Sunday, November 28, 2010

Look at those decorations!!!!

I remember when I was growing up, it was always a holiday tradition to start decorating for Christmas after Thanksgiving, generally the first week of December. I remember my dad and I would be stretching out those strings of lights, checking for burned out or broken bulbs, wondering how some of the light strings got so tangled up sitting in a box for almost a year. Some of those cardboard boxes we stored the decorations in had to be older than me. Dad always liked the beer or whiskey boxes. I don’t know why. You couldn’t see it from outer space, but it was the best looking display in the neighborhood. My dad was always so proud and I was always so happy to be helping out in a grownups project. When I became a teenager, it became my project because he usually worked. He always gave a lot of good tips though. Forty years later, I can still see some of those displays in my memory.

After moving to Alaska, I found out it wise to have your exterior Christmas lights up before winter. You don’t have to turn them on right away, but it’s nice to be able to put them up when the temperature is tolerable and the gutters aren’t frozen over.
My next door neighbor is always in the holiday spirit. She never takes her decorations down, but she only turns them on during the Christmas holiday. I’m not exactly sure when she determined what was the day to start turning them on.
Other neighbors decorate too. Some might only hang a wreath or a Santa Claus in the window, but they all seem to put something up. Christmas is on a tight budget this year, but I think the spirit account is full. I think the holiday spirit will pick up even more when we get more snow.

The focal point of my decorating though is the Christmas tree in the picture window. I’ve been using the same artificial tree for about 8 years now. I love it and always get compliments on it. I’ve been slowly changing the decorations on it every year. The old ones I give to my kids to put on their tree at their houses. Those are ones that have accumulated over the years from Nana & Pop Pop, aunts, schools, Barbie, etc. It’s their memories of Christmas and growing up. The angel is starting to show some age, but I can’t give her up yet. To many years of lifting one of the kids up so they could put her on top of the tree. Then for weeks after she gets to watch down on everyone as they enjoy the holidays. That might be the hardest one to replace if I ever do.

Growing up, my folks never had a lot of money, but they always had the Christmas lights on from the time it got dark and until we went to bed. I don’t know if dad ever worried about an increase in the electric bill. Now a day, with all of the improvements in technology, I don’t even notice if there is an increase in the electric bill.

Decorating for Christmas has got to be one of my favorite parts of the holiday. It brings back so many fond memories of Christmas past.

Friday, November 26, 2010

A white Thanksgiving

It was nice to awake yesterday to beautiful fresh and still falling snow. We've had a couple days of it warming up to the mid thirties to low forties with an almost constant rain. Everything was gray and pretty much colorless. There was no photography motivation at all.

I was a little slow starting. For one, I slept in a little. Something I hardly ever do, so I got a little of a late start. I was supposed to be at my friends house about 2PM for Thanksgiving dinner, but I figured they wouldn't mind if I was a little late.

It's tough shooting when it's snowing heavy. Your camera always wants to focus on the snow flake closest to your nose and not always the subject you're shooting.
It was pretty quiet out. I went down to the Ship Creek area because there are hardly any shops, restaurants or homes in that area, so I figured not much vehicle or foot traffic. I was right. But there was plenty of snow and it snowed all day long. That fresh blanket of snow just cushioned the sound of everything making it extra quiet.

It's nice when you can go out with minimal interruption and you can enjoy things. The Ship Creek trail goes through an industrial area, so I was able to get a mixture of shots.

It's evident that the holiday season is upon us by the decorations that are out. From the new balloon type to the more traditional lights. I prefer the traditional, but the more modern ones you can get pretty creative with.

Did you ever notice that most of the time Mother Nature surprises you when you have the wrong lens on your camera? I had moved to the Ship Creek dam and was drinking a latte'. I'm just kind of gazing around looking for something to shoot when I'm thinking "That's a big raven". It wasn't a raven, it was an immature bald eagle that flew right over my truck. I was totally unprepared, so that's my shot that got away.

I kicked myself and started hiking on the trail. There were magpie's and ravens seemed like everywhere's. I heard an eagle calling and looked up at mature bald eagle perched in a tree and I saw another eagle headed right towards it. Again wrong lens.

