Monday, April 27, 2009

'O sweet spontaneous...'

Text? Who needs text?!

Bearded Iris
Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris

Well OK, maybe a little text. This e. e. cummings poem is one of my favorites and seems right. Spacing is intentional and original.

O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have
the doting

fingers of
prurient philosophies pinched
and poked

has the naughty thumb
of science prodded

beauty how
often have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy
knees squeezing and

buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive

to the incomparable
couch of death thy

thou answerest

them only with


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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

this drippy, drizzly day

Every so often I get completely caught up in one aspect of my life and forget about others. Recently I have been nearly consumed by the upcoming aerial dance show, and all other thoughts got sent to back burners. On this drippy, drizzly day I remembered to notice that my yard was turning green. Grabbing my camera, I went out to investigate what was going on.

Black Trillium
Black Trillium

The trillium, both the store-bought black and the rescued woodland white, are up and have blossoms ready to open. The Mayapples are up and grew about two inches since yesterday. A couple have buds showing.


Mayapple With Bud
Mayapple With Bud

And I was tickled to find a volunteer bleeding heart in a basement window well. It is the window the clothes dryer vents out of, and all that warm, moist air gave this one a head start. I have 4-5 others in the yard, and all are lagging well behind this one.

Bleeding Heart
Blooming Bleeding Heart

As I wandered the yard, I found quite a list of things up and at it:
Crocus (done already)
Siberian Iris (already done)
Daffodil (full bloom)
Bearded Iris
Day Lily
Tiger Lily
Bleeding Heart
Chive (yummy!)
Snow on the Mountain
Dutchman's Britches
Wild Geranium

I am sure there are more that I am forgetting. Oh, it is nice to stick my nose out there! And as the day time draws to a close, the sun has burned through the clouds and is pouring down on the wet earth. Happy garden!

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Cycropia Spring Show Sneak Peek

The tech run for the upcoming aerial dance show went well yesterday. Our goal was to run each piece and sort out all the logistical issues each piece, and the show in general, would need resolved. A work day on Saturday had prepped the space, hanging a large black velvet backdrop, three fabric screens for video projection, and one of the three projectors that would be used. As each piece ran, the tech crew made notes on rigging for each apparatus - when and how it would strike, and who would do that during the show - as well as where the piece was in space to make sure the dancers would be properly lit at all times. Simultaneously the sound and projection folks were making certain that the plans they had made would really work as expected. It is a long processes, consuming seven hours to prep for a show that will run just over an hour.

Care for a sneak peak?

Cycropia Spring Show-Tech Run

In a break from my usual habit of posting just a few photos, I thought I would try something a little different and embed a slide show to the entire set I have at my Flickr site. The slide show sometimes takes a moment to display the next image. If you get impatient, rolling your mouse over the show will bring up controls.

Still photos cannot do this work justice. Come see the show!

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

In the Home Stretch

Since January my life has been filled with rehearsals for an aerial dance show. Most weeks there have been four rehearsals, mostly starting at 8:45 PM. That would get me home around 11:15 PM, all cranked up and not at all sleepy. That was quite challenging when I had to get up and go to work every day. It was also hard to have quality time with my wife. Fortunately, she is an understanding sort, and knows how much a show like this means to me. So we adjusted our schedules and lives to make quality time for each other.

The show is next weekend, and so this is the final push to the end of the process. Everyone involved in the show is working like a dog to solicit volunteers, coordinate the space, the details of seating and lighting and rigging and videography and photography and make-up and costuming and publicity...

Oh yeah, and polishing their pieces.


This is a talented bunch of creative people working hard at their craft for no reward other than the satisfaction of putting on a good show. I have seen the budget, and I have seen the estimated ticket sales if we sell out each show. I am here to tell you, no one is getting rich on this. Ahh, but the experience itself is rich beyond compare!


For me personally it has been a time of growth as I learn more of the process of choreography, and working with fellow dancers in a cooperative way. There are no dictators here; no one has the ultimate say in how each piece was crafted. There are no divas.

Field Testing Portable Studio

This show is a 20th anniversary for the troupe - Cycropia Aerial Dance - and part of the mission for this show is a celebration of community. Not only the community of the troupe itself - though that is a spicy melange of its own - but of the relationship between the troupe and the larger community in which we live.

