Monday, January 30, 2012

A ball of bees

This morning at school, we were treated to a rare occurrence of a swarm of bees that had decided to spend the night hanging on to the underside of the eaves of our library.

Somewhere in the center of that swarm is a queen bee looking for a home for her flock.  That's about an 8 inch ball of bees with one thing on their mind and that is to protect their queen.  Interestingly, they were very non-aggressive.  While I was taking some of the shots this morning, I had a bee get entangled in my arm hairs.  I tried to blow it off, but that didn't work and so I had to eventually flick it off with my free hand.  I didn't get stung in the process, which was a good thing.

Mother Nature is a wonderful thing.  I kept looking at that ball and it would move about all the time.  It wasn't static.  It just made you wonder about the dynamics of all of those bees buzzing up there, flying perhaps, but clinging to one another with a sole purpose in mind.  Do we have the same fortitude to stick together like that in a team that large for a single purpose?  It gave me pause to wonder at the marvels of Mother Nature.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

This and that

It's a gorgeous day outside and what am I doing?  Sitting inside suffering from allergies.  We've had a high pressure system that' has formed over the desert and it pumps wind through the mountain passes.  This also kicks up a lot of dust, pollen, and just general crap that is not good on my sinuses at all. 

I was supposed to go geocaching today, but at 1:00 this morning, I felt like I'd been run over by a truck, so I sent an email to my friend telling him I wouldn't be coming out his way.  It's just as well, as he said that it's been blowing a lot out his way, so it would have been more suffering anyway.

Earlier in the week, I got a flat tire.  That's the second flat tire I've gotten in five months.  I haven't had one in years, so I guess I was due.  I noticed it Thursday morning, but wasn't able to do anything about it until Friday afternoon as I had parent conferences on Thursday and was tied up until 7 o'clock in the evening.

So Friday afternoon ended up being a learning experience. The youngest learned how to change a tire.  I showed him what to do and he helped me with all of the things that needed to be done including loading the flat into the trunk so I could take it to our mechanic.

Our mechanic didn't take too long to repair it, however I got a nice photo experience because they had two classic cars sitting in their parking lot, a Ford and the Oldsmobile pictured.  I think this is a 56 or 57.  They just don't build cars like this anymore.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On to the SuperBowl

I spent most of the day watching football.  It was pretty much a wasted day, but I knew it would be.  Both games were tense affairs, one went into overtime, the other should have gone into overtime if not for a shanked field goal in the last seconds of the game.

Neither team that I really wanted to win came through today but that's OK.  I was hoping for good games and both were good, decided in the last seconds of one and overtime in the other.  That's pretty exciting, even if your team doesn't win. 

My team, the Miami Dolphins, are not in the Superbowl this year.  I grew up in Southern California, yet I follow the Miami Dolphins.  Go figure that one out.  In fact, I joke that I have three favorite teams.  The Dolphins and whoever is playing the Dallas Cowboys and the Oakland Raiders that week.

I've come up with a theory on why people root for certain teams.  They are either indoctrinated by their family, or they glom on to the winning team at the time they become aware of the said sport.  The other two jerseys are my two sons' jerseys.  Obviously, I didn't do a very good job of indoctrinating them correctly, especially since one roots for a divisional rival. 

The Dolphins were just coming into their own about the time I was in 6th grade, so I started to follow them.  Two years later, they were in the SuperBowl against the Dallas Cowboys and lost.  Gee, I wonder why I don't like the Cowboys?  Actually, I was a Rams fan as well and the Cowboys used to beat up on the Rams in the playoffs on a regular basis in the 60s and 70s, so there are several reasons why I don't like them.

As for the Dolphins, the next year was the year of the perfect season and the rest is history.  I've followed them ever since.  Three SuperBowls in the early period cemented it and two more while I was in college.  It's been a long time since they've been to the big one.  I'd like to see them get back there again.

And my other favorite team (whoever plays the Oakland Raiders)?  It's probably because I've never really liked Al Davis, the owner of the Raiders.  It's a silly reason not to like a team, but then liking a team and "bleeding" silver and black or whatever color your favorite team happens to be is pretty silly too.

I just hope the SuperBowl is a good game.  Most in the past couple of years have been pretty good affairs.  And if it's not, then I hope the advertisers come up with some good commercials.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

It rained today

It rained today.  That's not a bad thing, just that it messed with my plans a little.  Then again, in the long run, it was probably a good thing that it did rain.

The plan was for me to go geocaching with a friend of mine who lives in Camarillo.  That's about an hour and a half drive to the west of me.  I was also playing another kind of GPS game which took me down to Carson.  I left the house in a downpour.  

The drive down was interesting to say the least.  I had to come to a complete stop one time on the 605 because the California Highway Patrol (CHP) were doing a traffic break to help a car that had spun out to the side of the road.  

Once I got to my intended spot, I scored my virtual points and then called my friend in Camarillo hoping to hear that the weather was better there.  No such luck, so I made the decision to come back home.  On the way home, I passed five accidents, two of which might have been called Sig Alerts.  Sig Alerts are major traffic stoppages on Southern California freeways.  Fortunately, all the accidents were on the other side of the freeway, so my route home didn't involve any stop and go driving.  I was very fortunate.

