April 2004 Archives

Ships in the Night

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I spent the day in the darkroom. Apart from an hour of infinite series problems, then another hour of finishing off the roll of film I did my self-portraits on, of course. I developed that roll of film, which turned out to be fogged, though possibly through no fault of mine (maybe exposure to too much heat was the verdict from the experts; it wasn't one of the rolls I took to England, which did end up slightly fogged). At any rate, the teacher seemed to think it was fixable through contrast filter use, so I'll make an attempt later.

Then I went into the printing darkroom and spent four hours bumping into and being bumped into by other people, because two of the room safelights were out and it was exceptionally dark, even for a darkroom. I usually adjust enough that I don't need to use my own safelight for anything but note-taking, but today I had to rely on my safelight for everything, including seeing what the timer was set to.

I made about twelve prints, with varying success. I worked entirely from older negatives, as the new ones were still too curly to print nicely. I also experimented with the adjustable easel, which turned out to be a royal pain in the ass to use. I actually returned it after a couple of prints because it was driving me nuts. I like the unadjustable ones so much more, and printing with them is so much faster.

I cut short my printing time because I was getting tired from all that standing on concrete. I am working tomorrow morning and early afternoon on guild stuff -- I want to make a couple of birdhouses so I can keep one and give the guild one to sell -- so if I am not worn out from that I may go back to the darkroom and make a contact sheet and some prints from the portraits roll, just to see how they come out.

When I got home, I spent some time researching kilns and throwing wheels. I want to buy a wheel for less than $300, but that seems like a long shot, unless I comb tag sales and craigslist. I thought kick wheels would be cheaper, but they're right up there with electric wheels. I guess I'm not the only person who prefers them. On the other hand, it looks like I can get a kiln for considerably less than I had initially thought, with all the bells and whistles I want. Now we just need to built The Shed to house it.

What a Lecture

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Today the guild had Richard Notkin in to discuss his work. He gave two lectures: one a history of his work from 1968 to present, and the other, after a brief break, a technical explanation of how he makes his work and the sorts of clay and surface treatments he uses.

This man is a master mold maker. His molds are works of art in and of themselves, and I took four pages of notes during his technical talk. I came away with some really great, useful information on mold making, and I can't wait to use it (but I must, as our last day of wet clay is next Wednesday and I have three sculptures to finish before then).

So, here's some of what I got from the lecture:

  • Pouring spouts can be drilled after the mold is made, to the size of a funnel which you insert in the hole. Then the plastic of the funnel keeps the clay from hardening in the spout and makes it easier to empty the mold and to clean up afterward.
  • You can make molds of tiny items by adding small air vents to the exterior and forcing the slip in with a syringe or baster.
  • Formica-covered boards make the best cottle boards.
  • When mold soap is dirty it tends to foam, so pour a small amount in a cup to use for a particular mold and discard it when it has gone cloudy.
  • You can make masters for moldmaking from leather-hard clay turned on the wheel and milled out with carving tools; the solid clay keeps the whole thing damp.
  • When you make a mold of a leather-hard clay positive, line the hole in the clay bed with plastic wrap to keep the positive from sticking to the clay bed. Use super-wet clay for the clay bed and make that conform to the positive, and you will keep your detail.
  • You can store castings under bell jars to keep them damp without losing detail from plastic contact.
  • You can carve out the detail in undercuts after doing a casting, and you will still have saved yourself time on modelling.
  • Time is a tool.

I also really enjoyed his sense of humour and self-possession about his art. At one point he talked about how the teapot makers in Yixing complained that his teapots were not functional, to which he responded, "Some of my teapots are not very functional, but I think I'm more interested in conveying ideas and concepts than tea."

We Control the Weather

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Everybody has their incantations to make the weather get cooler: they get waxed, they wash the car, they make reservations at a beach cottage. Not in this household. In this household there is one tried and true method of making the weather take a turn for the worse: I make ice.

