It’s funny how some things become tradition. Thirteen years ago, Amy and Kevin invited us to their house on New Year’s Day for what Amy described as a “low-key celebration.” When they repeated the invitation the following year it was on its way to becoming a tradition. The guest list has changed with the only constant being Amy and one or both of her boys and Cathy, Dorothy, and me. Since Keven passed away, we have hosted the party and this is our fourth at our house. The aim is the same, though, a low-key celebration of the new year. As we approached the date, Amy asked if she could invite a family that she’s known for many years and of course we agreed. When they arrived, we introduced ourselves to Karen, Kyle, and Grace and to our surprise, Karen recognized Cathy. Their families knew each other back in the day. And by that I mean the 1960s! Small world.
Monthly Archives: January 2017
We had originally held off celebrating Christmas with Cathy’s mom because Cathy’s niece (Dorothy’s cousin) was going to be coming and we thought we’d do it while she was here. Maggie’s travel plans have changed so we decided to go ahead with Second Christmas without her. That’s why there are all those presents under the tree.
Lately Cathy and Dorothy have been watching various exercise videos and working along with them. Yesterday they were talking about the belly dancer that we saw in a restaurant in Rockville and they looked up instructional videos. Who said the internet isn’t good for anything? Anyway, they worked their way through it and this is one of the many moves they practiced.
It was a bit foggy this evening and as I was coming home from downtown Rockville I decided I’d see what I could get in the St. Mary’s graveyard. I hadn’t thought to put my tripod into the car so I had to brace the camera on the fence on the edge of the yard. This exposure was six seconds at f/5.7 and it turned out reasonably well. Because it’s all lit with artificial light, it was much more orange than this, which I’ve desaturated significantly. I should probably return with a tripod and a bit more time some evening but this was a good first try.
It was a busy day at work today and I didn’t really get out of my office, much less the building to take pictures. When I got home, I fixed dinner and then sort of crashed for a while. Late in the evening I started looking around for things to photograph. There are some little Greek ceramic buildings on a glass-front cabinet in our dining room and I took some pictures of those, as well as a Cloisonne egg, but those were not very satisfying. I took a few pictures of this bowl, which I made back in the late 1970s, probably 1979. The crack makes it pretty unsuitable for anything liquid but it works well for holding chips or popcorn. I kind of like the crack, which was not intentional. That combined with the darker glaze around the crack gives it some character.
Dorothy and I went to Latte Plaza in Aspen Hill this evening. In the two weeks since I was there last, it’s undergone a fairly significant transformation from a mostly Asian supermarket to a mostly Hispanic supermarket. There’s nothing wrong with that, unless you are looking for Asian foods. The produce, fish, and meat departments have changed less than the rest of the store and this picture of frozen, cleaned fish is emblematic of that. We also went to the Great Wall Supermarket in Rockville, which is very much a Chinese grocery and has a terrific produce department.
It was something short of a blizzard but we had our first snowfall of 2017 this morning. It started before I got up but had mostly stopped by the time I got to work. The roads were all perfectly clear, so it had no real effect on my relatively short commute. It’s suppose to snow again tomorrow and it’s gotten colder, so it may stick a bit more, but for today, it was just a light dusting on the grass and in the woods. Quite pretty, actually.
We had more snow this morning. Still not what I’d call a snow storm but more than yesterday. Also, temperatures have been below freezing for a day and the snow stuck to streets and other paved surfaces this time. When I got up in was 29°F but by noon the temperature had dropped to just above 20°F. In the early afternoon I went out back and took a few pictures. This one reminds me of a coastal valley in Alaska or Norway, with inlets and islands. Of course the entire scene is only a foot across, but nature tends to make similar shapes, whether large or small.
We have known Erin and David since Dorothy was in first grade. In fact, Erin was Dorothy’s first grade teacher, back in the day. She and David were married the following summer and we stayed in her family’s house while they all went off for the wedding. Over the next few years we got to know them better, even though she stopped teaching to begin raising the family they have now become.
