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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Zilker Park Japanese Garden

(Click on the photo to see my Flickr slideshow)

Yesterday I went back to Zilker Park Botanical Gardens in central Austin and took some photos of the Japanese Garden there. I had walked through just before the Austin Pond Society meeting a few weeks back, and wanted to come spend some time and see what could be seen.

I took a lot of photos and talked to some very friendly and talented fellow photographers along the path. But, I have run out of time this evening and have to travel most of this week. I will update and add to this post when I return.

To all who stop by regularly, I can't say enough how much your visits and comments mean to me. Thanks a million times. To first time visitors, please come back again. Photos and stories pop up here pretty regularly.

More when I return,
Mike Z

Monday, August 25, 2008

Norma Geddy - San Angelo Water Lily Display 2008

Click on the photo to see more flowers on Flickr

I am compiling my "Best of Water Flowers" photos for the Austin Pond Society 2009 calendar, and so far, this one is my favorite. We re-visited the City of San Angelo International Waterlily Collection on the trip back to Texas from Washington State. It was just as magical as when we had visited previously. The main difference I saw, other than some new lily varieties, was that the large red-rimmed lily pads (Victoria amazonica) that so impressed us last year were not to be seen. I don't know if it was the time of year, or for some other reason, but I missed them.

The other difference I noticed was the number of bees that were busy on the flowers had increased greatly this year. Again, it may be the time of year, but since honey bees are supposed to be disappearing from Texas, I was glad to see them out in force!

Hope this post finds everyone well and in good spirits. I will do my best to get some more photos and stories up soon.

UPDATE: I put some more water lily photos on Flickr with the set title San Angelo Water Lily Display 2008. Please go by and if you'd like, vote on which you think should be submitted for the Pond Society calendar. I would really appreciate your vote!

More later,
Mike Z


PS - Today one of my photos won an award on Flickr! With over 16,000 members in the group, and over 216,000 photos on the site, I am especially proud that someone would take the time to give a photo of mine an award. Thanks, Maisse!
PPS - Yesterday I entered 3 photos in the Austin Pond Society's Annual Calendar Competition, and the photo above won 3rd place in the "animals" category! The photo in the Zilker Japanese Garden post won Honorable Mention in the "ponds and water" category. They will be in the calendar for 2009! I am very pleased that I had these photos chosen for the calendar. There was some very formidable competition! I appreciate all the votes my photos received.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thanks Annie - The Cat Stevens Song

Annie reminded me that my favorite "banjo song", If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out, by Cat Stevens is on YouTube. So I went and listened, and liked it so much that I put it up here on the 'blog for you. I first heard the song played on the banjo during the movie Harold and Maude, a black comedy by Hal Ashby from the 1970's. Man, there was some black humor and before-its-time themes in that movie! It remains one of the Top 10 movies of all time for me.

If you get to the actual YouTube page with the video and comments, I think you'll see a wide variety of opinions on the song, on Cat Stevens, his religion, middle east relations, and that's just on the first page! That was soooo interesting to me.

I also saw on YouTube where there is a "trailer" for Harold and Maude which has some key scenes and pertinent dialog, so I added that one above. Bud Cort was in only one other movie as far as I know (and I can't remember the name of it), but Ruth Gordon went on to make other movies (Rosemary's Baby, the Any Which Way but Loose movies too I think) and was a real gem of an actress. Interesting note: "They Did a Bad, Bad Thing" is the music behind the "trailer," which I remember from another weird movie, Eyes Wide Shut. Now there's a whole 'nuther blog topic! :-)

Anyway, I still can't get over how outrageous that movie was. Brings out the "old hippie" in me! And the soundtrack by Cat makes it just about perfect. Trouble is another favorite song from the movie. If you can find it, give it a spin. But be warned, I don't accept any responsibility for any hurt feelings or offenses the movie gives you. But, like many movies today, it takes a few pokes on our warlike nature, and has feminist and right to life issues thrown in as well.

