Pictures from Park & Street

I have a random collection of pictures for today. Some are from a trip to Eagle Creek Park from the end of April, and I’ll start with those.

My wife and I were joined for an afternoon of walking the park trails by a couple of friends, one of whom I would describe as a formerly avid birder. This birder friend really improved the experience, calling out birds I definitely would have otherwise missed and identifying many birds I didn’t recognize (and even helping to confirm a few that I did recognize). Unfortunately, while we could see far through the forest with mostly barren tree limbs, the tangle of limbs also meant that I took far fewer bird pictures than I would have liked (without even attempting to capture the tiny gnatcatchers and titmice and the like that we saw), and most of the photographs I took were really bad bird pictures (as usual, I guess).

Here’s a silhouette of a brown-headed cowbird (it was a lot more obvious in person, especially with its plop-plip call):

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And here’s a blurry pileated woodpecker against a tree:

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Here are some cute coots:

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And worst of all, here’s a bunch of trees (we saw a beautiful bald eagle fly so close overhead–it was amazing, and I was in awe, and by the time I thought to take a picture, he was swooping out of sight; if he’s in the shot at all, it’s behind the many tree branches):

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It’s not a bird, but I would also like to call special attention to this half-sunken treasure chest, lodged against a raft of driftwood, that obviously has some sweet loot:

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Outside of the park trip, there’s not really a consistent theme to everything. I have just one other bird picture–if I recall, it was a red-winged blackbird, but the photo’s just another bird silhouette (it’s at least an intriguing silhouette, I think).

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There are, of course, the usual combination of trees and water features that I like:

Finally, some animal friends near my work:

I know it’s pretty self-indulgent to share these pictures, and I recognize that I don’t have any talent, but it’s still fun to share some of the things I see! If you looked through the photos, I hope you saw something that you liked.

Spring Pictures

This is one of my picture posts, so if you’re into that, great, and if not, then I guess I’ll see you later.

I’ll start with a usual theme: birds. I’ve seen a lot of robins, of course, as well as red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, European starlings and grackles, sparrows, mourning doves, at least one swallow, and the ever-present Mallard ducks and Canadian geese. I’ve even seen a red-tailed hawk! As usual, most of my pictures suck. Worse than usual, even the decent ones are only decent when grading on a curve. But still, here are a few:

I also have a couple landscape shots that I thought were pretty enough:

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Lastly, I’ve got some zoo pictures to share:

I love the second orangutan shot not because of the quality of the picture (it’s dreadful, I know!) but because of the dude’s incredibly contented face.

That’s it! I hope more pictures will be coming soon as I get out walking more–it looks like it might finally start feeling like spring!

Columbus, Ohio

Sam and I made a long weekend for ourselves and took a trip to Columbus. You could divide our trip into three categories: wandering Short North, eating at Bonifacio and shopping at Chuchay’s on a tip from the waiter, and visiting local public attractions. This post is concerned with that last prong. We went to COSI, CMOA, and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

COSI was a bit of spontaneity on my part, after I saw that there was a dinosaur exhibit in town. It appears to be a traveling exhibition on loan from the American Museum of Natural History. I thought the selection was fantastic, and it proved to be an exhibit for all ages. They had great content to engage children, including little interactive screens and games, looping videos, light-up fossil trackways, a life-size environmental diorama, and even an expert (or otherwise well-trained speaker) answering questions for kids in part of the exhibit. This dinosaur exhibit alone, which was good-sized and quite densely packed with information and displays, would be big enough to occupy an entire visit to COSI for at least a couple hours (it’s actually all we did there), and it seems like it would be great for families with kids who love dinosaurs or science more generally.

I was also impressed by the very contemporary research on display there, some of it seeming fairly cutting edge. Sam and I were really interested to learn more about how biomechanics and computer modeling were being applied to determine what dinosaurs could actually do. There were also many exhibits that explored current theories (and the fossil support) for things like nesting and egg-laying, brain development and composition, feathers and flight development, and even what makes birds uniquely birds. There were lots of excellent fossils exhibiting many of the above features, especially of feathered dinosaurs and early birds. There were also many skulls, especially of ceratopsians, and a few large full reconstructions, including of Tyrannosaurus, Stegosaurus, and a wire-frame Apatosaurus modeled off a simulated skeleton used for biomechanics research. A small selection of my photos from the exhibit follows:

I took many photos at the Columbus Museum of Art, but most were awful, and even decent photos just don’t adequately capture a painting (and frankly I don’t think it’d be super-appropriate to post even high-quality images of a collection without permission; I suspect the fair-use argument there would be fairly weak). There were a lot of interactive prompts at the museum, including stations encouraging people to leave their thoughts or to do something creative, and many of the descriptive plaques next to the artwork actively encouraged reflection on the part of the viewer. It was a smaller collection, but it also felt like an art museum that could engage with anyone regardless of their age, education, or exposure to art.

