Friday, January 13, 2012

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Kitchen Cloths

Back in November, I got carried away with edging fabric with dainty Perle cotton crocheting. I was blown onto this course by all the temptations and inspiration I was finding on Pinterest. It felt like a huge creative relief to jump right in and see what I could do. And so I grabbed a fat quarter and got started, making stuff up as I went, making mistakes, discovering solutions, and thoroughly enjoying the gratification of making something simply pretty.

It took two months to get blown back on course, to finish what I started. In my haste to crochet an edge of the 1/4 yard rectangular fabric (a "fat quarter"), I pressed and hemmed only one edge. The rest I could hem later; a conceivable, but lazy choice that eventually cost me more labor and some small frustration in the end.

My first cloth squared-up fairly easily. It's not too wonky, but this one was kind of embarrassing. I should have known better when working with striped fabric... it would be less forgiving with those obviously horizontal lines, if I didn't straighten everything out.

The fabric was far from square, and one end was so off course I did not have enough fabric to turn the hem.

What to do? What to do?

Twill Tape! I even happened to have some in my massive accumulation of stuff! So, that was awesome. This light weight trim would edge the fabric, securing and hiding my hastily conceived shortcoming. Plus, I decided to add this useful loop to the corner.

Lesson learned: square, cut, press, and hem, and then blanket stitch and crochet.

The other three cloths were easier to finish, but each one presented a different issue for squaring and hemming. And each of them is sporting a different crocheted trim. This Kitty cloth has a small scalloped edge. I don't read crochet patterns, so I always make these things up as I go. Working on such small pieces, makes it easy, and fun, to experiment.

These sea foam scallops are bigger, and the trim came out fuller, too. Ruffled.

I like the simple ladder pattern on the red ticking fabric. It nicely mirrors the simple and clean lines of the print. I'm not sure how I did it, but I think I could mess around and do it again...

The first trim was made using a very delicate Perle cotton. I like it, but I thought it was a bit too dainty, and my skills with crocheting made the wonky parts more obvious. So, I switched to a heavier, Mercerized cotton, size 3.

What does "Mercerized" mean? Is it some horrible factory chemical thing that will make me ashamed and squeamish? Oh dear. I'll have to Google this, someday.

So, you may be thinking, what are you going to do with these, exactly?

And I reply: Uh. Well. I guess. Well, they're pretty, you see. And fun. To make. And I. Uh.

Maybe for the warm-from-the-oven loaf of bread brought to the table at dinner?
Or keeping a stack of tortillas snug before serving?
Also nice to cover a bowl of rising dough, or to keep flies off the picnic fair?
As a hostess gift, wrapping a bottle of wine?
Lining a bowl of just washed grapes?
Thrown on a pile of junk, a quick clean-up, when a friend pops in?
Or simply, a quarter yard of pretty byproduct from creative therapy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Between Seasons

Has anyone seen winter?
Not that we ever see the kind of winter that blankets the world in drifting crystalline sparkle, or includes the words: sleet, windchill, flurries, subfreezing, black ice, snowplow, storm windows, or long johns.

Still... where has winter gone? Our days have been warmer than late spring, as clear as summer, as breezy as fall, but not a bit like winter. I know a lot of people are settling into this dry, blue skied spree, with tremendous satisfaction. Certainly haven't heard any complaints... not like the bemoaning we hear when it is raining for more than a day, when the gray skies of June linger into July. No, I cannot say I've heard anyone say, I miss winter. When will it rain? Where are the clouds?

I do. I miss winter. When will it rain? Where are the clouds? Oh, I do like these beautiful days. There isn't really anything to complain about, except I do worry. We need rain. Rain is free water, a commodity in short supply in this region. I like the change in the pace, the cycle and rhythm of a new season, like winter. It'd be kind of nice to bring out sweaters and scarves, to acclimate for a reasonable duration to one climate, one season... and not have to switch back and forth between almost like summer warmth one day, then almost like winter cold the next.

And snow! Not that we ski, or snowboard, but I know there has been little or no snow, and this deepens the water crisis. We need deep, water holding, snow to accumulate and mound in great heaps in our Sierras. It's our long term deposit for the drier months ahead.

