Friday, September 30, 2011


I was able to attend a FAZE (Florida Association of Zoological Educators) at the Jacksonville Zoo.  It's great to be able to meet talk with people with venues extending from Disney World to small town zoo/museums. We had three round-table discussion--how to offer premier/VIP programs (to bring in money), how to present to large audiences (to get the message/education out) and adult programs (how to get them to come in even if they're not bringing kids).  Brainstorming with others is always good.

And then the really fun stuff. Tim Lawrence, one of their volunteers with a background of creating sculptures and special effects (sculpting for the Shrek movies, among others) talked about making life casts of some of the museum animals. When they have to be anaesthesitized for procedures, he works with the vets to quickly take molds of faces, hands, feets, shells, whatever). The casts can then be used as study aids, props, or cast into metal. For instance, you get to see exactly how big a gorilla's hand can be. This process can also be used for functional items as well as art. One of the zoo's little wading birds had lost part of his leg in an accident. Tim took a mold of the remaining leg and was able to sculpt a little prosthetic leg for him (it works).  And, as a favor for coming to the conference, we each got a casting of a lion's teeth (how cool--you normally get a pencil or bookmark)

After dinner we went on a behind-the-scenes night tour (we were asked not to publish pictures).  Again--amazing.  Rhinos are much bigger when there is only a fence between you.  And giraffes are very tall indeed when you are standing right beside their stall.  It's funny how your brain refuses to acknowledge that an animal can be almost 20 feet tall--I kept checking be to sure he wasn't standing on a platform.

In the morning after breakfast we were able to hand-feed stingrays (they have very soft flexible lips that can create quite a vacuum to suck the food up.  The big thrill of the conference came after the morning round-table discussion: we were able to watch (up close!) the gorilla training.

Gorillas can be big--really big.  And strong.  And intelligent.  In order to keep them healthy, zookeepers do have to give regular checkups and sometimes medication.  Traditionally, the animal has to be darted, hauled inside (and they can weigh 500+ pounds) and anesthetized .  This can be pretty rough on any animal.  Instead of this, they work with the gorillas to get their cooperation.  We watched the keeper put the big male silverback through his daily routine.  He comes up to a (very sturdy) fence, and, upon request, will push his chest up to it (they've even given him ultrasounds this way), hold up his hands or feet, turn an ear to the wire, or open his mouth wide.  Now if a vet needs to give him a shot or check a sore spot on his foot, Qinto (the gorilla we watched) will simply put his shoulder or foot up to the fence.  Far less traumatic for both him and the vet than the old "knock him out" routine. 

Here's a couple more pictures.  The first one shows the conflict I have about zoos.  I love being able to see the animals, and learn about them--but no matter how well they're cared for, and how nice the habitat is, it's still captivity.   But the other one shows his editorial comment about the guests.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Just in from caring for the critters.  Things are mildly out of hand--I released my two opossums, but got two more and six squirrels.  The squirrels were at the "finishing stage"--almost off milk, and about ready to prepare for release.  And they're a royal pain.  I love raising squirrels, but didn't do any tiny babies this year.  So this is getting the adolescents without the fun part.  They'll be going out in the release cage today. 

But that's not today's blog.  Today I'm talking about my indigo workshop that I gave last week at the museum.  Indigo is just a fun dye to work with--because the dyebath is green (or greenish-yellow) and when you pull the items out they react to the air to turn blue.  And no matter how many times I see it, it's still magic, and I like hearing the "oooooooo" as others see it for the first time.  I also like the expressions on their faces when I explain that historically in Europe stale urine was used to develop the color (we bypassed this step in favor of modern chemical assists)  And just to keep things interesting we did tie-dye on various samples, and finally they all got a silk scarf to dye and take home.

And here is today's eye candy.  While the historic collection that I'm trying to deal with is a right royal mess, I am enjoying the treasures that I find.  My big love is the late 1800s--they just got so carried away with piling on the decorations.  Here's a little capelet to just finish off an outfit.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

New Toys

Neither Bob nor I are into shopping (as in going to stores and seeing if there's anything we want).  But things have a way of finding their way into the household from other sources (such as the 104 model kits in the last blog entry).

A few such newcomers have joined our household recently.  First, this lovely antique spinning wheel that niece Amanda found in an antique shop (she now lives in Mons, Belgium).  There are a couple of
pieces  missing but my brother is willing to make them (I have parts of two so they shouldn't be too hard to re-create--the third one I still have to figure out what it would have looked like.  Meanwhile I'm just enjoing having it around.  If you click on the picture to enlarge it you'll see little bone buttons on the hub of the wheel.
The next new inhabitant of the house is a dressmaker's mannequin--in a size that I have never been!  Due to budget cuts and reorganization, the department no longer has a fashion design major.  I miss it--I miss the energy of the kids and the wild creations and the impromptu fashion shows.  So this is a souvenier.  I plan on displaying various items--at the moment she's wearing my silk brocade bathrobe that I got when we lives in the Azores.  Bob has tucked in a picture of my 21-year-old self wearing it.

And the last new toy is a gift from brother Mike.  It's a coffee scoop (or, in our case, a tea scoop) for measuring out the morning brew.  It's just a ridiculously beautiful way to start the day that it just makes me smile every time I see it.  And he was thoughtful enough to make a hook to hang it on the wall so it doesn't get lost in the kitchen clutter.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

All for a Good Cause

(A few weeks ago a guy came to the scale modeler's meeting.  He said that he had a lot of models that he would never build, and was interested in selling them to finance his Very Good Cause:  He collects paperback books and sends them to the troops overseas.  The money from the sales of the models was to help pay the postage for this.

Of course Bob likes to encourage reading (he recalls reading the details of some stranger's wedding in the newspaper just to have something to read when he was on training manuevers), and wants to support our troups.  So he went to see this guy, with the following result:

(And this isn't all--just all that would fit in one picture).

Such a noble person, to make such a sacrifice for the cause.