Monday, November 30, 2009

Summer Lake

Summer Lake


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A few old photos from Summer Lake, in far SE Oregon. No, really, there's a lake out there somewhere. Unlike many lakes in the area, it doesn't quite dry up in the summer (hence the name, I think), but it does shrink substantially.

Summer Lake

The ODFW Summer Lake Wildlife Area attracts birdwatchers in the spring, and hunters in the fall and winter. I happened to drive through in mid-summer, and as you can tell there wasn't much going on. The visitor center wasn't open, and I didn't see anyone else there. Apparently there are access roads that take you closer to the actual lake, but I didn't realize that at the time. Plus I was on my way to Fort Rock right then, so I'm not sure I'd have made the detour anyway. And please note that that almost all of the photos were taken from a moving vehicle.

Summer Lake

What I'm trying to say is that I do realize these aren't the most breathtaking photos I've ever posted here. That's probably why I didn't post them back in 2007 when I took them. But I figure it's November in Oregon, and even rather bland and uncomposed photos of desert and blue sky still make for a pleasant change of pace. Well, I though so, at least.

Summer Lake

Summer Lake

Summer Lake

Summer Lake

Summer Lake

Summer Lake

Summer Lake

Friday, November 27, 2009

SF: 560 Mission Street Plaza

560 Mission Street Plaza

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This is the fountain in front of the JPMorgan Chase tower in San Francisco's Financial District. Apparently this spot is fairly new. You don't see a lot of quasi-public spaces like this in the city, or at least this part of the city. I suppose it's like Tokyo in that way: Land is way too expensive to devote any to things that don't produce revenue. So on the rare occasions when you do stumble across a little park or plaza or fountain or something, you're experiencing a weird form of conspicuous consumption: "Look, we have so much money we can afford to buy land in San Francisco and not build on it". Or make it a playground for high-end designers and architects, as the case may be. Note that this place dates to the middle of the real estate bubble, before the wheels fell off of everything and everyone needed a taxpayer bailout.

I mean, it's owned by a monstrous too-big-to-fail conglomerated megabank, and naturally I'm going to impugn their motives and suspect the worst and generally strive for maximal cynicism. But whatever their reasons were, it still means there's a bit of open space where there otherwise wouldn't be. The local Yelp reviewers seem to like the place, for whatever that's worth.

560 Mission Street Plaza

560 Mission Street Plaza

560 Mission Street Plaza

Pettygrove Park




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Downtown Portland's Pettygrove Park often gets overlooked. It's in the middle of the 60's urban renewal maze that is the South Auditorium district, and it's bordered by pedestrian trails rather than streets on all sides, so you aren't likely to run across it if you don't already know it's there. It would be bordered by 2nd & 3rd Avenues, and Montgomery & Mill Streets, if any of them existed. It also doesn't help that most of the other city parks in the area come with big flashy fountains, and Pettygrove doesn't. Instead it has a cluster of grass-covered earthen mounds and a bunch of trees, and at one corner a bronze sculpture in the center of a quiet pool.

I have less of an excuse for overlooking the place, since I walk right through it on my way to and from work. And yet I've never done a post about the place. I've posted individual photos from the park here, here, and here, plus photos of the Dreamer sculpture in the park's SE corner, and a small fountain in front of an adjacent building. But that's all.

So to remedy that, here's a slideshow about the place, with the photos of it that I've uploaded over time. They aren't exactly comprehensive and mostly focus on the art (which I'm rather fond of). I seem to have never posted any photos of the mounds, which is too bad. I'm not sure what their function is here, but they do break the space up and make the park seem a lot larger than it actually is. And to me they look a lot like ancient Celtic or Kurgan burial mounds or barrows. In one of those photo posts I made a crack about either hobbits or barrow-wights living here, come to think of it. Or possibly there's an enormous hoard of Scythian gold buried somewhere around here. Or leprechauns, or a few very small dragons.

Two sides of the park are bordered by condo towers, one completed this year, another converted from a 60's high rise apartment tower. They've had mixed success moving the condos, such that the new tower is being rented out as apartments for now, at least until the real estate market improves. You'd think that it would occur to the developers to spin the neighboring park as a magical land of mystery and magic (of the upscale variety, of course) to make the place stand out in the market, but that doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone except me. In fact, it's possible the entire real estate crisis could have been avoided if only everyone had come to me for advice, for a reasonable consulting fee. Since nobody ever did that, my claim can't be easily refuted, which is convenient.

