Dave's Journal, Oct2011


There's been a lull in the action around here. Just day to day stuff going on. No fiery political or religious thoughts to report (ahhh, "nice relief" my readers sigh). Still loving my Nook book reader; am reading like a maniac and will do my book reports here as necessary.

Chris sewed the Italian flag on my camera bag (one of 4 !), for our San Fransisco trip next week. With it's green color and flag, it really does look like an Italian Army bag ! Have no idea what camera / lens I'll bring. Change my mind twice a day now, but have decided only one camera / one lens ... that's it.

Well . . . it is painfully obvious that my vow (taken last month) to isolate myself from the political, religious, economic and social issues that tear the world apart has made my journal entries . . . "boring" . . . as someone said to me at lunch today. "Really, dad . . . seriously boring. So boring that my computer went into the hibernate mode when I opened your web page. So boring that when I log into your web page, the whole neighborhood fell asleep, the dog ran away, my goldfish died and the milk in the fridge went bad."

It's all too true (but I still pretended to be hurt so Mike would pay for lunch). My morning news alerts and pot of coffee used to wind me up on topics to scream about here and they kind of got me up and running for the day, you know. The news and strong morning coffee put some spunk and cynicism and sarcasm in my attitude.

So . . . I am back on caffeine and the daily news alerts . This won't bring your dog back or refresh the milk in your fridge, but sh#t, where does it say that I am the solution to all the problems in the world, huh?


Every morning I sit up in bed and, first thing, I check the feeling and movement in my toes and fingers and face. Then I say, "Thank you, God." Put on my daytime pyjamas (the retired life gif ) and remember also . . . "And thank you God for my GE pension."

Back when GE switched from their pension plan over to the 401k plan (that virtually every US-based company offers these days) I did not appreciate what it would mean (in the future) to people who retired. However, I very much understand that today.

I also have a 401k (along with many other retired people) that is invested in this and that around the world. Ten years ago the 401k was destined for eternal stardom, and me and Deb were going to have a hard time deciding where to spend all our money in retirement. (D was going to invest in D&B handbags, and I was going to run unregistered weapons into New Jersey.)

Today? . . . we could not buy this house with what's left in our 401k, and if we did not have the GE pension, we would have to sell this place.

Today?. . . we have newly retired friends who only have 401k's (not pensions), and those 401k's have been destroyed by the stock market.

I recall when a previous federal administration fought to "privatize" Social Security by taking the cash coming into the SS system and investing it in the stock market. This was labeled a "conservative, invest in America" plan. Can you imagine ? (If that is a "conservative" financial idea, what would you define as a "risky, or reckless" idea ?)

Okay . . . take a breath . . . watching that digital blood pressure gage at the moment . . . okay . . . okay . . . we're good to go now . . .

Have I mentioned before how utterly sick I am of people who are steadfast political voters? You know, right wing voters, left wing voters. Don't they all categorically suck? (Correct answer = "They sure do, Dave." Extra credit comment = "You are always right, Dave.")

From the CSM . . . (I guess that I am not the only one who is fed up with this BS) . .


If you blindly vote for one of the political parties in the US, give some serious thought to prying your head out of your ### and start actually . . . um . . thinking, you know, like the people who wrote the Constitution for you were hoping you would when they blessed you with the right to vote. (Let's recall here that the guys who wrote the Constitution deliberately did not establish political parties, "because they would create more problems than solutions".)

(from the CSM)


Bangs, Really Really Big Bangs

The most wonderful thing about science is that it is perpetually doubted and challenged by the people who believe in it . . . scientists. Within what they call "the scientific process", these guys and gals constantly beat up their own theories and "laws" perpetually testing the degrees to which these are right (kind of) or wrong (kind of). Nothing is sacred, every idea in science is up for a re-write. The wonderful sphere of human knowledge struggles to expand; though sometimes its progress is one step forward two steps back three steps forward etc etc etc.

