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Spent new years at a friend's house last night...and today I have been productive.

One of my goals for New Year's Day is to get the tree taken down.

Typical clean-up of -- needles everywhere!

Started a book in its original Portuguese. So far so good -- the writing style is at my level -- although, of course, I have to look up unfamiliar words, like 'saddlebag' and 'staff' -- not words I use every day!

And yesterday, started a batch of vanilla extract. It'll be ready in a couple months. I guess for just pure extract, I should use strictly vodka, but I tend to mix up the alcohol. I also should use cheap alcohol when making extract...but I used what I had on hand!
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Thinking about the previous year...
  • It was generally a good year for me, which is a good thing, and will be remembered mostly as the year I first visited Bisti in New Mexico -- https://www.flickr.com/photos/spunkybart/albums/72157682248929603.

  • I got the trim on the house painted, and got one rotted window replaced, but there were no other major house or other expenses (knock wood). (Although I do note that I can see a major expense coming, which I am girding myself and my budget for!)

  • Made a new friend, lost a friend, so the year netted out in that respect. Family generally in good health (matching their respective ages), so good on that front.

  • This was the first year in a while where I only had 1 job -- I tend to be a rolling stone, so I change jobs pretty often.

  • Been thinking about retirement and what that might look like. It will be a while yet, but my thoughts are moving in that direction.

  • I've been listening to a podcast that finished up several years ago, called The History of Rome. The political turmoil of this past year with a demagogue disgracing the presidency, and with all the tribal warfare between the citizens reminds me a lot of the political and military machinations during the late Republic -- the first time that Roman legions fought other Romans instead of an external 'enemy'.

  • My Portuguese has improved. I still am very slow to speak and have trouble understanding spoken conversation at a normal speed. But I notice that I hesitate less for vocabulary when I am speaking, and I hear more and more individual words in others' speech. So, it's improving!
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Yesterday was the family's Christmas dinner and gift exchange.

I had noticed that one of my amaryllises might bloom yesterday, so before I left the house, I set up an old camera taking interval photos with the idea of creating a time-lapse.

It worked out fairly well -- the bloom opened. The weight of the bloom caused the bloom to move to the right throughout the time-lapse. You'll have to click on the photo below to open this in Flickr to actually see the time-lapse:
Amaryllis Bloom Time-Lapse

The process I used --
1) Camera settings: I set the white balance on the camera to one particular setting (not auto), so that it did not change on every photo. Since I knew the lighting would be changing significantly throughout the day, I decided to allow the camera to auto focus, and auto expose.

2) Triggering the shots: I used an external intervalometer to control the shots -- setting the device to trigger the camera to shoot every 5 minutes. I chose 5 minutes because I figured the amaryllis would be fairly slow to open, meaning slow movements which would NOT require frequent shots.

3) Editing the photos: I used an old copy of Lightroom to edit 1 photo to brighten up the photo, increase the contrast a bit, etc. Then I copied the settings from that one photo to all the other photos. Then I exported all the photo as JPGs to a separate folder.

4) Constructing the time-lapse: I could have used Photoshop to create the time-lapse, but since I no longer use Photoshop (boy do I hate monthly subscriptions!), I used Time Lase Assembler. The app has a simple user interface that does what you would expect -- takes all the JPGs in 1 folder and assembles them into a movie.
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Today was lazy. I got to the grocery store at 8AM this morning to pick up stuff to make a salad for the family Christmas meal. The parking lot was already 1/2 full!

And I took a sweet potato pie (an extra from the Tree Trimming) out of the freezer into the fridge to defrost.

Otherwise...it was another movie day -- Thor (2011):

I don't I realized how much work Chris Hemsworth did on his body for this film -- but when he took the shirt off...well, there he was!

And I finished up the book for next month's book club...it's an old one: Flowers for Algernon. I had read it many many years ago...and I found a PDF online so I didn't have to buy a book.

I had forgotten how sad it can be!
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The movie for the 2nd day of Christmas Weekend was War for Planet of the Apes. Since I had watched all the original POTA movies, I have felt obligated to watch the latest batch. Definitely, the special effects and costumes are MUCH BETTER now, lol!

This one was a bit boring at times -- I found myself putting it on pause, wandering around the house doing some chores, and coming back to watch. So, not a nail-biter by any means, and overall pretty forgettable...

I like the Maurice character (the orangutan to the right) --

I also walked around Belle Isle yesterday. My knee is screwed up right now, and I usually find that exercise will make it more sore in the short run but strengthen it after a while. Today, my knee is pretty sore! The knee is still weak, and I hope this clears up soon!

This Sycamore on Belle Isle looks to be decorated for Christmas!
Sycamore tree decked out for Christmas

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Happy start to the Christmas weekend!

