Entries to Win Afghan

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Sunday, September 30, 2012

ArtPrize- First Impressions

You may have heard of Grand Rapids, Michigan, ArtPrize. Surely you have if you are from Michigan, but it's gaining national recognition, too. Just for the record, it's a yearly competition begun in 2009. The winners are picked by popular vote, recorded through techno voting. This year there are 1,516 entries, and $560,000 in prize money. Most of the art is displayed outside. There are some juried exhibits (not sure we saw those), but mostly it's open submissions.

Om and I went today with no great plan to try to cover any set number of exhibits or even to try to see enough of them to vote. We just thought we'd go to the area with the highest concentration of exhibits and take in whatever we could. We'd seen a few of them featured on the TV news, but with so many entries, it would take serious time and effort to even casually view most or all.

We probably saw about 100, and I took pictures of almost 50. Today, they revealed the top 10 (one more week of voting time left). As it turns out, we only saw 3 of those 10. Today, I'll just give you some impressions.

I like how people were allowed to interact with most of the pieces. Many of them were labeled as "OK to touch." People liked to pose with them. This dragon named "Norm" was a big favorite.

Norm the dragon

There were a lot of constructions made of recycled materials. More than a few of those leaned toward skeletal figures. This bad boy is one member of "Heavy Metal Rock Band."

welded skeleton rock band figure

ArtPrize may be even more difficult to share on a blog than the Philadelphia Flower Show, because there are SO many different kinds of things.

Some exhibits were quite realistic, like this mosaic made of glass called "Return to Eden."

glass mosaic Garden of Eden

Others are stylized or modern like this one called "Concretely the Remix."

concrete casts Concretely the Remix

There were paintings or drawings. I didn't get the name of this one- sorry, but it's a pencil drawing.

face pushing through cloth

Others were intentionally interactive like "Junk Yard Music Box," which had a carillon made of gas canisters cut off into bells, and several instruments people could play. This is a lithophone (like a xylophone, but made with stone bars).


I see that I haven't included any really abstract pieces in these pictures. There were some- stabiles and mobiles, and paintings. This is just a taste. When we got overwhelmed and hungry we ate at the BOB (Big Old Building), and then came home. Nifty day.

Tomorrow, I'll show you some of my favorites of the small selection we saw. Might be hard to narrow down... Maybe two days.

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

Kayaking the Pere Marquette

Today will have too many pictures, but you'll have to suffer through. It was a great day! Ester, Ellen and I kayaked from Bowman Bridge to Upper Branch Bridge on the Pere Marquette River. Counting a couple of stops, we were on the river for 5 1/2 hours. It was a perfect day!

Just this week the colors have begun showing up in the trees. The air was crisp and the sun warm!


We paddled for a couple of hours and pulled out on a shallow bank to eat lunch. Just to prove we were all there: Ester and Ellen


Joan and Ester


Most of the water was pretty smooth, but in a few places we got in to some riffle-y rapids. Nothing difficult, just a little fun.


We saw a few interesting details, but it was really hard to get good pictures because the water was moving fast enough that it was hard for the camera to focus. We saw a really large wasp (bald-faced hornet) nest. It seemed to be unoccupied- shut down for the winter- but I sure didn't bump it to check that!

wasp nest

This was really neat, but I didn't get a single good picture. We only saw one turtle all day. The weather has cooled and even with sun today, most of the turtles must have already headed for the mud. But, the one turtle we saw was was the somewhat rare Blanding's Turtle. You can tell because of the rather high shell and yellow chin.

Blanding's Turtle

By far, the greatest activity on the river today was fishing. The salmon are beginning to run upstream, and there were anglers every few yards for almost the entire distance. I would be 95% correct if I used the more common term "fishermen." But we did see a few women. Once in a while we saw a fish swimming, and we saw a few get caught. These guys had just netted this one off the line.

catching salmon

We did have one extra bit of excitement. Just before the takeout, less than five minutes from the end, Ester thought she should take a bath. (Not really, it was definitely not planned.) Over she went, right in a fast bit of current as the river went under a bridge. She verified that the water was "really cold." But she got the kayak to the bank and emptied it, and only lost one little personal item. Everything else was in a bag clipped to the kayak. Since we were SO close to the end she waited to get into dry clothes till we all got off the river, and all was well.

It was a totally wonderful day!

