Please Donate to Doctors Without Borders.

I have decided to do my first fund-raising bike ride.  I have joined Team Doctors Without Borders for the 2015 Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City. I have made donations  to Doctors Without Borders for several years, and I think they do very good work. They were on  the ground in Africa early  treating people infected with Ebola. They are doing trials of an Ebola vaccine in Guinea now, but they are also working all around world where epidemics, natural disasters, or war create need for medical care.

As far the bike riding part goes. The ride is the Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City on May 3, 2015. It is a 40 mile ride through all five boroughs of New York. Not everyone who does this ride raises money, but when I saw that Doctors Without Borders was sponsoring a team, I decided to join. I will get a couple perks. The fund raising riders get to start first, before the roads get crowded. I also get a Doctors Without Borders jersey. 

At one time a 40 mile ride would be simple for me, but my conditioning is not as good as it was. Last year my long ride for the year was 40 miles. I will need to do some training to be ready by early May. 

I have started the fund raising with a $200 donation. If you would like to donate you can do so on my donation page.

Ducks in the Snow

I went to Baker Park on Monday to take some photos. The park was covered with snow, but the paths had been shoveled and there footprints in much of the show, so I wasn't able to take beautiful snow covered landscapes. After taking a few shots that I did not think were compelling,  I saw a large group of ducks coming down the creek. There was a bridge over the creek, and I went on it to get a better view. Just as the ducks reached the bridge they  decided that they wanted to go back upstream. Many of them decided swimming against the current was a pain, so they took off and flew about 20 yards upstream. 

I followed them by walking along the bank of the creek. I took about 50 shots trying to catch the ducks in flight. I only got four or five decent shots. They were generally too quick for me. The photo below is the best that I got. A one point they all decided to get out of the water and I caught two of them about to land. It would have been great if I could have got them closer to the center of the frame. 

Ducks in Baker Park

Ducks in Baker Park


First Time

When I walked out the restaurant after lunch, and I saw the yellow VW Beetle I knew I had to photograph it, and I knew I would turn the background B&W. I am sure that everyone has seen this effect, but I have never tried it myself. That yellow car just seemed like such a good subject. 

Yellow VW Beetle on Market Street in Fredrick, MD

Yellow VW Beetle on Market Street in Fredrick, MD

The car parked across the street and to the left of the VW is a fairly bright orange. It actually could compete with the VW for the viewer's attention. Well I fixed that. 

My First Fund Raising Bike Ride

As a recreational cyclist and a member of a cycling club for the last ten years, I have heard about a lot of bike rides to raise money for charity. I have contributed to some, but I have never participated in one. Well, I have decided to do my first fund-raising bike ride.  I have joined Team Doctors Without Borders for the 2015 Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City. I have made donations  to Doctors Without Borders for several years, and I think they do very good work. They were on  the ground in Africa early  treating people infected with Ebola. They are doing trials of an Ebola vaccine in Guinea now, but they are also working all around world where epidemics, natural disasters, or war create need for medical care. 

As far the bike riding part goes. The ride is the Five Boro Bike Tour in New York City on May 3, 2015. It is a 40 mile ride through all five boroughs of New York. Not everyone who does this ride raises money, but when I saw that Doctors Without Borders was sponsoring a team, I decided to join. I will get a couple perks. The fund raising riders get to start first, before the roads get crowded. I also get a Doctors Without Borders jersey. 

At one time a 40 mile ride would be simple for me, but my conditioning is not as good as it was. I will need to do some training to be ready by early May. 

I have started the fund raising with a $200 donation. If you would like to donate you can do so on my donations page

Another Flickr Explore Photo

I got my first photo featured on Flickr's Explore page in late November. I got another in December, and I just got a third one yesterday. This was somewhat shocking, since I have been posting photos to Flickr since 2006. The first two photos were of our pet bunnies, which are quite cute do not represent what I am hoping to achieve with photography. The one that I took yesterday is a photo that represents what I have tried to do with my photography. 

Little Falls Creek

Little Falls Creek

I was driving to an errand in Washington, DC, and I saw the snow covered rocks in the creek. I decided to stop on the way back and take some photos. I do not always take my camera with me, but I did yesterday, and I was glad that I did. 

This photo was produced in Photomatix Pro from three bracketed exposures (0, +/-1.7 EV). I used the tone compression algorithm in Photomatix with the values, -2.0, 8.0, 4.0, 0.0, 2.0, 0.0, 0.0. There were some traffic lights in the background of the photo, and I used Photoshop to remove them. You can see my parked car if you look carefully. 

I posted it to Flickr and added it to six groups. When I got this morning, I had dozens of notifications on my phone of people favoriting the photo. That is sure sign that my photo was featured in Explore. As of the writing of this post, I have 5971 views, 121 favorites, and 10 comments on the photo. You can see it on Flickr and check what the stats are now

Celebrating the Holidays Can Be Very Personal

I was still in graduate school when I was a young adult and starting my own Christmas traditions with my new wife. Even after I finished taking classes, my wife was still working as a teaching assistant, so we were still tied to the rhythms of the school year. This meant that we did not get serious about Christmas until exams were over and grades were posted. This left seven to ten days to get ready for Christmas. Even after we had children I was still tied the school year since I was a professor teaching physics. The idea of putting up a tree or lights during the Thanksgiving weekend strikes me as odd. Even going Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving weekend seems odd to me.

