Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Wetlands Sunset

This is try number two to post this — after midnight no less — when I have to be up bright and early tomorrow. Blogger is free, and that's wonderful and that prevents me from complaining too much, but it was not fun when it hung up at this particular time of night. Lesson learned: when composing in Blogger, save as draft often.

I wanted to make one more post before we leave tomorrow because I'm not sure when I'll next be able to do compose one. Could happen earlier than I think, but ...

This sunset was taken across the main pond at the local wetlands which I have mentioned frequently. I know that some people have trouble properly viewing some of my photos, and I don't quite understand why as they usually print similar to my screen view. It may be possible, however, that there is some darkening and/or other deterioration in resizing and compressing them for web viewing. Something to ponder.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

To Breathe is NOT to Live

I am about to haul my bad back to my daughter’s place to help her move. Because I have bulging discs and other spinal deterioration, my doctor would almost certainly not endorse this plan — if he knew about it. But neither you nor I will tell.

About ten years ago, I had a major back attack and spent the best part of two months on the floor. There, prone on the rug, I found my only relief from the tortuous leg pain that would engulf me if I tried to either sit or stand for more than a few minutes. I watched TV from the floor, ate on (not off!) the floor, slept there, and even did some work from my recumbent position in the middle of the family room rug. Frankly, I fretted to some degree, for if I could be so incapacitated in my forties, what would I be like in another decade — or two or three decades?

Of course, the worst didn’t happen. My back’s still pretty pathetic, but I treat it as well as I can and do my best to get on with life. I will help my daughter to move, but I will be careful. I will try not to carry too much weight at any one time, and I will try to maintain good posture and to practise good lifting techniques. Something bad could happen, but I’m not worried because I think I know my limits.

Besides! I refuse to spend my life in perpetual worry and fear. What is the point of locking myself in a closet in order to evade the could be’s of life? What kind of life would that be? “Well, God, I lived to be ninety. Yes sir, Mr. Maker, I hunkered down in my living room for the last forty years because … well … because I wanted to live to be ninety.”

What might He say to that? Might our Maker say: “That ain’t living, son, that’s just breathing”?

I want to live, not just breathe. I don’t have to jump out of airplanes or climb rock cliffs, but closeting myself away in fear represents no viable solution. I mean to push the envelope as far as I can sensibly push it. Yes, I used the word, sensibly, not heedlessly, not recklessly. I intend to exercise reasonable prudence, but I refuse to cower in the corner of timidity.

I — we all — need to strike a balance. The balancing point is different for everyone. It would be imprudent of me to go rock climbing or bungee jumping, but it would be timid of me to remain in the security of my rocking chair: to not venture into the garden; to not swim in the creek; or, to not walk the woodsy pathway for fear of stumbling. I would be breathing, but I wouldn't really be living. Not really.

PS: There is some travelling coming up and the blog may pay the price. Don’t give up on me, for I shall return.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Peeing in the Dark …

… in the House in the Middle of a Very Rainy Night

True story. This happened to me several weeks ago. I have told it once or twice and thought about blogging it, but thinking about blogging while you are nowhere near a computer isn’t all that useful. Well, perhaps it is useful if you are still young enough to have a memory, but I am old enough not to remember what memory is. I think of a lot of blogging topics when I am nowhere near a keyboard, or when I am near the keyboard but have seventeen other computer-related chores to implement first. I should carry around a little notebook to record my ideas, but I keep forgetting to purchase one, and if I ever did remember to get one, I’d only forget to bring it with me. If, by some miracle, I remembered the notebook, I would simply forget my pen — or lose it. BTW: have you seen my handy-dandy, pocket-size space pen lately?

What was I saying? Oh yes! I am going to relate what they call an anecdote, as opposed to an antidote. Here we go.

I am of that age and sex where one is susceptible to being summoned from one’s bed by the call of nature several times a night. Most of the time, it is not that big of an imposition; I can more-or-less somnambulate to the nearest toilet, bathroom, latrine, john, privy, or potty and get back to bed and to sleep without disturbing my sweet dreams too terribly much. On occasion, I do become more fully awake than usual and end up performing an insomniacal dance for a few hours: turn to the left; roll to the right; head down; pillow up … and on it goes. But that doesn’t happen very often (thank heaven for small mercies).

