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The Mighty Hipstamatic

December 28, 2010 Leave a comment

IMG_0389Photography is a bit of hobby I’ve picked up recently. Or again, I suppose. My mother has always been into photography and in my early years she did a good job of teaching me a lot of what she knew about it. I was a photographer for my high school yearbook all four years of school (chief photographer my senior year). It fell off shortly after and the near photo silence continued into recent years. Unfortunately, these were the years in which I traveled the U.S. and Europe extensively, and I therefore don’t have a crazy photographic record of my journeys like I wish I did. Plus photography was expensive.

Now, in the midst of the digital revolution, we don’t need to pay for film, and cameras are everywhere. We have small digital cameras, we have cell phone cameras and iPods have cameras in them these days, too. The digital revolution has also borne the magical Photoshop, which makes all our dreams come true. Furthermore, we have applications for our handheld mobile devices that filter and process our photos on the fly and on the go to make them look killer.

My favorite vintage camera iPhone app, which I am a little obsessed with right now is Hipstamatic. This app simulates the old analog Hipstamatic camera, of which only a few were made. You can switch out different lenses for different effects as well as different types of film and different flashes. It creates some stunningly intriguing images. See the gallery of some of my recent Hipstamatic shots below.

Some say these apps are “cheating.” I do not, and here’s why; I am making creative decisions in lining up the shots. Just like an adjustable camera, you have to make choices. You have to set the ISO, white balance, shutter speed and aperture in an adjustable. In the case of the Hipstamatic app, I am choosing which lens goes well with which film and which flash, or no flash. Plus, it is the shooter’s eye lining up the shot itself. A photographer friend of mine once told me, “It is never the equipment, only the photographer’s eye.”

Well-said. And applicable here.

The Hipstamatic retails for $1.99 at the iTunes App Store and has add-ons available for purchase within the app.

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Categories: Stuff I Like

** Snow **

December 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Shovelin'! Dec. 11, 2010

I grew up in the snow. North Dakota winters, South Dakota winters and Minnesota winters are all pretty much the same. These are the winters I have experienced my entire life. Through these winters, I have grown acquainted with how to dress warmly, how to use a shovel, how to drive in the snow, how to get unstuck and how to unstick others. I’ve made it through some rough winters.

But this weekend was ridiculous.

The Twin Cities received (depending on where you were in the Metro) between 17 and 21 inches of snow within a 24-hour period. During the snowfall, things got crazy. The MSP international airport closed, the Mall of America closed early for the first time in its history, the Salvation Army pulled all its bell-ringers and sent them home, Metro Transit pulled all buses because a third of them got stuck (which stranded people, including my buddy whose place of employment closed early), trucks and automobiles were going off the roads getting into wrecks, fire trucks and ambulances on their way to emergencies got stuck, highways and county roads were closed, and people were a little surprised to see the snow continually piling up as quickly as it was.

I spent most of Saturday indoors. I lit a fire in the fireplace early in the day and kept it going until bedtime. We relaxed at home, played with the dogs, listened to the baby’s heartbeat, cruised the ‘net, played some Mario Kart, watched Paul McCartney on SNL, drank some hot chocolate, and I threw in a couple beers for good measure. All the while our sidewalks and cars were slowly being buried. Both of us were looking forward to lighting a fire and enjoying the Vikings game the next day. More on that later.

I got up at 9:00 a.m., bundled myself up and headed out the door. I labored for about an hour, trying to free my car from the snowbank. I needed to move it to avoid a tow, since Minneapolis snow emergency rules were in effect. The problem was that once I got it out of its spot, it got stuck in the middle of the road. Long story short, after talking to a person from the City, I had to pretty much just shovel the street. Which I did. I got the car out and around the corner to the emergency route that had already been plowed. I shoveled the front walk, the public walk, a path on either side of the house for the mail carrier, the rear walk the side walk, I dug the van out, and I cleared the driveway. All without a snowblower. I just needed my trusty shovel and my own two hands. I finished around 6:30 p.m., and then went to help a young woman whose car was stuck in an alley.

