Dave's Journal, Jan2013

From the New Yorker website this morning . . . .


More (pathetic) laughs about Congress . . .


Dave's Review of Les Miserables (the new movie)

The worse movie I have ever seen. No emotion, no character development, a boring, self-serving production that completely ignored the core, tragic point that Victor Hugo wrote into the book. Also, the music definitely "got in the way" here; not only did it add nothing to the production, the music made itself the whole point of why they made the movie, and the music just sucked.

Am I being too vague on this?

Polaroid Debbie

The cat is prowling after a crawling bug, I am watching TV and playing with the GIMP. Took a badly exposed picture of Debbie and made it look like a badly exposed Polaroid, kind of.


What's up in Times Square this very minute ? TimesSquare

A Poem of Hope (by me)

Woke up this morning and I'd swear I was dead.
My eyes were burning when I heard what she said.
News lady saying she had nothing new to say.
Not a bad thing happened in the world today.

FlyOver (by me)

God comes back now and then.
She cares about us, but She's busy and doesn't get back here as much as She'd like.

God comes back now and then.
She sends prophets, and daughters and sons of the prophets, because She is tied up with the load of God's work in the universe and can't always get here Herself.

God comes back now and then.
We kill the prophets, their daughters and sons. We kill each other endlessly too.

God comes back now and then.
A flyover this time.
"This is what you did to Me? . . . . This is what you did to Me?" She rages from a high orbit.

It's not the 5th of November, but I just need to watch "V, for Vendetta" tonight . I'm in that kind of mood, you know?

"Le Mis" / why the movie sucked

The core of Les Miserables was the story of a very personal tragedy. A police officer is driven by his sense of responsibility to the law and to the community to find a man labeled as a criminal. The man is not a criminal, but a victim of circumstance, and (because of that) he is a fugitive from justice.

The pursuit goes on (and off) for about 20 years. In the course of those years, the man proves to be a noble citizen, and rises (in most viewers' minds) to be the leading character of this story.

Over the course of time, the police officer comes to realize that the man is a decent and valuable person in the community, but nonetheless, he is the object of a very long manhunt. The law says this man must be captured and jailed. The police officer comes to realize that is not the right thing to do. There is this conflict in the policeman where the irresistible force of the law meets the immovable object of common justice. The conflict overwhelms the policeman right at the moment he has the man in custody.

Faced with the unsolvable conflict between the written law and common justice, the policeman allows the man to walk away free, then walks to the edge of the river, and lets himself to fall to death in the waters below.

That incredibly tragic story is a masterpiece of literature. And, in the movie, it is buried under tons and tons of hollywood noise and clamour, designed to make a hit at the box office.

Sunday, Jan.06.2013

Since I was a kid, Sunday night has been my mental sanctuary. I could speculate about why that is, but why should I speculate? Let's call it an unknown, huh. For some reason, unknown even to me, nothing can do any real harm to me on Sunday night. The demons are out there I know. Some are banging on the door. But it's Sunday night, you fools - you can do no harm to me tonight.

Sunday, Jan.06.1960

Yeh, I know that tomorrow is another school day, and I never did get my weekend homework done, but here I am in front of the TV watching some silly monster movie, or a Steve Reeves "Hercules" movie; mom is ironing, dad's napping, the other kids (I forget their names jpg at the moment) are . . . actually where are they?)

Sunday, Jan.06.2013

Deb is sleeping on the sofa in front the TV, the cats are snoozing, it's dark dark dark outside, and 260F, and I am by the fireplace typing my notes here. I still don't know where moms & dads other kids are (coincidentally, I forget their names jpg at the moment) . The demons are waiting until morning to attack (they have learned that I am invincible tonight), but so what. It's Sunday night. I am safe.

jpg Some people (my wife, for example) say that I don't have much to do, being retired and it being winter here. Far from the truth is that. (The tasks of snowblowing, insulating things, chopping ice dams, etc still exist, but these are so boring I can't even repackage them here into an interesting journal entry. ) Winter, for the retired guy, sparks a different, more creative, list of "To-Do's".

Like that Nook e-book reader case over there. A person could spend $20 - $40 or more on a Nook case, and it would be fashionable and I've seen them in crocodile leather, and baby seal fur, endangered Peruvian condor wing feathers, etc etc, (a lady in New Jersey had one made from the very last living Himalayan snow leopard - "What the F#ck", she said, "God can always make more snow leopards, right?").

