Saturday, January 30, 2016

Shadow Skull

Deer Skull Study, Pittsburgh, 2016

I liked the idea of the skull emerging out of shadow.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Hold The Salt

Red Chair Fallow Field, Pittsburgh, 2012

Seldom is the evening that we find our selves dining out at a restaurant.  The reasons are pretty simple:  1)  I enjoy being in the kitchen.  2)  It's easier to prepared healthy meals at home (less salt, less fat, less sugar).  3)  Cost. 
What annoys me the most about dining out is the amount of salt used in basically every single dish.  Chain restaurants are the worst offenders for salt and fat.  Although, Emeril Lagasse, a supposed master chef who should know better, is right up there with the worst of the worst.  Anyway, couple of years ago we were given a gift card to Outback Steakhouse and since there's one within a few miles of our house, we went there for steaks.  The American Heart Association recommends that an adult consume no more than 1500mg of sodium per day, and that steak alone contained nearly half of a daily allowance (740mg).  Once you factor in the accompanying house salad with light balsamic vinaigrette, and plain baked potato, your sodium intake tops off at 1860mg.
Why?  Why so much salt?  I don't enjoy an overly salted meal at all, but this seems to be common across the board in American restaurants, from high end establishments to Burger King.  Is it possible that high sodium in restaurant food is simply a default result?  Because sense of smell is linked to our sense of taste intrinsically, and because these two senses vary widely in the general population, particularly between men and women, have the restaurateurs chosen to cater to the lowest common denominator of taste, to over salt everything?  And you know, the old adage holds true; it's easier to add salt than it is to take it back out.  Why not leave that choice to the diner?  I know that some foodies are hysterical when it comes to proper seasoning, with Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio often going off on contestants who under season food, but to me this makes no sense.  Given the differences between individuals in their ability to taste, or process what they are testing, how can anyone set a standard for salt?  Especially once you consider the health implication.  Shouldn't it be imperative to under season with salt?  If the person eating that dish wants to salt it like Dick Cheney, then let them assume that risk.  I for one don't want some clod in the kitchen who thinks that the more salt the better is the way to prepare food making that choice for me.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Return of The X-Files

     The X-Files have returned!  Despite the premier episode of the 10th season garnering lackluster reviews, I was on board no matter what.  I mean, come on!  It's The X-Files, the show that paved the way for all of the weird science-y, crazy theory shows that have followed in its wake.  And I'm glad that I read the bad reviews of the first episode.  That set the bar so low for what I might expect that I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the 43 minutes of set-up and exposition wasn't nearly as clunky as I thought it would be.  Don't get me wrong, it was still clunky, but not unwatchably clunky.  The one main thing that I'm really pleased about is that Mulder and Scully are no longer a couple.  That didn't work for me, and felt forced.  It would've felt organic if the agents had fallen in love in the second or third season, but by the time the powers that be saw fit to have them hook up, it just felt wrong.  They are better as friends, colleagues.
     The biggest and best thing about the 6 episode run of The X-Files' return is that nothing is left dangling.  There isn't time to drag out tired plotlines or construct blind alleys.  There can be no misdirection episodes because there isn't time.  The short series order has worked really well for Marvel's Agent Carter as well.  You can almost hear someone yelling, "Snap to it!" to keeping the story moving forward.  So, instead of finding out in the season finale whether or not Scully's got alien DNA, we found out at the end of the episode.  Yay!  Just tell us everything!
     I didn't read the reviews for the next two episodes (three episodes were made available for review), but I do know that they were reviewed much more favorably.  Now I just want to enjoy the ride while it lasts.  Revel in that alternative world of conspiracies, monsters, and Gillian Anderson once more occupying the skin of Special Agent Dana Scully.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Peregine Falcon on the Ledge

Photo Credit:  Yarone Zober, Pittsburgh, 2016

Though I'm fairly active on Facebook, I kind of find it vapid.  Not so this morning, when in my feed a friend had shared this photo taken two days ago in a high rise in downtown Pittsburgh.  Peregrines have been nesting on the ledges of Pittsburgh buildings for decades, but seldom have they been photographed as stunningly as in this shot.  Zober is not a professional photographer, and to the best of my knowledge, isn't even an amateur shutterbug.  He was simply at work and because every cell phone has a camera feature - voila!  Of course this draws into focus the changing nature of photography, how anyone and everyone is really a photographer now, a documentor of their world and experience.  And thank God because I wouldn't want to miss seeing a shot as stunning and perfect as this. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Arctic Blasts

