The Niagara Escarpment

Posted in On Tthe Road, Photography Tricks on May 19th, 2009 by MadDog
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We went up on the “mountain” today, as it is known in Hamilton. It’s not really a mountain at all, but an escarpment, not that it makes much difference. It’s part of the Niagara Escarpment, a very interesting geologic formation. Here’s a nice panorama shot that I got with the Olympus SP-590UZ. It has two modes of stitching together a panorama automatically in the camera. Both work a treat:

The Olympus SP-590UZ does a great job of stitching together a panorama in the camera.

The above is a much better panorama than my first attempt a year ago. However, it does have a couple of imperfections in the sky. I’ll probably stick to individual exposures and merging them in Photoshop for serious panoramas.

You can’t miss the fact that Hamilton is a steel town:A steel town at 26x optical zoomThough some say it was once hell on earth, today the air is much cleaner. I bet that most of the clean up was not the idea of the steel producers. Ah, well, that’s life:

Locals say that the air is much cleaner today than it was twenty years ago.Some people won’t change their habits unless politely asked to do so.

Hamilton is about 70 kilometres from Toronto. Here’s a beautiful example of the treasures built into the Olympus SP-590UZ 26x optical zoom lens. It’s not the sharpest lens in the world, but it lets an amateur with a good eye take some mind-blowing shots:

Hamilton steel mills, the skyline bridge, and Toronto in the distanceThat’s the steel mills of Hamilton from the escarpment with Toronto in the far distance.

Here’s another similar shot with a foreground frame that is just pleasantly out of focus:Another view of steel mills, the bridge, and Toronto miles awayAnd, here is Eunie practising with her new Canon Powershot A100IS:

Eunie practicing with her new Canon Powershot A100ISShe’s having fun with that camera. It’s not overpowering for someone who just wants to take superb snaps for her journal. Check out her latest post here.

Walking through the neighbourhoods of Hamilton is a beautiful experience. The yards are full of flowers and thoughtful landscaping. Here we see the strong Dutch influence in these beautiful tuilps:

Cheery tulips contarst with industrial drabness - Hamilton, OntarioIf fact, this time of year you would think that you are in Tuliptown.

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Back to Rebel’s Rock

Posted in On Tthe Road, Photography Tricks on May 18th, 2009 by MadDog
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I naturally gravitate to funky little joints with lots of character. Rebel’s Rock Irish Pub in Hamilton, Ontario is just such a place:Rebel's Rock Orish Pub - Hamilton, Ontario

We enjoyed Rebel’s Rock a year ago when we were in Hamilton for a while visiting our son and his family.

Friendly chat at the bar - Rebel's RockLast year I was shooting with a Canon G9. This year, for this post, I’m using my new Canon G10, a superb point-and-shoot camera. It has better noise characteristics at low light levels using high ISO values (1600 in the case of these shots). As the G9 was very noisy at 1600, the G10 is less so. The G10 is also far less noisy than my new Olympus SP590UZ, but has only a 5x optical zoom, compared to 26x for the Olympus. As is my habit, I used the excellent NoiseNinja Pro filter for Photoshop to clean up the noise.

Essentially, I now have two cameras that together set me back about US$800 that will, taken as a team, outperform one Single Lens Reflex camera with two separate lenses. One would have to spend far more for an SLR with lenses of similar capability and you’d still have only one camera. I like the safety factor of having multiple low cost cameras with complimentary capabilities. It also eliminates completely the possibility of getting gunk on the sensor during a lens change, as these cameras are completely sealed.

Sometime soon I’m going to write a post titled “Why You (Probably) Don’t Want an SLR.”

At Rebel’s Rock, you never know when someone will pick up an instrument and start playing:

You never know when someone is going to grab an instrument and start playing - Rebel's Rock
We enjoyed good food and good company consisting of our son, Hans, one of his workmates, Sheila, and our friend, Brenda. I also rather too much enjoyed four pints of Steam Whistle pilsner beer, a very tasty brew, indeed.

Our entertainment for the evening was a local musician, Bill Becker:

Bill Beckers's one man show - Rebel's Rock
My keywords for Bill would be talented, unassuming, eclectic, and brave. It takes a certain kind of entertainer to work a small room where a lot of other things are going on and not seem hurt that people sometimes seem not to be paying much attention. He pulled it off nicely, providing a pleasing and energetic background and often grabbing the room when the opportunity arose. He reduced me to tears with his excellent rendition of Pink FLoyd’s Wish You Were Here.

