land of the pine! (ii)

BTW, the name of this post comes from this song, which nomey-nick linked to me when he found out i was going to NC:

Anyway, after I took pics of Duke Gardens I pretty much retired to my hotel to sit around dazed for a few hours. I hit the sack around 8pm and slept solidly til half past 6am Friday, upon which I got up feeling at once refreshed and discombobulated, and headed off to meetings and shit.

I was done with business around 2-3pm, and my flight didn't leave until 7:30. So I decided to drive around a little bit and have a look at Durham and the surrounding countryside.

This is basically the beginning of the "downtown" area of Durham. It was pretty much a college town -- it's got everything you'd expect in a college town, except there's about one of each. One Whole Foods, one sandwich bar, one chinese restaurant, etc.

Notice your one chinese restaurant on the left, there. And here's your one "tall" building:

This is the "swanky" part of town. BTW, this town is literally just one street (main street, appropriately enough) -- maybe a mile or so of shops and restaurants, and that's it. This pic was taken about two blocks from the chinese restaurant:

They had a very impressive, huge county courthouse though!

This similarly impressive, huge building is a church:

And that church pretty much marked the end of "downtown" too. I took a left there and headed out toward a tiny town I found on the map. The round trip from Duke to that town (Creedmoor) to RDU airport would take about an hour, which I thought would be perfect, cuz it'd give me time to snap a few pics and not be late for my flight.

On my way out of Durham, I drove through some nice suburbs. This house just smacks of southern architecture to me:

-- though interestingly, the architecture in NC was kinda equal parts "southern" and "eastern".

I saw this at the end of a cul-de-sac:

The license plate proudly announces it's a 1966 mustang. Aw, yeah.

From there, I headed out on a highway to Creedmoor. There's a lot of water in NC -- random lakes and ponds and rivers and streams everywhere. I crossed a huge lake heading to Creedmoor, and pulled off a small access road to snap some pics. This is probably the best of the lot:

There wasn't a soul in sight. There was an eagle, though, but he flew off when he saw me pointing my cellphonecam at him.

On the other side of the lake, the highway dwindled down to this:

You can really see the pines in that pic. Those pines basically cover all of NC that wasn't otherwise developed. I love the little mailbox, too :]

A little later I found this big house out in the woods:

There was also this gated community full of sprawling country mcmansions, but they didn't actually look that good on camera so I left that out, too.

A little past the big houses, we started to get into honest-to-god farmland. I was so amazed at this -- it was like something out of a "pastoral america" calendar. The day I got to Duke was actually overcast and gloomy, but the day I left was utterly gorgeous. California skies are big, but so are North Carolina skies:

That's the main house, I think, with some animal sheds nearby. A little ways down the road was this other farm:

I just can't get over how ... rural and farmlike that looks. The farmhouse! The sheds! The rundown barns and the golden wildgrass! It's pretty much exactly what I picture when I think of a small-time farm.


Anyway, a little later on I found the tiny town of Creedmoor, which is literally like... two blocks by one block. This is pretty much it:

And this is the town church. Southern Baptist, baby!

Look at the color of that sky :]

From there on out, I headed back toward the airport. This was a different highway, which arrowed straight through the pines. It was an unbelievably beautiful drive, but when I tried to take a picture of the pine-lined road, the contrast was all wonky and the ground was too dark. This is the best I could do in a moving vehicle:

-- you can sorta see how up ahead, the pines thicken up again. We passed over the lake again, too, and it was absolutely gorgeous with the sun shining off the water, but I couldn't get a picture because I was driving :[

Eventually I made it back to RDU. For such a tiny, tiny place, RDU was astoundingly huge. The cellphone cam doesn't capture depth very well, but I swear the check-in terminal was the size of the international terminal at SFO.

Inside, the terminal stretched forever in both directions. This is a view down the entire length of it, taken at one end:

Unfortunately it's too blurry to see just how FAR AWAY the far end is, but trust me, it was like... a billion miles. Along that distance was all manner of shops and stores. There was a used bookstore in there. There were a bunch of semi-nice restaurants, and there was a Borders. A BORDERS, in an airport.

