Friday, December 31, 2010

Bloggers Just Have to Change Templates

With so many other bloggers changing the look of their sites this past year, I was beginning to feel left out. It is time to experiment with a new look for 2011. You know females. It is likely that I will change my mind half a dozen times before I settle on something. But, this will do for a beginning. You may see quite a lot of new construction and clean-up in the next few weeks—maybe months. Hey, I'm slow at this stuff. I hope you will bear with me as the dust flies.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy 2011

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May your New Year be filled with undreamed of happiness.

Here's to your health, wealth, and tons of smiles. And, may you be fortunate enough to recognize every blessing, large and small.

More of Life with a Puppy

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Galen is over nine months old now and looks all grown up. But, make no mistake, he remains very much the puppy. Thanks to his peculiar quirks and boundless energy, he fills our house with life and joy.

Some days we feel guilty about his having been stuck with what The Husband refers to as "two old fogeys". We can't help wondering if he would be happier with a couple of energetic youngsters to chase. My surgery appeared to be hard on him—lots of days at doggy day-care along with strange new rules of interaction when we were with him—left him a bit confused. But, he seems to have bounced back none the worse for the ordeal. His resilience and love of life's simple things is inspiring.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

More Simple Things

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I have always loved mums and daisies. I am taken with their simplicity and down-homeness. (I know there is no such word, but perhaps there should be.) These flowers never fail to make me smile. I love them in any color, but the white ones connote even more of a clean, almost spiritual goodness—like the feeling I got as a child seeing clean white sheets drying on the clothesline behind the little wood frame house where I grew up. Is there anything better than a gentle breeze transforming sparkling clean sheets into fluttering alabaster banners sailing jauntily over a sea of green grass? As I grew older, I thought so. Now, I know better.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Dark Clouds and Silver Linings

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After yesterday morning's gloomy, maudlin piece, something a tad more upbeat seemed to be in order. A few hours after that post, I dusted off the G7 to fiddle with it a bit and this view was too tempting to pass up. Yes, I know that the photo isn't exactly cheery; but, we had already seen sunshine for several hours by the time the clouds showed up. While that much sunshine may not sound like big news, this is not something we have taken for granted the last several weeks. It has been a wet fall and winter, so far. Sunshine is rare enough to be deeply appreciated. By later afternoon, these clouds formed in the west. Promise of another night of rain, perhaps.

Sometime back, Monte Stevens admitted that he is not real big on winter temperatures. Monte, we are cut from the same cloth. Some days I wonder what on God's green earth I am doing living in the mountains, for crying out loud. We have months on end of cold and wet weather that is fit for neither man nor beast.

Of course, the primary explanation for why I live here is that I have a husband. Yes, in marriage compromise is essential—but almost never ideal. The Husband, you see, was born and raised in the frozen northeast. Poor thing doesn't know any better. I, on the other hand, was raised in God's country—central Texas. (Unfortunately, I have to admit that summers there are nothing to write home about. Ahh, nothing is quite perfect. Not even Texas.)

Wet and cold as it may be this year, when the weather begins to get me down, I remember the positive elements of living here and almost always decide that the trade-offs are worthwhile. There are plenty of reasons to love living here and, even in winter, we frequently have some gorgeous days. Just not enough to suit thin-blooded me. I am encouraged by the fact that we are in agreement about putting the old RV to good use, next winter. Even The Husband has had it with gray skies and rain. While I probably won't be up to it this year, I should be travel-ready by 2011 and rarin' to go. Perhaps, we'll spend some time in Arizona and get a break from old man winter. Looking forward to that—even a year away, makes dealing with this mostly gloom a little less onerous.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Good Intentions and Where They Often Lead

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Of course, I intended to post something special with a Merry Christmas wish to all. We can see where those intentions landed me. While I contemplate the sad way I strayed from the better path, I am reminded of another aphorism: "Pride goeth before a fall." I hasten to add there was no literal tumbling to ground or floor involved. This, alone, is reason to be grateful. Instead, I have been forced to reevaluate my capacity for recovery. I recall that in a particularly cheeky mood while in the hospital, I even said to someone: "I have recovered from seven major surgeries in my life. I think I understand this process fairly well." Hah! Lesson learned: never underestimate the toll the passing years take on our strength and resilience. Yes, I know it's been less than two months since I left the hospital, but....

As if these lessons were not enough to digest, I am reexamining my original determination to avoid writing about my recovery. I imagined myself limiting my posts to cheery notes about interesting things going on around me and leaving my feelings about being incapacitated to the imaginations of any interested enough to contemplate my progress. Alas, I lack the energy, imagination, will...whatever. My days are long, yet the weeks fly by. I long for the activities I had come to treasure: long morning or evening walks with camera in hand; hours lost in processing photos and endless experimentation with shooting techniques or immersion in Photoshop tutorials; frequent blogging and a vigorous web conversation.

Instead, long fights with boredom, depression, pain, and hopelessness are punctuated with glimpses of ambition, determination, and optimism. Change isn't always easy. Aren't we peculiar creatures? We long for adventure, resist sameness and repetition yet, all too often, we balk at new developments in our lives and flail about in futile attempts to reconstruct what was when what is proves uncomfortable.

