Monday, December 25, 2006

S--- Pictures for the desktop

Due to popular request (one request, anyhow), I have decided to offer the s--- pictures as desktop wallpaper.

Again, I had some problems with formatting. I have to narrow the picture (chop off the edges) to convert the image from the 3:2 aspect ratio of 35mm film to the 4:3 aspect ratio of television and computer monitors. I might have to get into the habit of backing the zoom off a bit when taking landscape shots. Of course, it's only an issue when making desktop wallpaper.

The easiest way to get them is to right-click on the link, then choose [save link as...] or [save link target as...] (exact wording depends on your browser). Another way is to click on the link, then right-click the image and download it.

800 X 600 Wallpaper
1024 X 768 Wallpaper
1280 X 960 Wallpaper

800 X 600 Wallpaper
1024 X 768 Wallpaper
1280 X 960 Wallpaper

800 X 600 Wallpaper
1024 X 768 Wallpaper
1280 X 960 Wallpaper

800 X 600 Wallpaper
1024 X 768 Wallpaper
1280 X 960 Wallpaper

800 X 600 Wallpaper
1024 X 768 Wallpaper
1280 X 960 Wallpaper

800 X 600 Wallpaper
1024 X 768 Wallpaper
1280 X 960 Wallpaper

Saturday, December 23, 2006


I have always loved the whole Christmas season. While some grumble about decorations going up in the malls just after Halloween, I enjoy it. I love everything about the Christmas season -- the decorations, the feeling of peace, and especially the music. I have a special stash of CDs that I pull out sometime around Thanksgiving, and don't put away until some time in January.

Of course, I don't forget the reason for the season. In fact, the birth of Christ is what makes the whole celebration worthwhile. God gave us the gift of life itself -- eternal life in Heaven, and he did it in a way that nobody expected.

When you dabble in cosmology and physics, you get somewhat of an appreciation for how huge and complex this whole universe is. The God who created everything from the biggest galaxy to the brightest quasar to the heaviest black hole is awesome beyond belief. How is it that He pays any more heed to us than we do to the tiniest bacterium?

The truth is that we are the apple of His eye. We are his most beloved. Atheists like to remind us that an omnipotent god won't care any more for us than we do for a speck of dust, but they are wrong.

But how can God prove that to us?

This above nativity was made by my father made when he was a boy. I remember the creche and figures from early childhood. The angel dangling from the peak is one that we painted when we were kids.

He can prove it to us by coming down to this tiny Earth as the smallest and most helpless of us -- not as a king is born in a palace, but as a pauper is born not in a home, but in a barn. The mangers that you see in the nativities that are scattered about the world look nice and cozy. Believe me, though, that hay is not cozy. It's scratchy and is sure to poke the tender skin of a newborn baby. Take it from someone who has tossed plenty of pitch forks full into a manger.

Empty he came as a man to our race
Equal with God, yet forsaking his place
Humbly he served in our world

(From the song Empty He Came)

Most birthday celebrations don't focus on the birthday boy or girl as a baby. Some have wondered why we do this with Christ's birthday.

The answer, of course, is that we are being reminded that Jesus humbled himself when he came to Earth to save us.

Jesus came humbly and quietly in a barn, but the celebrations soon came. The first people who received the announcement were humble shepherds, but the angels of Heaven came down and sang. It was an extravagant celebration for the humble people of Earth.

And that's what I try to do when I decorate. While it is true that less is more on some occasions, and a tasteful and minimalistic display is often appropriate, I want our Christmas celebration to be extravagant I want it to be huge and over the top.

I dug these pictures out of my archives and scanned them in. There was a house decorated by a gentleman who had to retire early due to a heart attack. He put his heart into making an extravagant display at his house right off of the service drive of I-696 (west of I-75) in Detroit.

He dressed up as Santa and gave out candy canes. He didn't charge. In fact, I don't think he even took donations. It was an act of love, and a worthy gift to the kids who came by.

The picture was taken back in 1998, by the way. Don was a cute little snot back then. He has since grown up to be quite a handsome boy.

Aside from salvation itself, this is the finest gift that God has given to me. Of course, I would never have been the kind of person who could start and raise a family if I hadn't come from a stable family.

(This, too, is an older picture.)

When the day to day grind of raising a family starts to get to us, it's good to remember the joy of having children.

Paul was a charmer right from infancy. That beautiful mane of dark hair belongs to Mary, by the way.

The first Christmas tree that Mary and I had as a couple was a potted blue spruce that we bought from the Eastern Market in Detroit. We decorated it and set it on the table. It candled a little after Christmas, so we had to keep it in the house. Next spring, we planted it. We decorated it every year after that. I don't know if the new owners of the house have kept up the tradition or not.

Our indoor tree was a Norfolk Island Pine. It kept getting bigger each year. Alas, I ended up killing it by taking it outside a little too early one year.

The next year, we moved into my parents' cottage and used Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. (Yes, I recycled this picture from my blog posting a couple days ago.)

