Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette – The Tree

I took this shot about two weeks ago and as soon as I saw the topic for today’s challenge , I heard the little bell my brain rings when it it’s telling me “I got that!”

I almost missed the tree, but my granddaughter’s friend pointed at it and said “cool tree.” She was right. It’s a very cool tree. Photo – Marilyn Armstrong

There is a story that goes with this and it has nothing to do with the tree. It’s a “duh” story. My own “duh” story, but to be fair, if it hadn’t been for that strange message, I’m sure it wouldn’t have taken me nearly as long to figure out what was going on.

I’ve been working with computers as since the early 1980s, which is a pretty long time. I have lots of funny stories, including how many times I’ve thought the computer on which I am working had died only to realize that the plug was loose.

All I wanted to do was create a slightly higher resolution picture that would look crisper on your monitor. And mine.

I opened the photo in Photoshop. When I tried to change the dpi, I got a message telling me I couldn’t change the size because the size was linked to the printing preferences. Huh?

I do not print photographs at home. One picture can use up a lot of ink. I get better prints for less money using a professional online printing company. I had never seen this message. I didn’t know that Photoshop has print preferences … and as far as I can tell, it doesn’t because I never found anything but the regular printer settings that every Windows application has.

I checked through all my preferences, then looked for a preferences file amongst the Adobe files, and for any settings on my printer that might be affecting Photoshop. I searched the Photoshop forum and help files. The application was working fine a few hours earlier. I hadn’t changed any settings since then. Moreover, I’ve never printed anything directly from Photoshop. So why would it send that message? Everything else on the computer seemed normal.

So I thought maybe it was some weird incompatibility with the new anti-virus software I installed the other day.  I restored the system to before I installed the program and installed different anti-virus software. I didn’t like the new one anyhow.

Finally, as I was getting ready to uninstall Photoshop and reinstall it  — assuming I could remember where I saved the license and serial number information …

I took a deep breath. I pressed Num Lock. And everything was back to normal.

I would have figured it out if I hadn’t gotten that weird message about printing preferences. If the numbers failed to work with no other message, I would have checked to make sure I hadn’t pressed Num Lock by accident.

Windows could make this problem disappear. They have a little picture that comes up to tell you if your Caps Lock is on. Can’t they make the same kind of thing for Num Lock too? Would that be so hard? I’ll never ask, though. I’m far too embarrassed.

Rain and shine … Wrapping up Autumn

It rained overnight. Today was nice, but the leaves have faded. I’m glad I took a lot of pictures while there was something to shoot The prettiest part of Autumn is over, though it will linger to some degree for a few more weeks, or until it snows, whichever comes first.

It wasn’t bad, while it lasted.

And I’ve got lots of pictures. Lots more, maybe enough to last me through the winter.

If you are human, you know right from wrong …

I voted for Obama four years ago and I don’t regret it. I thought we needed to do something different. I didn’t think that continuing to do the same things that had landed us in a mess were going to get us out of it. It’s foolish to believe that repeating the same behavior will eventually produce different results.

If Obama had lost and McCain had been elected, aside from living in fear that he’d die leaving us with Sara Palin, John McCain was qualified to be President of the United States. He was not my choice, but he was not ridiculous or evil, just not the guy I wanted as President.

This year is different. Rather than feeling like an election, it feels like a referendum, the results of which will define who we are as a nation. We are about to make a statement that will tell the world whether or not the U.S. retains a moral compass.

No government is entirely on the side of the angels, though every government will protest otherwise. Regardless, there are obviously better and worse governments. No one will argue that Germany under Hitler was merely expressing a difference of opinion with other nations, or that Idi Amin was a bit wrong-headed but his heart was in the right place.

I’ve studied, read, argued and reargued this issue for the past 50 years. You don’t have to agree with me, but I believe knowing right from wrong is the essence of being human. I think it has little or nothing to do with your upbringing. Bad kids come from good homes and good kids emerge from bad ones.

Here’s a personal example.

