Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival

Reading this week:

  • The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books by Edward Wilson-Lee
  • Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard
  • Fighting the Slave Hunters in Central Africa by Alfred J. Swann

Two weekends ago, as this is published, because that’s when it was, my super amazing girlfriend and I went to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival! I would have written about this earlier, but I got distracted by KitchenAid attachments.

We had been looking forward to this festival for quite some time. My super amazing girlfriend is a super amazing knitter as well as spinner and is therefore extremely dedicated to the textile arts, which this festival of course celebrates. I am more of a casual fan, because I realize that if I am ever relegated to living in a hut by necessity instead of choice knowing how to operate a loom would be a handy skill. Anyways, my super amazing girlfriend was so excited about this event that two of her friends came down from Boston to attend with us, and another knitting enthusiast friend of ours came along too. It was quite a crowd!

The day itself dawned rather gloomy and it in fact rained on us all day, though this was overall fine. The sheep didn’t seem to mind, nor did all the people attending the festival. It was quite the crowd, which meant we were shocked when we overheard a lady on a phonecall celebrating the fact it was so muddy because she thought it had driven the crowds away, maximizing her own ability to score the best deals on yarn. There were a lot of people!

The first thing we checked out when we arrived at the Sheep & Wool festival were the sheep. Our entire crowd were all fans of sheep, and how could you not be, really? They are very cute and almost tautologically fluffy. We stopped into a judging booth where they were judging sheep, which is a little unfair because all sheep are wonderful in their own way, and then wandered through all the rest of the booths filled with sheep.

Going through my camera roll the vast majority of the pictures I took were of sheep. As you can see from the picture directly above, I was far from the only one. These sheep were like rockstars man, except well I was going to say better behaved but I guess they probably also leave a mess wherever they stay for the night. They live off a much cheaper diet however, though I suppose sheep and rockstars probably have similar haircare needs.

Anyways the point I was winding up to is that my impression is that the sheep portion of the festival and the wool portion were actually pretty separate. I mean they were all mixed together and overall it is a celebration of the things you can do with hair, but there definitely seemed to be sheep people on one hand and then yarn people on the other and I am not sure how much of an overlap there is. Like, I don’t know how many of the sheep farmers that came to show off their absolutely fantastic sheep also knit, or how many knitters would know what to do if handed a freshly shorn hunk of sheep wool. Certainly a number would, like my girlfriend, who is awesome and can and has gone sheep to shawl in a very literal sense, because she is awesome (she is also going to do this in our apartment soon which I am very excited for). But I think overall the number of intermediaries between the worlds of sheep and yarn were a relatively small portion of the audience here.

Just one other observation before I move on. This observation is that it has to be weird to be a sheep at this event. Mostly what I am trying to say here is that in the above picture there are sheep pelts hung up right next to the sheep, which feels a little morbid. Like these sheep gotta be thinking “man everyone here seems to love me… but why?” and then you have your answer in the form of a sheep pelt. Rockstars don’t (I hope) have this problem.

There were other exciting sheep-related attractions at the festival besides just the sheep themselves. For example, there was a sheep dog demonstration, which was very fun to watch. The poor sheep seemed overall confused but man those dogs were excited. They had like five dogs and only typically had one at a time herd sheep. Meanwhile the others were all constantly just vibrating with excitement, which yeah, I get. Like, you’re a sheep dog, bred to do exactly this thing and now here is an opportunity to do it. So you’re like “put me in coach, I wanna herd some sheep” and herd them they did. They were good! Way better than I would have done. They seemed to have a really good time and the sheep did what they were supposed to. Go left, go right, go in figure 8s, go in the pen, go in the other pen, all because the nice lady whistled some things to the dog. It was great! The other sheep-related attraction was the lamb burgers and sandwiches we had for lunch, which if I thought the sheep pelt was morbid, look who’s talking, buddy. Very good though!

And uh, yeah. That was the sheep and wool festival. The above picture is just one of the barns full of different vendors vending different sheep-related products. There were also alpaca, lama, linen, and other fiber-based products as well. But I had a great time watching my super amazing girlfriend look at all the different yarns and stuff. I got a lapel pin out of the whole deal, which is really typically my #1 goal. And I think if I had a decent shop (I now understand the male urge for a garage) I would try to make a drum carder for less than like hundreds or thousands of dollars. Those things are pricey! Might get distracted by making fanciful KitchenAid attachments though.

Anyways the Maryland Sheep & Wool festival is a great time, way better than that piddly little one up north, you should go!

KitchenAid Attachments

Look, this post is for me. I mean they are all for me but in this post I am trying to manifest some stuff into the world. The picture up top is of my super amazing girlfriend’s KitchenAid mixer. It is one of her favorite things ever, right up there with me, Tink, and, uh, I’m struggling to come up with a third because I think everything else is so far down.

The most interesting feature I think of the KitchenAid mixers is the power takeoff. It’s got a technical name that I am unable to Google right now, but you can attach accessories to the KitchenAid and the motor in the mixer will spin ’em. I have been thinking a lot about KitchenAid accessories lately because we have recently gone through a process to get the pasta roller and cutter attachments as cheap as we could, and frankly we did pretty good. They haven’t arrived yet but already we are extremely excited to make pasta. After some I was going to say quick back-of-the-envelope calculations but in fact they were took-a-while-and-involved-a-spreadsheet calculations, I can say they’ll have paid for themselves after we make pasta only 245 times (this is 1471 servings of pasta, though my super amazing girlfriend paid for them so I personally am in the money already. By the way, since my super amazing girlfriend is the only one that reads this blog, I am in fact very excited about the attachments as you can tell, the homemade pasta will be way better, and I was just curious. Math!).

