Tuesday, March 21, 2017

21 Grandpa Chango

Nearly seventeen years old. Maybe actually seventeen years old, already, but we won't make it "official" until the first day of April. April 1st is the day we assign as every cat's birthday. We haven't been very consistent in celebrating cat birthdays, though. But 17 is a big one, I feel, and Chango, our Grandpa, is such a dear old man cat, that I believe something must be done, some kind of celebration should be organized. Don't you worry, Grandpa Chango. We will fete you. You will have bonito flakes, even a lap or two of cereal milk from the bowl... whatever your heart, and tummy desire, damn the consequences. You are so worthy.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Monday, March 20, 2017

20 Outing

When William suggested a walk tonight, it took us a while to get lined up and out the door. So, instead of strolling down our dark street, we opted to explore a mall. A mall with wide sidewalks, a koi pond, piped in music, cheery lighting, and shops. It was nice... nice to be out, moving, nice to see pretty windows, with pretty displays. And finally, I couldn't resist the one shop that always manages to lure me in, both tempting me and vexing me. And I am not even going to say their name, though I am linking, here, and you may want to guess, just for your own amusement, which store in the whole wide world is my consumer frenemy, the purveyor of things I am loath to lust for. They have ceramic bowls, with chickens. Bowls. Chickens. I'm done for. It's frustrating when, at last, you find the material things you dream of, desire, which had always been odd and obscure, worn, shabby, rustic, thrifted, but which have suddenly become chic, hip, and not remotely thrifty. Alas. Alas, what folly to be burdened with good taste. Maybe what I really need is a designer to curate and display my own vast collection of worn, shabby, rustic and thrifty treasures, to their best appeal. It is, indeed, nice to walk, late on a week night, to see pretty things, smell lemon poppyseed candles, imagine where old wooden boxes and crates came from, how they would look in our Bird House, or might be artfully reproduced. So very nice, so very perilous.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

19 Gathered Around the Campfire

Alex, Max, Maria, Amira, William~

This was, I suppose, a farewell to winter campfire. I've been distracted, for some time, and the idea that we are on the verge of spring comes as a genuine surprise. And so, the rain in the forecast is spring rain, and soon there will be spring break. A new season, new plans, new hopes. A fresh start? Yes, let's hit refresh, and plant some seeds, dust corners, change the sheets, sleep with the windows open, just a crack. I welcome all of it, and take joy in anticipation of more gatherings, books, stories, songs, laughter, spring.

Winter, thank you. You were fine, loved your storms, and rain. Until we meet again, farewell.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

18 His Rats

Neo Cairo Nepenthes love his rats. Loves his rats. He loves his plushie, stuffed, toy rats. There's really no other way to say it. It's just that simple, just that true.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Friday, March 17, 2017

17 Las Flores

Camellias, flowers so beautiful, even dropped, fading, decaying, they evoke allure, grace, dignity. Youth, perfection, so-called flawless qualities are only one kind of a beginning, an easy thing to love. I also love time-worn things, a long story, the creases in a page, the substance and resilience beneath the shine.

In a passing stroll, mere minutes, I was delighted by a lot of beauty. I am happy to have noticed.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

16 On a School Night

Maria's school had a STEM Family Night, an evening of demonstrations and science-tech-engineering-math activities for some of the fifth and six graders and their families. It's not a program Maria has been participating in, but she was invited to be part of the group who exhibit. So, we brought Da Vinci out of semi-retirement (really, it was more of a sabbatical,) painted him blue, dusted off his drawing table, ran some diagnostics on his programming, and lent him a team hat. He was raring to go! So was Maria. She reviewed all the technical aspects and systems that operate Da Vinci, our drawing automaton. She's got it down... that he runs on Inkscape, the opens source app that allows our Egg-bot circuit board to direct three motors to move magnets along the x and y axis, plus the up and down motion of Da Vinci's pen hand. And she can discuss vector vs raster, or pixel illustrations, how she develops original art in Scratch, up loads it in Inkscape and Da Vinci can reproduce her drawings.

