Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cherry Blossom Season

Tannah is quite the poser when confronted with cherry blossoms in full bloom.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Things that make ya go, "Huh?"

I got on the bus yesterday afternoon, walked to the back and slid into my accustomed seat in the back row beside the window. I was reaching into my backpack for my latest guilty pleasure (volume 5 of the Game of Thrones series) when I glanced at the graffiti adorning the aluminum seatback in front of me, fully expecting it to be some expletive-laced drivel from a booze-fueled night of debauchery.

But no. This one actually made me half-think about it.

If you do stop and think about it, it's actually not bad advice.

Monday, March 10, 2014


I've been scanning Craigslist lately for Lego. And not just any Lego either. I re-discovered my old Lego train a while back but I only had enough track for an oval with a small siding. So I thought, why not keep an eye open for more blue Lego track. It's probably been about a year now and the only blue track I've run across is a simple circle layout packaged with one of the first trains that was released; without an engine. I didn't really want the push-powered train, and the track layout was uninspiring.

Then this morning I happened across the mother load! The ad said it was a box half full of blue track.

When I went to see it, it turned out it was a reasonably sized box too. Plus it even included a motor from a Lego train! The battery box is a bit corroded, but there are Youtube videos out there that show how to make a new switchable battery box from Lego pieces and copper wire. There really is no end to the usefulness of Youtube.

There was even a pre-fab tunnel thrown in the deal. It's not Lego, but I bet a Lego train will still fit through.

My wife was laughing at me as I unpacked my treasure on the dining room table, sorted the components, and carefully repacked it. Unfortunately my job tomorrow will interfere with the important work of creating a huge new track layout so that my Lego train can take to the rails again after its 35-year hiatus.

"All aboard! Next stop; Legoland!"

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Lego Trucks

It’s been a Lego Christmas this year. I took a 30 year break, but lately it’s as if I never stopped building. Every time my nephews come over Lego is the first thing they ask for. I thought it about time I documented the evolution of my truck designs. It’s a good thing I photographed them last time. When I got home from work the other day my nephews had almost completely de-constructed my most recent fleet. They had been over to spend the day with their Auntie Shauna.

First generation trucks.
I’ve been experimenting recently with bigger wheels. I guess I’m trying for the monster truck look. Also, I remember a series of Hot Wheels cars that came out when I was a kid that featured super-sized engines that would fully obscure one's vision from the cockpit were the cars to be constructed life-size for street use. I’m sure I still have a couple of those cars downstairs somewhere.

I've incorporated an engine that orignally came with a Lego go-cart kit into my monster truck build-up. The funny thing about it is that the engine is completely out of scale with the truck. The engine is patterned after a single cylinder internal combustion engine, typically the style used for a small dirt bike or a lawnmower. My intent now is to combine the big wheels with a super-sized version of a lawnmower powerplant. The engineer in me is having a good laugh over that one. Does that officially brand me a "Lego Nerd"?

I hope so.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Venus and Moon

One could be forgiven for assuming the moon is a stationary object. When it’s “oot and aboot” as us Canucks apparently say, every time during the evening when one looks up in the sky, the moon’s in the same place. It’s one of those things that move so slowly that it appears not to move at all. Except when it’s the subject of a photo.
This afternoon as I waited for the bus, I noticed there was the slightest sliver of a moon in the dusk evening sky. Then I noticed it was already dark enough that Venus was visible. Photo op! I was already planning the photo shoot for when I got home.
The other day I came across my previous attempt at capturing Venus next to the moon. Turns out it was back in March 2009. I noticed the celestial phenomenon from the back yard after I’d let our dog out. I grabbed my point-and-shoot, steadied it on the back fence and got a pretty good shot, in my humble opinion. 
Venus and the moon; March, 2009.
 This evening I decided I’d try again. The moon was the similar crescent shape I’d seen in 2009 as well. I knew I’d have to act fairly fast as Venus descends quite rapidly, celestially speaking of course. What I didn’t realize is that the moon would also descend quickly.

