Month: April 2005

Extending yourself

Cameron Picton as McMurphy 2Last night I went to a local school (Taft) production of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I don’t go to many of the local school plays anymore, it can be painful to sit through them feeling the anxiety of young people in front of an audience of cringing parents and relatives.

In a dream (or, more accurately a nightmare) I’m up there myself and in front of a packed house I forget my lines, my part, and then as the self-conscious implosion continues, where I am and even who I am save that I am in the middle of a personal disaster. I run off stage and can’t get that feeling out of my head. I even wake up with the feeling. Good thing I don’t have this dream often.

Cameron Picton as McMurphy 1I went to this play for a number of reasons: the lead (McMurphy) was played by Cameron Picton, a friend of mine through drumming who’s mother and grandmother are part of the drum group I’m in. Any time someone I know extends him or herself like this: acts, sings, performs in front of people, I try to be there to cheer them on. It’s both a personal loyalty thing but it also comes from the fact that I am fascinated with the idea of extending yourself beyond where you thought you could go and I want to witness it in people I know and if they’re young people, watch their relatives witness it. I certainly witnessed it in Cameron and the rest of this fine cast last night. They gave it their all and it showed. It’s risky business doing this but anything short of it shows too.

Rick DoyleClose to twenty years ago when I was teaching at The Forman School, a school for high school kids with learning disabilities, I was impressed with the drama teacher, Rick Doyle, because he got kids who could hardly read, let alone memorize complex dialogs, to go above and beyond where anyone, including themselves, thought they could go. Rick and I both moved on from Forman at about the same time, he went to Taft School and I started consulting and traveling but I tried to follow his career because I knew he was special. He produced and directed numerous plays and musicals at the local community theater and I went to a few of these productions when I was home, usually because I knew someone in the cast. However, I always acknowledged Rick and of course he tried to reciprocate (as he did last night) by telling me I taught him how to double click a mouse in 1986 (it’s true).

So last night I got to see Rick at it again and it was exciting as always to be part of his scene and witness these students extending themselves.

Turkey hen back, pecking, scratching, and posing

Turkey hen back, posingOur resident lone turkey hen was back under the feeder pecking, kicking, and scratching to get her fill of seed. We think all the birds communicate because the bluejays come and toss seed out of the feeder for ground feeding birds (like the turkey), emptying the feeder rather quickly.

Turkey hen mug shotI pulled the 1.4 extender out to get the shot above but wish I had it for this “mug shot” so I’d have been closer. Turkey’s certainly have a lot in common with turkey vultures (and the names prove it, deep ‘eh?): both are pretty weird looking creatures.

Turkey hen feet or ET’s feet? You decide.

Turkey hen feetFor the past few days there’s been a lone turkey hen wandering around our place. I shot her back feathers a week or so ago but she’s shy and hasn’t come within range often enough to get good pictures of.

This morning when I looked out my office windows there she was, eating bird seed under the feeder right by the house. I got the 200mm and extender on the camera and got it on the tripod trying to stay out of her peripheral vision. I started shooting although she was moving (pecking) fast and it was actually impossible to get her in the frame as I had too much reach on the camera (now that’s a change).

Turkey hen foot closeupI shot a few and then my dang camera gave me an error 99 which could be any number of things but is essentially a system hang. Rebooting the camera is fast: turn it off and then on and you lose whatever was being written. I did this and kept shooting. It hung a few more times but I was able to get a few good shots. But, of course, in my haste I’d not played enough with depth of field so the only thing on the good shots in focus was her feet. Go figure. However, they are mighty interesting and even though turkeys are not aggressive, I would not want these toes ripping into me. Not to mention that her legs are jointed opposite of ours (like herons, egrets, flamingos, and many big birds so she could easily lift a leg up and give you a rip. As it was, she was scratching at the seed to uncover tastier stuff or maybe worms. Not sure if turkeys are herbivores or omnivore or, maybe, some other kind of “vore” if they really are related to ET.

Bird’s brains reveal source of songs

MIT neuroscientists have localized the place in bird’s brains that produce songs: Bird’s brains reveal source of songs.

Source: Justin Blanton

This reminds me of a piece I read in The New Yorker many years ago on the work of Fernando Nottebohm, a renowned researcher into the functional evolution of bird songs, bird brain lateralization, and gender differentiation.

Geranium on a rainy day

Geranium on a rainy dayIt’s raining out so what better to do than play with new camera gear inside. This geranium, which is now exploding with color, is at the far end of our living room in front of a window. It’s quite dark here today (sort of like my old Oregon rainy days) and there is not much light in the room. This was shot with my new 200mm lens and I’m delighted with the snap in this picture. I could work a bit more on depth of field but when I do the window comes out of blur and I’m glad to have it as it is. I could also re-shoot this with the 100mm macro and I’ll get it would be as good or better but this 200mm has great potential not just for birds, but for portraits and even objects.

