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    The Geckos

    2011 - 07.28

    I love my geckos.  Usually I love them from school where I can chat with them throughout the day, or bring them out of their cage to hang out with.  I haven’t been doing that as much as I had in previous years because I had a group of kids that I needed to keep an eye on a little closer.  Over the breaks, I often get kids to take them home.  It’s not nearly as wrenching as it had been the first time, but I still miss them.  I especially missed them this year because I had them at home for a few weeks before passing them off to a student.  *sadface*


    I bought Sasha in September of 2008.  I wanted a pet for the classroom and originally thought a rabbit would be perfect.  We already had fish tanks with guppies and assorted other tropical fish, and I wanted the same pets as my idolized grade 2/3 teacher…guppies and a rabbit. Imagine my surprise when I was outvoted 17-2 for a lizard *.  Hokay then.  There are vegetarian lizards, right?

    I went to the pet store, after doing some research, with the idea that I would get anoles.  They’re cute, active and they don’t cost very much.  Sadly, they eat live insects…bleh.  I was talked out of the anoles with the adorable-ness that is the leopard gecko.  I was sold on the idea that we could handle them.  Then, the weird happened.  There was a teacher in the pet store with two leopard geckos…she taught in the same district as I do, in the same grade, and in the same specialization.  SOLD! Sasha came home with me that night.

    The class voted on the name and it came down to Sasha or Sparky…luckily Sasha won the day! :) Blind voting is a teacher’s godsend…not that I cheated or anything… Later that year, one of the boys got a leopard gecko and named him Sparky. :)


    About a year and a half later, I was at a different pet store getting some gecko-food ** when I was looking at the other lizards.  I love doing that…and I’ve almost left with snakes and other lizards before…I loves them.  Anyway, I saw this pitiful looking leopard gecko in the cage with some that were way bigger than she was.

    Ennis: The day I rescued her

    She was about the size of a key, her tail was missing, there was bedding imbedded in her tail stump, she was shedding really badly and there were bite marks all over her.  I figured she was pretty much toast…and then I saw her strike at a cricket.  She missed, getting a mouthful of bedding, but darned if there wasn’t some fight left in her.  I bargained her price down (“But she’s only half a gecko!!”) and came home with Ennis *** .

    Ennis: The day I rescued her

    Eventually Ennis grew up, although she’s not quite as buff as Sasha is, and they’re very happy geckos, except for when they bite each other occasionally. Usually by accident.  Usually.

    Sasha and Ennis

    * The criteria for a pet: no more than four legs, must be in a cage/tank and will not grow to the point of needing a cage/tank the size of a phone booth.
    ** AKA live insects.  Bleah.
    *** Ennis = NS = Not Sasha

    Sleepy Geckos

    Hmmm, Photo Blog?

    2011 - 07.28

    Looks as though this might be turning into a bit of a photo blog, and I’m totally ok with that.  Karin and I now both have our own Flickr Pro accounts* now (linked to in this sentence), and no it’s not a commitment issue, it’s because sometimes keeping things separate makes sense.

    I’ve been taking pictures for years, and some of them are even good ;-)  Karin doesn’t have the history of being a photographer, but she didn’t grow up in a family that was so photo-mad!  Is there a single person (with the possible exception of Grandma) on the West side of the family who doesn’t personally own at least one camera (and I don’t mean a camera phone)?  I don’t think so!  I wonder what the oldest age any of the kids got to before they got their first camera, couldn’t have been that old.

    The downside of that photographic tradition is that many of our photos aren’t in an easily shared format, this is less true for Karin, but I know that I took definitely hundreds of rolls of pictures, possibly even into the thousands (anyone else remember the good old days of Kirkland film packs?  Costco for the win!)  I wonder if maybe we should all get together and do a group purchase?  I know there are “cheap” photo/negative scanners out there ($100 or less), but if we pooled our resources we could probably manage to get a really awesome one for only a minimal investment each, and then we could pass it around so that we could all scan our old photos (or at least those worth keeping)… just throwing it out there.

    * If you want to check out pictures though, you should totally check mine out first… if only because it will take a couple of minutes (153 photos uploaded so far), while Karin has 3,779 (and she hasn’t uploaded any pictures from Wednesday yet… the glories of having a 16GB card I guess).

    Honey and the Whale

    2011 - 07.28
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    Honey and the Whale, a set on Flickr.

    Via Flickr:
    Unlike Capt. Ahab, Honey always gets her whale.

    “You can call me Stuffie” said the Whale.

    So we took a few pictures yesterday, I made sure to empty my card before I left home, and I essentially filled the 4GB card during the day, of course that only actually represents the equivalent of about 10 rolls of film (to those whom that’s still a useful analogy).  These are shots of Honey dog (mum and dad Abel’s Corgi) and her favourite stuffie (the Whale).

