Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cardamom Palmiers Part II

Rolled, sugared to within an inch of their life, cut and ready to go in the oven. They look like Michael's pinwheel cookies without the alternating colors. And elongated. And heavily sugared. I should have made those instead. They are time consuming too but probably more guaranteed to come out right. Because they are "Michael Cookies"!! I still can't replicate his version of toll house cookies. His is the best interpretation of that old standard. I did recently make an toll house cookie variation that the guys really loved. I sent them to Nick and his bunk mates loved 'em.

After fifteen minutes I took them out and damaged half of them turning them over. A non-stick pan would be best for this recipe. These are "carmelized cardamom palmiers"
and they carmelized right to the pan. I tried using a straight metal spatula, a straight plastic spatula, and a small off-set spatula. I heated it (the little spatula) with the kitchen torch (not just for creme brulee anymore) but it didn't make much difference. Lessons Learned: use an off-set spatula for flipping cookies. Always. Don't compromise.

Watching and waiting.

Watching and waiting to make sure they didn't burn. No, this was not a posed shot. The oven was hot and I stood in front of it with my little 3mp digital point and shoot and clicked away until I got the right image. (the little voice in my head says, sheesh, they're just cookies! it's not like this is grand art or anything)

(Everyone has a voice in their head; it's not like this is weird or anything)


They didn't burn, but they didn't brown up the way I thought they would, either. However, they were incredibly tasty
and we ate them all but I won't be making them again. By the way, the dough, as rolled, sugared and folded for the cookies, is NOT a good pie dough. It carmelizes to the pie pan the way the cookies carmelize to the cookie sheet. The only way to separate crust (and pie) from plate is to flip it over and pry it out. I know this because I tried. The result was that we didn't have pumpkin pie for The Thanksgiving Feast. We had Pumpkin Mousse Thing instead.

Gosh, I could sit here all morning doing this but sadly must shower - and then show up at work.

Coming Soon: "Who moved my cheese for the 112th time this year?!?" A frightening tale of home-office-swapping with Kent, and Erin's trip to Ikea.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cardamom Palmiers

For the record, I don't usually subject myself to difficult baking tasks but tonight I'm making palmiers. a.k.a. Elephant Ears. With cardamom-sugar instead of plain sugar. Thank for fine folks at Fine Cooking for that idea. I love this magazine. The food photography is to die for! The Winter issue has three basic cookie doughs from which you can make three different cookies each. This cookie base is cream cheese dough. Big lure. Geneen Roth would call it a beckoning food. One of the three recipes using this dough is the aforementioned palmiers.

I read the recipe. I read most of the recipe. Alright, I read the first column. Big deal. Make the dough. Chill the dough. Shape the dough. Fold the dough. Wait a minute. Chill it again? Ok, it's chilling now. I assumed the next paragraph, although long, was essentially "slice, bake, cool." What it really says: "slice, sprinkle, bake, SWAP top and bottom cookie sheets, TURN the cookies, sprinkle, bake, cool."

At least The Timpano was all prep. Once it made it into the oven we just had to tap it every once in a while to see if it made that great hollow sound. I like fussy prep. I don't like fussy cooking. First we hunted for the recipe and found it in a cookbook by Stanley Tucci's mother. Then we hunted for months looking for the perfect timpano pan which was more of a large enameled basin. You have to know that the search was part of the fun.


The Timpano requires a gross of ziti, a bunch of boiled eggs, lots and lots of homemade teaspoon-diameter meatballs, three-meat sauce, and a pasta-like pastry. The meatballs and the sauce have their own recipes, so you end up working from three recipes. We made this thing a few years ago and haven't made it since. It was great fun. And as in the movie, it took two of us to load it into and unload it out of the oven. We still use the sauce recipe, though, because it is really outstanding. So are the meatballs.

Palmiers are fussy prep and fussy cooking. I'm already into the second chill so I may as well go for the last eight steps too. I think cardamom is one of the nicest spices so I'm sure these will taste great but it might be the last time I make them. We'll see.


Monday, November 14, 2005

Taking a "Personal Day" today

For absolutey no reason whatsoever except that I can. Nya nya nya.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Manager & The Performance Strategy

Once upon a time there was a Manager who was required by Human Resources to comply with a performance management process. The Manager, who valued his job, was willing to do this. He attended training sessions, and was shown how to write SMART goals, measure success, and rate his employees on a three point scale for performance and behavior: Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations, and Does Not Meet Expectations. The Manager was familiar with the strategy, having employed similar strategies in a previous company. The Manager complied, had regular meetings with his employees to discuss performance and behavior, and his employees knew what to expect when merit increases and incentive bonuses were distributed once a year.

And so it went for three years. Some of the finer details of the performance strategy changed, but by and large it remained the same. Most employees met their goals, a few employees exceeded their goals, and a couple employees did not meet their goals. According to Human Resources, there was a Predictable Distribution: of all employees, 70% met their goals, 10% exceeded their goals, and 20% did not meet their goals. Look for this distribution, Human Resources said, and use it as a Guide. If there are
a lot of employees who exceed their goals, maybe the goals weren't stiff enough, so it was important to make sure the goals were well written.