Spring Show Promo

The show is Friday and Saturday nights, and Saturday and Sunday afternoon matinees. Details are HERE. If you cannot catch the show, enjoy these pre-production photos and wish us luck. We are in the home stretch now, and it is all coming together.

Spring Show Promo

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Film is so last year (so why is it still haunting me?)

Warning: Rant Ahead.

Do you know anyone who still shoots a 35 mm film camera? Sure, they are out there, but mostly folks have moved to digital. So why, pray tell, can I not buy a frame suitable for digital enlargements? My Nikon D40 spits out a standard image of 4"x6" and every print shop will make me prints. Most will even sell me a frame of some sort into which to stick it. But if I want an enlargement most of the kiosk places will default me to an image size of 8x10 inches. See my problem?

8x10 issue
8x10 Forces A Crop

The correct step in enlargement for digital cameras is 8x12 inches, not 8x10. I stopped at 3-4 places today in a vain attempt to find a store that would sell me an appropriate frame. No one carried an 8x12 frame. EVERYone carried an 8x10 frame, which not too coincidentally is the correct enlargement size for a 35 mm film image. What really annoyed me enough to blog this was getting an enlargement of a splendid photo that I intend to frame and hang on my wall. It is not a snapshot. It is a stunning portrait of my wife. It being one of the nicest images I have made, I decided to try a big, almost poster-size print. Of course, the correct non-cropped size is - do the math - 16x24 inches. What do you think I find when I look for frames? *nodding* Right, I find 16x20. Again with the 35 mm film image bias. The real pisser? The camera business where I had the print done does not sell any frames for the size they print. Not only at the store I was at, but in their company-wide inventory database. It was a surprise to the sales guy. That also speaks volumes.

I have banged my head into this problem in the past, but I assumed after a year or so the market would have an "A-ha!" moment and catch up, but that is clearly not the case. What is wrong with the industry? Do they simply not realize that the market has fundamentally shifted? Why should I be forced to crop my photo to stick it in a standard frame? Yes, I know I can have cu$tom framing done. My wife does that at her galley. My question is simply, why do I have to?

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Tea Bagging in Madison

I went to the Tea Party here in Madison, WI, yesterday. It was about what I expected, if better attended.

Where Were You All For The Last 8 Years?

Mostly I heard fear-inciting speeches about how bad Obama is and all the terrible things he has done to America (in 90 days).

There is more, so follow the link to the rest of the post!

Just a guess, but I will bet that this person was not protesting - not even a peep - during the Bush-Cheney years as they piled on ENORMOUS debt. Recall VP Cheney's words, "Deficits don't matter." Why do they matter now?

Where Were You All For The Last 8 Years?

I completely agree with this sign.

Where Were You All For The Last 8 Years?

So let's go pull our Constitution out of the shredder that Bush-Cheney-Yoo-Addington-etc. sent it through, shall we? Let's restore the First and Fourth amendments, honor the "quaint" Geneva Conventions, re-establish habeas corpus, and stop torturing and disappearing people. Undo all those nasty things that the previous administration is responsible for.

Now I freely admit, this next sign simply cracked me up. If that doesn't sum up white male fear of a black man as president, I don't know what does. So black, brown, and yellow skinned people get to own whities? Well, I guess turnabout IS fair play.

Where Were You All For The Last 8 Years?

To the woman with the black sign on the right, I have a question. Did you make that sign in 2003?

Where Were You All For The Last 8 Years?

If not, then my response is a resounding, Piss off! As I read mostly incoherent signs and watched people protest a 90-day old administration that inherited from the prior administration two wars, staggering debt, and a financial system in serious crisis, my overriding thought was: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN FOR THE LAST 8 YEARS?! To the seven or eight legitimate Libertarians in the crowd, who have been griping all along, I say, Right on. For the rest of these wankers, I have nothing but contempt. Fiscal responsibility does not mean responsibility only for the other team. Where were these signs last fall? Hmmm?

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Of Wet Roads and A Hawk

I went for a short motorcycle jaunt today. I swapped an old fairing back on in place of the effective-but-awkward one I have been using for two years. I wanted a bit of highway speed shakedown to see if I had any buffeting or undo wind noise. After hitting the bank for cash I headed north on the Interstate. At 75-80 (and getting passed) all was well and the wind was hitting me right in the top of the chest. Perfect! I dropped off to Hwy V figuring I would cut over and see if the Merrimac ferry was operational. A few miles up V I came to a road closed sign. *shrug* Probably a bridge repair I figured. Took a left, a right, and the next right to come back to V a half-mile or so later. Ah, now I understand the Road Closed sign...

