Sunday, December 13

To Sleep, To Sleep

This cleansing tide streaks the afternoon birches,
And they might sing with joy in June.
But there they stand, winterized and ready for bed ---
Red-yellow remnants shuddering slowly, silently.

Misting and drenching both as this minute passes,
The sunny shower sings alone.
Some branches stir in silent gratitude
And promise a resounding overture come spring.

To sleep, to sleep.
To dream, to dream.

Saturday, December 12


A rainy morning found us traveling down I-5 to Lathrop to meet friends for breakfast at the Country Kitchen. Then we drove down to Union Road and turned south, braving the downpour and an unfamiliar street. We were going to surprise Angel with a visit to Bass Pro Shops in Manteca. She'd been there before, but was excited about seeing the Christmas decorations and mass hubbub.

My hunting days ended long ago, and I don't have enough fishing gear to hook any mercury-laden river fare. Killing just never got into my blood over the long term.

Monday, December 7

Freeze Out

California's moniker, The Sunshine State, was tarnished today as the snow clouds moved in and dumped tons of the white stuff across valleys, hills and mountains. I don't know who took this picture or who the coffee drinker is. It was among 500 that had been uploaded to the KCRA Channel 3 in Sacramento website.

I had expected a dusting here in Stockton in the early a.m. and got out of bed to check about 6:00. Nothing, just rain --- or so I thought. Had I turned on a light to see better outside I would have seen a spattering of floating flakes mixed with the rain. Driving to work with white floaties illuminated in the headlights was pretty cool --- literally. It was freezing outside, but not cold enough to have the snow stick.

At work, we kept checking outside to see the short-lived spectacle, but the snow show stopped about 8:00. Thankful for the memories, the rest of the day was filled with news stories about the foothills east of Sacramento, where over 60,000 people were without power, multiple wrecks were taking place, schools were closed and folks didn't make it to work. A real mess for most.

But the kids were marking it as the best day of the year so far!

Friday, December 4

Lighting Your City Christmas Tree, Or Not!

Picture from The Modesto Bee, Brian Ramsay photographer.

Now this is a choice example of city bureaucracy: Local officials decide to trim the budget and save $3000 by not adding Christmas tree lights to the city tree at Modesto Centre Plaza. That's okay, but they failed to tell the City Council (or the Council misinterpreted a memo) and advertising for the lighting ceremony was printed and distributed as usual.

Saturday evening was scheduled for the event. People sang Christmas carols. Citizens gathered round along with the City Council members. Someone threw the switch, but nothing happened. Well, something happened, all right: it was a caught-with-your-pants-down moment for the those folks responsible for the snafu.

You can read about the excitement here.

Saturday, November 28

The Answer, My Friend . . .

We wanted to take more bird pictures today at Cosumnes River Wildlife Preserve just north of us. A Sacramento photography blog said their group was going to be there this morning at 9:00. After making an 8:00 appointment for a tire rotation, we ate breakfast and drove up a little after 10:00 --- with the wind blowing out of the north at a sustained 40 mph! This is about the worst valley wind I've ever driven in an the car didn't appreciate it, either. Driving by the preserve on the freeway, we could see the flooded fields east of us. All of them had surf-size whitecaps that forced the few visiting ducks and geese to the southern shore of each pond.

A few varieties tried to brave flight and scooted right along with the wind, but when they turned around, the best they could do at altitude was barely maintain their position. Very entertaining.

There wasn't a photographer in sight at the main parking lot and viewing area. Wonder what Plan B was. Ours was to head back to Woodbridge Road and try to find some Sandhill Cranes. These pictures show you what it was like driving out to find them.

We've seen the peat dirt blow west of Stockton before, but this was amazing. Getting out of the car to take pictures was like being back in college in El Paso during a windstorm, with the sand pelting my face and the wind almost knocking me over. I don't do well with even the slightest breeze in the winter because of a left eye that enjoys tearing up, sometimes both. Then it's almost impossible to take a picture. Oh, well.

These poor newly planted trees were experiencing their first shock treatment after a warm and uneventful summer and fall. They'll survive and be stronger for it. I feel a 'moral of the story' coming on, but will spare you the all-to-familiar equation.

