Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Five: Flashback Facts

In 1956, the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce and Fort Collins Industrial Fund, Inc., put out a brochure entitled Fortunate Fort Collins to help attract business to the area. Five random facts from that brochure:

1. The average age of Larimer County residents (per 1950 census) was 29.1 years;

2. There were 1,521 farms in Larimer County averaging 478 acres (per the 1954 agricultural census);

3. Those farms included approximately 70,000 cattle; 5,000 hogs; 2,000 horses and mules; 151,000 sheep, and 102,000 poultry.

4. Fort Collins had one high school, one junior high school, and a total public school enrollment of 4,206 students; and

5. With a population of 24,000, Fort Collins was the smallest community in the nation with its own symphony orchestra.

Where was I?

It's the south-west corner of a busy intersection.
It has this circular boardwalk, a few lonely-looking sculptures, and a great view of the A.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

CSU Swim Meet

Of all the athletic abilities I admire—and there are many, believe me—swimming and diving are high up on the list. I swim like I run, with much flailing and gasping. And as for diving, all I have to say is, upside down and twisting…are you kidding me? With the summer Olympics coming up this year, I thought I’d do a little spectator training on Saturday as the Rams swam against University of New Mexico at Moby Pool.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Moby Pool, it’s located in the boxy, unassuming building tucked in between Moby Arena and the newer athletic complex to the east. The pool opened in 1966, the same year as Moby Arena, and is the training and competition venue for the CSU swimmers and divers.

The on-line schedule listed noon as the start time, but when I arrived, I discovered that the 3-meter diving competition had started forty-five minutes earlier. That was disappointing, because the diving events are always fun. But the first event I watched, the 1000 yard freestyle, was no less impressive. A thousand yards is 40 laps, and Ram Maddie Mastrup won that race with a time of 10:42. I got tired just watching.

The freestyle is fast and graceful, and probably the stroke of choice for any swimmer trying to outdistance an angry sea lion. The backstroke and butterfly are rhythmic and pleasing. But what is up with that breaststroke? With the frog kicks and the bobbing heads, it looks more like punishment than fun. But the women who swim it do it well, and Ram Kellie Mathews took first in that event.

I got to see the divers compete in the 1-meter board event, which I think must be even harder than the 3-meter because the distance between the board and the water is so much shorter. At the start of the sixteenth and final event of the meet, the 200 yard freestyle relay, the Rams were ahead by a slim six point margin. In a very exciting finish, the Rams edged out UNM to win the meet by a score of 156-141. They will swim again at Moby on February 4, but the rest of their meets are away. Good luck to the swimmers and divers, especially when they close out their season at the NCAA Championships in Auburn, Alabama.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Fun: Vintage Ads

Happy Friday! I love the look of these local advertisements, circa 1960. Not exactly Mad Men, but very quaint.

Last week's photo was taken from the second story of Nordy's BBQ on North College.

The only mystery this week is how my dog can get comfortable in a laundry basket.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

MLK March

Thanks to this year’s PSD calendar, students attended only five days of school between winter break and the observance of the Martin Luther King holiday. That adds up to a lot of time at home in the first part of January and might explain why I was extra-motivated to get my boys out of the house and down to the annual MLK March. But the better reason is that I wanted us to experience this local tradition together.

We joined the gathering in Old Town Square on Monday morning a few minutes before the 11:00 start time. CSU’s Blaine Harding, who has taught African American History and Ethnic Studies for twenty-one years, began the event with welcoming remarks and the expression of his desire that our community come together not just for one day but for every day. This spirit of unity includes addressing all inequality as we endeavor to build a society that is not color-blind but color-conscious in the ways in which its members recognize and appreciate each other’s differences.

Thus inspired, we began the march from Old Town Square to CSU. The route led us straight down southbound College Avenue…with Fort Collins’s finest stationed at intersections to stop cross-traffic, of course. I’ve got to say, walking down the middle of one of the busiest streets in town with a few hundred like-minded people was pretty cool. Sidewalks? We don’t need no stinkin’…well, you get the idea.

After local group Fale's drum and dance performance kicked off the celebration at the Lory Student Center, Dr. Tony Frank, CSU President, reminded us that we’ve come a long way but must recommit to the real work of addressing poverty, hunger, and discrimination in our community. Mayor Karen Weitkunat read her MLK Day 2012 proclamation, which included the official-sounding “whereas,” “hereby,” and “shiver me timbers.” (Okay, not the last one, but wouldn’t that be awesome?)

But much of the day’s inspiration came via students: the K-2nd grade art winners, the 3rd-5th grade poetry winners, the 6-8th grade and 9-12th grade essay winners, and the College Spoken Word Winner. They showed in pictures and words, and with emotion and eloquence, that they have dreams, too—dreams for a better world, a world with health, happiness, peace, and prosperity for all. And judging by their determination, they’re not going to just sit around and wait for other people to make things right. They’re going to jump in and be the change they want to see in the world.

Let that be a lesson to us all.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Fun: Mystery Photo

I should have come up with a Friday the 13th post for today, but all I have are mystery photos. Last week's picture was taken at Dandelion Toys.

Where was I having lunch when I took this picture?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Project Pine Cone

The portion of my brain devoted to higher mathematical concepts is about .4%, but I’ve always been fascinated by fractals. According to Wolfram MathWorld, “a fractal is an object or quantity that displays self-similarity, in a somewhat technical sense, on all scales.” Famous fractals include Koch Snowflake, Dragon Curve, Minkowski Sausage, and probably the most name-recognizable Mandelbrot series. (If you’re looking for more reasons to stare at your screen of choice, YouTube has dozens of trippy fractal videos like this one.)

