Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Two Questions

My advancing age has led me to ask myself, and sometimes Pumpkin and Mini, two questions on nearly a daily basis.

Question 1

Mixed Drink: photo by Cliff Hutson
Mixed Drink: photo by Cliff Hutson

Is it too early to have a drink?

Question 2

Cup of Joe: photo by Cliff Hutson
Cup of Joe: photo by Cliff Hutson

Is too late to have coffee?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

University of Southern North Dakota

"Our true lives are lived in imagination and memory".
-- Thorton Wilder


USND Lacrosse: photo by Cliff Hutson
USND Lacrosse: photo by Cliff Hutson

My life, not unlike that of The Pilgrim , is partly truth, partly fiction. One of my fictions is that I sometimes maintain that I have a degree in Economics from the University of Southern North Dakota.

It is true that I hold a BA in that field. But, the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople, to give it its full name, is a construct of Peter Schickele. It is his fictitious "home establishment," where he reports having tenure as "Very Full Professor Peter Schickele" of "musicolology" and "musical pathology". He describes it  as "a little-known institution which does not normally welcome out-of-state visitors. Wishing to further this bit of imagination, I created a little photo essay, ten years ago this week, which purportedly is a tour of the campus. The gallery has been getting a lot of hits the past couple of weeks, which prompted this post.

Most people seem to enjoy what I have done, but some take me to task as a fraud. I guess that they can't take a joke. Others seem to take it too seriously and get a bit perturbed when they look up Hoople and find that it is actually not in southern North Dakota. Hopefully, they will eventually see the humor.


"Schickele Auditorium": photo by Cliff Hutson
"Schickele Auditorium": photo by Cliff Hutson
Professor Schickele is most noted as the discoverer of the works of P.D.Q. Bach - "the youngest and the oddest of the twenty-odd children" of Johann Sebastian Bach. One of my most memorable musical experiences was attending a performance of the Oedipus Tex oratorio, written by P. D. Q. Bach, at one of our local colleges. I have also enjoyed many of the recordings of other works by this prolific composer over the years.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A Year of Books - 2015

Reading Table: photo by Cliff Hutson
Reading Table: photo by Cliff Hutson

It Was a Very Good Year

My record keeping is a little shaky, but it looks like I read 63 books in 2015. There were at least a couple more that I started and gave up on, as I figured life was too short to put up with them - they shall remain nameless. Also, there two more that I began reading and put aside in hopes of getting to them this year. Neither does this count include any resources or field guides I refer to when writing my "Plant of the Month" articles for "Oak Notes". 

This is the first year that I really tried to to make any sort of enumeration, but I think it is a little over the average number that I have read every year since I retired in 2009. However, inspired by David Allen, from now on I will be keeping an accurate record; and better notes on what I thought of each book. I recently started using Evernote and it seems like the ideal tool for this process. So, here is what I can recall from 20015.

The Good

There are two books that really captivated me. The first would be the "The Martian " by Andy Weir; the second is "The Rosie Project" by Graeme Simsion.

I was fascinated by "The Martian" as it combined the great classic stories such as that of  Robinson Crusoe or the Swiss Family Robinson with, what I will call science fiction, for want of a better description. Most modern stories of survival seem to emphasize brawn. This novel underscores that brains are just as important. I have to love that.

The second book is also kind of grounded in science. I like it because my career in systems analysis brought me in touch with many people who resemble the protagonist. And, truth be told, I see much of myself in him. I feel this is a super good read on what the experience of being on the Asperger's Syndrome curve is like; and how opposites can attract.

The Bad

The candidate for this category is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain, which supposedly argues that modern Western culture misunderstands and undervalues the traits and capabilities of introverted people. While it does make a few good points, I feel it fails to make a strong argument for her case. But, what really galled me was her constant references to the physical appearance of the people whom she choose to profile. I might as well been reading some bodice ripper. Are we to assume that a good looking introvert has more value than a plain looking introvert or gregarious person? As a lifelong introvert, this book did not tell me anything I did not already know.  And I can't see how it will help anyone who is not introverted understand those of us who are. This may be a minority opinion, but it is mine and I am sticking to it.

