Archive for July, 2010

Another hot weekend… but that’s summer for ya!  We rode out of the city to Forbidden Drive yesterday.  It was brutal on the Schuylkill path– not much shade and 97 degree temps.  Luckily Forbidden Drive is beautifully shaded.  We rode about half-way in, stopping at a nice path-side bench.

Pat blending in

I waded in the creek a little bit to take some pictures:

Wissahickon Creek

Shallow creek

Really hot sun

We refueled on bagels, trail mix and water and then headed back home.  All I could think about was air conditioning and my comfy pillow.  I was absolutely pooped by the time we got to the Walnut st Bridge, good thing it’s more downhill than up on the way home.  I took a 2 hour nap and then had a refreshing glass of Patrick’s homemade lemonade.  Today we decided to stay out of the sun-a wise choice.  I have a plan for my “Month in the Museum” application video, I hope I can finish it by August 11!

Once the weather cools down a little we are going to check out Evansburg State Park, which is only 30 miles from our apartment.  Definitely doable for a day trip.  A coworker recommended it and said the creek is great for swimming.


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Yesterday I was down-in-the-dumps.  I didn’t get enough sleep the night before (Philly is so HOT in the summer!), work was annoying me and I probably didn’t have the usual amount of caffeine flowing through my veins.  My mind turned poisonous: “We’re never going on this trip,” I thought.  How could we ever save enough to finance our year-long vacation?  Our savings account is growing, sure, but it’s such slow going and we’re not even a third of the way to our goal.  I grumped.  I pouted.  I wanted to throw a tantrum but refrained, mostly because it was too hot for that kind of thing.  Then my darling hubby gave me some much-needed advice: “Snap out of it.” 

He was right, of course.  And I did snap out of it.  I remembered that our goal is not impossible.  We are working hard to make it happen, even if that means taking some time to get there.  So I decided to write this entry more for myself than anyone else.  To remind me, when I’m peddling through the French countryside, trekking along the Great Wall, sampling wine in Italy and cruising down the Nile that I didn’t let my doubts overcome my ability to succeed.

Along with saving for our big trip we’ve also been tucking away a little something-something for our upcoming trip to Hawaii.  The majority of the trip has been paid for by Pat’s promotion at the haunted house last fall but we knew we’d need some “fun” money.  We also knew we didn’t want to take too much away from our monthly deposit into the around-the-world savings.  So a gallon of Sangria later we had the perfect solution:

Cocktails and Moonlit Nights....

Behold, our DRINKIN’ JAR!  After seven months and many, many quarters, dimes, nickles and pennies our little buddy is nearly half-full.  We even throw some small bills in there when we’re feeling especially generous (or when Pat thinks about the Long Island Ice Teas he wants to drink ON A REAL ISLAND).  I can’t wait to count it all up in September!

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tired cat (not like he worked all day...)

what a yawn!

We had two big thunderstorms today.  Luckily no major winds like the storm a few weeks ago.  I patiently waited on our back stoop under the cover of our neighbor’s balcony for the storm to pass.  Cool rain washed away the mugginess of the day’s heat.  Thunder boomed loud and commanding as lightning flashed across the sky.  I filled my nostrils with the sweet smell of damp earth.  Soon enough the rain slowed, the clouds parted and I ventured into our soggy backyard to document the drips and drops:

rain and sun loving weeds


I couldn’t stop thinking about science the whole time I watched the storm.  Today I found out that the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is holding a contest to find a “roommate” for a month– you go live in the MSI for a month and blog/tweet/talk to visitors about it.  How cool would that be?!  I love that place– my parents would take us to Chicago at Christmastime and I have many fond and vivid memories of the MSI.  I have to make a 60-second video on why they should pick me…  isn’t being a huge museum and science nerd enough?

Isn’t it amazing that science can explain the shape of a raindrop, the different “pings” that raindrop makes when it hits different surfaces and even the ripple-y puddle it falls into?  Living before the “age of enlightenment” must have been so mysterious.  Thunder wasn’t caused by super-heated air expanding, it was the ire of the gods.  The hammer of Thor!  But what I find really fascinating was that even before modern science people were still finding ways to explain the world around them.  Isn’t that what science is all about?  Finding problems in our world, thinking about them critically, trying out experiments to learn more and then drawing thoughtful conclusions.  Before we knew it existed, humans were naturally interested in science.  Go SCIENCE!

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Today an article I wrote about the exhibit “Rivane Neuenschwander: A Day Like Any Other” was published on The ArtBlog.  I’m pretty excited about my first non-personal blog article.  I hope I can write more for them, they are interested in “behind the scenes” museum stuff.  Coincidentally so am I…  Here is the link to the article.

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Glimpse into a cell

Today I took the new camera on a field trip to Eastern State Penitentiary.  Eastern State is now a historic site but was once the premiere “forward-thinking” penitentiary in the nation. 

