Saturday, September 16, 2017

Gym and Standing Desks

I was virtuous and went to the Gym Saturday:  Half and hour and about 300 cal on the elliptical.  3x12x60 on the pec fly (I tried one set on my usual setting and it felt wrong, so I went back to the extra-wide setting).  3x13x80 lbs on the lat pull-down.  3x13 Roman Chair curls.  I felt a little tired, and my clavicle and upper trapezoid is feeling a little sore/weird, so I took the barbell weight down from 40 to 35.  3x12x35lbs barbell curls.  3x12x35lbs reverse barbell pulls.  


Smoke has rolled back into the Willamette Valley and everyone is waiting for Sunday's rain to come and clear the air and put a damper on the forest fires still burning.  When I was at the lat-pulldown machine, I thought a truck or ambulance was backing up against the gym because the 7:30 sun cast ruddy light through the windows.  Walking home, the sun completely disappeared--whether because of clouds or smoke I couldn't tell you.


On the writing front, I re-arranged the home computer so that it's elevated.  I'm standing as I type this, with my hands at elbow level, which I hope will help with my back and shoulders.  I don't have a desk so much as a kind of raised lectern.  I'd toyed with the idea of getting an office somewhere, but at the moment it's prohibitively expensive.  I'd considered maybe reconfiguring the attic as a writing office, but Mark pointed out that no amount of wishful thinking was going to help it stay cool in the summer or warm in the winter.  

We'll see how this works; I've yet to work out a system for dealing with a large number of physical manuscripts, but maybe I can rig up some hanging clipboards.  I'm also not sure where I'm going to put tea.  On the plus side, after I moved the computer and the portable army desk from the bookshelf, I was able reconsolidate my library of archeology, poetry, architecture, reference, and NeoPagan history collections (in the previous configuration book size dictated where books would be shelved).



Friday, September 15, 2017

Thursday Gym

Went to the Gym Thursday:  210 cal and 16 minutes on the cable row machine.  3x12x60 on the pec fly (on extra-wide setting).  3x13x80 lbs on the lat pull-down.  3x12x40lbs barbell curls.  2X8X40lbs reverse barbell pulls.  My right clavicle muscles were feeling tight, so I did some pool noodle roles along my upper back.  No Roman Chair curls because I would have been staring straight at Mr. Tattooed-Grunty grunting loudly on some other machine.  

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sunday Gym

Went to the Gym Sunday:  250 cal and 20 minutes on the cable row machine.  3x12x60 on the pec fly (on extra-wide setting).  3x13x80 lbs on the lat pull-down.  3x13 Roman Chair curl-ups.   3x12x40lbs barbell curls.  Half-hearted attempts at an overhead dumbbell thing...

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Gym Report and Air Quality

Went to the Gym Thursday:  200 cal and 15 minutes on the cable row machine.  3x12x60 on the pec fly (on extra-wide setting).  3x13x85 lbs (my usual machine was in use).  2x13 Roman Chair curl-ups.  3x12 half-windshield wipers (back flat on ground, arms straight out on floor, knees pent, while you rotate them from side to side).  3x12x40lbs barbell curls.  2x12x40lbs reverse barbell pulls.

Friday I was sore.  I think the row machine is hard on the balls of my feet.  And maybe my hands (although the weather changed).  And possibly the pec fly setting bothered my shoulder.


The skies here have been smokey for the last six days (9/1-9/7).  Fires rage around the state and the Air Quality Index has been off of the charts.   Everyone was checking http://www.lrapa.org to see how bad it got... although building fire alarms going off because of the smoke outside should have been clue.   It got better last Thursday, but the forecast is calling for higher temperatures and increased particulate counts.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Air Quality and Gym Report

Went to the gym Saturday (9/2):  320 cal and about 35 minutes on the elliptical.  3x12x60lbs on the pec fly.  3x12x80lbs on the lat pull down.  3x13 Roman Chair curls (I was doing a side motion to try to work my lats, but it seemed to be making my lower back sore, so I stopped).   3x12x40lb barbell curls.  2x12:40lb barbell reverse pulls. 3x8 half-windshield wiper twists, 2x8 full windshield wipers (man, I am so unlimber it's difficult to keep my legs straight for those).

Labor Day Monday (9/4):  The gym was really full because it was only open 8AM to Noon.  Also the air quality here has been in the unhealthy range, with particulate indexes in the 300 -- so everyone was wondering how much the gym's air-handling units filtered stuff out and reminded everyone else to take it a little easy.