Science, to me, is how God wants us to proceed. To question, doubt, think, theorize, predict, test, conclude and repeat that sequence as is necessary until . . . .? . . . until when ? . . . . actually until never. We can never say that "we know it all, we are done". We can never stop doubting. Never stop challenging, testing, updating how we think the universe works. This is the pivotal point where the blind faith of religion fails me. Blind faith never doubts, never challenges, never learns, never expands. To me the concept of "blind faith" is an offense to the fact that God planted intelligence in the universe.

I bring this up because today, the Nobel prize in physics went to three astronaut / scientists who basically torched the two most widely held theories about this expanding universe, and proved (until someone may prove otherwise gif ) that the expansion of the universe that we exist in is accelerating. It is getting bigger faster than it used to be getting bigger. This pretty much rotor-tils the Big Bang thinking up to now.

Are these guys right? . . . . that question is actually irrelevant to my point, which is that science asks people to use the gift God has given you . . . think. (Which is probably why science scares the hell out of us.)

What if ? . . . Biker Dave

San Fransisco

We are here, and getting here was pleasant. Wandered around Fisherman's Wharf area (we are staying there). 100% tourism in this section of town. Very crowded, but probably due to the "Fleet Weekend" event going on. Blue Angels doing stuff in the sky; incredible, mind blowing manuevers, stunning. The weather was perfect for this.


Saturday . . . took the ferry out for a tour of Alcatraz. The bay was filled with Coast Guard, Sheriff and Police boats (I mean filled) because of the Navy Fleet week event. Also very windy . . . novice sailboaters could not play out here today. Alcatraz tour (digital audio headset) was more interesting than I expected, and the views of the harbor and SF and the Golden Gate bridge were spectacular (if hazy).

A cell in Alcatraz.

Ferried back and jumped on a bus tour of the city. For $80 each (and that included the Alcatraz ferry and tour !) , it was a really nice package. (Car traffiic was utterly insane because of the Fleet event.) Excellent tour guide / driver. We stopped in some perfect places for snapshots. From the place call Twin Peaks", we stopped and watched the Blue Angels flying over SF.

Golden Gate Bridge

Blue Angels over San Fransisco.

The bus dropped us off in the "Italian" Neighborhood and we had dinner in one of the 9999999 "European" style places there and watched zillions of tourists walking by. Tourism is now SF's largest industry. Have NEVER seen so many DSLR cameras a large zoom lenses anywhere in our travels. I, of course stood out with my camera bag with the Italian flag boldly (and expertly) sewed on it . gif

Sunday . . . we walked today. Uphill.

Up Lombard Street, then up Leavenworth to almost the highest point in the city. I took it real slow, and I did not die which explains why I can now type this journal page.

Then across into Chinatown, which is a very large section of town (not a few streets) . Bought this and that, then walked down into the "Beat" district which took me back to my college "beatnik" days; then up into North Beach (the Italian section) where we stumbled upon the annual Italian Heritage Parade, which was a huge parade that went for about 2 hours winding through the area. Actually all ethnic nationalities were represented by various bands and dancers and groups. All the outdoor tables of the restaurants along the parade route were booked days in advance.

Some people really know how to watch a parade go by.

Debbie at the bottom of the topmost part of Lombard Street.

A Cable Car.

Monday . . drizzled all day. Hopped on the "Hop On / Hop Off Bus", which is a double-decker, the top deck being outside on the roof, where no one sat today. Not enough seats on the lower deck so some of us stood (no holding rails or straps) and we all go dripped upon by the leaks coming from the upstairs deck. The bus person handed out towels ! It was pretty bad, everyone got off wet.

Got off at the Disney family museum. Very interesting museum of Walt's life story, with 3 floors of memorabilia - movie clips, actual original drawings and sketches, cameras, special projectors and machines - interlaced with stories of the various stages of the "Disney Universe". I came away extremely impressed by Walt's imagination and incredible, untiring drive to create the visions he had in his head. It was a rough trip, and he failed a few times but . . . you know the ending.

