Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Cover Me

Cross-posted from Outpost Mâvarin:

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Take a picture of something you've made. Pottery, cookies, a drawing or painting, a poem or a pipe cleaner stick man -- it's all good, it just has to have been made by you. Show off your creativity.

First of all, John Scalzi, Carly, Steven, Pat and I want you to know you've put us in a bit of a pickle with this one. Compare your topic with the one announced this past Thursday for the next Round Robin Photo Challenge, entries to be posted on Wednesday, November 1st:

Pat (Deslily) author of the journal, "Here There And Everywhere 2nd Edition," has chosen "The Creative Side Of You" as our theme for the challenge.... Show off your creative side, by posting photos of anything you have created from scratch.

See? Pretty much the same thing, isn't it? You've kinda stolen our thunder here.

Of course we'll forgive you if you plug the Round Robin Photo Challenges. We've being doing these for a year and a half, and you haven't mentioned them yet, perhaps because we didn't ask! Well, we're asking now - nicely, even. Pretty please, beloved Blogfather? Hey, you can even be a Robin yourself if you want to!

While our favorite Campbell Award winner is mulling that over, let's get on with posting a few pictures of things I made. These are three issues of The Observer, the Quantum Leap fanzine / newsletter I used to edit. I designed all of these covers (and many others), wrote much of the stuff inside and edited the rest.

This first cover doesn't look like much, but it's from the first issue of the zine, back around Christmas 1990. It's also an almost exact replica of the cover of a report issued to members of a Senate Committee deciding the fate of Project Quantum Leap in the second season premiere episode, "Honeymoon Express."

This cover is from the fourth issue. I didn't take the photo, and I certainly didn't create or design one of the premiere news magazines of all time. But I did design this parody of their distinctive covers. It refers to a line of dialogue in the pilot episode, in which Al tells amnesiac Sam Beckett that "Time Magazine even called you 'the next Einstein.'" I sent a framed copy of this to the show's production office, back in the day.

Now we come to the best cover I ever did, certainly the most ambitious and labor-intensive. Back in 1993 I did have access to PhotoShop, unlike now, and worked on a Mac. On the other hand, it was 1993, a long time ago in terms of technology. I replaced every face, every object on the cover of The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band with someone or something Leapish. I had trouble photographing the glossy cover well, but you get the idea. Click on the photos for much larger versions of the Observer 9 (Number nine, number nine) cover.

The four Beatles in the center are QL creator Donald P. Bellisario, stars Dean Stockwell and Scott Bakula, and writer/co-executive producer Deborah Pratt. The four waxwork Beatles to the left have been replaced by the four founders of Project Quantum Leap the club. The rest of the cover has guest stars, writers, producers, fans, a crew T-shirt, Dean Stockell's Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Panasonic camera. And Look! Teresa Murray's holding a copy of Observer 4 in her waxwork hand!

If you'd like to join in on the Round Robin topic, we'll be delighted to have you! Please see the Round Robin blog for details. The posting date for entries about "The Creative Side Of You" is Wednesday, November 1st.


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Friday, October 20, 2006

Classic Spooky Music!

Cross-posted, as usual, from Outpost Mâvarin (except the pictures here are bigger)....

Weekend Assignment: We're making a Halloween Music Mix! Suggest a song. The song can be scary, spooky or silly, but it should fit into Halloween somehow. All genres are acceptable; indeed, I'd be very interested to know of a country or samba song that would work.

Extra Credit: Are you spooked easily?

You know, I could swear I've written about this before, complete with posted photos of my Haunted Mansion and Buffy Once More With Feeling CDs. But Google says no. AOL Journals search says no. Actually reading titles on the Musings archive pages for 10/05 and 10/04, and looking at any entries that sound as though they might contain what I remember, I still can't find it.

Yes, well, okay, I did find my "Haunted by the Mansion" entry, but that wasn't so much about the music. I don't care. I remember writing about party music involving Disney attraction music and Buffy and Quantum Leap...oh. Okay, that's the problem. It was party music in general, or sf and fantasy party music, not specifically Disney or Halloween. Even if I still haven't found the entry. It was probably on the Outpost, anyway.

So, for the record, I'll just recap the Halloween standards around here before moving on to some other selections:

The Haunted Mansion 30th Anniversary CD. Features the entire Disneyland attraction narration and music and effects, outtakes by Paul Frees and others, a clip from the Florida one, a Vincent Price narration for Phantom Manor, and even a Japanese Ghose Host. But the main drawing card is still that great song, "Grim Grinning Ghosts," with Thurl Ravenscroft as one of the singers.

Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House
. I don't actually have this on CD, but I used to play the sound effects side of this Disneyland record every year when I was a teenager.

Pirates of the Caribbean CD. Same kind of deal as the Haunted Mansion one. It's not as overtly Halloween, but you gotta love Paul Frees intoning "Dead men tell no tales!" On the CD, several dead men proceed to tell tales in outtakes.

