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February 25, 2009 - Tooth & Nail

It was a nice bright day at the dog park last Saturday, with about six inches of new snow to boot. So to speak. These two dogs belonged to two ladies that both had two dogs, and the little Beagle pup on the right was definitely the zeta in the pecking order between all of them. 
Sharon was getting a little perturbed that the owners were either clueless or didn't want or know how to step in, and the dogs were just rolling tumble-weed of snow-flying, teeth-baring mayhem at times. 
I really like this picture though, what with the teeth, claws, and whites of the eyes. I've been shooting more black & white again, tweaking my contrast and trying to get a better feel for it. 
I think I've said this before, but sometimes it's just easier for me to "see" a shot in
B & W.
When I go out "thinking it" with a camera, I notice things that I don't think I would if I went out with just color in mind. It's kind of weird. I have had dreams in black and white too.

The little guy has a few words of wisdom for the Terrier.

Take a break! They're losin us.

Meanwhile, Happy the Wonder Dog is in Seventh Heaven, racing the Basenji's and burning off the cooped-up winter blues.


February 20th, 2009 - It's the Pearl the Cat Show!

It has come to my attention, and one might even say... admonishment through GUILT, from a person who will remain nameless, (THANKS, JEANINE. Who works at...  nevermind) that SOME people didn't realize that we have a CAT named PEARL, and that perhaps because she hasn't been FEATURED PROMINENTLY link link link throughout the blog, that we DON'T LOVE HER AS MUCH as our other pets... blasphemer!
Well. To dispel any further rumors and give The Pearl her due, it's time for the...

Pearl sneaks a peak at dinner.

I picked out Pearl the Cat from a litter of a friend of my girlfriend's mom's cat (!) in 1989. I'm fairly sure it was April or May, in the spring anyway. I'm pretty sure it was 1989 because that was the year my dad died and I remember waking up with Pearl on my head to my sister's distraught voice on my answering machine (I worked nights at the photolab then). Pearl had this annoying habit of going to sleep with me at my feet, and then gradually migrating upwards towards my head until I woke up with her sleeping on my face or on the back of my neck. Gah. Finally I'd just end up doing one of those "braying donkey" maneuvers and flipping her back to the end of the bed enough until she got the message. Craziness. Just another thing to add to sleep-deprivation when you work nights and the rest of the world is on the day shift.
Well, I just spent way too much time digging through a box full of old stuff thinking I could find her papers from "The Kitty Clinic" where she was spayed a little before she was a year old. That turned up some interesting and incriminating material, subject to further research, no doubt. But no purloined papers. Note: I saved a lot of crap, and if you grew up in the 1970's, run for your life, I'm giving you advance warning.
Anyway, back to Pearl's story. That means (and I have to do some fact-checking here to be sure) that Pearl is coming up on her 20th birthday. Not bad for the little curtain-climber. 
When I decided I wanted a cat, I wanted a black cat, plain and simple, and I wanted to raise it from a kitten. I picked her out of a litter of about 5 or 6 I think, most of which were various flavors of black and/or with spots. She was the only all-black, and the mellowest of the bunch that day, which was soon to change. 
Pearl in her humiliating "Victorian Collar."
We came home from work one day to find the end of her tail in tatters; from what, we're still not sure.
She ended up having the last three vertebrae amputated and having to wear the disgusting collar and a bright lime green bandage wrap on the rest of her tail for a couple weeks. She had a long tail and you can't really tell it's any shorter.

Note the tail.
It was probably better for her that I worked nights, first 10 PM - 6 AM, then 6 PM - 2 AM. I'd come home and she would be tearing around the house, literally climbing the curtains to the top, running on top of everything; guitars, keyboards, I had a lot of music stuff back then. 
She also had a hilarious routine she would do when she got really wound up. I had a bentwood rocking-chair with a wicker seat and back, that sat in the middle of the hardwood floor at my place on 1st Avenue (not the bar, much further south).
She would give me a demonic look out of the corner of her eye, start tearing across the floor and launch herself Ala Superman onto the back of the bentwood rocker, then hang on to the wicker for dear life as it rocked back and forth until it stopped.
One night I came home and as I turned the kitchen light on she sprang off the counter right in front of my face and knocked a bat to the floor. (I had a fireplace in that ancient first-floor duplex, and we sometimes had "visitors" via the chimney.)

