All posts by K.L. Allendoerfer

I am a neuroscientist, educator, geocacher, Unitarian-Universalist, amateur violinist, and parent. I have always been fascinated by how people's brains learn, and especially why this process is easier and more fun for some brains than others. This led me to get a PhD in Neuroscience, work in biotech, and then become a science educator and writer.

Friday Doors: Pattensen

Pattensen is a small town in Lower Saxony, near Hannover. (I’m including that detail because it makes it sound less like a “Kaff“). We passed through Pattensen on our way to visit friends and found a multicache that took us around an old church building and associated structures.

PattensenOverview

The sky was such a bright blue, leaving strong shadows. We had to find numbers on the sides of buildings (such as dates) and then do calculations to find the final coordinates for the last stage of the cache.

This process, like Thursday Doors, always forces me to slow down and look at things I would otherwise miss. Two things especially impressed me about this area: the brickwork, and the ivy around some of the doors.

Our teenage children were not particularly into this activity. They looked briefly at the buildings and then mostly stayed in the car, on their phones. Admittedly when I was a teenager I had much the same reaction to car travel and “sightseeing.” I slept a lot to prevent getting carsick, and then was groggy and cranky when I got out and had to look at something.

And even as an adult I sometimes struggle with my role while traveling. What’s interesting and what’s not? When I get home, will I wonder why I even have all these pictures on my phone? Is it the digital equivalent of clutter?

Participating in Thursday Doors for the past couple of years, and geocaching, have given me an organizing principle for some of these photos. They are collections.

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, has an interesting take on collections and photographs (and collections of photographs). “Taking photos,” she says, “is a common way to incorporate a mission into traveling. Not only does this help keep memories vivid, it also makes you more attuned to your environment while traveling.” She also mentions the competing truth that “for some people, taking photos can become a barrier to experience; they get so focused on getting the photos that they don’t enjoy the reality.” Both of these can be true, even of the same person; but I think the anti-photo viewpoint gets more airplay these days. I like acknowledging the other side too.

Thursday (or Friday in a pinch) Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time), on the linky list. This week our fearless leader, Norm 2.0 is on vacation and Mexi Movie is generously hosting the blog hop. 

ThroughTheGate

Follow my European trip with this and previous posts:

September 6, 2018: Birdhouse Cache

August 30, 2018: Achtung, Baby!

August 16, 2018: Ku’Damm

August 9, 2018: Berliner Dom

July 20, 2018: Berlin Walk

June 13, 2018: Thursday “Tors”: Brandenburg

June 7, 2018: Germany

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Little Women Legacy: Sounding Off From Puget Sound with K.R. Karr, Featured Author

Pink Umbrella Publishing is doing a blog series on the authors of “Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes.” Meet K.R. Karr, another West Coast author with German connections!

In this blog post series, we’ll feature contributing authors from our new anthology, Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy. Today we’ll catch up with K.R. Karr, West Coast writer and academic.

Karr

Contributor K.R. Karr on Puget Sound with the Washington State Ferry in the background. Photo credit: Kristina Berger.


What is your favorite scene from Little Women?

My favorite scene from Little Women is when Jo comes home with her hair cut, having sold it to pay for Marmee’s train ticket after Mr. March is wounded in battle. This scene really demonstrates to me Jo’s inner qualities, as well as her love for her family.

Who are some of your other “imaginary heroes” from literature?

I love this phrase “imaginary heroes” and some of mine include Emily of Deep Valley, Jane Eyre, Cassandra Mortmain of I Capture the Castle, Renee in Colette’s The Vagabond, Lucy Honeychurch and George…

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Mundane Monday: Assembling the Bones

This week’s Mundane Monday theme is “bones.” For this theme, Dr. KO has a nice picture of an alligator snapping turtle skeleton, which you should definitely check out (also, raise your hand if you knew before this that there was a such thing as an “alligator snapping turtle.” My hand is not up). At first I was concerned I wouldn’t have anything for this week, and then I remembered. This is a great lead-in to the topic that’s been on my mind recently: Back to School!

I have not had much time for blogging lately because my teaching job has started up again. I teach middle-grade science with a non-profit organization called Science from Scientists. Regular school, including my kids’ high school and college, started already a while ago, but SciSci gives the teachers and students a week or two to get settled in before we start our visits. This year I have two completely new schools and two new co-Instructors to work with. I’m also going back to two schools I worked with last year and liked.

One of our most popular lessons at SciSci includes the dissection of an owl pellet. Most of my prior exposure to owls has been via children’s fiction, and I first learned about the pellets as an adult when I taught this lesson.

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Mr Rogers’ neighborhood had an owl in it!

