Monthly Archives: December 2015

Montecristo

Montecristo

Montecristo

I like neon signs. I’m not sure what it is about them. Perhaps it’s the intense colors in the dark. Perhaps it’s the flowing lines of the glass tubing. In any case, whether or not I know why I like them, I do.

This evening I was in a parking lot and took pictures of a few neon signs. One simply said, “open” but I thought this one was nicer. I particularly like the “font” used, especially in the letter M. Montecristo, in this case, refers to the cigar company.

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Foggy Morning

Foggy Morning

Foggy Morning

It was quite foggy this morning as I drove to work. There were a few times on the way in where I would have liked to take a few pictures but there was nowhere convenient to stop the car, so I kept going. When I got to work, though, I walked around a bit and took some pictures of the trees in the fog, which was starting to lift. This photo was taken looking across the road behind my office with a nearby tree backed up by woods in the fog in the distance.

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Sunset From My Office

Sunset From My Office

Sunset From My Office

Now that the sun is going down before I leave work, it’s sort of tough to get good sunset pictures. My office looks northwest, so today, as the sun was going down, I did get a view, if I looked to the left out the window, of a little color on the clouds. It’s not much of a sunset, I admit, but I’ll take what I can get.

We had a few quite dreary days of rain and it finally cleared up today, so that was nice.

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Frosty Oak Leaf

Frosty Oak Leaf

Frosty Oak Leaf

It was a chilly morning today, feeling like early December, and although there was frost on the ground, I hesitated to go out to photograph it. I was too comfortable indoors. As I was taking things out to the car, though, preparing to go to work, I figured I was already out, so I might as well get down on the ground and take a few. This is a portion of a red oak leaf, rimed with tiny ice crystals, which I found quite pretty.

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Cathy

Cathy, Hawlings River

Cathy, Hawlings River

We had a beautiful day today and Cathy and I took advantage of it. After a chilly morning, with significant frost, it warmed up to almost 50°F and in the sun it felt more than that. We went to a local nature preserve and walked through the woods and down to the Hawlings River. Not exactly the might Yukon or Amazon, but it’s a pretty little river and quite cheering on an early winter’s day. Here’s a picture of Cathy, enjoying the view and the sound of running water.

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Rena

Rena

Rena

Taking pictures of kids can be fun but it can also present some very unique challenges. One of the biggest issues with kids is that, even if they want to be photographed, they often don’t know how to smile naturally. That’s sometimes true for adults, as well, of course, but not as common. With kids, even if they have the most beautiful smile in the world, if you ask them to smile, you get a very forced, very unnatural, toothy grin.

What’s really nice, though, is when you are able to catch an real, natural smile on one of these little ones. This picture is a great example. Rena’s “smile please” isn’t terrible, but it’s still a little less natural than her “real” smile. This is her real smile. It may not be her biggest, happiest smile, but it’s genuine and delightful.

And beautiful.

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Self-Portrait

Self-Portrait

Self-Portrait

I’m not a big fan of the selfie and I don’t even particularly like having my picture taken. I know that’s a bit funny coming from someone who is often trying to get others to smile for me, but it’s the truth. I would much rather look at pictures of other people than of myself. I suppose that’s a fairly common attitude.

This evening, though, I set the camera up on a china cabinet and set the self-timer, focused as best I could, and took a few pictures. This is the best, in terms of my expression, etc., although it’s not perfectly sharp. Still, not a terrible portrait. And as much as I don’t like looking at myself, I guess I should be thankful that I don’t have to very often. Sorry, for all of you who have a harder time avoiding it.

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Another Sunset From My Office

Another Sunset From My Office

Another Sunset From My Office

Once again I had meant to go out during the day and take some pictures but once again I got busy and by the time I thought to go out, the light was failing. Actually, the sun was setting. Fortunately, there was a little color in the sky and by looking at an angle out my window I was able to see some clouds, lit by the setting sun.

It isn’t a particularly spectacular sunset, but it’s a sunset and better than nothing.

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Boiling Eggs

Boiling Eggs

Boiling Eggs

I happened to be hard boiling a few eggs this evening and as I watched the water boil I realized how cool it looks (cool in a hot sort of way). The rolling bubbles, bursting, sending spouts of water up into the air, was just beautiful. But it all happens very fast. So, I pulled out my camera and took some flash pictures, easily freezing the boiling water. I think there’s more to be done here, but this is a reasonable first attempt.

