March 2015 Calendar

As we face a number of days with cold and snow, I figure a butterfly is a good photo for a calendar. 

Flowers

As I looked at it, it seemed a bit bland . . . so I played around with a few post-processing filters.

Flowers

That has nine or ten different filters layered to create the effect of . . . well, I’ve not named it.

I then thought a drawing or painting effect would work for this image . . . 

Flowers

I suppose some people might like it. But, did I stop? Nooo!

Flowers

Heck, I had no idea which version I should use . . . and then figured I’d use them all. 

Before we get to the calendar, I should mention something I did not mark in the calendar but is of tremendous importance to humanity.

3/14/15 9:26:53

That’s right . . . the 14th of this month and this year is Super Pi Day. That’s because the first five digits of Pi are:

π = 3.1415

Why the time? . . . because that’s Super Pi Day Super Time. That’s right, the first ten digits of Pi are:

π = 3.141592653

I’m sure if you look around the Internet you are likely to find a T-Shirt you can buy to celebrate the momentous occasion.

Remember, it has never happened before and will never happen again in our lifetime . . . well, not quite. It happens every century, but few of us will see it twice in our lifetime. 

I mean, I’m pretty sure I do not have anyone reading this blog that is 100 years old in March. I’m also pretty sure there are no teens reading this blog. 

I suppose that someone who is in their 20’s might be reading this blog . . . all they have to do is live for an additional 100 years. At the rate life expectancy is increasing, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. 

Realistically, the odds are that by the next Super Pi Day (the one after this year’s) you will be, at best, a fond memory. I’m confident I will not be a memory at all, fond or otherwise.

And with that cheerful thought, here’s the calendar.

MAR2015-Cal-Bflyx4_Blog-72dpi

March 2015 Calendar

Right-Hand Click anywhere on the pictures, and Choose “Save Link As . . . “.

Note that clicking “Save Image” will download the resampled image (640×954, 72dpi) WordPress created for the post. Suitable for viewing on the screen, but not suitable for printing.

Save link as” downloads the native size of 11×17, 300dpi, but can be printed smaller. Printing larger may have mixed results depending on how knowledgeable you are.

Of course, saving is not required . . . one can just ignore the post.  If you are adventuresome, and it does not work, let me know, and I’ll try to fix whatever WordPress screwed up.  

Disclaimers:  I do not guarantee accuracy of the calendar. My general understanding of time is limited to it being (mostly) an arbitrary demarcation of the unidirectional flow of existence. Many instances in my life have demonstrated to me the disconnect between any hard measure of intervals of time, and the perception of said time intervals.

I’ve been seeing a disturbing increase in the level of ignorance and stupidity in the general population. This goes for liberals and conservatives, Republicrats and Democans, young and old, rich and poor. 

I believe I have narrowed down the cause. I bet you think I’m going to say “the cable channels and the blowhards they hire”. Nope.

It’s celebrities. For some reason celebrities have acquired the status of Oracles to the non-thinking many, and the fact is . . . celebrities are just getting dumber and dumber. The scary thing? No one is looking into it! 

It’s just an accepted fact, and one people seem comfortable with. Today, as I write this, the collective force of the Internet is concerned with the color of a dress. Understand, ISIS is slaughtering people on the ground, we’re killing people from the air, Senators are arguing against global warming with a snowball in their hand, and Congressmen pass a bill excluding experts from being able to advise or work for the EPA.  And we worry about the color of a dress. 

Plus, a majority of polled Republicans believe Christianity should be declared the National Religion of the US. I’m going to take a wild guess they also strongly support the Constitution.  Idiots.

Remember, you don’t have to use the calendar portion . . .  you can cut out the bottom part, and you have a picture to hang on your wall.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

None Shall Pass

None Shall Pass

Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.  

If you click on the doodle, and nothing happens, this is the link it’s supposed to go to: http://disperser.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/palm-vx-and-i/.  

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Should you still nominate me, I will strongly suspect you pulled my name at random, and that you are not, in fact, a reader of my blog.  If you wish to know more, please read below.

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. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Posted in Calendars, Humor, Musings Stuff, Photography, Photography Stuff | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

This Writing Thing – Rules and Tips – Part Two

Guess what? I found The Guardian‘s article Ten Rules for writing fiction, Part 1 and Part 2

It’s a compilation of many authors giving their ten rules or tips for writing. I counted at least 26 authors . . . that’s 260 tips or rules. There may be more, or less, if I counted wrong.

Don’t worry, I won’t reference all of them. Some are the same as I covered in Part One of this post (HERE).

I aim to hop and skip through the authors and pick up the gems, a few duds, and anything I find interesting. I think rules and tips are great . . . when properly evaluated against my own abilities, proclivities, and other applicable -ities.

I’m warning all but the hardiest of readers: this is gonna bore unless you are a writer looking for easy answers. If you are a writer looking for easy answers, you’ll not be bored but you’ll be disappointed.

I’ll begin with Elmore Leonard. He began his career writing Westerns and eventually specialized in crime and suspense fiction.

