Mosaics, Hair Tea, Aliens, and Poetry


This is my 500th post! Thanks to everyone who reads this random blog. Starting a blog was on my birthday list for 35 and here we are four years later.

In a few days, it will be the final 30-day countdown for this year’s list. I have 10 items left! It’s always a race to the finish.

I banged out four over the past week:


Mary and I took a mosaics class last weekend, and I subsequently have a newfound appreciation for this art. It is time consuming. Really time consuming. It took two-and-a-half hours to make this:









I haven’t “grouted” it yet. I wonder if that will make it look any better? I found it nearly impossible to cut straight square pieces of tile. I’m definitely willing to try it again sometime. I’ve always loved mosaics.

Hair Tea

This was another Groupon-inspired trial. I recently bought a Groupon for vegan cosmetics, and when I searched the site, I found hair tea. It sounded intriguing and was easy enough to make. A bunch of Indian herbs come in a tea bag that you steep in a gallon of boiling water. I was amazed that I didn’t need to use conditioner with it. I like the idea of not using chemical-laden shampoo and conditioner on my hair. My hair looked fine after using it, until I walked around on a windy day. After an hour of the wind blowing my hair this way and that, my hair looked unwashed. Wasn’t thrilled about that.

But I’ll definitely use it once in a while to give my hair a break.

Har tea steeping in a gallon of water
Hair tea steeping in a gallon of water











I’m almost done with the AFI’s Top 100 Film List! I watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind (#64) the other night. I found it a little slow at times, but overall it was entertaining. The special effects were pretty kick-ass for 1977. A national monument that I had never heard of before, called Devils Tower, was featured in the film. I was a little weirded out when, a day or two after I watched the film, I attended a student service-trip presentation at the college where I work, and one student showed a photo of Devils Tower and talked about the Native American folklore behind it.


Yesterday, I visited Grolier Poetry Book Shop for the first time. It is one of the smallest shops I have ever visited, but there are a lot of books packed into that space! I bought an anthology of e e cummings’s poetry and prose. I’ve heard a number of snippets of his work over the years and have always liked it. So I look forward to reading it.

But first, I have to make my way through Henry James’s The Golden Bowl. I’m about 60 pages in and I couldn’t tell you what the book is about. But I’m keeping at it, confident that it will start making more sense at some point…

Happy Earth Day


Just read this quote for the first time today. Love it!

“Myth: we have to save Earth. Frankly, Earth doesn’t need to be saved. Nature doesn’t give a hoot if human beings are here or not. The planet has survived cataclysmic and catastrophic changes for millions upon millions of years. Over that time, it is widely believed, 99 percent of all species have come and gone while the planet has remained. Saving the environment is really about saving our environment: making it safe for ourselves, our children, and the world as we know it. If more people saw the issue as one of saving themselves, we would probably see increased motivation and commitment to actually do so.”

—Robert M. Lilienfeld, management consultant and author and William L. Rathje, archaeologist and author

Marathon Monday


I’ve lived in Boston for almost 15 years now. I love it, in the complicated way that you love something or someone that irritates the hell out of you sometimes.

Yes, there are many great things about Boston…and friendliness is not one of them. No, I wouldn’t call Boston a “friendly” city. There are many friendly people…but, overall, I haven’t felt much of a “community” vibe over the years. So I felt touched as I walked the streets today and every other person was wearing clothing bearing an iteration of the Boston Strong message. Today we celebrated the strength of 36,000 runners as well as the strength of the entire city. Today we were a community saying “This is our f’ing city.”

A couple of days ago, Mary and I visited an exhibit of items left at the makeshift memorial in Copley Square after the bombings. As I’ve mentioned, I was sick during that time period, so I didn’t realize to what extent the world reached out to us in the aftermath until I walked through this exhibit. We made our way through the room, viewing the sneakers that runners left behind; the signed cards, posters, and T-shirts that people from around the world sent; the scraps of paper with kind messages scrawled on them. At the end of the exhibit, visitors were invited to sign a guestbook or write messages on tags and hang them on trees.

The exhibit was thoughtfully and beautifully curated, and I’m so glad I saw it. It reminded me that love is stronger than hate.

Today, six or seven hours after the race had started, I was headed to the subway stop in my neighborhood, which is along the marathon route. I was surprised to see runners still coming through. They had two miles left, and most of them were walking. It was a powerful image that I will always carry with me.


Birds and Waterworks


Last weekend I checked off two birthday list items: visiting an art exhibit with live animals and visiting a local waterworks museum.