Remember the Vikings game we wanted to watch? Well, it didn’t happen. The night before, the opponent New York Giants got re-routed to the Kansas City airport because the Twin Cities airport had closed. The plan was to have them arrive early in the morning at be at the Metrodome for a noon kickoff. That got pushed back to Monday night, however, when weather conditions weren’t improving. The weather conditions did improve. However, a bigger problem emerged. Around 5:00 a.m. Sunday morning, the inflatable roof at the Metrodome collapsed, ripping three panels of the dome and sending literally tons of snow and water cascading onto Mall of America field. Needless to say, the game will not be taking place in Minneapolis on Monday night. The NFL has moved the game to Detroit on Monday night. Strangely, Liza and I were at the Vikings/Bills game the previous week and I remember looking up at the roof and saying something along the lines of “I wonder what would happen if the roof was weighted down with too much snow?” I guess we found out.

It’s more snow than I’ve seen in a long time. It’s definitely more snow than I’ve ever moved by hand before. Really crazy stuff. But I guess that’s winter in Minnesota.

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Categories: Life, Weather

I saw my son today

December 10, 2010 1 comment

My wife is 21 weeks pregnant. This is incredibly exciting. We have wanted this for quite some time, but now it’s actually happening. For real. It’s actual. My offspring is spawning inside my partner’s midsection.

So, I know that this is very routine. It has happened trillions of times over the span of a quarter-million years, but that makes no difference to me. It is as astonishing as it is bizarre, even after hundreds of thousands of years.

We had an ultrasound at seven weeks. At that point, the baby looked like a little kidney bean with a tail. That was weird, but cool. Then over the span of just four weeks, the form of our child changed dramatically. We had another ultrasound at 11 weeks and it actually looked like a real baby. The first thing we saw when the baby appeared on the screen was the profile of the body and a little arm waving back and forth, as if to say, “Hello! I’m here!” It went from being just a bean to an actual human-looking creature in just a month. Then, today, we had a 21 week ultrasound. WHOA.

The nurse technician needed to take all kinds of measurements, so we got to see our baby inside and out, literally. We saw our baby’s face; lips, nose, cheeks, and eye sockets. We saw the brain, the left and right aortic ventricles, the kidneys, the spine, fingers, feet, leg bones, arm bones, bladder (it had recently emptied), and we also saw an unmistakable scrotal sac.

Yes, yes. This is just normal, healthy fetal development. But look at it abstractly. A spawning member of our species is living and growing inside another person’s body. Fourteen weeks ago, he was the size and shape of a kidney bean, and since then he has grown (on his own, mind you) bones, a brain, essential organs and systems, genitals, eyelashes and even fingernails. It’s weird. It kind of blows my mind a little bit, whether it should or not. It’s amazing. I now understand why people refer to it as “the miracle of birth.”

I saw my son today. I love him immeasurably already. I can’t imagine what it will be like when I meet him.

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Categories: Family

Mush! Mush!

December 8, 2010 1 comment

Musher family, Christmas 2009. Back: me, Scott. Front: Liza, Michael, Diane, Mark

I have not always been one to enjoy the cold. This is odd, since I’ve lived in the Dakotas and Minnesota all my life and I’ve never really considered leaving. I guess I have always tolerated the cold for the simple reason that it was a fact of life. Changing that seemed, if not impossible, a really big hassle. So here I have stayed. I don’t snowboard. I don’t ski. I don’t snowmobile. I don’t ice fish. I don’t build snow forts. I shovel, but only because I pretty much have to. Other than that. I don’t spend a lot of time outside in the winter.

Except for mushing season.

Mushing is another word for dogsledding. You know, when a team of dogs (usually huskies) pulls a person on a sled. The person is the musher. And mushing is an incredible experience.

I was first introduced to mushing when I began dating my now-wife. Her family is a mushing family. It’s the family sport, and if you’re going to be a member of that family, it’s a good idea to get yourself acquainted with what they do. They’ve got a full dog team (and then some), and when the snow comes down, the fun begins. My father-in-law Mark and brother-in-lawMichael are both competitive mushers. They enter races in the upper Midwest and Michael often places in his division. My wife Liza and I usually travel along and help in races as dog handlers. In addition to the hand-on experience, my mother-in-law Diane is Education Director for the Iditarod, the “Last Great Race” which covers over 1,000 miles of Alaskan wilderness, from Anchorage to Nome.

At the Iditarod 2010 official starting line in Willow, Alaska

In March 2010, Liza and I were fortunate enough to be able to go to Alaska to take part in the opening festivities of the race. We had the opportunity to meet many legendary mushers including former champions Martin Buser, Jeff King, and Dick Mackey. We also briefly met current four-time Iditarod champion Lance Mackey. Read a bit of Lance Mackey’s inspirational story.

Long story short, Alaska was amazing and these professional dog lovers and canine athletes were inspiring. There is nothing quite like seeing the Iditarod happening right before your eyes.