But, as I say, I've already expressed by appreciation for these recordings. Let's change the channel - literally.

The new Frigidaire

This afternoon, as I waited for the refrigerator to arrive, I turned our digital cable on to the music channel labeled "Sounds of the Season," and immediately got to hear "Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon. 11 hours later, that channel is still on, on its second run through its surprisingly large Halloween playlist. I've heard three different songs by Bobby "Boris" Pickett (two of which of boringly derivative of his one real hit), soundtrack music by John Carpenter, Elvira sounding a little like Julie Brown, "Bewitched" (the tv theme) by Peggy Lee(!), a parody song called "Drac the Knife," two songs from Rocky Horror Picture Show, songs by the Ramones, the Cramps, Bing Crosby, Andrew Gold, Michael Jackson ("Thriller," of course) and whatever unknowns someone called Drew recorded on surprisingly decent cover versions of songs for Halloween party CDs. Good stuff, some of it, plus a lot of forgettable stuff, and a few clunkers, such as "Dracula's Theme from Swan Lake," in which a silly, badly acted spoken word scenario in a graveyard is combined with Tchaikovsky.

Still, classical music does deserve its rightful place on the Halloween playlist. On the Fantasia soundtrack alone (which I bought on LP back in college, and had to exchange several times due to a bad pressing) has Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, the quintessential spooky organ music, plus Modest Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain. (Actually, I was reading today that the Fantasia version of Night on Bald Mountain I know was heavily revised by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Leopold Stokowski.)

But my favorite spooky classical piece (albeit less so now than when I was a kid) has always been Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns. (Listen to it here.) It's based on a medieval allegory about dancing skeletal figures from all walks of life - the rich and the poor, the powerful and the peasants - all called by Death. (Hey, these people were dealing with the Plague at the time.) I remember being exposed to this musical masterpiece back in elementary school, and even seeing a cartoon that went with it. But like that blog entry about spooky music, I can't prove that what Iremember ever existed. Yes, there's a great Disney cartoon called The Skeleton Dance, the first Silly Symphony ever made. I've even read claims that the music for that was the Danse Macabre, or, at least, that brilliant cartoon composer-arranger Carl Stalling adapted the Saint-Saens for it. But it just doesn't sound like it to me. Ah, well. Next you'll tell me there is no wooden bridge in Lucerne, Switzerland that depicts the Dance of Death on its wooden panels. But there is. I photographed it when I was 15 years old. And no, I don't have the pictures.

Extra Credit: well, I am a little spooked that I can't prove what I remember, and also that it's past 2:30 AM already!


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

MPS: Wonderful Worlds of Color

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Turn something an unexpected color. Most photo editing software will let you fiddle with the hue of your photos: Use that feature to make your photos subject a color it would be impossible (or at least, very unlikely) for it to be in real life.

Okay. I can do that!

a canal near YumaA canal outside Yuma.

Sand dunes near Yuma - or perhaps an alien planet
Sand dunes near Yuma. Or is it another planet?

Purple pumpkin eaters rejoiceAny purple pumpkin eaters around? Disneyland.

Oddly enough, I've had color on my mind today. I did some work on a Wikipedia article called "The Spectrum Song," the lyrics of which begin,

Red, yellow, green, red,
Blue, blue blue,

Pink, green, brown, yellow, orange,
Red, red.

It was sung by Paul Frees as Ludwig Von Drake, in the first-ever episode of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. It was part of the first Von Drake cartoon, An Adventure in Color. The first half of the episode was all color this, color that, and it was all in aid of promoting the show's new name, new color format, and its move to NBC. But that's okay. It's a cute song by the Sherman Brothers. John had it on a recond as a kid. And Wonderful World of Color was my era of watching that show, back when Uncle Walt was still alive to host it.

Boo!This last shot is an experiment and a teaser for the Round Robin Photo Challenge, "Very Scary." More scary pictures tomorrow night!


Originally posted on Outpost Mâvarin, 10/17/2006 01:01:00 AM (more or less)

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Statistical People

the people ahead of us at Disneyland, October 8, 2006

The people ahead of us at Disneyland, October 8, 2006

John Scalzi mentioned today the heavily-reported fact that the U.S. population officially just hit 300 million. I wrote such a long comment about this that I've decided to post it here:

When this subject comes up it always reminds me of a population counter display I saw at the 1964 New York World's Fair. Back then the count was a little over 200 million, and for years afterward that was my rule of thumb - 210 million, 214 million, 220 million...after that I lost track. I was fascinated at the time by the ticker (I was seven years old), and wanted to know how they knew that someone had been born, someone had died, someone had immigrated, someone had emigrated. The display covered all four of those factors. I think it was my brother Steve (age 14 at the time) who explained about statistics and estimates and the census.

