Saturday, June 05, 2010

Sentimental Saturday

End of the year, 2000.
Walua Road.
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
Two years old.
He loved mail boxes.
Very much.

Friday, June 04, 2010

I was Reminded About Our Own Fig Journey...

I call this my Blue Figgy.

Once upon a time we were waiting for our turn to have a home of our own. We were renters, first in the TreeHouse, where the children slept in the kitchen-living room-dining room, and where we cooked in the summer and froze in the winter. It is also where we met Tamsyn, and the children climbed the rubber tree and made apple pies.

Then we were in Garage Mahal, a stucco palace with faux columns and a landlord that pulled up our flowers, and imposed his meddlesome self. Half the yard would flood, and seep in to the house, and the plumbing was equally vexing. But. Well. It had enough room for beds and chairs, and eventually we defied reason and squeezed in a hen or two.

And all the while the world felt compelled to preach to us about how silly we were to rent, when we could just bite the bubble bullet and buy! *Easy credit! Drink the kool-aid, jump in, the water is fine!* We waited. We endured. We got depressed. We got angry. We got ripped off. And sometimes I let it show a bit. And sometimes I really let it all hang out.

Then last May, a house that we had been watching for a few years came on the market again. For too much money.

Then they dropped the price, so we dared ourselves to hope, and we stopped by the open house.

A fig tree was growing in the yard. That morning, before we left to run errands I promised the children that we were going to "buy a fig tree, even if it has to live in a barrel for a year." And here I was at this big, beautiful home, with a yard and garage, on a favorite street, and there was a fig tree. A sign?

Did you know that small sucker branches that grow at the base of a fig tree can be pulled up and transplanted? They will easily grow in to a whole new tree. Of course I am only speaking hypothetically: It would be inappropriate to go to an open house, pull up a tree branch, hide it under your coat and take it home. I know that. It would be embarrassing to admit to such an act, to beam proudly about growing such a tree and then eventually owning the mother tree too. Hmmm.

I know of a blogger who is trying to buy her own home. A pretty little place, where she can keep chickens, where a fig tree is growing. And she is in the middle of the forty-two levels of housing-realtor-banking-mortgage-escrow h.e.l.l. My heart goes out to her. It took us from May through September to finalize the purchase of the Bird House, and we visited every single level of that h.e.l.l. It is a nightmare, that I cannot, and will not, reflect on too deeply, because it still hurts too much.

Sometimes, when I am leaving our driveway, or when I look out the window from the kitchen, I cry. I am home. It is a pretty home, where we have room for beds, chairs, and chickens, and where one now three! fig trees are growing. My appreciation, gratitude, and joy are overwhelming. Even the dents and dings, the leaks, make me kind of giddy... they are our very own dents, dings, and leaks.

And these are our figs. They are plumper and sweeter this year, and even more of them are growing on the mama tree. And the Blue Figgy is in the ground, getting tall, leafing out. And the very sad looking, stick of a fig tree I planted in February, is healthy and green.

This is the new chapter in our story, and I have learned there are no guarantees, that we cannot be sure of happy endings... but right now, here... this is pretty good.

I wish.
I wish that everyone could enjoy their very own pretty good.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

West Coast Chicas

En Español, a chica is a little girl. En Echickenblog a chica is a little girl hen.
And this little girl hen is Temple. She is a Polish. She looks *ahem* funny now. She is going to look funnier elegant when she matures.

Yes, Temple. You and your feathered hat are going to be show stoppers. And with your sister... oh my!

Niki Tesla, how appropriate your shock of feathers are!

I cannot help it, I do see a resemblance between the man and the chica.

Here is Trudy.
I think.
Trudy, it is you, right?
Slightly more yellow than her Silkie sister, Trudy is a feather footed fowl.

Yes, you are Trudy.

We almost named her Suki... in honor of another pretty chica we know. Of course one never knows whether everyone agrees that having a flighty feathered fowl named after them is an honor.

Tiny, but spirited, Zoe. Zoe is our Araucana hen.
Blue eggs and nesting, and heniness. Please.

Oh, see? She is listening.
Good chica.

Zelda is the whiter Silkie chica. Max named her.

