Monday, July 26, 2004

Sharing Hobbies

I just signed up for revitalizing the camera club here at my workplace.  Its kinda funny.  I don't really want to go to the local camera club as I just don't feel accomplished enough and I don't have near the eye that others have.  Thinking of setting up a camera club here at work was a fun idea at one time (for about a day) and then I started thinking how its going to keep on being a monthly task to do and I decided to scrap it.  Next thing I know people are asking if I'm going ahead with this.  I guess I did it as much because it seems like people would like to have something they can come to once or twice and feel a part of something larger and because people would like to benefit from someone else putting time in each month to build a body of skilled people who are readily available to answer the nitpicky little questions.  I'm not trying to be pesimistic; it just reads that way.  I figure what the heck.  I'm going to learn by having to prepare and teach a 15-minute "class".  I need to learn to cut down on the thoughts I share with people anyway so I'll benefit from having to make sure I know something (like doing experiments to prove the differences in smaller apertures over time and larger apertures for shallow DOF or something like that) as well as benefitting because I have to cut down my presentation to 15 minutes.  This exercise should also be beneficial to me if I can help someone else to understand the tradeoffs between one media and another or one format and another or even one manufacturer and another.  I'm not talking Canon over FujiFilm or Nikon or whatever but just me developing a well-rounded background in multiple areas and then being able to share that with other users.  As I help others see their options perhaps I can benefit collaterally and learn to be more directed in my communication and more open-minded in my evaluations.

Thanks for reading,


Saturday, July 24, 2004

New toys

Got some new toys yesterday. I've been wanting to shoot some photos with more lighting setup than just a single flash pointed at the subject. I finally ordered a Canon ST-E2 (remote control for my flashes) and a Canon 420EX flash so that I can set one flash on either side of the camera and get more dynamic lighting (instead of such flat lighting) on the subjects. I also picked up a like new Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 lens. I hooked all this up last night and here's a photo that I got. It's still not completely "in focus" because the plane of focus is incredibly shallow. Even with only having my daughter's bangs in the plane of focus, this lens is so sharp it made a wonderful photo with a crappy background

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, July 22, 2004

Selling some of my photos

I've sold one photo through DPC Prints but I decided based on costs and management of content to pay for a different service.  I will be adding new prints to Exposure Manager for any future prints I intend to sell. 

If you are interested in any of my prints (and no, I'm not selling shots of the models) then take a trip over to this sales site and see if the shot you like is available.

Thanks for reading,


Thursday: Work and photography

Hmmm, odd how the day starts out and I plan on blogging about the new toys I just ordered and then I get into working and that all goes out the window. 

Quick little "Yay for me!"  I ordered the Canon ST-E2 infrared flash remote controller and a new Canon 420EX flash unit.  I've spent the first year of my photography/camera hobby practicing and learning about portraiture.  I'm still far from producing compelling images as often or as powerfully as I'd like but I'm ready to at least add more dimension to my work and trying to understand lighting seems to be the next step.  To whit, my recent work on the beach in Florida was an attempt to create powerful images based on lighting and composition.  Here's another one from that set:

As for work, man it can get flipped out.  People often have different ways of doing things and with programming and computers multiple ways will get you to the same conclusion but some ways are inherently better than others (they cost less in terms of processing and maintenance).  When you switch responsibility for a project from one person to another sometimes it takes tons more time to just maintain the original code than it would to just write the whole thing over again.  At least it seems that way.  I'm not complaining.  Just noting that I'm maintaining a piece of code that was originally written several years ago and while I'm basically a newbie (I've been programming less than a decade and never in a mainframe setting) I have some pretty strong opinions about using the fastest path to deliver a solution.  Microsoft Access seems to have gained many adherents here at work over a period of time to provide fast solutions.  Now it has fallen out of corporate favor because it is unsecure at its core and designed for no more than 5 users.  It scales like poop (meaning it doesn't work well in anything other than a very small usage).  Trying to wrap my mind around someone who was trying to write code that used Access as its data store while including a mixture of advanced coding techniques (because the coder wanted to do a good job) and then having little band-aids because the business often just wants the application ASAP . . . let me just tell you that its a pain.  Couple that with new projects that the business wants and then toss in a healthy dose of having to revisit code from 7 or 8 months ago and this can get confusing. 

