I know the holidays are really here when my two Christmas cacti bloom. I got both of them as cuttings from a friend years ago. The plants have stayed small, probably because I have not encouraged them to expand … but both of them bloom profusely from November through February … and often throw the odd flower all through the year.
The secret to making them bloom is putting them in a bright (not necessarily sunny) window. Water them only when they are dry. And let them do their thing.
The less you mess with them, the happier they are. If you have a window in a room where you don’t use much artificial light, all the better. These lovely cacti are sensitive the natural changes of light through the seasons. These natural changes in light will trigger flowering.
The reason so many people have trouble growing these is that they fuss over them. Cacti are not fond of fussiness.
I got my first camera when I was 22. I’m not counting the Brownie camera I inherited from someone when I was a kid. It had a lens that I think was made from the bottom of coke bottle, but was not as sharp. My father took a lot of pictures, all of them awful. My mother painted, but I never saw her pick up a camera. In those days, cameras were either very expensive or junk. Typical, middle class families didn’t usually have “real” cameras, but everyone had a Brownie box camera. The quality of which might be okay or horrible, depending on luck of the draw.
I had a friend who was a photographer. He even went to a real photography school. I got interested in pictures. Started looking at books of photography. I learned how to process film (though I never learned to like the chemicals) and make prints in a dark room. As I was about to leave on my first vacation to Martha’s Vineyard — before it was “the hot” destination it later became — my friend gave me a camera.
It was an old Praktica with an f2.8 Zeiss lens. No automatic anything. Manual film loading. No light meter. There were three settings: film speed (now ISO), shutter speed, and f-stop. Since the lens was a fixed focal length, telephoto meant running forward for a closeup, and back the other way for a wide-angle view. Agility and speed counted, especially because focusing was manual too.
That trip to Martha’s Vineyard with that first of many 35mm cameras was the beginning of everything. You can read more about it on ALFRED EISENSTADT AND ME.
I’m amazed my pictures came out at all. But they did. Not only did they come out, they came out amazingly well. From that point on, I was hooked. Throughout the 48 years since then, I’ve stayed hooked on photography. I have a decent eye for casual portraits and landscapes. I’m getting better at other things and modern equipment makes experimenting with various types of pictures easy. Which is good because running back and forth would not work for me these days.
Even relatively cheap modern cameras have more technology packed in them then the most expensive cameras had “back in the day.” The only thing that has not changed and cannot change (because there are physical laws that apply) are optics. Lenses. Glass. There are properties attached to a lens that are immutable. Optics are. You can’t negotiate them. They are a physical fact.
No camera, no matter how advanced, will ever be better than the lens through which you take the picture. That’s why your phone is not as good as a real camera with a good lens.
It doesn’t have anything to do with software or any of the bells and whistles modern photographic technology tries to sell you. Bottom line, it’s all about the lens. If you have a good eye and a sharp lens, you’re in business.
I work at photography, but mostly, I play at it. It’s fun. I know many photographers who are better than me. Some of them are not merely a little bit better, but a lot better. I am awestruck by the work they do. Most of them have far better technical skills than me and frequently, better equipment than I can ever hope to afford.
But I really love taking pictures. Photography has been my hobby my entire adult life. It has saved my sanity when everything else in my life was going horribly wrong.
Of all the hobbies I can think of, it’s the only one for which you will never grow too old. It never gets boring. You can take it with you wherever you go. These days, you can share your pictures with the entire world online. It gives you a reason to get out of the house when you ordinarily wouldn’t bother. It’s a way to be creative without needing a special room or expensive equipment. Because even if all you have is a cell phone, you can always take pictures. A good eye can overcome mediocre technology … and no amount of great equipment or software can make up for a poor eye.
THE OPERATOR, by Kim Harrison, is now available online and in bookstores.
It’s been a long wait since the first book in the series. I have missed Kim Harrison. After reading so many bad books, picking up this one was like a breath of fresh air. Good prose, realistic, natural dialogue. A complex plot without a million dangling loose ends. A professional, dedicated author at the top of her game. A really good book.
