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.