Winter Storm Is Over

I live in Southeastern Virginia. Virginia is a beautiful state. I have lived here all my adult life. Virginia has it all, mountains, piedmont, beaches, history, and an amazing natural beauty. Two things this area has that I don’t like are hurricanes and blizzards. Today is the morning after one of the worst blizzards we have seen in recent memory. While we got through the storm without any problems, the sub-freezing temperatures forecast for the next two days will make driving anywhere problematic.

Cabin fever is now starting to set in. I’m too old to go out and make a snowman unless it is a very small one. During the storm yesterday I spent time with online courses I am taking on Udemy.com. The courses are on Lightroom photography and Gimp 2 graphics software. They are a lot of fun and I am learning quite a lot. I managed to get out this morning and took a video of the results of the storm. I cleaned the snow off the outside unit of our heat system and cleaned up the front stairs some. Now I thought I would spend some more time writing on my blog. I don’t often post here, it is mostly a therapeutic thing for me.

The sun is out for the first time since the New Year and if not for temperatures in the low twenties it would be a great day for doing something outdoors. It’s just that you can’t drive anywhere to do anything. So I guess after I finish this I will spend the rest of the days reading, watching a football game, and maybe a movie. The roads should be ok by tomorrow I hope.

That’s about it. Just wanted to kill some time. Hope everyone is having a wonderful New Year so far. Stay safe.

Dump Loyalty Cards

CC3H15_2401584bI was shopping at my local grocery store recently, and as I was pulling up Android Pay from my smartphone to access my loyalty card, I had a thought. Why are we still using loyalty cards? When I got home from the store, I pondered the question.

I know that loyalty cards were originally designed to encourage customers to continue to shop at or use the services of businesses associated with each card. I’m not sure when the first loyalty card was issued, but I do know that they have been around for years. While they may initially have been some value to both customer and business, today, with the proliferation of loyalty cards, I wonder if that is the case anymore.

I have loyalty cards for grocery stores, bookstores, electronic stores, pet stores; just about every category of business imaginable. They have become both a nuisance to keep as well as to use. They have not made me loyal to any business today. Since every business now has one, I tend to use use whichever business provides the best value and services. Loyalty cards seem to have lost the ability to engender loyalty in a customer.

With that said, and the businesses knowing full well that their loyalty cards no longer work as designed, why do we still have them? Wouldn’t it be far better for all involved, business and customer alike, to do away with loyalty cards altogether and earn loyalty again the old fashioned way? The old fashioned way being to offer the best value and service from the get go.

It must cost businesses quite a bit to maintain such programs, and has become increasingly onerous for the customer to keep and use all the myriad cards available. I think I will start a hashtag campaign on social media to eradicate the loyalty card. #DumpTheCard

The only problem I see with my campaign being a complete success is the fact that the very first business to drop loyalty cards may actually suffer economically. That is where the customer needs to step up to the plate and give their loyalty to that first and subsequent businesses. And then one day we can return to the days where a loaf of bread costs exactly what it is labeled, with or without a loyalty card. It takes more than a card to earn my true loyalty.

Wish me luck!

 

Advent

It has been a busy December for me. So busy that I have been remiss in posting anything. Time to make up for that. As a Christian, Advent is a special time for me. It is a time of preparation for Christmas. Christians prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus by remembering the longing of the Jews for a Messiah. In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate his first coming at Christmas.

Our church prepares for Christmas by decorating the Narthex and Sanctuary, as well as the entire church. We put up two Christmas trees, one traditionally decorated, the other decorated with Chrismons. Every Sunday of Advent a candle is lit in the Advent Wreath, with the central, white candle being lit on Christmas Eve.

Advent is also a time for community outreach. Our church participates in Operation Christmas Shoe Box and Operation Santa Claus. Operation Santa Claus provides gifts for children in foster homes while Operation Christmas Shoe Box provides a shoe box of gifts for needy children worldwide. We also participated in a program that packaged 40,000 meals for distribution all over the country.

As for myself, I have been busy doing the other things that fill my day. Reading, photography, church work (I am the treasurer among other hats I wear), traveling around, and shooting. Yes I cling to my guns and Bible. Just kidding.

