Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Photo Blogging Challenge (December 2013): Festive

Happy New Year.  This being the last day of the year and I have insomnia, it works out well I can put this post out before everyone is up.  We will have our annual New Year's Eve party this evening and I have a hike planned for tomorrow morning.  By the end of the day tomorrow I will probably be exhausted, so I want to make sure this posts for the December Challenge that P.J. put out for this month.  

Festive was the challenge and I had some fun this month taking photos, both with my regular camera as well as my iPad, which I use for my Instagram shots.  The quality isn't quite up to par with my iPad, but I wanted to test it out thoroughly this month.  You'll be able to tell the difference of the two since the Instagram format is square, whereas my regular camera will be more rectangular.  Anyway, here's my five shots for the month of December.

1.   Christmas wreath

When I first started with Instagram, I posted quite a few shots from it on Flicker.  As noted above, I don't think the quality is nearly as good as my regular camera, although there are a couple of images that I've really liked, this one being one of them.  I found this wreath hanging on a gate of a neighbor's house.  It was one of the first signs of Christmas I'd seen, so I wanted to include it here.

I don't really like the way the wreath's bow blends together into a red blob, but I guess that's part of the appeal of Instagram.  Perhaps appeal isn't the right word to use, but it's the best I can come up with for the time being.  The filter I used however, Lo-fi, did a nice job of bringing out the details and textures of the fence the wreath was hanging on so I'll give props for that.

2.  The Spirit of Christmas Present

My parents have an entire Victorian village they put up under their Christmas tree every. Usually one of my nephews who live close to them help put it all together.  Each of the bisque porcelain houses has lights inside them to give it a nighttime glow to it and the set even has the characters from Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol.  

This Instagram shot, shows Ebeneezer Scrooge encountering the Spirit of Christmas Present who will show him things that are including how life is like in the Cratchett household, who celebrate Christmas the best they can even on the meager salary Scrooge pays his employee Bob Cratchett.

The story reminds us all that what's past is past and no matter how much we'd like to, we can't go back and change things.  We can only move forward and if we have regrets, or things that we'd like to change, we can only do so by changing what we do and say in the future so things will turn out differently.  

My parent's village is always displayed differently every year and it's always a festive addition to their holiday decor, so I've included it here.

3.  The Santa Claus bank

This is a bank that originally sat under my grandparent's Christmas tree in Indiana. My dad was the baby of the family and inherited the bank sometime before his mother passed away in 1961 when I was three years old.

It then became a fixture under our family tree while we were growing up. About 10 years ago, my parents gift wrapped it and gave it to me and it now sits under our tree every year. Some time in the future, one of my three children will inherit it and the cycle will continue.  The bank is probably close to 70 years old.

I've always liked this bank and it gives me a connection to my grandmother, who I never really got to know.  It's a connection to my past, or more importantly, my father's past, one that I am familiar with, but have no memories of, so this gives me some consolation.  The bank also keeps the festiveness going beyond the actual day of Christmas, because it reminds me that even Santa Claus needs to take a day off now and then.

4.  Are you going to give that to me anytime soon?

This is Jack, our dog.  Jack turned 9 years old early in the month, which roughly translates to 63 in people years if you subscribe to the 7 dog years theory.  If this theory holds any water, then Jack is very spry for his age and all I can say about it is I hope I have as much energy as he has when I'm 63.  Of course, Jack also sleeps many hours of the day.  When he's tired, he takes a nap, which I think we should all subscribe to as a regular part of our daily regimen.  I think the world would be a better place if everyone took a nap every single day.  Unfortunately, we can't, but I think it's still a good regimen to follow.

Jack went to the groomers about three days before Christmas and it's our groomers policy to put a bandana on the neck of each of her clients that represents the time of year.  We have bandanas for Jack from every time of year and this particular bandana had a very festive look to it, both in color and style, so it's included here.  He'll wear the bandana for another week or so until it becomes too dirty and then it will have to be removed.  We keep all of the bandanas as keepsakes, so I could probably find another one that's been washed to replace this one after the season is over.

5.  Happy birthday

Christmas Eve is my dad's birthday.  This year, the family celebrated it on the 28th, because it was convenient plus it made it a little easier on everyone since it was also one of those milestone birthdays.  My dad turned 80 a week ago.

We gathered at my sister's house last Saturday to celebrate his life and wish him well.  He was very appreciative of the time we spent with him, both on that day and on all days when we've been able to get together as family, either as a small unit, or a much larger unit as was the case this past weekend.

My sister cooked a couple of pineapple upside down cakes as his birthday cakes for this year.  Both of my sisters and I noted at the time that none of us had ever attempted this type of cake in the past.  It turned out rather well and if dinner hadn't been so good, I might have been tempted to eat a second piece, but I refrained and my waist thanked me for that decision later on.

My uncle (Dad's oldest surviving brother), turned 90 two days before Dad did, so there's some longevity in the family.  My uncle came out here in July for a visit and both of them noted at that time that having a birthday around Christmas isn't a bad thing at all, especially if it's before Christmas.  As my dad said and uncle agreed with, "Everybody's in the giving mood."  I will never get tired of him saying that.

Well, there you have it, another challenge accepted and delivered.  Please comment below and also please check out P.J.'s photos and the link at the bottom of his blog to see other's interpretations of the theme festive.

That's it for this year.  75 posts, which fell a little short of the 100 that I thought I could write when I started this blog two years ago, but still well over the 28 I posted in 2012, so I would call this a success for this year.  I hope to continue with this on a regular basis next year.  Here's hoping you all have a very prosperous and happy 2014.  Thank you all for reading this and for all of your comments.  They are truly appreciated.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Weather Part 2

I comment from time to time on the weather in Southern California, but I normally refrain from saying too much about it during this time of the year.  Why?  Mainly because I believe it's the Rose Parade's fault that we have so many people living here in California today.

