Denise Goldberg's blog

Monday, December 31, 2007

Self portrait

A self portrait - me, taking a picture of myself.

Now that was an interesting exercise. I'm right-handed but left-eyed. When I peer through the viewfinder of my camera, I use my left eye. If I'm taking a photo in landscape mode, my right eye is blocked by the camera body, and it stays open. But if I'm taking a portrait-mode shot, leaving my right eye open causes confusion, so I usually close it. Confusion? Yes! With both eyes open it feels like I am looking at two different images of the same thing. One image is the size that I normally see with both eyes. The other is a smaller image as seen through the lens. It's a very odd feeling.

I had to compose this photo with my right eye closed, then open it before I pressed the shutter. I really didn't want to capture myself with my eye squeezed shut!

Less than expected

Less snow, that is!

The forecasts last night were a bit overdone, calling for 3 to 7 inches of snow overnight with another 1 to 3 during the morning. They were bad enough that I went to sleep last night thinking that I was going to need to work from home today.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up and looked out to a world of white that was created by (only) 1 to 2 inches of snow. I still considered working from home, but that seemed unnecessary. I followed my normal morning routine and headed to the office. My drive took only 25 minutes, surprising considering that the plows were still out clearing the surface streets, but not surprising since there are many people who opted to take today off as an early start to New Year's festivities.

I have a feeling that I could easily be the only person in the office today. I know there are a couple of folks who are planning to work from home, but not everyone has checked in yet. One of my New Hampshire colleagues said that he had 7 to 8 inches of snow up his way, so my experience of only a couple of inches may just be a stroke of regional luck.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

After the rain

Rain in December...

It's been a crazy precipitation month here. We've had much more snow than normal; in fact, I heard yesterday that Boston is within an inch of having the snowiest December ever.

Last night and into this morning, liquid fell from the sky. There's still a layer of snow on the ground, but uncovered ground is peeking through too.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Crocs, no holes!

My feet are hooked on Crocs. Yes, the shoes are on the ugly side, but they are functional, and oh! so comfortable. And they come in all sorts of colors, comfort and fun for my feet...

A new pair of Crocs was waiting for me when I arrived home today (courtesy of very fast order processing & delivery from Zappos). I've been wearing my normal Crocs around home, running errands, inside, outside. Warm wool socks inside comfy shoes, and my feet are happy. That is, until I started wandering outside in our winter wet, snow, rain, puddles. The nice ventilation holes are also entry points for cold and wet. It was time to search for options.

That was an easy solution - now I have a pair of Crocs without holes.

You're right - this isn't a pair. It's just my crazy feet checking out the differences. I wonder if anyone at work would notice if I wore a mismatched pair of Crocs. I don't normally wear these to work, but it might be fun to see if I get any reactions to a very mismatched set of feet.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Two wheels rolling

A late-morning walk led to an early afternoon ride... and it was just what I needed.

It was still a bit nippy when I headed out on my walk this morning, and while I really wanted to ride, I was afraid that the roads were still going to be covered with snow melt. And my bikes told me that while they wanted to ride they didn't want to come home covered with salt and sand from the roads.

I had the whole day, and it felt like a good day for a long walk. Walking, walking... and guess what! Most of the roads were dry, with only the smallest neighborhood streets wearing a wash of salty water. And it felt like the temperature was inching up, and up. I cut my walk short, arriving home a short hour after I'd left. A snack for me, and air for my bicycle tires, and it was time to roll!

It's been many weeks since the weather wizard provided a good day for cycling. Yes, I've been a bit of a baby lately; I really don't like riding on wet roads that have been coated with sand and salt.

Today was a real gift, blue skies, reasonable (low 40s) temperatures, and dry roads. Awesome!

...many thanks are flowing to the weather wizard from me (and from my bicycles who love to be rolling down the road)!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Decorated by sunshine



Full and bright

I woke this morning to see a bright light jumping around the edges of the window blinds. The sky was still dark, but a very bright full moon was providing light and decoration.

