Thursday, March 5, 2015

Spring is NOT Just Around the Corner

Apparently spring is NOT just around the corner. according to meteorologists, cold weather, and even snow, will continue for the rest of March and perhaps into April ..... especially in Atlantic Canada! The summer, they say, in my neck of the woods will be very warm, with lots of rain! We just can't seem to catch a break!

I have been very proud of my ability to refrain from posting rants about the horrible weather we've been having this year. When I returned from "old people land" in Arizona, I was determined to make the most of my senior years, winter weather and all ..... but it ain't easy! A course that I signed up to take was canceled due to lack of interest and in spite of my determination to brave the snowy roads, there have been days when it's just not worth it to go out. Therefore I have been resolved to pass the time with reading and viewing (haven't been in the mood for art making lately). Thus I am always on the look out for a new title ........ of a book, Netflix series, or movie.


I'm not interested in investing time reading a book if it's not my cup of tea so I depend on the recommendations of others (even though that's not a guarantee). It's kind of like using a GPS ... take the advice, but ultimately decide for yourself. 

I often choose books based on interviews I've heard on CBC,  Heather's picks on Indigo, Google research or recommendations from friends. 

One book I read recently, offered by a friend, was A Season in Hell  by Robert Fowler. The author, a former Canadian diplomat, was captured by Al Qaeda and held captive in the Sahara for 130 days. If it wasn't recommended by an other female friend of a similar vintage, I would never have entertained reading it. However, to my surprise it was a page turner!

As a result of a CBC interview of the author, psychologist Brian Little I read the book Me, Myself and Us - a study of the science of personality. According to new research, we may be "hardwired" to be an introvert or an extrovert, but depending on our circumstances we can act "out of character" in order to adapt to the situation. In other words, I may be an introvert by nature, but because my job as a teacher requires it, I become an extrovert during the school day. We all have our "true colours" - they just don't always show up. - A very thought provoking read!

 Me Myself And Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being

I just finished The Silver Star by Janette Walls, a quick, delightful read that I zipped through in a day and a half. Her other books, The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses, which I enjoyed very much are based on similar themes - mature and resourceful children who thrive in spite of having flaky, incompetent parents. I especially loved the fact that The Glass Castle was based on the author's own family!

So .... now I am in search of some new reading material. Sometimes I think it takes me longer to look for a book than it does to read it! As I said, I'm a big CBC radio fan so I tend to be influenced by their suggestions. The other day I was listening to a piece by one of their regular contributors who reviews books and I discovered her website (The Ludic Reader, below), so I am hopeful that I will find a few exciting new "reads" to help me survive until spring actually arrives!

Here is a link to a previous post with a list of books that I have enjoyed!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Every Action!

Every Action has an Equal and Opposite Reaction!

Well, as I told you I joined Google + so that I could back up all of my photos. I really didn't know what I was doing but magically all my photos appeared on the Google + site. They are all there, even though it takes me a while to find what I'm looking for. I assume that once I get used to the program, it will get easier.

So, as I said, or actually as Isaac Newton said, "every action has an equal and opposite reaction" and just as I was patting myself on the back over my wise and forward thinking implementation of Google +, the "reaction" appeared. To my surprise, while I was reviewing some of my recent blog posts I noticed that some of my photos did not appear - a grey blank symbol in their place! After much research I discovered that by joining Google + somehow any photos that I have uploaded from my Picassa web albums disappeared!!?? It seems that other people who have blogs have had this problem as well so it is comforting to know that it's not just me. I've read that Google is planning to "phase out" Picassa and get people to switch to the "new" program (Google +). I always assumed that if you uploaded a photo (no matter from where) that it would stay there until you removed it. 

Where to go From Here?

So what to do about this situation. I can go back and reload the photos that have been lost, if I still have them! Other bloggers are far worse off as they have used Picassa for all of their pics. (Other bloggers are much more serious than I am as well.) I might consider starting a new blog in another program like Wordpress. Perhaps a fresh start is what's needed! 

