A Man and His Dog

Many, many years ago I read an autobiographical short story by Thomas Mann called “A Man and His Dog.”  It’s a very charming description of Mann’s life in a rural suburb outside I believe Munich.  His dog Bashan is a German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) or, as he mentions in the story mostly of that breed, because he mentions some irregularities of his appearance that Mann hints should b a point of embarrassment for Bashan.

When my children were young, we found ourselves looking for a family dog and I thought long and hard what breed to get.  Camera Girl is a dog lover and any breed will find a place in her heart but I insisted that it be a manly and courageous breed because I see the value of having a capable watchdog in the house.  But I wanted a dog that had the even temperament needed around small children.  So, no pit bulls or bull mastiffs.  After a thorough review of the physical and temperamental characteristics, I selected the GSP as the optimal dog breed for us.  We ended up travelling about six hours each way to get the puppy and when I brough “Max” home he was an immediate hit with the children and settled in with his family.

And I will say that he lived up to the description for his breed.  The GSP’s are incredibly friendly with children in the family and tolerant of people around the home.  But they are extremely protective of their territory if another dog enters it and will fight ferociously against an intruding dog.  They are extremely smart and amazingly fast and agile.  And as one of our later GSP’s demonstrated, powerful hunters.  Our older dog Kaylee once took down a young deer that happened to be in a field that she was running in.  It was all that we could to get the deer away from her alive.

In his story Mann mentions that the pointers can make themselves a nuisance by their single-minded approach to the master of the house.  And in a sense, this is true.  Although Camera Girl is the primary dog walker in the house, the two pointers look to me for their marching orders.  Whenever anyone enters the property, they come to me and start complaining about the intrusion looking for leadership in repelling this invasion.  And as annoying as it sometimes is to have yapping dogs running around in circles when the oil truck comes down the driveway or the Fedex guy is dropping off a package, it is a good feeling to have loyal minions whose allegiance is to the king of the castle and no one else.

Over the years we have had other breeds too.  Early on we had a Newfoundland.  Up until six years ago we had a Bassett hound.  Both dogs were wonderful creatures that we loved immensely.  And they had their own unique qualities and characteristics.  But to my mind the pointers are the best family dogs I’ve come across.  And in a pinch, if a serious animal threat wandered onto the property, I’d feel better knowing a GSP was there to look out for Camera Girl and the grandkids.

So, when I think of a man and his dog, if the man is me then the dog would be a German shorthaired pointer.

A7 III with Sigma 150 – 600mm MC-11 adapter

photog’s Technophobia

So, as I’ve alluded to recently, I’ve been playing host to one of my descendants recently and whenever he visits, he’s always shocked by how little progress I’ve made technologically since his last visit and in a spirit of charity he tries to modernize my approach to various everyday life circumstances.

For instance, he reminded me pointedly that my camera, the Sony A7 III, still had the original firmware version.  But there were currently versions above revision 4.  And he stressed the fact that one of those revisions included a major upgrade to eye autofocus and tracking autofocus capability.  And since he is painfully aware of my legendary laziness, he begged me to actually perform the upgrade while he was watching, which I did.

Later when he attempted to run a YouTube video on the tv through a DVD player that had wi-fi, he was dismayed at the terrible bandwidth and asked if I had any other alternative devices.  I explained that a year ago I bought a Roku device but it seemed as if I would need to pay for a monthly subscription so in my annoyance at being sucked in, I threw it into my tech scrap heap and forgot all about it.  He assured me that the credit card registration was a harmless feint and I would not be charged for free applications like YouTube and other movie channels that had free services.  He then dug it out, installed it and suddenly my wide screen tv became a new world of high-definition nature shows that he favors.

And the other day he asked me about my photo workflow.  I use Capture One software to post-process my files and I had mentioned that the loading and backup time was becoming unmanageably long.  So, we went through the system and identified that one of my settings had been accidentally changed and I was loading all my files to one folder that was now horrifyingly large.

