Friday, January 21, 2011

Because It's True

I don't care if this is "unprofessional" but I think this is a very appropriate screensaver about now. And it's true.

I posted this photo last year, but thought it really deserved to resurface.

I don't often stop at Starbucks on my way to work, but I thought today should be an exception. Because I'm desperate.

Here's my approach to the window:

And now, I prepare to roll down my window. I don't want to. Starbucks Coffee is no consolation for frickin' 40 below:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ever Wonder What it Sounds Like at -40 degrees

Well, at 40 below windchill (-23 without windchill), it sounds crunchy. There's not much noise otherwise outside, definitely no chit-chat of gathering neighbors. But the tires of cars and trucks, and footsteps, make a distinct "crunch" sound when it's this cold. It's a strange signature of this temperature; sound breaks sharper and echoes as you walk across the snow---crunch . . . ~ . . . crunch. . . ~ . . . crunch. Mostly, I try to walk very fast, when it's like this, so it's a little more like crunch!crunch!crunch!

This is the same photo, only without noise reduction applied. It's equally cold.

Our newscaster just said there's a possibility that it will be 30 to 40 below tonight without windchill, depending on cloud cover. He's a poor excuse of a rotten human being, through and through.
I'm hoping for the cloud cover.
This cold, it hurts when you breathe in, so I also tried to hold my breath, while I crunch!crunch!crunch!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Are you up for 214 pages of weirdness?

No, not my post, but an old (1962) novel, "We Have Always Lived in the Castle," by Shirley Jackson.

Do you remember Shirley Jackson? She wrote "The Lottery," and back when I was in high school, this was pretty much required reading. I've often thought of The Lottery over the years, and Shirley Jackson's portrayal of brutality in the name of compliance.

In my Classics ReRead Book Club at the Grand Forks Public Library, we recently read We Have Always Lived in the Castle, another book by Shirley Jackson; I'm suspecting this will be another book that filters into my thought at odd moments in the future, reflecting life around me.

You wouldn't think that this plot reflects any life as we typically know it. This book follows the very strange Merricat, an 18 year old woman who lives in seclusion with her sister, Constance, and Uncle Julian in a house on the edge of town. The Blackwells are outcasts; Constance was accused of but found innocent of poisoning the rest of her family, several years earlier, with arsenic, traced to the sugar bowl. Constance likes to cook. . .

The Blackwells are outcasts not just because of the family murder; they are also outcasts because they were rich. And in their seclusion their very odd, idiosyncratic and bizarre points of view become more. . . . unique. . . the more they separate themselves from the rest of the world.

I don't think this would be such a compelling book if it was just about their strangeness; what makes it most compelling is the reaction of the community to the Blackwells. Although some reach out, another response of raw hostility occurs during the midst of trying to save the Blackwell house during a fire. I read that Shirley Jackson herself in her own life felt very rejected by her community, and I think her books take those all too universal instances of people feeling like outsiders and writing about them, symbolically and metaphorically, in the extreme. And she is particular fond of examining that edge between societal compliance and differentness. Shirley Jackson never got even; she wrote! Just think what she might have written in this day and age in response to TSA checkpoints in airports!

I enjoyed this book immensely, but I will caution that others in my book club did not; they thought Merricat was too weird, but that's why I liked her!

What's even weirder is life in Grand Forks. How do we survive -36 to -45 windchills? I don't know; . . . cuddle duds help. Last night, my weather bug registered -36, but rumor has it we're settling into a bone-crunching -45 tonight.

Which way is outta here?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Is Minus 31 Degrees Really Necessary? AND the snow????

We are on the 6th day in a row of getting snow, and it's becoming quite tiresome! But not nearly as tiresome as the minus 31 degrees with windchill last night. Grand Forks has even't stopped putting its salty brine mixture on the road to help to melt the ice. . . . because it's freezing into a slick glaze and making things even worse.

It's only January, and we have much, much more of winter to go. Well, at least it's not New York. . . .

My morning task is to brush all this stuff off my car. Strangely, I have to be particularly careful to get it off the roof and hood. If I don't, no matter how much I've let the car run to warm it up, approximately 2 1/2 minutes after I start driving, the snow from the roof, which falls on the hood, and the snow on the hood is sucked into my car through it's intake system, as moisture, and freezes solid on the inside of all my car windows. It's rather disturbing, especially when 2 1/2 minutes takes me from my parking lot to the center of the bridge, and I can't see a thing! I literally scrape away a little peep hole on the inside of my car with an old plastic card/hotel door key.

