October 29, 2011

Jemez State Monument, Soda Dam

To celebrate our birthdays, @AMP2 and I went out to Coronado State Monument and then Jemez State Monument to look at the remains of some of the local pueblo areas.

Coronado State Monument is very interesting, but the pictures I would most love to have taken are not allowed. It's quite interesting to go through the museum and the ruins, but there's little left there and most of what is still visible is actually a restoration by the WPA built back in the '30s - and there's actually precious little of that left now. (Let me put it this way, I had to ask if one section was original Kuaua - it was not. Even though it was barely 6 inches above the ground and looked like melted adobe, it was actually the remains from the '30s!)

They have a kiva there, but with only one ranger on duty, he couldn't take us out there. We'll have to go back later to visit that on a day they're doing tours. (No photography is allowed inside any kiva ... perfectly understandable! I'm just glad we can even go inside.)

They also were able to save some of the murals from inside the original kiva and they have those mounted in a museum room - but no photography is allowed of that either. I'm going to have to go back with a sketchbook if that's allowed.

After visiting Coronado, we headed northwest to Jemez Pueblo and had a wonderful lunch at Dave's Burgers and More. It's a little roadside kitchen right on Highway 4 and the frybread was REALLY good. We drove through the reservation and deeper into the Jemez mountains and finally landed at Jemez State Monument. If I read the guidebook correctly, most of the ruins here are actually of the church complex, kind of sandwiched into the then-existing pueblo. Here's the church itself:

San Jose de los Jemez church exterior
San Jose de los Jemez church interior
San Jose de los Jemez church - tower
San Jose de los Jemez church - looking up at tower
San Jose de los Jemez church - more distant shot

Then there's a couple of shots I couldn't quite resist taking ... windows....

Windows adjacent to the San Jose de los Jemez church
Window at Giusewa

And then there was the baptismal font area - this is actually in the wall on the outside of the church space. I guess it was a small chapel next to the church?

Sandias

After we finished walking the trails and reading the guidebook for Jemez State Monument, we just continued driving north - just to see what was out there. It was really hard for me to concentrate on driving because I wanted to just take a million pictures of the mountains. They were just stunning - the colours in the rocks was just absolutely amazing.

And then we happened onto Soda Dam, a unique geologic feature - it almost looks like a cave somehow landed out in the open. It's made largely of calcium carbonate (kind of like hard water stains on plumbing if you have hard water). If you're curious about it, here's a bit more of an article. You can click on the second image below for a desktop wallpaper version of that picture.

long shot of Soda Dam
Soda Dam close up
Shot of Soda Dam - cave and waterfall
Inside the little cavelet at Soda Dam
Inside the cavelet at Soda Dam

And then @AMP2 saw someone on top of the Soda Dam feature and well ... we decided to head up there as well. The only problem is, after my bone marrow transplant for Hodgkin's back in 2001, I've had a very, very mild form of vertigo ever since. I can climb, but I can no longer get near the edge of a feature, particularly if it's very windy. I constantly feel like I'm tilting in the direction of falling off of whatever it is I've climbed. Most of the time it doesn't affect me very much, but it's really frustrating. I used to be able to climb all over just about anything and really wanted to go mountain climbing. Today, I'm lucky if I can just be a scrambler. I had a hard time taking pictures inside of the little cavelet, because I kept feeling like I was going to fall out of it. There was not that much of a slope to the outside ... it was just this stupid vertigo. So, while I did get up to the top of the Soda Dam feature, I couldn't really walk the very narrow path that would have let me walk out to the top of that waterfall and cavelet spot. Had I been able to get over there, the area was wide enough that I would have been all right, but ... well, *sigh* ... it just wasn't going to happen today. Maybe I'll try again a day when the winds aren't too high. But @AMP2 did manage to get up there!

On top of Soda Dam
Getting Ready to Climb Down Soda Dam

And, as we turned around to head back to the car, I saw one of my favourite things ... graffiti!

Rex and Chocolate Rex graffiti

On the way back home, I swung into Big Chief gas station ... a defunct little market and gas station across the highway from Zia Pueblo. It had the look of a 50s shop, something you'd expect to see along old Route 66 (we were on NM 550, I think, though).

Big Chief gas station and market

I like the landscape someone's painted on the front. I'm not sure if the owners had done that (probably not) or if a graffiti wannabe started something and perhaps got caught. But if you look to the left of that shot, or the close-up here below, you can see they've helpfully labelled the landline. Is that where the telephone landline goes into the building? Or is it the horizon line for the line art that continues out to the right?

Landline

And then there was my favourite piece of graffiti in a long time on the side of the building. I love the commentary here, especially considering the horrendously 50s tacky "big chief" painted on the sign above the gas station. This is another image that you can click for a desktop wallpaper version.

Who's the Real American - cos cob wave - mape

It was a great day, but man are we beat now despite not having gotten to do much hiking. I think we spent longer driving than hiking today.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:04 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 28, 2011

ABQ Sunrise

My drive to work is now about 30-40 minutes, depending on traffic. I've been trying to leave a bit closer to 7 lately and have been rewarded with a half hour show courtesy the Sandia Mountain sunrise.

Pastel Sky over Sandias
Pastel Sky over Sandias at Sunrise
Pastel Sky over Sandias at Sunrise

And on the way home from work the same day I shot the sunrise, I saw this beautiful rain touching the Sandias.

Rain and Sun Over the Sandias

But this shot is one of my favourites. Click it for a desktop wallpaper sized image.

Sunrise over Sandias

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:30 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 8, 2011

Last of the Balloons

Rather than clog up the front page of the site with a photo-intensive post, I've put it on an interior page.

Thursday morning we got up at 4a.m. so we could get to the Balloon Fiesta nice and early to see the Special Shapes inflate, possibly glow and then launch.

Unfortunately, the winds did not behave and the balloons were not allowed to launch. In fact, not only were they not allowed to fly ... they didn't even stay inflated for a full hour. I was crushed. I was really looking forward to possibly getting a couple of glow shots (I got one that's okay) and a LOT of shots of the balloons in the air. What I got was some nice shots of various balloons on the ground.

Click through for the four slideshows of balloons (some from flat to fully inflated, which was interesting).

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:37 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 2, 2011

Balloon Fiesta

Rather than clog up the front page of the site with a photo-intensive post, I've put it on an interior page.

We went to the opening morning of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta this year and there were some stunning balloons out there. I think my favourites, besides the Darth Vader head, were the stage coaches and the alien head. And just in terms of patterns, there were some gorgeous black balloons with various bright colours - the contrast was stunning.

Click through for a few of the 200+pix I took.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:10 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

September 18, 2011

Stormfront

Whoa, it's been a while. My apologies ... moving, work ... and then my beloved MacBook Pro went and blew the logic board out, so no computer for quite a while.

But I'm back now and getting used to the move from laptop to desktop.

And ... I've been hiking almost every weekend. It's been so wonderful. I just can't even say just how much I've missed all this. The weather, the landscape, being active ... actually DOING things again.

Yesterday was particularly fun. We started out to Piedras Marcadas, but before we could get all the way to the end of the trail, we had a visitor...

Storm Approaching
Storm Approaching
Storm Approaching
Storm Approaching

It was a glorious storm with some beautiful thunder. I'm surprised we didn't get soaked, but it was a great hike. Beautiful.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:49 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 26, 2011

Photo Safari

When I started house-hunting here, I was determined we would get a pueblo-style house. I have loved those since I first saw one - when we moved into the ONLY non-pueblo style house. I was two and a half and I'm still pissed about that. Sadly, given both the housing market and the fact that I have to buy a house before my partner can even put the Indiana one on the market, we just can't afford the more expensive pueblo style. Well, I did look at one, but it was tiny and the neighborhood was squashed in on top of each other. Instead I put in an offer on this:

Little house on the sand

The offer was accepted, but we're not out of the woods yet. The current owner still has to finish the re-shingling project he started and then we have the inspections and appraisal hurdles to get over. I am sad that the gorgeous wagon wheels in the backyard are apparently going to be hauled off along with the unsightly pile of lumber. At least I got one good shot:

wagon wheels
* * *

I've gone out to Rinconada Canyon several times now. The first time was when I was here to interview. I had to catch my flight, so I had to cut my hike short and never made it to the end of the petroglyphs. I went out twice more with Tieg, the fraidy-dog, and he would NOT walk into that park. He'll walk OUT, but I had to carry him in the second time we went.

Don't know what changed ...

Tieg walking into Rinconada Canyon

He needed a little encouragement, but he walked in this time. Of course, he also knew how to stay in the shade ....

I had to be on the lookout for wildlife that might be dangerous because Tieg is oblivious. Can you find the lizard in this picture? Tieg couldn't even when it ran two foot in front of him. He also missed a rabbit.

Lizard in the sand

Luckily the only one of these we ran into was carved into the stone instead of sunning itself on the stone.

petroglyph of a snake

Honestly, the rock is so dark and most of the petroglyphs are not carved very deeply, I was initially disappointed with Rinconada Canyon. We'd seen some more striking petroglyphs in Crow Canyon near Farmington. But then I finally made it to the end of the looping trail at Rinconada...

Clear petroglyphs

They just started jumping out - much more clear and easy to spot ... more detailed and crafted than some of the earlier ones.

More petroglyphs

I thought that one looked a bit like a family of anteaters. Of course, I'm pretty sure I'm WRONG, but that's what they looked like. They're probably antelope, I would guess. Anteater, antelope.

