Mundane Monday: Squares

The Mundane Monday Photo Challenge is under new leadership. The challenge was created by Trablogger an Indian travel blogger named Jithin from Kerala. After three years of linking to “mundane” photos from people’s everyday lives around the world, he handed it off to Dr K Ottoway, a rural physician in the eastern United States. (Reading that paragraph makes me smile. How else other than blogging can you meet people like that and not even have to leave your dining room table?)

SomersetSquareParkThe theme for this week’s Mundane Monday challenge is “All the Squares,” Dr. KO shows an interesting pattern in a fence. I have one like that too: Patterned Leaves, or this one on the left, a square lamp skirt in Somerset Square Park in Cupertino.

But she goes on to say that her post was inspired by this poem by AA Milne:

Whenever I walk in a London street,
I’m ever so careful to watch my feet;
And I keep in the squares,
And the masses of bears,
Who wait at the corners all ready to eat
The sillies who tread on the lines of the street
Go back to their lairs,
And I say to them, “Bears,
Just look how I’m walking in all the squares!”

Square Paul Painlevé
Square Paul Painlevé, Paris France

Over the weeks I’ve been doing this challenge I’ve had to interpret the theme in creative ways. The poem’s reference to the streets of London helps me do that. “Square” is not just a sidewalk shape, but a town meeting point, a place of some importance. I’ve been walking in these squares too.

Tiananmen Square, Beijing China
Tiananmen Square, Beijing China

 

 

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Book Review: Outside the Limelight by Terez Mertes Rose

Outside the Limelight (Ballet Theatre Chronicles. #2)Outside the Limelight by Terez Mertes Rose

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the first book in this series very much and eagerly looked forward to the second. In most ways it did not disappoint. The author’s love of ballet and her extensive knowledge of the subject informed the story at every turn. I also appreciated the complexity of the relationships she delineated in this book. I have grown weary of stories that always hew to a formulaic hero’s journey or romance, and so I appreciated that Outside the Limelight dealt with other kinds of human relationships: siblings, parents, divorce, failed mentorship, work colleagues and teams, professors and students, and friends.

That said, I think the author may have taken on too much in this volume, and it ended up losing focus. The medical details of Dena’s tumor, operation, and recovery went on too long, as did the development of her relationship with Misha. The parallels between Dena and her sister and Misha and his brother did not need to be spelled out and dramatized in this much detail, especially because much of this quiet and somewhat dull post-tumor part of Dena’s story came at the expense of dramatizing the arc of Rebecca’s relationship with Ben. The denouement to that part of the novel was dramatic but confusing. I was glad all the characters got their happy endings but while I could see Dena/Misha coming a mile away, Rebecca/Ben came totally out of the blue for me. There had been so little sexual tension or chemistry between Rebecca and Ben throughout most of the story that I had assumed Ben was gay.

Rebecca’s on-again, off-again relationship with Anders formed the tight core of this novel for me. It takes place in 2010-11, just on the precipice of the current re-imagining of mentor relationships between powerful men and young ambitious women in the arts (and many other fields). One wonders if Anders Gunst’s career would survive the #MeToo movement. And even if so, how his life and those of the dancers under his tutelage would be forever changed.

This book strikes me as transitional in other ways too. It shows the beginnings of a new path by which dancers can open up the closed, insular ballet world and take charge of their own careers and lives via social media. What can happen in this brave new world is the story I really want–really need–to read now.

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April WATWB: Out of Harm’s Way

We are the World LogoThe “We are the World” Blogfest (#WATWB) is in its thirteenth month! This blogfest is a blog hop that takes place on the last Friday of every month. This event seeks to promote positive news, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Your cohosts for this month are:  Shilpa GargDan Antion, Simon FalkMichelle Wallace, and Mary Giese. Please link to them in your WATWB posts and go say hi! Click HERE to check out the intention and rules of the blogfest and feel free to sign up.

I have chosen this story, Louisiana Islanders Find a New Home Beyond the Water, by Nicky Milne. Isle de Jean Charles is a small strip of land in Southern Louisiana. In the 1950s it measured 11×5 miles. Since then it has lost 98% of its land. Its inhabitants are mostly descended from the Biloxi, Chitimacha, and Choctaw tribes who took refuge from white settlers on the island in the early 19th century.

