Thursday, February 28, 2019

February Report

It is not my plan to post in detail about my monthly reading as the year progresses, but since this is just the second month of said plan, and since said plan may be misunderstood, permit me to elaborate here, just a little.

The idea is to read two books per month with one of them being non-fiction. I have no problem reading 24 books per year, but I do have a problem reading two/month if you understand what I mean. Some months, the reading just dries up. I also will find it difficult to manage one non-fiction per month since I don't read a lot of those books.

Regardless, it isn't a plan set in concrete and is not even really a plan as such, but more of a thought that it would be something to try ... and then leave if I tire of it.

In February I read 3.5 fiction pieces and one non-fiction.

Before I describe them, very briefly I might add, I want to say something about Amazon. Mostly on FB, I have been getting a lot of notices about inexpensive mystery e-books. A few are free while some may be prompted for only 99¢ or $1.99. They're worth a shot, and while I don't think I have found any treasures, I have found a number of satisfactory volumes.

The first book was not a cheapie found on FB. Elizabeth Varadan is on my bloglist although she doesn't post frequently.  When I saw Imogene and The Case of The Missing Pearls listed on her page, I thought I would download it.

This is a children's book where the young protagonist gets intertwined with Sherlock Holmes in solving a case of missing pearls. As an adult who along with every other adults knows Sherlock Holmes in one way or other, I really liked how Elizabeth managed connecting her young Imogene with Sherlock.

Elizabeth Varadan's blog

I then read Rachel Lynn's, Kelly Porter mystery, Dark Game, the first of the series set in the Lake District. I tend to forget the plots and characters quickly so can't really go into detail, except to say that I would read another in the series, so I think that speaks well enough of it.

I was a little less impressed with Caroline Dunford's, A Death at Crystal Palace, a Euphemia Martins mystery, set about a century ago. I found the pace and circumstances a little too fast and improbable for my taste. But it is the 11th book in the series and probably works a little better for those who already know Euphemia.

The half book was Knife Edge, and DCI James Hardy novel by Jay Gill. As the first book of a series, I would have liked to have learned more about the protagonist who was narrated in the first person. But then we were taken to descriptive writing from the omniscient author for the other parts of the story. Beyond this, there were two antagonists who seemed to have nothing to do with each other, and I found the switching about a little wrenching. Perhaps if I had read more of it in one sitting, I would have tracked the plot and characters better, but I found myself cast a bit adrift. The bad guy scenes were also a little too raw for my taste. I hate to give a bad review, and perhaps I was just a little weary and cranky.

The non-fiction work was Jesus Interrupted by Bart Ehrman, who writes of the early New Testament era. Ehrman is a former evangelical who used to see the Bible as god-breathed and literal but doesn't any more. Although he still respects the scriptures, he doesn't hold them to be completely factual. This irritates fundamentalists to no end, but Ehrman shows respect and doesn't put them or the Bible down. He writes to the average layperson of what most seminarians all learn in their courses but seldom transmit to their flocks.

I had thought that I had read all of Erhman's books since Misquoting Jesus came out and couldn't understand how I had missed this one when I saw it mentioned somewhere. I searched my bookshelves, and didn't see it there. Then I looked through my Kindle library to no avail. How could I have missed it? Finally, I checked my almost forgotten Kobo app, and there it was. I had download it at some point and then forgotten all about it.

If you are interested in the New Testament and early church and have an open mind about the scriptures, you will probably really like reading Ehrman. I don't know of any other author who does what he does in explicating these themes for the interested layperson. He is not writing counter-apologetics but just passing on his scholarship to Everyman as it were.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Macros, Cats, Doors and Silliness

Because we have a cat, for the latest macro, I had to shut the door. This has to do Lacey's silliness.

Let me just get the macro out of the way. It's a pretty extreme one of the centre of an African Violet.

Now for cats, doors and silliness.

I had to shut my den door to do the above macro because our cat is silly.

"How is she silly," I hear you asking. (I am pretty sure I am hearing this.)

Well . . . it's because of how she eats. She does almost all of her eating in my den because she is silly. You see, she likes treats; she likes treats a lot, a very lot. And they are kept in my den. at least the upstairs bag is located here. One doesn't leave treats out for wanton consumption, but one doles them out by hand.

Now, that's not all that silly, but it is very silly that she barely eats from her dish. Consequently, when she's on the prowl for treats, I almost always begin by feeding her bits of kibble. She is very happy to eat the kibble. So, why does she scarcely bother with it in the dish? I dunno, and she won't tell me, no matter how much I ask.

How silly to have to feed a cat by hand, but this is what it comes to. I can't give her all of the treats that she wants, but I can induce her to eat proper cat food before the treats come out.