The blue of her beak is becoming more apparent.
All of the chicas are bantams. They will out number Betty, but Betty will retain the size advantage. We'll see if it does her any good.

When Maria named Puff, we thought it was cute. Now we are amused, because the name is cute and perfectly fitting for the tiniest puff of a chica. She doesn't even have signs of a tail, like her sisters. She is round. A black, Silkie Puff.

And like her Silkie sisters, I have to clean her feather feet.
We like to handle the chicas at least once a day. We clean them and nuzzle them. We scratch in the garden with them, and pretend we are mother hens. Gee... this is sounding obsessive and weird.

I am obsessive and weird.


Loved and cleaned.
Oh Chicas!
Oh my!

They're Back

Robotics lives!

(insert Geeky-maniacal laughter)
I gave Chickenblog readers a little break from the intensity of my robo-love, and endless posts about FRC events, and Atlanta! Oh Atlanta!
Okay. So I admit, from time to time I have inserted a few encounters, like our Space Cookies meet-up, and our Science Sunday outreach vision.

Obviously, we are in to it.

What's up with the Blue Guy?

I'll tell you what's up with the Blue Guy. That's Mark Leon. I've mentioned him before, when he hung out with the Mechanics and Paradoxan in Las Vegas. I failed to mention that he hung out with the Paradoxan in Phoenix, but yeah, he was totally there!

Mark Leon is the blue-haired, high energy, math pumping, spirited emcee of FIRST Regional Competitions. He's the best. His high energy, which he maintains over two days of competition, is spirited and intelligent. He keeps the games moving forward, while celebrating the students' achievements, efforts, and dance appetites. He does not steal the show, he highlights the students, who are the real stars.

"Do the math, save the world." I say it all the time, but that's Mark's. He does the math. And when he isn't mentoring teams, and promoting robotics, when he isn't waving team flags, announcing team names at FRC, he is the director of the Robotics Alliance Project
at Nasa's Ames Research Center.

And, another thing he does... he visits stand out teams. Which is how we had the honor of spending an afternoon with Mark, the Blue Haired Guy. He came to talk about math, and polar bears, staying friends with the crew of your ship, and what to do if a leopard seal grabs hold of your extremities. Dude's got some stories!

And he also hands over the controls of his moon rover to students. The Robotics Alliance Project is serious about promoting robotics education. Hands-on education. Both Andrea and Suki got to have a try at remotely driving the Rover. Using lap tops they were communicating with the robot in Northern California.

It takes team work!

I have to say: I miss the red pants. It was good seeing everyone, old and new members.

Even Karen and Maria were happy to don team colors again. Maria added her signature color and statement... Permission to Play! Think, Tinker, Make and Go!

I think everyone felt good being in the metal shop again, together.

The generations of 2102 Team Paradox Robotics... great foundation, great future.

Mark's got great stories, but it was especially awesome to hear him recognize the under tension skills of these robot designers and builders. He knows that learning in the pit, on the fly, is what real world robotics is all about, and I could not agree more.

Team parents came through, as always, and served a delicious chili and corn bread dinner. And the visit lasted a good time. It really is awesome of Mark to extend himself, to promote robotics, and deliver on his beliefs. Teachers, thinkers, makers, artists, mentors... I love them!

I hope Mark made his plane!
I hope we see him next year at FRC's and in St Louis!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Broody, Moody, Lazy Booty?

Betty needs our attention.

Before we brought the six little chicas home, we were hoping Betty would get broody and sit on fertilized eggs, then hatch a clutch of her adopted babes. But she never did get broody, and I saw our spring chick opportunities drying up...

So. Naturally, after we brought home Puff, Trudy, Zelda, Zoe, Temple, and Tesla, motherly Betty went straight to her nest box. She has been there five days. And no, she does not know about the new coopmates... they have not met. But maybe a little bird told her about the cute little fluff balls.

Could she be doubting our affections, and feeling abandoned?
Could she simply be broody?
Is she on strike? Let the new chicas eat all the bugs and entertain you, she might be thinking.

We love you Betty. Do not be a moody brooder.

Should we introduce the chicas, in the hope that she thinks she "did it!" ? Should we leave her alone and let her hormones adjust themselves in their own good time? Does she need chocolate, a spa day?!