I'm a perfect example of it I guess.  Although I consider myself a Californian, I wasn't born here, rather was transported here by my parents in the early 60s much like many of the kids I went to school with at the time.

My 5th grade teacher Mrs. Packard, on the first day of school, brought out a map of the United States, then proceeded to name every state and ask us to raise our hands when she came to the state where we were born.  She started in Maine where she was born, and went across to California.  Allen Schoff and I raised our hands when Indiana was called.  Of the 27 or so children in the class, I believe there was one person who raised his or her hand when the last state, California was called.  California was a state of immigrants from other states at the time.

I believe that every January 1st, the weather gods smile down upon Pasadena, California.  It has to be since we've only had two years in the last 60+ years where it's rained on the Rose Parade.  Every year, people back in the midwest and east coast huddle inside their houses while it's snowing outside and it's 20 degrees and they watch the Rose Parade, live from Pasadena.  The conversation goes something like this.


"What Martha?"

"Come and watch the parade with me."

"Look Martha.  They're wearing shorts again on January 1st.  That's it, we're moving to California!"

And the population of California inches up again.  So why do I tell this story?  Because I'm posting something that might encourage people to move out here.  My last post dealt with the Yahoo Weather App where I'd submitted photos to be included in the weather app.  The screen shot shows one of my photos on the main page of the weather app for Pasadena, a shot that I took just before Thanksgiving this year of Pasadena's city hall.  For all of you back east, please don't look at the temperature.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Oh the weather outside is frightful....

Not really, but I thought that would make a catchy title for this entry.  Sometime yesterday, read through the Flicker Blog post I get on a fairly regular basis and discovered a new group on Flicker called the Project Weather.  It looked kind of interesting, so I checked it out and decided to join the group.  After all, what's cooler than a bunch of really cool shots of different kinds of weather right?

If you've clicked on the link already, you'll see that Project Weather is run by Yahoo.  Photos that appear in this group will also appear in the Yahoo Weather app for iPhones and iPads.  In other words, if a photo is accepted, it gets put into the queue.  When using the app, a person checking out the weather for an area should get a photo that corresponds to the area and to the weather of that area at the time.  

I'm not sure if this works all that well as it's nighttime right now and the only shots I'm seeing on the app at the moment are star photos or full moon shots.  I checked out a couple of the photos and one of the photos used for my area was a photo taken in Brazil, but the photo matched up with the weather for my area, so it worked.

So after checking this out, I decided to submit a couple of my shots to the project in the hopes that possibly one might make it onto the app.  The project's site says that I could wait up to a month before seeing any of my shots in the photostream, so I wasn't expecting anything.  I uploaded about a dozen shots or so and didn't even think about it afterwards.

This afternoon, when I got home from work, I logged onto the computer and noticed that the shot of Bryce Canyon above had been favorited by someone.  I found this a little odd since this particular shot has been buried in my photostream, so it gets very few views now.  But I decided to click on the shot, just to see and I saw that it was now in the Project Weather photostream.  It had been less than 24 hours and one of my shots had been included in the app.  Not only that, when I looked more closely, half of the shots I'd submitted were now in the photostream, including this other one I took at Crescent City, California a couple of years ago.

So now, I have the Yahoo Weather app (free by the way) on my iPad and I have the current locations of the places where my shots were taken on there just to see if they ever show up in the rotation.  I guess it's a good way to get some new exposure for some of my shots.  Here's a link to the other shots that Project Weather accepted from my submissions.  Hopefully, the next time it snows up in the high desert, someone using the app will see my shot of Joshua Trees with snow on them.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Yes, I can say it.  I've finally drunk the Kool-Aid and am now posting photos on Instagram.  I blame my daughter.  Well, I'd actually been thinking about it for awhile before that, but when I was up visiting over Veteran's Day weekend, I finally got around to downloading the app onto my iPad and have been playing around with it ever since.

I don't believe for an instant that this will ever replace my DSLR camera.  In fact, I still want to upgrade that sometime in the near future, but it's fun to take a couple of shots, play around with the different settings and then post them.  Just something else that I need in my life right?

If you're interesting in following me, you can find me by clicking on the link.  Right now, there's only a modest collection of shots, nothing to write home about, but I actually like this one I've posted here.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Total Random stuff

I have been challenged by my blogger friend P.J. to a post of randomness.  11 random thoughts about me, 11 questions from P.J.  Then I'm supposed to challenge 11 other bloggers to do the same thing.  That's the tough part, which won't get done, and you'll see why in the randomness below.  I hope not to repeat any randomness that P.J. might have already stated, but that's the randomness I guess.

So here goes.

1.  There are 58 National Parks in the United States.  I have been to 24 of them.  I will not list them all here as that would be tedious. At one time I had a goal of seeing them all.  Whether that will happen all depends now upon how healthy I can stay over the next 20 to 30 years.

2.  I think most people who read this blog don't realize that I am happily married.  I post a lot of photos of my kids, but very few of my wife.  I've been married for 26 years and they have been the most fulfilling years of my life.  I would not be the person I am with her.  Therefore, every photo in this blog will feature her.

3.   I have had two concussions that I know of, but it could be more.  Perhaps the dain bramage associated with concussions has knocked that out of my memory.  First one was when I was 8 or so and I got run over by a neighbor while we were playing kickball in the street.  I was knocked unconscious and lay there for a long time.  I have no recollection of this incident outside of what my parents have told me about it.  The second time was between 8th and 9th grade in a bicycle incident.  Not saying I wouldn't have gotten a concussion had I been wearing a helmet, but I wish they had been mandatory back then, especially with all the evidence coming out recently over head injuries in sports.

