Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Writer Anxiety Dream

The dream opens in progress...

Previously, had been something about a magician and his female apprentice in a fantasy setting.  I believe we were looking for something in a palace.

The dream shifted, and the contents of the previous dreaming had become a story I had written.  I was at an Established Author's house, in a room filled with Established Authors, and they were critiquing the hell out of my manuscript.

"Well, it's a good start," one said.

"I think you need to go back and Really Write this story," another one said.

In the back of my mind I was thinking, "Man, I'll need to critique what they've written, and I haven't read it yet."

In the front of my mind I was thinking, "Crap, they really hate this story."

At least I wasn't naked.

I woke up.  It's not too hard to figure out that it was a writing anxiety dream about what I'm currently working on.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

That Pesky Five-fold Symmetry

So.  I should have gone to sleep, but I'd been thinking about square saw-tooth lines and stars and I thought, hey, I'll bet I could make some pretty five-pointed stars.

And then I fired up InkScape and even though I'd done it with six-pointed stars, I forgot and used squares.

And... Oh, right, five-fold symmetry prevents things from lining up in a plane.

The next day I fiddled around with zig-zags and eventually came up with this second, more flowery example.  The more, er-bumpy- parts of the design are where the chiral five-fold pinwheels are overlapping.  I'll have to figure out a simplified junction.  Later.  After I submit some stories...

Monday, April 28, 2014

Stars and Squares

 More playing with patterns.

I meant to use a zig-zag line instead of squares.  The end result looks more like a quilt design than zellij, but it's still pretty cool.  

What I like about tessellating and rotating squares like this is how the design starts to look like interlocked circles.

OK, and ordering squares around like this is tickling the part of my clever monkey brain that likes to manipulate things.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Predator and Prey?

Scene: A late Sunday afternoon.  The sun shines.  Smokey the cat is in a hunting delirium because the grey jays have a nest in the camellia and there are four baby jays in the nest.  Father jay has previously dive bombed Smokey off of the yard's fort (and baby jay viewing platform).

Father Jay (hopping from power line to patio cover):  "Hey! Hey! The cat's here!"

John (opening sliding door and sticking head out):  "Smokey?"

Smokey (under the deck):  "Closer..."

Father Jay (hopping from patio cover to fort ladder): "Hey! Hey! Cat! Over here!"

John (stepping out onto deck):  "I don't see a Smokey."

Smokey (under the deck):  "Closer... closer..."

Father Jay (swooping over to catnip plant pot):  "Cat! Hey! Hey! Cat!"

John (laying down on deck, sticks head over side, looks under deck next to house):  "There's no Smokey here..."

Smokey (under the deck):  "Just. A. Little. Closer..."

Father Jay (jumping onto clothes line spool):  "Hey!  The cat's here!  Hey!"

John (gets up, moves to the yard-side of deck):  "There's no Smoke--"

Smokey (springing like a cheetah from the Serengeti):  "Ha!  Bird, you're going -- OH!  (ears twist back) It's John." (tail droops, speed drops to a walk).

John (almost falls off deck laughing at the crestfallen feline look and wishing he had a video camera)

Rotating Zigzags Into Stars

The other day I came across a design that looked like it used only lines zig-zagging at right angles and I thought, "I could do that."

I made a mistake working from memory and forgot that I was supposed to be using a zig-zag and used squares instead.  But eventually I got the source pattern in front of me and saw my misstep.

Why yes, you could cut this design out on paper and then fold it into a truncated icosahedron; why do you ask?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

More Zellij

Hey! Look... John's messing around with zellij.  Again.  He wants to make a tile in Blender then send it to Shapeways.  No.  Really.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Writing Update


The last few days have been busy ones.  I've been trying to edit down a story, and the two large chunks of time I thought I had for writing turned out not to happen.  Oh... and Easter.   Instead of blogging, I've been scowling at a mess of words to see where I've gone off on tangents or where a mess of descriptive dead wood is.

During this phase I've been editing from a paper manuscript.  The difficulty with writing in fifteen minute and half-hour bursts is that I have a lot of nice little vignettes that aren't always speaking to each other (or repeat themselves).  Despite working within an outline, the manuscript managed to balloon out, and I've been looking at bits that can be rooted out.

