Sunday, July 17, 2016

Transition, semi-completed!

Well, the first stage and then some is completed.  I am in my new house and am working on making it a home.  I have a long ways to go on that but I am making progress.  I have a couch!  That is not an insignificant thing--for those of you long-time readers of this blog might remember, when I lived in Findlay it took me two years to get a couch.  Apparently my fear/dislike of commitment to at least inanimate objects is fading.

So people have wondered where I have landed.  I am in Minneapolis of all places--far from the little house in the woods to urban, Leave it to Beaver, America. I think that is about 700 mikes and 50 years of progress away from Michigan.   Of course saying Minneapolis is not all that specific so I tell people I live near 50th and France.  Most people know of that location because it is a very hip and trendy neighborhood with "boutiques," not stores.  Of course they all quake when I walk in the door.  Can I help you, sir?  The Walmart is 12 miles thataway...let me get you directions.  We do have a polyester section in the far back in the tremendously out of date reduced clearance section--would you like to start there?  Can you go around and come in the the back door?  Please?

I do snicker a bit when I say that I live in that trendy neighborhood.  I actually live about a 20 minute brisk walk away, all up-hill and against the wind and across about 4 descending economic strata from France Avenue.  It is but a point of reference.    Lest you think that I live in a place with empty crack vials in the stairway, I can assure that I don't think that this is the case.  I can't really say for sure because I live on the sixth floor of a small apartment building and if you think I am going to walk up six flights of stairs you either are crazy or you don't know me very well.

I jest, of course.  I like my neighborhood a very much.  My apartment is less than 500 feet from a coffee shop--how cool is that?  That is a huge improvement from my drive of 65 miles to a Starbucks.  Two more coffee shops are within a mile.  There are antique shops closer than the coffee shop and a store that only sells only honey is just a bit futher..    I never thought I needed a honey store, but damn it, when I think of this I think that it is a fine thing to have close by.  And the aforementioned 50th and France is within walking distance in case I need to see how the other half lives  There are two nearby bakeries with bread that isn't Wonder and a very good grocery store.  The olive bar at this place is not just a selection of cans of medium or large black olives and some of their cheese is not in a can or wrapped in plastic by the slice.  And, of course and thank heavens, there is a a good wine shop.  And it is all within walking distance!  It didn't hurt that I discovered that I am less than three miles from my doctor, a dentist, and the emergency room but all that is another story.

All-in-all, it has been an adventure that has gone pretty well.  I am unpacking as I can and keeping up with the class I am teaching.  I am going to have to seriously consider looking for work soon.  My checkbook balance has shrunk all too quickly so I have to really concentrate on the next few weeks.  Of course, if any of you know of work for an under-employed history teacher, please let me know...

But I am OK.  I made it this far with lots of help and I am looking forward to what might come my way in the next stages of this adventure.  If you are in the neighborhood, let me know.  My house is almost put together and of course, mi casa es tu casa,

The photos are in my neighborhood.  There is a picture of my local farmers' market and my local coffee shop.  Boy, is nice to be able to say those two things.  My neighborhood, other than my apartment building that was built in the early 1970s, is really pretty residential.  The houses really are homes where Wally and the Beav might have lived.  The average price for a home in the Fulton Neighborhood, my "hood," is over $700,000.  Trust me when I say that I live in the low rent part of the neighborhood.  The advantage is that there are a ton of gardens nearby and they provide great flowers to photograph.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Prague, finally!

My public, maybe all three or four of you, may have been wondering if I actually did take any photos while in Prague, and I did.  I did it the old fashioned way, with film and old cameras.  You know, cutting edge technology, circa 1970 or so.  For those geeks who care enough to wonder or amazingly, ask, the color shots were taken with a Leica R5 with 50 Summicron, and most of the black and whites were taken with a Leica M4 with a 50 Summicron.  Little was done to the photos other than lightly correct the lightness or darkness and crop the photos.

