Friday, May 31, 2013

Today's walk report: 053113

Goodbye May, 2013.

In a way I did two walks today. I went shopping, late morning at the wonderful Sperling Nursery in Calabasas, CA. Google says it take about 8 minutes to get there, it seemed like 15 to me. This was my first visit with list in hand. I walked right up to the outdoor information kiosk, held up my thumb and declared, I have a black thumb, I need help. They smile, I showed them my list and a woman became my personal guide into a bewildering maze of botanical wonder. Listen... I just get overwhelmed at the place, OK?

Here's what I got

1 Tall lanky Verbena
1 Meyer lemon standard (I don't know what standard means, I'm just reading the receipt)
1 Crape Myrtle
1 Chilopsis linearis (the only item that was actually on my list)

After I got these items picked out and paid for, I went for my camera and took my own tour, hence, my first walk of the day. It's a pretty big place and if you go up and down, back and forth over all aisles you can cover a fair amount of ground. The camera is still messed up by the way, I just know how to avoid some of the issues.

Hemerocallis hybrid, Daylily
Sisyrinchium striatum.

Cosmos and a bee.

Another daylily hybrid.
I don't know and I'm too tired to care.

Onto the evening, regular walk...

This was an effort to do a focus stack across several images, turned out to be 9, hoping it would look interesting. I won't influence that by saying how I feel it turned out.

This plant just flowered since Monday. Lots of these beautiful purple spears. I'm afraid I don't have a name here either.

This is an agave spike I've been waiting on for those flowers to open. Agaves die after they bloom so you won't see this plant next year.

There's been another major fire well north of me for the last two days so air quality was pretty bad although for the most part I think the smoke is headed northeast of me. This is the bike path just behind my street due south.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Today's walk report: 053013

Can't afford no shoes...

Somewhere out there is somebody wanting to know my experience in buying shoes. I'm almost sure of it. Well this is your lucky day because today I bought shoes. Two pairs even. I've been telling myself for about 2 weeks now, you need to look into buying some new running shoes. What generally happens is I put it off until just 2-3 days before my current runners start giving my feet grief. That means I either suffer for about 5-6 days before the new shoes arrive or I scramble going through old shoes to ward off problems. Once there's pain involved it also causes issues with the new shoes because my feet are already suffering yet I'm trying to determine if the new model is working. I always end up keeping the shoes convinced that I'll break them in or something. You can easily return Nikes, you can send them back or you can take them into a retail location. So far, you don't care, right?

How I buy shoes might help someone at least a little though. I've tried a lot of different running shoes, brands and styles, retail specials and online shopping. I've also bought "walking shoes" twice. Don't ever buy walking shoes unless what you really want to do is stand around.

I've settled on Nike. Nike shoes work more frequently than any other brand I've tried. I have problem feet. I also have what is known as chronic ankle instability, a.k.a, weak ankles. Again, you don't care, unless perhaps your that special person with the same sorts of problems. Everybody I ever talk to who walks or runs has had some issues over shoes.

Here's the deal with Nike. One, you can go to a Nike store and check out shoes. I wouldn't recommend buying them there though. I've only been to a Nike store twice and I never bought shoes. I did however find styles I like. Certain types of Nikes get re-issued under slightly different styles or designs. I like either a barefoot ride (lightweight and flexible) or a neutral ride (superior cushioning for a smooth ride.) So I sort those options at the Nike Clearance Shop. That URL seems to change sometimes so I generally just Google Nike Clearance and go in that way. Anyway, those two options and then I sort lowest > highest price. Some shoes are ridiculously high priced. I look for the lowest price in a style I'm used to or think I might like... I've made mistakes too...

Here's one mistake... The top shoe. The style looked kinda OK for a barefoot ride and the price was about as low as any Nike I've ever bought. It was a gamble and I lost. Those shoes are awful BUT I don't think they are bad looking so if say I had  a dinner casual date or something I might wear them. For a walk, anything beyond 100m, forget it. They are also so light they can't really support the insoles I use. OH YEAH, real important, if you like to walk or run get some good insoles. They will last forever. I use these.

The Nike Free in yellow I had bought before. The Free 3.0 style shoe tends to work best for me but I can't constantly wear the same style shoe, I have to switch from time to time. You probably do too. By the way, notice the size difference. My foot measures closer to 11.5 than 12 (U.S.) but size 12 in Nikes works best for me. I gave 11.5 a shot here because $59.97 was a really good price for a 3.0 and they were out on 12. That's one of the problems with clearance and it's also a reason for checking the online store more often than you might need shoes. I know now that if I see a Free 3.0 in size 12 for $59.97 to buy them. The 11.5 shoes didn't really work out for me though. Not for everyday but they can be called up to pinch hit.

