On Bird-Watching

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

 

I’ve been out in Central Texas for almost two years now, yet I’m still losing my shit every time I spot one of these guys – much less the three that appear to live – or at least feed – right along my daily commute route.  In my defense, several of my coworkers who have lived out here much longer than I have are just as thrilled as I am with our neighborhood roadrunners.

…in which I sing the praises of Lar

This guy.

Today, this guy is my hero.

Not only is Lar de Souza a brilliantly talented artist and cartoonist, not only is he one of the brightest, kindest personalities in my Twitter feed, not only does he have one of the most epic beards on the planet and wicked cool vintage glasses, but this guy has traveled from Canada to Kennedy this week for a NASA tweetup and a chance to see the final flight of the shuttle.

Had you asked me in middle school what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have told you I’d like to be a cartoonist, but I’d definitely be working at NASA.  You know how overachieving kids have the unreasonable dream and the more realistic yet lofty goal.

Funny how things work out.

Challenger blew up four days before I was born.  I grew up in a southern Houston suburb, surrounded by NASA employees during the brave post-Challenger years when the American space program stared death in the face and then dared to keep moving on.  A childhood of reading Asimov, Clarke, and Heinlein put crazy ideas in my head, and then regular school and scout trips to the Johnson Space Center told me that no, those weren’t that crazy at all.  I wanted the moon and the stars, and I had plans to get there.  I was going to college to become an engineer, and I’d be helping to build the next shuttle (which, at the time, was already being planned – sort of) as part of NASA’s ginormous brain trust.

Then in 2003, two things happened to bring all of that to a screeching halt: Columbia and Calculus 2.  On the morning of my seventeenth birthday, breakfast was interrupted by shocking news footage of the future of American manned space flight silently burning over north Texas.  NASA all but shut down until further notice.

Columbia was the last straw.  After a series of embarrassing mishaps brought about by an agency trying to run too fast on too little funding, people had died – again.  The true end of the shuttle program was finally visible.  The plans for the International Space Station were scaled back.  The designs for the shuttle’s successor were scrapped.  Higher-ups were canned.  A lot of my neighbors lost their jobs.

I no longer saw a viable future for myself in the space program.

The same year, I barely passed Calculus 2, and chickened out on my plans to be an engineer.  That kind of math was *hard* and really, why did I need that much pain and suffering?  What was the point of engineering school now, without my bright shiny future at NASA?

Today the final shuttle mission has launched with absolutely no concrete plans for what is to follow.  NASA has general ideas about how America will be launching humans into space in the back half of the decade, but today’s launch is the last until further notice.

In short, I’m feeling pretty jaded.

(At least I’m in good company – Neil deGrasse Tyson’s and Phil Plait’s sentiments mirror my own and tend to be much more informed and eloquent, if you’d like to see more.)

I share all this not to be a “Debbie Downer” on this auspicious occasion, but to make you understand how emotionally invested I am in this final flight, and to show just how much it means to me that Lar de Souza has been showering the internet with kid-in-a-candy-shop tweets from Cape Canaveral for the last two days.

Here I’ve been getting all weepy and philosophical about this final flight, and he’s been geeking out, unperturbed by threatening weather, thrilled to the point of incoherency just to be there, to see a launch.

He’s taking me back to hopeful, starry-eyed, fifteen-year-old me, and making this experience more sweet than bitter.  And for that, I love him more than I can possibly say.

What do you get when you mix a baby, a silly hat, and a camera?

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

 

The magical pink unicorn hat still belongs to D. Corsetto, who I love dearly for making that ridiculous thing exist.

The adorable one-year-old belongs to my brother, who I love for pretty much the same reason.

Girl Gone Wilde

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

For the uninitiated, the smexy silhouette in question is the character played by Olivia Wilde on that show about the cranky doctor that’s loosely based on Sherlock Holmes.  She has recently taken an extended leave of absence from House to make some noteworthy appearances on the big screen, leaving fans with a big empty space where the smart-ass chick member of the team is supposed to be.

Last week, after seventeen long, lonely, sass-less episodes, she made her triumphant return… and it involved an unhealthily large spud gun.

The rest is fairly self-explanatory.

On Monstrously Large Music Festivals

Don’t Quit Your Day job

 

That sheet in Karen’s hand?  Actual spreadsheet mapping out all the bands she wants to see, and when and where they are playing.  This thing exists.  I cannot make up that level of fan girl madness.

What else exists?  That blanket.  Flannel quilt. Best.  Thing.  Ever.

