Thursday, August 20, 2009

Meteor Shower: The Only Shower I Was Near All Day

"Don't you know, yeah, yeah
Don't you know that you are a shooting star,
Don't you know, don't you know.
Don't you know that you are a shooting star
And all the world will love you just as long
As long as you are"

I could never quite figure out if the lyrics said "shooting star" or "superstar". (Who knew that was Bad Company by the way. Rock on, Nuge.) But then I'd never seen a shooting star before either. Until last week. The Perseids meteor shower came fizzling through last week (the Perseids are caused by debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet's tail entering the atmosphere), and Jeff and I decided we'd find somewhere and watch. Decided about 24 hours prior, over the phone, while I waited in the airport on my way back from Alabama. Yeah, not exactly a well thought out plan. So we set out after work on Tuesday night and pointed the car towards Joshua Tree. It seemed like the best place within a couple hours drive to get a clear sky and open space.

And it was, apart from being a little cloudy. The only complications came from neither Jeff nor I being able to stay alert enough to notice interstate signage and the fact that apparently Joshua Tree closes quite a few campsites for the summer (including the first four we stopped at). Finally we found a spot, paid the fee, and threw our tents down. On the way back from the fee station I happened along a baby tarantula on the road.

baby tarantula

Really, it wasn't a whole lot bigger than all of the huge beetles that are roaming around. But it turned out to be foreshadowing for many other creatures we'd encounter in the next several hours.

It was already dark by the time we made camp, so after we unloaded our tents, we plopped the chairs down and sat back and watched. Well I did, anyway. Jeff's camera hack failed leaving him unable to take long exposure shots, so he entertained himself by trying out some medium exposure shots and doing some "light painting".

jeff light painting; a shooting star can be seen moving
up and to the left out of the middle of the joshua tree

Eventually he settled down - or ran out of energy - and we settled in to watch the meteor shower. It was really pretty cool. Almost as soon as we sat down, we started seeing them. I was able to catch one prbably every 15 or 20 minutes. The sky was a little cloudy so they weren't ultra bright - it can be kind of hard to pick up in my pictures - but the thing that struck me was they are so fast. Most were visible for a second at most, but during that second they would streak almost all the way across your field of view. Really neat.

meteor is seen faintly across the top third of the picture

While we were sitting there, we kept hearing the coyotes howling through the night. Some of them sounded really, really close. Jeff even got a recording on his phone. You'll have to turn your sound up likely to hear it, but I can assure you it was much louder sitting there.

And then as we sat watching the stars, we saw one run through our campsite. Probably the reason the one sounded so close. Around 2AM we called it a night as we planned to get up at six and drive back into work (without bathing and in the same clothes). However, leaving Joshua Tree we ended up taking (not intentionally) some of the wildlife with us. About a third of the way into the drive back, Jeff yells from the passenger seat and I look over to see a white mouse climbing up his pant leg. Jeff scared him away pretty good, but a few minutes after that another (?) one came out for a peek. That was all we saw of them, but I guess Jeff doesn't know for sure whether they're gone or not. Glad we took his car.

beautiful morning leaving camp

I was dragging the next day after only four hours sleep, but I'd do it again. All my pictures are here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dorks and Dunks

About a month ago - yeah, I've been kinda busy - Justin wanted me to help him out with a video project for school. OK, I didn't help much other than stand around and be in a video (say where are those videos Justin?). But anyway I was a little nervous, this being my first modeling gig and all, but it was pretty fun. We went down to Pt. Vicente in San Pedro, and he did whatever he needed for his project. Of course we took our cameras and had a little fun with that too.

the next douglas bubbletrousers?

channeling my inner-bruce lee

hang time

ultimate punch

Since we were in the neighborhood, we stopped by the Korean Bell. It was a beautiful day, and we started talking to some kids playing basketball. The tallest kid asked if we were there to take some pictures of him and I replied "can you dunk?" Guess what, he could.

Then Justin got the bright idea to climb up on the goalpost(?) to get a different perspective. Somehow this didn't backfire.

