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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Titans at Rossmoor Bar

So, this morning, post dental appointment I was hanging out by the river. When taking this first photo I didn't even notice it was not an Anna's Hummingbird; it's a Black-chinned Hummer.

Not one of the titans
I decided to head for home so I drove up from the boat launch dock in Rossmoor Bar on the Parkway. Noticed there was a crowd down on a slope.

A view taken without using zoom - click for a look at who is there

I've never even seen deer in this particular park before, much less so many well pointed bucks.

The four bucks were only nominally interested in me
This buck is beautiful - love the dark forehead, something special to Mule Deer of the Bambi persuasion.
Four-pointer, if you don't count the tines
seemingly growing from his back

The sweep of the antlers on these bucks were reminiscent of elk.
That's right, we're spectacular
And just when I thought the scene couldn't be more engaging, a wee little fawn walked out from some shrubbery. I was startled to see it was still spotted. Haven't seen a spotted fawn in quite a while, it is the season.
What is this stuff the big guys are eating?
No idea where this baby's Mom was. I stared at the little herd of five (in sight) but no doe showed. Maybe this was Dad's custody week? Hey, I'm just saying...!

Well! Think I'll get the camera and figure out how the hell I turned on the date marking in the new little digital camera, and how the hell I can turn it back off again.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Breaking in the New Stuff

The little Digital camera is dead, long live the new digital. I've been hesitant to get a new digital because while I was grinding my old point-n-shoot into the ground, camera companies, pretty much all of them, eliminated a feature they considered obsolete: the view finder. The logic they used would could have caused Henry Ford to invent the ready-to-go automobile, followed by doctors deciding since everyone could ride, then in theory, what did we need legs for? Amputations for everyone!

I know, but you get my point. We're all supposed to be happy with digital view finders, even though in bright sunlight, photos fade into oblivion. Ok, enough bitchin', which is at the top of my best developed talents.

So! Where was I? I took my shiny new mini-digital sans viewfinder out for a spin. Can it cut the mustard? The camera I chose has 10X optical zoom with 10 megapixels, while my dead digital boasted only 3X optical, and uh... 8 megapixels. Even when staying under the 3X optical limit the objects of my photos often had weird rainbow halos around them.

So, now a tank of gas is less than a house down payment, I have been out romping about, taking photos to test the new camera. I concentrate on quality of photos using the 10X optical zoom, mostly birdies. Here are some of the results.

The problem is mostly focus and I reckon, quality of the lens. If a thing is against the sky and there is nothing in front of or behind the thing, the photo is pretty decent. This was taken at 10X optical zoom, but the bird was maybe only 10 or 15 ft from the camera.

Horned Lark against sky is not
bad for a point n' shoot photo

And another Horned Lark

Here at the Fazio Wildlife Refuge is a White-faced Ibis hunkered down in sedges. It's in reasonable focus overall.

Little White-faced Ibis

Next is a shot of a hen turkey and her single chick, out on Latrobe Road. They were so far out in the field I was pretty amazed to get this good of a photo, at 10X optical. Mind... not a good photo, but at least you can tell those are turkeys as opposed to rocks (and some would argue that point).

Hen Turkey and her chick

Here's another example of one bird, blue sky, nothing else to focus on. The bird was fairly far away so I was pleased the photo is good enough for use in Identifying the bird as a Song Sparrow.

Yeah, Spring is gone and I'm still singing!

This Bullock's oriole photo is a tad disappointing. I didn't think the pebbled bank would give the camera much trouble, but it did. The focus here, also at 10X optical really sucks and I'm not sure what tricked the camera.

Bullock's Oriole with its reflection

Here's an example of the hardest type of shot for an automatic point n' shoot - the camera sets focus on the vegetation in the background, and no matter what I did I couldn't get it to focus on this lovely Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Damn it! Could have been a nice series of shots, but all of the shots of this bird - which was resting and grooming itself by the Latrobe Road Creek, were out of focus. My heart is bleeding if yours isn't.

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow

Below is another equally as depressing photo of a nice Ash-throated Flycatcher, that posed on a wire by my car. This adorable bird did all it could to cooperate and damn it if the camera didn't let me down, big time. There is no $#*% way I know of to tell the camera, "I want the BIRD, not the effing grasses!"

