redroanchronicles: Juno - Kiss Me (Default)
Thanks for visiting my blog. If you're looking for photo prints or want to check out my visual art, please visit Red Roan Studios. If you spot a photo in one of my posts here that you'd like to order a print of, just click on it and you'll be taken to the appropriate page. This blog is brand-new and is a work in progress, so keep an eye out for new developments. Thanks for reading. :)
redroanchronicles: (chronicles-shipsbell)
So, I only just realized I've been incredibly remiss. I moved my journal to Wordpress awhile back -- mostly for technology reasons -- and I'd meant to set up an RSS feed or... something... to carry the posts over to DW and LJ. But I totally didn't. I've just been blithely posting away on the new blog with my head in the clouds.

So I thought the very least I could do was post here and direct you over here to the blog I actually update, in case any of you want to continue following the saga of my life. :D And if you have suggestions on how best to make it easier for those posts to appear in your friends feeds on DW and LJ, please do let me know. I'll be keeping my fannish blogs on DW and LJ but the move to Dreamwidth seems to have stuck for good with this more real-lifey blog. ANYWHO, I hope you're all doing awesome. I haven't had a chance to read my friends feeds in a terribly long time, but I'm also trying to figure out how best to keep up with those.
redroanchronicles: (chronicles-shipsbell)
Every year when spring comes, I start feeling the urge to migrate. Don't laugh, it's true. Some people might call it the inevitable result of winter-time cabin fever, but to me it's more than that. I get the urge to start moving and not stop, possibly until autumn. I want to go places and see things. I want to explore the world. I want to... get a tattoo to remember the journey by.

Last year around this time, I was still living in Northern California, and I took a trip down to Mendocino County -- specifically to the towns of Mendocino and Fort Bragg -- to see the sights. It was partially a work trip, taking photographs for the travel magazine I worked for, but it was also a bit of a vacation. And I had a gift certificate for a Fort Bragg tattoo parlor, and by God I was going to get inked. Luckily for me, my company also had trade available at some area businesses, so I was able to stay and mostly to eat for free, and I took along my trusty companion Trudeau. It was a pretty awesome trip, and I never did post any photos, so... better late than never!

Our first stop was at a riding stable that does beach rides in McKerricher State Park. The scenery was lovely, but I won't really talk about the beach ride because I don't actually have anything complimentary to say. :D Then we headed on into Fort Bragg, where we stopped at Glass Beach. Mendocino has a lot of the rugged, rocky coastline that is my particular favorite, but Glass Beach is particularly scenic because -- and this is going to sound a little topsy-turvy, but bear with me -- it used to be the town dump. I'm not sure what would possess anyone to turn a stretch of lovely beach into a dump, but they did, and as a result much of the material that makes up the beach now is crush and sand-worn fragments of glass.

Click here for more photos of a journey to the sea... )
redroanchronicles: Juno - Kiss Me (Default)
It snows in the morning, and waking up to winter after a few weeks of spring is like finding yourself in a foreign land with no recollection of how you got there. It's jetlag without the travel, and though the thing has passed by afternoon and most of the snow is already gone, it still leaves you disoriented.

There's a woodstove and a warm meal waiting inside, but there are chores to do first, and the low rumble of thunder is like the voice of an old friend, calling for your company. You can't bear to be inside. You check on the dogs, grab your gloves and your book, shut the door behind you and head out to the horses. The gelding and the big mare are in their usual places, waiting expectantly for supper, but your own mare is standing at the peak of the little hill, staring in the opposite direction, neck held high and ears pricked, not her usual self.

That rigid set of her neck always unnerves you a little. She's led a life in the wild, and she's wiser than you. With any other animal, you might dismiss it; with her, you simply wonder what she knows that you don't.

She comes easily at the shaking of the grain pan though, and eats her fill, and only raises her head a few times to listen to the storm that's closing in. She's wary, but she's not afraid. She's even willing to stay under the shelter with the other horses. She turns her nose easily into your hand, then buries it in sweet-smelling hay, seemingly content.

You leave the horses to their supper, tuck your book inside the front pocket of your hoodie, and scale the ladder back into the hay loft. The barn cat is there, and tries to deposit himself in your lap while you're still climbing the ladder; you push him away gently, one-handed, and miraculously you manage not to trip over him as you step deeper into the loft, brush the loose hay from a few bales and sit. You call to the cat, cluck your tongue and murmur to him, expecting to make an easy job of attracting him close enough to pet, but the sound of rain just starting against the roof unnerves him, and he's hungry for his own supper; he disappears down the ladder and leaves you to yourself.

Through the open hatches in the loft floor, you can hear the rustling of hay as the horses eat, but it's soon drowned out by the beginnings of a rain shower, a dainty and uneven scrambling like birds landing on the metal roof. A low bass-line of thunder leads into a long, cacophonous percussion solo, rain pounding the ground slick and hitting the barn roof so fast and hard that it produces one continuous roar of noise.

There's a feeling in your chest that's excitement and fear and joy and the wet air is like something alive, something reaching out. You sigh it in and feel it wind its way around your insides, laying gentle roots.

