Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jane: The Multimedia Journalist

According to everyone here (Poynter Institute Workshop), I'm no longer allowed to say "I don't do that; I'm a writer."  Journalists have to be able to write, film, do web work, etc. etc.  The new mantra is "I can tell a story in any format."  OK!

At the workshop I learned a tiny bit about how to shoot video and make it into a video story.  Here's what I ended up with.   

BTW, this is a made-up story!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jane: Sarasota Slideshow

This is a slideshow of the day I spent in Sarasota with Wendy and Dave.  Enjoy!

Jane: St. Pete

St. Petersburg is a beautiful city; at least the area where we are staying and working. This ^ is the hotel. Believe it or not, it's a Hampton Inn. I've never seen one this color before.
Across the street is the St. Petersburg Yacht Club

And a park with a fountain and trees. The park borders on the bay, where the yachts live.
I can't imagine living here! It seems like vacationland, and I think it is. I asked what these cities--Sarasota and St. Petersburg do. Apparently, tourism is the biggest industry.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Jane: Plants in Florida

Thought I'd write a bit more about the flora of Florida! As I said in my last post, Wendy and Dave took me to Selby B0tanical Garden when I was in Sarasota, and I saw amazing tropical plants. I'll share some with you.

As you can see, everything was just lush and green. OK, granted these plants ^ were in the greenhouse, but in general, there was a jungle feel.

I loved these flowers (above) which hung on thin strands of vine, like pendant lights (I just wrote a story about pendants for the local paper!).

These ^ make me think of fox faces, pointy and bobbing on long stems.
And of course, the pitcher plants. "These plants don't just wait patiently at the bottom of the food chain" read the sign. Nope, they are after their nourishment, and they'll kill for it.

The pitcher plants made me start to think about Florida's Fierce Flora. Wendy and Dave regaled me with stories about trying to garden here and getting scratched and poked and irritated by the various plants in the yard. The beautiful palm tree? It has sharp one-inch-long spines. That pretty succulant? The edges are serrated, saw-like. Even the grass is sharp and tough: full of silica--Dave eventually gave up his mowers and hired a lawn service. And Wendy says she always wears heavy gloves now when she gardens.

"When we first moved to Florida, it was like the prettiest girl in the class asking me over for cookies and lemonade," said Dave. "But then after I got there, I realized that she wasn't just out for lemonade; she wanted me to do her homework for her, too."

I think Dave referred to the entire experience of moving, mid-life, to this new place. But it also refers to their experience with the plants.

"We were seduced by that palm tree and beach, but the palm tree had spines," he said. Maybe what we think of as a paradise could actually being dangerous . . .

But back to the botanical garden. Buddha was there.

And here he is again, below!
Oops, that's Dave, pretending to be Buddha receiving enlightenment under the Bo tree! I guess Florida has the right climate for that enlightenment-inducing tree to grow. And I don't think it's fierce, either.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Jane: Florida Sightseer

I am in Florida this week! Why go to Florida in July, you ask? I'm attending a workshop at the Poynter Institute about teaching journalism (which I'll be doing next year). I'm glad the workshop is here because it gave me a chance to visit with my friends Wendy and Dave, who live in Sarasota.

They took me around to some wonderful Sarasota spots today, including the Selby Botanical Gardens, where we saw beautiful trees and flowers. Look at these roots!
I love seeing these little lizards skittering everywhere.
Later in the day, we took a boat ride out into the bay. We visited a small island to collect shells and drove by a bird nesting site (baby pelicans).
Toward the end of the trip, they threw a net over and scooped up all sorts of marine life: fish, crabs, a seahorse, and this sea urchin.
I took some video footage; I hope to be able to use the footage at the workshop which starts tomorrow.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Robbie: Fiery inferno sponsored by...