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What I think makes this story good for We Are the World is the community effort the inhabitants are making to resettle all the families on the island.

Chantel Comardelle, the Executive Secretary of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe, won funding from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to purchase land where the islanders can move. She says that the plan “blazes a trail for other groups who face the prospect of losing their land, both in the United States and other countries.”

“Right now, there’s very little positive in the form of relocation or resettlement of people,” she said. “We presented a different model of doing it – a community-designed, community-driven process.”

Lowlander Center logoThey are also working with a group called the Lowlander Center, a non-profit organization supporting lowland people and places through education, research and advocacy.

The inhabitants of Isle de Jean Charles are climate refugees right here in the United States. Climate change is no longer a “slow-moving disaster” happening somewhere else in the distant future. It is happening right here, right now.

Photo credit: Newlands Sugarcane farmland near Shriever, southeast Louisiana which has been purchased by Louisiana State for resettlement of the community of Isle De Jean Charles. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Chad Owen

Thursday Doors: Zhujiajiao Part 3, Human Activity

This is the third installment of the doors of ancient water town of Zhujiajiao, near Shanghai. I grouped the pictures into three different blog posts. Part 1 showed doors right on the water.  Part 2 focuses on doors of different colors. Today I will show either actual humans or evidence of recent human activity.

Even in the rain, Zhujiajiao is busy and somewhat crowded. None of these storefronts is large and they are all on top of each other. Sometimes you need a clue where to go.

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Follow the arrow to lunch

Follow the lanterns and go upstairs.

The lions are pretty common but not ubiquitous. Sometimes it just seems like you need *some*thing on each side of the door in China.

 

Then there are the bikes and motorcycles, if you don’t have a boat.

The singer just outside the door.

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Or how about a caged bird? (The dog doesn’t care. He’s seen it all!)

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Lots of firewood (and plants).

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And an odd sculpture in front of a gallery. What is that sculpture supposed to be, anyway? A heart? Lips? A little red person with an abnormally big butt?

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And finally, how many people will understand the irony of what is written on this door handle?

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Thursday doors is a weekly feature in which door lovers share their pictures from doors all around the world. Stop by Norm 2.0’s blog to say hello and see some of the others.

Happy DNA Day!

Today, April 25, is National DNA Day. This is an obscure holiday, ranking somewhere above International Violin Day but probably below the recent pi day, or even the upcoming May the 4th be with you.

It celebrates something important, though. National DNA Day commemorates the successful completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA’s double helix by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953.

DNA stands for DeoxyriboNucleic Acid. The “nucleic” part means it is found in the nucleus of all cells. There are many different ways to visualize DNA. These are some of the most common:

Francis Crick's DNA model, Rosalind Franklin's X-ray crystallography, a schematic double helix, a bacterial chromosome, some DNA isolated in the lab
Different views of DNA

The upper left shows Watson and Crick’s original wire model of the DNA double helix. On the lower left, the abstract X is one of Rosalind Franklin’s X-ray crystallograms that were used to help determine the structure. The upper right, looking like a beaded necklace, is a bacterial chromosome viewed under an electron microscope. And the lower right, with what looks like some cloudy snot in a tube, shows some DNA extracted from strawberries with common kitchen materials.

The center picture shows the DNA double helical model that has entered popular culture. A DNA molecule is composed of two complementary strands that wind around each other in a helical shape, a “twisted ladder.”  The rungs of the ladder, in primary colors, are the base pairs, which spell out the genetic code.

This song from “They Might be Giants” explains in 2 and a half catchy minutes how the DNA instructions are translated into making different cell types.

Every year the American Society for Human Genetics sponsors an essay contest for high school students and announces the winners on DNA day. This year’s question was about genetic testing.

dnaday2018_logo_final

Do you think medical professionals should be required for all genetic testing, or should consumers have direct access to predictive genetic testing? 

Check out some of the winning essays here on their website. Congratulations to all who entered!

Mundane Monday: Used Golf Clubs from Craigslist

My husband and I have always liked to play minigolf, but that’s it. Until now. I had always thought of golf as something rich people and Presidents did.

