A Day in the Life
Mark your calendars for Saturday, May 10, and put your camera by your bedside the night before.
about town has moved
Oh, I meant to announce also that about town has moved. Movable Type categories seemed a perfect match for about town, so I've spent the past two days entering the old photos (and some new ones) into MT and categorizing them. I'm very happy with the results, I must say—and as with all my other web journals, moving to MT will likely mean that about town will get updated more frequently.
I've finally posted my mayday photos. Unfortunately, we were in the house for a good part of the day watching the Ducks-Wild game, so there aren't as many snaps of the beautiful Northern California sunshine we were having yesterday (after an incredibly rainy spring). I had considered posting larger versions of the photos, linked from the thumbnails, but I liked the thumbnails so well that I left them as-is.
I'm starting to feel sluggish and slug-like these days, kinda like I did during the first trimester—I want to exercise so I don't feel like such a blob, but my energy level is pretty low.
Yesterday I resolved to go out for a long walk first thing in the morning, before my energy dropped off to the point where I could barely get up the stairs or lace up my shoes. Since I haven't been on a photography trek in a long time, I brought my Canon 10-D with me to get some about town snaps. (I also figured that this would force me to rebuild the about town II blog, which has been languishing in limbo ever since the database got corrupted a few months ago.) I got a few nice photos, which I'm in the process of posting over at about town II as we speak.
It was nice to get out in the fresh, fall-tinged air, though I ended up walking so far afield (and at times at such a brisk pace) that I kind of overtaxed myself. By the time I got within about six blocks of home, I was shaking. I'm fine now, despite almost being run over at 21st and Market by an idiot on a bicycle who (a) WAS GOING THE WRONG WAY, (b) RAN A RED LIGHT, and (c) MADE NO ATTEMPT TO LOOK OUT FOR PEDESTRIANS. Hello?!? You're riding RIGHT AT a pregnant woman, you fucking moron! I screamed "JESUS! YOU'RE GOING THE **WRONG WAY**!!" at him when I recovered my wits, and incredibly, he turned and shrugged.
I'm getting really fucking sick of bicycle owners (decidedly *not* cylcists) who can't seem to observe the simplest of traffic laws (i.e., stopping at red lights, going the right way down one-way streets or riding on the proper side of the road on two-way streets, riding in the road instead of on the sidewalk) much less common courtesy. Do the cops in Philly really think that these people aren't worth ticketing?
This weekend Al and I were in San Francisco for the beautiful wedding of two friends. When the officiant asked the bride's father, who walked her down the aisle, "who gives this woman in holy matrimony?", the father replied in a booming voice, "she gives herself!" All RIGHT!! As the bride and groom joined hands, the officiant said some things about marriage that I can't begin to articulate now but that were so true they made my heart burst and shoot into my throat—which made my eyes water, of course. Actually, the whole event seemed designed to make my heart swell and my eyes water. The reception was on the 32nd floor of the Westin St. Francis, in a room that featured panoramic views of a city I love (and that the bridge and groom do, too, of course), and the first dance was to I Left My Heart in San Francisco. <sob!> My heart is swelling now just thinking of it, just looking at this snapshot of love.
It was a perfect little weekend that reminded us of what we love and miss about San Francisco (just as we've finally gotten used to Philadelphia, ironically). We stayed in SOMA, near the ballpark, and it was cool to see how that area has grown and improved. We had looked at some lofts on either side or Pac Bell (now SBC) Park early last year, and it's still our first choice for where we'd want to live if we moved back to California. (I think it's more likely that we'll live somewhere else—somewhere other than Philly—before we make our way back to SF, though.) I got to see my friend Kristin and have dessert and coffee at an incredible bakery at 18th and Guerrero (Cafe Tartine—I highly recommend the vanilla cream fruit tarts and the rich chocolate brownies), and together Al and I got to visit our favorite place for dim sum (Ton Kiang) and stuff ourselves silly at the Indian buffet near our old house down on the peninsula (the name has changed from Swagat's to Dastoor, and the food is even better than before). Oh, and we also stocked up on See's chocolates, which can't be found here in Philly. (Is there any doubt now how I've managed to gain almost 30 pounds already with this pregnancy?) Walking around the city and snapping photos inspired me to rebuild the original about town database and add a few more photos to it; I'll add a few more over the coming days.
This coming weekend I'll return to another former home city—Boston—for another wedding. Two friends who have been together since I was a kid are finally getting married, thanks to the Massachusetts Supreme Court's recognizing their right to do so. It's a little shocking to me that so many in this country would want to deny others the love, comfort, and legal rights afforded by marriage. The idea that these two amazing people—who have already been sharing their lives for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, raising children and caring for aging parents, changing jobs and starting businesses, building a nest (and then expanding and remodeling it) for more than 20 years—would be denied the medical decisionmaking, estate planning and inheritance, and other legal rights of spouses is insane to me. Even heterosexual couples who never marry can end up with these rights in many states by virtue of "common law," for pete's sake. This couple's desire to marry *affirms* marriage, strengthens the foundation of our society, inspires others to live lives of love and commitment. I'm eager to witness this affirmation. And I fully expect to cry.
About Town II Special Edition: Election Day
I'm posting the photos I took between about 11am and 12:30pm today over at about town II. I have a few more to add (including two more of Bush supporters), but we have to leave for our childbirth class now. I'll add them when I get home tonight.
One important thing to note when you look at the photos: I didn't photograph every Kerry sign I saw, but I did photograph every Bush sign I saw. (If I had photographed every Kerry sign, I would have run out of room on my camera's memory card before I'd made it 10 blocks from home.) Of course, since I'm limited to a slow shuffle by the weight of the belly and my flagging energy levels, I was only out in the Logan Square, Penn Center/Libery Place, and Rittenhouse/Fitler Square areas today. When I went out walking in Society Hill a few months back, I saw more than one Bush/Cheney sign (including a huge one plastered on the side of row house).
Back in a couple hours!
Election Day Photos Are All Up
We're back from the childbirth class, and I've finished posting the remainder of the election day photos. A thumbnail sampling of a few of the shots:
About Town Lives
I can't quite believe it, but I found ALL the images that go in the about town (san francisco) blog on various backup CDs. I hope I'm as lucky with about town II (philadelphia).
In thinking about how I want to rebuild things, I've reconsidered moving The Ice Hockey Escapades back to avocado8.com. Although it started on this site, the entries I'm adding now are really about Al's hockey experiences as much as mine. So it seems fitting that it should stay on lori-and-al. It's going to take a long time to get all the older entries into Movable Type (there are 70 static pages, many with two entries on them), and as I mentioned, many of the images have been lost. I'm grateful that I was able to recover—through backup CDs and archive.org—all the text, at least. I know that blog has helped several women (and men!) get started on the ice or at least feel better about their beginner experiences, and it helps *me* keep perspective about my own hockey skills.
By the way, thanks to everyone who commented and e-mailed and AIMed me about archive.org. Since my e-mail access went down with the site, Jay (who AIMed) was first. :) It's a very useful site in general (and especially for getting the old hockey entries, which date from 2000 to 2003), but I found Google much more helpful for reconstructing the entries for this blog. I'd never noticed the "Cached" link for each result before; thanks to Al for pointing it out.
I still have a long way to go here, but I'm feeling more hopeful tonight than I was last night (and on Sunday night, when I was freakin' despondent). I still do have a long parenthood post I've been working on (locally, thank god) that I need to finish, and more parenthood and philadelphia observations have occurred to me in the past two days as well. It just didn't seem right to post them when I have so much reconstruction work ahead of me. Anyway, please continue to bear with me—I hope to be (and to have the sites) back to normal soon.
About Town II Is Back II
Yay, another blog makes a comeback. about town II is now live again!
Oh, The Old Minolta
A few weeks ago I was down in the basement doing some laundry, and I set Austen on the couch for a few minutes so I could unload the dryer. He looked so cute sitting there that I wanted to get a photo... but I hadn't brought the 10-D downstairs with me. That's when I remembered that I have two or three film cameras, and that they're all in the basement.
I pulled out my favorite, my dad's old Minolta x700, and saw that there was indeed a roll of film already in it. (I wasn't sure what kind, since it doesn't have a little window that shows the film canister, and I never put the tab from the film box in the slot designed for that purpose on the back of the camera body.) I finished the roll (which turned out to be Kodak 400CN) and then mailed it to one of the shops I used to take film to in the Bay Area for processing.
When I got the prints and photo CD I'd asked for back in the mail, I discovered that what was on the roll already were snaps I'd taken almost two years to the day prior to the Austen photos. My favorite is this one of Al. It's from a rainy weekend we spent in Bodega Bay, just getting away and enjoying each other's company. A couple more photos from that beach will be posted at about town in the next day or two.
I didn't think the ones of Austen were particularly impressive; seeing them made me want to try to get something better. Maybe next time we're out and about I'll bring the lovely old Minolta as well as the super modern Canon.
Austen in April
Princeton, Sunday Morning
I actually ordered a present for Al for Father's Day (it still hasn't left the warehouse yet, so it'll obviously be late), but his real gift was time: Time to play a round of golf with his brother. They'd planned to meet halfway between their respectives homes, at a course in central New Jersey. I'd planned to stay home and watch the Boopster.
When I found out (last night) that the course was near Princeton, however, I proposed that Austen and I come along. That way we could listen to Harry Potter together in the car (I've been indoctrinating Al, who's finally succumbed to the delights of Jim Dale's voices), and Austen and I could explore the Princeton campus while Al golfed. A Sunday adventure seemed like more fun than staying in the house awaiting Al's return, and I figured I could drive back if Al was tired from golfing.
Everything went according to the new, revised plan: We made more progress on Harry Potter than we usually do when we listen on the iPod at night; Al and his brother had a great time golfing; Austen and I toured the Princeton campus and downtown; I got to spend some quality quiet time with my camera; and we all enjoyed a beer (stout for me, IPA for Carl, and root for Al) and some lunch at the Triumph Brewpub in on Nassau Street before heading home. Al even drove both ways and let Austen and me nap in the back seat. Sweet!
I Need an Editorial Calendar
I have so many things I want to blog about that there's a sort of logjam in my brain. It's kind of like how when I have a ton of things to do, I often get completely overwhelmed with the length of my To Do list and end up doing nothing. In college I combatted this tendency to become overwhelmed and just go back to bed by scheduling my days in 15-minute increments so I could see that it was technically possible to get through my To Do list in a single day. Usually I'd only get through 70-80% of it, but hey, that's better than 0%.
The blog version of the schedule in 15-minute increments would probably be an editorial calendar. I guess I have something like an editorial calendar already, in the form of keywords scribbled on hotel stationery (for example, "40 y-o virgin", "stout at Legal", "no 2T at MIT", and three pages' worth of additional notes on Austen's 9-month milestones, written when he was napping and I could find nothing in the room to read except the TV Guide) and in the little spiral notebooks I've sprinkled around the house with CAR, NIGHTSTAND, DIAPER BAG, and STROLLER scrawled in black Sharpie on their covers.
The problem is that not everything that's interesting at the time is blogworthy when I get in front of the computer, or worse, it becomes less blogworthy over time—when I procrastinate so long that the window of opportunity to write on a topic closes. What I should probably do tomorrow (ha!) is write one bullet-point post that briefly explains all the keywords I've scribbled on pieces of paper over the past two weeks, and then move on. If the next post you see here is entitled Impressed With the Breast, then you'll know that I was overcome with laziness (or overwhelmed by the length of the keyword list) and didn't do it, because Impressed With the Breast is the next topic on the editorial calendar I've been formulating in my brain as I write this.