Aside suggesting one should never open with weather, he had two tips near and dear to me:

  • Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”, what do the “American and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story.

I get comments about the lack of descriptions of characters; describing characters is something I purposefully avoid.

I attribute the practice to my own lack of smoldering good looks; my deficiency in the good-looks department leans me toward judging a person by their actions.

The other tip . . .

  • Don’t go into great detail describing places and things, unless you’re Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

One of my few friends once told me I should give the reader more of an anchor both for the characters and the environment they inhabit. On a lark, I wrote the following passage:

His steel gray eyes swept the room upon entering.  Taking note of the old telescope atop the tripod that has seen better days, he shifted his gaze away from the knurled knob with the inlaid mother-of-pearl disk.  He would have liked to spend more time examining the emblem on it. He was intrigued by the crown etched on it; a crown with seven points, each representing the royal houses, their sigils capping each of the points, and each rendered  with delicate strands of gold interspersed with diamond flecks at strategic portions of the mythical beasts they represented.   He looked instead at the naked woman standing near it, noticing one earlobe was slightly lower than the other . . .

When I write, I do have a rough image in mind, a set, if you will. But unless the set interacts with the characters, I don’t see the need to bring it within the attention sphere of the reader.  Leonard and Steinbeck seem to agree with me.

Leonard had one other great piece of advice:

  • Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

The prime examples of this are The Lord of the Rings and The Wheel of Time. Lots of material I used to skim as I navigated between interesting parts. The Lord of the Rings movie also offers lots of skippable parts (anything with Frodo whining).

Another series I lost patience with, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

I should mention all those works have huge fan bases. All I can draw from that fact is, they are not likely to ever be my readers unless I write as in the passage above.

Margaret Atwood is known to me more for inventing Long Pen than for anything she wrote. In fact, I am reasonably certain I’ve never read anything of hers.

Her contribution netted me two pieces of advice:

  • Hold the reader’s attention. (This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.) But you don’t know who the reader is, so it’s like shooting fish with a slingshot in the dark. What fascinates A will bore the pants off

This I interpret the same as “write what you like” and/or “write for yourself”, something I already do. The other piece of advice is:

  • Don’t sit down in the middle of the woods. If you’re lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.

I like this, but with a caveat . . . I have not experienced getting stuck. If I ever do, the above is Plan A.

The next set of tips comes from Roddy Doyle. Before I go on, let me suggest you, dear reader, go watch The Commitments. He wrote the book, but I only watched the movie.

He suggests naming your work as soon as possible. He says it eases the writing effort. My own experience is that titles get in the way of writing. This could be because I don’t have a plan going into it; writing by the seat of the pants almost necessitates a placeholder title like, for instance, NaNoWriMo #2 (that novel is still unnamed – perhaps I should hold a naming contest). I do name my short stories and flash fiction, but it’s usually after the fact.

One of his rules, I do take to heart . . .

  • Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed at the back of the garden or behind the fridge, somewhere that demands travel or effort. Chances are the words that come into your head will do fine, eg “horse”, “ran”, “said”.

I am big on simple writing. I know lots of words, but there is no need for anything but the simplest most everyday word that fits the narrative. If I’m reading and come upon a word I don’t know, it throws me out of the novel and story . . . the real world intrudes in the form of a dictionary search. Not cool.

Helen Dunmore is a name associated with poetry and literature, and therefore someone I am sure I have never read.

Some people may get the idea I am proud of not having indulged in the classics, poetry, and so on.

Not so; it’s just a fact. Certain writing does not suit me, and I don’t read it. I make no claims regarding its merits or lack thereof. It’s a bit like a rare steak. People tell me it’s the way meat should be eaten, but I don’t agree.

The only thing I got from Dunmore is:

  • A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk.

I take that to mean I should get up and have a Nutella sandwich. In my book, close enough to a long walk.

She also suggests reading Keat’s letters . . . ‘K’ as in Kilo, ‘e’ as in Echo, ‘a’ as in Alfa, ‘t’ as in Tango . . . nope! I did not feel any improvement in my writing.

Geoff Dyer is an English Writer, so much of his advice is unlikely to make sense. I know they mean well and are all proud of their self-appointed role as ‘keepers of the language’, but in their effort to be, you know, something more, the English often put together baffling sentences. I presume other English people can then bask in their Englishness, but for this poor immigrant from Italy the nuances are often lost in the confusing choice of words.

For instance, one piece of advice is “Don’t be one of those writers who sentence themselves to a lifetime of sucking up to Nabokov.” I’m not clear why anyone would be sucking up to the dead writer of Lolita. I’m sure there is deep meaning somewhere in there, and were I English it would jump right up at me. As it is, the tip makes no sense at all.

Even when he does give good advice . . .

  • Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it’s a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It’s only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I always have to feel that I’m bunking off from something.

. . . he still manages to put a couple of words in there to trip me up and make me wonder what he meant.

For instance:

  • Never ride a bike with the brakes on. If something is proving too difficult, give up and do something else. Try to live without resort to perseverance. But writing is all about perseverance. You’ve got to stick at it.

