Sunday, July 31, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/30/2011: Whitaker Walk, Downtown Walk, Luna

1.  I wandered aimlessly around the Whitaker neighborhood, mostly Blair Blvd.,  for a few hours, Nikon around my neck, and took pictures.  I'd hoped to be able to position myself to take more pictures of people than I did, but my usual strategies for taking candid shots were hard to carry out because there weren't that many people out and about today.  So, I photographed some people, storefronts, flowers, the big tank towering over Ninkasi's brewery, the shell of an ancient vehicle outside of Sam Bond's garage, and some other things.  My photographs were fairly successful.  But I had a lot of fun and I wrapped up my Whitaker photo walk with a delicious bowl of green curry and basmati rice at Drum Rong Thai, a food cart/trailer festooned with bright colors and flowers on the concrete island at Blair Blvd. and Adams and Sixth.  I kind of liked this view from the picnic table, where I could see the Thai restaurant, Chao Pra Ya, I go to more often right across the street.  This picture also reminds me that the only reason I hadn't eaten at Drum Rong Thai before was when I thought of it, I wasn't carrying cash. . . .

2.  I rested after my Thai lunch and then struck out for downtown Eugene, in search of more pictures.  I knew I would see a lot of people at the Saturday Market and the Wayne Morse Plaza, but once I arrived, I realized that I wasn't in much of a mood to take pictures of dread locks or tie dye or drummers.  I began to realize that, on this day, I live in the wrong town for taking the kind of people pictures I wanted to take.  I did, however, try one kind of odd picture:  here's a man drumming on the plaza as seen through the spokes of a bicycle:

3.  I screwed up a bunch of the pictures and I'm going to go back to the porch of the building I lived in from Nov. 1984 through May 1987 and see if Luna is still there . . .  but here is one of the pictures of Luna, my favorite subject of the day:

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/29/2011: Jack, Cross, BBC2

1.  Jack and the Deke were playing on the Deke's bed and the light was really good and interesting and I managed to snap off some shots of Jack.  I'll be posting more of them later, but here's one example:

2.  I enjoy the way the setting sun plays with the bricks and the crosses on the 13th Avenue side of St. Mary's Episcopal Church.  When the sun is a bit higher in the sky, as it sets, the colors and shadows are more dramatic, but I also like the way the cross(es) look when the sun has almost disappeared and the large cross begins to take on a shade of blue.

3.  Someone on Facebook mentioned in a comment that is her homepage.  For some reason, this inspired me to tune into BBC2 radio and listen to pop music, interviews with people in the world of theater, old tunes, tunes from British film comedies, and a variety of other programming.  It's fun.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sibling Assignment #147: So Much to Learn -- So Green, So Inexperienced

InlandEmpireGirl challenged me and Silver Valley Girl to do the following:

This week's  assignment in our series on photography is entitled "Pick Colors":  Create a set of 15 photographs where the main subject is a color. In other words, disregard what the actual subject is (an umbrella, church, street sign), but compose the photograph so that there are only two or three colors. Post the photos and write about the experience.
IEG's collection of green and red pictures are splendid.  Go here and look at them.  

About five days out of the week, Snug and I go to Fairmount Blvd here in Eugene and follow it along the west side of Hendricks Park.  We start at point B and walk about three quarters of the way to point A:

I've been taking my Nikon on these walks and trying to learn my way around the Tamron f/2.5 28mm lens Russell picked up for me at Goodwill. 

The lens has been a lot of fun and has called my abilities up really short.  It's a manual lens.  I can't rely on all the electronic genius of my Nikon for focus or aperture or shutter speed and I have to make these decisions and adjustments myself, a totally new experience for me.  (I realize that I can shoot with the M setting when I use the other lenses, but I've just been too cautious.  This Tamron lens forced my hand, I'm happy to say.)

I walk Snug in this particular spot for two reasons:  it gives both of us a light workout as we have to walk uphill. Granted, the grade is gentle, but it's still good exercise for both of us;  secondly, I don't really enjoy being out in the sun and this walk is heavily shaded and very cool, very comfortable.

As a guy behind a camera with a manual lens and almost no experience, taking pictures of the color green along Fairmount Blvd. challenged me, primarily because of the variety of lighting.  I love the way sunlight shoots and slants through the trees, illuminating a burst of leaves here, a fern there, and it's often the color green that the sun brings alive in great variety.

Taking pictures of all these (excuse the pun) shades of green challenged me, especially in terms of exposure.  Many of my pictures are over exposed:  too much light came in because the aperture was too wide or the shutter speed too slow or I'd failed to properly adjust the ISO. 

Having Snug pulling at me all the time increased the challenge, so evening before last I came back to our spot alone and took more pictures, able to take more time to fiddle with the lens and to try to compose my shots.  My success was decidedly mixed. 

So that's been my experience taking pictures of green at Hendricks Park.

I'll try to illustrate my most enjoyable travails with these pictures (more than the fifteen assigned) with a few comments before the pictures:

To begin, normally my exposure error lean toward the underexposed.  I like darker tones.  I find darker pictures, as well as darker music and stories and plays, richer.  These first pictures feature darker shades of green.  In the first one, I wanted to convey the scare amount of light coming through to these leaves, but I think I might have underexposed the picture.  In the second one, I'm more pleased with the exposure and actually like the way the variety of light makes it so that this single plant's leaves have different shades of green.  I suppose in a more uniform light, the illusion would be created that the leaves are all the same color of green, or, at least, a lot more similar.  

Here are a couple of more picture where I wanted to focus on paler shades of green, but where each of the pictures is overexposed, the green turns ghostly.  I am especially disappointed in the second picture.  My eye say sunlight gashing through a shaded area, bathing these leaves in brilliance.  My eye could see each leaf.  But my failure to properly expose the picture results in a pool of green color and the suggestion of leaves, but without definition and with the light overpowering the image. 

Here, I think I came closer to getting a good picture.  It helps that my camera is closer to the subject.  The green is rich and I really enjoy the detail of the little crescents having been chewed out of the one leaf.  That said, it's clear that I'm still struggling with how to work with the varieties of light.  You can see this where the light washes out the green, making parts of the picture, for my taste, too shiny.

