Dramatis persona*

helenhead Helen Chick

I've always wanted a bumper sticker that said "I'm a female, LDS/Mormon, Scout leading, geocaching, piano-playing, bicycling, mathematics educator with a PhD in maths ... and I VOTE"!

I think this makes me a minority group of cardinality 1!

* Since there's only one of me and "personae" is plural (I think), I've gone with dramatis persona.
November 2019
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Moods of the Mountain #110

A beautiful winter sunset, stretching across the northern flanks of the Wellington Range.

Creative Prompt #3 – Found under the trapdoor

The third of Lee Sargent’s weekly “creative prompts” was “Found Under the Trapdoor”. This time I decided I wanted to try get Illustrator to actually do artwork rather than graphic design. In the past I’ve used it to produce technical graphics for work, since it is a vector-based design tool, but I’ve never had the time to get to know how to do more freehand work. Well, I didn’t really have time this week, either, and so I still have very little idea what I’m doing with it. To be fair, I’m not totally unhappy with the end result, and I think I managed to progress through the changes in viewing angle reasonably successfully.

Well, what else would you have under a trapdoor?

[Production notes: initial pencil sketch, scanned into Illustrator CC which I can’t drive, and inked using a Wacom tablet which I also can’t drive, with the whole situation exacerbated by the fact that I failed kindergarten colouring-in.]

Moods of the Mountain #109

Early morning moon-set on a winter’s day (well, relatively early, given that it is very close to winter solstice!).

Major changes

You may have noticed, in the post about my friend Lisa’s funeral on the 12th, that I mentioned her two teenage children. While Lisa was in hospital they came and stayed at my place (a) because they couldn’t really stay at their home alone and (b) because I live much closer to town than they do, and so could take them in to hospital to visit their mum and get them to their schools.

Well, with Lisa’s passing, they and I are embarking on an unexpected new phase of our lives, as they are now living with me on what looks to be a permanent basis. Nearly three years ago, Lisa asked me if I would be the guardian of her children should anything happen to her; I’d said yes, and/but although I knew she wasn’t well, I never thought that I might end up having to actually do it. Nevertheless, here we are. They are lovely children, which is making things easier, but obviously there are big changes that we are facing. The three of us are thus trying to figure out our “new normal” and how to make this work, and I think we’re doing okay so far; I only hope that I don’t let them or their mum down.

I’m not totally sure what the future will bring, which makes me a little nervous, but I’m told that driving lessons are on the agenda … which makes me REALLY nervous!

Creative Prompt #2 – The secret life of the Mona Lisa

This week’s Lee Sargent “creative prompt” is “The secret life of the Mona Lisa”. As Lee wrote in his weekly prompt email: “You know what the painting looks like; just go away and write a short play about what she does when she’s not posing for paintings!” Well, I didn’t go for a short play (and the prompts are intended to allow you to take whatever creative approach in whatever medium or art form you want), but I had to stop and think about what might be a fitting spare time occupation for the owner of one of the most famous faces in history.

I haven’t quite carried this off as well as I’d imagined it in my mind, but it’s clear enough to convey what I wanted, I think.

[Production notes: initial pencil sketch, inked with Artline 200 0.4mm black pen, scanned to computer, and Da Vinci himself supplied the remaining finishing touches via Pixelmator.]

12 of 12, June 2019

The past month has been challenging and sad. My dear friend Lisa, who has been unwell for some time, passed away on Saturday 8 June, after being in hospital for nearly 3 weeks. The funeral was today, and I’m going to use part of this 12 of 12 to do a little reminiscing.

I only started to get to know Lisa 6 years ago, and it took a while for our friendship to develop. Over time, however, we became very close friends and a significant part of each other’s lives. I know she had faced some challenges in her life, and that there were things that were a struggle for her, but she was a strong, kind, determined, generous, smart, funny, and insightful person, and she is going to be missed.

Her favourite colour was purple and, although they’re a bit pink, we got a bunch of purple flowers for her funeral that reflected this. She also liked proteas and we managed to track down some flower heads to lay on the coffin too (unfortunately the lovely protea bush that Lisa had growing in her garden reached the end of its own life earlier this year).

Over the years we exchanged gifts at birthdays and Christmas, and she knew my interests well. I loved the spreadsheet t-shirt she got for me; she was amused by the fact that I have spreadsheets for a large number of different purposes. I actually wore it to the funeral.

Her most recent Christmas gift was a wonderful addition to my penguin collection (and reflected her own love of quirky timepieces),

And a couple of years ago she found a mathematical watch … and was really proud of herself when she figured out, ahead of me, what was going on with the 6 position (I kept reading the x as a multiplication sign; she realised — despite her own hesitations with matters algebraic — that it was actually the unknown pronumeral x and that you had to solve for it).

