Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Projects and possibilities

As many of you who have followed this blog for awhile might realize, I love to take pictures. I am an enthusiastic picture-taker who knows little about photography, aware that point-and-shoot cameras and iPhoto's ability to enhance pictures where I've made little mistakes can allow me to elicit some ooohs and aaahs with pictures like the one above.

But the time is coming when I want to know how to take REAL pictures. I've been inspired by many of the bloggers I follow, but none quite so much as Hilary on The Smitten Image. Sometimes I will fall into one of her pictures in appreciation of an emotion her pictures elicit in me. So I sent her an email and asked for advice, what kind of camera does she use, etc., etc. She sent me a very detailed and explicit response, with the admonition to explore the possibilities of the camera I own at the moment. Fortunately for me, Hilary believes that Canon PowerShot cameras are the way to go (unless I want to get really fancy and go to a digital SLR), which just happens to be the camera I own right now!

I bought a camera with a 10X optical zoom so I could take some bird pictures, which I have done. It's a Canon PowerShot SX110IS and I have occasionally taken it off the "auto" feature to explore some of the things it can do, but I almost always drift back to the auto button because I really don't know what the difference is between the aperture and shutter speed. Why should I bother if I can fix the little mistakes after the fact? Well, the reason I'd like to take on this project is to be able to create a mood and evoke an emotional response in the viewer, much like Hilary's pictures do for me. It's my latest project and I suspect I can become a passionate photographer without spending a dime!

Yesterday, Memorial Day, Smart Guy and I took a nice walk around Lake Padden, one of the excellent local parks in the area. In fact, just last week that is where the Senior Trailblazers went, and I snapped pictures with enthusiasm, as usual. Check them out here. The picture above was taken yesterday, brought home and cropped to show the lovely whorl of the unfurling fern. There is a 2.6-mile gentle trail around the lake, with benches placed in strategic spots for R&R. I saw this bench and noticed something had been placed on the platform.
Upon closer inspection, I realized that someone had brought a bouquet on this day to remember a young man who died in 2003, in his early thirties. It made me think of my son Chris, who died just a year earlier at the age of forty, and it seemed very fitting that I would see it on Memorial Day. The family of this young man has placed a bench at Lake Padden with a plaque for those, like me, to ponder his life.

The day was cloudy in the morning with a little rain, but by the time we were getting in the car to return home, the sun was beginning to break through and lift my spirits. And then I saw a mother and her brood out having breakfast, pointing me toward realizing the perfection of life's continuing bounty.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tree trimming

In the apartment complex where I live, some huge pine trees on the south end of the property were trimmed this past week. Our place (upstairs on the end) is shaded by these trees from the direct sunlight as it moves overhead from east to west. My birdies have been hanging out in the tree closest to us and speckling the walk to the downstairs apartment with, um, bird poop. Not to mention the amazing acrobatics the squirrels perform when jumping from our railing to the tree. It has all come to an end, with the tree now looking like this:
Not knowing what the tree trimmers would do, I was prepared for any eventuality from this sort of result to seeing the tree chopped completely down. I was actually quite pleased as I saw that these guys, who do it for a living, managed to keep the integrity of the tree while doing what was necessary. As they worked, I got on my new iPad2 and used Facetime to show my sister in Florida the operation while it was in progress. (Have I mentioned I LOVE my new toy?) The only really hard part was seeing the big branches weeping as if they had lost a limb. Oh, wait, they had; more than one, even!
The sap coming out of the poor chopped-off limbs looks a little like blood, doesn't it? The birds still come to my feeders in large numbers, so it hasn't stopped them. I do wonder if the tree feels it. When I woke this morning to the loud thud of a bigger-than-bird-sized creature on the porch, I saw a squirrel checking out the dropped feed for morsels. I peeked out the window to watch him. He had gained access to the porch by climbing up the side of the building, and I watched in amazement as he launched himself off to the branches... which weren't there! He landed with a loud whump on the stairs below and scampered up the tree in consternation. I don't think he'll try that again.
Since it's Saturday, I wandered off to the Farmers' Market after a walk in the light rain. A woman who comes to the market every Saturday was filling her basket with the latest fresh veggies from Rabbit Fields Farm, my favorite place to get some fresh produce myself. They always have people lined up waiting for the bell to ring so they can stock up for the week. The rain had stopped and the sun was breaking through the clouds as I was leaving. One vendor's treats made me realize it was getting close to noon. Instead of actually buying any of these, I took a picture of her mouth-watering treats and hung onto my money.
Do not enlarge if you are dieting
It was those lemon tarts that caught my eye and made me wrestle with myself before heading home to eat some nutritious and much less fattening food.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kickoff to summer

