Kugel ball

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I’m not a scientist and certainly don’t understand physics.  But I love things like this!

The kugel ball is a perfectly balanced sphere that weighs 5000 pounds yet rotates freely. Pressurized water flowing between the ball and the sphere supports the weight and allows the ball to be easily rotated. Trust me, I don’t understand it!

And, just to note, kugel is German for ball or sphere.

Fun facts about Fat Tuesday

 

Have you ever wondered what Fat Tuesday is all about?  I wasn’t raised in a family or religion that observed the season of Lent; I didn’t really know what it was until I joined a denomination that does observe the season. Likewise, I was unfamiliar with Shrove Tuesday and Mardi Gras.  Since we are heading into the beginning of Lent I thought it might be fun to look at these two observances and how they came to be, especially since they were originally one and the same.

Eating pancakes and going to Mardi Gras celebrations are fun activities, but their origins are thought to have started in the Middle Ages as a way to prepare for Lent. Since eating meats, fats, eggs, milk, and fish were restricted during Lent families would have three-day celebrations beginning on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday and culminating in a great feast on Tuesday.  The purpose of the celebration was to consume these items that would spoil during the forty days of Lenten fasting. By the beginning of the 20th century the celebration had been shortened to the one-day observance of Shrove Tuesday.  This term was derived from the word shrive which means to confess one’s sins and receive absolution from the priest.

So where do the pancakes fit in to Shrove Tuesday?  The English gave us this tradition of eating as many pancakes as humanly possible as a way to use up milk, fats, and eggs on hand.  It’s easy to see where the nickname Fat Tuesday came from, right?  But the Fat Tuesday nickname actually came from France as a reference to eating up all the fatty foods on that day.  Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday.

Today Mardi Gras is associated with parties, parades, and revelry in the streets of many cities. It is thought that this tradition came about as a result of the Spring Equinox celebrations of the Romans and ancient pagan peoples of Europe, although many think that the celebrations began as a way to “let it all hang out” before the somber Lenten season’s restrictions mandated observance.  These pre-Ash Wednesday celebrations were referred to as “Carnivals” which is derived from the Latin term carnem levare, meaning “to take away the flesh”.  Most likely their exuberant excesses led to the Church’s decision to shorten the celebration to one day!

I hope you enjoy the fun associated with this week’s Shrove Tuesday/Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras/Carnival activities.

 

 

 

 

 

A few more Legos

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Liberty Bell – incredible detail! The crack fascinated me as it always has in pictures!

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Supreme Court – replica is almost 10 feet long.  It took 3 Lego Masters 450 hours to assemble.  And, yes, that’s the grandson in the picture! He’s still into Legos a little and prefers the large pieces that have gadzillion pieces and take all night to put together!

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The “back door” of the Supreme Court.

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This happy little quintet was in a glass case making a good picture impossible.  Some of the little people were actually the Simpson family!

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Jaydon was excited about the Lincoln Memorial since he’s visited it. Likewise, I was excited to see the Old North Church (One if by land, Two if by sea) since I’ve visited it.  Part of the fun was finding the exhibits in the mall!

 

Southern Traction Company

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The Southern Traction Company provided interurban transportation between Corsicana and Dallas from 1912 to 1941. Its sister company, the Texas Traction Company, provided service between Dallas, Denton, and Waco; in 1917 they would merge to form the Texas Electric Railway. The interurban trains would stop to pick up passengers when flagged down and offered affordable and more frequent service than the steam rail lines.

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Car number 305 was one of 22 passenger cars that ran on this line. Travelers were offered a choice of a smoking or non-smoking section, one toilet, and a water fountain.  After 1932 there was no conductor and cars were configured for pay-as-you-go commuters. Just to note that there were 2 seats on either side of the narrow aisle where travelers were squeezed together much like passengers on an airplane today!

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The Visitor Center didn’t open until later in the morning on the day I was visiting, but I looked through the windows and they had a nice display of memorabilia and informational resources.  I’ll stop in on my next visit.

