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Preview: Keith's Odyssey to Planet Fitness

Keith's Odyssey to Planet Fitness

Ironman Canada - DONE! What next?

Updated: 2018-04-24T13:07:11.456-06:00


Curtis says, I told you so


Curtis feels vindicated today. Totally, completely vindicated, and he is telling me all about what a stupid human I am, and what an excellent smart hunter cat he is.You need to understand the back story, so go here, and here. Short posts, photos of Curtis, so it isn't that big of a hardship. Here he is the other day, pining for the out of doors, wanting to hunt his mouse, or bunny. He knows it's out there, he knows that the doors lead out, and he's eager to help contribute to the household. It's just us stupid humans that don't let him out.It's a beautiful warm sunny day here. Full summer, with a side of some ice hanging around, which is not totally out of the question here, even in August. We put Celina and Curtis on their harness and let them out in the back yard for a little while, supervised of course.They both strolled around for a few minutes, but pretty soon there was this. He smelled something and was following it.Spotted! There was a mouse (might have been a ground squirrel, hard to tell) in the space between the fence and the garden retaining wall. He followed it back and forth for a while, reaching down with his paw every now and then. I'm not sure where it ended up, but he eventually lost interest.Some more random shots throughout their airing. Yes, the lawn is a mess. Much of this was a glacier a couple days ago.[...]

Pushing through


The little plants are growing fast, reaching for the sun, pushing winter debris aside. It makes for some  interesting juxtapositions. Plus the first insect of the year. A ladybug emerged from under some debris while I was watching. I double checked to make sure it wasn't an early lily beetle.My buddy Julie posted something thoughtful on Facebook about her experience with social assistance  some years ago. She described how humiliating it was, and how it made her feel like a loser, which she totally isn't, but the system didn't know that.There's lots of reasons why people might need social assistance. Sometimes all it takes is a little bad luck when you don't have much to fall back on. Maybe it was a bad decision that seemed like a good idea at the time. Or you might just be starting out, pushing through adversity, hoping it's a leaf and not a huge rock that gets dropped on you.Once again I'm struck by how much plants can look like predators, mouths gaping...This is my favourite of today's batch. The one plant looks like it's wearing a little crown, and the others are peering out, wondering if it's safe.Hello little ladybug!This is the lawn just now. I know, yuck![...]

Actual green! Daffodils!


They weren't there yesterday, at least I don't thinks so. There was still snow covering part of where the plants are growing. One set of stems had pushed up through the snow.You can't imagine how happy I am to see a real sign of spring! Green things growing. Soon there will be blossoms. You can bet the photos will make it to the blog. Here's what I've got so far.[...]

2001 plus 50


Here we are, 50 years after one of the release of one of the most amazing movies ever. Not just amazing science fiction movie, but movie overall. I saw it as a kid, I think once on video but I'm not sure. Then I watched and talked about it a couple years ago here, and I will strive to not repeat myself.Tonight I'm going to watch it again, and babble into my laptop for your delight and edification. Starting now.Black screen, tension building music. I'm sure the audiences must have been wondering what was going on. They knew it was science fiction, and Stanley Kubrick was already a well known name. But up till then, there weren't many serious science fiction films, and certainly none with the budget for 2001. People were most familiar with the cheesy monster from another planet. The budget was about $6 million (mid sixties dollars!) and he went well over it to end up about $10 million, which is about $30 million now.The music! The sun rising over the crescent moon! Yes, I'm playing it loud. Then a lovely sunrise sky that I dream to photograph. Stark African landscape. I'm sure the audience is wondering what the heck they've got themselves into.Remember, this is 1968. A few of my readers will remember this time. I have a kid's memory. It was a very different time. The cars were death traps. I know this, somewhat later I owned a 66 Ford Falcon. It weighed a ton, got crappy gas milage, could easily hold 6 teenagers, 8 if they were friendly or half of them were cute. The only amenity it had was a cassette tape player I installed, and later, a CB radio. (look it up.) No heated seats or steering wheel, no air conditioning other than roll down windows, no USB ports, no instrumentation to speak of, no radial tires till I installed them (google bias ply tires and be horrified), no fuel injection (google spark plugs), no power steering or brakes let alone computer assisted braking, and no cup holders, if you can believe it. There were seat belts, although no shoulder harness, but it didn't matter because nobody wore them.I remember a transistor radio I had as kid about the time this came out. It was huge, the size of two loaves of bread, about. Lots of empty space inside, and it took several D cell batteries to run. Now of course, such things are invisibly small.OK we have the monolith, and some excited chimps, with another sun and moon shot. Curtis doesn't like the chimps much. The bones! The music! Violence. The most famous jump cut in movie history. It's taken us 20 minutes to get here, an eternity in current movie making.Even now, the opening space scenes look completely realistic, after more than 50 years of space travel. At the time, it must have taken the audience's breath away. It was a stroke of genius to pair The Blue Danube to the docking sequence. We know these things take time and are the result of extraordinary precision. Many movies now have the ships bang up to the station and dock, wham, bam, thank you ma'am.Of course our current space station has no comparison to the lovely double wheel (still under construction, realistically enough) in the movie. I can see where the Star Wars people got the idea for the space dock sequence. 2001 looks better.The first spoken word, 25:41 into the movie. They use voice print ID, but I'm not sure if they are measuring the voice characteristics, or if they recognize the content of the words. Video TV! The lens is huge, and I'm not sure what all the controls are for, but that's ok. The call costs $1.70.I love/hate the red chairs in the station. The red on white is dramatic, but they look profoundly uncomfortable, and I'm sort of amazed they got women to sit in them, wearing skirts. (Skirts, in space!) And nylons as well. The conversation starts placing the idea that something is going on. Meanwhile there is this huge empty space station. Sterile. In this the used universe of Star Wars is more believable.The flight attendant helmets take the idea of a padded hair net a little over the top. Then the scene [...]