Enjoy! More later,

Mike Z

PS I changed the YouTube video on Trouble because it has shots from the movie (not that I didn't like Cat's face young and older over and over, but I thought this more appropriate to the topic)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

35th Wedding Anniversay Part 1 - Inn at Pearl Street

I know, I know, you're all wondering, where's the Grand Canyon? Where's the Meteor Crater? Where's Billy the Kid? (hint: he's dead) Why all this about their 35th Anniversary? Well, the answer is that nothing quite this grand and wonderful has happened to Jan and me since, well, when we got married! We had two action-packed weekends of gifts and surprises and love, and it will take a few posts to tell about all of it.

But we'll start with the Austin Inn at Pearl Street. This was the place our daughter Amy and her new husband Chad spent their first married night together after their wedding and reception. Jan and I hired a horse and carriage to take them on a tour of Austin, and bring them to the Inn for the weekend before they left on their honeymoon. Little did we know at the time, that they'd be giving us the same gift for our anniversary! We couldn't have been more excited.

Our stay was on our anniversary, a Sunday night, and there were very few other visitors, so we had the place to ourselves to relax, look around, and admire the hundreds of antiques and treasures that are placed all around the house. With high open ceilings, and beautiful antiques and paintings, it took a while just to view all the rooms. Our room for the night was the Library. The Library is the only sleeping room on the first floor of the original building, and was right across the hall from the living room and dining room.

The entrance to our room

Behind our room was the sitting room, an open airy room with lots of windows looking out over the patio and the other buildings in the complex.

Upstairs there were four rooms, the French Room, the Gothic Suite, the European Room, and the Far East Room. Some photos of the Gothic Suite are below. The Gothic had a second floor patio that provided a great view. Amy and Chad had stayed there when he returned from his first deployment in Iraq, so we were especially interested in that room.

We got our casual clothes and walking shoes on, and went on a walking tour of the Judge's Hill area of Austin, a very old and stately subdivision behind the Inn.

When we returned, we sat out on the patio and watched the sun turn the leaves yellow, and the birds and squirrels play in the trees.

We went back inside to get more photos while the light was still good, then just read about the Inn and relaxed. I was particularly impressed with the sculptures, paintings, and the Tiffany lamp in the foyer by our door. We have some Tiffany lamps in our living room, and I liked seeing the similarities and differences between our lamps and theirs.

As the sky darkened, we retired to the Library and broke out the sparkling wine and chocolates, another gift from the children. We spent a long while toasting the events of our 35 years of marriage (we made a pact that we would only toast the positive ones!) and by the time the bottle was empty, we were feeing the warmth and the love, and knew again why we had stayed friends and lovers for so long.

In the morning we woke early, turned on the coffee, and ate a great breakfast of cereal, fruits, and juices while we enjoyed the dining room by ourselves. The staff might have been ghosts, they were truly invisible to us. But we knew they were there because things got "tidied up" seemingly all by themselves.

our table

We enjoyed our stay at the Inn at Pearl Street very much. For a calm, quiet atmosphere and relaxation at it's finest, I highly recommend the Inn if you are ever in Austin and feel the need to get away from it all. Jill Bickford, the owner, has created an oasis of beauty and quiet that is hard to beat.

Part 2 of our Anniversary Odyssey will be up soon; waiting for some photos to arrive.

More later,
Mike Z

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Austin Pond Update - Annie's Pond Song

Oh, the good things just keep on comin'! I was searching the Austin Pond Society's web pages for the time and place for their monthly meeting (Jan and I joined last month after taking the Pond Tour), and I ran across a link to The Transplantable Rose weblog by Annie in Austin, who has been taking photos and movies, and writing songs about many things for lots longer than I have had my weblog up.

This year Annie and Philo went on the tour, but the camera broke midway through, and so Annie wrote The Pond Song and made a YouTube video for her Pond Tour post this year. The idea is one I would not have thought of, and the song/photos/videos are so beautiful. There are some videos of Kathy and Rick's pond/stream in there, too. Watch for those.

