This was the annual Victorian Easter Egg Hunt and Various Activities, held at the Doctors House Museum, on the grounds of the Brand Library in Glendale, CA. We took our kids and it was absolutely fantastic! Here's what was so cool about it: So often when you go to a children's party or event, it's loud and fast-paced and there are people shouting out things to do and it's just overwhelming. There seems to be this perception that children need to be fed a constant stream of entertainment or their brains will explode from boredom. I think the opposite is true. I think you could leave a bunch of children in a bare, open space with nothing at all to amuse them and within a few minutes they would be amusing themselves. It's when you overload them with all kinds of crap all the time that their brains start to short circuit.
Anyway, whoever came up with the Easter Egg Hunt gets it. They get that you don't need to over-entertain for kids to have fun. There was a big lawn and a bunch of eggs, and before long it was just a big lawn and some Victorian-era games that you could play: Ring Toss with Sticks, and Croquet. There was also a crank-style ice-cream maker in a gazebo, and there was just lots and lots of space for running around. My daughter fell asleep on me and then started getting upset when she woke up because she was hungry. But my son could have stayed all day. Let me tell you, those Victorians knew how to have a good time. Not a lot of flashy BS, not a lot of noise, just a big lawn in beautiful surroundings, some refreshments and a few simple games offered up. It was wonderful.
I was a little disappointed that we never got to see The Doctor though.
And no, as others who are writing about Evernote also assure their readers, I am not being paid to say this. I also haven't even started using it yet, really (except to take the pictures I'll post in a minute) and don't really know what all it does, but I am already slobbering all over it like a puppy with a peanut-butter-filled Kong. Here's why:
The picture above is the shelf where I keep my Moleskine notebooks that need to be "emptied." They have stuff in them that needs to come out: Notes for articles, notes for stories or books, important "to-dos" usually involving therapy or care for my daughter, and notes for other projects. If these are urgent I usually get them out quickly. But not always. And there's a lot of important stuff in there that's NOT urgent. And stuff that's not "important" but would be nice to get out and into the world - like the complete sketch of an article rebutting the insanity that is "The Tiger Mom" and her approach to parenting.
So there's that. But there's also this:
This is where I keep all of my Moleskine - I don't even know what they're called - the thin, paper-bound notebooks that I use for project notes. I have a couple for the special-needs project I'm developing, one for a steampunk children's book series, several for Urban Yogini. I shouldn't even say "all" because I've got three or four more of these scattered around the house at various locations. They each have their own purpose and I only write in each one what goes in each one.
So here's what's insanely cool. It's what I've been waiting for... forever. Evernote has teamed up with Moleskine to create "camera-ready" Moleskine notebooks to use with Evernote. What that means is that you can scribble your unintelligible notes and drawings in your notebook, take pictures of the pages using the Evernote camera, and then file the pages IN THEIR CATEGORIES (you can tag each page with a magical little tag that can be assigned to whatever project or category you want), and can later search for them by... wait for it... wait for it... SEARCHING FOR THE WORDS YOU HAVE SCRIBBLED UNINTELLIGIBLY IN YOUR NOTEBOOK!!!
I am practically doing backflips over this. Younger people may not appreciate this fully, but I grew up writing on paper with pens and pencils. Personal computers didn't exist back then. In college I used a typewriter (there were PCs by then, but I couldn't afford one.) I think because of this, there are just some things that I cannot write well with a keyboard. There are some things for which I need to put pen or pencil down on paper. And so I've got gazillions and gazillions of sheets of paper, somewhat organized but not in a readily searchable way, with all my stuff in it. A few months ago, I was painstakingly typing in the notes for a short novel from the notebook where I keep the notes for it. It would have taken several more solid days of typing to input it all.
But now I can just slap on some stickers, take some pictures and file it all away. I am deleriously happy about this.
Here's the rub: The "camera-ready" Moleskine notebooks are ridiculously expensive. Not so expensive that I won't buy some if I have to, but pretty expensive. So here's how you can be sure that I'm not in the pay of Evernote or Moleskine: I'm going to try a little experiment. I'm going to try taking pictures of some of the pages I already have (might as well - they're the ones I need to input right now anyway) and see if I can get them to work in the Evernote system. I'm not sure what I'll do about the magical stickers. Probably just order some of those separately if I can.
