Friday, March 27, 2009

Portland's Japanese Garden

I'm needing a flashback to something fun and nice today. It's been a hard week. (Heck, it's been a hard winter, truth be told.) Husband's sick. I'm sick. Again. I'm tired of being sick. Whine, gripe, whimper. I did get some good work done on the church remodel project this week, which is a blessing. One of the advantages of being sick a lot (yes, we are striving to be positive), is that you learn how to ignore pain and fatigue and function anyway. I decided that I would feel better mentally if I just went ahead and got something useful done, and I was right. If you're going to feel lousy physically no matter what you do, you might as well be productive if you can, right? Now, I still feel lousy, but I feel lousy with one more coat of mud on the walls. I can live with that.

Anyway, right now I'm waiting to take some friends to the airport before heading over for one more round of productive enterprise. (Corrective update--never made it to the church. By the time I got back from the airport my temperature was up three degrees. I'm not working on anything for awhile.) I thought now would be a good time to dip into some cheerful memories, and take care of some photographic housekeeping at the same time. It's high time I sorted and posted some of my favorite pics from the Portland Japanese Garden, an authentic Japanese garden near Washington Park and the Oregon Zoo. I took a stroll through this beautiful pleasure-ground (actually five gardens in one) last June with my dear friend Su. Yes, I have been holding on to these pictures for almost a year without actually doing anything with them! Kinda pathetic, eh? Oh well, I've picked out the ones I like now, and am ready to share them with the world. (Heh. Maybe I should narrow that "the world" thing down to a very small subset of the world that will happen to randomly wander by when they Google "feline misspellings," or something equally random.) No matter. Here goes. I don't have a lot to say about many of these, so I'll mostly let the images speak for themselves, okay?

I found this rather interesting. In the midst of all the natural beauty--stone, wood, water, trees, moss and flowers--there is something that looks very much like Plexiglas. Hmmm, how did that get in here? Pretty, though.

There was some official showing going on in the art gallery, to which Su and I lacked an invite, so I had to content myself with peering in from the outside and trying to use the reflections and glass I shot this photo through as an asset as best I could. I kind of like how it turned out, and really think the vase is beautiful and creative. It's not something I would use to decorate my own rather "traditional" American house, but I love to see it in its native habitat.

Here is Su, sketchpad in hand. While I snapped photos, she was happily engaged in drawing whatever took her fancy. Her method took little longer, but her pencil never ran low, whereas my camera battery barely gasped its way through the afternoon. I'd say we both enjoyed our chosen form of artistic expression for the day, which is what counts, right?

How is it the Japanese manage to make something artistic out of plain old ordinary grey boulders, without even adding flowers to brighten up the scene? I don't know--I sure couldn't pull it off--but somehow it works in this setting.

I loved getting the picture of this bee. Isn't this pretty? You can see the cells in the lovely little pollinator's wings! (You can really see the detail if you click on the picture to enlarge it.)

Su sketched this scene for quite a while. (The drawing was beautiful--wish I had a copy.) She drew quite a crowd at one point when a tour group wandered by. One lady was actually rather annoying about it, hovering over Su's shoulder and making comments about what she saw. I was impressed that Su managed to take it in stride and still put out a charming sketch, despite the distraction.

While Su was busily putting pencil to paper, I waited for this bridge to clear so I could snap this photo. It was a very limited opportunity moment. The gardens were busy that day (of course they were busy--have you noticed all that beautiful sunshine?), and this is the only chance I got in about 15 minutes of waiting for the sketch artist to complete her latest vision. Don't know that the picture was worth all that hovering, but now that I've snapped it, by golly, I'm going to post it!!

What would Japanese gardens be without koi? Inconceivable.

