About Chuck

I am retired after a career in electronics and in publishing. Today, my wife of 50+ years, Sylvia, and I live in a house on a hill beside a dirt road in rural west Michigan. We enjoy living in this country environment where livestock and wild life out number the human population.

A Mind Walk

120606aObligatory post of an outdoor scene (my pic from another time)

I was in a meeting recently, and from where I sat I could look out a window.  I tried to stay alert and attentive, but my mind went for a walk.  I tried to get it back, but once again it strayed.  My third attempt was also an exercise in futility.  Then the wayward one spoke clearly to me

The Sun Calls

Brightly the sun shines

Inviting me to come, play

But I’m trapped indoors.

Has this ever happened to you?

Till, the Smell Diminishes

Yesterday, I posted an animated gif of the neighbor applying liquid bovine stuff to the field behind our house.  The yellow house in the background is where neighbors, Curt and Meghan, live.  On FB, Meghan posted the comment that she hoped the reason the field looked so brown was that it had recently been tilled.  It had.  Less than 24 hours after applying the fertilizer, the neighbor was tilling it under.  That should protect and preserve the precious resource.

Heave ho and under it goes

Heave ho and under it goes

I find it interesting that the farmer plants corn.  At harvest time he chops it up and hauls it to storage.  That corn will feed his cattle for the next year.  The solid waste from the cattle is spread on the field the next spring.  Thus continues a cycle.  (Or is it a recycle?)

Of course the farmer doesn’t grow corn here every year.  He alternates corn and soy beans.  (Does that make it a bi-cycle?)

The field was tilled on Tuesday, and that night we had rain.  It [for the most part] washed the air clean.

You can avoid a few hours of seemingly unpleasant odors by living in suburbia or the city.  I wouldn’t want to miss all of the goodness of this rural setting.  As a farmer friend says, “That, Chuck, is the smell of money.”  I would add that is also an essential step in bringing good things to your dinner table and mine.

Lunar Lag

You’ve probably noticed that the moon rises and sets later from one day (or night) to the next.  I know it’s about 50 minutes by the clock, but what does that translate to in space?  I had the chance to get an idea with two pictures.

The first I took on Saturday night.  There was Venus and the moon hanging in the western sky.

Saturday after sunset

Saturday after sunset — Will Venus catch the moon?

I was hoping for a cloudless Sunday evening.  I wanted to compare the positions of Venus and the moon.  How much closer would they be?

Sunday as Venus and the moon go hand-in-hand

Sunday as Venus and the moon go hand-in-hand

In the second shot, the moon was so brilliant that it “bloomed.”  It was only the second evening since the new moon, and only a tiny crescent was illuminated.  Against a very dark sky it was too much contrast.

Here’s a fully zoomed-in shot of Sunday night’s moon.  I only resized this shot and made no other changes.


The camera does not handle the very high contrast all that well.  Perhaps there’s a mode to help with that?  I still have much to learn.  (In many ways.)

The “Wow” Factor

When Sylvia told me that she would be taking her camera to Florida, I felt the time had come to look into a DSLR.  We’ve been very happy with her Lumix point-and-shoot model, so I looked there first.  When I had narrowed my search, the DMC-FZ70 rose to the top of the list.

I compared and read reviews.  It took time, but it was worth the investment.  I placed my order and then waited.

One of the first things that I did with camera in hand was to check out the 60 to 1 zoom range.  Can you believe 20mm to 1200mm in a single lens?  I had to see for myself.

I'm over 2000 feet from this hunting blind.

I’m over 2000 feet from this hunting blind.

A hunting blind made a good target.  They said you couldn’t hand hold a shot that was fully zoomed.  Perhaps not free hand, but I used a window sill and frame to provide two points of stability.  The lens resting lightly against the window glass provided a third.  The image stability algorithm is awesome!

Next, I zoomed out a bit to capture the surrounding scene.

Even here you can see a great zoom range.

Even here you can see a great zoom range.

Finally, I zoomed to a full-wide shot.  Can you see the hunting blind?

I can't see it either, but I know it's there center frame

I can’t see it either, but I know it’s there center frame

When folk sing the praises of Spring, it is not this part of the season that they celebrate.  I call it astronomical spring.  The real thing, at least around here, begins sometime next month.

