Thursday, July 30, 2009


Yesterday I was leaving the house to try to take another picture with the pinhole shoebox camera (which was an epic fail by the way. Ryan seems to be able to do it, but I kinda suck by myself.) and there was a black kitty in my driveway. This is not unusual. My neighborhood is basically a farm for stray cats, or cats that aren't stray, but their owners just let them wander around.

I happen to really like black cats, since I have one. But she doesn't get to go outside because she has a birth defect that left her with three feet, and one shorter, underdeveloped leg. You feel sorry for her right up until she bites you.

Anyway I was cooing at this cat in my driveway, trying to get it to come to me, or at least not be afraid of me. My mom is a wizard at this. I don't know what she does, but she has, over her lifetime, been able to attract cats, and get them to conveniently "follow her home," where her and her brother would explain to daddy, "We couldn't help it! He followed us all the way home! We might as well feed him..." Brilliant.

I keep getting sidetracked. Anyway, I left after the cat sort of looked at me and mewed, then ran off. I was gone for about 10 minutes, exposing the shot, and when I got back I checked the mail. I had one invitation for a baptist church in Franklin which was addressed to the house's previous occupant. (On a side not again, I've lived here for close to two years, and the junk mail for this woman keeps coming, including all kinds of pregnancy mail. Hello!? She would not be pregnant anymore!)

Also in the mailbox was a strange post card.
Let's investigate the details, here. Stamp, polar bear, applied upside down, and NOT postmarked. Very weird message, an attempt at humor I suppose. Front is an artwork. Also, my NAME is spelled correctly, which almost never happens unless someone knows me well. (I've covered up my address.)

"Just to let you know, Mrs. Pickles is her full name. (Though I'm not actually sure cats can marry outside of Boston.)"

I immediately texted my friend Josh, who lives in Alaska (polar bear?) and has interests in alternative marriage, and who does random things like this pretty regularly. He did not know what I was talking about. And the writing doesn't look like his either. Hmmph.

Now, I tend to be an overanalyzer, sure. But come on, is this weird? Was somebody watching me coo at that cat, and was amused by my dorkiness? Stalker? Neighbor? Or is it just Joshy and he's yanking my chain? But still was somebody watching me with the kitty? AH!! This is going to bug the crap out of me.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Your Pinhole is Showing!

K. Waiting with bated breath for my 120 film to come back. But I am kinda ticked off at Dury's. Seriously people? Too expensive. You really have to charge twice as much as Walgreens for processing? THEN forget to put in my CD that you promised? That's it. I'ma do it myself, punks. Well, I'll get there at some point. For now the cashier at Walgreens is just gonna have to learn that when she sees me come in, it's time to page, "Customer assistance at the Photo desk..."

Now I have a darkroom. It's pretty ghetto, but it works just fine. I'll explain in detail shortly. Of course, I've discovered that to process my own film is a much more complicated task than
making prints. Maaaaaybe I will just sneak into the photo lab at MTSU.

I'm really not coherent right now it seems. Today on the way to Dury's I thought, "Hey I've only got 4 frames left on the Holga...I'll just take a couple shots on the way and drop off that roll, too." But the problem was it was pouring rain, as it has been all day, and will apparently be all week.

There's this awesome dilapidated barn on my way to school, and I've been wanting to shoot there for a long time. Today I had an excuse.

So I had Ry drive up and park out of sight from the road, and I got out and dragged out my two Holga 120CFNs, one purple (my inner child is pleased) and loaded with 120 film, and the other modified with 35mm, and my Canon TLb. I took a bunch of shots. I got soaked, covered in mud, and I'm sure I got several more bug bites.

But that barn is beautiful. It was such a surreal experience to be in a place that seems forgotten by time, with the sound of rain falling through the skeletal roof. It wasn't littered with beer cans and soggy trash...not a hideout for teenagers or shelter for some wayward hobo. I felt like I was intruding on ghosts. I'm worried that the pictures will be screwed up because I had to set the shutter speed on 30 due to the dim light, and I didn't have a tripod. But at least I finally got to check the place out. Who knows how long it will stay there before it's torn down?