But ever since then I've never quite believed the official count - in general, perhaps, but not specifically. Having gone door to door as an enumerator for R.L. Polk in 1977, I know that people don't always want to be counted. How do they know exactly how many people are evading the census takers? How do they know the degree of fluctuation in the birth and death rates between actual counts? So okay, yes, MAYBE the 300 millionth current American arrived today by birth, boat, plane or on foot. But more likely it's a statistical convention, and only vaguely correct. In terms of real living breathing people, the milestone may have been reached last week or last mont, or could be yet to come - and we'll never know it.

Is this milestone, such as it is, a good thing or a bad thing? Some of each, I expect. There are economic facters involved, and political ones, and sociological ones, and environmental ones. Economically, the country needs an influx of taxpayers to pay for the social security benefits of aging baby boomers. Legal immigration seems likely to fit the bill there. But sociologically, we are still fighting that same old human tendency to label people outside our own tribe as Them, and view Them with suspicion and disdain. 75 years ago it was the Irish and the Italians and the Poles who got such treatment. Now it's Mexicans and Muslims and people from India and Africa (yes, I know those categories aren't mutually exclusive). It was wrong then. It's wrong now. Being "white" is a social construct rather than a genetic one, anyway. We need to get over all these subdivisions, and deal with people as people.

the people behind us at Disneyland, October 8,2006

The people behind us at Disneyland, October 8, 2006

Environmentally, we probably don't want to overdo things with a new population boom, but we can probably handle things if we do it right, with strict standards to curb pollution and global warming, and efficient use of land for food and well as living space. There are a number of countries with more people per square acre than we have. It's not pleasant (ask my husband, who just suffered through huge Disneyland crowds), but it can be done.

Hmm. Clearly I needed to blog this. And now I have.

I'll have my Round Robin post after midnight tonight, on the other blog.



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Friday, October 13, 2006

E Plebneesta and the Dangerous Writers

Weekend Assignment #133: Share with us a person or person who you think is a model for free speech in the United States. It can be one of the Founding Fathers, another historical personage, or someone who is living right now. Yes, this is slightly more work than the usual Weekend Assignment, but, you know. Free speech is worth it. For those of you in the UK or Canada, you can nominate someone who represent free speech in your own country, or pick someone from the US.

Extra Credit: A favorite controversial book (it doesn't have to be from an American).

I'm not up for the full-blown rant on this subject, at least not tonight. Tonight I'm just going to toss out some names and a few anecdotes, and call it a night. Maybe over the weekend I'll take the subject and run with it.

When I was in high school, the U.S. Constitution always reminded me of a silly bit in a Gene Roddenberry-penned episode of Star Trek, "The Omega Glory." It still does, really. In the episode, the Yangs would trot out a tattered American flag as their leader chanted a garbled version of the Preamble to the Constitution. "We the People of the United States" became, at least to my ears, "E Plebneesta."

And if you break it down, "E plebneesta" makes a surprising amount of sense. "E" also begins the Latin motto "E pluribus unum": "from many, one." "Plebn" could refer to plebians, or ordinary people. And "eesta" could be "ista," a (usually)plural suffix found in words like "Sandinista" or "fashionista." So "E plebneesta" becomes "From the ordinary people and their proponents." And that's pretty much what the Constitution is, the ordinary people (as represented by wealthy landowners) ceding certain rights to various branches of government, while retaining others for themselves.

Yes, I know the Preamble and the Bill of Rights are two different parts of the Constitution. I'm mentioning the E Plebneesta anyway, because to me the whole Constitution is important and sacred, its priniciples worthy of a lot more respect than certain politicians give it. So there. That's my preamble to this entry.

Thinking about the actual Bill of Rights, though, leads me to an entirely different memory, from a Weekend Assignment two years ago. The actual assignment was about which Founding Father we'd each like to hang out with. It provoked in me an account of
a fictional 21st century picnic, to be attended by John and Abigail Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James and Dolley Madison. In my first entry, I merely mentioned the guest list and the two destinations, but the follow-up entry was a vignette in which time traveler Karen invited the Madisons to the 2004 picnic, and mentioned the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights, image enhanced slightly for visibility

So, now that I've fictionally partied with Tom Jefferson (left), who believed that "half a loaf" of rights secured to the people was better than none, and James Madison, who wrote the Bill of Rights (partly cribbed from the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the writings of John Locke), what proponents of that all-important first amendment right of free speech do I especially admire? Well, those two guys for sure, and Samuel Adams, for starters. I really should learn more about Madison; he didn't say much during that picnic. He did mention, however, that he mostly put the Bill of Rights together to keep the newly-formed Constitutional government from collapsing in the wrangle between Federalists and Anti-Federalists.