300 cal and 30 minutes on the elliptical.  3x13x60lbs on the pec fly.  3x12x85lbs on the lat pull down.  3x13 Roman Chair curls.   3x12x40lb barbell curls.  I did a number of 10 lbs dumbbell shoulder shrugs,

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Art Trying To Imitate Life

When I went to the MET last, I got a book on pop-up paper construction.








It goes through various types of folds and cuts one can make to create three-dimensional sculptures (for lack of a better word) out of paper.








I've been experimenting by cutting and folding blank 3X5 inch cards.








Last weekend when we went to Silver Creek falls, I thought, "I know, I'll try to make some pop-up designs of the falls."





So I tried.









I think I got some fairly Art-Deco water, which tends to look more like hair or snakes than water.




 And I also think I got something that looks not so much like water cascading over basalt layers but rather a stage set for an absurdist 60's play.


Oh well.



Saturday, September 02, 2017

Chapter Two in The Chronicles of the The Slayer

While we didn't catch him in flagrante delicto, we're pretty sure Dragonfly-Slayer Cicero damaged a Paddle-tailed Darner, (Aeshna palmata) late this afternoon.  I'd seen him pawing at something (I'd assumed a mouse) in the tall grassland next door, and discovered the darner on the walkway by our house a few minutes later.



At first I thought it was dead, but it had a very strong grip on the concrete.  I offered a dry twig for it to crawl on, and it pulled itself up onto my hand.   I didn't see any holes it its body, but I noticed as I was photographing it that it wasn't moving its lower wings.




The unrepentant monster was fairly certain I had carried off his prize, but wasn't exactly sure where I'd placed it.  Also, he didn't want to be photographed.




We're growing some corn, and I placed the dragonfly onto a stalk, flicked some fountain water onto it, and took some photos.









I checked on it after dusk, and it had climbed up under a fold in the corn leaves, so I'm hoping it will rest the night out and fly away in the morning.





















Thursday, August 31, 2017

Editing

The last couple of days I've been whittling down a 6000 word manuscript to just under 5000 words.  5000 seems to be a sweet spot in terms of short stories; when a manuscript gets much larger, it becomes more difficult to sell -- and you have to make sure those extra words are pulling their weight.

Some of my difficulty is that I can get baroque in my writing style:  playing with the lyricism until I've passed popular taste in convolution -- or else fixating description on and getting too detailed over minutia because I like verbal eye candy.

In this particular case, I managed to squeeze out about 450 words simply by looking for some of the usual suspects -- "started to," "tried to," "only," "was," and "it was," and "began to" -- and recast various weak, passive, or convoluted phrases.   The search function helped find places where I'd strayed into using danger words.   I got fifty to a hundred words out by noticing repeated phrases (usually describing the protagonist's heart rate or breathing) and removing extraneous ones.

Probably the most difficult cut was deleting the first two pages -- the original opening scene provided some nice setting and character background, but there was enough spread throughout the rest of the manuscript that I could justify it's removal (telling myself that if the story is ever re-published, I might add the deleted scene back).

The happiest moment was discovering during a read-aloud that I'd pasted in a section twice.  When I deleted it I got about thirty words, which I used to insert a particular detail I'd liked, but didn't provide quite enough character development to justify.

I'm going back and forth a little on the voice.  On the "it's working" hand, this manuscript has been making the rounds and getting "interesting-but-no" rejections; so I think it's serviceable.   On the "needs work" hand, I wrote the original version some years ago the beginner's craftwork shows.  But back on the first hand, the voice in the original is strong, and whittling it down has blunted the voice... which might be a good thing... even if the writing feels a little formulaic.

Anyway, it's reached the point where tinkering with it any more is either going to fatigue the manuscript or push it back over the word count.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Silver Creek Falls

Sunday we met with our friend, Nancy, and went for a six mile hike through Silver Creek Falls Park.  The day was pleasant for hiking:  walking along the creek beds or in treelined gorges we managed to stay cool and the smoke from various forest fires wasn't so concentrated there.  

There are a variety of falls; the water flows over basalt shelves and cuts through differing layers of rock, depending on the rock's hardness.  The usual configuration there is a crescent of hard basalt working upstream, with an undercut of softer rock forming a second crescent-shaped cave underneath the fall.  Some falls are cascades over basalt, others are trickles filling deep pools.  I don't remember every visiting before, which is too bad; there are many interesting falls and the buildings have a CCC and WPA charm reminiscent of the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood.