She also bought a pair of penguin necklaces: hers said “Best” and mine said “Friends”.

She loved elephants and had a huge collection. I’d carved an elephant thing for her for each of the last three Christmases, and I’ve kept my favourite of the three to remember her by. The other two were cremated with her today, along with her half of the penguin necklace pair.

The funeral went well, I think, though it was hard for everyone. Lisa’s Mum spoke about Lisa’s early life, I spoke about the last few years, and her two teenage children did a wonderful job when they concluded the eulogies. The children and I put together a photo montage, which my brother turned into a proper slideshow with music, which also included the theme song for her beloved Hawthorn football club.

During the afternoon tea following the service, one of my sisters gave me a little “pocket heart” which was a kind gesture I appreciated.

In the early evening I needed to go for a walk, for lots of reasons. There was a misty rain about, and the mountain was obscured, while the bridge is lit up in red as part of a winter arts festival.

Late in the evening, after Lisa’s two children and I had had a counter meal together at a nearby pub, and as I tidied up some bits and pieces that had accumulated in the last few weeks, I came across my copy of Rainbow Valley, bookmarked at the point that we’d reached when I used to read a chapter to Lisa on the phone each night. As Lisa’s illness worsened this ritual went by the wayside, and so it remains unfinished. Among many other things, our evening chapters will be missed.

Creative Prompt #1 – There’s something odd in the barn

So, Lee Sargent (pop-culture artist (as also shown here) and occasional setter of challenges) is sending out a “creative prompt” each week, with a view to inspiring people to be creative in whatever way they feel inspired. There are lots of reasons why it is foolish for me to contemplate signing up for such a prompt, so I signed up*. This week’s prompt was “There’s something odd in the barn”.

I happened to be on a professional learning trip when the prompt arrived in my inbox, and I had a few spare minutes stuck in a hotel room in the evening. A little lateral thinking and some klutzy finger painting on my iPhone using the extremely good (and Tasmanian-made) app Procreate resulted in the following contribution to the theme.

* I have told myself I don’t HAVE to do it EVERY week. Sometimes I even believe me about this.

You can sign up for Lee’s creative prompts too, if you like: visit https://leedrawsstuff.com/creative-prompts/

[Production notes: finger-painted using Procreate Pocket on an iPhone 6 while in a hotel room.]

Misty sunrise

We had a District Scout hike/camp this weekend, with surprisingly mild and glorious weather considering that we were half-way through May. On Sunday morning we were treated to a misty sunrise through the trees and it just had to be photographed.

12 of 12, May 2019

A rather miscellaneous collection of photos for this month’s 12 of 12.

Over breakfast I finalised the preparation of the lesson I had been asked to give at Church today.

This is the view from the room in which I taught the lesson. I reckon it has the best view of any chapel in the world (based on the sort of small statistical sample from which no such conclusions can confidently be drawn except by those who are totally biased). And the lesson went well, I think.

It was also Mother’s Day, so the ladies at Church got to wear chrysanthemums.

In the afternoon I went for a walk, and came across a flock of cockatoos …

which were startled into flight by some other walkers.

Continuing the bird theme (briefly), there was a flotilla of tiny cormorant chicks paddling about on the water and occasionally diving beneath (cormorant chicks is my best guess; I am not actually certain what they are). 

A different view of my favourite mountain.

I took this photo because I was surprised to see things in bloom in autumn (and then I felt like an idiot, because hadn’t I worn a chrysanthemum in the morning!).

A view of the Derwent River and the Tasman Bridge.

I like the colour contrasts in the next shot, and the abstract water patterns.

When I got home I finished preparing dinner for the extended family: vegetarian bolognese sauce and a non-vegetarian bolognese sauce (and a non-vegetarian bolognese sauce without onion for someone who doesn’t do onion) … and, yes, of course you can cook Italian in a wok.

My brother came bearing a gift (although the photo doesn’t do it justice): he’d sculpted this really amazing scene of penguins on an iceberg in the ocean (complete with killer whale), out of polymer clay and some other touches. It is only 10cm in diameter, and is really cool. At 7mm tall, these are probably the smallest penguins I have; just over a week ago my sister delivered to my front door (initially anonymously) what I think is, at 50cm, my biggest penguin (included in the bonus 13th photo).

(The “12 of 12” project involves taking 12 photos on the 12th of the month (actually, it usually involves taking more). Some days the day is just an everyday day; some days things are a bit more adventurous. I have been doing this since 2009, and this is episode 117.)

Sunset at Lewisham foreshore

I haven’t explored the Lewisham foreshore before, but took a short stroll this evening just before sunset. It was quite peaceful and beautiful, and I think it will be worth visiting again, and with something more photographically competent than my phone (the phone hasn’t done too badly, but I could have had a bit more fun with one of my “real” cameras).