Wednesday, May 30, 2012

"Can you show me/Can you show me/The shine of your Japan/The sparkle of your China"

While my mom was visiting, we went one place I have been longing to go:  the new Cofrin Asian Art Wing at The Harn Museum of Art.  This wing, or rather one of the pieces to be housed there, actually made international news earlier this year: the Korean Bodhisatvah.

The short version is X-rays had shown this 17th century bodhi had a mass in his head.  In the interest of finding out what that mass was, they put him in the CAT scan & soon enough had a diagnosis.  I will let the link go into the details.  Or even better, you can visit himself at the Harn.

While you are there, you can also see other objects glorifying other gods, other lives, even other trades.  But there really is nothing else so eye-catching&fixing as the seated bodhi.   I kept leaving him & going to see the ceramics, & then the garden, the other gods.  & then back to the room with his x-rays & scans & documents & of course, him.

If you had asked me, I would have said that I was most partial to Ganesha & indeed I still think I am, but the bodhi was indeed a thing of great beauty.  I can understand being tempted to sell my house in town.  Instead, my mom bought me the t-shirt.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tree Kangaroo Awareness Day

I know, right?  But there it is.  May 26th is Tree Kangaroo Awareness Day.  We actually observed this high holy day on Thursday when we went to the teaching zoo (where you go to learn to be a zookeeper).

We have been to the teaching zoo before (I have even blogged it before), but my mom is visiting & she hasn't been so of course I brought her there, even before I knew about the baby born not-sure-when (no one is) who is still keeping a low profile.  It is easier to go these days.  They have more public-friendly hours, but they used to have mandatory guided tours which were kind of nice & now they don't, unless you call in advance, which I didn't.  On the other hand, the trail was crawling with zookeeping students who were hapopy to flip through their books & answer any question they didn't know the answer to.

What else is there to say?  It is a pleasant walk, mostly shady.  The animals you see can be seen at many zoos; the first purpose is to teach undergraduate zookeepers their craft/trade. Animals with large territorial requirements just don't fit.  Many of the breeds that could be found in the wild locally have actually been injured & cannot rejoin their fellows.  Many of the others are endangered & are part of breeding programs.

Which brings us to Tree Kangaroo Awareness Day. & the events they have planned around it at the zoo.  When we were there we didn't see the baby Matschies Tree Kangaroo (although maybe you would today), but we did see the baby monkey/capuchin/I don't quite recall & even better, in my opinion, the peachicks following their mamas around the trails as you go from exhibit to exhibit. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Blogger's Quilt Festival: Little Gem

I know photos2fabric quilts are ho-hum for some, but I have fallen in love with the technique.  It probably doesn't hurt that I am OBSESSED with the University of Florida Herbarium.    Like the Nymphaeaceae I entered in May 2011, this is a central photo of a specimen collected at the Kanapaha Botanical Garden.

& so, my entry in the May 2012 Blogger's Quilt Festival:  Little Gem.  The central image was printed (by me) on a deskjet, as was the information label on the back (it is the label information from the FLAS # 211550 specimen itself).  The frame is one of my favorite piecing techniques, foundation-free strings.  That's when you make giant sheets of varied-width strips & then cut them on a 45degree angle & then work with all that open bias on every edge (I will give you a hint though, the seams of the strips are actually quite stabilizing; I would rather work with a foundation-free string block than any other block  with just one open biased edge).

The frame is machine quilted but the medallion image is hand stitched.  A friend was kind enough to open her vast embroidery floss collection & we matched the colors in the blossom as closely as we could.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The 20 minute mile

I started intervals (1 minute run, 1 minute walk) about 8 weeks ago.   As of this morning, I am up to 2 miles a day & by this time next month, it will be at least 3; my goal being to run a 5k (3.1 miles) later this year.  It will come as a surprise to no one who has ever started this sort of thing that when I first started I was walking/running about 1 mile & it took more or less the same amount of time it takes today: 45 or so minutes door to door.

