Sunday, August 28, 2011

Despoiler of the Environment

Jim and I finally had a chance to do another bike ride and we racked up another 24 miles so - at long last - we have broken the 200-mile mark for the season. We're now up to 216. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that we usually would be at twice this distance by September in most summers. Not a good season for bike riding!

Sadly, as a result of this bike ride, there is one less chipmunk in the world. As I was riding, I suddenly heard Jim shout something from behind me. I looked back and saw a little chipmunk flipping up and down on the ground on the path behind us. Then it went still.  Apparently, it had darted out and my back wheel ran it over. We checked to make sure it was actually dead, which thankfully it was. I hate to admit being so squeamish but I would have had a real issue having to kill it so that it wouldn't lie there suffering.

Poor little guy!

On another note, I've noticed the orb spiders have begun building their webs and the sunlight is starting to take on that slanted, intense look. I think we're going to have an early autumn this year.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Diamond Planet?

Read the official story (let's hope the media actually has the facts right):

For most of my life I've been fascinated by astronomy and - every so often - I get back into it and read voraciously for a couple years to get back up on what's going on. Not up on the latest now, but naturally this story of a potential 'diamond planet' in a pulsar system caught my eye.

The reason I find this interesting is that - if it is confirmed - it has some interesting implications. The article speaks of the planet being a remnant of a former partner star, but I thought of something else. Theories have been floated in the past that gas giants like Neptune might form diamonds in their high pressure atmospheres that would then 'rain' down to the core of the planet.

Now this planet orbits a pulsar (which is the remnant of a star gone nova) in a very tight orbit so...what if the original planet-star system was akin to a 'hot Jupiter' that we have found to be rather common in our galaxy? (A 'hot Jupiter' is a type of gas giant that orbits its star very tightly, some are closer to their stars than Mercury is to our Sun).

The scenario I'm picturing is that the star went nova with a hot Jupiter close in (or a gas giant relatively far out that then spiraled in). The nova blew off the thick atmosphere of the gas giant (essentially hydrogen and helium with other gases thrown in for spice), leaving the core intact.  If this is the case, then this 'planet' - aside from potentially supporting the theory of 'diamond rain' in gas giant atmospheres - could also be an opportunity to directly observe the core of a gas giant planet which is something we normally would have no means of doing.

Of course, I'm sure the blast would have affected the core in some manner so it's not like looking at the core of an actual gas giant, and we have no way of knowing what the original planet was like in terms of mass and composition. It could have even been a brown dwarf, rather than a partner star or gas giant planet. Still this object could offer some information about what the deep interiors of planets like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are like.

This is all highly speculative of course, but it's exactly the kind of thing that has always fired my imagination about astronomy!

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Bubble Girlz

Once I got Jim to agree to an actual ceremony, I had to come up with a way to twist the whole thing around and make it fun. The last thing I wanted was a stodgy ceremony with people lighting candles and stepping daintily down the aisle while a string quartet played something. The first thing to go? The flower girls.

Instead, I decided that since it was summer we should have...bubble girlz! We recruited Jim's goddaughter and the daughters of one of his best friend's from work to be the bubble girls. It was their job to kick of the procession by dancing down the 'aisle' with bubble guns, blowing bubbles into the air.

Lia, Paige, and Skyler were thrilled to take part and here they are mugging for the camera prior to the ceremony.  The bubble guns were a bit of a pain. They required batteries and a lot of practice to make them work even marginally well. But I knew whether it worked out or not that there ceremony would get points for creativity!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Civil Union Photos

Been a long time since I posted! And I haven't posted anything from the Civil Union ceremony! Okay, here we go! All the pictures are dumped into my hard drive and there's so many that I'm just not ever going to really organize them so I'm just going to start posting ones that catch my fancy or suggest a story to me.

This is one that my friend Cindy took and I just love it. I only wish I wasn't holding that bottle of beer. Perhaps I can photoshop that out, because I would really like to frame this one. It was taken after the ceremony when Jim and I were beset by people taking photos, which I thought brought such a nice celebratory energy to the post-ceremony party kick-off.

It's still hard for me to believe that this has actually happened. I guess I never really believed that in my lifetime I'd have the chance to see my relationship with Jim recognized like this. Such a long, long way from back in 1990 when I was a college student and rushed to my dorm room one day to write in my journal "I'm being really honest with myself; I think I might be HS." Couldn't even write the world 'homosexual' in my own private journal that I kept locked in my drawer and that no one ever saw.

It really does get better...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Merantau is an Indonesian martial arts film featuring Iko Uwais. From what I gather the martial art that he practices is called silat.

Merantau is a pretty good film. Not as fast paced or intense as a Tony Jaa film, but definitely some interesting fight scenes. One thing I liked about the fight scenes is that Uwais' character (Yuda) actually gets knocked around a bit more than the hero is other martial arts films does. He gets hit and in one scene even gets the worse end of a beat down. It added a bit of realism to the movie, especially since Yuda is so young.

While the production is not terribly slick, the colors in the movie are really intense and there are some wonderful shots scattered about. As it turns out, Uwais is a reasonable actor and he invests his character with a positive, likable vibe. That said, there is only the barest of motivations given for why Yuda risks his life for the two orphans he meets, and I was confused as to how he could have been sent to Jakarta to a place that was torn down and no phone number available. Call ahead? Oh well, it's not all about the plot.

