Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Pope and other tales of survival

Note: I've been writing this post all month. Hopefully things are not too out of date. 

The Pope came and went. It almost feels like it never happened.
We survived millions of people and tourists. We survived the entire city of Philadelphia shutting down. We survived a senator stealing The Man's water glass. Yes, we all managed not to lose our minds - too much. And in reality? ... the Pope's visit was a great thing for the city. It brought people together. It was all we could talk about and afterward he left we were still talking - "did you see the Pope?!" You would be surprised who did - even accidentally.

Then the Pope showed up in the conservation lab. He is now part of the collections.

My supervisor - at my request - procured a cutout of Papa. He was everywhere in Philadelphia and people were taking selfies with him that looked real! Papa stood in the lab for about a week before he scared too many people out of their wits and we had to find a flat file for him. 

How did I survive the Pope?  Well...
Because of the anticipated millions we had a four day weekend. I think some businesses had more because my train was pretty well empty at rush hour. I could actually sit on one of the middle cars, the key word being "sit." Normally I head for the first car because it is the furthest from the exit, and since no one wants to go that far you usually have some breathing room rather than being packed in like sardines. It was really nice the evening I had to pick up my farm share. Plenty of room and no guilt for taking over two seats.
I kind of checked out over the weekend. I took it easy, did laundry, cooked, relaxed, worked on long awaiting projects, took care of business and got hooked on a new TV series (for me), Scandal.
I tried going for a bike ride, but the normal route was closed (shocker) and when I tried to ride into Center City on all of the car-less road, that only worked for a while. Philadelphia's one-way-street-paradise came to an end with the absence of cars. Which made zero sense to me. The rules of the road are not just for cars, they are for everyone. But oh well. Pedestrians were coming from the south en masse, and fine the city was shut down for them, but the cyclists decided they could go any which way they wanted, and quite frankly they were the more dangerous. I wasn't the only one who felt so. At 19th St. I decided I'd had enough close calls (with other cyclists - not pedestrians) and turned around. It was amazing to see so many people in center city - and I think it was right that it was shut down. I'm not convinced about the bigger decisions - but Center City? Yes. It was a smart move. So smart there is an online petition to have car-less weekends in center city. You can see the petition here:

After that I stayed home. I worked on something I've been wanting to do for a long time. Make cushions for my garden furniture. 

Of course - I didn't purchase enough fabric. I got two pillows out of what I have and am sure I have enough for a third, and I'm hoping for a fourth.
 But all in all, I'm pretty happy with them and they are very comfy. 

Prior to the Pope's arrived my friend Melanie came for a visit. We had a great weekend. Pedicures, food, bike ride, and talk talk talk.
I made the most fun breakfast I've made in a long time: quail eggs in mushroom caps.
Those are:
LARGE baby portabella mushroom caps, broiled a few minutes, then sprayed with lemon juice and sprinkled with salt and pepper, crack a quail egg into each cap, and dot with butter and Grüyere cheese. Broil until egg white is set. Oh yum. Serve on family heirloom china you never get to use with breakfast sausage from Reading Terminal and papaya with lime. Oh yum.

Of course that weekend wasn't without it's hiccups. sigh. My poor Swea'Pea wound up in the UPenn Vet emergency room. He was totally blocked - as in he couldn't pee. A very dangerous problem for little-boy kitties. He was so mad at me too when I went in to say good bye. Big round eyes with a scowl and flattened ears which could only have told me he did not think this was a very funny joke at all. I was able to bring him home on Monday and then we had another trial and tribulation: giving that little guy some pills. Oy!
Swee'pea does not like the pills. You know that funny email that was going around a while ago? About "How to pill a cat"? Well - they must have based it on Swee'Pea. I'm not kidding. After shredding my dress once, then my forearms, I took anyone's advice. I even "scruffed" him (grabed him by the back of the neck - which isn't upsetting at all *rolls eyeballs*) and sat on him. The result? One angry little Tasmanian devil who shredded the inside of my thighs.
By Wednesday I called the vet and said - "help?" To which I finally got the answer, well - one pill only helps 50% of the time - so maybe you don't have to give that to him, and the other is a pain killer and while it would be great to give it to him, he'll be fine without it. Gah!
It took a week for poor Swea'Pea to trust coming anywhere near me again, but finally he did. He is once again my faithful little buddy. But we have to now go see a Kitty-dermatologist because we have to figure out what he is allergic to.

I have also (most recently) survived Nerd Nite. I was asked to speak about penmanship for Archives Month. It went fine. Fine but not great. Oh well. I ended up with too much research and tried to squish it all into a 20 minute presentation. It was just too much.
Here's what I learned:
1. Human's have been making marks to record data or communicate ideas to fellow human beings for millennia. And we are the only creatures on the planet that do so.
2. The first written "language" was cuneiform and it was invented for just that - record keeping, probably because of an explosion of population about 7000 years ago.
3. The Egyptians had hieroglyphs as you all know, but they also had a script called hieratic.
4. In spite of Gutenberg's fabulous invention of movable type, we still need writing.
5. "Ill-informed" pundits and bureaucrats are what is killing writing in our public schools. And after this research I do believe it is writing (by hand) whether printing or cursive that is suffering.
6. It is suffering because of testing. You can't test cursive. (seriously - you cannot put it on a scantron and run it through a machine. Therefore you can't test it). Apropos testing; there is so much pressure on schools to do well in the other areas (reading and arithmetic) that anything that doesn't serve that purpose is cut. And finally, the "Ill-informed" pundits have convinced people that cursive does not help facilitate literacy. Well, neither does math, but they still make us learn that.
7. There have been some amazing studies with students from elementary school through college which show time and time again that those who take notes by hand learn better and more permanently than those who type. Their ideas are more sophisticated and this leads to all sorts of other benefits.
8. Dyslexics do better with cursive because it is an entire block of letters rather than individual letters.
9. Stroke victems who've lost speach can sometimes regain it by writing. This seems to jumpstart the language area of the brain.
10. There is also some evidence that writing everyday helps keep dementia at bay.  
11. And that therefore begs the question - what will happen to this generation when they start having strokes and start having dementia? How will not having a foundation in writing affect them. 
12. For me - the evidence is clear:

Over the Columbus day weekend I was once again doing a lot of odds and ends, but most of all trying to stay near the phone so that I am available to talk to my dad who is recovering from open-heart surgery. He went in Thursday to have an aneurysm wrapped and a third aorta added! He's apparently survived his whole life (including a brilliant cross country running career and a lot of cycling) with only two ventricles. But he is 75 and this is not an easy surgery. So far so good. After so irregular heart rhythms and very low heart rate, he was finally release from the hospital after a week. He was very glad to get out of there!

Here at the end of October we are now surviving the shift of the seasons. Fall is upon us.
The trees are exploding into fire balls and the color is one consolation of the shortening days. I still need to plant the garlic and next years daffodils. But not this weekend. This weekend I put most of my plants indoors.

And the boys also seem to know that winter is coming. That lump under the kitty blanket is Swee'Pea. He loves to curl up in caverns. And Jacques lets him be. 

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