And now the Day Jobbe calls.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Gravestone: Heart and Hand

Here's another Pioneer Cemetery photo.  This image is unique (to me anyway) because most of the grave markers I see have two clasping hands, or a hand pointing to heaven, or they say "Farewell" or "Until We Meet Again."  This is the only time, I think, where I've seen an upward stretched hand with a heart in its palm.  I also hadn't seen chain cuff-links much either; now that I think about it, it may be an Oddfellows emblem.   Finally, I like the triangular boarder detail.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Chimes Are Alive WIth the Sound of... ALIENS!

Nobody warned me.

The other day one of my wind chimes wasn't going ding-ding but clunk-clunk.  I'd like really big chimes, but so far I've only had the budget for small (but nice) ones.  When I examined the chimes more closely, I saw mud or dust or something clogging up the finger-sized pipes.

I thought I'd clean it out.  I unhooked the chimes from the overhang, and got some tools to work the dirt or whatever it was in them.  When I stuck a nail into one of the chimes to clear out the clod, there was a whiny little buzz, which I felt through my fingers.  I'd impaled some creature.

It was gross, and I took a few steps back, fully expecting a hornet queen to pop out and try to kill me.  Or at least to flop out, trailing ichor.  Something did fly out, but I never got a good look at it.

Each one of the six chimes had been turned into a brood chamber.  Nothing seemed to be alive, but I fully expected a regiment of irritated insects to pop out at any minute.  So I got a bowl of water and I tried soaking out the clogs, but they'd been cemented in place with bug spit. Eventually, I had to use an air pump to blow the things out.  This was also gross, because it was like blowing someone else's nose -- all sorts of mud, pollen, bug carapaces, and some gooey waxy stuff came out and silted up the water so that it was yellow.   The last chime, the longest, required reaming with a screwdriver before my little pump would work.

But it was worth it, because the chimes are gently ringing in the breezes.  I just won't think about the price when I hear them sound.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Like Father, Like Son

The other day Mark took a picture of my dad and me.

Here it is.  We both have similar noses and eyebrows.  And shirts. And possibly wrinkles.  Although our hands look similar, I very definitely have my maternal grandmother's hands (as does my cousin, Kevin).  My dad works with his hands more than I do, and subsequently probably has stronger ones.  I'm trying to decide if we have the same shape to our skulls, but I can't tell with all my hair.

What this photo does not show is that we both have similar voices and a similar sense of humor.  When Mark once heard my mom telling a story about one of my dad's joke outfits, he yelled, "Help! It's genetic!"  Oh, yeah; my sister says that after that one Fourth of July, we're not allowed to have drinks and then launch into The DeMolay Routine (which invariably devolves into Monty Python skits...).

Monday, April 14, 2014

Easter Craft Tips

Here's a follow-up photo to yesterday's post showing what the eggs look like before I dye them.

I use a craft cutter to cut thin strips or squares of painter's tape.  For the stars, I used a star-punch.  I had the best results holding the tape taut with the sticky side down; this allowed me to lightly touch the punched out tape and lift it out of the punch.  I still had a bunch of tape occasionally stick in the punch, and I'm not sure I'd recommend this technique for intricate shapes.

I've been playing with star shapes long enough to know that the easiest placement starts at one end of the egg and works down toward its widest area.

Once the tape was in place, I used the back of my fingernail to insure there were no lose spots and then dyed the egg.

I air-dried the eggs for about fifteen minutes so that I wouldn't smudge the designs with wet tape.

After they dried, I peeled back the tape.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Wonder Woman's Easter Egg

We decided to dye Easter Eggs today.  For the last couple of years, I've been using painter's tape to resist the dye and create patterns.  This time around, I recalled that we had some star paper punches, so I made a star pattern egg.

Mark says that it reminds him of Wonder Woman's costume, so now I have the Wonder Woman Theme from the 1970's stuck in my head.

The tape has a sweet spot around size; too small and the dye seeps under it, too large and the planar tape doesn't cover the spherical egg without wrinkling.

In other Easter News, the Damn "Chicken Dance" Rabbit came out of hiding from our garage, and its batteries still work.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Celtic Marker

I made a new find in the Pioneer Cemetery.  It's unlike most of the other stones there, in that it isn't a Sears Catalog monument from the late 1800's, it's not a Masonic marker, and it's neither obviously religious nor Eugene Hippy.

Well, OK; it does have a Celtic flavor to it, which sort of counts as Eugene Hippy.

