Monday, April 30, 2012

Can we sell our house to a duck?

It is beginning to seem like a race against time as our new house begins to look increasingly like a house...

(Note Noah striding up to take ownership)

...while our current house begins to look increasingly like
a liability.   Lots of people are looking at it and making polite comments but we are beginning to sweat out getting a decent offer.

Except today.   

While mowing the lawn, Brian noticed it, just under the diningroom window.

...hidden by the bush

The mother duck was there earlier and I'm sure I'll get a shot of her tomorrow after I sit down and have a long talk with her.  There are important things I need to ask her.

Does she have enough for a cash deposit?   What does she intend to give the bank for collateral if she needs a mortgage?  Or is she expecting to pay rent?

And now I've got more to worry about.  She has probably picked a safer spot than down by the pond where we have our annual resident alligator, but there are a couple of neighborhood cats that sometimes come around, not to mention at least two snakes that live under the house.  

For the time being, Karen and I have decided not to tell Conner.  He is an avid naturalist and often spots turtles, chameleons, bugs, and the annual resident alligator before I do.  But he is also too anxious to go and pick up things and I'm not sure I could keep him away from the nest. 

For the time being, her nest will be my secret.  But if she is late on the May rent payment....

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Shootout follow-up - Before and After

Looking at the posts from Friday's hometown shootout, I was impressed by several folks who posted before and after shots -- Five days of flowers blooming, 365 days of a river swelling...

And I decided to post my own before and after shots.



Ahhhh....What a difference a lifetime makes!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Friday Hometown Shootout -- Time

Hmmm.   This seems to be a really tough one.

Bagman, Butler and I have been sitting here all week.

Just sitting.

Killing time.

Trying to think of something, watching the clock, and coming up empty.

BUTLER:  "We could shoot the clock?"

BAGMAN: "We could shoot whoever came up with the topic?"

I start singing an old Eagles song.  "Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping...into the future."

BUTLER: "Shouldn't time be slipping into the past?"

BAGMAN: "It ain't slipping anywhere today.  It's just stopped.  Maybe we should just skip the shootout this week.  

BUTLER: "We could shoot a timelapse of the stairs...stop down the f-stop as low as possible, turn out the lights, make a 10 or 20 second exposure and walk up and down during that time to show...

BAGMAN:  "Show what?  Fuzzy lines?  We should have done that when the theme was motion."

BUTLER: "I'm sure there are some interesting clocks downtown somewhere."

BAGMAN: "Or wristwatches on the arms of pretty girls."

"It's too late now, anyhow.  We've been wasting time all week and now we've got yard work so we can't go shooting today anyhow."

We sit in silence some more.

Time passes.

Broken only by the occasional mouse click as I plod through archive pictures..

BUTLER: "This reminds me of Waiting for Godot."

BAGMAN: "Reminds me of jail."

BUTLER: "Stop pretending to be tough.  You were never in jail."

"Hey!" I say.  "We could show that picture of the jail cell in Alcatraz when we took the tour."

BUTLER: "We already did that one."

BAGMAN:  "Okay.  I give up.  Who says we have to post something every week anyhow. 

BUTLER: "I agree.  It's not like we have to keep up with the Queenmother who also hasn't missed a post since January 1st."

So I'm about to turn off the computer having gone through thousands of pictures.  By this time, I'm actually looking at an old file of raw shots from Italy that I never did anything with. 

"Well," I say. "It isn't much but I remember shooting this old clock in some Florence church."

BAGMAN: "No wonder I'm tired.  XVIIII is way past my bedtime."

BUTLER:  "Did you flip the picture or does that clock really run counter-clockwise."

"Nope.  Straight from the camera.   This is not a clock that I would want to use to teach the grandchildren how to tell time."

BUTLER: "Or maybe, for this clock, time really is slipping slipping slipping into the future."

At that point the bell over St. Michaels in Italy gongs.

BUTLER: "Times up."

BAGMAN: "What do you want to do now?"

"I don't know," I reply.  "We'll think of something if we sit here long enough."

Time passes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

And now for the rest of the story...

