Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Las Fallas

In Valencia, Spain, in March a celebration is held each year called Las Fallas. It is a week long celebration that takes place from March 15 through 19 for Saint Joseph and for the return of spring. It is a celebration that includes elaborate cardboard and cork creations called Fallas (meaning torch), fireworks, and at the end a gigantic city-wide fire.

The city begins preparations for the next Fallas right after the previous one ends. That's because they have a lot of building to do. Each neighborhood works together to construct cartoonish sculptures that often have a satirical edge to them. These structures were originally made out of wax. After time the builders started using cardboard. Now most people are using cork or polystyrene. The creations are elaborately painted and brought out onto the streets on March 15.

Every day of the festival there are parades marching through the city. And every night there are fireworks displays throughout the city at 2:00 p.m. Everyone takes part, throwing fireworks and noisemakers into the street all evening. Various groups compete with large fireworks displays in the hopes of putting on the last night's performance. Each night the displays grow bigger and bigger until March 19, the last night.

On an evening known as La Crema, people gather around the structures that have been so lovingly and carefully built. Many of them are filled with fireworks. In staggered hours they are each lit on fire causing massive fire and firework displays. The fires are lit and extinguished all night as they move closer and closer to the city center which has the most elaborate structures and will end up with the most elaborate fire. The images from this are spectacular. I've seen pictures after each year's Fallas and every time I am shocked and awed. It is a mixture of wonderful beauty and of excitement. A creative carnivale. I must make a trip to Valencia to see it.

All photos are from the official Fallas website with the exception of the last one. The La Crema shot is from the Telegraph.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Moon Shots

Jeff and I went out one of the nights last week to try to catch a glimpse of Comet Pan-STARRS, a bright comet that could be seen in the Western sky right after sundown. We had heard that it could be seen with the naked eye but we still brought out binoculars and of course the camera. Jeff made sure I packed the tripod as well.

Although the clouds were low on the horizon, the rest of the sky was clear. So we took some sunset photos and a couple of beautiful moon photos. Jeff and I played to see how close we could get with just the natural zoom of the camera. I thought about digiscoping it but I'm still learning and most of my shots come out terrible. Plus once we got home, I realized just how close the zoom had gotten.

Alright Jeff, you're correct, the tripod makes all the difference.

And a view of the sunset that night. Now if only the colors were perfect. But I guess that just gives us something to work towards.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Knitting Milestone

I think it was about six years ago that my little sister taught me to knit. It might have been longer, my memory is faulty, but it's been at least six years. And this past week I finally crossed a milestone, at least in my mind. I made something wearable. Now I've made accessories for years. Hats, mittens, and scarves don't take much thought anymore. I've even made a pair of almost socks. But this is the first true piece of clothing that I've made. And even better, it fits.

It started when we were up in Minneapolis at a cute little yarn shop and I found this variegated purple yarn that I loved. I bought two skeins with no idea that they were going to become. It was too much yarn to make a hat and scarf but not enough yarn to make a sweater. So I went looking for something to try. I wanted something simple but big. And it had to be clothing. So when I found Tank Girl, a pattern in Stitch and Bitch, I knew what I was going to make.

This is made from the bottom up, with two different sides. You make the back first. The neck is a bit higher in the back than in the front but the arms are the same. The straps are joined using a three needle join, something I had to study before trying. But they worked like a charm. And once the ends were woven in, I had to try it on, even as the snow flew outside. I was excited to see that it fit. It's a bit more stretched than I would like but it fits. Now if only I could do something about those arms. I'll have to knit more. That's good exercise, right?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Spine Poetry

A couple of bloggers that I follow have been doing book spine poetry in preparation for April which is National Poetry Month. I had some time this evening and thought I'd try it. It was much more fun than I expected. Here is my poem, called Books.

by Cat's Library

a pound of paper,
fragile things,
the road to dreams and
the wellspring.
Shelf life,
slipping into paradise,
a place of my own.
A passion for books,
the geography of bliss.

