Uniflex II

Uniflex II

Uniflex II

This is one of the first cameras I used, back in the early 1970s. It wasn’t new then, as Uniflex cameras were made between 1947 and 1950. It has an aluminum body and a pair of 75mm lenses. I learned to develop the black and white film I used with the camera, winding it onto a reel that goes into the developing tank. I honestly don’t know if any of the photos I took back then are still around. Even if they are, I doubt many are worth looking at. But you have to start somewhere and this is where I started. We had a few old cameras available to use, as my grandfather had upgraded to a Leica and my parents had used both a Canon rangefinder and then a Minolta SLR.

Not surprisingly, I moved to 35mm and in 1979 bought the first of quite a few cameras. It was a Canon A-1. A few years later I got an F-1. That was my workhorse for quite a few years and went around the world with us in 1988. I bought a Nikon body so I could share lenses with my father-in-law. When it came time to move to autofocus and then digital, I went back to Canon and that’s where I am now, having started this “picture-a-day” thing right after getting my current camera, an EOS 60D.

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Tulip Poplars

Tulip Poplars

Tulip Poplars

Cathy, Dorothy, and I went to Seneca Creek State Park this afternoon and walked just short of 3 miles in the woods. It was a cool but pretty day with deep blue skies. The woods are predominated by tulip poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera) with a significant number of other deciduous trees including oaks, maples, beeches, and various smaller trees. I think the fact that they grow so quickly accounts for their numbers, as they outgrow the slower growing but longer lived hardwoods. Eventually, the oaks, maples, and beeches will outlive this first growth of poplars and it will all even out or even lean towards the others. But for now, the wood is filled with the straight trunks of the tulip poplar.

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Van Go

1997 Dodge Grand Caravan

1997 Dodge Grand Caravan

I cleaned out the old Dodge Grand Caravan today and took off the license plates, which I plan to return to the Motor Vehicle Administration on Monday. Before I did that, I took one final load of trash to the dump (well, the transfer station, actually). I had a few things of my own in the back but I drove over to Iris and Seth’s house and got the rest of the rubbish that we found under the stairs and loaded that up. That load included recyclables—paper/cardboard, rigid plastic, and metal—along with all the trash. The van has been a really good utility vehicle.

272,000 Miles

272,000 Miles

As I was driving home I notice that I was approaching an even thousand on the odometer so I drove just a little extra to get it to 272,000 just before I backed into the driveway. We bought it from our mechanic in March, 2006 after he bought it from some mutual friends of ours replaced the transmission. I’d say we got our $5,000 worth out of the van (not to say we haven’t spent that much again on repairs over the years). This is the highest mileage of any car I’ve ever owned. The Chrysler Town & Country that died in Chicago last summer was just a little short.

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Going Wireless

Going Wireless

I know wireless is here to stay, but it just feels weird

I’ve been thinking of doing this for a while. The idea isn’t completely original. I saw a cartoon something like this a while ago (at least a couple years, I’m pretty sure) but I’ve never gotten around to getting a good picture of birds on wires that I could use for it. I think the caption in the cartoon was something like “I know but it’s just felt weird ever since we went wireless.” That’s the caption I was going to use but I thought I’d change it just a little. Obviously this photo has been digitally manipulated slightly.

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Metal Embroidery

Metal Embroidery

Metal Embroidery

This is a detail of a piece of cloth with a sort of metal embroidery on it. The metal is actually wrapped in tight curls around some sort of thick thread which is then sewn into the cloth. There are also clear and blue glass beads, as you can see, and metal sequins. It’s quite intricate, with the small curls of wire being less than a 16th of an inch in diameter. It came from Afghanistan but I don’t know how old it is or much of anything about it, really. The entire piece is about 8 inches across. It sort of looks like it’s meant to be used as a trivet but I don’t think I’d want to do that. It really should be displayed, framed in some way.

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Bolt Cutters

Bolt Cutters

Bolt Cutters

I mentioned that Iris and Seth bought a house. There is a shed in the back yard and the sellers left it empty and with the doors unfastened, but with a locked padlock on the door. It would have been nice for them to take the lock off or leave a key for it, but perhaps they had lost the key and couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it. I took my bolt cutter and chopped it off this week and thought I’d post a photo of this handy tool. It’s the sort of thing you only need once in a while but it sure is handy when that time comes. This pair has seen some heavy use and the cutters are nicked pretty badly but when cutting things like padlocks (and bolts, of course), pretty isn’t generally a consideration. It came from my grandfather’s and I worked for him two summers when I was in high school. We did the bulk of the maintenance of the small rental properties he ran in his retirement. I learned a lot those two summers and as much as I didn’t enjoy crawling under a house in the mud to find a plumbing leak, I learned a lot that’s been useful to me in later life.