But recently I decided to try it. There are some advantages to being able to play. Golf is a sport you can play your whole life, even well into your 70s and 80s, as long as you are mobile. It gets you outside and walking. It can be social; you can chat, you can network. If you’re so inclined you might even be able to catch Pokemon on the course! And some courses are located in beautiful and/or interesting places that you wouldn’t even get to see if you didn’t play golf.

There is a course in our town, Mountain View, on Moffett Field. It’s not a well-known course and used to be for military only. Now they have opened it up to the public and while you do have to show your drivers license to get past the kiosk, they are friendly when you tell them you are going to the golf course. When you are leaving, you drive right past Hangar One.

HangarOne

My husband and I have taken a couple of lessons now and we’re planning to do more. I recently got a set of used women’s clubs off Craigslist so I can go down to the range and practice if I want to. I picked them up after church on Sunday, where I was playing violin for Earth Day.

This week’s Mundane Monday theme is “two for one.” Pictured here are the two blue cases for the equipment needed for my oldest and newest hobbies. They kinda match.

GolfViolin

The Mundane Monday Challenge is under new ownership. Check it out at K Ottaway’s Rural Mad as Hell Blog.

Thursday Doors: Zhujiajiao, Part 2, colors

The ancient water town of Zhujiajiao really has a lot of doors! I grouped them into three different blog posts to try to give them some structure. Part 1 showed doors right on the water.  In Part 2, here, I planned to focus on doors of different colors. China in general and Shanghai in particular was a brightly colored place.

But once I had organized the pictures, I discovered a lot of brown. That was the color of the majority of doors in Zhujiajiao, and you can see that clearly even in part 1. The trim would sometimes be bright red, or more occasionally blue. But most of them were a rich, reddish brown color. So I grouped the brownest ones together here, and what might stand out more are the differences in shape and trim. Some doors certainly look a lot more welcoming than others.

And then there were the occasional different ones. Red. Blue. Teal. Gray. Aqua. (But even these tended to be juxtaposed with brown).

14ZhujiajiaoRed17ZhujiajiaoBlue22ZhujiajiaoTeal26ZhujiajiaoGray27ZhujiajiaoAqua

Why so few red doors? Feng Shui may provide an answer. According to one article I read, red is the color of the South, and of the fire element. Building codes in ancient China stipulated that only high-ranking government officials could paint their doors red, which is one reason why red is associated with prosperity.

Whereas blue is associated with water, and with relaxation. And brown doors are associated with wood and earth elements, and with stability. Based on my very unscientific sampling, stability seems to be highly valued in Zhujiajiao!

Thursday doors is a weekly feature in which door lovers share their pictures from doors all around the world. Stop by Norm 2.0’s blog to say hello and see some of the others.

 

Here’s my card

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werner22brigitte, Pixabay 

Growing up and as a student, I didn’t view violin soloists as regular people. They were a breed apart, and they played music that was so far out of my reach that I couldn’t even imagine it. Otherworldly images on album covers and in galleries tended to reinforce this notion. I find these images beautiful, but more intimidating than not.

Back in Massachusetts when I was in the Philharmonic Society of Arlington, we had a cellist whose day job was graphic designer. He made the posters for our concerts. They were lovely: colorful, artistic, ornate and a little quirky, like the orchestra itself. It was always a treat to see what the poster would look like a month before the concert rolled around. And we were fortunate: he donated his services for free.

FallConcert
PSA poster by Arch MacInnis

One aspect of graphic design that these posters never had, though, was photographs of people’s faces. We were a volunteer organization and we sometimes had competition-winner soloists whose pictures we used for online and print publicity, but the posters were different. I had a short concertmaster solo one year, in the Tchiakovsky “Mozartiana” suite, and while I told all my friends and family and they brought me flowers at the end, I wasn’t on the poster (much to my relief!)

AfterMozartiana
With my kids, after “Mozartiana”

Then last year, after moving to California and becoming an almost-full-time violist, I had the privilege of being in a different orchestra, the South Bay Philharmonic, accompanying the concertmaster, Gene Huang, on the Mendelssohn violin concerto, and the principal cellist, Harris Karsch, performing the Popper Hungarian Rhapsody.

