The Creative Arts... Or Lack Thereof

It's pretty apparent by now that I'm not destined to be a creative individual.

I do have a love for the creative arts as a whole, but in all of them that I've tried the quality of my product is about that of a counterfeit Rolex.  It seems like I've dabbled in most things but have not yet found anything I can do with any reasonable amount of proficiency.

But I'm not whining.  Okay, maybe I am.

I've spent several years in music but found it beyond my ability to excel at.  It may have something to do with the fact that music relies lot on math, which was my worst subject in school.  I spent all of my latter school years playing the alto saxophone, and was only barely good enough to stay in the class.  I think what I disliked enough about music enough to have never succeeded at it was the structure.  Music takes practice and dedication, neither of which I possess(ed).  In my more recent history I decided I was going to learn how to play guitar.  I jumped into it in earnest, but finally relented and let it wane.  I never seemed to be able to remember the chord fingerings, and if I could, could never go from one to another smoothly enough to make it work.  Now it sits in its case collecting dust.

Maybe I would have been good at singing, but I'll never know now.  I know they say, "It's never too late" but I have no interest to try.  Ditto on dancing.  (I mean really--Can you even imagine?)

I've never tried acting.  Who knows?  I doubt if I would have ever been any good--At least on stage--Because I have a crappy memory and would never remember my lines.

Art itself is a huge category and I have always had an appreciation for all forms of it, but I have no imagination whatsoever for anything "art" myself.  If someone gave me all the tools to create something on paper--Be it pencil, pen, paint, or whatever--I would sit and stare blankly before idly doodling with scrawls of nothingness.  It was probably someone with my talent that did the art on cave walls back in the day.  I do love to ooh and ah over other people's art though.  I love museums and galleries.  It never ceases to amaze me how people can pull something out of their heads and transfer it into a medium that other people can enjoy.  Sarah has that sort of talent.  I don't.

I've always enjoyed stories, writing, and even poetry.  I've written a lot of short stories but none of them amounted to anything worthy of mention.  From a writing standpoint, I guess I should just be content with occasionally penning a stupid or banal blog post. When I was in school English was always my best subject.  I can't really explain why.  It must have been that I just understood the mechanics of it though even that is escaping me now.  I find myself forgetting rules of punctuation and over-using forms of it--Like double-dashes for example.  I hope I don't ever forget the different forms of YOUR and YOU'RE. I think Suz would divorce me if I did. She can only take so much...

My ability to write poetry is right up there (or should I say down there) with my ability to write.  Sure, I can write witty rhymes, but how hard is that?  The ability to write real poetry is not within my grasp.  To me, the definition of poetry is a certain level of beauty.  It doesn't have to rhyme but it needs to convey a feeling.  I try but fail... So I sit and wail.

Now it's photography's turn.

I really have fun taking pictures, but I can't shoot a good picture on purpose.  I've had a few successes but they've all happened by accident.  Because I have little imagination I usually don't know what I like until I see it and I'm able to select it from alongside others ("This one looks less crappy than that one... I'll use it.").  I have a lot of trouble with composition.  I can usually get the other parts of the photography formula correct but I have a lot of trouble "seeing" a shot before I take it.  Ask anybody that has had me taking pictures of them.  "What do you want me to do?  Where should I be?" they might ask.  "I dunno..." I say as I look around blankly.  I end up just taking pictures every which way, hoping one of them is less than crappy and therefore usable.  I call myself a "mechanical" photographer.  I concentrate on the nuts & bolts of taking pictures.  I want the settings to be perfect every time.  Color, clarity, light--I want it all just right.  But what is just right?  Some of the best photography I've ever seen has obvious mechanical flaws in it like focus or color, but it still strikingly beautiful.  Even when I have pictures in front of me on the computer I can't seem to "see" that if I crop it a certain way it would be so much better.

I guess in all of this whining I've discovered that I am really good at one thing:  Mediocrity!

