Quote of the Moment

"It's never wrong to hope, Byx," said my mother. "Unless the truth says otherwise."
- from Endling #1: The Last, by Katherine Applegate

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Halfway to the End

As of tonight, the end of the sixth month of the year, 2011 will officially be half over.

Yes, I panicked, too.

On the downside:
- I've still failed to secure secondary income sources; part-time jobs I'm remotely qualified for don't seem to be appearing, and I haven't even tried making anything to sell online.
- I still haven't started at least one project I'd meant to have done by now.
- I've completely dropped the ball on picking up the exercise habit.
- I'm still effectively standing in my own way when it comes to artistic improvement.
- I haven't finished editing the story I'd wanted to sent out for beta-reading by now.
- I still have piles of Stuff I need to sell off, donate, or otherwise relocate to a place that isn't here.
- I still haven't (insert other project, activity, or personal improvement goal here).

On the upside:
- I'm still alive.
- I'm still employed.
- My father's still among the living.
- My grandfather's still among the living... and actually doing better than we had any reason to expect.
- I still have a working motor vehicle. (The other day, I came out of the store and saw a gold sedan with its entire front bumper and grille on the ground - right about where I parked. Nearly had heart failure until I realized I was one aisle off...)
- I now own a (cheap-arse prepaid) cell phone, bringing me one step closer to the 21st century.
- I've read 27 new (or new-to-me) books... which puts me on track to top 750 reviews by the end of the year.
- Slow as I'm going, I'm still filling sketchbook pages.
- And I managed a trip to the zoo. Can't knock a trip to the zoo...

All in all, I'm still breathin' air... which is ultimately all one can ask of the Universe to provide. The rest, unfortunately, is up to us.

Dang it...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Summer that Time Forgot

While a fair portion of the country, as I understand it, has been wilting under heat, my own little green and damp corner has been... well, green and damp.  I read recently that we averaged 75% of days below normal temps this spring.  Having never truly gotten a spring, I nevertheless found myself confronted with a summer.  There it was, bold as brass and twice as shiny, staring at me on the calendar.

For once, the weather actually agreed with the date.

Seeing as how none of us were feeling excessively poorly, and the weather was being so bright and cheerful, we figured we ought to celebrate.

So we hit the zoo.

Woodland Park Zoo has a special display of animatronic dinosaurs this summer, which we'd planned to visit before school got out before Life reared its terrifying head and interrupted our plans. Today seemed as good a day as any to brave the swarms of kids; it's not like the brats were going to get any thinner. I packed up my two cameras (my little purse-sized Canon PowerShot and the ol' reliable 15x-zoom Sony Cybershot - and if you can't tell the difference between which camera took which picture, I'll pretend it's a compliment to the manufacturers and not a statement of my insufficent photo-editing capabilities) and we headed on down. (I also took my sketchbook, in the off chance I got a chance to sit and sketch. It never happens at any zoo I've ever gone to, but that doesn't stop me from taking it...)

Oh, and if the above wasn't forewarning enough: Yes, I am about to dump a metric snotload of photos on you.

It being the first warm day in some time, many of the animals were taking advantage to snooze. Cats being cats, the lions were no exception. This one forgot her zoo training, however, and fell asleep in camera range.

I know it's not the best shot, but in thirty-odd years it's the first time I've pulled off a photo of a blasted tapir that wasn't ruined by glass reflections or obnoxious kids pushing in my way.

One of the zoo's Asiatic elephants takes a little stroll, a perfect opportunity for a generic "elephant at the zoo" shot.

The lone African elephant, with its lone tusk, spent most of its time with its back to the viewing area. I swear that thing had developed the same sixth sense that causes birds to scatter near cameras. Patience finally paid off with a somewhat more flattering angle.

After the elephants, we wandered through the Trail of Vines orangutan exhibit. Even the apes were feeling the heat... which seems a bit wimpy of them, as their home is much warmer (and more humid), but I suppose they're used to dense forest canopy shading them.

An orangutan peers out from a burlap shelter.

I've never had the best of luck with the bears. Today, however, they proved much more cooperative, to the point where even I managed to fluke a decent snapshot.

For many years, the zoo had a display of bald eagles in need of rehab. This year, the baldies were gone... partly due to budget cuts, and partly due to a wild bald eagle pair building a nest in the caribou exhibit. (Why pay to display an animal that's just fine with displaying itself for free? ... Whoa, that came out wrong, didn't it?) In their place was a Steller's Sea Eagle. A most impressive substitute, even if it was heck to take a picture of due to the wire mesh in front of the viewing area.

After a break for lunch, we finally hit the dinosaur exhibit, where we found a helpful sign at the entrance.

Inside, we found several life-sized, if somewhat unconvincingly painted, animatronic dinos. Tails, jaws, forelimbs, even eyes moved in a somewhat eerie manner, complete with vocalizations. I swear the things had some sort of motion sensor; they seemed to keep following you as you moved in front of their displays.

Of course, some of them had better manners than others...