Golly, what a tangent! I thought my reflections would be a brief and passing sentiment about the lack of rain, and then I was going to sashay into a poem about all the loveliness we have been enjoying recently. Well, maybe not an actual poem, but the loveliness of late is poetic and lyrical, and worthy of fanciful forays into linguistic form.

The owls, are they in love? Are they hunting? Every night, all night, and at sunrise, they call. From tree tops, across the stars, around our rooftop, they call, and answer, and call. I listen to them from my office, from bed, in the kitchen, when I go out to tuck the chickens in, and pat Sanka's head. Sometimes I call, too, then wait, and they answer... I pretend they understand me. I love to hear those owls.

And the moon! It's astonished me every night this week. It's been so... so much like a moon, all round and glowing, luminous, celestial, a gravitating force that pulls me out into the night and makes me feel connected, and very small, all at once.

We want to pitch our canopy, and sleep under the stars, near the moon. We talked about taking the outdoor screen outdoors. Maybe the mosquitoes have left... maybe they don't know it's like summer here. I won't say we've made actual plans. I guess I am superstitious enough to believe that nothing would change this weather faster than us making plans!

One apple tree is hanging on to two tiny apples, and the other is blooming like it's spring. Who can say what this season is?... but I intend to make the most of it, until something new comes along.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bunny Casa

Available: Open floor plan, studio with loft. View. Room for basement. High ceilings. Garden. Charming. Mindful landlord. Reasonable rates.


Sanka moved right in, after I upgraded one of the garden beds into a luxury studio with loft. She is a happy bunny tenant.

The original chicken coop, that I made from our old Ikea picnic table, was not being used since the chicks have joined the other chicas in the shark cage. So, I set it on top of one of the four by four raised veggie beds... the fit is not exact, but boards are nicely and securely making shade and acting as a covering for the gaps. Now Sanka has a soft and earthy place where she can dig her caves and tunnels. She can jump and frolic. She has patches to nap in the sun, and shady shelters, too. I wonder if she'll make it up to her loft, where she can catch a fresh breeze and have a look around. With the taller ceilings I can easily access her dish, stroke her ears, and pull up a chair to sit beside her and enjoy her activities.

She. is. so. happy!

William and I watched her do those funny bunny leaps, the ones that look like pure exuberance and bliss. Then she began her tunneling, and exploring. She makes marvelous tunnels, and Hobbit holes. We realize my arrangement is decidedly cattywampus, but as a prototype it is both effective and inspiring.

And when a bunny looks this cozy and content, you know you are doing something right.

Kamen Mends

She's feeling plucky, she's sounding clucky, and we know she's lucky. It's Kamen, the bobcat smiting, robot chicken: able to survive, heal, and overcome against improbable odds. And we would like to thank everyone that expressed their care and compassion for this dear and remarkable little hen.

Thank you! We are continuing to monitor our security improvements, and make all the safeguards we can reasonably manage. We have even procured a live trap, thanks to our friends, Corina and Chris. Chris will build a preserve for Bob El Gato and use him as a mascot for his metal shop company... just kidding. We are going to make Bob El Gato Tamales, sell them, and use the profits to open the Kamen Chicken Clinic. Seriously, just kidding.

It's not easy photographing a shy and traumatized, black chicken. And if you cannot tell: she is beautiful... except when she lifts her wings and you see the truly gnarly scars and wounds she is still bearing, but then she looks even more beautiful, because overcoming injury and living with those scars is beautiful.

We figure there is nerve damage. Her leg, beneath all the worst damage, shakes. A lot. She gets spooked by things we cannot detect and runs into things, in a seemingly random fashion. She visits the other chicas, but... this is sad to admit: they are really mean to her. We think they believe she has returned from the dead, and is in fact a zombie. And that may explain why they jumped her and pulled out more of her feathers. Geez, "henpecked" is seriously scary. She is not going back to the coop, until we get a handle on this.