If you’re ever in Hamilton, a struggling steel town that approaches the culturally surreal, pop into Rebel’s Rock for a break from the humdrum.

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Mantis Shrimp – The Aliens in My Front Yard

Posted in Under the Sea on May 17th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m a little tired of doing the travelogue thing every day and I’m a little homesick for my warm, wet, salty front yard. I’ve been working on some of my underwater images. I noticed that I’ve never done a post on mantis shrimp, surely some of the most alien-like creatures in my yard:

Mantis ShrimpThe shot above is a reworked version of one that appeared in A Nasty Customer and Fancy Pants. It’s a Odontodactylus scyallarus if it matters to you.

Here’s another shot from a different angle and different lighting conditions:

Mantis ShrimpI’m pretty sure that all of these images are the same species, but I don’t have my books with me.

It is rare to see a mantis shrimp in the open. They are very shy. I managed this shot when one was so surprised to see me that it froze for a moment before scuttling into its burrow:

Mantis ShrimpTheir eyes are mesmerising. They follow you and when you look into them you seem to be looking into a deepness that is difficult to describe. They have the most complex eyes of any animal.

They feed by clubbing or spearing (according to the species) their prey with their raptorial claws. You can see the clubbing behaviour in a very cool clip on YouTube.  I had one of these in an aquarium tank in our house:

Mantis ShrimpI fed it bits of frozen raw chicken. I would drop a chunk in the water and the mantis shrimp would come up to investigate. Then it would club it a couple of times, making sounds like firecrackers, and carry it back to its burrow.

Once when we had visitors, I decided to hand feed my mantis shrimp. It was a big mistake. It clubbed my thumb and split it open. It was so quick that I didn’t realise that I was hurt until I saw the blood streaming from my thumb.

Then came the PAIN!

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My Timberland Boots – I’ve Been Everywhere, Man

Posted in Humor, Mixed Nuts on May 16th, 2009 by MadDog
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Remember the old Geoff Mack song, I’ve Been Everywhere ? It has been performed by Lucky Starr, Hank Snow, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and countless others. Well, I haven’t been everywhere – yet. But, I do have a story for you.

I’ve been everywhere, man.
I’ve been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert’s bare, man.
I’ve breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I’ve had my share, man.

I’ve been everywhere.

“Why on earth would anybody be interested in my old boots?”, I’m asking myself as I write this. (Some would say that they’re not even boots. I’ll call them what I like.) Well, that’s one of the cool things about keeping an online journal.* I get to write about whatever I like and you get to decide if you want to read it or not. It’s a win-win situation.

Anyway, here’s a shot of my old Timberland boots:

My old Timberland boots

My memory (Eunie) tells me that I bought them about thirteen years ago. By my reckoning they have circled the globe at least five times. That’s roughly 200,000 kilometres, not that I walked it. I always wear them when I’m travelling.  The hardest thing they ever did was carry my sorry old bones from Vienna, down one side of Italy, around Sicily, and back up the other side of Italy back to Vienna. I felt as if I had walked most of that, but it isn’t so. The most fun thing that they ever did was jump out of an airplane. I should mention that I was wearing them at the time.

They have worked hard, never hurt my feet, and always gave me that “rugged old man” look so sought after by guys of a certain age and demeanour. They’ve been patient in their old age and taken all of the glue that they could manage, but now it’s time to retire them to the MadDog Museum of Mildly Amusing Curiosities in an honoured position on the top shelf. Any pair of boots that has given such sedlfless service for so long deserves to be admired, not tossed in the dustbin.

Eunie and I searched dilligently for a new pair of Timberlands, sadly in vain. Today I bought a new pair of Merrell boots for a hundred bucks Canadian. Here they are:

My new Merrell bootsThey are lighter than the old Timberlands, but that’s probably because the materials and technology have changed. I caused mild consternation in the shoe store when I put them on and began running around, hopping up and down, squatting (you must be able to squat comfortably in your hiking boots for a very obvious reason), and generally bouncing off the walls. I’ve got to say that I’ve never had boots that were more comfortable from the first moment that I put them on.

So, that’s the end of the story, or, as we say in Papua New Guinea – Em tasol.

*  I hate the word “blog.” It’s ugly and it’s not what I’m doing.

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Our New Work and Ministry Journal

Posted in Mixed Nuts on May 15th, 2009 by MadDog
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Eunie got her first WordPress lessons today and has finished her first post on our journal for those interested in our work with Pioneer Bible Translators and our ministry in Madang. As always, I’m impressed by how quickly she learns stuff that took me a long time to figure out. There are significant benefits from being married to someone who is smarter than yourself.

