Painted Turtles

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I took the kayak for a 7.48 mile round trip from Dover to Natick and back today. I started off by Bridge Street in Dover — fortunately grabbing the last parking spot — and took the boat downriver to just short of the Natick Dam. Along the way, in several spots, I saw painted turtles basking on logs and boulders in the river. Usually, they would slip into the water as soon as I got close-ish, but these little guys stayed put just long enough for me to get their picture:

Painted Turtles on log

Painted Turtles on log

Quabbin via Motorcycle

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Around the start of the last century, water shortages in Greater Boston caused the state government to look to Western Massachusetts for supplies of clean drinking water. The Wachusett Reservoir was completed around 1908, and in the Twenties, the people of the Swift River valley lost their battle against eastern Massachusetts, and construction of the Quabbin Reservoir begun. The towns of Enfield, Greenwich, Prescott and Dana were disincorporated, their citizens evicted from their homes, and all structures in the way of the future reservoir razed. Construction took place during the thirties, and the reservoir filled during the forties, becoming the largest inland body of water within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Today, it supplies most of eastern Massachusetts with water. To protect the water, the area around it is a reservation. Yesterday, I took the motorcycle out for a ride around there. The roads around the reservoir are great for motorcycling — curvy, and not too crowded.

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Long Walk

I did something to my back last weekend, and have been hobbling around since. It’s not been too bad during the work week, as sitting itself hasn’t been too painful, though walking after sitting can be a pain. It’s put a distinct crimp in my weekend though; I daren’t use the kayak, I had to cancel a dive with Andrew today, and I don’t really want to use the motorcycle, both because of the back, and for reasons that I’ll relate later.

While yesterday morning was rainy and muggy, yesterday afternoon, the afternoon turned sunny. I wanted to do something, something that wouldn’t make the back worse. That basically left walking, so I drove into Boston with the camera, parked by the river on the Cambridge parkway, and went for a long walk.

The Longfellow Bridge is being reconstructed, so I walked over the bridge to see how it was coming. The bridge affords an awesome view of Boston, and I was particularly fascinated by the reflections off the John Hancock building.

After I crossed the bridge, I continued on through Beacon Hill, doing a little window shopping. Then I decided to visit Ward Maps in Porter Square, because they have a large collection of MBTA signage and maps. I could have hopped on the Red Line at Charles Station, but I was wearing my sunglasses, and wanted to swap them out for my regular glasses. So I walked back to the car, changed glasses, and walked to Kendall Square where I saw this sculpture:

Sculpture/Fountain in Kendall Square

Sculpture/Fountain in Kendall Square

I took the Red Line from Kendall to Porter Square.  Once at Porter, I turned left onto Mass Ave, and started walking toward Ward Maps, only to find them closed due to some sort of electrical problem. They’re a little less than halfway between Porter and Harvard, so I decided to just walk to Harvard Square. I’d never walked this neighborhood before, and it was very interesting — a bunch of small shops, interesting old homes, a colonial cemetery, and a couple of parks. After a quick tour of Harvard Square itself, I got back on the Red Line and took it back to Charles Station. Before I headed back to the car, I got a picture of the bridge reconstruction and the alignment of the temporary tracks the Red Line is running on:

Longfellow Bridge construction

Longfellow Bridge construction

So how was I feeling after all the walking? I was definitely feeling it in my legs last night. My back felt a little better, except a couple of times when I jarred it when I unexpected had to step down over a height difference I didn’t see. This morning I was feeling better — I’m still feeling it, especially after sitting — but better. I’m hoping it’s on the mend.

Flowers

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I just love this picture. I bought a box full of gazanias and lobelias Sunday, and took this with the phone before planting.

I’m now using it as my desktop of all three screens of my work computer.

Odds & Ends

A few little items:

I’ve been working from home for the past month or so. We’d been in a co-working space in Boston for the past year, and it was decided that since most of the developers are remote from the main London office, we should work remotely too. I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I’m finding that I personally end up working very late. On the flip side, I did pick up two lovely 27″ Thunderbolt monitors which work just as well with my personal Mac as they do with my work Mac.

There’s been a nasty strain of what’s probably the flu going around this week, and I managed to pick it up. I was fine on Sunday, with just a little cough, Monday, I was a little achy over the course of the day, and I was pretty much out of it the rest of the week. Tuesday and Wednesday I managed to get up and get dressed, get some code reviews done, do some minor work, and then fall back into bed. I haven’t felt this crummy for so many days since grade school. No appetite, achy and feverish all over, chills, headaches, the works.  By Friday I was starting to feel a little better, but I’m still feeling a bit light-headed. It’s also run through my brother’s family, my sister’s family, the family across the street, and my friends report being sick too.

We’ve had a pretty strong nor’easter Friday and Saturday. Rain and snow Friday, heavy rain yesterday that turned back to snow. And then today, I noticed the first of my new planting of crocuses had blossomed.

New crocuses

First of the new crocuses

Spring time, and better days, are ahead.

Making of a Christmas Card, 2016

This year was a bit unusual in that I actually had two competing ideas for a card, and I was able to do them with a minimum of stress. The first idea was to get some pictures of Christmas lights at night, and I actually brought the tripod with me into work, and went out shooting afterwards at the Faneuil Hall Marketplace. I did get some good stuff there, but in the end, I decided to go with my second idea.

I’d gotten a “Table Top Studio” kit the previous Christmas. Essentially, it’s a small square tent with white nylon sides to soften the light coming from the included pair of quartz lights. It came with four backgrounds: red, white, blue and black, and I decided to pick up a small snow globe and photograph it.

My initial thought was to use the red background, because red’s a Christmas color. I shot a number of frames. The snow globe lights up and has a small impeller to stir up the glitter inside, so I shot a a number of pictures with the globe both on and off.

I found that the moving glitter didn’t really read as glitter (or snow) but rather as noise.

I also decided, more or less for the heck of it, to try it with the white and black backgrounds:

I found I really didn’t like the black ones at all, and the white ones were underexposed and the white background was wrinkled, so I decided to shoot a few more with more exposure. I also got the idea to hide the bottom of the background with some fluffy cotton, to make it look more like snow. I shot both red and white versions:

The cotton balls in both are a little too obvious, but I figured that would be easy to fix in Photoshop. The red one was more in line with my original conception of the shot, but there was something about the white one that I liked. The red one was a little cleaner; the white one had some color casts that needed cleaning up. The snowmen in the white one were a little easier to read, and the reflections of the lights on the globe were a little less prominent on that one too. It would also take less ink to print. After some hemming and hawing, I decided to go with the white one, and took it into Photoshop.

All these steps took a lot less time than it usually does. The photography took maybe 45 minutes, and I had the Photoshop work done in less than an hour.

Next, I imported the picture into the card template in Pages. This was a little ticklish since I had to rotate everything 90°, because the template is designed for horizontal pictures. For the text, I used Museo Slab, the same font I use here for headings. I ended up choosing golden text with red rules above and below.

All in all, pretty simple, but I’m pleased with the result, more so than I was with last year’s card.

Final Result

Final Result

Merry Christmas everyone.