Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Still Sew!

I am one of those uncertain, insecure people that sews, but still can't quite fully admit: I sew. I usually focus on the skills I have yet to master... button holes, tailoring, following written directions. Outside of Robotics Season, my blog actually has more posts about things like sewing, quilting, embroidery, and also chickens, and cats.

Anyway... from about January through April, my sewing ambitions are mostly put aside, unless I am making Maria a new apron for FRC. Or, dabbling in alliance gifts, and mini-mascot fun, like my finger puppets. I made those to amuse Maria when we were in Atlanta. But right before the robotics competition in San Diego, Suki asked me to volunteer to revitalize/resuscitate Perry-Parrot-Ox, the team Mascot... this small request propelled me into one, big sewing project.

Our original mascot was lovingly made, and a good likeness of the ever evolving Parrot-Ox. It was also care worn, very, very heavy, and even a bit dangerous. Ask anyone who was ever accidentally gored on the dance floor by one of Perry's horns! As Suki and I looked over the mascot suit, it became apparent that repairs and improvements might mean as much, or more, work, than starting from scratch.

So. I began from scratch. Incidentally, there are no patterns for a Parrot-Ox. Working from a pattern for footie-pajamas, I began formulating a plan to create a lighter, softer Parrot-Ox, with action wings! Suki mentioned something about getting our human hands Paradoxed. And we both agreed the perilous weight of the motorcycle-helmet-mascot-head had to go!

The wings, to have movement and form, I decided would need to be attached to the sleeves... from the shoulders, and partway down the arms. The torso and legs are the brown ox. The head is feathered parrot, with ox horns. The head was the part that was freaking me out, so naturally I saved it for last, and let it torment me for as long as possible.

I wish I had taken more photographs of the process of making the head.
Gee, why didn't I take more pictures?
Oh, yeah because I was freaking out, severely burning my finger, and also freaking out!

I don't make patterns. Well, actually. I DO make patterns, but I am not trained in this skill, so it's hard, and stressful. I found an old ball cap, hot-glued foam to give it dimension. (Burned my finger. Strangled the hot glue gun, then buried it in an undisclosed corner.) Basically I was sculpting-sewing-gluing soft materials, and trying to create the impression of a parrot. Not a chicken, which was an issue.

Honestly, I did cry. I was convinced that I had taken on an impossible task, and I would have been happy to be relieved of this one... Isn't it gnarly, to be faced with something that utterly confounds you, and yet must be accomplished? Totally gnarly. I could not give up. So I just kept tweaking, tucking, stitching and sort of sucking my breath when it looked like it might, possibly be coming close to reality. And I cannot forget my helpers: Max stuffed the ox tail, and it looks perfect. Maria stuffed and fluffed those ox horns. They are outstanding!

Challenging myself was a bizarre mixture of stress and fun, which when finally completed, was even satisfying. The part where I thought I could be letting down the team was painful!

But... I think... it kind of... sort of... worked.

It's made to fit many sizes. It closes with Velcro, and feels comfortable, soft.

Marketing vp, Lonnie, and Outreach vp, Sammay

And it looks something like those Paradox plushies marketing made last year.

Team president, Nathan, never wanted to take it off. Which, I took as a good sign.

Suki demonstrates the clever sleeves that make even human hands look and feel Paradox!

And no matter how crowded the dance floor was, no one could claim that the Paradox gored them.

I love the wings... they fly! I love Suki's gratified expression... she soars!

I love that everyone is proud to wear their Paradox colors, and cheer for their team. Lonnie's spirited attitude is so beautifully, quintessentially yellow, red, and blue... so Paradox!

Wow. I can't believe I got through the whole post without making a single pun. I am sew pleased.

Two Words, and Infinite Gratitude

Thank you.

We are ever lovin' Geeks and you have returned the love, shared the Geek. I never feel comfortable asking for help, especially money, and this is a particularly hard time to turn to friends and acquaintances and ask them to give... give time, pay attention, share funds. If anyone doubts that I am deeply moved and motivated by a student robotics club, then they can look to this blog, and see where my time and thoughts have been going. For them, FIRST 2102 Team Paradox, I was inspired to leave my comfort zone, and ask all of you to cheer with us, to participate...

And you have!

I thank you. Two small words, but coming from infinite gratitude, and a sincere appreciation for your generosity of spirit. Thank you for your words, your comments on FB, and Chickenblog. Thank you for reading these posts, for following the technical and emotional ride we take when it is Robotics Season. Thank you for sending money to the team; your contributions go to scholarships so that even more students can enjoy the honor they have earned, and go the Championships in St. Louis! Thank you for your creative participation, for your good intentions, for being inspired. I love hearing from you. I love sharing this Passion FIRST I have for learning, for art, science, technology, math, and gracious professionalism.

