One of my favorite parts of the holidays is decorating the tree.
Each ornament I unpack and hang carries with it a memory of an event, a location, or a person dear to me. Some are just beautiful; some I can't remember where they came from, but I love them because they've always been there.
I love finding just the right spot for each treasure to hang. These are some of my favorites.
Early Monday morning, two strong earthquakes awakened the Bay Area. At 5:33 am, a magnitude 3.5 quake, followed immediately by a magnitude 4.0 quake shook approximately 5.5 miles below the surface in El Cerrito, CA. Another mild aftershock was felt a half hour later.
Though the quakes served as a rude awakening and were felt as far away as Santa Cruz, they were relatively minor. Police dispatchers in the surrounding cities received no reports of injuries or major damage. Nearby transit systems and bridges were inspected and given the all-clear.
My friend, Mac (below) was less than 2.5 miles from the epicenter that morning, and his important job of keeping my mother's feet warm while she sleeps was interrupted by the jolt.
Earthquakes are a constant threat in the vicinity of the seismically active San Andreas Fault, but individual minor quakes are only as significant as something like a nearby tornado: sure you pay attention to it, but if it doesn't destroy your house or community, you can forget about it pretty quickly. Here it is just a few days later and I bet most people have forgotten it already.
Every once in a while, though, an earthquake is a big deal. Longtime residents of the Bay Area will certainly remember the Loma Prieta earthquake (a.k.a. the Quake of '89 or the World Series Earthquake) as vividly as others remember 9/11 or the assassination of JFK.
The Loma Prieta Quake measured 6.9 on the Richter Magnitude Scale. The Richter Scale is logarithmic in nature, so each whole number is 10 times as powerful as the preceding number. That makes the '89 quake roughly 1000 times as powerful as Monday's quake.
Because of the timing of the event, the earthquake happened during the warm-up of a World Series game, making it the first major quake to have live, national coverage on television. It was also the event that triggered more long-distance phone calls than any other date in history up to that point. Everyone wanted to know if their Bay Area loved ones were OK.
As, of course, did I. My mother (the one whose feet are warmed by Mac) was unable to cross the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge because of the collapsed section, and took a circuitous route around the bay on public transportation to get home from work that night, along with everyone else in the same boat. A commute that normally took about an hour on the bus ended up taking her closer to seven hours.
Before cell phones, there was really no way for me to know if she was going to be able to come home at all that night. As a ten-year-old who had just experienced a major earthquake, it was pretty scary. I stayed at a friend's house that night, as did my brother. We didn't leave a note for Mom, mostly because we didn't want to remain in the high-rise apartment building longer than necessary, but she knew exactly where to find us anyway. She called our respective friends' houses around midnight when she finally got home.
Twenty-two years later, I can still remember exactly what I was eating just a moment before the shaking started. I can remember the underside of the heavy wooden table under which we took cover. I can remember exactly what the shaking felt like. I can remember the color of my friend's socks as we ran down eleven flights of stairs without stopping to put on our shoes. I can remember debating whether to continue walking to my friend's (one story) house in just our socks, or to risk going back inside for shoes (ultimately, we decided to go back inside for shoes and to rescue the cat). I can remember the exact clothing items I had to borrow from my friend to wear to school the next morning. I can remember looking around at the empty desks of my classmates the next day, and hoping that nothing terrible had happened to them.
And I can remember swapping where-where-you-when? stories for years afterward.
I'm getting better at this Photoshop thing every day.
Of course, starting with a good photograph helps. I still don't think I'll ever be satisfied with what I can get from an old Polaroid. I was, however, surprised at how much of a difference I could make to a professional photograph. My (second) preschool class photo presumably shouldn't have needed much, and yet I was able to generate dramatic improvements.
I almost don't want to tackle this restoring-all-my-old-photographs project too quickly, in case I learn some essential Photoshop skill that would have made all the difference to photographs with which I have already finished.
But Photoshop isn't my only trick. I also add to my HTML/CSS knowledge on a regular basis. That mouse-over business above? Yeah, just learned that today. Pretty snazzy, if I do say so myself. If you've already moused over them all and can't remember what the first image with the instructions looked like, just reload the page. Here's how to create the mouse-over effect with HTML:
Most of the times I have seen this on other websites, the starting image and the ending image are the same, and that's probably what I'll do in the future so I only need two images instead of three. As far as where your image ends up on your page and how big it is, you'll have to play with that a little bit. I added a height=### attribute to mine to make them all line up nicely. You could also try tables.
Oh, and in case you're wondering: yes, that's a real, living, non-drugged cheetah. But isn't my awesome E.T. shirt really the better part of that photograph anyway?
Go back up your data.
So there I was, sitting at my computer, minding my own business (as usual). Suddenly, a warning box popped up on the screen. Apparently, I had removed a device without ejecting it properly.
All of them were either unsuccessful, or they would let me see my data, but only save it if I was willing to fork over $100 - $200. If I had lost everything, $100 would totally be worth it, but I only wanted 20 days worth of data. Can I get that for $5? Each of these attempts took several hours, as I waited for each program to find what it could find from my faulty external drive. I did nothing else yesterday.
I finally concluded that I probably could have spent all day taking some new pictures instead. I wiped the drive, and started over. Now it works just fine. It has been reloaded with its 0-2011 data once again. And I backed it up today, just for good measure.
