Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Hometown Shootout - Delicate


Ran out of time again this week.  But I did take a few pictures so I should post them.

BAGMAN: "Hey!  You can't just ignore US!"

BUTLER:  "He said he didn't have much time.  We need to respect that."

So here is my delicate shoot:

An orchid that bloomed this week

And it wouldn't be the deep South without Spanish moss

I wasn't sure if the plant on top of the old palm trunk was actually "delicate"
but it looked delicate in relation to the rough palm.

Wait a minute!  Is everything delicate only in relation to something that is not so delicate?  Is delicacy, like everything else, just a matter of relativity?

BUTLER: "Of course.  Just as dark colors wouldn't look so dark unless they are seen in relation to light colors."

BAGMAN: "And politicians wouldn't sound like such idiots if they weren't seen in relation to normal human beings.  Hey! Maybe when they are all in a group -- like in Congress -- they only see each other and don't realize what idiots they are!"

BUTLER: "Shhh.  Mark's trying to get through this before he falls asleep or one of the kids wakes up."

Kay's eyelashes and eyebrows

Nah.  I think there are some absolutes.  Kay's eyelashes are delicate no matter what.

And that's really the end of my delicate pictures.  The next picture is delicate only because of the process of what I need to do with it. 

Kay on neutral (sort of) background

Why this is a delicate challenge

I put this Coca Cola suit on Kay yesterday and took around 40 different shots, lighting, exposure, expressions, etc., before she drew the shoot to a close by throwing up all over the suit.

Karen has saved this suit for over twenty years - since Kay's dad, Brian, was our own little formula-spewing babe.

Scan of a non-digital shot of Kay's Dad

And when Conner came along three and half years ago, we started a tradition.


We put Conner in the same suit, on the same quilt and put the two photographs in a double picture frame.

Then Noah came along.


We still had the suit, of course, but somehow we had misplaced the quilt, so I had to photoshop him onto the background of the Conner picture.  It's a bit obvious but in a three-picture frame from a distance it doesn't really matter.

So the delicate challenge is to see if I can now do a better job photoshopping Kay -- the neutral (sort of) background helps the process of cutting her out.  Then comes the delicate piece of reconstructing parts of the quilt since her legs are in a different position and I will have to use the clone tool to fill in the gaps.  Then find a way of adding some shadows to make it look three dimensional.  Then adjust the brightness and contrast of all four shots so they more or less match.  I haven't decided yet if I might try changing the hue of Kay's suit to a pinkish tone. 

As I said, the photos aren't really delicate but some of the process can get detailed.

And then I need to go out and find a four-picture frame.

But first I'm going to go to sleep.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Don't have conversations with people who aren't there

Stop me if you've heard this one before...

I guess that's impossible since by the time you read it, I'll have finished writing it.  But I just noticed that I have 533 posts behind me and after a while you just can't remember whether you've said something before.  By now, for instance, my wife can tell all my best stories as well as I can. 

But walking the dog the other evening, I remembered one of the "rules to live by" that I came up with once:

Don't have conversations with people who aren't there.

Actually I can remember exactly when I came up with this.  I was sitting in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant in the foothills of the Wastatch Mountains overlooking Salt Lake City where I once traveled frequently to assist in managing the opening of a new alcohol and drug hospital -- Highland Ridge Hospital.  I think it is still around.  

And I wasn't paying attention to the view.  I was engaged in an intense, angry internal argument with my ex-wife over something or other.  I can't remember now.  But I had been at it for awhile.  Having arguments with someone in your head is easy because you always win them.  Since you are imagining both sides of the debate, you always make the other person say something to which you have already planned a scathing rebuttal. 

But after awhile, I realized that it had become dark and I had wasted well over an hour or so.  While I was pumping up my blood pressure, my ex-wife, three time zones away, was probably sleeping like a baby. 

I was having an imaginary argument about something that might never come up.  I don't know now whether it ever did, whatever it was. 

But suddenly I thought to myself: "Don't have conversations with people who aren't there."
And my blood pressure dropped and I smiled. 