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Sun Through The Fog

Sun Through The Fog

Sun Through The Fog

This morning, as I was leaving for work (and running about 15 minutes late), I enjoyed the sight of the sun, streaming through a light fog that was just about to finish burning off. I had noticed the fog earlier but it was so thin, I didn’t think much of it in terms of photography. But the light in the fog out our front door was nice, so I grabbed my camera and took a few pictures. Here you are.

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Holiday Party

KC, Jane, and Brice

KC, Jane, and Brice

This is the fourth year in a row that I’ve posted a picture from my company holiday party. The previous posts were on December 07, 2012 , December 19, 2013 , and December 12, 2014. This year, I took fewer pictures because I was a little distracted. On the way to the party, the brakes in my van stopped working. I was approaching a traffic light and it turned red. I put on the brakes and nothing happened. The car barely slowed down. I tried pumping them and the pedal went to the floor. Fortunately no one had started through the intersection and I went through without incident but I had to use the parking brake to slow down the rest of the way to the party. I had the van towed from there and got a ride back from the party. Anyway, enough about that. The party itself was nice and it’s always good to be with these folks and not be talking about work.

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Pond Reflections

Pond Reflections

Pond Reflections

Cathy and I went up to Pennsylvania with my mom, brother, and sister-in-law today to cut Christmas trees. It’s probably silly to go so far to cut trees but it’s become something of a tradition. Before going to get our trees, we stopped for a little while at the farm. It was a pretty day, with dramatic clouds and I took a few pictures of the pond, reflecting the trees and the clouds quite nicely. This is my favorite of the bunch. After getting our trees we stopped for lunch at Ott House in Emmitsburg on the way home.

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Two Puzzles

Hubble's Galaxy Puzzle and Kepler's Planetary Puzzle

Hubble’s Galaxy Puzzle and Kepler’s Planetary Puzzle

Cathy gave me these two puzzles for my birthday. I do enjoy puzzles and these were quite nice. The first that I tried, on the right, was labeled as Kepler’s Planetary Puzzle. Apparently it is more properly known as a Chuck puzzle, invented in 1897 by Edward Nelson. It is a form of Burr puzzle, a three-dimensional puzzle of interlocking pieces, often made of wood. This was a bit tricky but I managed to get it back together in about a half hour. The second, on the left, was labeled as Hubble’s Galaxy Puzzle and that took me a little longer. It took nearly an hour, with the first 45 minutes or so being trial and error (mostly error). Once I figured it out, it took another 15 minutes or so to actually get all the pieces together.

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Phalaenopsis Orchids

Phalaenopsis Orchids

Phalaenopsis Orchids

I’ve been bad about keeping the houseplants in our kitchen watered lately. I think I went about three weeks without watering our orchids, which is a bit too long. Then, earlier this week Cathy noticed that this one was in bloom. So, I guess I didn’t do any permanent harm to them. I’ve watered them now, and will try to keep it up better, but in the meantime, we’re enjoying these beautiful blooms. We’ve had this Phalaenopsis orchid for a while now and it blooms about once a year. The flowers last for more than a month, if it’s taken care of while blooming, which is pretty impressive for a flower so delicate.

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Rose Hips

Rose Hips

Rose Hips

The leaves have all fallen, except those of the young beech trees and some oaks, which hold their dried leaves ’till spring. The fall color has mostly faded to brown and the brighter colors are mostly subdued. But there is still a little color to be found. This afternoon I went out into the woods beside my office and took pictures of two sources of color. This the first, is of rose hips from a multiflora rose growing among the trees, it’s bright hips happy in the afternoon sun. The other was of the red fuzz on bramble stems, forming a glowing mist in the lowering sun.

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Bramble Leaves

Bramble Leaves

Bramble Leaves

I got outside again late this morning. It was quite pleasant out, warm and mostly sunny, and I walked around looking for color. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the predominant color outside now is brown. Of course, there is always a significant amount of green, as some grasses keep their color throughout the year. But other colors are a little harder to find. Many of the bramble bushes have lost their leaves and are only providing color in their rusty red stems and the red, hairy thorns that coat them. But I found one large patch that still had quite a few leaves, mostly a dark, mahogany color, but with a few that were bright crimson.

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Brief Afternoon Blueness

Brief Afternoon Blueness

Brief Afternoon Blueness

It rained quite a bit today, off and on all morning. It had the look of a day that will be dreary for the duration. However, there was a brief episode of clearing at about 4:00 this afternoon. I was fortunate enough to turn around and look out the window and see it. The clouds were puffy and white, the sky between them was a deep, lovely blue, and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful evening. By the time I left work, though, it was overcast and grey again (but not actually raining).