More contemporary outspoken people who made a difference in my lifetime: Martin Luther King, Jr. is probably the most important one. If you're going to say things that people don't want to hear, it's helpful to have a thirst for justice, a substantive message backed up by action, and a gift for oratory. Some of those old speeches still blow me away. At a more personal level, I used to admire the heck out of George Carlin, with his infamous Seven Words. It wasn't that I actually liked or used every one of those words myself, although I did use the two biggies in those days. What I admired was Carlin's ability to satirize the folly of thinking those words, of all the words in the language, were so dangerous and harmful that they must never be broadcast.

I was going to work in a riff about Harlan Ellison here, but let's skip it.

Most of my Wrinkle collection.

Favorite controversial book? That's got to be A Wrinkle in Time, of course. This classic about love and faith, friendship and family, and individuals fighting evil (including enforced, mindless conformity) rates high (#22 in the 1990s) on banned book lists. It's been slipping down the charts with the advent of new targets for self-appointed censors, but it's still an important and misunderstood book. But I've already ranted that rant, at least once.


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Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Minor Exhibits at the Museum of the Weird

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Someone in your house you probably have one (or more) bobble-head figurines. Immortalize them in photo. For this, any bobbly toy will do -- bobbly hula girls, toy animals with bobbly tails, it's all good. They just have to be bobbly somewhere along the line.

I wanted to show you our collection of 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks bobbleheads, but they're in a box somewhere. The best I can do on that front is show you this picture from a couple of years ago. Third shelf down on the left, you can just about make out a boxless Gonzo (Luis Gonzales, who just played his last game for he Diamondbacks) in front of some red and white boxes. Those boxes contain boxes of Gonzo, Schilling, Randy Johnson, Craig Counsell and others - even manager Bob Brenly.

But okay, let's try to do better with a new photo or three or four. Here are some shelves on John's side of the bed. Can you tell which of these exhibits in our personal Museum of the Weird is a bobblehead? Do you know exactly what it's supposed to be?

On the right: P-Chan from Ranma 1/2. Not a bobblehead. Neither is the vintage, politically incorrect china figurine in the middle. There it is on the left: Rat Fink! Rat Fink was a character from the 1950s and 1960s, associated with flamboyant hot rod car customizer Ed "Big Daddy" Roth. Frankly, that's about all I know on the subject. This is on John's side of the room, after all!

One more bobblehead. This is a Happy Meal toy of Stitch in his Elvis outfit. Lilo is in my cubicle at work.

Here's Stitch in his usual habitat among some other M.o.W. exhibits: Liddle Kiddles and Kiddle Kolognes, DAM trolls and Wishniks, Remco's Heidi, Jan and Spunky "pocketbook dolls," Britain's Ltd. Knight and Turk. a china poodle from the 1960s, and a china dragon bank (called Dino for obvious reasons) that I've had since seventh grade. Enough. I had less than five hours of sleep last night, and less than three hours the night before. Good night!


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Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Seldom-Seen Meme

Click the Robin for more info!
Click here for Round Robin info!

I don't mean to say by my subject line that the following meme is rare, or the concept terribly original.  It's just an acknowledgment that recently I personally have been avoiding most memes other than the Round Robin Photo Challenges. Most of the time I'm not even reading other people's meme entries, especially the ones that all lists of questions and suchlike.

But I'll do this one that Paul did, partly because I like it, and partly to do the beta journals thing for Editor Jeff and the gang.

Go to your 6th journal entry:  Googling for Dollars (sort of)

Write down the 6th sentence:  The reporter evidently had Google in front of her also, but couldn't make sense of what she saw.

Now, give 6 links which have something to do with this journal entry and/or sentence:

Pik-Nik Electrik on Ile Ste. Helene « An Idealist’s Downward

falling down is also a gift

Ninja Tune North America Newsletter - August - News - Properly

Making Light: "I also feared she would judge my life and find it

Michelle Malkin: LOST AND FOUND?

 I have to say that I'm finding it annoying that I have to do extensive editing in HTML to make Musings entries do what I want them to do.  I basically never want a <P> and a bunch of extra font tags.  I want to define the font once, without a lot of clutter; and <br> break tags give a lot more control and cleaner coding than the paragraphs. Ah, well.

Also, when I tried to link the name Paul to his meme entry, AOL replaced his name with the raw URL.  It didn't do that with the other links, though, so perhaps I accidentally hit "paste" somehow.  Phooey.

Speaking of the Round Robin Photo Challenges, the next one, "ABCs of Autumn," has a posting date of Wednesday, October 4th. The idea, courtesy of TJ, is to post Autumn-related pictures based on your first and last initials. For example, this is a Kinetic Bird (KB), a hummingbird that is still in Tucson in September. Click here for info on that particular challenge, and to RSVP if you'd like to participate.  Everyone is welcome!