And that little insight has served me well ever least when I remember to practice it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Hometown Shootout - Glass

Shattered, shattered, shadoobie...or something like that.  The Rolling Stones song is the background music in my head as I wander down to the B&B studio to see what we can pull together for today's shootout. 


I open the door, push my head cautiously inside.   The floor is covered with shards of glass.  I am very glad that I am wearing shoes for a change.

BUTLER: "I told Bagman not to try and build a tower out of glasses."

BAGMAN: "It would have made a great picture!"

"Please tell me you didn't use our good crystal."


Subdued, I sit down at the computer and begin posting some pictures for this week's theme.

Street View through glass - Charleston, SC

Street View through glass - Murphy, NC

This is not much of a picture by itself.  It was texture in an overhead ceiling light at a conference center where I was attending a very important meeting.  And obviously a very boring meeting.  I thought I might use the colors or shapes in some Photoshop manipulation someday.  "And we need to get our lobbying strategies together to oppose this legislation blah blah"   Retirement is wonderful.

Scan of a slide taken in 1970.
I think this was a piece of amber
(Isn't that kind of like glass?)

This was a skylight at the Atlanta Art Museum (I think)
I liked it better upside down.

Reflection in a ceramic vase
(Isn't ceramic something like glass?)

Part of Karen's bottle collection

Part of a class bowl that was for sale in a shop
taken just before the shop owner asked me
not to take pictures.
(Why not, I wonder...but didn't ask)

And that's about all I've got this week.  I see that Butler has swept up all the broken glass from the floor.  I wonder why Butler did it when Bagman, who is lounging in the corner reading magazines was the one who broke it in the first place.  But that's Butler for you...

"I left some doughnuts on the table," I say, starting to leave.

BAGMAN (jumping up and running toward the table and then starting to hop when he steps -- barefoot as usual -- on a shard that Butler missed):  "Wait a minute!  I wanted to post this one."

Appropriately weird

I head off for breakfast and to check the morning stock prices.  I'll be back over the weekend to relish everyone elses' posts.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  The author of this post has an up-to-date, valid poetic license.  No crystal glasses were actually harmed in the production of this blog.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Glass Half Full Half Empty - Solved

Walking Daisy seems to be a time when ideas come into my mind.  Probably because my mind is pretty empty, particularly in the morning walk.  In winter both the evening and morning walks are done in the dark and aside from glancing into neighbors' windows as I walk by, there isn't much to see.  

In fact there isn't much to see in the windows of houses I pass by either except the same chandeliers that were there the day before.  And one guy who is always leaning over his computer in his second floor office -- always.  More than me even. 

Since that is the sum total of dog walking stimuli in suburbia, my mind puts my body on autopilot and curls up to sleep.  And ideas come to it.  

Most of them are too dumb, too Bagmanish, or too pessimistic to be be worth remembering.  But this morning, I suddenly realized the solution to whether my glass is half empty or half full.

Neither!  My glass is simply too big!  

If you ever wonder if your glass is half empty or half full, just get a smaller glass and bask in the fact that it is almost overflowing.  

In fact, if you don't have a glass at all, abundance just flows over you.   But I'm not quite ready to give up my glass.  For some reason, I still have the need to contain something and claim it as mine before I consume it. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The New House - Second in an uncertain series

I don't have a clue whether we will be living in the house when it gets built or whether we will end up staying in the house we now have -- and that now has been fixed up with our sweat.

But the process began for real on the 12th.

Lot 44

We met with Tim Dupre, our go-to guy until we either walk away from the project or move in, to finalize plans and walk the lot to discuss which trees should go and which should stay.

Not that there is a whole lot of choice since the lot is small and the house has to be fairly square and can't be build like some snakey maze around trees.  Nor can we have a tree growing up through the livingroom floor and out through the roof.

Most of the trees are not all that nice anyhow -- pines and gum.  (No gums!!!  I don't want to be picking up spikey gum balls in my eighties!!  I've picked up enough of them during the last 13 years at our current house!)

I hate gum trees!

But out at Lot 44 we spot a nice live oak near the back of the lot.

"Hey, Tim!  Do you think we can save that one?"

His answer is a masterful combination of customer service and legal disclaimer.  He tells us that he will save all the trees he can -- (Except the gums!!!!) -- but that when they muck the lot, there is always a danger of damaging roots of big trees when taking out the little ones.