Pearl in her Andy Warhol stage.

I also had a pose-able life-size foam mannequin (for god-knows what reason, got it at Saver's, couldn't pass it up) that was dressed in sweats, a flannel shirt and ball cap. Once during the height of her wigginess, she ran up the mannequin's leg, into his shirt and was running around under his clothes like a madwoman. Every once in a while her head would pop out from between button-holes, or out the collar. I was laughing so hard I just about peed my pants. Crazy kid.
She also had a thing she did that at first I thought was just coincidence, but later found she did it numerous times, I think to get my attention. If I had a guitar sitting on a guitar stand, she would walk by and be doing the cat butt-dance and whack it across the strings with her tail. Boiyoyiiiinngg. Just one whap.
She loved to chase hot french-fries and eat them too. There would be a certain amount of flipping in the air, pouncing, battering back and forth, and then nom! Munch. Head-shaking for the final death-rattle. Munch, munch, munch.

A youthful Pearl at watch on the front steps.

There's no mistaking it, it's DINNER-TIME...!

Nowadays, Pearl lives the good life, usually holed-up in her cushy cat-bed in front of the bathroom heat vent.
She lives in partial seclusion, tries to avoid Happy the Dog as much as possible, although if there is food involved and she is up, she holds her ground and looks disgustedly at him with the laser-beam stare that she has perfected over the last twenty years.
She doesn't grant many interviews, she lets the world come to her. She will usually be happy to sit on your lap when you're having a potty, or occasionally offer herself to be picked up when you're at the computer, on her way to the basement for food or defecation.
She still gets up and down the basement stairs okay, and that's good because Happy knows that's not his domain down there and won't go down them.

Pearl's black has become more of a salt-and-pepper (I can relate) and she doesn't hear as well as she used to.  She can still rev her purring motor just as well as in the old days, but with some added sinusy noises reminscent of Felix Unger from the Odd Couple added in.
She's been through it all with me and is one of my oldest friends.
She's comforted me after crashing my bike, partied, climbed up on the neighbor's second-story roof gable that involved me carrying a ladder up a ladder to get her down, coveted birds from the patio, and has always wanted to get that damn flying dart when I had a dart board in the house. One day I came home from work to a different house and she was standing on top of my bike seat on a bike that was leaning against the living room wall, waiting for the second hand on the new clock I just got as a birthday present to come around so she could try to grab it again.
I'm not sure what I think about heaven, the after-life, or eternal consciousness, but Pearl, I hope you'll be there with us.
We love ya, babe.
- T.

February 16th, 2009 - President's Day

Minnehaha Creek rushes around the "island" at the head of the falls. Just a couple days before this, the dog and I were walking across this part on ice pretty much frozen solid to the bottom.

We've had a bit of a freeze since these pictures were taken last week, but it's fun to look at them again now. The water was really raging over the falls for a couple days after our melt, I wondered how the construction workers downstream were dealing with it. They've been working on rebuilding the containment walls for the creek and shoring up the paths, etc.
They were pumping out the pool beneath the falls under the deluge, but I doubt they were keeping up with it. It sucks for them; either it's real cold and they get to work in the cold in low water conditions, or it warms up and they get flooded. I wonder what they like better.

Cool colors in the ice, water, and remaining flora at the top of the falls. It still is a special place, after all these years.

The inevitable Gnome riding in the back of the pegleg burro shot.