Horsie in the Sky

Sooner or later, pretty much everything technological lets you down, particularly anything to do with computers. Both AOL and Blogger have been buggy this week. Blogger doesn't want to save entries, AOL Journals for a while refused to recognize a journal's author and show the buttons for adding and editing entries, and now AOL won't show pictures I uploaded to Blogger on Monday night. Sigh. So I just uploaded all of those, plus the pictures for tonight, to http://images.mavarin.com. I used to do that all the time, because I don't much like the AOL photo uploading options, and I've had intermittent trouble uploading photos to Blogger in the past. Since switching to Firefox, I hadn't been having that problem, but now that Blogger's being unreliable again, uploading to mavarin.com seems like the sensible way to go.

End of rant.

So anyway, here are some pictures and explanations.

1. Horsie in the Sky (with Glasses)

On Monday night, I wrote about my disastrous attempt to check whether the animal hospital on 22nd St was the building with a life-sized horse on the second floor. As you may recall, I got stuck in road construction, and no, it wasn't the right building anyway. The one I was thinking of is a tack shop on Speedway near Swan. Here it is. Can you see the horse?

Tonight, shortly after sunset, I drove over to Speedway and Swan. I ended up driving around in circles for a bit, trying to find a back way on streets that don't actually go through to Speedway. Oh, well. When I got there, the store was closed and the upper room wasn't lit. All things considered, it's remarkable I managed to get these two photos to clean up even this well.

2. Natural, Saturated, Autocorrected Surrealism

With my usual obsession for playing around with sunset photos, I've come up with three versions of the exact same picture, taken tonight through the second floor window of Unnamed Largish Company. Let's compare:

The only thing I did to this one was stretch the corner a little to "straighten" the vertical bar, and crop a bit. The color and brightness values are exactly as the camera "saw" them.

Version two. I lightened the shadows a bit, and the midtones a bit less, and boosted the saturation a moderate amount. Does it look better, more natural, or more interesting, or none of the above? I can't decide.

Version Three is just Version Two with an Autocorrect applied in Microsoft Office Photo Manager. It produced colors seldom found in nature, at least in the sky. But isn't it pretty? I like those purple clouds.

Same sunset, about seven minutes later. No, wait.  This was tonight.  The other was last night. All I did to this shot was crop and resize.

3. Blame it on the Meat

There were a couple of minor but bizarre mishaps today that had nothing to do with technology.

First off, John has a cold - or something. He seldom takes time off when he's sick, but he did it today. Poor Johnny!

Second, Tuffy came to me this morning with one of her rear legs in the air. I knew she must really be uncomfortable, because she refused to eat a dog biscuit. I was on my way out the door to work, so I asked John to check her over. There was an ant between her toes! Poor Tuffy! She was limping even after John removed the ant, so we think the ant must have bit her. She's fine tonight, though.

Third, I was nearly to the bottom of the steps from the second floor of Unnamed Largish Company today, heading out to lunch and to make a car payment, when I fell from the penultimate step and landed flat on my face - well, on my knees and hands, really - on the floor at the bottom. Why? How? I have no idea. I didn't trip over anything, as far as I know; and my knees didn't give way, as far as I know. I'm a bit scraped and sore, but it's no big deal. Except... how the heck did I manage to fall down stairs I take every day? Poor Karen!

4. What Do You Mean, It's a Start?

I was pretty proud last night of all the work I did on the Wikipedia article about A Wind in the Door, until the head of WikiProject Novels‎ bummed me out. He went through all the L'Engle novel articles late last night, and labeled them as follows on their Talk pages:

Start This article has been rated as Start-Class on the quality scale.

Start Class? Even the one for A Wind in the Door, with all its analysis and seconary sources? I looked up what Start-Class actually means. The guideline reads as follows:

The article has a meaningful amount of good content, but it is still weak in many areas, and may lack a key element such as a standard infobox. Has at least one serious element of gathered materials, including any one of the following:
  • a particularly useful picture or graphic
  • multiple links that help explain or illustrate the topic
  • a subheading that fully treats an element of the topic
  • multiple subheadings that indicate material that could be added to complete the article

Useful to some, provides a moderate amount of information, but many readers will need to find additional sources of information. The article clearly needs to be expanded.

Substantial/major editing is needed, most material for a complete article needs to be added. This article still needs to be completed, so an article cleanup tag is inappropriate at this stage.

But...but...but...! It has a picture and an infobox, a link or two, and multiple subheadings! Way to be harsh! I thought about asking the guy why this article didn't rate at least the next step up, but it was already 2 AM by them, so I just went to bed. But...but...but...it's not fair!


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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Why Are Both Blogs Being Mean to Me?

Okay, so I shouldn't do this from work, but I just wanted to paste in a P.S. to the previous entry.  But the Musings page insisted on calling me "Journals" instead of "Mavarin", no matter how or how many times I signed in as myself; and no editing buttons appeared.  I finally found a workaround on the People Connection Blogs page, but sheesh!  Doesn't AOL want me to resume posting here?