Oh well, at least we have more people on the team and the lines of responsibility are more delineated now so that I actually own the responsibility for something instead of just writing a piece of code for another developer.  Now I feel like I can wrap myself up in some of these projects and become the source of knowledge on what they do, how they work and how we should implement and support them.  Luckily I like to share information with other people so I publish documents that any of my co-workers can use to see in graphical depiction with explanation just how to utilize and support the applications that are my responsibility. 

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Vacation photos

Well, if you've read my last blog you know why its taken me this long to get some photos from our vacation posted.  You can look through several of the photos by pointing a browser to and looking in the Landscape, Nature and Portraits/Baby folders.  I've included two of my favorite shots here.  I hope these aren't too large for you to download or enjoy (but large enough to actually see).

Thanks for your comments and for reading,


Monday, July 19, 2004

Vacation and bad news

We just got back from vacation this weekend.  It went well enough.  It was our first time with a mobile child.  She was great on the beach but she could be a handful in the condo and waiting in line at Disney wasn't for the timid.  We took her to Disney in the mornings and left by mid-afternoon.  I took the camera and flash and got some incredible pictures of her with the Disney characters that she loves.  She probably won't remember much or any of this visit to Florida but we will have pictures of her on the beach and playing in the ocean (yeah, I did take the camera out into the water to get some photos).
On Friday morning my Dad called me to say that my grandmother had passed away or was passing away (depends on what you think about a person's spirit).  She had some type of heart problems last weekend and due to her stubborn nature and incredible health she didn't mention it to anyone until Tuesday when she was taken to the hospital.  She spoke her last on Thursday evening and her body ceased to breath Friday morning.  We packed up and drove home Friday night and I went to the funeral home Saturday and Sunday to greet visitors.  I had the distinct pleasure of getting to give part of my grandmother's eulogy.  She lived 92 long years.  She lived through the first World War, the Great Depression, the second World War and more technological advancements than most other generations.  Her longevity could have been due to her hearty stock, her diet of steady vegetables and fruits from her garden (supplemented with the occasional Pepridge Farm frozen cake or Totino's pizza) or it could have been from her godly life. 
It's difficult to write about her.  She helped to raise me and if she was on your side then she was on your side no matter the circumstances.  She was fiercely loyal.  She was a faithful servent of God for almost all of her 92 years and she was one of the most loving and faithful people I have ever met.  She had to drop out of school to help support the family but she was intelligent with a fast wit to the end.  In my statements about her I noted that she was just a little bit crazy but that wasn't a discredit to her.  Her craziness might take the form, for instance, of when she and my Granddaddy decided to take me on a trip either down to a store in town or across the river to meet with some of Granddaddy's CB buddies or maybe we were going to look for African Violets.  We'd all pack into Granddaddy's white Oldsmobile Cutlass with the red interior smelling of smoke.  We'd make it to the end of the driveway and she'd say, "Henry, I'm not sure I turned off that stove."  and in his gruff demeanor my grandfather would answer, "Blanche, I went behind you and checked it.  That stove is off."  We'd make it just a piece of a mile down the road and she'd just get more nervous and say, "Now Jiggs" for that was my grandfather's nickname, "I'm not gonna enjoy this trip unless I can know that those eyes are off." and around we'd turn and she'd run back into the house to verify that she had in fact turned off the stove.  That may seem normal except that at 6 or 7 or 8 or 9 years old I definitely remembered the first time she checked them on the way out the door to get into the car and I remembered that they were off.  I think she would have laughed about that and replied, "That's OK.  Everybody gets to be a little crazy about something every now and then."   She was pragmatic and practical. 
She loved to talk.  She absolutely loved to talk.  She loved to share stories and opinions and she had several of each.  It was impossible to tell her once that you had to leave the conversation because she would always answer that with "Let me tell you just one more thing" and an hour later she'd remember that you needed to go.  She would tell a story and then at the end of it she'd catch her breath and respond with "Now what about that?" as though she'd just heard it.  It didn't matter if it was the 3rd time or the 300th time she'd told it.  She'd tell a joke and then laugh so hard at the punchline you'd think you told the joke and she was the one hearing it for the first time.  She never met a person who didn't need to hear one of her stories.  She made more friends in the checkout line at the grocery store than many people will ever make in their entire lives.  She understood that there is a responsibility that comes with talking to people.  In all my life I never saw that woman back down from talking when she thought that something needed to be said.  