The back patio is emerging


I dare not say it's stopped snowing for the season, but we've had a couple nice days and the snow is going away. We are hopeful of firing up the barbecue this weekend. To that end I was shovelling around it and the steps to the back of the house. Naturally the camera came along.

I'd known this colour was here, but until today, or late yesterday, it was completely inaccessible without snowshoes.

I'm kind of fond of last years vegetation still standing after a brutal winter.

No idea what these are.

 There's still lots of snow to leave before patio season goes into high gear. Still, the thermometer says it's 10C in the patio, and I believe that. It will probably even get warmer. Just to the left of this photo is the little lodge, and if someone wanted to come over and set up a lounger to work on their tan, I could supply the sunscreen.

It's been a while


Winter sunrises have been blah for a while. I was heading out last Sunday for BRBE to pick me up, when I saw the sunrise. I dropped the bag and headed back in for the camera. It was good timing, the perceptive of you will know those are are her headlights coming along. It was a good swim for all involved.

A while ago I'd promised a photo of Linda at the retiree thing, but that didn't work out quite as well as I'd hoped. The iPhone photo I was sent is brutal. This one is a photo of a photo, which is often fraught. The guy is the president of the union. When you're handing out a little retirement present, I guess you get to be in the photos.

It's been a long while since I've seen this part of the garden. This was still covered in snow yesterday. We've got some nice weather in the forecast, and it could well be one of our few weeks of summer. Break out the sunscreen!

The Amaryllis extravaganza followup


Thank you very much to my two commenters on the Amaryllis extravaganza , Janice and SPD. It was only after I read the comments and tried to follow along that I realized I'd been inconsiderate, asking people which photo out of 25 was their favourite, and then not numbering the photos! My bad.  In any case, I've gone back and numbered them. I hope my buddies don't look back and realize they miscounted. Interestingly enough, they agree on their favourite.I'm a bit surprised by the choice, but this is why feedback is really valuable and interesting to me. The other one they agreed on, I'm not surprised about, it's up near the top of my list as well. Everybody brings something different to their photo experience. They might really like a certain colour, or a particular subject, or be repulsed by them so much it overwhelms their objectivity. Sometimes the viewer will see things the photographer didn't notice, which might be good or bad.As the photographer, I get really close to some of the photos. I spend more than the usual time with some of them, tweaking the settings to be just right. Several times I've gone back to look at a flower to remind myself of what colour it actually is, then come back to the computer for editing. Reds and oranges can be really difficult to capture.A lot of stuff happens to that beam of light along the way. The sun generates it, then it's modified as it passes through the Earth's atmosphere, it might bounce off something other than the subject, is modified again as it bounces off the subject itself, enters our eyes to excite the cells in our retina, and an electrical signal is passed to our brain, which provides an image to us the human. An ever so slightly different beam of light bounces off the subject, through a system of lenses, and is captured by a digital sensor, and converted to a long series of ones and zeros. From there all sorts of indignities could happen to it, to produce an image on a computer screen, where another beam of light starts the eyes and brain thing. It's a wonder any of us agree on what colour anything is.Especially with flowers, texture is important. It's really easy to push the settings to produce an unbelievable image that just doesn't look right. Then there's the whole thing about the setting, and everything else. After a while during a deep dive editing, it becomes impossible for me to be objective about the photo anymore. A few times I've found myself trying to push the photo to be something I want, rather than what the photo wants. It's hard to describe.People are difficult too. We know what skin and hair looks like, at least those of us who actually look at real people do, as opposed to those who think that Cosmo is a documentary magazine. I have not the slightest interest in taking photos of people made up with a trowel, as the saying goes. There's no humanity there anymore, one might as well be photographing a plastic doll.I was photographing people at the local community association spaghetti dinner the other day. Most don't notice the camera, or try to stay out of the way. I want them to just do what they had been doing, and not look at the camera. One kid, about 10 to 12 years old (it's hard to tell now) was flirting with the camera looking at me, then away. I eventually got a shot I really liked, but it took a bit of doing, and looking elsewhere for a while.There are some nice portrait shots, but that isn't necessarily what the community association is looking for. It will take a bit of learning to produce good shots they like and can use on their Instagram, Facebook, newsletter, and web pages. All a good experience.In any case, you might want to go back and have a look at those amaryllis photos, now that it's easy to tell me which number you like.Here's a couple of those spaghetti dinner photos, one cropped for instagram, one for Facebook.There was a bingo game after. I haven't played bin[...]

