Wednesday, October 31, 2007

PhotoSharks: Modern

Computer innard
Computer Heads - the part that reads the disk.

See more PhotoSharks here.

Thursday Challenge: Orange

Traffic cone on the bottom of the Charles River. Taken in Waltham in September. This is near a storm drain outflow pipe. I think at some point it was intended to mark either the pipe or the shallow area surrounding it. Clearly it's not doing a very good job.

See more Thursday Challenge here.

Lensday: Nature

Spider Web
Spider web found among the blueberries at Wakanda early one morning this summer.
There's a shot of another spider web here.

More Lensday: here.

Happy Halloween

Jack O Lantern
This year's pumpkin. Carved tonight. The design is from a booklet.

Pumpkin Guts
Pumpkin guts, anyone?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Charles River Needham

Put InAnother Sunday, another kayak trip. The location this Sunday was also the Charles River. The river is something like 60 miles long and all of it is within 20 miles of my house. This makes for a lot of options for kayaking on it. The launch site for this week was in Needham, near the Wellesley line.

Parking here is limited. There's easy parking for about 4 cars (or two cars and a pickup truck with a boat trailer). After that it gets kind of tricky. I ended up parked just beyond the gravel at the side of the road.

Fall ColorIt was another clear blue sky day. That is where the similarities to the previous week's weather ended. This Sunday was chilly, and windy. I suited up in all of my cold weather paddle gear. I should have added a fleece jacket and the full finger gloves instead of the ones without finger tips.

The tree color was more muted this week. It was still very nice to look at and photograph, just without the glow of a week earlier.

Marsh GrassThis section of the river has more marsh than the section in Natick. Most of the marsh grass has gone to yellows and browns, but every once in a while there was a green clump.

The river winds through the marsh, making the paddled distance much longer than the "as the crow flies" distance.

Marsh GrassThe wind made the paddle challenging at points. There were a couple of times when I came around a corner and found myself paddling with all my might to keep moving forward.

TurtlesNot many critter sightings along this stretch. I guess all the smart ones were hunkered down somewhere warm. I did see a couple of swans, and a few turtles.

Dead TreeI love the architecture of dead trees. I have many, many pictures of them. Which doesn't keep me from taking more. Somewhere I have a picture of this tree taken a year and a half ago, on a warm June day.

Halloween TreeI have a story to go with the last picture. In fifth grade I was chosen, or won the opportunity - I honestly don't remember which, to decorate a bulletin board in the classroom with a classmate. It must have been in October because Jenny and I decided to create a haunted house scene on the board. I spent hours creating the perfect tree for the haunted house - gnarly and tangled. I had just learned how to draw a tree, including not having to deal with ending the branches by hiding them behind other branches. The one for the bulletin board was cut out of construction paper. This tree reminded me of that one.

Charles River South Natick to Dover

Red TreeI took a break from painting the bathroom last weekend and put the kayak into the water. We had unseasonably warm weather - it was in the 80s when I left the house at about 2:30pm - and as you can see from the pictures clear blue skies. I don't think I saw a single cloud.

I decided to stick close to home and put in just upriver of the South Natick dam. There is a small park on the river bank and several parking spaces. The only problem with this site is that the river bottom is mucky. This isn't a big
problem when putting the boat into the water, but it means there is no way to leave the river with clean feet.

Colorful TreesThe fall color was at it's peak last weekend, and I had a lot of fun taking pictures of the trees. The late afternoon light made most of the trees glow. It was stunning.

This section of the river has a nice variety of trees and plants so there was lots of varied color.

I also had lots of company. This section of the river has a couple of easy launch sites. That and the warm weather meant lots of folks were out in canoes and kayaks. I lost count at about 20 people.

LeavesThis section runs through a portion of the Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary. This helps make it feel more remote than it really is.

The section of the river just upriver from here is the site of the "great turtle count". On a trip two years ago I counted 127 turtles (only counted in one direction) in about 2 miles. I did spy a few turtles in this section, though. Usually the turtles are quick to dive off the logs or rocks they're sunning on when approached.

