Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Photo Editing

Photo editing is a subject I know very little about but it I know it's an essential element for many amateur (and even professional) photographers.  Now the professional photographer that I know best, doesn't rely on photo editing software.  She believes in making the picture perfect with perfect camera settings and it shows in her work.  Coincidentally, she (Beth) is the subject of this photo. 

Unfortunately we can't all shoot in manual so we might get pictures like this.

Wow!  What a beautiful setting but what are those shadowy figures doing in the middle of it.  Ugh!  This must be what's wrong with shooting in auto.

But I have some photo editing software at my disposal, so I decided to lighten it up enough so that I could see who those shadowy figures were.  For this edit, I used Picasa - a free photo editing software.

Much better!  I can actually see faces now.  But I seem to have lost some of that beautiful, vibrant setting.  Now everything looks a little washed out.

So I turned to my Adobe Elements software.  It has a setting that allows you to lighten only the shadows.

And I think this is the winner.  The setting is intact and the faces are visible.  I guess I'd better stick with Adobe Elements.  I guess you get what you pay for.

But most of all, I guess I've GOT to learn to shoot in manual.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Stupid Bird Tricks

We've all heard of stupid pet tricks but I don't think many people have wild birds or animals as talented as ours.  It took a lot of practice but finally this dark eyed junco was able to balance on this female cardinal's head.

Note.  Don't let your wild birds try this.  It's dangerous and a lot harder than it looks.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Dog Days of Spring

Wikipedia says the dog days of summer are the days in July and August that are characterized by the warmest summer temperatures.  The Old Farmers Almanac thinks the dog days are the days from July 3rd through August 11th - the days with the least rainfall.  The Dog Days originally were the days when Sirius rose just before or at the same time as sunrise. The Romans sacrificed a brown dog at the beginning of the Dog Days to appease the rage of Sirius, believing that the star was the cause of the hot, sultry weather.  There are many definitions of the dog days of summer but they all mean the same to me - the bad days of summer.  If that's true then surely there can be bad (or dog) days of Spring and I think we're in them right now.

We all think of spring with such poignant longing.  We dream of the fragrant flowers on trees, shrubs, and flower beds, the green grass, and the tender little leaves bursting into full beautiful green trees.  Its surely the most gorgeous time of the year.  That's the Spring we dream of.  And this is the Spring we get.

Everything is the same color and it's not green, it's brown.  Or, too often, white.  And it's cold outside and we're all tired of it and discouraged and we all remember that a year ago we had a really warm day.  But what we seem to forget is that this happens every single year.  We go through this stage when our expectations far exceed reality and it's so hard waiting for reality to catch up.  Once it does, we get the Spring we know and love.  The warm temperatures, the lovely colors, and the sweet fragrances.

In the meantime we have to look for signs of things to come and the good news is that they're out there. 

The koi are starting to stick their noses out of the never frozen pond and nibble at the algae collected on the edge.
The boy birds have become very interested in the girl birds.

The daffodils and helleboros are sporting buds.
 And the crocuses are abloom.
Even the robins are back which is a sure precursor of Spring.  I can't include their picture though because for some reason the robins are blurry this year.

Anyway, it's all proof that Spring is coming.  I've been comforting myself for weeks now with this theory that our expectations are just too high.

And now Harry announces that he just read that it's official.  Spring is running about six week late this year.  sigh

Friday, March 22, 2013

Togetherness In Retirement

I knew when Harry retired late last Fall that things would change for me - that we'd spend a lot more time together - but I had no idea.

I used to spend a lot of time alone because for the last couple of years that he worked, he worked sixty hours a week.  I felt bad for him and I wished he were home a lot more but being alone didn't really bother me.  I'm an independent soul for sure.

We now stay up too late together and get up too late in the morning together.  We watch all our favorite and not so favorite TV shows together and talk, walk, and eat together.  We even have matching black Columbia jackets that we sometimes wear together.  (No one reading this would probably know this but back in the day they would have been called steady jackets.  Couples that were dating exclusively were 'going steady' and might have 'matching' steady shirts, sweaters, or even jackets.) 

Anyway, today I think we reached the ultimate in togetherness.  We wore our matching Columbias (coincidentally) to our joint cardiology appointment.  It only made sense since we both needed to see a new Cardiologist (ours recently passed away suddenly - and yes it was his heart) for the new Cardiology receptionist to give us back to back appointments.

What was really weird to me though was that we were escorted to the same examining room at the same time and we had ...... a joint appointment.  I got to listen and observe while the doctor ministered to Harry and he could have done the same for me - except he needed to go smoke a cigarette.

But it was really interesting.  And here was a new doctor that I really liked.  As I've always suspected, no doctor knows everything and all doctors can be mistaken.  I always thought our ex-Cardiologist kept Harry's blood pressure too low.  Turns out I was right!

In addition, one of the medications that he was taking was a mega dose that's very seldom prescribed.   The doctor said he was surprised it wasn't making him really tired.  This helped explain how a man who routinely sleeps 'til about noon, can need a nap two or three hours later.

This new doctor also validated my complaints about some medications that I took briefly.  The interesting thing was that I'd had a variety of side effects but I didn't connect any of them with the medication.  It was just during an internet search when I saw a list of possible side effects that I realized they were connected.  Had I not looked, I would not have reported them and I shudder to think of where that would have taken me.

Another thing I liked about him was that he didn't criticize the large amounts of Melaleuca supplements that I've recently started taking and that seem to be making me feel awesome AND he took the time to look over the Heart Healthy supplements that I want to take and he saw no harm in them either.

