Raptor it up, I'll take it.

Man, I almost forgot the password to this dump.

What have I been doing with my time, you ask? Well, I'll get to that.  So what's new with you? How've you been?  You look great!  Do people still read blogs?  Are blogs still a thing?  I'll have to Google it.

This past weekend my wife and I spent her birthday in a little Inn in Vermont.  We were hoping for some snow, and our plans included lots of relaxing and maybe a sleigh ride at a local farm.   We did lots of relaxing, but it was mostly forced because the weather sucked. Instead of snow we got icy rain that turned every available flat surface into a skating rink.  As a result, we spent a little more time than we planned in the giant antique store in Quechee, near the aptly named Quechee Gorge, which is always fun.  If you like antiques, and you live within a couple hours of Vermont, it's worth the trip. You can spend an entire day wandering around in this place.  

There are three warehouse-sized floors of almost everything under the sun, and if you look around you can find some really amazing and/or disturbing stuff.  Need a stuffed animal? You have several to choose from. And I'm talking about an actual animal that has been stuffed, not some shitty Elmo from China.  This one is my favorite, because of reasons:

Gratuitous Beaver Shot

How about a silver locket containing the braided hair of someone who died a hundred years ago? Sure, how many would you like?  A Bionic Woman lunch box and matching thermos?  Got you covered.  A bushel basket full of doll heads?  Um, yeah. A nightmare in the making.  And that was all within the first 100 feet of this place.  I spent a lot of time on the 3rd floor, which I call the 70's floor.  I had my choice of four different strobe lights, six lava lamps and dozens of black light posters, but I managed to restrain myself.  There were comic books all over the place.  My favorite was an old Spiderman Comic with the headline "SOMEONE DIES!" written in dripping blood letters - they didn't sugar-coat their marketing back then.   

I came very close to purchasing a portable record player with a bunch of 45's included, but after looking at the 45's, I realized that the previous owner was apparently a very serious Paul Anka fan, because about 70% of the records were by him.  I didn't even know he had that much of a career.  And really, there's only so much Paul Anka you can listen to before you want to break one of his 45's in half and drag the jagged shard across your throat to end the pain.   

Have you ever seen a bear trap in person?  Me neither, until this past weekend. And let me just say:  Holy shit.  That thing would quite literally take your leg off mid-shin.  I did like how the person selling the bear trap was also selling kid's toys and canning supplies.  This place has such a mishmash of random things, I think that's why I enjoy going there so much. It rotates stock between about 500 dealers, so there's always some new, weird stuff to gawk at.

Like this exorbitantly priced and completely horrific Santa Claus:

I tried to determine what made him worth a hundred dollars but I still don't know.  At first I thought maybe it was his come-hither sex-doll mouth, but then I figured out that it had to be because his massive head wound revealed the fact that he's made entirely out of Terminator: 

My other favorite item was this sign:

I saw this and immediately had only one question.  And that question was, "Who is responsible for dressing these slow deaf children?"

Their outfits are completely black, and consist of high socks, short pants, a jeweled belt, pointy shoes and some weird, nipple-like hat -- it's bad enough that they're already slow and deaf, and now they're going to get the shit kicked out of them by the other kids because they dress like ninja keebler elves.  It just doesn't seem fair.

We also did something else on the spur of the moment, since we had some extra time, and no, it's not what you're thinking.  We had way more extra time than that would have taken.  I'm not a machine.

We were driving down the road toward Quechee and saw a sign with a picture of an owl on it.  Then a hawk.  Shortly thereafter, we skidded to an icy stop in front of something called VINS - the Vermont Institute of Natural Science.  At any rate, they had raptors, and if there's one thing I'm a fan of, it's birds of prey.  It turns out they do rehab there, and they have a bunch of really cool birds in habitats.  If a bird can't be released into the wild because its injuries are too severe, it gets to live out its life here, getting free food and shelter.  It's a pretty good deal all around.  So we walked into the place and paid our $26 bucks for two tickets, and we went down to the enclosures to visit with the birds.

There was a ten-cent tour starting at 1pm, so we decided to take it.  I actually learned some stuff.  I learned how disgusting turkey vultures are, I learned how light bald eagles are (8 lbs) and I learned how fast a peregrine falcon can dive (230mph!)  I also learned it is cold as fuck in January in Vermont.  Here are some pictures so you can enjoy my experience. These were taken by my lovely wife:
This is my good side.

