Feb 17, 2011

A study in contrasts

In a frenetic but obviously cosmically-aligned concantenation of events, I spent the first part of last weekend in periods of contrasting elements, arranged side-by-side. On Friday I presented a program for our local independent music teachers' group on 'internet resources for music teachers' which went as well as could be expected. Of course there was a technical glitch just before it started, which was resolved with a bit of sweat and desperate quick-thinking. The second technical glitch occurred in the middle of the talk, and went unsolved.

I am far from an expert on all things digital, cyber and electronic, but I had a good time putting a lot of information together and sharing it with my friends and colleagues. So, the first contrast was the information itself (high-tech) presented to a bunch of teachers of acoustic instruments, mostly piano (decidedly low-tech, even we could say, gravity-powered).

Then I threw some clothes into a suitcase and headed north for a music technology workshop, some 3+ hours away by car. My guide was Grace, my birthday GPS smartypants phone, decidedly high-tech

Poor Grace. Although I had put in my destination point (Cascade Locks, Oregon, on the Columbia River) there were 2 possible routes, and she chose the most obvious one, which goes over 2 mountain passes, while I planned to go the less obvious way, up and across the high desert plateaus to avoid traffic and potential snowy roads. I'm sure there's a way to specify a particular route but I don't know what it is. Thus Grace was quite determined to get me to the other road, once I got to the junction point.

One of the things I like about Grace is that she doesn't really 'argue' at times like this. But she is VERY determined and persistent in the face of what she is undoubtedly thinking is sheer human idiocy. Once I turned off onto my chosen route north, she continued for at least 20 minutes to find roads that would get me over to her chosen route. I tried to reassure her that I knew what I was doing, I had been this way before, I knew the territory (I have switched her voice over to 'Australian English' so of course I know the area better), but she was having none of it.

It was a relief to get beyond the last possible turnoff and get her resettled into MY route. Which, to give her credit, she did without a single complaint. After that I attempted without success to engage her in conversation to help while away the 2 hours of driving that followed. I think the next generation of GPS's should include a social interaction program.

Alas, when I reached Cascade Locks, I realized I had accidentally programmed in the wrong address so that Grace took me first to the local school (high tech failure due to low-tech human error), then a rather seedy motel with a name similar to the correct one (human error again), and finally, to my nice clean Best Western, which I spotted with my own low-tech human eyes, down the street from the parking lot.

We were running a bit late now, it was getting dark, and I still had to check in, eat dinner and get to my workshop by 6:30. Grace couldn't help me navigate to this, since the workshop was being held at a teaching center in the middle of the woods, and she really didn't know where it was. I had to follow good old-fashioned printed directions (low-tech) snail-mailed to me (low tech) by the instructor, by the fading light of a short mid-February day. First I had to cross this cool bridge (over the mighty Columbia River), right next to my motel:

This is the Bridge of the Gods, named after an older natural stone bridge (lowest of natural low tech) from 'Indian Legend', long since washed away (like the Indians.....). We made it, Grace and I, and the evening session of the workshop, an introduction to Sibelius, the coolest music-notation software ever, was wonderful. Very high-tech.

The setting, just a few hundred yards above Bear Creek outside Carson, Washington, not so much

Finally, the drive home Saturday afternoon. Back to low-tech, I crossed the bridge for the final time,
paying my toll of $1.00 to the friendliest tollbooth person I've ever met. When I had first crossed the bridge, she was so friendly and relaxed that I made bold to ask her, 'so, why IS it called Bridge of the Gods?' and she smiled, leaned out the tollboth window and told me all about it. 'Have a nice evening' was her parting comment.

Cascade Locks is a small place, and everyone I met there was super friendly. Then, before I headed for home, I had to check out the mural painted on the bridge support on the Oregon side:

It goes from left to right in chronological order, and I liked this side because it shows, from the top down, all the original inhabitants of the area: eagle, coyote, bear, mountain lion and (look closely) sasquatch. :)

Here's the main body of the mural. Not your average bridge support.

Here's a photo of the mountains in the background of the mural, just beyond the bridge. Apparently the rockslide that formed the original rock bridge calved off from these mountains.

The Columbia Gorge is an incredible place, and I am sorry not to have photos of the more spectacular portions. The most famous sections, with waterfalls and towering basalt walls overhanging the road, are west of here. The day was cloudy, and I speeded east with the aid of a powerful tailwind, with the storm gathering behind me.

Once out of the gorge, the road rises to a high plateau and for miles and miles, I drove by winter-greening hills of wheat, flaxseed and fruit orchards.