Here's what I wanted to paste in below, aside from fixing all my typos and so on. What can I say?  I was tired and didn't proofread properly.

Pasted text follows:


P.S. You would think that would be the end of the struggle, but the Blogger server that hosts the Outpost was having problems last night and this morning. When I hit the "Publish Post" button, I repeatedly got a white screen that nevertheless said "Done" at the bottom (as in, "Done loading the page"). No confirming email, no entry when I refreshed the blog. Arrow back: the entry was still in the Create Post window, anyway. What a relief! I did a Save as Draft in case that helped, and the page showed a draft of the entry and also the actual entry. But the entry still wasn't there.

Finally, at Carly's suggestion, I opened the edit window in a different browser, and posted from that. There was at least a minute of the looping notice that it was 0% published. Then, oh joy! 40%! Then 100%, and I heart the new email alert sound. Success! But this morning, Betty reported that the photos, which are hosted on that same Blogger server, weren't showing up on my crossposting to Musings from Mâvarin. Darn server! Try again, Betty! They should be showing up now.- KFB

Saving this entry finally gave my editing buttons!  Yay!  So I got to fix the entry at last. 


My Titanic Struggle to Post a Picture of a Horse

Yay!  I finally got my Edit buttons.  See above.

Cross-posted from Outpost Mâvarin:

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Horses are nice. Show us a horse picture you've taken. It can be new, or one from your files. It just needs to have a horse in it.

That doesn't sound so hard, does it? After all, at some point in my life, I must have taken at least one picture of a horse. Or I could take a new one. After all, this is Tucson, part of the fabled Old West.

Well...yes. I've taken pictures of horses before. And yes, Tucson has its place in Western history.

But no, it wasn't easy to come up with a horse photo.

Attempt #1: Invisible Horses on Tanque Verde Road

I thought it would be nice to actually take a new photo of a horse. But where could I do that, on a Monday evening in the city of Tucson? Contrary to the history and image of the place, it's been a long time since horses on the street were a common sight around here.

But there's horse property on Tanque Verde Road, between the OK Corral Steakhouse and the Catalina Highway turnoff. So after work I turned right instead of left, and headed north and east. But it was sunset, and I guess the horses were in for the night. I didn't see a single one.

Attempt #2: Horses as Business Signs

I kind of had the idea that there might at least be a life sized statue of a horse on top of the OK Corral restaurant. I looked as I drove by, on my way back from looking for the real thing. Nope. There was a life-sized steer on the roof. No horse.

Well, then, what about Trail Dust Town? They have a Museum of the Horse Soldier, and lots of Western props and artifacts. But there was a car behind me as I pulled in, and the parking lot near the museum was full. I couldn't even get a good look at the graphic at the museum entrance, let alone take a picture. No horse statue outside, either. I drove around the complex, but although there were plenty of wagons, none of them had even fake horses to pull them. Drat! I went home.

Attempt #3: The Horsie in the Window

There are two buildings in town that remind me so strongly of each other that I don't always remember which one has a full-size statue of a horse in a lit second story window. That would be a neat trick, I think, and a neat picture - a horse on the second floor!

One of the buildings is a saddle supply shop, the other an animal hospital. Both have huge windows and lit rooms on the second floor. One is a couple of lights from my home, on 22nd St. near Swan. The other is farther north, at Speedway and Swan.

So when I went to get dinner for John and myself, I made a side trip to check whether the building on 22nd is the one with the horse. Bad mistake. The road was torn up at Craycroft, with a night construction crew working. One guy was in a hole up to his waist. The only lane open in either direction was the right turn lane. I was trapped for about twenty minutes, trying to drive a few blocks and then turn around. And - you guessed it - it's not the animal hospital on 22nd that has the horse in the window. It's the saddle supply on Speedway. And I'd already delayed dinner too much to go any further out of my way, just to take that picture.

Attempt #4: Rodeo Shots at the Bar

But when I got to Chuey's, which is half sports bar, half Baja-themed mesquite grill, I thought my luck had finally changed. Some of the tv sets happened to be airing a rodeo! So while I waited for the food, I positioned myself by a likely tv set and started taking pictures. But darn it, those cowboys are fast! This was the best horse picture I got out of about eight shots I took. Mostly, I kept ending up with blurry action shots of the cowboy roping a steer on foot.

Attempt #5: Horses by Breyer

I always knew I could resort to a shot like this if I had to. Here are a couple of old, plastic Breyer horses. The mare is the exact model and color of the Breyer horse I had as a kid. The foal turned up at a yard sale years ago, stained and with legs bent out of postition. It cleaned up fairly well, and although it's not perfect I like it. But Scalzi didn't say anything about pictures of toy horses.

Attempt #6: Horses on File

So I went through the photo files on my computer. I actually don't have a lot of horse pictures on it. Not at all.

