I had a meeting this morning over in the next building. I took my camera with me and on the way back, wandered into the woods for a little while. There is a small drainage pond that has mostly silted up but, particularly during the wetter times of the year there is standing water there. It was unseasonably warm today, into the low 60s, and there were quite a few birds about. I watched this eastern phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) fly from a branc near the pond and (I assume) catch insects just above the water. He’s fly down, hover briefly, and then return to the branch. Of course, I really need a longer lens, a tripod, and quite a bit more time if I’m going to get really good pictures of birds, but I like this one pretty well.
Monthly Archives: December 2014
Want to do something that will make you gray before your time? Try directing a high school play. It starts early, with the auditions. There is never the perfect cast for a play, especially when you are at a smallish school with fewer actors and potential actors than you need. It’s made worse by the competition with sports, which pulls some of the most promising out of contention. Then, oddly enough, the students have their own ideas about which part they should have, often without regard to whether they really could pull it off. As you can see, Becky (second from the left) is already starting to feel it, and the auditions had only just started. It’s going to be a long time until April.
We were out until almost 10:00 this evening and I didn’t have time to eat until we got home. We also had friends staying, who got here before we did. I was fairly peckish so I put out some salami and cheese and we enjoyed that while we chatted the rest of the evening away (and a little of the morning). In this picture, we have four cheeses. Clockwise from the left are a wonderful aged gouda, creamy soft butterkase, sharp cheddar with whiskey, and cheddar with caramelized onions. There was also some Gorgonzola, just out of the frame on the right.
I was looking around for things to photograph today and happened to notice a pipe wrench that I had been using a little while ago. Also known as a Stillson wrench for Daniel C. Stillson who invented it, it was patented on October 12, 1869 (U.S. patent #95,744). I like the textures in this picture. My title for this post, “Ridgid,” refers to the brand of pipe wrench that this happens to be, manufactured by the Ridge Tool Company, Elyria, Ohio.
I’m not a big selfie-taker but I thought you might enjoy this. I visited the fourth grade class at WCA today, wearing mail and a knight’s helmet. The fourth grade studies medieval Europe and their teacher and I thought they would enjoy seeing real armor. The chain mail is actually pretty fine and was made for protecting divers from small sharks. It’s close enough for this purpose, though. The helmet, which is quite heavy, is more authentic and is pretty impressive. I don’t think I’d visit a fourth grade class without that sort of protection.
In addition to talking about knights and armor, I showed pictures of castles and told them about many of the design features. Most of the pictures were of English castles, because I know those so much better than those from France or the rest of Europe but there were a few in Germany and Hungary included. I think the kids enjoyed it and learned something. I know I had a good time.
Many thanks to Steve for letting me borrow his armor for this.
We were out and about today and decided to see if we could visit our friends, Keith and Collyn and their one week old bundle of boy (I mean joy). As you will probably have guessed, they said we should come. Not being around newborn babies that often these days, I forgot how small they are. Collyn was good enough to let us hold him for a while. He’s a beautiful little boy and was quiet while we were there. I took more than just a few pictures, as you might imagine but I think this is my favorite, with Keith tickling his tiny feet. Congratulations to the happy parents and their newly enlarged family.
Holly isn’t my favorite genus but there are hollies and then there are hollies. What I most people think of when you mention holly is thick, leathery leaves with spines along the sides and end. To my way of thinking, they are not ideal in a yard, especially if you like to go barefoot. Ilex verticillata, on the other hand, has leaves that do not impale your feet. They also lose their leaves in the winter and make up for it with an abundance of bright red berries. It is aptly named winterberry.
I was going to post a different picture today but didn’t think it would be well appreciated. I drove Dorothy up to this Starbucks in Germantown this morning to catch a ride back to Richmond. After they left I thought I’d go up to Black Hill Park for pictures of the dawn. I wish I hadn’t. After I turned around and was coming down Clarksburg Road towards Clopper Road I deer dashed in front of me. Sorry to say the deer didn’t make it. I was going to post a picture of the deer and the car, titled “Oh, Deer” but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Some of you would have simply felt bad for the deer. For me, I don’t want to look at the car.
