Thursday, April 30, 2009

Architecture and Another Peek at London

Since this week's theme is "architecture", I thought I'd shock everyone by being on-theme!

And no, I didn't go back to London. This is a photo just now edited, with LAB mode, to see how it turned out. Note those immense mountains of snow in the streets. . . .

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Water is a good servant, but it is a cruel master.
John Bullein, 1562

The dikes protected Grand Forks this year, but when it comes to the Red River we have no illusions about who is the master! And it's so nice, each year, to leave April behind us!

ISO 400
70 mm
Manual; Raw
edited in LAB; I'm really liking LAB mode for editing landscape scenes!

Twitter! It really isn't what I thought. I didn't expect it to be a way to cull information, like about genuine medical/mental health topics: and

or that it would result in an email saying that "Lost Zombie is now following you." (This sounds much more ominous than it is, and actually involves a collaborative writing/scrapbooking project creating a scrapbook on the timeline of a superflu/zombie (fictitious) event.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Swine Flu and Piggy Banks and the Psychology of Twitter

When life hands you Swine Flu. . .

. . . turn it into a Piggy Bank and fill it with quarters!

Yeah, that was lame! But I don't think this video is! This is from Psychology Today, and raises some of those burning life questions. . . like, "If I Tweet, therefore I am?"

Monday, April 27, 2009

About Swine Flu, The Beautiful Miss Bonnie says "Stay Safe."

She's not worried about swine flu. But she does say, "Cover your mouth if you cough. Wash your hands. A lot. Avoid sickies. And if you're sick, stay home curled up in your little bed."

See? Cute AND smart.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

First Flowers of the Year!

Look! Even in North Dakota we're beginning to experience the first glimpses of Spring (even if snow IS in the forecast today.)

This is scilla, those tiny little flowers that can spread all over (but way better looking than crabgrass).

ISO 200
105 mm lens

Camera RAW; edited in LAB mode

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More Fowl Appearances of the Unusual Sort and Professor Bonnie's Book Review

This is a duck. This is a duck that was standing in my driveway this morning! For no apparent reason! I've lived here for 25 years, and have never, ever, seen a duck standing in my driveway. Or on my block. Or anywhere in my neighborhood! Just standing there, looking at my house (of course.) I don't really know Which Side this duck is on, but since it wasn't dismantling my house, I'm going to assume in was standing sentinel on MY side. An owl recruit, no doubt.

There are times when you've just got to call in a professional. Professor Bonnie is taking an instructional role in teaching me more about LAB in photoshop, in part because of her affinity for all things "lab."

Oh, and I botched it yesterday, not correctly embedding the link to the video I wanted to show you on LAB mode, so here it is again today.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I See Owls. Everywhere.

I always wanted to be part of a secret society. Not a creepy, wear white robes, do bad things, kind. . . but one with secret handshakes and mysterious signals of recognition, letting each other know that "Shhhhh. . . . I'm one too. . . . Act discrete. . . . " Preferably organizing to fight Evil. That kind.

Well, maybe I am! Everywhere I look now, I see Owls. . . my neighbor across the street has one in her yard, on top of her playground equipment. . . .I always wondered about that!

And yesterday, I picked my husband up at the airport, and there, right above both entrances to the terminal (it's a small airport in Grand Forks), were Owl Decoys! Like Sentinels watching over comings and goings. . . .

And I know they're on my side!

I reworked both these photos in Lab mode to see what color could be captured, and I'm finding that I like the technique more and more!

Here's a strange video talking more about Lab, by Deke McClelland. I've been working through one of his classes at, and this is a sample video. But, he's not anywhere near as frenetic at the site as he is on you tube!

After you watch this video, you might want to do an intervention and remove caffeine from his house! Don't Fear Lab!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lab or RGB?

An editing question for you. . . which version do you prefer. . . AND do you ever edit in LAB mode rather than RBG? I signed up for a month of lessons, and have been working through some RBG photo editing suggestions and a course on LAB editing.

The 2nd photo was edited with very basic, and minimal, LAB editing; the first in RBG. It's not actually a completely fair comparison, because the settings in RAW in the two are different. . . I left more contrast in the LAB version, added it more after RAW in the RBG version.

SB800 flash, Manual mode, f/4.0; 1/40; ISO 400, 28-75 mm lens at 75mm.