Arctic Blast, Zelienople, 2016

This winter the weather has been extremely erratic.  55F one day, then two days later it's 7F with a subzero windchill.  This morning I felt lucky that my car started as I had places to go, people to see.  Unfortunately after my first stop the engine refused to turn over, but fortunately I have AAA.  When I called their emergency roadside assistance line (15 minute wait on hold), I was informed that it would be a two hour wait for a jump, and FIVE hour wait for a new battery.  I opted for the battery to be jumped.  I called the people I was supposed to meet and explained that the ten year old battery in my Subaru Forrester was mostly dead and I was stuck in a shop staying warm until the auto guy showed up.  Which, as it turns out was a lot sooner than two hours - in more like ten minutes.  It seems that he was at a business nearby giving someone a jump and when he saw the proximity of the call, he decided to pop in.  Incredible!  One of those rare occurrences where you end up feeling lucky even while dealing with an ice cold hardship.
Anyway, it started right up with the jump and the guy said rather emphatically, "Go straight to someplace that can replace the battery, don't turn the car off."  I drove home, left the car running, and dashed in to check online if Advanced Auto installs batteries.  They do!  I thought they did and they do.  I called and told them to expect me in ten minutes.  That's pretty much the entirety of the story, such as it is.  And, if there's anything to be learned from this it's that I knew two years ago that the battery struggled mightily during the polar vortex to start the car, and that it was the original battery that came with the car.  Yet, I resisted replacing it, even though I knew better!  Today could've been so much worse, and I hope in the future I deal with ultra cold weather and my car in a more progressive manner.

Friday, January 15, 2016


Speck Fine Particle Matter Detector, Pittsburgh, 2016

Speck (tm) is a fine particle matter device that allows you to easily monitor the quality of the air in your home.  Developed at the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute, its primary application is for individuals with lung and heart ailments to better be able to control their indoor environments.  While neither I nor my wife suffer from these sorts of illnesses, I got a Speck detector on loan through the Carnegie Library system in Pittsburgh.  
Pittsburgh has the most polluted air in the country outside of California, and it's all fine particulates that you can't see, except when you're cleaning, and then there's a fine black filth adhering to the rag, resettled airborne residue from nearby coal burning power plants.  I was curious about our indoor air quality because we do have a dog and a cat, and most winter nights I have a fire going in the wood burning stove.  When I took the picture above, the furnace had just kicked on and the PM indicator began to spike.  Well, what do you know, someone forgot to change the filter in the furnace this past fall.  I took care of that first thing this morning, installing an allergen plus to cut down on the circulating dust.
Tomorrow I'll move it to another room, the instructions tell you to monitor throughout your house.  I pulled up all of the wall-to-wall carpets last year, so I'm not anticipating much change.  I am curious to see what we'll find when we take it over to my mother-in-law's house.  Like a lot of old people, she doesn't think that she needs to clean very often, and almost never vacuums.  She's very asthmatic and prone to bouts of bronchitis, so maybe if we can show her the PM level indoors, maybe she'll make some adjustments.  I'm not holding my breath, though.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Downton Abbey

Lurching toward its series conclusion, Downton Abbey in season 6 is something of an empty vessel compared to what it was in season 1.  The only constant, for me, is what a colossal buffoon Lord Grantham remains.  The character is such an unmitigated twit that how has he managed not to choke to death on a button that he mistook for a toffee? 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Birds Do It, Bees Do It

Mating Pair Horseshoe Crabs, Prime Hook, DE, 2014

And yes, even marine arthropods do it.  A fair number of crabs die during this activity, they become overturned by the surf and then it's curtains for them.  Beachcombers are asked to simply right the floundering animals.  I can't tell you how many of these crabs we flipped back over.  I hope they were more successful in their later attempts to fertilize those eggs.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Waterlogue's Biggest Flaw

