Archive for November, 2009

Speaking of zoo lights

Monday, November 30th, 2009

starfish11-30-09.JPG

If you live in the Puget Sound-area, this is a pretty cool thing to see. There are all the lights outside and then you go “warm up” in the aquarium (most of the outdoor animals are asleep). One of the things I always enjoy about zoo events, though, is that animals can be heard and not seen; they know you are there and act excited about it. In a way, even the fish.

Doh!

Monday, November 30th, 2009

zoolightsbridges.JPG

So last night we went to zoo lights and I tripped, seemingly in a minor fashion, on a staircase in the dark.

At first I thought I had tweaked my back on the right side. Oooops. Then I kept walking and realized, my knee was bumming out, too. Now I was just a pathetic old man. But stuff was hurting; my knee and my back. I just couldn’t figure out what was hurting more.

The good news: It’s not my knee. At least I think that’s the good news this morning. Here is a classic case of self-diagnosis. I tweaked my knee, no doubt, but it was really a muscle and not a ligament or tendon. It just hurt. And I pulled a muscle in my back at the same time, but that took longer to have the pain set in, even though that’s what I thought I hurt first.

I think, though, my knee is fine and it wasn’t much more than a tweak. The back-thing I’ve had before. What had me puzzled for a while last night was that I did them both at the same time stepping off a step that wasn’t there; I was hop-skipping down some stairs and I hop-skipped practically onto my face. Let’s say there were 10 steps and I counted 11 in my head. But like the great athlete I am, I adjusted quickly and twisted to get my balance.

My big point is the fact I sounded like a fool walking around the zoo trying to figure out what was hurt and why I practically couldn’t walk. I was trying not to make a big deal out of it, but I kept trying to walk different ways to see what hurt, exactly. Meanwhile, I was mumbling to myself going through each muscle and I was trying to be social and engaged. I was also trying not to sweat because I was bending down to take photos and it hurt!

So, I am actually happy this morning because once all the muscles got settled in, it told be that they hurt like hell because it’s just muscles. I should have stretched before going to the zoo. The knee is fine, but the back is crapped out a bit, and that, as I said, has happened before. But it was all muscle. I am celebrating this fact despite the pain. I just won’t be doing any heavy lifting this week. But my knee is fine…did I mention how happy thimakes me this morning??!?!?!

I think it will take a couple of days (or weeks) to not be stunned by it

Monday, November 30th, 2009

steelesteet.JPG 

All three of the men among the four officers killed yesterday morning at a local coffee shop (which I go to) I was familiar with for some reason. Mostly through old cars, parades and traffic control stuff. But they were also people that I saw there on several mornings when I was off to a speaking-thing or to play golf.

Honestly, I don’t know how much I saw them…but I recognized their photos.

It’s a sucker punch for a relatively small LEO community around here and is just really tragic. The thing is that we aren’t a big community when you take away the transient nature of the military personnel. For instance, I heard their names on the radio late this afternoon and it meant nothing. Then I got home and watched the news and my knees were wobbly…I “know who” they are.

Really sucks. Bigtime.

My old cat ramble

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

rabineinlitterbox11-28-09.jpg

I am going to try to be deep and reserved about this…

I took this picture because my old cat had a hard time getting into the litter box, had a hard time using it, and was so tired by the effort, she just sat and looked at me with a “This Sucks” attitude. She, literally, couldn’t find the energy to get out of it without resting. She sat in it for 10 minutes.

Uh, oh.

Now, the vet says she is just old, blah blah blah…but she has to deal with our homemade death panel…the three of us. There is a point where she is just a tired old cat and watching her try to poop in the office this morning, I realized it just doesn’t look fair anymore. Dude…if you have a hard time climbing into a six-inch box to relieve yourself, and you are a cat, the end might be near the end.

