Saturday, April 28, 2012

Moments with Joey - Pea Shooters

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SCENE 1, INTERIOR. AFTERNOON. CLASSROOM. The class is lining up to leave for P.E. As they move to the appropriate lines, the teacher reminds them that they are always to listen to other teachers even more than they do to him. He then tells them that they are all number one in his book and to make him proud. Several students nod as file out the door; one of the boys lingers behind. As the last of the kids leave the room, the boy turns to his teacher.

JOEY: Mr. Z, I have a pea shooter.

TEACHER: Ewww, Joey, if you need to use the bathroom then just go. It’s down the hallway and to the right. [The teacher points down hallway]. Use the one that says little boys because if you walked into the girls’ it would be embarrassing.

[The boy stands, confused for a second before breaking into fits of laughter].

JOEY: Oh, I get it!

[The laughter continues for several more moments].

TEACHER: So, are you ready to head to P.E. now then, Muffin?

JOEY: [The boy nods his head with another giggle]. Yeah.


JOEY: Mr. Z?


JOEY: I feel glad that I’m number one in your book Mr. Z, and not number two.

[Fade to Black].

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Penning Down Life

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I sit here tonight thinking of all that is currently happening in my life.

I think about my writing.

I love to write; however, you probably already know that, and I try to get my students to love writing, too.

Did I ever mention that I carry a small notebook with me wherever I go?

I probably have. I have about fourteen of them. Some are filled to capacity with single lines, random thoughts, and even lone words. Others are jammed with pages of thought that came to me at one time like the rushing of summer wind.

I will sometimes peruse through these books and recall the time in which I penned these reflections down. Some of the events are exultant, whilst others are despondent.

It all depends, really.

I was wondering…do you carry a notebook around with you? What type of things do you enjoy writing and/or reading about?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weekly Kodachrome - The Hope of America

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Tuesday of this past week I had the opportunity to head to the Marriott Center and perform with over three thousand fifth graders and their teachers. I sat amongst the other attendees along with nearly every student in my class - it was a powerful feeling that took over as the lights shone down, and our voices melded into one. We raised our hands in one unified group, and I felt myself completely blown away - a feeling which always gives me America.

Adventures & Misadventures of Daily Living
Did you take a photo that made you smile? If so, feel free to include it in the linky below. 

Remember, by adding your photo into the Weekly Kodachrome meme you are agreeing to do one of the following: display the linky or button to your post, or link back to this post so that everyone gets a little more exposure for the image they’ve uploaded. Those who don’t help to ’share the love’ will have their links removed. You can find the code for the linky here.

You might also want to try Sweet Shot Tuesdays, Show off Your Shot, Your Sunday Best, and Community Global for other great photo memes.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Visit

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Yesterday a piece of yesteryear walked into my classroom.

My class had just returned from music, and they were settling down to begin our weekly meeting when the door opened, and in walked a student who’d been a part of my class five years ago.

I’d seen this young man from time to time when driving home, or on an errand. We’d both waved, but I hadn’t had words with him since he’d been in my class as a ruddy-faced twelve year-old. As he stood before me I was taken back to a vision of he and his friend during a three-legged race on field day, he’d stumbled and fallen; his friend picked him up on his back and finished the race with this boy hanging off his shoulders—and laughing the whole way.

The boy of yesteryear hadn’t changed with the exception of being a little bit taller—all right, a lot taller, and the faint traces of a mustache gracing his upper lip. Also, when he spoke it was evident that his voice had lowered just a bit, but he was still that kid I remembered from my classroom so long ago.

I recalled the difficulty he’d had in school, the times he’d struggled to complete assignments on time, and the hours I worked with him after school to get him caught up. There were days he completely exhausted me... but if I’m honest, I’d have to admit that I loved every minute of working with him.

While my current class of students continued with the complements portion of the meeting, this young man and I talked for a few minutes.

“I’m going to graduate high school a year early, Mr. Z.”

“Really?” I responded. “How are you planning to do that?”

The boy smiled sheepishly. “I decided to take extra classes and fewer electives to get the credits I need to graduate.”

I blew out a breath, “That must have been quite an undertaking.”

He grinned as he told me of the lessons of hard work he’d learned as a sixth grader, and how well prepared he was now. “After being in your sixth grade class, high school is easy.” He chuckled, and after a few more minutes’ talk, he agreed to have a little chat with my class about his story of working hard, and doing what you should.

When the class finished the meeting and had returned to their desks, I introduced him. He stood and his voice was a bit quiet at first, but grew rapidly with confidence as he told them the benefits of working hard and doing what you’re supposed to. He told them about endurance and always trying your best.

