Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rite of spring passage

I feel like I might get a couple of "amens" from the crowd with this one. So, let's go. Does anyone else experience the same rite of passage that I do every spring?

I don't mean allergies. Luckily, that has never been something I've had to deal with. (Knock on wood.)

I don't mean thunderstorms and tornado watches. However, I'm pretty sure we're going to be getting into one of those shortly.

I don't mean crazy, squirrely kids anxiously counting down to the last day of school. Though, we do have those in our house. (17 days for us Olathians. Aaack!)

I'm talking about the horrific experience that happens to the majority of us lighter-pigmented humans. Us pale-as-snow folk. Those of us who are melanin-challenged.

I'm talking the first sunburn of the spring.

Dun. Dun. Dun.

You never expect it. It hasn't been warm enough. You've been wearing jeans, jackets, and light sweaters on most days. Not much of your skin is even exposed. Then, comes a warm, sunny day. It is beautiful, in fact. And, you're just just sitting outside on this beautiful day.

Perhaps watching your 6-year-old's soccer game. A light breeze is blowing, so you don't feel hot. You're enjoying the sun and the breeze. You don't even think about the fact that your skin is as pasty as a powdered donut. You're not thinking of the fact that this pasty powdered donut skin is definitely not prepared to be exposed to the vitamin D rays that come along with that warming sunshine.

So, you're just sitting there, happy as a clam. Or, as happy as I would be if I were actually eating said powdered donut. And, you don't feel a thing. You finish watching this so-called soccer game. Cheering loudly for your daughter, even though she mostly just prances down the field and avoids contact with the ball unless it is kicked directly at the spot where her feet happen to be standing. Ahem. Anyway. 

The game finishes. You pack up your chair and pick up your camera (though you have no shots of her actually touching the ball, so you're not sure why you continue bringing it).

Friday, April 15, 2016

I confess, I am an Egyptaholic

Since I already divulged one of my big geek interests last week, I thought I would just go ahead and get this one out there, too. I mean, as long as you're confessing, you might as well confess everything. You guys are cool with that, right? This totally public internet blog is surely just as sacred and secret as a confession booth. No one could possibly see this. We're in a safe place here.

Ok, here goes: I am an Egyptaholic. I have a weird obsession with Egyptology. Yep, I love ancient Egypt. It's true. Man, that feels good to get off my chest.

Now, don't start quizzing me about the different dynasties and and kingdoms and the years they covered. I can't quote all the minutiae. I know the basics: Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom, New Kingdom. God of the underworld: Osiris. Sun God: Ra. Goddess with a head of a cat: Bastet.

But I've never actually taken a class in ancient Egypt or Egyptology (oh, but if I could go back to school and redo it ... ). I have watched almost every documentary available on Netflix about Egypt's history. I've also read too many books to count about ancient Egypt. Both straight history and historical fiction. (I love Michelle Moran's historical fiction books, Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen, and Cleopatra's Daughter. Seriously, if you like historical fiction and Egypt, then these are your books. It's not just me, right?)

A couple of my favorite Michelle Moran books from my personal bookshelf.

I even have my very own favorite Egyptologist. I mean, doesn't everyone? Just me? Ok. Well, her name is Kara Cooney, and she is pretty amazing. You should totally follow her on Facebook just to see all the interesting articles she posts. (Side note: a friend once asked me, "So, I see you like a lot of things about Egypt on Facebook. What's that about?" I had to then sheepishly explain my obsession. I sounded like a total dork, I'm sure. Just like I do here. Ahem.) Unfortunately, Cooney's documentaries are no longer on Netflix, but she did write an awesome book called The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt. I devoured it. Seriously, so interesting. I highly recommend it.

Now, in addition to the girl crush I have on Kara Cooney, I have one on everyone's favorite Presidential historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin. I had the pleasure of going with my dad to a reading she did in Kansas City a couple years ago. It was awesome. One day, I hope to get a similar picture to the one below with Kara Cooney signing my copy of her book. Fingers crossed for that day.

Eeek! I was so stupid excited this night. Since, I already admitted I was a dork. Let's just fully embrace it here. If anyone asks, my dream dinner party would totally be me, Kara Cooney, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michelle Obama. I mean, I doubt I would be able to utter a word, but it would be epic nonetheless.

Anyway, I'm not sure if I can explain why I love ancient Egypt quite as much as I do. In my genealogy post, I wrote about my love for world history, and I suppose this obsession goes along with that. The whole history of Egypt just captures my imagination and won't let go. Think about it. This civilization began in approximately 3150 BC. That's more than 5,000 years ago. Five thousand years. FIVE THOUSAND. Can you even comprehend that? Here in the U.S., we think a building built in 1900 CE is old. Our country is not even 250 years old, yet. We've got 4,750 more years to reach the span of Egypt.

Ancient Egypt existed way before Jesus walked on water. Way before the Romans built the Colosseum. Way before the Kardashians ruined the selfie. Egypt has been around a long time, people.

A benefit of being an ancient civilization situated in a desert climate is that a lot of things managed to survive through the ages. Those dry, hot conditions tend to help with that. Having so many surviving tablets, papyri, temples, etc., feeds the imagination. "The more you know" and all that. It helps put you in the 5,000-year-old sandals of those ancient Egyptians as they walked on the banks of the Nile.

Maybe I would be just as obsessed with the aboriginal population of Australia if we could find as many surviving artifacts describing their ancient lives. Who knows? Oh, we'd also need a Rosetta Stone. Yeah, that helps us understand quite a bit.

