Archive for October, 2009

When I could, I wandered the streets of Saigon in the afternoon. You never know what you’ll find with street photography. I was fortunate to discover these kids. Kids are the best because they aren’t usually shy (well, the little boy was a bit shy that day).


I wonder if I was thinking about reflections when I caught this scene? No matter, when I was going through my slides this week, I discovered this gem that I hadn’t looked at in many years. Sometimes, when I look through my slide collection, I wonder how many of the people I photographed, especially the kids, made it through the war.

We’ll never know, but we can reflect and remember.

Be sure to visit James’ Weekend Reflections. He’s got something special going that you won’t want to miss.

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Photographs bring back memories. It’s fun to hop on the “way-back” machine, but more importantly, photographs let us share those memories with our children and their children.


Say hello to Tracy. I took this photo of her in 1971 about six months before we were married.


This one is me, all bushed out with lots of hair. I think Tracy shot this one. She’s a pretty good photographer. Both photos are from the same 35mm film strip, so I’m reasonably sure they were shot on the same day.

I’ve been organizing all my old negative and slides. These negatives are more than 38 years old, yet they are in perfect condition and they will be in perfect condition 38 years from now.

Black and White negatives, when processed and stored properly, will outlast their creators. All I needed to do today was scan the negatives and run them through my photo editor for a bit of cleanup, curve tweaking and sharpening. Any time I want, I can put my negatives on my light table and look at them with my magnifying loupe, choose which ones I’ll scan, then convert the image into a digital format.

No matter what happens to the digital file, I will always have the negatives. I’m not knocking digital at all, but all things digital share a dirty little secret. They can’t be viewed directly the way you can view a negative, slide or print.

Digital files must be stored and interpreted. Technology changes rapidly. How do you ensure the longevity of your precious memories with digital media? Probably the only good way is to copy the files to each new computer, changing the formats as technology changes. Who knows how media will be stored in 5, 10, 25 years?

Can you imagine your children or grandchildren rummaging through a box of CDs 38 years from now? What are these things? One thing is certain that if the media are still readable after all those years, it’s unlikely your descendants will have the means to read them.

Don’t risk your memories. Sure, I know that most people don’t use film any more and film will probably go away eventually. Why not take the time to create a digital photo album and print it out? At least make good prints of the most important photos and store them safely where they won’t deteriorate.

You can still create family albums that don’t depend on changing technology. When your kids and their kids dust them off in 25 years they’ll be able to enjoy those memories because you made sure they have the keys to your “way-back” machine. I’m glad I still have mine. When I re-discovered the old photos of Tracy the other day, I fell in love all over again.

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The “Burning Bush” or Euonymus alatus puts on a fantastic show in the fall. It certainly lives up to it’s name and, given the right conditions, looks like it’s on fire.


My wife chose the perfect location for ours where it “anchors” the southeast corner of our home. It’s perfect because the burning bush needs plenty of sun to grow properly and develop deep red colors in the fall. This shot was taken in the late afternoon sun on October 25, the last Sunday in October.

Be forewarned that the ‘compacta’ version isn’t compact at all. Instead of 15 feet high it grows to a mere 10 feet. I don’t know which one we have, but it’s big and that’s what we wanted.


I “snuck” around to the other side for a closer look. I love the curl of the leaves, how the shadows dance (it was windy) and the way the back light filters through.

I loaded my Nikon with Fuji Astia color slide film the other day and I’ve been photographing the fall foliage. It will be weeks before I finish the roll and have it back from the lab. Meanwhile, I used my little digicam for these shots. Doncha’ just love the fall colors?

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Sometimes I reflect back on 1966. Not often, but this was a peaceful scene taken in a dim Saigon bar, out of the heat. I found my old Ektachrome slides and worked… and worked to get the colors back. The slides are faded and have a very blue color cast.


43 years is a long time so I don’t remember any details at all, not even the camera I had at the time. I always had a camera with me. I know it wasn’t the Nikon F I could have bought but didn’t because I didn’t know any better back then. The camera doesn’t matter really. The best camera is the one you have when a shot presents itself.

I like this one and thought it perfect for weekend reflections. Be sure to visit James’ site.

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yin_yang_treeWhen your inner critic nags you to get busy writing too early it ruins the experience. It’s premature — like thinking of sexual foreplay as procrastination.

Jumping in the sack with your text editor too soon ignores your need for rumination and inspiration. Just as the anticipation of foreplay enriches sex, ruminating, playing and teasing ideas can take your writing to exhilarating heights instead of “is that all there is?”

