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Big Dog Retrospective: Little Dog Wants to be Friends

Little Dog: So, you’re a big dog.

Big Dog: Go away.

Little Dog: I’ve always wanted to meet a big dog.

Big Dog: Leave me alone.

Little Dog: And here you are! You’re big. You’re a dog. The genuine article. The real McCoy.

Big Dog: You talk too much.

Little Dog: This is the happiest day of my life!

Me: I thought yesterday was the happiest day of your life.

Little Dog: What happened yesterday?

Me: You met the neighbor.

Little Dog: It’s an evolving paradigm. So, Big Dog, now that we’re friends…

Big Dog: We are not friends.

Little Dog: You’re right. We’re best friends. And being as how that’s happened, I feel like we should do some best friend things.

Big Dog: Like what?

Little Dog: I could chew on your ears.

Big Dog: No.

Little Dog: Or I could share your bone with you.

Big Dog: No.

Little Dog: Just a little corner…

Big Dog: NO!

Little Dog: Okay, no bone then.

Me: Give Big Dog some time, Little Dog.

Little Dog: Boundaries aren’t my bag.

Big Dog: Why did you do this to me?

Me: You were depressed, you said. Lonely. I thought you might like a buddy.

Big Dog: This is not what I had in mind.

Me: How am I supposed to know what you want if you won’t talk to me?

Big Dog: I want to go back to my crate now please.

Little Dog: What if I just sat down next to you, Big Dog? Just right here, in the dog bed.

Big Dog: I am already in the dog bed.

Little Dog: If I curl up really small in this corner, you’ll hardly even know I’m here.

Big Dog: But I do know you’re here.

Little Dog: “Hardly” was the operative word, Big Dog.

Big Dog: So we just sit here.

Little Dog: That’s right.

Big Dog: Together.

Little Dog: Yep.

Big Dog: In the dog bed.

Little Dog: Feels pretty good, amirite?

Big Dog: It’s okay.

Little Dog: That’s because we’re friends.

Big Dog: Maybe.

Little Dog: Best friends

Big Dog: Don’t push it.

Little Dog: Okey doke.

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Who is in charge here, anyway?

Me: Stop pulling.

Little Dog: Must pull. MUST PULL.

Me: Untrue. When we walk without Z, you are sweet and mellow.

Little Dog: He refuses to walk in formation.

Me: He’s a child.

Little Dog: It’s anathema to everything I believe in.

Me: You’ve never walked in a formation in your life.

Little Dog:  I’m not a member of the herd, so that’s really not my job, is it now?

Me: Stop pulling!

Little Dog: Also, I hate it when he’s ahead of me.  He’s a little human. No, a micro human. He can’t even adequately use a fork.

Z: I can too use a fork!

Little Dog: Micro humans have no business leading.  Make him stop that. Stop it, micro human!

Me: You never used to do this when Big Dog was around.

Little Dog: I didn’t have to. Big Dog never let micro human walk in front. I’m a failure as a pack leader.

Me: Since when do you care about things like pack leaders?

Little Dog: Since Big Dog died.

Me: Also, I’m the pack leader.

Little Dog: Har har.

Me: Well, it isn’t you.

Little Dog: Is so.

Me: Har har.

Little Dog: I am canine, hear me roar.

Z: Look at me, look at me! I’m already at the corner!

Little Dog:  Are we really going to let the micro human take the lead.  WE ARE NOT!

Me:  Wait a minute…

Little Dog:  It’s go time, people!

Me:  Stop!

Little Dog:  CHARGE!


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Visiting Shark Fin Cove in Santa Cruz

I have been meaning to visit some of Santa Cruz, California’s famous beaches for awhile now.  It’s taken me longer to make it happen than I would like.  Santa Cruz is over an hour away from where I live, and requires driving over 17 at night.  I’ve never liked highway 17.

I finally made it out to Shark Fin Cove over Easter weekend.  This enabled me to leave the offspring with my parents.  The offspring always likes a good adventure, but sometimes it’s more relaxing to leave him at home.

For example, climbing down onto a strange beach over a rocky trail is less stressful with only adults present.  Here’s the shot from above:


I’m going to go out on a limb and say that that rock sticking up out of the water is the “shark’s tooth” the beach was named after.

The climb down to this beach was nowhere near as difficult as getting to the Tunitas Creek Beach.  Still, you have to duck under a pipe, and scramble down a path to get there.  The camera and tripod present an added degree of difficulty.  On the other hand, I saw several out-of-shape ladies in flip flops make a go of it, so it’s clearly doable.

The beach has several neat caves and viewpoints, depending on the tide levels.  I liked this one quite a bit:


There’s also some nice views from the rocks on the beach:


It was all very pretty, even with the smoggy, cruddy atmosphere, and the multitudes of tourists.

