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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Earth in Human Hands by David Grinspoon

There is an awful lot to be learned from reading this book, and while I know the author, and would have read it in any case, I am highly recommending it to people who have not read it.
The thing that I like most about it is something that is also true of the author in general.  It is optimistic.  The evidence for climate change is overwhelming and long standing.  It goes back literally a century or more.  So he doesn't engage with those who want to go down that rabbit hole.  It is all about how to address where we are and how to move forward, and he does this from the viewpoint of a planetary scientist. 
I liked the perspective of climate on planets over the time that we can study them, and the valuable information that we have from space exploration.  He and I have literally grown up in the age of being able to get out into the universe to explore it and not just sit here at home.  So that was a cool perspective, full of knowledge that I did not possess. 
So take some time and learn a bit about what the future might hold for our beautiful home planet.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Why Him? (2016)

James Franco is so good as the very undesirable appearing tech millionaire boyfriend.  At its core, this is a silly movie, with an overabundance of potty mouth and highly sexualized views of women.  Which is not really my cup of tea.  But there are some really good points driven home here that are worth paying attention to, especially if you are of an age where you might have offspring who might in fact bring home someone who is not exactly who you visualized your child ending up with.  I myself have tried to stay completely out of that game, and truthfully, my kids bear a greater resemblance to the James Franco character (minus the misogyny, of course, and the pervasively sexual art works) than anyone they have brought home on a regular basis.  This is a good lesson on keeping an open mind, and trying to find the point of attraction for someone that your 20-something falls in love with.  That is past the stage of high school crushes and into the realm of this could be the one.  If none of that applies, it is a light movie that probably shouldn't be watched with the family, but is good for a plane ride (where I saw it), or equally low intellectual energy times.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Pushing Sixty

Here I am, pictured at a life changing moment for my brother.When he was six and I was fourteen we got a chance to sit in part of the Alaska pipeline and now he lives there, and has for a couple of decades now.  I feel like there have been quite a few life changing pinch points in my life and one of them is having cancer.
I always took it for granted that I would have time after my retirement.  That I could do more of the things that I love once I didn't have to spend a third of the day at my place of work.  Having cancer changed all that and it wasn't even a given (and really, still isn't) that I would get out of my fifties.  Yikes, that really sounds young to me.  So in a lot of ways it feels pretty good to be nearing sixty.  I am thankful to be alive.
When I turned fifty, I realized that I really needed to start doing the things that I wanted to do in retirement more if I expected to be any good at them when I had more time.  That is why I started this blog, I wanted to write more.  This past year I have really gotten back into quilting in a big way.  The way I was 20 years ago, but with a better sense of what I need in order to maintain the momentum that I have.  So today it feels good to have a birthday.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

New Parenthood Path

Today is the day that we celebrate the upcoming birth of my eldest son's baby.  I have spent most of my time thinking about this event focused on what I should make for it (and yes, that has been going very well), but now, as the event rolls nearer, it is actually time to think about what this means for all of us.
First and foremost, it makes me think of when we brought our first child home.  We were so bad at it!  We couldn't even hold the baby right, much less figure out what it was he wanted.  Which we were clearly doing badly because of the amount he cried.  Once we got a couple of weeks into it, we improved and he was more accustomed to being out of his warm wet previous environment, we settled into the sleep deprived haze that characterizes becoming a new parent.  It was never that way again (well, all the babies cried, and one of them more than the first, but I never felt as helpless as I did with my first).
And then there is becoming a grandparent.  I really liked what someone said to me the other day.  Her grandfather was excited about her being born, but he wasn't excited about being a grandfather--so he had her call him by his first name.  Which she did and still does.  So that is the route I am going to go.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Edge of Seventeen (2017)

