The Aeolian Project

This past semester my professor took us to Ferry Farm, the boyhood home of George Washington, to explore their archaeology lab. Quite a few weeks went by without thinking about Ferry Farm, and then it was time to sign up for spring classes, but I didn’t really find any classes that were calling to me. So my professor suggested I do an internship for class credit and why don’t I ask some of our really awesome local resources if they would be open to having an intern? So now Ferry Farm has reentered my life in a big way. After communications back and forth, I have ended up in an awesome, once in a life-time, internship opportunity. In my interview, I was asked if I knew anything about aeolian harps. My answer was maybe, but I can’t be sure I don’t know anything more than maybe hearing the name once before. So my immediate reaction is to ask Daddy, my instrument-maker guru, if he knows anything about them. He immediately does more research than I expected and probably the research I should have done after the harps came up in my interview. Somehow “hearing” about the harps has snowballed into us making one. Or more.

This is what we have so far, and by “we” I mean what daddy has mostly done, as I only joined in the project recently. The top is the right thickness, so today I helped thin the bottom down. I am sure there is a proper name for what we did, like “planing,” but I prefer to think of it as more like peeling the skin off of a carrot or potato.

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Unfortunately, after I took the photo, while we were planing the bottom board it split in two. It split beautifully but couldn’t be used for the bottom or sides. So we have restarted with a slab of maple which is a bit tougher. The plan for the sides is to also be maple, barring any restarts. The top remains spruce.

So we’ll see what happens next!

Splish Splash Don’t Crash

Sunday was a fun day. We saw Diana’s flame, which was really cool. It was really peaceful there, even though it is in the middle of the street. After we had a moment there talking about Diana and wondering how her death affected her family, we moved on to the Statue of Liberty. We found this park, I don’t remember what it’s called, but it was really nice with some fountains and there were people dancing and working out. Seeing the statue was pretty fun, but my favorite part was on our way from the statue to the Tour de France. I was leapt on multiple times by a bulldog. Igor was convinced he was going to come home with me in my pocket. If his owner wasn’t so nice, I might have stollen him. I don’t think I would have gotten very far though, Igor is quite chunky. At this point it had started to rain as we headed to the Tuileries. We had planned to find a spot and sit down in the park, I am not entirely sure why we thought that was going to work. We ended up across from the Norwegian corner, those people were really fun to watch. We got to see the tail end of the women’s race (and a crash where like ten women went down) and then stand for three hours in the pouring rain waiting for the men to come through. We did get to watch the sponsor’s caravan, which was really fun, but since it was raining the chicken sponsors didn’t throw out chicken like we throw candy out at the 4th of July parades. So even though it wasn’t a preservation day, but it was super fun!

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Good News

Good news guys, Luxembourg doesn’t have the same obsession with curly stairs that Paris has! I really liked Luxembourg and it was super fun to visit, but I think if our class was based in Luxembourg I would get bored. For all the things I don’t like about Paris, I haven’t been bored yet. Luxembourg is a cute town with lots to look at. I’m not sure if I could compare it to a city in America very well. It is on a hill/ mountain side with a river cutting through parts of the city, and lots of trees. Due to the topography, it is easily defendable. Or was, I am not sure that there is still a reason to stage a ground invasion. Because of the topography, when you are standing at one of the higher points in the city, you can see the hierarchy of how they built the city up. The poorer people were down at the bottom of the hills next to the river and the richer built up the hill (thanks Smith for pointing that out to us). Luxembourg is (was) a buffer between France and Germany, but the two cultures can be seen side – by – side. The architecture is very Germanic and Gothic, but with some modern bits mixed in. It was fun to listen to the people talking to each other. There was definitely some French, English and German speakers, and who knows what else they were speaking. The streets were windy and at times narrow, the Tundra definitely couldn’t make it through there. Some of the turns were a bit blind, but that didn’t bother them. And to add to the excitement they were doing some construction in areas. At first I was sad that the magic of the city would be lost because of the construction but then I realized that we got to see how the city deals with construction. And to them, it was no big deal. It seems like Americans get confused around construction, especially when it is in the road, but nope. It was no big deal there, they just drove around. Of course there weren’t nearly as many people driving as there are at home. And what was really neat was that the pavement was coming up in some places so you could see the cobbles that they just paved over. It seems like it was just one layer of pavement so they must have paved relatively recently, and in some places it is still cobbled. I like that word, cobble. I was surprised by the amount of bees present. They were everywhere! Sitting outside for lunch was probably not our best idea we have ever had. I am so glad that I got to go to Luxembourg, but I am also glad it was a short trip. It wasn’t like Paris where there is a museum or some historic fun crap every time you turn around.