Our Christmas was extremely modest and quiet. It began with the sunrise pictured above, was propelled along with wind gusts of up to 30 mph throughout the day, and ended with a torrential downpour. We had the beef and vegetables in the crock pot by 8:00 AM. Then, before 9, I had the fresh bread in the oven. While the wind roared, I stayed tucked inside where the fireplace cheered the great room. Mostly, I amused myself by alternately watching sticky sweet and predictable Hallmark movies (odd that they they all have almost exactly the same plot) and marveling as backyard and patio items were tossed about by the wind gusts.

All in all, it wasn't the best Christmas I have ever had, but it was a long way from the worst. I hope yours was merry and memorable for all the right reasons and I wish you you the Happiest ever New Year!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Early Morning Fog

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One cold, foggy morning at the beginning of the month, when feeling steadier than usual, I couldn't resist picking up the 50D to see if I could capture the feeling of the scene outside my window. I can't imagine ever becoming blasé about the view of the southernmost ridges surrounding our valley and the Tehachapi Mountains beyond.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Outside—Peeking Through the Window

Please trust me. This post is not a plea for pity and a pathetic hint for get well wishes. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. Those wishes have been appreciated for their warmth and concern, but there are so many messages that I would rather receive. I would much rather participate in conversations about things that are interesting. However, nothing I am doing is remotely interesting. Indeed, since my life is mostly about not doing, this post is nothing more than one of my lame efforts to stay in touch.

With the above disclaimer in mind, I am here to tell you that if you are going to get the flu, don’t even consider taking on that challenge four weeks after major surgery. Whoa! Talk about getting your rear end kicked. It hasn’t been a pretty picture. (More about pictures later.)
Had I saved all the used tissues (What a nauseating thought!), I would have a pile some where near the size of one of those ill-fated cruise ships we have been seeing in the news lately.

As far as doing anything interesting is concerned, lifting a cup of coffee has been a chore on many days. Therefore, you get the idea how much imagination it takes for me to picture myself hoisting up a camera. Then, there’s the issue of holding that camera steady. Riiiight! At any rate, I have managed to take a handful of photos over the last few weeks, only to be frustrated by my inability to sit at the computer long enough to process and post an image. There has been little joy in Mudville. (Joy is not to be confused with gratitude. Tons of gratitude here, because setting aside the effects of the flu-from-Hell, I am getting better. My surgery appears to have been successful, and for that I am deeply grateful.

The flu is temporary. Thank goodness. Meanwhile, I remain on the outside, peeking through the window of the World Wide Web, watching everyone else in the blogging world go about their lives. I watch almost daily. I ooh, aah, nod, puzzle, contemplate, admire, marvel, commiserate, and celebrate, as I drink in the experiences conveyed through the work posted by others. I alternate between being inspired by the work then intimidated by same. Soon enough, my turn to participate will come.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Headed in the Right Direction

Finally, I am headed in the right direction and that is news for which I am grateful. Because this recovering from surgery is a slow process, I am learning more lessons in patience. Furthermore, I am learning a great deal about moving slowly, as well as purposefully. Gee, I have a long list of rules to follow. There are rules for everything. Sitting, standing, walking, even brushing my teeth! The limitations are too many to count and all those limitations contribute to days that are indescribably boring.

In spite of the boredom, however, my spirits are quite high. The pain I feel now is different and being able to walk more is quite the treat. For several weeks, I could hardly walk at all and now I walk back and forth to the main living area multiple times each day. It is a big deal to me.

I fill parts of each day daydreaming about all the things I will do when the biggest chunk of the recovery is behind me. Hey, it’s free, and I can do it without breaking any of the rules.

Because sitting is not something I get to do a great deal of, my posts here will be infrequent and brief. I look forward to getting back into the blogging world. I have been away far to long.

Hope to be more active soon.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Miss You

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Recently, I received a sweet note from a fellow blogger saying “miss you” and wondering if the puppy had me “cornered”. This post is partly to say I have missed all of you and, frankly, I am missing me. This puppy-raising experience has been quite an education. But. my friend was closer to the truth than he may have suspected. I have been cornered, in a sense.

To begin with, the challenge has reminded me why I retired from a career that I truly loved—have I mentioned lately that I still miss teaching all those fascinating actors? My days are getting pathetically short. I simply can’t go the way I could even five years ago. Of course I could take a number of shortcuts with bringing up this pup; but that isn’t in my nature. I don’t want to miss a moment of his puppiness—maddening as it occasionally may be. Moreover, I want to give him every possibility at growing into a confident, happy, and well-behaved dog.

Not surprisingly, I am also confronting, for the umpteenth time, my obsession with learning. Do you have any idea how much information is available on the new techniques for training animals? Let me tell you it will keep you busy accessing even a smattering of it. Thanks to another world wide web friend, I was encouraged, early on, to pursue the new techniques and I have the stack of books to prove it. Each tome is stuffed with post it notes marking the most delicious tidbits of information, and the stack of books continues to grow. I can’t seem to stop myself.

The upshot of what I get from my crash course is that the old “yank and crank” methods (as one of the authors puts it) have been left in the dust and positive reinforcement, shaping, luring, marking (No! not that kind of marking! Pay attention, now!), and rewards are the new currency.

Since the new philosophy squares perfectly with the approach I used in teaching for several decades, I have plunged headlong into this without reservation. My enthusiasm has resulted in the contribution of a small fortune to Amazon. Furthermore, I have belatedly discovered YouTube. Before Galen came into our lives, I could have listed the YouTube videos I had viewed on my fingers—perhaps a toe or two. Now, you will find me, at least once a day, soaking up tips from training videos produced by people who work wonders with their canine companions. What pleasure I have gotten from immersing myself in a world I had never visited. And, I haven’t even gotten into the dog agility thing. That’s a small universe of its own.