I attempted to remedy the situation.  I did successfully change the setting and now am no longer making the problem worse.  Score one for me!  But I then attempted to break the catalog into smaller pieces to speed up the processing time.  That didn’t work out so well.  Capture One has several categories of files.  There are catalogs and sessions and folders and even other things that I’m not really sure I understand at all.  I spent several hours chopping up the giant folder into my existing file system.  Then I tried to point the thumbnail renderings to the new file system and that was a total failure.  It wouldn’t locate the files for the thumbnails to work as needed, a crushing blow.  An alternative would be to manually point the thumbnails to the individual files one by one.  But since there are tens of thousands of files, I might not live long enough to accomplish this.  Plan B is to spend several hours combining all the files back into one folder the way they were before I started changing it and then move the thumbnails and files together into separate folders.  It’s sad to know just how inept I am with the software tools I work with.  But an honest man must swallow the hard truth and try to do better.  I have vowed, with Peter Thiel as my witness, that I will get my tech house in order.  I will give a DAM (that’s digital image management) and get my millions of photo files under control.  I will learn how to make my own plug-ins for my website.  And I will spend the time to find the appropriate (and cheap) software I need to optimize my other digital occupations like fiction writing.

Of course, I won’t start today.  We’re having a big get together and I have to help Camera Girl with the set-up and general chores.  But soon!  And from now on!  The world will see a new photog!

Did that sound convincing?

Larry Correia’s WriterDojo Episode 4

I was just listening to episode 4 of Larry Correia’s podcast on writing.  The episode was called “Outlining vs Discovery” and it was exactly what I’ve been working on in my own writing.  Discovery is also called “seat of the pants” writing.  That’s where you just start writing and stop when you reach the end.  And that’s what I usually use.  The danger is that you can either paint yourself in a corner or meander off into the middle of nowhere.  Outlining is exactly what it sounds like.  That’s where you take an idea for a story and then develop it into a story with a beginning middle and end.  And depending on how detailed you want to get it may include a number of the characters, sub-plots and even important scenes.

Larry and his podcast partner Steve Diamond represent the opposite sides in this dichotomy.  Larry is an outliner and Steve discovers.  But listening to both of them describe how each gets around the weaknesses of each of these two methods gives a better understanding to the listener about how both methods are used by every writer.  Basically no matter how much outlining you do it’s while you’re actually writing the story that “discovering” the true nature of your protagonist emerges.  And even if you think that you’re not outlining at all, the back of your mind is filling in that outline for you.  You may not know where the story is going but your subconscious does.

But it is true that every writer is one kind of these two kinds.  I’m a discovery writer but I’ve decided that I want to provide an outline for my stories going forward.  That way if the story decides on its own to deviate from the outline I’ll know it’s meant to be.  It’ll be my unconscious mind dope-slapping my conscious mind.  And that I’m used to.

Praying Mantises, Children’s Books and Pa – Part 5 – The Final Chapter

Well, this is the finale of the great mantis experiment.  Yesterday Camera Girl used her hawk-eye super vision to find an adult praying mantis in the jungle-like weeds of her vegetable garden.  In fact, the mantis was on one of her Japanese eggplant plants.  Princess Sack-of-Potatoes will know that praying mantises really do exist although unfortunately they do not talk in an English-accented throaty whisper as they do in an Eric Carle picture book video.  But they are indeed monsters that inhabit the tiny world of our garden.  And that’s a fun thing for a little child to discover.

Camera Girl’s Super Power

I believe in making marriage into a sit-com.  Camera Girl has said on any number of occasions that I need to write new material because she’s bored with the old stuff.  And she’s right.  But what I have in abundance is mockery.  I mock everything around me because that is how I think.  It’s a family trait that is probably our defining one.  That is how we analyze the world around us.  And because of her proximity Camera Girl is my favorite target.  I mock her choice in books, tv shows, talk shows, her frugality, her ideas about pets, her family, her friends, her rudimentary political ideas, her lack of knowledge about science, history, religion, philosophy and technology.  I make it such a regular practice to call her a poor ignorant peasant girl that she has started saying it about herself to save me the time.

What I never mock are her domestic skills.  Her ability to organize, schedule and maintain a home is remarkable.  Her cooking has kept me fat for decades and her ability to raise and entertain children is well-nigh magical.  And it’s this child-herding skill I want to write about.