And then there's this dude doing the funky chicken:

petroglyph of a yei, i think

And then I turned and saw this one. Now, when I snapped the shot, I could only see the center lightning figure with the head on it. You have to remember the sun is REALLY bright on the LCD screen and I'm also distracted by trying to look out for rattlers and such and make sure the tiny dog is all right.

Click this one to see it larger and more detail - there was a lot more going on in this drawing than I could see from the ground! In fact, it wasn't until I was choosing shots for this post that I realized just how much. Oh, and yes, those are freaking bullet holes in the petroglyphs here. :(

petroglyph story

There were others that I couldn't really tell if they were yei, graffiti or monsters.

petroglyphs of yei, i think

And while I'm of fair certainty that this is probably a coyote story ... it sure looks like a local dachshund petroglyph to me!

petroglyph of a coyote that looks dachshund-like

After that, Tieg let me know it was time to leave. We still had to hike a mile out of the canyon. I guess once he saw the petrodoxie, he was done for the day. The hike out goes through the center of the canyon so there's less small bits of climbing (less climbing and more a few rocks in the way and going up and down small hillish features). But, there was more underbrush to scan for snakes, so it was still a bit of a long walk.

Tieg ready to leave after the petrodoxie

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:12 AM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 19, 2011

Strange Signs

I have gone west on Southern several times over the last month. And there's this sign that has shocked and puzzled me as I drive past. It's just about a block down on Southern from Highway 528 and it's a lesson in why graphic design - instead of just throwing something up - is an important discipline.

This is what I have time to see as I drive past:

DWI and speed laws strictly enforced - beer 1.75 margarita 3.50

So, let me see if I understand that ... don't drink and drive, but the cops will sell you beer for $1.75 and margaritas for $3.50?? What the hell?

Now, I know there's another line below that and that I can't be reading this right, but I don't have time to read the entire sign before I've driven past it. Creating any kind of outdoor sign is a completely different art than creating a point-of-purchase display, for example, which is why you really need a professional graphic designer involved in the sign-making process even if the sign doesn't involve any illustrative or photo elements.

This is the whole sign ... which I didn't get to read the bottom of - despite traveling through there multiple times - until I actually pulled over to take a picture of it!

DWI and speed laws strictly enforced - beer 1.75 margarita 3.50 dwi 15,005

OH! Well now, that makes more sense.

Don't just let people throw signs up. Seriously. Find a professional graphic designer and make sure the layout is something that will WORK for the PURPOSE it's supposed to serve. Designers really are practical people and can prevent confusing signage. It's worth the money to invest in something that's actually going to serve your purpose instead of confuse the hell out of people.

* * *

Further on down the road, as they say, I went back to look at the house that I liked yesterday. Would it really be big enough? When we were house-hunting in South Bend, we fell in love with the last house we looked at on the first day. Part of what we loved was the rich wood paneling in the dining room and kitchen and the exposed beams. Love the rustic stuff. The wood was darker than I like, but it was gorgeous.

But, the only access to the basement was through the garage. Same for access to the backyard. That cut the effective living space in the house down by half as it was just difficult to go thru the freezing garage in the wintertime to a cold basement to work on hobby stuff. So, the basement became storage and little used. The house felt very small and cramped to me after a while.

So, looking at this house, I'm forcing myself to not make an offer instantly ... but the kitchen with its gorgeous tiled countertops ... the tile floors ... and this:

interior shot of dining room and living room with light wood paneling at a nice angle

... this has me drooling. The house is gorgeous. The living space is laid out much better than our house in South Bend, but it is a smaller house without the basement. I think it should be do-able if we convert the 1-car garage into a room. And the backyard is much larger than anything else I've seen so far. Could quite easily build me a studio out back and still have a spacious backyard.

And, Tieg seems to approve. He really liked the backyard a lot.

Tieg examining the sandy lot

He refuses to walk in the sand when I try to take him for walks - he plops his butt down in the sand and no amount of coaxing or dragging or Cesar Milan firmness and just keep going will get that little dog to move any further. But he really enjoyed the backyard when I was there with the realtor. And when I went back today just to look at the front yard again, he was quite happy. I wanted to see how much work it would take to make the fence dachshund-proof and as I'm studying the corner of the house and the fence, thinking I'll really have to build up that gap - he sticks his head through and tries to get into the backyard! Pretty good sign from our little coward-dog.

Then, I stepped back a bit and was shooting the garage so I could get an idea what size room that would make.

side view of garage exterior, including gas meter - on which sits a little stuffed bear

Wait. What's that on the gas meter?

side view of garage exterior, including gas meter - on which sits a little stuffed bear

Oh now surely that is a welcoming sign!

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:54 PM | Blog | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 8, 2011

Why Couldn't This Have Been Friday?

I woke up and looked out the front window this morning and found this:

I think my car is under all that snow

And then I looked out the backyard:

Buried in Snow

More Buried in Snow

I would gleefully move back to Texas now.

I admit. It just might be funny to throw the miniature dachshunds out in that for 30 seconds. That is, if we could find them again within 30 seconds.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:26 AM | Blog | Struggles | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 8, 2010

Stillness

Tree in the woods

Click for a 1680x1050 desktop version.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:36 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

May 6, 2010

Why Hello!

So I wanted to go on photo safari yesterday, but the weather was not particular accommodating. Since the park I enjoy is on a lake with some rather placid/stagnant areas, I waited until the day after the rains to go. Just driving into the park ... all the green ... the birds ... was so relaxing. The hike was one of the worst I've had out there because there were times when I was walking through clouds of gnat-things so thick I could barely keep my eyes opened. I almost turned back from the bugs, but I soldiered on.

I took a relatively small number of pictures, but managed some really nice compositions. I headed back to the park entrance earlier than I wanted, but it was starting to get late ... and then the park gifted me with this little guy:

Raccoon on a tree

Raccoon on a tree

He posed for quite a while for me - longer than I expected and he even let me change locations once. Cheeky bugger had to "hide" his face behind that vine, though.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:40 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

June 11, 2009

Little Guy

Nope, still no name yet, but the only reason there wasn't a post yesterday is I wasn't home to write one! I picked up other half at 4:30 and we drove down to the breeder to pick him up. I managed to drive over a large-ish curb-thing because other half insisted we stop for Arby's. I thought for sure the car was damaged, but apparently lucked out. Sounded bad, though, and of course that was only about half way through the trip.

I was exhausted by the time we finally got there - took about an hour and a half to get there after a particularly long and brutal day, so puppy-therapy was just what I needed.

Little mini dachshund puppy 1
Little mini dachshund puppy 2
Little mini dachshund puppy 3

He had his vet visit today and checked out just fine. He's a li'l crybaby when he thinks he's alone, but he and Scraps are playing and having a grand time. Our female doxie, as we suspected, really doesn't have ANY maternal instinct other than to worry if he cries. Otherwise, she's actually scared of him.

I'm sure more pictures and perhaps some video will follow in the weeks to come.

Meanwhile, I still have to finish yesterday's post about Star Wars books .... :)

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:38 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 2, 2008

Dzilth-na-o-dith-hle

Dzilth-na-o-dith-hle

Just a camera-phone pic ... click to bigify.

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:59 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 18, 2008

Balance and Loss

It is one of those days when nothing can go right, which is certainly not what I expected after my centering and balancing hike yesterday. Generally speaking, one hike out at a place like Potato Creek can ground me for weeks.

Growing up in Texas, you'd think that I was an outdoor kid. The reality isn't quite like that. My mother was very scared of anything involving the outdoors - animals, insects, reptiles, dirt ... and we generally lived in the 'burbs, not out on a ranch. There was a tension between us most of my childhood, because I did want to be the rancher kid (or thought I did) and Mom thought staying in the house was the safest course of action.

When we lived in Austin, I was at my most free. Our house was on the edge of Balcones Woods and a large quarry. If we went out the front door? We were in the 'burbs. If we went out the backdoor? We were in the woods.

Despite my mother's best efforts to instill fear of all the dangerous outside things - I learned to love nature whilst we lived in Austin, more than any other place I ever lived. I welcomed thunderstorms (even when they made me nervous) - I loved to watch as the winds whipped the leaves around on the trees turning the deep greens into something nearly white. I loved the drive into town when we passed through areas where the road had been dynamited out of granite. I adored looking at the layers and layers in the rock, the plants trying to cling to the sides. My favourite places and times were when we went out to "Bear Creek" park. (I've since tried to find that park but apparently my recollection of the name is not correct.) The mix of woods and creek and old-fashioned "swimmin' hole" simply called to me and relaxed me in a way nothing else could.

I suppose, for me, it was the relief of not having to pay attention to tone of voice or body language - or whether dad's eyes were bloodshot yet or not. I remained aware of my surroundings - there were still rattlers and cottonmouths and even loose rocks whilst climbing - plenty of stuff to cause damage. But I seemed to have an instinctual grasp of my surroundings when I was outside and it relaxed me in a way that being around people never did. The wind through the leaves and branches and underbrush ... the crickets ... the frogs ... the cicada song ... the water burbling through the narrow, shallow creek, gradually deepening and quieting as it got deeper and wider ....

The tensions would just fade away and I could feel my core self, my true self, come to the forefront and simply be. It was easy to shed the outer self which had to deal with all of the demands made on a small child throughout the day - that kid who tried to do everything exactly perfect for every adult.

Today, every time I feel overly stressed ... when life is simply getting to me and I find it more and more difficult to find balance on my own ... I retreat, preferably to a place which includes both woods and water - and is out of sight of the "modern world." When I worked at Notre Dame, I would simply go to one of the small lakes on the north end of campus and walk the circular path, eventually coming to a resting spot just barely south of the "beach." No matter how crazy things got, this always centered me.