“When I first started the sixth grade, Mr. Z asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I think I said something like, ‘I want to be a video game tester.’ But that’s not what I’m going to do…I’m going to be a pilot or a lawyer. I’m going to do something with my life.”

I couldn’t have been more proud of this boy as he answered a few questions from my class and then told me he needed to go. I told my students to take out their math assignments and we’d start to correct them. As he turned to leave, this young man gave me a hug and said he’d be back to visit again.

Then he was out the door as quietly as he’d slipped in.

Though we corrected our assignment and did the math lesson for the day, my mind kept slipping back to this boy—now a young man of seventeen—who’d made a change; one who’d decided somewhere along the lines that being ‘okay’ or average was simply not good enough. A kid who realized that college is vital in today’s society. A boy who’d been carried during those critical moments of adolescence by parents, teachers, and friends during those times that were the most influential.

I don’t think I could be any more proud of him.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Turn off the TV and Get a Life Week

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Oh man, is it that time of year again already?

What is up with this? It seems that every time I turn around that dratted Teachinfourth is challenging us to be kind to others, leave comments on people’s blogs, or something else...but now he’s asking me to surrender TV? What’s this guy up to?

Yeah, I can almost hear some of your thoughts oozing through the computer screen.

Well, if you’ve been a follower of Adventures & Misadventures of Daily Living for the past few years then that above ad will look awfully familiar to you, and this challenge might be one you’ve already taken part in. You see, every year I challenge my class; I challenge them to turn off their TVs sets, video games, and all gaming systems along with abstaining from attending movies for one full week. In the place of these electronic diversions, I challenge them to spend more time with others: playing outside, reading, writing, and enjoying the company of their friends and families.

We call this the “Turn off the TV and Get a Life” challenge—an idea I picked up a long time ago from speaker, John Bytheway. This will be the 11th year of my class taking this challenge, and the great thing is that this has since spread to the entire fifth grade at my school.

However, what I’d like to know is if you’d like to take part in the challenge with us.

Would you do it?

Could you do it?

One full week devoid of video games, gaming apps, Youtube, movies, and all forms of television?

The challenge begins when you wake up on Friday the 20th and ends when you wake up on the following Friday exactly one week later.

Sounds kind of like torture, doesn’t it?

Now, I’ll be honest with you…there are a few day when I come home from school, beaten and tired – wanting nothing more than the brainless eye-candy of the tube, but for this week, no matter how badly I want to watch a movie, I won’t.

Those students at my school who are successful with this endeavor, we will celebrate their accomplishment on Friday next week with a par-tay. So, what IS the party? It will be afternoon fraught with board games, teamwork activities, and things one can do without the aid of a television or any type gaming system.

If you are successful, you are more than welcome to join our entire fifth grade at our celebration; whether it is with us physically in our classroom—or from afar in spirit.

So, now comes the really big question…will you do it?

I hope you’ll join us.

P.S. If you have any good ideas of what to do in lieu of television and electronic games for entertainment, let us just might persuade someone else to take part. (*Remember that Blogging is READING and WRITING and Facebook is all about making connections with others...but not playing Farmville).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Weekly Kodachrome - The Light of Words

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It was early evening, the sunlight wafted into the room from the front windows of my brother’s flat in Queens. As these arching rays of the sun’s last light felt their way gently about the room, I sat quietly at the kitchen table, thinking about my day in the city, about moving through the crisscrossing streets and busy thoroughfares. My fingers rested gently on the keys like a concert pianist, and these reflections sifted through the air, and the words drifted like the very light surrounding me.

I paused for a few moments, and then captured these words and phrases, the symphony of lexis, typing them into a post that will most likely never see the light of blogger…like so many others I’ve written before.

Adventures & Misadventures of Daily Living
Did you take a photo in the past seven days that made you smile? If so, feel free to include it in the linky below. 

Remember, by adding your photo into the Weekly Kodachrome meme you are agreeing to do one of the following: display the linky or button to your post, or link back to this post so that everyone gets a little more exposure for the image they’ve uploaded. Those who don’t help to ’share the love’ will have their links removed. You can find the code for the linky here.

You might also want to try Sweet Shot Tuesdays, Show off Your Shot, Your Sunday Best, and Community Global for other great photo memes.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

New York - I Walked this City

Pin It I walked the city.

I felt that I was in search of something…but I had no idea what. I suppose I was just out seeing all of those things I’d never viewed before.

As I hiked the cross streets and byways, one particular song by Dave Thomas Jr. came on my iPod, “We are the Stars Tonight.” So, with the buzzing of New York all around me, I also had the music carrying me onward. The following is a hodgepodge of the things I thought photo worthy. So, if you'd like to hit 'play' for the first track, you might just have a similar experience as to what I did.

