Meet America’s #NewAstronauts

We’re so excited to introduce America’s new astronauts! After evaluating a record number of applications, we’re proud to present our 2017 astronaut class!

These 12 new astronaut candidates were chosen from more than 18,300 people who submitted applications from December 2015 to February 2016. This was more than double the previous record of 8,000 set in 1978.

Meet them…

Kayla Barron

This Washington native graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor’s degree in Systems Engineering. A Gates Cambridge Scholar, Barron earned a Master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Cambridge.

She enjoys hiking, backpacking, running and reading.

Zena Cardman

Zena is a native of Virginia and completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Master of Science degree in Marine Sciences at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Her research has focused on microorganisms in subsurface environments, ranging from caves to deep sea sediments.

In her free time, she enjoys canoeing, caving, raising backyard chickens and glider flying.

Raja Chari

Raja is an Iowa native and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1999 with Bachelor’s degrees in Astronautical Engineering and Engineering Science. He continued on to earn a Master’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

He has accumulated more than 2,000 hours of flight time in the F-35, F-15, F-16 and F-18 including F-15E combat missions in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Matthew Dominick

This Colorado native earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of San Diego and a Master of Science degree in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He graduated from U.S. Naval Test Pilot School.

He has more than 1,600 hours of flight time in 28 aircraft, 400 carrier-arrested landigns and 61 combat missions.

Bob Hines

Bob is a Pennsylvania native and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Boston University. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, where he earned a Master’s degree in Flight Test Engineering. He continued on to earn a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Alabama.

During the last five years, he has served as a research pilot at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Warren Hoburg

Nicknamed “Woody”, this Pennsylvania native earned a Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkley.

He is an avid rock climber, moutaineer and pilot.

Jonny Kim

This California native trained and operated as a Navy SEAL, completing more than 100 combat operations and earning a Silver Star and Bronze Star with Combat “V”. Afterward, he went on to complete a degree in Mathematics at the University of San Diego and a Doctorate of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

His interests include spending time with his family, volunteering with non-profit vertern organizations, academic mentoring, working out and learning new skills.

Robb Kulin

Robb is an Alaska native and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Denver, before going on to complete a Master’s degree in Materials Science and a Doctorate in Engineering at the University of California, San Diego.

He is a private pilot and also enjoys playing piano, photography, packrafting, running, cycling, backcountry skiing and SCUBA diving.

Jasmin Moghbeli

This New York native earned a Bachlor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering with Information Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed by a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School.

She is also a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and has accumulated mofre than 1,600 hours of flight time and 150 combat missions.

Loral O’Hara

This Texas native earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Kansas and a Master of Science degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue University.

In her free time, she enjoys working in the garage, traveling, surfing, diving, flying, sailing, skiing, hiking/orienteering, caving, reading and painting.

Frank Rubio

Frank is a Florida native and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and earned a Doctorate of Medicine from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

He is a board certified family physician and flight surgeon. At the time of his selection, he was serving in the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne).

Jessica Watkins

This Colorado native earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geological and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University, and a Doctorate in Geology from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

She enjoys soccer, rock climbing, skiing and creative writing.

After completing two years of training, the new astronaut candidates could be assigned to missions performing research on the International Space Station, launching from American soil on spacecraft built by commercial companies, and launching on deep space missions on our new Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space:
#LovingDay: 50 Years After The Loving Verdict, A Photo Essay Looks Back On Their Love
Remembering the couple who brought down anti-miscegenation laws in 16 U.S. states.

Monday, June 12, marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark United States Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which quashed anti-miscegenation laws in 16 states around the nation, ushering restrictions against interracial marriage to the wrong side of history.

The date is now remembered as Loving Day in honor of Richard and Mildred Loving, the couple who defied the state’s ability to dictate the terms of their love based on their skin color. Mildred, who was of African American and Native American descent, and Richard, who was white, wed in 1958 in Washington D.C., because interracial marriage was illegal in their native rural Virginia, as well as 15 other Southern U.S. states.

When the Lovings returned to Virginia, however, local police raided their home one early morning after being tipped off by another resident. They declared the Lovings’ marriage license invalid within the scope of the state, placing the couple under arrest.

