Weekly Photographic Summary: 6/21-6/27

Not much happening last week. I spend more time improving on my baking bread. Our little kitchen bakery ( wait a minute, that’s a great name – mental note to self!!) has now three delicious flavors:

Whole White: Great for breakfast and dipping

Mixed: Great for any occasion, but especially as a sandwich bread

Whole Grain: “The Diesel” of breads. Great as a sandwich bread with cheese and prosciutto or just with butter. Eitherway, this bread will satiate, so it is actually good for loosing weight.

But see for your self:

In addition, Barbara made some “Quintuple Chocolate Chunk Cookies”. They taste so good – QUINTUPLE!!!!! when dipped into a cocoa or milk. Talk about a chocolate high. You naturally may ask:”Markus, is this one for the books? Quintuple, how can that be? This is crazy.” Here it goes: The recipe called for regular chocolate and white chocolate. We didn’t have either. So we went with 70% cocoa dark chocolate and substituted the white chocolate with the dark stuff, too. In addition, the recipe called for cocoa powder. That stuff is usually processed but we didn’t have that one either and substituted it with unprocessed, natural cocoa powder. With all the substitutions and percentage upgrades, the name QUINTUPLE is rightfully earned, don’t you agree? – that’s what I thought.

I admit it, not a lot, but a good thing takes time. I hope to have more for more next post.

Until then, take it easy.

Markus \m/

Weekly Photographic Summary: 6/13 – 6/20

Alright, has it been a week already again? Time flies through the Summer. I have told you about my week and my general state of being in the Update entry, so let’s get right to the photos for the week. I posted a last week a few mushroom shots and mow I discovered in my neighbor’s front yard a palm sized ‘shroom, that i had to take a picture of. They had’s moved their lawn in a week, so the Alice-In-Wonderland effect is not as good as with the previous one.

Friend’s of ours are very living accessory oriented and they picked up an old type writer – you know I love mechanical things. Ah, the good times of yesteryear, although then this blog would have to be nailed to a telephone pole or I would just have to stand on a soapbox and yell my thoughts out at a street corner with a flip-chart for images – you tell me.

Typewriter letter array.

Typewriter Old Tymey Keyboard

After this brief excursion to all things mechanical, back to my friend Annie’s garden. Her orange Tiger Lilies are in full bloom and they just look great. One of the great things when you are not properly employed or have clients is that your brain has time to se all these beautiful things that surround us and enjoy and appreciate them.

As you know Thursday was Weather-Day. Mother nature put her foot down – over lunch I was frolicking (always wanted to use this word) in the waters of Lake Waconia and by late afternoon through the evening thunderstorms, tornadoes, rainfall, mayhem.

These are some of the post thunderstorm images I took around 8:45pm on Thursday. The clouds were phenomenal.

Yes two images in color, can you believe it?

When I saw the sky I was reminded of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, where Michelangelo painted the ceiling – yes the one called the creation of Adam, with a bearded god’s hand stretched out and a sort of awestruck looking Adam reaching to make contact with the divine. Anyway, forget about that and just focus on the clouds surrounding the creation scene. I just started to appreciate Michelangelo’s photorealistic painting capabilities that much more.

Take care, watch out for each other

and stop every now and then to recognize and appreciate

the ugliness and beauty that surrounds you.

Markus \m/

P.S.: I hope I didn’t go too Zen on you guys there.

Weekly Update

A-hoi-hoi. This week was quite great or at least that is what I chose to remember it by.

Monday through Wednesday just passed by. Monday I met with a former co-worker for lunch and we had a great conversation over good food – what more can you ask for? It was great. I got to  get to know a side . Then two days  later I had an interview I must have done well in, because it led to an instant follow-up for next week – cool. Other than not much happening on the job front. I haven’t had any rejections, yet, even though I called. I am being told, that they are in the decision-making process. Same thing with potential clients – I hope I am not a farmer. A farmer in business is the equivalent of the “best friend” of the girl you really dig. Until the girl of your sleepless nights refers to you as “Oh So-and-so is my best friend, I can talk to him about anything.” you have hope, but when that’s out kiss your hope GoodBye. So I hope, that I am not that kind of interviewee, where I make a good impression and they like my ideas and qualifications, but I am just not sealing the deal… we’ll see.