But here’s my problem…I keep not wanting to vote against her. Look at her right ear…it’s got a chunk out of it. Look at her left ear…it’s got a chunk out of it. And she pretty much has every other pet I know scared to death. She’s not mean…she just is, even in old age, sticking up for herself the same way as a stray she ended up on our back porch almost 15 years ago. She commands respect.

And that’s the hard thing with Rabine. She just has a fierce dignity about her that I never remember having with a pet. It’s not an attitude with people, but that every single animal that has come through our halls never messed with her. Even Boo knew to not touch, and he was the ultimate dumbshit. She has been through all the apartments and all the pets…blah blah blah

But I realized something today. She couldn’t get out of the litter box. I hope it’s just a temporary thing, but it’s probably not. All the miles and too many smiles…she just was resting. It happens.

Now, this doesn’t mean we’re going to kill her tomorrow. What it does mean is that I think the vet visits are done.  I’m using “Daddy Death Panel” veto power on that. The old girl is struggling and we have done enough over the decade and a half. She is in no pain…she’s just old and creaky and…well…I think she is in some real pain. I think she’s just not admitting it. There, I said it…

This leads me to my point. Sometimes you do need to decide to kill something because it’s just the way life works. Killing Rabine sucks, completely, but it’s just the course of life. My God, she is resting in the litter box because she doesn’t have the energy to get out…and I keep seeing this. I have used all the euphemisms like “putting her to sleep” but the fact is that we are having to deal with the “killing her” debate. I’m just not that into prolonging life when life is over for intent and purpose. She can’t even poop with dignity, for goodness sake.

She’ll live for now…but anyone who wants to say goodbye better come over and start saying it. The moment I think she is suffering from the pain, we go to the vet for a last visit. She might be just so tough that she never lets on when that is, and I could be making the wrong call.

But, damn, she’s a tough kitty.

When again?

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

mauna-kea.jpg

I might be the only one in my family, but I would move to Hawaii full-time in a heartbeat. I am officially waiving my “must be within an hour of three professional teams” rule and saying it. But I think my one vote loses in my family last time I counted.

This is seriously a big deal for rules waiver on where I will live. I want snow and ocean. I want fishing and hunting. I want mostly sunny and never bitter cold (really, where I live now meets these, even though you might not believe it). I want golf close by, preferably walking distance. These are all also reasons I love where I live now.

But the killer to me has always been the idea of being away from professional sports. And I’m sliding on that. I might be able to bend that stance enough to live on the Big Island, and I don’t say this idly. I like it THAT much.

I’m not sure I can ever make a full-fledged case for it. There are still things that bug me there. Depsite, that…I started wondering and thinking about it. Do I want to make the full-on pitch to move there and sway a vote?

Nah…not yet.

My wife is awesome!

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

recliner1.jpg

Not only did she put together a leather reclining chair for my office this morning (to surprise me!), she got a computer tray and stuck in a nice end table. See the remote?  It’s all getting so very close, my friends. A cheap mancave office.

Here’s the hard part…it will never look this organized again. In fact, you can already see a knit cap and the beginnings of a newspaper pile on the end table.

The funny part is that it looks more like a shrink’s office than a writing office.

Coaching Part II-(?)III

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

So I ws thinking about the coaching-thing again today.

Things for: I know what I am doing. I even have learned oddball-like ways to learn how to do it. I’m pretty good at teaching. Big A wants me to try it. P wants me to try it. I am also really good at barking in a “good natured” way (meaning…I think, I can pretty much project authority). Plus I like the sport of it.

Things against: Met too many crappy parents. I’m overly competetive. I “swear” (but I don’t think “Get your ass moving” is swearing, but I am told otherwise). I’m harsh. I would teach kids to play rough.

So…just following these lines…

I should not coach an elementary girls soccer team.