The People Have Spoken! (or at least emailed or clicked)

 The voting is complete. As in most Minnesota elections, we don't have a clear winner, but we have a sort of winner and a bunch of write-ins that really make you think.
I was a little disappointed that we didn't have caucus representatives from all of Minnesota's usual political parties: The American Party,The Better Life Party, The Christian Freedom Party, The Communist Party, The Constitution Party, The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, The For Independent Voters Party, The Grassroots Minnesota Party, The Green Party, The Independence Party, The Independent Party, The Party, The Libertarian Party, The Moderate Independent Party, The Natural Law Party, The New Generation Party, The Nonpartisan Party, The People Not Party Party, The Quit Raising Taxes Party, The Reform Party, The Republican Party, The Socialist Equality Party, The Socialist Workers Party, or The Unity Party (I'm not making this up).
But it's probably just as well because they don't know much about fender crud anyway, which is the real issue here.
So, without further ado, and because I'm sure you can't take much more of this and neither can I, here are your election results:

It was actually a lot closer than the exit polls showed.

The winner was:
None of the above (email it over)
with 5 votes (36%)
the write-ins are as follows:

"Car Turds" 1 vote
"Clunkers" 1 vote
"Fenderbergs" 1 vote
"Granita Crudite" 1 vote
"Snow Boogers" 1 vote

The next single-candidate majorities were:

"Fender Fudge"
4 votes (29%)

"Wheelwell Wedgies"
3 votes (21%)

"Salt Stalactites"
2 votes (14%)

There you have it! 
We don't have a concise name for "those nasty pieces of crud that you try to karate kick off your car at the gas station," but we have some ideas.
I hope you feel represented.

Open the bars, the election is over...!!!

The Polls are Closing (and the bloggership breathes a collective sigh of relief...)

Huzzah! It's the last day to vote for your favorites in the "name those nasty pieces of crud that you try to karate kick off your car at the gas station" poll!
It's been a long, hard, campaign trail, so let's put this baby to bed with the bath water.
There has been more voting and one more write-in candidate since the last tally.
I was told by an acquaintance that lived in MN in the 1960's that the term for these things was "clunkers." I asked if that meant the fender things or the cars themselves, but didn't get a clarification so I'm adding the term anyway.
The hanging-chad rears it's ugly head yet again.
So! Here are your updated candidates and their tallies in the poll*.

*Polls close at Midnight Tonight. Operators are standing by. Vote early and often. Order now and receive a Ginsu cleaver at no extra charge...

"Car Turds"
1 (8%)

1 (8%)

1 (8%)

"Fender Fudge"
4 (31%)

"Granita Crudite"
1 (8%)

"Mudflap Mallow"
0 (0%)

"Pothole Pudding"
0 (0%)

"Salt Stalactites"
2 (15%)

"Snow Boogers"
1 (8%)

"Tire Tacos"
0 (0%)

"Wheelwell Wedgies"
2 (15%)

Or so. Margin of error +/- 1%, as far as we can tell.

The write-ins; a.k.a "None of the above (email it over)" are still leading by a sizable margin.
Without variety it wouldn't be a horse-race.
Maybe that Electoral College isn't such a bad idea after all.

"If it would have been anybody except Franken, they would have won by a landslide." - Norm Coleman

Tiny Psycho Post

Sharon is studying General Psychology and pointed out to me that this optical illusion is called the "Devil's Tuning Fork." I had not known that, and had totally forgotten that I had made this animation out of one for my very first website, "L'esprit d'escalier."

Normally you see them with just plain straight ends. But through the magic of the internet, mine has somewhat cheesy turning threaded ends. 
As an aside, I always liked the concept of "L'esprit d'escalier." It's a French term that translated literally means, "stairway wit" which in English use describes the predicament of thinking of the right comeback too late.
The phrase can be used to describe a riposte to an insult, or any witty, clever remark that comes to mind too late to be useful — usually when one is already on the "staircase" leaving the scene.
"Treppenwitz," the concept's German translation, is also used to express the same idea.
As in the French counterpart, Treppenwitz literally means "the wit [or 'joke'] of the stairs."
It is the fitting reply that crosses your mind belatedly, for example on the way home. 
People are often angry with themselves because they did not have the perfect response during a conversation, and inevitably think of it later when it's too late.
I was first introduced to this concept in one of Neil Gaiman's comics.