In the meantime, if you've been coming here looking for new posts and have been shocked and apalled that there haven't been any in two weeks, allow me to direct you to my Flickr photostream, which I've been updating with photos from our trip to Boston last week as well as other adventures (the latest three photos are what appear in the three squares on the front page of this blog); the ice hockey escapades, where after listening to the nagging of my teammates I finally got around to posting news from the four most recent games I played in; and about town II, where I've recently posted some shots taken during a family walk at sunset. Oh, and here's a recent photo of Austen, who is now "furniture surfing," as one of Al's work colleagues calls it (you can also see our new, child-friendly cube ottomans to Austen's right, which we picked up on Saturday):
It's time to clear my backlog of scribbled-on-hotel-stationery notes, most of which pertain to our trip to Boston on the 7th. Al had a meeting there on the 8th, and we decided to make a weekend of it so Austen and his godmother could meet each other, and so the three of us could have a little family vacation. The drive there was pretty easy; Austen didn't cry at all, and we made good time despite a stop at Stew Leonard's in Norwalk, CT to see the singing milk cartons and buy bagels and snacks. (Sadly, I don't think I took any photos at Stew's.)
Stout @ Legal
We stayed in Kennett Square, next to MIT, the first night. By the time we got all checked in it was nearing Austen's bedtime, so we ate dinner at the nearby Legal Seafoods rather than searching for a unique Boston eating experience. (I like Legal, so I didn't mind.) On our way into the restaurant, I saw two people drinking pints of stout at a patio table and said to Al, "oooh, I'm going to have one of those." So when our waiter came to take our drink orders, I said, "do you have a stout on tap?", knowing that they must, but not assuming that it would be Guinness (you never know when a local brew is going to be available.) He replied, "sadly, no." I looked at him for a second; surely those hadn't been pints of root beer. I know a stout when I see one. After a pause, he said, "the closest thing we have to a stout is Guinness." I think I was still looking at him with that slightly puzzled, slack-jawed expression when I said, "OK then, I'll have a Guinness." I'm still puzzled by this exchange, and now I'm craving a Guinness again...
No 2T at MIT/Pete's chocolate
On Thursday I had a chance to walk along the Charles River/Memorial Drive as well as down to Harvard Square while Al was at his meeting. The weather was warm but dry—lovely for walking, and for stopping at playgrounds to push Austen on the swings. I took a bunch of photos on the walk, including a couple that I can't bring myself to post of some hateful anti-Asian graffiti on a park bench along Memorial Drive. I was reminded of how racially divided Boston can be, and of one of the reasons I was glad to leave back in 1984. Aside from the bench bigotry, the views along the Charles River at 9am were beautiful.
After the walk along Memorial Drive, I stopped at the MIT COOP to get Austen a t-shirt to add to his collection of college swag. Sadly, Austen will not be aspiring to MIT at this age, as they had no sizes between 12 months and 3T. (Austen's somewhere in the 12-24 months range, depending on the brand of shirt. His Stanford, Penn, and Princeton shirts are all 18 months, and they're getting snug, but the 24 month Boston Red Sox T we got him later in this trip is kinda huge.) It made me wonder whether they didn't order very many apparel items in Austen's size, or whether parents start thinking of MIT for their children when the kids are between 1 and 2 years old, leading to the store selling out of those sizes.
After a decently long nap (by Austen) at the hotel, during which I wrote a few more 9-month observations down for posterity, Austen and I departed for Harvard Square. We found a playground on Broadway and stopped to play on the swings, but we didn't stay too long as the swings were in full sun. This was probably the first time I noticed that Austen understood some of what I was saying to him: When he tried to remove his hat, I said, "Austen, you have to leave your hat on if you want to play on the swings. No hat, no swing." He stopped tugging at it and left it on.
From the swings we continued on to Harvard Square, where I bought Austen two Harvard t-shirts in size 2T and something called Chocolate Caramel Knowledge for myself at the Harvard COOP. The latter turned out to be a gourmet chocolate made by the Pete of Pete's Wicked Ale, and it was DELICIOUS. Reminded me of the Kaluha truffles I used to get at the mall when I was a teenager. Well worth the $2.50 I paid for it, as the four fat discs of coffee/caramel-filled 61% chocolate will last several hours (or several weeks, if you're Al). After eating one disc of chocolate to tide me over until I could get some lunch in my stomach, I found the perfect spot to sit and enjoy an excellent spinach, goat cheese, and spiced pecan salad and a pint of Guinness while feeding Austen apples and blueberries (no high chairs available, so I fed him in the stroller). I wish I could remember the name of the place; it was on the corner of Mass Ave. and something, near the Adidas store. (The third photo below is of a different place on Mass Ave. that also serves Guinness; I thought the "cheaper than gasoline" sign was funny. :)
Al and I met up again after his meeting was over, checked in at our next hotel in Waltham, and then drove out to Needham (where I grew up) to meet my best friend (and Austen's godmother) for dinner at Not Your Average Joe's. I actually found the food to be very average, but the decor was nice—much nicer than Gino's Pizza, which is what was in the space when I was a kid—and of course the company was great.
On Friday morning Al suggested we go for a walk around Walden Pond in Concord. I wasn't super into it, but I also had no real objections, so I said OK. It turned out to be really lovely and peaceful, and carrying the boopster around the 1.25-mile loop in the Bjorn was good exercise. Al was a bit disappointed to see the wire fences lining the path, which weren't there when he lived in Concord back in the 80s, but I didn't find them too distracting. I'd rather have them—and preserve the woods around the pond for future generations—than see the woods and shoreline eroded.
We saw several people kayaking, canoeing, and swimming, and passed several folks strolling and fitness walking in the woods, but we always had more than enough space to ourselves. I think an important factor in our positive, peaceful experience was that we went on a cool, cloudy Friday rather than a sunny Saturday, when the beach on the pond is often mobbed, according to Al.
On Saturday we took the T in to Fanueil Hall, where we had a very underwhelming fried fisherman's platter and lobster roll. We decided that since we'd been to FH and the surrounding Quincy Market several times before, and the food this time had (literally) left a bad taste in our mouths, we'd walk somewhere else. Al suggested the North End, which I think I'd only been to—or rather, through—once before, when I walked the Freedom Trail as a kid. There we immediately found a bakery with a nutty, nougaty Italian delicacy that Al really likes, and not long after that we found the ultimate lemon slush. I am not a slush/water ice person, but this one was fantastic—exactly the right texture and flavor. I can't remember the name of the store where we got it, but it's at the corner of Salem and Parmenter Streets.
Walden Grille mussels
On Saturday night we cruised around the Concord area for a while, looking for a place to eat. We finally settled on the Walden Grille as the only real possibility after perusing the dinner and bar menus posted outside. I thought I wanted to order off the bar menu, and Al thought he'd like something from the dinner menu, so they seated us in the bar area, in which both options were available. As it turned out, I ordered from the dinner menu, and Al ordered from the bar menu. :) I got an arugula salad with grapefruit wedges, bleu cheese, and (I think) a passion fruit vinaigrette and an order of steamed mussels. I think Al got a french dip.
The salad presentation was a bit odd; instead of wedges, I got two huge slices of grapefuit. The taste more than made up for the basic, almost unappetizing presentation, however. Someone at the table adjacent to ours ordered the same thing I did, and she complained at first that there was no dressing for the salad. The waitress assured her that it had been tossed with the dressing in the kitchen. The patron insisted that it was missing, and asked for dressing on the side... only to discover that she had indeed been eating a dressed salad. "This dressing has NO TASTE. It tastes like NOTHING," she said to her companions. Personally, I loved the light flavor and thought the salad was dressed perfectly. The passionfruit really highlighted the arugula without overwhelming it, and it didn't clash with the cheese or the grapefruit.
Regarding the mussels, the woman at the adjacent table and I heartily agreed: they were EXCELLENT. The first time I ever had mussels, at Eastside West in San Francisco's Marina district, they defined the experience for me—and I've been chasing that perfect combination of tender, not-too-chewy, not-at-all-fishy mussel meat and savory broth ever since. Ladies and gentlemen, I found it at the Walden Grille. WG's version was different in many ways from Eastside West's, but both made me want to eat every last morsel and then soak up as much broth as possible with bread (I had to ask for an extra slice). I'm not sure if the woman at the other table was on a low-carb diet or just didn't want to fill up on bread, but I heard her ask for a spoon. Good choice, though Al's leftover batter-coated french fries also tasted amazing dipped in the tomato-y, garlicky broth. One thing you should note if you are semi-vegetarian/fishitarian, like me: The version of the mussels listed on the menu includes chorizo; I asked for mine without. I heard the woman at the adjacent table tell her companions that it was the chorizo that made the mussels so good (and it may indeed impart something special to the mix), but I can tell you that I was in as much rapture as she without it.
So to summarize: The presentation of the dishes at Walden Grille may have been careless, but the taste and quality of the food was excellent, and the service was fast. There was no baby seat for Austen, but neither were there any complaints when he made a total mess. Oh! And the prices were very reasonable. Give it a try.
I'm changing the title of this post and updating its contents, because I'm finding some mre great stuff on Flickr. Like this:
And this, about which I originally said 'I hope Martine eventually tags the photo so we can see where it was taken and under what circumstances. Interesting message, anyway. :)'
And... We're Back
Austen and I returned, along with Al (who flew up to Hartford to meet us on Sunday), from Maine on Monday. We had great weather every day except Sunday (which was foggy and drizzly), and especially on Saturday, when the air was brisk but not cold, the sun was warm but not roasty, and the wind was cool but not frigid. Perfect Dreamweaver fleece weather. Val, Austen, and I started the day with a hike around Mackworth Island just north of Portland in Falmouth, Maine. Fabulous and varied views and terrain; it was somewhat similar to our walk around Walden Pond, only with the water on the outside of the loop rather than the inside. (Walden, if you'll recall, was what prompted me to purchase the Kelty Kids backpack, and I wore it on this hike with pretty good success. I had considered going over to Walden while we were in Lexington, Mass, btw, but I went to a playground instead.)
From Falmouth we drove to the opposite end of Portland to visit Portland Head Light on Cape Elizabeth. The spectacular weather really enhanced the experience of visiting the lighthouse and the park around it. Austen fell asleep in the car on the way there, so he didn't get to admire the lighthouse or the amazing view, but I've shown him the photos.
After all the beautiful views and brisk weather, we went to Silly's, a local Portland eatery, for lunch. There was a Magic 8-Ball on the table, and Val offered to get an answer for any question I cared to ask, but I found that I couldn't come up with anything I really wanted to know. (Guess I'm finally living in the moment!) Austen was another story; he was very eager to know when he would be walking on his own, when I'd let him drive the car, and especially when he'd get to eat.
I fed him a jar of apples & blueberries while we looked over the menu. Val ordered some crab-stuffed mushrooms to share and a greek salad with the feta on the side, and I got a giant Harvest Burger with BBQ and bleu cheese sauces (yeah, I'm really that decadent) and sweet potato fries. The fries were EXCELLENT; I had no trouble finishing them, especially since Austen ate quite a few. They were fried with their skins on and tasted more like baked sweet potato strips than french fries. Yummy. The Harvest Burger was homemade and HUGE, and although it was delicious, I couldn't finish the whole thing. Ditto the pint of locally-brewed root beer.
After a sufficient interval, during which we played with Austen in the house and napped, Valerie made the most awesome zucchini-onion-broccoli-mushroom-tomato soup for dinner. How something so simple (and so vegan) can taste so delicious, I'll never know; credit Valerie's talent in the kitchen and experience with fresh fruits and vegetables.
On Sunday morning Austen was up at 6:30, as usual (well, he wakes up and wants to nurse before that, but he usually sits up and starts poking me—or Al, if available—around 6 or 6:30). Luckily Valerie also rises early, so we didn't interrupt her sleep routine too much by being in the house. We went downstairs to say good morning, brush teeth, etc., and then I took Austen back upstairs so I could get dressed and pack while Val cooked breakfast (wheat-free apple pancakes for me, and homemade applesauce for Austen; now that I know how easy applesauce is to make, I've made three batches since returning home :). This is when the crying started.
Val was being kind, or at least circumspect, when she said "Austen gave us a glorious example of the highs and lows of a day in the life of raising a toddler." She definitely got to witness highs and lows throughout the weekend, but the low I suspect she was referring to here was the non-stop crying jag-turned-tantrum that Austen threw when I put him down so I could pack. At first I set him on the floor, but he kept UNpacking the suitcase while screaming, so instead I put him in the Pack 'n Play not one foot from where I was standing, got dressed, and tried to pat down my sticking-up hair. This was when I realized that my arms were so sore from carrying him for the past four days that I couldn't hold them over my head, and when Austen decided that I was going to leave him there and never come back. Or maybe he noticed that I couldn't get my arms over my head, and despaired of ever being picked up again. In any case, the screaming reached a fever pitch.
