Dave's Journal, December 2010

jpganother photo (Nikon + Gimp) at the Audubon sanctuary →

have decided that lenses are too sharp for the mood i am in these days, and i actually am adding a slightly blurred layer on top of the base layer then sliding up the transparency to get the effect i like. (click image for a larger version)

jpg←and this one is a variation on a previous idea.

i'm sure this new perception i have is due to looking at other artwork, paintings that are beautiful and emotional but are definitely not high resolution, precisely focused or sharp images.

Christmas Catalogs

i am making up my Christmas want list from the various catalogs coming in the mail. so far, it reads as follows . . . .

very classy plaid sport coat ($495)
a cashmere baseball hat ($89)
a wicked nice pair of socks ($39 / pair)
an aligator belt ($395)
scrabble game ($595)
a really nice whistle ($149)
the ultimate (real!) swiss army knife ($1,400)
a nice hairbrush ($89)
a nicer (digital) hairbrush ($200)
a towel warmer($80)
a Christmas tree ($700)
a (don't laugh) watchwinder ($150)

20 minutes of Sarcasm, and the carryover feature

gif In order to "ensure domestic tranquility", we previously agreed that I would limit my sarcastic remarks to 20 minutes per day (that's 600 minutes per month), but we never negotiated a "carryover allottment" of my unused minutes. Lately I have been very good in stifling my sarcasm, as I anticpated that the Christmas weeks of December would naturally demand more than 20 minutes per day of my caustic wisdom. However, now that December is here, we are now in a deadlock about the carryover November minutes that D says get trashed at the end of the month, but I say should be added to the next month's 600 minutes.

Will keep you posted.

Trip to a Photo Lab

I accepted an invitation to see the FSU photo lab. Coelynn McIninch is the lab director, and she reminded me enormously, let's make that "a little", of Loretta, in her manner of speaking ! There was only one student puttering about, as the professor was on a sabattical and there is no class currently in progress.

jpg I got to enter a few "darkrooms" and I can tell you they are . . . um . . . very, totally, utterly devoid of light, and it is unnerving at first. It gets a little better when you turn on the "safe light" which is a very (make that very) dim red light. I saw what I have to set up in my basement and it won't be really bad, but I do wish that I had installed a sink down there when we refinished it, but ce la vie.

I don't want to start shooting rolls and rolls of 120 film until I get a system or procedure for keeping the cost down, and a darkroom is the only way to do that. Plus I learned about a cheap Canon scanner $177 that will scan 120 negatives, which is extremely nice. So the plan to shoot medium format film is taking shape, but won't happen until after the 1st of the year.

Anechoic chamber: The photographic darkrooms reminder me of the soundproof chambers where we tested motors back in GE, Ft. Wayne. These are perfectly sound-insulated rooms, built as huge (50×50 feet!) cubes with thick concrete walls suspended on rubber vibration-deadening mounts, and the walls are sound-insulated with foam cones. There is absolutly no sound inside that room that any person or animal can hear. It is very very un-nerving inside, once the doors are closed. You become amazed at how much sound there really is outside, when you think it is "quiet". Very disturbing effect. . . . . That room was the second largest anechoic chamber in the world. Today, the GE, Ft Wayne plant is virtually abandoned, as all their motor businesses have "gone offshore".


jpgOn the way to Boston, we went into Concord so JB could feed the horses. Drove all the way in (no train) and saw the Rockettes at the Wang Center. The show was excellent, and if you admire lovely legs, it's well worth the $80 (smirk). Then ate at Jake Wirth's which is still even more fabulous than it ever was. An almost untouched 1868 saloon, specializing in down-home German food. I had the bratwurst / knockwurst combo buried in saurkraut and washed down with German beer (and I am still alive, but barely ! ). Debbie had the healthy vegy burger (get a life, please !).

Capitalism and Health Care

Today, GE changed it's health care package for retired folks (that's us) for the third time in 3 years (I officially retired 3 years ago), to "increase enrollees participation in their care treatments and to keep GE competititve in the marketplace".

I am going to spare myself the elevated blood pressure and also I will assume that whomever is reading this has enough intelligence to read between those lines as to what that means.

I remember when my parents complained about the health care system for older, retired people and I recall not worrying about it at that time because "I was covered by GE health care even beyond retirement."

I'd like to come out with a snappy TV news catchphrase like "Profit-focused capitalism and decent health care for people cannot exist in the same country at the same time", but I think that's about 6 words too long for most people to remember . . . . or care to understand.

Ultimately . . . we all become victims of what (and who !) we trust.

from the New Yorker . . .



Every time that you compliment another country for the way they run themselves, some moron in the audience waves the American flag in your face and says something like "why don't you just leave the USA and move there ? ". Then he usually farts or belches and turns his attention back to the football game he was watching (sucking on the end of a beer bottle) before you interrupted him .

