Sunday, May 08, 2011

It's moment like these...

Greetings and Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there, especially the inimitable DW.

Easter was a couple of weeks ago and the usual build up of excitement permeated the house. Little Man was much more into it this year, egged on (so to speak) by Princess. I am quite certain that neither of them really appreciate the actual reason we celebrate Easter but at least Princess can recite some stuff she learned during CRE at school. I'd like to share one thing that happened during this Easter period with the two kids.

We visited DW's parents for Easter, as we usually do. After the Easter Egg hunt and the consumption of too many of the discovered chocolate eggs, we headed off to mass at the local church. Princess has been doing religion classes for a while now and has a bit of an idea of what goes on during mass, but Little Man can be a bit of a terror. Because of this DW and I tag team to try to alternatively entertain him and minimize the disruption he is causing during the service. Anyway, this particular Easter Mass, they ceremony involved giving each and every person a lighted candle (more like a taper but you get the idea). To make matters even more frightening, the kids were to go up to the alter to light their candle from the big Pascal candle, and then share their flame with the rest of the congregation.

To say I was apprehensive is to understate the panic I was feeling. I felt like someone on the deck of the Titanic being told that a little bit of water never hurt anyone. But against my better judgment, I sent the little guy forth with his candle like a monkey holding Harry Potter's wand. And boy, was he keen. Church no longer seemed boring - someone was actually going to let him play with fire! He didn't need asking twice.

Well, he was gone and my only hope as Princess stepped past me was to whisper, "look after Little Man." She nodded and disappeared into the throng of bustling children. Neither of our kids are particularly tall so they were out of sight in seconds.

Kids started emerging from the throng with their little candles lit, carefully trying to keep that flame alight, most often having to return for a second attempt. I still couldn't see Princess or Little Man yet but there wasn't any screaming or sudden burst of flames, so that was something. After what seemed like nearly two minutes but was actually only a bit over a minute and a half, the crowd of children dispersed and there, like something on one of those ridiculously cute Christmas cards, were Princess and Little Man, standing together in front of the Pascal Candle with their little candles lit, holding hands.

Little Man was both excited and scared, but he was clearly happy to have his big sister there to look after him. Princess was confident and careful, and also proud as punch to be looking after her little brother. Its very hard to describe just how that moment made me feel. I didn't have a camera with me and I wouldn't have had time to catch the shot unless I had the camera up and ready. But in this case, I don't need a camera. The image of my two beautiful children sharing a moment together, both supporting each other without an ounce of self-serving, is something that has etched itself in my mind. Even if that image fades, the knowledge that it existed, even if only for that moment...

When I say I can't describe how it made, and still makes, me feel, I mean it. All the words I could use would be like describing the most beautiful place on Earth with only map coordinates. All I can say is that I hope every person gets to experience a moment like that once in their life. I am extremely fortunate. I get moments like that, perhaps not always as perfect, more than just occasionally. No matter how crazy the kids make me, its moments like these that make me feel like the luckiest person on the planet.


Thought for the Day: The future may be inevitable, but don't worry, it doesn't start until tomorrow.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Not sure what to call this one

Good morning!

My recent lack of blogging has nothing to do with me not having anything to blog about. The fact is I have simply been too busy to spend much time in front of the computer for anything other than work or study. So, a quick catch up is in order.

Well, not long after my birthday, DW and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary, which I'll have you know is the "lace" anniversary, or "lingerie" in more modern times. Unfortunately, DW was quite sick for the few days leading up to the big day (I took leave and everything) and just as sick after. In fact, she said to me on the morning of our anniversary, "Happy Annibleeaaugh!" but I knew what she meant.

Anyway, because both kids are at school now, I figured we could have a nice quite day, just the two of us enjoying each others company as we have for much of the last 13 years. After I got both the kids dressed, fed, packed and delivered to school, it turned out to be much quieter than I expected, the child-free silence punctuated only by the occasional "*cough* *sneeze* *sniff* *blow* *hhhhuuuurrrrraaaakkkkk*".

Anywho, I still cooked a beautiful dinner and DW told me she believed it probably tasted wonderful, but she couldn't really taste or smell anything, other than mucus. Who doesn't want to hear that about a meal they cooked? In case you are wondering, I am aware that the anniversary was harder on DW than it was on me.

