Dorothy needed a copy of Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, for book club in her literature class. She wanted to be able to annotate it, so we went to the local used book store to buy a copy she could write in. We found that and browsed a little while, coming home with about a dozen books. I love a good, used book store. There are actually two in our area, Wonder Books (which used to be the Book Alcove) on Shady Grove Road and Second Story Books on Parklawn Drive. I can spend a lot of time in either of them, but really, I shouldn’t be buying books when I have so many already waiting to be read.
Monthly Archives: December 2013
I don’t have a lot to say about this photograph. We had cheese and crackers out this evening, as we often (almost always) do when people come over. Some crackers were broken so they didn’t get put out. Don’t you hate it when you open a box of crackers and they’re all smashed up? But what can you do? Anyway, there were plenty that were not, in this case. Those that were got left in the kitchen and I took this picture after everyone had left. Even little pieces of cracker are fine, though, for some types of cheese, so they got eaten.
The American holly, Ilex opaca, is endemic to the eastern United States. It is a broadleaved, evergreen tree growing to as much as 65 feet tall. As do many hollies, the leaves of the American holly have spines around their rim. The consensus is that they are a deterrent to herbivores (predominately ungulates). One paper by J. R. Obeso in 1996 concludes that the absence of browsing ungulates during a one year period significantly decreased the spinescence of leaves in the subsequent year. I like the word “spinescence.”
We had X-Factor this evening and, as is so often the case, I took some pictures. Naturally, some of them are good and some not so good. I find it interesting which people are easy to photograph well and which are not, and find that it has little to do with good looks, somewhat surprisingly.
Anyway, this is Tim (or does he prefer Timmy?) and Jeffrey (or would he like Jeff?). Like the hats, boys.
I went to the grocery store this evening to buy a few things. Included on my shopping list were potatoes and kale, both of which are ingredients in caldo verde, a Portuguese soup that I plan to make for Sunday. When I was younger, I didn’t care for cooked greens but now I like them quite well. The soup is good, being thickened by the potatoes, which are cooked until they basically fall apart. Unfortunately, I have to make it ahead, and that means that by the time it is served, the kale will have lost its bright green color. It will still taste the same, but won’t be quite so appetizing a color.
I went over to Cathy’s mom’s this evening to work on her computer. Between doing things I took some pictures of the birds. This one of Caesar was taken through the bars, which is what makes the lower part of the image a little soft. The bars are about 3/4 inches apart, so I can’t just shoot between them. By keeping the depth of field low, I was able to mostly ignore them. I did take a few of Roscoe through the opened cage door, but didn’t risk it with Caesar.
We helped Cathy’s mom get Christmas decorations out this evening and I took a few pictures. I’ve always loved reflections. Hold on, I’m going to stop and think about that for a minute.
Alright, I’m done. This is a picture of one of those shiny, mirrored Christmas balls, with more Christmas balls reflected in it (as well as the photographer. As you can see, I bounced the flash off the ceiling, which made a bright spot, but not so bright as if I had aimed it straight at the balls.
We went to visit Julia at college this afternoon and as we waited for her to come down from her dorm, I took a few pictures of the purple berries on the Callicarpa americana growing in a bed next to the parking lot. These are bit more purple than I’m used to seeing, but not a lot more. The bush was absolutely covered with them and looked quite lovely. It was the first of two purple plant pictures I took today.
This is the second picture of a purple plant I took today. When we brought Julia back to her dorm, we walked around to the dorm lobby with her. There was a bed with this ornamental grass growing around the perimeter and I liked the purple haze effect. This picture doesn’t quite capture the airiness of it, but perhaps you can get the idea. This was late in the day and it was starting to get dark, so it’s the best I could do.
We had our first real snowfall today. The forecast was possibly a little more dire than the reality but it actually did snow and it make the roads quite slick for a little while. I heard of two people that I know who had accidents and we saw another. We came home by a less windy road than normal and didn’t have any trouble but on at least one occasion I had to rely on my anti-lock breaks to get the car stopped in time. It wasn’t terribly cold, right around freezing, which is when snow is the most slick, of course. Beautiful, too, of course.
After yesterday’s snow, there was talk of delayed opening of school today. I wasn’t convinced until I heard that there was supposed to be freezing rain in the morning. Sure enough, it was coming down when I got up and I found that schools were closed here. There was a light, freezing rain pretty much all day and it covered everything with a coating of ice. I took pictures of leaves, black-eyed Susan stalks, and various other things. This is my favorite, multiflora rose hips covered with ice.
