Thursday, February 28, 2008

Defying winter

After yesterday's post and accompanying depression (not really, but as close as I come), I arose to a sunny morning. I had had a conversation yesterday with Reena, lamenting that we often had crocus in bloom by the first week of March, and here it was the end of February and we still had three-damn-feet of snow on the ground. So as I was leaving for work this morning, I poked my nose around to the south side - the warm and sunny side of the house - and discovered this:

Iris defying Winter!
Iris - Defying winter

I leaped and whooped, and snapped a pic. I looked a little further and found half a dozen daylilies peeking up throught the ground too. I will try to get a closer photo of them tomorrow (I'd have had to wade through a lot of snow to get a close image). So, OK, I'm a little lighter of spirit today. There is, finally, a promise of spring in evidence. The Goddess is alive, and spring is stirring!

UPDATE - 3/3
Yesterday the temps hit 48 (F) and a bunch of snow disappeared. As the snow on the south side of my house melted away from the foundation of the house, more and more shoots were uncovered. A few hours earlier, these had been under nearly a foot of snow!
As the snow recedes
More iris peeking through.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sick of this s*%t!

I can't believe how sick I am of ice-covered roads! Every drive down a side street around here is like an off-road excursion. Bumps and ruts abound, forcing your car to skew and yaw. There is so much snow that many roads are still 6-8 feet narrower than normal, but yet cars still have to park, and thread through. There is at least 8" of solid ice at the end of my driveway, and the mounds of snow along it and my sidewalk are five or more feet tall. We have shattered our previous record of snowfall (77" or something like that, and are well on our way to blowing right past 100". Yeah, that's a trifle if you're along the Great Lakes or in the mountains, but around here it's puh-lenty. My dark blue car is essentially a dull grey-white urban camouflage of encrusted salt.

So I'm retreating into fantasy again. I'm envisioning myself riding along the ridge tops near Arcadia, WI. I blew through the Mindoro Cut (south to north) this morning, and have been spending the last 5 hours traveling about 75 miles as the crow flies. I dipped out of the hills to take in a bit of the mighty Mississippi at Alma, and will probably end my day with a beer at Ole's in Maiden Rock. In the meantime, there are all these hills and coulees to explore! And, of course, this isn't in a stuffy car. Nosiree. This is on my trusty steed, Farouche, the large-lunged thumper that has been my bestest motorcycle ever. All I need to make my fantasy moment complete is some riding buddies: Reena, Devon, and Meredith. And lest I forget to mention it, in my head it's 75 and sunny, with a light breeze out of the west.





My neighbor's out busting ice off of his driveway. I took a look at his driveway earlier, and know that he's gonna be at it for a while. We'll, reality rears its ugly head again, and it's cold and icy out there. No way to go for a ride. I guess I'll go dancing.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Another exquisite Saturday night

Last night was another one of those sweet, sweet nights of self-made entertainment. I'm pretty sure that I know the coolest people in town, and they let me come play with them on a routine basis. This particular group of the coolest people, contain some talented musicians, and some lovely dancers - and there is some overlap in those descriptions.

Ayperi, with fan

We gathered at the home of a man who is in the process of repairing the energy in his home. For him, these evenings of music, dance, and merriment are cathartic, a significant part of the healing process he wants his home to experience as a way to shed the miasma of unpleasantness. He creates an environment of unbridled creativity. When a moment coalesces into the sublime, he points it out, savoring it, stretching it out to make it last. When an ending to a song or dance is clumsy, he suggest we try it again, just the last 30 seconds or so, to tighten it all up and nail it in a satisfactory way. As a result, everyone gets a bit of a bump in joy for having done better, and having fun doing it.

Seana and Ayperi

Everything is casual, dancers coming and going as they will, and instrumentation varying according to what the song seems to call for. Sometimes we might produce a rousing wall of percussion, while other times the oud and guitar dominate the room while the percussionists switch to lighter touches and supporting instruments.


In all we played for about 4 hours, with a little time taken in the middle to talk about performance opportunities at various renaissance faires and Madison's own UW Belly Dance club's spring show. I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday night!

Guitar and Oud

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Know Hope

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press - - Source

Despite below zero temperatures and icy streets, Wisconsin Democrats came out in force and voted in the primary yesterday. In Madison, which typically has a 66/33 percent split between Dems and Republicans, over EIGHTY percent of those voting voted Dem (according to John Nichols on The Mic this morning). The final result for the state was a 17% margin in favor of Barack Obama. Some of Hillary Clinton's best results came from heavily republican counties like Waukesha, suggesting that conservatives cast a vote her way to spoil Obama's chances. She won only 9 of 72 counties. It's got to be tough to be Hillary Clinton this morning. She needs cash to campaign heavily in Ohio and Texas, and asking for it from potential donors in the face of ten straight defeats will be mighty tough.

