Monthly Archives: June 2009

Spiders

We just got back from a week out of town. This morning I opened the cupboard to get the peanut butter jar and surprised a nice little brown spider who had made her home inside. She also startled me a bit, but only because I wasn’t expecting to find something moving inside the cupboard. I tried to catch her (to release outside) but failed. No big deal. I just cleaned up some of the web mess and let her be. I’ll probably find her and more web mess again in a few days. When I got into my car last night (after more than a week of it sitting idle) I also had to wipe away a few strands of web from the steering wheel and mirror. I’m sure they’d take over the world if humans weren’t around!

I used to be very, very afraid of spiders, but no longer am. I credit my weeks with Gabriella for desensitizing me to them. Gabriella was a garden spider (or araneus diadematus) that made her home just outside our front door late summer in 2006. Since I was taking a break from work at the time, I had the opportunity to observe and photograph her for several weeks. It was a wonderful experience, not just for the photographs I got from it, but also for the chance to learn so much about spiders. Even better, I later discovered that I no longer had that paralyzing fear of spiders that I’d always had and hated.

Gabriella, a garden spider.

Gabriella, a garden spider.

That shot of Gabriella shows her in October with a recent catch, a bee. She had grown considerably from the time I first found her in late August. I love the design on her back. One day I found her hanging from her recently sloughed off exoskeleton. I didn’t realize what I was looking at until my son filled me in. She had molted and was “stretching” out her new “skin” as it dried.  Fascinating! And, yes, she’s a she. The males are much smaller. I did see a male about 20 feet away one day (see below). They don’t build the orb webs like the females, who have to eat a lot to grow and produce eggs. I hoped he’d find her. I also hoped that I’d get to see her egg sack, but I never did. She had moved to a different bush and then the rains came and I lost track of her. The next spring I found more garden spiders, though, so I like to think they were her offspring.  🙂

Male garden spider

Male garden spider

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Tennessee Trip – Day 6 Nashville

Still working on describing my Tennessee trip, even though it has been more than a month since I’ve been back.

Guitar outside souvenir shop

Guitar outside souvenir shop

Tuesday morning we left for the almost 3-hour drive to Nashville. I had to say goodbye to Kacie kitty and resist stuffing her in my suitcase. I’d gotten used to her fuzzy warmth near me at night. We stopped along the way for lunch and got to Nashville early afternoon. That gave us time to explore the downtown area. Broadway is the “the” country-music street to visit with souvenir shops, restaurants, music stores, live music coming out of bars and cafes, and more.

I bought one souvenir, a guitar Christmas tree ornament. Jenn bought a few things in a record store (yes, they even had records). To me, the most interesting place, though, was Hatch Show Print, a letterpress printer since 1879. The shop is covered with old posters advertising everything from CW greats to David Byrne and even everyday products. As someone who has worked in the printing industry for more than two decades, I was totally fascinated. The shop is now owned by the Country Music Hall of Fame. Do check out their website and learn more about them.

Hatch Show Print shop

Hatch Show Print shop

Downtown Nashville is like many cities with an interesting mix of old and new buildings and styles. Of course, one of the highlights is the Ryman Auditorium, the old home of the Grand Ole Opry. It’s a fabulous old building with a lot of music history. The arched windows hint back to its origins as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, built in 1892. Today it’s part auditorium, part museum and a must-see in Nashville.

Ryman Auditorium

Ryman Auditorium

That evening we attended the Grand Ole Opry, which is now held at a newer Opry House just outside of Nashville. First we had dinner at the Rainforest Cafe at Opry Mills, a large shopping mall which replaced the old theme park, Opryland. (Something I learned later.) Dinner was good and in an intriguing setting. I enjoyed the Grand Ole Opry much more than I expected to. I knew I would enjoy it, I just didn’t know I would that much. Of course, there’s always something about attending a live music show that you don’t get from recordings. Our seats were in about the 10th row and on the aisle, which made it easy for me to run down the aisle towards the front to snap photos. They not only let you do that, but encourage you to. Now, that’s my kind of place!

Ed Brown

Ed Brown

The Grand Ole Opry is still a radio show with announcer and commercials. There were eight different acts and each one was on stage about 15 minutes. The first on stage was Ed Brown, known for being one of The Browns family singing group. He’s aging, but I was impressed by his voice and stage presence. He’s still quite a performer.

Restless Heart

Restless Heart

Next came Restless Heart, a group that recorded the song, “You Can Depend On Me,” which is one we still do a clogging dance to. In fact, the step, Restless Vine, is named after them.

Mel McDaniel

Mel McDaniel

Mel McDaniel was up next. Gee, he’s getting older, as are so many of the artists I remember from years back when I used to listen to country music. He has a wonderfully expressive face.

Del McCoury Band

Del McCoury Band

The Del McCoury Band is a bluegrass staple and well-known.