I will report back here with the results of my experiment. Specifically: Will evernote's handwriting recognition work with pages that are not the "camera-ready" kind? And will I be able to search among my uploaded scribblings without using the "camera-ready" pages? Stay tuned...
UPDATE: Someone has hacked the Evernote Moleskine notebook... sort of:
I downloaded the PDF, turned it into a JPG and imported it as a custom paper into the Noteshelf handwriting app. I wrote a few words, added some thumbs of the stickers and exported the page to Evernote (Noteshelf is well integrated with Evernote).
It didn’t work. I suspect that you need to actually scan a piece of paper for the Smart Stickers to be recognized, and as there is no way to add a photo from the Camera Roll when scanning, there appears to be no way around it.
His hack wouldn't really help me anyway because what I need is not cheaper smart paper, but a way to import my existing reams of notes into Evernote in a searchable way. This might be more helpful.
I HATE shopping. I really do. I especially hate shopping for clothes, which is why for many years all I ever wore were "hand-me-ups" from my younger sister who took pity on me. I still pretty much wear the same thing every day: Dance or yoga pants and a t-shirt or hoodie. I might have a slight preference for shopping over, say, having each of my teeth smashed out individually by a ball-peen hammer, but it is a very very slight preference.
Also what I hate are militaristic themes and apocalpytic themes. Even pro-liberty ones. I'm just tired of it. And I hate that that's what so much of our culture's "collective psyche" is gearing up for. Sometimes I feel that it's one massive, ugly self-fulfilling prophecy hurtling violently toward us all.
...but then I saw this:
...and now I'm thinking I might have to go out and buy me some of this stuff. Thank goodness it's way outside my price range.
A little over a year ago - in December of 2012 - I found these little guys out in our back yard. They are monarch caterpillars and they were crawling around on what I later learned were milkweed plants - the only thing monarchs eat. I thought we'd watch them make their cocoons and later emerge as butterflies, but then I noticed that the next time I looked, there weren't so many of them. Somebody was snatching them up. So I grabbed all that I could find and stuck them inside my son's butterfly house. Sure enough, they made their cocoons and eventually emerged as beautiful butterflies which we released into our back yard. The challenge though was finding enough milkweed leaves for the caterpillars to eat. They quickly finished what we had in our backyard and I ran around to garden stores looking for more, finally ordering some online. I now have five well-established milkweed plants in our yard but as of mid-February 2014, I haven't seen any signs of caterpillars.
Apparently, monarch populations are in trouble. According to the New York Times:
Faltering under extreme weather and vanishing habitats, the yearly winter migration of monarch butterflies to a handful of forested Mexican mountains dwindled precipitously in December, continuing what scientists said was an increasingly alarming decline.
The migrating population has become so small — perhaps 35 million, experts guess — that the prospects of its rebounding to levels seen even five years ago are diminishing. At worst, scientists said, a migration widely called one of the world’s great natural spectacles is in danger of effectively vanishing.
Mexico is the southern terminus of an age-old journey in which monarchs shuttle back and forth between far-flung summertime havens in Canada and the United States and a single winter home in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains.
The latest drop is best explained by a two-year stretch of bad weather, said Chip Taylor, a biologist at the University of Kansas who has studied the butterflies for decades. But while good weather may help the monarchs rebuild their numbers, their long-term problem — the steady shrinking of habitat along their migratory route — poses a far greater danger.
Monarchs lay their eggs only on milkweed, and patches of the plant have rapidly disappeared from the Great Plains over the last decade. As corn prices have risen — spurred in part by a government mandate to add ethanol to gasoline — farmers have planted tens of millions of acres of idle land along the monarchs’ path that once provided both milkweed and nectar.
At the same time, growers have switched en masse to crops that are genetically engineered to tolerate herbicides. The increased use of herbicides has all but wiped out milkweed that once sprouted between rows of corn and soybean.
