Wednesday, October 20, 2010

more flowers

Sometimes on my way home from work I stop at the University Gardens and take pictures of flowers:

water flower

And sometimes I jam the camera right up inside the flowers:

floral center (1)

I know I take a lot of those zoomed way in pictures of flowers, and that for the most part all of them end up looking like every other picture I take of flowers, but I find the gardens relaxing. They're quiet, and I rarely see people that I know. Additionally, having to concentrate on steadying my hands so that I can take close up, macro zoomed pictures forces me to focus my mind and slow down my thoughts. It's almost like meditating, and photography is probably the closest I come to that.

So, yeah, four or five more pictures of flowers that look like every other time I go take pictures of flowers:

green flower

orange and pink flower

floral center (2)

but those pictures represent an hour when I had nowhere to be and nothing important to think about. Every picture can't be Pulitzer Prize worthy.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

For My Friend, Rod

A few weeks ago, my friend Rod sent me a couple of Counselor Troi action figures that he found in an antique store, because he knows of my overwhelming conviction that Counselor Troi was the most useless continuing character on "Star Trek". I've been trying to think of an appropriate way to say "thank you" (other than the thank you note I left on Facebook), and also he's been a little down lately, so I've been trying to think of a way to cheer him up.

Last night, inspiration struck, as it always eventually does.

Rod, I made you a movie:

video

I hope you enjoy it, and that it cheers you up.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dear Tennessee State Republican Party...

My friend Courtney recently described me as an activist, and I was planning to write back to her and tell her that I'm not really an activist, because I'm not a flag waver and I don't put bumper stickers on my car and when I show up to marches and protests I stand in the back. Activists are the kind of people who write letters and yell into bullhorns and wave signs, and that's totally not me.

Instead of writing that note back to Courtney that I'm not an activist, I ended up writing a letter to the Tennessee Republican Party in Nashville in response to some unwanted Stacey Campfield mail that I received this week. In the same way that people don't want prisons, toxic waste dumps, or nuclear power plants in their backyards, I don't want Stacey Campfield's smiling face in my mailbox, so I put together a little care package that I'm mailing back to them:

mailings and card

I'm sure that my letter, handwritten on one of my "Thanks for Nothing" notes (doesn't everyone have a box of passive aggressive bitch notecards?), will end up in a crank file, or tacked to a bulletin board where the interns walk by and laugh at it, but I think it's important to speak up against candidates with anti-LGBT track records, even if all you're doing is asking them not to send you any more of their crap. They may snicker and roll their eyes, but someone, somewhere in that office may read it and think for a minute about the kind of people they're helping to elect, and the kind of environment that those people will create.

Here's the letter I sent. I'll type it out after the pictures, in case you don't want to read my scrawling left-handed writing.

card, page 1

card, page 2

Dear Tennessee Republican Party,

Please accept the return of the enclosed Stacey Campfield campaign materials, which I found in my mailbox today. Although I am a registered Democrat, I do read and try to inform myself about the candidates, but in this particular case I am already well aware that a vote for Stacey Campfield is a vote for open bigotry, and a vote against LGBT people in the state of Tennessee. While I sometimes cross party lines in the voting booth, I will never hate myself and my community enough to do so in this case.

Your candidate has twice attempted to advance his "don't say gay" bill, outlawing any discussion of LGBT topics under any circumstances in Tennessee schools. This sort of legislation is not the hallmark of the "smaller, smarter government" described on your flyer. In March of this year, Stacey Campfield also spoke out against the OutReach LGBTA Resource Center that opened on the UT campus, saying that funding should not go toward "special groups" who did not have a real need. While the recent wave of LGBT teen suicides would seem to disprove his point, he has not retracted his statements. This speaks to the kind of human being that he is and the values that he supports.

In short, I'm saying that I'm gay and I vote, but I will not vote for Stacey Campfield. Please save your party some printing and postage, and mail these to people who agree with Campfield's platform of bigotry and dehumanization.

Thank you.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weekly Photo Challenge

For the past few weeks, a group of friends and I have been doing a casual weekly photo challenge. It's supposed to help us with our photography, and give us an excuse to share more pictures with each other. There's no winner or prizes, just the challenge and feedback from others.

Our rules are very simple. One person uses an online random word generator to pick a theme for the week, and at the end of the week that person picks who gets to pick next week's theme.

Here's what I've done so far:

1) "Water"

bow spray

This is from a trip Kristin and I took to the Titanic Museum and Attraction (which is as horrible as it sounds) the day of Bryan's memorial service. We had been planning a trip for the three of us all summer, and when Bryan passed away it seemed like the best way for us to remember him.

He would have made snide comments the entire time, and we would have loved it.

2) "Home"

porch bench

My porch and bench, which I inherited from Bryan. (I believe he inherited it from our friend Lauren when she moved to the west coast.) I played with the color of this picture a little, which is why it looks so orange-tinted.

3) "Cook"

stove burner

This was a lot harder than it seemed like it should be. The camera didn't want to focus (the trouble with a point and click), I kept wanting to try different angles, and your face gets really, really hot leaning over a red-hot burner for twenty minutes.

4) "Contradiction"

knoxville hates nazis

This one was kind of a cop-out. I didn't see anything specific that said "contradiction" to me all week, but I had taken this downtown at the graffiti wall on Wall Avenue (which is now gone; I'm kind of crushed since I've been visiting that wall since I moved here to see what's new and pretty) and figured I could submit it and make a half-assed argument about the symbols and stuff.

