Live Scorpion Christmas Ornament

Via 22 Words – So cool!

22 Words has given me quite a few laughs over the past couple of days, and I’ve wanted to repost just about EVERYTHING that he has had up lately.  But instead of doing that, I’d thought I’d post the link to his website. 

Click here to visit

22 Words

He has a lot of thought-provoking short videos and stories, amusing pictures, AND he’s in Minneapolis, so he posts local (for me, anyway) interest stories and pics.  Popular topics seem to be arts and entertainment, poking fun at the human race, talking about his family and language/vocabulary.

Live Scorpion Christmas Ornament

Lab Supply Gingerbread Houses

A small group of us at work gathered together to celebrate the holidays.  A coworker and I planned the event and we decided to have a contest around building gingerbread houses…made of lab supplies! 

We supplied the glue guns, the cardboard bases and the little blue and green plastic squares (the first person who can tell me what they are will win my admiration and a hand-drawn picture by me!  Of course a drawing by me is more of a punishment than a prize…).  Five groups of two participated, and these are the results.

Now, it is important to remember that one can be a scientist AND an artist.  Indeed, I think science can open our eyes to beauty and elegance in all types of environments and situations which might otherwise go unnoticed. 

Ahem.  All types of environments.  Yeah…


Update: 12/23/10

I finally got around to drawing MPM’s prize for being the first one to correctly identify the blue/green plates in the pictures above.  His answer is in the comments.

Lab Supply Gingerbread Houses


Okay, back at the travel-blogging!

Last Tuesday was another outing day – we decided to go to Florence (Firenze).  We left Perugia and took an hour-or-so train ride into the huge Florence rail station.  The first thing I noticed as we left the station was the speed of the city.  We had spent the past week in a (relatively) small Italian hill town, and now we had landed in a hustling, bustling metropolis of street vendors, tour groups, business people, students, restaurants with menus in two to four languages, souvenier shops and tabachhis.  One of the upsides of being in a touristy area like this was that more people had a familiarity with English, so among the chaos we were able to communicate a little more easily for directions and navigating menus.

A street vendor selling…small camera stands?

The Duomo, or more properly, the Basilica of Santa Maria di Fiore (since duomo is a generic Italian term for a cathedral) is probably one of the most notable attractions in Florence.  There are three buildings located in the Piazza del Duomo, including the Baptistery (octagonal and ginormous), the bell tower (tall and ginormous), and the main cathedral (ginormous with a big dome). 

Baptistery in the foreground, the bell tower, the facade of the main cathedral, the doors of the baptistery, a representation of God near the top of the cathedral facade, the dome of the cathedral (Mom in the foreground), another view of the bell tower and the length of the cathedral.

I wanted to go to the top of the Duomo to look over the city, but…

So, this entire trip I was craving fried calamari.  Don’t ask me why foods fried in wheat product don’t upset my stomach like other gluten-containing products, but they don’t.  I never eat too much fried food because the fear of being decimated by gastric upset is great, but not so great that I completely eschew fried calamari.  So it was with great delight that I discovered that the World’s Best Fast Food Calamari is located in Florence, Italy.  I give you: Re Calamaro!.  Even the fast food in Italy kicks American food’s butt!  Yum, yum, yum.

Another famous area of Florence is the Palazzo degli Uffizi, a palace that houses the Uffizi Gallery.  The gallery contains words by da Vinci, Boticelli, Michelangelo, Rafael, Caravaggio and many other famous artists.  The Uffizi requires reservations (or a five-hour wait in line in July), so we chose not to go inside, but outside of the Uffizi in the Piazza della Signoria are many incredible statues. 

Under the Loggia dei Lanzi (the set of three arches alongside one edge of the Piazza della Signoria) is one of my favorite statues, Perseus with the head of Medusa.  The detail is mind-boggling; one expects Perseus will step down from his pedestal to show you the final death throes of Medusa’s serpentine locks.

I call this piece Big scary dog, indifferent pigeon.

We all have our tourist moments.  This was (one of) mine.


Over the  River Arno (Fiume Arno)




Mom and the Hubby on a bridge overlooking the Arno toward the Ponte Vecchio, close up of the Ponte Vecchio, buildings along the Arno, a view of the Uffizi and Galileo Science History Museum from the opposite bank.

We saw locks all over Florence; we figured it was a habit to leave your bike lock hooked to your “parking space”.  But outside of the Uffizi we overheard a tour guide explaining that the tradition is you leave a lock in Florence and your true love will find you.  Another blog site, Students in Europe, has a different story:

It turns out the locks are a tradition in Florence. Couples bring a lock and lock it to the chains, then throw the key into the river as a declaration of the strength and eternity of their love. As I looked closer, I saw that many of the locks had the lovers’ names or initials written or inscribed on them.

Here is one of the chains near the Ponte Vecchio covered with wishes for, or declarations of, true love. 


There was a ton of motor traffic in Florence.  Like Perugia and Rome, scooters and small motorcycles appeared to dominate the vehicular traffic in Florence.  This is a street along the Arno River chock-full of parked bikes.

I love this video I took of Italian drivers and their odd relationship with stop signs.  Or, lack thereof:

Florence was a day trip – we were in town a mere six hours or so, and look at all we saw!  It was a beautiful, exciting city, and I would definitely spend more time there if the opportunity presented itself.


Weekend Report

This weekend was pretty snazzy.

