Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sunny Day

Today started off with the usual leaden grey skies of a northern Indiana winter,but then the sun came out. I decided to return to the scene of the crime and try some more pictures in the same area which was so foggy two days ago.

Crows are cagey, when I pulled over and tried to take pictures, they flew off. I did manage to catch this guy before he took off. The picture would have been better if he turned to catch more sunlight on his head, but it's OK. I'll keep trying.

They're far from rare around here, but I thought I'd get some shots of a gaggle of Canadian geese at Pinhook Lake. I don't seem to be able to catch birds facing me when they land, but I like this picture anyway.

This one came out of the camera well and didn't need much postprocessing except for cropping.

Here a group was squabbling on the shore.

Driving along the St. Joe River, I noticed some unfamiliar black and white birds floating downstream. I pulled over and walked along the bank till I saw a flock of ducks in a flooded grove of trees on the opposite shore. When I consulted the bird book at home, I learned these are buffleheads, who live in Canada and Alaska in the summer, but winter from here to the Gulf of Mexico.

Foggy Landing

Another picture from this week's visit to Pinhook Lake. It was cold and foggy. A large flock of gulls stood on the thin ice of the lake while this mallard was coming in for a landing.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Leaf and Vines

I intended to include these pictures in my last post, but I was getting weird results when I tried to add captions. So, I'm just putting them in a separate post without captions. The first picture is a sycamore leaf frozen in ice and its shadow. The other two are wild grape vines, photographed against a foggy sky.

Foggy Photography

Today was a day off from the salt mines, and even though the weather was far from ideal (foggy all day, cold in the morning, raining in the afternoon), it was a good day. I spent a couple hours this morning taking pictures. A few were keepers, and I learned from the rest. In the afternoon, I got to see my granddaughter, the always-entertaining Magnolia, and I got to see her sister in utero, in real time, via ultrasound. Magnolia is a tough act to follow, but I'm sure the new baby, due in July, will be up to the challenge.

Here are a couple of the pics from this morning.

Starlings on a wire, in B&W

Crow, South Bend, Indiana

This is my best crow photo to date, but still not up to the standards of my bird photography role model, Abraham Lincoln.


Dave King, one of the few, the happy few, readers of Lugubrious Drollery, is the author of a terrific blog called Pics and Poems. Recently, Dave posted an article about Picasso's creative process, with a series of sketches of a bull, demonstrating how the artist went from realistic to abstract by reducing the drawing to a few essential lines. In a subsequent post, Dave challenged readers to do the same.

I found the idea interesting, and decided to give it a go. Unfortunately, my formal art education is limited to Mrs. Phend's art classes in elementary school, but, as usual, I will not let a lack of training or knowledge stand in my way.

I chose as my model a picture of a bull bison in Nebraska from Wikimedia Commons. Ironically, the bison figures prominently in the seal of my home state of Indiana, shown above. There are still a few bison on farms and in zoos around the state, but, thanks to the work of heavy-handed pioneers like the woodsman pictured in the seal, they no longer live in the wild here.

Here's the original photo.

My first sketch might laughingly be called realistic. It only looks like I drew on the back of a paper grocery bag. The paper was white, but I photographed the drawing with a point-and-shoot camera under incandescent light. One thing I noticed as I started to draw is that the bison's rear hooves are concealed by a burdock plant--a hardy weed I have written about in multiple previous posts (see link at the end of this post).

Next I started substracting details and using more straight lines. The burdock leaves are now triangles.

Next, fewer curves and further simplification.

Finally, I reduced the drawing to mostly straight lines. I noticed as the drawing became simpler and more childlike, I used bolder, darker strokes of the pencil than in my original "realistic" drawing. The internal critic was turned off, and I was enjoying the process. I decided the burdock was superfluous and excluded it from the finally version. In exchange, since no self-respecting bull should be without two cajones, I added the one not readily apparent in the original photo.

Thanks, Dave, for an suggesting an enjoyable exercise.