The first of these two pictures was taken in complete shade.  My first two tries at this photograph were way too dark.  I slowed down the shutter speed and opened up the aperture a bit and as a result, the fern is visible.  It's interesting to me how the shaded light in conjunction with my lens give this decidedly green fern an almost turquoise look.  Messing around with these pictures disabuses me of the idea that there is pure color or absolute color.  As the light changes, the color changes.

 In this picture, the little bit of sunlight that come into play adds to the variety of colors in these ferns.

These dead, crumpled leaves are yet another shade of green and you can see I used two different settings to take this shots.

Here's another picture that disappointed me.  I took a bunch of shots of the sun shining brilliantly upon this shock of leaves.  To my eye, it was a luminous sight, but I couldn't seem to bring that about.  I took all of the pictures without Snug and made my way through blackberry thorns and thick ivy to get a good angle.  But I failed.  This picture, to me, is undefined and ill-composed.  It captures little of what I felt as I took it.  It's a good example of a beautiful scene that availed itself to me and that I currently lack the skill to capture.

After trying to make the above picture work, I turned my attention to the moss on this single tree.  I like the bottom picture better.  I like how I lessened the exposure and, to me, it's a deeper, more interesting picture. (Again, I marvel at how different the green looks in these two pictures taken within maybe ten seconds of each other.  The natural light hadn't changed much.  My settings did, though.)

In these pictures, I wanted to see how my Tamron lens worked in close photographs and I liked this fern with its white tip as well as the second, studied from a different perspective.

In this picture, you can see the "browning" effect the setting sun has upon these leaves.  

Here are two attempts at seeing the same leaf in two ways with the setting sun casting light upon it.

I'll end this study of green with three photographs of the same leaf, a leaf that attracted my attention because it's not only green but also has autumn colorings.   I really can't say which picture I think works the best, only that it's another example of how I'm trying to learn what settings I prefer in relation to the light mother nature gives me. 

Three Beautiful Things 07/28/2011: The Big Burn, Radio Decisions, Prime Time at Billy Mac's

1.  I can't believe it's been almost four years since I read Timothy Egan's absorbing book on police corruption in Spokane in the 1930s, Breaking Blue.  I can't let four years pass again before reading another Timothy Egan book, but I won't be reading the next one until I finish the astonishing book of his I'm reading now, The Big Burn.  All I can say is that we live in a constant state of always.  I read about the USA and the Silver Valley and western Montana in the early 1900s and what was happening a hundred years ago is happening now.  Events don't melt into the past and go away.  Now is not that much different than then.  We live in a condition of always. Reading history illuminates the always more than it directs us to learn from the past.  The past isn't gone.

2.  My new XM satellite receiver arrived today and I need to go to a shop and have it installed -- this raises questions as to whether I will use the one I bought or return it and have the shop install a new FM/XM/etc. player into the panel of my Honda with some cheap new speakers....I'm pondering this all has to do with how much cash do I want to sink into this old car.....I'll run it as long as it runs....I'm hoping I can squeeze another couple of years out of it... I'm undecided about the radio....

3.  It was a fun night at Billy Mac's.  Mr. Billy Mac offered up a prime rib sandwich on sourdough with cheddar cheese mushrooms, onion, and peppers.  I gave it a try and was pleased.  Eileen (not my ex-wife Eileen) was there and I enjoyed talking with her for a few minutes.  At our table, lots of stories, laughs, commentaries, and good cheer.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Some Thoughts about Jack Nisbet's "Purple Flat Top"

I should always remember rule number one when it comes to starting a new book:  BE RESTED. 

My life is littered with books I tried to read when I was fatigued and that I set aside to return to and the return never happened.

I don't remember exactly when IEG gave me Jack Nisbet's  Purple Flat Top nor whether it was a Christmas or birthday gift.  Almost immediately, I set out to read it, but I was too tired to start it and set it aside,  and didn't get back to it until last week when Doug, Class of '70, Kellogg High School, posted a Facebook note about Jack Nisbet books he'd just finished reading and enjoying deeply. 

Am I ever glad he did.  Am I ever glad I returned to this book.

Sixteen stories comprise Purple Flat Top.   Each story stands on its own, not dependent upon the others to make sense or be enjoyed.  At the same time, the stories connect with each other.  They are all stories taking place in northeastern Washington, mostly in the immediate vicinity of Chewelah, but some of the action stretches across the Colville Reservation and into the Spokane Reservation, some sneaks into British Columbia, and one story leaves the state of Washington entirely when Nisbet writes about visiting Professor Charles J. Smiley at the University of Idaho to learn more about his study of botanical fossils unearthed in the Clarkia area of North Idaho. 

For over fifteen years, my sister (IEG) has lived in part of the world Nisbet tells his stories about.  I love driving to visit her, usually in the summer, sometimes at Thanksgiving or over Christmas.  In the summer,  during the day it's dry and hot.  The air parches my throat.  With the setting of the sun, the air cools, the stars dazzle the clear nights, the moon lingers over Lake Roosevelt, and the quiet settles in, sometimes interrupted by dogs howling up a draw nearby or unmuffled cars or motorcycles racing up the county road.

When the Bunker Hill Mining Company shut down in 1982, some guys in the Silver Valley chased jobs in northeastern Washington.  One family friend worked at Addy.  Others from the Kellogg area went to Republic.  Even knowing this, I hadn't thought of the region Nisbet explores as a mining district, as a dying mining district, as a place, much like Kellogg, where mining and milling had thrived, made the area prosperous, and then died.

But, Chewelah is just such a town.  Magnesite helped Chewelah thrive from about World War I until the operations shut down in 1968.

Jack Nisbet arrived in Chewelah soon after the magnesite industry went out.  As a result, his stories, each focused on a different person he came to know in the area, explore this place through the experiences, jobs, avocations, sense of service, histories, and voices of a variety of people who work to make ends meet, pursue their passions, and who even work hard to make this part of the world a better place to live.

Nisbet does what I most enjoy in writing:  he brings these persons alive through physical detail, the clothes they wear, the texture of their skin, the cadence of their speech, their various vocabularies, and by the work they do, whether working to keep Indian languages alive, collecting treasures at the town dump, or demolishing what's left of the magnesite mining machinery to sell as scrap.  We meet people playing music, an elderly Seventh Day Adventist from Russia who starts a thriving health food business, as well as water dowsers who try to help Nisbet find a reliable water source for the cabin he and a friend construct on Purple Flat Top.