This week we are entertaining the two younger grandsons and the granddaughter.  The boys are ten and seven and the girl is almost three.  Someone who doesn’t know kids might not know how hard it is to keep this combination of ages and sexes busy and happy at the same time.  Suffice it to say it’s like juggling chainsaws.  But she does it effortlessly.  She’s even able to integrate me into the trick when she thinks I can be trusted.  For instance, at one point, the next event was ninety minutes in the swimming pool.  But right before the time, the two boys got involved in a race to see who would grab hold of a toy they both wanted, some kind of remote-controlled car.  The little guy ran a little too fast and fell, skinning both his knees badly on the driveway.  After first aid and bandaging was performed Camera Girl informed me that out of necessity I would be drafted into service.  Since the little guy couldn’t go in the pool in his wounded condition, he would be watching a movie about tyrannosaurs (his favorite subject) and I would keep him company.  And she had made the right call.  Whereas I could have taken the other two kids to the pool, what she realized was that if I provided my nerd-like knowledge of prehistoric creatures as a way to occupy him, then my grandson wouldn’t feel so bad about missing the swimming pool which was a sore disappointment to a little boy.  We sat there and talked about the latest research on the most probable speed that a T. rex could run.  We discussed whether the T. rex was really the apex predator of all time and really the greatest creature to ever walk the face of planet Earth.  And even though I might have some theories on T. rex that differed from this dinosaur enthusiast’s I listened very respectfully and tried to enrich the discussion with some other scientific and general interest items.  And when his brother and cousin returned from the pool there wasn’t a single sad face or harsh word from him.  I had performed adequately and hadn’t dropped a chainsaw.

And later on, when the two younger ones were going to play some board game (I think Candyland) I was entrusted with taking the older guy outside for a baseball catch.  It was pretty hot out there but the hour went by like a flash as we tossed around the ball and talked about whatever was on his mind.  And once again I completed my task without incident and tossed the chain saw back to the master juggler.

And so it goes.  Minding a toddler and keeping her safe, soothing a little boy with sore knees and keeping a ten-year-old from getting bored all while cooking breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner, cleaning the dishes, doing the shopping, washing the clothes and dealing with all my complaints without dropping a stitch.  Then bathing the baby and putting her to bed and before collapsing into bed herself she tries to read a few pages out of one of her books.  I honestly don’t know where her energy and work ethic come from.

But rather than think Camera Girl is a goddess, which she is, I think all women should be like her.  Raising kids is the greatest responsibility any human can undertake.  Sharing their lives and teaching them how to be people like Camera Girl does is mothering.  Plugging them into the television or the computer is what you expect from a zoo attendant or prison guard.  If the human race doesn’t get back to the old standard for mothers we’re doomed.

So, here’s to Camera Girl.  Long may her super power thrive.  I hope to see her someday plying her trade with her great grandchildren.  But I do wish she would do a better job training her dogs.  They’re all spoiled.  And she knows it.

photog Reminisces on New England Hurricanes

New England is a benighted region.  It’s not coincidental that H. P. Lovecraft was from here.  Even though I’m not a native New Englander I have now lived the majority of my life here and so I had the honor to ride the Hurricane Bob Express back in 1991.  Bob was the last hurricane to actually make landfall as a hurricane in New England so it’s remembered fondly.

Back then I was a hot-shot process engineer working for an engineering company that had been purchased by one of the major defense contractors and therefore had plenty of money for plane fare.  We had a processing plant in Cape May NJ that needed an operational audit prior to submitting a proposal to modernize the plant.  You would have thought that a hurricane coming up the east coast was a good enough reason to postpone the trip.  You would have thought wrong.

So, there I was early on the morning of August 19th 1991 sitting on the tarmac of Boston’s Logan Airport with several of my associates waiting to take off for the relatively short trip to southern New Jersey.  Several of the passengers including the fellow sitting next to me on the flight were nervous.  I on the other hand have always felt that since I have virtually zero control over what happens once I sit down in a plane, there’s really no sense in worrying.  So, I was reading a book.

