Morning on the lake

morning on the lake

I took this picture at sunrise on a beautiful clear day, the last day of my recent trip to New Hampshire. I posted it in the deleteme! group (first explained in this post). I thought they'd hate it, and some of them did, but some of them actually liked it.

It ended up with seven saveme votes, more than 30 comments and more than 300 views. Seventeen people marked it as a favorite, and it ended up on page four of Flickr's "interestingness" page for September 29. I have no idea what happened or why or how, but I really enjoyed my day in the sunshine.

(I know that if you don't know Flickr you probably won't understand all this. Just for comparison's sake, most of the photos I post on Flickr get about 10 views and only a handful have "favorite" marks. The most favorites I've ever gotten is five on this picture. And, let's face it, that's all about the dog and has nothing to do with my photography.)

Meanwhile, the deleteme! group still deleted the photo, but it stings a little less when people are so damn nice about it. And, since they were being all helpful and shit, I thought I would try the crop that was suggested in this comment.

I don't like it. Bah--stupid deleteme! group. They just don't recognize what a true genius I am.

Here are some more of my brilliant photographs from that beautiful morning (click for the larger images):

the lake life morning on the lake 2

lakewood cottage beached


Off the grid

Four days away with no phone and no Internet. Based on the increasing urgency of the voice mails and emails, you would think that I'd been missing for months. Calm down, people, I'm back. Vacation photos and stories to come.

Is this thing focused?

Well, it's almost October, and you know what that means. Yup, time for my camera to crap out on me again. Same problem as last time, the automatic focus is not working properly. Either that or I really do take crappy pictures:

bday61c Imgp5340
(Click to see the larger, even blurrier versions)

Luckily, I was able to get these before tragedy struck:

Mind if I try one?

Knockin' one back

After I took these pics, my mom says to me in a resigned voice: "You're going to put those on your blog, aren't you."


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Light and grass and stuff

Another one from Nahant. I'd taken these for my mum's birthday, because I know she likes light and grass and stuff, but she got a website instead. It really is pretty down there in the late afternoon. She'd probably like these, too:

Rose Hips at Sunset Nahant Sunset Walk
(click for larger)

Although, truth be told, I find them to be a little dull.

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Things I never thought I'd say #23

My mother has a blog.

When I first asked my mom if she'd like a website for her 61st birthday, she acted like I'd suggested she might like to eat a baby. But she warmed up to the idea (of the web site, not the baby-eating), especially after I told her that I'd do all the work. Now she has a place to post announcements about upcoming art shows, photographs of her paintings, and links to whatever artsy-fartsy things she wants to link to. We're still working on it, but you can take a peek here.

By the way, people, you forgot to send her the usual eight million birthday cards. And she is not amused.

dull dull dull dull blury onion

Onion LoveYou wanna see some funny shit? Check out the comments on this photo, courtesy of the deleteme! group on Flickr.

Here's how you play. People add pictures to the group pool. Then members vote "deleteme" or "saveme." You have to make 15 comments a day to belong and you can have only one photo in the pool a day or at a time. Ten deletemes and you're done--you have to remove your crap from the pool. Ten saveme's and you go to the "safe." The best part is that members are allowed (encouraged, even) to say whatever mean, nasty things they like. They even have a thread where people laud the worst comments. It's hysterical.

I am so addicted to this that I've done little else for days and days. I can't eat, I can't sleep ... all I wanna do is look at crappy pictures and make nasty comments. Some strange part of me enjoys getting nasty comments, too. I was a little disappointed that the group wasn't meaner to me on this one. (And you guys thought it was good. Hah! You were all WRONG!)

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Lakewood Winter

For David, who will be missed.

Andale: Let's go rip off our customers!

Here's a scenario for you.

Say you run a business and some of the services you offer are free. Say, for example, you are a company that helps people list online auctions and you give away counters for free as a way of marketing your products and getting your name out there. And say you have some products that you sell for a premium, such as a research reports for sellers.

Now, say you want your company to be a really, really big success. You want people to try your paid services. So, do you:

a) Send emails asking customers who use the free products to consider upgrading to the paid products with, say, a money-back guarantee if they are not satisfied?

b) Send emails offering customers a free trial of a product and give them a certain amount of time to cancel or be billed for the service.

c) Send your customers an email saying that, because they have tried your free products, you assume that they would like to try your paid ones, too ... AND TAKE THE MONEY OUT OF THEIR FREAKING CHECKING ACCOUNTS WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION!