Still, celebrating an anniversary is far less important than having a marriage that is worth celebrating, and after 13 years it would seem that DW and I still find ourselves very much in love and thoroughly enjoying married life. In fact, the weekend just past saw my parents celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, and DW's parents recently celebrated their 40th, so I guess it runs in the family.

Obviously marriage is not going to work out in every case. While it is important to try to find the right person, it is also important to be prepared to admit your mistakes. In my (what's the opposite of humble?) opinion, marriage takes effort, but if it works, it can be a truly wonderful experience. As I've heard somewhere, "It is not only finding the right person, it is being the right person." Well, I've always been confident that I am the right person, and it looks like I was bang on the money about DW too.

So here's to the next 87 years (our marriage certificate expires after 100 years, with an option to renew for another 100 - its in the fine print). Here's to not getting sick of each other and DW still laughing at my jokes (if dementia sets in for her before me, we should be ok). And as long as DW doesn't find my other blog, here's to a continuing happy marriage.


Thought for the Day: Always read the fine print. Or not.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

13 for the Third Time

Top o' th' mornin' to yeh!

St Patrick's Day has come and gone with little ceremony at my house. It would seem that if one doesn't drink much any more, there really doesn't seem to be a satisfactory way of actually celebrating the day. I supposed we could have had a stew for dinner, but we opted for something... greener. Chow Mein. Apparently it is one of my all time favourite meals, and I can see why, it was delicious. DW was a little surprised that I'd forgotten it was my favourite. I don't think my mind was working properly at the time. My boss asked me what I'd done for the past two weeks and I couldn't think of anything. I think he took my blank stare as a demonstration. I have actually been quite busy but the harder I tried to think, the harder it was to think.

I have decided that this is symptomatic of my recent 39th birthday - or as the title to this blog suggests - my third 13th birthday. I had decided to take the day off work, as well as the following day, which led into the weekend, so four days off. It sounded like a good idea. The kids had other plans. I expressed my birthday wish to them to have a bit of a sleep in. They informed me at 5:30am that they had decided to give me something else. Apparently they decided to pre-enact World War III (yes, I said pre-enact). They were at each other from the get go. I got dragged into the fray when Little Man decided I mustn't really like him because I didn't get him a present for my birthday.

However, after we dropped them both at school, we found ourselves sitting down for a quiet cup of tea. It occurred to me that we hadn't been alone in the house without either kid since Amy was born, but for one day when both kids stayed at their grandparents a couple of years ago. It was bliss.

We decided that a movie was in order and off we went to watch "The Kings Speech", though I admit I was somewhat reluctant. I don't like to work on my birthday and I also don't like to think, so I was not really in the mood for a thought-provoking movie, but timing-wise there wasn't really anything else to go and see. I wanted something mindless with helicopters and explosions and cheesey one-liners. Where is Michael Bay when you need him? (OMG - did I just write that?) Anyway, I absolutely loved this movie. It was performed flawlessly, crafted exquisitely and written with such a gentle understatement that it really is a brilliant film. It turns out Michael Bay was exactly where I needed him. I was expecting the film to be good. I just wasn't expecting it to touch me in quite the way it did. What an excellent birthday present that turned out to be.

For reasons I won't go into, I've been delayed in publishing this post, so I'll finish now and get started on being late for the next one.


Thought for the Day: An optimist might say a crisis is an opportunity in disguise. A pessimist would point out that at least opportunity knocks.

Friday, March 04, 2011

The Joys of Wedding Photography


Last Saturday my brother-in-law was married. It was a festive day and much fun was had by all - or at least by most: Little Man wasn't hugely impressed until the dancing started. The bride was nervous but she is generally pretty laid back. The groom was pretty nervous but he is also laid back. The in-laws and out-laws, best man and best woman, the celebrant and the invited guests were all a bit nervous but mostly pretty laid back. I was the official photographer, so I was very nervous and not at all laid back.

I was asked to take on this role because my brother-in-law and his (now) wife had seen the results of my first foray into wedding photography at another brother-in-law's wedding. For that first one, I read lots of books and websites about how to be a wedding photographer, I ignored the recurring suggestion of those books and websites to never, under ANY circumstances, become a wedding photographer and plowed straight in. I have a barely decent Digital SLR (I say barely decent because DW wouldn't want me to call it crap) which is an excellent device to learn digital photography with but not at all up to scratch for an official wedding photography to shoot with. Luckily, my brother, who is learning digital photography, has exactly the same model, and isn't silly enough to try to shoot a wedding with it.