The first two sentences are gold but instead of stopping, he goes on to muck things up.

Anne Enright is another writer with nebulous tips. She’s Irish, so maybe the proximity to the English affects her advice.

  • Description is hard. Remember that all description is an opinion about the world. Find a place to stand.

Yeah . . . I’ll get right on that. I think she means write from a point of view, perhaps a strong one. Then again, she may be one of them strange people who work standing up.

She does have a couple of clear contributions:

  • Only bad writers think that their work is really good.
  • Try to be accurate about stuff.
  • Have fun.

Uh-Oh. I don’t think my work is really good, but I do think it’s not bad . . . does that make me a somewhat bad writer?

I can certainly buy into having fun. Otherwise, I would not be writing.

That ‘accurate about stuff’ can be a hiccup . . . like when I write fantasy.

Richard Ford was the only one I agreed with for all ten of his tips. Of course, he cheated a bit, but . . .

  • Marry somebody you love and who thinks you being a writer’s {sic} a good idea.
  • Don’t have children.
  • Don’t read your reviews.
  • Don’t write reviews. (Your judgment’s always tainted.)
  • Don’t have arguments with your wife in the morning, or late at night.
  • Don’t drink and write at the same time.
  • Don’t write letters to the editor. (No one cares.)
  • Don’t wish ill on your colleagues.
  • Try to think of others’ good luck as encouragement to yourself.
  • Don’t take any shit if you can possibly help it.

All good tips, but I’m not sure how any apply to my writing. I believe them as more applicable to someone who is already an author and now possibly writes for a living. Some of the tips can be applied to life and increase in usefulness if looking at them in that manner.

Jonathan Franzen sounds like someone one should take seriously when it comes to tips and advice. Except that he writes serious stuff; he’s in the literary clique. The Great American Novelist; he was so dubbed by no less than Time magazine, that bastion of  . . . I don’t know what, but they are bastions, or maybe some homonym of the word.

I don’t write serious stuff but was intrigued by his:

  • Write in the third person unless a really distinctive first-person voice offers itself irresistibly.

I find third person awkward for longer pieces, but perfect for many short stories and flash fiction. Writing in first person offers its own challenges. As the writer, I find it sometimes difficult to ‘say’ or ‘think’ certain things for the character.

There’s also always the danger a reader might interpret what a character says or thinks as being my own words or thoughts. The reader might also be uncomfortable reading “I enjoyed ripping out his guts and strangling him with them” thus making it difficult to identify with the character. Or, perhaps they might identify with the character, but that’s another issue altogether.

As I said, it’s not just the reader that might feel uncomfortable. For instance, I feel more comfortable writing looked at her ass with a sudden and intense desire if I put a “he” in front of that sentence instead of an “I”. Perhaps I’ll do a future post on first and third person as it relates to my writing.

As for the rest of his advice . . . he’s a literary type; I missed the point of most of what he said. He had one tip that said “Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting” which, if I understood the advice, I thought he should apply to other words as well, and not just verbs. Possibly, even his sentences.

Esther Freud was named as one of the 20 “Best of Young British Novelists” by Granta magazine in 1993, and she’s also an actress. I was not surprised, therefore, when some of her advice captured my attention.

  • Cut out the metaphors and similes. In my first book I promised myself I wouldn’t use any and I slipped up during a sunset in chapter 11. I still blush when I come across it.

Well, sure as bullshit flows from politicians and liquid crap flows downhill, I’m gonna try and follow that advice as if I were British and some inbred monarch told me to do it.

She also offered up this gem:

  • Editing is everything. Cut until you can cut no more. What is left often springs into life.

I tend to write fast and furious. When I write short fiction, I am as naturally stingy with words as CEOs are with compassion. That’s why I find it difficult writing to a word limit. Then again, perhaps everyone does.

When I write longer fiction, I am not as careful and sprinkle all manner of extra words with the abandon of a politician giving away other people’s money. During re-reads, I often cut a significant number of words, and even whole paragraphs.

The result suits what I like to read; I like my fiction fast and easy to read. I literally race through novels, quickly losing interest if words are thrown in there to slow me down.

Two last pieces of advice from Freud:

  • Trust your reader. Not everything needs to be explained. If you really know something, and breathe life into it, they’ll know it too.
  • Never forget, even your own rules are there to be broken.

The first is a bit dicey.

I know what I mean to say when I put something down in words but, as I’ve painfully learned in many Internet discussions, what one intends and what a reader understands are two different things.

In fiction, the consequences are not as bad as in the real world, but still, I prefer explaining stuff over letting readers guess at it. But I get it; I can just say “I like Nutella” without explaining the minutia of the various flavor combinations that make it true.

The one about the rules is also interesting. There is a popular saying: “you have to know the rules before you can break them”. I touched on this point in other posts about writing, life, and the universe.

Specific to writing, I often bump up against grammar, the order of words in the sentence, and sentence structure itself. By ‘bump up’ I mean that I have a particular way I want to say something, and various tools I use to help me write all say it’s wrong.