This road sign actually flapped violently in the wind, so I set my shutter speed at 1/20 of a second to get some movement. Almost fell over twice while trying to shoot it. Thankfully, no one drove by while I was standing at the edge of the little two lane road, or I wouldn't be writing this right now.

This turned out to be my absolutely worst photo outing to date. We drove back to the freeway and passed a gathering of cranes in a field. But it was too late. The damage had been done, and there was little possibility of redemption.

Friday, November 27

The Wonderhood

There is local color, and then there is LOCAL COLOR! The dreariness of this time of year is offset by the glorious glow of reds and oranges, yellows and golds. The city has planted so many Chinese Pistache trees, our neighborhood actually takes on a artistic warmth along the streets. The mundane is transformed into a wonderland --- at least for a few weeks.

Our junior college landscaping has its niches of fall colors here and there, too. Head to your local school and see what you can find before all the leaves fall.

Let's not forget to add "the beauty of God's creation" to our Thanksgiving list. Happy Thanksgiving to all and to all a good night!

Thursday, November 26

Tons to Run

It takes awhile to run over 300,000 folded continuous forms for Fireman's Fund. It's a Premium Rejection Notice that ships to Dallas. They must process a lot of rejections since we repeat this form a few times a year.

The bulk of what we run goes to our Sacramento plant where they print and mail 'shell' masters that are distributed to a State funded health program. Guess I better not tell you its name. Yesterday, I cut and boxed over 2 tons of one job, and it still has to go back on the press to finish the 1,000,000 ordered. We've run out of paper until next Thursday! Guess I shouldn't tell you that either!

I'm not complaining, especially since my Kaiser health insurance premium is going up over $100 per month next year. I need all the overtime I can get.

Monday, November 16

Hobby Hobos on the Beach

Saturday's photo op at Santa Cruz with Don rewarded both of us with some keepers. Most of the photographers on the beach were shooting Canons with big, fast (and heavy) lenses, while Don sported his new Nikon D300 with kit lens and me with the oldie but goodie Nikon D70 and kit lens with polarizer. No tripods for us (left them in the trunk), but I don't really think they're necessary when you're not planning on making large prints and use a fast shutter speed and wide angle lens setting.

Don took this photo below of me. I included a few shots of other photographers to tell the story of their enthusiasm and camaraderie on this beach of opportunity. There were dozens of people taking pictures, but I never saw anyone upset because someone was goofing up their shot. Must be a hobby for very patient people.

I also took my Nikon N5005 film camera with a 24-70 zoom to get rid of some old film and be able to get a little wider view than the 28mm on my digital camera lens. This is the first time I've done this, and it proved to be a simple proposition and worked fine. One on my neck and the other on my shoulder.

Don also took this next shot of tide pool tourists out on the point north of the beach we were on. Great shot, Don. Simple, well-composed and tells a story. Thanks, Don, for sending it to me. We'll get together again soon for another exciting excursion into the world of shutterbugging.

Thursday, November 12

Findings and Recommendations

This week's Internal Audit, corporate's twice-a-year, three-day (longer in some facilities), let's-see-your-dirty-underwear series of meetings ended today with the inevitable list of Findings and Recommendations projected on the conference room wall. Roberta and I are the sole management representatives for this grueling necessity. Thankfully, each interrogation has been extremely understanding --- no waterboarding here, just a lot of blank stares and word-groping on my part as the questions about the Environmental Management System (ISO-14001), the Quality Management System (ISO-9001; 2008) and Safety Management documents/procedures/training/objectives, etc. demand more than a little familiarity with the subjects.

Our questioneer, Chuck, is a most congenial guy --- friendly, a smiler, personal, super-detailed, knowledgeable, and stone-turner nonpariel. He's the perfect choice for helping us navigate the sea of source material that has to be fished from filing cabinets, binders, Sharepoint and a failing memory bank. Thanks, Chuck, for smoothing out the rough edges.

