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.)

Clarion 2001 poster

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.

Snowy day at Kaufman Lake Park, with coyote

Jackie and I decided to celebrate the snow with a walk around Kaufman Lake park—a walk that yielded more wildlife than usual. (There are larger versions of all these pictures except the one of the coyote, which is already full-size.)
Snowy scene

This spot is just 5 minutes walk from our apartment, part of the Greenbelt Bikeway, but on the other side of the Copper Slough from Kaufman Lake.

From there, we crossed the bridge to the ring road around Kaufman Lake.crossing the snowy bridge

After crossing, we turned right and did a circuit of the lake. The only picture I didn’t take and regretted was one right there. The road around the lake is not really narrow—there’s room for 8 or 10 people to walk side-by-side—but in that spot, with the brush that lines the sides of the path in the summer having been cut back, exposing the steep slopes down to the lake on the left and the slough on the right, it looked really narrow.

We saw a lot of wildlife on this walk. There was a great blue heron on the lake that I spotted from a distance, and then saw take off as we approached. A kingfisher landed on a tree just across the slough, then took off and flew down the length of the slough, giving its distinctive chattering call.

Best of all, though, we saw a coyote! The first one I’ve seen since we moved from Philo. (Not that they were common around Philo either.)Jackie looks at coyote

You can just see the coyote there where Jackie is looking, above and just to the left of the center of the frame. It was really too far away to photograph with my little camera, but here’s the best shot of the coyote that I got:coyote

That was probably the peak of the walk, but we were only halfway around the lake at that point. We proceeded around.

I got a couple of pictures looking back across the lake. Here’s one with Jackie:Jackie looks across the frozen lake

And here’s one taken later, looking back toward the bridge through some snowy branches:bridge from across the lake

At the point where the ring road reaches the south end of the park and curves east and then back north, there’s a little picnic area. I thought it was funny to see it buried in snow:snowy picnic spot

Just before we got back to the bridge and headed home, we passed the two fishing piers near the boathouse, and I got this picture of the sign which, if I remember correct, has the daily fish catch limits:fish catch limit sign

Again, I thought it was funny covered with snow.

As we approached home, I let Jackie walk in front of me, so I could throw a snowball at her. She seemed quite outraged that I’d do something so nefarious. And I can see that it would be a surprise. I’m not sure I’ve ever thrown a snowball at her before. If I did, it was probably 20 years ago. In any case, far too long.

She retaliated, as is only appropriate.

Harvesting flax

It’s hard to decide when to harvest flax. If you harvest early enough to get the finest fiber, you get no seeds. If you harvest late enough to get seeds to plant next year, you get coarse fibers.jackie harvesting flax

The books suggest various compromises. One suggested 30 days after the peak of flowering, if you mostly care about fiber, and two weeks later if you mostly care about seeds.

Flax flower

We decided to harvest half of our plants today. We think it’s early enough to get good fiber. Indeed, some of the plants are still in flower. But there are plenty of seed pods that look like they’ll be full of seeds.

flax seed pods

Depending on how things go, we’ll harvest the other half in a week or two. That may get us some more or better seeds. At least as important to me, it adds a bit of redundancy—if something goes wrong with the processing of this batch, we’ll have another batch that won’t suffer the same fate.

Jackie has suggested that we not try to save seeds to plant, but rather eat the seeds we get. (I assume she means to grind them up to use as flax-seed meal, which we do buy at the store and put in bread and such. Even if every seed pod turns out to be full to bursting with seeds, we’re only going to get a few tablespoons of flax-seed meal, but that’d be enough for several loaves.)

The first step to turn flax into linen, after growing the plants and harvesting them, is to dry them. The books suggest that you tie the stalks into bundles, then arrange the bundles into loose stacks for drying.

That’s where we are now:

sheaves of flax

First flax flowers

first flax flowersJackie and I visited our garden today, where we’re growing flax with an eye toward making linen. We were pleased to find the first flowers on our flax plants.

Sorry for the crappy photo—I neglected to bring my camera, so this was taken with my phone. Worse, it was windy, so everything was moving. Still, it gives you a general idea of how our flax is coming along—close to knee-high, and very thick and lush. (Apparently growing very thick is preferred if you’re growing flax for fiber, rather than for seed. Thickly packed plants grow straight and tall without branching, so you get the longest fibers. More sparsely grown plants tend to branch out, which is fine if you’re growing the plants for flax seeds, but not ideal if you want textile fiber.)

Somewhat more successfully, I took this photo of some bison with calves, in a field behind the hotel where we stayed in Greenville for our Sharp family reunion.

bison with calves

Kal-Haven training walk #4

Continuing our series of long walks to prepare for a possible through hike of the Kal-Haven trail, Jackie and I walked 16.72 miles today.

We walked to the University of Illinois’s arboretum, and then on through south Urbana to Milo’s where we had lunch. Then we walked to Meadowbrook Park and along the trail that goes along the south and west edges of the park, then through married student housing to the old Motorola building (where OLLI is now) to refill our water bottles, and then on home.