On Sunday it snowed, then yesterday we had freezing rain, covering everything with a coating of ice. This morning, just after I got up (to find that school was canceled again) it started snowing. I don’t think they needed to cancel school today—late opening would have been enough, but then that’s not up to me. I went out into the yard and took pictures of the snow. I’d say we had between two and three inches. These are black-eyed Susans growing in our front garden, with a little bit of snow added.
Cathy and I went out to dinner this evening. Since she asked me to pick the restaurant, I opted for Niwano Hana, a Japanese restaurant in Rockville. Cathy had tempura and I went with the deluxe Sashimi Assortment. As you can see, it has a pretty wide selection of fish and was as good as it looks (or better, if you don’t like the look of raw fish). Anyway, I enjoyed it, as well as enjoying an evening out with my beautiful bride.
We had our second annual Christmas caroling outing this evening. Like last year, we rigged up a pick-up truck with drums and room for a base guitar player. Then behind that was a long trailer with a table set up for a keyboard. The rest of the trailer had bales of straw for folks to sit on. It was quite a bit cooler this year than last, so folks bundled up with blankets in addition to their jackets (and I even rolled my sleeves down and put on a pair of gloves!). We had a good time and enjoyed being together, both out in the neighborhood and back for hot chocolate and cookies when we were done singing.
I took a quick trip to the grocery store this evening to top up our supplies of milk, eggs, and bread, plus a few other things. I’ve been taking my camera with me everywhere I go for almost three years now and in general, I’ve gotten used to having it. The grocery store is one of those places I still feel a little self conscious about it but there are lots of things to photograph there, so once in a while I’ll take a picture. This evening’s is of green, red, and yellow bell peppers. One of the few things I don’t like the taste of and try to avoid if at all possible, but they sure are pretty.
We went to Fourth Presbyterian Church this evening for their Festival of Lessons and Carols, a celebration of the Christmas story. We enjoyed the sanctuary, youth, and covenant (children’s) choirs accompanied by a fairly full orchestra. We sang or listened to 13 different songs (somehow appropriate for Friday the thirteenth), along with 9 passages of scripture. Not everyone’s cup of tea, perhaps, but we really enjoyed it. It wasn’t the sort of thing to take a lot of pictures of, but I did take a few, including this one from our seat towards the rear of the sanctuary.
We went out this morning to cut Christmas trees for ourselves, my mom, and brother. We usually go to Pennsylvania for a tree and visit “the farm.” In the past we cut trees there but they are all to big at this point, so we go on from there to Seven Springs Tree Farm and cut our trees there. This year, we thought we’d head north, even though the forecast was for a significant snowfall. As we came down the hill into the Frederick Valley, the temperature dropped from 36°F to 31°F and the snowfall because significantly heavier. Since we still had a long way to go and it was getting steadily worse, we decided that discretion was the better part of valor and turned around. We ended up cutting the tree at Butlers, which isn’t nearly as much of an outing, but we got our trees.
Over a year ago (September, 2012) our clivia bloomed. Fifteen months later, the fruit (which are berries) are still on the plant and adequately ripe. This is one slow plant to reproduce. The fruit are quite beautiful, though, so I have hesitated to take them off. Now that they are starting to fall off naturally, I’ll see if I can get them to germinate and grow. It will likely be six or seven years before any that do grow are ready to bloom, but if all goes well, I may have a few that I can give away sometime in the spring.
Obviously this isn’t really a picture of the surface of Mars. It’s just a little pile of Hungarian paprika on the counter. It’s almost the right color, though, for a Martian landscape. Actually, it was a bit hard to correct the color cast that my camera’s auto-white-balance set. There isn’t anything here that should be white, which is what I usually look for when correcting color shifts. Anyway, I thought I’d share the picture, even though it isn’t worth all that much, artistically or otherwise.
In 1982 I worked as a contractor at the National Weather Service, contributing in a small way to the forecasting of storm surges due to hurricanes. I was in Texas for a couple weeks surveying the coast in support of our forecast model for a few large sections of the coast, basically looking for situations where the coastal terrain was significantly different to what was recorded on topographic maps. We were on a barrier island at one point and came across a huge number of sand dollars, all washed up on the beach. I collected a few and they have been in a ceramic jar ever since. This is the sand dollar at the top of that jar.
I went to pick up Dorothy at her friends’ house this evening. Before I went in, I took some pictures of the Christmas lights they have on the front of their house. They were mostly out-of-focus pictures that turn colored lights into glowing orbs, overlapping to form a Euler diagram. They are something of a cliche picture, but pretty for all of that. I came in and visited with Maureen and Julia for a little while before it was time to leave and get Dorothy home.