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Snow Drops (Galanthus nivalis)

Snow Drops (Galanthus nivalis)

Snow Drops (Galanthus nivalis)

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) are coming up in our yard. I remembered that the snow drops in the woods around my office are generally two or three weeks ahead of those in our yard. I went out with my camera this afternoon and sure enough, they are in bloom. There are two large areas, one in the back amidst fallen logs and the other on a steep bank leading down to a stream on the front side of the building. They really are lovely flowers, so simple and yet elegant, especially at a time of year when the ground and most of the things on it are brown.

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Daffodil Leaves

Daffodil Leaves

Daffodil Leaves

February is generally the middle of winter but it’s been quite warm lately, with highs in the 60s. The daffodils are coming up in our yard. That’s not all that unusual, as they generally start coming up during a warm spell in the winter. They are remarkably cold hardy and will be just fine, even after winter returns as it’s bound to do. I don’t mind a little green in the garden, as it reminds me that spring is not too far away. We actually have Lenten rose (Helleborus species) blooming and the snow drops are coming up (meaning they are probably already out in the woods near my office!). I’m a big fan of witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) which is a small tree that generally blooms in mid February in our area. We don’t have one but it’s something I’ve considered getting to give us a bit of color this time of year.

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Winter Colors

Epimedium Leaves

Epimedium Leaves

Around here, winter colors are mostly browns and greys. The sky is often still blue, of course. Lawns and evergreen trees and shrubs are still green. But walking through the woods, which are mostly deciduous, brown and grey predominates. There is still color to be found, if you’re willing to look. We have a number of things that are various shades of burgundy right now. These epimedium leaves are lovely. They are only semi-evergreen, so some have fallen off, but those that remain are really nice. We also have a Lenten rose (Helleborus species) blooming and it has deep purple-red flowers that are wonderful. There are sedums in the front whose leaves and stems turn this color in the winter, as well. So get out there and look down. The color is there waiting to be found.

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Hidden “Treasure”

Hidden 'Treasure'

Hidden “Treasure”

Iris and Seth have recently bought a house and are getting ready to move in before too long. I was over there with Seth a week ago to talk about things that should be done and things they will want to do but that are less of a rush. While we were looking around I realized that there was an area under the stairs that is closed in from all sides. I suggested that could be opened up, either from the family room side or the unfinished basement side to make a nice closet. Today they happened to cut a hole in the wall to see what it looked like in side. They were surprised to find that it wasn’t empty. Most of what was there had been taken out before I took this picture, but there was a lot of stuff. It included more than a few boxes of china as well as kitchen wares, a box of canned goods, and quite a bit of rubbish (things the mice have been at over the years). I seems to have been there for nearly 40 years and the house has changed hands a few times since then. We were hoping to find gold and jewels worth the purchase price of the house (or even just the mortgage balance) but no such luck.

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Ranunculus

Ranunculus

Ranunculus

The Ranunculus that I photographed on January 17 continues to deliver. The flowers have opened up and are bright orangy-red with interesting centers. In another day or two they’ll be finished, I think, but we’ll get a little more enjoyment out of them. This time of year, flowers on the table are a nice extravagance. It’s actually getting a bit warm for this time of year and the forecast is for warmer still for a little while. I have no doubt that winter will return before long, though, and we’ll want to stay indoors.

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Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

This is what I saw in my rear-view mirror on the way home today. The clouds were only near the horizon and if I had waited until I was home to take any pictures, I wouldn’t have been able to see them, as that part of the sky is obstructed. That’s assuming there was any color left, which is unlikely, especially since I stopped at the grocery store before continuing on home. Fortunately there is a nice, wide shoulder on the road where I stopped, so it was easy and relatively safe to get this picture. Traffic was moving quite slowly, in any case. You can see the power lines along the trees at the left. The tops of cars in the lower right show you I was looking down the roadway.

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Another Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)

Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)

I had an appointment with my ophthalmologist this afternoon so left work a little early to go to that. When I was done, I would have gone straight home but I had two errands to run first. I went to the Kentlands shopping center, first to the Giant and then to Lowe’s. As I was coming out of Giant I glanced up into the small sycamore tree by the parking lot and saw this hawk. I nonchalantly walked by and got my camera out of my trunk. I got one photo of the hawk as it flew off but it landed again only a few trees over. I don’t think this is as good a photo as yesterday’s hawk picture, but it’s not bad. I think this one is a sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus), the smaller cousin to yesterday’s Cooper’s.