Speaking of pinch hitting that's a good thing to do on occasion just because and it especially comes in handy for me when I'm waiting for new shoes while my current model is causing me grief. I have a lot of alternate shoes. There's a couple more pairs not in the closet. Usually an old pair of shoes works for a day. Trying two days in a row somehow never seems to work BUT they CAN pinch hit again successfully on another date. There's a ton of discussions on alternating shoes on the web and I've already gone too far with this.

The New Balance suck. I've already discussed those bastards here. In fact I'm repeating some of that post but that's alright, nobody read the f'n thing anyway. There was a 4th wearing on the NB shoes since I wrote that... agonizing but they're OK around the house and my feet look good in orange.

Here's a model and price I wish I could find again. I had two pairs of these and they were great for a neutral ride shoe. These were bought last year. In 2012 I spent $305.85 on running shoes.

$50 shoes might be a bygone era?
My current pair of 3.0s
Shoes are typically good for 350-450 miles or about 70-90 days although my current shoes are on day 101... Another strong indicator that they've about had it. This current pair is also a Nike Free 3.0. The first pair of yellow Nike 3.0s lasted 5 months! That was a record. They remain in the closet too as an alternate.

Here's what I bought today which brings me back to smart Nike shopping school. Register at Nike, it's no big deal. If you register you don't pay shipping for orders over $100. Otherwise shipping is $8 a pair, it is for me anyway. So that's $16 savings. Plus I saved $40 in the clearance store. I'd love to see something more reasonable in a shoe I like again because $79.97 is still ridiculous but I don't do well barefoot.

I wasn't going to get into all this detail about shoes but honestly if you walk or run you MUST understand some of this, especially if you're on a budget like I am.  Not everybody knows about the Nike Clearance Store and if you shop retail I don't believe they ever have that option at a Nike store--you pay full pop. That's insane, shoe's are insanely overpriced. They make these things in Vietnam probably for pennies on every dollar you pay.

Tomorrow I'm back walking with camera so hopefully we'll see some pretty pictures if you decide to come back. Sensor still needs cleaning on the camera but I can get away with stuff by shooting close-ups.

Here's Can't Afford No Shoes by Frank Zappa to take you out of this blog...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Today's walk report: 052913

Three songs that inspired me through a rather difficult 8.78 km walk. In the order they came up...

The More We Live - Let Go by Yes
from the album, "Union"

Remainder The Black Dog by Steven Wilson
from the album, Grace For Drowning, I heard the live version from Get All You Deserve. I like this studio version a lot more.

Filthy Habits by Frank Zappa
I heard the live version from You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 4
This is the studio version from Sleep Dirt

There, that was easy. I'd be willing to bet, unless you were seeking this material out, you probably don't like it. That's OK because I probably don't like any of the music you listen to, so we're even.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Today's walk report: 052813

Arachnophobia, Nosocomephobia and maybe a few more.

Yes, I do that. I worry too much. The thing is I'm a little bit hypochondriac, a little bit paranoid and kind of a lot phobic about medical stuff especially if it includes a visit to a facility set up for medical practices. A doctor's office is a sliding scale and can be easily controlled but hospitals cause me high anxiety from the parking lot. I'm not exactly sure where or why all of this came about but it did. My best guess on the time frame is early to mid-80s. My mid-late 20s.

Yesterday I woke up and felt this really aggravating itch on my left arm inside my elbow but slightly up toward topside. I don't ever get mosquito bites and immediately upon looking at it I declared, that's a spider bite. I scanned the room for a perpetrator but saw nothing. I don't believe I've ever been bitten by a spider before.  As far as mosquitoes go either I taste bad or as I told my sister today, All of nature's little critters love me..." I'm sure it sounds conceited but I think it's true in a way. I think animals sense that I'm not a threat for whatever reason. I'm certainly anthropomorphizing to an extreme to include insects in the mix but hey... I did make a major, really a huge, transition in my life with bees about a year and 1/2 ago. I grew up being anything from petrified of bees in early childhood down to a state of extreme avoidance in adulthood. I would get really pissed off at people around me too who'd start flailing their arms as soon as anything with a stinger was in proximity. After all at 6' 5", 210 lb, I'm typically the largest, easiest target. But a year and 1/2 ago I started taking pictures of bees from several feet away (70-300mm lens, minimum focus of 1.5m),  and gradually I got more and more comfortable until I was mere inches away with a 60mm macro lens or a close up attachment @ 300mm. Close enough to feel some of them flying around me.

