Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Sea Turtle

I had a dream the other night about a big white sea turtle. It looked sort of like Olga, or maybe a Holstein, with big dark spots. But it was definitely a turtle, with flippers and limpid sea turtle eyes. It liked being scratched, like the tortoises in the Seychelles. I think the turtle and I were in our back garden.

I remember waking up and thinking, "Wow. I need to write that down." And then I didn't and now I don't remember what happened.

But it's just as well. In my experience, writing down dreams isn't really all that productive. I used to think dreams meant something, and I'd record them in my journals, but going back and reading them is often pretty tedious. I think they can be expressions of our thoughts and emotions -- our subconscious mind -- but often they're just neurons firing rather randomly as we're in the process of waking up. Don't you think?

Anyway, I can't imagine what the presence of a Holstein sea turtle should tell me about my subconscious mind.

Yesterday was our big dress-up day at school. Most of the kids were in costumes, even the high schoolers, and there were activities and competitions. I fully intended to wear my black Salad Fingers t-shirt, because he's pretty darn Halloween-ish, but then I raced out of here yesterday morning as usual and didn't remember the season until I was on the tube. Oh well.

In fact, we have failed to prepare for Halloween in every respect. I asked Dave to grab a bag of candy at the store in case we get trick-or-treaters (there are small children living upstairs), but he forgot. I suppose we could buy some today, but more likely we'll huddle together in the back of the house with the lights off.

It seems like every year Halloween becomes more prominent in Britain. There's even concern that it's overshadowing Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night, which is coming in just a few days. (We're already hearing fireworks each night. Olga is not a fan.) When we first moved here in 2011 we didn't see much evidence of Halloween, but this year I saw TV commercials touting candy and costumes. Another commercialized holiday export from America!

(Photo: The Fab Four outside a souvenir shop in St. John's Wood. I believe that's the proprietor walking in front -- he'd just locked the shop door.)

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Night Garden

My birthday isn't until after Halloween, but a box arrived from Amazon a few days ago and Dave just couldn't stand the suspense. "Open it!" he said last night, thrusting it at me. It was, of course, his present to me. As it turned out, it's a cool present.

Dave got me an infrared camera for our back garden, so we can take wildlife photos at night while we sleep. We've always been curious about what goes on out there, with our pals the foxes and the squirrels and who knows what else roaming around. Probably cats. Maybe even people? (God forbid!)

So I set up the camera last night, fastened it to a tree and this morning eagerly raced out to retrieve it. And what we got was...

...a picture of me, walking away from the camera after I set it up. There were no pictures at all between 7:45 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.

So, you know, this will take some experimenting. The camera's instructions say to set it up a meter above the ground, which might be fine if you're trying to photograph a deer or a moose. But for our backyard wildlife, I'm thinking just a foot or two above the ground might be better. And I think I'll point it more toward the back of the garden rather than the back of the house, where all we see is our own windows. (I got up in the middle of the night for a drink of water, and waved at the camera from that big window on the ground floor -- but apparently that wasn't enough to trigger it!)

It takes color pictures during the day, so we can leave it out there for days at a time and it should sit vigilantly waiting for anything interesting to pass by. (We'll probably get a million blurry pictures of Olga.) Maybe we could also nanny-cam the dog walker, and see what times they come and go? The possibilities are endless!

(Top photo: The rugby fields near the cemetery where I walk Olga.)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Dog Care Drama

Olga would have nothing to do with the rainy weather yesterday morning. I tried to walk her as usual and she got about ten feet from the front door, stopped, gave me one of her deep, doubtful looks, and turned around and headed back home. She does not like the rain.

I finally cajoled her into the back garden long enough to make sure she peed, since I didn't want to leave home without that having happened. She is a camel, though, and she probably would have been fine until her dog-walker showed up in the afternoon.