After that, I re-entered my familiar high desert, still up high. To the west, over the Cascades, the clouds continued to roll in,

getting closer and closer, until eventually the mountains themselves were engulfed. Here you can just see Mt. Hood, cloud banners streaming by, about to disappear.

At last, the road heads back down towards home ground, below 4000 ft of elevation. It's a long hill!

I arrived just after dark, as the storm winds hit Bend. Sunday was more low tech. Stay tuned. The story ain't over.

Feb 15, 2011

Snowed in? How to be happy ......

........ if you are a cat,

keep an eye on it:

find a basket by the fire

take a nap with a friend

...... if you are a chicken,
get some fresh grass,

share with the other girls

fresh straw for scratching

..... if you are a gardener,
do research

or rest

...... if you are a human with Bicycle Disease,
you just go to work

Feb 1, 2011

Chicken Talk - Part 1

Before I got chickens of my own, I had never stopped to think about how many, many words, common expressions, figures of speech and sayings we have in the English language, related to chickens. One day last summer, I started a casual list of such things, thinking, well, I'll bet I'll come up with 20, maybe 25. I kept the list on a small pad on my desk and whenever I thought of another expression, I added it to it. To my amazement, the list grew to ........... well, what do YOU think, fair readers? Take a guess, right now. Make your own list, if you're curious. In the meantime, let me begin sharing my list with you. Hint: it's going to take more than one post. Ready?

In the order they occurred to me, here they are:

1. Pecking order.
Everyone has heard of pecking order, and in fact, I have used this expression on many occasions myself, referring to everything BUT chickens, up until last spring, when I first got my girlies and started seeing it in action. I was shocked to find out that a) they really PECKED and that b) there was no arguing or fooling around or 'teaching' them not to be 'mean' to the peckee. Pecking order is immutable and has to be dealt with. I expect other birds also have pecking order, but I am quite sure this expression came from humans' longtime association with domestic fowl.

2. "Chicken!!"
As in, 'coward!'. To my surprise, I haven't found chickens to be particularly cowardly. Instead, they seem sensibly cautious about trying new things, including going into a new space, eating an unfamiliar food, and seeing large animals (and strange humans) coming towards them. They are prey animals, and it makes sense to duck and cover, retreat, squawk in alarm (ooh! ooh! there's another one for my list!) when facing potential threats.

3. 'Chicken feed.'
Said disparagingly about an unexpectedly or disappointingly small amount of money. "Aw, that's just chicken feed...."

4. "I ain't got scratch"
Similar to 'chicken feed' -- "I have no money". After observing my girls literally scratching away, often over ground they have already scratched away at for the last 6 hours, or in the case of their covered run, the last 9 months!, it is obvious that scratching is life to a chicken! To not have even one crummy seed or bit of food is poverty indeed.

5. 'Chickenshit'
Similar to #2, calling someone a chickenshit is an even ruder way of saying they are cowardly.

6. 'Bantam weight'
As in boxing or wrestling. After watching my tiny bantam hen bobbing and hopping around the standard size hens, I have a much better feel for this description of the smaller fighters. Ya gotta be plucky if you're that small. Sometimes you get beaten, but you have to get right back up and rejoin the flock.

7. "feeling a bit peckish"
Another reference to pecking. I first heard this expression in English tv and movies, probably initially on Monty Python. It tickled me no end, even as a girl, because it seemed such a clever, urbane, cool, understated English way to say, "I'm hungry".

8. 'getting up with the chickens'
Well, yes. Even without a rooster, the girls are up early and they are NOT very quiet. As soon as the sky lightens in the pre-dawn, they are talking, scratching around in their house, and soon, bawwwkkking away. This winter, they have a light on a timer in the henhouse, which goes on at around 5:30. This time of year, that is almost 2 hours before it gets light outside, but there they are out in the back yard, demanding treats! playtime!

9. 'something to crow about'
This expression implies that roosters crow for joy, which I don't think is exactly the case. But still, that crowing is a boisterous, exuberant sound and anyone watching a rooster strut around the yard, crowing, feels certain something important is being announced.

10. 'ruler of the roost'
Another rooster-related expression. (I wonder how many refer to roosters, vs how many that refer to hens. I'll count.) Another assumption, that the rooster is king. I haven't had the pleasure of living with a rooster, since they are forbidden in the city limits. My chick that turned out to be a guy had to be warrantied back to the feed store. However, from what I have seen and heard, roosters seem to consider themselves the rulers.

OK, that's the first installment. There are lots more chicken words to come. Stay tuned.