Thursday, December 31, 2009

Another Year

Another year has come and gone, and yet another has taken its place.

I'll not get maudlin on you. Happy new year, all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Facebook's Graffiti. I Win.

A [long] while ago, around the time of the Iranian elections, there was a speed painting contest/submission opportunity/thing on Facebook. Twelve were featured, and to my surprise, twelve are still there, and I am still at the top of the list.

And am now featured on a blog, Cool.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


This story comes from Taiwan (not recent, and not where I live). Or rather, it would have made a good story had I been paying closer attention at the time.

The air is hot and heavy as we traverse the maze-like side streets of Lukang. The buildings are older here, and the only traffic is foot or bicycle. Homes and shops are crowded together, but nevertheless exude an air of cleanliness. Fruit trees are hidden unexpectedly in corners. On the worn steps of a temple squeezed into a dead end are some elderly ladies, smoking and chattering. They give us directions. We continue walking.

Somewhere along the way a thick, pleasant odour wafts out into the street. There are piles and piles of little black coils lying along the outside wall of a shop. What could these be, we wonder. We speculate. Coasters? Curious.

Inside the shop a man is bent over his work. He is making, as it turns out, incense. The man is a master of his trade. He explains his process. The doughy material is pressed from the machine- this is the great black iron beast the younger man is handling- which the shop owner then rolls by hand and coils on a wheel. They are then left out in the sun to harden and cure.

He has been at this a long time, it turns out, since he was young. All the ingredients are natural, he says. He used to gather much of it by hand.
The shop-owner seems delighted explain to us everything, and he works enthusiastically as he does so. But there is also a grim set to his face. Business is not so good now; everything is commercialized these days, and there is competition. The conversation carries on for a little while, then we bid our farewells.

We step out into the street. Inside the shop, the incense-maker turns his attention back to his work.

Monday, November 23, 2009

To Blow Hot and Cold

Another nighttime shot from campus. State St, which is always swarming with activity. Lots of traffic even by night, and a line of architecturally impressive university buildings all in a row.

Looks like another meme...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Skywatch No. 27

The days are shorter, the branches barer, the air colder. On one of the warmer nights I went out to wander campus with a camera and found the iconic belltower lit against a jewel-toned sky.

Nice change from having no inspiration at all for the past few months.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Giving What's Due (and That's Certainly Not It)

November 9th. Fall of the Berlin Wall. Significant moment in history, methinks? While I usually admire and respect the constantly changing appearance of the Google logo on its homepage for significant dates, the one today (or variation thereof; they've been on all week):

There is nothing wrong with Sesame Street. It's a classic part of our culture. But failing to recognize the beginning of German reunification- a meaningful step that changed political dynamics worldwide in favor of a children's show... really?

I also observe an alarmingly large number of racist/[malicious] politically charged statements made out of ignorance on the internet today. Kindly go inform yourselves.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

This is Not an Actual Post

This blog is on a low-activity month. Life is busy and demanding and stressful. Sorry if you thought there was going to be something of value here (you were warned). I'll be back in short order.

Friday, October 16, 2009 down. Expired.

Here's to hoping that former members google it. If you see this, talk, please. Who last held ownership of the domain? Is anyone in contact? Is there hope of its being renewed?

There was a good community over there. Don't die on me here.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

That Time

You know. There's getting to be a bite in the air ("a tad nippy," says M--) that makes you wish you'd remembered your scarf. On some days the sky is bright and hard and the blue is clear and strange, because it seems to belong to another time, and beautiful because it seems to be an echo of that other time.

Most days, now, it is flat and grey. When it rains, there are puddles and mud and colourful rain-boots and umbrellas, and people crowd around doors and entryways muttering to each other about the miserable weather. The leaves are starting to turn too, scarlet and vermilion and saffron, and when the wind and rain die down the sidewalk is plastered with bright little cutouts.

Hey. I know what's said about good content not needing to be begged for attention, but I'm begging. I ranted last week and I need it to be read. Please. Sorry. Thanks.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Don't Even Get Me Started.

