Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A wonderful quote

I read a lot of photo blogs, bike blogs, political short, I just read a lot. But I came across this today on the Pixiq site in a piece on digital vs film photography by John Neel:

"Creativity does not come packaged with any camera, digital or film. It doesn’t come with artistic filters or with endless shooting settings. It doesn’t come from a Leica or a Canon 7d. It doesn’t come with HDR or optical stabilization or any of the next amazing things out there. Creativity comes from being able to see the world, not like everyone else, but by the creative ability to express what we see through our own unique vision. Uniqueness can come from following your own path, making your own decisions and choosing your own tools, being confident in your abilities and having a keen awareness of your subject." (emphasis added)

That passage struck a chord because it's so applicable to many other endeavors, including cycling. It certainly applies to writing. Neel's comparison of digital and film would be analogous to the use of a word processor or a finely crafted notebook. One is a digital process, the other is paper, but neither provides a guarantee that the thoughts expressed will be creative or even coherent.

This has particular relevance; "...following your own path, making your own decisions,...being confident in your abilities..." because I went through a crisis of confidence earlier this year when I doubted my capability as a writer. An editor and I had a falling out over a piece he wanted. It was my impression that he really wanted a hatchet job on an organization, yet he said I was free to reach my own conclusions and that he'd accept them. I spent most of August doing research, wrote a first draft and submitted it. He rejected all of it, and said I'd have to start over or he could simply spike it and pay me a kill fee.

I was pissed off. I'd spent hours doing research and interviews, and with a deadline looming, a do-over was simply impossible. I agreed to the kill fee. It was slow in arriving, and when it finally did - after some back and forth emails - it was short.

The whole episode left a very bad taste and it's obvious I won't be doing any work for that publication again.

But the worst aspect of the whole debacle was the effect on my self-confidence. I was depressed and miserable, conditions that impede writing, especially comedy like the Wally Crankset stuff. I gave brief consideration to that universal writer's crutch - alcohol - but after a couple of headaches and the inevitable midnight marches to the bathroom, that went by the wayside. Alcohol kicks my kidneys into high gear and only seems to inspire my bladder, effects I can duplicate by having a several glasses of water right before bed.

I don't write for the money. If I did, we'd all starve. But there's a kind of satisfaction found in doing something well, whether that's writing, photography, or even trout fishing. As Neel points out, we go about these things in unique ways as we discover our individual paths. That's what makes this so much fun, that act of discovery and the surprises along the way.

Monday, December 27, 2010

I'm in love...

Taken with Olympus FE-320

...with hash browns! How can something as simple as fried potatoes be so good? I honestly don't care if they're good for me - they're probably not - but they just taste wonderful.

I'd promised a friend that we would go down to Tulsa for breakfast at the Gatsby Grill inside Gardners Books. It's a small cafe with both excellent coffee and food. We had omelets, hash browns, coffee, and French toast made from a thick slice of freshly baked bread and real Frenchmen, not those cheap imports. Wade couldn't finish all of it!

This is also the site of one of my favorite shots of Number One Daughter. I just love that window light. It was taken with a Yashica Electro 35 GLN on Kodak black and white film, if I remember right.

And what's a trip to Gardner's without buying a book? I found a manual for Adobe Photoshop 6.0 - the very obsolete version that I use on this laptop - and it was merely five bucks. Sure the latest version does so much more, but let's face it, I have a lot to learn about Photoshop, and this is a good starting point.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's Thursday already?

It's been a difficult week. At 4AM on Sunday morning, we were back in the emergency room at the local hospital. Mary did well through the evening on Saturday, but around midnight the pain returned. By 3AM she started vomiting again.

Obviously, the meds and home care wouldn't be enough. She was scanned again and this time they found a "thickening" on her gall bladder. (Later, we were told that CT scans aren't capable of seeing gall bladders well and that ultrasounds are much better.) The ER doc said her gall bladder would probably have to come out, but there wasn't a surgeon on staff here on weekends. She'd have to be transferred to St. Johns in Tulsa.

