Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Baby Elephant

We went to the zoo over the holidays to see the baby elephant, Lilly.

She was about 3 weeks old.

The morning was foggy and cold, I was glad I had gloves and a wool cloak. Luckily, it wasn't raining. As long as I kept moving, my feet didn't get too cold.

We got to the zoo relatively early and joined the throng winding its way down the paths curving around the Pacific Northwest exhibit, past the spuming coastal exhibit, and the investigated by the health department restaurant, to the elephant house.

There was a queue to go into the sturdy, blocky building, which usually isn't the case. Inside was slightly dark and dank; the building must be about fifty years old, so it looks like a giant cage -- I'm guessing the plexiglas between the zoo-goers and the gigantic bars holding back the elephants is only slightly younger than the rest of the building.

Behind the bars, eating a breakfast of hay, were Lilly and her mother. I took a few photos of the elephant when we got closer. People were mostly polite and aware of the folks behind them. The most surprizing thing to watch was how much of an infant Lilly still is, even though she is the size of a small pony. We always equate large animals with grown ones, but the way she moved her trunk and leaned against her mother was very infant like.

After the elephants, we went to the Safari Section of the Zoo to see the Lions, Tigers, Cheetahs, and Leopards. The Lions and the Tigers were distant. The Cheetahs and Leopards, however, where hunkered down against the inclement weather in window bays (conveniently lined with straw). I'm not sure that I'd want a large window in my bedroom for people to peer at me through, but the cats seemed pretty adept at ignoring us. I got some nice close-up pictures of them.

The sea lions -- large and graceful within the blue water, like shadows of dark clouds meeting. -- reminded me that sometimes it's better to enjoy what you're looking at directly, rather than constraining it to a finder frame.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Design Made Real

This year's holiday gift craft was a luminary.

I started out wanting to make a lamp casing out of plastic from a 3-D printer. I made a model using Blender, which looked cool when I rendered it. But what I enedeed up with was something that was A) too big to fit in the 3D printer available to me and B) probably not printable at the level of detail I wanted on a PrintRBot printer.

For my next attempt, I tried to make a lamp casing out of a flour and salt mix, with crushed life savers in the middle. That didn't work so well as the dough had a pretty rough resolution and the crushed life savers didn't melt the way I wanted them too (they were too lumpy and the end product was too sticky).

My third attempt, I thought I'd try to make a design and then have it printed out on plastic... but the plastic shop I connected with was a supplier to signs and windows... their web page is nice, but in some ways you have to know what they're working with ahead of the fact. And order 1000 for it to be cost effective.

The last attempt came from a local paper craft shop. They had a exacto-knife plotter. After some minor tweaking of a design made with InkSkape. I was able to get a design to them for plotting. I was able to modify a decagon zillij design to the plotter and get it cut out of some 60 pound paper. Then I glued the ends of the resulting cylinder together into the luminary.

"Wow," someone said, "It's like those designs you've been posting made real." That's right up there with seeing a story I wrote published.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Birthday 2012

My birthday and Christmas have come and gone. We're still in the holiday mode. I love visiting with my family, and I'll be glad to get back to my regular routine.

My birthday went very well. Mark pulled together a simple and elegant birthday tea party with Ceylon tea, petitefoirs, and simple savories. We had a small gathering of family and friends whom I (mostly) see on a regular basis. One of my cousins sent a Christmas present, which I guessed correctly was a dish caddy--we opened it early--and which came in very handy for the party. While we didn't have a Symposium, we did have a brief book review of ancient archeology as it impacts theories of NeoPaganism and modern constructs of shamanism (and Mark got to poke a little fun at my bibliophile tendencies).

Mark got me a present with a LED bow complete with fiber optic strands. I was like a child with a cardboard box a present comes in.

Friday, December 21, 2012

New Blogger App...

Well, on the plus side, the new Blogger App is easy to use and links up well with other social media.

On the down side, I just now checked and the app doesn't format pictures very well. I'm willing to live with it because, hey, you get what you pay for (free). But it would be nice if the uploaded pictures stayed within the columns instead of bleeding over--which make for some arty effects that are, alas, making some text links difficult to read.

Looks like I've got some picture reformatting to do.

Winter Solstice 2012

(singing) "Have yourself a merry little solstice (is it light, yet?) make the Yuletide gay / from now on our troubles will be far away (I can't see anything)..."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Working With Paper

My latest craft, which I'm trying to use as a reward for writing, is designing paper objects. It's an outgrowth of designing virtual 3D objects.

It turns out that designs made in Inkscape can be exported to dfx files, which in turn can be "printed" out on a Silhouette printer. The printer uses a rotating blade to incise the paper, and can make intricate cuts.

One thought is to try to make some variations on the icosahedrons made out of paper squares -- I want to see what circles look like, and there are some dodecahedron designs I've seen on the web. I've read a book about paper clock escapements, and I think it could be interesting to design paper geared machines. Probably I'll have to cut out four or so copies of the gear to make them strong and thick enough to use.

Then I'll have to learn how to construct gear and pinion ratios.

In the Winter, arranging geometric shapes into patterns brings me a steadying sense of solace. Part of the comfort of design is creating order, if only on a computer screen or piece of paper. The other part is the wonder underlying how six circles are connected to a cube.

Is It Solstice Yet?

This morning it is very dark, with much rain. I'm listening to the rain falling on the roof and it sounds like the rapid tick-tock of the world's clock. I am ambigious about all the rain and the storms; on one hand I like the rain and the clouds and (when it happens) the mysterious fog. But this morning just seems grey.

Outside the window, I'm watching a cascade of water from a rooftop fall on somebody's truck's trunk. I suppose that can't be good. Time to stop writing, I think, and go tell them about it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pre Birthday Musings

In a few days I'll be 48.

When I turned 40, it wasn't such a big deal. We had fun party--with a Birthday Throne--which I enjoyed very much. Turning 30 was much more traumatic for me. I think turning 50 is going to be like turning 30. I have a vague sense of ... dread? Sort of like I'm like Tolkien's painter, Mr. Niggle, and I've forgotten to pack something.

On those days when the glass feels half-empty, I remind myself that I plan to live to 100 (Mark will chime in here and say something about exercise and eating right), and that the years so far have been mostly fun.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Dreams of Horses and Native Americans

Long, complicated series of dreams last night....