So, now you know why I have been such a slug when it comes to visiting and posting. I have been all about preparing and shopping for treats (rewards), studying, and testing theories in my very own little puppy-training laboratory. All this besides the fact that I have to take Galen out what seems like 120 times a day. Each visit to the yard requires constant supervision, since he would make a tasty morsel for the coyotes that roam our area. I have days when I wonder why I’m doing it all when it’s so challenging and days when I’m exhausted by sunset (getting up and down off the floor is a lot harder than it used to be). Still, I haven’t played so hard and laughed so much since I was five! Dogs really are gifts from God.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Caution: Training in Progress

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The offspring of Brangay's Quick Draw finally has a name. Well, this name has stuck for a few day, but I confess that every other day one of us comes up with at least one, “We should have named him ….” The answer came while scanning a list of Gaelic names—his ancestors are Scottish, after all. I came upon Galen and it had a nice sound to it. When I tried it on the husband, he didn’t sniff and wrinkle his nose—yes, that happened with a couple of my submissions. Instead, he cocked his head to one side, narrowed his eyes, rolled the name around on his tongue a couple of times, then finally pronounced it a fine name, indeed. When I tried it on the puppy, I got a somewhat similar response. Well, the cocked head, at least. So, for the moment, Galen it is.

Our training is proceeding quite satisfactorily. Without fail, I throw on jeans and shoes to get puppy out to the back yard for a brief walk between 6 and 7 AM, prepare his breakfast, gulp down some water while a cup of coffee heats in the microwave, and check to be certain that there are treats for the big walk that will follow puppy’s breakfast. After Galen’s private business has been attended to, the longer walk includes hitting all the important checkpoints along the edge of the yard where we check to be certain no marauding invaders approach the castle. If I should become distracted at any of the checkpoints, Galen sits, patiently reminding me that castle-guarding Shelties don’t come cheap. While he indulges me, I dig in the treasury of goodies for a treat, and after the brave knight has been lavished with praise and the treat has been consumed, we happily make our way to the next checkpoint. I am happy to report that my concentration is improving, and I am getting better at instantly catching the desired behavior. After all, that’s what I am being trained to do.

When all the work and recreational period that follows has been completed, we return and the help is allowed to eat. (The help would be me, of course.) After breakfast, I prepare more puppy treats including cooking more chicken if necessary, then slice yummy chicken into pea-sized bits and tempting cheese into similar sized bits. By the time I finish all my kitchen chores and get properly dressed, it is usually time for another walk.

Fortunately, Galen is also being trained. He got the “sit” command down in nothing flat. “Piece of cake” he seemed to beam. Of course, I admit that occasionally, when stumped, he sits because he’s pretty darned sure that putting his fanny on the ground makes us happy; but, for the most part, he is getting his cues straight. “Down” as in put the belly on the ground, was more challenging. For both of us. He didn’t get it at first and getting lower to the ground to cue him did my back no good at all. Now, I don’t have to get as close to the ground and I certainly look forward to reaching the stage where I can give the signal from a full standing position. “Watch me” is coming along nicely. Yes, I freely admit that, at this stage, the pup has his eye on the treat next to my eye, but we are getting there.

The biggest advance in my education is successfully coping when Galen gets totally nuts and believe me this dog adds new dimensions to the adjectives “excited” and “stubborn”. I have learned that turning my back and becoming totally bored with the ball of furry resistance on the other end of the leash produces calm. In the beginning he would occasionally plant that cute little fanny on the grass giving me the “Make me follow" look or throw himself against the end of the leash in a dramatic tantrum. I learned to stop, show him my back, and take time to admire the clouds, trees in the distance, or the tall grass waving in the breeze. Soon, a nose would touch the back of my leg and a somewhat contrite Galen, would look up as though to suggest politely that if I might be interested in a walk, he would be most happy to follow. There is little if any resistance now and those result in the briefest of pauses. On those occasions, the moment the furry creature has come around, off we go for more of our duties and just plain fun.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Old Lessons Re-learned from a Puppy

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Some old lessons are repeated throughout our lives. I marvel that I continue learning the old ones over and over and again. Almost never new lessons—merely new variations on the same old truths. I suppose it makes sense that after one reaches a certain age this is the case. You have learned the essential rules by which life works. You just keep hoping to get a different result and maybe skirt the rules every so often.

One rule I see popping up repeatedly in my life is often stated in this homely way: “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Great wisdom is often wrapped in such simple old aphorisms, isn’t it? Everything that we desire has a price and life is about making our way through thousands of choices each day. A great percentage of those choices come down to what price we are willing to pay for the comfort, joy, or whatever that we desire.

No question those choices and trade-offs apply to individuals, groups, even nations. On a daily basis, we decide, as individuals or groups, what we want and the price we are willing to pay. We get one thing and give up another. Sometimes it seems like a lose-lose proposition, but we make the choices anyway and blindly hope it will all work out for the best. Worst of all, we frequently ignore the old lesson and embrace a choice without considering the consequences. We simply grab what we want, then recoil in astonishment when the bill comes due. Sometimes we even rail and rant that the price isn’t fair. Most often the price is a shock simply because we made our choice without investigating the cost. We expected “a free lunch”.

