The Lope: January 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

Charmed Existence

Some of you who enjoy Ace's travels also follow the life of his pal, Patsy Terrell. Patsy went into surgery Tuesday for the removal of an ovarian tumor which ultimately proved to be benign.

It was really scary for about three weeks, between the time we all knew Patsy had a tumor and the moment the pathology report came back for it on Wednesday. I now have great empathy for anyone going through the nightmare of uncertainty with a friend or loved one.

Though I can't claim to match Ace's rapport with any woman, Patsy is a good friend of mine and I've been helping at the hospital and keeping up her blog while she recuperates. Look in if you like at Patsy's Ponderings.

When they wheeled her up to her room she asked me "is it gone?" I replied that it was, and that it was not cancer. Groggily, she spoke "charmed existence."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ad Astra, Baby!

It's Kansas Day. Have a sunflower.

In fact, have several.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More Snowflakes

Who says you can't have productive fun while waiting in the car? The day before yesterday I was running errands with a friend in Hutchinson, Kansas, when it began to snow. After shooting snowflakes last month, I tend to be really excited when I see those crystals falling from on high, so I looked closely at the front car window and saw these jewels.

The engine was no longer running and the outside temperature was in the upper teens, but these flakes on the side window still began to melt. This shot is a full size detail from a frame shot at ISO 100 in the Canon SX10is set at the super macro setting, which must be used at this distance. Unfortunately, the super macro setting locks the camera at its widest focal length so even though you can press the lens right up against the window, the snow flakes were still a small part of the field, necessitating the full size. At least the flat side window enabled me to get the lens closer to the snowflake.

This one was more off-center in the frame and not as sharp.

I keep several pieces of black plastic and cloth in my freezer now, awaiting their use as non-melting landing areas for backyard snowflakes.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Portland Classical Chinese Garden

Happy Chinese New Year, 2009! Or, to be accurate, Happy Chinese New Year, 4706. It's the year of the ox, by the way. I don't have an ox handy, so we'll have to settle for a jackalope, some koi, a bird, some beautiful plants a whole lot of great architecture.

Today, I'd like to bring you some of the tranquility of the Portland Classical Chinese Garden, which occupies an entire city block at the edge of Portland's Chinatown. We visited the garden on October 2, 2006.

I shan't be able to describe in its native nomenclature the parts of a Chinese garden and the philosophies behind them; they are their own world. Suffice it to say there is an intrinsic elegance in such places. You can find copious information at the garden's website.

One of the courtyard gates. The formal entrance to a Chinese garden is always on the south side.

The Courtyard of Tranquility

Here, as in many parts of the garden complex, the floor is a mosaic of hand-picked rocks arranged into symbolic patterns. This pattern is called "crabapple blossom."

A total of 500 tons of rock were brought from China and hand placed by Chinese workmen.

The Chinese characters on the roof tiles mean "double happiness." The double curves around them represent five bats, which stand for the Five Blessings: long life, wealth, health, love of virtue, and natural death. Five is a significant number in that the five elements of a Suzhou style garden are architecture, plants, rocks, water, and poetry.

The structure in the foreground is the "Mid-lake Pavilion," also known as the "Moon Locking Pavilion." From here on a clear evening, one may view the moon and see its reflection on the water.

You could almost forget you're in a city, except for the modern buildings that occasionally intrude upon the sky.

In Chinese garden design, a body of water was more than aesthetic. It could be used to fight fires, as a source of irrigation water, as a habitat for fresh fish and could humidify and cool the air around it.

This is the doorway to the Courtyard of Permeating Fragrance.

The courtyard floor

These are views inside the Hall of Permeating Fragrance.

This scholar's study contains a day bed and Ming dynasty-style chairs.

Such a place would be used for scholarly conversation.

Mushrooms grow on a log near the entrance. I do not know if the were merely decorative or a food source.

And here are a few more general views of the garden.

Inside the Tower of Cosmic Reflections (above right) is the tearoom, called Tao of Tea.

The Tower of Cosmic Reflections seen beyond the Moon Locking Pavilion.

Our host explains the tea ritual.

It was here that I had edamame - baby soybeans - for the first time.

Inside the upper floor of the tower

Here are a few views of the garden from the upper floor.

