Articles by " Adam"
13 Jun
2015

Tread softly because you tread on his dreams. An Appreciation of William Butler Yeats

June 13th marks the birthday of one of the greats of Modernist poetry, William Butler Yeats.  To really understand an appreciation of Yeats, all you need is an example of his work.  The Second Coming is a fantastic example of the Modernists' attempts to couch the post WWI malaise in their various art forms and is, in my not really very humble opinion, one of the best poems of all time.

yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

--

If that doesn't hit you right where it hurts, I don't really know what to do with you.

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8 Jun
2015

Low Ceilings, No Problems! An Appreciation of Frank Lloyd Wright

fallingwater

So.  I don't know if you guys have been to Fallingwater, but hopefully you have.  If you have not, let me tell you all about it.  Fallingwater is a house that Frank Lloyd Wright (born June 8th, 1867, hence this post) designed for the Kaufmann family near the town of Ohiopyle, PA.

Quite frankly, it is one of the most interesting buildings ever.  Without going into a ton of details, technical and otherwise, that I don't know and/or can't remember, the house is built over a waterfall using a cantilever technique which makes it seem to almost be hovering over nothing.  Which is rad, obviously, but it has a ton of other really cool features also.  There's this awesome staircase down to the water from the living room and it leads to what is probably the world's first infinity pool at the bottom.  That's right, the river flows into a small, enclosed swimming area and then out again.  Which freaking rocks.

Fallingwater2_l

Fallingwater also has a traditional pool and a pool house.  There's an external staircase that connects an office on the second floor with a bedroom on the third.  My point is that the house is really really cool.  If it weren't a National Landmark it would be a serious goal of mine to one day live there.  As it is, I'll have to settle for my goal being to one day try and have an homage built, haha.

Fallingwater

One last interesting thing about Fallingwater (and reportedly all of the residences Wright designed, though Fallingwater is the only one I've seen for myself), the ceilings throughout the property are all quite low.  Apparently Wright had very strong feelings about wasted space, which is why he designed his houses to accommodate people walking around but not much more.  Like, the ceilings at Fallingwater are low enough that a tall person would have to stoop to get through the doors and would reach the ceiling long before they reached their arms to their full length above.  It actually makes you feel a little claustrophobic.  I think if you lived there you'd eventually get used to it, but just visiting it is pretty unnerving.  At least for me.

fllw_archives_18

Anyway, Frank Lloyd Wright not only designed really cool buildings but also led a pretty fascinating and controversial/scandalous life.  His family on his mother's side had Welsh heritage and he named a house he designed for himself Taliesin, after a figure in Welsh mythology.  He was married three times and had seven children (several of whom also were/are architects, which is interesting in itself.)  Basically he was an incredibly interesting person and you should probably look into it.

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1 Jun
2015

Prepare to be refreshed! It’s Iced Tea Month!

teaiced

So.  June is National Iced Tea Month!  I don't know if you know this, but good iced tea is literally one of the most refreshing things in the entire world.  It's pretty much only surpassed by a good lemon-lime soda and plain old water.

Now I'm not talking about Turner's Iced Tea here.  I'm not talking about Arizona.  Those things have their place, of course.  Far be it from me to disparage a nice sugary drink.  But real iced tea, brewed at home and chilled with a billion ice cubes, is on a completely other level.  It's like the difference between RC Cola and Coke.  Or the difference between literally any other ketchup and Heinz.  There's really no comparison.  Because homemade iced tea is the tits.

So in honor of Iced Tea Month, I'm going to share with you one of my favorite iced tea concoctions, Cold-brewed Iced Tea with Mint!  (There's not really a way to fix the name of it so it sounds catchy.  Believe me, I've tried.  Let me know if you come up with something!)

Lemon-Mint-Iced-Tea-6

First of all, why brew the tea cold?  Using boiling water is faster (way way way faster, actually) and you still get tea, right?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, tea is tea, but cold brewing extracts the flavor from the leaves differently.  Cold brewed tea has less of the tannic, astringent tastes of the leaves steeped in boiling water.  I don't really understand the chemistry of it (though I guess I should look it up), but apparently brewing tea or coffee with boiling water brings out more of the bitter flavors of the leaves/beans and cold brewing tea or coffee doesn't do that.  (P.s., cold brewed coffee is also freakin' great.)

