Monday, July 5, 2010

A few weeks of catching up

I'm so behind, but we're in our busy "get all the freshmen into rooms" time at work, so most nights I come home and read and try to decompress, but that means I'm not updating, which is sad because I've been on so many adventures!

Saturday, June 19

Bryan and I headed to Oak Ridge for the Secret City Festival, when the town celebrates their somewhat unique history, which I've talked about before. Oak Ridge was constructed entirely in secret during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project, and not revealed to the rest of the United States until the war was over. The town didn't even have a name until 1949.

The main point of the trip for us was taking the bus tour to the now decommissioned K-25 plant:

K-25 Plant Overlook

K-25 was the main facility for separating and enriching uranium, using a gaseous diffusion process. At the time of its construction, it was the largest building in the world, and when running at full operating capactity it used 7% of the total electricity generated in the entire United States, and somehow this was all kept secret, which is mindblowing in the internet age. The tour mainly drove around the outside of the facility:

K-25 plant (1)

but did go right up to the factory, which has been offline for over 40 years and slowly crumbling:

K-25 plant (2)

K-25 plant (3)

I would love to walk around in there, but it's all still classified and we weren't allowed off the bus. Exploring would take quite a while, though, because the building is huge. It's U-shaped, and each leg of the U is a half mile long. The tour guide, who worked in it, said that they used to ride around the upper floors on bicycles because it was the fastest way to get from one end to the other.

After the tour we went to the Secret City Festival itself:

Rotary Club Children's Globe

where we looked at things we did not buy:

glass menagerie

and I got this muffin pan that makes corn muffins that look like ears of corn:

the muffin pan

I was very excited about the pan, even after my friend Sandy pointed out that they have those at Target, because mine was cheaper than the one at Target and I love cornbread. Actually using it turned out to be not as fun as anticipating using it was, as I discovered the next day.

Sunday, June 20

I've never baked in cast iron before, and there were a few mistakes. Some of them could have been predicted, like me forgetting that baked goods expand in the oven:


Next time I need to fill each well with a spoon, and only fill them about halfway up. As much as I could have predicted that, though, there was no way I could have realized that when everyone said, "Use some oil on the pan before you put the batter in" they actually meant "Grease the hell out of it! Use about five times as much oil as you think you need, and it still won't be enough!"

Those muffins did not want to come out of the pan:

breaking ears

This was the closest I got, and it only vaguely resembles an ear of corn:

partial ear

A sad, broken ear. It's the hunchbread all over again, and will clearly require more practice.

Thursday, June 24

We went out for a going away dinner for my friend George, who is going away to Thailand to teach English, and who is writing a blog about it. We went to the Little Bangkok restaurant, which used to be a Ruby Tuesday's and still has all of the Ruby Tuesday's decor inside with a couple of vaguely Asian statues thrown in for good measure.

I had pad Thai with tofu, and it was delicious:

pad thai with tofu

Friday, June 25

We went out to see the Smokies play ball, and I didn't realize that it was going to be Michael Jackson tribute night, which turned out to be as tragic as some people claim Michael's death was. Before the game there was a "Thriller" tribute dance performance, featuring a Michael Jackson impersonator in a suit apparently made of red garbage bags dancing around a Lisa Turtle from "Saved by the Bell" impersonator:

michael jackson tribute (1)

They were joined by a flock (pack? throng? horde?) of zombies that oddly included only one guy:

michael jackson tribute (2)

michael jackson tribute (3)

I seem to have been the only one who thought it was a little morbid to see someone pretend to be a zombie of a person who is actually dead as a tribute to that person. It just seems off to me.

The rest of the game was fun, as our summer intern got to answer trivia questions on the jumbotron and won a CD that I've since heard is pretty terrible:


and then they shot off fireworks from the outfield:

ballpark fireworks (1)

ballpark fireworks (2)

It generated a lot of smoke:

ballpark fireworks (3)

but I was the only one in our group bothered by this, as well. I guess I'm just more sensitive.