Anyways though I gotta say I am pretty disappointed with the range of potential KitchenAid attachments out there. If you do some more quick Googling you will find like, top 10 lists of best KitchenAid attachments, but these are stupid lists because there are only like 10 attachments out there. Which boggles my mind, personally. The KitchenAid has been around for a century, which is longer than like, spaceflight and, uh, waterskiing. That is ample time to have invented some really super cool attachments! I mean the ones they got are nice, but they could do better.

I will provide some historical perspective, courtesy of this CNET article I will link to several times. There have been attachments that have come and subsequently gone. When I was brainstorming possible attachments, I kept thinking of workshop equipment, because it is funny to think of a drill press powered off the KitchenAid. But they were already close actually, with both a grinder and buffing wheel in the form of a knife sharpener and silver polisher. So that’s neat!

But the point of this blog post is that I have brainstormed some KitchenAid attachments people should bring into the world. Someday I may bring them into the world, and they would not be my first kitchen invention, because one time I put together a toaster with a functioning battleshort switch, making me the only person in the world with tactical toast. The only thing stopping me right now is the fact I lack a metalworking shop, which might change someday. In the meantime, I beg any and all adventurous inventors out there to bring my dreams into reality:

Butter Churn

The first accessory I thought of was a butter churn. I couldn’t believe these didn’t exist yet, though it was likely undermined by all the different cooking websites telling me you could just make butter in a KitchenAid, no attachment needed. But I still think there is probably an opportunity to make an old-timey looking butter churn powered by like a fly wheel coming off the KitchenAid and I think it would give anyone’s kitchen a wonderful rustic charm as well as providing endless fresh butter the instant my super amazing girlfriend lets us get a cow to keep on the patio.

Taffy Puller

The KitchenAid Taffy Puller is still in my list of plausible inventions I can’t believe don’t actually already exist. I mean sure, who is pulling taffy that often in their kitchen, but my counterpoint to that is the number of new never-used KitchenAid accessories on eBay makes me think that all these attachments are niche and rarely used, so what’s one more? Plus I hear taffy is hard to pull so the sheer horsepower in the KitchenAid is going to make this a winner.

KitchenAid Rotisserie

Honestly this is another one I can’t believe doesn’t exist already. Trying to think of reasonable kitchen gadgets, there both are and aren’t a bevy of ones that spin. Like, what’s the difference between a food processor and a blender, really? In fact there is a KitchenAid food processor, but it looks kind of gangly dangling off the end there in space. But as I was thinking of spinning things, I came up with this brilliant idea, because who (besides like, a large bevy of people actually) doesn’t like meat roasted by slowly rotating it over a heat source? With that in mind, I bring you the KitchenAid rotisserie. Here is the fully-enclosed version, but you could also imagine a version that just did the rotation while the chicken was kept over a handy indoor grill.

Shop Vac

Of course, why just think about food when using a KitchenAid mixer? Hence my next brilliant idea: the KitchenAid vacuum. This would be especially handy for kitchen cleanup, when you could finally get all those little crumbs that fall between the oven and the cabinet. Oooh ooh now that I am thinking about it this could double as a vacuum sealer for food. Jeez I am so brilliant.


Of course, what really got me thinking about all this was that the KitchenAid power takeoff was pretty similar to those ones you find on tractors or Land Rovers. Some follow-up research led me to be very disappointed in the limited range of accessories to attach to one’s Land Rover power takeoff (winches seem to be the only real idea, which would also be great for the KitchenAid frankly), but luckily I found a backhoe attachment for a tractor. Brilliant! When I showed this picture to my super amazing girlfriend she asked “what would you do with that?” But what wouldn’t you do is the question. I mean, probably anything that didn’t involve digging, but I think this would be endless fun for the whole family as they gathered around the KitchenAid backhoe and dug up the kitchen linoleum, or something. If I had a metal shop and probably a YouTube channel and more time and also knew anything at all about hydraulics, this is the one I would build for sure.

Other Free Ideas

I got tired of expertly photoshopping all of these (my super amazing girlfriend when I showed her these pictures, reacted with a slightly exasperated “this is what you’ve been working on for hours with a look of concentration???”), but I have a bevy of other ideas. These are all free for anyone to make and implement, but you have to email me a picture and if you become rich and famous please say nice things about me.