That's pretty much the last pic I took, though. From there on out I got on a plane to DC, then another plane from DC to SF. Good trip!

land of the pine! (i)

lots of traveling lately, and as of the chicago trip i've kinda caught the shutterbug... bug. anyway, these pics are from my trip to the durham/raleigh area. specifically: my trip to duke univ and its medical center.

it's kinda weird for me to find a world-class university like Duke in the middle of ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE. but well, there you have it!

anyway, i flew in on the red eye, leaving SFO at 12:30am wednesday night. well, technically thursday morning. after about 3 hours, we landed in houston to change planes. houston's actually a pretty big airport:

It's kind of amusing to me that the pics I took from Houston were all weirdly unfocused and hazy, which is totally appropriate because I was feeling completely unfocused and hazy after getting woken up at what was essentially 3-4am for me and made to march down a pretty vast distance to my next flight.

That pic above is, btw, just like... the tail end of terminal E. The terminals are pretty weird -- all lined up and kinda oddly shaped -- but terminal C, I believe, is the largest. All the terminals are really swanky and modern.

And yet!

As you're walking through terminal C, there's almost no way to miss this statue, which sits RIGHT after the security gates. The only way you can be in Houston and not see this, in fact, is if your transfer gates are right next to each other and nowhere close to the main center of the airport. However, I swear to god they actually plan your transfers so you have to walk by, because I've seen this every time I've been at Houston:

Yessir, that is George the First. I didn't get a good look, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's holding a bible. He's about 8ft tall -- add in the base and he towers about 9 feet over us wee minions scurrying past. I love how he's got a David posture going, but the REALLY hilarious thing is when you walk around the side and realize this is what he actually looks like:

It's SUPERBUSH! Braving the winds of liberalism! Standing up for god, guns and gold!

The name of the statue, btw, is "Winds of Change".

After saying hi to George, I went on to my next flight. Weirdly enough, the 2.5 hour trip from Houston to Raleigh was made in a tiny little commuter jet like these:

-- but the little shits apparently fly very fast, because I was a good half-hour early into Raleigh. Right after we took off, it was about 730 houston time, so I caught these gorgeous pictures of the morning clouds afire with sunrise:

When I got into Raleigh, it was about 10am and I'd slept about 2-3 hours total across the whole night, interrupted, so I was dazed as fuck-all. It was really pretty country -- very green, even more green than california despite the winter. I don't think I've ever actually seen countryside like this before. There's a lot of brown-gold wildgrass, and lots and lots of trees. Upon closer inspection, I realized all the trees were wild pines -- but not the tall, straight alpine pines I'm used to from various camping trips. This is what the freeway from Raleigh-Durham airport to Duke looked like:

Kinda looked a bit like I-5 really close to the canadian border, actually.

When I got into Duke proper, I was too busy looking for the place I needed to be to take pictures. This is unfortunately the only pic I got of the architecture there, which was pretty awesome -- very east coast ivy-league-style, which in turn was modeled after Cambridge and Oxford. All grey stone and gothic towers, along with a good dose of fortress architecture -- crenellations and arrowslits and all. The main quad was quite beautiful, and I regret not getting a pic.

Anyway, here you go: Duke Chapel (it looked like a bloody cathedral, tbh) from the medical center area:

After that, I slapped some alertness back into myself and went off to a quick meeting. When I got out of that, I decided to drive around campus a bit before heading to my hotel. Duke was founded by some very wealthy tobacco barons. Their daughter Doris Duke was your quintessential southern debutante, and she apparently commissioned a gorgeous garden to run along the east side of the campus. I stopped off in there and took quite a few pictures. I'm sure it's even more lovely in the spring and summer, but these are the Duke Gardens in the dead of winter. This is the entrance area:

I think in the summer that central area would be filled with flowers. Right now it was filled with mud *LOL*

Continuing past the rotunda, the path opens out into a little forest park-type setting. There's a lot crammed in there -- it starts with an almost french-garden-type look, then rapidly moves into a more english, pastoral garden. This garden is literally in the middle of campus -- you can see the school's buildings from the path:

Here's a nice little stream-and-bridge:

And on the other side, that stream leads to a pond with a pretty big variety of ducks peacefully coexisting. You can't really make them out, but there are ducks on the left side of the pond -- mallards and wood ducks and the like.