The dogs are amazing athletes. They absolutely LOVE to run. If they could, they would pull a sled all day and all night (and some professional dog teams almost get to do exactly that), and the colder the better. Northern breed dogs (Siberian huskies, Alaskan huskies, etc.) are specially evolved to not only withstand, but thrive in the arctic elements. They’ve got a double layer of fat under their skin and super thick fur. In fact, it has been said that the optimal temperature for a team to run is -20°F. Otherwise they will overheat.

It is said that every time a musher goes out on a run, they will come back with some sort of “trail story.” The first time I went out on the sled, I had a four-dog team and it didn’t go well. The dogs, who were still in the early stages of their training at the time, got distracted by a squirrel that was streaking along far off the trail. Long story short, my father in law had to come speeding out on the snowmobile and help me untangle the dogs from one another and the team’s gangline from a barbed wire fence. Once we got that sorted out, we decided to call it quits on my first run and head back to the house. The dogs were so excited to be turned around, heading toward the house that they sped home like a bolt of lighting. Never mind the fact that the sled hit a large bump which careened me forward and somehow got my leg under the sled for a couple  yards. The others were at the house and saw the team return with an empty sled and came back to rescue me in the midst of my limping home on the trail. Not a very successful trail story, I must say.

Completing a successful night run.

But things improved. A few years later, I took out an eight dog team on a night run and it was beautiful. The only sounds I could hear were the pat-pat-pat of the dogs’ feet in the snow, their excited panting, and the occasional joyful yelp. As I praised them and cheered them on, calling them each by name, I could feel a slight extra proud tug coming from each team member. The moon was high and full, casting shadows of the athletes and me on the bright nighttime snow. It was nothing short of magical. I didn’t want to come back in. Neither did the dogs, so we ran a little longer. When we finally came back into the yard. The dogs stood in place patiently as I went down the line, praising them one at a time, each dog getting their own bit of love, which was the least I could do, after that amazing experience. Each team member got ear scratches and belly rubs and I got some loving licks to the face. They were very happy dogs and I was a very grateful human.

Categories: Family, Life

Workin’

December 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Junebug: Anthony, Tony, Brandon, Dustin

I have been lucky enough to have been involved in a number of musical projects over the years. At one point, I was active in five regularly performing bands at one time. Now and then we’d play shows in which I played in the two opening bands as well as the headlining band. I would end up playing balls-to-the-wall for four hours straight. I loved that. I’ve always been a fan of the long concert. This took place in Aberdeen, South Dakota, where I used to live. Take a peek at my old South Dakota bands, The Blue Orange and Fed By Doris.

I began playing music with a couple guys, Anthony and Dustin, many years ago in North Dakota. We have been playing together off and on for about sixteen years, but we started getting a little more into it just a few years ago. We moved from the Dakotas out to the Twin Cities, since there’s such a vibrant music scene here. We’re called Junebug and we like to play funky and fun rock music. We try not to take ourselves too seriously and our main goal is to have and to provide a good time.

We recorded our first album Share at IPR with two engineering students, Gabe Masterson and Dan Hartwig.

Our second album Modern Day Fairy Tales was recorded at Fur Seal studio in Minneapolis with engineer Joe Johnson.

We’ve played many shows in the Twin Cities, including the Twin Cities Pride Festival, the Basilica Block Party, KARE 11’s “Showcase Minnesota” along with other television and radio appearances, thanks to our former bassist, Nick, who had a real knack for booking and promotion. Our new bassist Brandon has been working hard and holding his own and finding his place in our lineup. We’re currently planning, writing, and rehearsing a couple EPs.

My work in this band consists of playing drums, creating and maintaining our web presence, overseeing our bank account and managing our merchandise. Soon, I’ll be sharing a good deal of the engineering and production duties, too. It’s a lot of work. But y’know. When you believe in something, you go above and beyond.

Looking to the future, I would love to own and operate my own fully functioning media center targeted specifically toward independent bands. I would love to offer all band-related services with no exclusivity contracts. You want your album or EP recorded? Come to us. You want your music video produced? Come to us. You want photography, podcast help, press pack construction, a live album or live show DVD? Come to us. That’s my ultimate goal. That’s how I would love to earn my living.

It never hurts to dream. Daring to dream is what got me to the Cities and got me in the place I’m in now, studying engineering and music business and putting me on a path to discovering my life’s work.

Find more Junebug videos (with actual music) at the Junebug YouTube Channel

Categories: Music