About the time I was getting up for the above macro shot, she was getting antsy for treats (and kibble). The setup with flower, tripod and camera is rather delicate. I knew she would be all over it; hence, I closed the door.

But I want to say more about doors because cats are very silly when it comes to doors.

Lacey has pushed through the partially closed bathroom door any number of times when I am in there performing my nighttime (and also daytime) ablutions. I'm in there, mindlessly brushing my teeth or whatever when the door suddenly and surprisingly opens, seemingly of its own accord. In prances cat.

I have a little pop fridge in my den. If I open it, cat almost always is drawn to inspect inside.

We keep the guest room door closed because we sometimes have visitors who are allergic to cats, but she manages to sneak in almost every time I have to go in there for something or other. It's like a new and exciting experience for Lacey every time.

This leads to the story of a cat, another cat, and the bathroom: again, the bathroom.

Shauna was a teenager and had a group of friend over one evening. One of the boys needed to visit the bathroom. No sooner was he in there but there came a pounding on the door. Telling whomever that he would soon be done did not help. The pounding continued, much to the boy's frustration.

When he was done, he was ready to give a piece of his mind to whomever, but upon opening the door, there was no one there to yell at.

Then he looked down. There was Scutter. The silly cat had been the one pounding on the door.

Cats, doors and silliness.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A Matter of Perspective

It seems just a wee bit ironic to visit the doctor and be told on one hand that you need an operation but on the other hand that you are in good health.

But that's what happened yesterday except, I suppose, that the operation is my choice but not much of a choice really.

The first confirmation of my good health occurred as I was filling out a 4 page health checklist survey. I kept ticking No: no heart issues, no high blood pressure, no diabetes, no issues with organs, no history of cancer, and so on and so forth.

It was Yes on the one line about arthritis. I'm not crippled or anything but just have more than most people in their early 70s. And Yes to hearing, which is a darn inconvenience, but it isn't life threatening. Those were pretty well my only Yes'es on almost 4 pages. Which ain't so bad.

I do have an issue with my foot, but that stems from an old injury, and once again, while it does tend to cause me to drag about like a decrepit centenarian, it's not quite the same as being on life support.

So, why was I there, and what's this operation about if I'm so doggone healthy?

Hernia. Or hernias, I should say.

I knew I had one which is why I was there, but I have two.

They can be repaired (knock on wood) in about an hour, give or take, and I can go home shortly thereafter. This is set to occur early in May.

We don't have a huge social network, but we hang out a bit with three couples, mainly meeting for the occasional coffee. In each case, one spouse is dealing with cancer. Sue and I look at each other when our physical problems get us down, as they are prone to do at times, and we remind ourselves that it isn't cancer. Not yet anyway.

We are healthy enough, all things considered.

Heckfire! "I haven't even had a cold or flu in several years," he said, while furiously knocking on wood.

Monday, February 25, 2019

A Playoff Game

Jonathan's team was in the consolation round of the playoffs on the weekend. This means that they had a chance to be competitive against other teams that are not the strongest in the league.

They had three games, and we attended the one nearest us. The arena was a bit foggy, which compounds the problem of photographing through thick glass. Lightroom has a dehaze slider which helps cut through the haze a bit, but, of course, it just helps and is not perfect.

They won this game 4-0 after wining their first game 6-2. Apparently, they lost their third game by a 2-1 score, and it was a very good match.

I am not sure if the boys are to play another playoff round or this this is it after the loss in the third game. This could be my last hockey shoot of the season

On to the pictures, such as they are with the haze. I'll begin with two which include Jonathan. He is in the middle in both photos.

I like this one crossing the blue line. To stay onside, the puck carrier has to cross the line first. They were successful in this case.

Our goalie faced the shooter and won the duel in this case.

Some teams have girl players. There's one in the next photo and in some of the others. There seems to be another too although I only noticed one when I was shooting. (I miss a lot when I am with the camera, which is one reason why I don't always take it with me, Our team is all boys because our town has an effective girls program.

A few action shots.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

More About Lacey

Lacey has been here a week now and is settling in well. She is more relaxed and sleeping more and better. I don't mean at night, for she's always been good at that but she now rests better during the day.

What is she like and what do we know about her, aside from the fact that she likes this↓ spot, day or night?

She's 8 years old and came to us with a good bill of health.

Lacey doesn't eat wet food that comes from a can. This may be due to her having always and only been fed dry food (kibble) in the past.

She does not eat much but does hound us for cat treats.