Adding a puppy to our house is a small and, in the big picture, inconsequential example of this old truism. We wanted, no, “craved” the love, companionship, joy, and just plain fun of having a dog again. We especially wanted to get a puppy, since The Husband and I have never raised a puppy together. The two dogs that we acquired after we joined our lives were rescues. They couldn’t have been better companions and lived long healthy lives making immeasurable contributions to our home. When the time came to get another dog, we assessed the cost of taking on a puppy and made our choice. A puppy it would be.

With a choice such as this one, there is no delayed first payment. No, “Pay the first installment next year, interest free for six months.” No, the bills begin arriving the day the puppy arrives and these aren’t bills that you can stall on. Payment is simply extracted. No questions asked, no excuses accepted, no exceptions made.

My aching back is one of the prices I am paying and certainly the one that has the most impact. All the bending that is involved in having a 10 week old puppy, is putting a major kink in my bad-to-begin-with back. Today, I am “limping” along on Tylenol and Stop Pain—my pain killers of choice.

On the other hand, love is a remarkable balm that soothes all wounds. Not for a moment would I trade the joy of this fur-ball of mystery and energy for less back pain. I just accomplish even less than usual these days. Certainly, “There is no free lunch” in this case, but I am mighty glad we made the choice. Our lives are richer, and I suspect that there are many familiar life-lessons we will re-learn thanks to a certain Shetland Sheepdog who now owns our hearts.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ain't Love Grand?

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Naturally, I love all the fun suggestions for a name. Keep them coming, please. Day 3 and we continue to discuss and negotiate. He is still Puppy.

Whew. I am relieved to get pre-approval for more self-indulgent pictures of our canine version of the Energizer Bunny. The one above is no more than a poorly done snapshot. But, I ask you, "Would you rather play with this adorable creature, or be stuck behind a camera, or perhaps be staring at a computer monitor?" My answer is that I am typing with one finger because the creature is using my right arm as a pillow and taking a brief nap in my lap. Sigh. Ain't love grand?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

McGraw’s Kid

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It’s always something with me, isn’t it?

This time, the distraction is eight weeks old and weighs maybe four pounds. So far, his only name is Puppy, although he is occasionally referred to as “Mcgraw’s Kid”. His sire, Brangay Quick Draw, is known to most as McGraw. Does this mean Puppy needs to have a name such as Wild Bill Hickock, or Wyatt Earp. I hope not.

One thing is certain. Not only is Puppy the center of attention, but hunting him down and preparing for his arrival totally consumed every waking moment for more than a week. I could say now that he is here, life will be more normal. But, that wouldn’t be smart, now would it? It is a fact that life will be different.

By the way, brace yourself for occasional puppy pictures. If you are one of those who can’t handle syrupy sweet puppy photos now and again, step away from the blog.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dortel, El Caballo Negro

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There are horses everywhere you turn at Silent Knights Farms. And, to top it off, Spring was in full swing when we arrived there April 16—balmy temperatures, sunshine, flowers, horses, seven dogs. For me, it was a little bit of Heaven. Since we drove down on Friday and returned Monday, I had two full days there to soak up all the goodness.

Don’t get me wrong, life here in Bear Valley Springs is mighty sweet; but I had grown quite weary repeating, “Goodbye, Winter. It was nice knowing you. See you next year. Don’t hurry back,” only to have Mr. Winter come roaring back for an unwelcome encore. (It snowed here last night—two days before May.) A weekend of uninterrupted Spring was a lovely gift. And, of course, there is no such thing as too many horses about.

Naturally, I fell in love with a couple of horses that were new to me. That's typical of me, I'm afraid. I’m a sucker for great looks and spirit. But, two of my sweetest treats came in the form of reunions of sorts with old crushes of mine.

One of the sweetest reunions was with the black gelding, Dortel. Dortel, the wild man. Dortel, who puts on the tough guy, I-will-eat-you-alive act one minute, but in another stands peacefully while I croon to him in my nonsensical and butchered Spanish. I whisper “Beunos dias,mi Querida. Usted es muy dulce . Mi caballo negro es muy hermoso. El Caballo es muy grande, muy elegante.” (Good day, my love. You are very sweet .) Okay, laying it on a bit thick, but I’m kinda crazy about the beast; and, as for the next part, he certainly is black, black as coal, and very beautiful. Then, the horse is very large (That’s a lie. He’s an Arabian and far from huge.) Very smart. (Yes, maybe too smart for his own good.)
Dortel doesn’t know what I’m babbling on about and certainly doesn’t care that I am close to exhausting my miniscule Spanish vocabulary. I would feel even sillier talking to him about el gato (the cat) or telling him that el rio es rojo (the river is red). Therefore, the next stage usually ends up being “El caballo es muy loco y El Diablo, Si, uno caballo malo . Muy, muy loco en la cabeza.” Dortel isn’t fazed by being informed that he is crazy, a devil, bad, and even very crazy in the head. He just seems to like the sound of the Spanish language. Well, I think it sounds nice, as well, so we visit that way for a while.
Years ago, I met my friend at Silent Knight Farms, because of Dortel. She was walking him out after an endurance ride in Malibu and the moment I spotted them, I was smitten. She looked friendly and I asked the stranger if I might take some photos of her horse. She smiled, said sure, and that’s how it began. She became a client first, then a dear friend. And all because of this muy loco caballo. It was grand seeing him, this weekend, at liberty in one of the larger turnouts. What a joy he is to watch. Like the wind.

Monday, April 26, 2010

In Spring a Girl’s Fancy...