It was an immature headed towatds the other one, probably the one that buzzed me earlier.The immature landed on the perch the mature was on, running the mature off. This is the best shot I got. Sheesh!

Anyways, I got in some photography before dinner. A bad trip out shooting is better than none at all. I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Join me Black Friday

Join me on Black Friday, not for shopping, but enjoying coffee and breakfast. It won’t be crowded and there are no worries when it comes to parking. It will be warm and quiet except for the TV and the bacon sizzling. OK, I actually don’t want you at my place, but you can have coffee and breakfast at your own home. I’m single and I’m a guy. I won’t be joining the crowds.

The commercialization of Christmas is taking all of the fun out of the holiday and the fun stops on Black Friday. How many news reports do we have to see of people bursting through the doors at Wal-Mart for the ultimate Christmas gift that they have to have, or the holiday is a bust? People are getting trampled and some killed so they can have the newest got to have video game set. How long can you stand in line to check out before you decide that it has been too long? If that's the holiday spirit, I'd rather be called Ebenezer Scrooge.

There also seems to be a race to see who can open up the soonest. We’re opening at 4AM for your shopping convenience. No you’re not! You won't see me there. You might see my daughter and her mom, and they'll tell you just how bad it was. We had to park what seemed like a mile away, the place was packed and the people were so rude.. Did you really save that much? Were the sales that awesome? Happy Holidays!

I prefer to shop at our local stores as much as possible, and if they don't have what I want, I'll order it online and let the mailman bring it to my door. I'm very much into photography, and so are a lot of my friends. I would prefer to buy locally at Stewart's Photo then Best Buy any day. They have the product knowledge and experience. They have customer service with a real smile, not one that's forced upon you or should I say, on them. If at all possible, they will match prices or come very close, which is good enough for me. If they don't have what I want, then maybe I'll buy a gift card.

Maybe I'll go online to B&H Photo or on Cyber Monday. I can still sit at home, have my coffee and breakfast, be warm, watch the news and make my purchases without any stress, rude people or waste any gas while still in my pajamas. I can get all the shopping for my kids, family and friends done before I finish my toast. Sometimes shipping is a little high, but if you keep your eye open, you can get free or discounted shipping. If there’s a problem, let you credit card people dispute it for you. If you need to return something, REI, Sears and Fred Meyer’s and others might let you take it to your local store.

Cyber Monday might not be about an old fashion Christmas, but I’ll come out of it alive. Happy shopping!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I got kidnapped today!

I got a call this morning that said "grab your photography gear, we're going to lunch first and I'm driving". The only thing I could think of to say was "yes'um! It was my photography bud Britt. We had no idea what we were going after. The weather was kinda gloomy, but there looked like there was sunshine over by the airport. She was right. So we shot some planes coming and going. Then the wind shifted and we were on the wrong side of the airport.

Britt's driving her new 2011 Toyota Tacoma, so I said you decide where we go. I'm just a passenger. She's a good driver and knows some good spots around town for photography.

After a quick diet breaking lunch at Tastee-Freez, our next stop was Kincaid Park to see if any kids were sledding. I didn't think there was enough snow, but sure enough, there was. The kids and their parents were having a blast.

So we took some shots of the sledders which is always cool because of their expressions and you really don't know what is going to happen next. The colors of the sleds and the winter clothes is always great for photography.

We watched some snowboarders for a bit and then it started to rain. Time to go.

The shy is getting a little darker, so where to next? Britt decides to take me on a little tour and then head to Potter Marsh. We can see in the distance that the sunset might be cool later on, but we were a little too early. Not much was going on at Potter Marsh itself. The water is frozen over and all of the migratory birds are long gone.
Next stop is the Chugach State Park Headquarters at Potter Marsh. Now Britt just got a new snow blower at home, so I had to show her the mother of all snow blowers. I'm not sure, but I think she fell in love.

Sorry to tell you Britt, but that engine has long been retired. It did see service for many years for the Alaska Railroad. People visiting from all over stop to get their photograph taken in front of the blades. I don't think it would fit in her driveway anyhow.