Yesterday I noticed that Andale auction services (pronounced Ahn-DUH-lay) took about $8 out of my checking account, even though I didn't order anything from them. I have, however, used their free services in the past. I assumed the charge was a mistake, called the company, and asked them to credit my account. They told me it would take four to six weeks to do so. Assuming it was an honest mistake--a glitch or something--and thinking I problably didn't have much of a choice, anyway, I reluctantly agreed.

Today (the day after they they debited my account, by the way) they sent me this email:

New Andale Research

Dear (user name),

On September 1, 2005, Andale launched a new Research product by taking the best of our two research services, How To Sell and Price Finder, and merging them into one powerful offering. Since you were previously signed up for the free version of How To Sell, your account was converted over to the new, more powerful Research product which costs $7.95 per month.

If you do not wish to keep Andale Research, please reply to this email on or before September 25, 2005, and we will cancel the product and refund your Research fees for September (if we have already collected from you). This is a monthly subscription service and you will be billed $7.95 per month should you choose to keep the product.

As well, we have received great feedback on Andale Research so if you have any questions related to using the product, feel free to email us at


The Andale Team

Well! So long as they have received great feedback, they should feel free to just take the money right out of my checking account without my permission, right? After all, they know what I like! They should just assume that since I signed up for the free product, naturally I would want to go ahead and spend eight bucks a month for a premium version. I mean, it's just so perfectly fucking reasonable!*

I sent them back a really angry email with lots of upper case letters. I demanded that they credit my account immediately and not in four to six weeks and that they cancel my account. Do you know how they responded? Can you guess? Of course you can. They sent me an automated FAQ email that was supposed to answer any question I might possibly have.

Meanwhile, they're hijacking their customers' checking accounts ... and you KNOW there are people who won't notice a $7.95 debit, especially if it's from a company they have done business with in the past. So, what, Andale gets to just keep the money they get from those people? Or from people who have changed their email since signing up for Andale's free products? Or who are on vacation or, I don't know, flooded out of their freaking homes and away from their computers? And, further, the rat bastards get to collect another round next month and the month after that?

Seriously, does this shit even seem legal?

Hey, maybe they figured turnaround is fair play.

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Photo Friday: The perfect climbing tree

This is a shot of the big chestnut tree (you might even say it is massive) on the front lawn of the Swampscott Town Hall, which I posted a photograph of yesterday.

Someday I'd like to climb it.

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Sunset on Town Hall

Swampscott's town hall (well, technically it's the Elihu Thomson Administration Building) is so pretty. I love the color of the bricks hit by the late afternoon light. .

Hurricane Katrina in words and pictures

Updated 9/7/05: Two quick notes and then I'm done (really) ...

First, there is a really cool auction of photographs on Flickr to aid hurricane victims. Click here to go to the main auction page. The set-up is a little confusing. Basically you look through the 424 photos in the auction pool or read through the 372 discussion threads to the find a photo that you like and bid using the comments system (look to see what others have bid first). Some people have provided links to their auction from their photo page, but not all. Make sure you're on the auction discussion page and not on the original photo page. (Good grief, now I'm confusing myself--click here for directions on how to bid.) A recent update: you do not need a Flickr account ... you can place your bid by email. Click here to learn more about that.

Some nice ones to bid on: Leaf Life, Lily, Naples Fishing Pier, Reaching Out, Yellow Chair, Music Man and Poppies against Blue Sky (shown above, by Camra_Art).

OK, second thing: If anyone out there donated money to Noah's Wish or the Red Cross after reading my crazy long-weekend-long blog-a-thon, please go here and log your contribution (scroll down). The total raised by The Truth Laid Bear's crazy (in a good way) Hurricane Katrina: Blog for Relief Weekend? Over one million dollars, including 18 contributions to Noah's Wish totallying $1,550.

Updated 9/5/05

It's Monday and I'm going to put up a few more notable Hurricane Katrina pictures and links and then take a break from posting for a while. I made a small donation to the animal rescue organization Noah's Wish last night. I hope that, if you're reading this, you might be moved to do the same. The Red Cross can also use your help.