The book's pages are crisp and dry beneath your fingertips. The temperature is dropping. Bruce Chatwin writes from two decades ago about human ancestors huddled in caves, hiding from long-toothed predators. He writes about Australian Aboriginals singing their world into being, and you sit in the hay loft and listen as the world sings back.

The rain turns to hail, then back to rain, and slows to a gentler tempo, thunder still muttering to itself but further off now. Soon it's too cold for bare fingers. You slip the book back into your pocket and descend the ladder.

Two of the horses are still eating, front feet and muzzles buried happily in hay. Your mare is out in the weather, standing again on her hill, staring fixedly at some monster only she can see. You pull up your hood and slip through the gate, sloshing through the new mud until you're standing next to her, one hand light on her withers; she turns her head to greet you, then attends again to her sentry. You peer together into the gathering gloom, but your human senses detect nothing.

That doesn't mean there's nothing there.

They've been in the dry lot all day, and you're not particularly keen to open the paddock only to have to round the horses back up again to go in for the night, but a closer look might ease your mare's fears and let her get back to her supper, so you open up the paddock gate and walk through. The mare doesn't follow, not until you're nearly out of sight behind the trees, and then she charges in at a canter, unwilling to let you face her nightmares on your own. She comes to a stop at your shoulder, blowing air, brave and alert and ready to face the enemy.

The trees are glistening with tiny drops of water, as if they've put on their own decorations. The only sounds are the mare's breathing and the soft patter of rain. Nothing moves. You warm one hand against the mare's neck. Everything is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. She turns her head and breathes against your knuckles, as if checking you're alright.

You venture into the thicket and she follows you for a short distance, then stops as her pasture-mate comes charging in after you both, late to the battle but ready to wade in, if the threat had been found.

The part of you that Chatwin wrote about -- the lizard-brain that remembers being hunted by giant cats -- tells you not to go further into the thicket. Maybe it's just unfounded paranoia, or the fixed set of your mare's ears, or having watched too many horror movies in your lifetime, but you stop, and you back out of the thicket and back to the relative safety of your "herd." Whether the threat is real or imagined, you'll need to get the mares back into their lot for the night, and if there is something lurking here, you'll hardly help the situation by blundering over it in the dark. It's time to retreat to more certain ground.

You wrap a hand around your mare's lower jaw, fingers burying themselves in the thick winter hair there, the whiskers on her chin tickling your knuckles. You turn away from the thicket, leading her by the jaw, and she follows easily, willingly, with nothing but your fingers pressed lightly to her skin. The big mare comes along too, bringing up the rear, glancing occasionally over her shoulder, unconcerned but curious, as if wondering what all the fuss was about.

You let your mare go when you're nearly inside, so you can close the gate, but she refuses to leave you alone in the pasture, and you have to round her up a few times to send her through ahead of you so you can get the gate shut. She goes along with a lightness you're not accustomed to, putting herself into your hands. When you walk back to the scattered piles of hay, she follows, and for a moment she stands with her head pressed against your arm, eyes drooping shut, just breathing beside you. When you ask her to eat, she eats, her worries seemingly forgotten. She's confident that the predators treading their paths through your shared genetic memory will go hungry tonight.

You run your half-numb fingers through the fair blond hair of her forelock, and step out through the gate, leaving the horses to their hay and walking back over hail-spotted ground toward the house. You're ready now for the woodstove and the warm meal. The morning's snow is gone, along with the sense of displacement it brought. You know where you are.
redroanchronicles: Juno - Kiss Me (Default)
The fine folks at The Horse First Farm in Wisconsin have created a brilliant invention... a bucket turned funnel that they can use to speed-load hay bags for the horses. I love how necessity breeds innovation... and how horse people can create just about anything from stuff they found in the barn. (It helps that you can find almost anything in a barn. They just attract miscellaneous objects.)

redroanchronicles: Juno - Drowsy (juno)
Today's horse.hack is going to blow your mind. Seriously. This is my best invention ever.

Are you ready? You'd better be ready for this. Maybe sit down. Brace yourself.

I just oversold it, didn't I? You're going to be disappointed. I take back when I said before.

It is awesome though. I would go so far as to say that on a scale of one to eleventy, this invention scores a perfect super-rad.

Okay, here it is. Really. For real.

If your mind isn't blown yet, it's because you don't yet understand the full scope and wonder if this amazing amazingness. Let me explain. This is an IKEA FRAKTA shopping bag. IKEA is of course that well-known wonderland of attractive and affordable Scandanavian furniture and other housewares, that kingdom of fantastically unpronouncable products and delicious, delicious meatballs.

Learn more about this marvelous, versatile and amazingly amazing hay bag beneath the cut! )
redroanchronicles: (chronicles-sailaway)
It's a well-known fact here in America that if you're a quitter, then you are essentially the worst kind of human being. You're worse than people who kick puppies and the hosts of reality television shows. You're worse than anything, because Americans don't know what the word "quit" means. (I blame funding cuts in the public education system. Stay in school, kids!) Being a quitter is worse than just plain failing at something, because quitting is a character flaw. It makes you essentially a weaker person.

Or at least, that's the impression I get from my own psyche, which sees fit to torture me with horrible feelings of inadequacy and abject misery every time I quit at something. Which really, let's face it, is a pretty frequent event. I like to try everything. So quitting kind of comes with the territory.

