Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Photo Blogging Challenge (Dec. 2014): ‘Tis the Season

This is the last day of the year and it's time once again for P.J.'s Photo Blogging challenge.  This month, the theme was 'Tis the Season, and I've approached it, at least in my mind, from a traditional and non-traditional viewpoint.  Some photos will make perfect sense with the theme, while others will need some explanation.  But you already know I'm going to explain all of them anyway, so here goes.

1 and 2.  The Evolution of our family Christmas trees
Christmas day, the family gathered at my sister's house to celebrate the day.  Lots of good food was had by all and by the time the last of us had eaten the last portions of cheesecake that my other sister had made, most of us could probably have just rolled down the hill back to our own homes.

My sister's Christmas tree is the only tree in the family, that I'm aware of that has just white lights.  I believe that all the rest of us have colored lights on our trees.  Growing up, for the first ten years or so, our family tree at home was all blue.  Blue ornaments, blue lights - everything was blue on the tree.  Christmas of 1971 or 72, we went back to Indiana to have a "White Christmas."  While we were back there, my last surviving grandparent passed away.  He had been suffering from what we would call today Alzheimers disease, so it was not totally unexpected.

We ended up staying a couple of extra days because of the funeral and other family obligations that come along with an event such as this.  One of the things that ended up coming home with us were a lot of really old Christmas ornaments from my grandparent's estate.  The next year, we used those ornaments on the tree and over the next 10 years or so collected, purchased, etc., other ornaments so the tree was no longer a blue tree.  We got new light strings with multi-colored lights to add to the non-blue theme.  Some ornaments were even made.

As each of us eventually moved out of the house, the ornaments that had been given to us as children were taken and subsequently added to our own Christmas trees in our new places.  My daughter has taken her ornaments that have been given to her and she now has them displayed on her tree in her place.  My middle son didn't have a tree this year and isn't totally settled yet, so his, plus my youngest son's ornaments still adorn our tree every year.  In the near future, I'm sure this will change.

Both my older sister and I have a strong affiliation for things Disney, so it was no surprise to see several Disney ornaments on her tree.  This one of Dopey Dwarf climbing the staircase heading up to see who was up in the Dwarve's bedroom struck my fancy.  To took several shots, because the shutter speed was very slow, one thirteenth of a second, which is usually too slow for hand held shots.  I'm very pleased that this one is in pretty fine focus.  

3.  Games
Every time I blog this particular post, I look forward to the next month's theme.  This is one of the few times I'm disappointed I can't use this photo for next month's theme as the theme for next month is Games.

In our house, the kids tend to generate the games and it was no exception this year as several games were pulled off the shelves and others were given as gifts this year.  Growing up, I enjoyed playing games although sometimes found few takers.  I can't imagine my competitiveness had anything to do with that. <smirk>

The day after Christmas, the kids gathered around to play games.  My middle son's girlfriend is an artist and began sketching us as we played Settlers of Cataan.  My youngest son is on the right and he's not complete obviously, but the rest of us, moving counterclockwise from the upper right, my son, my daughter, myself and my future son-in-law are all there.  She did an excellent job capturing the character of each one of us in this drawing.  If you look closely, you can also see that each of us are labeled and identified.

4.  Trip to the Lake
My father-in-law lives up in Lake Arrowhead and for the past several years, we make a trip up there over the holidays to visit with him.  This year, he went all out for us to enjoy our short stay up there.  Blintzes, tamales, the chocolate cake that was to die for were just some of the treats he had for us.

Usually, we'll go down to the lake to feed the ducks and this year was no exception to that.  It's no wonder the ducks and geese are fat and happy up there as there were all sorts of people doing the same thing.

The shot is of my middle son on the left and my future son-in-law.  I had a couple of different shots of the two of them, plus one of them with my daughter, but this one turned out the best of the set that I took while we were down there.

Both men get along very well with each other, which is a very good thing.  We are all looking forward to July when Brian and my daughter Kathryn tie the knot.  He is very good to her and he is a very welcome addition to our family.

5.  The Granddaddy of them all
Finally, what seasonal blog would be complete without something dealing with the new year, which is literally right around the corner now.  In some cases, it's already here and you might even be reading this in 2015.

Growing up in Southern California meant watching the Rose Parade and watching the Rose Bowl on television.  I actually attended two Rose Bowls in the late 70s, courtesy of my good friend who was attending U.S.C. at the time.  U.S.C. was a powerhouse in football back then and they usually contended for the Rose Bowl every year back then.

Every year, we'd get the Pac 10 vs. the Big 10.  Since we were from northern Indiana, our allegiances were more toward the Big 10, especially since my father attended Notre Dame.  We wouldn't root for U.S.C.  We would very often root for west coast teams in other years when U.S.C. wasn't there however.

Now with the old BCS and the new playoff system in place today, college football doesn't always have the traditional rivalries we came to expect in certain bowl games.  This year, the Rose Bowl (which is the 101st edition) is giving us Oregon vs Florida St. in one semi-final game.  The Sugar Bowl in New Orleans is giving us Alabama vs Ohio St later in the evening on the 1st.  

Given that I've always enjoyed the traditional match ups for bowl games, it should come as no surprise that I'm rooting for Ohio St. and Oregon to prevail and meet in the championship game.  And yes, I will be rooting for the Ducks in the championship game as well.  I took this shot just after Christmas when we went on a hike up the Arroyo Seco, which is where the Rose Bowl is located.  Walking back down to our car, we also found a geocache.  So what else is new?

And there you have it.  This was my interpretation of the theme 'Tis the Season.  I hope you have enjoyed these shots.  Please stop by P.J.'s blog to see his interpretation and look below on that page for the other links to others who have participated this month.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

I should have gone earlier in the day

But I just felt like sleeping in a little bit, so after that, I decided that I wanted my morning cup of coffee and then there was breakfast and I never got around to my morning bike ride until 9:43 in the morning.  And that made all the difference in the world as there were too many people on my chosen route of the Thompson Creek Trail this morning.

To the couple walking their dog.  Do you have to take up the entire trail?  That's why there's a center stripe in the trail to indicate the two lanes of the trail.  Then, when you hear me say "on your left," instead of moving your dog over so I can pass safely, you turn around and give me a look as if to say, "Who the heck are you?"  Only when I come to a full stop do you then move your dog out of the way.

To the woman who was walking on the right hand side coming toward me.  Was it necessary to cross over on to my side to continue your walk?  At this point, I have no idea what you're going to do since you're not looking ahead at all, but looking at your feet, so I have no choice but to slow down to an almost dead stop until I know I can pass you without having you veer suddenly into my lane.

