Happy Leif Erikson Day!!

No, it’s not you say; it’s Columbus Day in the US. Well, if we want to celebrate the first European to visit America, it should be Leif Erikson Day. He visited American 500 years before Columbus, knew it wasn’t India and landed on North America, not the Caribbeans.

Leif Erikson is a Norse or a more modern Scandinavian explorer who landed in North America around 1000 AD. The term Viking that we all use was created in the late 1800s. Viking created the horned helmets in the 1870s for Wagner Opera Der Ring des Nibelungen or The Ring of the Nibelung in English. If you study history long enough, you will have to unlearn what you have learned in school. But to be fair horned helmets are fabulous and just a great costume design.

Back to Leif Erikson, his father, Erik the Red, founded a permanent European settlement in Greenland after being exiled from Iceland. Erik had a dispute with his neighbor that resulted in the Home Owner’s Association kicking him out of Iceland for years. You kill one neighbor, and they are all over you. Please note the words permanent and European to that statement, and the Inuit’s already lived in Greenland before the Norse.

Fun Fact, Erik the Red did call it Greenland as a sale pitch to get people to move there. Second Fun Fact, the Norse don’t have last or family names like in Western World. Leif Erikson is Erikson because his Dad was Erik; he is Leif Erik’s Son. The same is true for women, but they use their Mother’s name and dóttir, daughter.

While on the way to Greenland, Leif was blown off course and came across the land with self-sown wheat (planned vs. wild) and grapevines. In some of the sagas, he also found a few other Norsemen shipwrecked on this land. He started a colony in Vineland (Land of Vinces) and continued to travel and trade goods with Greenland’s people, so he lived to tell the tale or Saga. There are also a few different versions of this saga and additional ones about other people traveling to Vinland and settling there. Sagas are epic poems used to tell of historic deads and adventures in Norse culture.

Record Scratch. Some of you are saying this is bs; why am I only hearing about this now. There are a couple of reasons.

One, there is a history of ignoring oral history.

Two, we have found Norse settlements in Newfoundland, Canada, from around 1000 AD; it’s called L’Anse aux Meadows. https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/nl/meadows

Three, nothing came of the colony, it didn’t last long, and the information wasn’t shared or widely known. This happens in history. Dutch explorer Willem Janszoon landed in Australia before James Cook, but England created the permanent colony. Edison didn’t invent the lightbulb; he just made the most commercially used version. Quick, what was the alternate to blue-ray, and how many people know the answer because they purchased the HD and then had to re-buy all their movies when blue-ray became the standard.

If we look at Columbus’s discovery, it was well known and led to the colonization of North, Central, and South America. That’s why he gets a day named after him; he didn’t think the world was flat; he (and others) just thought the Earth was smaller.

Leif didn’t get a Federal Holiday, but he is represented in statues in the USA and Iceland, and we can all agree he didn’t skip leg day.

The back of this statue says, “Leifr Ericsson. Son of Iceland. Discoverer of Vínland. The United States of America to the People of Iceland on the one-thousandth Anniversary of the Althing A. D. 1930”.

Lobster Gloves

Heavyweight Lobster Gloves

I was in Maine, the northernmost state on the east coast in the US, and came across these massive lobster claws hanging on the outside of a building in a fishing harbor. The claws were grey in real life, but they reminded me of boxing gloves, so I painted over them in PhotoShop and blending the color in. Given the size of the claws, that lobster must have been jumbo size.

It pays to have a slow look around when taking photos, or you might miss out.

Velvet Cow Painting

Velvet Cow

This is a red Scottish Highland Cow; it’s got the shaggy coat to survive the harsh winter. Without the heavy coat it. would be frail like those English cows. 🙂 I’m trying to channel Mike Myer’s If it’s not Scottish is crap bit from SNL.

Why is the photo so dark, you might be asking; the answer is I wouldn’t say I liked the background. I started playing around with the edit options and ended up with a Velvet painting look. Below is the unedited version, and I’m sure we all agree that a feed trough, fence, and cow poo is not that interesting.

Practical Travel Tips

What to know before you go!

Just some practical travel tips from someone that has traveled a lot.