For Nisbet, exploring what makes northeastern Washington the place it is only begins with these terrific stories and the fascinating people who inhabit them.  Nisbet loves the natural world.  He's a natural historian.  As he tells these stories, he takes his readers into the flowers, weeds, fish, birds, mammals, streams, smells, sensations, and other natural details of the Chewelah area.  Nisbet loves people.  He loves the natural world.  The natural and human details enrich his stories, demonstrating how the spirit of a place, how its soul, is grounded in the particular details of voices, plants, sounds, weather patterns, industry, water, creatures, as well as music, vehicles of transportation, and people's domiciles.  The spirit of place rises out of the physical world, out of what, in a place, we experience with our ears, eyes, fingers, noses, and tongues.  As a naturalist and a storyteller, Nisbet masterfully conveys and evokes the spirit of this particular place in Washington.

I've read a fair number of books and essays situated in the Inland Northwest and, more broadly, in the Pacific Northwest.

Some of these books seem too precious to me.  They seem self-consciously poetic; sometimes the writers seem  too self-aware of not only writing about our part of the USA, but seem bent on making it holy, mystical, more than it is, possibly.

Not Jack Nisbet.  This is not a precious book.  It's straightforward, seemingly effortlessly beautiful.  It's my favorite kind of writing.  I know the writing took a lot of work, but it never seems like it.  It never strains to be profound or calls attention to its own genius. 

In other words, the book is never about Jack Nisbet as a writer.  It's about Jack Nisbet, yes, but about the way he came to love northeastern Washington through the landscape, botany, creatures, history, and, above all, the people of this place. 

Three Beautiful Things 07/27/2011: Dental Spa, Remembering Barbara, Photo Challenge

1.  I'm happy to report that Kris once again did splendid work cleaning my teeth and making my every three month visit to the dentist a relaxing one, once again.

2.  I was too shy to say hello, but there was Barbara in J. Michael's, wondering where she could find a Wilkie Collins novel.  No one has helped me feel more welcome to a place than Barbara and John did way back in 1979 when Eileen and I first moved to Eugene.   Hugh Davis set us up.  He thought we'd all get along.  He was sure right.  Seeing Barbara immediately brought to mind the scores of movies we all watched together, the countless books we discussed, the stories we told about things at the U. of O., where we all studied or worked, the many evenings when we enjoyed good food and wine/beer, the weekend we spent at the coast, drinking Gewurztraminer and playing Sorry, and on and on.  A certain (and favorite) time in my life passed before my eyes as I purchased my copy of "The Big Burn" and "Above the Clearwater".   Until Eileen and I separated and divorced, we spent more time talking, laughing, drinking, eating, and being young know it alls with John and Barbara than anyone else.  It's hard to believe it was thirty years ago.  It was a sweet moment in J. Michael's, tinged with remorse.

3.  Snug and I returned to the Fairmount Blvd. side of Hendricks Park for another thirty minute walk up the gentle grade and back down.  I'm working on a sibling assignment, taking pictures of a single color.  If you've been to the Fairmount side of Hendricks Park in July, you know what color I'm working with:  green.  Because I'm using my Tamron f/2.5, 28 mm (42 in practice) lens, I have to manually set the aperture and shutter speed and focus the lens manually.  I've tried to take some good pictures of green with Snug on the leash, but I've not been terribly successful.  Taking pictures on the Fairmount Blvd. side of Hendricks Park challenges me because of the widely varying light conditions.  So, I returned to this spot this evening, without Snug, and took pictures without Snug pulling at me and free of concern that Snug is out of the way when cars come and go or when cyclists and runners and walkers pass us by.  I took better pictures, but, at this point in my life as a novice picture taker, the Fairmount Blvd. side of Hendricks Park is kicking my Nikon fanny.  (I can live with that!) 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/26/2011: Online Photo Mags, Tiring Snug, Pork-Pea-Spinach-Rice-Egg Stir Fry

1.  I should have known, but am only now discovering some online photography magazines like FILE and JPG Magazine and others.  These magazines have tons of pictures to look at and learn from as well as prompts and other features to help people with picture taking projects.  I spent a lot of time looking at these and other online magazines today and so another world of the World Wide Web and another dimension of enjoying photographs opened up.

2.  When I walk Snug on the west side of Hendricks Park, I always want to be sure to get in at least thirty minutes of walking.  For the first twenty-five minutes, Snug (on his leash) darts into the ferns and ivy and muddy tire ruts and sniffs around the mossy logs by the road and, well, I happily let him jerk me around, enjoying his exuberance in the urban forest, knowing that I can rein him in quickly if a car comes or if a runner/biker comes by.  The last five minutes or so are always the best.  Snug gets tired.  He stops diving into the underbrush and calmly walks by my side.  As time goes by, I'll extend our walking time and take more advantage of Snug being worn out and ready for a smoother walk.

3.  I tried something a little different in the electric frying pan tonight and it worked.  I cubed four small pork loin steaks, sizzled the cubes in sesame oil.  When they were browned, I poured the white basmati rice I had cooked into the pan.  By the way, I added sesame oil to the water when I cooked the rice.  I fried the rice and pork together for a while, added some frozen peas, frozen spinach, and, eventually, two beaten eggs.  When the peas and spinach were no longer frozen and the eggs cooked, I scooped the meal into a bowl and topped it with sliced hard-boiled egg.  I didn't use any soy sauce.  I put it on the table, along with pepper sauce, and figured Adrienne, the Deke, and I could add flavor as we saw fit.  The meal was a success.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/25/2011: Book Read, Lawn Mowed, Dinner Enjoyed

1.  I finished "Purple Flat Top".  I love the part of the country he writes about, the part of the country where InlandEmpireGirl lives.  Most of all, I enjoyed the portraits he drew of about a dozen different people he's known over the years and how these people's lives and the history of the general Chewelah area intersected with their lives.  For those more interested in natural history and plant life than I am, this book would be even more fascinating as Jack Nisbet writes in great detail and with great love about this aspect of northeastern Washington.

2.  Lawn mowed, some weeds pulled, some yard work done -- all accomplished under a glorious gray cloud cover, keeping the temperature cool and the work enjoyable.