Here are a couple more; the tri-stair, which I always thought should be at the doorway of M.C. Escher's house....

and who could forget the wiggy spinning spiral.
There was actually a version of this that stood on a three-legged easel in our optometrist's office when I was growing up that I assume was an optometry tool. It looked more like something that belonged in the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices.
I always wanted to have him pull it out just to see what you did with the thing, but he never did. Probably for the better.

February 10th, 2009 - A revisit to the Land of Cheesy Avatars

After coming across a few more of these ridiculously cheesy avatars and placeholders, I decided it was time for a revisit. This topic came up in some of the early days of the blog, and was one inspiration to start it for me, actually.

Do people actually look like this at any point during their day...?!

You gotta love the totally canned expressions and the use of "the fifth frame" in the photo above. I personally wouldn't let either of them close to a drill in my house.

Here's a lady who loves her computer, her herb tea, and everything that is sterile and white.
She probably has her Apple desktop set up in silver & white. I LOVE my computer. I LOVE looking at my online bank account. I can't wait until the maid gets here, there's a fleck of caviar on the screen.

This call may be monitored for quality-control purposes, so don't push my buttons or I'll climb through the phone line and slap you silly.

And from the School of Abominable Ergonomics, how NOT to use your computer:

I'm pushing this button, and it has to be "just so."

Please take the PICTURE! This laptop is burning the hair off my legs. Tee hee.

And here we are back with the triangle people. What the heck this is about, it's anyone's guess:

I hope they didn't pay the graphic designer too much for that concept.


I'm wondering if I would sell my image for use as an avatar. I keep thinking back to that episode of "Friends" where Joey sells his image to a stock photography company and it ends up on a bus-stop campaign against VD.
I guess in the modelling biz, it's all or nothing. 
Well, I guess it's time to crawl out of the Land of Cheesy Avatars and back into reality.
You know, someplace safe and real; where we have giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe The Blue Ox, the World's Largest Hockey Stick, and the World's Largest Ball of Twine.
Where a feather-boa wearing WWF wrestler can be Governor, and a comedian can run for Senate. 
Ahh. Home at last.

February 6th, 2009 - It's post #333!

Welcome to blog post number 333!  Da da dun dun dun da da dunty-dunty da da dunty-dunty da da dunty-dunty dun. Hey!

I've heard tell that MN State 333 runs from the "State Hospital" in St. Peter to MN State 99, but I can't personally vouch for that. Once you get those three's going, it's like they just don't stop. Similar to the '23' enigma. (Nothing to do with "24")
This week I'll probably be seeing it everywhere.

Yee haw. The "Grand-daddy of 'em all, the Wyoming State Fair." Been there. Did that. All I remember was trying to sell computer pictures under the rodeo grandstand and having all the pop, beer, and god-knows-what-else dripping out of the ceiling while we were trying to make money. Livin' the life.
That and ripping the edge of the Ski-Ball joint off with the ladder on the Winnebago as I got the hell outta there. Sorry dude! I got a hammer here if you want me to climb up there and pound 'er out!  Ahh... Good times, good times.

And here's poor down-trodden Arkansas Highway 333 that doesn't even get their name on the sign.
I suppose they figured that something that ends in "sas" but is pronounced "saw" would just confuse people more.

Meanwhile back in 'Sota, the Ford bridge is casting some heavy-duty shadows.
This was last week in the midst of ass-creaking cold, so I can't imagine it looks much like this now.

