Diversity Events of note People Photography


Pridefest 2005 Today’s outing to the St. Louis PrideFest 2005 parade did not begin auspiciously–we were hit from behind by a lady driving an SUV. Luckily my roommate, who was giving me a lift, drives a larger van and we could drive away after the insurance cards were exchanged.

(I hate the sensations of a car wreck: the screeching tires, the metallic thud, and the fast jerk as your car is pushed forward. I dislike more my roommate’s car being damaged because he was giving me a ride.)

Anyway, he dropped me off at the parade route, and I found a spot in front of a light pole in a little bit of shade, right next to a large group of gay women. Ironically, it was the group the lady who hit us was joining. That poor woman became the butt of several of her friend’s jokes, and one bad pun from me (“Nice running into you again.”)

They were a marvelous group to stand with : every time any car, float, or group went by they would cheer and cheer. Their exuberance added much to the event.

The Parade started right on time, and they kept the pace up, probably because they wanted to finish quickly. It was in the upper 90’s and humid and the air quality was horrid. The conditions were more than compensated, though, by the parade participants. They were a wonderful group, and more than once, I found my eyes stinging a bit from the gentle pride, and absolute joy you could see on their faces.

A Mother's Pride

There were participants from several companies, including several real estate firms. I gather that gay money, at least, is welcome in the housing market. Even in Missouri. Politically, the mayor was there, as was the fire chief and a couple of aldermen, and Ross Carnahan, a Democrat. There was even a small contingent from the Log Cabin Republicans, though they marched at quite a distance from the one somber entry, aptly named “Fear”.


There were some fun and flamboyant participants, but most of the marchers wore simple cotton shirts in various colors, with the word “Pride” over the chest. Even though they live right in the middle of that part of the country which condemns everything about them, they can still smile at, and throw pretty beads to, a crowd that has consistently voted down many of their rights. I think next year the St. Louis Pridefest organizers should consider adding the words “Courage” and “Determination” to the outfits.


Reflection in Glass


Critters History Photography

Pink and shadows

Thursday I thought I would try the Castor Shut-Ins, see if the overcast days would help with the photographs. The challenge with taking photos in Missouri is the unusual coloration of much of the environment here–all that pink because of the iron deposits in the state.

Overcast and cooler but still humid at the Shut-Ins. This was the first time I’d been in this area since Winter, and it’s amazing how different it is with the seasons. In the winter, all is open and light. In the Summer, though, the leaves close in and the hills are full of shadows.

It’s difficult to describe to those unfamiliar with the types of forests in this area what it’s like being deep in the woods in the Ozarks in the summer. Most guidebooks recommend saving the trails for the fall, spring, or winter. They say it’s because of the bugs and the heat, but I can’t see how this, alone, is enough to discourage the avid hiker. I think it’s the heaviness of life that surrounds the hikers that intimidates.


Walking through the trees on Thursday, I was reminded of the passage from the old short story, Windigo by Algernon Blackwood:

The forest pressed round them with its encircling wall; the nearer tree-stems gleamed like bronze in the firelight; beyond that — blackness, and so far as he could tell, a silence of death. Just behind them a passing puff of wind lifted a single leaf, looked at it, then laid it softly down again without disturbing the rest of the covey. It seemed as if a million invisible causes had combined just to produce that single visible effect. Other life pulsed about them — and was gone.

The creature seemingly at the heart of this story is a variation of the legendary Windigo: spirits of humans who out of desperation and madness, turn to eating other humans to survive. As punishment they are made into a creature, tall, fearsome, and hungry for flesh–a Canadian werewolf, since the Windigo is primarily a Canadian legend. It is just one of the many creatures of legends that are said to populate the dense stands of trees in wilder forests–when we peer in among the woods and can’t quite see what is making that shape, or what caused a bush to shudder.

The Ozarks where I walked on Friday are said to be the habitat of the Ozark Howler, a very large and heavy black cat that roams the hills, emitting a blood-curdling howl. It’s eyes are said to glow yellow, it stands three feet high at the shoulder and, according to one ‘experienced Ozarks huntsman’, the ‘numerous’ sightings have shown us that without a doubt the creature does exist.

