Monday, November 29, 2010

So sweet you almost can't stand it...

I hope everyone had a very happy Thanksgiving. Mine was pretty good. In fact, last Thursday, I got to see how the other half lives.

The half with kids.

Remember what it was like to jump on a bed? My nieces and nephews sure do...

The funniest part? While Amelia (front left) was bouncing away, she was singing the "Five Little Monkeys Bouncing on a Bed" song. For those of you who don't know this cautionary tale, it goes something like this:

Five little monkeys bouncing on the bed.
One fell off and bumped his head.
Called the doctor and the doctor said,
"No more monkeys bouncing on the bed."
No more monkeys bouncing on the bed.

It then cycles down to "Zero little monkeys bouncing on the bed..." as they all fall off and hit their heads. I should point out she was smiling and giggling as she did this, knowing all the while she was breaking the law.

Then it was time for the funny faces picture. These kids are prodigies if you ask me.

And now on to the title attraction, Quinn and Neve:

This was closer to the end of the evening and they were all wrapped up in their wubbies. Aren't they sweet? No, I mean really, really sweet.

Somewhere, there are little 2-year-old boys who have no idea their hearts will be broken someday.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Way back home...

My brother sent me this video. Suffice it to say I was blown away by Danny MacAskill's skill and artistry on his bike.

Here's the description: "Way Back Home is the incredible new riding clip from Danny MacAskill, it follows him on a journey from Edinburgh back to his hometown Dunvegan, in the Isle of Skye."

I have to say, this is almost as good as the "I want to dance with Matt" video.

The scene around 4:30 riding on the pipes and then, around 5:30 where he's jumping the red English phone booth are some of my favorites. I can't begin to imagine the level of skill all of this required.

And, since I know you'll want to see the whole clip, and since Blogger seems to enjoy cutting things in half, here is the link to the video.

Happy Friday everyone! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Happy 235th Marine Corps Birthday!

On this most august of days, 10 November, I want to wish my fellow Marines – past and present – a very happy Marine Corps birthday.

No matter where in the world they are – at home, aboard ship or deployed overseas – Marines will hear Gen. John A. Lejeune's Birthday Message. These are the same words every Marine has heard on this day since 1921, and the spirit of General Lejeune’s message is one of the things that bind us together as Marines.

General Lejeune’s Birthday Message of Nov. 10, 1921:

On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date many thousands of men have borne that name Marine. In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the Birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

The record of our Corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world’s history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation’s foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war and in the long era of tranquility at home generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres, and in every corner of the seven seas so that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

In every battle and skirmish since the Birth of the Corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term “Marine” has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps. With it we also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation and has long been the distinguishing mark of Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the me of our nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as “Soldiers of the Sea” since the founding of the Corps.

I make my living with words and one thing I was just thinking of was the sentence, “…until the term ‘Marine’ has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.” As a former Marine, I like that it is a proper noun, unlike soldier, sailor or airman. The truth is, soldiers and sailors come from many countries, and many countries have marine corps – our is, in fact, descended from the Royal Marines. But if someone says they’re a Marine you can almost hear the verbal capitalization, and you know exactly where they’re from.

Following tradition, here is this year’s Birthday Message from the new Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos:

Sixty years ago, the United States Marine Corps—as it has throughout our history—demonstrated its vital role as America’s Expeditionary Force in Readiness. Just weeks after North Korean Communist forces crossed the 38th Parallel, the First Marine Provisional Brigade landed in South Korea, forming the backbone of the perimeter around the city of Pusan. The efforts of the “
Fire Brigade” at Pusan allowed for the daring amphibious landing at Inchon and set the stage for one of the most savage campaigns in our Corps’ history—the Chosin Reservoir. As we pause to celebrate our 235th Birthday, we pay special tribute to the Marines of the Korean War and recognize their contributions to our enduring legacy.

This past year marked the end of Marine Corps combat operations in Iraq. Beginning with the invasion in March 2003 and through the next seven years of fighting, our Corps acquitted itself valiantly in the Anbar province and throughout the country. Locations such as Fallujah and Ramadi have taken their place in the illustrious battle history of our Corps. Our efforts in defeating the insurgency helped to build a brighter future for all Iraqis.

For 235 years, at sea and ashore, Marines have succeeded in every clime and place . . . where hardship and adversity have often been the common thread. Today, in the rugged mountains and valleys of Afghanistan—and recently in earthquake-damaged Haiti . . . in flood-ravaged Pakistan . . . or off the coast of Africa—we continue to protect our Nation, just as we did 60 years ago in Korea.

