Category Archives: Photography

Window seat

window-seatJust a little post to brag on our townhouse, which is gradually getting set up the way we want it.

Of course, unpacking is a lot of work (on top of all our other work)—but that’s okay. When we need a break, we can sit in the window seat upstairs in the study.

I’m planning to get a wedgey cushion, but for now these two pillows are doing a fine job. Behind them on the window sill you can see: My tablet (which I’ll get back to reading a book on, as soon as I post this), my coffee flask, Wellington (one of my science fictional elephants, and sometimes the elephant of surprise), Norman the Chambered Nautilus, a tiny little Ganesh sculpture, a plastic yogurt container (currently empty, but used to hold odds and ends), and a tube full of brightly colored cat toys. And, of course, behind that you see the tree outside the window, and beyond that a view of Winfield Village looking east from our townhouse.

Downtown Champaign sunset

downtown-champaign-sunsetWe were downtown for drinks and dinner at Seven Saints with Barbara and Rosie, and I noticed a rather spectacular sunset (click for larger, more spectacular version).

A merely fair picture of it—it was more spectacular in person—but good enough, I thought, to share.

And, in relation to my recent post on pelvises, among the Halloween decorations inside Seven Saints, I happened to notice another depiction of a skeleton with iliac crests dramatically smaller than an actual skeleton’s. Look at that! Surely no one could expect a lifetime exposure to such misleading representations to do anything other than produce a whole range of body dysmorphic issues.

another-small-hips-skeleton

Our next place

jackie-winter-palace-celebratory-beer

So, we’ve not been making progress on the waiting list at Winfield Village. Actually it’s worse than that: We’ve been making backwards progress.

When we first got on the list, we were #5—but they said we were #2 to be called next, because several of the people ahead of us had already been called and had passed because they weren’t ready to move yet.

Then next time, we were #5.

We stayed at #5 for a while, but then a few weeks later, we were #7. How can that be? Well, two ways. First, several people who had been waiting for townhomes had decided to give up and move to the list for apartments instead, and they order people by the date their application became active, rather than the date they asked to be on a particular list. Second, people who already live at Winfield Village who decide to move within the complex skip to the top of the waiting list.

Last week we checked and learned that we were #10.

This was not as discouraging as you might think, because it actually simplifies our life. We had talked about various strategies for temporary housing to span a gap between when we needed to move out of our summer place and when our new place was going to be available. Clearly, those plans would not need to be actualized. Any possible move-in date was far enough off that there was no reason not to just go ahead and sign a one-year lease.

Of course, this necessitates yet another name—for our next place, after our old place and our summer place, but before our new place at Winfield Village.

My propose, which Jackie enthusiastically accepted, is that we call our next place for after our summer place our winter palace.

We’ve so much enjoyed living right downtown that we focused our search on this area. Jackie found a place about a ten-minute walk from here—two blocks further from West Side Park, but about five blocks closer to the library. I called right after lunch. We went to see the place at 2:30, read the lease standing out by the landlady’s van, signed it, and I wrote a check for the damage deposit.

Our winter palace will be ours starting August 1st.

After we signed the lease we walked to the library (I had a book on hold), then to the Blind Pig Brewery where Jackie bought us celebratory beers, which we drank in the beer garden:

jackie-winter-palace-celebratory-beer

Moved!

2014-06-16 13.14.26

We have moved!

We’re not in our new place yet, just our summer place, where we’ve actually been spending our nights for a week now. Our days, though, have been spent at the old place, finishing up the packing. We filled the last box around mid-day yesterday.

Today the movers came and moved everything to our storage unit.

Jackie did great work on the move. She not only did much more than her share of actually packing things into boxes, she also ordered the boxes—and did an incredibly precise job of it. We filled almost 60 book boxes, a similar number of small and medium boxes, somewhat fewer large boxes, and a few specialized boxes (extra-large, electronic equipment, mirror, wardrobe). Jackie figured out how many of each kind to order, and when we were all done we had 3 extra book boxes (one or two of which we will use to pack up the tools that we kept on-hand in case we need any during the cleanup), 1 small and 1 medium box.

I also credit her hard work with saving us money on the move itself, which came in at about $150 below the estimate—mainly because with everything properly packed in advance, the movers were able to just load and unload, without having to fiddle around with stuff that wasn’t quite ready.

