Saturday, February 18, 2017

lizard girl

When I received a photograph of the very pretty granddaughter of a friend I thought I'd try to capture her in a drawing. Of course my rendition does her actual looks almost no justice at all; in reality, her vivacity and confidence in the love that surrounds her defeats my small ability at portraiture. You may have noticed this little girl isn't standing in a doorway or a garden and neither is she accompanied by a typical household pet. Instead, she stands at ease with an iguana in equally sanguine posture. Do you wonder why?

Well, just a few days before I found her photograph in my inbox, I'd been reading about The Galapagos Islands, the remote archipelago where Darwin first conceived of his theory of natural selection after examining the unique fauna who lived there. Some 30 percent of the plants, 80 percent of the land birds and 97 percent of the reptiles are found nowhere else on Earth. Besides the famous giant tortoises, there were several varieties of oversize iguana - the land ones feed on cacti and shrubs while the marine iguana graze on seaweed near the shore.

Over the past 300 years, hunting and invasive species reduced both the giant tortoise populations and the lizards by an estimated 90 percent, destroying several species and pushing others to the brink of extinction, although a few populations on remote volcanoes remained abundant. Along with the pirates and eventual settlers, came goats, pigs, donkeys, dogs, cats, and rats. They trampled the delicate native plants, gobbled up turtle eggs, staged inexplicable attacks on land iguana colonies, snacked on baby chicks, and tore through cactus tree trunks. After the Galapagos National Park was established in 1959, park guards halted killing of tortoises for food, but those animals introduced to the islands continued to destroy the habitat and kill the native species.

 How researchers got rid of more than 200,000 goats is interesting (if somewhat gory):

In a project called Isabella helicopter aerial attacks eradicated 90 percent of the goats on that island. Although it's relatively easy to remove 90 percent of a goat population from an island as they become more rare, they are harder to find. Once they'd been educated and learned to hide, the hunters flying around in an expensive helicopter found no goats.

So they decided on a technique called Judas goats. Since goats are gregarious and like being in groups they captured individual animals, put radio collars on them and released them back into the wild where the goats would go and find more goats. A week or two later it was easy enough to find the hidden herds.

It's hard to write about the Galápagos without talking much about the tortoises, but since their story is far more famous than the efforts to protect the lizards, I just thought I'd let you know that overall the situation for all of the rare and beautiful species that Darwin described is far better now. Extraordinary measures that have been taken to protect these animals have been largely successful. At the same time the future remains mired in debates over how to protect the islands from the 150,000 tourists who visit each year, many of whom unintentionally bring invaders by depositing tiny seeds on trails, and occasionally fungi or insects that can cripple the fragile ecosystem. (Personally, I agree with Crow that tourists should stay at home, but that's a whole other subject.)

Land iguanas are large - more than 3 feet long - with males weighing up to 30 pounds. They live in the drier areas of the Islands, and in the mornings can be found sprawled beneath the hot equatorial sun. To escape the heat of the midday sun, they seek the shade of cacti, rocks, trees or other vegetation. At night they sleep in burrows dug in the ground, to conserve their body heat. They feed mainly on low-growing plants and shrubs, as well as fallen fruits and cactus pads. These succulent plants provide them with the moisture they require during long, dry periods. Land iguanas show a fascinating symbiotic interaction with Darwin’s finches, as do giant tortoises, raising themselves off the ground and allowing the little birds to remove ticks.

It's enough for me to know they're out there in hope that Earth will continue as the beautiful and diverse surrounding that gave us birth. My further hope is that little Lizard Girl and her friends will grow up to add to our knowledge and compassion for all God's creatures. We need more nature photographers and naturalists.

ps: My picture didn't do justice to the iguana either..

pps: Harper's
Game On - East vs. West, Again
by Andrew Cockburn

Saturday, February 11, 2017

secret gardens or unknown?

When I was a child one of my favourite books was 'The Secret Garden', but while I was told about walled kitchen gardens enclosed to keep foraging animals out I never knew walled gardens had been commonplace up until the relative recent past. From the sixteenth to the twentieth century, European urban farmers grew Mediterranean fruits and vegetables as far north as England and the Netherlands, using only renewable energy.