Dave and I changed our plans for dog care when we go to Lisbon in about a month. We'd originally asked the daughter of a friend to house-sit and dog-sit, but the more we tried to arrange a meeting with this girl to tell her about Olga, the more elusive she was. I finally wrote her a few days ago and said that she seemed awfully busy, and I was concerned she wouldn't be able to care for Olga as needed. She wrote back and admitted that it would probably be better for us to find some other option because her work schedule is so unpredictable. So Olga will be going to the expensive, annoying dog boarder for Thanksgiving as well as Christmas.

It's all for the best. I would not want to be in Lisbon worrying about the dog.

(Photos: From some recent morning dog walks.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Neighborhood News, Part 2

I walked past the scene of the fire yesterday morning on my way to work. From the looks of things, flames and smoke pretty much demolished the interior of at least two buildings. Finchley Road was still entirely closed to traffic, which is no small thing, because it's a major artery through North London.

(By the way, when I said in my last post that this fire was "around the corner" from us, that was an oversimplification. It's probably about half a mile away.)

Spectators were gathered on a raised sidewalk across the street, right above one of the connection points for the fire hoses, to watch the firefighters at work. They were still spraying hot spots with water.

The last I heard, the fire is believed to have started in one of the shops on the ground floor. Fortunately no one was seriously injured. In our neighborhood, at least, traffic seemed to be more or less back to normal last night and the smoky smell had dissipated. This morning it's raining, so that ought to clear the air further.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Neighborhood News

We had some excitement nearby yesterday -- a pretty big fire around the corner on Finchley Road that damaged several shops and forced the evacuation of a few dozen people. Apparently it began in the early morning, which is weird, because I walked the dog before leaving home at 8:30 a.m. and I knew nothing about it.

But on the way home last night, I found traffic backed up on streets all through our neighborhood and a haze of plastic-smelling smoke filled the air -- so I knew something was up. I'll walk to work that way this morning and check out the scene.

Some secondary excitement came when someone rang our doorbell about 7 p.m. Dave and I looked at each other quizzically, because no one ever rings our doorbell out of the blue, unless they're a huckster of some kind. Sure enough, Dave opened the door to a tearful guy with a sob story about just getting out of prison (!) and wanting money to go see his daughter and, oh, would we buy this pack of three dish towels for £19.99?

Dave offered him a few pounds as a donation, which is more than I would have done, but he was insistent that he wanted to sell something. So Dave said sorry and closed the door.

"Can I still have the donation?" said the guy from the other side of the door.

We didn't open it again.

It's actually a pretty good sales gimmick to say you've just gotten out of prison because then people are slightly scared of you and what you might do. Any day now, I predict, our house will be burglarized.

(Photos: Golders Hill Park, on Sunday, and a tiny detail from the same shot.)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Syria, Broken Pottery and Duraflame

Did you read Jimmy Carter's column in The New York Times a few days ago, in which he proposed a multi-state solution to the Syria crisis? I thought it was very interesting. Essentially, Carter said that the persistent U.S. demand for Assad to step down is unrealistic, and we should instead be working with Russia, Iran and neighboring countries to stabilize Syria under Assad. At least then we would eliminate the power vacuum that allows ISIS to thrive.

I think it makes a lot of sense. Just the other day I was telling some friends that I didn't understand the American insistence that Assad be removed from office. He's a dictator, but isn't he much, much better than chaos, anarchy, religious extremists and civil war?

Assad's departure could still be our long-term diplomatic goal, but for now, we ought to work with him, or at least tolerate him. He's better than any visible alternative, from what I can tell. Jimmy Carter is spot on.

As you can see from the top photo, taken on a nearby street where I walk Olga most mornings, fall is in full swing. Yesterday we went on our West Heath walk, and once again I found a tiny piece of broken china on the footpath. I am a bit mystified about why I keep finding these on Hampstead Heath. Were pebbles from the Thames used to firm up the footpaths? (As we have seen, the Thames is full of broken crockery.) Or are these simply random pieces of rubbish that were discarded there decades ago? I wonder.