This film is largely cut from the tried and true teen drama tradition that has been going strong since The Breakfast Club made it's debut.  This one is stronger in that there is more grit, more real life trauma, but the same neat draw up at the end.
Hailee Steinfeld, who garnered an Oscar nomination for her role in the Coen brother's version of True Grit, further reveals her versatility as a whip-smart yet socially moronic teenager named Nadine. Her one and only friend since childhood is the perky and slightly better-adjusted Krista. Her older brother, Darian is the golden boy who can do no wrong. Her widowed mother, Mona (played by Kyra Sedwick), works hard to support the family as a frazzled mom.  The whole family is surviving the sudden death of the father, and no one is completely adjusting well to those roles.
Nadine is the typical smart kid who sees everything through narcissistic eyes, falls for the bad boy, but has a really decent kid who likes her for who she is.  She makes her brother's life unbearable, and then he makes hers just as challenging because he starts to seriously date her best friend.  There is a lot of material to work with here, and if you like the genre, this is a good one.  It also has Woody Harrelson as a not creepy teacher who actually helps Nadine to cope.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Finest Hours (2016)

This movie is a Disney rendition of an actual event that happened.  In January, 1952 during a Noreaster storm off of Cape Cod, not one but two ships broke in half.  Navigation around the cape was an issue, and the first crew went the longer but safer way around.  The storm made travel very difficult to get to the second wreck, but despite that, the Coast Guard commander sent out a small rescue boat to attempt to rescue the remaining crew.  The movie apparently follows the trip out and the rescue.  It was harrowing to watch this tiny boat go through huge waves and manage to get over the land mass in the ocean.  Chris Pine plays the pay-the-book Coast Guard captain who maneuvers his tiny boat and despite there being more than 30 crew to rescue and their boat being for 12, including the four of them, he says "We all live or we all die, we are not leaving anyone."  He is a do-the-right-thing kind of guy.  And he plays that role well.  Casey Affleck plays the highly unpopular but very knowledgeable ship maintenance man who gets the wreck into a place where they can be rescued.  It is an entirely different role than others I have seen him in and he is also excellent.  This is still considered the most heroic successful rescue in Coast Guard history.  Very enjoyable.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Health Care For All

This is exactly how I feel about health care.  Today my younger brother would have been 56 if he had not died when he was 8 years old, and on this day I always try to picture him moving forward in his life on some other space time continuum.  He had polio when he was a baby, between his second and third immunizations, and while he survived that, he ultimately succumbed to complications of the disease.  He is a great example of how public health is important to each and every one of us.  Otherwise we would still be facing some of those issues on a daily basis.  We are a herd.  We live together and that means sharing burdens in order to get the good things that come with having a community.  Health care should be one of those things.  The House plan is going to lead to death and destruction.  Oh, but not for them.  Or their staff.  Just other people.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Koshare Kachinas

I got completely thrown off my goal of posting art this year.  In my defense, the rate at which the government has sought to enrich those who supported their election and not the people who they theoretically represent has been even more staggeringly awful than I at first anticipated, and secondly, I spent the entire month of February watching movies that were nominated for Academy Awards and that was an immersion in art of a sort (and I highly recommend it.  I had never done it before, but will try to do it again).
So here I am starting up again.
My youngest son has been taking an American Indian art history course, and since I read everything to him, I have been learning too.  The only Native American art that I had previously had knowledge of is the West Coast tribes, so the end of the semester has been a bit easier for me to follow.  I have always loved the Hopi Kachinas, but did not really understand what they represented.  The Kachina doll is a sacred object, and to make one is to pray to the spirit world.  This kachina is Koshare, which is the clown or trickster.  Like Enki for the Summerians, or Eshu for the Yorumba.  Koshare is represented at ceremonies, passing through the crowd and pointing out the foibles.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Tian Zi Fang, Shanghai

 This is a super funky neighborhood which is hard to really give the feel of, but these pictures do do it justice.
The maze of streets are filled with little galleries, and it is an area associated with art and artists.
Tian Zifang is the earliest recorded painter in China. Mr. Huang reworded the last word ‘fang 方' into ‘fang 坊' meaning mill, quarter, lane or workshop. The stele with Tianzifang written on it was hung over the entrance of Lane 210 in 2002.
Chen Yifei, one of China's most renowned contemporary artists, took over two abandoned factory buildings in Lane 210, Taikang Road, and converted them into his oil painting, sculpture, fashion and photograph studios in 1998. The cross-street sculpture - 'Art Door' designed by Cheng Yifei now stands at the eastern end of Taikang Road, famed as the 'Icon of Taikang Art Street'. Monthly opera concert in Deke Erh Art Center become regular community gathering. Then resident artists from ten countries and regions followed suit. The name of Tianzifang is coined by Huang Yongyu, the dean in Chinese painting circle.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Family Stone (2005)