These crops were grown surrounded by massive 'fruit walls', which stored the heat from the sun and released it at night, creating a microclimate that could increase the temperature significantly. The 2.5 to 3 metre (9 to 10 feet) high walls were more than half a metre (20 inches) thick and coated in limestone plaster. Mats could be pulled down to insulate the fruits on very cold nights. In the central part of the gardens, crops were grown that tolerated lower temperatures, such as apples, pears, raspberries, vegetables and flowers.

The fruit wall appeared around the start of what's known as the Little Ice Age, a period of exceptional cold in Europe that lasted from about 1550 to 1850. Initially, fruit walls appeared in the gardens of the rich and powerful, such as in the palace of Versailles. However, some French regions later developed an urban farming industry based on fruit walls.

The most spectacular example was Montreuil, a suburb of Paris, where peaches were grown on a massive scale. The French quickly started to refine the technology by pruning the branches of fruit trees in such ways that they could be attached to a wooden frame on the wall.

Established during the seventeenth century, Montreuil had more than 600 km (375 miles) of fruit walls by the 1870s, when the industry reached its peak. The 300 hectare (750 acres) maze of jumbled up walls was so confusing for outsiders that the Prussian army went around Montreuil during the siege of Paris in 1870. Now there's a secret garden for you.

Peaches are native to France's Mediterranean regions, but Montreuil produced up to 17 million fruits per year, renowned for their quality. Building many fruit walls close to each other further boosted the effectiveness of the technology, because more heat was trapped and wind was kept out almost completely. Within the walled orchards, temperatures were typically 8 to 12°C (14-22°F) higher than outside.

As the 20th century grew closer, the production of Parisian peaches went into decline. The extension of the railways and the arrival of cheaper produce on the market saw the orchards deteriorate and disappear into the urban fabric. Here we are 150 years later completely dependent upon container shipped fruit and vegetables from all over the world.

While fruit wall gardening was certainly labour intensive I can't help but remember Mary Lennox, the sickly, foul-tempered, unsightly little orphan girl who loved no one and whom no one loved. Her discovery and care of the secret garden on her uncle's estate led not only to her transformation but to the healing of a sad family's tragedy. If all the factory work is to be done by robots, perhaps the gardens will still have need of us and treasures to share.

Near the end of the book a character says: "There must be lots of Magic in the world. But people don't know what it is like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen, until you make them happen."

ps: * The design is achieved by wrapping the fruit in a paper bag while it's growing.  Once it's full size a stencil is attached to the ripening peach using egg white. The Japanese do the same with apples. :)

The illustrations of The Secret Garden were painted by Inga Moore.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

the recital underway

It's been some time since I last posted a new picture and now that there is one I thought I'd show you how it progressed from an early sketch to a finished illustration. As I said, an early sketch rather than the chicken scratches I'd be embarrassed to show you.

For some reason unknown to me I can't get the second image in the sequence to load - the one that shows the tonal underpainting. Instead, this is the third with the characters looking pretty well developed.

There was a time when I'd spend a lot of time putting together the elements of a new painting. The paintings themselves took weeks of evenings and weekends to complete. I seem to be much less patient now.

There needed to be a background and after several pencilled in tries and much erasing I decided on a nice walled garden. Deep in a Canadian winter is a good time to spend some imaginary time in a sunny walled garden, especially one that is a home to roses. I thought my little band of musicians would be happy there too.

Of course it still needed more depth and colour as well as something going on beyond the stone wall. Thus, the next day's effort found it looking like this - still a bit wispy but I could see where the picture needed to go.

If you're wondering where (if, of course you've stayed this long) here is the final result:

Finally, after adding more layers of warm transparent hues to give more shape and definition to the main image, I drew and painted the border - a thoroughly relaxing process that took a couple of days. Both during the Recital's development and now that it's done there are things I couldn't change at the time that I wish I'd done differently. Then again, nothing made by hand (at least by my hand) is ever perfect and perhaps that's the charm. It's nice enough. If only changing the way we live on this Earth were as easy..