  • Salad spinner. Gone are the days of spinning salad by hand, like it’s 1800.
  • Water pump. For uh, spraying things I guess. For watering plants from across the living room.
  • Fan. Because if you can’t stand the heat, instead of getting out of the kitchen just install your KitchenAid fan.
  • Hand mixer attachment. This is supposed to be ironic but I think you could use a drain snake-like mechanism to connect the power to a hand mixer and that could be handy for things.
  • Speaking of which, drain snake. To unclog the kitchen sink. Incredibly handy!
  • Cake decorating stand. Instead of having to spin the cake around by hand, it’ll spin it for you, cutting effort dramatically. Could also work for pizzas to ease putting on toppings, or double as a potter’s wheel.
  • Winch. This is an homage to the LandRover, but could be useful for putting things in high cabinets.
  • Combine Harvester. Like the kind you pull behind a tractor, but smaller. Useful for houseplants in the kitchen.
  • Automatic pot stirrer. When I suggested this to my super amazing girlfriend she was like “the KitchenAid is already a stirrer” so this should be easy, but in this case it is like an extension that juts out over your stove and into your pots.
  • Toothbrush. Like an spinning electric toothbrush, or the kind at the dentist. Get your teeth really clean. You’ll have to brush your teeth over the kitchen sink, obviously.
  • Honey extractor
  • Milk separator. Clearly now I am thinking about my future self-sustaining ecofarm that is off the grid but still on the electrical grid, specifically.
  • Mangle (old timey clothes wringer). See above.
  • Paint mixer. Like the kind you see at hardware stores to mix up your paint where it shakes it around real good. Clearly could also double as a cocktail shaker, and I think it would also be fantastic for un-separating non-homogenized peanut butter.
  • SodaStream. Presumably those just have a pump which pumps air? If so the pump can be run off the KitchenAid. Could also be good for inflating balloons or air mattresses/pool toys.
  • Hot Wheels set. Great for brand synergy and keeping the kids entertained while you are cooking.
  • Carding machine and spinning wheel. Ashamed I didn’t think of this before. Of course the on/off-grid farm will have sheep!

I’ll add to this list if I think of anymore. Suggestions welcome! Someone should build these. Please.

Jones on Hore

A poor scan of a picture of Rev. D.P. Jones and his wife Jessie Ann, née Harries, from his book. Originally captioned “Portrait of the author and his wife taken during the period of their mission activity.”

Reading this week:

  • Funafuti by Mrs. Edgeworth David
  • After Livingstone by the Reverend David Picton Jones

Loyal readers, to avoid the embarrassment of being late once again I need an easy entry. As you can see above, I have just finished reading After Livingstone, which is the sort of autobiography of Rev. D.P. Jones of the London Missionary Society. It is largely an anthropological-type look at the people that he lived with while a missionary with LMS, which was mostly the Mambwe and Lungu people. It was only published in 1968 by his daughter, and I think is a bit less known in the field of LMS studies. It was a pretty good read with some new tid-bits I hadn’t heard. He is a very straightforward writer but an interesting guy, and was most notably probably the first linguist (though untrained) in the LMS and published the first Mambwe-English dictionary. His book is worth a read for sure, but unfortunately I think you’ll have to buy a copy.

Anyways, in a chapter titled “Personalities,” he talks about some of the notable people he met and worked with in Central Africa not otherwise described in the book. One of those people is the popular-to-this-blog Captain Edward Hore. I hadn’t seen this description of Capt. Hore referenced elsewhere, and since Rev. Jones’ book isn’t available online as far as I can tell, please find below and enjoy the relevant excerpt. My favorite part is the one-man committee meeting; truly a man after my own heart:

“Among my fellow-laborers in the mission field one in particular stands out – Capt. Hore of the L.M.S., every inch a sailor. He could turn his hand to almost anything, but he was first and foremost a ship’s captain. His ambition was to settle at Ujiji and establish there the Marine Department, so that he could keep up communication with, and between, the various stations that would be opened up on the lake shore. Unfortunately for his plans, nearly all the missionaries of whom the party consisted at the start either died or went home to England, or returned to their old stations in South Africa. Capt. Hore and Mr. Hutley alone remained. And they were looked upon with suspicion by the Arabs and thwarted in every attempt to carry on missionary work. Eventually Capt. Hore went over to Uguha and established the Marine Department on the island of Kavala.

“He was a peculiar person in some respects and ‘gey ill’ to get on with. While he was very sincere, highly industrious, nobly conscientious, and capable of doing good work, he was withal officious and laid too great stress upon small things.

“When we were about to embark on the Morning Star he looked at our boots with a severe eye and expected us at once to change into slippers or canvas shoes. Much more was that the case when the little steamer replaced it. He then warned us, by letter beforehand, that we must bring with us a pair of light canvas shoes for use on the deck.

“His knowledge of Swahili was imperfect but nevertheless he expected the natives to understand what he said instantly, even though his expressions were atrociously ungrammatical.

“I remember he shook a man furiously one day because he did not understand what he meant by saying ‘Mekwenda mjini, eh?’ Literally it meant, ‘You have been to the village, eh?’ What he wished to say was, ‘Go to the village.’ And the poor fellow wondered what he had done amiss.

“He was very insistent that his orders should be obeyed literally and immediately. Because his servant failed to do so one day, he told him in a loud voice to go out and fetch a plateful of stones. When the man hesitated he shook him well. When at last he brought the stones the Captain apostrophized the act and ordered him to throw the stones away again. His motto evidently was, ‘Yours not to reason why: yours but to do and fly.’

“But with all his eccentricities and provoking ways he was a good man. And inside the Marine Department a good servant of the Society. He lived for that.

“One year it was arranged to hold the District Committee meetings at Kavala, and the date of holding them had to correspond with the arrival of reinforcements – the Revs. J. Harris and Bowen Rees. For weeks before the event Capt. Hore was busy making preparations. He built special huts for the various men and saw that each man should have a room of some kind for himself. Our surprise, therefore, may be imagined, when we arrived, and saw nailed over the door of one building a board with these words on: ‘Office of the Marine Department’; over another building a board bearing the name ‘Rev. J. Harris’; over a third building a board bearing the name ‘Rev. Bowen Rees’, and so on. As I was one of the senior missionaries I was to be the guest of Capt. Hore himself. We quarreled with him in almost every meeting. It was practically unavoidable, but nevertheless we retained our friendship.

