I went to Chicago for the first time this summer. What a wonderful city! I thoroughly enjoyed walking around taking pictures, and while I didn't do as much sketching as I'd have liked, I never do, so that's not unusually regrettable.


I'd seen pictures of Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate in Millennium Park (or 'the Bean' as locals call it), but I have to say that you really have to see it in situ to appreciate it – it's entirely mirrored, and reflections are three-dimensional, so it does all sorts of weird things to your perception of volume and space as you walk around, under, and through it.

Of equal interest was observing how others reacted to it.  I made a catalogue of the selection of reactions – pretty much everyone who came by did a variant on one or more of the behaviours noted here.

Pinhole Photography

One of my colleagues is very much into pinhole photography, and as nearly everyone is on downtime these days and looking for stuff to do, he led a class on it. It was fun! These are my results:

They were taken with a piece of photo paper inside a curved tin can, hence the warpy nature of the images. It was fun, and gave a nice satisfying visceral sense of capturing shadows on a sort of shadow-trap flypaper, but my time for hobbies is limited, alas ...

California Rail

I've finally got pictures up from the spectacular rail route between LA and San Francisco. Once I weeded out the ones that didn't turn out there aren't that many left, but I hope they give at least a diluted reflection of the trip. I really can't recommend this train ride highly enough. Aside from the scenery the train is great in itself, especially if you're used to flying. You can walk around as much as you like, visit the cafe car, get some really good coffee (with free refills if you keep the cup!), take it back to your comfortable seat with positively decadent legroom, and never once have to worry about falling out of the sky. If San Francisco weren't so awesome in itself I'd be tempted to say the trip's the best part – I would seriously consider taking a weekend, going up on Saturday, spending the night, and coming down Sunday, if I didn't know what I was missing by not staying up there longer.

More Photos

It's the magical door ... and I go in it every morning! Magical! I think there might be a forcefield of drawing power at the top of the stairs because it's just ridiculous in there. Here's a detail of the sign, with the world's best logo.
The Mendenhall Sobieski Gallery is next door, and it has this sign in its window which I found amusing.
This is a fixture in the local grocery store ... as far as I can tell, you put money in and you get movies out. No word on how they hold you to returning it ... maybe you have to use your store's loyalty card or something so they have your address and can send out their movie thugs to get it back.
This is the view from my bus stop in the afternoon. One of these days I will investigate that church or whatever it is; it looks pretty cool.

Adventures in Pasadena

First day of 'work'!

Five Things About California that are Not Like BC:
1. There is not a Starbucks on every corner of a busy, touristy shopping/business district. I walked for ten minutes to find a café, a length of time that would have taken me past three Starbuckses and an independent café in a comparable area back home.
2. The commuter bus is a coach, with no rails to hold while standing up, and with a button in the seat's console to signal your stop rather than a cord to pull on. FANCEY.
3. Jasmine-scented sidewalks that nobody uses vs. urine/pot-scented sidewalks that everyone uses.
4. People who talk to complete strangers on the bus and are not crazy.
5. No $5.95 18-piece sushi combos at liberally scattered hole-in-the-wall takeaways.

Photo Time!
Hey look! It's Robson! With palm trees and no pedestrians! (It was 8:30 am so no walking commuters and no business traffic yet.)
Further proof of Robsonicity: they're digging it up.
You know those trees people keep in big pots as houseplants? This is what they look like when not housetrained.
Oleander bushes that line the Buena Vista side of the Disney lot ... look out, they're toxic. Yes, that's right, Disney has a POISON WALL. Don't tell the kiddies.
The door I go in, in the morning, is the one in the side of the alcove that has the double red doors. It's magical. McCormick would have been my last name if it were not for my great-grandfather and, the story goes, his raising the ire of the IRA. It was meant to be, obviously! We'll conveniently ignore the fact there are thousands of McCormicks...

As for the life inside, well ... this is going to be an awesome two months.


There's a show on BBC Radio 4 called Genius which asks for 'brilliant, if unworkable' ideas from the audience. One fellow last week suggested that chickens in battery farms be given virtual reliaty headsets to make them think they're free range and thereby lay more or better eggs. Eventually the host presented the unavoidable train of logic that this would lead to the Chicken Matrix, which prompted this from me:
Truly a noble use of Photoshop. Yes, indeed.