Well, I've rambled on long enough and strayed from my initial togetherness subject.    I'll just wrap up by saying this togetherness thing is pretty nice so far and that our joint appointment was just one more new adventure in this journey called retirement.

What an interesting ride it's turning out to be.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Happy Birthday, Ethan

Today is Ethan's 8th birthday.  He's our 14th grandchild and 8th grandson.  I just conducted a phone interview with him since he lives in Louisville Ky.  Here's how it went.  (Oh and as usual I'll be sprinkling pictures of him throughout just so we can see how he's changed over the years.)

Do you feel older now that you're 8?  Yeah  
Have you done anything special for your birthday?  Well at my party I got a new Cardinals towel,4 books, a book mark, two Wii games, some Angry Birds stuff, and a Nerf gun.  And Trey gave me another present today that I got to open - it was Mario Candy.  Also we just left Texas Road House and now we're going to open more presents.  And my Mamaw and Papaw are coming.  Anna and Noah came Friday and left today.
What was the best thing about your birthday party?  Do you mean best present or best part?  The best present was definitely the Nerf gun and my favorite part was playing in the arcade and going bowling. 
What's your favorite sport to play?  Tomorrow I'm going to play soccer but I'd probably say it would be a tie between soccer and basketball.  There's also running, baseball and chess.  Sports is all about competition and if you're competing that means you're playing a sport.  If you're going for a world record you're doing a sport.
Do you like school?  Not really.  Why not?  Cause at school all you do is learn all day.  If you get caught with a toy it gets confiscated.  But Matthew brings a toy everyday and it never gets confiscated.   How do you feel about that?  It bothers me a little because when he was my partner he just played with toys and we almost didn't get finished because of that.  Then he asked me if I wanted to play with one of his toys and I said No Way!!!
What's your favorite subject in school?  Recess.  Besides recess.  Science.
Do you like being a big brother?  Yep.  I get less sleep because I get to stay up later.  My bedtime used to be 7:45 to 8:15 but now it's 8:30 to 9:00.
What's your favorite recreational activity?  I'd put electronics at the top.  Next would probably be playing outside.  Third would be playing in the basement, fourth would be reading and fifth and last would be doing Math which I really don't want to do.  
What haven't I asked that might be interesting about you?  Let's see.  I am a very smart kid.  I know multiplication and division.  And my mom says I'm very smart.  You're a good reader too right?  Yes and there's that Nerf gun I just found down the basement and I'm about to open more presents so I have to go.
And that abruptly concluded our interview.  But who could blame him.  I'd be in a hurry to open more presents too.  I have to add though a few things that I find interesting about Ethan.  He's a talker and he can expound on any subject.  You can tell that from his interview.  He's also a deep thinker and a thoughtful boy.  And, he's loving, helpful, and very energetic!  And we're wishing him a very happy birthday!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Happy Birthday, Matthew

Today is Matthew's 11th birthday.  He was born on our wedding anniversary and is our 11th grandchild and 7th grandson.  It just sounds like a lucky day all around.  Here's Matthew just before Christmas.
A little while ago, I called him to wish him a happy birthday and to conduct a short phone interview with him.  Here's how it went.  (And I'll be inserting pictures that may or may not have anything to do with the subject at hand.)
So you're 11 years old today.  Does that make you a teenager?  No I think starting at 10 you're a preteen and then when you're 13, you're a teenager.
Do you feel older?  No.  It didn't actually feel like a birthday but I've had an awesome day.  I went to my friend Sebastian's house, played outside a lot and we went out to eat.
Do you have any special plans for the rest of your birthday?  We're having cake in a few minutes and tomorrow we're going to a place called Rebounders that has lots of trampolines - like the walls and floors are trampolines.
Do you have any goals or anything special that you're looking forward to in the upcoming year?  Maybe my goal is to try to actually plan my birthday before the day before my birthday   It was like yesterday that I finally figured out what I wanted to do and what I wanted to get.  What did you want to get?  I wanted a basketball and an Ipod Touch but I probably won't get that today.
 Do you like school?  Yeah.  What's you're favorite subject?  Science. Do you like being a big brother?  It has its ups and downs.  I get to do a lot of things with him - like I can actually play with him now but on the downside, I'm closest to his age so he doesn't listen to me.  Like sometimes when I ask him to do things, he'll do the opposite.  But it's pretty good.  He's nice to have around.
How do you like being a little brother?  Being a little brother is fun.  sometimes you get to annoy your older brother but there's a downside there too because he's a lot stronger than me so he can tell me what to do and stuff.  It's pretty good too because he's someone I can play with.  You also have an older sister.  Yeah.  She's fun.  Plus it's also good because my best friend's sister is Katie's best friend.  It's almost like a family thing.
What are your favorite sports to play?  Basketball.  And to watch?  Probably football.  You're a Colts fan right?  Kind of and I like Denver too.  Oh, you're a Peyton Manning fan.  Yeah.
What do you like to do in your free time?  Video games and play outside.  If it's warm, 90% of the time I'll be outside.
What haven't I asked about that might be interesting?  I'm crossing over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts on the 18th.  I got the Arrow of Light which means I can cross over a year earlier and I'm given the rank of Scout.  You're in the Gifted and Talented program in school aren't you?  Yeah.  What does that mean?  It means for Math I learn 6th and 7th grade Math instead of 5th grade.  It's hard. 
That pretty much concluded our interview but I must add a few things about Matthew that are interesting.  He's a bright, sweet, thoughtful boy with a wonderful sense of humor.  And he's athletic, focused and and a lot of fun to be around.   So Matthew, we're hoping your birthday is as awesome as you are!
Oh and I just talked to his Dad and he did get that Ipod touch today!