My answer to that is that we (the US) should grab every good idea that someone else has worked out and go with it. (However do I think that morons should stay planted in front of their TV's and keep sucking cheap beer out of bottles and cans . . . they are a lost cause.)

Back to Norway . . . for one reason or another, I was reading about Norway, and ask you to consider this. Norway has one of the highest standards of living in the world, in terms of GDP per person. The pivotal issue that creates a splendid lifestyle for Norwegians is that their national government owns all their oil wells. The wells are not owned by private companies. Their national government takes the huge profits from the North Sea oil wells and funds the free health care and all other governmental services that Norwegians enjoy.

By contrast, in the USA, the oil profits go to the people who own and the people who run the oil companies.

Before you say "so, move to Norway", ask yourself "why isn't this a great idea for the the US? Why don't we assign ownership of US oil wells to the federal government and pour those profits into health care, social security and national defense?'

reader responses . . .

  • "Jees, Dave, we were going to keep the lid on this for a while, didn't we agree?"
    . . . B. Obama
  • "Mr. Leo, please drop by our Boston office ASAP."
    Alonso Krebs, FBI (Boston)
  • "Wow, that's so cool, Dave. So like, is Norway near Wisonsin? Or is that Nebraska?"
    . . . S. Palin
  • "So you sayin I gotsta choose tween gas fo' my car, beer fo' my football game and chemo fo' my kid?"
    . . . Joe, the village idiot (who is going to vote for our next President and Congress).

jpgInternational Teenage Test Scores

The NYTimes (and others) reported the results of educational test scores of teenages around the world. Actually the data speaks for itself (it's over there on the right), and the conclusions are obvious, embarrassing and really pathetic.

In fact, I'll bet my shoes that half of us can't read the data in that table and extract a conclusion from it . And half of the half who can do that will spit out some stupidity to discredit the data, and allow themselves to ignore the results of yet another test that shows we have (on the average) been getting stupider for decades.

Are we really this stupid? . . . Yeh, actually, pretty much that's the bottom line. We became the greatest military and political power in history and stopped evolving right there.

The irony? We smirk at the "made in China" labels on all the products we buy, sending our money to Shanghai, China, Hong Kong and Singapore . . . look at the test scores ! . . .

they have been spending our money on their kids' education and their kids are smarter, much smarter than our kids because of that .

Well . . . given the fact that no one actually cares about that trivial subject, let me say that today I tore down the fish tank to the bare glass and cleaned cleaned cleaned and re-whetever'd it and it is now . . . um . . . clean. Gotta say that it was pretty organic and smelly, and got smellier as I churned up the water and gravel, but it's now ever so clean, it looks like those tanks you see in Chinese restaurants while you are waiting for your take-out order,

(and watching the workers write checks home to China to make their kids smarter than ours.)

Safety Issues

jpg Shown here is page 6 of the 26 page safety manual that came with my drugstore reading glasses (made, by the way, in Singapore). The figure (and the accompanying undecipherable Chinese-to-English translation of the safety manual) shows a person falling down stairs because he wore his reading glasses while walking down stairs.

The short version of this story is . . . the next time that you buy reading glasses at the drugstore, spend an hour or two studying the safety procedures for their use (available on-line at safetystuff.com).

I'd like to explain more, but gotta put an ice pack on my hip rolleyes

I found a word for writers / bloggers with my attitude . . . . "snarky"

Snarky: Any language that contains quips or comments containing sarcastic, cynical or satirical witticisms intended as blunt irony. Usually abrupt and intended to stun or amuse.


my brother Bob made a brief remark about his work being hectic (i think that's the word he used) at the moment, and it made me reflect on how different being retired is from the work world . . . being retired is like sitting on a carousel horse and enjoying the ride, versus working, which is pushing the carousel to make it go 'round so someone else can enjoy the ride . . . there is no snarky punchline here, just that observation.

jpg the working world

while waiting for dinner to cook (chicken and some other stuff), and having Bob's thought in my head, i reflected back on my working days when i could "run the numbers" that showed the "definitive results" to support "obvious conclusions" in the PowerPoint "takeaways" at the bottom of each page.

so i got a kick out of this cartoon from last week's New Yorker . . .

and . . . another something to think about . . .

# no long chair lift lines
# optional side exit ramp (not shown) into heavily wooded area adds a notable thrill
# offers continous thrills versus the old "wait-thrill-wait-thrill" scenario

# not easy to get on and off (helicopter drop looks workable )
# people with more aerodynamic drag will land on top of streamlined people
# few opportunities for ski-chat
# lack of slolum turns and cutbacks will bore some people
# a sudden cross wind can become problematic (depending on your position in the loop)

Louie's 100th Birthday Party : my next door neighbor was 100 years old yesterday, and the town blocked off the street and had a Christmas party on his lawn. It went on for hours in 200F temperatures ! I took a photo from the spare bedroom window.


