the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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May Photowalk: Ohio City

West Side Market
West Side Market
Originally uploaded by mikepirnat

For the past couple of months, friends in the office have been asking about being part of one of the photowalks that Chris and I have been doing. This month I had the presence of mind to actually involve some of them when planning the walk, and the result was an extended trek around Ohio City with Mike Griffith, Cory Sitko, Ben Smith, and David Snyder.

Maybe it was the beautiful weather, maybe it was the bounty of interesting subjects, maybe it was the new camera I was toting (upgrading from the 350D to the 60D, as well as a new walkabout lens with image stabilization), but I ended up being really happy with a lot more shots than usual--I ended up posting about twice as many shots as I have in previous walks. Of course, it could also be that we stayed out longer and moved slower; Chris and I usually set a hard two-hour limit that we went way, way past on this walk. Still, I'm really happy with a lot of what I shot.

Particular highlights include a very scary trash can, a dreamy Virgin Mary, a father-son moment, a comment on mortality, an attempt at irony, a game of chess, a ridiculously tall bicycle, a tiger in the back of a Mini, a family out for a stroll, the happiest art ever, and the first shot that's ever made me uncomfortable--I mean, seriously, look at his eyes!

I feel a little bad for being in "cheater modes" for most of the day, but on the other hand I kind of wanted to see what the 60D could do on its own. Also it was really warm and I was being lazy. I'll probably be spending a lot more time in the manual side of the dial next month. The new gear was definitely a win, though--particularly the image stabilized lens, which allows me a lot more freedom as I generally shoot without a tripod. I was also smart enough to make sure I had a polarizing filter on, which seemed to help out a lot--the difference in the light (not to mention the temperature!) between 10 AM in January and 10 AM in May is really quite striking!

I've already got a date on the calendar for a June walk; now all we need is a destination.

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April Photo Walk: Downtown Cleveland

Hard Area
Hard Area
Originally uploaded by mikepirnat

After a barrage of scheduling derailments in February and March, Chris and I finally made our calendars mesh long enough to go shooting again. Thus it was that we found ourselves in downtown Cleveland on the Tenth of April, greeted by the first really fantastic weather of spring. (One thing about living in Cleveland is that it will teach you to appreciate good weather!)

We started at Tower City and meandered down Euclid, to Playhouse Square, then back along Prospect to Public Square--about three miles in all.

Photography lessons learned:

  1. I don't care if the shadows from the buildings make the light weird; if the sky is blue, put the damn polarizing filter on! Otherwise that lovely spring sky gets blown out and looks gloomy and overcast.

  2. Photoshop has had epic powers of lens correction since CS2 that make it super-easy to adjust for barrel distortion. I've started playing with it quite a lot in this set, though I deliberately left alone it in some shots for effect.

  3. The best photo walks end with beer.

There are a lot of other photos that I'm quite satisfied with, so it's worth perusing the whole set. Hopefully a walk in May is easier to schedule, as the world should be exploding with greenery and life in a few short weeks.

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Tremont Photo Walk

Winter Blues
Winter Blues
Originally uploaded by mikepirnat

After years of dithering and making excuses, I found the perfect way to motivate myself to get out and do a photowalk--find a friend with his first DSLR and bully him into going out shooting to play with his new toy!

And that's exactly what I had the pleasure of doing a couple weekends ago. My coworker (and dare I say... buddy?) Chris Miller had just splurged on a nice new Nikon, and even better was able to overcome the "I don't know, where do you want to go" ennui that has kept me a "cats, kid, and vacations" photographer for the past few years. Thus it was that, in spite of it being January in Cleveland and absolutely fucking cold outside, we met up at Civilization in Tremont and then set out for a couple of hours' stroll in the bitter, awful beauty of an icy Saturday morning.

I could ramble for a bit about where we walked and what we saw, but frankly the photos speak for themselves, and I'm really pleased to see some good results from Chris as well, particularly this one. I have some problems editing a collection to publish, but having a one-in-four ratio of images I like enough to show the world still feels pretty good to me; in the past it was closer to one-in-ten or three-in-twenty.

What is noteworthy, at least in what passes for my life, is that:

  1. I got a nice walk (a little over two miles);
  2. I learned (and remembered) a few things about Cleveland history;
  3. I found out that I can go shoot in much colder weather than I thought practical;
  4. I got out of the house and did something social and creative with a fully-functional adult that didn't involve being at a bar.

