Saturday, December 24, 2011

Creek Series 4

A continuing series of images created from photos of Wappingers Creek, taken over time:

Series from the fourth photo.

December 9, 2011.
Cliquez pour voir en grand:
Creek 4C
Creek 4E
Creek 4F

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Syracuse Savings Bank

A miscellaneous treatment of a photo I took some time ago:

S.S.B. Entrance

Creek Series 3

A continuing series of images created from photos of Wappingers Creek, taken over time:

   For some reason, this series worked particularly well, with several good results:

December 2, 2011.

Cliquez pour voir en grand:

Creek 3A

Creek 3B

Creek 3C

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Baking for Christmas

     I decided to make gingerbread cookies for the first time this year. Mom has a recipe which she has been using since the 1960's, but I have never made them myself. We really love the spice and texture of the cookies from this recipe, so the only alteration we made was to use butter instead of shortening.
     When we began planning to bake them, we realized that we did not have a cookie cutter in the shape of a gingerbread man, so we had to get creative. This was the first test batch:

Our updated version of gingerbread men.

    We figured that Domokun is a perfect shape and color for gingerbread and much more interesting than traditional gingerbread men. The only problem was where to get a cookie cutter in the shape of Domo. Time was tight, and we were not going to try to find one commercially and waste time ordering and waiting for it, so I made a cookie cutter out of a scrap of sheet copper. We used currants for the eyes, the mouth is crushed cinnamon candy, and the teeth are lemon-ginger icing. We are very happy with the results, so now more need to be made.
     On a related note, fruitcakes are also in production this week, and will be mailed soon.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The End of an Era

     Somewhat sadly, we finally got rid of our 1987 Honda Accord (DX, manual transmission). This was the first new car either of us have owned. We bought it in February, 1987, from Honda City in Syracuse.  We drove from New York to California with it in August, 1987, and ultimately logged 200, 893 miles.

1987 was the first model year for this body style, and also the last year for carbureted engines in the Accord.

     For the past two years, it has sat in the driveway, unused, and although we have had some half-hearted offers to buy it, after some consideration, we decided to donate it to charity.

     We gave it one last wash and vacuuming, cleaned out the few things remaining in the interior and trunk, and pumped up the tires a bit before the tow service came to pick it up.

   We can't say enough about how well this car has performed. Through 24 years we can remember only one major repair, and it still looked good, except for some fading on the plastic bumpers, and a bit of fraying in the interior. It has always started easily, run well, and was absolutely dependable. We will always remember it fondly.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Creek Series 2

A continuing series of images created from photos of Wappingers Creek, taken over time:

Only one picture in Series 2.

November 20, 2011.

Cliquez pour voir en grand:
Creek 2A

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Creek Series 1

This will be a continuing series of studies based on  photos provided by Paul, beginning in November, 2011. The subject is the lower end of Wappingers Creek near its confluence with the Hudson River. These pictures will vary in technique in response to the lighting and atmosphere of the subject as they change with time.

November 10, 2011.

Cliquez pour voir en grand:

Creek 1A
Creek 2A
Creek 1C
 We will continue with these occasionally until the subject seems exhausted, or one of the two of us tires of it.

Friday, November 18, 2011


     We have been making our own pickles for a little while now, as it seems that commercial brands are a for the most part, pretty unremarkable, probably on order to appeal to as wide a market as possible.

          Refrigerator pickles are very easy to make, and we adjust the recipe to suit our taste; we use a good bit of garlic and onion, along with mustard seed, coriander, pepper and allspice.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I Did Not Go To Reno This Year

     I live a relatively quiet life and I am always surprised to see a news story which happens in a place I am familiar with, so I was a bit shocked and saddened to hear about the crash on Friday (9-16-2011) of Jimmy Leeward during the unlimited qualifying race at Reno.

Jimmy Leeward's name is familiar to anyone who spent much time at all at Reno; he has raced there regularly for many years. The plane he usually flew is named Cloud Dancer; Galloping Ghost, the plane that crashed, is a plane which he recently completed modifying.

Cloud Dancer: not the plane that crashed.
Leeward taxis to the start of the unlimited final race in 2006.