5) "Pizza"

3 minute microwave 3 meat

This is a departure for me, in that I don't usually play with color on my photos. On this one, I just kept playing and tweaking and playing some more and that's what I ended up with. It started out as a plain snapshot of the inside of the freezer case at Kroger, and turned into that.

6) "Electric"

outlet

I'm not going to mention which friend's kitchen I took this in. Also, it's very difficult to look at this picture without anthropomorphizing it.

7) "Frown"

This was the week I was having computer trouble. I didn't even think of taking a photo, because that consumed most of my week. In the end, it turned out to be Comcast's fault, and nothing was wrong with my computer.

8) "Number"

seven and eleven

The idea for this popped into my head while I was walking around the craft store, looking for things that had numbers on them. I got the dice on my trip to Vegas, but don't actually use them for anything.

9) "Mileage"

maps

I'm not happy with this one, either. I wanted something that didn't have to do with roadsigns or a random picture of the distance to somewhere, but the week ran out before better inspiration came to me.

10) "Current"

the oarsman in black and white

I like this one, but you kind of have to know it's "The Oarsman", a statue downtown of a man in a rowboat, for it to make sense since my angle cut out the entire boat. I was walking to the river to take some shots off of the bridge and really liked the way the light was hitting this when I walked by, so I took this photo and then changed it to black and white when I got home. All of the pictures of the river left me displeased, so I went with this.

Next week's theme has not been picked yet, but I wanted to share what I've done so far, so that later I would have all of these images and themes in one place.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Enough Towels to Build a Towel Fort

I've spent the past few days at a conference in Florida, which my department generously sent me to so that I could learn more about our new housing system and talk to both the people who developed it and to people who are already using it. I took many pages of notes, and attended many workshops, but the downside to that was that I did not go to Disneyworld, or Universal Studios, or Harry Potter-land, or Sea World, or any of the other places people said I should in our downtime.

Since I will be spending a lot of money next month on my friend's wedding and travel, I didn't want to go to any of those places that exist solely to separate you from money, anyway. Instead, I laid out by the pool and read a book, because I already own my book and laying out by the pool is free.

And also gorgeous:

lounge chairs

The whole hotel was pretty gorgeous, actually:

hotel lobby

staircase, windows, urn

They had really nice grounds, including a golf course:

birdhouses, lake

but the water turned out to be kind of a problem. Some of the people at the conference saw a huge alligator on one of the walking paths, and then on another day one of the people working at the hotel was bitten by a snake by the pool area and had to be taken to the hospital.

After that, I decided to read in my room for the rest of the trip, but that was ok, because my room was also kind of beautiful:

my hotel room

It's even prettier in color:

my sitting area

One of my coworkers, who also attended the conference, was very bothered that everything didn't match, but I felt like the overall collection of tones and textures went well together without everything looking exactly the same:

chair textures

water glass, lamp, reflection

The room was also a little fancier than I'm used to. Instead of a "Do Not Disturb" sign, there was a hanger requesting "serenity":

serenity now!

The bed had built in booklamps on each side of the headboard:

booklight

and seven pillows:

seven pillows

which I thought would be a huge pain in the ass, because I was remembering the scene in "Along Came Polly" where Ben Stiller has to take all the pillows off the bed every night before he can go to sleep, but every night while I was downstairs at dinner the turndown attendant came to my room, turned down the bed, left me a card letting me know what the high and low temperatures for tomorrow would be, shut my curtains, and laid out some candy on the pillows.

Like I said, not the kind of hotel that I am used to.

The bathroom was equally entertaining, as I learned that people in a higher income bracket than mine apparently take a lot of calls while sitting on the toilet:

toilet phone

and I was mildly impressed that the bathroom had both a tub and a shower:

shower and tub

In fact, the whole thing would have been perfect if not for two things:

1) The cable did not have AMC. I was in my room in time for "Mad Men" on Sunday night, but AMC was not there with me.

2) There was an issue with towels. Specifically, with having too many of them.

When I used the bathroom for the first time, I noticed this sign:

save our planet

I'll be honest here: I have nothing against the planet, but I only recycle if there happens to be a recycling bin near me. I recycle paper at my office because someone happened to put a bin for it right next to my desk, but I throw plastic bottles in my office trash can because the bin for them is all the way down the hall by the elevators. Before anyone accuses me of killing the planet, I would like to make the argument that I've done more to reduce my carbon footprint by not reproducing than I ever could by carrying every soda can to the recycling bin. Given that, I read the sign with a skeptically raised eyebrow, but then I imagined the maids discussing the situation as they frowned over my towels in the morning.

"The man in 1952 doesn't hang up his towels. He wants fresh towels, every day."

"Doesn't he know that we make each towel out of baby seals and orphaned koala bears? He doesn't care about the planet."

"No, he doesn't. Let's use his toothbrush to clean the toilet."

"Yes, let's."

With that in mind, I dutifully hung up my towel and washcloth to dry after I used them (and rinsed the washcloth out). When I got back to my room later in the day, they were still hanging up, but there were fresh towels hanging next to them.

"Hmmm. Did I read the instructions wrong? No, but somehow I still have more towels."

The next morning, I hung up my towel and washcloth again. With the addition of the fresh towels from the day before, all the places to hang towels in my bathroom were now full. When I got back to my room, my towels were still hanging up, and the new towels were still hanging up next to them.

And there was a second set of fresh towels, neatly arranged on the bathroom counter.

Eventually, they took my hung up towels, but continued bringing fresh ones:

still life, with towels

Sorry, baby seals and orphaned koala bears.

I tried.