Well, without a doubt until you see the name of the leading Ozark Howler investigator: Itzakh Joach.

Unlike the woods of the shadowy north, east, or west, the Ozarks have never had a fearsome reputation. No monsters stalking the unwary hunter; no restless spirits. Not even the animal life is that inimical to humans, but more on that later.

At Amidon Conservation Area, where the Castor Shut-Ins are located, I met an older couple leaving as I came in. Since mine was the only car in the parking lot, I assumed I was the only one about. Aside from the usual squirrels and birds, it was quiet–not even a little wind to stir the leaves and the humidity.

At the section where the dirt trail moved on to the rocks, I noticed that the end of one of the dead trees was shredded and torn apart. Though this is a good indication that a bear had been in the area, how fresh was the damage was hard to determine.

There was hardly any water running in the stream over the Shut-Ins; as wet as it has been up here in St. Louis, the southern part of the state is going through a drought. Still, it was uncomfortably humid as I walked about the rocks. I followed the trail down to the stream bottom, but stopped about half way–tired, cranky, and dripping with sweat.

Castor Shut-Ins

Every once in a while I’d hear sounds from back down the trail — twigs breaking, movement in the bushes. I actually stopped walking a couple of times to listen more closely, and expected to see more hikers arrive, but no one joined me at the rocks.

I decided not to do the full loop, which would take me through too much brush. When I headed back I noticed fresh scat in the path by the torn apart tree. (For you city folk, ‘scat’ is a polite term for animal shit.) This pile of scat was very distinctive: one of Missouri’s rare black bears had come, and gone, while I’d been exploring the rocks.

I had a mixed feelings, seeing that scat. I was disappointed the bear wasn’t there at the trail, and realized I may have frightened him or her away into the bushes near the water. At the same time, and even knowing that no human has ever been threatened much less attacked, by a black bear in Missouri, I froze like a deer in headlights. I had to walk through the forest, about half a mile, to get to my car. My nice, safe car.

An interesting albeit stilted half-mile, too. I’d walk for a little ways, slowly and deliberately, and then hear a noise and freeze, grabbing for my camera (to take a picture, or somehow use as a weapon, I wasn’t quite sure). If all was still, I’d start walking again, head rigidly kept to the front, eyes fixed on the trail.

My nervousness was largely unjustified, as black bears are a timid, non-aggressive animal. Though they can reach up to 400 pounds, the ones we usually encounter range between 100 and 200 pounds. If you startle one they might ‘slap’ at you, but unlike a big cat, a black bear slap will usually only tear your clothes and scratch you. You can even be near their cubs, and chances are they won’t react negatively unless they feel you are a direct threat. Serious black bear attacks rarely happen because of accidental meetings, defense of young, or because of fear.

However, black bears have attacked and killed people–dozens in the last century, several in the last five years. There’s no rhyme or reason to what causes a normally timid creature to turn predatory. What’s worse, is that a black bear that’s a killer is a stalker–deliberately stalking the person, and then moving in for the kill.

Most of our fears of the woods have to do with being stalked by the unseen. Knowing that our dull human senses can’t detect that which can smell our fear, watch our stumbling steps. In the Stephen King Book, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, a young girl is lost in the woods of Maine and struggles to survive the elements and lack of food and clean water. As she stumbles along, she is stalked by a creature, the thing in the woods she comes to think of as the God of the Lost, a creature with long, spiky teeth, half seen clawed paws.

Boom! Thunder woke her. Crack! Lightning, right overhead. And rain, lashing down. The most violent storm Trisha had ever seen. She struggled to her feet, gathered her stuff, blundered toward the rusted-out cab, and as her hand touched the door, she saw it: A slump-shouldered huge something poised across the road, with great cocked ears like horns. The God of the Lost, waiting in the rain.

