Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Trace Of Memory

Trace of Memory, Chiharu Shiota, Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, 2015

Better late than never, right?  Shiota's large, long term, eight room installation at the Mattress Factory first opened in September of 2013, a week or so after I'd last been there.  I had no idea or I'd have either waited a week on my last visit, or returned sooner.  Not only is this work visually challenging and engaging, but it's also unexpectedly evocative - as if you've walked into the web of someone else's life and have to figure out your place, how you fit.  It's dense and stunning, the yarn webview growing thicker exponentially as you move room to room.  It's an incredible feat, and if you have the chance to experience of any of Shiota's installations, whether yarn or other medium (she's based in Berlin and shows all over the world), GO!  Go and go again.
Also, a hats off to the Mattress Factory, a museum of modern art that is one of the best in the world, and deservedly so. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Snowy Egret Waterlogue

Snowy Egret Preening, Delaware, 2014

When I restarted this blog a year and a half ago, a version of this photograph was the first post.  A lot has happened since then (not really), and I would like to thank all of my readers for dropping in...but I'm curious - why so many Russian readers?  The largest foreign group that drops by my blog are Russian, oftentimes outnumbering the American readers.  What's the appeal?  Is there an appeal, or is it all just random?
Either way, I hope you all enjoy the Waterlogue Effect because it's going to continue until I am forced to stop.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Waterlogue 10th St. Bridge Pittsburgh

10th Street Bridge in Rain, 2005, Pittsburgh

Someone mentioned in the comments that perhaps an older picture that I'd taken in the rain, while driving across the 10th St. bridge to the south side of Pittsburgh might be interesting.  Well, here it is, and it's properly washed out as one would expect, as if a watercolor had been left out in the rain and the colors all ran.  I kind of like it.

Urban Ducks and Pigeons

Urban Ducks and Pigeons, Pittsburgh

We survived Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Chicken Noodle Darth Vader

The Force of Product Placement Awakens, 2015

I like Star Wars as much as the next geek, but the product placement is just insane this go-round.  Campbell's soup cans?   And, if I am going to have to endure Star Wars themed labeling on everything from Spaghetti-Os to Shredded Wheat, I would like Daisy Ridley's character, Rey, to be on the cover.  Vader, R2D2, Yoda, a generic Stormtrooper have been done to absolute death!  They are so ubiquitous as to be invisible.  Give us a fresh face, if we must be given anything.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Ducks On Lake Seneca

Mallard with Ducklings, Lake Seneca, NY, 2013

What could possibly be a more appropriate subject for the waterlogue effect than ducks on water?  The original photo was taken while a storm was brewing, the normally placid water had become choppy, and the mother duck was steering her brood toward safety.

Friday, December 18, 2015

New River Gorge Bridge in Watercolor Effect

Bridge, New River Gorge, WV, 2007

Yes, yes, I'm still tinkering with the microsoft app, Waterlogue.  I like it.  I don't love it, but I definitely like it - for now.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Man By The Sea

Man By The Sea, Maine, 2011

I find the waterlogue effect compelling in this photograph, but the reason why is unexpected:  We had stopped to get gasoline and cold drinks on our way to Acadia National Park, and I saw this young man sitting on some rocks near the shore.  He seemed distressed, perhaps he'd had an argument with someone, I don't know.  The thing is, I felt as if I'd intruded.  The original photo of this is very good and stands on its own merit, but I never used it for anything, or shared it anywhere.  This watercolor effect blurs his features just enough to make him unrecognizable, thus rendering him more of an 'everyman', representative of human anguish in general, as opposed to his specific suffering. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Carrie Furnace Waterlogue-ed

Carrie Furnace, Interior, Rankin, PA 2011

Ok, I admit that now I'm starting to enjoy the Waterlogue app more than I gave it credit for initially.  Also, if you are so inclined, you can learn more about the derelict iron works that was the Carrie Furnaces here, at Rivers Of Steel.
More waterlogue-d prints to come!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Digital Tomfoolery

Horseshoe Crab, Detailed and Watercolor, 2015

Big sigh, dammit.  I seldom delve into outright photographic trickery/mimicry, but I was curious about the waterlogue app, made even more curious because the price tag was only $2.99.  I thought, what fun!  It's more like 'eh'.  I suppose if I want to get into selling greeting cards, which is what this looks like and seems to be the right purpose for it, then I'm good.  Lighthouses, seas shells, the odd dried up horseshoe crab printed up on cheap card stock and sold for whatever you can wrench from the tight fist of a reluctant buyer.
Still, if anyone looking at this would chime in in the comments, which version of the horseshoe crab do you prefer?  The top image which is more of a proper study of the creature, or the bottom image distorted to look like a watercolor painting?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Extra Cash