On Saturday I went on a motorcycle ride with a bunch of friends.  My friend Courtney rode on the back of my bike, and the group of us took a series of winding rural roads from St. Paul to Taylors Falls, MN.   It was cool and overcast the entire day, but all of the weather radar info (on the gazillion or so smartphones we had between us) said the chance of rain was minimal, so off we went!

We rode through some really beautiful areas, and after about an hour and a half of riding we stopped to eat lunch at Taylors Falls.  We ate at a drive-in hot dog/hamburger diner-slash-mini golf place that had horribly addicting fried green beans (thank goodness they had vegetables alongside all of the burger and fries options!) and really yummy, frosty root beer.

After lunch Courtney and I headed back toward Minneapolis, and along the way we stumbled across this incredible sculpture garden called Franconia Sculpture Park.  The place was gigantic – they had probably 30 installations spread over a large area of farmland, and we saw artists working on new pieces throughout the park.  Everything was connected by black pebble walkways and paths mowed through knee-high wild grass.  Some of the exhibits reminded me of the St. Louis City Museum – they were interactive and invited the public to touch, climb and play.


After we left Franconia, we stopped briefly in Stillwater to walk around downtown.  We sat down at one of the coffee shops and suddenly it hit us – were both exhausted from the ride.  Riding on a motorcycle can sometimes zap your energy – I think it’s a combination of having the sun shine directly on you and having to push against the wind for long periods of time.  Whatever it was, we were done, so we took the quick route back to Minneapolis and each ran home to take naps.  I usually hate naps – waste of time! – but mine felt really, really good on Saturday!

On Sunday I went rollerblading around Lake Calhoun and then came back home to have some breakfast and watch an episode of Battlestar Galactica.  In the afternoon I went into work at the bookstore for a couple of hours, which was great because I had stepped down from part-time to seasonal back in May, so I had a chance to catch up with a bunch of work buddies who I hadn’t seen for about a month.

When I left work it was sunny and in the mid-80s, so I decided to head back out to Lake Calhoun – this time with my fancy-schmancy scuba fins, mask and snorkel.  The sun had been shining on the lake all afternoon, so it was relatively warm.  Aside from the popular bandaid and hair tie specimens, there’s not much to see in Lake Calhoun from a snorkeling perspective, but it was neat to fin around and play for a while.

After I got out of the water I just sat on the sand and marveled at the lake – it really is very beautiful.  The blue water stretched out before me and there were several sailboats and windsurfers zipping across the water.  The shoreline around Lake Calhoun has never been sold privately, so all areas of the lakefront are open to the public.  There are bike and walking paths that encircle the lake and three beaches, one seafood restaurant at the north end of the lake, and a place to rent kayaks, canoes and paddleboats.  From the south end of the beach you can see the entire Minneapolis downtown skyline rising above the trees.

I hung out at the north-end beach area for about an hour and then came home to do some chores.  Well, that’s what I meant to do.  In reality I watched another episode of BSG, played on the internet for a bit and then went to bed.  The dishes and laundry can always wait 🙂

Weekend Report

Walker Sculpture Garden

Ashley and I went to the Walker Sculpture Garden last night.  I love the WSG because:

1) It’s awesome.  It has HUGE works of sculpture art, including a greenhouse and a “hidden” work on the same side of the street as the Walker building.

2) It’s always free!

3) It’s soooo Minneapolis.  Actually – look at my banner and the big cherry on a spoon is what you see – that’s the WSG!

4) It’s a great place to take fantabulous pictures:

View from the floor of the greenhouse.  I think the wires will be overgrown with vining flowers pretty soon now.

Ashley sitting in the main atrium of the greenhouse.

The ubiquitous forced perspective shot – Ashley “holding” the cherry.

Cherry, spoon, rainbow, Ashley.

Cherry on a Spoon, bridge view.

Tunnel canopy at the far end of the sculpture garden.   The canopy will also be covered in vining flowers this summer.

Ashley in the mist by the Cherry.

Mirror Walls provide neat special effects in photos.

Ashley in the tunnel of the “hidden” work over by the Walker main building.

Walker Sculpture Garden

Entropy and Evolution Art Exhibit

In the Star Tribune West Today section, there is a teensy little paragraph in the header that says “In Your Area:  Biology and science, as big art.”

Oooo…sounds intriguing.  The brief write up goes on to list the where (Hopkins Center for the Arts – 1111 Mainstreet), the what (“Entropy and Evolution, Works on Paper”), the who (Minneapolis artist Martha Iserman) and the when (Feb 25th-April 3).  And that’s it.  Sad!  Off to the interwebs!

A stop at the Hopkins Center for the Arts website gives a brief write-up of the new exhibit, but doesn’t list much more than the Stribe.

I have a little more luck at Rift Magazine, a local music and art news website and print publication.  They’re kind enough to give a lengthier event description and have this to say:

Martha is an artist interested in preserving and promoting an innate sense of awe with nature. She uses ink and watercolor to render naturalistic creatures that she has imagined based on her own science studies. Her work is focused on the natural world due to a fascination with the biological sciences and her lifelong fear of sharks and water. Entropy and Evolution is a study between time and biology, relating to natural processes such as growth, predation, symbiosis, migration, decay and adaptation.

And then jackpot with Martha Iserman‘s personal website!  She has very interesting pictures of cephelopods, cnidarians, giant jellies, and my favorite – “nightmares” – ocean creatures that are part nature, part imagination.  She mixes pale whites and grays with dark greens, blues, red, browns and grays and the overall effect is one of somber appreciation.  I’m ain’t one of them there art critics, but I think I’ll really enjoy her exhibit.

Looks like a trip to the art center for me!

Entropy and Evolution Art Exhibit