She taught me to say what needs to be said when it needs to be said.  She never shied away from telling me I needed to get my family in church or telling my Dad things she thought he needed to hear or telling my grandfather just how she saw the world and what she thought the Bible had to say about something.  Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely detest an overbearing woman who thinks she knows everything but my grandmother wasn't like that.  She was blessed with an unswerving belief in people.  She believed that it didn't matter what mistakes you'd made up until now.  It didn't matter how you might have failed any test laid before you; shirked some responsibility or chosen selfishly.  She believed with such a deeply felt and abiding faith that all it took was for you to choose wisely and correctly this time and you'd be back on the right track.  Each person, regardless of his or her past could simply ask forgiveness of the Lord or of those he'd wronged and immediately choose to change his life.  She never said it was easy but then I guess with the life she'd already lived some decisions seem easy by comparison.  She believed in forgiveness.  She knew that choices in life bore consequences and so a person might have to pay for their mistakes but she firmly believed that they should be forgiven before they had to make that payment.  She loved.  She had a fire in her belly.  She lived life with a passion for being alive; a passion for having her own home, having her own garden; a passion for her flowers.  She loved me deeply and enduringly.  She loved the Braves and to the best of my knowledge watched all but the latest west coast games over the last several years of her life.  She loved my Dad as much as any one person can love another.  She loved my Granddaddy.  In retrospect its probably a good thing that Granddaddy came along  before Bill Clinton because she loved that man, too.  She loved the congregation at her church.  She adored the pastor, Brother Danny.  My grandmother spent the last 20 years of her life alone; not looking for another partner nor even wanting one.  She'd had 50 years with the man that she loved.  The celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary shortly before my grandfather passed away.  They were both in good health that day and shared memories with many of their friends.
In this life, its difficult sometimes to love perfectly.  The weight of sin, the burden of past pains caused by caring for others; the frailties of the human flesh all weigh a person down.  Whatever part of loving that my grandmother got wrong over the course of her life has now been purged and perfected.  I believe that she's now in the presence of Jehovah, God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, the God of the Old Testament and the New.  I believe that she was instantly and without any effort on her part was perfected and transformed into a new body with a new heart and mind and that all her lackings and all her frailties were done away with by the grace of God.  I believe that she's among old friends now and I believe she's with my Granddaddy.  I don't believe they're together as husband and wife but as two believers in Christ who shared so many personal memories of their lives together.  I believe that they can share memories of triumphs in this life.  I believe that without the burden of ego they can share lovingly and faithfully their memories of owning a little business, of growing older together and of raising two children and several grandchildren and that with each memory they can praise and glorify the Lord who strengthened them and gave them the grace to handle each situation laid before them.
But of all my memories, and my heart is filled with many, the one that came to mind so suddenly after my Dad's phone call was something she admonished me with as a young boy.  I don't know exactly how old I was but I know that she told me over and over again to follow this piece of advice.  It sounds simplistic and simple minded but I believe it shows an integration of her faith.  It demonstrates how she believed that her service to the Lord was most powerful when it was one-on-one.  She used to tell me to "Always give the other fellar a smile."  It doesn't sound Earth shattering but it was how she followed it up that made such a powerful message to me.  She'd say, "Always give the other fellar a smile 'cause you don't know but what that's the only smile he'll see today and you don't know but that's the way the Lord's gonna deal with him today."  It wasn't a call to the mission field or to build houses for the homeless.  It wasn't a request for money.  I know that she valued the mission trips that the youth of her home congregation went on.  I know that she valued the outreach that the congregation makes into the community.  But I also know that she felt a responsibility to just be available for the Lord to work through her to pass out some niceness to anyone on any day. 
Of all the things I heard said of her over the weekend, one thing that people kept saying over and over was that she always had something nice to say and was always in a good mood.  Now I know that she, like everyone else, may have had a bad day here and there or been in a foul mood but in my experience, she was one of the most upbeat and positive people I know.  I'm sure you can imagine the frailties that come with being 92 years old.  She had difficulties and she'd had heartache and loss but overall she was in a good spirit for just about anyone and she was happy to share with everyone.
She loved well on this Earth and she served her Lord faithfully during her life.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Hunger and thirst for righteousness?