Then waited 25 minutes in the drizzle for the next bus. Got off at Golden Gate Park and trek'd into the Science museum. It was Columbus Day and the place was wall-to-wll kids and familes, but mostly screaming running kids, and it was a stress. Another day, this would have been a nice place to take in.

Then waited 25 minutes in the drizzle for the next bus. Same situation, only now all the seats were also wet and the towels were drenched too.

Bused through the Haight district, whose reality never left the '60's / '70's . Lots of "colorful locals" and the shops are just as "far out" as they were years ago. Not the best district to walk about in your tourist outfit snapping pictures, so we stayed on the bus and looked out through the fogged-up and dripping windows, imaging a sunnier, dryer day.

Got off at North Beach. Weather was a bit nicer by now, and we walked "home".

At the end of the day, it was disappointing because I wanted to spend a warm sunny day in Golden Gate Park and now that is not going to come about. Today (Tuesday) we are off on a wine country tour.

jpg Tuesday . . . bus tour to Sonoma and Napa valley wineries. It was okay. Pleasant, and not a busload of wine snobs (which I feared). The "go to" town out their is Yountville, and we go'd to it for lunch. Yountville caters to the true afficianados of fine living. Deb had a burger and fries, I had tomato soup and a salad, and that added up to $70 ! (on the positive side, it was really good tomoto soup gif).

The bus driver was quite a character. Started the morning by barking at people about the wrong bus and being very militant. But after we got rolling, he turned out a funny guy. jpg The morning chaos around the bus depot is ridiculous. No signs, people hopping on and off the wrong buses, no attendents around to help. The drivers are the guys who have to tell people "No this is not your bus, get off and don't ask me which bus is yours, I don't have a clue myself." But like I said, he turned out okay once the head count was squared away.

After we got "home", we walked around the wharf and made pictures, shopped and took sandwiches back to the hotel (big fat ham and cheese with tomato, lettuce etc etc etc for an honest middle class price of $7).

San Fransisco above the wharf.

jpg Our last day in SF . . . took a cable car ride up up up to the Cable Car Museum (which was very interesting, as it housed the gears, motors and pulleys that actually run the cablecar line that we rode on. jpg

Walked walked walked through Cow Hill, which is the most lovely and expensive "neighborhood" I have ever walked through. Truly classically beautiful. Ended at the east corner of the Presidio, down to the Art museum, along the shore of the Bay. Fabulous walk, even if I became envious of really rich peoples' lifestyle.

At some point I'll write a real photo trip report to post here. but we are now off to Texas.

Texas . . . we made it.


More Pictures

Oct.16.2011 . . . Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.

=> Posted San Fransisco trip notes and photos. See the San Fransisco link under "Vacation, Day Trips & Special Photos" on davesjournal/index page. <=

Decompressing . . .

. . . from vacation is a letdown, for sure. Fallen leaves, overgrown grass, firewood that needs moving, plant pots need to be stored, snowblower and generator need to be checked out before they are needed, laptop needs a new hardrive (it sputtered yesterday). Why can't I just let it all go? Once the place gets old and shabby, the neighbors will get used to it, right?

I guess that once I get back in my routine, things will be okay. Then I can start looking forward to Europe, Oct.2012 !

Book Report: Bridge of Sighs, by Richard Russo

Good book about common people in a small town somewhere. The writing goes from very excellent down to okay in spots. Very insightful narrative about the people; written in the "point of view" style (changes from third person narrative to first person and that person skips among the players) . . . interesting approach. At times, I felt it was a patchwork of stories he (the author) wanted to write down and see how it pieced together, but it's the many little episodes of their lives that keep you reading on. It would have been a really excellent work if a brutal editor had had the guts to delete the not-so-great episodes.

What if . . . Farmer Dave.

In a Slump

I'm in a photographic slump. Just came off a week of snapshooting vacation pictures in San Fransisco (that will drain all your creative enzymes for sure). Trying to "pre-conceive" my next great work of art and all I get is zero, blank, nothing, zip, fade to black.

One of the problems is I am thinking too much about what the next image needs to look like so as not to duplicate any the other pieces of crap . . . um, I meant artwork . . . that I have generated.