For at least some of her past, she was without human company for much of the time. She was left alone, and someone would come in to top up her food and water. I do not know any more than that and hope that it was just in later times before she was surrendered to the cat shelter. It does make me sad for her, but she doesn't seem to be the worse for wear for it.

She is a people cat in a sense, following us (particularly Sue) about the house. She will almost always be on the same floor as us and usually quite close by. One day when Sue was going up and down regularly to sort some things out, Lacey followed her each and every time.

She sleeps with us every night and for the whole night. She stays at the bottom of the bed in a spot that doesn't interfere with our positions. She does not wake us early.

Despite wanting to be near us, the girl is not a lap cat and doesn't prefer much petting.

But she's not timid either. She will climb onto my computer desk when she wants treats and will also climb on me for the same reason.

She loves treats. She even likes her kibble presented as treats more than taking it from a dish. She seems to almost require prodding to go to her dish. It's very strange.

Lacey may look a bit overweight but I think she's mostly just stocky.

Due to her age and bulk, she's not a prodigious jumper, which suits us just fine. Her limit may be making it onto the bed. (You know how high modern beds are these days.)

Sue got her as much for me as anything as I am more of a cat person than she. Sue thought that a cat would give me company at night when she goes to bed hours earlier than I. Well, that plan has gone a little awry as Lacey goes to bed when Sue does. However, she also comes to visit me periodically looking for treats, so I still get some company. In general, even though she's not a lap cat, she's close by, and I like having her around.

As I have said before, the tv interests her more than other cats I have known. There are bird videos for cats on YT that grab her interest for awhile. Here she is ↓ looking at birds on my computer.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Closer Still

I had yet another go at macros with my polka dot plant. This had a slightly different twist. I plucked a tip which I have done before, but I set it up in front of the rest of the plant, which I hadn't done previously.

I used the flash and took 8 photos, each with a different focal point, which I later stacked together into one image in Photoshop.

This ↓ is the result, or at least my first result.

This is the setup ↓ in the next photo. The portion of the plant that I photographed was only about 1cm or about 0.4in. The part of the plant that made it into the final image above is within the red square, or approximately so.

I was happy with the result in the top photo until I realized that I had lost most of the pinkish background of the rest of the plant although you can see a little magenta toward the bottom left.

So, I decided to reprocess the image from scratch to try to get more of that out-of-focus background bokeh*. I also decided to crop it differently, leaving negative space to the left.

To repeat: I do like the first photo but the background of the second was more what I had in mind originally.

Oh, I should have said that I used my crop sensor camera to get a little closer than is possible with my full frame camera, and I also used an extension tube to get closer still.

(I do know that many of the things that I describe must seem foreign to most of you, but it's here for my record and also for perhaps a few others. Also, see a definition of bokeh, below.)

In photography, bokeh (/ˈboʊkeɪ/ BOH-kay;[1] Japanese: [boke]) is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens.[2][3][4] Bokeh has been defined as "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light".[5] Differences in lens aberrations and aperture shape cause some lens designs to blur the image in a way that is pleasing to the eye, while others produce blurring that is unpleasant or distracting ("good" and "bad" bokeh, respectively).[6] Bokeh occurs for parts of the scene that lie outside the depth of field. Photographers sometimes deliberately use a shallow focus technique to create images with prominent out-of-focus regions.

Thursday, February 21, 2019


I promise not to cat blog you to death, but I likely will post from time to time. Today, I am posting of a name change as Abby becomes Lacey.

We weren't terribly fond of the Abby moniker, but that was how she came to us. But what name would fit her?

We had noticed that she has a white ring that circles the back of her neck. She has  a white belly and bib, but  a little ring of white goes all the way around the back. We fancied that it was like a necklace (yes, aren't pet owners silly?) and then came up with the name, Lacey. So we are trying it out.

The proof.

And since we are here, this is the spot where she spends much of her time, on our bed, both during daytime and nighttime. Her other daytime spot is on the couch, but she spends the whole night on the bed. On a good day, which this wasn't, the sun streams in through the west facing window.

Also ... the mouth of a predator. I had my longer lens on and she was too close for me to focus properly, but ...

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Last Game

Monday night was Jonathan's last game of the regular season. The regular season. Playoffs start (and maybe end for all I know) on the weekend, with three games scheduled. Not being a very strong team, they are in the consolation section, but that is good as it means that they have a chance to be competitive.

The coach switched all of the payers around for fun. They lost handily as a result, or maybe they would have anyway, but fun is important.

That is how JJ ended up playing forward rather than defence, which meant that I got more shots of him in one game than I have all year. So please excuse the somewhat excessive number of photos (and realize that I could have posted more).