Vintage Teacup and Saucer, Japan, sold, 2015

Every freaking year for the two months leading up to the most over-hyped, bloated holiday that mankind has ever witnessed, I sell crap on ebay.  Some of the things I've sold are literal crap, as in coprolite, or fossilized dinosaur poop (remember:  Everybody poops!).  A lot of it though is just stuff that my mother has foisted upon me.  Case in point, the lovely, but not my cup of tea, teacup and saucer pictured above.  A piece so delicate that your gaze falling upon it might cause a stress fracture.  I have a whole area in the basement devoted to stuff to be sold on ebay or etsy, and most of his come from my mother - or I'm not quite sure where it came from.  For instance, a mink stole with matching hat.  One day it was in the storage room in the basement, as if materializing from another timeline.  Anyway, a guy bought it.  Supposedly he's going to repurpose the fur on fishing lure flies, but really, I don't care what he does with it.  It's his, he can dismantle it and sew up fashion furs for Barbie and Skipper and that would be awesome.
The things I enjoy selling the most are the oddities, those out of the ordinary things I come across out in the world.  The stray animal skull, or, if I'm truly lucky, the entire skeleton, fossils, old unwanted discarded bits of taxidermy, a haunted stuffed (as in stuffed toy, not stuffed as in taxidermied) otter missing an eye, an old book of poetry with a lengthy and nearly illegible heart wrenching and passionate inscription, an older picture behind an old picture in a frame, these are the things I love.  Surprises where one might not expect it.  Those things always sell, and usually for the most money.  People sometimes need something that is outside the ordinary to remind them how marvelous life can be.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Phantom War on Christmas

Pittsburgh Christmas Display 2013

There are so many things to loathe about facebook, not the least of which are all of those old high school chums that you have gladly not seen for 30+ years and their narrow world view.  I should just ditch fb, but it serves as a great way for me to stay in contact with long distance friends.
So, now we're neck deep in endless memes about 'the war on Christmas'.  Jesus H. Christ - there is no war on Christmas!  How can there be a 'war' on a holiday that itself is nothing but an appropriation of a pagan holiday?  If anything there's been a two thousand year war on Yuletide!  Where's the outrage about that?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Hussy, et al

Bargello, Florence, Italy, 2006

In the more modern vernacular we seldom use words like trollop, hussy, strumpet, etc., unless we're poking fun, and their meanings have fallen out of our collective purview (at least in the U.S., who knows what the Brits are employing to insult their women folk).
For this reason I have collected a list of words commonly used to denigrate women before 'ho' and 'bitch' became the standards.
Hussy - 1. A lewd or brazen woman.  2. A saucy or mischievous girl.
Trollop - 1. A vulgar or disreputable woman.  2. A sexually promiscuous woman, a prostitute.
Strumpet - A prostitute.
Harlot - A prostitute.
Tart - A woman who wears make-up and clothing in such a way as to garner sexual attention.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Madness and Guns

H.R. Giger

Let's talk about the gun violence in the United States, shall we?  Here in the good ole USofA, we have a plethora of gun violence because we have a love affair with guns that borders on worship.  I am saying 'we', but this is not me, yet I am a citizen of this country, so I can't distance myself from this collective nightmare.  For nefarious reasons known only to them, Republicans have embraced the maniacal tenets of the National Rifle Association where firearms meant for war are available to anyone who can pass a background check.  Can't pass a background check?  Just buy a used assault rifle from a private citizen, they don't have to do a background check.  The gun laws we must suffer under are completely and purposely devoid of logic.  And, they are not uniform but vary widely from state to state. 
The long shadow cast by the Second Amendment provides that a gun owner need not be responsible for that gun, which explains why toddlers have shot so many people this year.  I'm just going to lay this loaded gun down right here by this playpen and go take a nap...  When, how did Americans become so stupid?  Worse yet, they are PROUDLY stupid and defend it as if it's their right to be willingfully ignorant assholes who think that the solution is to arm everyone.  Yes, because having a gun in your hand when I drunken fight erupts is a good idea.
In my naivete I thought that things would change after the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999, but no.  If anything the NRA entrenched themselves further in the psyche of fear that they foster in the U.S.  But the mass shooting, and I don't mean to discount any of the mass shootings that we as a nation have endured, but the one that broke my heart, and resonates with me as raw as it did the day it happened three years ago, is the slaughter that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.  If we as a nation cannot come together and reach a consensus on what must be done to curb - if not stop - the wholesale violence that has become commonplace, after the massacre of children, then nothing will prompt action.  The vapidity of the political right always offering their prayers, and nothing else, following each shooting, should chill every person in this country to their core.
Madness reigns, and shoots. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Two Women Walk Into A Bar