The Lovings pled guilty to “cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth,” and were sentenced to one year in prison. A judge later agreed to suspend the sentence if Mildred and Richard left Virginia and did not return for 25 years.

The couple relocated to Washington, D.C., but they did not end their story there. In 1964, attorneys from the ACLU filed a motion on behalf of the Lovings, requesting the charges and sentences against the Lovings be dropped. The Lovings appealed the local ruling all the way to the Supreme Court, where their sentence was unanimously overturned in 1967.

“Under our Constitution,” Chief Justice Earl Warren said in his decision, “the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

Two years before this verdict, in the spring of 1965, Life magazine photojournalist Grey Villet spent time with the Lovings, as well as their family and friends, documenting the lives of a couple whose love had transcended the everyday to become the stuff of legends.

Villet’s photo essay, titled “The Lovings: An Intimate Portrait,” captures Mildred and Richard when word of their civil rights battle was spreading throughout the country and the fate of their relationship remained unknown. Through black-and-white images, the photographer captures the subtle glances, spurts of laughter and moments of quiet determination that, together, comprise a love story whose power echoes today.

We commemorate the Lovings’ bravery and tenacity in the face of prejudice and the systems of white supremacy. Villet’s photos help us remember the Lovings not just for what they represented, but who they were. The simple moments of connection, support and companionship that provided the strength to change the world.

The Lovings: An Intimate Portrait is available on Amazon.

anonymous asked:

What do you think the founding fathers favourite foods were?

Benjamin Franklin consistently asked his wife Deborah to ship him barrels of apples while he lived abroad:

“Goodeys I now and then get a few; but roasting Apples seldom, I wish you had sent me some; and I wonder how you, that used to think of everything, came to forget it.  Newton Pippins would have been the most acceptable.” (letter from Benjamin Franklin in London, to Deborah in Philadelphia)

Franklin also had Deborah ship him barrels of cranberries both in England and France. Franklin helped introduce France to potatoes as a food source. At that time, the French believed potatoes to be poisonous. Franklin took part in a campaign to help the French embrace potatoes as an alternative to wheat after wheat crop failures caused a shortage. He was the guest of honor at a party thrown by French pharmacist Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, where every course of the meal featured potatoes. Benjamin Franklin also was the one who introduced tofu to the United States. 

George Washington was very fond of cherries. George Washington was extremely fond of fish, served in many ways.He ate it almost daily, often at breakfast with the Hoe Cakes which, he loved. At the Mount Vernon table frequently were Mashed Sweet Potatoes, String Beans with Almonds, Steak and Kidney Pie, and Fish Muddle. He also loved a wide variety of fruits and nuts. He preferred simple meals over fancy ones.

John Adams supposedly ate pickles nearly every day. Others say his favorite food was Indian Pudding. But, according to David McCullough in John Adams, President Adams and gulped a tankard of cider as soon as he got out of bed every day.

In Holland Thomas Jefferson sampled waffles for the first time and loved them so much, he immediately bought a waffle iron. Chocolate caught his fancy. He was so amazed by ice cream he was the first to introduce it to the United States from France and was the first to serve it in the white house. “Bring a stock of macaroni, Parmesan cheese, figs of Marseilles…raisins, almonds, mustard…vinegar, oil and anchovies.” He as especially fond of fresh vegetables. He was particularly fond of olives, figs, mulberries, crabs, shad, oysters, partridge, venison, pineapple, and light wines. As well as, sweet potatoes, turnip greens, baked shad, Virginia ham, green peas, crab. He was very fond of Virginia sweet corn that he raised it in his Paris garden. We also cannot forget Macaroni and Cheese can we? 

Dolley Madison, James Madison’s wife prepared many different types of ice cream. Madison’s meal usually consisted of, “Virginia ham, buttery rolls, apple pie, and cider.” 

There’s no clear documentation talking about Alexander Hamilton and his favorite foods, however, it’s known that while dining with Jefferson and Madison, “The beef was a masterpiece that Hamilton praised extravagantly” and that “Hamilton positively exulted” at the sight of “the delicious vanilla ice cream that still seemed like a miracle for it was enclosed in a warm pastry, like a cream puff.” 

