Archive for December, 2008

A Hiker in Gangland?

Welp… if you have been following my comments feed or my Flickr feed, you may have picked up that there have been a couple more incidents involving guns.

On Monday night (the night after the window shot we slept through), they fired a bird shot at the same bedroom at around 3:47 AM. This time we DID get up. The shot damaged siding but did not make it through into the house. The police were promptly on the scene.

Tuesday night, there were no incidents… but then Wednesday morning when I went to pack up my car, I noticed a peculiarity:

Huh. That bullet hole wasn’t there before….

This shot definitely did not occur Tuesday night. Because I don’t go to the back of my car often, it could have been there for days without drawing attention. Unlike the house shootings, this shot used a shotgun slug and it got quite a bit more penetration than those little bird shots. It went through the entire back door, bisected a Swifter Wet Jet, and then went through the back seat of my car.

The “Exit Wound” for my XTerra door.

The damaged Swifter Wet Jet and the hole going into the backseat

When the police came to check out my car, I opened the trunk and immediately the office asked, “Whose blue bandanna is that?!?”

“It’s mine,” I said, “I use it for hiking.”

“Well,” he said, “That’s a Crips bandanna and that we mostly have Bloods around here. You shouldn’t leave that lying around!”

Yup. That was definitely not something I ever had to consider in Southwest Virginia!

Vicky unknowingly supports the Crips

I don’t think the bandanna is the most promising explanation– it was pretty difficult to see. Nonetheless, I still promptly buried the bandanna at the very bottom of my closet where no one will ever see it, including myself! 🙂 I like green better anyways.

For those who are concerned, do know:

1) It still appears that intimidation is the motive, not harm.
2) We are optimistic the mystery will be solved shortly.
3) Security cameras are getting installed in the house this coming week.
4) The neighbors have been outraged by the incidents. They are very supportive and are keeping their eyes peeled.
5) Ryan reports an formidable police presence on the street now.

If you still wish to worry about me, you can put it on hold for about 10 days. Tomorrow morning, I leave for another trip. Thanks to a very generous relative, I’ll be on a private yacht touring the British Virgin Islands. Throughout the trip, the boat will be moving from island to island.

It’ll be a much harder target than a parked X-Terra.

December 26, 2008 at 10:56 pm 9 comments

Sound Sleepers!

Last night I wasn’t feeling too hot, so I went to bed early. In the middle of the night I heard a really loud *SNAP* sound, but I promptly fell back to sleep. I wasn’t the only one. The two cats didn’t budge. Jimmie reportedly got up briefly and laid back down and most telling– Henry didn’t make a peep. Henry. The Beagle! The one who loves to aroo! To put it in perspective, this is how my brother describes Henry:

He would bark at an ant taking a shit on a piece of cotton.

By the time I woke up in the morning, the sound was a distant memory, but I did ask Ryan about it.

“Mmpf. What was that sound last night? Did I dream that?”

Ryan said he heard it too, but we shrugged off. As Ryan shaved, he speculated on possible causes. Thinking that maybe the foundation shifted, he came back in the bedroom and looked out the window above my head. He got an odd look on his face.

“IS IT SNOW?!?!??!?!” I said and jumped up anxious to see a white dusting on the ground.

Instead I saw this:

Ryan’s bedroom window

In the middle of the night, someone took it upon themselves to shoot the bedroom window with a buckshot:

Picture of the outside

Another view of the inside

So let me recap:

The window above the bed got shot at.

And two dogs, two cats and two people managed to sleep through it!

Obviously no one in the room was hurt. That, I hope we would have actually noticed. : )

And yes, the police were called and they started an investigation. I felt for the poor guys as they searched for evidence outside the bedroom window. Not only was it unusually cold, but that’s the compost pile. To do their jobs, the forensic team had to search through our old rotting food! : )

Anyway, try not to fret too much and certainly don’t lose sleep over this incident.

We didn’t!

December 22, 2008 at 10:47 pm 15 comments

Norman Rockwell Would LOVE Creative Commons

and Flickr!

On Saturday, Ryan Somma and I visited the American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk. The exhibit featured forty-one oil paintings for various clients– the Boy Scouts of America, Look magazine, Kellogg’s, Raybesto brakes and, of course, The Saturday Evening Post (FYI– all 323 of those Saturday Evening Post covers Rockwell is particularly famous for– they were large paintings!).