I am not sure how I missed this movie when it came out, because it is packed with people that I like, and unlike many of my close family members, I do like a dysfunctional family oriented Christmas movie.  That was the short story of my whole childhood.  Also, for a moment my whole family was thinking that we had seen this movie already because we had  just watched Love the Copper's, which also stars Diane Keaton as the mother in yet another family which anyone with their head screwed on straight would avoid coming home to.
But come home they do.  In this case all five kids.  The golden boy of the family brings home a woman who is wholly unsuited to him and he brings out the worst in her.  Which becomes abundantly apparent under the scrutiny of his entire family.  But not to worry, they just picked the wrong sibling.  There are scenes that will remind you of Much Ado About Nothing, and once you get over being annoyed in the beginning, it is a good movie.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Jade Temple, Shanghai

.  In the western part of Shanghai, a very modern and flourishing city, there is a venerable and famous Buddhist temple, Jade Buddha Temple.   The Jade Temple is a traditional temple and active monastery surrounded by skyscrapers In 1882, an old temple was built to keep two jade Buddha statues which had been brought from Burma by a monk named Huigen. The temple was destroyed during the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty. Fortunately the statues were saved and a new temple was built on the present site in 1928.
Here is one of the two really massive jade Buddhas in this absolutely gorgeous complex with multiple rooms with other beautiful Buddhas.  My sister-in-law and I were both struck by the peacefulness of this religious space that doubles as a tourist attraction.  It is definitely a place I would recommend for a Shanghai visit.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Galugadza'yi Mask, Kwakwaka’wakw

This mask, also known as the Crooked Beak Mask, is used in the Hamatsa Dance of the Winter Festival and was carved by the well known carver, George Wal.  I always thought the masks and artistry of the Northwest Indian tribes to be so uniquely beautiful and dramatic.  They are, but it turns out they have a darker side as well, and this mask is a perfect example.  The Hamatsa dance is also known as the Cannibal Dance.  The dance comes from the spirit of Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ (The Man Eater from the North End of the World).  In ancient times, this supernatural being lived far in the mountains with his family. Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ would fly down into nearby villages, capture people and carry them back to his home to eat. Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ killed many people. Few saw him and lived. Some lucky ancestors had spiritual gifts that protected them.  Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ was unable to harm these people. On these occasions, as a gift for discovering him, he was willing to give them some of the rights to his ceremonies.  In some legends, Baxbakwalanuksiwe’ was killed, and through his death the ancestors could claim his songs, dances and names.  Not so peaceful.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries

I don't often blog about the crime drama aspect of my life, even though it takes up a goodly portion of both my reading and viewing life.  Recently I have been mired in the post WWI world, and this is just one symptom of it.  I just finished a Charles Todd book featuring Ian Rutledge, a Scotland Yard inspector who often has auditory and visual hallucinations of a fellow company member who died in the war in front of him.  I have spent the last month reading a number of books featuring Maisie Dobbs, a detective in 1930's England who was shaped by her experiences as a nurse in WWI.  And now this, a series about a female detective in Australia in the years after the war.  Miss Fisher is very charming, a bit of a flirt, and always incredibly well dressed.  The costuming alone is worth watching the show for, but the stories are also pretty good.  They last an hour and are perfect for an exercise session--added bonus.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Dreamland by Sam Quinones

This is an investigation into two converging events that can together to produce the opiate problem that is rampant throughout white middle class America.  The first is an extraordinary change in illegal drug delivery of heroin. A community in Mexico with access to black tar heroin.  They developed a network of men from the community who transported it to the San Fernando Valley, sold it to users in a concierge fashion, and returned home.  The drug dealers are not interested in immigrating to the United State.  They only want to make money and go home. They took the difficulty out of buying heroin by bringing it to the client.  No fear, no wrong side of the tracks.  When they got caught, they had very little heroin in their possession and were usually deported home.  They also had no interest in cornering the market, so when competition rolled into town, they let them. they spread out from Southern California, but to medium size cities without organized crime involved int he drug trade.  The other thing that happened was a massive increase in prescription opiates for chronic pain, which has led to widespread opiate addiction.  It is an interesting saga, told a little on the long side.

