Americans can be lazy and disrespectful

While I was out shopping for a few gifts for my wife on the Saturday before Christmas, I became aware of an alarming trend.  Everywhere I went, there were people that were parking curbside and waiting.  Usually someone was in the car, but sometimes not.  I saw this perhaps a dozen times in a four hour window of shopping, and I did not once see someone getting into or out of a car – so they weren’t just stopping to pick someone up or drop them off.

My first reaction was just an amazement at how lazy these people might be.  I usually intentionally park a little farther away to do some extra walking.  The passengers in the curbside-parkers (maybe I’ll just call them curbers) are clearly doing a lot of walking while shopping.  Can they seriously not walk the extra 50 yards to a true parking spot?  I noticed no handicap parking tags, plus often the handicap spot was literally just steps away and open.

Parking away from the other cars also minimizes the chance of some hitting my car or putting a door ding in it.   Not a big concern, but it just takes away some risk of a bad driver or someone not paying attention swinging their newish SUV into a spot or a kid in daddy’s car  on the phone or otherwise distracted hitting my car.  Blame my Aunt Nancy on this one, as her vintage Volvo daily driver still looks nearly new, and I learned this tip from her.

As i thought about it more, I became a little more disappointed, because these curbers are also really disrespectful to the thousands of other people shopping in at least two ways.   First, they’re stopping and parking in what is essentially one lane of two lane traffic.  So all the others drivers must go around them, driving out into the other lane of traffic to get around the curber.

When they pull up and stop, any other vehicles behind them are potentially initially delayed as they try to figure out what in the world they curber doing.  I actually witnessed this twice, and neither time was a turn signal used – so everyone else sat there for an extended pause before realizing there was nothing blocking the way – these people were just stopping for no apparent reason and had no plans to move.  I’m sure it sucks a little Christmas cheer out of some people when they realize they’ve been stuck behind a curber who has just claimed a new spot to wait.

A second way it is really disrespectful is to the shoppers on foot.  Now, to get to the store or back to their car, they must cross what was a two lane area of traffic either in front of or behind the curber.  Drivers coming from either direction already have to figure out what the yahoo is doing just sitting there, and they also now have limited visibility to pedestrians on top of this extra distraction.  So Curbers are putting others at risk purely for their own personal convenience.

Then it gets worse.  We’re fighting an obesity epidemic in this country.  Curbers are a prime example of the cultural reasons why.   People are too friggin’ lazy to even walk to their cars!  More importantly, somebody else is happier to just sit in the car and diddle away on their phone while a (presumed) loved one is shopping.  GET OUT OF THE CAR AND GO WITH THEM!  YOU NEED THE EXERCISE!

Then there’s the whole fuel economy thing, because it was a cold day so every car was sitting there idling.  One was definitely there for almost 30 minutes, because I went into three stores and shopped around, and waited in line at two of them, and the car was still there running when i came back to my car.  These are probably the same people that will complain about fuel costs and that they have no money to invest in retirement or whatever.  It’s because you’re sitting there burning off $2 worth of fuel every hour going nowhere.  It’s not the $2, it’s the mentality that accepts the wasteful use of money and time that leads to having no money.

Obviously our local police departments don’t need money – because these people are clearly parking in a no parking and fire zone.   An officer could just walk the beat and write dozens of tickets in an afternoon, keeping people safer and encouraging others to be just a little healthier at the same time.  There’s probably multiple violations that could cited in most of these cases.

While it aggravates me, overall it just makes me sad.   It’s probably a little piece of why people in other countries often thought I was either Canadian or British.  They said I was too nice and too friendly to be an American.  I didn’t expect everyone to speak English, so how can I be an American?  I talked to others, and tried to fit in with local behaviors as much as I could, including walking.  10,000 steps?  Try 25,000 to 30,000 on a typical weekend day in Italy, France, or Belgium.

