Monday, May 31, 2010

In which nothing wet can stay

As May 31 winds down to its last glowing hours, I would like to give a proper farewell to a fabulous month with the following poem:

Nature's first green is wet
Her hardest emerald yet

Her early leaf's a flower
But only so an hour
Then leaf subsides to leaf

So Eden sank to grief

So June will follow May
Nothing wet can stay

With a little help from Mr. Robert Frost, of course.

In the meantime: bring it, June!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The devil went down to Georgia...

...and so did I! Alright, it's time to report on my trip to Atlanta! I went for the Council of Science Editors Conference, which was most informative. However, we did a lot more during our stay in the Peach State. While I was there, I compiled a list of all the cool things I saw and the unique experiences I had. Sorry the list is kinda long! I broke it up with pictures, so :P on you.

- I walked up the longest staircase in the world! Okay, maybe not, but it sure felt like it.
- I saw a mockingbird! We don't have those in the West. I also saw a cardinal--a flash of red feather in a pine.
- The view from my hotel room was amazing, and I could not get past how tall the Bank of America Plaza is!
The cityscape in a thunderstorm!

Tall buildings!

- We walked through Renaissance Park and I saw a piece of litter that looked like a page torn from a book. Upon closer inspection, it was a title page that read "Elric: The Stealer of Souls." Who is this Elric and why does he steal souls? Only in Georgia. You know, because the devil goes there to steal souls with his fiddle.
- I watched the Mary Poppins Broadway musical in the Fox Theatre, which has been made to look very antique and posh. I loved it! (Oh, and I cried all the way through the "Feed the Birds" song.)
Practically perfect in every way!

- I found horses in Atlanta! We took the Marta trains every day, and one day they took us past a field where I saw a palomino and a draft horse. Practically in the city!
- There were a lot of junkyards.
- There were also a lot of ancient trees.
- Every old house had a fantastic wrap-around porch!
- I walked past the World Trade Center - Atlanta every day.
This building makes us feel contemplative.

- I saw a lot of people with crutches and canes for some reason.
- I met a wonderful Arabic woman named Veera who now calls Tennessee home. Hello, Veera!
- I also met the nice caterer who talked to me about Georgian peaches.
- We found muscovy at the lake. Basically, it's a turkey-duck.
- There is a lot of Greek influence in Georgia. I am going to investigate this. I love Greek culture!
- I ate tomato jam. It was delicious!
- I met men from Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Brazil, and I even met Mario! Well, I met a man who looks very much like Mario. He had a great mustache.
- I learned that editors are professional idiots. We ask all the dumb questions so the readers won't have to.
- I saw the CNN building. Yes, I asked Anderson Cooper if he would marry me. No, he did not accept.
My would-be castle with the most-attractive Anderson Cooper.

- I also met a beautiful Jewish woman named Devora. She was leading a blind British man around the conference.
- I discovered that my boss loves Star Trek, which is good because so do I.
- I saw blue jays!
- I saw a gold Bentley at my super-fancy hotel.
- We played the elevator game in our hotel. I'd push the button and we'd all choose an elevator, guessing which one would open first. I failed. I am the biggest loser. My boss had the golden touch. How did she do it?
- Speaking of elevators, I rode the glass elevator all the way to the top floor. 50 floors up. Yipes!
- I saw a dragon on a rooftop.
- I saw graffiti with incorrect grammar: "The Last Days Has Begun!"
- I saw this really eerie abandoned building with the name "The Medical Arts Building." Medical arts? Sounds like a euphemism for experiments. It's totally haunted.

My favorite place was definitely the Olympics Park. I touched an Olympic torch. O glory be!

Olympic rings with birds. Perfection.

The torch!

Your highness!

Trumpets are blaring my greatness right now. I am becoming one with the Olympic spirit.

For more pictures, check out the pics I've been tagged in on Facebook!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

When half-gods go

Grandma's funeral was yesterday. It was beautiful. Her body rests now with the bodies of her baby, Alan, and her parents. But Grandma--the woman everyone knew and loved--is on a train, rushing off to her next adventure. According to C. S. Lewis, she is finally "beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before." Those are the last words of The Chronicles of Narnia.

Glow, little magic lamppost that is my heart!
Come to think of it, Grandma does remind me a lot of Lucy.

They are beautiful, compelling final words. Taken literally, they suggest that I'm still in the prologue of my book. Or maybe even just those boring pages with the ISBN and Library of Congress information. I can't wait to see what my book says!

No, wait, I have it! I am writing the title of my book. Defining myself, my life, what my story will be about. What ingenious metaphorizing!