My husband was raised by Christian parents, attended church regularly. He credits many of the values that have guided his life to his upbringing. He doesn’t push his beliefs on anyone else, including me. He would never presume to force anyone to his way of thinking.

On the other hand, I was raised by wolves. I’m kidding. Only one of my parents was non-human and he was a snake, not a wolf. I like wolves.

My mother called herself an atheist, but blamed the God she claimed to not believe in for failing to prevent the world’s ills. We attended neither synagogue nor church. I have spent most of my life trying to understand why God seems to be persistently MIA when bad things happen to good people. I’m not an atheist, but I am a skeptic.

Garry and I have been married for 22 years. I don’t believe anyone who knows us who would call either of us immoral or without conscience. We hold different beliefs, but respect each other’s points of view.

Garry thinks he developed his morals, conscience and understanding of right and wrong because his parents provided positive role models. He also gives credit to his church. I, on the other hand, believe we are all hard-wired — designed by our Creator — to know right from wrong. I think that is what distinguishes human beings from other species. If we were created in the image of God, but God has no physical aspect, then in what other way than by our ability to know right from wrong could we resemble God?

I don’t think it matters whether you are brought up Christian, Jewish, Muslim Buddhist, nothing at all or any combination of the aforementioned. If you are human, you know it’s wrong to murder, steal, cheat, lie or for that matter, let your neighbor die of starvation or lack of medical care. Even — maybe especially — if it costs you something to save someone else, you know in your head, your heart, and your guts that it’s the right thing to do.

The irony — or perhaps one of many ironies — of this election is that a group of so-called Christian Conservative fundamentalist whack jobs are leading a charge against the very things that every religion on earth values. The very things that Jesus advocated are the things that these phony Christians would abolish.

In a few weeks, we get to choose a president — and whether or not we are the kind of people who throw our elderly, sick, disabled, and just plain unlucky fellow citizens under the bus … or throw them a lifeline. We choose whether we will be ruled  by fear, prejudice, and hate … or by our inherent understanding of right and wrong. It’s awful that we’ve come to a point where we are so divided along racial and religious lines that such a choice is part of the electoral process. We appear to be standing at the edge of a deep chasm . I’m not sure we could climb out of that hole once we are in it. No one is pushing us over that edge. If we wind up in the chasm, we get there because we chose to jump.

I have always loved elections. They are my favorite spectator sport. During Presidential election years, I am usually glued to the television watching debates, analyzing political advertisements, reading the latest poll numbers.

I have watched many candidates for whom I voted lose. I was not thrilled about it, but I wasn’t scared to death, either. We’ve had a lot of Chiefs of State that were not my choice, but that’s the way the process works. You win. You lose.

Losing is disappointing, not catastrophic, It is one of the reasons this country is great. In the United States, we peacefully pass the reins of power from one administration to another. We don’t need a revolution to change the composition of Congress or the President. Good choices or bad, we have always managed to retain our fundamental principles, our sense of purpose and identity. We have regularly scheduled elections at which time we can replace former elected officials with different ones. Between elections, we cope and get on with our lives. In the end, to quote Tip O’Neil, “All politics is local.” No matter who is president, we have local representatives to help us. Most of the time, all we need to do to get help, is to ask for it.

This year, it’s come down to moral choices about what kind of people we are. Do we really, truly not care if everyone suffers as long as we advance our own agendas? Are we actually willing to vote for someone entirely because of his skin color? Have we gone so far backward that we don’t remember that we fought a bloody war that was supposed to settle that issue?

You don’t have to agree with me and I don’t have to agree with you. I shouldn’t have to worry that you’ll kill me because I don’t agree with you or vice verse.

Except, this year it is different. The amount of hate in this campaign shows a massive failure of basic civility, of our fundamental sense of fairness. The willingness to believe anything as long as it supports our position without regard to facts, right, wrong, or common sense demonstrates how far we have NOT come.