Coleus

ColeusDecided to try a macro shot (with 100mm macro lens) on the coleus leaves under the skylight. The light was perfect but alas, the focus was a bit off. Still, for a hairy leaf I’m pleased. I wanted to get the serrated edge and the blur behind.

Mallards revisited

Mallard femaleThese two shots were my first attempt to use a monopod. Wow, it’s not easy and I can see why they put a wrist strap on them; pretty easy to drop the whole rig and, well, that would be very bad.

I walked as close as I could to the two mallards and plopped the monopod down, focussed the lens and started shooting. Again, with monopod it’s hard to control camera controls with right hand and focus with left and remember to keep holding on or else the whole thing will topple. In time this will get easier but I found it hard to hold still and so, these are not in the best of focus.

Mallard maleHowever, what the monopod lacks in steadiness it gains in ease of movement and lightness. Once I learn how to use it it’s going to allow me to steady the camera/lens setup in places I would never carry a tripod. I can see why they’re popular. I just have to learn to use them.

Note: click on each of these photos and look at their largest size at flickr. This lens does not disapoint. Now, if the operator would hold steady…

House finch on feeder

House finch on feederThe light isn’t right yet and it’s still windy so the feeder is moving but this was shot with the new 200mm f2.8 lens with 1.4x extender, on tripod with mount. As per my friend Dale’s suggestion, I turned off auto focus and I’m finding things are working much better. With a prime, single focal length lens there’s only one thing to turn (the focal ring) and so no need to be fiddling for focus or zoom. I’m more sold than ever on this single focal length lens and the extender does not seem to degrade image sharpness. Also, the lens is fast enough so the hit on speed (1 f stop) is more than acceptable. Now, downstairs to make tea and go see the ducks.

Kids with Cameras

Feet © Kochi“Kids with Cameras is a non-profit organization that teaches the art of photography to marginalized children in communities around the world. We use photography to capture the imaginations of children, to empower them, building confidence, self-esteem and hope. We share their vision and voices with the world through exhibitions, books, websites and film.”

This organization is the same one that did the award-winning documentary Born into Brothels.

Swamp maple leaf buds further along

Swamp Maple Leaf BudsThis shot was taken with a 200mm f2.4 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter through my office window. Very nice, warm day today and every leaf bud in our zone is take this opportunity to open up. Unfortunately it was windy and it was hard to freeze this sucker but I’m impressed with what this new lens did. Next, birds. That will have to wait until tomorrow, I’m off to take pictures of deer now, if I can sneak up on them. Stay tuned.

Test Reprieve Keeps Top Teacher on Job

Test Reprieve Keeps Top Teacher on Job: “A former diesel dealer who helped a school create a diesel mechanics program almost lost his job because he hadn’t passed a standardized test.”

This is not just an ETS problem (the folks who make this test, the SAT, and others) but a cultural problem and not just with teacher competency testing but student as well. If we’re willing to sit back and take it then politicians are going to feed it to us. I was heartened when many in Massachusetts boycotted their state test but you don’t hear as much about that now.

We are in deep doo doo when we get rid of award winning, popular teachers because they can’t pass a stupid ETS test. Of course, this story has a happier ending but not all do.

(Via NYT > Education.)

Bookcrossing.com

Bookcrossing.com is a great idea for spreading books around.

How it works:

1. Read a good book

2. Register it at Bookcrossing.com (along with your journal comments), get a unique BCID (BookCrossing ID number), and label the book

3. Release it for someone else to read (give it to a friend, leave it on a park bench, donate it to charity, “forget” it in a coffee shop, etc.), and get notified by email each time someone comes here and records journal entries for that book. And if you make Release Notes on the book, others can Go Hunting for it and try to find it!

Source: Bill Lynn

Cutting up log pile, day 4, done!

My progress after 4 afternoons of cutting into this extremely tough pile of logs:

Log pile, uncut:

log pile

Log pile, after day 1 of cutting:

log pile

Log pile, after day 2 of cutting:

logpile

Log pile, after day 3 of cutting:

logpile

Log pile, after day 4 of cutting (today), done!

logpile

Got through it without hitting the fence and raked the sawdust up and put it in the garden. Now to move the seasoned stacked wood up to the pile we take into the house, then begin splitting this stuff.

This is extremely hard and heavy wood so the splitting process will be tough. Stay tuned, it’s coming up soon.