Zig-zag paths are used in Chinese garden design to give the user a greater impression of distance between points.

Here is a view down a zig-zag bridge.

Throughout the garden you will see what are called "Tai Hu rocks", large vertical pieces of limestone mined from Lake Tai, near Suzhou in China.

These particular rocks are prized for their four virtues: the holes that allow life force to flow freely, the rough texture, their slenderness, and being top-heavy.

The name of the rocks comes from Lake Tai, into which they were placed to enhance their shape through forced erosion, a process that took many years.

If you think this hole does not look natural, you're probably right. According to the garden's website, "traditionally, a father would drill holes in a large rock and place it in the lake so that the water would enhance the openings and crevices. His grandson would remove the stone many years later and incorporate it into the family garden." As with many aspects of the garden, the holes had a philosophical aspect in that they were said to "allow life force to flow freely."

You knew there had to be a gift shop, and you were right.

There is also a building which houses an exhibit on the history of Portland's Chinatown as well as a display about Chinese New Year celebrations. We previously explained this in Red, Gold and Almost Gone.

(May, 2009: Thanks to Chinese Garden Scene for linking to us.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Incandecent Old Glory

There's a new electric "red white and blue" along Kansas highway 61 in Inman. It's huge - strung between two phone poles - and there's not a single light burned out. I don't know the story behind the big electric flag, but if I hear, I'll add it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President -Elect Barack Obama

As I write this, Barack Obama just became President of the United States, even though he has not yet been sworn in. Apparently, it's more a matter of time than of ceremony.

I've had so many emails about the photo above that I decided this would be an appropriate time to post some more pictures from's visit to the press section of the October 18, Kansas City Barack Obama campaign rally. I was press and so was blogger Patsy Terrell. Acknowledgment of bloggers is part of the to-the-moment thinking that characterized the Obama campaign.

Here's the original post. The better pictures are in it, these are pretty much the extras.

Check out the snipers on the roof of the nearby Liberty Memorial, which now serves as part of the WWI Museum.

Here's more of the memorial. The vantage point and distance is the same as the photo at the top of this post; this is just a wide angle (approx 35mm equivalent).

As I look at this crowd, which was estimated at 75,000, I'm not sorry I'm not in DC today. I haven't heard a crowd estimate for the inauguration but I'm watching it on TV and the word "ka-jillion" comes to mind.

Behind Obama is one of the memorial's sphinxes, which are carved with wings hiding their eyes.

This little girl obviously didn't mind being photographed.

This is one of my favorites.

I tend to like shots in which I can see what other people had in their viewfinders. I envy the subject to camera proximity of the person holding up the camera near center, but then, I had Mobility to try different angles from the L-shaped press area behind the VIP area in front of Obama, and the people in the VIP area had almost no mobility at all.

Looking Back on Election Day

On Inauguration Day (not sure it's a holiday, but am capitalizing it anyway) I thought I'd look back on Election Day here in Hutchinson, Reno County, Kansas.

Local Democrat Patsy Terrell had me photograph her for her blog.

And here's the loudest sound of 2008 - the sound of democracy.

Hutchinson mayor Trish Rose and her husband Jim held an election night party at their home. Ace Jackalope attended in suitable attire.

Jade Piros was suitably decorated.

Election returns began pouring in.

Patsy reacts to Obama's win. She looks distressed but is actually simply overwrought with emotion.

That's Andrea Springer on the right.

Trish hugs Teresa Short as Trish's husband, Jim Davis, takes a picture.

Andrea holds her phone out so her sister, who was not near a TV, can hear the election results.

Sharon Scott, Jocelyn Woodson and Patsy pose with Ace.

Patsy, Teresa and Trish were three women who were no longer blue in a red state.

(re-edited for better archiving - this was originally part of another post)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bob May

The flailing arms that signaled "Danger, Will Robinson" have been stilled. Bob May, the man in the Lost in Space robot suit, died yesterday of congestive heart failure at the age of 69.

I met him when I was working as convention photographer at Trek Expo 2005, where all these photos were taken. Above, he evaluates Ace Jackalope after signing a toy version of the robot I use as room decor.