So, one of the exciting things happening in Egyptology right now is the theory circulating that King Tut's tomb was not originally made for him. Nicholas Reeves, a British archaeologist, published a paper last year theorizing that another chamber may lay behind the walls of the famous Tut tomb. And, that when Tut died so young, he was hastily placed in a pre-existing burial chamber. Many are hoping that Queen Nefertiti's tomb is the one that lays beyond the walls. Teams have been painstakingly scanning the walls and analyzing the data for the past couple months. It's all very exciting. You know, for me. And other Egyptaholics like me. I am anxiously awaiting an announcement about the conclusion of these scans and analysis like a normal person would wait for what, a movie release? A sports trade announcement? I don't know.

Anyway, this may seem like a random topic for a post. I mean, how many geeky obsessions can I possibly confess to on one blog? If we're keeping a tally, it's kind of high, and I'm slightly embarrassed. But, here's the exciting thing that is happening soon that actually made me think to write this post: a speaker is coming to JCCC to give a presentation called, "Unlocking the Great Pyramid." Can you believe that I'm going to go? Oh yeah. I'm obviously excited. Will I be one of the very few people in my age demographic? Probably. But, I'm getting used to it. I am a dork at heart, that's clear. I should just accept it and embrace it. So, here goes.

I am an Egyptaholic and proud of it.

See you guys at the lecture?

Oh well, more Egypt for me.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The importance of the inane

I usually keep things pretty light on here, but I'm about to get a little serious. Stick with me.

I love writing. Always have. This blog gives me a place to write about silly, stupid stuff. Stuff that I've been doing. Stuff that I've been thinking about. Stuff that has no real value in everyday life. Sometimes, I even view it as a kind of challenge. Can I make something stupid, silly and inane into something somewhat interesting or entertaining?

One time, in college, I was assigned to write a story for the Kansan (KU's student newspaper) about this scientist at KU who had published a paper linking modern-day birds to dinosaurs. (Yes, this is how long ago I was in college. This was considered a new discovery back then. Please stop staring at my gray hairs.) Anyway, I interviewed this scientist and proceeded to listen while he showed me drawers and drawers and drawers of dead birds in the top floor of the KU Natural History Museum. For like 2 hours. Two hours of staring at dead birds and examining their bones. Two hours. Two freaking hours, people!

I couldn't figure out a polite way to get out of that cramped attic/bird mausoleum. (Looking back, this is when I should've figured out I was never going to be the next Edna Payne. I am simply too concerned with being polite to make it as a reporter.) After all the hours of courteous "hmmm"s and "how interesting"s, it became my job to turn the interview and all other pertinent information into something a college student would read and perhaps find interesting. I don't know if I actually accomplished that, but it is still, to this day, one of the articles of which I'm most proud. Simply because of how hard I worked to turn it into something someone might want to read.

So, that's what I do a lot on here. I take something miniscule and see if I can make it into something entertaining. Hell, I once wrote an entire post about Little Debbie Snack Cakes. Yes, an entire blog post about the deliciousness of a child's processed dessert snack. I don't know that I always succeed in creating entertaining entries, but it's the effort and the work that I enjoy. It's using the part of my brain that I fear has gone dormant from years of child-rearing and non-use.

Monday, April 4, 2016

DNA – No Way!

Ok guys, so I've never made any secret of the fact that I'm a total dork. It's true. I accept it. I bore people all the time with anecdotes from the latest documentary I've watched. I listen to history, feminist and freakonomics podcasts. My favorite gift every Christmas is a different college lecture series about words, grammar, or the history of language. (Thanks, Dad!)  Yeah, I'm a complete and total dork.

But, one of my biggest geek interests is in genealogy. (Sometimes, I swear there's a 70-year-old woman stuck in my body.) My mom has done a lot of research about our personal family tree, and we know the names going back quite a ways. But I just can't get enough of all things family history. And, not even just mine. I adore the show "Who Do You Think You Are?" on TLC (the latest season premiere was last night!) and "Finding Your Roots" on PBS. I'm giddy like a schoolgirl when a new episode is on.

These shows are so intriguing to me because not only do you get to find out the ancestors of people (famous or not, doesn't matter to me), but you get to take a ride through the history of the world as you do it. If you live in America but are not Native American, well, then you're ancestors came from somewhere else in the world at some point. The shows take you back to all these countries where people lived and, from some reason or another, left and came to America.

(Side note: there are many seasons of an English version of "Who Do You Think You Are?", which obviously wouldn't have the whole coming to America aspect. But, I can't get my hands on it. It's stuck across the pond. I've tried. That's how pathetic my obsession with these shows is.)

I always think about what it must've taken someone to leave everything they've ever known to set out across an ocean to find their place in the world. It's fascinating to me. The courage and fortitude people have shown throughout history is insane. It makes my suburban dilemmas seem pretty pathetic in comparison. I never had to escape a Russian pogrom or be chased out of my country by a totalitarian dictator. These are real things, people.

Also, it's crazy to think about the myriad choices all these people made and how it all ended up funneling to you and your DNA. I mean, it's nuts. One great-great-great-great-grandmother falling in love with Peter instead of John, and your whole DNA could be different. I could very well be a super tall genius blonde model if not for that one choice. (I mean, I'm almost there as it is, but, you know, I'm sure it was only that one choice that ruined my chances.)

In these shows, they often perform DNA tests on the guests to discover what their DNA can tell them about where their ancestors came from. It's mind-blowing to think that with a tiny little spit, scientists can tell you that at some point you had an ancestor from China that you never knew about. It can also find that you're related to someone else who had the same test done. In one episode of "Finding Your Roots," Bill Maher and Bill O'Reilly found out that they are distantly related. Whew, that Thanksgiving table would be a boisterous one, for sure. Just make sure to hide the knives.

Anyway, all this buildup to tell you the really thrilling news of my day. I got my very own DNA ancestry kit in the mail. What?!?!? Yes.

Me with my very own DNA kit!

The official kit!
The inside. Because I'm sure you were curious.