The dream was in progress, something about a make-over team remodling our house. Then there was a transition...

I was going to a school of some sort. I wasn't a student, and now that I think about it, I don't recall why I was going there. The school was a giant black cube (which didn't remind me of The Borg in the dream) which rotated. (In waking life I'm more reminded of a rotating castle in the Arthurian romance cycle).

The interior of the Rotating Black Cube School wasn't always consistant. The first floor seemed more like an outside courtyard than the interior of a building. There was a red stone fountain with carved horses. The water was pretty still, so calling it a fountain is a stretch, maybe well would be more accurate. A freize of running horses sprang up over the still water. The water was brackish because a cupful of ocean water needed to be added to the basin or the horses would fade from red horses to pale white ones. It was not desirable to have the horses turn pale white for some reason.

I walked along a hallway, which was decorated at the corners with stone-carved art-deco snakes framing the hallway. They were very angular, with 90-degree angle turns and a straight run of snake body ending with the open-mouthed heads on the floor.

I went up a floor to where a teacher was reading from a book to a bunch of second or third graders. I have a sense of wooden chairs with some textured carving on the seat backs. Suddenly, the building began to rotate--this manifested as a sense of dizziness and the scenery outside the window moving.
Throughout the dream, the building would turn suddenly. The teacher said something about not liking how the building spun.

I went up another floor. I was in a large, dark room. I have a sense the walls were made of stone. The only light coming from the room was from a doorway cut into the wall and a square window cut next to the door. The doorway opened onto the air, and I had a slight sense that this was like an elevator anxiety dream, only without the elevator. Some women were with me in the room, and we were all a little worried that the building would spin so quickly that we would be thrown out the doorway and fall onto the ?sharp rocky cliffs? below.

There was a transition, or else I'm missing a piece here. I think the same people (mostly women) in the dark room from the scene before were now either on a rock in the middle of a river, or on a narrow beach between a dark, rocky cliff and a river.

A white horse appeared. It might have been swimming in the river. Or it might have been on the shore below us some how. It was very thin and thirsty, and we had to give it water. The gaunt horse opened its toothy mouth very wide, and we sprayed water into its narrow mouth. I'm not sure how we did this, but the image that sticks with me is looking down on a narrow, bone-white horse's head pointing up to the sky, mouth open with its tongue stuck out, while five or six different streams--as if from garden hoses turned on full blast--from above converged on its mouth.

Then there was another transition. The building (or cliff) started to rotate and we were all in the river. I got stung by jellyfish in the river; it didn't hurt that much, and I was more surprized that jellyfish were in a freshwater river than anything else.

I woke up enough here to remember that I wanted to remember the rotating school with the horse fountain and snake halls. Then I went back to sleep.

Somehow I ended up at some place like Arcosanti or Reed College. I think the buildings were like a college campus, but the location was in the Arizona area (or something). There was a Native American there in a stereotypical headdress with long feathers. We were friends.

"[A mutual woman friend] says you're leaving for good," he said to me as we walked hand in hand in front of a brick building. (I remember that his hand was big, warm, strong, and not boney as we held hands.)

I told him that I was leaving.

"I thought so," he said. "Listen, there's something important that I need to tell you..." -- and then I woke up.

I remember thinking it was a strange dream, because I usually dream about "Magic thespians", not "Magic Indians" and I am slightly embarrassed to be dreaming a cultural cliche.

The spooky coincidence was that when I got home and looked at the mail, the US Treasury had sent Mark a coin catalog. On the outside of the envelope was a stereotypical Native American in a headdress, a freize of horses, and a larger horse looking at the Native American.

Mark joked later this evening that the treasury was using psychics to sell their collectors' coints.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

More Renderings

I haven't been writing much in this blog, mostly because I've been really busy.

Here's a cylinder of interlocked circles I created in Blender.  I had a sudden insight about how to do it this.  I'd been thinking about carving pumpkins.  Jenn Wild had forwarded me a photo of an insanely carved pumpkin that was a carousel with horses.  I'd been thinking about zillij and how I might use a star-shaped cookie cutter to make a vague kind of Moroccan lamp.  The images must have been bumping around in my head because I figured out that I could use a Boolean intersection to make the individual rings, then use Blender's spin function to make a ring of interlocked circles, then use the array function to stack them.

The whole operation took about 45 minutes.  If I'd tried this a year ago, the rings would have been flat, and I would have spent several days trying to stack everything just so.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

But Is It Art?

Over the weekend, Mark and I went to the Portland Art Museum. I love going to the Museum with Mark because he always opens me up to portrait and landscape pictures; I'm missing the gene for picture appreciation and I'm more likely to go to a show with Mark. It's true that I often have a "why am I looking at this again" reaction, but at least now with Mark around, I have a better understanding for, um, craft.

 The other reason I love going to museums with Mark is that we usually think the same installations are hilarious. This visit's hilarious installation involved fake animals stacked into a pyramid and a mobile made out of wax heads. The other installation, which Mark called a visual pallet cleanser, was a collection of prints by Ellsworth Kelly.


I have to confess, that seeing Kelly's work makes me want to give an improv art talk using words like "explore," "juxtaposition," "dissonance," and "vis-a-vis." Cue DeForest Kelly as Dr. McCoy saying, "It's worse than that; it's _art_ Jim." But then I started thinking about a little more and asked the question, "What's the difference between Kelly's art and, say, these pieces here":

This was the piece I did that initially came to mind on the way back home from the Museum.

This was something that I designed on the trip back, too. These two, especially ask, is a geometric grid automatically art?

 Maybe it's not so much about art as it is about design.  "Here the artist is exploring the relationship between the moon, opacity, and masks."  

This snowflake was created using a random number generator, which calls into question my role as artist. More likely I'm a curator--possibly at best a co-creator.

  OK; I just like this one--to me it's about connectivity and motion (and stars!).  Mark and I had an interesting discussion about it a few weeks ago. Mark think's it's geeky (and cold).  So maybe Kelly's art speaks to Art Geeks?

I was going for a Mucha vibe with this one, which Mark says I've missed completely.