     It has been a few years since I last went to the Reno Air Races, but for a while, I was regularly travelling with my friend Jim to watch them each September.We would reunite each year with Doug, a long-time family friend of Jim's, and stay at the same hotel. Doug would graciously provide the seat tickets, and we would spend the weekend with him, watching the races, and being entertained by his stories as an engineer with McDonnell Douglas for more than 40 years.
     The air races are very busy, and there is an awful lot to see and do, but we would never miss the unlimited races each day; the unlimiteds were the big event with the fastest and most beautiful planes: mostly Hawker Sea Furies, Grumman F-8F Bearcats, and North American P-51s (In 2003, we watched as a plane named Dago Red, a P-51, fly the fastest fastest race ever, averaging  507 mph over the course). These planes' designs are the ultimate expression of propeller-driven design and performance, although more than 60 yearns old, now. To see them travelling fast at (relatively) close range is a beautiful sight, and since admittedly, they cannot fly forever, this is becoming a see-it-before-it's-gone event.
     I was a bit disappointed  that I could not attend again this year, but I am fortunate to have missed it because, as it turns out, the crash on Friday occurred not far from where we regularly sat in the grandstands. Jim called me on Friday to alert me about the news of the crash, and I have been searching the last couple of days looking for good information. From the photos I have come across, the location of where the plane hit was less than 200 feet from our regular seats (see below).

News photo from

The view from our seats, a few years ago: as best I can determine, the plane hit approximately between the two yellow banners near the center of the picture, about 150 feet away.

    It appears now that there may have been a mechanical failure involving the left rear horizontal stabilizer, as photos of the plane just before the crash seem to show damage to the trim tab. If so, the failure would be unforeseeable, and may have caused the plane's irrecoverable roll seen in videos.

      The air races necessarily entail a certain amount of risk, like all racing sports, and things do occasionally go awry, but usually do not have such dire results; this is the first time that spectators have been involved in an accident at Reno. The incidents are usually only enough to cause mild concern, or provide only a minor spectacle.

2006: Ouch. P-51 Merlin's Magic suffered a catastrophic engine failure during a qualifying race early in the week. The pilot landed safely without power.
2006: Bad luck. Merlin's Magic suffers structural damage five days later while on the ground, when an oxygen tank ruptures.

    As a whole, the Reno Air Races are a relatively small event which has been overlooked by broadcast sports media and the general public, but is attended by a knowledgeable and interested audience with a large proportion of pilots, military, and people working in or familiar with aviation. I felt that there was also a congenial and easy-going family atmosphere unlike most large sports events I have attended. I was always impressed with the amount of emphasis that the organizers placed on safety, training and professional skills of the pilots, and I have the impression that the audience did not take technical and safety concerns lightly, either. There is a little of The Right Stuff attitude in the atmosphere about the event, but you should read Tom Wolfe to get a better explanation of it than I can give here.

    It would be sad if the races could not continue, and there is sure to much discussion about what should be done in the wake of this incident, but the things that can go wrong are most likely to be a result of operating these planes and engines near their physical limits, rather than reckless or negligent actions of pilots or planners.  I doubt that much could be done differently without adversely affecting the show as a whole, and I also doubt that many in the crowd would want the event to be any less than it is.

Friday, August 5, 2011


   Some recent blooms in our yard:

Amaryllis belladona

In early August, the Amaryllis begin to appear. These are bulbs, and they produce foliage in December (without flowers), which dries up in May or June. In late summer, stalks emerge quickly, within 2-3 days, from bare, dry beds and set clusters of these wonderfully fragrant pink flowers. Like most popular plants used so frequently in southern California that they seem to belong here, Amaryllis are from somewhere else. They are native to South Africa, and do well in the climate here, which is very similar.
   They are often called "naked ladies", due to that fact that they flower without foliage. Another common name is "pink ladies". The bulbs commonly called "Amaryllis", that are sold around the holidays as forced blooms in little pots and jars are really Hippeastrum; the misnomer confuses some people a bit when encountering true Amaryllis.
   Amaryllis were once pretty popular in Orange County; they are most commonly found in older neighborhoods, and they are one of my favorite heirloom flowers around here. I do not notice them often in newer neighborhoods, probably because fewer people spend much time gardening now, and tend to prefer more structural landscape plantings of repeat-blooming perennials, or shop for "instant color" at Home Depot every few weeks. Amaryllis, like daffodils, narcissus, gladiolas, etc. are a more patient pursuit, which pays off only during a brief  three or four weeks each year.
   When we moved in, they were already scattered around the various unkempt and overgrown flower beds throughout the yard. We have gathered them into a few areas and encourage them to continue growing and multiplying.

This is the first cluster of this year.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Lake

   I just returned from a week's vacation, spent on the shore of Lake Ontario, about mid-way between Henderson Harbor and Sackets Harbor, New York (My family and I have been vacationing near this spot for more than 40 years, on-and-off).
   This year, while Syracuse was posting record-high temperatures, we enjoyed cool breezes, warm water and sand beaches.