Owls don’t poop. They eat their prey whole and digest it in the gizzard, a second stomach. They absorb nutrients like we do from the soft parts of the prey, and eventually regurgitate a pellet containing the indigestible bits (mainly fur and/or feathers and bones). This is a YouTube video of the process that we show our students. It was taken in Ontario in 2014:

Will you ever look at Hedwig quite the same way again?

harry_potter_and_hedwig

One of the many cool things about owl pellets is that you can dissect them and find out what the owl has eaten. If you buy the pellets from Carolina Biological Supply like we do, you usually find a mouse skeleton, maybe two, in the pellet. Occasionally you might find a bird. The prey animals can be identified by the skulls, and sometimes a large portion of the skeleton can be reconstructed.

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Students dissecting an owl pellet and reconstructing a skeleton

These bones are quite small, but very interesting!

BirdSkeleton

 

Little Women Legacy: Getting Bookish with Susan Bailey, Featured Author

Pink Umbrella Books is doing a series of blogs of featuring the authors of the “Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes” Anthology. This post features Susan W Bailey of “Louisa Alcott is My Passion.” I learned about the anthology on her blog, and have learned a lot about Louisa from her!

In this blog post series, we’ll feature contributing authors from our new anthology, Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes: The Little Women Legacy. Today we’ll catch up with Susan Bailey, author, Louisa May Alcott devotee, and proud New Englander!

Bailey

Contributor Susan Bailey cozies up with The Annotated Little Women in Massachusetts.


What is your favorite scene from Little Women?

My favorite scene is when Beth runs over to thank Mr. Laurence, impulsively puts her arms around his neck and kisses him, and ends up sitting in his lap. I thought that took a lot of guts to do that! I am a typical Yankee (“frozen chosen” as they call us in New England) – quite reserved, especially when it comes to showing physical affection, and I know I would have been far too self-conscious to do what Beth did. She totally forgot herself in the spirit of love and gratitude towards…

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Mundane Monday: Line up (in SoCal)

Things don’t really line up in Nature. Usually. They did this week in Dr KO’s Mundane Monday Challenge #175: Line Up, an adorable line of geese.

My photos are all from a trip we made to the Santa Barbara area in 2016 for Thanksgiving. At the time we visited a few schools in Southern CA for our daughter (now a sophomore at Willamette University in Salem OR).

TreeMountainLineUp
Line of trees silhouetted against the mountain

I have to say, I really don’t know why she didn’t want to go to school down here. I mean look at it!

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Line of Palms at Mandalay Beach, Oxnard

But she preferred Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. She’s happy at Willamette and it’s a good school, so I’m not going to second guess her.

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Signal

While we were there we also found an unusual geocache. Up in the hills of Santa Barbara, in the Riviera Neighborhood, there is something called the Frog Shrine. Back in 1989 a plastic frog was left on a wall and people have been adding frogs to it ever since. The mascot of geocaching is named Signal the Frog, so naturally this was a good place to hide a geocache. It took a lot of frogs to find the prince . . . er . . . geocache, but I finally did. At least I didn’t have to kiss them!

FrogLineUp
Line of Frogs at the Frog Shrine in Santa Barbara

In My Hand

newpinkumbrellalogoYesterday a small package arrived with two author copies of Alcott’s Imaginary Heroes. I’d sort of been expecting it; when I saw the pink umbrella on the envelope I knew what it was. (And I already know what I’m getting family and friends for Christmas this year–LOL!)

AlcottBooks

It still took me a little bit by surprise, though. In this era of e-books and Kindle Unlimited and Print-on-Demand, paperbacks are something of a novelty.

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Illustration from “Little Women,” 1870. Library of Congress. From Lapham’s Quarterly

I mean, really, this is a book about the 150th anniversary of Little Women. This iconic picture of Jo March also represents her creator Louisa May Alcott: a woman, pen in hand, writing on paper, “scribbling” in the attic. It has to be on paper.

Or does it? Wouldn’t Louisa have at least dabbled in e-publishing if she had the chance? My guess is, yes, absolutely. She would have published her plays and potboilers and gained a wide following on the internet. And Friedrich Bhaer would just have had to smile and get over it.

But there’s still something special about holding your book in your hand:

MyEssay

Thursday Doors: Birdhouse Cache

It’s Thursday! Summer is really over now: this past Monday was Labor Day, and my teaching job is starting up. But it’s nice to remember the summer through blogging.

Last week I showed the door of an unusual geocache in Germany. That wasn’t my favorite cache of the trip, though. This one was.

BirdhouseFromBelow

The first stage of the geocache was to find a tool and assemble it. This was in its own container, a pole; you didn’t have to supply your own, although some hard-core geocachers drive around with various things like this in their cars. But even if we were that crazy, it wouldn’t have fit in our luggage!

Smiling
Okay, now what?

My husband gave it a try first:

Husband
How do you get the cache out of this thing?

The pole had threads on one end, and the bottom of the birdhouse had an opening that you could fit the pole into, and screw it in to tighten it.

MoreGettingTheCache
This is pretty high up!