I relented and lifted him out of the Pack 'n Play and stood him up at my feet. He hugged my knees and clawed my thighs and screamed even louder. With my hair still looking like shit and makeup on only one side of my face, I picked him up and tried to console him. He scratched my face, pushed against me with his feet, and tried to strangle me. These are indications that I have become both his tormentor and his savior. He wants me to help him, to fix him, to MAKE IT BETTER, but at the same time he hates me for any number of crimes I've committed against him. He ends up looking like the Exorcist baby, writhing, crying, and clawing, giving both "PUT ME DOWN" and "DON'T YOU DARE LET GO" signals. I got down on the floor with Austen and tried to snuggle him, to jiggle him, to kiss his forehead and tell him I love him, but he wasn't having any of it. And after 10 minutes straight of screaming, I called Al.
Usually I can last at least 20 minutes before going round the bend, but after four days of being the only parent on duty, I was already near my wit's end. (This happens at home sometimes, too, when I don't get enough of a break to completely regroup: My anger and despair stay just beneath the surface, waiting to be roiled up by a Difficult Child Attack.) I needed help, moral support, another parent. Unfortunately, when I reached Al he tried to comfort Austen via phone, instead of trying to comfort me. I think I said the reason I was calling was that Austen was throwing a tantrum, but I didn't make clear that it was I who needed soothing, not him. Austen threw the phone across the room as Al said, "it's OK, buddy, it's OK", and that was it for the call. Neither of us called back.
As Austen continued to thrash and scream, I started to wail, "Austen, you HAVE TO STOP CRYING!", and then I started sobbing. The initial shock of seeing me blubber caused him to dial it back a bit at first, but then he continued the tantrum where he left off. It was time for desperate measures: I was going to have to impose on Valerie. I brought Austen downstairs, tears streaming down both of our faces, and managed to whisper, "can you take him for a little bit? I need to regroup." Valerie gave me a hug and took Austen from me.
When I came down about 10 minutes later, dressed and packed, Austen was sitting on Valerie's hip while she made applesauce. I said to him, "will you give Mommy a hug and tell me all is forgiven?" He reached out for me, put his head on my shoulder, and squeezed me around the neck, lovingly this time. Then he struggled to get down so he could play with the jars and containers under Valerie's sink.
After snarfing down applesauce and pancakes, I loaded up the car with our luggage and a much-coveted jar of Valerie's blueberry jam, took some final photos of Valerie and her lovely house and yard, and Austen and I headed out for Springfield, Mass. The goal was to get to the hotel around 3pm, feed Austen lunch, and watch a little football until Al's plane arrived at Bradley International Airport at 5:50pm. We made it with time to spare, at around 2:30pm. Austen ate a bunch of cheese, some more baby food, and some of the applesauce Valerie sent home with us, and then both of us got restless. I decided to just walk to the end of the street to see if there was a Starbucks nearby, but I ended up going completely around the block (no mean feat while carrying a 24-lb. baby). Good thing I did, because I noticed that we were adjacent to the Mass Mutual Center, where the Springfield Falcons hockey team plays... and that there was a game at 4pm.
I realized that Austen probably wouldn't last more than a couple periods anyway, so it was probably feasible to take him to the game and still pick up Al at the airport. I went back to the car, got the Bjorn and a sweater out, strapped Austen in, and walked back to the Mass Mutual Center. We ended up getting a seat right in front of the visitors' goal, which was a mixed blessing; great view, but I had to worry about one of us getting beaned by a misfired puck.
Luckily we didn't incur any injuries, though we did have to endure some loud and inane screeching from the teenage girl behind us, and some scary shouting from a 50 year-old guy in the next section over who wanted a specific Springfield player to know just how much of a pussy he was. That, and some ridiculously over-the-top cheering every time a fight broke out. This is the thing I'll never understand about minor-league hockey: Why do the teams, the leagues, and the fans all encourage—even promote—fighting? Go to a boxing match if you want to see a fight, for pete's sake. I want to see skating, passing, and shooting, thank you very much. In any case, it made me re-think the idea of taking Austen to minor league games in the future, even though they cost a fraction of NHL games.
We did indeed manage to pick Al up at the airport, and we had a nice evening together before heading back to Philly the following day. We made the requisite stop in Norwalk to visit Stew Leonard's and stock up on everything from asparagus to scones, and we even got the perfect photo of fall foliage when we put on the four-way flashers, rolled down the passenger window, and pressed the shutter button exactly once on the Canon 10-D before continuing on our way back to I-95:
An Interesting Idea From Derek
I love visiting Derek's site because in addition to great writing, great photographs, and great links, This Is Powazek is also full of great ideas. Today's interesting idea: create a mosaic of photos from your Flickr stream (or your favorites list, or any other photos on the web). I've used Picasa2's Collage feature to create mosaics before (most notably the one commemorating Austen's first year), so the mosaic part isn't the great idea. It's that Derek chose to make a mosaic of the top 20 photos from his Flickr stream, as determined by the number of people "favoriting" them.
This seemed like a really interesting idea—one so interesting that I decided to create a mosaic of my most interesting photos of 2005. "Interestingness" takes account of a bunch of factors, not just whether someone has clicked the Favorite button. (While I do have 20 photos in my Flickr stream that people have marked favorites, I don't have the kind of traffic Derek does—and thus "most-favorited" seems a vast overstatement.) The photo of Austen watching Valerie play the violin, for example, is #17 among my most interesting photos even though no one has marked it a favorite. (How no one could mark this a favorite I'll never understand, since it's definitely one of mine.) The fact that small audience is my most-viewed photo certainly is a contributing factor to its interestingness, but it can't be the only one; none of my other top 20 most-viewed photos made the top 20 most interesting.
So anyway, here's to interestingness—and to being more interesting in 2006.
OK, I'm a Steelers fan by proxy (I inherited my fandom from Al, though I've been a backer of Hines Ward since his Georgia days), and I'm absolutely thrilled that they won the Super Bowl. Yay, gadget plays! Yay, Hines Ward! Yay, Ben Roethlisberger! Yay, Jerome Bettis! Yay, Coach Cowher! But what I really want to know is:
Who took those fantastic portraits of the players????
No Human Being is Illegal
I have a bunch of miscellaneous items to post, but in the meantime, may I suggest you get thee now to Myla Kent's amazing set of photos of the march for immigrant rights that took place in Seattle on Monday.
photo by Myla Kent
More Parental and Neighborhood-y Miscellany
Austen is getting his molars. We noticed the little white prongs sticking up when he opened his mouth (probably to laugh) about a week ago, and they've been coming in fast ever since. At least one on either side of his mouth is totally above the surface now. We don't know if the molars are the reason Austen's been waking up screaming at 5:45 lately (instead of 6:00, 6:15, or 6:45, as usual); it might also be the extra hours of daylight, or the asshole with the car alarm.
Speaking of the asshole with the car alarm, we were talking to our neighbor at the end of the block the other night, and she mentioned that she'd called the police several times about it. She also said that she'd talked to other neighbors who've called the police as well, but so far they've declined to do anything. Al noticed yesterday afternoon, however, that someone in the 'hood had finally taken matters into his or her own hands:
This morning Austen wanted to come up to my office instead of going down to the kitchen after getting dressed. I let him sit in my new drafting chair (acquired a couple weeks ago when I realized that the fixed-position, non-adjustable metal stool I'd been using was contributing to all kinds of back and arm pain) and play Kneebouncers on my personal laptop while I checked my e-mail on my work laptop. The chair is quite high (because my desk is also quite high), but I was literally standing right next to him—the two laptops are less than an inch apart, and I usually have to bat Austen's hands away from my work laptop's keyboard. I should have paid more attention when he started pushing himself back from the desk and pulling himself forward, however, because all of a sudden he pushed back from the desk and managed to kick the chair out from underneath his butt. Of course he immediately dropped like a stone to the floor, and despite my attempt to catch him on the way down, he landed on his back and nailed his head on one of the chair's wheels. :(
Hannah arrived about 30 seconds later, and I brought Austen down to see her in an attempt to cheer him up and help him forget about the injury. I knew from the way that Austen was clinging to me that he'd been traumatized by the fall, but it was Hannah who noticed that his lips were totally white. I had to hold him for about 15 minutes straight before he was ready to get down and show Hannah his new bike:
We got the bike in Intercourse, PA, where we met my parents on Saturday for some grandparent time. It would have been a fabulous place to shoot had there not been about a zillion tourists all taking snapshots of all them quaint Amish, and if the Amish weren't photo-averse in general. I didn't want to be disrespectful, and I felt like I was being lumped in with every other camera-toting interloper, so I took very few shots. It'd be nice to return on a weekday and avoid the tourist areas, because the farmland, animals, and buildings were very cool. I *think* I could manage to get some nice photos without offending.
Two photos I didn't take because I was pretty sure I would offend: one of the sign outside the bridle shop next to Lapp's Coach Store, which said something to the effect of "NO TOURISTS (unless buying bridle or feed supplies) No Cameras" (had a young man not been tending to his horse outside the building, I might have attempted it, but I didn't want to be rude), and one of a farmer standing on his plow with a team of draft horses, having a shouted conversation with another farmer doing the same in the field across the road. That one we would have had to pull over to get, so there was just no way. But the broad smile on the farmer's face as he spoke is burned on my brain.
Hopefully, I'll have the photos I did take posted later today.
My mother-in-law was kind enough to give each of her daughters-in-law a bit of walking around money this weekend, and I've been trying to decide what to do with it. I need to decide soon, before the extra cash burns a hole in my pocket and encourages me to blow it all on extra decaf short lattes at Starbucks.
Al has suggested that I use the money to buy a new lens for my Canon 10D (something I've been talking about almost incessantly); I think the only reason I didn't think of this myself is that the lens I *really* want costs way more than I have to spend.
I'm considering two other options in lieu of my dream lens: A Speedlite flash and a less expensive lens.
On the one hand, I know I could get better photos with my current 50mm lens and the Speedlite because I'm often shooting Austen indoors, in low light conditions (or outdoors with harsh shadows, where a fill flash would help). On the other hand, I'm not really a giant fan of flash photography .This aversion is probably partly due to the practically-useless built-in flash on the Canon 10D, though even when I had a decent external flash for my Minolta x700, I preferred existing-light shots. Which brings me to the other dilemma: If I go with the less-expensive lens instead of the Speedlite, I'm giving up speed. (IOW, I won't be able to shoot lower than f/3.5—and sometimes f/5.6—which is necessary in low-light conditions.) What I'd hopefully get in return is a closer focusing range and a wider angle, which would allow for better shots of Austen when we're playing in tight quarters (not to mention other, non-Austen shots where backing up is just not an option). The question is, am I giving up so much speed that the wider angle won't help any? That is, if I'm buying the lens so that I can get wide-angle shots of Austen indoors, am I also going to need the flash? If that's the case, maybe I'd better just put the windfall money in my savings account and hold out for the dream lens.
Any suggestions? Also, does anyone know of a camera store in the Philadelphia area that rents lenses (the way Keeble & Shuchat, where I bought my 10D and current lenses, does)?
Al took this photo of my sister and me with his cameraphone a couple weekends ago. Even though it's not the most flattering snap of either of us, I love it. Maybe it's the way we're interacting, or the fact that we're looking at the photos she took earlier that day, or that you can kinda see the resemblence between us. Whatever it is, I'm so glad he captured it.
What's Going On
I have a little list of things I've been wanting to write about, but which I haven't had time to address as of yet (and yes, I'm still behind on my e-mail—if I owe you one, hopefully you'll hear from me soon). Part of the problem—which isn't really a problem at all, given that usually we're homebodies who don't do much of anything—is that we're too busy DOING THINGS and HAVING FUN for me to keep up with, well, writing about the things we're doing.