The ambulance arrived, not the city ambulance but a company that does nothing but transport patients between hospitals. Lyndsay wanted to ride with her mom and the crew said it was OK, but she'd have to ride up front. She said the ambulance rattled and squeaked. The driver hit every pothole and seam on the road because he was concentrating on chatting her up. Lyndsay was not impressed. Later, Mary even commented on the harsh ride and noise, and this from a woman who was more than a little dopey.

I drove down to Tulsa after getting a few things together for Mary. We suffered through the afternoon and evening, her face a grimace of pain when the morphine wore off. Lyndsay wanted to stay overnight, but the head nurse wouldn't allow it.

Monday morning, they did an ultrasound and it revealed what the surgeon called a "sick" gall bladder. He said it didn't have gall stones or an infection. It was just sick, and it wouldn't get any better. It had to come out. He did the surgery that afternoon.

If you're at all interested in how this is done, there's a video on YouTube, of course. It's not gory. In fact, I watched it while having lunch. But the truly squeamish may want to avoid it.

That night, she was very sore and stiff. The nausea continued and she was running a fever. The surgeon had installed a drain "to get all the badness out of her" and it was yet another impediment to getting up and down from the bed. The usual procedure was for one of us to walk backwards in front of her, holding her hands for balance, while the other trailed behind carrying the drain apparatus and rolling her IV stand.

Lyndsay and I returned on Tuesday morning. There had been little change from her pre-operative condition. She was still in considerable pain that the morphine controlled, but it caused a lot of drowsiness. Little by little she improved through the day, until by evening she was tossing an occasional sarcastic remark my way. That was a very good sign.

Lyndsay stayed at the hospital Tuesday night. She said 'Nurse Ratched' was off shift and another nurse allowed her to stay. This probably had something to do with Lyndsay's job as a nurse tech, since the nursing staff would be burdened with one less patient. She pushed two chair together and fell asleep wrapped in a couple of blankets. Mary got up during the night and tip-toed past her to the bathroom. The duty nurses were amazed she was walking on her own so soon.

At home, I told Jordan and two of his friends about the Nurse Ratched bit, and received blank stares in return. So I had to explain about the book. These kids are pre-literate.

Wednesday, Mary was almost herself again. They discontinued the morphine. She took a different pain killer, but still slept more than she was awake. We were hoping she'd go home. Her mild fever continued, though it was well-controlled by acetaminophen, and the nausea was reduced. But the doctor didn't release her. Lyndsay and I jetted home so she could get a shower and a change of clothing, then she was off to spend the night again.

That brings us up to today - Thursday - and tomorrow is Christmas Eve. My original plan was to do my shopping this week. Fat chance. I'm still not finished and it looks like I'll run out of time. I'm staying close to home because we cannot leave Mary alone. I have to make one run tomorrow, and Lyndsay will be here. I don't know what we're doing for Christmas dinner because Jordan will be working, Mary won't have much appetite, and Lyndsay and I are hardly going to cook a big meal for just the two of us. Maybe we'll just celebrate Orthodox Christmas - what my grandmother called Russian Christmas - in January.

I feel like a huge weight has been taken from my shoulders. Sure, the last week has been intense and exhausting, but I have my family here for the holidays and they're a treasure beyond compare. My wife and daughter are lionesses, fiercely protective and caring of their own. I'm proud to know them. My son does his best impression of stoic resolve, but I know this tears him up inside. He tries to hide it, not always successfully. And me? I'm simply exhausted. Daughter has thrown me out of my room so she can look after her mom, and not one of my protests was given serious (or any) consideration.

It won't be the first time I've slept on the couch.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saturday morning

I've been working a lot of overtime for the last month, and since my vacation starts today, I was looking forward to the time off. Overtime money is nice, especially at Christmas, but spending all my time at work was getting very, very old.

This morning, I started work at 5AM in order to get out at 1:30PM. I finished a computer mod at the end of the shift yesterday, so it ran on the test setup while I began another mod. I didn't expect to finish today's mod and get the unit out the door, but the first one would definitely go.

My cell phone rang at about 10:30. It was my daughter. "Hi, dad, I'm taking mom to the hospital. She's in a lot of pain."

"What? Where? What hospital?" My brain tried vainly to shift gears, cog teeth flying in all directions.

We quickly established which hospital. She hung up and I quickly shut down my bench. Within a few minutes, I was out the door.