Anyway that's about it. I don't remember too much else as I think I had just got back from a long bidness trip and was more or less a zombie. Brains! Hey look! More pictures!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Shake It, Mama

OK, so some of you may have noticed the Polaroid-y quality to some of my blog pictures recently. But then others of you may not know what a Polaroid is (this is a really hip blog so the readership is pretty young). So Polaroid was known for those instant cameras that popped out a picture right after you pressed the shutter button. Part of the fun with the old Polaroids was that the picture came out instantly but it took a few seconds to develop. For whatever reason - I'm not sure if this is true or not, somebody look it up and throw it in the comments - people claimed the picture would develop faster if you shook it. Well I recently got an iPhone (which I like more than I am comfortable admitting) and my man Greyscale Gorrilla wrote up this nifty little app called ShakeItPhoto. It's really great because it has the Polaroid sound effects and the shaking and contrast-y colors and everything. Check out his video to see it in action. So if you have an iPhone go get ShakeItPhoto - you'll love it. And if you're a camera person check in with his blog once in a while. It's cool and he has some really good tips. Shoot if you're into anything creative at all go check out his blog because he's really upbeat and fun and always inspires me to get out there and try things out. Thanks GSG. Here's some more ShakeIt's.

ferris wheel at orange county fair

lunch at rinaldi's

dynamics ninja

jack the boy, not to be confused with sam the boy

screaming woot! monkey with cape keychain


emily and jack the boy

morning in joshua tree

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Alabama Song

Alabama Song just happens to be one of my very favorite Allison Moorer songs. (By the by, did you know Shelby Lynne is her sister? Me neither.) More to the point, Alabama just happened to be the state I was in last weekend. OK, I bought a plane ticket weeks in advance and everything, so I guess I didn't "just happen" to be there. This was actually a long overdue (they moved like two years ago) trip to see my friends Dawson and Jenny. Of course, now it's no longer just Dawson and Jenny, but Dawson, Jenny, and Lila (who just happened* to turn one last weekend).

*And "just happened" is used appropriately in this case since I didn't even receive the courtesy of an invititation to the Lila's birthday party that weekend. Of course all the people that lived locally were extended invites. I suppose the additional costs of child rearing have rendered stamps unaffordable. I'm just saying.

Truth be told, I wasn't even aware there was a party until long after I'd purchased my fare. Not
that the possibility of attending a one year old's birthday party would in any way affect my travel plans. But the real reason I targeted this past weekend of all weekends was that our man Todd Snider was going to be playing a show in town that Friday night. But first let me back up to the beginning and take you through the weekend chronologically. After all, that's how I went through it.

I got in late, late Thursday night. I felt bad making them stay up so late, but it turned out neither Dawson nor Jenny worked Friday so I stopped feeling bad pretty quickly. Even getting in so late, we still managed to stay up for some time catching up.

Friday morning through afternoon was spent making party arrangememnts for Saturday. All after we went for some cheesy browns at the Blue Plate for breakfast. Yum. This also served as my inroduction into the Jenny's party planning-related stress. Now I don't know if this is particular to the milestone birthday it was for or whether this is some hidden (at least from me) aspect of Jenny's personality. I've been to a few parties by Jenny, but never really been around for the planning period. Some partygoers hypothesized it was related to Jenny's new avian hobby of "nesting". But I digress...

garden party cupcakes: much effort was spent on these,
and well worth it - they were too cute to eat!

getting to know Lila

Preparations for the "garden party"continued throughout the remainder of the day with an assist from some friends. Elizabeth came to help Jenny with the food, I helped Dawson with grocery shopping and took pictures, Dawson handled the cutting, and Matt came over to sit on that stool and make weird faces. Matt just happened to be within driving distance visiting family and was able to make it over for the concert Friday night. Which leads us to...

...the concert Friday night. Before the concert we stopped in at my favorite restaurant in town Mad Mushroom. Really good pizza. I also started a new tradition of giving fake names to hostesses to put on the wait list. I bet that night was the first time a Transformer was seated. (Leader of the Autobots, no less.) After pizza and general hilarity, we headed downtown to see the show. It was in a really cool, small club called The Crossroads. And from the very start did not disappoint. The floor was set up with folding chairs with a bar and pool tables towards the back. However, there was a wide staircase at the back of the floor leading up to a smoking balcony with some tables and a second bar. Now, we go there pretty early so there were only a handful of people downstairs. Upstairs was empty, except... a bride and groom - still in formals - atop the two center barstools smoking, doing shots, and making out. Good times.