“Throughout the world what remains of the vast public spaces are now only the stuff of legends: Robin Hood’s forest, the Great Plains of the Amerindians, the steppes of the nomadic tribes, and so forth. Rousseau said that the first person who wanted a piece of nature as his or her own exclusive possession and transformed it into the transcendent form of private property was the one who invented evil. Good, on the contrary, is what is common.”
~ Antonio Negri

Saturday, January 28, 2017

in depth history

A few years ago when I read Alan Weisman’s book 'The World Without Us' I came across a paragraph that raised my curiosity:

“No one knows how many underground cities lie beneath Cappadocia. Eight have been discovered, and many smaller villages, but there are doubtless more. The biggest, Derinkuyu, wasn’t discovered until 1965, when a resident cleaning the back wall of his cave house broke through a wall and discovered behind it a room that he’d never seen, which led to still another, and another. Eventually, spelunking archeologists found a maze of connecting chambers that descended at least 18 stories and 280 feet beneath the surface, ample enough to hold 30,000 people – and much remains to be excavated.”

Perhaps you already know about them, but they were new to me and more than a little extraordinary. So for those who don't know about them at all and for those who've had other things on their minds lately, I'll go ahead.

It was in 1963 that a man in central Turkey knocked down a wall of his home. Behind it, he discovered a mysterious room. He continued digging and soon discovered an intricate tunnel system with additional cave-like rooms. What he had discovered was the ancient Derinkuyu underground city, part of the Cappadocia region in central Anatolia, Turkey. The elaborate subterranean network included discrete entrances, ventilation shafts, wells, and connecting passageways. It was one of dozens of underground cities carved from the rock in Cappadocia thousands of years ago - quite likely 5,000 years although nobody knows for certain (the old thing about not being able to date rock).

The Cappadocia region of Anatolia is rich in volcanic history and sits on a plateau around 3,300 feet (1,000m) tall. The area was buried in ash millions of years ago creating the lava domes and rough pyramids seen today. Erosion of the sedimentary rock left pocked spires and stone minarets. Volcanic ash deposits consist of a softer rock – something the Hittites of Cappadocia and the Phyrgians (remember them?) discovered thousands of years ago when they began carving out rooms from the rock. It appears it all began with storage and underground food lockers since the subterranean voids maintained a constant temperature.

Then, as invaders moved into and across the territory, the underground tunnels  served a larger purpose: protecting the people from attack. Miles of tunnels blackened from centuries of burning torches were strategically carved narrow to force would-be attackers to crawl single-file. Eventually the tunnels reached hundreds of caves large enough to shelter tens of thousands of people in separate family quarters.

As time went by Derinkuyu was inhabited by early Christians who expanded the caverns further by adding chapels, churches with ancient Greek inscriptions and frescoes. Over one hundred unique entrances to Derinkuyu are hidden behind bushes, walls, and courtyards of surface dwellings. Access points were blocked by large circular stone doors, up to 5 feet (1.5m) in diameter and weighing up to 1,100 lbs (500 kilos) were installed so each level could be sealed individually. The tunnelling architects included thousands of ventilation shafts varying in size up to 100 feet deep (30m). An underground river filled wells while a rudimentary irrigation system transported drinking water.

Commercial spaces included communal meeting areas, schools, dining rooms, grocers, religious places for worship (even shopping) while arsenals stored weapon caches and stables kept animals safe.

Just recently a housing construction project may have unearthed the biggest hiding place ever found in Cappadocia. Discovered beneath a Byzantine-era hilltop castle in Nevşehir, the provincial capital, the site dates back at least to early Byzantine times. It is still largely unexplored, but initial studies suggest its size and features may rival those of Derinkuyu.

Geophysicists from Nevşehir University who conducted a systematic survey of a 1.5-mile (4-kilometer) estimate the site is nearly five million square feet (460,000 square meters). These studies suggest the underground corridors may plunge as deep as 371 feet (113 meters). If that turns out to be accurate, the city could be larger than Derinkuyu by a third.

Cities, empires and religions have risen and fallen around these unique underground havens - 100 square miles with 200+ underground villages and tunnel towns complete with hidden passages, secret rooms and ancient temples and a remarkably storied history of each new civilization building on the work of the last. There are indications that many of these underground cities were connected by tunnels now collapsed or simply lost (for the moment).

It's an area I'd love to visit, but since that's not very likely (besides, I'm claustrophobic) and just a few are partially open to the public, I've settled for looking at some of the many online photographs and written accounts.