There was a substantial delay on the tarmac while the tower decided whether to cancel the flight.  We could see that the wind and rain were pretty awful outside the plane.  Finally, the decision was made to take off and away we went.  The stewardesses began moving down the aisle taking drink orders when we hit the brunt of the storm.  The sensation was like a mechanical bull.  The plane bucked up and down for several minutes with even a little lateral motion to make it really interesting.  I experienced a giddiness like you get on a roller coaster and actually found myself laughing out loud.  The personal experience of the other passengers definitely varied.  There was a good amount of spirited screaming.  The poor stewardesses got the worst of it.  They were flung out of the aisle onto the passengers.  Their heavy metal cart jumped around but stayed right side up.  The girls eventually beat a hasty retreat to the end of the aisle and stayed there.

But the funniest thing was that the passengers kept hitting their call buzzers.  They wanted their drinks.  Apparently, they needed the booze right away.  Finally, the head stewardess starting screaming over the PA system to order them to stop hitting the buzzers.  It was quite a scene.  I think my neighbor was praying.  He had his head down and his eyes shut.

Twenty minutes later we were back in the sunshine and when we landed shortly after that it was hot and sunny.  The hurricane seemed to have scrubbed everything clean and it was a beautiful day.  We did our work and caught a flight home that night.  Hurricane Bob was long gone but he had left his mark.  There was no power or phones and the bus I was supposed to take wasn’t running.

I ended up taking a subway train to a commuter train to a bus station and took a bus to a stop where I could walk down a road for about two miles to where my car was parked.  By the time I got home Camera Girl had given me up for dead but was willing to break out some food and drink for the conquering hero.  Thus ended my adventure in hurricane bronco busting.  Not exactly Pecos Bill material but highly entertaining.

So now Hurricane Henri is teed up.  Once again, it’s a hurricane with a guy’s name which is sort of disreputable to start with.  And it’s French which adds insult to injury.  It’s going to be a Category One Storm so far.  But the track is going to be dead center on target to where I live which kind of stinks.  But we’ve got a generator, plenty of food and water and an emergency of this sort provides a manly man such as myself with the opportunity to impress his damsel in distress with his prowess at fighting the raw power of nature head on.  Plus, we have pop-corn and a DVD player if things really get dicey.  Well, here’s to survival.  At least I’m not in Kabul.

Camera Girl Saves the World One Guinea Pig at a Time

When I was a kid if you wanted to get a pet, you went to a breeder or a pet store and looked in a few cages or fish tanks and picked one out and passed a few dollars across a checkout counter and your pet was handed to you on a leash or in a small box with some holes punched in it.  And this time-honored arrangement served me in good stead for countless pets of almost every description.  Maybe sometimes the box was a plastic bag if it was an amphibian or a fish.  If it was a snake, it would be a cloth bag with a knot in it to prevent it from trying to squeeze out of a flimsy box.  But if it was any of the several types of rodents that I have owned; mice, rats, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs or chinchillas; there was no fanfare and definitely no discussion beyond what it ate and how to keep it from escaping.

Today I journeyed with Camera Girl across state lines to an obscure and truly annoying animal “adoption” center to be allowed to purchase two guinea pigs.  The fact that guinea pigs couldn’t be found at our standard pet store was inconceivable to me.  Guinea pigs like all rodents procreate at the drop of a hat.  They seem to be almost literally born pregnant.  How there could be a shortage of them sounded like a science fiction story plotline.  But being the mild-mannered and supportive modern husband that I am I only scoffed a little and agreed to travel to the ends of the earth to procure these rare and legendary beasts.

When we got there, I had my first nasty shock.  The nudnicks who ran this establishment required us to wear face masks to enter the sacred precinct.  Apparently, we had entered a medical facility where lockdown protocols were in place.  I asked Camera Girl if we should scrub up and put on our surgical gowns too.  She nervously shushed me and we moved on.  The surprising thing was that none of the highly trained animal adoption specialists were wearing masks.  I found this more than a little annoying.  This was the first of the little hints that I picked up that told me I was participating in a passion play.  We were performing a religious ritual where the High Priestess would coach us through our roles and provide the sacrament which in our case were overweight rodents.