Here's a little animated gif of the lights in front of the house --

"Family Christmas" won't happen until a few days from now, so I have the weekend to do my own thing! Starting off....plan to watch some movies over the weekend.

Tonight was Doctor Strange

I rather enjoyed the movie. The special effects are good, and Benedict certainly is a handsome man -- what's not to like about the movie, lol?!
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Haven't had the time to take the camera out much lately, but here are a couple ornament pics --

Tree Ornaments (Explored)

Tree Ornaments

Mostly cleaned up from the Tree Trimming last weekend!

Dealing with a cold, and a new occurrence of the knee ACL issue.

Doing winter domestic stuff like bleeding the air out of the radiators, wrapping Christmas presents, etc.
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The Tree Trimming this year was very pleasant ... We got snow that started the day before and continued into that night. It didn't really cause any road issues, but it reduced the number of folks at the party.

And that was kinda nice -- it hearkened back to some of the earlier Tree Trimmings! Because neither sister could make it, I had to take a turn putting ornaments on the tree along with some friends -- usually my sisters handle the tree!

Way too much food on the table. Here are random pics of food in various stages of prep --

Unfortunately, during all the prep work and sweeping snow off the steps outside, and having the party and the cleanup afterwards, I have caught a cold. Staying home from work today to nurse the cold, and I think the cold is getting better, so no big thing.

I've been thinking about the future...A friend always helps me get the tree each year, and as we were lugging the tree into the house, I was thinking I might need to get an artificial tree at some point. I really like real ones, but I can see a time when I won't be able to deal with the work of getting a real tree into (out out of) the house.

It was a good get together though, and I'm glad I put it on!
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Baking for the Tree Trimming has started. Molasses cookies tonight --

Here's a pic from the other night when I was putting the lights on the tree --
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Phone pic from one of buildings I was in this week -
City Shot

There's a guy who has caught my eye...he walks his dog by my house..texts with a friend about my 'fantasy' lol --

Aaaand...I found this text exchange amusing: "when your texts take 2000 years to send..."

The last week and 1/2, I've been cleaning and prepping for my annual tree trimming.

I got the tree up last weekend, and the lights on last night. We had to get the tree from a different place this year -- the Jaycees lot that has been here for many years -- even before I moved here -- was not at the school this year!

Not sure why -- evidently, there was a Christmas tree shortage , so maybe that? Or maybe something else. But in any event, I had to change my standard way of getting the tree this yeasr!
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Since today is Thanksgiving, it is not a bad time to think about what I'm thankful for....

First on the list, and some of the most important items: I have enough food, clean water and shelter. And my life is generally comfortable. Health is generally good.

I had friends stay the night last night, during when I got to meet the new significant other of a friend. It's nice to have friends who want to introduce me to their new significant others - friends whom I'm important enough to for them to want to introduce me to their new relationships.

I have a Thanksgiving meal with friends later today.

The family Thanksgiving for this weekend is in jeopardy because the sister that usually does all the cooking is very sick with a virus. But I am thankful for seeing how my other sister and I have been texting her this week to make sure she is okay and to offer advice. And even if we don't do the 'big meal' this weekend, I still may go visit her to spend some time with her.

Thankful that I have friends who have thought enough to send me Thanksgiving greetings today. And thankful that I am still capable of making new friends.

Thankful that I have hobbies like photography and learning languages. Thankful that I have the spare time, the interest, the mental facilities to do those.

Now....if I could only be thankful for having to go out for exercise to use up all those extra calories from today!
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Had tea and pastry w/ Nh yesterday. He thinks he looks awkward in this pic, which is probably true...but I like the pic anyway!
Having tea with a friend

The Elderberry tea I had was pretty, but not to my liking. The smell of it was not great either...so I won't have that again.

Upcoming week will be very busy -AND- I will be bloated by the end -- I'm up to 3 Thanksgiving dinners at this point!

Hawk in the yard today --
Neighborhood hawk
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Decorations out front --

Sadly, no trick or treaters (doces ou travessuras in Portuguese -- sweets or tricks) tonight! But fun to sit with a friend and drink wine, talk and eat some candy!

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I am being very lazy on this long holiday weekend! A friend and I headed downtown to walk along the river yesterday --
The Cathedral Under the Bridge

Pic of a friend on the Canal Walk


And I got a few more Bisti images processed. This first one is a very short time-lapse. It takes A LOT of stills to make a time-lapse, and about 1/2 through, I kicked the tripod...so I had few photos than I needed.

I think you'll have to click on this to open it in Flickr before you can see the play arrow.
Bisti Shadows at Moonrise

This one is quite phallic, lol!



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"O seguro morreu de velho, mas o desconfiado ainda está vivo." -- "The safe one died of old age, but the suspicious one is still living."