Link to Pics and Poems
Link to posts about burdock

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Technology and Nature

I had to start my day at a rural hospital about 45 minutes drive from our house, so I took off a little early and carried the Nikon D90 with me. I was able to catch a shot of the sunrise reflected in the clouds at a railroad crossing.

On the way back, I took this picture of electric wires and their supporting towers. Next time I think I'll change the perspective to show more of the towers.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I was going to include some of the information in this post in another article I'm working on for Lugubrious Drollery, but then I decided I should ratchet up my already intense research efforts a notch by reading a relevant book, or at least part of a book, before publishing the article. Or maybe I'll just look at the pictures, if the book has any. I've ordered it from Amazon, but in the meantime, I know readers of LD are thirsting for knowledge. So gather around the fire and quaff deeply, campers.

Without giving too much away, I will say that the article I'm working on involves an historical figure who could have been considered a maverick. Rather than waiting to share my desultory thoughts on the word maverick, I offer them up now.

First, let's review the meanings of the word desultory, which I have to look up any time I'm tempted to use it. From the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary:
Main entry: des-ul-to-ry
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin desultorius, literally, of a circus rider who leaps from horse to horse, from desilire, from de- + salire to leap--more at sally (a word I used to good effect in a previous post*, if I do say so myself--ed.)
1: marked by lack of definite plan, regularity, or purpose
2: not connected with the main subject
3. disappointing in progress, performance, or quality
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen, my thought process in a nutshell.

As I have pondered the word maverick these last few days, my thoughts have skipped like a flat stone hurled sidearm across a stagnant and algae-choked pond. I have ruminated upon a real-life Texas cattleman (who should be used to rumination), an old TV western, a cheap Ford sedan, and last year's Presidential campaign.

Let us begin (I know what you're thinking--all that, and he hasn't even begun?) with the etymology of the word maverick, from the old standby, The Online Etymology Dictionary:
Maverick: 1867, "calf or yearling found without an owner's brand," in allusion to Samuel A. Maverick (1803-70), Texas cattle owner who was negligent in branding his calves. Sense of "individualist, unconventional person" is first recorded 1886, via notion of "masterless."
My earliest recollection of hearing the word maverick, like many of the things that persist in my brain while more important data are lost, comes from television. I grew up on a duck farm, and there was no need to brand our stock. Even if they got outside the pen, they wouldn't waddle far, so our conversations would never include statements like, "I've got to saddle up the palomino and round up the mavericks." For one thing, we didn't have a palomino, or any other kind of horse. There was no desultory jumping around from horse to horse, circus style, at our farm. For another thing, there was no rounding up to be done. We would just grab the escapees by their necks and lift them back over the fence.

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah--TV. One of the coolest actors of our time is James Garner. Back in the fifties, he was the star of the western Maverick. His character was Bret Maverick, a carefree gambler, and of course, he was an "individualist" and "masterless." Whether he was supposed to be related to Samuel Maverick, the negligent cattleman, I don't know, and I don't feel like going to Wikipedia right now to try to find out. I have gone to the trouble to go to YouTube to embed the intro to the show here.

Fast forward now to 1970. That was the year my father purchased the second new car he had bought during my lifetime. The first was a 1964 VW Beetle, which I had commandeered. A frugal man, he went for economy again and bought a Ford Maverick. On those occasions when I drove it, I didn't feel nearly as cool as Bret Maverick, but I did prove that a tinny Ford with a four-cylinder engine and a three-on-the-tree manual shift could, however briefly, exceed one hundred miles an hour without blowing up--a fact I never shared with my father.

In case you don't remember the sleek lines of the Ford Maverick, I'm posting a picture here. I wasn't enamored enough with the Maverick to take a picture of it. I was fortunate enough to find a picture of one at Wikimedia Commons. It's even the same color as ours, although ours didn't have such fancy chrome lug nuts.