In an unprecedented move (meaning that this is the first time this has happened), the Archdiocese of the Holy Roman Catholic church in Portland, Oregon declared bankruptcy. It took this action to "pay all claims without selling off parish assets." What claims you may ask? Sexual predation cases. Yes, sportsfans. The Archdiocese of Portland, OR has paid out $21 million (USD) over the last 4 years and its paid over $50 million over the last half-century or so. That's roughly $10 million per decade or $1 million per year. Why bankrupt now? Because apparently now that its become a public case (after the Archdiocese of Boston, Maine scandels) juries are willing to award upwards of $155 for just two current cases against the Archdiocese. Now that the juries are actually making the "church" (and I loathe using that word to describe these dispicable people) pay out the nose, they want to avail themselves of every legal means at their disposal. Hmmm. Let me get this straight.

1) The Archdiocese of Portland, OR spent at least 5 decades paying off families "under the table" to keep quiet and not make a public scandel of priests sexually abusing young boys, girls and some adults.

2) The Archdiocese enjoyed business status in that they could operate with a veil of security like a corporation. If someone wanted to sue a particular priest it had to be in a civil suit. Check to see how many priests have been prosocuted versus how many have recently admitted or been proved to have committed sexual abuse if you don't think I'm right.

3) The Archdiocese enjoyed tax free growth on its investments in land, money and valuables that were given in "good faith" by its parishioners.

Now that a jury may . . . may want to award a punative damage that would cause the business to sell of its assets it wants protection?!?!?

Uhhh, my degree is in Bible study from a liberal arts college (Wm Jennings Bryan College) but I know that this type of behavior is never condoned or sanctioned within the text of the Bible. Nor is harboring or abetting criminals or fugatives. The Bible preaches forgiveness but it also teaches responsibility. So a priest gave in. Perhaps he was weak. I can see that point and I think that he should, to a degree that his offense was public, be made to confess his sin and be forgiven. If his confession was genuine; if he was penitent within his heart then I'm sure God will forgive him. However, the Bible strongly teaches that there are immediate results arising from our sins. People who continued to live in sin were to be excommunicated. They were to be publically discharged from the body so that any unbelievers who became aware of their perverse continuation in sin would not associate that habitual offender with the believers who are penitently trying to live out their belief system on a day-by-day basis. To simply move a sexual predator from one hunting ground to another so that he can choose "fresh prey" is abominable and I trust solely in the holiness of a divine entity that those who perpetrated both the personal sex aggression and those who helped to cover it up will gain their rewards for their evil deeds when they pass from this life into the next.

However . . . .
In this world, we have laws and people are expected to abide by them within the US. I say that prosecutors at the local and even federal level should find a way to disallow this bankruptcy and should hold the proverbial feet of the one who comes to tell the message to the proverbial fire. If the feet of the priests are blessed, then I say, "Light 'em up!" Let the "church" squirm through this and exact from this business some measure that will cause the next "higher up" to excommunicate a sexual predator rather than simply moving him to another hunting ground. Penalize the Roman Catholic church and it will, like a petulant child, learn that it, too, has to abide by the law of the land. It may represent a higher power but it is not that higher power and it must be made to enforce the laws of the land in which it operates. The only reason the church swept these lawsuits and abuse cases under the rug for decades (and centuries, too, probably) is for financial gain. How much of a financial hit has the Boston Archdiocese taken since the sex scandel came out up there?