Recently I tried to learn to play the guitar. Playing a musical instrument or otherwise being musically talented has been a lifelong dream for me, primarily because I am the most musically ignorant person who ever lived. (Well, maybe not as musically ignorant as half the people who audition for American Idol. Seriously, can they not hear themselves?) The two things I most ardently wish I'd been exposed to as a child are music and languages, and they're two things that I think are much tougher to learn later in life, at least for me. But I was determined. I was inspired (by Glen Hansard, who is a musical genius). I was going to do this thing. Like a boss.

My last roommate knew a little guitar, taught me some chords and let me borrow her guitar. It was fun, but I didn't practice as much as I should have, and I was frustrated by my inability to produce any sound which could be described as "melodic." Or "bearable."

When I moved I thought I'd have to give it up, but my co-worker Brett used to be a touring musician, and he was kind enough to lend me one of his guitars so I could keep practicing. He gave me a little tutorial, and I took a lesson at a music shop in town. And I discovered something important about myself: I don't understand music. I don't understand the hows or whys of it, the structure, the terminology... any of it. And I probably will never understand it, because just trying worked me up into such a state of emotional turmoil that my mind would try to just turn itself off. (The reasons for this are legion, but mostly I think they trace back to the junior high school music teacher who turned my enthusiasm for music into a general sense of terror and made me feel like the most worthless human being alive. Thanks, Mr. Jones. You tosser.)

Eventually I reached a point where music brought more stress than happiness, and I just couldn't justify it to myself. I returned Brett's guitar. I didn't schedule another lesson at the music shop. I gave up.

The thing is, there are plenty of good reasons to give up on something, and particularly as you get older, you begin to understand the value of focusing on a few things rather than trying to master all of them. Could I have learned to competently play the guitar, if I'd applied myself and kept practicing? Probably. But I had to weigh all that time -- and it would've taken a lot of time -- learning the guitar against spending that time on something else I'm passionate about. Did I want to be inside inexpertly plucking at chords, or did I want to be outside working with my horse? Did I want to make a commitment to getting up early every morning and practicing guitar for an hour, or did I want to make a commitment to getting up early every morning and working out for hour? (Or did I want to face the reality that my life and "early" aren't really concepts that work well together?) Did I want to spend my time becoming a mediocre musician, or did I want to spend my time becoming a fantastic writer?

Put in those terms, it doesn't seem quite so much like I quit playing the guitar as I chose to focus on other things in my life. Lately I've gone a bit mad with setting goals, and the more goals I set the more I realize I just can't reach them all.... and if I don't narrow my focus to the ones that are truly important to me, I can't reach any of them.

(Recently while talking to a friend, I asked her whether a five-year plan that I have in mind is truly feasible. She said sure, if it's the only project I'm working on. I could only answer with a pregnant pause, before admitting that I'm also working on a daily art project, a 101 life skills in 1001 days project, a personal fitness project, several novels, and probably a few other projects I've already forgotten about. When I started setting goals for myself, I just went nuts with it.)

One of the things I realize about myself is that I have a tendency to take on too much at once -- as the list above will demonstrate. I end up missing all deadlines, fumbling all balls, and getting absolutely nothing done. (Recently I lost work -- unpaid volunteer design work, mind you -- to the local print shop I had referred the client to for shirt pricing. Well done, me.) Previously I simply accepted this as the way my life is, but now I'm working to get things in order, looking for ways to get myself organized, and actively holding myself back from overcommitting. (Er, that last is a work in progress.)

There are things you can change. There are projects you should keep plugging away at, no matter how difficult they are. And there are times when you have to decide which things are worth all that effort and which ones aren't. Sometimes quitting is the best thing you can do, so don't be afraid to quit. Be afraid of never trying at all.
redroanchronicles: Juno - Kiss Me (Default)
An important part of taking good horse photos involves anticipating where the horse is about to be, instead of trying to get the photo in the exact moment it happens. (This is particularly true of some digital cameras, which may have a perceptible delay between you pushing the shutter button and the camera actually taking the photo.) One of the reasons that experienced horse people make better equine photographers than people who aren't as familiar with horses is because horse people can usually accurately anticipate a horse's behavior. As Pat Parelli would put it, they "know what happens before what happens happens."

Here, allow me to illustrate with illustrations. )
redroanchronicles: Seasons (seasons)
Here's something remarkable to start your day: Birds can maintain quantum entanglement in their eyes for longer than the best laboratory microsystems. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, "Wow, that's amazing, nature trumps human effort once again," or "Gee, I didn't realize we even had laboratory systems for creating quantum entanglement" or even, "wtf is quantum entanglement and why does it sound like what might happen if you get high and try to read a Neal Stephenson novel?" But then you'll go back and realize that what they're saying is that birds have quantum entanglement going all the time in their freaking eyeballs. Well, in theory, but apparently it's a compelling theory with some solid evidence behind it. So the theory is that birds actually navigate with a quantum "compass" -- they can see the earth's magnetic field.

I just blew my own mind merely by typing that sentence.

