A vicarious adventure

The Wife and I honeymooned around New England: a couple of days on Cape Cod, a couple of days in Boston, and then we road-tripped through New Hampshire and Vermont on our way home. One thing I wish we’d had time for was a drive up to the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.

Thanks to my favorite YouTuber, Post 10, I can at least see what the entirety of that drive is like. I wonder how many motorists every year don’t take sufficient care to cool their brakes on the way back down….

(Put that on fullscreen and watch it in the highest def your connection can manage. It gets more and more eye-popping as you go.)


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Street Photography: East Aurora, 9/17/2023

I’m finding myself more and more interested in street photography, or “streetscape”, as I prefer to call it. Here are a few examples from a walk I took last week around the village of East Aurora.

I do hope someone knows how that last one turned out. I have, ahem, a certain degree of sympathy to people who use the reader boards of public businesses for proposals.

Flickr album here.


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In low light….

A photographic experiment, using the knickknacks on my desk.


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Something for Thursday

Sometimes it’s worth looking a bit more closely at the stuff that social media randomly serves up via its algorithms, because you DO find the occasional gem that way…like, for me recently, a band called The Empty Pockets. From their bio:

Light flickers in even the darkest of spaces and smallest cracks. Similarly, The Empty Pockets ignite a bright flame of their own by harnessing a joyful friction between Americana, folk, and rock ‘n’ roll spiked with roots soul. The Chicago quartet—Josh Solomon [guitar, vocals], Erika Brett [keyboards, vocals], Nate Bellon [bass, vocals], and Adam Balasco [drums]—lean on an unspoken, yet airtight musical dialogue honed by countless miles on the road, performances  alongside the likes of Kenny Loggins, a procession of fan favorite releases (including a #1 debut), and a wealth of memories together.

I’ve only listened to a few of their songs thus far, and to me they are redolent of smoky bars where the scent of grilled meat and fried onions is on the air and where the main light is the neon from the beer signs. The wood of your table is shiny and well-worn, and in the corner is the band.

I quite like this and will listen to them more.


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A metamorphosis, completed

You may remember me writing a few weeks ago about the Monarch butterfly caterpillar we found in the milkweed outside our front door, and its turning up again a few days later as a chrysalis clinging to the siding of our house.

Well, our friend kept hanging there for the better part of three weeks. The chrysalis gradually shifted from bright green and opaque to darker and somewhat translucent, until this past Saturday it looked like this:

If you examine the larger version of that photo, you can see the telltale markings of our butterfly friend’s wings inside the chrysalis.

This past Sunday I noted the chrysalis was still there as I departed for my morning’s photography walk…and when I returned less than three hours later, this is what I found on the side of the house.


Our friend stuck around a while–my understanding is that they have to let their wings dry before they can fly–and then I assume they departed for Mexico. I hope they enjoy safe travels; that’s a long trek.

What an exciting thing to see again…and for the first time!


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Tone Poem Tuesday


I had a piece selected and had started writing the post to go with it, when I realized…that piece is better presented next Tuesday, and not today. It’ll all be clear then. Meanwhile, here is an old favorite of mine, possibly the greatest collection of peasant tunes and drinking songs ever composed: the Romanian Rhapsody #1 by Georges Enescu. There just isn’t a single minute of this piece that I don’t adore, from the wonderful melodies, to the way just about every instrument or instrument group gets something fun to do, to all the little “hitch-steps” in the rhythm that make you picture a bunch of dancers suddenly realizing they’re on the wrong foot. I don’t know what the most joyous piece of music written in the 20th century was, but this one has to be “in the conversation”, as the kids say nowadays. (Or were saying a few years back because hell, who can keep track of what the kids are saying?)



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“Leave the shutters open a little, dear…I’d like to let some light in this dreary house.”

No, that’s not a quote from anything, so far as I’m aware, but we’ve been watching Bridgerton of late so I’ve got that kind of pseudo-Regency era rhythm in my ear. But I am thinking about shutters of late: one shutter in particular, actually. The shutter in my Lumix FZ1000 Mark ii camera!

Shutter speed is one of the three big factors in the management of light that make up photography. Shutter speed is one of the ways one controls how much light, or how little, arrives on one’s camera sensor–but where ISO is an adjustment of sensor sensitivity and aperture size is an adjustment of how much light can pass through the lens to land on the sensor, shutter speed determines how long the available light has to hit the sensor. Shutter speed is how you freeze action: you use a very fast shutter speed to allow light to pass through the lens for a tiny fraction of a second, thus capturing something in the instant it happens. Shutter speed is also, though, how you elongate action, by allowing the light of a moving object to pass through the lens for a long enough time to make a blur in the final image.

So far in my photographic journey, I’ve found aperture size and ISO easier to understand and manage to achieve effects than shutter speed, for various reasons. While I’ve been able to use very fast shutter speeds to freeze objects like a running greyhound, slowing the shutter down to accomplish things like silky-smooth waterfalls or blurred objects has eluded me for the most part, mainly because slow shutter speeds on my camera tend to result in blown-out images because I can’t stop down the aperture or reduce my ISO far enough to overcome the extra light being allowed to hit the sensor. I’ve only had very limited success at this so far, mainly in the forest where it’s already darkened by the tree canopy.