After I left ND, that spot was no longer very relaxing for me and I had to find a new spot and Potato Creek State Park, with the long, meandering trails along Lake Worster was just the thing.

So after a few weeks of not getting any job interviews for any of my queries, and seeing very few (very very very few) jobs for which I'm qualified appear on any of the dozen or so job boards I haunt ... I needed a time to center.

The walk did me a world of good. It was good exercise and I could feel all the tension and worry beginning to melt away as I listened to the sounds of world around me. I "hunted" the frogs, hoping for a good photo op. I sat down on a boulder and watched one of the feeder creeks meandering along under a bridge. I had to marvel at the little bird who seemed as curious about me as I was of him ... hopping along in the underbrush, one eye cocked at me, and keeping pace with me. There was the swan who just knew I was taking pictures and he kept trying to pose so I'd snap - and then he'd move to try to keep me from getting the "classic" swan photo.

The crunch of the gravel is one thing that has mostly annoyed me about the park, but there were patches of hay and grass as well.

The wind, the water, the birds, frogs ... it all helped relax and center me.

turtle

And then this morning, after my other half left for work, I did nothing but dream about realistic catastrophe after realistic catastrophe.

It began with dreaming that our chimney - which has some issues up at its top where some critters have ripped at the masonry - I dreamed that the chimney finally fell to the ground, wreaking all sorts of havoc with the house in general. Chances are, this is whilst I was dozing in the living room - near the fireplace - and about the time of the earthquake which shook much of the midwest this morning.

The rest of my ill-fated "nap" this morning (from about 5 a.m. until about 8 - my other half leaves for work at 4:30 a.m.), was horrific. I have several types of bad dreams - semi-realistic ones in which things seem real even upon awakening, but which follow "dream-logic." These dreams usually involve real people and situations, but not necessarily people who look like what they actually look like and the places are generally different in some way. Other nightmares involve things from my childhood.

But the nightmares this morning were the worst of the lot. They were the kind that could be real. The people look and act exactly as they do in real life. The places look exactly as they do in real life. And, the scenarios are all too real fears rather than exaggerations or metaphors.

I won't bore you with a list of what those dreams were, only that they destroyed all of the balance I had so carefully nurtured yesterday. And I'm left with just one thought: I need a job. Badly. I'm a hard worker; I do what is asked of me and I ask for more. I'm detail-oriented and focused. I have no ego when it comes to work - I'm not the boss or creative director ... I'm a very happy worker, producing my product whether it's graphics (my favourite) or copy ... or reports or whatever is required of me.

I just beg ... do not make me go back to retail work. Not only is the pay abysmal, it is without a doubt not within my realm of talents - so much so to the point where working retail is honestly more depressing than not working at all. At least now I can freelance.

Something has to give soon.

It just has to.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:28 PM | Struggles | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 17, 2008

Jeremiah Was A ...

The weather is finally turning warmer and I decided that I needed a time-out day, so I made a trip out to Potato Creek State Park and hit the hiking trails. Normally, I hit the advanced rugged trails and since I never remember to bring a map (and the trails are not marked well at most of the crossings), I never know precisely how far I've gone (nor exactly where, for that matter). I know today I left the car at about 10 of 1 and didn't return until after 3:30, but I was a little rushed today as I got a late start and needed to be home by the time the other half returned from work. I think I beat her home by about 15 minutes - just long enough to have showered and done the dishes. Phew!

Normally, my only "prep" for a hike is to grab good sneakers, a coke for the road and probably my camera and cell (not that I answer any calls out there - it's turned to silent - it's just for emergency). Once in a while, a sketch book. Today was a rare occasion in that I actually brought along my iPod. I prefer the sounds that naturally occur out there, but today I wanted to hear both that and a new playlist - Sick Puppies and Snow Patrol mixed together. I did turn the iPod down quite low and only put one earbud in.

In two and a half hours I managed to take some 138 pictures, of which only 9 had to be deleted. Not bad considering the wind seemed to pick up every time I tried for a close shot - and the swan and the turtles would NOT stay very still. Buggers.

The frogs were out in abundance today, croaking and calling to each other. It was a glorious soundtrack and managed to blend in with my music in the way I had suspected it would. However, the little buggers were incredibly shy. No matter how quiet I tried to be, how slow and cautious, inevitably, I would hear the splash as they hid in the marsh waters before I ever saw them.

With one exception (click for a bigger shot):

This guy didn't seem to mind having his picture taken at all! Of course, he's not exactly a bullfrog, but still.

I was about half way through the rugged advanced course when I realized it was time to head back, so I missed Vargo Hill and Steamboat Hill both. I'll have to go back next week and remember to leave earlier in the day as these are two of my favourite spots.

On the way back I met a woman walking her dog who asked if I'd had much luck with pictures today. I replied that I had and so I thought - until she told me she came through last week and there was a freaking bald eagle perched on the trees in the water near where we stood.

I'm not THAT lucky! I did see plenty of hawks circling and teasing me in the air, but I knew I'd never get the tripod and camera set in time to capture one. I stink at the patience required for really good wildlife photography.

A few minutes after I passed the woman who'd seen the bald eagle, some little bird decided we were buddies. He, or she, hopped along in the underbrush, keeping time with me. I grinned and watched ... and finally set up the tripod and attempted a few shots. Of course, this sent the bird further into the brush, so these are the best shots I have of it:

All in all a good day and a time of connection and reflection that was very much needed. I regret that it was cut so short ... but I bet I go back there next week, weather willing.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:20 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

April 16, 2008

Fallen

Today I am wordless ...

 

 

Click through for larger versions should you so desire. The small ones don't really do these photos justice.

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:13 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 16, 2008

New Species of Dog Discovered

The aKC announced this week a brand new species of dog. Originally thought to be a dachshund, genetic testing has proven that the Indiana Nesting Hound, is, in fact, a separate species from the more common Dachshund, or wiener dog. These two specimens below are in their semi-nested state. You can click the image to see a larger version. Make sure to wait for it to fully load so you can see the nesting process in action.

News story and photo courtesy of the aKC ... the almostKennelClub.
Heh
(Scout is on the right and Scraps is the serious nester on the left.)

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:42 AM | People Say I Have ADHD, But I Think - Hey Look, A Chicken | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 8, 2008

Crass Commercialism

I live in Northern Indiana. Home to the University of Notre Dame, St. Mary's University. There's a Catholic convent here. Retirement home for priests. In some areas, there's literally a Catholic Church on each of the four corners of an intersection. (Apparently so there could be a Hungarian Catholic Church and a Polish Catholic Church, and a regular one and who can remember which group the fourth is.)

AM General, a good-sized factory, serves fish every Friday, year round in the cafeteria. There are other food choices as well, but during the Catholic season of Lent, they only serve fish in the cafeteria.

Lent is a big deal around here. You see signs like this one on nearly every fast food joint - and even many larger restaurants:

2 fish sandwiches for 3.33

So when I drove to the grocery store last night (sans camera phone, dammit), I could NOT stop laughing at the Arby's sign. You see, Ash Wednesday was this week. Lent has begun. Today is the first meatless Friday for those observing the practice.

And my Arby's had this sign up:

free roast beef friday

Yeah, I had to go back there today with the good camera (so I suppose it's lucky I didn't have the cell with me last night) just so I could snap this shot. I'm still snickering.

With everyone else catering to the Lenten practice of meatless Fridays, I'm sure the local manager thought it would be good to cater to the many people in the area who do not observe this practice. And while the absurdity of the entire situation - fish advertisement as well as free roast beef - still makes me chuckle ... in light of one of the online community explosions this past week, it also makes me sad that so many can boil down other people's fervently held beliefs into an opportunity to sell more crap.

But I still can't stop giggling, either. It's just all too surreal and absurd. Almost as if the fast food joints are now announcing at the drive-through window - "Hey, you want religion with that?" I know for a fact that one chain around here already offers politics with their food - they required all of their employees to wear shirts hawking the chain owner for local government in last fall's elections.

My issue is that I want my politics and religion separate from my retail experience. It's not that I think someone should put their religion in a box and leave it there - most faiths ask exactly the opposite of you - that you live your faith. But selling your faith - to me - simply cheapens it. Proselytizing tends to turn off a far greater number of people than it "helps" because it often (sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally) disrespects the beliefs or opinions of the person having to listen to it.

For example, I bought something off eBay quite a while back and received a little "business card" with my order. Only it was a Bible tract printed on it and an "invitation" to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. It pissed me off and I never ordered from that person again. Why? Because it implied that

1) I had not already done so
2) that I did not have my own faith
3) that their belief system was better than any I might already subscribe to

They may not have meant it that way. I don't know nor care. My brain ... oppositional as it often is ... immediately thought how offensive this would have been to me had I been Jewish.

To me, it's simply about respect. If I am conversing with someone and a topic or issue comes up which touches on faith beliefs or political beliefs, then we can discuss such things. Throwing a confetti of religious tracts around in the hopes of helping all the poor people who do not believe as you do ... it's arrogance. Discussion with mutual respect is one thing. Scattering your seed EVERYWHERE is something else entirely.