The only down note is my beloved Golden Retriever Max has been sick. He turned 12 years old in November and has been diagnosed with liver cancer. He has been on chemotherapy and Prednisone for some time now and although he seems to be holding up remarkably well, his eyesight is failing. It is probably a combination of the drugs and the cancer but the vets aren’t sure. It is agonizing to watch your pet slowly go blind and not be able to do all the things we used to enjoy doing together. He is being treated for the blindness but the prognosis is unknown.

I will leave you with some photos to document recent events in my life. But before I go I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holiday, or whatever you celebrate during this time of the year.

God Bless you Richly

 

 

Holidays, Holidays

Holidays, holidays, tis the season for holidays. Halloween is over, not much to talk about there except I love the seasonal decorations that are everywhere. Where I live, I seldom get any trick or treaters. I still buy a bag of candy just in case but end up eating it myself. Then if you celebrate these days, there is All Saint’s Day and All Souls Day. They are sort of related to Halloween I think but I’m not sure. Next up is Veterans Day, then Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Eve. And of course my sons birthday is in December and my dog Max will be twelve this month.

When the weather has cooperated I have been getting out and doing what I love best, taking photographs. With my new camera and lens, I have been able to better express myself through photography. Although I have been taking pictures since I was a child, I still want to to develop my talents more every day. I see some of the fantastic art on Flickr and it motivates me to do better. I have two friends that are professional photographers and they inspire me to be more creative.

When I’m not out taking photos, I spend time reading, surfing the Web, shooting my firearms, and being active in my Church. I am an elder, treasurer, department head, and go-to guy for all the technical things that need to be done. I designed and maintain the church website and well as the church Facebook page.

My formal training was as an electrical/electronic engineer and I have spent my whole professional career in one field or the other of engineering. I have been employed by the power company as a nuclear engineering technician at the Surry Nuclear Power Station here in Virginia. I have also worked for the Navy in the overhaul of A-6 and F-14 aircraft, in the IT department with Public Works, and with Training and Doctrine Command with the U.S. Army at Ft. Monroe, Virginia.

But as you might have surmised, I have been retired now for more than 7 years. But I do pretty well at staying busy and it sure is great to have all those hours to do the things I really enjoy, like not having to commute to work every day.

That’s about it. It is a bleary day here in Virginia and I hope I can find things to do to fill my time.

God Bless.

Schooners , Snakes, and Potheads

I have two friends who are professional photographers and they often steer me towards interesting things to photograph. First let me say that I am not a professional photographer, but I have been an avid photographer since I was 12 years old. So while I don’t make money at photography, I do know a little bit about composition, subject, and lighting. Anyway, one of my friend photographers told me about the annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. The race starts in Maryland and ends here at the Hampton Roads Bridge/Tunnel. The boats then tie up at North Landing in Portsmouth. Since I have always wanted to be a sailor, especially sailing, I went down to North Landing to see the schooners as they came in.

I arrived a couple hours early so I stopped at Olde Towne Coffee House for some coffee and a crumble muffin. After breakfast I walked down to the dock and met a couple who had a beautiful Siberian Husky. After talking with them for a while I learned that they used to race in the Schooner Race ten years ago. I had a very interesting conversation with them about sailing, the technical aspects of which I know very little. The husband had a portable marine radio with him so I got to listen to some of the radio chatter. I could keep track of the race in real-time thanks to my smartphone and a web site which had a real-time map of all the boats with their tracks and current position, speed, etc. From the website I could see that the Schooner Woodwind home-ported at Annapolis Maryland, and a past winner, was leading the pack, followed by the Pride of Baltimore.

The weather started to turn bad just as the Woodwind appeared around the bend of the Elizabeth River heading to dock at North Landing. She had crossed the finish line already, having won the competition. She had her sails furled (drat) but she was a beauty nonetheless. Here are a few pictures of the Woodwind.

As for snakes, this is the story.  My cousin Roxanna, who lives in Ripley, NY but is down in Virginia visiting her son, invited me to Sandy Bottom Nature Center to visit with her and her son who is the Park Ranger in charge of the park. Sandy Bottom is an awesome park with lots of fun stuff to do. Hiking, fishing, boating, camping, and a great Nature Center building with a wonderful teaching program for youth and adults alike. They have an impressive collection of reptiles, amphibians, fossils, relics, and assorted other stuff that is fascinating.  When I arrived, Roxanna’s son was showing a small snake to a group of scouts. It was a hands on show so all the boys got to touch the snake. Having owned a snake, a python, I thought I knew a lot about snakes. I could differentiate between venomous and non venomous snake by the shape of their head, pit between eyes and nostrils, and pupils. But Marc, Roxanna’s son, told me one thing I did not know. The bottom of the tail (behind the anus) of venomous snakes looks the same as the rest of the belly. If the snake has a cross pattern (like a diamond shape) it is non-venomous. There are three species of venomous snakes indigenous to Virginia. They are the rattlesnake (canebrake), copperhead, and cotton mouth. The Nature Center had beautiful specimens of each one. I took a few photos with my smartphone.