May was a colorful story-teller and clicked well with the nostalgia-driven fans of Lost in Space. I also liked his taste in shirts.

At the convention, May posed with a replica of the beloved robot.

Two generations of robots: May posed with Tricia Helfer from Battlestar Galactica. Being a retired robot obviously had its advantages.


Sometimes a Sign...

...comes to symbolize more than a style. Read about why the googie-style Lorraine Motel sign stands for so much for so many, here.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Afternoon at the Hutchinson Zoo

Ace and I have been on hiatus so far this year with other priorities, but I did manage a trip to the Hutchinson Zoo with Patsy on this almost perfect day.

The zoo was an impulse trip; as we arrived, Bob Kirby was driving the zoo's Prairie Thunder train.

A note to photographers: I used the Canon SX10 is' tilting viewfinder on this shot. The camera is actually over my head.

Rides on the train are only $1.50, so of course we wanted to go.

Ice and blue water contrast the dry prairie flora by this long body of water that parallels the tracks.

Several wildlife statues dot the landscape near the tracks.

I shot this video as we approached the tunnel.

Plans call for an expansion of the tracks over to a prairie area that currently houses the zoo's bison and is scheduled to handle other prairie fauna as well. This would make the train ride a genuine tour of some of the zoo's animals, instead of the mere pleasant diversion it presently is. Not that there's anything wrong with pleasant diversions.

Canada Geese approach landing at the zoo's pond. We decided to walk over and check out the pond area and the nearby otters.

On the way, we saw two bald eagles which are part of the zoo's wildlife rehabilitation program.


The pond was frozen, of course.

This was a much more peaceful than my previous avian encounter in Carey Park.

In addition to a flock of geese, there are are two pelicans.

The pelicans seem to be reading the sign that states their feeding time is 3:45.

The sign was correct. A relatively new zoo employee, Marcy from Illinois, showed up.

Marcy tossed the pelicans fish coated with mineral supplements.

Of course, we stopped in to see the North American River Otters, named Willy and Kyra by the zoo. I previously showed quite a bit of them in Ottery Goodness.

I couldn't resist recording a bit of ottery frolicking. I think you'll like the back-lit water droplets when they shake.

Upon leaving the otters, I noticed what frankly looked to me like a statue of a derrière. It turns out it was a dinosaur egg shell - part of the new Dino Dig play area under construction.

The zoo has a baby llama.

We said hello to the zebu.

Inside the zoo building, one can see a few primates.

This is a cotton top tamarin with a baby. This is good to see, since the cotton top tamarin is an endangered species.

The tamarins are very active movie subjects.

A North American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) lives in what used to be a large turtle aquarium. They can grow up to 18 feet, so I hope there's a plan for this one.

Considering the predators around it, this frog is lucky to have its own tank. The species was not labeled.

The Prairie Rattlesnakes (Crotalus viridis) were active. In the wild, they like to eat prairie dogs.

I never tire of photographing iguanas.

Hey, this is a tank full of fun. A Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) rests atop a Timber Rattlesnake. I particularly love the Timber Rattlesnake's Latin name - Crotalus horridus.

The Black Rat Snake (Elaphe obsolita obsolita) shows its climbing skills. They like birds, bird eggs and small rodents. Well, they like to eat them, to be more accurate. I was testing the macro settings on this one.

As we left the zoo, this group of four people behind us was singing "follow the yellow brick road." No kidding.

See Patsy's blog entry for her take on the day.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Charles Phoenix on Parade

Ace's pal Charles Phoenix has gotten involved in something strange - imagine that. The "histo-entertainer" will be Grand Marshall of Pasadena's 32nd Occasional Doo Dah Parade, tomorrow, Sunday January 18. Ace met Charles at Kansas City's Airline History Museum last fall when he presented one of his very cool retro slide shows.

The Doo Dah parade is...well, sort of like a Star Trek Mirror universe version of the Rose Parade. It features such attractions as the Synchronized Briefcase Marching Drill Team. I rather doubt it has farmers on John Deere tractors, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a shriner's fez or two.

Flag Theatre Fundraiser

Folks at Hutchinson's Flag Theatre have asked us to help get the word out that they are having a fundraiser January 30. The show will feature ventriloquest Jim Barber. Read about it here.