Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sept 2015 Eclipse

Last night I went up to the Eugene Reservoir to watch the lunar eclipse.  I think half of Eugene was up there.  I met Jerry and Kathy Oltion, who are with the Eugene Astronomical Society, and hung out with them.  Allen Roberts showed up, as did Nina K Hoffman and Jacob Boyd.   I also saw some parents of The Child's school friends (Mark and The Child were not very interested in going with me, and stayed home.)

Folks milled around, waiting for the moon to rise.  The sun set shortly before 7, and everyone peered eastward to try to see if they could see the moon.  I brought my mobile device with the notion that I'd be able to photograph things through telescopes... but that didn't work out so well.  I did have an astronomy app that told me when the moon was above the (ideal) horizon.  There was a hill due east, and even though we were on College Hill, the moon was hidden.  Jerry pointed out that the moon would be difficult to spot, as the eclipse was well underway and the moon would be a tiny sliver (later this morning I saw a composite photo of the eclipse taken from Dallas, and it looked like two time zones over was the perfect place to watch the full moon rise and then promptly start to have bites taken out of it.  

Jerry, looking due east through binoculars, saw the moon first.  More haze than anyone had realized had built up and the moon was a dim orange wisp in the sky, barely perceptible in the blue twilight sky.  I went over and pointed it out to The Child's friends.   

The sky grew darker, and the moon rose, moving up and to the right at a forty-five degree angle, following the sun's near-equinoxal path.  It glowed an orange ember with the refracted light of the world's circle of sunrises and sunsets.  

Eventually, a sliver of white appeared on the moon's face.  I said bye to Jerry and Kathy and walked home.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Wednesday night we drove over the Agate Hall chimney to see the swifts swirl into it.

The Child was supremely Not Interested in some "stupid birds," and I felt like I was dragging him to Church or something.  I was a little sad, actually, because even if he does believe in dark side of the Force, he doesn't believe in the everyday wonder of a flock's internal calendar.  It's possible he was focused on getting a Halloween costume.

When we pulled into the Agate Hall parking lot about 7:10 (twenty minutes after sunset), we found the place filled with disappointed bird watchers.  The swifts hadn't come for their Equinox roosting.

"Doesn't look good," a man said as he leaned against the hood of his car.  "Even the falcon didn't show up, so he must know something."  Normally, by this time a swirling funnel of swifts would be clicking and chirping in the sky.

Mark got out and blew soap bubbles for some kids.  The Child stayed in the car, dressed in a newly purchased phantom costume and looking at movies on his mobile device.

I looked at the chimney for the peregrine falcon, but it wasn't in evidence.  The only thing in the sky was a scattering of clouds and a waxing crescent moon.  It felt like looking at a deserted temple ruin.

We got back in the car and drove home, concocting conspiracy theories to explain the missing flock:  the dry summer meant no bugs for the swifts to eat; it was the Pope's visit; the U of O had secretly capped the chimney to keep the swifts from pooping on football players' uniforms; it was Xi Jinping's visit; it was sunspot activity; it was....

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

September 2015 Equinox

It's the Equinox.  This is the time I like to think about what projects have completed.  Hmm, I seem to have a lot of half-completed things floating in the air.  Tonight (Wednesday) we may go and see the chimney swifts swirl like backwards smoke into the giant chimney at Agate Hall on the edge of the UO campus.  Some times when we go, there is a kestrel perched on the chimney lip, watching as the swifts drop down into column of brick.  Not all the swifts enter the chimney, and instead swoop down along the outside.  These the kestrel watches, then flicks after.  Moments later, the kestrel is back on the chimney lip, picking at a dead swift under its talons.  

Writing:  Finished up a critique.  Managed to have tea ready and was writing/editing Tuesday morning at 6:40-ish.  Managed to keep working until about 7:05.  I sort of hoped to have the short story ready for tonight's Wordos session, but between not having paper (where the heck did those extra reams go?) and needing to go into the gym this afternoon, I think that's not going to happen.