Ooops. I kind of strayed away from the original intent to post a funny sign. Meh, I think it's a better post for having opened up the field a bit.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:06 PM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 31, 2008

Living at the Edges

In Austin, we had lived miles from both elementary schools I attended, the beloved Pillow Elementary and the much despised St. Louis. After just six weeks back at Pillow for third grade, we moved to Arlington (in between Dallas and Fort Worth). My mother was ecstatic that they'd found a good school for us ... and just six blocks from our new house. Once again, my father had chosen a home with a backyard that was bounded by a fence ... and behind that, no other houses. In Austin, we'd lived in Balcones Woods and behind our fence was a wild tangle of woods untamed, unkempt and beautiful. Here, it was simply an empty field, but at least it was not another home staring straight into ours. I suppose this was Dad's response to living "in town" ... I don't think he liked the 'burbs any more than I did.

At any rate, Mom was ecstatic that I would be able to walk to school or ride my bike and she could be relieved of that burdensome chore.

There was a playground outside the school, but it seemed it was always reserved for the younger children. The older kids went out to the field to the south of the school.

Since I'm strolling around the elementary school stomping grounds, I thought I'd show you the climbing tree I mentioned in my previous post. This is shot from just south of my climbing tree ... a little west of the other day's dreaming valley ... and looking northward to the school. Clicking the image will open a new window with a somewhat larger version .. you know you can refer back to the big images whilst I point out details. :)

Elementary school tree


Hit Play to listen to a song that always reminds me of this time period ... and just the general feel of my warm woodsy places.

Things have changed both more and less than I had thought when I went back for a look a couple of years ago. My personal playground of trees were all still intact, including my climbing tree here. It's just a scraggly ole twisty pine tree. Resin would "bleed" out of the tree and stick to our hands and clothes. And as you can see here, being up in the tree, you really had little cover to hide from the teachers if they happened to come by that way. The funny thing is ... I'm horribly allergic to any of the aromatic trees. Cedars are the worst, but pine trees will set me off, too. But I don't recall ever getting an allergy attack from this tree.

In the middle area of the picture, you can see a fire lane. That wasn't there back in the day. Instead, there was a little run-off. We called it the dry creek ... unless, of course, it was raining. I would pretend it was a canyon for my Fisher Price Adventure People (these were the precursors to the Star Wars action figures), even though I wouldn't bring my prized toys up to school. The various undercuts and sediments in the "canyon" there made me think of my beloved New Mexico and cliff dwellings and I often lamented the fact that we didn't have such a cool run-off in our backyard so I could play in it properly. My parents, of course, were flabbergasted that I would want such a nasty trip hazard in the backyard. Parents are so short-sighted sometimes.

The other fun we would have in the creek was "mining for lead." Until we realized that lead was a metal and not the stuff inside our pencils. Then it became "mining for graphite." The dirt was a brown-red colour, tan in places, darker in others. And buried in the hard sediment were "pebbles" of graphite. We'd take hardened sticks and perform our digs ... sometimes grabbing sharp rocks to help break apart the hardpan dirt. Suddenly, you'd get this red-brown marble to pop out, usually showing some of the graphite where your stick had burst the outer skin of dried mud.

For some reason, the school did not really appreciate our graphite markings on the sidewalks and bricks. It wasn't vandalism to us, we'd do it right in front of the teachers. It was decorating our home. Leaving our mark on the place where we spent so much time.

Adults, truly, were unfathomable at best. So picky. So many stupid rules just for the sake of rules.

For a suburban school, we had a pretty "rural" playground unfettered by an overabundance of metal apparatus or being restricted to the concrete and asphalt. The soccer field to the left of the picture? That was mostly an area of no grass and had deep creases in the land from rainwater run-off ... nothing like our dry creekbed ... but enough to make playing soccer there a bit more complicated than the norm. Back then, our goal posts didn't have the diagonal outcross where the net is attached now. We had just a rectangle of thick pipe delineating the goal. Most of the time, there would be a mob of boys on the soccer field, standing in little groups here and there ... and then a huge mob with a cloud of dust, scrabbling over the ball. Girls were not really welcome on the field, although I did play a few times. I mostly got yelled at for kicking the ball in the wrong direction. Which was interesting, really, seeing as I was not on anyone's team. Girls were not picked for sides in soccer there ... so I became my anarchist, oppositional self and simply kicked the ball wherever I wanted to kick it.

I can recall one day in fifth grade, hanging from my hands ... I was perhaps an inch or so off the ground, just dangling from my grip on the huge pipe. There were probably six or seven girls pretending to do some sort of arcane gymnastics off the bar, but in reality, we were all just kind of hanging around. The boy who was goalie on this end got mad and wanted us all to go away. He hollered. We ignored him. The ball was waaaaay down the field on the lower end. It was not coming up here for quite a while. I think he was bored more than he was mad at us. He paced. He groused.

And then he came up behind me, shouted "GET DOWN AND GO AWAY!" and he pushed me in the small of the back.

I landed on my ass, my arms out behind me propping me up. The left arm hurt and I wanted to cry ... not from the pain in my arm which was not that bad - I'd felt worse ... but because I had been singled out. There were a bunch of girls still hanging around. Why was I different? Why was I a target?

I stood up, dusted myself off and headed down the hill.

I didn't realize that my arm was broken. I thought at worst it was sprained and I dutifully told my mom that night at dinner that I thought I had sprained my wrist. She rolled her eyes, always certain that my sister and I were making up any maladies, because, well, that's what kids did. In the eleven years as my mother, she had yet to realize that when I said "ow" ... there was a serious problem afoot, probably more serious than I thought. So Mom rolled her eyes and asked how bad it hurt and I said, "Not that much. I think it's just sprained." Instead of upgrading it from "not that much" to "crap, my kid is hurt," Mom downgraded it from "not that much," to "kid is exaggerating it."

And with a great many kids, that's not a bad guess. The thing is, you have to know your child to make this call, and of course, sometimes you still get it wrong. But I would have thought my dramatic eardrum bursting at age 4 or 5 would have been the one incident to point out to her that I have a very high tolerance for pain.

After three days of trying to use my left hand as little as possible, I finally told Mom that I thought I needed to see a doctor. This was a big deal in our family, and it often felt like I was making a huge imposition on Mom's time and budget. She fussed, but agreed to take me. I could hear her telling the nurse that no, she didn't think my arm was broken, but that I wanted it looked at.

The doctor sent me in for an x-ray and as we drove back to the doctor's office ... Mom pulled out the x-ray and looked at it. Well, okay, not while she was driving, but as we sat in the car before returning to the doctor.

"It's not broken," she pronounced as she looked at the film. "All of this is for nothing. Do you know how expensive x-rays are?"

"I thought we had health insurance," I protested.

"Well, yes, but it still costs something."

Chastised and down-hearted, I stared out the side window all the way back to the doctor's office. Once there, he took the film, put it up on his light and pronounced quickly:

"Yep, it's broken, all right."

My mother was in shock.

So was the nurse. "You told me there would be no casts today!" The doctor was a little surprised at her vehemence. "I wore my black slacks today because you said there would be NO CASTS."

Since the break was at least 3-5 days old at this point and since it did not need to be set, the doctor decided on a compromise. They wrapped my arm and then made a U from the elbow out to the wrist. Then they put an ace bandage over that. The doctor was proud of the lightweight cast. The nurse didn't get any plaster on her black pants.

And I missed out on the rite of passage to have your cast signed by all your friends.

And to add insult to injury? They gave me a crappy square of some kind of cotton-thin canvas material to use as a sling.

I was floored. No plaster cast for everyone to sign. No cool, form-fitting sling. Just a painful knot at the back of my neck.

I had had enough. Mom refused to buy a "cool" sling and I was not going to take any more "good enoughs" that day. I dove into Mom's fabric basket and came out with a decent sized piece of blue corduroy, some thread, a needle and headed back to my room to sew myself a nice, form-fitting sling. Took quite a while to sew it all by hand with one arm in a sling, but it came out pretty well.

The next day at school, all the teachers wanted to know where I'd gotten that cool sling and their eyes bugged out when I nonchalantly answered, I made it. ... no, I didn't have a pattern. No, I didn't have any help. I didn't like the sling I had and I got mad and made the kind of sling I wanted.

I was stubborn that way.

At recess, I sat at the base of my climbing tree, my t-shirt getting bark and resin on the back ... and I watched the boys playing soccer, my eyes constantly scanning for one.

I never did know which boy broke my arm.

I spent the next six weeks reading books under my climbing tree until the cast finally came off. At the edges of the playground. On the edges of the kids playing. Watching. Reading. At the edges.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:53 AM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 29, 2008

Dreaming ...

It is a well known fact to anyone who knows me at all well, that I hate winter with a fiery passion. That, in fact, I proclaimed in CCD (think Catholic Sunday School) loudly and frequently that hell was not hot, but cold. Naturally, the parents who'd volunteered to teach were scandalized but hardly knew what to do with a child who simply out-logic'd them about the issue. (Well, we say "left out in the cold" when someone leaves us ... or "turns a cold shoulder," right? And if hell is the absence of God ... then God has given those in hell the cold shoulder and therefore, OBVIOUSLY, hell is cold. These poor volunteer teachers just kind of blinked at me and ignored the issue all together.)

Come to think of it, this is the way most adults tended to deal with me. Anyway.

I talked in an earlier post this month about when I first moved to Arlington and began attending Butler Elementary. There was one area we used to stage our Pretend games of Hardy Boys ... Nancy Drew when Tracy got upset and put her foot down about us playing at being boys. Sometimes Star Wars and sometimes we just made stuff up. There was a tree that was our front door ... another that helped delineate the "rooms" of our "house." Another that I climbed incessantly despite the fact that tree climbing was expressly forbidden. (And it's a measure of how invisible I felt ... and possibly how much the teachers knew what "being in trouble" meant to me ... that they sometimes walked right underneath the tree I was in and never said a word ... despite the little ratty tattle-tales.)