This has been my desktop image for the last 6 months
Carpenter bee on Chinese houses.
Oh yeah, the walk, I need to work that in still... Well 1st since I took the picture, here's the spider bite...

Gruesome? 'Looks like a little crater there to me, like something may have walked off with a small chunk of my flesh in its mouth. This went from super itchy, uncomfortable to a minor annoyance for most of the day. It became a preoccupation during my walk too because I tend to reflect on a lot of stuff during my walk but I also clear my head some over all sorts of shit I need to work through. I think my logical, problem solving side takes over frequently during walks. In other words, I'm not freaking over this bite anymore. Before the walk I had made the mistake of going online and reading medical advice on spider bites and I also made the much bigger mistake of looking at photos of stuff like people with gapping holes that look more like bullet wounds than bites from spiders. That sort of shit gets me going.

The walk itself was like a Monday walk since yesterday was a holiday. It had short cuts and I pretty much wanted to be done with it. 7.16 km of not much fun.

Finally, this is the spider which has been in my room, seen on various occasions for quite some time now. It's a female Phidippus-johnsoni, AKA, a red-backed jumping spider. The bite results in swelling and pain at the bite site, lasting for several days. She's taking the blame for the crime and if I see her again she'll be in a paper bag and heading outside quickly. No, I won't kill her.

Phidippus-johnson on top of my bedroom TV.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Today's walk report: 052713

Technical difficulties...

I had taken 543 pictures out and about the house today and didn't really think much about the last few being really bad. I guess what had crossed my mind was, "it's a fluke." Through the lens, everything appeared fine. But the 358 photos during my walk proved it was no fluke since they were all wasted. I didn't see I was getting an error because I look though the viewfinder, not at the LCD. When I got home, after my heart sunk looking at my pictures, I saw I was getting a "shutter" error 30 and the instructions from Canon are turn the camera on and off or take the battery out and if that doesn't fix it then you need to send it in to Canon. Starting that process I find... $204 (plus shipping I'll assume) and maybe it'll cost more?!? Plus I have to worry about recycled products, etc...

The camera is about 4 months shy of its 2nd birthday so... distressing. I decided to take the battery out, fully charged it and ran another test... the problem persisted. Of all things I took the lens off and gave it an internal blast of compressed air from about 9" away. I'm not even sure why I chose to do this but I did. There's a huge improvement and I no longer get the error but  I still see some distortion.  RATS! (not my 1st choice of words.)

This is an adjusted image, since the shutter was staying open too long among whatever other crap was/is going on everything is overexposed. The marks which look like water drops are the same type of distortion which is still happening just to a much lesser degree. I might have to live with this for awhile and... fix it in post.

One noteworthy event on the walk and then I'm going to sulk over my camera...

This is a grasshopper struggling, drowning even, in the small dedication pond in the garden...

This is the same grasshopper shaking himself off after I scooped him out with one of the plant markers nearby...

If there are any good karma points for doing that please apply them directly to my Canon T3i camera. Thank you.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Today's walk report: 052613

Dying things and detours.

As much as I don't like sparrows (they are annoying with incessant chirping and they are everywhere) I found this rather sad. This little fellow was about 10 feet just outside my front door. I could see that it was dying yet it did seem somewhat content. When I returned it was lying dead on the walkway less than 2' from this spot.

Maybe that's not at all strange to see put what about 2 instances of this over the past two days? This other sparrow was just 12 feet or so to the west of the one today, died yesterday afternoon. I had meant to dispose of it then but must have gotten distracted. I had seen this one hopping away from me early yesterday morning and, like with most animals I seem to encounter, I made a comment. Something to the effect of... I'm sorry you're not feeling well. I'm sorry you can't fly away.

It was an odd start to my walk. Shortly after I got home I dug a nice deep hole and buried both birds. While I have no belief in an afterlife for any creature I did say goodbye to the birds for whatever reason.

On to the walk...

Another mangled flying creature. A mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) butterfly that appears to have run into some major hindwing trouble. It still was flying OK, though a little sloppy.

Maybe all this stuff had something to do with this ominous, foreboding sky?

Probably not.

These three didn't seem too concerned...

