Friday, March 30, 2007

The Hoss

This is Maverick (Primus), my sister's horse. We visited him and some other ponies at the barn when I was home for spring break last week.

He's for sale, in the off-chance that anyone is interested. I have no stats for him, all I can tell you is that he's some sort of German Breed, and he jumps and flats. And even that's probably wrong somehow.

We also visited the ponies, Katie (white) and I forget the other one's name (hopefully someone in my family will read this and give me the right info). Anyway, they were very curious ponies. But they didn't get along very well.

These are my favorite pictures I took while there. In the bottom one the pony has such a presence, even despite those silly floofy bangs.

I'm noticing a trend in my photos. I was saying before that I work on a small scale, and you can see that in these photos too. There aren't many where you can see the whole horse. But there's also something else happening where I will cut the picture off a little too early, so you can't see something that you may want to see. Like in the picture above you can only see my sister's hair, and it cuts out juuuuust before her face comes into the frame. Or in the one before that, you can see part of the horse's eyes, but not all of them. There are other photographers I've seen who do this.

This is a photo by Joel Meyerowitz of a beach on Cape Cod with a couple playing chicken on the left. I love it because you have to use your imagination to extend the photo to include the couple and the people they are playing with. I think this photo has been in the back of my mind for a while, informing my own photos.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Wissahickon Valley Park

M and I went for a hike last Saturday at Wissahickon Valley Park, a stretch of woods that lines the Wissahickon Creek in the Germantown/Chestnut Hill area of the city. The area is really just opening up for spring, so the color palette is still browns and mossy greens.

However, I did manage to find a splash of color here and there.

There are beautiful stone arched bridges over the creek, many of which were built in the early 1800s. The path takes you underneath these bridges, and it's an easy climb up to the top, where the stone meets the hillside. These spots are great sites for graffiti artists. The yellow glow of the stone and the rich colors of the graffiti are so wonderful together. And there are some very talented artists in the area.

Here, M tries to explain why this piece is so great. It's all about how fine the lines are, indicating someone who has a lot of control over the spray can.

This piece was done by an artist named Bob, you can see his name at the top. We saw more of his stuff around the park, and in other areas of the city. I love how they seem to peek out from around the corner.

Philadelphia has some great graffiti, but nothing beats the graffiti I saw in Lisbon, Portugal when I was there with my family. It was gorgeous, but I don't have any pictures on my computer unfortunately, so you'll have to make do with this website instead.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Experimental College

The Experimental College is one reason why I love UC Davis. Back at Haverford, ExCo (as we called it) was an organization where students developed classes to teach each other a skill or learn a topic together, like knitting, Indian dance, book clubs, etc. Sometimes it didn't even happen because there weren't enough people interested, or no one was available to run it. But here at UCD, the Experimental College is a huge student-run organization which offers classes taught by students, faculty, or outside people or organizations. I just got the latest catalogue, and here is a typical selection of the type of classes offered by the Experimental College:

Intense LSAT Preparation
Rollerderby: Join the Sac City Rollers!
Super Smash Brothers Melee Made Easy
Backyard Beekeeping
Herbal Dream Pillows
Self Hypnosis Training
Past Life Journeys
Using the Energy of Your Chakras Every Day
Old Timey Fiddle
The DJ Program: Groove University
Drumming and Chanting
Conversational Russion - Fundamentals
Daoist Physical Culture
Aikido Body Arts
Chinese Kung Fu
Tai-Chi Doa Sabre/Broadsword
Hatha Flow Yoga
Funky Style Street Dance
Scottish Country Dancing
Iranian/Persian Dance

Some of these things I have never heard of. I giggled my way through the catalogue, but of course I want to take 100 courses and I have to control myself. Oh, if only I had enough time to join the roller derby team . . .

A new scarf

I finished this last week before leaving for the east coast, but I didn't get a chance to post about it. It's a Finnish Bird's Eye pattern, using cotton yarn in camel and pink. The pink yarn was originally the camel color, but I dyed it. The camel yarn is what's available in the weaving lab for free so I've been dying it all different colors, though I'm starting to like the original color as well. I might try something with all camel soon, who knows.

I've been wearing it as a scarf, but it has some potential for a shawl. Of course it's a leeeeeetle bit too short and a tad too narrow for a shawl.

I also finished these enamelled pins, but I'm really not pleased with them. I put some clear enamel in to keep the papaya seeds in place and it really messed up the look of the seeds. I had to grind them down, which I didn't want to do because I thought it would be cool in 3D with the black seeds popping up. And the pink of the tea pot reacted with the silver wire and gave a yellow tint to the enamel. Well, now I know, enamel is fun, but not for everybody.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Home, sweet home?

Well, here I am back in CA, my home (?) I guess I've been here for over six months, though it feels like I never left Philadelphia. Each time I go back it feels as though I belong there, and it's always hard to remember that I have an entire life back here in CA. Strange. I saw a lot of great friends in Philadelphia and New York, I got to stay at home in NJ for a few days with my parents, and of course I stayed with M in Philly. Here are a few pics of M's neighborhood in Philadelphia (a few streets away from where I lived).

I work best on a small scale, so I took a lot of pictures of the railings of the large Victorian row houses because I couldn't get any good ones of an entire house. Plus, the railings are so interesting and colorful themselves that they speak well for the rest of the house.