The valley has been smokey.   Everyone thought last May and June with all the rain that this would not be a huge fire year, but I guess it let a lot of grass grow, and there's been more fuel.  Monday and Tuesday the air quality has been certifiably unhealthy and daytime temperatures have been in the nineties.  The last few sunrises and sunsets look like some florid seventies poster or else from the planet Tatooine.

The family has gone on a short trip, so the cats and I have been staying inside.  I've been alternately cutting out words to get a story to spec, and Monday to Tuesday I threw together a 1000 word short story.  I tried a technique of writing the story backward, starting at the end, then going backward scene by scent (actually, just sketching in a paragraph) to the beginning.  Then I went forward, fleshing in bits.   The story was ready to read (barely in time), and I wish I'd read it aloud a few more times to polish out the rough spots.  I expect I can polish it more this week and turn it in next time.

After Wordos, I went to the gym:  25 minutes and 260 cal on the elliptical.  3x12x60lbs on the pec fly.  3x12x80lbs on the lat pulldown.  3x12 Roman Chair curl-ups (I'd been adding in some side curls, but I think they've been bothering my back, so I only did straight curls this time).   3x12x40lbs barbell curls.  2x12x40lbs reverse barbell rows.  

After the gym, I re-joined the Wordos at the bar and grill across the street and virtuously had a glass of water.






Sunday, August 27, 2017

I Have A Little Jar

When I go to the MET I often go to the Mediaeval Hall.  There are many stone statues here, and it's usually difficult to photograph them because the hall is dark unless the high summer sun is peaking in through the skylights.

I like this particular statue (Saint Mary Magdalene or Holy Woman) because it's not stiff or dreary.  First of all, whoever sculpted her knew how fabric drapes.  Second of all, you can tell this statue is doing a coy little dance underneath all those clothes:  her shoulders are swaying just a little, and one hip is raised higher than the other.

Her little jar is tilted as she lifts the lid, and you can almost hear her singing, "Oh ho ho ho ho! / I have a little jar / and in my little jar / is a surprise for you..." while she does a little sashaying shoulder-tilting dance.  "Oh ho ho ho ho! / I have a little smile / a secret little smile / my jar's not filled with unguents / (well, not just any unguents...)"

When I was describing this statue's song to some friends, they thought she was singing about a jar full of ungulates.  Which would also be cool, in a happy meal kind of way.  Looking over the list of ungulates, I'm thinking she has a jar filled with giraffes, or maybe rhinos (I'm not sure if unicorns are ungulates); but certainly she would dance and sing her little song, and open the jar, and a herd of giraffes would run out and grow full sized, and she would leap up onto the back of the largest one and sing -- the giraffes would prance in a circle while she sang enchantments, and then they'd all ride off into the forest.



Saturday, August 26, 2017

Workouts

Although I've gone to the gym ... I've fallen behind in logging it (which was supposed to be motivation for going)... so..

Saturday (8/26) 30 minutes and 350 cal on the elliptical.  3x12x60lbs on the pec fly.  3x12x80lbs on the lat pulldown.  3x12 Roman Chair curl-ups.  3x12x40lbs barbell curls.

Um... let's see, I went last Thursday I had just finished the elliptical, when I realized that I hadn't really eaten lunch and I felt a little shaky.  Not sure what happened there, whether it was an electrolyte imbalance, or a blood sugar thing.  Unfortunately, it made the rest of my workout wonky, and I did the usual routine feeling odd and doing reduced weights.

I think I went Monday?  Probably Saturday.  And I was actually fairly good about going last week.

Adams Vase

Let's discuss the Adams Vase, because, OMG! it is so over the top!

It's supposed to look like a cotton flower, but it looks more like the warm-up for a bacchanal.  First of all, it's gold.  And covered in amethysts, pearls, and tourmalines.  And it's got semi-naked gods all over it.


 I'm not sure what Mercury is wearing here, but it looks like a sheer veil.  He's thinking about something, probably, "If I shimmy three steps to the right and then two the left, I can loop my veil over a hottie; but which one?"
The youth on the right is warming his hands, or else making an offering; I think the other youth has an oar.
 Mr. Adams was apparently an industrialist in the cotton oil business.  I had to look up the uses of cotton seed oil and it was essentially the high-fructose corn syrup of the late 1800's.  Only for lard as it was a key component in Crisco.  And potato chips.
I don't know why these birds are holding up garlands.


I'm thinking there's a message here, but I'm not sure what it is.  I'm pretty sure that Oregon State University hadn't incorporated at the time of this vase's construction, so it can't be a symbol of school pride.


What's That On Your Head?

