere or fashion the shiny objects in my midst into jewelry.

Let's just say that while my classes are going well, there has been a gap between my idealized notions and reality.  This gap wasn't as apparent in the fall because I was taking only one class then.  But the difference between taking one class and two classes has reminded me of a couple truths about being a student that I had long forgotten:

When taking multiple classes, one class will be known as The Class That Is Usually Ignored.  There can be a variety of reasons for this one.  If you're working on your bachelors degree, The Class That Is Usually Ignored is often a non-major class that you've been compelled to take to fulfill some sort of general education requirements.  Or you may have one class that's taught by your favorite professor (The Class That Gets All Your Energy), and all the others become The Classes That Are Usually Ignored.  In my case this semester, there is one class in which I have just enough background to get by pretty well.  I do my assignments for that class and study for tests.  But I don't spend a lot of time outside of class reviewing my notes or quizzing myself on the material.  I feel bad about this on a certain level because I find the subject matter interesting.  But my other class, in which I have very little background, is a massive time and energy sink.  An interesting and useful time and energy sink, perhaps, but one that forces an extreme imbalance of efforts.

Finishing something difficult for a class can be amazingly liberating.  You probably don't have to take more than one class at a time to experience this one.  But the class I took last semester wasn't overly challenging for me; my biggest challenge was getting used to the idea of taking classes again.  Anyway, I recently took my midterm in The Class That Gets All My Energy, and was surprised by how free I felt after it was over.  Imagine, I could read a book of my choosing during my commute instead of reading notes and working my way through a stack of flash cards!

For a long time, I thought I was done with my formal education, so it is interesting to go through some of this again.  The good thing is that with a BA and MA (and a good number of years) under my belt, I find these experiences more entertaining this time around.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Slowly Cracking The Code


I made this necklace several months ago.  The design was inspired by the large purple and orange oval-shaped bead.  The bead in question was included as a free gift with a set of beads I had ordered from Z-Beads, and, funnily enough, it found a happy home in a necklace before the beads I actually ordered did!

The construction of this necklace was fairly simple, just stringing with no seed bead weaving or wire work.  But it took me several tries to get it to look the way I wanted.  When I first gathered beads together for this project, I didn't have the round dark purple beads or the tiny silver beads (which you may or may not be able to see in the picture).  When I first strung the other beads together, I thought it looked okay, but I didn't feel like there was any place for the eye to rest.  I added the tiny silver beads at that point to break up the larger beads.  It was an improvement, but then I decided that I needed the dark purple beads to bring out the dark purple stripes in the large bead.

I've been making jewelry for many years at this point.  I remember when I was younger, I ended up with a lot more pieces that were just okay, but weren't exactly what I was envisioning.  Part of the problem in the earlier years was that I didn't always understand what was lacking in the pieces.  If all the beads looked great sitting together, why didn't they look so great when they were strung or woven together?  Even when I did understand what was wrong, I didn't always know how to fix it.  Or--and I know this will sound like a justification for both buying and hoarding beads--I didn't have the materials on hand to fix the problem and became frustrated.

I'm trying to keep this all in mind now as I try to figure out sewing.  I did some sewing as a teenager, and started dabbling in it again a few years ago.  Sewing has mostly been a series of lessons for me so far.  Some of the garments I've made have been pretty wonky looking (zipper insertion is often the culprit in these cases).  Others have looked fine on their own, but did not look particularly nice on me once I tried them on.  (Unlike store-bought clothing, of course, there is nowhere to return handmade clothing that doesn't work out.)  I took a step back recently, though, and made a very simple top with no zippers or buttons to cause problems, and while it is by no means perfect, I'm pleased with how it turned out.  In fact, I'm encouraged enough that I am currently working on a tunic based on the same pattern.


Ira Glass has a wonderful quote that I think applies to almost any creative endeavor.  I like to keep it in mind when something I'm working on isn't quite panning out:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

I take this to mean that after some more time of sewing project lessons (and maybe even a few things I can wear in public), I might develop some sort of intuition for successful sewing, just as I've developed more intuition for making jewelry over the years.  In any case, it's nice to be reassured that a trail of lackluster creations may lead somewhere good.