Most Easter bunnies are made of chocolate. Some are plush. But this weekend’s wintry weather has produced some snowy Easter bunnies.
And while we’re on the subject of unusual Easter bunnies, check out these unfortunate Easter bunny costumes.
A Facebook friend posted a link to this column by Tom Chantry, and adds this comment: “How come many (most?) Reformed Baptists get this and many (most?) Presbyterians don’t?”
I’ve never been a Reformed Baptist (and during the years I was a Baptist I had no idea there was such a thing), but I’ve been a Presbyterian now for over twenty years, and the wife of a Presbyterian pastor for the last fifteen, so I have some idea about what Presbyterians think. And the approach to Lent that is decried in this column is foreign to my experience.
I took my usual lunchtime walk with a co-worker today. Remembering that she attends a Baptist church, I commented that I guessed they wouldn’t have an Ash Wednesday service this evening. She said no, and that it was too bad – Ash Wednesday is a tradition she appreciated when she belonged to a church that observed it.
I was a Baptist for a number of years, until I married a Presbyterian. I would see my Catholic co-workers come back to work after lunch on Ash Wednesday with black smudges on their foreheads, and I thought of Ash Wednesday as a Catholic thing.
(The Congregational church I grew up in had Ash Wednesday services, but I remember nothing about them. I didn’t really believe in Jesus back when I attended church there, and after I became a Baptist I dismissed anything the Congregational church did as empty ritual since they had not preached the Gospel clearly or cared much what people believed.)
The first time we attended a Presbyterian Ash Wednesday service where people were invited to receive ashes on the forehead, I declined. It was just too strange, too “Catholic.” I vaguely regretted not being able to bring myself to participate in that way, as it seemed meaningful to those who did.
By the time the next Ash Wednesday came around, I had come to appreciate Presbyterianism’s embrace of such traditions. Symbols are powerful in shaping our faith and our thinking, and an “embodied” symbol like a cross drawn with ashes on the forehead is that much more powerful.
A web page that does a good job of expressing what I find meaningful about Ash Wednesday is this Christianity FAQ. Another is this blog post, even though I would probably disagree with its writer, who calls herself a liberal Christian, on a number of theological points.
Interestingly, both point out that Ash Wednesday is one holiday that Hallmark will never co-opt as it has other Christian holidays. (I did discover, however, an Australian Hallmark website that not only includes Ash Wednesday in the list of holidays, but does a decent job explaining it.) Penitence and self-indulgent materialism just don’t mix. Perhaps that’s one of the best things about Ash Wednesday, and why we need it.
At the Holiday Springs and Sprockets exhibit I went to yesterday, there was also a display of Christmas cards sent or received by Steve Gerberich (the creator of the overall exhibit). One I found particularly amusing included a web address, so I checked it out when I got home.
www.winstanleylsw.com is a collection of four amusing virtual refrigerator magnets. Each is a parody of a familiar household product, altered to give it a holiday theme. My favorite is the bottle of “Yule Tide” detergent, which “Removes Stubborn In-Laws” and provides “Bing Crosby Whitening.” You can send a magnet by email (though the image will not be immediately visible in the email, as most email clients these days are set not to download pictures automatically).
The website was apparently created, several years ago, as the Christmas greeting of Lenox Softworks and its parent company, Winstanley Associates. I’m guessing the page proved so popular that they simply left it up for people’s continued enjoyment.
When I first saw the work of Steve Gerberich a couple of years ago, I was delighted by his inventiveness. So when I saw that the Muscatine Art Center would have his Holiday Springs and Sprockets on display, I was eager to go see it. Then I got sick, and put off going to the art center.
This is the last weekend of the exhibit, so I made a point of going today. (It is traditional to keep Christmas decorations up until Epiphany, which is tomorrow. I wonder if that played any part in determining the exhibit’s schedule.)
I really like the Flying Reindeer. Mounting reindeer on exercise bikes, and then using bicycle handlebars for antlers – that is inspired. And the collection of different light bulbs for Rudolph to use, depending on the weather – that is a special touch, especially the collection of clear lights for Hanukkah!
I have to admit that the rest of the exhibit left me somewhat disappointed. Perhaps my expectations were too high, because I had enjoyed the previous exhibit so much. Perhaps it was because this time the idea of how Gerberich puts together apparent “junk” to make mechanized art was no longer fresh and new.
Maybe it was the wooden elves – I just don’t like their looks. I wondered if maybe it was partly because more of the objects appeared to have been made specially for a Christmas exhibit, if not necessarily this one, rather than being odds and ends that had been pressed into service in an entirely new way.
