Monday, September 29, 2008

Movie trailers on my portal

Hi Everyone,

This is fun! If you go to my Market America web portal, you can see long trailers of the new movies that are out. Better yet, you can TYPE IN YOUR ZIP CODE and see trailers of the movies at your local theater (or any zip code you like). Check it out! On the right-hand side of the page scroll down a couple of inches to the Entertainment section. Below the listing of movies, there's a box to enter your own zip code. They have a short review and nice, long selections from the movie. I'm not too picky about the movies I see within certain genres, but I'm enjoying this. If I were going to the theater, I think this could make a difference. Usually I wait until they're out on DVD. Did anyone see Be Kind, Rewind with (and by) Jack Black? Omigod, it was so terrible we stopped watching right in the middle. I'll usually stick it out, but not for that one. I loved School of Rock. I guess he thought he was titanium-clad after that. If I'd seen the trailer I would have avoided it! I don't usually fill in those "favorite movie" lists, because there are so many I like I can't remember names, let alone favorites.

So, what's the leaf about? A few days ago I stepped out the front door and there it was. We have a lot of trees that turn yellow around here, and they're just starting to turn. Some are more than just starting. We don't have a lot that turn bright red, so it was a nice surprise to see the leaf. After a bit of a search, I found the tree up on Marine Drive not too far away, but it was behind some other trees, and not readily apparent. One of the seasonal changes I enjoy is that first day when you feel like, "This is Fall. It's Fall weather today." I felt that on the day I saw the leaf, but it was actually one day after the official first day of Fall. The white bits are junk from the work on the roof and siding of the building.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bye bye Lemon Grass, hello Divine Calm

The lemon grass ginger bath and shower gel (a gift from Kate) has been one of my totally most favorite-ever scents and bath products. It's about gone now, and I'm packing my gym bag with Divine Calm, which seemed like a good choice for a busy world. I got it at one of Laurel's Body Shop parties. Mmmm. Lavender is nice. It seems a little weird mixed with camomile, but maybe it will be relaxing.

I was going to some artwork today after avoiding it for months and months (maybe years), and I avoided it again. I put up more dog pins in the gift shop and on the gift shop blog, cleaned up papers in the office that had been in horrifying stacks for way too long, hand-washed a blouse and dried it on the deck, organized and filed stuff on my desk, moved a lot of file folders, hung up t-shirts (although I need to find a way to fit another hanging rod in here somewhere) and then went to work out at the gym and take a shower. I stopped in to see Margi for a bit, came back and got my credit card info organized (again, after months of avoiding it), got my character in Fate down past dungeon level 40, and then made a couple of posts on this blog, including some older photos of the day I came to Oregon. It's weird how I'll go for so long without organizing things until I'm completely freaked and feeling out of control. I like organizing, but I'll pitch into work or almost anything instead. It felt so good to get it done. I can find things now, and it didn't even take that long. I have to remember that! I still need to move and wash/dust all of the surfaces and the stuff on the shelves once the construction is done in a few days. Most of the remodeling was outside or upstairs, but it knocked things off the shelves and brought down bits of the ceiling. I was surprised one day to find a tapir skull in the middle of the floor. Fortunately the floor was carpeted, and no damage was done. A ceramic tapir on wheels was toppling, and I caught it just in time. I had no idea that replacing siding would be so violent. It seems that buildings on pilings sway more than the average structure. I hadn't considered that! Also, our windows were all replaced and the walls partly re-cut, so there's sawdust in the books, CDs, telephones, printers. . . . Everything. And tomorrow? Maybe after work I'll make a collage. We'll see.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What kind of bird is this?

The bird on the left is the one in question. I don't know. It looks a lot like a cormorant, but the cormorants we normally see are black like the one on the right. In the bent position of the black one it's hard to tell for sure, but the black one clearly appeared smaller and the beak is narrower. There were two of the gray birds on the old railroad ties, and both were bigger than the normal-looking cormorants. The wing feathers have a pretty design in them, and in my bird book the cormorant (which looks like the black one) also had similar designs, a little lighter than the black wings. So, I don't know. There was nothing in the Birds of Oregon book that looked like the gray bird. Any ideas? I took the photo from Pier 39 in Astoria, Oregon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Acceptance and the Star

I went down to the docks on the west side of Astoria to take photos of the huge cruise ship Norwegian Star, when I noticed the seagulls. After the post of September 9, I thought I'd move in closer and look at some seagull feet. One seagull looked different. The photo was taken at the extension of the zoom, so Ms. Duck was not as clearly differentiated to the naked eye. Click on the photo to enlarge it. It's a nice picture of the duck. I love it that they are all hanging out together not seeming to notice their differences that much. I remember early on in my life here in Astoria in the parking lot of the old Safeway, I came across a flock made up of seagulls, sparrows(?), and one starling. There may have been some other bird as well. I enjoy the memory of that grouping. And yes, these seagulls also have white feet and legs (see the post from September 9).

