Sunday, January 31, 2010

The World We Left Behind

The breakout from the ice cube tray of the valley was successful.

Luckily that old exciting sense of adventure and danger of getting on a plane is still there; even with all the lugging of cumbersome bags, the waits in lines, the barefooted searches and now the added 'challenges' of bringing an infant along, all conspiring to temper the thrill.

But (thankfully with my sister's help) all went well, on time and according to plan.

And luckiest of all, the bloggerette comported herself admirably; only going into squirm mode about 10-15% of the trip. All the new sights and sounds kept her mind occupied.

The thrill of travel is brand new and fresh in her 11 month old world. And soon enough, we weren't in Kansas anymore.

Strange lights and sounds, strange surroundings...

...we'd better get our explorer caps on.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Things are getting frenetic. Time seems to be in such short supply lately.

In my neck of the woods, many long standing norms and predictable avenues feel like they have become volatile and taken on extremes.

Things seem more precarious lately, like all could be lost at any moment.

For me, some of the happiest personal moments in recent memory have coincided with some of the worst. And the pairing of the two have at times brewed up difficult schisms of high anxiety and confounding uncertainty.

Tape to that unwieldy package the wider uncertainties of the troubled economy -which has already chewed up some close friends of mine in the most unwarranted and impassive ways- and further left me wondering when my own economic number might be up.

High insecurity indeed.

By and large, I instinctivley eschew change. But a river of it is always swirling past; threatening to deepen and strengthen into a torrent at any moment.

Time for a break. A little time away to recalibrate. And tommorrow, we cut out for warmer climates.

We'll be posting, twittering and facebooking as we go, so you're invited to come along.

Hopefully we'll find some kind of purpose zen in the Sunshine State...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Quantity Vs Quality

'I miss your good quality photos.'

...was a recently posted lament from an anonymous reader. And let me just say: I'm with you on that.

This being a photo-essay type of blog, sharp clear pictures are pretty important. Now a couple of years into this and thousands and thousands of shutter clicks in the bag, my take on photography as a hobby has progressed from cool indifference to mild disdain to growing curiosity to sultry obsession. And to feed that hungry monkey it's seemed neccessary and more satisfiing to try to improve my skills and knowedge as I go, and pass any improvement on to you, oh, faithful readers.

My blogging gear is still at budget- bottom rank amateur level, but has progressed from raffle-winner Kodak point and shoot, to Canon Powershot with image stabilization, to entry level Nikon DSLR and a modest harem of low-end lenses. I'll probably keep on this trajectory until that fateful day where I gulp down my conscience and with sweaty trembling hand fork over an abused credit card to pay for a $2800.00 f1.8 400mm tele, in order to get a better shot of that chickadee.

But (for now anyway) high end gear isn't what it's all about. It's about enjoying taking pictures and more than that, capturing our happy travels in this happy valley. And 'travel' is the operative word here. My trusty Nikon D40, which is probably the smallest DSLR available, still has to be slung over the shoulder or carried in a camera bag. I love that camera but really miss the convenience and discreetness of being able to pocket it when not in use.

So in that respect the iPhone I've been experimenting blogging with of late kind of brings me back around to the beginning; and allows me to take the quick, odd pic without having to lug around a bunch of stuff. Even better, the pics can be post-processed and zipped right out into the blogosphere right then and there, if need be.

Take Sunday's walk about Thornes with the kid for example, taken with the phone:

Sure, not exactly tack sharp or even focused too well... and the kid's not complying with my angry demands to stay still for God's sake and let me post his face all over the web... but you get the gist of the image, and it's a fair representation of where we're at and what's out there.

Or later at Raven Books, where I sent a couple pics off to Facebook and Twitter in just a couple minutes, while standing on the sidewalk outside.

You can't do that with a DSLR.

But the trusty Nikon will still be along on our travels as much as possible, rest assured. In fact I just recently got a new sling-type camera bag to facilitate things. But my posts will be interspersed more and more with the lower megapixel, higher processed pics from the iPhone. I'll try to keep things balanced with the camerawork, but no matter what you can be sure we'll always be doing the best we can with the equipment we've got at hand during our travels...