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Just a tiny segment of a massive Lego city inspired by Columbus, one of the larger displays at CMOA.

On the last day in Columbus, we went to the zoo. It felt like it was a little larger than the Indy Zoo, and we saw some animals here we’d never seen before. I thought the number of primates, including great apes, was pretty impressive in particular, though hardly the only thing of interest. Some of the exhibits were still closed because of the cold, including sections devoted to African and Australian animals, and many of the North American animals were absent (which seemed odd to me, since many of the absent ones were specifically adapted for living in Midwestern winters). I took a lot of pictures from the zoo, as usual–and I mean a lot. While I’ve trimmed down which photos to share here, there are still quite a few below, beginning with a series of one-offs, then some additional groups focused on specific animals.

A few wide shots:

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Birds, mostly:

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Reptiles and amphibians:

The silvered langur:

The bonobo:

The Amur tiger:

The polar bear:

Mixed messaging about kangaroos:

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Various sculptures/monuments:

I also saw a blue jay in the empty bison exhibit, and that awful-quality picture is included below.

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And that’s it! The trip was fun, and we’re glad to be home again.

Beach Birds

Been a while since I’ve had a post with bad bird pictures. I missed a post for Thursday; this week back from holiday break was really busy for me. This post makes up for that, I guess. The week before, my wife and I visited family in Panama City, Florida, and took some day trips around the panhandle.

I don’t really have any more comments, just a few awful pictures:

Gen Con Week 2017

I wanted to talk about what I really liked about Gen Con, and about this past week in general. But you’ll have to use your imagination a bit. Believe it or not (given the absurd number of blurry bird pictures I’ve posted here), I don’t really take that many pictures. I typically just try to enjoy the moment. So pictures from Gen Con are sorely lacking. No cool pictures of cosplayers, for instance. Then again, if you want pictures of Gen Con cosplayers, I’m pretty sure IndyStar has you covered.

As usual, my wife and I went to a lot of the panels and seminars, especially related to the Writer’s Symposium. It’s been refreshing that every year there is new and different programming; these events haven’t begun to feel stale or repetitive. Highlights this year included a discussion of tabletop game development with transmedia in mind and a fairly intimate panel with authors openly discussing their struggles with depression. As usual, there were interesting panels about diversity and about the writer’s craft, as well: my wife and I especially liked a session on the representation of Arabs and Muslims in tabletop gaming and an early panel on producing novel synopses for popular fiction. Outside of writing panels, I got a kick out of “Metal Church,” a mid-morning Sunday event that explored the intersecting history of heavy metal and fantasy roleplaying games.

Shockingly, one of my favorite events of the convention was the Glitter Guild’s “Nerdlesque” burlesque show on Thursday night. I haven’t really had an interest in burlesque, but my wife has an interest in things like burlesque entertainment and contemporary pin-up art (one of our big purchases from last year’s Gen Con was a massive pin-up print of Leia), and as I mentioned before, I like to encourage her to pursue her passions, so we went. Great show. I think I “get” burlesque more now, as a disinterested observer, than I did in the past. It’s very body-positive, welcoming of people of various ethnicities, body types, and genders. And it’s obviously exhibitionist, but it truly feels empowering to those on stage. Oh, also, it ended with one of the hosts doing a bit as the late great Carrie Fisher as Leia, and I lost it when she strangled an inflatable Jabba the Hutt on stage (okay, maybe you had to be there).

And speaking of sort of off-kilter events, as usual, the Sun King Wednesday evening street party before the official Gen Con opening was great fun. Dragon’s Delight, a “Belgian Golden Ale,” was an enjoyably smooth beer. And “Lez Zeppelin,” the (I kid you not) all-female Led Zeppelin cover band, was actually really good–more than anything else, your mileage may vary depending on how much you like Led Zeppelin to begin with.