While you read this, pretend you are in the bookstore of your dreams or maybe your childhood. In one of those old leather chairs, tucked in the corner. With a little table and a standing light by which to read. I’m going to hand you the book. It’s new and the binding crackles when you open it.
Kim Harrison, whose series “The Hollows” produced a long run of best-sellers, has a new series. The first book in the Peri Reed Chronicles was released in 2015. That was “The Drafter.” It introduced a dystopian near-future world without magic, but with technology indistinguishable from magic. A science fiction thriller that feels real and now.
Science it may be, but there are people who are born with a genetic ability to use it. Such people are called drafters.
Drafters can manipulate time. Not like traveling through a wormhole or time machine. More like making a precision adjustment of as much as 45 seconds, or as little as a blink. Just enough time to undo a fatal bullet or catastrophic error.
Peri Reed is a drafter. She used to work for the ultra super secret (and thoroughly corrupt) government agency known as OPTI. Now, she’s free and alive — and trying to stay that way. Peri has lost many memories. Years worth of memories. Some memories have been replaced by false ones. Some are just gone, leaving holes in the continuity and fabric of her life. She wants her memory back, but not if the cost to get them is going back to work for OPTI — or any other agency. How to win freedom and control of her life? Regain her memories without selling herself to whoever makes the best deal?
Peri Reed isn’t just any drafter. Peri is the drafter. The best ever. Which is why everyone wants her — and she wants none of them. Yet, she needs help. There’s no way she can reconstruct her past without assistance from at least a couple of the people hunting her. Dare she trust anyone?
Everyone is making her an offer. Everyone is lying.
The Operator is not merely good. It’s a great read set in a dystopian future world. Fast-paced. Elegantly written with an underlying ironic wit and refreshingly natural dialogue. The plot and characters are layered. Complex. Everyone has a secret agenda. Behind that are more secrets and even darker agendas.
In The Drafter, Peri and the gang had promise.
In The Operator, they fulfill that promise. Peri is brave and brilliant, dangerous and vulnerable. Passionate, with scary, lethal fighting skills. She’s had bad relationships. Lost everything that mattered to her. Made terrible life choices. Lives in a brutal world of danger and duplicity through which she must navigate alone, or depend on treacherous people with dubious motives.
If you love science fiction thrillers and are tired of reading the same tired stories, this will be a treat. This is a fresh story with an intriguing, original plot, full of Kim Harrison’s wonderful writing to sweep you into another world.
THE OPERATOR by Kim Harrison is now available on Kindle, paperback, limited edition hard cover, and on Audible.com. This is a great book, one of the two or three best I’ve read over the past few years. Exciting. Action-packed with a complex twisting plot I dare you to guess.
Every clue Ms. Harrison drops is a real clue. The characters are mad and complicated, embodying his or her own mystery. Not only is “The Operator” worth reading, it’s worth reading twice.
Here’s a link to its page on Amazon. I’m looking forward to the Audible.com version which should arrive in my library today. I’m will happily read it again. Probably at least once more after that. There is a lot of depth to this story and back stories to the back stories.
I can hardly wait for the next book. It’s not over for Peri Reed. Not by a longshot.
“The time has come,” the doglet said,
“to talk of many things;
Of tennis balls and squeaky ducks,
and sneaky bees with stings;
of why the sparrows fly so fast
and if that cat has wings.”
“Just wait a bit,” the writer said,
“I’m busy with these things.”
“But writer,“ said the small dog then,
“The sun will shortly set,
the pheasants will be playing out,
and rabbits too, I bet.
I really should be practising,
I haven’t caught one yet.”
“Hmm. Never mind, it’s raining
and you don’t like getting wet.”
“Ok then,” sighed the little dog,
“We could consider, please,
the therapeutic benefits
of sharing Cheddar cheese.
Or why that spider’s sitting there,
Or why do you have knees…”
“You scratch a lot,” the writer said,
“You sure it isn’t fleas?”
The clouds were turning dusky pink,
Upon the fading blue.
The writer sighed, put down the pen
another task was through.
“Come on, small dog, go get the leash,
your walk is overdue.”
The small dog answered sheepishly,
“Tough luck, I ate your shoe.”
With apologies to Lewis Carroll…. But none at all to her. She should come out more.
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