All I wanted was a picture in his Halloween bandana ...

"I'll just stay over here, thanks."

"Hey! What's over there?"

"Hey! What's over there?" (take two)

So boring.

He had his mind on his kibble, and his kibble on his mind.




A little mid-week poetry

Firelight casts an
Orange glow on your face
The ash by my feet
Bears yesterday's news
I watch it
Flare red at the edges
And curl into nothingness
I shake my head
And raise my palm
Without a word
You rise and walk
Into the dark
As if we never were


So that means we can't buy any shoes?

Kurt and I got a kick out of reading about K. Lo and his mad basketball skills at Lucky Feet, Happy Shoes in San Francisco. Turns out it was not a real storefront, but an art piece for the Chinese Culture Center's Present Tense exhibit. A shame since that may be the best shoe store name I've ever heard.


To you know who

you're better
you're smarter
you win

i accept that i'm wrong
and tacky
and dim

so if you could
just go
and sit over there

i've got things to do
i'm sure you won't care

i've poems to write
and pictures to take
constellations to spot
and cupcakes to bake

you won't want to see it
i'm quite sure of that
so please leave me alone
you insufferable prat


One Book, One City

The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library recently announced that this year's choice for their One Book, One City project will be Some Buried Caesar by Indiana native Rex Stout. The book features fictional detective Nero Wolfe was chosen to support to 40th annual world mystery convention known as Bouchercon which is being held in Indianapolis this weekend (October 15th-18th). I've never participated in the One Book, One City project, but I put my name on the waiting list and decided to give it a go this year. I love a good mystery and have heard only good things about the Nero Wolfe series.


Photoshopping for free

Photoshop Express is a free online photo editing program. While it lacks the full feature set of Photoshop (or even Photoshop Elements), it's straightforward, easy to learn, and offers some fun ways to alter a photograph. You can upload up to 2.5 gigabytes of photos or video and will receive a personalized URL to share with friends. You can easily email your photo or publish it on third party sites like flickr or Facebook.

The most fun will be had in the editing and decorating sections. Editing allows you to sharpen your photo, enhance highlights and shadows, pop a color, correct exposure, or add a tint. You don't have a "sliding" scale of results; instead, you choose from several options shown at the bottom of the screen. For example, if you choose highlight, you will see thumbnails of your photo with increasing levels of highlighting.

The decorating section allows you to add thought bubbles, titles, costumes, frames, and even animal or sports themes. Your options are limited (there are only a handful of fonts, for example), but this helps make the program easy to learn and simple to use. This would be a fun project to do with a small child. I think they'd delight in adding balloons and bow ties and silly hats to the family pictures. I know I did!


I love fall, part 2 (foliage edition)


Even the weeds are pretty this time of year


Black-eyed Susans

This one reminded me of spring

A sea of purple


Not technically foliage, but it wouldn't fall without pumpkins


I love fall

Donkey would rather not be identified

At the orchard store

Al-Mar Orchard, Flushing, MI

Buckets of black walnuts

Wood for the evening fire

Ripe golden raspberries

The start of fall color

Waiting for sunset

A perfect end to the day


If I'd picked them, I wouldn't be in 7th ...

Thanks to Laurel for sharing the video!


How do you like them apples?

Al-Mar Orchard ~ Flushing, MI

The Trip of the Damned, part 2

To recap: I'm in Arizona, hunched over like an old woman and periodically yelping, and the overpriced Geo Metro has just been rinsed clean of caked on manure.

The next stop was the Grand Canyon. The overpriced food and gas in the town outside the park were expected and don't really qualify as part of the special misery of the trip. What wasn't expected was the man who rammed his car door into the poor Metro at the gas station and left a 2 inch dent. Of course, he drove off without giving our car a second look. Nice.

The weather that day was cloudy and brisk, but there was no sign in the forecast of the trouble to come. As we entered the park and drove to the rim, we were shocked to see that while the air at ground level was clear, grey clouds had settled in the canyon. They were dark and thick and allowed not even the slightest glimpse of the beauty below, giving me the special distinction of having visited the Grand Canyon but never actually seen it.