The funny thing is, Ryan stayed in the car. HE is the real photographer, supposedly. And he
wasn't interested. I asked him to park a little closer and he grinned at me and said, "Ah Katie. She suffers so much for her art." :)

But my parter-in-crime and I did make some fantastic mischief yesterday. He made a pinhole camera as a demonstration for his speech class, and we finally got to try it out. It's basically a shoe box with a tiny hole poked through a piece of aluminum, and a cardboard "shutter" over the hole. After painting the inside of the box black, and making it light-tight with black tape, we put 5x7 photo paper inside it, sat it down in my backyard, and exposed the paper.

Then in the "darkroom," we developed the paper, and there was a negative image of what the pinhole saw. The pinhole allows for a wide angle and infinite depth-of-field. After scanning the prints and inverting them in Photoshop, the positive images looked like this:

Ryan in the yard: 7 minute exposure.

Sidewalk and house: 12 minute exposure

Evergreen Cemetery: 16 minute exposure.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Oak Ridge

I wanted to share something about my trip to Oak Ridge, TN. If you don't know, Oak Ridge is nicknamed the "Secret City" because it was one of 3 sites in the U.S. where work was done on the Manhattan Project during WWII.

At one time, the K-25 building that housed the gaseous diffusion equipment was the largest building in the world, and Oak Ridge was using something like %10 of the nation's
electricity to enrich uranium...and only a handful of people even knew Oak Ridge existed. It wasn't on any map. During the Manhattan project, the town's population grew from 3,000 to 75, 000, and they were all required to wear ID badges, even children.

All over were messages designed to promote extreme secrecy for the sake of national security. "The nazis are looking for bits of information! Guard your conversations!"

So I had to go see this place.

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Ryan and I were on a weekend trip to visit his family in Monterrey, TN, and we were out of
stuff to do, so we hopped in the car early one morning (Required some actual planning on our part) and drove about an hour until we were very near Knoxville. There were some signs on the interstate, but nothing to really suggest what we were about to see. Driving through town was much like any other po-dunk town you'd see during a pit-stop on a longer trip. From what I could tell, they only had ONE Chik-fil-A.

But then we walked into the American Museum of Science and Energy, bought two $5 tickets and reserved coveted seats on the bus tour. While waiting for the bus, we goofed off in the museum, which would be, by the way, a fantastic place to take a kid or a class of kids.

Here's a sweet little girl getting herself gently and safely electrocuted.---->

Driving around the area is somewhat eerie. It seems like you're just out on the mountain
s somewhere, surrounded by walls of green, mostly kudzu.

But when it occurs to you that something must be using all the electricity in the towers and lines snaking all over the landscape, you start to feel strange and curious.

Then on the bus tour, we stopped at a gigantic gate, and an armed military guard stepped onto the bus. Our tour guide stated that we needed to pass through this checkpoint portal. The guard looked us over, I supposed he was checking for terrorists he could identify on sight...then after only a few seconds he said shortly, "MMk. You're good. Have a nice day." No turbans? No terrorists, apparently. So weird.

There were certain places we were not allowed to take photos, so I kept my conspicuous antique camera with its obnoxiously loud shutter in my bag.

Now I'm doing my best to explain the science and history behind this to you, but I teach ART, remember? So if you're really interested you should look it up on Wiki at least. Go look it up. You will be fascinated.

The bus kept driving, presumably into nowhere. The trees were thick and the road curved, it was impossible to see where we were going. Very few cars passed us going the opposite direction. Then, out of nowhere a shining multiplex of scientific glory was beaming at me from the top of a hill.

