Saturday, January 31, 2015

Playlist for the week

I'm trying something a little bit different here.  Since I did well with writing prompts, I've discovered some daily writing prompts and I'm going to try and see if that will help me get through this block I sometimes have.  We'll see where it takes me, but the one I checked on today gave me some good material to work with for the first day, so I'm going to try it.

Sometimes, you just need music to help you get through the day.  5 song titles that pretty much typify my past week would be the following: 

Pressure - by Billy Joel

Under Pressure - by Queen and David Bowie

Help! - by the Beatles

Deadlines - by Arkells

Don't Stop Believin' - by Journey

Sometimes, it's just so much fun being the multi-media instructor at school.  I was on my high school yearbook when I was a senior in high school.  Deadlines look a lot different from the instructor's point of view.  The respect I've always had for my yearbook teacher, Mrs. Denise Tate, has just been ratcheted up several more notches.

Friday, January 30, 2015

And there was one - Day 20 of the Chill

And then there was one, the final entry of the 20 days of Chill Writing Challenge.  This is post #22 for the entire month of January, only three behind all of 2014.  I guess it's safe to say I'm going to have more blog posts this year than last year.  But perhaps a bigger question is, what can I do in the future to keep this going?

One thing I've learned about this is it's not that difficult to write about something on an almost daily basis.  This challenge was set up for success, which most challenges should be, otherwise who would do them?  I believe that I've had fairly good success with this particular challenge because I took some advice and wrote each post the night before.

I think this worked out well, because it really took the pressure off of me to write something.  As opposed to coming home and have nothing prepared, I already knew that my post for the day had already posted in the morning when I woke up.  Now, all I had to worry about was the next day's post and psychologically, I knew I had that night, or if worse came to worse, then I could always write something up on the day it was due.  And it just worked.

The only other thing that I can think of as to why it worked, is because Old Guys Rule.  

Thanks for everyone who came along for this ride.  I hope you've been entertained and I hope I didn't bore you too much with too many geocaching stories.  Thanks to P.J. for putting this entire challenge together.  Here's hoping that some of this will keep me more active as I move about the blogosphere.  Now that you're at the end of this, then there was none.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Steamed - Day 19 of the Chill

Sometimes, we get into situations where we feel we can't control anything.  Like when aliens come down to Earth and pick up people just to examine them more closely.  These people don't really have any control over the situation and for the most part are just along for the ride.

And what's with the deal that only people out on farms or rednecks in general are the ones who get abducted by aliens?  Yeah, I know I speaking in grand generalities here, but when's the last time you've read about a Wall Street stock broker being abducted by aliens?  Heck, when's the last time you read about a teacher in Cucamonga being abducted by aliens?  That's just wrong and I'm steamed about it.  What gives here?I think the rest of us should have an equal say in who gets abducted by aliens.  

I'd suggest a lottery but with something like that, you'd get the same kind of people applying to be abducted, or not necessarily applying, but I really think the same kind of person would get picked.  I really think the next big alien abduction should have some kind of codicil attached to it that only college educated, college degree holders would be allowed to be abducted.  C'mon man.  The rest of us want to have a chance to be like Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Then again, I think my wife would get kind of steamed if I started building Devils Tower in the middle of our living room the way Dreyfus did.  And I know me.  I'd want to build something as grandiose and as large scale as his model was too.  The bigger the better.  Now if someone can get me out of this BORG cube, I think we'll all be OK.  Yeah, I don't think I want to be assimilated that badly.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Imagine that - Day 18 of the Chill

Back in December, when I first looked over the list of prompts for this challenge, I thought to myself, "Self, imagine that you can actually get to the end of this challenge."  I laughed a little too at that notion.  I'm not there yet as I still have two more posts to get to the end of this challenge, but the light at the end of the tunnel is no longer a train bearing down on me, threatening to derail my thought process and stop me in some crazy way.  Imagine that.

You see, I'm a casual blogger.  I have high hopes and visions of grandeur.  Even the title of my blog has visions of grandeur, otherwise, it wouldn't be entitled A Photo a Day.  When I first set this blog up in 2012, I was in the midst of my second full year at the 365 Project, a website that challenges you to take a photo every day for a year.  I did it for two entire years.  I figured I'd just go on and on and so I'd just blog about the photo I took that day and the blog would write itself.  Imagine that?

But at the same time I was having visions of grandeur, I also had realistic expectations.  At the top, there's a short description of what this blog is about and I state that I might not post every day.  It goes on to say, in fact, I'm positive I won't post every day, but I would like to post twice a week.  Last year I posted a grand total of 25 times.  I only posted about once every other week.  And yet, I think I had the best year photographically of any since I started doing a 365 project.  Imagine that.

This year has been a different story, due exclusively to this  20 Days of Chill Writing Challenge.  This will be my 20th post this year.  Imagine that.  I have to be honest, I wasn't sure if I was going to make it or not, but I'm pretty sure my OCD kicked in and got me through some of the rougher spots in the road, especially on prompts that I really didn't like.  And no, I don't really have OCD.  Ask anyone at work, or just come look at my desk and you'll probably understand that I don't have OCD.

So, I'm blogging more this year, which means that something has to give.  Ironically, what seems to have fallen by the wayside a little bit this year is my photography.  The photo for this post is only my 10th photo I've decided to publish on-line this year.  We're almost done with the first month and I only have a third of what I should have if I were doing a 365 project.  Imagine that.

But the real thing that counts is I'm OK with that, because I know I'll pick up my camera and take more photos.  I take my camera to school every day and make sure I have it each week for the photo club that I run as an after school club on campus here.  I don't publish those photos here, because I told my students that I wouldn't.  In return, they also know that they're not allowed to post photos of me on their Facebook, or Instagram account, etc.  There's enough images of me out there without having something show up somewhere else that I don't know about.  Imagine that.

