Sunday, January 31, 2010

Krappy Kamera Kollektion - volume the second

The snow today prompted me to run around and take a few photos with my Holga on the b&w film my husband was so wonderful as to get me for Xmas. That prompted me to remember that I was not done detailing the Krappy Kamera Kollektion! So here for your edification (again) is the rest of my gaggle o' toy cameras.

The rest of my miscreants are as follows - top left is the Kodak Duaflex III, a lovely solid Dual Lens Refractive camera with the old-fashioned square viewfinder on the top. if you look through it, you see everything in front of you upside down, which is sort-of what it's supposed to look like on the film. This camera was actually created a year before my father was born, and if I was of a mind to trim down a roll of 120 film in to a 620 format, I could still use it. It is entirely functional. The flash came with it, and it takes the lightbulbs that are single-use...that is to say, they flash once, then done. It uses ancient 5Bs, which ARE still out there but are really hard to find in bulk. I grabbed some just so I could use it at some point, perhaps for something like a formal portrait. But one of the other reasons I got it was for something called TTV, or Through the Viewfinder photography. It's a great style where you take an SLR, hook it up to a DLR, and take the photo through the older camera's viewfinder. It's quite nifty.
A quick example of a GOOD photo in this format, next to a shot of ME doing it with a digital point-and-click camera (which doesn't work and isn't really recommended)
But as you can see, there's a potential for some lovely dark corners, some blurring effects, and some distortion of the spectrum. I have yet to see a photo taken through one of these that didn't seem warm and inviting with that sort of yellow-gold undertone like the old photos from the 70s used to have.
Next door to the Duaflex is a Kodak Brownie Starmite. I also have bulbs for that one, and theoretically it's still 100% functional. The main hindrance to its usage is the fact that I would literally have to build, from scratch, the spool that the film goes on to. Then after that I would have to spool my own film on to it in a dark room and secure it. While it seems like a fun project, it's probably for someone with many fewer hobbies than yours truly. To be honest I found it on eBay for $5, it came with the extra bulbs, a leatherette carrying case and the old instruction booklets. Plus with a name like "Starmite", how can you not love that cute little exterior? I may try to shoot with it in the future, but for now it's among the cameras I've been semi-collecting to put in shadowboxes for the walls of our new house.
Wait Helen, you might say, if once again you knew that as my first name or you were paying attention in the last post, to the left of the Starmite that looks like the back of a cell phone. What gives??
Oh, you clever and observant readers, you! it IS the back of a cell phone! Specifically the back of my LG EnV3, complete with all my super-awesome cell phone charms from Japan and its 3.0 megapixel camera. These days most people laugh at what can be accomplished with a cellphone and quite a few people decry the crud that is on the back of their iPhone (I would as well, actually), but these individuals are usually the same ones that drop a ton of money on a digital SLR that does everything for them and renders crystal-sharp photos but have no real technical skill. It's one of the cool things about low-fi cameras that you're forced to focus on your subject, the light, the angle, the very basis of the image. Cell phones are the same way, and have their own really awesome uses in taking in parts of the world.
For instance, my absolute favorite photo I've taken with this was when we were in Maine and I came upon a garden full of sunflowers. The resulting image was good enough to be considered a serious photograph, and I use it as the the backdrop for my cell phone right now. I've even set up my Photobucket account to automatically download images from the phone as I take them, and I carry it around as my main photographic instrument, as most days I don't have time to devote to the process of figuring out which of my many cameras I would need for the day. It forces me to know the limitations of my device and figure out how best to use it, plus it is ALWAYS with me.
Moving on, my lovely red darling is next! My Holga 120GCFN (GCFN = glass, color flash. The standard Holga has no flash and a plastic lens) has been my gateway drug for about a year now. It went with me to Japan and created some of the lovely, lovely images on the film I actually managed to get developed. It's been faithful, lovely, and a tendency for some serious warp in the images that I know is beautifully specific to my little gal. She's bomb-proof, and I've only just now gotten to the point where the batteries that run the included flash are running low. It's a nice change from the digital camera where they're constantly chewing through the double A's. She takes some lovely photos, be it in color OR black and white, and I would honestly take her over a Hasselblad any day. (To be fair, a Hasselblad would be wasted on me. I don't know what to do with all the bells and whistles.)
Then to the right of the Holga is my other darling, the Diana f+ Glow. I love that she looks like the older cameras that news reporters used to carry with them. I also love the chrome of the flash and around the lens. And also, I love that she has the most gimmicky thing.... glows in the dark! She's covered in little stars like the old stickers that were popular for ceilings in the 90s. Embarrassed to say that I have no idea how she shoots, since I haven't gotten the film developed yet! But I have shot enough film to perfect loading and advancing the film on her. She's got the quirk of having one side bent a bit so it's loose and at times you have to clamp down on it to get it to advance, but I count it among the ranks of regular low-fi charms.

If I had my 'druthers, I would also have a Digital Harinezumi to show you (it's a low-fi digital video cam that makes what you're shooting look like Super 8, and I lust after one BADLY). I've got my eye on a Kodak Hawkeye, partially out of curiosity to shoot with and partially for something to have on my wall for decoration. I'd also have a truly ridiculous camera or two made entirely from scratch...that is to say that I had literally built them from a kit piece by piece and took a picture with it. There's also the possibility of making a cyanotype camera. (If you have ever made "sun pictures" with blue paper, you've already done this in rough form.) After reading a few articles I have seriously pondered constructing one as a means of understanding the basics behind image capture. But once again...something for someone with far fewer hobbies.

Anyway, this is the last of things...for now! At some point I'll have the Digi Harinezumi, and I'm thinking at that point I'll be truly happy with the collection (barring a digital SLR or a new point-and-shoot). But of course, by then something else will come out that will be new and neat and nifty and I'll want to give it a shot.

Don't get started with lomography. It's addictive and expensive! But also really, really, really fun!

