Constructive Creativity

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

To Ride Like The Wind

Here is a little post that I was thinking about doing a while back, but am now just getting around to. The title is inspired by the song "Ride Like The Wind" by Christopher Cross. Now, why would I choose such a title? Well, some years in the past, I did ride like the wind on my motorcycles! :D

My first motorcycle was a Honda 125. The picture below is not my bike, but it is exactly like my bike, down to the model and color.

The engine of my 125 was a single cylinder of, as you may have already surmised, 125 cc displacement. Having only one cylinder, the engine tended to vibrate quite a bit. In fact, the vibration was enough to numb my hands during a long ride! This bike had a kick start, which was quite a pain until I got the knack of it. One of the hardest things for me to learn was how to properly control the manual transmission, especially when starting up from a stop. I had to learn to take in the clutch with my left hand, shift it into gear, and slowly let the clutch out while giving it some gas by turning the throttle with my right hand. Sound complicated? Well, it was, at least for the first couple of months! ;) While I was learning to do this, I stalled my bike many times and had to restart it. Sometimes, I had to wheel my bike off the street to get out of the way of cars that were behind me at a stop light. Kick starting a bike doesn't always work the first time. If you are wondering what I am talking about, it does not involve actually kicking the bike, although I felt like doing that sometimes out of shear frustration! The kick start is a lever with a foot peg that folds out from the engine. Its visible in the picture above. Look to the center of the bike and see if you can spot the thin vertical bar at the rear of the engine with a black thing angling to the right off the top. That is the folded up kick start. Anyway, you fold it out, and then kick down on it with your foot. This turns the engine and energizes the starter. If you do it right, the engine starts up.

Ok, so much for getting the bike going. Riding the 125 wasn't exactly like the wind, it was more like a moderate breeze. ;) The top speed was about 55 miles per hour going downhill. That was ok for getting around on city streets, but not really fast enough for the highway. However, it was probably for the best, as it takes a good while to get really proficient at riding a motorcycle. Too much power in the hands of a beginning rider can really get the rider in trouble, or worse! I have fond memories of my 125, but after a year or so of riding it, I began to wish for something bigger and better. It took me a while to save my money, but eventually, my wish came true. :)

My second bike was a Honda Shadow 500. Once again, the picture below is not my bike, but it is identical to my bike.

The dark red color was one of the things that attracted me to the Shadow. I also really liked the styling. It was simple, but quite elegant, as you can see. :) The Shadow's engine was a two cylinder with a displacement of 500 cc. It was designed with engine balance in mind, so it was a lot smoother to ride than the 125. The engine size, being much larger on this bike, the acceleration and top speed was vastly superior to the 125. Talk about riding like the wind, I topped the Shadow out late one night on the highway at 105 miles per hour! That's like a small hurricane! :D Aside from exhilarating speed, the Shadow also had a couple of other advantages. It had an electric start (which I really loved!) and a sealed maintenance free drive shaft (the 125 had a chain drive, like a bicycle).

I enjoyed my Shadow for a long time, during which I learned a lot about keeping the bike in good working order. I would regularly change the oil and filter. But, from this simple task, I moved on to more complex mechanical repairs. I learned to change my tires. I rebuilt the clutch. I rebuilt the front suspension forks. I changed the brake pads and rebuilt the front disk break assembly. I installed new turn signals when the old ones broke. I also learned to trouble shoot electrical problems. For example, I had to rebuild my starter relay after it melted in the open position. The result of that was that the starter would run continuously. Not a good thing! I had to disconnect the battery to stop the starter! To help me with all these repairs, I had a good maintenance book specific to my bike. I also collected a good variety of mechanics tools. I taught myself to be quite handy! :)

Well, all in all, I enjoyed owning and riding my bikes very much. :) When I moved from Alabama to Indiana, I decided to sell my Shadow, as I didn't expect to have anywhere to store it in the winter time. Snow and motorcycles do not mix well! Its been a number of years since I have ridden a bike, but sometimes, on a nice cool Fall or Spring day, I wish that I could Ride Like The Wind once again! Perhaps someday, I will. :)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Indianapolis Regional Air Show

I just noticed its been about two years since I posted in my blog! Well then, I guess I am way overdue for posting something new! ;)

I went to our local air show a few weeks ago and took some pictures that I would like to share with you. The U.S. Navy's flying team, called The Blue Angels, were supposed to fly each of the three days of the air show. I was really looking forward to seeing them fly! I had seen them twice before many years ago. Unfortunately, the day I went to the show, the last of the three days, there was some rain and very low clouds, so most of the show was canceled. Still there were interesting things to see and people to talk to. :)

There were some old planes from WWII parked for display. Had the weather been better, these planes would have taken to the air! One that I really liked was the Corsair. These were fighter planes that were flown by Navy and Marine Corp pilots. They are the same planes that were flown by the famous squadron called The Black Sheep, lead by their legendary commanding officer Pappy Boyington. The Black Sheep gained additional fame in the 1970's from the TV show about them called Baa Baa Black Sheep (later, the show was renamed Black Sheep Squadron). I used to love that show! Here is a pic of the Corsair (click on the pic to see it full size):

The second plane from WWII, I think is called an Avenger (at least, it looks a lot like one). These planes (and also the Corsairs) were commonly flown off of aircraft carriers. To save space on the deck of the carrier, the Avenger's wings would fold back to the sides. At the air show, I watched as the wings of the Avenger were folded back (Corsair wings folded up). That was neat to see! The picture I took was, as you can see, before the wings were folded (should have taken one after!):

Another very interesting plane was a really old Wright Flyer dating from the early 1900's. It was built a few years after the Wright brother's famous first flight. This plane was much advanced over their original design. This one had twin pusher props (propellers), wing flaps, and a functional tail with flaps. This plane was capable of extended flight time high in the air. The first Wright plane didn't have a proper tail, and they steered by warping the wings. It was really a dangerous design, and one of the brother's had a very bad crash in it sometime after their first flight. Here are two pics showing the old Flyer and also a close-up of the information card on one of its wings:

One thing that I really enjoyed was talking to the crew of a restored Vietnam era Huey helicopter. In Vietnam, these copters were often fitted out as gun ships. However, this one was restored for use as an air ambulance. The crew hoped that they would be able to fly real missions transporting injured people to a hospital at some point in the future. I asked the pilot about the fuel cost to fly the Huey. He said it burned 90 gallons of aviation fuel per hour. At $7.00 per gallon, that would add up to $630 per hour! The pilot said later that afternoon, weather permitting, they would try to fly around some. I was very pleased that the weather did permit! :)