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turns to camera gear and accessories. What? Camera gear and accessories?!! That doesn't sound right. Oh, well. Maybe that’s the difference between young girls and older girls. Yes. I suspect that’s it in a nutshell.

Last weekend, while photographing horses and the welcome signs of full blown Spring just a couple hundred miles south of us, I thought quite a bit about camera gear. Mostly my thoughts lingered on horses, flowers, and trees—like the pepper trees pictured here (one of my favorite trees). Occasionally, however, I was distracted by thoughts about camera accessories.

It’s time for a confession. I have never owned an extreme memory card. Yes, I know. Way behind the times. I’m still using SanDisk Ultra IIs. Why? Simple. They are cheaper. Now, I won’t drop below that quality; but, I have yet to splurge on an extreme card. I am curious as to whether or not anyone can vouch for the advantages. This issue comes up for me only when I am photographing horses at liberty, the hooves and dust are flying, and I want to take advantage of a little burst of “spray and pray” technique. Waiting for the buffer on my 50D to clear, I can’t help but wonder if the extreme card might help that along just a tad.

Now, I could switch to Jpeg format to ease the strain, but that isn’t going to happen. I am hopelessly addicted to RAW. I have a great number of old photographs taken in Jpeg format that I would dearly love to be magically transformed to RAW. What I can accomplish in ACR with a Jpeg file doesn’t come close to what I can mine from a RAW file. Of course, the better solution to the problem is a Canon 1D and extreme cards. Dream on, Anita. Not in the cards. The other kind of cards.

If you have any experience with extreme cards and can encourage me that they will make an appreciable difference when shooting fast action, I will go for it. What little I know about extreme cards leads me to believe that their main advantage shows up when you download files to your storage device. But, I may be dead wrong about that. I haven’t bought any yet, because I suspect the only thing that would make any appreciable difference would be that other camera that will have to remain in the “wouldn’t it be nice?” category. That or stop using high-speed continuous shooting mode.

Sigh. Choices. I think I’ll concentrate on pepper trees for a while. It’s easier and much less expensive.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Voodoo computing

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I am not a big conspiracy fan; I’m not really too keen on the notion of dark spells being cast; and, I am not superstitious. Still.

Last week I was going along reviewing the hundreds of photos I took at Silent Knight Farms, when I took a break to read some blogs. I was a being a lurker and not taking time to leave comments—all taking on my part, no giving. (Hey, I may have stumbled on the key to this whole thing with that last phrase.)

At any rate, I read Chris Klug’s
post about the failing hard drives and tried to brush off the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. (Fortunately, that sick feeling these days means a psychological reaction rather than, “Drats. I’m going to be up all night and will need three days to recover from the night’s ordeal. Let’s hear it for gall bladder removal!)

Sure enough over the next day or two my computer began to behave erratically. That sick feeling came back and I got to work checking hard drives. I checked three older drives that have been in service for years and everything appeared to be A-OK. The newest drive, the 1 terabyte, also checked out. Then I got to the second newest Western Digital, a 500 gig drive that has been in service about two years, and oops, bad news. Windows couldn’t analyze to see if I needed to run the defragmenter because the drive “is scheduled for checkdisk”. Since I didn’t schedule the check, I got the message that Microsoft is trying to tell me something.

Some of you who have run Windows may be saying, “What’s the big deal? Run the checkdisk and move on.” I would except for one thing. About three years ago I ran checkdisk on a 500 gig Seagate and everything seemed to go just dandy with a clean bill of health at the conclusion. Just one small problem. The disk was clean. No, I mean pristine clean. Not a single shred of data left. I swore. I cried. I pouted. All to no avail, of course, and I ultimately went about resurrecting the files from other sources. Now, you know why I am making another backup of the disk that “is scheduled for checkdisk”, before I turn Windows loose on my data. It’s tedious work, but all that swearing, crying, and pouting wore me out last time. I’m opting for tedious this time, rather than living dangerously.

Now, I don’t actually blame Chris for this, since I don’t really believe that just because I used this computer to view and read that post my computer got the notion to follow the example of Chris’s hard drive. I’m just saying….

Up For a Quick Breath of Air

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(The photo was taken weeks ago, when snow was totally appropriate. This post was written on Tuesday, or was it Wednesday? But, it has been a wild ride of a week, and I’m going to post this as is.

Having spent last weekend at Silent Knight Farms, I came home with hundreds of photos. From early Saturday morning until late Sunday evening, I didn’t do much else other than take pictures of horses. I collected bulging folders with photos of thirteen of the horses at Silent Knight. I returned with one 2 gig and one old one gig card untouched, while everything else I own had been in a camera and gotten considerable use during the weekend. Because I was photographing mostly fast action, I accumulated a sizeable stack of discards, but I got some things that I like. I have more than enough images to keep me busy editing and processing for several days, if I were to work straight through. The entire job will take much longer than that.

Originally, I was scheduled to come home and set up another session with a friend here in Bear Valley Springs the week of April 19. Unfortunately, Spring ended here while we were relishing the balmy weather down south. Yesterday, we had rain and last night, snow. Snow is falling as I write this, and our predicted low for tonight is 28 degrees.

It seems like a good time to process photos. Inside. Where it’s dry. And warm.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

At Silent Knight Farms

At Silent Knight Farms

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I'm still all caught up in Animoto videos. Who said I'm compulsive? Little old me? Nah!

Note, in case you watch this one: Before hitting the play button, check in the lower left hand corner for the buttons that will allow you to switch to high resolution and full screen.