3.  It always feels good to please family members when I cook dinner.  Tonight, Adrienne and the Deke enjoyed the tri tip steaks with the side dish I made:  bacon, sweet onion, diced russet potatoes, yellow corn, and spinach.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/24/2011: Stevens Pleasure, Nisbet Pleasure, Church Pleasure

1.  I started the day reading some poems by Wallace Stevens.  When I read his poems, it's like I've never read them before.  Today, in particular, his poems stirred me with their music, odd words, epistemological musings, and playfulness.  At one moment, I delighted in the realization that for once I wasn't reading Wallace Stevens' poetry as an English instructor nor as a student with a paper to write nor with some kind of article in mind nor as someone trying to compose in my mind what a reasonable "reading" of his poems might be.  As I grow older, I'm hoping to shed my identity as an English instructor more and more, not to think about how poems or plays or stories would "work in the classroom", to quit thinking about what my "reading" is, what this piece "means" and read for deep pleasure. 

2.  This reading for deep pleasure, not thinking about what I'm reading as school material, is giving me deep pleasure as I continue to make my way through "Purple Flat Top".  When I began the book, I thought it was a memoir built around a single continuous story, moving chapter by chapter through a single main plot.  I was wrong.  It's a series of independent stories, all tied together by involving the book's writer, Jack Nisbet, all tied together by all occurring in the general Chewelah/Colville region.  It's a splendid book.  The stories are terrific, enlivened not only by memorable characters, but by the region's many histories.

3.  Adrienne, Jack, and I went to church together this morning.  I was mostly happy for Adrienne.  She enjoyed seeing people she's known for years but rarely sees and she enjoyed having Jack with her and being able to do whatever she needed to both worship and keep Jack happy.  I'm really glad we have one more Sunday coming up when we can go to St. Mary's together again.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/23/2011: Purple Flat Top, Retirement, Saturday Breakfast

1.  I got started (again) reading "Purple Flat Top" and am finding it historically interesting and entertaining as a story.  The book has piqued my interest in the history of Chewelah, WA and the stories, of author Jack Nisbet as a man in his early twenties living in northeast Washington are fascinating and often very funny.

2.  I am very happy for a very good friend of mine whom I saw yesterday and who told me about retiring this coming November.  The boss doesn't know yet and so I'm keeping my friend's name to myself until it's all official, but it's really great news. (By the way, this is not anyone in the world of Lane Community College.)

3.  Two hundred forty men, women, and children came through the line yesterday at St. Mary's Episcopal Church for a free breakfast, a free breakfast offered every other Saturday at our church.  I managed to slip in a good conversation here and there as I served bacon and toast.  It was especially good to see D. again this morning.  He was a student of mine at LCC a couple of years ago.  He's a few years younger than I am. As when he was my student, he's still homeless.  He lives in his van with his son who is nearly thirty. (When D. was my student, he and his son lived under a bridge. He did his studies and wrote his papers at the public library.  It was all too much for him, though, and he left school.)  D. is getting a lot of help, trying (again) through rehab and meetings to kick his heroin habit and is getting professional help in coming to grips with the grief brought on by the multiple losses of loved ones to death in his life and the loss of his physical health which has, for years, kept him being able to do the work he did for many years before his life collapsed.  He's trying not to depend on heroin to numb his grief, but to live with his pain and get help with it.  I've seen him at two breakfasts in a row and his eyes are bright, his mind quick, and his good nature readily apparent.  These are good signs that he's probably telling me the truth that he's off the smack.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/22/2011: Rainbow Gathering, Sibling Assignment, Photograph Pleasure

1.  Kat was at Rainbow Optics.  Em was working her shift there.  I got caught up on how Kat's surgery recovery is going and learned about her travels and found out from Em how things are progressing with "Cymbeline".  Seeing Em and Kat made my visit to choose new frames for my new glasses much better than I could have expected.

2.  I finally got down to business and posted a sibling assignment (#146) that I've been sitting on for months.  I'm not sure the quality of the post really measures up to the long delay, but I was happy to finally get some of my church and cross pictures posted -- although, I'll admit, I think I struggle a bit with taking this kind of picture.  I need a lot more practice and maybe more imagination.

3.  It made me surprisingly ecstatic that some of my friends at St. Mary's and elsewhere enjoyed my photograph (posted on Facebook) of the sign at St. Mary's that says "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You" side by side with a huge motorcycle.  Sometimes when I post a picture or a piece of writing and people tell me they like it, I'm surprised by how moved I am by their response.  People liking this picture made me shake, really moved me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sibling Assignment #146: "Travel Without Traveling": Churches in Eugene/Springfield

If I don't post this sibling assignment now, I'll never post it because I keep going out into Eugene and taking more pictures of churches and crosses.  I'll continue to build my folder of church and cross pictures, but, now, after months of delay, I am finally posting my response to this assignment, given to me and Silver Valley Girl by InlandEmpireGirl.  She got it from Chris Orwig and it goes like this:

"Travel Without Traveling".   Without going more than 15 miles, set out to photograph your geographic context like it has never been photographed before. Imagine you are a foreigner and only have a short time to capture what captivates you. Create a set of photos. Share your photos with writing about your geographic context. 
Using primarily her nostalgia setting on her Canon S95, IEG took her readers on a tour of Old Kettle Falls.  I just looked over those pictures again for the Nth time.  They evoke the past and IEG composed some really lovely shots.  Wanna see them?  Go here.

Maybe Eugene, Oregon has been photographed before as a city of churches.  I can't really say.  But, what I do know is that when people generally think of Eugene and when I read descriptions of Eugene, churches are never mentioned.

In fact, if you listen to some people in their adoration of Eugene and others as they rail about Eugene, you wouldn't think there was a church anywhere to be found.  In fact, Eugene's general reputation for being an unchurched town is epitomized in this picture of a window on the north side of the the Koinonia Center, the Presbyterian campus ministry house at the University of Oregon.  Many see Eugene as a town of Buddhists, Duck worshipers, or both:

I haven't tried to go to the most beautiful church buildings in Eugene.  I've just gone to the grounds of different churches and taken pictures so that a foreigner coming to Eugene might see that I am captivated as much by how modest and dignified many of Eugene's churches are and to see the various ways churches in Eugene display the cross.