And so it goes.  Only two more to go.  Oh, and by the way.  I mentioned above that I don't have OCD.  That's true.  What I really have is CDO, because that's in alphabetical order the way it should be.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Awkward Dinner Party - Day 17 of the Chill

Thinking about this prompt, I thought I might want to take a bunch of people from the past and put them all at the dinner table and see where it went.  One would think that it might get awkward putting Jesus Christ at the same dinner table as Thomas Jefferson, but actually, I think those two might get along fairly well.

So then, how might I get a better mix of people to create the ultimate awkward dinner party.  Then it hit me.  Just pick some random people off of the Internet from a social media site and have them come together for just one night.  The only requirement would be, I get to set the dinner conversations.  That would work.

All I'd have to do is throw out one political or social football, like abortion, or Obamacare or the death penalty the rest would be just entertaining to watch.  See?  That's where the problem lies.  I'm sorry if this is becoming redundant, but it just seems like people forget common decency and societal norms when they get on social media.

Even though my parents didn't outright tell me, I knew about the three things that you just didn't discuss in polite society: Religion, Sex, and Politics, or any combination of those, which might be all three sometimes.  Granted, I'm speaking in generalities here, but we seem to have lost our moral and social filters when it comes to social media.  We feel we can just post whatever we want and we don't care who the hell we piss off.

And the sad part is, when most people post stuff, either they're looking for someone to troll, so they can pontificate their side more and bring in other like thinking people, or they actually think they're going to convince the other side to change their own though process.  

Newsflash.  You're not going to convert anyone and all it's going to accomplish is to get every one just madder at the other side.  And for what purpose?  As far as I can see, there is not real purpose that's going to have any positive outcome.  It's probably one of the reasons that I try not to get pulled into political discussions.  Notice that I said try, because sometimes I don't succeed in avoiding the discussion.

However, from now on, I'm just going to avoid them all together.  It's not worth my blood pressure and I have better things to do than to validate someone else's viewpoint that I already agree with, or argue with someone who's not going to change their opinion just because I think I can convince them that they're wrong.  I already know the answer to that one.  I'm not.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Ten years ago, I was probably..... - Day 16 of the Chill

Today's prompt is Ten years ago, I was probably.... 

And the answer is obviously, Geocaching!  I've actually been geocaching for almost 14 years, but my interest in it really took off about ten years ago.

A lot of people always wonder why I go out and geocache.  One of my sons just calls it "the weird thing Dad does."  He has geocached with me in the past and will tolerate his old man finding a cache or two when we're out and about, but it's not really his thing, and that's OK.  It's not for everyone.

I first learned about geocaching from a Where's George? chat room.  Where's George? is something else I could say I've been doing for the last 10 years or more, but that's an entirely different story which I'll probably save for another time.  Anyway, a friend of mine was talking about finding this hidden treasure on a hike he'd been on in Maryland and I asked him about it.  He said it was Geocaching.  

He led me to the site and I checked it out.  At the time, the closest geocache to my house was 7 miles away and a half mile hike.  I told my wife I'd discovered something cool and I knew what I wanted to spend my birthday money on.  Two days later, I purchased my first GPS unit and two or three days after that, I took my two sons with me and we drove over to the Claremont Wilderness Park, and hiked the half mile in on the trail there and found the geocache.

To be honest, as we were hiking up the trail, I kept thinking to myself, that this just couldn't be real.  It has to be a joke.  Who's going to hide something out in the wilderness and then who else is going to be crazy enough to go out and find that thing that has been hidden out in the wilderness?  I fully expected to see Allen Funt from Candid Camera come out of the bushes and say I'd been hoodwinked and that this was all a Candid Camera stunt.

But no, it was for real.  We found a large plastic bucket full of all sorts of things in it.  I know one of the things we brought home was a happy meals whistle that my youngest really wanted to have.  Let's just say we made that an outdoor toy and it kind of conveniently disappeared after a week or so.

But once we'd gotten back home, I was hooked.  I love the outdoors aspect of geocaching.  Back then, the caches were few and far between and you drove to a trailhead and hiked two, three, possibly five miles to find one cache.  I discovered all sorts of new trails in the foothills just north of where we lived.  Before that day, I'd never even knew the Claremont Wilderness Park even existed and there were all these trails to explore and caches to find.

Every so often, not nearly as often as today, I'd gather up the boy, or the boys and just go by myself and hike a trail to find a cache.  I'd get some good exercise along the way.  It has probably kept me a little bit thinner than I might be if I'd never learned about geocaching.

The hobby has changed over time.  Where there used to be one cache on a trail, now there might be half a dozen or more.  That first hike, we found one.  In fact, had we hiked the entire loop of that trail, we'd only have found that one cache.  Now that loop has 12 caches hidden on it, four of them by me.

No one really thought about hiding caches in urban areas.  Now that's mostly what you see is a lot of urban caching.  Not as much exercise involved there, but you can still get quite the workout if you pick and choose where you go.  It's something that you can do where ever you go.  I found that it was another nice diversion whenever we were camping.  Instead of just a hike, now it was a hike with a purpose.

I have over 160 photos in my Flickr album dedicated to photos taken while geocaching.  And yes, every one of these on this page was taken while geocaching.  The first photo is a shot I took in Waterman Canyon which leads up to my in-law's house in Lake Arrowhead, California.  I'm standing on a slight rise above the road, with the geocache directly behind me.

There's a geocache out on that island with the lighthouse in Crescent City, California.  The trick is you have to wait for the tide to go out so it's only available during certain periods of the day.  We got very lucky with that one as we had been hiking in the Redwoods and got back into Crescent City and discovered the tide was out, so we walked out over the rocks to get to the island.  Most of the time, you can't do that.