I'm not saying that the pictures I've created with Blender are Fine Art worthy of being hung up in a gallery. Or... are they? Seriously, though, what makes a lithograph of a blue square "art."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Colors at Yellowstone

Wednesday, Aug 15 2012

I got up to pee and had just gotten back into bed when the neighbor's alarm clock went off.

"What time is it?" asked a female voice.

"5:15" said a male voice. Then what followed sounded like one elderly deaf person asking another elderly deaf person how to work the shower

After listening to them while I dozed, I finally decided I wasn't going to get any rest and that I might as well get up a look at the geysers along the Fire River.

I dressed, collected various photography tools, and wandered off to Old Faithful. The lobby of the Inn had one or two people in it. When red double doors were closed, and went I went through them, the cold air wrapped around me. The sky was turning lighter shades of pearl. A sliver of a crescent moon hung below a bright planet which I thought was Mars the other morning, but turned out to be Venus--I want to blame the haze for making Venus look redder the other day.

There were a few other early-bird geyser gazers at the bleachers around Old Faithful. I wanted to get a photograph of the moon in the geyser's plume to complement the one I had taken of the sun the other day. Something about the geyser made me think an eruption wasn't too far off, so I waited.

Video of the geysers seems to come out better than the stills I take, so I pulled out my iPad and managed a few shorts of Old Faithful before and during the eruption. In some ways recording events this way works better because I can watch both the equipment and what I'm videoing without feeling like a Borg or a technophile two times removed from the event that is happening. On the other hand, I aways think about how Mark says to experience the moment and not live it through the filter of devices.

After Old Faithful was finished, I went out into the geyser area on the other side of the river to pretend to be David Attenbourough. There were a couple of times when I was facing away from geysers and watching me talk in front of them that struck me as kind of odd--but I was having fun, and I'd appreciated the geysers directly earlier in the week.

At 7:30 we all met for breakfast. I was starving and had a big one.

We went to thermal features near the lodge, working our way to the Artists Paint Pots and then back toward Old Faithful. The most interesting thing about the paint pots are the way that mud piled up around the mud-hole, and the cracked mounds surrounding the gurgling mud. I expected more colors in the mud, but it was mostly cream and sepia. Some times a dried out hole might have a dusting of mustard yellow, presumably from sulphur, which we smelled. Drier holes made a hushing and whistling noise as steam rose over crazed mud tiles; wetter holes sputtered like oatmeal.

The Firehole area had more color. Steam rose from broad pools of deep turquoise rimmed with greens and browns, and made a rainbow in the early morning sun. Actually, our sunglasses contributed greatly to the rainbow effect.

Mark got into timing Jewel Geyser. While we were there, it had a period of about six minutes. The most fun we had was with a visiting family--they sounded British--waiting for the next eruption. They were suitibly impressed, and told Mark that he should sell tickets predicting the geyser; Mark said something about visiting Stonehenge and our woo-woo tour guide; Larry said that Mark should make up something like, "Oh! I can hear the crickets! Can you hear them? They're telling me the geyser is about to go off." Hearing the crickets then became the joke of the hour.

We crossed the highway and took a short hike to [sage brush] geyser. We were hoping that it would go off, because the blue waters in it appeared to be rising and bubbling. But a local geyser gazer stopped by and told us it would be several hours at least before it went off.


Mark and Larry went off for another Birthday Hike. The farther they got into the back country, the fewer other hikers they saw. They did not see any bears.


As I drifted off to sleep, I heard the old man next door ask, "Did I take my pills?"

The old woman asked, "Which pills are you supposed to take?"

"Well.. I think I'm supposed to take a either an aspirin or a pain pill..."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Stupid Tourist Tricks

As we were driving along the roads at Yellowstone, we happened upon a bison crossing the road.  This one was a smaller bison, but still, it probably had as much mass as our car.

The SUV folks in the opposite lane thought it would be ever so delightful to parallel the bison so that they could take video and still pictures out of their car's nearest open orifices.  In other words, they were A) driving with their cameras, B) harassing the wildlife, and C) herding the bison into our car.

We encouraged them to move along.  I'm still trying to decide if the "thanks" from the red SUV meant, "Thanks for getting that silver SUV to move along," "Thanks for getting that silver SUV to move so we could have our turn harassing the bison," or "Thanks for letting us be selfish jerks."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Boy Scout Moment

On the way back to the car from Mammoth Hot-springs, I saw an older woman off of the paths and sidewalks, inching her way down the shoulder of the road. The first thing I noticed was her awkward gait, as if her hips or her feet bothered her; the second was the "I think I'm about to drown" look on her face; the third was that she wasn't wearing sensible shoes.

I looked and Larry and Larry looked at me and then we were crossing the street to help her. By this time she had found a rock more or less stool sized and was almost panting. There was a small breeze, but the sun was beating down on the rocky sinter cliffs. There were no trees to offer shade.

Larry and I greeted her, asked if she needed help, and offered her water and our steadying arms. She said her name was Estella; she was Peruvian, but had lived in LA for the past twenty-something years. She'd apparently gone off on her own from a tour bus. She wiggled her feet to free some gravel out of her heeled sandals and we continued to walk along the margin of the road. I looked down at her feet and marveled that she was able to walk at all--her feet had bunions the size of my thumbs and the joints of her big toes pointed outward like misplaced ankles. My feet ached in sympathy.

We took another rest. Estella drank some more water, and apologized for drinking all of it--she hadn't and I encouraged her to drink as much as she wanted. Larry went off to connect with her tour bus. When he came back, she said she'd rest and wait for her bus to pick her up and shooed us of.

We hadn't gone twenty-five feet when she got up and started walking again; so we came back and insisted on escorting her back. We figured she was embarrassed or possibly worried that two (younger) men were helping her.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fort Yellowstone

Aug 14, Tuesday Afternoon:

We made it to Fort Yellowstone and the Mammoth Falls. Mammoth Falls was probably one of the warmest adventures we had; it felt like it was 80 or 85F.

We saw an exhibit of life at the fort at the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries. I found the boxy camera and the old Remington manual typewriter interesting, but what struck my eye was the spiraling ram's horn people were allowed to touch. I thought the coil of horn with its ridges was aesthetically pleasing, and I tried to make the photograph I took of it show how it was a circle extended into a third dimension.

