Friday, March 31, 2006

April Calendar is Up!

Whew! The April Calendar is up. So many great things this month, I'm not sure where to start.

If you haven't seen the Franklin Exhibit at the National Constitution Center you've only have less than a month to go. Get on down there!

With the Cherry Blossom festival happening the beginning of the month there is much Japanese Culture to participate in. Your best bet for the money and time is Sakura Sunday on April 9th. Of course, if you go to that you'll miss the Indonesian Festival at Swarthmore the same afternoon. Bummer that they are on the same day! Swarthmore is also hosting the Taiko drumming troupe that will be appearing at various other venues in the area, most for a fee. On April 2 at 7 pm you can see them at the Lang Concert Hall and it looks to be free.

This is the last month to catch most of the free classical music concerts at local universities, classes will be over in May.

Starparties are back on the calendar. Spring and Fall are good times to participate in these as the weather is warm enough to be enjoyable, but there isn't very much humidity which interferes with viewing.

The historical event of the month is the "Rural Life in the 1900's" day at Pennypacker Mills on the 22nd. Of course that is the same day as the Hawk Mountain Earth Day Celebration which makes for another tough call.

And, finally I'll mention that I'll be on the other side of a fieldlearning event on April 23 as I do a Children's Yarn and Weaving Workshop at the Locktender's House on the Schuylkill Canal in Mont Clare (right across the river from Phoenixville). 1:15 pm. Free.

BTW, our family will be at an event I didn't put on the calendar on April 1. We are going to watch a Scottish Highland Dance Competition at the Hilltop School in Villanova. Kids under 12 are free and adults are $5. Details in a pdf a the bottom of this page.

I haven't included links to the events in this post as they are all in the calendar.

Have a great weekend and enjoy this beautiful weather.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Old Friends Make The Best Friends

"Old friends make the best friends" - Chinese Fortune Cookie

Yesterday was a learning experience in Chinese culture for our children. It was a wonderful time with an old friend for us. I hadn't seen Qing (say "ching") Ping since 1994, my husband hadn't seen him since 1996. Well, you can't expect to see people too often when they live half a world away.

Ewan and Qing Ping were language partners while Ewan was in graduate school and Qing Ping was a visiting scholar. Qing Ping's family (his wife and 9 year old daughter) had come with him for this year in the US and we got together fairly often as a group to eat a meal. It was fun, and as long as the husbands kept up with translations between Mandarin and English all four of us knew what was going on. At the end of their stay they spent a week with us in PA taking day trips to NYC, Washington, D.C. into Philly and even out to a PA German family reunion.

This year is Qing Ping's third as a visiting scholar to the U.S. This time he is at Yale on a Fulbright researching Confusionism and Christianity. (He's a Philosophy Professor). He was at a conference at Kutztown University, only an hour from our house, so the whole family was able to share a meal with him.

The culture lesson started early in the day as I briefed the kids that they had to be on extra good behavior ("only speak if spoken too") as Mr. Liu's daughter had always behaved like that when we were around. Then the question came up of if Liu is his last name, why do we say it first. This was interesting because we had explained this practice before but they had never had the opportunity to appreciate it first hand. This time it caught, I think.

The next lesson began with search for the gifts. Gift-giving is very important in China. Whenever Liu Qing Ping and his family came over to our apartment, they never came empty handed. When they met my parents they brought gifts, they were always prepared. We had forgotten about this custom until Monday night and needed to get on the ball! During this search was when the children realized how many small gifty things are made in China. Even they understood the irony. I finally found a set of notecards that said "Made in the US"on the back with drawings of US species of birds on them - these would be for him to take home to his daughter. It is hard to buy for any man, but a small (for too big could be showy and therefore wrong) gift for a Chinese man? I settled on Asher's chocolate, choosing the nutty varieties and chocolate covered pretzels. If he didn't like them he could serve them to Americans he met.

We ate at one of the two Kutztown Chinese restaurants and ordered just a little too much food. (If one doesn't have leftovers then you haven't provided enough for your guest.) Erin recited the Tang poem she had memorized and the younger children asked some questions about China. Ewan and I had a great conversation with Qing Ping and were thankful for the opportunity to be with him again if only for a short time. At the end of the meal we opened up the fortune cookies and his was the saying at the beginning of the post. Then presents were exchanged (he had gotten a little but beautiful something for each of us) and we took some pictures in front a picture of the Great Wall. Maybe someday we will be able to take one in front of the real thing.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Virtual Astronomy Tomorrow 3/29

Live from Turkey - A Total Solar Eclipse! Don't worry, it will be archived if you don't want to get up at 5 am to see it live. The following is from an e-mail sent out by Bob Riddle, editor of Scope on the Skies - Check out his website.

Sun-Earth Day 2006 is tomorrow - March 29th. The following is a schedule of the web cast:

5:00 a.m. Welcome
5:02 a.m. What is an eclipse?
5:05 a.m. How are we seeing it?
5:09 a.m. Where we are and why
5:12 a.m. What is the sun?
5:24 a.m. Crowd reactions
5:27 a.m. What will we see looking down?
5:33 a.m. What will it be like for us?
5:39 a.m. Crowd reactions
5:41 a.m. What will we see looking up?
5:47 a.m. What we learn from eclipses (past/present)
5:54 a.m. Prepare for totality
5:54:59 a.m. Totality begins
5:58:44 a.m. Totality ends
6:00 a.m. Crowd reactions
6:06 a.m. Commentary and replay of eclipse and sky darkening
6:12 a.m. Thank you and sign off

NASA TV will carry the web cast live beginning at 4:30 am EST with ground based telescope images. The actual web cast will begin at 5:00am EST ending at 6:15 am EST.

