Monty’s House

Looks like Monty needs a bigger house.


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Winding Up and Going No Where

Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl is a bleak and depressing story set in a future run by calorie monopolies, where genetically modified products and manufactured foodborn plagues have wiped out the food chains, wars are waged for precious seeds, and quarantines for food-borne diseases are a necessity.

Now, some writers—Margaret Atwood and Ursla LeGuin immediately come to mind—can immerse the reader in a strange world while giving us enough to hold onto as we make our way through the unfamiliar. Take Oryx and Crake, for example; the dystopian future gene-splice/biopunk bleakness I encountered was wholly unfamiliar, but within a few pages I was at home there. I had no such experience reading Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl despite the fact that a  world destroyed by climate change, the depletion of natural resources, and uncontrolled spread of GMO spread is familiar enough because it’s the world we’re living in at this very moment. Still I trudged through  page after page of the novel and finished by skimming the second half just because I was determined to get through it.

I read Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife last summer and enjoyed it., so I was looking forward to this book. It won a Nebula and the Locus for Best First Novel, as well as the Compton Crook award, so perhaps I missed something, but I found the plot tedious, the dialogue clumsy, and the central character–”a windup”, or artificial being, who yearns to be human–a sci-fi cliché. The narration was slow, and I had absolutely no emotional investment in any of the characters.


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Great Adventure

(Note: the tour I talk about here and this post are from June 30, 2016, but the wi-fi at the vacation home where we were staying wasn’t very fast and there were up to 12 people using it.)

We’re visiting family in Washington state and as part of our visit we scheduled a whale watching tour. I’ve been so fortunate as to have seen a number of whale species in the wild, but I had never had an opportunity to see Orcas in the wild. Until now.

The tour left at 10:00 am. The sky was gray with overcast, and there was a pretty strong wind. We we’re out for an hour or so when we came across several bald eagles and harbor sea lions, but no whale. Soon, however, we came upon a good size pod of Transient Orcas as we watched the T100 and T100B’s, including the very young calf, as they traveled north. This is an extended family of seven killer whales, spanning three generations–a mom, her daughter, and her daughter’s daughter!   The little one had been born just 4 years ago. There was also a 14 year old bull, and a baby that was so young, born in 2015, that little is known about him/her.

We stayed with the pod for almost two hours, and what a show! We also watched them in an intense hunt and saw a number of  tail lobs as they hunted (our guide thought it was a harbor seal). We also saw celebratory exhibition after the kill with breaches galore.  We followed along as they traveled between hunts, so were able to get a good look at the entire pod and we’re rewarded with a few spy hops.

It was better than I had ever imagined, and I am so pleased they graced us with the wondrous presence.

If you follow this blog you know I bought a Canon Rebel T6i about a month ago to take on this trip. I read and practiced and read and practiced, hoping to get some good shots if I was lucky enough to encounter orcas. Well, I took over 1038 shots during the tour, and I got some good ones (for an amature). I’ll share a few of the best below. I used a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens and set the camera for continuous shots and shutter priority. I shot mostly at 1/1250 shutter speed and set the ISO between 200 and 400 as the light changed throughout the day.

Here’s a 14 year old male T100B breaching in celebration after a kill

Here’s the big boy again spy hopping


And here you can see several Orcas traveling together


And finally, a couple of  tail lobs



I’ll never forget this experience and hope to be able to do another whale watching tour in the area someday.

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Picture (almost) Perfect

I’ve been reading about aperture and depth of field and achieving the bokeh effect, so yesterday I decided to work with those settings.

The Princess Pooch is the perfect subject; she will stay for as long as I ask her to. She’ll move her head, but that’s it. Of course, she won the sit/stay competition in her training class!

So, I took a bunch of shots yesterday with my nifty-fifty–my first lens purchase after the ones that came with my kit. For those of you not yet familiar with lenses, the nifty-fifty is a 50mm prime lens that most photogs recommend as your first lens purchase because it comes closest to capturing what your eye naturally sees; because it provides excellent depth of field; and because it is a great lens for portrait, street, and landscape photography. I bought a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM at Amazon for $125–damn affordable as lenses go as I am learning all too well.

At any rate, I took a bunch of shots at f/1.8 and f/2. I’m sharing the best of the bunch below. I took it with f/2, 1/250, 100


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Ready, Set, Go

The Princess Pooch love chasing the ball in our pool. We taught her to use the pool steps when she was a pup so if she ever fell in she could get out. Now she gets in via the steps, then leaps off a bench that extends from the stairs.

I took some shots of her in action today to see how the “sports” setting works. Here are some in sequence.



Here she is going after her ball:


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Deal Me In


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Tried working a bit in black and white a few days ago. Here’s what I think is my best shot.


The Princess Pooch is a great subject. I can tell her to sit and stay or lay down and stay, and she will stay in position for hours.

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