Gentle Snow Day with Visitors!

Snow day 1
Originally uploaded by Red1332
Even as the snow drifted down and yours truly was wracking her brain on homework, the outside denizens were busy working away at gathering food against the cold. They were nice enough to help out in showing how surreal and serene the entire scene was.

Don't bother turning up the sound, this was shot on the Canon A550 and unless there's already background noise, it just gives digital static. Sounds awful. Instead, enjoy the little birdy bouncing around in the snow. (I took pictures of his footsteps with my Holga later that afternoon in a fit of artistic despair - I NEEDED the break!)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Actual Conversation #85 - the secret of good movie scripting is divulged.

It's that time of year again, when After Dark Horrorfest has arrived and we see anywhere from 1-8 horror films that span utter shite to nicely clever. Tonight we went to our first.

Me:"We're going to see Dread."
Him:"Is that one I expressed interest in?"
Me:"It's the one about-"
Him:"Don't spoil it!"
Me:"Are you sure?"
Him:"They will be covering the plot during the movie, right?"
Me:"Usually they do..."
Him:"Then I can wait."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Zen and the art of puppy maintenance - the early months

My friend Emily reminds me how teensy our little Zen originally was! So cute and sweet...nothing like our toy-rippin' monster hound today!

Monday, January 25, 2010

How to make a 5 year plan

"I finally needed to have a goal."

How I did it: I have literally gone my entire life with no long-term goals of any kind. I didn't want to be anything when I grew up, I just had vague ideas about what I thought I should be doing.
I realized that I want to do a LOT with the next few years of my life and that the only way it would happen was if I started to get organized. I also wanted something to aim for with all of my newfound drive and energy.
I sat down and hand wrote out my entire plan with a nice fountain pen and a special idea notebook to stress to myself how important the plan was. Started with 3 months from now, 6 months from now, then one year, then two years, three, four, and finally five years. I discovered that the groundwork for years three through five needed to be laid in the next 6 months, so initially those lists were rather large. By year four I was actually trying to come up with a goal. Year five I allowed myself to declare the eventual goals of everything in my life, even if it would take more than 5 years.
I also started in the morning and allowed myself to be in a place with few distractions and no noises (no TV, music or texting) in order to focus, and gave myself the goal of having the entire thing completed by the end of the day. That allowed my mind to organize and line everything up, and the deadline was so I wouldn't slack on it.

Lessons & tips: These are all just things that occurred to me as good ideas while I was writing these out. YMMV.

~be honest when you're setting this up. If your goal is to become a full-time golfer, don't try to work in going back to school for an accounting degree. You're setting a mental precedent by creating this, and you'll subconsciously direct your energy to complete this plan when you make it.

~Give yourself plenty of quiet time without distractions so you can link up the timeline in your head and get the necessary steps in the proper order.

~Allow yourself enough time! Don't plan on being famous or wealthy next year. There's a possibility it could happen, but you're setting yourself up for failure by not being thorough and taking time with your energy and organization.

~Be understanding of the fact that any of these things you plan out could come much sooner or far later than you anticipated. Be okay with it. That it's going to happen at all is kinda cool.

~Write your plan down somewhere that you have access to so you can reread it when you need to. The act of putting it down on paper does more of that tricksy subconscious work on your brain, helping bolster you along.

~Make sure you won't be disturbed as you work, and do not let your fears about what you can or can't accomplish seep in to it. If you hedge on your goal to do something like become an author, it will take longer and you will be setting yourself up for failure. Write it as if everything is possible right this second!

It took me 2 days.

It made me Excited

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Krappy Kamera Kollection - volume the first

By now if anyone has talked with me at length they probably know of my long-abiding love of what has come to be called "analog" photography. That is to say, it is not digital, it requires film, and that means it's gotta be processed by someone who knows what they're doing (not me.)
Despite the considerable expense of shooting on an outdated film format and getting it developed I love the results that can be achieved with it. However... I may have sorta gotten in over my head in collecting them.
I took the time to actually photography every single one I take pictures with, so people can see just how many different reticles/viewfinders I gaze through on a given day. It's a ridiculous amount; and yes, they are very specialized at times.