In other news, humans are really crappy neighbors, like the kind that party at 3am with their stereo turned up to eleven, and animals are finding ways to continue communicating despite the racket. But it'd still be nice if we'd tone it down or they might adapt by figuring out how to call the cops.

Here's an article about a survey that shows a ridiculous number of science teachers in America avoid the subject of evolution, and 13% of those surveyed actively advocated creationism. In related news, I just wept a little right then for the future of humanity.

At Harvard, scientists are working on perfecting mind control for worms. This is a totally slippery slope because I'm fairly certain this research was funded by a supervillain whose ultimately goal is to produce an army of mind-controlled zombie sharks. With lasers on their heads.

A British engineer saved his own life by designing his own heart valve implant, which just goes to show you that "keep calm and carry on" really would make a marvelous motto for the people of the UK.

For the first time ever (er, that we know of), Antarctic Minke whales and Northern Minke whales have interbred and produced hybrids, which will undoubtedly be known as "sort of in the middle minke whales." I'll bet a lot of more of this sort of unusual interbreeding -- not to mention the freaking polar bears making with the freaking grizzly bears to produce terrifying polar-grizzly-bear killing machines -- will become a lot more common as climate change prompts animals to expand their usual habitats and alter their usual behavioral patterns.

Robots are better at walking if they learn to crawl first, but I'm guessing this news story is just propaganda released by Skynet to make us think that we're safe from the Terminators.

China has finally stepped up to the proverbial plate and put new rules in place for Chinese zoos. What kind of rules could Chinese zoos possibly need, you ask?
"Firstly, the zoos will be forced to stop pulling the teeth of tiger cubs so that zoo visitors can hold them. Zoos will also have to put a halt to the selling of animal parts in their shops, and the zoo restaurants will have to refrain form serving dishes made using rare animals. On top of this, zoos will need to end the attractions in which live animals are sold to visitors and then thrown to the wild cats, allowing the visitors to watch the cats rip the defenseless animals to shreds."

Good lord, China.

In other news of parasites, this one turns its host red in order to protect itself. I would consider that to be a super-cool party trick, but the part where it liquifies the host's insides and gorges itself on them isn't as cool of it.

Also, slime molds! Man, are slime molds ever exciting. They can do something awesome that only human beings have been observed doing: They farm their own food.

I'm in love with blue sea slugs, and I will tell you why. Firstly, because they look incredibly awesome, like maybe they came here from another planet and want to be our alien super best-friends. Secondly, because they eat jellyfish. And thirdly, because when they eat the jellyfish, they are so bad-ass that they even eat the stingers. And then they store them in special pouches, so they can use them against their own enemies.

This awesome time-lapse video takes you inside a Russian Antarctic expedition, and it's pretty much epic.

And finally, because after some of those stories I feel it's necessary to restore your faith in humanity, science, and the awesomeness of life, you should know that a US company has developed a genetically engineered cyanobacterium (I don't know what that means, but it makes me sound smart) that can create fossil fuels on demand. And furthermore, it doesn't require massive amounts of inputs -- like all the corn that has to be grown for that complete waste of resources we call "ethanol" -- but instead requires just carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water -- even brackish or sea water. The only problem with this, of course, is that if fossil fuels become abundant again, breaking our dependence on them becomes that much harder.

Okay, I know I said "and finally" on that last one, but I didn't want to end it on a total downer note there. So here's a bionic dog.

(By the by, did you know I'm on Facebook, despite my many reservations about its soulless and evil approach to privacy? It's true! I also post these and a great many more interesting science links there on a regular basis, so if you also are a slave of the system and enthralled by the "like" button, you should friend me. I've always wanted to be your friend, anyway.)
redroanchronicles: Juno - Kiss Me (Default)
Just catching up on the latest from my daily art project:

DAY 005

Practicing my comic-y stylings with Misha Collins as Castiel from Supernatural. After taking this picture, I decided I needed to "fine-tune" one little thing, and completely ruined it all. If I learn nothing else from doing this project, I hope to learn to stop overworking everything until it's crap. :D

DAY 006

I found a museum archive of these amazing photos of First Nations people from across North America, and they lend themselves really well to this medium of charcoal on brown paper. I'll probably do a ton more of these, I love how this one came out.

DAY 007

Another charcoal and brown paper piece; this is Rufus Sewell as Tom Builder in the awesome miniseries Pillars of the Earth. I couldn't get the expression right, but I like it anyway. :)
redroanchronicles: Seasons (seasons)
I didn't actually post a piece of daily art yesterday (failure already, on day 3! Woe betide me! Also, I just said "betide"!) because the project I was working on for the evening was actual paid work (gasp!) and so isn't really free to be posted yet. So I thought I'd make up for it today with a new piece and an additional catch-up piece for yesterday. I draw fast, so it all worked out. :D

In honor of my *mumble*teenth viewing of all of the episodes of Spirited (oh season two, why aren't you here yet?), I thought I'd make today's daily art postings a little rock and roll. Just... not quite as rock and roll as I'd intended.