king snake King snake1

 

After looking around the rest of the Nature Center Roxanne took me on a long tour of the park. It was a beautiful day and as I said before, the park is awesome. It was nice spending some time with my cousin as I rarely get to see her. Anyway, it was a great day and I managed to get a few good photos. See if you can figure out why the title mentions potheads.

 

The Neon District and Why Norfolk Rocks

I have lived in Chesapeake, Virginia for over a decade and for the most part love living here. Chesapeake is a largely rural city and lacks a lot of the things that an urban city like my neighbor city Norfolk abounds in. Among those things Norfolk has is an abundance of art and cultural resources and fine dining and entertainment. The adjacent city of Portsmouth also has more art and cultural resources and restaurants than Chesapeake. The good thing about Chesapeake is that it is very close to both Norfolk and Portsmouth so I can enjoy the suburban living of Chesapeake and partake of the arts, culture, fine dining, and entertainment of both Norfolk and Portsmouth.

Norfolk especially has an abundance of places to eat. You can partake of just about any cuisine you can imagine. Chesapeake, on the other hand, is more a Sonic and Burger King kind of city. It is even hard to find a good hot dog in Chesapeake. Did I mention that another adjacent city, Suffolk, also outshines Chesapeake in the areas mentioned? Sad, but true. Norfolk has a major Zoo, sporting venues for college football and basketball, professional Hockey, and semi-pro baseball, a botanical garden, and an actual downtown.

It is the downtown of Norfolk and the art aspects that I want to talk about today. Norfolk has some beautiful architecture, including the Chrysler Museum, a world-class art museum. Norfolk has recently undertaken a project to paint many of the old buildings in downtown Norfolk in what is now being called the NEON District. Many volunteers have gotten together to paint fantastic art on the walls of buildings in over 30 areas of Norfolk from the Chrysler Museum to Granby Street in the heart of the city. I first heard about this project on local television and I had to go take a look. I am a lover of great architecture and especially enjoy murals and painting done on buildings.

Here are a few of the photographs I took of some of the fantastic art adorning buildings in Norfolk. All of them are within walking distance of each other.

 

 

Fall is here and so is a Hurricane

Fall has arrived and with it it is bringing a lot of rain and maybe a visit from Hurricane Joaquin. For the last week we have had endless rain and the ground is now saturated. If Hurricane Joaquin passes nearby, we are assured of 10+ more inches of rain and tropical force winds. Heavily saturated ground with high winds equals trees and power lines down. Not anticipating a fun weekend. Being that I have been through many hurricanes in my life this is nothing new and we are as prepared as we can be. At least I hope to get some interesting photos and videos of the storm which I will post as soon as I can.

As for the other aspects of Fall, the weather is cooling, the leaves are changing colors and falling, and there have been lots of festivals. I am looking forward to all things pumpkin, along with lots of hot cocoa. Our church is having its Fall Bazaar this Sunday and as a part of that we cook and prepare over 400 quarts of Brunswick stew for sale. It is a LOT of work but we always manage to pull it off and everyone enjoys the fellowship. While I can’t give you the exact recipe for the stew (Top Secret), I can give you a list of the ingredients, except for the spices used. (Top Secret).

  • Chicken
  • White Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Lima Beans
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Chicken Stock
  • Bullion cubes
  • Worcester Sauce
  • Water
  • Fatback
  • Butter
  • Top Secret spices

We cook it outside in large pots with wooden paddles over propane burners. It takes 6-7 hours to cook enough batches to fill all the orders. That does not count the pre-cooking of the chicken, peeling and chopping of vegetable, etc. At $7.00 a quart it is a great deal. Wish you could stop by and try some. Now if only Hurricane Joaquin will go away…

Night Photography

Since I received my Sony mirrorless a6000 camera with its 18-50mm kit lens, I have been taking more photographs than before. This new camera is a big step forward in capabilities than my old Panasonic. Since I have gotten my Sony I have purchased two news lens; a F1.8 50mm and a 55-210mm telephoto. I have to admit I love the ‘nifty fifty’ the best. I love the shallow depth of field and low light capabilities of the 50mm. Last evening I went down to the waterside at Portsmouth with my tripod and 50mm and tried my hand with some night scenes. The results, in my humble opinion, were pretty good. Take a look for yourself at a couple of them.

