New home for photography

It's official - I'm now hosting all my new (and newly-curated) photography over at Google Poz. Just because it's so much easier - they get synced with my Picasa albums automagically, which is already the tool I've been using to manage photos for years. For a while I chafed at the lack of presentation options, the unreadable URLs, and their grabby approach to content (I haven't found a way to embed a G+ hosted photo in an LJ entry, for example) but I decided that in the long run I just don't give a damn. I'm too lazy to do all the tedious file-shuffling I did before, and this lets me get out more photos than I can otherwise.


A couple recent albums of note:

Frolicking Ranch Puppies

Montgomery Woods and Rob's Garden

There are about 20 public albums under my profile that you don't have to be a member of G+ to see. On some pages you have to click on a "Show All" link to see the whole set.

Let me know if you have any trouble finding or viewing these.

Long-form writing and occasional links to G+ albums will continue appearing here for the forseeable future.

The difficulty of translating between languages

I kinda knew this, but the way it's explained here really brings it home. You can't just translate sentences in isolation. Instead, you pretty much have to know the whole story behind the sentence before you can convey it accurately in another language. It makes me wonder how those simultaneous translators at the UN can function at all.

Let me give you an example. Suppose you want to say even the simplest thing, like "Humpty Dumpty sat on a …" Well, even with a snippet of a nursery rhyme, if you try to translate it to other languages, you'd immediately run into trouble. Let's focus on the verb for a moment. Sat. To say this in English, if this was something that happened in the past, then you'd have to say "sat." You wouldn’t say, "will sit" or "sitting." You have to mark tense. In some languages like in Indonesian you couldn't change the verb. The verb would always stay the same regardless of whether this is a past or future event. In some languages, like in Russian, my native language, you would have to change the verb for tense, but you would also have to include gender. So if this was Mrs. Dumpty that sat on the wall, you'd use a different form of the verb than if it was Mr. Dumpty.

In Russian, quite inconveniently, you have to mark the verb for whether the event was completed or not. So if Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall for the entire amount of time that he was meant to sit on it, that would be one form of the verb. But if he were to say "have a great fall" that would be a different form of the verb.

In Turkish, and this is one of my favorite examples, you have to change the verb depending on how you came to know this information. If you actually witnessed this event with your own eyes, you were walking along and you saw this chubby, ovoid character sitting on a wall, that would be one form of the verb. But if this was something you just heard about, or you inferred, from say broken Humpty Dumpty pieces, then you would have to use a different form of the verb.

I like the Turkish example too, because that's one of my conscious habits - I always temper statements with "I read that..." or "He said that..." or "It could be that..." if it's not something I have first-hand knowledge of. Just because I want to avoid even the possibility of misinforming anyone. It would be very handy to have that distinction be a deeply embedded part of the language.
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Announcement - QBT #11 - May 24-27

This year's "Queer Biker Trash" campout is scheduled for the weekend of May 24-27 on our property near Ukiah. This is somewhat later than previous years, and for the first time is on Memorial Day weekend.

Same deal as usual. We'll be providing hot meals and a keg, BYO if you want wine or hard alcohol. There will be a day run on Saturday, and Saturday night we'll be firing up the wood oven and making pizza. Sunday night we will have Chinese food made using the new wok range. There will be a campfire each night, IF burning is not suspended by then. (On the plus side, if it's too dry for a campfire, it will be warm enough we won't need one!)

Bring your own tent and sleeping bag. We have more indoor bed space available than in previous years, including one queen bed, one double, a single futon, indoor floor space, and floor space in the garage – let us know if you want something with a roof, preference will be given to those with special needs. There is no fixed run fee, and nobody is turned away for lack of funds. But we appreciate a donation of $20/night to help cover costs.

The road up there includes a 1.5 mile unpaved section, which has proven a bit hazardous for novice riders. It’s not as bad as the road at Badger Flat, there’s just more of it.