Here’s the thing, though: It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Santa Cruz, and I can’t even remember when the last time was that I went to a Santa Cruz beach.  I was thus truly saddened to discover that the rock formations at this one were covered with graffiti, and the sand with trash.  Do better, Santa Cruz.  This is why we can’t have nice things.

I also made a trip to see the Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur:


It’s famous for a reason.

The moon was full, which helped with my bridge lighting considerably.  My dad gave me his Nikon d7200 for my birthday, so I used it to take a picture of this:


Pretty slick, right?

One of these days, I’ll do a full post on Big Sur.  As my bridge picture came out blurry, today is not that day.  I’m still struggling with how to focus the Fuji at night.  I’ve got a pretty good handle on how to do it with the Nikon (used in the moon shot), but my Fuji shots are incredibly hit or miss.  Literal shots in the dark.  Yuk yuk yuk.

It turns out there’s also a lighthouse in Big Sur.  We tried to visit it, but it looks like you need to set up a tour to go see it at night.  As I said, a post for another time.



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Photographing Lover’s Lane in San Francisco’s Presidio

I have spent every Saturday for the last few months doing as the tourists do.  This means that once a week I drag my spouse, my kid, and occasionally my dog, to visit some local landmark I’ve here-to-for managed to avoid.  In this spirit, I set out to visit the Lover’s Lane trail at the Presidio in San Francisco, California.

The trail winds through roughly a half-mile stretch of Eucalyptus forest.  It’s a pleasant, non-challenging walk with only a mild grade.  Little Dog, who is more of a sprinter than an endurance animal, and more of a couch potato than a sprinter, found it to be very manageable.

I took a bunch of pictures, but only got one I liked.  So this post is going to be pretty short.

Here’s my keeper:


I think it’s not bad, at least in comparison to my other shots, which were overly busy and lacking in focus.  I find photographing groves to be a tricksy business.  It’s easy for the whole place to devolve into a dizzying mess of lines and contrasts.  Observe:

With all that light and shadow, it’s really easy to lose the point entirely, which to me is the path weaving through the trees.

I had a much easier time getting the picture I wanted once the sky became overcast.  Lower level of difficulty, in my opinion.  Fortunately for me, San Francisco prefers its weather on the cloudy side.  Just ask permanent resident, Karl the Fog.

If you ever make your way to the Presidio, take a stroll down Lover’s Lane.  The walk is easy, and the Eucalyptus lovely and serene, even if they aren’t native to California.

Until next time!


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Adventures in Children’s Media: Timmy Failure, by Stephan Pastis

Plot: Eleven-year-old detective Timmy Failure and his business partner, Total the polar bear (Total Failure, Inc.) tackle cases and schoolwork with a winning and winsome combination of luck and unearned self-confidence.

Child Enjoyment: 8/10  Timmy’s one funny dude.  Also, as a legacy several times over, the child is particularly and endlessly amused by Timmy’s friend’s “Stanfurd” aspirations.

Parent Enjoyment:  10/10  I’m the person who bought it, no pressure from the child, just had to have it.  I read it when the kid is not around.  I’m a fan.

Age Appropriate:  At six-turned-seven, Z is a little young to fully understand how an unreliable narrator works.   And boy, is Timmy unreliable, in all the best ways.  The child still find him hysterically funny.  Clearly, Timmy’s appeal knows no bounds.

Pain Factor:  Really low.  The book is witty, fast moving, embellished with charming pictures by writer/artist Stephan Pastis (of Pearls Before Swine fame) and laugh-out-loud funny.

Story Assessment:  Timmy Failure is the founder, president and CEO of detective agency Failure, Inc.  Once he brought on his business partner, Total the polar bear, the agency’s name changed to the snappier Total Failure, Inc., and there’s been no looking back.  No matter is too small for the intrepid duo.  Over the course of the first book they take on such stumpers as the case of the missing halloween candy, and the mystery of the T.P.-ed house.

The book consists of fifty-nine short, illustrated chapters, through which Timmy juggles his caseload with schoolwork, friendship maintenance, and the management of his long-suffering single mother.  His world is populated by delightful, well rounded characters, including best friend Rollo Tookus (of Stanfurd fame), female admirer Molly Moskins, and rival/sworn enemy Corrina Corrina, aka the One Whose Name Shall Not Be Uttered, aka the Weevil Bun (Evil One).

Timmy may not be a great detective, but he’s sure great fun.   Author/illustrator Stephan Pastis’s voice is distinctive and his narrative style  engaging.  Of course, I may be somewhat biased, as I understand from Mr. Pastis’s bio that he went to UCLA Law School (gooooo Bruins!), and ultimately gave up a legal career to become a comic book writer and artist.  In other words, living the dream.