We stopped at the new lab facilities and poked around inside, learning about neutron scanning and firing protons at near the speed of light and on and on. My dad, had he been along, would have exhausted the tour guide with very specific questions. So fab.

There were many other stops, but I got the best pictures from the X-10 site, which was littered with both new and ancient buildings, and the home of the fabulous graphite reactor. Yes graphite; the stuff inside of pencils.

The graphite reactor was used to
bring uranium to critical mass. The graphite inside was apparently some kind of filler or buffer, and the outside had specifically hand-labeled holes, used for inserting rods into the reactor. In fact, most everything inside of X-10 was hand labeled. I supposed they couldn't send away to some sign making company and order signs for their "nuclear radioactivity monitor."

If you can see in the photo--->
all of those diagonal lines next to the holes are hand written numbers and labels. There are some 3,000 of them just on the reactor's face.

So imagine some small town Tennessee lady, with a ruler and a calligraphy pen, in her 1940s uniform, hand numbering and lettering the labels on a nuclear reactor.

One of the most amusing things about this site, besides the history and science was these cheesy mannequins they had posing with a rod. They're dressed in their radioactivity protection gear, without head protection, and covered in 30 year old dust. That dude on the right is about to get smacked in the head Stooges-style.

All of this effort and money and electricity was used to extract the useable isotope uranium-235 out of uranium ore, which is 99.3% uranium-238. The weapons-grade uranium was then placed in small vials, put in a briefcase, and handcuffed to a lieutenant on a train to Chicago, who then switched for a train to Los Alamos, New Mexico. We were told that all of the u-235 produced during those years would fit in a 2 liter soda bottle. But you guys, it fueled the bomb ("little boy") that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima. The the other bomb ("fat man") dropped on Nagasaki was fueled by plutonium.

So it was a fascinating and moving trip. I felt proud to have grown up in a state that was instrumental in ending the second world war. I'm even more proud that us loud-mouthed southerners were able to keep it a secret long enough for it to work. :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Guess I'm a blogger now...

Well folks, I'm giving this a whirl. After being outed on my semi-interesting and mildly popular video blog on my YouTube channel, due to the curiosity of one very smart 4th grader, I can't really post videos with any real freedom to say what I want anymore. So since I sort of miss my old MySpace blog thingy, let's be a little more of a grown-up now, shall we?
So a new school year is getting ready to start, and I'm pretty much p
umped. I'm awaiting permission from my principal to try out some new stuff, including Artsonia, a web gallery for student artwork.

I think it's just about the neatest thing ever, and my kids and parents would love it, but you know...the school district can't trust a grown, educated professional's judgement on that one. Hopefully that will get off the ground and then I can "display" all the kids' work without rolling bazillions of tape balls.

I've missed some of my kiddos actually. Some of them I got to see over the summer, teaching them drama in my brand spankin' new Nebula Theatre Camp. (website coming soon! ;) ) And also in the school's summer enrichment program, where I got to teach a painting and a clay cla
ss. I spent an entire week covered in art substances. Joy.

Then I went to Tennessee Arts Academy. Honestly I wasn't sure what to think at first, since I had been on the waiting list for months, and wasn't expecting a phone call from "FRAAANK" a few days before the academy started. So I was a bit rushed to get all my act together, but once I got there, I was totally blown away. Seriously, my first impression included an electric violin player, with his own arrangements of tunes by The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, and LED ZEPPELIN. Ho yeah. So from that moment on I was in lurve with the community of educators in the Arts.

And my off time this summer has prompted me to acquire some expensive hobbies, like film photography. Oh yes. I can't just be satisfied with an easy-to-use digital camera, folks. I've got to purchase a plastic Chinese toy and run the w
rong kind of film through it. When that roll gets developed you will see it. (Whoever you are...probably just Ryan at this point.)

But here's some shots from my little hand-me-down Cannon TLb.

More on that later, I suppose. Right now I'm pretty antsy to see how this puppy looks when it's all webbified.

less than 3...