I gathered up my dSLR (and my dog, of course) and headed to the darkest property in my ‘hood; the cemetery. I steadied the camera on a stone monument and experimented with shutter speeds and apertures. I’m pretty rusty with night photography; it took about a dozen shots before I got anything even remotely close to a well exposed photo. The moon and Venus continued to appear fuzzy. I think it’s due to the distance they each move across the sky just a tiny bit in the time the shutter is open during those longer than normal exposures.
And they definitely do move. In the 20 minutes or so of fiddling about that I spent, the moon actually dropped below the tree line, spoiling the planned unity of both planet and moon in one photo for this evening.
Venus and the moon; December 4, 2013. However, the long exposure nullified the effect of the "sliver" crescent.
I took a solo shot of the moon just to prove it was indeed a sliver, not altogether evident in the previous photo.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Before and After

We're getting some more work done on the house this season. At the tail end of the summer we got the deck re-done. Deck re-sloped and re-coated, new railings, new canopy, new stairs; the works. It's been on our wish list for years. We finally took the plunge.

I would have posted pics sooner except I wanted to show before and after conditions. It took me forever to find a "before" shot. Turns out I didn't have many showing the rear elevation of the house. I had many showing only the railing. The b4 shot I eventually dug up is so old...

How old?

It's so old...that it was taken with an actual film camera! Remember those?

Approximately 2002.
September 2013.
I like the "after" shot better. It was worth the wait.

And here's the b4 'n after of the stairs.

September 2013.
 Again, I'm much more drawn to the "after" effects.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Star Gazing

I'm getting to be a real sky junkie these days. A couple of nights ago I was walking Tannah and I happened to notice a really bright light in the southwest sky, not too far above the tree line. Intrigued, I headed in the direction of the local schoolyard for a more unobstructed view.

Also, I was looking for something to use as a tripod substitute to get a good night shot with my point-and-shoot. I tried a fire hydrant but by the time I bent over to place the camera on it's lid, I was too low to get a good shot; the trees were now in the way. Oh well, another night.

Once home again I fired up my computer to see what the Google that bright light actually was. Turns out it's Venus. That makes total sense. Quite a few years ago we were looking after a garden for friends that were away during the summer. I remember being fascinated by the same bright light low in the southern sky at dusk. And I do remember now that it was indeed Venus.

So now the challenge was to capture an image of that planet. I don't know why; I just wanted one. It's not that it's an especially intriguing shot either. A bright dot surrounded by black. Woo-hoo! For some reason I just wanted to photograph it. My first attempt with my trusty point-and-shoot was mediocre at best. Just try photographing something in the middle of a schoolyard playing field, at night when you can't read the dial selector on the camera, the dog is restless and is pulling on the leash ("Come on, let's go! I smell a squirrel/ raccoon/ skunk/ crow and it's real close by! Time's a'wastin'!"), and you're trying to steady the camera against your leg for a shot through the trees in a rare clear patch of sky in an otherwise showery evening. None too successful.

The next evening was clear and cold. Perfect, I thought. After walking Tannah I decided to grab my dSLR and head to Queen Elizabeth Park. There's a grass field on the south slope, one of the highest points in the whole city, actually. That's where I'd go...after dinner as it turned out. By the time I drove over there after dinner there was no sign of Venus. She'd beaten a hasty retreat. Camera-shy perhaps? Afraid I might not get her good side? Oh well; next time.

The next evening I didn't get home from work until 8 pm. Another excuse the following evening. Which brings me to tonight. I drove to the park before dinner, complete with my dSLR and handy instruction manual. Dialed up the ISO, set the camera on the roof of the car, set the self-timer for 2 seconds, propped up the lens until Venus was in the viewfinder and...

Bingo! Venus, in all her chilly November beauty, perched low in the sky amidst much smaller skydots that weren't even visible to me while I took the shot. It kinda looks like she's part of a triangle.

I love sky-gazing, even when I need my toque and gloves.