It’s even harder when I camp in our tiny tent, however. I tend to sleep more fitfully out there in the wilds and, therefore, seem to receive nature’s call more frequently — am more aware of it anyway. Our tent isn’t large, but I manage to crawl into a corner, unscrew the lid from the three-quart orange juice container and … blush … a certain amount of modesty prevents me from describing the scene any further, so feel free to supplement your imagination. I use a container inside the tent because one simply can’t be unzipping the tent six times a night in the middle of bug and bear country and hopping around outside and being bitten lord knows where by the devil knows what.

Once again, I digress. Back to the story. But as I tell it, remember that it is raining outside: raining very hard as a matter of fact.

There, I was making one of my usual middle-of-the-night visits to the loo (good for me: found one more synonym). I seemed to sense a warmish spraying sensation on my left foot. Now, certain males of a mature age do tend to spray a little — just a tad you know. We can’t help it as our streams seem to act of their own free will: stopping, starting, dripping, or clogging in some sort of unpredictable arrhythmia. Although I had never sprayed my foot before, sleepy stupor or no, it seemed reasonable to deduce that now, for the first time ever that's exactly what was happening to poor me.

So, I stopped the … well, let’s call it a piddle since stream seems too grand a description for my nocturnal efforts at the latrine. Lo and behold, I could no longer sense a spray on my foot. Although I couldn’t compute the physics of it, I seemed to have established a cause and effect, for when I resumed the flow, so did the sensation on my foot resume. Ergo: it must be that I was spraying my own foot.

But I wasn’t totally convinced, even in my somnambulant state. Tricksy me, I positioned my hand where it should block any errant spray, and I resumed my discharge. Blimey! My hand didn’t get wet, but my foot still did. So, I reasoned that I could not really be peeing on my foot. But what the heck was going on?

Aha! I have a bad back (stick with me here folks), and I experience all kinds of sensations in that leg: jumping nerves, numbness, and twitches of all description. My mind embraced the conclusion that the nerve damage had concocted (pardon the almost-naughty word) a whole new sensation for me to enjoy in future years. I was now experiencing it for the first time, but I’m sure that I would have grown to treasure this sensation in due time.

This realization, this answer of sorts, brought me some peace, but when I had completed my piddling little chore (so to speak), I had the presence of mind to reach my hand down to my foot, only to discover genuine moisture. The carpet was also wet. No nerve damage this.

As I was bent over, consumed by my musings, a trickle of water hit my shoulder. Well, this threw both the errant-pee and the nerve-damage hypotheses completely out the window. The real situation was the heavy rain had found a weak spot in the roof and that water was tricking down through the ceiling air vent as a result. The trickling was spasmodic, which explained the stopping and starting that I had experienced. Case closed, but a solution for the dripping water was still required. I mean, I couldn’t just let the rain soak into the carpet all night. Even a non-woman knows that.

Being a semi-bright fellow, I secured a small bucket to catch and contain the drip. But not being an exceptionally-bright fellow, I didn’t think to soften the resultant crescendo that falling water makes in a bucket in the middle of night after dropping the eight feet from ceiling to floor. To be truthful, it sounded a little bit like erratic machine gun fire.

So, my quiet trip to the bathroom had now degenerated into the equivalence of a noisy gunfight at the OK Corral. True to the script, the cavalry rode to the rescue. Sensible wife arose in consternation and quickly solved the noise problem by dropping a softening washcloth or three into the bucket. Problem solved.

Actually, I think I handled everything pretty well for a middle-aged guy who was simply trying to multitask by sleeping and peeing simultaneously. I’ll really have to worry if I ever stop bothering to get out of bed to practise this multitasking. That’s about the time that the men in the white coats will show up to take me to a place where nice nurses will wrap me in nice diapers before tucking me in for the night … with a warm glass of milk just to ensure that the diaper’s purpose gets fulfilled.

They tell us that we all need to feel fulfilled: apparently even our diapers.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Sacred Family Photo Album

In the previous post, I got onto my soapbox and began to praise the traditional, printed, family photo album. Since repetition is said to be the secret of learning, I want to beat this drum a little bit more. What I want to do is to persuade you to print and properly store your digital photos. Soon! It’s very easy to do on most printers and with most printer software: (i) buy a pack of 4x6 photo stock and insert paper into your printer; (ii) fire up your software (the software that came with your printer should work fine for most of you); (iii) click the print button; (iv) have a cup of coffee; (v) and, return in five or ten minutes to admire your quality prints. Then you are ready to stick the suckers in an album!

I understand procrastination; in fact, I minored in it — took a few courses anyway. But it’s time to take action. For those in northerly climes, bad weather is only about two and a half months away. It will last for the best part of five months or even longer. So, isn’t now a great time to make a plan to deal with your backlog of somewhat neglected digital photos that nobody ever sees? You and your family will appreciate it in future if you make this your winter project.