That's our quality assurance guarantee; over here at 'in the valley'...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Snow Break

We were up in the hilltowns Saturday afternoon, where the snow had fallen much heavier than in the lower reaches. Snowmobile tracks stripe the high open fields of the Worthington/ Cummington areas.

Not having been out and about too much lately, we made a point of taking our time and getting lost in the winding country roads between village centers.

(we had the trusty gps with us in case, so getting 'really' lost actually wasn't 'really' an issue...)

There's something relaxing about putting along, up and down these old hilly, maple- lined roads. The odd scene or rustic edifice emerges suddenly around a tight bend and then just as quickly dissapears again behind...

We scoured the countryside looking for country. The bloggerette, who had dozed off for a long nap with the bouncy curving rythms of backroads travel, at last began to stir awake again, and famished.

Time to head back into more familiar territory and get some eats.

Fitzwilly's did the trick. I'm happy to report they're still on their game with their Philly cheesesteaks. Kelly tried a good looking turkey melt with roasted apples. The bloggerette meanwhile, supplemented her bottle of milk with a lesson in the dangerous allures of the lemon slice. sour yet, good.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New Directions

We decided to take advantage of the 40-plus degree weather and get in an overdue check-out of the recent additions to the rail trail circuit around Northampton.

We started out from the entrance near Taco Bell on King street. I'm still experimenting with the iPhone so although the regular camera was in tow, it stayed in the bag most of the time this trip, in favor of some more heavily doctored on-the-go phone pics. (Also, to forewarn, the pics and words on some of these posts might come out a little messy or quirky until I get the hang of posting from the phone...)

They've gone to some expense expanding the already great trail system, including several new bridges being built over the road and river crossings as needed. Two nearly identical truss-type bridges are on this first stretch between the route 5 access and downtown. The downtown bridge is particularly interesting with it's great view of Main street, that is, through the chain link fence lining it's sides to prevent droppage of all sorts onto the street from above.

The view is not wasted on local police, who were taking advantage of the vantage to keep a lookout.

The old railroad overpass that the trail parallels is still there, and due for a new paint job. The town is in the process of deciding just what to paint on it, just as many a grafitti artist has done over the years.

The trail now runs all the way to Texas street, almost at the Easthampton line. The plan is to eventually hook up with the Manhan trail in that town, creating a sort of pedestrian/bicyclist interstate (or intertown) system that can only be good for everybody involved.

Lots of interesting old buildings are found along the old railroad bed where they once served as people-employing/ goods-producing factories and warehouses, filling up or unloading boxcars.

Some of the buildings still standing sit idle, but most were renovated; like the old train station, that now houses a couple of quality eateries.

The recycling of these flat, straight, unused rail beds as pedestrian pathways is easily one of the best socially and physically healthy ideas to come down the pike in a long, long time. If only the big plan -linking all the trails from the berkshires to the Boston area- ever comes to pass...

'd be like one final gift of a bygone era.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Counting Down From The Top

A quick report from the blustery top level of the parking garage in Northampton, where heady views of the backside of Main St. allow for pause and introspection...

Up there, one can contemplate the sun's angles, the ventures of a populace and the trudging of time.

Over at 'in the valley' headquarters we've booked a brief getaway for February and are restlessly counting down the weeks days and hours before our trip south: down there, Florida way. They just got over a major orange-wrecking cold snap and it's probably a shade ugly in the sunshine state right now, but still...

Can't wait.

Not that the New England winter has lost any of it's charm. But all the bitter, bitter cold this year has been duly noted by this working stiff's numbed fingers and toes. Just knowing there's some kind of relief on the horizon makes it all just a little more bearable...

I've been locked in a cyclical fantasy the past few years: where right about November as the last stubborn leaves are blown off the oaks, I begin dreaming about calling it quits and moving away from these pointless, darkened, arctic blasts of winter that annually rob us of half our years. Maybe a move down to the mid-atlantic or southern states...

Not so south where the summers get jungle-like with humidity and hurricanes, but just south enough where the sun happily pumps smiling people full of Vitamin D and UV, throughout the shining winter months....

Or way out west- maybe like California, would be nice too. But that'd be way too expensive. Then there's the old country, Portugal, with it's dry Mediterranean climes; but the work situation there might not be so good...