Patton Road flooded
Patton Road Flooded

On the Baghira I might have attempted it, but not on the Honda 919. I did a U-turn and tried the next road. Schumacher Road was open, but only because highway crews had brought in a LOT of gravel and rock to raise a new, higher road bed in several spots. Here you can see where the water was in relation to the road:

Schumacher Rd barely above water
Schumacher Road Passable

If the water rises one inch more it will be on the roadway, and another three would cover the road. Since we haven't had much rain in the last week, I assume this is significantly down from where it must have been. While I was standing around taking a couple of pictures, I heard something in the water behind me. I turned and saw a hawk in the water!

Floundering Hawk
Floundering Hawk
View This Image Large

He was struggling to reach something substantial, but all the weeds were too soft to support him. He was clearly tiring quickly. I figure he must have stooped on something or tried to land and the weeds were too soggy to support him and he became mired. I guestimated his distance from the road at 40 feet or so, with indeterminable water depth in between.

Floundering Hawk

I must have watched for 15 minutes or so, fantasizing about someone driving by with a canoe or john boat on their truck. No such luck. There was too much traffic for me to strip down and wade out there (not to mention the thought of, umm, hanging out there when trying to rescue a hawk that might not be quite as tired as I guessed), and I knew I'd need to leave my boots on to walk into a submerged cornfield. Hmmm.

Floundering Hawk

He was clearly in trouble. Nothing out there was supporting his weight, and he was running our of steam. I donned my rain pants, hoping to keep me a little dryer and started wading out there. My boots filled up instantly and became leather buckets. Wow! The water was cold. Maybe 50 degrees (F), but maybe not. In two steps I was knee deep, and the third took me to mid thigh and was still angling down. Nope. I wasn't going to get that wet and still have to ride a motorcycle home 15 miles at highway speeds. I returned to the road, doffed my rain pants and noticed that the zipper on my expensive kevlar riding pants had blown open at the knee. #^&**!!! I pulled off my boots and dumped them out, then wrung out my socks. Would have been a good day to be wearing wool longies, but no, I had on cotton pants that were soaked to the knee. Nothing I could do about that, so I sat down on the road and tried to fix my zipper. Making a long story short, after half an hour of wrestling with that damned zipper, it broke, losing two teeth. Great. Now they are useless. In the meantime I had been keeping an eye on the hawk. He was no longer moving. At this point I presume he has drowned, or is so tired that he will soon.

I find an old trash bag and tear off enough to tie my no-longer-closable pant leg. As I ride home I feel three things:

- sadness for the hawk
- bitter cold from mid-thigh down
- madness at my pants

(and yes, I know that forms a haiku)

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Friday, April 10, 2009

New Business Site

I am formally hanging out my shingle as a photographer. To that end, I created a business site to promote myself and my offerings. You can check it out HERE ( Your feedback is welcome. It will be permanently linked on the left side of the screen as well.

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Tea Bagging on Tax Day


This may not be wise to play at work, depending on where you work. There is no profanity, violence, or even sex. But there is a significant level of innuendo. Please enjoy this segment of the Rachel Maddow show.




(EDIT: Sorry, this posted with the wrong link the first time.)

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

I learned some things today...

Big Red Buddy

I learned that...

...the gas tank on my Honda 919 is supposed to hold 5.0 gallons, but it really holds 4.8 gallons. Honda 919 normally gets about 40-42 MPG, even with my Givi hard bags on.
...gasoline with ethanol SUCKS, costs more, and returns significantly reduced MPG.
...month old "gasoline" with aforementioned high-fructose corn syrup degrading it sucks even more than fresh "gasoline" with high-fructose corn syrup degrading it.
...burning said degraded "gasoline" in a Honda 919 yields about 36.2 MPG (a 14% reduction in fuel efficiency if you're keeping track). But hey! Let's burn that crap instead of inflating our tires to their proper pressure and increasing fuel economy for free (go Rush!).
...leaving home on my Honda 919 for a round trip to Beaver Dam, WI, (about 47 miles each way) without my wallet is really, really stupid.
...being at the apogee of my trip when noticing I don't have my wallet leaves a sinking feeling in my stomach.
...riding conservatively helps, but not enough to get you to mile 175, only to 172.
...I should have bummed a couple of bucks off my former coworkers in Sun Prairie (mile 165 on the tank) and bought some gas.
...that there is no extra little bit of gas in the tank of a Honda 919 that you can access by leaning the bike waaaay over to its left.
...that small business-owning, Harley-riding guys are nice, and will give you $3 when you ask for $1.
...that there is some axiom that states when you run out of gas, even if it is REALLY close to a gas station, the driveway to said gas station will be REALLY freaking steep (across from East Towne...).
...that the pony-tailed hippie walking his dog, observing you grunting your bike up said driveway, not making it and having to stop and rest - twice - will walk right past you and ask - brilliantly - "Run out of gas?" without helping push the last 7-8 feet of freaking steep driveway.