This afternoon we were blessed to spend a little time with all but their oldest, who is now 12. This picture is of number five, Glenn, who was born last June. I won’t say he’s any cuter than his older siblings were, because they all have been quite attractive (some kids have all the luck in the genetic lottery). But this is one adorable little fellow. Look at those cheeks, to say nothing of his eyes. Thanks, Erin, for letting me hold him and thanks, also, for holding him so I could take his picture.
It was back to work again today and a busy day it was. I barely left my desk all day and didn’t go outside at all. Cathy and I went to work together because we have a car in the shop and by the time we left for home it was after 6:00 and quite dark. After dinner I took some pictures of bunches of colored pencils. There are quite a few floating about the house. Actually, they aren’t as scatted as they have been at times in the past. Most of them are in a bin in my computer room.
I took some pictures looking at the pencils end-on but then decided to take a few with them standing in rank. These were just a bunch held in my hand with the yellow wall beyond them. Maybe I should have sharpened them all before I took the picture, or at least the orangish one in the upper right, but I don’t suppose it really matters.
On the way home this evening I stopped at St. Mary’s Church again. Last week I posted a picture of their graveyard and the church taken at night. This time, the photo was taken from the edge of their property but of a flag flying across the street in the triangular Veterans Park. The flag is well-lit, as the nation’s flag should be when flown around the clock, and it was quite breezy, making it easier to get a shot with the flag mostly unfurled. This was a 1/8 second exposure at f/2.8 and ISO 500, taken with a 100mm macro lens and with the camera mounted on a tripod.
It’s been a while since I posted a photo of Solomon, our parrot. He is a red-lored Amazon (Amazona autumnalis autumnalis) and he turns 31 this month. So, in honor of his birthday, here’s a closeup of his eye. I really love the texture of the feathers around his eyes and on the front of his head. They are small and wonderfully colored. Most of them are a single color, being all red or yellow or green, but where they transition from one color to the next, some of them are a mix of colors. This is particularly true on top of his head, where the green and blue is mixed (although those don’t show up all that well in this image). In case you’re curious about the name common name of the species, the lore is the area between the eye and upper beak of birds. It’s red on this species.
I took some more photos of my fish this evening and this is, I think, the best of them. This is a brilliant rasbora, (Rasbora einthovenii) and they are a good fish to have in a community aquarium. These are about three inches long and quite lively, especially at feeding time. Getting a good picture is made more difficult by their almost constant movement from one end of the tank to the other. I got this one while he (or she, I really don’t know) was making his u-turn at this end of the tank, above the brick that is the only decoration. I really need to get a bit more stuff in there for them to swim around.
Update: I initially labeled this picture as a brilliant rasbora but looking at it again, that’s wrong. There are rasboras in the tank but they are smaller and have red at the base of their tail fins. This is a Siamese algae eater, Crossocheilus oblongus. Sorry for the confusion.
I may have mentioned that I’m quite busy at work. That is still going on and I really don’t mind the business so much as the changes on changes that undo previous changes. That can be a little tedious, but it’s a living, I guess. I’m also not so busy that I couldn’t go to lunch with a few co-workers and my retired, former boss. We try to get together ever few months and I really look forward to those days. There were only four of us this time and we went to &Pizza in Downtown Crown. I had a slightly modified Maverick, which ironically is their take on the ubiquitous meat-lover’s pizza. Still, it was good and I’d have it again.
We had lunch with some of the rest of our family today but it was a little unusual because we all wore masks to reduce the risk of passing infection to Ralph, whose immune system is “somewhat compromised” at the moment. It was really nice to get together and have a visit. We were sorry that Steve, Maya, Kaien, and Danna were not able to join us but having a baby throws your schedule off and it can make what would formerly have been an easy outing into a complicated journey. Of course they’ll get into the swing of things soon but we all missed seeing them (especially Kai).
This picture didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. I really should have gone back inside to get my tripod, because it was not bright enough for this sort of picture without additional camera support. As a consequence, it’s a little blurry, but still a nice picture of the seed head of scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma) growing in the back of our garden, right up against the fence. It’s most spectacular when in bloom, of course, with its bright red flowers, but even now, these dried flower parts are still quite pretty, especially close up.