Because of how the middle circle is broken up into four, I'm going to guess that this stone was sand-blasted through a template to make the design.  I like how the design is almost a finger-maze, and I like how the four- and three-fold symmetries of the spirals are working together within the overall design.

It's a cool design, and now I want to adapt it to a snub cube.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hope Abbey Details

 Last Sunday we took a walk through the Pioneer Cemetery.  This first shot is a detail photo of Hope Abbey, an Egyptian Revival mausoleum.  I'm not sure how one is interred in Hope Abbey, there aren't too many spaces and I recall that it pretty full.  On ether side of the entrance are lotus carvings. I'm not sure what the three drilled holes at the bottom are for; I'll guess they allow water to drain out of the walls.

In front of the mausoleum are to large concrete urns, decorated like giant lotuses.  They've been restored over the last ten or so years and now sport a full set of petals around their tops (they petals are modular and some were missing).  Planters like this make me want to learn how to work with concrete casting.

The most interesting discovery this walk around with the dead was finding a Daughter of the Revolution's grave site:  she was alive when George Washington was president.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sphinx with Daffodils

It's the Sphinx!

With daffodils.  She's been crouching among them for about two weeks, and I figured if I wanted a good shot with her, I'd better hurry before the flowers wilt.

I lucked into this shot; usually when I photograph her, the Sphinx looks flat -- it was a cloudy day, and the diffuse light probably helped the camera to focus and also softened her features.  I took quite a few shots, trying to re-capture the right combination of camera angle and distance, and this is the photo I like the best.

In a month or so, she'll have a cave of sorts made up of... er, I forget the name of the bushes Mark planted.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Cypress Trees

One of the things Mark has done is have the foresight to recognize that we'll get new neighbors sometime in the next year or two and to plant some visual buffers--cypress trees--between our yards.  Our old neighbor was a few years younger than my grandmother, and it showed in her gardening.  I want to say that she was something like 94 and still working hard in her garden until she slipped at the local market and broke her hip.  She had all sorts of great looking plants.

I brought the camera's macro lens to bare on the cypresses.  Normally what I notice about them is that they seem to like the high clay-content soil we have around here and they're getting taller.  I hadn't noticed that they also make little pine cones.  So I took some photos of them.

It wasn't until I got the photos on a bigger screen that I saw how pine cones are like flowers.  I'd always thought of pine cones as something really different from flowers, but these teeny guys look just like woody rose buds.  And I guess it's where the seeds come from.  (OK. Maybe they're like corn....)

The other cool thing about this shot is how modular the leaves are.  This zoomed in, leaves look like they could come from a Monkey Puzzle Tree.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Colonizing Menace

Up until Sunday, it's been fairly damp here in the Pacific Northwest.  When I went traipsing through the backyard to photograph flowers, I saw that the dandelions have wasted no time pushing up invading stems.  The last couple of weeks it's been raining or drizzling with a high of about 50F.  I suppose it's only a matter of time before the slugs come out in full force.

This is another macro lens shot, and I manged to get the focal point somewhere near the tip of the stem, with resulting fuzziness in the fore- and background.  What I like about this shot is that it's not so much about the fluffy parasols so much as it's about the seeds they carry.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Grape Hyacinth in April

April is the month we get flowers. The grape hyacinth in our yard is blooming.  It's one of my favorite blooms, probably because it's purple, and also because the blooms last fairly long.  The globular clusters of flowers are fun, too.
The camera does pretty well with these flowers, and I'm pleased with how the macro lens was able to get some great details of the inside of the flowers and also the buds at the top of the stem.  Looking at these, I don't know what kind of bug would be small enough to pollinate them.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Tree Rings

 The feature that I like the most about my camera is the macro lens.  It can take a small ladybug and make it the size of Mothra.  Or, as in this case, bring out fine details in a driftwood tree stump.

The stump was part of an assemblage of driftwood.  Some other photos I took came out looking like someone's failed barn-raising.

I like these photos because they look like an arena, and the cracks look like a snowflake or star.   I managed, by luck more than anything, to make the long crack in the second photo down be positioned just behind the focal point, which makes the crack  a boundery between the focused and the unfocused.

These pictures came out nicely, mostly because the sun was about an hour away from setting, which gave an exciting light angle.