Macro Monday 26, should've been 25


Part of the challenge, and fun, of photography is to come up with ideas and go hunt for the corresponding photo. A blog is always looking for ideas, and ways to tie things together. So for instance, it's snowing really hard out today. We've had several cm of snow already. (Sigh, and more expletives deleted.)I didn't have to go anywhere, and I didn't. There I was, busy with a coffee, a cat, and a laptop, when I had a sudden idea for Macro Monday 25. The idea will become obvious shortly. However, once I edited the photos and looked at my blog it turns out that 25 was a few weeks ago. No tie in to 25 at all, unlike what today's blog would have done.A quarter is 23.88 mm in diameter, or just a hair under an inch for those who think that way. It's made almost entirely of steel, with a bit of copper and nickel, and yet it's all scratched up. I like the texture it gives the photos.[...]

The retiree thing


Most of you know that Linda retired last year, after 36 years with the City. CUPE Local 38 puts on an annual dinner for the people that retire each year, and last night was it. Let me just say the Winter Club puts on a good spread.

We invited our friends Gord and Gail (Gord worked with me when I was at the City, and he was there almost 30 years), and Linda's cousin Terry and his wife Donna, (with Donna working at the City for 33 years, I think.)

We did that so we'd have someone to talk to, just in case, but it didn't turn out that way. A buddy of Gord's showed up and joined us. I had seen the name of a person I knew of, who was a mutual buddy of someone else I know, and with whom I had corresponded several times trying to arrange a video swim. I texted my photo to my buddy, who texted it to her, which confused the heck out of her for a few minutes. Anyway, she came looking for me, and it turns out that she knows Donna. Small world some days.

The last time I went to one of these I ended up seeing people I had worked with, oh so many years ago, but no such magic this time. A few faces might have looked a bit familiar, but it's hard to tell. The one that looked most familiar was not in fact the person I thought it was. Oops.

They called up the retirees one at a time to celebrate them and their accomplishments. Survival being the main thing, to my way of thinking. Several people had retired after 40 years of service, which just amazes me.

It used to be that if you wanted to make more money and risk periods of unemployment, you went with the private sector. For even more money and more risk, you went into the oil patch. For less money, and virtually no risk of unemployment, you worked for the City.

Well, all that is changing. There have been massive layoffs at the City. If Linda had not retired, she certainly would have been let go, probably late 2017 at latest. Lots of her colleagues are being let go, and it's a very traumatic time for them.

In a couple weeks we do it again, this time at Heritage Park, for the City's version of feting the retirees. That will be all City people, so I might see someone I know. I'll have to keep a sharp eye out, mentally recalibrating for their age. I, of course, look the same, just with shorter hair, and a nicer tie.

The Amaryllis extravaganza


It's snowing again, after ice drizzle. The streets are a nightmare, but at least I don't have to go out. I've never really thought all that much about the amaryllis that's about 2 m behind me as I write this, but it's been about the only spot of colour recently.There was a set of 3 blossoms, and I got an ok shot of it. Then another stalk came up, and I conceived the idea of a little photo project. The idea was to capture the bloom from bud to needing to be dead-headed, without moving the plant. I hadn't known when I started but there ended up being 5 blossoms on that stalk. I started March 20, and took the last photos today.The light is challenging, with a north facing bay window. Rather than taking a series of shots that might as well be extracts from a time lapse movie, I wanted to try to capture a nice angle for the exact state of the blooms. Sometimes that meant shooting directly towards the window, meaning the back of the blossom was in shade. I did a few HDR shots, but only one turned out the way I wanted. Other times that meant crawling into the bay window, or moving chairs.When shooting in lower light you have 4 options. One, mount the camera on a tripod and hold the shutter open as long as desired. This works as long as nothing (like a cat, or warm air from the heat duct, or the photographer's heavy breathing) moves the flower even slightly. Two, raise the ISO to make the sensor more sensitive. This tends to introduce more digital noise in the darker areas of the photo. Three, open the aperture wider so more light comes in while the shutter is open. This is a mixed blessing. On the good side, one can get nice shots with a deliciously out of focus background, which I like. The downside is that it can become tricky to get all the desired elements clearly in focus. Four is to cheat and add artificial light wherever or however desired. I decided not to do that, and shoot only with natural light, and not use a tripod. Finding the sweet spot for ISO, shutter speed, and aperture for the image you see in your mind is what photography is all about.These are in time order. Scroll through, enjoy the different state of the blossom, and try to pick up on the different camera angles and techniques I used. Which is your favourite?1234567891011If you can't tell, this is the HDR shot. It's one of my favourites. 121314151617181920212223242526Which is your favourite?[...]