On Thursday, my friend Markus (that is his name, I am not schizophrenic) and I went windsurfing to Lake Waconia over lunch. I brought my kite and had a blast. Bodydrags rule when you can control the direction you are being dragged in. So great drag to the left, with the wind, to the right, swallow some water, pick up speed, pure unadulterated fun, I felt like a 5-year-old on water slide – wheeeeeeehehehehe. I guess, I may have to blow my first new real paycheck on a bigger kite (bigger = more speed = more fun, possibly ever so slightly higher risk). But until that money is in the bank, we’ll stay on a slim budget. Friday, I got up early to be fully awake when my German team was supposed to teach the Serbs a lesson, which they kind of did, but not fully, though. They lost 1:0, but they played great. We need to work on our utilization of goal scoring opportunities – pretty poor, but beautiful. Maybe e need to make it clear that ugly gold count just as much a genius goals – it’s about the proper balance of passion and efficiency. But, the 2006 and the 2010 team are the best German teams I have seem, because the actually play football, there’s passion and fun visible on the field. Wednesday, we’ll play Ghana and we’ll have to win this one in order to finish #1 in our group. Then it’s off to the elimination round, where you either advance or you take the bus to the airport. The opportunity utilization problem does not seem to be a purely german problem. The American team which is really playing well (and got cheated out o a win) is suffering from the same issues, Nigeria same thing. We’ll just have to stay calm and continue with what I call “Hooray Football”.

Well that is it for this week. I am really itching to report some good news on the income generation front.

You guys take care until the next.

Yours Markus \m/, still in good and strong spirits.

Another Calling

I might have mentioned it, I like eating good food. But I also like cooking it – the all-inclusive, drawn out act of preparing ingredients to fashion them into a meal which serves as a basis for a good conversation with just a spouse/girl-/boyfriend or a whole group of people.

Anyway, a few weeks ago we were invited at a friend’s house for dinner and Meggie made home-baked bread, yes it was meant to accompany the salmon we had, but the bread stole the show entirely!

Yesterday, Meggie came by my house and introduced me into the high art of bread baking. Now unfortunately for you there is “Insert Taste Button” or “Insert Smell Button” (on second thought, maybe that is good, at least occasionally) here, but extrapolate from the photos I took of the finished products. To facilitate the act of extrapolation to taste and smell, I am providing two datapoints – the same image in color and in black and white for your sensing convenience.

As your trained eye will immediately notice, black and white images, automatically, due to the nature of the underlying physics of b/w photography, have a shallower depth of field and also vignette much more than their color counterparts – amazing. Anyway, the bread is so good an actually cheaper to make than if we bought it a our local bakery. Plus, I know what went into it.


Markus \m/

Short Update – Working And Seeking Work

Last week I was assisting on two separate photo shoots. One was straight down commercial still lives. This means that the item to be photographed is set up on set by a stylist, while the photographer and/or assistant is lighting the item. The photographer is then taking multiple images from the same vantage point at different lighting conditions and exposures . The different lighting conditions are not random, but are created specifically to highlight a specific feature of the object that is being photographed.  For example think of a coffee mug. One shot will be lighted to show the mug as a whole, then next one will be lighted to that the outside pattern and outside pattern appear properly. A third shot will require lighting to change so that the contour of the mug are accentuated, a fourth shot will have lighting such that a reflection is coming off the mug a certain way. Because everyone shoots digital, the four shots can now be superimposed in post production such that a picture can be assembled, that couldn’t be shot in real life, but such that it looks real. While this sounds very simple and “to Photoshop” has become a verb used by everyone and their brother, to achieve a natural look still requires a lot of skill and practice. So much skill and practice, that none of us ever thinks twice when we browse quickly through the Sunday paper ads and then toss them thoughtlessly.