I read about the Peabody Essex Museum’s exhibit From Here to Ear in the newspaper. The Peabody Essex is a great art museum in Salem. I hadn’t been in a few years, so was looking forward to seeing Celeste Boursier-Mougenot’s exhibit with live birds and electric guitars.












Cindy and I visited the exhibit during its last weekend. The exhibit was so popular that patrons had to buy timed tickets in advance and there was a standby line when we arrived. Around ten electric guitars were set up horizontally around a room that 70 zebra finches were temporarily calling home.

The birds flew around the room at random and often landed on one of the guitars, striking a chord when they landed. A few of the birds I watched pecked at the strings with their beaks, so I assumed they had made the correlation that they were producing the guitar sounds.

The birds were domesticated, so they were comfortable around people. It was fun to watch them interact with people, the guitars, and each other. I was reminded of visits to butterfly gardens as they zoomed to and fro. Hearing their chirping among random guitar chords was definitely a unique experience.

The following day I visited a local waterworks museum. The Metropolitan Waterworks Museum has only been open for three years and I was quite impressed with my visit. There wasn’t a ton to see—the majority of the museum is in one large room—but the small exhibits were interactive and informative.

The museum is in a beautiful Beaux Arts style building. It was built in the late 1800s, when Bostonians thought that even a municipal building deserved to be grand and elegant.









The Chestnut Hill Pumping Station housed the huge steam engines and water pumps that supplied Boston with its water. It was the first municipal water system to employ biologists to monitor the water supply to make sure it was clean and didn’t carry water-borne disease.

As the Boston population grew, a bigger reservoir was needed. Today Boston gets its water supply from the Quabbin Reservoir, but the Chestnut Hill Reservoir is available for use in emergencies.

My visit made me stop and think about how lucky we are in the States to have access to clean water. All we have to do is turn on the tap. We don’t have to gather it from wells like my grandmother did in Pennsylvania, or walk to a dirty supply like people in developing countries do.

If you haven’t seen any recent documentaries on the current and future state of water, I encourage you to. Water is going to be more precious than oil someday. Conserve water whenever you can and don’t buy bottled water! In most cases, it’s not any purer. And the huge companies (Poland Spring, Coke, etc.) basically take the local water, bottle it, and then sell it back to residents at an exorbitant price. And don’t get me started about fracking.

I’ll get off my soapbox now and leave you with some photos of the Waterworks Museum.










Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. As a Bostonian, I felt a pang of guilt because I didn’t realize that yesterday was the anniversary. The date of last year’s marathon hadn’t been seared in my brain, as it had been for tens (hundreds?) of thousands of people.

On that date last year, I was in the midst of a rare illness. Days of an unrelenting headache turned into weeks and months. I remember feeling proud on the morning of April 15, because I had the strength to walk the 10 minutes to Beacon Street to watch the runners run by for a few minutes. I remember the bright sun, which felt harsh and foreign, since I had been living in a darkened apartment for weeks. Hours later, as my mom sat in my darkened apartment with me, we started receiving texts from friends.

“Are you OK?” “We just heard about the bombing.”


We turned on the TV and learned the horrifying news. That morning, I had switched medications, and an hour or so after we heard the news, I started having heart palpitations. Every few minutes, I felt my heart flutter uncomfortably.

I wanted to give it time, see if the palpitations ceased. But Mama Bear insisted that we go to the ER. The ambulance came and took us to the hospital that I had been to four times in the past three weeks. As we pulled in, the ambulance driver said, “Keep your eyes closed, ma’am. I don’t want you to see anything that will upset you.”

I didn’t know at the time that many of the bombing victims had been taken to that hospital.

The ER folks did an EKG and something else and determined that I was fine. They said that the palpitations were probably caused by an overlap of the two different medications I took that day.

The hospital was on lockdown and we were escorted to an exit guarded by officers with rifles. We were told that we had to walk up the street to find a taxi, as no vehicles were allowed anywhere near the building.

In the days afterward, I tried to watch the news and read stories online. But the news was so upsetting that it exacerbated my health issue.

So to this day, the bombings seem like a bad dream to me. I don’t know all of the terrible details. On one hand, I’m glad to have been spared. But it has left me feeling detached from the suffering as well as the resilience that the victims and the city have shown.

I bought flowers after work yesterday, intending to leave them at the finish line or somewhere in Copley Square. Unfortunately there were gale-force winds at the time, and I didn’t see a secure place to leave them.

I brought them home with me and put them in a vase. When I look at them, I think of the lives lost, the survivors, and the entire city.

I don’t know what to expect on Monday. I hope and pray that runners and spectators feel safe and are safe.

I leave you with this video I learned about in this blog post. See #4.