A makeshift tomb at a New Orleans street corner conceals a body that had been lying on the sidewalk for days in the wake of Hurricane Katrina on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2005. The photo on the left, made by AP photographer Dave Martin, is from the gallery "Survivors and Destruction" on The same scene made the cover of The Times-Picayune today but I like Martin's image better. It has a certain quiet dignity to it, but also a sense of loneliness and abandonment. All 13 photos in this gallery are worth looking at, especially the first two items, which show the Superdome as it is today and how it looked in better times.

Here are the front pages of yesterday's and today's The Times-Picayune. Click on either image to get a PDF of the cover. Think about the job that photo editors have to do--from the thousands of images being made in the area, each one more compelling than the next and all of them telling an important story, they have to pick the best ones. I think they picked the right one on Sunday. You can see a larger image of that rescue-scene photo here (still looking for it). Access the Nola photo galleries and archives from the past week here.

UPDATED ... 9/4/05

I've been posting Hurricane Katrina links since Thursday (see below). I had to start a new post because the formatting was getting all fucked up in the old one and I didn't feel like crawling through the html to see what was wrong. Clean slate and all that.

Today I'm going to try to stick with my plan to post only examples of the words and pictures that I found most moving. There are plenty of other people doing all the rest of it. I'm doing this as part of The truth laid bear's Blog for Relief Weekend. My charity of choice is Noah's Wish, an organization that is helping out with animal rescue efforts in Hurricane Katrina's wake. They are updating with words and pictures as often as is possible here.
David Usborne reports for The Independent (UK) from inside the Houston Astrodome:

It is the mess with the buses that makes Ms Benson most angry. She and her family had abandoned their home in the projects last Sunday and fled immediately to the Superdome. The stampede for the buses began on Thursday. She described soldiers of the National Guard barking orders - "Make a hole, make a hole, that was their favourite order," she says - and making no effort to keep parents and children together. "They treated us like dirt, like dirt. They wouldn't even help my kids when they got lost. 'Ma'am, you've got to stay behind the barricade' is all they said." The soldiers did at least give them water while they waited - throwing bottles into the crowd. "Just popping people on the head with them."

Now that the victims of Hurricane Katrina have been evacuated, stories like this one (and much, much worse) will start to come out. Read more of the refugees' first-person accounts here.


A baby is passed above the crowd as people wait to leave the Superdome in New Orleans September 1, 2005. This National Geographic photograph by James Nielsen is the best I've seen so far. The expressions on the men's faces, the utter helplessness of the baby--it tells the story in a very powerful way. And the composition and other technical issues are simply perfect. Click on the photo to see the full-size image on the National Geographic site.

New Orleans resident Alex Perez carries his cats to dry land after being rescued by boat from his house near Lake Pontchartrain. This Getty Images photo (no photographer credited) is surreal--you have to look at it twice to double-check that you're seeing what you're seeing. Not as powerful nor as technically good as the first, but it still caught my attention and it still tells a story. Click the photo to see the full-sized image on the National Geographic site.
"Living Paycheck to Paycheck Made Leaving Impossible." A clear and compassionate piece of writing by Washington Post staff writer Wil Haygood offers a glimpse of the economic reality of those who lived in the path of the hurricane for the many people--including me--who just didn't get it:

To those who wonder why so many stayed behind when push came to water's mighty shove here, those who were trapped have a simple explanation: Their nickels and dimes and dollar bills simply didn't add up to stage a quick evacuation mission. "Me and my wife, we were living paycheck to paycheck, like most everybody else in New Orleans," Eric Dunbar, 54, said Saturday.
Read the full article here.
The Washington Post has a special section with many, many stunning Hurricane Katrina photos. I cannot link to them because they are presented in flash format, but if you go to this page you will see thumbnails and brief descriptions of each gallery.
The number of photos (and the number of pop-up ads--you get a new one every single time you click something) is a bit overwhelming, but there are three galleries that are really worth the time and effort. They include some of the Hurricane Katrina photographs that are likely to stay in our collective memory. (The above link opens in a new window so you can click on some of the photos I've suggested rather than going through every one.)