“There is a unique entry in the Secretary’s book, which is read by every newcomer to this day. It happened that year that Capt. Hore was the Secretary of the District Committee and that he was the only member who was able to be present. One had gone home, one or two had died, and one (or more) was unable to come. But, nothing daunted, Capt. Hore met himself and carried on the business of committee in three different names. As he was the Secretary of the District Committee, he recorded the proceedings in the official minute-book thus: ‘Capt. Hore and the Secretary of the District Committee asked the Chief Officer of the Marine Department if he could furnish such-and-such information, and the Chief Officer of the Marine Department replied to Capt. Hore and to the Secretary of the District Committee that he would be pleased to draw up a report as soon as his duties would allow him, and would present it to the Secretary’, and other similar items.

“As another example of what might have been his eccentricity, but was not in this instance, I may mention the following incident.

“He and I were heavy smokers. In order to lessen expenses we decided to order a case of tobacco (gold leaf) from Bonded Stores. The smallest case was 80 lb., in which quantity it was sold for a shilling a pound. An order was sent by the Captain to the Mission House, and it included little else but the tobacco, for we had been able to buy provisions that year form the stock of those who had either left the country or died. When they read the order at Headquarters the various officials had a consultation together and decided at once that Capt. Hore must have lost his reason. They did not therefore send out the tobacco until they had confirmation of the order from another source.

“After years of life in Central Africa the Captain retired and tried to make a livelihood by lecturing on Central Africa and later by opening a Central Africa Exhibition. The latter contained specimens and models of innumerable things to be seen in the homes and gardens of the natives. Thereafter, having failed in both attempts to secure a permanent livelihood, he went to Tasmania and bought a fruit-farm, where he grew apples of various kinds. And there, a short time ago, he died.”

Great Falls

Reading this week:

  • Tipoo Tib, Narrated from His Own Accounts by Dr. Heinrich Brode and translated by H. Havelock
  • Rama II by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee (I am not sure either of these people have met other people, let alone a woman)

This is probably mostly an apology for whatever algorithm drives (or in my case doesn’t really) traffic to this site, but sorry it is late. This is entirely my fault, since no one else writes this blog, and really while the cause is me, the biggest victim is also me, because I do this whole project as a way to motivate myself and stuff and clearly I failed at that. So sorry, me, and also I will get my undying revenge.

This past weekend my super amazing girlfriend, another friend of mine, the friend’s dog Barley, and I risked death by visiting Great Falls National Park.

I had been to Great Falls I think just once before this past weekend. I visited because of course it was on Atlas Obscura. It is a fairly stunning place. My super amazing girlfriend and I live in Alexandria, which is on the Potomac river, and it is of course a cute little placid thing, despite George Washington’s hopes it would be the Nile of America or whatever. But you go just a little up it and suddenly there is this massive and violent torrent of water which I never would have suspected was there because I never studied geography too closely. Here is a gif of it, to complement the picture at the top:

After the gorgeous views and awe of nature in its rawest forms, I think the next most striking part of the park is how starkly they warn you that you will almost certainly die if you even think about touching the water. Their website is worth a peruse. They warn you this because it is true. Here is a Washington Post article describing the how and why of its deadliness. Basically, it is a huge volume of water flowing through a very narrow space, so the currents are extremely swift. And although the falls part of the falls, the bit in the picture and gif, look deadly, just down river is a placid-looking little part. But it is covering a irregular bottom with pits that cause roiling underwater currents of up to thirty-five knots! So people jump in for a nice little swim and get swept underwater and die.

In fact, I think it is the 11th deadliest national park. If you google “deadliest national parks” you get things like Outside Online articles listing the Grand Canyon, or Backpacker articles debunking that Outside Online article and listing Denali instead. They in turn it seems are based on this report going a little more in-depth. But they’re all wrong!

I mean maybe. None of them list Great Falls National Park because, I think, it is administratively part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The Parkway gets a whole lot of visitors per year at sites like Arlington Cemetery (well Arlington House, specifically), and while there are a lot of dead people there, not a lot of people die there. All the reports base their numbers on per capita deaths, and so the Parkway system itself gets a lot of per capitas. But if you limit it to Great Falls, it shoots up the list.

It’s hard to tell exactly how deadly Great Falls is. A sign near the first lookout claims seven people drown per year. That Washington Post article I linked to says that between 2001 and 2013, 27 people died. I found more recent articles about drownings, but none listing totals, so we’ll go with 2.25 deaths per year. The only number I could find for total visitors to the park was on the Wikipedia page, which in an uncited figure says 645,000 people visited in 2002, which is conveniently in our range for the Washington Post article. That final report I linked (here again) lists the deadliest national parks in terms of deaths per 10 million visitors, so with our numbers we have a grim 34.9 deaths per 10 million visitors. That puts it just below Big Bend National Park. If that 7 deaths a year number were true, it would handedly be the second deadliest national park, just behind North Cascades National Park.

So I am glad to report we didn’t die! In fact we had a very nice time. After the awe-inspiring falls, we walked along the canal trail, admiring the old infrastructure. The visitor center was closed, which was sad, because I remember it giving a particularly good overview of infrastructure and stuff. Always a big fan of canals, me, and my super amazing girlfriend is willing to indulge.