Map at Lake Padden showing the trails
Today we had a short hike (well, six miles and 1,000 feet elevation) at a nearby recreation area, Lake Padden. I walk in this area on a regular basis, but we usually go 2.6 miles around the lake, sometimes twice to make for more distance. On this hike with the Senior Trailblazers, however, we walked on the horse trails that took us on a longer trek but would get us finished by around noon. The reason for this was that we all brought food and drink for a pot luck that would be held at Norm's house at Cain Lake afterwards.

Norm met us at the parking lot and took our offerings, then went off to join his wife Gina in preparing their home for the two hiking groups to meet for lunch. Those of us who walked the trails spent three hours being out in the beautiful and very green Pacific Northwest.
The horse trails are a little less traveled than the area around the lake, but we met up with plenty of runners taking their dogs (and themselves) for a run. This particular area allows for them to let their dogs off leash, and I saw many very well-behaved dogs who sure looked happy to be out. It didn't rain, and as the morning progressed, we began to see sun breaks now and then.
When we would reach a junction in the trail, we waited until everyone had caught up, as some of us hiked faster or slower than the others. At a junction, we discussed whether we were still wanting to continue farther out or head back to the parking lot. Some decided not to hike as far, but since we were not in the wilderness, it worked out well. At noon we all met and carpooled to Norm and Gina's home at Cain Lake, about twenty minutes away.
And when we arrived, the food had been set out and ready for us to imbibe. There were many salads and other dishes, as well as Norm busy grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. Here you see Peggy and Linda about to partake as I captured the moment. A cold breeze coming off the lake (with some still-sweaty hikers) made it uncomfortable to be sitting outside unless you were bundled up. I did see a tree swallow, pointed out to me by some of my fellow Trailblazers, and I managed to get a pretty good shot.
Click to admire Tree Swallow
I eventually went inside where a wonderful propane heater warmed the indoors, while the hardiest of the hardy hikers gathered outside. After warming up enough to venture out, I took this picture that shows you that nobody was exactly warm. The temperature was in the low 50s but a brisk wind off the water made it feel much colder.
Since three of us are in danger of having birthdays soon, a carrot cake courtesy of Norm and Gina (and Costco) was presented for our consumption. Amy had brought cupcakes, and you can see here that the cake didn't last long. It was very rich and sweet, but nobody had a problem with that.
All in all, it was a very good day, and everyone had a chance to visit and chat for our first celebration of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer season. In Bellingham, the annual Ski to Sea race will be held on Sunday, and if the weather cooperates, Smart Guy and I are hoping to get to Snohomish for a jump or two. The summer season is finally beginning!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rhodie scholar