Day 003

Brush pen & Sharpies / 15 minutes

I'm often told I'm very negative about myself because I always have criticisms for my art, but I think of it more like a post-game wrap-up, personally. I'm not (usually) berating myself, but especially when I'm doing quick sketches and experimenting with new mediums like I'm already doing a lot with this project, it's really helpful once a piece is finished to give it a good looking over and think about what you'd do differently if you were going to do it over again... it's part of what helps the next piece be better.

So with this one, I'd obviously fix the shadowing on his face that makes Henry look like he's chewing gum. I'd also give him something a bit less odd to sit on; I didn't want to spend a lot of time drawing an ornate and boring chair, but my quick sketch-in looks a bit odd. Other than that I'm pretty happy with how it came out. Might've been even better as a digital vector... maybe next time.

Day 004

Colored pencil on tinted paper / 35 minutes

This was my first attempt at doing a piece on tinted paper with just colored pencils, and my first time working with colored pencils since high school. So it came out kind of how I wanted it and kind of not. I was hoping to do a more hard-core punk-rock-y ink wash portrait with another of the photos from this series of stills, but discovered I'm nearly out of ink. Curse you, fates! Maybe next time. Anyway, this might've turned out better if I'd done it larger, because it was tough to keep a tip on the colored pencils to do any finer detail. Sort of cool anyway.
redroanchronicles: (chronicles-shipsbell)
Here's day 2... a study in partial failure. :D I decided to try an experiment with the background on this piece, and it didn't work. It spectacularly didn't work. Unfortunately with colored pencil on this sort of paper, it's about as permanent as ink, so to rectify the problem the piece would pretty much have to be redone. Oh well. I like how the charcoal portion of it came out, anyway. :D I also don't have a scanner at home, so this is a crop from a photograph and the quality therefore sucks. A lot. I'm sorry.

I'm a little in love with the drama of my source material (this was drawn with kind permission from a photo by Cheri Prill) and have been contemplating making this a larger piece in acrylic. Since I haven't done much in the way of painting before, I'll probably save the concept for a little later in the year when I've done more experimenting with acrylics and am comfortable having a go at something as big and grand as I envision this being.

Feh. Anyway, here it is. This horse is a Friesian Sport Horse named Renegade O Mage, and belongs to Mark & Leslie Weiler. I hope to do him more justice in the future. :D

Day 002
redroanchronicles: (chronicles-shipsbell)
I've never been much for New Year's resolutions. I've never been good at keeping them, and it seems to me that most of us treat resolutions a bit like Lent: it's something you do for a little while, just to prove that you can, before you get back to your daily indulgences.

But I have to admit, I've been turning over a new leaf. In addition to the other disturbing signs of adulthood that have crept up on me over the years -- you know, when you realize that you listen to NPR a lot and learning to cook is suddenly important and you actually want people to give you socks for Christmas -- I've also been doing some pretty serious work on myself. I've even been reading self-help books, God help me, and finding them incredibly useful. And I have, in general, been taking stock of myself... and have been weighed, measured, and found wanting. (Name that movie! Sorry, I don't have any prizes for you. But it is proof that you have excellent taste in film.)

So I've decided that this year, the only thing for it is to be bold. I tend to be commitment-phobic because I only end up letting myself (and others) down by over-committing myself and therefore getting absolutely *nothing* done, but I think I'll get through with all this new-found determination I have going. So this year, in addition to continuing my quest to learn useful life skills, I'm going to be creating a piece of art every single day. I'd originally planned to limit this to drawings and sketches, but since I'm working on a lot of different mediums these days, I'm going to make the definition a little more broad and include sculpture and crafts and other fun things like that. I want to stress that these are often going to be quick sketches, and aren't always going to be particularly good, but the point of the exercise is to get me out of a "I don't have enough time to do all the things I want to do!" frame of mind and into a habit of creating something every day.

Because a big part of the inspiration for this project was Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's Oscar acceptance speech -- which by the way is the best acceptance speech of all time -- I thought I'd kick off the project with a quick digital tablet sketch of Glen Hansard.

Day 001

And while we're discussing my life skills crusade, I should mention that I've crossed another couple of items off the list; my roommate's husband has kindly taught me some mad chopping skills that took care of #20 on my list, and I knocked off #3 by snowshoeing around our pastures yesterday while checking fences. (It turns out snowshoeing is as easy as everyone said, but they didn't tell me that my butt would be sore the next day.)

I'm also working on some other goals for 2011, but have yet to define them, so I guess my goal for the moment is to work on defining my goals. :D
redroanchronicles: Rhapsody - Gilded (rhapsody)

The Horse Boy
(Documentary film, 2009)

There's a bit of magic in that instant when you first put a child onto the back of a good horse. It's a moment when a connection can form, and for many horse people, a memory like that one stands at the beginning of a lifetime relationship with all things equine.

When Rupert Isaacson put his son Rowan on the back of a neighbor's horse, it was just as magical, but something even more remarkable happened. Rowan's tantrum ended. He went quiet. He clung warmly to the horse's back, and then he started talking.

For other kids, that might not be unusual behavior, but Rowan is autistic, and the challenges his parents faced were much different than those that other parents dealt with. Rowan couldn't answer when someone asked his name. He couldn't be potty-trained. His tantrums were heartfelt and prolonged. He didn't socialize with other kids and he rarely spoke. He spent hours obsessively lining up toys end to end.