James Monroe, like Thomas Jefferson, acquired a taste for French cuisine while serving abroad. Mr. Monroe is said to have loved this, and enjoyed dishes from his native Virginia.

“On the Monroe family plantation in Virginia…[Elizabeth Monroe] served many old Southern recipes, dishes her husband hand known from boyhood. One of the most famous, spoon bread, dates back to early Indian days…James Monroe, like his former teacher and mentor, Thomas Jefferson, was fond of Continental cuisines, but he was equally fond of the foods of his Virginia childhood…Chicken Fried with Rice…[was] used frequently by Elizabeth Monroe at the Monroe plantation, Oak Hill…Hot breads and biscuts were a way of life in James Monroe’s Virginia… ”

I have heard though, that Monroe’s favorite food was chicken. 

Introduction Post!

Hi friends! My name is Erin, I am high school student, and I decided to make a langblr because learning a new language is hard, and a support system is definitely something that will make learning easier! So here is some stuff to know about me!

  • I am from Virginia, USA.
  • My native language is American English.
  • I took three years of Latin at my school, and I will be resuming Latin in the next school year.
  • I’m beginner in Italian.
  • I want to learn French, Spanish, and in the far future I would love to learn German and Dutch.
  • I have a really long travel bucket-list!
  • I’m in LOVE with photography, I have been for about 5 years now. I just am infatuated with the idea of visual storytelling.
  • My favorite subjects in school are English and Journalism (I work for my school’s newspaper and yearbook.)

If you’re a langblr, I’d love to connect with you! Let’s share this journey together!


American witch-hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, is blooming right now in Shenandoah National Park. Native Americans used this plant as an astringent, and it’s still used in herbal medicine today (studies haven’t quite supported its effectiveness, although there’s unrelated evidence that it might have some cytotoxic activity against colon cancer cells).


Shirley Little Dove Custalow-McGowan (Mattaponi) does an “American Indian exhibit” in West Point, 2007, showing cooking, technology, etc. from the early 17th century (photo by Mary Montague Sikes)

the Mattaponi, Pamunkey, and other native peoples of eastern Virginia (Tsenacommacah) existed/STILL EXIST in real life outside of Disney. just a reminder


Famed ‘A Beautiful Mind’ mathematician John Nash, wife, killed in N.J. Turnpike crash.

Nash, a West Virginia Native, shared a Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994, the year before he joined the Princeton mathematics department as a senior research mathematician. He is known for his work in game theory and his struggle with paranoid schizophrenia, depicted in the 2001 film, “A Beautiful Mind,” starring Russell Crowe.

Water fun

Original Imagine: Imagine swimming naked in a pool with Caroline.

Author: Anon

Reader Gender: Female

Warnings: Smut, fingering

It was probably the hottest day of the summer, and as a Virginia native, it meant it was insanely hot if I was dying of heat. When I voiced this thought, Caroline, of course, had to be a smart ass and remind me that I was already dead.

“We should go swimming,” Caroline suggested.

She and I were stuck house sitting for Carol Lockwood while she was out on some spa retreat with her mom-friends. Caroline and I were stuck in their mansion for the next two weeks, which would have been grand if their A/C hadn’t busted and the maintenance guy couldn’t get here for three more days.

“Care, we don’t even have bathing suits with us,” I reminded her.

“We can go skinny dipping,” she grinned, jumping up and wiggling her hips.

If I had been drinking something, I surely would’ve spit it out. I was about as gay as a girl could get, so it surprised me a little that Caroline was so gung-ho about getting naked in front of me. But maybe it really wasn’t that big of a deal and I was just stuck with some left over internalized crap from back in the fifties when I was turned.

Keep reading

anonymous asked:

Could you write a drabble where Klaus is her professor and Caroline is surprised and sets off the fire alarm and the sprinklers turn on so she can avoid being seen before she walks into his class.

English was usually one of her favourite classes. Her professor was nice, the class was interesting and no one feared to stir up a debate (something Caroline had learnt to enjoy and participate in). Not to mention it was the only class where she could let her imagination go wild and still get an ‘A’ as easily as she did in theatre class.