Working out:  I need to figure out a better afternoon routine.  I've gotten out of the habit of early-afternoon gym attendance over the summer, and it's gotten easy to say, "I'm too hungry to go to the gym" or "Ugh, I'm too full to go to the gym."  So I keep pushing when I'll go back.  I guess "Always go Monday," needs to become my new motto.  Did some push-ups and free weight work Monday night.  I was sore from Saturday's routine (mostly in my upper pectorals).

Tuesday afternoon's session:  20 minutes on the elliptical: 130 steps per minute with about a 130 beats per second; I want to say about 200 calories.  10 minutes on the rowing machine 120 cal.  3X10 assisted chins and dips at 14 on the assisted machine.  Downstairs 3X12 40lbs pec flies.  3X12 80lbs lat pulls.  3X12 curl-ups.  3X12 barbell curls (30 for the frst 35 for the other two).  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Latest Hurrah at the Enchanted Forest

Yesterday The Child and I went to the Enchanted Forest with my sister's family.  This was a birthday gift for my niece, and we'd only just now managed to get everyone's schedules aligned.

We've been going to The Enchanted Forest since the late 1970's.  I'm thinking that our first visit was with Velma Seat, an old family friend.  The park is old-school Oregon:  my mother and aunt were baptized by the father of Roger Tofte, the founder and builder of The Enchanted Forest.

The first part of the park is the oldest, which is a walking path along concrete dioramas and simple animatronic fairy-tale characters.  I like the giant dog and cat-headed flowers along the path.  Over the years they've added some rides and a Haunted House.  Although I like the the log ride and the Matterhorn roller-coaster ride, I'd have to say my favorite exhibit there is the seven dwarves' mine; call me a sucker for black-light paint and tinkly synthesizer music.

If it didn't make me feel nauseated, I'd really like the Crooked Man's House.  They do such a good job with the optical illusions there that I have to go through it with only one eye open.  I think The Child's favorite ride was "The Challenge of Mondor"(which he likes much more than he did in 2011) and my niece's was the Old Woman's Shoe and slide.  


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Journal: Sept 19 2015

Writing:  Despite some difficulties getting SimpleNote and Scrivener to sync up with each other, I managed to get in about 1000 words of prose in on a short story using SimpleNote.  I had a lovely time writing outside at Cafe John.   Encorporating it into the Scrivener part story will be relatively easy, but I'm going to have to work at avoiding version-itis.

Working out:  Finally hauled myself to the gym.  30 minutes on the elliptical for about 400 calories, followed by 10 minutes on the rowing machine for 100 calories.  Did four sets of 8 assisted dips and chin-ups at the 16 setting (I usually do 3 of 12 at 14).  Downstairs I did 12, 12, 12, 8 X 40lb pec flies; 12, 12, 12, 8 X 80 lb lat pull-downs; 3X12 curl-ups on the power station; 3X8 40 lb triceps curls; 3 X 12 barbell curls.

Wrting and Shrewsbury

I'm not entirely sure what has happened, but a bunch of my routines have fallen apart.  Actually, I'm pretty sure that between school starting, fighting off a September cold, and the Shrewsbury Faire, my routines have fallen apart.  I haven't been to the gym in almost twelve days, although I have done some free-weight work at home; and my writing has been sporadic.

Thursday, Mark was great and cajoled me out of bed to get some editing in the morning, and I did manage to get up and do some more editing Friday morning.

I've been thinking about Shrewsbury all week.  For the longest time, they very graciously let me lead the opening and closing parades there, and I would sing with the Pearwood Pipers.  It was fun, and I enjoyed it, but it slowly got less and less fun.  

Part of the disenchantment is the on-site camping.   While I mostly enjoyed the Pearwood Encampment in years past, chances were usually good that we'd set up next to folks who drank, had loud sex, smoked, and swore a lot.  This made for difficult sleeping.  The solution is sleeping off-site.

I thought I might get some writing in at Shrewsbury, but that didn't happen.  The fantasy was that I could park myself under a canopy somewhere and work on short stories.  I had a book I could have written long-hand in, but I didn't have a period pen.  I wanted to get a feather with a ball-point pen core in the shaft, but that didn't work out.  