Try it at home with your books. I bet you can find some fun and interesting combinations. And let me know what great poetry you create.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Grrr Google

In a case of biting the hand that feeds me, I'm going to take a moment to complain about Google. Well not about the company per se. It's my go-to search engine. It's my standard email. It's also my favorite place to search for scholarly information. And obviously it houses my blogs. It also used to be my RSS compiler. Used to be. Google announced this week that they will be shutting down their incredibly useful Reader function in July. And I've grown to depend on my Reader. Seriously depend. So I'm not looking forward to finding a new compiler to use.

The  problem is I subscribe to a little over 120 blogs and tumblr sites. That's a lot of posting. In a full day there are at least 45-60 new articles that post for me. Some blogs are daily, some post a couple times a week, and some post much less frequently. I've grown used to a simple format that allows me to see only the new articles available and then clears them out when I've finished reading. It makes my internet time more organized and happy. And organized and happy are my favorite things.

Thankfully, Google has put into a place a transition program so I can move to a new compiler but so far I haven't found any that offer me the same efficiency. Many of them have odd UIs. Or perhaps I'm just bristling at the change for format. I don't need a tablet or smart phone based reader and that seems to be where most services are focused. I want something that lets me read the articles without clicking on them, and then lets me know which ones I've read that morning. I want something that displays all my new articles in one place. I want something that is simple and easy to use. In other words, I want my Reader. If you couldn't tell I'm a little frustrated with this decision of Google's. I understand they are trying to pare down, but I just don't want it to be here. Grrr.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Beautiful Lengths

My eye was not the only thing to get cut this past weekend. Jeff has been growing his hair out for about three years now with the idea that when it was long enough, he'd donate it to charity. There are a number of charities that accept human hair to make wigs for patients with cancer. They each have their own standard length needed. So this past week Jeff decided that he had reached the proper length and made an appointment to get his hair chopped off.

On Saturday morning Jeff was a little nervous before setting off for the salon for a noon appointment. I had decided to go with him to offer whatever moral support I could. But he sat down like a champ and told them where he would like it cut. The stylist slid a hair tie up to the proper place and then using the office scissors (so she wouldn't damage her own) proceeded to cut just above the tie. Jeff might have closed his eyes once but he sat patiently while she took it all off. I bound up the hair and put it into the plastic bag (this was before my fear of ziplocs) to be shipped off. And of course I had to take before and after pictures of him. In total Jeff will donate about 9 to 10 inches of hair.

After the stylist had cleaned up the rest of Jeff's hair, his grimace of having it cut off turned to all smiles. His hair is now shoulder length and he loves the look. We left the salon with him running his fingers through his now shortened hair while I carried the bag with the pony tail. I then took him out to lunch at Famous Dave's to celebrate his new look and to celebrate his generosity. I hope his hair brings as much joy to someone else as it brought to him.

PS, Jeff is donating his hair to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program. For more information on how to donate your own hair please see Pantene's webpage or the Locks of Love page.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


I'm writing this post through tears. I have a box of tissues right at my side and I'm using them. Not because I'm sad but because I managed to cut my eye this afternoon and it won't stop hurting or tearing up. I was opening a ziploc bag this afternoon with one hand. So I clutched the other end in my teeth. At least until it slipped and cut straight across my eyeball. I said some very choice words and instantly pull my hand over my eye. When I could see through the tears I realized that I still had my sight so no need to go to the ER. But the recovery is a tad frustrating. Every time I move my eyeball it hurts. Every time I blink it hurts. And every time it tears up, my nose starts to run.

That got me thinking about accidents and injuries. I've spent most of my life worrying about accident. Things that could go wrong to get me injured. I stress about car accidents, plane crashes, and falls. I've worried about every type of injury possible it seems like. But I've realized that the things that do go wrong, most often aren't things that you think about. I could never have predicted I'd cut my eye on a bag. I never would have guessed most of the injuries that have happened to me in life. Accidents are just that. Things that go wrong that you wouldn't even begin to prepare for. And that makes me wonder why I worry. Unless it's about ziploc bags, my new enemy.