We spotted the snake at a rest area along Interstate 80 in Montana.  We'd been visiting my Dad up at my parent's summer house on Lake Couer d' Alene and decided to find some caches in the panhandle of Idaho.  Not one to miss out on a chance, since we were so close, we decided we might as well find at least one over the border in Montana.  We drove into Montana, pulled off at the first exit which was the rest area and found the cache and the snake.  Since we had to go down to the next exit to turn around on the freeway, we found the cache hidden at the next exit and for good measure we also found the cache hidden on the westbound rest area on the other side of the freeway.

The last shot was taken in July when I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge to find the geocache on the northern side of the bridge.  As you can see, geocaching has taken me to a lot of place, many of which, I don't think I would have visited were it not for geocaching.  I've actually found caches in every county in California (for those of you keeping count, there's 58 counties).  It has allowed me to explore various parts of the state I might have missed and it has also allowed me to explore my own back yard, those trails in the foothills.  Unless something drastic happens, I can see myself 10 years from now still writing about geocaching.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Miracles do happen

In 2002, which was early in my geocaching, I got into travel bugs big time.  One of the travel bugs I created was the Cucamonga Railroad Cacher - The Travel Bug Limited.  It was a caboose from my collection of HO scale model trains that I have stored in my garage.  I attached a travel bug tag to it and let it go, hoping that it would meet its goal of traveling on scenic railroads around the country.

Back then, most caches were fairly good sized and would accommodate this size of bug.  But as the hobby has evolved, the caches have gotten smaller and so it's more difficult to put this traveler in a geocache.  There were periods of inactivity, due to the cacher having it for a period of time until they found a large enough cache in which to place it.

But the caboose did travel throughout California.  It got to ride on the Napa Wine train and the Skunk train in Northern California.  Eventually, however, the travel bug disappeared.  For the most part, I'm resigned to that happening anyway.  Once you release something from your possession, you're at the whims of whoever next picks it up.  If it's someone new, they might keep it, or not know how to log it, or the person just might be spiteful and decide to throw it away.  There are a variety of reasons why the travel bug disappears, including the cache gets washed away in a flood.  Yeah, that's happened to a cache that one of my travel bugs was in.

So, in July 2005, the travel bug was listed as missing.  Someone actually took it in April 2005, but never logged it out of the cache it was in and when the cache was archived, the travel bug got listed as missing and I'd lost another one.  Or so I thought.

This afternoon, I received an email from telling me that my travel bug had been found by a cacher named cdbass who found it along an abandoned railroad in Ithaca, New York.  As you can see from the small photo cdbass posted, it's the original caboose that I let loose almost 13 years ago.  Oh, the stories this little caboose could tell.  Where has it been all this time?  Who took it and when and how did it get to New York?

As far as I'm concerned, it's just cool that it's resurfaced after almost 10 years of being missing.  Let's hope it gets to travel long and far in the future and eventually return safely back to California.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Frosty - Day 15 of the Chill

Three quarters of the way through the challenge and I haven't missed a beat yet.  I'm actually surprising myself with this one.  This is my 16th entry for the year.  Last year, I only wrote 25 blog entries, so I'm well on my way to doing much better on the blogging front than I've done in a long time.

Every now and then, I've camped in some cold climates.  One time, a buddy and I drove all night during our winter break to go to the Grand Canyon.  Little did we know, but while we were driving, it snowed on the south rim and we arrived to a winter wonderland.  We slept in our uninsulated camper in 0 degrees and then hiked along the rim and down into the canyon where it was quite nice.

Camping in the winter, you expect that kind of weather and are usually prepared for it.  Camping in the summer, you're not as prepared, but every now and then, the weather can change and turn nasty in a hurry.

This particular camping trip happened in 2010.  The plan was to camp at the Devils Postpile, something I hadn't done in 33 years and then head up to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  Camping at Devils Postpile, was downright cold.  We knew it had been cold, but weren't sure how cold until we got to Lassen and spent the first night there.  When we got up the next morning, we walked down to the ranger station.  My son and I had remarked on the walk down that it had been warmer that night than the previous two nights at Devils Postpile.  We were greeted at the ranger station with the weather report that the overnight low in Lassen that night had been a frosty 34 degrees.  I can't imagine how cold it got at the Devils Postpile, but it wouldn't have surprised me if it had gotten down into the 20s.

Now, we knew were were going to be in the mountains, and we always bring enough layers, but it was still plenty chilly.  2010 was also an abundant year in California for rain and snow.  The photo above was taken at Helen Lake in Lassen, on July 2nd of that year.  Yeah, you read that right - Winter in Summer.  You just have to remember that it can get frosty even in the middle of the summer.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bears, Beans and Beer - Day 14 of the Chill

This is part 4 of the Yosemite story.  After finishing up at Bodie, grabbing some caches on the way south, we took a road north of Mono Lake and drove into Nevada, mainly to say that we did and grab a cache in another county in Nevada.  By the time we were done, it was getting late enough that we knew that we needed to find a campsite to spend the night, so we drove to Lee Vining to find a place to eat.

Ate dinner, might have had a beer with dinner, but I doubt it at that point, it was probably closer to Dr. Pepper or Tea, just to give us a caffeine rush to make it to the campsite, but I do know we both had chili, so we did get some beans that evening.  I think we tried three campsites along the Tioga road leading into Yosemite from the east side before we found a place that had open sites.  Interestingly, all three places we camped at on this trip had just opened the day we go there, so we got incredibly lucky.