But seriously.  Timmy Failure’s the man.  Just ask him.

In Summation: The adventures of Timmy Failure are full of humor and heart.  We love him at our house.  I’ll bet you’d love him in yours.

There are currently seven books in the Timmy Failure series, and a Disney feature in the works.  My particular book is a twofer (Mistakes Were Made, and Now Look What You’ve Done.)  You can buy the chronicles of Timmy Failure’s adventures at Amazon, or anywhere else that books are sold.  He’s that big a deal.

Little Dog Contemplates Death and Dryer Balls, Part 1

Little Dog: You look down.

Me: I get up in the morning, I do a bunch of chores, I take care of Z, I hang out with you, and I go to bed.

Little Dog: I like the part where you hang out with me.

Me: It’s a highlight. Still, nobody’s going to be writing any books about me. What were you thinking about?

Little Dog: Dying.

Me: Way to double down. What about it?

Little Dog: I guess how, all things being equal, I’d rather not.

Me: Sure.

Little Dog: Although when you think about it, part of what makes life so meaningful is that at any moment death can take it away.

Me: Deep, Little Dog.

Little Dog: I’m profound.

Me: So is that what you’re thinking about when you’re chilling in the living room? The meaning of life?

Little Dog: Sometimes. Sometimes it’s other stuff.

Me: Yeah?

Little Dog: Like yesterday, for example, I was thinking about that time I slipped and fell into the pool at the grandparents’ house.

Me: Ah.

Little Dog: It’s as good a way to learn to swim as any.

Me: Sure.

Little Dog: And this morning I was thinking about how long it’s been since I had a chance to tear up one of the dryer balls.

Me: I’m getting better at keeping them off the floor.

Little Dog:  So chewy and woolen and delicious.

Me:  I’ll take your word for it.

Little Dog: And then just now I was thinking about death, and how much it sucks.

Me: So, to sum up: Sometimes you think about swimming. And sometimes you think about dryer balls. And sometimes you think about death.

Little Dog: And how much it sucks.

Me: There it is.


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The Room Where it Rains Food

Little Dog: What are we doing, Big Dog?

Big Dog: We are doing nothing.

Little Dog: What are you doing?

Big Dog: I am waiting for it to rain food.

Little Dog: No way! That’s a thing?

Big Dog: Only in this room. This room is a special room.

Little Dog: I had no idea the dining room was so magical.

Big Dog: The most magical corner is this one, by the little human.

Little Dog: Food just falls from the sky?

Big Dog: Rain is what you call things that fall from the sky, Little Dog.

Little Dog: My bad. You know, if you look up, there’s food everywhere on this flat thing.

Big Dog: Stop distracting me.

Little Dog: Yeah, but if you just look up here…

Big Dog: You talk too much.

Little Dog: Okay, well, while we’re waiting for the rain to start, I’m just going to snuffle some stuff off the flat surface.

Me: Stop it, Little Dog.

Little Dog: Alternately, the little human keeps smearing it all over his pants.

Z: Look! Little Dog loves me!

Little Dog: I love your pants.

Me: Z, pay attention to what you’re doing!

Z: Oops!

Me: Dang it, Z!

Big Dog: It’s raining! It’s raining!

Little Dog: Holy cow! Just like you said!

Big Dog: I know of what I speak.

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Photographing Pier 7 in San Francisco

It turns out – and I’m not kidding, I had no idea either – there’s a Pier 7 in San Francisco.  I dragged my little family out there after a long day to check it out.  Yes, even the dog came, although she stayed in the car, because it was raining and Little Dog cannot be bothered with that sort of nonsense.

Many of the more famous piers in San Francisco have lovely buildings in front of them demarcating their location.  Pier 7 does not have such a building.  When we showed up at the intersection, in the dark and the rain, my husband looked at me and said, “Are you sure there’s a Pier 7?  Because I see a Pier 5, and I see a Pier 9, and there’s nothing in between.”

Fortunately for our marital relations, Pier 7 really is a thing.  The internet did not lie to me.  Here’s the shot most people come for:


It’s a picture-perfect view, complete with vanishing point perspective, of the pier leading towards the Transamerica Pyramid.  It’s almost like they planned it that way.

This wasn’t the only nifty shot to be had, however.

Who knew?  I certainly did not know.  And it was less crowded than the more famous piers, which is always a plus.  The rain probably helped in that regard.


Take a moment to appreciate the funky smears in this picture where I tried and failed to wipe the water off my filter.  I would just like to point out, though, that I remembered to put my filter on, because rain.  This may be a first for me.  I may or may not have remembered to do it right away.  Baby steps, people.  Baby steps.

