I want to make it clear I have no financial, personal, or other interest in Serif and their software.

That said, I want to alert readers who are interested in photography and playing with photos about the Affinity sale and free trial that is ending soon (click the image to go to their store). From their email:

In response to the pandemic last year and as a way to lend some support to the creative community, we made a 90-day free trial available for the Mac and Windows versions of the whole Affinity suite, while also cutting the price of all of our apps by 50%.

Overall, we’ve given out an incredible 1.5 million trials across all apps. To know how many people have found the extended free trial useful is extremely humbling and we’re grateful to have been able to help out.

We wanted to let you know the 90-day free trial and half-price offers (on all apps and content in our store) will end on the 30th of June, so please take advantage if you haven’t already before time runs out.

Here’s the thing … I subscribe to Adobe’s Photographer’s plan ($9.99/month, $119.88/year) which gives me access to Photoshop and Lightroom. Some people object to subscription plans, and some think they are too expensive, but would like access to something like Photoshop. Well, read on.

The “Z” stories voting block is live and running . . . and not getting much love (votes). Likely, it’s because so much time had passed between the end of the “Y” stories and this round, the last of the Alphabet Challenge.

That’s right . . . as a reminder to them for whom it may not have registered, this is the last round of the challenge — hard to believe three writers wrote 26 short stories each and posted them all here, for all to read. For them who procrastinate, this really is the last chance they will have to participate in voting for their favorite.

If you’ve been a loyal reader of our offerings and someone who votes, you have the writer’s unending gratitude.

Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge Z-Stories” are HERE(link). Votes will be accepted until  Noon (Central Time) on Thursday, April 8th, 2021.

So, Note 20 Ultra . . . .

Once again, these are presented without any editing on my part . . . no post-processing of any kind . . . and today I want to address macro photography with the Note 20 Ultra.

“Say WHAT?”

You read correctly . . . the Samsung Note 8 is no more. My current phone is a Samsung Note 20 Ultra.

Let me explain . . .

It was the middle of February, and Melisa’s Samsung S8 decided it would change its state from that of a functioning high-end smartphone . . . and opted to become a sleek, pristine, glossy, and useless paperweight. No warning, it gave . . . it just had enough and decided to check out.

A little history on that phone and on the Note 8. It was 2017 when my then Note II decided it would no longer boot up. At that point, the phone was nearly four-and-a-half years old. Edited to add: here’s the LINK to the post about that event.

That’s when we upgraded both of our phones, Melisa going with an S8 and me with the Note 8.

Note: If you are using the WordPress App in Android and reading this with the Reader in Dark Mode, you won’t see much of the post because of a bug in the behavior of the app.

The “W” stories voting block is about 20 hours from closing. As usually happens late in the voting block, we have fairly significant movement by one of the stories.  If you like a particular story, in addition to voting for it — and if you feel like it — now is the time to nudge friends and family into reading it (and also ask them to read the others in case they don’t agree with you) and to cast their votes.

No matter how you come to them or who you vote for, if you’re a reader of our stories and someone who votes, the writers wish to express their gratitude and appreciation. Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge W-Stories” are HERE(link) Votes will be accepted until  Noon (Central Time) on Monday, January 25th, 2021.

So, snow on Mauna Kae (the Big Island of Hawaiʻi) . . .

Composite of six photos taken in portrait mode.

That shot was taken from Highway 19 just north of the Kawaihae port while heading up to Waimea.

Note: If you are using the WordPress App in Android and reading this with the Reader in Dark Mode, you won’t see much of the post because of a bug in the behavior of the app.

The “W” stories voting block has a little over 48 hours before it ends and the results recorded in the annals of insignificant history.  If you like a particular story, in addition to voting for it — and if you feel like it — now is the time to nudge friends and family into reading it (and also ask them to read the others in case they don’t agree with you) and to cast their votes.