We headed to the east exit hoping the clouds would thin, so we could see something other than murk before leaving. It was a weekday, so the park was largely deserted. Or maybe everyone else knew that the view disappeared on cloudy days? It's hard to say. As we stopped at yet another viewing point and were greeted with yet more fog, we noticed that the front tire seemed a bit low. At the next stop, it seemed even lower still. The map indicated that the nearest town was at least 45 minutes away, and a check of the trunk showed that our dear little Metro did not come equipped with a jack or spare tire. Wonderful. We decided to forgo the rest of the stops and make for town as fast as possible. This was years ago, and neither of us had a cell phone. If we had to stop, we would be stuck until someone happened to come by to help. Not a good prospect.

As we headed out of the park, the temperature dropped and the sky became dark. Lightning flashed in the distance, and we could hear the distant rumble of thunder. That's when things got Biblical. Within minutes, ice started falling from the sky. That's right, ice. Not hail, not rain, but hard little slivers of ice. I've never seen such a thing before or since. It reminded me of the plagues of Egypt, and by that point I would not have been at all surprised to see swarms of locusts coming our way.

We made it to a gas station in town to fill the tire, but it was apparent that it was losing air rapidly and we'd need to head back to Flagstaff (and quickly!) to have it fixed. The ice had turned into snow, and the ground was soon covered. To say that I hadn't packed for a fall snowstorm is an understatement. I layered on long sleeve t-shirts and a fleece vest, and every time I stepped outside I felt chilled to the bone by the wind.

It was around that time, with the tire losing air, a frigid wind blowing and not even a jacket to keep warm, constant fear of being stranded alongside the road in the desert, back hurting, and generally frustrated at the non-stop trouble the trip had been that I lost it. A hysterical woman was the last thing the situation needed, but I couldn't take any more. It was also around that time that our luck started to change. We passed a tire shop (dumb luck!) that was still open (dumber luck still!) and that would patch the tire for free (Hallelujah!). When we walked in the door for dinner later that evening, the first thing the waitress said on seeing our shivering selves was, "We have hot chocolate." Sweeter words have never been spoken.

While there was one more lapse - the road to the west entrance of the Grand Canyon is unpaved and not Geo Metro-friendly; we learned this the hard way - things returned to normal from then on. By the return flight home, I could stand without wincing, and my "I'll just put a nickel in to say I did it" gamble in Las Vegas ended with flashing lights and the machine spitting 200 nickels my way. Still, I've never been so happy to get home.


The fashionistas of the sea

Thanks to Ashley for the link!


The Trip of the Damned, part 1

It's fall break, and it's raining. My plan for orchards and pumpkin patches and haunted corn mazes is in a holding pattern until the sun returns. This is only a minor setback, but it does call to mind a time that my plans went wrong in a much bigger way. I've come to call it The Trip of the Damned. I, unfortunately, was the damned.

The plan was simple: fly to Las Vegas, cross the desert to the southern California coast, swing by Palm Springs and then into Arizona before returning to Las Vegas for the flight home. It was October, so the crowds would be low and the weather ideal, or so I thought.

It began uneventfully. The flight was on time and landed in Vegas without a hitch. The first sign of trouble came when picking up the rental car. Somehow we only had a debit card with us, and, as we quickly learned, you cannot rent a car with a debit card. No, they will not take a deposit. No, you cannot call someone and use their credit card. No, no, no. No credit card = no car. Who knew? (Ok, quite possibly everyone, but not me!) We were referred to the one rental company who didn't know this rule and would accept a debit card. Smelling blood, they saw our desperation as an opportunity to make a Very Large Profit. Frustrated and out an extra $150, we took the keys to our Geo Metro and headed west across the desert.

The next "event" occurred at 6am two days later. I woke up and couldn't move. My back was having a series of painful spasms, and I was unable to get out of bed for 45 minutes. When I could finally move, the pain was intense, and it took at least ten minutes each time I got up to fully straighten my body. I'd never had back trouble before (or since) and can hardly imagine what it's like to experience this regularly. It's truly miserable not to be able to walk and sit and rise with ease. It was nine days before the pain subsided enough that I could move semi-normally.