I am not sure of the results.  I have become a lazy photographer--the newer cameras, all of which are exponentially smarter than I am accomplish the same thing with far less work and expense.  What is the deal with all this focusing and figuring out the exposure?  That said, it was still  fun to shoot 15 rolls of film.  I think that the last time that I did that was in 1998 when I went to Africa.  And I do like Leicas and that lens is one of the classic lenses of all time and when there isn't a nut loose behind the viewfinder (sorry, old camera repairman's joke) it is the sharpest lens around even though these lenses were about 50 years old.

The trip was great.  The weather was the best I have ever experienced in in Prague, and I even came back with a bit of a tan.  The beer was exceptional, and again the city proved to be a perfect walking city.  My phone said several days I walked over eight miles so that was good for an old(er) person.  All in all, roads were more or less traveled and diems sum carptus.  I couldn't have asked for a better break.

Of course, the re-entry into reality has been a bit harsh.  I heard this recently and I find it so true--the choices we get to make are the ones we don't always want to make.  I would not choose to move when I have to, but now that  this choice is made, I am making a ton of other choices.  Some are big--hmmm...just where will I live?  Some are smaller, mostly on the scale of what goes and what stays with me.  Some things need a good home that is not my home.  Some things just need to go somewhere that isn't near me.

The choices will get made and the work will get done.  And if I get tired or woebegone I will remember that was recently in Prague.

Thursday, May 12, 2016


I am in Prague, and loving every moment.  It is my "My job ended, you should go to somewhere in Europe" tour.  You know, the one that any decent financial planner would suggest in this same situation. So I chose Prague.  Again, as it seems, since I think if I counted stamps on my passports correctly, this is my 8th time here.  The first time was 18 years ago, and the city is a wee bit different.  There are fewer crystal shops and a whole lot more customer service.  The beer is still cheap (about $1.25-1.50 for a pint)  and I have already had three different kinds of dumplings with more of both beer and dumplings to come.  I hope.  Dumplings are cute, right?  So if I eat enough...   Don't they always say "you are what you eat?"

Of course, my trip is total escapism.  I was a finalist (second place--BOO!) for a job I was hopeful for and that really did sting.  I liked the school, the people, and the place, but that is how it goes, right?  But that decision left me with few options and forced me to make a few decisions of my own.  I always knew this gig ended at the end of June, and that is fine.  But I was hopeful that I would leave this place for a job somewhere else, and that doesn't see likely right now.  If I was every unsure of the economic issues facing community colleges, this job market has confirmed that things are dire.  Few colleges have advertised for deans in the upper Midwest.  I am not sure, but the one in Minnesota was one of the very few available.  Schools are hiring VPs and there are a ton of president jobs, but I am not that interested in those, though I would consider a VP of Academic services somewhere, but there haven't been many in WI, MN, and Iowa, the three states I most would like to work in.

So I am going to do something I have never ever done--I am moving to an area where I want to live even though I do not have a job.  Talk about leaping without a safety net!  I am not sure about this, but my options are pretty limited.  I could stay in MI, but the openings are even scarcer here--though if you want to be a vocational dean there are more options with the state's focus on vocational programming.  Plus, I do not want to be in MI.  Nice place and all, but if I have learned nothing else, I know I need a coffee shop, a good grocery store, and at least a Chinese restaurant within five miles of where I live.  To get those three things around here, I would have to drive 39 miles, and I am still not so sure about the grocery store.

I have been keeping a list of things I do not and do want.  I want to go to a McDonalds that isn't a gas station or worse, a bait shop, too.  I want an olive bar that doesn't just involve canned black olives.  I want a restaurant that doesn't have dead things on the wall and which deep fries less than 1/4 of the menu.  I want to go where you can say the trees are pretty and the response isn't "they will make good firewood, won't they?"  I want to work at a school that when I comment on students' success or rather, the lack of it, people don't mostly respond with "well, that is students that we get."  I want to work on at a place that acknowledges the value of diversity.  It would be great to live in an area that has community education programs that are more than "Polish Cooking" or "Wine Making."   I am fine with Amazon Prime being a good friend of mine, but, boy, would it be great to live in a place where all my wardrobe didn't come from there or Tractor Supply.  Sometimes, I even want to live where all the waitresses don't call me "Honey" or "Sweetheart" and I get indifferent service with a meal that isn't breakfast or fried.

