Friday, May 27, 2016

Brick by Brick

SNEAK PREVIEW: Lucky Pacific Science Center members that we are, we had a chance to preview "The Art of the Brick" today. 

Named one of CNN’s Top Ten “Global Must-See Exhibitions,” The Art of the Brick" is a critically acclaimed collection made exclusively from one of the most recognizable toys in the world, the LEGO® brick.

It featured the creations of artist Nathan Sawaya. He's pictured below, in a video we watched while in one of the two interior holding tanks before one's let in the exhibit.
 The first antechamber has Sawaya's take on super famous classics, like Starry Night ...
 and The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
It was interesting in this section looking at the use of LEGO bricks on the flat/stacked vertically as opposed to ones where the nubs stuck out toward you (as in Starry Night).
I had CJ pose with Mona Lisa for scale. (Scale of Mona Lisa, not CJ, that is.) Most of the pieces in this first antechamber were done on a 1:1 scale.
I loved Rembrandt (below). It will shock you to know that the masses of two year olds brought to the art show by their parents who apparently thought it was a WORLD OF PLAYING WITH LEGO THINGS weren't as entranced by Rembrandt, or the Mona Lisa or any of it.

Don't get me wrong, I also like two-year olds. I just felt bad for all the pre- and primary schoolers who came to the LEGO exhibit thinking it was going to be a place to play with LEGO bricks. It was so very much not that. It was an art exhibit with artifacts made from LEGO bricks.
However, that fact didn't stop parents from letting their toddlers run unsupervised and climb all over the exhibits when we were there opening day. 
In one of the holding tanks pre exhibit, we were all specifically told to stay an arm's length away from all of the sculptures.

I can't tell you how many little people I saw literally climbing over the DO NOT TOUCH signs. 
I don't mean to sound like an old curmudgeon, but it was disturbing. 
 Despite the distractions young and old, we soldiered on.

 My personal favorite sculpture was a Moai scultpure, a/k/a an Easter Island head!
 It was masterfully crafted!
 Queen Nefertiti was also looking splendid.
Sawaya doesn't just do his own riffs on others' works. He is an artist in his own right. Here's a sculpture where the artist loses his own hands. Sawaya said it's his worst fear.
There was a cool gallery featuring photos were just a couple of elements were replaced with LEGO sculptures. 
 The sculpture below, "Be Different" was made specifically for the PacSci show! 

Below is the artist's self portrait. It was about 5-feet high. That's a lot of LEGO bricks!

Here's what the kids had to say about their sneak preview of the big show. Here's Annabelle's take. ... 
“Art of the Brick” is an exhibit at the Pacific Science Center about sculptures made out of LEGO bricks made by artist Nathan Sawaya. Nathan has been making these sculptures for a long time, and a surprising amount of them were on display at the exhibit. Most of the models (and some LEGO “paintings”) are actually 1:1 scale to their inspiration!
 The sculptures are crazy detailed, and I only saw one sloped LEGO brick in the whole exhibition! The sculptures were really awesome and even lifelike. My favorite was the Maoi statue. It was exactly to scale, but made entirely of LEGO bricks! Even though they are held together with super glue, the statues are very fragile, so you aren’t supposed to come within an arm’s length of them. But many little kids apparently thought the exhibit was “World of LEGOs” because they were super close to breaking every sculpture. But nonetheless, the exhibit was really cool and I thought his original sculptures were some of the coolest. I would recommend it on a day when it’s not very busy so you don’t have a heart attack from watching 3-year-olds almost destroy millions of dollars of work.
And here's what CJ had to say ...
"The Art of the Brick" is an exhibit at the Pacific Science Center featuring several pieces of artwork made by Nathan Sawaya, an artist who primarily works with the medium of LEGO bricks. According to the Pacific Science Center's website, "The Art of the Brick" was named one of CNN’s Top Ten “Global Must-See Exhibitions.” According to Nathan's website, previously a NYC corporate lawyer, Sawaya is the first artist to ever take LEGO into the art world and is the author of two best selling books. His unique exhibition is the first of its kind to focus exclusively on LEGO as an art medium and has broken attendance records around the globe. The creations, constructed from countless individual LEGO pieces, were built from standard bricks beginning as early as 2002.
At the exhibit, there were several pieces of art, both variations of iconic paintings rebuilt with LEGO bricks, along with original pieces made by Nathan. For an example of a LEGO variation of an earlier painting, Nathan built a 1:1 replica of the Mona Lisa using 4,573 bricks. Nathan said that the Mona Lisa was "likely the most famous painting in Western art," and explained some of the process of making the LEGO Mona Lisa. Apparently, Nathan decided to highly pixelate the brick replica of the painting, rather than trying to capture the details by using very small pieces. According to Nathan, people might have difficulty making out a blurred picture of his recreation from a blurred recreation of the real deal (I doubt that claim).
However, there were less-than impressive parts of our tour. (Hint: It had little to do with the actual art pieces.) There were several small children at the exhibit, frequently breaking the rules and being disruptive to other people's experiences. At the beginning of the tour, one of the employees set a rule that the closest you could get to one piece of art was outside of your arm's length; Unfortunately, many of the kids that were there desperately wanted to assemble and disassemble the sculptures. My mom's guess was that parents mistook the exhibit for a "Let's play with LEGO!" exhibit or something similar to that.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hit Parade