As Paul Harvey used to say, "And now for the rest of the story..."

BAGMAN: "Who -- not that I care -- was Paul Harvey?"

BUTLER: "He was a syndicated radio broadcaster for ABC up until the early 1980's who was famous for telling part of a story, pausing, and then saying, 'And now for the rest of the story'."

BAGMAN:  "Great.  Now my day is complete."

Anyhow, it recently struck me as I was walking Daisy that, unlike Paul Harvey, I don't always remember the rest of the story.  I suffer from chronic storytelleritis.  After I tell the same story many times, often using poetic license to make it a bit more interesting...

BUTLER: "Lying, in other words."

"Exaggerating, a little," I protest. "There's a difference."

BUTLER: "Not technically."

BAGMAN: "Hey!  If lying and exaggerating are the same thing, why do we have two words for it?"

Anyhow, after I tell the same story over the years, I suspect I begin to forget what really happened and remember the way I told it as factual.  I create in myself an actual memory of something that may be partly fictional. 

BAGMAN:  "This is boring.  Time to mouse over to someone else's blog!"

"For instance," I continued, undeterred.

When I was whatever age I was in this photo, I spent part of my summer at a girl's camp in Maine. 

BAGMAN: "Whoa!!  Now this could be interesting!"

Not really.  I was well chaperoned by Shirlye Dana.  Shirlye had been my mother's close friend before my mother died and Shirlye lived with my grandparents so I grew up with her as part of my extended family.  Among other things, Shirlye spent her summers teaching horseback riding at this girl's camp in Maine and one year she invited me up.  She thought I would enjoy it (which I did) but I also think she needed someone to help shovel manure (which I didn't enjoy quite as much).

BUTLER: "But you are quite good at shoveling manure in your blog."

I did get some free horseback riding lessons and Shirlye took me out to circle the small riding ring.  I learned to walk, trot, and canter.  And to shovel manure.

There was also a jump in the middle of the ring made of wooden posts but Shirlye would never let me attempt it because she didn't want to send me home to my grandparents in a cast. 

But one day, as I was cantering endlessly round and round the same damn ring, beginning to think that shoveling manure might be more interesting, the horse I was riding suddenly made a turn, picked up speed, and headed for the jump.   I wasn't suppose to do the jump but Shirlye had never told the horse.

We broke into a full gallop.  Shirlye was yelling, "Whoa!  Whoa!  Pull in the reins!"

I was thinking, "All right!!! Whoooeeee!!"    And we sailed over the jump in perfect form!

...and now for the rest of the story.

I don't know why I remembered this while I was walking Daisy the other day but for some reason I caught myself wondering.   I have a clear memory of that jump.  I remember hanging on, squeezing my legs around the horse, fear, adrenaline, excitement.  I remember the hard thump of the front feet and the shock of landing coming up through the saddle and the stinging slap of the leather against my butt.

But I also have a slightly less clear memory of the horse reacting to Shirlye yelling 'whoa' and gently coming to a full stop before the jump and then returning to the walk-cantor-trot drill. 

It nags at me.  I really can't remember which version is true.  Storytelleritis.  

BAGMAN: "Who cares?!  And what I want to know is what happened to you up there?  Did you breathe too many manure fumes?  You spent a month at a girl's camp and this is the best story you came back with?!!!" 

BUTLER: "Nags at you?  Was that supposed to be a pun?"

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Friday Hometown Shootout - Rule of Thirds

Today I walk into the studio right behind Butler who was a little late because he was pressing his socks.

BAGMAN (looking very confused): "What are you guys doing here?"

BUTLER: (looking suddenly confused): What do you mean what are we doing here?"

BAGMAN: "I didn't think you guys had the stomach for this weeks theme. Ain't it too gross for you?"

BUTLER: "Gross?"

BAGMAN: "The Rule of Turds. I can't believe someone came up with such a gross theme!"

"Wait a minute," I reply, jumping into the conversation. "It's the Rule of Thirds"...NOT turds!"

BAGMAN: "Huh?"

