Saturday, February 26, 2011

Round Robin: The Other Door

The Doctor: How many rooms?
Amy Pond: I'm sorry, what?
The Doctor: On this floor, how many rooms? Count them for me now.
Amy Pond: Why?
The Doctor: Because it will change your life.
Amy Pond: Five. One, two, three, four, five
The Doctor: Six.
Amy Pond: Six?
The Doctor: Look.
Amy Pond: Look where?
The Doctor: Exactly where you don't want to look, where you never want to look. The corner of your eye. Look behind you.
In the quote above, the Doctor is pointing out a door in Amy's hallway, a door she never noticed was there. In photographing doors today for the Round Robin Photo Challenge: Door Number Three, as suggested by Vicki of the blog MaracaI had a similar experience - except, you know, less science fictional!

About a decade ago, perhaps longer, John decided to decorate a couple of the doors in our house with modernist designs. One of them is the door of my bathroom, decorated with circles and stripes:


Another, the door to the library, has what might be called a Mondrian desiign, with panels of color:

They're both at the end of a hallway, which has five, no, six, doors, excluding the sliding closet doors. Here are the two doors as seen in the same shot:

But wait - what's that in between?

Why, it's a plain, boring door, so unregarded and unnoticed that John's left his sneakers blocking it.

Okay, yes, I know that door exists, but it's where I never want to look. That door used to lead to the guest room, later called the eBay room. Now it's a storage room. I can't even get in that room, because it's full of stuff.

But the thing is, I never noticed before, or at least forgot, that in between John's two marvelously decorated doors, is one that's so excruciatingly normal and boring that we never look at it. It's slightly damaged at the bottom, which may explain why John never bothered with it.

There are lots of other unfinished projects around the house, so decorating this one neglected door is not a priority. And we may be moving to the northwest side of town, if this job works out; so customizing the old house further would not be a good idea. But I kind of feel sorry for this third, forgotten door.

Now let's see everyone else's trios of doors:

Linking List
as of Saturday, 2/26/11 at 7:34 PM

Vicki - Posted!

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Jama - Posted!
Sweet Memories

Freda - Posted!
Day One

Halie **Welcome, new participant!**

Erin - Posted!
A Hardcore Life

Gattina - Posted!
Keyhole Pictures

Peg - Posted!
Who Can Discover It?


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Weekend Assignment #358: Zoom Zoom

Ack! Forgot it was Wednesday!

Weekend Assignment # 358: Drive
Is driving something you actually enjoy doing, or is it merely a means to an end? Do you ever go for a drive for fun, or revel in certain kinds of driving? 
Extra Credit: If time and money were not at issue, and you wanted to go somewhere 500 miles away, would you prefer to drive, be driven, take a train or fly? (Okay, you can also choose to go by boat.)

This topic came about because a) my commute to my new job is 38.2 to 41.3 miles each way, depending on the route, and b) I was about to drive to Los Angeles solo on Friday night, stay over Saturday night and drive back Sunday night. The distance from home to the LAX Marriott was 510 miles, but I was leaving directly from work and stopping off near work on the way back. That's just 475 miles each way.

So how do I feel about that long morning drive? Well, if I could get a full night's sleep first, and if gas weren't going up in price almost daily, I wouldn't mind it at all. In fact I kind of enjoy it. Driving is a game, in which the object is to arrive safely but also quickly, and without drawing a traffic ticket by going too fast or doing anything stupid.

And sometimes there are fun things to see, and possibly even photograph, sticking a camera out the window while keeping eyes firmly on the road. Sometimes it's a sunrise or sunset, mountains or desert, a blimp or a hot air balloon.

Other times it's about the vehicles, like this Breast Cancer Awareness cement mixer. Amazing!

I am having trouble wrenching my sleep schedule toward early to bed and early to rise, but yes, for now I'm mostly enjoying the drive.

And I pretty much actively chose to drive the 1,000+ miles (actually over 1,100 on the trip counter) last weekend. It's true there weren't many options, though. Airfare would have been over $200, and would have meant getting another night's hotel stay. It also would have required me to procure transportation between the Marriott, where the convention was held, and the Travelodge a mile or two away. Rooms at the Marriott, if available at all, would have cost more than twice what I paid. Rail service between Tucson and Los Angeles is only a few times a week, and completely incompatible with a weekend trip west.