And one more thing... we get a surprising number of people that stand before our creations, scratch their heads, and ask, "Why? What's it for?" This question, and also the implication that our pursuits are pointless, can be frustrating for us, and have dismayed us, too. Geoff and I tend to get a bit defensive, even incredulous, because we think the answer is so obvious! The answer we often proffer is, "Why not? But we know this doesn't do much to achieve outreach, to help someone who doesn't get it to appreciate the elegance, beauty, purpose of making strange things. It's not always easy to maintain our energy and message when demonstrating at a fair for ten hours, two days in a row, but Maria shared her thoughts on the question,"Why? What's it for?" and I think her words are going to do a great deal to help us feel like we have a thoughtful and succinct response.

So... the next time someone, with a puzzled expression, asks incredulously, doubtfully, "Why? What's it for?" We can reply, in Maria's words, "We are here to demonstrate what we've made, which are things that might not seem 'practical,' but which show the principles of science, technology, engineering, art, math, music. The skills and knowledge applied, and taught, in making our creations are practical skills, which can be applied to 'real life' challenges and objectives, invention, innovation, and fun. We learn how to make, we share what we make, and we inspire more making."


Happily, most of the time, people totally get it, and that's what we love about bringing Da Vinci out, on a school night... sharing our love of STEAM is fun.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

15 Media

Media: a means by which something is communicated or expressed.

Synonyms: means, method, way, form, agency, avenue, channel, vehicle, organ, instrument, mechanism

Pencils and paint have been my media, deliberately, diligently, since the end of December. And rats are the result, mostly. "Mostly," because that's mostly what I have produced, and because they aren't exactly entirely "rats." They're mostly rats, but also a little bit mousy, almost people-y. Maybe just, mostly weird.

Geoff wonders if I wouldn't like to introduce the rats and other sketches to an iPad Pro, go digital. If my drawings were scanned, then I could paint them and play with them. Hmmmm, thought I, and asked Alex to come with my to an Apple Store.

In the Apple Store (and no, they are not my sponsors, yet) I asked a genius to convince me to buy an iPad Pro. He did his best. I guess. But I was not convinced.

1. They don't let you sit at the table where the iPads are displayed, which is just as well because...

2. It didn't feel like I could get comfortable enough to hang out for an hour or four, and really immerse myself in their apps, exploring what I might like about being a digital artist... probably Apple geniuses don't want me hanging out for four hours?

3. Pencils are so much more affordable than digital media. I might not become a talented, income-generating artist, but it's worth exploring on a pencil and paper budget. I'd feel really donk if my art career tanked after investing in cool kids club.

While we were there, Alex added a Martian to their digital art, demonstrating that he is definitely worthy of entry into the cool kids club.

My skills, and artistic impulses are probably less... dignified? But I did have fun.

Other media... re-bar tie wire, and a can of spray paint. We gave our automaton robot sculpture a makeover, in blue. This is the wire sculpture Alex made for our Benevolent Order of Makers creation, Da Vinci

Acrylic craft paints. The little cylindrical bottles. I like MS brand best, but the more I paint, the more I am convinced that it may be time to look into finding a better quality paint. Maybe. Or maybe I should look into trying out markers, like Prisma pens.

Alex likes Tombow Brush Pens, and so does Maria. This panda... it's really good, and a favorite of mine, but Alex reminds me that it was just a doodle he did (with one color) to test the pen. The results do a fine job of demonstrating that the brush pens are a cool medium for making art.

Other cool medium for making art... everything William did to achieve this image, which Geoff describes, "William experimenting with Deepart.io. He modeled these in 3DSMax, fed them through the Deepart.io neural network. He "hand" colored the models to guide Deepart's color choices. Next he's going to experiment with custom convolution filters (controlling the "style" of the resultant image). Now this... this is cool kid stuff.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

14 Tuesday Night

Sometimes I am tempted to just post a series of pictures, with no text, no captions, no deep thoughts or other musings. Maybe someone will be curious. Perhaps questions will arise. I am more than happy to offer explanations, share details. I could tell you about the artists in residence, here at the Bird House. Maybe mention that there was a cupcake delivery, that my crochet hats are coming along splendidly. Would you like to know where Grant is going, why he needs a Team Zissou beanie?

