Saturday, January 30, 2016

Outside and Inside in the Good Ole Wintertime

Winter continues and is about half over. Even though it has been a mild one, relatively speaking, it has still been winter, and we're mostly indoors.

It was dull yesterday, but I still broke out of the house to try to take a few photos. While there aren't too many new ones around here, or so it seems with my lack of imagination, it felt good snapping the shutter a few times.

I hadn't planned on it, but I took this shot of the Boulton Brown Apartments, near our town hall.

Carleton Place, originally called Morphy's Falls began as a mill town. A grist mill was first erected on this site (in the photo) in the 1820s. The present building dates from 1869 and functioned as the Boulton Brown Mill until a fire in 1970 put an end to it. In the 1980s, it was refurbished into an apartment building.

I also took a photo of the venerable canoe club. You may remember that I had one of my photos appear in the town's calendar. Well, I had to do some photoshopping to remove signs in that photo, so I got behind them this time, It wasn't as snow covered as in the other picture, and the building is a little marred by the new stairs out front that stand out like a sore thumb. I would hope that they are going to be painted to match this year, but I am guessing not.

Inside my cocoon, my moderate feminist self managed to get into a Facebook debate with my uber feminist niece.

In the end we agreed that we agreed on much but also disagreed in parts. I think we kept it pretty civil, but I found it a little frustrating eventually. People become so entrenched in their arguments that they seem to fail to see the forest for the trees as it were: in my opinion majoring on the minor points and minoring on the major points.

Anyway, it activated my stultified mind for awhile, so I think that's good, and I think we're still on good terms.

In other news, we had set aside time to go to the cottage for a winter retreat at the end of next week, but we have decided that right now it is too much of an effort for too little reward. We like winter up there, particularly snowshoeing in the woods, but with mild weather(anything above freezing being mild) and rain coming, it doesn't appear that it will be winter at its finest, so we are putting it off.

We have an alternate week scheduled in March, so we'll see what is going on then. All of the getting ready, packing, shopping for and transporting food etc gets a little daunting. That's probably the wrong word, but the getting ready part plus the journey seems like a greater chore these days, and we prefer the weather to be prime if we're going to make the effort.

I got the results of my blood work that I mentioned in a previous post. It seems that I passed. It was also time for a tetanus booster. Did you know that there is one concoction for people under 60 (or was it 65?) and another for those over? She also asked about family history. How long did my parents live? What took them in the end?

My father lived to be 86 and died as a result of prostate cancer. My mother lived to be 87 and died from breast cancer. Then, I told her that they were fitter than I, not carrying extra weight. That prompted her to ask my weight, so I gave her my guess. She put me on the scale, and I was pleased to learn that I am less heavy than I had thought. I guess at least some of my flabby look comes from the decreasing tone that age brings, which is why I thought I weighed more than I do. In point of fact, I was quite far off. But oh me oh my: that flabbiness.

This morning, I awoke sometime past 4 and was up by 4:30. I usually stir around that time but usually manage to get back to sleep for an hour or three, but sometimes I am forced to arise. After checking my usual internet sites, I decided to write this post of my very ordinary and banal life and times. I know that I have prattled on at good length, so it's time to stop. TTYL.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

More Indoor Shots

As a dull winter and a dull AC creep onward, I have a few more interior shots to share.

Nothing but light. I was taken by the light coming in the bedroom window.

Same day, but at a slightly different time, I shifted my focus.

Sue gets down to her craft table in the basement every now and then and creates jewellry.

That's not a lot, I know, but it is what it is: winter in Canada. We stay indoors a lot — too much, really.

Expect more.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Indoor Photography

While I have put my camera in the car a few times recently, I haven't got around to pressing the shutter. I have continued to take some indoor photos, however. These are of the macro/closeup persuasion. Some also involved focus stacking.

In a previous post, I had experimented with composites. This is another.

My older 7D camera, which I still use sometimes. a photobook, and a journal. Despite focusing on several different spots in this and the next photo, I find that some areas are not as sharp as they could be. I am learning that when you are working up close, it seems to take more shots than I had thought to get everything really sharp.

Some lenses: a prime. a wide angle, and a longer zoom (70-200mm).
The kittens: we purchased these as a little memento back in 1971. They continue to serve as a pleasant reminder.