The other problem is that I am back to viewing some seriously fabulous images, and (like all other non-pros) I am (tentatively, I hope ?) overwhelmed with how great the really great stuff looks. Then I ask myself, what's the point of making an image that is crap compared to these other wonderful images.

I'll get passed this by (again) reminding myself that I am not (and was never destined to be) one of the artists of the world, and that I make images with my own set of skills, as weak as they are. Given any arena (photography, auto racing, golf, weight lifting, whatever), there are countless millions of people who do these things better than I do.

So what? (I keep telling myself.)

Killing People I Never Knew

From 1968 thru 1971, I designed detonation fuzes for bombs and aircraft cannon ammunition that we dropped from Air Force planes onto Vietnamese . . . what? . . . strongholds? . . . villages? . . . forests? . . . what did we call them?

White Hawk at Audubon Sanctaury

Made two mediocre photos (taken yesterday) into one nice one for my batch of CafePhotos: White Hawk
Hard to get the motion blur to look good on the screen; we'll have to see how the 8X10 prints up.

Walden Pond

Drove 90 minutes to the wild life sanctuary in Natick. Got lost, got found, pull up to the parking lot, sign says "Wild Life Sanctuary is Closed on Mondays". WHAT ? . . . it's a forest ! . . . what is there to "close" ? (besides roping off the parking lot).

Faced with the 90 minute drive home, I opted to go north and stopped at Walden Pond (where H.D. Thoreau wrote his classic book, the title of which escapes me at the moment gif ). Last time I was here with Mike and 10,000 Sunday picnickers. Today there were only us retired guys with cameras and some international tourists in jogging outfits with cameras.

It was a nice slow walk around the pond. The locals still come here (on the off days) and ponder the great ponderings of time, space, existence and stuff like at the pond's edge. They make great photo subjects, because they sit still for so long.


I was tempted to add some heavenly rays of light shining down on them, but discretion won the moment.

I am now stuggling with wording my e-mail to the wildlife sanctuary people. How does "You $%#* &%$^&# idiots . . . " sound as an opening salutaton?

The Leominster Health Department

I generally hate interfacing with people and I especially hate interfacing with people (1) in stores and (2) in governments, so I was anxious that the city did not pick up my 8 bags and 5 barrels filled with yard garbage last week. To calm down my anxiety about having to call them, I looked at it as an oportunity to tell someone how tired I am of having to be the only perfect person in a world filled with idiots, like (for example) the people who didn't pick up my junk. So . . . I sent out an e-mail to the health department, that I laced with unusual kindess (considering it was me sending the e-mail), and a few hours later they picked up my junk and I got a pleasant e-mail from some city clerk to close the loop and be sure the problem was solved.

In a sick sort of way, I am pissed off now that they were so nice and responsive and corrected the problem very nicely, because I was hoping to blast them to pieces on my pages here and now all I can do is say . . . "Thank you, I really do appreciate that someone out there is getting the job done right. I really do."

No Comment . . .



On the positive side, bad weather is just another opportunity (for some people) to take a nap . . .


Winter in Autumn

The "funny little storm" became a monster. We operated on the generator for a day (finding gasoline for the generator took me 2 1/2 hours of driving around.) Tree damage for us is even worse than the Dec2008 Ice Storm. Cleaning this up will be lots of work and money: Pictures.


Driving around today I saw lots of places with our level of tree damage. My next door neighbor still does not have power because my tree crashed her line and they can't get the trucks in because the fallen tree is too big . . . must be cut into pieces.

Mike's house still does not have power. It is 450F in his parlor ! !

As a "gardner" I feel very bad about the trees. The two maples (center-left) are probably coming down. They were planted in the 1940's. I will talk to an expert about what's left of the Japanese maple. Loosing that completely would change the game for me. I'd strip and blacktop the whole lot. The Norway maple in the back is 50% lost, but it is young and will recover, as will all the crushed shrubs.

page written by Dave Leo