I for one say that these entities are businesses and careful consideration should be given to their tax exempt status. For tens of years they have harbored sexual offenders not as the ones to be healed but as the healers in frocks. The problem with the church structure in some of these sites is not that they allow sinners in their midst but that they promote and hide the sinners who egregiously offend not only the commandments of their own belief system but also some of the most basic social agreements. Do not take advantage of those less able to protect themselves whether that be in a mental, physical, financial or emotional arena. These institutions not only allow the sinners to come in, they give them a uniform and put them in front of people and say, "Here is someone holier than you are and closer to God Himself. Trust this person." and that person IS the sexual predator. Why it would be like me taking my daughter to the lions' den and telling her to go play with the kitties!

And their is my opinion without undue animus.

A link to the story that started this for me this morning:
Yahoo article

Thanks for reading,


Thursday, July 01, 2004

Annoying thoughts

We have security doors at work and each employee has the means on his person to unlock and open the doors if we should have access to a particular door. Every day I go through one set of doors that are an external entrance and exit. I have my pass which will technomagically unlock the door for me. Invariably the person ahead of me will run to get in the door behind someone else and then turn to hold the door open for me and they they seem indignant when I don't run to the door as they hold it. Hell, if you want to hold open a door for me, go for it. I'm not so cro-magnon that a woman can't hold open a door for me. I'm not trying to make anyone else late for something. I'm not trying to be lazy or a pain in the ass. I just walk at my pace and I HAPPEN TO HAVE A KEY MECHANISM THAT WILL ALLOW ME TO UNLOCK THE DOOR JUST LIKE YOU DO!!!!

If you want to be polite and hold a door open, then "Thank you." If you want to take my decision to not run to an open door as a personal affront then let the door close. I can open it even though you may be 10 or even 15 feet away from it. Our corporation is cool like that. They gave me the means to pass through that set of doors without anyone else around.

Next thought:
I got up to my desk and got ready to change my voice mail message. You know the ones that are updated daily so you, the disappointed caller who realizes I'm not in can at least tell that I've interacted with my phone system today. "Hello, you've reached Kevin Riggs at . . . ." I suddenly realize that its July 1st. Hmmm I think to myself, the year is passing so fast. When did time start going so fast? My next thought was of my daughter and how she's growing up and how I want her to get to enjoy the freedom of her youth until she has to start attending public school (what a waste). Oh, I want to put her in private school or homeschool her. I'm just concerned about costs and socialization. Anyway, my next thought was deplorable and self-serving. I thought of how I have entered the stage of life where I'm paying all the bills and shouldering the burden and the next "big thing" I can look forward to is either the birth of another child or the passing of someone my age or older. Hmmm, how maudlin?!? So the main event I'm looking forward to is burying one of my parents? What the hell? I mean I like being a moderately stable guy and I like paying my mortgage and looking forward to a time when I can tool around with my wife in middle to older age. I'm not sure where this thought came from but I think I need to work on rewiring my outlook on life. I don't want to run away and join a circus but I need to find some other "big events" to pop into my expected schedule for the next decade or so. If for no other reason than to have something to work towards I need a goal like taking the family to Disney every year or buying a time share on the beach or something. I've achieved so much of what I ever expected yet none of those big impact dreams and I'm satisfied with that. I'm not president and don't expect to be. I'm not an astronaut or a writer. I like to shoot photos but I haven't made much progress towards a 2nd career in photography. I need to have some of those little boy dreams again where you're standing in the back yard looking up at the hoop and in your mind the announcer is calling out your name as you race down the court to put in the final 2 points and win the game. Its a fine line sometimes to harbor dreams and enjoy the small steps you take towards them from time-to-time and then to know when to lay aside aspirations that would cost you more of the staid ol' humdrum life that feels comfortable and easy (although it isn't always easy).

Ah well, I've rambled enough for today.

Thanks for reading,