No matter how you come to them or who you vote for, if you’re a reader of our stories and someone who votes, the writers wish to express their gratitude and appreciation. Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge W-Stories” are HERE(link) Votes will be accepted until  Noon (Central Time) on Monday, January 25th, 2021.

So, photos . . .

These were shot in Central Illinois last July. They are dead now.

The “W” stories are jockeying for the top spot with just six days — or five days , depending on how one counts them — before the voting closes.

We often have a rash of last-minute votes, so it’s still anyone’s guess which story will win the round. Reader’s choices have surprised me a number of times before, and also how narrow the margins of victories have been in many recent rounds. It bolsters the argument that in these voting rounds, a single vote — and sometimes one more — determines the outcome, so consider participating.

If you’re a reader of our stories and someone who votes, the writers wish to express their gratitude and appreciation. Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge W-Stories” are HERE(link) Votes will be accepted until  Noon (Central Time) on Monday, January 25th, 2021.

So, gourds . . .

These were all photographed on the Note 8 at an orchard in Michigan during our September visit with friends and family.

The “W” stories voting block has entered the doldrums . . . still, we got us a decent number of votes and — with nine days remaining — I’m expecting a few more votes before the round closes.

One thing I would ask of readers . . . if you like a particular story, in addition to voting for it — and if you feel like it — get friends and family to read it (and also ask them to read the others in case they don’t agree with you).

On the other hand, I get how annoying it could be, so if you don’t want to bother your friends, then don’t worry about it . . . BUT . . . if you have an enemy you wish to annoy, then sent them the voting link. If they’re not too bright, you can word it like a chain letter; you know the kind . . . “bad luck will befall your ass if you don’t read and vote and get at least ten others to also read and vote!”

No matter how you come to them, if you’re a reader of our stories and someone who votes, the writers wish to express their gratitude and appreciation. Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge W-Stories” are HERE(link) Votes will be accepted until  Noon (Central Time) on Monday, January 25th, 2021.

So, more bird photos . . .

These are presented in chronological order and all from the end of 2018 . . . so, two from the Big Island of Hawaiʻi and two from Long Beach.

The “W” stories voting block is off and running . . . I believe this will be another block where people may find it difficult to find a favorite to vote for. And, I mean that in a good way.

One thing I would ask of readers . . . if you like a particular story, in addition to voting for it — and if you feel like it — get friends and family to read it (and also ask them to read the others in case they don’t agree with you).

Not that I had a lot of followers (finger-counters had no need for more than one hand), but I’m no longer on either Twitter or Facebook, so it would be nice if word-of-mouth played a bigger role in getting people to read and vote.

On the other hand, I get how annoying it could be, so if you don’t want to bother your friends, then don’t worry about it . . . BUT . . . if you have an enemy you wish to annoy, then sent them the voting link. If they’re not too bright, you can word it like a chain letter; you know the kind . . . “bad luck will befall your ass if you don’t read and vote and get at least ten others to also read and vote!”

No matter how you come to them, if you are a reader of our stories and someone who votes, thank you in advance for casting a vote for your favorite of the three. Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge W-Stories” are HERE(link) Votes will be accepted until  Noon (Central Time) on Monday, January 25th, 2021.

So, bird photos . . . .

I’m going back to October of last year for these. A dreary but not cold day, I sat outside with a cup of coffee, a camera, a phone, and a view of foraging birds.

I’m I was on a 186-day streak . . . meaning I’d posted at least one post per day for 186 days. It’s not my longest effort, but it’s still significant.

Again, a lot of the posts had to do with The Alphabet Challenge. Still, 2020 saw me put up 414 posts . . . which had an average of 7 comments per post (2,809 total comments, although at least half of those are mine since I answer every comment).

I’ll explain the monochrome part in a moment.

I think I’ve figured it out . . . people are tired of these reminders. Basically, the constant reminders about the V” stories block voting deadline is just an irritant. Don’t worry, I’m not here to remind you there are twenty-four hours remaining before the voting window closes — although, you know, that’s true when this post goes live — but rather to tell you a few corny one-liners.