The Norwegian Star from the west. You can see a bit of the Astoria-Megler bridge - the 4-mile span between here and Washington. It's hard to show how huge this ship appears in real life. When the ships come in, sales in our local shops go up and it's hard to find seating in the restaurants. Needless to say, Astoria's economy enjoys this. What I can't figure out is the hugely increased number of cars on the streets, unless friends have come in from Portland to visit. Actually, we did meet a couple in our store the other day who had come to meet friends who were visiting by ship. Does it really happen that often? I guess it must.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Morning, September 21 - Astoria, Oregon

Through the window at Coffee Girl. The white ship is the NOAA research vessel. I'm not sure what they're up to today, but a small boat took off at speed from the side of it, and then came around again quickly. Maybe they're tracking salmon? You can never tell, but the salmon are out there this week for sure. Ask the sea lions.

The cool thing about this photo, especially if you click on it to enlarge it, is that you can see one of the ships sitting on the river. It looks like it's on the pier, but it's not.

It was one of those days - foggily atmospheric outside and the feeling of having a free day and too much I wanted to do with it inside. If Laurel hadn't called me out to coffee (top photo, at Coffee Girl), I would have been at the PC ALL day. As it was, I made some progress with the animal jewelry web pages, putting more butterflies on the menu page, scanning and putting up a tarantula, some more gecko/salamanders, and some snakes. I don't know why this stuff takes SO long, but it does. I was messing with the format and organization a bit more and optimizing with links from other pages. The details never end. If the new site starts getting some traffic, it might simplify my life. It's fun, I just wish I had more time. But then, actually, by the time I get the old pin menu page pared down (taking out the individual items) and turned into links pages like the butterfly page and this one, Google will have found these new pages insects, reptiles, and more to come). So I guess it works out. Funny how that happens.

The landlord (Marty) spent the day putting in a new floor upstairs, so it was noisy. I've gotten used to that, as they've re-done the whole outside and underpinnings of the building. It will be nice when it's quiet again, though.

Laurel just finished blogging, too. She has lots of pregnant pictures now and people pictures. It's nice. I think I want to take more people pictures. Did you notice my blogs are mostly things and animals? Scenery? I don't dislike people, but yeah, I sure do avoid taking photos of them (and of me). A new day, a new world. It could happen.

Friday, September 19, 2008

What do you get when you cross an artist and a geek?

I don't know, but I've spent some time writing about it on the gift shop blog tonight. I had fun working on the site and trying to improve it. Working with Les's beautiful pins didn't hurt, either. I love looking at them. I get a lot of creative pleasure from working on the site, solving various issues, making it more usable, nicer looking, easier to use. But I can also feel the call to paper and paint yelling at me. Paper, paint, pencils, whatever. I've been away from it for awhile. Also, in all the time I've been working on the web I have, for the most part, either "not found the time" or not been brave enough to post my own personal art (much). I think that's changing. Maybe I'll do some this weekend.

As with my photos, I'll probably pre-date any early art I post. I like chronology, and I wish Blogger would let you date a post earlier than 1970 - but it's not really Blogger's fault, it seems to be something built into the web. When they built the Internet's guts, they were projecting forward in time, not back. But the goal is to actually make some new art, too. I don't know why I fight it. It's easier to make blogs and web pages, probably because there's less of myself in them. I've put up a few "safe" things over the years. At the moment I'm thinking of a drawing of a goose, and there's some stuff in the Journey section. That being what it is (link to link to link), it's easier to get a look at the artwork here. Some of it I like a lot and some is just off balance. I'm not sure why I used it. These pages were fun - working with the colors and text. I think this one is nice. It even attempts to explain why I like making collages.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Astoria, Oregon, weather report . . . and birds