The Huey in flight is really something to see and hear! I was amazed in the difference in sound as the helicopter flew in different directions. Flying away from me, I could barely hear it. However, flying toward me, it was incredibly loud, even from a far distance. I asked one of the airport officials, who happened to be standing next to me watching the Huey fly, about the difference in sound. He said it had to do with the angle of the helicopter blades relative to the direction it was traveling. I had never thought about that, but it made sense. The blades are really chopping up the air as they spin. Sound waves are created as the blades disturb the air, and the waves move in certain directions relative to the blades. Here is a pic of the Huey in flight:

There was another, much bigger helicopter there. It was an active duty Army Blackhawk fitted out as an air ambulance. I talked to a couple of crew members. One told me it had flown in Iraq a year ago. It was really cool to stand next to a machine and crew members that had probably helped to save many soldier's lives! I also got to see the Blackhawk take off a while later. As an added treat, the Huey took off for a second time and flew around the airport with the Blackhawk. :) Here are three pics of the Blackhawk, on the ground, preparing to take off, and in the air:

There were a couple of small FedEx planes at the show. I had a chat with one of the crew. He was a package handler. He told me about how they sort the packages at one of their regional hubs. They have a few hours each night to sort hundreds of thousands of packages and get them on the right planes for next day delivery. Those folks really have to hustle! I watched both the FedEx planes take off a bit later. They had deliveries to make! Here is a pic of one of the planes being towed to the runway:

Well, I hope you have enjoyed my new post. I went to the zoo more recently. I'll try to post some pics from there soon. :)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Something Delicious

Its been a while since I talked about cooking anything. I looked it up in my old posts (look here if you like) and its been almost four years! Strange, it doesn't seem so long ago. Well, then as now, cooking is something that I do every day. I actually enjoy the process of creating a meal, or sometimes a dessert. Something that I like to make pretty regularly these days is what I call blueberry nut cake. It is really tasty! I have always loved blueberry muffins. This is a variation on that theme. I have actually made muffins using this same recipe, but baking it as a cake is easier than filling a dozen muffin cups. ;)

Here is a picture of the finished cake fresh out of the oven. Doesn't it look good? :) You can see some of the blueberries peeking out. The cake is topped with a sprinkling of brown sugar that has melted and caramelized. The sugar topping adds a delicious sweetness!

Here, let me cut a piece just for you! :D

Here is my recipe:

Blueberry Nut Cake

Mix together:

3 egg whites
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup extra light olive oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
one teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon
dash of ginger
one and 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

In a separate bowl, sift together:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
one and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Combine all ingredients and mix well until a thick batter results. If necessary, add a bit more oil and milk to get all the ingredients wet and well mixed. Pour the batter into a 9 inch by 9 inch baking pan (I use a ceramic pan) that has been sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle brown sugar all over the top of the batter. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 50 minutes. [Note: If you'd like to make muffins with this recipe, reduce the cooking time to about 30 minutes.]

This recipe is really easy to make, so you could enjoy some of this delicious cake for yourself. :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Springtime Delight

Hello my friends! After a long absence spent wandering here and there in the electronic ether and wiling away many enjoyable hours at a few special places, I finally have something that I would very much like to share with you here. It is springtime in Indiana, and with the spring comes all sorts of new, interesting, and wonderful life. Near where I live is a wall with a decorative wreath that has become a favorite place for birds to build nests. Almost every year, some sort of bird constructs a nest and raises a few chicks. In past years, I have taken pictures of Robins (Look Here and Here) and Doves (Look Here) that nested there. This year Robins have once again staked out the wreath, built a very fine nest, and laid some very attractive blue eggs. :)

I first noticed nest building activity around the first day of May. Within a few days, a very well constructed nest was completed. I noticed the first egg on May 5th. The next day, there were two eggs. The day after that, there were four eggs!

For my first picture, I am very pleased to present the nest with four beautiful blue eggs, taken on May 7th.

In the second picture is the mother Robin who is not at all happy that I am looking in on her nest! When I approach the nest, she flies up to the nearby roof and squawks at me very loudly and angrily. She walks along the roof and flaps her wings to try and distract me away from her nest. She is a very good mother trying her best to protect her eggs! I took this picture on May 15. On that day, none of the eggs had yet hatched.

Finally, twelve days after the first egg was laid, the first chick hatched. When I pointed my camera into the nest, the little baby reached up with its mouth wide open begging to be fed. However, a few seconds later when I took the picture, the tiny chick leaned over and seemed to fall asleep. In this picture, the back of its head is to the right. I have really zoomed in on this image to show the chick in detail. The eggs are really quite small, with a length a bit less than one inch. I took this picture on May 17.

The next day, I checked the nest again and there were two chicks. Here one is begging for food while the other is resting. I am guessing that the resting chick was born that day. If you look at their eyes, you will see that they are not open. This is because their eyes are not fully developed when the chicks first hatch. They are blind, helpless, and completely dependent on their parents for care and feeding.

As I have been watching the nest, I have sometimes seen two Robins together on the roof near the nest. I am sure that they are the mother and father. I don't know if they are taking turns sitting on the nest to keep the eggs and chicks warm, but that is common in some species of birds. It is also common in some species for both parents to take turns foraging for food and feeding the chicks. I should read up on Robins to see if this is the case.

I hope you have enjoyed the pictures. I will continue to watch the nest and take more photos. I will update with a new post soon with more pictures. Thanks for visiting! :)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Three Faces of Me

I seem to be writing everywhere except in my own blog these days. So, its definitely time that some signs of live stirred here once again. :) In the past couple of months, two of my friends asked me if I was on Facebook. Well, I am not, and I don't have a burning desire to be there. I have been listed on a similar sort of venue called Orkut for a few years, but I only occasionally drop in there to visit a few old friends. Anyway, I have decided to give myself a facial presence here, in addition to the already "book like" qualities of my blog. ;)

First up is a picture of tiny me with my paternal grandmother. Her name was Reta. Out of all my relatives, save my mother, she showed me more love than any other. I grew up far from all my grandparents, and I only had the chance to see any of them about once a year, at most. I think that grandparents can be a very important influence on a child's development, and I really wish that I could have spent more time with mine. Reta was the last of my grandparents to pass away. She died about three years ago, and I still miss her very much.

Well, here I am again, this time somewhere between age two and three. At that time, I had blond hair and blue eyes. I really don't know why my hair was so light then. As the years past, my hair darkened to brown and then to nearly black, while my eyes changed from blue to a mix of dark green and brown.

First, let me say that this is not a recent picture of me. However, it is the best picture that I have of me as an adult. I haven't taken a really good picture in a number of years. Often when I smile, it is more of a half smile, with half of my face seeming happy and the other half seeming frowny. ;) I still look much the same as this picture, but my hairline has receded a bit and I have a few gray hairs. I have been thinking of having a professional portrait done. If I had some help to look and smile my best, I think that I might get a picture that I can be happy with once again.