In the woods, lost or no, one’s fancy grows as long as the shadows cast by the trees in the afternoon light–a fact that is sheepishly self-evident once we’re back in our nice aluminum cars, air conditioning cooling heated cheeks, and slugging down water from a plastic bottle. We pack the terror in the woods out with us, along with the rest of our trash.

I’m disappointed that I couldn’t get my picture of a black bear. Seeing fresh evidence is exciting, but not as exciting as having a picture of a Missouri black bear. I have an idea, though, where I might be able to get a bear photo this fall and will continue my quest. In the meantime, this will be last hike for the summer in the Ozark wilds. Not because of the bear: because of the heat and the humidity, the omnipresent poison ivy, and the nasty bug bites I have on my legs.

Ware pretty plants


Cyber Moon

Mother Earth, what can I say? You have a great looking kid.

tower moon

People Semantics

Danny gets sudsy

Recovered from Wayback Machine.

Mark Woodman did a nice interview with Danny Ayers on life, love, corner offices overlooking chicken coops, and cats.

Weeellll, not really. The focus of the interview was Danny’s steadfast work with XML, RDF, Atom, and his new book, Beginning RSS and Atom (an excellent book, by the way, and rich with detail and Lotsa Code).

Danny talks about RSS 1.0 and how the old gray mare ain’t what she used to be…well….actually, she is what she used to be. Anyway, he says not to discount the old girl just yet. Now the rest of the world is into Meta, her time has come.

One thing, though — RSS 1.0 is not RDF. By this, I don’t mean it’s not based on the RDF model, and created using RDF/XML. No, I mean that the two are not synonymous.

When I ported my soon-to-be released extensive metadata layer for weblogs to WordPress, the first problem I ran into was the tool used ‘rdf’ in URLs to indicated an RSS 1.0 syndication feed. In my own Wordform, I use rss1, which is much more accurate. RSS 1.0 is the syndication feed; RDF is the model/syntax. You don’t use ‘xml’ to indicated Atom, and you don’t use ‘winer’ to indicate RSS 2.0. So tool makers — stop using ‘rdf’ when you mean RSS 1.0.

I mean it. I’m going to start getting pissy about this.

Oh, and I also want to extend my congratulations to Les on getting engaged. Your lady is a luck woman, Les.


What is a tag?

I’ve been incorporating the semantic data my application gathers into weblog posts. You can see it in operation over at Burningbird, in the individual posts (see references example below and the photo example).

During this, I ran into a wall on the topic of tags. I wanted to record tag-like information as RDF statements, but then I realized that I don’t necessarily know what tags are.

According to and furl, tags are ways of publishing bookmarks to a broader audience, in addition to categorizing your links. Since the sites are for bookmarking, adding links to your own work is frowned on.

In Flickr, tags are ways of categorizing your work, pure and simple. You may specifically use certain tags to participate in a community, but the majority of use is to classify one’s own work.

In Technorati, though, which is the one I’m most closely examining, a tag is a way of classifying your work for some purpose. According to the Technorati Tag instructions, you can link it to a Technorati page, but you can also link it to a Wikipedia or other page. However, according to the Technorati Wiki a tag is meant to reference a page that will aggregate the results (this is a wiki, note that text just quoted is subject to change). And therein lies the confusion about ‘purpose’.

If tags used in the sense that Technorati uses them are meant to help aggregate content actively, then yes, there needs to be specific pages and/or sites for the target URI–ones that actively gather and than republish incoming links.

However, if tags are meant to be more passively consumed, with bots going out and gathering the information, than as long as an agreed on format is used, any page can be linked (well, as long as you don’t link the same URL twice in the same document — Technorati sees this as spam).

I can’t map ‘tag’ into the semantic webspace using RDF if I can’t find a common meaning between all these distinct uses of the concept of ‘tag’. I spent time last night with this, and again this morning, but nothing fits.

I noticed that Norm Walsh used the relMeta wiki page as a namespace for a tiny self-contained schema reflecting ‘tag’ he uses in his taxonomy. That’s an option, I guess. But then, does that mean the Technorati namespaced schema doesn’t apply to, furl, and Flickr?