Scroll down the page to look for the following galleries:

Floods Ravage New Orleans: Two burst levees allow Lake Ponchartrain to inundate New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The first seven photographs in this gallery are must-sees. Image 1, of the river rushing through the breached levy, is simply astounding. Image 2, of a flooded cemetery, is eerily beautiful. Images 13 and 18 are also noteworthy.

Chaos Hampers Relief Efforts: Relief supplies and National Guard troops move into New Orleans and other areas of the Gulf Coast affected by Hurricane Katrina. However, continuing incidents of chaos and violence, including shots being fired near the Superdome, have slowed efforts to move people housed there to Houston's Astrodome. Click on image 5 – another image where facial expressions tell the story. The woman in the center of the photograph, Terri Jones, is literally the face of compassion. Click on 11 to see the photo of Daryl Thompson and his three-month-old daughter (left). Images 19 and 20 are also noteworthy.

Finally, check out the panoramic photo gallery ... The photographs, taken using a special camera, offer sweeping vistas of the destruction shot at eye level. The unique perspective and crystal sharp clarity make you feel like an eye-witness to Katrina's destruction.

Friday's List is full of woe

(9/3) Gienna Writes is a personal diary that's mostly about writing and photography. It serves as a creative and emotional outlet for me and as a space for my own words and pictures. I don't normally write about current events. But this weekend I'm doing something a little different.

I couldn't ignore Hurricane Katrina and the devastated people of the Gulf Coast area. So I'm writing about and linking to other people's words and pictures of the disaster.

If you have words and pictures you would like to share (either your own or someone else's), please feel free to leave a comment or email me at giennawrites at gmail dot com.

And if you feel moved to donate, please consider giving to the Red Cross or to Noah's Wish, an organization that rescues animals in disasters. Volunteers from both organizations are in the affected region and desperately need your help.


(9/2) Yesterday I said that I was feeling overwhelmed by the news and images of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast area. And, quite frankly, I didn't even have a clue as to the full extent of what was going on down there. It seems like no one--except those who were living it--really did.

It finally sank in as I watched the evening news last night, and saw images and heard stories that will stay with me as surely as those from the September 11 terrorist attacks have ... a dead man slumped over in his wheelchair, covered in a makeshift shroud; an entire family stranded in their car in a drug store parking lot with a flat tire and an empty gas tank; a mother, laying safe in her hospital bed and holding her tiny newborn, telling how she had not seen her five-year-old since, while swimming to find him some asthma medicine, she had gone into labor.

I'll be honest--I condemned those who were looting stores and wondered what the hell was wrong with those who didn't get out of the hurricane's path and ended up sitting on the roofs of their houses, surrounded by rising waters, waiting to be rescued. Now I understand that many of these people didn't have a choice. What were you supposed to do if you didn't have a car, or money for gas, or a place to go even if you did have a car and money for gas? If you were elderly, or nine months pregnant? These people, faced with impossible choices, did the best they could do.

Today's Friday List was going to be made up of writing and photography on Katrina that I found to be especially compelling. But, to be honest, I got a little overwhelmed again. I think I'll leave this post up and update it with links over the long weekend. If anyone has suggestions for additions, something you read or saw or heard that really moved you, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email (giennawrites at gmail dot com).

Here's what I've got so far:

Under WaterHitting BottomHelp Us, PleaseFirst Water, Now Fire

(Note: Clicking on these images will take you to a PDF of the front page of each edition. They might take a while to load.)

(9/2) I hope the staff of
The Times-Picayune win the Pulitzer for their home-town coverage of Hurricane Katrina--they damn well deserve it. The staff of the daily newspaper had to evacuate to higher ground in order to keep publishing; they've been sleeping in their new offices and working on laptops since. You can see their unbelievable coverage of Hurricane Katrina here.

The Times' site,, shows how community journalism can be at its absolute best even when things are at their absolute worst. The perspective is haunting: there are e-mail postings from people who are trapped and wondering when help is coming and a list of links under the heading "What's happened to my neighborhood?" that simply gave me chills.

Read more about how local media outlets covered the disaster while in the midst of the disaster in this
NY Times article: Flooding Stops Presses and Broadcasts, So Journalists Turn to the Web.

(9/2) PJKM, one of the members of the oddly-named group blog Babies are fireproof is from New Orleans and has been posting her experiences there. Her three most recent posts ("Homeless," "They're Trying to Wash Us Away" and "A Town Like Alec" are simply beautiful examples of writing grace under extreme pressure.