Some of the things on my list:
- This one I don't need more than a bullet point to write about: I've been considering moving my about town and about town II photoblogs to Flickr for a long time because it's getting to be too much of a pain to edit and post the photos separately. (Consequently, the photosteams on the avocado8 home page—and the blogs themselves—are hopelessly out of date.) The only thing that's been holding me back is the thought of trying to find all the originals on backup CDs so I can upload those, rather than the medium-sized versions I've posted to the blogs. Now that Flickr has geotagging, though, I've finally decided to just bite the bullet, upload the medium-sized images, and move forward. I started the process yesterday and have uploaded about 20-30 photos from about town II (Philadelphia); obviously there are a TON more to get through, and I haven't done the geotagging yet, but eventually Flickr sets will replace the two about town blogs. (And if you're wondering why my photostream suddenly has a bunch of photos from 2003 in it, now you know.)
- Running toward the street. This is something I want to write about for PhillyMoms, but I'll probably cross-post it here. It's about how I've been acutely aware lately that we are raising a kid in the city.
- College towns: favorite haunts After our trip to State College (home of Penn State) last weekend, I've had college towns on the brain. Hopefully I'll get a chance to share my thoughts (and ask you to share yours, too)!
- Labor Day Weekend Yes, I'm aware that this happened almost three weeks ago now, but it sort of epitomized the busy-ness we're experiencing around here. On Friday Al, the Beaner, and I drove down to my parents' house in Westminster, MD so they could see and play with the Beaner, and I could ride with them up to Rochester, NY, for my Aunt Anna's 90th birthday open house on Saturday. Mom, Dad, and I left at 5:30am on Saturday, and Al and the Beaner drove back to Philadelphia a few hours later. Mom and Dad dropped me off in Philly on Sunday afternoon, about an hour before Al's brother, sister-in-law, and nephew arrived. We went to the Franklin Institute on Sunday afternoon, and Al and Carl played golf on Monday morning while Tris, Henry, the Beaner, and I went to Schuylkill River playground (something else I want to write about for PhillyMoms—the playground has been renovated) and picked up lunch. All in all, a crazy, wonderful weekend.
- And finally, we freecycled the high chair last week. The Beaner will still sit in high chairs in restaurants (occasionally), but he'd long ago started stiffening when we tried to force him into the one at home. He now eats at his little table for breakfast and lunch, and he sits in a regular chair at the dining room table when we eat dinner together. We looked for a booster seat a couple months ago, but we never found one we liked, and he seems happy to just sit in the chair, so that's the routine now.
- Oh, right, one more thing: Our morning routine has changed AGAIN. For a while there the Beaner was waking up between 6am and 7am and snuggling in bed with us until Al was ready to get up (often until I returned from my morning walk), but this week he's started demanding that Al get up and take him downstairs after only a few minutes of snuggling. In other words, we've returned to the routine of a few months ago. We're also experimenting with naps (no nap at all / changing the time / waking him up after an hour) and bedtimes to try to come up with a magic formula that will get him to go down quickly and sleep past 7am. Oh, how much better our mornings are when he sleeps past 7am!
A Weekend in Napa
Al, The Beaner, and I had a lovely weekend in California... and I'm still a bit heart-heavy about it. Truly, we had a wonderful, wonderful time: We got to see friends we don't see often, The Beaner got to play with new friends P and S, the weather was wonderful, my dress worked out great, The Beaner was more talkative than ever and used several new phrases, we got to eat great food, a good friend finally met and married the perfect woman for him, the plane rides went smoothly, and we all enjoyed each other's company immensely. The problem is, I'm now homesick.
I love our life here in Philadelphia. We have a GREAT house, a great neighborhood, two wonderful nannies, a city lifestyle, excellent working conditions, and we're living within our means. But oh, how I miss the Bay Area. I was suprised to find that my nostalgia and heartache were greatest when we were on the Peninsula, in Sunnyvale and Mountain View. I've always preferred the city, and when we lived in Mountain View I needed to go house-hunting in Palo Alto and San Francisco to cheer me up, to give me hope that we'd move out of the suburbs and into a college-town-near-a-big-city or into the big city itself. But here I was in the south-Peninsula 'burbs, feeling homesick. I knew the streets so well, I felt like we were just out running errands, and we'd be returning to Whitney Drive any moment.
I'm sure I'll get over it once I've been back here in Philadelphia for a few days, and I've had time to consider what a move back to the Bay Area would cost us (at least double what we paid for this house, for one thing). In the meantime, allow me to review some of my favorite things about this past weekend:
Spending time with my husband on our wedding anniversary (it was 4 years on 10.06.06). To celebrate, we staged a re-creation of our wedding night by having a picnic dinner in a hotel room. This time the food was from the Oakville Grocery in St. Helena (I highly recommend the tamales and the orzo pasta salad) instead of from our wedding buffet, and I refrained from eating any cake (Al got a cookie); also, the Beaner was around to join us, so we were three instead of two. Somehow, that made it even more fun.
The wedding, seeing Craig & Nico and Tony & Maria, and meeting P. It was so lovely to be among friends, to see Ken & Corinne get married, and for The Beaner to find a playmate (he really, really enjoyed hanging out with P and has been talking about him since we returned). There's a funny story about how The Beaner went looking for P while repeating the phrase "P____ new diaper" over and over with various inflections, but it really needs to be told out loud. Suffice to say that when The Beaner denies that he needs a diaper change, all we need to do to get him to submit is remind him that P got a new diaper. "P____ new diaper?" he'll say. "[Beaner] new diaper!"
Grapes! There was something so pleasant about driving by row upon row of grape vines. Everywhere, there were grapes—including at the wedding, which was held at a small organic vineyard. The Beaner and P helped themselves, which made for another of my favorite moments.
Fred reaching into the pool to retrieve The Beaner's toy Saab and coming up with his face dripping water. I really wish I'd gotten a photo of this, but I was so in awe of Fred's gallantry that I didn't reach for the camera. (This incident happened between the wedding ceremony and the reception, when we were all having cocktails around the pool. I'd been a bit paranoid that The Beaner or P would fall in, but in the end it was only the Saab—and Fred—that got wet.)
Hearing The Beaner say "excuse me." We've been trying to teach The Beaner to say "excuse me" when he wants someone to move and when he wants to interrupt a conversation, and although he's repeated the words back to us, he's never seemed to understand when it was appropriate to use them. We were in a cool downtown Napa toy store when he finally got the hang of it. We'd gone to the back of the store to play with the train tables, which were set up close to the Thomas and Brio displays (of course). The Beaner was moving around a table working the trains, and I was browsing through the Thomas paraphenalia when he suddenly needed to get by me, and couldn't. He pushed on my leg for a little bit, and I ignored him (not intentionally; it's more that because he's always hanging about my legs, I don't notice right away when he's actively trying to get my attention). Finally he said, "excuse me!", which got my attention right away. I moved, of course... and laughed delightedly.
One of the other things The Beaner said while around the train table was "Percy!", referring to the little green engine. I'm not sure whether he learned Percy's name from one of the other kids who came to play around the table (one little boy in particular named *all* the engines for me) or from a Thomas book we got for him at the bookstore recently (I think the latter's more likely, since Percy figures prominently in the story), but he said it so clearly that we couldn't help but buy him a Percy. We're suckers, I know. The day before, we'd bought him a little toy pickup truck when he correctly identified it as a Dodge.
Visiting John & Kathy down in Sunnyvale. Here's were the nostalgia really kicked in, since we were driving around our old haunts on the way down as well as when we went out to dinner. Plus, talking to John & Kathy was something I could have done for days... so many interesting topics, from parenting to sports to television to finance & budgeting and tons of other things that we only managed to touch on briefly. I had this moment after talking with Kathy where I thought, "hey, maybe I could stay home with The Beaner full-time...", but then I realized, as I talked it out with Al, that it really wouldn't work for me with our current setup. If Kathy and I lived in the same neighborhood, though, I think I'd be willing to try it. She's so wonderful with S, and it's obvious he's thriving in the glow of her love and enthusiasm. I think I would, too. :) I can't wait for them to come visit us in Philly, so we can continue the conversation.
Edited to add: Visiting the BCBGMaxAzaria outlet in Napa. The dress I wore to the wedding was by BCBGMaxAzaria, and the cargo pants I got a couple months ago and love are too, so when we popped over to the Napa Premium Outlets to see if there were any kids' shops there and I spotted the BCBG store, I begged to go in for a few minutes. I left with two pairs of pants that fit incredibly well, feel like butter, and make my butt look great. Like all of BCBG's pants, they run a little long, but having to buy a new pair of boots to keep them from dragging seems like a small price to pay to make me feel like I have a normal body. Just about every other brand out there makes me feel like a mutant, while BCBG clothes feel like they were made just for me. Yay! Oh, and the Gymboree outlet turned out to be next door, so we were able to get a couple cute things for fall for The Beaner and S, too.
A Brief Review of My New Finepix F30
The day before I left for MAX, after dropping The Beaner off at sharecare, I went to the local CBOP Photo store and asked to look at point-and-shoot cameras that were small enough to carry in a pocket, that had image stabilization, and had the shortest shutter delay possible. I was shown three cameras: the Nikon Coolpix S7c, I think one from Casio, and the Fujifilm Finepix F30. I had also wanted to look at the Sony DSC-T9, but the store didn't carry any cameras from Sony.
Long story short, I narrowed it down to the Finepix. Even though the Finepix was a bit thicker and heavier than the other two cameras, I liked its ergonomics better (it was easier to hold, and the menu navigation was more precise), and I knew that my friends Jean & Sho got some really great shots with their Finepix F10. I also preferred the cables for charging the camera and downloading the photos to the cradles that were offered with the other two cameras (I often download photos on the road, and I'd rather pack cables than cradles). The Nikon really was a serious contender; I liked the thinness and lightness of it, and the LCD screen on the back was HUGE, but the placement of the non-extending lens meant that I was often sticking my finger in front of it. It's something you'd notice, obviously, if you were carefully lining up a shot, but the whole idea with a point-and-shoot is to snap quickly.
Which brings me to the biggest drawback of the Finepix, though it's a problem with every other point-and-shoot digital as well: the shutter delay. After shooting with the Canon 10D for so long, I can't get used to the gap between when I press the shutter release and when the camera actually captures the picture. The delay, though much shorter than with my old Olympus 3030Zoom, is still deadly when trying to capture the expressions and antics of a toddler.
He was looking at me a second ago, I swear!
The other problem I have with the F30 is the huge amount of digital noise in most low-light (and some not-so-low-light) photos. There might be a setting I can change to ameliorate this problem, and to be fair, the 10D also generates a significant amount of noise whenever I shoot in apeture priority or shutter priority modes, but it seems like the F30 could be a lot smoother when everything's set to Auto. (Click on the photos below to see larger versions on Flickr, where the noise will be really obvious.)
OK, so now for all the things I *do* like about the F30 . First of all, it's small. It's not quite so small that it can fit in my back pocket without me noticing it, as my cell phone can, but it easily fits in my purse, my coat pocket, or even the front pocket of my jeans. Second, while its shutter delay makes capturing toddler antics extremely difficult, its movie mode is amazing for the same purpose. It records sound well, the picture is incredibly sharp, and with a 1G XD memory card, I can record longer than I can actually hold the camera up.
This one goes out to all my fans in Hoboken.
Third, the built-in flash is excellent. Fuji prides itself on its flash technology, and rightfully so. I've never seen light look so natural with a flash before, and it does a fantastic job of lighting not only the subject, but the background as well. The Canon's built-in flash is dreadful by comparison.
Finally, downloading the photos and movies from the camera is wicked fast. I'm not sure if this is a function of the camera hardware or the type of memory (XD for the Finepix vs. Compact Flash for the 10D), but downloading is much faster for the Fuji than for the Canon.
Overall, I've been happy with my choice, although it would have been cool if I could have road-tested a few different cameras for a week and *then* chosen which one I wanted to buy. I imagine I'll have more raves and complaints about the F30 once I've been using it for a while, but I think I can guarantee that owning the F30 means that there'll be more Beaner videos on this site.