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Kimia and Solomon

Kimia and Solomon

Kimia and Solomon

We had our friend Kimia over this evening and she invited some people she knows (a few of whom we know, as well) to hear about her plans to go to South American. She was a missionary kid in Africa and she always expected that when the time came, that’s where she’d go. As it turned out (and is continuing to turn out), she’s going to Colombia, instead. It was nice to have a chance to catch up with her again and to meet some of her friends. While she was here ahead of the others, we got caught up on all our lives. She also was brave enough to hold Solomon and pose for a few pictures. He’s a Mexican bird, rather than Colombian, but at least he isn’t an African grey.

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Unique Thrift Store

Unique Thrift Store

Unique Thrift Store

Cathy and I went to the Unique Thrift Store this morning to buy a few things. In addition to good bargains, we enjoy it as a cultural experience. There is a store that specializes in clothes and accessories for Latino parties in general and Quinceañera in particular. I particularly like the shelves with rank upon rank of figurines dressed in their quince-best. The varying colors along with the otherwise identical postures and features make for interesting patterns.

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Santa Lights

Santa Lights

Santa Lights

Because our church meets in the afternoon, our Sunday schedule is a bit unusual, compared to what it has been in the past. We got home this evening at about 6:40 and we could hear the music from “Santa’s Sleigh” as he made his annual pre-Christmas Eve rounds of our neighborhood. We didn’t have long to wait. Within a minute or two he was coming up our street, music blaring and Santa Ho-Ho-Hoing as he came. His helpers (Elves, I suppose) threw a few fibre optic “Santa Lights” our way and Cathy let me take a few of her, twirling them around in our front hall.

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Amaryllis Bud

Amaryllis Bud

Amaryllis Bud

Dorothy is home for Christmas and when she came, she brought this amaryllis with her. Fortunately, she didn’t fly home, or that would not really have been possible. It would have been sad to have left it at school, though, because it’s going to bloom in a week or less, and it would have been done by the time she got back, particularly without any water in the meantime.

It’s sitting on our kitchen table now, and starting to open. We’re all looking forward to it’s full splendor when the four flowers open up, deep clear red.

The plant also reminds me of my dad, who liked amaryllises and would often have one at Christmas. It’s a funny old thing, life, with changes you’d rather not face or remember but which cannot be avoided. Every year seems to bring more of them (the changes) and as we get older, they seem to accelerate. I’m ever so thankful for the things we have (mostly for the people we know and love) but always conscious of those who we have lost.

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CT Scanner

CT Scanner

CT Scanner

I started the day off right with a visit to the radiologist’s this morning. There’s nothing like a CT Scan to get you going. Well, I suppose that’s maybe overstating it a little. But I did have a CT Scan today. All is well, so don’t worry (if you even thought to worry in the first place). This is just keeping an eye on things and things seem to be fine. I snapped a couple pictures of the scanner after we were done and as the images were being copied onto a CD for me to take with me. This machine always looks like an enormous point-and-shoot camera to me (e.g. Canon Powershot E1).

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Darius

Darius

Darius

If you don’t like pictures of cute children, then perhaps you might want to take a break from following my posts for a few days. Darius is in town and that means pictures. I’m afraid that there will be the occasional picture of him through next Monday, when he and David head home. We really enjoy seeing them both and are so glad that, even if he sometimes gets us all confused with each other, he has some inkling of who we are. Like many kids this age, he tries not to let good photographs be taken of him. This one turned out pretty well, though.

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Ginger Snaps

Ginger Snaps

Ginger Snaps

Cathy made my favorite cookies today. Ginger Snaps. That isn’t to say that I don’t like other cookies, of course, and if I only ever had ginger snaps, I’d probably miss other types, but these are, I think the cookies I like best. They are especially good when warm out of the oven, as almost all things are, but they are also good after they have cooled and are slightly hard, with that characteristic crunch (or snap, if you will).

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Darius on Christmas

Darius on Christmas

Darius on Christmas

I warned you that there might be a few pictures of this little boy. After opening our own stockings at home, Cathy, Dorothy, and I went over to Cathy’s mom’s house and enjoyed the rest of the morning and the early afternoon with her, with David, and with Darius. In particular we participated in Darius’ joy in opening his presents. If you know him, then you will see the joy in his eyes in this picture.

He was vary patient, waiting until after breakfast to open presents. Then he helped his dad pass presents around, stopping now and again to open one to himself, of course.

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After-Christmas

Henry, Cathy, Dorothy, Margaret, David, Darius, and Bubs

Henry, Cathy, Dorothy, Margaret, David, Darius, and Bubs

Christmas is over. Today is after-Christmas, more popularly known as Boxing Day. We did things around the house today and I went to the hardware store for a few pieces of lumber for two different projects I’m working on.