The camera feature I like second most is the really long shutter speed setting, which works well for writing with LEDs at night.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Coast Tree Photo

Here.  It's an obligatory photo of an Oregon coast tree that's been slowly blown inland while all the soil and sedimentary rock underneath it is eroded by waves.

Friday, April 04, 2014

"God Creating..." wait. "Pirate Creating..." Is that a compass or just a stick?  OK, "John With His Geometry Fetish."  (Or, "Help, I've Fallen And I Can't Take a Photo.")

I wanted to take a self portrait with me and the sand drawings I'd done.  Secretly, I wanted something like Blake's "God Creating the Universe."  Only with more clothing, because, man, that coastal wind was cold.

I had problems getting the camera to take a picture.   It was so apparently obvious that I was lying on the sand, struggling with a camera, that a woman (bundled up and with a very large mixed drink) offered to take my picture for me.  By then, the cold had sapped the energy in the batteries and the camera died.

But just before she walked over to where I was, I managed to take this.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Pictures in the Sand

When I started taking these pictures, I was mostly playing around with circles in the sand.  I'd wanted to draw some straight lines, but I didn't have a good straight edge with me.

I thought I might be able to use yarn, but the wind was so strong it blew the yarn ball halfway down the beach and pulled any exposed strand into a catenary arch.  When I saw how the string's shadow could be a straight line, I tried to play with it.
Something about the conjunction of a compass, circles in the sand, shadows, string and my hand spoke to me -- I had accidentally bumped into a Greek myth with Daedalus, Ariadne and the Labyrinth.  Finding the right configuration of images became very important.

And then the sun started to set, and clouds diffused the light and I lost the shadow of the string.

If I were doing this again, I would have wanted to photograph someone else's hands, or maybe have someone photograph me because I had difficulties holding the string, holding the camera, looking through the camera, getting the strings shadow right, getting the design in the shot, keeping the camera lens cap or the camera strap from fluttering into the photo, working the rock into the design, keeping the compass in the shot, and not stepping all over the design in the sand.  All the time fighting to keep melancholy songs from Sting's The Soul Cages out of my head by singing quasi-mystic songs from We Three.

To me, the photos are trying to balance the themes of, finding one's place, finding one's way, impermanence and mortality, and the interplay between perception and point-of-view.  And I really wanted a strong image that was a self-portrait without showing my face.

But... in the end, I ended up taking a photo of myself anyway.

The whole set is here:

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

White Seaweed

I was walking the other day over an exposed basalt flow at the coast when I came upon tide pools (or rain pools) on the top of the expanse of rock.

In the top picture shows the pool.  There's a large expanse of the growth at the lower-leftish corner of the pool and a much smaller, linear growth near the pool's middle.

I didn't think to wonder what kind of water was in the pool--it was on top of the rock, well above the barnacle line, so I'm not sure how often the waves would be able to replenish it.

In the clear water was translucent white grass or hair or maybe seaweed.   It reminded me of tapeworms, so I didn't want to touch it.

The camera does a good job with the macro lens, so I was able to get some close-ups of what the stuff looked like.  It seemed to be a plant which was taking advantage of a small seam in the pool.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Cook's Harbor

Over the weekend, we visited Cook's Harbor, a natural rocky bay along the Oregon Coast.  It's one of Oregon's few natural basalt harbors to survive recent storm surge poundings in the last fifty years.

Captain Cook discovered the harbor during his Oregon stop-over before visiting the Hawaiian Islands, unfortunately, the harbor was too shallow to provide a safe anchoring point for his ship.

Locals tell stories about smugglers' caves at Cook's Harbor, but I wasn't able to see any obvious signs of a cache.  Maybe if the tide had been different, I would have been able to see features normally under water.

In the fifties, there used to be mermaid sightings, and the local historical museum had some brochures from back then which featured "Triton, The King of the Merfolk."  The illustration was sort of Greek statue meets Buster Crabbe.   Inside was a black-and-white photo of a 1950's woman named Helen Elden, holding a clear-ish triangular object with rounded edges which was supposedly a scale from her aquatic boyfriend.  The museum write-up pointed out how most of the sitings of Triton were by women, and eventually they were written off as "Fisherwife Fever" or an advertisement stunt by a local motel (now destroyed after the Columbus Day storm).

On a warm night after a very sunny day, I could easily imagine merguys lounging around in the warm waters.