Sunday, September 16, 2018

Poem of the Week: The Quiet World

The Quiet World

In an effort to get people to look
into each other’s eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly one hundred   
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear   
without saying hello. In the restaurant   
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,   
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.   
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn’t respond,
I know she’s used up all her words,   
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line   
and listen to each other breathe.

HT: Poetry Foundation

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Baltimore with Klenda

Klenda is starting at the Schuler School in a few weeks, and she wanted to do a test run of her train commute.

I spent 6 years living and working in Baltimore, so I volunteered to ride along and show her the sights.

I really love Baltimore!

After checking out the lay of the land around her new school, we walked downtown and visited the Basilica of the Assumption.

 We walked around the Mount Vernon neighborhood and stopped in at The Walters.

It was lovely to linger over the paintings.

The 1890s townhouse the museum was renovating was finally open, and it is really an architectural gem.
 I've always loved this sweeping staircase which curves up to a carved plaster dome crowned with this beautiful window.
 They've actually installed a lot of modern art  in the townhouse, and I felt the stylistic conflict was a bit jarring.  Previously, they had the house decorated as a period piece: the home of a collector of Japanese art, and I really had enjoyed that, so maybe it's partly just the contrast.

We did find some pieces we liked, though, including this exquisite pottery.

Then it was time for the train back!

One of the things I've always loved about Baltimore is that the city overflows with art.  I've never seen a building there that was strictly utilitarian.  Even the warehouses have little architectural  flourishes.

The main train station has beautiful stained glass ceilings and  walls decorated with marble and carved plaster.

It was such a fun and beauty filled day!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Fun With Astronomy

So far this class is as much fun as I had hoped!

I have 8 high schoolers and I am cramming stuff into every minute of our two hour classes, so I haven't been able to take many pictures.

Our first class was on star gazing.  That's usually done last in most Astronomy classes, but I feel that looking up with wonder is how kids start Astronomy in real life.

It helped that we were able to go to the University of Maryland's observatory, attend a talk by an actual astronomer, get a tour, and look through their telescopes the day after the star gazing class!

We also used a celestial globe and made planispheres (adjustable star charts).

I've used planispheres, but this was my first time using a celestial globe, and it's amazing!  I had a hard time wrapping my head around it at first because all the models I've ever used were showing me how things actually are: the celestial globe shows how things look from Earth.  The little yellow ball is the sun, not the moon: remember that the sun and the moon are the same apparent size from Earth.

You wouldn't think"how things look" would be very useful, but I finally gut level understand what is happening at the equinox!  I mean, I knew that was when the ecliptic crossed the celestial equator, but I didn't really "get" it until I saw it on the celestial globe.  Also, it really is the easiest way to demonstrate seasons and the zodiac, humanity's first calendar (no astrology here!).

The next class was on actual stars and we did a more detailed space time model to explore gravity wells, and we did a fair bit with spectroscopes and special candles with colored flames. Lots of star cycle stuff and lots of stuff on black holes.

I've always enjoyed doing the Kids' Astronomy classes, but it's been really fun to go into it with more depth.  And the questions these kids have!  I just love it!

Today we are off to visit the planetarium down at the Air and Space Museum - hopefully I'll have pictures up on Wednesday.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Poem of the Week: The Bridge Builder

The Bridge Builder

An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
HT: Poetry Foundation
HT Image: By Mwanner

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Guest Blog by Klenda: BCC and Brickfair

 Growing up as a homeschooled kid, most of my friends ended up going to "away-school" around the time they hit early teens, so I ended up making friends online around the time I was 14.

I certainly didn't expect to ever meet any of those people!  Funny how things work out.

From left: Mxyl, Leena, Orion, Mace, Ford, Leo, Choclo, Malurus, LQ, and myself, Klenda
As you probably know, I'm part of the BCC (or Brick Content and Commentary) YouTube channel, and this past month the guys rented a house to display at Brickfair VA, a LEGO convention that I've been an observer at for the past two years.

Obviously, a lot went wrong in the planning phase, and at the execution.  But we managed to come out on top.  For a more in-depth explanation of what we did, we did a podcast on it, which you can watch here: BCC

Even aside from the hilarity and awesomeness of the convention itself, it was awesome being able to actually hang out with the people I'd known, but never met, for the past three years.  I'd met LQ once briefly two years ago, but I didn't know him particularly well at the time, so it was kinda "oh hey, I know you" rather than "Hey buddy, how've you been!"

Some MOCists goofing off while Orion looks on in full CHF attire
 Here, however, there wasn't any awkwardness, or any uncertainty of "oh...yeah, you're real, aren't you." Everyone already had a chemistry with everyone else.  As the most recent member, I've known these guys three years; some of them have known each other about half their lives. It was awesome being able to hang out around so many cool and creative builds and MOCs!
Malurus (left) and Orion (bread) plastic-wrap Orion with bread (long story)
 Along with going to the convention, we went to secret restaurants, got to meet LEGO celebrates,  played lazer tag with LEGO designers and TTV, and played video games.  My most excellent and extremely supportive mother also had them over for dinner, and we had an Indian food feast!
Eljay, Ford, and another displayer pose with the prize
 My friend Ford even walked away with the grand prize Bionicle box---one of only two in existence, that contains every Bionicle set ever made between 2015 and 2016. That's well over 30 sets!
It was a fantastic experience, and was incredible on so many levels to get to see my friends, and we've all decided we want to do the same thing at next year's convention!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Water Hiking

 Water hiking is just hiking, but your trail is a shallow stream bed.

This was my first time trying it with kids, but it was so fun,  I'm sure it won't be the last!

There are two important rules in water hiking:  wear shoes that are ok with water (old sneakers, actual water shoes, or waterproof sandals are fine), and don't step anywhere you can't see the bottom!

 This particular stream is Paint Branch, a little above where it joins Indian Creek to become the North East Branch of the Anacostia River.

I had actually planned to go downstream to the stream joining, but we had had rain the day before, so the water was just cloudy enough that it was hard to see the bottom... so we went upstream instead!

Knee deep is about as deep as we want to hike.

It's been in the 90s, so it was lovely to hike along in cool water!

And we found lots of interesting rocks, including this potato shaped one we brought back for the museum.

It helps that our local streams are rocky and sandy, I wouldn't try this with muddy bottomed streams.

As a bonus, we wandered into a butterfly party!

Lots of little checkerspot butterflies and this beautiful swallowtail, all drinking from the sand.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

guest blog by mike: i is a happy birb

 ah, hello! I... am mike! or, saint michle the archangel defend us in battle is my full name, but we usually just go with mike.
now, you half to understand, I am a bird. so I go in a cage. in a room. on a floor. in a house. in a street. in a neighborhood. in a state. in a country. in a continent. in a world. in a ect.

but I am let out... when I am good. but if I fly onto the floor, 'no' someone, or anything else bad, I am put back in.

lets get serious with the no part.
 so I admit to being a huge computer fan. but also, I am a big no fan. look
left to see a no and right to see computer. 'tom' means Tinfoil Olive Man.

whats that you say? one of choclos bionicles? cool... lets no it! (ok, lets not get into the hero factory-bionicle thing.)
all that aside, I should... eat something.