The following morning, we broke camp and headed into Yosemite National Park, hoping to get there earlier enough to get Craig his hike through on the first day of his trip.  Caching along the road netted us half a dozen or so caches just outside the park and then we hit the Tioga Pass entrance station and then drove down to the ranger station at Tuolumne Meadows.  As we were passing the Tuolumne Meadows campground, I mentioned to Craig that it appeared as if the campground had sites, so we pulled in and inquired about camping.  The campground had just opened up and we were about the 6th group to grab a site.

For the most part, everything seemed to go really well for us that day.   Craig got his exemption and his permit for his hike and then we spent most of the rest of the day grabbing virtual geocaches along the road into Yosemite Valley.  We also documented some benchmarks.  Benchmarks are basically survey disks that you can also log at We found one at the entrance to the Wawona tunnel and another one in the back patio area of the Ahwahnee Hotel.  Yosemite has some interesting benchmarks and I was eager to find one that I knew about up on Sentinel Dome, but that would have to wait until the next day.

Driving back to the campground, we spotted a bear, but didn't get very close to it and it had taken off by the time we could find a place to park and get closer to it.  That was kind of disappointing, as Craig had seen it, but I had been driving and hadn't.  At camp, we met a woman camping next to us from Fresno and we shared a campfire.  Company was good and we slept well that night, which really worked out nicely for Craig as he had a big day the next day. Camping in Tuolumne Meadows was a bonus because we were camping at altitude, so he wouldn't have to adjust as much the next night.

The following day, we drove down to the valley and caught the shuttle bus back to Happy Isles where Craig would begin his 211 mile hike to the top of Mt. Whitney.  I hiked with him up to the Vernal Fall bridge, then bid him farewell and watched him walk away.  Part of me would have liked to have gone, but most of me knew that I was in no kind of shape to make that kind of hike.  Perhaps in a couple of years down the road.  I know I in much better shape already.

After that, I enjoyed the view of the waterfall, then started my hike down the trail and back into the valley.  I came around a bend of a trail and there was a crowd of people standing at the side of the trail looking down to the Merced River.  Figuring it was probably a deer down by the water, I started to make my way by, but something stopped me and told me to look.  Yep.  A mother and cub just hanging out down by the water side.  Interestingly, Craig was required to carry all of his food in a "bear proof" canister and never saw a bear on his entire trek.  Five minutes after I'd left him, I saw not one, but two bears.  This was also the first time I'd seen a bear in Yosemite since 1969.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

To be continued...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Organizing - Day 13 of the Chill

I really need to do a better job of organizing my photos.  Although I enjoy taking photos, keeping them organized in a systematic way has proven way too time consuming for me and so they're just on my computer by date.  It's not necessarily the most practical way of organizing things, but so far it works.

There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the way my photos are organized on my computer.  I looked in the photo album and the folders inside that album are not in chronological order.  2001 might be next to 2007.  You get the picture. 

This could prove problematic down the road as my next major photo purchase, which I have alluded to earlier is going to be a slide scanner.  Most of my parent's family photos during the 50s and 60s were taken with a Kodak Instamatic, using slide film.  I'd like to scan all of those before they deteriorate too much more as there's a lot of family history that needs to be preserved.

I've got to come up with a better way of organizing my photos.  Any suggestions would be welcome.

The photo that I chose for this particular writing prompt really doesn't have anything to do with organization other than it's the third time in the last three years that we've gone up to the mountains to visit my father-in-law over Christmas break and then gone down to the lakeside to feed the ducks and geese.  That tends to suggest that there's some kind of organizational work going on in our family lives.  Certain traditions are hard to break.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Newbies - Day 12 of the Chill

Newbies.  Rookies.  First years.  Freshman.  All these words conjure up inexperience.  Some handle their "newbiness" better than others.  Hopefully, when I joined an organization or tried something new, I didn't stick out like a sore thumb.  I know when I was a freshman in high school I probably did, more than likely because I was immature and didn't think things through.

Newbies learn from people who have been around for awhile.  In geocaching, that hopefully means they go out, find some caches, learn how others hide caches and then eventually they go out and hide their own cache.  Somewhere in this process though, things have broken down.  I blame the app.

In the good ol' days of geocaching, back when it was fresh spankin' new, we didn't have those new fangled geocaching apps.  We had to input everything into our GPSr by hand!  We had to print out cache pages on paper!  We went on a hike of a couple of miles and found one cache!  But the one thing that almost all of us did, before we went out and found our first cache was to read the freaking FAQ page on the website so we knew what we were getting ourselves into.

Now, if you haven't figured it out, some of the above was sarcasm, but some of it was very real.  Smartphones and apps have changed geocaching in a variety of ways.  People can discover geocaching in a variety of ways and then download the free app and go geocaching right away.  They don't read the FAQs, so they don't know the risks or possible problems they may encounter.  They don't have to register with the website.  Now, why is this a problem?

Newbies tend to be very excited about things, but a lot of that excitement doesn't necessarily translate into staying power.  Newbies will go out, find a cache or two and then think they know how to hide a cache.  They hide a cache, but then get bored of the process and move on to something else.  Trust me, for every newbie cacher who stays at it for a year, there's probably 10 times as many cachers who don't.

Because the free app doesn't require you to register, there's no way to contact the person if there is a problem with their cache.  There's no way to contact a person to encourage them to stick around.  There's no way to contact a person, because the free app doesn't require you to leave an email address.  

Because most of the Newbies never read the FAQs, they never realized that hiding a cache, and maintaining a cache, takes work.  Oh, this is work?  Maybe this isn't for me.  But no, they don't read the FAQs, they just head on out like a bull in a china shop.

Now, the landscape is littered with poorly thought out geocaches hidden by newbies that aren't being taken care of and until you can prove to that there's a serious problem with the cache, the cache will languish there for months, leaving a potentially good area without a decent cache.