I hope you enjoy the sights, too.

I sought out a few locations from the TV show, Castle.

An old bakery turned antique store.

The door of a small cafe.

The texture of this building was simply amazing.

The stairs intrigued me...

A fire hydrant made me remember one in particular from Rockford, Washington.

A barbershop on Fifth Avenue with its address made completely out of mirror fragments.

No was simply cool.

The lonely churchyard was simply begging to be photographed.

Varying architecture loomed far above me.

The trees in full bloom at Madison Square Park.

The historic Flatiron Building,

A piece of art I bought from a local artist for $1. He was sitting on the steps outside his flat with all of his 'art' and the rocks he'd painted. It kind of reminded me of the lemonade stands the kids have back home.

Waiting for the Long Island Railroad.

After spending over an hour sitting in Central Park on a secluded byway, I took this photograph before leaving.

Broadway at night.

After arriving at my brother's flat, I began a few drafts of a blog post that will probably never see the light of the Internet. The bright, glowing effect of the setting sun was created by a longer exposure time.

I almost didn't even see this bus - it blent in so well - but I finally saw it. If you are having trouble locating it, look carefully in the exact center of the photo.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

New York – Ground Zero

Pin It I had the opportunity to venture into the city yesterday with my sister-in-law and my nephew. We rode connecting subways until we reached our final destination in the heart of downtown where we met up with my brother on his lunch break. We stood in our little group and gazed above the fences in awe at the rebirth of buildings and life at Ground Zero.

We passed through a thorough security screening which would have had the TSA standing by proudly looking on. A few minutes later we moved through cordoned pathways to stand on the ground where the twin towers had once stood some eleven years ago.
The site was amazing.

Though I could go into detail of each portion, I’d like to instead focus on my two favorite parts of the memorial.

The first part is composed of two monuments that have a continually cascading square waterfall on the exact locations of where of the twin towers originally stood. The water flows downward below ground level 20 or more feet into quadrilaterally shaped pools. The fountains are completely surrounded at the apex—where visitors can look down into their depths—by a bronze plate containing the inscribed names of the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives in the tragedy.

My favorite part of the memorial lies to the west of the south pool with a Callery pear tree. This tree is simply known as the ‘Survivor Tree.’ The tree was originally planted back in the 1970s when the WTC plaza was first constructed. Nearly 40 years later during the collapse of the twin towers, the tree was reduced to nothing more than a stump about eight feet in height. When cleaning the rubble from the site, crews found the tree—still alive despite the insurmountable injuries it sustained.

The tree was nursed back to health and has grown to be somewhere in the vicinity of thirty feet tall; in 2010, the tree was replanted again at the site of the memorial where it is still given extra support as the roots find their way into the earth it once knew so well.

True to its growth and adversity it has earned its name—the Survivor Tree. And just so you know, it was the only tree on site that was fully leafed's that for thriving?

If you would like to take the Google Earth Virtual Tour, it’s kind of cool…but nothing like being there for real.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Taking Great Photos – Part 8: The Rule of Thirds

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Thirds can be a wonderful thing: Going back for thirds of your favorite dessert, the third film in movie franchises like Star Wars and Indiana Jones*, and being third during a race that goes through a pit of starving lions where it only takes two runners to fill them to their hearts’ content.

Holy Hannah…what’chu talkin’ ‘bout, Teachinfourth?

I’m talking about thirds, specifically the rule of thirds (not the types of thirds in the aforementioned paragraph) and how it applies to the magic of photography.

Now, perhaps you’ve heard the phrase ‘the rule of thirds’ tossed around as you’ve attended varied social situations. Maybe you nodded your head and smiled, pretending to know what the rule of thirds was, but in reality you had only a vague—or no—idea of what it was really all about. Because of this inherent lack of knowledge, you didn’t focus on the rest of the conversation, but instead let your thoughts drift back to your fourth grade classroom where you first learned about fractional amounts of a whole. Well, today is your lucky day, because that math lesson from yesteryear is about to come in handy for the first time in a long time.

Now, do you remember when your teacher talked about thirds and said that you should always divide the whole into equal portions? Well, in the case of photography, we’re going to split the framing of the photo either vertically or horizontally into three equal pieces:

So, if you can remember these two simple, fractional ways to spit a whole, you’re already halfway to finally understanding the rule of thirds! After all, the rule of thirds is simply a way of framing your subject (or place) so that it isn’t directly in the center of the image, but broken up somewhere along the three imaginary lines going vertical and/or horizontal.

Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it?

Now, don’t get me wrong…there are times when your subject in the center of the frame is exactly what you’re looking for artistically; however, many times this is not quite so atheistically pleasing.