Dead Fish, Outer Banks, NC, 2005

This morning on the radio, journalist Jeanne Marie Laskas was being interviewed, she of the 'GQ' article that lead to her book, 'Concussion', exposing the horrible truth behind traumatic brain injuries in football, and it occurred to me that two of the most important exposes that have been investigated and reported on football have been conducted by women.  Why is that?  In 2012 when Sara Ganim wrote a series of articles for the 'Patriot-News' newspaper out of Harrisburg, PA exposing the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal, many local sportswriters, all of whom were male, took to the airwaves on a Pittsburgh sports radio station to complain that they'd heard the same rumors about Sandusky that Ganim had, but couldn't follow up on them because they'd be banned from Happy Valley.  Some went so far as to say that Ganim didn't deserve the Pulitzer Prize that she'd won for reporting because she was an investigative reporter reporting on a sports scandal - which is utter and complete nonsense, and reeks of more than a little sour grapes.  But the more important issue is that these men had heard the very same rumors of child sex abuse at Penn State and chose to do nothing, lest they be denied access to the Penn State football program.  It's astounding to think that anyone would be able to ignore such accusations.
As the Will Smith starring movie version of 'Concussion' will be released later this month, there is once again a woman behind the big reveal, exposing the deadly long term effects of playing football.  I think it's fascinating to further note that the forensic neuropathologist who initially discovered CTE was a Nigerian, someone who wouldn't have any connection to, or adoration for, American football.  He could go into his work with a mind free of any bias.  I point this out because it seems that football does elicit strong feelings in the American population, both male and female.  I'll admit that I used to love football, on all levels, but that started to change several years ago, and changed forever after the Steelers QB was accused of rape.  I just can't get excited about the guys on the field any longer, but the worship of football is still shared by many who are not me.  Crazed fans cram stadiums from sea to shining sea every weekend in the fall.  All of those asses on the bleachers mean big money for both college and professional football.  BIG MONEY.  And all of that money doesn't like scandal, or inconvenient truths about permanent brain damage, or anything that doesn't fit into the furthering of their brand.
I can't answer why no men have taken up any of the biggest investigative stories regarding football in this country, maybe they feel as if they still have too much to lose professionally even if they aren't on the sports beat.  Thank God for the Ganims and Laskas out there carrying the torch, lighting the way in journalism. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Within The Lines

I am conflicted about the adult coloring book fad.  On the one hand I often doodle while pondering the deeper meanings of existence (should I have a cookie now, or wait until after dinner?) and even color in those doodles, but as a child I usually struggled to stay within the lines while coloring, and on this hand I remember only the stinging criticisms of my scribbles.  My mother liked to point out that my younger sister could color nicely, why couldn't I?  You'd think that this sort of comparison would've made me hate my sister, but it didn't.  I didn't hate my mom for saying it.  No, I hated coloring, the thing that I did not excel at, it was to blame with its damn LINES that you should not cross!  It was too strict, too arbitrary, too strident in its demands that you must stay within the boundaries imposed.  To me, it was prison.  And now to think that people find it restive and relaxing to color - as full grown human beings - is almost unimaginable.  No one forcing you to color one more Thanksgiving hand-out portraying a native American foolishly aiding starving European refugees, but you choosing to color it.
Never say never, but I can't imagine joining in this coloring craze.  For now I'll stick to my doodles...and maybe have a cookie.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Giving of the Thanks

Only when I was a child did Thanksgiving seem to have any sort of continuity, a sameness year after year.  It wasn't monotonous, just the entire family (extended family too) gathering at our house,  my mother making the turkey colossus, mountains of mashed potatoes, rivers of gravy, never enough stuffing, cranberry sauce (both freshly made and sliced out of the can), green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, dinner rolls, pumpkin and apple pies...I think that covers it...Wait!  How could I forget; frozen corn, steamed with butter melted over.  Until I was at least 12 I sat at the kids' table, which was just as well because many of the adults would be smoking during the meal.  Despite being a smoker myself, I have never smoked at the table.  It's disgusting, and then that old nasty habit of stubbing out a butt on your plate.  Honestly, I have no words for how foul a practice that it is, especially for the person cleaning up after.
Now, as an adult, I find Thanksgiving to be unique every year, something memorable invariably happens to distinguish one turkey day from any other.  There was the year that my father decided to celebrate Festivus early and instead of opening the meal with a prayer of thanks, launched into the 'Airing of Grievances', of which he had many.  Then there was the year that my grandmother so pestered my sister-in-law in the kitchen over that said sil spun around and rammed right into a corner cabinet, nearly knocking herself out and then sporting an angry black eye.  The year my oldest brother got so drunk that he slept throughout the entire gathering (this is why I am vehemently against morning drinking).  The only thing that remained the same about Thanksgiving was that while my maternal grandfather was alive (1908-2003), he would bring his own tupperware containers and demand leftovers, instructing whoever was hosting to not be stingy with the gravy.  I can't look at tupperware and not think of him, that self-centered old coot.  But now he's gone and his habits, once annoying, now seem quaint.
This Thanksgiving will be remembered as the year Caty, my wife, missed out on one meal (we have to attend 2 Thanksgiving meals, the first with my family, and the second with hers), the good traditional meal with my family, because of a sprained ankle - which then aggravated the pinched nerve in her neck (crutches are a pain, literally).  We'll go to the nontraditional meal with her family.  No stuffing, no mashed potatoes (they hate starches, in fact, her entire family has a hostile relationship with food, which explains why none of them can cook worth a damn), dry pathetic bird, a grotesquely quivering jell-o salad, a bunch of raw vegetables, and some sort of store bought dessert, probably ice cream. 
Ah well.  I'm still ever thankful for the companionship and love shared by family, all the more so because of our quirks and flaws.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Jessica Jones, The Final Analysis

