Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Weekly Roundup 13: Eclipsed


In 2017, which seems like half a lifetime ago considering everything that has happened since, I made the trek north to Wyoming in order to be in the path of totality for the Great American Eclipse. From a hilltop in a historic mining village called Sunrise, we had clear skies and a perfect view of the solar show overhead. (The traffic after was apocalyptic, however, as the sleepy two lane roads were in no way suited for hundreds of thousands of visitors, but that's another story.)

Nearly seven years later, we took a much longer road trip to Georgetown, Texas for the 2024 solar eclipse this past Monday, April 8. We chose Texas for its high probability of sunny skies and booked our vacation rental a year in advance. We had our eclipse glasses and eclipse binoculars. We were ready.

A week beforehand, the weather was not looking good. Cloud cover predicted at 80%, a chance of rain, and the possibility of "damaging" hail. Still feeling hopeful, we packed up the car and made the two day drive south. Because what else can you do but hope for the best?

On eclipse day, we made a slight adjustment in plans based on the cloud forecast. As we drove to our destination, I couldn't help but think about how the eclipse itself was a sure thing. Thanks to the knowledge of our solar system gleaned over centuries, this cosmic event could be predicted down to the second with one hundred percent certainty. There was no guessing about where and when it would happen. And yet we humans down below were dealing with much uncertainty.

I'm happy to say that the cloud cover, which had been playing peek-a-boo with the sun all morning, broke just in time to allow us a view of the sun completely eclipsed by the moon. During the four minutes of totality, we saw the skies darken and felt the air cool. We heard roosters crowing from a distance. We were able to observe the eclipse phenomena of Baily's Beads and the Diamond Ring.

In other words, we were very lucky.

And the overwhelming traffic that was expected didn't materialize, perhaps because the weather forecast kept some people away. 

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been able to observe this awesome event twice in the last ten years, especially because I've been able to share the experience of true wonderment with very special people. 

Be well, friends! Oh, and in the spirit of eclipse week, here's a picture of my space-themed tiny garden:

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Weekly Roundup 12: Looking, Not Cooking

One of my favorite things to do is check out cookbooks from the library and look through them without actually preparing any of the recipes. Kind of like an old school version of scrolling through Instagram, I suppose, with the added benefit of no targeted advertising.

I picked up The Feast of Fiction Kitchen; Recipes Inspired by TV, Movies, Games & Books by Jimmy Wong and Ashley Adams on my last library run. Feast of Fiction started as a YouTube channel, which, judging by the recipes in the book, must be very fun. (I'm almost embarrassed to say it has 180 million viewers, but this is the first I've heard of it.)

If you've ever wanted to bake up your own Harry Potter Pumpkin Pasties, Breaking Bad Chicken and Meth Cupcakes (note: not actual meth), or Game of Thrones Direwolf Shortbread, these people have you covered. I wish my culinary skills were up to the task, but I'm definitely "baking fail" material.

Speaking of baking fails, check out this King Arthur Flour April Fool's fail blog post. Yes, even professionals occasionally make a giant mess of things.

And while we're on the topic of April Fool's Day...let it be known that this "holiday" is not my favorite. I think I have a pretty good sense of humor, but pranking people seems more mean than funny to me. But these April Fool's food pranks made me laugh. Old Bay Body Scrub, anyone?

Happy April!

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Weekly Roundup 11: Flexible Pricing

Last week, I welcomed spring, and this week, winter returned. Temperatures are cold here, and we've had more snow. But it's easier to handle knowing that the worst of the weather is behind us for the year, and spring will come in earnest one of these days.

A lot has been made recently of the flexible pricing model that is the latest ploy to nickel and dime us to death. (Well, maybe it's a tie between that and the ubiquitous requests for a tip). 

I think we all grew up with at least a passing knowledge of supply and demand. If you want an apple, say, and there aren't many apples to be had, you will pay more for the apple. But having that concept applied in real time through flexible pricing takes it to a whole other level.

Let's use Amazon as an example. Thanks to the astounding amount of data Amazon collects, it is able to change prices 2.5 million times a day (as reported by Business Insider, in an excerpt from the book Swipe to Unlock.). That means a product's price can change every ten minutes.

Fast food chain Wendy's got a lot of pushback when they announced plans to test "dynamic pricing," but lots of restaurants are already using it. As are ride-shares, airlines, hotels, movie theaters, et cetera. (For the record, the dynamic pricing model means prices can go up or down, but surge pricing means you'll pay more during times of high demand.)
All this makes me feel cynical and exhausted. But in this world where we're constantly being upsold and manipulated, let me offer a consolation: public libraries, where you can still borrow print resources, electronic resources, music, movies, and even items such as specialty cake pans and ukuleles... 

All. For. Free. 

Granted, you can't get food. But you can get food for thought :-) 

(And, yes, I know libraries have to be funded, because few things in life are actually free. But all things considered, libraries offer a lot for comparatively little.)

Have a great week! Go check out a book!

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Weekly Roundup 10: Welcome Spring


I know, another flower picture. But I'm just so happy spring has arrived! And as the first flowers to emerge, crocus always lift my heart. I can't say I love the switch to daylight savings time, but it is nice to have more light in the evenings to enjoy the warming weather. 