Between 2 buildings

IMG_0612_edited-1.jpgDowntown Pocket Park sits quietly between 2 buildings in historic downtown Corsicana. I noticed this space from across the street, but didn’t realize what it was until I was closer.  It wasn’t just an empty space between 2 buildings, it was a little park!

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Corsicana’s Art in Public Places committee selected this space to be its first project.  What a delightful space they created.  A bubbling fountain and ample seating spaces make it the perfect place to step into and sit peacefully for a few minutes.

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I’m not sure what was originally in this space.  From the street there was a tile entrance that advertised “Virginia Dare For those who care”. Virginia Dare is a long-time producer of vanilla extracts and other flavorings, so it is hard to determine what kind of business was here.  Perhaps a soda fountain?

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Downtown Pocket Park is available to rent for private functions and has public restrooms.

Picnic in the park

Somethings just never change, thankfully.  The simple pleasures that delighted our grandparents and those even before them still delight us today.

On a recent visit to the Texas State Capitol I discovered that one of the plaques on the grounds shared that a small lake had once existed in that spot.

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“In December 1906, the Austin Daily Statesman described the Capitol grounds as, “…a favorite resort, for young and old, at all seasons, and during the summer months are the scene of nightly concerts that attract the music lovers of the city.” A small lake occupied the large depression that still exists west of here, at one time supplied by an underground spring in the area.  The lake was difficult to maintain and produced hordes of mosquitos. As then State Gardener J.A. Lott explained, “…it was not built right and every rain filled it with mud and trash…the pool in fair weather was unsightly with an accumulation of trash,” so the lake was drained by 1926.” Copied from the plaque on the west side of the Capitol, facing Colorado Street.

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The depression where the lake was located is hard to see today, but it is there.  And, amazingly there are still groups of people picnicking on the Capitol grounds, enjoying themselves even today.  What is it about a picnic in a beautiful spot?  That has to be one of the simple little things of life!

Foucault Pendulum, Somewhere In My Memory

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The capabilities of the human mind never cease to amaze me.  And, sometimes my own mind and its ability to remember things from long ago surprises me. On my recent trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science  we stopped for a few minutes to watch the Foucault pendulum. The pendulum swung back and forth, moving evenly around the circle, knocking over two of the domino like markers every 15 minutes.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Even as we stood there watching I had the thought, way in the back of my mind, that this was not the first time I had watched a pendulum moving around a circle.

I was full of questions about how this thing worked. My nephew, the engineering student, patiently explained how it worked and answered my questions.  I understood that the pendulum was fixed and it was really the rotation of the earth that was giving the appearance of movement.  But I couldn’t grasp what was keeping it moving so evenly. Yet, I still kept thinking, “I know all of this, I’ve seen this before” somewhere deep in my thoughts. We waited for it to knock over two markers and we moved on to other exhibits.

After we got home I did my homework (which I should have done before the trip) and discovered that there is a magnet surrounding the cable at its top. As the pendulum reaches the middle of its swing, it closes a circuit that activates the electromagnet and pulls the cable away from the center position. At Houston’s latitude (30° N.) the pendulum will move halfway around each day and knock down all of the pins.

As I was reading about this pendulum and Leon Foucault, the inventor, the thought that I’ve seen this before became stronger.  I kept putting it in the  Griffith Observatory that I had visited as a sixth grader on a Girl Scout field trip.  After a little internet searching I found what my memory was telling me – there was a Foucault pendulum there and it was exactly as I remembered it!

The fact that I could remember this long ago event was entertaining, but what made me laugh was remembering my thoughts that day that all that science stuff didn’t make any sense to me.  The planetarium enchanted me because I liked astronomy (still do), but the rest was lost on me.  But, maybe not.  I think my brain stored up all that data for me to pull out one day when something in my memory triggered it!

The Foucault pendulum is amazing and so is the human brain. The song Somewhere In My Memory from the Home Alone movies keeps playing in my mind!