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Some things you learn through “book learnin'”, and I’m not adverse to that since I can’t be everywhere at once or in one life time. But learnin’ by experience is better when you can get it. I have a friend who is a very talented artist. He produced several insightful and intriguing stippling pictures (check out “Business on Parade”). And at one point when I was underemployed, he gave me a little work. One of the projects he gave me for some graphic design work he was doing was a stippling of a 8 1/2 x 11 sheet from white graded to black. I guess we would produce that by a digital method now, but he said at the time that the random process of poking a pen at a paper produced a far better picture.* I think that I remember it taking about 10 hours overall.

On my way to church this morning, I was praying that God would give me something to make the Sunday School lesson more interesting. As I drove the interstate the drizzle (or mist) slowly intensified and then later let up. I turned on the intermittent wipers to a slow setting, but I did not increase it as the rate of drizzle increased. I began to notice what reminded me of stippling on the windshield and every 5 seconds or so it got wiped off and started over. Artists that stipple use different sizes of pen tip for a given picture or on different elements of the same picture. The windshield stippling was far more complex in its randomness, utilizing multiple droplet sizes and some streaked upon impact. The effect was quite interesting. To our eye randomness brings some level of pattern. Three dots even nearly in a row look like a line and catch the attention. Four dots can suggest a square, rectangle, or rhombus. But looking at the individual dots is not the point (or points? ha ha). One must step back to see the artistry. The windshield would still look random, but when an artist is involved the result can be detailed beauty and communicate mood.

There is a metaphor here. Our lives are stippling drawings. Each strike of the pen can seem random for which we are thankful or annoyed or perplexed or overwhelmed or exited or challenged. But from these many seemingly random events God is designing a beautiful picture that reveals the Artist’s involvement in the process. Randomness alone cannot produce ordered beauty.** God is giving glory to Himself and benefiting us and others through controlling each strike of the pen on the paper of our lives. No unforeseen events ever mar the picture He is making.

I began the Sunday School lesson with this illustration and then in Luke 9 showed how Jesus was sovereignly controlling every detail of the events before, during, and after the feeding of the 5000, including what details were recorded. Jesus tested Philip’s and Andrew’s (indeed, all of the disciples’) faith when He knew what He was about to do. Every detail filled out the picture He was painting. Before the big reveal of everyone satisfied and 12 baskets full of leftovers, the questions and commands must have seemed trying and confusing. God, give me patience and perseverance as the pen contacts my paper in seemingly random spots and ways, knowing You are in control and this process is for Your glory and my good.

A stippling ball

A Stippling Ball****

*Yes, I enjoyed making that predominantly “p” phrasing.

**Crystal patterns in rock or snow flake form randomly but have underlying chemical design. I could get into the whole evidence of design argument, but you should read my blog entries because it is a frequent theme.

***In fact, the painting seemed to be focused on an extended metaphor of bread. Let’s talk about that another day.

****It would take more time and far more dots to make a good picture of a ball and its shadow, but I feel like it represents the intended purpose.

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On our hike at Thanksgiving I challenged a great-nephew and niece to prepare for a backpacking trip next summer. Besides asking them to take regular brisk walks around their neighborhood, I offered to do day hikes building up to the overnight trip. Yesterday we went on the first of those trips: Sterling Gap to Mt. Sterling in the GSMNP. When they arrived at the meeting place, they had a cousin in tow. So the four of us enjoyed the strenuous 2 mile hill (~5.2 miles total) and the views from the ~50 feet fire tower. It was just cool enough to make walking comfortable and just overcast enough to make for better contrast in viewing distant peaks. We had interesting conversation and enjoyed the transition of the tree types as we increased in elevation. It’s time to get in shape for the next bigger hill!

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Waterville Hydroelectric Facility: Why does a hydroelectric facility have a chimney?

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The exit is in Tennessee but the hike is in North Carolina.

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Let do this!

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It simply is not 0.4 mile between the trail intersection and the tower at Campsite 38.

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Low elevation outliers

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Big outliers

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Spruce among decidies

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A great niece learning about Galax

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A break in the trees

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Incline

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Almost there

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Notice how it tappers, though you must know that perspective exaggerates the effect

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Mt S BM (Wow, 1928!)

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A camera with the proper filter would better catch what it really looked like with even more distant ridges appearing.

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NE more or less

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We made it. I wonder how any panes of glass survive in what must be a very windy site.

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Enjoying the view?

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Main ridge at Guyot to Cosby Knob

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Campsite 38

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Interesting perspective

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Do you see my great-nephew? Notice how perspective from here makes the tower appear straight-sided.