Rhodies! The Pacific Rhododendron is the state flower of Washington, and anybody who might arrive here at this time of the year would certainly understand why: everywhere there are rhodies in bloom. They are a very interesting genus of flower that has many different varieties. According to Wikipedia,
There are over 28,000 cultivars of Rhododendron in the International Rhododendron Registry held by the Royal Horticultural Society. Most have been bred for their flowers, but a few are of garden interest because of ornamental leaves and some for ornamental bark or stems.
Rhodies also include azaleas; they grow into small shrubs and even into small trees. They also come an enormous variety of colors. Just for fun (and for the entertainment of my readers), I drove around town this week and took pictures of some of the amazing varieties within a few blocks of my home. This next variety caught my eye; a lady was out mowing her lawn and I stopped to take a picture of this flaming bush. She told me she has had this particular rhodie in her family for more than a hundred years and was quite pleased that I wanted to include her beauty in this post.
As I climbed back into my car and drove a little further down the street, I spied this bush in someone's yard and quickly parked so I could capture it. Notice how different these rhodies are from one another; so many of them have smaller flowers that are quite densely packed together, such as this one.
This bush is about four feet tall and I realized I should have put something in the picture for perspective, but it was too late as I edited my shots. The color is so vibrant that it reminds me of something edible. And of course, while I was learning about rhododendrons, I came across this information in Wikipedia:
It has been reported that the plant is of anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective functions against related diseases, which is probably due to its antioxidant efficacy sourced from flavonoids, saponins and phenolic compounds.
Well! What a wonderful plant it is. Not only good to look at but also an antioxidant! However, I'm not sure I'll replace my Vitamin C with rhodies. Okay, let's see: I've shown you some of the bright colors I have seen around town, but there is one color that I've spied only a few times. It seems that the yellow rhodies must flower earlier than some of the others, since this one was almost past its prime:
I had to bury my camera deep in the blossoms to capture it. The sun was trying to make an appearance but most of my pictures have little sunshine. The delicate buttery color of this flower made for an acceptable substitute for a while. There is a house on the corner of Holly and Eldridge that has at least a half dozen huge rhodie bushes, almost tree sized, and of course I had to show it to you, even if it's a little early in the season to show how spectacular this view will become.
The flowers don't last very long, but as I said they don't all bloom at the same time. I notice that the red ones are quick to burst forth, along with the light colored ones. I'll leave you with one of my favorite red rhododendrons I captured on my odyssey:
These impressive and breathtaking flowers are so much fun to look at, and now I can come back to this post and gaze at them when the green bushes are all that are left behind, and they will remind me that next spring this display will come once again.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dangerous job as a maid

J Lo as maid
I have worked as a maid at various times in my life, out of necessity. Once when I arrived in a city with no money, I got a job making $2 an hour cleaning hotel rooms. And long ago when I first came to Colorado, I worked as a maid at a dude ranch cleaning rooms for the summer.

What has brought all this back to me is identifying with the poor young woman who was allegedly raped by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the disgraced and deposed IMF Chief. The other night I woke up thinking about the awful scenario she experienced that was so graphically depicted in news accounts. If she had known what was going to happen to her, I suspect she would have said nothing and endured the horror of it for the rest of her life. Her previous existence, and that of her sixteen-year-old daughter, will never be the same. The press will never leave her alone.

I read that when she tried to return home after the story broke, dozens of reporters blocked her way into her own home. She and her daughter have been "relocated" to a secure place, but how can her life ever be the same? She has agreed to press charges and probably has little to no idea of the pressures she will most likely face once the trial begins. It just makes me sick. The only bright side to what might come from this is highlighting the numerous times this same situation has happened to other young women, who have little to no recourse if something similar happens to them.

Most of the press reports I've read focus on what will likely happen to his life after he was caught. But apparently this is not new behavior for him, since he is a powerful person who thought the rules didn't apply to him. Whatever he gets won't be adequate punishment, in my opinion, because of his disregard for the rights of others. He joins the ranks of men who have been disgraced because of their inability to keep it in their pants and exposed, so to speak, for their crimes.

While I was working as a maid, I was never accosted, but I didn't spend more than a few months in the position. Because I had other skills, I was able to get better paying and more secure positions. However, I well remember how invisible I was to the people as they were checking out of their rooms. Many times I felt like a piece of furniture and was told by management that it was my place to act like one. Maybe those old guys like DSK should get a blow-up doll fastened to their pillows instead of a chocolate. But who knows, maybe the turn-on for him was overpowering an unwilling and powerless woman...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Baker River walk