I finished watching the first season of 'Jessica Jones' yesterday, and I was not disappointed.  I'm not crazy excited, can't hardly wait for season 2, but I was NOT disappointed.  It is dark noir-streaming (as opposed to noir film, or noir television) at its best with a tortured, flawed hero who feels authentic, never contrived.  That aspect of the show's success can be laid at the feet of both the writers, and Krysten Ritter.  Given decent material to work with, Ritter runs with it, fleshing out what haunts Jones, and drives her.  Despite a boozy self-destructive bent, Jones still tries to figure out her place/part in making the world as a whole a better place - never specifically her world, but the world that other people, all of the other people, inhabit.
'JJ' is a much better Marvel universe show than 'Agents of Shield', which is saddled with a horribly miscast cast, and more engaging than the other Netflix Marvel offering, 'Daredevil', but not as completely satisfying or thrilling as 'Agent Carter'.  Perhaps that can be attributed to the fact that the first season of 'Agent Carter' was a succinct 8 episodes in length, with no extra time to roam down blind allies or toss out red-herrings.  Not that 'Jessica Jones' teased the viewer with a bunch of false leads, but at times the 13 episode story didn't feel tight, as if it was wandering around looking for itself.   And that is my only beef.  Otherwise, I'd say the show is a hit, if not a homerun.  A long single stretched into a stand-up double.  At least.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Jessica Jones

Since my wife is off work today because of a sprained ankle, I'm going to see if we can start the binge watching today instead of tomorrow.  I will post my thoughts on Marvel's latest foray onto the small screen upon completion of the 13 episode season.  Here's to hoping that it's more 'Agent Carter' and less 'Agents of Shield'. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker, Melanerpes carolinus, Pittsburgh, 2015

This is an adult male Red-bellied woodpecker, foraging for insects in the rotted knot of a Norway Maple, Acer platanoides, in the backyard.  As I examined the photo more closely I came to realize that this is by far the fattest woodpecker I've yet encountered.  He certainly looks prepared for winter - if winter ever comes.  The mild temps continue to linger.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


 Kombucha Scoby Side View
Kombucha Scoby Top View

About a year and half ago I started making Kombucha out of sheer cheapness.  We wanted the health benefits but not the expense.  It sells for $3.79 a 16oz. bottle at Whole Foods, and we were going through a bottle every two days, and once I got a look at how this was impacting our monthly grocery bill, I knew that I had to take drastic action.  Drastic in that I found a website that sells kombucha materials and it's pretty easy to find and follow instructions on how to brew it.  Actually, it couldn't be easier.  The only thing you have to keep in mind is that anti-bacterial cleaners can kill your scoby, since your scoby is basically a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.  You DO NOT want to kill the scoby!
I have tweaked recipes and this is how I make kombucha at home:
I use a 1 gallon glass jar (always use only earthenware or glass) .  The glass jars I use were former pickle jars that I bought at Costco.  We ate the pickles and then I had the jars!  You don't need the lids.
Wooden spoon
Large Rubberband
Large cooking pot

7 Black Pekoe teabags - sometimes I make a batch using Earl Grey, but this is a more expensive tea, so typically I use just the pekoe
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 gallon of water - the water can be from the tap, but it's a better kombucha if you use bottled spring water
1 Pint of either reserved kombucha from a previous batch, or a bottle of store bought kombucha
1 Quart of fruit (optional, and blueberries and black raspberries are by far the best tasting in this)

