Saturday, July 12, 2014

Carver Day

Today we went to Carver Day at the George Washington Carver National Monument in nearby Diamond, Missouri. Carver was born in Diamond and went to school in Neosho, so he's quite the local hero. He was born a slave and later became a scientist who promoted peanuts and other crops as an alternative to the overplanting of cotton in the south. According to Wikipedia the monument "was the first national monument dedicated to an African American and the first to honor someone other than a president." Pretty cool.

There was another little Wikipedia section that I thought was awesome. Carver died in 1943, which was smack in the middle of World War Dos.

A movement to establish a U.S. national monument to Carver began before his death. Because of World War II, such non-war expenditures were banned by presidential order. Missouri senator Harry S. Truman sponsored a bill in favor of a monument. In a committee hearing on the bill, one supporter said:
"The bill is not simply a momentary pause on the part of busy men engaged in the conduct of the war, to do honor to one of the truly great Americans of this country, but it is in essence a blow against the Axis, it is in essence a war measure in the sense that it will further unleash and release the energies of roughly 15,000,000 Negro people in this country for full support of our war effort."

So in a roundabout way George Washington Carver, with the help of peanuts, defeated Hitler.

This may seem silly but I was impressed as soon as we parked. It was a hot day but the parking was nice and shady.

There was a keynote speaker which I didn't find particularly interesting. State Representative Bill Reiboldt was on hand to give a speech and present an award as well.

We went on a little tour of the grounds. There was a statue or two of Carter, a pond, a house, and a cemetery

Probably the most amusing part of our trip was the class on how to make peanut milk.

First you grind up the peanuts with a mortar and pestle. Then you add water and strain the solids. It instantly turns white as milk. We weren't allowed to drink it, but it smelled very peanutty. Apparently this was a life saver for babies in war-torn countries at the time.

We hardly had the time or energy to even glance at the museum after all of the festivities, so we will have to make another trip sometime. Maybe in the winter when there will be less going on.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Newton County Fair

Now that I'm back home and I see that I took 2,000+ pictures of the Newton County Fair, I think it's fair to say that I was thoroughly engaged by the experience. Everything and everyone at the fair seemed to really be alive and moving, so I went a bit GIF crazy in order to capture that. You can take a moment now to curse me while the page loads.

Neosho is the seat of Newton County, and it just so happens that Neosho is where the county fairgrounds are located. Why the heck not?

There were a couple of animal related events that we had planned on seeing before arriving, but once we got there we just went with the flow. There weren't many signs or maps or explanations around, but happenstance treated us pretty darn well I'd say.

Should Lydia buy me a corndog?

We had a chuckle at some pretty country-looking food trucks.

This one was really awesome. It was a hippy bus that somehow had the food grill under the hood. Hippies aren't renowned for cleanliness so we gave it a pass. Cool bus though.

After a snack and some reconnaissance we found some bleachers where some animal showing was happening.

In came the cows.

I had a question so burning that I had to just blurt it out to a nearby stranger. What the heck is up with those sticks? Each contestant was scratching their cow's belly with a stick with a little spiky crook on the end, like a really long fireplace poker. Their answer was that it kept the animal calm. I can't imagine how that's possible but ok. 

The competition was very democratically done by sound of applause. We mostly just clapped for whoever had the cutest kid. Possibly in response to this, most of the cows brought kids.

This guy was pretty funny. When one of his rivals was being interviewed by the MC, he made the guy's cellphone ring to interrupt. Alas, being kidless, he did not have much of a chance.

Next were some sheep? They were pretty blah blah boring sheep if you ask me.

I really enjoyed the piggy mayhem (mayham?) that unfolded once the pigs were unleashed. The previous animals obeyed their masters for the most part, but the pigs were pretty much going to do whatever the heck they felt like doing.

I happily hummed a little Benny Hill theme song.

I'm not certain, but I think that the only prize the winners of the various contests received was from a collection bucket that was passed around the crowd during the event. The victor was simply handed the bucket upon winning, and no mention was made as to how much money was inside. I think that added to the wholesome simplicity of the events.

After the craziness was over we went and visited some of the animals in their dorm rooms. 

I don't really get what this one was up to but he was determined.

Haves and the Have Nots.

We then returned to the apartment on the square. On a neighborhood walk we discovered a new neighbor. I was pretty interested in watching her because I've never seen a live skunk before. She was hopping around and gobbling up all of the bugs that congregate under the street lights. 

