Saturday, March 12, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Metal cutout sign with a silhouette of a dancing deer, advertising a place which sells deerskins, located up over the ridgeline from where I live. I've always been a bit puzzled by advertisements for animal products which portray that animal as being happy or downright joyful, as if it is glad that you are purchasing something harvested from their carcass. I don't happen to be a vegetarian or PETA activist or anything like that; it's just that this sort of thing seems a bit inappropriate. Still, that doesn't detract from how cool the sign is, was mostly impressed with how clean the lines are and wonder how the maker managed to do this through a quarter inch of plate steel as if cutting paper with an exacto knife; must have been a very fine metal routing bit, a steady hand and a lot of attention to detail with various metal files.
Pepper and one of his bunny toys. "Baybeh, I think I love you. I know we are different species and all, but this feels so right!"
Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Friday, February 04, 2011
I was on a night-time run with my dog on the backroads near my house in early August of 2010 and saw an eerie, greyish-bluish-green glow coming from a spot about 50 yards into the woods. Knowing that area to be too densely wooded and too sloped for camping I was a little weirded out but figured that someone had drunkenly wandered into the woods and maybe passed out with a flashlight or cellphone turned on and I was concerned (people stop on that road frequently to drink or dump trash unfortunately). My dog usually reacts to the presence of another creature or person and he did not even register any sort of acknowledgement of whatever was causing the light. I called toward the light to see if anyone was there, the woods remained stone-silent. At this point the every hair on my body began to stand on end and my pulse started racing. This scared me a lot, having never encountered it before, but my curiousity was just a little bit stronger than my fear. I turned on my flashlight and with a death-grip on my dog's collar started slowly walking into the woods. When I got to the area where I figured the light had been coming from I saw nothing at all, not even a hint of a glow. With my brain and heart both amped up from the fear I did not know what to think. I really didn't want to but figured the best way to get another glimpse of the glow was to douse the flashlight. Upon covering the flashlight with my hand I was both stunned and amazed by what sat directly six feet in front of me: my first ever bioluminescent fungus discovery. I had no idea that this sort of thing occurred in environments other than tropical & temperate zones. Having studied and marveled at it for a few minutes I then ran home as fast as my legs could carry me to grab my camera.
Upon further study I determined that the species of the fungus is probably the immature form of Panellus Stipticus just barely starting to culture in the moist, freshly exposed wood of this fallen birch tree, having not formed true caps yet. It is also one of the species often referred to colloquially as 'Foxfire' but I have yet to confirm this.
Following is a progression of pictures alternating normal flash exposures with the same shots taken in the dark. The only thing different from the pictures was that the glow was more of a pale bluish green and it saturated the wood more thoroughly than in the pictures, the camera apparently only picked up the green spectrum. These are all 15-second exposures with a 2.4 aperture setting, 1600 ISO.
The other amazing thing about this is the very narrow margin of conditions which it requires to actually glow. Temperatures need to be about in the high-30s - high 40s with the humidity, type of wood, level of degradation of the wood as well as the time of year being just right. I feel very fortunate to have seen this.
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Having started taking probiotics and probiotic foods such as kefir and upping my intake of yogurt, it is a small lifestyle change which has netted good results. One interesting thing I've read about probiotics such as the cultures in these foods is that they are microscopic competitive excluders and they help to keep the beneficial flora/bacterial cultures balanced in the intestinal tract to enhance digestion as well as keeping yeast-overgrowth in check. Somewhat random side fact: when I worked as a LNA, one of the facilities I was working at used to give patients generous portions of yogurt while they were on strong antibiotics which tended to kill off their digestive flora and cause nasty, yeasty rashes all over as well as diarrhea and in many cases an accompanying clostridium difficile infection. Without getting into further blunt descriptives I'll tell you that the yogurt worked for most folks 90% of the time.
Another habit I've adopted is reducing my intake of coffee and drinking LOTS of tea. I use a 5-gallon soup pot to brew large batches of home-made iced tea, usually consisting of around a 50:50 - 70:30 mix of green tea:black/herbal/oolong tea, sometimes with bergamot & fresh mint thrown in because I have an insane amount of it growing along the stream running by my home. I usually cut it with about a third fruit juice to improve the flavor.
