Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sunday Stills: Rust

Rust? In western Oregon? Piece of cake.

The following photos are a study of the iron fireplace grate that made it as far as our front porch (it weighs a ton). It originally came from my grandfather's home (if I have that correct). Our house has a gas fireplace and therefore can't provide a home for the grate. But I think it's acquired an interesting patina during its sojourn on the porch.

To see more renditions of rust, visit Sunday Stills.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Almost Graduate

My friend Emily will be graduating from college in May with a BA in Art. Today was Senior Project Day. Classes were cancelled for the day so students and family could attend presentations on year-long projects by the Class of 2011. Emily and the other art majors not only made PowerPoint presentations but also had a gallery showing of select works.

True to her nature, Emily's project not only fulfilled an artistic goal but also benefitted a charitable organization. Water Water Everywhere is her study of water in all its forms. Proceeds from the sale of her 2011-2012 calendar and her photos on display in the gallery will go to Charity Water.

To see more of Emily's work visit Shared Glory, her photography blog. More information about Water Water Everywhere - A Senior Project can be found on Facebook.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sunday Stills: Wildflowers and Flowers

Took my little Kodak digital to the barn and captured these:

I kind of like the texture of the mossy concrete in the second one.

Visit Sunday Stills for more floral arrangements!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Book Club: "Someone Knows My Name"

Lawrence Hill's novel Someone Knows My Name was inspired by "The Book of Negroes," an actual accounting of African slaves granted freedom for assisting the British during the American Revolutionary War. Hill creates the fictional Aminata Diallo who narrates the novel and, through her personal story, relates the experiences of many Africans kidnapped and sold into slavery.

My initial reaction to the book was how plainly and simply it was written after the rich descriptions of Rebecca. However, it is written in Meena's voice and thus entirely appropriate.

The narrative jumps back and forth from 1803 London to various stages of Meena's life during the latter half of the 18th century. In 1745 Meena resides in the village of Bayo with her parents (an inter-tribal marriage). Her father is Muslim, has a copy of the Koran, and can read and write in Arabic. At Meena's insistance, he teaches her to read and write in Arabic even though she is only a girl. It is a period of fear -- since people are disappearing from Bayo and other villages. Even hunters and fishermen travel in groups for safety. Meena is one of the unfortunate ones who is taken by slavers and marched to the coast where she embarks on the Middle Passage to America.

As can be expected, the treatment of Meena and her fellow slaves throughout the book is hard to read. The cruelty of humans never ceases to amaze. But, even though Meena has little control of her life once she is captured, her special abilities open up unique opportunities. She knows more than one tribal language, she can read and write, she is a midwife (a skill learned from her mother), and she is a quick learner. Meena's life journey takes her from Africa to South Carolina, New York, Nova Scotia, Sierra Leone, and finally, London.

We began our discussion of the book with how much we learned. We had been unfamiliar with "The Book of Negroes" and the freed slaves granted land in Nova Scotia by the British. We learned details of the slave trade, the process of making indigo dye, and that some slaves were Muslims.

We talked about slavery itself, a practice as old as human beings. But the commercial and economic aspects of the African slave trade was amazing. Entire industries and the wealth of nations was dependent upon slave labor. This, in turn, brought us to the mind set that allows one group to dehumanize another.

Although we would all like to think we are above such actions, we considered "group think" and how perfectly civilized people can become mean spirited and cruel over a controversial issue. A disagreement over school funding can devolve into death threats between people who used to cooperate in sports team fundraisers.

And interspersed with the socially-accepted cruelties are the individual acts. Meena's story includes inhumane treatment to unexpected kindness as well as surprising betrayals. In the end, she becomes a respected spokesperson for the London abolitionists. Yet even then we sensed she was patronized and used.

Someone Knows My Name takes the reader on an incredible journey and on completing the novel it's amazing to realize where Hill has gone with the story.

The significance of the title, we believe, is one's individual identity. Our names reflect our family connection, which in turn tie us to place and time. Throughout the novel Meena recites the African names of those she meets and of those she's lost contact with. Names humanize the individual. Using a slave's given name rebels against the arbitrary name assigned by the trader or owner. Hill gives the fictional Meena the job of recording the names of the freed slaves in the "Book of Negroes" as they are given passage on British ships to Nova Scotia. She preserves the African names as often as possible.