And so it goes.  Can you tell you struck a nerve with this prompt?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Word for the year - Day 11 of the Chill

This one is a really easy write, something that I've been wanting to post about for sometime.  The word for the year is weight.  Sometime in the past year.  Actually right around the end of June, I decided that there needed to be less of me around here.  I was out of shape, my clothes didn't fit right and every time I went to the doctor's office, I kept hearing the same comment, "Has your blood pressure always been that high?"

A little history behind this would probably be helpful.  No, my blood pressure has not always been that high, but about five years ago, I stopped getting myself weighed on a regular basis.  Well, it was more of a forceful stop as opposed to something that I really intentionally did.

I used to donate blood, actually aphaeresis, about every month.  On my last donation, my 79th pint, I was deferred permanently, because I test false positive for Hepatitis C.  Please note the false positive.  The government said I couldn't donate anymore, because of the reading, even though I knew, as did my doctor at the time, as did the personnel at the Blood Bank, that I didn't have Hepatitis.

Every two weeks, I'd go in to donate, get my blood pressure checked and get weighed.  That went out the window.  I didn't own a scale, so I wasn't keeping track of my weight and it went up, and up and up.  Fast forward to this year and we changed insurance, so I got new doctors, and decided to check out my new doctor.  Needless to say, because of my age, I got all sorts of tests done and everywhere it was the same, "Has your blood pressure always been that high?"

My new doctor gave me three choices, swimming, running or biking.  I'm not a very good swimmer, nor have I ever liked to run, but I did enjoy biking when I was younger so I opted for that.  He gave me moderate goals to work toward and said if I followed the regimen he specified, I'd lose some weight and in his words, "The beauty of this is you'll probably be able to eat just about anything you want."

And that has been pretty much the case.  Bad weather and other things curtailed my biking during the holiday period.  Add to that extra food that always seems to be around during that period and I went up a little bit, but this morning I weighed myself and I'm back to my pre-holiday weight, which is 20 pounds less than I weighed when I started this back in July.

I bought a bike off of a friend of mine.  I take it out for nice rides, both on streets and trails as often as possible.  I also won a Fitbit in August and that has really gotten me obsessed about how much I walk during a given day, which has also helped.  I feel better, I have a lot more stamina than I used to, don't get winded on hikes like I used to.  In the past, when I'd go on an 8 to 10 mile hike, my body would scream in protest for the next day or so.  Yesterday, I went on a 8 mile hike, found 56 geocaches and this morning went on a half hour bike ride, then walked 3 miles later in the day.  My body doesn't protest anymore.  It feels good.

And that's why the word for the year is weight.  Because I'm losing it.  All I ask is that you don't find it.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The morning after - Day 10 of the Chill

It's Friday and with this post I'm halfway through the Chill challenge.  To be perfectly honest, I never expected to see me get this far.  I have had some nice encouragement from different quarters, some bloggers and some friends of mine who have been nice enough to post something, either here or on Facebook, that has helped keep me going.  So I thank you for that.

Besides writing to the prompt, I've also kept in the back of my head that I wanted to tie the prompt in with different photos that I've taken.  Some, I think, I've been pretty successful in tying in, while others (yesterday's post comes to mind) I don't think I've been quite as successful.

Today's prompt, the morning after, can have a lot of different meanings to a lot of different people.  Yeah, that's pretty wishy washy, but it's the best I can come up with.  I have to admit that every time I've seen the prompt, Maureen McGovern's song from the original Poseidon Adventure keeps running through my head.  Look up the video and you'll see a pretty amazing cast in this movie.

The lyrics for the first two verses, written by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn speak about love getting through the night and about the journey the people in the Poseidon had to make to get out alive.

There's got to be a morning after
If we can hold on through the night
We have a chance to find the sunshine
Let's keep on looking for the light.

Oh, can't you see the morning after
It's waiting right outside the storm.
Why don't we cross the bridge together
And find a place that's safe and warm.

Originally, the song's title was called, Why must there be a morning after?  Either way, reading the words, or thinking about either title, I think the song takes on an entirely different meaning when juxtaposed along with the photo I've chosen to tie in to this prompt.

Comments as always are welcome.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dishing the dirt - Day 9 of the Chill

Dishing the dirt means to spread gossip or scandal.  While looking up this phrase, I also found mention of organic farming.  Now that could get interesting.  So I could post photos of my tomato plants from last summer and write about those right?

I don't like to spread gossip, although I'm sure there's someone out there who would probably disagree with my last statement.  I'm sure everyone, at some time or another has "dished the dirt" on someone else.  We're human and it seems like gossiping is very much a part of human nature.

I will attempt not to dish the dirt in most instances, although I will walk through the dirt most willingly.  I will walk through mud, fields, hills and over rocks and other assorted dirty things if there is a photo to be had.  I climbed down the side of a bluff once up in Humboldt County when I was in college to get a photo of the Pacific Ocean and the Big Dipper in the night time sky once.  I was 20 at the time and it was there that I knew I was a photographer at heart.

Halfway down to where I thought I wanted to go, I slipped and fell.  By the time I'd stopped sliding, I was pretty much where I wanted to be.  I rode it down on my back, holding the camera close while grabbing branches and other assorted things that were flying by in order to slow me down.  The camera came out unscathed in the mishap, the back of my jacket and pants, not so much.

That's the first day when I can clearly remember, the camera came first.  Nothing was going to hurt my pride and joy.  I'd purchased it a year before with my own money and I wasn't about to let it get dirty or broken.  At that time, I knew I was pretty much fixable, but my camera could be laid up for months, because I had no money to repair it at the time.  