Friday, November 6

Blow Out

I didn't really try to unlight the candles with a single breath. Angel was using my camera to take pictures and could hardly hold it up with two hands, let alone find the shutter release and zoom easily. So slow motion posing was the order for the evening.

The beginning of this 63rd year of borrowed time is another reminder of the inevitable slide toward that final year when I'll do this 'blow out the candles' thing for the last time. Most things will be for the last time that year. So until then, I'll enjoy the ritual and give thanks for the hands and hearts that make this day so special.

Yes, I was the life of the party. Mr. Entertainment. Chief Goof-off and Cake-lover. King of Ooh and Ahh.

Thanks to everyone who said happy birthday in different ways. Love is that God-given gift that no one should miss --- especially if you're a curmudgeon like me.

Friday, October 30

TV Dinner Delight

Boy, those were the days in Paso Robles! We were so poor, we thought TV dinners were like going to a restaurant. Rare and delicious! Guess our normal fare of hamburger, potatoes and string beans was a lot cheaper. Or maybe the freezer didn't work too well. Can't remember.

Grandma Skinner in San Luis was a great cook, but liked to treat herself (and us kids) with these Swanson delights. I don't remember where we ate them, though. Could have been in the kitchen nook. Maybe on the dining room table. I doubt if she would have trusted us in the living room watching TV. Even with TV trays, we would have made a mess of things and never heard the end of it.

So enamored with this new invention and being very creative in the practical things of life, she would wash the dinner tins (aluminum to you perfectionists) and re-use them. Her chest freezer would be amply supplied with these customized, foil-covered meals, each labeled with its scrumptuous ingredients in a nice cursive. Selecting your dinner was like treasure hunting at the North Pole!

Saturday, October 24

Color and Cousins

The Salinas River is transformed from green to yellow gold during the fall. We had just driven by King City on the way home when I looked back and saw these trees. The car came to a quick stop as big rigs and cars flew by. I trekked to the fence line and climbed up to get a few shots of color. Nothing striking, but a lasting record of something that takes place each year along this long strand of willow and cottonwood trees.

Visiting cousins is always fun since we grew up so close together. Larry lives in Paso Robles and hopes to move back to Kansas soon. There's another cousin in Kansas that I've never met personally, but she writes regularly, versing me about her very busy life on their farm, two recently married daughters and church life. Wonderfully refreshing, considering our city-bound existence here in Stockton. Don't know that we'll ever meet in this life. Kansas is so . . . so . . . far away, Toto.

Thursday, October 22

San Miguel Mission Statement

I was never a fan of heading north of Paso Robles to the little dusty town of San Miguel, where the world famous California mission has attracted tourists for decades. Growing up just 7 miles away, going to church at 17th and Oak Street, only visiting a relatives that lived there a few times, and hearing nothing but jokes about it --- a mission visit wasn't on the agenda. When the photography bug bit in about 1969, it still wasn't. Too dusty, dirty and Catholic.

The 2003 6.5 earthquake so distressed the sanctuary, visitors were prohibited entry. But after a long retrofit, it has been reopened. The grounds are still dusty, but the main building recreates a visual history worth seeing.

Thanks to sister, Ginnie, for suggesting my second visit in two years.

Be sure to take a camera and a good dose of creativity if you ever stop and have a look.

Monday, October 19

Taking the Little Creek to Cambria

Wow! There's nothing like visiting the same old places over and over! That's pretty much what we do when we vacation in the Paso Robles area. It's fun to scout new horizons, but the old haunts are still filled with a 'first visit' flavor. Guess you can appreciate them more as the years roll by.

I don't like downtown Cambria. Sorry, folks. Why do I want to look at things I can't afford to buy and don't have the talent to make? Thankfully, I'm not prone to covetousness in these artsy/craftsy nooks. The Bible labels covetousness equal to idolatry. Heavy. Being a cheapskate helps.

But I do relish the flora, fauna and geology of the area - au naturel.

Thursday, October 15

Pioneer Day Marathon

This year's crop of Paso Robles Pioneer Day Parade pictures is in the middle of the harvest. You'll soon see all the color and smiles forthwith. Hang in there, friends. (Pictures are now online)