Friday, March 30, 2012

Roaring Camp-a Photo Blog

We've been walking in Henry Cowell State Park lately, but right behind Henry Cowell sits Roaring Camp Railroad.

Today, we walked over to the property. We didn't get to ride a train (bad timing) but we took a bunch of pictures.

Terry took this one using his iPhone and AutoStitch
(click to enlarge)

My shot,
with the camera right on the rails

Lots of old equipment.

I liked this leaf . . .

And this rusty boiler

There were roses

and Gold Miners

and kitties

It was a beautiful day

I'm always attracted to piles of rust

There's also a duck pond

with ducks!

I loved this guys feet

And this one's attitude

I like reflections in water too . . .

As we were leaving,
we spied these deer in the meadow
(click to enlarge)

That's it for today

Thursday, March 29, 2012

the Hunger Games

Warning, spoilers ahead . . .

If you've been reading the blog for a while, you might remember me writing about the trilogy the Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. I really loved these books, the writing, the characterization, the way they commented on modern society without pandering.

A great read and one I can again recommend to everyone.

So of course I was really excited to see the film.

We waited till an 11am showing on a Wednesday morning, figuring it would be a good time to miss all the gazillions of teenage kids who couldn't wait for the film. And it was a perfect time, the theater was less than one third full, great for us.

I loved the opening look of the film, the desolation of District 12 was dismal, as it should be. That said, the film makers chose that annoying shaky hand held camera work. Nothing really shows up clearly, and this technique just distracts rather than emphasizing the faces and plight of the inhabitants.

But that passes pretty quickly, and we are introduced to Katniss. Jennifer Lawrence is dead-on, her look is perfect and she brings the intensity and gravitas that is necessary to portray a young woman in dire circumstances.

They move pretty quickly to the Reaping, where the Tributes for the annual Hunger Games are chosen. Rather than detailing the entire story, I'll just jump to my conclusions.

One of the things that made the books so captivating was that you were inside the head of Katniss. She's a young woman who has grown up poor, under an oppressive government, literally fighting for every scrap so she and her widowed Mother and sister can eat. The Games are a constant possibility for every child between the ages of 12 and 18, overshadowing every day of their lives.

When she volunteers as tribute (to spare her 12 year old sister) it's done out of love and desperation. After volunteering, she sees that life is not the same for everyone as it is in District 12. As a Tribute, she is shown life on the other side of the world and that will cloud the rest of her experiences.

The film does a good job of showing her preparation for the Game, and up to this point, I felt engaged in the film.

My problem came with the Game itself. For starters, they spent very little time with the other Tributes, meaning that you had zero emotional investment in if or when they die. And while the scenery is quite lovely, both Terry and I felt they failed to engage us with the paranoia of being in a situation where at any time, someone is ready to take you life. The action comes in spurts with long scenes of Katniss lurking in the beautiful forests (shot in North Carolina).

In the book, knowing what is happening in Katniss' head keeps you engaged. While I'm not sure how you would convey this via film, for me, it was the fatal weakness of the film. I just didn't feel it like I did in the books.

All of this is not to say I didn't enjoy the film, I was just disappointed. Perhaps my expectations were too high?

I'm beginning to think that perhaps the film genre is no longer the correct format for such stories. Game of Thrones comes to mind. A sprawling saga stretching across generations (and many books), it has been the beautifully brought to life with just the first book being represented by a full ten episodes. They are beautifully done, and after the first episodes, everyone is hungry for more.

I just wish they would have given the Hunger Games the same treatment. I think it deserved it.

That said, when Catching Fire comes out, we'll probably see it, hoping for a better representation of a story I really enjoyed.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Do you Like Birds??

One of the things that I love the most about my iPad and iPhone is the tremendous variety of apps available.

Ever since we first took off in the motorhome, we suddenly became excited about the tremendous number of birds we'd see wherever we went. While we're not serious birders, we sure find them fascinating.

When I first got an iPod touch, I found a new (at the time) app named iBird Explorer Pro. I purchased it and have been quite happy with it. But since that time, a lot of other bird and nature apps have become available.

So you can imagine how pleased I was to see that Peterson's Birds of North America is currently on sale for $4.99 (down from $14.99). Like the great books these people put out, the app features beautiful illustrations, photographs, bird calls, the ability to keep a personal list, and so much more.

While I love all these apps, they can become expensive (because sadly, I'm an admitted app junkie . . .).

But if, like me, you love a bargain, here's a tip. I've signed up with a website called, where you can mark which apps you're interested in and when they go on sale, they send you an email!