Well, there you have it, only ten months after the fact... Don't think of these pictures as being late and out of their proper time. Think of them as getting us in the mood for summer! It certainly brightened my mood to post them. Hope you enjoyed them too.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Star Wars-Inspired Mosquito Destruction

What's not to like? Frank J. at IMAO calls this the Mosquito Death Star. Being developed in the U.S. as a way to fight malaria, it's a laser which hears that peculiar little annoying whine that mosquitoes make, and then zeros in to blast the little bloodsuckers into a galaxy far, far away. (Does that work as a euphemism for a quick and thorough death?) Okay, so the inspiration was from Star Wars, the missile defense system, and a degree of separation or two away from Star Wars, the generation-shaping science fiction escapist movie icon, but who cares? This technological gift to man and beast can potentially kill millions of evil mosquito warrior clones in just a few minutes. There is no downside here. May the Force be with it!

(Maybe it would help me get my husband to venture outside on warm summer nights...)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Worth A Look

I don't care where you stand politically. This is worth seeing. It's what a trillion dollars looks like.

Hat tip: IMAO

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Winlock Takes Fifth In State!!

Hi basketball fans! If you're not a basketball fan, you might as well bail now, because this post is all about how awesome the Winlock boys basketball team is, and how proud I am of my nephew, Jake Brown! The Winlock Cardinals beat the Naches Valley Rangers 56-38 on Saturday morning to take fifth in the Washington 1A Boys Basketball Tournament--their best trophy ever at the state level. According to the Associated Press, they shot 59 percent from the field to get there, and were 11 for 17 in the second half. The quarters in high school ball are only 8 minutes long, so you can imagine what an exciting game it was for them to rack up 58 points in 32 minutes! Jake scored 14 points and hauled down 10 rebounds to cap off a stellar senior year, and Ked and I couldn't be more proud of him.

All the boys showed tremendous grace under pressure, and one of the things which impressed us the most watching them through the season was how focused they were the whole time they were on the court. These kids are not whiners. They don't blame a bad game on bad calls (not that they had many bad games--they ended the year 24-3), and they don't waste energy "acting" to sway the refs. (We did see some of that at the tourney from other teams. Found it pretty sad.) They just play basketball really, really well. The starters on the squad have been playing together since they were tykes, and it shows. They work together and care about the team more than they care about their own glory. Not that there's not glory to be had--as 6'9" Jake wandered conspicuously through the crowd after the game, kids who barely reached his knees were clambering for his notice. Autograph hounds had him signing programs and shirts. One enthusiastic fan, lacking a souvenir at hand, even had Jake sign his chest! It's enough to turn anyone's head, but Winlock's boys seem to have kept theirs on their shoulders. Everyone we've talked to about the squad has said over and over that these are good kids, and good friends who just love playing the game together. That's a joy to watch.

I only wish I got to watch more of this particular game. Ked practiced all day Friday at the tournament with the camera to get the perfect action shots, but at the last minute he got recruited to camcorder duty (this is the result of snagging front row seats), so I was left with the Canon SLR and a big fat zoom lens, neither of which were particularly familiar to me. I did my best. I missed a lot of the action, because I was so focused on following Jake around in the viewfinder, hoping to catch some magic moments, but it was a lot of fun anyway, and I think I snagged a few memories for Jake and the family. Hope you enjoy them. (Click on the photos to enlarge them. I didn't bother to reduce the file size for these pictures, so some of them will be too big for the screen and you'll have to scroll around a bit to catch everything, but some of them really are worth seeing in their bigger versions.)

The game begins. I don't know why Coach Gary Viggers has his head in his hands, but I assure you that didn't last. Viggers had a lot to be happy about in this final game of his coaching career at Winlock. The boys did him proud. Just as a side note, Tyler Hertz walked by my husband and me after the game. He's number three in the Cardinal jersey. Ked noted, "Wow. You look a lot smaller on the court!" That's because Tyler is 6'2". He's something of a tree in his own right, but when the average height of your starting line-up is 6'5", even Tyler starts looking petite!

The guys fought tough right from the beginning. Jake works hard the whole time he's on the court, as this Naches Ranger is finding out.

Those legs may be long, but Jake can get low when he needs to. Look at the concentration on that face!

