Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The Smoke Alarm Story


Image taken from Google
In the course of our vacations sometimes extraordinary things happen, and I spend hours writing them up.  By hand, on paper!  This particular one was written up in the middle of the night.  When you read it, you'll know why.  

"Room 133   Studio 6, Ocala FL

"2301.19  [January 19, 2023]  11:40pm  Just had one of the strangest adventures in my whole hotel life--!!!!  At about 11:25 (not sure), the room fire alarm started to squeal.  Just 1 peep, but there's no mistaking that sound!!!!  Then again! -- and again!  and again:  ringing peeps, 30 sec. apart.

I was sleeping without earplugs, and woke fully at once:  I don't think I was asleep [in the first place].  The pattern of separate shrieks instead of a continuous bleating was ominous:  it meant the battery was low -- and (if my own smoke-alarms were any guide) the thing would soon degenerate to total screams, continuous.       I smelled no smoke, nor any other strange smell.  The Medify [air filter] was about 8' away.... could that have any impact....??                  ......George [my husband] was still asleep!!  As he is now, poor sweet lamb,..... This is one time when I really am grateful he snores so much,......
... I realized it was our own fire detector.  Terror:  we were keeping everyone up.  In a panic of bravery I got out of bed, dug out the little flashlight from my pants pocket, opened the sliding panel on the detector & took out the batteries  !!!! !!! !!            ------- AND IT STILL SQUEALED -------
Image from Google
This was beyond anything I'd ever heard of.  "KIDDE" built for reals, for war.  There was a button in the center of the device, the only button available.  It had words, raised plastic, on both sides of the button.  Of course this meant that one side (the longer sentence) was upside down.  It is amazing what you can make yourself do in the middle of the night in a strange hotel room, half dressed, by flashlight & on tip toe, with a smoke alarm screaming every 30 seconds.
The shorter sentence said  PUSH TO HUSH.
The longer sentence said  PUSH TO TEST WEEKLY.
So, then,  I tried pushing the button.         My first attempt brought a short burst of 1-seond squeals, about 5 of them;  & then it went back to every 30 seconds.  I concluded I hadn't pushed hard enough, or long enough.
My second attempt was sufficiently long + hard enough to shut it up had it been functioning normally.  Which it wasn't.  I should have realized that, but I didn't.  The device went on peeping, albeit with fainter squeals;  George went on snoring;  and I went over and looked hard at the telephone.          And there it was:   FRONT DESK DIAL 0.              I have never been so glad of old fashioned technology.

 Thinking on one's feet is something one learns to do after 30 years of marriage to George Young.  It is an underappreciated skill by the world,....  but not by him.  😁    After that call, I pulled on my pants (the upper 1/2 already was covered in a buttoned hugshirt, courtesy this place's lack of any blankets) [oh yes & my mask] and slipped out into the hall, which was brightly lit.  I was waiting for "someone," a handyman.

And the world changed.

Image from Google

Voices from behind the opposite door were not smoke-alarmed guests, but arguing bitchy females.  Smoke there now was, but it was the faint stink of stale cigarettes, familiar the world over.  It was night outside.  Worried as I was, there is nonetheless a sweet safety & nostalgia being up at night waiting to be rescued.  I [felt I] was back at CSU in college:  This was familiar ground.

He came sooner than I expected, a youngish Mexican with just the right anxious smile, wearing (I think) a cap (?),  a sign not of servility so much as a badge of authority.  En Rapport.   There can be nothing fundamentally awry when 2 determined people both want the same thing & it is within the reach & knowledge of at least one of them.  Quietly, expertly, he produced an enormous bunch of keys & we slipped into the room;  and he twisted and took down the entire peeping thing, unplugged it & carried it away.  I gave him the batteries and thanked him as best I could.          [His was] another underappreciated skill.

George didn't wake up until 1/2 hr later, at 12:30.  I told him everything was O.K., & he went back to sleep,...  and now I should.
How can we be better allies with so resourceful a class of nations?"