As a result, Dr. Taylor said, the monarchs must travel farther and use more energy to find places to lay their eggs. With their body fat depleted, the butterflies lay fewer eggs, or die before they have a chance to reproduce.
So... score another victory for the fiasco that is government-sponsored ethanol. But what about my caterpillars? Am I not seeing them this year because they have fallen victim to depleted habitats? I can't be sure. But rather than wait around to see if they show up, I'm going to take action. I've just ordered one of these, which will hold substantially more butterflies than our existing little butterfly garden. And I'm going to order some more milkweed plants too.
I've also learned that I can order monarch eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises! There are a few farms around the country that do this. For states on the eastern side of the continental divide (because apparently the two strains of butterfly do not mix), there is Shady Oak Farm, a butterfly farm in Florida that is "...dedicated to helping others experience the joy of raising and caring for butterflies." Shady oak sells butterflies at all life-cycle stages, including big accordion boxes of mature butterflies for release (a great, if somewhat expensive, idea for a party, wedding or fun event.) Shady Oak also sells milkweed plants, and butterfly kits.
On the western side of the country, there is Swallowtail Farms, in El Dorado Hills, California, and Chasen Butterflies in Mission Viejo, California. Swallowtail's website has a great FAQ that addresses many of the concerns about releasing captive-bred butterflies into wild populations. They have also helped to build the largest monarch butterfly farm on the west coast, and developed the first commercially used disease treatment for monarch butterflies. All of the butterflies they ship are certified disease-free. Unfortunately, Swallwtail does not sell monarch caterpillars or chrysalises. Chasen does sell monarch chrysalises, but are currently out of stock. So... my search continues. I'll update here as I learn more.
UPDATE: One site to check is this one, listing local butterfly breeders around the world. You can search by country and by state (in the US). It looks like this might be the best place to find a butterfly farm that can ship to wherever you are.
ANOTHER UPDATE: The Latin name for Milkweed is "Asclepias." The name comes from the ancient Greek god of medicine and healing, Asclepius (also Aesclepius or Aesculapius.) He is one of my favorite characters from Greek mythology, because he was punished (killed actually) by Zeus because he was so successful as a healer that Hades became worried that he would receive no more dead and asked his brother Zeus to take care of him. I think his story has many a parallel in the world of medicine today. It is from Asclepius that we get the serpent-entwined staff symbol of medicine, the caduceus.
...or in the world, I'll bet. This is my ballet teacher, on the front cover of "Dance Teacher Magazine" this month:
"There isn’t a ballet class quite like this in all of New York City. “I am able to teach to different ages and levels, all within the same class, such that a Broadway dancer can be in the same class as a beginner,” says Wildish. She’s developed a devoted following, and it’s easy to see why. Her classes are a mix of rigor and wit. (She gives her adagios names like “Three-Toed Sloth” and “Kale and Lime Juice.”) And regardless of who is in the class, rank beginner or aging enthusiast, she treats them all like professionals."
Yep, that's Kat! I had been taking ballet as an adult for about six years when I found her class, I'd tried out tons of classes, some of them very good, some just boring, some way over my head. But there was nothing like Kat's class. I've been away from New York now for seven years, am taking ballet here in California, but I still think of Kat as "my ballet teacher", her class is still "home", and I still miss her.
Read the whole article here.
My husband and I finally saw this. I don't have time to write a whole review right now, but just have to say that this film is not at all what I expected, it is so much more than I expected, and it is just absolutely amazing and long long overdue. For now I will just say this:
1. This film contains one of the most realistic portrayals of a person's transformation that I have ever seen in film. It is not over the top, it is (mostly) not "feel good", it is not immediate or even very dramatic - which makes it all the more powerful.
2. If you believe that government regulation of medicine (or of anything else) exists to help consumers, then I can only beg you to please please please see this film.
I don't think I'm being picky when I say "redefine" isn't really what they're doing here. They're not redefining beauty, they are recognizing the beauty that is already in them. They are stopping for a moment in time to really see themselves, and to allow others to see them, without pretending to be someone else or trying to look like someone else, and they are seeing the beauty that's really there - not the "beauty" that is a result of trying to look like someone you're not. But I guess if a person's definition of beauty is "looking like someone else who is beautiful", then maybe this is redefining that for them. Personally, I think that if you look long enough and closely enough at anyone, you will see their beauty.