    I had actually gone down to the backyard to take some pictures of some roses, and possibly a nesting robin (couldn’t see it from below), but Honey followed me out and wanted to play.  So in order to be able to take some pictures, I pretty much had to play.  She’s by no means a “big” dog, but she’s definitely persistent, and will happily drop the stuffie at your feet and encourage you to play, if you don’t take the hint, she’ll move it closer (even if it’s already on your feet) essentially saying “Notice me, and play with me!”  So despite trying to tire her out, I’d be taking a few pictures and I’d feel the stuffie and perhaps her snout on my legs.  That said, she doesn’t bark and rarely whines, so it’s all good.  It also meant I had something other than flowers to take pictures of.

    At one point I think I actually had her pretty much tired out, she had retrieved the stuffie, but then went and dropped it in the garden and laid down in front of it, as though she was guarding it (didn’t get a picture of that though) which reminded me of this Travelers Insurance commercial which we had seen the week before (“The Cat Burglar”).  Alas the break was short lived.  Anyway, enjoy.

    Note: this stuffie has lasted a long time, she tends to destroy her other toys reasonably quickly but it seems as though this one has been around for years now.

    P.S.  There may be a few additional photo posts in your future ;-)

    Sooke Sparklers

    2011 - 07.26

    Sooke Sparklers, a set on Flickr.

    We brought our tripod to Sooke with us, our hosts had sparklers, and they were kind enough to do the sparklers with the backdrop of the ocean. I think they turned out pretty well.

    Christopher is in the top left, Keegan is top right and wee Kyler is at the bottom.

    Chowder Update

    2011 - 07.19

    I finally got into the clams that we had in our freezer from our trip to Sooke.  I was a little nervous about making chowder *, as I don’t think I’ve really made any cream soups before.  Overall, it was pretty easy, thanks to my prep cook, The Dave.  I had everything measured out for me and put into little bowls…I felt like a TV chef! :) I was surprised at how easy it actually was.

    1. Take clams out of freezer and put in fridge to defrost.
    2. Two days later, start chopping clams.
    3. Cook some bacon in a pot and reserve drippings (I didn’t do this first, so I did it after and added some drippings)
    4. Cook herbs, clam juice, onions ** and potatoes in pot.
    5. Add cream, milk and flour.  Let cook for a bit.
    6. Rinse off clams because of panic that they’re going to taste too strong.
    7. Add clams.
    8. Cook a little bit.
    9. Nom with sourdough rolls
    10. Realise I forgot to put bacon in.
    11. Decide it’s pretty delicious and doesn’t matter.
    12. Eat more the next day and forget bacon again.  Decide it’s ok because it tastes even better the next day.
    13. Give some to a friend and wait impatiently until he gets home and lets me know how it tasted. ;)
    14. Consider doing it again with the rest of the clams in the freezer.
    15. Write blog post and put up pictures on Flickr.

    * or, as Dave and I call it “CHOW-DAH!”

    ** I used onion powder…or as I say in my head “POW-DAH!”

    HDR Source (East Sooke)

    2011 - 07.18

    HDR Source, a set on Flickr.

    If you checked out the 11 HDR images from East Sooke, then these 33 other images might be of interest, they are the separate correct, under and over exposed images which were combined to make each of the 11 HDR images.

    If you’re curious about which one is which, I haven’t as of yet anyway relabeled them, so in each sequence the files are numbered (image title) and the lowest of the three numbers is the correct exposure, followed by the under-exposed and then the over-exposed.

    Anyway, only the curious need look at them, on some level if you looked at the HDR images, you will have seen all of these before.

    Trailing blackberry stalk

    2011 - 07.17
    Trailing blackberry stalk by dcowley
    Trailing blackberry stalk, a photo by dcowley on Flickr.

    Trailing blackberry stalk in East Sooke. Although this may look heavily doctored, the stalks look very blue and the thorns very pink/red before any post-processing.

    Combination of three exposures -2, 0, 2 (Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB)) using Photomatix. No tripod was used.


    Personally this is one of my favourites, when we were walking around Christopher’s family property in East Sooke we found some trailing blackberries, and the stalks were such a surprising colour, looking far more blue than green and the thorns very pink/red.  Some of that colouring is lost in the high dynamic range (HDR) composition, but the striking contrast between the stalk, the leaves and the thorns is emphasized.

    HDR on Flickr

    2011 - 07.16
    Woodcocks Arbutus - HDRLonely ArbutusArbutus branch trunk and stumpTrailing blackberry stalkBranching Arbutus with a viewReaching for the sky
    FoxgloveI'm a BranchI'm a TreeForking ArbutusLow Hanging Branch

    HDR, a set on Flickr.

    So I’m experimenting with some High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, we’ll see how it goes!