I mostly just like this one because the street lights look cool.

Before moving to Neosho I was concerned that there wouldn't be much to do and that I would get bored. I've really been pleasantly surprised.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Houston, We Have a Lydia

We got fancy in Houston for a few hours. 

One part of town had the coolest sci-fi intersections ever. 

We had lunch at the very shmancy RDG Bar Annie. I knew it was going to be an upscale place, so I wore my nicest beer t-shirt. I had the Ahi Tuna Salad (seared rare): with roasted beets, frisee, pecan butter, and truffle vinaigrette. Lydia had the Huevos Rancheros: crispy tortilla, black beans, Mexican chorizo, avacado slices, and salsa. Lunch is such a magically cheap time to go to expensive restaurants.

Our big stop of the day was the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. We had just been to the Johnson Presidential Museum a few days prior so I already had the necessary Johnson background to put the history of the place in perspective. Kennedy of course launched the space race, but Johnson finished it.

A fun fact I read on Wikipedia while researching the space race was that Kennedy had initially suggested that the US and Soviets cooperate to get to the moon:

On September 20, 1963, in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly, President Kennedy proposed that the United States and the Soviet Union join forces in their efforts to reach the moon. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev initially rejected Kennedy's proposal; however, during the next few weeks he concluded that both nations might realize cost benefits and technological gains from a joint venture. Khrushchev was poised to accept Kennedy's proposal at the time of Kennedy's assassination in November 1963.
Khrushchev and Kennedy had developed a measure of rapport during their years as leaders of the world's two superpowers, especially during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. That trust was lacking with Vice President Johnson; when Johnson assumed the Presidency after Kennedy's assassination, Khrushchev dropped the idea of a joint moon program.

Anyway, back to the tour. I am fascinated by the space race and by the possibilities for future space travel, so I loved this place. The place could use a little updating here and there, though. The biggest setback was our fellow tourists. There were so many rude foreigners there with uncontrolled children that I decided that it was like being in the cry room at the United Nations.

I impressed Lydia with some slo-mo space walking.

"Wait till I tell my friends back home I touched a moon rock!"

Robonaut (wiki page) is half awesome and half terrifying.

We then went and got in line to take the tour. When we arrived, we were forced to choose between 3 different tours with only a fairly rudimentary explanation of what each entailed. It was stressful but we were able to make a decision and continue on our journey.

We exchanged some friendly chit-chat with the family in front of us on the tour tram. That is, until they scolded a French family for taking their seats and made them get up later on. That was awkward for everyone involved.

We got to see mission control but it wasn't super interesting: pretty much looked like a room with a bunch of normal-seeming computers sitting on desks. I'd much rather see the room as it was during the Apollo program, but I may be a weirdo.


We sat through a really interesting presentation on the Mars rovers. In a particularly memorable example of the Lord of the Flies children situation at the Space Center, the poor man had to stop in the middle of the show to tell the parents to take their kids outside if they are crying, and get the ones running around the room to sit the hell down.

One thing that was especially awesome was when he revealed that the tires on the rovers have little patterns on them. According to the NASA website "the pattern is Morse code for JPL, the abbreviation for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where the rover was designed and built, and the mission is managed." How awesome is that? I personally would have made the tires spell out "F U Ruskies".

After purchasing the obligatory astronaut ice cream, we concluded a solid day with a short trip to the coastal city of Galveston.

You pretty much have to eat seafood when you're near the ocean. Even if that seafood has no chance of being from anywhere near where you are. It's a rule.

I ordered some oysters. From our seats at the bar we got to see the shucking magic. Considering how they were just dunked in a bucket to wash off I'm glad that mine were cooked. 

I am in an ongoing battle with the beach tourism industrial complex and their insidious lies. Let's be honest: beaches suck. To begin with, they are effectively a graveyard for sea creatures. There are always  piles of dead and dying things on beaches in various stages of odoriferous decay.

Our last couple of days in Belize were spent at a beach side hotel in Placencia and were filled with multiple hours of jaw-dropping, drool inducing boredom.

Galveston is a good example. We could smell the dead fish stink of the beach long before we saw it. The beach was about as bad on the eyes as on the nose unfortunately. There were huge mounds of seaweed all over the place. Seeing it from the car was enough. Other than that though, yay for Texas!