I'm pretty happy with the results. Much as I want the U.S. to have a woman president, I don't want it to be Hillary. She's too much the politician: Too willing to be secretive; too certain she knows what's best. It would be more of the divisive politics of George W. Bush. I prefer the politics of hope this time around. I want a different approach. I've read a bunch of the detailed material from Obama's Web site on the economy, Iraq, energy, and homeland security. While I don't agree with every word, I'm at least comfortable that there exists a plan, with details. It's going to cost money, to be sure. But in reality, he simply cannot spend more than the current president (who is going to "dine and dash" on the American taxpayers).

And for my fellow artists out there, you need to read this.

UPDATE: Boy, was I right. It does suck to be Hillary Clinton trying to raise cash. She's $7.5 mil in debt and he's got money rolling in to him in armored car parades! To paraphrase the big-eared guy, that giant sucking sound you hear is Hillary's coffers running empty.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008


(Masamba Dance performing for Carnival)

You know, I'm tired of posting pictures of the god-awful winter we're stuck in. And that, my friends, seems to be what Carnival (Mardi Gras) takes care of. It provides an escape into a few hours of sick-of-winter, need-to-cut-loose, booty-moving music and dance in outrageous costumes with a lot of skin. So escape I did, along with about 400 other revelers at the High Noon Saloon in Madison, WI. Music poured like sweat out of Pagee Go Go and the Handphibians, and the talented and scantily clad Masamba Dance troupe provided stunning eye candy. The crowed did it's part too, coming in costume and dancing 'til bar time. There may have been an ice storm going on outside, but inside it was hot, Hot, HOT!

There are more pictures here:

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

First Gallery Opening

I had my very first photo exhibit yesterday. A local coffee shop - Escape Java Joint - has a gallery/performance space that is available for almost any sort of artwork. The process was thrilling for me. I had never taken such a step; to put my photographs so directly into the public eye, and for sale as well. While it's certainly true that both this blog and my Flickr source pages are "public", and many local people are aware of it, see my photos and comment on them, this felt significantly different.
Escape Gallery Opening
(The gallery space, awaiting the opening reception.)

I had an enormous task of sorting through thousands of photos to identify 25-30 images to hang. In hindsight, I could have added another half-dozen as I had one blank wall in the back corner. I solicited input from a bunch of friends and coworkers to help me winnow down the photos. I deliberately excluded people pictures unless it was some public event. The only one I settled on was the Bubble Guy from the Willy Street Fair. It seemed a shame to exclude some of the lovely dancer photos of Ayperi and Rivka or others, and all my candid portraits. Ultimately I decided that if I wanted to SELL anything, then I should withhold the people pictures and stick with the more general - plants and vistas, or inanimate objects. The images that made the cut can be found HERE. If you choose the "view as slideshow" option, you can pretend you are there!

I made a deliberate decision to put all the photos in minimalist frames with no mats. I simply wanted the look to be photos on the wall. Obviously it's a bad idea to have the photo right up against the glass, and I will discourage anyone from buying one framed this way. Instead I'm suggesting they buy a print and frame it the way they like.

I made one exception with framing, and that image was used above the table with my guest book and order forms for prints. This image seemed to beg for a nicer wood frame and indeed it looked just about perfect.

Escape Gallery Opening

In all, I had over 50 people attend the opening reception. It surpassed my wildest expectations. For the entire three hour opening, there was never a moment when there were fewer than 8-10 people in the space. I am so grateful to my friends for such a showing of support, and even more so to the handful who opened their wallet and bought a print. Thank you!

What next?

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tagged! Five Things...

So another blogger - lovely friend Nancy - tagged me on her blog and challenged me to post five things about myself. I figured I'd do it my way:

I'm married, and have been in this blissful state for over twenty years.

I work for Corporate America, currently as a transportation analyst for Famous Footwear. All my jobs (except my paper route) have been for Corporate America. Weird...

Kilted Nataraj
Uh-boy...I'm one of THOSE guys. A guy who wears a kilt for no particular reason.

Sudden gust of wind!
Another flash of info
about me revealed.

Bugstopper 2
I'm an avid motorcyclist. I currently own three bikes: An
MZ Baghira that I'm slowly transforming into an "adventure tourer", a Honda 919 that is enough sport bike and enough roadster to be useful for a lot of riding, and a custom built bike, the Rogue, a 540 cc single that is just a blast when the roads get super twisty. My sweetie rides too!

a13 from Tobago Cays
I've been on two Windjammer cruises in the Caribbean on a 200' sailboat. If money were no object, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

That takes care of me. I'm supposed to tag five others now. Watch out!

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Get me outta here!

Man, oh man. I have got a serious case of cabin fever. I'm pretty sure I have a specific form of this ailment, and the only thing that will cure it is a motorcycle ride. And not just a teeny, tiny little putt around the block, either. It's gotta involve some saddle time, luggage, a wheelie or two, twisty roads, and no friggin' snow. I was staring at the US map on the wall just beside my 'puter at work. I realized I was staring - intently - at Colorado and Wyoming. My eye danced across words like Bighorn, Glacier, Yellowstone, Tetons, Flaming Gorge, Rocky Mtn Natl Park, Pike's Peak, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Ah, be still my heart.