I rarely link to outside commercial vendors, but I feel like doing that at the moment. These are two very excellent pottery makers that I met last week at the craft show (and bought some of their stuff). If you like hand-made pottery, and are ready to pay the higher prices for quality work ($25 - $35 for a coffee mug !), you may like what these folks produce.

Maya Machin . . . . . Kris O'Neill

Patty, Debbie, Judy last night at Apple Hill


It was a bad night for me with hearing and, at about 8:00 my brain burned out from trying to decifer words and it just shutdown and I watched the people at other tables and mentally wrote their dialogs, based on their body language with each other, for the next hour and we left.


the pond this morning looks like a threatening eye from underground (i gotta cut back on the godzilla movies).

i started the fireplace, as we will be in pyjamas all day I am sure, as the sleet is getting worse out there . . . a day of magazines, books and movies (after I log out here).

jpg Telegram from Italy to Mike: Our collaborator spoke with the Registrar and your Italian birth certificate is ready, there had been some problem with the transcription.

We agreed, however, not to celebrate until Mike actually has his Italian passport in his greasy little paws. . . . nonetheless, we are ever so happy !

a sexy, geeky, math joke . . .


not a sexy math joke . . .


Lexi (is she praying ?)


Softball Stories

jpg Back in Indiana, I coached girls' softball for one year. Not the biggest mistake of my life, but up there in the top ten (maybe like #6 or #7).

"Nothing serious, we want the girls to have fun in the Summer and get some sports experience", the neighbors said, "and so many girls signed up, we need to form an new team and need a coach. Can you help out?"

"Yeh, I guess I can. Okay, I'll do it."

Well . . . the new team was not made up of all the new girls who signed up that year. The existing coaches, I later found out, had field tested the girls and selected out the really good new players to the old teams, dumped the players they did not want into the "new" pool along with any girls who had not tried out for softball (one of whom was my daughter, Loretta, who I don't think had ever even seen a softball game before in her life). I didn't suspect anything until the first game when I saw the opposing team was at least 8" taller and 30pounds heavier than our team. Well, you know, you play the hand they deal you and do your best and we did just that.

Well, the other teams blasted their way all over the field and they shut a few of our games down before we ever got to bat, because there's a scoring limit that they end the game at. How small were my girls? There were only 2 out of 13 who could throw from third base anywhere close to first base. Our outfielders had to run the ball into the infield before they could throw it to one of the bases (in the meantime, of course, the other team were outrunning them around the bases, so virtually every hit that got into our outfiled was a homerun).

Did the other coaches, or the league managers give a sh#t? Don't be silly. This is a competitive sport . . . it's dog eat dog . . some kids are winners, some kids are losers . . . helps us sort out the strong from the weak . . . only the strong survive . . . makes the species better . . . makes our country stronger . . . . how else are they gonna learn to compete?

"Oh . . . I thought it was girls' Summer softball". (Silly me)

Well we lost every game and I'm sure that every girl on my team learned to hate sports. And actually, I personally have never gotten over the experience. In fact I am so upset now that I'm thinking about how unfair it was, I am going to skip with the stories I was going to tell, and drop it here.

If you click the picture, you can see a larger version of it. Loretta is front and center, and it occurs to me now that I never apologized to her for dragging her into that experience.

from a bag of old snapshots in the file cabinet . . .

jpg jpg

jpgDiners, Dives and Drive-Ins

in that pan over there is frijoles blancos, frijoles negros, hot dogs, ketchup, worcestershire sauce, chili, cumin, salt, ketchup . . . . (not shown is the open bottle of Chianti Italiano that Mike gave me a few weeks back) . . . (poor Debbie).

Debbie's Drugs

Yesterday, Deb noticed that the label on her prescription drug was wrong. Wrong name, wrong drug. Today I went to the drug store to sort it out.

Me: You folks gave my wife the wrong bottle of pills.
Person: Name please
(I give name, person looks up computer.)
Person: These are the correct pills, sir.
Me: That's interesting, as you haven't even looked at the bottle of pills I just handed you.
(Person takes pills, looks at label, turns pale, scrambles off to the back of the pharmacy, comes back flustered.)
jpg Person: Did she take any of these?
Me: No
(Person smiles, rushes to the back again. Returns with new bottle of correct pills.)
Person: Here you are sir.
Me: So those were the wrong pills and these are the right pills?
Person: Yes, sir, sorry for the confusion.
Me: "Confusion?"
(Person smiles hopelessly.)
Me: So my wife can take these and not drop into a coma?
(Person smiles hopelessly . . . I leave, ever more convinced that the safest place on Earth is inside your home . . . nothing out there but stupidity and danger.)