The second shoot was a shoot with life talent – dentists. My friend Alec has a great way of putting life talent at ease and establish a level of comfort even with strangers very quickly. So he brought  two sets of fake teeth – think Austin Powers or Cletus from the Simpsons. When we were ready to start the shoot and the clients had shown up, we stuck the teeth in our mouth to get going. Needless to say they cracked up and the ice was broken – we had a great 90 minute shoot that will yield a good number of images that show the client behaving naturally and comfortably.

I am learning so much on these shoots about different things that go way beyond what I ever associated with photography. On commercial still lives, the goals are similar to an assembly on a production line, you have t buckle down and grind through as many shots a day as possible, check your ego at the door and get it done. On life talent shoots the photographer is really more in the business of entertaining and providing a comfortable mood, that anything else – of course the photographic craft still needs to be on call, else you end up with the wrong shots and nobody is happy.

Other than that, I had a few interviews that look promising, although corporate America sure takes its sweet time on making decisions – lots of fear and uncertainty out there when it comes to hiring people (I tell myself, it can’t just be me!) ). I have been using my time to ride my bicycles and yesterday, I must admit I splurged. I went to the Yoga Center and took my first Yoga class since I returned from Switzerland. Obviously, we are on a self-imposed fixed budget, which means, as I said in a previous post, NO DISCRETIONARY SPENDING! – no iTunes, no eating out, no movie outings, no going out – we just focus on covering our fixed costs and on minimizing all living expenses such as food (which we need) and clothing (which we have and can wear for quite a while longer).

But getting back to the Yoga class – it was so great. There is something so rewarding and soothing when I do Yoga. I sweated profusely just from focusing on breathing and getting into and holding the poses. When I do Yoga, especially in class, I really come to appreciate the wonder that is the human body. This assembly of bones, tendons and muscles, that if paired with a driving spirit, can be moved into a large variety of positions – I think it’s great. An as an engineer speaking there is no single machine that I know of, that has as much variety and adaptability as a human – so reflect on that and cherish your body.

Markus \m/

Weekly Photographic Summary: 6/7 – 6/13

Hey I know it’s late, but here is the photographic summary for last week.

We’ve had quite some rain and mushrooms sprung up all over the place – not sure whether this is a good thing, but I had to take their pictures regardless.

I went with different moods for the mushrooms, but for full disclosure, I usually chuckle when I think to hear the word mushroom – yes, because of the drug allusion. I just find it funny what stoners come up with for name for their vice, that’s all.

I went low, very low to the ground to take this image, then sharpened it and modified it in post processing on my phone. I like the Alice In Wonderland effect of being face to face with the ‘shrooms.

Here the mushrooms remind me of a Monet waterlilies painting.

Sorry, but I couldn’t resist. Photoshop on my iPhone has this whacked-out function where you can overlay a rainbow (why, would anybody need that?). Anyway, I found it appropriate for this picture to further illustrate the duality of the meaning mushroom….duuuuude, whooa, far out.

Next, since I have time on my hands – still without a regular job, but lots of ideas – I took a close-up picture of my eye. The original was pretty disappointing, but after enhancing contrast, the fact that it just isn’t sharp still makes for an interesting image.

Finally, I worked as a photo assistant last week again – which I really love (more on that in the other blog post). On Friday, when all bays were done shooting their week’s work, everyone cleaned up, sets were torn down and several areas started growing will all sorts of photo equipment, shaped, lamps, dollies and so forth. As I was pushing back a 2000 Watt light to its proper place these images presented themselves to me to be snapped.

The very last image for today’s weekly photographic summary is how all the light stands are lined up – amazing when one considers what the studio looked like only 1 hour before this picture was taken – Ordo Ad Chao.

I like the interplay between actual chrome structures and the shadows the stands cast – simple pleasures, when you live a carefree life.