I have other pictures of me during my child and teen years, but none of those are digitized. Perhaps I will scan a few of them sometime. Well, for those of you who have never seen me, I hope it has been a pleasant surprise. ;) For those of you who I have never seen, I would be happy to view some pictures of you if you would like to share them. :)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Violin Virtuosity

On the evening of Saturday, May 10, I had the pleasure of attending a performance by the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. I enjoy classical symphonic music, but I am not very knowledgeable about the genre. For example, I could never hear a piece of symphony music and know who composed it. However, I have heard lots of this sort of music before, and I do very much enjoy the melodies and harmonies that the many instruments played together can create. I especially like to view live performances. I think it is very interesting and fun to watch the conductor waving his arms and the musicians responding. Also, it is fascinating to observe the physical mechanics of the performance: the violinists fingering the notes with one hand and sounding the strings with back and forth movements of the bow in the other hand; the horn players puffing their cheeks as they blow into their shiny brass instruments; the drummer pounding out a beat on his big bass drum; or the percussionist tapping a triangle to create a high clear note. It really makes the music so much more meaningful and amazing when you can actually see it being created! :)

In case you would like to know the names of the music played at the event, here are the three pieces: Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, Opus 56a composed by Johannes Brahms (apparently Brahms was inspired by a previous work by Haydn); Concerto No.1 in G Minor for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 26 composed by Max Bruch; and Symphony No. 102 in B-Flat Major composed by Joseph Haydn. Not exactly snappy or catchy titles. ;)

Just out of curiosity, I read
a biography of Joseph Haydn and was very impressed! He was obviously born a musical genius. He rose from humble beginnings and had a few good teachers, but I got the impression he was mostly self educated. He was a prodigious composer for much of his long life, and his many works apparently laid some impressive foundations that later symphonic composers built upon. For any reader with an interest in musical history, I definitely recommend reading this biography. For everyone else, I would like to give you a brief synopsis here:

Joseph Haydn, who has been called "The Father of the Symphony", was born in Rohrau, a small Austrian village in 1732. His father was a wheelwright and his mother was a cook. Neither of his parents had any musical training, but his father taught himself to play the harp and both parents loved to sing. Joseph's parents, recognizing their son's musical talent, apprenticed him at the age of six to a relative in a nearby town who was a schoolmaster and a choirmaster. He soon learned to play both the harpsichord and the violin. Also, he also began to sing in the church choir. Singing was Haydn's earliest musical profession. At the age of eight, he auditioned for the choir of a Cathedral in Vienna and was accepted. There he worked as a chorister for the next nine years. He received no training as a composer, but the Cathedral was host to many performances of musical creations by some of Europe's leading composers. Haydn learned much by simple observation. By the age of 17, his voice had deepened and he was no longer able to sing the high notes that his job required, so he was dismissed from the choir. He then worked at various jobs, such as a music teacher, a street singer, and as an accompanist to an Italian composer who taught him the fundamentals of composition. He read books on composition to increase his skills, and shortly thereafter, he composed his first opera. He quickly established a reputation as a skilled composer and attracted the interest of various aristocrats who were happy to employ a man with his talents. For years, he had a succession of aristocratic patrons. Eventually, his compositions earned him a very comfortable living, allowing him to cease composing on demand for his patrons and devote his talents to creating some of the finely crafted symphonic works for which he is best known today. It is interesting that Beethoven was his student for a time. Also, Haydn and Mozart were good friends. They occasionally played together in string quartets and had a positive influence on each other's compositions.

Alright, lets get back to the concert. The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra was accompanied, during the Max Bruch segment, by a very talented violinist named Philippe Quint. The program from the performance detailed his very impressive resume. He grew up in Russia, but emigrated to the U.S. to study at the famous Juilliard School of Music, where he earned a Bachelor's degree and also a Master's degree, which he completed in 1998. He has studied with many accomplished violinists and taken master classes from Isaac Stern and Itzhak Perlman, two of the giants of the violin world (Stern, who died in 2001, was also one of Perlman's teachers). He has traveled extensively, playing with many of the world's best symphonies. He performs on a violin crafted by Antonio Stradivari in 1723 which has been loaned to him by the Stradivari Society in Chicago. If you are interested, you can learn more about Philippe Quint (and even listen to some of his music!) from his personal website.

Ok, lets talk some about Philippe's performance. He played with a very energetic and dramatic style. He not only produced a truly beautiful sound from his instrument, his physical movements became an integral part of his performance. His movements suggested that he was not only playing the wonderful Stradivarius, he was dancing with it, as if it were a loving partner. His performing style conveyed so much emotion. He varied the speed and pitch of his sound in tune with the rhythm of his physical movements. He swayed back and forth, and at times lifted himself up and down on his toes. I have never before been witness to such a dramatic musician! He really has a special gift and talent for capturing the attention and stimulating an emotional response from his audience. After the Bruch Concerto concluded, the audience gave him a standing ovation. I was certainly not the last to leave my seat! Then, Philippe treated the audience to two wonderful encores. For these, the orchestra sat and watched him, becoming an extension of his audience. He introduced the first piece as "The Red Violin #5" (From the movie "The Red Violin", which I have not seen. I have asked my library to reserve one of its copies for me. I am looking forward to seeing it.). Philippe was especially energetic in his delivery of this piece. He was moving his bow so fast and hard that the fibers of the bow literally began to shred! He continued to the end in a fury of sound and flying bow fiber. :D Then he took a couple minutes break while we were all once again on our feet. When he walked back out, he had either repaired his bow, or more likely, substituted another, as there were no loose fibers to be seen. He announced the second piece, and I believe the name he used was "Burganini" (although, I have not been able to find this piece in my web searching). This piece was probably the most complicated bit of violin music that I have ever seen performed. He not only used the traditional back and forth movements of the bow on the strings, he literally hammered the bow onto the strings repeatedly! His fingering was also varied by plucking of the strings instead of just simple finger tip presses. His manual dexterity was just amazing! The orchestra seemed completely transported by his performance. They danced in their seats and tapped their shoes to his rhythms. The big smiles on their faces were mirrored by the faces of the audience. When the piece came to completion, both the audience and the orchestra erupted to their feet and thundered their applause. I felt like I had been witness to one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. I smiled so hard that my face was sore the next day! :D