So anyway, cold-brewing tea.  What you do is you take a good, reliable, plain black tea.  Let's say Luzianne for argument's sake.  One tea bag per cup of water is a great ratio for a full-flavored mixture.  So four tea bags for a quart of water.  Add to that approximately a cup of slightly crushed/bruised mint leaves and let that steep in the fridge for at least 6 hours.  Overnight is usually a good way to do it.  Now, there are people out there who are pretty hardcore sun tea enthusiasts.  This is just like that, only your tea doesn't have to sit warm outside for hours growing bacteria.  Takes a little longer, but the flavor is just as good, I promise.

So anyway, you take out the tea bags and the mint leaves, you add a slice of lemon and some simple syrup over ice and there you have the summer's most refreshing drink.  Tada!

 

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28 May
2015

Take some time and go to the park, it’s Sierra Club Day!

sierra club x2

So the Sierra Club, if you don't already know, was founded on May 28th, 1892 by this totally rad guy named John Muir.  Even then, America's wild places were starting to be gobbled up in the wake of rapidly expanding populations and industrialization.  John, as you might imagine, was not in favor of that.  So, with the help of other naturalists, artists, and a bunch of other people, Muir founded the Sierra Club with a mission,

"To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources; To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives."

And the Sierra Club has been protecting the environment ever since.  Now, I'm not here to tell you to become a member or even to try and convince you to help save the Earth.  Hopefully, you already do as much as you can of that on your own.  All I'm trying to do here is acknowledge the great contribution John Muir made to the environmental cause and celebrate the Sierra Club's awesomeness in protecting and nurturing our world.  You go, guys!  Thanks!

So stately.  He's thinking deep, conservationy thoughts, I bet.

So stately. He's thinking deep, conservationy thoughts, I bet.

 

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23 May
2015

Grab your Lightsaber, your Phaser, your Ring of Power, and/or your Towel, because it’s Geek Pride Day on the 25th!

Aw yiss.  So proud.

Aw yiss. So proud.

So as a Geek, I understand the need for Geek Pride Day (May 25th every year.  To commemorate the release of Star Wars, obviously.)  There's a weird stigma associated with being a geek.  And while there's room for a ton of discussion about where that comes from and while said discussion and investigation would be totally fascinating (geek alert), I'm going to go ahead and wildly oversimplify and say that what it really comes down to is a 1950s-style rejection of bookishness.  So it's important, even in this geek-forward era, to celebrate all the obscure cultural touchstones and unusual obsessions that make us who we are.

Man, speaking of Geeks...

Man, speaking of Geeks...

For whatever reason (for a bunch of reasons, actually), there's something about the pale, bespectacled geek image that some people really abhor.  This is sad for them, because some of the best people I have ever met have been pale and bespectacled.  And while their interests may not have been the same, the tan, Lacoste-wearing, country-clubbing set who (proverbially) abhor them are just as geeky.  They're just geeky about different things, like tennis and sailing and football.

That's kind of the thing about being a geek: almost everyone is one about something.  All of us have things that we're interested in and passionate about.  That's all being a geek is, really.  So whether you're a classical, comics-toting, computer-screen-in-the-dark-reading geek or an unusual, outdoorsy, sports-oriented geek, or some unholy combination of the two or any of the myriad others, be proud today and every day!  Geek Pride!  Woo!

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20 May
2015

KU Book Club Prep: A P.G. Wodehouse Primer!

wodehouseblog

I can hear it from here!  All of you out there saying, "My goodness, Adam, there are so many P.G. Wodehouse books at KU, how did you pick just one to read for book club?!  And, more importantly, how should I choose some of them to read this summer, since they are great for summer reading and are the funniest books ever?!"  Firstly, let me say that you are very verbose.

Secondly, yes, it can be difficult to know where to begin with Wodehouse (that's wood-house, p.s., not woad-house) but the truth is that you can start anywhere you like.  Wodehouse's books are usually short story collections and while there are over-arching plot lines, he's very good at filling his readers in on what they need to know for the present moment.  Most of the Wodehouse books we carry (he wrote over 100!) come from two main storylines, Jeeves and Wooster and Blandings Castle.

Jeeves and Wooster is about wealthy and scatterbrained Bertie Wooster, the unfortunate situations he and his friends get into, and how his ingenious valet, Jeeves, extricates him from them.  If you're a stickler for chronology, the first three books published were My Man Jeeves in 1919, The Inimitable Jeeves in 1923, and Carry On, Jeeves in 1925.  Carry On, Jeeves contains the story Jeeves Takes Charge which is about how Jeeves came to work for Bertie in the first place, so from a narrative perspective, it's a good place to start and that's why we chose it from the others for a book club selection.  Other great J&W books include Right Ho, Jeeves and Mating Season.

