Saturday, March 31, 2018

AC Does a Book Review: The Punishment She Deserves

The Punishment She Deserves is Elizabeth George's 20th novel in her Inspector Lynley series. I began reading the series a very long time ago; her first Lynley novel was published in 1988, and I probably read it in the early 1990s although it may have been a bit later.

Actually, I was on the brink of despairing that George has given up on the series because the most recent novel had been published almost 3 years ago in 2015. However, I have since noticed there were some similar gaps in the past.

When I saw that The Punishment She Deserves was 690 pages in length, I could both understand and forgive the long interval between publications. Despite its length, I becomes absorbed and ended up reading it quickly notwithstanding my opposing desire to linger and savour. I just couldn't help myself.

Although in any series there must be a certain unevenness in how highly one might rate any given entry, I have always found the Lynley series to be interesting and absorbing. And I have to say that this novel must just about be at the top of the list. It's is so well done, both in terms of the mystery itself and all of the interesting elements and layers that are woven around it.

For example: the theme of alcoholism is prominent, particularly in the first half. And I found myself switching from almost loathing the alcoholic to understanding and sympathizing with her addiction and plight. It seems to me that when a mystery novel can accomplish such an examination and level of insight, it reaches a very high level indeed.

Once again, aside from the mystery itself, various themes are explored, including ethnic and cultural differences, strong female characters who become misdirected, promiscuity and drugs (both to a secondary extent). With regards to those two strong female characters (apart from the main and recurring characters, I mean), one emerges able to correct her path while the other crumbles, which seems to be about how reality would transpire.

In my somewhat humble opinion, Elizabeth George is able to absorb the reader into her characters and their struggles and emotions better than any other mystery writer: as much as I like some of the others, such as Cleeves and Penny, for example. I feel the pain of the alcoholic, the angst of the despairing mother, the confusion of  the young college student, and the frustration of the thwarted police officer with her unique personal issues.

As for the mystery itself, it is indeed mysterious and will keep the reader guessing for a long time. I highly recommend The Punishment She Deserves in particular and the whole series in general. If you haven't been following the series, I do believe that you can delve into and enjoy this novel very much on its own, so don't become dissuaded by the sheer number of volumes in the series.


As a bit of an aside or addendum, when I went back to look at the history of the series and the 30 year passage of time, I see that George has been able to keep her characters at roughly the same age despite the various life-changing events that have occurred. For example, I do not read the novel as Lynley having become nearly a senior citizen over the course of those thirty years. Nor does it seem that Barbara Havers is anything other than young middle age. With this in mind, it would seem to me that George should be able to keep the series going for quite awhile yet if that's what she chooses to do.

One other aspect in the development of the series is that Thomas Lynley's aide, Barbara Havers, has essentially become the main protagonist in the most recent novels, which keeps the series refreshing. Almost all of the secondary characters in the book are female in this tome although the male characters do also play important roles in developing the plot.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Old Easter Photos

Happy Easter Weekend to you although one is never sure whether associating happy with Easter somehow goes against the proper Easter mood. I know from my past life that Easter can be solemn and emotional for Christians. Obviously, there is also triumph and joy too, but it's hard to know which mood prevails.

Anyway, the only real connection of this post to Easter is that I found some photos from 5 years past taken upon the occasion of Easter. Actually, the first two are from Sue's birthday, which in some years is only a week from Easter, and that was the case in 2013, just as it is this year when Easter comes early.

I like these two photos of Danica displaying different moods at Sue's birthday dinner.

The next lot was taken one week later at Easter.

I made a collage of JJ and his faces. He remains quite adept at pulling some very good faces.

Back to Danica, who gets 4 separate pictures in this post as opposed to JJ's 4 in 1.

This serves to remind me that I haven't yet uploaded photos from Sue's birthday this year. They are on the compact camera, which I tend to forget about.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Tulips: Afterthought

I really was finished with the tulips and posted the series in one album on FB.

Then I had a thought (yes, it's a unique occurrence and about time), which was to make a collage showing them from start to finish in one image.

The most youthful photo is top left and the oldest is bottom right.

And that was fine; it did what I wanted, but since I used various styles and backgrounds, the images are not consistent with each other.

So then I decided on a diptych, which would be more photographically apropos ... in my tiny mind anyway. There is an early image of the flower still in bud and a late one of it in full bloom

Both images serve a purpose for me.

And now, I do think that I am done with this series.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Tulips: The End

It would seem that Day 13, will be my last day of shooting these fine flowers. While there are a few in the pot that aren't quite as advanced as these two, they are looking pretty bedraggled and unphotogenic.. In fact when I moved the pot to the window to get some backlight for the second photo, four petals fell to the floor even though I was handling it pretty gently.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The 11th Day of Tulipia

I didn't take any pictures for a few days because they weren't changing much, but they were beginning to open wide yesterday. I guess it's a sign of old age. But they are looking pretty in this stage.