Now, starting top left we have my beloved Korean sparkle lomo... shoots 35mm film, no flash, you have to wind the film by hand. I love how it looks. Also love that it takes standard 35mm, since I can cart it around, have something unusual, and still be shooting it old-school. I've yet to see what a roll of film looks like out of this since I'm lazy at getting things developed.
Below that, the tiny red and black box is my iKimono. It has a tiny drawing of a cat on it, and that with the fact that it fits in the palm of my hand made me fall in love with it. It shoots 110 film, which officially approached extinction as of this winter when Fuji announced it was no longer producing 110 format film. Now it would appear that backstock and Kodak are the only ones producing, and unfortunately it allappears to be 400 speed color film. I'm betting it could make some lovely images in b&w, but we'll never know. I've already shot 3 rolls on it, can't wait to see what comes of them.
The bottom, looking like some demented child born of the unnatural union of a spider and a brick, is my darling Oktomat. 8 lenses, yes, that fire something like .5 seconds apart, so you get a moving picture. It makes this keen rattling noise when the shutters go off that makes me think of old telegraph machines. Takes standard 35mm, so easy to indulge if I can remember to load the film firmly so it actually moves forward when I manually advance it.
Top center is my Shironeko Holga(literally translated as "white cat holga") which is also a carrier of 35mm film. It was created specifically to attract and take pictures of cats (I guess it's a pastime in Japan? That's where it hails from). It comes with some features you won't find elsewhere, like little flashing LEDs and a button that meows or makes some atrocious electronic warbling that's probably supposed to be an angry cat howling. All I know is that when we get that sound -and they rotate through 5 whenever you push the button- that Chaucer looks at me as if I've just said something incredibly stupid and walks off. If I had to guess, it's probably cat speak for "D'oh." It does its job of attracting cats very well, and the noises are bizarre enough that they don't rush right up and sniff it, which is what they all do to every other camera I have. The only experiments I've run and developed were done on 100 speed film. Even with the included flash, which I used liberally, a lot of the pictures came out grainy or dark. I blame the film, not the camera, and will try again with 200-400 speed film.
Below that is my beloved Cheki! Fuji Instax 7s Cheki,to be exact. While this guy takes some highly specialized instant film that I have to buy in bulk from Korea in order to get it for less than $10 for a 10-shot pack, I adore it. It's bulky, it's not at all sleek, and it looks like a giant piece of chocolate. But on the plus side, it DOES let me see what I took pictures of within a few minutes. I've gotten familiar with how to frame with it, how to adjust for lighting conditions, and after 100 shots I can now say that it produces some rather cute small insta-photos. Definitely intend to keep it in my collection.
After that are my oldies but goodies, the Nikon N60 given to me by my parents for Christmas in my 16th year. I've taken VERY good care of it and it still works for the most part. It occasionally gets alzheimers and forgets where it was in a roll, or if it was supposed to be on or off. My guess is the wiring is loose somewhere in the housing and I am not skilled enough to take it apart and locate it. Either way, even being well over a decade old it still takes glorious photos.
Early this spring it was retired for our trip to Japan and instead we purchased a Nikon N80 to take with us. Aside from one small mishap where it didn't recognize the film or that the back was closed (a loading mistake on my part) it performed flawlessly and gave us lovely shots of our trip. If I could afford a Nikon digital, I would get it. But these guys do darned fine in its stead and there's just something about the smell of film out o the cannister and the sound of it advancing within the body of the camera that you don't get with a digital. IMHO a digital gives mediocre photographers the chance to take a ton of photos until they get one good one. I personally like the idea of having to stop and think to be sure that you like the shot and have everything set up correctly. The limitations of film force perfection. Even though it's a bit artificial, eventually doing that for every shot would become habit. Then I could perhaps allow myself to graduate to a digital SLR.
Of course, all of these krappy kameras in the photo and most of the pictures that end up on this blog or elsewhere had to be taken with something, right? Well, our faithful workhorse is the Canon A550 Power Shot. I've taken so many photos with this guy since we got it 2.5 years ago that it's about to fall over from exhaustion. While I'm not pleased with how it does with indoor shots and handles bright lights it gets the job done. Behold! Rockin' it Facebook-photo style:
We've been talking about picking up another one to cover for this since it's getting worn out, but when I take a look at what's available in terms of 10 mpx+ cameras with their shady quality in shade and inside shots and the price, I don't feel a huge need. Maybe once we're in the new house we can find a decent one that'll do well with the light levels both inside and out, and it'll be on sale? That's my hope.
Secretly I do some day want to pop a D40 body on my current Nikkor lens and see what I could do with it given enough time. *sigh* Ahh, dreams....
But Helen, you might say (if you knew that was my first name), that certainly doesn't look like an overwhelming extravagance of plastic fantastic photographic love. You're given to hyperbole and exaggeration but....what gives?
And to that I say... note that this is entitled Volume the First. I believe in giving the reader enough of a break to process without killing their eyes. There is more to come! (There always is. I'm an obsessive collector of things I find nifty.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Zen and the art of puppy maintenance - new toy time!

We buy a new toy buffalo to replace his old one he's had since he was a puppy (he snuggled up to it his first night with us.) Utter puppy joy ensued!

Monday, January 18, 2010

What I Did with my MLK, Jr. Day...

These two kept me company while I changed my film out at a cemetery in Lancaster. Nice folks.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

I'm Sure I'm the Only One Amused By This, BUT...

Busta Rhymes head-bangs thanks to a TV glitch!

This message was sent using the Picture and Video Messaging service from Verizon Wireless!

To learn how you can snap pictures and capture videos with your wireless phone visit

~Switched it over to MTV2 after seeing Halloween: Resurrection. My singularly favorite movie scene ever occurs where Busta Rhymes takes Michael Myers on in a kung-fu match and roundhouse kicks him in the skull. It's good stuff.
I just couldn't stop being amused at the glitch our TV occasionally gets where it will freeze the frame on the TV when you change the channel from HD to a regular channel... it left Busta giggling and headbanging. Had to catch it on film.

My Emergency Preparedness Kit

I have come to realize that there are certain items that I am always finding myself regretting I do not have. I have now decided henceforth that I don't leave the house without any of these things, and I do not own a purse that will not hold any of these...even if it means sacrificing a cute little clutch-purse at a cocktail party because, let's face it, I go to those a lot.............not.
Absolutely Requisite Items:
~Idea book/notebook
~Ink pen (upgrading to fountain pen, shortly.)
~Camera in some form (cell, iKimono, Holga, etc.)

Optional But Highly Recommended:
~sketch pencils and art markers
~Nintendo DS and optional game
~Portable knitting project (socks?)
~Mirror compact
~Extra ink pens
~Flash drive with available space
~USB cable
~A book (paper form or via an eReader)

I'm sure this will get revised as time goes on, but this would be anything I could possibly think of or need and often do. I should probably throw something else on there like "brass knuckles" or "bottled water", but this is more to make sure I survive a line in the DMV than out in the wild.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

...Auld Lang Syne....