BUTLER: "It's simple. You divide the picture surface by two horizontal lines and two vertical lines forming a grid of six sections."

BAGMAN: "So why isn't it called the Rule of Sixths?"

BUTLER (ignoring him): "Pictures look better if the primary subject areas are oriented on the four places where the six lines converge."

BAGMAN: "So why isn't i called the Rule of Fourths?"

Butler looks at me. I look at Butler. Neither of us has an answer for this. Bagman starts dancing around, doing a little shadow boxing and grinning.

BAGMAN: "And you guys think you are so smart."

"You know," I say to Butler, changing the subject, "My grandfather, who was an artist, used to tell me about the 'Golden Mean'
BUTLER (relieved to escape Bagmand's dilemma and recovering his holier-than-thou posture): "That is a different aesthetic ratio that dates back to Pythagoras and Euclid in which two quantities are in the golden mean or golden ratio if the ratio of the sum of the quantities to the larger quantity is equal to the ratio of the larger quantity to the smaller one."

BAGMAN: "Huh?"

I echo, "Huh?"

We all stare at each other for a long time trying to figure out how we are going to make a post from this mathematical morass.

Finally, I break the silence. "You know, when I use the cropping tool in Photoshop, it shows a grid. Maybe that's helpful. And there is also one in the viewfinder of the Nikon."

BUTLER: "So you've been doing this for a long time."

"I guess," I say. "But, in any case, I didn't do much shooting this week anyhow."

BAGMAN: "You guys figure it out. I'm going to the outhouse to practice my stomach's rule of turds."

So Butler and I try to figure out what to do. Finally we decide to find a couple of average photographs in the archive and see if we can improve them by cropping them according to the Rule of Thirds, Fourths, or Sixths.

I kind of liked this shot already and it seemed to be kind of thirdish...but I fiddled with it anyway and came up with the shot below, where the center between the two spans is near an intersection point and the walkway runs along the lower horizontal.

I think I like the second one a bit better as a composition but I was sorry that it cut out the dramatic top of the cloud in the upper right. But when I included the cloud, everything else was off. Maybe I should have framed it better in the camera when I first shot it. Photoshop can't fix everything. I suppose that if I was really ambitious, I could use the clone stamp and move the cloud down but I was running out of time.

Then I pulled out another -

This was in my file of "Snapshots." I usually differentiate between family snapshots and photographs because there are lots of pictures I want to keep for memory value that I don't think are particularly good photos. But I thought I'd see how this might be cropped to be more Thirdish.

It is still not a picture that will ever hang in a gallery but I think that Thirding it up a bit did improve it somewhat. It also brought more attention to Conner in the background and made me wonder what he was thinking.

Anyhow, that's about it for today. I can't wait to see how other people handled this topic. It was a good learning experience for me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wait a minute...

What's that in the background?

So, I'm just clicking away, taking family snapshots which are a different animal altogether from photographs although sometimes a family snapshot does rise to the level of a photography.  But sometimes, I just set the camear on automatic and use it as a point and shoot camera although it is a bit heavier. 

So the grandkids and Karen are in the backyard, hanging out.  I'm not paying attention to exposure or the rule of thirds or the background or much of anything.  Just a summer day.   Oh yes...the background.

It appears that we weren't the only ones enjoying the warm sun.

Do you see him across the little pond in someone's back yard?

When I pointed him out, Noah wasn't particularly interested one way or the other but Conner was really excited.  One of his favorite things is to feed bread to the fish and turtles.  So he went as close to the water as we let him -- which is two feet from the bank -- and started calling across the water.

"Aaa Gat Aaa!   Aaa Gat Aaa!"

Which was a perfect time for one of those lessons which adults give children and children usually accept 33% of them (another version of the Rule of Thirds) until they become teenagers and then they accept nothing that comes from adults unless it is money.

So I'm trying to get the point across that alligators are not like fish or turtles.  I don't want to create a phobia, but I do want him to know the difference.  He seems to get the point when I explain that alligators don't eat bread, they eat fish and turtles.  Conner gives me a big frown at that one. 