Some days you just get into it, whatever it is. You get up and you get into. Sometimes even before coffee, heretical as that might sound.Then there's times when it doesn't seem quite right to get started. One might really need a coffee. Or you're waiting for something. This can be all well and good, if the thing waited for is well defined, and the delivery time is clear.Typically, however, the time frame is not clear, as in service will be attempted between noon and 5pm. Occasionally the opposite is true. I once had a colleague faithfully promise to deliver a requested query precisely and approximately at 2pm. The timing didn't fuss me, but I had grave doubts about their understanding of what was desired, well founded doubts as it turned out.Then you have the situation where you are waiting for something, but have no idea when or even if it will arrive. Worse, you don't know what it looks like or where it is, so you can't go looking. It might or might not be something you recognize when you see it.For writers, inspiration often falls into this group. I've had some success lately in making progress on my writing, but there's a chunk that's needed, and the words are on the tip of my fingers, but alas they aren't making the jump to the keyboard. Plus, one of the tasks I need to do for my own sanity is map each specific chapter on the timeline, as opposed to the main events within them. What I'd like to do in Scrivener is have one document with each chapter in date order, then later split them out into the two novels happening with a substantial time overlap. I know Scrivener will let me put them all in one document with whatever titles I want, in whatever order I want. I'm just not sure if there's a way I can tag them so I can pull out only half the chapters. For some reason I've been putting this off. Maybe because I've been holding chunks of the novels in my head, and putting them in this format is making them more real, and closer to a state where I have to decide about publishing.The blog has been suffering from this a bit, and on another front. Put bluntly, I'm sick of winter. Spring is supposed to arrive sometime this month, but is generally considered to be overdue. The pessimists of us point out that it has snowed in Calgary during every calendar month. I'm sick of photos with white in them.I'm finding it hard to find the mojo to get out with my camera. Well, with two exceptions, the amaryllis and the music concert. The last amaryllis bloom is fading, and I should be able to put up a big amaryllis extravaganza soon. The concert photos have been delivered, and nice things said. All I need is a bit more spring, and I'll be out there in the mud, camera in hand.In the mean time, here's a couple from the concert that I like. Yes, Bebo Grove plays a suitcase along with more traditional instruments. Their drummer isn't with them now, and they had to come up with a solution. I love that creativity. Clearly they didn't wait around for a drummer.As you know, I'm not a big portrait or person shooter, but I turned around and saw the light falling on this guy, and I couldn't get the camera to my face quick enough.[...]

Demoralizing but fun


More snow!! At least it wasn't the 10 cm forecast, and it's melting fast, but it's been steady off and on snow flurries since you last heard from me. I would not be surprised to find there are people in Calgary near to ending it all in despair.

They do not have Curtis, the most photogenic cat in the world. How could anyone repine when there are paws like this to tickle?

The exciting news is this.

Yes, a cell phone. Be still my heart. It is still being domesticated. We are trying to be gentle with her as she joins the modern era of communication. Her previous cell phone, if it can be called that, was essentially rocks and string. Texting is beginning to grow on her.

Today was the fun part. I'm the volunteer photographer for my local community association, and today was my first gig. They put on a concert, with Two Late for the Party opening for Bebo Grove. They're both on Facebook if you want to look there. Lots of people showed up and it seems a good time was had by all.

Novel progress is continuing. A trip to Costa Rica for research is desirable. I should have gone in January. There is even progress on the bike!

A raw chunk


I'm not sure if it's the warmer weather, or more sunshine or what, but some of the novel writing has been flowing again. I've had several new scenes come together, and several more get rewritten to fix timeline issue.All along I've known that Dwen and Les strike sparks. Several times she's said she isn't sure if she wants to shag him senseless, or just punch him out. Les has his own issues, and I'd also known there was something that Dwen said or did that helped him to resolve those issues.When looking at the timeline I realized that a funeral service was scheduled, and that would be perfect timing. So here's a portion of that scene for your delight. Copyright Keith Cartmell, of course,  no other usage is implied or authorized.Les and Dwen got out of his car, and joined the other people walking to the top of the hill. Unlike her usual casual disregard for the weather, Ronnie was bundled up in a parka, complete with hat, scarf, and mittens against the raw March wind. She was still sick, and Belinda hovered nearby.Les shook his head. “Poor Ronnie. She still blames herself.”“I know,” Dwen said. “She doesn’t want to listen to anything different. I think when your time comes, it comes. If she’d been awake and had her visit with Audrey, maybe the driver of that truck would have been delayed too. Or if not that truck, it would have been another, or something else. Something Audrey said a few weeks ago, I think she believed something like that too. I’ve never met anyone so serenely happy.”“The whole death in Samarra thing. Yeah. At least it was quick. More than anything else I fear getting captured by the medical system, kept half alive, too sick to live but not allowed to die.” Les shivered, and it wasn’t just the wind.Dwen thought about it for a few steps, then reached out to tuck her hand into Les’s arm. She pulled herself in close beside him and curled her arm around his, holding it firmly.Les didn’t know what to think. “Are you ok?”“Oh yes. Times like this it’s nice to be close to someone. It’s your first funeral, isn’t it?”Les just nodded.“Not me, and I’m sure it’s not my last.”“I suppose so. I didn’t know Audrey that well, but something about her friends is different. The polite thing to say is that I wanted to pay my respects, but  - “ Les trailed off.“Yeah. I think it’s important that she introduced us to her friends. I don’t know how I know that. Maybe not so much you and me, but Ronnie. I was watching her during that first party and some of the occasions since. Maybe this is melodramatic, but I think knowing these people is life or death for Ronnie. She needs something or someone, and I think one of these people is it.”“I got a piece of that too. I liked them all and got really good vibes from Ed. I don’t think we’re going to be best friends or anything but there’s a connection. With Ronnie, it’s like I could feel a puzzle piece, knowing it belongs but not quite fitting in. I hope it happens.”“That’s a good way of saying it.”They joined the small crowd, standing next to Belinda and Ronnie. All of the lab and office staff from the plant were nearby. There were some other people from the City as well, plus people assumed to be friends and family.Two people were huddled tightly around Audrey’s husband Thomas, and their two small children, Erin and Jordan. Dwen knew they were Audrey’s best friend Betsy along with her husband Edward.When the time came, Betsy stepped up to a small folding table. It had an urn and a condolence book on it.“Hello everyone. I’m Betsy. Thank you for coming. Nobody wants to be standing around in this wind any longer than we need to, no matter how much we loved Audrey, so I’m[...]