Wrong is a funny word. Sometimes wrong means ‘it’s not accepted practice’. Many things are not wrong per se; just not in fashion. I often ignore fashion and convention.

Now, were I a literary giant, people might be more likely to say something like “Oh! Look how clever he is!” as opposed to “That rube can’t write worth crap!”

It’s the curse of the unknowns; we are held to a higher standard than someone who has ‘made it’. For instance, my grammar checker wants me to put the period inside the quote, but I don’t like it there. I’m the writer, so I’ll do what I want (in this case).

The next author in the article is Neil Gaiman, and we already covered him in previous the post, so on we go.

(Sir) David Hare. This guy is a playwright, so I was skeptical of the usefulness of his advice. And he’s not just a playwright, but a British playwright.

But, proving once again that appearances can be deceiving, he did have a few good bits of wisdom.

  • Write only when you have something to say.

Many writers  stress one should write. Write every day. Write even when you don’t feel like it.

It’s refreshing to hear someone, even if British, say otherwise.

Now, I understand the reasoning behind the ‘write every day’ advice. If having food on the table depends on you selling your work, you better be treating it as a job, and you better sit down every day and churn out words that will hopefully be converted into cash.

However, most writers I hear and read about have day jobs. Their writing careers are not their main source of income (unless writing about wizard boys or ancient vampires in love with teenagers).

Most people, me included, who get into writing should assume the revenue stream from words on paper will be relatively small. Writing is just not as profitable as it used to be.

How does that fit into Hare’s advice? Personally, I’m only going to write when words flow with ease and with a purpose.

That said, I’ve been lucky with both my NaNoWriMo efforts – and my writing in general – insomuch that I get an idea, I want to put it on paper, and do so with relative ease.

On the other hand, I’ve not been motivated to write anything since my novel, despite two strong writing ideas I’m mulling. Perhaps it’s good to gently push oneself to write.

  • If nobody will put your play on, put it on yourself.

Obviously, I don’t write plays. However, these days that advice can be applied to books. If no one is buying your books, publish them yourself. The question is whether anyone will buy them. I suspect that, as with plays, without proper backing the odds are very much against widespread success.

This next piece of advice is something I think I both like and have some facility for . . .

  • Jokes are like hands and feet for a painter. They may not be what you want to end up doing but you have to master them in the meanwhile.

I love humor. I live for humor. I always try and incorporate humor in what I write. It might not be laugh-out-loud funny, but there will be comments and observations – the kind of comments and observations I like to make. Enough said.

Not advice per se, but one tip he gave warmed my heart toward the man.

  • The two most depressing words in the English language are “literary fiction”.

Right on, (Sir) brother!

PD James wrote detective novels and provided only five tips. The two facts are not related, that I know of, and what she lacked in quantity she made up in quality.

I said earlier I only completely agreed with the tips of one writer; I was wrong. Here’s another. Now, I should go back and revise the previous passage. Nope. I think it’s part of my writing’s charm to leave it as is.  Here are her tips.

  • Increase your word power. Words are the raw material of our craft. The greater your vocabulary the more effective your writing. We who write in English are fortunate to have the richest and most versatile language in the world. Respect it.

I only agree with half of this, thus making my earlier assertion a correct one. I agree with increasing one’s word power. That does not mean one uses a thirty-seven cents words when a sixteen cents word would do. No; it means one is familiar enough with words to use the appropriate word when needed.

. . . there might be a word for someone with that ability . . . 

rm_bigwords

Her second tip speaks to me in profound ways.

  • Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious.

I don’t read as much as I used to. It’s easy to blame the Internet or TV, but the real reason is that most fiction and I have drifted apart.

I used to read Analog cover to cover and retirement meant having the opportunity to catch up on nearly seven years of unread Analogs. I’m having a tough time slugging through them. I don’t know why and I don’t know what, but about eight years ago something changed in the magazine’s stories selection process.

. . . maybe it’s just me . . .

Next up . . .

  • Don’t just plan to write – write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.

OK, at first glance this seems counter to Hare’s advice, but it’s not. When you have something to say, say it; don’t just plan to say it.

So many people say “I wish I could write” . . . what I hear is “I don’t really want to write”. Regardless of how many readers I have or don’t have, I am going to write. I will write until I find something I rather do more than writing.

That goes with her next piece of advice.

  • Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.

I’ve heard this advice a lot, and it’s not something I have to guard against. I live for not doing the popular thing . . . within reason, of course.

Finally:

  • Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other people. Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.

This is important, and I already knew it from experience. This speaks to believable characters, yes, but also their actions.

Nothing throws me out of a story or movie more than a character doing something a regular person would not do. Or, doing something only a stupid person would do. For example, running to the top floor of a building when trying to escape from someone. I then immediately root for the pursuer, be they good or bad.

I see this advice speaking to understanding people, understanding their motivations, understanding their strengths and weaknesses. You don’t have to agree with them, but you need to write them realistically.