Image from Google

Afterwords:  (January 25).  Note how typing has a different rhythm than handwriting.
I left a large tip at the front desk for the handyman.  The problem here was I couldn't identify him; I hadn't seen his name (or else paid no attention to it), silly me.  The desk clerk and I got it down to two out of three.  Whoever gets it can surely use it.
The lobby of that particular Studio 6 had a bronze model horse on the desk!  a knockoff of the Hartland 9" Saddlebred.  (Under my breath:  I know you!  Sculpted by Alvar Backstrand!)(Later: fact-checking:  Roger Williams sculpted that horse;  Alvar "readied the original metal sculptures for mold-making." [Gail Fitch])  The lobby had an enormous triple-panel painting of horses behind the desk, at least 30 feet up.  Not til now did I make the connection with Ocala.

Next time this happens, I shall know to twist off the detector and unplug it from behind.  There was a smaller plug attachment along its wire umbilicus.      I shan't belabour you with our other family tale of how someone set off the fire alarm in the middle of the night in a Wyoming hotel out of personal spite  (!!!!)  and George and I took that opportunity to go out birding on the prairie at the absolute crack of dawn.  That was a Super 8, in the Before Times, probably early 20teens.
The 'better allies' quote comes from Mares In Black.  Thank you Jackie!  & Heather. 
This makes twice on our [January] trip when we were saved, absolutely saved, by hotel employees.  The first time was my fault [a wrong reservation], but this second time was not.  The two saviours were from opposite ends of the spectrum of hotel employees, but nonetheless saved our bacon.  I can't decide if this is because we're getting older or the world is getting more stressed out, or what.  Of all arts to practice in ageing, being grateful is not the hardest.  I can hope.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Grab Bag


What else am I going to title a post about four new enamel pins, a Trad scale harness bridle resto job, a new Stablemate and a near-record low temperature?  Oh yes and a couple of new Mink stickers!?  My year 2022's review has already taken place with the writing of my Christmas letter, and there was no overflow of photos from that, sorry.  I've been so busy preparing for a January canoeing trip (among other things) that what would normally be two blog posts, or more, seemed best condensed down to one.  Grab bag is just the best description.  The title came to me in advance of Breyer's latest offering advert, in case you're wondering.

The four new Mink pins could well have been a separate post.  We'll start with a pair of fabulous Mink stickers which came with my new pins.  I still haven't gotten used to the freewheeling generosity of a Minkiewicz Studio pin order, and I thought the glitter factor of these particular stickers was spot-on perfect.

It is surely not a coincidence that both of these creatures have appeared (or will appear) as enamel pins.  Dakkaar on the left and Unicorn 2 on the right:  I already have the Unicorn pin (the image is flopped) and I know Dakkaar is in the pipeline.  His pin form sale date is still unknown -- he was first published about on June 13  -- but I'm willing to wait.  (The record wait time for a Mink pin is currently held by the FlutterPonies at a year and 2 months.  Most appear within 2 months and some pins within 1 month.)  My personal theory is that it really is very hard to make a black enamel pin, and we are waiting for a certain standard of excellence.  But I don't know for sure.

Here is Ad Astra, a beautiful design of a starry mare.  I apologize for the shot being so out of focus.

Here is a horse I've taken to calling "Roman-style" because he just looks that way to me.  His official name is Holiday Runequine;  when he first showed up, Sarah called him 'stylish.'  I love his carousel-horse-like design and subtle red sparkle berries.  The gold metal and white enamel is so crisp and beautiful.  The photo does a poor job of showing the graduated hues of blue; trust me they're there.

I snagged the two Runedeer pins.  Here is Runedeer 2.  Mink is rightly proud of his splendid design.

I will complete this self-indulgent stretch of pin-worship with a very strong statement of love for the glitter background of -- Mishkazelle!!  Mishkazelle has a wonderful depth and gloss in her glitter; it is spectacular in person.

Here's my whole collection minus the unicorns (they have their own board).

 Let's take a look at how low the thermometer got during that national storm last week, right before Christmas.  The lowest I can remember seeing this house get was minus 4.  The sensor is off the back deck.