  1. When you reach your hotel/motel/B&B take a card from the check-in desk that has the address of the hotel/motel. Then put it in your wallet. You can have multiple hotels chain names in the city/town you are visiting. It’s better to have the address written down, just in case you break/lose your phone or the battery goes dead.
  2. If you are parking your car at the airport, take a photo of the parking spot. Then email the picture to yourself, again if your phone dies you will have a backup. Because you will forget where you park when you get back.
  3. Drink filter water if you have a sensitive stomach or you always catch a bug making the rounds. The water might be fine to drink but different areas/countries have different levels of minerals or impurities in other countries compared to yours. So if you have a sensitive system (older, stomach issues like IBS, or just get sick a lot) best bet is to drink filter water or get a water bottle with a filter and fill it up. Any outdoor store will have water bottles with filters.
  4. Jet lag is real. You can get it going to your destination and coming back home. So if you are going back to work on Monday, try to keep your flight home to Saturday or Friday.
  5. If you take prescription medication take a photo or write down the Trademark name and generic name. International trademarks issues could result in some confusion if you need to get a refill. Weird trademark trivia, Heroin was a Trademarked name in 1895 by Bayer, yeah the aspirin company, as a non-addictive morphine substitute. Just to clarify it’s very addictive, don’t use it.

Forced Creativity with Mushrooms

AKA Fun with Fungus

After heavy rain in summer, you get these white mushrooms that pop in a day and are gone in another. So break out the camera and start clicking because you can have fun with fungi…..who doesn’t love a good pun.

When photographing mushrooms or mushroom-like fungi, there are two things to remember. One, get down; you need to get low or sit on the ground to get a good shot. Two, you will need to take a couple of close-up shots to get full-in-focus mushrooms.

The photo above shows the Cap in focus. If you want all the fungus in focus, you will need to edit multiple photos together. Then you can go nuts with gradient map or other pre-made filters, like the black and white Photoshop filter photo below. You don’t have to be a pro to get creative photos, a lot of apps have pre-made filters for easy creativity.

Just remember one will make you taller, and the other makes you small…..

Summer Time and the Photo are easy!

I was at a farmer’s market and saw these sunflowers in peak bloom and wanted a photo. I took a few close-up photos, but I wanted to capture all the flowers, which means I need a good background for the photo.

I do what I always do when taking photos. I looked all around for the best background and spotted the red and white Gingham table Cloth (also called the Farmer’s Weave), which screams summer and picnics to most people (it does for me). However, the standing-up view included cartons of vegetables and people, which I don’t want in the photo. This was when you got to squat for the shot, and sometimes you have to change the angle to get the best view.

Suppose you want some photos of your favorite flowers, head over to your local farmer’s market. The photos are free!

My Zen Garden

I love plants, but I have allergies, and over/underwater, any plants I’ve ever had, so I have a problem. You might think this isn’t a problem. There are tones of plants without pollen, but soil (that holds water for your plants) can also create a mold (which is a common allergy). But what about succulent plants or air plants? No soil needed, no mold, problem solved! Yes, but I seem to under or overwater them. So my solution to this problem is an underwater garden, no soil, just rocks, and you can’t overwater an aqua plant.

The next problem is how to create an aqua garden?

I have a 20-gallon freshwater tank with normal gravel and plants purchased from Amazon and PetSmart/PetCo. I have an LED light with white, red, green, and blue lights; and some decor made from resin. I have snails, shrimp, and fish in my tank to provide fertilizer for my plants, and they add some color to my view. I had time during the pandemic to think about this garden and research what I needed. You can go smaller, maybe have a mason jar with marimo moss balls and miniature decor from Michaels.

If you want your own underwater garden, below are questions you ask yourself and some helpful tips.

The photo above is a 20-gallon tank, each gallon weighs 8.34 (lb) or 3.785 (kg) for a total water weight of 166.8 (lb), and that doesn’t include the weight of the tank and any decor you might add. Make sure you place the tank on something that can support that weight. It doesn’t have to be a tank stand but make sure to check the support weight limit; it should be in the item’s description along with its size.

Is the spot near an electrical outlet, you will need a nearby outlet for the light, filter, a/o heater.

Plants need light, so you might think I can use sunlight, but aqua plants do not receive direct sunlight in nature. The direct sunlight will create algae everywhere, so keep the tank away from any windows.

Think about the light and noise from the tank before placing it in your bedroom. The filter might be whisper quiet, but water hitting water creates noise.

Plan you tank makes, snails can clean up algae, dead plants and provide natural fertilizer, but some also eat plants. I have Nerite snails, and they don’t breed in freshwater, don’t eat live plants, and have neat patterns/colors on their shells.