But this place ... this place was for dreaming and the photo does not even begin to do it justice.

Elementary school valley

If you click through, a desktop wallpaper version will pop up ... 1680x1260.

That rock, that's flat to the ground, mostly buried ... yeah, over there on the bottom, kind of to the right. We used to sit on that and look down into that little "valley" below us and just dream. We were always quiet and serious there. Some places just ask that of you and even grade-schoolers can sense it. Later, when recess was a little less about games of Let's Pretend and a little more ... for me, anyway ... trying to figure out life, the universe and everything, I can remember laying on my back, watching the sky ... trying to find a way to watch the sky and my little valley at the same time ... and, of course, solve all the issues in the universe. All in a 30 minute recess.

For me, the small pathway entrance into the woods represented so many different things. And that clearing you had to pass to get to it. Completely exposed ... except because it was a "valley" ... the teachers couldn't see us if we went down there.

I know my love of that spot drove most of our teachers crazy. It was at the very, very edge of our "safe" playground area. Going down to that valley, or worse, into the woods, was strictly forbidden. The kind of forbidden that kids hate because you can feel the adults' fear behind the edict ... when they are honestly scared that "bad things" will happen to any child who disobeys. It's a very different feel from the arbitrary, we're-imposing-order-upon-you kinds of rules.

And, to be honest, the entire time I went to Butler, at least once a year there were reports of "flashers" in raincoats just waiting to show off for some kid. And, there was a creek which ran through the narrow strip of woods ... home to the ever-lovely cottonmouths (water moccasins).

For me, the woods represented something else completely. Some flashes of a special place. Tinged with hints of fear. Coloured with a need to explore and discover and learn. A need to know and put an end to something that I couldn't name ... and at the same time I was terrified that I was not ready to know what answers the woods might hold, what they might unlock.

Our teachers took small groups through the woods on science expeditions from time to time. And I could see where the older kids ... the neighborhood kids had set up BMX bike ramps and obstacles. A rope swing to get across the creek.

The magic of the woods danced on the unknown edges during these excursions, as if the mere presence of adults ... of a gaggle of other children ... forced the things I needed further away into the undergrowth ... dancing up the vines into the treetops ... lurking in the gaping wounds of some of the tree trunks.

A couple of times, when I was near the end of elementary school ... when I had started junior high and was playing one summer, I went into the woods alone, hoping to unlock this thing that kept teasing me. Nothing bad ever happened. I saw a couple of other kids, playing. No adults. No snakes.

And no answers to my mystery, either.

Despite the fact that the woods taunted me from my recess perch ... when I was finally able to explore them, I was left with one conclusion:

These were the wrong woods.

Beautiful and interesting in their own right. Mysterious and captivating.

But these woods were not, after all, my woods.

And my woods ... Balcones Woods ... back in Austin ... those had been torn down.

I would have to find my answers another way.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:23 AM | Storytelling: She was, of course, supposed to be sleeping. | Struggles | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 28, 2008

Incisive

So my partner had to have surgery for trigger finger last week. She caught it early, but was also having some wrist pain as well, so they tested for carpal tunnel. For this she also tested as having some issues and since they were going in for the trigger finger, they were going to fix the carpal tunnel issue as well.

Of course, she tests really really well. Even when she's not great in a particular topic or issue, if it's a standardized test she does well. After the surgeon opened things up ... he was shocked to discover she had a REALLY tight carpal tunnel ... definitely needed the surgery for that even more than the trigger finger.

And ... since I've been playing with the macro lens ... I sure couldn't resist taking a few pics. The first is the upper palm of the hand for the trigger finger. I'm going to try another one of the trigger finger tonight in the natural light from another angle and see if I can get it a bit more clear.

and then here's the carpal tunnel incision:

Posted by Red Monkey at 8:59 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 25, 2008

Ready For My Close-Up

I began snapping photos with a crappy little 110 camera that my grandmother gave me. She won it at some event or another and thought it was more or less a toy. When I showed her the pictures I'd taken with it, she was shocked. For a 110 camera, they were really nice ... she hadn't expected that I would actually use it or that it would actually take anything with any degree of clarity.

For someone who has been pushed into the box of writer my entire life, I'm also an extremely visual person. I write fiction the way that I do because I can see a movie of the action playing out. And with that first camera, I was set to have my own little newspaper - text and photos together as they were in my head. I spent days skulking around the neighborhood like some demented Harriet the Spy (demented because unlike Harriet, I did not actually peer in windows nor clamber into people's homes). I took "stealth" photograph after stealth photograph of the construction going on right behind our house. An expose on how messy and wasteful the construction workers were.

I joined the photography group in junior high and took pictures for our ninth grade yearbook. I specialized in the candid shot ... and the staged "candid" shot. I wanted to continue with it in high school, but my mother refused to pay the lab/film fees for the class ... and since I was not allowed to have a job until after graduation ... I didn't have a way to pay for it myself. I tried to pick it back up for myself in college once I'd moved out of the house. I bought an awesome old camera with the "ring and stick" version of focus, fine tuned with a prism in the center. The first few years with it were great ... but I unfortunately discovered a difficulty in focusing which plagues me to this day. I'm never, ever, ever sure that I have my shot in focus. That causes me to lose a lot of shots just due to timing ... and even more that I thought were focused only to find out that once again I had squinted my way into focus instead of using the lens. Luckily my favourite type of shot is landscape and I usually didn't screw those up.

So, at the first chance, I switched to digital photography where I at least don't waste money developing crappy film. Today I have a Nikon Coolpix 8700 that I adore. It's auto-focus, but has manual options ... the zoom is great ... the size is great. And while I still screw up some close-range shots, thinking they're clear in the viewfinder or the screen, they are fewer and further between. Plus I take about 10 times as many shots since I don't have to pay for developing film! (Factoid nine about the other half: taking multiple shots of the same scene or item drives her NUTS.)

This week, I finally got a new toy that I've been wanting to try for ages ... a 10x macro lens for extreme closeups. Here's some playing around I did just to get the hang of the lens and how to use it:

Lego IndianaJones

Yep, that's Indiana Jones in LEGO form. These sets have just recently come out and they are SOOOOO cleverly done. I thought this might be a good way to practice up close details.

Cute Jabba the Hutt

Who ever thought Jabba the Hutt could be cute????? This is Jabba in the Galactic Heroes line of toys - Star Wars toys for pre-action-figure crowd. The figures are really clever and cute ... but really ... a cute Jabba? Must be the eyes....

Marbles ... found 'em!

Okay, attempting to leave the toys behind and start playing a bit more with some artistic type shots ... this little plate of marbles, I must have shot 10 times from different angles, distances, et cetera. This is one of my favourite shots.

I call this one "Nestled" ...

Nestled

The next two I call "Relief" ... again just playing around with focus a bit more than trying for a perfect composition. But I kind of liked the aqua coloured gel capsules on the green wood.

Relief 1

Relief 2

One of these days, I'll set up my little studio in a box and take some shots playing with lighting as well. Just playing around ... but it's been fun so far. I'm looking forward to setting up some better shots in the future. Like maybe after the snow is gone and it's above 50 degrees again....

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:30 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 23, 2008

Sticky Snow

This was a few weeks ago, I think. Frankly, all the snow kind of blurs together for me. It was a heavy, wet snow and it had been blowing darn near horizontal.

Click through for a desktop wallpaper 1680x1050 and slightly different version.

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:53 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 7, 2008

Tagged!

Gotta love the "low risk" tagging in San Francisco. Bored in class? Draw a tag on a sticker and then label your way to tagging fame out on the street!

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:26 AM | Never Underestimate the Power of Human Stupidity | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 3, 2008

@$!# White Stuff

Click the image for a 1280x1024 desktop wallpaper version.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:11 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 21, 2007

Santa Scoutie

Oh, she sure thinks she's cute. She is just ecstatic in this little Santa jacket we picked up at Target ... and the weird thing is ... usually these li'l jackets just don't really fit mini-doxies, but this one fits like it was specially tailored for her!

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:40 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 19, 2007

Ghiradelli Square

Click the image for the larger version.

Whilst not much of a chocolate person (and if I do eat it, I want it dark - the darker the better), I do recognize the importance of the Ghiradelli! In California for work nearly two years ago, we had the opportunity to take in just a few sites - and I loved the perspective of this shot.

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:06 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 1, 2007

Bridge to ?


Click for the larger picture

Please click through for the larger picture before reading the post ... and then just hit the back button on your browser to come back to word-land.

Last September ... a year ago, not just months ago ... several like-minded folks went on a short little excursion out to Chicago's Field Museum. We exited the train and I was mystified by this bridge to nowhere. Rails to keep people from falling off ... chain link to keep little ones from falling off ... and then ... this huge squared arch ...

... to nothing. There's no track that high for a train to come past this bridge. There's no ladder down.

It just abruptly ends.

It had the same effect on me that seeing an old run-down building has. In fact, it very much reminds me of when my mother would drive me through the run-down parts of town. She did this to show me just how lucky our family was. I didn't get her point.

I didn't see a run-down house.

I saw a home in need of some fixing up. I saw potential.

So this rusted bridge to nowhere is something I find intriguing. Where did it go?

I can sit and watch a scene like that ... and the possibilities ... the potential ...
... my vision starts to blur and I can almost see some old fashioned double-decker passenger train pulling up alongside that bridge ... Nick, Nora and Asta prancing out ...

Other people in our group talked about it being a sad little bridge, rusting, alone, unused.

I see stories untold, mysterious and delightful ... I see a bridge waiting to be noticed and storied once more.