I explain that when we see them from a large distance, it is all right to look and take pictures, but if they start coming across the water or if they are on this side of the pond, we need to go inside immediately.  

Right on cue, as if he (or she) was my teaching assistant, the gator got up and went down to the water and slipped in and swam toward us.

Actually he (or she) only swam out to the middle and floated there as the periodic alligators that inhabit these manmade ponds tend to do.   He or she presented no real danger but it was a good time to get the message of safety across, so we all went inside immediately where Conner ran around baring his teeth, pretending to be an alligator, and biting his matchbox cars. 

I'm not telling the grandchildren this, but I have never considered these gators (most of whom are relatively small -- under five feet) to be particularly dangerous if you don't mess with them.  Repairing the intake valve to our irrigation system, I have swum in the pond (or stood chest deep in the muck) within 25 feet of one of these guys without worrying.  Although Karen worried a bit for me and kept telling me to get out. 

Here's looking at you, kid.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What a difference a week makes...

They told us that once the foundation was poured, the framing would go up quickly on our new house (assuming that our old house ever sells)

April 7, 2012

April 15, 2012

I'm not sure why I take these pictures.  If our current house doesn't sell in the next couple of months, we're going to half to walk away from this one. 

Which won't be that great a disappointment since:

A: We've put so much work into our current house that it would be easy to live in.
B:  We wouldn't have to move -- I hate moving.
C:  We would get to stay with out neighbors who we love dearly. 

And yet, I assume that it will sell and we will move.  It feels like there is momentum in the universe that is pushing in that direction and I try not to fight against universal momentum because it is bigger than me. 

...and usually pushes me in better directions that I would take without it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Friday Hometown Shootout -- History

The H.L. Hunley

BAGMAN:  "I think you have already done this before..."

BUTLER:  "I checked all the labels and didn't find anything."

BAGMAN:  "Mark is pretty sloppy at using labels, you know.  I still think we've done something like this before."

"It doesn't matter.  We're going to do it again.  Because...well....frankly, I don't have anything else."

February 17, 1864:  The Confederate submarine, H.L. Hunley sank the U.S.S. Housatonic, becoming the first submarine to sink a surface ship.  Called a "Fish Boat" at the time, it carried a crew of eight men who powered it with hand-cranks, and used an explosive at the end of a long spar to ran the Housatonic.  Tragically, it sank before returning to port, drowning the entire crew.

1970 or 1995:  Depending on who you want to believe, the wreck of the Hunley was discovered off the coast in 27 feet of water, covered in silt.

August 8, 2000. 8:37 a.m.:  The H.L. Hunley was raised from the bottom and transported to the Warren Lasch Conservation Center on the grounds of the former Charleston Navy Base.

BUTLER:  "Where they don't let you take pictures."

BAGMAN:  "Grumble grumble grumble."

"But there are thousands of pictures and information on the Internet, " I explain sadly. "And it is one of Charleston's largest attractions for Civil War buffs."

BUTLER:  "Buffs?"


 Burial of the Hunley crew
April 17, 2004:  After 4 years of meticulous work, the archeologists had extracted and reconstructed the remains of the eight sailors and they were given a proper burial, with full military honors, at Magnolia Cemetary.  Well...full Confederate military honors...since they were, after all, at war with the United States in 1864.  But now is not the time to get distracted by pesky little time bombs such as war, honor, slavery, etc. 

Anyhow, I don't think I can adequately describe what the funeral procession was like that day.  Thousands of Confederate and Federal Reenactors came from all over the world and for one day took Charleston back to 1864.  I did not feel like they were coming to modern Charleston; I felt that I had been transported back to Civil War Charleston.

The funeral procession started at the point and went for miles up East Bay Street to the cemetary.  I don't know why, but I took a video camera instead of a still camera!  So I have no sharp images to post on this shoot -- only a large number of blurry still captures. 

Before the procession arrived, there was kind of a parade atmosphere but when the first horse drawn caisson came into view, the 21st Century disappeared into silence leaving nothing to hear but slow marching boots. 