And Karen, honey?  If you see this, please put down the Giant Tube ‘O Margarita.  You will thank me in the morning.  ❤

Crafting my way into the hearts of young people

I spent last weekend chaperoning a group of girls from my old church at camp.  Probably the worst part of moving was leaving behind that congregation, because they were there for the vast majority of my formative years and are therefore family.  By that measure, the girls are effectively my little sisters, and what do you do when you’ve spent too much time away from favored young’uns?  You bring them presents, of course!

In all honesty, this started out with a request from one of them last year to make this Pichu Plush, and I just wound up taking so long to finish it that I figured I’d wait and give it to her in person rather than shipping it around Christmas.  But then I had to come up with something for the other two, because it wouldn’t be fair to have something for just one of them. 

Shucks!  I had to make more cute things for people I love.

I gave the Pichu project a little extra challenge: I did not allow myself to diverge from the pattern at all.  It was shockingly difficult, given my propensity for ad-libbing more or less every project I touch, regardless of the quality of the original pattern.

Here is the finished Pichu, in all it’s adorable-ness:

You know you’ve done it right when you look at the unattached, unadorned head mid-assembly and have a sudden attack of Cute.

Now for the other two munchkins…

Munchkin #2 has had a long-standing love for all things Star Wars (I trained her well), and has yet to grow out of it.  Several years ago I made her an amigurumi Yoda, so I thought she needed another beloved character:

Chewbacca!

Yes, I finally managed to crochet something with eyelash yarn.  I don’t think that will ever be happening again.

The third and final munchkin and I have this ongoing joke about finger puppets that came in a book of crochet patterns she gave me a couple of years ago.  There is a set of four patterns: a witch, a wizard, a white owl and… a baby walrus.

Yeah, one of these things is not like the others – unless it is a magical baby walrus, which… clearly, it must be.

Anyway, I made her the walrus for her birthday last year, so I figured he needed some other animal friends to keep him company:

I finished the finger puppets while I was in Houston with my sister-in-law and niece, and of course my niece took an instant shining to the bird, so I made one more before I left for camp:

She naturally came up with a fun new game for it immediately:

Watch [mommy, grandpa, grandma, auntie] wiggle the bird.  Grab for the bird.  Pull the bird off the wiggling finger.  Drop the bird on the floor.  Watch [mommy, grandpa, grandma, auntie] pick the bird up off the floor.  Repeat.

It is a very good thing this child is so freakishly cute, because she is evil.

…and I am so proud.

On Creativity and History

I generally intentionally avoid current events or anything remotely political on this blog, because that’s not its purpose, but news of the passing of the last American World War I vet this week just kind of inspired me.  I’d like to share some of those thoughts.

First off, just take a moment to read through Frank Buckles’ story.  This 16-year-old kid sees the world go to war, and wants so badly to be in the fight that he keeps going to military recruiters until he can convince someone that he’s old enough to enlist.  After surviving WWI, he finds himself in a Japanese POW camp for three years during WWII, and then lives to be one hundred and ten years old.  Not only did he outlive the second-to-last American WWI vet by three years, but right up until the end he fought for a national war memorial in Washington.  This man is not only the very embodiment of patriotism, but he is history.  Just imagine what he witnessed in those 110 years.  His passing marks the profound end of an era.

This then reminded me of my mother talking about her own memories of similar stories about the last Civil War veterans.  It’s a very strange thought, to think that someone could fight in a war that now seems so far away, but live to see automobiles and airplanes.

Then I remembered my father’s story about watching Apollo 8.  He and my mom, a year before they were married, were visiting his grandmother for Christmas.  There was a television broadcast as man first orbited the moon, but it was relatively late at night.  My parents, being the bright young science graduate students they were, would of course stay up to watch.  My grandmother opted to sleep instead.  My great-grandmother announced that she remembered when the Wright brothers made their first flight, and of course she would be staying up to watch Apollo 8.

As I shared these thoughts with Dear Roommie, I couldn’t help but wonder…

What will we witness as old ladies?

Think of the difference between the Civil War and the 1950s.  Think of how we took a glorified kite in 1903 to the moon in 1968.

The sheer magnitude of the progress that Frank Buckles experienced from 1901 to 2011 is enough to make me jealous.  It also creates a very strong desire to see the same levels of innovation and development in my own lifetime, and a drive to make it happen.

Generally, I create just because I can’t sit still; I feel a need for forward motion on a very small, local level.  But occasionally it hits me at a wider scale, and I want to share that forward motion with the rest of the planet.  I want a medical advance to rival Penicillin.  I want a Gen-Y Apollo moment.  I want a flying car.  I want progress that makes me say, “OOOH!”

What will we witness as old ladies, Karen?

I don’t know, but whatever it’s going to be, we’d better get cracking.