The Ugly

No one is perfect. Least of all me. I could write a volume about the typos and errors of omission in my writing. But, I have seldom made an error of fact; especially on a fact that could be easily checked. My finding such a mistake in a book can spoil my pleasure in reading it. When I come upon several, the book falls in to the "the ugly" bucket. I very much wanted to like "TANGLED VINES Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California" by Frances Dinkelspiel, but, alas, I could not.

I thought I would like it as it came to my attention through a writer I trust; I enjoy reading mystery and true crime; and, I am a bit of a history buff - and many of the historical events recounted in this book occurred less than ten miles from where I live. But, the mistakes made about the facts I know about made me lose faith in the rest of it.

The first I actually let slide. The author explains that a piece of property adjacent to what is now know as the Thomas Winery Plaza was highly valuable to developers as it lay between two major freeways. But, in the year in question, one was not yet built and some thought that it would never come to fruition - much as the 710 has yet to be extended through South Pasadena. However, as it was planned, I figured that I should let this go.

The second was more problematic. She places the city of Pomona in San Bernardino County. Yes, it is right on the border, but Pomona is the seventh largest city in Los Angeles County. The author or a good fact checker should have done a better job with that.

But, what really tore it for me is that the story of the USS Indianapolis, which was sunk July 30, 1945, after delivering parts for the first atomic bomb to the United States air base at Tinian, is attributed to the USS Arizona - which is widely known to have been destroyed on December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor. If a mistake that egregious can make its way in to print, how can I trust any of the facts or stories the author relates?

Looking Forward

I guess my major undertaking in 2016 will be to finally read "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" by Thomas Piketty. It has been in my "to be read" pile since May 2014. My reluctance to pick it up is probably due to my having earned a degree in economics about four and a half decades ago and fear finding out that I have been left in the dust.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A Year of Photography - 2015

Looking Backwards

I successfully completed another Photo-A-Day project in 2015. The theme, as I mentioned back in October, was "Notice the Ordinary”. It was a pretty good effort, all-in-all, even though the last month, or so, was a bit of struggle to come up with anything the least bit fresh. This was the second year in a row for such an undertaking, 2014 was devoted to food photography.

Both projects were were engaging, and I think I learned a lot in each year, especially when it came to lighting. But, my aspect ratio also took an interesting turn last year. I switched to a 1:1 format almost exclusively in February. The reason for this change is but a vague memory, save that for the  first twenty years that I did photography all my cameras used a square format - first 120 and then 126 film. I also shot a lot more in black and white than in past years - another return to the early years. The power of nostalgia can not be under estimated in many of my decisions.

Anyway, let me share what I think are the highs and lows of the past year.

The Best:

Another Cup of Coffee: photo by Cliff Hutson
Another Cup of Coffee: photo by Cliff Hutson

My personal favorite is this coffee cup. The only change I would make, hindsight being 20/20, is rotating it a little more so that the “t” in "Crust" would show up a little better.

However, the photo that received the most popular acclaim was of this cup of pasta. It was even selected to be on the front page of Utata.

Shells with Notes: photo by Cliff Hutson
Shells with Notes: photo by Cliff Hutson

The Worst:

The Red Apron: photo by Cliff Hutson
The Red Apron: photo by Cliff Hutson

There is no doubt about this choice. I should have been embarrassed to have posted it at all; but, the day was almost done.

The color is a horrible capture of the true color of the “Red Apron”. Worst, the composition is not all that captivating. But, sometimes, it is what it is.

Looking Ahead:

This year I am going to step back from the self-imposed pressure of trying to take a decent photo every day. I still plan to keep my hand in with “Food Friday”, but probably not on a weekly basis. I also hope to have a little fun with the “Toy Camera” function on my FujiFilm XQ1, just to see how that develops.