And here's a bird update! After putting up Hedwig (thanks Shirley!), the next day, I looked out the window, and there were about 20 cedar waxwings in the trees all lined up and Staring at my house! I kid you not; they were all facing the house, not looking left or right or dangling upside down from the branches.

But they stayed away!

The next day, I looked out, and The Birds were now all in one tree, looking at the house, and a squirrel was in the other tree.

And THEN! The next day, there was a dead squirrel in my driveway!!!! (aren't you glad there's no photo?)

And then today, two birds crashed into my window in the front of my house, (not the back, where the Cedar Waxwings have been massing; and I'm not sure the kamikaze birds were waxwings --I haven't checked for corpses yet.)

Huh. There's a war of some sort going on, and I know Hedwig, my Owl, is so far being successful.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My Owly Protector

See my protector? After my phone conversation with the County Extension Office yesterday, I went out and hired an owl. He agreed to work for free, dangling from my window by duck tape.

Look at what the Cedar Waxwings did to a corner of my window frame! You can't quite see it, but if you look directly under the owls eye, toward the inside of the window, you'll see a hole bored into the frame. And then all that chipped and chewed up part of the wood is also from The Birds. There was some paint chipping prior to their attack, but not anywhere near this much!

My friend, Claudette, said that Cedar Waxwings like to eat mock crabapples and can get drunk, will hang upside down on branches, fall to the ground, stumble around etc. Sometimes they line up on a branch, and pass the fruit to the back of the line until everyone gets a piece of it.

No sign of them today, but I know it wasn't just Tuesday that they were around, but it was the day they were the most numerous and relentless (about 50 to 75 in my yard!)

I'd like my house to stop being under attack, now, for awhile. . . not by air (birds), sea (flood water), land (EXCEL exploding plastic gas lines) or even any hauntings, should that occur next.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Editing and Flash Fun; War on the Cedar Waxwings

Back in January, Dianna let me practice with my flash, taking photos of her. This weekend, she gave me permission to post this one!

After adjusting colors for skin tone in CMYK, I used a selective color adjustment to remove more of a yellow cast. Hopefully, I didn't make her too pale? She IS very fair skinned! (especially in January in ND!)

News Flash: I just got a phone call from the Grand Forks County Extension office, which called the state game & fish department. They said about the only thing I could do to scare away the birds (which Pat helped me identify as Cedar Waxwings)is to put out owl silhouettes. Looks like I'm heading out to buy some owl-like objects!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I'm sorry, Florida. . . and Evil Birds

Today we had beautiful weather! It got to 65 degrees!!! There's a reason, I'm afraid. . . I took Doug to the airport this morning. I'm so sorry, Florida!
I hope the tornadoes stop soon.

But all was not sweetness and light in Grand Forks. It seems that my house is being attacked by these evil birds:

Don't be fooled by their cuteness. They have been systematically dismantling the frame around my kitchen window! WTH!!!! I don't believe "mi casa es su casa" when it comes to being an avian woodchipper trying to tunnel into my kitchen.

Anyone knows what these Alfred Hitchcock wannabes are? And how I can discourage them?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

It's 54 degrees!!!! Look at my weather pixie today! She's showing skin! And the snow is melting away here. . .

Dianna was the only one of my 3 children home for Easter this year, and she notes that, being the only participant, the annual hunt for the Easter eggs was considerably less competitive! She misses the competition. She tells me, though, that her favorite Easter story is that she and Scott would always get 90% of the eggs; Brian would get the last 10%, and FINALLY, after many years, we realized that because Brian is color blind, this wasn't exactly fair.

I mean, what the heck! What kind of competition is it when hunting Easter Eggs really relies on color? Poor Brian was like Charlie Brown's "I got a rock" at Halloween.--Dianna likes this story because of its sheer evidence-value showing our poor parenting :(

No faces were allowed (or harmed) in the taking of these Easter photos . . .

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Signs of the Red River Going Down: Grand Forks, ND

Obey all signs!

The river has now declined to 44.79 feet, from last week's high point of 49.5 feet.

Isn't it great when you've got good friends who get into serving as "scouts" for you to spot photo opportunities?

My wonderful friend, Sheila, told me that she'd seen these signs now peeking out of the water, as she went over the Kennedy Bridge.

The Kennedy Bridge is still the only open bridge between Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. Sheila drove back and forth, (unbelievably patiently!) while I tried to get shots of the signs in the water.

We'll have another crest in a week or so, and then hopefully return to normal.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Drug-Related Mystery Solved!