One very unusual thing happened during the Bruch Concerto. Philippe was really going at his violin, his bow arm moving almost in a blur, when suddenly the shoulder rest that was clipped to the bottom of the instrument came flying off and landed on the floor in front of the conductor's platform. At that point, Philippe had a momentary break in his part of the Concerto, so he scrambled down and tried to pick up the loose piece. He managed to grab it, stood up and briefly fumbled trying to get it back on the violin. However, he ran out of time and had to start playing again. So, he dropped the part to the floor and played his next segment. The conductor immediately heard the difference in sound quality from the magnificent Strad and turned his head briefly to see what was the matter (I think the conductor had completely missed the flying part and its attempted recovery. ;) ). The sound changed from the violin's normal loud and clear resonance to a somewhat dull and muffled texture. I never realized how much a violin's sound relies on the ability of the wood body of the instrument to vibrate freely. With the wooden bottom of the violin pressed firmly against the chest of the musician, the quality of the sound is dramatically different! Fortunately, this solo segment was brief, perhaps only 20 seconds. Then Phillipe quickly bent over, grabbed the errant shoulder rest, and got it reattached to the violin before he began again. During the remaining parts of the Concerto, he checked the shoulder rest several times to make sure it was still firmly attached. I suspect that this minor gaffe really endeared the artist to the audience. He is a great violinist. Indeed, he may someday be the greatest, in my opinion. But, he is still very human. He can stumble just like the rest of us. :)

When I was looking up Phillipe Quint on the web to help with this post, I realized that I had already heard an amazing story about him not long before I saw him perform. A few weeks earlier, I heard a story on the national TV news about a violinist in New York city who forgot his four million dollar Stradivarius and left it on the seat of his taxi. The cabbie was an honest guy and he turned it in. The frantic violinist was so grateful to get his violin back that he treated all the New York City Airport cabbies to a free half hour concert. When I learned that this absent minded musician and Phillipe Quint were one and the same person, I just smiled and shook my head in wonder. :D

Since the subject of this post is a great violin performance, I would like to conclude with something extra and special along the same vein. Some years ago, during my graduate school days, I had the opportunity and privilege to attend a performance staring the legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman, who, as I previously mentioned, was one of Phillipe Quint's teachers. I wrote about the performance in a letter to a girl who was a very good friend to me at that time. Here is the portion of that letter relating to Perlman's performance (incidentally, Perlman actually owns and performs on one of the best surviving Stradivarius violins):

"This week, I went to hear the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra with special guest soloist Itzhak Perlman the violinist. He is thought by many to be the greatest living violinist. I do not often have a desire to go and listen to orchestra music, but my mother bought us tickets to hear Perlman almost a year ago. The tickets sold out very quickly. I may be semi-skilled in waxing poetic, but I do not even begin to have the words to describe Perlman's artistry with his instrument. He is a master's master with the violin, as I am like a small child with the guitar. It gave me an intense feeling of pleasure to sit 30 or 40 feet away from him in the center of the audience and listen to him play and watch his precise bow arm movements and his fluid fingering. The expressions on his face, as he played, said to me that he was really feeling the music. So much pleasure was given to me and the other members of the audience by this man. This man, who as a child was crippled by polio. This man, who with metal braces on his legs, moved himself slowly onto the stage on his crutches to take his chair and be handed his violin. There is something very beautiful and poetic about someone who is able to overcome what to many would seem a great tragedy. When he finished playing, he smiled to the audience from his chair amidst the tumultuous applause. He handed his violin to the orchestra's concert mistress (first chair violin), reached for his crutches at his feet, and as he slowly arose, so did I and the rest of the audience in tribute to his talent and courage. Our standing ovation lasted for about five minutes. He returned to the stage three times to bow and smile broadly."

I hope you have enjoyed this little excursion into the world of classical music performance. It is something that I really like to experience from time to time. :)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sculptural Interlude

A few weeks ago, my friend Attawie held a very successful exhibition of her sculptures at her art institute in the U.A.E. She is a wonderful and very talented artist! Well, drawing encouragement from her example, I have decided to have a very small exhibition of my own right here. I do not consider myself to be much of an artist, but I enjoyed drawing things in my youth and making all sorts of things with my hands. My most recent drawing was done a few years ago and I use it as my Blogger avatar (although it is too small to see unless you go to my "About Me" page). I made a post about my avatar which I titled: The Pilot. If you haven't yet seen it, I hope you will take a look. :) I will post some of my older drawings at some point, but this post is about sculpting.

I have never done a lot of sculpting, but I always enjoyed playing with modeling clay. :) The earliest sort of sculpture that I did was molding an impression of my hand when I was about five years old. All the kids in my first grade class did that. Our little hand prints were fired and returned to us as souvenirs. My mother still has my little hand plate somewhere. Maybe I should rescue it from its hidden storage box. ;) I seem to remember playing with clay many times in grade school, but most of those creations were never fired, and unfortunately, I didn't keep them. For some reason I really like rhinos, so I would usually try to mold a rhino when I had a block of clay. I actually got pretty good at making a shape that was at least recognizable as a rhino. ;)

When I was in the sixth grade, we were given clay and told to sculpt anything that we would like, and this time the figures would be fired. I decided to sculpt a duck. I have no idea why! My duck was very simple. It was shaped like a duck floating in the water, so it was flat on the bottom with no legs. I formed the head and bent it around to contact the duck's back as if the duck were sleeping. For the ducks wings, I very simply incised an outline of them on the body of the figure. I gave it a bit of a tail that jutted outward and slightly upward. We set our figures in a windowsill to dry for a few weeks. Some very naughty child in my class decided to try and lift my duck by its neck. I found the duck with its head nearly ripped off. I was very unhappy about that! I never found out who did the foul (no pun intended ;) ) deed. However, my duck was not completely ruined. I reset the head and neck as well as I could. When the figures were dry enough, we glazed them. I chose a bright orange glaze. Kind of odd, I know, but it made sense at the time. :) After firing, my repair to the neck became a very noticeable crack. That was rather disappointing. I guess that the semi-dry clay just couldn't be properly rejoined, at least not the way I did it. Oh well, I brought my bright orange partially decapitated duck home and presented it to my mother. As only a mother could, she said she loved it and placed it for prominent display in a window of our living room. I don't know where my slightly grotesque duckie is now. Perhaps it is sleeping peacefully next to my hand plate. :)

Ok, so much for my childhood art history lesson. Lets get to the sculptural subject of this post. Below are three pics of a figure that I created when I was about 20 years old. My best friend Ray, a lesser friend Michael, and I were gathered at Ray's apartment one day. Ray and Michael, who both liked to smoke a certain "substance", decided that they were going to try and make some pipes out of clay. There was some extra clay, and as I was not a smoker, I decided to create a figure out of my imagination. In those days, my imagination was rather dark (as I will explain in more detail later). I tried to imagine something that would have an aura of malevolence. The result is the figure below. Another of Ray's friends dubbed it "The Noser", which should seem obvious once you see it. As for me, I never named it. Ray and Michael had ideas of firing their pipe creations, but like many of their projects in that time, these were left unfinished. I never had my figure fired either, but it long ago dried out such that it is very hard to the touch, and I have kept it safe through the years in a padded box. The figure has a story. It is a very important story about my life at the time of its creation. So, without any further ado, I present my little attempt at sculptural creativity, followed by my story.