The whole thing brings me to another good point that photographer, Sean McGrath stressed, be sure to get at least some of your photos printed! Computers crash, technologies change, but (short of a house fire or flood) you will always have hard copies. Good advice!

Another piece of advice he talked about, was refraining from taking and keeping (electronically) large numbers of photos. It can be overwhelming when you begin the process of sorting them out. I guess it's like telling a story. If there's too much detail and information the listener just tunes out. So when it comes to photos ...... how many images do really you need to capture the moment?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Smartphone Photography

Sean McGrath Photography
As stated in a previous post, I was planning to attend one of the Rothesay Speaker Series featuring photographer Sean McGrath, hoping to get some tips and inspiration. I was not disappointed. While he offered very little in terms of technical advice, I came away with a new attitude toward both taking and looking at photos

The theme that Sean impressed upon his audience was that taking pictures is all about capturing a moment in time that you will never again experience. He stressed that managing to get a shot of an expression on someone's face, two people interacting, or an evening sky, is more important that whether or not it is technically correct. Some of his favorite photos, he says, may not be perfectly focused or in the best light, but they are meaningful because of the content.

Technical Stuff:

The interpretation I take from his philosophy is that more natural looking photos are better that ones that are too carefully arranged and "perfectly" posed. It is also about having a camera at the ready in case you happen upon a "Kodak Moment". So, that means for most of us our cell phones are becoming our most common picture taking apparatus. In fact, according to Sean McGrath's talk, more and more photographers (including professionals) are using their smartphones as opposed to sophisticated, expensive cameras to take pictures.

So ...... my challenge now is to figure out how to take the best pictures I can with the little smartphone that I inherited from my husband (I know I will eventually have to upgrade). I've conducted a little research and so far I have learned a few things about using a smartphone for picture taking (mind you I have a long way to go!)
  • avoid using a flash (makes lighting too harsh)
  • don't use the zoom for making things close up - better to crop later since by using the zoom you loose picture quality
  • take the time to learn about your camera app - explore all the settings etc.
  • use the "macro" shooting mode for close ups (my camera phone only has 4 shooting modes - single shot, smile shot, continuous, and panorama).Smile shot is new to me. Apparently you aim the camera lens at a person's face and it automatically takes the photo when they smile!) I found "macro" under settings - "focus mode"!
  • if you have a photo that is very "busy" (a lot of stuff in it) you can tone it down by editing it into black and white.
  • use HDR mode to bring clarity to areas in shadow. This is a very cool option. For more info check out this link 
  • "white balance" use your settings to adjust the "white balance" ... in other words to make sure the colours (particularly whites) are "true" not yellow or bluish. In settings it's usually "sunny", "indoors", "cloudy" etc.
  • clean your lens periodically, especially if you are stuffing it in a purse or pocket!


  • learn about the "rule of thirds" - use a grid on your camera to help with composition (center of interest should not be in the center!)  rule of thirds- digital photography school
  • horizon lines should be in the top or bottom third of the photo (not in the middle)
  • vary the angle - to make the shot more interesting
  • check out the background - make sure a tree is not growing out of someone's head!
  • after you have learned the rules ...... then break them! (to get something interesting)
Here are some photos that I have experimented with, in edit to attempt to apply some of the composition rules mentioned above.

An attempt to use the "rule of thirds" with the focal point not in the middle.

The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore - I used "edit" to make the horizon in the lower third.

Halong Bay - Vietmam. - I made the horizon in the lower third because I thought the water had more visual interest.

Trying to use the "rule of thirds" as well as putting the horizon in the top third of the photo.

I tried to reduce the "busy" background by using black and white, but I guess I can't do much about the gramophone speaker
coming out of the guy's head! 

Backing Up!