When you look at the price of most birding books, the apps are less expensive, and in many ways much better. For those of us in a motorhome, they certainly weigh less and take up less room. And for me, the best part is that once you buy them, they get updated regularly, so instead of having to buy a new book every couple of years, you're pretty much covered. Plus, if like us, you have multiple devices (iphones, iPads) you only have to buy an app one time and you can share it across all your devices.

I also love that when we're out looking at birds, I usually have my phone with me, whereas I've never had a bird book handy when I was needed one!

If you're into birds (or wildflowers, trees, mammals, butterflies, whatever) I suggest you take a look in the app store, because there's a lot of great things waiting for you to discover.

If you've found any other great nature apps, please let me know.

I assume these would also be available for those of you on Android devices, but you'll just have to search them out yourself, because (obviously) I'm a hard core Apple girl (no pun intended).

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Painting on the iPad

I've always wanted to paint. Unfortunately, I seem to be missing the 'artistic" gene. At one point, I invested a considerable amount of dollars in water color supplies, only to discover I just didn't have what it took. My loss, the thrift stores gain.

I've also tried painting on my Mac, but couldn't seem to master what it took.

Next, I tried various painting apps on my iPad, using my photographs as a basis for the painting. Again, I just couldn't seem to get it.

Then today, I found an app called PhotoViva, and Wowee Zowee!

While it's not real painting, it comes darn close. And since I'm starting with my own pictures, I'm taking credit for them, maybe not as paintings but as some form of digital art.

I may even print some of them on different kinds of photo paper and see what results I can get.

All of these should be enlarged (by clicking) so you can see the details.

Here's the original photograph

My first attempt

Try Number 2

Moving Towards Watercolor


Wet Watercolor

Expect to see more of this in the future
because I love this app!

Best $2 I've ever spent.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I Have a (new) Hole in My Eye!

Continuing the idea of modern day miracles from yesterday, today, in a matter of minutes, I have new hole in my eye.

Well, not really.

What happened is this.

I have (traumatic) glaucoma, which means that my eyes have a tendency to not drain as they should, resulting in excessive pressure. Not a good thing! For years now, I've been on a combination of eye drops to keep the pressure under control.

Then, last week, my Doctor mentioned that we might go another route, using a laser to enlarge the hole that drains the fluid from my eye.

Wow, this sounds like just the ticket, so I agreed.

And today, in a matter of minutes, it was done.

Can you imagine something like this even 50 years ago? In a few weeks we'll check the progress and if all looks good, I'll have the other eye done, and hopefully, no more eye drops!

And even though my eye was a bit sore, I managed to take a few shots with my iPhone on the way home (from a moving car, so bear with me).

This was a really beautiful tree outside the hospital.
It looked like a Christmas tree
that had lost all its' needles,
but still had a tons of round Christmas decorations
hanging from its' boughs
(click to enlarge)

And this was taken
as we were driving "over the hill"
from San Jose to Santa Cruz

That's it for today!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Just a Thought or Two

We rarely drink bottled water. Today, while out doing errands, I bought a bottle of water.

Wow, when did these get so incredibly thin?

I drank my water, then sat in the car as we were driving, studying the bottle.

Side Note: My mind tends to wander. I always mean to write things down to remind me of what I want to post, but rarely do. If I do manage to write it down, by the time I sit in front of the computer to blog, it seems pretty trivial, so I don't post.

But today I will . . .

Do you have touchstone books, movies, plays, TV shows? Ones that keep popping into your head, dealing with themes that keep showing up in your life?

I have several, but this one comes into my mind a lot.

It's an old episode of the Twilight Zone. Titled Execution, it stars Albert Salmi. The time is the late 1800s, in a small Western town. Salmi plays Joe Caswell, a condemned man standing on a scaffold with a rope around his neck. The floor drops, the rope snaps . . .

All of a sudden, he finds himself in the 1960s in New York City.

That's the basic idea, and it made a huge impression on my 12 year old brain. Of course there's more to the story, but the premise is, you take a plain rural man and throw him into the center of a metropolitan city some 100 years in the future.

I think about this all the time. My Grandmother died at 106 when I was ten years old. I remember sitting on her porch and listening to her talking about her Father and the Civil War. As a child, all I could think of was "why does she go on about this all the time?"

Now I recognize what a treasure she was and wish I had been able to appreciate the wisdom she was trying to impart. Looking back now, she was kind of like Joe Caswell, finding herself in a world she could hardly have imagined.