Thank you, Delia. She made earrings for the team, and we look extra classy cheering prettily in our colors. Isn't my mom sweet? She and Ron are longtime supporters, big fans, of FIRST 2102 Team Paradox!

Thank you, Michaela. She is a fan. Seriously. I am totally blown away by Michaela's heartfelt tribute to FIRST, and FIRST 2102 Team Paradox. And it makes me really thrilled for our club, for the students, that such a bright, intelligent young woman, a FIRST member herself, can so graciously demonstrate the lasting inspiration and virtues of FIRST.

Thank you, Janece, Paul, and Amira... no ordinary Moments! In fact what they have given to FIRST 2102 Team Paradox is extraordinary. Thank you! So very much, thank you.

Amy and Steve, and all the Smiths... thank you! This family is an awesome, activist family! They take action, putting their hearts, minds, and muscles into demonstrating their love for the world, and they have generously shared this love with FIRST 2102 Team Paradox.

Thank you Dewataboy. It was quite a while before I figured out that this long time Chickenblog visitor was Maria C.L., a friend of a friend-kind of friend that makes me feel blessed indeed. She has donated to FIRST 2102 Team Paradox in kindness and deeds. I am so grateful to have her support in my life, and for this team.

Alison and Bill: So Paradox. FIRST 2102 Team Paradox really did try to get to the FRC event in your corner of the state, and we would have filled up on burritos on the way home too! Thank you for contributing to the team. There are a lot of mouths to feed, and we appreciate all the help we can get!

Thanks, again, Paul, Michal, Michael, Guido, and Annette, Holly and Ruth, for coming to FRC San Diego, and seeing for yourselves what an amazing event FIRST hosts. Your spirits made it an even brighter occasion!

I would like to invite everyone to visit the New and Improved, Team approved, website for FIRST 2102 Team Paradox: Team 2102 Robotics Club! Welcome To Paradox Robotics.

Thank you.
A whole bunch: Thank you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Family Ties, Fair and Fowl

Today Zelda brought Kamen and the Mini-bots outside for their first independent excursion.


If you are wondering... yes, chicas make it even harder to be domestically responsible. It's possible that I sat with them for thirty minutes, utterly neglecting dirty dishes and dust bunnies, all so I could coo and sigh at their adorableness. Forgive me. I am weak.

Now they are eleven days old, they are intrepid adventurers. Have you ever contemplated a chicken's vision? Zelda has incredible eyesight. Without breaking her rhythm, Zelda scratches the earth, dancing, strictly ballroom, and then she snatches small bugs, tiny worms... the chicks spy the treasures too and move in to receive their share. To my eyes it's just flying dirt and ridiculous feathers flapping aimlessly, but after thirty minutes or more, watching her... I came to realize that she is systematic and exact, and she is teaching her young ones to be the same.

While Zelda had her outing with Kamen and the Mini-Bots, Lady Betty Orpington, Puff, Zoltar and Tesla Edison were free to range the big yard. None of the other chickens has bothered, pestered, or annoyed Zelda. Still, I think I will keep her outings limited... a bit longer every day, but never completely unsupervised.

Hello, you precious little Mini-Bot.
Who's your daddy?

Your guess is as good as mine. Eggs were deposited in the nest by Zelda, and Puff. Hens were "loved" by two roosters. Zoltar: small, handsome, cocky little dude. And the rooster we named Tesla when he was wee and we hoped a hen. Now Tesla has been re-named... he is Edison. (We are not enamored of Thomas Alva Edison, his ethics, morals, and actions. In spite of all he managed to accomplish, I find him a disgraceful character, and sorely lacking in many critical respects.) Our Edison: a massive, disfigured, and extremely mean rooster, alive because I have not killed him, yet.

Oh, you can crow, Zoltar. You can cock-a-doodle-do all you like, but it doesn't prove a thing!

I do hope that Zoltar is the papa of Kamen and the Mini-Bots. Otherwise we have this to contemplate, and he is a most foul bird. He is hard to photograph... all that dark plumage and constant shuffling. He is trying to position himself to spur your thighs.

Also, his head sits far to the right of center. It rests atop his right shoulder. He has chicken scoliosis. A well meaning acquaintance suggested I bring him to her chiropractor... 'he sees horses." I smiled politely, but frankly I would sooner show him to a soup pot than a physician.