Once I had the pole attached, the bottom of the birdhouse cache came off pretty easily, and could be lowered to the ground, where you can finally see the door (the only door in this post):

And then there’s getting the whole thing back up there again:

GettingTheCache

I have hidden a few geocaches around my neighborhood but nothing like this. It amazes me the ideas people come up with.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time), on the linky list at Norm 2.0’s blog

ThroughTheGate

Follow my European trip with this and previous posts:

August 30, 2018: Achtung, Baby!

August 16, 2018: Ku’Damm

August 9, 2018: Berliner Dom

July 20, 2018: Berlin Walk

June 13, 2018: Thursday “Tors”: Brandenburg

June 7, 2018: Germany

Scientists identify a new kind of human brain cell

What makes human brains unique? This is a new type of neuron that is not found in rodent brains.

author david wolf

This is a digital reconstruction of a rosehip neuron in the human brain.
Credit: Tamas Lab, University of Szeged

‘Rosehip’ neurons not found in rodents, may be involved in fine-level control between regions of the human brain, according to the Allen Institute.

One of the most intriguing questions about the human brain is also one of the most difficult for neuroscientists to answer: What sets our brains apart from those of other animals?

“We really don’t understand what makes the human brain special,” said Ed Lein, Ph.D., Investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science. “Studying the differences at the level of cells and circuits is a good place to start, and now we have new tools to do just that.”

In a new study published today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, Lein and his colleagues reveal one possible answer to that difficult question. The research team, co-led by…

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Mundane Tuesday: Water Color

Dr. Katherine at Mundane Monday chose a gorgeous theme this week: water colors. She was out on a lake without internet for 9 days when she took hers. I took this from the deck of a cruise ship on the Baltic Sea. The location information says “Leningrad, Finskiy Zaliv” (Gulf of Finland, near St. Petersburg).

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Pink, Leningrad, Finskiy Zaliv

All the colors one can see in water have some component of reflection, some more than others.

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Green, Duisberg, Germany

Or, it’s a “reflection” of the changing depth of the water:

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Blue-Green-Brown Gradient, Unterfoehrung, Bavaria, Germany

This water reflects the gray clouds:

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White and Gray: Staffelsee, Bavaria, Germany

Or, sometimes your mind plays tricks on your eyes. I was sure this water was deep pure blue on the clear, cool winter morning in Pacifica when I took the picture before I went to teach in the school around the corner. But when I went back and found the picture for posting to the blog, I realized that it had been the sky I remembered most. The water was white and a bit wild.

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White and sky-blue, Pacifica, California

And these last two make an interesting pair. Lakes reflect the shadows of trees, and the sky makes all the difference.

Workers Wages for #WATWB

IMG_3344Silicon Valley was once called The Valley of Heart’s Delight, because of all the agriculture and fruit trees that used to grow here. The housing development where I live was a pumpkin patch until the 1980s, and I still have a persimmon tree in my backyard. Nowadays when people think of this area, they mostly think of computers and cutting-edge technology: Google, Facebook, Apple, Genentech, 23andMe, and many others. The history of both industries has a dark side: the conditions of the workers that make all this bounty possible.

According to Silicon Valley Rising, an advocacy coalition of labor, faith leaders, community-based organizations and workers, high-tech companies contract out most of their service jobs to workers who are poorly paid and don’t receive basic benefits. Latinx and Black people make up the majority of these janitors, food service workers, maintenance workers, security guards, and shuttle bus drivers who help build and sustain the tech economy. Many of these families have lived here for generations, long before the arrival of the tech riches that have priced them out.

This article, “Silicon Valley Security Guards Approve Contract to Raise Wages,” by Wendy Lee in the San Francisco Chronicle, highlights some recent results of Silicon Valley Rising’s efforts to change this narrative.

Security officer Elizabeth Valdivia’s job is to protect the employees and property of offices in the Bay Area, including from encroaching homeless people.

The irony is that Valdivia is homeless herself, living in her Mercury Tracer because she couldn’t afford a place to live.

Now, after more than five years of negotiations and activism, thousands of security officers at Silicon Valley tech companies will get pay increases, higher healthcare contributions and paid holidays after ratifying this, their first ever union contract, through Service Employees International Union/United Service Workers West. This was one of the largest private sector organizing efforts in California history.

I chose this article for #WATWB because it represents a vision worth fighting for, both in Silicon Valley and world-wide: an economic model that rebuilds the middle class and doesn’t leave hard-working people behind.

~~~About #WATWB~~~

The We Are the World Blogfest (#WATWB) seeks to spread positive news on social media. Co-hosts for this month are: Simon FalkAndrea MichaelsShilpa GargSylvia Stein, and Belinda Witzenhausen  Please stop by and say hello!

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible.

2. Link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month.

3. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. The more the merrier!

4. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.

5. To signup, click here to add your link.

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