Thursday, September 25, 2014

Jason's Into Leather

Jason Moulenbelt, philosophy professor and leatherworker extraordinaire, showed the LIFErs how to make a beautiful leather card holder. What started out as knife making became leatherworking since Jason needed a sheath to put his knife in.  After he began making these for himself other wanted them, and thus began a new business.

In order to make these sheaths, Jason ordered tanned pieces of leather. Later he began making card holders, billfolds, belts, and other items from leather. He cut the leather to the size needed with a ruler, awl, and cutting tool. There are numerous steps to complete this project, including abrating the outside surface of the leather before gluing. He used a tool to make a groove around the sides of the leather in order to stitch, then using two threaded needles to make saddle stitches, with backstitching to begin and finish. The edges are then sanded to complete the finishing, a process called burnishing. Sealing with beeswax, pine pitch, and mink oil, then polishing is the final step. You now have a beautiful and durable product to be proud of.

Jason showed each step of the process with lots of funny stories that had the audience laughing. Everyone enjoyed the presentation, especially the winner of a card holder, Michael, whose name was drawn. Thank you, Jason, for an informative and enjoyable presentation!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Birding in Our Area

Birder and wildlife enthusiast Jeff Mohamed gave a pictorial presentation of the birds at Lone Star College - CyFair. We have egrets, herons, and even bald eagles. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Jeff discussed the changing habitat of the area and how we have lost some species, but we have gained some as well. Jeff's photography is beautiful and he has his own techniques about how to get close to a bird. Some birds you have to sneak up on and others you have to talk gently to them like the egrets. Did you know that Jeff actually came here from San Francisco because of the birds? What a story.

There are 880 species of birds in the US, with 650 of these in Texas and 420 in Southeast Texas. Some birds are here all the time and some are just passing through. There are so many birds here due to the different habitats and three migration routes through Texas. Lots of people visit Texas to see the wide variety of birds which is good for our economy.

Hummingbirds fly 600 miles across the gulf, sometimes hitching a ride on ships and other things to rest during their journey. They stop in our area to feed until they can make this trip, so put out your feeders and plant bright, colorful flowers for them during April-May and August-September.

There are many areas to check out different bird species such as Kleb Woods Nature Preserve, Katy Prairie, Bear Creek Park, and Brazos Bend State Park. Habitat changes contribute to our area attracting new birds, some which stay year round. The invasive birds that have come here are the European Starling, the House Sparrow and Pigeons. Some birds to look for are the Cedar Waxwings, Blue Jays, Rock Pigeons, Purple Martins, Western Kingbird, Bald Eagles, White Pelicans, and Osprey, among many others. Get out and enjoy these colorful birds with their variety of songs!

Want to know more about texbirding? Go to Jeff's blog: 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

It's Written in the Stars

Our astrology program by expert astrologer, Lilly Roddy, was so interesting and enlightening. Here is a brief summary of her presentation. Thanks, Judye for the following summary!

Astrology is an ancient symbolic language and what people do is learn how to interpret the symbols.

The 12 month calendar is 365 1/4 days per year. Seasons are Spring - March 20; Summer - June 21; Fall - September 22; and Winter - December 21. The Zodiac calendar is 360 degrees which is divided into 12 equal segments of 30 degrees each with the sun moving around it. The moon moves around the zodiac in about 28-29 days. Our days of the week are from the planets: Monday - Moon; Tuesday - Mars; Wednesday - Woden (Mercury); Thursday - Thor; Friday - Frea; Saturday - Saturn; Sunday - Sun. The moon is our emotional ego and the sun our male ego. Venus is desire (relationships, etc.)

Groups of Signs:
Aries - Cancer - Libra - Capricorn: Cardinal Signs (action oriented)
Taurus - Leo - Scorpio - Aquarius: Fixed Signs (persistent and determined)
Gemini - Virgo - Sagittarius - Pisces: Mutables (changeable, flexible, and adaptable)

Saturn's real timing:
7 years old - Beginning our journey
14/15 - Teenage (confront authority)
21 - We are legal (have a sense of authority)
28/29 - Young adult
35/36 - Authority figure
42/43 - Mid-life crisis
49 - Confront authority which is ourselves
58 - Next thoughts for life

The zodiac is a much more complex calendar system. By understanding how the planets are affecting your natal chart/birth chart, astrologers can help you understand the developing cycles and how to make the best use of them. Our lives are affected by so many things, and if we can understand them, it will help to adjust to life's changes. As they say, it's in the stars!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Essential Oils

Bennie Willis of doTerra Essential Oils came and gave us a short course in essential oils and how they are mankind's first medicine. These oils are pure and from nature, not chemicals manufactured in a lab. The over 400 compounds in lavender shows that it is a multi-useful oil, in fact, they call it the Swiss Army Knife of essential oils because it can help the body heal itself in so many ways.