This is where the canal steeply drops into the Potomac. Some wonderful engineering here.

As we walked along the trail we eventually got into a slightly more rugged portion where we could admire the river going by. It was a gorgeous day and we got plenty of sun. There were a good number of people around but also plenty of space so a lovely time was had by all. The dog, Barley, seemed to enjoy the views. My super amazing girlfriend and I caught up with our dog-owning friend and we wiled away the hours. We eventually went back closer to the Visitor’s Center and enjoyed some ice cream from an ice-cream truck that had a captive audience and charged like it. A lovely day was had by all and we eventually parted ways, satisfied with our thrill-seeking scrape with death.

Serene but deadly. Like our cat.


This is not the Hirshhorn, this is orchids, which we’ll come to later.

Loyal reader(s), many apologies that this blog post is late. I spent most of the week wasting time and therefore didn’t do this. I hope you will understand.

Last weekend my super amazing girlfriend and I went to the Hirshhorn Museum, which until I visited I didn’t realize it had an over-the-top three Hs in its name. We went for the same reason you climb Everest: because we are hip and want to prove it. It was very nice! It was smaller than I thought, and not only because when we went it was shrouded for repairs; it is also hollow in the middle. This is in a literal sense, and not in the metaphorical sense in the way that I accuse other institutions we go to of being. In normal times I am to understand there is a very pretty fountain but when we went there was not.

We had a very nice time! We were unable to go to the Instagramtacular “One with Eternity,” because that takes waking up earlier in the morning than we were willing to, but we saw, you know, the rest of it. The first exhibit we walked through was “The Weather” by Laurie Anderson. I was worried because the very first room you walk into has like, an avant-garde (sorry if I misused that term, which of course I did) film thing going on, which always takes more patience than my internet-befuddled brain is willing to handle. But no it had a spectacular array of artforms covering the breadth of Anderson’s career and it was great. There was a swishy flags exhibit I particularly enjoyed. Her artwork captured the whole span of not very instagrammable (the flags) to the eminently instagrammable (giant rooms with huge painted walls), and I liked watching people interact with the art via the medium of being photographed in front of it. I was particularly drawn to the above canoe, named “To Carry Heart’s Tide,” because it was a canoe.

After emerging from that exhibit, we went and saw the whole retrospective on Duchamp’s work. The above thing is one of his “rotoreliefs,” which was designed to be spun around. The museum displayed them as static, which I have crudely fixed through the magic of a gif. All in all a wonderful retrospective and really put into perspective that urinal you always hear about. Anyways the Hirshhorn was great and I had never been before but we’ll certainly have to go again, probably when all the art changes.

Emerging from the Hirshhorn with more time in the day than we anticipated (because it was hollow, again only literally), we did the second thing that neither of us had done before, and visited the Botanical Gardens. Wow that was great! I didn’t even really ever realize it was there or what it was, but it was fantastic! Entering into the space pictured above, I took a picture of the sign that said “The Tropics” as a bit of a joke, but no yeah it felt just like you were going into the tropics, which has to be one of my favorite things (going into the tropics). It was just great to wander around all the plants. They had all sorts of different sections (not just tropics), including like deserts and stuff and medicinal plants and it was really cool. You could also go up high and down on the plants, but once more only literally, because the plants were really cool. This perspective is pictured below. Honestly if you’re in DC hit up the Botanical Gardens, it doesn’t take very long, and it is very neat. I think I’m going to install one in our guestroom.

National Zoo

A Golden Poison Frog, aka a very handsome gentleman!

Reading this week:

As I mentioned in last week’s post, that same weekend my super amazing girlfriend’s mom came to visit we also went to the National Zoo!

I remember going to the National Zoo a lot when I was but a wee child. It has the distinct advantage, like all Smithsonian-related institutions, of being free. I think my favorite time I ever had at the zoo is when I was like five or seven or thereabouts and I got separated from my parents almost immediately after arriving. The method by which I got separated is that I deliberately walked away from them because already by this point I knew my way around the zoo and had my own agenda of which animals to see. The family apparently had a day spent in increasing panic as I was nowhere to be found, while I had a lovely day admiring the elephants and whatnot. At the end of the day I merely walked up to them and announced my presence, and they were very relieved.

On this particular day I did not get separated from either my super amazing girlfriend or her mom. Upon arriving the first place we went was into the farm section of the zoo, which felt a little ironic but this section is a must-see for my super amazing girlfriend because they contain her favorite animal, the mighty alpaca. I offered that we could get an alpaca to keep at home but she turns down all of my most sensible ideas, this one being no exception.

It was a tad cold and blustery that day that we went. It wasn’t so bad in the sun, but honestly I should have worn a slightly more robust jacket. I wore my safari jacket, which is my favorite jacket for viewing animals in, but is better suited for more tropical climes. There are other ways to keep warm however, as amply demonstrated by two of the Andean bears who felt that, despite the chill, love was in the air:

They went on for quite some time and had gathered a bit of a crowd! This was perhaps to the chagrin of the many parents with small children who wandered by, and very quickly had to come up with stories about how that is just the way the bears play.

Of course, one of the most popular animals at the zoo are the pandas. They had quite a significant line that day, but we waited gamely to be able to see them. It was imperative to see them, because tiny little baby panda Xiao Qi Ji is heading to China soon, and so there was only so much time to see the cuteness. The cuteness at this point being a full-sized panda happily (I presume) munching away at bamboo like its their job, which it is. This picture came out terrible but here you go anyways:

Extremely cute!