The site is at messersmith.name/news. Her first post is about our unexpected visit to North America and a book that she made using MyPublisher for our son’s 40th birthday. Here’s a photo of the cover of the book:

Eunies book for Hans 49th birthday - A Mothers Memories

She did all of the work on the book herself with a bit of “getting started” instruction from me. I’m amazed at what a beautiful thing she has created.

If you’d like to give Eunie a boost and encourage her, bookmark the site and check it regularly. She’s going to try to do two or three posts a week. I may throw my two cents in occasionally also.

There are still a lot of pages that don’t go anywhere. We will be fleshing out the site with more content over the next few weeks. It is difficult to get into the habit of posting regularly, so I am going to play the part of the patient and encouraging spouse for a while. Wish me luck with that.

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A Community Commons – Victoria Park

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 14th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m going to have to get out of the neighbourhood and roam a bit. We went shopping for a new pair of Timberland boots today. No luck – they only have them in stock in the fall for some strange reason. I’ll have to try when I get to Sedona.

So, for today, it’s back to Victory Park, a lovely, compact community commons in the centre of the city.

At the base of the statue of Victoria is one the finest of the classic regal lions that I have seen:Victoria Park - the Regal LionAnd here is the great lady:

Victoria Park - the great lady
The modest fountain in the centre of the park is a magical setting to exercise a long zoom lens. The flying rats are always cooperative:Neighbours chatting in Victoria Park

Remember, while in Canada we are always playing the “Spot the Tim Hortons Coffee Cup” game.

It won’t be so difficult in this image:Victoria Park canon complete with obligatory Tim Hortons coffee cup

There are, of course, the obligatory canons in the park. They make convenient trash receptacles.

We’ve spent much of our day communicating with a young teacher at the school in Toledo, Ohio which has been locked down because a teenage boy who aledgedly wrote threats to teachers and pupils in his diary has been missing and presumed to have in his possession a gun. It also appeared that he had stolen a vehicle. The school was closed and threatened persons taken to safe places until the mystery could be solved. We just received word from her that the boy has been arrested in Tennessee.

Many innocent people will sleep easier tonight and there is hope now for healing for the boy. Blessedly, tragedy has been averted.

Until the next time.

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Star Trek – Nostalgia Perfected

Posted in Mixed Nuts on May 13th, 2009 by MadDog
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Eunie and I were married in 1964. Our son, Hans, was born in 1969. During those heady years we were free spirits. The first Star Trek  episode was aired in 1966. We saw it, and every one until 1969 when the original TV series ended. To us it was entertainment as we had never imagined. It was mesmerising.

We watched it on an ancient Zenith TV that my parent bought in 1949. It looked very similar to this one:

Our first hand-me-down TV
It just wouldn’t die, which was a good thing because we could hardly afford to eat, let alone buy a new TV. Every time it would quit, I would pull all of the tubes (or valves, if you please) out of it, take them to the corner drug store where they had a machine to test them, purchase new ones to replace the ones that were “weak”, and then plug them all back in.

There are about a zillion people out there as we speak who are pounding out masterpieces of the criticists art concerning the recent Star Trek  how-did-it-all-get-started film. That’s not my purpose here.

What I do want to record here is the reaction of two seniors who, as young adults, grew up together with the original TV series. For us the latest Star Trek  was magic. It was a time machine. It took us back to our rash, impetuous youth and brought tears to our eyes. It was nostalgia perfected. Every scene delivered yet another “remember that?” moment.

I normally resist the urge to expose my camera to all of the little Big Brothers puffed up with insect authority who are watching me as I watch, but today I was unable to resist capturing the moment:

Surreptitious shot of the new Star Trek movieYes, that is a surreptitiously acquired image of the movie screen displaying the iconic Enterprise.

We pretty much lost interest in Star Trek  after the original series ended in 1969. The animated series of ’73 – ’74 was a cruel joke and the follow-on Trekish TV series sporting various aliases, though mostly well done, had lost the magic of the original series. I recognise that that is a highly personal view and others would disagree with varying degrees of ardour.

Well, enough serious stuff. I now wish to report to you a rare sighting of Elvis. It happened at Jackson Square in Hamilton this very day. We witnessed it with our own eyes:

Is nothing sacred?
Yes, it is sadly true. Elvis is reduced to selling chips. Is nothing sacred?

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