Winters often take a lot out of me and I tend to get really low & depressed during this season. Many folks have told me that I likely suffer from 'Seasonal Affective Disorder' and they may be right. On the good advice of a friend I started taking a vitamin D3 supplement during the winter months and what an incredible difference that has made! I still get a bit low once in a while but it is far less dramatic than in past winters and I am usually able to snap out of it pretty quickly with a short hike or excursion in the woods.
Speaking of which, lately I've also been forcing myself to get out and do more things outdoors. My friend Mark G. and I have been going out on lots of snowshoeing & cross-country skiing excursions in the hills and mountains in my area. Both activities are a great full-body workout and the natural world around here has been stunningly picturesque with fresh-fallen snow covering the trees, which sort of gives the sense that mother nature is napping until springtime, occasionally opening one eye to see what is going on but promptly falling asleep again. When Mark isn't around to go out on one of our crazy hikes I fall back into my usual habit of going out with Pepper & looking for sets of snowshoe or X-C ski tracks to see if the maker of them knows any good trails or sights which we've not yet been made aware of. This is how I have found some of my best hiking trails.
Another trick I've used to stay in better shape this year: when harvesting firewood last Spring I intentionally left half of the log chunks unsplit to ensure that I would stay physically active via the lugging & chopping in wintertime. Have you ever heard that old colloquialism stating that ,"Wood heats you twice, keeps you warm when you are chopping it and again when you feed it to the stove."? It's not bullshit.
With these lifestyle changes I feel considerably better than I did months ago, am in better shape than I was all of last year and the digestion issues went away. Despite numerous friends and coworkers being taken out for days at a time with various contagious illnesses over the last few months I've only gotten the sniffles a couple times. It would also seem that my lactose-intolerance has almost completely disappeared, ostensibly due to the cultures in the kefir and yogurt staying resident in my system. I'm more alert, energetic, less caffeine-dependent and my pants fit normally again. Big blessings are lovely but the small ones are what currently puts spice in my life and keeps me in good spirits.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Thursday, January 06, 2011
My sister gave me this novel by Jim Lynch a few months ago and I hadn't gotten around to cracking the cover until yesterday. After staying up until the wee hours of the morning reading it, as of today I am 9/10ths of the way through; was glued to it from the first chapter. The way that Miles' (main character) head works and how he views life and interacts with his surroundings... it felt like I was reading an erstwhile account of myself placed in a different living situation. I won't claim to be as brilliant as the main character is portrayed but I was doing pretty much all the same stuff he was into in the book at that age: running around in woods/nature alone most of the time, observing everything, reading about everything I observed in books (later in life on the internet) & accidentally memorizing volumes of information which is not of general interest to most people. I won't give away any further details but (as my sister pointed out) I will also tell you that this tale could also be read as something of a modern-day allegory.
Amazon.com Review"Miles O'Malley, 13-year-old insomniac, naturalist, worshipper of Rachel Carson, and dweller on the mud flats of Skookumchuck Bay, at the South end of Puget Sound near Olympia, Washington, is the irresistible center of The Highest Tide. He says, "I learned early on that if you tell people what you see at low tide they'll think you're exaggerating or lying when you're actually just explaining strange and wonderful things as clearly as you can" and "People usually take decades to sort out their view of the universe, if they bother to sort at all. I did my sorting during one freakish summer in which I was ambushed by science, fame and suggestions of the divine."
And what a summer he has! Miles, who is licensed to collect marine specimens for money, slips into his kayak late one night when he can't sleep and begins his exploratory rounds. What he sees is not the usual collectibles. He hears a deep exhale, a sound of release, and comes eye to eye with a giant squid. But, there are no giant squid in Puget Sound or anywhere around it--and when they are seen by humans, they are always dead. His discovery is confirmed by Professor Kramer, a local biologist and Miles's friend. Television cameras arrive, everyone wants to interview this small-for-his-age but very smart boy and the events of the summer begin to unfold.