That said, I'll begin this tour with a church that doesn't display a cross because it's a Unitarian/Universalist Church.  When I took this picture back in early March, I remember how much I enjoyed the late winter shaft of light cutting across this bench, almost seeing to light the universalist symbol of enlightenment depicted on it:

But not all Christian churches in the Eugene/Springfield area display the cross.  I'm not sure, but I think some congregations find display of the cross too iconic and these congregations eschew symbols or representations of biblical stories or of spiritual truths.  One such church is in Springfield:

I don't know much about the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.  For nearly thirty years, I have been reading and rereading a superb essay about writing by David Bradley entitled "The Faith".  Bradley writes about his father, a pastor in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.  His father was a cerebral man and delivered cerebral sermons, but one night, at a revival meeting, Bradley heard his father put the intellectual approach behind.  His father told a story about nearly being killed in a forest fire.  No congregation had ever heard him say anything personal about himself, let alone hear him tell a story of being in great peril, at great risk.  Bradley argues that it cost his father something of his invulnerability to tell that story and from his father's example he learned the ethic that he says guides him as a writer:  the ethic of cost.  He asks himself when he writes, "Did what I just wrote cost me?  Am I protecting myself?  Or am I willing to pay the cost to be self-revealing?"  Bradley is an African-American and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church is a traditionally black church --  in fact, in Bradley's essay, it's called the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.  Until last week, I hadn't been to this church, to St. Mark Methodist Episcopal Church.   I've still not been inside.  It's part of the geography of Eugene:

On south of St. Mark Methodist Episcopal Church is the campus of what used to be Eugene Bible College.  It's now New Hope Christian College.  Whereas the General Assembly and Church of the First Born in Springfield did not display the cross, at New Hope Christian College, the cross is prominent.  The cross flies on a flag, beneath the American flag.

The cross that sits atop the campus once sat atop Eugene's Skinner Butte on the north edge of downtown.  The cross was controversial.  Many Eugenians objected to having such a pointedly Christian symbol rise above the city and wanted the cross removed.  The controversy was settled when former Eugene Bible College moved the cross to its campus.   The cross shares a circle with flags from different nations.

I voted for William Jefferson Clinton for president in 1992 at the College Crest Wesleyan Church, the polling place in my precinct.  It's an unassuming building, with a humble cross and a most worthy basketball hoop:

For some reason, the New Life Apostolic Tabernacle in the Whitaker neighborhood has always had my attention.  I can't really explain it.  It's a Penecostal church located in a neighborhood more renowned for artists, breweries, hostels, wine tasting, and coffee than for speaking in tongues.  Maybe that's it.  It's an anomaly.   I took some pictures of the New Life Apostolic Tabernacle with my Nikon lenses and then turned to my Holga for a different perspective:

I was going to end with a few shots of the church where I've been confirmed a member and where I worship.  But, I have tons of pictures of St. Mary's Episcopal Church and I think I'll wait for another time and make pictures of St. Mary's a post all of its own.  
So, I'll close with a picture of three crosses.  They are on the east side of the Westside Christian Church's building:

Three Beautiful Things 07/21/2011: Rainbow Aperture, Speaking in Tongues, Hand-Crafted Quality at the Troxstar's

1.  I've been slowly but surely coming to a better understanding of aperture. Today, when I left Rainbow Optics, with my pupils dilated, and the whole world looked liked an overexposed photograph, I came to an even better understanding of that opening through which light travels in a camera. 

2.  Back when I could take Snug to the dog park near Wayne Morse Ranch, he would start speaking in tongues as we neared the parking lot, ecstatic to be arriving, eager to get out of the car, excited to run and play with other dogs.  Today, Snug and I went to the west side of Hendricks Park again and the smells and sights of the park must be getting familiar to Snug because once we entered the park, he began speaking in tongues and couldn't get out of the car fast enough to stick his nose in all those smells of the urban forest.

3.  It was a hand-crafted night at the Troxstar house.  I hand-crafted a batch of Buffalo wings.  Marla hand-crafted the ingredients for burritos and we all hand-crafted our own unique burritos.  I hand-crafted Old Fashions, each hand-crafted cocktail highlighted by George Dickel's finest hand-crafted No. 12 Tennessee Whisky, with its concentrated flavors of rich oak and subtle vanilla leading to a long finish with hints of maple, butter and smoke,  for the Troxstar, Marla, and the Deke.  The Troxstar opened the tap to his keg of hand-crafted Kolsch beer from Double Mountain Brewery of Hood River, fine purveyors of hand-crafted Northwest beers and ales since 2007, with an uncompromising focus on beer quality.  Conversation at the dinner table was replete with hand-crafted wit, stories, smart ass remarks, and, above all, hand-crafted laughter. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/20/2011: Grab Shots with Snug, Pork Chop Timing, Evening Photo Walk

1.  I carried my camera on my early afternoon walk with Snug and grabbed pictures, fast pictures, because I can't set up a picture or think about what I'm doing while Snug darts into ferns, sniffs around the ivy, looks more moist places to roll around, and eagerly explores the world along the road on the west side of Hendricks Park.

2.  The thick pork loin chops sizzled in bacon grease as the lemoned and cinnamoned apples bubbled in butter and brown sugar and the green beans and bacon sat cooked in a microwave bag.  I knew the food would be pretty good.  I just wanted it to all be done and ready to serve at the same time.  It was.  Adrienne, Nathan, Mary F., the Deke, and I had a good dinner.

3.  Russell and I parked on 14th behind St. Mary's Episcopal Church and took our cameras out into the soft light of early evening and shot away.  Then we went for a short time down to the Fifth Street Market area.  I continued to work with and learn more about my Tamron lens, the one Russell picked up for me for 15 bucks at Goodwill, the one without auto focus and that requires me to make manual aperture settings.  I had a great time and my first glance tells me I got some decent pictures.  We'll see.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/19/2011: Normal at Brails, Useless Robbery, Hot Pad Se Ew

1.  I woke up feeling normal.  The bug ran its course.  Proof:  Breakfast with Billy D. at Brails.

2.  The only pleasure I take in having another XM radio receiver jacked from my car is that it's a perfectly useless piece of junk for whomever jacked it. Well, unless the jacker calls XM and pays for a subscription.  I can't remember the last time I forgot to lock the car door.  Therefore, it's been quite a while since I last had a receiver jacked.  Apparently I forgot to lock the car door Sunday, no doubt because I was all wound up and excited and not thinking straight after Jack's baptism.  It only takes one slip for the marauders of the night to move in and jack what ever they can.