When he saw them, he asked for this one ↓ to be printed. I was a bit surprised as it is not the one that I would have chosen. It does show him being active, but the play is away from him. I do like that we can see the bench in the background, albeit the other team's bench, but it gives the context.

Here are a few that I like better. (Reminder: #6 in white.)

In the middle: hunting down the puck

Hoping for a pass and a goal

A scramble and opportunity near the goal

A head-on view.

Hard after the puck

A real chance

In pursuit


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

We Have Cat

After losing Bella 15 months ago and the kids losing Sid this past week, the time seemed right to bring a new cat into our home. We've come close to adopting a few times but couldn't quite feel right about it. However, Abby seemed like the right fit at the right time.

On our bed. She spent the whole first night there with us, which wasn't expected.

Abby is 8 years old but seems like a young 8; hopefully, she'll be with us for another 8 years. She's a pretty perky cat and quite pretty too.

Perky and Pretty.

She is not a lap cat, not yet anyway, but she is a people cat and follows us around. If we're upstairs, the chances are that she is too. Likewise downstairs as in the next photo.

Catching some rays on the spot she has chosen on the living room couch.

On her second day, she was better able to relax.

She's very brainy (of course she is) because she watches tv, and I'm sure she understands every word. At least she understands that when she hears big dogs barking, she should look for cover.

She really does pay attention to the tv sometime.

Addendum: The first shot with my Canon, processed in a slightly glowy, artistic style. I want to do better with Abby than I did with Bella. Although I have a few nice shots of Bella, I do wish that I had a few more.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Going Very Small

After having a go at photographing the polka dot plant in the morning (see previous post), I turned my attention back to the African violet, about which I have also previously posted.

This was all done handheld, single shot (no focus stacking) without taking much care, but just looking and firing.

I liked this one, peering past the petal into the yellow heart of the flower.

Then, I thought that I would see what I could do with a tiny bud almost hidden underneath the larger blooms. If you know these plants, then you know just how tiny these buds are. Without a tripod, I am happy enough with the result.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Back to Macros

I hadn't done any macro photography for a week or more, but with Sue out and with nothing else to do, it was time to play again.

I returned my attention to the good ole polka dot plant and later focus-stacked 6 photos that were shot sans flash.

Then I used the flash for 8 photos this time — 8 photos, and I still didn't get everything in focus.

I find that there is just a little more life to the avec flash version, and although you can't really tell at this resolution, the background is a little less dark and somewhat more textured.

I put away both the tripod and the flash, lay the petals on glass to see if I could get a reflection, which I did get a little bit: one shot, handheld, no flash.

Something unique happened today. After the big snow on Tuesday and Wednesday, there was some melting today (Friday). No, there's not a whole lot of warming in the forecast for the next two weeks, but one still feels a modicum of optimism.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Heart Day

Sue decorates for every season, mostly changing little displays here and there. There are dollar store tinsel sort of hearts strewn about the dining room table. This is a macro of one of the tiny things.

A little fun with a tulip macro. I took a slice and made it into a heart shape. Then I took another slice for the background and added a texture. Finally, I duplicated the right side of the original image and flipped/copied it over the the left side so that both sides are the same. I didn't have to do the flip but decided to ... because I could, I guess.

I used the heart for Sue's card: Still Hearting You.

The inside: an image from our courting days. I think we were off to a church choir event, but this was one of her bridesmaids dresses, so who knows. The to be continued follows up on the still hearting you theme on the front.

Hope you all have a hearty sort of day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Digging Out

Well, we had our big snowstorm, and while it was big enough, it seemed a little less than expected. Everyone prepared for the worst; schools were actually closed for two days. Usually, they just cancel buses but leave the schools open. They pretty well could have stayed open yesterday because the snow began later than expected and started mid afternoon rather than early afternoon. But you make the best decision that you can with the information that you have.

We get a lot of drifting up by the house, and I shovelled that part out twice last evening. However, I left the bulk of it for the contractor, and it came during the night. There had been some subsequent accumulation, but the lions' share had been removed.

However, there was more to do. First, it is garbage day, so we shovelled a bit of a path to the sidewalk. Second, the contractor has been leaving more and more of a bank on the side of the driveway, making it narrower, so it behooved us to trim it back a bit.

Shovelling a path to the street

A different view of the same path. The accumulation behind is taller than Sue
who is not short.
From the street
The neighbour came over to help out. She cut into the bank for us.
Other neighbours are also out. They later came down to finish our driveway.
I almost neglected to mention that yet another neighbour had cleared our walk
before we came downstairs in the morning.
Sue decided to make sure the vents out back were clear.
Once we were back inside, I noticed my neighbour, he who did our walk, on the ladder.