Place all of the teabags in half a gallon of water and bring to a boil uncovered.  Once the brew is boiling, turn off the heat and stir in the sugar, making sure that it dissolves completely.  Let steep twenty minutes and then remove the teabags, allowing the brew to further cool to room temperature.  In the jar with the scoby should be the reserved kombuch from a previous batch or the store bought kombucha if this is your first batch.  Once the tea-sugar brew has cooled to room temperature, pour into the jar, topping off the jar with the reserved half gallon of water.  Place the cheesecloth over the mouth, securing with the large rubberband.  For best results I set the jar in room with a constant temperature (not much fluctuation) that is not too cold (I use a shelf in a spare bedroom, but a closet would be fine as well), out of direct sunlight.
I have two jars going at once which allows each to sit for about 28 days before it gets bottled since I bottle about every 14 days.  This rotations works good for us as we always have some kombucha in the fridge. 
Each batch yields approximately 6 - 16 ounce bottles.  Remember to reserve 16 oz for the next batch, and to always, ALWAYS bottle the kombucha in glass bottles.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Does Medium Matter in a Rorschach Test?

You should be terrified of the question posed by the heading on this blog post.  Or maybe not, given the photograph I've used to accompany this post.*  Over on Hyperallergic they've got an article on, and interview with, performance artist Xander Ibarra, aka, La Chica Boom.  LCB had the idea to fold watercolor paper and place it in her skivvies while menstrating.  When opened back up, the blood creates inkblots that in some cases do very much resemble those images used in a more traditional Rorschach test.  In other instances they just look like bloody smears.
There are aspects of the art world, the creation of art, the methodology, the intent...where I'm not quite sure what I think of it.  It's always those things that push boundaries and buttons (a crucifix in a jar of piss, elephant dung paintings, can o' shit) that give me pause.  I don't hate it, at least not right away, but it does make me question what constitutes art?  Is any thing art?  Everything?   Nothing?  I question the validity of something that is compelled to be so heavy handed with its message and its execution.
*I chickened out and removed the photo.  Baby Jesus on a used sanitary pad.  So, now, what the hell does that say about me?  I created the shot, but don't have the nerve to post it on a low traffic blog?  Pathetic.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Back To Nature

Pittsburgh Press, October 24, 1962

Some friends are rehabbing an old duplex south of the city and discovered newspapers stuffed around the window and door frames.  Olive loaf was 35 cents half a pound 53 years ago!   Oh olive loaf, I haven't had thee in lo these many years - not since I stopped living with my parents 30+ years ago.
As for this ad, they sure don't make movies like they used to.  Interestingly, this movie was written and directed by a woman.  Go figure.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Desiccation is a Beach

Horseshoe Crab, Limulus polyphemus, Delaware Bay, DE, 2014

I didn't have much interest in the horseshoe crab before we spent a week on the beach in Delaware and were surrounded by them.  Curiosity got the best of me, as it almost always does, and lucky for me that our cottage rental had several books on the local flora, fauna, and even covered the geology of the region.
Above are two female horseshoe crabs, dorsal and ventral views.  The exposed pincers on the left specimen are what gives away the sex.  When sexing a horseshoe crab you simply turn them over and and look at the first set of pincers.  If they're pincer-like in appearance, then it's a female.  If they look like tiny boxing gloves, then it's a male.  The boxing glove-like appendage aids the male in mounting and holding on to the larger female.
While walking the beach we discovered many small, desiccated remains of horseshoe craps, and I brought a few home with me in a shoe box.  I should've paid closer attention because all of the specimens I gathered were female.  I'd based which ones to take on the condition of the remains, so that's my only excuse.
We're returning to the beach in Delaware this summer.  With luck I'll find a good example of a dead male horseshoe crab that's in one piece.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Facilitating Blitz Splatter and Beyond

Blitz Splatter, Acrylic and Gesso on Canvas, Cree Mullin, 2015

I've mentioned before that my oldest son is an artist.  He primarily paints, but also creates these enormous, and precarious, found object sculptures.  One day I expect to find him crushed beneath one.  Gravity yields to no man,  grasshopper.
Like most artists, he is on a shoestring budget, and to help out, I've learned to stretch canvases.  It's not hard, building the frame itself is a bit more exacting.  After you've made the frame and stretched the canvas, you have only to prime it and then you're set to paint.  Cree had some gesso leftover, but it was getting chunky, so I thought, "I bet there's a recipe online for making your own gesso!"  And of course I was correct in this assumption.  The one that worked the best for me was:
1 part white glue (like regular Elmer's)
2-3 parts HOT water
3 parts cornstarch
3 parts baking soda
3 parts white acrylic paint
Then pour into a container or jar and seal with a lid.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Endless Salad Bowl

Assorted Salad Greens, Pittsburgh, November, 2015

Climate change doesn't necessarily mean warmer global temperatures (though it looks that way), but it does certainly mean more weather outside the norm.  Because a couple of years ago I got swiss chard from the garden until early December, I've seeded a container with Italian Blend salad green seeds well into autumn.  It's wonderful to have fresh greens still, but alarming to think of the implications  of still gardening in hardiness zone 5 this late in the season.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Feline Asthma