Shoe was always one of my favorite comic strips. In one episode, Skyler sees his uncle, Professor Cosmos Fishawk sitting and gazing out the window. Skyler says: “You’re staring out the window again. A writer should be pounding the keyboard…” The Professor replies: “Wrong. Typists pound keyboards… Writers stare out windows.”

Cosmos was ruminating. You’re allowed. When you give your inspirations and ideas permission to spill out without concern for logic and order your writing will be so much richer. Ruminating isn’t procrastination, it’s necessary.

I was thinking about balance and whole brain writing this morning so I dug out my copy of “Writing on Both Sides of the Brain” by Henriette Anne Klauser. This book was written in 1987, but the message is fresh and the book still in print. I recommend it highly. In Ms. Klauser’s words: “To be whole-brained, you need only quiet down the noisy static side of you and listen to your own imagination.”

Our right-brain, our dragon, always sends us messages but the constant know-it-all interference from our left-brain inner critic drowns out our best ideas all too often. We need the co-operation of both sides of our brains. We all have the inherent skills to be whole-brained creative. Unfortunately, we’ve never been taught how because our western culture emphasizes logical left-brain thinking at the expense of our creative selves.

Giving yourself permission to ruminate is the first step in restoring our true heritage. When I was sitting here this morning, I fired up BrainStorm and just started taking notes and recording fragments as they occurred to me. And yes, I was looking out the window much of the time. The idea of sexual foreplay and rumination kind of popped into my head.

Be sure to have pen and paper or a program like BrainStorm running in the background while you ponder and your thoughts wander. Capture your fleeting thoughts when you can. Worry about how and if you’ll use them later. Have fun — you’re allowed.

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“The letter E is over 56 times more common than Q in forming individual English words.” (AskOxford.com) In fact, the letter E occurs more frequently in English words than any other letter in the alphabet. I discovered this years ago when the E key on my TRS-80 model 100 up and died on me.


I wanted to play a bit, try something a bit different for macro Monday, so I shot this photo of the E key on my NEO laptop. Of course, there’s always a story if you look hard enough.

WiseGEEK agrees with AskOxford that E is the most common letter but they disagree about which letter begins the most words. wiseGEEK says that T begins the most words while AskOxford claims S as the most common beginning letter.

So who’s correct? Dave Taylor, took a look at letter frequency in his Linux Journal article published in April 2009. Dave took three books from Project Gutenberg: Dracula by Bram Stoker, History of the United States by Charles A. Beard and Mary Ritter Beard, and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and analyzed them for text content. No surprises here. E came in first with T in second followed by A, O and N. Dave didn’t check for frequency at the beginning of words so who knows if it’s T or S? Does it matter?

When Samuel Morse invented the Morse code back in the 19th century, he wanted to be sure he gave the most frequently used letters the simplest codes. Morse counted the number of letters in printer’s type sets. He came up with E followed by T then A, I, N, O, & S in third place. (AskOxford)

Is any of this trivia important? Probably not, but it’s fun and if you wear out certain letters on your keboard, you’ll know why.

Be sure to stop by Lisa’s Chaos for Macro Monday. It’s lot’s of fun.

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There I was busy photographing the hosta blooms when I noticed him just sitting there watching me. Yes, it’s a him bee. I wondered why the bee just sat there looking — neither flying away nor buzzing me. Later, after I processed my film and scanned it, I did some research and this guy looks like a male drone. They’re a lot larger than the worker bees and they don’t have stingers.


Would you look at those huge reflecting eyes. Sometimes you just get lucky. I saw him out of the corner of my eye, so I moved my tripod over as close as possible. This was the one and only time a bee sat still and posed for me. He was still sitting there (resting up I suppose) after I finished shooting a whole series.

Be Sure to visit James’ Weekend Reflections

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398px-Brechin_Castle_Garden_GatePuppies, children and dragons don’t need permission to romp and play, only the freedom to be themselves. Natural writing is like the sound of little girls giggling in their pillow and blanket house.

Natural writing is a warm bakery filled with tantalizing aromas, baking bread, chocolate cakes and plates piled high with cookies. Natural writing is like the colors of autumn, feathery leaves tickling the air as they float to the ground.

Natural writing finds the prize in a box of Cracker Jacks or the toy in a box of cereal. Natural writing is like a kid in a candy store, face pressed to the glass, coins jingling in his fist, maybe this one or that one — completely caught up in the fun of wondering, of choosing, of anticipation.

The inner critic stands stiffly, pulling on the leash, checking his watch with foot tapping impatience. “This is silly. Are we done yet?”