But something happened when the neighbor's mare, Betsy, came into the picture. On her back, Rowan was different. He was calmer, and he spoke more. He was happy. And for his parents, this was a glimmer of hope where every other form of therapy and medication had failed to make in-roads.

It was the beginning of a journey that would eventually take them to Mongolia, where they would participate in shamanic rituals, ride to waters renowned for their healing powers, and ride north to meet the Reindeer People who make their home near the Russian border. And by the time they returned home, their son was transformed.

I haven't read the book that also tells this story, but a friend who has told me that she was disappointed that the story didn't focus more on the horse's role in the story. This is also true of the documentary, but I don't count it as a failing on Isaacson's part in telling his family's story; on the contrary, this story is essentially about Rowan, and about his parents and how they deal with what their life together is. The horses are an agent of change for Rowan, and though the film carries an undercurrent of gratitude and affection toward its equine participants (particularly Betsy), they are not the focus of the story.

The documentary is wonderfully filmed and deftly edited (the music is particularly fantastic), and though at times it's uncomfortable to watch, it is an unflinchingly real look at how Rowan's autism affects his life. I watched him throw tantrums in which he seems almost terrified by his own helplessness to stop himself, and I watched his parents clean him up after yet another "code brown," and I saw his parents struggle to reconcile their love for this boy with their obvious anguish that he isn't able to really connect with them.

When father Rupert -- after trekking the remote Mongolian steppe with his wife and his autistic child, holding his son's flailing arms as a shaman beats a drum next to the boy's head -- wonders aloud whether he's insane and whether he's really doing this for his child's benefit, I wondered too.

When Rowan's parents marveled at some change in their son that seemed almost mundane to me, I wondered whether they aren't just seeing what they want to see, whether they were trying to justify what they'd put themselves and their child through by seeing progress that wasn't there.

And when Rowan ran off to play a game of chase with the Mongolian guide's son, and chattered like a normal boy, and sat atop a reindeer as if it was the best thing that had ever happened to anyone (which clearly it is, because he was sitting on a freaking reindeer), I did begin to see their point.

This film is a profoundly touching and deeply educational look into autism and the ways in which autistic people can form closer ties to their world. There are interview segments with experts, including Temple Grandin, and throughout the film it's clear that the goal with Rowan is to help him lead a richer life, relate better to his family, and take some of the pressure off of his parents. Similarly, the issue of traditional medicine is treated sensitively and respectfully; the Isaacsons may not both entirely buy into the idea of shamanism, but they're willing to try for their son, and they're full participants in the ceremonies of the many Mongolian shamans who come to help them, even when that means biting their tongues and taking their literal lashes. Ultimately, whether it's the shamanism or the horseback riding or just pushing him outside of his usual comfort zone, the trip does change something in Rowan.

Though the film's conclusion in some ways fails to lead up to the build-up -- particularly true of the segment in which a fairly arduous ride to see the reindeer people mostly culminates in Rowan sitting on a reindeer for a moment like a child in a petting zoo -- the whole of the film is both fascinating and inspiring, and definitely worth watching.

Rowan's parents have since founded The Horse Boy Foundation, an organization uniting autistic and neurotypical children in learning horsemanship. They also help to fund and support other autism programs.

redroanchronicles: Trudeau is Innocent. Really. (trudeau-innocence)
Don't be fooled by this face.

Look, I understand: he's difficult to resist. I know he looks all innocent and angelic. He's using those eyebrows on you and he's totally working it and all you can think is, "Aw, what a handsome fellow! He's so well-behaved and charming!"

That's what he wants you to think. He wants you to be impressed by his easy-going and affectionate nature. He's trying to draw you in, and when you make the mistake of thinking that "adorable" is the same thing as "trustworthy"... well, then he's got you.

Then when you least expect it, he's gone.

It's not that he's a bad dog, it's just that sometimes the urge to wring his massive neck is overwhelming. )
redroanchronicles: (chronicles-shipsbell)
A few weeks back I told you about my newfound ambition to become more well-rounded, and to make myself useful as well as decorative, by learning 101 life skills in 1001 days. The first skill I should've put on the list was "learn to finish writing lists," because it took an unholy long time to do this. In any event, I've finally compiled a list to begin with, and I'm sharing it here in the hopes that you will all peer-pressure me into staying on top of it. It also sounds like I've inspired a few people to take on similar projects of their own (including my roommate, who ever time I mention one of the goals I'm taking on says, "I want to learn that too!"), which is freaking awesome. If you're doing something similar, or even just learning a few new things, I hope you'll comment (or blog about it and then comment to point to your blog, or whatever). I'm really stoked about this project and I've gotten started already, which is why I'm setting the official start date for my project as December 4th, when I actually crossed the first task off my (non-existent) list. That makes my deadline Saturday, August 31, 2013.

As I continue to tackle the list, I'll blog about my exploits and tag them all with 101 skills so you can keep on top of it a little easier, if you're interested.

In any event, here's the actual list. I don't have 101 items on here at the moment, as I'm leaving room for things that just come up later on in the project; I expect to have much more to add as I go along.