Here’s the living room early in the move—piles of boxes, all the shelves empty:

2014-06-16 09.13.30And here’s the living room late in the move:

2014-06-16 13.14.26And here’s the view from near our storage unit:

2014-06-16 10.25.54Tomorrow is my birthday; we’ll take the day off for some celebratory relaxation. The next day we need to go back to the old place and clean it, then schedule a walk-through with the management to make sure there’s no damage. It’s in very good shape, but I’m still mentally warming up to argue that “normal wear and tear” for a unit we’ve been living in for 14 years is more than might be expected after a 1-year rental. Hopefully it won’t be necessary.

After that, we’re pretty much on vacation for the rest of the summer! I’ll be able to focus on my writing. Jackie will be able to focus on her spinning. (Not her weaving, as the loom is packed. Also not the knitting—she’d intended to have some knitting yarn, but used so much as packing material to go around fragile items, she ended up going ahead and packing the knitting needles as well.)

There’s a bunch of cultural stuff in Champaign in the summer that we hope to do, including Friday Night Live every week, and the annual Blues, Brews, and BBQs, not to mention the Taste of Champaign. It’ll be really handy to be so close to downtown for all that.

We can spend June and July enjoying all that, before we have to start worrying about where we’ll live in the fall. Hopefully, Winfield Village will get us a move-in date in good time, but if they don’t, we have lots of options, from visiting relatives to just renting a regular apartment, to taking an extended camping trip. (We made sure to bring our camping gear to our summer place, rather than packing it up.)

Yesterday’s very long walk: 23 miles

jackie-phil-giant-rabbit

With giant rabbit sculpture in Meadowbrook Park.

We’re just about there. The Kal-Haven trail is 33.5 miles, and yesterday we walked 23.3.

My plan had been “more than 20,” and we managed that, although we went a bit over.

It turns out to be surprisingly hard to plan a route with a very specific distance, if you want the route to be interesting. (It would be easy enough if you were willing to just map about a 2-mile loop and walk it 10 times.)

We did pretty well in the past using Google Maps to plan a route, entering waypoints and then going in and tweaking Google’s suggested route to match what we knew we were going to want to do. I did that again, but with a walk this long, I ran into some limits I don’t remember hitting before. In particular, there seems to be a 10-waypoint limit, and those “tweaks” to the route seem to use up waypoints. I don’t know if that wasn’t true with the old Google maps, or if our earlier walks just didn’t need more waypoints than that.

Without being able to tweak the route to match what we were going to do, I just entered points of interest for each of the corners of our walk, then fiddled with them a bit until I saw that we were at 20.1 miles. Then I figured we could just adjust it on the fly. It almost worked.

The route was pretty similar to our longest walk of last year, except that we’ve decided to carry our lunch on the trail, so we skipped the leg to Milo’s Restaurant. We walked to the Olympic Monument near Parkland College, then to Busey Woods (via downtown Champaign and Crystal Lake Park), then to Meadowbrook Park, where we had our lunch at the Prairie Viewing Platform. (We paused shortly after to get the above picture of us posing with the giant rabbit sculpture.)

The other place I particular thought we ought to stop was Triptych Brewery, which we’d never made it to before, even though they’ve been there for a year. (We go almost right past it several times a week—in particular, when she walks home from taiji class, Jackie passes just three or four blocks away—but always in the morning when it seems a little early for beer, and anyway they’re not open.)

It wouldn’t be a long walk from Meadowbrook to Triptych, if you wanted to walk along Windsor Road, but that sounded unpleasant. Instead we hiked north up Race and then cut across through married student housing and the arboretum, took Hawthorn through the research park, crossed the railroad tracks at St. Mary’s, and then headed back south on the Boulware Trail. That probably added a good mile to our route.

We made it to Triptych around 4:00 PM. The joint was hopping, which was good to see. They had about 10 beers on tap. Jackie had a honey basil blonde ale, which she liked very well. (The honey and basil were very subtle, she said.) I had their dry Irish stout, which was also excellent.

As we were passing through the research park, we’d calculated the distance we were going to end up walking (because of her walks from taiji, Jackie knew just how far it would be from Triptych to home), and we knew we were going to come out over our planned 20 miles. But we really wanted those beers, so we decided to just take the most direct routes and hope for the best. And it worked out fine.

The first 5 miles over our previous very long walk was no problem. After that, things got kinda tough—we were tired and footsore—but there was never a point where we worried that we might not make it. If you’re interested, Endomondo has the GPS track and details. (Ignore the altitude data. When the phone loses the GPS signal, it often inserts a point with an altitude of zero. However, no point in Champaign County is at sea level.)