After a number of bright, sunny days all in a row, the weather report is 51 degrees at nearly 9 in the morning, and heavy overcast. I guess it's more the way Astoria is "supposed" to look. The sun was nice, but it actually got a bit warm here. Most buildings have no air conditioning, and something strange (?) that I noticed the year I arrived - most businesses also have no cross-draft - i.e., no two windows you can open anywhere in the building that let the breeze air the place out and disperse the muggy heat that tends to build up indoors on nice days. (After a couple of warm days, you might as well be in Florida.) In many cases, this is because there is no air space between buildings. They have common walls on the sides and the back, so there's no opportunity for windows even if they had been considered. In our building here on the water, there are plenty of windows - most of them simply don't open, or if they do open, they don't create a cross draft with any other windows. This was partially remedied this past month when all of the windows were replaced, but there are still areas where there's no draft. A couple of us here are heat-sensitive (which is actually why I moved to the North Coast). Our air conditioner was also removed during re-modelling, and has no place in the new facade. This next summer, we're going to have to get creative with fans. Referring back to the photo, I've always loved the coloring on this ship. It's fun to see the variety that come through here.

Part of the building-wide renovations included a new deck. The coloration is not a mistake - the materials are supposed to fade to matching colors with a little time. It's nice to see it without clutter. I'll probably bring the potted herbs back from the front, but since we now have a covering over the whole deck, I'll have to remember to water them.

This morning I saw small birds feeding on the pilings. I don't remember these birds, and I'd like to find out what they are. Below is an enlargement - a poor photo, but you get the idea - a brown bird with white spots. It's always fun to see animals I haven't noticed before. (UPDATE: The birds are starlings - thank you, Tom Means! I see on Google that many of the photos show starlings with spots. I somehow grew up thinking they were only black with yellow eyes, and then gave it no more thought. Tom says that the winter color and also the coloring of females and juveniles is spotted. I'll be on the lookout for them now!)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

New web site - crafts from the tropics and more

I've been working on the new gift shop web site a lot lately. I changed the whole face of it over the weekend and added some new categories. The picture above is a bit of the Amazon River - a slice out of a photo I took. I may replace it sometime, but I wanted something to use as a title background with a flattish area where I could superimpose the type, and I found this one in my files from my trip to Brazil with Lee in April, 2007. It seemed appropriate, because the site will include quite a number of items hand made in Latin America. I thought and thought over the idea of a short title that would say what I wanted to express, and could only come up with a long one: "Tapir's World ~ Arts, Crafts, Cultures, and Other Wonders of Planet Earth." It will include more than animals. It will also be about nature and about cultures. It's a mouthful, but the concept is pretty simple. Maybe I'll find a minimalist title as I live with it. Or not.

I started the new site as an experiment to see how the Market America web sites worked in practice. It seemed I'd be able to put items into the online store quickly, and it turned out to be true. I had a lot of painted animal pins on consignment from the artist, and the new method worked like a charm. I got several hundred up where people can see them, and I still have a few hundred to go. I actually got about 50 of them scanned and online in one day, but that was without optimizing, which can be done later. The gorgeous piranha pin below is one of my favorite pieces of painted animal jewelry in our store.

Next I decided to put up some werregue baskets (or jars) from Colombia. I say, "or jars," because despite the woven surface, they hold water. These are really special, and you can read more about them here. I'd had them in the shop for a few months and hadn't decided how to present them online. With the coding method I use on our other web site (hand-made HTML), I can present nice big photos on each item page, but to build a page for a one-of-a-kind item isn't very practical. I now had a good way to put up the five baskets in stock fairly quickly. They look nice. You do have to click all the way through to the order page before there's an option for enlargement. The more I work with the site, I'm sure I'll find a way to showcase certain items with larger images more easily. Anyway, the baskets are gorgeous and unique, and it was fun to finally see them online. Sergio got these for us in Colombia, and we'll be posting more about that later. We'll also be getting six more in the next shipment.

Next I started putting up the palo de sangre (or bloodwood) carved animals. Again, these are items Sergio sent from Colombia. We've had them on our original site, but again, each is unique and looks different from the next. The sizes and colors vary, etc., so I needed a way to display each exact piece that a customer would buy and to be able to get them offline again easily when they were sold. It turns out, I can take an item out of the catalog with basically three link or button clicks. So I began building our online inventory of carved palo de sangre wood animals again. I still have a number of them to photograph and put online, including armadillos and some more fish.

The carved wood animal pens (see the elephant pen below) are from China. We've imported our own shipment once, but it's not something we do every day. They ARE hand carved and painted, but they're done in mass quantities, unlike the red wood above. As it turns out, our new site is good for displaying these pens because the automated thumbnail photos are sized by width (100 pixels) and the length is in proportion. I should have thought of this for our other site, but it didn't occur to me. Our other site uses thumbnails at 100 pixels height, although I could break the scheme for something like vertical pens. It just hadn't occurred to me.

