Friday, February 27, 2009

Fat Tuesday Bike Blogging

We made a concerted effort this year to do everything by bike Mardi Gras weekend. I think we can now call that experiment a success. There were a few snags along the way, but we made it. So here's the bike-centric summary of our Mardi Gras:

  • Thursday: I had to teach technically from 3:00-7:00. I also had a project due at midnight. Fortunately, the lab wasn't too long, and the students were just as interested in finishing early as I was, so I was able to get all of it done by about 6:30. The parades started at 5:45. I rode my bike straight from campus to meet Nora at the parades; she had ridden from home. Our normal spot for watching the Uptown parades has become immediately in front of Touro Synagogue. Touro faces onto St Charles at General Pershing, one block below Napolean. The traditional Uptown parade route starts on Napolean, and turns onto St Charles. So the synagogue is very close to the beginning of the route, which makes things slighly more predictable. As it turns out, there was a nearly hour-long delay Thursday night, so I only missed the first parade (Babylon) and the very beginning of Chaos. After the parades, we biked home together.

  • Friday: Again, I went straight from campus and met Nora in front of the synagogue. Nora was very clever and bought some food to munch on during the parade. I was able to leave campus earlier Friday night than Thursday, so we got to the parades at about the same time. And I got there in time to see everything.

  • Saturday: Our first big snag. There are a few parades Uptown on Saturday evening, but we skip those in favor of Endymion. They all meet up at Lee Circle, but we've never been all that interested in going that far downtown. And frankly, Endymion is more than enough parade for one day. It starts at City Park at 4:15. We were planning on leaving at 3:30 to bike along Carrollton to Mid City park ourselves on Canal near the beginning of the route. At 3:00, I was checking the tires on the bikes and inflating anything that needed it. Apparently I have used poor technique in inflating my tires; I don't remove the nozzle properly, which puts some strain on it. I pulled the nozzle off of my front tire, leaving a huge hole. And since it's Mardi Gras weekend, the bike shop around the corner isn't open to sell me a new inner tube. It wasn't too bad because we have a spare bike. Unfortunately for me, the spare bike is a 21-speed mountain bike, different from my bike in nearly every way possible. It handles potholes better than my bike, but is a little uncomfortable for me to ride. But it made it okay.

  • Sunday: This is the day the bikes really shined. Tim, who runs the teaching labs at Tulane (imagine a 35-year-old Van Bistrow, for those of you who know Van), invited us to his house a block off of Audubon Park in the afternoon to watch Thoth. Thoth starts near the park to allow it to pass by several hospitals, which is their tradition. They eventually get to St Charles, and then follow the traditional route. After that, my advisor Wayne Reed had invited us to his house (Napolean and Magazine) to watch Bacchus, which runs just along the traditional route. For these, the bikes were particularly convienient. It helped us avoid parking hassles, city traffic blockades, and having to get the car in and out of both areas. And it was rather enjoyable to bike from home to Tim's, to Dr Reed's, and back to home. The one snag was not having my own bike. I stupidly insisted on bringing our Jazz Fest chairs (yes, that's what Walgreens calls them), which have straps that let you carry them over your shoulder. My thought was that we would actually have a place to set them up. The problem was that, without the baskets on my real bike, I now couldn't carry any of the throws we aquired at those parades. It turned out to be quite a lot, and Nora's backpack was very heavy and nearly bursting for most of the day.

  • Monday: we were burned out, and stayed home all day.