A Day of Goodies

It's fun ordering stuff online.  You get to do research about the items, read their reviews, compare store prices, and all sorts of related stuff.  It's also cheaper than shopping local stores in most cases.  Sometimes the items aren't available locally at all.  Sometimes they are available locally, but you're in no hurry and would rather avoid the traffic hassles and have them delivered right into your hands.  Sometimes it's a juggle between no sales tax or free shipping that sways the purchase in your favor.

I think my favorite part is arrival.  Most people I talk to feel the same sort of excitement.  You get a tracking number and get to follow it's trip to your doorstep.  Obviously, it's not the same with everything you would order--Say, a replacement supply item.  But for something new it can get exciting anticipating its arrival.

Yesterday was a "2-fer" type of shopping day.  Two items I ordered came in on the same day.  One was my new camera bag.  I needed a new bag pretty badly.  Not only had I sort of outgrown my old camera bag, it was in pretty bad shape.  Remember, it had gone through a traumatic experience (as did I) when it fell off the Harley one day during a ride.  Lately it had gotten to the point where the top zipper (the most important one) was coming undone.  You can't really repair zippers like that.  Luckily, it had two zipper pulls so I could zip it most of the way from either end, stopping just short of the bad spot.  Yesterday my new Ape Case (yes, that's it's brand name) came.  Pretty nice bag!  Lots of space and easily customizable to fit my stuff.

The other item was the best though:  A new lens!

I wanted a good "walk-around" lens to replace the lens that was originally shipped with my camera when it was new.  I liked the range, but not the optics.  It was never really crisp and clean in my opinion.  I lovingly referred to it as my "plastic lens" whenever we would discuss it at home.  My research led me to a Sigma brand lens.  Instead of 18-55mm of zoom range, I now have 17-70mm.  That lets me zoom just a little farther.  It also has excellent macro capabilities.

It was very hard to track down this lens though.  Apparently right when I was ready to buy they had pretty much been discontinued everywhere and I couldn't find one to save my life.  I could find their replacement model, but it was $100 more because it had an "anti-shake" stability feature built into it.  Imagine my surprise when my new lens showed up yesterday and it was the new stabilized version!  I don't think they knew they shipped me the better one at the older one's price, but they did.

Nice score!

A Whirlwind Weekend of Wrongs (and Wrights?)

Some weekends go by quickly, and this one seems like one of those.

Sue and I decided to give our trip around the North Cascades Highway one more try.  We left at about 9am Saturday morning, and the weather was on our side this time.  The skies were blue and it was clear and sunny.  This time we didn't make any wrong turns, but I did have one major error in judgment:  I thought we could do it in one day.

  • I failed to consider all the times we would stop for pictures, some of which were over a half hour long.
  • I failed to factor in the shortness of the day sun-wise.  By the time we got to our "halfway" point, the sun was almost spent already.
  • I failed to allow for the fact that the sun was on a fairly low orbit this time of year, and it never really got "overhead" like it does in summer.  Add in the mountainous terrain and there were lots of places that could only be shot during the optimum sun hours of the day.
Yes, I made several mistakes.  One could say I ruined the trip, but actually we did get a lot of really good shots.  I decided when we stopped in Winthrop and ate dinner that we might as well go ahead and head for home.  At that point, home was a long ways away.  It was during our drive out that we determined that we were passing some of the most colorful stuff we had seen all day but couldn't shoot it in the waning sun.  We drove out in a sort of frustrated silence most of the way along that potentially beautiful area.  A few hours later, we had just crested Blewitt Pass on the way home when the traffic stopped.  I mean stopped.  Nothing was moving and we had no idea how long it would be or how far ahead it was.  I had the choice about a half hour prior to that:  Do we go this way or that way?  Again I chose wrong.  As the day was already long and tedious, I opted to turn around and backtrack all the way back to the turning point so we could head home another way.  We finally got home at 11:30pm.  We both agreed that we should have stayed overnight--Whether we had our stuff with us to do so or not.  Here are some of the good parts of the day:

So what was this part of the title that mentioned Wrights?