However, that was until she walked into the room one day and, instead of the middle aged Virginia native, there was Klaus in front of the class.

Freezing halfway in through the door, Caroline quickly gasped and spun on her heel to head right back out again. She had only caught him briefly (his curly blonde hair and navy henley sticking in her mind, as well as that stupid dimpled smile as he spoke with one of her classmates) but was more than sure he had spotted her immediately.

Panicking (not that she would ever admit to it), she hurriedly rushed down the emptying hallways just as she heard quick yet light footsteps behind her and the soft calling of her name in that adoring accent and gentle tone.

He wasn’t supposed to be there. She had successfully put him out of her mind for the past two years (at least, that’s what she told herself) and she was finally getting on with her life plan. He wasn’t supposed to be there. Not right then. Not as she was so close to graduating and finally having the break in her plans to go to him.

Turning the corner, she mentally fought with herself as she headed for the exit. There were still a few people milling around meaning she couldn’t simply whoosh out of there like she wanted, but there wasn’t enough to get lost in and away from Klaus. And she knew he would catch up with her before she even left the building at this rate.

So, with a small wince at the juvenile behaviour, Caroline pulled the nearest fire alarm as she passed it by before tugging her jacket over her head to protect her hair from the sprinklers (just because she was ditching English didn’t mean she didn’t have other classes that day).

People spilled into the corridors of the building, giving her the perfect crowd to move along with until she reached the exit. Knowing Klaus would be caught in the same hectic mess, she allowed herself to let out a long, slow breath as she headed back towards her dorm room and chose not to think about the trouble she could get into for pulling the alarm.

God, how would she even begin to explain it? That she pulled the alarm to run away from the thousand year old hybrid who she had had sex with (multiple times, thank you very much) in the woods a couple of years earlier because she didn’t have the guts to face him? Because if she did, she was fairly sure they would be going for another round, this time in her bed?

Yeah, she was also fairly sure she would be compelling anyone who would choose to question her about it.

Glancing over her shoulder once more as she reached her floor, Caroline was glad to see that she had lost Klaus somewhere between the college lawns and the halls. Sighing in relief, she had her keys in her hand when one of the girls from the room opposite theirs called out through the open door.

“Caroline, hey.” Turning to face the other girl, Caroline smiled politely and opened her mouth to excuse herself with the lame reason for why she was partially damp on the sunny day when she carried on nonchalantly, “You have a guest, said he’s your brother?”

Taken aback, she furrowed her brow as she gripped her door handle and turned it, only to find it open. “I don’t have a brother,” she replied slowly and slightly worried.

“Ouch. That’s a bit hurtful, darling,” an amused voice came from inside her room and she had to fight the urge to simply leave Whitmore altogether that day as she stepped inside.

“What are you doing here, Kol?” she asked dryly, dumping her bag and wet jacket onto her chair. Crossing her arms, she frowned at the youngest Mikaelson brother who was lounging along Bonnie’s bed. How her friend has believed the two of them were related was beyond her. Though, she guessed, considering Kol’s handsome looks and boyish charm, there was a very good chance she wasn’t really thinking logically during their short conversation. “Wait, is this some sort of intervention?”

Tilting his head, Kol shot her his winning smile as he sat up straighter and asked, “Why; do you need one?”

“Not that I know of,” she muttered, resigning herself to the fact that whatever the Originals wanted with her that day was going to happen, whether she wanted it to or not.

Fetching her towel, Caroline began rubbing the damp out of her hair and snatched the stuffed bear out of Kol’s hands (she knew Bonnie would no longer be able to cuddle it if she knew he had played with it) just as the door was flung open. Klaus strode in without a care for an invitation, shutting the door behind him with more calm than his tense body indicated he could possibly have.

“That’s funny, I’m pretty sure its not raining outside, Nik,” Kol commented with a smirk and she couldn’t help but to take an unconscious (yet appreciative) look at Klaus. The sprinklers had soaked him from head to toe (though thankfully, he wasn’t dripping on her floor), making his curls slightly more defined though stick together, and his top cling to his lean figure to reveal the outline of his toned and sinewy body.

She was definitely not thinking about how amazing it had felt to trail kisses and lick heated paths on the smooth skin of his abdomen during their little tryst.