To the the numerous people who don't clean up after their dogs.  Seriously?  The city puts dooty bags along the trail.  You couldn't grab one on the beginning of your walk so you clean up after your dog?  Don't tell me it's coyote scat.  I know what coyote scat looks like and that's no coyote scat.  And, you didn't even bother to at least have your dog crap on the side of the trail instead of right in the middle of it.

To the guy standing at the side of the trail.  This is the third time I've passed you in the past month while you were standing there shooting the breeze with your friends and your dog was on leash.  This is also the third time your dog has lunged at me as I've ridden by and the third time you've looked surprised that that has happened.  I call BS on that look.  If your dog lunged at me, then we all know it lunges at other bike riders.  Keep a better rein on your dog.

Rant over.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Monday, December 8, 2014

John Muir Camping trip - Part 2

Last month, I told a little bit about our camping trip up to the eastern Sierra to help my friend get started on the John Muir Trail.  We'd spent the first day geocaching, getting his truck up to Whitney Portal and then finding a spot to camp for the night.  

The next morning, we got up, broke camp and then headed over to the general store at Reds Meadows where my friend Craig was planning on leaving a cache of food at the general store.  We decided to have breakfast there, then drove out to Mammoth to find a couple of caches, including a couple that were above 9000 feet in elevation for a challenge cache I'm trying to complete.

After that we headed north and decided to visit Bodie, CA.  Bodie is a state park that preserves the ghost town of Bodie in a state of "arrested" decay.  That is to say, they are keeping the place in the state it's in and not letting it get any worse for wear.

Bodie is in a pretty rugged, remote area where the only access is along a long dirt/gravel road that could jar the fillings right out of your teeth if you drove too fast on the road.  Scenery is awesome and we had the perfect weather for the day with a lot of rain clouds all about us.  We were getting sprinkled on from time to time, but that didn't diminish our spirits at all.  I went shutter snapping happy with the clouds that we had that day and got some tremendous shots.

One of the first places we explored when we got there was the cemetery.  Now I can just imagine the thoughts of some of my readers, "Why would you want to explore a cemetery?"  In actuality, old cemeteries are really quite interesting.  You can walk amongst the graves and see the history of the town unfolding right there.  You can speculate as to what happened to some families.  Was it a disease that killed the wife and daughter, or did it happen during childbirth?  Either way, I've always found old cemeteries fascinating and if I have the chance, will usually take some time to explore.  I think part of that is going to be lost for future generations as more and more people opt for cremation and have their ashes spread somewhere.  The gravestone at least is a marker and memory of someone once they passed into the great unknown.  Will we have that available to us in the future?

To be continued....

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sharpshooters are back!

Almost 2 years ago, in February 2013, I was asked to join the Sharpshooters International Photography Club.  In March of that same year, I became a contributing member of the group and each week on Wednesday, the group would post a series of photos.  Photographers in the group represented 6 of the 7 different continents and there was always a wide variety of shots.

I was a contributing member for about a half a year or so until the group took an unexpected hiatus.  Last week, the Sharpshooters returned and it's almost like it was never gone.  The quality of the work, in my opinion, is astounding.  This week's photo stream has some amazing images representing Africa, Australia, Europe and North America.  I'm very pleased to be part of this group and hope you will enjoy the images the group shares each week.

Please stop by this week's photo stream and have a look.  Also, if you could stop by the main Facebook page for the group and like us, we'd greatly appreciate it.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

PBC (November 2014): Where the streets have no name

It's hard to believe it's the end of another month and so it's once again time for P.J.'s Photo Blogging challenge.  This month's theme was "Where the streets have no name."  I thought about this for a long time... well, not really that long since I live less than an hour away from an area that is huge, desolate and most of the streets have no names - the Mojave desert.

So, without further ado, here's my thoughts and photos on the theme, "Where the streets have no name."

1.  Sandy, dirt road

The weekends in November are usually dedicated to geocaching for me, mainly because the weather is perfect, not to hot, not really cold yet and there's an endless supply of geocaches to be found, especially out in the desert.

This particular road was one of many I've traveled on this month that has no name associated with it, although it might have a number designated.  I took this shot right after we'd parked my van at the side of the road.  The road was getting more and more sandy and the conditions were such that if we'd taken the van much farther in, we probably would have gotten stuck in this sand.  Eventually, this road petered out entirely and turned into a river wash, so it was a very good decision on our part to hike to the last 6 caches that were out here on this "road."

2.  Coyote skull

Part of the allure of the desert is that critters of any kind are rather hard to come by.  However, this month while geocaching, I've seen coyote skulls and tortoise shells sans tortoises unfortunately.  I've seen numerous tortoise burrows, startled jackrabbits out of their burrows while hiking through the desert and have stumbled across snakes and spiders of various sizes.

This particular skull was nicely intact and cleaned of anything that other animals might find of interest, so it was just bleaching out in the sunshine as we walked by.  It's not uncommon to come across bones - the desert is a fairly harsh place - but this is probably the first time I've seen a coyote skull out there.  I know they exist out in the desert as I've seen live ones from time to time.

3.  Tarantula

The day before Thanksgiving, my friend Craig and I decided to hike a series of geocaches out in the desert east of HWY 385, north of Victorville called the Peace Symbol. The caches are laid out to look like the cartoon hand in a V symbol for peace.  If you click on the link, you'll see what I mean.

While out there, we passed several dirt roads, but had decided from the beginning that we were going to hike the entire way.  We'd gotten the upper portion about 10 days before that, so it wasn't like we were going to be doing the entire thing all in one day.  It took us from 8:24 in the morning, until 4:30 in the afternoon, but we hiked 14.25 miles and found 79 geocaches on the day, definitely a highlight for me hiking as I've never hiked that far or for that many geocaches all in one day.

On the way, we spotted a small gopher snake sunning itself.  We took several photos of that little guy and then moved on and then as we were nearing another cache on the eastern side of the Peace symbol, I spotted this tarantula just walking along.  Interestingly, it halted once we got about five feet away it and it seemed perfectly content just to stay there motionless while we took photos.  Because of the length of the hike that day, I didn't bring my regular camera along.  This particular shot was taken with my iPhone 5s.  I'm impressed with the quality.

4.  Desert storm

This particular shot was taken on November 1st well before I'd even seen the theme for this month, but I feel it tells the story of the theme nicely.  I was hiking, solo this time, north of Palm Springs, California near the town of Desert Hot Springs.  It was very windy, as it is most of the time in the area.  The mountain passes are liberally sprinkled with windmills that generate electricity.  

In Southern California, we have two deserts, the high desert and the low desert.  This area is in the low desert.  Sparser vegetation is usually the key, but it also has to do with elevation.  Once you start seeing Joshua Trees (see the first shot above), you're probably in the high desert.