Yeah, there's a lot I could say about any of these moments, Tuesday Night, in the Bird House. Or any other night, for that matter. There's hardly ever a dull moment, here. It's nice that way.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Monday, March 13, 2017

13 Home For Purim

A fairly quiet evening, at home. Plans to watch Contact. Popcorn and yogurt for dinner. It's casual. We're happy about having put away the laundry, washed those extra loads of dishes. It's just a comfortable time, with no big expectations, when the door bell rings. And then things get awesome...

Oh, man. What can I say? We simply have the best friends, neighbors, life! Happy Purim, from Leslie and Ido, from Simon, Bex, and Spencer. Happy mishloach manot! (A tradition that, once again, saved me when the next morning I was challenged to assemble a decent packed lunch for Maria. Raisins, juice box, mandarins, homemade, yummy hamantash? Yes, thank you, please!)

A holiday that commemorates the defeat of an evil plot? One with festive feasts, masquerading, giving gift baskets? It's brilliant. Our friends are brilliant. Unicorns with fresh baked cookies... brilliant!

I am so thankful, so glad we were home for Purim.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

11 Los Gatos

Saturday morning, and Mister Foo's expression is exactly mirroring my state of being... exhausted, unresponsive, very sick to my stomach, and overall just meh. I surrender. Seriously though, that stomach thing was wicked.

Cats. Pets. I love it when we have a pet that can channel the things we want to express, can't describe, would like to be or do or state. We assign them quirks, and narratives, we tell their stories, or pretend that they tell our stories. We relate to their personalities, and share with each other a common recognition of each pets' unique behaviors, attitudes, habits, foibles, limitations, endearments, charms... and it gives us a means of projecting our own faults and gifts on these dear beings, so we can better face them in ourselves, with humor and humility. Somehow, blaming the cat for messes and weirdness makes my own messes and weirdness feel more human, more forgivable. Chango has a soft belly, like me. Mister Foo is moody, like me. Cairo loves his naps, like me, too. They are the members of the family that we can, with impunity, point a finger at, blame for anything, dote on, adore, laugh at, tease, deride, and love. Am I making sense? Do you see it, too... that there is something in our pets that can bring everyone together to participate in a communal contract of admiring, mocking, caring for, and blaming, protecting and loving, and that it affords a shared language for feelings and ideas that we might otherwise withhold, or direct at a person who would take it too much to heart?

Chango is indifferent to the fact that we call him Old Man, and Grandpa, that these namesakes are derived from his doddering age, his advancing senility, the long stories he meows aloud at 4 o'clock in the morning, his gentle affections. So long as he has his water bowl on the night-stand, and wet food for breakfast, he only knows that we love him. And thanks to him, we can express pent-up frustration, which might otherwise be suppressed, or directed at any innocent by-stander, when Chango hangs his claw in a pant leg, or waits to go out, and wants right back in.

Cairo may not understand that he is my surrogate baby, or that he helps Max transition from the stresses of the week, when he can hold him and transition back into home. Max doesn't have to say, "Holding you helps me express my anxiety and missing home after a long week away at school, and now I feel calmer, reconnected to the comfort and familiarity of being back here, at home." But it's there, somehow, the opportunity to, without words, acknowledge those ideas, feel those emotions, and relief.

Mister Foo's story is one we each know, and tell. We build our own family story, our connectedness with each other, through recalling that trip, when Foo climbed the walls. The time Foo fell from the second floor. Maybe it's the removal of ego that makes these narratives and connections between us feel easier to share, and retell, that makes them comfortably relatable. By being a proxy, our pets can represent humor, grief, worry, embarrassment, struggle, flaws, bad smells, affection, and thus we can safely express our own qualities and sentiments, without liability, unencumbered by accountability or justification. It's a release.

It's satisfying, however it might be explained, that we all agree... Cairo is adorable, trusting, and silly when he naps so blithely unaware of anything.

