Winter’s First Snow

Winter's First Snow

Winter’s First Snow

We had our first snow of the winter overnight. It wasn’t anything that was going to snarl traffic, melting on roadways and not amounting to more than a thin covering on the grass, but it was snow. Early morning after a snow is often quite pretty, especially if the clouds that brought the snow have cleared and it’s sunny. That was the case today. I took a few pictures in the front yard, including this one of the holly near our driveway. The robins generally come at some point in the winter and devour all the berries from this tree. They congregated in another holly a couple days ago and have pretty much stripped that one.

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Self-Portrait

Henry

Henry

I don’t often post pictures of my self (the so-called ‘selfie’) but I figured if I’m going to, it might as well be done on an occasion such as this. I was going to title this post “A Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man” but decided that was a little pretentious. Also, I’ve never read anything by James Joyce and if I’m going to mess with his title, I should at least know what he was about. So, “Self-Portrait” will have to do. I don’t particularly like photographs of myself and I recognize that it’s unfair of me to force others to let me take photos of them when I don’t like to let others take photos of me. Part of it is that they tell me to smile when I’m already smiling. Part of the problem is that the mustache makes it harder to see my mouth. Another part is that while I smile with regularity, it’s hard to do when called upon and make it look natural. But I think this one turned out well enough.

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Dried Orchid Flower

Dried Orchid Flower

Dried Orchid Flower

This dried orchid flower, a Phalaenopsis, is on a plant in our kitchen. I’m a big fan of orchids but sadly haven’t been able to give those we have the attention that they rightly deserve. We’ve lost a few although a few others are getting by. In a perfect world, I’d water them more regularly and pay them more attention but we don’t live in a perfect world. Some things that I’d like to get to are passed over for more pressing matters. Maybe one day I’ll have the time to devote to them again. In the meantime, I’ll try to at least keep them alive. Inevitably I’ll fail for some of them. But then, they’re just plants and easily replaced.

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Rose Leaves

Rose Leaves

Rose Leaves

I wondered around the yard early this afternoon. It was overcast and cool but I found a few bits of color. The Euonymus japonicus is in fruit, which are small, red arils coming out of pink capsules. There were also the deep burgundy red leaves of Epimedium × rubrum. But I decided to go with these leaves of a rugosa rose called ‘Roseraie De l’Hay’. It died back quite a bit last year but there is a core that’s still alive and it’s holding onto many of its leaves, as they tend to do. I’m hoping the worst is past and that it will come back next spring. It’s generally a pretty strong grower, so I have every reason to be confident.

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X-Ray Screened

X-Ray Screened

X-Ray Screened

Dorothy ordered something from India and it came recently. From “Rupsa, Near Fish Market Hatiadiha, Barhampur, 756028 Balasore, India” to be more precise. On the package was this orange label saying it was X-Ray Screened. It took me a little while to figure out what that shape was to the left of the text. It’s the tail of an airplane with a sunburst pattern on it. Anyway, I liked the label and took some pictures of it this evening. Not, perhaps, the most interesting subject for a photograph but I was fairly busy the rest of the day and it was something that caught my eye.

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Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child Processing Center

Operation Christmas Child Processing Center

I went with Cathy, Aaron, and Alice to the Operation Christmas Child processing center this evening Cathy’s annual evening of processing boxes. She’s been many times but this was my first time. Aaron has also gone with her a few times before. We had a good time and got a fair amount done. Along with the hundreds of other volunteers today, we processed 64,795 boxes going to Malawi and Togo. That’s a pretty respectable number. It’s a fairly loud and hectic place but everyone is generally in a good mood and there is plenty of laughter. We were impressed by a few large collections of boxes filled by individual groups, especially one where each box had a hand knitted item, obviously made with much love.

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Cathy and Jean

Cathy and Jean

Cathy and Jean

We met Jean for dinner this evening in Falls Church, at a place called Fava Pot. It’s quite good and the servings are generous. We’ve only been twice, as it’s not really in our neighborhood, but it was a good meeting place between our two homes. Jean starts a new job on Monday and is a little anxious about that but we’re looking forward to hearing about how well it goes. Naturally we also talked about our children and what they’re up to. It was a good time and we were certainly glad to get together with her before she’s busy with the new job. Sorry for the exposure. I decided to not use flash for this, so the lighting was a bit rough.