Tiamat was given to me as a gift in replacement after my pet tarantula, Lilith, carked it one very, very hot summer evening. I didn't know she was coming, nor did I have any input in the matter. She just arrived one morning in a box stamped "LIVE CARGO", and when I carefully opened it she was curled up among some wads of paper, a little cold but no worse for the wear. She poked her little nose up at me, flicked her tongue, and was instantly the cutest baby snake I had ever seen.
After parting ways with the man who gave her to me, I brought her, another rosy boa called Copper (who didn't survive the drive... I hope he enjoys Montana where he is buried), my two cats and two cockatiels. I found a home for the cockatiels, but Tia proved harder to get a home for.
She has spent time in the house of a friend, who despite hating snakes was willing to take her because my Mom isn't terribly informed about them and didn't want them in the house. My friend trumps my Mom in this regard. Considering I felt forced to take her because of the threats to simply release her in the back yard (where she would have frozen to death or been eaten) I often felt mixed feelings about having her. Having a parent who decided to make my life more difficult by barring her from the home when I wasn't even on my feet yet after what was the most traumatic period in my life compounded all of this.
So I loved the snake. I thought she was beautiful and graceful. But I hated the person who had dropped her in to my life without warning, then refused to take responsibility for her after kicking me out of his life. And when I looked at her I saw both things, which wasn't fair to her.
It is interesting to me that it took me this long to finally get someone to take her. In a time when I am coming to terms with Seattle and all the various junk that occurred, now was the only time I could part with her and feel okay about it. After countless newspaper ads and 4 moves, she has found a home with someone who can watch her and take better care of her than I can.
He was a nice guy. He reached in and picked her up with no gloves on, and she stayed calm in his hands. He inspected her, asked what coloration she was and where I'd gotten her from, how old she was... standard info. He gave me his resume'...a breeder of boas and various snakes, he intended to find her a mate shortly and give her food 3 times a week like he did with his other snakes. She would get a boyfriend and experience having offspring, something I thought was more healthy for her in the long run since her parents were taken out of the desert. She wasn't built to be a pet for amusement, and her systems still wanted her to do what they would have in the wild. I'd watched her crawl around her case many a February trying to obey that call to find a mate. Now she'll have one, and it is uncannily perfect timing to boot.
I liked the guy even though he was a total stranger. He offered to send me photos of her when he got her set up, photos of her boyfriend, and of her first clutch. I was grateful. By the time he pulled out of the driveway I was so happy with how he was going to take care of her that I didn't even cry. (Crying was last night.)
Good luck, Tia... thanks for walking this far with me. Releasing you has let me release other things in my life. We're both going to have an awesome life.

Friday, January 15, 2010

43 is good in more than one way!

Found a most wonderful website! 43 Things lets you make a list of everything you're attempting to do, and it lets you journal about how it's going, and how you accomplished it when it's done. It also lets you see how many other people are trying to do the same thing you are, sometimes for the purpose of community, and sometimes just so you can see you're not the only one.
I have a few very common ones on there, like get a job, graduate and buy a house. But others on there, like creating a stop-motion cartoon, attaining enlightenment and having high tea with my Mom seem to be singularly my own. I like that. I like that my goals are quirky and colorful and that I appear to be continuing with my interesting life. I may not be a Gypsy anymore, but there are still adventures to be had.
What's fascinating is that you can see what most recent things were added by other people. So far I've seen "get all F's", "watch my wife with another man", and "get a corset piercing for my labia"...although these are all far more colorful than the rest. There are also lots of wishes for friends, less fear, more adventure, travel, and employment. You don't need trending topics to see the common themes of people on this website. It bears more study and investigation aside from what I've already set up for myself.

Zen and the art of puppy maintenance.

Zen is very low energy. Going in to the vet to see what the problem is. I'm not terribly worried, but it bugs me he's not feeling good. I'm hoping it's not the apple I gave him the other day to play fetch with. If so... well, I guess we won't be using apples to play fetch anymore. I was just trying to give the poor boy some extra vitamins, didn't mean to hurt him.

The rescue-hound has him an infection. He's on antibiotics and a rice and meat diet for the next few days until he's feeling better. Can't wait to get my happy healthy puppy back.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I would only agree that a symbolic clock is as nourishing to the intellect as a photograph of oxygen to a drowning man. ~Dr. Manhattan, "The Watchmen"

I am not the first to quote this today. It's on the lips of a lot of folks, and I find it gloriously convergent, synchronistic and serendipitous to be occurring on the day I have decided to wage a war against fear in its many forms.
It sounds quite dramatic, but really it's a very simple concept. I am afraid of a lot, and I let it stop me from doing so many things that it's amazing I leave the house. I've sidelined years' worth of projects out of fear. How would I publish them? How would I promote my artwork? How would I better my photography? Can I really knit this sweater? it has such complicated design work....
Etc. Etc. Ad nauseum, ad infinitum.
It is ridiculous how much energy I waste on being worried about things that will never happen, or that won't kill me to live through if they do. I could get so much done if that energy was going to actually ~doing~ that I refuse to even go back to that way of thinking. This is how I plan to fight that fear. I am going to ignore it. Walk past it. Shoot it the bird. Then smirk and complete my task.
I've sworn this before. I've invoked the Bene Gesserit Litany before, even. But this time I think I'm fed up enough and mature enough to take it and walk with it.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

