Moving On From Picasa? WTH, Google?

Goddamit, Google, not again. You’re retiring yet another essential productivity tool!!

Since the launch of Google Photos, we’ve had a lot of questions around what this means for the future of Picasa. After much thought and consideration, we’ve decided to retire Picasa over the coming months in order to focus entirely on a single photo service in Google Photos. We believe we can create a much better experience by focusing on one service that provides more functionality and works across mobile and desktop, rather than divide our efforts across two different products.

Via Googleblog:
Moving On From Picasa”

I grumble at the way Picasa indexes things, but have based my entire blogging and online creative workflow around how Picasa organizes my images. I use plugins to make batch uploading to Flickr and Facebook easy.

Goddamit, goddamit. Whatever happened to “Don’t Be Evil?”

Flickr: Love The New Look But Hate The New Hook

One of the Second Life blogs I read occasionally pointed me at something I hadn’t noticed in the golly-whillikers inducing change in the look of Flickr. They’ve gotten rid of Pro accounts, and once the paid subscriptions I have for myself, my church, and my Second Life accounts run out, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to renew all of them. Why should I, with prices like these just to avoid ads? Well, at least I’m grandfathered in as a current Pro member, I can renew for another two years for the current cost of a one year “Ad Free” account.

I guess I’d like to see what a free account with ads looks like – if it’s anything like what it looks like with the redesign (huge pictures, dark background) before you log in, they’re just banner images occasionally in the stream.

What’s the difference between a Free, Ad Free, and Doublr account?

There are three kinds of accounts to choose from at Flickr, and all of them are awesome in their own way.


  • 1 Terabyte of photo and video storage
  • Upload photos of up to 200MB per photo
  • Upload 1080p HD videos of up to 1GB each
  • Video playback of up to 3 minutes each
  • Upload and download in full original quality
  • Unlimited monthly bandwidth

Ad Free:

  • $49.99 per year
  • All the benefits of a free account
  • No ads in your browsing experience


  • $499.99 per year
  • 2 Terabytes of photo and video space
  • All the benefits of a free account

(it goes on to say…)

I’ve heard that Flickr Pro is no longer being offered. How does that affect me?

As of May 20, 2013, we are no longer offering Flickr Pro subscriptions to the majority of our members. Some things to be aware of (with more details below):

  • Recurring Pro members currently have the ability to continue renewing at the same price.
  • Eligible Pro members can get a prorated refund for a limited time.
  • Eligible non-recurring Pro members can purchase a recurring Pro subscription.
  • The “Gift of Pro” will no longer be available for purchase.
  • Pro users will no longer appear with a “Pro” badge beside their name or buddy icon

Your Pro pricing remains the same and your benefits have improved:

  • Those who remain Pro will retain all their original benefits.
  • The photo and video size limits will be upgraded to those offered with our new free account.
  • If you are on a recurring Pro subscription, your payments will remain as is. To see what your current subscription costs, see the previous payment on in your order history.
  • Pro members will never be automatically transitioned to an Ad Free or Doublr subscription.

If you’d like to switch to a free account:

  • Eligible Pro members who switch to a free account by August 20, 2013 can receive a prorated refund on their purchase and will lose their Pro benefits immediately.
  • Pro members who cancel Pro after August 20, 2013 will retain Pro benefits until their subscription expiration date.

If you’d like to keep your Pro membership:

  • Anyone who was Pro at 12:00 am (midnight) GMT on May 20, 2013, may be eligible to sign up for recurring Pro in order to extend their Pro membership beyond its expiration date.
  • This applies to:
    • those whose one-time or gift Pro memberships expired after 12:00 am GMT.
    • those who are on a gifted Pro account.
    • those who have purchased one-off Pro and are set to expire in the future.
  • To keep your Pro status by signing up for a recurring Pro subscription, visit the account order page.
  • If you cancel your recurring subscription or opt for the prorated refund, you will no longer have the option to sign up for a recurring subscription.
  • If your recurring subscription expires after May 20, 2013, due to a failed payment, please contact the billing team.

How to tell whether you are on a recurring payment plan:

  • Visit your account details page and look at “Your Flickr account”.
  • You are on a one-off or gift subscription if it says “It expires on [date].”
  • You are on a recurring subscription if it says “It will renew on [date].”
  • If your account has already expired you will not see a related date.


My own Flickr Pro account expires June 7 2014, so there’s a year to go. But according to the graphic, I get 2 years’ worth of “ad free” for the same cost, so I might renew…maybe. Not sure if I care enough about seeing ads or not, but it might be worth it. When I do upload to Flickr (I kind of miss the fun interactions I had when I was using it more), I upload a metric frackton at a time

My Second Life Pro account expires March 16 2014. Probably won’t renew. I don’t care if I see ads on that account, I don’t use it very often, but it’s handy for stashing photos I’ve shot “inworld.” I could probably get by with free.

The St Nicholas Episcopal church Pro account expires January 12th 2015(and I really have bunch of photos to upload, and need to take more, but we mostly use Facebook). I could probably get by for free here, too. A terabyte is upwards of 500,000 photos according to Flickr’s FAQ page, so no worries there.

Meh, I guess “hate” is too strong a word, but I’m still not used to the changes.

via Flickr: Help: Free Accounts, Upgrading and Gifts.

Picasa to Flickr to Blog, Oh Boy!

I like Picasa, especially since a recent update means when you Save changes, it really Saves like you’d expect. But I also like Flickr, and the two don’t have drag-and-drop compatibility as far as I know. So I did a little searching for updates and found that I don’t have the latest version of the Flickr uploader, for one thing.

While that downloads (slow connection while on vacation here in Maui), here’s a post from Lifehacker from a couple of years ago that offers a solution towards a more efficient workflow when dealing with lots of images.

Perfect Your Picasa to Flickr Workflow – Digital Photos – Lifehacker

Desktop photo manager Picasa is a Google product, and photo-sharing web site Flickr’s owned by Yahoo, and the two companies don’t make it obvious how to get the apps to talk to one another. When I returned home from a vacation on the beaches of Thailand, I had a hard drive loaded with photos and I wanted a way to organize, caption, and publish them all at once without duplicating work. Here’s how I did it with Picasa and Flickr.