Onto the detour...
Instead of going through and back around campus central like I usually do I went backside of the forever unfinished stadium onto the cross country course to ultimately walk the ancient trails beyond the course. Behind where I'm standing is a mess of abandoned construction and de-constuction materials. The company contracted to do the renovation of the stadium along with a bunch of other stuff both on this campus and other So. Cal. projects allegedly bailed on an $8.7 billion deal.

Some of the rubble and waste.

I used to run in that stadium. It's also at about the 1.15 mile to go mark for my regular walk. It would be nice to have the option of walking a few laps if I felt like it but right now it's basically a situation of "sneaking" in in any one of several places where the chain link fence surrounding it have been cut open.

Onto the course looking toward the Santa Susana Mountains.

Cows and a peek of the beck of homes on Oxnard Street, Woodland Hills, CA. I learned how to milk a cow and a goat on this campus around 10-11 years of age.

Whoa there Bessie, you trying to tell me something?

When I was a kid this was where they'd both take care of newborn pigs and also slaughter the ripe ones. My mother knew the family who's father managed the animal husbandry side of this campus. We stayed with them a short while during a couple of summer vacations. You could hear the pigs scream from their house.

Pepper trees. I remember kids during High School cross country meets hiding behind the pepper trees to join in the race. You know, cheating. This was just below the one mile mark of a two mile race.

 No more pigs. At least not this kind.

Goats, they got all excited when I showed up. Hey, I never touched them... never even saw them before.

Uncharted territory. I've only been over here once before in my life. Over 40 years ago.

The sign says...

I saw some lizards, a couple of jack rabbits and several ground squirrels.

Long ago this was a nice little picnic area, not anymore.

The road going through the center of this image is about a mile of my regular walk (back and forth).

The very western edge of the trail overlooking the Warner Center. The world suddenly changes.

Some really sorry and out of place looking redwood trees.

Upper view, heading back.

Back to the garden before heading home. All said and done it was a nice walk. I was out for almost 3 hours and got to see stuff that I and others in the area typically go around without really knowing what's there.

Today's walk report: 052513

What I leaned today...

  • Bring a towel. How could I forget? Today of all days. I was even reminded of that earlier in the day. I spent several minutes dripping over my camera setting up the first shots. After I left that spot I went 50m over to a restroom and grab an arm's length of those wonderful tan paper towels off a roll dispenser. You know the ones, slightly more pliable than cardboard?
By that time I had basically cooled down anyway.
  • Make sure to have deleted the previous day's images off the SD card. I've never done that before, left old images on the card and I only carry an 8GB SD card (plus I have an "emergency" 256MB card in my wallet). Without getting into details it wasn't just a matter of deleting yesterday's 800+ images from the card. I did, however, delete some 200+ images. So I ended up filling my SD card (and the emergency card) rather quickly. There's also a 4GB card in my point and shoot but I decided not to bother.
  • Most importantly, I learned how to make adjustments on the fly with... MY NEW TRIPOD!!! This came via USPS today, four days earlier than expected. It's a Vanguard Alta Pro 263 AT (less than $100--delivered) and it's a really nice tripod for the money. My previous tripod was years old and I think it was about $39. It broke the other day. I'd been thinking about getting a decent tripod for... oh... I dunno, about 10 years, I'd guess. I already had a Manfrotto micro-ball head so figured that keeps the cost down.
Basically that made today experimenting and getting comfortable with a new piece of equipment... sweating on it, learning too what it's like to lug around over the course several km. Etc.

Once again, it was all about image stacking. This being one of the main motivations on pulling the trigger for the tripod.

To some degree choosing a composition was more about the process than the end product. That's something I've said about my creative work in general for years... "The process is the purpose not the product."

  • Another thing I learned. If I'm planning to stack images I need to pay attention to shadows crossing my subject. It was breezy again. I tried for the most part to avoid subjects that would be waving in the wind but I didn't think a lot about nearby plants waving in the wind and creating shadows across my subject. Not that it would have me do anything differently--just something to consider. 
 This is an 8 image blend and the lighting was distinctly different across each image.

I was back over to the straw flowers today mostly because they're only about 35-40cm tall and tend not to be too effected by the breeze. They also look nice. Each of those ants and one or two under petals moved about an inch during the course of taking the 10 images.

Flowering eucalyptus.

Another windy challenge with 8 stacked images...

Agave polyanthiflora. 3 images (card full.)

From the "emergency" SD card...

Bog sage (Salvia uliginosa), 6 images. Can you "see" the wind?

Purple sage (Salvia leucophylla), the same 6 images, cropped to separate and a little more stable in the breeze.