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:52 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 26, 2007

I hate snow

Click through for a larger version which really shows the huge clumps of wet snow coming down.

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:02 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 23, 2007

Rainbow

Click for the larger picture.

Posted by Red Monkey at 1:08 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

November 6, 2007

Climb to Terebithia

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:10 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 24, 2007

The Reunion

Where to start? I should probably start from the beginning, which was the horrendous travel itself, but instead, I think I'll focus on the reunion today while it's still pretty fresh in my mind.

(If you didn't go to Lamar, some of this is likely to sound like a socialist's column for some socialites you've never heard of. But don't worry, there's good old fashioned story telling in here ... plus a lot of names.)

Lamar High School ... class of 1987 ... Arlington, Texas ... 20 Year Reunion

We missed the Friday night mixer at J. Gilligan's because of the horrendous travel, and that was too bad as apparently Jill Stewart was there that night and not at the Saturday dealio. I was disappointed to miss her, especially since my buddy Andy (with whom I was staying) said Jill had asked Andy if he was the father of my children. Ummmm, WTF? Andy started laughing and told me that back in college, that had been what most people thought ... Andy would donate childrens for me. When I head that, we started concocting some long and fanciful story about how Andy was the father of my five children, yadda yadda yadda. How dare Jill set up a great story like that and then leave the whole thing unresolved!! hehehehe

I also missed Amy Alexander that night and was sad about that as well. She used to draw some amazing stuff and I was so curious to see if she still works her art ... so hoping that she has continued that. I did run into Russ who'd been our leading man for darn near every play we ever did in high school ... and he was one of the people I'd really been hoping to see. He was a genuinely nice guy in a rather clique-ish and fake school and I was beyond delighted to see that he's doing well and he's still doing theatre both professionally and doing plays around town. And his wife, Shannon, was just a delight to meet. Makes me wanna move back to Texas just to make better friends with them! :)

Out of 22 people I really wanted to see ... I saw two.

However, there were a fair number of people whom I'd thought would hardly remember me, with whom I had a delightful time. Paul Oehler, Veronica Ordonez, Ben Yin, Cheree Stringer, Sherry Price, Kyle Lawson.

But the most "fun" for me was the fact that my partner and I were the only gay couple there.

I laughed so hard (on the inside ... it's not nice to laugh at people's faces). There were a select group of women who had once been friends, who:
1) could NOT stop staring at us
2) refused to speak to me after the initial "Hi" and introduction of my partner.

It was fun to see how long they'd stare, and then I'd try to catch their eyes, and suddenly, oh, but they were looking anywhere but at me. I'm guessing they thought you could catch gayness by eye contact. There were two women literally sitting directly across from me, not really socializing much with anyone except each other. (And they were each married to a man or I might have had fun poking buttons and asking them if they were an item. Well, providing they let me get close enough to ask them a question.) And they stared at me for over 45 minutes. Enough so that the other people at our table were noticing it ... and were appalled by the bad behaviour. I simply laughed. Apparently they'd never really seen queers up close before. Let them get an education. Let them learn, I told the others at my table, that I'm just as boring now as I was back in the day. I wonder if they thought their "mean" stares would be intimidating enough to make me leave? LMFAO ... if so, they really forgot what I was like.

Cindy Ritner was a delight to meet again. Still the same happy and outgoing young woman that she was back in school. She was one of the few women that I knew, but had not really hung out with outside of our shared sports and classes, who really seemed genuinely happy to see me. I'm so glad to know that she's doing well and is happy. She deserves it. A genuinely nice person that I'd always hoped life had been kind to.

But the really interesting part happened when Cindy re-introduced me to someone I'd known from junior high on. I'll call her "Linda."
Linda was an unbelievably sweet person as a kid. Quiet around new people, a little reserved. I can remember us playing together a few times and getting a wee little bit rowdy and just having a grand old time. Imaginative, playful, and above all, Linda was very kind. Concerned about others.

I cannot reconcile the Linda of then ... with the Linda of today. She underwent a transformation, as many of us have, but hers seemed to have changed her completely, inside and out. No longer a sweet face. It's narrow and pinched now. No longer wavy/curly black hair. It's that hideous shade of bleach-blonde that screams, "HEY! I'm a bleach blonde!" The severity of her muscle definition was not athletic looking. It looked like you could cut yourself on them. They weren't big muscles. It's not like she looked "manly" or like she constantly lifted weights. But, oddly enough, it didn't really look healthy either. The total effect of all the physical changes were enough to make her look, honestly, like a bitch.

But, I refused to judge a book by its cover. Looks can be deceiving. So, I happily introduced myself ... and my partner. Linda's face was somewhat guarded when she took my hand, but she was pleasant enough. When I introduced my partner, her face went completely blank. No smile. She took the hand proffered (so there is some memory of the girl she once was ... she wasn't completely rude) ... but then, she turned so fast on her heel, I'm surprised there's not a divot in the floor from her heel drilling down. I was steadfastly ignored for the rest of the evening.

Except.

Except, for about 30 minutes, she also, sat across from the table where I was sitting and glared at me. Refusing to make eye contact, if I turned to her, her head turned away immediately. I think she wanted me to know that I was being snubbed. If she thought it would hurt me, she was wrong. If she thought it would miraculously cure me, she was even more wrong.

What did hurt was not that she judged me without getting to know me again ... but the fact that she used to be such a genuinely nice person. I hurt for what has happened to her in her life to facilitate such a complete and utter change. What pain she must have endured at some point ... or perhaps ongoing ... to turn from such a warm and friendly person into such a cold bitch. I don't call her that because of how she reacted to me ... or I'd be saying that of half the girls there. I say that because I watched again and again and again, how she'd do the "sorority girl" or the "high society" greeting. The smile, the nod, the pleasantry. And then she'd turn back to her drink or her companion and all expression would drop from her face.

A teacher in junior high once told us that you can tell a real smile from a fake one by how long it stays on your face and the process by which it comes off. A fake smile appears instantly ... and it falls from your face just as quickly.
A real smile might burst onto your face, but it doesn't come off easily. Instead, the muscles slowly relax and the smile slowly becomes smaller until you're left with a twinkle in your eye and a still expression to your lips. I never saw a smile slowly come off of Linda's face. It was either "on" or it was "off." And there was no twinkle in her eyes at all.
It makes me sad to see.

I did buy the crappy spreadsheet of names into which Reunions by the Party People really put very little effort. Ten bucks of little information. However, I did get the married names of some of the friends I wanted to meet up with again. Hopefully now I can catch up with at least some of the people on my list. Of course, I have to do my own Google work to get everything together ... but still ... it'll be worth the time and effort if I can manage to find them again.

I do hold Minnie Huang in my thoughts ... I heard she has cancer, but I have every confidence that she'll beat it.

And that was my 20 year reunion that I'd looked forward to since the last day of high school. I was soooo curious to see where everyone would land, what they'd be like. Most of the people I've seen prior to the reunion or saw that night, they seemed to be doing well. And for that, I'm genuinely glad.

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:16 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

October 19, 2007

Sacrifice

The last few months have been emotionally arduous with the closing of the company that I used to work for back in July. I always think that having a few months off sounds like a great idea ... and it is ... but for me, that looming threat of finding a job before the severance runs out is draining.

Yesterday, on the spur of the moment, inspired by the overcast one minute, sunny the next, day ... I decided to head out to Potato Creek to snap a "few" pictures. Okay, okay, so a few turned into 105 ... unlike someone else I could name, I'm just gonna post one for now. (Just kidding, AugieWan ... I don't have a nifty slideshow/thumbnail widget and I'm too lazy to go searching for one.)

I call this one, "Sacrifice" ... click for the larger picture.

Red leaf on a dessicated tree stump

After a three hour hike, which I hope to write about next week, I made it home, exhausted and content.

Tomorrow I leave for a quick jaunt back home to Texas for my 20 year high school reunion ... I'm excited. I really hope to meet up with some far-too-long-lost friends.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:51 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 14, 2007

Snow

Snowy
Click for a 1024x768 desktop background version

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:21 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

February 9, 2007

Not for the Weak of Stomach

You know ... it's bad enough that I felt like my stomach was actually an alien entity attempting to tunnel its way out of me (I know i felt at least four or five tunneling attempts and at least one grand explosion) ... but poor baby Scraps.

Puppy resting on toy

Apparently, despite being told about the cause and effect of eating Kleenex from the trash can, he decided to rummage around for a snack yesterday. My partner discovered that he'd been happily munching away for awhile before she realized what he was doing.

So, after I'd been asleep for perhaps just an hour or two, I was awakened in the most unpleasant manner. The sound of dog retching. I reached over, grabbed some Kleenex, dabbed, petted him, and went back to sleep. My partner, naturally, slept through the entire episode.

An hour or so later. Again. Only this time, I realize that he's just barfed to the left of where I sleep. Ewwww. I figure he's done. (Remember, I've been sick, too, and I simply wasn't very coherent.) Another sound. I roll to pat him and realize that he has retched to the right of where I sleep. And then that the blankets have a wet patch where he'd barfed whilst on TOP of the covers, this had soaked through, and I was now sleeping in bile.

That got me to get out of bed. I cleaned up as best I could, woke up the other half, got her to hold him whilst I attempted a better cleaning and to go get him some Pepto Bismol.

Pitiful pup curled up in a tight ball

That seemed to fix him and I nodded off back to sleep in my recliner ... only to be awakened again about 20 minutes later. *sigh* Poor little guy. I didn't want to put him in his kennel if he was going to continue to be sick, so I set him up a nice little nest in the bathroom ... a water bowl, some puppy pads, a nice warm blankie next to the heater vent.