I upgraded for longer videos, bought a high resolution credit, and put this one together, yesterday, for a dear friend who began as a client many years ago. This video thing could develop into a nasty habit.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Outside My Window

Outside My Window

Just can't stay out of trouble. Click the link to see why I didn't have time to write anything today. Playing. Now I'll have to upgrade the account and who knows how much trouble I will get into.

Lancer and Night

Lancer and Night

This is what started it all.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

I Flunked Blogger Migration 101

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(For what seemed like two weeks at least—a weekend is a long time when you are wandering in the wilderness, whimpering in desperation—my blog was floating somewhere out there in cyberspace, and I had no idea what was going on. Finally, today, I backtracked, restored the original settings and, at least for now, it seems all is normal.

However, the deadline appoacheth. Rest assured, I will seek guidance before tackling migration a second time. This round I plan to hire someone who speaks web design—specifically someone who is familiar with the Blogger dialect. I am not about to dive into that nightmare task again. This is a job that definitely calls for more web savvy than I have. Evidently, I had the settings all cockeyed and heaven only knows where I had routed my poor little blog. It doesn’t appear bruised by the buffeting it must have taken ricocheting about out there in space, but it makes me shudder to think.

Talk about being upset. Whoa. Major league stuff. I managed to keep my sanity by using my camera; but it was a close call, I don’t mind admitting. Lest you think I was anxious about my precious posts, I wasn’t that devastated about losing what I have written. Heavens, no. For one thing, if I did care that much, I have the rough drafts in MS Word. The photos are on my hard drive. What upset me was losing the comments. That is the heart of the blog, after all. All those warm, funny, thoughtful, informative, and thought-provoking comments posting by readers. Why wouldn’t I be tearing my hair out at the thought of those being lost. Whew. Gives me the chills to think about it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

M Day

Today is Migration Day. I have fingers and toes crossed, I’m holding my mouth just right, threw salt over my shoulder (both shoulders because I can’t remember the rule), and I am headed for the backyard to look for a four-leaf clover.

If all goes well, my blog will be headed for (process fully completed in three days, I think)—still Blogger, but at my own domain. If the process fails and my blog ends up in limbo, the wailing and gnashing of teeth will reverberate for days. Weeks, maybe. I don’t want to think about the possibility.

See you soon. I hope.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

From Under a Rock

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(You know that old notion of something that has crawled out from under a rock? Well, we all know it usually means that the critter has crawled out from a space beneath the rock—a space large enough for said critter to have been breathing under there. I feel as though I have been under a rock, and a very large, heavy rock—with no space for breathing and moving. Heck, I am not even certain that the rock won’t slip and flatten me again.

What’s it all about? Everything and nothing. I suspect it is mostly about getting older (notice how I skirt right around that getting old thing and write “older”? Somehow it doesn’t sound quite as bad—not so, well, final.) For one thing, aches and pains are piling up, and I don’t sleep as well. That’s all I’m going into on this topic.

Mostly, I am bouncing back and forth between a couple of involved projects and, tough as it is to admit, I’m just not speedy anymore. My photos on Death Valley languish on my hard drive; I have some new pictures from a drive to the Caliente Creek area (I included a down payment above); preparation for a new long-term project are ongoing; taxes aren’t yet done; we have an out of town trip on the horizon; and I have to deal with blog migration in the next two weeks. Otherwise, things are fairly boring here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring is Here!

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Attention Readers: We interrupt our regular programming to bring you this bulletin. Anita’s first Bear Valley Springs daffodil bloomed March 20. There may be setbacks, but one can't help thinking that this is an encouraging sign.

We now return you to the broadcast of "Chasing Sunshine", part of the Death Valley Days series. That broadcast will resume after a brief pause.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Through the Searles Valley

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Chasing Sunshine - Day 1 on the way to Death Valley

Down, down, down, through the first valley, then up and up, over one pass down the length of another valley and, finally up over another pass, then down once more. A roller coaster of elevations from 4000 feet to 1000, back up to 3000 and down to 1000 again, then up to 5000, and down, ultimately, to minus 236 feet. At one point, we descended a 9% grade. The path from Bear Valley Springs to the furthest point we reached in Death Valley offered infinite variety in scenery. The journey also provided a rigorous workout for the old Tioga's Ford engine, as well as one that finally evoked the christening of our home on wheels.

The first day of chasing sunshine we set out across country headed north-northeast taking back roads that took us through colorful small towns, some of which were nothing more than wide places in the road. The road through Searles Valley took us past Searles, Argus, Trona, and the sign for Ballarat, three miles off to the east. We sailed by the the gravel road that day, but we had plans for Ballarat later.

All the while, we got a better and better look at the Panamint Mountains off to the East. Majestic, still snow covered, and holding the Searles Valley close, they stretched north then west, as far as we could see. They would serve as beacons throughout the trip.

Trona is the largest of the towns in the valley and proud home of the Trona Tornadoes. (By the way, the Tornadoes are the only high school football team to play on a dirt football field in the contiguous United States. The searing heat in the valley and the highly saline soil kills grass.)

I took a liking to Trona while passing through. The town must have more museums per capita than any other west of the Mississipppi and a most impressive listing of churches is proudly displayed via a well-kept sign at roadside. It would appear that the folks in Trona are hard-working, God-fearing people. Maybe, on the other hand, they just need a lot of preaching to. I suspect the former. We noticed, by the way on our return trip, that the parking lot was filled for the Elk’s Club meeting. An active civic group is surely a likely a good sign.