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After lunch relaxing

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Silly cousins!

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Can you tell which one is his sister?

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At the top and still smiling

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Survived many a storm and wind

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Black (or Wild) Cherry

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White Ash

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Beauty everywhere you look

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Almost down

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I don’t know exactly what happened to my old chainsaw. It lasted 20 years and I rarely went easy on it. One day it just locked up. When I went to buy a new one there was a polarity of prices for seemingly similar saws. I asked why. The answer was basically that you pay $700+ for one of similar durability of the old one or you could pay ~$400 for one that was assured of wearing out in less than half the time. The store manager also said that all of the chainsaw companies have gone to this model: professional/homeowner grades. In the case of the homeowner grade, there is a predetermined and decided lack of quality that is sufficient to last a few years but not many. The plan is to sell more chainsaws at an affordable price, knowing they will have to come back for another one in a few years. The term for this “weak link” or introduced design flaw that results in an “artificially limited useful life” is planned obsolescence.

My wife has a nice crockpot that she uses regularly. It seems quality enough and I see no reason why it shouldn’t cook food for many years to come. However, recently the plastic handle on the glass lid broke. When I looked at it, two terms came to mind: cheap and planned obsolescence. If taken reasonable care of, there is little to break on this crockpot, except for the lid handle. If you can’t get the hot lid off of the crockpot safely, then you can’t really use it. Most people would throw the crockpot away. Some small percentage, probably less than one percent, might search for the part and buy it on Ebay or from the manufacturer. An even smaller percentage of people would make a durable replacement handle. I am part of this latter demographic, this smallest of tribes. The handle needed to be durable, easy to handle for my wife, and look at least reasonable.

About the time this all happened I was teaching my Biology students about cells. I had forgotten to discuss a term for programmed cell death- apoptosis. So, the day I took the lid and my materials into school to make the handle in the wood shop, I presented the parts before my classes with an explanation of planned obsolescence and my plan to reuse rather than recycle the crockpot. Then I proceeded to a segue into apoptosis. Cells have a weak link, as it were, to prevent them from going rogue, i.e. cancerous. Obviously, it doesn’t always work, but it prevents harm far more than allows it. 

I had a student ask me if that means that “death really is a natural part of life.” I replied that on the contrary, the programmed death of cells when external or internal cues of stress arise is a way to prolong the organism’s life at the expense of individual rogue cells. Oh, that corporate entities were so altruistic and sacrificial, but perhaps I am looking at the situation from the wrong perspective. Perhaps the crockpot is the sacrificial cell that rescues the corporate organism by not outlasting its economic value. After all, whose survival are we concerned about here?

At any rate, planned obsolescence in cells is a good thing. I guess it brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “stressed out”. Check out my new durable handle.

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Chicken is done!

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Custom made, prime, aged, ergonomic hickory wood handle from a tree where I grew up!

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Time to renew the Thanksgiving tradition. Because of extended family gatherings, our Thanksgiving dinner has been moved to Friday. We had more than 30 people in attendance. I didn’t get around to saying more than “hi” to a few, but I did have some good conversations with others. However, I find that some of the best conversations are had on our Thanksgiving Day hike, which once occurred on Friday. This time around, two brothers, a sister-in-law, a great-nephew, a great-niece, and I made the trek. The car trip to and from is frequently of equal or greater length, but there is much scenery to take in and much catching up to do. We went to Wolf Creek Falls near the NC border and up from Del Rio, TN.

(Interjection: I just saw something neat. The big drops of a beginning rain shower began to pelt down on the yard outside the window. When I heard it, I stood up and looked out to see large drops smacking leaves on the ground, making them look like Mexican jumping beans. Showers starting with large drops are not as common this time of year when it is cold and there are leaves on the ground.)

The sky was flawlessly blue and the temperature was refreshingly chilly. The trail was an old logging road and flat. But after one creek crossing and the second one going to require wading, my two brothers and sister-in-law decided to turn back. I didn’t want to stop, so I volunteered to go on with the great-nephew and great-niece. Of five total creek crossings the second one was the only one requiring wading. The other three went back to the vehicles and executed a long circumvention to a shorter approach from above the waterfall. They arrived 3 minutes after we did. We all enjoyed the process and the conversation.20191128_11105820191128_115936

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Largest Frazier Magnolia leaf I’ve ever seen. Umbrella and Bigleaf are supposed to be bigger, but you could fool me.

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Mushroom button and possibly three different kinds of oak leaves (Southern Red, Northern Red, Black), hophornbeam (“musclewood”) and red maple

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Approach glimpse

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Unintended fascinating shadow, oh, and Galax

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Hornworts and Liverworts, Batman!