OK, there’s one more author in Part 1 of this series, and I’ll stop after her because I’m pushing 4,000 words. I’ll cover Part 2 of the series in a future post.

AL Kennedy sounds like a guy’s name; it isn’t. A Scott, she is yet another author I have never heard about, have not read, and will probably not read as she is listed as weaving a dark tone to her tales. As I mentioned many times, not my cup of non-English tea.

But her advice . . .

  • Have humility. Older/more ­experienced/more convincing writers may offer rules and varieties of advice. Consider what they say. However, don’t automatically give them charge of your brain, or anything else – they might be bitter, twisted, burned-out, manipulative, or just not very like you.

Something I do live by . . . it may not seem like it, but I do listen to what other people say. What I don’t do, is automatically give them agency over my actions or opinions. I hope I used that word correctly – trying to expand my word power, I am.

Even if it’s sound advice, I’ll likely mull it over, examine it from multiple angles, and only then try to fit it in the mess that is the total me.

I believe strongly in the value of experience, but less strongly in conclusions different people draw from similar experiences.

  • Have more humility. Remember you don’t know the limits of your own abilities. Successful or not, if you keep pushing beyond yourself, you will enrich your own life – and maybe even please a few strangers.

This speaks to not being afraid of failure. Not being afraid of looking foolish. Not being afraid of negative criticism.

Not being afraid of being who I am while being aware of the near-certainty of failure, of being ridiculed, of being criticized.

  • Defend your work. Organisations, institutions and individuals will often think they know best about your work – especially if they are paying you. When you genuinely believe their decisions would damage your work – walk away. Run away. The money doesn’t matter that much.

Always. I might add, it’s also good advice for life – honesty, honor, self-respect; never compromise any of those for any reason, least of all money.

  • Defend yourself. Find out what keeps you happy, motivated and creative.

What could I add to that? Nothing.

  • Remember you love writing. It wouldn’t be worth it if you didn’t. If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back.
  • Remember writing doesn’t love you. It doesn’t care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on.

Again, nothing for me to add.

~ ~ o ~ ~

This concludes my coverage of Part 1 of the series. I should caution readers; I barely scratched the surface of the advice offered, touching only on things that spoke to me or which struck me as significantly departing from my modus operandi. 

This post is not advice. Or, it is advice, but only for me. 

People should read the articles and draw from them whatever writing nourishment they need or want.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Posted in Musings Stuff, Opinion, Personal, Writing Stuff | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

Chicago 2008 in Black and White

My earlier post documented my visit to Chicago’s millennium Park and the Navy Pier.

It was an enjoyable afternoon full of color, shiny stuff, water, boats, and buildings. Did I mention color?

Well, here’s the funny part . . . lots of that stuff also looks good in B&W.

. . . strangely enough, not so much the Crown Fountain.

10836_MISC_091908_2_DIGI

I mean, it’s not bad, but it doesn’t do much for me. The only fountain shot that works for me is the one late in the day . . . 

untitled-2_DIGI

On the other hand, I knew The Bean was mostly going to do well in B&W because I’d done a few previous conversions of it.

10853_MISC_091908_2_DIGI

10855_MISC_091908_2-3_DIGI

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Even so, some of the shots are better than others . . . 

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I also thought this turned out pretty good.

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Mind you, all of the photos were treated as a batch with the same post-processing B&W treatment. 

I could probably go through and do better by some of the photos if I tweaked them individually. I’m doing other things, so perhaps that’s something for a future post.

A few of the water and Navy Pier shots are also OK in B&W . . . 

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I thought these next three are pretty good in B&W because of the details.

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I’m only showing a few, but all of the photos can be seen in the SmugMug Gallery HERE. Readers can also click on the photos in this post for a larger view.

Anyway, here’s a few more of the B&W conversions I like.

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I do want to show two different B&W versions of this next photo. I like them both, but they impart a different feel to the scene.

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That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Spokes of Time of Future Past

The Spokes of Time of Future Past

Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.  

Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.  

If you click on the doodle, and nothing happens, this is the link it’s supposed to go to: http://disperser.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/palm-vx-and-i/.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Note: if you are not reading this blog post at Disperser.Wordpress.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Posted in Black & White, Illinois, Photography, Photography Stuff, Scenery, Sculpture, Travel Stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

This Writing Thing – Rules and Tips – Part One

Another post likely to bore readers . . . except them who desperately seek easy answers and an easy path to becoming great, famous, and humble writers.

In the course of doing research on writing answers, I came across numerous references to Rules of Writing.

My first thought was the rules addressed the mechanics of writing. Like, for instance, do not scratch the inside of your ear with the pointy end of a pencil; use the eraser end, and don’t jam it in there too far. Also, don’t use the eraser for erasing again.

But no; these rules were aimed at amateur writers. Written by established and successful writers, these rules are meant to turn everyday-writing-rubes into literary giants.

Well, shoot! I’m an everyday-writing-rube! Let me be look at them here rules.

 . . . I never realized so many publications pressured established writers for 8, 10, or even 12 rules or tips on writing.

