Sunday, June 28, 2009

Things I Love: Pink Edition

Today I received a gift from Erin and it inspired me to tell you about one of my favorite things: flamingos! About 15 years ago my dad got a pair of plastic lawn flamingos that someone had put by the curb for the garbage men. Who would want to throw these out?

We brought them to the folk festival and used them to brighten our campsite. Over the years we got more and more flamingo items and the other members of the campsite contributed as well. Now it's a flamingo paradise!

I have some flamingos around the house as well. We have two flamingo shot glasses. The one on the left is from the Flamingo hotel in Las Vegas; the one on the right is from Florida.

A few years ago for the Dude's birthday I found these cool floating flamingo coozies on ebay.

Today Erin gave me awesome flamingo plates!

Of course none of this stuff is as great as seeing flamingos in person, which I did on my birthday this year when the Dude and I went to the zoo. Lots of flamingos!

I wonder if one of them would like to come home and join our menagerie. Until them, I'll have to stick to seeing the occasional roseate spoonbill! What's your favorite exotic animal?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dynamic Duo

This is a big week for the CQ parents. Sunday was Father's Day and today is my mom's birthday. Happy birthday Mom! I am an only child so I've always been close to both my parents and we have a lot of fun together. From my Dad I got my left handedness, swimming genes, and love of camping. From mom, I got my big feet, love of making lists, and an appreciation for reading magazines and eating bon-bons (even though we rarely get the chance!). Thanks for everything you have done for me Mom and Dad! Here are some of my favorite fun pictures of the family.

At a Penn State football game in 2005

Philadelphia Folk Festival, 2006

Mom's Birthday, 2007

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A man steps off a ladder

"'A man steps off a ladder.' This is not a setup for a joke. It is the greatest accomplishment in human history."

Those are the opening lines to a great article linked in NASA Watch today and I couldn't have said it better myself. Reading the article was a reminder to me of two things: first, that NASA has the potential to do great things, and second, that NASA needs to do a better job of letting the public know what they're doing. It's a long article and I think both my space dork and non-space dork readers alike would enjoy it but for those who don't have time I'll tell you what I thought.

Working on the space program is a great opportunity but it's easy to get caught in every day frustrations and forget what amazing work we are doing. Seeing a shuttle launch through someone else's eyes reminded me why we really do this. People often ask what they are getting in return for money spent on space exploration, especially in tough economic times like these. I usually tell them about all the advances in technology that have come from spaceflight, such as GPS. But there is more. Exploring new frontiers is an innate part of who we are. I think this quote from George Mallory sums it up well, although he was talking about Everest, not space.

"The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, 'What is the use of climbing Mount Everest ?' and my answer must at once be, 'It is no use'. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It's no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for."

Every once in a while, take a moment to step back, take a deep breath, and look up. Who knows what you'll see?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lovely Libraries

I have always loved libraries; as soon as I walk inside the outside world just falls away and I can dive into whatever story I like. Best yet are libraries that have not only a great book selection but also some private nooks with comfy chairs. It was no wonder that Belle fell in love with the Beast after he showed her his beautiful library.

Growing up I had the choice of two libraries. The larger county library in Exton had more books, but it was further away so I didn't go as often. The small local library was housed in a beautiful historic building in downtown West Chester. It was there that I entered the summer reading contest every year and got stamps, to be used for prizes, for every book I read. The West Chester library is still there and look how gorgeous it is...isn't this be a great place for a young girl turn frogs to princes, put on plays with the March girls and solve mysteries with Nancy Drew?

The West Chester library a long time ago, when it was still a house.

The West Chester public library today

I came across this article today showing off some of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Even if you're not a bookworm like me, these buildings are pretty amazing.

The Hague, Netherlands

Coimbre, Portugal

Don't feel like going overseas to check out the latest Harry Potter? There are some beautiful libraries here in the states.

Boston Copley Public Library

George Peabody Library, Baltimore

If you're worried about people stealing your books, there's always this option used to prevent theft of rare books.

Hereford Cathedral Library, England

Sometimes spending time in a smaller library can be nice, don't you think?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

That is one weird looking cotton ball

While I am sitting here waiting to see whether the shuttle will launch I have time to catch up on blogs. Although I will always have a great love for sloths, I think I might have to give some of my heart to this little guy.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Max's Social Life

In the past few weeks we watched Cosmo and Koda for some friends and Max had a great time.