Beautiful little Ash-throated Flycatcher

Oh well! The whole purpose of having a small digital camera is so I don't have to switch from mega zoom to scenery type lens when taking my 'real' SLR Canon 20D out for a spin. However, often enough I leave my big camera home and only have my point n' shoot on hand, and it's nice to be able to depend on it for the odd shot. I know the little camera will do great for flowers, scenery and such, but I wish there was a way to force it to focus on what I want, and not what it's programing sees as the main attraction of a shot.

Oh well! No point complaining. As it is, the little camera's 10X optical zoom is AWESOME. The froggie below was so far away it looked like a stone. But as the little camera has 10 megapixels, when blown up, I must admit this is photo is better than a sharp stick in the eye, eh?


[Management states, for the terminally curious, the new digital is a Canon Power Shot 4500IS]

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Let's Suppose...

So let's suppose I decided to earn extra money while retired by taking up dog grooming. Let's see - well first I'd take grooming lessons. Then I'd set up my own little shop. Then I'd take on my first customer. No doubt I'd start small; really small. Perhaps I'd attempt to groom some easily manageable pup, say, a nice little Shi Tzu - small, manageable, not too much hair.

Yes, a little Shi Tzu! Not too large, lovely and agreeable. I would know better than to start off with a large breed, a breed with a 'special needs' coat, say like a Komandor, which is the headache of the dog grooming world. I mean, hell, I'm not stupid.

Ok, that brings me up to the topic of this post. I didn't decide to stay inside of my comfort zone, and groom pets. Instead I tackled something foreign to me - hair; people type hair. When I told one friend what I was planning to do, she said, "My whole world has gone topsy-turvey: Claire doing hair!"

I laughed, and agreed with her 100%. I mean, this IS earth, isn't it? Me doing hair? Get real.

Next thing I knew I had taken a class in aceing the skill of installing 'Sister Locks' and soon, back in Fair Oaks, I scheduled my very first guinea pig... er, customer. I warned her I am a novice but I knew I could do the job - no worries there.

Next I converted my tiniest bedroom, into 'Chez Claire Salon' and you can see it here: complete with salon chair, seat for 'moi', side table for my customer, etc. Slick, if I say so myself.

Unfortunately, my first customer was the hair equivalent of a Komandor in that she is lucky enough to possess, loads and loads of thick, lush hair. She has hair of the sort I would glady kill to have growing from my own scalp. Did I mention she has LOADS of this beautiful hair? and her virgin, ergo untreated hair, when stretched to it's full length exceeded a foot and a half? I'm talking a Rapunzel here!


So, bright and early one Saturday morning my customer showed up, fully warned that the work of installing Sister Locks on her head would take, possibly, up to 20 hours. I worked on her from 8AM to nearly 8PM - Saturday and Sunday - and managed to complete only the rear of her head.


We scheduled the following weekend to complete the work.

The following Sunday evening my poor customer was still short of Sister Locks. So the following Thursday evening I completed the work and she was able to leave Les Chez Claire Salon, fully Sister locked and loaded.

I was so embarrassed! And exhausted? Every day I worked, I no sooner locked the front door behind my customer than I would crawl into bed, nearly comatose. I was so full of nerves every second I worked; as though I worked at the edge of the Kilauea Caldera.

Follow-up: After some on-line research, I found out I wasn't really all that slow, it's just I took on more hair than I should have for a first time customer. Ooops.

I'd have known better if I were grooming pets! Still, although installing Sister Locks is a lucrative enterprise, I decided I'm not going to pursue it any further. Life is too short, and hair - whatever length - is too long.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ensie, Wiensie Mini-Break to Tahoe

[Management points out that Ms. Joann B. is the photographer and cinematographer of most of the photos stolen borrowed for this blog entry. Thanks Joann!]

Being short of the bucks for a stint at a 5 star luxury hotel in Maui, my idea of a nice way to relax and chill, is a Sunday drive - even if it's Wednesday. So at the crack of 11 AM, Joann and I hopped in the car and headed east for Lake Tahoe.

Before too long we were stopping so I could look along the river for Water Dippers, which as per normal, were not there. Rats.

Pretty, even if not dotted with Water Dippers

Oh, cruel happenstance, the only kink in our day's doings was before leaving Fair Oaks I forgot to fill the gas tank. So it wasn't long before the gas gauge hoovered over the bottom red line and I was bugging.

Now, you would think a California freeway would have gas stations every 40 yards, but as Joann pointed out, with groundwater contamination and lawsuits being what they are, no one wants to put gas stations on in the piney woods, even if a freeway runs through it. Happily, the fumes got us all the way to Meyers and the remainder of the day, OK, once we got ourselves fed & watered in South Lake Tahoe, was as carefree as 2 kittens with 6 balls of yarn & a dead mouse.

