Tuesday, April 27, 2010

they're at it again

You can always tell the good weather has arrived in Portland when the winter-fattened inhabitants come out to jog along the sidewalk of Terwilliger, a long stretch of tree lined road we think of as our driveway, situated a couple of hundred feet above the city and the Willamette River. Sweat drenched, huffing and puffing, most of them don't run the course more than once but there's another group who've proven to be a lot more committed. They are known as the 'Friends of Terwilliger' and just to keep things simple I'll refer to them as the FOT's.

The FOT's have a mission, a daunting one, for it's their intention to remove every leaf and root of the english ivy that was planted in city gardens long ago. The climate here is so mild and wet that it wasn't long before this ubiquitous plant spread itself far and wide. It invaded the parks including Portland's Forest Park, the biggest in the city and generally recognized to be the largest urban park in the country. I don't want you to get the mistaken idea that Stumptown's founders began with the intention of leaving a pristine wilderness as a legacy for generations to come. Once they removed as many of the original trees as they could reach they recognized the land up here is too precipitous for building and the woods eventually grew back. Except for a small portion allowed for the Zoo, the Rose Gardens and the Japanese Garden, which are all very pretty, the rest is wild and covered in moss and ivy.

Every spring weekend the FOT's arrive dressed in gardening duds, carrying digging tools and sacks. Sometimes a crew sets up just behind our place but most of them, and they're never many, never enough, set up along Terwilliger and begin hacking their way through the ivy that grew back during the winter.. since the last time they were here. It grows up every tree and keeps company with the moss. The FOT's are relentless, determined and tired by lunchtime on Saturdays. Then they go home and the english ivy grows.

As for me, I still prefer less exertion - like this:


Friday, April 23, 2010

salwar anyone?

Quite a long time ago finding it necessary to get a job in what we euphemistically call 'the real world' I discovered I had no clothes at all suitable for wearing to an interview at a bank. By age 30 I'd been designing and making everything I wore for the past 15 years, that is, when I wasn't wearing vintage clothes made from natural fibers rather than chemically produced ones. My wardrobe was not only extensive but also pretty colorful. Looking for subdued colors and conservative cut in my collection soon proved to be a futile effort so I caught a bus downtown and went into one of the last big department stores still left in Providence and purchased an outfit. In all honesty it was a uniform of sorts but it worked and the next day I was offered the job.

30 years later I'm fed up with my professional apparel - black jackets, black skirts, black pants, black shirts, socks, stockings, underwear, shoes and purses all black. If it weren't for the painted silk scarves I'd disappear into darkness altogether. All the really old clothes are gone but I'm thinking about color again and the fact I won't be working at a job much longer. Not being a t-shirt and sweat pants kind of female I've been looking at Indian clothes instead. Now a sari is completely out of bounds since I have no idea how to fold and wear 9 yards of fabric - never mind walk while wearing one. More likely than not I'd have the whole thing on the ground trailing behind me before I was half way down the block.

The answer might just be what's known as the churidar salwar kameez. The salwar is the pants and churidar means pants with narrow legs. The kameez is essentially a tunic style dress. The dupatta is a matching shawl-like scarf. There's a picture of one at the top and here's a typical description from an Indian web site:

* This frock style cotton salwar kameez is all over quiet amazing.
* This cotton salwar kameez is the best outfit for anytime this summers.
* Intricate designs and vibrant colors makes it a trendy.
* So choose this awesome beige, maroon and olive salwar kameez with floral and geometric print.
* Paired along with salwar and dupatta.
* There might be slight color variation .

The remarkable thing is that many of them are quite cheap compared to what we're used to paying for clothes here (the one pictured sells for US$75) and the manufacturers will make them exactly to your size and specifications. They can also be made to suit practically all climates.

Since I'm not embarrassed about the idea of walking around wearing strange clothes the salwars sound pretty good to me. I think I may be ready to start a whole new non-black wardrobe and if I can work up the energy I may even make some of my own design. What do you think?

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Voyage

There's a new Adventure as of this evening called The Voyage. Having sea legs is good but I'm glad to be back on dry land again. :-)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

drawing on life

There hasn't been an Adventure posted in more than half a year but just in case you like to read them, there'll be another in a day or two. I've been drawing for 3+ days to the exclusion of a number of other things. Well, okay I did my necessary household chores, went out shopping and for a walk, wrote to some friends, read a book and watched two movies so I mean besides that I did nothing else.

I even asked myself why it's been so long and then I remembered I was painting silk scarves and little bags until December. Then I started painting a watercolor a week for a number of weeks. Then there were Crow portraits and a painting that took several weeks more. Then again, writing coherently about long distant events in terms that are even moderately interesting now isn't easy. The drawings themselves lead to other remembered images and stories, not all of which leave me comfortable or appearing wise. Perhaps it was the stories I knew I was avoiding that led me to put the exercise away for a while.

Then too, some are almost beyond my abilities to render well. The new story is a very old one and definitely one of those (I'm not good at illustrating mechanical things) but I've given it my best shot and for the moment I'm all drawn out. This is a detail from one.

Meanwhile, I hope you're well and enjoying good weather and aren't in the path of any volcanic plumes.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

old time high tech

Did you know that from the late 1800's through 1910 towns and cities in the United States and Europe were lit by giant arc lamps that sat on posts sometimes 300 feet tall? Neither did I. I've asked a number of people if they'd ever heard of moonlight towers and nobody knew what I was talking about. Of course, in my case that's often been true so it doesn't bother me anymore.