It's this last item that is especially important to me; I usually don't have any plans on the weekend because the combination of workday exhaustion and trying to spend appropriate time with my family leaves me little leeway to indulge in my own mental and social well-being. While work is often awesome and exciting and fun, it's still work, and I very easily fall into the trap of letting it dominate my waking hours; I don't want it to be the only thing that defines my identity. And likewise I love and my family, but having a chance to do something just for myself--especially while the sun's still up!--makes me appreciate them even more. I tend to neglect and deprioritize my personal creativity, and I've realized lately that I'm tired of doing that to myself.

Chris and I both agreed that we'd like to make these outings a regular occurrence; we'll aim for once a month for starters as that seems like it strikes a good balance with everything else on our schedules, and we'll try to hit new and interesting places each outing to avoid getting into a rut (though obviously it might be fun to revisit some locations in different seasons).

Is it February yet?

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Engulfed in Flames

My wife pays attention to things that, because I am usually oblivious or overworked (or some combination of the two) I will never, ever notice.  Like the fact that writer David Sedaris was coming to town and that there were tickets available.  She couldn't make it, but bought a pair for me and a friend and coworker.  She really missed out, because Sedaris was hilarious, and well worth seeing and meeting.

In one of his most memorable passages, Sedaris addressed the subject of being an undecided voter.  I'm paraphrasing slightly, but it was more or less like this--imagine the Sedaris-esque pauses and slightly better construction where appropriate:

Being an undecided voter in this election is like being the person on the airplane who, when the flight attendant offers a meal selection of chicken or human shit with glass shards in it, says, "Hmm... How is the chicken cooked?"

While still on politics, Sedaris talked about how he conducted a survey during his summer book signing tour. The question--do you think Barack Obama is circumcised or not?--was simple enough, but the hemming and hawing took him by surprise as many well-educated, left-leaning audience members paused for deep thoughts like "Well, I know he's a Muslim, so..." or "He was born in Africa...".

To this I say that Obama is simultaneously both and neither.  The status of Obama's foreskin is like Schroedinger's cat--it's in a superposition of states and is unknowable until observed. (Frankly, I'll be content to let Michelle Obama be the only one to collapse that particular waveform.)

Sedaris warned us during the show about the signing line--the line is long, and never moves.  He was pretty much right; it took us two and a half hours to get through the line, a fair bit longer than the show itself.

I mostly tried to stay awake and on my feet (I'm old, and tired!), occasionally trying out bits of lightly snarky conversation with Cory, and trying not to be noticed by the people in line around us that amused me so.

Now, I know I shouldn't judge, but really, who goes out on a Friday night dressed like an extra from Newsies? He had the hat, the fully-buttoned vest, boots, the works.  I expected him to start hawking papers and then break into song.

More than anyone else, I didn't want to be noticed smirking at the the two extremely chatty high school girls just ahead of us.  It was really hard not to overhear their conversation, and even harder to not jump in with unsolicited advice.  One girl was freaked out about choosing the right career path and that she didn't want to get deep into something only to find out it wasn't right for her, and how she had this plan all mapped out to age 35, and how she'd get a solid career first and then have a family, but she didn't have to get married but she did want kids, oh sure she could be a great single mom if she had to be, so confident in that she was.  I really wanted to be able to interrupt her and tell her that, "Life is what happens when you're making other plans.  I didn't plan to be where I am now, but I'm happy.  Things change, and you change, and if you don't like what you're doing, you've got plenty of time to just do something else.  And as for being a single mom?  HAH!  Even with two parents, having a kid will totally kick your ass!  You have NO idea what you're in for." I bit my tongue a lot, and made observations about the architecture to Cory instead.

Of course, we did get to witness the girls' BFF commitment ceremony, so that's pretty special.  I think there may have been a pinky swear involved.

When the girls meet Sedaris, they practically squealed, and upon departing urged him to "have a nice life."

Sedaris had offered during his show to give away a free copy of a book, as well as allowing immediate line-cutting privileges, to anyone who spoke fluent Portuguese. It took us nearly two hours in line before we realized that we should have started downloading instructional podcasts to Cory's iPhone and learning enough choice phrases to circumvent the entire line experience. In a worst-case scenario, we figured we could just play audio clips from the phone and try to lip sync convincingly, sort of a "Kung-Fu Portuguese" to compare with the "Nicaraguan French" that Sedaris had discussed during one of his readings. Alas, like many great ideas, this one never went anywhere. After all, what were we going to do with a copy of his book in Portuguese?

