Monday, December 29, 2008

Lucy @ Pacific Science Center

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Lucy's Legacy - Exhibition Poster

The exhibit Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia is at the Pacific Science Center and runs from Oct 4, 2008 to March 8, 2009. Lucy is the fossil AL 288-1, a 40% complete skeleton found in 1974 in Ethiopia and estimated to be about 3.2 million years old. She was a significant fossil find because she shows evidence of walking upright (bipedal) like humans, yet had the brain size of an ape. Her fossil lends support to the idea that bipedalism preceded large brain size. 

Lucy is on a six-year tour of the United States and she is currently in Seattle. It costs 21 dollars for adult admission. 

Travelmarx thoughts on the exhibit? We liked Lucy but not the layout of the exhibit. The curators try to set the context of Ethiopia, the country, before anything about Lucy is mentioned. In fact more than one half of the exhibit is a quick rundown of the major points in Ethiopian history from about 10,000 BCE to the early 20th century. While interesting in itself, it really has a disorienting effect because you walk in expecting Lucy and you don’t see her. By the time you reach the part about Lucy, you will probably be tired and not able to drum up the wonder that Lucy deserves. Also, the transition from the historical background to Lucy’s Legacy part is quite abrupt. You are reading about Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia (1892 – 1975) and then the next stop is where Lucy was found. (Did you know that when Haile Selassie became king he became known as Ras Tafari from which the Rastafari or Rastafarian movement takes its name? )

Our suggestion: go straight to the part about Lucy, see that and then work your way backward time permitting. 

Lucy was found by American anthropologist Donald Johanson and is she is named after the Beatles’ song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Lucy’s scientific name is Australopithecus afarensis which means “southern ape of the Afar region” – but, technically, she isn’t an ape so the name is a bit misleading. 

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Nordic Museum – Ballard / Seattle

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Danish Room - Nordic Museum
We spent a couple of hours in the Nordic Museum located in (the northern part of) the Ballard neighborhood in Seattle. Considering how long we’ve been in Seattle and that we feel like we’ve passively absorbed a little of the Nordic vibe that still exists, it was worth a visit to this museum. On the whole it was an interesting presentation and worth a stop if you are into understanding different cultures, the immigration experience, some early Seattle history, or just plain love dioramas.

First things first, geography: “Nordic” means of, relating to, or characteristic of Scandinavia. “Scandinavia” refers to the region of northern Europe which includes Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland (east of Sweden), and Iceland (an island in the North Atlantic Ocean between mainland Europe and Greenland). The museum is on three levels in an old school house (for now, before it moves to new digs sometime in the future). The first level gives you an overview of life in Scandinavian countries before the immigration started in the late 19th and early 20th century and what led people to immigrate. The second level talks about life in Washington that Scandinavian immigrants were involved in like the fishing and logging industries. The third floor is a gallery with a room dedicated to each of the five Nordic countries. (Did you know that Swedish Hospital (duh?), Frederick and Nelson, and Nordstrom were all founded by Swedish immigrants?)
Floor Plan of Nordic Museum

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Aspidistra Elatior

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Aspidistra elatior in Seattle snow

With the weird weather we’ve had (unusual snow fall amounts and cold, down to 17 degrees at night) here in Seattle, there is one plant that we don’t have to worry about and that’s the Aspidistra elatior, Cast Iron Plant. We have a number of them in our yard and they are hardy. About the only thing I would say it doesn’t like is full sun because the leaves tend to get bleached out. Other than sun, the plant is pretty flexible. We have A. elatior in various situations: potted, in the ground, north side of the house, west side, medium light, and low light. We rarely water it. 

The genus name, Aspidistra, comes from the Greek word for shield aspis –referring to the shape of the long, tapered evergreen leaves (correction: it refers to the shape of the stigma). A common name for A. elatior is “cast iron plant” - named because of its durability under all sorts of tough conditions (like a sooty Victorian parlor perhaps?). The plant originates from East Asian forest floors and not until recently was it understood that the plant is pollinated by tiny terrestrial crustaceans called amphipods

2021-07-16 Update

It appears that it might be fungus gnats that are doing the pollinating.  For more information, see Subterranean flowers of Aspidistra elatior are mainly pollinated by not terrestial amphipods but fungus gnats.  For photos of the flowers of Aspidistra, see the aforementioned reference or our companion blog post, Aspidistra elatior flower.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow Graffiti

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The first day of winter hit Seattle hard with snow and temperatures that haven’t been seen for some time. On a stroll out this morning to enjoy the snow and chat with neighbors we came across some graffiti written on the snow on some bushes. The perps also spray painted snow on cars.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Seattle and Snow - Bus Jackknife

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Seattle Abandoned Bus Seattle Abandoned Bus
During unusual weather (snow) in Seattle you often run across an articulated bus that is folded back on itself – a jackknife position. The bus is typically abandoned until the weather improves when they can come rescue it. The bus pictured here seems to be parked as if you could just drive it away. We don’t know what happened that it ended up being abandoned in Fremont.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Seattle and Snow