 When I was at the MET, I saw this wig in the Egyptian Wing.  I'm not sure how authentic the style is, as I think the conservatory staff had to reconstruct the wig based on carvings and paintings.  However, I like the triangular negative space defined by the wig, and the intertwined locks look nice.  There's something refreshing about the simplicity of the metal bands interweaving in the hair.









I tried to take a picture of me as if I were wearing the wig, but it didn't exactly come out the way I expected.   I guess they really couldn't have duplicate wigs out for the thousands of visitors to try on.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Eclipse

Sunday morning we traveled to my folk's house to be in place for the total eclipse of the sun which would take place the following Monday morning.  The Oregon Department of Transportation, the state police, and various news sites had been forecasting epoceclipse, with dire warnings that the event would turn into a combination Woodstock and hurricane Katrina.  Millions were expected to descend upon Oregon like a plague of locusts, eat all the food, buy all the gas, and start a zillion forest fires.

We opted to drive the day before the eclipse.  The traffic along 99W was fine, with the occasional, mandatory, slow farm truck.  We had a lovely day with my folks and my sister's family.  At 1:15PM  I laid down some painter's tape (aligned with the meridian sun)  on the deck to get a feel for the cardinal directions.  My folks' house is on a north-east by south-west axis, which has more to do with the slope it's on than with any solar alignment.  I double-checked it later that evening off of Polaris and it was close enough.

Monday morning, I woke up before sunrise and went out to see what could be seen.  There are a lot of forest fires going on around the state, and Sunday had become hazier and hazier as the day progressed.  Also, it's not unusual for the night to bring clouds in from the coast.  The sky was dark blue, which progressed to a kind of purple and to orange on the eastern horizon.  A bank of low haze hid the Cascade Mountains.  I took a few pictures of Venus.

When the sun rose, it was much more north than I'd expected.  I put down some more tape to mark where I thought the sun would be at 9 AM, set up a tripod and cameras, and made breakfast mimosas.  The family gathered for bacon and eggs and panckakes, and then it was time for first contact.

The local amber alert system sent various messages to everyone's cell phones warning people to 1) pay attention to the road, not the eclipse, while driving; 2) to watch for falling rocks while climbing during the eclipse, and; 3) to not look at the sun without proper eye protection.   In their driveway, the neighbors next door, laughed a lot, and we joked about throwing rocks at each other.  We also bet that the next amber alert would be about fireballs and the end times.

Through eclipse glasses, the sun's disk showed a little nibble out of it.  We tried various methods of projecting the crescent.  The binoculars produced the largest, most study-able image, while a colander produced the most artistic image.  I went back and forth on how much I liked looking through the eclipse glasses at the sun; at the beginning it was like looking at an eclipse of the moon, only more boring because the sun's disk is featureless and the moon has craters.  Also, I hadn't practiced, so I didn't figure out how to take a picture of the sun with the eclipse glasses over my camera: so those shots were odd reflections between the Mylar and the lens.

When the moon had the sun about half-way covered, the quality of the light was odd.  It was sunlight, but the intensity was down; in retrospect, I'd say it was like moonlight on a bright full moon night, except it was day.  At the start of the eclipse, the morning promised to be hot -- and I'd been sweating on my folks deck.  But now the sunlight shining on my arm didn't heat it at all.

We spotted two white objects.  At first we thought one of them might have been Venus, but they turned out to be weather balloons.   The kids were surprisingly nonplussed about the crescent sun, and roped Mark into a game of Monopoly.  We did get them out as totality approached.

It got darker and colder.

Mark saw the shadow bands first: squiggly waves running up the wall behind us.  Faster than a cloud's shadow, and more subtle, they broke the illusion that the house is a fixed object in space, and is actually a moving point on the celestial machine.  On some level, we knew we were seeing the portents of the swift and massive dance of the heavens.  The sundial motto, "Light is the Shadow of God" never felt more true at that moment.

Totality was upon us.  Things happened in quick succession.  The crescent sun became a fingernail, became a hairline, and winked out.   We whipped off our glasses.  I said, "Oh wow..."

A huge black disk hung in the middle of a white corona in a midnight blue sky.  I stood in a circle of quiet; distantly, I heard the kids jumping up and down and shouting that this was the coolest thing ever, neighbors whooping, and fireworks going off.   I snapped some photos.

"I think I see Mercury," I said, "at about eight o'clock."   The corona stretched away from the disk in asymmetric loops, like long silvered hair given life by static electricity.  There was a faint dot tangled in the corona, near the black disk--later I wondered if I was actually seeing Regulus.  I said, "Oh wow..." again.