I am summarizing an article. The first line I have written thus far:
The article... lays out the debate between those pushing intelligent design and those defending real science evolution.
As this should be written with as little slant as possible, it's taking a bit of restraint. Thankfully the author has taken care of the problem by agreeing with my position. Speaking of which-

This past week, there have been a number of sign-toting religious zealots swarming the central campus square. They're not nice things like "I love my religion because of _____." They're more like "God is the Answer to Everything, and if you don't agree with me, you are going to Rot and Burn in Hell", "except worded about ten times nastier. They keep insinuating that anyone who disagrees is a Sinner of Cosmic Proportions, that Your Soul is Going to Wither and Die, that You Are Unworthy to Live, and that You Will be Begging for Mercy (muahaha).

Good thing I don't believe in hell.

(They were so serious, it was almost funny. I tried to get pictures several times, just so I could blog about them, but alas. No pictures.)

Now don't get me wrong. I don't have a problem with people believing in their own religions. The problem arises when people try to guilt-press their beliefs onto others. And further worse is when they believe you are A Lower Creature who deserves to be condemned or even pitied, for goodness' sake, because You're Not Like Us.

You know that little "Coexist" symbol/logo/thing that's printed on bumper stickers and t-shirts and just about everything else? Because it's got the right idea.

Honestly. What happened to diversity? Tolerance? Acceptance? Religious supremacy is not okay. Believe what you want, but don't use your faith to judge others.

This topic drives my blood pressure through the roof every time, without fail. But it's okay, I won't bite (unless provoked). Feel free to respond, but kindly restrain from flaming. Thanks for listening, in any case.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Skywatch No. 25

Taipei, Taiwan nightscape. Technically, the roof I climbed onto for this was off-limits. There would have been a higher vantage point, but I wasn't about to climb up a ladder with a SLR swinging around my neck. Or one-handedly, clutching a camera in the other.

Well. I'll get back to you when I'm done paper-writing.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I Guess Children are Not Evil After All

I realize I haven't had much of an online presence recently, but that's probably because I've been hibernating in my room and not doing anything when I haven't had to.

To compensate, I'll regale you instead with another snippet from Taiwan. As you know, it was a volunteering program in which we taught elementary children English for a couple weeks. This is a portion of my evaluation we were asked to write:
The first few days of classes were chaotic. The students backtalked, made cutting remarks, ignored everything, rebelled. I must admit I was taken aback with the ferocity in their refusals. We spent nights revising our teaching materials and days attempting to keep order. During the afternoon period allotted for students to nap, they swarmed outside to play and we collapsed in the classrooms in exhaustion, only to be woken when they returned.
It was not pretty, but things changed.
Over the course of the two weeks, the students grew to respect us and we them. It had been a no small feat, securing that respect. But once that mutual respect had been established, we found that most of them could be interested, willing to learn. We began to find them endearing.
One day, a few of our students dragged us out to see their meadow.

They showed the patch of cacti (prickly pear? no idea.), then taught us how to harvest the fruit, grind down the spines, and eat them.

There will be more from Taiwan another time. (Unless, of course, you'd rather I write about something else. In that case, let me know. No offense taken.)

That's it this week from an overwhelmed student. Until next time...

Saturday, September 5, 2009


I know, I know, I haven't been updating, but it's been a hectic and trying time, this past month. I'm still not sure where all the time went. But it should be good now; I've just settled down at school and am waiting for it to start. It won't be quiet, but at least I'll have something purposeful to do.

So earlier this week, I biked past the cornfield just down the road from our home. They're putting in a new road there, and have started cutting a dirt path through the overgrown meadow next to it.

I wanted to experiment with the lighting, and so conditions that day were rather nicely suited- sunlight, and hovering sometime between late afternoon and early evening. Clear, strong light and angular shadows. Backlight with the sun, power up the flash (something I usually abhor), and suddenly, there's crisply captured action, adequate lighting, and the absence of the hideousness associated with flash. Well. This'll be happening more in the future.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Home Again

Well hello there! I've acutally been home for a month now, just incapacitated with all sorts of rubbish.

But I'm not dead yet, and neither is this blog.

The month in Taiwan was perhaps one of the most well-spent summers I've had yet. There is much to tell, but not enough time in which to tell it. I'd like very much to chronicle everything, but it'll all come little by little.