Palm Springs is in the low desert and gets less rainfall than the high desert does, which is one of the reasons there is less vegetation.  Not on this day however as that storm more quickly through the area and dropped rain hard and fast.  Out hiking, the best I could do was put my camera under my sweatshirt and move as quickly as I could from cache to cache.  I couldn't stay dry, because the wind was blowing hard enough that the raindrops were pretty much moving horizontally.  Once I got back to my car, which was parked alongside a nameless dirt road, the westward side was totally wet and clean, while the east facing side of the van was dry as a bone.

5.  A circular road

Most people recognize the circular nature of the seasons.  I look at it as a road we travel through life. Each one's road is slightly different depending upon their perspective.  Here in Southern California, one of the hottest months of the year is September and that heat, sometimes triple digits, can persist into October.  We've been having 80 degree weather this entire Thanksgiving week.  

No, I'm not trying to rub it in, just pointing out the differences in our roads.  Back east, fall starts the leaves turning sometimes as early as late August.  Out here, our leaves have started to turn, but will continue to turn throughout much of December and January.  I have a deciduous tree in my back yard that for the last couple of years has not shed its leaves.  Go figure that one out.

I actually thought about using this shot while I was on my morning bike ride and heard a song entitled "Roads" by Chris Mann.

There are roads in this life that we all travel
There are scars and there are battles where we roam
When we are lost or wherever we may go
They will always lead you home

There are roads that have led me to another
To a friend or to a lover I have known
For every turn is a year that I have grown
As I walk along these roads

And so ends another entry in the photo blogging theme, "Where the streets have no name."  I hope you have enjoyed these shots.  Please stop by P.J.s blog and scroll down to the bottom to see a list of other bloggers who have taken on this theme as well.

An aside to P.J.  You asked whether you'd like me to guest blog on your site and the answer is yes if you'd like to use that piece I wrote, I'd be happy guest post.  For some reason, the reply function is working over here, so I figure I'd let you know this way.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

John Muir camping trip - Part 1

So the hope was that I'd be able to write more than once every other week, but that doesn't seem to be happening, so bear with me as I continue to take you through last summer.  Kind of funny actually that we're almost in winter and I'm still writing about summer, but that's how it goes sometimes.

Anyway, the first weekend in June I had volunteered to help my friend Craig in his quest to hike the John Muir Trail, from Yosemite Valley to the top of Mt. Whitney and then down to Whitney Portal. Craig had everything planned out, so it was just a matter of me going along for the ride and enjoying everything.  We took his truck and my van up to Lone Pine, California, where we were going to leave his truck at Whitney Portal.  Whitney Portal is the major trailhead leading up to the summit of Mt. Whitney and where Craig would be coming down from after his 211 mile hike over two weeks.

So the first day was mostly driving in caravan style as we worked out way up to Lone Pine.  Since Craig is also a geocacher, we caches along the way, mainly because we didn't have any set itinerary outside of making sure we ended up in Yosemite on Sunday, June 8th so he could get his permit to hike the trail, which would begin on the 9th.

We couldn't have asked for better weather, for camping and photography.  There were just enough clouds that I was able to get some pretty spectacular shots.  The shot of Mt. Whitney was taken from the road leading up to Whitney Portal.  No threat of thunderstorms, just puffy clouds that helps enhance the shots I took that day and on subsequent days.  The second shot was taken from an overlook just west of the Mammoth ski area looking over the Ansel Adams Wilderness.  The jagged peaks in the middle of the shot are called the Minarets, which was the original name for the Wilderness back before Ansel Adams, the famous photographer passed away.   

After dropping off his truck at Whitney Portal, we headed up to Mammoth.  Sometime during the day, we'd made the decision to camp at Devils Postpone National Monument.  By the time we got to Mammoth, it was close to 8 o'clock in the evening and starting to get dark.  We got down to the Postpone and the campground was closed.  I think it actually opened a couple of days later.  We found out that many of the campgrounds were closed, or were opening up the weekend that we were there.  Fortunately, Reds Meadow campground, just a couple more miles down the road, had just opened up the day we got there, so we had a place to stay that night.  We pulled into the campground, pretty much in complete darkness, pitched the tent, ate dinner and then hit the sack.  We had a big day planned for the next day.

To be continued.....

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A repeat post

Dear friends,

I posted this back in May 2012. I still think it's appropriate today and so I'm repeating it for today. I doubt it will make a difference, but I'll feel better after posting it, so that's what counts right now.

I have many friends, due to the social media giant Facebook, plus other sites.

In fact, any site where there's a discussion board, you can learn about people that share similar interests. I've also been able to connect with a lot of long lost friends because of these social networks.

One thing I've found through the years is that people like to spout off on discussion boards about their political leanings. This, in my opinion, is a bad thing. Mainly because most of the time, all those political discussions do is cause arguments to start. And although a good flame war can be very entertaining from time to time, it's not something that I relish, nor something that I seek out.

I like you as a friend. I liked you when we were in school together. We talked about a lot of different things, but we really didn't talk about religion or politics. Those were the things we were told as kids that we shouldn't talk about. Hmmmm. Maybe our parents were right.

I would prefer to maintain these friendships in the coming years. Talking politics makes that more difficult. Social media has brought many of us closer together and helped us reconnect with our past friendships that we let drift apart over the years. I would really love it if I didn't know the political affiliations of my friends. I just want to be friends with them. Now, that might make me appear to be like an ostrich with its head buried in the sand. At the moment, that's OK with me.

So here's my plea to all of my friends and I fully expect to be flamed for this, but I'm going to say it anyway. Please keep your politics to yourself. Think about what you're posting. There's too much vitriol out there to add to it. Your position on almost any political or religious subject is not going to convince anyone on the other side to change their position on the given subject. All it's going to do is cause an argument where everyone will believe they're right and the other person is wrong.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Photo Blogging Challenge (October 2014) - Photographer's Choice

So this month, PJ, in his infinite wisdom decided to have the challenge be a photographer's choice.  Now he's gone and done it.  I can post anything I want this month and don't have to worry about whether it's following the them or not.  Or at least I don't have to try and justify whether it's following the theme or not.  Yeah, like I do that anyway.

Usually what happens is I take photos with little regard for the theme (sorry PJ).  Well, I take that back.  I'll usually have the theme in the back of my mind and if something comes to mind, I'll take a photo in that direction, but I've found in the past that when I force myself a certain way into photography, I tend to get stuck.  So in the long run, it's easier to just take photos and see if any fit the theme.  Very rarely do I not get five that fit the theme.

With this month being photographer's choice, I just decided to pick, what I consider, my five best shots.  And so, without a whole lot of extra fanfare, I give you my five shots for this month's theme.

1.  76 trombones
Nope, there weren't 76 trombones in this parade, nor were there 110 cornets either, but this is our town's intermediate school marching band walking down our city streets the last weekend of October during the annual Village Venture Arts and Crafts Faire.  The band usually leads the Halloween parade that opens up the day-long event.  I was standing on the curb and saw the trombones coming and took several shots, hoping to get a good one.  Because of the angle, I actually got a bonus selfie out of the deal as well.