Till next week

Markus \m/

What Ever Happened To Dreaming Big And Fearlessness?

I grew up in Germany in the 1970 through the early 90’s as my formative years. Formative in a sense that those were the years where I have recollection of experiences and events even today. I remember that we had multiple US military bases around us in Heidelberg and Mannheim. I remember, that the local paper along with the USO organized a basketball tournament every year with games being held in local German sport arenas and military arenas. Save for buying a ticket for about 5 bucks (Deutsche Mark, that really is), access was pretty much unrestricted and everyone, despite language barriers, had a good time. The tournament was meant to further the community between the American forces and the local populous. And it did do just that. Lots of GIs hooked up with German girls…and you can imagine where it went from there…yep, that’s right, keep going. I also remember that I saw back then my first bicycle with 15 gears, I heard my first blubbering Harley-Davidson, I saw my first Camaro (when the car still had character). Americans were so cool they cam in two colors black and white – imagine how cool that was to a 5 year. Nutella (European equivalent of Peanut butter, but way better) had a game hidden in its lids, that showed  a classic picture of Manhattan with the World Trade Center in the foreground. My parents explained to me that at the time the twin towers were the highest buildings on the planet. They closed their little verbal excursion of Manhattan with the words:”Everything is bigger in America”.

America started to pull me in. I had an aunt, who after the second  world war married an American. She had lived for 20 odd years in the states, had become a citizen  and whenever we would visit her she exposed me to a different lifestyle. I was most impressed, that the TV usually ran while we were visiting and that she stuffed me with and endless supply of ice cream. She would also give my parents steaks occasionally – American steaks. T-Bone and Porterhouse, that were American sized (although, now I can be more specific, they were really Texas sized).

I also remember that we had a Lunar mission exhibition in my home town where my parents took me to. I was absolutely blown away by the fact that people had been to the same moon, I could see from my window and had driven this cool looking car on it.

In my teenage years (soundtrack by Van Halen, Mötley Crüe), when I got into climbing and later triathlon, my heros  either went to America to define themselves or were American. The late Wolfgang Guellich, a German free climber, climbed a route called “Separate Reality” in Yosemite N. P. solo, which blew the rest of us away and put most routes in the Alps to a distant second. Scott Tinley was my triathlon hero with Mark Allen and Dave Scott a close second and third. Nothing was impossible in America. People dreamt big and did and the American lifestyle portrayed freedom of self-expression to me. Be what you want to be AND be all you can be, not one OR the other. America was also the land where technology originated from (although Japan made consumer electronics with American sounding names) and IBM was to me the employer of Milk And Honey, because my dad worked throughout his career with them and they invited me to spend time in their offices occasionally when my dad had to work on a Saturday – I loved it. Although the first computer I took my first programming steps on (because programming was all you could do back then) was my neighbor’s Apple II. From where I sat, America was humming Blue collar, white-collar, welders and engineers, everyone made America bigger.

The collection of these memories formed and solidified the impression that in America anything was possible – it was the place where big dreams are dreamt and realized. Now that I have lived here for more than 13 years, I still believe that America is the place that allows a person to realize his or her visions and dreams. I think it has to do with the a specific piece of heritage and a steady inflow of that specific heritage – Optimism, “the-glass-is-half-full”-ism.

When the large waves of immigrants came to this country 200 years, 150 and 100 years ago they did so taking on tremendous hardship. They left the soil they were born on, left family and friends in the hopes of realizing their dream of a better life – it wasn’t exactly the easy life in the home countries to begin with. Although, the majority of immigrants came here with very few riches, what they must have had in abundance was a drive to succeed, an iron-clad work ethic, optimism out the wazoo and of course the pressure that they had to make it, then things would turn out better here.