The Artist In The Studio, Zelienople, 2016

The Waterlogue app is great for many things, but it can't do faces, and more specifically, eyes.  In fact, it's a disaster with eyes.  From what I've read about the app and continued improvements being made on it, microsoft is working out the glitches on this, but I'm wondering if it might be one of those intangibles that defies tweaking.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Maine Coast

Maine Coast, 2011, Waterlogue

The rugged coast of Maine with the Waterlogue effect added.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

How I Spent Some Of That Ebay Money

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1 Camera, Pittsburgh, 2016

I finally pried open ye olde wallet and bought the camera that I've had my eye on since May 2013.  Clearly I am not concerned with buying the latest thing, but I am concerned with getting what fits with my style of photography.  And, navigating the digital field of equipment has been interesting, enlightening.  Switching from film to digital was not a quick transition for me.  I resisted for a long time because the new tech was both new (obviously) and pricey (eep).  I didn't want to feel the need to upgrade with each advancement in features and picture quality.  Now, the megapixels are such that quality, resolution, are much less of an issue than they were ten years ago.
Now I have two good digital cameras that I'm happy with.  I bought the first one, a Panasonic Lumix FZ40 fixed lens model, 12.1 mp, about five years ago.  It's really a wonderful camera to have in your bag, at the ready, for all of those fleeting moments that demand to be captured.  The only thing I missed from my old film Pentax A3000 SLR was the ability to switch out lenses, especially for landscape and nature shots.  That's when I started scouting out the Lumix DMC-GX1, 16.1 mp, digital SLR.  The Panasonic Lumix brand is my camera of choice and the reasons why are quality and price.  Quality in that the lenses are designed and crafted by Leica, and price because the cameras are much less expensive than Nikon or Canon (two brands I have never used anyway).
Basically I'm pretty excited to finally have this camera that I've been mooning over for so long.  I hope to do it justice with some good work, but I also have no problem with mediocrity.
And here endeth this untended advertisement.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Summer In Winter

American Goldfinch, Dwarf Sunflower, Pittsburgh, 2015

Now that it's finally gotten cold in my area, I'm posting a bit of summer glory.  I'm still tinkering around with the Waterlogue effect.  Although, I have to agree with my one (my only!) commenter that the effect seems to work best on water scenes.  Still, I kind of like this picture, even if the green is too bright and over powers the scene.

Friday, January 1, 2016


Pittsburgh, 2015, The Headless Women

And in the corner of the garden stood the headless women...  At the far end of the parking lot at the Mattress Factory Museum, there is an overgrown garden which is now peopled by the beheaded statues of women, brought together for an exhibition years ago at the museum, but then simply stayed.  Classic not only in dress and form, but also in having lost their heads.  A time honored tradition of men lopping the heads off of statuary, particularly female statuary, for something to do, possibly providing the male thugs an opportunity to bond over their appetite for destruction and misogyny.  While this is actually a 'thing', the beheading of statues representing women, there is precious little written about it, at least on the internet because I am finding nada, nyet, nil.  Which leaves me the beggars argument:  Anecdotal evidence.

Venus and Diana, North Carolina, 2012

Apollo and Jupiter, North Carolina, 2012

I do not believe that it was the result of a random act of vandalism that the two statues representing female Roman gods had a hammer taken to their faces while the male gods are unmarred.  These statues are (or were) placed in the Elizabethan Gardens in North Carolina.  We visited there in June of 2012 for something to do, as we had our mothers vacationing with us on the Outer Banks, and old ladies like gardens, flowers, bees.  Since all four of these statues are placed together, it was impossible not to notice what had happened to two of them.  But then, maybe I look for it.  Is the instance of headless female statuary prevalent or incidental?  Of course I don't believe that its incidental because so rarely have I come across a headless male statue in a public space (park, cemetery) that I couldn't even give you a single instance.  I realize that my experience isn't enough to be conclusive for anyone other than me, but it does color how I view these things when I come upon them.  They are not simply acts of vandals, but indicative of a deeper, age old, struggle.  Perhaps THE struggle, the one that will always exist.