Merriam-Webster defines a weed as “a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth.” That sounds about right. It’s easier to define what you mean by the word “weed” than it is to decide what qualifies as a weed. Some plants are easy—most of us consider dandelions to be weeds. Crabgrass and nutsedge are another pair that won’t get much argument. What about when it’s something you planted? If it gets out of hand, you might consider it a weed. We have a few things like that and this might qualify. Where we had two trees cut down we have a pretty vigorous growth of black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), purple vervain (Verbena bonariensis), and Virginia knotweed (a.k.a. painter’s palette, Persicaria virginiana var. filiformis). This picture is of knotweed, and we might need to start treating it as a weed. It is pretty, though, and more so with beads of water on the stems.
Cathy and I went out for dinner this evening and I had an assortment of sashimi, one of my favorite special treats. Cathy didn’t partake, preferring a teriyaki chicken to anything raw. But I enjoyed this immensely.
I think mackerel is my favorite and I could enjoy an entire plate of just that, I suppose, but there is something special about variety. I ate all the ginger, as I love the tang it adds but only had a little of the wasabi. I prefer the taste of the fish, and wasabi has much too powerful a flavor and totally overpowers the more subtle flavors. I’ve never really understood its appeal, unless people actually dislike the taste of the fish and want to mask it.
We had our third annual Christmas caroling outing this evening. It was cool out, somewhere around 35°F, but the wind which had been blowing earlier in the day had died down, thankfully. I checked my journal and last year it was around 30°F and the year before that in the mid 40s. We had 23 people this year, down three from last year but a few new folks came. Once again, we rode in a trailer behind a pickup truck, fitted out with Timmy on the drums, Amanda at the keyboard, Deb on Bass, and Bret on guitar. We had a good time but I think everyone was ready to get back to the church for hot chocolate and cookies by the time we were done.
Our office holiday party was this afternoon and we had a nice time together. Our group is fairly large and I only know a small fraction of the 150 or more people at the party. One funny thing that happened was Jane, on the left in this picture, came over and asked if she could have her picture taken (on her phone) with a few of us. It seems her kids know her coworkers’ names but aren’t entirely convinced they exist. After all, they only hear names and never actually meet anyone. So, to Jane’s children, here is your mom with Katie. I can assure you that Kasia, Kathy, KC, and Henry (that’s me) are all real people, as well.
We had our annual outing to cut Christmas trees today but this picture isn’t of our Christmas tree or even of the Christmas tree farm. As per usual, we went to the family farm first, not to look at the Christmas trees there, they have all grown much too large. Still, we go there. Ralph and I collected some fruit of this plant, a trifoliate orange, otherwise known as hardy orange, and depending on who you ask, either Poncirus trifoliata or Citrus trifoliata. The former is more widely used but DNA evidence suggests the latter.
From five small fruits, small pubescent (covered with fine soft short hairs) oranges, I collected 269 seeds. They will get one month cold stratification and then I’ll plant them. Obviously I won’t need 269 plants, so if you are interested in a very thorny shrub with inedible fruit, you will be more than welcome to a few. They would make a great hedge.
I mentioned in yesterday’s post that we cut down our Christmas tree. When I got home, I went to put it up only to find that our tree stand had finally worn out. I probably new that a year ago but managed to forget and not replace it. So, today we bought a new tree stand and I put the tree up in our living room. Then I got out the lights. It’s been a few years since we actually bought any strings of lights and every year I wonder how many strings we’ll have that work. These are some of the strings that worked, either entirely or with only a bulb or two out. The other strings all were about half working.
I pulled out my camera to take a few pictures this evening, not sure what I would find as a subject. I ended up taking a few of a somewhat random variety of things. I started with a container of variously colored cherry tomatoes. I ended with pictures of two of the three fish in the tank in our family room. Pictures of fish are harder than you might think, particularly when you need flash. It lights up every bit of dirt on the glass and every particle of whatever sustnded in the water. Between these two sets of subjects, I noticed these creatures on our microwave. I really have no comment to make about them, but they probably say something about us.
Sometimes simple is all you want and when it comes to fixing dinner after a days work, simple is always appreciated. This evening I had just such a meal. Cathy was going out to play indoor soccer so I was just cooking for myself, which means I can have exactly what I like. This is lamb which had marinaded in a peppery sauce with plenty of Mediterranean herbs. I sautéed a little garlic before adding the lamb to the pan. To accompany the meat, I cooked some frozen edamame (soy beans) and then added them to the pan to get a bit of the flavour from the meat. All in all, I’d say it was as satisfying as any restaurant meal and it was dead simple.