As I was about to go out of the kitchen door, I noticed the colored lights shining through the glass blocks in the front wall and realized that made a much better photograph than the simple out-of-focus lights. I’d like to take more but of the few that I took, this one is my favorite. A few others have great patterns but are not as good for one reason or another. I may try again the next time I’m there.
This is definitely one you’re going to want to click on to see the larger version.
We had our last X-Factor of the year this evening and enjoyed a festive time with traditional Christmas pizza (well, it was traditional American pizza, anyway, which is probably close enough). The youth enjoyed our annual gift swap game (you know, one of those where “stealing” other peoples’ gifts is actually encouraged). I took pictures, to no one’s surprise. This one, of Gretchen, turned out very nicely, don’t you think?
Thanks to all the people who make this X-Factor happen. Thanks to our youth, obviously, for coming and being so enthusiastic. Thanks to their parents who bring them each week (even if you carpool so you don’t personally come every time). And a special thank you to Hannah, who helps us get set up before the youth arrive and helps us get cleaned up before we leave. You’re a real blessing.
Every year the group I’m in at work has a silent auction at our holiday party to benefit a local charity. This year, a coworker asked if I would mind if she made a stained glass window of a photograph that I took of a black-eyed Susan. I told her that I’d be delighted and so she did. She donated the artwork in our auction and it generated (I think) the most vigorous bidding of any item sold.
Here’s a picture of Tori, who ended up getting it. In addition to the stained glass window, which I think is lovely, she got a card with the source photograph. Kathy, you did a wonderful job with the glass. Thank you so much for letting me play a small part in its inspiration.
The original photograph can be seen on the HartleyPhoto web site here along with other photographs that I offer for sale (some of them will look familiar to anyone who follows this blog..
One thing about this taking a picture every day thing is that I take pictures of things that in the past I would simply have looked at. Some days the pictures turn out well and I’m quite pleased that I took the picture. Other days I end up with pictures that aren’t really even worth sharing. But, I’ve committed to share at least one picture with you every day. Along with the good, you get the not-so-good. Today, I took three quick pictures early in the day, as I was leaving for work, of the moon through the trees in our back yard. In the evening we happened to go into a bowling alley and I took a few there, as well, but they are even less worthy of sharing. Even though this doesn’t look as nice as it did in real life, it’s what you get.
It was a wonderfully warm day today. I’m posting this five days late and it’s gotten cold, but on the 21st it was amazing for December. Cathy and I went for a nice, long walk in the park today, enjoying the quiet woods. I stopped for pictures now and then, naturally, and this is one that I like pretty well. This is one of the many creeks that drain into the small lake (which is actually a pond, of course), just northwest of our neighborhood. I love reflections, especially on water with ripples. I also like the colors of wet rocks.
I don’t know if it’s because the kids in our neighborhood have been especially nice or if they need a little more encouragement to be good. Whatever the reason, Santa often makes a pre-visit to our neighborhood and he came this evening, the Sunday before Christmas, driving through around with Christmas music playing and giving out goodies to the children who came out to see him. Generally we hear him in the area long before he gets to our street, so there is significant anticipation among the kids, particularly the younger kids. Note that the reindeer have a very big night ahead of them and they are not asked to pull the sleigh this night, as well. Santa opts for the less traditional but very practical diesel.
Getting Clementines to be associated with Christmas is something of a marketing coup, I guess. Christmas does coincide with their availability, of course, which certainly helps. I wish they would sell boxes that were about half the size, since the last few sometimes have gone bad by the time we get to them. Better yet would be bags so that you could see if the fruit on the bottom was bad. I find it interesting that I associate the red plastic mesh with Clementines, as well. When they are good, they are very, very good.
After some quite remarkable warm weather, very unseasonable but welcome, nonetheless, it has turned cold. If I forget to check the outdoor thermometer before I come downstairs in the morning, I often take a look at the bird bath on our back patio to see if the temperature has dropped. Apparently it has, because ice has formed across the surface. It’s just a thin layer so far, but thick enough to mean it’s properly cold again.
We had a wonderful Christmas with multiple parts. After emptying our stockings at home, we went to Cathy’s mom’s house (a.k.a. Grandma number 1). Our friend Betsy joined us, which was a real treat. We had our traditional breakfast of pancakes, poached eggs, bacon, and sausage. After breakfast and a nice cup of coffee, we opened presents. I took pictures with Betsy and Cathy in them, as well, but I really like this picture of Dorothy with her grandma. I hope you like it, too.