Well, it was worth the wait. The sun was going down across Cook Inlet and we got a pretty good show.

We were loosing light, so where to next. Britt was being Ms. Spontaneity, I was just a passenger along for the ride. We ended up at the Alaska Zoo where we visited a friend in the gift shop for a bit.

Britt said the kidnapping was over, she had to go do some grocery shopping. I got dropped off at my place and then she was gone. I doubt I'll call the FBI or the police or anything. I will charge her for showing me a fun afternoon though. Thanks Britt!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What's so great about this recession?

I've lived in this great state for 25 years now and I've seen it's ups and downs. Fortunately there have been more ups than downs. Generally when there are downs, they had started in the rest of the country first and then migrated to Alaska a year or so later. When it finally made its way here, it would kind of fizzle out. Times have changed some.

When I first moved to Alaska, my car was damaged in shipment. While it was being repaired, my new neighbor was kind enough to take us to go grocery shopping. During the ride there he looked at me and said "Say those words I seldom here". I though he had been alone way too long, but I still said What?". He said "You know, like Wal-Mart, Target and like that". You see, there weren't many big stores up here at that time.

But like I said, the times have changed some. There are more and more large companies or corporations. For example, Wal-Mart/Sam's Club is now the #2 employer in the state in the private sector. When they react to what's happening in the rest of the country, they react in their stores in Alaska right away.

So when it's announced that we are in a recession, we Alaskans are saying "OK, now what". We're not having the layoffs like they do outside (in the lower 48), businesses aren't closing left and right, we haven't had a bank closed since the 1980's. What are we supposed to do? We don't know, so we are now on guard. We not buying anything we don't have to. We're not getting our cars repaired unless they are unsafe or break down. We are afraid to spend so that's feeding this recession.
I admit that my spending habits have changed. My military retirement isn't enough. My part-time job is commission. With sales down everywhere, that means my pay is less. It's probably close to $7K or $8K lower than this time last year. That means you have to tighten your belt.

I know I'm not the only one either. Some of my neighbors are fully retired. Their income is fixed, but their expenses aren't. When they planned on retiring, they didn't plan on a recession. So their belt is a little tighter too.

Times are tough, but so are we. Things will get better. We have to hang in there so don't let things get you down. Go see what is going on in your town or your state. Go build a snowman, go do some photography, take up bird watching or do some volunteering at a organization that is helping those less fortunate than you. Sitting around dwelling on what's not going right will only bring you and everyone else down.

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Thanks Vet!

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Friday, November 5, 2010

A Good Morning!!!

This week was an up and down week all week long. Both business and personal was not a smooth ride. I'm ready for the weekend and some pick me ups. So it was good to start off Friday with a little excitement. I drove past the Bird TLC property and there were two moose having breakfast, mom and a calf. They are always cool to watch.
I drove a little farther down the road and two immature eagles, both being pursued by a couple of ravens, flew right in front of me and perched in a tree over the road. I knew they were up to something because they had that look.
I pulled off the road and walked back towards the tree they had perched in. I knew something was around they were looking for, but I couldn't see anything jumping out at me. Then I heard water splashing. There were some salmon still trying to swim up stream. This was one small stream, but sure enough there it was. The eagles were trying to figure out how to get down to them through the brush and stuff.
This time of year also turns into corvid time. Love those magpies.
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

The phone is quiet now

The election calls have stopped. I study my candidates, watch the debates and read the literature. I've never changed my mind on who or what I was going to vote for because of a phone call.

I was going to drop my home phone line. I've had the same number for almost 20 years. Most people call me on my cell phone now. I guess they now they'll find me if they call it. I contacted my telephone provider and it was going to cost me $30 more a month to drop my home phone because of the discounts of the package I got for internet and cable TV. I guess I'll save money and keep it. Problem is I need a new phone. My old one is duct taped together and the battery won't hold a long charge. SHEESH!

I guess I'll go to Office Depot today and get one. Answering machine , yes. Call ignore, yes.
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010