First we watched Cosmo. Within 10 minutes of her arriving, she and Max had identified one toy that they both wanted and decided they would chase each other around and constantly steal it from each other. The Dude and I are peace loving folks so we went out and bought another one so that Max and Cosmo could each be happy. Unfortunately the one we bought was bigger so that became the new prize. After a while The Dude finally found a compromise that made both dogs happy.

This past week we watched Koda. She's a sweet girl who just wants you to sit and pet her, but every time we tried to do that Max snuck underneath our arms wanting his own attention. Once again The Dude came to the rescue and found a way to keep everyone calm. Good thing I have him!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Say It Ain't So, O!

I'm willing to bet that everyone reading this post knows who Oprah Winfrey is. And I'm also willing to bet that everyone in my age bracket who is reading this got a number of vaccines as children, including MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella). What you might not know is that Oprah, against scientific evidence, is endorsing the stance that we should not be getting that vaccine. Let me explain.

Jenny McCarthy (a solid medical source if ever there was one) has an autistic son. She believes that the autism was caused by her son's receiving the MMR vaccine and has gone on the warpath to spread her anti-vaccine message. CDC studies have shown that there is no link between vaccines and autism. Let me say it again. There is no proven link between the MMR vaccine and autism. It's up to you whether you believe cold hard facts or a former Playgirl.

However, there is a link between non-vaccinated children and death from previously eradicated diseases like measles. The saddest thing is that the children who tend to die from measles are not those whose mothers purposely didn't vaccinate them; it's the children who are too young to get the vaccine or who have other illnesses which prevent them from getting vaccinated in the first place. These children rely on everyone else for their own health.

Oprah has had Jenny McCarthy on the show a number of times to showcase her point of view. Oprah covers herself by saying that her "intention is for our viewers to take the information and engage in a dialogue with their medical practitioners about what may be right for them" (source) but I am calling bullshit on this. Oprah knows how influential she is. The books she chooses for her book club are inevitable top sellers as soon as she mentions them. She knows that if she endorses the antivaccine crap, mothers out there will at least think twice about giving their children these vaccines.

While I know that Oprah's empire will not collapse because I stop watching her show once a month, I do feel a need to spread the word. If you feel strongly about this, let Oprah know. If not, at least make sure you do the proper research before you decide to expose your own child and other children to preventable risks. I have a number of friends who are pregnant or have newborns and I encourage you to make intelligent decisions about their health. The CDC even put out a video about this for moms with questions. Pass the word!

What, this isn't what they meant?

One of my bridal magazines tells me that this is the time when I need to start taking care of my body before the wedding. So I am.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Book Reviews

I haven't done a book review in a while but after Memorial Day weekend and some plane travel I finally have enough books to be worthwhile!

The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing
, Melissa Bank
I got this one in the book swap Nujoud organized. We definitely need to do that again! This is a novel written almost as a series of short stories. Normally I'm not a fan of that style because it can lead to a disjointed story, but in this case the collection flowed together beautifully. It was a quick and light read yet still had depth. I definitely recommend it!

Opening Skinner's Box, Lauren Slater
This book is about ten controversial and revolutionary psychological experiments of the twentieth century. You'll probably recognize some of them, such as Stanley Milgram's obedience research, but others will be brand new. In fact, it was fascinating to see how two experiments could appear to completely contradict each other yet still be valid. My only criticism of the book was that sometimes the author got too wrapped up in her own experience with the experiments and didn't elaborate on them as much as she could, but overall it's a fun way to learn about some really interesting experiments without getting bogged down in the technical side of things.

Galileo's Daughter, Dava Sobel
I picked this book up at a used book store over a year ago and had been wanting to read it for even longer than that. It's non-fiction and tells Galileo's story interspersed with letters from his daughter, who entered a nunnery in her teens and spent her life there. While I definitely enjoyed the glimpse into a different side of Galileo's life, it got bogged down in his battles with the church at times. That said, it's still a worthwhile read, especially if you are interested in a different perspective on the great mathematician.

The Bookseller of Kabul, Asne Seierstad
I'll keep it simple: everyone needs to go read this now. I thought this was a novel but it turns out to be true. The author spent three months living with an Afghani family. The patriarch is a bookseller in Kabul (I'm sure you wouldn't have guessed that) and is in some ways very modern and liberal. However, in his home life he is very traditional. It was fascinating to learn more about the culture but I also became completely swept up in the lives of these real people. I had about 10 pages left when we got off the plane and I hurried to the baggage claim so I could sit down and finish it!

Next up (I'm currently about halfway through) is Testimony, by Anita Shreve.