Curbers are just one example of the entitlement and disrespectful attitude that many Americans exhibit.  My question is how do we save ourselves?  How do we reverse the trend as a society?  It’s obviously not an easy answer, except for one part of it:  All of us can save ourselves.   Take responsibility for your life, your health, your financial future, and for how you treat others.  Maybe we can’t fix the United States as a whole (and don’t expect any government to fix it either), but we can make an impact in our part of it; we can make an impact in our lives.

We really should be thinking more about others than ourselves this time of year, but often when we think of others, we get so many good things for ourselves.

Merry Christmas.



New Martinsville Regatta on Fujichrome

My favorite memory about growing up in New Martinsville, WV is the annual hydroplane regatta that was typically held on the last weekend in September.  During my teen years, the event was moved to the south end of the town and seems like it was in the summer (maybe it wasn’t), and the regatta shifted from primarily inboard hydroplanes to eventually all outboard boats.  By the time I started my senior year of high school, I think I had been to 18 New Martinsville regattas in my 17.5 years of life; it was a big deal in the town and for my family.  I don’t know the entire history of leadership decision making, but in my mind the desire to make it a carnival atmosphere and to bring in the outboard boats was what ultimately caused the Regatta to lose popularity, and the event that once brought 50,000 visitors to a little town in West Virginia eventually ceased to happen.

However,  they have gradually been trying to rebuild the regatta, and this year there were some inboard hydroplanes, and I was excited to see the big 7-liter Grand National Hydros thunder down the Ohio once again from the banks of my hometown.  While it was nowhere near the scores of inboard hydroplanes they used to attract, the course is essentially the same course that has set somewhere around 85 speed records, so hopefully it continues to grow.  It was a nice event and the regatta Committee did a good job.   It would be nice to eventually see  more Grand nationals, 5-Liter “E-Class” Boats,  2.5 Liter Modified “A-Class”, 2.5 Liter “S-Class” Boats, 1.5 Liters “T-Class”, 1 Liter “Y-Class”, Jersey Skiffs,  and maybe even Sportsman Entry (SE) and National Modified boats back on the Ohio again.

There were at least two national Champions in attendance and I think two more were crowned on the weekend, so they’re attracting quality boats. They did have a couple vintage Hydros from New Martinsville natives, and a couple vintage Unlimited Hydros, which never ran in New Martinsville in their day because they were just too big and fast for the width of that section of the Ohio. It was exciting enough that I hope to attend the Regatta again next year.

Included are my favorite shots from the day from the first three rolls of film I developed.  Shot on either Fuji Velvia 50 or Provia 100F, using a pair of Minolta Maxxum 7’s, and mostly telephoto lenses, other than one 28mm prime shot of Gale V.  Home developed and scanned using an Epson V600.


Foma 200 developed in HC-110

Typically it’s not a good idea to change two variables at one time when experimenting, but there’s a reason I developed a new film in a new developer.  Actually multiple reasons.  First, I didn’t expect to like the Foma, and I got it for pennies in a lot, so i figured “why not?”  I already have Tri-X, Eastman 5222, and Ilford HP5+ that I really enjoy for black & white photography.

Second, I bought the HC-110 to develop some old rolls of film.  So I wanted to try it out before unleashing it on some 40-year old rolls.  Unfortunately, those two canisters were empty.   Apparently the metal was thicker and heavier, so I couldn’t tell be feel they were empty.   No worries, as I still have an old roll of 120 to finish shooting and develop, but 120 has been a bit of a nemesis as far as spooling on developing tank reels.

Plus, the shots were just fooling around while in Wheeling, and it was a long holiday weekend so I had plenty of time to mix the working solution and just relax when developing, so again – why not?

Overall, the results are OK.  The most impressive thing is the grain and the detail in the photos.  The contrast isn’t quite  as high as I was getting with D-76, but it seems to have a more subtle tonality.  How much of that is film vs developer, I can’t be sure; hence it not being a good idea to change multiple variables.