Noel and I are not great consumers of ice. We tend to keep beverages in the fridge in the first place, and mostly we drink water from the tap. I don't like things too cold to taste, and either Noel agrees or he goes along with it because he's a big wuss. So it's rare that I pull out the ice trays and fill them; rare enough that it always involves a moment of wondering where it was that I stored them when we put them away last. Yes, we put them away, because while we have plenty of fridge space, our freezer space is limited to the over-fridge compartment which I fill up with loaves of bread, frozen vegetables, and ice cream.

Usually what happens when I make ice is that the weather immediately gets cold enough that ice seems ridiculous, and a week later, when I'm trying to stuff another pint of ice cream into the freezer that is packed to capacity, the ice trays come out, get emptied, and go into storage until the next time it's hot for a few days.

Anyway, it's been almost unbearably hot the last few days, and I was thinking I might not mind a nice iced soda, so I pulled out the ice trays, washed them, cleared a space for them in the freezer, and filled them up. At that moment, a nice cooling ocean breeze floated across the island, and the temperature dropped ten degrees and I'm not kidding or exaggerating. OK, so I knew an ocean breeze was expected this evening, but wow, I didn't know I could work magic like that.

But I have a plan, one that will probably change the course of history, perhaps even the climate of Northern California. When the ice I made set up, I put it in a freezer bag and stuffed it into a spare corner. There's no room for trays of ice, but a bag of ice can be squeezed in around other frozen items. So now we will have ice for a long time. Which means that either it will stay cold (it's the having ice that makes it happen) or it will not (it's the tray in the freezer, rather than the ice itself).

I will keep you informed.

I Feel So Sorry...

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For any intelligence officer who has to spend any amount of time determining whether there's valuable information on any of my various blogs.

Some panel and conference participants, because of their profession, could not be identified. But another who could is Robert Steele, another blog booster. The former U.S. intelligence officer said "absolutely" that blogs are valid sources of intelligence and news, though he said authenticating the information in blogs "leaves a lot to be desired."

The Ballad of Socks and Undies

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I was just in the bedroom thinking, "Well, I've let the laundry pile up to a mound of epic proportions again," when it occurred to me to wonder what sort of an epic that would be. The mythical tale of The Lost Sock, the sweet interlude of the Shirt Behind the Dresser, the chanson of the Delicates Awaiting Enough for a Load.

Then I thought, maybe it's really just time for bed.

Let's Talk Browsers

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I've designed this site to work best with Windows. Not out of any nefarious plan, but because I have a Windows machine on my desktop, and that's the machine I used to design it. When I get a Mac this summer, I expect that the design will morph into something that works with the Mac, too. Until then, live with it.

Given that fact, let's look at some browser statistics from my weblogs.

About 80 percent of my hits come from Internet Explorer of one flavour or another; the vast majority are IE 6. You might think that that means that the remaining 20 percent are other browsers, but in fact 8 percent of my hits come from spiders. About 10 percent of my hits are Mozilla users, and 0.23 percent of my hits come from Opera. I haven't compiled results for the other minority browsers; I might get around to modifying the log munger one of these days, but you get the idea.

Why is IE so ubiquitous? I use it myself, and the reason I use it is that everybody designs sites to work best for it, so why bother getting only half the function and none of the design on inferior sites? I'm not surfing the web to prove a point, and I'm definitely not interested in sticking Microsoft one in the belly by choosing some other browser that fails to be standards-compliant in its own unique way. And since everybody designs for IE, more people use IE; they also don't care to fight the noble fight against a corporation just to prove a point they don't believe in much, anyway.

How do you fix this?

First, you need a browser that can figure out what browser that can switch modes to fit with IE's non-compliant code, Mozilla's non-compliant code, or whoever's non-compliant code, and do so fast. Maybe with tabs at the top of the page, so you can change screens and have it just work. Even better would be if it would read the code and figure out which browser to emulate on the fly. Even better would be if it would fix awful web coding on the fly and present you with only perfectly marked-up pages that don't use crappy, pixelated fonts or 1990s web design mores. I can dream, too, you know.

Second, you need to kill everybody who thinks that Word or FrontPage or any other graphical interface can produce workable HTML. Or send them to re-education camps, though that's something I allow only on my most generous days.