As it turned out, I had a stressful week at school and usually when stress is released I'll get a nasty migraine.  Yep, today was no exception, so it was actually good that I ended up back at home.  I was able to rest, take it easy and recuperate.  I also took a walk and got, what I feel, are some pretty nice photos of raindrops on several different kinds of plants.

The first shot has really convinced me that I need to look into getting a macro lens.  Overall, I was pleased with how the shot turned out.  However, using a 200mm zoom lens for shots like that are ok, but I'd really like to get a lot closer so more detail can be seen in the droplet.  

The second shot was taken around the corner from my house, near the end of my walk.  This particular neighbor has lots of flowering plants close to the sidewalk and there was lots of raindrops.  I liked how the petals, which had fallen off the flower, were lying on the dead leaves from the parkway tree.  I used a program called Photomatix to tonemap the shot and enhance the veins in the leaves.  I think it gave it a nice effect.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Both of these objects originally belonged to my grandmother, were passed down to my father and have subsequently been passed down to me. My grandmother died when I was 3, so I have no memories of her outside of these objects.

The school bell is the bell used by my great aunt as she rang her students in for the day at a one room school house in rural Indiana in 1896. My father has a photo of that class, which includes a pretty 5 year old girl sitting on the front steps of the school - my grandmother. Her oldest sister was her first teacher. My parents used that bell to "ring" us in for dinner as we were growing up.

My grandmother later became a teacher, she married a teacher and her youngest son (my father) became a teacher. I have carried on the family "tradition," as I am finishing up my 29th year of teaching. My daughter is preparing to become an elementary school teacher. I guess it's in our blood. 

The book is a condensed biography from a ten volume set written by John G. Nicolay and John M. Hay, Abraham Lincoln's personal secretaries. The 10 volume set was published serially in The Century Magazine from 1886-1890 and then published into book format in 10 volumes from 1890-94. Nicolay died in 1901 in Washington and this condensed version was published two years later.

I have no idea whether anyone would be able to procure a copy of this book today, but I find it interesting because it is a first hand account of Lincoln's actions from 1856 until his death in 1865. You can feel the love that Nicolay had for the man throughout this work. It is a treasure that I will cherish forever and I hope that whoever inherits it from me will cherish it the same.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Four years ago, I started a blog with some geocaching friends entitled Electronic Breadcrumbs.  The purpose of that blog was to share our knowledge about geocaching and outdoor activities related to the use of a GPS.  Very quickly, it became clear that the group of people that we'd assembled wasn't going to be posting very many things on the site and I ended up being the main poster for the first couple of months and the only poster of anything afterwards.

The hardest part of that particular blog was trying to come up with new and interesting content on a regular basis.  In 2008, there were 116 posts over the course of the year.  Some of those were by others in the group, but the huge majority of them were my posts.  In 2009, I was down to 100 posts, still a respectable amount, almost two posts per week.  2010 saw 80 more posts and I realized sometime near the end of the year that Electronic Breadcrumbs was slowly running out of steam.  You can only talk about geocaching for so long before you run out of things to say and you start repeating yourself.  I tried to continue, but my last post, the 14th of 2011 happened on April 10th.

The other thing that caused the demise of Electronic Breadcrumbs was I was introduced to another website called 365 Project.  The purpose of this website is to encourage people to take photographs and post them on the site.  A true 365 project would be taking a photo every day for an entire year starting on January 1st.  I guess any day would work, but I thought I'd give it a try.  I was worried back then that I would lose inspiration quickly and end up taking many photos of my toes.  I learned quickly that there were a variety of subjects out that were just begging to be photographed.  I dove headfirst into photography last year and Electronic Breadcrumbs fell by the wayside.

On December 31st of this past year, I finished my first 365 project.  I completed it without using any fillers, taking at least one photo every single day for the entire year.  In fact, I am now at 383 consecutive days of taking a photo and always, that means more than one photo.

Last year, I took 7200+ photos during the project.  I was absolutely amazed by that stat, especially because I was usually so conservative with my photo taking when I was using film.  Digital is easy however and you don't have to worry about the expense of development.  If it doesn't come out, just trash it and move on.  I have just started my second year project which will cover 2012.  Hopefully, that will also cover an entire year, that is unless the world ends on December 21 as predicted by some.

The purpose of this blog is not just photography however.  I'm a very visual person.  If you look back over the old Electronic Breadcrumbs blog, you will find very few entries that aren't accompanied by photos.  A picture really is worth a thousand words.  I intend to write about daily happenings.  Many of the posts will be about techniques I used while taking my photo of the day.  I will probably include how I processed the photo with PhotoShop Elements or other programs that I have on my computer.   Just about any other subject that I'm interested in talking about is fair game as well.

I might not post every day.  In fact, I'm positive I won't post every day, but I would like to post at least twice a week, if not more.  Photos will accompany each new post.  Please, as always, feel free to comment if you have questions or if you just want to comment.  Feel free to disagree.  Let's keep it civil and get along is all I ask in return.