Thursdays

I’ve been trying to get out for a walk each day, and trying to take a photograph on the walks. I want to do both of these things, and my theory is that these desires will be self-reinforcing: My desire to take a photo will get me out on my walk, and my desire to go out on a walk will prompt me to get out and take a photograph.

With that in mind, I’ve been going ahead and scheduling a chunk of walk/photograph time between my two morning writing sessions. Today, though, I was meeting some friends for lunch, so I postponed the walk until late morning, then did my walking and photography in the neighborhood of the restaurant.

Thursdays are my most social day–I have lunch with one group of friends (a couple of them former coworkers) and then before dinner meet with my local Esperanto group. With all that, plus the fact that I spent a chunk of the afternoon working on a short talk that I delivered to the Esperanto group, meant that my fiction word count was just 500 words. But they’re words I’m happy with.

Moon and Microwave Relay Tower

Photo of the moon over a tree, next to a microwave relay tower

Moon and Microwave Relay Tower, originally uploaded by bradipo.

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.

How they teach freedom at Centennial High

 

How they teach freedom at Centennial High, originally uploaded by bradipo.

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.

Jackie on the Bus

Jackie on the Bus (photo by Philip Brewer)
Jackie on the Bus (photo by Philip Brewer)

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.

Getting outdoors

"Bee on Clover" by Philip Brewer
"Bee on Clover" by Philip Brewer

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.