It's Never Too Late for Resolutions
Or at least, that's what I'm telling myself: That just because I've waited until January 4 to make any resolutions at all doesn't make them invalid. Not allowing myself a resolution would sort of be like eating the whole bag of cookies because what the hell? you've already eaten four of them!, only the opposite... or something.
Anyway, is it absolutely crazy of me to resolve to post every day? I feel the same nervousness I did when I signed up for NaBloPoMo, so something tells me that this is indeed crazy, but also the right thing to do. Writing every day was a good thing for me in November; why wouldn't it be in January, February, March, etc.? I might not catch up with all I want to say with this resolution, but at least I will have *some* record of my life in 2007.
Speaking of having a record of my life, I've been uploading a gazillion photos taken over the holiday break to Flickr, with more to come. (Actually, I think I started uploading the ones from New Year's weekend before I finished uploading the Christmas ones, so my photostream will be slightly out of order.) I realized when we were in NYC over the weekend how LONG it's been since I've gone on a photo walk, and how much I've been jonesing for one. I tried to get a few snaps of the city while also documenting The Beaner's adventures with his cousin, aunt, and uncle, and the little I got only made the ache to go on a photo walk stronger.
I can't remember if I mentioned that the two-month period of bliss where The Beaner never woke up before 7:20am has ended; sometime in November we went to an erratic schedule of him waking anywhere between 5:45am and 8:45am (and usually on the earlier end of the scale). It's made getting up for a walk in the morning nigh impossible, but I'm thinking that I'm going to have to come up with a solution to that problem. I NEED my morning walks, dammit, and I think they could be a way to assuage some of the photography jones, too. If I could stay out for an hour, I could get a walk *and* some photos in at least once a week.
In the meantime, here are a few of my favorites from the NYC photos I've uploaded so far:
And oh! Before I forget: I got one of my most-desired items on my Amazon wishlist from Al for Christmas—namely, the Canon Speedlite 580EX Flash. I didn't use it for any of the NYC photos (too big to carry around when traveling with kids), but I tried it out on Christmas morning, and I'm going to try to practice more with it this week.
I submitted a photo to JPG Magazine's issue 9, in the Street category, and they've suggested that I might want to "pimp" my submission on my site. I'm not much for pimping, but this *is* one of my favorite photos, so I'll present it for your consideration. If you think it's a good fit for the theme of "Street", please give it the thumbs up!
Afternoon Tea, Alternate Universe
In an alternate universe 700 miles and one day away, I am also having afternoon tea.
I had this idea that I haven't been taking many photos lately, but I'm realizing as I page through iPhoto that the opposite is true. While I haven't been able to get out and Photograph, in an about town II kind of way, I've been taking gazillions of photos of individual events over the past couple weeks—like the exhibition game between the Red Sox and the Phillies that we went to on March 31st, Easter at my parents' house, a day trip to NYC to see Al's brother's family, and of course our bathroom remodel.
For everything except the bathroom remodel, I'm discovering that I've uploaded one or two photos and then run out of time to review, edit, and upload the rest. I'm trying to catch up now, so there might be a ton of photos flooding my Flickr stream... or I might discover that there really were only two or three good photos of each event after all. In which case, you can ignore this post (and my stream).
Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming
Apologies to the non-sports fans who follow my Flickr stream for the barrage of lacrosse photos over the past couple days. I broke out the 70-200m f4/L and took nearly 500 shots of my nephew's game in nearby Lower Merion on Saturday. (My sister's family lives in Maryland, but my nephew plays on a travel team.) Lucky for all of us, I think, I only uploaded about half of them.
I was saying to Al that I enjoy shooting sporting events—especially kids'/teens' sporting events—for the same reason I like shooting weddings: because I'm capturing special moments, of course, but also because the subjects couldn't be more thrilled to see the results. I like making people happy by getting a good shot of them. (I also love to shoot signs, locations, decay, and other subjects, but those don't involve the positive feedback of a good people shot.)
In any case, now that I've gotten through all the LAX photos, I'll be posting some of the other photos I took this weekend: namely, ones of the Beaner playing in the park, of the tulips blooming in Logan Circle, and the usual about town-type stuff.
I never really considered myself a Photoshop person. Well, maybe for a brief time about 10 years ago, when I was using Ps2.5, but I never really got proficient at it because my scratch disk was always full.
Once Fireworks came out, that's all I really needed to create web graphics and simple illustrations (Illustrator was far beyond my capabilities, and Freehand was only barely within them), and it was also all I felt I needed for photo editing. I used it pretty much exclusively until I started downloading all my photos to my work MacBook (because it's here at my desk, where I can casually upload 5 or 10 photos at a time in between doing work-related tasks), which did not have Fireworks installed on it. At that point, I just used the editing tools in iPhoto to adjust contrast, exposure, saturation, and sharpness.
One day—probably after Heather Champ's photography session at BlogHer, where I finally learned how to use Unsharp Mask—I wasn't able to get the levels right in iPhoto at all, so I downloaded Photoshop CS2. While it did a perfect job of getting the levels right in a single step (Auto Levels, of course), its tenure as the default editor for iPhoto only lasted about a week. It was slow to start up, slow to use, and I wasn't familiar enough with how to use all the tools and menu items (aside from the aforementioned Auto Levels and Unsharp Mask, and I wasn't even sure I was doing those absolutely correctly) to make it worth the wait. I went back to using the Adjustments panel in iPhoto, and only launched Photoshop if iPhoto refused to cooperate.
After hearing folks rave about how much faster the Universal Binary was in Photoshop CS3, I finally decided to brave the giant download and try it out. Yowsa! Suddenly I've become, well, if not proficient in Photoshop, at least efficient in Photoshop. I still feel like I'm just scratching the surface, and my photo-editing talents are slim indeed, but I'm finding my way around at a much quicker pace since upgrading. (I'm sure I will be making y'all sick with my weird effects over the coming weeks.) Oh, and Photoshop CS3 has become my default editor for iPhoto again. It launches in a snap, opens photos for editing even faster (and way faster than Fireworks does on the Mac Mini downstairs), and makes matching color among several shots easy as pie. SO COOL.
I can't recommend Photoshop CS3 highly enough, especially if you're on a Mac.
On The Off-Chance That Someone *Does* Care What I Had For Lunch
I'm finding that I'm sort of blogging in my photo descriptions on Flickr rather than posting here with a link to the Flickr photo these days. The photo of what I had for lunch today is a case in point (though I've opted to link to the photo below as well because I'm really proud of how the croutons practically jump out of the screen), and so are the every-two-or-three-days ankle updates.
I think this is partly because I'm lazy (it's too much of a pain to copy the code to Movable Type), and partly because if the whole post is about a single photo, it makes sense to just tell the story in context, next to the photo. In any case, this is what I had for lunch today:
My Every Day...At Night
I've been totally unsuccessful at blogging daily this year, as I endeavored to do after a positive experience with NaBloPoMo, and it's why I've been hesitant to join any of the "photo-a-day" groups that are so popular on Flickr.
Even after spending weeks being inspired by Lori's My Every Day set, I resisted the urge to try something that required a daily commitment. About two weeks ago, however, I finally caved. I became so entranced by the little windows into Lori's daily existence that I decided I couldn't *not* try it myself. I know Lori started her set mainly as a creative exercise, much the way writers force themselves to write *something* every day—and I can really see how it *has* helped her photographic eye—but what I get out of it is that little window into someone else's life. (With the lens vignetting on some of her recent photos, I feel like I'm literally looking through a window, too. :)
I started my My Every Day set not with the goal to become a better photographer, but to provide that little window into *my* life. So far, I think I'm accomplishing that goal—I've kept up with the daily-ness of the exercise, and I can see patterns emerging when I look at the thumbnails. What I didn't count on, however, was that it would make me want to experiment more as a photographer (or, at least, make me want to pull out the tools I used to experiment with years ago but haven't had the time or inclination to fiddle with recently). In other words, I think I started at the other end of the stick from Lori, but we're both ending up in the middle.
Last night at around 8pm I realized I hadn't taken my daily photo yet, and I resolved to take the tripod outside after I put the Beaner to bed. Never mind that I was already in my pajamas; I'd just throw on some yoga pants, my Dreamweaver hoodie, and a pair of clogs, and I'd be good to go.
I ended up staying out for about an hour, roaming around my neighborhood looking for interesting subjects on which to test long exposure times. The results may not be spectacular, exactly, but they represent a stretch for me, which is good.
Today on the way back from dropping off the Beaner at sharecare, I found myself fantasizing about film. Maybe I'll buy that 35mm-modified Holga (I have no patience for film bags). Maybe I'll try some experiments with my old friend the Minolta x700 and the expired 400CN and Portra VC film I've got lying around, and worry about how to share the results later. I know I'll definitely be going out with the tripod again, that's for sure.
I've been admiring the photos Heather's been taking with her Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim for a while now, but I was really impressed with some of the shots she got with it on the latest leg of the Flickr World Tour. At the same time, epmd put the idea in my head to go looking for funky old film cameras.
Thus is was that I started an eBay keyword search for "vivitar". I figured I'd just see how much a Vivitar cost, and go from there. I found a few Ultra Wide & Slims for seven or eight dollars from a seller in the UK, but I didn't bite right away. Instead I bid on a new-in-box Vivitar IC101 Panoramic, just for shits and giggles. The minimum bid was $4.99, and the shipping was $5. I ended up being the only biddder, so for $9.99, the camera was mine.
Al's first remark when I opened the box was, "aren't those the kind of cameras companies *give away* as swag?" Uh, yeah. It's cheap plastic, light as a feather, requires no batteries as far as I can tell, and creaks under the pressure of my thumb when I advance or rewind the film. Perfect! Well, perfect for using up all the expired film I have lying around the house.
I used to shoot film quite a bit, but when I moved out of San Francisco and no longer had access to the dark room at the Harvey Milk Center, I let my film stores languish. I still take my Minolta x700 out from time to time, but after the instant gratification of the digital cameras, I found I was impatient waiting for film to be developed, and I grew annoyed at the expense. I also grew annoyed at the snobby film store employees who couldn't understand why I only wanted a CD and negatives, not prints ("why not just shoot digital, if all you want is a CD?"). I didn't think I should have to explain.
Anyway, back to the Vivitar and the expired film. I've got film canisters all over the place, some still in the boxes with dates on them (mostly 2004 and 2005), and some not (these could date as far back as 2000-2002, I'd guess). I figured that if I stuck these rolls in the IC101, took the camera with me on errands or my morning walk, and then got the film processed and scanned onto a photo CD at a local drugstore, it wouldn't be prohibitively expensive, and I might get some interesting results. Not beautiful, maybe, but interesting.
I picked up my first roll of 400CN (expired 10/2005) from CVS this morning, and I must say that I was pretty pleased with the results. As with everything I shoot, some shots worked and some didn't; some errors were the fault of the camera, some were mine. But once in a while, the two of us collaborated to make something special. Oh: before I get to the shots I like, I should probably mention that what Vivitar means by "panoramic" is not the same as what Kodak meant when it released its panoramic cameras that took special film, or what the Horizon will turn out. Vivitar means that it takes ordinary 35mm frames and letterboxes them.
This, as you can probably guess, totally confounded the film processing machines at CVS, so I got my negatives back as a taped roll rather than cut, and the JPGs on the CD didn't break at the right spots. Instead, up to a quarter of the previous frame would be included with up to three quarters of the next one. This isn't an entirely unpleasant side effect, and in fact enhanced at least one photo, in my opinion:
I also kind of like the black bands of letterboxing, and I especially like how the upper edge of the frame is a bit ragged, giving a sort of sloppy borders effect.
I took a mix of shots, experimenting with architectural details, different kinds of light, and following motion, as in the case of the two shots I took of bicyclists.
I also tried a few vertical shots.
I like the slight distortion around the edges of the frame, which give some of the shots a surreal quality. I have no idea about the technical specs for the IC101 other than what I've read here; there was nothing aside from the label "focus free" on or inside the box. I can tell from looking through the viewfinder (which is cropped as the photos will be—helpful!) that the lens is pretty wide.