We inhabit a world both old and deeper than we might otherwise imagine.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

yet another unnecessary improvement

So what do you think about self driving cars? In my humble opinion, unless every vehicle was self driving on well maintained roads, I feel we'd be just as well off as Crow was the day he went for a ride with Mr. Toad at the wheel.

"Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?"
~ George Carlin

Every time I read about some miraculous new development that's bound to make our lives perfect my first reaction is suspicion. Perhaps I've become a little too cynical about technology, but if so, that's only because I've never had to look far to find proof for my misgivings.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

For one thing 'self driving' is in actuality a misnomer when it pertains to cars even more so than the auto-pilot systems used by commercial airline pilots. After all, an airplane flying at thirty thousand feet is unlikely to be sharing the sky with cyclists or ten tonne trucks making lane changes.

"Even from the greatest of horrors, irony is seldom absent."
~ H.P. Lovecraft

First, let’s get this out of the way: Tesla’s Autopilot is not meant to be a self-driving technology. It’s a 'driver assist' function only, and the driver is intended to be in control of the car at all times, holding tight to the steering wheel and continually second-guessing the machine despite its apparently flawless driving ability.

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong”
~ H. L. Mencken

And that’s where it goes wrong. The human brain is pretty quick to draw conclusions, and very bad at estimating low-probability events. If you drove on Autopilot five hundred times over a year, and nothing bad happened, you’d be excused for thinking the system was safe. You’d get complacent and take your hands off the wheel to do something else, like reading a book or watching a movie. Then you get an emergency signal from the confused computer.

“Death is the last enemy: once we’ve got past that I think everything will be alright”
~ Alice Thomas Ellis

Self driving cars only work on paved roads with clearly defined line markers. Admittedly, while so far there haven't been too many accidents, the thing to remember is there haven't been many of them on the roads yet. Automobile safety wasn’t invented yesterday. There are protocols and standards based on meeting established reliability and safety measures that can't possibly have been met by self driving cars.

"If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked
~ Steven Wright

So far I prefer Mr. Toad.. and he really enjoys teasing self driving cars.
The little devil. No wonder Crow likes him.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

mysteries abound

Have you ever heard of the Longyou Grottoes in China? As a longtime admirer of a good mystery this one caught my interest when I first read about them a year or two ago, but unfortunately, there isn't really a lot of information other than some pictures and a few articles to be found on the internet.

Discovered in 1992 by a curious farmer (or an old lady called Grandma Wu depending on which account you accept), who wondered if the pond near his village was one of the legendary 'bottomless' ones, he convinced his neighbours to share in the rental on a pump so they could see for themselves. Now while I can't really understand why poor villagers would want to disrupt their supply of fresh water, they apparently kept pumping water from the squared off hole long enough to discover it was actually a purpose made cavern of pretty enormous size. Already ninety-eight feet deep, the floor itself sprawled to enclose an area of nearly thirteen thousand square feet - supported by carved pillars. The ceiling, wall and pillar surfaces are all finished the same way with a series of parallel bands between ridge marks about twenty inches wide and containing parallel chisel marks set at an angle of about 60°.

Once the first grotto was reported to the authorities a further twenty-four (or thirty-five) were found, all isolated from one another and often separated by less than two feet of stone. One fact from Wikipedia was curious. “Despite their size and the effort involved in creating them, so far no trace of their construction or even their existence has been located in the historic record.” Carved in siltstone, a medium-hard rock, the grottoes are thought to date to a period prior the Qin Dynasty in 212 BCE. However, there is not a single ancient text that describes the underground complex nor its creation or its purpose. Furthermore, there's no sign anywhere given the fact that the Ancient Chinese were extremely meticulous record keepers, of where nearly thirty-five million cubic feet of excavated rock went. When it's mentioned it would have taken a thousand workers each carting one hundred buckets twenty-four hours a day for six years (going where?) I can only shake my head in perplexity.

Commenting on the Longyou Grotto Caves, Yang Hongxun, an expert at the Archaeological Institute of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, explained:

“At the bottom of each cave, the ancient builders wouldn’t be able to see what the others were doing in the next grotto. But the inside of each cave had to be parallel with that of the other, or else the wall would be holed through. Thus the measure apparatus should have been very advanced. There must have been some layout about the sizes, locations, and the distances between the caves beforehand.”