During this training I have learned a few things, not the least of which is while I don't exactly feel better, I certainly don't feel worse-joint pain & muscle ache wise.  Every book I have read tells me this means I am scaling up exactly right.  A was telling me I should be "a bit more ambitious".  The last time he said this to me he was running from side to side in front of me, trying to get me to pick up speed.  He hasn't run with me since because he hurt his knee.

There is also a lot of new gear on the market since the last time I did anything like this &, not surprisingly, most of it is crap & some is so wonderful I don't know how I lived without it.  Naturally, if you were to start running with me, you would feel the same way, but probably about different things.  For example, shoe technology has passed me by.  It turns out I have ALWAYS run in the barefoot style (while wearing sneakers, conflicted I know) even when someone was trying to correct me.  As a result, high tech cushioning or impact absorbing treads are make a negligible difference to me.  I realize I am in the minority; too many runners will talk for too long about what shoes they had when they ran which course.

One new thing that I mocked (MOCKED) was the zip-front sports bra.  What a ridiculous notion.  That Ice Loves Coco is dominated by this particular wardrobe item did not add to its cache as far as I was concerned.  But I had to buy a new bra & the only one on the clearance rack that met other requirements (size, high impact) happened to be a zip-front style & since I could not bring myself to pay full-price for a different style...  To make a long story short, if you have ever been sweaty & sore & become entangled while trying to get out of your sports bra, zip-front is the way to go. 

Next week, I start with my new super skin tight leggings.  Not because I am getting chills or even chafed, but because all the sunblock on the market is not keeping me from getting burned.  I will let you know how it goes.

Monday, May 7, 2012

That Irish saint who was in the news mid-March

That's right, it's March & lately there's been a saint in the news.  An Irish saint.  & I am delighted to tell you it is Lorcán Ua Tuathail.  That's the Irish name of the Patron Saint of Dublin:  Laurence O'Toole.  & the reason he is in the news?  Someone stole his heart.

& that is as far as I got when my life got busy & I could either live it or blog about.  So here is our March saint in early May:

Before he was Lorcan, doesn't that sound like a name right out of a Harlequin Presents?  Let me start again:  before he was Lorcan, Archbishop of Dublin, he was Lorcan one of four sons born to one of innumerable Irish princesses & a king's man to one of the multiple kings of Leinster.  Unsurprisingly, Lorcan spent a chunk of his youth as a hostage (it meant something slightly other then) to his father's good behavior in the house of said king.

It was also typical that one son at least go into the church & legend has it his father tossed a coin or drew straws or something to decide which boy it would be.  This made me laugh actually, because I know a catechism class who was having trouble remembering the Apostles Creed for their confirmation & took to betting the recitations.  When they were found out there was hell to pay & now it turns out gambling is not quite so frowned upon as they had been lead to believe.

So Lorcan was chosen for the church, did well, & eventually became Archbishop of Dublin which I am sure made his parents very proud.   He spent a bit of time mediating between warring factions in Leinster; it probably helped that he was related to more than a few of them.  A Norman invasion & a few sieges later, Lorcan is still top church man for miles around.  Then, while giving mass he was attacked, much like Thomas a Becket, but he got up again & being tired of mucking around went to Rome for official papers & received a papal bull naming him big church cheese of Dublin.  When he got back, he cleaned house, sending a number of other appointments back to Rome under charges of corruption etc.  Today's church could take a page, frankly.

All fairly normal.  He left Ireland again (taking hostages naturally) & died before he could return.  When urged to make a will, he replied he had nothing to leave.  He had lived a life of as-close-to-poverty as the son of nobles, moving among nobles, commanding the respect of nobles could be expected to do.  At feasts, he was said to drink water colored to look like wine so as not to make those who indulged self conscious but not violate his own vows.  I'm not sure if this makes me like him more or less.

He is patron of Dublin, his feast day is November 14 & that was about it until last March.  Oh he was revered & they had parades & the locals seem quite fond of him even 800 years since he died, but lets jump up to March 2012.  But first lets jump back again.  Remember I said he died on the road?  Well he did.  When this happened, it wasn't super unusual for the body to be made into parts, each part going or staying.  His skull went to England centuries after his death & then went missing.  But his heart went back to his own parish church.  & there it....resided, I guess in a wooden heart shaped box, surrounded by an iron cage & locked with a great big medieval looking lock

& then in March someone took it.  They walked past golden chalices that could have been melted down, even if you couldn't find a black market buyer, past beyond antique candlesticks, cut the iron cage & left with the heart-shaped box (I'm sorry, it was just irresistible).