2.  The Skeleton family
At the Village Venture, there are always a lot of people dressed up for Halloween and it's a great spot for people watching.  Anyone who's followed this blog for any length of time knows that I enjoy street photography and an event like this is right up my alley.  I spotted this entire family of skeletons hanging out after the parade and just couldn't resist taking a shot.  I have several other street shots that aren't quite as good as this one, but I may post a couple more on my Flickerstream sometime later on.  This one just worked really well.

3.  Black and White Sunflower
I took this shot in the middle of the month down near the downtown area of Anaheim, just north of Disneyland.  I had met a very good friend for lunch and before and afterwards, we'd walked around the area geocaching.

While walking toward where we were going to eat lunch, we ended up in this city garden.  The entire area is undergoing some urban renewal and this particular garden was nearing peak fall harvest.  My sunflowers tend to blossom out in July, but this one was in full bloom in the middle of October, suggesting that it had been planted later in the year.

It was about a day after I took this shot that I had been challenged on Facebook by another geocaching friend of mine to a five day B&W challenge where I was supposed to post five B&W photos over five successive days.  The nice part of that kind of challenge is I didn't have to take them five days in a row.  This particular shot  ended up being day four or five of my challenge.  

Although I like color, especially when I'm taking flower shots I decided to process this one in black and white.  There was such a riot of color in the shot, the yellow sunflower, the green of the rest of the plant and the plant behind it, the purple flowers on the left hand side and the deep blue of the sky accentuated by the white clouds that I felt the color would actually district from the beauty of the flower.

4.  Butterfly
Another one of my favorite subjects to photograph are butterflies.  I haven't seen a whole lot of butterflies this season, so I haven't been able to post many butterfly shots, so I was rather fortunate when this one started sipping nectar on flowers that I happened to be walking by on my way home from somewhere.

It was also fortunate, because I had my zoom lens on at the time, so it was easier to get this guy in the shot without having to tromp through someone's plants, something that I wouldn't do anyway.  I ended up with a couple dozen shots or so, of which this one ended up being the best of the bunch.

This is a gulf fritilary.  We have plants on which they thrive growing in planter boxes next to a parking structure in the downtown area.  Last summer I'd go down there quite often to get shots, but this year, I never made it down for various reasons.  I don't know whether this one is from that area and was straying a little far from its home base or whether it was just out enjoying the nectar that its neighborhood had to offer, but whatever the reason, it gave me a pretty good shot.

5.  The owl
Last, but certainly not least, is this photo of an owl that I took at the Village Venture.  I posted a couple of shots of this owl and this one was by far and away the best one I took.  Something about the shot just screamed that I needed to process it in black and white.

This particular owl was being displayed as part of an educational program.  The birds are rehabilitated after being found injured by Wild Wings of California, a local organization based in nearby San Dimas.  The particular owl couldn't be released back into the wild because of the damage that had been done.

It had been found lying on the ground.  I didn't hear what caused the initial injury, but while it had been lying on the ground, several ground crawling insects had crawled into its ears and laid eggs.  The hatched larva caused significant damage to its ears that its hearing was very much impaired.  An owl relies on its hearing almost as much as its eyesight and with almost 50% of its hunting prowess impaired, it wouldn't have fared well in the wild, so it has become one of Wild Wings educational pieces.

And there you have it. My five selections for this month's photographer's choice blogging theme.  Please stop by PJ's blog to see what the other bloggers in this challenge posted.  I think you'll enjoy the photography.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Now it's already fall and I really haven't written much about what happened this summer, so you're going to get a retrospect view of different things that happened to me this summer.

This summer was really a whirlwind type of vacation for me for the first time in a long time.  It seemed like I had things happening all the time and just when I was done with one thing, another thing got planned.  Not all the things were pleasant (most medical procedures aren't), but it's safe to say that I passed those with flying colors and am now moving on to rectify the things that were in the grey area, health wise.

Summer, for me, actually started Memorial Day weekend.  I went up to visit my daughter and her fiancé.  My middle son was up in the Bay Area that weekend as well, so we ended up taking in a Giants game at AT&T Park in San Francisco.  We rode the train in, barely making it to the station on time, but the ride worked out well as we had seats.  As we made our way closer to the ballpark, the train kept getting filled with more and more black and orange.  I felt like alien, this Angel fan that I am.

As you can see from the first shot, I didn't do a very good job of raising my daughter to be a local team supporter and so she's become a Giants fan.  Nothing much I can do about that as she's a big girl and can make her own decisions.  I blame it on TV.  Yep, that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Now hear me out on this one.  I'm not a fan of watching baseball on TV.  Whenever my daughter has taken me to games at Angel stadium, we always go early.  My daughter says, "It's like a religion to him.  He has to see batting practice or the experience isn't complete."  And that's right.  I like watching batting practice.  I like watching the players warm and and play soft toss.  I like to watch them stretch and loosen up.  It's all part of the game.

TV doesn't offer that.  For the most part, not all, but for the most part, TV presents a duel between the pitcher and the batter.  With TV, you don't get the pleasure of watching the players adjust with different pitches.  You don't get to see the center fielder shade a batter to left center and make subtle adjustments throughout the at bat.  TV doesn't cover baseball well in my opinion.  And so, because of that, I never watched baseball on TV and my daughter has glommed on to the Giants as her team.  Yeah, part of that is her fiancé's fault since he's a die hard Giants fan, but if I'd watched more baseball, she probably would be a better local sports enthusiast.

Now if you're going to talk football with her, she definitely has her passions, or at least she knows which teams to really hate.  Her fiancé has learned that if the Cowboys are playing well, it's just better to turn the TV off, because she really hates the Cowboys, just like her dad.  I couldn't be more proud.

The baseball game that weekend was a lot of fun.  I went to three games this summer, far more than I've gone in the past couple of years combined.  I didn't realize how much I missed the game.  I suspect that in the upcoming years, I shall be returning to different stadiums to enjoy games more than once every couple of years like it's been in the past.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Photo Blogging Challenge (Sept. 2014): Black and White

This month's challenge by P.J. was to post 5 photographs in black and white.  Originally, I was going to post something to the effect that I didn't have five B&W shots, but then I started looking through some of the shots I took this past weekend and was pleasantly surprised that I have enough to cover this month's challenge with ease.  And so, without further ado, I submit my shots for the B&W photo challenge.

1.  Grow Old with Me
I've done several of these shots in the past, but this one was actually a re-do of one of the originals I posted for this series earlier in the year.  In each shot, I wanted to emphasize my wife's wedding ring and I didn't do that very well in the first shot, so when she sat down at the piano a couple of nights ago, I had my opportunity to get the shot right.  It's still not quite perfect as I would have liked to have seen the ring straight up on her finger, but I'll take this for now.