My trilobite. I call him Trey. He or she lived about 400 million years ago and was unearthed in present day Morocco.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Doctor Called

Sue informs me that the doctor's office called and wants me to call back.

When I do, I am informed that I am due for a tetanus shot. Who knew?

I am also informed that it is time to have some blood work done. Who knew?

"Can you go to the lab soon if we fax the requisition to the lab?"

"Good. So now we can schedule an appointment in two weeks for your shot and the blood work report."

This is the way that it goes now. Now that I am a senior, they keep good track of me.

In the fall, they called to send me for a bone density test. Sue too, as well as a mammogram.

They also had Sue down for a pneumonia shot but not me. "He's not due yet, Sue. Just you."

Also in the fall for both of us: "Please come in for your flu shot."

With the exception of my bout with shingles in the summer, I seldom seem to have much need to see the doctor apart from showing up for my shots, but she does look out for me.

I like that. I like her looking out for me.

This is Canada where we suffer from abominable government controlled and funded health care. Such a burden.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

JJ the Goalie

JJ's team mostly practices rather than play competitive games, but they are beginning to play more against other teams. On the weekend, we travelled the half hour to Carp to watch him play goal for the first time in his life.

I was a little nervous for him because the last team they played was so superior that he would have given up goal after goal.

Fortunately, this game was more evenly matched, and, although they don't keep score, his team did seem to score more than the other team.

A bit of pre game gathering around the net.
How winter is celebrated in Canada: in a cold arena.

Sue and Sha chat about their latest knitting project while the exciting game transpires.

Oh, I'm in trouble now.

The rest are all of JJ in action.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Then and Now

Our Christmas gift to JJ was a table top hockey game.

I have pleasant memories of playing these sorts of games when I was of a similar age although I expect that I was a little older.

In my early thirties, my BIL and I often played on the floor when we visited them. We would get up stiff and sore and then do it all over again. Notice that I am not on the floor in this photo.

We didn't have computers and tablets, so these toys were a blast for us. I'm not sure the same will be true for JJ.

In addition, our devices were built well. His had a flaw from the getgo when one of the players kept losing his stick. Besides that. the men don't slide as fluidly as they could or should.

They really don't make things like they used to. This includes toasters. I am positive that toasters from the 50s worked better than those of today. Of course, they didn't have wide slots for bagels, which I think is what results in uneven toasting of regular bread. I wish we had the option of bagel-less toasters, but they don't seem to exist, which is too bad because I can't remember the last time that we toasted a bagel, and even then, they can be cut to fit into narrower slots.

Oh well ... first world problems.

Friday, January 15, 2016

I Am The Calendar Boy

In late autumn, I received a call from a lady from the town's Chamber of Commerce. She had come across one of my Flickr photos, and would like to use it for the town's calendar. Would I willing to donate the photo in return for 10 calendars?

Yes. As a good community citizen, why would I not do this?

This was the photo that they wanted to use in January, but could I please just photoshop the signs away?

The historic and still active Carleton Place Canoe Club

Yes, I would try, but there was no 'just' to it. There was so little information behind the signs that it was very fiddly work to create both railing and window.

The result: not perfect but credible, I think.

They also used another of my photos for April. For a very modest and nominal fee, I had sold them this photo a few years ago, and it has subsequently appeared on town websites and in informational booklets .

It's the former train station that was once a stop on the transcontinental train. I took it very early one summer morning when the peonies were in bloom, and I concentrated on the flowers in the photo, leaving the building somewhat out of focus.

Finally, here's a glimpse of the actual calendar, showing my two pages.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Macros, Composites, and Focus Stacking

Photographically speaking, one thing that I decided to try my hand at this winter was a little still life work — macro photography, if you like. No, not necessarily really micro macro but closeup stuff shot on a table top. I have discovered that it will be a learning experience.

My first attempt was to photograph this little set of figurines: for no particular reason — one has to start with something. This is the plain result after a extracting the background, which I needed to do for the next step.

What I had in mind was to place this image into another photo. This was one of my first attempts at making a composite although I have done one or two before.

It's a photo of our Riverside Park in the evening. I placed them close to a spot where had been a bench. Getting the size wasn't difficult, but making it fit the rest of the scene wasn't easy. I seemed to have to make the image darker than I would have liked to make it work in my mind, and I also had to add a shadow. It wasn't a failure exactly, but it wasn't a roaring success either.

Next. I found another photo for the same couple.