3.  The Deke ordered the Pad Se Ew to be medium spicy.  The chef slipped.  It was hot.  Blissfully hot.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/18/2011: Nurse Snug, Stayed Down, Liquids

1.  Snug's presence beside me in bed all day while recovering from the stomach virus that's made the rounds in our family was comforting.  So were the many hours of sleep. 

2.  I ate some toast and later a slice of cheese pizza and crazy bread and it stayed down.

3.  Liquids.  As soon as the illness asserted itself in the wee hours of the morning, I started drinking mineral water, tonic water, and plain black tea and never became dehydrated.  I've learned a lot from past experiences with dehydration to do all I can not to let dehydration happen again. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/17/2011: Jack's Baptism, Good People, Taco Topper

1.  Today was Jack David Turner's baptism at St. Mary's Episcopal Church and it was deeply touching to be a part of the family as we sat together and witnessed Jack's baptism and a part of the congregation, to join in with people I've known in the church for many years and stand up for Jack.

2.  I was responsible for delivering the baptism cake to the church and so I was there early, early enough to see church members I rarely see because they worship at 8:00.  Then, because the baptism was held at 9:30, I got to visit with a bunch of people I don't see very often who are also worship at a different time than I do.  The church and the Guild Room, where the cake was served, was filled with excitement and joy in response to Jack's baptism.

3.  Nathan went to the store and bought the makings for tacos and we had a fine dinner together as a family, a nice way to top off a day that was exhilarating and exhausting.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/16/2011: Drumettes, Lens, Success

1.  I was surprisingly happy that my order of ten packages of drumettes was all ready to be picked up at Market of Choice.  Tonight's dinner is kind of a big deal and having this piece of the day be easy lightened my gait.

2.  I began experimenting around the house with my 28mm f/2.5 Tamron lens, my first venure into manual aperture and manual focus.  With manual aperture, I like how I can really see and feel the notch if I take the aperture up a notch or bring it down a notch.  I can visualize the opening in the lens expanding or contracting as I move from one stop/notch to another.  It's more tangible.

3.  Could I flour, fry, and coat sixty drumettes, have them all taste pretty good, get the celery sticks ready, the blue cheese dressing ready, and prepare garlic toast from hamburger buns.  Yes I could!  Billy Joe Diedrich's birthday party was especially fun while I was fixing the wings and the celery and the garlic toast.  It was especially pleasing to have it all succeed.

Three Beautiful Things 07/15/11: Snug Groove, Photo Chat, Church Tour

1.  Snug and I are finding a groove walking on the Fairmount Blvd. side of Hendricks Park.  Even on a short leash, he loves diving his nose into everything that grows and I enjoy the pull on my leg muscles and my own panting, walking up the easy hill.

2.  I withdrew forty bucks at the credit union.  For the sake of security, I wore my Nikon around my neck, rather than leave it in the car.  The teller asked me if I was out taking pictures and I wasn't a jerk and I answered her seriously that I was on my way out to take pictures of churches around Eugene.  She lit up.  She loved that idea.  We had a good conversation about it, how I was after variety, not looking for the best looking churches and we told each other where we worship.  She was good people.

3.  I went to Samuel Reynolds street, out Bailey Hill Road, up Friendly Street, and down to the end of Monroe Street and took pictures of crosses and church buildings and sky and even a basketball hoop, in a church parking lot. It was a lot of fun.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/14/2011: Snug's Olefactory Bliss, Drumettes a Go, Billy Mac Goodness

1.  I went on a shady walk with Snug on the Fairmount side of Hendricks Park and delighted in how enthusiastically Snug smelled ever possible scent in the ferns, ivy, loam, and pine needles (for starters) along the road and the trail.

2.  My hope was that I could put in an order for a ton of drumettes at MOC and I succeeded. Saturday's Buffalo wing birthday party for Billy J. D. just got the green light.

3.  Tonight's get together at Billy Mac's rocked.  Conversation was wide ranging, funny, informative, full of vitality and good cheer.  The Creole fish special was really good, too.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/13/2011: Perfect Look, Steph and Ale, Delirium Tremens

1.   I got to introduce Bill to the friendly women, excellent prices, and fine work of the stylists at Perfect Cut where Bill and I got haircuts.  Bill's got rave reviews at home.  No one could really tell I got a haircut.

2.  After a half an hour or so of Perfect Cut friendliness, Bill and I headed down to Eugene City Brewery for lunch and were greeted by the friendly service of Stephanie and the excellent beer and food of Rogue Nation.  Bill's a hop head and was very happy with his Imperial India Pale Ale and then with a pint of a darker beer represented at the tap by a green dragon.  I went for a pint of the American Amber and the Juniper Pale Ale.  I'd wanted the Rogue Irish Lager, but, alas, they were out.  Then I thought I'd try the Chatoe Single Malt Ale, but it wasn't on tap.  I was putting the good-spirited Stephanie to the test.  She has a great sense of humor, though, and finally I ordered a beer the joint had on tap.  (By the way, across the street, near the Horsehead, a paddywagon showed up and the cops carted off two miscreants.  Stephanie not only gave a play by play from behind the bar, but was more enthused about witnessing this arrest than she was for the USA victory over France in the Women's World Cup.)

3.  Bill told me at Eugene City Brewery that his favorite of all ales is Delirium Tremens, a strong Belgian pale ale. As the day wound down, and evening set in, Bill suggested we go to the Bier Stein and he'd buy a ceramic bottle and we could split it.  So we did.  It was a pleasant pint and one pint was just enough for me.  I'm grateful to Bill for introducing me to this fine beverage. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/12/2011: Lens, Photo Stroll, Steak Night

1.  This actually happened yesterday, but I want to make note of the fact that Russell found a Tamron 28mm lens with a Nikon mount at Goodwill, and picked it for me for $15.  I look forward to seeing what kind of pictures I'll be able to take with it.