Turtle FamilyI did get fairly close to this turtle family before the two on the left exited the log.

Turtle Up CloseThe larger turtle was much braver, and let me get within touching distance. I did not bother the turtle by touching it. I merely took advantage of his bravado and took pictures.

The other wildlife that I see on every trip is geese. Lots and lots of geese. This is true not only in the fall, but in spring and summer as well. I expect that most of the geese I see are residents, rather than those migrating.

Duck, Duck, GooseAlso, seen on this trip were a few mallards, leading to this picture which shows, say it with me, duck, duck, goose.

RocksThe trip was very nice. As the sun headed lower in the sky the other boaters left and I had the river to myself for the last mile.

A few more photos of the scenery.

Red BridgeThis is a private bridge near the Wildlife Sanctuary.

End of the PaddleOne final thought - 2 1/2 hours of paddling after stripping wallpaper, and painting is not the smartest idea. I could barely move my arms the next day.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

PhotoHunters: Pink

Sunset over Boston
Sunset over Boston
Taken from the Cambridge side of the Charles River while sitting at a stoplight.
Note - the color has been adjusted slightly to intensify the pinks.

More PhotoHunters: here

Friday, October 26, 2007

Haiku Smackdown

Here is my response to the haiku smackdown challenge from Xinher. The challenge was to write haiku's inspired by 6 pictures she posted. The pictures are hers not mine.

it’s all in a name
snail transformed to escargot
garden pest to treat

around the corner
google-eyed creature lurks
red wall leads the way

light waves in tunnel
barely acknowledged by the
travelers who pass

chew toy distraction
leaves slippers unscathed
dog owner finds bliss

light designs enchant
intentional patterns or
tripod less shooter

no inspiration
for pigs feet haiku today
perhaps tomorrow

Thursday, October 25, 2007

PhotoSharks: Angles

Office Building
The building I work in.

See more PhotoSharks: here

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Modern Chivalry

I arrived in the parking garage last night to find one of my tires completely flat. I got the spare out of the back, the jack in place, and started loosening the lug nuts. This required standing on the lug wrench. I had maybe one of the lug nuts loose when a man came out of the elevator and headed to his car. I fully expected him to ask if he could help me and was a little surprised when he didn't. I'm fairly sure he made it into his car before he spoke to me. What he said made me smile. Holding his cell phone up he asked "Would you like me to call someone?". Modern chivalry at it's best. I declined his offer. I did end up calling a coworker for help (actually Amy called him for me). I managed to get the dead tire off, but couldn't maneuver the full size spare onto the lug nuts. Rob showed up a few minutes later and insisted on finishing the job for me. Now all I have to do is determine if the dead tire can be fixed or if it needs to be replaced.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Morning Vision

bloodhound goes one way
beagle heads in the other
dog walker arms strain

Inspired by the view outside by bathroom window one morning last week.

Painted Bathroom

Before WallThis is what our bathroom looked like on Thursday. We've done some work on it recently - replacing the floor and toilet in April, and fixing the wall of the tub in August or maybe it was Labor Day weekend (I honestly can't remember exactly when).

I didn't blog about the the wall at the time. The tub surround is made up of 5 plastic panels. The 3 on the long side of the tub have been loose for years and we knew that the wall behind them was in rough shape. It's never a good sign when there is the sound of debris falling any time the wall is bumped. So, I pulled down the molding holding the panels, the window frame and the panels except the one on the faucet end. The intent was to reuse as much as possible. This effort was thwarted when it came to the window frame. Whoever installed it glued it to the framing. The only way to get it off was to pry off as much as possible and then chisel off the remainder.

The glued on frame wasn't the biggest surprise I got, though. Once the panels were down I cleaned up the deteriorated wall board and began taking down the remaining wall board underneath the window. This part of the wall had been patched before. The last patch was done with two layers of wall board (1/2 inch I think) which did not quite equal the depth of the original wall. To bring the wall out to the correct dimension they shimmed it with cardboard. That's right inside the tub wall there were cardboard shims. Pieces of boxes.