Jackie has asked that I specifically mention that we got a very close look at three juvenile Stufflesbeam (the plural of Stufflebeam, which is what we call ground hogs), just on the west side of the railroad embankment where Stadium Drive crosses Neil. One in particular stood just a few feet away, eating grass with great enthusiasm, close enough to give us a great view of his little nose.

Here’s what my tablet captured via Endomondo:

Jackie and I took a couple of pictures of one another with one of our favorite sculptures. We like this sculpture for various reasons, but one is that the very first time we came upon it, suddenly and unexpectedly as we took a turn in the path, we both had the same thought—and we both knew that the other was having that thought: “Anya wouldn’t like that!”

The picture Jackie took of me is pretty good—that’s what I look like. It’s of some interest to me because we took pictures with this sculpture a few years ago, and I didn’t like the pictures of me because of my weight at the time, and there was no way to crop the picture to hide my stomach and yet keep the rabbit sculpture.

I like this one better.

phil-with-rabbit

And, although Jackie just got an ordinary good picture of me, I managed to get a great picture of Jackie.

jackie-with-rabbit

It’s a perfect picture of the Jackie I know—the Jackie I’ve been married to for 21 years.

The wonderful Spurlock Museum

Plaster copy of Venus de Milo.
Plaster copy of Venus de Milo.

A hundred-odd years ago, a lot of towns and cities had their own museum. In those days, international travel was beyond the reach of ordinary people, and museums saw it as part of their mission to bring the great artistic and cultural works of the world to a place where ordinary people could see them. To support that, a whole industry existed making molds of the great works of European sculpture, and then casting plaster replicas of those works to be displayed in museums.

After all, the Venus de Milo can only be in one museum, but should only people who can get to the Louvre be able to see it?

A few decades later, fashions changed. Air travel and other changes made it possible for ordinary people to get to Europe after all, so they could see the great works of European art and culture. Rather suddenly, it no longer seemed like a great service to show people copies of the greatest works of art and culture.  Museums decided that they should show people originals—even if they could only afford 3rd rate originals.

julius caeser
Plaster copy of bust of Julius Caeser

Thanks entirely to great good fortune, at the time that this shift was at its peak, a budget crunch at the University of Illinois had virtually shut down the museums that are now known as the Spurlock Museum. They had so little money, they were unable to hire a director, meaning that there was no one in authority to throw out the plaster copies of the great works and replace them with 3rd rate originals.

At museums all over the country, an incredible number of these excellent copies—quite literally museum quality—were simply thrown away. But not those belonging to the Spurlock Museum.

Among other things, we have a fairly complete set of replicas of the Elgin Marbles, made from molds taken before an ill-fated attempt at cleaning did serious damage to the originals. Scholars come from all over the world to study our copies.

elgin marbles
Plaster copy of frieze blocks from the Parthenon

I was going to the Spurlock Museum today, to attend a meditation class by Mary Wolters (an excellent workshop, by the way), and decided to catch an earlier bus so I’d have half an hour to look around the collection. I’d several times wished I had a picture of one or another items from their collection to use to illustrate a Wise Bread post, and I figured this would be a good chance to get a few photos.

Having taken a few, I thought I’d share some here.

spurlock scupture

If you’re local, don’t miss the wonderful Spurlock Museum.

Morgan Craig at the Parkland Art Gallery

Corner of the Morgan Craig exhibit at the Parkland Art Gallery

Jackie and I were over by Parkland College to do the final harvest at our garden plot, and took the opportunity to visit the Parkland Art Gallery, where the current exhibit is a set of large oil paintings by Morgan Craig.

I’ve been meaning to mention Parkland’s art gallery for a long time. It’s an excellent small gallery that shows a wide range of art. Students, faculty, local artists, and internationally known artists are all featured. It is one place that, despite our straitened  condition, we donate to. That’s not only because we want to support this great resource for the community, but also because they respect and appreciate even their small donors. Our $50 donation to the Parkland Art Gallery makes us patrons. A $50 donation to the Krannert Art Musuem doesn’t even make you a friend (maybe a passing acquaintance).

Sorry for the crappy camera phone image of the art, it really doesn’t do it justice—check out the exhibit link above or Morgan Craig’s artist site to get a better idea of the art, which shows great mastery of line, mass, and perspective. (The leftmost picture in my image, for example, is foolish thing desire.)

I wanted to put the picture up, though, to talk about the color pallet. Most of these pictures are rich in teal and orange. It’s a striking paring. (For one thing, the colors are complementary—that is, opposite one another on the color wheel—so they pop when viewed together.) These pictures of urban decay use them well: the teal for unrusted metal and the orange for the rust, the orange for daylight and the teal for shadows. But a little goes a long way, and as you can see from my crappy little picture, this exhibit was really heavy on the teal-and-orange, something that I’ve been perhaps over-sensitive to since reading the article Teal and Orange – Hollywood, Please Stop the Madness. (Don’t click through to that post unless you want to be similarly sensitized.)

Anyway, given my own interest in the theme of urban decay, I found this a great little exhibit. If you’re local, you should definitely check it out. Visiting it has reminded us that we really ought to go see every exhibit at the Parkland Art Gallery. It’s so close, and the exhibits are so often excellent, that it would definitely reward the minor effort involved.