All posts by Tom Dills

Two Thoughts On A Similar Subject

The North Davidson (NoDa) area of Charlotte

Sometimes I just read a line that resonates with me. I came across these two over the last day:

From The Online Photographer: It’s one of the cool things about getting older…sooner or later you live in the future.

Directional sign on the Royal Promenade aboard Allure of the Seas

From Douglas Adams (Hitchiker’s Guide) via Terence Eden via Om Malik:

– Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

– Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

– Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Johnny Rockets diner on the Boardwalk aboard Allure of the Seas

Its interesting when you think about it. My grandmother, born in 1908, always talked about how her mother would be amazed with the microwave oven, invented, according to the Wikimonster, in 1955. Today we can’t imagine a home without one. Now, I imagine describing to my dad some of the technology we currently use. He was a “shade tree” automotive mechanic, aspiring electronic tinkerer and auto racing fan, among other things, so today’s electronic everything would be his microwave. But it seems like we have a lot more of those things today than we did 50-ish years ago. Maybe it just seems like more magic.

What will ours be?

‘Watch Your Step” signs in Cental Park aboard Allure of the Seas
Sign in front of the Westin Hotel in Charlotte

A Few More Fuzzy Photos

Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Monte enjoyed my motion blur photo from a couple of days ago so I thought I would serve up a few more. Sometimes the camera moves, sometimes the subject moves.

Lots of motion blur here today as we await Ian’s arrival. It’s been rainy, breezy and chilly – a good day to work on photos and watch Formula 1 practice! Ian keeps angling further east of us, which is good for us but unfortunately not so good for someone else. Should be by us by morning, hopefully!

Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Coordinates vs. Location

Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina

“Knowing your latitude and longitude is not the same as knowing where you are.” From The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

I loved this statement as a stand-alone quote, but it is also interesting in the context in which it appears.

I just finished reading this fascinating book by Jennifer Egan. It is the second of hers I’ve read, the first being “A Visit From The Goon Squad.” As “alternative world/dystopian future/reality-fantasy” (my definition, strange as it is) it is outside my usual crime fiction subject matter but something I’ve been exploring more lately. It’s a lot better to me than non-fiction gloom and doom stories about failed and/or corrupt politicians, end of the world climate change or crappy economic news!

The premise of the book is a society where a huge social media corporation run by a super tech demi-god whose name everyone knows (sound familiar?) has developed a technology, “Own Your Unconscious”—that allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others. Think about that. Of course not everyone chooses to participate, and whole companies are formed, both to promote and profit from and also avoid this (over)sharing of information.

Egan’s writing style can be a little hard for me to follow, as she changes characters, points of view and subject matter seemingly at random. I found it to be a good exercise of my reading and comprehension skills, as its important to pay attention to the story lines as they bob and weave.

Fun stuff, for anyone interested in this kind of writing!

A Good Walk Spoiled?

A quote sometimes attributed to Mark Twain but likely incorrectly, according to Also the title of a book published in 1995.

View of the first tee of this year’s President’s Cup (not my photo)
A tee, but not the first tee. 2009 Masters Champion Angel Cabrera at the 2009 Quail Hollow Championship

I had an opportunity this past week to attend a day of The President’s Cup, a golf tournament here in Charlotte at the Quail Hollow Club. My brother, his son and a long-time family friend came to town from Ohio for the tournament and invited me to come along. I welcomed the opportunity to hang out with my brother for a few hours.

View of the course at the 2009 Quail Hollow Championship
Example of this year’s course cluttered by “hospitality” structures. (Not my photo)

I don’t consider golf to be much of an in-person spectator sport, as it is difficult to really stay involved in the action on an 18-hole golf course. You either have to camp out at one hole and watch the players come by (which is a lot like watching a Formula One race where you can only see one corner of a 2-mile track) or you have to pick a group or groups to follow around the course. The advantage of the first option is that if you get to a good spot early you can stay there all day. The downside of moving around is that you have to either watch the less popular players or be prepared to look from the back of a crowd of people who were there before you. Neither choice is ideal.