The Christmas break has been over for a while and I’ve been back at work since January 3rd. Nevertheless, the Christmas season continued until today. There were two things that signaled the end of the season. The first (and admittedly more important) is that Dorothy went back to school. Actually, she left last night and drove to Pennsylvania where she stayed with a friend. They went the rest of the way to school today. The second signal that Christmas is really gone is that the last of the ginger snaps have been eaten. These are the final two. They were as good as always but now they’re gone.
Two weeks ago, on January 3rd, I posted a picture of St. Mary’s Church and Graveyard. This evening it was a little foggy and I thought I’d stop there again to try to get a better picture. This time I also had my tripod, which made it considerably easier and gave me a lot more options in terms of camera location (I wasn’t limited to using the fence as a support). As it turned out, the fog was less of a factor than I thought and it barely shows up in this picture, beyond the overall haze in the sky. Still, I’m reasonably pleased with how it turned out. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be back when it’s foggier to try again.
Cathy and I went to visit our grand-nephew Kai this evening. We also visited his parents, but really, we all know why we were there. But seriously, it was a nice chance to visit and of course to hold the baby, who is growing like the proverbial weed. Cathy took a bunch of pictures of me holding him, but of course I post pictures here that I’ve taken, so you are spared that. This is Steve giving him his dinner. Actually, I don’t know how you name meals when they come every two hours, but it was 7:30 PM, so we’ll call it dinner.
I admit to being something of a foodie, but certainly not fanatically so. I do enjoy a good steak. There were bone-in, strip steaks on sale at Safeway the other day ($6.99 per pound) and I bought a few. I know they’re better cooked on a grill over charcoal or even cooked under the broiler of my electric oven, but this evening I cooked them in a pan. Well seared and still red in the middle, they’re not at all bad prepared that way, seasoned only with salt and black pepper. Cathy isn’t a fan of even moderately rare meat, needs to have no pink left, so I cut her steak off the bone, divided it into four thinner pieces and removed most of the fat around the edges. I cooked hers the same amount of time as my much thicker steak. That way, we’re both happy.
With appologies to Martin Denny and Leon Pober (and Don Ho, I suppose). Cathy and I went out to dinner this evening with our young friend, Julia. I happened to order a beer, Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA. With it sitting on the table in front of a small lamp, I was mesmerized by the tiny bubbles floating up through the amber liquid. This photograph doesn’t really do them justice but it’s the best of the few I took, so it will have to do. The bubbles show up here as find lines as the bubbles rise through the beer during the 1/6 second exposure (f/16).
It was a fairly busy day today. We spent the morning at Cathy’s mom’s house, going through boxes of papers. We made some progress, although there’s still a bit left to do. From there we went to College Park for a graduation party for a friend. It was nice to spend time with Josh and his family, as well as his girlfriend, Lizzy, pictured here with Cathy and her mom, Jeannine. Then we went to Baltimore to visit Ralph and Tsai-Hong. After that visit we drove through parts of Baltimore we hadn’t been to before. I tried to get a picture of the Domino Sugar sign over the harbor through the fog but it was too thick and you can’t make out what the vague pink light is.
Cathy and I went for a nice walk this afternoon. It’s been a very rainy couple of days and we took advantage of a short non-raining period to walk. It started up again just as we got home, but we didn’t get too wet. Our shoes were quite muddy and we met a very friendly dog, so our trousers had to go into the wash but it was nice to be out. We saw this buck, along with about a half dozen more shortly after we turned onto Sunfish trail. A minute or two later we came across the group of almost a dozen does. It was getting dark and there was no way this one was going to let me get any closer, but I’m reasonably happy with this photo.
I brought an assortment of cheeses to a small get together this evening. I had planned simply to put them out on a cutting board but Hope wanted to label them and had a black board and a piece of chalk. We arranged them (roughly) from mildest to stinkiest (right to left, although the Swiss should have been on the far right) and put them out with crackers and some slices of salami. Together with Theresa’s salad and a carafe of wine, it made a nice meal.