In the evening we went back to Cathy’s mom’s for dinner and after dinner we took a couple group photos for posterity. Here we are. What more can I say?

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Darius

Darius

Darius

One more photo of Darius, because you really can’t have too many pictures of this little fellow. He and his dad leave for home tomorrow (and by the time I am writing this, on Thursday, they are home). We were out doing a little after-Christmas shopping this afternoon and then went to see them in the early evening. We were sad to say goodbye but all good things must come to an end. Hopefully we will see them again before too long. Thanks, Darius, for helping to make our Christmas bright.

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Amaryllis

Amaryllis

Amaryllis

A few days ago I posted a picture of an amaryllis bud. In fact, it was this bud, which has now opened into a fabulous, bright red flower. This is one of four, as is usual for amaryllis blooms. We had to tie it up to a stake because it is so top heavy but that doesn’t really detract from it’s beauty. We have another coming up, so just about the time this one finishes, the next one should be about ready. It’s certainly nice to have flowers in December (and January). The orchid is still bloomimg, as well.

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Annual Museum Outing

Four Dancers by Edgar Degas, with help from Dorothy and Karlee

Four Dancers by Edgar Degas, with help from Dorothy and Karlee

Dorothy and Karlee met in fourth grade and had only that one year together at the same school. Half way through that year, though, I took the two girls downtown and we went ice skating at the National Gallery of Art Ice Rink and then went to the gallery itself. I took the picture to the right, which is Four Dancers, by Edgar Degas, and modified it a little, replacing two of Degas’ dancers with two of my favorites. That was December 27, 2005. It seems like yesterday.

Dorothy and Karlee at the White House

Dorothy and Karlee at the White House

The girls have grown up in the ten years since then and despite being at different schools starting the next year and being in different states a few years later, we have managed to keep in touch and (I’m happy to say) Dorothy and Karlee remain very good friends. This is in part through two annual trips that have become quite a tradition. Starting that next summer, Karlee came with us to the beach. She’s been with us at the beach every year we’ve gone (we didn’t go in 2007 or 2009) until this year, when she couldn’t make it. Dorothy didn’t come this year, either, so it might have been a bit awkward. We were only there two nights, in any case, coming home early.

Dorothy and Karlee in “Shindig”

Dorothy and Karlee in “Shindig”

The other trip was our annual trip downtown. We didn’t make it every year and Karlee wasn’t with us every year we did go (and once we went to Baltimore, instead of D.C.). Actually, after that first trip in 2005, Karlee didn’t go downtown with us again until 2012. However, she has gone with us every year since then and I was so happy when we asked her if she was up for it this year and she seemed excited to go. In general we drive down and park in what seems an outrageously expensive parking garage. Then we walk. Sometimes we walk a lot.

In 2012 we went to the Natural History Museum, the American History Museum, and finally Union Station. You can see some pictures from that in the post titled Union Station, Friday, December 28, 2012.

In 2013 we walked to the Freer Gallery and were particularly impressed with the Peacock Room. Also, they had the Washington Gospels on exhibit. Also known as Codex Washingtonianus, it is the third-oldest Greek parchment manuscript of the Gospels in the world (late 4th–early 5th century). From there we went to the Pension Building (a.k.a. the National Building Museum) and the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery (which share a building just south of the Verizon Center). There are two picture from that trip in the post titled Freer Gallery and Pension Building, Monday, December 30, 2013.

Portion of “Shindig” by Patrick Dougherty

Portion of “Shindig” by Patrick Dougherty

Finally, last year, we went to the National Archives and saw the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, as well as a 1297 copy of Magna Carta, which was about to begin celebrating its 800th anniversary. We also went to the National Gallery of Art and then walked around the U.S. Capitol building to the Library of Congress where, in addition to the magnificent Main Reading Room, we saw another copy of Magna Carta, this time one of the four originals from 1215. Two pictures from that trip are in two separate posts, titled Dorothy and Karlee At The Capitol, Wednesday, December 31, 2014 and Main Reading Room, Library of Congress, Wednesday, December 31, 2014.

“Plexus A1” by Gabriel Dawe

“Plexus A1” by Gabriel Dawe

This year, we went downtown without any real plan as to what we would see. As I took a wrong turn and went under the mall, ending up near the Maine Street Fish Market, we toyed with the idea of driving to Richmond instead, but we were already in D.C. so we stayed. We parked in a garage in the Evening Sun building ($21) and walked to the White House, where the first of this year’s pictures was taken. Actually, we started on the south front and then walked around the Pennsylvania Avenue, where this pictures was taken.