In my report last week on our previous very long walk, I mentioned that my plan for after the 20-mile hike would be a 25-mile hike. Almost as soon as I’d posted that, I realized that obviously our next hike should be 26.2 miles. Duh.

The Illinois Marathon passes just a few blocks from our apartment. The closest point is very near the midpoint of the race.

I grabbed the map off their website, and figured we could just walk to the nearest point, pick up the route there, walk it until the finish line, cross over to the starting line (just a block or two from the start) and then carry on until we get back to the midpoint, and then go home.

It’s not a plan yet. More of an intention. Maybe just a notion.

Today we’re going to rest, have a mother’s day lunch with Jackie’s mom, and take her out for something fun. Maybe a walk in the woods, or maybe (if the predicted rain arrives) to the art museum.

This year’s long walks

Jackie and I have gotten back to our very long walks.

Last Saturday we went to Lake of the Woods and cobbled together their 5-mile prairie trail and their 3.3-mile bike path (together with a couple of jaunts down maintenance roads) into an 11-mile hike. (My goal had been “more than 10 miles.”)

It was great.

The prairie was full of these bluebird houses that had been occupied by tree swallows.

tree-swallows

The tree swallows daunted me briefly; I don’t remember having seen the species before (although I must have). I spent the whole prairie phase of our walk staring at them, thinking “They’re not bluebirds. They’re not indigo buntings. They’re not purple martins,” over and over again.

I’m sure they weren’t the only interesting species I saw, but they’re the only one that comes to mind now, a week later.

We parked near the Museum of the Grand Prairie, and ate our snack in the botanical garden, which brought to mind the day Steven and I bicycled to Lake of the Woods, which I’d remembered as last year, but which turns out to have been in 2011.

I’d earlier gotten a picture of Jackie and me at the picnic table where we’d later have our snack. I like to think of it as a modern reinterpretation of the Victorian portrait.

jackie-phil-victorian-portrait

Yesterday we did a longer hike. My goal this time was “more than 15 miles,” and we each hit it, although we separated around mile 13, after swinging by the Student Union in time for me to attend my Esperanto meeting. Jackie went on home after drinking some iced coffee. I stayed to speak some Esperanto, then walked on through the water amenities, downtown Champaign, and West Side Park.

Along the way we passed the university’s Agronomy building. We’d passed it a year ago, and I’d neglected to get a picture of the name over the door, and very much regretted it ever since. So this time I made a point of pausing for a photo-op:

agronomy buildingI like the harvest iconography on each side of the name. Very handsome.

To do the whole 33.5 miles during daylight, we’re going to have to set a pretty good pace.

Last summer we did okay when we didn’t have to spend too much time fiddling with things. (It’s surprising how many things need to be fiddled with on a long walk—socks, boot laces, packs and their contents, water bottles and the refilling thereof, intersections both with and without pedestrian walk signals. The list is all but endless, and on more than one hike it seemed like something needed to be fiddled with on virtually every mile, such that we’d get home and look at our speed and remember, “Oh, yes. That mile was slow because we stopped to get a snack, and that mile was slow we had to reapply suntan lotion, and that mile was slow because we stopped to use the restroom. . . .”) When we didn’t stop to fiddle with something, we often finished a mile in not much over 18 minutes, even late in a hike. However, even when we hustled right along, we never broke 18 minutes all summer long.

Last week we did do a sub-18 minute mile, and when we started out yesterday, our first mile came in under 18 minutes again. We were pleased with ourselves and decided to pick up the pace a bit more, and managed to beat our time for the second mile, and then again for the third. By then we were all warmed up and covering a stretch of the route where there was almost no interaction with traffic, so we decided to push the pace a bit more, and managed to do a sub-17 minute mile, which is pretty darned fast walking.

Here’s the Endomondo track of my version of the walk (Jackie’s is the same until we separated along about mile 13):

Up to now, we’ve pushed the distance rather quickly, since we’re just recovering distance that we were doing easily enough last summer. Our next walk, which will be around 20 miles, will be a new “longest walk ever” for each of us. After that, we’ll want to do perhaps 25 miles in late May and then the same (perhaps slightly more) in early June. I think that’s as long of a training walk as we’ll need to do. The whole point is to make 33.5 miles a special effort, something that would be undermined by doing the whole distance in training.

Home stretch of the zeroth draft

Progress on the novel continues apace.