Lastly (do I hear cheers from the audience?), during last year's Presidential campaign, the word maverick was bandied about a good deal. Sen. John McCain, trying his best to distance himself from the extremely unpopular George W. Bush, painted himself as a "Washington outsider," (who happens to have been in Washington since 1982). He and his running mate Sarah Palin spent a lot of time calling each other "reformers" and "mavericks" even though McCain voted with the Republicans 93.8 percent of the time during the 111th Congress. You want a maverick? How about Sen. Olympia Snowe (R, Maine), who voted with the GOP only 34.4 percent of the time? Now, there's a woman who can say, "Thanks, but no thanks," and mean it.

So, there you have it, cowpokes and cowgirls--a brief ride through the deep recesses of my mind. Happy trails until we meet again.

*Link to previous post, "Step Into My Bidet," wherein the author cleverly uses the word sally.
Link to Online Etymology Dictionary

Sunday, February 22, 2009


More lake effect snow. Taken with a Canon point-and-shoot on the way to get the Sunday paper.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Color in the Woods

From Ghostbusters:

Jeanine: Do you have any hobbies?
Egon: I collect spores, molds, and fungus.

Hawaii Magazine Photo of the Week

I just received word that this photo of a green turtle I submitted to Hawaii Magazine has been chosen as photo of the week.

I'm honored that this photo was chosen. Previous winners include some really nice pictures . Click the link below to see them.

Link to Hawaii Magazine Photo of the Week page

Thursday, February 19, 2009


It's been a long day, starting with a meeting at 7AM and ending with call till 10PM. I'm too tired to research a topic in my usual meticulous fashion (typing words into the Google search box), so I'm just posting a picture of my granddaughter, Magnolia. I love the smile, the shining eyes, the clapping hands, stained with markers.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Another Presidential Ranking

It's Presidents day and time for another spurious ranking of U.S. Presidents by C-SPAN. Has it only been 9 years since the last one? The C-SPAN 2009 Historians Presidential Leadership Survey, which asked 64 "historians or professional observers of the Presidency" to evaluate the Presidents, came up with the usual suspects at the top: Lincoln, Washington, FDR, etc., etc.

The bottom five:

38. Warren G. Harding
39. William Henry Harrison
40. Franklin D. Pierce
41. Andrew Johnson
42. James Buchanan

Serving as President before (Pierce, Buchanan) or after (Johnson) Lincoln seems to destine one to be ranked near the bottom. It also seems that dying after a short term in office is a risk factor for being perceived as a poor President. William Henry Harrison died after 31 days in office, and Warren G. Harding after two years.

As expected, Franklin Pierce maintains his position among the bottom-dwellers.

Link to the 2009 C-SPAN survey

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mirror Image

This picture was taken with a 105mm macro lens on a Nikon D90. It is, I believe, a spring from the window crank mechanism from a 1964 VW Beetle, and is one of the few existing remnants of my first car. I put the spring on a mirror for this picture, with the wider end of the coil against the mirror.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Handsome Frank and Honest Abe

Today is the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. As the nation honors a President famous for his honesty and wisdom, let us reflect on the life of an earlier President renowned for having good hair.

From the web site, American President: An Online Reference Resource:
Pierce settled in New Hampshire after his presidency. When the Civil War erupted, Pierce voiced support for the northern cause, as did many doughfaces—that is, northern men with southern principles. A loyal Democrat, Pierce did not support the new president, Abraham Lincoln. In fact, Pierce publicly blamed Lincoln for the war. This outspoken criticism cost the former President a number of longtime friendships.

By the end of the war, Franklin Pierce was all but forgotten, as reclusive as his wife had been in the White House. Always fond of liquor, he had returned to it. When Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865, an angry mob surrounded Pierce's home. Only a final display of the old lawyer's once-famed oratorical skills kept his house in one piece: he gave a speech urging the crowd to disperse peacefully, and they did. When Franklin Pierce died in the fall of 1869, little was written about him.
At least the hapless Pierce was able to talk his way out of the tight spot he had gotten himself into.