Next I put up Sergio's ceramic giant river otter. He used to work more in ceramics when he lived in Cali, where he had more outdoor space and access to a kiln. We have the one otter left, and there are a few more animals I'll be putting online in this category soon.

At that point, the site was becoming pretty interesting, but it still looked a bit bare. I decided to add some categories where I may have only a few items, but ones that had been problematic with our old site for reasons given above. I added the fish and turtle hair combs. They're probably mass produced in China, but they seem special to me because Lee and I found them on our trip to Sicily, and I'm not sure I've seen them online before. I tried the vertical approach, as with the pens. We only have 4 or 5 of each, so this site seemed the right place for them.

And then there's the tapir (below). This is Lucia, a baby Baird's tapir Lee and I saw in Panama. She'd made big news because Adrian Benedetti, Director of the Summit Zoo, had just taken part in a sting operation to transfer her safely from poachers to the authorities. We arrived in Panama City shortly after Lucia came to the zoo, and we were allowed to visit and scratch her, which tapirs like a lot. What's she doing here on the blog? No, she's not for sale! But she and her kind are why we're doing this - why we're selling animal-themed gifts, crafts, and toys, and especially why we're developing our new site featuring products made in the countries where tapirs live and now need our human intervention to survive. If we can't stay out of their way and let them live as they have for hundreds of thousands of years, then we're going to have to become more actively involved in making sure they survive despite our interference. Here's to Lucia, her relatives, all other critters of the wild, and the habitat they need to make it through the next decades.

Two seagulls

Lee and I were returning from a stoll along the River Walk when I snapped these two seagulls near the Maritime Museum. The top one is a juvenile, with the speckled plumage. The second seems to have nearly completed its adult moult, as it still has some mottling on its head. I don't notice that very often. But what's with the feet? I also hadn't noticed until I began working with these photos that the gulls have white legs and feet. I thought they were supposed to be yellow. I googled seagulls and found that that their feet seem to range from red to yellow to black, and I even saw one with very white eyes. I think the ubiquitous seagull must be more complex, and probably interbred, than I had ever given thought to. I've always liked them. Although they're often considered pests, I don't find them a bother. I'll be paying more attention to them and when I get a minute, I'll read something about them. For now, I've got to run. Ciao.

LATER NOTE: According to my Oregon bird book, the spotted heads indicate winter plumage. I had no idea! I'll keep watching.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Sunset on the Columbia River

It was warm and almost balmy into the early evening, just beginning to turn cool here. I love the reflection of the sky on the water, where the water is so light it's the same intensity as the sky (top photo). The parallel lines are the trolley track that runs along the waterfront. I took these photos at the place where the road goes out onto Pier 39. The patch of water is East Mooring basin, and the forest of fishing boats' masts makes a wonderful middle-ground for the photos. In the top pic, you can see a tiny bit of the Astoria-Megler bridge on the left. The dark background seen behind the masks is not the Washington coastline this time, but a fog bank coming in off the ocean and making its way upriver. We'd had another warm and sunny day, and typically a few days of warm weather will suck the fog in off the ocean and bring fog and overcast skies with it.

In hindsight, I should have framed the picture with more weeds in it. I had to do that trick with the digital camera, where you meter the light on the bright area (the sky) then re-frame your picture quickly before the exposure re-sets if you want to make the photo match what you're seeing. There must be a better way to do it, but I haven't figured it out yet. In any case it would take longer. I'll try to remember my framing for another time. It's the first thing some people think about, but often the last thing I think of.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A sunny Sunday in Astoria

On August 21, I noted that we'd been having winter-like squalls for a couple of days. I don't dislike them at all, and I don't dread the dark, wet days of winter. But the sun is glorious, especially here where we can't count on it. I threw a few things in my backpack and sauntered down the River Walk. From our location at 15th Street, the walk goes east, which has more trees and less city, and west, which is right through the main part of town. I headed west to return a video, then got my camera out as I headed back east toward Sunday Market and home. The top photo is not too far from the video store. The town is on the right (on land, yup) and the red building is Pier 11.

This is looking back behind me (west). I like this part of the walk, as it passes fish canneries that are still operational in some seasons. The tourist trolley runs along this track.

Um. That's a wave. The only waves we get on the river are when boats stir up a wake. There were more than the usual number of smaller boats on the river today because of nice weather, and maybe because the salmon have been running. We also get waves when it's stormy or windy, but the point is, this is not the ocean. There's a lot of water here, but there are not always waves. On a day like today, when you see a couple of waves in the placid water, they're from boat wakes. I love the green pilings. The moss gets long and stringy. Check out the working boat and ship below. That's with a long lens. The mountains are four miles away in Washington.