I also play with them in a quintet, and seeing my own chamber music partners perform major solo works was an inspiration to me. This time, unlike with concerto competition winners who might fly in only for the dress rehearsal and concert, I was able to hear the pieces at the beginning, before they were polished. While the final product was amazing to watch and listen to, I also saw how much time and work were needed to get there. They prepared these performances while holding down full-time Silicon Valley tech jobs, as well as the regular ebb and flow of weekly orchestra rehearsals and weekend chamber music get-togethers.

SBPSpringConcertPoster

As befits its origins at Hewlett-Packard, the SBP, now an independent orchestra, calls itself an “Open Source Symphony.” A lot of the publicity is online, but they also print out business cards for members of the group to distribute. When I first saw these, I kind of wondered what to do with them, and in particular it struck me that they had photos of faces on them, not just of composers but of people I knew. “How does it feel to see your face on a card?” I asked. I don’t remember the response, exactly, but it was something like “it was a little weird at first, but I’m getting used to it.”

businesscards

Or maybe I’m projecting, because that describes just how I feel. The original design of the card had my face next to Dvořák’s portrait, but I felt a little uncomfortable with that. Instead I suggested this picture of Yosemite Valley, to represent the “New World” of the symphony. The blue of the sky is nice and color-coordinated with my dress and the orchestra’s logo. My daughter, who is now a freshman in college, took the picture of me with my viola in the backyard while she was home for spring break.

I’ve been giving them out to friends, other musicians I know, members of my writers’ group, people at church, even coworkers. It still feels a little odd to see my face there on a card. Proud? Happy? Sure, but that’s not all. Nervous? Anxious about “putting myself out there?” Yeah, that too. It’s not a bad feeling, but I struggle to find the right words. It is not a feeling I’ve ever had before and not something I expected when I picked up the violin again, and then the viola, more than 10 years ago. A new feeling. A new world.

YosemiteVDC

Mundane Monday: California Poppies

The California poppy, Eschscholzia californica, is the CA state flower. It grows everywhere this time of year, even in the tiny bit of soil next to a drainage grate, or in the sandbags lining a creek.

FlowersGrate

It is sometimes found next to dandelions or Bermuda Buttercup, another common but pretty yellow weed.

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Every year, April 6 is California Poppy Day and May 13th – 18th is Poppy Week. I’m right in between the two with this post.

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The Mundane Monday Challenge is under new ownership. Check it out at K Ottaway’s Rural Mad as Hell Blog.

 

Book Review: Stormwielder by Aaron Hodges

Stormwielder  (The Sword of Light #1)Stormwielder by Aaron Hodges

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a promising debut novel. The construction and characterization are not seamless, but it held my attention until the end. I have read another of the author’s books, set in modern times, and overall I liked this one better.

Where I think the author’s writing especially shines is in coming up with plot developments that make sense and move the action forward. The story is fast paced and never gets bogged down. The battle and action scenes are well written and enjoyable but also skimmable if you get tired of that sort of thing after a while, the way I do.

A character whose magic is too strong for him to control so that he unwittingly commits terrible deeds is an intriguing premise. This would have been a good setup for the development of a dark wizard. That Eric doesn’t go that way, but is actually led towards redemption, could be a very powerful character arc. That potential is largely unrealized in this novel. Eric learns to control his magic pretty easily and quickly once he meets up with Alastair, and never looks back.

In general the relationships between Eric and Alastair and Eric and Inken are pleasant to read but I think they could have used more development. If a story is going to start with magic so strong out of control that it burns down an entire village, murdering dozens if not hundreds of people, it is going to have to take more than a week or two and a few lessons for the magicker to learn to control that magic. A more drawn-out and suspenseful learning curve would have also given us more opportunity to learn about the history of the world and the magical system.

This book almost seemed like 2 stories, stuck uncomfortably together. The first deals with Eric, his magic, and the fallout from his destroying Gabriel’s village. It is basically an origin story for Eric. The second is when the real quest begins, to save the world from Archon. I liked both stories but found them a little thin in this format. I hope that in future installments Eric’s past comes back to haunt him and provide some further conflict.
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