Thursday, May 31, 2012

The mulberry connection

One advantage of having a kid or two in kindergarten in a place where mulberry leaves are common is that every spring, a shoebox comes home with five or six grey-white creepy silkworms, like so:


That was back in April sometime, as the last two silkworms were still munching away.  The white oval objects are silkworm cocoons, which we could, in theory, steam or boil or something to unravel them and get silk thread.  Another 1,994 of them, and we'd have enough silk to make a dress!

Silkworm on mulberry leaf
A closeup of one of the dudes, about five inches long.

Silkworm beginning to spin a cocoon
Another worm beginning to spin his/her/its cocoon.

Silkworm moth and cocoon

And now, more than a month later, one of the last of the silkworm moths that emerged.  Silkworm moths all seem to share the interesting habit of emerging from their cocoon, laying some eggs, not eating, and dying a day or two later.  Honest truth.  Probably one reason why you never see any job openings for silkworm moths on Craigslist...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An invocation for beginnings

Back when I was working in technology education land, Ze Frank was a sometimes distractor of mine. For a year or two, he made "The Show", a sometimes-annoying-but-sometimes-incredibly-brilliant daily five minute discussion / diatribe / rant / stand-up routine, punctuated by the antics of his ego and his facial expressions in full-face closeup video.

Now he's back, in a show more modestly titled "A Show". I must confess that I haven't watched more that a couple of his new episodes (I'm picking and choosing my distractions a bit more deliberately these days), but his first episode? Yep, definitely applies. Hit it, Ze! 

(oh, and warning, the video does contain some strong language.  But I trust all of you to get the message anyway...)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Let the Games Begin!


And... another return to the Boat after an absence from blogging. One problem with blog posts is that they seem to be designed to make a snappy summary of an event or idea. Which is fine, when you're experiencing new things in sequence, or talking about a new idea that you've run across somewhere. But when you're trying to summarize a long event, a long series of ideas, or, well, the end of three years living in China...? Hmmm. More complicated. Add to that my natural tendency to try to generalize and classify events, and it means that the perfect blog post(s) about the last months of our stay here are going to be a long time coming.

In the meantime, our time teaching here and now is coming quickly to a close, with my Very Last Class coming up tomorrow, and final exams and presentations coming the week after that. And we have plane tickets back to Chicago! (not to divulge too much information over the internet, but the date happens to coincide with a certain national festival in the US)

Since our organization sends people all over the world to learn things, adapt to other cultures, undergo tremendous personal change, and then come back to their home countries slightly confused and jobless, they do know a little bit about what happens to people making a transition back to their home culture. The word is "Re-entry", and a couple of months ago, the only image that flashed through my mind upon hearing it was the belly of the Space Shuttle or the bottom of an Apollo capsule, glowing red as it heated up in the atmosphere. Exciting, exhilarating, but also out of the ordinary, a once in a lifetime event, and more than a little bit dangerous.

Now that the end of our time is coming, getting back to the States seems less like a fiery plunge through the atmosphere and more like a really tall roller coaster. There's this bit of a gut wrenching moment as the car engages with the chain and is pulled lurching up a huge steep slope, and my mind races with all the fear-reflex worry, and -- hey, wait a minute! I like roller coasters! Love them, in fact - they're my favorite ride. And I've done them over and over again, and each time I want to go back for more.

Ah, never underestimate the power of cheesy metaphors. I'll leave you now, before the soundtrack starts to kick in...