(9/2) As mentioned in yesterday's post, disaster-relief organizations for animals and humans, including Noah's wish and the Red Cross need your help. But make sure your money goes directly to those who really need it, not scumbags whose first thought is to come up with a scam to line their own pockets. Read about it in the Washington Post article, Scammers Hit Web In Katrina's Wake.
(9/3) Noah's Wish has started a Hurricane Katrina updates site to document the animal rescue efforts of the 65 volunteers they have working in Slidell. Obviously, updating is difficult at the moment, but they report that they are currently managing rescued animals in 3 locations with the numbers growing rapidly: 168 in a boarding kennel; 100 in the emergency shelter; 40 in a grooming shop.

(9/3) Two highlights from last night's A Concert for Hurricane Relief on NBC ... The first was Aaron Neville singing Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927," with its goosebump-raising refrain: "They're trying to wash us away." The song is about the Louisiana Flood of 1927. If you want to learn more, click here. Reuters has a piece about the Big Easy's musicians here. See the comments for the lyrics of "Louisiana." I'm pretty sure Neville didn't use the word "cracker" in his version, though.
The second moment was, of course, was when rapper Kayne West stymied NBC censors with a quiet and cleanly-worded (but very emotional) protest over media treatment of the victims of the hurricane--the majority of whom are black and poor--and added that "George Bush doesn’t care about black people." There was a several second delay to the broadcast, but the censors were on guard against gangsta-style f-bombs and totally didn't expect West to deliver a political statement. You can see a video of the moment here. The Washington Post has a funny "why we love live TV" take on it here.

(9/3) Read the original "finding versus looting" post by Wonkette, which I think was the first to point out the AP photo that showed a black person "looting" food and the AFP photo that showed white people "finding" food (which has since been removed ... oddly enough the black looter is still up there).

(9/3) Read the Yahoo! News statement on the photo language controversy. Read more at Salon (free if you get a one-day pass and watch an ad). The upshot is that the photo agencies say that the captions are based on what actions the photographer actually witnessed first-hand.

(9/3) "Vacation is Over ... an open letter from Michael Moore to George W. Bush." Whatever you think of Micheal Moore (or George Bush, for that matter) he is a good writer. "Where on earth could you have misplaced all our military choppers? Do you need help finding them?" Moore writes in his open letter to Bush. "I once lost my car in a Sears parking lot. Man, was that a drag." Read the entire piece here.

(9/3) The truth laid bear is hosting Hurricane Katrina: Blog for Relief Weekend ... And for some reason Instapundit is trying to keep track of it all.

(9/3) Speaking of keeping track of it all, Universal Hub is doing an amazing job collecting bloggers' responses to Katrina. Read what Boston-area writers have to say here. There are exerpts from more far-flung locales and a mind-boggling list of other sources and resources on this page.
Updating ...

A picture of suffering

The picture on the left, which I first saw in this post on City Rag, simply breaks my heart. I look at it and I get a heavy, urgent feeling deep in my chest that makes me want to get on a plane and go find that dog right now, even though logically I know whoever took the picture must have already helped him. In fact, this one image bothered me more than any of the other images that have been coming in from the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

I'm not sure why this is, except that maybe seeing so many images of the total and utter destruction of entire neighborhoods and towns and hordes of displaced people who can now fit everything they own in the world into a plastic grocery bag overwhelms me to the point that my brain just blocks it out, while this one small black and white picture of one creature in one pathetic situation is somehow easier to cope with.

I think it's just easier to feel the pain of one animal than is to feel sympathy for tens of thousands of people.

If you're moved to help rescue animals in the disaster area, you might start with a contribution to the disaster relief funds of the ASPCA and the U.S. Humane Society. Of course the American Red Cross, a fine, trustworthy organization that helps humans, can always use volunteers and donations, too.

UPDATE: I learned from reading this post on Marti's site that the picture is from Noah's Wish, an animal rescue organization that is in Slidell, Louisiana, right now working to rescue animals who had to be left behind by their owners. Please visit their web site and make sure to scroll down for updates about the work these wonderful people are doing. Terri Crisp, the organization's director, has been driving two hours from Slidell to Baton Rouge to get Internet access and to update her site. You can click here to make a direct PayPal donation to the organization.