Fall is fast approaching. The leaves are starting to change colors and the temperatures are dropping. I will miss Summer but I love all the seasons. They are all chapters in the book of Gods creation of the Universe. Soon I will be doing fall foliage photos and before you know it winter scenes. Can’t wait. God is good all the time and all the time God is good.

Making the most of Summer

While Fall doesn’t officially arrive until September 23rd I have noticed that it is getting cooler in the mornings. So I am making the best use of the final month of summer. The city of Portsmouth was visited last weekend by the USCGC Barque Eagle. The Barque Eagle (WIX-327) is a 295-foot barque used as a training cutter for future officers of the United States Coast Guard. While I missed its entrance and docking, I did get down to have a look. There was only one open house, which I missed, so I couldn’t go on board. But I did take quite a few pictures. It is a breathtakingly beautiful ship and I would love to have the chance to sail with her one day.

This weekend, there were two events that occupied my days. The first one was the Seawall Art Show at Portsmouth waterside. There were many vendors with some fantastic art to view and buy. There was one photographer there whose work was wonderful. I should have gone back and bought one of his photos. I think I took one of his business cards so I might go to his gallery yet and buy something. There were different live musical groups there and I listened to the Top Hats Orchestra while I was there. They play mostly big band music and they were very good. One of the vendors was selling fish with all the trimmings but I wasn’t really hungry although the smell was trying to convince me otherwise.

Sunday I attended the annual Tefft family picnic at Red Wing Park in Virginia Beach. It is one of my favorite parks and we have had a lot of picnics there. I have 5 brothers but two of them couldn’t make it. But the rest of my brothers and their families were there. The weather was beautiful and as always my brother Jon, who is a great cook, made it a big success. It is always amazing to see how fast the young ones grow up. I need to spend more time with my family. After I left I stopped at the beautiful Japanese Gardens which are a part of the park to take some photos.

So I have had a great summer so far. The weather has been great, the pool as always is relaxing, I have gotten to see my family, and enjoyed several events. The only downside to my summer has been that my Golden Retriever Max has been diagnosed with cancer. He has been on chemo and prednisone and is doing OK, although the chemo has its side effects, the main one being that it is affecting his vision. He will be 12 years old soon and I hope he will be around for a few more years, God willing.

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Hope everyone has a wonderful summer. Take care.

Summer is fading

Three more weeks until Labor Day. I hope to make the best of them. The weather has been nice, with the temperatures in the 80’s and the humidity down. I have spent a lot of time in the pool or on the back deck enjoying the day. Life has been good. Our church had three baptisms and five new members. Another church used our bapistry to baptize four people. God is great! Our Vacation Bible School starts Monday and we are hoping for 30 children or more. Our new Pastor will be holding an adult Bible school. Our new Pastor has been great since he answered the call. His sermons are great and if you want to hear them go to our website at Park View Christian Church (DOC).

I took a short trip to Suffolk to visit the Cedar Hill Cemetery.  This 32 acre expanse of hilly terrain and ancient cedar trees has many stories to reveal. Also home to one of Suffolk’s official Virginia Civil War Trail sites, The Confederate Monument. There are an amazing number of unique headstones and grave markers. A lot of the graves date back centuries. It is the most beautiful cemetery I have ever visited. My reason for visiting the cemetery was to view and photograph some of the more famous grave sites. The cemetery is so big I will have to go back another day to see it all.

I am still exploring the capabilities of my new Sony a6000 camera. I bought a book covering all the capabilities of this amazing camera, and it is quite a long book. It is amazing how much capability they can put into such a small camera. I am thinking of getting another lens for it, but am not sure whether to buy a fast 50mm lens or a telephoto lens. Currently I am leaning towards the telephoto. I will be taking a photography class this month or next taught by a professional photographer friend of mine. It will cover sunrise, sunset photography. She is an amazing photographer and I expect I will learn quite a bit from her.

That is about it for now. Have a blessed day and enjoy the summer, or what’s left of it.