With that cleared out I shored up a couple of the studs, no major damage but it made me feel better, and patched the wall with cement board. Two tubes of construction adhesive later the panels were back in place. I reused the molding at the top of the panels, added quarter round plastic molding to the tub edge and reframed the window using plastic trim. I did NOT glue the window trim in place. A fair amount of chaulk later the bathroom was ready for use.

One of the casualties of the tub wall replacement was a portion of the wallpaper above the window. Underneath was a lovely pink color. We are not pink loving people. We also have never been fond of the wallpaper. Which brings me back to this weekend.

Amy headed off to Arkansas on Thursday morning and unbeknownst to her I headed to Home Depot. Actually I didn't make it to the big orange store until Thursday evening, after kayaking and playing with some new software. But I digress. At the store I picked up ceiling paint, primer, wall paint, a new towel bar, wallpaper stripping tools and a roll of painters tape.

Old OutletBack home again I emptied the bathroom, took down the shower curtain, took the green cabinet in the picture above off the wall, removed the tp holder and the outlet cover. The picture is of the outlet cover with most of the wall paper removed.

Outlet backI'm entertained that the wallpaper was attached to the outlet cover with masking tape. Incidentally as is to be expected of 20 year old (or so) wallpaper it had faded considerably. The paper under the edges of the outlet cover was more purple than blue.

With the room cleared it was time to cover up the pieces I didn't remove. Most of a roll of painters tape and a goodly amount of plastic tarp later the room was ready for the fun to begin.

Lovely Pink Plastic Tile Then it was time to strip. Not me the wallpaper :-). The good news is that most of it came off in large swathes. The remainder yielded pretty quickly to the wallpaper remover and a thin putty knife. Unfortunately some of the wall also gave way. One "interesting" discovery was the pink plastic tile under the sink. It's still there and will be until the sink comes off the wall. It goes so nicely with the pink paint that was on the upper part of the wall.

With the wallpaper removed it was time to clean the walls. I must have looked ridiculous mopping the walls with a sponge mop, but it did the job and the scouring pad on the edge of the sponge was particularly helpful in removing mildew. Plus I was able to do the work with my feet on the floor rather than having to maneuver on the ladder.

PrimedBefore I started painting I patched the places in the wall where the plaster had come away with the wall paper. Luckily there weren't very many of them and most were smaller than a dime. Unfortunately there were two 7X7 spots just above the toilet that needed patching. The patch job on those is satisfactory at best. If you look at the bottom of the photo in a larger view you can see the patched areas.

Finally it was time for paint. The ceiling got two coats of a white mildew resistant paint. First step on the walls was primer. The pink on the walls showed through the primer pretty strongly. This picture also gives a pretty good look at the taping/tarping job. (The yellowish panel at the right is part of the tub surround.)

Finally it was time for the top coat on the walls. I'd picked out a very subtle green. When I started putting it on the walls it looked a bit too subtle. I decided to go ahead with a coat anyway since it was at least banishing the pink. The color was so subtle it was hard to tell where the ceiling white ended and the wall color began. So, it was off to the big orange store again (trip number 3 I think). The color I got on this trip was significantly darker than the first.

Getting the darker paint onto the walls went fairly smoothly. As it dried I realized it hadn't covered as completely as I would have liked so I ended up doing a fair amount of touch-up. I finished the touch-up yesterday morning. The hardest part of the touch up was getting paint between the sink and the wall. There is only about an inch of space there. I ended up wrapping the sink in plastic wrap (a challenge in and of itself) so that I had as much space as possible to work in.

Once the paint dried it was time to put the room back together, and remove the tape. Most of the tape came off cleanly. In a couple of spots I had to use a razor blade knife to get the tape off. Putting the tp holder back up proved to be fairly difficult, although this may have been because it was late and I was so tired I couldn't see straight. The cabinet also proved to be troublesome. I did get it back up, but any other cabinets I install will be installed with cleats. (See the end of this post for an explanation.)