Near the end of the fourth year several Managers met and listed all their employees ion a sheet of paper. The Managers ranked each employee from highest performing to lowest performing. There was much discussion. Managers hated this yearly task.

When they were finished and felt comfortable that all the employees were ranked correctly, the Managers sent the list to the managers a level above themselves. The new set of managers incorporated the list into their own and rolled the list up to the next level of managers. This went on until the list reached to top of the department.

The Big Manager looked at the list and said "12% of these employees exceeded their goals. That just can't be. That violates the 10% guide. The employee in the lowest spots of the 12% will be forced into a lower ranking." And so it was.

Then the Big Manager said, "Now there 74% of our employees have met their goals this year. That just can't be. That violates the 70% rule. The employees in the lowest spots of the 74% will be forced into a lower ranking." And so it was.

The Big Manager looked at the list with it's neat, tidy, predictable performance distribution, and said, "Roll this final list down to all the managers to communicate to their employees." And so they did.

The Manager (remember him?) looked at the list and sat heavily in his not-quite ergonomic office chair with the adjustable lower-back support. He saw that one employee he'd given a rating of Meets Expectations for performance, and Exceeds Expectations for behavior, had been bumped down to Meets Expectations for behavior. Another employee he'd given a rating of Meets Expectations for performance and behavior had been bumped down to a Does Not Meet expectations for performance and behavior.

The Manager cried foul. "This employee is a perfectly good employee and his performance and behavior is well within the 'meets expectations' for his role and time on the job." The manager knew that merit increases and incentive bonuses were calculated on the ratings and the ranking. Neither employee would received the recognition they deserved for a job done well.

The Manager did not live happily ever after. In fact, the Manager lost all faith in what should have been a fair system of performance-based recognition. But then, the Manager is naive in the ways of The Big Manager, and hopelessly idealistic.

The End.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Pumpkin Pie Blizzard

I've just returned from Dairy Queen and made the following conclusion: the Pumpkin Pie Blizzard is fabulous!!!!! Pumpkin pie filling and crust swirled in vanilla softserve ice cream. It's a keeper. Now if only the service was better...

Monday, November 07, 2005

The House Thing Again

Now that I'm not in pain all the time, I wouldn't mind sticking around in this house for awhile. Not forever, just awhile. Longer than a few more years, I think. Although...boy oh boy, talk about flip flopping! Ok, I know, completely contrary to what I said a few posts back about not wanting to live in old houses ever again. Well, hang on...it's not contrary because I won't move to another old house, just stay in this one a little longer. There's too much to do anyway. Besides, when we finally remodel the kitchen I want to have time to really enjoy it.

Anyway. This last spring we completely cleared out the front garden bed. To see if we got everything, we kept it empty for the summer. Sure enough, we did get everything! Credit goes to Patrick and Nick for their outstanding effort.

Today we picked up 25 bags of hardwood mulch, 18 garden mums (yellow: 12 pincushion and 6 daisy types) and 30 mixed but mostly pink/purple/blue pansies. We should have gotten about 30 more. It's a very large bed. Amongst all of it we'll plant Lamb's Ear and more Hosta which we haven't gotten yet. I'd like to plant Lenten Rose, too, if we can find it. Patrick laid in the first ten bags of mulch, and I've placed the plants. However, it's just too dark to do the rest of the mulch and plant the goodies. So, I'll do a few plants each morning so they don't all dry out.

When it's all done I'll post a picture
(updated 10/6/2006: which obviously I did not do).


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

You're right, too long since the last post.

Gee, finally getting to my email and what do I see? Mom, chastising me for not posting often enough. She's right!!! Thank you, Mother :)

Nick is into his own life now. We had a wonderful visit with him during Basic Training Graduation. He was so excited to be able to buy things with money he earned that he picked up a new CD player and a PSP, which is a cool little gadget. He's off to Fort Gordon for 29 weeks of Advanced Individual Training (AIT) in his field: signal networks, aka communications. He'll be one of the guys who supports the communications gear, the signal for walkie-talkies, wireless data transmission, satellite communicates, stuff like that. For those who understand the MOS system, he's in 25U. Here's a link that describes those duties:
http://www.us-army-info.com/pages/mos/signal/31u.html. Fort Gordon is located on the Georgia/South Carolina border, it's the gray smudge just outside of Augusta. I-20 is the freeway that rolls by. If he golfed, he'd be in hog heaven. Who knows? Maybe he'll learn? Nah, won't happen; no joysticks involved.