2.  Man's Best Friend
This is Jack, our dog.  He's been featured on this blog before and will probably be featured again from time to time.  I started to Instagram earlier this year, but it's really so much easier to do with an iPhone as opposed to an iPad.  Watching football, with your dog at your side or in your lap is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  I just love the contented look on his face as I scratched him under his neck.  I'm sure your dog is probably similar in that if you stop, you'll immediately know that you're not supposed to stop yet, because the paw will come out and scratch the closest body part to you and you know the dog is thinking, "Oh c'mon now.  That wasn't enough scratches.  Keep going there food guy."

3.  The Windmill
For those of you who are long term readers, you'll know that I enjoy going out geocaching.  The best way I've been able to describe geocaching is it's an Easter Egg hunt for adults.  People will go out and hide something, get the geographic coordinates for what they hid using their GPS unit and then return and posted them on the geocaching website.  Once they coordinates and cache get posted, then anyone with a GPS unit or smartphone can go out and look for the cache.  Trust me, it's way more difficult using a smartphone.

This windmill is located in San Dimas, one city to the west of where I live.  It's located behind a small little residential park and there's some fruit trees tucked back in there with a couple of trails.  I noticed on a sign there was going to be a pumpkin patch back there starting next month as well.

This photo represents why I got into geocaching in the first place.  I like to hike, but I've never been very familiar with the hiking trails in the local foothills.  When I first stumbled upon geocaching, the nearest geocache was approximately 7 miles away from our house and a half mile hike from the parking lot.  It was located in the Claremont Wilderness Park.  I had no idea that park even existed.  Now, many of my hides are in the Claremont Wilderness Park.

For me, at least, geocaching has allowed me to discover my own back yard.  I've found so many trails that I never would have known were there, were it not for geocaching.  The hobby has kept me reasonably fit, but I still need work in that area.  The last couple of times I've really been up in the foothills was on the mountain bike, so I'm starting to incorporate biking into my geocaching outings as well.  If you haven't already tried it, I would suggest checking it out.  It's a lot better than sitting on your butt all weekend watching sports.  Well, sometimes it is.

4.  The bicyclist
I live in a college town.  The Claremont Colleges (five separate universities, plus a graduate school) are located about a half mile away from where I live and provide ample opportunities for photography, whether it be architecture, statuary, people shots, or combinations of them.

This particular day, I was shooting a variety of things, walking around the campuses.  I started out at the Harvey Mudd campus at a spot that I've photographed many times before.  There is an old fountain tucked away down in a small plaza.  It has some rather large koi swimming around in it and the area always provides some great color shots.

It's rather obvious that I was looking for some kind of angle to get an interesting view of the architecture of these two buildings.  I love the building to the right totally surrounded by a reflecting pool that is only inches deep.  I'd taken several shots and I could hear a bicyclist coming up so I waited until he came into the frame.  I think that little added piece of the guy in the shot made all the difference with this one.

5.  Three college guys
After getting the shot of the bicyclist, I ended up almost in the middle of a conversation involving these three guys.  They were talking to a fourth one about a paper that was due at the end of the week.  When the one guy left, the other three started walking to the east, presumably back to their dorm rooms to either work on their papers, or to watch some football on TV.  My bet is actually on the latter, based upon the laughter I heard from them as they trailed away from me.

I only had a couple of seconds to compose the shot before they'd be too far away.  As it was, this one had to be cropped because I didn't have my telephoto lens on my camera and was relying on my 50mm fixed lens when I took the shot.  I still think it's an interesting shot.  Were I to do it over again, I think I would have approached them to see if I could have gotten a 100 Strangers shot. I haven't taken one of those since early January of this year.

Well, there you have it.  My installment of P.J.'s monthly photo challenge.  Stop by and see some other blogger's interpretations of the same B&W theme.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Some things change

When I first started this blog, I called it A Photo a day.  I even knew that I wouldn't be posting a photo a day, but I had high aspirations.  I started out well, then slacked off.  Then called myself on it, and wrote some more.  Then I slacked off again.

As I wrote in a comment on another blog I read, I thought I'd write more when I had more free time, like on my vacations.  That's definitely not the case as I seem to have realized that I'm doing so much on my vacations that I don't have time to sit in front of the computer for a long stretch and write about what I've done.  

So I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm going to write about stuff after the fact.  I don't do "Stream of Consciousness" very well, as I tend to ramble on and on as my thoughts move her to there.  But I think this might work better.  

Two or three times per week, I'll sit down and write about something.  Tonight I'll write a little bit about the start of summer vacation.  It's so hot here that it still feels like summer, although we know that it's summer's last gasp before our fall rolls in sometime next week.

As I posted back in July at the last photo contest on P.J.'s blog that I participated in, I ended up camping with a friend of mine along the east side of the Sierra Nevada and in Yosemite National Park at the beginning of June.  He hiked the John Muir trail this summer and I helped get him to his starting spot.  We ended up camping near Devils Postpile, on the east edge of Yosemite and then in Tuolumne Meadows for two nights.

He'd originally asked me to go with him, but I knew I wasn't in shape for a trek like that, but I volunteered to take him to his starting destination.  We left his truck at Whitney Portal where he would be hiking out and then drove north through Owens Valley.  After I dropped him off, I ended up spending a very lovely day walking around in Yosemite Valley, something I've never done before, at least by myself.  

I ended up taking some very nice photos, some of which haven't seen the light of day yet, but the intention is to post some of them over the course of the next couple of weeks.  On the trip, I also decided that I would grow my beard back.  I had a beard in my early forties, but haven't had one for about 15 years or so.  I just decided to see what it would look like.  I've received some nice compliments and I'm probably going to keep it for awhile, mainly because I hate to shave.  Trimming a beard, I don't mind, but I just hate shaving in general.

The top photo was taken on the top of Sentinel Dome in Yosemite.  The beard was about four days worth of growth, so it's basically a before shot and the bottom shot was taken about a month ago, with the beard fully in.  One of my students asked me whether I was going to go all "Duck Dynasty" with my beard and I definitely don't want to do that.  But I like this change, so trimming it occasionally won't bother me.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Common Courtesy

One of the things I've noticed is that common courtesy seems to be waning everywhere.  Where once people looked out to make sure that they weren't inconveniencing anyone, now it seems that most people have a "me first" attitude toward everything.

I ended up buying a new mountain bike from my friend yesterday and took it out on a paved trail just to see how it handled on regular street paths.  The path I chose this morning is crowded in the morning.  I get that.  But I was going up hill so I wasn't traveling very fast  so it's relatively easy to avoid getting in the way of a bicyclist.  I'm constantly calling out "on your left" to alert people that I'm approaching that I'm coming up and intend to pass them on their left.  Most people move over slightly and that's fine as they really don't have to as there's always space to pass easily.