How many people see that our first amendment right to freedom of religion  is under attack? It’s as if we no longer have a constitution. The conservative fundamentalists who are pulling the strings in this election support the right of everyone to have a gun or, for that matter, an assault weapon, but not the separation of church and state. When did my rights go up for grabs? Didn’t we settle that 250 years ago? Didn’t we duke it out with Great Britain on this very subject? And yet, here we are again. What happened? How can we let ourselves be so manipulated and used to support an agenda that the vast majority of us disagree with?

I am trying to hang on to my belief that Americans are not fools, that we won’t elect a government whose principles are contrary to those of the nation we all love.

The system isn’t bullet proof. We can ignore our own better selves in the name of saving a few bucks. We can let our worst impulses, our hatred, our bigotry, our ignorance dominate our world. We can destroy ourselves. It isn’t easy, but it’s doable.

Here’s how. Instead of reasonable people, elect fanatics, haters,  and folks with lots of loose screws. When the haters, fanatics and crazies comprise a group large enough to form a swing vote, they will be the ones who decide what laws are passed. They will tell us what we can do with our lives, what to believe, what we can do in our bedrooms and of course, with whom we can do it.  They can upset the balance of powers to such a degree that the system stops working.

voting day in a small town
Small town voting. It looks like home to me! (Photo credit: Muffet)
However you choose,  VOTE. Vote for principled men and women who take the job of governing seriously and will work for the common good. Vote for positive reasons, not out of hate. Never in human history has hate been the foundation for anything good. It does not work that way. Karma is a bitch. Finally, don’t assume your vote doesn’t matter. We are as strong as our willingness to participate in the process. We have a good system. Support it. Be part of it. Whatever your feelings, our current problems are a bump in the road. A big bump to be sure, but not the end of the world unless we make it so. Win or lose, it’s a good system. It is my system, your system. Treasure it. Keep it strong. 


Back in 1993, a lifetime ago, our world was different. We were different. Whatever future we had in mind, I think we didn’t imagine the one in which we find ourselves.

Us with President Clinton on Martha’s Vineyard.

It had been a hard year. Licking our collective and individual wounds, Garry and I wobbled tentatively into summer. Our first long vacation at the Vineyard in mid-June was splendid. The weather was perfection without a single rainy day to mar its beauty. Garry darkened into his best-ever deep brown sun tan while I turned slightly freckled beige with a hint of hot pink.

After our second long vacation in July had come and gone, and we had spent too much money, ate, drank, and made excessively merry and were reconciled with having finished our last long stay on the Vineyard, President Clinton and his family chose Martha’s Vineyard for their August holiday. Guess who was selected to cover the story for Channel 7?

Garry might have gotten a swelled head over this apparently plum assignment. Except Garry knew that the real reason he and that particular crew were chosen. They had their own accommodations in Oak Bluffs. A place to stay for which Channel 7 wouldn’t have to pay, saving Channel 7 megabucks in housing costs for the 11 days of the Clinton family visit. Regardless, chasing the First Family around the Vineyard trumped following the muggers, child molesters, murderers, arsonists, and other scum-of-the-earth newsmakers. The hours might be long and the material lean, but the setting was lovely and the story was filled with rounds of golf, sailing, and celebrity stuff.

After 12 days of on duty, Garry finally got a couple of days off. I came down for the weekend and we hit the “hot spots.” Such as they were., little knowing that the next night would be much better.

When word came around there would be a party for the press on Thursday evening to which family and friends were invited, Garry first announced he’d rather stay at the house and catch some rays. I explained, carefully, that this was not an option, after which he decided a presidential party sounded like a great idea.

A party hosted by The President of the United States is not  any old party. You don’t just drive up to the door. We had to gather at the Press Center, the Edgartown Elementary School which had served as press headquarters during the President’s visit. From there, we were loaded into buses and taken, under heavy security, to the actual location. We got on the first bus, which was fortunate. The later buses never left the parking lot. If you weren’t on the first bus, you didn’t go to the party. No, I don’t know why.

We hoped to get a glimpse of the First Family. We got a lot more than a glimpse. Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea were all there for the entire shindig. They stayed for three hours and gave everyone the opportunity to actually talk with them. They were gracious, smiling, friendly and human. Wow. Real people!