Thorasic X-Ray Illustrating Feline Asthma

 Have I mentioned that we have a cat?  His name is Pepe, but we call him Peeps.  Actually, my wife spells it 'Pepys' because this is what I get for marrying a drama/english major. 
For a few days last week Peeps didn't seem to be quite himself, but he was eating and drinking, using his box, no vomit or diarrhea, and then on Sunday evening he became quite ill, struggling to breathe.  I sat with him for awhile on the bed in the spare room (his preferred place to sleep because sun streams through a window in there for most of the day) until it seemed like he was breathing better and calmed down.
We went to bed.
In the morning, yesterday morning, I found Peeps in the very same position in which I'd left him the night before; sitting upright on the bed, looking exhausted.  I don't know if he slept well or not the night before, but he was once again having a difficult time breathing.  I called the vet's office as soon as they opened (8am) and they told me to bring him right over.  Pepe was lethargic, but not so lethargic that it was an easy task to shove him in the kitty carrier.  He fought me tooth and claw.  Of course in the end I won because I had to.
Once at the vet's office a tech took Peeps' vitals and said that the vet would be in shortly.  Instead of the vet coming into the exam room, the tech came back with a radiology apron on and took Peeps for x-rays.  Once the x-rays were uploaded on the computer, then the vet came in.
I have to say that she, the vet, was very thorough in her explanation of feline asthma.  First she showed me a normal thorasic x-ray of a cat, pointing out the visibility of the bronchial tubes specifically, then the pulled up Peeps' x-ray, which in no way resembled the first - at least as far as the lungs were concerned.  The vet explained that she could do a biopsy to make sure that it was asthma, but she told me that she was 100% certain that it is feline asthma.  So, they gave Peeps a shot and some pills, and sent him home with me.  And then my research into feline asthma began in earnest.  I have to say that judging from Peeps' x-ray, he has acute asthma.  Which makes me wonder how we missed the earlier warning signs?  One of the main symptoms of feline asthma is a cough - a cough that perfectly mimics what a cat does when they are coughing up a hairball, only no hairball.  Runny nose and eyes is also a symptom, which we attributed to pollen allergies, and they could've been caused by pollen allergies, it's just that allergies can cause feline asthma.
Either way, I don't know how long Peeps has.  The vet mentioned that when the condition become chronic, most cat owners opt to have the cat put down because their entire existence at that point has been reduced to a struggle for each breath.  Right now we're exploring the use of cat nebulizers.  I just feel so bad for missing all of the early warning signs of the disease and now feel that I have to do everything I can for him.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

That's A Great Question!

Ants and Figs, Pittsburgh, 2015

I've noticed  a despicable trend that interviewees are employing: Exclaiming, "That's a great question!"  to an ordinary, completely unremarkable question.  This sounds like faux flattery, or possibly a stalling tactic while you cook up a response to an insipid question, or they've lobbed such a softball your way that you get to drone about your favorite topic (yourself) ad nauseum. 
People, everyday people, famous people, anyone at all really, drop 'That's a great question!' from your bag of pat answers.  Come up with something interesting, if not original, if you need to stall and mull over your answer, and have the good sense to NOT talk about yourself like you're something great and wonderful that the world has never seen before.  I am here to tell you that you suck!  unless you're Mother Theresa, and she's dead, you're a regular horrible, selfish human being, and nobody cares what you're thought process is while you tweet.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, Milton, Delaware, July 17, 2014

'Tis the season now to drink all of those pumpkin flavored brews, from coffee to ale.  I despise pumpkin spice everything except for pie.  Pumpkin pie with a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top is the best!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Stripped Down Version

Early Brewing set-Up, Dogfish Head Brewery, Delaware, 2014

Hard to believe that Dogfish Head Brewery started out so modestly, but it did.  It's kind of a reminder of how most human needs, those things we must have in our lives, is kind of basic.  Warmth, food, alcohol (yes, alcohol!  I may not be as German as I thought I was prior to that damn DNA test, but still German enough to see alcohol as a requisite need), and a saucy wench.  With the 'warmth' part goes; fire, clothes, and flannel sheets.
I'm only thinking about this because I'm baking pretzel buns right now and the house smells incredible and I feel just so good.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Musk Mallow

Musk Mallow Flower and Seeds, Malva moschata, Pittsburgh, 2015

Musk mallow grows wild and thrives best in the shaded parts of my yard.  This year I collected the seeds pods and was pleasantly surprised by their unique shape.  The leaves, flowers and seeds of the plant are all edible, but the plant is most prized (as are all mallows) for their medicinal uses.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


 Slippery Rock Gorge, Kildoo Trail, McConnells Mill State Park, PA, 2015
Sunset, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, DE, 2014

These are the other two landscapes that my wife chose to hang in her classroom.  I hope she likes them because I ordered very large prints.