Well folks, its been about a week and a half since I wrote the above. My original plan was to tell a detailed account of the circumstances of my life that led to the creation of this sculpture. However, I have decided that I really don't want to tell the story at length at this time. Perhaps I will at some later date. So, what I would like to do is tell you briefly what was going on. For several years in my late teens and early 20's, I struggled with some very serious depression. Many of my relatives have also suffered from depression at various times in their lives. Depression can be a very difficult thing to live with, especially when it must be endured over a long period. I remember thinking at some point that depression was sort of like a demon that had seized my mind and stolen my life. Now, I never thought that demons were real. Rather, my thinking was in a purely metaphorical sense. When I made this sculpture, I was in an especially deep level of depression, and the demon idea was very prominent in my imagination.

As to my depression, I did seek help, but placing my trust in the medical profession really didn't yield much in the way of relief. I struggled to stay afloat in school, but I really didn't have any direction until I began to study psychology. Eventually, I earned my first college degree with a major in psychology. Along the way, I learned a lot that was helpful to me in terms of understanding my depression and how I could begin to overcome it.

So, that is the very short on details version of how my little sculpture came to be. I am sure some of you would like to know more. A few of you already know quite a bit more. In time, I may feel comfortable enough to make a more detailed version of this story public, but for now, I thank you for sharing with me something that I have mostly kept under a tight lid for a long time.

Update 3/14/08:

I would like to add a few thoughts about depression. It is not commonly known that approximately one third of all people will experience a serious depression at some point in their lives. Depression can occur for many reasons. A person may have a genetic susceptibility, or it could be brought on by a tragic loss, for example (in my case, both of these reasons played a role). Depression tends to occur more frequently in elderly people as their friends and loved ones pass away. Now, I can only speak for myself and not for other depressed people, but I think some would agree with me in that I am not at all interested in sympathy or pity. Those emotions are not helpful to me. What I always needed during periods of depression is understanding and acceptance. Some people seem to think that depression is only a figment of the imagination and that it can be banished simply by thinking positively. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. If any of you have experienced depression, then I think you will understand what I am talking about. When depression occurs in an individual, there are no quick and easy solutions. Many doctors these days are very quick to write a prescription for drugs to treat depression. However, often such drugs simply don't work, and many can have extremely unpleasant side effects. In many cases, the best treatment is simply time and having someone to talk to. For me, having good friends who I could trust with my innermost thoughts and feelings was a big help. Exercise and certain dietary changes have helped a lot, as well. Ok, I guess thats about enough for now. Thanks again for visiting and learning a bit more about how I came to be the person that I am. :)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Special Exhibition

Hello my friends. I seem to have developed a rather bad habit of being absent from my blog. Well, hopefully most of you haven't been feeling my absence too acutely, considering that I visit your blogs quite frequently. ;) Well, I finally have something blogworthy to report. Several weeks ago, I visited a special exhibition of Roman art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. As the brochure below indicates, the items are all on loan from the famous Louvre Museum in Paris, France. Apparently, this exhibition is the largest number of artifacts from its Roman collection that the Louvre has ever allowed outside its doors. It helps that the director of the Indianapolis Museum is good friends with the director of the Louvre! :) There were about 200 artifacts in the exhibit, ranging from a wonderful 8 foot tall marble statue of Roman Emperor Trajan, resplendent in full and very artfully decorated military dress, to tiny items of glass and jewelry. The statues included quite a few Emperors and some rich Roman nobles. Lets see who I can recall among the emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, Nero, Caligula, Septimus Severus, Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius. Some of the emperors wives were represented too. There was a lot of discussion on the exhibit plaques about what type of togas the figures were wearing. Apparently, age and social station were both very important in determining what special decorations were allowed on the toga.

Well, lets move on to a few pictures that I have to show you. Unfortunately, there were no cameras allowed in the exhibition. So, aside from the scan of my brochure, these pictures are scans of post cards that I bought at the Museum gift shop. The Louvre is apparently quite reluctant to allow people to take their own pictures of artifacts in their collection! I don't know if the problem is that French Museums are greedy or just snobby. When I visited Italy, I got to take pictures of anything and everything in sight. Ok, I will dismount my indignantly high horse now. ;) Scanning the little post cards was a very tedious task. The initial images were of very poor quality. So, I had to do a lot of digital tweaking to get my scans to more or less resemble the pictures on the cards. Finally, I got them looking reasonably good. Hopefully, you will enjoy them. :)

On the brochure is an image of a cameo of the Roman god Jupiter from the Imperial Roman Era (that's about a 500 year span!) The cameo is about 5 inches in height. I once visited a cameo factory in Italy. I saw a great many really magnificent cameos there and enjoyed watching an artist work to make one. If I remember correctly, cameos are often carved from pieces of sea shell. This cameo of Jupiter is labeled as being composed of double-layered Sardonyx (a type of onyx).

This picture is a marble sculpture of Emperor Augustus (the first Roman Emperor). It looks small here, but the statue is nearly 7 feet tall. It was quite impressive! Interestingly, the head and the body are from different times. The head dates to about the year 10 AD, while the body dates to about the year 120 AD. I looked really hard, but I couldn't see the joint on the neck. I don't know if ancient Romans combined the two pieces, or if it was done in more modern times.

This marble bust (height about 14 inches) was labeled as "Portrait of an Unknown Woman" and dates from between 50 to 75 AD. Well, I think that she was probably the wife of a Roman man with considerable wealth and power! For one, she is beautiful, for another, someone probably paid an extravagant sum to have her likeness immortalized in marble. However, I suppose that she could have been the lover, or fantasy creation, of a very talented sculptor.

This is a marble carving (about 5 feet tall) labeled "Praetorian Relief". The Praetorian Guards were the personal guards of the Emperor. Occasionally, they went a bit beyond their stated duties and assassinated an Emperor in order to promote someone else to the pinnacle of Roman power (at some points, the Emperor was he that could pay the Praetorians the biggest bribes!). Btw, my scan didn't cut off part of the guard's hand. The sloppy maker of the post card did that!