One of the most important tips Sean McGrath stressed was backing up your photos. In yesteryear, pictures could always be produced or renewed from unprocessed film, negatives or old photos, but if all your pics are on your computer only and it crashes .... your out of luck. Sean highly recommends backing up you precious pics on an external hard drive or an online program such as a "cloud". I just backed up all my photos on Google +. I'm still getting used to the program but so far so good!

Great sites!

Below are some great links. The last one is a very simple, practical video guide (11 min.) for taking photos with your smartphone. The second last is a very cool video with some awesome ways to create interesting photos with the camera app on your phone. Check out the Cooph (Cooperative of Photography) website for some great inspiration! Have fun!


Cool things to do with your smart phone camera from!

Great basic guide lines for smartphone photography

Thursday, February 12, 2015

USS Midway

In San Diego we visited the USS Midway Museum. Now, in no way am I a "military buff", nor do I get excited about big machines and stuff like that, but as soon as I saw this massive piece of grey metal floating in the harbor, I was fascinated. I'm not sure if it was the awesomeness of it's size or the "American-ness" of it .... I couldn't wait to check it out.

The USS Midway was named for the famous battle on Midway Island where six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Americans defeated the Japanese in their attempt at another attack in the Pacific. It was commissioned two weeks after the end of WWII and served in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm. It was decommissioned in 1992.

Seeing this incredible machine made me wonder how many aircraft carriers Canada has. It turns out we have zero! We had three but they were decommissioned years ago. In fact there are only eight other countries that have aircraft carriers, two of which have two, the rest only one. The US, however has 10 aircraft carriers in use today! Russia and China have only one each and Great Britain has zero! If you want the whole scoop you can checkout the Wikipedia Link   Aircraft Carriers by Country

Our tour of the ship was very thorough and we spent a couple of hours exploring all the nooks and crannies. It gave us great insight to life on board and what a job it must have been to manage three thousand men all working, and living on the ship for perhaps months at a time! Apparently the food was very good, but the sleeping quarters .... that was a different story (unless of course you were an officer!)

Sleeping quarters for the enlisted men!

There was a maze of these narrow corridors.

I'm not sure what this score board is all about?

You had to be in shape to be part of this team!

I'm sure this is a chopper from 'Nam!

Gotta love this one! (a statue in the park nearby) 

It's mind boggling to think about all the human energy, technology and money used in war. But, I guess its been that way since human history began. One thing I just learned recently is that the Japanese constitution outlaws war as a means to settle international disputes. They do maintain a military, but only for defense and peace keeping missions. Too bad all countries didn't do the same!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Culture Shock?

When you travel to different parts of the world you sometimes encounter an environment that is so different from what you are used to, you experience what is know as "culture shock". During our two week stay in Yuma we experienced a bit of ..... not exactly culture shock, but close to it.

We rented a very nice house in a quiet neighborhood ..... so quiet in fact it was eerie! Those who inhabited theses homes were pretty much all seniors who took the odd stroll with a little lap dog, or sat out quietly in a sun room. There was no sign of a kid riding a bike, a skateboarding teenager or the sound of some guy using a power tool in the backyard. Like I said, eerie! And, there were acres of these subdivisions and RV parks .... all housing seniors, from the newly retired to the very elderly!

 It wasn't until we ventured out to the local grocery store that it hit us. At least ninety percent of the customers were seniors. (I know, I know, what do we expect in a retirement area). But seriously, it was like we had died (along with everyone else) and this was the afterlife where we all ended up. (The odd young person we saw must have met an early demise of some kind!) The parking lot had ten times the handicapped parking spaces as our supermarket at home, and as soon as you entered the store there was a fleet of electric carts for those with mobility issues. As we cruised the shopping aisles it was obvious that we weren't in Kansas anymore .......... just Yuma!

Our quiet neighborhood!

The parking lot at the grocery store near Yuma.

