Grohmann Museum, Morning Sun Through Clouds

Grohmann Museum, Morning Sun Through Clouds

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Grohmann Museum, Reflected

Grohmann Museum, ReflectedSaw this reflection of my building in a puddle from last night’s rain while leaving work this afternoon.

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Public Restroom in Black and White


Public Restroom in Black and White

I liked the lines and decided to go with black and white because in color the brown door was a distraction from what I saw as the main point of the photo. Plus I kind of like how in black and white you’re not quite sure why a chunk seems to be missing from the top of the frame. The original picture is below. Do you agree?




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Birch bark texture

Now that I took a photo of one tree’s bark, I’m looking more closely at bark everywhere. This older birch has a very craggy-textured outer bark, which then peels itself away in curled loops to reveal the smoother, cleaner-looking “new skin” underneath.

birch barkpeeling birch bark

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Bloom Where You’re Planted!

My equipment is no fancier than A) my older-model iPhone (a 5c, not even the 5s, which apparently had a better camera) and B) my Kodak Easyshare Z915 Digital Camera, which is no longer supported by the company and which I got on sale for $100 through Amazon about six years ago.

Despite the mediocre technology, I love taking pictures! One of these days I’ll feel flush enough to spring for better gear. Meanwhile, I’m going to make do and start setting myself up with “assignments”—sort of my own personal photography school🙂 —and just see what I can learn . . . about the cameras I have and about taking better photographs, period.

So here is a photo from my first (self-imposed) assignment, “Texture.” It’s the bark of a honey locust tree on State Street in downtown Milwaukee, taken with my iPhone 5c.

texture #1

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Sing it, mystery girl!

This little critter was warbling away up on the power lines this morning.

bird singing on power lines

bird on power lines

bird on power line

Is this a robin? It has a reddish breast but also a fair amount of white lower down. A female? The bill is yellowish with a black tip like what robins have. But I’ve never heard this exact song before. Here is some video (low quality, sorry!) I shot to capture the sound. If you recognize the bird from its song, can you please let me know what it is?

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“Sleep Walk” and a Fender Guitar

So I was at my office on campus today and walked into our main department office to get something from the printer. Our administrative assistant always has the radio tuned to our school’s radio station, WMSE (91.7 on your FM dial, best station in the world; be sure to listen to my friend Sonia‘s “Blues Drive” show on Friday afternoons, 3-6pm Central).

The song playing caught my ear. I recognized it and wondered aloud what it was. Turns out WMSE livestreams both songs and titles online, so you can always see what’s playing. With a few quick keystrokes on her computer, Rose was able to tell me its name, which was “Sleep Walk.”

We agreed: Technology is awesome!

I had my phone with me (more technology; thank you, Apple), so I googled the title and found this video.

Great 1950s hair. Dick Clark is so young. And the one brother gets all the attention for his flashy playing of the melody while the other just strums away on supporting guitar, kind of like how John Oates gets stuck with all the background vocals while Daryl Hall grabs the limelight singing lead.

Anyway, I didn’t play the video (beyond checking to make sure it was the same song) until after dinner tonight. The steel guitar fascinated me—I’ve always thought of this kind of sound as “Hawaiian guitar” (my grandfather was Native Hawaiian) and wondered how that instrument somehow wound up in country music—so I watched carefully during closeups in this video to see how he played it.

Then I noticed the name on the front of his instrument: Fender.

Double take. Really? I know what a Fender is, but I thought they just made the typical rocker’s guitar, like Strats.

So I looked up Fender, and guess what I found? The very first Fender guitar ever was a lap steel guitar, produced in the 1940s. Below is the illustration for Leo Fender’s patent application.

Patent for Fender steel lap guitar

And I learned some other interesting things, too. For example, a steel guitar can be played horizontally, lying across one’s lap; hence, “lap steel guitar.” Or it can be standing up, with pedals, in which case it might be called a “pedal guitar.” Or it can be played per usual, slung across the body, except you wear a metal tube around one finger and slide it along the strings.

I never knew why it was called a “steel” guitar. I thought maybe the strings were made of steel or something. Nope, it’s called a “steel” guitar because of that metal tube (aka the “steel”) worn on the player’s finger to slide up and down the strings. A steel is also called a “slide” because of the technique (used to play “Hawaiian” guitar).

Lots of different materials can be used to make the slides besides steel. There’s glass, which is apparently the most popular of the other materials. Blues musicians used to slice off the top of a wine bottle to make a “bottleneck” slide. Other materials include ceramic and wood. According to an article on the Gibson guitar website (here) about how to choose the right slide, W.C. Handy wrote down the first blues melody after he heard “an itinerant guitarist swiping a [knife] blade across his strings at a railroad stop in Tutwiler, Mississippi, in 1903.”

Cool to know. I love that everyday life provides such serendipitous learning adventures🙂


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