4.  I have broken my right pinkie finger twice and my left arm once, all between February 1972 and July 1972.  Let's just say that the last part of my 8th grade year, I was always splinted up in some way.  I broke and dislocated my pinkie playing basketball.  Three days after the doctor took the splint off of my finger, I bumped into a friend of mine and broke the finger again in a different place.  That splint lasted until the end of the school year.  My left arm was broken in the above mentioned bicycle accident.  As an aside, I am still very good friends with the girl who I bumped into when I rebroke my finger.  She doesn't know about the incident, unless she figures it out by reading this.  Also, when I hold my palm up on my right hand, my right pinkie doesn't meet with the other fingers.  These are the only bones I've ever broken.

5.  I have cool looking eyes. They are bluish gray with gold flecks in them.  Looking at some photos of my youngest son, he has similar eyes.

6.  I do not read very many blogs.  In fact, I don't think I could tag 11 other bloggers to get them to repeat the process, so I won't be doing that part.

7.  I used to do counted cross stitch.  I entered several of them in the Los Angeles County Fair and one year, my design took home a first place ribbon.  Our home is decorated with many of my designs, most from patterns that I used to buy.  When people visit and see them for the first time, they always compliment my wife over her stitchery and she always has to refer them back to me.  I don't do this anymore because it aggravates my carpal tunnel syndrome.  My hands go to sleep in minutes after starting to stitch.

8.  There has been a teacher in my family since 1896.  I consider myself a fourth generation teacher.  My dad was a teacher as were both of his parents.  I have a newspaper clipping from 1896 that shows my great aunt as the teacher in a one room school house.  There is a little doe-eyed kindergartener sitting in the front row - my grandmother.  She was being taught by her oldest sister, who was basically a full generation older than she was.  My daughter has continued on the tradition.

9.  If I wanted to recreate my proposal to my wife, I couldn't.  I proposed to her as we floated over Fantasyland in Disneyland on the skyway.  That ride doesn't exist anymore.  Why Fantasyland?  It was too noisy on the Tomorrowland side, so I waited until we rode through the Matterhorn into Fantasyland where it was a little quieter and then popped the question.

10.  My favorite painter is Pablo Picasso and my favorite photographer is Ansel Adams.  I could look at paintings by Picasso or photographs by Adams for hours on end.  When we go to the Los Angeles County of Art, I always head to the Picasso area first.  After Adams died, I went to a showing of 100 of his photographs.  He is a fine landscape photographer, but I don't think he could do portraits very well.  In my opinion, they lacked something that the rest of his photographs had.

11.  My favorite singer when I was in high school was John Denver.  I saw him in concert twice, once at the Universal Amphitheater and once at the Inglewood Forum.  The concert at the Forum was in the round and he was on a revolving stage, so he faced the entire audience at one time or another.  He put on a very good show both times.

Well, those are my random thoughts about me.  P.J. also posted 11 questions that I'm supposed to answer too, so here those are.

1.  What is your dream vacation spot and why?

One of the national parks I have not visited is Arches National Park in Utah.  I would like to go there, spend an entire day sitting near Delicate Arch and watch the light play over it, all the while taking photos.  I guess, in the long run, any place I haven't been to yet would be a dream vacation for me.  I love to travel and going somewhere new would be incredibly fun for me.

2.  Where did you come up with the name of your blog?

At the time, I was doing my 365 project, taking at least one photo every single day.  So this is another part of it - A Photo a Day.

3.  How do you define blogging success?

I think success is dependent on the blogger.  What some people would consider success, others would consider failure.  As long as I continue to write here, I consider that a success however.

4.  What is your favorite type of "going out" entertainment?

Getting outdoors and hiking with someone, or geocaching with a friend is what I enjoy the most.

5.  How many states have I lived in?

I was born in Indiana, lived there until I was 3 and a half, then my parents moved us out to California where I've lived ever since.  Interestingly, it wasn't until I was in my 20s before I stopped thinking about Indiana as "back home."  

6.  What is my favorite holiday and why?

This may sound selfish, but I like President's day.  It happens right around my birthday which usually means I get a three day weekend out of the deal.  I kind of like that.

7.  What your favorite number and why?

13  My favorite football team is the Miami Dolphins and my favorite football player is Dan Marino who wore 13 during his career.  I also like the fact that most people view 13 as unlucky.  That makes it good for me.

8.  What would be your dream vehicle to own?

Pretty much anything from the 1950s would be really cool to own.  

9.  What is your favorite hobby?

Geocaching.  Some would say it's an obsession of mine, but I enjoy participating in the silly game.  It keeps me busy and out of trouble for the most part.

10.  How do you try and keep your blog fresh?

My first blog was entitled Electronic Breadcrumbs and it was solely about geocaching.  After awhile, you can only talk about geocaching for so long before you end up repeating yourself.  I found I was doing that and started to write less and less on that blog.  That's one of the reasons I started to write this blog.  It's about anything I want it to be, which keeps it fresh.  I don't think I'd write a specialty blog again.

11.  Where do you do your best thinking?

When I'm out mowing the lawn.   Mowing the lawn is pretty mind numbing, so I think about all sorts of things while I'm mowing the lawn.  It keeps me occupied and seems to shorten the process of getting the grass cut.

Well, there you have it.  That's probably way more than you ever needed to know about me.  I'd love to hear your feedback, preferably here as opposed to on Facebook, but I'll take it either place.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Photo Blogging Challenge (November 2013): People

It's that time of the month again when P.J.'s monthly blogging challenge comes around.  This month's challenge was people.  The hardest problem I had with this theme was narrowing it down to just 5 photos.  Here's my take on the theme for this month.

1.  Grocery Shopping
As most of you know, I enjoy street photography.  That doesn't mean it comes easy to me.  It just means that I enjoy it and when I come across a good opportunity, I'll take it.  Street photography is easier when the area is busy.  The likelihood of a bad encounter lowers, I think when there's more people around, but that doesn't mean it's not with some risks.  I've never had anyone give me the evil eye, but then again, most of the time, I usually shoot from behind or the side.  Here's one I took that I included in another blog entry a couple of days ago.  I was walking from our auto mechanic's after dropping a car off to be serviced when I saw this guy riding his bicycle.  It was clear that he was coming from the grocery store based upon the several items in his basket.  Just something about him made me want to take his photo. It was a quick decision and this was one of only two shots I got of him.