While I'm on the topic of people who didn't like Abraham Lincoln, here's a photo of me at the tombstone of Edgar Lee Masters in Petersburg, Illinois in 2005, and a closeup of the plaque on the tombstone.

The curmudgeonly Masters, author of Spoon River River Anthology, was a one-time friend and later a rival of Carl Sandburg, who had placed Lincoln on a pedestal in his biography, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years. Masters tried his best to knock Abe off that pedestal in his own 1931 Lincoln biography, Lincoln The Man. I have a copy of the book but I haven't read it yet.

According to John Aloysius Farrell, writing in his U.S. News and World Report blog, Masters depicted Abe Lincoln as "... cold, and cunning, and devious, and a sexual misfit, and a blundering politician who helped bring on the Civil War, trampled on civil liberties, and was ever-beholden to Eastern financial and manufacturing interests."

Link to American Presidents: An Online Reference Resource

Link to Farrell's article, "Abraham Lincoln Myth Had Its Doubters, Like Edgar Lee Masters"

Link to more information about Franklin Pierce's hair

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pierce On Jeopardy Again

The excitement was palpable on the set of Jeopardy tonight as the Double Jeopardy categories were revealed.

Not really, but I got interested when one of the categories was "The Gadsden Purchase."

Sure enough, the $800 answer was:

Deepak rang in, and gamely offered the question, "Who was Buchanan?"

Close, Deepak, but no cigar. You were one administration late. Neither of the other contestants tried.

The answer, of course, is none other than our obscure 14th POTUS, Franklin Pierce!

The Gadsden Purchase

The story of the Gadsden Purchase is pretty interesting. It was driven by the desire for a transcontinental railroad via a southern route. The story involves war, diplomacy, Indian raids, the slavery debate, the gold rush, etc. I'd love to recount it here, but it would be too much work, so I'll just refer the reader to a thorough Wikipedia article about the Gadsden Purchase.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More Moonlight

After fumbling around some more and using a tripod with the D90, I managed to get this pic of the moon tonight.

Step Into My Bidet

A slow day at work, though it portends eroding revenues, opens the door to free association and flight of ideas. Last night the moon was full. It is often stated among people who work in emergency rooms that people are crazier and the ER gets busier during full moons. Anecdotes abound, but there is little if any scientific evidence that this is true. See the link at the end of this post.

I noticed the full moon in the west this morning when I went out to get the paper, and thought I'd try to get a picture. I didn't have time to set up a tripod, but thought I'd see what I could do with the Nikon D90 handheld. The results weren't great, but I did what I could including cranking up the ISO to 6400.

Rather discouraged that 1)I had to go to work, and B)I didn't have time to mess around trying to get a better DSLR picture, I jumped in the truck and sallied forth, which is better than nancying fifth, as far as I can tell. As I pulled onto the street at about 7:15, I noticed that the sky was a little lighter and clouds were blowing through the western sky. I pulled over, extracted the trusty Canon A560 digital point-and-shoot from my jacket pocket, and snapped off a couple pics before resuming my commute.

Moonlight, February 10, 2009
photo by David Cory

A Waterfall, Moonlight, by 1886, oil on canvas, by Ralph Albert Blakelock

The result, as viewed on the LCD of the camera, reminded me of Ralph Albert Blakelock (1847-1919), a painter who struggled with mental illness and who had a propensity for moonlit landscapes. In some of the his paintings, the moon illuminated Indian encampments, another favorite subject of Blakelock. As usual, I am expounding here upon a subject (art) in which I have virtually no training or expertise. But I know what I like. Sorry, I just had to say it. I can stoop that low, but I would never further debase myself by saying of a work of art, abstract or otherwise, "I could do that," or "My kid could do that," or "A monkey could do that." The major difference between people who make such statements and the artists they are criticizing is the artists have the guts to actually do it, and not just say, "I/my kid/my pet monkey could do it."