The various stations of the cross included discussion about why we wanted said rodents.  I was tempted to relate a story about how a voice out of the sky told me to find the guinea pigs while I was mowing the lawn but I didn’t want to crab the deal.  So, I let Camera Girl describe her maternal fervor to save a poor orphaned guinea pig from a life of crime.  Then we had to prove that we could afford to care for these two new dependents.  I wanted to say that if the present menagerie had no complaints about the regularity of meals these two new freeloaders should be willing to roll the dice with me.  Once again, I bit my tongue.  I cautioned myself, “Patience, patience.  It will all be over soon and Camera Girl will be proud of me for being so tolerant.”  So, I held my peace while she answered all questions.  Credit reports were submitted, bank account statements were handed over, COVID vaccination papers were displayed.  Finally, it was all over.  Camera Girl followed the high priestess into the checkout area and I was left to commune with the rats while payment was made.  I felt virtuous for being a compliant chump through this embarrassing and absurd ritual and the payoff was imminent.

But after twenty minutes I was still sitting there with the rodents.  We had stared at each other a very long time and I could tell they were even less impressed with me than I was with them.  So, I cleared my throat excused myself to them with the alibi that I would make their space in the car more comfortable and went looking for Camera Girl.

I found her at the counter with the thirty bucks still in her hand.  But instead of grabbing the receipt and being on our way she was filling out a stack of paperwork and chatting amiably with the high priestess (HP) about the cutesy things that guinea pigs do when you give them human food.  So, I sidled up to her and gave her a quizzical look.  What I noted was that HP was handing out these forms one at a time with copious and completely unnecessary instructions on the minutia of how this information would be used to further the continuous improvement of rodent adoption.

I started glaring at Camera Girl to make it clear I was out of patience and needed to exit this building before I told HP what I really thought of the idea of “adopting” rodents.  I could tell that Camera Girl guessed that I was getting close to announcing to HP that most of my rodent associates were deep frozen rats and mice and even several hamsters that I would use to feed various snakes that I have from time to time kept and that if I wasn’t allowed to get on my way Rodent A and Rodent B were in danger of ending up as dinner for some future serpent inmate at my home.

And as hoped the pace of checkout speeded up acceptably and we were out of there in another couple of minutes.

On the way out I gave Camera Girl a very detailed lecture on what was wrong with allowing women to run anything and more particularly what was wrong with allowing women to confuse animals with children in their priorities.  Seriously a whole industry has grown up around the idea that dogs and cats and rats need to be rescued.  But what is actually happening is that suckering these women into “fostering” animals and then suckering some other women into “adopting” them had become a scam.  The shelters were hooked up with rescuers who were breeding the dogs either themselves or through some fellow scam artists and then charging the saps hundreds of dollars to save them.

I cautioned Camera Girl that from now on all rodents we purchased would be from people who didn’t name them but calculated their value by how much grain they had consumed during residence time in the system.  I just don’t have the stomach for dealing with scam artists and I don’t want to encourage Camera Girl to humor these maniacs.

A Voice Out of the Past – Part 1

Today I was taking care of some paperwork and a phone call came through.  Now we only have a land line.  No smartphone paraphernalia so I have to go over to the phone to see who’s there.  Well, the phone number was from the New York City area and was unfamiliar so I let it go to voicemail.  When the caller started leaving a message, I immediately recognized the voice and as he started leaving his name, I found out I was right.  It was a guy I worked with back in 1987.  I left the City in 1988 and I guess I never expected to hear from him again.

I immediately picked up the call and we started catching up.  Apparently, he retired last year and was cleaning up some old letters and photos from the time period and he decided to try and look me up.  We did the usual back and forth talking about the people we worked with back then and it was amazing how many details were at our fingertips even after thirty-four years.  As it turned out both of us left the field we were in at the time.  Which is not surprising.  He and I had separately drifted into the securities industry by getting our Series 7 license to work in Manhattan’s Wall Street district during the bull market of the 1980’s.  The fact that we both left after the 1987 crash is hardly surprising but it is gratifying to know that he also found a safe haven in the economy of the time.

Well, we swapped stories about what had happened to us since that time and then we asked each other if we knew of any of the other people we worked with.  But mostly we had lost touch with a former life.  And then we reflected on that life.  We agreed it wasn’t a place you would want to stay in for long but that it taught you a lot about people and a lot about yourself.  We exchanged info and we plan on getting together for a reunion.

But it’s got me thinking about some of the things that went on back then.  And some of them are pretty good stories.  I think they’re worth relating.