In any case, there is an amusing reality-based aspect to the place. The two sides of the park that aren't bordered by condo towers face the offices of a large health insurance company. They have signs posted outside their buildings letting everyone know it's a smoke-free campus, which I guess makes sense being a health insurer and all. But since this is a public park and not part of the campus, it effectively serves as the corporate smokers' lounge. And as such it's very, very popular. So every morning I get to walk through a bunch of sullen (and often kind of chunky) chainsmoking office drones, all of them (it seems) griping nonstop about their miserable lives and careers.

So next time your insurance claim gets denied, just know that the faceless bureaucrats who did it subsist on nothing but Snackwells, Virginia Slims, cheap gin, and Prozac. They're far less healthy than you are, and simply can't understand what you've got to complain about: "You think you're sick, huh? Let me tell you about my gout, and my dang bunions..."

Yecchhh.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

SF: Bay Bridge

The Bay Bridge

The Bay Bridge


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A couple of mediocre photos of the Bay Bridge, which I wouldn't bother posting if I had any others to share. But I don't, unless you count some ancient film ones I haven't gotten around to scanning. Seriously, I really did only take these two photos you see here. But in my defense, when I took these I'd only had the new DSLR for a week or two and didn't have the hang of it yet, and I hadn't clued in that you can take a ginormous raft of photos without running out of space or juice. Although I've found that having too many photos can be a real problem too.

The Wikipedia article linked to above informs us that the bridge is officially called "The James 'Sunny Jim' Rolph Bridge". Huh. Can't imagine why that name never caught on.

Another thing I didn't realize is that there's currently no pedestrian or bike access across the bridge, although there's an ongoing discussion about maybe someday fixing that. In general, it wouldn't be very feasible to do the equivalent of my ongoing bridge project in the Bay Area. You can walk across the Golden Gate and Dumbarton bridges, and it's strictly forbidden to walk or bike the San Mateo or Richmond-San Rafael bridges, or the old abandoned Dumbarton railroad bridge for that matter. According to this page a couple more bridges in outlying areas are accessible too, but the general rule across the Bay Area is "Motorized Vehicles Only". Which is rather surprising and disappointing. Oh well.

SF: Wood & Steel

wood & steel

wood & steel

SF: Marine Firemens Union

Marine Firemens Union

Marine Firemens Union

A couple of pics of the San Francisco Marine Firemens Union building, at 240 2nd St.

The union has a website here -- their history page is very detailed and interesting. The sad thing many people don't realize is that modern commercial shipping almost always relies on cheap labor from places like Bangladesh and the Philippines, and there are very few US jobs in the industry anymore, union or otherwise. Going by the wage tables at the union site, it looks like many of the remaining jobs involve government contract work, where using US labor is required by law. For a poignant and fascinating look at what remains of the industry (circa 1990), you'll want to read John McPhee's Looking for a Ship, which is a good read even if you have zero interest in this sort of thing.

This beautiful Art Deco union hall harks back to an earlier age, before the jobs literally went overseas. If I was in this union, the building would make me proud and sad at the same time. It appears they now share the space with a few other unions, including IATSE Local 16 (mostly the TV & movie industry) and CWA Local 9410 (mostly ex-Bell System telcos).

My passing involvement with another branch of the latter union is mentioned, a bit, here, although the body of the post is mostly just griping about the company, which doesn't seem as interesting now as when I wrote it. That was written over a decade ago, so maybe I was just more excitable way back then, I dunno.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

pile

"pile", downtown portland

A few photos of "Pile", one of the new public artworks on the revamped transit mall in downtown Portland. I'm not sure how I feel about this one. It's kind of whimsical, and isn't overly large (which is nice, for a change). The bit with the crow standing on the pigeon's face is a little odd, but I suppose that's one of those things where you're an uncultured mouth-breathing barbarian if you spend too much time trying to figure out what (if anything) it's supposed to mean. So I'll just speculate that it may work better in a gallery setting than it does on city streets. Which isn't a bad thing, necessarily.

"pile", downtown portland

The artist's website shows a few of her other works, as does the local gallery representing her. And here are two articles on recent shows of hers. But what you really want to do is read this entertaining interview that gives a better idea of where she's coming from, with a few more photos of other works. And let me just say, the guinea pig wrecking ball is awesome.

"pile", downtown portland

"pile", downtown portland

"pile", downtown portland

"pile", downtown portland

"pile", downtown portland

"pile", downtown portland

"pile", downtown portland