Is it me or this beginning to sound like a Dan Brown novel?  It gets even more so:  one of the advantages of falling behind is a little time gives a little perspective.  The primary suspects are, wait for it, Travelers.  Apparently, they are big in rhino horn trade (a market I had no idea had any connection with the Irish Republic, but there you are).  If Dan Brown wrote this, I think he would be accused of going just too absurd.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Star Wars Day, deal with it

Many people already know about May the Force/Fourth Be With You Day or International Star Wars Day.  I am surprised by how many people learn about it & respond that it is "only a made up holiday".  I have news for you:  so are all the others.

Some holidays happened because of convenience (how about we celebrate the harvest on a day after we get the crops in?), others to remember an event good or bad, fiction or non-fiction (Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, 9/11, Martin Luther King Day, Juneteenth, Passover, Chanukah, Groundhog Day), others to perform some function (Town Meeting Day, Election Day, Arbor Day).  Whether or not you believe they commemorate a real event, an important cultural myth or whatever, they are all made up days.  I just cannot believe even the most avid follower of the most literal interpretation of any holy book in the history of human civilization believes the finger of their creator came down to earth, flipped the pages of the calendar currently in use (adopted less than 600 years ago) & pointed to a particular date & said "Yes indeedy, that's the day it happened".  The idea that we are observing an event that took place at some time previous on any given day because this is exactly where the earth was in relation to all other heavenly bodies when it happened is, to me anyhow, laughable.  Especially in when you factor in that +1 every four years. 

Let me give you a for instance:  if you were a member of George Washington's inner circle & you said "let's take the old man out & toast him on his birthday", you would go out on what day?  Let me make this easy for you: even Wikipedia cannot say for sure.  The date cannot even be specified to a particular year NOT because no one wrote down when young George arrived, but because the Gregorian Calendar has undergone some remodeling since 173X.  What we can say for-sure, to the degree that any of this is for-sure, is he was born in February, but day (the 11th or the 21st) & year (1731 or 1732) are up for grabs.  The US observes the day on the 3rd Monday in February (a day that will NEVER have the date of either the 11th or the 21st), except in Indiana where they observed it after Thanksgiving but before the end of December.  This means if somehow through some strange confluence of whatever, the calendar of Indiana becomes the calendar of the US, we will be celebrating the birth of the father of our country right around the Winter Solstice.  Why does this sounds so familiar?

It isn't much better for Jefferson Davis, the father of the Confederacy.  Last year, his birthday was observed three days apart in adjacent states.  One state always observes on the day itself, another chooses the Monday or Friday before or after to make a long week-end.  Still another pushes it back to the previous month to lump it on with another nationally observed holiday.

Well, that's all well & good , you might say, but George Washington was a person.  We made this holiday out of respect, it isn't a religious holiday.  & they are right.  Where this argument falls apart is that International Star Wars Day IS associated with a religion.  According to the 2001 census, more than a quarter million citizens of the UK identified their religion as Jedi.  Yes, this is only .75% of the population, but when you consider how many Pilgrims it took to land on Plymouth Rock (or not, because you don't actually believe the rock called Plymouth Rock...maybe you do, whatever) & take over the world, 390K does not seem like too few.  More recently Jedi have successfully lobbied that their adopted costume (specifically the cloak worn with the hood up) not be a reason for them to be banned from public spaces; I had no idea that Jedi did not go about with their heads uncovered & I could be wrong but I don't think George Lucas knew it either.

If this is all sounds like a great big joke to you, these people are pranksters, misfits & they just want attention let me ask you to take a good long hard look at....Scientology.  Given a choice, I would rather share the planet with Jedi.  Happy Star Wars Day everyone.  May you not be the driods they were looking for.