What a beautiful greeting from the morning sky...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Solstice

Ah, winter solstice... the day when the sun changes direction, when the edges of the days here in the northern hemisphere start to slowly extend once again.

This year the solstice was a good excuse for a day off, a day to enjoy a breath of fresh air. I headed for the New Hampshire coast for a bit of a wander this afternoon. It was a bit of a challenge to reach the beach in some locations since the snow plows had left quite a pile along the side of the road. It was a challenge that I met without ending up on the ground, lucky!

There was a white band of snow along the edge of the beach, icy patches across the snow, and more waves than I've seen in a while. The waves decorated the air with a low roar as they crashed against the shore.

Once I crossed that white stuff separating me from the beach, walking was fine. But as I wandered through Odiorne Point State Park, breaking through the snow, I realized that a pair of snowshoes would have been a good idea.





Interested in seeing more photos from my coastal wander today? You can find them in my gallery Snow, sand, and the roar of the ocean.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fluff

It's snowing again! I can't remember another winter here - and I've lived in this area since 1985 - when the snow started right after Thanksgiving and stayed. The normal pattern this early in the season is for a bit of snow followed by a disappearing act. The snow isn't disppearing this month, it's just adding to the previous snowfall.

The weather wizard says it's supposed to be warm and rainy on Sunday; that could be a real mess!

For now, it's snowing fluff, and it's beautiful.



Voice mail calling

Sometimes I think voice mail has a mind of its own. I'll pick up my messages, then hang up the phone - and the next thing I know, my phone is ringing, and it's my voice mail account. Today that happened after I left a message for my sister on her voice mail. This time the ringing phone was Suze's voice mail. What!?!

This is a real curiousity (to me). Does anyone know why Verizon's voice mail seems to insist on not being finished when I hang up the phone? Is is an idiosyncracy of Verizon's system, or do others share the same behavior?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ice underfoot

Brrr... it's still pretty cold out, with temperatures hovering around 20. I suppose it could be colder though, and I do finally remember which layers I need to stay warm. So yes, it was a walking kind of evening.

Yesterday's snow turned to rain left a bit of a mess though. Sidewalks aren't cleared, and the roads are a bit narrower than normal. I headed out adorned with blinking lights - three blue lights facing forward, and two red lights facing back - walking along the plowed streets, hoping that an icy patch wouldn't reach up and grab me. Walking, staying upright, bright lights making me visible to the other occupants of the roads...

It would have been easy to use the icy surfaces as an excuse to stay home, but I'm glad that I didn't let that happen. It felt good to walk.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

New toy!

My new toy arrived Friday afternoon, good timing for uninterrupted experimentation.

What is it? An ASUS Eee PC 8g, a baby computer that will accompany me on my travels. It's considerably smaller (and lighter) than my laptop, and while it is larger than the handheld that it is replacing, I think that it is a very acceptable size (and weight) to join me when I wander on my bicycle.

It is almost as expected. My only disappointment is that I thought it would have an internal modem that I could use for slow (dial-up) connection to the Internet when I don't have access to a wireless connection. There's a (covered up) space in the case for the modem, but no modem. Funny, when I went back to look at the specs, it showed the modem as optional. That's odd, there are no options anywhere to buy the thing. Oops! I did find something that I hope will work though - a 56kbps modem that plugs into a USB port. I've ordered one, and hopefully it will provide me with my desired backup access to cover those times when my bike and I travel places where wireless access isn't available.

It's small, and the little 7" screen is of good quality. The keyboard is a reasonable size for my hands; it's easy to touch-type without errors. Measuring the keyboard, it's 5 1/2 inches across from the left edge of the "A" to the right edge of the "L". For comparison purposes, the same measurement on my HP Jornada (my circa-2002 baby PC) is 5 inches, and on my laptop is 6 1/2 inches. I'm a little surprised that the extra half-inch makes such a big difference in ease of typing.

I think this new baby computer is just what I needed!

Rover approves! He says the keyboard is better for bouncing, and the screen is better too! (For those of you who haven't met Rover, he jumped into my bags on my cross-country trip back in 2002; he's been joining me on my travels ever since.)
Here's a shot of a photo from my galleries. The quality of the display is very good.