Doesn't this picture look almost like a very intricately woven carpet? Well, it is a mosaic composed of thousands of tiny pieces of tile. It is labeled as "The Judgment of Paris". (This is one of the most famous of mythological tales: Paris has to judge a beauty contest between the goddesses Juno, Venus, and Minerva. He chooses Venus, who rewards him with the fairest of women for his wife. Unfortunately, Helen is already married to the Spartan King Menelaus! Paris takes Helen, and thus began The Trojan War.) The mosaic dates from somewhere between the first and second centuries AD. The size is fairly large at about six feet square.

Here is another mosaic, which is very imaginatively labeled as "Fragment of Floor Mosaic". ;) It dates to about the year 300 AD. It is about two feet square, and is made of stone and glass fragments. Look at the expression on the little boy's face. Doesn't he look like he has done something naughty? ;) Its really amazing that such emotion can be conveyed in a mosaic format!

If these pictures are interesting to you, then let me give you a couple of links to the Indianapolis Museum of Art and The Louvre Museum where you can browse more pictures of the exhibit that I enjoyed, and more. Here is a link to the Roman Art Image Gallery from the Indianapolis Museum's web site. If you click on a picture, you can read a detailed description. This next link will take you to The Louvre's Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities. There are a lot more pictures there, as well as various links to other exhibits in The Louvre. It is really an amazing museum! I hope that I can see it someday!

Let me talk for a moment about why I am so interested in Roman art and antiquities. As I mentioned previously, I have visited Italy. When I was in high school, I studied Latin for three years. I was a very good student, and came to have a fair grasp of the grammatical rules of the language, however, I had difficulty remembering a large number of Latin vocabulary words. I suppose that I was just too old to learn a new language. Also, I had many other difficult subjects to occupy my time. The best thing about Latin class for me was my teacher, who was my favorite teacher of all time. :) She told really wonderful stories about Roman history and mythology and she treated us like friends, not like inferiors, which was the style of some of my teachers.

In the Spring of my senior year of high school, I went with my teacher, and a few other students in my class, on a week long expedition of Italy. It was a truly wonderful and memorable trip! We spend a couple of days in Rome, seeing the fabulous art treasures of The Vatican (I photographed the entire ceiling of the Sistine Chapel!), the Colosseum, the ruins of the Roman Forum (the ancient business and social center of the city), The Pantheon (probably the most amazing and best preserved Roman structure anywhere in the world - the 100 plus foot span of its unreinforced concrete dome was the biggest in the world until the advent of modern engineering in very recent times), and various other smaller wonders. We saw the Gardens and Fountains of Tivoli. We visited Emperor Hadrian's Villa. We toured the fantastic and very well preserved Roman town of Pompeii, which was buried in 79 AD by the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. We visited Florence where I saw the giant statue of David by Michelangelo. Finally, we spend a day walking about the city of Venice. Fortunately for us, the water was low that day, so we didn't have to use any of the elevated walkways. I took a great many pictures, but they were all developed as slides. Someday, I really should have them transferred to a CD. I would love to share some of those pictures here! :)

Thanks for visiting, and I hope you enjoyed your vicarious visit to the age of the Romans. :)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Few Little Things

Ever since I was a young child, I have always been fascinated with small things and small details. Perhaps I am mildly autistic, but I can't count toothpicks or cards like the Rain Man. ;) Mostly, I have always had an interest in noticing and observing little things that most people seem to ignore. When I was about 8 years old, I watched some movie about leprechauns. This was the first time that I heard that four-leaved clovers were considered lucky by some people, especially those of Irish descent. A short time after that, I took an interest in a clover patch near our house. I knelt down next to the patch and began to scan the clovers looking for one with four leaves. After only a few minutes, I found my first one! Within about 15 to 20 minutes, I had found several more four-leaved clovers. I picked one and showed it to my mother. She had never seen a four-leaved clover and was somewhat amazed. :) I continued to look at clover from time to time, with continued high leaf count success. A few years later, I was outside playing in a grassy school yard with my classmates. The teacher was outside with us, which was customary at that particular school. I really liked that teacher, so I decided to do something nice for her. There were a lot of clover patches in the field, so I began to look for a four-leaved clover to give my teacher. Well, this particular field was quite lean in terms of four-leaved clover content. I spent about 10 minutes and didn't find any at all. This was rather unusual in my experience. However, I persevered, and a few minutes later, I found one. It was a rather scrawny thing with one leaf slightly tattered, but it did indeed have four leaves, which was all that really mattered to me. I took it to my teacher and offered her my little gift. When she saw it, her eyes really lit up! Just like my mother, she had never seen one. She was really pleased, and she called all the kids in my class to come over and see it. The kids got really excited and they all wanted to find a four-leaved clover too. You can imagine what ensued during the remainder of our outdoor play time. About 20 kids all running around and squatting down in one clover patch after another. I think most of the clovers in that field got pretty well flattened that afternoon! :) I looked at more clover patches too. Eventually, I found one more four-leaved clover, a really nice and big one, which I also gave to my teacher. However, none of the other kids found one, and some were quite disappointed! After that day, the kids in my class may have thought I had some sort of special powers. ;) Well, not really, I just have very good observational and pattern recognition skills. Over the years since, I have found a great many four-leaved clovers. I lost count a long time ago. Whenever I take the time to look at a clover patch, I can almost always find at least one with four leaves. Something that most people don't know is that a clover can actually have more than four leaves. I have found a few with five leaves, and I once found one with seven!

Well, I wrote my little clover finding story a few days ago. Today was a nice sunny (albeit rather hot for October!) Saturday. I decided to go for a walk in my favorite city park/nature preserve. Having my clover story in mind, I decided to see if I still had the knack for spotting a rare four-leaved specimen (its been quite a while since I tried). Usually, when I go to this park, I hike along trails through the woods. The trees are big and tall (future post alert :) ), so the woods can be a bit gloomy during the leafy seasons. Clover do not thrive in gloom, indeed they do not grow in the thick woods at all, so I decided to hike along the grassy roadsides running through the park. There were lots of small clover patches scattered here and there in the short cut grass. I probably looked at about half a dozen patches before I spotted something interesting. Passers-by who saw me may have wondered what that strange man was doing staring into the grass. ;) Anyway, the interesting object that caught my attention was a clover with not four leaves, but five! Now, this is a really rare find. I think it may be only the third time in my whole life that I found a five-leafer. I picked it, and a regular three-leafer growing a few inches away, for a photographic comparison. My friend Hnk seems to like the word "Wallah" (last post comment reference). So, I present to you ladies and gentlemen, for your viewing pleasure: Clovers In My Hand, Wallah! ;)

