This is going to be a short post. One that’s badly over due. August 12th, the National Botanical Garden Titan Arum, a.k.a. the Corpse Flower bloomed. That was a Monday. I had class and therefore couldn’t go. But Tuesday morning, I was on the metro going to see it. Here are the pictures.

The Corpse Flower blooms once every 10 years (if not longer), with the bloom closing after a day or two. Get your pics while you can!

The Corpse Flower blooms once every 10 years (if not longer), with the bloom closing after a day or two. Get your pics while you can!

I didn’t think it smelt like a corpse (not that I’ve ever smelt a corpse…). More like a moldy basement.

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I thought I’d post about this Kickstarter campaign that was brought to my attention since it’s a pretty awesome idea but only has a few more days to reach it’s funding goal. It’s called the Nourishmat. Basically, it’s a mat (with or without build-in irrigation) that you place on a small (4’x6′) plot of cleared dirt and it takes the guess work out of planting and watering your veggies. The plants are spaced according to companion gardening principles. So the place where you’d plant a tomato on the mat is next to where you’d plant a marigold, because marigolds help keep away the insects that eat tomato plants. They also have a smaller (2’x6′) Herbmat, if herbs are your preferred cup of tea.

(The following pictures are from the Nourishmat website.)

The Nourishmat

You grow the plants from seed balls, which are supposed to help prevent seeds from being washed away in the rain or picked off by birds.

The Herbmat, beautifully modeling the irrigation system.

One part of the Kickstarter campaign is that the creators are trying to bring these into schools, which I think it is a great idea. I remember my middle school had a small green house and in theory students were brought there for a few classes and allowed to help with the plants. But the greenhouse was so small and they weren’t growing much, so there wasn’t much to do or learn about. If a school could have a couple of these planted for their students, it would be a great opportunity. Plus, you end up with food to eat!

Anyway, if you like the idea, consider supporting them on Kickstarter!

Today was the last day for a long time (the rest of my life? We’ll see.) that I’ll eat meat. IMGP2813

I did not eat the fruits in the background. At least not yet. It was a pretty simple meal: spelt ribbon noodles (which pretty much taste like wheat noodles), tomato sauce and chunks of tomatoes, onions, carrots, and the very last of my chicken meat. It was good. Not AMAZING but good. And honestly the past few days I’ve been paying attention to the way meat tastes and have been thinking ‘Yeah, my taste buds clearly like this, but what are they really liking?’ Meats flavor is good, but it’s not very nuanced. I hope this is a sign that it’s going to be easier for me to give up on it than I may have once thought.

Now, I’m not going completely vegan yet since I still have eggs and some yogurt that was hidden in the fridge. I’ll definitely be finishing off the eggs this week and the yogurt, if it’s still good. Then I’ll give veganism a real honest try.

I’ve almost found suitable replacements for milk, the one item I was doubtful I could replace. Chocolate soy milk was already a favorite of mine, but I don’t really like regular or vanilla soy milk. I bought almond milk and flax milk to try them out.

Drinking this gives me good karma? I'm going to hold them to that!

Drinking this gives me good karma? I’m going to hold them to that!

The flax milk was okay but I realized that the”original” flavor has vanilla in it so it’s a lot like vanilla soy milk. I’m going to get “unsweetened” next time. The almond milk (which had  no vanilla) tasted like… guess what?…. ALMONDS! I don’t know why that surprised me so much. It was good for a few sips but then I got kind of tired of it. I think it’ll take a few more attempts for me to fully accept it as a year-long substitute for cow’s milk.

So yay for no more meat!

After my last post about Independence Day in Washington DC, I’m posting about something that is THOROUGHLY UNAMERICAN!

As of this weekend, give or take, I will be embarking on a little journey to change my diet. I’ve been watching documentaries on Netflix about high plant and low/no animal product diets, and they have me intrigued. I’ve been thinking about trying a vegatarian or vegan diet for a while, just to see what it’s like, and I think now is a good time for me to start. With it being the summer, I don’t have too much going on that a change in diet would be too hard or distracting and I’d have time to get used to it so, if I choose, I can maintain it during the fall semester.