Yesterday morning I got an email chat from my son daughter-in-law, Dana.  Mark was winging his way up here on a short business visit trip and wanted to get together.  Cool!  He wanted to see the Boeing Museum of Flight (remember the Wright Brothers?) in south Seattle so that to be our meeting place.  Sue wanted to go, but was torn:  She didn't want to miss the guest speaker from South Africa at her Kingdom Hall yesterday afternoon.  Instead, I stopped at my mom's house.  I knew dad wouldn't want to go, but you should have seen mom's face light up when I asked her if she wanted to go with me to meet her grandson!  She has been corresponding with their family since I learned about them a few years ago, but has never actually met.  We had a great visit at the museum, walking and chit-chatting.  We finished our visit with a stop for dinner at Red Robin.

I told myself this morning, had we stayed overnight in Winthrop the previous night, the meeting with Mark might not have happened.  Still, I wish I would have done several things differently.

All and all, a whirlwind of a weekend for sure.

Short But Sweet

I was feeling kind of melancholy at work the other day and this short poem sort of formulated itself as the morning wore on:

My throat is sore
and across the floor
a chilly breeze does blow.
My feet are cold;
I feel so old
when temperatures dip low.

The shining sun
is all but done--
it shines to be polite.
Not much appeal
or warmth to feel;
It's rays are naught but light.

The woodstove's heat
is hard to beat;
It's a winter friend to me.
Add homemade stew
to warm me through,
and comfortable I'll be.

Although these things
cut winter's sting
the summer is still the best.
The skimpy clothes;
the suntanned toes;
Ahh... Comfortably undressed.

Rick Williams

Weather-change Doldrums?

I feel like I'm floundering lately.  I guess it's the onset of winter, which is just on the horizon, that has me in a wishy-washy state of mind.

There is also the strange way my health rears its ugly head this time of year... Every year.  I get skin issues, strange swellings, aches & pains--You name it.  I've been having one thing after another for the last few weeks.  I'm going to attribute it to the weather change.  Our weather has been all over the map, but I don't have anything else to blame it on.  You know how it is:  When you have a lapse in the conversation you always bring up the weather.  Lately, I've been dealing with a swollen ankle and lower leg pain, and I did nothing to cause it.

It could just be age.

Before we went to Kauai I was going to order myself a new camera lens.  I had finally figured out what I wanted for my next foray into the photography world, and it was reasonably priced, but instead of buying then I opted to wait until we got back from our trip.  I only wanted to spread the bills and expenses out a little farther is all.  I'm pretty rational with money decisions.  I guess that's one of my good traits.  Anyway, I came back and was going to order the lens.  The calendar had finally put me past the billing date of my Visa card, and because I pay it in full every month it was "clean slate" time.  I went onto the website of my chosen retailer, and wouldn't you know it, they're a Jewish company.  So what?  Well, they had just shut the entire company down for a solid week to celebrate Succos apparently.  When they finally did reopen, guess what?  My lens was sold out and discontinued (it was not a recent model).  That sent me on a quest to find another source.  Everywhere I went it was the same thing:  Out of stock.  Discontinued.  I think I finally have it on the move though.  I guess I have located the last one in the world--Hopefully I'll get it.  All I can say is:  I'd better like the damn thing!

I also ordered myself a new camera bag the other day.  I don't know if the harrowing tumble down the freeway last summer when it fell off the Harley had anything to do with it, but it's falling apart.  The top zipper has a corner that no longer works.  Fortunately, it has a zipper at both ends so I can still zip it up from either end, stopping just short of the bad spot.  I have grown weary of the bag design anyway--It's just packed a little too tightly and I need a little more space.  We checked out a few at a store this weekend and I liked what I saw in a particular brand and style, so I let the web do the rest of the shopping research for me and chose one similar to the one we saw in person.  Same brand, different model.  WAY cheaper.