“Not another word, Kol,” Klaus all but growled, pointing a finger in his direction without sparing him a glance. Instead, he trained his eyes directly on her, piercing her own with the heat in them. “You left pretty rapidly, love.“

Throwing her towel onto her bed, she crossed her arms and scowled at him. “You turned up in my class! What did you expect?”

“A ‘hello’, perhaps? How about not setting off the fire alarm?” he replied sarcastically, waving a hand in exasperation. “It wasn’t like you were giving me the time of day otherwise so I have to improvise to gain your attention.”

Ignoring his jibe (she had recently been delaying any and all replies to his messages and no longer taking his calls), she narrowed her eyes and glared at him before asked slowly, “What did you do to my English professor, Klaus?”

“He’s just sleeping off a small headache,” he shrugged, losing some of his stiff stance to walk past her and pluck up the towel she had just discarded.

“As a result from…?” she prompted, gesticulating for him to carry on because she just knew it wouldn’t be anything normal.

Whilst drying his hair as best as he could, Klaus exchanged a sly look with Kol before gazing back at her. “Having his head whacked in with a baseball bat,” he answered coolly, making her gasp in horror.

Seriously?!” Caroline snapped in disbelief, taking a sidestep away from him and pointedly ignoring his smug smirk as she eyed the two brothers. “You could have given him brain damage!”

“Sweetheart, please,” Klaus said placatingly, hanging up her towel on the hook on the wall (much to her pleasant surprise). A humourous tone took over his words as he carried on, and she could just see the smirk on his face even with his back currently to her. “Kol could have given him brain damage. I wanted to twist his head off.”

Groaning, she sat down on the edge of her bed and ran her hands through her hair in frustration. She guessed it was the lesser of two evils, though she still couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to harm one of her favourite college teachers.

“Why?” she asked, planting her hands on either side of her and eyeing them both curiously.

“See, told you she wouldn’t know, brother,” Kol commented boredly, collapsing back against Boonie’s bed with enough effort to make it squeak against his weight. Caroline made a mental note to change her bedding before the witch realised he had taken it upon himself to settle in right there.

Shaking her head, she turned to look up at Klaus, who was now leaning lazily against her desk. “Know what?

“Your English professor is part of a society planning on exterminating vampires from your college,” he explained, earnest yet tersely, as if the statement and the truth behind it personally affected him. Which, she guessed with the smallest of thrill shooting through her, it sort of did as it would involve her.

No!” she gasped, eyes wide and looking back and forth between the two. Kol merely shrugged but Klaus nodded once with his lips pursed and all sense of amusement gone from his features for the time being. “Really?” she asked, just to be sure because she really didn’t want her professor to be in such a group. Klaus nodded once more whilst rolling his eyes at her lack of trust. “Huh. I would never have guessed.”

“Well, if you picked up the phone once in a while, you would have,” he retorted dry.

Jumping to her feet, Caroline pinned him with a dark look as she remarked, “You’re supposed to be in New Orleans, remember? Leaving me alone?”

“No, I said I would stay away from Mystic Falls. I never mentioned anything about leaving you alone or staying in New Orleans,” Klaus replied calmly, a smirk playing at his lips as he caught her out.

“Always gotta have a loophole, don’t you?” she scoffed, shaking her head but backing down from his challenging tone to focus on what was more important right then. Facing Kol instead, she threw the question at him, “So, why are you both here?”

“Nik thought it would be imprudent if we simply allowed the Salvatores and the rest of your gang of misfits to sort out this society,” he replied mischievously, throwing his legs off the bed and standing up in one fluid motion. Caroline shot him an impressed look at his description of her friends (though she had to admit, they’re were kinda like misfits these days).

“You know, after the great success you have with the Augustine,” Klaus added dryly, earning him her attention.

“How do you kno-? You know what, never mind,” she quickly stopped herself, slicing a hand through the air as if to physically cut off the conversation. Sighing heavily, she shook back hair and planted her hands on her hips as she finally declares, “Fine, I suppose having some Original help wouldn’t hurt. But I’m letting the others know.”

Both beamed immediately, a mix of dimples, charm and excitement between the two of them, enough to make any girl (and vampire) weak at the knees.