The first photo comes from Penghu, a little archipelago off the western coast of Taiwan. (faintly circled on the map.) It's where I and five others spent two weeks teaching elementary students English.

It was a trying experience. But more on that later.

This is one of the shots that I have come to love dearly:

I do not remember the name of this island, save that it was perhaps one of the most beautiful places I have ever chanced to lay eyes upon. Sky, meadow, and sea, with beach or rocky coast in between.

Anyhow, I've been starting to filter through my memory cards. They're making their way to one of my Flickr albums. Go visit. I'll be uploading.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Skywatch No. 21 and Other News

Because my lens is shiny and it reflects the trees and the sunlight and the sky which is somewhere beyond those trees:

This could be my last Skywatch for a bit... this time next week, I'll be in the sky and with a camera, but little chance of internet. I'll be in Taiwan for the next month (tropical location? check. height of summer? check. air conditioning? dubious.) on a sort of volunteer/camp program. We teach schoolchildren English, they pay for everything but your plane ticket. It's a pretty good deal.

Their website is here. I personally find it rather poorly organized, but it's decent and serviceable.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Vaccines 1, Andunie 0.

Today, I went out to get immunized for a couple of things I'd like not to kill me. So I drop by the local health department. What transpires is as follows:

NURSE: Have you ever passed out while getting your shots?
ME: Nope!
NURSE: Do you feel dizzy?
NURSE: Because this frequently happens to adolecents.
ME: I feel fine.
NURSE: They say they feel fine and then they pass out.
ME: (apprehensively) Really, I feel fine.
NURSE: Well, all right. (jabs a couple of needles in Andunie's arm)
ME: (winces)
NURSE: How do you feel?
ME: (okay) I'm okay.
NURSE: Either way, you should stay in the waiting room fifteen minutes afterwards...
ME: (beginning to feel increasingly lightheaded) Um...
NURSE: case you start feeling a little faint.
ME: (vision starts disappearing; concedes defeat) Actually, I think I'm going to pass out now. (loses conciousness)

And so I spend the next ten minutes lying on the floor of the clinic, and end up stumbling out with a pounding headache. I mean, wtf. It's okay though, because the health dept. girl was really very nice about the whole thing. Not even a single "I told you so" look, to boot.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Skywatch No. 20

A dramatic sweep of sky is like a verbal flourish sometimes. Like the well-executed snatch of prose, the grandeur of a beautiful sky can make a bold statement. The vertebrae of clouds snakes errantly overhead, dispersing little twists and knots here and there, the way we might scatter words like "extravagant," "decadent," or "verdant," amongst the others.

Yet the others are by no means bland- they're all unfurled against a jewel-toned backdrop, deep and vivid. It's shot through with such treasures as "electric," "silky," and "brilliant." Everything blends and weaves together such a grand way that sometimes, you just need to sit back and enjoy the show.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Why Wallpapers Are Not "In"

After walking through my place of residence and counting a grand total of 11 different wallpapers, I have concluded that this house is Special.

After walking through said house photographing wallpaper, I have concluded that I must also be Special.

Either way, have a gander at this eye-offending array.

Thankfully, Numbers 1, 2, 5, 9, and 11 are located in the basement where they belong. Number 12, the Standard White Wall, exists, but would perhaps be put to better use if it multiplied and usurped the more ostentatious ones. Just saying.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summer Sun

The careless summer of our childhoods. Warm sunlight filtered through the trees. Long shadows across the grass. Laughter drifting on the breeze. Tendrils of smoke from the barbecue, spiraling upwards. The distinctive scent of cut grass, which is also the scent of summer. For a moment, life is good.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Look, I Iz All Gradumicated.

I'll try not to make this too long. I promise.

Here's the deal. A couple days ago, I was suffering from the so-called seasonal allergy like none other. (They're year-round though, so I guess there's one for every season. Liars.) I mean, they were so bad I don't know if I went one continuous minute without my nose in a tissue. All day. It was not pretty. Especially irritating, because we'd a commencement ceremony to sit through the next day.