I liked the red bridge :]

Coming back up, you could circle behind the forest-y area and find a japanese-ish garden there. There's a small clearing with a cherry tree in front of a pavilion, which must be really beautiful in the spring. It looked like hell in the picture, though, which I think wasn't at all the intent of the gardeners, so I left that snapshot out.

There was also a bamboo forest. In front of the bamboo forest were plum trees. Plums are always the first flowers to bloom in the bay, which is something I've always loved them for -- you see the plum blossoms in late january, early february, and you know spring is coming. The same thing seemed to be true in North Carolina. This is probably my favorite picture from the whole trip -- the very first plum blossom on the whole tree juxtaposed against the green bamboos in the background. I'm not sure why the image is tilted. That was an accident, not some ... artsy maneuver. Despite it, I like the way it came out.

Wandering into the little bamboo stand, I got this snap, which reminded me a bit of the panda preserve in Sichuan:

On my way out, I stopped by the visitor center, which was staffed by a single elderly, perfectly coiffed lady. She looked like she stepped off the set of Golden Girls -- snow white hair and perfect, vivid makeup, plus a soft southern drawl. It was awesome.

I gotta say, I liked the North Carolina accent. It wasn't as jarring and twangy as the southern accents farther south and west -- it was this very soft, classy drawl.

Anyway, outside of the visitor center, I took a pic of their fountain:

On my way off-campus, I snapped this pic of a tree-lined road pretty representative of the whole campus, except the central quad area --

Next up: "downtown" Durham, rural areas, and Raleigh airport!

fox woman.

I wrote this while on a plane from Houston to Raleigh ON MY CELL PHONE:


While I was in Chicago, I had the good fortune to rent a car with XM radio. Now, I don't think I'd ever subscribe to xm radio myself since I rarely listen to the radio, but it was really sweet to have a radio that would play something other than top 40 while I was scooting around the city and its suburbs.

Anyway, while I was zipping about taking a gazillion pictures, I pretty much kept the radio tuned to xm's chill station. As I was driving out to Stickney, Fever Ray's "Keep the Streets Empty for Me" played. It's an amazing track - a very deliberate, subtly echoing beat underlying this sort of ... barren, minimalist soundscape, and all of it overlaid with vocals that are at once poignant and raw. Anyway, the road, the snow, the grey skies and this music fused into this remarkable, singular experience that instantly rocketed this song into my all-time favorites list.

So of course when I got home I downloaded it, and now I pretty much have it looping whenever I have a spare moment to listen. The more I listen, the more it reminds me of that old japanese folk tale about the fox woman. Wikipedia relates it like this -- a very sparse bare-bones retelling that nonetheless is way better than any I could put together:

Ono, an inhabitant of Mino (says an ancient Japanese legend of A.D. 545), spent the seasons longing for his ideal of female beauty. He met her one evening on a vast moor and married her. Simultaneously with the birth of their son, Ono's dog was delivered of a pup which as it grew up became more and more hostile to the lady of the moors. She begged her husband to kill it, but he refused. At last one day the dog attacked her so furiously that she lost courage, resumed vulpine shape, leaped over a fence and fled.

"You may be a fox," Ono called after her, "but you are the mother of my son and I love you. Come back when you please; you will always be welcome."

So every evening she stole back and slept in his arms.

I don't know what exactly about Keep the Streets Empty For Me reminds me of that story. Everything about it, I guess. Some distinct parts of the lyrics ("I'm laying down, eating snow/my fur is hot and my tongue is cold/on a bed of spiderwebs/I think of how to change myself"; "take me home before the storm"; "morning, keep the streets empty for me"; "uncover our heads and reveal our souls") definitely struck a chord, but more than that, I think it's just the sound of the song -- a little bit lonely, very poignant, a little bit alien, and just a touch erotic. The almost-feral rawness of the vocals, too, strewn over that wintry beat.

Anyway. I definitely associate it with fox-women now. :]

Listen here:

shameless rp stuff, continued!

Totally just an image dump this time. Stuff I drew like 1-2 years ago. First, four of my characters as playing cards. Silence, fenrir modi, as the ace of spades:

Oberon, unseelie satyr king, as the ace of hearts. I gotta say, this was the second one I did, and spades took WAY longer, but I think this is my favorite. I just like the stern, cruel expression on his face and the BLOODY SEVERED EYELESS HEAD. cuz. i dunno. people think "hearts" and they think whoamance, LURV. but this is like. HEARTS. BLOODY, CONVULSING, VIOLENT HEARTS.