And that’s Pier 7!  You can find it conveniently located between Pier 5 and Pier 9.  But without the fancy signage.

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Photographing the Bay Bridge and San Francisco Skyline, as Seen from Treasure Island

As it has been a holiday weekend, I am distanced from my lovely desktop and all of the content contained therein.  I am thus at the mercy of whatever is available on my laptop.  All this is to say that this post will be delightfully short.

The photo below was taken from Treasure Island.  Treasure Island is a small manmade island that connects to the two halves of the Bay Bridge.


We stopped by a few weeks ago on a lark, on our way home from somewhere.   It was a beautiful view.  Here’s a longer exposure:


I think I prefer the sky on the shorter exposure, and the smooth water on the longer one.  I understand that there is a way to combine both worlds through photoshop or some such.  I have yet to delve much into photoshop, so this melding of the worlds will have to wait for another day.

I have been sitting onto this post for awhile, because there’s another angle on this shot that I had hoped to capture before posting.  One of my hobbies is haunting forums and whatnot looking for interesting local places to photograph.   Recently I came across this pretty rad shot in one such forum, wherein the photographer had captured the San Francisco skyline by shooting under the Bay Bridge towards the city.  I wants this picture.  I NEEDS this picture!  I cannot figure out how to take this picture…yet.

As it stands, I have engaged in several reconnaissance missions to try to track the mysterious location down.  I’m pretty sure it was taken from Treasure Island’s sister island, Yerba Buena Island.  Much of Yerba Buena Island is Coast Guard property.  It kind of looks like the only way to get at the location in question is to trespass.  Obviously, I’m not super keen to trespass on government property.  Then again, it’s a pretty spectacular angle on the skyline.  What to do?

I have been giving some thought to contacting the Coast Guard through their unofficial Facebook page and feeling them out on the subject.  Never let it be said, dear readers, that I don’t make every effort on your behalves.  If I am ultimately successful, you’ll be the first to know.


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Doing as the Tourists Do: Taking a Drive Down the PCH

The Pacific Coast Highway (or PCH, as they are fond of calling it in Southern California), runs down the western length of the state.  It is famously scenic, and a must-see for first time visitors.

These pictures were actually taken mid-day (a deadly time for photographs, sadly) as we drove home from Ano Nuevo, where we saw the elephant seals.  Still, I think, the scenery is sufficiently spectacular that it shines through the subpar lighting.

Here are a few angles on the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, as viewed during the day:

There were a number of people parked at this particular pullout appreciating the view.

Funny aside:  for whatever reason, strange men approach me almost every time I’m out taking pictures to tell me about their camera equipment.  No hellos or anything.  They just launch into a laundry list of the things they own at home, things they used to own, things they want to own in the future.   I don’t know what that’s about.  Am I supposed to respond with a list of my own camera equipment?  It’s a mystery.


We next stopped to check out Tunitas Creek Beach.  The picture above was taken part way down the “path” connecting the highway to the sand.


Scenic, amirite?

Funny story:  The parks website mentions that the “Tunitas Creek Beach currently has no facilities and is only accessible via a steep, eroded trail.”  This is no joke.  Getting down to this beach was not easy, especially with my camera and tripod slung over my shoulder, but it had nothing on getting back up again.  Someone had tied a rope at the top which I didn’t notice coming down.  It turns out this rope is a necessary element to the return trip, in that you have to haul yourself up the steep grade using it.  This is a tricky enough process in and of itself, but as I said, I had hand carried both camera and tripod down the beach, which meant that there was only one way it was getting back again.  The other thing I’d brought down to the beach was an uncoordinated six year old.  This was one of those “not funny then, funny now,” parenting moments.  But hey, we all made it in the end.  Moral of the story: when climbing down a cliff to a beach, put your camera in a backpack, in case you need both hands free to haul yourself and your offspring back out again.  Also, bring your spouse.  Spouses are good at schlepping. Or so I hear.

And finally, the place I was most hoping to hit when the light was right.  Fortunately, the stars aligned.  These pictures were taken in one of the fields of wildflowers lining the highway:



How pretty is that?  Sadly, I forgot to turn my face recognition back on, so a bunch of the pictures were rendered blurry and unusable.  The Fuji is not the easiest camera to use to capture a twitchy child anyway; I find the Nikon much easier for that purpose.  Or maybe I’m not yet smart enough for the Fuji.  I can see it going either way.  However, I ended up pretty pleased with the pictures I did get.

And there it is!  Take a trip down the PCH and make a day of it.  There’s no end of beautiful things to photograph along the way.