When it comes down to it, wedding photography is just like any other high pressure photography where you only have one shot at capturing the most important day of two other people's lives or risk sending them into a vicious spiral of blame and doubt and ultimately divorce. So its important to have a sense of humour. In cases like mine, it's also important to lock that sense of humour away and behave like a person. It is also important to take off the lens cap, but with a DLSR, that one turns out to be fairly easy to remember.

Using my own DLSR and my brothers equally wonderful DSLR, I set off to capture the perfect wedding. As I learned during my first attempt, even if the wedding is perfect, you still might not get the perfect photo. As it happens, not many weddings are perfect and even if they are, not many photographers are perfect. However, despite my relative naivety, I managed to capture that first wedding rather well. The problem with that was it put extra pressure on my second and most recent effort to be of equal standing.

Using the same kit, I tried valiantly not to let the pressure overwhelm me, not to let my inexperience underwhelm me and to remember to take the lens cap off. And looking at the final photos, I can safely say I now know what it is to be whelmed. To start with the photos aren't black - check lens cap removal. The photos aren't complete rubbish - check... don't take complete rubbish photos. The photos generally flatter the bride and make the groom look like Yosemite Sam - check, though the groom helped a lot on this one. The photos should include all the guests - check, though I don't really know for sure, but with 1500 photos if I didn't get everyone then I must have gotten someone twice.

So what of the 1500 photos I did end up with. Any perfect, shot of a lifetime images - not as such. Any brilliant capturing the essence of the moment shots - not really, though it was a drab day and there are plenty drab shots so one might argue I have captured the essence of the day. Do the photos cover the events of the day - yes they do, mostly. I managed to get a photo of nearly every event of note during the day - even the ones no one told me were about to happen, such as the bride and groom walking in to the reception. I must confess I also missed the bride's arrival at the gardens but the circumstances where beyond my control. However, overall my coverage was pretty good.

I joke about the lens cap but I did make a mistake that falls into a similar category. I forgot to ask the groom to remove his sunglasses during the formal photo shoot. I honestly don't know why I didn't think of it. I have plenty of shots during the ceremony of him without the shades. I have plenty of shots after without the shades. But all the formal shots make the bride look beautiful and the groom look like a cross between a big, black-eyed bug and Yosemite Sam. D'Oh! Now if they go and get divorced it will be all my fault! Unless they get divorced before they see the photos - but it would be wrong to wish that.

After the wedding, everyone relaxes - except the photographer, especially one who blames his tools. I am now in the process of checking all the photos, fixing blemishes, improving colour saturation, tweaking brightness and contrast, and blaming my tools. It will take some time but eventually I hope to have enough decent photos to fill a photobook, or at least a photo frame. Can you tell I'm not really looking forward to it?


Thought for the Day: Rejected Slogan:- "Do you know anyone who needs a wedding photographer? I could use the practice."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Let's get the band back together!

Whad up, Homies?

You heard me. We are getting the band back together!

Let me explain. Many, many years ago my brothers and I started a band. I played guitar, my oldest brother played keyboard and did lead vocals. My next oldest brother played drums and/or bass and also did lead and backing vocals. My younger brothers played lead guitar and drums and sang backing vocals. Did I mention I played guitar? I'm not the best singer in the world and according to DW that will only change if I am the last person in the world. My brothers acknowledged my desire to sing by providing me with a microphone, and acknowledged my ability to sing by not plugging it in. I wasn't exactly the backbone of the band. Like they say, "its more important to have fun than to be good," which became my motto.

Well, despite my lack of actual talent, as a whole we were generally pretty rubbish but we had a lot of fun. At one point we decided to try to get serious and try to lift the overall tone. This resulted in each of us being replaced by actual musicians until it seemed wrong to call it "our" band, as none of us were in it. So the dust settled, mostly on the guitar case under my bed. I decided then I would get some guitar lessons so that if we ever got the band back together I would be ready to do my bit. I considered getting singing lessons but DW suggested that should focus my efforts on something I had a chance of being good at.

That was over twenty years ago and the call has gone out, "Let's get the band back together!" Obviously I haven't had a single lesson in that time, but I did make a few phone calls and decided formal lessons were not for me. I played guitar at our last family Christmas gathering and was keenly reminded how useful guitar lessons would have been.