* * *
There is something to be said for continuity and small miracles in one's life. I started this day wide awake until 4 am when I fell in to a weird half-sleep that was filled with my subconscious mind taking the ideas that had been racing through my head before (damned coffee binge)and feeding them in to my dreams. I wrote a story in 3 hours and saw the character from start to death, forging the most minute details of an alien landscape. It was not fun, but when I woke up it put me in an odd frame of mine. I'd spent so much of my time awake replaying things that I suppose my mind was empty when I finally got up.
I was first aware that something was up when I clearly heard the sound of Zen's feet on the carpet. I had never heard it before, and it surprised me. After all, footfalls on carpet don't make noise. Or, so I had assumed.
As he walked I clearly heard the brush of his footpads across the fibers, and my surprise subsided so that I noticed other small things. The pop of the house expanding in the sun and the passing sound of cars on the pavement. (Did you know that pavement rings if you drive over it fast enough?)
But in all of that silence I heard the sound of geese, and the sound of two different calls from the other geese. Zen and I turned to gaze outside. As we watched, two geese came in that looked completely different. The Canadian geese scattered and made way for two geese that were white with black margins on their wings.
Over the summer there were two strangers I noted out among the Canadian geese, which a quick review of the bird book showed to be snow geese. It didn't make much sense at the time since they were more a tan color than pure white. But in viewing the lone pair come in I realized it was the same pair from the summer, returning to the same pond with the same Canadian geese and joining the flock. After a few seconds everyone settled down and stopped honking and no further noise was made about their presence. Just like last time, it was accepted they were there and business went on as usual. I felt like I'd witnessed the closing of some odd seasonal cycle, and following the other events it seemed to me like this day was something special. I made sure to walk Zen somewhere new, and then went back later with some film cameras to take photos of the ice on the pond. I saw a great blue heron and caught a shot of him taking flight while at the pond. The ducks made way for me too, and I shot an entire roll of Lomographic Society's black and white 100 speed film, 120 format from the Holga, along with an entire roll of color 800Z Fujifilm in the Diana. I also took the iKimono along and took a few shots on the color 200 speed 110 Fujifilm I'd just snagged from the Four Corners Store. This was part of not being afraid, being willing to go out on the golf course even though I wasn't sure I should be out there (there were golfers even when it was 35 flannel with hunting caps, I might add...)and taking a bunch of photos because I wanted to see what they would look like. I was afraid I might get hit by a golf ball. I was afraid I would get in the golfer's way, or slip in to the pond where it's freezing cold, or scare away the great blue heron so it didn't get to eat. Even worse, I was afraid I would look utterly ridiculous bending over the ice to get pictures of the bubble patterns frozen deep within it. The horror! But I walked out there anyway. The golfers out on the course all smiled at me as they went past and I was in no one's day, nor was I struck by anything. I didn't fall in, and the heron? He took off, flew to the other side of the pond and landed quietly in the reeds, where he kept an eye on me and fished. The world got along just fine around me and nothing happened. It's a small step, but I consider it to be a successful opening battle.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

One more for the road.

New motto, new resolution.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Things You Miss -

I was walking Zen this morning and we were running around sniffing new things. He was driving me crazy and I was spending more of the walk fussing at him to stop jerking my arm around than actually just walking. In hindsight had I just walked, there would've probably been less fussing and less arm jerking.
As I was being irritated and griping, the dog suddenly stopped cold and perked up his ears. I looked up too, because it had him utterly rapt and I wanted to see what had him so transfixed.
The wind had picked up, and the thin layer of snow from last night that had blanketed everything was swirling up and drifting off in a sparkling cloud. It was absolutely beautiful, and we both stood there watching it for several seconds before Zen decided to jerk to the left and sniff at a decomposing birdhouse.
I let him, because he'd just taught me a very good lesson. He was in the moment, experiencing the wonder of the golf course and the world as if it were for the first time. Me, I was too busy focusing on how he should be walking to appreciate it. It was only with the sudden change in his behavior that I was able to do the same with my own. That allowed me to see the wonder of a winter moment and relax to enjoy the rest of the walk home.
The dog, only 5 months old, is already a better empty mind than I am, having tried to practice for the last 3 years!

Monday, January 11, 2010

'Cado Bento for me!

I do not lie when I say that after finishing preparing my beloved husband's lunch-fodder with creative flair, I thought lustfully about that other ill-fated half of an avocado. I seriously considered eating it for breakfast, something I just do not do as a woman who loves her cereal and scrambled eggs. I knew it was there, taunting me from its place in the fridge, awaiting my next move.
I decided that there could be nothing better for me for lunch than soemthing utterly loaded with good for me vitamins, so I absconded with it, cuted it up, added some awesome, and made myself a tiny, decorative bento lunch. Behold!
This is what half an avocado looks like with low fat cottage cheese spooned in to the indentation where the pit previously snuggled down, then covered with sliced grape tomatoes and finished off with fresh ground pepper and a sprinkling of parmesan. It was quite awesome, and if I had less dignity I'd be licking the inside of the avocado shell to get the last dregs.
Thankfully, there is a second avocado, equally as ripe, waiting in the wings.
Oh, and does the Hello Kitty mini-snack bento box just work perfectly for this?
Ahh my poor, poor addictions...

Husbandish Commentary ~

Scene - Husband comes downstairs to witness his wife typing furiously on her laptop to the interwebs at large and views a scene of total carnage on the counter where obviously Something Has Gone On.
Bob: Is this half an avocado on the counter?
Me: yes! I made you lunch! It's in the black bag in the fridge!
Bob: Did you want to save the avocado?
Me: I was going to eat it for lunch tomorrow.
Bob: Is it okay if I put it away?
Me: Oh. Yeah. I was going to but I got distracted.
Bob: I love you.

(As an aside, in a random idea to go through and check how to tag this, I discovered I have "roxii", "puppy bombing", "snopacalypse", "hawk wrestling", "Donnie Darko", "dbz" and "arson" in my list of tags I've typed before. Also, "Tachikoma", "sparkly" and "sasquatch". Wow. I get around!)

Husband Bento #5

Husband Bento #5
Originally uploaded by Red1332
Or possibly #6 at this point, I am unsure.

The husband opted to lose weight over the next few months and as such decided to take on the Atkin's diet as his means for doing this, along with some exercise and good sleep. It's been a struggle to try and keep a vegetarian diet while he noms mostly meats and cheeses and eggs. I love my tofu, and I can't wait until he hits maintenance where we can share stirfries and things again. I feel bad that I can't really joyously dance in to the kitchen and whip up a masterpiece for him right now. Too much stopping and thinking about if he can have something or not.
When math becomes involved in my food I tend to throw up my hands in confusion and walk away. My hope is that THIS time, though, maybe I got it right.
Prosciutto wrapped mini mozarella balls on a bed of lettuce and a salad of cooked spinach with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and cracked fresh pepper, a peppadew stuffed with smoked ham and cheese, a half cup of cottage cheese on a bed of lettuce again, and decorated with half an avocado, sliced, and two poorly made prosciutto roses. Avocados also got the fresh ground pepper treatment.
I hope he enjoys it and it fills him up. I loved making it. I also get to eat that other half of an avocado for lunch tomorrow!