I had acquired a new towel bar and hook for the bathmat, so the next step was mounting these. When I opened the towel bar package I discovered that one of the mounting plates was missing. This required another visit to the big orange store. I was not happy about this. At that point (mid-day Monday) I was trying to get the room back together, cleaned, all the tools and supplies put away and a couple of other cleanup items (dishes, recycling) before Amy returned home at 7ish. The good news is that I was able to get the missing bracket without any hassle. Back home I got the brackets mounted for the towel bar and the hook without incident. It took about 3 times longer than I had expected to tighten the items to the mounting plates. They attach with a tiny set screw that is tightened with an allen wrench (hex shaped) and I couldn't get a good angle to be able to both see what I was doing and actually do it.

A final scrubbing of the room finished up the work (and I even had time to give my kayak a wash). Almost forgot - while I was at it I replaced the black sockets with a white one, and the rusty metal face plate as well. Here are the results.
After WallAfter OutletAfter Towels

We do need to do a little more touch up, but all and all I'm very pleased. The only problem is that without the distraction of the flowers the wall above the towel bar looks very stark. We may have to acquire some artwork for it.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Cleat explanation: The cleat to hang a cabinet is created by cutting a piece of wood at an angle on the long edge. The bottom half is attached to the wall and the top half is attached to the cabinet. Mounting the cabinet just requires slipping the top portion of the cleat onto the bottom portion.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Concord River Paddle

I took a few vacation days to make this a long weekend (Thursday, Friday and Monday off). Amy is off in Arkansas visiting her Mom, and I've had the house to myself. I've been working on a project and enjoying the time off. On Thursday I loaded up the kayak and headed to the Concord River. I had an ulterior motive which was to get pictures of the bridge in the Minuteman National Historic Park. This is the bridge in the Ralph Waldo Emerson poem Concord Hymn - "By the rude bridge that arched the flood". (Incidentally when I looked up the full text of the poem it references that it was "sung at the completion of the battle monument". I didn't realize that it had been sung. I'd love to find the music.)

The pictures of the bridge are for a post on my woodworking blog and LumberJocks. A couple of months ago LJ launched a virtual challenge. The challenge was to acquire 3D modeling software called SketchUp (free from Google) and use it to create a dining room table based on an inspiration - bridge, building, mountain, etc. It took me a while to decide on an inspiration and even longer to get a handle on the software. I missed the challenge deadline, but finished the design anyway. The last step was to acquire pictures of the bridge. I could have used someone else's picture but since the bridge is nearby I wanted to use my own. I haven't posted the design yet, I'll post a quick note here when I do.

Anyway back to the river. I got a later start than I wanted and then couldn't find the road I was looking for. Downtown Concord is very confusing. With the help of my trusty map I did finally make it to the launch site. This is just down river from the confluence of the Assabet and Sudbury Rivers which join to become the Concord.

Concord River Put In This is a really nice launch site. There's a gravel road down to the water's edge, and this year there is even room to turn the car around without going into the water. The last time I used this site was in the spring two years ago. We'd had a really wet spring, as opposed to the fairly dry summer and fall we've had this year. That time the water was well beyond where my kayak is in this picture (click for larger view). The large rock, partially hidden by the tree, was underwater then.

GeeseWhile I was getting the boat off the car and loading it up with my gear I heard a many, many geese honking. This continued for several minutes. As I was setting off at least a hundred (yes, hundred) geese flew overhead. I'm not sure what caused the mass evacuation but there were numerous geese sightings along the river. Seeing geese on the rivers around here is not unusual. What was unusual was the number of flying geese I saw and heard. Geese honking was definitely the sound track for this paddle.

Fall ColorThere wasn't much in the way of fall color along the river. Some of this may be because the colors weren't popping. It was a hazy day - there was fairly thick fog in the morning, which had only just begun to burn off when I hit the water just after 11. What color there was was primarily yellow the red leaves in this picture were about the only ones I saw.

Concord River TurtlesOther than the geese and a few ducks I didn't see much wildlife. These turtles were hanging out soaking up the sun. You'll need to click on the picture to see them.