Moving on, I had a very good mail day this past Monday.  Two packages came in.  When I placed them together the unintentional result was strongly reminiscent of the old Winter Photo Challenge question:  Scale Issues!!

Thank you Anne for the lovely Kit.  I collect palomino SMs and this fellow was so sturdy-looking and interesting.  If I were into making harness for SMs he would be among the first ones I'd pick to drive!   (The temptation to name him Carson is irresistible.)

The harness bridle was returning to its natal shop for a simple bit swap.  I didn't take the time to look it up, other than to note it was built a long long time ago, probably in the 90s.  The customer took care of her tack, and that is so refreshing to come across -- thank you G.H.!!  Here is the bridle in its 'before' state:  Note the simple ring bit, the crown strap being too big for this mold, and the general darkness of the buckles.  They are galvanized steel, oxidized to a dark grey color.

Here it is after a Half Cheek bit was installed, the crown shortened by moving a blinker upwards, all buckles replaced with stainless steel, and the overcheck rewired with new 28ga.  All strap parts cleaned and oiled.  Incredibly, all this was done inside 48 hours.  I can scarcely believe it myself.  Don't you love the look in her eye!

I also lengthened the split in the overcheck, trying to accommodate that mane.  This was partially successful.  I have to hope that general adjustability will serve.

In Other News, I am planning to be on the road for most of January.  We shall see just how much work I get done on the next book and Malaguena's Bridle No. 2, which is where we're up to.  I am still working on getting Christmas letters out, ... deep sigh..., ...

Visit our recently updated website, and enjoy catching up on three years' worth of pieces...unless you've been reading this blog all along, in which case you know already!  This coming spring I will have some resins to sell as well as braidwork pieces spun off from the book.  The year 2023 will be a close race between my love and devotion to braidwork and Breyer's focus on harness and driving.  Of course miniature harnessry has long been a great love of mine; I have made over 100 sets of model harness.  One of the best parts of the Guide is its harness chapters.  But I honestly don't know how I'll handle the next BreyerFest.  One possibility is with horse-drawn-vehicle displays in someone else's room.  Heaven knows I have plenty.

Thank You to every customer and friend, and 

Have a wonderful New Year!

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Four More Pins


This post will be about showing off 3 new pins in my collection and one older one I haven't covered before.  Only one is a Mink -- but you have to agree, she takes the cake!  Her spirit soars.  The more I look, the more I like this pin.

The first pin is a catch off eBay, which gave me camera adventures.  I use the word to refer to 'difficulties I'd rather not've had but which taught me something.'  This is the Very Important Persons Limited Edition of 1000 pin for 2021.  For the record I paid $36 for it.

The first shot is typical.  He's out of focus.  The lighting is bad.  Reflections are running amok.  I zoom in, use the closest macro the camera is capable of, and try lighting from the side with a flashlight.  I'm trying to show that those teeny spots actually have color in them.  The pin is only two inches long.  (I just measured it. Claims on eBay that it's 2.25" "in height" are completely wrong.  It's 1.25" high.)
Here at last you can see that most of the larger spots really do have color inside, and that they match the spectrum across the body.  But the smaller spots are solid black.

Super close, things get out of focus.  I am disappointed that there's no color in the eye.  What looks like an expanse of white with island spots rising out of it is a definitive effect for soft enamel pins, as opposed to hard.  To the touch, I swear, it feels smooth and hard all over.

Finally, a nice portrait.  Having this pin is yet another example of 'the only way I'll ever get to own this horse.'  Nonetheless I think NaMoPaiMo has something to say about this...

My next pin to show off is Jorannazazi from Minkiewicz Studios.  Here is where my camera makes her nicer than she is, and I liked her before!  I think I'll leave those reds as they are!  The surface is smooth.  This bay Pegasus is a hard enamel pin.