Learn to...
1. Make eye splices in yacht rope (to make my own lead ropes)
2. Tie a rope halter
3. Snowshoe
4. Cross-country ski
5. Skijor with my dog
6. Build one basic piece of furniture
7. Build one more complicated piece of furniture
8. Do a balanced trim of my horse's feet
9. Drive a manual transmission
10. Throw pottery
11. Safely handle and shoot both a rifle and a handgun
12. Change a tire
13. Pitch a tent
14. Tie ten different knots that are useful for horsemen
15. Put on snow chains
16. Harvest firewood (from standing tree to stacked and finished wood)
17. Dance (in at least a very basic fashion)
18. Darn socks
19. Sew or create some sort of article of clothing
20. Develop knife skills for cooking
21. Carve wood and/or antler
22. Paint on fabrics
23. Build a campfire in an actual wilderness situation
24. Recognize poisonous and edible plants in my area (learn at least 5 of each)
25. Repair a bike (at least how to patch/replace tires and chains)
26. Learn another sort of knitting stitch and how to use it (learn to make something other than scarves!)
27. Change the oil in my truck
28. Change out the lights in the instrument panel of my truck (they are dying! so sad!)
29. Start a plant from seed
30. Hem clothes, and any other basic sewing that seems handy
31. Help build a house with Habitat for Humanity
32. Crochet
33. Use 5 new kinds of tools
34. Refresher on orienteering, map and compass reading, and figuring out where the #@$! I am when in the wilderness
35. Do three new sorts of crafts of any kind (making candles, Christmas ornaments, stuff with old horseshoes... whatever)
36. Do basic wiring for home repair (wire a new plug to a lamp, wire a lighting fixture into an existing box, etc) and how to safely work with wiring/electronics without electrocuting myself
37. Tread water
38. Change spark plugs
39. Catch, clean, and cook a fish
40. Canoe and/or raft
41. Properly use polo, standing, and other leg wraps for horses, and learn when to use which wrap
42. Do three different kinds of braids for horse manes or tails
43. Carve, burn, sew and otherwise work with leather
44. Fold fitted bedsheets so they're flat (seriously, that takes major skill)
45. Juggle (not necessarily a useful skill, but you never know...)

I'm still taking suggestions on things I should learn, so if you've got a great idea, pipe up! I'd also recommend for those who are doing something similar to look for classes in your local area, and talk to the folks around you to see who's got some skills they could teach you. I've crossed off my first two items, learning to cross-country ski (which was awesome!) and learning to skijor with my dog (well, we've learned, but I'm not a good enough skier to have jored yet), thanks to free workshops from my local nordic ski club, and I've already had offers from coworkers to teach me to snowshoe, operate a chainsaw, and build furniture. Hopefully I'll emerge from all of these projects with all of my limbs intact... I think I'm off to a good start, since I only fell down on my skis like four times. :D
redroanchronicles: Juno - Kiss Me (Default)
A few weeks ago we got our first real snow of the winter. It's gone now, a victim of unseasonably warm weather, but while it was actively happening I ventured out with my camera and captured a few photos of Juno and her pasturemate Sienna. You'll find quite a few beneath the cut.

The snow is softly falling )
redroanchronicles: (chronicles-sailaway)
Recently I have been forced to come to a depressing conclusion: my strongest areas as a person are the ones that are the most useless to my survival.

Here's a case in point. Recently I was out to dinner with the girls, and we came upon the subject of a coworker's recent collision with a deer, and I mentioned that he was lucky it wasn't a moose, and then... well, that got me going on the moose thing, you see. I had to tell them about how moose like to get drunk on fermented apples, and how they sometimes get brain parasites that cause them to stagger and run around like crazy until they die (sort of like the moose version of a zombie! But with more sadness). And I didn't even get to the parts about how the Soviet Union tried training them as riding and driving animals, and when that failed, they started in on the idea of dairy moose. Dairy moose.

I am so fun to go to dinner with, you guys. Seriously.

Anyway, while my skills of random ungulate facts are sure to make me the life of any dinner party, I've realized lately that the price to be paid for this cornucopia of amazing and useless facts is that my life is lacking in other areas. Like, say, knowledge that is useful in practical ways. My roommate and I have just moved into a great rental house, and I had to be taught how to build a fire. And I'm not talking how to build a fire in the wilderness using only the lenses of my glasses and a pile of kindling painstaking shaved from the back of a wild marmot. I'm talking about building a fire in a fireplace, with a bunch of kindling and logs already prepared. Oh, and a box of matches. And a lighter. Three lighters.

By not knowing these things, by lacking these essential skills, I'm letting myself down. And worse, I'm letting MacGyver down. MacGyver, who has taught me so much, like how to repair a radiator with an egg and how to escape from East Berlin in a coffin/jet ski!

Actually, now that I think about it, it's entirely possible that my reliance on MacGyver as a role model might be why I don't know how to do anything handy that actually works.