The "doomsday media" is constantly telling us here in the northwest that we're in for a winter that's colder and wetter than usual.  I don't know about the media.  Sometimes it's like it's driven by retailers.  A classic scenario is when they say something like, "...spokesmen say the price of gasoline may rise sharply in the near future because of..." then, lo & behold, it actually happens.  It's magic!  The media puppets can foresee the future!  Well, maybe this latest one is for all the sellers of firewood, tire chains, outerwear, and heating oil.  So what am I doing about it?  Well, besides the fact that I have us fairly well stocked up on firewood, nothing much.  One exception is that I am prowling around for a cheap, small Honda 3-wheeler for snow use.  I have found that they exist in relatively low demand--Partly because they're small and underpowered (they're only little 90cc or 110cc engines), and partly because the media went on a 3-wheeler "witch hunt" several years ago and actually got manufacturers to stop making them.  I know anything is dangerous in the hands of an idiot, but these little 3-wheelers I'm talking about are really, really fun in the snow, cheap to operate and practically indestructible.  I guess I should get myself fixed up with some tire chains for my car and/or truck too.  As much as I hate them, they're pretty necessary sometimes.

Well, that's enough for now.  Time to finish the coffee and get moving.

Double Bonus: It's Friday and Suzie's Back!

Yes, she's back, and I'm glad!  You know, it's always a good little break from things when you get the house to yourself.  You get to do, eat, or watch, pretty much anything selfishly and without fear of reprisal.  But when your spouse is your best friend that's only fun for a very short time.  Suzie stayed on at her folks' house in Anahola, Kauai for an additional week after I left and labored for them, and I missed her a lot.

She was lucky--Coming from Kauai and showing up in our area on a beautiful, sunny day--What are the odds?  When I picked her up at almost 5 o'clock pm it was in the middle 70's, and for the last day of September that's pretty good.

So now she gets to immerse herself in the family drama unfolding down the street.  I won't get into that here because I hate emotional drama and I also don't know facts.  No dirt from me... Sorry.

I bought a new video card for her computer a couple days ago and it showed up at work yesterday.  I had just enough time to install it before I ran out to pick her up at the airport.  Her computer has two monitors plugged into it, and it needed more video crunching power.  Her system just ran two slow on anything graphical in nature.  It seems to be filling the bill quite nicely so far and it was only 45 bucks.  I may have to get myself one while they're still out there to pick from.  Ours are not the most current computers in the world and we have to be selective about what will fit and work in them.

I looks like Sarah's college trip to India this January may be in jeopardy.  According to her, they need 3 more bodies to sign up for it or the program/trip could get cut.  In my opinion everyone that is going should be doing everything humanly possible to get the word out on campus.  Sell, sell, sell!  Get out there and get more people on board!

My 365 Picture-A-Day blog is officially half way through it's year-long run!  Yesterday was post number 183.  Posting any picture is easy, but posting something that looks like you put some thought into it is not so easy.  Some days the pictures are effortless.  My daily activities provide me with some sort of opportunity to be in the right place at the right time to get some good shots.  I might also go on the hunt for something good on the way home from work to see if I can get some good shots.  Other days (like yesterday) I just don't have the time to get anything good.  I have a self-imposed rule that I must take the picture that day--Even if I can't actually get it posted until the following day or whenever (which has happened due to lack of internet or whatever).  It's too easy cheat and use pictures from one particular photo event to fill more than one day's post, and many people do that.  I won't do that.  So, another half a year (groan).  It has been a learning experience.  It's an exercise in will power, motivation, creativity, and perseverance.  While I have had several "make do" pictures over the last half year, I have had some that were amazing.  I hope there will be more, but it's not going to be as easy during the next leg of the journey.  The daylight hours will be much shorter, and the weather much colder and wetter.  Translation:  Less time outside.

I'm so glad it's Friday.  I normally don't care all that much what day it is because I try to enjoy each day as I can, but I just want to spend some quality time with my wife.

Welcome home Suzie!