The Problem: When you’re jet-lagged and you have hundreds of photos to edit, sort, organize, and caption, you don’t want to do any more work than you must. While it’s easy to simply export or email a few photos at a time out of Picasa to upload and title, caption, and tag in Flickr itself, I wanted to caption my photos once in Picasa and send that information to Flickr. I also wanted to organize my photos into sets—or “albums” as they’re called in Picasa—and mirror those sets on the web and the desktop.

The Solution: While Picasa does have a handy “Email this” function which you can use in conjunction with Flickr’s upload by email feature, it’s not easy to make sets, set multiple privacy levels, add tags, and titles via email. For all that you want the newest version 3.0 of the Flickr Uploadr application, which works on both Windows and Mac. (But, if you’re using Picasa, you’re on Windows. Sorry, Mac peeps.) The Flickr Uploadr acts as the middleman between Picasa and Flickr.

Oh, my. I wonder if it’s worth trying to install this plugin?

  • Run Picasa
  • Select photos to import
  • Click on “Send To flickr!” button
  • A “Sending to flickr Uloadr” progress bar should appear
  • Wait until uploadr start
  • An “Import” button should appear when all the queue have been analyzed
  • Click on “Import” button to start the upload

My word, that seemed to go well so far – the button installed pretty much as detailed in the instructions, and now I have a Flickr button on Picasa… currently I only have one photo in my Maui 2010 set on Flickr, because frankly I worked on one image and got distracted by all the stuff I wanted to be doing while actually on vacation. So here goes.

Oops, first have to make sure Uploadr update has finished (slow, slow connection). There was something in yesterday’s news about ATT’s service getting screwed up, too – so we were unable to call anybody on our iPhones, had we been somewhere that actually had service. But we were off in Hana where there’s no ATT coverage to speak of, so we were unaware of the outage, tra la la.

Well, hey, that’s pretty painless! I did use the suggestion from the first link to export to a folder named “Maui 2010 to Flickr” as the only way to batch resize is to “export” images to an album or folder.

When blogging a lot of photos, I had been in the habit of uploading to my Picasa web albums, which are a bit of a mess as Picasa has this tendency to start a new album for every batch, something that I don’t necessarily want. But it’s harder to get a decent link off of them, as Picasa seems to want to put links to photos within tables. Sometimes I’d just rather work with the choices Flickr offers in “all sizes.”

So there you have it, a small batch of photos uploaded to Flickr, very easily direct from Picasa. Hurray for Sourceforge plugins!

Maui 2010
Maui 2010

Day One In Paradise

After yesterday’s comic misadventures in travel, today was an easy, perfect day in paradise. We’re not a big couple for grand gestures and super-elaborate plans; we’re more in the “play it by ear” mode of operations. But David had tucked a Valentine’s Day card in his bag and this morning he made coffee and brought me “breakfast in bed.”

Happy Valentine's Day from Maui


Okay, so it was a breakfast bar, because we got in so late last night we didn’t want to take the time to go to the grocery store to stock up.

We woke up relatively late for the first morning in Maui; must have been our very late arrival the night before. Just now David remarked that he already felt acclimated to the time; it’s after 1am Chicago time, and we’re still going strong.

Anyway, we got pulled together and went for a nice long walk up the beach, toward Wailea, enjoying the warm breezes and the soft sand on our bare feet (and picking our way around the occasional outcrops of lava and coral). Everybody and their dog were out today, and in fact it seemed like it was Golden Lab Play Day.

We came off the beach feeling like it was time for Second Breakfast, and I asked a local lady for an “anything but Denny’s” recommendation. She said “Mana Kai Maui,” or the Five Palms, a place we’ve been to before for dinner but not breakfast. She thought it was peaceful there, and you could see the water.

More Than Five Palms 

Good enough, so we walked back to pick up the car.


Five Palms Breakfast


And a fine breakfast it was – we sat indoors, which isn’t really indoors as they had the huge teak shutters folded open all around (they’re about 12 feet high). While eating, David spotted a paraglider coming down right over the beach in front of us, and we watched him spiral around and around before landing perfectly on the dry sand. A few minutes later, a second paraglider came down, same spot.

After breakfast, we walked up the beach a while, and ran into the paragliders, who had gathered up their chutes and thrown them over their shoulders to haul them back to their cars.

BIG laundry day

It looked like a gigantic load of laundry.

Then we got back in the car and headed off to Safeway’s to stock up for the first week, and even though we thought we were being conservative about buying small amounts and trying to keep it simple, we still ended up spending $200, even with a pretty good discount going with our Dominick’s card, which is part of the Safeway’s chain.

Once back, we spent some time relaxing on the lanai, I fooled with my new tripod, and David tried to do a reverse update on his iPhone. Then we had lunch – our favorite kind of tuna poke, some tako poke, and I had poi. Yes, I’m weird like that.

Otherwise, it was the typical Sunday afternoon stuff, except with a view of…



LOLWhales! O HAI!

Tail Lesson

And then there was some fun tail-slapping featuring a mama whale and her calf.


After that, the Fleet was on maneuvers…

In Formation

and then passed in review.

After all that, I went across the street and wonder of wonders, found two pair of board shorts, to replace the pair I seem to have lost on a previous trip. And these fit me better, being (rather large) men’s shorts and also I’ve lost weight from my hips (yay) although I still have more to lose.

David was still working on his iPhone software reversal thing, so I went down and got in the water, both in the surf a little and in the pool, which was just the right temperature. With all the walking, had a pretty good workout today.

David had spent some time photographing and just hanging out on the lanai and downstairs on the lawn, so it’s been a nice relaxing day for both of us.

Dinner was grilled tuna with rice and steamed veggies (and beer and snacks) and so here we are. It’s the first time I’ve uploaded anything substantive to Flickr in a while, other than mobile pictures, and clearly my skills are rusty. But I also took some photos I’ll be using for textures in Second Life, so it’s been quite a productive lazy day, too.