My favorite part of this exhibit, purely for its impressive surveillance setup, was the panda control center and the lady inside earnestly marking down whatever it was she was marking down:

These are my desk goals.

There were many other exciting animals as well! The elephants were fun to see as they munched away at hay, and the lions and tigers were all very vocal about the fact it was apparently very near to lunch time. The cheetahs were also pacing up a storm. It all reminded me very much of Tink. I also enjoyed the building all about the Amazon rain forest, which housed that little frog at the top and is what inspired me, in addition to the National Aquarium, to go visit Brazil a decade+ ago now. They have a poster about a dolphin that turns into a lady that I have never quite been able to process ever since I first saw it as a little kid. It was also exciting that day to see the gorillas and the orangutans, who were particularly active:

Hangin’ out.

Then, finally, after a long day wandering around checking out the animals, we visited the gift shop, exited the zoo on the opposite side from whence we entered, and got on the metro to warm up back home.

Museum of the American Indian

Reading this week:

  • Missionary to Tanganyika edited by James B. Wolf
  • The Shock of the Old by David Edgerton
  • Mr. Selden’s Map of China by Timothy Brook

A couple of weekends ago my super amazing girlfriend, her mom, and I all went to the National Museum of the American Indian. This was not the original plan. Her mom had come into town to see the cherry blossoms, as one is wont to do in DC around this time of year. They initially had gone on Friday and had a lovely time. I was unfortunately working, and thus could not go. Saturday we spent at the zoo and then on Sunday we ventured once again to the National Mall in order to see some extremely pretty flowers.

Unfortunately between Friday and Sunday a wintry blast had hit, dashing all hopes that spring had firmly sprung and making me regret storing all of my sweaters and sweatshirts in the box to which I banish them in the summer with the idle hope I will never need them again. Don’t worry, dear reader, we did get to see cherry blossoms! In fact we saw cherry blossoms from perhaps the best vantage point in all of DC, that is atop the Washington Monument. Having had such a nice time last time, we had managed to snag tickets for Sunday morning so bright and early we found ourselves peering over at Jefferson and enjoying the view:

However, as all things must eventually come to an end, we were eventually ejected back out into the frigid and blustery cold and had to find something to do. Our original plan was to walk around the tidal basin and look at the blossoms, but due to the bluster and cold I just mentioned that plan was right out. So instead we did the logical thing: go to the National Museum of the American Indian.

Mask representing an amikuk.

I have some fond memories of this museum. I remember when it opened and how eager my grandpa was to go to it. He made a lot of art and had a deep interest in native American art, hence his enthusiasm. I also remember the cafeteria they have being very good, and it was good again this time and I thoroughly enjoyed my traditional authentic Navajo taco. However, as a museum overall I remembered it being a bit underwhelming. My sort of biggest criticism is that I remember being disappointed that they didn’t stick more museum in their museum. This is not a particularly objective criticism, and if I was running a museum I would lean heavily in the wunderkammer direction. A gigantic part of the museum is taken up by the open atrium and between that and the other sundry museum bits they really only have four or so exhibit spaces available. I just want more.

However, it was this time around that I figured out the way they give you more is being fairly well dedicated to rotating their exhibits out. I hadn’t even realized that what I thought of as the “intro” exhibit is itself technically temporary (and ending soon!), though an 18-year run is pretty good. The next exhibit was the one that most directly appealed to the interests of my girlfriend and I, which was all about the nation-to-nation relationships between the United States and the American Indian Nations. If you’re, you know, an American with an iota of feeling for one’s fellow man, it’s not a feel-good exhibit as one might guess. My favorite part was learning that the Haudenosaunee still demand to be given cloth by the United States government, despite the government’s attempt to just switch it to cash. According to the exhibit, “The nations replied, ‘The cloth is more significant than money, because so long as you keep sending this to us, there’s a chance you’ll maybe remember all of the other articles of that treaty.”

Of the exhibits, my favorite and most gorgeous displays the work of Preston Singletary, and is titled “Raven and the Box of Daylight.” It was in this exhibit that I had to remind myself to reset my notion of what a museum should be away from my wunderkammer instincts. It displays a series of stunning glass statues but then uses those statues to relate to story of, as you guessed from the title, Raven and the Box of Daylight. I came away convinced more museums should have whole exhibits that literally tell a (metaphorical) story.

The most thought-provoking exhibit however was titled “Americans,” and explores how interwoven Native American iconography, imagery, and culture is with the United States, despite or because of the massive racism and violence they have experienced at the hands of the people of the United States. As pictured above, its central hall contains multitudes of those images, including many I hadn’t quite realized were named after Native Americans (I’m thinking of SueBee Honey, ie Sioux Bee Honey here, not the Tomahawk, which is obvious, except that I took that picture because as soon as I saw the Tomahawk I realized I hadn’t actually ever made the connection). Of the hall they had smaller displays telling not only more accurate versions of the history of people like Pocahontas or events such as the Battle of Little Bighorn, and even more interesting how the perception and use of these histories have changed over time in the United States in response to the changing mores and fashion of the times. Interesting stuff, and its these changing exhibits that are going to make me need to come back to the museum more often.