But it doesn't matter, because I like the drive. I have my traditional stops and landmarks: Picacho Peak, with a choice of old and new truck stops; Toltec Road, about a third of the way to Phoenix and site of a Carl;s Jr.; The option to take the "southern route" on I-8 between Casa Grande and San Diego, or maybe just to Gila Bend; the IKEA in Guadalupe AZ outside Phoenix; the nuclear power plant and the state prison;  mountains that look like piled rocks, sometimes topped by windmills; and the Wheel Inn in Cabezon, home of a brontosaurus, a T-Rex and now a robot dinosaur museum. Depending on which route I choose, I either stop at a rest area where I once saw a bobcat at dawn, or drive past the city where the transmission on my Capri died en route to an interview with Scott Bakula. I love it.

Mind you, I didn't love going to work on one hour's sleep on Monday morning!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Benton Vs. a Cyberman - and a Snarky Dalek

If I can figure out how to do it, I will add a YouTube video (raw footage for now) of John Levene (aka John Anthony Blake, who played Sgt. Benton on Doctor Who) trying to stage a heroic encounter with a Cyberman and the world's snarkiest Dalek. Meanwhile here's a photo (I hope!):

And here's the cutest-ever encounter between the Doctor and K-9:

I had a reasonably great time this weekend, and took lots of photos, almost none of them of celebrities. This is because I almost never manage to sit less than a hundred feet from the stage. For the big deal events involving the actors, my photos tend to be really, really bad:


Just like being there, huh? But I kind of like it. It looks as though everyone is on the verge of teleporting out.

Okay, this app doesn't like my YouTube info or the hotel connection or something. I'll post it later.

I am in the Marriott's sports bar, Champions, where every year I treat myself to one decent meal, a steak salad. Love it! After this I start the long driver back to almost-Tucson. My new job is between here and home, so I won't actually get home to John and the dogs until Monday night.


Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Last Chance to See

I am in the main ballroom at Gallifrey One, where Peter Davison and six other classic Who guests are answering the first question of the last major panel. This is the first I've seen of the convention headliner. The demand for Davison's autograph was so overwhelming that I couldn't get it. I settled for one from Clayton Hickman. I'll explain later.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Monday, February 14, 2011

EMPS: Love Birds on a Wall

This week's Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot, appropriately, has "Love" as its theme. This being Valentine's Day, I thought I'd do the Monday Photo Shoot on Monday for a change. This is made possible by my having managed to sorta-kinda photograph something appropriate, something I have been wanting to photograph for the past week. If I'm very lucky, not to mention clever, I may even manage to edit, upload and post the photos by iPad.

Does it work? Well, set of, but only if the photos are on the iPad rather than online, and I have no interest in editing them at all.

Alternatively, I can try doing this from email. But again, that doesn't get the photos edited. Drat.

This is an attempt to use a different app to create text and add a photo properly.

The good news: I can resize. The bad news: I still can't darken the photo. (The really bad news: the photo didn't copy over at all.)

Now to see whether I can select all and add this to the blog entry.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


No, that didn't work at all.

Here is the photo I first uploaded, which I've since edited online using an actual computer.

And here is the other shot, also edited online. iPad had nothing to do with it being here.

The explanation: this is a mural on the front of a building I drive past when returning home from my new job. The ridiculous way the freeway is set up around here means that I drive through downtown at rush hour, and often end up either stopped at a light or inching past this mural. I like it. The birds are vermilion flycatchers. I have very little concept of what the artist is trying to convey, but there is a valentine between two of these birds.And yet they have their backs to each other!

Unfortunately I failed to grab my camera quickly enough when I first passed the building today, so I detoured south to circle around for another attempt. That time, the light wasn't red, and my attempt to grab the shot on the fly, so to speak, wasn't entirely successful. A lot like my iPad experiments, then!


Location: Tucson

Sunday, February 13, 2011

So far, so bad.

I was reasonably proud of myself. After about half an hour of setting up something called BlogPress on John's iPad, I wrote a brief blog entry as a local draft, saved it, tried unsuccessfully to add a picture from one of the online photo albums I had linked to on Picasa and Flicker, and hit PUBLISH. The app took me to the Outpost, but guess what? No new blog entry!