2.  Shoes
At my school, I run a photo club.  We have weekly meetings where I will discuss a particular photographic technique, show them examples of what I'm trying to get across to them and then take them out on a photo walk on campus where they can practice the technique.  As of this moment I have upwards of 35 students in the club, so they are a handful at times, but it's also enjoyable to watch them experiment.  I don't have any set requirements on the type of gear they can use, so many of them are using tablets or their phones as their main camera.  In my opinion, that's fine.  The purpose of the club is to get them comfortable using their equipment, not limit it to just those who have full-fledged DSLR cameras.  While out on a photo walk a couple of weeks ago, I noticed several kids standing in a group.  Obviously, the variety of styles of their shoes is what struck me and I set this shot up.  Back in the day, we had white Converses and Black Converses, either high top or low top with white shoelaces, and that was it.  I like the new colors.

3.  Family
Since this post comes one day after Thanksgiving, this entry wouldn't be complete without a photo of some members of my family.  Veteran's Day weekend, I drove up to the Bay Area to visit with my daughter.  My older son came along as well.  I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that my daughter is a Northern California resident from now on.  She has a job teaching fourth grade in Milpitas, California and I don't see her jumping ship to find a job closer to home down here.  My son graduated this past June from college and has been looking for work over most of the summer.  He has found employment just this week with a firm located in Whittier, CA, close to home, but still a bit of a commute.  If this pans out into a long term type of employment, I can see where sometime in the future he'll move out into his own place, probably closer to his employment.  My youngest son is soon to be attending college and getting his life choices in order.  The nest is slowly emptying out.  I took this photo of the two older ones while we were walking toward an amazing sandwich shop in Santa Clara.  The visit up there that weekend was all too short, but she will be coming down here for Christmas, so I'll see her again shortly.

4.  Cool
As noted above, I enjoy street photography.  I kind of wish I'd actually stopped and talked with this guy as I really liked his style and I think he would have made a nice addition to my 100 Stranger project.  It seems like hats of this type are coming back into style again after an almost 50 hiatus away from men wearing stylish hats in public.  President John F. Kennedy is supposedly to blame for the decline in men wearing hats as it was reported that he didn't like wearing hats.  It appears as if that's just an urban legend.  However, as I read that article, I think he looks very odd wearing that top hat.  Although those photos show he wore a hat, most photos of the President show him without a hat.  The hat was just in decline for some time and it's easy to blame a young man with immense power for its demise.  President Eisenhower, Kennedy's predecessor very rarely wore hats during his administration.   Either way, it's kind of nice to see hats making a comeback.  Where it used to be difficult to find a hat outside of specialty millinery stores, now it's common to find them in everyday stores such as Target.  I found this guy soaking up some rays in front of a restaurant earlier this week.  I later saw him after he'd taken off his jacket.  He didn't look as cool then.  The combination of hat and jacket made the shot.

5.  Farmer's Market
I drove into Pasadena on Tuesday to do some geocaching and to also go on a photo walk with a friend of mine.  We walked around Pasadena's City Hall and several other places.  Around the corner from her house was this small farmer's market lined up on the sidewalk.  It wasn't a very large farmer's market, but it did have a lot of photo ops and we spent close to a half an hour then taking shots.  I'd taken a shot similar to this one looking over some onions and potatoes, but it was all an endless line of browns leading off into the distance, so after walking down the entire length of the market, we walked back and I spotted this shot that had a little more color in it.

And that pretty much wraps up another month of the photo blogging challenge.  Once again, here's a link to P.J.'s page where, if you scroll down to the bottom, you'll see a list of all the other bloggers who are participating in this month's challenge.  Check them out as there's a lot of really nice shots in there.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Yesterday's post originally was entitled Thanksgiving.  I changed it after I started writing, so since today is the actual day this year, I'll be posting some of my thoughts on what I'm thankful for.  You may not agree with all of them, but that's your right.

This will not be a post about being thankful for friends, family, etc.  I'm always thankful for them.  I want to show some thanks for other things that I think many of us take for granted.  And while it's true, we may take our family for granted, I hope that I don't.

First off, I am going to say I'm thankful for our health care we have here.  My dad was an "orphan" by the time he was 27, my mom was "orphaned" before she turned 40. Both of my parents are still alive as is my father-in-law.  Without advances in medicine that we've had in the last 50 years, it's very likely that they might not be around to enjoy their grandchildren.  While it weirds me out a little to realize that I'm now the father of three adult children, my parents have seven adult grandchildren.  I don't believe my dad's parents even got to enjoy one adult grandchild.

I'm thankful that I can get up in the middle of the night and get a drink of water if I want.  Nearly one billion (yes, you read that right, billion with a B) people don't have access to safe water on a regular basis.  According to water.org website, 3.4 million people die each year from a water related illness.  The majority of those illnesses are caused by fecal material (still hungry for that turkey dinner?).  More people have a cell phone than have safe water to drink.  Those are some sobering statistics.

I'm also thankful that I live in a country that allows me to worship, or not worship as I please.  Can you imagine living in a country where you could only worship via one religion?  What if you didn't agree with that religious philosophy?  Think about that the next time you kneel down to pray.  Our country might not be perfect in many ways, but it's a lot better than many other areas out there.

Lastly, I'm thankful that we can all share in discourse about what we think is right and wrong with our country and with the way some businesses choose to run their business, which is what I'm going to do right now.  

Over the past week, I've seen many posts on Facebook from people voicing their displeasure over certain stores opening for business today.  The business of the company is to make money for the company.  They don't make money when they're closed.  If they believe this will bring in more money for them, then more power to them.