I had too much directional light in both photos, and once again, it was difficult to make them fit together. I also had to add some extra shadow to the ground to their left (as we look at it).

I figured that it was best to shoot my macro without a directional light source, and that it would also be better if the light in the background image was also non directional for the most part.

I inserted the snowman into a winter scene, and I rather like the result. So I am 1 for 3 so far. I also photoshopped some falling snow.

Next came another failure. When I say failure in the context of this post, I don't mean an abject failure but, rather, a result that I don't call a success.

I took the teapot and chocolates photo in a different spot — near a window — as a straight photo and not a composite. The light was diffused that day, so I thought that I might get away from reflective highlights, but as you can see, I didn't. I also was careless in leaving a bump in the tablecloth. I don't like the result.

I did have more success with this Valentine candy dish, however. I focus stacked 6 photos to make this one, and I like it on the dark background.

I had never tried focus stacking before these experiments although I did use it on some of the earlier photos in this post. I will attempt to explain focus stacking for those who aren't in the know.

For macro shots, it is difficult to get the whole object in really clear focus. In this case, I took 6 different shots, moving my critical focal point from front to back in increments. I had the camera in completely manual mode and used the liveview on the back of the camera to nail the focus as best I could by zooming in as much as possible. I even put my glasses on to be as accurate as possible. Finally, I used Photoshop to automatically blend the 6 photos together. The program chose the sharpest parts of each photo.

I was going to save the photo for Valentine's Day, but it fit so well with this post that I chose to trot it out now.

I'm sure I will try more macro shots, whether as straight shots of composites. It is not my favourite form of photography, but it does keep me warmer in winter than working outside. It is also a learning experience. Good for the brain, right?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Winter Fun

A few days ago, the kids began to build a little snow fort on the front lawn by rimming an area with some chunks of snow. ↓

The next day, I decided to help by digging the floor down. ↓

I left a little ledge where they could sit and have their after school snack (a little later).

This weekend, we are experiencing an abundance of rain, so the fort has been pretty diminished. However, we had some fun making it, and it will snow again before Old Man Winter is done with us.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Running Out of Steam

As I'm sure I have pointed out on numerous occasions, I usually go for a little stroll after I get the kiddies on the bus in the morning. When there is much snow on the ground, I usually don't try to navigate through the nearby park, but I did on Tuesday. There is a little drainage pond there, which in turn can drain into the river just beyond.

On that morning, there was steam coming off the pond as the sun's rays hit it after a cold night although it was still very cold that morning. I thought it would make a nice photo, so once I got home I grabbed my camera, hopped in the car this time, and returned. Too bad: just like me, the pond had run out of steam.

I still like these photos but am sorry that I missed the mist.

Two days later, as I write this on Thursday, I wouldn't be surprised if the whole pond were frozen over. If not, it will likely be getting close, and my chances of repeating the steam are minimal.

Behind me in those photos there were some trees with berries that also made for a few decent photos.

There is nothing like a walk on a cold but sunny morning. You bundle up, and it's invigorating. But photography in the cold can be problematic, so I don't usually take it on a walk. In addition to the plight of freezing fingers, I don't want to fall on an icy patch.

But there will probably be a few more winter photos before the season is done.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

On Being a Bass Ackwards Kinda Guy

When I was watching the kids at free skate just before Christmas, I once again pondered how bass ackwards I am ... and have always been.

You see, in all free skating, where people go around and around the rink, the direction is always counter clockwise. I guess this is because most people in the universe find it easier to skate in that direction.

I don't. Turning toward my left is a ponderous problem for me. Oh, I get around — eventually — and don't fall or anything, but it's a process as I chug around that long bend.

The last few times I skated — admittedly a very long time ago — I would wait eagerly for them to announce a change in direction. I loved it because I could turn right soooo much better than left. Too bad, this was always short-lived; a few times around, and we were soon sent back in the normal-for-others direction. At the kids skate, they didn't do this reverse thing at all.

I have a vague recollection of being kept back after school way back in grade 1 to practise my printing on the blackboard. Apparently, I was printing bass ackwards and needed some remediation. I don't know now if it was my letters or the whole word, but I assume it was just the letters.

When I took a few viola lessons as a kid, after the first session, I practised diligently, but was yelled at by the teacher in the  next class because I was holding the fiddle backwards. By that I mean the I was gripping the neck with my hand in a reversed position. To my credit, at least I was using the correct hand or wasn't trying to play the instrument upside down.