Fractal patterns also occur in nature, from spiral galaxies to broccoli to the pinecones that are as common to us in these parts as summer zucchini. But after sitting in on retired USFS botanist Renee Galeano-Popp’s presentation of “Fractals from the Forest,” I have a whole new respect for pine trees and their fabulously fractal-ly seed cones.

A year ago, Renee started Project Pine Cone with the dual purpose of amassing a collection of cones from every one of the world’s 110 pine species and providing an educational resource for students of all ages. She’s already two-thirds of the way there, and her collection will eventually have a permanent home at CSU. At her recent presentation, I learned that a pine cone is a pretty interesting seed-delivery system. Most pine cones take about two years to mature. Some cones are open, some are closed, some open only with fire, others are opened only by animals. And pine cones close up in water, which you can see for yourself in this time lapse video.

Pines have been around for a long time—since 150 to 200 million years ago—and are the most successful of the trees known as gymnosperms (“naked seeds”). Not all pines form forests, but most do, and pine forests are the largest terrestrial habitat type on the planet. As with many ecosystems, pine forests are facing challenges in the form of climate change, various infestations, deforestation, and disruption of the natural fire cycles. (February 9 of this year brings the UN’s International Year of Forests to a close. For more information about the status of the world’s forests, click here.)

Project Pine Cone is an extension of Renee’s love and respect for pine trees and their ecology. She sees pine trees as exemplary botanical ambassadors, and she, in turn, serves as one of their goodwill ambassadors, spreading the message of forest stewardship one pine cone at a time.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Oral History: Geese of Fort Collins

Have you checked the bottoms of your shoes lately? Yep, it’s goose season again. Aside from the proliferation of poo, I do like seeing the distinctive birds around. This excerpt from “Talking About Fort Collins: Selections from Oral Histories,” a joint project of The Friends of the Library and the Local History Department of the Fort Collins Public Library (1992) tells a little about how the geese came to winter here. (Transcripts of the oral histories are also available at Fort Collins History Connection.)

“At present, I’m the Regional Wildlife Biologist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife…Jack Grieb and Gurney Crawford are considered the fathers of the Canada goose population within Fort Collins, well, actually in northern Colorado. Their efforts began in the late 1950s, early ‘60s. Jack Grieb was a waterfowl researcher with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and Gurney Crawford was a wildlife technician. The two men were working together with the idea of establishing a resident goose flock in the Fort Collins area. At that time there was not a resident population in Fort Collins, or nearby.

“As a result of habitat changes in Larimer and adjacent counties—primarily opening of gravel pits, irrigation, sprinkling systems, warm water development—these men had the idea of starting to hand raise geese. They knew that where goslings fledged or took flight they would return when they became adults. So they proceeded and were successful in obtaining some goose eggs from various sources. They hatched them under Banty hens. Lo and behold the geese did come back. Not only did they come back, they induced the migrants that used to fly over Larimer County to start wintering in this vicinity. So the goose population went from relatively zero in the late fifties to, I think, our high count this last winter was 52,000.

“Despite some of the problems associated with these wintering birds as reported by ice skaters on Sheldon Lake at City Park and, if it’s an open winter, by golfers, all in all the surveys that we’ve conducted of the people in Fort Collins state that the geese contribute significantly to the quality of life here.”
--Gene Schoonveld, 1992

Mystery Photo:
Where in Fort Collins was this week's picture taken?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Spice Shops

Raise your hand if the most exotic spice in your childhood household was Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. Don’t be embarrassed…my hand is up, too. My family occasionally ate out at China Palace and El Burrito, but at home, my mother was not so adventurous (except for the squid incident), and I consumed my share of Spam and canned peas. Although those days are thankfully behind her, she’s still a wimp in the spice department.

According to Spice Advice, spices have been traded since 3000 BC, but Americans weren’t really in the game until 1672. That’s when Elihu Yale, former clerk of the British East India Company, started his own spice business. He made so much money at it that he went on to found the university that bears his name. That’s right, Elihu University. (Just joking. Of course it’s Yale University.) Fast-forward to the end of WWII, when returning soldiers brought a new taste for international cuisine back to this country and sales of the “pizza herb” oregano rose 5200% over the next ten years.

I’m a middle-of-the-road cook: no squid or Spam, just real food that (hopefully) tastes good. As such, I always have room to expand my seasoning selection, so I invited my family to join me on a foray to our local spice shops. Navigational charts and camels are not necessary for spice hunters these days, and the only adversary we encountered on our expedition was the gale force wind that blew sidewalk grit into our faces.

At the Old Town Spice Shop (on Linden Street) and the Savory Spice Shop (in the Opera Galleria), we discovered racks and shelves of fragrant herbs and spices, exotic salts, flavored sugars, dip mixes, teas, and more seasoning blends than I could count. We sniffed and tasted and chose a random selection of interesting products to bring home. I have made the mistake of buying spices in large quantities and either not loving them or having them go stale before I use them up. But the small packets available at both shops make trying new flavors fun, easy, and inexpensive. My favorites so far are Old Town Spice Shop’s Habanero Sugar, which is amazing on Clementines, and Savory Spice Shop’s Chai Spices, which beat every tea-bag chai I’ve tried.

Variety is the spice of life, and twice the spice is…well…twice as nice. If you’ve resolved to try something new in 2012, start by kicking your Lawry’s to the curb and steering your caravan (or Caravan) to the spice shops.