The first documentary that got me hooked was Vegucated. I had seen films on the horrors of the meat industry before but I think this one was the straw that broken my back. I said “give or take” in the paragraph above because I have  half a carton of eggs and some left over chicken in the freezer that I don’t want to just throw away so I’ll probably eat that for a few more days while I taper off of animal foods. But after that I can pretty easily see myself as a vegetarian, if not a vegan. The thing that would keep me from full veganism would be milk and cheese. If I can live without those, then I might as well go vegan.

Look at all the colors!

Look at all the colors!

So anyway, I’ll be trying this for the rest of the summer. I’ve already bought a whole bunch of fruits, veggies, nuts, grains, and milk substitutes. Although I recognize it’ll be tough at first (especially when I’m on campus and just want something quick to eat), I think I’ll be able to stick to it. For my New Year’s Resolution this year, I vowed to not drink any soda and I haven’t since January 11th (that’s when I made the resolution). Plus I love fruits and veggies, especially raw ones. And I love juice. Seriously. I’m basically Buster Bluth when it comes to juice.

One thing that will work against me is that, for the most part, I do love meat. But there was a time when I also loved soda and I’ve pretty much moved on from that bad relationship, so in a few weeks maybe I’ll feel like that about meat too. 

I guess now in addition to blogging about flowers, this little project that is supposedly about grad school will also be about my adventures in vegetarianism.

PS If you’re interested in the other documentaries I’ve been watching on having a more plant-based diet…

For the 4th of July, I spent most of the day visiting the Smithsonian. I decided to finally do something I’ve been planning since I started grad school aaaaaaannnnnnndddddd STUDIED AT THE UNITED STATES BOTANICAL GARDEN! WEEEEE! And yes, it was as much fun as I make it sound. I highly recommend visiting it if you’re in DC and you like nature.

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Before I got to the garden, I popped out of the Smithsonian metro stop and found myself in the middle of the Smithsonian Folk Festival. I’d never heard of it before but apparently it happens every year around the 4th of July. This is what I get for only ever coming in the evening for the fireworks. It was neat, particularly the Hungarian Heritage section. I had some goulash and moved on to studying.

Look a Hungarian Puli Dog! I like how the artist really captured their awesome Rasta look.

Look a Hungarian Puli Dog! I like how the artist really captured their awesome Rasta look.

My other reason for going into DC was to try and get pictures of the fireworks. As I was taking them it was hard to tell if they were actually coming out, since most of them looked blurry on my cameras review screen. Once they were on my laptop, I saw I had gotten (or lucked into) some good ones.

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I can’t seem to change the orientation of these photos in the gif… I play around with it more and see if I can fix it later.

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My blog that’s supposed to be about graduate school is quickly becoming a blog for my super amateur photography. I don’t know how I feel about that. If my plans for tomorrow go well, I should have some (hopefully snazzy) fireworks photos to post next.

A lot of my photos in this batch are darker than I’d like because of all the raininess that’s been happening. I have to figure out how to either get brighter photos without the flash or to use with flash without it washing out the details of what I’m photographing…

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The roses have bloomed!

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Today has been a big day for animals at my house, in that I acquired two delta betta fish and one disabled bunny. While the betta fish I will be keeping and naming, the baby bunny will be going to a wildlife sanctuary in the morning. Right now it’s huddled in a box with an older shirt and a carrot for a pillow. It’s a sad little bunny. There’s something wrong with its head or ear because I found it hopping in circles. Pretty sure it’s momma abandoned it.

Poor little baby bunny that can't hop right.

Poor little baby bunny that can’t hop right. Or rather it can only hop right. It’s the Zoolander of rabbits.

IMGP2365As for the bettas (which are in separate bowls), I now have to come up with names for them. To do that, I’m creating a poll (at the bottom of the post). Feel free to suggest an alternative pair of names:

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Well, my goal of posting regularly seems to have fallen to the wayside but this time I have a good reason why. Even though the wireless router in my house seems to be sending out a signal that my laptop was picking up, for the past two (or three? It’s been so long I’ve lost my concept of web time!) weeks my laptop hasn’t actually been able to connect with the network. Weird. So after pestering my landlady multiple times, she finally got back to me having scheduled a guy to come out and fix it.