Saturday, January 9, 2010


It is time to create and post music on the internet. There is no reason. Just that I have not until now, and I can make music. Somebody else might like it, and a good song can be as good as a friend when you're by yourself and getting ready to go to sleep. Maybe my music can keep someone company sometime.

I do many things. Many, many things. I don't let myself believe I'm good at most of them. Time to move outside the comfort zone and make things just because I can, and realize I'm not going to get stabbed to death for it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Actual Conversation #84 - Using the frozen foods section for personal amusement

Bob:"We should just stand in the frozen foods section and stare at people. Occasionally we should just point to the peas."

(spoken on date night at dinner when pondering what to do with the hour of free time between our meal and seeing Avatar.)

What Goes Around Sometimes Doesn't Come Around. Yay!

I have a strange yet awesome story to relay.

Several years ago when I moved in to the area I had to go to the DMV to update my driver's license. I spent 2.5 hours waiting to get to a window only to discover that I'd been in the wrong line the whole time. The man at the window was incredibly snarky towards me and implied that it was not their vague sign that was at fault, but my base intelligence and my ability to read. I was furious. So furious that I relived that event over and over for the next week and gave that man a nickname. He became "the nasty little DMV ferret". I spent more than a handful of hours imagining retorts to his rudeness.
Today as I was getting ready to go get my new last name put on my license, this event filtered back to me. I hoped that the man was in a position where he could be happier and didn't have to deal with being frustrated. Mostly I hoped I wouldn't have to deal with him again, and figured since he hadn't been in the photography section of the DMV previously, I would probably be lucky today as well.
I got there and noted immediately that instead of some vague wall with a sign on it there was a smiling woman who asked what I needed, made sure I had everything I needed, then gave me a number. Already it was improved over my previous visit. On top of that, there were only 9 people in front of me.
It was then time for one of my favorite pastimes/social experiments, "smiling at people in crowded locations." Bob and I often do this kind of thing at the grocery stores or other crowded places whenever there's a holiday and a lot of people might be really cranky in one spot. It's fun, and there are very few people that don't smile back. the same happened here. Everybody smiled that I smiled at, and a few even started talking to me, something that had never occurred before. It was a quick 15 minutes of waiting and chatting, and then the weird but wonderful occured.
My number came up, and I walked up. Handed over my info. Signed the little digi-signer. And right about the time the man behind the counter said "god bless you" for verifying I wanted to be an organ donor it dawned on me... the pleasant man who was smiling and saying thank you was the same "ferret". He proceeded to make me laugh, smile, and got everything done in 30 seconds. When he called me back 5 minutes later to give me the finished license he even wished me a happy new year and got one more laugh out of me.
I was happily stunned. It took 19 minutes from entry to exit and the man that had held my stomach in a knot for the better part of 3 days was entirely different. I don't know why, I won't speculate either. But for someone who remembers those wrongs from the past and carries them around like stones in her stomach, it was a very big reminder that EVERYTHING changes every minute of every day. It is only ourselves holding on to the illusion of stationary life that does not. And it has hurt me in the past. This is one I am happily laughing at myself over and willing to let go. More than that, I'm excited that this guy is in a place where he appears much happier with things. That is awesome.


It looks like I forgot to make one very important New Year's Resolution, so I'll be adding that to the list.

What were my others, though? Well, I didn't actually write them down. I'm a big fan of the idea that you can make a change whenever you want and you don't need the New Year to do it. In fact, just to be contrary I used to make mine on Halloween since it was the old Celtic new year or some such ancient cultural nonsense. I could've just as easily waited until the Chinese New Year. The point was that the change was important, and not the day.
Conversely, it's just as ridiculous to delay making a resolution because of what day it is. So when it occured to me to make a list, I just made one.

Here it is, since in writing it down I'm most likely to remember it AND I'll have to follow through since it's public.
1.) Lose weight. Yes, everyone says that, but at this point for me it's becoming serious; it's that or dying at 45 from complications with diabetes I don't have yet.
2.) Meditate every day, even if it's only for 5 minutes. The benefits of it will be enormous. And of course if the door is open, the cats will come help.
3.) Work on the graphic novel idea that's been banging around in my head for 3 years. The worst that can happen is it gets created.
4.) Exercise every day at least 30 minutes. Self-explanatory.
5.) Yoga once a day, even for 5 minutes.
6.) For my poor hands, Finger Yoga at least twice a week to combat the onset of carpal tunnel and reverse all the stiffness of years spent IMing, texting and playing video games
7.) Stay strong with the vegetarian thing. I love the excuse to eat fresh strawberries and pineapple!
8.) Go back to Maine.
~8a.)Free 2 more lobsters while there. Again.
9.) Graduate in June.
10.) Use my talents to help the world however possible.
11.) Get my twenty million rolls of film developed from the Holga, Diana, and my other Lomographic wonders.
12.) Find the perfect, most awesome house to call a home with my husband. Make sure it is zombie proof with room for a garden, then move in.
13.) Venture forth in to all areas of the arts without fear or expectation of results!
14.) Perform my marital duties more frequently, as hinted at above. Not being cheeky, it will apparently really help both of us out!