Sometimes it feels like Shrewsbury is turning into a costume party for the participants and less an immersive event for patrons.  Someone pointed out to me this year that Shrewsbury had very little street theatre because most of the performers there are production groups yoked to stationary guild yards, which encourages patrons to come and watch the show, similar to an interpretive museum.  This is not a criticism of the production groups, who do a very good job presenting historical information in an entertaining way.  I think the solution to non-interactive Renaissance-Zoo would be to start-up a Street Theatre Guild (John ducks).   

I'd say this year's oddest experience was at the Staggering Oak Tavern, when I attempted to teach what I took for street players the Closing Parade Song only to have them look dully at me over their tankards.  Then there was a scattering of applause, and a gentleman of a certain age dressed in fine Elizabethan period clothing began loudly calling for a stripper.  I turned my back on the tavern's yard and continued to teach and lead the song to the players who were slowly congregating.

The more I think about leading the parades, the more I wish there was a portative organ or some other loud instrument which could be automated.  My fantasy is to make something like a mechanical stag on a cart with a musical component.  It's really too bad that steam calliopes are an American invention.  Oh well, at least we have a very capable bag-piper.

The most fun part of the parade was telling everyone that we were going to do the Opening Parade as a cha-cha:  "Aah-wake / awake / the day / doth break / good craft- / men / oh-0h-pen your stalls / (cha-cha-cha)."  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Harp and Chess at the Faire

The Pearwood Pipers, the recorder ensemble and madrigal group I used to sing with, let me guard their pavilion while they played a gig.  

One of the props that they have is a large wooden chess set.  I set that up in front of me.  Then I pulled out a hidden bottle of soda, poured it into a ceramic goblet, and sipped it while I strummed my harp.  Under the pavilion's shade, I felt like an errant squire in an Arthurian adventure.

I was surprised at how many folks came up to learn chess or about the harp.  I played a game of Queen and Pawns with a five-year-old, and I taught a twenty-something the other pieces.  What felt like a home-school family came up and spoke with me about the harp and its tuning.

Then the Pearwoods came back with some other musician friends and began a jam session.

Gaol Theatre at Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury was fun this year.  One of the acts there was a group from Washington called "The Hangman's Acre," who put folks into gaol cells on trumped-up charges.  After some theatrical taunting, the accused could get out if they did something silly (some folks had to sing "I'm a little teapot," one young boy had to dance like a pretty ballerina).

The Child decided he wanted to be locked up--mostly, I think, for the experience of being able to bribe his way out of jail--so he took his money, marched up to the gaolers, and began to tell them he wanted to be locked up.   This was outside their script, and some slightly confused gaolers shook their heads to clear them, then looked around for the parents.

We laughed and I walked up and came up with the charges of "belching at the breakfast table and extreme flatulence" while Mark and The Child wandered off to be caught.  Once the paperwork was done, the Chief Gaoler and I were off to clap the miscreant into the clink.

Apparently, near the jousting area,  The Child was having some second thoughts.  "Here, Mark," he said, "You take my cloak and wear it; that way they won't know who I am."  But we found them.

The Chief Gaoler made sure The Child wasn't too freaked out, and then went into theatrics, reading the warrant, and then marching him off the the gaol, with many cries of "Make way for a most terrible criminal!"  Mark and I followed, with cries of "Baby-sitting!" which were quickly denied by the Chief Gaoler.

The Child was put into a cell--it didn't really lock, I think it closed magnetically--the charges against him were read and then spiked to the front of the cell.

He was encouraged to use the soap in the cell, and the Chief Gaoler did some more Gaol-Theatre.   I caught The Child's eyes and patted my pockets significantly, and he remembered that he had a bribe to give the Gaoler.

"Wait!" The Gaoler said, "The charges have been dropped.  This child is pure as the driven snow!"

We protested and argued a little with him, but The Child was freed.