I love the scene. People use the river walk for running, biking, hanging out, walking. It's Astoria's most scenic and laid-back transportation route as well as entertainment and getting or staying in shape. It's a social venue as well. The red building to the left is Pier 11 again, and the darker red one on the right is the ever-popular Wet Dog Cafe. The outdoor tables were packed today.

See that long pole? It's bigger than it looks here. It doesn't seem to be tied down to anything, so I'm guessing the river dumped it here and will take it back out when the tide comes in. We have about an 8-foot tide through town. The red building is Pier 11 again, and the white building has had fish markets in it from time to time.

This is Xclusive Salon upstairs at Docks on 12th. It's where I get my hair done. I like the image of it hanging right out into the sky. Below is more of the landward end of the building. Like many buildings along the river, a few feet of it are on land, and the rest is on pilings over the water.

Sunday Market. It was actually hot when I turned away from the water the short half block to the market. Under the awnings are fruit, vegetables (much of it organic), and hand-made or home-grown things you can buy. I loaded up on fruit and veg. They taste so much better this way. I also bought some earrings. A person can never have too many. The vendors rent the spaces for an entire season, rain or shine, and the stuff has to be made by the people who sell it. You can also get a massage or a tarot reading.

In the parking lot next to the organic stalls there is always a band playing (usually very good). This is where the barbecue and ready-to-eat food is sold. Mostly it's off my current eating plan, and that's OK. I feel so much better not eating it. It smells good, though. It's a nice place for people to gather. You can see the radio tower against the sky on the right. It's at the foot of our building (Tapir Preservation Fund, The Animal Store, home). You can see how close it is to the market. You can also see in on Google Earth, but it looks like a flag. You can look for 1490 Marine Drive, which is our address. Google has that address (not too strangely) in the middle of Marine Drive. But we're not on Marine Drive actually, we're on the River Walk, which has no addresses of its own. If you Googlearth it, just take the extra few paces toward the water. That's us.

Occasionally, such as today, there's also stuff going on it the parking lot that used to be the downtown Safeway. Sunday Market is not very visible in the background. The emcee was explaining a contest that was about to begin involving crab pots (the wire traps you see there) ropes, glasses of fake beer (rootbeer), a pretend bar, and, as barmaids, some of the cast of Shangheid in Astoria. I didn't quite follow and the sun was getting hot. Time to buy my veggies and head home.

Home Sweet Home (below) has been the object of much exterior refurbishing for the past few weeks. They're doing a beautiful job. They've progressed to the roof, and today one of the two Jims was laying a new back deck. More pix on this another time. I can still get in, but barely. The entrance is on the right near the piles of shingles sitting on the back of the truck. The patch of dirt in the foreground is the trolley track. Behind me as I take the photo is Marine Drive. The whole asphalt area in front of the building is not a street, but the River Walk, although cars can drive on it at this point. I love it here. I would like to own it, but I don't. I do have at least a few more years to enjoy the location, though.

All for now. Back soon :)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sunset . . . pilings in the river

Once again, this was taken from the back deck of our building. It was just one of those moments. I didn't mess with the colors, but the camera uses the light differently when the frame is dark, so the image was a little changed from what my eyes had seen. Still, it was a striking moment, with the ruffled surface of the water, the reflection of the evening colors on the old Englund Marine building, and the shimmer of the pilings in the tide.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Autumn colors, mauve wall

Every year I intend to take a picture of this tree when it changes into its autumn colors. Some years I get a good picture, and some years I don't. Often, the days I have my camera with me the sky is overcast or there are cars parked in front of the tree. This time there was a large white truck, but I was able to crop it out and still have enough of the photo. There's something about the shape and the color of the orange and yellow in front of the mauve colored wall that appeals to me. This tree is across the street from the Bank of Astoria (now re-named Columbia National Bank), and around the corner from Deja Vu.

Improvement in circulation and in cardiovascular risk factors with a proprietary isotonic bioflavonoid formula OPC-3

Here is the link to the study. OPC-3 is an antioxidant and antinflammatory supplement that you drink each day. Actually, that *I* drink each day because it's had such an effect on my health, banishing most of my fibromyalgia symptoms, or perhaps banishing all of them most of the time. It's given me a lot of energy and taken away a lot of pain. For that reason, among others, I became a distributor of the products. It was nice to see this study. I mean, I know that OPC-3 works. Here's more proof. If you have any questions, give me a jingle!