And now it’s fixed, yay!

And now here are some photos to look at!

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I realize I forgot the second installment of my Scientific Sundays posts. This series is not getting off to a good start. I’ll forgive it since it’s finals week and although I am reading and dissecting research, it’s not for the purpose of blog writing. Next Sunday, I’ll have to write two posts to atone.

On to the purpose of this post! I’ve been wanting to get a bike for a while now. I live within walking distance of my campus but it’s still about a 30-40 minute walk depending on exactly where I’m going. The campus has buses but the bus I take doesn’t run during the summer or winter. Since I’m pretty sure walking to campus over the summer contributed to my sprained foot and ankle last fall, it was even more important for me to look into alternative modes of transportation. I COULD just buy a parking pass and drive to campus, but as a poor college student I’d rather spend my money on a more permanent solution. A parking pass costs $438 per year (yikes!). While a bike is more expensive in the immediate, I can ride it to more than just campus and take it with me after I graduate.

So last week I finally bought a bike – yay! The one I chose I ended up getting somewhat on a whim (which is probably not the way you want to go about spending nearly $1000 dollars…) but I think I made a good choice. I got a Breezer Uptown Infinity Step-Thru (meaning it has no top-tube).

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I’d never heard of Breezer before but the bike looked good (it’s apparently a European-style town bike), had features I wanted and was in my budget. Actually, the store that I bought it at (College Park Bicycles) was selling it for about $200 less than if you had gotten it with the company. The features it had were pretty much what I was looking for in a commuter bike, which is what the company bills it as:

  • Back pannier rack, which clamps for hauling stuff not in pannier bags
  • Bell for alerting wayward pedestrians
  • Built-in bike lock for the back wheel (not a long term security measure, but nice for quick stops into a 7-Eleven)
  • Enclosed chain to protect any work-appropriate pants I’m wearing
  • Place for a water bottle holder, which I went ahead and added on
  • Responsive brakes
  • Smooth ride
  • Awesome gear shift gauge

I hate to say it because it’s totally a cosmetic feature but the gauge that shows you what gear you’re in really sold the bike for me.

  • Look at this thing!

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When you shift the gear, it adjusts the incline of the ground under the little dude on the bike according to the incline that gear is appropriate for. I’ll never again struggle with figuring out what gear I’m supposed to be in, which kind of happens to me… a lot…

Friday is Bike 2 Work Day in my area, so I’ll be participating in that. My mom’s doing it with me and will apparently be giving me a crash course in repairing flat tires, panniers and other important bike stuff. My dad has also volunteered to teach me all I need to know about bike maintenance – ah the helpfulness of parents! Being able to change a flat, or at least patch it up until I can get it back to College Park Bikes, in this area is essential. My roommate’s bike has received 3 flat tires this semester alone and the only reason she doesn’t have more is she never bothered to get the last one fixed. With the right care on my part, I should get many years of happy biking out of this baby!

I admit I held off writing this post because I wanted to think of a good title. Unfortunately, nothing could top the short and simple one I used. The 14th Dalai Lama came to give the Anwar Sadat Lecture for Peace at UMD on the 7th. It was pretty awesome. He had two main points that I hope everyone who was there holds on to:

  1. At the end of the day, everyone whether they are allies or enemies is the same. Everyone wants to be happy and reduce their unhappiness. Everyone feels the same emotions. The differences between us are only one layer of who we are and we need to look deeper to see what connects us instead of focusing on what divides us.
  2. The above point is hard to achieve, but it’s worthy and necessary if we want a peaceful world.

As a lesser but still important point, he made the analogy that belief is like medicine. Everyone has different ways of thinking and different problems, so we need different types of beliefs/religions/what-have-you to help people on an individual level, much like how a doctor chooses a specific medicine to cure a specific ailment. I like that analogy. I’ll be using that.

And now for a collection of pictures, because you weren’t really there unless you have pictures!

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Calendar of Adventures

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