The Gaoler leaned forward and said, "Congratulations, my boy; you'll go far in life."

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Shrewsbury Musings

I'm back from the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire.  Whew, all I did was lead the opening and closing parades, and I'm still sore and tired Monday Morning.  Note to Self: use a tabor with a beater instead of a dumbec when drumming to save your hands.

I was pleased, perplexed, and grateful to be able to bring my style of energy to the event.

Saturday, I rose early, and was pulling out of the driveway about quarter to six to head to the Faire.  The sky was purpling in the east and Venus dazzled a dark sky.  As I drove, the sky lightened, and  stray wisps of fog drifted across Highway 99 from the mint fields.  The sun rose and painted the Cascades and fields crimson.  Westward, the coastal range was a reservoir of fog, and once I got into them, the sun and clear skies were hidden.  I hoped the fog would stay and keep the day cooler, but I knew it would clear and heat up.

I checked into the Participants' Gate by seven-thirty.  One of the bubble wands Mark keeps in the car made itself prominent, so I took it, walked, let the breeze coax huge bubbles out of the wand, and made the rounds around the Faire.  Most of the merchant stalls were closed, with merchants just beginning to set up and unpack their wares.  I sent bubbles on the wind, and that was the best way to meet old friends.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Hot Dogs and Ray Bradburry

Friday afternoon I made the mistake of eating two hotdogs at The Child's Talent Show on the Last Day of Summer Camp.  The downside of this was that by Friday evening it was clear I should have fasted.  I still felt poorly Saturday morning:  it was sort of like I'd eaten a Deadly Red Pepper.  It seemed wiser to stay at home, so I did, and missed the Hike to the Mountains we had planned with some friends.  (So I missed The First Snowball of Summer, when the hikers discovered snow on the mountain.)

The upside was that I was able to get some writing in, and also to read a great portion of Ray Bradbury's "The Illustrated Man."  I had thought that the book was a novel, but it's a collection of short stories loosely book-ended by the eponymous Illustrated Man's story.  As near as I can tell, a Ray Bradbury story features the following,
  • manly soldiers torn from their families by the seductive beauty of the stars, 
  • the women who love them tragically, and 
  • the sons who are participant-observers of their parents' misplaced loves.  
  • Society is a homogeneous character, and  
  • usually atomic war is a background feature.  

Mars, Venus, and the other planets are the habitable backdrops standing in for Prince Valiant style islands, filled with rain forest jungles, proud warriors, and priests exploring the nature of extraterrestrial sin.  And this is cool; instead of researching the planets, Spacemen simply go there, and Martians simply live there, and, like Swift, Mr Bradbury can take his readers to an Other Place in order to explore a question about the human condition.

I think what I've learned from Mr. Bradbury is that, even after six decades, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Writers still write about writing, Science Fiction Heroes are still typically plucky young males who win the girl at the end, and still what is wild and good in humankind will fail before the banal powers of Hollywood, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, and labor-saving technology.  

Friday, September 04, 2015

Gym Journal

Working out:  Went in Thursday afternoon.  300 cal in 25 minutes on the elliptical, 120 cal in 12 minutes on the rowing machine.  Assisted (14) chin-ups 2/10)  and dips  3/12.  Pec-fly (3/12/50), Lat Pull-down (3/13/80), Curl-ups (2/13).   Sometime during the chin-ups, the endorphins (or testosterone or something) kicked in.   It's distracting because I start laughing and snorting, and the phrase "Suggestive moose poses suggested by..." becomes very funny.  It's a good thing Led Zepplin's "Whole Lotta Love" didn't start playing over the gym's stereo or I would have dropped a weight on my foot laughing.

I've just started to try to eat less bread and wheat-based crackers and more things like peanut butter and tuna and chicken in an attempt to encourage my body to absorb the paunch sitting over my waist.  

Writing:  Some critique during the morning, and then again on the elliptical, and then later.  I also imported some SimpleNote files into Scrivener.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Days of Peanut Butter

Various notes...