 

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Over the Edge

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Near the Edge

 

 

 

 

 

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A brother, a great-niece, a great-nephew

Wolf Creek Falls
Serious conversation (picture credit: older brother)
Wolf Creek Falls Selfie
I think us oldesters need to learn something about how to pose for a selfie (picture credit: older, pictured brother)
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Double Cascade

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I don’t know if I have enough time even now, but I have wanted to share some thoughts and pictures concerning my second son’s wedding that was on August 24th. The typical wedding comment is, “It was a beautiful wedding.” or “It was a beautiful ceremony.” There are two things that can be meant by that. It was visually beautiful and/or it was beautiful in content. Certainly my son’s wedding was visually beautiful: sunny day, aesthetically pleasing, hilltop venue (Whitestone Chapel), and beautifully dressed young people. But I see the true beauty of a wedding to be in the genuineness of the ceremony, which I define as a combination of giving glory to God, the creator and sustainer of marriage, and matching the couple’s personality by revealing a heartfelt commitment and participation in the ceremony (they are not rote repeating spectators).  And it was that. Beyond the traditional vows which they repeated, they had written what they called promises to one another. My son asked me later, “Do you think we collaborated on those?” I said that it seemed likely since they followed the same line of thinking and simultaneously were complimentary to one another. No, he said, “We wrote them separately and then read each others.” He said that the only change she made was to add a comment about coffee similar to his, a moment of levity in the covenant of their promises. The two hymns, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” and “Amazing Grace” focused our attention to how gracious a God we have, Who not only saves us but gives us all good things to enjoy. The pastor directed our thoughts to the reality of how difficult marriage is, “two sinners living together”, and how the need for love is not just a feeling but a commitment to do what is best for our spouse. The ceremony was God glorifying throughout.

Another thing for which I am very thankful is the number of family members who were able to attend. Many family members from my wife and my extended families were able to attend. The reception afterward was held at a barn at the bride’s family property with 150+ people in attendance. All had feared the August scorching heat, but some clouds and a cool breeze prevailed and it was quite pleasant. I felt that the happy couple were carried along by God’s blessing the whole day, and may it be true throughout their lives.

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Rehearsal

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Pianist

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Bride’s Oldest Sister and Family

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Mamaw and oldest grandson

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Bride’s younger siblings

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Amazing, long preparations and carry through

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‘We’re happy but it’s a long day.’

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Bride’s mother and the Pastor and friends

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My wife beside Bride’s parents

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Taking it in stride

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Fellowship

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Uncle with the little chunk

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Hilltop Venue

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Overlooking the Lake

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The Wedding Party

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My Oldest and Family

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My Youngest and Wife

Bean Family

My Daughter and Family

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My Third Son and Roommate (This Son got engaged the next weekend)

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The Growing Clan minus the Married Couple

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The Grandchildren

5 Children

The Children

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Always in Costume

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The Groom with the Pastor and His Wife

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A Portion of My Family

 

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You know a metaphor to be a word picture, that is, words that bring to mind certain scenes or ideas. I was looking for a word whose definition is a picture that suggests words. Perhaps some of you wizened wordsmiths could help me out here and come up with the word. Unless and until that happens, I’m going to attempt to coin my second(1) word. Pictometaphor(2,3)- a picture or other visible art meant to suggest words. Now, you know we see these all of the time, but I don’t know if anyone has given it a name. And we say a picture is worth a thousand words, to which I say, of course, pictometaphor.

So, I want to try out my new word on you. I am making wedding rehearsal dinner decorations (That was a mouthful.). I am not really creative in this realm, so that the contrivance of my wife and I is a modified copy of things we liked online. It is in some respects simpler, and by me making it, much cheaper. But all that is not the point here, and I can’t give away too much before the dinner, so the pictures are limited. My point is for you to look at the following picture and write down pairs (in this case) of words that immediately come to mind. To see the quality of my pictometaphor, please don’t look at my answers until you have written down several pairs. It is totally fair and desirable to consider that this pictometaphor is in the context of an upcoming wedding. It needs context.

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Before I give my answers, let me further comment on the quality of a pictometaphor. The picture, sewn cloth (in this case), statue, etc, should universally suggest the same words to all people. This might be too much to expect given different cultures, so perhaps, it should at least be universal within a given culture. Or perhaps it becomes a code word (code picture?), a sort of jargon joke for the initiated.

When I look at the picture above in the context of marriage, I immediately think male/female, strength/beauty, utility/luxury, mundane/special (plano/fancy?), daily/special event. How do your pairs fare? Do they align with mine, mean the same thing with different words, contradict at points? Share by commenting.