Let's see whether this one works. Obviously I'm less inclined to spend a lot of time polishing an entry that may disappear forever two minutes from now. What you see is what you get - or, equally likely, won't get. Phooey.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

EMPS: Strangers, Their Backs to Me

My entry for Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #111: Walking Away is short and simple:

From January 2011 at the Pima Air and Space Museum: These people walked away to check out a 1950s era plane with the nickname Bungai Buckaroo.

We are about to redo our home wireless network from scratch. It may involve much time, effort, wailing and gnashing of teeth. With luck, I'll be back later tonight to post the new Round Robin Challenge and visit other Robins - but if I don't make it, you'll know why!


Update: Yay! We're back online, and the iPad is too!

Weekend Assignment: Packing for Gallifrey

I'm going out of town on President's Day weekend, and I've been thinking about what to take along:

Weekend Assignment #357: The Art of Packing
When you go on a trip, do you travel light, or try to make sure you have everything you might conceivably need? Specifically, what do you bring along by way of electronics?

Extra Credit: What's the most important thing you ever lost, broke, or forgot to bring on your trip?
With my new job providing a much-needed infusion of cash, I've been able to convince John to let me drive to the Gallifrey One convention next weekend. This is the annual Doctor Who convention that I try to get to every year, but only manage to do so about half of the time. Between the celebrities and the fans in costumes, it's an event that pretty much demands that I take lots of pictures and post them online.

Traditionally, when I go out of town, I take along my camera, a charger for the camera's battery, a phone and the charger for that, and my laptop. But my current camera takes AA batteries, so that's what I'll be packing. As for the laptop, I plugged it in at Halloween and it totally failed to turn on. So, after much mutual consulting, negotiating and agonizing, John and I went out this afternoon and bought this:

It's an iPad. John's been wanting one since before they first came out, but couldn't make himself spend the money while I was underemployed. Now that I'm working basically full time, he's put it off because a) he's used to denying himself stuff like this, and b) the next generation of iPads is due to come out soon. But Best Buy was on the last day of a promotion in which you can buy a current iPad now, and trade it in for a good deal on the new one when it comes out. More likely, John will eventually get the next generation one, and hand the old one down to me.

Meanwhile, I get to borrow his iPad for my trip next weekend. This both thrills me and makes me nervous. I'm considered a bit of a techie, especially by people over age 70; but smart phones, PDAs and iPads are outside my experience. I don't even use my cell phone for anything but phone calls, the occasional photo if I forgot to bring my camera, and rarely a text message if there's no good alternative. I've never browsed the web with my phone, and my iPod is an old monochrome one.

So now we've got less than a week to get myself and the iPad ready for my trip. We did a test run over at Borders tonight, where we successfully watched a few of my videos on YouTube and looked at my photos on Flickr and Picasa, but failed utterly to log me in to Blogger and Gmail. It turned out that I needed to change a setting in Gmail (enable IMAP) and download something called BlogPress to blog on Blogger with an iPad. Myself, I'm not entirely clear on why I can't just use Safari on the iPad to access any website and expect it to work, but apparently the platform isn't quite capable of supporting the full-featured Internet, with Flash and all that stuff. Or vice versa; Google isn't exactly bending over backwards to make their products work on rival Apple's products.

Anyway, expect to see a few more blog entries this week as I attempt to get all this up and running!

As for stuff lost or left behind on a trip, I remember the time I couldn't find my passport anywhere the day we were leaving for London. John threatened to leave me home, but it turned out he'd already packed my passport and it was in the car, ready to go! On a more recent trip I forgot to bring the charger for my phone, and I once left behind the charger for a camera battery when I checked out of a hotel. This year, I hope to do better.

But will I be packing light? Well, the iPad is certainly lighter and less bulky that the Sony Vaio I bought in 2008. The camera is fairly compact, and doesn't need a charger. But clothing may be a bit of a problem this time. Gallifrey One this year is having themed clothing days, including a call for Hawaiian clothing one day, Doctor Who costuming the next, and something relating to their Islands of Mystery theme the day after that. I probably won't even be there for the Hawaiian day, and I'm certainly not going to do a full-fledged costume. Besides where can I find a fez at this late date, or a bowtie and suspenders? Would a fez even fit in my suitcase? The Islands of Mystery include Treasure Island and Jack Sparrow's Isla de Muerta, so I suspect that Black Rose Kate will be making an appearance that day. Or I could get a Gilligan hat for the Gilligan's Island theme. Gilligan hats are cool.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Round Robin: Wow, Look at the Colors!