This morning I came up on two groups of people.  It was apparent they were talking about something, perhaps the dog one of them had because the other bent down to pet the dog.  The problem was, they'd seen me coming up the path.  I had slowed down because they weren't moving out of the way and that's when the one woman bent down to pet the dog in the middle of the path.  Are you freakin' kidding me?  Yep, they forced me off the path because they refused to move out of the way so I could pass them.

That's my rant of the day.  And just so you know, I do know there is a lot of common courtesy out there as well.  Just this past April, several teachers and I took a group of kids (7th and 8th graders) into Los Angeles on the Metrolink.  At lunch time, the group that I sat with all pulled their phones out and put them in the middle of the table, intending to have a lunch without social media.  We had a very good conversation, because no one was immersed in their phone.  It was a welcome breath of fresh air and proved to me that there is still hope for our species.  Now, hopefully, this small gesture can replicate itself.

And I know I've said this before, but I intend to write more frequently.  For whatever reason, the first months of the school year seem to suck up all of my time.  And just to let you know.  All this biking has led to me shedding almost 12 pounds so far since the beginning of July when I started biking.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sometimes, things happen

Yesterday, a couple of friends of mine and I decided to take a hike along the Pacific Crest Trail west of Wrightwood, CA.  Those of you who know me well, know that this wasn't just a planned hike, but also a geocaching excursion.  We do this all the time.

We started our hike, heading up to the first geocache.  There were some high clouds in the sky, but they weren't really blocking the sun much so it was a warm day, perfect hiking/geocaching weather.  

The first cache took the most time, mostly because we didn't find it right away and so resorted to the hint which threw us off of our game.  At one point, I spotted a rattlesnake in a rock crevasse near the cache.  I wasn't quite sure what I was looking at, at the time, but once it moved and rattled, I made a hasty retreat.  Eventually we spotted the cache and moved on down the trail.  I took the first shot from that cache spot.

As the day went on, we found a variety of caches, stopped for a quick bite to eat and to allow one of my friend's dog to rest her feet in the shade.  The sun had heated up the trail and it was rather hot for her out there.  At the next to last cache, we ended up soaking her feet quite extensively, then started back down the road that paralleled the Pacific Crest Trail.  By taking the road back, we shaved about a mile and a half off of our return hike, still getting a nice 5.34 mile hike in.

There was a cache alongside the road and by this time, we could tell it would be better to rest the dog here.  Her owner stayed with her while my other friend and I hiked the rest of the way along the road to retrieve the car.  By the time we got back to the pullout, our friend had found the last cache.

In reality, this wasn't planned to be our last cache, but it worked out that way, because sometimes things happen.  When we go geocaching, our unwritten rule is, whoever retrieves the cache needs to replace it.  We do this because that person knows where it was exactly hidden.  I've been in a group where another person re-hid the cache and we accidentally lost it because he put it where he thought I'd found it and ended up dropping it down a hole where it was non-retrievable.

As our friend returned the cache, he decided to place a rock on top of the cache to keep it in place and to add an additional layer of camouflage to the hide.  Had he not done that, I wouldn't be writing this story and we would have gotten a couple of more cache finds before we called it a day.  

The rattlesnake, lying nearby, took exception to my friend placing that rock there, and bit my friend on the hand.  The snake had been there all along, but for whatever reason, didn't make its presence known when he retrieved the cache, nor did it rattle when he replaced the cache.  It just bit him when he tried to place the rock and then rattled.  Biting and then rattling, I think, is fairly typical of baby rattlers, which this one was.  The photo is not the rattler in question, just another rattlesnake that I've encountered while out geocaching.

Our first order of business was calming our friend down and then getting him to a local hospital.  We decided to take him to Loma Linda, which was the closest and also the best equipped hospital in the area to handle snake bites.  Coincidentally, my other friend with us had been bitten by a rattlesnake a couple of years ago.  I mentioned it, in this post from my other blog.  

Needless to say, we got him down off the mountain and at the hospital in 45 minutes without having to drive recklessly in the process.  And it is amazing how many people you get to bypass at the emergency room door by say those two magical words, rattlesnake bite.  We got pushed to the front of the line very quickly, they took his vitals and got us into the emergency room right away.  As of this writing, he's still in the hospital, undergoing treatment but appears to be improving.

What this leads to is a public service announcement.  Snakes are out there and they are common.  I overheard a nurse in the ER say the hospital is getting between 1 to 2 snakebites victims per week.  And I have to say we're fairly careful, yet one of us still got bit yesterday.  Things happen, so be prepared, be calm should it happen and seek medical attention right away.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bike lanes

When I've been geocaching in the past, especially with my friend Jim, he's always been quick to point out that you can't park in a bike lane.  I've always heeded that pronouncement, since it made sense.

But I wanted to see exactly what the wording was regarding bicycle lanes, especially since I've taken to riding my bike again.  The reason?  Yesterday, while taking my morning ride, I encountered 5 cars parked in the bike lane.  Only one, according to the California vehicle code was legally parked.  I've quoted the specific code regarding bicycle lanes below.
Bicycle Lanes 
A bicycle lane is a designated traffic lane for bicyclists, marked by a solid white line, typically breaking into a dotted line ending before it reaches the corner. Different from a simple white line showing the edge of the road, a bicycle lane follows specific width requirements and is clearly marked as a bike lane. 
Treat a bicycle lane the same as other traffic lanes. 
Do not turn into the lane if there is a bicyclist in the bike lane 
Do not obstruct bicycle traffic by reducing the width required for safe bicycle passage, typically 3 to 4 feet.  (bold my emphasis)
When you are making a right turn and are within 200 feet of the corner or other driveway entrance, you must enter the bicycle lane only after ensuring there is no bicycle traffic, and then make the turn. Do not drive in the bicycle lane at any other time. 
You may park in a bicycle lane if your vehicle does not block a bicyclist and/or there is not a “No Parking” sign posted.  (bold my emphasis)
Drivers of motorized bicycles should use bicycle lanes carefully to avoid collisions with bicyclists.

 The two portions I've bolded above are the parts where I feel these particular vehicles were in violation of the law.  Their cars completely blocked the bicycle lane, forcing me to move into the regular traffic lane.  Only the last car I encountered on Towne Ave, just east of where I live didn't do that and that's because the bike lane there is wider than normal allowing me the 3 to 4 feet for safe passage.

I think because there weren't "No Parking" signs on the street, the owners of the vehicles felt they could park there.  A reasonable assumption, but one that puts bikers at risk.  I doubt any of the violators follow this blog, but if you decide to park in a bicycle lane, please be aware that you are blocking bicycle riders and putting them at risk for injury.