When a few gallons of adrenaline surge through your system, red lights are an eternity. Speed limits are merely advisory. I think I could have picked the car up, tucked it under my arm, and ran with it.

At the emergency room, Mary was in tremendous pain. I was there when the kids were born. Trust me, this was worse. She grasped her abdomen and doubled over vomiting. The pain when through her mid section. Her blood pressure was very high. A nurse started an IV. She took three doses of anti-nausea meds and another three doses of pain killers before she could rest comfortably. They took urine, blood, and did a CAT scan. What I just wrote in this paragraph took three hours.

The good news: She didn't have an intestinal blockage, pancreas, liver, or gall bladder problems. The ER doctor said it appears to be severe gastritis or even an ulcer. He wanted to admit her to monitor the pain meds, but she declined. She just wanted to go home.

Lyndsay brought her home while I went to the pharmacy for an armload of pills. Giving her the meds will see that I don't get much sleep tonight because the times are staggered. I've set alarms and I made a spreadsheet to make it easier to keep track of what medications go at what time.

Still, if she has an ulcer, the pain will return. Let's hope that's not the case.

So the family curse strikes again. Oh, you say, it's not a holiday yet? I beg to differ. Tomorrow is my birthday. The rest of you will have to celebrate without me.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The demise of point-and-shoot cameras?

I read something earlier this week on the impending demise of point-and-shoot digital cameras. The author contended that the popularity of iPhone type devices and the low cost applications for them would push the simple digital cameras out of the market.

There's no doubt some truth to that, but on reflection, I can't fully agree with it. Even my little Kodak Z1285 offers more versatility that the camera/phone units I've looked at, and the Kodak is probably obsolete already. If all you're looking for is the modern equivalent of an Instamatic with some added frills, the camera/phones will probably meet your needs. Given the right circumstances, even my old Motorola Razr can take decent images. Like this one:

Now, in a close up shot, it loses resolution and detail. But for a general view or a quick snap shot of a person, it does an OK job provided it's using the lens at full wide and without any 'digital' magnification. It's absolutely lousy for macro.

One big advantage of the camera/phones is their sheer ubiquity. They're simply everywhere, and there are so many in use that no one notices the users taking pictures. I've received some hard looks when taking street shots with either digital or film cameras, though only one person has said anything about it. Notice that young woman to the left in the coffee shop. She was not thrilled to have a camera pointed in her direction.

My first joy, though, has always been film cameras. This was taken with a Pentax MX with an M-series 28-85mm zoom on Fuji 400:

There's a bit of lens flare from the reflected sunlight in the lower right corner and it reduces the contrast a bit. But if I tried this with my camera/phone or even one of the digital P&S cameras, it would be far worse. Even those cameras would do better than the old 6x6 Rolleicord since its lens isn't coated.

Another zombie joke

Overtime Zombie

That's a self-portrait. I've been working as much overtime as the company has thrown my way, and by the end of the week I'm a little frazzled. But there's lots of time to think.

As you probably know, the real joy of telling groaners is in the telling, not the listening. So, for your continued amusement at the expense of your children - not that I condone it, of course - here's another one.

"What do zombies use to relieve constipation?"


Please don't use it for evil.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Senator Andrew Rice addresses Tulsa bicyclists

I just posted this piece over on the Examiner.

Senator Rice will introduce some new bicycle legislation next month. While he didn't provide us with the bill's language, he said it will be based on existing bicycling law from Colorado, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.

Last year, a bill to allow bicyclists and motorcyclists to treat stop lights as stop signs was amended before reaching the governor, with the bicycle provisions omitted from the final bill. Keeping an eye on the legislative process is essential.

A short, quick post

Mary wanted to borrow my flashlight before she went outside to check on the bowl of cat food on the patio. We have a variety of cats, opossums, raccoons, dogs, and whatnot who empty the bowl very regularly.

"Didn't I give you a Maglite?" I asked.

"Yeah, you did," she said, "and I put it in the desk drawer."

"So why take mine?"

"Wellllll," she drawled, a sure-fire hint that what she had to say would be more than half a bubble off. "If I'm going to lose a flashlight, I'd rather lose yours!"