Anyway, I read this in Grandma's Emerson book last night:

Though thou loved her as thyself,
As a self of purer clay,
Tho' her parting dims the day,
Stealing grace from all alive,
Heartily know,
When half-gods go,
The gods arrive.

It was a perfect way to end the day in which we said good-bye to a true half-god and ushered her on toward godhood.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest

This morning we said farewell to a great woman: dear Grandma, Marlene McArthur Judkins. She led a long and noble life even though she suffered from just about every medical ailment in the book, and she passed away in comfort as she slept. Grandma leaves behind a legacy of unconditional selfless love. Her last words to me are the perfect example of that: as I was leaving the hospital to drive back to Provo on the scary freeway (my first time on Imminent Death 15--I mean Interstate 15), her eyes fluttered open and she said in her cracking voice, "Please be careful." She was dying, but all she cared about were the people around her.

While we watched Grandma's body fail, Grandpa asked me to remember her the way she was. I assured him that I have millions of memories of Grandma and this was only going to be one of them. Here are some of my other memories of Grandma, captured in photographs.

Grandma with Mom

Grandma, me in high school graduation robes, and Grandpa

Grandma (at her 50th Anniversary celebration) and her handsome brother Glen

I inherited a lot from Grandma: my Scottish vowels for which I have been relentlessly tormented (thanks, Kelli); my love affair with literature; my knack for crafting words; and, of course, my striking good looks. (The latter is so obvious, I hardly even have to say it.)

Grandma and I have kindred spirits. When I last went to her house, I found this beauty:
A bookcase full of old children's books!

Please observe the infamous Tom Sawyer. This is the 1931 edition.
Grandma married a boy just as mischievous as Tom!

Dear to my heart:
My bedtime story heritage.

But this book is my favorite. My grandma got it from her grandma who got it from her mother. It's the 1899 edition of Emerson's poems.
Complete with gold leaf and an inscription from Great-great-great-grandma.

And Emerson himself. Oh, what a handsome man.

Here are some of my favorite memories of Grandma from when I was little:
  • she taught me how to click my tongue
  • she assured me that the pressure did not mean I was exploding internally, I just had to go to the bathroom really bad
  • when my mom needed a break from me, Grandma invited me to stay in the Princess Room in her house (little did I know it was also The Dungeon that I stayed in when I was naughty)
  • she had a beautiful 1940s-era singing voice
  • she fed the squirrel that lived in her backyard
  • she drove over the curb once in a grocery store parking lot and said "Whee!" as she did it
  • she had a very short neck and pretended to "stretch it out" for us
  • she made fantastic faces (usually involving scrunching or stretching) for babies to look at
  • when my mom fell down the stairs (which was quite funny), Grandma dropped her walker and ran to check on her before anyone else even realized what was happening
Thanks, Grandma! I'll always remember your beauty, your grace, and the hidden kiss at the corner of your mouth!

To steal from Shakespeare (which Grandma would have appreciated): "Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet Grandma, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"In order to prevent the abhominable effusion of blood..."

Hey, y'all. I'm enjoying Atlanta, but you'll have to wait a few more days to hear about it. In other news...

Happy anniversary to Prince Caspian! Two years ago today was the premiere of Disney's Prince Caspian, a delightful adaptation of C. S. Lewis' book of the same name. I had waited for two and half years for this movie to come out. My friends and I went to the midnight showing...and had a blast!

Of course, we dressed up. I was extremely excited about the golden crown I had woven into my hair.

I have very fond memories of that night: staying up late, strangers asking to take a picture with me, gasping at all the right parts, crying at the end, etc. We were so emotional because we were so tired! And because we knew that Susan and Peter would never go back to Narnia.

Long live King Peter!

We had hope, though, because Edmund and Lucy would return in this year's Voyage of the Dawn Treader (coming out in December). Lucy has always been an adorable little light, but Edmund really had to overcome some attitude problems. He was such a brat at the beginning of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. But he almost died to save his family. And he proved to us how grown up he is in Prince Caspian. Truly Edmund the Just. Also see Witty and Wise.

Go, Edmund!

Now I look forward to the next movie. Teasers and trailers will be coming out all summer long--I can't wait to see the first one. Sometimes it's the build-up to a movie that makes the experience so much fun!