Is this too much work? Then go smaller! I started with a mason jar and some Marimo moss balls with glass beads. I went bigger because I also wanted a pet, and fish don’t require walking, and they don’t cough up hairballs on my bed.

Whale of Tale to tell you!

Another example of forced creativity, using a whale shark figure, LED lights, dark background, and turning off the lights.

Here’s what you start with, then turn off the lights in the room and apply some editing and you get……

You can also use the gradient filter that replaces colors to create something really unique.

Does anyone get the title reference?

Naked Computers

My BlueRay/DVD player finally broke, not surprising it’s ancient. It’s going to tech recycling, but first, I wanted photos. I unscrewed the top and took a peek into the naked player, and it was beautiful. I guess the moral of the story is and there is beauty in broken things.

Close up on circuit board and then used Gradient Map feature to switch out the green and black for yellow and red.

An extreme close-up of the circuit board looks like a model town to me. The lines are roads, everything else is buildings, and the components I focused on would be skyscrapers.

This component looks like odd battery size, like QQ or ZZZ.

Snail Stink Eye

I’ve been working on macro photography with my snails, fish, and shrimp, and I caught my snail giving me the stink eye.

Are you looking at me?

This is a Tiger Nerite snail; it’s about one inch big, gliding on a plant leaf. If you are looking for a snail for a freshwater aquarium, this is the snail to get. They have brightly colored shells with patterns and don’t eat plants. They glide along with the leaves, eating the algae and tiny food particles on the surface.

They are very chill, and unlike other snails, they don’t really come out of their shell, so there isn’t anything for aggressive or hungry fish to nibble on. They are also very hardy.

Weird things you never think of…

You never think about many things, and when you are hit with the fact, it just seems weird or untrue.

  1. Pineapples grow out of the ground. Most of us don’t live in tropical fruit fields but we all assume that fruit grows on a tree or on a vine. Bananas, apples, oranges, lemons, limes, cherries, all on a tree. Then you take a vacation to Hawaii and see the pineapple fields and BAM they grow out of the ground. And it just seems wrong.
  2. Peacocks roost in trees. I’ve only seen peacocks roaming the perfect keep lawn in some stately manner, a zoo, or in ads. I have never ever thought about where do peacocks come from and where do they sleep. It’s like they aren’t even a real bird species, they seem like something a 14c eccentric nobleman created for a monarch I was on a bus tour and the guide said if you look behind you will see peacocks roosting in the trees. As to where they come from, it’s India.
  3. What late-breaking medical treatment will be made fun of in the future? We all laugh at the crazy cures ancient cultures and more recent ones have, but in 500 years what crazy cure will people make fun of? Like LOL can you believe people in 2000 thought antibiotics worked, I’m glad I live in the now where laser fixes everything.
  4. How does a microwave work? There are a number of people that know how they work but I would say most people don’t think about it. This is something we grew up with, you open the door, enter a time, and bam it’s warm. Also, those easy bake ovens with lightbulbs don’t help clear up the issue.
  5. What’s the difference between Mist and Fog, partly sunny and partly cloudy, and why is inflammable and flammable the same thing?
    1. Fog is a low-lying cloud, Mist forms when water droplets hanging in the air by magic or force.
    2. However, according to the National Weather Service, partly cloudy and partly sunny mean exactly the same thing, however partly sunny can only be used doing the day.
    3. Straight from the dictionary: Inflammable and flammable are synonyms and mean “able to burn” even though they look like opposites. In this case, rather than the prefix in- meaning “not,” as it often does, “inflammable” comes from the latin verb inflammare, which means “to cause to catch fire.” “Flammable” was coined later from a translation of the latin verb flammare (“to catch fire”), which inflammare is related to.
  6. If you find this information useful or fun I highly recommend two BBC series QI (Quite Interesting) and Horrible Histories.

PhotoShop Oil Painting Style

I’ve started playing around with the Oil Painting Style in Photoshop, and below might be my favorite result. This is Lake Eibsee in southern Germany.

What I ended up with.

I have found that animals and landscape are the best types of photos to try this out on. I’m sure there is a technical reason for it, but I’m too lazy to google. Just click on the photo above if you want to know more about the photo.

You open a photo in Photoshop, go to Filter, Stylize, then Oil Paint.

Just a few clicks, and you are done.

Then play around with the sliders, and you are done.