Once I'd stopped sliding, I sat there for awhile taking in the situation and realizing that I wasn't going any further.  I also knew I would be able to get myself out of the situation, which meant I didn't have to panic, so I set up my tripod (yeah, I had that with me as well) attached the camera, composed the shot and tripped the shutter.  I used Ectrachrome slide film, so I don't have a print version of that particular shot.  It might even take me awhile to find the shot, but now that I've mentioned it, I guess I'm going to have to search for it sometime soon and post it here.

No, I didn't dish the dirt.  I slid on the dirt.  But it was worth it.  I can still see that shot in my mind's eye and will to the day I die.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Favorite article of clothing for the winter - Day 8 of the Chill

On day 2 of this challenge, I mentioned how we really don't get much winter here in Southern California.  It's a blessing and a curse.  The blessing is we can wear shorts pretty much all year long, or at least most days.  Yeah, we get our occasional bad spot of weather, but it's usually not that bad.  And therein lies the curse.

Since 1955 it has rained a grand total of 2 times on the Rose Parade in Pasadena that is held every year on New Year's Day, or January 2nd if New Year's Day falls on a Sunday.  Two freaking times.  Both times, the grand marshall of the parade was a Supreme Court Justice - 1955, Earl Warren and 2006, Sandra Day O'Connor.  OK, let's think about this.  Two times it's rained, both times the courts have been involved.  I think the Rose Parade Committee will be smart enough never to invite another Supreme Court Justice to be Grand Marshall again.

But that brings me back to my main point.  It's always perfect weather on New Year's Day.  Here's the thought process that probably goes on in households in the midwest on that day, where it's probably snowing and the temperature is hovering somewhere south of 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

"Martha!!  Come quick!!  They're wearing shorts again at the Rose Parade."

"I'll be damned, they are!"

"That's it Martha, we're moving to California this year!"

And the population swells again.  Sigh.

But what does this have to do with the prompt for today?  Nothing except to give you an idea that I don't really have a favorite article of clothing in the winter, with the exception of socks in bed.  My wife wears socks all the time as she's always cold, so most of the time she wears socks.  In the last couple of years, I've decided that wearing socks to bed isn't such a bad idea, especially when you have to get up in the middle of the night and walk across hardwood floors.  

So yeah, let's hear it for socks - my favorite article of clothing for the winter.  Oh yeah, and for the next 8 years, we're going to have a Supreme Court Justice as Grand Marshall of the Rose Parade, so you can stop moving here.  We have too many people out here as it is.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ten Hotdogs - Day 7 of the Chill

Ten hotdogs?  Seriously?  The prompt is ten hotdogs?  Or is it ten hot dogs?  It does bring up an interesting question that has never really seriously been answered, which is why I think it's the prompt in the first place.

Why is it that most packages of hot dogs are 10, while the packages of buns are 8?  I mean, to break even, you need 8 packs of hot dogs and 10 packs of buns so that you break even with the hot dog to bun ratio, but that's not really the end of your problems.  Unless it's the 4th of July and the fireworks are bursting over head, you're going to lose some of those buns because there's going to be a build up of mold.  Which means you need to buy more than 10 packs of buns.

Hot dogs on the other hand?  Yeah, they're not going to go bad.  Hot dogs are like McDonald's hamburgers.  Leave them out for months and with all of the preservatives in them, they're still going to have nothing growing on them.  Unless you buy Hebrew National hot dogs.  Those might mold up after awhile.

Ah, the heck with it.  Just open a can of chili, drop two hot dogs on an open bun, pour about a third of the can of chili over the top, the drop your favorite cheese on top of the chili.  Heat and eat.  Tomorrow, ride 10 miles on your bike, because it's going to feel like you ate 10 hot dogs by that time and you're probably good to go.  But if you do that twice, then you'll have exactly the right number of buns left over for the rest of those hot dogs.

Except then, you'll have extra chili.  OK.  So instead of dropping a third of can, drop half a can.  It's all good at this point.

Monday, January 12, 2015

What is “chill” and how do I do it? - Day 6 of the Chill

For those of you following along, the 20 days of Chill Writing challenge only happens Monday through Friday, which is why there weren't any posts this weekend. The second reason why I haven't posted this weekend was because I was busy.  7 of us took a road trip to Escondido on Saturday for some geocaching, hiking and other frivolity.  A good day was had by all and I believe I ended up with 31 cache finds.

Moving on with the prompt of the day.  What is "chill" and how do I do it?  Maybe more important, do I care whether I do it or not?  I'm under the impression that "chill" means different things to different people, so does it really matter what I think chill means?

People in most parts of the world probably associate chill with cold.  I've always associated chill with being relaxed.  Chill out dude.  I could always use more of that chill as I've always been pretty high strung about a lot of different things?  NO???  REALLY?  

I believe I'm less high strung than I used to be.  That still hasn't helped my blood pressure much, but I'm working on that.  Then again, maybe it has helped my blood pressure.  So, I'll address what relaxes me, mainly because that's my chill.  Hmmm.  Things that relax me.

Good music.  Pachelbell's Canon in D.  Mozart.  Beethoven.  Vivaldi.   

Roadtripping.  I like to drive and it relaxes me.  Getting in the car and just driving somewhere, preferably with a view of some kind is what I find very relaxing.  I live within two hours of three national parks, Death Valley, Joshua Tree and Channel Islands, and within 6 hours of three other national parks, Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite.  Put me in any of those places, in a tent and enough food to last me for a couple of days and I'll probably come out of it at the other end pretty chill.

And I will be the first to admit that this challenge is not chilling me at all.  I look at some of the prompts and thing to myself, "Self, now what the hell am I going to write about in response to that one?"  And this is just that.  Ordinarily, I wouldn't write about something like this at all.  Not my style.  But I guess that's part of the game.  And so it goes.