Some fond memories of the movie experience:
1. Re-creating Caspian's shoulder shimmy (see the scene where he meets the badger).
2. Running into a tree in the dark on accident...just like Caspian.
3. Caspian: "Destrier [the horse] has always served me well."
Me and Cassie simultaneously: "Yeah, except when he ran you into a tree."
4. Fighting over who the cutest boy was.
5. My dad saying, "Is that boy Susan's brother? He looks like Susan." He was talking about the strange boy in England who tries to flirt with her.
6. Rachel sending me signals with her flashlight just like Edmund.
7. Calling Katie Brandt the DLF.
8. Listening to the soundtrack on drives through the mountains with Cassie.

P.S. Props to whomever can identify the origins of the title of this post.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

As a teaser

Look forward to a blog post about a curious adventure in this pretty city (like the rhyme?):

In the words of my younger sister: Atlantis!
Better known to us in the real world as Atlanta.

That's right, readers, I will be in Atlanta, GA, for the weekend. I have never been as far south or as far east as Atlanta (thanks to my Wild West roots). And it is probably the biggest city I will have ever seen (thanks to my rural roots). Should be interesting (thanks to my...interesting...roots?). Wish me luck!

P.S. For those Greek mythology nerds, please notice that this picture proves that Atlanta is guarded by Artemis. What a beautiful moonrise!

Friday, May 7, 2010

How the turkey won

Little kids are so amazing. I was sitting in my office in the basement of the Bean Life Science Museum this morning when I overheard a young boy walking down the hall. At the time, there was a class for elementary school students going on next door. I could hear the instructor talking about crocodiles. Then I heard this boy shout, "Oh, this is AWESOME!" He was very excited about something. I assumed it was the baby crocodile that the museum uses for the class: you know, an exotic, scary animal at your fingertips! Wah! How awesome! But then this kid surprised me. He followed up his declaration of awesomeness with this statement, "A wild turkey--how cool!" And he was dead serious.

Being a birdwatcher myself, I thought this was particularly touching. The baby crocodile amazes children because it is loudly exciting and even a little dangerous. We appreciate adrenaline in this culture. On the other hand, the wild turkey is a common bird, somewhat ugly, but still an important part of our world. It even has historical value for Americans (in an incident where it proved itself to be delicious). This quiet specimen clearly spoke at length with the boy outside my office. And his response was, "How cool!"

So, gentle reader, I turn to you. What quiet, everyday things make you think "how cool"? What things speak to you?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Of Bonnets and Steeds

In May, there is one event that I never miss. It's deep in my American blood, as deep as the Fourth of July. In fact, when I bleed, I'm surprised that horses don't come running out of my veins. That is correct, gentle readers. I am talking about the Run for the Roses.

Also thus.

I haven't missed a Derby Day since 2001 when Monarchos won with the second-best time ever, just under two minutes. This horse would have given Secretariat himself a run for his money. (No, of course horses don't really have money--it's a figure of speech. Geez.) Anyway, I keep watching in hopes of seeing the first Triple Crown winner in more than thirty years. I'm still watching and waiting. Since each race is only a few minutes long, and since either the Preakness or the Belmont (the second and third legs of the Triple Crown) always ends in disappointment, I need something to further entertain myself. Besides, we all know that I really just want another excuse to have a party. So I have instituted a tradition with my good friend Cassie. It was inspired by such beauties as these:

Wow. Just look at the way that hat wears that guy.

True Kentucky bling.

And she still smiles. Amazing.

We love the tradition of wearing garish hats (it makes the pre-race feed so much more entertaining), but we wanted to honor the origins of the tradition. So we got sun hats that are not so garish but are reserved only for Derby Day and other special occasions. Here we are, dressed up fancy, watching the Derby.

See how sunny we were pretending it was?

Jessica and me. We were practically in the stands at Churchill Downs! In fact, you should have heard us singing "My Old Kentucky Home."

Proof that we were actually watching the Derby. This is just after the race.

And I only have two things to say about the winner this year:
1) His name is Super Saver. They found him in the local grocery store.

2) These are the jockey's colors. Can you say "Star Trek"? With wings?

Congratulations to all the horses that ran this year--it was super tough in the mud. The last time I ran in the mud, I got my shoes dirty. I can only imagine the 20 horses running the Derby on Saturday did too.

And good luck to Super Saver as he pursues the Triple Crown! I know that we have come so close to having a TC winner several times in the last decade. Point Given should have had it in 2001, Smarty Jones in 2004, Barbaro in 2006 (RIP), Big Brown in 2008. But ignore the curse! It's a good omen that three of my most favorite horses of all time have names that start with S: Seabiscuit, Secretariat, and Seattle Slew. So, ssssslay that sssavage ssserpentine cursssse, Super Saver!

(Do you think it'll work?)