I'm bummed I cut the top of the ball off in this shot, but look at that form!! Two of his fourteen points are on their way.

Winlock is always tough on the boards. Here's one of Jake's 10 rebounds. Ked and I watched Naches Valley win their match on Friday and were impressed with how well Naches shot from the outside, especially number 33 (whose name I do not know and am too lazy to Google). We were afraid that hot shooting might give Winlock some trouble, but the Cardinals shut them down pretty effectively. Naches only shot 33 percent for the game, making 13 of 40 attempts at the basket. Winlock cleaned up at the boards in the process.

I don't remember Jake being born with springs in his legs, but they must have been there, because the evidence is all over the place when he's on the court.

Winlock's solid performance included a good showing from the line. Jake made all 4 of his free throws. Here, Jordan Davis takes his best shot, although, I confess, I don't know if this one went down. I was too busy trying to follow Jake with the camera to see if he pulled down a rebound! Sorry, Jordan. You're important, too. Honest!

Nothing particular to say for this one. Just catching a little nice ball handling. Basketball really is a great game.

And the crowd goes wild!! Jake slammed this ball home with authority. I had been listening to the crowd behind me for much of the fourth quarter as the expectant fans kept asking themselves, "When's Jake going to dunk the ball? When's he gonna put on a show?" Well, Jake delivered. Look at those guys in the bleachers. The one in the dark shirt is the fellow who is now walking around with Jake's name written on his chest in sharpie marker! I'd say he looks pretty happy, wouldn't you?

This whole team of boys are so good together. From what I am told, even the young ones get treated like family. You gotta love this. This is why interscholastic sports exist. These boys have spent years together learning hard work, and sportsmanship, and team over self. The whole town of Winlock is proud of them, and rightly so. Way to go Cardinals! Congratulations!!

Being Winlock's tallest player, a high scorer, rebounding machine and general all-around stud, Jake often gets interviewed after a game. This is the first time I've seen the headphones and mic routine, though. Would have liked to have caught this radio interview, but I was 75' away taking pictures with my telephoto lens. Caught a few really good ones, but I'll only show you one. The rest are for his Mom and grandparents. They'll want to seen all 544 of them!! (Kidding. I think there are only 523.)

I did have to throw in one more interview shot. I couldn't resist this one of Jake towering over his coach and the interviewer. I've got to ask Sheila what she feeds this kid!

Here is the moment you've all been waiting for. Sharpie meets flesh. I told Jake if he's ever famous I'm selling this one on EBay.

I'll finish up with a cheerful family photo. That's Ked on the left, and the 6'6" bear of a man with him on the right is Jake's extremely happy brother Josh. Josh played in this same game, at this same tournament, a number of years ago, but his team came up just a little short and took home the eighth place trophy. Josh was thrilled to see his brother win this game. The glow on his face says it all. I don't think a brother or uncle could be prouder than these two. The whole family, in fact, was about as happy as I've ever seen them. We're all sorry it's over for the year, but we're looking forward to seeing where Jake goes to college and learning to love whatever team he becomes a part of. There will probably be some nostalgia for this special hometown team, but if Jake's a part of it, the new one will be special too. Congratulations again Jake. Your family loves you. Congratulations again, too, to the Winlock Cardinals Boys Basketball Team. You guys are awesome!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Down In The Valley

I have a little road trip report for you this evening. Ked and I drove from Portland to the Yakima Valley in central Washington today, so we can watch our nephew Jake play in the Washington State 1A Boys Basketball Tournament. Much of the family is here to cheer our boy on (if you can call a 6'9", 240 lb. rock of a human specimen a boy), and we're all getting a kick out of having someone we love to root for in what would be a fun event even if we didn't have a horse in the race. The whole tournament atmosphere is exciting, and it's always a pleasure to see athletes who have worked their way to the top of their divisions go at it, knowing that this is the moment they have been working towards all year. We all love basketball anyway, and it's even more enjoyable when family and hometown both get a bit of an ego-stroking. Jake plays for the same Winlock Cardinals that Ked and his brother played for 25 years ago. They got to see their nephew help lead that school to its first ever district championship last week, and now we get to see them give it their all at State.