I took four shots. Although I processed shots 1 and 4 first because I thought they were best, I now like 2 and 3 better.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Game Two of the Final Round of the Payoffs

You may remember that Jonathan's team won their initial playoff round, so they are now playing the other top team, which I think beat them by a point in the regular season.

It's a series of up to four games. If you win a game, you get two points. If you tie, you get one point. First team to four points wins.

We couldn't attend the first game, an away game, which JJ's team won.

The second game was in town, and we were able to make it. His team, the Kings, were losing 3-1 going into the third period. But they were able to cut it down to 3-2 fairly early in the period.

But they were still down with just over a minute to go, so they pulled their goalie and managed to tie it up.

So the Kings have three points and the other team, one.

The two teams are very evenly matched. With the other team seeming to be bigger, I wouldn't count them out. They should be good games. I am amazed at the intensity with which there little 8 and 9 year-old boys play.

Two goals (I think): one by either team.

Two photos of Jonathan: the one with the red tape on his stick.

Game over, so you congratulate the goalie. It was only a tie, but it felt like a win, coming back at the end like that.

Is hockey the only sport where they do this? I mean the pros too. When I used to watch baseball and football, they would just walk off the field after a championship game. Even hockey pros, after a very tough series, will line up and shake. Isn't that great sportsmanship? (Not after every game, but after the final one.)

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Brian Bakes Bread

Brian left us with a little gift after our maple meetup: a loaf of bread.

Sometime last autumn, he got hooked on baking no-knead bread, and he has become quite adept.

This is a sourdough cheese loaf. looks good, eh?

A closer view of the crusty goodness.

He scored designs and such into the crust. He said that he didn't have his beast implements at the cottage, but he still made it look extra interesting.

It wasn't long before we were cutting it and eating it, mostly in toast form, but it's delish either way.

Because I am who I am, I composited all four of the photos into a collage. If there's such a thing as a quadtych, I guess this is what it is.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Maple Museum

After our lengthy meal and chat, Brian (who is also a photographer) and I, took a quick tour of the museum at Wheelers. I have been through this any number of times, but this time, I used my wide angle lens. It's my priciest lens, and I haven't really used it enough.

One usually accepts the distortion of a wide angle lens for the effect that it produces and also tries to get something in the foreground.

I was in a tired mood when I first uploaded these images and trashed most of them. I shouldn't do that.

When I went back to the ones that I kept, I decided to process them in black and white. Or almost b&w because I decided to let a little tinge of colour show through. This actually makes this set of images look more sepia.

I processed the images as a set, using almost identical processing on each.

As you enter, they show the old, pioneer method of boiling the sap.

Some of the tools that may have been used in the sugar bush in the early days.

The whole tool crib as it were. The wide angle effect is really working in this view, bring the railing close and pushing the rest way back. The passage is not nearly as large as it looks in this photo.

Ye Olde Lantern

At first, I hadn't included the next photo, but then I had a second thought. It also focuses on the lantern but in horizontal (or landscape) mode. When all is said and done, I think I like this version better. Not that I will claim a prize for any of these, but in the end, I had fun with this set..

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Maple Meetup

The sap is running here in Lanark County, the self-designated Maple Syrup Capital of Ontario.

Being on the edge of the Canadian [Precambrian] Shield, we have unique conditions that result in unique flavours. At least that's what this article, Flavour matters: What makes Lanark County maple syrup taste so good?, says although I can't tell the difference. (Mind you, I have never attempted side-by-side taste tests.)
Across Lanark County, you will find that our syrups have a similar flavour, but that taste is very different than in syrup found elsewhere ... It’s our distinct flavour that makes our region so attractive to maple syrup connoisseurs.
We have any number of sugar bush operations nearby with three in our area (although there are more beyond our local area)  offering restaurants. Our favourite, of whoch I have posted many times, is Wheelers, which is about a 45 minute drive.

It is a farther drive for Sue's sister and brother-in-law, but it is still a good place to meet when they are at the cottage. We have met up there several times in the past when a longer visit either her or there is not an option.

Shortly after we arrived and began to sip our coffee, Heather and Brian arrived. It turns out that we sat and talked for four hours before heading away in opposite directions.

While we would not have been able to occupy a table for that long at a busier time, such as last week during March Break, the place was relatively empty on this day. It wasn't always this ↓ empty, but this was the view from our table at one point.

And this was the view back toward the fireplace as we were leaving. This place was built by the family, and I think it's awesome stuck out there in the middle of the bush like this. I will never forget our first trip when I was sure the place was going to be nothing more than a little shack in the woods.

As a bit of an aside before we leave Wheelers, I asked the server (a member of the Wheeler family) a question about the operation. The question came from the fact that they stay open all year long whereas other operations in the area only stay open for the actual sap season. I therefore had surmised that Wheelers must import syrup from other sugar bushes in the region.

But this is not the case. In point of fact, they have an excess to distribute elsewhere.