Think it’s time to call it “another shitty day in paradise.”

Endlessly Seeking The New New

We are a globeful of dopamine addicts. We endlessly seek and never find the newest new thing.

Slate: Seeking

Seeking. You can’t stop doing it. Sometimes it feels as if the basic drives for food, sex, and sleep have been overridden by a new need for endless nuggets of electronic information. We are so insatiably curious that we gather data even if it gets us in trouble. Google searches are becoming a cause of mistrials as jurors, after hearing testimony, ignore judges’ instructions and go look up facts for themselves. We search for information we don’t even care about. Nina Shen Rastogi confessed in Double X, “My boyfriend has threatened to break up with me if I keep whipping out my iPhone to look up random facts about celebrities when we’re out to dinner.” We reach the point that we wonder about our sanity. Virginia Heffernan in the New York Times said she became so obsessed with Twitter posts about the Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrest that she spent days “refreshing my search like a drugged monkey.”

We actually resemble nothing so much as those legendary lab rats that endlessly pressed a lever to give themselves a little electrical jolt to the brain. While we tap, tap away at our search engines, it appears we are stimulating the same system in our brains that scientists accidentally discovered more than 50 years ago when probing rat skulls.

After mulling that over from yesterday, as I trudged upstairs scrolling through my Google Reader feed and Twitter feeds (real, virtual, and feline) on the iPhone 3GS that’s become grafted to my body, I thought about how I’d spent the evening. I was in Second Life, watching a live webcast from the Netroots Nation convention in Pittsburgh in a separate screen as I sat “inworld” chatting with fellow travelers in both open and private channels. At the same time, I was going through some recent images I took on SL, deleting the culls and uploading the keepers to my avatar’s Flickr stream (which I keep separate from “real” photos on my “real” Flickr stream). Also simultaneously with this, while waiting for former Pres. Clinton to make the keynote address, I was listening to a music channel in the background, while listening to other speakers make their points for progressive change from the “netroots.” This music was either Internet radio playing in WinAmp, or a live musician singing blues standards “inworld” before somebody else was supposed to appear in a streamed audio chat (this was supposed to be the founder of Daily Kos, but there were technical issues).

As I noted all the things I was multitasking in public chat, I quipped “…too much?”

Came back the reply, “Not until you crash.”

So I thought about that after Second Life inevitably crashed on me, probably due to so many people then in attendance at both Netroots in Second Life, and SL’s own annual conference in San Francisco logging in to tell all their friends what well-known “avatarbrities” (I just totally made that up) look like in real life after the panel discussions were over.

Then, after work was over, I walked to the elevator reading my feed, read it on the way down, read it in a downstairs loo, read it walking out to the car, and read it in the car waiting for the air conditioning to cool off the interior. And shared, and shared, and shared. Because I had stuff, you see, stuff that I had read and approved of that other people might like to see, because it was new stuff to them. And then I ran across something that made me stop and actually slow down and think about what I was reading, rather than merely consuming in “speed-read” mode (I am a fast reader, and also I have always had a tendency towards hyperfocus).

As a recovering former Utahn, I keep an eye on anything counter-cultural coming out of Zion, which is why I happen to have Salt Lake’s entertaining City Weekly blog in my feed:

Exurbia Recast

A design competition tries to reinvent the suburban wasteland with flying ships and big box gardens. What they really need is as simple as a gin and tonic.

Big house. Vinyl siding. Manicured lawn. Two-car garage, maybe three. Backyards to hide from neighbors. Faux brick front.

Pavement for miles. Parking lots. Stores with acreage of stuff. Stuff to eat, stuff to build, stuff to consume, stuff to waste.

Work in the city. Drive on the interstate. Eat in the chain. Home. Rinse. Repeat.

Suburbia spreads like bindweed, one interconnected, land-swallowing swath of humanity. Beige blooms in the brown desert while its denizens stare at high-definition television shows about life in paradise. They bought their homes to live the American Dream, and spend the rest of their lives dreaming of escape.

Escape they will, fleeing to the latest and newest refuge. Maybe it’s the “green” subdivision with colorful houses, maybe it’s the high-rise condominiums with restaurants on the ground floor and a freeway entrance within walking distance. Maybe it’s a boat, a cabin, an RV. Or maybe it’s similar more of the same, super-sized.

America is a very young country, as anybody who has ever visited Europe can attest. Many Europeans have houses that are older than America, yet we as Americans search for everything new. We created a democratic civilization built with the most adaptable legal document ever created, yet we cannot adapt as a people to minor nuisances. Need four outlets in every room instead of the one in that 50-year old house? Buy a new house. Ipod adapter in the car because you cannot listen to the radio? Buy a new car? Bored with the long-standing cafe run by your neighbor? Hey, there’s an In N’ Out burger opening!

This ceaseless need to fulfill every want and desire has a number of negative impacts, most of them on a person’s soul. But there are also smaller ones, such as the eventual desertion of the existing new for the New New. That leaves behind empty homes, deserted lots, and discarded shopping malls. Eventually, something will have to be done with them.


Well, that was exactly what I didn’t want when we were buying this house, and that is exactly what we ended up with given our budget and our geographic location, jobs, and so on. I live that life, schlepping through grey suburbia all year and consuming images of more attractive, scenic or inspiring locales via television, movies, photographs, or total online immersion.  We don’t regret our decision buying our home, but I do regret that we’re not in a tree-lined, charmingly old-fashioned small-town looking suburb with rail service and bike paths within walking distance — that ws completely out of the question in our price range. We made a good decision after really looking hard for a long time.

A week ago, my husband David and I went looking for a new desktop computer for me. I had expressed a vague desire to have a better Second Life experience, and we thought we had grabbed a system off the shelf that had the right hardware for such things… but in a fit of consumerist confusion, I said (stupidly) that I thought a computer with an Intel logo would do fine, because it’s a brand name.

::facepalm:: Jesus.