While I was fascinated by Trona and wished we had time to stop, I couldn’t help noticing that the Pinnacle Inn isn’t tempting. Not to bad mouth the good folks of Trona and one of their fine establishments, but The Pinnacle didn’t strike me as a vacation destination. I hate to say it, but when they hold a bowling tourney down in Lorraine, it’s likely that the loser gets a free weekend at The Pinnacle.

Perhaps on our next trip into
Searles Valley I will get to spend half an hour in Trona. For one thing, I want a closer look at Searles Valley Minerals Inc., the sprawling smoke-belching plant here since 1913. Soda ash is processed in that cramped space, and it is the largest firm in the small town. Someday, I also want to see some of those churches. Nice meeting you Trona.

Late in the afternoon, when we finally made it to the top of the pass that connects the Searles and Panamint Valleys, we were greeted by the view at the top of this post—a peek at the 65 mile basin that is Panamint Valley with the mighty Panamints in the background. There was a pause for the engine to cool down and for us to stare—mostly silent, in awe of the landscape ahead of us.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Chasing Sunshine – The Introduction

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Inspired by Paul Lester’s tale of suspense that he has broken into parts or chapters, I have decided that the only way to blog about our Death Valley adventure is to tackle it in small portions over the coming week or so. I have a couple of projects I committed to that must be wrapped up, plus the usual life chores that have piled up in the corners while we were gone. Naturally, I am way behind on everything. That’s how vacations are supposed to work, right?

We dubbed our mini-vacation, “Chasing Sunshine”. (It worked, by the way. We outran the rain and snow, then, as a bonus, our forecast, here, now says sunny and in the 60’s all week.) Starting last Friday, we covered between 450 and 500 miles in the old Tioga and traveled through breathtakingly beautiful country. We saw more than one scene like the one above and, oh, so much more. Although Death Valley was the destination, half the fun was getting there. But, then, that is the case in most worthwhile journeys, isn’t it?

When we finally rolled into our driveway yesterday, about 7 PM, I could hardly move. There weren’t many parts of my body that weren’t sore and it took a generous amount of Stop Pain (one of those a rub-on pain killers that is a miracle worker) along with a Tylenol to fall asleep, after all the unloading was done. Still, I had a big smile on my face.

Even though we had only three days, we crammed a lot of adventure into the available hours, and I have a loads of pictures to edit and process. Since I got more exercise in one day than I had in the previous two months, I’m too tired to think straight, but already can’t wait for the next on-the-road adventure. When I get my breath, I will get pick up this story and share some photos from our road trip.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Farewell to Winter—Maybe

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The day before yesterday, we said goodbye to snow for this Winter. Now, that may very well be wishful thinking. It's only early March. We are a long way from long, lazy, days filled with sunshine. At any rate, we celebrated a beautiful snowfall, and I finally got some use out of my new snow boots. We took time off for a drive around the valley simply drinking in the scenery and being grateful for living in such a beautiful place. This winter has been a bit of a blur for me. I felt as though I had missed the entire season. Now, the daffodils have peeked out from under their covers and I am fully ready to watch for spring wildflowers and longer days.

P.S. I'll be back to regular visiting and leaving bread crumbs in a few days. More about that later.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Little of This and a Little of That

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Before I start babbling, I want to offer my heartfelt appreciation to everyone for the encouraging notes. They made more difference than you could know.

I haven’t had anything to say lately because I was filled with far more questions than answers and, basically, was afraid of the answers. So, I hid out, played the denial game for a bit, and by then I certainly had nothing to talk about that would interest anyone. These were all health issues (yawn) and there isn’t anything more boring to write or talk about so, but, darn it, they filled every corner of my mind. While these were nothing more than the type of pesky questions that we all deal with from time to time, silence seemed the only humane choice.

Most all the questions were resolved favorably, and I am feeling much better, in general. However—ah, yes, those pesky “howevers”, something else had developed and it has slowed me down. I developed pain in my right hand that has made it impractical to type (my how quaint—it’s “keying” now, isn’t it?) for long periods. Holding my camera for any extended time gets everything stirred up and I have been taking few pictures. Finally, a cortisone shot (for trigger finger—not in my trigger finger by the way—life is filled with little jokes, isn’t it?) is producing real results, and the thumb and wrist may just be plain old arthritis. As the saying goes, “Getting old is not for the faint of heart.”

Still, I have made good use of my limited time with the camera by exploring functions and breaking out of my old philosophy of manual-or-nothing mode combined with natural light and nothing else. I hate to admit it, but those AV and TV modes can be pretty handy. Heck, I have even experimented with P mode (some say that P stands for professional, after all, right?) and I have made use of auto ISO. Live and learn. I continue to investigate off-camera lighting and have lost neither my curiosity, nor my determination to make it a regular part of my arsenal.

We are planning a short trip soon. Now, that I am so much better, travel sounds like fun rather than a dreadful test sure to lead to disappointment, and I am determined to take photos. I wonder if I can learn to use my DSLR upside down and left-handed? Hmm. Not sure I could get used to reading those numbers backwards. I am exaggerating to poke fun at the situation, I will be able to take some pictures even if it isn’t quite as many as I would like. In the meantime, I make simple photos like the one above mostly because I discover more each day that it’s seeing the picture—no matter how mundane and hearing the sound of the shutter that brings me pleasure. For now, I am not concerned about those 12x18 prints.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Passion, Passion, Wherefore Art Thou?