He called this weekend to say he'd be home for Christmas for two weeks. He bought his plane ticket today and couldn't wait to tell us! I'll share his mailing address when I receive it later this week. His friend, Nick (a.k.a. Redgate Nick), moved a few blocks away and is within easy walking distance and he's excited about that. Redgate Nick got him his first job at Luna Maya Restaurant. Our Nick has since left, but Redgate Nick is head chef now and he's so thrilled and scared. He is "Redgate Nick" because he lived on Redgate Avenue and we kept getting confused - the possessive pronouns didn't always point to the right character, and otherwise it's just awkward to say or write. We have to call him Michigan Nick now, though, because he lives on Michigan Ave. Which doesn't make sense in Colonial Place where the streets are named after the first thirteen and a couple of important sea captains, of whom Michigan was not one, I'm sure. I don't think we'll really be able to break the habit of calling him Redgate Nick, though, because we've been doing that for a few years now. He shall always be...Redgate Nick.


My management changed at work so I have a new boss who has been keeping me really busy. He's an entirely different character than my former boss and that's mostly a good thing but he has pretty high expectations that are welcome but we're out of practice. I'm having a blast with my photography and I'm getting better but I'm behind on scanning and sharing so I hope to catch up on that this weekend.

Kent is involved in a local production of Don Quixote, abridged. It's supposed to be an "artistic interpretation" of the traditional story that the director was writing at the time of the first rehearsal; Kent isn't so keen on the interpretation. A Don Quixote scholar, in Germany, is long-distance coaching the director and reviewing the script as it's being written. Kent is in a supporting role (a good thing since he's still working on his Master's degree). Rehearsals are most nights and the show opens the week before Thanksgiving. School is mostly interesting but the fun part is some robotics activity that Kent is involved in. I don't understand all the details but when I do I'll share!

Patrick is rowing six days a week: qualifying for his first level of master skuller (or whatever it's called) in a single, coxing for the women's eight on Saturday's for Hampton Roads Rowing Club, weekdays rowing with Maury High School's men's four because Norview High, where he attends, doesn't have a rowing club, and having fun little races with his coach, James. He's really hooked on this stuff, is exhausted by 7:30pm, and has a permanent sparkle in his eyes. I'm pretty sure that last is because of the rowing, as opposed to drugs. He doesn't have time for them! Last weekend was the big fall race, Head of the Lafayette. I have video, I'm editing, I will share.

That's it on the home front, and I promised Mom I'd post this last night which I didn't so I will this morning and hope she'll forgive me :)

Oh ya. Here's another photo from Fort Benning. Apparently some French battalion had as their maschot a dachsund. "We're so confident in our manhood we'll have little dachshund as our maschot and display him with pride!" (You must, must say this with a Frenglish accent, please.)



Sunday, October 02, 2005

I'm sure I told you, Mom...

Says she who is the Mom that she didn't know I had arthritis. I thought for sure I mentioned that. Well, I've been seeing a rheumatologist for a little over a year. I was diagnosed with garden variety osteoarthritis in my hands (probably genetic), and psoriatic arthritis in my sacroiliac joints (not so genetic). I guess you could say a I have a pain in the butt, and Mom says I can blame her and the dads. Although maybe I didn't, because it's one thing to complain about the little aches and pains and another to spring major medical news. So maybe I didn't mention it.

I took an awesome picture on the way to a doctor appt last week. I was early so I drove around the area for a while. Dr. Luke is off of Battlefield Blvd near Volvo Parkway, so I just kept driving down Battlefield to see what was there. I don't go out into Chesapeake that much because it's so depressing: new housing developments everywhere where the cookie-cutter houses are way to big for the occupants, are built cheaply and sell expensively because they have a "cathedral foyer" and a kitchen island. 4000 square feet, ten measly little feet between houses, and no personality whatsoever. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I have a big house but it:

o) was built before 1995 (1913, specifically)
o) is less than 4000 square feet
o) has a foyer but it's the same height as all the other rooms in the house
o) has masses of personality
o) has real plaster walls (a blessing and a curse)

(hum, the second post where I've used bullets; I wonder if it's a sign)

So I was wandering off down Battlefield Blvd and I passed by one of those pumpkin stands. The kind that spring up out of nowhere next to the Mercedes dealership that scream "quaint country." It was 7:30AM and the sun was peaking over the trees and the green grass and the orange pumpkins looked hyper-saturated in the light. And no one was around. I swung a u-turn and shot the remainder of a roll of film I'd been trying to finish off for over a week. I got four or five nice shots, one of them is below.



According to the Arthritis Foundation, all arthritis are a form of an autoimmune disorder in that the body attacks itself (or it's joints). Psoriatic arthritis is a degenerative inflammatory type that is related to psoriasis. Not all people with psoriasis get the arthritic form, and not all people with the arthritic form get the skin form. I don't have the skin form or, if I do, it's so minimal as to be masquerading as something else, like dry elbows and dandruff. Psoriatic arthritis is related more closely to the rheumatoid than osteo forms, and one of the key differences is that supposedly the psoriatic form doesn't test positive for the rheumatoid factor; I've been known to test positive for that at various times but I've also heard that false positives are common and it's not definitive. At this point I have a moderate case that flares up occasionally. This last summer was one of the worst flare ups I've had in my lower back, which I sure hope doesn't happen again soon. Last winter my hands flared up. Being active with photography helps a lot because it keeps me moving and occupied :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More Doctors: Time for a Life Change

This will be a series of posts.
(10/1: or maybe not)

1. I have four doctors: my primary care physician, my rheumatologist, my therapist, and, now, a referral to a podiatrist.
2. Normal, healthy 40+ year olds do not have four doctors
3. While I am far from normal, I am also not healthy.
4. I have the power to change that.