Created as a true place of penitence, prisoners were kept in complete solitary confinement.  Each cell had its own individual exercise yard.  Cells had both a metal “cage” type door and a sliding wood door meant to block all sound.  Prison guards even put padding on their shoes to muffle their movements.  During transport prisoners were required to wear a hood, to continue their sentence of complete introspection.  Solitude was meant to make prisoners truly grateful and penitent– though it often just made people crazy.

Artist rendition of prison life

The prison opened in 1829 and was billed as state of the art (it had indoor plumbing before the White House) and was quite revolutionary in both its discipline and design.

Center hub with cell block spokes

Soon the prison became drastically overcrowded.  The orignal plan of providing each inmate with their own cell with an airy skylight and personal exercise yard was abandoned.  Extra prison blocks were squeezed in around the central “hub”– a two storey cell block was built and in 1913 solitary confinement is officially ended.

Ruins in the cellblock

Eastern State Penitentiary closed in January 1970.  Although it was designated a National Historic Landmark the site was basically ignored and left to rot.  Vandals smashed windows, vines and plants took over the hallways and the whole place fell into a state of dangerous disrepair.

Advocates for the preservation of the site worked through the 1980s and ’90s to raise money and interest for this unique marker of history.  In 1991 the first Halloween Haunted House is staged to raise funding for continued preservation.  The event has become an annual fundraiser, drawing haunted house enthusiasts from across the country.  Patrick and I tried out to be zombies on a whim and are now on our third year as undead ticket-takers.  Stay tuned for pictures of our professional makeup starting in September (I can’t believe how soon that is!)

I wanted to play around with depth of field while I walked around the prison.  Here are some of my attempts:

Office seen through a window

Star of David and door from the original prison synagogue

Close-up of a cell door

Have I mentioned that I love our new camera?  I really do.

Tree growing inside a cell

Peeling paint

You rule, camera!

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Sweaty, happy and High Def

Oh yes, check out those beads of sweat.  Captured by our shiny new Canon Rebel T2i!  We were going to hold off until after our fall job (haunted house zombies) but we have the money saved now so we got it.  I LOVE IT SO MUCH.

Art Museum

Brancusi- "The Kiss" 1916

Lights from the collection


I took our new toy to the PMA today.  I want to learn how to take photos well under low-light conditions with no flash (aka a museum setting).  I was pretty pleased with my results.  I tried it on some of the automatic settings but also played around with the manual modes as well.  I like that the camera is user-friendly and has the ability to be more advanced if you want.

So excited to take a bazillion more pictures!

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I know our trip is a long way off– 2.5 years is a long time to wait for something.  Everyone says the hardest part about a trip like this is deciding you will go.  I disagree.  The hardest part for me is waiting for our savings to accumulate so we can GO!  In the meantime I do enjoy practicing riding our bikes like professionals (ha!), buying liquor in bulk to “keep expenditures down” (again, ha!) and spending A LOT of time on the internet planning routes and reading accounts of other people’s travels.

One part of our journey that has nagged at me from the get-go is the route across Russia.  That country is large, massive, enormous, elephantine… whatever fancy adjective you want to use, the main idea is it is BIG.  There is no way we can cycle across that in the time we want with the money we have.  Reading Tara and Tyler’s blog at Going Slowly has definitely confirmed that.  I’ve also learned through their blog that throwing our fully loaded touring bikes on the Trans-Siberian railway is not as easy as it sounds in my head (check out this post, these guys are cycling super stars!)  Not riding the Trans-Siberian railway isn’t really an option, it’s on my “must do” list for the trip.

So I present our ideas:

  1. Break the bikes down, box them up and throw them in cargo on the train.  Get off the train at Lake Baikal, put our bikes back together and explore that sucker.  Bikes go back into cargo and we continue on to Beijing.  Bicycle Asia.
  2. Meet up with my parents somewhere in Europe, possibly Germany.  Break down the bikes, box them up and send them home with mom and dad.  Take the train across Russia, making sure to stop at Lake Baikal to do aforementioned exploring.  Continue on to Beijing.  Backpack Asia.

Both of these have many variations and options to consider.  Reading this is the first my parents will have heard of our crazy idea number 2 (you’ll both be retired!…), will they go for it?  Do we really want to break our bikes down multiple times?  Do we really want to backpack Asia? 

The only thing I know is we MUST visit this lake.  Not only is it the deepest lake on earth it is also the oldest (25 million years young) and second largest.  It contains 20% of the entire planet’s fresh (unfrozen) water.  It has a special mini-ecosystem because of its isolation and age.  It’s average depth is 2,442 ft.  Lake Michigan, my favorite lake, has an average depth of 279 ft.  Just a little bit deeper…   Here it is from outer space: 


Just some random thoughts for now.  Oh yeah, and Pat got poison ivy at the beach the other day.  Good to know: “Leaves of three, let it be.”

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