You don't have to go.  Yes, I respect your right to voice your displeasure, however, I believe you're wrong.  If you don't like it, don't go.  When I worked as seasonal help at Disneyland back in college, I never worked on a holiday.  Why?  Not because Disneyland was closed, but because the permanent employees all wanted to work.  They got paid time and a half.  Granted some stores might not do that because they aren't unionized, but the employees might need that extra money down the road for Christmas presents.

I also find it interesting that all this complaining has been directed at stores opened on Thanksgiving Day.  How many of you watched the Macy's Thanksgiving parade?  Do you think Macy's produced that out of the goodness of their heart?  Why are there no complaints about the people holding onto the tethers of the balloons at the parade?  In fact, why is there no complaints about the NFL playing football on TV?  All those poor football players, and referees and stadium employees away from their families on Thanksgiving Day?  What a travesty.  I think we should boycott that too.

Tongue in cheek aside, I hope all of my readers have a happy Thanksgiving, no matter how you choose to celebrate it.  As for me, my plan is to watch the Lions win on Thanksgiving for the first time since 2003, then drive with my wife and boys to my sister's house to gather around the table with the family that's here in Southern California.  My thoughts will be with family members (especially my daughter who will be celebrating with her boyfriend and family in San Mateo) who weren't able to make it down.  I know we shall be seeing them at Christmas.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

When worlds collide

While geocaching in Pasadena yesterday, I got to the corner of Orange Grove and Colorado Blvds.  This is the big turn at the beginning of the Rose Parade where all the TV cameras are set up to give us the best view of the Rose Parade.

The grandstands are almost completely set up now in preparation for New Year's Day only 36 days away.  Lots of money gets spent every year.  Several streets yesterday were closed down as one company that builds floats was transferring those floats from where ever they were built to where ever they will be decorated.

And yet as we see all this money being spent on one parade, just across the street I was reminded that many people in this country are still wanting for basic necessities.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Have you ever had one of those days where you knew you'd forgotten something, yet couldn't quite put your finger on what you'd forgotten?  Yep, that was me today.

A couple of months ago, we made the decision to change our ISP as it was just running way to slow for our purposes.  We ended up getting cable for our internet and along with dumping our old internet provider, we also dumped our landline as well.

I went slowly at first, mainly because I was concerned about making sure all of the places where I use my email address had been changed to a new one.  I figured that as soon as I'd get an email from someplace, I'd head to that site and change the email address to the new one.  That worked out quite well and we eventually made the switch and I just forgot about it.

Fast forward to today.  I've been posting blog entries for the past couple of months, granted, not too many of them, but enough that I figured I should have gotten some comments, yet I wasn't getting any notifications about comments on any of my posts.  How strange.  It finally dawned on me today, so I went in and checked the settings for this blog and sure enough, the email for notifications was still set at my old address.  Ooops.  

Needless to say, I had about 20 comments on my past entries that needed to be published.  All those people are now probably thinking I'm a jerk, since I hadn't responded, nor even published their comments to my blog.  Well, they've been published now and I made sure I posted a reply back to each one of them.  I apologize for any inconvenience.  Sometimes, it just feels like I'm spiraling down into oblivion, much like the photo above.

Thanks for coming by and yes, please feel free to comment here.  I'll get the comment notification from now on.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Photo Blogging Challenge (October 2013): Fall

Well, I guess I'm getting a little better this month as this represents my fourth post of the month.  Double last month's posts, so I'll just have to give myself a pat on the back for that and hope that I can do better next month.

This month, PJ proposed the monthly challenge of Fall, so here are my entries for the theme, all taken in October.

1.  Fall Flowers

My neighbor down the street has an incredible front yard garden.  He grows all sorts of seasonal fruits and vegetables throughout the year.  Every year around this time, these flowers show up, so I call them Fall Flowers.  I have no idea what kind of flowers they are and every time I'm near his house, he's never out so I can ask him what kind these are.  I've been fortunate enough to photograph these a number of years in a row.  Last year, I got a shot that reminded me of something out of Alice in Wonderland.  This shot actually reminds me a little bit of it as well.

2.   Lucy

Lucy, or the lack of Lucky is a harbinger of fall.  I've featured Lucy before in this blog as well in photos, but this one definitely represents fall.  Lucy is a California Desert Tortoise, one that I've had a permit for ever since I got her over 10 years ago.  I can't release her back into the wild, mainly because tortoises that are in the wild tend to have respiratory ailments that they could pass on to the wild species.  

Lucy lives in our back yard and usually is out in the early spring, summertime and early fall, but right around this time she disappears into her burrow for good and we'll not see her again until sometime next March when it warms up for good.  I saw her a couple of day after I took this shot, but I'm pretty sure she's underground for good, hibernating until spring comes.

3.  The lone leaf

The next two shots are a couple that probably represent a traditional fall shot.  I found this leaf lying on these parkway rocks and like the way it looked, with the contrast of mostly grey rocks and bright yellow color of the leaf.

For the most part, our fall actually lasts a long time in Southern California.  We don't really get that cold, cold snap of air that most trees need to drop their leaves.  I have deciduous trees in my side yard and are still quite green and will be green for several more weeks. 

While we wait for some brief moments of color, further north, the leaves have all dropped and snow is starting to fall.  This leaf just tells us that it's getting a little cooler here.

4.  The first storm

Here's another traditional "fall" type shot of colored leaves.  I did not take this particularly for the leaves, but more for the storm that passed through earlier this week.  The nice thing about fall here is we can have just about any kind of temperatures during the week and it will all seem perfectly normal.  Earlier this week, when this storm went through, the high was a very crisp 56 degrees.  I can all hear the snorts of derision over that, especially for those who live in northern climes.  

Anyway, this storm that moved through our area, dropped temperatures significantly, as it had been in the 80s the week before.  It dropped some much needed rain and we had a light dusting of snow on the mountains at the higher elevations.  This is what our weather is like in the fall.  Mild, with an occasional cold front storm that will move through the area.