I tried to remind him that if he would just STOP eating nasty Kleenexes from the trash, he could avoid these things. But, of course, he just turned those big doleful eyes up at me in his "I'm-so-long-suffering" way.

Posted by Red Monkey at 10:01 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

January 3, 2007

Time Out

Potato Creek State Park Photo
Click for the larger picture (~50kb)

Posted by Red Monkey at 11:06 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

December 11, 2006

Dusk

Posted by Red Monkey at 6:50 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 21, 2006

Time

One of the purposes of my going back to Arlington, Texas, last week was to check out Ye Olde Homesteade � and see how the old neighborhood was holding up. Another purpose was to get some scans of mom's photo albums. Missions both accomplished. Below you can see the house as it was back in the winter of 1978 (I think ... might have been 1979). We'd seen snow once while living in Austin the five years previous to this, and that had not quite covered the grass completely. I'd also seen snow when we lived in the evil Carmel, Indiana, but my sister had not. (Yeah, that's us all gussied up in 1970s godawful ugly coats.)

Arlington Then

 
Arlington Now

The second picture is the REALLY fast snapshot I took while the rental car idled in front of the house. Besides the obvious summer/winter differences, I hardly recognized the same house when I first drove by. The number of trees stunned me as did the pretty much dead grass. I wanted to get a close-up of the front door which has been painted bright turquoise since I moved out waaaaaaaay back in 1988, but that photo was taken too hurriedly and didn't turn out at all.

There's nothing more likely to convince you that time really has truly passed like going back to an old house (or school). Most days, I feel like I'm exactly the same person I was back in high school or junior high. Maybe a touch more mature or a bit more sure of myself, but essentially the exact same person.

Seeing the difference in that house where I have lived the longest of any place in my life (and if you've read any of the posts describing how often we moved when I was growing up, you'll know that this is a big deal) ... it reminds me of just how much I have changed. Looking at the trees which are now huge and full, looking at the dead grass that was once meticulously tended ....
and still ... looking at the pattern of the house unchanged ... I have to remember, too, how much of my self was shaped by that house and everything that happened while I lived there. And that pattern, while different than it once was, is not as different yet as I had hoped it would be by now.

While I no longer try to please my family of origin (parents only) - that's long since been given up as a lost cause - I realized that I do very much still go overboard in trying to please my family of choice.

And while intellectually I know that my family of origin can no longer hurt me, I do still fear at least one of them very much and have no idea how to stop that fear.
(I'm luckier than a lot of folks who discuss family of origin vs. family of choice in that many members of my family of origin are also a part of my family of choice ... my sister, my maternal side of the family. Just not my parents themselves.)

Amazing what Then and Now pictures of a stupid house can dredge up.

Posted by Red Monkey at 4:15 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 19, 2006

Passengers

The trip from California to Texas was interesting. We were on a larger plane for the flight to Houston than we had been from Chicago to San Fran and this one had an aisle 3 seats wide instead of two. We boarded the plane and discovered our seatmate already seated in the outside seat. He was none too happy about "being forced" to stand up, let us stow our bags and get seated.

I got stuck in the middle.

Mr. Family & Business Man instantly settled onto both armrests and practically opened his paper in my face.

Nice. It was going to be like that, huh?

At first, I tried to draw my personal space in a little, but it became very quickly clear that if I did that, he'd just quickly fill that void with himself. I pulled a little toward A, so he instantly opened his paper even wider until he was clearly in my seat-space.

Okay, at this point, I can:
A. say something
B. give up
C. fight back
D. fight back subtly

Well, A. would likely do no good at all. He was smug every time he took up more space. He was obviously playing games and once he realized that A and I were "together" and not "just" travelling companions, he got more snide and more smug, both. Speaking to him about the issue was going to be a point in his book and probably only encourage him to get worse ... or, most likely, give him the opportunity to say something derogatory and then get worse.

B. Well, duh, that's NOT an option.

C. Mostly see A. And, as the situation progressed - before we'd even taken off! - I knew nothing direct was going to work with this guy.

Fine. D, then. It was going to be a loooooong flight. I put my elbow behind his on the armrest. He thunked me with his, acting as if he'd slipped ... but there was no apology. I kept my ground and read my book. If he moved, I tried to regain my personal space back ... not creep into his, I wouldn't sink completely to the level of his games. A few times, I moved to regain space before he moved.

This works fairly well until he was almost done with his paper. Then, he put his knee against mine and began rubbing.

UGH.

This can be a tight quarters gesture. It can also be something more intimate among a couple. Trust me when I say, this was definitely not a tight quarters accidental rubbing up against. Ugh, I could feel his smarminess.

I finally hauled my knee away slightly and bumped his hard as I got into my backpack. He smirked. Dammit, he considered that a point. Stupid asshole and his game-playing. And I was falling right into it.

Light bulb.

I reached for A's hand. Grimace from him. Point for me.

Honestly, I thought when this little stupid dance had begun that he was going to be a someone from whom I would have to earn a little respect by being diligent about my personal space. Now, as I sunk into this stupid game playing more fully, I realized this wasn't true. He was pissy people were sitting next to him. He was pissy we were gay. He was pissy because he couldn't make me move to another seat. (Of which there were some in the back.) He was pissy because I wouldn't just give up.

Grrrrrrr. What to do now? I didn't really want to have to play games the entire flight to Houston. So, I decide to completely distract myself by watching the Clone Wars cartoons on my computer. I dutifully pull it out and set up ... and I have now unwittingly scored more points against Mr. Bugger. The 17" laptop with the nifty skin on it has begrudgingly impressed him. So much so, that he has to pull his peecee out of its bag and immediately commence working on his nifty Excel spreadsheets.

I insert headphones and proceed to ignore him.

He attempts a few more space grabs. I don't let him, but no longer fret over it. I can now feel him seething, but I do my best to simply ignore the sithspawn annoying little womprat. (I read about 4 Star Wars books during the trip ... can you tell?)

He actually began shifting his screen on his little desk so that I could/would see what he was working on. I think he was hoping to catch me peering at his screen so he could squawk. I watched my cartoons instead.

Boy, was I happy to get off that flight.

As we migrated through the Houston airport to catch our connection to DFW, I began discussing rude people and their inability to sense personal space. Loudly. He was right behind me. I launched into a tirade about people who think the world is owed to them and we should genuflect to them. I also said something about I should have called his wife (his desktop wallpaper was the little missus) and told her about the knee-rubbing bit. For some reason, he decided to walk instead of taking the slidewalks.

The flight to DFW, thankfully, was peaceful.

And, the flights home were also peaceful. Sadly, I cracked the heck out of my knee on the first flight. By the time we made our connecting flight in Cleveland, the stupid thing was both bruised and swollen. Ahh well. The perils of flying.

We're home now and I'm back to work today. I had wanted to have a day off before going back to work, but A's interview with the seminary couldn't be scheduled until Monday, so it is what it is. She, of course, is off the rest of the week.

So ... when posed with the interesting imposed travel companion ... how do you assert yourself? Do you play the games? Do you try to ignore it?

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:14 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 18, 2006

Gulls in San Francisco

Gulls in San Fran

Again, clicking on this will get you a 1024x768 desktop image.

These are gulls in the San Francisco bay, just to the side of Alcatraz.

Posted by Red Monkey at 12:23 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 17, 2006

Got Food?

Got food - meerkat

If you've seen Meerkat Manor on the Animal Planet channel, you recognize these little guys. The meerkats at the Fort Worth zoo had what seemed like a decent amount of space, but I only saw about three of the little buggers, usually there's a lot more than that and their territory in the wild is several miles. These little guys were quite zoo-tame ... that is, not something you could EVER take home, but they were quite used to observing people observing them. In fact, this little guy was positive I was going to feed him. He ran directly up to the glass separating us and begged (actually, he expected) me to give him food.

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:47 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 14, 2006

Trapped ... And Hungry

Trapped

From the Fort Worth Zoo ... just when I thought that all good zoos had redesigned their enclosures to give the animals more space...
This jaguar has one of the larger enclosures and as you can see, while folks get fairly close to the animal, the price is a small enclosure and nasty chain link fencing, or in some areas, glass.

If you click on the picture, you should get a 1024x768 desktop size version.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:06 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 11, 2006

San Fran II

San Fran

Once again, I'm in San Francisco ... and no trip actually to Alcatraz. I am crushed.

We stayed at the Pickwick Hotel at Fifth and Mission ... just a block off Market street. We walked up to Chinatown, got to see the Lion Gate ... walked all through Chinatown and then walked out to the northeast wharf historic district (I think that's close to what it was called). From there up to Pier 41 and Fisherman's Wharf. Sadly, we missed Boudin's Sourdough, thinking we'd get back there. We also didn't get to Aquarium of the Bay, either. I think we needed another couple of days here at least. Ah well.

Then, the line for the cable car was probably about a two hour wait. So, we decided to be totally and completely insane and WALK all the way back from Fisherman's Wharf to our hotel. In total, we spent approximately 7 hours walking the first day we were here ... including some of the killer hills San Fran is so well known for. By the time we got to the hotel (only one wrong turn that meant walking five blocks in the wrong direction and then, of course, another five back the right way), we both realized that our insoles were shot to hell and we actually needed not just new insoles, but new shoes. Can you say, OW, the blisters? I knew you could.

Sadly, that meant waiting until stores opened Monday morning to begin the real purpose of the San Fran leg of the trip.