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Had you suggested to me two months that I would be still be recovering from a routine surgery a full month after a straightforward procedure—one completed without complications, I would have laughed at you. Most likely, I would have retorted in my cockiest voice, “Heh! You don’t know me, very well!”

Hmmm. I suppose we are never too old to learn. I have healed quite effectively. I am able to eat with less pain than in the previous year. (What a relief it is to eat a meal and not wait, then, for the anvil to fall on my head.) Still, I don’t feel at all like myself. I look in the mirror and wonder, “Who is that listless person in front of me?” I read interesting material, there is a brief spark, then my eyelids get heavy, my mind wanders, and I stifle a yawn. The spark fades. Ultimately, I decide to postpone any action related to what I have read.

There has been one accomplishment. I have come up with a new theory. My listlessness started me thinking, and here is what I have come up with: I had always believed that passion, ambition, and creativity resided in the heart, mind, and soul. Now, I realize that they were to be found in the gall bladder, instead. Whuda thunk?!

How did I arrive at this startling discovery? Well, I am living example. I have almost no ambition and only occasionally get a glimpse of a creative urge, as it skitters away barely visible out of the corner of my eye. My passion for any endeavor lasts an embarrassingly brief period of time. Ods bodkins! I am, dare I say it, content to take life easy (easy is a gross understatement) and just allow myself to grow stronger. Meanwhile, I wait to rediscover passion and drive lurking somewhere else in my being. I still have most of my organs, so I suppose there is hope.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

From Far Away

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I have been away. Well, in a sense, that is the truth. I have always experienced illness and recovery in this way. While I am ill, as well as during the period when I am returning to full strength, I feel strangely disconnected from the real me. Even as I write these words, I am puzzling over that statement. After all, I’m not one to claim that I have ever had a firm handle on the real me. Perhaps more accurately, I am keenly aware of not feeling quite like anyone I recognize, during an illness. There have been occasions when a recovery period was dominated by massive bursts of creativity—bursts of activity that were out of character with what is more or less my norm. Still others have been deep troughs of non-productivity with nary a creative urge anywhere to be found. This little period of recovery from something relatively minor certainly has fallen in the latter category. I imagine that may be partly because I realize that I am storing energy for the next recovery that, I now know, will begin next week.

I do know that I am doing well because, if nothing else, I am having much better dreams. The feverish nightmare about the giant beetle-type bug that cornered me by glaring with huge malevolent yellow eyes gave way, a few nights later, to a soothing dream of enormous spring flowers that had sprung up all over our property during the night. I was happily looking forward to photographing the lavender blossoms, when I awoke to see the frost on the ground. I sure wish I knew where to find those flowers. They were unlike anything I have ever seen while awake. A promise for spring?

I also know how well I am doing because I am busy getting everything prepped to allow me a few days of sitting or lying like a vegetable without having everything here go to hell in a hand basket. Lots of mundane chores, on top of some of those usual errand-running trips to Bakersfield and LA, are in the offing.

I still begin to droop around three o’clock in the afternoon, but each day I am more ready for this surgery and a record-rapid recovery. Meanwhile, those creative juices are stewing somewhere deep in my consciousness and who knows what will happen this spring. I do know that The Husband planted daffodil bulbs. Whoopee. I won’t even have to leave the property to appreciate the cheerful yellow blooms that make Bear Valley Springs so colorful and offer a welcome glimpse of spring. Moreover, I am certain that I look forward to much more exploration of speedlites for supplementing natural light.

Soon, I—whoever that may be—will be back.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Temporary Arrangements

First of all, my sincere appreciation to all of you who have dropped by to say hello and send good wishes. Your messages cheered me immensely, and I am grateful to each of you for helping to feel that I am still connected to the conversation.

This type of post is getting to be a habit, but I can promise that it won't last forever. I am speaking of days on end without a word, followed by short posts without photos.

Unfortunately, my body is not the only thing in my life that is operating at less than full steam; I have been without an Internet connection for some time now. Thank goodness for The Husband's computer and his generosity in sharing. None of this is meant to insinuate that I could put up any posts worth visiting even with a connection to the web, but I might have done a tad better than my sorry showing over the past few weeks. I hope to get the Internet connection back today or tomorrow. As of tomorrow midday, I am done with the antibiotic and that should mean fewer days of being marginally dysfunctional. Furthermore, this week is about surgeon-shopping and that experience should be behind me by the end of this month, or at least early February. It seems likely that I will be particularly appreciative of Spring this year.

I am deeply grateful that everything about this stage of recovery is going as well as it is, and optimistic about soon having all this behind me. Normally, a voracious reader and viewer, as well as compulsive-learning machine I have been spending hours with eyes at half -mast and even taking naps! You have no idea how few naps I have taken in my life. My mother learned early on that there would be no mid-day relief for her. Tucking me into bed for a quiet nap was not an option. She would be shocked to know that I have actually nodded off a few afternoons. Furthermore, I have watched more stupid television in the last three weeks than I had viewed in the previous three years. We all know that television more or less washes over you, requiring little or no engagement. Embarrassing as it is to admit, that has been just my speed. Escapism of the cheapest sort.

Oh, well, this thing hasn't qualified as awful by any one's standards and it will be over soon. Moreover, as bad as the timing was for this, there are even some positive aspects to that angle. We have had a good deal of rain (not ideal for walks), and I am already looking forward to this year's crop of wild flowers. We should have a wonderful display this year. Can't get much more cheerful than that. Bring on the poppies and long walks.