I am so glad I found this weblog, and will definitely check back often to see what's going on with Annie! I hope that you'll check back often too. There is a lot to see.

Thanks again Annie,
Mike Z

Sunset near Brownwood TX

There was so much going on this past week that involved photography that I feel a little overwhelmed. We took the kids to Zilker Park, stayed in a Bed and Breakfast here in Austin courtesy of our children Amy, Chad, Jason and Leslie, traveled to Brownwood for work, and on Friday were completely surprised with a 35th wedding anniversary reception also planned, orchestrated, and accomplished by our daughter Amy and daughter-in-law Leslie, at the historic Forke Store in the Conservation Society Park in New Braunfels, TX. (I think the bed and breakfast gift was a beard to keep us in the dark...) My brother Bill and sister-in-law Joanne flew in from Raleigh NC just to be there! Wonderful and amazing and completely overwhelming. Then as if that weren't enough we all attended a model train show that was being held in the convention center in New Braunfels. This morning we rest!

The sunset photo above is the best of several I took from the roadside on the way to Brownwood. I was reading in Outdoor Photographer magazine about a pretty famous photographer who went to great lengths to get the "perfect" shot of a beach, sunset or whatever he was shooting. I didn't go to that great an effort for this one, but I did remember to bring the camera, and caused Jan no end of aggravation by pulling over to the side of the road, backing up to "just the right spot," and firing away. My rationalization was that we were already late for check-in at the hotel, so why not?

I hope you enjoy this photo. I am adding it to my "sunset photo collection" and hope that I am able to shoot many more like it!

Will try to get more photos up this week, especially the B&B photos. What a great place to relax!

More later,
Mike Z

Saturday, August 9, 2008

We took a ride on the Zilker Park Zephyr

This past weekend Jan, the boys and I rode the Zilker Zephyr train in Zilker Park in central Austin TX. The boys love anything having to do with trains, so we braved the 100 degree plus heat and had an adventure.

Near the train ride is Barton Springs Pool, a natural spring-fed swimming area that has been a fixture and a legend in and around Austin for decades. Governors, singers, and local celebrities of all sorts have swum in the pool, as well as locals young and old. The water temperature is constant within a degree or two all year round, making the pool feel cool in summer and warm in whatever winters we have in Austin. It is also home to the Barton Springs salamander, an endangered species.

As we waited for the train, this group of young train enthusiasts chugged past us, playing train. It was fun to hear them as they passed. I thought it was interesting that the smallest guy was the "engine." Maybe it was just me...

We're ready to go! Where's the conductor?

As we rolled along the tracks, we caught glimpses of some folks participating in what makes Austin a great place to live. The boaters look like they're having fun, and in the middle photo the rope hanging just to the left of the boaters (might be hard to see unless you view the photo full size) is a "swinging rope" that swimmers use to swing into the lake. The Austin skyline shows in the background above the trees.

We caught up with two "frisbee guys" as we passed the open air amphitheatre in the park. They were expertly tossing the frisbee back and forth. They had a gallon jug of water to keep hydrated as they practiced. Good thing! the temperature was scorching.

The photo above is my favorite of the trip. The youngster was having the best time looking out of the train, and I couldn't resist taking the shot. Although he was breaking the rule about keeping body parts inside the train (so was I!), it didn't seem to do any harm.

The train route took us under a street bridge across Town Lake, now known as Lady Bird Lake. These geese were under the bridge, either staying cool or waiting for a handout from the passing train, I couldn't tell which.

The end of the line. We made the full circle and are back in the station area. What a great ride for the kids. As we got off the train, Sentry and Roland Thomas were already asking when we were going to come back and ride again. If I have any say-so, it will be soon! For more photos of the train and park, go to my Flickr page Zilker Park Zephyr and see more of the frisbee guys, and the great tree and playscape we passed under.

More later,
Mike Z