Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mardi Gras Balloon Hats

Cynthia Shade, trainer extraordinaire, helped us celebrate Mardi Gras by demonstrating how to make balloon hats. Cynthia discovered the thrills of balloon twisting when looking for some birthday party ideas for her daughter. She quickly picked up the skill with the help of how to videos on YouTube, and is now a balloon twisting expert.

Our LIFErs had a blast trying their hand at balloon twisting and hat designing. There were, of course, a few pops, but you must be fearless when making balloon shapes! Cynthia even showed some of our more daring audience members how to make balloon flowers, as well. For this demonstration, Cynthia showed us how to make jester hats and we used size 260Q balloons.

Thanks to Cynthia for a wonderfully fun and crafty time! Check out how to videos here!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Is Gun Ownership for You?

Bill Bevers, an NRA Certified Instructor, educated all of us on the various aspects of gun ownership and use. The focus of Bill's talk today was safety and practice. Bill teaches a course for the Texas Concealed Handgun License and tries to go to the range at least once a week to practice. He's even helped a friend to overcome her fear of guns by spending time training her on proper gun safety and handling at the shooting range. Bill pointed out that there's a big difference between shooting a gun for target practice and shooting a gun in personal defense.

If you own a gun for personal defense, you need all the training and practice you can get. Why is that? Our bodies react differently when we're in a dangerous situation--rise in blood pressure, tunnel vision, and we start to lose our fine motor skills. A study was conducted of NYPD and LAPD officers who had to discharge their weapons on the job, and only 13% of bullets hit their intended mark. Even after extensive training, that number only rose to 30%. So if you ever find yourself having to use a gun in a personal defense situation, you want to have had as much training and practice as possible to be able to stop the threat.

Bill stressed that owning a gun for personal defense is not something to be taken lightly, and all the practical and legal aspects should be considered first. He has never had to use his gun for personal defense and he sincerely hopes that he never has to.

Here are some important gun safety guidelines to consider:

  • Treat all guns as if they are always loaded.
  • Never point a gun at anything you are not willing to destroy.
  • If a gun is fired up in the air, it will still do damage as the bullet comes back down.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  • Always make sure of your target and know what is behind it.
  • Be familiar with your equipment.
  • Don't rely on mechanical safeties. Your best safety is your brain.
Bill works with the Bullseye Shooters Firearm Instruction and Gun Club, and more information can be found on their website

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

LIFE is Better with Cherries and Chocolate

Today at LIFE we were in the kitchen baking and lighting cherries on fire. Librarians Patsy Brautigam and Tracy Williams celebrated Cherry and Chocolate Month with some delectable desserts. Tracy started us out with her cherry chocolate cake made from devils’ food cake mix and cherry pie filling. The scent of freshly baked cake filled the air. Then she married the savory flavor of pretzels and the bittersweet of Ghirardelli chocolate to create a delightful candy. Patsy then made cherries jubilee with Kirsh (cherry brandy) and regular brandy lighting the entire pan on fire. It was then served on ice cream for a beautiful and delicious dessert – and easy! Patsy remembered the first time she had cherries jubilee – when she was 18 and on a date when the dessert was created with flare at the table. We all relived the feelings of being 18 and eating cherries and ice cream. A la recherche du temps perdu – eat your heart out, Marcel Proust.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Folklore, Language and Ritual

We were treated to a fascinating look at cultural anthropology by Dr. Catharina Laporte. Catharina began as a student at Lone Star - CyFair College and is currently teaching cultural anthropology for Texas A&M's School of Military Science. We were so glad to welcome her back to help us think like anthropologists and give a glimpse of some of her times with different cultures.

Anthropology is the study of the whole human condition and pulls from many different disciplines to look at a group's biology, society, language and more. Anthropology is typically made up of four subfields:

  • Archaeology- data based on artifacts
  • Physical Anthropology- data based on human remains and primates to explore the evolution of humankind
  • Linguistic Anthropology- data based on interviews and textual artifacts
  • Cultural Anthropology- data based on ethnographic observation, interviews and surveys
Catharina specializes in cultural anthropology, and one of her first experiences in this field was studying immigrant women working as maids in Singapore. A key topic within the field is cultural relativism--how we react when we see people who do not look, think, or act like us. It is easy for people to be ethnocentric when encountering cultures different from their own, where they judge other cultures based on the standards of their own culture. However, in order for cultural anthropologists to to be successful in their field they must take on a cultural relativist perspective and reject the idea that any culture contains a set of ideal standards.

To exemplify this need to understand practices from the viewpoint of a culture's members, Catharina noted that Nepalese women often have multiple husbands. While this may seem strange to us, it is born out of the fact that land ownership in Nepal is passed through the male line, and in order to keep the land together, some brothers will marry the same woman. 

It can be especially difficult to maintain a relativist perspective when cultural practices challenge our value systems or are harmful to some members of society or the environment. This is something that cultural anthropologists struggle with on occasion when observing in the field. 

Here are some ethnographies that Catharina recommended for further reading:

Nisa, the Life and Words of a !Kung Woman by Marjorie Shostak and Nisa. (1981)
Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea. (1989)
Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead. (1943)
Ya̦Nomamö, the Fierce People, Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology. Napoleon Chagnon. (1968)