Monday, January 29, 2007

Behind The Wall

I added another album to my Flickr photostream and posted a few images to it.

The album is Berlin, October 1977. The photos in that album have deep meaning to me. It was that temporary assignment I went on that shaped the rest of my life. I was considering getting out of the Air Force at that time. I had six months left on my assignment to Aviano AB, Italy and six months left on my contracted service. But then Berlin came along.

The first day I was in then West Berlin for a newspaper editors conference. Myself and the group of Air Force journalists I was with wanted to go see The Wall. We contacted the person who put the conference together and he agreed to show us Checkpoint Charlie and The Wall.

When we arrived there, I spent a good 30 minutes on a platform looking into East Berlin. I watched the ongoing activity of repair to the wall and some of the traps designed to keep East Berliners inside "The Worker's Paradise." After a while, I left the stand and was walking near a small museum dedicated to those who had escaped or attempted to escape the confines of the east and made it to the west. As I stood in the middle of the street looking towards the Allied control point (the famous Checkpoint Charlie) in front of me and border crossing maze further in the distance, an elderly German man walked up to me.

With tears in his eyes, he grabbed my right hand with both of his, and in formal German, thanked me. I looked into his eyes and saw a person who was glad I was who I was and where I was. It was at that exact moment that I decided I would remain in the Air Force. I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't leave the Air Force until "The Wall" came down.

Twelve years later, on Nov. 9, 1989, I watched with tears in my eyes, as Germans from both sides of the wall embraced and partied together. I watched the scenes on television all night long. I watched, because I knew my reason for doing what I was doing was no longer a valid reason.

Two years after that, I retired from the U.S. Air Force.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fixin' Boo-boos

I'll finish posting the remaining images I have to post to my Flickr photostream soon. I found some errors I made with the information I provided and with the "tagging" process. I made some boo-boos inputting some of them which required multiple words. I also decided I would go through all the images just to make sure the descriptions were as accurate as possible. Live and learn I guess.

While looking through past photos I have here, I am amazed at what I thought was a good camera five or six years ago...hehehe. My Mavica FD91 photos look so, so, so bad compared to the Dimage 7i or the Canon Digital Rebel. But there was still one or two images I got with the Mavica camera which I will probably never get again and will post them shortly. I also have five or six Minolta images I need to tweak a bit before I post them.

Anyway, the bottom line is, I have finished the backlog of posting and will now need to go out and get new images to post if I don't want my Flickr account to go dormant. And, what with the cool, but still nice weather predicted for the next week or so around this part of the world, it should be fun. Probably won't see a lot of the thing I prefer shooting, but the exercise with do my fat arse some good...hehehe.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Graduations and Retirements

I finished uploading my "Other Insects" photos to Flickr and thought I was done with my Canon digital photos. Well, I wasn't...hehehe. I had forgotten about my "Critters" photos. So, I'll be working on them for the time being.

I also removed my photos from my 360! album and placed them on Flickr. I did this because while visiting a friend the other day, I wanted to show him a photo I had placed in that album. However, at his place, with his computer, I could not access that album. Fearing no one was seeing the album, I removed it from there. I have made reference to photos in it in my blog, so if anyone reading this now has read my blogs in the past and wondered what photo I was referring to, well, now you know. Just go to my photostream from the main page here, and look under "Scenics."

Earlier today I was sort of half watching, half ignoring an episode of E.R. I had watched that show the first year it was on, but really didn't get all that involved with it. Today's episode was about Carter graduating from residency (or whatever it is a doctor does to earn his white coat) and missing the ceremony because he decided to stay with a frightened, young girl suffering from kidney failure (I got all that in the last 20 minutes of the show when I for some reason I stopped half ignoring it). Towards the final moments of the show, he was sitting with another doctor and they were talking about missing their graduations. It made me think...

I don't remember many of my "graduations." I don't remember graduating from elementary school to high school...barely remember graduating high school...don't remember my basic training graduation at all (I think we participated in a military parade) and I don't remember any of the graduations from any of the schools I went to during my military career.