I got involved with Wall Street when I ran out of money to complete the last few credits of my engineering degree.  I had a wife and three young kids and bills and things that needed buying.  So, I decided to become a “stock broker” and make my fortune or at least get enough money to finish my degree.

That was a different world.  You see the retail brokers of back then were being replaced by the “discount brokers.”  And shortly both would be replaced by electronic trading that would sweep away the old Wall Street completely.  But back then we still had accounts and clients and commissions and had to wear suits and ties.  We had to know the floor brokers and know how to deal with the various options exchanges and we had to at least hint to the customer that we could do magical things with his order.  There was a definite P.T. Barnum aspect to the customer relations side of the job.

And this bull market was a magnet for people looking to live in the New York City area and wanted to “get rich.”  Almost all of the brokers traded their own accounts and many of them dreamed of building up a stake and making a living day-trading.  And it was this powerful force that ensured that the entrants were a motley crew.  We had all kinds.  And some of them were quite colorful.  Some were actually crazy.  This was partly due to the drug culture of the time.  Several of the people I worked with had a cocaine problem.  One fellow in particular named Joe eventually was forced out when he started having real problems.  Joe was a colorful character.  He was always using small exercise devices to strengthen his hands and wrists and he was constantly throwing karate punches and blocks in the air around his desk.  He was quite a sight.  On Halloween he brought in a black velvet bag that had what looked like an actual human skull.  And one evening when his supervisor Rich was berating him for not handling his fair share of the work load Joe picked this little man up by the forearms and walked him over to one of the windows and asked him if he’d like to be thrown out.  Joe was a pretty big guy and we were on the 15th floor of an old building that had old style windows that could be opened.  Nobody thought Joe would throw Rich out the window, except maybe Rich, but it was a serious breach of office etiquette to say the least.  Luckily for Joe, Rich never said anything about it and afterwards gave Joe a wide berth.

Later on, I was Joe’s supervisor and he came to me to complain that people were talking about him.  You can imagine I wasn’t particularly surprised to hear this.  So, I took him into a conference room and asked him to tell me about it.  He said that he heard them talking about him in the lunch room.  He was sitting next to the soda machine so he was sort of hidden from the rest of the room.  He heard some comments about himself that were very insulting.  They made him pretty mad but rather than start a fight he came to me.  I complimented him on his restraint and then asked him who made the comments.  He said, “The soda machine.”

Well, that slowed me down.  I said, “Joe, I’m going to have to kick this upstairs to Bill.”   Bill was the senior manager for the brokers.  I said, “Bill deals directly with all vending machine related issues.”  Then I told Joe that he looked a little tired and considering what he had been through I thought he should take the rest of the day off and get some rest.  He thanked me and went home.  When I passed this along to Bill his eyes bugged out and he told me to leave this to him and not mention it to anyone.  Joe never came back to the office.  But about three months later he called me at home and told me that the company had helped him find a good rehab program to get off the cocaine.  And he had left Wall Street behind and was working for his uncle who had a printing business in Brooklyn.  He sounded as happy as I’d ever heard him.  Joe may not have been the craziest guy I worked with on Wall Street but he was surely one of the most colorful.  And he had one of the happiest endings to his story there.

The Dog Day

It’s a hot one, a scorcher.  I was out there trying to get some shots of hummingbirds and I think they were watching me from the shade of the trees saying to each other, “Is he crazy?  We’re not going out in that sun for a little sugar water!”

But this is real summer.  You can see all the moisture the ground has soaked up over the last month or so rippling into the air as currents of chromatic diffractions of the solar photons pummeling the ground.  I put on my floppy hat and brave the noonday sun in quest of photographic knowledge.  And there’s scant little of that.  Even the usually reliable bees and butterflies and even the dragonflies have taken refuge out of the sun, the cowards.

Camera Girl and Princess Sack-of-Potatoes took to the pool after lunch and of course as soon as I went in for lunch, supposedly, the hummingbirds were everywhere, on the flowers, at the feeders, even hovering between the girls at the side of the pool.  I shouted out, “Fake News!”  But her haughty sneer let me know I wasn’t fooling Camera Girl.  I knew she spoke the truth.