Of interest was a collection of Thomas Moran--I recognized the view from Artist's Point in one of the watercolors.

The buildings had an American interpretation of the Arts and Craft movement; I liked the Engineering Building especially. We couldn't decide if it looked more like a Chinese lantern or more like a birdhouse. I photographed the lamps on either side of the entrance because I think they could work on the outside of our home.

Larry's ability to choose a line failed him, and we found ourselves waiting for A Very Long Time while a Bus Tour Driver, a Japanese Tourist, a burnt-out cashier, a replacement cashier, and a translating table busser had some obscure problem involving four receipts. And lots of hand waving. When it was finally our turn in line, the Driver tried to cut in on us as we placed our order.

We took a shortish walk up to the Mammoth Hot-springs. I was more impressed with the springs than I thought I would be. The springs are terraces of built-up sinter. Mostly they're white, with orange thermophiles at the edges.

Park Signs

I thought this sign was funny.  It's probably a good thing that I'm not in charge of signs at Yellowstone, because they'd probably be much more sarcastic or direct, like, "Don't be stupid, you could DIE" or "Yellowstone Thermal Area:  Weeding Out the Gene Pool."

Yellowstone Falls

Tuesday, Aug 14

The sky was still red, but not as hazy from the fire as it had been yesterday. As close to 7AM as possible, we hopped into the car and drove to the Upper and Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River. The sites are much more pleasant in the cool of the morning, and the crowds are less dense.

We started out at the Upper Falls viewing area. The morning sun was about halfway down the far cliff, and the falls were bright white where the sunlight hit them. Then we started down Uncle Tom's Trail.

The viewing for the Lower Falls involved climbing down something like two hundred metal grid stairs bolted onto the side of a canyon wall. Clomping down them reminded me of the World of Yonada (pause to imagine John dramatically saying, "I must know the truth of the World!")

Probably the most alarming sight was not seeing through the mesh stairs onto the tops of rock towers below, nor the steep pitch of stair's flight: it was coming across dented and deformed steps and realizing that rocks the size of heads had fallen off of the cliff.

At the bottom of the cliff we looked up at the trees. Some clung to the rock by their roots, some grew away from the cliff in the way their coastal cousins grew away from ocean winds, some had obviously made a horrible mistake in choice of rooting spot and had become withered kindling.

The lower fall plunged over the cliff face and fell into a white mist before pounding the rocks below. A driven mist blew away from the falls and curled over and around nearby slopes. Secondary falls, fed by the mists, tumbled to the Yellowstone River. An arcing rainbow seemed to span the space over both shores of the river, reminding me of the Bifrost Bridge and Wagnerian music.

The walk up was easier than the walk down. The joke of the hour was "They went down this with knotted ropes and rope bridges!" Which was true--there were black and white pictures of Victorian women in dresses, large hats, and gloves grasping a thick knotted rope as they navigated a steep slope.

After the falls, we drove a short distance to Artist's Point, a favorite perch of Thomas Moran. By this time it was after 10:30, and the crowds were beginning to thicken. Still, we had a wonderful view of the Lower Falls. The cliff sides are visually interesting--the river has exposed different rocky layers, and rain and snow have eroded small craggy towers on both sides of the valley. Pines lined the top of the cliff, and what looked like deer trails strung down from the trees and crossed rocky spurs.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Who Was That Man in the White Poofy Shirt?

Scene:  A street after The Eugene Celebration parade.

Tired looking Elderly Woman from the League of Women Voters who has just paraded fourteen blocks (seeing the crackers on the small collapsible table Mark, John, and various friends are standing around) : (to twenty-something LWV companion):  "Oh, Sue, wait; let's ask these people for crackers."

John (whisking a tea towel embroidered with a calligraphic alphabet over one arm):  "Oh!  (rushes up to TLEWFTLOWV) Here; have some cheese-ball, too."  (Holds up chilled bowl with cheese.)

TLEWFTLOWV scoops some cheese onto a wheat cracker.

John (explaining):  "It's Oregonzola and cream cheese mixed with almonds.  Take some more."

TLEWFTLOWV:  "Thanks; this is really good and I'm diabetic so it really... (noticing John's white poofy sleeved poet's shirt): "Who are you people."

John (successfully resisting the answer "I'm just a gay man with a cheese ball, ma'am, trying to bring culture to the streets of Eugene", but it's a really near thing):  "Oh, we just came to see the parade..."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cowboy Cookout

Monday evening, we went to a Cowboy Cookout. We arrived at the Parade Rest Guest Ranch, and after a short wait, got onto a surrey wagon complete with fringe. From a writing point of view it was interesting because the bumpy ride would have been bumpier if the surrey hadn't had modern pneumatic breaks and suspension springs.

The food--steak, corn on the cob, beans, slaw, and a brownie--was very good. We ate outdoors in a stand of aspen trees while a cowboy poet sarraneded us with western songs.

On the way back to Old Faithful Inn, we saw several herd of elk.

The Inn is a noisy place; the walls are thin and the windows aren't tight. If I listen as I type this, I can make out the conversation the folks in the next room are having, and it sounds as if they've just turned on an air pump for a mattress (at 10PM). The entryway varanda isn't far from our room, so we hear the late-night conversations of guests drinking there. The lobby has just quieted down, mostly due to the fact that the piano and chello player has just finished the music program for the night.

Geysers and Hikes

Monday, Aug 13

Woke up this morning at 6 to go and photograph geysers. I was expecting the sky to be much clearer than it was. There's a fire in Idaho that is making everything hazy. Also there were a ton of clouds which slowly went from dark grey to shades of coral and white as the morning progressed.

The lighting was difficult, and the sights were beautiful, but beyond my camera and my photographer's skills. The Moon and Mars (actually, it was Venus, but the fires made Venus look like red Mars) hung in the pinking sky, and I took a shot of those. The combination of the very diffuse light, the vapors, and the white silicate ground around the sinter cones made taking any kind of interesting picture challenging.

The thing I learned was that if you are at a geyser with a camera, and it's doing something interesting which you can see, that's when you want to take a picture.

I returned to our room and we set off for a breakfast. We just missed Fountain Geyser, but drove on a little way to White Cone Geyser. Near the end of our meal the geyser went off. It was funny--as we were eating, folks would drive by, squint at the geyser, which was smoking, and then drive off; it was like watching folks drive by garage sales.