The Evidence:

First, this mysterious pill appeared on the desk in my office (not in my house.) I was totally baffled by it. I decided that someone else must have dropped it in my office, and the cleaning staff put it on my desk. The "L" was intriguing: Lipitor? Lorazepam? Lomotil???? I had no clue, and threw it out, hoping it wasn't someone's very expensive prescription. I told Doug about it, and he had no idea either. . . .

The Mystery Intensifies. . . the Drugs Multiply . . . Paranoid Precautions are Taken:

The next day, I found these two pills on the floor in my house! Doug also looked at them, and then we looked suspiciously at each other.

(Was my husband secretly a drug-abusing klutz, dropping his pills? Did DH have a dread disease that he was keeping from me? Did I really have a multiple personality disorder, and one part of me engaged in active drug-seeking behavior?) My husband suggested that maybe he walked in his sleep???????? (That made NO sense!)

We thought about calling my sister, MaryAnn, and describing the pills. . . she might at least know what they were. . .

I checked the tread on the bottom of my shoes, thinking maybe I had walked on a pile of pills in the snow (and they didn't dissolve?) but got stuck on my shoes, leaving one in my office, two at home. . . . But the tread was too smooth. . .

Finally, we did what any rational, law-abiding, smart, middle-aged empty-nesters would do if they were being stalked by a trail of "L" drugs:

We called our daughter at her college and told her that if we turned up dead or missing, to call the police and give them the clue that we had been being stalked by these pills and it was probably related. . .

The Guilty Party Identified:

And you all think Bonnie is just a sweet, innocent dog! But now you'll learn about her sneaky and secretive side!

I walked over to the kitchen counter and picked up the bottle of baby aspirin. Every day, Doug rolls up a little pill (A Little yellow pill with an "L" on it! How much more of a hint did we need, given that Bonnie is a yellow lab!!!) in a ball of peanut butter and buries it in her breakfast. She usually gulps down her food, slurping it, licking the bowl clean, moving the bowl all around the kitchen floor. And we feel better thinking that she'll have less aches and pains with her arthritis, and that this will protect the slightly enlarged heart of our 14 1/2 year old pooch.

And apparently, over the last 3 days, after she'd gobbled down her breakfast, she'd slink into the living room and surreptitiously drop the pill, sucked clean of all the peanut butter, onto the floor or onto the bag I carry to my office.

So if you have anything amiss in your life, think Bonnie! . . . because it turns out that she's much more clever and less innocent than she looks!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Little Ducklings, All in a Row

One of These Peeps is Not Like All the Others!

Sorry, Dianna, about raiding your Easter basket.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Fargo, ND: Build a Permanent Dike!

Seriously, it's so much better spending the days in this God-awful wintery April, building things like this out of snow, than sweating out the rise of the river. Of course we're anxious about the river in Grand Forks, but it's "left-over" anxiety, triggered by our memories of '97, rather than any kind of imminent danger of flooding from the river.

The family that created the incredible Halloween display this year in their front yard has now transformed the snow, with the help of a little food coloring, into this majestic snow sculpture. Look at the size of this thing!

There may be unease in Grand Forks right now, and a certain amount of restlessness, knowing that a 2nd river crest will come but we don't have to be in desperate survival-mode. A $417 million permanent dike buys a lot of peace of mind! Our cities (Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, on the ND and MN sides) went through the grueling recovery process that was much, much longer than we had dreamed it would be. We were told it would take 5 years to "recover" and I thought this was an outrageous amount of time. But it did take 5 years to recover from a flood that nearly erased our zip codes! And it wasn't all "Kumbaya. . . we-shall-overcome" cooperation either. People fought with each other, made accusations, pointed their fingers, stomped and hollered. . . and mainly grieved. But eventually there was agreement to proceed with the dike project, and agreement to take on our own taxes and assessments, along with federal and state funds, to build this project.

Now, looking back, it just seems that it would have been wonderful if we could have skipped the flood, skipped the fires that also broke out in the downtown on Day 2 of our own personal Horror Show, skipped shipping our children off to far away states and schools while we stayed behind to deal with the smell and the chaos, the lack of electricity and water for weeks on end . . . and built permanent protection before the flood!

With children, we want to warn them about things so that they can learn from our experiences, to save them the anguish of our mistakes, but sometimes they just have to learn for themselves.And the truth is, children NEED to learn for themselves. I SO hope it doesn't have to be the same way for Fargo, ND.