So we grabbed this one box, after almost grabbing some other box. Which would have had a more powerful video graphics card tailor made for the online 3D experience, actually (not a hardcore gaming system, still pretty low-end). We took this one box home and loaded it up with a few programs that I like or use and got bookmarks set up and cleaned my desk and vacuumed and all that, and then I logged in to Second Life and realized my error. David had noticed as we opened the box that it wasn’t quite the right computer we’d started to buy, but oh, I just had to get it started up, so… yeah. And what with one thing and another, it’s now pretty much impossible (and embarassing) to return because I took a few days to realize that I’d have to leave my SL settings on “minimum quality” for pretty much ever if I didn’t want my experience to slow to the speed of an old-fashioned travelogue with slides, or a film strip, and in the meantime I’d gotten it all set up nice and pretty and bonded with it over the pretty, pretty Aero (glassy, flashy graphics). All because I didn’t print out the system requirements page and take it with me…

And yet on the other hand, for everything else I do with it other than Second Life, it’s fast, and powerful, and makes 2D images and videos look gorgeous. Games are gorgeous as long as the action is flat. It looks and feels great, and it happened to get a great review at C/NET, a site we’ve both come to trust because of their little “Hello, TiVo people” tech gadgetry review show. I’ll be able to take a lot of photos, and slide the compact flash card or one of several different kinds of storage media or cables into a handy little port right on the front, hidden under a little door when not in use. It’ll really be great, for everything other than Second Life. For that, it’ll be adequate, but not visually stunning.  A previous post about the new computer got automatically reposted on Facebook, and a friend immediately commented “Upgrade to Windows 7 NOW!!!”

So then I started looking into fixing my error by perhaps upgrading the video on the new machine, which turned into a big mess because this thing on my desk is a sleek, slim little beast, and there are very, very few options for what’s called a “small form factor (SFF)” system, especially one that has a very low power profile. I’d have to crack open a brand new computer just to add an itty bitty viddy card (only $59.99 after rebate!), and upgrade the power supply (only $29.99) literally “to boot.”

Unless… hey, wait, this guy has the same computer, and he got an nVdia 9500 GT PCIe low profile card to run… after a ridiculous amount of swapping to save on power demands.

Good God, brand new machine and I’m still endlessly seeking the new new gadget to make it into what I should have bought in the first place.

But enough about that, time to play Mahjong Titans, it looks and sounds so purdy… after making sure the title and first few lines of this post are under Twitter’s 140-character limit, that is.

We All Mourn


I can has iPhone?
Via: Flickr
Title: We All Mourn
By: GinnyRED57
Originally uploaded: 10 Jun ’09, 8.15pm CDT PST

Inspired by’s post This is Personal

Pop was having none of it. He walked away from me and wandered up to the museum staffer standing at the head of the long line leading to the elevators that takes all visitors to the museum exhibits. I thought for a moment that Pop was going to ask directions. I was wrong.

He thrust out his arm in the direction of the staffer, displaying the number the Nazis tattooed on his arm at Auschwitz just a few inches from her face. Without making eye-contact and barely breaking stride, Pop kept walking. Understandably, the staffer barely blinked. She didn’t make a move to stop him.

Pop kept walking right into the elevator that had just filled with the visitors that had been waiting in that long line. And even though the elevator was already quite crowded, he walked right in. Jake and I had to run past the guard to catch up. “Pop, Pop,” I said, feeling a little embarrassed, hoping to talk him into at least waiting for the next elevator.

The staffer inside the elevator must have heard me, because he smiled, held the door and said with smile, “We have room for Pop. You guys too. C’mon in.”

And up we went. I have been to the Holocaust Museum many times, but none as memorable as that visit.

About a month ago, in a conscious effort to carry on her father’s tradition and to commemorate his birthday, my wife Helen paid her own solo visit to the Museum. She arrived at the end of a busy work day, in a rush, just a few minutes before closing time. Unfortunately, given the late hour, they had run out of the candles usually provided in the Hall of Remembrance for visitors to light and leave in the niches of the outer walls.

Already feeling emotional — her dad had passed away just six months before — she broke down sobbing.

A staffer nearby immediately came to her assistance, asking if she needed help. She explained, and the gentleman asked her to wait. He soon returned with a candle, explaining with a conspiratorial wink that he kept his own special supply for such emergencies.

The guards and staff at the Holocaust Museum have a special duty. The do more than just protect and operate one of Washington’s many heavily trafficked museums. On a daily basis, they help open the doors to the elderly survivors of the atrocities of World War II. As my stories attest, they do it with a remarkable degree of kindness and professionalism.

As far as I know, the Holocaust Museum personnel that we encountered were not armed guards, though it is possible they were. But when I heard about the shooting this afternoon, and more specifically that at least one of the victims is a security guard now apparently in critical condition, it struck very close to home.

This is personal.

As far as I am concerned, the staff members of the Holocaust Museum are part of our family and the Museum itself is hallowed ground, and we pray for the recovery of the wounded guard. “Never take your guard force and security people for granted,” William Parsons, the museum’s chief of staff said on television a few minutes ago. Our family never will.

A very sad update: MSNBC just reported that the guard, Officer Steven Tyrone Johns, has passed away. We are all mourners tonight.

UPDATE: As usual, Pam nails it. Check below the jump for a visit to last year’s wingnut charade as it played out during the Presidential election and after.

Folk Life 2009, and a few bloggy bits

Here are some of the photos I took on our recent trip to Seattle for the Folk Life festival… there’s not really a narrative, but I wanted to give an idea of the color and sheer energy that goes on there.


We had arrived very late the night before, due to a delay on United. We went for a walk in the morning after breakfast around the neighborhood near the hotel, walking up 5th Ave. North on Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill to get to a spot where there was a nice viewpoint. Although I’ve never eaten at this particular restaurant, the color is striking in the morning light and it gives a really nice old-school feeling. After taking a few more shots, we headed up the steep street, where I quickly realized the error of my sedentary, out-of-shape ways.