We got pictures — Marilyn and Garry with the President all taken by a White House photographer and later delivered with White House insignia  and all.

The food was good — ribs and chicken and collard greens. Mashed potatoes, gravy, corn-on-the-cob, corn bread, and salads. Margaritas. Beer. Wine. Warm blueberry cobbler and vanilla ice cream to top it off. Carly Simon sang “Summertime” and the prez played the saxophone. It was fine. Super fine. I wished I brought my camera. I hadn’t thought they’d let us bring them, but I was wrong … they did. Oh well.

Real food, real people, and at a palatial home of on a high bluff overlooking the sound. Does it get better than this? I don’t think so.


And that’s the way it was … August, 1993. It wasn’t so long ago … it doesn’t feel so long ago. Yet it was, if not in years, then in the amount that everything has changed.



Yesterday was lovely, but I didn’t go out. Today, I made sure to get to the sunshine and down to the dam. I was going on the theory that have had two dry days, I could be sure expecting a third would be pushing the envelope.

I warned Garry that, short of being near death, we were going to shoot.

I loosened Garry from his usual stuff and we took a trip to our favorite waterfall, the area of the Blackstone where it separates into  the river and the Blackstone  Canal.

I’m glad I did because guess what? It’s raining. By the time this one is finished, the leaves will have been stripped from the trees.

It ‘s not rare for rain to short-circuit our season, but I never stop regretting it when it happens. At least we got a bit of the best. Got some nice stuff today. I haven’t had much time to process anything. We went out in late afternoon and the day was over when I got back.

This piece of the Blackstone River and Canal is in exceptionally good condition. It’s also exceptionally beautiful. The trail where once horses towed the barges is a walking or running path, great for dogs and owners.

Sometimes, if you are lucky, herons will drop by to feed along the banks. Also diver ducks and occasionally swans visit, though I haven’t seen any since the spring.

On the way home, we stopped at River Bend.  It’s beautiful, but difficult to photograph without lenses that I don’t have … or if I could, as I used to, walk down further along the river. But these days, I just can’t walk that far, so I settled for a quick few shots near the old farmhouse.

Maybe we will have another day or two of colors and sunshine, but I can’t be sure … and no one can make that promise. I’m just grateful to have had today.

Another golden day …

The Revolutionary War era cemetery is across the road from the dam, just past the intersection in the middle of town.

It was beautiful today. Not as warm as yesterday which was really summery. Today was crispy and bright, the way autumn ought to be.  I didn’t take more pictures because I took 247 pictures yesterday and I’m nowhere near finished sorting and processing them.

The flag always flies over the old cemetery.

Lately, I’ve been taking pictures of ordinary roads, the places through which I travel every day. It has made me aware of how beautiful it is in this place we live.

We call this “rush hour.”

With as many things as have gone wrong with our lives, I’m enormously grateful to live in this place where the air is clean and I don’t spend half my life looking for parking places and battling crowds and traffic.

Rumford River dam, part of the original Bernat Mill complex.

Just one of those days …

I know I’m not the most graceful of women. I have some coördination issues that made me less than a sterling athlete, but I’m not a total klutz. Not usually, but … today was just one of those days.

It started out normally enough. One of my coffee mugs has gone missing, but I’m pretty sure it’s rolling around somewhere on the floor under my desk. It’s cluttered and unlit down there, but I’m going to have to brave the dark and try to find my cup. It’s one of my Copco lidded mugs. I depend on them to prevent simple clumsiness from turning into a catastrophe.

My missing mug. If you spot it, please let me know.

For the past few days, I’ve been having problems with my keyboard. It’s hard to be certain where the blame lies, but I’m pretty sure it’s me. I have an incorrigibly bad habit: I eat at the computer. I know I shouldn’t because I have dropped all kinds of things on my keyboards and it inevitably results in the death of the keyboard. I suspect the primary culprit was strawberry jam, but the salsa and mayonnaise didn’t help either. I thought I’d cleaned it up, but my space bar was sticking and wreaking havoc on my writing.