Christmas in Sturbridge Village

Went to Sturbridge Village last night for their Christmas event. Wasn't bad. That place went down hill about 15 years ago, but looks like some new management has taken charge and it had a nice . . . um . . . vitality I guess is the word. Of course I took a camera, and posted some photos on my new Christmas2010 page.

December 21, 2010 / The Winter Solstice

We got our first (mild) snowfall this morning (i'ts still coming down a little).
The photo below is a holly bush out back, and it put me in the mood to read
The Night Before Christmas (which I used to know by heart, as a kid).

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winters nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight . . .

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Sentences (or "why i don't understand art")

from one of the books i am laboring with to understand why people paint the %$#@$# they paint . . .

..." There are several portraits of this period to which Madame Matisse should be compared, notable Mlle Yvonne Landsberg of 1914, in which the heart shaped motif of the body is reinforced by concentric contours to create a unique decorative effect of illusionary transparent planes bearing at least an accidental relationship to one of cubism's cardinal constructive devices. . . "

Whenever i'm lost for words, i publish photos of the cats. These were taken today with a 20 year old manual lens (105mm/f2.5) on a nikon D60 digital camera (they use the same lens mount ! !).

(I am struggling to mount a wonderful 35year old Minolta 50mm/1.4 lens, but Nikon did not make that so easy.)


Christmas Eve

jpg Well the Italian tradition is to have a "dinner of seven fishes" on this night, but my mother is not here to cook that and I don't have a clue, so I hope that the meal of "seven sushi" + "scallops-by-Chris" & shrimp counts as traditional.

jpg All was very good . . . except for the squid sushi (calamari) that was actually, truly uncooked raw squid and try as I may, I just could not eat it, nor could anyone else. So I will have to learn to cook fried calamari on my own at some point.

Deb made a huge pot of angel hair pasta in a Bolognese sauce that was fabulous and was enough to feed everyone in town.

Our guests were Mike, Chris, Andrea (Chris' mom), Don and Elaine (who slept over). We are off to Rick's this (Christmas) afternoon.

We are back now, tired, safe, quite . . .
Here are two photos of Elise having a "Parisian" moment at the party . .
(I'm thinking of the closeup as a perfume ad.)

jpg jpg

jpg Grand Hotel

They don't make 'em like this anymore. This classic is defined as much by its styles and acting as it is by its plot. Not to mention the timeless "I want to be alone" comment by Greta Garbo.

The plot is still "meaningful" and I think in the hands of the right producer & director, this could be well-remade today.

Gort . . . I finally decided to photograph it . . .


For a more dramatic image see Gort107 . . . or Gort109.

who am i ?

a ponderous question indeed, and why these great questions occur to me while i am watching pots boil on the stove is yet another . . . ummmm . . . ponderous question, but let me deal with the "who am i?" question first.

my dad was the standard of peacemaking, seeing the other person's point of view, re-assessing your own feelings on a subject and weighing the consequences (the risks / benefits) of personal, social conflict in the matter.

on the other hand, my mom walked around with a flame thrower ready to torch anyone who looked like they might be thinking of pissing her off.

all my (adult) life, i have struggled to be like my dad, and i've been pretty good at it (on the average), but it takes a lot of energy, and the reason that it does (i am learning late in life) is because i am genetically much more like my mother. (ask around, you'll get lots of people close to me who will verify this)

"why is this important? ", you (didn't, but should have) asked.

it's important because, as life wears on, i am running out of the energy it takes to be like my dad.

jpg Debbie's Ticket

why am i so cynical, sarcastic and generally grumpy? . . . i will tell you . . . it's for Debbie's eternal well-being (i am always behaving in her best interests).

That guy in the picture over there is Heaven's Gatekeeper, and (I imagine) the script will read as follows:

Gatekeeper: And, who are you that you should knock at Heaven's Gate?
Deb: I am Deborah, wife of David.
Gatekeeper: David? Surely not The David?
Deb: Yes, surely that's the David of whom I speak.
Gatekeeper (yelling back over His shoulder): Open wide the gates and prepare the feast, for this is Deborah, wife of the Demon, and she has spent her days in Hell and has now come home.

So . . . you see . . I am Debbie's ticket to heaven !

jpgA really nice little book

"Memories of My Life in a Polish Village", by Toby Fluek . .
not timeless, classic literature, but an extremely nice reading (some very tragic and sad parts talking about the Germans and then the Russians "occupied" Poland), probably available at your library (as soon as I bring it back !)

but . . . at the moment, i am heading upstairs for some spaghetti pie, if you please.


went to the edge of the state forest today looking for a great picture . . . didn't find one, but this little weasel came walking by like I didn't exist !


Dec.31.2010 . . . can't believe it, but it's the end of the year tonight. We'll stay at home (have never partied on New Year's Eve) and watch the crazies party on TV all over the world.



Index of My Journal Pages

if i wanted people to take me seriously
i'd keep my mouth shut.

page written by Dave Leo