They have more than 30 000 taps (in trees) which yield more than a million litres of sap, which at a 40:1 ratio boil down to 25 000 litres of maple syrup. Still, when I think of how much syrup we can go through in one sitting ...

Addendum: just to show that winter is still with us, an outside photo.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A Parade of Tulips

I have already posted some tulip macros and will repeat some here and add some others, for I am tracking their day-to-day changes.

Day One: not the first day in their lives, but my first photos.

Day Three: the same bud showing quite a bit more colour. This one hit the Explore category on Flickr, so it has had thousands of views — more than 7500 when I checked just now.

Also from Day Three, I really like this shot. It may be my fave of the whole lot.

Day Four: we are finally to some new (to you) photos. (The previous ones, I have posted before.) What an increase in both colour and openness from Day Three.

Day Five: the rate of daily change is slowing, but they are all more open and colourful, quite a deep purple or mauve, almost too much for my taste.

Day Six: now that the tulips were more open hoping to catch some backlight, I decided to turn them toward the window rather than away. Of course, this meant that the flowers were in shadow, so I overexposed by 3 stops. This made the background so bright that I decided to add a gentle sky in post. I think the light is much more dynamic, and the flowers, unintentionally but happily, became less saturated.

Friday, March 16, 2018

My Coffee Shop Display

For quite awhile, I had looked at photos lining the walls of our local, independent coffee shop, Under Pressure, and thought, mine are just as good. Well, in truth, I thought that for the most part, mine were better.

What I don't have is that super large scale printer that can produce images of spectacular size, but on the other hand, those images don't tend to sell because most people don't have space for them, assuming of course that they like them well enough in the first place. There is also the fact that most people don't walk into a coffee shop prepared to spend a few hundred dollars. They also cost a lot to print and to leave them hanging there for a very long time, while constantly having to reduce the price, is not optimum.

When a space became available, Sue and I decided to hang 6 prints of local scenes and to sell them relatively cheaply. The images are approximately 16x10.5 on 19x13 paper in 19x13 frames.

From top left to right around to bottom left: sunrise on our river near our house; autumn in the town's main park; the townhall as mentioned below; a rusty boathouse across the river from the park; sunset over the park; sunset from under that special tree in summer.

The frames are inexpensive, less than $20, and that's with those rather imposing Canadian taxes included. Having experimented with cheaper options (on cardboard) that didn't quite work out, they are mainly a way to present the photos in a viable but still inexpensive way.

Thus framed, I offer the photos for sale at $75 but don't expect to sell many for the reasons mentioned above. But the shop owner tells me that they draw some admiration and comments, and that pleases me, for my main motivation is to show them and have people appreciate them.

And I have sold one: the winter photo of our townhall from across the river, top right.

I swear that photo on the bottom left didn't look that crooked to me at the time.

I have recently updated my other display at Sue's hairdresser's and may post of that soon as well.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Moving on to Tulips

Alrighty then, the hyacinth is done, so I bought a tulip. we often have a flower on the table, but I now have a more selfish interest.

Still in bud with just a hint of the colour that will emerge.

I like the simple composition of this shot.

A few days later, the colour became clearer even though the buds aren't yet open.

I think this is my favourite macro shot yet.

Meanwhile, the poor hyacinth had been put outside, but when I noticed snow I decided to open the patio door and get on my belly to squeeze off a shot. It was handheld, so not the sharpest, but I'm glad that I tried.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Animal Clips 4

A parrot gets Alexa to turn the lights on.

A cat catching a snowball

A Murmuration of Starlings and Off They Go to Bed

This can't be a Canadian cat.

A cockatiel that imitates a phone ringing.

Finally, for now at least, a man with a caracal cat, first roughhousing and then snuggling. I don't know if I'll keep up with these animal clips, but they have constituted a somewhat pleasant diversion for me.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Squeezing the Aperture

As I suspected I would, I did a few more hyacinth macros after I made the previous post. (Maybe I'm too self-centred because there were 4 I's in that little sentence.  :)

I wanted to get the two blooms in focus plus the buds at the top. But with depth of field (DoF) being very small with macro shots, I decided to squeeze the aperture down to f32. For those who don't speak photoglese, that's a very tiny opening.

That small aperture meant that the shutter had to stay open longer. In this case it was 5 seconds, which didn't matter because I was indoors on a tripod, and all was calm.

I had put white cardboard behind the plant to remove any background distractions, but later wondered if I could replace it in photoshop. And I did just that.

I have one more to show you before they cart either me or my lens or both of us away. In this one I wanted to look down to the buds and catch some petals below. But I wanted the petals to be way out of focus.

So I took two shots. In both cases, I focussed on the buds, but the first one was at a fairly small aperture, so they looked pretty much in focus. The problem was that the petals were too distinct for the effect that I was trying to achieve. So, I opened the aperture as wide as I could (f2.8) which blurred the petals nicely.

Using layer masks, I then combined to two photos in photoshop, keeping the buds from the one photo and the background from the other. The result was at least somewhat close to that I had in mind.