Old North BridgeI did see quite a few tourists, though. The picture at the left is the bridge that was the impetus for this journey. If you look carefully at the larger version you will notice a group of people at the right edge. This is a tour group which was passing over the bridge as I went under. The guide was loud enough for me to learn that this bridge is wider and higher (more arch) than the original.

I continued down river another mile or so before heading back to the car. All in all it was a very pleasant paddle. Oh, and the drive home did not require unplanned detours.

Balance Haiku

Bike Riding

On the brink of six
bicycle proves difficult
balance eludes him


frustration finds him
overwhelming confidence
the training wheels stay

1877 Bridge

river flows past me
paddle splashes quietly
soul achieves balance


For an update on the bike riding click here.
Find more haiku here.

I missed the deadline for ODB on this, but decided to post it anyway.

Friday, October 19, 2007


I have a confession to make. This may shock some of you, though not my family. Although I live less than 15 miles from Fenway Park I am not a Red Sox fan. I do pay some attention to the Yankees, blasphemy in this part of the world. Knowing what's up with the Yanks allows me to interact with my family - a number of whom are die-hard Yankee fans. Truth be told I don't pay much attention to major league baseball, and when I do my team of choice is the Cubs.

With the Sox vying for the American League championship it is extremely difficult to avoid Red Sox fever. Last Thursday, before the playoffs started, the local news spent all but 8 minutes on the Red Sox. That 8 minutes included about 5 of those were the weather report. Actually the total for other news should probably be even lower since at least a portion of the weather was focused on the game time weather.

I grew up in a sports focused household. My father coached college football, baseball, and at one point basketball. TV watching in our house was primarily sports, that's still the case in my parents house. I remember many a Sunday morning when brunch was accompanied by the Canadiens hockey games. There was at least one year when my parents borrowed a second tv so that the adults could watch both NFL playoff games. In high school I played a sport in three of the four seasons (field hockey, volleyball and softball) and I managed the girls basketball team. And when I couldn't play softball (because the season overlapped with the summer league I played in) I coached the freshman team.

I grew up in a small city without professional sports. The sports I watched were college teams, high school teams and whatever pro teams were on the game of the week. I have not been focused on sports since I started college (a long time ago). I've been to about 4 football games since I graduated from high school. Part of this is that my father left coaching shortly after I entered college. My wife grew up in a house where sports were rarely watched, so on those occasions when I do watch a game she rarely sticks around.

I'm glad the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, but the shift from perpetual underdog to front runner has created a frenzy in the local media that is unappealing. I don't mind them reporting on the games, I'd be astounded if they didn't. But a little balance would be appreciated. The obsessive coverage is almost enough to turn me into an Indians fan. No hate mail, please, I said almost.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lensday: Automobile

Glosta Car
Back in August we spent a day visiting friends in Gloucester. A highlight of the day was wandering the galleries on Rocky Neck. Parked outside one of the galleries was this car.
Glosta" is what Gloucester sounds like when said by a native.

See more Lensday: here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Glasses Chain

Glasses ChainI've used reading glasses for about 15 years. At first I only needed them when I was working on the computer, but in the last couple of years I have had to use them more and more. Any close work requires that I pull out the glasses.

Since I started kayaking I've had a strap on my sun glasses to keep them with me even if I end up in the water. Recently I've been thinking about adding some sort of strap to my reading glasses as well.

A week or so ago Amy was in the local mall and happened upon the bead kiosk. Among the sample they had on display were beaded chains with the necessary connectors to attach them to glasses. This got her thinking and yesterday she dragged me to the mall. We spent about half an hour picking out beads and creating a pattern. I really like blue glass so that's the primary color in the pattern. To add interest we added some green, a pale pink, and a couple of cut silver beads. For the section that will be closest to my fact we choose smaller iridescent beads.

The women who run the booth complimented us on the pattern. I'm not sure if that was more because they really liked it, or because they are smart saleswomen.

Glasses Chain DetailSo now I have a chain for my glasses, and it should be easier to have them with me when I need them. At the left is a detail showing the silver beads.