The event will be archived on line at:

Visit the NASA Portal for additional related programs and information:

Additional Programs on NASA TV

March 28th the NASA "Education Channel will show- Dancing in the Night Sky

March 29th Live from the Sun
March 30th Living with a Star
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Monday, March 27, 2006

What? You Don't Have A Kilt Shop in Your Town?

Arriving home from church yesterday my husband surprised me with flowers, a candy bar, a card and a book (Raptors of Eastern North America). The best part was that he was going to take the kids on a "bubventure" for a few hours so that I could relax. I read the chapter on Peregrine Falcons, ate my candy and took a nap. He and the children went to the library, the bike shop and the kilt shop.

Now, one may wonder, how does a kilt shop stay in business, are there lots of people in need of kilts out there? Apparently, the answer is yes! Pipe bands, wedding parties and even Madonna and her touring band need kilts. However, most of the drop-in business was people wanting to talk about their grandparents from Scotland or their trip to Scotland. So many people had been dropping in to talk that they decided to limit their hours to Friday, Saturday and Sunday. My husband didn't go through his entire geneology, but he did chat them up a bit, and in the process the children learned a little more about Scotland, kilts and this enterprising young couple who decided to become kiltmakers. Kelly even gave the kids a souvenier - a kilt pin. So, if you are ever in need of a kilt, do stop buy your local shop or if your town doesn't have one, call Kelly and Rocky in Phoenixville, PA. It is on the same street as the cheese shop.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006


I thought I'd spend just a bit of time explaining or excusing some of the things in the right hand column and at the bottom of the posts. For those that are familiar with blogs this will probably not be new, but for those of you who aren't, this may help your understanding and utilizing blogs more.

The bloglet subscription, when it is working, sends you either a whole post, part of a post or just a notice that there is a post at a blog. Mine hasn't been working recently, but I'm hoping I have it fixed now.

Another way to keep on blogs is to use an RSS reader. Mine is an add-on to my browser (Firefox). I click and drag the RSS feed button or the Atom reader button into a sidebar and whenever the sidebar is open I can monitor if a new post goes up. These feeds can also be sorted and organized to make checking them easier.

Depending on the blogging software a blogger uses you may see a listing of catagories or as in my case keywords. Clicking on the catagory heading will show you on one page everything the blogger has posted on that topic. There may be more than one catagory per post. If you click on a keyword you will be taken to a separate website that shows you everything I have saved with that keyword. This includes more than just my posts, it also includes websites that I've found and tagged with that keyword. Once at the site you can also see what everyone else who uses has tagged with that keyword. It is pretty cool. Go to the right hand column and give it a try! By the way, I'm adding all the calendars that I check into so if you click on "calendar_of_events" you can quickly check what is going on at a certain location.

The keywords that I assign to each post are listed at the bottom of my blog posts.

Other internet tech questions? Leave a comment!

And, by the way, the Peregrine Falcons from my last post have one egg so far.
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Friday, March 24, 2006

Nest Cams - yes, more birds!

Well, I'm glad to hear that there are some other bird watchers reading my posts. Thanks for your comment, Sara. I'm wondering, is there a specific place the geese stop in the Washington area?

A long time friend and fellow bird enthusiast sent me this link to a peregrine falcon nest cam. It is located on the Rachel Carson building in Harrisburg, PA. Last year an egg was laid on March 25th, so as they usually follow a similar schedule, we should expect an egg or maybe two by Monday. We have been watching this morning and there was quite a bit of excitement in the nest, lots of clucking (the video has sound too!). We did see one of the birds bring the other some breakfast. It was probably the male bringing it to the female, but I haven't been watching long enough to be sure. Like the bald eagles, females are larger than the males. All is quiet now at 9:45am, in fact, I think the falcon has been taking a little nap.

There are cams on nests throughout the country, here are a few: - A link list of falcon cams around the world. Most of the cams are in NY, NJ, and OH.
- Bald Eagle cam in Shepherdstown, WV
- Comprehensive list of nest cams from all over the world arranged by species.

If you find a good one, post a comment and let everyone know!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Snow Geese

We missed this trip last March. Dad was very ill and wasn't up for the walk. This year he is miraculously back to health so we renewed our yearly visit to Middlecreek to see the migrating snow geese.

I really can't capture for you how wonderful it is to see this many birds in one place. We were there on Friday, March 10 and the numbers were around 100,000. Early this week they shot up to 150,000 (as of 3/14) but they won't stay much longer. They've got to get north!

We weren't the only ones there.
People with various interests in birds come to see the spectacle. Stand near someone with a really expensive looking scope on a tripod (not too close, you don't want to make them nervous if you have small children). Ask a few questions, like how many have you heard there are today? Have you seen anything unusual today? Once they know you are interested they'll usually tell you all kinds of things, like where to go to see some owls and where the geese were hanging out yesterday.

The most impressive part of the day is when an eagle flys over or some other animal or noise scares all of the geese into the air. So many birds in the air, flying over your head, honking like crazy. It won't be something you will soon forget. This is the best picture I could get. Not very dense with birds at that point, but you get the idea.
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