I’ll tell you what; I’m going to show you two different images. One of them was taken utilizing the rule of thirds, and the other was not.

So, what did you observe about the two above images? Chances are you noticed several differences between them; probably that one of them appealed just a little bit more to your eyes.

Just to let you know in advance, both of these shots were taken by my dad when he and I took a trip to the San Rafael Swell. We were standing at the overlook of Little Grand Canyon when my dad asked if I wanted him to take a photo of the view with me in it. I checked to see that the settings were correct for the light conditions and then handed over my camera.

My dad began snapping away.

A few moments later I looked through the images he took and realized that he—at that moment—hadn’t previously been schooled on how to properly utilize the rule of thirds. Quickly, I explained what I wanted him to do with framing of both myself and the mountains in the background. Dad took a few more photos with a slight change in the framing and way he held the camera. Immediately he could see the differentiation that that little change had brought about. For him to make it happen it required a conscious turning of his body slightly and zooming in just the tiniest bit; however, what a huge impact those tiny movements made on the final result.

You probably noticed right off, that the second image is much easier to look at. Not that the subject was better looking (though this can drastically help a photo) it was in the way the shot was framed that made it so easy on the eyes.

Let’s take a look at the two images again, but this time we’ll superimpose the fraction grids from earlier. You can see both of the third fractions and how the images are now broken into 9 different fields. For photography purposes, we want to focus on the four crosshairs that are points your eyes are naturally drawn to. By having your subject in one of these areas—and lining up your background with the imaginary lines when using the rule of thirds—it will simply make a better photo.

But what if I can’t line it up perfectly, Teachinfourth? What if all the lines don’t match up? What should I do then?

Well, you simply do your best at filling the thirds if push comes to shove. Try to find that places that naturally set off your subject—you could have their eyes lined up in this area to draw your attention to them OR another interesting aspect they have about them (such as a second head or a giant mole with hair sprouting out of it).

In some cases, finding this proper framing will involve moving your subject over just a bit, zooming in or out, stepping back, or moving over to the side. My point is, by utilizing the imaginary lines of the Rule of Thirds (and the crosshair points) you will nearly always get a far more interesting—as well eye pleasing—image. Also, in a scenic shot, you are still able to see far more of the view than simply in the background broken up in the middle by your subject—looking as if the background is having a battle and the person in front is caught in the middle. By sliding the person off to one side or the other, this allows your eye to travel much more freely from one side of the image to the other in a graceful, flowing motion, like a herd of unicorns galloping through a fairy wonderland with their tales and manes whipping back and forth in the sparkling air.

Don’t let the subject in the middle destroy that image of flowing motion.

Now, let’s take a look at an example or I gleaned from the web to illustrate terrible placement:

Okay, there are so many wrong things in this image that I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s simply concentrate on the fact that the family is in the dead center—stopping our herd of unicorns. Of course, I could also point out that they’re much too far back, are not on a similar level, and the direct sunlight in the face of the guy on the far left is washing him out.

Compare that image with the following:

Now, the rule of thirds doesn’t always need to be followed. After all, when you have a large group, perhaps you can’t find that place that perfectly sets them off, but you can always find a way to arrange and frame them that will look better than had you simply looked through your camera and pushed the shutter button.

The really great thing about the rule of thirds is that it is an easy enough fraction to figure out when you’re lining things up. Many cameras today even include the option of showing the thirds gridlines to make it easier for you to place your subject or line up the landscape; that way your future image has the option of not only being so-so, but simply amazing.

However, remember what I said earlier…sometimes your subject needs to be in the exact center…there’s something about them that seems to scream, “I need to be centered.” With the rule thirds, as with just about anything, there are always exceptions. Play with your framing, take pictures of one item or person with different amounts of zoom, framed more to the left or right, or exactly in the center. My point is, take the shot that looks the best and go with it.

In the words of the theme song from Differen’t Strokes,

“Now the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum,
What might be right for you, may not be right for some…”

Until next time, shoot until you get it.

*Not all thirds in movies are a wonderful thing…case in point: Shrek III, Matrix Revolutions, Pirates of the Caribbean III: At World’s End, Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves, Jurassic Park III, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, The Neverending Story III: Escape from Fantasia, Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July, Superman III, (ANY of The Land Before Time after the first one, and any of the Star Wars ‘prequel’ Trilogy).

P.S. If any of these tutorials have been helpful to you, would you consider sharing them on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or your favorite social media? Much advance.

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: About Your Camera
Part 3: Aperture
Part 4: Shutter Speed
Part 5: White Balance
Part 6: ISO
Part 7: The Breath
Part 8: The Rule of Thirds
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