How about an "Iron Horse"? This is one of several shots I have of the locomotive at Old Tucson.

This is another Old Tucson shot. The rear end of this horse as photographed is terribly lightstruck, and you can't see the head much at all.

Attempt #7: Painting the Pony

As an experiment, I used the cloning tool on my cheap software to recolor the shaggy horse. How do you think I did? I'm not too happy with it, myself.

Attempt #8: A Photo of a Photo

My scanner has apparently died since I unplugged it recently, so that John could clean it and use it (he did neither). When I click on the scanner icon, it crashes the software. So if I want to show you a physical picture taken 20 years ago, I have to find a way to photograph the photograph without the image getting too flashed out or skewed.

It took a while - three mini-photo sessions and about a dozen shots - but with the right arrangement, careful cropping and some photo editing, I finally came up with a picture that's not too, too terrible. I took this a few seconds before I got a much closer, better picture of the dog on the horse. I won second or third place once in a photography contest with that one, but I've used it in a Scalzi assignment at least once before. So we'll settle for the prequel.

And that will have to do. Good night!


P.S. You would think that would be the end of the struggle, but the Blogger server that hosts the Outpost was having problems last night and this morning. When I hit the "Publish Post" button, I repeatedly got a white screen that nevertheless said "Done" at the bottom (as in, "Done loading the page"). No confirming email, no entry when I refreshed the blog. Arrow back: the entry was still in the Create Post window, anyway. What a relief! I did a Save as Draft in case that helped, and the page showed a draft of the entry and also the actual entry. But the entry still wasn't there.

Finally, at Carly's suggestion, I opened the edit window in a different browser, and posted from that. There was at least a minute of the looping notice that it was 0% published. Then, oh joy! 40%! Then 100%, and I heart the new email alert sound. Success! But this morning, Betty reported that the photos, which are hosted on that same Blogger server, weren't showing up on my crossposting to Musings from Mâvarin. Darn server! Try again, Betty! They should be showing up now.- KFB

Wednesday night:  now the photos aren't showing up for me (except the Breyer one; go figure). AOL and Blogger (the latter is where the photos were uploaded) aren't talking to each other, seemingly.  So I just uploaded them to mavarin.com instead.  Here's hoping!

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Orange and Blue...and a Certain Pirate's Flag

Crossposted from Outpost Mâvarin:

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Post a picture that focuses on the contrast between two opposing colors. What colors are opposites? Green and red are opposites, as are blue and yellow, and orange and purple. So a picture that has something purple in front of something orange would work, or a picture that features blue and yellow in alternating stripes. The subject of the pictures could be anything you like -- but there have to be opposing colors in there.

Seems to me that "opposite" colors should be complimentary - two colors that between them contain each of the three primary colors---red, yellow, and blue--exactly once. That means red and (yellow+blue=green), blue and (red+yellow=orange), and yellow and (red+blue=purple).

Then there are the RGB (red/green/blue) and CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) color systems, but those confuse me, no matter how many times John explains them. So we'll stick with what I learned in school at age 8 or so.

The color combination I chose is blue and orange. Actually, I mostly ended up with turquoise and orange, because we have a lot of turquoise colored items around here. It's a midcentury modern kind of color. Close enough, right?

You probably can't tell, but the orange plastic tumbler here is a tiki cup. I got it for John at K-Mart a year or two ago. The Diet Orange Crush is something I drink a lot of in the evenings, especially in summer.

Here are the tiki tumblers in their native habitat, behind the Fiestaware butter dish in the sideboard.

This is a slightly bluer blue, and an oranger orange. Being an organic Valencia, though, this orange is less orange than many oranges.

And let's finish off with a different color combination: red and green. Aye, I be hoisting the colors of bonny Black Rose Katie Specks, in case the wench turns up for Talk Like a Pirate Day! Mind ye, I've no guarantee she'll sail into landlocked Tucson any time soon. Still, an ye have a question for her, and mayhap I see her, 'tis certain I'll be passing it on!


Black Rose Katie Specks
An 18th Century pirate looks at the modern world.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Fake Sunsets, and Words on Hold

Crossposted from Outpost Mâvarin:

Is this the single dullest sunset photo you've ever seen? It's certainly the dullest one I've posted. This was sunset in Tucson tonight. Granted, sunset was almost over by this point: I came outside too late to catch much color digitally. The main cause, though is the fact that the monsoon is apparently over. See? No clouds. There haven't been any clouds in a few days now. There probably won't be any significant clouds again until January. Without clouds, sunsets in my neighborhood are sure to be dull, dull dull. The only to make Tucson sunsets interesting this time of year is to be somewhere at sunset that offers an interesting horizon, such as mountains, or saguaros, or the airplane graveyard.


I can show you a leftover image from a past sunset. Such as this one. I think this particular shot is pretty much as photographed, except for an autocorrect, which changed it very little.