Klaus was the first to reply, making her groan and wonder what she had let herself in for when he informed her politely, “Of course, love. We’ll need bait, after all.’

Klaus’ boyish grin with Kol’s matching sly smirk was enough to make her want to crawl back into bed and let them all sort it out themselves. Keeping the two Originals from riling up and/or incapacitating the others (namely Damon) would probably fall on her, she suddenly realised. With a long exhale, she rubbed at her temples, already feeling the tension headache starting to build.


Remembering Alison Parker, 24, and Adam Ward, 27, the victims of the WDBJ7 shooting 

Parker, a native of Virginia, grew up in the city of Martinsville, about 180 miles southwest of Richmond, WDBJ7 reports. She attended Patrick Henry Community College near Martinsville and graduated from James Madison University, where she worked for the school’s newspaper, in 2012. She interned at the station that summer and returned in May 2014 as a morning reporter, New York Daily News reports. Parker had been dating the station’s evening co-anchor Chris Hurst. Hurst shared his grief on Twitter.

Ward had graduated from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, where he earned a communications and media studies degree, NBC News reports. He had worked for the station since July 2011 and was engaged to the morning producer Melissa Ott. Ott had recently accepted a new job, according to the Star-Exponent. She was in the control room as the live footage of the shooting came rolling in.


If your family has been in the Appalachian region for any long amount of time (like mine), you probably have some Melungeon in you. If you’re not sure what that is, let me explain.

Melungeons were originally of the Cumberland Gap area (Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia tri-state area). These people were tri-racial, usually being a mixture of European white, Native American, and sub-Saharan African. The mixture came into being when free people of color and Native Americans mixed with colonial Virginia settlers in the Cumberland area. It is estimated that some 200 Melungeon families were dispersed from this original group across Appalachia.

This racial group did not represent a phenotype of (that is, they didn’t LOOK like) any particular race. Today, most modern-day descendants of Appalachian families traditionally regarded as Melungeon are generally European American in appearance with dark hair and eyes and an olive complexion. Though this is most common, any appearance can result from a Melungeon heritage.

It is not known where the term Melungeon directly came from, but it is a popular theory that the French settlers in Virginia gave the name from the french word mélange, or mixture. The original Melungeon families did face some discrimination in the Cumberland region, though most were able to assimilate easily into early American culture and “marry white” to dilute appearances further.

The drawing pictured is courtesy of Will Allen Dromgoole, circa 1890.

Vine Control

Okay, so somebody asked about how to deal safely with Wisteria and Virginia creeper and Poison Ivy in a mix, but I’m unable to reply to replies so here goes.

I don’t have a magic bullet. I wish I did.

That’s a really nasty mix. Fire cures a lot of ills, but NEVER burn poison ivy–the smoke contains the active ingredient, gets in your lungs, and then there is sorrow upon sorrow. 

I have a lot of vines in my garden, mostly coming in from the woods, and of course they always arrange themselves so that fire is not the answer. (Otherwise, the Weed Dragon is your friend.) People will tell you that there are organic weed-killers that work–vinegar and boiling water or whatnot. I’m glad it works for them–it doesn’t for me. Boiling water’s never done anything much for me, and if you’re avoiding glyphosate because of frogs, I don’t think the frog is going to feel great having vinegar dumped on it either. (Full disclosure: In the early stages of reclaiming the garden from weeds, I used glyphosate on the honeysuckle that had eaten the fence, because it leafs out before anything else and you can hit it then if you’re lucky. But once off the fence itself, we start getting too close to ground that occasionally contains vernal breeding pools for me to be comfortable with even tightly controlled applications–the chemical that makes it stick to leaves will stick to frogs and smother them. You gotta figure out what will work on your property and what you feel comfortable/competent to use safely. This also goes for fire, which is ALWAYS a two person job minimum, and one of those people should be holding a running hose.)  

Okay, safety lecture concluded. Onward!

Virginia creeper is native here, and I mostly ignore it when it’s not in the middle of eating the house or something I am fond of. It is surprisingly not horrible, or else my standards have gotten warped from dealing with stuff like kudzu and catbriar. I’ll tear big swaths out when I have to–the old fashioned way, heavy gloves, sharp hand-shears, and a lot of sweat–but it’s not one of my bad weeds. That could possibly change, but at the moment, I can yank it up by hand where it occurs.