Take a look at the detail in this picture; I can read the street sign above the traffic lights when I zoom in, and not just “Main Street” but the street numbers “1300” and “1400” in the white band above as well as the “No turn on Red” sign:

Foma 200 Wheeling-16

Then there’s a depth of the lacquer on this boat, which i think the Foma 200 captures very well:

Foma 200 Wheeling-13
Compulsion….are we talking boats or film stock?

This shot should have been a difficult shot, where I was trying to capture the ghost of lettering that had long been removed.  The sun was shining off polished aluminum with a black background to reveal the image, but the Maxxum 7 and the Foma handled it pretty well:

Foma 200 Wheeling-14
Miss Supersonic

Then there’s these two images which for me would only work on black and white film.  Maybe I’m just odd, but the old doors and windows picture is part of why i shoot film.  It’s one of the few shots from the weekend that turned out mostly like I wanted.  The Pump Store sign works for me as well, showing the age and worn feeling I get when I’m in Wheeling.

Foma 200 Wheeling-2
Pump Store
Foma 200 Wheeling-1
Wheeling: 2016, or 1916?

The grain is pretty fine, and combined with the wide tonal range, I’m interested in shooting another roll of Foma (which I have), and also to start working with Eastman 5222, Ti-X, and Ilford HP5+ in HC-110.  I feel like I have several years wort of concentrate, and I have a gallon of D-76, so there’s not shortage of chemicals.  If anything, I’m low on b&w film, since I spent the summer stocking up on color films.  Here’s some other shots from the roll, which overall had some pleasing images.

One thing to note is the suspension bridge.  It is the oldest suspension bridge in use for automobile traffic.  Standing on the bridge was sort of odd, because it does bounce a good bit as cars cross, and when I looked at the railing, I noticed it was wooden!  It was built in 1849, and the suspension cables are either original or date back to 1860.  Talk about history.  Again, it seemed fitting to shoot historic boats and buildings on film.




The “Lost Roll”

Back in the summer of 2014, I had a weird mirror lock up on my Canon AE-1 Program.  It’s what led to me trying a bunch of 35mm SLR’s and eventually finding my Minolta Maxxum 5’s that were my go-to cameras for the last two years.  I got it fixed, and it never acted up since.  Once the lock-up was resolved, I finished out the roll.  But I never had it developed.

I distinctly recall trying out a Tokina 24mm wide angle lens on that roll.   As you can see from this photo, it had more than a bit of vignetting, but it sort of looks cool.

beach OBX 2014-8
Outer Banks Sunrise – Tokina 24mm lens

This is on Portra 160.  There are a handful of other sunrise and beach pictures, plus a few from the family picnic on the 4th of July.   I finished out the roll with some Super More pictures.  Absolutely none of them turned out.  I’ve since learned the moon is pretty bright, so everything is overexposed and the moon is blown out.  I need to work on some moon shots soon, because I don’t know how to do them yet.  Here’s that series of failed shots.

It’s great to finally see some of these shots, although nothing is really inspiring.  I’m starting to wonder what else I’ll uncover on the remaining backlog of exposed rolls.  I guess it’s probably part of the joy of film – the delay between shooting and realizing the final product – even if it’s not great.  The beach shots still take me back there.  I can always count on my wife’s uncle and his grandaughter playing corn hole – so having those photos is appropriate for memories of the July 4th picnic.

Honestly – i thought this roll was truly lost – I figured it was unsalvageable.  The only shot I lost was the one where the shutter stuck open.  A few showed some light leakage, but overall that’s not too bad.  I’m off to develop a couple more rolls.  Happy shooting!


Photos from Belgium on Fuji Pro 400H

One weekend in October 2014, I was to be in Paris between work weeks, and my sister and brother-in-law were scheduled to be in Antwerp, Belgium.  So instead of hanging out in Paris (and foregoing what would end up being my last opportunity to visit the Louvre for the foreseeable future – perhaps my only regret from all my business trips to Paris) I decided to head over to Brussels and meet my sister and hang out with them for a day before their business meetings started, and spend the rest of the weekend in Ghent.