I managed to get out of the office for a little while early this afternoon. It’s been a really busy month and of course January often isn’t the best month for walks in the woods. But today was nice and mild, the rain has stopped, and I took a break from work to spend a little time outdoors. I took a bunch of pictures of moving water. I really enjoy the lines of water in a stream or river, especially where the water meets partially submerged rocks. It’s a simple thing and easily found but in my eyes, it’s one of the beauties of nature. Sure, Yosemite and the Tetons are awesome, to say nothing of the Himalayas or the Rift Valley in Africa, but beauty can be found in a stream in an unused building lot, right next door.
In the evening, generally in the hour or so before sunset, there is a steady stream of crows, always flying in a generally southward direction. We often see them from our back yard in relatively small but significant numbers. As I was driving home this evening, enjoying the faint coloring of the eastern sky ahead of me, there were a lot of crows flying from left to right (north to south) across the road as I neared the bridge over Rock Creek. It’s hard to get a photograph of a flock of birds that is as impressive as the flock, unless there really are a lot of them, so this photo may not look like much. I was sitting in traffic and they just kept coming, at about this volume, the whole time I watched. I wonder where they go to roost. I’m glad it isn’t in my back yard.
Usually I peel a clementine by starting at one end and spiralling around until I get to the other end. That produces a nice, s-shaped piece that looks something like the integral symbol, ∫, used in calculus. This evening I tried something different. One ray of the star is longer than the others because it includes the opposite end. I suppose with a little effort I could do this so that they were all the same. Maybe next time. For now, I’ll just enjoy the fruit.
A week or two ago I got a call from Ben, our pastor, asking if by any chance I had an oldish phone, preferably one with a rotary dial. I’m not sure why he called me in particular. He wasn’t even sure why he called me. It’s true that we’re in the upper quintile or ages at church and younger people were less likely to have such a thing. And of course I do have a rotary dial phone.
This isn’t the exact phone I grew up with but it’s exactly like two phones we had in our house when I was in high school, when I started using the phone regularly. There was a white version of this same phone in the kitchen and a black one, just like this, in the basement. We also had a regular table-top version, also rotary dial, in the hall. The one in the basement is still there.
The challenge for this photograph was to get the dial in motion. I used the flash to freeze it but also a long exposure so that it’s a bit blurred. It was 1/3 second at f/3.5 with the camera on a delay timer so I could press the shutter and then dial the phone and get my hand out of the way just in time.
If you think we’re going to visit Kai without my taking pictures of him, or if you don’t want to see baby pictures, then I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. We paid him a visit this evening (we saw his parents, too, but whatever) and mom (Dot) was there as well, visiting her great grand son. We each took a turn holding him and I took pictures of both Cathy and mom holding him. He seems to be growing well and is certainly a sweet little thing.
I’ve said before that my goal is to take at least one photo every day and post it here. I’d be overjoyed if they were all fabulous but the reality is that some of them are quite lame. I’ve had some pretty bad pictures in the last six years, although I think a few of them have been quite nice. Today’s is a poorly executed photograph, although the subject is interesting enough. I was out in the back yard with my camera and I could here a woodpecker tap, tap, tapping on the tree. After I while I found him and was able to take a few pictures but none of them are really any good. I was shooting through intervening branches and at a bit more distance than my 100mm lens was really suitable for. But it’s a picture.
As I mentioned in the post from Friday, pictures of this little fellow are likely to be fairly common here for a while. For one thing, he’s the cutest little thing. For another, he’s the first of the next generation, as far as my immediate family is concerned, and is my first grand nephew. We’re fortunate to have him (and his parents) living so close by. After visiting him on Friday, we had dinner at mom’s this evening because Brady was in town on business and we took the opportunity to get together. It was good to see her and everyone, including Iris, Ralph, and Tsai-Hong who were there via video conferencing on Seth’s phone.
We were over at Cathy’s mom’s Saturday a week ago and then Cathy was there with our dear friend Julia again twice last week. It was mostly going through boxes of papers and separating those that needed to be shredded and those that could simply be recycled. We also went through some books, although there are a lot more to look at. We only pulled out a few to bring home. One was this copy of Glinda of Oz, by L. Frank Baum. It is the fourteenth book in the Land of Oz series and was published on July 10, 1920.