I'm invisible. Nothing to see here.


I still cannot look at that last picture without laughing.  It just can't happen.  I don't know why. One of my friends commented, "That owl looks like he's seen some Stuff." and that really sums it up.

After the tour, we went to the classroom, and learned some more stuff.  The instructor was a little pixie girl with short red hair, named Annie, who had the mannerisms of an animatronic Peter Pan at Disney World.  Even so, she was pretty good at what she did.  No sense of humor though.  She started with a talk about the difference between the types of talons that various raptors had and how they were suited to what and where they hunted.  She actually had a bunch of cut off bird legs that she was using for the demonstration.  She'd hand one to me since I was in the first row and say, "Take a look at that and then pass it around," which I dutifully did.  Of course, while she was doing this, she had a giant hawk perched on her forearm.  At one point the hawk was a little restless, and she said, "I'm not sure why he's acting up."  I said, "I'm thinking maybe it's all the...you know... severed hawk feet being passed around."  But she was having none of it.  She just said, "No, I think he's pretty used to seeing those by now."  After she flew him around the room a bit (which was very cool) she retired him and then brought in a great horned owl.  She spent a few minutes explaining the difference between a hawk wing and an owl wing, and how the fringe of feathers on the leading edge of the owl wing allowed it to fly almost silently.  Of course she had two "sample wings" which she handed to me and told me to pass around.  This bird was quite impressive, and he wouldn't shut up.  Then finally, he did shut up.  But not because he spied the severed owl wings and thought he might be next.  He shut up because he was busy doing something else.  Something that made him look like the owl version of Stevie Wonder.   Annie said, "Oh look!  This is going to be really special. You almost never get to see this. He's going to expel a pellet."

For those of you who don't know, an owl will eat a mouse or bird or lizard or whatever - bones and all - and it will digest what it can.  When it's done with the digestive process, since it can't digest bones and fur, and it apparently can't poop bones and fur out of its tiny bird butt, it will expel this leftover mass by gakking up a disgusting ball of hair and bones, which is what this owl did.  His head started bobbing, and his beak opened wide, and he made a sound like my cat when he has a hairball in his throat.  A second later, a grey, hairy pellet roughly the size and shape of a walnut hit the floor right in front of me and bounced once.  Annie bent over and picked it up.  "Don't pass that around,"  I said.  She didn't laugh, but that's cool.  She had a giant puking bird on her arm that could snatch both her eyes out of her head before she even started to feel the pain, and really, that's nothing to laugh about.

So yeah. That was an experience. I am pretty sure that's something I will (hopefully) only get to see once in my life.  I can now cross that off my disgusting nature bucket list, which, as of today, now includes this.

Speaking of things I've never seen before, the Inn we stayed at had the weirdest soap.  Have you ever seen anything like this before? I know I haven't.

My soap is such a slut.

So anyway, we had a great time, even though the weather sucked and I didn't get to take any pictures.  Oh right!  Back to what I've been doing with my free time.  I've acquired a few old cameras from the 50s and 60s and I've been shooting and developing film and making prints in a basement darkroom. (Really, since I have no windows down there, the whole thing is technically a darkroom, but it sounds more impressive to call it a "basement darkroom" instead of "Some shitty table I have stuff set up on temporarily")  It's been a blast so far.

I have an old large format Crown Graphic press camera and a couple of medium formats, a Mamiya RB67 and a Bronica S2.

I'm just getting into some alternative printing methods too, thanks to my buddy Mark, who is the one who got me into this in the first place.  I know I've pointed you to his Flickr page before, but his amazing work is here.

Here's a Van Dyke Brown I just finished the other night, sitting in the washing tray:

I'm having fun, and really, isn't that the point?  When work's not busy trying to find new and innovative ways to kill me, I have to find something to keep my mind off servers and ip addresses and Active Directory and Powershell, and this seems to fit the bill quite nicely.

I do miss this place though, so I'm going to make a new year resolution to not go six months between posts again. You three people who still read this blog are my witnesses.

Happy New Year everyone!