Now, I like extended metaphors, as long as they don’t verge on the ridiculous. So I have added some possible additional accoutrements to the decoration. (This is somewhat tongue in cheek, and my wife said that was not happening when I suggested it.) Make your list of pairs again and let me know how you did.

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The selection of additional items colors(4) the connotations of the pictometaphor. Because I have selected two items that involve work or chores, the suggestion is not work versus play, but what kind of work. Probably for many of us, they suggest traditional gender roles. I am not going to apologize for that. I have hung up many clothes, particularly as a child, and my wife has helped me by hauling lumber and bags of concrete, but there are differences in our roles as male and female, and those have quite naturally and thankfully expressed themselves in our culture in nurturing and supporting ways. Much that is wrong with our society at present revolves around the abandonment of God ordained, given, and declared gender roles within the family, church, and society. Therefore, the first pair that came to my mind when seeing the nails and clothes pins was male/female. Also, I think home/job.

I could have directed the pictometaphor in a completely different direction by some simple change like replacing either the clothes pins or the nails with a few Lego bricks or a small doll. Then I would be driving the picture toward work/play, responsibility/privilege, chore/leisure, or even childhood/maturity depending on the exact toy I select.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading my comments and selecting your word pairs for the pictometaphor. The connotations of the pictometaphor need not be pairs, but the ideas must be ones that are widely understood. That is where culture and history and language come in. Language and art are at least partially an archive for culture and history. We should not revel in language and art changing so fast, because that blurs and eradicates much that can be learned and shared between generations. For instance, Western Culture has a rich language and art based on a biblical understanding. Many pieces of literature and art can not be understood in isolation from an understanding of the Bible. Of course, some want to rush the change, obliterate the references and understanding for the Bible given by language and art, and wholeheartedly reinterpret both, but that is a pictometaphor for another day.

1- The first word I tried to coin is “momentaneously”- circa 1995- used in response to impatient inquiry to mean you are high on my priority list and I will get to you with all speed as circumstances allow. Used in a sentence: “I will answer you momentaneously, but you are interrupting Jane at the moment.” For evidence of my coinage I site numerous classrooms full of students. Please spread the word since this may be my best possibility at fame. And, oh, by the way, don’t take me too seriously.

2- I considered iconometaphor, photometaphor, or imagometaphor, but each of these suggest connotations not in line with my definition, so I settled on pictometaphor.

3- “Hey, George.” What, Frank?” “How about photaphor or imaphor (or imagaphor) or iconaphor.” “Oh, Frank, that last one sounds good, but do you think people will understand what it means?” “George, the sound of a word can help the availability of its meaning, but ultimately, there is nothing like a clear and consistently used definition. ‘Is’ means ‘is’ even if some people say it ‘ain’t’.”

4- I am also partial to puns.

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If desperate times call for desperate measures, then tremendous provision calls for tremendous thanksgiving. Our youngest grandchild was born just over a year ago with heart problems. He had major heart surgery about 9 months later. Though small, he is now growing and happy with good skin color. It is amazing that he is alive and progressing. His father decided that in the light of God’s gracious provision of his child’s safety and health and the many people who showed concern, helped out, and prayed that a birthday party might not be enough. Instead, he decided to invite anyone who had been even distantly involved to come for a half day celebration of his son’s life and God’s goodness. 50 people responded that they would come. In the time my wife were able to be there, from 1-5:30 PM, the people came and went at a steady but reasonable pace for meet and greet. Good conversations, good food, and many stories of God’s goodness abounded.

After a year of multiple hospital stays, procedures, tests, and surgery, it is good to see the little man at home, content, and growing. God is good even when things are hard, but we celebrate His goodness when He is gracious to care for us with such largesse. His all sufficient grace is good and praiseworthy and full of joy.

In retrospect, I wish that I had taken pictures of the many people who came, but my few good pictures are of my own family gathered to encourage and give thanks. Also, notice that the little guy is almost always serious. He will go to anyone, probably because he is used to being held by nurses, but he takes a serious look at whoever picks him up.

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First Arrival Greeting

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Mama Talk

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Very Involved Sister

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A Few Moments Together

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Close Siblings (He smiles more often with his sister than any other time.)

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A Story and An Inquiry

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Intense Little Video (Uncle Time)

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With Uncle and Aunt

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With Those Swingin’ Uncles

Gift from a Pilot

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Odd picture: It must be blurred because I was shaky. Her face must be in focus because her movement matched my shakiness. That gives it a cool sense of motion.

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Healthy and Happy

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Mamaw Loves Those Grandchildren

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