I've been working recently on a new 101 things in 1001 days list, because all of the changes my life has undergone lately have rather invalidated my last one, and as part of that I decided to make a list within a list. One of my 101 goals will be to learn 101 useful things and practical skills in the next 1001 days. I'll be counting both big things and small things, and I'll be making the list up as I go along, but a few of my goals include learning to build some furniture, snowshoe, cross-country ski, train my horse for driving, tie a rope halter, splice yacht rope, correctly trim my horse's feet, drive a manual transmission, use a map and compass, dance, throw pottery, jump start a car, chop firewood, safely handle and shoot a few kinds of guns, change a tire and put on snow chains, camp without being eaten by a bear... or maybe I'll end up learning how to wrestle bears in defense of a chocolate bar. It's hard to say.

As I work my way through the list, I'll be sharing my trials, tribulations and triumphs with you... and hopefully it'll be more of the latter. As you can tell from this list, I've got plenty to learn, and in addition to all the butch and outdoorsy stuff I've listed, I'll also be attempting to master new cooking techniques and recipes, create some new crafts and whatnot, and generally embrace any opportunity that comes up to learn something new. I only have a few requirements: the thing I'm learning has to be something at least moderately useful in my every day life (so I guess I can put off "perfecting impression of moose mating call"), and it has to be relatively cheap and not involve acquiring too much equipment. So while I might, say, be interested in learning to weld, it won't do me a lot of good if I can't afford a bunch of welding equipment to put those skills to use.

So, I'm dying to know, what are the skills you think everyone should learn? What do you wish you'd learned before necessity forced you to sink or swim? What simple things do you feel like everybody else has down pat but you're just mystified? Maybe we can all brush up a bit on our knowledge base, so when the inevitable zombie moose apocalypse arrives, we'll be well-prepared.
redroanchronicles: In Harness (in harness)
I was sorting through my "photos to process" folder -- which as it turned out contained folders up to two years old -- and came across a few shots I thought I might share. Today, I have no witty commentary to offer you. The best I can come up with is "OMG WTF BBQ PONIES!"

More photos beneath the cut )
redroanchronicles: (farmersmarket-corn)
Seriously, you learn something new every day. Like, apparently Charles Darwin terraformed a barren volcanic island and turned it into a thriving cloud forest ecosystem, which at least one scientist thinks is promising for the future of terraforming on places like Mars.

John Gribbin thinks that perhaps our origins weren't so different: he theorizes that our universe was created, but by something far more like us than like a god. It's an interesting theory. It's also the kind of article that makes my brain want to explode.

William Gibson writes about, of all things, Google and its impact on our world, and he can pretty much do whatever he wants because he's William Freaking Gibson, but it's actually an interesting article, too.

I just learned about the Ig Nobel Prize, the awards ceremony for which sounds like a hilarious good time for geeks. As a bonus, the article will also tell you about interesting things like the sexual proclivities of fruit bats (er, that might make it nsfw actually) and how to collect samples of whale snot. Just in case you needed to do that.

China has launched a moon mission, while NASA just recently laid off 1200 people, and those layoffs are expected to axe 7000-9000 people just this year. I guess declining empires don't need space programs. This sucks.

The journals of British naval surgeons from the 18th century onward are pretty much totally awesome, and I guess are also helping to advance the study of medicine or whatever. The British National Archives have just completed a major recataloging project that has made these records much easier to comb through. Does it make me a total geek to think that it would've been awesome fun to get to read all of these journals for the purposes of cataloguing? Yes? I'm okay with that.

Climate scientists are going on the offensive against climate change deniers, in response to the new Republican-majority Congress apparently deciding that make-believe about climate change is going to be a priority for the next session. ILU, climate scientists. Fight the good fight.

In other news, Canadian scientists have transformed human skin into blood, apparently ants didn't get the memo about emancipation, there may finally be a way for even me to be good at math, the world's largest rainforest is probably drying out, and you might enjoy this case of evolution via religious selection.
redroanchronicles: Seasons (seasons)
Autumn is by far my favorite season; the combination of the bright fall color on the trees, the sharp bite in the air, the smell of burning woodstoves, the crunch of walking through fallen leaves, the bare branches of the trees, fogging breath and steam rising off the hot springs... there's no end to the natural wonders of autumn. It's got the best holidays (Thanksgiving: it is all about eating!), and the shops start stocking in the best of all possible foodstuffs, like baked goods with pumpkin in them and chocolate oranges and peppermint cocoa. The photo opportunities are endless and pretty much golden. The only thing that would make autumn better was if it was longer; here in the mountains, it seems to be finished practically in the blink of an eye, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to wake up one day soon and there will be a few feet of snow on the ground.

On the other hand, the fleeting nature of the season is pretty good for prompting me to get out of the house and take some photos, before all the spectacular color vanishes until next year. I've been wanting for years to visit one of those pumpkin patches that also has a horse-drawn cart (I don't really care about pumpkins, if I'm honest, aside from caring about how delicious they are), and when I saw one advertised in the newspaper recently, I just had to go. I made a little time on the last weekend of the Chimney Rock Farm pumpkin patch, and drove out to photograph some harness horses, which as a bonus, turned out to be Suffolks, a breed I'm not I've ever actually seen in person before, and definitely haven't photographed.

Beneath the cut: More draft horse photos, fall scenery, and a trip to Piedra Falls )


redroanchronicles: Juno - Kiss Me (Default)

August 2011

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