I was really happy when, after many years, I finally figured out that clearing the snow from the roof and hood would solve this problem.

And just a little view outside my office window:

By the way,the book in my post yesterday is not a blurb book, but a blog2print or sharedbook. It was extremely easy to make, and before Christmas they were running some specials (which I suspect is a very frequent thing.) I sent them a "support" question, and rapidly got an answer that the photos could be sRGB (they prefer RGB) and that the 72 dpi resolution would be fine. So using the photos that were uploaded to the blog works well. It sucks up the dates of the blog you specify, so it's really easy to create a book with very little effort. I really didn't want to spend much time on this, especially before Christmas, and just get a little sampling of posts from the summer. I didn't want to be perfectionistic about it, and since it wasn't very expensive, I was willing to be quite casual about it. So I just rapidly put it together, let Doug give it to me for Christmas, and now I'm really, really glad I did it! I'll appreciate it a lot in the future, when the technology of blogs may be long-gone, as just a little memento of this fun chapter in our lives. I really did approach this as "perfection is the enemy of the good" so it wouldn't become a huge time-consuming project. I'm thinking of doing another book of just my "cranky woman" posts (see label on left in side-bar), although why I would want this is kind of a mystery to me. I guess I just value my quirky side ( I mean, I WOULD value my quirky side, if I had one.)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I'm Sorry Canon Point & Shoot; I'm Just Not That Into You

The test is over; I just can't embrace my new Canon s95 Point and Shoot. It's fine; it's not bad. . . .but it just doesn't make my heart go "pitter patter."

I got a point and shoot for Christmas, thinking it would make my purse weigh 700 lbs less, and would be easier to carry around while slogging and trudging through the snow.

And. . . . it was a lovely thought, but I just never felt like taking it out of my purse and taking photographs with it. I do have some photos taken with it, and will be happy to have those later, but they don't tend to be photos that I love, or photos that I'm excited about taking.

So, my Nikon D300s is (and acting a little snug about it) back in my purse. . . and calling my name again! (my little precious!)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I Whacked my Husband, but It Wasn't His Fault!

I was having one of those nightmares. You know the kind. The kind where you're trying to ward off the Bad Guy, and you can't move. But I tried, and tried, and next thing I knew, I smacked my husband in his sleep! Fortunately, it wasn't that hard, and he didn't even wake up. Maybe this is a case of "Let Sleeping Dougs Lie. . . . . "

But maybe he deserved to be whacked, after all!

Later in the day, he said to me, and I quote "I just had this thought, all by myself, in my own head." (Literally, he said that! And he really is a smart guy!)

Because we have these huge piles of snow hanging down over our windows. That's a bad thing. It causes leaky roof problems, and broken things. And it makes winter even darker. Last winter, we hired some guys to come shovel the snow off our roof, and after we paid them lots of money, in the spring, we noticed lots of broken pieces from our roof on the ground all around the house. And it was very, VERY, expensive replacing our roof. . . .

So Doug's Really Great Idea in his own head was that he was going to get on a ladder outside, and throw a basketball over and over at the roof, knocking down the snow!

I voted "no." Thoughts in my head ran more along the lines of him falling off the ladder, the basketball damaging the roof, breaking a window, who was going to be grabbing that ball in the snow over and over and handing it back up to him, and that it really wouldn't knock much snow down.

So we opened the windows, took off the screens, and used brooms to at least knock the hanging down snow. . . down.

My coworker tells me there are actually these long, telescoping, rake thingies that we can use to rake the snow off our roof.

I bet it would be a REALLY GOOD IDEA to try and do this before the Siberian Arctic Express hits us in the next 7 days!

Obsessed or a Resolution?

So what's the difference between a resolution, or being obsessed?

From the Free Dictionary:
res·o·lu·tion (rz-lshn)
1. The state or quality of being resolute; firm determination.
2. A resolving to do something.
3. A course of action determined or decided on.
4. A formal statement of a decision or expression of opinion put before or adopted by an assembly such as the U.S. Congress.
5. Physics & Chemistry The act or process of separating or reducing something into its constituent parts: the prismatic resolution of sunlight into its spectral colors.
6. The fineness of detail that can be distinguished in an image, as on a video display terminal.
7. Medicine The subsiding or termination of an abnormal condition, such as a fever or an inflammation.
8. Law A court decision.
a. An explanation, as of a problem or puzzle; a solution.
b. The part of a literary work in which the complications of the plot are resolved or simplified.
10. Music
a. The progression of a dissonant tone or chord to a consonant tone or chord.
b. The tone or chord to which such a progression is made.
11. The substitution of one metrical unit for another, especially the substitution of two short syllables for one long syllable in quantitative verse.