There may be others. I'm distracted by a cute hound, a cup of chilled coffee and the thought of everything I'm not getting done right now. Time to trade the coffee in for some lovely hot green tea and work on some homework, some knitting, some exercise, and some time with the hound.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Penny For Your Thoughts Book 4/100

I know most people are really sick of hearing me talk about this, but I've been very excited to be a part of it since I discovered it a few weeks back. Bear with me just a little longer!
As some folks know, I got to create book #4 out of the 100 "Penny for Your Thoughts" books that are being created and disseminated as part of the second phase of the Penny Experiment. It was a great deal of fun constructing it, and you can bet I documented the heck out of it while I did.
First and foremost, I chose a leather-wrapped travel journal, as I thought it would keep the contents the most secure and would also be sturdiest in the long run. I made sure to grab one with acid-free paper so that it wouldn't start yellowing or discoloring anything put on the pages.
Next I worked on putting the title of the project on the cover... I wanted to make sure there was just ~no way~ you could miss what this was supposed to be. So I put it on there in very bold gold and black art marker. Added plus of using leather? It absorbed the pigment, so it won't brush off with lots of friction.
In viewing it now, I would probably have turned "Thoughts" a different direction, turned away from "for" so it doesn't run together but oh well... what's done is done!
You'll note that when the top is closed, it actually covers up some of the letters partially. This is my attempt at being tricky and trying to get them to open and look in to the book to see what it's all about.
Now that flap opened itself up to be decorated, and I knew that I had to meet some requirements yet on the front, so that was going on the outside of the flap. But what about the inside? There was all of that lovely prime real-estate waiting to be used in some fashion.
After thinking a moment, I knew that Buddha's eyes needed to be there. That way it would be the first thing that people would see when they opened it, and might pique their curiosity further (or potentially really weird them out); also, as this entire project is an act of compassion, I wanted Buddha to watch over the book's journeys. He can look down on it when it's folded closed, and he can see every page when it's open. They just HAD to go there. So I added it, this time with plain old black sharpie.
Next I decided to add a phrase that had popped in to my head when I'd first been pondering putting the book together...a little encouragement for anybody who might stumble across it and not be sure if they should add their $0.02 as well. Behold:
Here's to hoping it actually works.
I then put in the entry about my rescue-hound already detailed below in another journal post, with his adorable little face.
Then the required text explaining the project and where to send it once completed (note Zen snuck in to thank everyone for their participation, such a bugger...)

Main thoughts I was turning over the entire time this was under construction was that three things needed to be gleaned from viewing this immediately:
1.)It needed to look interesting, or weird, or whatever it took to get people to pick it up and look at it.
2.)It needed to do this while still looking fun and inviting.
3.)It needed to be encouraging and open to, well, encourage folks to add to it!
With these in mind I decided that nobody in the world hated robots or dinosaurs, so those had to go in there as well.
I grabbed some cute robot stickers while I was out getting other items for the penny postcard project, and they were promptly put to good use. I stuck one in a corner or side of each of the first 20 or so pages to make people smile. They were all fairly cheerful and charming fellows. There were some metallic cogs and what I can only guess were meant to be buttons on the page, so those were spread around the pages with them as well.
Then came the dinosaur. There had to be a dinosaur, because nothing says "what the hell is going on here?" like having a dinosaur in the middle of things. Also, for those people who learned about Digging Up Dinosaurs from Aliki before Jurassic Park was around, there is just a warm fuzzy spot in your heart for them. I don't know an adult alive who wouldn't use a kid as an excuse to go look at fossils. So I used it to my advantage with the final inside section.I'm rather proud of this little collage, as it took some collage paper, a rather big T-rex skeleton sticker (yes, I'm the kind of person that has T-rex skeleton stickers on hand.) and art markers. It's supposed to be a wordplay on Jurassic Park, but if people don't get it, I'm not going to sweat it too much.
I decided to tie it in a bit more by adding something else a moment later, once again in the vein of creating/encouraging: "Let's see some JURASSIC ARTS."
The whole thing was finished up by putting the book's number and the name of the project on the flap, and I called the whole thing done. I resisted the urge later to continue to fiddle with it and add more and more as I had it in my possession awaiting the handoff. Deciding that I'd done enough, it was now up to the rest of the world to leave their mark on it.
If, after all of that, someone doesn't fall in love with the quirkiness of it, or feel the beseeching gaze of my beloved pup calling them to write in it, then there is nothing else to be done about it.
I thought for a while about where I wanted to take the book. The only instructions are to send it out in to the world for someone else to write in. Stranger or known, it doesn't matter. It just needs to leave my hands and go in to another.
There are very few coffee houses around here that aren't a national chain attached to another national chain bookstore, and I couldn't be sure it would be well received there. I live in a land of cows and crops and people who shoot at the streetlights along the road because they're bored. It's just not a hotbed of creativity and concern for one's fellow man, and I didn't want to see the book fail before it had even started. What was good was that I DID know of a place that was, and it was only a quick 3 hour drive north!
Trust me, when you've driven the length of Pacific Coastal Highway 101 in 24 hours like yours truly has... 3 hours is nuthin'.
Even better, at the end of that 3 hour trip would be my mom, a lovely and insightful woman who is prone to feeding me when I show up. And while that does begin to sound like I did this purely out of personal gain, there is another very good reason.
My mother is a social worker. She has seen the abused, the sick, the elderly and the dying in her life. She has worked in the projects where many people are lacking, and she has helped people cross over in to the Great Beyond. I couldn't think of anybody else in the world who could assure me of how blessed they were, and what a small act of kindness can do for another human being. She thinks long and hard -sometimes a little too long- before she does anything and I knew she would do something awesome with the book. I also knew she would pass it along to someone else who had the possibility of doing the same.
These, along with the fact that she is in a very busy suburb of NYC, meant that the book has the best chance of getting some good mileage on it. So I happily trekked up there and handed it off. It was like turning over my child, honestly, but I know it's in good hands. I can't wait to see where it goes.

Zazen - Ur doin' it rite...