Duck Duck Duck

And one more duck, if all goes well.  We have been having our house tuck pointed for about a year now, off and on. Please note how beautiful the brickwork behind this nest is, because it has all been reworked. Apparently the process of this tromped down the mint bed just enough for it to be attractive to a duck couple.
So here is what is cool about this (and what may be it's demise in the end)--we walk right by this every day, as do our dogs.  What made ducks think this was a good idea?  I am a bit worried that they will abandon it altogether for this reason, but the ability to watch small ducklings grow up and leave the nest makes me hope that I am wrong about this.  I am pretty fascinated by birds, and love seeing them in the yard, and am happy to have a few families raised here every spring and summer.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Paquime Pottery (1100-1450 CE)

I really love this pottery that hails from the archeological excavation at Casas Grandes.  Above is the jar stretched out so that you can see the plumed snake biting the tail of the macaw headed snake, who in turn is about to bite the tail of the plumed snake.  The era that it represents is the Ramos polychrome era, which is most likely influenced by Mesoamerican rather than North American native tribes, but to my eye looks like some Acoma pottery that we have.  I love the colors, mostly black on white with some roan coloring to make it more colorful.  I love the fantastical beasts who are identifiable as snakes but also improbable.  I also love that people a thousand years ago made things this beautiful.  So here we are, back to some art very week or so.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Malevolent Government for the Rest of Us

So here is what is going on, in my eyes.  The House Republicans are trying to see if they can get some momentum going their way.  But they in no way want to be in harm's way.  Nor do they want anyone they know to be affected, because it would just be unpleasant to have to live with the consequences of their actions.  So they pass this bill, with themselves and their staff exempted from it.  What this says to me is that understand exactly how bad this will be, and they just do not care.  People will die, that is a certainty, but let it not be someone they know. 
They have been able to easily pass bills to repeal Obamacare when they knew that they didn't have the votes to defeat a veto, but they have not spent quality time figuring out a solution that they could live with.  They themselves that is.  A healthcare bill that would impact their healthcare.  No, instead they pass something that the Koch brothers could have dictated in their sleep and call that governance.  Bought and paid for.  That is what we have instead of the governance our forefathers foresaw.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Month of May

While it is true that I too was born in the month of May, the first birthday we celebrate in May in my family is my husband's sister's.  My sister in law (pictured here with my second son) is one of the most generous of spirit people that I know.  I do not get how she does it, but it is a thing of beauty to behold.  When people toss mean spirited things at her, they just slide off.  It is not that she doesn't notice or that she doesn't care.  She is just able to let go of it in a way that is really enviable.
This year I got to spend more time with her than I have since the year that she lived with us for a month, which was literally three decades ago. We ventured to Shanghai around the time of the Spring Festival.  We were shepherded around by her son, my nephew, otherwise we would have been in difficult straights, but at no point did I really worry.  We were in good spirits, we could navigate the subway, and we were able to really enjoy the place and the foreignness.  Perfect, all in all.  So it is fitting to spend a little time talking about her on this day, her birthday. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Celebrate Mexico!

Today is Cinco de Mayo, which is a very minor holiday that celebrates Mexico's improbable victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla.  So not a huge deal in the scope of history, but I want to take a moment and think about all the things that I love about Mexico and it's culture.  The first is that it is a spectacularly beautiful country with miles and miles of gorgeous coastline and equally beautiful mountains. It is populated by a wide range of native people who continue to make things with their hands.  I love that, and I always come home with more than I left with as a result.  The second is the food.  The cuisine of regions varies widely, and everything that I have tried, both in restaurants and at home of upscale Mexican food has been an adventure in multilayered flavors and I just wish it was more widespread in the United States.  And I do enjoy Sonora Mexican food, do not get me wrong.  I love the culture of celebration and I hope to travel back soon.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Mexican Shrimp Bisque

We have access to very good shrimp on a very intermittent basis, and so we buy it and freeze it is quart sized mason jars filled with water.  The winter is a time when we can never get it, so we stock up and this year we really over estimated our shrimp needs, so while it is now srping and we can once again get shrimp, we have a lot on hand, which we are paradoxically eating like crazy!
This is a good low carb recipe that is well away from traditional shrimp bisque.