After a quick trip to the gift shop (of course), which is excellent, that wrapped up our time at the Museum of the American Indian. We ventured back outside to the still-blustery day and headed home. As a final note, since I have mentioned here that I like baskets, they did have some excellent baskets:

The Chronicle, 1896-1900

Reading this week:

  • Dhow Chasing in Zanzibar Waters by Captain G.L. Sulivan, R.N.
  • Across Africa by Commander V.L. Cameron, R.N., C.B., D.C.L.
  • Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Look guys I know it is absolutely astounding that I have posted sections from The Chronicle two weeks in a row. I can barely believe it myself and for the sake of my reader(s) I hope you like this content and are not pining after descriptions of me wandering around art museums or something. I like it and that’s all that matters on my blog. Anyways. A couple of factors at play here. First is that the downward trend in the length of these updates continue their downward trend, this one clocking in at juuuust shy of 33,000 words. More importantly however is that I was procrastinating some things and doing this was my excuse to avoid doing the other things. Please see previous updates in my plan to transcribe every article in The Chronicle of the London Missionary Society relating to their Central Africa Mission here: 1876-1880, 1881-1885, 1886-1890, 1891-1895.

I have mentioned several times now that the first reason I got interested in the London Missionary Society is because they launched the first steamship on Lake Tanganyika, the SS Good News. That era in LMS history has come and gone, however this era we are entering now is interesting because it much more closely overlaps my own experience in Zambia.

The Society by the end of this era is running three main Mission stations, having given up the Urambo Mission to Moravian missionaries in 1898 in order to consolidate their efforts at the southern end of Lake Tanganyika. There is a mission at Kambole, which I think was in the area now occupied by Nsumbu National Park, which I am sad that I never got to go to. Then there are missions at Niamkolo and Kawimbe. When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer I lived about smack dab in the middle of those two stations, making the LMS’s old stomping grounds my old stomping grounds. I’ve used pictures from this era of the Chronicle to talk about some of these things, such as Niamkolo church.

View from near the spot where the LMS Kawimbe mission was; I can’t imagine it looked way too different in 1899.

I also got interested in Kawimbe because that is where large chunks of the story of Mama Meli took place. In that article I just linked one of the things that my friend Katie and I looked at was a cemetery where many of the missionaries were buried. As part of this project I have finally been able to connect the names on some of these gravestones with the stories of the people behind them. One of the things I want to do if I am ever in Zambia again is to go back to that cemetery and do a better job photographing the memorials and documenting the people buried there. But when I do manage to identify one, such as John May Jr. or, below, Dr. Charles B. Mather, it feels like an exciting accomplishment:

But besides people dying, what’s going on with the Central African Mission? Both a lot and not so much. In 1897 they sent out seven new missionaries to Central Africa (with the Hemans returning), significantly boosting that Mission, since the numbers had dwindled to three people. This significant increase should have led to a lot more activity in the missions, and I think it will and does eventually, but for a long stretch during this interval things are pretty quiet as I think the new missionaries get up to speed and more settled. As I keep saying during these summaries the missions are getting more and more settled and integrated (they proudly talk about at one point that the Central African missions had finally become self-sustaining as far as local expenditure is concerned) and that continues to be the case here. Colonialism continues to take hold as well (“British Central Africa” is referred to regularly), and there is even now a telegraph line to Mbala/Abercorn. The Mission also at this point has a small but regular number of converts coming in, the payoff for their now 25 years in Central Africa. As I read about the Missionaries training carpenters and blacksmiths and converting people to Christianity, I think about the different churches I saw during my time in Zambia or the carpenters and metalworkers that I met, and I wonder which and how many of those people are the direct cultural descendants of the people that these missionaries trained.

As always, if you are finding this useful (or maybe just finding this at all) I would be absolutely delighted to know. My current thinking is that I will keep this project going through about 1915, which will put us into World War I and I think the London Missionary Society might no longer necessarily be the best place to find out about the culture and people in the area. But that is pure conjecture; I’ve never read that far in the Chronicle (though honestly issues become harder to find online at that point). But I guess we’ll see when I get there.

The Chronicle, 1891-1895

Reading this week:

  • The War That Doesn’t Say Its Name by Jason K. Stearns

Friends, I am stunned and astonished to say that I have completed yet another installment of my plan to transcribe every article in The Chronicle of the London Missionary Society relating to their Central Africa Mission (here is: 1876-1880, 1881-1885, 1886-1890). I have been starting with their stats, so I will let you know that this is even shorter than the previous “teeny-tiny update” at only 36,700 or so words. It does however have something like double the number of pictures as the preceding 15 years of articles combined.

Previously I posited that the amount of coverage the Central African Mission was getting had nosedived because it had become Just Another Mission within the London Missionary Society’s repertoire, and that I think is still true. My numbers are a little artificial too, because sometimes I skipped articles when the mention of the Mission was literally only passing. Also, the format of the Chronicle also changed during this time period to be longer and fancier (and with more pictures), but also mentions of the Central African Mission can arise in a wider variety of spots (different “Secretarial Notes,” in regular columns like “Month to Month” and “Personal Notes,” and sometimes in space-filling asides at the bottom of otherwise unrelated columns) so I am worried I missed some things, despite scrolling through every page. Another reason I think coverage was diminished in this era is because 1895 was the centenary of the London Missionary Society, and they were focused on their older missions, such as the South Seas and South Africa.