Many of them came in adult/juvenile pairings. This Styracosaurus had a young one off to the side (which didn't look quite so convincing.)

This was a fun little display; there was even a little baby hadrosaur that popped out of its egg. Really clever, the way they scattered throughout the zoo, with that guy in the white lab coat with the tranquilizer gun hot on their heels... hmm...

Of course, the king of the dinosaurs was, well, the king of the dinosaurs. Tyrannosaurus Rex, in the animatronic flesh. (Yes, I know they've found bigger carnosaurs. They're not "Rex," are they?)
You see pictures of the bones all the time, and think,"That's a big dinosaur." You see them in a museum, and you think,"That's a really big dinosaur." Then you see this...

... and you realize,"Holy crud, that's a really big dinosaur!"

Really... really... big...

You never know when you're going to run into a celebrity. There I was, with my sister, wandering through the Day exhibit (the remainder of the former Day and Night exhibit of diurnal and nocturnal animals, with the latter animals victims of budget shortfalls), when we saw a Gaboon Viper... star of many an episode of Animal Planet's Fatal Attractions. Unfortunately, we couldn't get an autograph. No hands to hold a pen... and we'd watched the show enough not to be anywhere near it without a good, solid protective barrier between its fangs and us.

An orchid sets the mood for the tropical house.

Watch out for snakes... a tree viper lurks in a treelike environment.

A tropical bird, of the toucanesque persuasion, carrying a stick for unknown reasons.

One of my favorite parts of the tropical house at the zoo is the room where numerous birds fly free over an elevated walkway. I could've spent much longer there, had I been alone... and had it not been quite so humid, it being a jungle environment and all...

A sunbittern showed up to put on a spectacular display, even fanning a brightly-colored wing... while I was at the precisely wrong angle to photograph it.

And so on and so forth...

After the birds, I checked back to see if the jaguar had roused itself from its hidden nap. It had, but it wasn't too keen on being seen, pacing out then turning right around and pacing back out of site.

Eventually, with the unaccustomed sun beating down and the unaccustomed miles on our shoes, we decided it was time to brave rush hour and head homeward. These flamingos seemed to have the right idea, right about then...

So, all in all, the first day of summer proved to be a decent one. Hopefully it's a good sign of things to come, in the weather and in life.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Back to Normality

On Wednesday, Dad started feeling sick.

Thursday morning, we weren't sure he'd pull through.

Dad came home today. He was well enough to walk out of the hospital under his own power. Aside from a few follow-ups and the usual restrictions on driving or heavy lifting for a time - and, of course, the two-odd meters of dead intestine the surgeons removed - he's back to normal.

Normality can be a great thing...

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Hammer in the Works

Dad's been having gut pain and some nausea all day. He finally decided to go down to the local ER, figuring it was a flu that they might be able to help with.

He's on his way to emergency surgery as I type for a bowel obstruction. Mom and my sister are going with him, while I man the fort here.

Dear gods of Heaven and Earth, please let that old man be all right...

THURSDAY UPDATE: Well, he's still kickin'... They wound up removing a good chunk of his remaining intestinal tract. He'll be in for about two weeks. Dunno if I should go into work right now - I mean, there's nothing staying home will do, but I don't expect I'll be much use. (Update as of a few minutes later: I called in. Family before work.)

THURSDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE: We went to visit Dad in the hospital, and things are looking cautiously optimistic. Bad numbers are going down, good numbers are going up, etc. If he'd waited another 24 hours to go in to the ER, though, things would've been much different...

FRIDAY UPDATE: Dad's done some sitting up and walking. He's reportedly a little tired (not surprising) but otherwise doing okay. His heart was acting up a bit, but his heart's done this before. By the weekend they're hoping to bump him up from surgical ICU to regular ICU (which actually means moving up a floor.) (Later: They figured out what the deal was with his heart; apparently, he's getting his meds in IV form rather then by pill - for obvious reasons - and that makes the heart meds kick in faster and wear off faster, making for an apparent jump and drop in heart rate. You'd think they'd know about this kind of thing at a hospital where patients get meds through IVs all the time... And he's still not in any pain, which is good. Anyway, they still mean to move him tomorrow or so.)

SATURDAY UPDATE: Still truckin' along... They want to move him, but can't find an open bed in the ward they want to move him to. (I think that many people do their elective/non-emergency surgeries on weekends, when they're off work anyway, so they're just full.) The weather's celebrating by being summerlike for about the first time since last summer.

SUNDAY UPDATE: Dad's been upgraded to an "intermediate" care room, hopefully on his way to a full-blown regular hospital room. He's looking better every day.

MONDAY UPDATE: He's been moved to a "normal" room, where he'll spend the duration of his stay according to the doctors. They seem happy with his rate of progress. I'm still shellshocked; it hasn't even been a week yet, and it feels simultaneously like a day and a month...

TUESDAY UPDATE: The hospital started Dad on solid foods today. He might come home as early as this evening.
Yeah... Dad's surprised, too...