See Personally Crafted Paper for another wasp nest

See The Secret Pond and an Amazing Turtle for another Blanding's turtle
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Friday, September 28, 2012

Succulent Oak Gall

This was a mystery a week in the solving. I think I mentioned last Saturday that a few of us took a walk between workshops and dinner. While we were walking, we came across thousands of these small "fruits" in the trail.

succulent oak galls

The picture looks mostly brownish, but the balls ranged from light pink to pale yellow to grayish brown. They are about a half inch in diameter. One of the other walkers also knew plants pretty well, and we were just stumped. What were they?

I looked up hawthorn and hackberry, but couldn't find a good match, although both of those can be about that size. I cut one open, but it didn't seem to have much structure inside.

So... tonight, my buddy Ester is here. (There will be a nice adventure story tomorrow), and she's another plant weenie. She thought it looked like some kind of gall.

We cut one of them open now that they are quite dry, and look what we got! A very definite structure, but not that of a fruit.

succulent oak galls

OK, very odd. Any galls I've found were attached firmly to leaves or branches. But some internet searching revealed that this is probably a succulent oak gall, caused by a cynipid wasp. There are dozens of species, and each targets a particular oak creating unique galls.

A gall is caused when an insect "stings" a plant with its ovipositor, and lays an egg. This irritates the plant which grows non-typical cells to surround the egg, which creates the gall. I have some pictures of other interesting galls. Maybe I should feature some of them in the future.

Since the interior structure (of the one I cut open) doesn't have a tunnel to the outside, the larvae didn't develop and burrow out of the gall.

But at least we solved the mystery.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bushy Aster

Aster identification can be a bit mysterious. They tend to look a lot alike, so you really have to pay attention to the leaves. For example, I've been thinking this one was a different blue aster (I won't say which one because it will just confuse all of us). But tonight I got serious about details, and determined that it is Bushy Aster, Aster dumosus.

bushy aster

Its flowers are about an inch across, and light blue to lavender. Its growth habit is, well, bushy... a lot like Calico Aster (but that one is white, and the flowers are smaller).

bushy aster

It grows around the Great Lakes region, and likes sandy soil. That's a given, here. Now, I have to work at telling the difference in the leaves from the Calico Aster, since they are both many-branched and bushy.

See Calico Aster
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Blue Heron as Art

I was looking for something else to picture, but a heron decided to pose for me. However, it was pretty much into the sun, so I just played with things to take advantage of the silhouette effect. Which one do you like?

If this were mirrored, I think it could be a book cover.

blue heron
This one is just exactly how it came out of the camera. I like the textures.

blue heron
I cropped this one a bit and added more green. I love the shadow.

blue heron
If you aren't into being artsy, here's the most amazing one of all. When the heron finally flew away all it did was circle around so that the sun was behind me. I cropped this, but did nothing else. Best heron picture I ever took. Maybe one of the best bird pictures.

blue heron

See Bird Game Answer
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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Strolling with Maggie

Having an old dog who still likes her walks is a challenge I've never dealt with before. Today was beautiful, with warm but crisp air. I was planning to do a longish walk at Nordhouse Dunes and leave Maggie home. However, she clearly wanted to be outside and go somewhere.

So, we changed destinations, and lengths, and speeds. We did a three-mile stroll on the North Country Trail. That's really about her limit, but I walked at her speed, which turned out to be almost exactly 1.5 miles an hour. That's about half my usual pace.

dog in trail

She's sprawled across my feet now, sound asleep. Everything seems to be suspended between summer and fall. The leaves haven't really turned colors yet, but they are dry and old. Ferns are undecided about what to wear, yellow? green? brown? Moss is ever a holdout for green.


While the forest floor fades to brown, tiny orange fingers wave, "We are here! Not everything is falling asleep."


The dog is snoring. What about tomorrow? Who knows. But for Maggie, today was good.

See Dear Old Maggie
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Monday, September 24, 2012

Birch Light

Morning light through the birch tree was an exceptional color.

glow of sunrise through leaves

Today is one of those days when I needed this little "quality" moment.

glow of sunrise through leaves

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Enjoying the Ordinary

Rested, goofed off, gave myself a break today. My brain and social skills are pretty fried from the conference. I did my 3-mile road loop walk for exercise. (Maggie doesn't do that with me any more.) Didn't see anything spectacular, but there are ordinary things which can bring on a smile.

New England Aster:

New England Aster

Black-eyed Susan:

Black-eyed Susan

And, too far away for good focus, but boldly standing in the road, a deer. She was keeping her eye on me, though.