If you wish to come, please respond to tony@rakko.org and let me know when you plan to arrive and leave, and let me know if you're bringing a car or riding your bike. Directions and any last-minute details will be mailed out to attendees in early May.

Intoxicated by nature

Today was quite a day. My friend Wil, who I see only occasionally, had organized a hike on his property up at Dragon Ridge. Like everyone else in this county, he lives about an hour away, and it's hard to maintain a relationship at that distance. I had not visited his property in more than five years.

Much of this county is organized into "ranches", which are large expanses of land - typically about five thousand acres - which have been subdivided into individual parcels under a variety of legal frameworks to create a sort of community. This community will typically have a landowners association with varying levels of control, including the power to levy assessments, and the right and obligation to maintain roads, gates, and other low-level services. It's like a town or municipality, but with far fewer benefits. Some are gated, some are not. Some have electrical service, some do not. Some even have architectural codes, but that would be considered unusually controlling for this part of the state. A few of the ranches also have "commons", private wilderness areas with the right to pass but no right to change anything, and thus they afford residents the right to roam widely.

Where I was today was expansive and only lightly developed. We undertook a hike of about an hour and a half, through rolling hills that only marginally count as mountains, high above valleys of mixed meadows and forests, with trees of various types arrayed in great painterly swaths across the landscape.

At this time of year, the landscape comes in a million shades of color. Some old oaks, not yet leafed out, are still shaggy with heavy mounds of white lichen - gray and bearded, like old men. Others are bursting with brilliant green buds, while tardier species are still dusted in shades of red or yellow. The rocks underlaying it all, which consist of a crazy patchwork of diverse, loosely related sedimentary and metamorphic species, glisten in grays and blues wherever they have not already crumbled into soft brown soil.

I was able to point out to Wil something not even he had noticed before - a tiny calypso orchid, all shy and pink and frilly, so easy to overlook that we nearly crushed it with our boots. (The ancients believed that orchids sprang from the semen of mating animals, which seems so much more plausible than the crazy symbioses that science has identified.) Another hiker came up with an interesting mushroom, a false morel, similar to the gourmet's favorite but notable for its deadliness. Unlike most toxic mushrooms, it does not kill the hapless diner, but rather the errant chef, who on cooking it will likely succumb to its deadly fumes of hydrazine and die face-down in his own frying pan.

I have been in this county for five years now, but never before have I so clearly seen the hand of the Divine in laying out this landscape. In a place undisturbed by human activity, with scarcely a hint of it in sight, the order of nature was plain to see. Over here, a copse of twelve trees, not quite leafed out, all sharing the same shape and form, pirouette their limbs with the precision of a ballet troupe. These might drift into a stand of tall firs, which then yield to a patch of flaming scarlet red-buds. Everywhere, carpets of wildflowers - great sweeps of tiny white and yellow and purple things, lost in the grass, the blooms hardly large enough to see as individuals. The first few irises, the unfurling of moss as it drinks up a rainshower, the tiny white bells of the manzanita...

I am still, in my mind, staggering drunkenly through this fairy-tale landscape. It infects my very soul, and will never leave me. This time is so brief - just a couple of months, at best, when nature goes mad with abundance - and so hard to believe in once it has passed. It will be only a few weeks before the rain stops, the sun beats down, and it all returns to the crinkly browns and dusty sage of the summer.

This time around feels special. Every drop of rain is a blessing, every unfurling leaf a tiny miracle. Never have I felt the transient, fleeting springtime so keenly as I have today.


[Snarfed and edited from my own comment on a G+ post, recorded here for posterity]

I have long been bothered by the repeated assertion that gay marriage is "illegal", which completely defers to the state the power to decide what a marriage is, and arguably encourages a kind of helplessness. Ideally, I'd much rather see gay couples take the attitude that they ARE married, and are patiently waiting for the state to recognize that obvious fact. Along with that would be greater community-level support for pursuing the trappings of marriage - wills, joint property, POA, et cetra - which would be framed as an inadequate and annoying work-around to the government's failure to deal with reality. With that attitude, maybe there would be fewer tragic endings and government recognition would happen at a faster pace.