First Day of Spring

Yesterday, was the first day of [astronomical] spring 2015 AD.  Sunny and nice, it did not live down to the haiku that I posted last week.  That was yesterday.  Today the skies are dull lead gray.  The sun is not visible and the earth is cold and damp.

Yesterday was also the day that my new camera arrived via UPS.  Sylvia had flown off to Florida very early that morning and she had her (it had been our) digital point-and-shoot camera.

While I was for the most part pleased with results from her camera, there were times when the images fell short of my hopes and expectations.

After surfing to Amazon.com and waiting a few days, once again I’m the owner of a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera.  This one has a 60 to 1 zoom ratio.  I’ll show you what that means next week.

Upon opening the package, I removed the battery and charger.  While the battery charged, I read through the basic owner’s manual, installed the lens cap and shoulder strap.

Then with the fully charged battery in the camera, I went outside to look for something that said, “first day of spring.”  I found one single blossom.  It was on the myrtle (aka vinca or periwinkle).

The first (only) blossom found here on 3/20

The first (only) blossom found here on 3/20

Not only is the sun at a far less than favorable angle, but this shot was hand held.  I was amazed at how well the image stabilizer worked.

From beside the road, I looked across at the neighbor’s pasture land.  A couple of curious geese were beside a drainage ditch.  They stretched up their necks to better see the intruder.  I pointed the camera in their general direction and “click.”  Later I cropped the image.

Getting a good look

Getting a good look

I’m really enjoying this camera.  What’s next?


It was Wednesday evening the sun was almost completely set when I looked out upon this scene:


I ran to the office, retrieved the camera and stepped (bare feet) onto the very cold front deck.  The scene changes so rapidly that I didn’t stop for the tripod.  I braced my hand against a partially open door in an effort to get a [not too blurry] shot.

Mere seconds later it looked like this:


It was the most unusual sunset picture I have ever taken.  Isn’t it great when you have a day that brings something completely unexpected, entirely beautiful and is bestowed upon you as a gift?  That’s the way I felt on Wednesday evening.

I had been feeling a bit sad about having missed Tuesday night’s auroral display.  While not the same, this made me feel a whole lot better.


Did you enjoy math classes in school?  Or did you despise it with a purple passion.  Most of us fall into one of those categories.  Math class was always a good place for me to get caught up on the next day’s assignment. :angel:

Even now, I frequently find myself working math problems in my head.  I even enjoy different number bases, binary being the most common.

It is not at all difficult.  In fact, counting in binary is as easy as:

01, 10, 11

Do you know what follows?

The Bird

It was after lunch today.  I was brewing a second mug of coffee.  (I don’t often do that.)  Through the kitchen window I saw the bird.  It was sitting atop a birch tree whose top had broken off in last winter’s storm.  That broken trunk is larger than my upper arm.  (Yes, it is a large bird.)

Red-tail on birch tree

Red-tail on birch tree

I couldn’t get a better shot than this one.  The hawk was searching the field on the other side of the tree.  That must have been fruitless.  It took to wing and flew away from me.

I was disappointed and wanted a better look.  That’s when it did a wing over, dived and reversed course. It flew at me.  Better view.  Turned.  Excellent view.  I watched in awe as the red-tail hawk flew away.  That’s when I remembered the camera.  Too late.

What Was That?

I sat here this morning trying to remember yesterday’s great idea for a blog post.  :think: The only thought that came to mind was my sister, Maggie’s, FB post: “The biggest lie I tell myself is, ‘I don’t need to write that down, I’ll remember it.’ ”

As I contemplated the truth of that, I heard a raucous chattering.  It could only be one thing.  Sand hill cranes!  And indeed a flight of them organized over our house.  I though I might be able to capture a “grab shot.”  I opened the blinds and picked up the camera . . .  Not a crane in sight.

Then, I saw that they had landed in the field behind us.  I set up the tripod and camera at the office window.  I zoomed in to the max to see if could rescue the moment.  The results were not dramatic.


Other attempts did not bring better results.


Canada geese have been around for a while now.  Spring will arrive very soon.

Are you ready?