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The two just don’t mix: Seattle and snow. It started last Saturday when we got a little snow and then the temperatures dropped. The last few days we’ve had some cold temperatures, mid to lower 20s overnight – low by Seattle standards. On Monday and Tuesday, schools were delayed 2 hours because of the cold weather. Well, okay. But today, it reached another level of absurdity. There was supposed to be some more snow, so schools just outright canceled classes. And what happened? Absolutely nothing. Not even a stray flurry that I could see. Actually, the temperature warmed up. I admit coming from the East Coast makes me think of all of this snow-shock as a little exaggerated. Also, being a contract worker means that a snow day equals a day with no pay.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Crema di Limone - Ladri

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Soaking the lemon rinds Fillng the bottles

Crema di limone is a variation of limoncello, a lemon liqueur made with lemon rinds, sugar, water, and vodka. Crema di limone is smoother than limoncello as it also uses milk as an ingredient. Limoncello is typical in Southern Italy and is served cold, as an after-dinner digestivo. We picked the lemons, well, borrowed them from an orchard in an secret location in Imperial Valley – hence the name of this Crema di limone as “ladri” – thieves, in Italian. We soaked the lemon rinds for about 2 weeks in 100 proof vodka.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Seattle’s Green Lake “Pathway of Lights”

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Even Docks Get Decorated during the "Pathway of Lights" event in Green Lake, Seattle. 

The Green Lake “Pathway of Lights” is a ring of luminarias (lights) that circle Green Lake one evening between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The event is organized by the Green Lake Community Council and this year it was held on Saturday, Dec. 13. Along the lighted way there were small choirs and instrumental music groups. There was a big turn out and people were in a great mood. The weather even cooperated as snow flurries filled the air. Participants are asked to bring cans of food to donate to Northwest Harvest. 

The luminarias along the path were small bags weighted with stones and each included one electric tea candle. There were thousands of them lining the path. 

Finally, where did Green Lake get its name? From a United States surveyor in the late 1800s who probably observed the lake in its natural state with an algae bloom.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Scarf – Finally Finished

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Well the first knitting project (the scarf – la sciarpa in Italian) was brought to a close, about 4 months in the making. I pushed hard to finish it up this week. Along, the way, I think I can say I’ve learned a bit more about knitting. I still keep thinking about the analogies between knitting and programming (a computer that is). I want to talk about that more, but don’t have the thoughts in order. By the way, we found this woman’s videos interesting: http://www.youtube.com/user/elsteffo. Just watching the videos we picked up a couple of new tricks.

The scarf was made of Cashsoft Chunky (57% wool, 10% cashmere, 44% acrylic microfibre). Each skein was 50g, 50m, 55yards. The color is Burgundy, SH 711, Lot 37. I used 5 skeins for a total scarf length of about 60 inches. The stitch pattern is knit 2, purl 2 and each row is 28 stitches wide – about 7 stiches per inch a little which is on the tight side.

Next project? A sweater from the Knitting with Balls book, page 84 Boot cut Sweater. Why go through from the scarf to a hat and mittens? Go straight for the big project.

Favorite Christmas Card

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It’s that time of year again for sending Christmas cards. As we were taking stock of our supply of cards, this card from Sweet-Relish Paperie made me chuckle. It is titled Christ versus Santa Claus. Inside it says “Happy Christmas”.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Changing the Samsung Blackjack II Alarm Volume

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Wh you would create an alarm feature with no apparent way to control the volume? With the Samsung BlackJack II and WM6.1 you currently have a heart-stopper-of-an-alarm because the volume is so loud. Searching around the Internet, it seems other people have run into this as well. After looking through the Profiles and Sounds applications on the phone itself, I went back to our old friend CeRegEditor – which we used a while back to solve another problem. CeRegEditor edits the registry of the phone. The registry is the repository of settings and options for the operating system and applications on the phone. Sometimes settings are not exposed in a way that the average user can get at so you have to use a registry editor. Fooling around in the registry can have unwanted consequences so be careful and read up on good practices for working in the registry.

For this problem, I must admit, the solution is not optimal, but it works.

1. Go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ControlPanel\SoundCategories\Alarm. (Click the image above for a screen shot.)
2. Find the setting called “InitVol”.
3. Its setting is likely 4, change it to 2 or 3, for example.

All alarms except the “Wake Up Alarm” will then have a lower volume. I don’t know of a way to control the “Wake Up Alarm” (accessible from the Alarms icon in the Programs folder). However, I just renamed “Alarm 1” to “Soft Wake Up” for example, set the time of morning I want, and then set repeat to “Except Saturday and Sunday”. That gives me a weekly morning wake up that isn’t a heart attack inducer.