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A New Blog About New Things

So I think everyone (reading this blog) knows that I don’t like modern buildings. I prefer symmetrical, older – looking buildings. I learned that last summer working on the Leila Ross Wilburn book. But, I just fell in love with the Bercy neighborhood area. It was kind of like Decatur, but cooler. It was hip but not hipster crunchy granola hip. And there were families but not like how it feels in Decatur. Does that make sense? I hope it does. A public swimming pool in the Seine? Doesn’t get much cooler than that. Then the restaurants/ clubs/ hookah bars that line the Seine give it a very modern felling without over doing the modern. And the modern is done with colors, not concrete. So the businesses used colors well to draw your eyes to them. Probably the best part was the national library. It had, get this Daddy, a forest in the middle. Yup, a forest. Who can pull that off? Pretty sure only the French can master that level of awesomeness. So the library is below ground level (so commoners see tree trunks when they look out of the windows) and you see four large towers from the ground. The towers are just for researchers.These towers are shaped like open books, so they’re just two glass towers in a right angle. But the French had a small blip in their designs. They forgot that glass lets a lot of light in and sunlight is damaging to books. So to cover their mistake, they put in swiveling wooden panels that one can swivel to block the sun. I think we could put them in my room and the living room, they’re pretty thick panels so they probably insulate a bit. Anyways, to get back on track. I just totally fell in love with that area. It is awesome that they’ve planned that neighborhood out since the 80’s I think it was, and they took the renewal process very slowly. Not like in the United States where we tear down what we don’t like and rebuild quickly and just hope the plan works out.

I don’t understand why we can’t get our crap together. By crap I mean urban renewal, or city planning. And our transportation act, but that is for another time, another blog. Yeah, it takes longer to do it the French way, but it seems like it might be worth it to take the time it takes to get the infrastructure right. Makes sense to me. I wonder what it would take to get the theory to cross the pond? Do we even have design competitions for new infrastructures? If we don’t, that would be a pretty neat thing to do. Just thinking about Blacksburg, we could do a Townie versus Hokie design competition. I think that would be cool if they had done that for the buildings that now tower over the intersection of Main Street and Clay Street. That area could be so much cooler if they had moved the apartments to the old middle school and athletic field area and left it so that one story shops and new cool restaurants. Also Blacksburg needs to do a better job of making it public knowledge when we’re having city planning meetings for specific areas. If I had known those monstrosities were on the plan, I would have gone and given them a piece of my mind. Especially considering that they totally block the sun from the Clay Street side of that intersection. Even in the summer one has to turn the heat on in the car if one gets stuck at that red light. Not that I’m bitter about those apartments or anything… I understand that this year’s incoming freshman class in one of the biggest yet so they need more housing. But what would have been cooler than gross new apartments would be if they had renovated the abandoned buildings that are scattered through town. But that’s just my thoughts, it’s not like I’m an actual planner with good ideas. Maybe that’s what I’ll do when I grow up – archaeology and bust Blacksburg’s balls about using what we already have…

Sorry that this blog has turned into a rant. The Bercy area awesomeness really got me thinking about all of the cool opportunities that are possible but no one has acted on them yet. It’s such a shame we don’t do more with what we have because what we have is really pretty and has potential.

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A Day At Disney

So we were lucky enough to have our school pay for us to go to Disney yesterday. Since roller coasters are not on my list of things I’m dying to do, I got to do a lot of people watching. One of the concerns when they built Disney here was attracting people to come. In my opinion, they accomplished that. I cannot tell you how many different languages and accents I heard Tuesday. There were people who were extremely clothed and there were people who could have worn some more clothing. The style of clothing varied only slightly. Lots of people in Mickey ears, tee shirts and those high wasted shorts that some how made it back into style. What’s the point in high wasted shorts that don’t cover your bum completely? A lot of the dads were in “Super Dry” tee shirts, I’ve never heard of that company before. There were kids in princess dresses and kids being pushed in buggies who were on the line between not being able to catch up with mom and dad and being too big to fit in the buggy. I’m not sure which one mom would have chosen had we’d done Disney more. Do you want to spend all day on a hot day pushing a stroller or hold your child’s hand? 