Third, nobody is allowed to have "under construction" on a web page. Ever. It's not under construction. You're just pretending to have more content than you really can come up with. I know that has nothing to do with browsers and is just a pet peeve of mine about the web, but it really does have to end now.

Fourth, we all just decide to run our monitors at true colour settings so all this web-safe palette bullshit can come to an end. The fine art of finding non-dithering colours on multiple platforms is not something we should be spending our time worrying about. Instead, I want to see some work on wiping out really bad site designs.

Every Beat of My Heart

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After reading an article on health this weekend which said that the greatest predictor of surviving a heart attack is not blood factors but overall athletic condition, I decided to make a more concerted effort at regular gym time. Of course, I had to choose a day when it's a million degrees out to begin this routine. On the other hand, I came home to find an article on recovering with a nice big meal of carbs, so maybe the health section is not all about making me suffer.

I also found this interesting article, which notes that:

Women who work out looking at mirrors were found to lose desire to exercise or to get easily tired.

I hate working out near a mirror, because it makes me feel slower and less coordinated. Nice to see my observations backed up with more scientific study.

Munchausen

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I'm taking a printing class. In a printing shop, you use a lot of nasty chemicals, not the least of which are the solvents used to clean the press. This stuff will make you light-headed if you breathe it in for too long.

At the beginning of our last class, the teacher made an announcement: nobody was to come to class having washed with scented soap, because one of our classmates had a chemical sensitivity, and the scent was the cause of it. Oddly enough, this person had no trouble being in a closed room with open containers of type wash. Type wash is a mixture of acetone, toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, and isopropyl alcohol. This is not nice stuff, and trust me, if you're sensitive to the sort of carrier for perfumes in shampoo, that cocktail is going to knock you on your butt fair and square all on its own.

But instead of her leaving class and giving up on printing because it was too toxic for her, we were supposed to forgo bathing before class.

Oddly, this student was perfectly fine with spending all day in the printing shop working away on her project, as long as she didn't smell any pleasant smells. It was contact with a perfume that did her in, not the printing chemicals. "I lost a day of work because of it last week," she complained to me. I was surprised that she could function so close to me, because I was literally awash with scent, having washed both body and hair with scented products, and even applied a scented deodorant only half an hour before this scene took place.

I find it intriguing that most of the "victims" of this "disease" are women, and most of them are disempowered in some way. It's like the modern version of neuralgia; a convenient disease to lean on, and one which would naturally incapacitate a person at random. In the old days, women would find their neuralgia acting up whenever important decisions needed to be made. These days they get migraines and have to retire to bed because somebody wore perfume near them.

Add to the mixture the thrill of having a disease that supposedly confounds the medical community, and you get a set of ingredients for a perfect whine. MCS "sufferers" always seem to be able to make everybody else around them suffer, too. They prohibit other people from using scented products (but somehow don't notice the use of those products if they're not told about them). They make other people give in to the greater need of their "illness" as a way of gaining control and power. And if you point it out to them they fall back on the argument that you're insensitive to their plight. Everybody else is always the bad person, you see.

I used to argue with these people. I had to stop, because the more you argue with them the more energy you give them. The more you argue with them, the more you validate their victim role. I find the perpetual whiner type really tiresome, and try to avoid them at all costs. It took a real effort to not point out the inconsistencies in my classmate's self-diagnosis to her; I almsot suggested she see Noel's allergist because "he's one of the best allergists in the city," but I decided I didn't want to be remotely sympathetic to her, and suggesting she might legitimately be getting sick from perfume would have had that effect.

Cheap Molds With a Catch

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I've found a nice source of weird plaster molds for ceramics: eBay. They can be had for relatively little; often less than $10 each. The catch is that shipping on a huge hunk of plaster is likely to run into the $30 range, at least.

But they have stuff listed there that is simply not available in catalogs.

I've been shocked at the utter schlock in catalogs, and the lack of really good, weird molds for doing something more than making trinkets for the craft fair circuit. I expected more pots, more things for doing something remotely artistic, but as far as I can tell, the artists make their own molds and eschew the commercial mold market altogether.