We visted another thermal area, Firehole Lake Drive: a headwater, with lots of geysers half-submerged by river waters and spewing steam into the air. From out of the mists, flying from the veiled valleys above, trumpeter swans came flying and trumpeting.

Then we went to Sentinal Meadows and Ojo Springs. Just to the west of the parking area was a solitary male bison. He seemed more interested in grazing a patch of grass a way from the road than in us.

Ojo Spring, located on the banks above the Gibon River, is supposed to look like an eye, but to me it looked more like it was shaped like a goose with boiling water coming up more or less where a goose's eye would be. We took a trailhead to the meadow of yellow and green spreading out from the river. The wildlife was spectacular. Red and blue dragonflies, smaller blue damsel flies, and white and orange butterflies flitted from flower to pond; the dragonflies especially seemed to like the geyser steams. Mark saw a weasel. And coming over a spur of a hill, we saw a large, yellow coyote. It saw us and went lope-lope-loping away into the pines. From where we saw the coyote, we looked down upon the roofless, Lincoln-log-like remains of Yellowstone's first spa facilities.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Red Peppers and Old Faithful

Sunday Aug 12 8:19 AM

I woke up this morning feeling like I had eaten a Deadly Red Pepper. At least I hope it was a DRP and not, say, the local water supply or some kind of 24 hour bug. Insert some sort of geriatric digestive aid and Old Faithful joke here.

I spend a lot of time in the men's room, which has intricate tiling on the floors (hexagons and squares), marble sink counters, and tilted oval mirrors over the sinks.

The Beehive Geyser going off at 5:30 AM woke Mark up, so he went out to look at stars and, as it turn out, bison. At least, I think it was 5:30. He said that that moon was up, so it can't have been any earlier than about 4AM. Mark also saw Castle geyser go off; he said the eruption lasted about a half hour.

As much as I like the aesthetic of our room's door, it requires two free hands to enter or exit our room. This can be difficult when one is encumbered with something like, say, a soothing cup of tea. Actually, now that I look more closely, the bar connected to the pull doesn't serve any purpose, so it is possible to unlock the door and push it open. Exiting the room does require two hands, as the automatic closer puts a lot of force on the door.

I managed to take a few pictures of Old Faithful with the rising sun veiled by its vapors. Then everyone left for the lake--I opted to stay in an area with readily accessible restrooms. A few hours later I felt like I could risk a short walk.

Watching geysers is an exercise in waiting. What strikes me is how many folks grumble that the geyser has not gone off yet. I imagine living or working here would give one a rhythm of how the geysers spout. I'm waiting near the Grand Geyser. In a surprise eruption, the Triplet Geyer nearby has started to erupt, shooting out three foot high bursts of water.

Grand Geyser has started to push water out of its mini cauldara. The displaced overflow ripples away from the spout and oozes down hill. Turban geyser, part of the system, is bubbling and its overflow is feeding the waters of Grand. Suddenly, Grand shoots water high into the air and I realize that what I thought was Grand is actually Turban and there's a rotten egg smell in the air as mist reaches toward the sun.

Sunday in the Park with Geysers

Sunday Aug 12 Early Afternoon

I reviewed the videos I shot of the geysers and delete a few. I take a few still photos with my camera of the radiator and of the basin. I'm feeling a little better and decide to risk a little bit of chocolate ice cream fro the snack bar.

Then I take a nap, which is an accomplishment given how much noise there is seeping around our windows. Busses pull up with hissing air breaks; garbage trucks beeep-beeep-beeep over the clank of metal trash bins being hoisted and banged about; someone's small dogs are yapping; and it must be just past lunch time because several infants have loud melt-downs. Beneath the punctuations of sound is the ocean-like murmur of hundreds of conversations.

When I wake up, the feeling that I've eaten a Deadly Red Pepper has returned. Bother. Now the question becomes, what exactly is causing the frequent runs to the men's room?

I went for a walk to see River Geser blow and on he way back, I walked by Sawmill Geyser. It was thruming and sending spouts of water up into the air. Then it stopped. I thought it was a pause, but then the water swirled around the rim of Sawmill's cauldera, and drained down the central pipe of stone. Thin vapour poured up the pipe, but otherwise, the geyser was dry.

It was like the withdrawal of some churning spirit.

Later, walking back to the lodge, some ravens played in a parking lot. I thought I'd try to photograph one. As I was doing so, a woman came up and started talking at them, accusing them of finding and eating garbage. Which she began to pick up. Which made me feel a little like a stupid tourist, so I helped her pick up the wrappers, paper bits, and shiney foil I'd failed to see.

11:19 PM

As we lay in bed trying to fall asleep, some Very Loud Brits began a Lightly Drunken Conversation on the benches two stories below our window. These were not Masterpiece Theatre Subjects of Victoria, nor were they incarnations of Mr. Darcey.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Saturday Yellowstone Adventures

Saturday Aug 11 -- Mid Afternoon

After a five hour drive from Twin Falls, Idaho, and various stops, we pulled into the Old Faithful Inn. I'm trying to remember our visit ten years ago, and the edges of the memories are fuzzy, but I'm pretty sure there weren't quite so many people. I guess August is the High Season.

Old Faithful Inn, constructed in 1903, is built mostly of burled lodge-pole pine and some stone. Rough-hewn posts rise up about six stories to create a inside forest effect. The posts and beams look a bit like giants holding up a settler-style Circe du Soliel jungle gym. Even with windows on the east and west ends of the building, the interior is dark. A huge stone fireplace in the south end of the lobby rises up about seven stories.

There's lots of American Arts and Crafts style furniture decked around the lobby and observation decks encircling the fireplace. The most enchanting--for me, anyway--are the wood writing desks. An oblong Tiffany-style lamp is incorporated into the desk's organizer, which has four upright slots to hold postcards and writing supplies. The lamp's glass looks like malachite. The desktop is a god hight, with plenty of leg room.

Most folks are only allowed on the first third floors. The higher ones were damaged four decades ago by an earthquake, and the general public isn't allowed up there. Occasionally we notice folks looking out over the park from the Inn's "widow porch" on top; they must work here.