But I'm not that kind of guy, you know.

I'm a duct tape kind of guy.

jpgA Bridge in the Wrong Place ?

(Thank Mike for this story.)

The Tappan Zee bridge , just north of NYC, is located in a very peculiar place (see the green line crossing over the river in the map on the right there). That crossing point is at (nearly) the widest point in the Hudson River ( ! ) , and that comes to over 3 miles ! For a bridge, that's pretty excessive.

Then you look at the map, just south of there and you see the width of the river is about 1 mile (the white line on the map). It would have been a HUGE savings to locate the bridge crossing along the white line.

Why build the bridge along the green line crossing, at nearly 300% of the cost of building it at the white line crossing ?

Because . . .

Under the law, anything that crosses a river within 25 miles of the Statue of Liberty (the red square on the map) belongs to the NY-NJ Port Authority. Which means that the income from bridge tolls would go to the Port Authority, and not to NY state general fund. Gov. Dewey decided that he did not want the Port Authority to get the toll income, so he nixed all plans for the bridge that were within 25 miles of the Statue of Liberty. Thus . . . they built the Tappan Zee at an enourmous extra cost, out there just 28 miles from the Statue, and 3 miles beyond Port Authority jurisdiction.


I made a big move today and hung up (what is arguably) my most imaginative picture in a local cafe'.

The scenery around here sucks as much as the weather sucks, so I have not made any new pictures outside. That Fuji X100 I bought some weeks back is sitting on the shelf waiting for its call to duty. Actually it's in a camera bag on the dining room table just in case I get a burst of photo inspiration and need to rush out of here in a flash. . . . no such luck . . . a very ugly time of year (until April).

I think it's time to refinish my old rocking horse (add the rocker bottoms that got lost in it's long history).


I heard on the news that 18 old people have died in Massachusetts from the flu, so I went to the drug store today and got a flu shot (I was in grade school the last time I got a flu shot!). Once I sat down to wait, it took exactly one hour and 32 seconds to get this done.

In the hour that I spent in the waiting seat, I exchanged pleasantries and quips with a wide variety of local people (on their way to, or heading home from, Walmart or K-Mart) sniffling and coughing, waiting for the pharmacist to do something for them.

I knew it was my turn to get a shot, when the pharmacist called out . . . "Dave Leo, Medicare parasite, here for a flu shot at the expense of the middle class workers who are pretty f$%king fed up keeping you alive, you P.O.S."

Well, 32 seconds later (I counted) I was flu-free and walking out the door.

To be honest, the people there were extremely polite and gracious. I just felt bad that I got a flu shot that I didn't have to pay for, and I was mad that maybe (?) there were people who didn't get flu shots because they didn't have the money to pay for it. (I work myself into these anxiety moments.)

It was almost 60F outside and a sunny afternoon, so I went out about getting some air.
Great to be outside and not freezing ! Found intriguing shapes in pond ice:


Earth as Art

Here is a fascinating link to satellite pictures made with an artistic slant: Earth as Abstract Art

More Down to Earth !

Clyde Butcher is one of the world's best loved photographers, as humble and unassuming as he is gifted. Years ago, I saw this picture of him (standing in a Florida swamp with a large format camera). That's not a Disney swamp, that's a real alligator / snake / bug infested swamp. It clearly shows why he makes pictures like no one else does.


He recently gave a talk on TEDxTalks that is worth your 12 minutes to watch . . .
Clyde Butcher on TED


I needed a smile today, and my computer kindly gave one to me . . .


I struggled today with an old daemon (I used the ancient spelling there). I can't say that I won or lost, I guess today was a "draw". I'm still standing, but the daemon is too. So, it could have been better, it could have been worse, you know.

I'll spare you the details about the daemon (does it matter? - no not really - I imagine it's similar to whatever daemons may trouble you now and then).

I re-learned a good lesson though, and that is . . . a small gesture of a friend will kill whatever daemons plague you. It's a fairly incredible experience . . . . one minute your world is collapsing, and the next minute you come to realize that it's not collapsing, it's just changing and that you will be just fine . . . because someone said that they will stand beside you.


What it looks like up here at the moment. No message, just a picture.