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  •  2 cup stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 pound uncooked medium shrimp
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • Fresh cilantro, cubed avocado 
  1. In a small saucepan, saute onion in oil until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in flour until blended. Stir in the stock, cream, chili powder, cumin and coriander; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
  2. Cut shrimp into bite-size pieces; add to soup. Simmer 5 minutes longer or until shrimp turn pink. Gradually stir 1/2 cup hot soup into sour cream; return all to the pan, stirring constantly. Heat through (do not boil). Garnish with cilantro, avocado and additional shrimp if desired. Yield: 3 cups.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Doodling Paisley Quilting

I have been machine quilting for many years (thirty years to be exact), but I have never taken a class in it.  Not once.  So when I took one recently, I was amazed by how much I absolutely love this stitch.  It is called the paisley stitch, and you kind of meander around in a very controlled kind of way, and end up with these lovely swirls.
I knew that I needed some guidance to make any progress in this arena, but I didn't really have a sense of how far behind I was.  Not only have I not been in a quilt guild for many years, but I haven't kept up with who is who in the quilting world.  The class was more about figuring out what I did not know and how I was going to try to move forward.  So hard, sobering, and a little bit of excitement.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Power Station of Art, Shanghai

 This is a really cool museum space in Shanghai that is devoted to contemporary Chinese art.
There was a really interesting video piece on the differences between people of northern China as compared to people from southern China, to the point that made me really aware that even within a highly homogeneous population, people still search for differences that make them better than or different from others. 
The caption on this painting is emblematic of the museum's works:

Monday, May 1, 2017

May Day!

This year I feel that there is a double meaning for this.  Or so I thought until I read that back in the day, when English was not the language of commerce and diplomacy, that the word was actually "m'aider", which is French for "Help me".  It was traditionally transmitted three times, and hopefully, help would be on the way.
So there is the need to be politically active and let our elected officials know exactly what we feel about the way they are running our country.  The corollary of that is that there is definitely a need to celebrate and protect workers and work conditions that is humane.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Shikumen Museum, Shanghai

My nephew took us to this small museum which is set up as a house would have been in the 1930's, which is apparently the widely acknowledged heyday of Shanghai.  When people wax nostalgic, this is the time they harken back to.
The museum itself has an unassuming front, with a very friendly greeter at the front desk.  The museum can be seen in about half an hour, but it gives you a sense of what the past held for a Shanghai resident of some means.  The rooms are almost spacious.
I really loved this house.  It had alot of the things that I find attractive.  There were some graceful watercolors on the walls.  There is a lot of unpainted woodwork and wooden furniture, giving the rooms a warmth.  I was ready to move right in.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

China Propoganda Musem, Shanghai

This is a wild place to visit.  If you can find it.  It is in the French Connection part of Shanghai, but it is not at all visible from the street.  It is located in the basement of a complex of apartment building, and we would never have found if we had not asked some fellow tourists at a garden nearby if they knew where it was.  They laughed and one of them pulled a ticket with a small map on it, and pointed us in the general direction and gave us verbal cues and still we almost did not find it.  The museum is very small but it is floor to ceiling propaganda posters that are very very interesting, and when there is something to translate, there is an English translation.  No photos are allowed, but there is a collection of postcards that is very affordable.  The hopes and dreams of China as it crept towards modernization are captured here, and I would highly recommend a visit.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Ebb and Flow of Creativity