You can tell the architecture-type tourist because they always take pictures of the support beams. I think the best time to take a picture would be between midnight and 4AM, when the place is silent and empty.

Our room in the Inn is on the third floor. The walls are paneled in wood. The radiator looks old, but it's not rusty and there's a raised arabesque design on the cells. Bare bulbs on top of white columns remind me of candles. We share a very nicely tiled marbled bathroom with the rest of the hall, but there's a copper plated stand with a ceramic wash basin sink in the room. Rough triangle-headed nails are at the corners of the simple wooden frame of the mirror.

The Perseid Meteor Shower happens this time of year. I think the best one I saw was when I was near the Old Faithful bleachers, away from the lights of the Inn. Even with the lights from the lodge, the Milky Way was much more prominent than I've seen it in quite a while. The meteor shot out from the area between Perseus and Cassiopeia, mostly white with maybe a little bit of green, and a thick tail of sparks. Later I thought I heard one whooshing overhead, but the noises of the other guests on the verandah made it difficult to tell.

As I was reading on the bed, the world's largest and friendliest looking mouse waddled out from underneath the radiator and stared and stared at me. I just stared right back.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Platonic Solids

I've been fiddling with this arrangement off and on all week.  I think I'm ready to abandon the composition and do other things.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I recently read a tutorial on how to easily and quickly create dodecahedrons in Blender.

It turns out to be fairly simple.  From there it's a quick hop, step and a leap to Archimedean Solids.

I wanted to add stars, so I fired up my star-making script and dropped them into a hollowed out dodecahedron.

I was surprised when added some light sources to the rendering to create a shadow pattern similar to zilig designs.

Monday, July 09, 2012

1880's American Centaur

I'm working on a short story with Centaur cowgirls (still).  Or, if not a Centaur cowgirl, a Centauride in a Buffalo Bill-like traveling show   (Must. Not. Quote. Cher. Song.) in Arizona around 1880.

Although people back then were Americans, they were Victorian Americans, which means that I have to think about things like, "What would a respectable Centauride on the American Western Frontier wear?"   Probably a busty Centaur Cowgirl wearing a loose blouse or only a vest riding into town would probably cause a stir.

I think the trick is figuring out what would preserve a Centaur's modesty without being too hot to wear.  I'm thinking a light cotton cover with a lot of lace or fringe.....

Luckily, there's an exhibition of cowgirl portraits in town; it features some biographical materials which have been helpful.  I'm hopeful that it will help me to avoid silly Western mistakes. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dual Dodecahedrons

Yes, it's true.  I've been playing with dodecahedrons instead of wrting.

Monday, May 28, 2012

On The Hawaiian Chieftain

Over the weekend we took a battle cruise on the Hawaiian Chieftain a historically-based sail ship circa 1850.  We were supposed to battle the Lady Washington, but between the winds and an incoming spring tide, Lady Washington got stuck on the dock.

We were really glad we'd gotten onto Hawaiian Chieftain instead.

We rode under the Newport, Oregon, bridge, and out onto the Pacific Ocean (about as far as the buoys with their bells).  The swells were about six feet, which made being in the bow of the ship a little rocky and damp.

Then we returned into Newport Bay and fired cannon at various objects.  Probably the most interesting thing I learned was that cannon fire echos off of sails, boat sides, and piers.   You can tell if you've broadsided a ship by the echo off of her sails.  You can tell if you've hit a jetty wall just right because of the zipper-like sound of the echo bouncing off of all the receding piers.

It wasn't the sunniest day, and at the east end of the bay, the wind picked up.  But that didn't stop the first mate from bringing out his guitar and the cook his accordion.  I didn't catch all the words to their songs (something about picks and the Devil).

I was glad that the diesel fumes were high above the ship, so I was only a little queasy. By the time we got back on shore, we were all starving, so we got (what else) sea food.

Battle Cruise Photos

 Arg!  We're back from a battle cruise.  We fired cannon.

 At a pure science vessle (because knowledge is the greatest treasure!)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Flying Home


We woke up and managed to leave the condo at 5:30.

Although at one point I wondered if we would find the rental car return as we were stuck behind someone who was obviously lost -- they more-or-less parked their car in the middle of a lane and got out to ask a kiosk attendant a question.

Security was uneventful, except for almost losing the green bag with Disney Treasures in it (thank you fellow traveler for pointing out that I'd left it behind).

The sun is about to rise. It will seem weird to me how the sun will get an extra three hours in the sky today.

Here's how fill a 757 fill with nervous laughter: mention over the plane's PA system that there's a slight delay to the tarmac while we wait for maintenance to come and determine if the jet fuel found on the ground came from our plane's leaking engine or from some other plane. Be sure to start to say something awkward, then trail off before you conclude, "as soon as we're sure we're safe, we'll be on our way.". The wings are not on fire.

I'm kind of tired.

We worked it out; if we go by West Coast clocks, we got up this morning at 2AM to leave Orlando, Florida, and touched down at our house at 1:20 PM. Which meant that we were home in time for our daily naps. I had a nightmare, which I hope was caused by rich food. Now it's 9:30 PM, which feels like half-past midnight. If I have any more nightmares or work-related anxiety dreams, it's going to be hard to want to go to sleep.

However, re-reading (and editing out) the grammatical mistakes in this missive is revealing how tired I must be.

Early this afternoon, as I was walking about, a wave of pollen hit me. It's funny how one gets used to a runny nose and itchy eyes . And how quickly one forgets them until the pollen returns. Also, it's in the high sixties right now, whih feels very cold compared to th e mid eighties.

In between sneezes, I came to the conclusion that I like Disney World becaus it's really easy to be interactively friendly there. Yes, it's artificial; yes, it's like Christmas; yes, it's a vacation--and we're privileged to be able to spend money on a lavish stay. But still, there's something to be said for reassuring a girl in the swim with the sharks line by sharing that it was my first time snorkeling ever; or spontaneously helping someone figure out what attraction they were looking for was; or joining in with a merchant shaking a rattle to try to help her sell some drums; or smiling and waving at strangers and having them wave back; or

-- oh my Goddess: an army of people hasn't cleaned our house while we were gone!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Parks Revisited


I woke up after work anxiety dreams and discovered that I had sunburned more severly than I thought. Not so bad, but sore enough to make wearing a shoulderstrap uncomfortable.