It turns out that the main way around this is an accessory: a filter called an ND filter (neutral density) that cuts down the light entering the lens enough to allow you to slow the shutter down. Now, ND filters come in differing “intensities” (I have a feeling there’s a better term for it that I don’t yet know), and the cheap one that I recently bought is on the weak side, so it’s not going to be super effective. But I’ll get some better ones eventually, once I’m better at all this. Meanwhile, I managed to take this photo yesterday whilst standing on an overpass in town, and I’m quite happy with the result!

Not a super-thrilling photo, by any means, but practice shots are fun, especially when you’re learning something new. The goal is to be able to produce results like this, by Kenneth Hines Jr., a photographer who is quickly becoming one of my main sources of inspiration in this new area:


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kenneth Hines, Jr. (@professorhines)

Onward and upward!


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Stealing on a Sunday? Seems suspicious.

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but I’m going to do one now, just because. So there!

1. What is your favorite book?

Fiction, author no longer alive: The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien.
Fiction, author still with us: The Lions of Al-Rassan, Guy Gavriel Kay.
Non-fiction, author no longer alive: Cosmos, Carl Sagan.
Non-fiction, author still alive: These Truths, Jill LePore.

2. Are you afraid of the dark?

Not particularly, but I don’t like pitch black. I need some light.

3. Are you mean?

I hope not, but I know I have it in me to be so, at times.

4. Is cheating ever OK?

Not sure what we mean by “cheating”. Marital cheating? Likely not…though my wife’s grandmother, when she was a widow, had a close friendship with a man whose wife was still alive, but deep into Alzheimer’s, to the point she couldn’t even recognize the nice old man who visited her frequently. Was that wrong? I have a hard time saying it was.

Cheating academically? Again, mostly bad…but even there I can see some wiggle room. I had a math teacher in high school who delighted in assigning problems 1-50 every night for homework. To this day I don’t really feel bad about occasionally getting the answers to numbers 34-50 from a classmate.

Incidentally, I saw this video making the social media rounds this week, for what reason I can’t imagine, but I remember my reaction when it first went viral and thinking about how that particular professor was going about things one hundred percent incorrectly, and how laughable his bluster was. (The video embed seems to be futzed on my earlier post, I’ll see if I can fix it.)

5. Can you keep white shoes white?

I don’t even put myself in position of trying. With all the hiking I do, and the nature of my day job? Nope.

6. Are you currently bored?

Right this second? Nope! I’m doing this quiz! I am also thinking about going downstairs to fetch a quick salty snack, but I have made no decisions yet at this time.

7. Would you change your name?

At this point, nope. I’ve come this far, I might as well see it all through.

Mass transit

8. Do you like the subway?

I love the subway, and light rail, and commuter rail, and long-distance passenger rail. Rail-based public transportation is a wonderful thing and I don’t understand places that don’t have it. Our centering of the individual automobile in our country’s transportation policy over the last, oh, 70 years or so is one of the worst decisions we’ve ever made.

9. Who’s the last person you had a deep conversation with?

Probably The Wife.

10. Dumbest lie you’ve ever told?

I don’t recall specifics, but I’m sure it’s some BS I tried deploying to get myself out of chores when I was a kid.

11. Do you sleep with your door open or closed?

Open, so the cats can come and go. The dogs aren’t a problem; Hobbes sleeps crated and Carla sleeps with The Daughter.

12. Favorite month?

October. No contest. (But the runners-up are the other months ending in “-ber”, followed by February. And while everyone else worships at the altar of July, for summer months I find August to be the bee’s knees.

Yes, I used “bee’s knees” unironically.

13. Dark, milk, or white chocolate?

Dark, White, and Milk, in that order. White can be touchy–when it’s not great, it’s really not great. Milk is perfectly nice and usually more consistent, but it’s still never my preference.

14. Tea or coffee?

Coffee more often than tea, but I do love tea! In fact, my personal “Tea Season” is coming very shortly. Weirdly, I can drink hot coffee year-round, but hot tea is not a thing for me until autumn arrives. I’m not big into iced tea.

15. Night or day?

No preference! Both have their strengths and I am glad of each. That said, I’m glad that even though we’re still on DST, the realities of Earth’s progression of the seasons has moved nightfall back to a point where I can feel the refreshing nature of the new darkness. Late June and most of July do a number on my circadian rhythms; I am simply not built for full light at 10pm.

Looks like that’s all!


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“He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” (Job 8:21)

I saw these two memes over the last day or two, and I vetted them with Christian friends who vouched that they are, in fact, funny. So:


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(A Non-musical) Something for Thursday

And now for something completely different! (Read that in the voice of John Cleese, please.)

YouTube served me up one of these the other day, and I watched it, thereby signaling YouTube to serve me up more of these, and honestly, I’m not going to complain because they’re kind of fun to watch and also on some of these you really have to admire the work that obviously goes in to the creation. The concept is simple: Make a model railroad layout in your backyard, stick a GoPro on your locomotive, and record the journey.

I file this under the category of “Things I wouldn’t mind having, but the amount of work involved is a major turnoff and I’d settle for just knowing someone who has one.” Landscaping is not my passion in any way; I don’t even like pulling weeds. I love bearing witness to nature–hence the photography–but shaping it? That’s for someone else.

Anyway, here’s someone’s really nice backyard train. Yes, it helps to be wearing overalls while watching.


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