I was looking high and low for a piece of my sewing machine equipment last weekend and while I never found it (after hours of looking, I decided the better part of valor was to give up and order it on eBay), I did find these 12 appliqued quilt blocks (11 of them in one box and the last one in another.  Why I did not store them all together, I will never know).  Wow!  What possessed me to spend hours and hours sewing these, only to put them away in a cupboard rather than sew them together and quilt them?  I cannot answer that, but in a stroke of luck, I am signed up for my first ever machine quilting class and hope to get an idea of where to go with  the quilting, but finding this was kind of embarrassing.  And it gave me a window on my former self.  While this has been a really hard year and a half, life wasn't all smooth sailing before.  And I definitely have my quilting mojo back.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Irrational Man (2016)

Even though there are a lot of people that I generally like in this movie, I did not like it.  That is the way it goes sometimes.
  Joaquin Phoenix plays yet another hard drinking, burnt out college professor (what is up with that?  The college professors that I know are largely very enthusiastic about what they do and highly engaged with their students!) who is the new philosophy professor at a small liberal arts college.  He gets involved in a friendship that merges into a relationship with a student (ok, again, not good).  They overhear a woman telling her sympathetic friends that a particular judge in her custody hearing is dirty, that he is in the pocket of influential people and that she is going to lose.  And here is where the story goes off the rails, because Joaquin Phoenix' character decides to kill the judge.  Maybe there are people that morally bankrupt, but really, I do not want to know much about them.  And really, I didn't learn anything for my trouble, which is regrettable.  If you have to see every Woody Allen movie then see this, but otherwise watch Midnight in Paris again.  A much better use of time.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Eating a Different Pyramid

I have been doing the super low carbohydrate diet for just over a month, and overall it is a lot easier than I thought it would be to manage, once you get used to the fact that the food pyramid is now almost upside down from where I started.  Fruits? Bad.  Vegetables?  Mostly okay.  Even cabbage has to be tracked, though.  And fat and protein galore!  Which is a bit of a challenge for me when left to my own devices because I have almost no experience cooking meat.
The hardest things are two-fold.  The first is that when cooking for a crowd, you really do need a side dish that is a carb or the meal seems lopsided.  We had a dinner for an out-of-town guest and the people who invited him to come this week and my spouse took a large scoop of risotto before he realized that is off the list of acceptable foods.  Oops!  The other is that eating in restaurants can be a little tricky.  Interestingly, the higher end the restaurant, the better the choices.  In some places, salad is the only real option.  In others, where there are good low carb meat options, but you can get caught.  I ordered scallops and they came with a bit of bread crumbs on them.  I ate them, because I am not going to be a crazy woman when it comes to all this, but my first thought was "what??".  And my second thought was that the prosciutto and spinach deviled eggs were delicious and that I am going to have to make them at home.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Grand Canal, As Seen from Souzhou, China

The Grand Canal is the longest man made waterway in the world.  It was built in the Sui dynasty (600 CE) and runs between Hanzhou and Beijing.  In the Song dynasty (10th C) an engineer, Qiao Weiyue, invented the lock, and allowed ships to navigate the length of the canal.  Is it any wonder that when the Chinese sailed the world, long before Europeans did, that they saw nothing that impressed them?  No, it really isn't.  They were just so far ahead of the rest of us.  This canal was used to transport goods up and down China, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.  And very lovely to sit along side and watch the boats go by.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Tian'ai, The Shanghai Road of Love

 Graffiti is not widely tolerated on China, but this street in the Hongkuo district is an exception to that rule.  Hongkuo has long been home to the different in Shanghai.  It is where immigrants are drawn to today, but there was a time when that was where they were allowed to be.  So a street that is all about love does seem to belong there.  On one side of the street there are these bold paintings that are loosely love themed.  Some of them are gentle and romantic, and others, like the one pictured on the right, are bold and challenging.  The street is not very long, but it holds a lot of visual stimuli.
The left side of the street is decorated with love poems.  These are printed on plaques with traditional shapes.  The poetry is from around the world.  I found one by Pablo Neruda.  This side of the street is delicate and almost tender.  And then, at the very end of the street, is a green freestanding mailbox, where it is traditional to mail your love letter from.  We saw people stopping in front of it to have their picture taken there.  It is all a bit of free fun and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Make Earth Day About Science