As I have mentioned before (I think...but too lazy to check back), I spent 22 years, two months, and two days in the US Air Force. I am proud of the time I served; proud of a lot of things I did during that time period. In the future I will most likely pass on some of my war stories here. But to get back to the previous graduations.

I guess a person could make the case that retiring from something is a form of graduating. If that is so, I don't remember my retirement. I am not complaining, just saying...I really didn't have a retirement. My last assignment was at Clark AB, The Philippines. The base was naturally retired from the US Air Force inventory when Mt. Pinatubo erupted and more or less destroyed the base. I was there when that happened.

But before it happened, I was already planning my retirement . I was informed of a new policy the Air Force was implementing...that of an E-6 (Technical Sergeant) who reached 20 years of service, had to retire. Before that change, an E-6 could remain in the service until 24 years. I know I would have made E-7 by then. But the powers to be said I had to retire. So I began planning for it.

Then the mountain blew.

Lucky for me too, since I was probably the only person on the base at that time who had had any experience with volcanic eruptions and military operations. So I was asked to stay past my planned retirement date because my "corporate memory" of my previous experience (Mt. St. Helens) might prove useful...and it did, but more on that at another time. However, when Hq. Air Force approved my remaining on active duty, it was under the condition that I retire when I left Clark AB.

On June 15, 1991, the mountain blew up...literally. I remained on the base until Nov. 22, 1991. My planned retirement date was Aug 1, 1991. But when I left Clark AB, it was a shell of what it had been. When I stepped on the bus to take me to Manila, there were only 150 American servicemen left on what was prior to the eruption, the largest US military installation overseas. From Manila, I flew to Seattle and then went to McChord AFB, Washington for retirement processing.

At Clark, I didn't get a large dinner with all my friends -- they were all long gone to other assignments. I didn't get a military parade honoring my service -- and would not have asked for one. I did get a small goodbye dinner which included several other people leaving Clark at the same time I was departing. When I arrived at McChord, there were three days before the Thanksgiving holiday and everyone wanted to finish my paperwork before then...and no one there knew me from Adam.

When my processing was finished, I was given my marching papers, told my certificate would be mailed to me, handed a decoration for my service and then I was a civilian.

It may not have been a typical retirement, but it definitely was a memorable one.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Photos, Cameras, Blogs and Magnetic Reversals?

I opened one of those Myspace things late last year. In the two weeks I had it, only 15 people have visited it. In that same time, I have had about 100 pass through my Yahoo 360! page.

That tells me something. I got more action at 360! than I do at Myspace. So, I plan to dump my Myspace space. Why waste time working on something few people will see? I don't know how many folks read these ramblings of mine, but I do know a hell of a lot more people go to my 360! page than the other one. (Update - I have since given up totally on MySpace and even posted about it, and no longer use my Yahoo 360! page.)

I have a bunch more images to post in my photostream. I still have two dozen or so images to "work" for posting, so I think I will finish them, then post all my Canon images. Then it will be time for the Minolta Dimage 7i images and the Sony Mavica FD-91 images...maybe. I know they will look like crap next to 7i images and definitely the Canon Rebel shots, so I will have to either pull the greatest feat of image processing or not post the shots. Maybe I'll stick them in their own gallery. That way they won't be so easy to compare to the other shots.

Boy has it gotten cold here! The mercury has been hovering around 4 degrees since about 9 pm under clear skies. I'm just glad there isn't a meteor shower I want to watch tonight!

A friend of mine asked me about Global Warming the other night. I told her I didn't think of it as Global Warming, as much as I think of it as Climate Change. What's causing climate change? I'm not sure. It does appear humans have something to do with it, what with the destruction of the rain forests in South American and explosion in size of cities. And burning all the fuels you all burn moving around (yes...I said you all...I walk and ride my bicycle 99 percent of the time when I go somewhere) going places doesn't help. But I think there is more to it.

Every once in a while, I'll get this wave of dizziness flow over me. It will last less than a second most of the time, but it is something that doesn't just hit me. In most of the cases when it happens, I feel it on one side first when it begins, then another side when it ends. It's strange, but I think it is something to do with Mother Earth. Are we moving towards a reversal of the magnetic field of Earth? I don't know what it is, but I just get this feeling something is happening, or going to happen.