The photo is from Bryce Canyon National Park.  I've been there 3 times.  I could go again and again.  It is my second favorite national park next to Yosemite.  There's not nearly as much to do there as there is in Yosemite, but I just can't get enough of those hoodoo formations.  Plus the hiking down amongst them is something that I just love to do.

And now I need to think about how I'm going to formulate something about 10 hotdogs.  That's not getting me to chill at all.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Invisible - Day 5 of the Chill

As I go through the list of topics for the 20 days of Chill Challenge, I'm trying not to get too far ahead of myself.  I've actually been writing these posts a day ahead of time, so I don't have to worry about coming home and then thinking about something to write about that needs to be posted that evening.  I've discovered that it's much easier to write it a day ahead.  Then, when I come home, all I have to do is hit the publish button and I'm good to go.  

The first day, I even tried to get Blogger to post it at a certain time for me, hoping that it would already be posted before I even got up, but for some reason that didn't work.  So I'm just posting them when the computer comes on in the afternoon after work.

Today's theme or prompt is Invisible.  I can relate to this very well, because I deal with invisibility every time I go out geocaching.  I'm sure most of you know what geocaching is, but those of you who don't, geocaching is an electronic Easter Egg hunt.  People go out and hide things (caches), then post the geographic coordinates onto the Geocaching website.  Then other people, like me, go out and find the caches that are hidden using our GPS units and our wits.

Since most cachers like the challenge, the fun is seeing how well you can make your cache blend in to the environment and make it invisible.  The trick is you don't want to make it so hard that it can't be found, but you want to make it hard enough so geocachers can find it, but non-geocachers, or what we call muggles can't find it.

This past Sunday, I spent probably half an hour looking for a cache that was well hidden.  The camouflage on the container blended in very well.  There was another geocacher there when I walked up and he hadn't found it.  We both looked for about 15 minutes before I had to go.  I took my leave and walked to church.  After church, I came back and started looking again.  I looked at the cache page and noticed that the other cacher had found the cache.  (He told me he had been there another 20 minutes or so until he found it).  

I read his log and realized that I was standing right where he was when he found the cache.  I looked up and there it was right in front of my face.  How had I missed it before?  I had been looking in that spot previously and yet somehow missed it.  After I replaced the cache, I could see it very easily.  It was no longer invisible, even though I'd replaced it exactly the way I'd found it.  And it always happens that way.  Once you know where something is, it almost always sticks out like a sore thumb and is spotted very easily.

So I guess the question remains.  What's invisible in my photo?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Travel - Day 4 of the Chill

When I looked over the list of topics for the 20 Days of Chill Writing Challenge, I noticed that this one would be the easiest.  It probably will be the longest as well.   I love traveling and try to get at least one travel/camping trip in every year.  Most years, I'm successful.

This past summer I went on a short week (5 days) camping trip with my friend Craig to help him get to Yosemite National Park and hike the John Muir Trail.  I've already written two posts about it, Part 1 and Part 2.  This is Part 3 and a continuation of the trip to Bodie which I started in Part 2.  If you've just stumbled upon this blog because of the 20 days of Chill challenge, I suggest that you might want to go back and read the first two parts before reading this one.

As I noted last time, we got extremely lucky at Bodie as the photographic elements all came in alignment to give me some great conditions in which to take photos.  We had light sprinkles from some thunderstorms that were passing through the area, but we weren't getting wet and the puffy clouds were just excellent.

After we explored the cemetery in Bodie and found a geocache over there, we then walked over to the main part of town.  Several of the buildings are open and we could walk through parts of them to see some of the insides, but it was mostly exteriors of the buildings.  I think I posted in Part 2 that I went shutter clicking happy, and why not?

There have been so many times in the past when I've traveled when I've had totally cloudless skies.  Now, cloudless skies are nice, but from a photographer's point of view, they don't lend much interest into your shot if a third of it is one color or monotone in nature.  Clouds give your photographs some depth, and I had it that day, so I went nuts.

And it wasn't even difficult to go through the images and decide which ones weren't going to see the light of day anywhere outside of my computer screen as I just love most of the images that I had taken.  I experimented with Black and White with almost all of them, but settled on color for quite a few of the images.  But as you can see, I did process at least on in Black and White.

Historical areas like that have always intrigued me.  As we walked around the town, reading the plaques about the various buildings, we just had to marvel at the intestinal fortitude of people who lived in this area in the 1800s.  People were tough back then.  It was hard work from sunup to sundown with not much relief at all.  Creature comforts like forced air heating were non-existent.  Can you imagine living in a place, covered in snow for most of the winter months without some kind of gas heating system?  I would suspect that most of us if we were instantly transplanted back to the 1870s would be dead within a week.  

But since we were born when we were, I think we should feel very fortunate.  Because of the hard work of people before us, we have been afforded all sorts of luxuries, many of which we probably take for granted.  We have that forced air heating, almost instant access to information, a good educational system and the ability to travel and learn about places such as Bodie.

After walking around the town for several hours, taking in much of the site, but not getting to the mine area of the town, we had to leave to get to our next camping stop, which was a good hour and a half down the road.  Because we didn't see it all, I'm sure I will be back to explore more parts of Bodie, including the mine section.  I just hope it doesn't take as long to get back for a second visit than it did for me to get here in the first place.

The top photo is a photo I submitted for the Sharpshooters International Photography Club.  Each week, members of the club submit photos and the club publishes a photo stream every Wednesday.  Please stop by on Facebook (link above), like our page and view some of the fantastic photos that members have to offer each week.