We didn't get to be here for the first couple days of the tourney, so we missed the Cards first two games--one a loss, and the other a victory. The loss means they won't be playing for the State title, but the victory means they're still in it for fifth, so we're happy to still have the chance to watch 'em play and hope to cheer them on to more Winlock wins over the next two days. Ked's caught the fever something fierce, and the only prescription (besides more cowbell) is more basketball!! He's talking about coming back next year, when Jake's off playing college ball, just so he can revel in the joy of high-level high school hoops. We'll see what happens then, but being the sports fan that I am, I won't be the one to discourage him...

This is a basketball flashback for Ked, but it's a bit of a trip down memory lane for me too. When I was in fourth and fifth grade I lived in the Yakima Valley, in a little town called Granger (also represented in this year's tournament). My Mom bought a farm that she had lived on years before, but kept the house in Portland, where my step-dad continued to live, since his job was based in town. We made that four hour drive more times than I can count, and it is always nostalgic for me now, on those few occasions when I travel the same path as an adult. If we take the I-84 route, past The Dalles on the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge, we pass many a childhood memory. There's Spooky's, the pizza parlor where we always begged Mom to stop if we had time, and were annoyingly persistent about it even if we didn't--still open 35 years later. There's Biggs Junction, the tiny little hamlet that we always called "Dinty's Town" because so many businesses were named after someone with that moniker. I didn't learn its official name until many years into adulthood. In my heart, I still like Dinty's Town better. There is also the climb up towards Goldendale, on the Washington side, stark and bare, and oddly beautiful, although I never appreciated it properly as a child impatient to be home.

Now, of course, there have been some changes, new things built, and old things fallen down along that old familiar path. It's nice to pass that way again, just to glimpse the passage of time in the imagery of the landscape. I have just a few pictures to share with you from the journey. I didn't plan on taking them, but the scenes called out to me. So, here they are... (Click to enlarge.)

This is the Washington side of the Columbia River, after the crossing at Biggs Junction, right before Highway 97 turns north off the road that leads to the Maryhill Museum. I loved the way the shadows from the clouds danced across the windy hills, and the river played in the sunlight that insisted that winter not be gloomy. A little farther down the road the clouds got thicker, and even offered us a little snow to make the drive interesting, but here it was all shining clouds, dancing shadows and the beautiful ribbon of bright blue river.

Those windy hills are taking on a new purpose, as windmills have begun to dot the landscape throughout the region. We thought that seeing these windmills-in-the-making was pretty cool. I couldn't believe the size of those blades that are laying at the base of the tower in the center of the photo. If you take a look at the crane on the left, you can get a sense of how big it is. That crane was tall, and the blades looked awfully large behind it as we drove by. (Definitely click on this one.)

Well, the windmills are new, but here is something definitely old. The field has been plowed, but, unless they are awfully hardy souls, I don't think it was by residents of this house. Needs a bit of repair work, wouldn't you say?

I couldn't resist taking a closer look--with my camera at least. The place just looks so desolate, that for some reason it made me think of the Great Depression, and the Oklahoma Dust-bowl. Hmm, that's not really the place I want my mind going these days. Moving on...

Here's another of the local relics. We called this one The Skeleton Barn. Looks very wild west to me.

Once we got to Yakima we sought out a little color and life. We met Ked's folks at El Mirador for some terrific Mexican food. I know this shot of Ked is a little grainy, but I thought it was such a nice picture of him that I'm willing to put up with the flaws in photography.

Here are Mom and Pop, cheerful after a fine meal, and the recent Winlock victory, ready to head back to the Sun Dome for the last game of the evening. Ked and I were not so ambitious. We headed back to our hotel to check our email, download pictures and get some rest. Ked is snoozing even as I type, and I'll be joining him soon. We've got basketball to watch in the morning. Winlock plays at 11! Go Cards!!