Rather than venture upstairs, we headed for the four empty chairs nearest the stage. Now, at this point in the story, I'd like to call your attention back to the fact that the floor was set up with some (admittedly flimsy) folding chairs. So off we go in a line: Jenny, Dawson, Me, then Matt bringing up the rear. We sit down one-by-one. Jenny first, then Dawson, Me,... and crash. Matt's folding chair collapses beneath him, sending him butt-first onto the floor, tossing beer over his shoulder. Basically he sat through the chair rather than on it. But everything was OK, apart from perhaps a wounded ego. Matt proceeded to scope out what the thought were strucuturally compromised seats until the opener started waiting for someone else to share his fate. Never happened.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Matt's embarrassment would not end there. After a pretty decent opening act, Todd comes on to do his thing. Typicalyy this is how Todd's concerts go: he'll go through some songs he wants to do that night - maybe some stuff off a new record - then he'll open it up to requests for anything the audience wants to hear. Now, every time I've been to one of Todd's shows with Matt, Matt always yells out a song (typically Devil's Backbone) and Todd invariably plays it, usually as his first request. I don't know what it is about Matt, maybe his big voice or uncanny timing, but he always gets his song played. So this night - I don't know if Matt was antsy or what - but after the third song - the third song - Matt yells out over a quiet room "Play A ****ing Train Song!" Todd, hearing this, looks down briefly at the stage floor, then lifts his head back up and in his lazy drawl says "we're not to the boss-me-around portion of the show, man." And everyone laughs, but probably two songs later, just before Todd opens up for requests he plays, whadda ya know, Play a Train Song. Easily the best song ever written. Thanks, Matt. That was fun.

In addtion to all that, and bringing his dog out for accompaniment on the encore, Todd did the version of Talkin' Seattle Grunge Rock Blues with the extra verses that shows the common thread connecting American folk singers of all times.

Talkin' Seattle Grunge Rock Blues - Todd Snider from Ryan Tuttle on Vimeo.

If you're still not convinced, check out Todd's song here (from 1994), Dylan's here (1964), and Woody's here (1930-something). (Extra credit if you can find another talkin' blues song. Leave a comment! And if anyone knows how to edit out the other singers from the concert footage let me know.)

Saturday, of course, was the big par-tay. There was food and decorations galore. It was really nice to meet some of the Vincents' friends who all seemed like really decent, fun people. I tried to tough it out with the guys outside, but it just got too hot. No cornhole for me. It all went really well, and everyone had a great time. Nice job, Jenny.

opening presents (with help)

my gift, natch. i think jenny liked it; Lila
seems more interested in that doll.

But no praise from me would be complete without a little burn to accompany it, so let me point out that Jenny made some really cute terracotta dishes of dirt pudding for the garden party. Well in her frugality / frugalness Jenny bought two packages of generic sandwich cookies to go with her one package of Oreos. When I ever so politely pointed this out to her, Jeny gave me some nonsense about not being able to tell the difference. Naturally, I had to call that bluff. So she set me up in a blind taste test between the two. I was a bit confused after tasting the first entrant, but as soon as I bit into the second (the real Oreo) I knew it. Boosh.

Oreo connoisseur

Saturday evening Dawson drove us around historic Huntsville before eating dinner at Mad Mushroom again. I'm sure the staff there is asking where I am every time the Vincents go in now. Then back to Casa Vincent for board games and arguments about which music artists are dead or not.

Sunday morning was time for church (we even made it for early service - wouldn't want to upset the little one's schedule) which I really enjoyed. Aside from the service, my favorite part was how Dawson and Jenny had to wear stickers with numbers on them that matched a similar sticker on Lila so they could be easily found should she get grumpy (she didn't). It was sort of like a reverse valet service.

After church we went back to the Vincents for lunch and for Dawson and Jenny to argue (if you can even call it that) about what we should do with the afternoon finally deciding on going to the lake - which I believe was the original plan. While this might seem like an excellent way to beat the heat, the first step into the lake would correct your thinking. I'm guessing the water was at about 85F, but, hey, that's at least 10 degrees cooler than the air. I chose to sit in the shade... sweating. But Dawson and Lila did get in and have some fun, probably not as much as Shooter (their dog) though.

questionable parenting at the lake

Monday meant it was time to head back. All in all I had a really great time, and even though I miss them dearly, it was good to see that they've found a nice place and some nice people in their new home. It certainly won't be so long before I visit again. But maybe I'll pick a time other than the peak of summer. So hot.

so very hot

More pictures here. Oh, and, Dawson and Jenny... thanks for having me.

until next time, kids

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Photoshop Phun

Just wanted to drop a short post to show off some pictures that have been piling up on my desktop for a while. These were all photoshopped from Justin.

This first one uses a technique called spherical projection, which wraps a landscape photo back around on itself to create a seamless "circular" image. It often has the effect of creating little "planets". The fact that it is based on a mathematical concept makes it just that much cooler. The first place I saw this technique was on one of my favorite photography blogs, Daily Dose Of Imagery. You can see his sphericals at: Pic 1, Pic 2, Pic 3.

spherical projection: the original picture was a
panorama of the New York City skyline (by Jeff)

The next few are just some merging of different pictures into a composite. Pretty fun.

outside the Andersen's (famous for pea soup)

outside Pinkie's (go there on Tuesdays for brisket!)

brady bunch picture with justin & jill (justin 'shopped
the background colors, or colours for nathan and dina,
or colorways for all the hipsters reading this)