In the summer of 1993 Cathy and I took a trip to Newfoundland. We were mostly on the Avalon Peninsula but got as far “inland” as Terra Nova National Park. One thing we found interesting was their concern for “their Canada geese.” Apparently there were fewer of them than in the past, or something, we aren’t quite sure what the issues were. We found it a bit funny, though, because they are so numerous in our area and are something of a pest. In park land I don’t have a real problem with them, but they can be a bit of a nuisance. These are near my office building. Because there is an overgrown 12 (or so) acre lot next to my building and also because there is a small pond on the other side of my building, it’s actually a fairly attractive place for such wildlife as a suburban area as extensive as ours can provide.
I’ve been described as The Grinch and as Ebenezer Scrooge because of my attitude towards Christmas decorations. Those titles aren’t entirely fair—I quite like Christmas, I certainly don’t want to rob others of their joy, and don’t even mind Christmas decorations—but it’s true that I could do without a lot of what I call the “winterization” of Christmas. It isn’t just the secularization of what is, first and foremost, a Christian holiday. It’s the transformation of it into a religious holiday of non-Christian form. That probably makes no sense to anyone and I don’t feel like writing a long dissertation on what I mean, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Anyway, we generally are lucky to get our tree up enough before Christmas that the decorations are on by the 25th. This year, however, a week before Christmas and not only is the tree up, but it’s got lights, decorations, and even wrapped presents under it (which are usually done late on Christmas eve). So, Happy Christmas, everyone.
Just a few days ago, on Tuesday (December 16, 2014), I posted a photo of lamb with edamame, which I fixed myself for dinner. This evening I had a similar meal, although only one of the ingredients from the earlier meal was actually involved in this one. This time I had a section of kielbasa (slightly improbably from the Lancaster County Dutch Market), two slices of pancetta (Italian bacon, basically), and lima beans. The ingredient they had in common was garlic, which I sautéed a bit before adding the meat.
It feels wintery today and I went out to take some pictures of ice on a small pond at a park nearby. I also saw a few small crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) trees and took a few pictures of them, as well. I like the little, empty seed pods. The exfoliating bark is also very nice, but those pictures were less interesting, I think. We don’t have any crape myrtle in our yard and I think with the size yard we have, it’s not something we’re going to have, but they make a nice show, with beautiful blooms but also with nice fall color and the peeling bark in the winter.
I’ve had fires a few times so far this winter. Today I burned some of the wood from the fig tree outside mom’s kitchen. It died back pretty severely last winter so there was a small pile of wood in the driveway from that. It burned quite well. I took a bunch of pictures of fire, which is one of those things that often looks so much better in reality than in a 1/30th second slice (in this case). Still, I like this image.
I know this is a bit cliché but I do like out of focus Christmas lights, at least in small quantities. I try not to take pictures like this more than once a year but, well, here’s this year’s version. I find it interesting how small movement of the camera between images makes such a big difference in the resulting image. It has to do with some lights being behind branches that small movements reveal. Also, the interaction between adjacent lights change a bit.
It was very atmospheric today in the sense of the second definition in Webster’s, “having, marked by, or contributing aesthetic or emotional atmosphere; also : marked by an emphasis on impression or tone.” Basically, it was foggy all day. After yesterday’s rain it was fairly welcome. This is the view out my office window, which for a suburban office building, is actually pretty nice. Today it was soft and gray.
Our church’s Christmas Eve service is one of the highlights of every year for me. I enjoy seeing friends, but of course I see most of these same people every week. Somehow, though, at Christmas Eve, I see things in a different light. Sometimes that’s the light of candles. Each year the service ends singing Silent Night while holding lit candles. Every year I take pictures and I always enjoy them, as well. Taking pictures by candlelight is a bit hit or miss. This was taken at 1/15 second at f/3.2 with the ISO set to 1600. To everyone who was there, thanks for putting up with me and my camera. I love you all.
As usual for Christmas day, we had Christmas activities in three phases today and in four stages. We started at our house, opening (or emptying) stockings. Then we went to Cathy’s mom’s house, where this picture was taken. We went from there to my mom’s house where we spent the afternoon with my family. Finally, back to our house where we opened presents from and to each other. All in all, a very nice day.
I often post pictures of family on Thanksgiving and Christmas but decided I’d go with atmosphere this time. So, just the tree in the living room, presents waiting around it to be unwrapped, and the large nativity scene on the table, with the morning light streaming in through the window behind it. You can get this from the photograph, of course, but the smell of bacon, which we enjoyed with pancakes, eggs, sausage, and coffee, adds considerably to the ambiance.
Happy Christmas to all and God bless us, everyone!