It's that classic issue: if it can be made in mass, can it be art? A ridiculous thing to be arguing about, in my opinion. Mass production itself can be art, as any first-year art student should know well and good. Art is about evoking emotions, and if something evokes emotions, why bother arguing about whether it can be art based on some supposed criteria for what constitutes real art? Art happens, and if you try to stop it from happening by redefining it to death you are only cheating yourself.

So I've been buying molds on eBay with no particular project in mind. They are just crying to be turned into a weird army of figures, lined up along one side of the yard, painted with wode and armed with pitchforks against the English.

An Urge to Declutter

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Both Noel and I have been feeling that familiar urge to purge in the last few weeks. He's eyeing a bunch of audio gear that he never uses; I'm eyeing things in the office and drawing studio that haven't been used and are not likely to be used in the next four years.

Today I found Karen Kingston's web page through a circuitous route, and came across this excerpt from her book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui:

If you somehow get your life moving again, you will instinctively want to clear the clutter out of your home and make a fresh start. It will feel like the obvious thing to do.

I've been thinking about how to make things happen more smoothly and effectively (as I prepare to do some serious academic work for the first time in more than a decade; City College definitely does not count), and I think a nice flushing of the house systems might be a good thing. Maybe it's time to take all that ceramic ware and make the mosaic I've been saying I want to make. Then I can get rid of everything I didn't use in good conscience.

When the Air Sparkles

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I had a long day today: nine hours in studios of various sorts.

In the sculpture studio we did viscosity transfer today, and I printed a Beethoven portrait. I need to built a stand for my multiple Beethovens, so I can print all over it. I'm thinking now that a back would be a good idea, because it gives me more surfaces for printing.

I also developed two rolls of film -- the film from the UK plus half a roll taken around campus -- which came out nicely, despite a brief flash of light on one of them when I made a mistake during development. I put them in the notebook to flatten and will make contact sheets tomorrow. I was very happy with my new bin for toting that gear around -- a file box from Office Max. It's just about perfectly sized for everything I have, and fits exactly in the locker I have near the darkroom. It meant I just grabbed the bin instead of fumbling around trying to pile everything up neatly and keep the smaller bits like the thermometer clip from rolling all over the place.

The printing room was also open tonight, so I was able to drop in and make my polymer plate, then proof and print the black part of my page. I still need to make the linoleum print of lemons that I want to put on the rest of the page, along with Julia's portrait (the polymer plate).

As I left school, the air seemed to sparkle. Maybe it was too much time with toxic chemicals, but the black of the night seemed blacker and the lights seemed sparklier than usual. It made for a lovely drive.

School Fashion Report

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Seen today:

Slender young Japanese female wearing the typical Manga-styled heavy socks and platform shoes, but with Morris-style jingly bells sewn onto the socks.

And apparently, everybody who's anybody is showing their underpants this season.

Stupid, Pointless Questions

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Many years ago, a former girlfriend of mine who was obsessed with the Indigo Girls (and by extension did not understand my own mild obsession with REM) told me, in all seriousness, that when they recorded "Kid Fears," they'd had to put Michael Stipe's voice through a harmonizer because he couldn't hit the right notes.

This never made any sense to me. Sure, I can see having to fix his voice; I love Michael Stipe, but he's no Caruso. But it seemed like if you were going to fix his voice to fit into a harmony, it wouldn't be to send it up or down uniformly, but rather to bring every individual note into the right place separately, and that seemed like a lot of work, when you could just find somebody else to sing the part in the first place. You don't ask Michael Stipe to sing a trio with you when you want absolute perfection.

I can see multiple takes. Hell, I can see them sitting there and sounding out every note with him to make sure he hit it right, for days and days on end. Except that he doesn't appear to be faltering at all in the song, and I've heard him sing many times when he was feeling insecure about his voice, so I know what that sounds like.

I asked Noel about it, he scoffed. That's not what harmonizers are for. Harmonizers are used to bring an entire part up or down to fit into a harmony, not to fix an inability to hit notes.

