Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Adventures in Houston

Hi all! Lately I've been busy... at work we are deep in the mires of a big [and getting stressful] project; at home hubby and I have started painting our kitchen... Something has to give, so I unfortunately haven't had much time to devote to the blog lately. However, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently visited Houston, so I want to share some thoughts about my trip before moving on to bigger and better things.

Houston Discovery Green and convention center

Last week, I visited Houston, Texas for the American Association of Museums' Annual Meeting. Conferences can sometimes be dull, but not when there are over 5,000 museum professionals gathered in one place! However, I don't want to bore you with every last detail, so I thought I'd share some of the [probably quite random] highlights of my trip, as well as some of the photos that I took.

* First things first... Houston is really hot, and super humid. Eww.

Downtown Houston

* However, right next to the convention center (which was designed to look like a huge cruise ship... at least that's my interpretation!), there was a beautiful park/greenspace called Discovery Green. It had a little lake, concerts, fountains, gardens, restaurants, public art... everything! It was lovely and I spent much of my time between sessions sitting in the park, people watching. That's where I took most most of my pictures, too.

Magnolia at Houston's Discovery Green

* I got to visit a ranch (George Ranch Historical Park), where we met cowboys and longhorns. I was most impressed to learn about the role of the cook during a cattle drive. They were basically the boss of the entire drive and could be paid up to four times the wage of a typical cowboy. We also saw several alligators in the creek. Gosh, I never knew that cowboys had to watch out for alligators! Also, we saw a pink ibis. It was beautiful. [If you can't find a pink ibis in your bird book, it's because pink ibises are actually the offspring of white and red ibises!]

Longhorns at George Ranch Historical Park

The 'Cookie' at George Ranch Historical Park

* I got to touch a moon rock at the Houston Space Center. I really wanted to love it there, but the interpretation was a little outdated. To be fair, I didn't get a chance to see everything, but it wasn't as exciting as I'd hoped.

* I heard about efforts to save the art and cultural heritage of Haiti following the earthquake. It was very inspiring to listen to people who have been working in Haiti, conserving art that is seminal to the country's history. It reminded me a bit of a book I recently finished reading titled The Monuments Men, about the men assigned to save the artwork of Europe during WWII. Totally, totally different stories, but some similar threads.

* I visited the National Museum of Funeral History. Strange but interesting place. I have never seen so many hearses in one place before, historic through modern. My favorite part was a small exhibit on Victorian mourning practices. It talked about hair wreaths and a tradition I had never heard of which was that women would often make quilts from the silk ribbons taken from flower arrangements after a loved one's funeral. There was a beautiful quilt on display. Here is the photo, but the image quality isn't very good.

funeral ribbon quilt

* I attended a talk given by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. I'm not sure if I've ever listened to an astrophysicist talk before, but I don't think he's your standard astrophysicist. He is a hoot, and I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation. He is the one that demoted Pluto from being a planet... and he still receives hate mail about it from third graders. He shared some and it had everyone in the auditorium rolling in our seats. Then he talked a bit more seriously about the sorry state of science and innovation in our country. The part of his talk that hit me the hardest was his statement that Americans don't dream anymore. He said in the past, there were always these visions of what the future would bring (think The Jetsons, et. al.), but now people just seem satisfied where they are. It really made me think... and unfortunately I think he's right.

public artwork at Houston's Discovery Green

* I also attended a talk by Rebecca Skloot, the author of the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It's about a woman whose cells were used without permission for research and have been the source of many important discoveries, vaccines and drugs. I haven't read the book yet, but I am fascinated with the story and can't wait to start reading.

public art at Houston's Discovery Green

* Oh, and on the drive down we stopped at an awesome gas station/rest stop called Buc-ee's. If you're ever driving down the interstate and see one, you should definitely stop. I promise you won't regret it. 

flowers at Houston's Discovery Green

All in all, it was a fun trip, but it was wonderful to come back home to my hubby and my kitties when it was all over!

6 comments:

  1. Beautiful pictures. Looks like you had a wonderful visit :)

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  2. It sounds like you had a fun and interesting trip! Love the magnolia picture. It's so pretty, I think I'm still smelling it! That's what I call visual stimulation ;) Great pics!

    I hope you get your kitchen finished soon! You know we want to see pics of it :D

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  3. Houston is my hometown! I love it! :) I am glad you enjoyed your hot and humid stay! We like to say the humidity keeps you skin supple! :) Glad you found the Buc-ee's and it's famous restrooms too! :) I love love love your picture of the longhorns!

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  4. Sounds like a wonderful trip.
    I was just thinking I'd never heard of Henrietta Lacks then I suddenly thought "Oh! HeLa cells!"

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  5. The quilts are very interesting. I was also interested in the bit about the cowboys and their cooks. Lovely photos.

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  6. If you'd been here a week or two earlier, it would have been lovely - we had the nicest mid-May...

    (My boss used to work at the Funeral Museum! Never been there myself, though.)

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