I find this pin just as astonishing as Mink's others.  The detail is amazing.  So what if it looks dull from a distance!  So what if her eyes are mere black lines...  There is so much power here.  (That is the Black Malik's rump to the right, Breyer's "Arabian.")  In all my browsing on other enamel pin sites and groups, only acrylic pins even approach these in level of detail; and there is still nothing like Jorannazazi.

A confession:  the belly color is not shaded or graduating as this photo shows, but all one color instead.  My flashlight gave her this modulation.  Typically the only way to achieve shading in a hard enamel pin is with screen printing.  Some of Mink's pins are screen printed, such as the Manchado Cave Pony and Baxter.

My last two pins to show off are a red Unicorn and a very intriguing Draft Pegasus.  The Unicorn is, I think, rather common; I've seen other versions on eBay.  I was attracted by the color (red again!) and the surface finish -- those gloss domes just feel so smooth.  The conformation wasn't too bad.  The Drafter had come in earlier, another eBay find, and I really know very little about him/it/her at all.

I do know how hard it was to photograph.  Let's examine those fabulous rainbow wings:

This is a little guy, just one inch long.  The moment I saw it I felt it belonged in my collection, since it hit every requirement and had a hint of mystery besides.  Why are the mane and tail different colors? 
Why, with the rest of the horse so well done, is that off foreleg so poorly formed?  Was there an accident, or are they all that way?  I've not yet seen another of this pin.

And why oh why couldn't I shoot the bright metallic gleams and glints of the red color?!  My eyes have no trouble seeing them!  They were definitely there...  The shot below gives another, and better, view of the red Unicorn.  I've seen other designs of red Unicorn pins out there, as well as some deer pins which are calling to me.

 In Other News...

As of the 11th of December (2 years, 9 months since pandemic began), my Christmas letters are written AND printed.  This is a minor record:  never so early before.  We are planning to be on the road (FL) nearly all of January.  I will be balancing work on the next book with Christmas and the inevitability of trip life.  If the message hasn't gotten across before: Thank you for reading, Thank you for being there, thank you for your patience!  I would be, my family of 2 would be, nowhere without you.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!



Hue + 5, Saturation -25
 I could just as well have called this 'Chadwick vs the Incandescent Camera.'  Another equally good title might've been "Disappointing Palominos."  That's a much stronger title, and in the spirit of the season I'm not sure I want to use so powerful a word.  Yet this horse is really making me dither.  I'm suspended between like and dislike.  I drag myself back to liking him.

There are many things good about Chadwick the Palomino Emerson.  He is beautiful.  I'm semi-conga-ing Emersons  -- I now have 5.  I love a glossy and I don't care about little goobers in his finish or paintjob, not the way I see others caring.  (If they're on white -- he had a couple -- a few knifestrokes takes care of them!)  I have a soft spot for palominos, and  his eyes appeal.  The longer I keep this horse, the more he grows on me.  Yet,... sigh,...  I thought he'd be a redgold, the orange-toned palominos I love best.  What his sale picture showed.  And he wasn't,...  in person he's a peanutbutter, of all hues my least favorite palomino.

If this post is confusing it's because I find unexpected yet unsustainable disappointment confusing. Perhaps I might find out that (in some impossible way) not all Chadwicks turned out peanutbutter palomino, and that some are the glorious old redgold which I know Breyer is capable of, -- AND I might find someone who might trade their redgold for my peanutbutter, --- but until then, ... I'm keeping him, ...he grows on one, ...

As much sunlight as is possible on a grey day
I make myself like him.  He has solved a mystery.  When I first opened him I finally asked myself:  Why did I dislike peanutbutter palominos so much?  Answer:  It's the lack of red.  The best part of Chadwick, at that moment, was his hooves.  I was inside under fluorescents.  When I took him to the next room, the incandescents gave him a fair bit of orange back.  Sunlight, what little there was, made him peanut butter again.  Why had he looked so good online?  Why did other people's (FB) photos make him look so orangey-redgold? 