#4 is the kicker, really. Because changing "it" means turning my life upside down, on it's head. It means that the way I've defined myself until this point in time has to change in fundamental ways.

And it scares the shit outa me. I read. I read a lot and I'd be perfectly happy to spend an entire day reading, but that doesn't support the more active me that I have to become. I need to sit down and outline the desctructive behaviors. That's a little harsh. I need to sit down and outline the counterproductive behaviors.

How do healthy people approach food? Exercise? The gap I see between my perception of a healthy lifestyle and an honestly healthy lifestyle has to diminish for this to be successful. There has got to be a balance in the middle.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sunday, 9/11/2005

Was 9/11 a horrific event? Yes, it was. Was Katrina a horrific event? Yes, it was. I appreciate the pain and suffering they have endured and continue to endure. How did we handle it all? Not as well as we could have but typically like we always do. Very pointed and very pertinent Slate.com article.

I have a problem managing my daily pain. I don't want this blog to be about pain, arthritis, or any of that stuff, but as someone newly diagnosed and dealing with periodic reduced mobility, it does kind of take a leading role in life. Today, though, I think I'm dealing with yet another ankle sprain. I've been battling these for a few years now, I think since I sprained it badly one winter from slipping on ice. Or is it tendonitis? In any case it's been weak and unstable ever since, and I have to deal with a sprain a couple times a year now. After doing some reading, I'm just gonna tape the damned thing for a month or two and see if that helps. Complete immobilization it just weakens everything around the ankle, and I'll be damned if I'm going to stop moving (although that's kind of what it feels like!).

I'm off to the pharmacy to buy cohesive tape, a better ankle brace, and refill my prescriptions.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Labor Day Weekend

Three day weekends are great. I love them. Saturday? Did nothing. That's not entirely true. I messed around with my blog, tweaked a new template, consolidated my movabletype blog to this blog because I don't have the time to really dig into all the things I could do with the moveabletype one even though I prefer it. Played many games of Boggle, and watched five episodes of M*A*S*H season one. So, really, I wouldn't call all that Nothing.

Sunday (today) more playing with the blog template, which I think I'm happy with for now. Write a letter to Nick. Build a "photo gallery" with NetObjects Fusion. Watch the other three episodes of M*A*S*H season one. Log in to the corporate network and approve timesheets. Another "do nothing" day HAHA!

For those with any kind of spondylitis (mine is psoriatic spondylitis), or if you seat solutionknow anyone with these conditions, or someone who may have broken their tailbone, I found a seat cushion at Walgreens called the "seat solution" that helps with mild to moderate pain. It's a wedge-shaped cushion with a cut-out at the back. The box claims it allows you to sit without putting extra pressur on the sacral joint, basically allowing it to hang more or less freely. The slight incline puts your body into a more aligned postural position. And hey, it works. It's pretty inexpensive at $14.99 and I have one at home and at work now. That was the other mitigating strategy that I used to manage my arthritis pain. It was one of those "as seen on tv" things. If they had this in that visco-elastic foam it would be wonderful. Follow "Today's Link" for info on spondylitis.

Army, Arthritis, and Stuff

Well, yes, it's been another long delay between posts.

Nick entered basic training on August 18th, and we've had two letters from him so far, as well as two update emails (with pictures!) from the brigade captain. That's pretty amazing because I think Nick has only written two or three email before this.

In case anyone ever said arthritis is fun, I'm here to tell you it ain't true. The hands are ok, and the knees are mostly ok. The sacral joints are the worst, and I spent the better part of August hobbling and looking for relief. I found it in the form of
(a) BenGay pain relieving patch
(b) Thermacare heat wraps
This stuff really works, although I prefer the bengay patches instead of the theramcare ones. Those thermacare patches get pretty warm which makes me really really warm. Dripping with sweat kind of warm. Blech.