I get wild grape too, and Japanese honeysuckle. The grape I ignore or cut back as needed, the honeysuckle I tear out by hand, and in all honesty, I’ll never get it all. I succeed in keeping it mostly on the other side of the fence. About every two years in spring I do a massive honeysuckle slaughter and get it all away from the fence, but it always comes back. (Given what it was like when I started, however, I have reduced it enormously.)

Poison ivy is different. If it gets into a tree, I’ll cut the vine at the base and let it die. Otherwise, if it’s the woods I don’t touch it, and if it’s in the garden, I very gingerly use the shears to clip it off at ground level. The last use of any pair of garden gloves–I kill two to three pairs a year–is to pull poison ivy encroaching on the garden.

(I’ll be honest, it’s a holding action with the poison ivy. I took out a few roots last week that should set it back a bit, but it’s all through the woods and I gave myself a very exciting rash pulling it. I have since received three bottles of Tecnu from friends and/or fans via Amazon–it’s great stuff and works really well getting it off, I just didn’t have any this time. If I ever have about twenty college students and a whole lot of ambition, I will make an ivy killing day and take it out.)

Wisteria is actually the easiest of the bunch to deal with. I don’t have it in this garden, though I’ve had it in others. It is much less prone to re-rooting than honeysuckle, so you can get in with shears and cut it and then track down the root, whereas if you just drop honeysuckle on the ground, it’ll re-root immediately. I’ve successfully cleared wisteria out of a lot before, which I can’t say about any of the others. 

So…that’s my experience. There’s no easy method. You MAY want to see if goat rental is an option in your area, although I am told that you have to pretend you want to keep it away from the weeds before it will consider eating them because goats are perverse. I cannot speak to this, but it seems plausible to me. Goats, however, are very difficult on other garden plants and not so good for spot-cleanup.

…that got long. Hope it helps, and if it doesn’t, accept my sympathy at least, ‘cos lord, I’ve been there. Solidarity!

Hi everyone!

I’m Mabinty, the winter/spring Social Media Desk intern at NPR!

I’m a northern Virginia native but I was born in Sierra Leone in west Africa. I went to George Mason University (go patriots!) for undergrad. My major was English because I LOVE reading, seriously at any moment I probably have at least two books in my bag. I also had two minors: Women and Gender Studies and African and African American Studies. And now I’m working on my last semester at Georgetown University (Hoya Saxa) for a masters in journalism degree.

Right now my two journalism loves are social media and politics. But my favorite story topics center on race, gender and sexuality. In my spare time I especially love live-tweeting some of my favorite shows: Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, Empire, Blackish, Veep, Jane the Virgin, Bob’s Burgers, Power, Quantico and binge-watching Netflix shows.

Feel free to reach out to me if you want to talk about social media, pop culture or journalism. You can find me on Twitter and on Tumblr. I basically have my iPhone glued to my hand.

Also I stan and will always stan for the Queen B, the best to ever do it, aka BEYONCE! #BeyHive



Bridging the Gap: The Inside Story of Damian Lillard’s 4BarFriday

For more rhymes, check out the @4barfriday account and hashtag on Instagram. For more music stories, head to Instagram @music.

“I want people to see that it’s not a game, it’s not a joke.”

Few ballplayers not named Shaquille O’Neal have found any sort of real success in the rap world; in fact, the mere thought of a baller trying to spit bars can draw jeers from the bleachers. But for Damian Lillard @damianlillard, the Portland Trail Blazers’ 2012-13 Rookie of the Year point guard, there is hope. Through a handful of remixes the 25-year-old released directly to SoundCloud this offseason, Damian has proven, undeniably, that he can actually rap. And through a clever Instagram account and hashtag he created called #4BarFriday, where rappers share 15-second videos of themselves reciting short rhyming couplets, he’s spent the past two years not necessarily proclaiming himself the greatest rapper alive, but rather using his star power to shine a light on others who might actually be just that.