I wondered if Gerberich had been under some pressure to get a holiday exhibit put together and had less time to create it than some of his other works. I discovered later, reading about the exhibit in the Quad City Times (check out the story to see more pictures), that he created this exhibit in 1991 for Bloomingdale’s in New York. So maybe his other creations are better because he has had a couple of decades to improve his work.
This exhibit still delights many people, especially the children who visit. The art center was far from crowded on this January afternoon, but there was rarely a moment that one display or another was not in motion. And it wasn’t just children pushing the buttons that set the gears – and rollers, pulleys, chains, and more – in motion.
If I still worked in a large IT department, sitting at the front desk where I had occasion to chat with my colleagues over the course of the day, it would not have been mid-afternoon before I found out that today was Talk Like a Pirate Day. Not that most of the developers and system administrators actually went around saying “Avast” – but one of them would have mentioned something.
As it was, I was sitting down at a meeting when the VP of Student Services commented on the fact. He didn’t go on to actually talk like a pirate, and I wondered if he had acquired his knowledge from a student, his online resources, or a general interest in nerdy topics (an interest he may or may not have – he is my supervisor but I don’t really know him yet). He did mention that celebration of the day really took off ten years ago when Dave Barry wrote about it – something I hadn’t known before.
I found out from nationalGeographic.com that it could more accurately be called Talk Like Robert Newton Day. Or perhaps Talk Like Disney Day. Not that I ever thought the presumed pirate-style talk was all that historically accurate, but I was surprised to learn that it has such a recent origin. And from the purveyors of Mickey Mouse!
Despite the comments at the end of the article, I don’t think National Geographic is trying to spoil anyone’s fun, or take a silly topic too seriously. Their role is education, and people like me appreciate learning more about the origins of today’s good-humored “pirate talk.” It wouldn’t stop me from talking like a (Disney) pirate, if I were so inclined.
It was actually a crossword puzzle that made me realize, one day recently, how inaccurate the pseudo-pirate talk is. Consider the opening lines at the Talk Like a Pirate Day website: “Avast, me hearties! Welcome…” Wouldn’t you guess, from that opening, that avast was some sort of greeting? So I was very surprised to discover that a five-letter word meaning “Stop!” is AVAST.
Next thing you know, I suppose I’ll be reading that pirates didn’t really wear earrings and have parrots perched on their shoulders…
I didn’t have night photography in mind when I bought my camera. (If I wanted to do really good night photography, I’d need to spend a lot more than I did.) But when I browsed through the features listed in the user manual, I noticed a section on low-light conditions. I made a mental note to try it out sometime.
Last night I took my younger son to see the annual Independence Day fireworks show at the riverfront. I’ve tried to take pictures of fireworks before, but with little success. Now that I have a digital camera that can be switched into manual mode, I thought I might do better. I had checked ahead of time to find out recommended settings, and I remembered to take my tripod (a GorillaPod that can hold its place firmly on the arm of a camp chair).
Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought to practice actually changing the manual settings, and in the dark I couldn’t figure out what buttons to press. (But I found the one for timed delay to allow me to get in my own picture. Several times.) So I had to settle for letting the camera determine the settings. The pictures still came out much better than my previous attempts to capture exploding fireworks. (Last year I used video mode and extracted a few frames. The color was good but the resolution was not.)
Since I didn’t buy this for night photography, I didn’t think about whether a cable release was available. Even with the tripod, the pressure of my finger on the shutter release was enough to cause movement visible in most of the photos from last night. (The trails of light show the downward arc of the firework fragments, but also another small movement at right angles to that arc, presumably from movement of the camera.)
Apparently a cable release is not available, even though the camera clearly is designed with the possibility of low-light photography in mind. (There is even a Fireworks setting in there somewhere, though I’ll have to peruse the manual – which is on CD only – more closely to find it.) However, I have read online about making a DIY cable release that uses the camera’s USB port – I just might try it out.
I still won’t be able to get the kind of quality seen in these beautiful examples of night photography. But they have me thinking about the possibilities.
Since school gets out on Wednesday, I started looking at interesting “holidays” Al can celebrate to give him something interesting to do during summer vacation. Thursday will be Brother’s Day, and I’m sure Al can think of something nice to do for his big brother.
Friday will be Cookie Monster’s birthday. Actually, it is the birthday of Frank Oz, who has performed Cookie Monster since 1969. Cookie Monster’s own birthday is apparently Nov. 2, but someone with such an appetite probably needs two birthdays a year. (And a friend at church told me the other day how much better it works to serve cookies than cake at a birthday party, at least for people old enough not to want a display of candles.) I think we will need to bake some monster cookies.
As for this weekend, Al is away at a Boy Scout campout, so I didn’t really need to find anything to celebrate. But I couldn’t help being curious about the strange celebration in Fruita, Colorado this weekend, honoring Mike, the Headless Chicken.