Neil Gaiman is someone I like, although I’ve not read anything of his. I think the name sounds cool, and I hear good things about him as a person. And, oh yeah, people seem to like his writing. Gaiman had 8 Rules of Writing solicited from him by The Guardian. I presume The Guardian be a publication of sorts, probably foreign and therefore inconsequential.

Still, Gaiman. Rules . . . Let’s see if I can master these rules and harness the power of the written word; I hear said power turns words into cash.

1.  Write.

Wow! I can feel the wind fill my sails. I mean, I already write; so far this is pretty easy. I’m going to be rich!

2.  Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.

Hmm . . . that sounds suspiciously like a longer version of Rule #1. Also, what exactly is the “right” word? I hope it’s not broccoli; I hate broccoli.

3.  Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.

Uh-Oh . . . I have a number of things in limbo. Good ideas I put on paper as a way to anchor them in reality. Well . . . ‘good ideas’ is a strong qualifier. Let’s just say ‘ideas’.  On the other hand, I finish most of what I write. I’m giving myself this one.

4.  Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and like the kind of thing that this is.

Wow . . . that . . . that sentence is a tad awkward. I would simplify and correct it, but who am I to correct Gaiman? As for the advice itself, I can see a major obstacle. Actually, a number of major obstacles. I can put it aside, but reading it while pretending I’ve never seen it is not going to work. I don’t ‘pretend’ well.

Then there’s the ‘friends’ bit . . . I’m not exactly awash with friends. Well, OK; a few friends. However, friends being a rare thing for me, I don’t like burdening the relationship by saddling them with arduous tasks. Plus, I don’t know what my friends read; I don’t want to seem pushy by prying into their affairs.

I’ll have to settle for just letting the writing sit for a while and then re-reading it.

5.  Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.

. . . ah . . . eh . . . er . . . most of the time people tell me they like my stuff. I receive very few negative comments, and then mostly only about my personal hygiene. Even if someone hints at something they did not like, they rarely have any suggestion for fixing the writing.  

A typical exchange goes something like this:
“I had trouble with pages 1-59,” they say.  
“There are only 32 pages,” I reply.
“Exactly!” they answer.
“OK, thanks,” I finish.

Perhaps in the workshop (if I get accepted) I’ll get instructions on fixing stuff people don’t like. I mean, it’s practically their job not to like stuff the participants write, so I’ll have plenty of advice.

6.  Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.

This seems like conflicting advice. “Fix it” is straightforward, probably referencing Rule #5. But then it gets murky; no dateline given but still advised to start the next thing.

Hmm . . . I’ll have to ponder this.

7.  Laugh at your own jokes.

I got this nailed! Often I’m the only one, but laugh I do.

8.  The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

Okay then; I got this covered. I’m there. I’m in the groove. My aim is true, my heart is pure, my vision is clear. I’ll be rich in no time.

. . . except . . . I already do that in life; last I looked, I’m nowhere near able to afford my own island and a long way from attaining my goal of getting away from the things of man (you need lots of money to do that).

Still, I get it; be true to myself. I should, and do, write what’s inside me, and I do write it the way I think it should be written.

Well, crap! I should be rolling in dough, but instead I can’t get more than four people to read my stuff.

There’s got to be more to this . . . ah! Kurt Vonnegut had 8 Tips on How to Write a Great Story.

So – not rules on writing, but rules of story-telling. I can dig it!  . . . let’s see.

1.  Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

Ah . . . this sounds a lot like “don’t suck”. While helpful in general terms, it’s not exactly giving me a tool I can use.

2.  Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

Duh! I write for myself, writing what I like. I root for all my heroes. They are, after all, my heroes; I write them so I can root for them.

3.  Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

I think there are nuances here that he skips over. Looking at my characters, I would summarize them as wanting to live life with as few complications as possible, but jerks interfere. As Gaiman might put it, that’s also the case in real life.

4.  Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

I think I’m covered here. Except . . . I get feedback I should be more descriptive. Screw it! I have a Vonnegut in my corner.

5.  Start as close to the end as possible.

Another statement in need of expansion. I presume he means don’t write a saga, but then again, we are talking books here. I mean, taken literally, my flash fiction fits this very well, but I don’t think anyone is going to buy a one-page book.

6.  Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

Hmm . . . Kurt was occasionally a dick both in real life and to his fictional characters. I think I can have things happen, test my character’s metal, so to speak, without being a sadist to said characters. But, point taken.

Just don’t be all Whedon-like and kill characters off for no reason other than for imagined “realism”. Sorry Joss; killing Wash did not make me forget it’s a movie; it just pissed me off. Rather than enhance the story, it ruined my enjoyment of it.

I got to go against Kurt on this one. Test, not torture your characters.

7.  Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

Again, I think I have this covered. I write for my pleasure. Although it would on occasion be nice if the world made love to my story. Wearing protection, of course, and none of that 50 Shades of Gray stuff, either.

8.  Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

See, this does not seem right. Certainly it’s not true of the stories he wrote. Otherwise, I would never have finished any.