These thoughts of relocation stir and bump and nudge around in the brain for a good part of the cursed winter...until around mid March, when the slightest wisp of light and life begin to drift back into the air... and the promise of another beautiful spring here in the valley shakes me out of any thoughts of flight.

I'll end up staying put for another year, like always...

...and by May, glad to do it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Clearance Shopping

As a mobile blogging test, here's some looks from the Buckland mall in Connecticut, posted direct from the food court...

Recession? What recession. The place is bumpin'... To use a native colloquialism.

The widespread discounts must be drawing them in.

Wait, what's that?

50% off...?!

posted via iphone

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Tweaked, And More Fun With Pictures

This stop and go - one or two inches of snowfall - every now and again - pattern of snowfall has wreaked havoc on my free time this weekend since I have to remain on standby and keep a couple of driveways, parking lots and their attendant sidewalks clear. So unfortunately a window of opportunity to get out for some good exploring the past couple of days didn't present itself.

But we did venture out for a quick ride Sunday afternoon, and in conjunction with my new-found internet mobility I was able to twitter-out a couple of shots while simultaneously rolling through Northampton...

Amazing, these times we live in. The iPhone, while only equipped a 3.1 mega pixel camera, can be endowed with multiple photography 'apps' to handsomely edit and enhance otherwise tepid pics with some old fashioned or other artsy treatments. To wit:

And best of all, the pics can be immediately sent from the phone to Flickr or Twitter, and (I haven't tried yet), but Facebook too, I think. Freedom of movement, bloggified.

On the way back from Northampton, we did a quick stop atop a Mt. Tom lookout for a January viewing of Easthampton, generously tweaked with a tilt-shift effect: another new edit that I've become obsessed with:

How obsessed..? Let's say a few wee-hours of the weekend were spent rifling through my archives to retouch a few otherwise innocent landscape shots...

(Some more of the weekend's tilt-shifting madness can be found here...) any rate, it should be good having a few more blogging options to cast into the pot of swirling stew that is 'in the valley'...

Friday, January 1, 2010


Happy New Year's to all...

With the patch of duct tape holding the battery in my weathered and beaten old cell phone beginning to fray, it was finally time to bite the bullet and trade her in.

I've long been leering with covetous eyes at the new breed of smartphones out on the market; and having milked the old motorola for many hard years, I figured I've saved enough in frugal-points to warrant a major upgrade purchase.

Now, to be extra sparkling clear, I'll state once again on this blog that I Am Gadget Boy. And a cell phone is one of the primary gadgets in anybody's arsenal, so this new phone decision could not be taken lightly. I pored over internet searches and cnet reviews and youtube comparisons for days and weeks. The field slowly narrowed and after a hard-nosed process of elimination, two models finally bubbled to the top: the HTC Hero -with brand new 'Android' technology...and the tried and true iPhone with uh, iphone technology. Over these two choices I tossed and turned for a further few days, literally losing sleep staying up late by the glow of internet searches. Finally it came down to basically a coin flip in my mind, and I forsaked the new emerging technology for the old tried and true.

I done gots me one a dem' der i-phones...and satisfied with the decision.

But, alas, while the careful process of elimination assured me some peace of mind in the final purchase selection, it ended up costing me in another way: By lollygagging, I had unwittingly made the final decision just two days into a new billing month with my old cell-service carrier, and they managed to get off a parting shot for my abandonment by charging me for the whole month. I'll be taking their customer support to task on this soon...

At any rate, I got the shiny new iPhone, and It's been only a few hours but I can see that this new smartphone technology really is a quantum leap from the old cell-phone tech. It's like a pocket computer, handily internet and social network capable with tons of add-on applications that are available to enhance it's capabilities. The only downfall, (besides the relatively high price), is having to view all these capabilities on a tiny video screen. But it's worth it, I think.

One of the downloadable applications available is a Blogger app that allows some crude posting capabilities from the phone. I'll be giving that a try soon, and if it works it could come in pretty handy for posting while out and about...

Getting it home, just one more hurdle remained for final approval of the new gadget: it needed to pass the taste-test...

...which it did, with flying colors.