For whatever reason, I was determined today to find Celestial Seasoning "Nutracker Sweet" tea. Someone gave me a box of these tea bags, and I really liked it. A lot. I also realized that this was a seasonal tea, and might not be available in town much longer.

And Doug and I have been enjoying Peppermint Tea by Bigelow, which may or may not be seasonal. But Doug seems to be drinking up all my (my?) tea.

I'm developing a cold, so I decided today that I had to act fast, before this cold kicks into high gear, and all the tea is gone. And I made a list of the 8 potential stores in town that might carry this tea, and set out on a path to. . . well. . . buy it all!

I managed to hit 3 stores, and found only one box of the Nutracker Sweet Tea, but 7 boxes of Peppermint. But! I discovered two other possibilities (Gingerbread and Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride). I decided to cut my craziness (I mean, agenda) short and at least go home and try these last two teas before I continued the circuit through the city. I mean, I might even not like them!

Resolution: hoard all the city's tea????

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Let Me Just Say My Children Are Odd and My Friends are NOT All Dead

Perhaps you have gleaned from my blog that I have weird children, and you would be right! Or perhaps I should say, more diplomatically, that they have strange senses of humor.

The silver lining is that Dianna showed some interest in photographing. . . . my feet! Brian gave me these socks in memory of our beloved Bonnie, and he gave Dianna this strange little book. Dianna then decided it was the perfect opportunity to photograph my feet along with her book:

But the really, really, wonderful thing is that Doug is beginning to show signs of melting his cold, hard-hearted heart (ONLY on this issue, and only if he doesn't change his position!) and relent on our getting another dog.

Sure, we could live a fine, adequate, semblance of a lame life without a dog, kind of a life that's been desaturated in photoshop of all color and joy, but there are better options! (It's probably why the dinosaurs went extinct; they didn't get to have dogs!)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year's!

Toasting the New Year is the perfect time to put all my camera gadgets to work!

It took me a good year, but I finally figured out the very bad English translation from Japanese of the instructions for the remote for my Nikon D300s.

And my problem was so silly: I just could not find where the remote receiver attached to the camera! It turned out to be under a little rubber cap on the front left of the camera! Right there in plain sight! Ah,. . . well, . . . I got to used it quite a bit this Christmas!

So that's why you're seeing a few photos of me this year; it's not that I've suddenly turned into some kind of narcissist; it's just that it's easier to coerce me and dear Doug to pose for pictures, than other members of my family, and with this remote, now I'm fair game for practice.

So, for our New Year's toast, I used my tripod, SB800 set on iTTL, -2/3 exposure compensation and a diffuser bounced off the ceiling above us; ISO 400, f/6.3; ss .5, and the Nikon 2.8 105 mm lens.

On the Nikon D300s, you can arrange and save settings in different "banks" known as "Picture Controls." I have one set up for portraits, and one set up for more vivid color processing, and then another set to just use jpeg formats & vivid processing. Unfortunately, I goofed, and picked the more vivid processing, and then had to beat back some of that wild Nikon color in post processing. . . .

Doug and I did what we usually do on New Year's eve; we search for old episodes of "Cops", although this year we delved into new territory: "Mall Cops."

Perhaps you remember my inadvertent ending up in an episode of Mall Cops. I thought it was just a re-enactment that was being filmed, not an actual event involving a guy from Russia being tackled to the floor in the restaurant in which we were eating. And I jumped up to photograph the blood!
If you must, you can see that post here.

The episode I ended up in. . . . or rather, the back of my head ended up in it. . . is the first episode of Mall Cops, after the pilot episode.

But I digress (or am about to, now.) We had actually considered breaking with our usual New Year's Eve "Cops" tradition by going out with friends to hear music New Year's Eve.

Fate would have none of it, and sent a 2nd blizzard in two days to our little neck of the woods, and stranded us inside, with Netflix, Nikon, "Mall Cops," and a bottle of champaign.

I hope your celebrating the New Year was equally fun!