If you are really pressed for time, don’t even print your own. Pick a hundred shots; upload them to a memory card or CD; and, take them to a processing lab — or email them. There’s actually an advantage to this: your prints will last longer because lab photos still last longer than ink jet photos which tend to fade more quickly. In time, this fading problem will … well it will fade away because the technological wonder-folk will invent better inks and dyes. Even so, I have had a number of prints out and exposed for several years now and have yet to detect noticeable deterioration.

I like to think that I have the best photo album in the world. I don’t print 4x6s, but I arrange collages on letter-size sheets. That way, I can get anywhere from three to nine photos on a single piece of paper. I am saving paper and being semi-creative at the same time! I can easily add a caption and/or the date to assist my recall as I slip into my dotage. Take a look at this photo where I have merged five photos onto one sheet. This one contains six photos and also allowed me to indulge in my zany sense of humour.

Most of you aren’t ready to try this kind of stuff yet. Even for me, it takes time, and I sometimes feel burdened down if I get months behind, but wouldn’t it feel great to stick a hundred 4x6s from the past year into an album and know that you and yours will have something to enjoy for a long, long time to come: something that future generations can look back upon and connect with? My mother left us photos of her grandparents and also my dad’s. This is the only way I have of meeting these folk whose genes I carry (and I’d like to speak harshly with some of them about some of those genes :). These photos intrigue me, seeing what they wore and thinking of tribulations that they bore.


Goose at Sunset

I generally use Blogger's Hello system to post pictures, but it's royal pain. Each photo opens a brand new post, so if I want three photos in one post, I have to cut and paste back into one, and I also have to alter the code. It all gets fiddly and time-consuming. I do it to save space on my own server and because I figure that they'll always be there, somewhere within Hello/Blogger, so I don't have to worry about keeping track of them. There is another problem with the Hello/Blogger system, however, and that is that they like to limit the image size to 50k. I can live with that most of the time, but I wanted this image to be bigger. In an effort to get you to actually click on the thumbnail and get you to look at the larger version, I have made the thumb even smaller than usual. Hopefully, you'll squint, shake your head, and decide to click. When you do, the image will be larger than usual and will take a few more seconds than usual for dialup users — but only a few.

I took this photo in the same session when I snapped the rather poor loon picture (several blogs back). I used Photoshop to silhouette the bird a little more, but that's about it. In the original, you could still make out some definition on the bird. It's all photography, and I know that there are purists who disapprove of Photoshop, but photographers have been enhancing photos with darkroom techniques for years. If you're good enough to always take perfect photos: Bravo! I'm not, and neither are most people IMHO.

This was taken at the same wetlands area that I have mentioned several times lately.

My photo album is just about up to date. I had gotten behind, mostly because of the wedding (see many pics from this link). Maybe, now that I am getting caught up, I will get back to posting more typical blogs.

Before I close, let me speak my two-cents worth on the merits of the old-fashioned photo album. I love it. To my way of thinking, if you don't print them, photos are of limited value for most people. Gathering around the computer just doesn't cut it. I have seen great presentations of photos on a DVD, and that's a great additional tool as well, but forsake thou not the printed album. If you don't have the time to print your own, at least take them to a traditional shop. There are many places that print from digital media now.

(PS: I had comments that this photo did not look right on some monitors. It looks fine on mine and in print. Anyway, I played with it a bit more to try to turn the silhouette darker. Let me know please.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


My garden mums, formerly known as Chrysanthemums and now properly known as Dendranthemums, are beginning to bloom. These plants are, traditionally, harbingers of fall, but here they are already blooming in mid-August. I guess they’re always a bit on the early side, but I really find it startling to see them come into flower this soon.

Mind you, these are only the first of the fall plants, and both the asters and the sedums have yet to join the stampede, so we are not yet witnessing a passing. However, we are being alerted that autumn is definitely on its way. Whether one holds that it arrives when Sol crosses the equator in late September, or when a certain plant booms, or when the first leaf changes colour (or the last one for that matter), fall creeps relentlessly forward.

We typically sigh when we think of the approach of autumn because we know that winter is right behind, and it is common to think ill of winter. I don’t think we really mean it, for there is something very positive to be said about living in a four-season climate where each season offers its own gifts. The benefits of fall and winter may be less obvious than those of spring and summer, but they exist.