That's my soapbox for today.  I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Round is not a good shape

I've hear jokes in the past from various people stating, "I'm in shape.  Round is a shape."  Yes it is and while I'm not round, I'm rounder than I'd like to be.

Last year, we changed our health insurance and I decided to take advantage of that and get some things looked at that have been sort of sitting on the back burner for a couple of years.  The justification was I was busy, or it can wait until summertime, etc., and then summertime would roll around and I'd find other things to occupy my time and it wouldn't get done.

When I was donating blood on a regular basis, I knew my blood pressure and weight.  Donating platelets every other week, I had a handle on those two things.  Because of a lab snafu, where I tested false-positive for something I don't have, I cannot donate blood anymore.  That happened about five years ago which meant I no longer had access to my blood pressure and weight on a  regular basis.  That's when things started to go south.

With the various appointments I've had this spring and summer, I've heard one recurring theme, which was bothersome to me, "Has your blood pressure been this high in the past?"  Yeah, that's not something I want to mess around with, so I made another appointment to talk to my doctor about a sensible way to bring my blood pressure down.  Obviously, the best way would be to lose some weight.

When we used to live over in Rancho Cucamonga, I could see my work from the back yard of my house and I used to bike to work.  I'm not sure why I stopped doing that, but once we moved, the commute ended that.  I held onto the bicycle giving myself all sorts of incentives to get back on it, but that never panned out until this week.

My doctor gave me three different options - swimming, running or biking.  I have never been a good swimmer and I have never enjoyed running either, but I have enjoyed biking in the past, so I dusted the old bike off, took it in to get it serviced and Sunday went out on my first bike ride.  Nothing spectacular, but I have a slight uphill grade for half the ride and the first day I traveled 5.78 miles.  Day two, on Monday, I did the same ride, but the GPS said I did 5.83 miles.  Yeah, I didn't zero the GPS out on the first day until I was a little ways away from the house, but I have a pretty good readout of how many miles I'm traveling if I take that standard route.

Tuesday, I took the day off as my thighs and rear end was barking a little bit, but I was back on the saddle again today for another run.  So in three days, I've traveled almost 17 and a half miles.  I'm sure the mileage will increase as I work my stamina back up, but for now, it's baby steps to get back in shape, bring my weight down and hopefully, my blood pressure as well.

I've decided to make this one of the regular occurring features in this blog, so if you don't want to read about my success, or lack of success on the road, feel free to skip it.  I'll post the same photo as I've posted above to alert you ahead of time that this post will be a fitness post.  

Here's to a thinner me in the future.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Photo Blogging Challenge (June 2014): Vehicles

Well, once again an entire month has passed and I haven't written anything about anything and yet I have a wealth of material to write all sorts of pieces.  It's a good thing P.J. puts out his monthly challenge, otherwise I wouldn't be posting anything here.

The month of June has closed and last month's challenge was vehicles.  In reality, I wasn't sure if I'd see 5 different kinds of vehicles over the course of the month, but I figured I'd give this a go.  Many times, I'll not even think about the theme and then when it comes time to put the post together, the photos just jump out at me.  That's pretty much what happened this month. identifies the word vehicle as 

"any means in or by which someone travels or something is carried or conveyed; a means of conveyance or transport: a motor vehicle; space vehicles."

I decided to take this literally, which means you're going to see some traditional kinds of vehicles and some non-traditional vehicles as well.  So, without further ado, here's my contribution to the theme of vehicle.

1.  Train show

Nearing the end of the school year, I was approached by one of my students who gave me some tickets to a model train show which was held at the Ontario Convention Center, just south of our school.  Model train owners take their vehicles very seriously as they strive to make realistic layouts in which to run their trains around.  This engine was being run on a modular layout, which means each module had to conform to certain standards so they would all connect together to form one large layout.

2.  In flight

I will be the first one to admit, that I just got plain lucky on this shot.  There are times when I want to believe that I'm a great photographer, but I know my craft and skill pale in comparison to many other photographers I've seen on Flicker and elsewhere.  The wings of the bee are the vehicle in this shot and I've been hoping ever since I took this shot several years ago, to replicate it.  I have had varying degrees of success over the years and I finally was able to get this bee hovering near the flowers.  

The trick is your depth of field and a fast shutter speed.  You need a fairly large depth of field to make sure everything stays in focus and you also need a fast shutter speed to slow down the beating of the bee's wings.  I felt, with this shot, that focus was more important and so the wings are just a blur, but I got the bee hovering near the flowers, so I'll count that as a victory.

3.  30s era Packard

I love old cars.  If I had an unlimited supply of funds, I think I'd own several different cars from various time periods.  But I'd own them so I could drive them around.  Nothing's more depressing, I think, than to know that people own classic cars like this and then they just keep them housed in warehouses or in their garages for only themselves or a few select friends to enjoy.  

I think half the enjoyment of vehicles like this is the stares you can get as you drive around town in a car like this.  I know I'm very guilty of doing that exact same thing.  I've pulled out my camera from time to time to take photos and I've had people actually slow down so I could get a good shot of their car.

A couple of years ago, when my son and I were camping in Zion National Park, there was a group of car aficionados who belonged to a Franklin car club.  They would drive their cars around to promote the club and to enjoy their cars and for others to enjoy them as well.  That particular year, they were doing a circle tour of southern Utah and northern Arizona.

I spotted this 30s era Packard in the parking lot at out local community center when I went to vote in early June.  I didn't have my camera with me when I went to vote, so I voted, went home, then came back and it was fortunately still there.

4.  Abandoned truck

In early June, I helped a friend with his trek on the John Muir Trail.  I'm not in shape to hike 211 miles in 14 days, but I was willing to help him shuttle his truck up to the exit point for the hike and then take him around to the starting point in Yosemite National Park.  

After we dropped off his truck at Whitney Portal which is at the base of Mt. Whitney, we then worked our way up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, camping near Mammoth Lakes, CA and Lee Vining, before camping the last night in Tuolumne Meadows, in Yosemite.  

One of the days was devoted to geocaching and sightseeing.  One of the places I'd never been before was Bodie, CA, which is the official historic ghost town of California.  It's located out in the middle of nowhere off of Highway 395, close to the California/Nevada state line.  The ghost town is kept in "arrested decay" meaning they don't let things get too bad that they collapse.

As I look at this shot,  you can't help but wonder what kinds of stories this old truck could tell.  It's not conveying anything today, cargo-wise, but it probably helped someone out in the town of Bodie many years ago.

5.  Friendship

The vehicle for this shot is the Internet.  This is my friend Steve on the left and that grizzled old fart on the right is me.  Steve and I met in the fall of 1984 when I started teaching at Cucamonga Middle School, so we've now known each other for 30 years.  