Pictures I took in 2012, like this chair with the pumpkins, that I wasn't quite satisfied with and wish I could keep editing, are now stuck in this permanent state. I wish I could get that original back and edit it differently. Oh well.
Have you backed up your data today?
Go do it.
There was a moment, this fall, when the figurative planets aligned. The end of October was going to bring with it the much anticipated Halloween celebration. Halloween always means much planning, preparation, and time. Time is something we have precious little of.
The biggest time sucker is, of course, the Haunted House. In order to make it deliciously creepy, we needed English Ivy and dried leaves aplenty. But fall happens very quickly. By fall, I mean the actual "fall"—that day, once a year, when all the leaves decide to relinquish their grasp on the trees. It seems as though one day there are only one or two leaves on the ground, and the next day there are only one or two leaves on the trees.
So, in this planet-aligning fall leaf timing scenario, here's what happened: I realized, all of a sudden, that today was Fall; all the leaves had hit the ground. They were also, miraculously, still dry. If you are familiar with the Pacific Northwest in fall (spring, summer, winter), you know that a dry day when you need a dry day is far from a guarantee (outdoor weddings with umbrellas can be charming). In fact, on this particular fall day, it was sunny. So there were all the leaves, just sitting there, still dry and crunchy and crinkly, and perfect for the haunted house still 3 weeks away.
Ordinarily, this would cause me to pause just long enough to think to myself, "we should really collect some of those leaves while they're still dry," before rushing off to my next task. But on this particular sunny-dry-fall day, I had an entire half hour free. This is unheard-of. Free time is not a thing that happens.
Put all this together: Dry Fall Leaves. Sunny Day. Half Hour Free. Several Enthusiastic Helpers.
In 20 minutes, we had 10 huge garbage bags full of leaves for haunted house ambiance, stored under a building until they would be needed in three weeks.
I tried editing this photograph, because it has such interesting colors, but I wasn't able to do anything to it that I liked better than the original, straight out of the camera. Love that Acer.
Departing the same time as my party, I on foot and they on their way to cram into a vehicle, destined for the same location with no stops in between, I found myself arriving with quite a bit of time to kill. Apparently, in the 8 blocks or so that I walked, they had run into some traffic. So there I sat, camera in hand, waiting.
Luckily, camera in hand means never bored. This little tree was nearby. I don't know what kind of tree it was, but it had some lovely flaky bark revealing rich, golden hues. These shots are straight out of the camera (SOOC), no editing (even though I really wanted to play with the saturation).
I had a plan.
I was going to photograph all eleven of Portland's bridges in a single morning. I planned out my route, bridge to bridge. This took some finagling, since I wanted to stop where I could take a photograph without crossing the bridge. I got up well before sunrise, and my plan seemed to be going off without a hitch. I started at the Sellwood bridge, and got a few pre-sunrise shots I thought were pretty good, at least from what I could see on my tiny camera screen.
Then my plan derailed. There was construction around the Ross Island bridge, so I couldn't make it to my designated picture taking spot. Then the fog rolled in. I made it as far as the Hawthorne bridge (above) before the fog was too thick to see any bridges at all. I continued driving from bridge to bridge in hopes of a clear patch, but I since I couldn't seen any of the bridges through the fog, I had no idea if my directions to near-the-bridge-without-crossing-the-bridge were even accurate.
Someday I'll complete my quest, but I'll have to wait for the perfect fog-less construction-less day.
My edit this week: SOOC on the left, edit on the right. I cropped a bit, changed levels and saturation, burned the metal parts, and sharpened a bit. Not a huge difference, but I like it.
Another boat. Canoe, kayak, pontoon, and now sail. I swear I don't spend much time on boats.
And yet I have written three recent entries obliquely related to boats (not including this one). In all three posts, I refer to piloting the boat through the water in an aimless fashion as "tooling around." It is a phrase that makes perfect sense to me and it works with what I'm trying to convey, but I hadn't realized that it was such a go-to term for me. All three posts about boats include the phrase.
It was enough to make me wonder if I was using the phrase correctly. Or even if anyone else ever uses the phrase. So, of course, being the information geek that I am (or, as a friend recently put it, I'm addicted to knowledge), I looked it up:
To drive (a vehicle) or (of a vehicle) to be driven, esp in a leisurely or casual style. To drive or ride in a vehicle: tooling along the freeway. To carry or be carried.
Cruise, curb, direct, drift, drive, float, go, go with, guide, handle, hitch a ride, hitchhike, journey, manage, motor, move, post, progress, restrain, roll, sit, sit on, thumb a ride, tool around, tour, travel, advance, drive, impel.
So, I'm using it correctly, and it's not something I just made up. But I wonder why no other phrases immediately come to mind when I think of spending time in a boat, particularly with no destination in mind. One can paddle around in a boat, or row a boat around, or use a boat's motor to traverse from point A to nowhere and then back to point A again. But those descriptions lack the vim of the term "tooling around."
Do I use the phrase just with boats? I think I've probably used it to mean aimlessly wandering for the purposes of entertainment in the context of roller skating, or riding a bike through the park, or even surfing the internet. Just tooling around.
My challenge to myself now is to find a phrase to use in place of "tooling around" that I like just as much. I may never find one, but I'm never opposed to expanding my vocabulary.