  • Tuesday: another brilliant day for the bikes. I finally figured out how to get the gears on the mountain bike to go into the right gear (it had previously been giving me a lot of trouble). We biked to Jackson near the start of Zulu. The one snag with that was that I forgot/didn't realize that the area between Louisiana and Washington is very bike unfriendly. The result was that we ended up walking further than we would have liked. A better route would have avoided that and have been more pleasant, at the expense of being a little longer in distance. After Zulu passed us, we got on the bikes again to head towards St Charles to catch Rex. But we took a detour (which was really on the way) to check up on a hot tip Nora had recieved about a Mardi Gras Indians gathering location. We found them about a block away from where the tip suggested, but there they were. We watched them finish setting up, and followed them for a while as they paraded, blocking traffic (with corkers, even!) as necessary. We were hoping to see them run into another Mardi Gras Indian gang so we could watch them do battle. But we eventually figured out that they were probably going to head downtown before that happened, so we broke off from them and headed down to Rex (we later found out that they had gone all the way downtown to the Claiborne overpass at Canal). After we saw Rex, we biked home. We had some trouble crossing the parade, which led us to bike home along Claiborne. That would not normally be advisable, but it was nearly empty due to the parades. That led to us getting yelled at by an absolutely insane motorist a few blocks from home, but that wasn't nearly enough to spoil the weekend.

Labels: ,

Friday Cat Blogging

This week we have some Mardi Gras cat photos for all of you out there in internet-land. First up is Annie, looking glamorous with her fabulous Muses beads which match her lovely golden eyes.

Next we have Hodag, featured here in an Endymion throw bag. Throw bags are the reusable plastic bags which hold all of a krewe members loot on a float. Once the bag has been emptied it is thrown over the side of the float where parade goers inevitably retrieve it. Although it is not clear in this photo, the bag has the Endymion logo on it, and a tag which lists the contents in dozens of beads. (And you just thought it contained an alley cat!)

Finally, as a special bonus this week, we feature the adorable little snake I found while cleaning up some leaves on Mardi Gras day. I was raking away when I overturned what I thought was a small plastic snake toy.

Isn't he cute? He was a bit nervous in the Tupperware, but he perked right up when returned to the backyard near some mulch debris.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I love a parade

Are you are wondering what is on our plate for the upcoming Mardi Gras madness? Here is our tentative schedule for the parades and events we will attend.

Babylon - Uptown, 5:45 p.m. Website for Babylon
Muses - Uptown, 6:15 p.m. Website for Muses
Chaos - Uptown, 6:30 p.m.

Hermes - Uptown, 6 p.m. Website for Hermes
d'Etat - Uptown, 6 p.m. Website for d'Etat
Morpheus - Uptown, 7 p.m. Website for Morpheus

Endymion - Mid-City, 4:15 p.m. Website for Endymion

Thoth - Uptown, Noon a.m.
Bacchus - Uptown, 5:15 p.m.

Zulu Lundi Gras Festival - French Quarter, 10 am

Zulu - Uptown, 8 a.m. Website for Zulu
Rex - Uptown, 10 a.m Website for Rex
Mardi Gras Indians - 2nd and Dryades streets, morning

As you can see, we are attending a ton of parades on Thursday and Friday. This is because these parades are sequential along the same route, and it is just easier to stay and watch all of them then to try and leave in the middle. The parades often run late or are disorderly, and it can be difficult to "plan" when to show up for a parade. Colin and I usually show up when the parades are supposed to start, which means we are about half an hour early. On Saturday we plan on going to Endymion, which is the only parade we attend that follows the mid-city route. We really had a good time at Endymion last year, probably because people in mid city were so happy to be able to see the parade along its traditional route. (for three years post Katrina, Endymion was re-routed along the Uptown parade path). On Lundi Gras we will probably stop by the Zulu festival, which has music and food, and then stick around the riverfront to see the arrival of the court of Rex by barge.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Gecko Blogging!

A few nights ago, Colin and I were doing dishes, and I noticed that we had a little lizard friend on our kitchen window. I assume that he was attracted by the light from the window, or more precisely, he was attracted by the insects, who were attracted by the light from the window. I love living in a place that supports a diversity of lizards. In addition to our friendly gecko below, I often see anoles sunning themselves on the stairs leading to the Riley Center (Tulane's gym) and we have a small skink species that lives in our backyard. For a list of all reptilians in my area, you can check out the Louisiana Gulf Coast Herpetological Society species list.