Like I said the pacing in Merantau was sometimes a little slow, and perhaps the movie spent a tad too much time advancing its serviceable plot than was needed, but I did enjoy this movie and I look forward to seeing more from Uwais.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

18 Miles and Lots of Birds

Jim and I biked 18 miles yesterday morning, taking advantage of the break in the oppressive heat we've been dealing with here in Illinois. The ride broughtus to within a stone's throw of 200 miles (we're at 192) for the season. The path and roads were pretty wet from rain in the very early morning, so we were quickly coated with water and dirt up our backs. But we didn't care; it was wonderful just to be outside doing something again and not breathing air conditioned air.

Photo: Christopher Taylor
For some reason, we saw an awful lot of birds by Lake Whelon this time out. Perhaps because of the rain and the earlier hour, there were less people out (we did seem to run into a lot less traffic). Less people equal more animals. I'm not a bird watcher in general, but while biking I always like to take note of what I see. Have to rely on the web and a bird identification book Jim has in his library. So here's what we saw (click images to get see the pictures enlarged). First, I saw an ovenbird perched in a tree. It's not a spectacular bird, but I knew it was something different and I made a mental note to find out what it is.

Photo: rattlinantler
The first cool this we saw was a literal flock of goldfinches. I've seen these birds around singly and in small groups of two or three, but I'd never seen so many in one spot. They were all in an area thick with wildflowers, which I know draw them. As we road past, easily forty of them flew into the air and some flew parallel to us as if racing with us. That was awesome to see, as they are really very bright and their flight kind of graceful. It's actually probably not correct to describe them as a flock, since I wonder if these birds actively group. They seemed like a flock though, because there were so many of them.

Photo: Bill Thompson III
Next, I finally saw the 'bluebird' Jim has spotted several times on the path. He'd call out to me, but it'd be too late. I really began to wonder if I was ever going to see it because Jim was only seeing one at a time and at wide time intervals between rides/sightings. Yesterday, we saw two of them! And I finally got my view. Looking through photos online, I think this is an indigo bunting. What the phot doesn't capture is the sheer iridescense of their plumage. The dark blue shines almost like the inside of an oyster shell. Small, jewel-like bird.

Lastly, we saw two hawks feeding their young. Of course, we're guessing here. Two hawks flew across a marsh to an big tree well off the path. They both landed in the same spot and then there were a lot of scree!-scree! calls, which we assumed were chicks and that the two birds were feeding them. Lastly, we saw a huge grey egret standing in the DuPage River, probably fishing for a meal.

Overall, a nice relaxing ride and some good sightings.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sites I Love: Laughing Squid

It's been a while since I have touted a specific website on Zen Throw Down. The thing is I don't have tons of links in my favorites, not am I trawling the blogosphere on a regular basis looking for hip new sites to wow my friends and readers with.

But I like this one, I have it in my favorites, and I check it out from time to time. Laughing Squid is a cornucopia of thoroughly random (yet almost always interesting) miscellanea. I'm always sure I'll find something fun or thought-provoking on here each time I log in.

It's in my links on this blog. Check it out!

Perhaps 'Sites I Love' should become a new thread on here?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Haiku Thursdays

touch the pool
create no ripples
cool in August heat

Monday, August 1, 2011

Love Unfolds

Since the photos are still being posted, I decided to hold off for a few more days in a sentimental tidal wave of vignettes and photos on the blog. However, I will post the poem I ended up reading at the ceremony. Enough pics have come in so I can post one taken of me actually reading it. Hooray for the magic of facebook!

I wrote this in May 1998, almost two years after Jim and I met and just as we were buying the house. I remember that I was at Jim's duplex. He was working in his garden, and I was on the porch writing. I don't remember laboring over the piece especially. It was one of those that just 'came'. This version is actually a 'remixed version'. As noted in the prior post I felt it worked better than 'Voyager' but the original version seemed not exactly a fit for the ceremony. So I added some extra lines to bring it into line with the event.

Usually, I think this would bother me, but the idea of the poem seems to almost demand that it be re-written or added to as time goes by. I read this after the exchange of the vows and right before the big smooch to seal the deal.

Love Unfolds

I first felt love
as a child
when I planted
an acorn
in my parent’s yard,
carefully patted the earth,
watered it
with a jeweler’s precision,
only to forget it
the next day

Love changed with me
like the day
I saw a man
in the mirror
not a boy
or the day
I discovered who I am
and had the courage
to embrace it

Just as the sound of a breeze
in the leaves
sounds like
the sea upon the beach
sounds like
a spring shower,
love took many forms

But in all these years
I’ve never been able to name it—
anymore than I know the color
of sunbeams scattering
off a garden pond
or can name the day
spring unfolds each year
or map the direction of the road
that’s brought me to where I stand
in this moment

But there are moments of clarity
like now
as I stand with my soul mate
and I think about
the oak I planted as a child
in my parent’s yard,
its branches are arching up now
over above the house,
its trunk is strong
its roots are deep
its alive with birds and nests
squirrels and dragonflies,
and breezes that part the leaves
to reveal acorns
peeking through –
a hundred promises
waiting to be planted.

- Peter Cholewinski

I'm glad I chose the reworked version. It felt perfect in the moment!