Yes, I know I have been complaining about the weather lately. But almost as soon as I wrote that last post, it's been incredibly beautiful here. Go figure. Today 14 Senior Trailblazers met at the Senior Center to drive a long distance (70 miles) south and east to the Baker Lake area. We planned to hike to Noisy Creek, a 9- or 10-mile-long trek from the Baker Lake trailhead. We saw immediately that the suspension bridge had been closed as of yesterday and decided instead to hike to Sulphide Creek on the Baker River trail. We saw lots of old growth trees, like the one above.
You have to admit it was not only a beautiful day, but the creek running behind me, along with the amazing views, made it pretty hard to be disappointed. We had a quick reconnoiter and decided to head back to the ostensibly closed suspension bridge and take a closer look. In the meantime, since it was almost 11:30, several people had lunch, and some had a "munch break" instead. This would add to the confusion later on. But the sun was shining so brightly that most of us shed as many clothes as possible as we continued our hike.
These two intrepid hikers have been missing since last fall, Carol and Sally, and I happily snapped their picture in front of our magical mossy trees. We turned around at the end of the short Sulphide Creek trail and headed back to our starting point, the suspension bridge, where we were foiled in our plans to hike to Noisy Creek. Carefully picking our way across the bridge, we saw that some trees have fallen on the suspension wires and were the reason for its closing. After deciding to risk everything, we hurried across and started on the path to Noisy Creek, with an agreement that we would turn around and head back to the cars at 1:30 pm.
Remember that some people had not had lunch yet, so they decided to fuel up while others went on to inspect the trail. It (the trail) is in wonderful shape, and the magical and beautiful old growth trees were interspersed with all the signs of spring. I fell in love with the fiddlehead ferns showing their stuff in front of the old growth trees.
Sometimes you have to be reminded why one would decide to leave Colorado behind and move to the Pacific Northwest, where the weather is reputed to be nothing but continuous rain. Not so. Every once in a while the sun comes out and warms the air, the mood of the local residents, and smiles break out in abundance. Although we didn't have the most coordinated hike of the year, it was undoubtedly one of the most appreciated by all of us. The Baker River is one of the more beautiful places I have the privilege of visiting, and when you get to do it surrounded by great friends, who could ask for more?
By the time we reached the our cars at the trailhead, we had covered almost nine miles and a grand total of somewhere around 1,000 feet elevation gain and loss. This tells you we didn't work all that hard but enjoyed incredible weather as we walked in a moss-covered old growth forest. I'll take that, with pleasure. (Kimberly's blog about the hike is here.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

More gloomy weather

Although the beauty of raindrops on these big leaves caught my eye this morning, I'm sorry to say that I'm really tired of all this rain. When I wrote this post last month, I thought the weather would soon begin to be more springlike. Actually, more summery was what I was looking for, and that just simply hasn't happened. I saw yesterday that SeaTac (the Seattle-Tacoma Airport) had a record amount of rain for the date, and it doesn't show any signs of getting better.

I just checked the Climate Prediction Center's outlook for the next month, and I found this depressing scenario:
From NOAA's Climate Prediction Center
What it shows for the Pacific Northwest is more of the same. We have already had more rain in mid-May than we usually get for the entire month. It wouldn't be so bad if we could have more than one day of sunshine between storm fronts, but that's all we have been getting. Smart Guy and I were all ready to go skydiving on Saturday when the beautiful blue skies of Friday disappeared. And then all day Sunday it rained. The Climate Prediction Center has even more good news:
Climate Prediction Center
Not only will it be wet, but it is predicted to be cooler than normal. My sister Norma Jean down there in Florida will be warmer than normal, but since she is close enough to the Gulf to get sea breezes, it doesn't even get nearly as hot as I've experienced in an Illinois summer. Some of my blogging friends have already seen temperatures in the 90s, but we still are waiting to see 70 degrees F (21 C). A few days when the sun was out we reached temperatures in the sixties, but only a few.

It's funny to think that I'm complaining (again) about the weather, because this is the one reason people couldn't understand why we decided to move to the Pacific Northwest, notoriously wet and gloomy, from Colorado. But if I had it to do all over again, I'd still move here. Even diehard Washingtonians are complaining these days, so I'm in really good company. The upside of the weather here is that in the summertime it rarely gets hot, and the temperatures in the winter are mild in comparison to what we experienced most of the winter in Boulder.

I will be writing about our mild temperatures in the summer while the rest of you will be sweltering; I'm giving you fair warning. We still plant our flowers and get outdoors. Our neighbors in the apartment complex have flowers beginning to sprout and bloom, and I get to see a beautiful view as I walk up the steps.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Madrone Crest and Raptor Ridge