This neighborhood in West Philly is pulled together by Clark Park, where there is a large area for sports, basketball courts, playgrounds, and plenty of benches. The Farmer's Market happens here, plus a monthly flea market and sometimes performances (like the amazing performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night that I saw for free last summer!). The sun came out powerfully on Sunday (how appropriate) and I got some interesting pictures of the shadows cast by the London Plane trees that pervade the park.

Finally, I took these last year. They are houses on my old street that I just drooled over every time I passed. Actually, before I moved to that street I would walk down it and wish I lived there, and lo-and-behold, I found a room to sublet for the summer in a house right next to the orange/yellow/green one (unfortunately, it was white).

I have lots and lots of pictures from this week, so be prepared for a bunch of posts with pictures coming up soon. I'm going back to PA/NJ for Easter weekend, which I am looking forward to immensely, partially because Easter is my favorite holiday. I'm not looking forward to the plane rides though. Last night there was a lot of turbulence on the plane and being there all alone was really not fun. As I age I am realizing that I have a little bit of my mom's claustrophobia (thanks, Mom!) and being shoved into a tiny seat next to the window, seeing lightening outside and thinking about the plane taking a nose dive was not how I wanted to spend that Monday night. Anyway here I am, safe and sound and writing to you, so no harm done (except to my nerves).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My Green Products II

Since the last post on eco-products, I've found some others in my house that I forgot about/didn't even know were eco-friendly.

Dr Bronner's Magic Soaps - These soaps are super. Bio-degradable, and you can use them for anything. I prefer the peppermint scent. You can even brush your teeth with it, though I haven't tried that one yet. When I went to the website to find info for this post I learned that the company is even cooler than I had previously thought. They are making an effort to have all of their "main ingredients" be fair trade, and they are one of the only products on the market that is certified to the USDA's National Organic Program (not that I trust anything the USDA does, but it's a start). They even have a little article on their website explaining the different tricks that other companies use to pass off their products as organic. I've heard some of this before, so I can say that it's not totally a ploy to sell their products to their target consumers. I also love that you can mix a little soap with a lot of water and it will last you ten times as long as any other hand soap. Good for the planet, good for the pocketbook. And reading the label provides hours of entertainment and confusion.

EcoForms- This company sells biodegradable pots made of grain husks that perform just like plastic pots. According to their website "No pollutants are used or produced at any stage of the manufacturing process. And because all scraps are recycled in the production process, no materials are wasted. Only a small amount of water is used in the binding formula, and the organic pigments are environmentally friendly." Sounds pretty good. They make them for individuals sale, as well as nursery production on a large scale. The website says that they only last five years though, which is a bit worrisome. I think it depends on the size and the way you use it because I have a large one that I didn't even realize was an EcoForm pot because it looks and performs just like plastic, and I have two smaller ones that seem to be degrading already.

Power strips - I didn't even realize that these were energy savers until reading this little article on Simply Green and then this one on Groovy Green. Apparently our appliances sap energy in very tiny doses, even when they are shut off. These are called "phantom loads" of energy, and the best way to combat them is to plug all of your appliances into one power strip, which you can then turn off at night or during the day when you're away. Fortunately I already had all of my appliances plugged into power strips because of the large ratio of appliances to outlets in my room. All I had to do was start shutting them off when I left during the day. Sweet.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Lichen at Lassen

I finished my last final on Saturday morning and three hours later two friends and I were on the road up to Lassen Volcanic National Park to camp for the night!

It was 85 degrees in Davis when we left, and we rejoiced to see the temperature drop as we climbed up into the mountains. As soon as we turned into the park the snow bank grew and grew, until it was over our heads and the road just ended.

The road through the park was closed, but there is a campground that stays open year-round and we climbed the snow bank to pitch our tent in the snow.

It was my first time winter camping and it was pretty painless, though I will certainly get a better sleeping pad for next time because the cold was coming up from under me and it took me a while to fall asleep.

Today we drove up to the north entrance of the park and walked around Manzanita Lake. The lake was surrounded by manzanita shrubs with their smooth red bark, and pine trees that were covered in chartreuse lichen. I could not stop taking pictures of the lichen and none of them came out exactly to my lich-ing (oooooooooo, I'm so bad). But here are the ones that I ended up being happy with.

I am leaving for Philadelphia/NJ tomorrow for a week of spring break, so there may be a long pause in posts. Of course as I write this the nightly news is showing stranded travelers at the Philadelphia airport, some who have lost bags and others who won't be able to leave until Tues. So cross your fingers for me.

Friday, March 16, 2007

In California, February showers bring March flowers

I have one more final left, but in the spirit of the warm weather I want to share a few wildflower pics before I start to study for it. The following were taken last spring at the Reeves-Reed Arboretum in NJ where I worked as a children's environmental educator.

Trillium grandiflorum - Snowy White Trillium

Aquilegia canadensis - Columbine

Pulmonaria sp. - Lungwort, cultivar 'Reginald Kaye'

Helleborus foetidus - Stinking Hellebore - it's only called this because the leaves smell bad when you crush them, just like a skunk cabbage. That's a clever adaptation against herbivory; you wouldn't want to keep eating something if it started to smell like skunk as soon as you took a bite.

These two I took this week at the Conservatory:

This is the gorgeous flower of Sparaxis elegans, a South African bulb in the Iris family. The conservatory has a large collection of S African bulb plants and they have been blooming all month. They are all small and brightly colored, though S. elegans has by far the most interesting color combination.

Finally, a nice cactus flower. Cacti are so paradoxical; their flowers are all bright and delicate with lots of soft petals. I'm not sure exactly what cactus this is.