This week's Round Robin theme is True Colors, and I meant that literally. The idea is to present a picture that's really colorful, without editing the picture's tone, saturation, etc. in any way. The camera has to have recorded it as really colorful.

From Tucson Sunsets

To be honest, this topic was largely inspired by the second sunset I took my dad to see during his January visit to Tucson. Here is one of the shots I took on "A" Mountain that evening. It reminds me of the surface of Jupiter.

And this is one of the extraordinarily colorful sunset shots I captured within the space of a minute or so on my way down the mountain. The presence of the other car helps to reveal something not-so obvious in the other photos. The curving, reflective surface at the bottom is not a body of water or anything like that, but the roof of my silver Kia.

Speaking of recently-purchased cars, here's one that caught my eye the first day I went car-shopping. I loved the bright green of this little car, but it was well out of my price range. I mentioned to the salesman that - while part of my brain was saying, "Ooh, pretty! I want that one!" - I could never buy a car based on something as silly as it being a pretty color. He told me that someone had recently bought one of these cars because the color matched that of the customer's Jaguar!

Since I started my new job, which involves a very long commute, very early in the morning, I've been getting off the freeway right around dawn. There are reasons why I can't take pictures too close to where I work, but I did manage to capture this sunrise. Too bad about the dark spot on the right side of the image. This also shows why I don't like sunrises as well as sunsets. They're seldom anywhere near as colorful!

Now let's go see the other Robins' colorful subjects:

Linking List
as of Saturday, February 12th, 12:25 PM MST

Linda - Posted!
Mommy's Treasures

Karen - Posted!
Outpost Mâvarin

Jama - Posted!
Sweet Memories

Day One

Holly Rexroat - Posted!
Easy Living the Hard Way

Dawn - Posted!
Dawn Elliott Photography

Gattina - Posted!
Keyhole Pictures

Kim - Posted!
40's and Fabulous

Ruth - Posted!
The ScrabbleQueen Knits, Too


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Weekend Assignment # 358: We Had Winter!

This Week's Assignment was the obvious one:

Weekend Assignment # 356: Brrr!
In much of the U.S. and Europe, this winter has been an especially cold and snowy one. How cold has it been where you live? Have recent weather conditions led to any unusual situations locally?

Extra Credit: What extra measures have you personally taken, if any, to stay warm? 
Yes, I know I live in Tucson, but we did have a winter. Really! We were in the throes of it when I wrote the questions above. No, we didn't get any snow; in fact it's been unseasonably dry. But it has been cold. How cold? Consider this: the all time record for the lowest temperature for Tucson in February was 17 degrees, set in 1899. In the early hours of February 3rd and again on the 4th, it hit 18 degrees here! I went out and bought myself a winter jacket, which John said I'd never wear. I think I've worn it every day since then. Granted, that's partly because I'm driving to my new job before dawn. But still. Even in metro Syracuse where I grew up, 18 degrees isn't exactly warm. In Tucson, it's darn cold! The first night, I wore that new winter jacket to bed!

How did Tucson handle the cold? Well, for reasons that aren't entirely clear, particularly to me, Southwest Gas had a major outage at the time of the coldest temperatures, and only recently restored gas service to all but about 439 of the 14,600 homes and businesses that were left out in the cold on February 3rd. Southwest Gas blames cold weather, high demand and frozen pipes. Or something.

Twenty minutes ago, the official temperature in Tucson was 34. The high was 65. I guess winter is over here - well, for now at least!


Sunday, February 06, 2011

EMPS: My Doggie Friends

This week's Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #110: Friendship was a little tricky for me. I tend to be shy about taking pictures of humans, except as part of my photography for St. Michael's. Fortunately, Carly mentioned that the friends in the photos didn't have to be humans. This leaves me free to make one of my periodic attempts at my favorite photographic subjects: Cayenne and Pepper, my doggie friends!