I shared photos from that trip here and here, but I never realized  I didn’t get the color roll developed.  I was shooting a lot of black & white, and devloping it during a class, so I guess I just missed it.  I’m sure there must have been some other pictures from Belgium, but maybe they’re all digital from the iPad mini.  Today I realized these three rolls were the ones I considered learning how to develop C-41 at home when I first got my Bronica.  I also think it’s the only roll of Fuji Pro 400H I’ve ever shot.

The photos above are from us walking around and enjoying the square before my brother-in-law and I really started enjoying the local flavors.  For the most part, there were a lot of “touristy” photos.  However, I shot a handful of pictures the first morning before my sister arrived.  There was this amazing market that sprung up outside my hotel.  I’m thrilled that I shot a few pictures on film.

Belgium 2014-2Belgium 2014-1

Then this lady at the cheese trailer asked me to delete my picture.  You can see her eyes looking at me while she’s waiting on the previous customer.  She was not happy!  I explained it was film – she said “No pictures!”, but I still bought some cheese and something that seemed like bresaola.  She seemed to soften up a bit.  But she must have intimidated me, because I don’t have any more pictures of the market!

Belgium 2014-3
No cheese for you!

I remember the trip, but I honestly don’t remember some of the photos being taken.  Like this next one – it’s a cool mural, but maybe I’d been drinking too much beer to remember seeing it.  I think it’s Brussels, based on where it is, it is the end of Brussels and beginning of Ghent photos, so I’m going with Brussels and beer.  I’m glad I have the photo.

Belgium 2014-8

Most of the Ghent photos capture my walk from the train station to the old section along the canal.   The amount of bikes and boats were simply amazing.  It seems like a relatively simple place to live, and I’d like to go back for a longer stay with my wife some day.  I have a picture of the white house on the water in black & white.  I’ve always liked it, and even made a few prints of it.  But now seeing ti in color, I really like what the yellow and blue does to add a little interest.

By far my two favorite photos were from the end of the roll as night began to set. The one captures the warmth of the lighting extremely well.  The other I find simply stunning.  At first glance it almost looks black and white, but the subtle colors and and warmth of the light show it is color.  I might have to get a larger print made to see how it turns out.  It’s not tremendously sharp, but I distinctly remember shooting that shot from a bridge, using the railing to steady the camera for the longer exposure required.  You can see the bridge and the railing in the dusk picture.

Belgium 2014-14
Ghent at dusk, from my table at dinner.
Belgium 2014-15
Ghent at night.


Overall, the grain is good on this film, the contrast is decent, but I think Portra just fits my eye a little better.  The blue seems to pop more than anything, which is  a little more like Ektar, but the saturation is definitely not at Ektar levels.  Until recently, I was a little more fond of Fuji films than Kodak, but Portra 400 and Ektar are slowly winning me over.  There’s still plenty of Fuji slide films in my fridge, plus Fuji color negative film still outnumbers anything else in there too, so I’ll still be shooting plenty of Fuji in both 35mm and eventually 120 format.  I wouldn’t hesitate to use this film again if I found a deal on it, but I don’t think I’ll plan on shooting it again even though it produced one of my favorite shots.  I definitely need to shoot more night photos.

Seeing similar images from both black & white and color film, I’m very glad I’ve decided to get a second Maxxum 7; the ability to shoot the same subject on both types of film produces some worthwhile rewards on most of my trips.   My two Maxxum 5’s have provided me a lot of joy.  Sometimes I clearly see a scene as black & white or color, but sometimes I’m just not sure. Once again, I’m glad I shot both on this trip.

Pictures from Kentucky – 2014!

I know I was shooting a lot of film two years ago, but I just unearthed 3 rolls that I hadn’t processed from the summer and fall of 2014!   This first roll is Portra 400, which is really becoming a favorite.  I knew this particular roll had been lost, but I assumed it had been damaged or lost in transit to  a film lab because I was sure it was shot on Fuji 400.  Turns out it was Portra.