An actual run. Really.


Much of my workout life has been in the pool lately. This getting old isn't for sissies. I wouldn't have called myself injured over the last year or so, but there's been a lot of cranky body issues, mainly involving almost everything from low back to knees.

I've mentioned my swim getting back to what I think of as normal, which is nice. Often I include some water running, and some core in the pool. Let's not even talk about the bike. I was on it for an easy spin last week, and while there wasn't actual pain, there wasn't any actual strength either.

My legs have been feeling much better lately, so even though it isn't quite spring yet, it's nice enough I've been wanting to get out for a run. Regular readers will recall that I've often been out in seriously minus WTF temperatures. None of that this year. There's been lots of ice under the snow what with the way the first few snowfalls went, and the slackassery of my neighbours. Plus a big helping of slackerpants attitude on my part.

But today was the day, at last. Good footing with all the sun melting off the sidewalks, and temperatures about zero. I was really good about getting my legs warmed up in the house, then a much longer walk than normal to warm up.

The business end of the run was 3K in 20:52 for 7:13 or so per K pace. That was way better than expected. The first K felt pretty good, in a clunky stiff way that was no surprise for not really running in months. I was pleased at the pace number, since I thought I was running really slow. The second K felt even slower and clunkier, with my right hip talking to me a bit, but was almost exactly the same pace. A long even downhill will do that for you. The last K is mostly uphill, and was (surprise surprise) the same pace, or very slightly quicker. Imagine that.

Then a medium long walk to cool down, and a long session of stretching, rolling my legs with the gear, and feet up the wall.

It all still feels pretty good much later in the day. Let's see how it feels in the morning.

I'm hoping to try to get more regular with the running again. Last summer wasn't much, but the year before was really good. I was really enjoying getting out for some of the longest runs of my life, and while I don't plan on going as far, I'd like to be enjoying it as much. I had the goal of running along all the Calgary waterways, and did almost all of them. The only significant part I missed was the canal to Chestermere, and now there's some new paths.

Part of that regularity is going to have to be paying really good attention to how things feel, and stopping before I have to stop. More shorter runs are going to be better than fewer longer runs. The weather getting nicer is going to make it easier. I'd love to settle back into 5 to 10 K runs feeling good again.

I've run past this view a number of times, and even at that time of year, but this one was during an early March photo ramble in Edworthy park.

So I'm eager, but garden dirt!


The snow mounds are shrinking not rapidly enough for the people I've been chatting to lately. After taking more Amaryllis photos I was looking out into the front patio, and realized I could actually walk around a bit without needing snowshoes. Even better, the snow has receded enough to expose actual garden dirt and the plants left over from last year.

Of course I had to take photos. There's still a bit of snow in the photos because that can't yet be avoided. Soon, though. Soon.

If you look closely, there's a tiny bit of green in there, left over from last year.

Dirt! It's a measure of how excited I am, that I'm taking a photo of actual dirt and cedar mulch. We're going to drink wine with supper tonight to celebrate.

I think this is a day lily. Parts of the front flower box are emerging from the glacier. The side yard still has several feet of snow mounded up, and let's not talk about the back patio garden.

This is the rose that had that one hip I photographed here. It's still there, just out of view at the top of the photo. That's how much the snow has melted.

In Amaryllis news, since I know you are all panting with eagerness to see that photo essay, the blooms are starting to fade. Be patient. I've been enjoying the delicate red more than usual.

March Image of the Month


That was a tough month on the photography front. I am getting darned sick and tired of winter. We had lots of snowy and generally cold and crappy weather so I wasn't out as much as I'd have liked. Still there are a few nice photos. The winner was fairly easy, but I'm having trouble picking out the runners up. There are 5 that I like, each for different reasons.

I'd looked at them this morning, but couldn't make up my mind. Then we were off to brunch with some friends at Blackfoot Inn. As I digested I considered more, and wrote a bit while thinking.  In the end I thought of which I'd most like to see printed.

For second runner up, a bridge of wine diamonds in the neck of a wine bottle. I'd never seen that before. I've no idea what I did to get the surrounding blues, and tracery of blue in the diamonds. I'd like to tell you I cleverly added a blue laser to the setup, but no. Once I was done the wine, the bottle went downstairs to meet the macro camera.

First runner up. Some might think this prosaic. A coffee mug. Meh. This is one of my favourite mugs, thrown by Connie Pike in High River. I was sitting inside about to take a sip when the morning light caught the mug just right and I started noticing some of the detail in the glaze. A few minutes later I was outside with the mug and camera. The shot actually took a bit of doing to get just right, so I was in and out several times looking at images on the computer rather than the camera. Afterward I took it downstairs to the macro camera setup for a closer look at the glaze.

And our winner! I was out hunting for some specific dusk images for a writer buddy of mine. Along the way I crested a hill and saw this. You can bet I got the car stopped as soon as possible. Some of you might recognize those old combines in the bottom corner.