Jim Lynch has an ability to tell a tale that glows on every page. He knows everything that lives in or near the water by name and habit. This knowledge and his sense of wonder at the natural world brings the reader very close to his story, both in its setting and its characters. One early morning Miles says, "...the water was so clear I could see coon-stripe shrimp ... and the bottomless bed of white clam shells ... Those shells, as unique and timeless as bones, helped me realize that we all die young, that in the life of the earth, we are houseflies, here for one flash of light." Such insights are perfectly natural coming from Miles, whose interests are not garden-variety. He has a mad crush on the mixed-up 18-year-old girl next door, a randy age-mate named Phelps, and a deep friendship with Florence, the elderly woman his mother refers to as "a crazy witch." Florence is a psychic of sorts and her powers come into play when she predicts an extremely high tide on a certain day.
All of these relationships and what is happening between Miles's parents are part of this event-filled, life-changing summer. Early on, Miles says off the top of his head, when asked by a TV reporter why a deep-sea creature has found its way to his front yard, "Maybe the earth is trying to tell us something." What the earth and the sea and the people in Miles's life are all trying to tell him is what he susses out in the days that follow--before that high tide.
This absolutely luminous first novel has all the earmarks of a classic. The Highest Tide is destined to be read, re-read, and to remain on bookshelves for the enjoyment of generations to come. --Valerie Ryan"
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Sunday, October 31, 2010
I love the Forester but am still acclimating to the way it drives. Handles well like the Impreza but the transmission is geared differently and there isn't as much play in the gears. The Impreza's gearing was spaced a pretty evenly. Every upshift ensured that it would bring the tachometer down 500 rpm. The Forester seems to have random/odd spacing. 1st to 2nd brings it down 500, 2nd to 3rd brings it down 700, 3rd to 4th brings it down 800, 4th to 5th brings it down 1,000.
Life has tossed me another lesson about learning when it is appropriate to keep trying and when one's effort is wasted and it would be better to pack it in and move on to more fruitful pursuits. In short, I've given up on the idea of fixing my house up and reconditioning it. It just needs way too much major work to be worth it and I am sick of living in a hovel which is badly designed and highly inefficient, always having something breaking down. My intention at this point is to live in it and keep it functioning as a home for a couple years or so while I amass money and resources, then I will completely rebuild it from the ground up, including the pouring of a proper floating slab for it to rest on. I am thankful for what I have currently but I don't perceive that this place will meet my needs indefinitely in it's current state. I have a rough draft for a new home design in my head but have yet to put it down on paper. Maybe I'll post it when I get it worked out.
Regardless of having given up on the house refurbishing I don't intend to sell or give up my location as one really can't ask for a better place: on a dead-end road yet close to the main road, babbling brooks on the property, babbling creek nearby, facing south, lots of space, huge conservation easement surrounding my property, central to 3 major towns without being close enough for urban life to disrupt the rural microcosm, clean ground water, decent neighbors, abundant wildlife and mature fruit trees. One really can't complain about having such treasures.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
As one of my friends pointed out, this vehicle will do nothing to counter the running joke that I'm a butch dyke trapped in a gay guy's body.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
I was working my usual shift yesterday and a customer who was a representative of a local church came in. This particular church buys a hundred goldfish every year to use in some sort of object lesson which relates to the Bible & Christianity from what I gathered, I didn't ask for details. The man was quite friendly and pleasant as we made small-talk while I bagged up his fish. Then, obviously with purpose, he railroaded the conversation onto things he has done in the way of missionary work with children and my blood started to cool rapidly. I listened quietly, maintaining a friendly but somewhat deferential composure yet still felt that old, familiar pang of discomfort which comes with dealing with folks who are always attempting to inject their religious sensibilities into conversations and I knew what question was coming and knew that I had to be truthful.