Here are some oil blends and how they can help the body heal itself:

Lavender - headache, burns, better sleep, improve immune system, cure muscle spasms
Frankincense - this is the father of all oils - depression, cancer deterrent
Myrrh - this is the mother of all oils - circulation, menopause
Peppermint - sinus, oxygenating, alertness, digestion, cooling
Engard - sore throat
Melissa - cognitive support, anxiety
Melaluca - antibacterial (pink eye and ear ache)
Lemon - detoxification

Monday, August 25, 2014

Discover Costa Rica

Back Country Expeditioning or KINE 1172 was why Professor Ronnie Nespeca took ten intrepid students to Costa Rica in May. Costa Rica is the most diverse geographical area on earth. We at LIFE were spellbound by all the adventures these students had in Costa Rica: swimming in a volcano crater, kayaking the river, harvesting sugar cane and processing it, tagging and cataloguing bats, eating local fare, and living the pura vida. Those were ten very strong and athletic students who had an experience of a lifetime. It's great Ronnie is so organized and talented to be able to do a study abroad with nary a hitch. Thank you for coming to LIFE to give us our vicarious thrills. We especially loved the way Ronnie imitated the howl of the howler monkey. Wish we had that on tape. There is an unsolved mystery in Costa Rica. See the huge sphere in the picture? These multi-sized spheres have existed in Costa Rica since before the 1500s, but no one really knows where or how they exist. They are a symbol of wealth and power.

Cristina Loreto, one of our attendees, took this photo in
Costa Rica in 2007.

The library and Friends of the Library are psyched that Ronnie had
his students take one of our tote bags along for the ride.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Laughter Yoga

Certified laughter yoga instructor and founder of Houston, We've Got Laughter, came and gave us all a workout through breathing deeply from the lower belly and acting out all sorts of childlike emotions such as flying like a bird, growling like a lion, feigning anger and sadness, yawning and relaxing, and basically making fools of ourselves (oops, shouldn't have said that). "Laugh every day," says Lainie, who is also a mezzo soprano.

Benefits of laughter yoga are many: it relaxes you, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, strengthens the immune system, and much more. Learn more at

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Dirty Tricks, Mudslinging, and October Surprises

One of our all-time favorite presenters, Professor Alex Smith, filled us in on Part II of his series on dirty presidential campaigns. With his surprising anecdotes and spot-on presidential impersonations, our LIFErs can't get enough of Alex's presentations and were asking him to come back for Part III. Here are the campaigns covered today:

1928: Herbert Hoover vs. Al Smith
These two rags-to-riches millionaires couldn't have been more different. Hoover's monotone voice and failure to engage with people drove his campaigners to create buttons that read "That Man Hoover - He's Human". On the other hand, Al Smith's man of the people personality and engaging speeches sometimes made him too energetic to sit still for radio addresses. However, Al Smith's admittance that he drank during this prohibition era and his Catholicism were factors against him. Some detractors even managed to spread the rumor that Smith had built a tunnel between Washington, D.C. and the Vatican. As we all know, Hoover was the winner in this election. To add something not often remembered about Hoover, he provided a great deal of humanitarian aid and food relief to families in Eastern Europe during World War I.

1940: Franklin D. Roosevelt vs. Wendell Willkie
In this campaign, FDR was "reluctantly" running for his 3rd term in office, which he actually wanted very much. Roosevelt's situation was quite different to that of Wendell Willkie's, who had never held elected office. In this election, each party had some powerful material on the other candidate, but it was believed that FDR and Willkie had some sort of agreement not to disclose the information on the other. FDR's Vice President, Henry Wallace, had written letters to Nicholas Roerich that expressed unusual religious interests, and Willkie's supporters threatened to publish these. Willkie also left himself open to attack however, with the information that he was having an affair, and so both sides decided not to disclose this compromising information about the other.

1952: Dwight Eisenhower vs. Adlai Stevenson
At this time, Eisenhower was a beloved American war hero who actually had to pick a political party in order to run for president, so he chose the party that spends more money on the military. Adlai Stevenson was championed by the previous president, Harry Truman, and was actually reluctant to run with his support. TV had grown in popularity during the campaign, and Stevenson's rambling, 30 minute addresses stood in stark contrast to Eisenhower's down-to-earth 20 second TV spots. As rumors spread about Stevenson, one long-kept secret came to light--Adlai had killed another teen when he was thirteen years old and he and some friends were playing with a rifle. No one knows how this information was discovered, but it could have helped lead to Eisenhower's landslide victory.

1960: John F. Kennedy vs. Richard Nixon
The Republicans caused problems for themselves in this election by having just passed the 22nd Amendment, which limited a president to serving two terms. Had this law not been in place, Eisenhower could have easily won a third term. Instead, they chose to select the next best option, Vice President Richard Nixon, who touted his experience. This proved a problem when Eisenhower showed only lukewarm support of Nixon, and expressed the view that Nixon had done very little in office. Despite the claims that JFK was too young and just a spoiled rich kid, his popularity grew quickly. The first televised debate didn't do Nixon any favors either. It took place soon after a two week hospital stay for Nixon, who stood on stage with a 100 degree fever and appeared to be melting as his sweat mixed with the makeup he was wearing on-screen. In polls conducted afterwards, radio listeners would say that Nixon won the debate while TV watchers claimed that JFK won. The results of the election were about as close as they could possibly be, and there were some very shady operations in Texas, where many dead people seemed to have voted, and Illinois, where the votes just didn't add up right. In spite of all this, Nixon accepted his defeat and even put a stop to a series of exposé pieces being written on voter fraud in the election.