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Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

As the sun was sinking in the western sky I went out to take a few pictures. I took some through the trees by the parking lot but as the clouds got more brightly colored, I walked through the woods and onto the median of the road so I could take some without trees in the way. It just kept getting better and better and I’m really glad I took the trouble. I only took one lens with me, a mid-range zoom that I forgot I have and which I put into my bag last week. I think I remember why I stopped using it. The pictures at the longer end of the zoom range are really soft (and maybe that’s too king a description). Next time I carry my more reliable glass. But this photo turned out well enough.

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Dancers in Mourning

Dancers in Mourning

Dancers in Mourning

With apologies for Margery Allingham (whose book was the inspiration for the title of my post), this is art work in a cemetery near where we live. I went to a burial there today, followed by a memorial service in Clarksburg. I didn’t really know the woman who died but I’ve known her husband for over 45 years. We’ve lost touch a bit but we’d run into one another occasionally. Nevertheless, he’s one of a small number of men who influenced me pretty significantly in my early life. After the service, I drove back to the cemetery and wandered around a bit and took some pictures. This art is in a Jewish section of the cemetery and I really like it. There was another similarly designed piece with Moses parting the waters of the Red Sea. I’m assuming that this is Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, who:

…took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.”

(Exodus 15:20–21)

She was not mourning, of course, but as this artwork is decorating a cemetery, I thought that title might fit well.

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Oranges

Oranges

Oranges

I’m not sure what I can write about today’s photograph. It’s orange and they are oranges. My understanding is that the fruit was named first and the color was named for the fruit. Oranges are something of a tricky fruit. They can look perfectly delicious on the outside and be dry or mealy on the inside. Alternatively, they can look pale and unappetizing and be juicy and delicious. The only way to find out is to peel them open and give them a try. These look good and are, in actual fact, pretty good. You might say they have appeal.

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History Books

History Books

History Books

When I was in school, both K through 12 and in college, I was not much of a reader. It wasn’t that I couldn’t read. But I was a slow reader and it took me a long time to get through anything of substance. I don’t think it was because I had a short attention span. It was probably as short as that of many boys but I could focus if I wanted to. The problem was that I didn’t want to. History, among a few other subjects, simply didn’t interest me. Now, things are different. I love history and although I still read slowly, I’m much more likely to be reading history of one sort or another that almost anything else. When I set up my library in the basement I organized my books mostly by subject but there are a few groups of books that are grouped together for other reasons. In the case of these books, they are both historical in nature and unified by their common publisher. To their left (outside this photo) are most of my Modern Library books, also grouped together.

A side note, four of these books, The Song of Roland and the three part Dante series, were all translated by Dorothy Sayers (13 June 1893 – 17 December 1957), famed for her mystery stories.

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Harrison Island from Ball’s Bluff

Harrison Island from Ball's Bluff

Harrison Island from Ball’s Bluff

It was a cool but pleasant day and Cathy and I decided we needed an outing. We drove through Poolesville and crossed the Potomac River on White’s Ferry. From there we drove the short distance to Ball’s Bluff Battlefield. The battle fought here in October, 1961 is not one of the really well known engagements of the war and compared to the likes of Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Antietam, or Shiloh but it was significant nonetheless. Among other things, it marks the only sitting United States senator (Colonel Edward Baker of Oregon) to be killed in action. This photo was taken from below the bluffs. It was a quiet, peaceful place but would have been a really bad place to get caught with your back to the drop of the bluffs.

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Sunrise

Sunrise

Sunrise

It’s been quite a few years since I worked on the day after Thanksgiving. One more thing I’m thankful for is that I’m not in retail and don’t have to work on the day after or even on Thanksgiving itself, as many people do. I would be happy to have all businesses including retail closed from the Thursday of Thanksgiving through the following Sunday, but that’s just not going to happen. There are some who enjoy the ‘thrill’ of shopping on so-called Black Friday, but I’m not one of them. Of course, I’d prefer to stay away from stores between Thanksgiving and Christmas entirely if I had that option. I do my best. I actually worked about five hours today and was fairly productive. I was glad to see a pretty sunrise shortly after getting up, and that’s today’s photo.