Oh look! another funny feature... This crazy device has a camera that to my mind is installed in a somewhat backwards fashion. Why do I say it's backward? Because the camera faces the person sitting at the device. I would have preferred to have it face outwards, but it's an interesting approach to self-portraits. (And of course I'd never use it as a replacement for my camera.)

I just took a photo of myself. It was an interesting exercise since in order to change my positioning in the photo I had to move in the opposite direction, Ah, a mirror!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Remember...

Death is forever, but my memories are forever too.

Today is my brother's birthday. While he was living, it was a day to chat and laugh with each other. Yes, over the phone - since we didn't live anywhere near each other.

Now, it's a day for memories. Memories, from when we were children a very long time ago, to the last time he was able to speak to me, and from the many years between those times...

My first couple of memories are courtesy of our mother, who told me these stories. When Neal & I were very young, we shared a bedroom. We must have been misbehaving one night when we were supposed to be sleeping; our door was closed, and the light was out. Neal got out of bed and opened the door to let some light in. My parents heard him say "Deese? is that OK Deese?". He was thinking of and doing things for other people, even as a very young child.

The next story I remember always brings a smile to my face. Neal wasn't satisfied with playing with toys. He had to experiment, to use playing as a learning experience. I wonder what he was thinking the day he hid Mom's keys. I suppose "hid" isn't quite the right word; he really created a puzzle that wasn't solved for a long time. Neal took the back off of a radio, placed the keys inside it, and replaced the back. The radio apparently no longer worked, and there was no sign of the keys either. Mom - how long did it take (weeks? months?) before you found those keys?

There were growing up years when we were together, and there were many years when geography intervened and we didn't see each other that often. But even not seeing each other, we did talk on the phone, and I always knew that Neal was there if I needed him. He was there if I just wanted to chat, to share, and he was there if I needed support too.

So many years, so many memories...

I think I will always remember the last thing that Neal said to me: "Don't worry, I'll be OK. I love you." Again, he was thinking of others and not of himself.

I'm holding on to my memories of Neal.

A part of him is in my heart and and in my mind. Forever...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Snow, quickly falling

I escaped for a quick walk not too long after the snow started to fly this afternoon, a walk in the snow. Snow, quickly falling, accumulating, gathering in the shells of faded wildflowers, decorating the few leaves still remaining on trees. Snow, cold, fluff...



Wednesday, December 12, 2007

(Day)light matters

The days have been (noticeably) shrinking for a while now, and I'm still fighting with myself to get back to what I consider a normal amount of exercise. The winter solstice is next week, so the sun will slowly start to add minutes to its daily presence. It will still be a long while before the edges of the day start visibly expanding outward though.

When daylight supports biking before and after work, I have a much easier time of getting what I consider to be a reasonable amount of exercise. This daylight-lacking time of year is hard. Somewhere along the line I lost my enthusiasm for indoor exercise, so I've been trying to satisfy my need for movement with walking. My bikes happily join me on weekend days when the roads are dry, but my primary form of exercise during the week is by foot, usually in the early evening.

Just walking... I'd like to add a very early morning walk (as in before work) a couple of times a day. That hasn't worked so far, but I'm going to keep trying. It's funny, but in the summer (when I'm commuting to work by bike) I have no problem getting up at 5AM. The sun is just below the horizon then, sky lightening. Right now the sunrise is considerably later; today it was at 7:05AM. When my alarm noisily announced it was time to get up at 5 this morning, the sky was still in full darkness. My reaction? To turn the alarm off and go back to sleep! Oops! A mid-day walk plus my evening jaunt worked for today, but my goal is still to add a couple of early morning walks each week.

Remember, dreams and goals can become reality. Next week?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Icy...

A predicted snowstorm wandered off without dropping more than a few flakes. Instead, freezing rain added some interesting attire to the remaining leaves.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Waiting, waiting!