As we finally neared the end, the line lady came by to give her spiel.  "He signs the title page.  You must have your book open to the title page." Or what?  David Sedaris will hop over the table and take a big ol' bite of my jugular? While he's ripping my throat apart with his delightful teeth, blood spraying everywhere, the line will disintegrate into a panic-stricken mob, screaming and stampeding away from the monster I've unwittingly released in my last moments on earth?

"Well," I mockingly replied aloud to myself, "there *was* that one time in Columbus.  We wouldn't want a repeat of that now, would we?"

The signs prohibiting photography violated one of my most well-groomed pet peeves--the use of the apostrophe to pluralize.  "No Photo's Please," read the sign.  Perhaps, we wondered, it's the "please" that's wrong, so the sign should really say "No Photo's Pleas," which sounds like some kind of aborted haiku... "No photo's pleas heard / Fall leaves swirl silently down / I need syllables."

Finally, at long last, it was our turn to approach the altar-like table where Sedaris sat with his pens and collection of freebie prophylactics that he likes to give to teenagers, and for such a momentous occasion, I shifted into present tense.

He signs for Cory first. In Cory's copy of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Sedaris draws a cute cartoon turtle with a tunnel-like opening on the side of its shell. He explains that this is a turtle who wanted to do good for the world, so she blew a hole in her shell and now she's an abortion clinic.

He bombs out on guessing our signs, swearing and declaring horoscope stuff to be "bullshit" when he fails at both of us, but is surprisingly close to home when he asks if I'm a doctor. I explain that I'm not a doctor, but that my father is. Doctors, he tells me, have long hair on the sides of their hands, between the wrist and pinky.

My turn now, I start to hand over my copy of When You Are Engulfed in Flames when I'm suddenly betrayed by the dust jacket!  It flies out from where it's been dutifully keeping watch on the Magic Page Which Will Be Signed, and I feel like a total jackass. OH NOES!  My embarassments, let me show you them! Fortunately, David Sedaris fails to rip out my throat, nor do me any bodily harm whatsoever.

In my copy of When You Are Engulfed in Flames, he doodles a little bearded man in a top hat, declaring him to be a leprechaun who appears by surprise on your toilet as you exit the shower.  But I am not, Sedaris assures me, the kind of man who will scream upon encountering this leprechaun, because I know that the leprechaun means me no harm.

I tell Sedaris of my morning epiphany -- that the words "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" uncannily match the meter of the Disney classic "When You Wish Upon a Star", and that I've spent all day trying to un-imagine hearing the "in flames" version in my head, which has resulted in mentalling casting him as Jiminy Cricket to sing it at me.  He appears somewhat awestruck--either he's never heard this before, or is very good at pretending that it's his first encounter with the idea--and tells me about this surreal shop in Japan where he bought groceries that always played Disney music for no readily discernable reason.

We shook hands, and I said something trite and thankful in parting, and shifted back to past tense, glad that I wasn't part of the back twenty percent of the line that was still shuffling slowly forward.

And that's pretty much that. If the evening were an Ebay transaction, I'd be leaving a comment along the lines of "A+++ Would do business again!" So, if you feel an urge to be engulfed in flames, let me say from experience that I highly recommend it.

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I might be old, but dammit, I ROCK!

Yes, I just completed the solo guitar tour on Rock Band, and even though I was only playing on medium, it feels pretty freaking awesome. My wife (goddess!) sprung for an Xbox 360, and my mother-in-law (what a sweetie) sent me Rock Band, and I've basically been playing three hours a night since the goodies arrived.

We had a bunch of folks over Saturday evening to rock out, and lo, the rock was out in force. A buddy of mine gave me a drum throne to make the experience even better. Liz also scored some great wine to share with us (mmm, vintage Grand Cru Champagne....) and cooked an amazing meal (mmm, beef tenderloin; mmm, Guinness chocolate cake) that all enjoyed. Meanwhile, our daughter (angel!) slept through it all (miracle!).

I'm looking forward to getting folks together again soon (regularly?), but for now, this little rock star needs his beauty sleep.

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Washington State: Parts 7 and N+1

Timeless Legs
Originally uploaded by mikepirnat.