The Phanthom Menace

I did something today that I haven't done since I retired (Oct.2007). This afternoon (it was cold an snowy), I sat in my recliner and watched a movie. So mark the day here, as the beginning of the end of Dave.

What movie? (does it matter?) . . . The Phanthom Menace, starring JarJarBinks and some other people I can't recall at the moment.

The only wonderful aspect of the movie was Natalie Portman's costumes and makeup, which were . . . um . . as I said . . . "wonderful" .

Then I went on the internet and told people to stop whining about this and that about their cameras and go out and make pictures. My advice, as you probably guessed, was greeted by praise and thankfulness from people around the world who pretty much rely on my daily wisdom to hold their photographic lives together, you know.

Then I cooked up some macaroni, picked D up from work and started re-studying algebra for an upcoming challenge to my tutoring skills. Algebra . . . algebra . . AlQueda . . . Al Jazera . . . I'm feeling a scary connection here . .

Was George Carlin the smartest person that ever lived ?

Who owns you ? . . . . listen, and believe.

Artistic Vision

In the "philosophy" section of the RangefinderForum, someone asked us to comment on our "photographic voice", which is alternatively called your "artistic vision". As you might imagine, we got some lengthy philosophical replies (some of them I swear were copied from textbooks). Here's what I wrote about my own photography . . .

I am not an artist nor a photographer. I'm a retired engineer.

I don't have an artistic vision nor a photographic voice, and I have no delusions about the qualities of my images.

I get pleasure when someone likes a picture I make, but I am personally very pleased with some of my stuff that most people think just sucks. Okay . . . so be it, I guess. I still like it, and I don't care to explain why I do. (Sometimes I can't actually explain that to myself!)

Loretta's Christmas Muffins

Thank you,baby L ! This is my second batch (the blueberry ones were great). I never actually oven-baked anything before about 4 weeks ago. These were easy and are cooling at this very minute, while my coffee is brewing.


It's 180F outside and I'm glad to have some inside stuff to keep me busy.

Algebra / post-game commentary

Well, I survived my first session as an algebra tutor. Happily my student did not realize that she knows more about algebra than I do . Equally happy is that she thinks like an engineer (poor kid) so I can see inside her head easily and pretty much guess at what made her stumble (when she stumbles, that is). Algebra is a thing that kills you with its details. Us poor engineers get focused on the tough parts of the problem, solve them and then have our throats slit from behind by a simple, killing detail we skipped over.

Must train her to "be more aware of her surroundings".


If you haven't kept up with Mike for a while, you'r missing some witty commentary on life (well, his life, anyway!) . . . . Mike's page.

The New England 2013 Car Show, yesterday


They said he was only a legend . . . Biker Dave . . .

In 1972, I bought a new one for $1800 ! !

In 1968, a new Corvette was $4000

The Fiat convertible was a cutey.
There were 4 kids scrambling in and out through the roof of this one,
I gave up on it, but Debbie got this shot . . .

Today @ 2:30 . . . Algebra, Lesson #2
(my head is spinning !)



Wicked cold outside (inside is only a little better).

My algebra student threw me a curve ball by asking about dimensional analysis, and turns out that her teacher has some strange ideas about how to approach the topic. Engineers do this a lot in heat transfer and thermodynamics, and her text book does deal with it the way I understand, but her teacher's method I just don't get and (worse) I don't understand why she (the teacher) is making it so cryptic.

Anyway, I only confused the kid even more and sent her home and said "study the text pages X through Y".

jpg New topic . . . .I sold a camera monopod last week, and today I spent that cash on a new "rope-style" camera strap. You simply can't have too many camera straps, can you? Now I am rummaging through my box of old stuff to see what else I can sell to fund buying more new stuff.

Maybe I can sell some old camera straps to pay for a new monopod ?

Things have been extremely boring this week. Cold cold weather kept me inside puttering around and doing not much to talk about. Thanks to Mike for these two snippets of data . . .



Back in the 1980's, there was a big push for US factories to get in step with the rest of the world and convert to the metric system. To do that, US manufacturers would have to re-place all their factory equipment, which was going to be EXTREMELY expensive. So . . . most manufacturers decided that, if they had to buy new factory equipment, they may as well start up new factories - overseas ! and also benefit from lower labor costs.