Here are a couple of my favorite people. My grandparents haven't changed much since this picture was taken at the family Christmas party in 1998.

It's still up in the air, but I hope to get an opportunity to spend some time with them this Christmas. If all goes according to plan, I'll be spending the night with them on Christmas Eve, and the rest of my family will be at my in-law's place.

This picture is somewhat more recent. My brothers have started a new tradition of having a family hymn-sing after dinner and dessert.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

More S--- Pictures

When we first came to the Cadillac area in 2003, we stayed at my parents' cottage on Lake Austin. We hadn't intended for it to take more than a month or two to sell our old home and find a new home, but we ended up staying in that old (but very nice) single-wide for nine months. It's a beautiful place to stay, but not the best place to winter over. That is, the trailer house isn't all that winter-ready. The lake and surrounding area is beautiful. The sheer volume of snow we had that year made it difficult, but we wouldn't trade it in for our old house on a well-plowed road even in the most difficult of times.

This is what the lake looks like when it's iced over, but not covered with snow. The sunset adds color to what would otherwise be a rather bleak photo.

There was a line of trees near the north edge of the lot. This picture looks between the line of trees (on the left) and the property line (on the right) at the lake. I know it just looks like a flat area with lots of snow, but it's a lake.

This is a shot of the cottage (I mean trailer house) from the lake. To the left, you can see the property line, the leafless oak tree, and the row of spruce trees that were in the previous photo.

There will be no more shots that look like this. The line of spruce trees is gone, and a very nice lake home with a walk-out basement has been built. The old trailer house is still there, but it's mostly hidden by my parents' future retirement home. It'll be ripped out from under the roof next year, and turned into a pole barn (which will serve as Dad's workshop).

On the hill, there are two boys on sleds, plus good 'ol Lucy the Labrador. She loved the time she spent at the lake.

Inside, it's cozy and warm.

I found a whole bunch of small balsum fir growing under the power line where the power company had previously cleared the area. They were way too close together to grow -- not that the power company is going to let them get taller than maybe ten feet.

I harvested one and set it up on the table. With a little creativity, we had a nice little Christmas tree that year. It's kind of hard to take a picture that does justice to Christmas decorations, but a tripod, a 35mm camera, and some patience can make it happen.

The lake association has a few year 'round residents. They all chip in to have the roads (narrow two-tracks about as wide as our current driveway) plowed. With everyone chipping in, it doesn't cost much (I think we provided $20.00 or so). Of course, we don't waste money having the place plowed out if there's less than maybe six inches of snow.

It's actually quite pretty. I wouldn't mind staying there until January or so. It starts to get old around March or so, and it has been known to snow in May around here.

I was playing with the composition in the previous two shots -- going for graceful curves and subtle color. This one, with the fence and the car tracks, is a decent illustration of the 'rule of thirds'.

Backing off a bit, we add a bit of color by including the garden shack.

Again, you can make my day and stroke my ego by asking for desktop-sized copies of these photos.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Yes, we're talking about a four letter word that starts with "S".

Yep, we got that white stuff all over our driveway.

Actually, it's had been there for a couple days by the time I took this picture. Now, it's all melted. It'll be back, though. You can count on it.

But that's OK, the snow blower is all gassed up and ready. I have a nice snow suit that came with this house, a pair of ski goggles, and some muck boots. I think I need to replace them with snowmobile boots, but they work OK. They're a bit heavy for the half mile or more of walking that I do when blowing out our tenth of a mile of driveway, but it's not like a little extra effort is going to hurt me.

This fence was installed by the previous owners as decoration. I'm trying to get a pleasing composition here, but am less than successful. The picture is OK, but nothing like I had in mind.

Here's another effort to turn that old fence into a thing of beauty. I made a whole bunch of other attempts, but none of them are worth resizing and displaying. I'm glad I used the digital camera for this attempt.

Still, it's a good illustration of how to almost turn an old ratty fence into a decent picture. Maybe a photography teacher somewhere can use it when teaching how not to compose a picture.

This is our humble abode (and my humble Jeep).

This is part of our middle pasture, which contains a bunch of blue spruce that were planted by a previous owner. We chose one that was growing too close to another as our Christmas tree this year. We like to cull out the ones that won't be good for transplanting. We still need to figure out what to do with all those trees before they get too big. Most are already too big to move with anything but the biggest tree spade.

This is a shot through the middle woods and into the middle pasture. That little strip of woods makes a nice wind break in the winter, and provides shade in the summer.

So, winter is officially here -- though it will supposedly be mild this year. The snowmobiles have been out a couple times, but the ground is currently bare. I won't mind if it stays that way for a few days. I don't count on having bare ground for long, though. Soon, there will be s--- all over the ground again. Maybe it'll be gone by May.

By the way, if you want larger (wallpaper) versions of any of those pictures, make my day and let me know. You might want to wait until tomorrow, though. I'll be posting some much better pictures that I took a couple years ago.