Mucking, we learn, is taking a big piece of heavy equipment, driven by someone getting paid minimum wage, and ripping up the place.  It is not lazer surgery.   Tim's promise to save all the trees he can seems a bit empty.

I begin feeling sorry for the trees so I go past the pack of the lot where there is a long cleared path for a powerline.  I am wondering if it might have the potential for a walking trail.

I turn to my right.

Are we moving into an industrial complex?
Walking away begins to seem more like a good thing.
What are we doing!!!???

Leaving Karen and Tim to debate tree extinction, I wander off to my left.

This is a bit more promising

As Karen says, "If we're meant to live there, we'll live there.  If we're meant to stay where we are, we'll stay where we are."

One of those great truths I've learned in A.A. over the years.

"Let go and let God."

"Make plans but don't plan results."

Monday, January 16, 2012

The New House -First of a series with an uncertain ending

A lot of this makes no sense.  We know it makes no sense, and yet we keep moving further and further into it.  At the end of each non-sensical decision, we look at each other and say, "What are we doing?!!"

So far, I've been documenting attempts to sell our current house so we can downsize and move closer to the grandchildren and Karen's work.  I say "documenting" instead of "blogging" because I sometimes use this blog to journal about things for the future.  Maybe not as entertaining but...

What I haven't mentioned much is what we have been doing to locate a house we can move into after our current one sells.  Assuming that it does.  Big assumption.

And we keep breaking all the rules or guidelines we set for ourselves going into the process.

Assumption #1:  We would look but we would not buy anything until we were sure our house had sold.  We can't afford to own two homes. 

Assumption #1 Broken:  We bought a house!   We'd be complete idiots but instead of buying someone else's house, we are having a new one built!  The advantage is that the contract has an out-clause in case we don't sell our house.   At some point in the building process there will be a "Go/No-Go" meeting -- probably in a couple of months.  At that point, if our house has not sold we can walk away without losing our down payment.

Assumption #2:  We will downsize.

Assumption #2 Broken:  The new home is bigger and more than we expected to pay

Kitchen in "Model Home"

Assumption #3:  We will be moving nearer the grandchildren and Karen's work.

Assumption #3 Partially Broken:  Well, it is a little closer but not all that much. 

What are we doing?!!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Photo Hometown Shootout - Arms and Legs

Even before I get to the B&B studio, I can hear Bagman in his loudest ZZ Top voice:

"She's got legs, she knows how to use them
She never begs, she knows how to choose them"

When I opened the door, I saw, with chagrin, he had already posted his first picture:

And I saw that Butler was already trying to do damage control:

BUTLER: "This is a G-rated blog, Baggie!  If you want to use this picture, why not use Photoshot to make it more artistic. Like this."

BAGMAN: "Yuck!"    For once, I had to agree with Bagman.

BUTLER: "Or this."

BAGMAN: "Double yuck!"   By this time I had blocked Butler's access to Photoshop.  And while I was doing it, Bagman posted his second picture:

Charleston's Annual "Stiletto Stomp"

BUTLER: "That's ridiculous!  And who on Earth produces high-heeled running shoes?"

I was frantically trying to regain control of my blog.  I didn't have long because I had a To-Do list to get to.  Why can't I blog, check stocks, paint the windowsill, and pick up toys simultaneously.  I just don't have enough arms.

But after pouring cold water on Bagman and glaring at Butler, I started my real post.  And since we are already on legs:


There are FAT legs

And there are SKINNY legs

There are LONG legs

And there are TINY legs

At that moment, I lost my train of thought because Karen needed me to help move some furniture.  I really really need more arms. And now I can't remember what was supposed to come next.  Oh yes:

Legs are for dancing

Legs are for running through sprinklers

But I need to stop and say that in the past, I really loved my legs and we got along well together. 

We ran together

We broke things together

Now my legs don't want to get out of bed and they've joined forces with my back to prohibit me from touching my toes.  Which makes putting on shoes a chore. 

Oops!  My blog production is stopped once again to go walk the dog.  I need more arms!

And legs...