Blandings Castle is concerned with Lord Emsworth and the residents of Blandings Castle, who also get themselves into unfortunate and hilarious situations.  The first BC book is Something Fresh (1915), but we recommend starting with Heavy Weather or Lord Emsworth and Others.  One of Wodehouse's most beloved characters is Psmith (the P is silent, as in pshrimp) and he is part of the BC series.  His first book is Psmith in the City, but we love Leave it to Psmith the best.

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15 May
2015

Raison d’etre: An Acknowledgement

Happy birthday to all and to all a good night!

Happy birthday to all and to all a good night!

We all love Kards Unlimited.  I do.  I know you do.  Pretty much everyone who experiences us loves us.  Because, let's not mince words, the store rocks.  It's the best place to be.  Period.  So, on her birthday, I want to thank (blame?) the party responsible, our boss, Kristen Kershner.

Working at KU attracts a certain type of person.  We don't take ourselves too seriously.  We're fun-loving.  We're smart.  We relish a good book (and some bad books.)  We also relish champagne (with one or two notable exceptions.)  To varying degrees we exhibit a charming blend of sweet and tart.  And we are family.  I don't know where I'll be in twenty (or even ten or even five) years, but if or when my time at KU is done, I know that I will never forget it.  I know that every job I ever have will be measured against my time here and probably found wanting in at least one aspect.  All of these are a reflection of Kristen.

I'm going to stop writing now in favor of going in to work early to hang out with the birthday girl a bit.  Happy birthday, Lady.  Many happy returns.  And thank you for everything.

 

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4 May
2015

No, I didn’t do my homework. But yes, I love learning: A Not So Good Student’s Perspective on Teacher Appreciation Week

Are you freaking kidding me.

Are you freaking kidding me.

I'll be frank with you guys.  Sometimes I was not a very good student.  Oh, I was clever enough, but I frequently didn't pay the most attention and even more frequently just straight up ignored work that I didn't want to do.  Despite these failings, I did relatively well in school.  Normally this is where I'd make a joke about how it was definitely because I'm so freaking brilliant.  But that is decidedly false.  At best, it's an incomplete and overly simplified explanation.  The real reason, or the lion's share of the reason, was that I had (by and large) excellent teachers.

For example, when I started fourth grade, I switched from a public school where I was basically just coasting by to a private (Catholic) school where I actually had to do things like pay attention and turn in homework.  As you might expect, that was not a graceful transition for me.  I had one teacher in particular whose homework I didn't do a lot of the time and who gave me detention several times because of it.  Needless to say, she wasn't my favorite person just then.  She taught science and while I tend to be more of a language-oriented, liberal arts type, surprisingly she made me love what she taught.  I had her for home room the next year and she became one of my all-time favorite teachers.

Seriously, honk.

Seriously, honk.

Another example: my junior year in high school I had a teacher for English who expected a lot of us.  And by that I mean she expected us to do homework and turn it in on time.  Preferably having followed her instructions with regard to length and content.  Torture.  Even by eleventh grade I had not yet mastered homework doing and I didn't do particularly well in her class because of it.  Nevertheless, the end of the year came and I discovered that not only had she really helped my writing skills, her class had changed from a time of day that I had dreaded to one of the best.

My point is that even kids who do well in school don't always make their teachers' jobs/lives easy.  And even when the students do make their teachers' lives easy, teachers do a ton of homework of their own.  It's common knowledge that teachers work much longer hours than kids are in school.  And that they pay for a ton of their classroom materials out of pocket with little or no reimbursement.  (My sister, who teaches first grade, told me the other day that the total amount she can claim on her taxes for classroom supplies is $250.  I.e. what she spends in about 2 months, max.)

All this is to try and explain to you why Teacher Appreciation Week (May 4th through May 8th this year) is important to me.  Teachers make up a surprisingly high percentage of people who are personally important to me, but even if you don't know any teachers in a non-professional setting, remember that at least one teacher had an impact on your life.  More than likely, a bunch of teachers spent more time and effort on you than you know.  So if you have the chance, try to show some appreciation this week.  And, really, always.

To all my teachers, thank you.

To all my teachers, thank you.

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