One of the themes I see running throughout these five years is the London Missionary Society coming to grips with the impact of colonization on their sought-after flock. Colonization is firmly established at this time – in 1894 they even see A.J. Swann resign his post with the Society “in consequence of his having accepted an official position under the British Administrator in Central Africa.” In general too the Society is in favor of colonization, welcoming a “flood” of Europeans into Africa even as they bemoan this flood is too focused on seeking gold over the spiritual enlightenment of the people. However, in a surprisingly (to me) progressive note, the Foreign Secretary, Rev. Thompson, worries about an effort by Cecil Rhodes and the British South Africa Company to take what is now Botswana away from direct rule by the British Empire and put it under direct control of the company:

Now it transpires that Lord Knutsford, when Colonial Secretary, promised the Company that in due time the Bechwanaland Protectorate should be added to their dominions. Lord Ripon in turn confirmed this promise, and now Mr. Rhodes is agitating for the realization of the compact. The chiefs and people of Bechwanaland object to the change. They have no complaint to make against the Company, but they see that it is a company with the interests of its own shareholders to care for. They think that Imperial rule is likely to be more impartial and unbiased than even the best-intentioned financial corporation.

R. Wardlaw Thompson, October 1895

The Society is forced in this era to take a look at what they have wrought, and decide whether they approve of what they have done.

Just to mention a few other things that happened during this era. First, when describing a trip through Bembaland (here “Awemba”) in an article from January 1895, Rev. W. Thomas (not the Foreign Secretary) notes “How little credit the native gets, as a rule, in books of travel!” I’ve commented on the same thing to criticize my own writing, so good on him here. It is also during this time that a great era for the London Missionary Society came to and end: in a note on the “Proceedings of the Board” in May of 1894, they announce that “the sale of the Mission steamer, Good News, on Lake Tanganyika, Central Africa, to the African Lakes Company (Limited), was approved.” How short a useful life that boat lived despite all the effort and lives that went into putting it on the Lake. But by this time Kavala Island had been abandoned, with the focus of the Mission moving inland, and they had little use for it. Their needs seem to have been adequately met by the Morning Star, but it was wrecked in February of 1895 in a gale (though they think they can repair it). As I have mentioned, the whole reason I started researching this stuff was because I was interested in these boats.

Anyways! As I always say at the end of these posts, if you find this useful please leave a note at the bottom of the post. I would be very interested to see if anyone is as interested in this stuff as I am and are finding these transcriptions useful. Someday I want to compile them all into one big document (and it will be very big) with regularized spellings and a nice index and maybe biographical notes of the missionaries so it’s easy to see who was where, when. But there is a lot of typing to do between now and then.

P.S. – I don’t have a great place to put these, but check out these pictures by Rev. D.P. Jones of two dudes fishing at Niamkolo and a stockade fence with human skulls:

White House of the Confederacy

The last major thing we did as part of our Richmond extravaganza was visit the apocryphally-named “White House of the Confederacy.” This was of course the house that Jefferson Davis lived in while he was the President of the Confederacy. It was apparently a very prominent house back in its days with expansive views, but today it is awkwardly in the middle of a hospital. The above picture is actually the back of the house, which is the fancy-looking side because that’s where garden parties would have been held.

Look if I was nervous to visit the American Civil War Museum lest I be bombarded with lost cause narratives, I was even more worried about visiting this place, but I shouldn’t have been. The house is actually owned and operated by the Museum (though it requires separate admission) and so they are pretty invested in telling a true and useful story.

This part isn’t super important to the narrative, but the big metal thing in the picture above is a section of the propeller shaft of the CSS Virginia (aka Merrimac) and I like boats and boat history so that was interesting for me. Anyways!

Pictured above is our faithful guide. The tour groups were small and at the house it was currently a one-man operation. He greeted us at the gift shop, rang up people’s purchases, and when it was time for the tour led us all out and locked up the gift shop until the next group came along. He was a very nice man and very passionate about the house. The house actually contains a good amount of furniture actually used by the Davis family while they lived there, a result of careful cataloguing in the modern day of zealous Confederacy-collecting by the Daughters of the Confederacy as they went about establishing that Lost Cause. The tour didn’t discuss too much of the actual house details that I recall. Some interesting bits about built-in closets but that was it.

Before the tour my super amazing girlfriend had pondered why Jefferson Davis didn’t seem quite so famous as Lee when it comes to Confederate symbols. I think what we learned on the tour is that was because no one really liked him. Seemed like he got the job of Confederate President because no one trusted anyone who actually wanted it, so he wound up with it. According to the tour he put his entire self into it, for better or worse for both his health and the Confederacy. The single biggest impression from the tour, thanks again to our tour guide, was that the most interesting character in the house was Jefferson’s wife Varina, who clearly had her own passions, desires, and friends, which did not appear to include much in the way of support for the Confederate cause. Maybe this is its own form of hagiography but she seems interesting nonetheless.

Going through my pictures of the house it doesn’t seem like I took many at all. I walked away thinking that our guide did an excellent job and while he had a passion for the house that wasn’t out of a passion for the southern cause. I think he must have an interesting job because I would go out on a limb to assume the “White House of the Confederacy” appeals to a lot of types trying to promote or at least not hurt that Lost Cause narrative. I think the most forthright comment he got out of our group was someone who was pontificating on door-based house taxes (which our guide said didn’t exist and weren’t a factor), but I wonder about some of the groups that come through. But then again maybe I am stereotyping! At any rate, like I say at the end of most of these things, I think the house is worth a look around. History happened there. That’s worth knowing about, even if that history isn’t all that good.