Of Landscapes and Inspiration

Maine Shoreline, Acadia National Park, 2011

My spousal unit has requested some prints for her classroom.  Of course she doesn't want anything too crazy, so I'm working on some landscapes that will hopefully inspire the students.  Yes, whenever anyone thinks of my photography, they immediately think of inspiration.
Self deprecation aside, going back through the photo journals of our travels reminds me of how photography captures the moment.  I am transported back to the time we were there, which feels closer in time than four years ago, as with the above picture of Maine.  It's hard to believe that it has been four years.  It feels so much more immediate.  Ah well.  We're planning on a return trip to Maine and Acadia National Park in the summer of '17.  Got to get there while we're still spry enough to do the really difficult hikes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Vemodalen And Us

Giant Rubber Duck, Pittsburgh, September 2013

The Dictionary Of Obscure Sorrows defines Vemodalen thusly: n. the frustration of photographing something amazing when thousands of identical photos already exist.  Yes, I cannot tell you the creeping futility I sometimes experience while photographing something that is uncommon, rare, beautiful, decayed and collapsing in on its own weight, or even just delightfully whimsical - all with the realization that it's been captured by camera before, and will again.
Case in point:  Two years ago when Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman's duck colossus was launched on the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh, people flocked to the Point (where the fountain is), and to Mount Washington overlooking the city (where I was here) to get a good shot of the Duck.  I took a lot of photos because digital costs nothing and bad shots can be deleted.  Not having to rely on film and all of the expense incurred with film photography has made photography extremely accessible, but at the same time ubiquitous and devalued.
I ended up with some really wonderful images of the city and the duck colossus and spoke to the owner of the gallery that carries my work to see how many prints I should bring in...None, as it turned out.  The duck colossus was everywhere, had saturated the market, and no matter how great my work was, it was still of the Duck.
If you are in need of a prompt for an existential crisis, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows has a youtube channel, and this is their entry on the subject of Vemodalen.
I won't stop photographing things, nor will I fall into too deep a pit of despair about the futility of it all, but it still gives me pause.  What am I doing and what does it mean?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Distracted by Mushrooms

Pholiota limonella, Pittsburgh, October, 2015

While splitting wood I noticed a cluster of mushrooms growing on the base of the chopping block.  This served to provide me with the merest of distractions and I set aside the axe and took up 'Peterson' Field Guide to Identifying Mushrooms'.  While not entirely useless, it did lead me down a couple of wrong paths and one blind alley.  Forced to use broad, descriptive terms on google images, I finally fell upon a site that helped me properly identify the fungi (hopefully, it's poisonous anyway, so it's not like there's some sort of culinary calamity awaiting).  It is Pholiota limonella, and this opinion is reinforced by the fact that the mushroom does indeed make a rusty spore print.  I should've photographed the spore print to include here, but I'm recharging my camera battery right now.
Nothing left to do but get back to splitting those logs.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Natural History Museum (London) Wildlife Photography Winners

Edwin Giesbers, Crested Newt, Reptile/Amphibian Winner

It's that time of year again, when the Natural History Museum in London announces their wildlife photography winners.  Photos submitted from around the globe compete in categories ranging from reptile/amphibian, urban wildlife, underwater, from the sky, young photographer, to the overall grand prize winner.
I chose to highlight Edwin Giesbers' shot over the grand prize winner Don Gutoski's "A Tale of Two Foxes" because of the trees.  Notice the gaps between each tree's foliage?  That's known as 'canopy shyness' and it is how trees evolved to share space and thrive.  I first learned about canopy - or crown - shyness from a blog post on TYWKIWDBI a month ago, and it's why I knew exactly what I was seeing serving as a backdrop to the crested newt suspended in a pond.  Giesbers donned a wetsuit and remained very still while submerged to get this perfect shot from beneath.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Beyond the Catdoor

Pepe The Cross-Eyed Cat, Pittsburgh, 2015

To keep the dog out of the cat box in the basement, we installed a catdoor.  Perhaps a common sense approach and not so remarkable.  But, the manner in which Pepe sneaks up on the catdoor, and then bursts through like he's traveling through time or dimensions, does make it hugely entertaining.  I like to think that there's a parallel Cat Kingdom on the other side of that kitty portal, ruled by a foul-tempered (and foul-smelling) one-eared Tom, with intrigue and betrayal at every turn.  I'm integrating this premise into my memoir because I need more filler.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Best GIF Ever