From what I have read at a few different websites, it appears to be a true story, however improbable. I’m not sure how much his owners really wanted to honor Mike’s “will to live” and how much they wanted the money they could make off him. But it certainly is an interesting and unusual story, well worth a weekend festival.
So the next time you feel like you are running around like a chicken with its head cut off, take heart. Life goes on. You just might find it hard to do much crowing.
In case you didn’t already know, today is National Chocolate Chip Day. (According to the National Confectioners Association, both May 15 and August 4 have that distinction. It’s a good enough cause to celebrate twice a year, right?)
In honor of this important holiday, I bought Eggo chocolate chip waffles for my family for breakfast, and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream for dessert this evening. For myself, I have my usual afternoon snack of Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips and some nuts (today I have walnuts and pecans, because I ran out of almonds).
If you want something different from the usual chocolate chip recipes, there are lots of ways to vary things. There’s always M&M’s, various kinds of nuts, and peanut butter. Sometimes I buy mint chocolate chips or raspberry chocolate chips, but if I don’t have those on hand I can always add mint extract to the cookie batter, or mix in some frozen raspberries. I haven’t tried adding dried cherries, but it sounds like it would taste good.
Now, if you want something really different, check out this page. (Note: it takes a while to load.) Personally I don’t care for the chocolate/bacon combination (I haven’t made my own, but I’ve tasted such products from a gourmet bakery). I don’t think I’d mind the dried crickets, but I’m not going to go buy any. (Not that I have any idea where I’d go to buy them.) I’ve heard of adding chocolate to chili, or chili pepper to chocolate cake, but I haven’t tried them – either as cook or consumer.
If you have any great chocolate chip ideas, please share! I probably won’t try them today – but there’s always August 4.
I nearly missed getting to vote on this year’s crop of Doodles 4 Google created by students around the country. As I was last year, I am impressed with the creativity and talent of these young artists.
I also find it interesting to see the variety of answers they give to this year’s them: “If I could travel in time, I’d visit…” Prehistoric times and frontier America are popular and unsurprising destinations, as are visits to the future. Specific cultures such as ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt, and the Middle Ages are also well represented.
I wonder about the student who would like to visit the Titanic as it sank. What would ten-year-old Grace B think if she actually saw it happening?
I like the reasons Elizabeth C gives for wanting to see the construction of Stonehenge. “I would witness the will to do something thought impossible, something great, the drive to go above and beyond the expected.” I hope she does get to see such will and drive exhibited by people – without having to travel through time to see it.
Barbara M would like to visit the beginning of the French Revolution. That’s one time and place I’d want to steer clear of! But she offers an intriguing reason – “to see if Marie Antoinette was truly as blind to the troubles outside the palace as she is portrayed.”
Naturally I start wondering what time I would want to travel to, if I could. The first thought that comes to mind is the time of Jesus. I know the Bible says “Blessed are those who have not seen [Jesus] but believe.” But I would really like to see him, to hear his teaching from his own mouth and see how he interacted with people.
Of course, it could be that even if time travel existed, it would be very imprecise. Perhaps I would only be able to travel to somewhere in the Middle East, within fifty years of the time of Jesus. The chance of actually encountering him would be very low. Would I still choose that time and place to visit?
Even if I could be assured that my presence in the past or future would not affect the course of history – either the grand scheme of things or my personal history – I don’t think I would want to visit a time of great suffering. With modern communication systems, it is just about impossible to avoid awareness of suffering in other places while being unable to do much of anything about it. But it seems psychologically unhealthy to intentionally visit a time/place of suffering knowing that one cannot do a thing about it.
Certain practical matters might affect my choice. I am sure I could manage without modern plumbing. But I don’t think I would like to spend any length of time on a visit to a period prior to the invention of toilet paper.
And I doubt I would learn much without spending a significant amount of time there. I remember learning, when preparing to go study in Spain the first time, about the stages of adjustment to a new culture. First there is a period when everything seems exciting. Things that seem strange to us are seen as “quaint” rather than “idiotic.” Next there is a period of hostility to this strange, incomprehensible culture.
I’m not sure how long it takes to reach the stage of integration into the culture, but I wonder if it would take even longer in a different era. The differences between the U.S. and Spain today are probably pretty minor compared to the differences between modern U.S. culture and that of Renaissance Italy or ancient Greece. I enjoyed the year I spent in Spain very much, but I suspect that it has improved somewhat in my memories over what I actually experienced.
I think it would probably be difficult for most of us modern Americans to adjust to the slower tempo of life in most times and places in the past. I would be wanting to get out and see things and do things, and instead I would probably need to help with the (backbreaking) chores that have to get done every day, wait for very slow transportation, and avoid asking all kinds of questions that would only arouse suspicion.
At least I think I would get plenty of sleep. And plenty of exercise.