  When I peered through the lens at this new horse, he looked so close to what I expected.  (Stephen Spielberg's sentence in his TIME mag article:  "I only believed it when I saw it on film.")  Even when the shot was downloaded and saved, it still came out as above:  There was very little to complain about.  The horse appeared golden orange.  But that wasn't what my eyes were seeing.

Chadwick has reminded me that I and my camera do not see eye to eye.  Decades of playing with PhotoShop has taught me the power of Hue and Saturation.  Below is an unprocessed shot.

And here, processed, is what's really going on:

Raise the Hue by about 5 and reduce the Saturation by about 25.  The Saddlebred does not lose his bright redgold, that is, his orange tones.  But Carrick and Chadwick are in the peanut butter jar.  (Unfortunately my camera also exaggerates Chadwick's muzzle, which is fisheye behaviour on its part. This phenom also stretched out the ASB's foreleg in the first 2 shots.)  I had fallen in love with, and bought, what I thought was a Saturated red-orange horse, and he just wasn't.

Thinking of Lafayette and dashed expectations:  that was another horse I learned to love.  I suspect the lesson about not buying horses sight unseen is one I'm doomed to repeat.

True to the traditions of King's Herd, Chadwick is wearing Duke's Hackamore as his first piece of tack.  There's a piece you'll be hearing a lot more about in future... it's in the next book!

Monday, November 21, 2022

Carrizozo Lava Field


While Google-mapping the drive to Tucson, we came across a lava field in south-central NM.  There was a nice loop trail out into the most interesting-looking textured land we'd ever seen this side of Iceland.  It was mere minutes off Hwy 54, our chosen route, and the moment we saw it our trip somehow became a lot more desirable.  Kansas wheat and Ohio corn we were familiar with, but lava?  For someone who'd spent 8 months spellbound by the Icelandic volcanoes, this was irresistible.

This will be a post with minimal processing and maximum pictures.  We spent several hours here and I blazed away.  Of course I put a horse out  :)  you will see her in the last 5 shots.  To start with, the word "malpais" is pronounced 'mal-pie' and means, literally, bad place.  

The campground that the trail ran from was located on top of a small hill.  The hill seemed nearly surrounded by old lava.  It would be nice to claim the flows were all from this mountain (above), but they were from a much smaller mountain on the horizon.  There was an edge to the black field,..  a limit to the tortured plain,... but it was a huge place when you got down to it.  Below is a view of the short way across.

Seen on satellite, the Carrizozo Lava Field looks like a pair of slender black wings, 42 miles from end to end.  It's northeast of White Sands Missile Range and of the White Sands.  I had seen the word malpais in western literature, but hadn't realized what it meant.

Geologists say the flow of lava is around 5,000 years old.  It is the youngest flow in the continental United States by a long shot.  See that tiny bump on the left horizon below?  That's supposed to be the source,...

 The paved trail was very nice, switchbacking down the hill into the lava field.

 My husband photographed flowers, but I was taken by all the textures of the rock.

Fresh from Iceland, I could recognize a great deal.

 I started saying to myself, "There is no way I would ever take a horse across this!"

To think this rock had once been squeezy and soft, bulging itself into ripples and ropes, curls and crescents.  What was 5,000 years, after all?

The pine trees on the horizon here marked the half way point of the trail.

It is not clear to me whether the white gravel was naturally there or whether it came from the construction of the trail.

A desert environment, this was somewhat lush after the summer monsoon.  This was September, enjoying the rains from July and August.  

There were cracks, miniature canyons, lumps and bumps and holes.  I couldn't see how any hoofed animal could travel far.

A couple of closer shots, for texture.  Those are barrel cactuses in the upper left.

Never mind it was a public place, with tremendous visibility.  I had a bridled (o.k. hackamore'd) horse with me and there were few hikers, giving long stretches of privacy.  This mare, the wife of my Carrizozo [Nikolas], was still finalizing a name that day.

Alas for unshod hooves on that hard rock!

The wind was light, no damage was sustained, other than to my reputation when strangers came by.

 Much later the mare would be named Salorcha.  At the time I think it was Cocobeau.  

You really need a good horse out on the malpais.