As predicted, he suddenly asked ,"Are you a Christian?" Without pause I answered him ,"Used to be." A slightly confused look came over his face and after a brief delay he asked me why I don't consider myself to be so any longer and I told him that a majority of the people I've known over the years who called themselves followers of Christ were some of the biggest hypocrites I've ever known and that Christianity was responsible for me having to leave my home upon coming out of the closet, as well as being alienated from most of my family for many years, this in addition to a lot of religion-based strife in my family and life. He did not address this point but went on to ask me what church I went to when I was younger. I told him that my family had attended a mix of Baptist & Evangelical churches. Then he launched into what seemed to be a well-rehearsed diatribe about how if I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart that none of that mattered, that I was still saved, blah blah blah... My blood went from freezing cold to boiling in a split second, I began to shake a little and realized that I needed to end this interaction before I said something which could get me in trouble so I cut across him a bit tersely and told him that I did not wish to continue this conversation and asked if he needed anything else today. He stopped, looking a little surprised, thanked me for my service and the extras I always throw in for customers and left my department.
Could I have been more polite? Probably, and I felt badly that I did not handle this interaction better. Could I have engaged him in a deeper conversation about all of the hows & whys of my story? Maybe, but he really didn't seem to notice (or was just choosing to ignore) the elephant in the room: Christian hypocrisy and the destruction it brings into people's lives as well as the religion as a whole. The modern, Evangelical Christian collective, no matter how bright and progressive some of them attempt to portray themselves as, have a dark side and lots of skeletons in it's closet. It bothers me deeply because I have personally suffered a lot because of people like this, who choose to abandon critical thinking and instead follow a set script without regard for the inconveniences & contradictions which exist within that script as well as the fact that if they want to understand weighty matters pertinent to our times, they need to first listen and fully understand these matters and adapt their message to modern times. This is why I choose not to wear the label of 'Christian' any more. I have no desire to be identified with this group.
Do I hate Christians? No, I don't. While I don't have an abundance of faith and I do not take the Bible literally, could probably be considered more of an agnostic; I love the example and story of Jesus put forth in the Bible and I agree with a fair amount of what the modern incarnation of Christianity claims to stand for. I just have issues with those who claim to follow him and his example but much of the time act nothing like him; those who are in love with the violence and vindictive anger in the Old Testament as well as the image of angry Jesus kicking the money-changers out of the temple and waging war on everyone whom he disagrees with while completely ignoring that most accounts of his life put him forth as primarily a man of peace and deep wisdom who fought off his opponents gently with words, truth and logic. Are there self-titled 'Christians' out there who really do act like this? Of course, but sadly they are an increasingly silent minority from what I've seen.
As collected and calm as I may pretend to be at times, this run-in with an outspoken evangelical shook my foundations and caused me to realize that I am still very angry. Angry with what has happened to me, angry that I will probably never be fully accepted as I am by my parents, angry that if I again find someone to share my life with that my parents will always regard him as an unwelcome interloper and outsider, angry that my Mom and Dad are sweet, loving, incredibly giving individuals who, in their need for significance and fulfillment, are being blinded and used by a political religious movement which is not held accountable and has very little regard for the damage it is doing to some of the families influenced by them. Most of all I am angry and sad that I had so much innocence and happiness before dogma corrupted my life. Did I make my own share of mistakes in the process? Damn straight, I take responsibility for that. Still, part of moving on from this means that I just need to stop wondering how it might have been had I not been brought up in a conservative, religious household. It had it's upsides too and the 'what ifs' and 'might have beens' are not pertinent except when using the image of them to direct one's self where to go and how to improve things so that others may benefit.
All of that said, I am one of the fortunate ones. My upbringing could have been worse. At least my siblings and I were loved and my parents truly cared about what happened in our lives. Despite mistakes (all parents make them), they at least cared and tried. My family has become closer again over the years and I can say in truth that none of us are the people whom we once were. We've learned where each others' boundaries are and for the most part we do not push them. At least in my case I was allowed to finish trade school before I had to leave my home. There are a lot of folks out there, many of them young or underage who are kicked out of their homes and their entire families' lives completely after it is discovered that they are homosexual. Even worse, some of them are packed up and sent off to 'Ex-gay' programs where they are subjected to all manner of confusion and pseudoscientific 'treatment' which ultimately causes more harm than good.