What a day of education for Nataraj!

UPDATE: But wait! It seems the education is not over yet. After stopping home for my wallet, I topped off my tank and rode home about 0.1 miles and parked in the garage, even though I'm taking the bike out again later this evening. Said full tank proceeded to pee "gasoline" all over the garage floor, stinking things up quite nicely. Of course, the stench will seep into the house in no time. Kitty litter will help, but not enough. Note that the Honda 919 has never done this before, so this is a special treat!

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Ironworks Breakfast

Generally I am not a fan of big breakfasts. If I eat a big, traditional American breakfast, I am groggy for the next few hours. I am much more likely to eat a Kashi GoLean bar with some water whenever I get hungry enough to notice. That might be the moment I wake up, or several hours later. Anyway, it generally gets the job done and carries me through to lunch. This week however, Reena suggested we try out the Ironworks Cafe. The café is a project of the Goodman Community Center, and its mission, in partnership with East High School, is to enable youth with both basic job skills, and real life business management experience.

French Toast
Ironworks Cafe French Toast with Blueberry/Sea berry Sauce

While Reena opted for the "eggs your way" selection with avocado, mushrooms, and bacon, I went with the tempting french toast topped with a blueberry and sea berry sauce. I have no idea what a sea berry is, but the sauce was awe-awe-awesome. Reena mopped my plate with her toast to get every drop of it. It was not a huge plate of food - hooray! - and it was a mere $4.50. I had a glass of the freshest fresh-squeezed orange juice to wash it down. The service was...interesting...but considering the goal of the cafe and the pool of workers drawn from the School of Hard Knocks, there was nothing to complain about. If you want obsequious service, go to l'etoile. If you want to do some good for your community and have a delicious breakfast, head for Ironworks.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Iowa Gets It

From Iowa's senate, yesterday:

That is what is going on. The dam is burst, and no small-minded group, even if it has a temporary majority, is going to prevent what is right from happening. Get used to it.

UPDATE: As of 12:30 today...
The Vermont House just over-rode the governor's veto by 100 - 49 (the Senate easily over-rode it late yesterday afternoon). So marriage equality is now the law in another state. This is the first purely legislative decision to enact equal marriage rights in one state and thereby a truly historic day for American liberty.

UPDATE #2: As of noon on April 7:...
The D.C. Council voted today to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, on the same day that Vermont became the fourth state to legalize same-sex unions.

UPDATE #3: And yet, the opposition knows that same-sex marriage is really out to destroy Western Civilization...
"Same-sex 'marriage' is a movement driven by wealthy homosexual activists and a liberal elite determined to destroy not only the institution of marriage, but democracy as well. Time and again, we see when citizens have the opportunity to vote at the ballot box, they consistently opt to support traditional marriage," - Tony Perkins, April 7.
Of course, preventing blacks from marrying whites also polled well once upon a time, Tony.

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Sunday, April 5, 2009

More Snow. *sigh*

Here is what those siberian iris look like this morning.

Iris in the Snow

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Plants a'Poppin!

As I putter aroud the yard, I have spotted quite an array of things a'popping out there.

B&W Crocus
B&W Crocus

In addition to the crocus which are in full bloom, the siberian iris are also in bloom.

Siberian Iris
Siberian Iris

The daffodils are well on their way to blooming. Two weeks ago I predicted a month, but now I think they will bloom on Easter. They are definitely getting close!

Pregnant With Daffies
Pregnant Daffodils

I also saw my first spider today. When I had primroses, I would see them in February because the primroses were burried under evergreen boughs for protection, and it would get really warm under there. Now, I have to look.