We walked into The Animal Kingdom around 9:45.

This was the hottest day of our visit. Probably the funniest line from the tram attendant was, "as you exit watch your step and watch your head; and if you don't, watch your language."

We watched The Festival of the lion king. They do a pretty good job with the animatronic animals. I would say that "Be Prepared" is my favorite number because of the drums and the fire dancing. The fire dancer's presentation was impressive, mostly when he started flames dancing everywhere, including the stage. Purposefully. Which he stepped over. I did wonder, however, when he laid down on the stage in order to twirl flaming batons over himself A) if he meant to light his loincloth on purpose, B) just how large and hot the flame burning over his groin was going to get. Everyone was professional, because he kept on twirling that baton, and no one broke character. And then the flame died out.

After the Festival, we stood in lines to meet people in costumes forging signatures of fictional cartoon characters. Yes, it's sweet to see how happy children get hugging mice; I guess it falls into that sentimental area between belief and imagination. Still, I couldn't help but wonder if the woman playing Pochahantis got many awkward questions.

We went on the safari ride, which was even better the second time. The giraffes were much more close. Alas, just before they appeared, I discovered that I had filled up my camera card with pictures of children hugging people in cartoon character costumes.


Our final visit was to Epcot. Just as we arrived the heavens opened up with a heavy shower. We managed to stay mostly under cover and then took the ride in the Bucky Sphere. Afterward, we went counter clockwise around the showcase of nations. I found myself rocking out to a four man band doing Beatles covers. It was kind of goofy, but they all had waist long hair which they whipped around in time to the music--as they stood before wind machines (I knew it! I knew it!  Long hair does require a wind machine!).

We half-watched the fireworks display outside of Italy, but after the first initial fireball, it was mostly a floating LED show on a giant globe.

Mark and I had another hour of time to ourselves, which was nice. I particularly enjoyed sitting with him on a bench at night looking over model of the Eiffel Tower reflecting off of the lake. We had just managed to get into the room with the Chinese terracotta warriors, which Mark found interesting.

We stole into the Moroccan hall of arts and lingered over the artifacts there. Mark especially liked the silver Burbur spiked bride's bracelets. And after much hunting, I showed him the way over the to jeweled snake bracelet. We discussed the tiles for sale there, and agreed that the tiles were interesting, but not quite what we were looking for.

And then it was time to go.

Return to Hollywood

Thursday Evening, May 17

After our mandatory afternoon nap, we went back Hollywood.  I wore my Malicifent lapel pin, and at least three Disney cast members wondered where I had got it.

Mark and I wandered through the shops looking at expensive Disney Schlock. I confess; I like the lapel pins, at least the smaller more tasteful ones. I purchased a pin of Snow White's Evil Stepmother holding up the heart box. Mark looked at mugs shaped like Mickey Mouse's hotpants, which we agreed was a weird object to drink from. I considered purchasing some of the Unbirthday Teas, but I refuse to drink a loose-leaf tea that has "orange flavorings" listed as an ingredient (if it were orange peel, I'd be fine).

In one store I had my Big Gay Fag moment--they were selling the cutest little top hats, similar to what the Mad Hatter wears, only with more ribbons. They were so small, at first I thought maybe they were hat pin cushions; but they had elastic pin straps.

The next thing I knew, I was posing in front of a mirror and squealing, "Ooh! This one matches my shirt!" I wanted one that looked a little more butch or Mr. Darcey, and as I picked one up, I said, "Oh, all this one needs is a peacock feather." Prompted by some Spirit of Disney Wishes, I turned it around and viola!  A peacock feather!  Of course I put it on. I was seriously tempted to buy it because I know a certain six year old who would be mortified if I wore it....

But, alas, it was like the snake charm bracelet; I'd wear it once at home, by myself, maybe while sipping a cup of tea while sitting on a cushion and listening to bellydance music; and I'd glance at myself in a mirror and quote George Hamilton quoting Lauran Hutton: "I am comical, and absurd; willing to do or say anything to please my man." (I really do want Lauran Hutton's hat from the closing scene in Zorro, The Gay Blade).... and then I'd pack it with some of the other clothes I wear maybe once every three years or so.

Ah well.  I'll always have Paris.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Swimming with Sharks

Thursday the 17th.

This afternoon I am slightly sunburned. Not too bad, and luckily only on my shoulders and upper back (and five days later, my back is itchy itchy itchy).

We went to Typhoon Lagoon. The best part was swimming with the sharks. We got to use face masks and snorkels so we could swim about forty feet over a saltwater tank filled with manta rays, bonnet-head sharks, and leopard sharks.  And pretty blue fish.

I was surprised how many folks quickly swam over the surface. I sculled my hands and kept my arms next to my body, which was warmer. The water was seventy degrees Fahrenheit; they warned us a lot that the water would be cold, but actually, the cleansing showers when we got in were worse.

I think the oddest experience was another Parents Behaving Badly moment when a mother and a father forced their screaming nine year old daughter to get into the water with them. Even with my ears under the water, I could hear shrieking protestations and loud arguing and a life guard calling to them, "Ma'am, do you need any help?" I'm not sure what it is about the water parks, and maybe it's the time of year that we've visited, but it's the place I seem to notice the most Brits Behaving Badly.

Anyway, the blue fish seemed to like me a lot and came right up too me. It was slightly alarming when one of the sharks became curious and angled up from the bottom to about the mid-level of the tank. I liked the manta rays, and seeing the sunlight ripple along the aquarium bottom and on the fish was beautiful.

This was my first time snorkeling, so I did the classic "look too far to the left and get a load of salt water in the snorkel" move. Of course I did this after I had just exhaled, so I had to stop floating, tread water, and fiddle with my snorkel to get a breath and clear it. Something about floating face down in the water looking a pretty fish is relaxing, and I noticed my breath slowing to a hypnotic exhale-inhale rhythm; it reminded me of how I breathe when I dream I can breath underwater. Then a blue fish came right up to me and startled me.

After the forth time through (there wasn't much of a wait), I found myself shivering a little, so I trouped over to the monster tidal wave pool. For about a half hour, I was in a pool with about a three hundred other folks. There would be a kind of hydraulic popping sound at the far end of the pool, then a giant wave of water would swell up from nowhere, and everyone (who had been waiting for this moment) would scream and try to catch a massive, six to four foot wave. Repeat randomly every two minutes or so.