I almost had my dream job last week. On Monday I was told I had it. On Wednesday I was told all the open positions in the department were frozen. Damn.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Monday, May 30, 2005

Sony Mavica MVC-CD500 Digital Camera: Not Worth It

SonyStyle.com | CD Mavica® MVC-CD500 Digital Camera


iHubby brought home the Sony Mavica MVC-CD500 for me to tryout after I complained that my little 3 megapixel kodak just wasn't cut out for doing the kind of serious photography I do. I put off trying it out for a few weeks; the opportunity just didn't come around. Finally this morning I decided to run it through some paces, beginning with a couple of generic test shots, without flash, in the living room with the morning sun streaming in. I decided that the difference in contrast would tell me right away how well it handled the broad differences. She shoots...she waits! Oh my gawd. This thing has a little CD writer in it (I knew that) but I didn't think it would take so long to write to the disk. I timed it. On fine, aka highest quality image, which is the only kind I take, it took one minute and fifteen seconds to write the image to the disk. I couldn't do anything else with the camera while that was happening. Try waiting for over a minute for your camera to be ready to take another picture. It's excruciating. And completely unacceptable. I didn't bother finishing my tests because at this point it doesn't matter.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Some Week

This has been some week. I wish I could say it's been particularly nuts, but it hasn't. It's just the same insanity as last week and the week before. The inability for us to get our jobs done because of vendor inadequacies is having a snowball effect on things that aren't directly impacted by the vendor. It's taking so much extra time to follow up, and the volume is steadily rising. Not unlike a broken sea wall trying to contain a flood. I'm managing two and three escalations a day, where prior to mid-April it was maybe once every two weeks. It's taken a toll on all of us, managers and associates alike, and it's a no-win situation. We were forced into a corner, forced to utilize a middleman who can't perform, while both they and we are sorely understaffed (which is documented in our staffing model). And inevitably someone from senior management is going to say "you need to examine your processes and resolve these issues" - as if we actually caused this situation. That last hasn't happened yet, but I cynically think it will by the end of the year. Because, you see, this vendor hasn't performed to contract in two years. And I see nothing to suggest that will change anytime soon. I will do all I can to help salvage the situation. Maybe with the weight of our business partners, who have extremely high standards, we can enact some positive change. In the meantime, however, I'm aggressively putting feelers out to other organizations for whom I'd like to work.

Photography has been a great outlet for my stress, but this week I haven't had any time to play. I did do some location scouting one morning this week. It was disappointing. Norfolk is not particularly photographic, from my point of view. How many damn harbor shots can a person take, anyway? I have to really reach to find interesting things that are out there waiting to be photographed. The botanical garden is glorious and I can spend hours and hours out there. Otherwise, Norfolk is kinda the pits for an ourdoor and landscape photographer. Even the architecture is middle of the road.

Ah, obviously I'm feeling frustrated over my work and my artistic environment. I'm sure they feed off each other. This weekend we'll be working in the yard: building planting beds, clearing space in existing beds, to plant all shapes and sizes of glorious perennials, paving the way for bulbs in the fall. I had a striking realization about gardening. I garden so I can photograph it, because plants and flowers are things I love to photograph. When I broke from photography in '97, I slowly stopped gardening. Now that I'm back into it, I want to garden again. Sure there are lots of positive by products of this...nice yard, lovely flowers for vases, time outside. But it was always a means to an end. I marvel at this need to garden for photography's sake. Otherwise, I simply wouldn't garden. And haven't for eight years. I guess we'll just see if that theory holds up.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Occoquan Regatta: Woodbridge, Virginia

Amazon.com: Books: Examples : The Making of 40 Photographs


Occoquan Regatta this weekend. I'm testing the new 70-300mm lens. Lots of "wow, what a big lens you have" comments. I didn't realize I'd get that kind of reaction. Hopefully they won't comment so much next time I haul it out. I don't care for the attention. Shot about 60 images; lots of doubles because I keep my finger on the shutter too long. I wonder if that is an option I can manage? Anyway, half a roll of Kodak 160NC, a roll of Kodak 200, and another half-roll of the 160NC. I think I prefer the VC more than the NC, but we'll see. In any case, no chromes this time! I'm inspired to find a tiny cabin on a lake/river/some kind of water to escape to on weekends, near beautiful places to photograph. I'm also inspired to buy a boat. I think I'm romanticising everything here, but I find photography kinda romantic, so it one follows the other. Anyway, a couple of photographs of daisies at the water's edge, a test shot of a flying crane, some water weeds. The upside of this was scouting a new shooting location. It's a lovely area and I think there are some opportunities for a very large lens.

Ash's varsity eight came in third; Pat's novice four also came in third. Ethan and Pam were there and conversation with them, as always, is delightful. I met a few other mother's but escaped because I was getting tired of the "mom clustering." The trail to the viewing area was a mile of alternating level trail and steep inclines. I can walk a mile but I'm out of shape for steep inclines. It's good information to have because I do want to do some more hiking. I need to start slowly. Beginner level.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Books: Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews

Amazon.com: Books: Why People Photograph: Selected Essays and Reviews

I'm reading this book. I would like to read and read and read but find I must stop and digest each essay. The essay titled "Edward Weston" is compelling. Or was it the essay critizing a "biography" of of Paul Strand? There's so much to understand. There's so much to contemplate, really. Not that I necessarily agree with all that is said, but I enjoy the other perspective.