Well! Finally I am able to post this blog from yesterday's hike. Blogger has been down for almost a whole DAY and after I finished my workout today and read the news, I saw that it is back up. So, without delay, our Thursday hike. As you can see from the above picture, the ferns are unfurling all over the place. My pictures are not great from yesterday's hike, but this one shows that it was mostly sunny and warm.
Fourteen Trailblazers all met at the Senior Center and carpooled up to one of our regular haunts, the Arroyo Park trailhead that takes us to to lots of different places. Here you see Peggy looking quite pretty at Madrone Crest, where the full view was obscured by clouds, so I opted for a picture that shows we were not completely covered in heavy rain gear, or even coats! A very nice day, actually.
We did this same trip about a month ago, so we decided to simply reverse the route, going from Madrone Crest to Raptor Ridge, where we had lunch in the sunshine, as you can see here. Looking at the sky, though, you can see we still had a fair amount of clouds, but by the time we headed back down from our day playing in the woods, the skies had cleared off almost completely. Today, Friday, is just a lovely clear day, with the clouds and rain expected to return just in time for the weekend.
It is always nice to get out in the woods here in Bellingham and spend time with my favorite people. Since the hike covers quite a variety of trails, we can make it a bit longer or shorter, depending on which connecting loop we take. Yesterday we covered just over ten miles and 2,300 feet elevation gain and loss. I was very tired at the end of the day with sore feet, but it's interesting that just having a good night's sleep after my regular medication of a glass of red wine, and I'm feeling just fine today. Oh, and I forgot that Kimberly, who is now a regular Trailblazer, will be posting about our hikes on her blog. Check it out here.

Regular exercise is the trick, I think. I know if I didn't do these hikes regularly, before long they would begin to take their toll on me. As it is, they are the high point of my week! Now off to wash my boots and give them some TLC.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I AM, the documentary

I have never been much of a fan of Jim Carrey, and before I saw this documentary, I had never heard of Tom Shadyac. He directed Jim Carrey in some of his biggest hits, like Bruce Almighty and Ace Ventura. I think I saw Bruce Almighty, but it was by accident rather than design. His kind of humor has never been my favorite, since I tend to lean toward satirical stuff like Jon Stewart and even some British humor like Monty Python. I remember nothing from that movie.

But I will remember this documentary for a long time, partly because it spoke to me of things I've always believed, like the fact that the heart is the seat of emotion and that our hearts and minds can change the world, if we get aligned with other like-minded people. After I got home from seeing the movie, I immediately went to Rotten Tomatoes to find that only 44% of the reviewers liked it, but 79% of the audience did. Yep, my kind of movie, all right. I sat in the movie and wept over parts of it, cringed over other parts, and let my imagination and desire sweep me away for the rest of it.

The title comes from Tom Shadyac, who asked the question about what's wrong with the world today, and what can be done to change it. He had amassed a fortune from those comedies he either directed, wrote, or produced, owning a huge mansion in Beverly Hills and his own private jet. But then he had a bicycle accident that left him very injured and depressed. He began to wonder what he needed to do in order to become happy. He knew that wealth itself was not the answer, so he wrote and directed the documentary I AM in order to find out. The documentary has many notables in it, like Desmond Tutu (who I just love to listen to), Thom Hartmann and Noam Chomsky, to name a few others.

Roger Ebert was not a fan. He wrote this review, and he says the following therein:
You see, I am a rationalist. That means I'm not an ideal viewer for a documentary like "I Am," which involves the ingestion of Woo Woo in industrial bulk. When I see a man whose mind is being read by yogurt, I expect to find that man in a comedy starring, oh, someone like Jim Carrey.
You either love it or you leave the theater with the taste of industrial Woo Woo in your mouth. I loved it but then again, I was once removed from serving on a jury of my peers because of being way too much of a bleeding heart liberal. If you get a chance to see this documentary, I would really like to know what YOU think of it. In my heart of hearts, I believe that I am changing the world for the better, and this documentary affirms that belief.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Springtime in the PNW

Last week on our hike I saw my first trillium blooms of the year. And of course they were beautifully enhanced by raindrops, which help to emphasize their beauty, even if it wasn't all that comfy for the hikers. You might even see the raindrops as tears.

It's been a strange couple of days. I learned that another skydiving friend of mine in Colorado died last weekend from a swoop gone bad. I was not as close to him as I was to Emily, but they were quite close to each other, and I had known him for more than a decade. Last summer, these two beautiful people were on a demo team together, and now they are both gone, neither one of them ever having the chance to have children, get old, or learn from their mistakes.
This picture was taken last summer after they had successfully completed a demo jump at Red Rocks Amphitheater to open a sold-out concert of the String Cheese Incident band. You can see how thrilled they were, and everything went perfectly. But now...