I picked up 50 cents worth of bottles and cans, and hunted for any wild grapes. I don't think there are any of those this year, either.

Tomorrow, it's "back to work."

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Blood and Tea - Day 2

Today, we had four more workshops and another panel discussion. D.E. Johnson talked about "Creating the unforgettable setting"

d.e. johnson

Lev Raphael covered "The art of giving a reading."

lev raphael

Elizabeth Buzzelli helped us "Find the story that lights your mind," And Aaron Stander talked about his success with self-publishing.

Today's panel discussion was about the biggest mistakes mystery writers make, which was a great opportunity for making jokes as well as potential mistakes, and segued into more questions about publishing.

Then four of us went for a walk- that was great. We'd been sitting a long time. After dinner, we heard readings by Elizabeth and Lev.

Definitely learned quite a few things, and made several new friends as well as what you might simply call networking or making contacts.

See Blood and Tea - Day 1
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Friday, September 21, 2012

Blood and Tea - Day 1

This was the first day of the Blood and Tea Mystery Writer's Conference. Full Day!

There are four Michigan mystery writers who are leading the workshops. Today, you get pictures of two of them. I chose to feature these two simply because their pictures turned out. I'll try for the other two tomorrow.

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli spoke about "Beginnings that kill: Openings that grab the reader and don't let go."

Elizabeth Kane Buzelli

Aaron Stander spoke about "Crafting Scenes: Creating Moments"

Aaron Stander

We also heard from D.E. Johnson on "Creating characters readers can't forget," and from Lev Raphael on "Writing sex scenes that don't make readers laugh."

There was a panel discussion on how to get an agent and also on publishing options. In the evening, two of the authors did readings from their books.

In between, we ate meals together, and one lady and I walked out to the lighthouse to get some exercise. Good connections. I learned things in each of the sessions.

But, I'm very tired. One more day. I'll try to get pix of the other writers.

See An Evening with Michigan Author D.E. Johnson
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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Back to Peacock, by Rail

I'm what's known as a "railfan." I like railroad history, trains and all the associated paraphernalia. So, I have to take you back to Peacock.

Here's a map from the Comprehensive Railroad Atlas of North America. You can find Peacock at the crossing of two dashed lines. Dashed lines are railroads that are no longer in business that were standard gauge (the distance between the two rails).

Peacock, Michigan railroads

The north-south line began as part of the Pere Marquette system, and ended its life under Chesapeake and Ohio's flag. I think its route can be seen on the road map I showed a couple of days ago as the power line road. Peacock was 85.0 miles north of Grand Rapids.

The east-west line was the Michigan East & West Railway which ran from Manistee to Marion (south of Cadillac). There it connected with the Ann Arbor Railroad. A timetable places Peacock at milepost 31.2 from Manistee. The entire line was only 71.9 miles long. I haven't noticed an obvious railbed for this line, but it was abandoned in 1917, so it might require more than a casual search to find. (The next station west was at Sauble, a town even more "gone" than Peacock. I blogged about it last year. See Sauble.)

The crossing was interlocked. What that means is the signals and switches were mechanically linked so that two trains could not enter the crossing at the same time. I've found a wonderful picture of the Peacock station at Railroad History of Michigan.

Peacock, Michigan railroad station

Guess I'll have to search Peacock more carefully for this location.

See A Tour of Peacock
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sustaining the Bike & Beach Report

A friend from Pentwater, Shelly, rides her bike around town and down to the beach and posts a cute little summary on Facebook that she calls the Bike & Beach Report. However, this important service was recently in jeopardy due to a broken brake cable.

Shelly was dismayed to learn that the bike shop down her way had already closed for the season, and was asking where else she might take her bike to be fixed.

Well, I hadn't seen her in a coon's age, and that's such a simple job, I said I'd do it. Today was the day!

Her husband, Larry, is having sight issues, so he couldn't do it alone, but every job needs a good supervisor.

replacing a bike cable

Of course, the work needed to be tested, so we took a spin around town. Let me tell you, on a windy, chilly day, the report from the beach is "empty."

bike rider

Shelly treated me to lunch and Larry washed my car! Plus, I got to visit with them. I really haven't seen them in a long time. I'm sure I got the best end of the whole deal.

We were smiling! (And I had to use this picture, because how often do I get to be the tall one?)


Now, the Bike & Beach Report is saved for the season, until the snow flies.

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