When I travel, I usually carry a small handheld computer to allow me to write and post my journal entries. I've been using an HP Jornada that I bought back in 2002. My baby computer still works, but it only has dial-up access to the rest of the world. That limitation in conjunction with my worry that it is not a repairable device (as in when the battery gives up the ghost, or when it stops behaving normally) has led me to keep my eyes peeled for a more modern replacement.

I saw what I thought should become my next baby computer a while back, and I've been waiting for the version I wanted to be available in the states. What have I been waiting for? It's an ASUS EEE PC 8g, with 1GB of memory and an 8GB solid state disk. The 4GB version has been available for a few weeks, but I really wanted more memory and more disk - although I think the memory was really the more important of the two. There were fly-by-night vendors who were accepting orders, but I knew that I wanted to order from a reputable company. I contacted newegg.com a couple of weeks ago, asking if they planned to carry it. The answer I got was to keep checking their web site. So - I checked, and I checked, and I checked; last week the device was listed with an auto-notify button. I requested notification when the it became available, and then I went back to waiting. And waiting. (Can you tell I'm not very patient? Oops!)

Tonight I was sitting at my computer when it notified me of a message - hey - the baby computer is in stock. Time to place an order... and now it's time to wait once more, this time for a delivery.

Oh, you want to know the size? You can tell from this photo showing a hand holding the device that it's pretty small... the specs say it weighs 2 pounds, and is 8.86" x 6.30" x 0.79-1.26". I have to admit I don't understand how it can be from .79 to 1.26 inches thick, guess I'll need to wait until it arrives and measure it myself!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Map play

I often use Google Maps to check distances between two locations. I sometimes use it for directions if I'm driving somewhere, but for travel by bike? It usually wasn't a reasonable mapping tool since it often took me on heavy traffic roads.

I just had to check the distance a package traveled to get from LLBean in Freeport, Maine to my house, by way of Connecticut (which definitely doesn't lie between the begin and end points of that journey)! You're right, "had to" is probably the wrong set of words here, but I had to satisfy my curiosity!

I noticed two new features that should be very helpful for my non-motorized wanderings. What are they? A checkbox that instructs the mapping program to avoid highways, and more important, the ability to drag the mapped route (line) to a different road. Time to play...

The set of maps below is for a favorite "edges of the season" (bike) tour I've done the last two years, an out-and-back journey from home to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and back again. Playing with a route that I knew just seemed like a good test. Now I'll just need to remember that this tool exists the next time I'm dreaming up a new cycling route.

The start of Google's directions, original mapped route using highways:




After checking "Avoid highways" & dragging route to my choice of roads:


Maps courtesy of http://maps.google.com

Saturday, December 08, 2007

White as decoration

The white of last Sunday night's snow, that is!

This early in the winter, when snow visits it normally disappears quickly. Not this time! We only had a couple of inches overnight on Sunday, but the temperatures stayed cold, so that white stuff is still with us. Not only that, but the weather wizards are predicting more for tomorrow night...




Banana smiles

Grocery shopping needs to be done, and needs to be done on a regular basis. After all, food is required! Sometimes it's just a chore, sometimes an adventure. But either way, it can be a source of smiles.

Today I was looking at, choosing, bananas. As I looked to find bananas with the right degree of ripeness - yellow for right now, tinged with green for good eating a little later in the week - a little bit of blue jumped out at me.

Blue? Ah, smile-producing Chiquita labels...

There were two labels that jumped out at me today, adorned with the words:

Peel Me-
I'm Fat
Free!
Chiquita®


Place
Sticker on
Forehead.
Smile.™
Chiquita®

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Shipping direct

Have you ever looked at package routing? I hate shopping in stores, so I am very accustomed to packages arriving at my door (not too long) after I have placed an order online. I received a shipping notification from LLBean today. Curious about delivery time, I clicked to the tracking link to see where my package was traveling.

Let's see, LLBean is in Freeport, Maine, and I live in North Andover, Massachusetts. City to city (by the default route chosen by Google Maps) is 103 miles. But - I could see from the tracking data that my package had arrived in Hartford, Connecticut this evening. Ah, the wonders of shipping networks. My package is taking the scenic route.