The new administration has been very successful at activating the usually somewhat lackadaisical amongst us to be more involved in telling our legislators what it is that we want.  And that is just about the only good thing that I can see having come out of the most recent election. The terrible horrible no good thing about it is that many of the efforts  the Obama administration made to help prepare us for a future where renewable sources of energy are highly sought after have been cut off at the knees.  The effect of climate denial is not just a poor choice for the planet, it is a poor choice for those who hope to see a manufacturing resurgence in the United States.  Coal may or may not make a brief comeback, but it is just that.  A short term solution to very deep and long problem that won't go away by making fun of it, as #45 is doing.  Sadly, it is the people who voted hi in as their savior who are most likely to suffer the consequences.  So today, stand up for science.  And pray for a better tomorrow.

Friday, April 21, 2017

It is New Year's Everywhere

 So much celebrating!  I had no idea what a huge holiday New Year's (or what is also known as the Spring Festival) is in China until spending two weeks there in the midst of it.  The whole country is taken up with it for weeks.  The only thing that I have seen that is similar is Christmas time in Latin America.  The whole country is on the move, everyone returning home to spend time with family and to celebrate.  The decorations abound and the shops are closed, or at least half of them are.  Even the street vendors are away.
The peacefulness of the crowded streets, and the sensation of being very close to others without feeling pushed or shoved is very nice.  I was at a tea house in a crowded part of the old town in Shanghai, and it was just packed, with a long slow line to look at various decorations.  But not once did I feel uncomfortable, and when the line wound it's way to the front of the tea house, we went in and enjoyed an interlude there, looking down on the crowd.  It was quietly joyous, and it was very nice to be a part of that.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

It has been a month since I had my end of treatment visit.  We did not have a big talk.  In many ways, it was a long time coming and chemotherapy was definitely taking its toll on me in a lot of little ways.  But the thing about getting it is that you feel like you are actively doing something.  Intellectually I know that is faulty thinking.  It is certainly true that I have been pretty beat up by chemo this past year and a half, and a break in that has been a long time coming.  People ask me if it is fatiguing, and I really can't say with certainty.  But the fact of the matter is that when you finish, all there is left to do is wait, and that is very hard indeed.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Framing Nature in a Chinese Garden

 On my recent trip to China I spent a lot of time walking, period.  The two days that we spent with people who had grown up in China, the very first thing that we did was to walk through gardens.  If you want to know something about the culture of China, pay attention to what they want their visitors to see.  The ingenuity and artistry of these gardens in creating spaces that are intentionally staged but remarkably beautiful and restful abounds in the Shanghai area.
This is just one of literally hundreds of examples that I saw of beautiful frames the natural world.  Chinese gardens have a lot of imported rock formations that are designed to accentuate and in some cases, to create a focal point for the framing.  These rocks are interesting in and of themselves, and they also work well with trees and flowers to create memorable peaceful portraits that can change with the season.
In one garden we were in, I saw people getting photographs of loved ones that utilized these beautiful frames for the portrait.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I Saw The Light (2016)

This is a painful movie to watch, but is still well worth it, especially if you have a soft spot for some of his music.   Hank Williams Jr, had a lot of self confidence and a dream of performing at the Grand Ole Opry from an early age.  He also had a need to be married but not the concomitant need to be faithful to said wife.  His first marriage was very tumultuous as a result.  He also had a very bad drinking problem at a very young age, which led to a number of other problems, none of which are side stepped in the movie.
Williams was a songwriter and a performer with equal parts talent at both.  He wrote memorable songs with his own stamp on them--but the drink is what took him down, and he died at the young age of 29 years.  I had no idea the scope of what he wrote that I like, and no idea that he died so young.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sage Cherry Vodka Cocktail

My kids got a cocktail of the month kit for my spouse for his birthday this year and April is vodka month.  This cocktail, called "Under Sage Drinking", was a very good start.