I, of course, hoped that with all the tender loving care I was administering, she would turn her gaze on me and think, in her wee hen brain, "This is the nicest person ever, and I trust her, and I want to be her friend, and hang out with her, and tell her secrets, and sit on her shoulder when we ride around town... "

(No. No, I am not chica-co-dependent. Why do you ask?)

Last week, she pretty much was as freaked out and disinterested in me as she ever was. Oh well, I thought.

But in the last few days... well, she kind of does like me.


Yeah. She doesn't run from me. She lets me scoop her up, without squawking and flailing, like all those other chicken-heads. And last night I decided to sit with her, not too hopeful that she would appreciate my attention. She sat with me, then Alex, for about two hours! She roosted on my arm. She listened to Maria read. She preened. She cooed. She clucked contentedly. She dozed. She was mellow, inquisitive, sweet. When Alex held her, they both looked so comfortable and distinguished... well, it was wonderful.

Max did his homework, Maria did hers. Alex and I talked about all the best inventions of 2011. Suki painted. Geoff and William were at welding class. The cats snoozed on the clean and folded laundry. And Kamen, our miracle chica, basked in the glow of a night, safe and home, in the Bird House.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Support the Arts

New Arts Alive banners will be hanging from posts around town, soon. Suki's robot (number 63) already sold at auction. This year's banner is not of a robot, but it's just as imaginative.

I think whichever schools are vying for the favor of her attending, they should definitely be offering full scholarships. Have I mentioned she composes and sings? I've been listening to her CD all week. She is a writer, musician, and a knowledgeable oceanographer. She dazzles me with her sweet skills and perseverance.

Yeah. Geoff and I really do want the best for these college bound residents, but we are strongly considering hacking their grades, so they fail high school, and stay here... we aren't ready to let go. We have a problem.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

FIRST Family

Welcome, to a FIRST Family Reunion

This is Kick-Off, the opening day of the new season for 2102 Team Paradox participating in the 2012 FIRST Robotics Competition. Andrea, Eli, Tatiana, Maria, Alex, and all of FIRST 2102 Team Paradox invite you to see the first day of the new season of inspiring dedication to designing, manufacturing, building, wiring, and programming a robot, while organizing seventy students, finding sponsors, building community, leading outreach programs, mentoring FRC and FLL teams, marketing our own team, and promoting the mission and vision of FIRST.

F: For
I: Inspiration
R: and Recognition
S: of Science
T: and Technology

Igniting young minds. Nurturing Passions. Practicing Gracious Professionalism.™

Dean Kamen gave the teams his homework assignment:

We were up early; supportive of each other, and eager to see Dean Kamen reveal our homework and this year's game: Rebound Rumble!

Maria and Annie are accessorized and ready for 2102 in 2012!

Dean Kamen's homework: FIRST.
The man has a mission: he wants inspiration for science and technology to be more than just an idea or concept, a robotics event. Dean Kamen wants us to change the culture, to change what we value and promote and get excited about. He wants students, and corporations, celebrities, politicians, parents, young people, everyone, to value and recognize science and technology... to appreciate and understand the significance and power of invention, creativity, education, learning, passion, and inspiration. And so he is asking the robotics teams to unite under the FIRST banner. To represent FIRST, to promote FIRST. To say FIRST, often, out loud, in print, with pride.

Homework: Done!

FIRST 2102 Team Paradox has been at it since last season!
And in this Rebound Rumble year, they are ready to suit up their freshmen in yellow on top, red on the bottom, and Paradox splendor, with the FIRST logo emblazoned on the back alongside our illustrious sponsors!

In honor of our FIRST team parent Bobbie's birthday, all FRC teams were addressed by two former presidents, the always gracious and professional, Woody Flowers, the ever young and full of potential, Stephen Colbert, and many more who support and believe in FIRST. At least, that's how we saw it. Maybe FIRST 359, The Hawaiian Kids, and NASA Administrator, Charlie Bolden were inspiring all FRC teams in science and technology but we thought it was particularly inspiring to be celebrating Kick-Off with our own celebrities, too!

FIRST smiles in fresh, new FIRST 2102 Team Paradox shirts.