Or this one. I did boost the saturation on this one, trying to recreate what my eyes saw. If I didn't tell you this, would the photo be a "lie"?


What if I stuck with tonight's photos, and played with those?

This one issimply an autocorrect. It didn't give us any color but blue, though.

But how about this one? I cropped it, boosted the heck out of the saturation, and changed the hue.

Too much? Then how about this one?

Ooh.  Ahh.  Same shot, not cropped, autocorrected, saturated, contrast up, hue changed but not much.

If I didn't tell you all that, would you believe that's what I saw in the Tucson sky tonight? It wasn't. Reality was blue, with just a hint of color down at the bottom of the sky. Dull, dull, dull.

So, is it wrong to take a colorless sky and make it pretty? Is it wrong to take a pretty sky and make it spectacular? Beats me.


What the heck have I done all day? It's over now, and I keep trying to account for all the hours. This morning's church ran into the afternoon, so that's part of it. The Mass itself wasn't much longer, but our church administrator, Alicia, retired, and coffee hour was her party. My friends Kevin and Mary and I stayed until the very very end, as Father Smith was locking up. Then Kevin and I chatted with Mary in the church and in the parking lot, and after that Kevin and I went to Barnes & Noble. Dang! I meant to do something special for him to commemorate his turning 40, but I forgot. I'll have to make it up to him.

Anyway, Alicia was given flowers, and I photographed her and her replacement, and some prayer shawls that were blessed during church, and lots of other stuff. Most of those shots are to be posted on the St. Michael's blog this week, but maybe I'll show you one or two of them another time.

So that took me up to 2 PM. I came home from B&N with a L'Engle paperback of A Wind in the Door so I don't mess up my hardback any further, rereading it. I'm almost halfway through the book now. Other than that, I watched some tv, and went shopping with John, and read a few blogs but not many.

The other thing I did, though, was finish editing Chapter Five and start on Chapter Six of Mages of Mâvarin. Tonight I posed a question to Sara (not Sarah, although I'd like her opinion, too) about whether a scene between Rutana and Talber is essential to the story. It's such a long book that maybe I shouldn't keep this character piece, even though it sets up several things for later. Then shortly after that bit, there's a "stub" of a scene on page 174 that's two paragraphs long, followed by a note in red ink. It reads, in part:

[Darsuma experiments with magic to try to find out what’s wrong. .... Need some big impressive spell, and eventual destruction of the necklace.]

So now I either have to cut the scene or write it. There may be some sitting in restaurants in my future, trying to get that done.

I opened up the fiction blog tonight to write the next entry of The Jace Letters, but I'm just not up to it tonight. I haven't slept well this weekend, and I'm not quite over this cold yet. It's just going to have to wait for Monday night.


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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Fascinating Tucson, Part Two

For the other three parts of this (one in Musings, two at the Outpost, click below:

Intro, Climate

In Musings: The Desert

Outpost: History and Culture

This is going to be a "fast and dirty" entry so that I can go to bed. Tucson is surrounded by four sets of mountains:

North: The Catalinas.

After lunch, the clouds start to vanish.

This is where Mount Lemmon is, with Summerhaven at the top. My very first
Round Robin Photo Challenges entry was a series on a trip up Mount Lemmon. (Speaking of which, the next Round Robin topic is "Nostalgia." Click the link for details.)

Molino Basin

Here is a shot at Molino Basin, about a quarter of the way up Mt. Lemmon Highway. The habitats at different elevations are called "sky islands," because they represent distinct ecosystems that are separate from surrounding areas. You'll find different species of birds among the aspen pines beyond Summerhaven than what you'll see in the trees at Molino.

More on Mount Lemmon:

Diary of a Day Trip, Part One

Diary of a Day Trip: Mount Lemmon, Part Two

Diary of a Day Trip: Mount Lemmon, Part Three

Diary of a Day Trip: Mount Lemmon, Part Four

East: The Rincons

The Rincons are similar to the Catalinas, but shorter and undeveloped (i.e., no roads or houses on them). They are part of Saguaro National Park East. Colossal Cave is at the Rincon end of town.

South: The Santa Ritas.

These are a bit farther away than the others, down below the airport and Davis-Monthan AFB, toward Green Valley and including Madera Canyon. There was a fire in the Santa Ritas in 2005.

West: The Tucson Mountains

The Tucsons are very different from the other three ranges, looking like a bunch of piled rocks more than anything else. (Southern California has many mountains like these.) We used to live in the foothills of the Tucson Mountains. The range separates Tucson from the Avra Valley, where the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and Old Tucson are, and where Saguaro National Park West is. The most spectacular way from the city to Old Tucson is across Gates Pass, a steep, scary, winding road with a great scenic lookout at the top. The photo is of my dad in Gates Pass in 2005.


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