SLUGFEST: Yes, it was a school night. More specifically, a school night before the Big Deal annual state standardized test. But the draw of Safeco Field is just too much to say 'no' to, so off we went.
Thanks to Rick and Rachel, we had awesome seats right behind home plate. That gave us a good view of all the action, from the umpires' pre-game pow-wow ...
to batters in the on-deck circle.
We could also see in the dugout.
And were close enough to home plate to see when the batters disagreed with the umpire's call. Clearly Kyle Seager didn't think that last pitch was a strike. ... 
We had a good enough view to call balls and strikes (not that our opinions mattered to the umpire.)

What a game it was. A slugfest for the Mariners, they scored 13 runs total, 9 more than they needed to beat the As last night. 

Good times!

BINGE WATCH: This afternoon, the kids and I had a semi-mindless manual labor task (attaching fasteners to little art objects), and so to keep our minds occupied while working, we watched a few TED Talks. 

First up was an interesting account that explained the scientific origins for the myth of the Minotaur. No surprise, it appears the myth was an attempt by a long ago civilization to make sense of their world. 

The talk was authored by Matt Kaplan, with animation by Artrake Studio. You can watch it here:
We also listened to a talk from "The School of Life" series of TED Talks. It was about being a good listener. The talk pointed out that being a good listener isn't something people talk or teach much about, but that it is a skill that can be learned.

We also watched four or so episodes of the series "How It's Made" on the Science Channel. We learned about everything from amplifiers to pliers, harmonicas to baseboard heaters, licorice to umbrellas, Ferrari motors to shoe polish. That show is always interesting. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Close Call

 Source: NASA's Hubble telescope. Mars' Hellas Planitia basin, a 3.5-billion-year-old asteroid crater.

STAR GAZING: We made sure to step outside after dark on May 22 and check out the Red Planet. That day, Mars was in opposition to our Earth, meaning the sun and Mars ended were on precisely opposite ends of Earth. 

Opposition is a good time to take a photo of Mars, because it's fully illuminated by the sun from the perspective of Earth. The Image above was taken by the Hubble space telescope just prior to May 22. 

On May 30, Mars and Earth will be 46.8 million miles away, the closest the two planets have been in 11 years.
This video tells viewers more about the opposition.

PINNED IN:  So what does one do to kill time when their kids are doing their civic duty, taking the state standardized tests (as flawed as they are)?

In my case, you sit in your car, hold your breath and Mod Podge cute designs (made from strips of scrapbook paper) onto wooden clothespins. 

The product is supposedly water based, and I had all the windows down, but I think I'm slightly more cross-eyed and brain damaged than I was yesterday. 