Simple things, right?  So I have picked the Twin Cities or Minneapolis-St Paul for you non-Midwesterners.  So if you know of a 1-2 bedroom apartment in a pre-war building with a parking spot, please let me know.  I don't want to live in a 137 plex if I can at all avoid it.  Small is good, urban is good.  Cheap is good, too, but I am good for a year, and I hope that I can find something in that time or at least I can sell enough plasma or my hair or something to survive.  I could sell the watch, too, but I can't have the watch and the hair.  No matter, I will be OK.  

And won't it be an adventure?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

First and last and then again...

It is snowing, not an unprecedented event here at my little house in the woods.  It is, however, spring, and yet we are expected to get 8-10 inches of snow tonight  I hope no one expects me to shovel.  I stopped shoveling weeks ago, once we had a 65 degree day.  Ahh, Northern Lower Michigan!

I did pick up a camera to point it at the snow and some twiggy things.  It is the first time that I picked a camera up in three weeks except to dust around them.  They still worked, which might be a good sign.  What I did think about is that I have taken these photos before so this isn't the first time you have seen these photos or ones like them. I like the view down my road and  the trees and twigs. This may be the last time I take snow pictures around here, and I do realize that I will miss these views from my house in the woods.

It isn't like I am moving to Florida or some weird place like that.  I haven't applied to anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line.  Part of it is preference, but part of it is just opportunity.  I have crossed out Texas as a preferred state, and there hasn't been much else.  I have applied and I have been unceremoniously "dinged" and rejected and told I was pond scum.  I am sure that is what the letters said that told me that I was foolish to ever think I could work at their esteemed institution, not that I would ever take these rejections personally or anything like that.   It is that ugly stage of the search--lots of applications out there and lots of waiting as the sorting hat makes sense of them all.

I am not yet worried.  Well, maybe a tiny tiny bit.  What is challenging is that I have an appealing Plan B and Plan C and that makes me worry less about Plan A.  I know that this makes little sense, but hopefully it will, even to me.  I am keeping a positive outlook and still giving it the ol' college try as I get up and brush myself off and I get on the horse again and try try again  and stuff like that.

In the meantime, I am enjoying the snow, and not just because I am enjoying the view.  It might mean that we have our 6th snow day of the semester and I can sleep in.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Eating in Roscommon...

At least the birds eat well!  I think this is the male of woodpecker couple, if I can judge by its showy head of red feathers. Someone pointed out that I have birds on the brain, and perhaps I do.  I always want the shot of the one that got away--this birds much bigger cousin was at the feeder earlier today but I couldn't get the camera and tripod in place before it fled.  Things are a bit messed up right now-- vandals broke the imported Golden Chateau so most of the bird feed is on the ground right now.  Now I have to rebuild that luxury feeder so that the lid/roof stays on.  Impolite eaters and vandals!

Saturday, February 27, 2016


For those of you who hate birds, or at at least tired of them, here is one of my other neighbors.  Remember it from a few days ago?  No furtive sneaking around now!  It made several trips the buffet line of mixed nuts, each time stuffing its mouth and then running off to hide another helping of a future dinner.

A few thoughts.  First, if you ever want an almost impossible exposure problem try shooting a back-lit coal-black squirrel against a bright white background.  Secondly, I did not know Mr. (or Ms.) Squirrel had such long and sharp claws. That reminds me of when I was a 4H camp counselor and we told our 5-6 year old campers that they couldn't go our at night because of Bushy the Squirrel.  Bushy, who by the way was huge and roamed the woods around the Beaver Creek Reserve, would catch  them and, of course, steal their "nuts."  Hey, it kept a cabin full of little brats in their bed at night!  It was almost as scary as Lips, the Killer Carp.  You know, the one that kept them out of the ponds and stream...