This coffee place is just next door, a charming little place that sells their own roasts. And d’oh! we forgot to stop in and grab some beans before leaving town, as we did the last time. This part of the Queen Anne neighborhood isn’t as familiar to me now, as it’s changed so much over the years. Just down on the other side of the street were two big new buildings, including a brand new QFC (Quality Food Center?) and a fancy-schmancy sushi restaurant that we visited later in our stay. I kept looking around trying to get my bearings, because at one time I lived on top of the hill and rode the trolley buses right through this part of the neighborhood. The wires were still there, and I saw buses, but they didn’t seem to be running as often as I remembered. And all the tacky, run-down, but colorful little houses and former stores had been torn down to make room for the new condo/retail block with the QFC, and for the hotel that we were staying in. They look nice, but the rest of the neighborhood looks a little shabby by comparison… although with plenty of character.


This is just a bush of purple flowers… it looked pretty in the sunshine and I was looking for an excuse to stop and catch my breath, which was coming shockingly fast after only walking up 1 moderately steep block.


This is what happens when you’ve got the telephoto lens on, as I did, and do a closeup. I’m pretty happy with the way this came out. Actually, almost all of the shots I took the first day (which was Saturday) were with the long lens. Which I need to clean, as later in the trip I picked up some artifacts that need to be dealt with.


More flar peekchurrrrs, this one a light pink rhododendron. I love rhodies, mostly because they always remind me of the Northwest; they grow wild in the woods (as will be seen if I get as far as uploading my pictures from our short walk through the California redwoods). When I lived in Eugene years ago, there was a city park near one of my old homes that was an entire hilltop of rhodies. It was quite a place to be when they were all in bloom. I’d never seen rhododendrons before going to school at Eugene, and then became fond of them because a huge old treelike specimen threatened to overgrow the guys’ dorm next door to mine in freshman year. I was fascinated by the huge size of the thing and the riot of color on its many trusses of blooms, and also the variety of color was a plus. The only downside was the bees the flowers attracted; the guys that lived on that side of their dorm couldn’t open their windows in spring without getting some bee action.


Another breathing break, this time to peek into a yard and enjoy the serene bubbling/trickling sounds of their garden fountain. I will say that during the rest of our walk, I spent a lot of time pining for life in a pretty neighborhood; we live in a very ordinary Midwest suburb and part of me longs for surroundings that are more beautiful and photogenic than our current circumstances permit. David also admitted that he wished we lived somewhere worth photographing, as we always have to pack up the car and drive somewhere else to get to “scenery.” I suppose we don’t have the eye for suburban photography, but it’s hard to be inspired by lookalike housing developments and strip malls.


Obligatory picture of the Space Noodle. My first apartment (no, second, I moved within the same building) in Seattle was an overpriced little studio that had an enviable view of Elliott Bay and a great view of the Noodle, which I loved to watch in bad weather (especially fog). Sometimes I’d watch the elevators and see if one or the other would win the race to the top or the bottom. Some old clients of mine when I worked in Seattle were from somewhere in Denmark or Sweden; they were obsessed with the Space Needle and collected stuff with images of it. They had leather jackets made with 60’s era logos from the old World’s Fair… hadn’t thought of them in years until we topped out at the viewpoint (puff-puff-puff) and I caught sight of this.


Another view. You can see a bit of the Experience Music Project|Science Fiction Museum at the bottom center of the picture, also the monorail tracks that lead away toward downtown. At certain times of the year, the Space Needle is decorated with giant blow-up crabs, gorillas, or whatever nonsense the marketing people come up with. And of course, at New Years’ it’s all lit up like a futuristic Christmas tree (or shapely Festivus pole).


More rhodies. My favorites are actually the purplish ones, but none of those were handy when I had the camera set up for shots like this.


Obligatory arty depth-of-field shot with rhodies and Noodle. Onward!

We walked around the corner of the hill and since I hadn’t been on Bigelow in years, I forgot the trick it has of bearing right while you tend to bear leftward and downhill. We admired houses and yards and eventually walked past my friend Jean’s old apartment house, and the one I’d lived in that was next door. More nostalgia for times past, although that place had unhappy memories for me in that I lost a TON of my stuff in that move, because I lost access to the storage room and didn’t get back quickly enough to retrieve my things before it was cleared out. I still think bad thoughts about that old landlady. Grr.


At last!! Actual Folk Lifey stuff! On our last visit, we got down to the site much earlier than anything started, so we’d timed our walk to get us down to the Seattle Center late enough that booths were open and stages were active. This was one of many groups that performed at that particular stage. They look happy because they’re playing at the beginning of everything, they love what they do, and there’s not yet a hundred thousand people crushing their way through the site. Fortunately, the weather stayed sunny but cool all weekend. Can you imagine doing this on a hot, muggy day? Seattle don’t play dat.

The first thing about Folk Life that you need to know is that it’s a big site, with many stages, and everything’s all happening at once, so that it’s essential to grab schedules at the entrances and mark up the stuff you don’t want to miss. One of the first things that caught my eye was a choral thing with shape-note singing in what I knew would be an outdoor courtyard with good acoustics (I’ve done Folk Life a few times before). David wasn’t too interested in something that sounded sorta churchy, so he opted to head to the Northwest Court stage area and we’d meet up later. This strategy really works – if you look for something you both want to see, or every one in your group wants to see, you can all head off in different directions according to your interests, and meet up to compare notes later.

Heh. “Notes.” I was headed for the Shape Note Singing demonstration, which was to be followed by a more advanced singing. So I planned to skip out of the first one for a short time to see some people playing mbira, a traditional African instrument similar to the kalimba that I’ve owned since junior high. As I thought, the Shape Note workshop was a lot of fun. I had a good time chatting with a neighbor as we figured out the music, and she was helpful about matching the shapes to the syllables. Shape note is also called “Fa so la” singing because the four shapes are “fa sol la ti” in the octave (there’s no do re me, they just repeat the syllables). I really, really enjoyed the workshop but soon enough it was time to hand off my music to the next participant to arrive and hotfoot over to the Alki Stage, which was just below the Northwest one in an open area next to a big fountain.


