Tuesday, August 21, 2012


ETA: It's come to my attention that if you're viewing this entry on Internet Explorer there's a pretty sizable gap between the double yellow line shot and the honey dipper shot below it.  That gap doesn't exist in Chrome or Firefox.  This is my formal invitation to you: C'mon over. Download Chrome.  All the cool kids are doing it.  You won't regret it, I promise.
Carry on.

Today I spent about an hour and a half of my day talking to a 70 year old woman who was dancing with the idea of buying a new lens.  Her kit lenses, she said, weren't sharp enough.  They didn't impress her.  She had spent a good deal of time doing research but admitting that she really didn't understand everything that she read, and she was still new to digital SLR photography. We talked for a long time, we unraveled her wants and her want-nots, we deciphered some lingo, we walked outside and took some pictures. She was so appreciative.  She said she had gotten so much from our time together.  She said she felt more relaxed and at ease talking to me than all the men she's been dealing with. Her words made me feel so good.  I love what I do, and if I can make another woman feel that taking cool pictures is within reach, and break down the language and principles so that they're less intimidating, then I feel successful and fulfilled.

I've been trying to push the shutter more.  I've been looking to SEE lately, not just looking to keep from bumping into things.  It's not as easy as you'd think.  Or maybe seeing is, but translating that into something compelling might be a different story.  But what fun it is to try.

This weekend the manfriend and I took a ride on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.  We rode from Independence to Akron and back up to Peninsula before getting off the train for lunch.  We waited for about ten minutes to get shots of the train pulling away from the station.  I love the trainman signalling up the tracks.  By the way, the railway is 100% volunteer based.  That's pretty cool.

Note how the sign says "RESTAURANTS".  If one of the restaurants closes down, they're going to have to make a new sign.  (Get it? There's only two restaurants. Rim shot, please.)

There's also a "Gallery" in Peninsula.  I'm not positive what constitutes a gallery, but there was lots of very cool stuff from local artisans for sale.  I felt like a royal schmuck for taking pictures because it was all too rich for my blood...  Although, I did try to go back later in the day when beer had lubricated my wallet some, but alas, they were closed...

 Today my thighs are killing me, and I couldn't figure out why.  We sat on a train for 3+ hours and downtown Peninsula was about two square blocks.  However, it occurred to me after looking at these photos that I did spend the better part of our two hour layover squatting and climbing on top of every bench I could find to  get a better vantage point.

 More squatting.  Kerig has a very flattering picture of me taking this.  I must say, I didn't realize my knees could still do that...

Lunch consisted of a salad and two very large lite beers.  We came across this flower and I felt like I was drunk off my gourd. I wasn't, but the flower was swaying in the breeze and macro really requires a tripod.  I was moving, the flower was moving, the camera was moving, the focus point was moving...  I'm amazed that I got anything.  

 We will not go into detail about this lumber yard and that gorgeous golden hour(ish) light.  Suffice it to say: there was a cooler set up for this shot, where I was patiently waiting for the light to cooperate (the sun was in and out of clouds all afternoon) when I was informed it wasn't coming back out.  Liar.

But I can't be too irritated, since he did point out that popping the flash makes the sign really light up for the railroad crossing.  I wish that I had gotten at least one shot of the red flashers going.  

And you have to love a town where you can meander into the middle of the street, set your camera down on the double yellow line and take a couple of shots. Also, you have to love a town where you can do that and at the end of the double yellow line there's actually something picture worthy.

And this is my favorite shot of the day.  I'd like to shrug my shoulders and act all nonchalant, but I love the bokeh, the those hexagons make me a little swoony. And there's the light, which is just lovely without being contrived.

And there's one more shot that I want to share, but not from this weekend.

 This house only has crank out windows. I'm not exactly a fan, since it means that adding a window A/C window unit isn't an option.  And apparently, shelling out scratch to fix the central air "isn't an option" either. Right.  Whatever. Moving on....  Well, it's been a super hot summer, and the windows have been open constantly since June.  We have a couple of cob webs, but I'm in no hurry to go knock them down, since ...well...spiderwebs perform a specific function, and I'm a fan of that function.  So the webs stay. We've also been super dry this summer, and the rains finally started a week or so ago.  It's been wonderful. It's really true what they say about absence and the fond heart.  So it was finally a dark and rainy day and I was sitting at the table eating my lunch when this spiderweb in the crank-out window caught my eye.  I had to gingerly take the screen out of the window to get this shot, and the house is brown (not purple) but I had so much fun shooting this wet web.  And then playing with the shot in Lightroom to make it pop out.  I realize it's kind of gross, but I think it's the best kind of gross.  

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Everything'll "B" okay...and a layout.

So I said I was going to wake up on Friday and not spend the entire day patting myself on the back, and that I'd be back with a more humble post soon.  Well, I didn't define "soon" and I'll be honest, I was still patting myself on the back for most of the day on Friday. ;)

I guess I really deserved those pats.  I just got home from dinner and errands and logged into my email to find my grade for my class: B.  Yay me!

Now I'll move on to the humble (and not school related) portion of the post.

So I got sent the Little Yellow Bicycle "Splash" line to play with and I was all excited because I have tons of pool pictures that still need to be scrapped, so I couldn't wait to 'dive' in.  (har har)  Well, if you read the last post you might have figured out that I've been a little distracted lately.  I had this brilliant idea...

