2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 30 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Deal 135: Broken

Trudging along the lonely trail, winding along a ridge line by moonlight, I catch the occasional glimpse of a light in the distance. Oddly, I don’t seem to be getting closer no matter how long I keep moving. But to stop here is certain death from exposure, so I keep trudging. I am alone and running low of supplies so any company at all will be welcome at this point, whether they be thieves or saints. Both are distinct possibilities, and both are rather more likely than finding another ordinary soul here.

The light appears again. This time, it must be a little closer because it clearly is a candle in a wrought iron cage, the sort of thing that is relatively safe to carry without too much fear of it setting one’s gear on fire. And now, I can see that it has stopped moving. That is either a very good sign, or a very bad sign. Determining which it is will have to wait until I reach it, which may be soon.

I keep moving. The burden I still bear requires that much commitment. I swore an oath to see my burden delivered and while no man would blame me for dying on the way, it is not a man I fear to face with my oath broken. So despite my hunger and weariness I trudge on. At least now, the light is not as distant. The next hill I cross will likely deliver me into the hands of whatever it is I’m following.

I lose sight of the light for a time as I move at a slower pace over the height of the pass, but from the crest I can spot it again. I can see clearly enough to tell that it has joined other lights, and there may even be a fire. The thought of warmth and shelter gives me hope, and I find it in me to pick my pace back up to a solid walk.

The stop me just at the edge of the fire’s light, where they can see me clearly, but I am at a disadvantage. Neither I nor the sentry speak. My condition must have told enough of my story, for the sentry stepped aside and led me to the fire. So if these are thieves, they are extraordinarily polite thieves. Someone puts a bowl in my hand, filled with hot stew, and nudges me towards a bench in reach of the fire’s warmth. To my surprise, they leave my pack alone, the burden buried inside safe for the time being.

“You’ve found a ranger’s camp, stranger.”

I looked up. It was the sentry who was speaking. I just nodded and continued to nurse the stew. The sentry sat down and took off his, no actually her, hat and shook out a long braid. She smiled.

“Let me tell what of your story I can see from here. When you are comfortable, you can fill in the gaps.”

I just nodded again.

“You’ve come a long ways, carrying a burden that few know of and fewer would carry. Your provisions ran out, and you aren’t as well-trained to live off the land alone as you thought you were. And yet, you continued. You are quite close to your destination, but you don’t actually know that. You are afraid we are thieves, and oddly, almost as afraid that we aren’t. We aren’t, incidentally. You aren’t sure you believe that yet, but you will.”

She was right on all counts so far, and I saw little point in volunteering anything else.

“If you are the one we are watching for, you will be carrying a token as a sign.”

She stopped there, and waited as I finished the stew. I considered the situation. I hadn’t been briefed on any group of rangers on the border, but their existence was hardly surprising. I was carrying a token, but I was loath to show it to thieves.

“If you know enough to ask for a token, then you know why I won’t show it openly without some assurances that I’m dealing with the right people,” I said.

She smiled. “Under the circumstances, your reluctance is not surprising. I believe you are carrying an unusual diamond, about a carat, set in a signet ring, or rather set in half a signet ring. Your half has the stone set in the eye at the top of a pyramid, and the seal is broken below the eye. It mates to a half ring carrying a row of rubies below the base of the remainder of the pyramid.” With that, she pulled a large ring on a chain out from her shirt, and even without closely inspecting it I could see that it was what I hoped and feared to see.

I reached into my shirt and pulled out its mate.

As we set the two half rings side by side, I was finally able to relax. I had reached my destination, and I would soon be able to hand off the burden to one qualified.

The two parts did indeed belong to a single whole. And suddenly I could hear the ring demanding to be made whole. With shaking hands, I undid the her chain and mine, and brought the halves together. There was a blinding flash, and suddenly I was holding a single large signet, which fit comfortably on my finger. As I put on the ring, things I hadn’t even realized I was missing restored themselves to my memory and my personality. I suddenly knew exactly where I was and who these rangers were. And more importantly, who I actually was. I stood up, and held up the ring where it shined in the fire light.

My queen looked up at me with relief clearly evident in her eyes. “Welcome back, husband. Your kingdom awaits.”

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Deal 134: Luck is what you make of chance

After an unusually hectic day, spending some quiet time unwinding seemed like a good idea. Ordinarily I’d pick a museum, but today is Monday and all our local museums are closed on Mondays. So the obvious thing to do is to continue my park project. I’m attempting to visit every single public park in town, and find some interesting photo to take. It’s been an on and off project for some time now, with some parks being more difficult than others.

So I opened the map app on my phone and looked for a park I hadn’t caught yet. All the obvious close candidates got covered early on in my project, so now I was looking for the more obscure ones. Pocket parks. Places people don’t usually see. Neighborhood playgrounds. That sort of thing. Scrolling across the town, a flash of green caught my eye that I hadn’t noticed before. It was only a mile or so away, and looked like a small pocket park, perhaps the size of two or three city lots. Small, sure, but often the small ones have gems worth snapping.

So I made my way there, parked nearby and wandered in trying not to look suspicious. Dusk was coming up quick, so I had to find my shot and get moving. It was a pleasant enough little spot, nestled between two apartment buildings, and backing up on to a light rail line. I made a circle of its paths, looking first at its layout, then looking for something less obvious. It took a few minutes, but I spotted my quarry. Each of the corners had a thicket of plants, but nestled among them was a sculpture. In fact, there were several more sculptures out in the open. As I looked, I realized that there were sculptures everywhere. Some up to fifteen feet tall, others barely a foot off the ground. The whole park was teeming with bronze, marble, and concrete testaments to the stubbornness of artists.

I found an interesting candidate, and lined up a shot which seemed to benefit from the late afternoon light playing in the oddly shaped and placed holes of the large rusty steel sheet. From some vantages, each hole formed a near perfect frame for another sculpture. As I worked on my setup, the more I realized that what had first seemed a piece of random torch work was actually a masterful bit of engineering. Finally, I had camera in place, with the lens stopped far enough down to make the depth of field interesting, and the closest of the framed sculptures in tack-sharp focus. I took the shot.

Oddly, the preview showed that one of the other frames was blocked. I assumed this was just a random passerby, and took another shot.

Again, a frame was blocked, but this time by a hand making a gesture centered in another opening.

Another shot, another extraneous body part.

And another.

Somehow, a person I couldn’t see was managing to photo-bomb my shots with impeccable timing.

But so far, only with hands, feet, elbows, knees, and once a torso. This was getting either really annoying, or fairly impressive.

I made one final attempt, and found that this time they had bombed me with their face. Wearing a mask. I was being photo bombed by
anonymous.

My light by this point was failing fast, so I shrugged and packed up my gear. I may not have captured the photo I intended, but I had found a gem of a park and a sculpture that I suspect most people walked past without seeing what it really achieved.

Later that night, I made a poster of the best of the photo bomb shots, and arranged for it to be printed on canvas and hung at my coffeehouse. Well, to be fair, hung at the coffeehouse where I spent all my spare change. I didn’t own it then. That came later, after that image sold to an anonymous collector for more money than I’d ever seen.

I’ve tried to find that park again, and failed every time.

Perhaps it was providence that I stumbled on it when I needed it.

I’d claim it was all a dream except for the collection of photos…