But, as usual, I digress. I know I like Blakelock, because one of his paintings hangs in the Midwest Museum of American Art in nearby Elkhart, Indiana (the same economically depressed town visited by President Obama yesterday), and I have had the opportunity to see it in person. It hangs next to a painting by Albert Bierstadt, whose western landscapes I have admired for a long time.

"Indian Encampment", 1870, oil on canvas by Ralph Albert Blakelock

I like Bierstadt so much that years ago I bought a print of a painting he did of an Indian encampment. The painting is entitled, "Indian Encampment Late Afternoon."

Bierstadt appreciated the special quality of late afternoon lighting.

Detail from Bierstadt's "Indian Encampment Late Afternoon"

This is where the free association and flight of ideas comes in. Back in January, 1971, the brilliant humor magazine National Lampoon (to which I then had a subscription, much to my father's chagrin) published a Women's Liberation issue, which included a parody of Cosmopolitan magazine, including an editor's column titled, "Step Into My Bidet," a sendup of Helen Gurley Brown's column, "Step Into My Parlor." The Lampoon title was so absurd and funny that it has stayed lodged in the atrophic recesses of my brain lo these 38 years (though I must confess I had to resort to Google to find out the details of the issue at Mark's Very Large National Lampoon Site*).

The Bierstadt print hangs in our master bathroom. As I considered the possibility of taking a photo of the print to post here (indeed, the detail above is from the print in the bathroom), I thought that I would be inviting readers into the bathroom, and as such, could say "Step into my bidet," if in fact I had one, which I don't. But if I did, the print could be hanging perilously close to it, so that the inattentive observer might truly step into the bidet.

Link to Full Moon Myths
*Link to the Unofficial National Lampoon Site

Monday, February 09, 2009

S.J. Perelman

S.J. Perelman at his office in Greenwich Village
Date taken: October 26, 1961
Photographer: Carl Mydans
From the Google Life Magazine Image Archives

This morning I was listening to recent podcasts of Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac on the way to work. February 1 was the birthday of comic genius S.J. Perelman, who, among other things, wrote for the Marx Brothers. The sketch of Perelman which Keillor read on his birthday was so good, I'm quoting it here in its entirety:
It's the birthday of humorist S.J. Perelman, born Sidney Joseph Perelman in Brooklyn, New York (1904). His father was a Russian immigrant who tried to make a living as a poultry farmer. Perelman said his father believed "that if you had a few acres and a chicken farm there was no limit to your possible wealth. I grew up with and have since retained the keenest hatred of chickens."
At this point, alone in my truck, I laughed out loud. Having started life as a third-generation duck farmer, I loved Perelman's statement. Keillor goes on:
He worked as a cartoonist when he was in college, but he switched to writing humorous essays, which he published in The New Yorker. His first collection of essays, Dawn Ginsbergh's Revenge, came out in 1929. Groucho Marx wrote him a letter that said: "From the moment I picked up your book until I put it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it."

Groucho Marx persuaded Perelman to move to Hollywood to write screenplays. He worked on Marx Brothers movies such as Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers (1932), but he hated Hollywood. So he went back to writing essays for The New Yorker. His many essay collections include The Ill-Tempered Clavichord (1952) and Chicken Inspector No. 23 (1966).

One of his essays begins: "I guess I'm just an old mad scientist at bottom. Give me an underground laboratory, half a dozen atom-smashers, and a beautiful girl in a diaphanous veil waiting to be turned into a chimpanzee, and I care not who writes the nation's laws."

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A Walk Through the Woods

This is my first attempt at posting pictures to Blogger via Photobucket. I've had a Photobucket account for a few years, mostly to host images when I was active on a guitar-building forum. It's also handy for sharing pictures with family and friends who, like most of the civilized world, don't read Lugubrious Drollery. Any feedback on posting pictures this way is appreciated.