Ok, so I'm an 8.5x11 scrapper now.  I haven't always been.  But when I signed up for Lain Ehmann's Layout A Day challenge in February of 2011 I decided to make the switch, based solely on the notion that I'd be able to plunk my layouts onto the scanner bed and save TONS of time.  For  LOAD you have to upload one layout every day.  If you scrap 12x12 you almost have to take a picture of the layout, and which is a royal pain in the butt, even if you know what you're doing.  So I switched.

So anyway, every once in a while I turn the 8.5x11 page and scrap it in a landscape orientation instead of portrait.  Cuz I'm crazzzzy like that.

Now, fast forward to the beginning of July, when I'm distracted as heck, and sitting down to make this layout.  I had this genius idea to make a two page horizontal layout:

It's okay, right? Maybe not my usual style, but fun. 

And then I woke up the next day and realized: how the heck am I supposed to put that in an album? What a flipping dork.  

So there: humble post. :P

Did I mention I got a B???

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Totally Monkey Free

In his spoken word poem "What Teachers Make" Taylor Mali says "I make kids work harder than they ever knew they could.  I make a C+ feel like a congressional medal of honor and an A- feel like a slap in the face.  'How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best?'"

I just finished my Calc II class.  And holy hell, was is it HARD. And there is a very good chance that I only got a C+ in the class.

And yes, it feels like a congressional medal of honor.

I took the class at the local community college.  Community College. Easy, right? Piece of cake.  Over achieving stoners go to community college, right? I mean, if you're only paying $70 a credit hour, how hard can it possibly be?

My teacher was Jim Smolko. He didn't get that memo.  He's taught at Lakeland for over 30 years, and mostly he's retired, but every summer he comes back and teaches Calculus and Analytic Geometry I&II.  Mr. Smolko is probably the best teacher I've ever had...ever.  (The only competition he has is Mr. Aiello, my first true love and the teacher who gave me math, like a present with a bow on it.)  Mr. Smolko treated us like future mathematicians and engineers.  He didn't coddle us and say "Well, you made some silly errors, but I can tell you get the drift."

He gave us a quiz every day and for quite some time I really hated him for it.  But we had the same couple of quizzes over and over and over.  By the end of the semester I KNEW that stuff.  Without hesitation.  Backwards, forwards and inside out.  Go ahead.  Ask me the reduction formula  for the hyperbolic cosine of theta squared.  Cuz I can crank that shit out in my sleep.  Holla!

Yikes.  What happened there?

He graded us HARD.  Dickwad hard.  I recently got back a 40 point, 6 part problem that I got a D on, even though I got the answer to every part correct.  I made a notation error SIX times and for each occurrence he took off three points.  I wrote the wrong symbol.  I did the right symbol, but I wrote the wrong one.  FAIL.

And yeah. I was PISSED.  Cross-my-arms-and-scowl-and-not-take-notes pissed. But I'll tell you what. I will NEVER make that mistake again. EVER.

You know how sloppy habits creep in and tend to cement into place?  Maybe you wrote a cover letter and wrote "thru" instead of "through".  That kind of thing.  Mr. Smolko doesn't let the sloppy habits slide.  He circles them in red pen, writes the correction, and then, depending on the severity of the sloppiness writes "-1" or "-2" or...ugh..."-3."  By the end of the 11 weeks, his students know right from wrong and are conditioned to do it the right way.

One of the things that's been frustrating me at Notre Dame is that I don't feel like teachers actually grade assignments.  It's rare that I get feed back and I've gotten all A's with one exception.  I'm not bragging, I'm saying: I don't think I've earned those grades, I've been given them.  I feel like A's are handed out like participation ribbons in little league.  Those A's don't feel good - yes, I worked for them and I put in lots of effort, but with no feedback and no constructive criticism, there was no growth.  There wasn't stretching for the next level.  I wasn't being pushed.  I don't know if it is the teachers are lazy, or they don't believe that I/we can do better.  The kids in my classes all seem fine with it.  I think the all think they're actually A students. Pffft.

Mr. Smolko wasn't lazy. And he wasn't there to collect a pay check and let mediocrity slide through.  He's the Mr. Miyagi of Lakeland's math department.  He pushed.  He demanded.  He held the bar so high and never once lowered it for us.  Because he believed that we could do it.  Because he was training mathematicians and engineers.

And I would rather earn a C+ in a class where an A really means something than get an A in a class where it means nothing.

I have complained and struggled the whole way through.  I've cursed the teacher, I've been a horrible mother and a cranky coworker and girlfriend.  I've broken promises and dropped the ball on commitments.  I've had way too many RockStars.  But I am so proud of myself for what I've accomplished.

So, so proud.

If you're one of the people I've been cranky at or short with, or I've said I'd do something and I didn't: I'm sorry.  I hope this helps you see the bigger picture. I hope I can make it up to you.

And Mr. Smolko: Thank you. I haven't felt this strong in a long, long time.

And yes. Two back to back posts about how hard life's been and how proud I am of myself.  Tomorrow I will wake up and not spend the entire day patting myself on the back and I'll be back with a more humble post soon.  As always, thanks for stopping by.