I also used my cameraphone to try to bookmark things and I had noted that I’d tried to get the image of the keys being played with the big lens, except that the one musician was dancing and her butt kept getting in the way. I have about a dozen shots from this angle, but this is one of the only ones where the butt is not in play. This group sounded great, very traditional, and they were very colorfully dressed. However, I did get kind of tired of the orange pants, because I wanted a better look at the keys on the mbira. It’s enclosed in a gourd to add resonance, and the instruments are all miked inside the gourd. The decorations around the rim are actually loose bits of metal or shell, and the buzzing sound they make adds to the mbira’s texture.


::sigh:: Well, that’s a very nice purple shirt, but you can’t really see the keys, although you could argue that the soft focus is artisitic, I guess. You can just make out her thumb on the keys of the mbira. The orange discs are the noisemakers – on this one, they’re bottle caps painted orange and wired to the gourd.


This is the player on the far end – he looked sort of academic and may actually have been on a music faculty somewhere (a lot of the really interesting musical groups are often made up of enthusiasts who studied the music, in addition to people from the source culture). You can see the keys a little better, and also the mic wire looped over the top of the gourd. Also: the bottle caps are from Coke bottles.

The music they played was authentic, tuneful, rhythmic with repetitive patterns, and there were vocals along with the shaker noise the dancer was playing. It was pleasant to listen to, and the crowd had a nice vibe going although the benches were placed in full sun. In the same area was a “Green Market” with demonstration products including a Smart Car, a camping trailer designed as an accessory to same, and some other “green” or “Hybrid” products. Also, they had a section on urban or suburban gardening, and some natural hair and skin care products. It was a lively area that got a lot of traffic, especially as it heated up later in the day and parents let their kids play in the (shallow) fountain next to the court. It was also kind of a bottleneck area, as there were 4 ways into it, and it was kind of on the way between venues that avoided the REALLY big crowd on the other side where the big central Fountain Lawn was.

Also in the same area: some of the food booths, plus a bunch of buskers, plus a zillion music fans and “freak the mundanes” performance art types. We spent most of our time in this area, as the acts we were most interested in seeing were all playing in the Northwest Court/Alki Court/Bagley Lawn corner of the Seattle Center site. Other years, I’ve spent a lot of time and energy walking back and forth to some of the big amplified stages on the far corner of the site; not this year. There just didn’t happen to be anybody we wanted to see all the way over there. I already had some wild photos of the Morris dancers from a few years before, and David didn’t want to sit through that again, so we were happy to orbit in the area of greatest convenience and interest.

After watching the mbira group, my plan was to walk back north to the Intiman court and rejoin the second half of the shape note singing, but on my way, as so often happens at Folk Life, I heard and saw something so amazing that I had to stop and take it in.


Yes, Electric Mbira, and these guys looks like the real deal with their hide costumes and DIY-looking instruments. The music was a lot louder, a lot more danceable and the tunes were different from the “trad” group; they almost sounded like a blend of traditional African tunes, reggae rhythms, and jazz tone clusters. It was mesmerizing!


Here you can see a bit more detail: the mbira have the metal keys fastened to boards of a kind of wood that looks like what my kalimba is made out of – there are gradations of color. You can also see that they’ve attatched the rod holding the keys down (they’re kept in tension because it’s springy steel) with wire strung through holes in the wood, rather than simply screwing a bar holder to the wood itself. According to the old, lost music book that came with my original edition Hugh Tracey Kalimba, makers in Africa used to use old bicycle spokes to attach the key assembly like self-tension screw hooks.


I don’t know if they still do that; for a while, the Hugh Tracey brand kalimbas I saw had ordinary wood screws holding the keys to the top board of the box, which in my opinion messed with the resonance. My kalimba is a treble one, and quite out of tune based on the example MP3 of a treble kalimba from the Kalimba Magic site. I would love to have an alto one, which though it has fewer keys, it has a deeper tone and is reputedly easier to play because the keys are bigger. Anyway, these guys appear to be playing homegrown versions, but the Kalimba Magic site has them with pickups and chromatic scales and weird tunings… hmm.


Here’s a shot of one of the instruments they weren’t using at the time. The keys are bent (and probably tuned and arranged in the African manner, rather than in the Westernized tuning and arrangement used by the makers of the Hugh Tracey kalimbas. Yes, I was more than a little fascinated, because at one time I took the kalimba everywhere with me, although I never made much attempt to actually learn to play anything “real” on it. I could play a bit of Bach on it as a showpiece, and I had one song that I’d made up and a lot of patterns that I could play and rearrange on the fly. Mostly I played for my own enjoyment, and sometimes other people were there (in the dorms or at school) and I’d say “Oh, I won’t bore you with this” and they’d usually say “No, it sounds relaxing, and it’s weird that we can carry on a conversation while you play.” They seemed to think it was some mastery I had, but it’s really a simple instrument that anyone with a basic grasp of the intervals in music (thirds, fourths, fifths, it’s all really math that sounds pretty) can play. It helps to have two hands and two thumbs, but some of the flat-board table models can be played by anyone with some finger control.


My poor old kalimba! It’s covered with dust and there are cracks in the back. I wrote my own name and my dorm and room numbers from my first two years at Oregon on it; with all the things I’ve lost in moves over the years, it’s a testament to the fact that I kept it by me and played it pretty constantly until several years after I moved to Seattle. Fell out of the habit when I got my first computer; guess I need to start growing out my thumbnails again (they’re pretty short now). And now I wish I’d bought one of this group’s CDs, because I really did enjoy their music.

After walking behind these guys (noticing that they were wearing battery packs for their amps) I got over to the Intiman Court for some more shape notery, but my little friend was gone and the hymns were a lot more challenging and complex. It was a lot of fun, and there were some great leaders; it was interesting watching how the more accomplished singers were the ones making a very deliberate and authoritative time-keeping gesture that seemed full of power and grace – the kind from God as well as the kind a dancer or actor has. The less accomplished singers tried to do this too, but only the leaders gave the impression of the rocker arm on a steam engine, driving the music slowly forward towards glory. Still, I was losing my voice a bit (shape note singing calls for a very full-voiced, plain delivery) and so I wandered off to meet up with David at the Shaw Acoustic Stage for a group that had looked interesting in the schedule.


And here they are, Crescent and Shamrock. Billed as a Celtic-Middle Eastern band, they played with a great deal of verve and even had a wonderful dancer to provide spice. My pictures aren’t as good as David’s, as I stayed in the back corner the whole time. But you get the sense of the performers and of the crowd in Shaw, which is a smallish meeting room that I’d described in a previous moblog post as the default “indoor folk venue where we stick acts that don’t have enough draw for a big outdoor stage” place.


I didn’t get many full-length shots but I did love the expression on her face as she dance. She was really talented and really into the music.


Focus isn’t great but I got a kick out of the drummer’s interaction with her, and her playing to the people in the front row. The expression on the face of the tsimbalon player behind her struck me funny, too; she was getting all the butt-wiggly action up close and personal.


Just as a side note, Gypsy music and performance art seemed to be the Next Big Thing. It’s also the Next Big Thing on Second Life, as gypsy music and camps are springing up all over creatively anachronistic sims in Second Life, and gypsy-inspired fashion were everywhere in Seattle and also on Second Life when I logged in later. This person could have been an avatar downloaded into Real Life, she was so striking looking. Must have been a performer in another group, but I had to snap her picture when I spotted her. Regrettably, I couldn’t frame the pirate to her left; you can just see a tip of the tricorn. There’s a lot of cosplay that goes on at Folk Life; some people are their art, in some cases, and there were a lot of young Bohemian types wearing dreadlocks, Goth ripped stockings, corsets, and work boots. Also, a fair number of neo-punk newgrass bands. More about that later.

You can see the crowd is pretty eclectic; some older fans who’ve been around since the beginning in the 70’s, some younger people, and some people who look like they come from another planet. Note to the guy in the shorts, though – the plaid doesn’t work if your hands are in your pockets.


More peoplewatching goodness: I probably could have done nothing but take shots of people’s t-shirts and jackets. I loved this vest, I had to ensure I remembered it.

That’s as far as I’ve uploaded to now; there’s more shots of the belly dancer getting people in the crowd going before we get to some of the more colorful acts back outside.

I’ve decided that I’ve neglected the blog shockingly of late, as in at least a year or more. In fact, ever since the “no internets at work” injunction,and even more since I got the iPhone, I’ve been blogging bits of news from Google Reader, and links to stories via and now via Twitter. But there has been very little of my doings, our activities, getting together with family, my thoughts, and things that occured to me that would have made a good blog post if only I could remember what they are. My “oooh, shiny” style of information gathering doesn’t stand me in very good sense as a blogger.

In fact, we had tickets to go to Wordcamp here in Chicago, but sold them back after the agenda was announced. Why? Because it wasn’t what either David or I were interested in – it was all about marketing your blog and becoming one of the cool blogger kids.

So in fact, I’ve made a decision that instead of dinking around all evening playing Spider Solitaire or Second Life, I will try to spend 1 (one) hour a day writing about… stuff that occurs to me. Because Blogula has been very boring lately, what with all the autoposted links and things, and when I go back and look at something from a couple of years ago, I think “well, did the idiot that is me do that?”

I do have an awful lot of photos to catch up on, not only from this trip, but from a couple of trips that I never wrote up or even uploaded to Flickr, so it’s not as if I’m lacking for material. Plus there’s a ton of things stirring in my memory that were kicked up by the Seattle visit; things I missed, things that I remembered that are no longer there, things that remind me of stuff long forgotten. So we’ll see how it goes. I’ll try to get more Folk Life and road trip photos uploaded and posted here this week.

St Nick’s on the Move


Wow! They broke ground at church while I was on vacation for the

I can has iPhone?

Via: Flickr
Title: St Nick’s on the Move
By: GinnyRED57
Originally uploaded: 7 Jun ’09, 10.31am CDT PST

UPDATE: And it’s about frickin’ time. This morning was my first day back after vacation – we returned late last Sunday. I knew that ground had been broken but wasn’t prepared to see the big mound of dirt, two earth moving machines, and the Honey Bucket tactfully screened by the sign provided by the Diocese of Chicago. Ahem, I see there’s a rather “The Episcopal Church in Northern Illinois” tag added, too. Good for them. My only regret thus far: the big pine tree that was to the right of the entry is gone. What a shame.

The service today was a typical summer one: the 9am “traditional liturgy” holdouts (Yay! that’s me and most of the choir) and the 11am “contemporary liturgy” people (everybody else that never had music in school… ) combine in the summer for a 10am service, which means one whole extra hour at home before choir practice. Also in summer: no Wednesday choir practice.

Of note today: one of our associated priests was presiding and giving the sermon, because there was a couple of people in attendance as a search committee from a parish in another state. I hope and pray that if it’s a good fit, they call her. She wasn’t feeling well and our main priest tends to throw things in at the last second to confuse people out of enthusiasm, but she coped all right. I did like her sermon, and I hope her interview with them after church went well. Fr. Steve had decided to throw a parish barbecue at VERY little notice (it wasn’t even in the email that went out on Wednesday or Thursday) and he called for volunteers to start the coals in the grills (they cooked under the overhang in front, and all the smoke came rolling inside at the end of the service). Oh, dear. But it seemed like it was all pulling together at the last second, just like usual. I think in the end our supernumerary priest and her search committee cancelled their lunch reservation and just threw in with the parish barbecue. When I left, they were all smiling at all the hubbub and activity, so I hope that it all helped with forming a favorable impression.

It was good to see my church frenz again and I maked the musics la la la. Actually, we all had to laugh at some of the plans for the summer; apparently several Sundays, we will be singing show tunes instead of hymns. Well, we heard the first few choices and thought “Okay, that could work, and people really relate to stuff like that…” but then we got to the “Sound of Music” selections for one particular Sunday, and all was hilarity. Sure, you could imagine “The Hills are Alive” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” and the nuns’ “Alleluia,” but the kicker was that the suggested number for the recessional was… waaaait for it! “So Long, Farewell.”

All pretense of musicality, oppenness to new ideas, and pro-am churchy decorum dissolved. We all broke into bits of the chorus – different bits, in different keys – and then the men hit on the same verse and did the hand motions and the “Adieu, adieu, to yieu und yieu und yieuOOOH!” and we fell about laughing. Choir dominatrix Mary lost it big time when I asked if we couldn’t convince the Liturgy Committee to let us do “The Lonely Goatherd,” since… “we could do a puppet show from behind the piano!!!” And frankly, we really could do a puppet show the way Mary’s arranged the instruments. She could even play the melody with one hand, since they’re giving her plenty to do anyway finding arrangements. Oy.

There were more suggestions for other Sundays – a lot more of highly improper songs and improvised pastiches – and aside from how funny it was, it’s a serious matter to convince somebody whose enthusiasms have run away with them that it really wouldn’t be appropriate at the Gospel reading for the choir to break into “So You’re Jesus Christ, The Great Jesus Christ?”

Some of the other suggestions are intriguing and we don’t want to completely balk at the idea; there would be something from “Big River” that would be pretty nice, but there are problems with pulling off “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat” or any other songs from “Guys ‘n Dolls” in a liturgically appropriate way. For one thing, where would we get all the gamblers, streetwalkers, and mobsters to pretend to be a revivalist congregation? See? Problems.

All this happens this month and next month, so there will probably be more later after the dust settles, both from the construction site and from the impending discussion betwixt Mistress Mary and the committee member. She’s gonna be rockin’ their boat for sure.

Kohola Kama’aina

We went on Captain Andy’s Na Pali Adventure cruise yesterday – billed as a snorkel trip, but too rough to actually go in. But we were happy to see all the dolphins (spinner and bottlenose) and whales.


I didn’t get very many good fluke shots, but I’m happy with this one. I have another one that’s more suitable for researchers who identify individual whales by the unique patterns on the undersides of their tails.

The day started VERY early, but not horribly early. We just had to be about 30 minutes down the road before 7:15 am, which is not too unreasonable. Like most mornings here, it was cloudy and actually raining gently, but our experience at the North Shore the day before taught us that the weather often clears in the afternoon, especialy if you go “around the corner” of the island.

We found the office of Captain Andy’s down in the Ele’ele Harbor, also known as Port Allen, which probably was a lot busier during WWII and the height of the sugar days. Like many places in the Hawaiian Islands, there’s a slightly raffish air to industrial buildings, but Andy’s office was in a brand-new complex, across from the Red Dirt Shirt factory, which seemed to be working noisily.

A crowd of adventurers in various kinds of sun/fun/rain/swim togs waited to be escorted down to the boat by the lovely crewmember, Stephanie, who was completely encased in foul-weather gear except for her tanned, shapely legs. Off we went down to the slip, along a pier criss-crossed with old donkey rail lines from the days when more cargo moved in and out of there. The boat was an attractive catamaran, captained not by Andy but by one of his other captains (Bernard).

We met up with a few companions for the day, Jennifer from Michigan and Nigel and Caroline from Yorkshire, and had great fun laughing and talking while we motored up around the point by the missile range station and on to the wild cliffs of the Na Pali coast. It was quite rough but the weather was clearing, so we tended to stay in the cabin and watch ahead through the forward windows.

At one point a number of people were seated on the two “trampolines” strung between the hulls, getting plenty of fresh air. Even though they’d been warned they’d get wet, they were betting that that just meant a little spray now and then. Invigorating, right? No, more like irrigating. A few good solid waves came up from in front and in the final indignity, from below, thoroughly drenching everybody from all sides. Fortunately for them, they couldn’t hear us laughing hysterically at their plight.

We slowed first to see some turtles, but they were so close to the side that I couldn’t get them framed right, as I had the long lens on. Soon enough, we slowed down to see something… which turned out to be DOLPHINS!!! YAAAY!!!


There were whales there too – but the dolphins were doing everything they could to get our attention, including slapping their tails with a light clapping sound, as in “Hey! Lookit meee! Don’t look at the stupid big whale, silly humans! I’M the star of the show!” There were even little pups. So cute. Here’s an example of interspecies friendship:


This shows a Pacific Humpback whale swimming on the surface with his (or her) head out of the water, with a spinner dolphin riding the bow wave. This is cropped down a lot and I used a telephoto, but they were pretty close to the boat. The legal limit the boat may approach is 100 yards, but quite often the animals encroach on their own so you get the thrilling close-in experience now and then.


Yeah, these guys were having a blast. The whales were more active while they were around. Nigel joked that we were on the human tour for the cetacean tourists.

This guy was getting pretty big air.


Yeah, they were having big fun.

This is about the only usable picture for whale researchers, I’ll be uploading this one to Flickr first.


I didn’t take any pictures of the Na Pali cliffs because the sun was right behind them and the lighting wasn’t going to be good for me, and also I would have had to change lenses and possibly miss a wildlife shot. David stayed with a single lens that’s kind of intermediate between my short lens and my long lens – he could get better wide shots and closeups but not zoom quite as far as I could. He’s already updated his blog banner with one of his shots…

When we got off the boat, we headed back home feeling tired even though we hadn’t snorkeled – it was so bouncy that just maintaining balance against the railings when we were photographing was quite a workout for the entire body. We lounged for a while drinking ginger-mint iced tea that I made, and then went out for a few groceries and sundries. For dinner, we marinated some chicken breasts in thick teriyaki sauce, Maui onion, lime juice, POG, and ginger, and then grilled them. Had rice and locally grown green beans. YUM. Also Kaua’i Ale. YUM.

Today: late start, obviously. Going out geocaching and looking for “treasure” left by a friend of ours who was on the island week before last.