2.  Speaking of pictures, Russell and I had scheduled a photo stroll for today and my niece Samantha is an avid photographer and she joined us and we had a blast at the Farmers Market and then at 5th Street Market, not only taking pictures, but having some fine conversation as well.

3.  New York steak night!  New York steaks were available at MOC at a somewhat discounted price and I thought it would be fun, with everyone home, to have a steak feed with corn, baked potatoes, and salad.  I was right.  We had a great meal together.

Three Beautiful Things 07/11/2011: Hedge Trim, Clutter Lightens, Everyone's Back Home

1.  The guy who does some work around our yard once in a while did a fine job trimming our shaggy hedge.

2.  More stuff left the house today (with my help...). . . and the sense of clutter lightens.

3.  Bill, Samantha, the Deke, Molly, Adrienne, Olivia, and Jack all arrived safely in Eugene today after a difficult drive from Kellogg and, with Rachel Ray's help, I made an electric fry pan full of Sloppy Joe gravy and served it over toasted hamburger buns dressed with butter and garlic powder. 

Three Beautiful Things 07/10/2011: Guild Room, Free Microwave, Mongolian BBQ

1.  I don't usually hang around after church in the Guild Room for coffee, but I did today and enjoyed conversations with everyone I talked with.

2.  Items keep on moving out of the house!  Through Freecycle, I discovered a post from someone who needed a microwave and we had one in the house that we wanted to move on.  I delivered it. The microwave made the recipient very happy.

3.  I went to Jung's Mongolian BBQ.  I loved the lamb, loved the noodles -- well, I really enjoyed all the ingredients, but I just couldn't achieve as strong of a coconut/ginger taste as I wanted.  Maybe I'll go back and work on it again. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/09/11: Goodbye TV, Goodwill Visit, Evening at the Troxstar's Crib

1.  D. and her husband pulled into our driveway and loaded up what was once our television, DVD player, and rolling oak TV stand, with smiles.  They needed a TV for their youngsters to watch DVDs and now they have one, free, thanks to Eugene Freecycle.  They came after I loaded up the bookshelf in the Subaru and drove it to H's where she and I took it up a flight of stairs to her apartment where books will now be off the floor and on display. 

2.  Lamps, bulletin board, framed maps, boxes of books, bulky travel bag, an iron, and a few other things are now out of our house and in the possession of Goodwill.  My room keeps getting lighter.

3. The Troxstar and Marla invited me over for some stir fry dinner and to get ourselves ready to eat I put my modest mixological skills to work and served the Troxstar and Marla each an old-fashioned, with the hope that George Dickel No. 12 Tennessee Whisky would make it a worthy drink.  The Troxstar came back for seconds and Marla sipped some George straight after finishing her old-fashioned.  It made me think that the George Dickel worked.  After all, George Dickel No. 12 displays enormous depth, range and personality, and is considered by many to be the gold standard of Tennessee whisky.  With deeper, more assertive flavors and an incredibly smooth finish, No. 12, a classic 90-proof Dickel whisky, combines older whiskies selected by Master Distiller John Lunn to create a richness that maintains Dickel's signature smooth finish.  

It's a no brainer.

Not only was George Dickel in the house, but the Troxstar had just purchased a keg of Double Mountain Kolsch.  I'd never heard of this cloudy, yeasty light and tasty ale, but now I know this about Kolsch:

In Cologne, Germany, many a brewery produces a light-bodied ale with a delicate fruitiness and rounded maltiness, attributable to the unique yeast strain commonly used. Double Mountain's  K├Âlsch is unfiltered and more generously hopped than its German cousin.

I'm not a big fan of generously hopped beer, and am happy to say that this Double Mountain Kolsch was perfectly hopped for my taste and was especially tasty because the Troxstar cleaned the beer lines and everything.

A great evening of conversation, laughs, food, drink, and solving about a dozen of life's most riddling problems. 

The goalie, however, I'm happy to say, was never needed and was never pulled.

Oh!  That Dickel prose:  pure plagiarism and not to be tried at school. 

Three Beautiful Things 07/08/11: Bookshelves, Goodbye Books, Jade Palace Feast

1.  H. just moved into a studio apartment not long ago and she has plenty of books, but no bookshelves, and when I contacted her in response to a request she made through Eugene Freecycle, she still wanted bookshelves.  I just emptied a six foot high bookshelf, offered it her, and she accepted. My plans to reconfigure and redefine my room are moving apace.

2.   I have all these books that have at one time been important to me one way or another, but that I never look at or read any more.  I boxed them up and I'll be taking them to Goodwill tomorrow.  I know I could sell a bunch of them at Smith Family, but I don't feel like loading them on the elevator or packing them up the stairs and I don't feel like waiting for an assessment and I don't feel like dealing with the books that will be rejected.  One trip to Goodwill will be all it takes and if there are Goodwill shoppers looking for some pretty good books, many by writers whose work has endured, some for centuries, they'll find such books one day when these contributions make their way to the shelves.

3. I went online to Jade Palace and looked at the family dinners.  I'm home by myself and it suddenly occurred to me that for a little over twenty bucks I could order a family dinner for two and have food for at least a couple of days.  So I did it.  I ordered family dinner C:  lemon chicken, bbq pork, pork fried rice, special chow yuk, fried shrimp, and eggrolls.  I enjoyed my dinner and there are plenty of leftovers for lunch and snacks tomorrow.  I will definitely do this again next time I've got the house to myself. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/07/11: Chores, All's Well in Kellogg, The Shot Heard 'Round the World

1.  I keep getting this and that done around the house.  A few weeds here, a lawn mowed there, some fertilizer on the front lawn here, and more trash to get rid of there.  I keep plugging away.

2.  It's good to hear that all is well in Kellogg at Mom's house with the Deke and Molly and Adrienne and Jack and Olivia.  It's good to hear that Bill and Samantha are closing in on arriving in Kellogg.  It's good to hear that the Deke went to Cattails and met Yvonne. 