We went down to visit my aunt and uncle in Lexington, and I shot a roll over the course of that trip.  We started with a mini pub crawl in downtown Lexington on a weekday afternoon.  Keep in mind, my relatives are retired but they like to have a good time.  Here’s a few pictures from downtown Lexington, early in our trip.  As the afternoon wore on, the photos stopped.

The next day, we went to a place called The Glitz.  The food was amazing, but it was also an upscale antique store as well that was housed in a former school.  My uncle calls it “upscale whore house” decoration or something like that.  It is rather gaudy, but memorable.

Kentucky 2014-4Kentucky 2014-5

The remaining shots are from around the farmlands near Lexington.  My wife didn’t even remember some of the shots, and frankly several of them were less than acceptable.   However, they still served their purpose: to bring back the memories of an experience and time spent with family.

Don’t be afraid to Dream Big

Somewhere along the way from the beginning of our school years to when we become adults and start working towards retirement, it seems like a lot of us forget how to really pursue our dreams.  We are doing something, but I’m not sure many of us are actually pursuing a specific dream or set of dreams.

I wouldn’t trade my first 20 years of marriage for anything, but I’d love to go back to 1995 or so, when we had been married a few years with the knowledge I have now about life, money, and the possibilities that exist for early retirement.  The whole idea of what I thought was the American Dream, to own a house, drive nice cars, and retire at age 65, has sent us down a much longer path than what we could have taken.

By 1995, I started focusing on retirement.  I wasn’t putting a ton of money in, but by 2000 I was in great shape, especially if I was thinking about retirement being another 35 years away.  My wife was focused on getting into the school systems, and the thought of a pension was a driving factor.  Investing for retirement wasn’t a priority for her.  A few of those years, we drove over 60,000 miles combined.  How much money did that really cost us?!?!

I’m not sure we would have found a better path to the incomes we’re earning now, but we have increased our lifestyle some as the income rose.  Mostly in housing, and somewhat in other areas like food, cars, and clothing.  We have a fine, typical lifestyle, but I wonder how much differently we could have done things if we knew what we know now?  We’re already more conservative and more “boring” than many of our friends, but what if from 1992-2012 we were pursuing the dream we’re pursuing now, the one of early retirement?  Could I have retired at 35 or 40 instead of maybe semi-retiring at age 50?

A few months ago, I came across a blog called Mr. Money Mustache, or MMM.  I don’t remember how I stumbled across it, but it was probably in preparation for the Legacy Journey class we were leading.  MMM sums up what it takes to retire super early in one post.    He would call my wife and me complainypants, because at this point we’re not selling our home and moving within walking or biking distance of where I work.  But deep down I sort of want to; the neighborhood beside where i now work was an area we dreaming of living in 1992.  Just a couple miles away is a great neighborhood we almost bought a house in back in 2009.  In between the two is an area we dreamed of in 2006.

Where we live is probably our biggest deterrent to early retirement. If we could make the move, we could probably either pay cash or pay off a house withing a year or two in one of those neighborhoods above.   I could stop driving my car much, and sell at least one car of the three we own.  Maybe two.  After that, giving up cable and reducing our spending on food would really be the last two things on our list.  We could probably be truly financially independent in 5 years instead of semi-retired.

I’m not complaining, things are pretty good.  Especially with the focus we’ve had the last four years about being intentional about dreaming and then pursuing those dreams.  But what if we’d been dreaming of retiring at age 40 since we got married?  What choices would we have made?  Why in the world didn’t someone tell us what was possible?   Why didn’t I get some sort of sage advice in high school from other than something like “you need to stop dreaming so much; most people just can’t be something they’re not.”  It was like since we are born into where we are, we can’t really change the course of our life.  What utter crap!

Many of us are made to fear failure.  To be afraid of what others will think if we don’t follow the herd. MMM is not the only place to learn about retiring really early.  jlcollinsnh, Afford Anything, 1500 Days, the Frugal Woods; all share recipes and recommendations for really pursing your dreams.  Don’t live someone else’s dream for you!  No matter how old you are, but especially if you’re young – take some time his month and really think about what you want from this life, then put a plan in place to go get it!