In particular, I’ve reached the point where the action in the novel lines up with action in the failed short story that the novel draws from.

The short story failed because I simply couldn’t cram in all the setup needed, a problem easily solved in novel form—the setup occurs naturally in the body of the novel. As I wrote, I kept in mind the various bits that I needed to set up, and have been making sure to cover them as I went along.

With that done, I’d imagined I’d just about be able to copy whole scenes from the short story into the novel manuscript. Except, that turns out not to work. I tried it this morning, growing my story by about 1600 words, only a couple hundred of which were newly written prose.

Part of what’s in these scenes are the failed attempts to provide the setup. Since that setup is now provided (in full scenes of their own, earlier in the manuscript), I need to remove those attempts from these later scenes.

That turns out to be harder than I’d expected. The text I’m working on is near-final draft stuff. I had previously polished every paragraph, every sentence. Everything is all hooked together as smoothly as I could mange. Some things can be removed by just deleting a paragraph, but other things require a complete re-writing. Plus, a lot of things shouldn’t be removed entirely. Rather, the failed attempts to set something up should be replaced with a little call-back to the setup—a little memory-jogger that reminds the reader of what happened many pages ago, so that when it becomes significant, they say, “Oh, yeah. I remember that.”

The upshot is that I have another six thousand words or so ready to go in—but I now see that adding those words will be as hard as writing them would have been. Maybe harder.

After adding three scenes by copying and editing, I’m now thinking that it might be better to just write fresh scenes. (In fact, thinking about the amount of editing that remains to be done on the scenes I added this morning, that’s really starting to seem like a good idea. I’ll try it that way tomorrow.)

As I’ve been writing, Jackie has been working in her media—spinning and weaving mostly. She wove two silk scarves in the past weeks, and spend much of the past couple of days winding a warp for her next weaving project.

Here’s Jackie with the warp, chained up for storage or transportation, but ready to be threaded onto the loom:

jackie wound a warp

Boot failure

boot-failure

I headed out to play some Ingress this afternoon, only to be forced back before I even reached my first portal. I suffered from near-catastrophic boot failure.

boot-failureBoth boots had developed a crack in the sole and mid-sole, right at the ball of the foot.

It’s possible that the crack had been there a while—it wasn’t noticeable as long as I was walking on cleared sidewalks. But as soon as I started walking through snow, it failed badly: Snow started accumulating in the crack, forcing it wider, and forcing my toes to bend backwards. Once I returned to dry pavement, a few steps knocked most of the snow out, allowing my toes to straighten out again.

The crack didn’t immediately let water in, so I actually considered continuing. But a few seconds of contemplating total boot failure at a point where returning home would require walking a mile through slushy snow, I just turned around and headed home.

Happily, these are my old, summer boots. I only got them out today because my winter hiking boots had gotten wet on each of several outings in a row, and I thought it would be best to let them dry completely, and then reapply their waterproof coating before wearing them out in the weather again.

Sometime in the next few months I’ll have to buy new summer boots. I’m okay with that—these boots were not quite as satisfactory as my previous pair of summer hiking boots. Good to get a chance to get a pair that are better. (My winter boots, on the other hand, have been very satisfactory indeed.)

View out my window yesterday

view out my window

During a break in the fiction writing, facing away from my desk in the study, I captured this image with my new phone. I call it “view out my window.”

view out my window

I thought it was hilarious.

Clarion 2001 poster

clarion-2001-poster-framed

clarion-2001-poster-framedAll the writers who taught at my Clarion did readings at the Archives Book Shop, a local bookstore in East Lansing. To advertise the readings, the Clarion office folks printed up a poster with the names and dates. And, as one of our little perks, we each got a copy signed by all the writers (and by our special guest editor).

I’ve had this poster for more than 10 years now. I always meant to get it framed so I could hang it up, but it was one of many things that I kept not getting around to. But for some reason, this past week it suddenly seemed to be the thing to get around to next, so I did. I measured the poster, went to a local shop that sells ready-made frames in standard sizes, and picked up a frame the right size. It was just what I wanted (simple, black, wood frame), but instead of a proper hanging wire, had some crappy metal bracket for hanging the picture, so I also had to buy a kit with some screw eyes and picture hanging wire, but that was cheap.

It still took a couple of days to get it all put together—picture in frame, screw eyes in frame, wire strung between screw eyes—but now it’s done.

I’m pretty pleased. Maybe having it up will help inspire me to keep at my fiction.

Click through for a picture big enough to read all the details.