I’ll have to think about this.

Let me take a breather as I ponder the advice of these two very different writers.

Wait . . . There’s Six Tips on Writing from John Steinbeck. He’s a good writer, right? He did alright in his career, right? I mean, I’d be happy to sell 14 million books.

1.  Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.

Wow . . . this is going to piss Gaiman right off.

But, I know what he means. As a seat of the pants writer, I have no clue where I am going with the story until I suddenly slam into the ending.

2.  Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.

Double WOW! . . . it’s like if I’m channeling Steinbeck. That’s exactly how I write. Feeling more confident about this writing stuff. I mean, I might not have liked his books, but on this writing craft thing we’re in lockstep, Steinbeck and me.

3.  Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.

Holy crap on a cracker! This is starting to be scary. Scary and spooky. It’s like if he’s here in the room with me as I write my stories. *shivers*

4.  If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.

Ah . . . no can do, John. I’m a bit of an OCD guy. I’m going to power through. On the plus side, when I’m writing I rarely get stuck. Stuff just flow out like . . . well, let’s just say it’s an unrestricted flow.

5.  Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.

John? John? . . . are you there? Oh, why? Why hast thou forsaken me?

See, I think this conflicts with Tip #3. I write for one reader; me. If I get rid of scenes that are dear to me, I’m not gonna wanna read the stuff I write. The whole idea, the whole impetus for me writing is to eventually read exactly what I put down on paper, what I can’t read elsewhere.

6.  If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

John! My long-lost bud; you’ve come back to me!

I tend to write dialogue as I hear it in my head. As a stutterer, I am particular about the choice of words, sentence structure, pauses, and running out of breath while speaking (running out of breath is a bad thing if you stutter; you might not be able to get going again once you lose your air). I tend to keep dialogue simple and be mindful to sound as people speak.

Wow . . . this is a lot to think about.

On the one hand, I feel as if I have miles to go before I am recognized for the writing genius I think I am.

BUT . . . on the other hand, I think Steinbeck and me are best buds. That’s gotta count for something, right?

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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Note: if you are not reading this blog post at Disperser.Wordpress.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Posted in Musings Stuff, Opinion, Personal, Writing Stuff | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Chicago – 2008

In 2008 we had a short visit to the middle of Illinois. While there, Melisa had the opportunity to go see a play in Chicago, a 3.5 hours drive from where we were. The play was Jersey Boys, the plan was to head up to Chicago, see the play, and get back down where we were staying.

I had no interest in the play, and since she was going with her sister, I suggested they just drop me off at the Millennium Park. Well, not just me . . . me and my camera, both.

And so it was I got these photos.

One of the first things I saw was the Crown Fountain.

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These are big interactive fountains set in shallow tapered pools. The big murals offer changing faces with various expressions. As can be seen, the water feature is enjoyed by all sorts of people.

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Where is the fountain, you ask?

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Of course, it’s not just older people who enjoy the water.

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Next, I saw this plant. I thought it was neat . . .

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I have no clue what it is.

But what I had really come to see was The Bean.

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10854_MISC_091908_2-2_DIGIThey call it The Bean, but it’s actually the Cloud Gate. Here’s the Wiki excerpt for them too lazy to click on the link:

Cloud Gate is a public sculpture by Indian-born British artist Anish Kapoor, that is the centerpiece of AT&T Plaza at Millennium Park in the Loop community area of Chicago, Illinois. Constructed between 2004 and 2006, the sculpture is nicknamed The Bean because of its bean-like shape. Made up of 168 stainless steel plates welded together, it’s highly polished exterior has no visible seams. It measures 33 by 66 by 42 feet (10 by 20 by 13 m) and weighs 110 short tons (100 t; 98 long tons).

It is a visually striking piece; one that keeps drawing one’s eye—and one’s camera—to it.

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By the way, the early afternoon sun reflects from it something fierce. A difficult thing to photograph. I did the best I could.

People seem to like getting under it, in part because of the crazy reflections. I did not get under there with the camera because it was both crowded and difficult to photograph from up-close.

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I think that now I could photograph the underside either with my 10-20mm or my Samsung. Of course, I’d have to mingle with people to do so . . . I think I’ll pass. If you want to see what it looks like under there, plan a trip.

I managed to hide myself in the reflection for most of the photos, but these next two are likely my very first selfies . . .

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I really like this next photo, but wished I had left more room below the pigeon.

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This is a bit more of a close-up . . .

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. . . and this shows you where I took those two photos from . . .

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By the way, for them interested in architecture, and specifically Chicago architecture, then you should read THIS, and THIS, and THIS.

FYI, that site has architecture guides to a number of cities around the world. She’s also involved in THIS which might be of interest to travelers.

I should mention something else . . . all of these photos were snapped with my trusty Nikon D100. Honest, that camera was, and still is, very good in the right conditions.

If I could, I would take the resolution and low-light performance of the D7000, add to it the burst speed and buffer of the D200, and finish up with the color engine of the D100.