Freeport, Maine to North Andover, Massachusetts by way of Connecticut... Actual begin point to end point distance 103 miles. Total distance for my package's voyage? 334 miles!


A little update...I checked the progress mid-day on December 7th and found that the package had been delivered and signed for by C.LOSET. Funny.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

So much to learn

Is it any surprise that I'm (almost) always wandering with my camera? I've been using a camera to capture memories for as long as I can remember, an my fascination with photography seems to continue to grow.

I had the wonderful opportunity in Death Valley to go on a guided walk with a photographer. The focus of our wander on the sand dunes was talking about photography, about improving composition, about using the tools on my camera. The photographer who ran the session grew up with photography, moving from the 35mm world into the digital world. Rather than just spit out generic tips, he asked what we (the forum participants, lucky for me that there were only two of us!) wanted to be able to do with our cameras. When I told him about my travel mode - by bicycle, with as small a load as possible - he suggested methods of bracing (my camera) without a tripod. His attitude was refreshing, focusing on using the available equipment (my fellow attendee was using a point-and-shoot camera) to meet our stated goals.

I found it interesting that he matches my desire to do as much with the camera settings as possible, with little or no post-processing.

Many people - photographers - have told me that a tripod is an absolute must. It was refreshing to get the opposite attitude during that session in Death Valley, and I think I'll continue with my current non-tripod-use for a while longer. I've been resisting the purchase because I need to determine whether it will come with me on my bike; that will make a big difference when it comes to weight considerations. My one long lens has image stabilization, so it is perfectly usable without a tripod. But when I start to explore new photographic techniques, I know I will have more options available to me if I have a tripod. The problem? I know enough about my habits to suspect that I won't be happy with an entry-level tripod. Uh oh!

Sunrise at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley provided a concentrated gathering of photographers, another place to eye equipment, with plenty of time before the sun started its morning show to chat. That time gave me my first view of a graduated neutral density filter. I had recently become aware of these filters; what a great opportunity to talk with a photographer who uses one for almost all of his landscape photography.

Sometimes I think that I have big eyes...

I've been focusing more on composition than I have on the opportunities I have for making changes in how my images are caputured. My goal for the winter is not to buy things, but to have changing settings on my camera become second nature. Right now I need to think things through too much, which tells me I'm not playing enough. It's time to learn and absorb.

I'm playing with my camera, experimenting, but I'm reading too.


This book, Understanding Exposure, looks to be a winner. It was written by Bryan Peterson, a photographer who speaks to all who walk with a camera in hand. It uses photos as examples, showing the same scene caught with different camera settings for what the author refers to as the "photographic triange": aperature, shutter speed and ISO.

I'm reading, and I'm playing with my camera. A happy exercise...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Starting early...

...gray, white, wet, cold, gray

Winter has made a first appearance. The solstice is still three weeks away, but the cold settled in last week, and a coating of white - several inches worth - greeted me this morning.

Funny, I'm quite happy when spring gets a jump on the equinox, but winter arriving early doesn't appeal. It just makes me think about how many weeks there will be until warmth creeps in again. Then again, the arrival of the winter solstice means that light will start to creep back in to the edges of the day. Yes, I'm well aware that the addition of one or two minutes of light each day won't jump out at me, won't be noticed for a number of weeks. I can hope, can't I?

Do you get the sense that with the cold and dark and potential icy precipitation, winter is not my favorite season? You're right, but I live in the northeast so I need to deal with it. My goal this year is to take advantage of the ice and snow of winter, to use it as an opportunity to improve the results of my camera play. A macro lens, snow and ice, now that sounds like it will be an interesting exercise.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Listen...

...can you hear the wind?

The sky was clear, the temperature cold, the wind was absolutely howling. And I was drawn to the coast to satisfy a walking desire.

The ocean was quiet, but the wind was blowing waves across the water - ponds and inlets - on the land side of the road. It was 22 degrees when I popped out of my car, cold, colder than cold with the addition of the strong wind. It was a good walk, shorter than I wanted due to the temperature and the wind, but still a good opportunity to clear my mind.