Currently, sort of


I've been desperate for some colour in my photography lately. Some white on white is nice, and frost on stuff can be a good look, and icicles can dress up all sorts of stuff, and there is all sorts of things that can be done with reflections from melting snow, and evergreen trees are a classy and dignified green, and some people like action shots in snow, but (say it with me, with feeling) I'M READY FOR SPRING! I'm ready to see the green of growing things, and whatever blooms come up first.In the meantime, there's still a ton of snow here. More landed last night. More is forecast. Sigh. Enough of that.The Amaryllis is blooming, so I've been accumulating photos of that. One day soon you'll get the life cycle of bud to decaying, for the 5 blossom explosion underway here. Stay tuned. Curtis is often supervising while I do this, but his attention was caught by a bird or something in the back yard. He likes snoozing on this cushion and blanket. His fur has picked up a touch of green from the plants.My inner shark has showed up with me rocking the swim mojo lately. I've been having fun in the water, and getting some nice times again after struggling for much of the last year. I'm still working up to my former times and distances, but I'm trying to be cautious. One of my buddies recently completed the Nevis to St Kitts swim. It's about a 4 K open water swim, and that might be fun to do next year, if the training continues. The inner shark highly approves of this.Don't ask about the run or the bike.I've sold another photo! It's fun to go to Resolve and pick out paper. I just saw the print today, and it's better than the version I see on screen. Wow! The print has a real sense of depth for the central part of the flower, and the colours are rich and creamy. It's been signed and I saw a photo of it framed and on the wall. Which photo, you ask? This one, which you've seen before several times.One of my photos has been published in Impact Magazine! It's an autumn scene in Fish Creek and westward. You can find it on page 55 in the print version. You can see the digital version of the magazine here.I've been trying to get out for a combination photo ramble and wine kit run, but the driving weather has sucked lately. My thinking is to leave early to find a sunrise mountain shot (pink is the money shot but I'm not going to complain about red or orange), get into Red Deer for breakfast, pick up the kits, and head home. There are 3 kits doing their thing in the basement, with one of them ready for bottling soon.There's been some interesting bits of writing happening, once I had the wit to start plugging things into an actual timeline. I fixed a few minor timing whoopsies and had a nice idea about a scene. It's still just an idea though. I rewrote one scene to make a whole lot more sense. There's a lovely scene that was so much fun to write (Ronnie beating up Charlie) but I'm not sure where it fits into the rest of the work. This is part of writing some of the behind the scenes stuff that happened, but from the point of view of the antagonist and his world, where they see themselves as the good guys. There's maybe too much going on, but it's a complicated world with lots of players.Some reading has been on the agenda lately. The latest is Tom Holt, The Management Style of the Supreme Beings is the latest. (God sells earth to some uber-capitalist twins, and decides to retire.) If you like his style of humour, you'll love this. I happily giggled to myself during the entire read. There's another photo book that has an interesting diagram relating ISO, shutter speed, and f stop in a different way than I've see[...]

Look ma, no inversion!


This was actually taken last week during a photo ramble. The inversion had mostly gone away. It was really murky here for a while, quite aside from all the snow. This is from way south of Calgary.On the same ramble, I found this bench, near the ones featured earlier. It's lovely when there's no murk to obscure the view. I wandered along the path trying to find a view of downtown, but that didn't work out.A few days later I'd visited Fish Creek Bridge 1, and found this view of the river. You'd think I'd make things easier for my readers by putting all the photos from a ramble into one blog, or at least in chronological order. Not so much. You'd get bored with the simplistic representational unity of it, when my thoughts bounce all over the place. That's why you guys keep reading, you never know what you're going to get.I hung out on the bridge for a while, listening to the creek trickle over the rocks, and trying to ignore the nearby car noises, and the somewhat more distant sounds of road construction.Looking to the right, you see the icy path leading to the hill of death. I was in raptures about the light through the trees, but the camera didn't quite capture it the way I saw it, so I had to tweak it a bit. You might have seen this photo on Instagram.In other news, the swim mojo is returning big time! I've been swimming further, having done 1.5K in a respectable time for me the other day. Plus the speed in shorter distances is coming back. Really pleased about it.[...]