Another of the grottoe's mysteries is that there’s no evidence of lighting having been used. At Longyou there are no traces or remnants of the lamp bases, oil plates or other lighting equipment that have been found in other Chinese caves. Carbon residue remains on rock permanently. How did the builders see what they were doing when excavating and how did they breathe? The entrances are small and the caves deep, there would have been little to no natural light. It's a mystery.

Most of the spectacular mysterious ancient caverns are still full of water and neglected. This may be a good thing since Trip Advisor states the most bizarre thing is the level of destruction that has gone on in the ones that are open to the public. Concrete has been poured over them, lights and speakers installed, large fish ponds built inside the grottoes, and modern carvings have been added to the walls. By trying to attract tourists the government has destroyed and defaced the ancient cultural historical and architectural wonder. Alas, the Chinese were once understood to be very sensitive to ancient culture.

The general assumption about the grottoes is that they were man made about twenty-five hundred years ago, but I wonder. Not so much that people couldn't have made them, but the timing of their fabrication. While our race is estimated to be two hundred thousand years old our history dates back less than ten thousand years. Many ancient and mysterious artifacts and constructions have been found and are still being found. We don't know everything.

Maybe I'll ask Crow.

ps: article of the week

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Crow delivers

My friend Crow,  off on his annual winter visit to his distant relatives the condors, sent me some thoughts about modernity to share with you:

It would appear new technologies are generally being sold as essential ones in the coming of either a future leisure-oriented paradise or your inevitable domination under the control of AI Algorhithmic overlords. Take your pick.

One of the more recent developments has been Amazon's patent for “An unmanned aerial vehicle delivery process that utilizes an airborne fulfillment center” (AFC). Their patent goes on to describe "an airship, or dirigible, is a type of aerostat or lighter-than-air aircraft which can navigate through the air under its own power. ... An AFC may be positioned at an altitude above a metropolitan area and be designed to maintain an inventory of items that may be purchased by a user and delivered to the user by a UAV (drone) that is deployed from the AFC.” We won't go into how they plan to stock the thing (people wearing jet packs, perhaps), but I'll tell you right now we birds aren't for it at all.

This is the kind of idea that, if described to you by your precocious nine year old nephew, you'd be likely to chuckle about later and forget. I remember susan's father on ambitious yet ill considered plans remarking, 'One day that man will be doing great things.. like washing elephants'. Instead, because it's Jeff Bezos' monstrously huge and wealthy Amazon corporation, the news media is taking the idea perfectly seriously (and anything they take seriously, you must too).

What none of them seem to consider is the chaos that would be unleashed should this delivery method actually go into effect. Imagine trying to enjoy the peace and quiet of nature on a bright summer afternoon while hundreds of delivery drones swoop down from the sky carrying Amazon's quite literal version of 'instant gratification' to customers who just can't wait for a delivery through normal channels. The ability to have warehouses floating around in the sky also has them considering the idea of delivering “perishable items or even prepared meals.” In other words, Amazon is positioning itself to be in direct competition with Domino’s Pizza. I can almost see the hunters poised with their shotguns or bows and arrows looking to bring home the pepperoni and meatball extra large.

Amazon describes your soon-to-be-old fashioned system of retail delivery in the following way: Using a “human controlled truck, bicycle, cart, etc.” which delivers items from a “ground-based building,” and continues with “a human who hands the item to a recipient, places it on the user’s porch, or stores it in a post office box, etc.” I wonder if the drones will ask after your health or remark about the weather as real people do.

Now I'm reminded of yet another grand plan devised by the technological overlords, the widely reported, soon to be instituted, advent of fully automated driverless trucking. Considering the fact that truck driver is the number one occupation in North America I see more problems ahead. But I'll leave that topic for another time.

Meanwhile, the weather is lovely here in the Andes and you'll be pleased to hear the Remy and fruitcake you sent by dogsled arrived safely. The dogs are currently napping at the fireside while the condors are waiting in the wings for our afternoon flight.

Until next time, dear friends and susan, stay warm and keep smiling. The world may be a silly place,
but we are well so long as humour and affection remain.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

between maelstroms

May things stay the way they are
in the simplest place you know.