For people who don't know much about skydiving, a swoop is a completely different aspect of the sport. It concentrates on building incredible speed under a small, high-performance canopy and timing it so you are able to do some pretty amazing things as you land. But it is without doubt more dangerous and more controversial than most everything else about our sport. While these two learned to maneuver smaller and smaller canopies, those of us who are interested in the sport for the fun of freefall and the delight at flying around a nice big docile canopy, well, we go the opposite direction. My new canopy is larger than my last one, and it treats me well if I treat it well.

So this event gave my Mother's Day a much different feeling than it would otherwise have had. It reminded me of the painful loss of Emily as much as sadness that yet another of my friends has died. I spent yesterday afternoon at the gym, and as I swam a half mile to gain a meditative state, it helped me use up the sadness in exercise. Today and tomorrow are supposed to be dry and partly sunny, which will also help me deal with it by getting out and enjoying the sunshine.

I also noticed that the lilacs are finally beginning to bloom, a full month later than they did last spring. They were gone by the end of April, and now in mid-May they are just beginning to open up and send their fragrance into the air. I just now went outside to take a few pictures so you can see what they look like today. They don't last long, but this particular picture reminds me of the Walt Whitman poem entitled When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd, an elegy he wrote to Abraham Lincoln not long after he was killed.
Later today my friend Judy and I will head down to the independent theater here in Bellingham to see the documentary I Am, produced by Tom Shadyac. It is supposed to be an inspirational film, and after watching the trailer I think maybe it will be just the thing for this rather somber springtime day.

Life comes in all colors and shades, doesn't it? I decide to be happy today and to feel the blessings surrounding me, and I hope you do, too.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Olsen Creek 2011

Crossing the Olsen Creek bridge
I guess we must have used up all our sunshine credits last week. We left for our hike in rain then (same thing today) and drove to our destination only to see it clear up and be really beautiful. Not today. We drove to the trailhead in a light misty rain, which stayed with us for most of the day. Sometimes it was more than just a little rain, and sometimes we thought any minute the sun might break through the fog and mist.
Ten Trailblazers met at the Senior Center this morning and carpooled to the parking lot. As you can see from this picture, taken fairly early in the hike, it was wet and cloudy, with no view at all. We left this logging road after a while to starting hiking uphill. This trek, or a variation of it, is one we do a couple of times during the winter months, and it's always got mud issues. Today's experience was, however, one I have only experienced a few times before. One I called "Adventures in Mud" when we ventured out on this hike last April. We also slogged up it again as our last hike of 2010, and I wrote about that trip here. I've been hiking with these guys long enough now to be able to compare the treks and notice differences. They vary mostly because of the weather and time of year. There must have been a lot of rain lately for us to have this much mud:
Those are Peggy's boots in front of me, and I stopped momentarily to pull out my camera and try to show what we were dealing with today. The trekking poles were essential to keep from slipping in the mud. We did wonder if the mud has healing properties and if we should just give up and wallow in it. I managed to get spots of mud even on my glasses!

We had a nice spot in the mist for our lunch break. The small group today didn't linger during lunch, and it was again not very warm. Being wet from exertion and rain and then stopping usually makes me pretty cold, so I carry an extra fleece and even an extra raincoat if necessary. The hardest part of the hike is trying to warm up again after taking a break. We were all getting pretty hungry when we stopped here for lunch:
I think we are all looking forward to the days in the summertime when we have sun and a great view, but we go out anyway, rain or shine, to get our "fix" of some extended exercise on Thursday. We covered almost ten miles and went up and down our usual elevation gain and loss of 2,500 feet. All in all, as I sit here on Cinco de Mayo after having slogged through the bog and laughed and groaned with my buddies, I can say it was a good day. I'm glad it's over, though.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My new purchase