Don't like small talk, love rainy days - Melissa Gilbert

The above is all I have as far as attribution goes.  I will say that the gif is the best gif I've ever seen.  For me gifs have an inherent problem, and that is that the repetitiveness of them is annoying, nearly seizure inducing.  But this, this is seamless and almost soothing.
Continue on, little rainy gif.  Continue on.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Moth On Glass

Ectropis crepuscularia, Fombell, PA 2015

As seen on a window at my mother's house.  I was there to take pictures of the house, just as a keepsake sort of thing as my mother has put the house on the market.  Odd, really, to think of 'the farm' not being there, or being there, but not for us.  Originally the barn was built in 1880 (and destroyed by a tornado on May 31, 1985) and the house was built in 1881.  My great-grandparents, German farmers, bought the property in 1919 and it's been in the family ever since.  Now, it's become too much for my widowed mother to keep up.  The last straw may have come this summer when a groundhog took up residence under the side porch and started to compromise the foundation on that side of the house.  Although my mother claims that at one time she was a crack shot, I don't think she could hit the broadside of a barn now.  And, to make matters worse, my oldest brother (who lives next to mom) has become so passive that he refused to shoot it.  My son, luckily, had no qualms about dispatching the digging fiend.  Typically I do promote live trapping an animal and releasing it elsewhere, but we've got a glut of groundhogs and sometimes you just have to get rid of it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

What Is Dark Matter? It Doesn't know Either

The thing is, we don't know precisely what constitutes dark matter, which leads us to the SyFy show of the same name.  That particular strain of Dark Matter is something of a Firefly lite, sharing certain aspects of a space boat crew wanted by authorities for various reasons, mostly for killin' and thievin'.  While a few other similarities remain (the female waif with hidden skills), all other comparisons turn to ash and scatter on a solar wind.
One of the things that made Firefly so watchable and enjoyable was the snappy writing and a cast that could deliver their lines with an unforced naturalness, a cornerstone to good acting as it translates to the viewer.  Dark Matter misses out on both snappy writing and anything over barely acceptable acting.  The 'hero', if he is that, Number One (as he is designated because he was the first one to come out of stasis, and since the crew has amnesia and no one knows their names anyway, why not just go with numbers?) is one of the least enjoyable actors I've ever suffered to watch for an entire season.  Nothing he says and emotes seem genuine in the least.  But, worse than him, is Number Three, the Firefly 'Jane' character who is supposed to be the tough guy with a good heart when their back is against the wall, and also comic relief-y.  Number Three is not only not funny - how can you be funny when the script is this lame? - but he telegraphs everything.  Look!  I'm being sensitive!  Caring!  Wretched.
Then, suddenly and without warning, although I can hardly say that I'm surprised, the season 1 finale somehow had the entire crew of the ship ignore all that they'd been through for the past seven or eight episodes, how they'd come to trust each other and work as a team, and instead turn on each other for no apparent reason, suspecting everybody except the one who really double-crossed them (spoiler - It's Number Six!).  I was berating the episode throughout, so much so that my wife asked me to please be quiet.
I will not be returning for season 2 of this travesty.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fungal Rabbit Head In Jar

Seed Fungus, Pittsburgh, 2015

Things, nature, being what they are, is, when I collected some burdock seed burrs, and neglected to dry them before sealing them up in a jar, they sprouted some very funky fungi.  The rabbit-like head of the fungus as it began to dissolve reminded me of  the movie "Donnie Darko", and is every bit as disturbing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

FSA Photographs Available

Youths at City Dump, Ambridge, PA, Arthur Rothstein photographer, July 1938

During the Great Depression, the FSA (Farm Security Administration) hired photographers to go out across the country and document what was happening to the people in both rural and urban settings.  The good people at Yale University have cataloged these photographs by region, and those images are available now online.  It's fascinating!  And just when you feel inclined to overly romanticize the past, the harsh reality of low wages, long hours, and overcrowded tenements crushes those halcyon dreams of yon.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Pieris rapae, European Cabbage Butterfly, Female and Male, Pittsburgh, 2015

Pieris rapae is not native to North America, but when it arrived in Quebec City in 1861, secreted in a shipment of cabbages from across the pond, it took less than fifty years for it to spread from sea to sea.  Now it is ubiquitous, the most commonly sighted butterfly, particularly in gardens where members of the cabbage family might be growing.  These little buggers did a number on my bok choi this year, sadly.
In the above photo that is a female (two dots on the upper wing) and a male (one dot on the upper wing), fresh out of the kill jar and ready for the next step in mounting.
To get the wings to stay spread out flat, you pin the butterfly to foam board, then use two strips of paper over the wings, and then tape the paper down to the foam board to secure it.
A step-by-step tutorial on how to mount butterflies can be found here.