Rocky Mountain Dreaming

I know it's still snowing there too. And there's this little problem of 1000 miles of Great Plains between me and all that geological splendor. One thousand miles of absolutely


roads. No hills to mar the landscape - every mile looks just the same. I've done this trek before. I've crossed the Great Plains via North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. I've launched into or out of them via Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri. I've reached my destinations in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. And, no offense to any flatlanders reading this, but all long, straight roads are good for on a motorcycle is wearing a flat spot in your premium sport tire, which renders it ... interesting ... when the road finally does get twisty again and you want to L E A N that bike over, feathering the edges of the tread. After 1000 straight miles, the profile of the tire is no longer a sweet oval. It now resembles the rim cover on the family sedan: square. And then there's the bike that's calling to me in my dream state; my MZ Baghira. It started life as a porcine dual purpose bike (both off and on road). But MZ thought it would be fun to replace the wheels and tires with street equipment in the spirit of a vaguely popular 1980's racing series, calling it a Street Moto. The more European name for this sort of nutter bike is Super Motard. (OK, I admit it. I'm motarded!) So while this bike is a blast to ride, it didn't scream, "Ride me long distances on straight roads!". But there they are. So, over time, I have gone away from viewing this as a 'motard, and started thinking of it as a poor man's "adventure touring" bike. A go anywhere, do anything bike. And so may I introduce to you my partner in hooliganism, Farouche:

Ready for spring

I added some conveniences, and weight, to make him a better partner on adventure. The side cases and top box make life on the road easy as pie, and the PIAA lights on the front vaporize deer while they're still eighty yards out. He's still not a perfect mount for riding across the Great Plains, but in time, all will be improved. But hey! I'm not perfect either, so we make a pair, Farouche and I. We're going to go somewhere. It's just a matter of waiting for all that damned white stuff on the ground to go away, and first chance I get I'll slip the shackles of Corporate America and escape.

FREEDOM. At least for a while.

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Dude, where's my Bug?

One more Bug-in-the-snow picture. We were socked yesterday with 10-11 inches of the powdery stuff. Getting home from work was a nightmare, and I would have been stuck three times if I hadn't had a shovel in the car (thanks, Reen!). This is my navy blue Beetle in my driveway, parked after the worst of the storm. You can see that the snow in my front yard is up to the window, but about half of that depth is where I pitched the snow from the driveway.

This was handheld, using available light (my porchlight, and the neighbors' too) and my 50 mm, F/1.8 prime lens, ISO 1600, with a shutter speed of 1/20th of a second.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Shape

The Shape, originally uploaded by nataraj_hauser / eyeDance.

Imagine my surprise: We got more snow today. This time, however, it was around ten inches, and most of it came down in a six hour period. Coming home from work this afternoon was...interesting. Good thing I had a shovel in the car with me as I got stuck twice, and had to help dig and push three other cars out. Mind you, my commute is almost entirely on primary roads.

This picture was taken near twilight, two hours after I got home, and the car already has another three inches of snow on it. I shoveled, and when Mrs. Nataraj got home three hours after me, she shoveled again.

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Slow. The. Fuck. Down.

I had to drive to Portage this morning for a funeral, and it started snowing just before I left. The roads were marginally OK on the way there, but it continued snowing steadily. Leaving Portage, just as I was getting back to the Interstate, I came across the first accident:
It snowed again today...
The driver was OK, and a tow truck was already on the way. She took out about twenty feet of Armco barrier. How fast was she going?

This person wasn't so lucky:
It snowed again today...

Emergency personnel were already on hand so I didn't need to stop.
It snowed again today...

In twenty-five miles, I say SEVEN accidents, two of which were roll-overs. One car was a good FIFTY FEET into a field, and another had destroyed twenty feet of Armco before spinning across two lanes of Interstate and coming to rest in the median. And yet I was routinely passed by cars and SUVs going seventy miles an hour and leaving no more than fifteen or twenty feet between vehicles. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

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A Rebirth of Sorts

I have been thinking about this image a lot lately. In part, of course, because we are smack in the middle of a seemingly endless winter here in Wisconsin where we haven't seen grass or felt warm since Thanksgiving. This was taken outside of Moab, Utah, where I was attending a contact improv dance retreat, and getting a bit of hiking in as well. Setting up this shot felt like crawling into, and emerging from a womb. There was something delightfully transformative about the process.

It's that feeling of transformation that got me thinking about it again. With the decision to offer some of my images for sale, and setting up a small-time gallery event to put them out there to the world in a public way, I fell like I'm undergoing another transformation. It's a different step - something I've never done before. I wonder where it will lead me, as I don't seem to be driving the process as much as going with the flow; following feedback and praise where it leads. It's all a bit easier I suppose, since I don't believe non-success equates with failure. I try; I learn; I try differently.

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