Weekly Photo Challenge: Hands (I)

The piano’s keyboard is a wide platform for musical expression, including compositions for two players sharing the same black and whites, known as piano four hands. [P.D.Q. Bach of course is responsible for  Sonata for Viola Four Hands and Harpsichord, but that’s another story.]

The composition below, keyboard four hands, was the result of furious deadline-driven virtually simultaneous writing and editing.

KEYBOARD FOUR HANDS — Editing, writing duet as a subject team grinds out annual report copy.

Check out the mother page for this week’s challenge:


Angry bird(s)

Tiger moms. Grizzly moms. We’ve probably all seen that  harder side of mom. It usually happens after she’s used the eyes in the back of her head to see right through your well-laid-out plan to cover your tracks. Then that sound reaches your childish ears. She’s using that voice. And all of your names. You’re in “wait-til-your-father-gets-home” trouble.

Humans aren’t the only ones with angry moms. Over the last few weeks, we’ve begun to feel as if we were in the Hitchcock movie “The Birds.” Nearly every window in the house has been under assault from an angry female cardinal bent on defending her territory. The windows are covered with wing marks and the sills are covered with another bird byproduct.

And it’s not just the cardinal, indigo buntings have also joined the fray, all apparently in Fury mode when mistaking their reflection for another of their kind.

We figure when baby bird season is over, we can clean the windows.

TALONS OUT — Mama cardinal has beak and claws out for the reflection in the front door.
IN ACTION — Stills taken from a low-res video of the cardinal in full attack mode. At the time these were taken, she made repeated attacks on the window for nearly 20 minutes. We’ve tried turning the internal lights on to dim the reflection; tried chasing her off, but nothing deters this bird. 

Happy Mothers Day!

Waves of wistfulness

A colleague going on vacation to the gulf coast has made me wistful for water. As beautiful as Arkansas is with its forests and lakes and hills and all, it’s hard not to yearn for the ocean after growing up within an hour’s drive of the Atlantic.

That longing for the moody, gray and cool Atlantic has been amplified by the warm spring here. May has felt more like July, complete with record highs at 90 degrees.

This has all been compounded by the beautiful maritime images, including stained glass, that appear in Perpetual Learner’s blog.

All of these things conspired to prompt this wishful thinking post of a misty New England day in Maine, from the 2003 files.

IN HARBOR — Boat at rest in a Maine habor.
LOTSA FUN — Cabin cruiser with tarp up, probably awaiting a weekend trip. 

Super moon!

We were blessed with mostly clear skies tonight for the astronomical double-header: a super moon and a meteor shower.  Armed with two Canon DSLRs, a Sony and the Panasonic, the Sony got the shot of the night.

Earlier, folks on the Jersey side of the Hudson had a spectacular view. Check out the photo.*

SUPER MOON! — A beautiful night for a moonrise.

*Do you have any idea how many great pizza joints you can see from Eagle Rock Reservation?

90 years

It’s hard to comprehend, but Mom would’ve been 90 years old yesterday. From her childhood in Bangkok to a suburban life in North Jersey and retirement in southern California, she packed so much into a life of 87 years.

2004 — A portrait before the Alzheimer’s took hold. Her eyes still speak to every joy and pain experienced in a life lived across two hemispheres.

It’s often said you don’t know much about people until they die. There’s a lot of truth to that.

We knew her as “Mom” after all. She was the one who walked you to school on that first day of kindergarten; the one who would hug you when your 5-year-old ego was bruised and you sat pouting in the corner. She comforted you when that cold made your nose so full you were sure each breath would be your last. Mom also made sure you didn’t fail to practice your clarinet or violin for at least 30 minutes a day or wash the dishes after dinner.

In her life before us, she was the one who ran around Bangkok raising money and scavenging much-needed equipment for agencies serving the disabled. She worked in hospitals and hospices comforting the dying, and farang (foreigners) who were far from home. She had ties with the United Nations and the World Health Organization. She knew people with titles like “princess” and “dame.”

She decided to take leave of her international life, marry dad and raise a family in a modest New Jersey suburb.

When she and Dad thought it was safe for us to be latchkey kids, she studied for her nursing boards and went back to work. She was a good boss who loved her work.

Those were external things we never really saw as kids.

What we did see was a woman who valued wisdom above all and learned from every experience and every moment. She had a remarkable capacity for forgiveness and never lost her sense of sanook, that wonderful Thai quality of seeking the positive in everything.

We will  never know the debt we owe her.

URSULINE SCHOOL — Mom, far left, poses with her class at her beloved Ursuline school in Bangkok. She had the highest praise and warmest memories of her time there, especially for the work the sisters did. I suspect Mom’s inspiration for her life of service was based on the role models she had at school. 
1953 — At age 31.

Ruby-throated hummingbird

Hummingbirds are a regular fixture in the spring and summer here on the mountain. The dominant bird finds the spot with the most commanding view leaving only to chase other birds away from the feeder.

CHECK ME OUT – Napoleon, the summer’s big bird, in full fluff atop the staff that usually carries the flag. 
IN FLIGHT — Hummingbird leaves his perch.

Cool color

The dazzling white and yellow  flowers of early spring are now being joined by the cooler colors –purples and blues — of coneflowers and smooth petunias. A terrific site for Arkansas wildflowers can be found here.

CONEFLOWER — The wild coneflower blooms are stringier than many of their garden-bred relatives, but still beautiful in their native setting. A scattering of petunias adds more blue to the background.
VEINED — Close look at one of the petunias blooming in the grass.


Fencing , like music, it has its own tempo, rhythm and phrases.  Watching two skilled fencers in motion is almost like a dance — a martial pas de deux.

FIERCE COMPETITION — No matter that one is a philosophy professor and the other a talented 10-year-old, the rules of foil help level the playing field.

Weekly photo challenge: Unfocused

Unfocused. This week’s prompt could apply to so much. A life. A moment. An image. We’ll hone in on the last-named.

ALL A BLUR — From the archives — the then-brand new Sony got its shakedown cruise at the Little Rock Zoo back in 2009. Operator error, but still worth saving.
DEPTH — Love it or hate it, autofocus has its charms. In this case, gave a sense of separation even if it didn’t quite latch onto the intended target. Another shot from that 2009 trip to the zoo.
MORNING COMMUTE — As dad would say, it was a “soft morning.” Whipped out the camera en route to work this morning on an oddly foggy day. No, the photographer was not driving.)

It’s still early in the challenge, but here are some favs so far:

Bunny says “no.”



Water and light:

Black cat

Whirl of lights



Ice near STL

Warmish April on the ground. Antarctic at cruising altitude. Ice crystals climb toward the sun outside the Super 80 somewhere near St. Louis.

LATT(ICE) -- Ice crystals create a delicate scaffolding.

The shapes are oddly reminiscent of cloud chamber tracings and barbed wire, also bringing to mind  the thorns in the background of Marianne Stokes’ “Madonna“, or the intersecting lines on 16th century maps.