Vast, fang galliard, as the ace of diamonds:

Coll, fianna ahroun, as the ace of clubs:

Moar Decker. This is where the whole sketch began. Later on I tacked on the rest of the body + Imogen, but tbh the proportions were always off. I think it looks best like this --

And last up -- I forgot I'd even drawn this. I think this is actually inspired by someone else's art, that I wanted to put my own spin on, but I lost interest mid-project and moved on to something else *LOL*

Hey! While I'm coalescing creative crap, might as well add this on:

...yeah, that eye totally wasn't green by accident *LOL*

character survey, ii.

So I first ran this survey in like, 2004. I asked chilltank again tonight:

Complete this sentence: "In a hundred years, if anyone still remembers my characters, they'll remember me for my ... "

Me: twinked-out tall dark and handsome ahrouns. *LOL* I'VE CONSOLIDATED.
I will remember you for your ugly metis BSD with the cleft lip. and his online dating encounters. - Liz

Kai: "Impeccable and incredible smut-writing!"

Jamie: "... uncanny ability to convince straight male players to RP gay sex scenes."
"... inability to keep a PC alive longer than six months."
"love for Red Shirts"

Angelina: "Gleeful willingness to be tortured."

Kenna: "My spitfire Kin and Cold Death"

Myr: "I would probably be remembered for my sentence fragments and abuse of punctuation :("

Poison: "I would be remembered for my delightful off-the-cuff kinfolk."

Jacqui: "I would be remembered for my germ-phobic Philodox Silver Fang Katherine, who terrorised Chicago's masses with her beauty and style. "
"a lady on the streets and a freak between the sheets" - Jamie

Lessa: "my anti-social characters, with deep, moving, meaningful backgrounds no one ever discovers because they're anti-social characters."

Liz: "fierce." you don't even need a noun for liz's PCs. - Jamie

magnificent geekery in chicago (viii)

On the last day I was in Chicago, I was up before dawn, but by the time I got my metro ass groomed and out on the streets it was a little past seven and the sky was getting brighter.

As I was driving off to my meeting, I happened across this, so I quickly pulled over and took a pic:


Then, as I was crossing Chicago River between Mag Mile and the Loop, I wanted to take a pic from the bridge, but I could only stop when I was past it. This pic isn't nearly as cool as the one looking over the river would be :[

I was out of my meeting around 1:30pm. I decided to go have a look around Elk Grove before I headed to O'Hare. This is a pic on the big open highway heading out to EG. That is, as I discovered the hard way, actually NOT a freeway. The speed limit is 45, not 65. I got pulled over by a cop >_< Fortunately, after apologizing a billion times and explaining that I honestly did not know the speed limit was 45 and thought it was a freeway because I'm from California, he let me off with a warning. I was amazed, and incredibly grateful. I already have two speeding tickets and a running-stop-sign ticket from like. THE LAST YEAR :[[[[

When I got near Elk Grove, I saw this really gorgeous little stretch of road:

However, Elk Grove itself was kind of ... not at ALL what I thought. It was, in fact, not even a residential town. It was like a giant transportation hub -- and not even the cool rundown sort. Just tons and tons of humongous warehouses, railways running through, truck parking everywhere. All very corporate and blah.

I did, however, discover that Katherine also really lives in Chicago, but is actually a street:

After Elk Grove, I pretty much headed to O'Hare. Right before turning my rental car in, I snapped this pic at the gate to the airport. This is the back side of the airport, and all that endless white expanse you're looking at is airport land. It is absolutely, mindblowingly huge. You can't even see the terminals from there -- just some hangars.

Inside the airport, there was this nifty little entryway to the American Airlines terminal:

And the last pic I got from Chicago was, appropriately enough, sunset from the terminal :] It kinda felt full circle, since I landed just after dusk on the 13th. I wanted to take a pic of the city from the air, but I wasn't sitting by the window. Anyway, we flew straight west, so we never passed over downtown Chicago. I'll just have to wait til the next time I fly cross-country over Chicago :]

All in all, awesome trip. I had a blast hunting down RP locales and snapping pics. I think at some point I might take some pics from around the Bay, too! But don't hold your breath for them -- my updates are slow and sporadic as hell *LOL*