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Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. We had a really nice time and a great meal. I’m not actually a huge fan of turkey but it’s what’s done so that’s fine. Mom bought and I cooked a 19+ pounder and it turned out pretty well, if I say so myself. It was good to have the family here and the only thing I could have asked for was having Dorothy home. She comes home soon, though, and I’m looking forward to that. She originally was planning to come back for Thanksgiving but decided to extend a few weeks and that’s fine, of course. Here’s the family that was here.

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Skeletal Trees

Skeletal Trees

Skeletal Trees

As I came out of my office this evening, the clouds in the darkening western sky was back lit with areas of brighter light. All that was behind the trees that line my parking lot. It had a somber and even sinister look and I decided I’d take a few pictures. The exposure was a bit tricky and I didn’t have a tripod, but I braces the camera on a tree and it turned out well enough. It was a mood and I think I captured it pretty well. The parking lot was pretty empty by the time I left work. It’s Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, and somber and sinister really doesn’t go well with that. Nevertheless, it’s how I was feeling when I left work. I’m not sure what that means.

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Letters

Letters

Letters

When was the last time you wrote a letter? For me, I know it’s been a while. I’ve sent a few business letters, generally accompanying a check or something of that sort. But a real, honest to goodness, hand-written letter? It’s been a while. I wrote one to a friend who ended up in prison for a little while but that was hard. I’ve probably only written one or two others in the last five years or more. I’m not sure what that means for the future. I guess in one sense it means “less stuff” and maybe that’s a good thing. But it’s sometimes fun to see old letters that were written by our parents or grandparents (or even earlier) back in the day. That’s what these are.

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Mugs

Mugs

Mugs

This is one of those photos that’s here just to fill they day. We have a blue hutch in our kitchen, brought from my mother-in-law’s kitchen. On that are two shelves where we keep mugs and these are some of them. The mug on the right holds dry-erase markers that we use to update the calendar on the wall nearby. In the back is a mug I made (the light brown one) back in 1979 or thereabouts. It’s a pretty decent mug, if I say so myself. In front of that and to the left is one that Dorothy got for being in the York’s wedding. And back over to the right is one that dad got at NIH at some point. I think of him whenever I use it (and other times, too).

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Hogback Mountain

Hogback Mountain, Skyline Drive

Hogback Mountain, Skyline Drive

We had a really nice outing today. As mentioned in Friday’s post, our friend Jan is in town and we drove with her, Rob, and Vicky out to Front Royal and onto the Skyline Drive. It was overcast when we left home and we even had a spattering of rain on the way out but after stopping for breakfast at the Marshall Diner, it cleared up and by the time we were on Skyline Drive, it was sunny and the sky was a beautiful, crisp blue. It was fairly breezy and chilly but we enjoyed the views from various overlooks and then walked a bit on the Appalachian Trail, which is where this photo was taken, near Hogback Mountain, a peak of about 3,460 feet (with a communications tower on top).

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Kai

Kai

Kai

Between our trip to Alaska and various other commitments on weekends, we haven’t seen most of the family for quite some time. It was really nice getting together with mom, Tsai-Hong, Steve, Kai, Iris, and Silas for dinner this evening and then to have a chance to talk and take pictures of the boys back in mom’s apartment. The boys generally take a while to warm up to me when we get together. Kai takes less time, mostly because he’s older and more likely to remember me from one visit to the next, but even he is shy at first. His younger cousin, Silas, is still much more hesitant and bashful.

I got a few good pictures of each of them, though, including this one of Kai. He has a mischievous streak—not uncommon in children—that’s very endearing and cute. I’m really enjoying watching him grow.

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Jan and Cathy

Jan and Cathy

Jan and Cathy

Back in 1998 we met Jan for the first time. Our friend Susie organized a surprise for Rob’s birthday and we flew to Phoenix along with other friends and it was there we met Jan for the first time. Since then we’ve traveled together a few other times, including a big trip to Italy two years later and we’ve seen her occasionally over the years. Dorothy stayed with her when she was in California this summer. Jan was in town for the Navy football game and an event honoring fallen US Naval Academy alumni, including her brother. We were excited to get together with Jan and Rob for dinner at the Pines of Rome in Bethesda. Sadly (except she does enjoy traveling) Susie was in Warsaw Otherwise she would have tben there, too.

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