Robert Adam's calls one photographer a "pictorialist" and goes on to talk about the soft lens approach, manipulating a scene by eliminating what is ugly or undesirable. My first question to that is: Is being a pictorialist bad? and then, "Doesn't everyone manipulate the scene to some degree? I mean, as landscape photographers we try to crop out the "junk" in the
view. I think he implied that landscape photography leans toward pictorial inclinations but that the "sharpness" of the images tends to keep it from being considered pictorial. Maybe I misunderstood that. But I don't think so.

And what, exactly, is wrong with being a pictorialist? I have one image that is lovely, used a Pro-Mist #1 on it, and absolutely manipulated my position in relation to the what I was shooting to keep the nearby food tent out of the view. Adam's doesn't direclty imply that it is wrong, but he starts to make a case that it isn't truthful; a point with which I disagree, and even began to feel defensive. Against a book. Jeez.

I elect to not photograph ugliness. Which is not to say that I don't photograph decay and age, also known as History to some. I believe these are two different things. But I don't photograph hunger or homelessness or war. I'm not a street photographer, I don't care to engage in that kind of art. Although, Adam's questions whether that is really Art, or whether it's another flavor of journalism. There is an argument to be made that they are one and the same. For another time.

I think I have more to say about this but these are thoughts have been stewing around in my mind since I began reading "Why People Photograph" a few days ago. I'm half-way through the book and it's one of the best investments I've made in a long time.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Saturday Morning

Harrisonburg, VA.

Wow, lousy night's sleep. Maybe because I'm excited to be here and didn't feel guilty for being here and didn't feel all pitiful lonely. Ah! I need to find a map of the area. The temperature is 18 degrees, and there is some patchy cloud cover. I'm right next to a Lowes but in the distance there are hills and fields covered in frost. I should get some coffee and get going. I've had my breakfast (ham and cheese on sourdough that I maded before I left), and coffee is free in the lobby.

Over the river and through the woods

to Harrisonburg, Virginia I go. It was a very long trip from Norfolk to here - I would say about five hours but I ran into some Friday traffic so I'll say more like 4 to 4 1/2 hours. It was dark pretty much after Williamsburg, which means at least half the drive. I thought about the fact that I do not like driving at night and yet three hours of my drive was at night. Maybe I'm ok with it if I HAVE TO. Or haven't already been driving for five hours. Ya, it's probably something like that.

The hotel didn't have my reservation when I called to make sure they didn't give my reservation away. I booked through VacationWired.com. They'll be getting a phone call from me and, hopefully, I'll get a refund or something. The published rate at which I booked was $75/night. I'm in here at $99/night, which I'm not real thrilled about but didn't feel like quibbling about it. Better to wait until morning when I and the front desk people are fresh.

I'm sure I drank too much caffeine - one Venti and a 32 ounce Diet Pepsi. Who cares. It's not like I'm on a business trip. I can do whatever the hell I want this weekend and no one is going to say "Oh, you shouldn't do that..."

Although my stated purpose is to "take pictures," the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library is out here, which I didn't know, and would like to see since I've never been to a presidential library. Lots of history out here.

Staunton smelled like skunk. Or selenium. Something chemical. It made me sneeze. There was fog coming off the mountain when I came through Waynesboro. The hotel here is teaming with nubile and pretentious teens. There is some kind of high school dance - like a Winter Prom or something like that - and my god I remember that age and how the entire world revolved around me and how someone my age now was so old. I have graying hair, my body is drooping and sagging, and I wear comfortable clothing because I have better things to do than constantly adjust the bow on my oh-so-chic blouse. Or whatever. I'm not sure what my plan is for tomorrow, yet, but I have half a dozen brochures to look through.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

TGITh

Bonus time is a good time of year. I splurged on a port replicator (Viao) and Prarie Home Companion tickets (April). I almost felt guilty about the port replicator, but it's an ergonomic thing, actually, and affords me one extra USB port. And, eventually, allows me to conveniently attached a 19" monitor. Or pick up and go at will (it comes with it's own power supply, yahoo!)

iHubby is in Richmond this week - he returns this afternoon. I've missed him in part because I've missed our routine. I want to tell him how excited I am to have my new infrared filter - and that it works! When he travels, he knows how to take care of himself. When I travel, I tend to splurge and not take care of myself. And I've been thinking about that alot lately and I wonder if it's because I didn't live alone very often in my early twenties. In fact, I think I lived alone for about four months. Really alone. And that's it. iHubby, on the other hand, lived alone for most of his 20's when he wasn't onboard ship. He's had a chance to explore what it means to take care of yourself. I know what it's like to exist around others, although I don't think I know well how to take care of myself in any context because it's always been about compromising time, space, or both. In retrospect, I did begin to learn how to do this in the context of my marriage. Then the boys came to live with us and that all pretty much fell apart and neither of us has been able to recover that since. We think we can once the boys are out on their own - out of the house!