From Trouble Dogs

Pepper and Cayenne both like to hang out with us on the couch, which can be a problem. There just isn't room on the couch for two humans plus two dogs. Sometimes when John goes to get something from the kitchen, he returns to find Cayenne or (more often) Pepper ensconced in his place! Also, they're even worse about knocking the cover off the couch than I am.

One of their favorite pastimes is to run outside and bark, either because the dogs next door are barking, or someone is in the alleyway, or one of the neighborhood cats turns up. This can be a problem when I'm trying to sleep, or when John is trying to keep the laundry room door shut because it's cold outside, and thereby keeps the dogs in as well.

Generally the dogs get on really well with each other, licking each other's faces, following each other in and out, and even lying on top of each other. However, Cayenne is definitely top dog. She will harry Pepper, momentarily blocking her from coming inside.

Still, it's definitely a strong friendship, as such things go, with each other as well as with the human members of the family!


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Weekend Assignment #355: "I'm a Great Fan of Science, You Know"

First let me tackle this week's Weekend Assignment, and then we'll move on to some news.

In this year's State of the Union address, the President spoke of the need for better education, particularly in math and science, and the desirability of celebrating winners of science fairs - in other words, science geeks. How good were you in science in school?

Extra Credit: Whether or not you were actually good at it in school, how much of a science geek are you now?

The quote in the subject line is from the character Slartibartfast, from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books, radio shows, records, tv series, bad movie and officially licensed towel. He got an award from designing the fjords of Norway, so when he was given Africa to design for a replacement Earth, he intended to do it all in fjords again, "because I'd rather be happy than right, any day."

Myself, I'm not even quite sure why Africa can't have a fjord, except that I suspect that glaciers are involved in their making. I'm not very good at science, you see. I struggled in Earth Science in junior high school, got 100 on my Biology final in tenth grade, dropped out of Chemistry after getting a D the first semester, and never took Physics at all, which I regret. I took astronomy and some sort of climatology in college and struggled with those, too.

Nevertheless, I am a great fan of science. I understand that calling something a scientific "theory" does not mean it is something to be sneered at as "only a theory." I know what the scientific method is, and why empirical testing is good and valuable. I sometimes watch science shows, and even occasionally listen to Science Friday on NPR - not that I understand all of it. I have at least a vague idea of the difference between Newtonian and Einsteinian physics. Just don't ask me to explain it.

I think people should learn science, to the very limit of their ability to understand it. I think we probably need more really good science teachers, and more respect for science in general. I regret not taking that twelfth grade physics class, or some sort of physics for English majors course in college.

A number of years ago, an episode of Scientific American Frontiers was all about the human brain, the problem of Alzheimer's, and ways to keep the brain functioning as we age. The most important point I took away from the program, which I'm heard confirmed several times since then, is that if you learn something new and different later in life, it forms new synapses and helps to keep the brain from growing lesions and losing functionality. It can't just be more of the same, though. It needs to be a whole new field of leaning, not just more about accounting, if one is an accountant, or the next crossword puzzle if one likes crossword puzzles. It needs to be more along the lines of an engineer becoming a poet, or a writer taking up painting.

So maybe sometime in the next decade, I'll set my mind to learning physics. Or something.


I had a job interview yesterday. It was quite a distance from the house, almost 50 minutes of driving, over the county line. From where I got off the freeway, I could see Picacho Peak, which I generally think of as a quarter to a third of the way to Phoenix!  But it was a pretty and stress-free drive, mostly by freeway, and then up a lonely two lane highway with mountains in the distance all around me. When I got there, the cool factor of the type of business got me all excited and enthusiastic.

And guess what: I got the job! I won't tell you what it is, because it falls in my usual category of jobs for which it's probably best to not blab on the internet everything I know or every opinion I may have, good, bad or indifferent. It's an accounting job, of course, temp to hire, for a company that does something I find rather exciting. Given that, the pay rate and the nice people I met yesterday, it's going to be well worth the long drive each day. Hooray!

The other bit of news is that winter weather is hitting Tucson hard tonight. We won't be getting snow like the rest of the country, probably, but it's windy, and the forecast is for 15 to 20 degrees tonight. The all-time low for February in Tucson is 17 degrees, and that was back in 1899! So you see this is extraordinary. It's also really windy!

I think I'll go put my gloves on now, to wear indoors!

Image credit: "Goldilocks planet" illustration by Lynette Cook, National Science Foundation.