This experience simply brought to mind that as skilled as I've become at dancing around these issues, I can't any more. I have to roll up my sleeves and dive in. The only way I can progress further in this struggle is to engage myself in theological/religious matters again. I needed the vacation I was on, no doubt, but vacations need to end sooner or later. My head has been restless and needs to get back to doing The Work it was intended to do.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Winter has been wearing on my nerves but it won't be around for much longer. I noticed that my metabolism is slowing down a bit and my 32-waist jeans were getting tight. So I resurrected my exercise regimen: lifting weights and a lot of late-night hikes with Pepper. My jeans fit again, might even go down an inch or two within a month, already feeling better, more positive and more energetic but whenever I am pushing myself hard and gaining muscle/strength, I start coming down with random insomnia. Have lost count of the amount of times I find myself bumbling around the house at 3 a.m. busy but not accomplishing much. Maybe it is the blood-flow to the brain? My head is flooded with ideas for my home/property in the coming warm-weather months.
I'll be using part of my tax return to purchase a sawmill conversion kit for my chainsaw so that I can put some of the large yellow pines on my property to use as lumber for fixing up my home. This will be the year when I wade right into the thick of hardcore demolition on the interior and remodeling. The most tedious part will be in jacking up the back half of it, slowly, carefully so as not to damage the building or have it come apart at the joints where the additions are attached, I'll be needing to purchase several more large bottle jacks to serve in this effort. Maybe easier said than done. While tearing crumbling, old drywall off the back wall of the living room a few months ago I found out that this place actually used to be two separate cabins which had the living room built as a connecting part between the two, having found remnants of exterior tar shingles underneath the drywall. Good Lord, this place was built by crazy people (no, really... there is back-story told by locals to support this). Aside from that I am harvesting as much firewood as possible right now so that I don't have to mess around with it during summer, when I plan on being busy with gardening and home-building concerns.
After several years of self-imposed isolation I'm gradually slipping back into the dating pool. As rough as the last relationship was, it made me stronger, more secure in who I am and I feel like I learned definitively what is and is not right for my life. The last few years have helped me to clear my head and develop a better direction for my life. I've done a lot of self-examination and cut out a lot of what was not good for me or those around me. For those of you not in the know about such things, it's a bit difficult for a gay guy like me to meet others of the same ilk in an area like this but regardless, there seem to be a few seemingly nice, available gents and mutual interest from some of them. We'll see where this leads. Whichever way I go, I'm taking it slow and not diving into anything too quick.
Friday, January 15, 2010
I touched up a photo for a friend a while back. If I recall correctly, it is the only surviving photo she owns of her parents together in the same picture. I don't own photoshop or any other high-end graphics-editing tools but am well pleased with the result after extensive cutting, pasting & blending. It isn't perfect but dang good considering what I had to work with:Before: full scan
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
This one is about 3' X 6'. A few scant remains of it's former enclosure lie around it. It lays hidden in the woods about a hundred yards up the hill from a couple of the others mentioned previously.
This is the biggest one I've ever seen, roughly 5' X 9' and at least eight feet deep. I noticed that several unfortunate critters had fallen into it and drowned so, being careful not to touch them. I fished them out with a tree branch and buried them. Stuck a couple branches in at odd angles so that future clumsy critters would be able to climb back out. I also brought a few of my pond goldfish up on a subsequent hike and put them in there to help control mosquitos.
"Maidenhair" Fern grows abundantly in biotopes like this: filtered sunlight, lots of sphagnum moss & still, acidic water with a very thick layer of settled organic matter just below the surface. This is one of those places where if you tread on the mossy areas, the entire ground ripples and one must be careful not to damage the plant life or fall through the moss layer.
Sunday, January 03, 2010
This is what has taken up a large amount of my time between rain storms and other projects. Down-side: lots of hard work felling, chunking, splitting, hauling & stacking. Up-side: boy did it ever keep me in shape, it was free and saves me a load of money without needing to switch to Geico!