Throughout the exhibit, you got to read about Rockwell’s process. He used a variety of sources for his inspiration and reference. He made use of live models. He would take still shots (The Norman Rockwell Museum still has several thousand of those photographs). He had an extensive collection of furnishings, costumes and antiques to use as props. And finally, he often referred to the work of others. He had on-hand a 500-volume art library to study. He kept clippings and tear sheets from magazines. He owned prints by other artists. He had librarians do research and gather up historic information for him. When it came time to work, he would pull together bits and pieces from all these sources to produce his paintings.

The American Chronicle exhibit followed the process extensively for Rockwell’s 1965 piece “Murder in Mississippi” (aka “Southern Justice”). In that painting intended for Look magazine, he depicted the murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi. As part of his preparation, he compiled biographies and descriptions of the three victims. He read articles on the murders and the trial. And as a visual inspiration, a 1962 Pulitzer Prize winning photograph by Héctor Rondón Lovera caught his eye.

Aid from a Padre” by
Héctor Rondón Lovera, “Murder in Mississippi” by Norman Rockwell

Creative Commons is “dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others.” We saw that in action last August with the Steampunk Wallpaper Mousewrites created. Like Rockwell, Mousewrites’ derived her work from multiple sources. In this case, three different Creative Commons photos. Mousewrites took the sky from one picture, a railing from another and three men from a third picture to create her artwork:

Creative Commons at Work: Pictures from Dogseat, Vidiot and myself contributed to the Mousewrites’ Steampunk Wallpaper

By the time he died in 1978, Norman Rockwell had had an extremely productive career. He created over 4000 original works. He published covers with The Saturday Evening Post for 47 years. He illustrated over 40 books. He contributed to the annual Boy Scout calendar for a half a century!

If instead of flipping through reference books and magazine clippings or having librarians search through stacked archives or his wife peruse antique stores, Rockwell had the same easy access you and I do to Flickr images….


It would be crazy.

(And I’m sure other technologies wouldn’t hurt either)

December 22, 2008 at 8:29 pm 4 comments

links for 2008-12-21

December 21, 2008 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

Accuracy Through Shutter Speed

Last fall I ran into a hummingbird in Clay County, West Virginia.  Hummingbird’s wings can beat up to 80 times per second.  So to my naked eye the wings were just a blur.  They came out as a blur in my camera as well.

Tonight at the Garden of Lights, they included a hummingbird in the display.  The Christmas light version beat its wings significantly less than its real life counterpart.   My naked eye could clearly see the wings flap back and forth.  But my camera saw things more accurately.  Thanks for the slow shutter speed it selected for the dark night— the hummingbird wings were also a blur!

Real Hummingbird from Clay County, WV; Fake Hummingbird from Garden of Lights

December 21, 2008 at 1:08 am 3 comments

The Garden of Lights and the Power of Subject Matter

Today Ryan Somma and I drove up to Norfolk, Virginia and had a day full of ideals and sentiment and Christmas spirit. We started off visiting the American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Chrysler Musuem. Next we caught a showing of “It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Naro Cinema (I had actually never seen that film before!). We had supper and then the grand finale– Driving through the “Garden of Lights” at the Norfolk Botanical Garden.

I’m on a Christmas Light streak! In 2006, I toured lights in Wichita, Kansas. In 2007, I got to see Ritzy’s Fantasy of Lights in Evansville, Indiana. There were some surprising similarities, particularly the Christmas Dragon.

So for 2008 in Norfolk, Virginia, I expected to see more of the same and it appeared that way as we inched by familiar looking lollipops, snowflakes and candycanes waiting to enter the park.

Candycanes, Lollypops and Gingerbread Men

But once we paid our entrance fee, there was a definite theme to the lights:


I had figured the “Garden” in “Garden of Lights” was simply a reference to the locale. But it truly was a Garden of Lights! They had trees, apples, spiderwebs, caterpillars, pumpkins, daisies, butterflies, tulips, roses, fall leaves, mushrooms. They even had a waterfall and a nice little lighted river.

A Netherlands section? Tulips and Windmills!