On a personal note, while John and I would certainly get married once it's recognized on a federal level (for various reasons state-level is not suitable for us), we still have a third member of our family that could be treated just as cruelly as any "unmarried" partner had we not secured his rights through other means. Marriage is just one kind of family relationship, and our family happens to be larger than that; state recognition of marriage would be a big improvement but not a complete solution. So it kind of burns me to hear "polygamy" raised as an argument against gay marriage and simultaneously dismissed by gay people themselves. What we REALLY need is a more general form of adoption that covers whatever kind of kinship you want to have.

(no subject)

From Men in Eden: William Drummond Stewart and Same-Sex Desire in the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade:

Free trappers were known for their "bold and adventurous spirit," and their eccentric and flamboyant modus vivendi quickly became the stuff of legend. In 1902 Hiram Chittenden wrote of them: "Their leader could not always control them and they were prone to all sorts of excesses. Vain of their appearances, extravagantly fond of ornament for both themselves and their steeds, they rivaled the proud Indian himself in the profusion of gewgaws which decked out their attire." These sartorial displays were not intended to attract the Indian women whom the men occasionally encountered. As would be noted of the gold miners in the remote California camps of the 1950s, the free trappers "dressed up in order to look 'fascinating' for one another."


Spending the weekend at Red Mountain, near Rossland, BC with my father and his wife. He is going to a medical conference tomorrow to satisfy his training requirements - although he's 74, he still practices nuclear medicine on a part time basis in Trail. And he still skis, a little bit.

Colleen, my distinctly not-evil stepmother, has turned into a remarkably good cook. I think her skills have now exceeded mine. Last night's seafood fettuccine was amazing enough, with its high lemon notes against a base of rich buttery scallops and prawns. But tonight - oh my God, I think I will just turn into a vegetarian now, since meat is never going to be the same again.

The butcher at the Huckleberry Market in Christina Lake gets Alberta beef, and he provided us with a two-rib prime rib, which we ate tonight, that has utterly ruined me. It's not so much the fine flavor and the fork-tender softness - it's the delicate, lacy texture of the flesh that makes it so exquisite. I have never seen a rare-cooked cut fall apart like that. Really, I have never had anything remotely like it, and now I understand why so many midwesterners complain about the beef on the West Coast.

I have to re-think my cooking now. It's not just the ingredients, it's also a certain hand with oils and seasonings that makes it feel like a true millionaires dinner. Eating like this every night would surely be fatal, but after a day on the slopes it's just the ticket.

Road trip

Currently in Bend, OR for a little snowboarding at Mt. Bachelor. I drove up on Monday and hit the slopes with my buddy Chris yesterday and today. There hasn't been much in the way of fresh snow but the groomed runs are still pretty nice. Been doing a lot of work, too, so on the whole there hasn't been much time to sit around and write.

I got a last-minute deal on a lovely vacation rental across the river from downtown. Just $100 a night and it's NICE - way, way, way better than your typical hotel. You can't just waltz in, you have to sign a contract, and in a curious twist it is actually required that you own a cell phone to close the deal. You also have to do your own laundry, but that's not such a big deal since there's a washer and dryer right in the unit. Anyway, what good fortune. I'm not very fond of hotels and motels, but this place is exceedingly private, quiet, and tasteful. Just how I like it.

Tomorrow we're heading off to Breitenbush for a faerie gathering. Normally I'm not so much into the woo-woo but this year I might suspend my usual eye-rolling and approach it all more sincerely. But I'm also going to bring a lot of whiskey and beef jerky, the hippy-dippy vegetarian angle is still not hugely appealing.

After that, it's up to BC to visit my dad, and then Vancouver to see my mum for a bit. Then, who knows? I'm sure there will be interesting things to report...