Back to the water bottle.

I look at it and I'm slightly annoyed. I think of all the time it will remain on this earth, the resources that were used to create it just so I could have the convenience of a sip of water when I was too lax to remember to bring my refillable bottle.

Then I stop and really look at it.

Crystal clear, squishy yet firm, it's really a wonder of modern design. Darn near perfect. Form follows function. Yet we take them for granted, tossing them into the trash heap by the thousands, with never a second thought.

But look at it through the eyes of someone from 1912. What would they make of this wonder of modern science? Light as a feather, waterproof, practically indestructible.

100 years ago, wouldn't it be on display as a magical item? Perhaps thought to be something transported to Earth by aliens from another world? Who could guess what this would be conceived as?

The wonders we all take for granted.

And those are the kind of things I think about all the time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

a Walk in the Woods

With the first day of sun in a while, we decided a bit of exercise was in order. We used our Senior Day Pass ($10 for a year, what a deal) and headed over to Henry Cowell State Park.

It's sure handy having a State Park so close!

The day was perfect

I love the look of spring light through new leaves.

Looking down is pretty wonderful too.

I may be tired of the rain,
but it sure brings on the green.

The sun was just right for leaf shadows

The colors are so vivid
shadows . . .

The shot above is my favorite of the day
(and looks much better enlarged)

It was a perfect afternoon.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What to write?

I always find that after a large post like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, I don't know what to write next.

Really, what's there to write about after such a special day? Working in the house? Not so great. Breakfast and dinner? Again, not so much.

There's just not a lot happening around here.

Life would be completely flat, except for the fact that I got my new iPad!


I'm quite pleased (surprise, surprise). As advertised, the new screen is really beautiful and pictures that are high resolution really do pop (many from the internet are not, but I expect that to change). That said, what has me the most excited is the way that the text looks. I swear, it's so sharp, it's amazing. Since I do so much reading on my iPad, this is a wonderful thing. I used to have to enlarge many pages (to get the text large enough to comfortably read), but I find with the new display, I can easily read a much smaller font.


I'm quite pleased and Terry is also happy with his new iPad!

* * * * * * *

The weather continues gloomy, rain and cold, not my favorite at all.

To combat the gloom, I decided some muffins were in order.

Since we're off wheat, some substitutions are in order. While I usually use almond meal, today I decided to try a new combination. I used 1 cup of almond meal, 1/2 cup coconut flour and 1/2 cup golden flax meal. Then I added a bit of salt, some baking powder and a bit of Splenda. The wets were eggs, butter and a bit of water.

This makes a dense dough and a really nice hearty muffin with a low glycemic index and a ton of fiber. If you like a frosting, there are several low carb frostings available. I find I like mine with a bit of butter whipped with a few drops of vanilla and some orange flavoring. With the orange butter, these are really wonderful!

And that's really all that's going on around here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Another Two Parter . . .

We had a stupendous time at the Monterey Bay Aquarium yesterday, but unfortunately, my pictures are not what I hoped. I think this has to do with the 6-21 inch Plexiglas in the tanks, the sometimes murky water, the low light, and most of all, operator error (I know about shutter speed, it just eluded me for the day).

So beware, these aren't all they could be.

That said, all can be enlarged with just a click.

On entering the aquarium, I saw this.
It says everything about this most special place.

Since I never got a good shot of a sea otter
when we were down at Elkhorn Slough,
I thought I'd include this one.

They have the most special way
of displaying all their sea life.
This is like touring an anemone garden in 360 degrees.

Anemone's are some of my favorites.

But then,
I'd never seen sand dollars
in their natural habitat.

They also have a beautiful aviary for rescued birds.
This little fella has a broken wing.

Patty, Maxine and Laverne

We stepped out for lunch to see some of Cannery Row.
Steinbeck is one of my favorite authors.

While many of the buildings are brand new,
a few old ones remain.

This has to be one of the most scenic bays in all of California

Back to the Aquarium to see the jellyfish.
Jellyfish amaze me, so graceful and serene.

Next month
there will be a new exhibit on jellyfish.
Hope we can make it back.

I love these ponds where you can see above
and below the water.

And now for the treat of the day,
the Sea Horses.
While there were hundreds to be seen
these next two were the ones that captivated.

This is the Leafy Sea Dragon

And this is the Weedy Sea Dragon

Try as I might,
I couldn't get a clear shot of either one.
Then I remembered that my iPhone has a video camera . . .

On to Part 2