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Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

I had a doctor’s appointment this morning and didn’t get to work until about 11:30. As I turned into the parking lot, I glanced to my right and sitting on a fallen tree limb was this hawk. I pulled into the space facing the bird but my camera was in the trunk and I knew if I opened my door, the bird would fly off. There is a small opening in the middle of the back seat that lets me get into the trunk, however, and I very quietly lowered my seat, reached through and got my camera. I took the first photo through the windscreen, which turned out reasonably well. I then lowered my window and leaned out and was able to get a few photos before he (or she) flew off into the woods. I believe it’s a Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) rather than a sharp-shinned (Accipiter striatus), based on its size. Interestingly, both species are reverse size dimorphic, that is, the females are larger than the males.

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January’s Books

January's Books

January’s Books

I’ve been busy with my reading list lately, getting through some books that I’ve been meaning to read for a while now. I started reading Anna Karenin, by Leo Tolstoy, just before Christmas and finished it in early January. I enjoyed it quite a bit, although some of the characters were more likeable than others. After that I tackled The Gulag Archipelago: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It isn’t an easy book to read but I think it’s an important book, all the more so as we have politicians who clearly admire the Soviet Union at or near the top of a presidential race. This is only the first of three volumes and I have put off volume two for a little while, but it’s waiting for me when I can handle it. I took a little break by reading Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh, which is an enjoyable book and justly popular. I’m currently working my way into Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, which looks to be a bit harder and will certainly take me into February.

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The Old House

The Old House

The Old House

Cathy and I happened to be in my old neighborhood this afternoon and for the first time since my mom sold the house and moved out we drove past the house I grew up in. It looks basically the same, with the obvious exception to the purple shutters. That certainly is eye catching. The wreaths are nice, as well. They’ve painted the woodwork around the windows and the front door, which is definitely a good thing. The shrubbery was all trimmed heavily before the house went on the market and looks different to what I’m used to, but that was us, not them. Hopefully they are enjoying the house.

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Silas

Silas

Silas

The local family got together this evening for Chinese New Year. Tsai-Hong and Iris picked up food from two different places and we had a wonderful meal. Of course, being with family is the best part of an evening like this and I try not to let the occasion pass without taking at least a few photographs. With two grand-nephews to photograph, I try to balance them out, posting first one and then the other. The last photo I posted was of both of them but I think it’s Silas’s turn. This is a pretty nice photo, in any case.

Chinese New Year was often a fun time when I was a kid. We’d go downtown and watch the parade on H Street and then have a Chinese meal in one of the restaurants in the area. We went there once with Dorothy and my parents in 2009. The parade and meal were nice but they never set off the long string of fire crackers that are such fun for kids (of all ages) because the fire marshal suspected a gas leak somewhere nearby. As disappointed as I was, I suppose I’d have been more disappointed has they been lit and there was a gas leak that caused an explosion.

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Solomon at 34

Solomon at 34

Solomon at 34

We don’t actually know his precise birth (or hatch) date, but when we got him in October, 1986, we were told he was nine months old. So, we assume his birth date is January, 1986. That makes him 34 this month. Parrots live a good, long while and he wouldn’t be considered an old bird yet. Perhaps middle aged. He seems to be healthy enough. His beak and nails need trimming and he really doesn’t get as much exercise as would probably be good for him. Nevertheless, we’ve managed to keep him around for more than 33 years, so we must be doing something right. Solomon, despite the wisdom implied by his name, is not much of a sage. He says a few things and those a bit poorly. He can make a pretty good racket, when he wants to, however.

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Peruvian Mountain Harp

Peruvian Mountain Harp

Peruvian Mountain Harp

Cathy’s grandmother lived in Peru for more than 20 years, running the guest house in Lima for the Summer Institute of Linguistics. She sent and brought home many things over the years, from birds, reptiles, and small mammals to arts and crafts. One thing she brought for Cathy was this Peruvian harp. The harp, in one form or another, has existed as an instrument for more than 5,000 years. They were introduced into South America by the Spanish in the 16th century and have integrated into Andean culture. The Peruvian or Andean harp has a fairly large soundboard.

This one is not in playable condition, due to a large crack in the neck. I’d be very nervous about tightening the strings enough that they could be played. There is also a long crack in the soundboard, between two pieces of wood. Whether or not it can be repaired adequately is an open question. We certainly don’t know. Dorothy asked her college piano teacher if he would be interested in having the harp and he said he would, so today it left with Dorothy for New England and its new home. I took a bunch of pictures of it before loading it in her van.

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Frost

Frost

Frost

There was frost on the ground and on the car this morning and I thought the ice crystals were pretty enough that I took the time to get a few pictures before heading off to work. These are on the roof of the car and are so delicate. I started the car so it would be a little warmed up by the time I got in, then put my bag in the trunk and took a handful of photos of ice crystals. I realized after taking them that the camera was set to manual mode because I had taken flash photos most recently. Fortunately they were pretty close to a proper exposure, so that worked out well.

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