One of the things I asked for this year for Christmas was a small bracket that holds two flash heads out to the right and left of the camera. I also asked for a flash that will go in one of those two sides and which my camera can fire wirelessly. With this attached to my camera, I will have an easier time getting good lighting on small things when I’m focused very close. With the normal flash on top of my camrea, if I’m too close and if I don’t add an extra reflective surface, the lower portion of the photo is quite dark. With this new rig, it’s not a problem, as you can see in this closeup image of a thistle seed head that’s on our kitchen table. Those of you who are not fans of my insect close-ups may not appreciate this, but I’m chuffed.
Cathy and I went for a walk in the park early this afternoon. It was cool out but not cold and it was nice to be outside. The park, surrounding Lake Frank, had two parking lots connected by roads but the roads have been closed off for quite a few years (if they were ever open, I don’t really know). At the western parking lot, which is up a long hill from the lake, there are benches that are nearly at ground level. That’s where this picture was taken. I don’t think they were originally so low to the ground but it isn’t clear if they have sunk or if the ground has been piled up under them. Either way, they deserve to be used once in a while.
Since Wednesday, December 29, 2010, I have taken at least one photograph every day. That means I’ve completed four years doing that. I started posting them on Facebook on January 1, 2011 and then started this blog at the beginning of 2012, but the last three days of 2010 have pictures, as well. I really need to go back and add those pictures to this site so they are all together, but whether they are here or not, they exist. That’s 1,461 consecutive days of taking pictures. I don’t have any inclination to stop and I hope enough people enjoy them that it’s worth my time to continue.
It was a beautiful, if cool, day today and this was the view out our kitchen door at about 4:30 p.m. Not bad. Sometimes I wish we lived somewhere a bit less built up, somewhere a bit more natural and scenic. But there is plenty of beauty where we live and it’s important to be on the lookout for it. Sometimes it hits you when you least expect it. In this case, I happened to mention to Dorothy that I hadn’t taken any pictures yet. She said, “you should look out the back door, then” (or something to that effect). Yep, worth it.
The year we first met Karlee, I took Dorothy and her downtown over Christmas break. We went ice skating on the Mall and went to a few museums. It hasn’t been as regular as her coming to the beach with us but we’ve taken Christmas-break trips downtown a bunch of times since then. She came this afternoon to spend the night here and we have an outing planned for tomorrow (which I’ll get to in tomorrow’s post). Here she is with Dorothy and Cathy. As you can see, we are always totally serious when Karlee comes to visit.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, Karlee came over and today I took Dorothy and her downtown for our annual museum trip. We parked near the National Archives and because neither of them had been there before, we went in (after a brief stop for coffee). In addition to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, we saw a copy of Magna Carta from 1297.
From the Archives we went to the National Gallery of Art, one of my favorite places in Washington. We enjoyed sculpture and paintings from various periods and of various styles, stopping for a while in the rotunda, which Dorothy describes as her favorite room in the United States. It somehow manages to be grand and at the same time human-sized.
We left the art museum and headed around the U.S. Capitol building, stopping for this picture of Dorothy and Karlee in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool and the Capitol Building, the dome of which is being renovated through the end of 2015 (and into the next on the interior).
Here’s a second photo from the day Dorothy, Karlee, and I spent in D.C. After the National Archives and the National Gallery of Art we walked around the south end of the U.S. Capitol building to the Library of Congress. So many of the governmental buildings in Washington are built in earlier neoclassical style, the Library of Congress stands out as something a bit different. The main (Thomas Jefferson) building was constructed in the Beaux Arts style, a later form of neoclassicism, from July 8, 1888, to May 15, 1894.
The Library of Congress was another place Dorothy had never been and I think she was glad we went today. The main reading room is under the dome at the center of the building and it is quite impressive. Access to the interior of the room is restricted to those doing research, with the exception of a viewing area up a flight of steps on the west side of the room. That is where this photograph was taken and it does a pretty good job of showing you the extent of the room. Somewhat surprisingly, after seeing a copy of Magna Carta from 1297 in the National Archives, we saw a second, one of the four originals from 1215, in the Library of Congress. It is here in celebration of its 800th anniversary in 2015.
We were a bit tired from our trip downtown today but we went to two New Year’s Eve parties this evening. Naturally we could only be at one of them at the stroke of midnight.
We started the evening at my mom’s and stayed there until about 10:00 p.m. Then we went to the Rock Creek party at Stuart and Donna’s house. This photo was taken about four seconds before midnight, the last photo I took in 2014. Happy New Year, everyone!