But they're cute, right?

The clothespins were part of a bulletin board make over. Here's the before. ...
 And here's the after - after as in covered in burlap, bordered in burlap ribbon, and sporting a couple of jute 'clotheslines' for people to hang things from.
 We also made over a smaller, nearby bulletin board. Info about clubs will be posted here. 

POINT, COUNTERPOINT: I honestly don't remember exactly what the kids were debating here, I just knew I wanted to take a photo of it. 
 The looks on their faces are priceless. 
In the end, we always wind up on the same page. 

PINKY: While out and about today, we stopped to admire these nearly neon pink pretties.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Of Masks and Manikins

           Credits: NASA/David C. Bowman

SMART DUMMIES: News of NASA's campaign to return to manned spaceflight continues to come in, one milestone after another. 

Recently, crash test dummies outfitted with modified Advanced Crew Escape System suits were placed in the crew seats of an Orion test capsule during a drop test at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. This test is in preparation for Orion's future splashdown landings in the Pacific Ocean.

Engineers drop an Orion test capsule with crash-test dummies
Engineers drop an Orion test capsule with crash-test dummies inside into NASA Langley Research Center’s 20-foot-deep Hydro Impact Basin to simulate what the spacecraft may experience when splashing down in the Pacific Ocean after deep-space missions.
Credits: NASA
Data from the dummies will help engineers ensure astronauts aren't injured during splashdown.
“Not only can we learn how the structure reacts to a water impact in these tests, but we can also understand how splashdown loads are transmitted to the seats and crew,” said Mark Baldwin, crew injury lead for Orion prime contractor, Lockheed Martin.
Some of the sensors on the dummies measure localized responses at the head and neck, to protect against common impact injuries like concussion and spinal fracture.
This recent test was the fourth vertical drop test. In the coming months, five swing tests of the capsule with the fully suited dummies will be conducted.
Eventually, and Orion capsule will be placed atop the powerful Space Launch System rocket, hopefully for NASA’s journey to Mars.
HAPPY WOOKIEE: The woman who won the Internet today is a mom in Texas who loves Star Wars. Candace Payne posted a video of herself trying on a Chewbacca mask that has built in sound effects. Hilarity ensured. The video had over 70 MILLION views in 24 hours. 
Being the big Star Wars fans we are, of course we had to rush right out and buy one (not an easy task, as they were selling like hotcakes after the video went viral).
We ordered ours online from Target, and picked it up this afternoon. The kids experimented with it in the car. Here's Annabelle trying it on for size. ...
Poor CJ found out that being a Wookiee isn't all that easy. ...

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Lift Off

BARRED:  This afternoon, as we were delivering  sunflower cupcakes to a neighbor in need of a pick-me-up, as we drove toward our 'hood's hub I remembered it was Thursday and that meant drop in art day at the library.

Annabelle immediately perked up and so after the cupcake drop was complete, we hustled to the library. She was literally skipping with joy as we headed to our destination. 

I'll let her tell you a bit more about the session. ...
Today I went to a fun drop-in art class at our local Seattle Public Library. The library has drop-in art classes every Thursday, from 4:00 to 5:30. Today, we made soap! The ingredients we used were rose petals, chamomile, lavender, flax seeds, coffee beans, scents (we used sweet-grass or tangerine. You only need 1 or 2 drops, because the scents are very strong,) and for the actual soapy part, glycerin. First, put rose petals, chamomile, lavender or flax seeds, along with coffee beans if you want, plus a drop of scent into a soap bar mold. (you can also put a marble inside for extra fun! When you use the soap enough, you’ll be able to get the marble out!) Melt the glycerin until it’s a liquid. Then, you pour the glycerin into the mold! While we waited for the soap to harden (about 20 minutes), we did scribble drawing! To make a scribble drawing, you just scribble on you page and then draw what you see in the lines! Once your soap hardens, you can pop it out of the mold and wrap it in tissue paper. These little bars make great gifts!
Annabelle eked every one of the 90 minutes out of the session. Our house certainly smells lovely because of her efforts. 