The combination of the sun, saltwater and other chemicals has tightened my skin. We'll see if that's a good thing or not. Swimming instead of walking everywhere was kinder to my feet, and I felt much more limber by the end of our pool park visit than I did when I woke up. We'll see if the muscles I used swimming complain tomorrow (editor's note:  they didn't).

Buzzed in Tomorrow Land

Wednesday Evening, the 26th.

We returned to the Magic Kingdom to watch the fireworks.  OK, and ride the Pirates of the Caribbean and Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin rides.

Rain threatened as we arrowed our way to the pirate ride.  I've been leaving the details out, but most of the rides we got on we would try to use Fastpass.  This involved someone taking all our tickets, running ahead, and using them to get an assigned Fastpass entrance time that the rest of us would use once we got to the attraction.  Some of the times we were able to ride a ride twice by getting a Fastpass ticket, waiting in the regular line once (if the wait was under ten or fifteen minutes), and then going through again in the Fastpass line.

In Adventure Land, we rode the Pirate Ride twice.  I think they turned up the lights on this ride since I last rode it in 2005.  On one hand, this is probably a good thing for folks who have problems seeing in the dark.  On the other hand, I remember the initial entrance had a ghostly pirate face wailing "Dead men tell no tales" and a skeleton pirate sailing a raft.  This time, the lights were much brighter and the sailor looked less spectral.  At the end of the ride, you are forced to walk through the Pirate Schlock Shop.

Then it started to rain, hard.  We broke out our rain ponchos and continued to the next adventure.

In Tomorrow Land, we rode the Spin three times.  I don't know if it was the late hour or the rain or both, but there was almost no one there.  The first time through, I rode with Mark. The idea is to get into a cart and then ride through a futuristic arcade using a laser gun to shoot Z's -- for Emperor Zurg -- in an attempt to foil Zurg's wicked plot.  You can turn the cart with a joystick in order to be able to aim at targets behind you.   At the end when you get out, a picture of you on the ride's cart shows up.

My picture was hilarious. I think I was getting a little annoyed because I wasn't sure what my laser was hitting, and I was getting into the game. So in the photo I'm hunched over the gun, gripping it with both hands, and my teeth are bared. You can almost hear me muttering, "Eat hot photons, Martian scum." Mark looked serene as he calmly fired.

Since I had to own so funny a shot, I rushed up to the photo counter, told them the photo humber (222220) and decided to order a big copy of the photo. I must have gushed a little, and it was 9:30 on a really rainy night, and I guess since I was a greying 47 year old in a Tigger sweater with a matching Tigger park pin on my collar, and because the photo was sooo Space Man Spiff, the photo clerk put the photo into my hands and said, "From us to you, we'd like you to have this as a gift."  (I didn't realize it at the time, but in the print, she switched my and Mark's scores so I'd be a Galactic Hero; but I guess I should say that for the record, Mark got the high score).

And then it was time for the Wishes Fireworks Show.  I like the fireworks, especially the signature white blaze arcing over the signature Cinderella castle.... and, I wish the narrative included something about how a wish is the first step to getting something you want instead of the final step. My and Mark's favorite quote from this show is The Wicked Queen from Snow White proclaiming, "I can make a wish, too!" (and I like the accompanying green and purple fireworks.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Epcot Wednesday Morning

Wednesday the 16th.

Today I had a large chunk of time by myself at the Epcot Center. I specifically wanted to visit Morocco, to photograph tile design; Norway, to photograph the Stave church carving of a dragon; and Mexico, to get a photo of the Mayan carving. My feet are still throbbing and sore.

We went into the future world exhibit in the giant geodesic globe. I love the globe, and could happily spend an entire day and camera memory card photographing it in different lights, angles and distances.  The Future World Ride was an interesting review of the history of communications. I liked the way that flames were projected onto a fine mist in ancient Egypt and Rome.  I'll have to see if I can do that at home--perhaps we could have a flaming goblet or something for Halloween.

I rode with Mary, and as we were progressing backwards and down to disembarking, the ride generated a cartoon using our faces. In the future, Mary and I went skiing and I broke my arm. But nanites healed the bone while we sipped cocoa in the futuristic ski chalet.  (Oddly enough, the video that I e-mailed to myself has Mary braking her arm instead of me.  I'm not sure if they switched things or if my memories are from an alternate universe.)

I entered the Display of Nations right as it opened at 11. It was interesting to see it before it filled with tourist families.

Morocco was fun. I almost bought some Moroccan tile to take home. I had hoped that they had something that wasn't so heavily octagonal; and the clerk there tried hard to invent new systems of counting to six, but he still kept coming up with eight-fold designs. I almost bought an articulated snake bracelet (jewel studded) but it was kind of expensive, and I thought, "Where would I wear this?" I did grab a light lunch of a falafel roll.   I avoided the deadly red pepper someone slipped into my couscous (Mark doesn't believe me, but I'm pretty sure that calendula was in the couscous), and I was harassed by a live duck (not named Donald) who waddled into the restaurant.

Then I sketched out the basic design of the tilework done on the cafe table.

The Stave Church was disappointing. Seven years ago, I tried to photograph a dragon sculpture. This time, the sculpture had been removed (apparently they'd removed a lot of things to make way for a Kim Possible feature, which is in the process of being paved over for a Phineas and Ferb ride).  It's possible the carving was only on loan and was returned to Oslo or something.

In the Italian Pavilion, I struck up a conversation about clocks with a mask maker. He used a plaster mould to make cat masks he was working on.

At the Japan Pavilion, the torii gate there reminded me of my Second Life friend, Pomona, so I had to take a photograph of it.  This proved difficult, as there were topiary characters from "Cars" there.  I wanted to enter the pagoda, but it was closed.

In China, I overhead someone saying how cool the temple there was during a hot day, so I went inside.  At the top of the temple was a medallion of a dragon and phoenix.  A little further on, there was an exhibit of terracotta tomb soldiers.

I stuck my head into various shops (especially in Germany) thinking that I might find a nice Christmas orniment for my Mom, but nothing really jumped out and said, "Buy Me!"