In any case, I've got my next roll (a standard Kodak 400 color film that I think I bought in bulk at Costco and that expired in February or April of 2004) in the camera now, and will post the results, if any, to Flickr. Just look for the vivitarIC101 tag.
way out for the living
This photo is very compelling to me right now. I need to print it out and hang it on my wall.
I have a post half-written about all the photos I've been uploading to Flickr lately—in my experience, when you upload in ginormous batches, most individual shots get only 1 or 2 views each unless you take the time to add them to various group pools—and that's been the case with almost everything I uploaded since September. I haven't gotten around to finishing that post, mainly because I started to digress into the vagaries of the Vivitar, which required uploading to my site those mis-fires that didn't make it to Flickr. In the interest in just POSTING ALREADY, here are some photos you might have missed:
I've been going bonkers with the Vivitar. I *love* taking it on my morning walks—and everywhere else. I love that it's focus-free, quiet, and light, and that I never know what I'm going to get. See all photos tagged with vivitarIC101 here.
I went to Chicago for Adobe MAX 2007 last week, and I got to go on not one but TWO photowalks with friends. On Monday I met Lori for the first time, and on Tuesday I went out with my friend Winsha, who was also there for MAX.
I've been going nuts with the bicycle shots these days. The more I photograph them, the more I *want* to photograph them.
So... I'm In San Francisco
Yeah. Title says it all, really. I didn't explain in my last post that one of the things that cheered me up on Friday was the decision very late Thursday night, after the disastrous work day, to fly out to the SF office for a week. I used frequent flier miles, I was so desperate to get out here and see my colleagues. So far it's helping; I'll have a better idea of where I'm at when I return to Philly and see if I can keep it together.
Today's actually Work @ Home Wednesday on the Dreamweaver team, so aside from two other colleagues who came in because it's quieter than at home, I'm here by myself. Not that different than working at home as I usually do, except that there's more room to roam around, and it's only the Dreamweaver team that works at home on Wednesdays. I can go visit my friends on the Flex team across the hall if I get lonely. Mostly I'm trying to use the quiet time to do some intensive bug-fixing that's hard to do when I'm in face-to-face meetings all day.
Because my body clock is a little messed up and I don't have the regular schedule I do at home, I've been walking/MUNIing to work in lieu of my normal morning walk at home. I've of course been taking photos while I walk, so my morning walk and about town: san francisco sets have been growing. My plan this morning was to finish up the roll of expired 400MAX that was in the Vivitar on my way in, drop it off at the Walgreens on Townsend for processing, continue on to work, and then pick up the CD and negs at lunchtime.
Sadly, however, it was rather dark when I left the hotel at 7:18am (I checked the time when I realized the streetlights were still on), and the low clouds meant that it hadn't brightened much by 8am. I knew I wouldn't get much, as the Vivitar doesn't seem to do well in low light—something I'd mostly chalked up to the expired film, but without really knowing why. Then Bob said something in the comments on this photo about a pack of expired film not even coming CLOSE to its stated speed rating, and I had an "aha, that's the reason" moment. I wouldn't be surprised to find that the expired 400MAX is more like 100 or 200 at best.
So anyway, as predicted, the shots I took with the Vivitar this morning did not come out. Or rather, I can tell in most of them what I was photographing, but they're otherwise unsalvageable. The ones I took on Saturday at the Beaner's school picnic came out relatively fine (with a couple double-exposures), as did the ones I took here yesterday. The only problem was that the photo guy at Walgreens clipped the black mask out of the frame. It never occurred to me that he'd do that, so I didn't think to specify NO CLIPPING.
I'm now trying to decide whether to put the last roll of expired 400MAX (which I brought with me) into the camera, or whether I should buy a fresh roll to shoot with and compare. I could also test-shoot the camera I bought for the Beaner this morning for $8; it's a film camera, and every time you bring the film to Walgreens for processing, they reload the camera with a fresh roll. I think that'll make more sense to him than the disposable camera I gave him when we went apple picking; he keeps asking me, "where's my camera? you gave me a camera, mommy." He doesn't understand that we exchanged the camera for the prints, and now he won't have to.
Oh, and I also brought the Finepix with me. As much as I love the 10-D, it's quite nice to have only pocket-sized cameras to manage.
Several folks had commented here, in person, and in my Flickr stream about the neat photos I've been getting from the expired film in the Vivitar IC 101. As an experiment, I decided to try some non-expired (i.e., fresh) film in the Vivitar to see if the results were any different.
I'm here to tell you, folks: It ain't the film. Aside from what I perceive to be a slight increase in film speed with the fresh Portra 800vc and 400vc test rolls, there's really no difference between the expired rolls I'd been using and the refrigerated fresh ones. The colors are just as wacky. See for yourself:
I'm trying a roll of fresh 400CN (purchased from an unrefrigerated rack at Walgreen's) in the camera now and will post the results as soon as they've been developed. I'm also hanging out in eBay's film section, looking for cheap lots of C-41 film. Man, this camera is fun.
All This Time, He's Had a Polaroid
Al swears up and down that he told me this a long time ago, but I don't remember it: He has a Polaroid. All this time it's been sitting in a dusty bin somewhere in the basement. All this time!
It's out now, mainly because the weekend before Thanksgiving we were talking about games to play at the Beaner's third birthday party, and I mentioned that Martha Stewart had this sweet idea for a "pin the face on the jack 'o lantern" game that involved taking Polaroid photos of each kid's attempt. I lamented that the Beaner's birthday fell after jack 'o lantern season, and that we did not have a Polaroid camera. "My sister has one, though," I said. "Maybe I could borrow it?"
"I have a Polaroid," said Al.
If he's right that he told me this before—more than once!—then I must be as bad at listening as he is sometimes. In any case, minutes later he'd dug it out for me, and I was on eBay looking for cheap 600 film. (That shit's EXPENSIVE when you're paying retail.) The 4-pack I got for a bit of a discount on eBay arrived today, and of course I had to test it before I could leave proper feedback for the seller.
Expect more like this to pop up in my Flickr stream from time to time. Meanwhile, Al is starting to worry about my camera and film habit...
Ugh, The Goo!
I've been really sick for the past few days with what I at first took for strep throat, but which I now think was probably a major sinus infection. The latter makes more sense, as the Beaner had all the same symptoms *except* for the sore throat, and the icky green goo was coming out of his nose instead of going down the back of his throat, as it was in my case.
Aren't you glad you asked? No? Then you'll probably want to skip the next paragraph, too. [Just scroll down (or click this link) until you see the cute photo of the Beaner all bundled up on top of his jammies for a quick trip to Whole Foods for the soy yogurt he wanted to eat for dinner, and you'll miss the ickiest bits.]
In any case, I took my feverish, nauseated, weak-from-not-being-able-to-eat-or-drink self to the doctor on Wednesday afternoon and got a prescription for a humongous dose of Amoxicillin, plus one for an anti-nausea drug when I puked in the doctor's sink after the throat swab. Because I hadn't been eating, all that came up was bile and globs of goo, which was probably the reason for the nausea in the first place.
I could feel the antibiotics kick in about 5 hours after I took the first dose, and I woke up 13 hours after that dose (at 5:24am) knowing that it was essential that I take the next dose RIGHT THEN instead of waiting for an hour that would make it easier to get the pills into me at regular 12-hour intervals. I've been steadily improving since then, thank god; I only needed one nap yesterday, not three, and though I didn't take my temperature to confirm it, I knew that my fever was gone. I even ate a yogurt for breakfast (after taking an anti-nausea pill)—or rather, breakfast and lunch, as it took me 3 hours to actually finish it—and an almost-normal dinner (I had to push away anything remotely spicy because my throat couldn't take it).
Needless to say, while I was down with the Sinus Infection That Invaded My Throat, my blog and Flickr stream were sadly neglected. Well, by me, anyway. The blog was apparently attended to by hackers. A big thanks to S. for e-mailing me to let me know, and apologies to anyone who had to endure the spam links that broke the blog layout in my absence. Apologies also to followers of my My Every Day set on Flickr, who will be treated to fuzzy iPhone photos of my socks for two days in a row because I didn't have the energy or the inclination to photograph anything else. (Members of the Sock It To Me! group, on the other hand, will likely be thrilled.)
The good news is that today I felt well enough to go on my morning walk (yay!) and well enough to work (which also means I had a chance to download al the photos I took of the Beaner last night), so you won't have to endure fuzzy sock photos in my photo stream for long. In fact, I also managed to pick up the roll of film I'd dropped off at CVS on Sunday when I picked up my prescriptions Wednesday afternoon, so there are some new Vivitar pictures to see already.
The fact that I'm feeling better also means that I shouldn't have any trouble playing in my hockey game tomorrow night in Harrisburg. On the way we're going to make a stop that might involve some secret presents for a couple of colleagues, if I can afford the shipping of the items.
Guess Where Philly
In the tradition of other Guess Where? groups on Flickr (most notably Guess Where SF, to which my friend Kristin is an occasional contributor), I've started a group called Guess Where Philadelphia (Center City/West Philly). I'm sort of bummed about the long name, but Greater Philadelphia is rather large and encompasses places like Manayunk, Chestnut Hill, and NE Philly—places I'm not nearly as familiar with—and I wanted to limit the group to my stomping grounds. (I'm selfish that way.)
Anyway, if you want to play, please do read the group rules, submit a photo, or just guess where one of the existing photos in the pool was taken. Currently there's only this one up for guessing, but there will be more coming soon (from me, if from no one else!).
There's nothing quite like adding the last few photos of 2007 to your My Every Day set and discovering an off-by-one error that happened back in September. Yes, I forgot to add a photo for September 20, and all the Day and Photo numbers have been off by one since then. Renumbering, tediously, right now. /sigh/
And yes, there have definitely been times where I wished that I'd just named all the My Every Day photos "My Every Day (1)", "My Every Day (2)", and so on, like Lori did. I can't resist *actual* titles, however, so I stuck with my weird Day|Photo numbering system, and oh, how painful it is. Maybe I should have just started over again on January 1...
Update: Turns out I was off by TWO. I also forgot to add a photo for November 9. Good thing I thought to double-check the numbers at November 16...
Update II: OK, I've totally screwed this up. I had a photo for November 9, and I numbered it (using the off-by-one numbering); I just didn't add it to the set. Meanwhile, I added *two* photos for November 19. Also, I have just officially broken my vow to go down to bed by 9pm.
A Little More Care in Processing, Please
I've been taking the film out of my Vivitar to the CVS on 19th & Chestnut for just about ever, and though I'm not always happy with the results, I always chalked it up to the camera or the film, not the processing. Plus, I love the woman who does the work, and I enjoy seeing her several times a week (and also not having to tell her what I want, and not having to endure the "there's still going to be a $2.50 charge for processing" spiel).
I was just thinking yesterday, however, that perhaps I should try another lab. I got such dramatically better results when I took my film to the CVS in Pittsburgh that I realized perhaps the processing at 19th Street *was* a little off. Too lazy to think about where to go instead (maybe the Walgreen's on JFK?), I dropped off my latest roll of 400CN at the CVS as usual this morning. (Oh, did I mention that I finally broke the rewind knob off the Vivitar and had to rewind with a quarter and then pop open the spool with a screwdriver? 'Nother story.)
The results I got this morning soured me on CVS for good. The scans all have water and/or chemical stains on them, which means either that the film was scanned wet, or it wasn't rinsed properly, or something else went wrong during the processing. I'm trying to see it as an interesting effect, but I can't say I'm happy about it.
366 Days of Self-Portraits
No, not mine. Lots of people are doing various 365 (or 366 in this leap year) projects, and most, unlike me, started on January 1st of this year. I'm sure there are many, many great ones out there, but the one that has me captivated is tilaneseven's. Please do go see—what he's been doing with a little camera and a timer is amazing. He puts my My Every Day set to shame.