2102 is our team number... the two thousand one hundred and first robotics team to register as an FRC team. Paradox: noun. 1. a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd, but in reality expresses a possible truth, because what might seem "impossible" might actually be "probable." Parrot-Ox, because who doesn't like an epic and cool mascot!?

FIRST Alumni. Asa is an original. A founding member of Team Paradox robotics, now a team mentor.

FIRST Alumnus: Tom, Nicholas, Andy, Matt, Nick. They are all on break, from schools across the country. And they are here. Because they are awesome. Because robots are cool. Because they are inspired and passionate by, for, and about FIRST 2102 Team Paradox.

FIRST President, Elise. She keeps the team on the ball.

FIRST Parents. New recruits, and the tried and true. We are all touring around campus and checking out where we'll be hanging out for the next six weeks four months.

These guys. FIRST Guys.

FIRST Talk. Now we have the rule book and game manuals, it's time to break it down and talk it out. The team breaks up into groups to tackle the different aspects of the game, from the play rules, to the lay of the field, to the robot specs. Students take it all apart, and process it to share with the whole team. Veteran team members lead these discussions while involving new members. It's all about continuing to inspire, and grow as a team.

These Gals. FIRST Gals. They have marketing, outreach, and corporate wired.

FIRST Thinkers. Kick-Off is a great day. I'm sure Darrahl, Wayne, and Nathan agree. The room is alive and buzzing, great discussions are happening everywhere, as we discuss, debate, dissect, and delight in the newest challenge from FIRST.

FIRST Diagrams. Before you can design the robot, you have to know the parameters, understand the game, learn the rules. It helps to have the experience of the prior years, and it also simply takes time... to learn the new rules, to digest the material, to envision what is a Paradox, what is possible, what is probable, and what is not an option: no projectiles!

FIRST Notes. Like any good music conductor, a FIRST team needs to bring everyone and everything together, harmoniously. And this is a team with a lot of notes, a lot of points of view, talents, ideas, approaches, so it's a challenge... a worthwhile challenge, to give everyone a chance, a voice, an opportunity to play for and with the team. Sometimes I have heard people say they 'couldn't be on a robotics team, because they lack _________ ': some skill they perceive as necessary for being Paradox. The truth is FIRST 2102 Team Paradox is an open robotics club with very many opportunities to share skills and especially to learn skills. It's about being passionate... passionate to try new things. It's about curiosity, and spirit, and a willingness to step into the mix.

Yeah, robotics is a whole lot of fun.

FIRST Team Work. Ideas, strategy, understanding, sharing... everyone has something to contribute.

Victoria and Gabe, breaking down the manual, getting ready to play Rebound Rumble.

FIRST History. Where the team is going is important, but it has to launch from a good foundation. Alumni and mentor, Andrea is talking to new alumni and mentor, Willie, about the history of the FIRST Team Paradox executive branch. Andrea is documenting who the leaders have been, and what their contributions were. Understanding the team's story, appreciating the vision and inspiration that has been building over the years keeps the team together, inspired.

FIRST Lunch! Working (some since six in the morning) all day, a team gets hungry, and there was a collective and resounding cheer for Jess and Linda when they arrived with lunch for everyone.

And there was an equally grateful second round of cheers when Myron and Sandy came in with pizzas, too.

Yes, we feed the team, every day of the six week build. And on the road, and between FRC events, and at FRC events, and while building parade floats, and when doing marketing projects, in the metal shop... so much food! That's why we are gratefully accepting contributions from all of our families and the community. Please, help our team stay nourished and healthy, so they can build robots!

Thumbs up for FIRST families, for friends, for playing and laughing, and sharing. Thumbs up for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math, and Music.

FIRST Friends. If you are with FIRST 2102 Team Paradox, after a little time you'll find that team members become friends, and friends become family.

FIRST Celebration. Families celebrate together.

Happy Birthday, Bobbie!

And a great shout and spirited cheer for 2102 in 2012!

We've got spirit, yes we do!
We've got spirit!
How 'bout you?

This is going to be another beautiful FIRST year for Team Paradox.