Across the street from our apartment complex is a microwave relay tower. From where we used to park, outside our previous apartment, the apparent size of the round face of the antenna is almost exactly the same as the apparent size of the moon, and appears over the horizon in about the same place the moon rises.
More than once we’d park our car around sunset, look up, see the round disk of the microwave antenna, and mistake it for a full moon. (The red letters aren’t visible once it gets a little darker.)
In this picture it’s pretty obvious which is which, but on a dark and slightly misty night when the moon isn’t visible in the sky for comparison, it’s a surprisingly convincing illusion.
I don’t walk around Centennial Park as often as I might. I’m a lot more likely to walk around Kaufman Lake, or just walk to downtown Champaign or to campus—places I can do something (like go to the library). Centennial park is nice, though, and whenever I do walk there, I make a mental note to do it more often.
The one downside to the walk is going past Centennial High School. It is, as near as I can tell, a perfectly good high school—I don’t really have any visibility into that. My perception of the place is based almost entirely on the signs posted at the entrance to the parking lot that I have to walk past whenever I go that way.
So, there’s the “private parking” sign and the “smoke-free environment” sign—both fine. The “guests must register” sign bugs me only a little. But then there’s the “Search of Vehicle” sign, claiming that just entering the parking lot amounts to consenting to have your vehicle searched, and the “video camera in use” sign which says that just entering school district property amounts to consenting to have your image captured in “video, digital or other such format as may be appropriate.” I’m not fine with those.
I not entirely sure why it bugs me as much as it does. I never drive there, so I can pretty much ignore the “search of vehicle.” I don’t know if the video cameras are aimed at the sidewalk or not, but my actions on the sidewalk are public anyway—anybody could be taking my picture, not just the school district. And yet, it does bug me.
Probably the biggest reason is that I hate the example it provides to the students. Three or four years of walking past those signs every day—and experiencing what they really mean in practice—no doubt desensitizes students to what it means to be free. I hate the idea that a whole generation of students is growing up thinking that this is acceptable behavior, or at any rate that tolerating it is just something that people have to put up with.
We were both heading out yesterday, Jackie to downtown Champaign for lunch and then a meeting with her fellow spinners, I to the south end of the research park where the Fitness Center was letting local Yahoo employees (and friends like me) renew our discount memberships.
Jackie’s bus left three minutes before mine, so I had a chance to take this photo. I did some pretty heavy processing in iPhoto, mostly adjusting the levels so as to emphasize Jackie’s face at the cost of washing out things like the brick wall behind the bus. I’m rather pleased with the way it came out.
I do fine at getting outdoors enough in the summer. In the winter, though, I’m prone to spend far too much time indoors.
There’s a sidewalk around the interior of our apartment complex that makes for a fine short walk. (It takes about seven minutes, so I think it’s probably close to a third of a mile.) In the summer, I might do that walk at any time. In particular, I do it while I’m writing, when I find that the prose isn’t flowing. That’s usually a sign that I’ve taken a misstep in the story, and a seven-minute walk is often just what I need to figure out where I’ve gone astray.
In the winter, though, I don’t do that, because the cold and the snow turn the little walk into a big production. Changing into outdoor clothes (and then out of them again) can easily double the time for taking a quick walk, so instead of being seven minutes it’s a quarter of an hour. Plus, I figure if I’m making that kind of investment of time, I ought to do more than just walk around the block–I should get a real walk in, or run an errand.
That kind of thinking leads to trying to optimize my time–scheduling my walk not when I need a short break from writing to get back on track, but when I need to go to the bank or pick up something at the grocery store. And if I don’t have any such chore to justify the outing, I tend to just stay indoors all day. (One of the few upsides of having a regular job was that it did get me out every day.)
Since I know I’ll feel better if I do get out everyday, even if just for a few minutes, I’m thinking of creating an artificial errand: taking a picture. I figure it’s something that can be added onto any actual errands I have–I can just bring the camera along. If it seems like a day for a longer walk, I can take the camera along for that, too. And if it’s not a day for a long walk–if I’m busy, or the weather’s bad–I can just as easily take a picture on a short walk.
When I get a picture that I’m pleased with, I’ll post it here. This one’s from a day or two ago. When I was a boy, one had to be careful walking across a field of clover because there’d always be bees around. This summer, finding a bee on a clover was a rare treat.
Had a good eye for spotting wildlife on this trip. I spotted a young raccoon about halfway up a tree (visible from where I was sitting at the table in Katy’s house). Later, from the conversation nook, I spotted a stuffelbeam (aka groundhog), that I suspect had a den very near the house. A bunch of spicebush butterflies appeared on the last evening we were in Kalamazoo—perhaps just-emerged from their chrysalises (as we hadn’t seen any before), and later a hooded warbler that came to bathe at the pool outside the dining room window. There were lots of hummingbirds at the feeders, plus the usual birds—I got a good look at a cardinal that came close to the window, and heard several crows that seemed unhappy to have us come home after the art show.
That was not the end of it. I got a great look at a chipmunk just outside the window, and spotted two feral cats (unwelcome visitors on the property, even though I suggested that cats would be the one effective way to cut down on the mice chewing up the electrical wiring in the cars). My dad spotted a turkey just outside the dining room and we all got a look at it. A pair of phoebes had built a nest just under the eaves of the screened-in porch. We could see the female sitting on the nest, and then spotted her again when she took a break in the late afternoon, sitting and preening for perhaps 15 minutes before returning to the nest. And then, just twenty minutes or half an hour outside of Kalamazoo, I spotted a fawn just outside of some woods the track ran through. (Poor Jackie didn’t get to see the fawn, as we zipped past in just a few seconds. I think she got a look at everything else.)
I got several useful things done—did the crucial bits of setting up my dad’s website to use WordPress (it had previously been hand-coded html) and got two of their old computers decommissioned (deleted and overwrote the data on one’s disk drive; removed and smashed with a sledgehammer the disk drive from the other).
We went to the art show (the reason for visiting this weekend rather than some other), and got to see a lot of really nice art. Visited the booth of Peter Czuk, an artist who crafts things from wood. Richard and Katy had years ago given me a letter opener that he’d made, and (as I actually use it to open letters) the sharp edge had gotten dull. I’d talked to him about it last year and he’d indicated that he could sharpen it, so this year I brought it along and got a fresh edge put on it. Hopefully now it’ll once again open letters nicely for years to come.
Also at the art show, got a chance to chat with Steve Curl, one of Steven’s childhood friends, who is working as an artist these days, making sculptures of robots and ray guns. (But who oddly doesn’t seem to have a website.)
We took the train both ways. Our layover on the way up was just long enough for lunch. On the return trip it was a bit longer, so we had some time to hang out in the great hall. I spent a few minutes trying to find a way to photograph it in a way that captured what a great space it is. I thought this picture was sort of okay.
All in all a great trip. Despite the long list of things seen and done, we mostly just visited with the family and did some walking.