About 14 years ago, Steve left the school and moved to Visalia, California to pursue teaching at the community college level.  Had this happened 100 years ago, the friendship would have probably ended.  Postal service might have conveyed some letters back and forth, but we probably would never have seen each other again.

Because of instant communication now available to us, friendships like this can continue on.  Through my travels around the state, mostly while camping, I've been through or near Visalia enough times that we've been able to see each other several times.  I can count four times for sure: once when my son and I were camping in Sequoia National Park, once when I was taking my daughter up to school in Stockton, CA, once when my wife and I were coming home from Stockton after visiting my daughter and this weekend after I finished helping my son move into his new place in Merced, California.

Steve and I have maintained our friendship via email, and will continue to do so in the future.  I spent an hour and a half with him and his lovely wife Joan Monday afternoon having lunch while we caught up on what all of our kids were doing.  It might have been longer, except that Steve had a class to teach at his school, but I'm sure there will be other opportunities for us to get together again in the future.

And that's my addition to P.J.'s photo blogging theme of vehicles this month.  Please stop by his blog page and see how others interpreted the theme vehicles.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Photo Blogging Challenge (May 2014): Fun

Well, once again, it's time for the monthly photo blogging challenge set up by P.J.  This month's challenge appeared to be fairly easy, with the theme being "Fun," but for a variety of reasons, I didn't get my camera out as much this month and so it was a little more difficult.  I did, however, come up with five shots that I think convey the theme of fun, although they might not be fun for everyone.

So, without further ado, here's my list of "fun" shots.

1.  Farmer's market
We have a farmer's market that is in downtown Claremont every Sunday morning until around 1 in the afternoon.  Lots of fruits, vegetables are offered for sale. The crowds make for some nice people shots and some very colorful fruits and vegetable shots.  I've been coming down about once a month to get some new photos.  It's a fun excursion just to people watch.

2.  Games of chance
Our church has an annual fiesta every Mother's Day weekend.  It's the big money maker for the church and there is a lot of activity going on on all three days of the fiesta.  There are lots of games of chance that, obviously, is rigged in favor of the game establishment in order to make money for the establishment as well as the church.

I watched these carny workers use all kinds of lines to get people to try their luck at these games.  I think the older people understand that the payment you give to them is for the fun of the competition, much like gambling in Lost Wages, Nevada.  It's fun and if you win, that's a bonus, but if you expect to go in there and win, you will be sadly separated from your money.

Younger people don't seem to understand that and are constantly at these games with the hope of winning something.  I know, when I was younger, I had the same kinds of feelings.  I had this one game figured out.  Shuffleboard bowling.  Knock over 6 pins with three metal pucks.  Easy, just get the puck in between two pins three times in a row and you're a winner.  Guess what?  I never won.  But it was still fun.

3.  Jack
This is our dog Jack.  Jack will be ten at the beginning of December.  He's been featured on this blog many times in the past.  I think Jack is very photogenic under the right conditions and light. I really wanted to post this in B&W, because I think his gray hair looks really good with some nice contrast going on, but it just didn't work very well for this shot.

Jack came into our life in February 2005, just before my daughter turned 15.  I went down to a dog groomer's place because my wife said there was a dog there that we might like.  We'd lost our two dogs the succeeding year in a span of just over 3 months.  They had been 13 and 17, so we knew they didn't have much, but to have both of them go in a matter of months was tough.  I didn't want another dog and my wife knew this so she sent me down to reject the dog.  Yeah, right.  Jack stood on the counter, put his paws on my chest and he already knew I was done.  My wife was surprised, but thrilled and immediately fell in love with this small ball of fur the minute he walked over and settled into her lap on the floor of the kitchen.

Jack has been a fun addition to our household and it won't be quite the same when he crosses over the Rainbow Bridge.  Let's hope that doesn't happen for a long time.

4. Boomerang
The end of the year trip for our 8th graders involves a trip to Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California.  Knott's started out as a small "ghost town" complete with shops and Cordelia Knott's chicken dinner restaurant.  

Eventually, if they were going to compete and be relevant in Southern California, they had to expand to include something a little bit wilder than the Calico Mine Train.  They added a log flume ride.  The first corkscrew roller coaster was built here.  They still don't get nearly as many people as nearby Disneyland does, but they pull in their share of money.

These roller coasters are the really fun part of the park.  They have several that are really good.  Ghostrider is one of the best wooden roller coasters I've ever been on.  Xcelerator shoots you out of the station until you hit a top speed of 82 mph in 2.3 seconds.  205 feet straight up, then up and over and 205 feet straight down.  Then there's Silver Bullet.  Six inversions, while dangling underneath the track.  Boomerang takes you up an incline, then lets you go where you run through two Cobra rolls, then a large loop.  You then get to do them again, backwards.

As I've aged I've noticed, that my body doesn't like what these rides do to it.  It's not nearly as fun as it used to be.  I used to love wooden roller coasters, but about four years ago, Ghostrider banged me around so much that I felt like I'd been in a prize fight after riding it.  This month, I rode Silver Bullet.  I've always enjoyed that ride because it was so smooth.  This time, however, I felt like I'd been squeezed too tightly and I just had to sit down afterwards.  Took about an hour and a half before I felt normal again.  I think I shall leave this type of fun to the younger set from now on and just enjoy the photo opportunities the rides give me.

5.  Take me out to the ballgame.
This past weekend, I went and visited my daughter up in the San José area in Northern California.  Saturday, we decided to watch the San Francisco Giants play ball against the Minnesota Twins. 

Baseball is one of the few games that I think is much better to attend live than to watch on television.  I don't think TV does justice to the American Pastime and I'd much rather go to a game, no matter the weather, than sit at home and watch the same game.  It's so much better live.

AT&T Park is the 7th major league stadium I've been at to see a major league game.  The obvious two are Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium since I grew up in Southern California following both teams, although truth be told, I'm an Angel fan before I'm a Dodger fan.  I've also attended games at San Francisco's Candlestick Park, plus Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego.  The Giants play at AT&T now and Jack Murphy Stadium is only used for football games as it's home to the Chargers.  The other two stadiums I've been to don't even exist anymore:  Veteran's Stadium in Philadelphia and the Kingdome in Seattle.

Anyway, this game was a close 2-1 affair, with the home team winning.  My middle son was also up visiting, so he also came to the game.  3/5ths of the family was there to enjoy some baseball fun.

That's another month of photo blogging.  I hope you enjoyed this month's installment.  As always, please feel free to comment as I won't bite.  Please stop by P.J.'s to see how other bloggers interpreted Fun.

Now that I'm out of school again, hopefully, I'll pick this back up and not post just monthly updates.  My calendar is pretty booked with all kinds of stuff, but I still should have time to do some blogging over the next couple of months.

Until then.  Happy Trails.