I am not one of those "The Earth will end tomorrow" guys...not at all. I just seem to have a sensitivity to things happening with this planet. There have been a number of things happen which I, in a way, knew were going to happen. I'll expand on that in future blogs. But for now, to steal a line from "A Knight's Tale," I'll spend time in silent contemplation trying to figure it out.

But the Myspace thing goes! 8v)

Monday, January 8, 2007

Wrist Wrapping Cameras

I'm moving along with new images for my Flickr photostream. I would rather be out shooting images, but there aren't a lot of little bugs flying around this time of the year. Besides, the weather hasn't been great to for walking around with an expensive digital camera wrapped around my wrist.

Yes...I wrap my camera strap around my wrist and hold the rig in my right hand. I like holding my camera that way because it allows me to just lift and shoot. Plus, it keeps my muscles in my right arm from atrophying. 8v) When I was in the Air Force, I carried my camera around my neck, but I found I didn't like it bouncing off my chest as I walked around. I would move it to over one or the other shoulder, but still didn't like that way of carrying it around.

One day in Rome, I was walking along the Roman Forum when someone attempted to "remove" my camera from my being. There were six of them and they came out of the bushes with the definite intent of getting my Canon EF camera. I wasn't about ready to give it up, so I slipped it off my neck, held my hand inside the loop of the strap while holding the outer side of the strap and let the camera fall through until I had a good grip on the strap.

I then began swinging the camera around like a wild cowboy with a lariat, all the while motioning for the scum wanting my gear to "come and get it." Well, the body of my camera smacked the hand of the first person to try and after that, they lost interest and headed off to find another victim. Relieved, I walked over a bench that Julius Caesar, or even Brutus, might have sat on, sat down, lit a cigarette and took a deep breath.

While sitting there thinking, I realized things could have been worse. The original attack on my camera was with a knife of some type where the person attempted to cut the strap and make off with the camera. I figured that out after seeing my strap cut halfway through. I knew then I either needed a stronger strap, or a new way to carry my camera. I opted for a stronger strap (a leather one with reinforced wires inside) and always kept one hand on the strap or the camera.

A couple of years later, I got an Olympus OM-2 system with a motor drive...and I found a new way of carrying my camera. Loop the strap around my wrist, hold the body of the camera by the grip allowed with the motor drive and bingo...I was happy. I know I am not the first person to do that, but for me, it is the best way to carrying an imaging rig.

This evening, I did get out and did a little shooting. I shot Comet McNaught. Even in the twilight of dusk, the comet stood out...when I finally looked in the right direction. I was looking more to the southwest when in reality, the comet was almost due west of me. Check the photo of it here.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Captions Complete

I have finally finished captioning all the images I had uploaded to my Flickr photostream. It was fun doing it, although it took me a while to complete it. Some of the critters I was trying to identify, took me several days to nail down what I believed them to be.

For the most part, I think I got most identifications correct. If I didn't, I am most likely in the ballpark. Some of the bugs I could only get as close as family, but if and when I got a more definitive ID, I'll post it.

I have also uploaded a couple of new images. From now on, as I upload, I caption and I will caption with the same format I have used for previous images. If you want to know what that format is, then go look at my photostream. 8v) I still have 50 or so images shot with my Canon to upload and caption...and of course, I'll be out and about in the future capturing more images to upload. However, when I finish with the current crop, I'll work on images captured with my previous gear. I am still debating about my Mavica FD91 images, since those shots were done with a low resolution camera, but I might be able to save something from some of them, and if I do...up it will go.

My Minolta images though, are pretty good and worthy of the world to see. But I don't have all that many shot with the 7i, that fall into the categories I use at Flickr. What that means is I expect I will be finished with all my past images soon after finishing all my Canon images.

I have decided to upgrade my Canon glass though. I'm still debating on which way I want to go, but I do have a direction I am more or less leaning towards. I won't say which lens it is, as I may end up going a different direction. But, rest assured, if you're interested, I will post info on it here when I get the lens and try it out.