It goes around and around


What secret base on the moon? You know, the one put there, on the 'dark' side, by aliens, or the Illuminati, or somebody. Sometime. For some reason. Don't Google it, you don't really want to know, and you'll never get that time back.Once when I was child, I was being driven home from something or other. I was staring up at a full moon, for what seemed like quite some time. Suddenly it was an eye, looking at me. Then I started thinking about the sort of creature that would have an eye like that, and I had nightmares for a while.I'm not sure how many full moons I've seen since then, but they keep happening like clockwork. (No eye again, just the man in the moon.) We look up at it, watching the changing phases and the various eclipses. The photographers of us try to get nice photos of it, which is a more difficult thing than you'd think.Maybe there really is an alien base, with them looking down at us. Probably in horrified fascination, like we can't look away from a train wreck. (All together now, and and IT WAS A CIRCUS TRAIN!!!) It's not on the dark side, because then they couldn't watch us. Oh, maybe the giant alien spaceships come in to land on the dark side at the secret landing port, where we can't see them, then they take the secret underground mag lev train to their secret forward observatory.I can imagine a new shift coming on, and being briefed by the outgoing shift. Especially in the last couple years, I can see that being a really long meeting, with many interjections of the alien equivalent of 'you've got to be kidding!'John Varley has written several works set on the moon in a not so distant future. They're pretty interesting societies, with medicine so advanced that changing gender is a trivial operation, and a central computer hooked into our very brains. Among other things, it keeps control of the various cancers that are constantly growing, and tries to keep the humans entertained. Meanwhile, it's going suicidally insane.Here, the closest we have to that is Facebook, and people are only just starting to learn about the downsides of turning over private data to such an entity. And that's aside from the internet itself. Even before it was invented, science fiction writers wrote about artificial intelligence and what happens when our computers wake up. The first serious movie I remember on this topic is Colossus: The Forbin Project, from 1970.The most well known AI is probably Skynet, but that's a particularly stupid AI. If such a creature wanted to get rid of humans it would engineer a plague that just killed humans, perhaps leaving enough to keep as pets, just in case. It's that or massively distract them with bread and circuses like professional sports and reality shows. Hmmm.We already carry in our pockets computers that would amaze the scientists from my teenage years. Many of us spend lots of time looking at them. We've already been implanting fairly complex electronics within our bodies, such as pacemakers. I can't see it being too long before they start experimenting with implanting a cell phone in our bodies, feeding the display directly into our eyes. As I see it, the big problem is figuring out how operate the darn thing. When there are millions of them, all hooked together via the internet via wifi, how is that not a giant brain?There's a science fiction series by Los McMaster Bujold where one of the characters has a memory chip implanted in his brain. He remembers everything, which is useful in his job as head of Imperial Security. That is, until the chip starts breaking down, flooding his human memory with razor[...]

Macro Monday 25, the business end


This is an old, old tool. Millions of years old. This is a 5x shot of the business end of it.

 The tooth is from a megalodon, and is about 6 cm long. It isn't especially sharp, which is sort of too bad. I was hoping to see how a razor edge on a tooth would show up. I also have a smaller shark's tooth that has a sharp point, but the problem is hanging onto it for the photo. It isn't very big.

The perfect photo?


A few things have gone into this blog post. In no particular order: The pushback against photoshopping the bodies and faces of models into an image that doesn't even begin to reflect reality. A question in The Online Photographer about still life photography, found or constructed. The process of learning to use a real camera on manual to take photos, then going out to the field and actually doing so. Learning to edit images in Lightroom. The blurring of the lines between professional and amateur. Expectations around content submitted for publication.Not sure where there is going to go, get the tipple of your choice for the time of day it is. It got long, complete with example photos for your delight.How good is good? One clearly would not seriously compare the scribbles of a kindergarten child to the work of a graduate of ACAD. How about a high school student to the ACAD grad? Hmmm, maybe a talented high schooler might produce better work than an untalented ACAD grad. We expect professionals to produce better work than amateurs, but it's not necessarily so. The pro is much more likely to produce the desired results faster, and more reliably. There's a story about a young photographer applying for a job and showing his work to the grizzled old pro. "This is nice, how long did it take you," he asks. "Days! I tweaked every little thing till it's perfect." "Hmmmm," says the pro, "I can't afford for you to take days on an image, but I'm dying to see what you can do in 10 minutes."Who is to judge? By what criteria? At one extreme is the 'likes' on Facebook, Instagram, and other such sites. As near as I can tell, the most popular photos are colourful sunrises/sunsets, then cats, then  baby animals, then an amorphous category of really excellent photos. At the other extreme are the professional critics who say Voice of Fire is an artwork worth paying $1.8 million for, and is now worth $40 million, and I say Bah.One interesting thing I've learned along the way is that my record for predicting what people will like isn't that good. I'd taken a bunch of photos of some friends at a triathlon. They were over, drinking some wine and we looked at them. I had one photo that I thought was really unflattering. I wondered if I should show it to her, and considered deleting it. In the end I decided to show them all the photos, and delete any that they asked me to. That 'unflattering' shot was the one she liked the most. She wanted a print of it. A lesson for me.I've been looking at a lot of photography books over the last year and a bit, trying to learn more about what makes a good photo. This has diverged into a bit of the history of art. To be honest, I'm as baffled as ever. Note that I'm clearly distinguishing between my personal taste in art, and what makes a good or even great piece of art. I might like a photo even though it is technically poor, because I know the people in it, or something about it catches my soul, but I wouldn't say it's good photo. There's lots of art hanging in various galleries that I don't care for but that's just me. Someone says they're good photos or paintings, and put their money where their eyes are. Good for them, and I hope they sell.Much of my reading, and looking, and thinking, was about works I didn't care for on first glance, and try to determine what made them good. There are many 'rules' about making good photographs, but I was trying to go deeper than that. Many really good photos break at least some of those rules, and some photos follow all the rules and [...]