Anyway, Olga and I had a good walk.

Last night, Dave and I went to a choral concert where one of his colleagues performed. First we had dinner at a pub near Sloan Square that shall remain nameless, as they were out of most items on the menu and the food took forever to arrive. (I never did get my chips, and where was the quail egg that was supposed to top my salmon?) We scampered from there to a nearby church, the site of the performance -- Vaughan-Williams' Mass in G Minor and Duruflé's Requiem. They were both beautiful pieces, beautifully performed. I'd never heard of Duruflé, and in fact when Dave told me the name I thought he said "Duraflame," like those molded sawdust fireplace logs. I told Dave we should call him Duraflame from now on.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Drizzly Low-Key Saturday

Despite the damp weather, Olga and I had some adventures yesterday. First I took her for a brief walk in the morning, before French class, and she was obsessed with running around this tiny neighborhood playground. I don't know if she smelled a cat or a fox or someone's cookie crumbs, but she was mesmerized.

Then I went to class, which went well, and while riding the bus home I saw that despite the rain, the tourists were out in profusion at the Abbey Road crosswalk and in front of the recording studios, farther down the street on the left.

In the afternoon I did a bit more garden cleanup. I finally cut back our decrepit wildflowers, and I raked the lawn with our terrible rake, which came with the house. It's plastic and all but about four of the tines have broken off completely. It's not very effective. Still, I managed to collect a bagful of leaves.

While most of our flowers have died back, our cardoon has just bloomed. Cardoon, you may remember, is the same plant that we ate last Christmas (or tried to). It's much more pleasing as a garden flower, related to both the artichoke and the thistle.

In the afternoon, I took Olga to Fortune Green and the cemetery, and I'll spare you the pictures because I'm feeling a little self-conscious about the number of headstones I depict on my blog! But we had fun. She wore herself out and slept all evening while Dave and I watched "The Thin Man," which I've been meaning to show him for ages. The quippy Nick and Nora Charles are never tiring. Dave has kind of a mental block when it comes to old movies, though, and I'm not sure he enjoyed it as much as I did. (As Dave will readily tell you, a good movie -- to him -- must include ray guns or photon torpedoes.)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Library Pictures

The past two days we've had very little activity in the library. Classes were suspended for parent-teacher conferences, so the kids haven't been around, for the most part. (Dave, on the other hand, was crazy busy meeting with the parents of all his band students.)

I got so bored late yesterday afternoon that I wandered around the library with my camera.

I have a rubber bat hanging over my desk for Halloween. He used to be round as a football and full of air, but somehow he got deflated in the storage cabinet over the past year.

Our poor, neglected library cactus is about to burst into bloom again. Apparently it enjoys neglect!

Olga and I often pass the Banister Fletcher family tomb in Hampstead Cemetery when we go walking. He's known for writing this architectural tome, a standard reference work, which I've never seen anyone check out.

A chorus of student art.

It's amazing how many photography opportunities can be found within a fairly confined space!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Meetup in the Wine Bar

Thanks, everybody, for your kind comments on yesterday's post! It was particularly great to hear from a few new commenters. I always wonder who's reading out there!

After my day in Bath, the pendulum has swung quickly back to the routine of "real life." Olga's happy because yesterday I once again had time to take her for a walk in the morning. We'd skipped the previous two days, which is very unusual, and running around in the back garden apparently just isn't as fulfilling as dragging me along the city streets, sniffing at the leavings of other strange dogs. A walk is a social experience for her, even if we never come face-to-face with another canine.

Last night after work I met up with my friend Caroline, who I know from the Peace Corps. She works in international development and was here for business purposes. We rendezvoused (now that's some Frenglish, right there) in a wine bar in Selfridges and raised a couple of glasses with some coworkers of hers, one of whom bought a very '50s dress with a flared skirt. (I'm told that's what "A-line" means. I always wondered.) Anyway, it was great to see her and meet her coworkers, one of whom lives in London but is leaving in a few months to move to Bamako, Mali, where I'm pretty sure there is no Selfridges. I'm kind of jealous, actually.