5.  Family Fall Festival

Last night, our school held its annual Family Fall Festival.  This year, the various clubs on campus were also invited to participate.  I advise the Photo Club on our campus, so we had a table set up where we could give information out to parents and students who were possibly interested in our club.  There was a gaming truck out in the front of the school.  Food and popcorn was being sold.

This year, the theme was at the movies and each club decided to represent a different movie.  Members from various clubs dressed up as characters from Grease, Despicable Me, Sandlot, and others.  The photo club took this theme a different way and decided they wanted to be paparazzi at a movie premiere.  One of my students took over 140 shots on her camera and I counted at least 7 or 8 other students all with their cameras having a good time being paparazzi. 

Many costumes were seen last night and I particularly liked these outfits worn by a couple of students.  The Cat in the Hat would have been so proud.

Well, there's my entries for this month.  Please head on over to PJ's blog to see other blogger's interpretations of fall.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

They're Baaaaacck!

One of the curiosities of living in Southern California is the climate is nice enough that many non-native species can call it home.  This might not be good for native species but in this case, it appears as if these Red Crowned Parrots have found a niche in our ecosystem without disturbing the native species.

These parrots, or more likely, their descendants have escaped from private hands over the years.  No one really seems to be sure when they first appeared in the Southern California area, but they've been here for at least 50 years. Based upon several websites I looked up while writing this, there appears to be several flocks.  I think that these probably came from Pasadena, about 20 minutes to the west of here.  They've been here a couple of times in the past and I'm sure they'll reappear sometime in the future.  As far as I'm concerned, I hope they don't permanently roost here.  They're very noisy.

Sadly, because of the caged bird industry, these birds are endangered in their native areas of northeast Mexico. Ironically, these birds, the product of the caged bird industry, are actually helping keep the genetic diversity of the species.  And because we, as humans, have imported so many non-native plant species where ever we go, these birds are also not competing with native species for fruit and nuts, so they not called an invasive species.  

How many birds can you see in this photo?  There were upwards of 40 birds in this flock that flew over our house late Friday afternoon.

The Concrete Jungle
The California Parrot Project
10,000 Birds
The Wild Parrots in Whittier, California

Friday, October 4, 2013

Flashback Friday

Look Ma!  I don't have grey hair!  This photo was taken in July 2000, the last time we camped as a family in Yosemite National Park.  We'd taken a day to drive along the Glacier Point road, stopping at the parking for Sentinel Dome and made the hike up to the top of the dome.

After hiking back, we drove over to Glacier Point, took in the scenery, looked down on the Merced River as it crashed over Nevada and Vernal Falls.  We looked across the valley to Yosemite Falls, booming with early season runoff.  Obviously, we took photos and enlisted the help of another tourist to get a shot of all four of us.

I thought this shot would be appropriate for Flashback Friday, especially since very few if anyone can enjoy this vista right now.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Photo Blogging Challenge (September 2013): Outdoors

When I saw this challenge show up at the beginning of the month, I really didn't give it much thought.  I haven't participated in a couple of months of the blogger's challenge and I actually feel quite badly about that.  I made a commitment to the group that I would participate and I feel like I've dropped the ball, so here's my five entries for this month's challenge of Outdoors.

1.  Veteran's Memorial

I found this Veteran's Memorial maintained by the city of Burbank on Labor Day while out geocaching.  Once again, this silly game takes me to a very memorable spot.  In fact, four of the five shots taken for this month's theme were taken while I was out geocaching, either by myself or with a friend.

Memorials were set in stone around this eternal flame obelisk for the various wars in which the United States has participated.  Plaques honoring Bob Hope, as well as the different branches of service were there, including the Coast Guard.

My friend and I were on a mission on Labor Day to find at least 10 multi-caches in one day as part of a geocaching challenge that's been set up in my area.  The challenge is to find at least 10 of a particular type of cache in a day.  However, there are seven different types of caches (icons) you have to find before you can claim the challenge cache.  I already have a day with at least 10 Unknown finds and also another day with at least 10 traditional finds, so this day was dedicated to Multi-cache finds.  Believe me when I say it's harder than it appears.  We had 17 multi-cache finds that we attempted and we got exactly 10 that day and spent most of the day doing it.

2.  Fire fighting 101

Usually, when people think about forest fires, or brush fires, they think disaster.  In most cases they're correct, but only because we have had about a century and a half of fire suppression that has resulted in areas that are supposed to be open, now densely foliated and ripe for huge fires like we've seen burn across the western United States over the past couple of years.  Only in recent decades have we learned the benefits that smaller fires have on the ecology of any region.  Giant Sequoias have those burn marks on their bark for a reason.

Several weeks ago, a small fire started about 2 miles west of my house in the Claremont  College's Robert J. Bernard Field Station.  Local fire fighters, including this water dropping plane, one other just like it and several helicopters quickly were able to get the fire under control and the fire only burned 17 acres of the 86 acres of what is mostly coastal sage scrub, a plant ecosystem that is becoming increasingly rare due to suburban expansion in Los Angeles County.  The Claremont Colleges are excited about observing how the area regenerates itself over the coming months and years.

3.  Zen

Another geocaching trip yielded this shot of a large cement Buddha.  I had been out geocaching in the local area and I found myself close to this virtual cache called Bronze Carriages.  The answers I needed took me inside the Hsi Lai Buddhist temple, one of the largest Buddhist temples in the area.  

Once I got the needed information for the geocache, I wandered around the gardens.  They are immaculate and very calming to the soul.  There were several signs as I entered the temple forbidding photography, so I honored the request and kept my camera shuttered.  This photo was taken outside the grounds in the parking lot where photography is allowed.  It's really too bad they don't allow photography as I think the place would be a Mecca for some photographers.  Still, it was nice just to enjoy the scenery without having to worry about "getting the shot."