But, but, but, and there are always buts in these thinkings…why not grab a core group of girls and throw that at them now? I was seriously thinking about this the last few weeks…who is telling these girls to kick ass. I don’t mean berate them, or be mean, but just tell them that they can win by not being nice. Or as nice. Big A gets that…but she’s the sweetest kid you’ll ever meet off the field and is very nice Italian Catholic (ummm…see, that is codeword for her “game-on” streak). I watch the soccer game and I think about all the giant potential and they don’t know what the fuck they are doing and don’t care (see…I swear, which isn’t good). They have talent at 10, but no direction.

So I am thinking I had better learn a little about how to coach before I coach.  I’m not quite sure where I’m going to do that; it’s not thought out to step three.

Here’s the thing: Who is teaching the girls to act like boys on the pitch? But that’s also why I might not be a good coach, is just because of that. What parent wants their daughter to be told to tackle in a nice fifth-grade soccer game? (Me, but I hope you get the point.)

I think what I need to do is coach some older kids first. If Big A’s team in soccer is as desperate as told, I might be forced into it. But I have watched enough of the girls at parties and games and other stuff, I have a feeling I might want to catch them soon for soccer.

Sounds like big talk coming from the dad of a kid on a team that didn’t win a game this year…but they can win just fine if they get coached and taught.

More to come.

(But don’t tell Big A…I am being very deliberate about this.)

Big A gave me a backhanded compliment and it felt cool

Friday, November 27th, 2009

windowmoresnow.jpg

We were watching the Thanksgiving Parade yesterday and I said that I had been to the biggest snow ever for one of them. And then I felt like telling the story from exactly 20 years ago…how I had stayed at my friend Rob’s on Long Island, and it was a big pain to get to, and how awesome it all was even getting up at 5 a.m. in what seemed like a blizzard. I mean, I was old geezer babbling about it.

Big A looked at me and seemed to not be engaged. So I didn’t think she understood how cool all of that was, so I said, “No, really, I was there.”

What shot back was a pre-teen classic.

“I know daddy. You are always there at everything. Or you have a story about where you where when you weren’t there. Can I watch my show. We get it. You’ve seen the parade in the snow. Can I watch the ‘today parade’ (with fingers doing quotations), please!?!?!??!??”

My smart-ass teenager is blooming.

Now, some parents may be mad that she copped an attitude at dad…I was just slightly miffed. Maybe it’s the fact that no child who has pee’d on my face while I changed her diaper could ever do much more to make me sterile to such comebacks. But I used the same attitude I did then…she is just so relaxed around me she just lets it all out (how’s that for a stretch when you have piss on your chin).

So the compliment was two-fold, in that she was comfortible just being ignored by me and telling me, and second, that she knows I’ve done some cool things and I think she might be a little frustrated because she wants to do them, too. And, add to that the fact she IS STARTING to cop a pre-teen attitude.

But Rob did help me see the Macy’s Day Parade in a snowstorm…which was still pretty cool.

How I spent part of Thanksgiving

Friday, November 27th, 2009

When I acquired this great Canon camera, I was more than just thinking about it as a hobbyist…I wanted to fiddle with its art potential (thanks to all who contributed birthday gifts to help get me this far!).

My thinking has always been that, maybe, if I can actually learn how to use the right tools, with just about any medium, I can make something interesting out of it. It could be glue and toothpicks, charcoal from the BBQ grill or Legos.

In reality, I want to be able to take pictures of cars for friends, wildlife, and Big A doing sports. But the artist part of me is soooooo intrigued by this new toy. But the simple fact is that all I knew about photography, really, was that light is important, shutter speed adds light slower and aperature adds light faster. Or something like that. I had no idea what all the marking on the lenses and all the other jargon was…I had just spent enough time with professional photographers over the years, and by asking questions, to be a little bit pregnant with knowledge.