My Peace Corps friends are so great. Even when I don't see them for years, when we get together the time just falls away. It's like we're back in Rabat for our quarterly gamma globulin shots, swapping stories about our jobs and villages in Morocco. (But fortunately, without the needles!)

(Photo: Bath, on Wednesday. We're all addicted to our devices!)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Myself, LRPS

Yesterday I took the day off work and went to Bath, to finally put my photos before a panel of judges for the Royal Photographic Society. You may remember it's been my plan to seek the Licentiate distinction from the Society, and for several months now I've been preparing a set of images by printing, mounting, submitting them for pre-judging, editing, reprinting and remounting. Yesterday was the culmination of all of that.

The good news is, I got it. Well, apparently it has to be ratified by something called The Council, which sounds very Vulcan high leadership, but yes, I am almost certainly now Steve Reed LRPS.

"You should sign everything like that," Dave said when I got home last night.

In the photographic world it is a mark of distinction, and even though I've been telling myself it would be no big deal if I didn't get it, I was pleased and relieved when the five judges gave my pics their thumbs-up. It was a joy to watch them react to the images -- to smile and laugh and point at some of them, which conveyed to me that there was a level of connection.

Mostly I was happy I hadn't spent all that time and money only to come up empty.

After the judging I spent a couple of hours wandering around Bath, taking still more pictures. (Because you can never have enough.)

I met this man carrying his puppy, which he called a "Jug" -- a cross between a Jack Russell terrier and a pug. That's a mix I'd never heard of before. It's interesting to see how thoroughly that pushed-in pug nose vanishes! (I wonder if that happens with every puppy, though?)

I had lunch at this extremely orange cafe. I even had orange food -- chicken korma curry. That's my table with the green jacket to the left. My LRPS photos are in the oh-so-stylish plastic Tesco bag beneath it. (Everyone else had a swank black portfolio. But you know, I'm a bag kind of guy.)

It was very autumnal in Bath -- lots of leaves littering the quaint city squares. The weather was miserable, downright rainy in the morning, but at least by the time I was walking around the rain had stopped.

I caught the train back to London at 4:13 p.m. Before my train, this one rolled through the station -- a vintage Pullman with white linen tablecloths, china and wine at every place setting. It looked amazing! I believe it must have been this train, which looks like a memorable outing. (Not for penny-pinchers, though, which probably counts me out!)

Anyway, it was a fun day. Back to work this morning!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

House with a Face

Here's another one of my most popular pictures -- which obviously has very little to do with the quality of the photo! It's basically just a snapshot I took on a road near Sag Harbor, N.Y., in September 2008.

It became popular after I submitted it to a Flickr group about photos of objects that unintentionally look like faces. Somehow that led to its inclusion in a Web gallery of houses with faces -- a Web gallery that was duplicated over and over again on sites all over the world, such as Buzzfeed. (I don't remember where the Web gallery originated, but I did give permission for it.)

Eventually, and with my OK, the picture even wound up in a book. I was excited when I found copies of the book in the gift shop at the Saatchi gallery a few years ago. (Now, I see that it's selling for a penny on Amazon. How the mighty have fallen!)

I never got paid anything for the picture, but I didn't really care. I literally just pointed my little point-and-shoot camera and took the shot.

The other day I did a second Google Image search to see if the picture had appeared anywhere else, and while I see lots of versions of that Web gallery of found house faces, I don't see any other unauthorized uses. So I guess I won't be able to sue anybody and collect my millions.

It had been so long since I took the picture that I couldn't even quite remember where that structure was. I did remember that it had something to do with sculpture.

Here's the answer! It's part of a sculpture center on Long Island. It's probably not even truly a house. Oh well -- artistic license! I remember driving past with my friend Stuart on the way to the beach to see the waves kicked up by a tropical storm in the Atlantic.