I was wandering around the nets a couple of days ago and found a web site that probably should be better known called 'Low Tech Magazine'. The first story I read was the one about the moonlight towers that appeared for a while to replace darkness and gas lamps in Victorian times. They were carbon arc lamps that appear to have been much like modern searchlights except they pointed down onto streets and docks instead of up into the sky to notify the public about new supermarket openings. Ooops, that's become a thing of the past now too, hasn't it?

Paris had hundreds of them by 1877, including a dozen on the Eiffel Tower. No wonder it became known as the City of Lights. Still, it was a surprise to learn that by 1907 the US led the world in lighting the outdoor darkness with 700,000 of these things in operation. One can imagine walking along a well lit boulevard only to turn a corner into total darkness to understand why their popularity was intense but short-lived. It was the development of skyscrapers that eventually led to the abandonment of these spectacular light shows - that and the discovery of incandescents by Edison (although it was Tesla who invented AC - another story).

Anyway, the web site is really fascinating for anyone interested either in the brilliance of our forebears or the possibilities for utilizing new versions of old methods for getting things done in a world where we're finally learning the true cost of cheap power. Besides. it's fun. If you don't believe me check out 'Tiles as a substitute for steel: the art of the timbrel vault'. I may have to think about passing on painting until I build my own inspiring studio with a very impressive perch for Crow.

(Only Austin, Texas still has 17 of its original 31 moonlights but uses different power.)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

saturday science

Have you heard about planet hacking? The theory is that because carbon dioxide lasts for thousands of years in the atmosphere even if we stopped all our carbon emissions tomorrow the planet would continue to heat up . This has led a number of scientists to consider some radical plans for geoengineering the planet in order to begin a cooling process:

1. Seed the atmosphere with sulphur compounds because they make clouds brighter and more reflective. Yes, this is the same stuff that industrial smokestacks have been doing for years and the very same that has been the cause of acid rain.

2. Drop tons of iron dust into the oceans with the idea of stimulating the growth of phytoplankton which would consume excess carbon dioxide, die, sink to the ocean floor and thus sequester the CO2. Unfortunately, when they tried it for two months other creatures simply ate the excess plankton.

3. Have all the ships at sea pump compressed air into the oceans on their travels leaving swathes of microbubbles in their wakes to reflect more sunlight. There's a good possibility there aren't enough ships and besides, they do use a lot of fuel.

4. Cover the ice that's still on mountaintops (and perhaps at the north pole?) with giant pieces of white plastic. Hmmm..

5. Build artificial trees that can chemically extract CO2. Hmmm..

6. My favorite of all the geoengineering plans I've heard is the one that would see us launching millions of mirrors into a stable LaGrange point between Earth and the sun. I though this was an old joke but apparently it's being considered.

The trouble with most of the hacking ideas is that they are either too expensive or too dangerous and the law of unintended consequences wouldn't be recognized until it's too late. Growing more real trees and having green rooftops is a far better plan in my opinion so long as we could avoid the tendency of eliminating everything that doesn't make a financial profit for someone.

I don't really know much of anything and perhaps the time is coming for major operations of the kind described but what I do know is we should never consider geoengineering unless we reduce our dependence of fossil fuels first.

(The picture at the top is of a rare roll cloud from Apod.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

slow painting

I've been working on a slow painting - the first in a couple of years - and think a verse by G.K. Chesterton would suit the image well enough:

Up through an empty house of stars,
Being what heart you are,

Up the inhuman steeps of space

As on a staircase go in grace,
Carrying the firelight on your face

Beyond the loneliest star.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Dr. Crow examines modern medicine

Crow here. susan wasn't feeling too well a few weeks ago and when she started coughing up green stuff decided to make a general medicine appointment in case antibiotics were advisable. Since she rarely sees doctors who aren't paying her it was reasonable for the scheduler to ask if she had moved since the last visit or if the insurance coverage had changed.

At check-in next day the receptionist took the $25 co-pay and asked, 'have you moved from ----- ?'
"No, I just made the appointment yesterday and wasn't in the midst of packing when I called."

We waited 10 minutes in a large empty space with no magazines and wondered where the other patients were. A health assistant called her name, directed her to an exam room, took her weight and blood pressure, signed into the computer and asked 'have you moved from -----?'
"No, I've been sitting in the waiting room for 10 minutes and haven't changed my address in that time."

20 minutes later a mysterious person entered the room, handed over a gown, signed into the computer and asked 'have you moved from ----?'
"No, but I have been thinking about going out to buy a magazine."

She changed into the gown (while I did the decent thing and faced the wall) and we waited 30 minutes until the doctor knocked on the door, entered, introduced herself, signed into the computer and asked 'have you moved from ----?'
"No, but I did cross my legs a couple of times and made this string of paper dolls from half a roll of table paper."

The same questions were asked again at the lab where she went for blood work and at radiology once the doctor had deemed a chest x-ray a good precaution. A prescription for antibiotics was finally written and the pharmacist wanted to know if she'd moved.
"No, but I'm more convinced than ever it's a good plan to move to another country."

I should mention this happened all in the same facility using the same data base. Maybe that's why they call it a medical complex.

What improved her mood and helped her most was when I found an album by one of her all time favorite new wave performers. Dr. Crow knows best ;-)