A rosy survivor


Look what emerged from the snow! The rose out front has been buried for what seems like months. The sunny days lately have been melting the mounds quickly. Even after all that, a rose hip is still hanging in there. I'm sure some wildlife will come along soon to nibble it. I found this when I was out shovelling the sidewalk this morning.Yes, it snowed last night. If living here was easy then everyone would do it and it wouldn't be fun anymore. At least the air isn't hurting my face anymore.The dread Alberta rose beside the garage has hips as well, but it doesn't get covered the same way. It gets covered in ice sometimes. You may think I've got the camera all tilted, but no. I think the icicles formed, and the branches gradually drooped. The road in the background is level.There are some other roses emerging from the snow, though they weren't buried. There's a few hips on this one, but they're harder to see.Are you feeling buried? Hang in there. The snow will go away eventually. Just keep doing your thing, hard as it might be some days. You aren't alone, like the roses. They can't ask for help. You can. Reach out to someone in your family, a friend, or even a professional therapist. Even just that sometimes helps.If you're the person being reached out to, respond. Take a few minutes and listen to that person. It can make all the difference in the world to them. No, you aren't too busy. You can skip one You Tube video of cute cats.I posted fairly late last night, and you might have missed two photos of Curtis and a bit of a rant.[...]

Some days I wonder


As I get older I start to balance two conflicting impulses. One is to look at the idiocy of the world, and rage against it, using logic and experience to influence things for the better. The other is to remember that you should never argue with an idiot because he'll drag you down to his level and beat you with experience. That and never get involved in a land war in Asia, or go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.It sure seems like idiots are taking over the political system. Trump is by far the best example, but we're growing some here in Canada as well. What baffles me is many people are clearly voting against their own interests. I can't help wondering what's in their water? I mean, why would any woman or black person vote for Donald Trump, excepting those already in the 1% where the money balances out the minor stings (to them) of misogyny and racism? Without their votes he wouldn't be elected.And stop saying, "but Hillary." Had she been elected I'm pretty sure she would have run a moderately right wing administration, more of the same old, same old, by people who have been running things for several generations at least. Yes, those people are taking way too much along the way, but neither are they rocking the boat so badly as to risk swamping the ship. Plus, as politicians go, near as I can tell, she is about average for dishonesty. Trump is in a league of his own, making our most lying politician (Harper, hands down) look like a Boy Scout chump, yet he seems to be getting away with it, at least so far. You know it's bad when the LAWYERS insist they have two people in the room, so they have some support when he says something didn't happen.But lets talk about ordinary people. At the open house for the ring road I was eavesdropping on some of the conversations. There were lots of questions, of course. Some could have been answered from the material on line. Some of it was on the material right up there in front of them, though some of the print is really small. Some of the questions involved comparisons between then and now, or now and the future. Lots involved specific details about the plans that were not clearly addressed in the documents available. All of this is fair game. Not everyone has the time or the patience to wade through all the material, some of which is out of date.Then there were the people complaining about the road, wanting construction to stop. As if. People complaining about not being consulted, and not being mollified by the 50 year history of the road development. (Much of which, I must admit, involved nothing happening over long periods.) Just because they hadn't personally been consulted is no reason to stop. It just demonstrates the need to pay attention to what our elected representatives are up to with our money.A few of them had "better" ideas for the billions the road will cost, as if that money were handed out on a platter to be spent as desired. One person was on about the bridge over the Elbow River west of the reservoir. You'd think we'd never successfully built a bridge over a river before. One engineer did an eye roll when someone got up in his face talking about big oil, and mega-projects that would bring about the End Times, and that money should be going to build churches. At least the Freemasons or the Trilateral Commission didn't come up, and neither did Mercedes Man and the anti-BRT crowd.Meanwhile, we are building up to complete road construction chaos here in the SW. It's[...]

Springtime brutality


Winter is hard on cars. Days, weeks, and sometimes months of minus WTF takes it's toll on us, and cars.  But spring is brutal. Yesterday a pothole ate one of the tires on our car. I got a couple of K, then it started singing the flat tire flop song. Sigh. They couldn't repair it, so that's a new tire.

It's not just the potholes. There's probably a technical term for them, but the alleys are full of slushy holes. Drive into them and you drop to the bottom of the slush. It might be deeper than your car tire. An inch away could be steel hard ice. I'm guessing a tiny chunk of salt fell off a car, which started the melt, and when it gets some sun there's more local melting. The ice softens up as the water spreads out and down.

There's a spot in the alley behind us where there's a a foot of water in the hole, and ice all around. At night a thin, non car supporting skim of ice will form, but don't be deceived. Drive in and you won't drive out. I try to drain the water away, but look what I have to deal with. That ice wall is 4 to 5 inches thick, high, whatever. Bump!

Our neighbour behind us did much of that chipping, and my wrists thank him. It's a minor consolation that there are some nice reflections to be had, provided a willingness to stand in another puddle.

The amaryllis bloom is still developing. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile we are being whipsawed with nice days and cold nights. There might be snow tonight, disguising the slush holes and potholes even more. At least the air isn't hurting my face anymore.

Fading, and swelling again.


Not me. The Amaryllis. It's bloomed, faded, and there are some new blooms coming in. I've never seen them at this stage. I'll have to watch this. If I was a real pro, I'd set up on of my cameras and take a time lapse of it. There'd probably be a cat photobombing happening, which you guys might like.Here's the nice bloom from last week.It's now faded and crumpling. In the mean time, it slimed me as I was getting photos of the nearby hibiscus. Good thing the police didn't happen to see my hands. I don't know if they still use the term 'red-handed', but they would've liked to. Readers from last year know that I'm just as interested in fading blooms, as I am in budding, and full blossom. They're all beautiful in their own way.The poor hibiscus gets chewed by Celina a lot. We are fortunate that the recent bloom is too high for her.[...]