A big box arrived while I was in meetings earlier today, and I won't have time to unpack it until after hockey practice tonight, sadly. If it's what I think it is, my Flickr stream is about to be flooded with wedding photos from 2002 and black & white promo shots from bands that no longer exist (if I can find my notebooks of negatives, that is).
Oy, maybe I should try to catch up with posting shots from the past week while I work so those don't get lost among all the old stuff....
I should also add: I received the gift of a camera from a fellow Flickr user, and I hope to have test shots from that soon, too. (I was shooting with 4 different cameras last week, and I only finished the film in one of them.)
The Minox Is Vexing Me
Just before I left for the Tech Summit in San Jose last month, Apple Cider Slim sent me a Minox PL (and a Rollei flash!) that he'd picked up at a garage sale a while back and never got around to using. It was an incredibly generous gesture that I still haven't gotten around to thanking him properly for (that would be via actual hard-copy thank-you note). Sadly, neither the Minox nor I seem to be equal to this gesture.
I'm having trouble getting the hang of focusing the thing... and with an 89.4% failure rate on the part of the shutter over two rolls of 36 exposure film (one Portra 400NC and one Tri-X 400), I can't get enough feedback on what worked at what didn't. In the case of that first roll, virtually nothing worked (except the one throw-away frame I shot at the beginning of the roll in order to advance the film); every other frame was blank, despite the film having wound properly. I tested the shutter with the back of the camera off, so I could see it opening, but I'd noticed when shooting the Portra that the shutter button was kinda squishy.
With the Tri-X roll, I noticed the same squishiness for most of the roll, but occasionally I managed to press the button in such a way that I felt more resistance. This probably accounts for the fact that I got 7 exposures on this second roll. (If you're doing the math, I actually shot 38 frames on each roll, since I'm a stingy film-advancer when loading.) Everything I got was incredibly dark, and 5 out of the 7 shots were out of focus. The remaining two weren't technically out of focus, but they weren't very sharp, either. Drat.
I like the perspective, but but I'm not fond of the muddiness. The exposure has been adjusted +0.77, the brightness +150, and the contrast -34 in Lightroom.
I think if I'm going to have another go with this camera, I'll need to get the shutter release looked at by a repair shop. For the time being, however, it's been benched.
I did it. I voted.
I was torn right up until the last minute, even after long IM conversations with my friends Jay and Kristin in California (in separate windows :-) last night, even after longer conversations with Al over the past few weeks, even after watching Senator Clinton on Keith Olbermann and Larry King last night and the Democratic debate a week ago. Yes, even after the barrage of phone calls from the Obama campaign and its supporters, and even after the Beaner repeatedly urged us to vote Obama.
By the time I walked out the door this morning, however, I'd made up my mind which buttons I was going to push (and now that I write that sentence, I realize that I mean it figuratively as well as literally). One last go-round with Al did the trick; I finally knew what I was going to do.
None of the choices on the ballot were easy (well, except for the races in which only one candidate was running); in the State Senate race, for example, I had a choice between a candidate whose literature was less than coherent (hello, editorial?), one who said he'd refuse to give up his role as union boss if elected, and one who might very well be the puppet of the former State Senator who's now in jail. Certainly, bad writing is the least of all these evils, but for me, it's hard to forgive. Forgive I did, though, mainly on the strength of my neighbor's endorsement. (I love my neighbor Jane and her husband Tully, who work tirelessly for the candidates and issues they believe in.)
Meanwhile, did you know that here in Pennsylvania we get to choose not only the presidential candidate, but also the delegates to the convention? Is that the case in other states? I don't remember ever doing it before, but today I had to choose 9 delegates—specifically 5 women and 4 men—to the Democratic convention. This was quite a privilege, as it allowed me to voice my indecision on the ballot rather than making a clear choice: I voted for Candidate A for president, and then chose 7 delegates for Candidate B and 2 for Candidate A. (I might have chosen all for Candidate B except for the fact that I like and respect two of Candidate A's delegates, and I wanted them to have a chance to go to the convention.)
So I've cast my ballot in the Pennsylvania primary. Crazily, perhaps, but I did it. I'll probably keep agonizing over which of the Democratic candidates I'd rather have as president for several more weeks, but whoever we get, I feel confident that I'll be able to vote for him or her in the general without serious regret.
My Sunday in Photos
There was some drama at tee ball as the Beaner went into full "this is bullshit, I refuse to validate this nonsense by participating in it" mode (otherwise known as Lori Mode). <sigh> There's nothing more discouraging than watching your child exhibit your character flaws.
I've known for a long time that the viewfinder in the One Step didn't match the final result. This shot was an attempt to figure out how far off, and in what direction, it was when using the 4ft-infinity setting.
In the viewfinder, I was lined up such that the left 2 in the 22 was on the edge of the frame.
About a block later, I saw a No Outlet sign and was reminded of this photo. As I got closer, I looked to see if there was a ZÉ sticker on this one, and behold! There was.
Despite a forecast of rain, we decided to drive out the Ocean City, New Jersey, where we parked behind this car. "Does that say license to hunt terrorists?" I asked Al. It did. I'm not sure what to say about that.
Al had expressed interest on the drive out to Ocean City in finding a crab shack and getting a clam strip sandwich or something similar. We lamented that we'd never been able to find a decent seafood place at the beach. As we were walking in a light rain from the car to the boardwalk, Al was grumbling about the distance, and I was welcoming the blame for choosing such a terrible parking spot (1 whole block farther away from the boardwalk than I'd intended!), we noticed a little building with a sign out front that said Clams - Oysters across the street. Suddenly, my parking choice looked like GENIUS.
After finishing his chowder and while awaiting his flounder sandwich (I ordered the clam strip platter, thanks to Al's planting of the idea earlier, and the Beaner shared our food and feasted on crackers), Al and I admired the crustacean curtains. The rainy day and the cozy surroundings brought back vague memories of the Cape (or perhaps Martha's Vineyard?) from my childhood.
The Beaner had a ball eating (and performing tricks with) the oyster crackers that accompanied Al's chowder. He had demanded fried macaroni and cheese (something that to my knowledge only Cheeburger Cheeburger has on their menu), but he seemed content when we told the waitress he'd just share what we were having. He got plenty to eat, so did we, and there was less waste than usual (something that's begun to bug me lately).
Using the info I learned from the earlier calibration shot, I tried to squeeze the entire Shriver's sign into the frame. I lined the left edge up with the R, I think. Still cut the Y off of TAFFY.
I forgot to apply the right shift to this photo; I was sucked in by the framing in the viewfinder. Consequently, the extra bit of window that's showing on the left is bugging me. I really liked the neon, though, and the plural Dinners next to the singular Breakfast and Lunch.
I actually like cool, rainy weather at the beach; I like the idea of bundling up and walking the near-empty boardwalk, or staying inside reading or coloring (if you have a place there, that is). Unfortunately, I wasn't quite bundled enough on this day, and the wind kept pouring down the back of my neck. We stopped in this arcade so the Beaner could play a few games and ride a couple rides, and so we could get out of the wind for a bit.
Unfortunately, I had to go right back out into the wind when I discovered that our meter was about to run out. We'd only put in an hour and fifteen minutes worth of quarters... but that was before we'd spotted Spadafora's. Being able to eat yummy seafood out of the wind and rain extended our visit a bit. I made the most of my walk back to the car by stopping to take photos of interesting signs.
Or perhaps more accurately, Not Yet Open for the Season. The theater next to Shrivers was open, however. "Oh, that's the movie were talking about seeing—Baby Mama," said Al as we passed the Now Showing posters. "I'm glad we saw Iron Man instead," I replied. Although I'm a fan of Tina Fey, I have doubts about Baby Mama. And I think Al was secretly thrilled that I expressed interest in seeing a superhero movie on Friday night. I'm not a fan of the genre in general, but I *am* a fan of good movies, and I enjoyed Iron Man. (I also really liked Batman Begins, which defined the New Superhero genre to which Iron Man belongs, in my opinion.)
I really need to think of the viewfinder-to-photo discrepancy as the "shift right" instead of the "left shift". Here I ended up moving the camera further left instead of further right, and almost cutting off the jetty in the process. I wanted it to be on the right edge of the frame, but not *that* far right. Apologies to the fellow contemplating the ocean waves whom I scared with the sound of the One Step ejecting its prize.
At the end of the boardwalk is Wonderland, a strange little amusement area. The Beaner wanted to investigate, but opted not to go in and ride the carousel, much to my dismay (it would have been an opportunity to get out of the wind). He and Al played a round of miniature golf instead, and then we headed home (with a stop at Home Depot first, where I picked up some more chicken wire for the garden—photos of my further efforts to protect the garden from the attacking birds to come).
365 Days of My Life
I finally got the roll of film that was in the Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim back, and thus I was able to finish off my My Every Day set on Flickr last night. I then stayed up past midnight clicking through each and every photograph in the set, reading the copious notes under some of them, wondering at the choices I made to represent certain days when there were 20 or 30 or 100 photos to choose from, lamenting that other days had only a single grainy cell phone or webcam photo to mark their passing (though sometimes that cell phone photo could not have summed up the day more perfectly).
I'd seen most of the set before as a slideshow, but it was really only in going through page by page and seeing the descriptions, the tags, the dates, the titles, and the context that I got a feel for what the last year has been like for me. All the yummy meals, all the crazy travel, the deep depression and feelings of inadequacy when it came to work and parenthood, the wonderful family adventures, watching the Beaner grow up, go to school, become obsessed with Blues Clues. Our first whole weekend away together without the Beaner, the Beaner's first day of school, his first time on ice skates—it's all there.
I know I could look at my entire Flickr stream to get a sense of where I've been, and the bi-weekly Photojojo TimeCapsule e-mails help, too, but there's something about the editing of my year into a single photo a day that's really compelling. I can see why so many people start 365 projects each January (or 366 projects, as the case may be this year). I plan to take a break before starting up another project like this—maybe a long break, maybe a short one, I'm not sure—but I *will* do it again.
Another Camera in the Family
I've been envying Heather's ability to create time-lapse movies and secretly coveting her Canon SD870. At the same time, I've been kinda disappointed with the picture quality produced by my Finepix F30. It's supposed to be a FINEpix, for cripes sake, not a muddy pix, which is what I usually get. The Finepix was kind of expensive for a point-and-shoot, though, and I do love it for video, so I resigned myself to waiting a while before acquiring another camera.
Of course the Universe, which I seem to have on speed-dial these days, had other ideas. Suddenly my Finepix stopped taking pictures or videos. I'd turn it on and press the shutter button, but nada. Oh, maybe 10 minutes later it'd deign to take a photo, like it was waiting for the flash to warm up or something (even when it was set to no flash), but I couldn't take a photo on demand. I did manage to get it to start taking a video at breakfast last week, but only after a 5-minute delay, and then I couldn't get it to STOP shooting without turning the entire camera off. It's like the shutter button just doesn't work anymore.
Annoying, but also an OPPORTUNITY. Al made me promise that if I bought a new camera I'd get rid of the Finepix within 7 days, and I will, as soon as I get the few photos/videos I managed to capture in CA last week off the card. After that, it goes to whoever wants to try to get it repaired on my local freecycle list. Meanwhile, an SD870 from Costco is in the mail (or on a UPS truck, whatever). Woo! Time-lapse movies, here I come.
Can somebody tell me why this is my most-viewed Flickr photo of all time? It consistently gets 5-8 views a day, and almost all references to it are from within Flickr, not from outside sites or search engines. Is it coming up in Flickr photo searches? Do the members of the Graffiti group dive that deeply into the pool? I have no idea. Do you?
Last year when my women's hockey team drove up to Bethlehem to play the Lehigh Valley Wicked, I discovered on arrival that the rink at which we were to play was situated next to a derelict steel mill. The thing was gorgeous in its decay, with tall, rusty tubes and stacks contrasting beautifully with the blue sky, and blasted bricks and gaping windows framing empty innards. I made a mental note to bring the good camera with me next time we came to Bethlehem.
Al, the Beaner, and I actually spent a weekend in Bethlehem over the summer, but we didn't make it to the mill. My team played the Wicked again today, however, and this time I came equipped: I packed the Canon 10D, the little Canon 870IS (which I didn't end up using), a disposable black & white camera, the Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim, the Polaroid One-Step, and the new (well, OLD) Spartus Full-Vue that I received from an eBay seller yesterday.