It was still early in my walk, so I decided to keep looking for a four-leafed clover to add to my captive menagerie of small leafy greens. As I walked farther down the road, I came to a small lake with a lot of grass along its banks. Several people were fishing in the lake. As I walked along the trail next to the bank, I saw some really nice clover patches near the anglers, but I decided to keep walking for a ways past them. I didn't want them to worry about the crazy grass watcher right behind them. ;) Well, as it turned out, my decision to bypass those luxurious clover patches wasn't a bad one after all. I found a much less impressive patch a few hundred feet away that yielded a bit of green gold (Indiana tea?). :) So, here is the final lineup, in order of leafy ascendancy:

Ok, lets transition now from the world of plants to the animal kingdom. Why don't we start with a really tiny king (is Little Elvis in the house?). ;) My friend Melantrys recently entertained her visitors with some pics of a bumblebee foraging among some nice flowers somewhere way out in the boonies (ancestral home of Dan'l Boone? ;) ) of the German countryside. Well, I wanted to get a picture of a good ole' American bumblebee for comparison. I staked out some flowers at a prime location somewhere in the densely populated metropolis of Indianapolis (the exact location must remain undisclosed as the bees that frequent these flowers may or may not also pollinate the flowers of the "potatoe" fields on the estate of former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle ;) ). After a good five minutes of staking, a large bee lumbered into my field of view. At first, I thought it was a bumblebee, but when I got a closer look, it turned out to be a carpenter bee. I should have known right away what it was, considering the lumbering and all. :) On a serious note, carpenter bees can be very damaging pests when they are present in high numbers. They tunnel into dead trees, wood posts in the ground, or the lumber of houses, to raise their young. I have heard about structural collapses due to these bees! Well, fortunately for Indianapolis residents, they are not terribly common, at least not in my experience. The picture below is of my little wood chewing bumble-like friend. I waited for a while longer near these flowers, but unfortunately, I did not see any real bumblebees. Perhaps they prefer "potatoe" nectar. ;)

Every Summer, I see quite a few hummingbirds. These tiny birds are really fun to watch. They can hover in mid-flight, or even fly backwards! Their wings beat so fast that you will just see a blur if one flies by. They are very territorial. They will often chase each other away from the good flowers or a feeder (they drink nectar from flowers, or sugar water from a feeder). Sometimes, they would even buzz me! There is only one species of hummingbird that is very commonly seen in Indiana and many other parts of the Eastern United States. It is called the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. However, it is only the males that display the beautiful bright iridescent red on their throats (see link for a nice pic). The bird in this picture is obviously a female, considering her whitish throat. To give you an idea of just how small these birds are, this female was about three inches long from head to tail. I occasionally saw a male this summer, but I never managed to get a picture of it. He was rather timid. I snapped this pic a few weeks ago. These hummingbirds migrate all the way to Mexico or Central America for the winter months. However, we have been having an unusually warm Fall in Indiana, so the hummers have lingered past their typical exit date. Indeed, I saw one just a few days ago.

Next up is a seahorse. The zoo has a fascinating oceans exhibit. The main attraction is a petting pool for kids that is stocked with small sharks (I presume they are a toothless variety! - I have pics, but they do not fit with my "little" theme). Additionally, there are various species of fish, a lobster, an octopus, sea anemones, and lots of other marine fauna. I have always liked seahorses. They seem so exotic and un-fishlike! No doubt they were creatures of wondrous mystery to ancient ocean divers who first came across them.

In another view from the oceans building, here are some small fish (maybe eight inches long at most). Its very hard to get a decent picture of swimming fish, especially in the low light environment of this exhibit. My camera flash went off, but the fish are still a bit blurred. Mainly, I like this picture for the very colorful corals in the background. Once upon a time, during my early teen years, I had a salt water aquarium. I had various small marine fish. Sadly, most of them didn't live very long. Marine fish tend to be very sensitive to the salinity and pH (acidity vs. alkalinity for you chemistry buffs) of their water. The water needs to be tested daily and adjusted by adding salt or an acid or base solution, depending on the test results. I was just too young, ignorant, and or lazy to keep a close watch on my aquarium's water quality, so my fish had an annoying tendency to expire after a few days or weeks. One of my fish, though, was a very hearty little fellow. He (I assumed it was male, although I actually had no clue about its gender) was called a Jawfish (the pic at this link is similar to my fish), and he was the ugliest fish that I ever put in that tank! Most of the time, he just sat on the bottom. He certainly didn't exhaust himself to death! ;) Well, he managed to live for more than a year. For all I know, he may have died of natural causes. Another long lived denizen of my ill fated aquarium maintenance experiment was a hermit crab. I think it lingered for nearly a year, dragging its small conch shell back and forth from one end of the tank to the other. That crab ate several of my fish. Bad crab! Also, it ate about half of a jellyfish that I added to my little aquatic zoo. The jellyfish had nearly finished regenerating (which was a very interesting process to observe!), when it simply disappeared from the tank one day. I assumed that my crab, tiring of his frozen shrimp treats, finally decided to make a meal of the whole jelly. ;)

Well, I have saved my favorite pic for last. This little guy (or gal) peeking out from the drain pipe is a chipmunk (ever heard of Alvin and the Chipmunks?). Chipmunks are small ground dwelling squirrels, with a number of species living in North America. This particular bright-eyed hider is an Eastern Chipmunk. Chipmunks live in underground burrows. Usually, when one catches sight of me, it will scurry down the nearest hole. This one, however, must have wandered a bit far from its burrow. When it saw me, camera in hand during my bumblebee stake out, it ran a short distance into the downspout outlet of a roof gutter. I walked over to the outlet and waited patiently. It peaked out and then did a quick about face when it saw me. I waited some more. While it was up in the drain pipe, it made some very loud chirp/squeek sounds. I got the message that it was very annoyed with me! ;) Finally, it stuck its little head out and I snapped a picture. Perhaps it was dazed by the flash, as it didn't move. I walked a bit closer and snapped another pic. Still it didn't move. So, I carefully moved even closer. I approached to about three feet away and I slowly squatted down. Amazingly, the chipmunk remained frozen in place. I extended my camera out until it was about two feet away and snapped this pic. The little fellow just sat there, perfectly still, and continued to peek at me. Too bad I didn't have a nut in my hand at that moment. ;) Well, this chipmunk was a really good sport, having allowed me to take some very nice pics of its nose. So, after this shot, I stood up slowly and backed away, while it continued it's unblinking peek. I disappeared around a corner to continue my bee watch. A few minutes later, I looked back at the drain pipe and the chipmunk was gone.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Down By The River

Well folks, I was finally able to resolve my picture posting difficulties. :) I downloaded Mozilla Firefox, which works quite well with Blogger. Now I can just hit the Add Image button in the Edit Post screen and wallah, picture posted!