I pried the top off the space bar to see if I could clean the crumbs and crud from underneath it. There were a lot of crumbs in there, but nothing sticky, surely not enough to make the space bar stick like that, but it was definitely going down, but not coming back up. I think I broke its spring while I was prying it up. Or maybe it was already broken. It’s possible the box cutter wasn’t the optimum choice for prying it up but in my defense, I didn’t have anything else with a thin blade. The space bar was uncooperative and I broke the tip off the box cutter’s blade. Or maybe I broke the tip yesterday while I was prying the battery out of my telephone. That box cutter is really useful.

Anyway, I eventually decided my keyboard was done for. It’s less than three months old and I wish I could blame someone else, but I keep remembering strawberry jam, salsa, and mayonnaise and can’t help but think these may have played a part in the keyboard’s untimely demise.

I unearthed my old keyboard, the one I was using before. It isn’t exactly broken but it has a few sticky keys of its own.  I was still going to have to get a new keyboard. One key is worn blank. I think it’s the “C” but it doesn’t matter; I need a keyboard. Meanwhile, the old one would have to do because it’s all I’ve got.

I detached the useless keyboard, regretting my careless treatment of it. I extracted the box in which I was storing the original keyboard and mouse that came with my computer. I took the batteries out of the mouse I’ve been using because I don’t like it anyhow and was going to replace it. They were pretty fresh, so I put them in the keyboard, which is wireless and requires a couple of AAs. I put the keyboard where it belongs on the tray, set the mouse, freshly re-batteried on the mousepad. I dumped the now useless keyboard on the floor …  I’ll have to throw it into the bin, but I’m not emotionally ready yet. There’s no point in saving it. I put the mouse I don’t like, but which isn’t broken, in my extra laptop case. I’ve never used it for a computer, but it’s a convenient place to store miscellaneous accessories: spare mice, portable speakers, worn but usable mouse pads, a trackball that no one likes but is brand new.

My monitor IS my computer … and they couldn’t have put the ports in any less accessible a location Why?

I had to plug the transmitter for the keyboard and mouse into the USB port. For some reason, computer designers persist in putting ports and plugs in the least convenient locations. Thus, the fast USB ports are on the back of the monitor. My desktop computer is an all-in-one, so the monitor is the computer, 24 inches of bright, high-definition glass and components. To plug something into one of the high-speed ports, you have to tilt the whole thing all the way forward so that it’s almost lying face down on the desk.

That’s when I knocked over the coffee cup. There wasn’t much coffee in it, and like all my cups, it’s lidded so I managed to move the keyboard before coffee got into the keyboard, but the sealed base got pretty wet. So did a lot of my desk.

I went across the hall to get a roll of paper towels, knocked everything off the sink,then left it on the floor because I can only deal with one emergency at a time.

I wiped up the coffee and decided it was a good time to take the cup back to the kitchen before I knocked it over again.

Back to the bathroom, where I cleaned up the stuff that on the floor. I decided to leave the paper towels in my office because it seemed a roll of paper towels, given the way the day was going, might be good to have at hand.

By then, it was past lunchtime, so I went into the kitchen where, while trying to heat up some soup, I knocked the whole thing over. You wouldn’t think such a small bowl could make such a big mess, but liquid really spreads out and it gets under everything.

That was when I officially declared that I was a danger to myself and others, decided that I should avoid anything involving sharp objects, moving vehicles, or open flames. When Garry got back from picking up our granddaughter, I told him he was going to make a Mickey D run tonight because I was not safe to drive or cook.

He said he’d noticed that the bathroom had undergone some alterations and I mumbled “Yeah, a bit” and he observed mildly that I had kept the paper towels. I said, with only a hint of bitterness, that I felt I should keep them nearby because I was sure to need them.

I ordered a new keyboard. I hope I can control myself and not drop food in it. Replacing keyboards is getting expensive.

Perhaps my coördination will have returned by tomorrow. I hope so because  I was planning to go shopping and I need to drive.