Saturday, February 05, 2005

iHubby does "the long suffering sigh" bit

I hate it when he does this. As if he is the oooonnly one in the house that actually does anything. Puhlease. He's doing some laundry. He's doing some dishes. Great. I asked him if he wanted to watch a video. "No, I'm going to keep working around the house. There's a lot to do." Oh waaaa. He scrunches his eyebrows together. His posture is extra-perfect. He's a martyr today. He's sacrificing his play time. When he talks to me, that is, he does his "long suffering sigh" bit. Otherwise, he's whistling while he works and having a lovely time. I should vamoose except I'm trying to find someone who carries a 49mm infrared filter (Hoya R72) so I can do some experimentation with my camera. And I can't find a sole in Hampton Roads who carries it. Grrrrrr. It's enough to make me do the long suffering sigh.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

What is democratization?

The De Soto Delusion

I get it. Democratization equals credit debt. Wow.

Dick Cheney, Dressing Down (washingtonpost.com) & Other Misc Stuff

Dick Cheney, Dressing Down (washingtonpost.com)

Amongst all the violence, there's this. It's silly "style" shit but…it makes an good point about symbolism and leadership. Anyway. Have a good laugh. Or a good cry depending on your political persuasion.

Slogged in to the office today for a few hours to do database cleanup and decided to implement an Exception Report policy for all those boneheads who can't seem to fill in all the fields for their tracking forms. Pinheads. And no one likes showing up on an exception report. Bwahahaha.

iHubby is short-tempered and doing homework, which means I'm lucky I can make as much noise typing as I am. At least I'm not talking to myself - that really drives him nuts!

Slacker-child submitted an application to Merry Maids. HAHAHA! I wonder if he realizes that they clean houses. He can't even clean his room. But it pays $8/hour, which is what he needs. So...we'll see how that goes.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

McClamp "The Stick" Clamp

McClamp "The Stick" Clamp
The Stick and its partner, The Clamp, are a cool tools for photography.

It's been a photo crazy weekend around here. In a wonderful way. We didn't get the snow that was promised but we're sure getting the wind. Wow! Sometimes it sounds like a train coming by the house. The high today will be 30. Right now it's 20, and it feels like 4 with the wind. After a certain point, though, cold is just cold and 4 degree or 18 degrees...I can't tell the difference. I have to layer up either way.

Yesterday I took a lot of close-ups of jack-in-the-pulpit and tulips. I took some of a yellow spider chrysanthimum too, although I'm not as fond of how those turned out. It was hard to capture the subtlety of the colors.

I'm writing as I listen to Prairie Home Companion - it drives iHubby nuts. Mostly because I'm only listening to parts of it. I like the background noise. This is about the only time I can listen to the radio online without my headphones. He's still in bed (although awake and reading the Escoffier).

I've been unable to figure out why the image on my laptop screen is a different color than that which prints. Hm. Gee, that's a common problem. So I'm messing around with color profiles and all kinds of crap. Finally I tweaked the color set of the monitor - removed a little blue and red - and tada! It's a pretty good approximation of what I'll see when I print. Along the way I learned the color management is a huge area of knowledge, that I'll never be a master of it, and what a pain in the neck it is.

Today I'm going to organize my files, see if I can develop a workflow or something, and then make smoked salmon fettucine for lunch.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Project Censored

Project Censored Exposed

Really interesting reading.

Garden-variety Arthritis

The diagnosis is garden-variety arthritis (osteoarthritis). Yes, that's a little cavalier. I haven't processed what that really means for the next forty or fifty years for me. Dr T gave me wrist splints to wear at night to immobilize my lower thumb joints, and he wants an x-ray specialist to read the SI joint x-rays because apparently there is some inflammation and he needs a second opinion. They took six tubes of blood (did I have any left!?). He may as well have been showing me a picture of a secret code because I can't read that stuff.

The Good: There's a label and it's not RA. God knows I like my labels. Now I can say "My arthritis is acting up" instead of "My arthritis is acting up - at least I think it's arthritis."

The Bad: There's still pain but mitigated by Tylenol if I take more than the lowly two tabs a day I've been. At least it doesn't require a prescription. Tylenol Arthritis has this weird cap that isn't exactly arthritis friendly if the arthritis is in your hands. And, I can't tell any difference at all between the Arthritis formula and any other 500mg formula they sell. Is it just marketing? Geez, I really hate that. I did not wear the splints last night. I fell asleep after finally finishing The Man Who Ate Everything.

Must be the coldest day around here today!

weather.com - Forecast Summary Index: "Northeast:
High pressure will continue building in and this will result in the end of the lake-effect snow for now. It will continue to keep the region cold though. Sunny skies will dominate along with diminishing winds. Highs will range from the single digits across Northern New England to the 20s across the Mid-Atlantic. Temperature will warm on Wednesday out ahead of the clipper racing through the Midwest today. Snow will also develop again, heaviest of which will fall downwind of the Great Lakes."

So, have I picked the coldest day of the year to go take pictures of winter foliage at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens?