Panorama of Henderson Bay (click for larger view).
   I live just 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, but I rarely go to the beach. Having grown up frequenting lakes instead of the ocean, I prefer freshwater. The United States has about 5241 miles of freshwater shoreline along the Great Lakes, referred to by some as the "Fresh Coast". You can't see to the other side, so the view is as good as the ocean, and you don't need a shower after you swim, to deal with the smell and the salt.
   More great Great Lakes photography here, at The Fresh Coast Project.
   Some years ago, my family regularly rented a cabin from a friend who was a neighbor of my aunt and uncle, but they stopped renting the place around 1981, and after that, we would camp in nearby Westcott Beach State Park, along the same stretch of beach. In a chance encounter last year, while camping in the park, I met a woman whose family owns a cabin just up the beach, and she offered to let us stay a week this year.  My brother, with his wife and daughter, and my sister, with her husband stayed with me; my parents, as well as other relatives and friends, came up to visit occasionally throughout the week. We are already looking forward to nest year.
  Our little stretch of shoreline is fortunate to be slightly sheltered in a large bay with shallow warm water and sand beaches, and is about 20 miles from the start of the Saint Lawrence River. This view is old and familiar to us, but we never tire of it. We learned camping, swimming, boating, sailing, fishing and water skiing here on the lake: countless hours on the water watching how it moves and changes as the wind and light shift throughout the day, and as the weather and storms come directly in from the west, off the open lake.

The driveway to the cabin.

View of lake with blueberry pie.

View of the cabin in the early morning from the water.

View up the beach.

The following shots were taken on six consecutive evenings from July 19-24:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fun With Google Image Search

Or, How I Became a Minor Visual Cliché.

( My apologies in advance for the length of this post)
   It is an odd and slightly jarring experience to unexpectedly encounter a photo of one's self on the internet. Some time ago, I stumbled upon a picture of myself on this page on the site for Velux Skylights:

Not easily recognizable, but I know the photo well.
  In 1993, Caris and I were doing lots of volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity of Orange County. Caris wanted a photo to use for brochures, etc., and had a photographer willing to donate his services. She wanted something to show partnership or cooperation in a construction setting, but we did not have any projects under construction at the time. I knew of a condo project not too far from my office which was still in framing, so one evening after work, my friend Rick and I climbed up onto the roof framing as the sun was setting. This was one of the resulting shots:

That's me, on the left; Rick is on the right. We're cooperating, or something.
   The photographer donated Habitat the use of the photo in exchange for rights to publish it as stock photography. Habitat got some good mileage out of it and used it for lots of things locally, but after some time, I began to come across it sporadically on the internet: AOL used it a couple of times on their splash screen; other Habitat affiliates would occasionally use it; and then there was the Velux site, so I knew the picture was being picked up.

   This is another photo from the same shoot, which appears less frequently:

I actually appear to be doing something useful in this shot.

   Which brings us to Google.

    I am not directly google-able, and if one were to search for my name with Google Image Search, this is the first thing one would find:

From: David Austin Roses

    And some guy who apparently drives this:

From  Pat Austin is the most successful drag racer born after the 1940s and the best driver of his generation. (Pat needs to lay off the barbecue and Budweiser, a bit.)
   But recently, Google added an interesting feature to Image Search: you can drag a photo from a web site or anywhere in your computer, and drop it onto the search input field, and Google will find the image on the internet, as well as showing images that are similar (try it yourself, it's a great way to waste time). I wanted to see if the image had traveled very far. Dropping the image onto Google Image Search yielded 445 results. Not surprisingly, there were the other Habitat Affiliates, including Los Angeles and Costa Rica. There are also lots of small construction and roofing companies:

Austin, TX
Sedalia, MO
Boston, MA
Charlotte, NC
North Dakota
   Apparently, this is an image suitable for construction situations, but also is sufficiently vague and slightly iconic enough to use in situations to imply a kind-of feel-good partnership or cooperation or team-building or something, and appears those contexts is a wide range of places:

I'm not too sure just what this guy is selling.
    And so the photo of me has begun traveling the world, much like the garden gnome in Amelie, appearing in strange settings, with these websites serving as postcards. Here are some of the places in which I have been spotted:
United Kingdom
Poland (my relatives would be proud)
Apparently Lithuania
    Etc.,etc., etc...  Obviously the go-to photo if you want to imply aspirational qualities like cooperation, building together, bright futures, wide vistas, vague rosy possibilities, hammers, reaching, climbing, or fake-looking construction.

    Unfortunately I do not receive any residuals (not that they would amount to much), as I signed away all rights at the time, but it is amusing and slightly satisfying to spot the photo occasionally in unexpected places.