Here are a picture of a fire that my brother and I made. It is fueled by pine needles and sticks we found around the neighborhood. Super Mega Fiery Inferno!
The photo is kind of blurry but I am holding a box of matches and Eli is holding pine needles.

heh heh :P

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Eli: Corn in Iowa

This is what we do with corn in Iowa. We have corn sword fights.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Jane: More useless crocheted items

This tiny toad was created in honor of the tiny toads Eli kept finding at Brucemore. The real toads are about the size of a dime.
I've always loved bats.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Jane: Arts for Flood Relief

Bruce and I saw an original musical last night called "Moving Home". It was a play written about the 2008 flood, with original music. As Bruce said "there were lots of ways that could have gone wrong." But it didn't. It was a wonderful play with great music, and it was a fund-raiser for Flood relief.

The play consisted of Flood Myths, stories people shared about flood experiences (like the dad going back to the flooded house, finding the lawnmower was OK, and mowing the lawn), music, and art. The art was a local painter painting a huge landscape of Iowa flooding and recovering while the play went on. It was awesome.

The main songwriter was Dan Bern, someone whose music we really like. His mom used to live down the street from us. She is a fierce and intelligent woman; she was a teen in Germany at the time of Kristalnacht, and escaped to England (they are Jewish). Her late husband was a music teacher at Cornell College.

Dan Bern reminds me a lot of Bob Dylan--guitar, folky, blusey style. Sardonic wit. So he was a great person to write this music; he wouldn't veer off into sentimentality.

If you want to hear some music by him, you can check out Dan's page on the "Free at Last" website. Scroll down to the bottom, where you'll find some songs to play. We all like "Jerusalem." I wish you could hear some of the music from the play. We have a CD (which the cast made "Tuesday night," the director said.

Robbie: a plane I made in College for kids

Here are some photos and Q-movies of my plane. it didn't work very well but it was fun to build. As you can see it is a Super Delta Dart balsa and paper plane. The setting is the Eby gym at Coe College.

I am disappointed at the plane's poor performance. The propeller shaft keeps getting bent when the plane nose dives (which, by the way happens quite often.) and the short flight length. 

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Jane: Volunteers in Cedar Rapids

Volunteers are all around Cedar Rapids, helping with flood cleanup.

We saw a group of young women, high school and college age, at the Y today. Their chaperone said they were a group called "Good Samaritans," from Denver, and would be staying a week. "We're helping people clear out their houses," she said. They were staying at a church, and came to the Y for showers.

I thanked her and the young women for coming to Cedar Rapids. "It was so devastating to see the pictures of the flood on TV," she said.

When we went to Culver's for ice cream later that evening, we saw a bus outside--it had a sign saying it was disaster cleanup volunteers. Another crowd of young people, tired and dirty from working.

It's odd to be the site for mission trips.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Robbie and Eli: Mummy


Dead Bodies....................................................$4.67 per body
Live People..........................................$100.00 per person*

*the cost of lawyers are going up and I don't want to get sued.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Jane: Great Books

If Mom were still alive, I would call her and tell her about the book I just finished reading, Note by Note by Tricia Tunstall. In fact, I would have called her after I read the first chapter--I could tell then that it was going to be wonderful.

It's a set of essays, an extended reflection, really, on the piano lesson and the power of music. The author is a pianist and piano teacher, and she uses vignettes from the lessons she gives (to children, mostly) to muse on the way music moves us and on learning in general and relationships between teacher and student.
As a teacher, I loved the way she describes her relationship with her students (I'd LOVE to have her for a teacher, or the teacher of my child). At one point she says, "But Chloe has helped teach me one of the great lessons every teacher learns: I can control, influence, and persuade my students--except when I can't."

As a music lover, I enjoyed her discussions of "what makes music beautiful," and her musings on pop versus classical music.
As I writer, I loved her style and the way she took something ordinary--teaching someone something new--and used it to reflect on larger issues.
I'd recommend it.

And while I'm at it, I'll recommend another book.

I also just finished reading Diane Ackerman's The Zookeeper's Wife. It's about a polish couple who runs a zoo, and is caught in WWII. They use the zoo to smuggle Jews out of the ghetto and to safety.

I had to read it slowly; the harrowing tales of WWII Poland were so heart-rending. But it's an uplifting book, all in all. Of course Ackerman's prose is lush and vivid, and she brings to life Antonia, the Zookeeper's wife, and all the people she encounters.