I had a blast at Disney. Alright, a blast might be pushing it. I enjoyed my day of observing and being comfortable on a shady bench. And, I did my first “roller coaster” today. I say roller coaster in quotes because it was one of the ones that goes really slow and just takes you through like a house or something. That’s what I did, the haunted house ride. I think I’ve watched too much Criminal Minds and that one episode of Psych where they see a man murdered in the haunted house ride enough times that it wasn’t very scary. The scariest part of the ride was when we went downhill in a narrow tunnel for a minute. It was so much fun! I am very glad I had my water and sunscreen today. Oh! And we got to see Elsa and Ana ride through the park in their horse drawn carriage. I like Ana and Elsa, but the ponies were my favorite part of the day. 

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Enough of the Stupid Curly Stairs Already!

Saturday was big fun visiting a castle and the medieval town of Provence. The castle was the Vaux – le – Vicomte castle in Maincy. It was beautiful, like a mini Versailles, but with better grounds and fewer people. The castle felt smaller than it looked, I know that we didn’t go into every single room of the castle. We also didn’t go into the side castles. I don’t know what else to call them except two smaller castles flanking the main castle. The one on the right as you come into the grounds has the tickets and gift shop as well as the carriage museum. The dungeon and kitchen in the basement of the castle were the only portions of the building that felt proportional to how impressive it looked on the outside. Although, I really don’t understand why you would want to house prisoners floors below where you sleep. That’s just me. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to explore the grounds more, and also why I am unsure the purposes of the flanking buildings. From the castle the grounds were beautiful and you could see for miles. Only one of the fountains was on, but the others would have been fun to see.
Then we were whisked off to Provence which was so cool. The wall built during the medieval times is still standing because their population hasn’t grown since then. The tour guide was awesome and kept our attention even though we were all starving. She took us to a tower that we could walk up. I didn’t go all the way up, but the view was incredible even from where I stopped in the middle of the tower. It is so flat and I don’t think the buildings have changed much since they were built save for the obvious repairs that need to be made throughout the years, not to mention the need for modern plumbing. There were nice examples of half – timbering throughout the town, which was fun to see. There was a building that in addition to having half – timbering, it was sagging in the middle. Even though it is a tourist stop, it was pretty nice. And it was really nice to get out of the city for a day. I had a hard time believing it was a tourist stop because even though tourists were there (duh, I’m a tourist and I was there), they were spread out and it was quiet. I really enjoyed myself, especially when I finally got to eat lunch.
Then today (Monday), we went to climb the Arc de Triomphe. Again with those stupid curly stairs of death! Those stairs just do not make sense to me. Only half of the stair is walkable and the inside half of the stair is totally useless! I am glad that I climbed it (and with no panic attacks in the process) and the view was neat. The Champs Elysees and the surrounding streets around the Arc de Triomphe were pretty against the buildings because of all of the trees that line the streets. It was a change from the view at the Pompidou and Notre Dame, which was nice to see something different.

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The Never Ending Curly Stairs of Death

Friday we found the prime time to visit Notre Dame – 8 in the morning. A service was going on, which was cool, but I feel a little bit strange to watch people worship God. But it was lovely to experience the church as a church and not as a tourist stop. When we were there before it was to get close enough to appreciate the church and not be rushed by the other tourists. The tourists (we) made it feel more like a museum but visiting Notre Dame on Friday with like five other strangers definitely gave it a church feel. I understand that it is an icon and it is open to the public, but it doesn’t feel like a place to worship God when there are so many other people there too. What irks me the most about this tourist spot is that people ignore the “silence, please” signs. It’s a church first people, respect that.
After we were able to have a moment in Notre Dame to experience the church as a church, we then climbed the bell tower that had a very tight spiralled (coined “curly” stairs in a moment of panic) staircase that I will not be climbing again thank you very much. The view was beautiful, but very similar to the view from the top of the Pompidou museum that was not as terrifying to climb to the top. After reaching the safety of the ground, we went back to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery to find Jim Morrison’s grave. We also found Chopin, Petrucciani, Haussmann, David and Seurat’s graves. I definitely like the newer side of the cemetery because the grid system makes more sense to me than the older side. The older side is pretty with the paths and staircases that wind through the cemetery, but I feel like it might be easier to find people on the newer side if you have like two road names, or at least make the famous people easier to find. Like maybe some signage. Or have consistent maps, and not two different maps that one group is trying to use at the same time.

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Bastille Day … Fun?