But it still bothers me. Where would this rumour come from, and why? Did she make it up just to hurt my feelings? If so, why bother trying to insult me via my musical choices. It's not like I like REM because of the incredible qualities of Michael Stipe's voice. I mean, I like his voice, but it's the rawness of it that I like.

There's nothing about it on the web, which leads me to believe it's not a terribly common rumour, because at the very least one person would have mentioned it (of course, now I have, so I'm that one person).

Coding Is Hard

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I've been trying to enroll for summer classes via the web interface. Instead of taking classes in San Francisco, I want to take them on my very own island, so that means a new computer enrollment system, and apparently one that's not coded very robustly.

My "appointment" -- the hour after which I can enroll whenever I wish -- was for 9:45 am today, according to the postcard I received some weeks ago. But when I try to enroll, I get this mysterious message:

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I've been trying to figure out how they got it to fail in exactly that way all day.

Popular in Germany

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For a long time, when we first found out about David Hasslehof's German music career, the phrase "popular in Germany" was used in my group of friends to mean, basically, utter shit. So imagine my surprise when I find that my web site (not just this blog) is incredibly popular in Germany.

For some reason, the #3 referrer on my site is this page of unrelated links. I can only think that somebody has a bad web browser that gives the last page visited as the referrer, whether a link was followed or not, but even so, 122 hits came via that page in the last three weeks. That's a lot. Even leaving aside all the German-based Google searches.

(#1, by the way, is by far and away The Knot, on account of my detailed explanation of the making of tissue packets for one's wedding. This is my legacy.)

(#2 is Google.)

So there you have it. I'm inexplicably popular in Germany. Should my popular but schlocky talking-car series get cancelled in the US, I'll just go over there and sing for a few years until they come up with a series where I watch barely dressed boobies jogging on the beach all day. Except I have to land that talking-car series first, and there's this small matter of my not being an actor. Not that David Hasselhof is an actor, but he at least pretends to be one.

Like a Donut Chef

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I concentrated on glazing today in studio.

I had a whole pile of stuff that needed washing and glazing: seven Beethovens, nine Hello Kitties, five eggs, and three gnomes. Plus the nest and some other odds and ends (a couple baby heads). I didn't get to everything.

I started by glazing the eggs with Shiny White, which is a sort of eggshelly shiny white glaze like a sink or toilet might be glazed with. Then I did the Kitties: three in various dips of Shiny White, then three with assorted decoration in pink engobe, dipped in Transparent, then three just dipped in Transparent. I had to wash one of the Kitties whose glaze I marred by not paying attention, but they're not doing a cone 10 firing until later in the week so it's all good.

I painted one baby head with pink engobe and dipped it halfway in Transparent, which kind of made it look like an orc from the LOTR movie. One of the guys remarked that it was really disturbing. The other baby head -- the one that is going in the giant egg on the nest -- I painted in thick red iron oxide, so it will come out shiny gunmetal when it's fired at cone 10. I finished working on the egg for that one -- a piece from a mold borrowed from Angela -- earlier in the day.

For the Beethovens, I dipped the faceless one in Mark's Temoku (which is black with gold flecks in it fired on white clay at cone 10), then dipped the others in Shiny White. I'll dip them in Trout Green tomorrow, so when they're fired they'll be a pale green that darkens in the depressions. I had to wait on dipping them the second time because the clay was so thin that the glaze had to air dry, and that's slower than letting the clay suck up all the water.

I didn't get to the gnomes, in part because I couldn't quite decide which glaze I wanted to use. I think I know now.

Finally, I glazed the one pear I have -- which I'm going to make into a bell -- with one of the low-fire underglazes. Those underglazes become actual glazes at cone 10, and there happened to be one that's sort of golden yellow with brown flecks in it, like a pear. So I put two coats of that on the pear and I'll finish it tomorrow morning. I realized when I got home that I'd left the bottle of underglaze out, and I hope nobody gets themself in trouble with it.