As I mentioned in the previous post, we had a multi-part Christmas this year. Actually, that’s normal. We have a multi-part Christmas almost every year. So, we had a normal Christmas this year. After breakfast and presents at Cathy’s mom’s house, we went to my mom’s and had Second Christmas. There were a few more people for this one, as you can see. Mom has posted a picture on Facebook from her end of the table. I’m in that one. So, here’s one that she is in, along with everyone else. This was taken before we popped our Christmas crackers. I took a few with all of us wearing our little hats, but it isn’t as good so you’ll have to imagine that, instead.
We took another walk in the woods today, heading down towards the lake and then turning the other way. This took us along the stream and then the lake, which was nice. It didn’t feel like as long of a walk but, according to Cathy’s pedometer, it was just about the same distance (3.5 miles). I carried my camera and one extra lens and took a few pictures. This is a small stream emptying into Lake Frank. The stream is in shade all the time so there is still ice on it, while the lake (which is a pond, of course) has thawed. It’s supposed to get colder again, so we’ll see if it refreezes soon.
I like the sinuous line of the creak leading into the pond. It’s perhaps a little blue, but that’s the color of water generally, particularly when the sky is so blue and is reflecting off of the water. The ducks were not going to let me get close enough to take pictures of them. It was pretty muddy down near the water, in any case.
Cathy, Dorothy, and I went for another walk today. It was a bit cooler but still fairly pleasant (it’s not like I had to wear a jacket, or anything). I took quite a few pictures, including some of ice on a little pond in the woods but since I’ve had a few pictures of ice lately, I decided to post this one of some beech leaves against the bright, blue sky instead. The purple leaved varieties of European or common beech (Fagus sylvatica) are called copper beech because their leaves turn a beautiful copper color in the fall. The American beech (Fagus grandifolia) turns a paler version of the same color. While the bulk of leaves fall in the autumn, there are almost always some left on the tree over winter, which makes them easy to spot (in case their beautiful bark doesn’t give them away).
Dorothy went downtown with some friends today and I picked her up at the Metro station when she returned. I brought my camera, hoping to get some pictures of them as they walked back to the pick-up area. I was trying out different exposures but didn’t really have time to get it right before they came out. Also, I didn’t have my tripod so my choices of places to rest my camera were limited. The picture I got with them in it was too long of an exposure so even though they walked through the frame, you cannot see them. This one was a shorter exposure and it just blurred the people in it nicely.
We had some rain today, although the rain stopped later. I went outside to take some pictures and liked the look of the water droplets on the rose bush outside our front door. I should have taken the trouble to go back in and picked up my tripod but I didn’t so they are not as sharp as I would like. It’s my own fault, of course. This is better than most of them and I like the hint of a picture as each water droplet acts as a lens.
For quite a few years now, I have taken Dorothy and her friend Karlee downtown sometime between Christmas and the New Year. We had talked about going to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore this year but we ended up scheduling our trip for Monday (today) and the Walters is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so that was out. We decided to go to the American Art Museum instead. We parked at 10:45 only to find that it doesn’t open until 11:30. So, we walked to the Freer Gallery across the mall. We were particularly impressed with the Peacock Room and I really wanted to see the Washington Gospels, also known as Codex Washingtonianus (the smaller and darker manuscript in this picture). It is the third-oldest Greek parchment manuscript of the Gospels in the world (late 4th–early 5th century). Also on display is an early 5th-century Greek parchment codex containing the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua (upper right in this picture). I was totally amazed at the quality of these two documents, which were quite readable (well, if you know Biblical Greek, anyway).
From the Freer Gallery we walked back to the Pension Building, which now houses the National Building Museum. The building itself is a treasure regardless of what’s kept there. The huge faux marble columns are great and it’s just a nice room to sit in and rest after walking for a few hours.
From the Pension Building we walked the two blocks west back to the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, which also has a nice covered courtyard in the middle. All in all, we had a great time. It’s an outing I look forward to every year and it didn’t disappoint.
This is the last photo I took in 2013, taken at 23:59:59 (give or take a half second). In all, I took 24,837 shots in 2013, although some of them could easily not be counted (e.g., when the flash didn’t fire, etc.). Still, I have managed to take at least one photo every day since December 29, 2010 (1,099 days) and have been posting them since three days later. So, three years of a photo a day comes to a close. I don’t plan to stop, so for those of you kind enough to visit my blog, either directly or via Facebook, thanks for your time. See you next year.