PRESENTING:  Today, it was CJ's turn to share with peers a topic he's researched for the past few weeks, human-fueled climate change. 

CJ came out wearing this for the presentation. I promptly sent him back to his room to reconsider his wardrobe for such an important topic. 
Once he got his clothes in order, the rest flowed nicely.
In fact, he got a standing ovation from his classmates when all as said and done. :)
Here's a link to the graphics CJ used during his presentation.

ROCKET REMODEL: Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows we're scavengers. We love finding treasures for free or next-to-nothing. 

Recently, a resident of our neighborhood posted they had a surplus rocket on a Facebook group. This rocket happens to be a kids' play structure. Immediately, a number of people weighed in saying they wanted it. We were lucky enough to be gifted it. 
It's a neat little unit. Sturdy, stable. No sharp edges. The slide is commercial grade, in good shape. The rocket fuselage is made from wood and compressed fiberboard, painted.

We're definitely going to repaint it before it goes to its new home. I think it needs to look more Saturn V or SpaceX than Fisher Price.  That, and it needs lights. And some sort of sensory station in the crew capsule - lots of toggles and buttons! And a star map inside
its nosecone. This will be a fun project. We've always wanted to build a better rocket! 

Stay tuned for progress shots.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Sing a Song

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Yesterday afternoon, CJ and Annabelle took to the stage yesterday afternoon as part of the talent show at their school. They were super stoked to have special accompaniment from big brother Kennedy!

PANDA-MONIUM:  The kids continue to be involved in a social issues class twice weekly. They've been working on presentations that involve environmental issues as of late. Annabelle chose to talk about pandas, because, as she put it, "They're black, white and ADORABLE." 

She talked about the habitat of the pandas disappearing, pandas disappearing, and why we should care.
And she made "Panda Packs" to hand out to the audience members.  
SCIENTIFIC METHOD: Annabelle is going to take the state's standardized test for fifth graders tomorrow morning. 

In preparation, a couple of weeks ago, she/we took the online practice test. It was pretty darn straightforward. Here's a sample question ... 
Um, yeah. This is not rocket surgery.

But one thing we wanted to brush up on were the steps involved in the scientific method. We went to YouTube for a catchy song that might help cement the steps into the mind.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Moving Targets

GARDEN PARTY: We spent a few hours Friday afternoon helping a community garden get established, and working on a community-involved art project.

I was mostly at the art table, helping kids decorate and melt plastic cups into Chihuly-inspired art objects.

Meanwhile, CJ and Annabelle toiled in the garden. CJ worked hard shoveling buckets full of soil amendments.
Much mulch was moved and plants were planted. It was 80-degrees plus in full on sunshine. Everyone worked up a sweat, and I made two runs for Popsicles!
SATURDAY AT SAFECO:  Saturday night, we headed to the stadium district for some fun. We went early and shopped at the always interesting Uwajimaya
We made our way to the stadium in time to see Moose Man (Annabelle's Moose hat prompted him to seek us out).
We also spent some time along the bullpen wall, where Angels catcher Geovany Soto tossed Annabelle a batting practice ball.
 And we arrived in time to collect some Mariners' swag, including Kyle Seager bobblehead dolls. Sweet!
 We also had time to visit the kids' zone on the 300 level above home plate. 
 The kids played some virtual baseball, and got a sense for just how big Big Unit Randy Johnson is.
They also posed in some cutouts for photo opps, but they set up was kind of creepy. The scale is wrong. 
It gives the poser no neck and the faces are too big. :0 
WHO ARE YOU?: Sunday night, we had an amazing time at Key Arena, in the company of living rock legends, The Who.
More on this later, as the show deserves its own blog post!

MOMENTOUS CIRCUIT: Monday, May 16, marks the day the International Space Station has made its 100,000th orbit of the Earth

The space station has been in orbit for over 17 years (!), and during that time, over 1,922 research investigations have been performed. More than 1,200 scientific results publications have been produced as a result.