Friday, April 3, 2009

2nd Crest prediction to exceed or match first; Metropolitan Opera House, Grand Forks, ND

It's amazing to me that there's something like this Metropolitan Opera House in Grand Forks. This building is directly across the river in the downtown area, and the city strongly pushed to restore the building after much destruction from the 1997 flood.

The building (described as being of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1890 as the finest performing theater in the upper Midwest. Now it's been turned into apartments and lofts.

The restoration of the Metropolitan Opera House was highlighted in an episode of Bob Vila’s “Restore America” program on the Home & Garden Television Network!

What I personally remember is that there used to be a store just down the block from this that was an old cafe. All along the walls were little framed displays of pencils. Hundreds and hundreds of pencils. I believe they were just random pencils that the owner decided to. . . well. . . . frame! My husband and I had one of our first dates here back in 1978! :)

I also want to thank all of you for the outpouring of support you've given me in the past days, watching and monitoring the rising Red River. I'm pleased to report that tonight the river stands at 48.44 feet, and declining. Unfortunately, tonight, the National Weather Service reports that the 2nd crest, expected around April 16th (3 days after my flood insurance kicks in :) ) will match or exceed the crest of 49.5 feet. And we have a 10% chance of reaching 56'!

This is what 54.4 feet did to us in 1997. BUT we have flood walls to 60 feet, possibly 63 feet, now. And I'm so very, very glad that the photo posted above includes a "dry" street, and not one like these again.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The River Crested in Grand Forks! 49.5 feet, and falling

It's a good day in the neighborhood! The Red River of the North officially crested yesterday, at 49.5 feet, and is now falling. We're suppose to have a 2nd crest in a few weeks, but the expectation is that the worst is over (except for that wild card that Mother Nature can dish out from time to time.) Soon, we may be able to reopen bridges!

To celebrate, I consulted The Beautiful Miss Bonnie on a book review. Actually, Bonnie is the 2nd tier reviewer, because first Becky brought this book to my attention back at Christmas time. First-off, there's nothing as scary in this book as ShameWoe:( Vince the Bad. Bonnie scrutinized this book carefully, and gives it four paws up a tail-wag and drool. . . . very high marks indeed! It's a book of short stories by Stephen King, Just After Sunset, and she really liked the first story, "Willa," set in a creepy old train depot, but "The Gingerbread Girl" was her favorite. All the stories held her interest to the end, but Bonnie suggested that the last one, A Very Tight Place," is more gross-out than anything. But extremely Stephen King-ish gross out.

And because Bonnie did such a great job with this review, and because many of you urged me not to blame ShamWow! for ShameWoe:( Vince's behavior , I decided to give ShamWow! one more very cautious chance. (Mandy said," Remember, its not the product's fault. Its still a good sham wow, right?" and Jeanne said, "Remember it's not fair to blame the "kids" for the "adults'" mistakes.") Bonnie is personally testing out ShamWow!s suitability for a picnic.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Oh, Woeful Day! ShameWow :( Evil

Is nothing sacred? It's with heavy heart that I write this post. I am just crushed! My good friend, Jeanne, wrote in yesterday's post comment about Vince, the ShameWow:( LowLife, that there were news announcements that Vince had been arrested for allegedly beating up a prostitute (one who wouldn't let go of his tongue.) Eeewwwwwwwww! Now, this is NOT something that can be cleaned up with a ShameWow:(.

I don't know what to think. My bubble is burst; my illusions are destroyed. Will there be a morning after?

I find myself looking suspiciously at ShameWow:(, and suspecting that there's Actual Evil inherent in its spongey yellowness.

I combed my recent photos, and think I've found further evidence of its Nefarious Influence. Look at these two, perfectly fine, sweet, intelligent, upstanding individuals, who would normally give you the shirt (ShameWow:() off their backs:

ShameWow:( turned them into Vicious Hounds, tearing at each other, tooth and claw, to win the Precious ShameWow:(. Oh, the horror of it all!

Why, oh why did I not listen to Dylan the ShameWow:( Detector (and son of Sheila)? He was right, all along, about Vince.

Excuse me, now. I have to stop writing. And go wash my hands. :( :( :(

Oh, and the GOOD NEWS is that although the river is now at 49.5 feet, we still seem to be doing fine in Grand Forks, ND!!!! Hooray! We should have our first crest soon, and then apparently a second crest later this month. But I know it's going to be tough on Fargo, once they assess their damage.