Remember way back when I was getting an iPod (for those who have been following this blog since then)? That was in December 2009, which my blog helped me to remember by giving me a link to the post I wrote. It was the gateway drug for this new purchase:
Yep, I am now the proud owner of an iPad2! It's interesting to contemplate why I thought I needed one, since my iPod still functions perfectly well for what I use it for, mostly reading my email and the news while at the coffeeshop where I have free WiFi. I almost embarrassed to tell you I am writing this on my iMac desktop with a nice big screen and a real live keyboard. The virtual keyboard on the iPad2 is functional, and if I can remember not to rest my fingers on the glass, I can actually type pretty fast on it, and that's only after having it for a day. What it does have that the original iPad doesn't are two built-in cameras, one on the front and one on the back. It also shoots video, which I still haven't tried. Here's a picture taken with the camera.
This is my friend Leo, who waits for me to show up at the coffee shop every morning with either a book for me to read him, a slimy snake or scary spider, as in this picture. I have known him for most of his life and watched him learn to walk. Now I'm listening to him learn to use language. He knows the names of most of the people in the coffee shop. I downloaded a Winnie the Pooh book on my iPad so I could read to him out of it, and he just loved it. I am having a lot of fun with this new toy, but the very best part, and the real limitation I felt with the iPod, is being able to show people pictures from my iPhoto Library. On the iPod they are small and hard to see in all their glory, but on the iPad, they look fabulous! The iPad is actually just like an iPod on steroids, so learning how to use it was easy.
As you can see from this picture taken this morning at the front of our apartment complex (with my regular camera), spring has arrived here in Bellingham in all its glory. This cherry tree only has blossoms for about a week, and then they begin to drift to the ground as the leaves emerge. This is my favorite time of the year for pictures, especially when it's so beautiful outside. Our temperature is still cool (around 50 degrees F, 10 C) but after all the rain I am really enjoying the sunshine!

Tomorrow the clouds return and we have a 40% chance of rain for our Thursday hike, but it's amazing to me how much better I feel when I've got white puffy clouds to gaze at in a beautiful blue sky! My neck is all better, and I'll let tomorrow worry about itself, while I play with my new toy.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A day with full sun

Yesterday Smart Guy and I drove the 75 miles from Bellingham to Snohomish, where we like to skydive (at Harvey Field). This is a picture of me landing under my new canopy after the second jump of the day. I kept thinking all day about writing a post about our day in the sun when I got home, but by the time I sat in my easy chair and had my regulation glass of wine, I was no longer interested in expending the energy it would take. There was a good reason for that which I'll explain later, but first I want to thank Doug Fairleigh for taking this wonderful picture of me coming in to land.
There were so many of us wanting to jump together yesterday than we had to break into two groups. Here you see Cindy in the middle of a bunch of guys as they are practicing their skydive on the ground. We call these "dirt dives" because this practice give us a good idea of where we are supposed to fly to in the air to build each point. This was their first point, and I've jumped many times with all of these fun people. The owner of Skydive Snohomish, Tyson, is the tall skinny guy second from the right. The sky is blue and the winds were light, and everybody came out on a Sunday to play together, and we did have fun.
After everyone is satisfied about knowing the sequence during the dirt dive, some of the more serious and accomplished skydivers take one more step on the ground to help their skydive have a better chance of success: they get on "creepers," little platforms with wheels on them to allow them to see the angles that you would like to see in the air. Although I've used creepers when someone insists on putting me on a more complicated skydive, my fun jumpers and I usually feel we've done enough by simply knowing which grip to take on which person. This formation, called a "bipole," has two people facing out and away from the others, and they must be close enough in freefall for the other two people to grab their legs. This takes some skill. Note that Dave, the young man in the foreground, is holding onto a "gripper" on the leg of the person to his right. They came down after this skydive and said it was really, really fun!
Here's Smart Guy and me getting ready to go up on my second jump of the day. I packed my new parachute myself, and I really struggled to get it into the bag. I'm still learning how to pack it, and since it's so new, the nylon material is still quite slippery. But that isn't what I did wrong: I also made an error in placement of the slider. Each parachute has its own characteristics, and I jumped this make in earlier years, and I remembered that it always opened slowly and softly. It's one of the reasons I wanted one. My old parachute, however, had to be babied to open softly, and I miscalculated several things on this pack job, and when it opened, it was BAM! Instant canopy, and I got some whiplash from coming to such an abrupt stop. It hurt enough that I wasn't interested in staying for more jumps.

So, as I said before, by the time I got home and took some Advil, had a glass of wine, this post had to wait until today to be written. I'm feeling much much better now after a good night's sleep, and as I said yesterday, my complacency about the opening characteristics of a Spectre have been put to rest. I won't make that same mistake again!