Other studio fun: One of the people in another class asked to use my Beethoven mold, so I left her a note on it saying yes, and telling her not to use red clay in it (red clay will stain the mold and any white clay I use in it forever after; I'm fairly sure I'll be remaking that mold over the summer, but I don't want to borrow trouble). Then somebody else in the class asked to use the same mold, so I said yes. He managed to pour the mold in the last minutes of the class, so the clay will still be in there tomorrow when this other person wants to use it. Maybe I will demold it for him tomorrow afternoon, if he doesn't show up and do it himself. We only have a couple weeks of wet clay left, and the Beethoven mold has to sit overnight to unmold properly.

Next class I'm going to bring in the text I want to print for the platform to hold the Beethovens. I'm trying to find sheet music for Beethoven's 7th symphony, but maybe I will give up and go with the 9th (which is my favourite, anyway).

PS - I forgot to mention: I also made a gnome with wings on it (wings from a classmate's mold). I'm going to call it "Fly Away Gnome." It will go with the Gnome Garden.

Art and Garden

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Here's a photo of my ceramic wall piece. From this piece I learned that it is often best to glue after firing, rather than build something complex and detailed and inclined to sag and then fire it. I kind of like it, though.

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And here's how the Cecile Brunner rose is coming along. I cut off the first two tiny roses and gave them to friends last night.

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Noel's New Toy

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A couple weeks ago Noel was offered the chance to buy an old, somewhat damaged harpsichord from a friend who had inherited it and didn't want to ship it back East. He naturally jumped at the offer and today he went and picked it up. It needs some repair work, but seems to be mostly in good shape. A decent harpsichord for playing, or so he says. It sounded nice to me.

Here are some photos:

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Quaking in my Boots

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It's not the first time that somebody has tried to predict an earthquake, but this seems like more media coverage than the quacks usually get. I'm torn between being really excited about the possibility that earthquakes can be predicted with such accuracy, and not entirely convinced that they will be right this time.

Also, we were already planning a foundation replacement. You can't get much more hardcore interested in earthquake safety than that.

Great Irritation

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I should not be too surprised, but MSIE basically lets any web developer install any software they bleeding well please on my computer. I'm running a scan to check for spyware and there are three (THREE) such programs on my machine. I don't do a lot of high-risk browsing (like porn, gaming, or music swapping), but this stuff has appeared on my machine in the last month.

It makes me very angry, because it seems like Microsoft invariably ignores the first rule of computer security: if it doesn't need to be open, it should be closed. And they do so at the expense of my system, such that I have to spend a day out of each month cleaning up after the mess their inferior software makes. I'm very much looking forward to getting my Mac laptop this summer, I can tell you.

Who Taught These People?

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In the newsletter from our gym, this paragraph:

"I have always worked out," Roberto said. "You've just got to keep going. Don't stop. That's what I want as my epithet: 'Athlete.'"

Photos from the UK

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Here are some photos from last week, from the digital camera. I've also got a couple rolls of black and white film to develop, some of which I'm very interested in seeing. Some of it I know will be boring, but that's film photography for you.

Anyway:

We stayed with the charming Paul and Jenny Sartin in Wherwell, England. Paul is one part of Dr. Faustus, which you probably have not heard of unless you're a folk music person. Paul and Jenny have three boys: James, William, and Joe. They've recently done a huge amount of construction at their house (built an addition and expanded into the attic) so the house was in a bit of chaos, but no more than we're used to.

Noel in the dining room practising the melodion

James looking at the trout in the Test River on a walk. There's a wooden walkway that crosses the river towards the commons.

The Test River

The Wherwell village commons

Hoofprints on the commons

A swan in the Test thinks we might give it a handout. Ha!

Paul has an impossibly tiny piano, which I suppose is possible if you give up a couple octaves on either end. What you can't see in this photo is that the piano is desperately out of tune.

Downtown Winchester. Paul was singing in the choir for Evensong on Palm Sunday, so we went down to listen. We had some time before service started, so we walked around town, where everything was closed.

Trolley Creche. Hee hee.

Paul Sartin

While Noel and Paul did their music workshops, I spent a lot of time tromping around in the countryside around Tockington. Here's one of the muddy footpaths I walked along outside Tockington.