I don't want to discuss missing babies, or wishing I could snuggle with a warm, affectionate bundle of mammal cuteness. I have these kitties, though, and I can find relief, quiet contentment in their presence, in believing that here is a fur baby, without saying anything, or even by saying too much, as I dote and nuzzle and shower them with endearments, smother them with motherly fondness.

Being alive, a human, is complicated. It can call for a lot of thinking, acting, understanding, patience. Being part of a family is even more complicated, demanding. It helps strengthen our connectedness, our bond, and our individual sense of well being, to have different ways of relating with each other, and with the outside world. When we can have multiples means of directing our thoughts and emotions, building our history, values, our common story, it eases burdens, reinforces what binds us together, or to common goals, it gives us outlets for our assertions, and facilitates communication.

Something like that.
It's hard to explain.
Here... look at my cats.

The youngster and the grandpa cat don't always get along. Chango and Cairo renegotiate their truce several times a day. But one thing they consistently agree on... when the Chickenblogger leaves the bed, we can take her place, because she thinks we are adorable.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.

Friday, March 10, 2017

10 California Explorers

From a trail at the Crystal Cove State Park, with sour grass blossoms as far as the eye can see. We can also see a particularly calm Pacific Ocean, sail boats. With Ruth, and her sister Joan, William and Maria, I made my usual trip to bring Max home from school. On the way south, we enjoyed several stops, and sights, including this state park, the Shake Shack, and the Mission at San Juan Capistrano.

Everything is blooming! Almost. Practically. Certainly, more is in bloom this late in winter than I have seen in many years. Our long season of rain continues to delight us, even now that it seems to have come to an end. Pride of Madeira will thrive, even in dry weather. We'll see massive stands of these cornflower colored spires growing up and the down the street we live on. And California poppies, too. And plenty of sour grass, which Maria loves to snack on.

It's such a pleasure being tourists in our lovely California, and it's fun having the chance to share sightseeing with visitors. Ruth and aunt Joan were happy, receptive, traveling companions. I enjoyed making new stops, to see new places, like having a closer look at the beach cottages at Crystal Cove. As though to make this stop complete, we spied a pod of dolphins, without the telescope.

In my usual slow-flirtation with ideas and dreams, I was even more smitten with the charm and romance of the cottages that are up and down the bluff of this pretty beach, after finally deciding to have a closer look. Someday...

We were impressed by the Cultural Center... where we enjoyed one of those moments of synchronicity that life seems to keep in plentiful store for us. They had an exhibition of the history of Japanese Americans, prior to and during World War II, when American families were removed from their homes, and businesses, and interred in camps. Just this week Maria finished a school lesson on this subject with a visit to a California Court of Appeal, where, with her classmates, they reenacted the case of Korematsu v. United State before the Supreme Court. Not only have they learned a great deal about American history, but they have also observed unsettling parallels with the activities and attitudes of the administration in office today.

Here is a spot where you can sit with your burger and shake, and watch the surf, maybe see whales, like that time we first stopped here. We were pretty stoked to find parking today.

Has it been two years? Yes, it was when Maria was in fourth grade, that was the first, and last, time we visited the mission in San Juan Capistrano. Besides the history and cultural experiences that can be enjoyed here, we appreciate the architecture, the patina of time and wear, and the gardens. It's a worthwhile place to visit, for many reasons. {William took this picture.}

{And this one.}


The old walls tell stories.

Admission includes an audio tour. I kept forgetting to use mine. But it's got useful information.

Earthquakes and massive walls don't mix well.

A favorite, Ceanothus.

It smells, I think, like a spicier alyssum, very honeyed.

I remember these from our last visit, the hollyhocks. There were many plants, but few in bloom. There is something for visitors to look forward to.

I called this "the cosmic fish." It looks like a fish sailing through the night sky.

This may be one of my favorite fountains. It's large, and old. It feels like a place in a lost city, a remnant that is thriving. And, I guess, it sort of is some of those things.

This reminds me, I still have images on the camera, too. All of these pictures are from my iPhone.

We stretched out our explore with just one more stop... cool drinks at Pannikin.

With Infinity More Monkeys, a picture a day.