I fiddled with the video camera's zoom.  Through the distance, I heard Mark and The Child making a quick video.  I looked up again at the blue, black and white spectacle.  A shadow of red tickled my eye.  I wasn't sure if it was really there.  Then a red pinprick appeared, like a small ruby set on a ring.  "Oh wow...  I'm seeing Bailey's Beads!" I said.   The ruby grew to a coal.  Brighter.  "Glasses on!" someone said.  Totality was over.

The moon's shadow raced away from the house, and the valley below brightened.  I looked for shadow bands, but they weren't visible.  The sky was still dark; it was still cold; and we all thought that was the shortest 90 seconds of our lives.

The sunlight grew stronger, but it wouldn't be another half hour or so before it would be able to warm my arms.  The sun's crescent swelled.  Already the memory of the corona faded to unreality -- something fantastic one might dream, something looming too huge and dominating to have been real.

I poured myself a second mimosa.

We gazed up at the growing sun, and tried to predict when the eclipse would end.  The disk looked like a hat's bill; it looked like Ms. PacMan.  It looked like a chipped plate.  It had a bird peck out of it.   Ten minutes past all of our predictions, it was an almost perfect circle.  The disk shone, climbing in the sky, with a rough patch along one point, as if the moon had abraded it.   It was perfect once more.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

MET Day!

Tuesday, Aug 7

Today was MET Day!



In a pleasant reversal of the beginning of the trip, I managed to figure out each train's direction.  I also managed to look like I knew what I was doing, so no cousining vagabonds sidled up to me with schemes to offer local guidance in the hallways of the Port Authority Terminal.  The subway corridors weren't that confusing and only had a few proselytizing Christians.  It was if the day conspired to be an advertisement for Friendly New York City:  the woman I asked for help with the 7 train (I normally take the S train) and I had a friendly chat; and the engineer of the 6 train was looking out for me when exited at 77th street (I guess smiling when asking, "Does this train stop at 77th street?" and shouting "Yay!" when the answer is yes goes a long way).

There was a long line to get into the museum when I arrived before the doors opened... and then we were off!  To Egypt!  It's true, I'm a sucker for Egyptian stuff.   It's been two years since my last visit, and I visited all of my MET Friends.  What was strange was that various objects had moved around.  On one hand this is good, because you can see things in a new light.  On the other hand, I thought a few pieces were no longer shown to their best advantage.

The challenge now is to find something that I haven't photographed before.  When I'm in the Egyptian Wing, I try to get sharp photos of hieroglyphics, snakes, Anubis, and Thoth.







This box caught my eye because it looks like something from the arts and crafts movement.
This sarcophagus always confounds my camera's ability to take up-close photos of the hieroglyphics covering.  Something about the lighting and the flat matte color confuses the heck out of the auto-focus.










After traipsing about for about two and a half hours, it was time to leave the land of Egypt.

 I took over a hundred pictures and it's hard to include them all in a single blog post.

I nearly died (twice) from sticker shock at the MET's cafes; I remember that their food is always on the spendy side, but my goodness prices have jumped in the last two years.

I wandered through the American Arts and Sculpture.  At the clearance sale I picked up an iridescent tie based on a Tiffany peacock feather.

At the Fertile Crescent Wing, the displays looked wrong because The Elamite Cow was on loan! I wandered into the Medieval Wing at the right time for the sunlight, because my camera seemed less confused by the low lighting during this visit.

At the far end, there was a giant, way-over-the-top painting from the 1500's by a self-taught Mexican painter.  Smaller paintings by him were exhibited in a back gallery.

I wanted to go to the Music Wing, but it was closed for renovations.  Overall, the museum was not crowded, although there were a number of times when other patrons would step right in front of me as I was looking at the art.

Near the end of the visit, I went to the Gift Shop to look at the Sale Books.  I could easily drop $300 on art books there, but my main limit was the knowledge that I'd need to haul any finds through the airport on my return.  I restrained myself to some family gifts, a monograph on paleolithic cave art and a book on 3D pop-up construction.  In a continuation of Friendly New York, the clerk was from Oregon, and we chatted about living in different states.

After a short traipse through the exhibits under the grand stairs, I ended the visit in the Roman sculpture garden.  This time around, the visit was more about seeing favorites again, and less about finding new objects to learn about and appreciate and photograph.  While it was fun to go to whatever gallery I wanted and linger as long as I wanted, I did miss the banter Mark and I had had yesterday a Bear Mountain.

The guards threw everyone out.

So I went to buy chocolate.