The slaves that assisted the British during the Revolutionary War were granted freedom, yet Hill reveals it was an empty promise. In Nova Scotia the Africans were forced to live in shanty towns because they had no means to acquire homes and farmland. They were eventually scapegoated when times turned bad and victimized by mobs that attacked their communities. Many of the former slaves leapt at the opportunity to leave Canada to return to Africa where they were again promised freedom. However, in Sierra Leone they discovered their patrons had not secured an agreement with the local tribal chief. As a result, Meena and the others could not move beyond the coastal settlement to establish farms. They became dependent upon the British company that relocated them for their food and supplies. And while they struggled to survive in Sierra Leone they witnessed the slave traders continuing their abhorrent practice.

In London, it was Meena's job to describe the reality of slavery in support of the abolitionist movement. Even here she struggled for the freedom to tell her story in her way. Many thought the reported cruelties of slavery were exaggerated -- until Meena displayed her slave brand. Her patrons repeatedly attempted to "guide" Meena's writing, but she stubbornly kept true to her story. Much to her dismay, the goal of the abolitionists was to end the slave trade, not slavery itself. They acknowledged it was politically and economically impossible at that time to eliminate slavery despite their desire to do so. But Meena took pride in her pivotal role to preserve the names of slaves and the truth of slavery.

We couldn't exactly say we "enjoyed" the book, given the subject matter and inhumane situations depicted. But we were glad we read the novel that challenged the stereotypes of slavery. One of our members wonderfully summed up the novel as a metaphor for Africa and her stolen children.

Our next read: We are venturing into science fiction. I suggested four books that I thought our group might enjoy and we settled on To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. We thought the time travel novel, reportedly very humorous, would make a good change of pace after the serious subject matter of our last read.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sunday Stills: Favorite Recipe or Restaurant

This challenge was more difficult than one would imagine. We don't like to cook. We don't like to clean up after cooking even more than we dislike cooking. When I'm hungry, I want to eat. Not cook.

So here is our favorite recipe (Photoshopped to protect the innocent):
We add a salad and veggies or fruit to our nuked dinner. When finished, the dinner "plates" are forwarded to the dog who slicks them up before they go into the recycle bin.

Since we're living on modest retirement benefits, we go out to eat once every 2-3 months. We generally go to the local Shari's. However, one of our favorite places to eat is Wanker's Corner -- a kitschy pub that originated in the Stafford Triangle but relocated to Wilsonville. Since we are experiencing the juiciest spring (WET) in many years, it's not conducive to taking the camera outside. So I've taken the liberty of posting a photo from the restaurant web site.
Yes...those are peanut shells on the floor. Not only allowed but encouraged by the management. As is walking away with the humorous menu printed newspaper style. The decor is a smash-up of Down Under/Beach Boys/Grandpa's attic. The food is good and generous in proportion. So the next time you're traveling I-5 in Oregon, take a detour at Wilsonville for a Foster's and good grub.

Visit Sunday Stills to see how other folks indulge!

G'day, Mate!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sunday Stills: Four Points

This week's challenge refers to the four points of the compass: north, south, east, and west. Participants were instructed to point the camera away from the primary subject toward the "four points."

Yesterday was our first full day of sunshine in -- well, seemingly forever. So I took my camera with me. On the way home from the barn Indy and I stopped at one of his favorite parks to capture photos of one of my favorite public sculptures.

As part of Wilsonville's public art program, the following sculpture is on display at Town Center Park near the Chamber of Commerce's Visitor Center:

The sculpture is life-size and ties in beautifully with the Chamber's Oregon Horse Country campaign to promote equine-tourism in the area. Here is my "PhotoShopped" view:

Using my primary subject as reference, here are the four points of the compass....


North from the other side of the Visitor Center:




To see the view from other compass points, visit Sunday Stills.

Visit the Team Northwest web site for the summer show schedule at Hunter Creek Farm, host of The Country Classic.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The "Oxford Comma?"

I made a brief visit today to where I encountered the latest blog post about the "Oxford Comma."

I didn't know it had a name.

Kidlit describes it as:

It’s that last comma before the last “and” (or sometimes “or” or “nor”) in a sentence with a list of three or more items. This is a smartypants comma, as it’s also sometimes called the Harvard comma (or the serial comma).

It seems that in the deep, dark recesses of my Baby Boomer education we were taught that this final comma was required. So I obediently inserted it.

Decades later someone somewhere decided that this final comma was optional. The science-based state agency where I was employed thought this was a good idea.