I wish that I could say that experiencing Bastille Day was the best ever and that I wish that I could come back every year. Instead my day had very low lows and some highs. The parade was incredible and at times breathtaking. Unlike the U.S., where our fourth of July parades are local and celebrate local teams, businesses and the police, EMS, and fire departments. Here, there were fighter plane and helicopter flyovers and the only participants in the parade were portions of every military branch and the national police and fire forces. Even the motorized and mounted law enforcers were represented. It was just so cool. I wish that we did something like that to support our troops. Despite the awesomeness of the parade, the crowds were just a little bit too much for me, which took away from the parade experience.
The concert and the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower were amazing. I love live music and the band did a beautiful job; it made a great background to our picnic. The fireworks were, for lack of a better word, “bomb”. They were set to music that you could actually hear. They were amazing. They made me want to stop taking pictures and just enjoy them. Not much these days makes young people put down their phones and just enjoy the moment. It was a spectacular night, until we tried to leave and I had a panic attack on the metro and we had to get off the train, thus beginning the night of misfortune.
Usually the transportation system is on point. However, that night they closed the station closest to the tower in order to funnel us out. But that only meant that the next available station was just as crowded and the metro closes at 1. Should be enough time if the fireworks ended at 11:30/ 12-ish, right? Nope. Not if you can’t get on the first train because you freak out, then have to get off the next train too soon because you can’t breath, then misplace two girls who were trying to find an exit but go to the furthest exit, and then extract another girl who got crushed in the station doors that swing open when you swipe your metro card. By then, the metro has closed down for the night. The bus should have worked if we had gotten the correct information and gotten on the correct bus. Thank goodness the cabs were still running, even if they were hard to find. I wonder how much it would cost the city to run the metros later on holidays? I am just thankful I never have to take the metro with that many people again.

A Day or Two at Versailles

Two weekends ago MICEFA took us to Versailles for a tour of the castle and gardens. We loved it so much that we ended up exploring all over and even went to Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon. We ran out of time then to see the Grand Trianon and Antoinette’s village/ farm combination, so we came back this past Saturday to do those two things. Marie Antoinette’s village is amazing, I wish that that’s how my farm looked. There was a lazy river that flowed through the village with a lighthouse building and a couple other dwellings. Of course her house was much larger compared to the others, but they are about to begin restorations on her house. That was really neat to see because they had started to move dirt from the front of the house and they had chalked out future features. I could have stayed there the rest of the month.
The barn is in some serious need of repairs, not all of which were noticeable, except that I recognize them from my own barn. For instance, the roof needs to be patched and the fencing could use some help. They did a lovely job preserving the feel of a working farm. While they didn’t have the fields being worked or anything like that, there was a woman feeding the hogs and all of the workers brought their dogs to work. There were also two men working on fencing a new paddock, so the sounds of work and all of the animals talking going on in the background was nice to listen to while walking around the farm.
We went back to the Grand Trianon after lunch to look around. Compared to Versailles and the Petit Trianon I was not as impressed with the king’s get away spot. The architecture was interesting but it was smaller and the furnishings were not as impressive as I would have thought. I interpreted the floor plan like two L plans with the long parts are back to back and the smaller legs facing away from each other, as if it was his way of escaping the sun. I did prefer the Grand Trianon’s gardens to Versailles gardens because they were more like gardens rather than an overgrown hedge maze (not unlike the maze in the fourth Harry Potter). Definitely worth the second trip to Versailles, especially since we spent close to six hours just at the farm and the Grand Trianon.  

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The Barn

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National Opera House

Visiting the opera house was so incredible, I hardly have words to describe how amazing it was. Every ceiling and wall was lavishly decorated and there were so many things to look at that it could have been overwhelming. But everything was of similar colors so even though there was so much to look at, it didn’t feel like too much. The pre-theater area is set up so that you can see and be seen, and so that you can judge other people; it is all very social. It is such a social set up that even in the theater you can see and be seen, which is a slight problem to those who are on the sides of the theater. The way the stage is set up means that those people on the sides have a warped view of the stage and the acoustics are not quite right. All I can say is that I hope we’re in the center so that we have a nice view of the ballet. I think that so far the opera house has been one of my favorite buildings. I just love that every time you look somewhere you see something you missed previously.

So the opera house one of my favorite inside spaces, but the Luxembourg Gardens were probably my favorite outside spaces. I appreciate that the gardens meet so many needs of the city. There is a space for children, lovers, and families. My favorite bit of the gardens was the green space around the fountain where we watched people with model sailboats. The senate house (I think it was the senate house, but now I am second guessing myself) creates a beautiful backdrop to the fountain. It was just beautiful, and a lovely break from the city hustle and bustle. Oh, and I thought this was neat – the palm trees are shipped in, that’s why they are in boxes. They get shipped south for the winter and then come back for the summer.

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