Now, this is the third Gen Con we attended (we first went in 2015), and every year we’ve focused more on panels and events than games–even though it’s promoted as the best four days in gaming. That’s not to say that we avoid games; it’s a gaming convention, after all, and we are there because we enjoy tabletop gaming. But we have enjoyed focusing a little more on the writing/design elements of the convention. We always make at least one grand tour through the exhibition hall, though, and we always try to demo some games. This year, our favorite game was 1754, and we bought it after playing (though in full disclosure, I think this was the only game we played in full this year). Great fun, and it manages to capture some of the complicated politics and ultimate futility of the French and Indian War. Plus, it’s easy to pick up, and we already look forward to teaching some of our friends to play.

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Funny enough, we got to 1754 because we passed the Academy Games booth in the exhibition hall, and my wife was really interested in their Conflict of Heroes: Guadalcanal game. The guy at the booth sold her on trying it out and told us that we could demo the game over in the big game hall space with some generic tickets. So when we finally made it to the game hall, trying this game was our top priority. There was an opening when we got there, but we realized we didn’t have any generic tickets on us. By the time we had the generic tickets, there wasn’t a free game. But we walked around and waited and eventually 1754 opened up. We decided to try it out and loved it.

As usual, a healthy dose of whimsy can lead to exciting discoveries (we love the used roleplaying game store set up in the exhibition hall the past couple years because we always make some serendipitous finds). But on the flip side, we never actually did play Guadalcanal. We finally made a decision for next year. Next year, we’re going to be more proactive. Next year, not only will we get badges early, we’ll actually research some games in advance and sign up for some play times (and so will actually register for the wishlist and buy specific game tickets) so we can try out the games we’re most interested in and maybe play some games we already love.

Outside of Gen Con itself, I had some other fun, geeky things to be excited about this past week.

First, as some or many or most of you may know, Fantasy Flight is publishing a 30th-anniversary version of West End Games’ original Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game! Pretty cool! No, I didn’t play this game. The first Star Wars roleplaying game I got into was the Wizards of the Coast version; I still have mountains (or at least carefully exaggerated molehills) of those source books and supplements. WEG’s version was before my time. But it was such a monumental part of developing early Star Wars expanded lore and keeping the franchise alive between Return of the Jedi and Heir to the Empire (and of course it framed a lot of the lore of Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy). And what a great time for it to return, with the Star Wars universe still relatively fresh post-reboot. The only thing I’m disappointed about? There was a “30 Years of Star Wars RPGs” panel at Gen Con, with Bill Slavicsek, Sam Stewart, Sterling Hershey, and Pablo Hidalgo, and I completely missed out on it. I only became aware of it about an hour after it was over! So that’s another reason why I’m actually going to plan next year’s Gen Con itinerary out a little better…

Second, we live so close to downtown Indy that we just walked to and from the convention center, and this gave me time to play Pokemon Go with my wife. I actually haven’t played in a while. She introduced me to the new raid system, and I familiarized myself with the new gym battle and defense system. Both things are a lot of fun, and I think Pokemon Go is a lot better game now! Even the same tap-tap-swipe combat system feels a bit fresher, as lagging seemed a lot less significant, so I could actually get my combatants to respond to my commands in a timely and useful fashion.

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I sure taught that Magikarp a lesson! We’ve since done raids against Machamp and Cyndaquil, but no legendaries yet.
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Hall of Champions moment. Jesus loves me for this, the game says so.

Third, in related Pokemon news, my wife and I also tried out Magikarp Jump. My god. That game is so cute and so addictive. It’s just a clicky sort of game, no real skill involved, but boy, it can suck you in if you cultivate time and resource management techniques. The combination of feeding, training, and competing, cycling with random events and special encounters to regenerate your ability to do all three, can keep me going for a half an hour or more at a time. Not bad for a stupid little game like this. I had to turn off my notifications for the game so that I wasn’t constantly being tempted for “just a few more minutes” of training.

Fourth and finally, all the extra walking from the past week yielded a new bird sighting for me. A lot of little birds were freaking out with alarm calls, flitting all over a tree. Naturally, this caught my attention. Sitting up on a branch was what appeared to be a massive owl, just chilling out in the middle of the day. Frustratingly, I couldn’t get a great look at him, and the pictures turned out even worse. Like that’s going to stop me from sharing, though! To end this post, look upon this owlish majesty:

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So many pictures!