Natural writing sneaks out the garden gate when the inner critic isn’t looking. Natural writing needs no permissions, no premature judgments — only to be allowed to play and to be left alone for a time.

I had no idea I would write this piece until later. I was clustering (in my sketchbook with one of my favorite fountain pens) about metaphor and writing. Clustering leaves the garden gate swinging wide.

Then I played with a short vignette before booting my computer and firing up BrainStorm. I used a segmented list to expand my play. What’s a segmented list? It’s a flat list with fences between each collection of ideas.

Instead of using an outline hierarchy, I used a couple of fences -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= to divide my list. Why? Because it’s easy to see and manipulate ideas when you can focus on the whole and play at the boundaries. The only judgment I made while populating my list was which side of the fence to put each idea on.

I’ll call what I did text clustering. Instead of using pen and paper, I typed each fragment or idea as they occurred to me, without judging. I ended up with a list divided between images of natural writing, inner critic impatience and a few short phrases like permissions, allowing, etc.

BrainStorm allows me to quickly arrange and rearrange my thoughts without resorting to the tedious block moves of a typical word processor or text editor. When I was happy with my phrases and ready to begin writing, I split the BrainStorm window, created a new topic called vignette and expanded my thoughts into paragraphs in the new window while using the list for reference.

Then I used BrainStorm’s write to clipboard to copy my vignette to a fresh file in NoteTab, my text editor. I made a few changes, fixed the paragraphing and fleshed out the article.

I held off my inner critic until I was ready for him, then I invited him to help me organize and finish. I had absolutely no notion of writing this article when I began. I simply left the garden gate open and clustered around the ideas of writing and metaphor (and simile). Don’t allow your inner critic to lock the garden gate. Go out and play. You might be astonished at what happens next.

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Make-believe is “Imaginative intellectual play” (WordNet database — Princeton University). Invite your dragon to play, to help rediscover your childhood imagination, and watch your writing come alive.


Take a peek into Emily’s imaginative world.
She was a real princess that day. Emily and her friends weren’t simply pretending, they were princesses. Logical? Not for these six year old girls playing at Emily’s princess birthday party. Make-believe and childhood imagination defy logic. These princesses were/are comfortable with their dragons.

To logical beings, dragons seem terrifying. Could this be how the evil image of dragons came about? Because we were/are afraid of our inner thoughts? Logic dislikes the chaos of imagination because it doesn’t understand. Logic slays the dragon. The trouble with logic is that it wants to organize our ideas before they exist, an oxymoron.

Dragons aren’t logical. They aren’t judgmental. Their play is free flowing make-believe, what if and somewhat chaotic. Ideas and impressions come all at once as gestalts when we are relaxed with our dragons.

Stare out the window musing. Lose focus and allow your thoughts to flow freely. When an idea pops into your head simply record it without judging and go back to musing. Imagine waves crashing onto the beach during a storm — a brainstorm.

Walk along the beach collecting all the interesting things that wash up. After the storm is over invite your logical inner critic to make sense of what you’ve discovered.

The notion that we are either left-brained logical or right-brained whimsical is misguided.
We are always both, subject to the ebb and flow of the tides of thought. When we lose our balance we trip and falter.

Logic without ideas sterilizes. Ideas without logic confuses. When you recapture your childhood imagination, when you make-believe with imaginative intellectual play, your writing will come alive. But only when you suspend judgment and allow your ideas free reign in the beginning. You’ll have a rich pool to draw from and organize. Next time, I’ll show you how I use BrainStorm to capture my musings, then order them when it’s time for logic.

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Pear trees send out large leads low on the tree and this makes them unstable when they mature. It was mid-afternoon last Wednesday when the pear tree in our front yard succumbed to the high wind with a huge crack and a boom.

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The poor tree was mortally wounded.

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I measured the fallen lead. It was 34 inches in diameter.

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Look at how long this sucker was.

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Fortunately, nobody was hurt and no property damage. It fell just short of the mailboxes.

It looks naked in front of our home now.
The tree removal crew removed the lead and took the tree down on Thursday morning. They actually winched the lead to the chipper and fed the whole thing in — amazing. They lopped off the lower branches and fed them into the chipper then they dropped the tree in the street and the chipper ate it. They completed the job in less than 45 minutes.

The good news is that our pin oak was too close and now it can spread properly.
And with the pear tree gone, the rooms in the front of the house are so much brighter. We’ll miss that tree. We planted it about 20 years ago. I won’t miss the leaves I don’t have to rake this year though.

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