After Liz and I cooked breakfast I and accomplished a car-packing miracle (I knew all those years of Tetris would come in handy!), we found ourselves running a bit early for our first appointment in Prosser, and finding that we were on a strip of wineries, we stopped at the place next door on a whim--Willow Crest Winery, home of very young winemaker Victor Palencia, Mexican immigrant and graduate of Walla Walla's enology program. Victor started studying winemaking at 17, and eventually received special dispensation from the state to allow him to taste the results of his labors; however, until that time he was forced to rely entirely on his sense of smell, and that effort has really honed his skills at an unusually early age, and he's producing surprisingly good wines that bely their modest price points. I especially enjoyed his Chateauneuf-du-Pape style "XIII," his celebration of finally turning 21. He's well on his way to being a formidable talent--my head spins to imagine what he'll be producing in ten years.

Next up was an appointment at Thurstone Wolfe, about which I ended up with very mixed feelings. We lunched at the patio there, then I ran around to get some photos of topiaries in a field, the under-construction Winemaker's Loft (a sort of winery tasting room strip mall), and an abandoned LEGO. Then it was back into the car for the drive back to Seattle.

We did a bit of running around, visiting Luna Park to pick up some coffee, and West Seattle Cellars to ship some of the week's bounty back home. Then it was back to Jenny and Mike's to have an impromptu dinner party and wine tasting to help us clear out all the bottles we'd brought back from Hedges. As the evening wound down, not even Jaden the cat could keep Mike and I from catching up, finally turning in around five AM once the wine was gone and the morning birds were chirping... The results speak for themselves.

And if you have been following along the whole way, then you already know the rest.

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Washington State: Part 4

Double Refraction
Originally uploaded by mikepirnat.

Thanks to [info]aquamindy's help editing the massive heap of photos from the rest of our week in Washington, the logjam of photos is starting to clear up. This next batch (from here to here) covers our Tuesday in Walla Walla.

After a delicious breakfast, we had a little time to kill before our first appointment, so we did some sightseeing in downtown Walla Walla. Our first wine stop of the day was at K, where we met Pumpkin Killer, got a sneak peak at Kung Fu Girl, tasted their Viognier and Syrah, and briefly encountered winemaker Charles Shaw en route to the dentist. We next popped down the road to College Cellars at the Walla Walla Community College's Center for Enology and Viticulture, where Stan Clarke gave us a tour of their facility and took us up to the teaching vineyards, then headed back to the college for a taste of Syrah. We lunched in the garden at Leonetti and received a private tour of the tasting room, winery, and cellar. (Plus I had a great chance to make a new LJ icon for myself thanks to a mirror in the cellar.)

Next was Basel Cellars, which had some nice views and friendly dogs but which really didn't meet with our palettes. Our taste buds were happier a short distance away at Pepper Bridge, where we tasted a number of happy things, and I made friends with an awesome sculpture. (Also, did you know that Hogue made Garfield wine? Me neither!)

After a brief pause, we headed back into town, passed two guys playing guitar, snapped a souvenir photo of Onion World for [info]butterandjelly, and met Dean and Verdie Morrison for a private tasting at Morrison Lane. After dinner, we fired up the fireplace and Jenny and I stayed up chatting and finished the leftover Viognier from the night before.

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Washington State: Part 3

Originally uploaded by mikepirnat.

We set off Monday morning to drive through the Cascades on the outbound leg of our epic wine country road trip, with [info]wolffire along as native guide. We stopped in Yakima for lunch (yes, Dad, I took pictures of the train) and arrived in Walla Walla a little after four o'clock. Once we got settled at the Tucker Inn, we headed into town for dinner at 26 Brix (where we were slightly overwhelmed by the portions and slightly underwhelmed by the meal), and I took particular delight in the offerings across the street at La Hacienda.

I took this shot for [info]oogby, because it reminds me of something that he'd make into a costume or a spaceship.

Hey, [info]butterandjelly, does this (found on the wall in the living room at the Tucker Inn) look kind of like this to you? Or am I just crazy?

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Washington State: Part 2.5

Originally uploaded by mikepirnat.

I've started to upload photos of our trip to Washington. This first round (from here to here) is from Sunday, April 29: our tour and tasting at Chateau Ste. Michelle, a spiffy-looking peacock showing off, some just-before-sunset shots of the Seattle skyline, and dinner at Beàto with [info]wolffire and [info]gr0m1t.

I hope to be able to keep up a decent pace with the editing and uploading so that I don't drag out the vacation posts forever, but it's all dependent on the amount of time and mental energy I have (as I tend to tag rather execessively). I think I'll be trying to do about a day's worth at a time, unless there's a day that's utterly overwhelming with good shots.

More to follow!

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