Seems like a million years ago!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Tale of Two Houseplants

Our other two Brugmansia blooms have opened. Wabi, Sabi and Bobby are impressed. Dave said the flowers are supposed to have an "evening scent," whatever that means -- they do indeed smell very faintly and lightly, with a hint of lemon.

This is a distraction from today's post, though, because our Brugmansia is not one of the two houseplants I mean to write about.

Instead, I'm writing about my last remaining houseplants from my former life in Florida. They're at my mom's house now, sitting in the leafy garden outside her front door in clay pots. They moved there when I moved to a tiny, dark apartment in New York City in 2000.

One is a Rhipsalis cactus, which was given to me when I was a child by a woman named Mrs. Kirkland. She worked for my mother around the house, and cared for my brother and me when we came home from school each day. I always struggle with what to call Mrs. Kirkland. She wasn't anything as transient as a babysitter, or as focused or fussy as a nanny. She was basically a surrogate grandmother, and although she didn't live with us, she was with us every day for many years.

Anyway, she was very into gardening, and she was definitely responsible for teaching me a love of plants. She called this Rhipsalis a "Bird's Foot Cactus." (I couldn't find it online under that name, so maybe that was just her name for it.)

Also outside my mom's door is my Purple Heart, a common purple-leafed plant that many people confuse with the similar Wandering Jew. I got my Purple Heart when I skipped school one day around 1983 and went into downtown Tampa with some friends. We walked around the city, exploring, and I picked a sprig from the landscaping that was growing in the median of Ashley Drive, one of the main streets through downtown. I rooted that sprig, and it became my plant.

The picture above, from the late '80s, shows my purple heart plant behind Calvin, who belonged to my college roommate, Robert. Calvin, of course, has been dead for years, as have most of those other plants -- the tree in the big pot on the left was ultimately planted at my mom's house and continues to grow there (as you can see here). In fact, even the apartment building where I took that picture has been torn down.

Geez, time passes!

Which is kind of what this entry is about. I've been wrestling with what to do with these last two houseplants. I initially planned for my brother to take them and put them in his yard in Jacksonville, but he never picked them up, distracted no doubt by his own obligations. (I don't blame him at all!) For some reason I didn't move them myself when I was there in August. Yesterday I came up with a plan for Mom to give them to a neighbor, so I could pick them up and take them to my dad's house when I visit in December. (Even though Mom says the Rhipsalis is pretty much dead, having been dug out of its pot by some animal.)

And then I thought, "Why?" I can't bring them back to England. Even bringing a sprig to root would be a customs violation, I'm sure. The best I could do would be to move them to someone else's yard.

I think, instead, I should just let them go. There are lots of plants from Mrs. Kirkland around our house -- the Florida orchid tree, the pine-cone lilies, the florist's ferns. They're all going with the house. Perhaps these should too. They're where they belong.

I think I've spent so much mental energy on this because, as I told Mom, it's transference -- it's really about losing the house. It's about giving up so many links to our past through the sale of this property.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A Few Last Summer Flowers

The petunias that I planted in our front doorway hanging basket at the end of June are looking more and more scraggly. The one above isn't bad -- technically it's not a petunia, but it must be a close relative -- but the other two have definitely seen better days.

So here they are, memorialized for eternity. I don't think they're going to last much longer.

Also on their last legs are the wildflowers from our seed assortment. They're still blooming -- red poppies, blue cornflowers and yellow daisyish things -- but the plants look like hell. The leaves are pretty much gone and they're down to scraggly brown sticks. Like the petunias, I'm letting them go as long as they are able.

I had a conversation with my mom yesterday about the sale of our family home. She's found a buyer (yay!) and she has a contract, with the sale due to close in mid-November. How strange to think that I will not set foot in that house again -- the house where my brother and I grew up, and where my family has lived since it was built in 1966.

In November Mom will move up to Jacksonville, where my brother lives with his family. My future visits to Florida will be focused more there and on my father's house closer to Tampa.