Meanwhile the countries the immigrant left, were left with those less courageous, may be less crazy (think about it, a person arrives at Ellis Island and then decides: “My fortunes are way farther west” , maybe in St. Louis or Denver or Salt Lake City or even San Francisco on foot, horse or carriage through the hot summers and harsh winters – crazy barely begins to describe it). Let’s just say, that those that stayed back were those less adventurous, their dreams were not as high-flying and fear of the unknown won over taking the risk. I think, that this attitude of taking on risk in order to follow your dream or vision or fantasy or whatever else you want to call IT became part of the cultural DNA of this country. It has been passed on from parents to their children for generations. In some areas it went may be a little over the top – like lawn mower racing or no replacement for displacement  – but in general I think that this is the main reason, why big things in the last century have been initiated in this country.

Getting back to the earlier thought, that everything is bigger in America. Based on my observations having grown up in Europe, “Everything Is Bigger In America” is absolutely true, it is what America is most admired for and most despised and ridiculed for. America has the richest individuals in the world, has a considerable amount of very well off people, but at the same time it has also abject poverty that some people are aware off, but no one really cares about it. The divide between rich and poor is bigger than in most other countries. America has a large number of arguably the most recognized and admired universities in the world, but the K-12 system fails a lot of children, because unlike universities they are primarily funded by taxes, which makes the system very simple:High tax base = good schools, low tax base, = poor schools. I could go on, but the point I want to make is that America must dare to dream big again, that it must pick up the pursuit of becoming the Utopia that the early settlers had imagined it to be – Dream Big America!

  • Don’t just have the best health care research, but find a way to make it accessible for all your citizens regardless of income.
  • Do leverage the diverse composition of your people and their ideas to find solution to the biggest questions we face.
  • Don’t just have the leading research universities, but leave your own children unable to compete against students form all over the world to get in.
  • Do dare ask and explain why something is done and then how it’s done, so that the what you do is just a natural consequence of your convictions of the good you stand for.
  • Don’t be afraid and isolate yourself but stand for the utopian world of milk and honey that you can be.

I’ll stop here right now and get the What Happened To Fearlessness part in my next posting. In the meantime, I would be more than happy to hear about your thoughts and comments.

Markus \m/

    Weekly Photo Summary: 5/29 – 6/4/10

    This was a good week. I assisted in a photo shoot and a had a few interviews – good stuff. I am not sure whether I have mentioned it before, but photography is my big creative outlet, it’s a medium I like expressing myself through. So, even though it was a commercial shoot, I learned a lot regarding lighting, styling and digital process flow.

    The set we were on was cramped with lights, dollies, stands, cabled, reflectors and all kinds of other stuff, just to put the objects (obviously, there is confidentiality to be considered) literally into the right light .

    Thursday, there was a really cool chopper in front of the studio. The bike struck me immediately, because it was stripped down to the bare necessities and because it was a single  cylinder (I guess 650ccm – 800ccm) a bobber. Unfortunately I didn’t get to hear it, but in my mind it sounded just fine !-)

    White-wall tires on red spoked rims attached to a matt black hard-tail bike – what I would call bad-ass.

    There is something liberating in simplicity, especially mechanical simplicity. I love visible mechanics, there is honesty in it, when I look at metal shaped into form and then reliably performing a function regardless of weather, time or season. My friend Ralph has a 1941 Harley Knucklehead, this bike evokes similar feelings in me, or a Leica camera, the Eiffel Tower, the Brooklyn Bridge, Johnny Cash songs, bicycles.

    Well, due to the nature of my daily routine these days, I get to spend some time in my backyard at times when others are pursuing careers or are simply at work. Either way, due to the recent rainfall, out yard is in bloom – there are still the little things that can be appreciated and that can make a day brighter.

    Don’t ask me what they are, I just like the strong colors and strong contrast and the rich and intricate details in the petals.

    Finally, I want to close my little post for today with “ancient ruins” that I found in my back alley. On e of my neighbors had a little buddha statue in his yard. The statue weathered apparently, too fast and they put it from the yard between two garages in the back alley – which is where I took this image.

    You all have a good week, keep your eyes, minds and hearts open.

    Markus \m/