May the shuttered windows
keep the air as cool as bottled jasmine.
May you never forget to listen
to the crumpled whisper of sheets
that mould themselves to your sleeping form.
May the pillows always be silvered
with cat-down and the muted percussion
of a lover’s breath.
May the murmur of the wall clock
continue to decree that your providence
run ten minutes slow.

May nothing be disturbed
in the simplest place you know
for it is here in the foetal hush
that blueprints dissolve
and poems begin,
and faith spreads like the hum of crickets,
faith in a time
when maps shall fade,
nostalgia cease
and the vigil end.

~ Arundhathi Subramaniam



Saturday, December 24, 2016

santa Crow visits the rich (reprise)

Crow here. It's been nearly a year since the night I agreed to help the old fellow from the north with some deliveries on Christmas Eve. Quite frankly the dear gentleman was at his wits end, knowing as he did that so many poor children needed gifts and food that night and much more besides. He did what he could as he always does. My task was the much less arduous one (or so I thought) of taking presents to the children of the rich. As you well know there are far fewer of them, such a tiny number of good rich children, in fact, that I was quite confident of being home well before midnight.

At twilight several of his more experienced reindeer arrived pulling a spare Santa sled and off we tootled into winter's darkening sky. Our first stop at a gated community provided my first inkling that this job might not be quite the doddle I'd imagined it would be. As I slipped down the chimney I'd been happy to see the glint of festive lights in the the hall and the living room, but when I stepped across the grate I discovered they weren't holiday decorations at all but motion detectors. Suddenly sirens sounded, steel barriers dropped down to cover the windows and three snarling dogs rushed into the room where I'd just begun to open my sack. I barely made it back up the chimney with my trousers intact.

Having never been one to renege on an obligation I set off with a will to the next mansion on my list. The living room there was a grand space filled with art and fine furniture but once again, just as I set foot on the floor, before I could begin opening my bag, alarms sounded, a spotlight lit my person and a nasty smelling fog filled the room with blue smoke. Coughing and choking I scrambled back up that chimney too.

As I'd had no success at the gated community I decided instead that we'd try for a country house on the list. Knowing nothing about private security systems that employ infrared cameras that read thermal heat signatures, nor about radar detectors - both of which can detect anything larger than a mouse up to five miles away - the reindeer and I were surprised when portals in the roof opened and out popped a brace of cannons. Although we attempted to signal our good intentions by ringing sleigh bells and singing carols, we were forced to turn away when the heavy artillery opened fire.

We made our sad way back to Santa's workshop in dread of his disappointment. How surprised we were by his merry laughter as he commended us for our attempts and said, 'Don't worry boys, next year I'll let them fight it out with the Amazon drones'.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Originally posted three years ago I thought this would be neat to show again. Besides, as Crow remarked, drone delivery systems being closer to reality (horrors!) will bring a whole new crop of hunter gatherers to the fore. Humans are almost as adaptable as crows.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

lighting effects

In my ongoing effort to pretend winter doesn't exist and that it doesn't really get dark at 4:30, I've been mucking around with a lamp making project. Before everything outdoors got covered in several layers of ice and snow (about three weeks ago), I carried a pair of secateurs and a shopping bag along on a couple of park walks. Now this is the semi-wilderness park I'm talking about and not the outrageously well maintained Victorian Public Garden. Anyway, I collected some sticks in order to make an 'artistic rustic box lamp'.

The attached pictures will show you just how far I got with the stick lamp - not very as you'll notice. In the second shot the appearance that it's standing upright is deceptive, well actually an outright lie, since it's partly leaning on the black desk lamp behind. Otherwise, it folded into a parallelogram no matter how I tied the strings. I used to be good with geometry too. The idea was supposed to be that a card paper square shade (with cutouts for coloured acetate) would wrap the outside with the other open square tied on top to hold it together. Since it proved to be unstable I tried another plan which was to make the upper square smaller, figuring that would make it less likely to tip. Instead, it twisted. No pictures were necessary as I took the whole thing apart. If we had a fireplace the remains would have made a nice bit of kindling.

Never mind, at least now I can use my table for its regular duties as a drawing and painting space. Have you ever had projects fail that originally seemed to be really good ideas? At least I wasn't attempting to build a fountain in the living room.. this time.

The above is a picture done a couple of years ago called 'Eustace's Gift' (Eustace being the dragon).

Let's hope for an early spring.