They just kept coming, marching in silence.  Thousands.  An entire army.  I had the eerie feeling that somewhere near the harbor a time-warp hole had opened up and they were pouring out of the past.  

Although there were occasional reminders of the present that snapped me back and forth from the historica time warp.

But mostly my imagination was locked in the past as the cadence of marching feet went on and on...

But nothing prepared me for what came next...

After hearing nothing but drumbeats and boots on pavement in perfect slow time...

Without warning...

Deathly silence...

As the widows in soft soled shoes arrived...

The silent widows also went on and on.  After awhile, in the silence, sometimes broken by a soft swishing of black skirts, I began to hear birds singing in the trees.  

And then this vision from history was gone -- the last veil disappearing up East Bay Street -- and the on-lookers began to disperse, gradually finding voices again and beginning to reconnect with things like places to eat for lunch and lawns that needed mowing that afternoon.  

Anyhow, later, I did take one of the screen captures and photoshopped the heck out of it to try and capture a bit of the feeling.   Not sure if I succeeded, but here it is:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A pseudo-scientic dissertation on Troubles

Cowell's Field Guide to Common Occurrences

                Section III:  Negatives

                                Chapter 2: Troubles

Troubles are the largest and most varied sub-category of negative occurrences.   Many occurrenceologists consider these to be environmentally and socially dangerous, in the same category as retributions, snap judgments, and locusts.  Troubles are primarily parasitic although larger ones can be carnivores.

Life Cycle

The life span of Troubles roughly parallels the life span of humans. 

Infant Troubles are milder and somewhat limited to hunger, colic, poop-related rashes, or clumsy parents but all these varieties can often be mitigated through modern Trouble control techniques.  Evidence suggests that frustration, the first of the more dangerous Troubles begins to appear with the advent hand-eye coordination.

Adolescent Troubles are mostly genital related.  Occurenceologists believe that most of these varieties constitute the first major evolutionary offshoots from frustration.

The period from 20 to 60 constitutes a virtual explosion of diversity in Troubles making them one of the largest Occurrence groups on the planet.  With the maturing of the Information Age including live cell phone coverage, Utube, and Agenda-based news organizations, Troubles are now reproducing at a pandemic rate.  Recently, occurenceologists are theorizing that Imagined Troubles and Real Troubles may cross-breed.

 Gerontological Troubles, however, seem to diminish and become somewhat limited to rigidity, forgetfulness, colic, and poop-related rashes.    


Although there is no evidence of seasonal migration, Troubles have been discovered everywhere from the poles to the equator.  While control studies have not been completed, there is initial research indicated that Troubles inhabiting hot and humid climates tend to be more direct and more violent while Troubles in frigid environments tend to be of a more nagging and withholding nature.


Despite the wide variety of Troubles, almost all of them derive sustenance from very similar resources.  They all thrive on fear, paranoia, hypochondria, anticipatory pain, and real or imagined loss of control.  However, if these things are not present, a minority research group is working on the theory that Troubles can survive for a limited time on pizza.

While Troubles all feed on the same things, their methods of acquiring this food are vastly different.  Some hunt and attack openly.  Other, more patient Troubles, plant seeds (fear, for instance) and harvest it when it has multiplied.  Some Troubles, usually smaller ones, are scavengers, moving in to pick at those already weakened.  A classic study of this feeding strategy was documented in the New England Journal of Occurenceology, "Increased Frequency of Small Appliance Breakdowns After Divorce or Job Loss," Boston, MA; 2009.

 Trouble Prevention and Recovery

Although most people, scientists and laymen (laypeople) alike believe that Troubles, like cockroaches  are capable of surviving atomic annihilation, there are some strategies being developed to help individual ameliorate susceptibility. 

Troubles, like all other forms of Occurence, tend to focus on easier prey first.   Although not exempt from Troubles, there appears to be less damage done to people who have more faith, more happiness, and greater concern for others.  Other preventative factors include active lifestyles, low body mass, and lack of access to the Internet and cable TV.   Counter-intuitively, there is an inverse relationship between intelligence and the frequency, intensity, and duration of Trouble events.   