Medical Tourism

In about 20 minutes you can drive from Yuma to the little town of Algodones, Mexico and do a little "medical tourism". Hundreds (maybe thousands) of Canadian and American "snowbirds" do this. You park your car in a huge parking lot on the US side of the border and walk across to the little Mexican town where you can buy a forty ouncer of Tequila and get a tooth implant at a fraction of what it might cost at home. Crossing the border into Mexico is easy,(nobody even checks your passport!) and as soon as you arrive on the main drag you are greeted by a plethora of optical stores, dental offices, and drug stores as well as liquor stores and tourist traps. I was amazed by the hordes of old folks getting their prescriptions filled and dental work done as well as enjoying a cerveza and a little Mexican food. ....... I wonder if I could convince my dentist to offer a Margarita while I wait for my appointment? 

The Paraiso Bar and Restaurant in Algadones .... not a sole under 55!

I love the sign ... advertising the local bar and dental work all on the same sign!

Algadones Mexico, we had to wait 45 min. to get back to the US and that was a good day!

Culture shock is perhaps a bit harsh when I describe my experience in Yuma. Maybe being surrounded by "retirees" hits a little too close to home and I just don't want to admit that I could blend in quite easily. All I know is I'm not quite ready for the "easy life" yet. I want to be sure that I'm still alive ..... even if it involves shoveling snow!

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Taste of the South West

I guess the giant cactus is a dead give away that we made it to the sunny South West! Our two week adventure to this part of the world was a great "get away" from the cold and snow back home, but what impressed me the most was how different the landscape was from any place I'd ever been. My travelling has mainly been in, Europe, South East Asia and the Caribbean so deserts were a new experience!

These sand dunes are just a few miles outside of Yuma. I think they could have filmed Lawrence of Arabia here!

Sedona is cooler but with more vegetation ..... STUNNING!

At least they warn you of poisonous snakes!

These rocks used to be submerged in water thousands of years ago .. reminds me of the "Rocks" in the Bay of Fundy.

A Diversion to Nearby San Diego!

Staying in Yuma meant that we were only 2 and a half hours from San Diego so it seemed like a good opportunity to take in the sights. We did the "hop on, hop off " tour which gave us a good overview of the city, and allowed us to stop for lunch on Coronado Island. In the evening we checked out a few bars and restaurants and the next day toured the USS Midway Aircraft carrier...... very impressive (even for a non-military buff like me!)

The city of San Diego seen from the ferry landing on Coronado Island (you can see me dipping a toe in the Pacific - a first for me!)

Our travel buddies Paul and Nilah at our lunch spot on Coronado Island

USS Midway 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Not So Perfect Photography

As I prepare for our trip to Arizona, I'm amazed at how many pieces of technology we are taking that, apparently, we can't live without! ..... A tablet, a laptop, cell phones, readers, camera etc. I am starting to wonder if I really need my camera? According to photographer, Sean McGrath (see link below), capturing the moment is what's really important. The photos below are a few "moments" that I captured from my travels in Asia. 

Woman waiting for the train to go by in the countryside of Bangladesh.

Old woman talking on a cell phone in Bangladesh

Woman in a market in Hanoi

Men playing a game in Beijing

During my recent trip to Spain I found that I used my phone to take pictures more often than my camera simply because I was more likely to have it on hand and because I didn't have to dig it out of some zipped compartment of a purse or backpack. Also, it's easier to upload my photos from my phone to Picassa (where I can access them easily from anywhere), than to transfer them from my camera to my computer. Here are a few photos that I took using my phone in Spain.

So ....... I'm off to Arizona with my phone at the ready in case I see any interesting or unusual sights. Like Sean McGrath says, "It's all about the moment". Hope to post some soon!

I also hope to take in Sean McGrath's talk on February 12th at 7 PM as part of the Rothesay Speaker Series at the Rothesay Town Hall.

Town of Rothesay Website

Sean McGrath Photography

Download 2015-01-17 11.50.54.jpg (1216.4 KB)
Article in KV Style about Sean McGrath