Tree on the footpath

Near an old-age home: I find this road sign incredibly funny, for no good reason.

Finally, one of the women at the workshop agreed to drive me in to Bristol so I could see more than just a bunch of mud and some distant cows. Here's a cherry tree in Castle Park, Bristol

St. Peter's Church, Castle Park, Bristol

Another flowering tree in Castle Park

Fountain in Castle Park

I liked the name of this shop: Foreign Nonsense, Bristol

Does anybody know what kind of tree this is? It's in a garden in Tockington.

Cows, outside Tockington

We took a quick couple of days in Edinburgh and saw, among others, Ferag NicBhrde and Charlie Stross

Back in Bristol for half a day (before Paul could come pick us up during the lunch break at the workshop), we went to see Bristol Cathedral

Some pictures of the kids:

Joe Sartin

William Sartin

James and William Sartin

And of the village:


Fresh Dog

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This evening I drove up to Albany to pick up Rosie from the Dog Bus. She popped out freshly washed and full of energy, but as soon as she got in the car she dropped off to sleep. Once home, she had a trip to the yard to check who'd been there while she was away, then had her dinner and retired for the evening.

One nice touch this time: they gave us some photos of Rosie at play. I'm glad she actually uses the pool, as opposed to merely staring at it as she does with the ocean.

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Jet Lag-o-Rama

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Back from a week which was simultaneously nothing like we expected it to be, and a lot of fun. Staying with a family in a foreign country -- especially one with small children -- is very different from camping on the sofas of friends or staying in nice hotels. Quite refreshing, actually, but the kids in question were not all bad and we were given authority to make them behave by the parents, which makes things much easier.

Two notes on travel as I get older: business class is my new best friend, and economy class is, well, about as horrible as it can get, except on old planes with the tight spacing on the seats, where it's unbearable. I stood half the flight to get the kinks out of my legs, and keep in mind that I'm a pretty small person and generally fit nicely into airline seats.

Also, a week in a distant time zone is just long enough to get really settled in, before you have to turn around and come back.

We're taking turns at the miniscule bath tub, then off to bed early (except that for us it's the middle of the night).

Panic! Panic! Panic!

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We've known about this trip to England for weeks. So why am I just finishing laundry now, less than twelve hours before we have to report to the security people for our obligatory Ayse-is-one-of-them-ay-rab-names extensive "random" search?

Because I'm a lousy planner, that's why.

I can work out detailed plans for art projects and programming projects, plan weekly newpaper pages for months in advance in my head, but getting my act together enough to have all the laundry done, folded, and ready to be packed for a trip is beyond me. I spent several hours this afternoon doing things like stacking Noel's empty boxes in one pile (instead of all over the house) and thinking, "I should really put that load of laundry in the washer" every few minutes. So why did I not do it?

On the other hand, I did an enormous number of other errands in the last few days (not everything I needed to do, but most things). I bought various things requested by friends in the UK (such as Thomas the Tank Engine toys), plus some gifts not requested. I cast a dozen objects from the molds I've made. I sprayed Roundup all over the weeds in the yard. I weeded three buckets full of weeds. I checked out the possibilities for laptops at the Apple store (decision: 17" Powerbook is much larger than I want a laptop computer to be; 15" is perfectly fine). I finished requesting all my transcripts for Calpoly, and preparing for my portfolio review (including reserving a room). I bought magazines to read on the plane. I brought back my library books on time. I brought copies of my transcripts to City College so they could perform a weird but valuable service known as "transcript review" that tells Calpoly whether I have taken enough distribution classes to be General Education certified. I studied for and took a calculus midterm. I developed 2 rolls of film and 25 images from those rolls of film. I bought a new bag of dog food so Rosie had enough food for dog camp. I started a new hobby (silkscreening). I read four web pages about blungers. I worked out a method for making molds of molds so I can have nice casting molds forever.

I've been a busy person over the last three days. But I still haven't managed to get the laundry done or pick up the dry cleaning (which has been ready and waiting for like two weeks now, if not longer). And it's after 11pm and we still haven't even started packing.

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