I won’t go on because many summer plants yet bloom, and there remains plenty of time to ponder more deeply about seasons and life. Nevertheless, nature has alerted me that the wheel yet turns.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Ducks and Male-Pattern Blindness

Mystery Duck
Bird books! Can't figure them out! You seem to have to already be a birder to be able to use them: already ascertaining whether something is a wader, a flycatcher, a warbler, or an icterid. It sure must help to know this esoteric information anyway. Me? I just start at page one and go from there. I don't consider this to be fun — especially when I search through the whole book and come up with zip!

I have two blasted books and can't find this duck in either. There are a few (ducks, not books) out at the wetlands, swimming with the mallards, so I took the picture and came home to look it up. Hmmm, can't find it under marsh ducks, which is where one might reasonably expect to locate a quacking thing that inhabits wetlands. Surely, it's not sea duck? Right, for once. But it doesn't seem to be a bay duck either or a merganser (whatever that is), so I just don't know.

As you have all figured out from the last blog, if not the several dozen that preceded it, I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but this makes me feel positively imbecilic. I am looking in Peterson's Eastern Birds at the moment (primarily so I can list all of those bird and duck types above and perhaps appear to have at least a twittering of a brain), but locate it I cannot. I suppose that somebody will open the book, point right at the critter, and look at me (a cyber look anyway) with perplexity, but I can't help it. I just can't see a photo in the books that corresponds with the one above.

My brother-in-law, swears (as in solemn vow as opposed to blasphemous language — although he has been known to do that too) that he and most males (as he looks directly at me and nods knowingly) are afflicted with (or by?) male-pattern blindness. For example: sometimes I stare perplexedly into a cupboard, searching aimlessly and hopelessly for this jar or that bottle. If a female perchances to pass by, I will invariably ask for assistance, and she will invariably pluck the elusive item from … well it's usually right in front of me — at eye-level, no less. Go figure.

So, what duck this? I will even accept an answer from males who don't happen to suffer from the usual male-pattern blindness affliction. If that's possible.

Wetlands Challenge

shutter speed 1/200; aperture f16;
ISO 800; focal length 300;
exposure bias -1.33
Our three-week old bicycles have not been going to waste. Thank goodness, as they have been a major expense. It's not just the initial cost, but also the various accoutrements: lock, air pump, mirrors, carriers, bags, helmets, padded shorts and what have you.

Several of our excursions have taken us through a local wetland conservation area where we have noticed a number of herons (I guess they're blue herons?) along with the typical fowl: mostly mallards and Canada geese. We usually spot three or four per trip, and although Sue always carries her little camera wherever we go, it doesn't come close to having enough zoom power to photograph these birds.

So, last night, I lugged my SLR with its various lenses plus my tripod out there. I did this by car, of course, but once on site, I had to shuffle around by foot in fading light with all of this useless, burdensome equipment. All I really needed was my camera with my telephoto lens. Yes, a tripod is a good idea, especially when you are using a telephoto, but no self-respecting bird that I have yet met will sit still and pretty while I fumble around with my tripod. I suppose that, unlike Mr Amateur Shutterbug here, real photographers scout out the area, set up the tripod in a likely spot and wait for however long it takes. Personally, I felt like a clueless, primetime nitwit lugging all of this equipment around for no apparent reason.

Well, I finally saw one (a heron) in the distance, zoomed in and snapped. The above picture is the result — sort of. You see, Mr Amateur Shutterbug here had left the exposure compensation at -1.33 stops from a previous experiment. For those who have no idea what that means, it means that I was underexposing the photo dreadfully, not letting enough light in. What came out was a rather dark photo. I have done what I can with it in Photoshop to make it tolerable, but it's pretty grainy.

What I need is practice — lots of practice — and any advice that will assist this poor bumbling, neophyte.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Biking and Photos

I'm way down the path
We went for another long (for us) bicycle ride today, probably about 50km/30mi, give or take. We went along the local walking/cycling trails (see photo to left) and out to The Grove. We had taken a little lunch and got some coffee from Tim's before heading down to the lake.

Waves Breaking
The weather was good for riding — about 22C/72F. But it was windy, especially down by the lake. So, we donned our squall jackets to block the wind and enjoyed a fine lunch. It was simple fare, but after the exertion, and with the view, it tasted great. After lunch on the wooden platform lookout, I sent Betty down the stairs onto the rock groyne (wave breaker) and snapped these two photos.
More Breakers
Actually, I snapped many photos. I put the camera in continuous shooting mode where it takes three or four photos in one burst. In these two photos, I was able to catch the waves breaking.

We are very fortunate to be surrounded by simple abundance: to have such destinations and views so close by. Fortunate to have nice bike trails too.