I will go back out after four.  At that point the sun’s blast will be merely Saharan and therefore survivable.  I will say that this tracking autofocus function still requires a fair amount of skill, of technique that I am sadly lacking.  But persevere I will.  I must know the answers.  Are my old lenses useful or ballast?  I will find out.

After conferring with my grandsons I recognized their seasonal anxiety.  They sense the end of summer vacation.  They reminded me not to waste the days that we have left.  Labor Day is right up the road and after that there’s nothing on the horizon until Halloween.  So I must get out there and see what I can see.

I think tomorrow I’ll head for the local lake.  I want to see if any water birds are around.  That would be a nice tame autofocus-tracking target.  I’m tired of trying to capture Larold running at full tilt.  The camera doesn’t stand a chance.  Last year there was a bald eagle at that lake.  I don’t suppose I’ll luck out and it’ll be there but you never know.  In an unrelated photographic idea there is an old colonial graveyard nearby and I thought I’d go over there and do some closeup photography of the old stones.  Nothing that will show the whole stones but more the texture of the erosion on the carving.

Haven’t seen much wildlife this summer.  There was a bear on the property recently but he didn’t do any damage surprisingly enough.  Last year he flattened one of our bird feeder polls.  And speaking of birds Camera girl has been reading about some mysterious bird ailment that is killing the birds.  So of course the first thing they tell her is “Stop feeding the birds!”  Blah, blah, blah.  I told her do as she pleases.  If feeding the birds is going to cause the apocalypse then let her rip.  I figure it’s bird COVID.  So why shouldn’t they get a taste of it too?

Well, the silly season is ending in three weeks or so.  Then we’ll have the atrocities in Washington to bemoan, only I’m all out of outrage for the inevitable.  I figure codified election fraud is in our immediate future so bring it on.  But it will wake up a mess of normies.  Maybe that will do some good.  So enjoy the rest of the summer and I’ll be here when you get back.

And here is the dog himself Larold the Wonder Dog.

A Message in a Bottle

A lot of you have seen the cartoon.  A man shipwrecked on a desert island writes a letter requesting help, seals it in a bottle and throws it into the ocean.  The punch line varies based on the philosophy or the humor of the cartoonist.  Maybe a bottle washes up with a sarcastic reply or maybe he is rescued and one day finds his bottle floating up to his home port or maybe his own bottle returns to him unanswered or maybe some pirates or cannibals find it and come to finish him off.  But the idea of sending out a cry for help to the world is a powerful concept.  It appeals to our feeling of solidarity with humanity.

In a way this blog is somewhat like that.  Trapped in my little corner of blue state America it’s easy to feel isolated and trapped.  Of course, that’s not completely true.  I have my friends and family and acquaintances that align with my way of looking at the world (for the most part).  And I can read the right-wing websites and even watch some of the non-leftist content on a few outlets that still haven’t cancelled it.

But in a lot of ways the world I remember is being erased and my world is contracting.  Thirty years ago public radio used to be fairly entertaining.  Now it would be like listening to fingernails on a chalk board.  I used to like watching a ball game occasionally.  Now it’s just another chance to insult me.  They’ve whittled away the things that made life fun.  Even the movies have become unwatchable.  And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.

So, I had to invent my own game, my own fun.  I look at the world and I write out my thoughts and I put it into the bottle and I hit the enter key and it travels around the world and sometimes I get an answer.  It could be a yep or a nope or a pat on the back or even occasionally a middle finger but it’s an answer, it’s a voice, it’s an affirmation that the rest of you are out there.  It means I exist.  You comment, therefore I am.

So that’s the secret of this blog.  You all are the power source that make this blog work for me.  I get my motivation, my validation from your presence.  Even those who don’t comment but come back every week or every day or even several times a day reinforce my reason to write.  Sure, part of it is that I just enjoy the mental exercise of reasoning about the things going on in this crazy time we live in.  There’s value in figuring things out on paper (or pixels) and I think better when I write things down and I enjoy posting my reviews and my photos.  But I mostly enjoy sending out my thoughts and ideas out into the internet ocean and getting some bottles floating back with some replies.

So thanks to all you folks out there who show up and read my notes on the shores of this infinite ocean.  It’s nice knowing you’re out there and don’t be afraid to say hello if you have the urge to do so.  I can always use the company.  It’s an awfully big ocean.