I decided to process this in monotone because I think it brought out more of the texture of the figure than did color.  I was able to up the contrast quite a bit which really helped accent it.  The only think different I would do with this shot would be to PhotoShop out the chain in the lower part of the photo.

4.  Lemon Creek Egret

On the same day as I visited the Buddhist temple, I also found myself in a small park hunting for a geocache.  As I walked along the trail next to this small creek, I spotted this four foot tall egret wading in the waters.  I think it was casually waiting for small fish to swim by.  I missed several attempts it made, but got several nice shots, including this one just after water had dripped off its bill and created splash rings in the water.

My wife and I visited Yellowstone National Park on our honeymoon and something a ranger said at one of their ranger talks has always stuck with me.  He said, "If you cause an animal to move, you're too close."  That's good advice to heed, especially in that neck of the woods since getting too close to a bison, elk, moose, or grizzly bear could be fatal.

This encounter didn't endanger my health at all, but I got to experience that proximity rule.  The egret was perfectly happy to be wading along with me on the bank at a certain distance.  But at some point, I crossed that invisible barrier and the egret then quickly moved away from me to get me out of its proximity circle.  We were almost playing a little game of cat and mouse as I was trying to see how close I could get before it would move.  Invariably, it always seemed to be the same distance before it would move away.  I guess what this really tells me is I need a longer lens for these kinds of shots.  I can get closer with the lens yet still let the animal enjoy its solitude.

5.  Spruce Needles

Finally, here's a shot I don't normally take.  This past weekend, I went out hiking in the Deukmejian Wilderness Park with a caching buddy of mine.  This would be the first hike I'd been on since May because of the heat buildup from summer.  It's not fun to hike in extreme temperatures, so the fall, winter, and spring are really good times out here to enjoy good hikes.

Neither of us had been to this park before, so it was going to be a new experience for both of us.  The city of Glendale, CA has developed several trails in this park and placed benches in strategic spots long the trail for hikers to relax.  We enjoyed a 2.75 mile loop, found 7 caches in the park and had a great time.

But back to the photo.  As I noted above, I don't normally take photos of tree branches or needles.  However, there was something about the needles the light in the background that look intriguing so I fired off several shots, getting this one that I really liked.  I guess I just need to retrain myself to look at the smaller things and not concentrate on the pretty flowers all of the time.  There's beauty all around us, even if it's not pink or yellow and blooming.

Well, there you go.  My five photos for September's challenge of Outdoors.  Please stop by P.J.'s blog page to view other like minded individuals and their interpretations of Outdoors.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Jeffrey Pine tree

I can remember growing up and reading all about the Jeffrey Pine tree on the top of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite National Park.  The tree survived many lightning strikes during its lifetime.  In the early days, there used to be a parking lot near the base of the dome and all people had to do was to get out of their car, hike up the side of the gently sloping dome to get to the pine tree.

Sometime in the 60s, the National Park Service wised up and removed the  parking lot.  The formed a small pullout parking lot alongside the road, turning a 200 yard hike into about a mile and a half hike.  It reduced the number of visitors to the dome and probably added some years to the lifespan of the tree, but nothing could really save it from the ravages of the drought in 1978-79.  Sometime during that time period, it died.

I think I hiked to the top of the dome three times in the 60s and 70s before it died.  For whatever reason, I just fell in love with that tree and its surroundings.  I think one of the reasons I did, was because every time I went up there, the lighting was perfect.  Lots of clouds, yet blue sky poking out, the sun behind the clouds lent itself perfectly to the flat light needed to take good photos up there.  As you can see from the shot I took in the summer of 2000, the lighting wasn't the best, although the clouds were still in place.

Another reason the tree was special, was because of its tenacity for survival.  Jeffrey pine trees in a forest environment, usually will tower over 100 feet tall, but this one was about 15 feet at the most, stunted because of high winds and its exposure on the top of an 8000 foot dome.  I don't believe the park service even knows how many times it was hit by lightning over the course of its lifetime.  It had a very hard life, yet it endured.  That made the tree special, in my opinion.

In the summer of 1975 I took one of the best shots I've ever taken of that tree.  Later in the year, I processed the photo into a black and white image and used it as part of my final project for my photography class that I took in high school.  I got an A on the assignment and the instructor really loved what I had done with that one shot. I've framed the tree in a vintage frame and it hangs on the wall in my bedroom.  I love to wake up in the morning and look at the shot.  It's like looking at photo of an old friend when they were in their prime of live.

After I found out the tree had died, I avoided going up there.  In my heart, I knew it was dead, but I didn't want to see it, but in the summer of 2000, with my three kids in tow, we hiked out to Sentinel Dome and said goodbye to an old friend.  I've since read that a couple of years ago, the tree finally fell.  It was not much of a fall, being only 15 feet tall or so, but it was the final thing it did so many years after its death.  Once I get back to Yosemite again, I will make another pilgrimage up to the dome to pay my respects to a friend long since gone.  The view will be different, because the tree will be gone, but I will still take in the view and revel in the day.  It doesn't get much better that standing on the top of a dome in Yosemite National Park.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

National Park Signs

I have lots of these kinds of photos.  Mainly because it was also a tradition in our family growing up that we'd gather around the entrance sign of a national park or monument while we were camping and my dad would either take a shot or get someone to take a shot of the entire family.  The shots served as place markers on the roll of film as to what was coming up next on our trip. 

Obviously, I took this shot at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  This was back when the two older children were being homeschooled by their mother.  Whenever I had a break, they had a break, so during my Spring Break, we could go camping.  Once they went back to school when my wife went back to teaching, the spring camping trips ended because our breaks never coincided after that.

I always enjoyed the spring break camping trips.  We didn't have really hot weather, even though we did a lot of desert camping.  They usually were shorter in duration, but we still had a lot of fun.  I can remember we cut this particular trip short by a day because we ran out of things to do.  