To the Marines and Sailors deployed overseas, to those training and preparing for their next deployment and to the warriors who no longer wear our uniform . . . we honor your selfless service to the Nation. To our loved ones who endure the many difficulties that come with being part of the Marine Family, I want to extend my sincerest thanks for all you have done and all you continue to do.

Happy 235th Birthday, Marines!

Semper Fidelis,
James F. Amos

General, U.S. Marine Corps

Not much I can add after all that. But if you know a Marine or run across someone sporting an eagle, globe and anchor today, wish them a happy birthday and watch their face light up.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lincoln at Night and Skinny Tires on Dirt

I took a lot of pictures this weekend. Somewhere north of 500 in three different situations. I'll show you two of them (the third was a birthday party and, trust me, yeah, you missed a kick-ass party).

Getting back to the pictures I'll show you, it's kinda interesting (at least to me) they required almost polar opposite settings. Friday night I was using a tripod and long exposures, and on Sunday I was just hoping I could focus in the right place to get the shot during a bike race.

Also, I need to say, it's amazing how many people there are visiting the Lincoln Memorial at 11 p.m. on a Friday night. Seriously, there were tour buses pulling up and dropping off tourists. If any of you should happen to be reading this, let me give you a hint: you're pictures will come out better if you turn off your flash. Trust me, none of these were shot with a flash. And you know what? You won't create giant blobs of light in my long-exposures.

The first three pictures were shot at a 400 ISO equivalent. That is a moderately fast ISO allowing for shorter exposures, like this one which was shot at f/2.8 (a really big aperture) for 1 second.

On the other hand this one, as you can tell by the flag, is a bit longer: f/9 (a middling aperture) for 20 seconds.

Or this one which is in color (trust me), shot at f10 for 10 seconds. If I remember my photography class correctly, f/10 is half as big as f/9 so it had half the amount of light coming through the lens for half the time. OK, it's interesting to me and probably one other guy.

This picture took a while to get, and I really need to get some gloves that have a flip-back finger. The ISO was cut in half to 200, the aperture was closed down to f/16 and the exposure was set at 5 seconds.

Sunday afternoon (after waking up late following the aforementioned party) I headed out to Rosaryville State Park in Maryland for to watch a little cyclocross race. Cyclocross, for those of you who are wondering, combines a little bit of on-road with a lot of off-road and some obstacles you have to carry your bike over. It's not for the faint of heart. Here's the start of the women's race.

The course quickly turned to dirt. OK, grass.

This is called the "bunny hop" where you have to get off and carry your bike.

Throughout the race, this woman always had a very determined look on her face. Either that or she didn't like getting her picture taken.

I wouldn't want to think about tripping here. You'd probably get run over.

A little downhill going around a curve kept the riders on their toes.

And in this sequence, the remount...

And finally a nice downhill section.

Yep, got caught taking this one.

Well, that's all for now. If you want to see some more of the cyclocross, check out my Flickr stream, there's a whole bunch more photos there.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A cautionary tale...

You know what today is, right? So get off your ass and head to the polls.

While walking down the street one day a senator was tragically hit by a car and died. His soul arrives in heaven and he’s met by St. Peter at the entrance.

“Welcome to heaven,” says St. Peter. “Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we’re not sure what to do with you.”

“No problem, just let me in,” says the Senator..

“Well, I’d like to, but I have orders from the higher ups. What we’ll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity.”

“Really? I’ve made up my mind. I want to be in heaven,” says the Senator.

“I’m sorry, but we have our rules.”And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell.

The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a green golf course. In the distance is a clubhouse and standing in front of it are all his friends and other politicians who had worked with him. Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people. They played a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and the finest champagne.

Also present is the Devil, who’s a very friendly guy, and who’s having a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are all having such a good time that before the Senator realizes it, it is time to go.

Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises … The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens in heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him, “Now it’s time to visit heaven …”

So, 24 hours pass with the Senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the day’s gone by and St. Peter returns.

“Well, then, you’ve spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity.”

The Senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: “Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell.”

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell...

Now the doors of the elevator open and he’s in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.

The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulders.

“I don’t understand,” stammers the Senator. “Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there’s just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?”
The devil smiles at him and says, “Yesterday we were campaigning. Today, you voted.”

The 2010 campaign ends today, get out and vote and make it count. Sadly, the 2012 campaign starts tomorrow.