3.  Roger was at a corner at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D. when, in 1951, Bobby Thompson slammed the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" off Ralph Branca.  He heard a broadcast live, probably the less famous Gordon McLendon national broadcast on the Liberty Broadcasting System. The more famous Russ Hodges call was on a local New York City broadcast.  McLendon, like Hodges, yelled, "The Giants win the pennant!" and so Roger's memory of hearing those immortal words is probably correct.  But they would not have been the cry heard 'round the world by Russ Hodges.    I'm wondering if I know anyone else who heard that moment live.  I don't remember anyone else telling me they did.  Knowing Roger did, hearing his story about it, and thinking back on the many, many times I've read about this moment in baseball and heard replays of it, gave me great pleasure at Billy Mac's. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/06/11: Dump Sigh, Fairmount Photo Stroll, Neighborhood Photo Stroll

1.  I love getting rid of stuff and exhaled a sigh of comfort when I dumped the stuff I brought to the dump into the dump.

2.  Sonette, Russell and I had lunch at Dickie Joe's in Eugene and then went on a photo walk in the lower Fairmount Blvd. neighborhood, including the southeast end of Washburne Park.  I posted my dark pictures on Facebook, but I took some sunny ones, too.  Maybe the most intriguing was a subject Sonette led us to.  I'm sure there's a reasonable story behind this:

3.  About 8 p.m., I went for another photo stroll, this time around the block I live on, interrupted by a visit to Monroe Park.  Here's a sculpture I enjoy and that I must make a subject of many more pictures:

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/05/11: Charly Prays, Dump Ready, 90 Kodak Moments

1.  I was wrong.  Neighborhood history did not repeat itself.  No fireworks on July 5.  I'm sure I heard Charly whimper a prayer of gratitude.

2.  The garage project continues apace:  Sh.Bell picked up the window air conditioners, the Sube is loaded for the dump, the Christmas tree is disassembled and in the green recycle barrel (so is the branch that fell off our tree and failed to give anyone a concussion).  Dump day is tomorrow.  The project will be about 92.7% completed.

3.  I spent about 90 minutes today indulging a low grade obsession with vintage Kodak cameras, especially the Brownie Hawkeye my parents took great pictures with of life around our two residences on E. Portland Ave. in Kellogg and, inspired by the Sloans (via Tumblr and Flickr), I got to looking at old Duaflex cameras, too.   

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/04/11: Snug's Disdain, Pork Chop Dinner, It's Over (Mostly)

1.  Snug is a scared dog.  Quick movements, the setting down of a coffee cup, the shaking out of a quilt, another dog walking by the house all make him jump, sometimes growl.  Not fireworks, though.  While the bombs bursting in air lasted until 2 a.m. in our neighborhood, Snug calmly either slept or just looked up and surveyed the room with an air of disdain.  (I wish the same were true for our corgi Charly.  Independence Day imprisons her in fear and anxiety.)

2.  I felt like cooking one of my favorite dinners tonight, so I made pork chops topped with fried apples and a brown sugar and butter sauce and a mess of green beans, bacon, mushrooms, sweet onions, and diced Yukon gold potatoes all fried together on the side.  We also had a lettuce leaf salad.  It was the best hour of Independence Day.

3.  Since the rockets' red glare and bombs bursting in air began in our neighborhood about a week ago, I know, based on past history,  it will continue for several more days at least.  But, at least the sensation I experienced last night of living in Beirut or Sarajevo or Baghdad is over and my least favorite holiday has come to an end. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/03/11: Sonette at Church, Sonette and Coffee, Skillet Dinner

1.  Sonette Bales is in town for a week and we met at St. Mary's for the 11:00 service.  I was especially happy that Sonette heard Rev. Betsy Tesi's compelling sermon, an insightful riff on superheroes, Jesus (who is not like a cinematic superhero), the U.S.A., donkeys, burdens, and comfort. 

2.  Sonette and I had a very leisurely cup of coffee at Vero after the service and talked about a wide variety of things, starting with the subject of church and branching off into all kinds of other delightful and intriguing areas. 

3.  Sitting with the Deke and Molly out in the cool of the backyard, we deliberated for about twenty minutes as to what to do for dinner.  We decided that I would make what the Deke and Molly call a skillet dinner, so I got out the trusty electric frying pan and fried up some bacon, onions, potatoes, ground beef, red pepper, mushrooms, and spinach and seasoned it with lemon and Greek seasoning.  We had ourselves a dinner. Everyone was happy, more happy than had we ordered carry out Chinese or something like that. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/02/11: MIWW Pictures, A Lot to Learn, Garage Progress

1.  Maybe today was the last day of a longish picture project as I found (and had printed at Costco) about fifty pictures to send with the Deke to Kellogg for MIWW, covering the big family celebrations of 2011, as well as a little bit of MIWW's life in Orofino.

2.  Looking at those pictures I took back in January for MIWW's 80th birthday, I see how much I had and still have to learn about low light photography.  Very tricky, but seeing what I have to learn in those pictures and doing all I can to learn and improve is immensely enjoyable.

3.  I'm happy to announce that I completed another phase of the garage clean up project and am even happier to say that I foresee being done on Tuesday when the dump opens after a day off for the 4th of July.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 07/01/11: Arms Around Photo, Daisy Photo, Thistle Photo

Today Russell and I walked from Maurice Jacobs Park to the Delta Ponds.  Here are three photographs from our walk:

1.  The pictures I take for my people holding hands project also includes people with their arms around one another:

2.  I had fun taking pictures of these daisies from odd angles.  Here's one:

3.  I had fun looking down into this thistle:

Three Beautiful Things 06/30/11: Printed Pictures, Snapshots to Great Shots, Billy Mac's

1.  I bought my first digital camera in 2005, late in the year.  I've been taking pictures ever since, and today, for the first time, I had pictures printed and I went to Costco and picked up a set of over fifty pictures of Olivia.  Most of them looked pretty good and it made Molly happy.  (Molly will be taking the pictures to Kellogg with her.)

2. I've been taking a lot of pictures lately, enjoying my new lenses, and a bunch of questions about my camera have come up...I had bought the book "Nikon D3100:  From Snapshots to Great Shots" about seven months ago and much of it didn't make sense to me when my camera was new.  I got the book out again.  It's making a ton of sense now and I've learned much, much more about my camera and about picture taking.  Will what I've learned result in better pictures?  We'll see.

3.  It was a lively night at Billy Mac's.  I met Pam and Michael's friends, Linda and Paul, and they seemed to enjoy the food, conversation, and laughter.  I know I did.  It was a really fun night.