At the same time, American consumers fell in love with cheap Walmart goods (made overseas) and that pretty much killed off millions of jobs for American factory workers.

And those jobs will never come back home (until American laborers are willing to work for lower wages than Chinese laborers).

jpg What does the "S" on Superman's outfit stand for? It cannot be "Superman" because no one called him that until Lois Lane decided to name him.

Well . . .

The S is actually not an S at all. It is a Krptonian symbol that stands for 'The House of El' which is the family where Superman (Kal-El) came from on Kryton. Actually, it has been around for many years, references to that fact have been around since at least the 1970s. While Siegel and Shuster obviously meant for the stylized S to stand for Superman, in both the 1970s movie and the 1986 re-vamp of the comic book, Superman had no actual name until he was named by Lois Lane. It was intended that Lois got the idea from both his Super Human feats and what appeared to be the letter S on his chest.

Some wonderful interactive 3D panoramas for you to enjoy: Utah in 3D

I kayak on this pond a few times every Summer.
Today it was frozen and smothered in fog. I saw this guy with his dog out there.
Maybe he was ice fishing (?)


Catching up with (and stealing cartoons from) The New Yorker

PS: I do see a lot of (probably unemployed) young dads walking the kids around these days.
I guess it's not my imagination.


Actually there was a very interesting short discussion in the magazine that touched on the work at the Large Hadron Collider. Not scientific details, just a few comments about The Higg's thing and the beginning of the universe. There was a very interesting piece of that discussion about looking for the origin of something. It gave me an idea for my next "What if . . . ?" story.

Which I will probably work on tomorrow while sitting guard over my neighbor's ailing father while she takes her ailing husband into Boston for chemo.

Ladies & Gentlemen & Children of all Ages,
A Portrait of Frankie (on the left !) and Rebekah


jpgI've been thinking about winemaking in the basement now for probably 15 years, and today I took the big step. Under the expert chaperoning by JB (prime sommoliere of A-Street Vineyards jpg ) I trekked to the local homebrew (wine and beer) supply house, which is just 1 mile from here, located in a 2nd floor apartment, up a spiral staircase that exposed some structural columns apparently added to hold up the weight of an apartment filled with heavy boxes of grushed grapes.

Lovely people, helpful and dedicated - a family business, mom and dad live downstairs (dad grew up in this building). Hey! . . . they have a website:

John (JB) took me around and we filled up a pail of the necessary hardware, then it came time for me to decide exactly what wine I was going to spend the next year making . . . my eyes fell upon the box you see there on the left, and that ended my dilemma. "Montepulciano Italien" . . . . how could I not make that choice?

Well . . . the stuff is now on my basement workbench, waiting for me to clear and clean a work area to start sterilizing and bagging the hardware then get JB back here for the first big step. I'm thinking . . . somewhere up there Grandpa Fazio is smiling, nudging his buddies, saying . . . "Questo è il mio nipote laggiù. Egli è il piccolo bastardo che ha rubato il mio torchio per l'uva."

jpg Do Your Homework !

This camera was sold (Dec.20.2012) on EBAY for $1700 by a seller who stated he had no idea what the camera was worth. It sold in 30 minutes. The buyer now has it back up for sale at it's actual market value . . . $25,000.

From FotoGuru Magazine . . .

FG mag: So, Guru Dave, tell us what you think about the current lot of digital cameras.

Guru Dave: I think they are way too complicated with too many buttons, dials and menus. Every time I handle one of my digital cameras, I push a button or rotate a dial that does something stupid. I miss the good old simple designs of film cameras.

FG mag: A brilliant, insightful observation, Guru Dave. What could be done about this?

Guru Dave: I can imagine a simple physical design with a very few buttons or only one dial. The camera comes with some default software that dictates what the few buttons do. The user however can go to the (let's say, Fuji) website and download any one of 57 software packages to replace the default one. Each of the 57 packages offers a different set of options of what the buttons do, from simple to painfully complex. The camera is priced at $1200, each software package is $150.

FG mag: Why $150. Maybe only $100.

Guru Dave: I get a $50 per package kickback for thinking of this.

FG mag: Very wise, Guru Dave.

Guru Dave: Of course, little grasshopper. Go now, walk the world and tell them about me.

Yikes, we moved to February already !

Page written by Dave Leo