Last night I was exploring photos, looking for something to play with, and realized that I don't have anything more recent than 1999, at best. I have the Passages stuff, the New Mexico set, the small Carnival set, and a few choice images from Monticello and Baltimore. Otherwise...nada. It's time to get to know my digital camera a little more. It has enough capability to produce an excellent 8X10 on the i9900, and I need the practice.

But...today? It's 19 degrees outside! Snow is expected later in the week = another photo op. I have a little list of items I need: tripod, turtleneck, silk underwear. If I"m going to do this, I need a stable tripod and warmth.

Monday, January 03, 2005

New Furniture

The furniture in my office is

Old
Broken
Ugly
All of the above

I've been talking with a environmental consultant (cube designer) to get this stuff replaced. Actually, our AA has been talking to her for me. What I have is solid heavy light oak. I'd be perfectly happy with utilitarian, easy to maintain Steelcase stand-alone units. It looks like what it's being replaced with is lightweight laminated light maple of some kind by Knoll. My environmental consultant couldn't come up with pictures ("Just go to Knoll's website and look up the model#" except that doesn't actually work). Gee. But I shouldn't complain too much considering that one of the fortunate few managers who gets to have and keep her office! That is if my boss deigns to approve it!

Lunch!

Bologna sandwich, orange, V8, and sticky lemon pound cake.

CH Project Status Meeting

My dreaded first of the year meeting with CH and the rest of the transition team went pretty well. I didn't really feel well prepared for it. I actually, naively, thought that some movement might occur between 12/15 and 1/1. Obviously, I was delusional.

LM's First Day

LM showed up in my office this morning at 8:45, fifteen minutes after I arrived, notebook and pen at the ready. "Where do we start?"
Me: We don't, actually. I'd like you to work on packing your stuff for moving later.
LM: Oh? Okay. I thought we'd sit down bright and early and talk about the organization.
Me: Normally, that would be my first choice but I'm not available to do that today.
LM: Are you sure?
Me: (what, I don't know my own schedule?) Yes. If things slow down, we'll spend some time together later today. Otherwise, it'll have to be tomorrow.

I know, joining a new team is rough, especially when you don't know what they do, or how they do it. She may end up being a pain in the neck for me. She wants to control and the first thing I really gotta do is ensure that she knows that I am in charge. Her previous manager warned me about this one. I'll try to be nice because I'm not an evil pointy-headed manager, really.

(Update, August 1, 2005: LM accepted a job in a different department.)

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year

We went to see Movin' Out last night. Got dressed up, and I even wore dress shoes instead of my ubiquitous clogs. What I realized after seeing the show was:

a) I don't care for Twyla Tharp choreography generally, and not at all in this case. I'm more of a Fosse girl. Or Jerome Robbins. Or Agnes deMille.
b) It's a cool vehicle for Billy Joel tunes played well, and convincingly Billy Joel-ish.
c) I wanted to hear more Billy Joel music.

I wasn't sure what I expected but it definitely involved sets and speaking. They did the first number and I thought, uh oh, don't let this be a waste of good money. No sets, lots of "concert" lighting, and the band was set high in the fly zone on their own platform, which was really cool. It's basically dance set to a greatest hits collection - a rock ballet. It tells a story about kids falling in love, falling out of love, going to Vietnam, coming home broken, and redemption. Everyone is happy in the end. Through the wonder of dance. It was too short, though. I'm used to stuff like this being 2 1/2 or 3 hours. Whas it Dance, with music? Music, with dance? Since I didn't care for the choreography, I can't say that it was a joyous melding of the two, although I'm sure that's what Twyla and Billy had in mind. The dancers were very good, and iHubby says they executed the work quite well, considering the choreographer, and promised he'd do his own Twyla dance imitation for me when we got home. He chickened out.

iHubby and I did agree we needed to do this more often than once every several years, though, regardless of whether the show is great or just good. Good is ok, even if I am a spoiled elitist pig. Oops. Coastal Democract.

We came home via Harris Teeter, having obtained what I thought were the necessary ingredients for a Cosmo. Faulty memory: I got grenadine instead of lime juice and triple sec. Oh well. At least we had the vodka. I made something that resembled a Cosmo. I'll call it a Dirty Cosmo, because instead of triple sec I used pulp-free orange juice. I barely had enough lime juice from half-a-dozen lime slices to make up the required 1/2 ounce. It was tasty nonetheless. I used the recipe from the Happy Hour Cocktail deck that showed up in my stocking.

We came home, mixed up the Cosmo, poured wine for iHubby, and played Visual Eyes over Chex Party Mix. Yum! Got bored with that, turned on Letterman (which turned out to be a repeat with Kevin Spacey), smooched at midnight, and picked up MatrixBoy at 1:00 from his girlfriend's house.

My resolutions:
1. Go to two more shows at the Chrysler this year
2. Try one drink from the Happy Hour Cocktail deck each weekend
3. oh, hey, there isn't a third!