I am an admittedly intermittent practitioner when it comes to seated or walking meditation. i don't know why, I love doing it. I love the pure calm when I FINALLY get the brain to shut up and just take in what's going on. I just forget or run out of time in my day.
I haven't visited the zafu in 6 months, and it shows in my daily life. I have been cranky, easy to irritate and in pain. Negativity is definitely permeating my reactions to things. I don't like it, and I don't like what it's doing to me.
Yesterday I intended to grab 5 minutes on the cushion to clear my mind and get myself centered. My body immediately relaxed in to the proper position, the way you arrange your elbows and knees to ride a bike years after you initially learned. It knew what to do. It hurt, too, and ached for a good half a minute until the muscles released and fell in to place. To say it was wonderful is an understatement.
But as soon as I sat down, the inevitable happened. I saw the mess across the room and thought about making a list of what was over there, ticking off what needed to be done downstairs.
As always I would catch myself, take a deep breath, and recenter. Then I would watch my mind veer off course again about 1.5 seconds later, take another breath, and do the whole thing over again.
At one point I actually got my brain to shut up for a full minute and a half as I just breathed, and I count that as the biggest victory in my career as a Failing Buddhist. I already knew that this was not going to be one of those sessions and prepared to accept it.
Then on some mysterious and magical queue, my place of meditation was suddenly inundated with 2/3rds of the felines in the house. This is a well-documented phenomenon, wherein I sit down to do something that requires concentration and peace -say yoga, meditation, preparing taxes- and the cats show up and lay on whatever I'm doing. They seem to feel the change in the energy and come in like little psychic vampires to just baste in the happy.
Wondering offhand, as I usually do, whether petting a cat while meditating negates the meditation, I did that very thing. They flanked me, one to each hand, and began to purr like crazy happy little monsters. I petted them. And then something awesome happened.
I realized that a full 2 minutes had gone by where I was minutely aware of the tones of their purring, the touch of their fur, and the muscles they were using in their backs to press against my hands. I was aware that my own breathing didn't progress much beyond my diaphragm and I just could not relax enough to draw it down towards my navel. When I fell out of that, it occurred to me that my cats were not something to be endured during zazen. They were, instead, in the moment and sharing that with me. Maybe they knew what I was trying to do better than I did, and they wandered in to help me out.
In the future I'll happily let them get their white and calico hairs all over my black zafu without complaint. After all, it's just rude to try and correct the master when he's teaching!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Book 4/100 - my further $0.02

This is what I wrote, accompanied by a few Fuji Instax photos of Zen, to help emphasize the point.

"This is Zen. He is alive, healthy and happy thanks to the actions of total strangers. When he was found with his mother and 5 litter-mates on the streets, he was suffering from sore and mange, and every bone stuck out through his skin. He was sick from disease and parasites and would have lived a very short and miserable life.
Because caring strangers stepped in, he is now asleep on the floor in front of me, snoring. He's beautiful at 5 months old, and pure mutt. I've never met a more loving creature.
Imagine what you, a total stranger, can do with a few words or sketches. Imagine the awesome change you could affect with a mere 30 seconds of your day.
Imagine that a single moment could make momentous change in the life of another.
Now hold that image, grab a pen -or pencils, paints or Polaroids- and add your two cents to the Penny Experiment. You may never see who you'll help, but trust me, they will be forever grateful.
I bid you imagine... then create! Take Zen on a journey through your kind heart.
~Helen Kaelin (and ZEN)~"

I hope it gives someone that extra nudge needed to put pen to paper, then pass the book along. Also, I just love showing off my rescue-hound!
I'll do a more in-depth rundown of what I did in the hopes that someone stumbles across the entry and is perhaps encouraged to go seek this book out, or volunteer to make and send off one of their own. This project needs to succeed for so many reasons.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My Two Cents for the Penny Experiment

I was hamstrung for a while waiting to grab supplies to finish up the original art card project, with it being insane and Christmas time. With waiting to get my hands on some decent cardstock to mount the Copic drawing I eventually made, a second wave to the Penny Art Project began. This time they were calling for people to create books to send out, to be filled by total strangers and sent back in. I loved the idea, so I volunteered for that as well.

Being that I have only my own drive and ideas on what to do with my time now, creating this art has really helped me out in motivating me to get up, reminding me that I'm halfway decent with both pencil and paint. I can literally do anything with my days right now, and I plan on revisiting the art supply drawers to work on other things. If I can also help out others while doing it, so much the better.

With the art postcards, I did an initial mock-up in watercolor. I really, really liked the first try, which is rare for me. Behold, the waaay too big for an art card original. It's something like 9 x 12, done on cold press watercolor paper with watercolor pencils and then filled out with Niji water pens. Did I say I'm ticked with this? Because I am very, very tickled with this.
I actually considered taking this to the printer's and having it reproduced because I liked it so much. But then I realized that I would get a rather wimpy cardstock for my troubles and it might not reproduce the colors true. Instead, I decided to be pleased with my apparently grasp of fish anatomy and moved forward. I do want to do something with this bigger sample, though. Maybe offer it up to the project to be auctioned off as well later, or sell it myself and donate all of the funds to it.
I then moved on and redid it in Copics, scaling the size down markedly. I'll be honest, I couldn't get all the detail of the original in there and this disappointed me a bit. I went ahead anyway and put the main image down, then went in and filled in a few of the smaller details with Pitt artist markers. Then, with great trepidation, I filled in the opaque white on the drawing to give it highlights and reflections. I was so scared I would ruin it, but... you know, it actually gave it some added depth.
After I was finally able to acquire cardboard, cardstock and some art papers to cover the whole mess, I once again freaked out a little bit and constructed the base to mount it on. I was concerned about the paper warping after seeing the same thing occur when I mounted test paper with Copic drawings on it to heavy art paper.
Much to my sadness, it STILL warped and rippled, but in the end it added something to the water effect. Fully completed and dried, it looks fairly decent. I'm planning on getting it in the mail on Monday using super-speedy mail. Behold, my koi in a wishing pond, and the penny descending that carries the wish for the success of the Penny Experiment.

And a view of the back.
I just love that paper I used for the backing. I love even more that I got to sign it with that new last name. :)