Why hello there, Mr. Sticky-paws.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Krew de Vieux

It's Carnival time! The festivities have officially begun here folks. Colin and I attended the Krewe de Vieux parade on Saturday night. This is a unique parade, as it features only small floats which are mule driven through the Marigny and the French Quarter. This is in contrast to the Bio-diesel tractor driven monster floats used by larger krewes such as Rex, Endymion and Bacchus. The floats used in this parade are so small that only two or three people can ride in them, and the rest of the krewe associated with that float walks beside it. In fact, the Krewe de Vieux is actually composed of many smaller sub-krewes who each have a float and those who accompany it. This year the theme for the parade was "Stimulus Package" and the floats were mocked our the financial melt down. The other thing that I should note about Krewe de Vieux is that their floats and themes are often quite lewd. Most Mardi Gras events are really family friendly (despite the popular ideas to the contrary) and almost all parades are suitable for all ages. I don't think I would want to bring my kids to a Krewe de Vieux parade though, which this year featured floats such as : "Mama Roux invests in stocks and bondage" and "Shmeckel and Shekel's Foreskins and Foreclosures LLC".

Mules, the real stars of the Krewe de Vieux parade.

One thing I love about the walking members of Krewe de Vieux is that they get to create and wear these amazing hats to fit their float theme.
Above we see oil rig hats from the float "The Profits of Persia".

Members of the "Mystic Krewe of Spermes" are carrying their gametes! This krewe named themselves jokingly after the older, and more staid,"Mystic Krewe of Hermes".

this float featured an energizer bunny, and powered by
a couple wearing bunny suits on a tandem bicycle.

This float was entitled "The New Voodoo Economics" and featured a large gris-gris doll and accompanying Marie Laveau figures, the ladies with white beehives seen below.

All parade floats are interspersed with musical acts.
In the larger parades, these are often high school marching bands.
In Krewe de Vieux the musicians are often members of local jazz bands who seem to enjoy dressing up and making merry.


Vine of Doom

Recently, I have been doing a lot of gardening. At some point in the last few weeks I realized that several plants in our yard (most notably, a camellia tree, and Ent, our huge water oak) had been overtaken by some sort of parasitic vine. I decided that the only appropriate response to this threat was to remove the vine from both plants. This involved peeling the vine away from the trunk, and pulling on it hard, to try and get as many feet as possible off the tree. Once I had pulled the vines to the ground, I would cut the vine off, hoping to maim or kill the thing. This was a dirty, labor intensive process, but was very successful, at least on the camellia tree. Buoyed by my ability to free the camellia, I decided to take on the larger vines on Ent. This however, was a more difficult undertaking than it first appeared. First, the vine was way thicker on Ent than on the camellia, and way more entrenched. I spent hours pulling 3 inch diameter vines from the tree and then pulling them out of the soil using my whole body weight to do so. The vine actually resembled a snake, with thicker aerial parts and thinner roots that looked like a tail. At some point during this wrestling match when I was digging out a 5 inch diameter tuber, I found myself saying out loud "where I come from, vines are not capable of killing a person!". It was just another valuable lesson in what happens to vegetation when you live in a tropical climate, which is akin to what happens if you live near a nuclear power plant in a 1950's sci-fi movie.

The vine looked a whole lot like this Anaconda,
courtesy of the Oregon Reptile Man.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday cat blogging, Nora's Family edition

My mom sent me some hate e-mail this week, commenting that last week on Friday cat blogging we displayed the McFaul family pets, and NEGLECTED to show the Friedman family pets. Therefore, I wish to present you with the extended cats of the Friedman family.

This is Rufus. He is my mom and dads cat (mostly my mom's) He is from Kauai, where I found him as a starving kitten many moons ago. My mother fell in love with him and brought him back with us to the continental states. He now resides with my parents in California.

This is Lobous. He is my sisters cat. His name in Yiddish means "Little monster", which is appropriate, since he nibbles everything. He is some sort of Asian mix, and is nearly Lilac colored. He lives in Oxford with Nana.