Here's some interesting stuff though. These are tracks seen from the Ford bridge across the hard-pack on the Mississippi River. To me they appear to fox tracks, but it's hard to tell how big there are from way up there. They could even be coyote.
I'm trying to figure out what was going on there though. It looked like some of them are regular "runs" where the animal takes the same route every night, with an occasional variation to go investigate something off-trail. Maybe just following scent, who knows.

This ones like Highway 333 with County Road intersections. I wonder how many animals there are and when their "time" is. Maybe on a moonlit night I'll go back for a closer look.
Thanks for joining me to christen blog post #333 and for coming along on the journey so far.

February 5th, 2009 - Creek Walk (literally)

Hap and I took advantage of the rare conditions that presently allow us to walk Minnehaha Creek from our house, all the way down the surface of the creek to the Falls.
For this to happen there usually has to be a pretty long cold spell, and or low water to begin with.
This year we've had both.

It's pretty cool; you can walk under Minnehaha Parkway and under Highway 55, (a.k.a. Hiawatha Avenue) under the old train overpass, and through the Minnehaha Avenue creek tunnel right before the little island with the Minnehaha statue. The ice is still at least 8 to 10 inches thick in most places, but I did notice some run-off water entering, so I'm sure it won't hold up for long if we have the prolonged thaw that is predicted.
The ice in the 55 tunnel is pretty great. At some point a pressure crack developed and a whole section gave way and dropped about ten inches.
You can see the whole creek sheet sagging in the middle, and it's hard to get a scope of the scale until you get right down there, but it's like the whole section about thirty feet wide and maybe eighty feet long just dropped like the bottom fell out. Reminds me of some of the earthquake pictures you see. 

I can't imagine what that sounded like!
Just me walking through there on aluminum snowshoes was like gunshots going off with each step, the whole place is like a reverb chamber. It must have really been something when it happened.

I'm not sure how much longer it will be passable. Once water starts flowing under the creek, I'm sure it's going to deteriorate rapidly. I feel lucky we could catch it at a time when we can get in there and the light is good. It's an unusal perspective.
Besides that coolness, I smelled fox musk and saw some scat that looked suspiciously like fox, and Happy was all keyed up about it as well. There were two rabbit kills along our route, probably from a few days ago. Lots of bird activity today after such a long cold spell; cardinals, juncos, chickadees, and some tough-ass robins were all out gathering.

The "Virgin's Bower" is still frozen in place from last fall along the Pergola. It looks really cool with the low sun coming through and maybe a little frost along the edges. I really felt warmth of the sun today, the first day in many. I realized I was overdressed for snowshoeing pretty quickly, actually had my hat and gloves off, and both my jackets zipped down all the way at one point. Ahh, you appreciate the small victories as you grow older.