I finally got around to reconditioning, painting & putting new seals in the old Scandia 100 wood stove. I am very proud of how it turned out. Interesting story (at least to me): I found this stove for free on the side of the road almost a decade ago while riding with my parents in their van. It appeared to be a rusty, pitted old chunk of scrap-metal, with the reliefs barely visible under all the corrosion and my folks thought I was being ridiculous because I lived in an apartment with oil heat at the time and would never foreseeably need a wood stove. Regardless, they humored me and my Dad helped me to load it into the van. It moved everywhere with me and went into storage for a while. When I bought the cottage it seemed like it would be far more efficient than the cheaply-made "smoke-dragon" that came with the place. Upon further research, this model of stove is a bit hard to come by because it helped with the demise of a Taiwanese subsidiary of the Franklin Stove Company. Apparently this subsidiary was shut down due to a large lawsuit brought by Jøtul because of trademark/design infringements. This model is a direct knock-off of a Jøtul "Black Bear" 118. Hey, if you are going to copy something, may as well copy the best, right? It is relatively efficient, burning up to six hours with a full load of hardwood and a healthy bed of coals still there after 10 hours if the damper is set correctly. By coincidence, it was also manufactured in the year of my birth.
I am very proud of how it turned out, being my first stove-overhaul project ever.
Now it heats my whole house quite comfortably and I do 90% of my cooking on it during the colder months. It saves me several thousand dollars a year on propane.
But OH! and OW! Wood stoves are not all wine, roses and romantic firelight. They bite hard when you aren't careful with them! This is what happens when one is attempting to adjust some of the internal buffer plates before checking to see if it is cooled enough to work on with bare hands & arms.
Thanks to my friend Murph for snapping this pic. Because I burn a fair amount of pine, I have to do this 2-3 times a year. *This tempts me to put on a top hat and black coat tails & sing in a Cockney accent: "Prevent a house fire, schtep in toim, prevent a house fire, schtep in toim! Never need a reason, never need a roim, prevent a house fire schtep in toim!" I dare not dance on this particular roof though. (5 bonus points if you get the reference)
A fuzzy, uninvited guest who ended up in my bathroom. It was a little surprising to get out of the shower, glancing once and thinking it was just a large moth, then again and realizing what it really was. He made a hell of a high-pitched racket when I trapped him in a coffee can and turned him loose in a tree outside.
Another uninvited house-guest who somehow got inside over the summer. My cats had him (or her?) trapped behind the wood rack so I caught him and hustled him outdoors too. My sister, and now I, have started calling them "Dreaded Angii" ("Dreaded Angus" as the singular form). She says because they remind her of angry little Scottish men when they are scolding you from up in the trees.
And while we're on the subject, this was yet ANOTHER guest who almost became lunch for my cats. I'm not sure if it's a mole, vole or shrew.
Cornographic picture, avert your eyes! Naked kernels like this must be censored and re-husked to prevent the young ones from getting warped minds and becoming mass murderers! (Disambiguated reference to Ren & Stimpy, can anybody pinpoint the joke reference?) Tweaked humor aside, I don't know if it's a really common thing, but most of the dogs I've met seem to love corn. This corn popped up on it's own from the shavings I mulched a burm with in my side yard. It's cow-corn and not really desirable for human consumption so I gave it to him. He has a ball stripping the husks and tossing the ears up in the air, after he's had his fun he settles down and eats it.
Asian Praying Mantis hanging out on the windowsill on the front of the bird-room at work.
In my neighbor's tree: made me do a double-take, thinking it was real at first.
An incredibly effective home-brew directional wifi antenna which I made out of a coaxial connector, a length of coaxial cable, a tuna can, a small copper wire antenna, a discarded metal primestar dish I found behind the wood shed when I bought the place, and picture-hanging wire. I am very proud of this project too. Connected to the router, it gives a very strong signal no matter where I am in my yard, connected to my wireless card via a home-made pig-tail adapter, it can pick up networks from a quarter mile down the road.
This is the trailer which came with the property (I didn't live in this one, it was used primarily for storage).