The problem with doing well in school is that when you graduate, they make you talk, and sit on the stage when you're not talking. Which would be perfectly fine, if I wanted to show off my snivelling and snot-dripping skills and keep my composure at the same time. After some negotiation I was told I could leave my bag under my chair, so I'd have tissues up there.

It ended up being that the chairs were all squashed together, so when I tried to reach under my chair, it probably looked like I was groping my neighbour or vomiting or a combination of both. Sometimes life is special like that.

Making my valedictory speech. I suppose there's a reason I write instead of talk:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Skywatch No. 18

Birds are impossibly difficult to approach around here. We've had a robin nest right outside a window last year and some sort of thrush over our front door the year before that. The area is wooded, which helps, but other than that, there's not much to be done. 

Well. As of today I have only one day of classes left. It feels rather surreal. Still ridiculously busy however. As soon as I've gotten enough sleep, I'll start making sense again. Until then, I'm off. Sorry.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day and the End of the World

Not really.

(Not the end of the world, I mean.)

For the marching band, Memorial Day means a parade. It's one of those days when everything feels like the essence of a small town- people lining the streets, a slow, amiable feel to the atmosphere. We headed out this morning, slightly disorganized but in good spirits. It's only been a year for me, but it's the last time I'll march with everyone. Sad, but true. You people are awesome.

The (academic) year is winding down. Actually, it's probably already ended for most people, but we're still plugging along. We're down to four more days of classes. I'm graduating with honors. There's a good school waiting in the fall. Things are looking pretty decent. I'm still swamped with work and deadlines and obligations and other stressful things like that, but all in all, not bad. 

It is also, by the way, Towel Day. (For those who have no idea what that means, kindly read Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
And remember. When in doubt, don't panic. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Skywatch No. 17

Tulips in the sky.

It's been a very overly warm two days here (which does not make me feel better about being in Taiwan this June), but everything's looking nice now. I have a week left of classes, then I'm out. It's good.

Anyhow, I went out earlier this week and noticed that these bright fuschia tulips had bloomed out front. I'd always wanted to take pictures of flowers from beneath, and I finally found some whose stems were long enough for it to be easily done. The number of good/passable photos from this shoot was surprisingly high. If I upload them somewhere else, I'll post the link.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Dear Neighbour,
I haven't any idea who you are, except that you live somewhere in my neighbourhood and you deem it necessary to cut through our property all the time. This is not only slightly rude, but kind of unnerving. If you don't want to ask, fine. But you should at least say hi.

Dear Friend,
Sometimes I wonder how friends can be so embarassing. Don't get me wrong, we've been good friends and it's going to stay that way. But if you weren't so oblivious, defensive, selfish, self-righteous, and self-centered, people might like you better. Also, a little tact goes a long way. Kindly take that to mind. I'd like to tell you to not take it too personally, but maybe you should.

Dear Strange Spiky Plants on My Lawn,
You are highly disturbing. You're all "hey, look at me, I'm fuzzy," and then surprise! Barbed thorny leaves everywhere. I understand that grass is a minority in our lawn anyways, but you should not be here. That is all.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Skywatch No. 16

We drove through Ontario on our way to New York last month, and stopped at Niagara Falls. This is the second time I've been there at night- their nighttime display is quite exciting, but a little over-dramatic. Personally, I still think it's more impressive by day.

Strobe lights illuminating the mist over the falls: 

The photo is actually from my previous visit a couple of years ago- this year's was a cold, wet, and rather miserable fifteen-minute excursion. But hey.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Spring at Last

Finally, two months late, comes spring in Michigan.

(This is a very rare occurance, as we usually have winter, winter, a period of hot weather, and winter.)

The temperatures are warming up (though we're to be hit with a cold front again tomorrow) and things are blooming. A robin has commenced its ceaseless flying into our rather very filthy and visible windows. Neighbours' cats have been let out and are irritatingly roaming here and there. The sky is at last starting to lighten at 6 am and the sun in the sky by 7. It's about time, I say.

Friday, May 1, 2009

More From NYC

Hey. We're in the paper. I approve.
So... the morning before our Carnegie performance:

We hit all the typical tourist magnets- Times Square, Central Park, Ellis and Staten Islands. I think my shutter-button finger was very pleased.