This year I bought our tree on December 13 at the urging of my youngest. I remember years when we got our tree on December 22 or 23. It was easy to pick a tree, since there were so few to choose from, but we never had settle for a real Charlie Brown tree. Our tree is not decorated yet. Maybe we will get to it next week, when my other daughters get home. I also put up our small display of lights over the weekend. We frame the door in lights and put a wreath with lights over the door. It acknowledges that it is Christmas without inflating the electric bill.

We have developed our own traditions for the Christmas tree. My wife objects to tinsel, so we don't use any. We have reflective balls on the tree, but many of the ornaments are family traditions. I have received many penguin ornaments for Christmas and they all make on to the tree. Others are from my wife’s family, and others are made by the girls in school. It is not the most glittering tree, but it very much reflects who we are.

We start to play carols about a week before Christmas. We mix it with up with old and new. The family really likes the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas album, and I like Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas, The Pretender’s 2000 Miles, The Alarm’s Happy Christmas (War Is Over), or the songs from A Charlie Brown Christmas. As Christmas gets closer, we play more religious carols with Joy to the World being the most played. My daughters love to hear me sing Joy to the World due to my enthusiasm rather than my skill. They especially love it when I sing Joy to the World at mass on Christmas Eve.

We also go our own way with Christmas cards. I am always surprised when we get our first Christmas card. "Already?", I think. There was a time when we did not even get to the cards before Christmas. They went out on the 27th or 28th, still early enough to make it by New Year's Day. We aren't that bad anymore and we almost always get them out before Christmas, but not so far before that they are guaranteed to show up before Christmas. My wife has liked to send Christmas letters for quite a few years, but she always wants me to write them. Well, we haven't settled that debate yet this year.  

Starting a week or so before Christmas, I greet my Christian friends with “Merry Christmas”, my Jewish friends with “Happy Hanukkah”(although Hanukkah was too early for that this year), my pagan friends with “Joyous Solstice”, my atheist friends with “Want to have a beer?”, and anyone whose traditions I do not know I greet with a “Happy Holidays.” Despite what you hear on the news, I have never had anyone complain to me about wishing them “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” If anyone did complain, I would just reply, “I thought you might be Jewish, and I didn't want to take a chance at offending you.”

Over the years I have developed a real affection for Christmas Eve mass. It started when my daughters were young. Christmas with young children can be many things: rewarding, sweet, memorable, and but definitely hectic. We started to go to mass on Christmas Eve to allow us a relaxed Christmas morning after the gifts were opened, but I came to find the mass to be relaxing too. It was a dramatic break from all of the preparations of the last few days before Christmas. Singing the carols brings back memories of many previous Christmases. By the end of mass I find that I have achieved a sense of calmness and well being.

My family has developed its own Christmas traditions by combining the traditions from my childhood and my wife’s while adding on new ones of our own suited to our unique circumstances.

My First Flickr Explore Photo

I have a Flickr Pro account, and I post photos to it regularly. I have had several photos that I thought were quite good, but I have never had a photo featured on the Flickr Explore page before today. 

I took another photo of the bunnies in the basket like I posted here a week ago. In this one you can see both bunnies, which I think does make a slightly better photo. I took this one with my iPhone 5 using flash. The photo showed very strong red eye issues, but I was able to correct that in Photoshop. 

I posted it to Flickr and put it in the Bunny Lovers Unite group, which my daughter Megan told me about. I did the same thing with last week's photo, but for some reason this week got selected for Explore. 

At the time of this writing the photo has been viewed over 4000 times and has been favorited 42 times. The criteria that Flickr uses for Explore is interestingness. They don't define it, and looking though Explore, I am not sure I can say what all of the photos have in common. This is far from the best photo that I have ever taken, and I would rate at least half of the photos in Explore as better than this one. There also many that I do not understand why they were selected. 

Update: By the end of the day I had over 7000 views and 76 favorites. 

No New iPhone for Me Yet

I have an iPhone 5 that is about 18 months old, so I am not yet eligible for an upgrade. This is a bit of a problem, since my phone's battery has lost the ability to hold a full day's charge. I did this to myself. I tried the Moves app. It is a step counter and gps application. It can tell the difference between walking, running, and cycling. It runs in the background and on an iPhone 5 it drains the battery. After six months I could see that the battery was being affected.

I deleted the app, but it appears that the damage has been done. It became hard to make it through the day on a single charge. There was a recent trip, where I had a boarding pass on my phone, but I had to get a printed boarding pass isnce I was not sure the phone would last until I boarded. 

I bought a new battery and the tools needed to install it from Ifixit.com. The video and written directions were pretty clear. You have to remove the screen with a suction cup and be careful not to pull the screen completely off until some delicate ribbon cables are detached. The screws are very small, but the provided screw driver worked well. The hardest thing was putting the screws back in. They are very small, and if they are not placed perfectly they can pop out of the holes when pressure is applied.  After many attempts I got all of the screws in and reattached the screen.

I turned the phone on and nothing happened.  I feared that I had done something wrong, but I continued to try it and eventually the phone showed the dead battery screen. Apparently the battery was not charged. I had not expected that. After a full charging, it worked great. I have comfortably making it through a whole since I changed the battery.