I'm happy for Mom, who seems ready to move, and I'm not too sad about the change myself. All things come to an end. But I can't help but experience a few pangs.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Dog Doppelganger

Olga and I were back at the cemetery yesterday, where, as you can see, it's still quite grassy and flowery despite it being mid-October. I love that big mound of nasturtiums. They're one of my favorite flowers, and we never grow them, and I don't know why.

The dog and I had a nice, quiet day. I had French class in the morning, where we were introduced to the futur simple tense, which is different from the futur proche. I still say everything pretty much in present tense. These tenses just blow my mind. I have definitely noticed that I don't memorize as easily as I used to. I have a terrible time with verb conjugations, even the bedrock ones -- j'ai, je vais, je veux, je sais, je suis -- good lord, they all look the same!

Dave is working with students all weekend. He's trying to help them prepare for honor band selection, first rehearsing and then recording their submission tapes. So in the evening I ate peanut butter and watched "The Eyes of Laura Mars," a somewhat terrible late '70s movie with Faye Dunaway in which a photographer inexplicably begins seeing through a murderer's eyes. How this happens is never precisely explained, which is what I love about '70s movies. They don't bother with details. They just dance.

I got a box from Amazon on Friday -- some tennis balls and a backup Kong for Olga, and a book for me. I wanted a book set in Lisbon to read when we go next month, but quick -- think of a novel about Lisbon. Or Portugal, for that matter. It's hard, isn't it? The only one I could think of, off the top of my head, is "The Night in Lisbon" by Erich Maria Remarque, which has something to do with Nazis. So that's what I ordered. It probably all takes place in Germany, except for, well, The Night. (I could have ordered Jose Saramago, I guess, but I didn't think of him until later.)

Saturday, October 17, 2015


Let me state right away that I am not a paid shill for Google. (I wish!) I wrote about image searching the other day and now I'm writing about another Google product, but I swear it's just coincidence.

Last night I came across something called "DeepDream," a code that Google techies wrote to enhance photos with patterns that it sees and amplifies, partly drawing, as I understand it, on photos it's seen in the past. (The technical stuff is all explained here and here, probably far better than I could explain it.)

Basically, it makes your pictures look like an acid trip.

Here's an example. At the top, a photo from a recent walk with Olga on Hampstead Heath. And just above, the same photo after it's been run through DeepDream. Crazy! (Click to enlarge for full, Hieronymus-Bosch-on-shrooms effect.)

I had fun running a couple of photos through DeepDream using this site. But the wildest example I've found is here, a YouTube video that employs the same technology on a scene from the movie "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." (So appropriate.) Watch it. You'll be bowled over. If you're like me and you never tried acid or any other hallucinogenic drug, you may feel both sorry and relieved!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Brugmansia and a Big Fish

Here's the newest exotic plant to be blooming in our midst -- a Brugmansia, or trumpet flower. Dave bought this plant as a tiny sprig and initially put it outdoors, but it was quickly swallowed up by the verdant greenery of our more robust temperate species (the English ivy).

So he moved it to a pot, and it's now growing near the avocado in our living room. It's endured a couple of spider mite infestations but otherwise seems to be doing much better indoors. And yes -- it's blooming! It has this flower, its first, and two large buds that should open any day now.

Dave said he thought he bought one with orange flowers. But we've found that plants we ordered from one particular web site often don't match their descriptions.

In other news, I heard back from the Italian photographer I mentioned in yesterday's post. Her response: "Nobody said this is my picture, it was just put as background (but not by me) by he ones who organized the event. Sorry! talk with Dub Vibes!"

While that may be technically true, I would say using a photo in publicity materials for a photography show certainly implies that the photo depicted is part of the show. Don't you think? Anyway, I'm leaving it alone. The event was months ago and I can't do much about it anyway. I'm not so concerned that I want to make a stink.