Nature: Flower, Caterpillar, Mushroom, Butterfly, Flower


Pumpkins and behind it– a very giant spiderweb

A Waterfall and a Creek Comprised of Lights (plus some corn)

The summer of 1988, my father and I played in a Regional Bridge Tournament up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. While we competed, my mother and my two siblings went site-seeing. One day they went to this awesome wax musuem. Both my brother and my sister raved about how cool it was and all the historic characters depicted in the museum. They got to see that and I was stuck looking at the same set of 52 cards for 8 hours. I was soooooo jealous. (Note: During my bridge career I also found myself jealous of the caddies who got to sit around and shoot rubberbands at each other all day, so it really didn’t take all that much to spark my envy).

I probably pestered my partner (a.k.a Dad) relentlessly about poor me and how deprived I was because I missed out on the wax museum. I say this because at the very next bridge tournament, my father promptly found a wax museum and took me to it. So just like the Baby Cry and Dry incident in the early eighties when Santa forget what I wanted, my Daddy was the hero, right?

Well….this tournament was in Nashville, Tennessee and instead of familiar founding fathers, Dad and I got to look at likenesses of Country Music stars. Country Music, a genre I would not really be exposed to for 20 more years when I developed a fondness for Taylor Swift. So the only person I recognized in the entire museum was…Dolly Parton. Looking at wax strangers wasn’t all that fun.

I was thirteen years old at the time and my conclusion from that experience was:

Subject matter makes a difference in wax museums.

Tonight I am two decades wiser and I have a corollary. I believe subject matter makes a difference in Christmas lights as well. Don’t get me wrong– I definitely enjoyed the lights in Wichita and Evansville.

But I really, really, really, enjoyed the lights in Norfolk.

And more picture of those lights can be found on my Flickr site.

December 21, 2008 at 12:40 am 3 comments

links for 2008-12-17

  • Remember Ian Herbst? The cute little guy we were doing fund raisers for in 2006? He's getting his liver transplant today!!!! 🙂

    This is a link to Ian's father's blog describing the call the family had been waiting for…and the progress so far.

    (tags: ianherbst)

December 17, 2008 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

Fun with Bubble Wrap

On Saturday, I went accompanied my friend Tony to his company Christmas party. This party was also open to employee children and they planned a few activities targeted for the younger attendees. Santa, of course, made an appearance and even without the aid of Zwarte Piet, he managed to hand out gifts.

But more uniquely…. they had a Bubble Wrap Stomp. They laid out giant sheets of bubble wrap to make a dance floor. All the kids gathered around and when the music began– they kids got to stomp!

I got a video of the very beginning.

And some pictures to boot!

Enjoying the Holiday Bubble Wrap

More fun with Bubble Wrap

Popping and Dancing

This kid was sort of doing an tilted version of the Running Man

The event was educational too. These children discovered when they roll, they had more surface area.

The children had an excellent time and I have to say– it was pretty entertaining for the adults as well. Whoever came up with this idea is brilliant.

More pictures from Tony’s Company Christmas Party are available on my Flickr site.

December 16, 2008 at 8:00 am 1 comment

My Sister Rules!

My sister rules. Over the summer, she snuck my name onto Angel’s postcard list. Year after year she tackles the organization of the Assateague Island Camping trip which is one of the highlights of my year. And now I got an early Christmas present! My lovely sister donated money to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in my name.

Thank you, Carolyn! I love you!

And I love you too, Appalachian Trail.

P.S. Cory and Emily donated money in my name last year! Does two years in a row constitute a streak?

December 15, 2008 at 12:01 am Leave a comment

Nature’s Color Accent Mode

A couple of my friends have nifty Color Accent Modes on their cameras. It allows them to create stunning black and white shots with just one color showing up. Tony has used it with his Mount Roger’s photos and Chriggy‘s camera made use of the feature at a recent wedding:

The Kiss (Photo by Chriggy1)

My camera doesn’t have a Color Accent Mode, but nature gave me a surprise substitute. At Merchant’s Millpond State Park last weekend, the bark of the Bald Cypress Trees and the Spanish Moss were both shades of gray. That meant whenever the autumn leaves or green algae snuck into the shot, they really stood out.

Yellow Leaves!

I’m still more fond of the creations from Chriggy’s and Tony’s cameras better… but I’ll take what I can get!

More pictures of Merchant’s Millpond State Park are available on my Flickr account.

December 12, 2008 at 8:00 am 3 comments

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