2 oz. Vodka
1 Tbsp. Cherry Preserves
1/4 oz. Elderflower Syrup
1 oz. Meyer Lemon Juice
4 Sage leaves

Add ingredients to an ice filled cocktail shaker, saving two of the sage leaves out.  Shake vigorously for 30 seconds, then strain into ice filled glasses and serve.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Shanghai Longtangs

I love this picture, because while their time may be limited in the new China, the longtang or alley, is an oft seen phenomenon, and they also have a much more urban landscape (see the skyscraper in the background?  That is the norm, not the exception).  The old ways mixed in with the new.  These alleyways bustle with activity.  The comings and goings are frequent, but the longtang forms a neighborhood of sorts, a community that is not the same as what you would have if you moved into and apartment building.
The thing that I do not know is how does a person rate such a dwelling, versus those that live in more modern but also more congested apartment buildings.  I would be far happier myself living with less newness and more tradition. Here, amidst China's impressive surge of urbanizing its population over a very short time period, there are still vestiges of the way things used to be in the 1930's heyday of Old Shanghai.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

This is a great young adult book about growing up poor and black and smart.  I think that there is a lot to learn from the main character, Jade, about why African Americans get mad and stay mad.  Jade is a girl who has a whole lot going for her.  She is smart and she knows that in order to escape poverty she needs to escape where she lives.  Not just the neighborhood but the whole place.  She needs to create the new her, and she can't do it in too familiar an environment.  That has the downstream problem of stripping her of her support system, and I think that is underappreciated.  Then there is the burden of being an underrepresented minority when you do get out of your neighborhood.  Jade gets a scholarship to a good private school, which is a huge plus for her, but the downside is that they, not her, decide what is the best "opportunity" for her to receive, and it is not always a great fit for her.  Which leaves her angry and those who are affording her these advantages interpret that as being ungrateful.  She has a tough line to walk and the book really nicely points that out.  Highly recommended.

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Handmade Life

This month marks a year that I have been actively taking classes and making things by hand.  I have made many things over the years, and benefited greatly from taking classes.  It all started in earnest when I lived in Fresno many years ago.  There was (and still is) a great quilting shop with excellent workshops, and a fiber guild which supports fiber arts of all kinds.  I can't say that I loved every class that I took, but I learned something from each of them (which was sometimes that I would never take such a class again!), and occasionally learned something that I then did over and over again.  So it turns out that in order to get my handmade life back on track, I really need to take a class.  So despite having made great strides in that direction, I am still taking a class a month on average to keep that momentum on track.  And truly, if I could do it as a resident, when I was working long and crazy hours, I should be able to do so now.  So if this is something you have been struggling with doing on your own, seek out a local business to help you get back in the groove.  I also try to finish what I started be fore the next class, which I have been almost 100% successful with. Thank you, Home Ec.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Ho Feng Shan

 I vaguely knew about this man before I went to Shanghai, because my spouse has two great uncles who were able to escape Austria in World War II by going to Shanghai.
After Austria’s annexation to Nazi Germany in March 1938, the 185,000 Jews there were subjected to what amounted to terrorism, which resulted in intense pressure to leave the country. In order to do so, the Nazis required that Jews have entry visas or boat tickets to another country. However, the majority of the world’s nations refused to budge from their restrictive immigration policies.
Unlike his fellow-diplomats, Ho Feng-Shan, who served as the Chinese consul-general in Vienna during 1938-1940, issued visas to Shanghai to all requesting them, even to those wishing to travel elsewhere but needing a visa to leave Nazi Germany.
Many of those helped by Ho did indeed reach Shanghai, either by boat from Italy or overland via the Soviet Union. Many others made use of their visas to reach alternate destinations, including Palestine, the Philippines, and elsewhere....
Ho Feng Shan refused to abide by the instructions of his superior, Chen Jie, the Chinese ambassador in Berlin, who ordered him to not issue visas. Chen Jie, hoping to cement closer ties between China and Germany, wanted to be compliant with the Germans.  That didn't work well for them anyway, as China had already been invaded by Germany's ally, Japan.
While Austrian Jews were well treated in China, it wasn't the ultimate landing place for these refugees, because when Mao ascended to power, they were all kicked out.  Not because they were Jewish but because they weren't Chinese.