What did the fish say when he hit the concrete wall?
“Dam!”

What do Eskimos get from sitting on the ice too long?
Polaroids.

What’s the difference between roast beef and pea soup?
Anyone can roast beef.

What do you get when you toss a hand grenade into a kitchen in France?
Linoleum blown apart.

Anyway, if you’ve already voted for a favorite story, the writers thank you. If you haven’t voted, and you spent time reading this, you now have less than 24 hours before the voting round ends. Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge V-Stories” are HERE(link) Votes will be accepted until Noon (Central Time) on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.

So, a more birds . . . .


This was taken from the lanai of the condo we rented while in Kailua Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. The bird is flying up to grab seeds from the upright pod. The pod contains a lot of seeds, and they are light enough to get blown all over the place. I know I shared the seeds in a post but I can’t find it right now.

Around this point of a voting block, we see a bit of a rush in voting, and the V” stories block is no different. The last two days typically see big moves by one or more of the stories, usually those that were lagging.

. . . and we are at the last two days of voting.

Going forward, I plan fewer reminders (reminders take a fair amount of time, and daily reminders don’t seem to make a difference in the voting), and I’ll bunch them up near the end of the voting block. Again, between generating the photos for these posts and spending time putting them together, the effort related to these posts impinges on time I would rather use to work on other posts.  Mind you, it’s not like these take hours but . . . no, actually, in aggregate, they do.

Anyway, if you’ve already voted for a favorite story, the writers thank you. If you haven’t voted, you have less than 48 hours before the voting round ends. Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge V-Stories” are HERE(link) Votes will be accepted until  Noon (Central Time) on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.

So, a dash of red . . . .

This was taken from the lanai of the condo we rented while in Kailua Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.

Wow . . . just yesterday we had the beginning of the new year, and it’s now the second day already! These days are going by so fast it’ll make your head spin, and before you know it, BAM! . . . the year will be over.

Not to mention, only three days left to vote for your favorite of the “V” stories. I mean, just yesterday, there were four days left, and now one day has disappeared. Poof! Gone.

If you’ve already voted for a favorite story, the writers thank you. If you haven’t voted, did I mention there are only three days left? Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge V-Stories” are HERE(link) Votes will be accepted until  Noon (Central Time) on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.

Again, I’m looking back a few years for these photos . . . .

This was taken in the parking lot of the Costco in Kailua Kona, on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.

I hate starting the year off with a reminder there are only four days left in the “V” stories voting block. However, as everyone winds down from the holidays, perhaps this is the perfect opportunity for people to relax, read a story or two, and cast a vote.

And, if that’s what you did (or plan to do), the writers want to add their thanks to their wishes for a great 2021. Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge V-Stories” are HERE(link) Votes will be accepted until  Noon (Central Time) on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.

I dug back a few years for these photos . . . .

This was taken from the beach located approximately 7 miles north of Kailua-Kona, Kohanaiki Beach Park — also referred to as Pine Trees Beach — located on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.

The “V” stories voting block asked me to intercede on its behalf. Apparently, it doesn’t know why it’s in the doghouse with voters. I tried to explain this is a bad time of year — and a bad year overall — but this voting block is really insecure and would have none of it and wanted me to plead readers for more reading and voting.

Now, me, I don’t like doing that. I figure these stories have to stand on their own, and if there’s no word-of-mouth traffic generated by the few readers we’ve had, well, then, there’s nothing I can do about it . . .

. . . except thanking them who voted for standing up for their favorite of the three stories. Links to the stories and the poll for voting for “Alphabet Challenge V-Stories” are HERE(link) Votes will be accepted until  Noon (Central Time) on Tuesday, January 5, 2021.

Just a few photos today . . . .

The photos in this post are all from the lanai of the first condo we lived in while on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.