I was taught to tie my shoelaces by making 2 loops. That worked fine. But at some point I decided to teach myself the more adult way. So, I guess I mirrored what I saw others doing. When I say mirrored, I mean it literally because I now do everything bass ackwards to the way that most people do it — almost a mirror image as it were.

Once upon a time, I decided to say bass ackwards to my class for some reason or other, but it came out bass ackwards to what I had intended, and I found myself saying "ass backwards." Good thing nobody batted an eye, The bad thing is that I have often found something odd coming out of my mouth and not what I had intended. Admittedly, it's not always something exactly bass ackwards but it does point out that my mind ain't zackly normal, Maggie.

Humorously enough here in the very present, I just wrote the previous bass ackwards as back asswards ... which really demonstrates how scrambled my little brain is. And subsequent to that, the last sentence, I typed brian instead of brain. It is a miracle that I caught these things in proofing as I usually miss them.

Those are 5 examples or even 6 or 7, depending how you wish to add them up, that come to mind. There are probably all sorts of little ones of which I am unaware. I just seem to process things differently that most people. It's a miracle that I have gotten through life as well as I have.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Monday Mutterings

1. Winter is finally here, even if it has only been so for a week. Last Monday we were still green although we were experiencing freezing rain on that day. Then we had a major storm Monday night and through Tuesday. Since then it has snowed a few more times, so much so that it is hard to believe that it was green such a short while ago. With the depth of the snow, it rather looks like we have been locked into winter for a month.

2. Today it is -20C/-2F and with wind chill it feels like -30C/-22F. But I bundled up and went for my after-school-bus walk anyway. With my layers, I was actually too hot by the time I got back home, but I needed them while I was stationary waiting for the bus.

3. With the sun on snow and the nice crisp air, it was rather wonderful out although aside from warming up a little too much, my face got a might chilly when I was walking into the wind in the early stages of my outing.

4. We went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens yesterday. What with the double purchase of 5 tickets (remember the cancellation on the snow day?) and snacks and post movie visit to the cafe, it was pretty much a $200 outing. But we split the cost with Shauna, so it wasn't too onerous a blow.

5. It makes one think that pre booking tickets too far in advance in Canada in winter is not the best of ideas. Even yesterdays trip into the city had me a little uptight due to blowing snow drifting across the roads.

6. The Force Awakens reminded me very much of the original Star Wars, which isn't a bad thing. You'll know what I mean if you see it.

7. IMO you should see it. Good entertainment.

8. We watched in 3D. I don't think it improved the experience much if at all, but I had no problem with it either.

9. We (as in Sue) has most of the Christmas decorations down, but we enjoy them while they last.

10. I often wish there was less food and treats over the hols. The eating starts too early and lasts too long, and I can't help myself. I do feel better about myself when it stops ... or I stop, to be more precise.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

A Perplexing Christmas Gift

On Christmas Eve (Day) when I checked the mail, I was pleasantly surprised to see that someone had sent me a book. It was mailed locally and specifically addressed to me, but there was no personal message. The topic, apparently, was about ten important Jews.

Sounded interesting, and I sent an email thanking my Jewish DIL, assuming that she had had it sent to me. Later, she wrote back agreeing that it sounded interesting but that it wasn't from her.

That puzzled me, so after the kids were tucked in on Christmas Eve, I checked into it a little more. Hmm ... it seemed to be a proselytizing book as each of the ten character anecdotes seemed to end with a Jesus message ... as in Jews for Jesus.

At the same time, my daughter was searching the internet and finding all sorts of corroboration. It is a book sent freely to Jews with the intention of getting them to consider Jesus. In her search, she found that very few who of those gifted were appreciative.

I wasn't either, but I still confused about my inclusion, for I am not a Jew. But somebody in the Ottawa region thinks that I am and that I need saving. While they are undoubtedly correct regarding my need for salvation, I have no idea who knows enough about me to be concerned enough to sponsor a book being sent to me, and who, at the same time, knows so little about me (that I am not a Jew).

Wouldn't it be odd if upon considering the condemnation that lies upon my sinful soul that, upon reflection, I became a Jew and not a Christian?

Not that breath should be held batedly in the expectation of either outcome. /grin/

PS: I have purposefully withheld the name of the book and author, refusing to grant any extra publicity.