Oh boy, I have a lot of pictures I want to share. I have to restrain myself a little bit. I’ll begin with just a handful of the many, many pictures from a day trip with my wife last week to Turkey Run State Park:

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I have a lot. Way too many. That’s just a sample. So much beauty out there. And separately, still from Turkey Run, here’s another collection of shots of/around the covered bridge there:

Lastly from Turkey Run, here’s this guy:

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I was walking less the past few weeks because my wife very sweetly kept offering rides while on break from teaching, and it’s hard to say no to being dropped off right outside the door and spending a little extra time with my favorite person every day. But I still have some pictures that I think are at least interesting. Like so:

I also saw a beautiful double rainbow in Fountain Square after heavy rains, when going to a metal/punk show with my wife. You can sort of see both in this photo:

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And it wouldn’t be a photo collection here without some animal, and especially bird, pictures:

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Rusty blackbird? Brown-headed cowbird? Something else?

Those animal pictures include some truly atrocious bird pictures. Good luck identifying whatever these guys are:

Finally, just for fun, look how my little far-shore spot from my “adventure” was completely flooded by the heavy rains:

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That’s all for now, folks!

Another week of photos

I really don’t set out with some target. I have no goal to upload pictures to this blog. I have no aims to take a certain number of pictures every week. I just see pretty things and I want to try to record them, sometimes. Those moments are frequent enough that I keep ending up with a lot of pictures by the end of the week. Most of the pictures are bad, and many of the ones I like are still poor quality, or at best still fail to capture exactly what I loved about the scene. But I keep trying. And so these weekly posts keep happening.

Here are some of the animals we’ve seen before, plus a really bad picture of a chipmunk:

Here are some new or hard-to-identify animals:

And here are a couple of landscape shots:

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Dandelion heads were blowing in the breeze over all this color.
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I took a picture of my wife taking a picture of this tree.

Plus some moss:

20170525_184920.jpgI also took several pictures of the river, which were automatically stitched together into a decent panorama in Google Photos:

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Finally, duck in flight:

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Hope there was something you saw that you enjoy! And cheers, enjoy Memorial Day.

My favorite sights walking in Indy another week

Just by walking a slightly different way on White River, my wife and I had some beautiful new sunset views. And those views had lots of waterfowl. More ducks, more joy, so all was good, and I can tolerate geese when ducks are around too.

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We also saw what I think was a woodchuck! It went sprinting through the grass to get to its hole when it saw us coming. I was so excited when I saw it! It poked its head out of its hole to see if we were gone, and since we were on a walking path above it, we could see it doing so. It was pretty cute, though I admit I felt a little bad that we were stressing it out so much just by walking down the sidewalk.

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It’s not a good picture, but you can see the little head peeking out.

20170519_202443We also saw more rabbits!

Walking this past week also resulted in a little identification confusion. I’ve noticed, whenever I’ve gotten a good look at the trim on the red-winged

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Horrible picture, especially with the light from the street lamp. But there’s a red-winged blackbird up top, and it’s one of the better images highlighting the more whitish trim I’ve typically noticed.

blackbirds, that it is almost always a stark white instead of yellow around the red. In fact, they all look more like the pictures one sees of tricolored blackbirds, even though those are only found on the Pacific Coast. I began to wonder if I was misidentifying my red-winged blackbirds, but I finally feel confident, after reviewing enough pictures, that I’ve been correct. Those trims seem to range from white to yellow, even if it does seem like yellow trim is a lot more common in photographs.

While that story’s a little embarrassing, I think I also have some cool photos to share from the past week. To start with, I have a picture of a brilliant red (and rather young- and slim-looking) Cardinal:

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Blackbirds are hard for me to ID (outside of the red-winged variety), but I think the iridescent blue head and black body on the one below mean it’s a common grackle, even if it’s not so clear with the quality of picture:

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The below blackbird may be another grackle, or it may be a rusty blackbird, or it may be something else entirely, but boy its eyes are intense:

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Finally, I think this little guy is some type of sparrow, though I’m not sure which type:

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All right, that’s all for this week! As usual, any suggestions on identifications are appreciated.