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That’s part of the Jay Pritzker Pavillion . . . I had more photos of it, but they are not currently loaded on my computer. That means at one time I thought they were crap and got rid of them. Of course, with new post-processing technology one can even make crap look good. Still, not motivated enough to go dig them out.

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I walked around a bit more looking at a few sculptures . . .

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. . . and one more shot of The Bean . . .

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. . . before crossing the BP Pedestrian Bridge and making my way to the lakeshore. I had photos of it, too, but probably not good enough to keep. The bridge is best viewed from the air, and one can find plenty of aerial views of it online.

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I might have mentioned before that I like marinas, boats, and the idea, if not the actual experience, of sailing open waters.

However, the destination was not the marina per se, but the Navy Pier.

The above photos, like this next photo, were shot on the way to the pier.

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So . . . Navy Pier . . . here’s a few approach photos.

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Surprisingly, the place was not very crowded . . . a joy, that.

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It’s nice to see adults remembering what it’s like being a kid again.

Were it not for my suspicious engineering nature, my understanding of kinetic energy, my awareness of fatigue failures, why, I might have considered taking a spin.

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A tad safer, and also not crowded, the Ferris wheel is another option, but I was on a schedule. I settled for photos.

The glass enclosure houses plants that would not survive the Chicago winters . . .

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They also had water features that always capture my attention . . . arching streams of water that shoot from one flower bed to another.

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Back outside, more photo opportunities . . .

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Very colorful places and prime targets from creative post-processing . . . probably for a different post.

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The darkening of the sky tells me I probably had my polarizing filter on the lens, something I should get back to using more often.

No, nothing political; an actual filter.

Here’s a couple of ‘artistic’ shots . . . or what passes for artistic on this blog.

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I did walk through the buildings, and there were interesting displays I would have gladly spent time examining, but I was on the clock and did not have long before heading back and meeting my soulmate at The Bean.

I did take the time to shoot the lighthouse and a tour boat under full sail.

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The above and the next two were shot from the end of the pier.

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On the way back I shot a couple of more ‘evocative’ photos. They evoke a Ferris wheel.

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On the way back to the rendezvous point, I lingered a bit at the marina for some late-light shots.

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In case anyone wants to know where the Columbia Yacht Club resides . . . 

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Probably my favorite boat photos from that stroll are these two:

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. . . especially the first shot which reminds me of something one might see in the harbor of a small coastal town as opposed to a marina in Chicago. For them who did not notice, that’s the Adler Planetarium in the background.

Back at The Bean I met up with the love of my life and we walked around a bit. The sun was no longer high enough to hit The Bean, but it still kissed the sides of the surrounding buildings.

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These lighting conditions pushed the capability of the D100. I loved the camera, but a low-light shooter it was not.

However, my post-processing tools are much better now, so I can show these shots with reasonable quality. For whatever reason, the park, plaza, and surrounding area now had more people enjoying the place.

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We wanted to leave before it got dark, so I stole a few more shots of the Bean, and then we left.

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As usual, dear reader, you can click on any of the photos to open them in a separate tab or window with the largest side at 1280pixels. If you want to see the original-sized photos, they are in the SmugMug Gallery HERE.

The gallery contains a few additional photos. Be aware the originals are not that much larger since the D100 was only a 6MP camera . . . less than the resolution of the camera on my phone.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dark High Noise

Dark High Noise

Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.  

If you click on the doodle, and nothing happens, this is the link it’s supposed to go to: http://disperser.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/palm-vx-and-i/.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Note: if you are not reading this blog post at Disperser.Wordpress.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Posted in Illinois, Photography, Photography Stuff, Scenery, Sculpture, Travel Stuff | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Outside and Inside

Outside (photo stylized with Pixlr Pencil Sketch):

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Inside:

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Outside (photo stylized with Pixlr Pencil Sketch):

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Inside:

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All in all, I’m glad I’m inside.

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Insert Doodle

Astute persons might have noticed these doodles, and correctly surmised they hold some significance for me, and perhaps for humanity at large.  

If you click on the doodle, and nothing happens, this is the link it’s supposed to go to: http://disperser.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/palm-vx-and-i/.

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Note: if you are not reading this blog post at Disperser.Wordpress.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

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Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Posted in Photography, Photography Stuff, Snow, Weather | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

Weekly Challenge: Rule of Thirds – Part 2

Perhaps my first post did not quite capture the theme . . . Here; let me try again:

Rule of Thirds

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That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.

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Note: if you are not reading this blog post at Disperser.Wordpress.com, know that it has been copied without permission, and likely is being used by someone with nefarious intention, like attracting you to a malware-infested website.  Could be they also torture small mammals.

<><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><>

Please, if you are considering bestowing me recognition beyond commenting below, refrain from doing so.  I will decline blogger-to-blogger awards.   I appreciate the intent behind it, but I prefer a comment thanking me for turning you away from a life of crime, religion, or making you a better person in some other way.  That would mean something to me.

If you wish to know more, please read below.

About awards: Blogger Awards
About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

Posted in Photography, Photography Stuff, Stuff | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments