Saturday, June 30, 2012

Barbershop at Home

Our barbershop is located at our first floor communal bathroom. The barbers are Lily and Allan.

My profession as a "barber" started more than 20 years ago at graduate school, when a friend asked me to cut his hair even though I had no experience whatsoever. He had a set of tools - clipper, scissors, comb etc. He could cut hairs, but he could not do it on his own head. The outcome of that haircut was OK and I became "famous" instantly in the dormitory - quite a few students asked me to cut/trim hairs for them. The most memorable haircut - a fellow student asked for a haircut and in return he cooked dinner for me that day.

After Lily and I married, we bought a set of tools for haircut, I taught her how to cut hairs using the tools while she practiced on my head!! That's how we started our home barbershop. It used to be that I cut everyone' hairs, Lily cut mine. In recent years, it has changed to that Lily cut hairs for everyone in the family and I cut hers.

Over the years we had ever changing challenges over the haircuts as the kids grow, we have also reaped tremendous satisfaction from the home barbershop.

The challenges

At the very beginning the challenge was how I took a less than satisfying haircut in stride while encouraging Lily to continue to improve. The trick in those early times for Lily was - not try to perfect a haircut in area that was less than perfect, and left the sideburns to me. Her skills improved quickly.

The next challenge was to cut hairs for our boys when they were only several month old. We could not use the regular clipper for their tender, sensitive skins. I used the trimmer on my electric shaver to cut baby hairs.

The easiest time to cut the boys' hairs was when they were between 1 - 10 year old. I just used the clipper with a proper sized guard. Each haircut was done in less than 10 minutes. When they were getting older, they refused to take this type of haircut anymore. They wanted a "adult" hair style.

The biggest challenge now is to make the boys agree to have a hair cut in the first place, and to cut enough hairs off their heads. Fortunately, with persuasion, reason, and sometimes coercion from the parents, they have one haircut for approximately every two months.

The benefits

The obvious benefits of home barbershop are convenience, and saving some money.

The more significant benefit is that haircut time is a family bonding time. The boys will have undivided attention from their mother during the haircut. Mother and Son have had some very interesting conversations during these times.

Haircut time is also an important twosome time for Lily and I. We have undivided attention to each other during this period, talking about various subjects in depth without any distraction for 30 - 40 minutes.

Haircut at home works well for all members in our household. It has been a tradition of ours for nearly 18 years and is going as strong as ever. It is a fabric of our life.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

NPR, a gold mine - by Lily

As a member supporting National Public Radio, my car radio is always tuned in to KERA, our local NPR station. I enjoy listening to the news and analyses during my commute. But I enjoy more about the interviews with artists, conversations with news editors and librarians, stories about ordinary people’s lives, buzzes from recent technology breakthrough and science discoveries, commentaries from columnists and professors on various social issues, and of course market analyses from the “Market Place” team at APM (American Public Media). These programs make me aware of things I have not paid attention before, they tickle my brain to think about issues from different perspective, and they provide me talking topics.

Sometimes I go home and ask my family to listen from NPR website on an interesting or funny episode I heard that day. Sometimes I’ll request a book from the library based on NPR’s recommendation. A few weeks ago I found just the perfect gift for my little “bookworm” while browsing NPR’s website: a bibliochaise, an armchair equipped with bookshelves all around it! It looks great and so much fun, the only trouble is it’s made in Italy and costs over €5000 :)

My most recent finding is “”, a website devoted to enrich your mental pool of resources and empower you to turn them into creativity. The website has many interesting pieces topics ranging from “art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, you-name-itology.” Its bookshelf has many interesting readings. Only if I have more time ...

NPR programs are above and beyond the news update, that’s where I find my treasures.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Revisitng Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

Our visit to Dallas Arboretum made me realize that this year the parks at north Texas are greener and more flowery than last year due to the wet spring we had. So I proposed that we go biking at Oak Point and Nature Preserve on Memorial Day, which turned out to be a perfect day for biking, at least in the morning  - clear sky, light breeze with temperature around 72F.

The park was so much more beautiful than last July when we visited Oak Point for the first time. There were abundant of flowers by the oak point pound and along the trail by the open prairie. There were a lot of large, really large butterflies hopping from flower to flower.Away from the pound and the prairie, the landscape was greener than last time as well.

On the bike trail, we encountered egrets again.  Near the trail end, Lily spotted an egret in the Rowlett Creek. The accumulated trashes in the creek could not diminish the elegance and grace the egret presented. In a more beautiful setting by the Woodruff pound, another egret was having lunch with two ducks in a puddle.

As we rested at the shelter at the trail end, we noticed a sign in front of a huge tree. The big tree is 245 years old according the the sign erected by the National Arborist Association. We saw the big tree last time as well, but did not pay attention to the sign at all. What a "discovery"!

The flowers, egrets and butterflies made the biking so much more pleasing and different from a usual bike ride around the block. Changing the scene and setting does make a difference - that is why we go to different places to do the same things -  cycling, hiking, kayaking, bird watching and picnicking.

Note: I expect that the park will be even more beautiful if we visit in late April, early May.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Impression: Chihuly - by Justin

Over the last two years, I have been a part of the Jasper Humanities program, a joint taught class covering both English and World History course material. One of the unique things about Humanities is that, because it’s a two year class, we have time to further delve into the arts and literature, the class’s namesake. The class truly opened my eyes to the world of art and culture. In addition to simply learning about art, the Humanities program has increased my awareness of local art exhibits. That’s how we learned about the Chihuly glass sculpture exhibit.

Last Saturday, I went with my family to see Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures at the Dallas Arboretum. Dale Chihuly is an American sculptor known for his innovative uses of glass to shape and form fantastic glass sculptures. In some cases, he even mixes uranium with the glass to give it a glow and shine. From completely round spheres to curled horns and shafts of glass, Chihuly uses tens to hundreds of pieces of glass in each of his pieces. The organic arrangement of Chihuly’s sculptures among the various plant species at the arboretum provided a truly exceptional “art gallery” to walk around in the arboretum.

There were over 20 pieces of Chihuly’s artwork creatively placed around the gardens, some placed in pools, others mounted in the air, while more were set in the flowers and shrubs, extending up and outwards. All of his works were breath-taking and awe-inspiring, from his 1800 piece, 32 feet tall Yellow Icicle Tower to the uranium mixed Mirrored Hornets and the glowing blue and white Dallas Star. Even his most austere and simplistic pieces, reeds of various colored glass, were set in such a backdrop that they too proved to be quite aesthetically pleasing.

My favorite piece at the exhibit was the Niijima Floats, set in one of the pools in the arboretum. The piece itself is fairly simplistic, with assorted glass shapes mounted in floats resembling those of Japanese fisherman. The simple glass spheres and elongated pieces of glass are arranged creatively in the boats, with some spheres floating in the water around the boats. The genius of this piece at the arboretum, I think, is in its location. Set in an infinity pool like location in the arboretum, the boats look strikingly beautiful with a rippled reflection, and when seen from ground level, provide a truly picture perfect scene, which is easier shown than explained.

The Chihuly art exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum is open until November 5th, so there’s still time to go and see these marvelous pieces of art!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Chihuly at the Dallas Arboretum - by Nicholas

Last Saturday morning my family went to the Dallas Arboretum to see glass sculptures made by Artist Dale Chihuly as well as the multitude of plants that fill in the 66-acre garden. Upon our arrival, after a 40 minute drive we entered the Arboretum and proceeded to see many beautiful multi-colored glass sculptures in colors such as red, yellow, white, black, orange, green and purple.
The many plants complemented the sculptures beside them and also the sculptures in the small ponds spread throughout the large garden. We spent most of our time walking around thoroughly examining all the colorful flowers and glass and taking pictures. Many works of Chihuly astounded me,  from the large Yellow Icicle Tower to the Sun and the Dallas Star. There were also surprising things like Mirrored Hornets, a greenish- gold sculpture in  the water which contained small traces of uranium to make it shine/glow a bit and extremely simple looking things like Red Reeds, Green and White Striped Reeds  along with Black and White Striped Reeds which also surprised me merely because they seemed to be too simple . Some glass simply looked strikingly colorful with bright brilliant colors.

However my favorite  one was the glass sculpture that, on its own, looked extremely exquisite and colorful, the Dallas Star. A brilliant blue glass in the center made it seem to glow and the tips of all the points protruding from the star were clear, and reflected light as if it were emitting it. Over the long path I also gazed at several plants which I also liked. It taught me some of the proper (scientific) names of several plants and let me look properly at the plants in a new light. My favorite plant, I believe was a plant called Whale's Tongue Agave or Agave ovatifolia, an interesting plant that looked like this, which I liked it because it was rather unique.

          Looking at the plants and glass sculptures really was fun and I had a terrific time walking around and seeing everything. I enjoyed seeing Chihuly’s work