You can't have too many legs

BUTLER: "Careful, Mark.  You've already posted a gazillion pictures and exceeded the average attention span of anyone with a mouse in their hand.  And you haven't even started on 'arms' yet."

"That's okay, Butler," I answer.  "I not only have too few arms but I have very few pictures of arms as well."

BAGMAN:  "I knew it!!  You're a leg man!"

But I did also want to pay homage to one of my favorite poets.

"Then I was deep within the woods
When, suddenly, I spied them.
I saw a pair of pale green pants
With nobody inside them!

I wasn't scared. But, yet, I stopped
What could those pants be there for?
What could a pair of pants at night
Be standing in the air for?

And then they moved? Those empty pants!
They kind of started jumping.
And then my heart, I must admit,
It kind of started thumping.

So I got out. I got out fast
As fast as I could go, sir.
I wasn't scared. But pants like that
I did not care for. No, sir."

              Dr. Seuss


BUTLER:  "Thank goodness!  It's really time to wrap this one up."

Arms are for supporting legs

Arms are for expressing protest

Arms are for expressing beauty

And, most of all --

Arms are for holding the ones we love

BUTLER:  "Are you finally done yet?" 

BAGMAN: "I still like the first one I posted.  It went downhill from there."

BUTLER:  "And don't you have a long To-Do list to get to?"

Yes, sadly it is time to leave the world of blog and head back into the world of chores.  I really wish I had more arms...

Having only nine arms is not enough

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I hate wallpaper.

I refuse to hang wallpaper and would rather be hanged myself.  A long time ago, I attempted it - in order to make progress with a woman I was pursuing.  I covered her walls with wrinkles and bumps and air pockets and she never talked to me again. 

So I was trying to slip backwards out of the kitchen when Karen suggested we remove the wallpaper in the kitchen. 

I conceded that it was ugly.  Several potential buyers of our house have come through and commented through the realtors that one of the things they did not like was the wallpaper.  But I'd happily drop the price so they could get it changed. 

"But we bought the house with that ugly wallpaper," I said.

"No," Karen reminded me.  "We had to pay someone to hang it after we moved in because you refused to do it."

I started to tell her about my earlier experience but caught myself in time.  I've learned enough not to bring up other women even if it was 25 years before I even met her.  Instead, I said, "You mean that we actually picked that eye-straining monstrosity?"

"Why don't you see if you can get it down.  It might go easy and just peel off."

So the next day, with blind faith that it would just come off the wall in one smooth piece, I moved the furniture out of the way, took a corner and pulled on a corner.  I pulled off a piece that needed a magnifying glass to see.   I began muttering and headed to Lowes for scrapers, sponges, remover solution...

Lowes (and Home Depot) are always filled primarily with men.  I am convinced that each and every one of them is married.

Back in the kitchen, I began muttering more frequently.  After endless hours of work...

...I had almost finished the first of 4 sheets. 

At first, it seemed to go easier on the equally ugly decorative border at the top of the wall until I realized that the border was on top of the wallpaper so it was actually going to be twice as hard.

By now I was muttering nonstop.   I was talking to the wallpaper, trying to make deals.  Then I was threatening the wallpaper. Then I was making comments about the wallpaper's mama.

The various "How to remove wallpaper" sites on the Internet all made it seem like a fool could do it.  Although I quickly concluded that only a fool would attempt it in the first place.  The sites also politely suggested patience and being careful with the scraper so you don't damage the wall. 

After days of work, I no longer cared.  By then I was muttering about the "How to remove wallpaper" sites' mamas. 

So when the paper was finally off, I stepped back, looked up and saw that I had mutilated the wall. 

This is just one small section - gouges were everywhere

The fact that by then I felt that the $#&$ing wall deserved everything it got, did not change the fact that I would have to repair it.  Sort of like how we spend billions of dollars shooting up some country we go to war with only to spend billions more to help repair the infrastructure afterwards.

Back to Lowes for painter's putty, putty knives, spackle, etc.   I'm not muttering anymore.  I've grown to hoarse to mutter.

But I have to admit the result does seem to make a difference.

By the time we finish preparing the house to sell, we won't want to move out of it.