This is still one of the most beautiful videos I've ever seen.
I feel like an old fogey saying this, but I don't know if young people today can appreciate how amazing this was. I was vaguely aware of Apple computers in the early 80s, only because I had friends who knew about them or wanted one. My only experience with computers was a weekend class in Basic programming taught by my high school math teacher. So in 1985, when I first started using a Mac - to lay out the alternative student newspaper I edited at UC Santa Cruz - it was kind of mind blowing. The ease of use, the intuitive nature of it, and the (at the time) incredible graphics were all just completely new. It sounds silly, but what blew me away most at the time were all the different fonts.
What a beautiful thing to be able to have a moment like this (and Steve Jobs had many, though I'm guessing this was the best) in your lifetime: To create something really revolutionary that ends up touching so many people's lives in so many different ways, and to get acknowledged for it.
And yes, geek friends, I know - there were others who contributed even more fundamentally to what we now take for granted as the world of information technology, and I know that many of them did not get the recognition they should have. But that doesn't detract at all from this moment.
The full version of the presentation is here.
This looks like a project worth supporting: A retelling of the story of St. Francis and the wolf - in which peace overcomes violence.
Mark Van Steenwyk, a pacifist dad, came up with this idea for his five-year-old son who only likes stories with violence in them. He is faced with the same challenge that I am in writing Urban Yogini: How to create compelling stories without resorting to violence. The video is worth watching if only to hear the comments of Mark's son:
...just kidding, of course she was. This is pre-Nureyev, and she is dancing with Michael Somes. She is - OMG - 39 or 40 years old! My first reaction, watching this, was that there are tons of dancers today who can get their legs much much higher than Margot does here. My next reaction was: So what? Her wonderful timing, grace and personality make her who she was and it is a joy to watch her.
If you aren't already weeping with joy at the incredible potential 3D printing holds for humanity, here's one concrete example:
Leon McCarthy was born without fingers on his left hand. His dad, Paul McCarthy, started looking around for some kind of prosthetic device that could help him, and he came upon instructions for making one with a 3D printer, created by Ivan Owen. Owen says "I've always had this vision of people being able to build their own prosthetic device at home." Owen designed the prosthetic hand, posted the instructions online and Leon's dad found them. Normally, a functioning prosthetic hand like this would have cost between $20,000 and $30,000, according to Leon's dad. He estimates he spent between $5 and $10.
Welcome to the future.
OK, not only for girls. But 40% of the students are female, which is pretty amazing in Afghanistan:
From Messy Nessy:
War, Taliban, violations of human rights: unfortunately these are the things most associated with Afghanistan today. And yet in a society that has no place for them, 70% of the population of this country is made up of children.
Enter Australian skater Oliver Percovich, who first visited Afghanistan in 2007 with three skateboards in tow. It didn’t take long before he was surrounded by children eager to learn how to skate and his mission became clear. Since then, Olly has permanently relocated to Kabul and dedicated his life with his team to creating Skateistan, a non-profit NGO and full-functioning school where children can not only come to learn in a brand new skatepark facility, but in classrooms where they can choose to explore anything from creative arts to environmental health topics.
Here is a trailer for a documentary about Skateistan:
And for anyone who might be tempted by the delusional idea that the US-led invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has somehow been good for women or girls in that country, please see what I wrote about this in 2010. I doubt much has changed in this arena since then.
Enrico Bossan, head of photography at Fabrica, worked with 15 young Iranian photographers to capture images of people's living rooms in the country. At one point, the book had problems with PayPal because of its title, only proving how important it is for prejudices around Iran and its people to be challenged."
You can see some photos from the book here.
And "money or not money" debate aside - I can't imagine them having this kind of problem with a Bitcoin payment processor. What the experience actually demonstrates is the importance of divorcing money from the state. In any case, it looks like a fascinating project.