It might sound like I am a complete hack when it comes to the ol' six strings, but to be fair, I was just as bad with four (I tried playing bass for a while - the theory that limiting the strings might limit the damage. This was a logical consequence of my playing a twelve string guitar once. I've even tried playing just on the one string, which technical cannot be out of tune with itself - and yet...). There is one song that DW does like me to play. Its very quiet and she likes me to be a fair way off but she always comes back in the room after I've finished and says it was lovely. She also says that its good for couples to support each others' creative needs and that support can be just as valid from a distance. It's like she doesn't want me anywhere near her wool when she is knitting and I can show my support by sitting in another room.

Anyway, twenty years or so after our band disbanded, we are going to have another crack. Not at stardom, as we are under no illusions that we will be any good, but rather, just a chance to get together and have some fun, because at the very least, we a very good at that. In fact, in the past, all of our songs ended in fits of laughter that usually lasted longer than the songs themselves. But to our credit, no matter how badly we butchered a song, we always struck up and had a go at another one. After we stopped laughing that is.

However, we are now older and, well wiser may not be quite right, but we are older. And I hear you can now get sheet music for songs so we may try that. I also expect that we won't play as loud so it will be less of a competition to be heard. And I may get some lessons. Who knows, I may have improved - you know, sometimes having some time away from a problem can help you see the solution more clearly. Perhaps music is like that. I know that you can't just put an instrument down and pick it up twenty years later and hope to be just as good - though that may be true in my case. I like to think of the last twenty years of listening to music as research so I think I've learned a thing or two. Surely one of those songs will have stuck. Anyway, I'm now ready to put it into practice. But first I've been putting off getting the guitar out from under the bed because it is covered in dust and you know how bad my hayfever is. I'll let you know how our first rehearsal goes.


Thought for the Day: A timely disclaimer can save your life

Disclaimer: DW is actually wonderfully supportive of my music and loves to hear me play. She doesn't like me to ruin it by singing.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Welcome to 2011!

Yep, I'm back.

After reading back over my sister's blog of her family's recent travels, I decided to put pen to paper, put pen and paper away, put keys to keyboard and restart my blog. Much like the current trend of calling movie remakes "reboots", I shall be rebooting this blog and you can already see the major changes. Yes, I've added the title field. I could have done it long ago, I know, but I didn't because I wanted to save it for something special. Then I realized that was stupid and turned it on a few minutes ago.

I still have thoughts so I will be continuing my "Thought for the Day" but I make no guarantees that they will make any more sense than my previous thoughts. In fact, it is highly unlikely as they will be coming from the same head and out through the same fingers, but I do have a new keyboard so we'll just see.

I have not found much time for writing of any sort over the last year or so but I hope to make amends for that. I've been asked to write a technology review blog for work and that also inspired me to get back to some of my own writing.

So, on to my opinion of the world at the moment. At the moment the sky is blue - well, blue-ish as my window is rather dirty. I should mention that I'm in an office on the third floor and my window is sealed shut so I take no responsibility for the state of my window. Yet it does affect how I see the world. At least the sky isn't grey-ish with streaks of dirt like it was yesterday.

Politicians are still jerks, but then so is everyone else. Footballers have recently taken offense at being told that they aren't necessarily the best role models in the world, to which they replied "Go *$%# yourself, you $%@#%ing $%@#$!!". Ben Elton's new show "Live from Planet Earth" is apparently deader than its title but no-one is game to tell Ben so it's on again tonight, and George Negus has promised to tell us more about less.

There are some TV shows which I think could find new life if they combined with other shows. For instance, perhaps we could combine "Masterchef" with "The Biggest Loser", and produce "The Biggest Masterchef". I'd watch "NCIS: Summer Bay". We could put Eddie Maguire and the "Hot Seat" in "The Cube" and have him try to guess the lyrics from popular songs of the Baby Boomer, Generation X and Gen-Y eras. How about "Good New Specks" where Adam, Myf and Allan attempt to beat Paul, Mikey and Claire at "Wipe Out"? Every week.

So I think I'll leave it there before someone gets hurt and look out my streaky window again at the streaky sky. Maybe next time I'll give a Princess and Little Man update.


Thought for the Day: I don't HAVE to explain myself, but I probably shouldn't rule it out.