March tends to be a more eventful month after the relative quiet of January and February. That's usually good, although sometimes I'm not ready to come out of hibernation.

It's also time for spring cleaning, when the temperatures, at least in the northern hemisphere, allow for windows to be opened. Back in the day, the coal furnaces would stop running and the soot could be wiped off the walls after what I imagine was a long, bleak winter.

In many cultures, a seasonal deep cleaning is followed by a celebration, which would definitely help me get more excited about it. As it stands, my desk could use a good tidying up, and that's probably going to be my only big project, because honestly, I'm not really a soak-the-showerhead-in-vinegar kind of person. I do hope that in organizing my desk, I will also organize my creative thoughts, which have been all over the place lately. I guess brains need spring cleaning, too.

Be well! See you next week!

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Weekly Roundup 9: Orchid Patience


I'm not sure how long I've had this orchid, but I think my husband gave it to me a few years ago. This is the third time it has bloomed, and it is the best bloom so far. I don't do anything in particular to the plant, just leave it in the same place and water it. And wait.

I wish I could say that I wisely apply this hands-off patience to other parts of my life, but that's challenging. I always feel like there's something I could and should be doing to get the desired result. Watching and waiting seems too passive. But sometimes when conditions are right, that's all that needs to be done. 

The tricky part is finding the balance between productivity and rest, which is something my orchid apparently doesn't stress about.

The Ides of March: Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, and the date was immortalized by Shakespeare's famous line: "Beware the ides of March." The Ides of March still has an unlucky vibe, but in ancient Rome, "ides" referred only to the full phase of the moon. The Romans used a lunar calendar, with the new moon occurring on the first day of the month and the full moon on the 15th. So the date isn't inherently unlucky--unless you owed someone money, as that was the day the Romans settled their debts.

If all else fails, the luck of the Irish comes to the rescue two days later, on St. Patrick's Day.

Erin go bragh! (Ireland forever!)

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Weekly Roundup 8: In Like a Lion

From a brisk breeze to a howling gale, every day of March so far has been windy here in Colorado. The month is definitely coming in like a lion, as the saying goes. I've always assumed the phrase "in like a lion, out like a lamb" was attributed to Shakespeare. After all, he gave us such gems as "wild goose chase," "brave new world," "too much of a good thing," "neither rhyme nor reason," and "cruel to be kind."

But the Paris Review credits Thomas Fuller’s 1732 Gnomologia: Adagies and Proverbs; Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, ancient and Modern, Foreign and British for coining "Comes in like a Lion, Goes out like a Lamb."

There's also some question about whether the saying might be related to the positions of the constellations. In early March, Leo the Lion is on the eastern horizon at sunset. At the end of the month, Aries the Ram is on the western horizon.

Whatever the explanation, the phrase often feels very accurate when the cold winds of early March are a' blowin. (It apparently has nothing to do with the Lunar New Year lions that bring luck and prosperity, I just thought I'd throw that picture in here.)

How about another idiomatic expression: to crane one's neck? This one is pretty obvious. It means to stretch your neck much like a crane does, in order to get a better look at something. 

I saw lots of necks craning last weekend when I visited Colorado's San Luis Valley to spy some migrating Sandhill Cranes. In the spring, these birds famously flock in the thousands to an area around Kearney, Nebraska. But they also pass through southern Colorado, which IMHO is more beautiful than Nebraska any day.

We had a lovely morning of crane watching before, you guessed it, the winds kicked up.

Hang onto your hats and have a great week!


Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Weekly Roundup 7: Bonus Day!

Thursday, February 29, 2024 is a Leap Day! In a nutshell, an extra day was added to various calendars around the world because it takes the sun 365.242190 days to orbit the sun. Over time those quarter-days add up and throw the calendar out of sync with the seasons. Leap Day is a reset day every four years.

Not everyone loves Leap Day. Leaplings (born on February 29) might feel cheated out of an annual birthday. In many places, it is bad luck to get married or start a relationship on Leap Day. In Greece, Scotland, and Germany, the entire year is seen as unlucky. 

Though Leap Day was traditionally seen as a day in which gender roles were reversed and women could do "male" things such as propose marriage, the flip side, according to Monmouth University history professor Katherine Parkin, was that women were often ridiculed for it. She calls it "false empowerment." Hmph.

The Hanke-Henry Permanent Calendar would do away with Leap Day. In this calendar, every date would fall on the same day of the week every year. January 1, for example, would always be a Monday. Birthdays would be the same day, too, which is great for the Friday/Saturday people and much less fun for the Monday/Tuesday people. But the permanent calendar doesn't avoid the "calendar drift" either, so every six years, a leap week would be added to the end of December.

Even though I occasionally get cheated out of a weekend birthday, I vote that we stick with our current system and have a bonus day every four years. I hope you have the chance to do something fun, bold, or memorable on February 29. Or do nothing at all! Take a nap and dream of spring.

Oh, and that guy in the picture is Leap Day William, from a very funny episode of 30Rock.

See you in March!