Now that I think of it, I am going to make sure my door is locked tonight, too.


Don't worry, I will get tired of posting bird photos soon.  It is still kind of interesting, though, and a different bird showed up today.  Sound the trumpets!  It actually ate from the Golden Chateau as well as  from the suet suite.  Afternoon  requires shooting almost directly into the sun which is far from ideal.  Still, when the photo is sharp enough to show the little birdy eyelashes,  the photo is probably sharp enough.  As always, click on the photo for a larger view.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Same bird, different day..

I am home today because of a snow day, our fifth of the year.  That is a lot even for where I am in Michigan.  I worry about losing five days of instruction this soon because we almost always have a snow day in March--how else are we supposed to watch the NCAA tournament if we have to work all the time?

Same bird, different day.  She looks cold.  And she has to bring her friends--eating alone can get tiresome.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Bird #2

Wow, they are just flocking to this place.  Not really, but this one is different.  I need to get a bird guide or they at least need to sign and tell me where what they are and where they are from.  Come on, this is a high class place!

Beasts of my forest

Sometimes it is said that the first real photos taken through a new lens (or at least a new lens to you) is called "first light."  The lens referenced in a previous blog was probably made almost 50 years ago, but it is new to me and I am having fun stalking beasts that come into my yard.  I have noticed these very fat black squirrels--not my first choice of subjects but they are kind of cute.  I had to bribe them to be socialble with a platter of nuts and blueberries.  All I had for nuts was a jar of stale honey roasted peanuts but they seemed to be tasty for the animals.  They can worry about their own good and bad cholesterol.  A bird even visited--none have visited the feeder, but at least I know that they are in the neighborhood and that they probably aren't boycotting the place.  But what kind is it?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Birds, or for them...

So I have been doing some major equipment horse trading of late and at this moment my house looks more like a camera shop than a house.  That statement is never too far from the truth, but right now it really is a camera shop.  I blame my friend John who gave my phone number to one of his friends who just happened to have several boxes of Leica cameras and lenses for sale.  Though I am saving money (I really am) in case of prolonged homelessness, I had to buy all that I could possibly afford.  Certainly, I told myself, "it's an investment!"  That may be the case but I also have to keep remembering that a lens or two won't keep me warm under that overpass...

But boy is all this fun!  I have stuff that I have never seen before and that doesn't happen much anymore.  Some of the equipment is just weird esoteric stuff--more than once I have said out loud (it is just me and all these cameras!) "who knew?  Why would you make or buy that?"  I have found wine helps with these conversations...

One such oddity is a very long telephoto lens, officially a Leitz 560mm F5.6 Telyt with a quick focus mount but you probably already knew that from looking at the picture.  It is a BIG lens, almost a yard long with the lens shade, and longer than that with the rifle shoulder stock.  Talk about scaring small children!  I also don't think that it would a good lens to hang around airports with it as it bears an uncanny resemblance to a rocket launcher.  I think that I had best not be by any apartment windows either...

Since those two pursuits are out of the picture  I have been thinking of what to do with it and I have settled on bird photography.  You know me, always looking at birds and this is the perfect lens.  I first had to try and attract the shy creatures within range, something that I have never been very good at.  I figured I would buy them dinner at a diner, and I didn't skimp--you are looking at the $9.99 Golden Chateau bird feeder, first imported from China and then to Roscommon from the metropolitan and chick  (sorry) town of Graying.  I was not cheep (sorry again) in my selection of gourmet bird chow either.  Nothing but the best, that is for sure.

And you know what?  Not one bird has visited.  Someone suggested a sign announcing the grand opening.  Maybe a "Hooters" sign and advertise their wings.  I don't know but I am very  disappointed.  I guess it would be like you opened up a business and then no one came on opening weekend.  Someone did point out that I was expecting too much.  After all, they said, you have neglected them all winter and didn't even feed them a scrap of bread so they don't know of your generous nature and good cooking.  Give them a few days.

So I will.  It will pass the time as I work on applications and ponder my future.  And I might even get a picture of a real bird!