My dear Mister Edison,
If you will muster all your brain cells, you will recall that we have loved you, adored you, sheltered you, and we have made countless allowances for your limited capacity to comprehend your circumstances. All to no avail. You are a twit, Edison. And when you started removing flesh from my legs, I resolved not be burdened by any false sense of loyalty to your fowl life. Take care, and beware.

The Management.

Well, Zoltar. I guess that leaves you.
Be a good papa, Zoltar. Help keep an eye sharp for hawks, rats, cats, and snakes. Find worms. Clear a space on the roost. Show those young ones where the best dusting spots are, and how to hop a fence. Zelda deserves a little break, so can't you step in and do your share?


Get back here!
No shirkers!

Monday, March 21, 2011

We Are Ever Lovin' Geeks

We love reading aloud, and dreaming up two and a half story storage sheds topped with Viking long boats. Our magazines Robot, Make, and Popular Science are dog eared and care worn. We have pressure gages, surgical tubing, and text books on our dining table... most days. We turned our picnic table into a chicken coop, and we drove to Oregon, and back, with chickens in our mini-van. Our summer plans revolve around Comic-Con, Siggraph, Da-Vinci Days. We had a release party for Little Big Planet II, and all three BIONICLE movies. We sing along when we watch Pirates of Penzance. Bow ties, fez, vests, leis, and real cowgirl boots are not costumes. We watch clouds, follow the moon, save pumpkin seeds.

I think we are happiest when we are our own truly Geeky, natural selves. Exploring our world, delving into the science, and fantasy, of what we believe, and what we make-believe.

I suppose this is why I cannot stop sharing my robo-ness. My nearly zealous passion for FIRST. You may have noticed? You may be nauseated? I go back and forth between feeling apologetic for caring so madly-deeply about high school robotics, and that guy on North Dumpling Island, and feeling really crushed that I cannot get everybody madly-deeply passionate for high school students embracing science, technology and math!

Ah, come on!
You wouldn't really want me to apologize would you?
For being excited about smart, responsible students... motivated young people pursuing their dreams, hoping to find a place where their passions and ideas are respected?

Okay. So. I admit, I do feel ineffectual and sort of uncool, when only two people are inspired by my team spirit. And then I remind myself that not all dreams have to be shared, have to be appreciated on an equal scale with my own passion. But, gee wiz. Wouldn't you think more than two people would want to have a try at winning a new book? A free book?! Hello? Maybe toss a little "w00ts" for teenagers that spend their free time in metal shops, and making plans to visit middle schools to promote science and space exploration?

No worries.
I am going to stay true to my ever lovin' geekness, to my passion for play and learning, for exploration, for reason, for creative expression, for chcikens for chickens! Yes, I would like to think that I can motivate hundreds, even thousands of people to go to an FRC event, to skip the hero worship of empty celebrities, and instead celebrate teachers and their students, mentors and their dedication, math, science, art, and Geeks!

My faith in FIRST 2102 Team Paradox is sincere, and it is validated by their goals and accomplishments. Even when tragedy befalls the world, I know that real and lasting solutions are, and always will be, in education, in supporting determined and inspired young people. Their ideas and good work are going to make headlines. The good headlines. The stories that makes us proud.

Yeah. Pretty much. That's what I believe.


Cheers for Geeks!
Cheers for Safari parties and good friends, for play. Cheers for tools on the dining table! Cheers for designing, for building, for wiring, for painting, for singing, for thinking of new, better ways for doing old things. Cheers for rediscovering the beauty and worth of old ways and embracing them today.

We found a new restaurant the other night, and with the wind blowing a big storm into town, we sat comfortably together, and relaxed. We shared songs, and thoughts, and smiles. It was wonderful.

It seems kind of silly to point to any particular hardships we may be enduring, but it seems like we were overdue to enjoy some wonderful. Sometimes the good stuff is there, waiting, but we can get so caught up in other business that we fail to see the little, and big, bits of full wonder waiting to be enjoyed.

Mini-Bots! Even with a good mama taking care of them, we have to check them every day. They grow so fast, and change quickly. It'd be a shame not to witness the wonder of them.

Now, these... these do my soul good!

Is this random?
I am trying to remember if this post had a point, or two?
Never mind. A nice advantage of blogging is exploiting the fact that blogging is so loosely defined, such a new, and personal genre. In fact, I reserve the right to be quite pointless indeed.

I believe this is just the spot for a bunny nose.

We moved some things around in our office,and we found we have a fireplace! Lo! Well, I guess I am about through here, so I think I will join the children in the next room. We'll build a warm fire, and see what sparks we want to fuel.