My foot is doing better. I think it was just a temporary strain of some kind. My initial suspicion was plantar fasciitis, but if that were the case I'm not sure it would feel better this quickly.

Oh, and I arranged dog care for Olga during Christmas. In the end, I went back to the dog boarding place we used in Notting Hill, even though it costs an arm and a leg, and the woman who runs it always makes me angry. I just couldn't find anywhere else with any availability. I think they take good care of the dog, which is what counts, I suppose.

Finally, here's a fun drawing from the art bulletin board at school. All the kids began with the outline of a fish, which most of them decorated with fins, eyes and abstract patterns of wavy lines and scales. This kid, however, took his fish in a whole different direction -- a mechanical one, from the looks of things. (Is it a "fish tank"?)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Couch, via Google Image Search

Yes, you've seen this picture before. I first blogged it in January 2014, soon after I took it at Hackney Wick. I posted it here and on Flickr, where it attracted a modest amount of attention.

But on my Tumblr blog, where I usually repost some of the pictures I post here, it took on a life of its own. It exploded and went viral, gathering more than 24,450 likes and reblogs so far. It's by far my most popular Tumblr post. (I realize that's nothing compared to the millions of views some YouTube videos get, but for me it's a big deal!)

The other day, I was talking to a fellow photographer at school. He complained that he'd been finding his images re-used without his permission across the Internet. He apparently found this out via Google Image Search, and he explained to me that Google allows users to upload a picture and search online for identical photos.

I had no idea!

So, knowing how popular my couch picture is with the disaffected kids on Tumblr, and despite the fact that ignorance is bliss, I decided to search for it.

Now, any photographer who posts pictures online has to expect that they'll be pirated and re-used to some degree. That doesn't mean we should allow it without complaint, but in my view, it's sort of the nature of the Internet.

I especially don't mind if the user adapts my picture in some way. I found this guy on Twitter, using my photo as a component of his Twitter profile shot. I think it's kind of funny. It doesn't bother me at all. (Maybe he likes parrots?)

This concerns me a little more! It's an Italian photographer using my shot in an online flier for an event publicizing her "photographic project" called "lost & found." There's no credit on the photo, at least not on Facebook. So I'm wondering about this exhibit. Was she exhibiting my picture? Or was she just using it in her publicity materials (also not kosher, but perhaps not as outrageous). Was it an exhibit of photos she found online, in which case, one wonders, did she credit the photographers?

So many questions, and I'm going to ask them. Stay tuned.

By the way, one entertaining aspect of the Google Image Search function is that it shows users other pictures that are "similar" to the one they searched. In my case, Google thinks my couch looks like a tank.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The World Without Us

I don't know what I have done to my left foot. Suddenly I'm getting sharp pain from the back of my heel, the area just below the connection to my achilles tendon. I suspect that sitting on the floor in the library, working on the lower shelves, may have stressed it out somehow.

I really AM almost 50, I guess! Gawd.

I've been reading an interesting, but kind of depressing, book called "The World Without Us." It's a meditation on the ways humans have changed the planet, and a look at what would happen if we suddenly disappeared in a plague or mass rapture or some other event that removed us, but left everything else intact. Some things that we think of as relatively permanent -- our gigantic buildings, our houses, our bridges and tunnels -- would deteriorate relatively rapidly through water intrusion and weathering. But other things, like all the plastic trash we've produced over the last 75 years, would likely stick around for millennia.

And no, surprisingly, the cockroaches wouldn't take over the planet. Apparently in northern climes they would freeze, without our building heat to sustain them, and rats would drastically dwindle in number without our garbage to supply their nutrients. Mosquitoes, on the other hand, would prosper.

The part about the plastics is bleak -- because, really, how can we avoid consuming plastics in the modern world? These are products that we've only been producing since World War II, and already we have an Africa-sized floating garbage patch in the Western Pacific, full of ever-smaller plastic bits that are being consumed by sea creatures, to their detriment. We don't know what will happen to those plastics over time. They haven't been around long enough for us to find out.