My hunched self made it through Palm Springs and into Arizona without incident. Things were going smoothly until we drove through what looked like mud on a backroad in Arizona. It was thick on the road and splashed up to nearly cover the car, but we didn't think anything of it. Until, that is, we stopped for lunch. Upon exiting the car, there was a horrible farm smell in the air. We were in town, so it was surprising that it would be so strong. It took several minutes before we realized that we were the source of the smell. The "mud" was in fact manure, and it was caked on the car from top to bottom. There is an old saying that "No one ever washed a rental car." Whoever said that never encountered the manure-mobile.

To be continued ... (translation: Yes, it gets worse.)



Rekindling an old love

I used to love photography. I took classes, knew my way around a darkroom, and hauled an unwieldy camera bag on every vacation. Somewhere along the way though, I let my interest slide. When it came time to upgrade to digital, I went with a high end point and shoot to lighten the load on trips. While I've taken some good pictures, I've been itching lately for results my trusty p&s can't deliver. The inconvenience of an SLR once again seemed like a fair trade for the images it could produce.

So I began my least favorite part of the whole endeavor: the research. I read about cameras and looked at sample images until my head spun. As is always the case in life, no one option offered everything that I wanted. Trade-offs would have to be made. Did I want image stabilization in the lens or the camera body? Prime lenses or zoom? Did I need more megapixels? What about video capabilities? Were they worth a shorter battery life?

This afternoon, I (finally) made a decision. The Canon images consistently resonated with me, and the XSi offered the features that I cared most about. After shooting over 20 test shots in the store, the choice was clear, and I re-entered the world of "serious" photography. Judging from my first test shot (low light, hand-held), I chose well. I don't just mean the image. Even better than that was feeling the heft of the camera in my hand and hearing the old familiar click of the shutter. Some loves never die.


Anyone have $150 million to spare?

The new blog on the block

Check out my dvd reviews at The Sofa Chronicles! I'd love to hear what you think of the movies under review.

Unfortunately, the fab red sofa isn't mine. I wish it were!


Sometimes you just want to eat

Today for lunch, my dad and I visited a chain restaurant. Not usually my first pick, but he had a coupon for a free entree, and they make a mean chicken wrap. As is often the case in this type of restaurant, a premium is placed on friendliness. Two waiters held the doors open for us, and we were greeted four (!!!) times before making it to our table. While this was a bit overwhelming, they meant well, and I assumed we'd be left alone to eat our meal in peace. Little did I know the worst was yet to come.

Our waiter Steve (not his real name) came over and offered the standard "Hi, I'm Steve, I'll be taking care of you today." Fine, normal, status quo. I've never particularly felt that such introductions were necessary, but no harm done. Then, instead of taking our order, Steve proceeds to bend down, look me in the eye, and engage in the following conversation:

Steve: What brings you in today?

Me: Um ...

Steve: Other than being hungry.

Me: Um ...

Steve: Are you out shopping? On your lunch break? What's going on?

At this point, my mind short-circuited. I was there to eat. Why wouldn't I be there to eat? It is a restaurant, isn't it? Why was I being interrogated? Will he hold my chicken wrap hostage until I provide a satisfactory answer?

Thankfully, my dad stepped in and gave ol' Steve a non-committal answer. Which, of course, Steve had to bring up repeatedly throughout the meal. A meal during which he interrupted us several times. Not with a quick "Everything ok?" but with prolonged chattering.

I'm not an unfriendly person. In fact, I often lament the rudeness that has become common lately. But Steve, while overtly "friendly", was not in the least sincere or considerate. Interrupting someone's conversation to cajole them into signing up for some stupid rewards program isn't my idea of friendly, no matter how much nodding and smiling accompanies it.

I tried to give Steve the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was the victim of some very bad corporate programming. Still, I think I detected a maniacal edge to his smile. It seemed that Steve enjoyed his role as waiter / new best friend / harasser a bit too much. Give me surly and flair-free (see clip below) any day.