What are you reading?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Robbie: The Rats

As some of you know we have pet rats. Rats might seem like not good pets but they are actually very nice and smart. Here are some pictures of them and their "cardboard subdivision"

This one is Snickers^

This one is Fredrick^

Here's the "cardboard subdivision"

Here is some of the inside^ (from the right on the picture below.)
Here is another angle. As you can see it is made out of shoeboxes and scooter boxes.
Here is a picture taken ftom the top of the "T"
It even has roof access!

This is a picture taken from the bottom of the "T"

This "T" is being constsntly added on to whenever cardboard is found so the rats never get bored.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Robbie, Jane: Downtown Flood Aftermath

It was a cool morning, so we rode our bikes downtown to see how cleanup is going. 2nd Avenue, the road we take into downtown, was clogged with trucks and generators in the affected area. Here's one of the trucks on a less busy street. It's hard to see "disaster services" vehicles in one's hometown.
Our main goal was to check on the library. It had lots of vehicles parked outside.

We were able to look in the windows in one side. What we saw took our breath away.
The library is totally empty. It used to be filled with books, DVDs, magazines, computers, people. It's completely empty now.

The sight is bittersweet. All those books, gone. But the building looks so clean, almost new. Maybe we can have a new start.
It's going to be tough, though. An article in the paper today said that FEMA probably won't pay for temporary space for the library. It's not considered "essential." A letter to the editor encouraged people to write to the Gates Foundation to ask for funding.
The Library Board is meeting on Monday; maybe our neighbor will have some news then.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Jane: Dumb Blonde

I love dumb blonde jokes. Like this one.

"Last year, I replaced all the windows in my house with that expensive double-pane energy efficient kind, and today, I got a call from the Contractor who installed them. He was complaining that the work had been completed a whole year ago, and I still hadn't paid for them.

"Hellloooo, just because I'm blonde doesn't mean that I am automatically stupid. So, I told him just what his fast talking sales guy had told me last year, that in ONE YEAR these windows would pay for themselves! Helllooooo? It's been a year! I told him.

"There was only silence at the other end of the line, so I finally just hung up. He never called back. Guess I won that stupid argument. I bet he felt like an idiot."


I've figured out why I love these so much, one reason, anyway.

Blonde jokes are also language jokes. Almost always, the dumb blonde says something dumb because she is interpreting words literally. And for some reason, that is so funny!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Jane: More useless crocheted items

Remember that Totoro I crocheted earlier this summer? Well now he has friends.

You're wondering how I have the time and yarn to make all these odd critters. The yarn came in a big bag I got at a rummage sale.

The time? Well, I'm home in the summers with the boys. These days, though, they no longer need me to supervise their play or take them to the pool or playground. I just need to be around . . . so while I'm hanging out (and don't have any freelance writing on the docket), I crochet! I also crocheted on the road to our family reunion--lots of crochet time there.

The instructions for these little anime-like "amigurumi" are in a book that I signed out from the Cedar Rapids Public Library the week before it flooded. I consider the book a refugee and have not returned it yet to the CRPL branch.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Eli: New Percussion Kit

Jane: Baking Project

Ewww! What is that goo in the bowl?

It's actually bread dough, from my favorite bread recipe, No-Knead Bread. I got the recipe from the New York Times, and have been making it now and then over the past few months.

Yes, the dough is very wet. It also has very little yeast (only 1/4 tsp.) so it rises overnight, about 12-18 hours!
After that, you take it out and let it rise again for another 2-3 hours. Here, I've divided the dough and sprinkled with corn meal, so it won't stick to the towel.
Here it is in the pans. Not a pretty sight!

I bake it in 2 medium bread pans. It needs to bake with a cover for the first half of the bake time, to cause the crispy crust to form. I put large bread pans over top for 25 minutes, then bake uncovered for 25 minutes.

And here it is, like bakery foccacia or cibatta bread--crackly crust and moist interior.
Tasty and easy!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Robbie: Finale NotePad

For all those muic fans out there, here is a reference to a great (and free) music editing program. Finale notepad. it can create and edit MUS and MIDI files and it's free.Here is a hyperlink to the download site.