The view with Lake Tahoe looming in the distance

We stopped briefly in South Lake Tahoe for lunch, so we wouldn't lose it and murder each other along the road. We stopped at our favorite look-see spot: Emerald Bay.

A glimpse of Emerald Bay

At the Emerald Bay vista point, Joann struck up a conversation with a gentlemen who played dulcimer. He played several tunes and eagerly discussed his music and told how he progressed from being interested in the dulcimer, to being able to live off his music. Myself, I struck up an acquaintance with a nice ice cream sandwich at the Emerald Bay snack vendor.

I insisted on a visit to Fallen Leaf Meadow, in part because I saw a bear there a couple of years ago, and in part because, well, it's pretty. I took a miniscule walk in the meadow and it was also quite wet. Ah! Spring in the Sierras! Loads of melted snow; everywhere.

Fallen Leaf Meadow

This meadow will always be for me, 'where I saw a strolling bear'

As we drove north on the California side of Lake Tahoe, we were in awe of numerous waterfalls and damp spots where runoff soaked granite hillsides.

Waterfalls were everywhere along the lake roads

Soon we were off the twisty mountain roads and driving along the waterfront. We were happy just to see the lake, but there were some happier in the water than out.

Two Labs enjoying a wet romp

After Lake Tahoe was behind us, we made one last stop at Squaw Valley, because it always makes me feel like I've fallen off of California and landed in Switzerland.

Joann got a shot I've wanted to take for ages, of the official entrance to Squaw Valley, which still reminisces about it's hey day when it hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. Joann and I were post impressed that the white truck you see below, actually held up a bit to allow Joann to get a clean snap shot as we sped by, me at the wheel, playing 'bobsled on wheels'.

Can you hear the yodeling?

The Squaw Valley Meadow

Doesn't this look like a Swiss alp?

Joann was pretty impressed with the
awesome-ness of the
cable car bays

Click to see one of the few birdies
of the day, a Western Tanager

So we didn't see any bears this go round at Lake Tahoe, but then again, the bears missed seeing two pretty amazing women sailing by during a drive by photography fest. Don't you have to pity the bears?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chez Claire Entertains

It's a great week here at Chez Claire; Joann is visiting, up from San Diego.

Joann, who left San Diego at 2AM & was on my doorstep near about noon

We had fun chatting & catching up, then hit Cattleman's for a T-bone dinner. We used to each be able to put away a whole T-bone in one sitting, now we have to bring home doggie bags or pay the intestinal consequences. Later we decided we would do some 'deer hunting'. We first paid our respects to the Sunrise Park Tom Turkeys who go to bed about an hour before sunset, way way high at the top of the oat tree at the end of the road.

Four Tom Turkeys settling down for bedtime

It's cool being able to see the red of this
Tom's waddle in the glow of waining sunlight

This pair, enjoy a pre-nighty night chat (gobble)

Once we knew the turkeys were safely bedded down for the evening, we went off in search of our wild California Mule Deer. This was the second group we found, 3 does and a young buck (possibly Mom, a friend and their older offspring).

Nothing like a pre-evening snack

The young 'spike' buck with his velvet covered nubbin antlers

I love the photo here below of this little doe. You can see under her tail end there, her udder with it's two 'nip-nips'. Cows have four nipples but deer have only two. Woe to the doe that gives birth to triplets - someone has to wait for a turn.

Click this photo for a really good gander at 'the goods'

As we headed back down the road we saw a very large buck with huge velvet antlers spring across the road and with little effort he cleared a fence. The fence was too high but he cleared it with so little effort he earned some oohs and ahhs from us.

Next we hit the BIG MEADOW. It's always - and who knows why - home to the bucks with the largest antlers at Sunrise Parkway. There were 3 bucks with nice velvety racks out grazing and ignoring all the bicyclists and foot traffic moving by on the pathway. Aren't they lovely!

Having a look at the loud & crazy women with the camera

There is a full moon this week, and I hear there was a lunar eclipse in the southern hemisphere. No eclipse here, but Joann got several nice shots of the moon, which looks like a lovely large orb peeking through the Tree of Heaven.

Sweet Dreams for all you other
free-ranging Turkeys out there!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

3rd Hale Storm of the Season

Thunder, pouring rain, hale; it's coming down like its judgement day... but that was last weekend.