Thanks for coming by for Day 4 of the Chill Challenge.  I'm actually amazed at myself that I've been able to keep this up for the entire time so far.  Of course, I still have 16 more days to go, but I'm getting into a rhythm right now.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Willy Wonka’s greatest candy making secret - Day 3 of the Chill

Sometimes, blog posts make sense and sometimes they don't.  I think this post it going to fall into the latter category.  About the only thing I could possibly link to this was I played Willy Wonka in a dinner theater play our school hosted about 20 years ago.  The Everlasting Gobstopper was the all important piece of candy that Arthur Slugworth wanted to get his hands on and he'd stop at nothing to do it.

But this story isn't about Slugworth, or Willy Wonka, or Veruca Salt, or even Charlie Buckett.  It's about finding inspiration for photos in a variety of spots.   It's about making sure you're always prepared to take those photos that you know you'd kick yourself if you missed it. 

One thing I've learned is that you need to take your camera with you all the time.  You never know when the moment is going to strike and you'll get that picture perfect shot.  Case in point is this shot of a hummingbird I spotted while out geocaching in Ventura a couple of years ago.  Found the cache, wandered around and then spotted several hummingbirds enjoying the nectar of these flowers. 

This one was the best of the bunch I took that day.  I was actually surprised that the birds allowed me to get as close to them as I did.  Usually hummingbirds are very skittish and won't let you get so close.

I'd still like to get a faster zoom or fixed telephoto lens, one that would stop the motion of the bird's wings, but that's going to cost some big bucks down the road and the only way I'm going to come up with that kind of money would be to find out Willy Wonka's greatest candy making secret.

Wait a minute.  I was Willy Wonka.  I should know this.  In fact, I do.  Because Willy Wonka's greatest candy making secret is.......

that it's still a secret.  Shhhhhh.  No one's supposed to know, but it wouldn't surprise me if flower nectar was somehow involved.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Favorite Winter Comfort Food - Day 2 of the Chill

This is an interesting topic to be talking about for day two of the Chill challenge.  I'm not exactly sure what winter comfort food really is, mainly because we don't get much of a winter compared to other regions in the United States or in the world for that matter.

The weathermen in Southern California could "predict" the weather as "Sunny and mild" every day and be right probably 75% of the time.  In my book, that's a pretty good track record for weather guessers.  Winter, the way most people view winter, doesn't happen here.

So comfort food is, to me anyway, things that I don't get on a regular basis during the year, mainly because it's either not very good for me, or too expensive, or just ridiculous.  Christmas time is always the time for all of us in the family to get some really good stuff, just because. That's what ends up stuffing our stockings every year.  It's gotten to the point that our stocking stuffers take up grocery bags, because my wife goes all out with it.

Things that usually end up in my stocking are Oreo Cookies, Pop Tarts, Clamato Juice (don't judge me, I like it), bunches of Heath Toffee bars, boxes of Junior Mints and York Peppermint Patties and Pringles Potato Chips.  Sometimes if I'm really lucky, I'll get a can of Macadamian nuts.  See? All the things that aren't really good for me, but that I love tremendously.  Once all of those things are gone, then Christmas is really over.

Needless to say, I've been rationing things this year, so Christmas isn't over, even though I went back to work yesterday.  I still have half a bag of York Peppermint Patties and an entire package of mint Oreo Cookies.  And my youngest better hide his stash, because I've been eyeing his Triple Decker Oreo Cookies that landed in his stocking.  

Monday, January 5, 2015

Spilled milk - Day 1 of the Chill

I think New Year's Resolutions are quite funny.  It seems that most people make resolutions and then don't follow through on them.  "Oh, I'm giving up chocolate this year."  Then, a week later, they're eating a chocolate chip cookie or chocolate bar.

Resolutions are promises to yourself.  I like to use the word goals.  Goals are something you strive to do.  They might have a definitive ending or might not.  What happens if you don't reach your goal?  Do you cry over spilled milk?  No, I actually think that you re-evaluate your goals and see what could have been done to improve upon that goal for the coming year. 

In 2013, I found 1244 geocaches, making my goal of getting at least 1200 finds in a calendar year.  Looking back over my totals, I felt that the way I was now finding geocaches, I could probably find 1500 in 2014.  At the end of this past year, I ended up with 1424 finds.  Did I fail?

Some people would say that I did fail because I didn't reach my goal.  Looking at my statistics, I think I did fairly well at reaching my goal, even if I didn't quite reach it.  In 2013, I went caching on 161 days, which means I averaged 7.7 finds each time I went out.  In 2014, I only went caching 137 days, but found 10.4 caches every time I went out.  My average was up, but I went caching 24 less days which means that if I'd gone caching the same number of days, I would have found 1674 caches in 2014.  

So the key question becomes, why didn't I reach my goal?  Well, certain things conspired against me.  Usually, when I travel, I have lots of opportunities to geocache.  My yearly camping trips with my son usually allows us to geocache every day, getting at least one or two each day with other days where we'll find a lot more.  My son's schedule didn't include a camping trip this summer.  I did go camping, but it was a much shorter trip, so not as many cache finds.

July is usually a very good month, caching-wise for me since it's in the middle of summer with lots of time off when I can geocache.  In 2013, I found 199 geocaches in the month of July.  In 2014, because of family commitments, which limited my caching, I found 61.  I suspect this upcoming July will be similar because we're having a wedding that month.  I can live with that.  If I want to meet the goal of 1500 cache finds this year, I'll just either have to get out caching more during the rest of the year, or find more each time I go out.  I can see where a combination of both techniques will help me achieve the goal.

That's one of my goals for this year, to continue to enjoy geocaching and try and find 1500 caches by December 31st.  I think that's achievable and actually, I think the more important goal is to enjoy the game.  If I enjoy the game, the numbers will come.  

I have several other goals that I'll share with you over the next couple of days.  For now, this is my first post for the 20 days of Chill Writing Challenge.