Car Crud Collective

Well, my sis from California out-etymologized me with her write-in for the "name the nasty pieces of crud that you try to karate kick off your car fenders at the gas station" ballot, I must say.
Her write-in is "Granita Crudite" (say: gruh-neet-a crew-dit-ay)
Along with her explanation: "Granita is a gourmet fruit ice, and crudite is a sort of appetizer; note the play on words : crudite/crud, w/ short u as in crud, crew-dit-ay as in crudite... oh, well, there's my input. deal with it."
Now I know which side of the family I get it from.
I had to do a little looking-up to make sure she wasn't pulling my leg, which also runs in the family, and sure enough, "Crudités are traditional French appetizers comprised of grated raw vegetables soaked in a vinaigrette. Crudités often include carrot sticks, pepper strips, celery sticks, and asparagus spears."
Well, there are definitely some fenderbergs that look like asparagus soaked too long in vinaigrette, so I will accept that.
Regarding Granita, Granita (in Italian: also "granita siciliana," or in our case probably "siliconia") is a semi-frozen dessert of sugar, water, and flavorings from Sicily, Italy. Related to sorbet and italian ice, in most of Sicily it has a coarser, more crystalline texture.
Food writer Jeffrey Steingarten says that "the desired texture seems to vary from city to city" on the island; on the west coast and in Palermo, it is at its chunkiest, and in the east it is nearly as smooth as sorbet. This is largely the result of different freezing techniques: the smoother types are produced in a gelato machine, while the coarser varieties are frozen with only occasional agitation, then scraped or shaved to produce separated crystals.
Same here, but I can tell you that it is far chunkier in Minnesota.
Common and traditional flavoring ingredients include lemon juice, mandarin oranges, coffee, almonds, mint, and when in season wild strawberries and black mulberries. Chocolate granitas have a tradition in the city of Catania and, according to Steingarten, nowhere else in Sicily. The nuances of the Sicilian ingredients are important to the flavor of the finished granita: Sicilian lemons are a little less acidic, more floral variety similar to Meyer lemons, while the almonds used contain some number of bitter almonds, crucial to the signature almond flavor.
Oh, here we have nuisances by the truckload.
Granita with coffee is very common in the city of Messina, while granita with almonds is popular in the city of Catania. Granita in combination with a yeast pastry called brioche is a common breakfast in summer time. Ice cream for breakfast, those Italians know how to live. Muncha! Muncha!
After about a week of below zero temperatures here in MN, the Granita Crudite will be
gelatinous over the next few days as temps are predicted to be in the 30's for a while. Mmmm, Mmmm. That's good crud.

So in case you haven't been paying attention, or are just trying to avoid it, here are your updated candidates and their tallies in the poll:

"Car Turds"
1 (10%)

1 (10%)

"Fender Fudge"
2 (20%)

"Granita Crudite"
1 (10%)

"Mudflap Mallow"
0 (0%)

"Pothole Pudding"
0 (0%)

"Salt Stalactites"
2 (20%)

"Snow Boogers"
1 (10%)

"Tire Tacos"
0 (0%)

"Wheelwell Wedgies"
2 (20%)

Or so. Margin of error 0%, as far as we can tell.

With the write-ins; a.k.a "None of the above (email it over)" leading by a sizable margin. Without variety it wouldn't be a horse-race. Maybe that Electoral College isn't such a bad idea after all.

February 2nd, 2009 - a.k.a. Groundhog Day

I kept meaning to get back to those eagle pictures today, but I ended up in black & white land again.

It's been cold, then warm, then cold again and I think it's starting to wear on some people. Stir-craziness is seeping in. Even Happy the Dog was in a funk today, along with the turtle. My bones have been creaking like the Tin Man and I had to take a nap. Now it's 11:30 PM and here I sit.

I thought this bit in the 3 Riv newsletter was good humor though (follows). I think someone should have thought a little bit more about the order of the layout:

THREE RIVERS PARKS e-newsletter                                   
Keeping you informed of upcoming programs, special events and important park news.

Winter Cabin Camping
Enjoy a rustic log cabin and the adventure of winter camping with family and friends at Baker Near-Wilderness Settlement, in Baker Park Reserve. 
Call to reserve your cabin now.

Fight Cabin Fever !
Cabin fever is no fun for anyone, especially for parents who have little ones trapped inside with energy to burn. No problem. Three Rivers Park District offers weekday programs specially designed for children ages 1-6.


This was pretty much just a skills test to see if I could clone out a huge blade of grass that was cutting through the rye diagnonally across the whole picture. It's a lot easier in black & white. Eh. Don't look to closely.

Just the angle of light on these makes you think winter.

I haven't shot my long telephoto in ages either, so I forced myself to take it out on this walk. 
I like the way it softens out the background in close-up zoom shots, especially with the black & white. 

It's just less appealing to work with though, when you have the dog on a leash and not much light. Someday I'll get a faster lens that's still a long tele. Then of course it will be bigger, more expensive, and harder to handle...

“Some people are pragmatists, taking things as they come and making the best of the choices available. Some people are idealists, standing for principle and refusing to compromise. And some people just act on any whim that enters their heads.
I pragmatically turn my whims into principles.”