“1.8” by Janet Echelman

“1.8” by Janet Echelman

We backtracked a little on Pennsylvania Avenue to the Renwick Gallery (at 17th and Pennsylvania) where we saw a number of interesting exhibits, some of which are shown in my pictures here. First was Shindig by Patrick Dougherty, who weaves “enormous pods that offer discovery and sanctuary to visitors“ with “willow osiers and saplings.” It was a difficult exhibit to photograph for a number of reasons, including the low light levels, the crowds of people, and of course the shear size of the exhibit. The two pictures here give you some idea. In the second one, you can see that I had to time my photograph between people walking past (and almost made it!).

Following that, in the next room, was a piece called Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe. It was a rainbow of color made with thread and light and was quite beautiful. Perhaps not as stunning as a real rainbow but less fleeting and still quite lovely.

“Middle Fork (Cascades)” by John Grade

“Middle Fork (Cascades)” by John Grade

After that there was an exhibit made of index cards stacked into giant pillars like the rock formations found in Bryce National Park (only without the color). I didn’t include a photo of that, but I found it quite compelling (if a little odd). I particularly liked the monochrome aspect of it combined with splashes of color from the people walking in an around the piers. After that we went upstairs to a large room housing 1.8 by Janet Echelman. It was a large net suspended from the ceiling and colored by lights that cycled slowly through a variety of colors. I particularly enjoyed watching people watching the colors change, especially those lying on the floor with their camera phones aimed up at the netting.

“In the Midnight Garden” by Jennifer Angus

“In the Midnight Garden” by Jennifer Angus

From there was Middle Fork (Cascades) by John Grade, a large “tree” lying on its side and suspended from the ceiling by wires. It was hollow and interesting and kind of odd but I liked it well enough. Getting into that room took a little bit of waiting but it was worth it for the room that came after. Well, there was a map of the eastern seaboard with the water represented by pale blue-green marbles, fastened to the floor and walls. That was alright, I guess, but it didn’t really excite me.

There was also a sort of maze-like thing made from black leather strips. Eh.

But I really enjoyed In the Midnight Garden by Jennifer Angus. It was a room with bright pink walls covered with designs made from a wide variety of insects. I really liked that room. The color, the patterns on the wall, the fact that they were bugs and sometime huge bugs, was really nice. Worth the price of admission by itself (of course the exhibit was free!).

Dorothy and Karlee with “Alexander Graham Bell” by Moses Wainer Dykaar

Dorothy and Karlee with “Alexander Graham Bell” by Moses Wainer Dykaar

From the Renwick we walked to the American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery and then to the National Gallery of Art. The final picture for today was taken in the Portrait Gallery and is of a very stern Alexander Graham Bell with Dorothy and Karlee trying to imitate his “dad face.”

All in all, we had a great time. We were tired but satisfied with our outing and look forward to doing it again next year (God willing).

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Oh My Darling

Clementine

Clementine

After all the pictures from the trip downtown yesterday, I have much less to show for myself today. It was a quiet day and I did a little shopping but mostly stayed around the house and had a quiet day reading. In the evening I started to peal a clementine. After pealing it, which I almost always do in this fashion, I laid the pieces out and took a few pictures. It got me wondering, because I never really thought about it before, how a clementine relates to a tangerine. Turns out that a tangerine (Citrus tangerina) is closely related to, or possibly a type of, mandarin orange (C. reticulata). The clementine (C. x clementina), on the other hand, is a hybrid between a Mediterranean C. × deliciosa and a sweet orange (C. x sinensis) which in turn are BOTH hybrids (but different hybrids) of a pomelo (C. maxima) and mandarin (C. reticulata). It’s complicated.

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Dot’s New Year’s Eve Party

Dot and Tsai-Hong

Dot and Tsai-Hong

For as long as I can remember my mom has had a New Year’s Eve party (on New Year’s Eve). I don’t actually know when she started doing that but it’s been a while, anyway. We generally go but it’s been a while since we actually stayed until midnight. For the last few years we’ve gone (or at least Dorothy and I have gone) from there to a party with folks from our church. This year we left early again, but Dorothy went one way and Cathy and I went another, spending the last hour and a half of 2015 with some friends. Anyway, here is mom (Dot) and Tsai-Hong but the picture also shows the spread, which is always pretty fabulous (and there’s more to be put out, as well).

NOTE: With this photo, I finish five years of taking at least one photograph every day and posting it to the web. Four years are here on the blog (I really need to add that first year to this). Thank you for joining me in this photographic journey. I can’t say if I’ll keep it up through the next year, but you never know.

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