On the other hand, it's nice to know that nature would rebound in most ways if we suddenly vanished. Our hybridized gardens would perish or gradually sink back into the wilderness' gene pool. Predators (four-legged ones) would once again roam our cities. The excess carbon we've pumped into the atmosphere would gradually -- over many, many years -- be reabsorbed into the body of the planet.

I can't help but suspect that the world might really be better off without us!

(Photo: A yellow wall in Leyton, East London.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Tadpoles

Well, I made progress yesterday on all fronts. I talked to the caterer about our Florida party, and got that ball rolling. I looked up several dog-sitting places and contacted one of them, and although they were booked around Christmas, again, I feel like I at least made a little progress just by reaching out. I also got a couple of other things sorted in addition, of course, to work.

Still, there is much to be done, and I'll be taking care of a few more things today. I actually woke up at about 1 a.m. this morning, thinking about it all. It's funny how sometimes as soon as you wake up and become aware, a thought is already in your mind, swimming in circles like a tadpole. You wonder, was it there all night, or did it just materialize upon waking?

(Photo: Shopfronts near the Horniman Museum and Aquarium in South London, early September.)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Mushrooms and Obligations

It's definitely mushroom season -- I've been seeing tons of them in the woods, sprouting from all manner of leaf litter and old logs. Nothing quite as dramatic as that big red one I saw a few weeks ago, though.

Olga and I were back at the Heath yesterday. I didn't take the camera this time and I must admit it was nice not having to lug it around. It's healthy, sometimes, to just walk and look and experience, without expectation or purpose. You know? The weather was much nicer than Saturday -- blue sky, sunshine, cool but pleasant temperatures. We did not lose the Kong.

I'm having guilt about what to do with Olga while we're in Lisbon for Thanksgiving and, more importantly, in Florida around Christmas. We've arranged with the daughter of a friend to watch Olga in November, and that's for just a few days, so I don't expect a problem there. But we have no one to watch her over Christmas. I sort of left that in Dave's camp but he's just been too busy, so I need to get that ironed out. And we need someone reliable, given that we'll be gone two weeks. I wish our dog-walkers could do it, but apparently that's not a service they provide.

I also need to call about the food for the wedding party. I am going to do that today, I swear.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Early Autumn Heath Adventures

I took Olga out for a nice long walk on the Heath yesterday. We were overdue, having skipped it entirely last weekend, and she was a wild thing, running and running with her Kong.

That Kong is going to be the death of me. She drops it when she chases a squirrel, and sometimes has trouble remembering where it went. (God forbid it should roll anywhere, because that throws her off, too.) And as we have established, it sinks in water. Yesterday I found myself feeling around in a deep puddle, trying to retrieve it, and then she dropped it in a woodsy area and had a terrible time locating it again. We must have searched for 15 minutes before she suddenly got a bright, knowing look, ran off, and came back with it in her mouth. (It's so funny to see her remember something.)

I think I'm going to get some tennis balls and give them to her for our forest walks. They'd be much easier to locate and they're more disposable. She can still have the Kong when we walk in open, grassy areas, or when she lies down to chew.

In terms of seasonal changes, we're definitely noticing some early autumn color -- a slight yellowing in the trees, a crunchy litter of leaves and mast on the forest floor, a rare bright red leaf or bush.

I call this photo "Autumn with Royal Free Hospital."

While walking I found an ornate dog collar with a tag. The tag gave an address not far from where we live, so on the way home I stopped at the house and knocked on the door. No one answered, so I put the dog collar through the mail slot. Hopefully its owner still lives there.

Anyway, Olga wore herself out on the Heath, which is a good thing. After a couple of hours we came home, and she fell fast asleep and slept until morning.

I, meanwhile, spent a relaxing evening watching "That Girl" DVDs, reading and eating leftovers. (Dave had a pub outing with some work people.) It was nice to nest with an exhausted dog!