Saturday, June 26

My friend Aaron got married to Stacie the day after baseball, in a pretty church:

in church (2)

with the shortest wedding ceremony I have ever attended, including in high school when my friend Melissa got married at city hall. There were no readings, no lengthy prayers, no full mass like at Catholic weddings, just a prayer, vows, prayer, kiss, and then we were out. It was kind of refreshingly short, but still touching and heartfelt (especially when Aaron got all choked up during his vows), and I was happy to be there even though it did mean skipping the Pride Festival.

I think I might be straight now.

OK, no, but it was still a nice wedding with a nice reception:

cupcake smashing (1)

cupcake smashing (2)

cupcake aftermath

and a good time spent with friends, even if the air conditioning was broken.

Friday, July 2

I was walking back from Starbucks, having met Jeannie for a quick breakfast iced white mocha that I didn't need but wanted anyway, when I noticed that someone had stencil spray painted a murder of crows on the side of the Humanities Building:

murder of crows (1)

murder of crows (2)

I liked the red bird stuck in among the rest:

murder of crows (3)

but feel that it was unnecessary. The painting was striking enough on its own, and added a sense of motion and charm to a plain brick facade. As a university employee, I should probably also say that I think vandalism of university property is a horrible crime and needs to be dealt with as seriously as possible, but I do think that particular crime is kind of pretty.

Saturday, July 3

I saw this bug, an Ailanthus webworm moth, on the wall on my way back from the mailbox:

Ailanthus webworm moth

There's no story. I just saw it while I was walking and thought it looked interesting. I thought it was a beetle at first, but when I looked it up to see what kind it was I found out that the adults of the species hold their wings close to their bodies and pretend to be beetles.

Sunday, July 4

I celebrated Independence Day by making potatoes and Spam and cheese bites for a cookout at my friends Elizabeth and Ben's house. I described the potatoes briefly in the previous entry, and I think they were ok but not fantastic. The recipe called for a lot of olive oil, and it made the herbs I added not stick to the potatoes, which rendered them kind of bland. Everyone said they were good, but nobody took any home with them when they were gathering their leftovers, and actions speak louder than words.

I wasn't offended. I thought they weren't that great, either.

After dinner we rode halfway downtown to watch the fireworks:

fireworks (4)

and then I went home and crashed. Making mediocre potatoes takes a lot out of you.

Monday, July 5

My plan for today was to go to the University Gardens, since I haven't been in a while, and I invited Kristin since she has never been and wasn't sure where on campus they were. It was a nice, quiet day to walk around, but so hot outside since we went closer to lunchtime, and we didn't stay as long as I normally would because Kristin was sweaty and wanted to leave.

I worked on my black and white a little:

black and white trees

holly berries (black and white)

and mostly just walked around snapping things that caught my eye like I usually do:



dead cluster

I also spent about five minutes watching a large black butterfly feeding on some purple flowers, but I was kind of far away and it would not stop flapping its wings. These are the two best pictures I got out of the ones I tried, but I'm not happy with them:

butterfly feeding (1)

butterfly feeding (2)

Maybe I'll go next weekend and try again, if I'm not so busy.


Jeannie said...

Joel, you make things sound so much funner and more beautiful than they really are. I love seeing the world through your eyes. Even though I was present at half of these events, I am still so surprised to read of them from your perspective. Love you!

stanford said...

Whoa! I'm tired just reading that. What an ambitious week.

I love the secret town. I had no idea. Surprised it is still classified. I spent a good deal of my first job looking for manhatten project waste in the greater Buffalo/Cleveland metro areas (like some sort of bizaro treasure hunt).

The zombies are unbelievable and I am totally pulling for eventual corn bread success.

Lauren said...

I agree with your Lisa Turtle observation-did she do "the sprain"?

I get way too excited when you update your blog (not to mention if you and Jeannie both update!). Take care.

Carey Winsett said...

Hi Joel.. I love reading your blog! Here is a tip for your cornbread. Fill each "corn" in the pan with a small amount of a good high temperature cooking oil and then put it in the oven and let it get really hot. I usually set the oven to 450 and let the oven pre-heat while the pan is in there. Obviously, you don't want to leave it in there too long, or it could catch fire. Usually, just until the buzzer goes off to indicate the pre-heating is done is long enough. Then pour the batter into the hot oil in the pan. It will bubble up and make a wonderful crust. Anyway, I hope that helps.. Good Luck on your perfect cornbread quest.