Poor Betty.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Under The Stars, Pass The PopCorn

It may seem that we were inspired by our long day at Maker Faire, and we were, but mostly this idea is one we have been working on for years.

For about nine years we have been fantasizing, planning, debating, saving, waiting, and hoping for an outdoor movie experience... in our own backyard. Well, we've got a yard, and so last Christmas we made the next big leap and got our hands on a projector. And now, the screen is coming together!

The initial plan Geoff had in mind was to make the frame, to hold the screen, out of wood. I cannot explain or describe it, because I never did "get it." It's okay that I did not understand the first plan, because it is the second plan that we are going with. Geoff, William, and Alex have designed and are building a PVC frame that will hold the grommeted cloth tautly enough to make a screen for Lawrence of Arabia to ride across desert sands, for Wallace and Gromit to unleash their clever creations, for a Fantastic Mr. Fox to torment Boggis, Bunce and Bean.

We have, for nine years, had hours and hours of fun thinking up ideal outdoor movies, and matching outdoor movie menus. It's fun...

"Wallace and Gromit" = Cheese and Crackers, and maybe some big, tasty veg.

"Lawrence of Arabia" = Tea, scones, falafel, hummus, flat bread, dates.

What about... tell us what you would serve with these titles?

"Monty Python and Holy Grail"

"Never Cry Wolf"


"The Princess Bride"

Or any movie... give us a favorite and match it with the perfect meal!

Construction is moving along nicely, with time for family fun and laughter. The frame is super strong, and obviously "multi-capable." And soon our plans and dreams will be fulfilled when we say "Roll film, and please pass the pop-corn," under the stars.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Long Live Maker Faire... That's right: More

Today is Memorial Day. We honor the men and women who have served, by making, by working together, by enjoying the freedom to express our ideas, and celebrate our happiness.

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”
-Arthur Ashe

I truly and sincerely love Maker Faire and all the great people we met there... and I want to share as much of their good works as I possibly can.

And I do this for free, for the love of education, science, art, family, expression, and sharing. I do not get paid. I do not advertise. This is Chickenblog, and I am just enthusiastic about stuff. And my house is a mess because of it, so please leave a comment, so my family will find this incredibly worthwhile and forgive me for neglecting them and our Bird House.

Hey, look it's Dave. He's got one of those funny "Herbie Mouse Bots from Solarbotics. The sensor in Herbie's nose leads him, like a mouse to cheese, toward light. Flashlight fun. Maker Faire fun.

Now really, I don't think I will ever recover from the amusement of seeing frosted cupcakes driving around, but what about the cake?

That's right, I went under the frosting to see what makes a cupcake move. And I will support any member of my family willing to design and build a cupcake mobile. They are too sweet.

I also approve of fire breathing dragons.
Somewhere at Maker Faire we saw the phrase: "Fun first. Safety third."
Okay. Just kidding.
But also, funny.
But seriously: Safety first.

When Saphira raised her head and did her fire thing, Sam de Rose and Alex Jacobson definitely had safety first in mind, and they kept everyone clear of Saphira's hot breath. As for us observers, it was totally fun!

At the controls, and monitoring the programming. I have so much faith in young people, students. They got it going on.

Geoff has some great slow-motion footage of Saphira breathing fire. We are going to post video soon.

Video will be great, because my words alone do little to describe the awesomeness of MondoSpider tap dancing her 1,200 pounds of steel across the fairgrounds. The mass. The coordination. The sound of her eight steel feet hitting the ground... marvelous! She really is a large, improbable, mechanical structure, built to explore our human relationship with energy.

"True to its mandate of "Energy Awareness Through Art", the eatART crew has implemented an electric drive-train in the Spider, making it the WORLD'S FIRST WALKING ELECTRIC VEHICLE!"
Plus, they were at Burning Man.


Do you like Do-It-Yourself?
Doing it your way, learning a new way?

If you need a plan, if you can share a plan, you may want to visit instructables They are an online community of do-it-yourself enthusiasts sharing ideas for making everything from a burger, to a moveable carport garden.

This is DIY-Awesome!

Also, it looks like they are hiring. Be sure to let us know if anything comes of this. Chickenblog has never found someone a job... it would be a cool first.