I obstinately demurred and inserted the "Oxford comma" whenever and wherever I could get away with it.

Admittedly, this was a form of rebellion. I am an English major. I took several composition courses in college and studied well-written fiction. After college I enrolled in fiction writing courses and I continued to read extensively. My scientist coworkers ended their education in writing with the freshman English Composition class that was required for their BS degree. Those who went on to a graduate degree were taught to write their research papers in the passive voice (while fiction/nonfiction writers have the active voice drummed into us). Needless to say, it greatly rankled me when these folks offered writing advice (although I tried to be professional and make appropriate edits).

I believed the "Oxford comma" added clarification and alleviated confusion. During much of my career as a public employee I worked with state statutes and administrative rules. Whether drafting rules or interpreting statute -- grammar proved to play a significant role in the application of the law. If you venture into the comments made on the Kidlit blog you will find an attorney's take on the significance of the "Oxford comma."

Anyway -- I am proud to use the "smarty pants comma." It didn't ring true to me at the time when I was told it was more "modern" to drop the last comma. Today I feel vindicated. And in good company. :-)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Top Websites for Writers

Writer's Digest just released its annual list of top 101 web sites for writers. Larry Brooks' StoryFix made the cut this year.

This is a fun list to explore. Some of the web sites seem obvious, like those for national writing organizations. But there's always a gem or two lurking on the list. You never know which one will provide just what you need.

By the way, for folks just getting started with their writing, Writer's Digest magazine is a good resource. WD also publishes numerous "how to" books on writing. There are other great magazines available for writers, but with a limited budget, this is the one I settled on. It does a good job of covering most writing interests over the year in addition to the columns that appear in each issue. I get a kick out of the new products for writers.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What Puts the Snort in the Horse?

Yesterday was a c****y wet day here in the valley. I've been playing the rotating turnout sheet game trying to second guess the weather as we transition into spring. I love Phantom's "onesie" which covers him from ears to tail, but when the temperature pushes 60 degrees it becomes a bit warm. So I switch him to an older turnout sheet that leaks at the shoulder and is losing its waterproofing status. And of course, the weather chooses not to play along. So yesterday I brought in a dampish gray horse following a fairly dry weekend.

Activity at the barn is difficult to predict at TF. Yesterday turned out to be one of those days when the boarders seemed to show up one at a time. Sally was leaving as I arrived, which meant it was just me and the barn crew (Juan and Filberto). I tacked up my damp horse, took him into the longe area, and my quiet little gray guy turned into a snorting trot master.

Was it the rain? Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, my little Arab should be used to it after 16 years. The barometric pressure? Those storms barreling in from the Pacific Ocean sometimes pack a wallop. Sunspots? Not that we've seen much of the sun for over a month now. The alignment of the planets? Looks like I'd better buy a horoscope for Phantom's sign.

Whatever causes the snort, it calls for an extended period on the longe line. And no napping in the saddle, since the "horse eaters" can appear in the arena at any point during the ride -- generally after Phantom has begun to relax and lulled me into a sense of accomplishment. Darned if I can see the "horse eaters," but they're there. Ask Phantom.

After eventually getting bendy circles and serpentines I say "mission accomplished." Phantom has managed to dry out a little -- all the better to shed all over me. And I again switch turnouts before returning him to the Big Boy pasture.

Who knows which horse I'll have for my next ride? Generally the pre-ride longe session reveals energy-conservation Phantom or snorty Phantom. But I wonder if tarot cards....

Missing shoe update: Juan found the shoe in the arena and placed it on the front of Phantom's stall. Brian the farrier was able to replace it the Monday following it's Friday disappearance. Needless to say, Juan and Brian are my heroes.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday Stills: Our Cameras

My "good" camera: Canon PowerShot SX10IS:
This is my horse show and "artsy" camera. I'm still learning the basics, so this camera will do for some time.

Kodak EasyShare 360:
This was my first digital camera that didn't get much use until I acquired a decent computer. I take this camera to the barn and other places where it might be exposed to horse slobber or worse.

Film cameras past:
The Canon Stylus is mine, the other camera is my mother's. It uses the skinny film cassettes.

This was my first "real" camera:
Since camera and original box are still intact I will bequeath this to Emily, who really does know how to use a camera.

So see the cameras and equipment used by the Sunday Stills gang, visit Ed's blog.