So I was waiting for dinner to get gathered up and served tonight and I started playing by taking photos in the kitchen.

potatoes11-26-09.JPG

OK, this look very boring, I know. But I was trying to figure out natural artifical light and using a fast (1.8) lens with no stabilizer. And I wanted to start to fiddle with manual focus.

brusselsprouts11-26-09.JPG

After a whole bunch of forgettable shots at attempting to catch steam and chopping, I realized I really needed to get out of the way in the kitchen (my job ) was done there, but first I got some brussel sprouts. Now, remember, this is using a fast lens and being completely manual. That may not sound like much, but I am rather proud of even something like this because it shows I am undderstanding the key elements…it doesn’t mean I know how to do them or have all the correct equipment; I guess it just makes me feel better and I think it’s kind of cool because I like brussel sprouts.

But that got me thinking…how do you stop action. I was watching all of that food being prepared and I couldn’t get the action frozen. Now, if you’re a hotshot fotog, bless you, because you might be laughing through your nose over this; I just couldn’t figure it out. And this, my friends, is the secret I will spare you from…think of a goal and shoot, literally, 500 shots in an hour and study the settings.

My camera has this cool thing that records all the photos with all the technical details. So you can literally shoot 25 shots in three minutes and look at the stats and look at what is right and wrong. So, what has great action to fiddle with this? WATER!!!!!!

gutterdrip11-26-09.JPG

So outside I went in a rainstorm and, sad to say, this is the best I could do of rain spilling over a clogged gutter (I know P, I will clean ‘em this weekend…never do it before the leaves are done falling). I’m not kidding. I spent an hour with a tripod shooting with various lenses and taking crappy shots of my dripping gutter. More than 400 in all. But I was getting closer. I was learning fast.

Then the rain stopped and dinner wasn’t ready. My dripping disappeared. So I spent a bunch of time fiddling at looking at all the data on the computer. Even though I had never come close, I declared to myself that I would catch a drip of water. I had figured out the basics of shooting action, only I was using too slow of a lense. But if I was going to shoot sports and wildlife, I had better get use to it because I don’t have $3000 to spend for a fast telephoto lens…I just had my eBay jalopy.

So decided to set up a test on my newly discovered abailities and slow drip a faucet. Now, I’m going to brag, I nailed it pretty much from the beginning. Then, I spent a couple hundred shots getting fancy and trying to make pictures appear in the drips. This is what I had been hoping for, actually. Make the water look like glass that, as it drips, takes on the picture of the room.

connecteddrip11-26-09.JPG

connectdrip2-11-26-09.JPG

It’s not very interesting, I know; they are drips of water. Yawn. But by the time we sat down to dinner, I felt like I had just taken an entire high school course in advanced photography in less than two hours. But the art-part of me is pumped. Those drips of water are actually reflecting things like stained glass. I’m easily excited.

My next mission is to catch some birds in flight at the feeder. It may be a while before I have the time, but I want to have action down well enough to take Big A’s hoops shots.

Denied!

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

treasuryletterhead.jpg

OK, my initial attempt at trying to be perfectly legitimate going to Cuba was denied.

Everyone keeps asking me, in some form or another, why I just don’t hop a flight from Candada. Well, because I really want my research to be legitimate and useable by museums and educational institutions. Technically, anything I shoot or document there and bring back is not legit for even those purposes, because the Treasury Department will have a cow.

So I am going to take another shot.

Here’s the gist, though, of why I feel good so far…it didn’t just get blown off. It wasn’t a form letter that said no. They included the laws that pertain and it was plainly actually signed with an explanation. A bit of a road map to what’s next.

If I were just going “for the fun of it” I wouldn’t be so serious about this. I actually think I have a documentary reason that is interesting to capture. Do I want to sell it to museums and schools? Yes. Duh. But it’s really not about the money. This is the crux of the problem for explaining myself in my next application.

It’s kind of like a U.S. news crew going there and filming something or documenting it. They get paid for the images. But I’m not a affiliated with any organization, so to the US government I just look like a guy going to make money. And that’s not what I mean to do…but I do know that I have to do it legally by US law, no matter who wants to use it for what. I need to be part of an organization that wants this stuff.

Does that make sense?

If it doesn’t, you get it as well as I do; and next week I will try again to better explain myself in a new application.