Working Out:  Saturday afternoon, I managed to get the full routine in at the gym.  Monday afternoon, I got delayed and  only did the elliptical (180 cal in 15 minutes) and rowing machines (100 cal in 10 minutes) upstairs, and then the pec fly (50-12-3), and some triceps pull downs (40-12-3)... and I've forgotten what else... I want to sat lat pull-down, but that's wrong... maybe I just drank water.

Writing:  Sunday I attended a writing workshop led by Ken Scholes.  What I got out of it was some story starts, and some insight into the writing as a business process.

Afterward, there was a gathering and Ken was playing his guitar and singing some of his songs along with covers of Simon and Garfunkel, the Indigo Girls, and John Denver.  I brought my harp and managed to jam along with him, and he was nice enough to play things in the key of C (even though it was a little high for his voice).  Later, Nina K appeared and pulled out her lute.  It was a lot of fun.  I used to jam with Mark Heiman and with the Carleton College "Picking and Grinning" group (out of the "Rise of Singing" book) in the early 1990's.

Monday Morning I got up and was writing from about 6 AM to 7 AM.  I transcribed some notes.  In the afternoon, while I was on the elliptical, some writing bits came to me, and I managed to write them down before I went onto the rowing machine.

Tuesday:  The Child put gum in his hair Sunday evening, which we didn't discover until the camp counselors told me Monday afternoon.  They suggested peanut butter, and then I promptly forgot all about it as we zoomed off to piano lessons.


Scene (7:40AM in the kitchen.)

The Child:  "I don't want peanut butter in my hair!"

John:  "Bud, you put gum in your hair; having peanut butter rubbed into your hair is a natural consequence."

TC (heading toward the front closet):  "I'm going to hide!"

J (thinking, why didn't I remember this earlier instead of 20 minutes before I have to go to work.  Clears tea kettle, pie pans, and coffee mugs off counter, sets down a towel, and peanut butter.  Sets up a step ladder.  Goes to the closet.  Opens closet):  "Come on, bud; I need you to come to the kitchen.  We don't have a whole lot of time."

TC (resignedly peeking out from behind the great coat and rain pants):  "Were you looking for me?"

J:  "No, I was getting things ready."  (They walk into kitchen.)  "Now, get up on the counter."  (Helps The Child onto the counter.)

TC:  "Augh.  I'm going to die.  I'm going to fall off.  I can't fit under these cabinets."  (Turns around while John stands next to counter to keep him from tumbling off.)  "I feel like I'm strapped down to a table."

J:  (Rolls eyes.)  "OK, so bring your head so it's in the sink."

TC:  "Whoa!  John, those knives are going to kill me."

J:  (Looking at magnetic strip over The Child's face.)  "Oh!  I forgot that was there."  (Places forearm on the cabinet between the knives' tips and The Child's eyes)  "I'm glad you said something... this is an accident waiting to happen."  (Gingerly pulls first knife from magnetic strip so that it doesn't knock other knives loose.)  "I'll just put this over here." (Refrains from singing the Baron and Baroness's number, "Your My Oochy-Choochy Face" from "Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang.")  "There we go..." (Places the fifth carving knife onto the microwave.)

TC:  "Augh, John; I don't want to smell like peanut butter."

J: (Rinsing TC's hair with the sink sprayer)  "Next time don't put gum in your hair."  (Applies a tablespoon of peanut butter to the gum and massages it into TC's scalp.)

TC:  "Ugh.  I smell horrible."

J:  "It's just peanut butter."

TC:  "At least it doesn't smell as bad as you."

J:  "That's not a wise thing to someone who is spraying you with water."  (Rinses out peanut butter.)  "Oh, hey!  That really worked."  (Rinses some more)  "Oh, wait; there's little bit left."  (Repeats peanut butter application on remaining gum.)  "That really does the trick."  (Rinse TC's hair again.)  "OK.  We're done."  (Helps TC off the counter).

TC:  "Augh.  I'm gonna have a crick in my neck for the rest of the day."

J:  "OK, go comb out your hair."

...And the morning rush rushed upon them...