“I knew if I started putting out rhymes some people might think it’s corny and some people might not pay attention to it,” says Damian, who also goes by the emcee name Dame DOLLA. “But #4BarFriday was a way for me to get a lot of my fans and people who are fans of the game to see that there was someone in the NBA that was serious about music. And using your platform and having an impact on other people’s lives, giving them opportunity, is what it’s all about.”

Damian grew up in Oakland and was raised in a music-loving household, cutting his teeth to the sounds of classic soul — The Temptations, Al Green, the Gap Band — and hip-hop. “I’ve always liked music with substance,” he says, namechecking Nas, Tupac, Notorious B.I.G. and Lil Wayne as some of his favorites. “Something you can feel.” He began rapping in middle school, spitting rhymes while his friends beat their fists against the seats on the bus to school. Later, one of his assistant coaches recorded his songs in his home studio. “In high school,” he remembers, “we’d come out to our own songs.”

His first love was basketball though, so as his career took off, jumping from Weber State to the Blazers, rapping became more of an ancillary thing — merely a creative outlet, helping him express thoughts and feelings about what he was seeing and experiencing. The rise, the fall, the ups, the downs; life at the bottom, where he’d just come from, and life at the top, where he is now.

“When I got into the league, there was so much more that I started to see,” he says. “I was exposed to so many more different things. I learned so much more, so I had a lot more to say. Because of that, I became a better rapper.”

Then, two years ago, a lightbulb went off in Damian’s head — he could start using short-form video, and his growing legion of followers, to build an online community for rappers.

“I thought: 15 seconds is just long enough to say four bars,” he says. “If someone is coming week after week with a hard four bars, and you look at what they’re saying, you can see if they’re really nice.”

Through #4BarFriday — which reblogs the best videos each week on its dedicated page — Damian’s been able to expose his own skills, and at the same time, put the spotlight on a wealth of talent hidden below the music industry’s radar. Last February, he flew a group of them down to New Orleans for a #4BarFriday battle during NBA All-Star Weekend.

Some, like Milwaukee-bred emcee L.E.X. (@1lexdarapper), 23, and Virginia-native Timeless TeeZ (@teezysodope), 28, have been uploading videos since the beginning, and through the community, they’ve not only gained an ally in Damian, they’ve earned new fans and friends as well.

“I’m an independent artist and I do everything on my own,” says TeeZ, who when she’s not rapping, coaches youth basketball and is a program coordinator and leader at a community center. “But each week the response gets better and better. I gain fans. Every day there are people who repost me that I’ve never met. And it’s also helped me hone my skills as an artist, because if you’re rapping weekly — for the public — it helps you get better. So I honestly think it’s just the beginning as far as something major happening.”

L.E.X., who raps and goes to college, echoes this, and says the page has put him in touch with other #4BarFriday emcees, whom he now calls “brothers.” “One week, we got on WhatsApp,” he recalls, “and we’re like, ‘Let’s all rap on this beat on Friday, and then we’ll make it like a cipher, online.’” Still, while he admits the exposure is great, it takes more than four bars for an artist to prove their worth. “People put a lot of effort into four bars,” he says. “But it takes even more effort to put it into a verse and a song. So, it can give you a glimpse of how good a person is, but you still have to work outside of #4BarFriday.”

Which is where Damian himself has netted out. After showing his 1.5 million Instagram followers he could spit a hot line or two, Dame DOLLA finally began releasing freestyles in July, kicking aspirational rhymes over beats like Future’s “F— Up Some Commas,” Kanye West’s “The Food” and Jadakiss’ “Why,” among others. Original songs by himself and with the #4BarFriday alums are forthcoming. For now, what is turning heads the most is not Damian’s flow or delivery but rather his thoughtfulness, maturity and introspection, which neither athletes nor rappers are particularly well-known for, at least not this early in their careers.

“People are impressed that it’s real rap, not just a basketball player rapping,” he says. “I’m a college graduate and I’ve experienced a lot of things in my life. I’ve seen not being successful and I’ve seen being successful. I’ve seen growing up in a really bad neighborhood and living in a really nice neighborhood. Being able to see both sides, it helps. I feel like I can bridge that gap.”

—Paul Cantor for Instagram @music