Finally, Troubles seem to gang up on people who are not paying attention.  Maintaining a level-headed awareness of the horizon has been shown to help people avoid areas that are heavily infested with Troubles while idle dreamers with their head in the clouds and people shuffling along staring morosely at the ground are more likely wander into giant nests of Troubles, not realizing it until it is too late.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Etiguette 101

How to greet a new adult member of the family for the first time

Several months ago, my daughter, who lives in Massachusetts, announced her plans to marry the love of her life.  I couldn't be happier for her.
Unlike most fathers, however, I have not been pondering those big parental questions.  Will he treat her right?  What are their plans for feeding and housing themselves?  How many children do they plan on having and where will these grandchildren go to college? 
No, I trust them completely to handle those things themselves.  Probably by learning on the job, as I did, through a long series of idiotic mistakes. 
Instead, I have been worrying about how I should greet him when I first meet him in person?   
There are just so many possibilities to consider:

·         The basic handshake -- always safe, but a bit stuffy under the circumstances.

·         The warm embrace -- risky, excessively intimate for a first greeting, and possibly setting off subconscious homophobic alarms.

·         The standard, very brief man hug with minimal body contact and optional back patting -- a relatively safe strategy.

·         The "Combo Option Play" (Basic handshake followed , depending on reaction of the defense, with optional man hug. 

·         The slight nod of acknowledgement -- only appropriate for passing strangers you will never see again, usually when both are driving cars.

·         The military salute -- a powerful expression of honor and respect but when used on a new son-in-law might result in his turning and running back to the plane.

·         The sportive fist bump -- risks knuckle bruises, too contrived when used by someone over 50.

·         The tip of the hat -- requires a hat, too contrived when used by someone under 80.

·         The running, jumping chest bump -- Physically dangerous to those not in top physical shape and, since I weigh 245 pounds, includes the danger of knocking the poor man over.

·         The European kiss on both cheeks -- culturally limited, might have an interesting surprise effect but hard to carry off with the uninitiated.

·         The formal Asian bow -- culturally limited, might also have a unique and surprising effect although, as a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, I would have to remember not to follow it with a roundhouse kick to the larynx.

·         Circling while sniffing at posterior anatomy -- species limited

·         Street greetings --  Highly choreographed series of fist thumps, wrist grasps, high and low fives, culturally limited to ethnic groups, street gangs, and members of Elks Clubs, Moose Lodges, etc. 

And finally, under the heading of grossly exotic, I was reading a book in college by an anthropologist who had discovered a small tribe in Borneo or New Guinea, who had never experienced any contact with the outside world.  Although, I suppose, from their point of view, the anthropologist was the one with no contact with their world. 
Anyhow, the men of this tribe would greet each other with various ritualistic manipulations of genitals.  I returned the book without finishing it.  Your Federal grant dollars at work.

I think I'll go with the Combo Option Play.
After I finish warmly embracing my daughter.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Friday Shootout - looks like I'll make it afterall....

Wouldn't want to spoil a close to perfect record this year.

Conner solved it for me...while I was boohooing the fact that I had no niches to post, Conner went and found one in the kid's playroom.   He figured out how to climb up into it, using one of his toys (amazing that he did no damage to himself climbing the wheelie thingy).

Then Conner went and helped his little brother, Noah, into the niche.  (Amazing that he did no damage to the all-trusting Noah).  

Then they called for me to find them.  

Aha!  Camera!  Friday Shoot-out! 

And that's all I've got this week.   But I really didn't think I'd have time to post anything. 

Sometimes I wonder why I give up so much of my time so freely? 

BUTLER:  "Maybe it's not actually your time.  And maybe you're not giving it up at all but using it in ways that give you joy...although you don't admit it to yourself and waste time complaining about it.  Just live in the present and enjoy what you're doing instead of whining about wanting to do something else."

Friday Shoot-out -- I need a niche in time

...without which, I will miss this Friday's shootout. 

Ah well.

But I should, if I am lucky, find a small nook in time as the world turns over the weekend to look at everyone else's shoots.   I'm looking forward to that.