Ok, now to reduce my backlog of pictures, I present for your viewing interest some pics of downtown Indianapolis. I took these pictures about four months ago. I had driven downtown to visit the zoo, but by the time I got there, late in the afternoon, they were already closed. The zoo has shorter hours in the non-summer months. Anyway, as there was still plenty of daylight, I decided to walk about for a while. There are sidewalks all around just outside of the zoo, so I put my feet to the concrete, and one foot in front of the other. After walking for about half a mile, I decided to stop, take in the view, and snap a few pics. In most of these pictures, I am looking across the White River at downtown Indianapolis.

First, let me give you a quick geography lesson. The White River flows through Indianapolis more or less from the north-east to the south-west. It is the city's most important geographic feature. It divides the city roughly in half and there are many bridges crossing it. In the early history of the U.S., rivers were very important in the establishment of small towns that eventually grew into today's cities. The White River was an important trade route in the years before major roads were built. It runs south-west to the Wabash River, which separates southern Indiana from Illinois (I trust you can find your own map of the U.S. if you would like to visualize what I am talking about). The Wabash then connects with the Ohio River, which in turn, flows into the Mississippi River. So, Indianapolis is connected by water all the way to the Gulf of Mexico! Low lying parts of the city are regularly inundated with floodwaters from the river. You would think that people would get the message and move, but some people are just stubborn and insist on cleaning the mud from their houses, staying right where they are, waiting for the fun to repeat itself. ;)

In this first picture, the zoo is behind me and I am looking to my left at an old concrete arch bridge (its about 100 years old) that crosses the White River.

Next, I have zoomed in a bit from the previous view. The red brick building in the center, with the high arched windows, is part of the national headquarters of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association). All major universities in America participate in the NCAA, which makes the rules for sports like football, basketball, baseball, etc., at the college level. I understand they have a very nice museum inside dedicated to great college athletes of past years. I have not been to the museum. I thought about going in the day I took these pics, but there really wasn't time. I'll get back down there again sometime and check it out.

In the next five shots, I am progressively panning my view to the right. This picture shows the tallest buildings in Indianapolis (if you click on the picture, you will see a lot more details in the enlarged image). Just to the right of the center of the picture, you can see a green dome right below the red "Hilton" of the Hilton Hotel. This is the dome of the historic State Capital Building. As far as I know, the Governor of Indiana still keeps an office there, however, most of the State administrative functions take place in the newer and much larger complex in the foreground, just in front of the Capital Building.

Here is a picture of the RCA Dome, which is the current home of the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts football team. This is a rather interesting structure, in my opinion. The white dome is not solid, rather it is inflated, much like a balloon, and held up by higher air pressure inside the building. The doors into the dome act like air locks to hold the higher air pressure inside, thus keeping the dome properly inflated. I wonder what the heating and air conditioning costs for that dome are? They must be huge! In the foreground, you can see the words "Victory Field" right below the words "RCA Dome". Victory Field is a small baseball stadium where the Indianapolis Indians play. The Indians are a minor league team. They are professional players, but they compete with other minor league teams, which is completely separate from major league play. Minor league baseball teams are often the training grounds for future major league ball players. Indianapolis does not have a major league baseball team.

Now, lets zoom out a little and take in a bigger view. Just to the right of the RCA Dome, there is a building with three tall smoke stacks. If I am correctly informed (which is occasionally not the case!), this is a facility that converts coal into natural gas, which is then pumped all over the city. A by-product of this conversion process is coke (baked coal), which was once an important fuel used by the steel making industry. Coke burns much hotter than coal. Today, as far as I know, most steel in the U.S. is produced using an electric arc process to melt the iron and scrap metal raw materials. So, I don't know if there is a big market for coke these days.

Just to the right of the coal/gas plant is the city's biggest current construction project. Can you guess what it could be? Well, as is the case in many big American cities, the resident professional football team has lobbied the politicians to create new and bigger venues so they can increase their ticket sales and line their pockets with more of their fans hard earned loot. So, behold the future home of the Indianapolis Colts, just down the road a few blocks from their current home. The RCA Dome is scheduled for demolition to make way for a much bigger Indianapolis Convention Center. This new football stadium will not be a dome. In fact, the structure will be much more complex. It will be completely roofed, however, the roof will be designed so that huge panels can be retracted to open the stadium to the sky in good weather. No doubt the natural grass playing field will enjoy the sun and rain in the warmer months, while the fans can work on their tans. ;) The main structural feature in this picture is the first of a pair of gigantic trusses that will support the roof. I don't have the exact dimensions, but I think they will each span more than 500 feet from one end of the stadium to the other!

Backing the view out a bit more, includes two more parallel bridges that cross the White River.

For this next picture, I have walked left from my starting point over to the bridge that I showed in the first picture. This is a sculpture of a buffalo made entirely of densely packed wires.

Buffalo were once one of the most important species in the ecosystem of the western U.S. grasslands known as The Great Plains. This huge area of prairie once spanned like an ocean of grass east to west between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, and north to south from Canada to Texas. The buffalo were a very important source of food, clothing, and shelter for many tribes of Plains Indians.
They wore buffalo robes, slept on buffalo rugs, carried water in buffalo bladders, and made tepees from buffalo skins, for example. You may be acquainted with some of these Native Americans from the many western movies that featured cowboys, soldiers, and Indians. As you might imagine, those simple stories barely scratch the surface of the real history of "The Old West". Before white settlers came to The Great Plains, buffalo roamed the prairie in gigantic herds, some of which contained tens of millions of animals! Sadly, most of the buffalo were killed for their hides and also to starve the Plains Indians into submission. Indeed, the buffalo nearly went extinct. From hundreds of millions, their numbers dropped to less than 1000 animals about 100 years ago. I am pleased to report that the buffalo are making a nice come back. Today, there are tens of thousands of buffalo, many of which have been raised on western Indian Reservations. To Native Americans whose ancestors lived on The Great Plains, the buffalo is a sacred animal, so helping to save them is a religious duty. I was surprised to learn, a few years ago, that there were once quite a few buffalo that lived in States east of the Mississippi River, including Indiana. Not surprisingly, they were all killed and eaten by hungry white settlers.

Here, I have turned to my right away from the buffalo sculpture to look down the length of the old bridge. This bridge was closed to vehicle traffic back in the 1970's and has been a pedestrian walkway and park since then.

This final picture was taken about a month ago while I was stuck in a traffic jamb after visiting the zoo. As you can see, the construction of the new football stadium has proceeded, and much of the roof has been erected. There is still a lot of work to be done, so I don't think the stadium will be ready for any of the 2007 football season.

I hope you have enjoyed my little tour of downtown Indianapolis. I have more pictures on various themes which I will share with you soon.