First Spider of the Year
First Spider of the Year

I also saw a honey bee working the crocus blooms two days ago! In addition to the blooming stuff, and weeds, I have the following sprouted: trillium, bleeding heart, chives, sedum, bearded iris, tiger lily, day lily, tulips, snow-on-the-mountain, mayapple, and of course the vinca is going full bore. I have not seen a hosta yet, but I suspect they are not too far behind.


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Hey Wisconsin, Iowa is more enlightened than we are!

Flash news from Iowa:

"The court first held that same-sex couples are similarly situated with opposite-sex married couples even though they cannot have children together because they "are in committed and loving relationships, many raising families" and "official recognition of their status provides an institutional basis for defining their fundamental relational rights and responsibilities." The court believed society would benefit "from providing same-sex couples a stable framework within which to raise their children and the power to make health care and end-of-life decisions for loved ones, just as it does when that framework is provided for opposite-sex couples."

In three weeks, same-sex couples will be permitted to marry in Iowa. But here in Wisconsin, we enshrined H8 in our state constitution. Way to go, you narrow-minded thugs. We will now spend 10 years, millions of dollars, and a lot of emotional grief to undo what you did. And rest assured, it will be undone.

In the meantime my gay and lesbian friends, continue loving one another.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

DIY Soft Box Strip Light

I have been meaning to add another form of light to my studio kit. Since I am still wrestling with the whole money issue, I decided to DIY as inexpensively as I could. What I wanted was a light weight, portable soft box strip light. I figured it could be powered by my slaved Promaster strobe. Here is what I ended up with.


I started with a box I got out of the trash that measured 8" per side by 6' long. I cut it down to 4 feet long, then cut one side off so that I had a triangular box 8"x8"x8"x4'. One 8"x4' face I cut out except for a 1/2" strip all the way around the edge which I left for strength. Once all cut and ready to assemble back into a box that closed on each end, I cut an opening on the "top" into which I could jam my Promaster strobe (you can see the strobe in place in the photo above). So the construction of the box was nearly done. Next I spray painted the inside surfaces using chrome paint (high gloss silver). On the face I cut out, I securely taped some sturdy white plastic that also came from the trash (Menard's has interesting trash). The outside of this thing is NOT at all pretty.

But does it work?

I laid it on its side in the entry way of the house and put my water bottle about 18" away from it. Here is the result of the first test firing.

DIY soft box strip

It appears my light is not too even, with brighter light showing at the top and less at the bottom. I think I will try making a bit of a cardboard snoot on the inside - just a couple of inches - to constrain the immediate light at the lens of the strobe. Should be an easy fix...

Total cost was under $4.00. $3.50 for the paint, about $0.25 worth of duct tape, and about two hours of time start to finish.

UPDATE: Well the snoot idea did not work. It left a very noticeable "snoot shape" and did not light the lower half of the box any better. Ripped it out. Plan C called for cutting a cheap spare mirror to fit the triangular shape and attach it to the bottom of the box, thus bouncing the light back up. Great idea, huh? Too bad it made zero appreciable difference. Well, I thought, maybe if I tilted it a bit so that it bounced the light forward towards the diffuser? Opened it up again and popped an upside down "V" of cardboard under the rear point of the mirror, raising it to approximately a 30 degree angle. Tested again, and well, see for yourself:

DIY soft box strip - test firing #3

I clearly am bouncing some light, but not in any helpful way. The bottom half or so of the box is still noticeably darker than the strobe end. I'm having fun with these trials. It is helpful to remember Edison's quote, "I have not failed. I have found 1000 ways that do not work."

Any hints from readers? There have been a lot of you: over 40 in the past 3 hours, from an interesting array of locations. Thanks to Sitemeter, I know generally where you are (but not who).

UPDATE #2: I tried Chris' suggestion (in the comments) and bought a small roll of aluminum tape and applied it to the inside of the box, but only in the bottom half to see if its greater reflectivity would boost the light where it was weaker. I also left the mirror in, but laid it flat agains the bottom so that it simply bounces the light straight up. The answer is that it helped, but it didn't even it up as much as I wished. Regardless, I am calling it a completed experiment and will try it out on a model as soon as I get a chance. Here is a test shot on a tripod:

DIY soft box strip - test firing #3

The light is nice and soft, and it should do just what I want it to. The final cost of the box is around $7.50, including the cost of the roll of alu tape.

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