I ended up having only 5 minutes to shoot before the game (I was one of the last on the ice), and maybe 6 or 7 minutes after (because the light was fading fast), which wasn't nearly enough to satisfy my taste for decay. I could have wandered around for hours if only the chain link fence, the light, and the ambient temperatures had allowed (it was a bitter and windy 30 degrees). This is what I got with the 10D; the Polaroids are downstairs, waiting to be scanned; the Vivitar roll isn't finished yet; and I have no idea if any of the medium-format shots I took with the Spartus will come out. Basically, bringing the cameras just left me hungry for more, and resolved to arrive earlier next time we play the Wicked at home this season.
Someone asked me recently, in a professional context, what I was passionate about. I know the answer that would have made the questioner most excited was probably "working on open-source software," or "changing the world with a single bugfix," or something along those lines, but what I said was, "honestly? Photography."
I probably should have clarified that it's not *simply* photography that I'm passionate about; it's the photography feedback loop that is Flickr. I've always loved taking photos (and working in both physical and virtual darkrooms), but Flickr has stoked my passion for photography the way the Law & Order Mailing List once stoked my passion for the television show of the same name.
I get inspired by other photographers on Flickr, I learn new techniques on Flickr, I try new cameras and film that I discover on Flickr. (I won't even get into the social aspects; suffice to say I've made several new friends, many of whom have pushed me with their own amazing work to make better photographs myself.)
All this to say that while I *am* passionate about work-related things—developing software that "just works" the way you want it to; learning about how different developers do their jobs; the forensic science-like work of bug fixing—if someone offered to pay me to spend my time however I wanted all day, I'd probably spend it taking, scanning, editing, and posting photographs to Flickr. Making cards, stickers, and giant prints out of them. Searching eBay for cameras and film. Thinking up new photography subjects and projects. Reviewing all my favorites from my contacts and from my own archives of years past.
Not that I don't do all these things anyway; I'd just do them all the time, instead of just when I can squeeze them in. That seems to me the very definition of a "passion".
A Camera For the Beaner
The Beaner has his own film camera (a cheap-o model purchased at Walgreens for about $8, which includes a free film refill every time we bring in a roll from it for developing), and I've given him disposables to shoot with, too. As for digital cameras, he has two or three toy ones, all of which produce images of perfectly horrible quality (the ones I'm able to download off of, anyway; one refuses to connect to any computer we have). I thought they might be fun for me to shoot with, but unlike toy film cameras, these have no redeeming qualities... aside from durability, in the case of the rubber-padded Diego camera.
The Beaner often borrows my Canon point & shoot when we're out having coffee, and he's gotten proficient at switching between closeup and distance mode. He's also getting better at holding the camera still; he'll shake it occasionally, or forget to switch modes and end up with something completely out of focus, but sometimes he'll get the settings, lighting, and steadiness just right and produce something really cool. He even managed to switch to video mode on his own the other day and got this great clip (the shot of the sign at the end was an accidental—though brilliant, if I do say so myself—addition by me):
Anyway, all this is to say that I decided to use a bit of a recent windfall to buy the Beaner a real digital camera of his own. I got him a relatively inexpensive model—I chose a Canon over a higher-end, on-sale-for-about-the-same-price Nikon because I figured many of the controls would be the same as or similar to the ones on mine, and thus familiar—but it's definitely real and breakable and something that grownups would use.
Of course, now that there will be more "takenbythebeaner" photos, I thought it was also time to open a Flickr account for him. I didn't want gazillions of photos of his Lightning McQueen bowls and plates polluting my stream, and I want him to get proper credit for his ace shots. (Side note: The Flickr/Yahoo! sign-up-a-minor process isn't nearly as smooth as it should be.)
His account is mostly hidden, and his photos are viewable only by Friends and Family for now, but I'll share a few here from time to time. We're already planning a photowalk together, so I imagine there'll be more to share soon.
Reflections of the Day
I'm entering a photo I took last month in this month's Greeblepix Contest because the photo captures today really well. I'm looking into a puddle of possibilities, hoping to see blue skies.
I'll explain more later.
Wednesday (Not Saturday)
Again I'm going to start this entry with mention of my fame (!), as I neglected to mention the conversation that followed the "I read your blog!" sighting last Sunday. Al suggested that it might be he and the Beaner that made me recognizable, and I think for the most part he's right. I have certainly been recognized on my own before, especially when my hair is pink or purple, but I think it's when people see all three of us together that they have that, "hey, I know you!" moment.
Now on to work, or lack thereof, or something like that. I actually have plenty to do, both online and off, at Indy Hall and at home, but on Monday I was very nearly paralyzed by guilt into doing nothing. Ironically, the guilt had to do with doing nothing: I felt guilty that I had the freedom to do pretty much what I wanted, when I wanted, when Al had to work. It didn't seem fair. And so I started feeling kind of sad.
Luckily Al sent me an e-mail that cheered me enough to get out of the house, because the weather was a BEAUTIFUL on Monday: about 70 degrees and Northern California dry. I took a couple (well, four, counting my iPhone) cameras with me and headed back out to University City on the #13 trolley.
I spent the next few hours walking around the Penn Alexander catchment area, taking photos of interesting signs, blooming flowers, and houses; talking to a lovely woman named Joya who was doing some square-foot gardening in her front yard; and getting a feel for the neighborhood. It was thoroughly lovely. I haven't finished the roll in the Minolta yet (and it's black and white, which won't give you the flavor of the day, which was incredibly colorful, anyway), but here are a few of the snaps I took with the other cameras:
The next day I woke up convinced it was Friday. That's when I realized that Monday's mini-depression was not a fluke: This not-working thing is definitely messing with my head.
This morning I woke up thinking it was Saturday, which I guess is at least consistent with thinking yesterday was Friday. Within a few hours I was also thinking that maybe I should tell the Beaner that I'd lost my job.
I hadn't told him yet because [a] I didn't want to freak him out, but more importantly, [b] I didn't want him to get his hopes up that this would mean I'd be staying home with him. (Did I already say this the other day? I can't remember.) I fully intend to get another job, and I figured if things just went on as they had done while I was looking, there'd be little disruption in his life.
The problem is that I started, almost immediately, wanting to spend more time with the Beaner. Looking for work is indeed a full-time gig, but but it's more like a 35-hour full-time gig, not a 45-hour full-time gig. There's at least an extra hour or two a day that I could be spending with the Beaner, even when my sort-of vacation/sort-of project time is over.
So tonight, I told him. The first thing he said was, "does that mean you're going to work upstairs again now?!", with an excited grin. (He associates me going to Indy Hall with me going to "work," which is probably a good thing.) He was a little confused about where exactly my job went and why; "the company did a bit of restructuring" doesn't mean much to a 4 year-old, so I explained further that they wanted to move in a new direction, and that they didn't need me to do it. I told him that I'd be looking for another job with a company that *does* need my services, and that I was confident I would find one.
He then asked why I was calling it a "job" when he knew it as "work". I said that he does work at school, and mommy and daddy do their work at their jobs. I'm not sure he got that one. I think he did understand that I'd still be going to Indy Hall while I'm looking for a job, but that I'd also be around a little more than usual, and that I was looking forward to spending that little extra time with him. He said he was, too.
I'm sure there will be further consequences/questions, but for now I think that went as well as can be expected. If I can just wake up tomorrow knowing it's Thursday, all will be right with the world.
Eastern State Penitentiary
I've got a bunch of half-written posts in "draft" status, including the next installment of the Disney trip (yes, a MONTH later), but I'm going to post a few random small things rather than letting the longer posts clog up the pipe.
This post is to note that I finally finished posting the digital photos I took at Eastern State Penitentiary a couple weeks ago (film shots to be added to the set once I finish the rolls and get them developed). I *loved* photographing that place, and I'm already plotting my return. I'm debating whether to bring Al, to organize an outing with one or more local photographer, or to go alone again; part of me wants to share the place with others, and part of me is thrilled at the prospect of spending another 4 hours without speaking. There was something very special and almost spiritual about that quiet time.
It's not quite New Year's yet, but I already have a couple resolutions that I want to make. One is to spend the three days that I have off this weekend taking photos. It's been too long since I've just walked around, looking for the beauty in everyday things. And the women at the Walgreens photo counter are starting to miss me and my negatives only + CD orders, too.
The other thing I'm resolving to do is blog every day in January. I want to spend a little time taking stock, and all the year-end and decade-end "best" lists around have gotten me thinking about the books, movies, TV shows, and experiences I've enjoyed most over the past few years. Coincidentally, the NaBloPoMo theme for January is BEST, so I've submitted my site to the blogroll and hope to stick with it.
See you all in a couple days. :-)
Wow, it's hard to believe that we're 10 years away from Y2K now... and yet somehow I'm not sure that a century really gets rolling until about 20 years in. Perhaps because it's so awkward to refer to the 00s and the 10s? Much easier to point to the 20s, 30s, etc. (Speaking of which, I wonder if the 20s will be "roaring" this time around?)
In any case—perhaps because of the turn of the decade, perhaps because it feels like the economic and social problems we're having now seem unlikely to resolve themselves in a single year—I find myself looking not just back at the past year and forward to the year ahead, but back at the past few years and forward to the next few years. 2012 looks promising.
Sorry, I wasn't really going anywhere with that; it's just the state of my brain on this New Year's Day morning. Or part of it, anyway. The rest is consumed with mulling over my best experiences of the past year and decade, and with whether I want to do another 365 photography/Flickr project this year. I think I will miss doing such a project if I don't, and yet there were times this year when it felt like a chore, or that I didn't make an effort to get a photo that really captured the day (and was sorry for it later). It often happens that when I'm really living in the moment, I don't think to photograph it. (I should write a whole separate post about that, if I haven't already—about how I get the best photos of an occasion when I'm not really participating in it, and conversely, how if I'm really enjoying myself and am actively engaged, I get no photos at all.)
For 2009, I decided late that I *would* do a 365 project (or maybe I decided early, but forgot that I'd decided?), and ended up with a photo of the Beaner for the first day instead of the self-portrait I'd intended. From then I resolved to stick with the self-portraits... but there were some days, as I said, that my heart wasn't in it. And then there were other days where I felt like what I was *doing* was more important than my face, or where the day wasn't about me at all. More Beaner photos, more family photos, more locations shots. Apparently, I resist themes... or sub-themes, as it were, since 365 is already a theme. 365 days in the life seems good enough.
Here's my 365 set from 2009. If you have the patience to watch the whole slideshow (why you would, I have no idea; I'm only up to April myself as of this writing) and notice that some days are missing, it's because almost any photo with the Beaner in it is marked Friends & Family only. Although for all I know, embedding the whole shebang here will cause that setting to be ignored.
It's weird to look back over the year and see myself drinking coffee (I haven't had coffee in months), microwaving meals (ditto), looking a little chubby (I lost about 5 lbs. when I moved to a mostly-raw + cheese + chocolate diet), enjoying unemployment. I'm also glad I chose to include video occasionally (but sparingly). OK, I'm sold. This is a really nice way to capture a year. Onward to 365 for 2010!
Agile in Action
Even more recently, a colleague came down to take some photos of us working for a presentation one of the executives was planning to give. He's a better photographer than I, so I can't wait to see what he got... and of course I immediately wished I could include his photos in my Flickr set.
Aha! I thought: I'll start a group, and I'll call it Agile in Action. Sadly, the name was already taken, but the upside is that it was taken for the same purpose: As a way of sharing the working environments and artifacts of Agile teams.
There are only 11 members of that group now, and only a few photos in the group pool, so I'd like to make a pitch to other Agile practitioners who use Flickr to join and send photos of your teams, your work setups, your Kanban boards and burndown charts, or any other Scrum/Agile artifacts you've found useful. I'm not a group owner or moderator (and therefore I can't change the generic group icon); I'd just like to share ideas with other practitioners through photographs. Won't you be my ScrumNeighbor?