Armed, errr, footed with brand-new shoes and my using the transit website for San Fran, we boarded BART and headed into Beserkley, errr, Berkeley. We got on the correct bus, with no problem, then waited for the "Downtown Berkeley" stop. There is no such stop. The locals know it's the Berkeley stop ... all us rubes got off at North Berkeley and had to go back a stop. Then, sadly, the transit system's website did NOT list the correct bus to take up to the Pacific School of Religion. And, in fact, their little "show me the map to my stop" feature showed us the way to the wrong side of the street ... so the bus we boarded was going in the wrong direction.

After a rocky ride around Berkeley, we finally got off on our stop ... which turned out to be maybe 6-10 blocks past where we got off the BART! ARGH!!!! Now it was a 6 block walk uphill (both ways? well, not quite, but by this time it kinda felt like it). We got to PSR and wandered around a bit.

Since this is probably A's first pick for seminary, I was surprised when she just wanted a fast look-'round. I bullied her into talking to someone, and we're both glad I did now. We got a nice tour from a student who just finished his first year, and is interested in some of the same things as she is. So that was a very nice bonus. We got a tour of the school, which was a bit bigger than our meager poking around, and we got some of the application materials for her to apply fall 2007.

This afternoon, we head on to Dallas/Fort Worth. Finally, I get to show off the place I lived the longest in my entire life. With any luck, we won't be too tired, and we'll take a little drive down to Austin, as well. That's where my heart is ... I still think Austin is the most beautiful city in the world.

Regrets:
Missed Alcatraz
Missed the Castro
Missed Aquarium of the Bay
Missed the Golden Gate Park
Missed Pixar
Didn't ride a cable car (I'm not sure I regret that, but I think A does)

Highlights:
Chinatown
I took A to a little Tea Bar in Chinatown that I'd been by when here on business in March - she LOVED it.
Walking San Fran ... yes, we were wiped out after that and I have a hellacious sunburn on my face, but it was a wonderful walk.
The wharf district - beautiful, even if Alcatraz mocked me yet again
PSR (Pacific School of Religion)
"tour" of Berkeley
The Apple Store
A little hole-in-the-wall Mac store
The Tea Bar (I'm adding it a second time cuz it was A's absolute favourite thing)
Ghiradelli Square (particularly for A since she enjoys chocolate so much)

So, the Highlights do far outnumber the Regrets ... but ... the Alcatraz thing just depresses me beyond belief.

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:50 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 10, 2006

San Fran I

San Fran

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:31 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 9, 2006

Ugh

So, travelling sucks more than I remembered. We got three hours of sleep, left the house in the capable hands of A's brother, and went to the airport at 5:30 a.m. Got all checked in. Waited for the boarding time. Yea, the announcement to bo--

I mean the cancellation of the flight. UGH.

So, everyone practically ran back out of the secure area and back to the ticket counter. Luckily, our local airport only has the equivalent of puddle jumpers, so it's not like there were 100 people in line in front of us. But there were enough to make us really nervous about what was going to happen. Two people are at the ticket counter. What the hell???? Another comes out. Disappears. They teased us like that for a while and then finally had 3 people helping us and another one helping people getting checked in for flights that weren't cancelled. We were lucky. There was a bus to O'Hare leaving in about an hour and a flight to San Fran that we should be able to make easily from there. Originally, we were going to fly to Minneapolis and then to San Fran. This was going to be somewhat easier.

Cell phones are an evil, evil invention in the wrong hands. Really, this is not a non sequitur. A teenaged girl sat behind us on the bus, spread across both seats in her "aisle" and proceeded to talk LOUDLY to everyone she knows. I contemplated turning and telling her I saw a horrible wreck and needed to call 911, could I borrow her phone? Then I was going to take her fooken battery until she got off the bus. :) A informed me this would not be a particularly good idea. Finally, the child lost cell service ...
after we learned that:

  • she'd been in lots of programs like this
  • she liked this program more
  • she didn't want to go home
  • Adam knew her name the first day. How could he know that? She only met him running through the sprinklers the night before. Did he remember her from that? (This was, apparently, never resolved for certain.)
  • she ignored the call when her mother tried to beep in
  • generally when she leaves these programs, she cries hysterically
  • she loved this program most of all, but she did not cry hysterically
  • she SO did not understand why she was not crying hysterically this time

At that point I hestitated to turn around and ask if it was perhaps because she had matured a little, but given the phone conversation, I think I can rest assured that she had NOT matured very much.

Then we were finally at O'Hare. And ooooo! After we got our boarding pass and got in the security line, guess what? We were SELECTED! Oh joy of joys!

Really, the "special screening" is not that bad. The pat down scared the crap outa me beforehand - I do NOT want to be felt up by some random woman - but it wasn't like that at all, actually. The screening of our stuff was really interesting. They opened up each carryon bag and swabbed it inside to test for explosives. She tested my watch, too. Watching her test the laptop was kinda cool. She just swabbed any area where the machine might have been opened up and explosives placed.

All this took maybe an extra 5-10 minutes at most. Not bad at all.

On the plane to San Fran, however, we got stuck by the evil-family-from-hell. Toddler girl-child, boy around 6, girl around 8. Mother's emotional age was maybe 9 at best. Great, so FOUR kids and a Dad who tried to escape the drama by pretending to sleep. Why do I say pretending to sleep? Because Mom-the-genius brought some games for the kids. Good, right? Not when the game is a card game called slamwich in which the child is supposed to slap the cards at some designated point OR call out STOP THIEF at another point.

The eldest girl and her mother played this game frequently. The eldest child delighted in slapping the tray on the back of Dad's chair as hard as possible. She kept waking ME up, so I know Dad was NOT sleeping.

Then again, the poor man may very well have been used to that level of noise in his home, so who knows.

Needless to say, the constant stream of musical chairs in the family and littlest shrieking from time to time for no apparent reason other than their portable DVD player did not seem to be working, the plane ride SUCKED.

We finally got to San Fran around 3 p.m. their time, which was 6 p.m. our time. Got to the Pickwick Hotel around 4, decided to go walking the neighborhood for somewhere to eat and discovered there's an Apple Store just down the street. *rubbing hands in utter glee* In fact, the other half already reminded me that we want to do lots of things on this long trip and I was not allowed to max out all of my credit cards and spend every cent I have in the Apple Store. Damn.

Anyhow, it's 6:30 and I'm done sleeping for now, so I thought I'd take advantage of the quiet moment to post. I love my laptop and its backlit keyboard ... makes being on the computer in a totally dark room much easier. But I'm not going to be able to resist waking up A and trying to drag her out the door to Fisherman's Wharf and Alcatraz much longer.

Should be posting pictures for a few days after this instead of full posts. Enjoy!

Posted by Red Monkey at 7:12 AM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 21, 2005

More from the Shedd Aquarium

Well, I tried to post this yesterday before a Battle of the Blogs battle, but something went crazy screwy at the server level and, as I got ready to hit post . . . blam, no access to the database, no access to anything within Moveable Type, no post. (And, of course, I got slaughtered in the battle, too.)
Without any explanation of what happened, though, 18 hours later, here's the entry:

So, fish are usually a bit on the boring side for me. I like seahorses, turtles, frogs, rays and the like. But taking pictures of the frogs at the aquarium was particularly frustrating.

This little guy posed for me a couple of times before high-tailing it up a "tree trunk."

I thought I had this picture done up just right, but it was a very early shot when I was still too excited at the cool stuff to truly notice how much glare and reflection was appearing on the glass. When I look at the whole photo in its 1600xwhatever glory, I can clearly see a translucent ghost of myself reflected in the glass. *sigh*

Posted by Red Monkey at 3:22 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 18, 2005

Shedd Aquarium

So one of my most favorite things in the world is taking pictures. I don't like taking pictures of people - I prefer landscapes and animal pictures.

So, I thought I'd share a few of the pictures from the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

Jellyfish
I just love these little glowy guys. I tried to take better pictures of some jellyfish at the Brookfield Zoo, but the camera battery died. I was frustrated, but then, I went a little crazy taking pictures of the mama gorilla and her baby just before we got to that area. So, this picture comes from the Shedd aquarium which was NOT set up for picture-taking.

Ray (sting ray? manta ray?)
And here you see what I mean that the Shedd is NOT set up for picture-taking. (Like it should really just be there so I can be picture-happy. Yes, I said it, a major city aquarium should be there so I can point my li'l camera and get snap-happy. But you see what I mean, anyhow.)
Anyhow, the lights were set at the wrong angles so you always got glare on the glass from the back-lighting. These pictures were taken with no flash . . . and after the first couple of pictures I realized I also had to wait until all of the other folks had walked past, position myself just right so I didn't get my own reflection in the glass and then still manage to frame the picture right.

Tomorrow a couple of pictures from the Brookfield zoo.

Posted by Red Monkey at 5:58 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble

July 11, 2005

vacation

So, my sister and her husband are beginning a trek and adventure in the morning. They are moving from Texas to New York City. (And every time I think that, I hear the Pace picante salsa commercial. "New York CITY?")

Jenny is an elementary school music teacher with a job in the city now. Alejandro is a jazz guitarist, wanting to take his chances in NYC. They'll be passing through on their way to NYC, so I'm swinging over to my aunt and uncle's house to meet her for a few days and probably won't have internet access - or uninterrupted writing time, although I'll bring my notebooks and write when I can and post when I get back.

I wish them the best of luck on their move and their new careers. And I'm just hoping I get through this trip in one piece!

Posted by Red Monkey at 9:50 PM | Vacations and Photos | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble