Sunday, June 27, 2010

Denizens of the Not-So-Deep

I only went into the store for fish food. Really. But Aiden and I saw this little guy in one of the tanks, we and didn't resist.

The Hammers cobalt blue lobster is technically a crayfish. Non-technically, they're also a lot of fun.

I don't think I've ever seen the kids so excited abut anything in the fishtank before. Fiona draws pictures of it. Aiden points it out to anyone who comes in the door. The location and migrations of the lobster are announced regularly throughout the day.

We did have a bit of an adventure with him about a week after we got him — Deborah found some blue shell pieces in the tank, and briefly worried that he had died, but it turns out that he had just molted, and was hiding out in one of the decorative hollow bricks I keep in the tank. Thing is, he got in when his shell was soft. And while he was in there, his shell hardened.... and out was not an option. After more than a day, and much coaxing, it was evident that he wasn't going to get out on his own. So, very gently, I took the brick he was in, and a hammer, and started tapping gently and persistently. You can tell when a piece of ceramic is broken by listening to the sound change: click, click, click, click, thunk! Once I heard that, I gently pulled apart on the brick, and it came apart in two neat halves, freeing the lobster. Remarkably, the brick went back together, minus a crossbar, and is a cozy hidey-hole for the lobster once again. And he can get out of it now, too!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Click, click, click... again.

We gather here on this august occasion (but it's still June!) to mourn the passing of Canon Powershot A95. A95 lived a good long life as far as cheap digital cameras go, taking tens of thousands of pictures, yet succumbed to congestive CCD failure in the end, just like its elder brother, A70. Bought used at the beginning of 2008, A95 served faithfully up until the very end, when it started consistently producing images like this one:

My cute stripedy little girls...

A95 was preceded in death by A70 and a nameless $20 camera from Radio Shack. It is survived, oddly enough, by just about every film camera I've ever owned.

* * *

So I'm camera shopping again.

During the outage, I reached, once again, for my 25-year-old Pentax SLR. I keep forgetting how much I really like this camera — I'd gotten so used to the almost infinite depth of field provided by ultra-short focal length digitals, and have been pleasantly surprised to discover selective blurring and soft focus once again. There's even something to be said for the stumpy little 50mm lens — if you want to zoom out, start running. If you want to get closer, get closer. It's hard to argue with the quality of the photos it takes:

...and yet, in just three days, I spent a quarter of the cost of a new camera on processing alone. That's not including the film! It's just not a sustainable habit for me. I take too many pictures.

Deborah has been agitating for me to get a new camera sooner than later, so I finally caved and got her what she wanted: a Nikon L22, very similar to the L20 I gave Paul for Christmas. (She wanted hers in lime green, though. 'Twasn't an option.) And, I made an interesting distinction: This was to be her camera. I'll use it in the meantime, too (even though the lack of manual overrides drives me crazy) but it's a stopgap until I get something that suits me and my abilities.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Back when I lived in California, and Spain, and Germany, I used to read books where characters stood around, talking about the weather. I thought this was exceedingly odd behavior, but now that I live in the Midwest, I understand completely.

Now, it's a regular staple of conversation: "Well, the weather radio said we were under a severe thunderstorm watch, but it sure doesn't look like it now, does it?" "Yeah, I wish the storm would show up and cool us off..."

Beware of what you wish for.

The storm blew in as we were sitting down to supper, and it blew in hard. The sky got darker and darker, and then the winds picked up dramatically. I heard a swish and a thump among the sounds of trees roaring in the wind.

Fiona was very concerned that all manner of things would blow away, including the decorative wind sock (with good reason; I fished it out of the mulberry tree...) to her bicycle (which I thought much less likely, but I humored her anyway.) When I was taking her bike around to the shed, I saw this:

Er, yeah. That's a good chunk of our northeast tree, broken off from about 30 feet up, and mashed right through my neighbor's porch. Amazingly, no one was hurt (various people had gotten inside just 30 seconds earlier) and the branch missed the main part of the house. I'd have trouble getting my arms around that branch.

Chris and Ryan plotting on how to make the front door usable again.

Well, at least the roots held...

Down the block, there were more limbs, and even an entire tree down. This one split about 25 feet up — that was not a small tree.

No one was hurt, that we know about... and we've got plenty to talk about now.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


The annual Spring Art Fair came to town, and Deborah availed herself of the opportunity to get the girls some handmade dresses. Aren't they cute together?

I have a strange, sudden desire for watermelon....

Friday, June 11, 2010


Our thirteenth anniversary was on Monday. (We actually have two anniversaries: May 27th, when we got legally married here in the States, and June 7th, when we had the wedding down in Ecuador — but the first also corresponds to Deborah's birthday, so we tend to celebrate the second date as our anniversary.)

So, how do you celebrate thirteen years? By going out and doing all the unlucky things you can think of!

We opened umbrellas indoors.

We didn't actually break this mirror; it came broken with the house. Does that imbue bad luck onto the old owners, or us? Either way, the seven years have worn off by now....

We spilled some salt...

LOTS of salt...

....and threw some over our shoulders.

We stepped on cracks (sorry, Mom!)

We picked up coins — thirteen cents! — that were tail-side-up (Have you heard of this? This is a new one on me.)

Walked under ladders...

...and laughed at the gods. Or something above us, anyway.

We had an orange cat cross our path...

...but that probably wasn't unlucky enough, so we drove around in the Zipper, looking for black cats, but didn't find any. So we settled for a shot at 13th street.

So, we had plenty of fun, and no resultant bad luck.*

Thirteen years? Luck has nothing to do with it!

*Admittedly, we did have one spot of bad luck that evening: unbeknownst to us, Fiona and Aiden were playing with the branch trimmers: Aiden holding twigs, and Fiona working the clippers. Aiden lost a bit of his thumb and got a trip to the emergency room out of the deal. Luckily, Paul was here and could watch the other kids while we took him, and his thumb is healing up nicely. Besides, this all happened before we started doing unlucky things.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The View from behind the Pulpit

You don't often see me in church. Oh, I'm there often enough — you just don't see me. Half the time, I'm closeted away in the A/V room, running lights, camera, and various bits of recording equipment. It's not a job for those seeking glamor an attention, and that suits me just fine. Running A/V equipment is a lot like typesetting — people really only notice if you mess it up. Do it right, and you're invisible; people notice what you're there to make look good.

I'd reckon that less than half of the church even knows that there's a small room off to the left of the stage. Most of the time, the only evidence that there's anything there are the two one-way windows set into the wall. Those little windows are my eyes to the world. If Katie is scheduled to play an offertory, and I don't know who Katie is, or what instrument she plays, I can peek out to see if someone is sitting at the piano, is on-stage, or hiding off in the wings with a violin tucked under her chin.

Working back there has given me a slightly different perspective on church services. Some of the common elements of a service have spiritual significance; plenty more are there just to keep things running smoothly. I've been in churches where the pastor acted as MC, calling people forward to do their things. The place we've been going for the last 12 years has an Order of Service — half-sheets of paper given out to everyone who'll be participating. When it's your turn, you go up and do what you're going to do. It also let me know if I need to dim the lights, lower the screen, or pan the camera over to a different part of the stage. One church I used to attend always asked the congregation to stand and sing as the offering plate was being passed, partly, I think, to make it easier to get wallets out of pants pockets. It might be tempting to see it all as a performance, but as often as I see it that way, I see times when what happens diverges from what's on my OoS, and it's definitely something wonderful that We didn't put together, and We needed to hear, or see.

How do you participate in corporate worship if you're not sitting amongst the body? I probably sound faintly ridiculous, singing along with my headphones on, the music pulsing softly through the walls. I find it's just as easy to contemplate the sermon while lying on the floor as it is to do it in a pew. As I burn the DVDs for the shut-ins that can't make it to church, I wonder what they do. Do they sing along, too? Do they fast-forward the announcements, or do they want to know what's going on in church? Do they take notes on the sermon, or just listen to it while they wash dishes?

What does church look like when no one knows you're there?