Inktobering

I’ve been doing a pen-and-ink drawing each day this month for #inktober. I’ve been sharing them on Twitter, but obviously I should be sharing them here on my site as well.

So, here’s a gallery with my #inktober drawings, I’ll try to keep the gallery updated as the month of #inktober proceeds.

NASA (space) travel posters!

I’m both a huge fan of poster art and a huge geek about travel to fantasy locations, so I’m doubly entertained by this batch of posters from the fun-loving artists at NASA advertising a bunch of possible travel locations in our solar system and beyond, available in resolutions high enough for printing at poster size:

Source: Visions of the Future

Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Misleading pelvis depiction

I mentioned a couple of posts back about being surprised by how high the top of my iliac crest was—nearly as high as my navel.

small-hips-skeletonAs chance would have it—not such an unlikely chance, with the date approaching All Hallows Eve—I happened upon a depiction of a skeleton outside a local shop. And look! That poor guy’s iliac crest comes no higher than his coccyx!

I present this image purely in an effort to spread the blame around. My ignorance of pelvic configuration is an ignorance deeply rooted in inaccurate depictions in popular culture.

I told this story to one friend who was baffled that I was so misled by these sorts of images. “Just look at any bikini model,” he said. “You can plainly see how the top of the iliac crest is nearly as high as the navel.” (Which is true—search for bikini model at wikimedia commons and see for yourself.)

The topic under discussion shifted at that point to optimal waist-to-hip ratios, after which it started getting strange. But all that is beside the point: Is it any surprise, in a world where plastic Halloween decorations cheap enough to leave out on a public bench are this inaccurate, that I might be confused about this particular aspect of anatomy? No, I say. It is not.

Boring post: Fiddling around with my website

I started having odd troubles with the theme I’d been using for this website, so I thought I’d look into alternatives.

I tried quite a few, most of which had one problem or another. Among the things that made me reject themes today:

  1. Header image was completely integrated into the design, so it couldn’t be changed.
  2. There was no way to show the full text of each post on the front page.
  3. Post titles were forced to all-uppercase.
  4. A full third of the page was dedicated to showing a featured image for each post, except my posts often don’t have a featured image—in which case the theme showed a dumb icon instead.

This theme isn’t perfect either. In particular, when I use an image in a post and mark it as the featured image, it appears twice, which is usually not what I mean to have happen, but I’ll experiment for a bit and see how I like it.

Intended as a placeholder, the header image is a photo I took of plaster casts made of the Elgin Marbles. (The casts, on display at the Spurlock Museum, were made before the ill-fated cleaning attempt that so seriously damaged the originals. Scholars come from far and wide to study our plaster casts.) Now that it’s up there, I kinda like it. I may just leave it like that.

Playing Ingress (now in open beta!)

For about six weeks now, I’ve been playing Ingress.

It’s a game. You could almost call it a video game—you see what’s happening on a video screen—but to play you have to go outside: The action of the game happens at specific places in the real world.

The conceit of the game is that matter from another dimension is intruding into our world via portals. In our world, these portals appear as works of public art or unique architecture. Via the game (running on an Android phone or tablet), you can locate and manipulate these portals.

I’ve been having a great time. I’m working with a half-dozen or so local Resistance players, some new like me, others already at level 8 and mainly providing support (since they’re no longer working to level up themselves).

The structure of the game encourages team play—building a powerful portal requires multiple high-level players to work together. But the team play doesn’t need to be simultaneous, just somewhat coordinated. Lower-level players can make faster progress if they play with a higher-level player, but it’s not necessary.

Screenshot_2013-11-01-11-15-12Besides the pleasures of loosely integrated, minimal-pressure teamwork, the other great thing about the game is that, because it takes place in the real world, to play it you have to go out in the real world. The game reports on how far you’ve walked in the course of playing it—for me, 50 km in the past six weeks. (See “Distance walked” in screenshot.) I credit that walking with helping me maintain my weight even though I haven’t been able to run for the past month.

I’m also really into the public art aspect of the game. I was already a huge fan of public art, but the game has made me connect with individual works in a way that I hadn’t. I’m aware of individual pieces in a whole new way—how they relate in space with one another and with other aspects of the community. (Although it is a different experience now to go for a walk downtown. Even when I’m not playing, I’m aware that certain works that are portals in the game. I have to remember that most people are not.)

Anyway, Ingress is now in open beta. If you have an Android device, you can just download the game and go.

I recommend it.

If you’re local and play, get in touch. I’d be glad to help you level up.

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.

The birds think it’s spring

Jackie and I went for our first bike ride of the year. We followed our traditional first-ride route, around Kaufman Lake, past the Olympic Monument, around Parkland College, and then back. This year we went 6.27 miles.

I’d been hearing cardinals for several days, but out on this ride we got definitive expressions of bird spring. The robins are back, as are the red-winged blackbirds. I saw a crow fly up out of Copper Slough with a huge wad of nesting material in its beak.

The ride itself went fine as well. No mechanical problems. No problems with Jackie’s wrist. There had been a couple of previous days when it would have been warm enough to ride, but those days were very windy. It was nice to just wait for today and not have to deal with the headwinds.

I think we’re all set now, to be able to ride whenever we want. In particular, if there’s a day when it’s nice enough to ride first thing in the morning, we could ride to the Fitness Center and then to taiji. (That’s a bit long and complex of a ride to try to combine it with our first “shakedown” ride of the year.)

Decorative Brassicas

Spotted these decorative brassicas by the front walk of a house near campus, and liked them—a seasonally appropriate floral alternative for December.

Not the best picture ever—my phone had a pretty good camera for its day, but the lens has been riding around in my pocket for 5 years now.

I was near campus to meet some former co-workers for lunch, and took the opportunity to walk over to a Chinese grocery store near University and 5th, where I’d gotten a box of Ceylon tea last summer. That box of tea is just about empty, and I thought I’d look and see if they still carried it—which they do. (I’d checked on the internet, and found that Amazon was selling the same tea for $17 a box. The Chinese grocery store had it for $3.)

Creative Commons License
Decorative Brassicas by Philip Brewer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.philipbrewer.net.