Besides continuing my dad's tradition with the park signs, I also started our own tradition of taking a shot of our campsites where ever we went.  I even went so far as to create a webpage called "The Tent Page."  Somehow that ran out of steam, but I still take photos of all of our campsites.  I should pull those photos out, scan them and repost some of them too.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Flashback Friday

I went looking for photos today for a Flashback and the box I picked up happened to be from the year 2000.  I found this shot in here of my children, ages 8, 4 and 11 respectively. I decided to post this one today mainly because of the fires burning to the north of this location.  I'm also posting it because I've not had many harrowing moments in my life, but minutes before this photo was taken, I had one of those moments that scares the living crap out of you.

We camped in Yosemite National Park that summer for a week.  We walked along the trails, took a drive up to Glacier Point and hiked to the top of Sentinel Dome.  We also drove out to the Mariposa Grove and toured the giant Sequoias there plus the living history museum.  

On one of the days, we decided to be extra adventurous and hike to the top of Vernal Fall along the Mist Trail.  I'm sure if my wife had known about this she would have smacked me silly, but she wasn't there, so I figured that the kids needed to experience this hike.  For those of you unaware, the Mist Trail climbs a ridge alongside Vernal Fall, then follows a stair step path in the rocks right up to the brink of the falls.  As you can see from the photo, they are standing on the edge of the precipice.  You can also see both of the older ones have a firm grip on the four year old's hands.

The youngest walked with me and held onto my hand the entire time up the trail as well as up the stair steps.  Just as we crested the last stair step was when he decided to break free of me so he could see the waterfall.  Yeah, my life passed before my eyes as I scrambled to catch him.  I knew there were railings at the top, but I was unaware of the extra mesh on the bottommost part of the railings.  I could just see him slipping and going over.  Fortunately, he stopped before he got there, since I was yelling at him at the time and he listened.  He's smart that way.

The two boys have not been back to Yosemite since.  My daughter and I went back for a day trip on a visit I took up north when she was in college.  It wasn't long enough.  This upcoming summer, I hope to score camping reservations for the park.  It's been far too long since we've been to this jewel of our national parks.  And you've seen the second photo before, but it was taken after the hike was over.  3 mile round trip up 1000 feet and then back down 1000 feet will take a toll on anyone.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Flashback Friday

Every year I tried to take the kids somewhere different.  In the early years, we did a spring trip, usually to some desert location.  Then in the summer, it would be a longer trip, likely a week long up in the mountains somewhere like Sequoia National Park or possibly Yosemite.  This was my youngest son's first camping trip, so this was a short trip up to the local mountains near Lake Arrowhead.

The youngest was 3 days short of his third birthday in this shot.  The middle guy had just turned 7 and the oldest was 9.  A lot has changed in fifteen years.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Happy birthday son

He came into world at 1 AM, straight up.  Were it not for daylight savings, he would have been born at midnight, one of those kids where you're really not sure what day he was actually born on, but because of daylight savings, we celebrate his birthday today, August 12th.

Of my three children, he was the only one who was smart enough, I guess, to keep his hands down at his side when he was born.  Consequently, he was born quickly - very quickly.  I know I've told this story many times before, but I can still remember the nurse springing up from her chair, running to the door of the delivery room and screaming at the top of her lungs, "SOMEBODY BETTER FIND DR. LEE, OR HE'S GOING TO MISS THIS ONE!!!"  Dr. Lee came in and caught our Andy about a minute later.

The second thing that really struck me about my first born son was how alert he was.  He just wanted to look around the room from the getgo.  It was almost like he was thinking, "Whoa, this is a whole heck of a lot different than what I've been looking at for the last 9 months."

I've always been interested in when people were born and who famous was born on such and such a day.  On this date in history, one of the first five men to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Christy Mathewson was born.  Other famous people sharing this date include, football player Plaxico Burress, tennis pro Pete Sampras, Jane Wyatt from the sitcom "Father Knows Best," the famous movie director Cecil B. DeMille, and Erwin Schrodinger the Austrian physicist who used a cat in a box to explain quantum mechanics.  

Still, the most important person born today is my son, Andy.  I've watched him grow up, spread his wings to explore the world beyond us.  He is everything I could want in a son and I wish him all the best on his day.  Happy birthday son.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Taking a second look

I'm not sure if I'd call this a slow down period on my photography or not.  I know I haven't picked up my camera since last Saturday, but I know I'll pick it up again this Saturday.  I'm definitely not taking photos at the 365 pace that I did over the last two years.

As far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing.  It's allowed me to look back on some of the images I've taken in the past.  I found several images in old folders that I'd dismissed previously for various reasons.  This photo of Yosemite Valley, taken in the fall of 2008 is a perfect example.  With the cloud layer above the valley obscuring Half Dome in the distance and part of El Capit├ín on the left, I felt this image was pretty flat and so never have published it before this week.

I went back and looked at it again and thought about what it might look like with some monotone processing, what we used to call black and white.  Black and white is really a misnomer since there are so many varied shades in a monotone shot that it's not just black and or white but varying degrees of shades.  I actually really like this shot a lot now, much more so than the color version, which I assure you, will not see the light of day.

The other shot I worked on this week was this shot I took in July 2007 of the Grand Canyon.  Photographically, I think the canyon looks so much better with clouds overhead and we had perfect conditions for photographs the four days we were there.  Monsoon season was upon us and we had thunderstorms and rain every day of this particular campout.  Not very fun for camping, but great for photos.

This particular image was very flat in appearance, mainly because I'd overexposed the sky quite a bit.  I bumped the contrast up quite a bit on the image which brought out some of the subtler clouds in the sky and some of the color in the rock layers.  Adding some saturation to the shot helped bring out the colors more and I was able to have a more pleasing image that what I had previously.  I have another shot of the canyon that I'm probably going to work on later this week.  I might even do a "before" and "after" shot to show you the difference between the two.  Until then, please enjoy these images.