Jean Shepard

Jean Shepard

They were followed by Jean Shepard, the longest running female member of the Opry. Boy! She was a kick. I liked her.

Rodney Atkins

Rodney Atkins

Rodney Atkins brought the most screams from the females in the audience. He also brought his little son on stage briefly. Too cute.

Little Jimmy Dickens

Little Jimmy Dickens

Little Jimmy Dickens has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry longer than anyone else. He is short, he’s also getting old, his voice isn’t what it used to be, but he’s still the consumate performer. We laughed at his jokes, no matter how corny or silly.

Joe Diffie

Joe Diffie

The show ended after Joe Diffie and his band performed. I enjoyed every single one of these acts and had so much fun. I’d go back in a heartbeat, and I’m not the one who’s the huge country music fan. (That would be Jennifer, of course.)

After the show we walked over to the Opryland Hotel by following a bunch of people on foot who seemed like they knew where they were headed. We’d wanted to see the inside of the hotel, but weren’t willing to pay the $8 parking fee. Yikes! Even at night the inside atrium (if you can call it that) was impressive. It was a pretty good ending to a fun day in Nashville.

Opryland Hotel

Opryland Hotel

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Snakes

Yesterday (Saturday) the Diablo Mountain Cloggers (one of my clogging groups) danced a couple of sets at Old Borges Ranch in Walnut Creek as part of their Heritage Day. It’s always fun to go to this annual event with lots of old-time crafts, displays, and nature information.

Gopher Snake

Gopher Snake

We also saw not one, but two snakes. First, there was this handsome gopher snake under the ramp by the barn. A nearby ranger told us some of the differences between a gopher snake and a rattler, other than the obvious rattles at the end of the tail. The gopher snake is very shiny, so much he almost looked wet. A rattlesnake is not shiny and also will be much fatter than the gopher snake. I thought this guy was rather handsome and he didn’t seem to be too bothered by the crowd that had gathered to see him. He was at least a couple of feet long.

King Snake

King Snake

As some of us were leaving, I noticed a kid pointing to a spot in the grass. Another snake! This one was a king snake, though. A different ranger told us that king snakes are good to have around because they aren’t affected by a rattler’s poison and will eat rattlesnakes. Hmmm. Good to know. The king snake was a little larger than the gopher snake we saw earlier, probably at least three feet long. Man! Two snakes in one day and I think I usually see about one snake every 10 years or so.

(With my apologies to Jennifer.)

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SoFoBoMo Project and Lessons Learned

SoFoBoMo Book Cover

SoFoBoMo Book Cover

I actually finished the book on time! I uploaded it to the SoFoBoMo site just before 2:00 am on June 11. You could argue that I was 2 hours past the deadline, but I could argue that 1) it still felt like Wednesday to me, and 2) I didn’t start the book until after 7:30 pm on May 11. So I did it all within the 31 days. Whoo hoo!

Once again, this is a photo book of my dancers, people who come to one of the clogging groups that I teach. (What’s clogging? Learn more here.) The pdf is up on the SoFoBoMo site and it is now also available on Issuu. Issuu really presents it in a cool way. I recommend checking it out there.

It has been quite a month of fun, learning, shooting, and more. Things I learned… a little bit about my dancers; a bit more of myself; the fact that I need to learn so much more about portrait photography and using a flash; I can handle a larger DSLR and still be comfortable with it; even though I don’t mind seeing my dancers’ wrinkles, they might; camera batteries lose their power after sitting around for three weeks; no matter how much I plan, I’ll still forget something; no matter how much I try, I’ll still do something stupid (like use the wrong white balance); my dancers are the best bunch of people in the world (actually, I already knew that).

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SoFoBoMo is Done!

I just finished my book and uploaded it to the SoFoBoMo site. Whoo hoo!
More later…  (must sleep – it’s late)

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Reinforcements

Miniature Pieces Form

Miniature Pieces Form

My son builds and paints Warhammer game miniatures. He often receives UPS packages of parts. Today a box arrived from The War Store labeled “Your reinforcements have arrived.”  🙂

The picture above is of one of the forms he received a while back. I was intrigued by the detail and shapes.

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My Camera Has Returned!

Yesterday my camera arrived back from the Canon repair factory. First thing I learned was that camera batteries will go dead if left to just sit around for three weeks. I’d never gone that long before without using the camera! (The borrowed 20D uses a different sized battery.) Anyway, I’m glad to have it back and plan to use it tonight.

One more night of shooting pictures for SoFoBoMo and then I’ll have to quickly choose, process and add a few to my layout. I find, as is often the case, that I tend to streamline my work the closer I get to a deadline. Early on I may spend a fair amount of time doing “work” that isn’t really necessary in the end. Maybe some of that’s OK, though, for it gets me used to going through the processes of choosing photos, editing, weeding out, and fitting them into the book layout. By the time I get to where I have to do it quickly, I’ve practiced it enough that I can. Still, there’s nothing like a deadline to get something done!

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