Photobucket Album

Auto Imprint

After a couple days of temperatures above freezing, the mountain of snow which has covered a car in our driveway for a couple of months started to melt. To my surprise, the car started, so I shoveled away the snow remaining behind it. After backing it up, this imprint was left on the snowbank which had piled up against the passenger side.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Blue Moon

Last night, we lost a friend--to suicide--a victim of the economic crisis. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I feel for his widow, his children.

Photo taken with a Canon Powershot A560 tonight. Postprocessed in Adobe Photoshop Elements.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Owl Butterfly

At The Butterfly Pavilion, Denver, CO, Oct. 31, 2008. The picture was obtained by setting a Canon point and shoot camera next to the butterfly as it rested on a concrete bench. Click on the picture for a large version that shows the detail of the wing scales.


Sunlight streaming through the rainforest as seen from the Old Puna Government Road, Big Island of Hawaii.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

@ Revisited

In a previous post, I discussed the grammalogue, or logogram, "@" which is ubiquitous in email addresses. I concluded that the proper term for this symbol is the "commercial at." Ah, if only 'twere so simple. From Michael Quinion's World Wide Words, I have learned of an abundance of colorful terms, often related to animal anatomy, which are applied to "@":
In German, it is frequently called Klammeraffe, “spider monkey” (you can imagine the monkey’s tail), though this word also has a figurative sense very similar to that of the English “leech” (“He grips like a leech”). Danish has grisehale, “pig’s tail”, but more often calls it snabel a, “a (with an) elephant’s trunk”, as does Swedish, where it is the name recommended by the Swedish Language Board. Dutch has apestaart or apestaartje, “(little) monkey’s tail” (the “je” is a diminutive); this turns up in Friesian as apesturtsje and in Finnish in the form apinanhanta. Finnish also has kissanhäntä, “cat’s tail” and, most wonderfully, miukumauku, “the miaow sign”. In Hungarian it is kukac, “worm; maggot”, in Russian “little dog”, in Serbian majmun, “monkey”, with a similar term in Bulgarian. Both Spanish and Portuguese have arroba, which derives from a unit of weight or volume that Professor Stabile suggests is closely related to that of the amphora — 25lb weight (just over 11kg) or six Imperial gallons (nearly 23 litres). In Thai, the name translates as “the wiggling worm-like character”. Czechs often call it zavináč which is a rolled-up herring or rollmop; the most-used Hebrew term is strudel, from the famous Viennese rolled-up apple sweet. Another common Swedish name is kanelbulle, “cinnamon bun”, which is rolled up in a similar way.

The most curious usage, because it seems to have spread furthest from its origins, whatever they are, is snail. The French have called it escargot for a long time (though more formal terms are arobase or a commercial), but the term is also common in Italian (chiocciola), and has recently appeared in Hebrew (shablul), Korean (dalphaengi) and Esperanto (heliko).
"Where It's At," by Michael Quinion
My previous post "@"

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

RIP Buddy Holly

Today is the 50th anniversary of the plane crash that claimed the lives of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper in Iowa. I refuse to repeat the lyrics of Don McLean's "American Pie," which have been used ad nauseum in headlines today. The music didn't die that day. It lives on. I'm listening to Buddy's music as I write this. Rock and roll lives on. Stratocasters live on.

Rave on.

Monday, February 02, 2009

An Early Example of the Dissing of Franklin Pierce

From the January 16, 2009 Chicago Tribune article, "10 Things You Might Not Know About Inaugurations:"

The outgoing president often gets little attention, but rarely has it been as obvious as in 1857, when James Buchanan succeeded Franklin Pierce. The swearing-in ceremony had to be delayed for 20 minutes because officials forgot to pick up Pierce at his hotel and had to go fetch him.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Random Big Island Images

I'd recommend clicking on the photos to see higher-resolution versions to better appreciate details like the lighting on the coconut sprout and the translucent edges of the orchid petals.

Coconut Sprout

Black Sand Beach Footprints

Roots in Lava

Tree at Pu'uloa (Hawaii Volcanoes National Park)

Wild Orchid, Beach Road, Keeau, Hawaii