Example of this year’s course cluttered by “hospitality” structures, prior to the start of the tournament so no people. (Not my photo)
2009 Quail Hollow Championship

I played some golf years ago but gave it up because (a) I stunk at it and (b) it can get pretty expensive. Buying the equipment just gets you the gear, but then you have to pay every time you play (unless you live near where I grew up in Sharon, PA where they have what at one time was the only free golf course in the country.) A decent set of clubs can cost more than a good camera, and I know that it is possible to spend as much on one club as a good tripod and ball head. The choice is pretty clear to me, and I’ve managed to make more decent photographs than I ever made good golf shots!

Quail Hollow is a beautiful golf course, and I was fortunate enough to have volunteered there during the early days of the Wachovia (now Wells Fargo) Championship, which was before the sport became as commercialized as it is today. In the early days, the tournament course was largely as it normally exists, with a few grandstands and hospitality areas. But for the most part the course was still the course, with lots of green grass, long views and a chance to sit in the shade and watch the players go by with little difficulty. It was a completely different story this time.  There were huge grandstands, big hospitality structures where people could watch the tournament on television in air conditioned comfort, all with a great tax deduction for the corporate hosts. To even catch a glimpse of the first tee you had to be in the grandstand there or watching with binoculars from well down the fairway. And that assumes you had gotten there early enough to be able to see the fairway!

Example of this year’s course cluttered by “hospitality” structures, before the start of the tournament. (not my photo)
2009 Quail Hollow Championship

My cost of admission, which was not cheap, just got me in the gate. If I wanted to sit in any of the “premium” locations I needed to cough up even more money. There were a few “free” grandstands that were full long before we got there. And when I wanted something to eat, sheesh! I know it is usual at any sporting event, but $3 bottled water, $10 wraps and $11 beers can add up quick. And that doesn’t include the souvenirs. Shirts were selling for $80 and up, hats for $35 and up, and on and on.

2009 Quail Hollow Championship
One of the “hospitality suites” at this year’s President’s Cup (not my photo)

There aren’t many things about golf that appeal to me any more, but what I always enjoyed most was the quiet solitude of a beautiful course early in the morning. A little dew on the grass, the sound of sprinklers and mowers in the distance and the occasional bird chirp. Instead, there was the chanting of team support of USA…USA…USA, strange outbursts of things like “mashed potatoes” and other sounds. It was kind of like plunking an amusement park down in the middle of a wildlife refuge! Add to that the (to me) exorbitant cost of attendance, the huge crowds and the 95 degree day with tropical humidity, and it was a good thing I went with people I enjoyed being with!

All We Really Need?

No, this is not our patio!

Yesterday our 6 1/2 year old grandson Edison visited, along with his dad Scott, our oldest son. Prior to their arrival I had been outside cleaning the patio – the usual chores, scrubbing cushions, washing off the grill and hosing off a summer’s worth of rain and environmental residue.

Edison came outside as I was hosing off the floor, and asked me if he could help. Why of course, why not? I let him wield the floor brush, then the hose, then the broom ( I really need to buy a squeegee!) and we both had a blast – him giggling all the way and me just generally enjoying the company. Of course I had to go back and “touch up” a few spots. At some point Scott commented that the job was going to take twice as long with Edison’s “help.” Kathy told him she didn’t think either of us minded, and she was right!

As I thought about it later, and Kathy & I talked about it, I came to realize that a little respect, a sense of belonging, a feeling of contributing, and sometimes a whole lot of fun, is all we really look for. Whether we’re six or sixty-something, our needs are really pretty simple.

We all had periods of laughter and fun throughout the day, interrupted occasionally with Edison’s “grumbellies” and 6-year old orneriness, but overall it was just a few people who love each other enjoying a gorgeous almost-fall day and life in general. After they left, Kathy & I took a nap. Sometimes we need that too!

Another Morning On The Beach

Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina

I turned the alarm off this morning and went back to sleep, but woke up 15 minutes later and knew what I had to do. 😉

Once more it was worth the effort.

Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Feet In The Sand

Thirteen. Carolina Beach, North Carolina

I managed to get my tripod feet (and my own feet) into the sand this morning! 😉

Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Postcard From Carolina Beach

Evening cloud formations. Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Kathy & I decided to escape from the neighborhood for a few days, and what better way to do that than a late-season trip to the beach? I haven’t done a lot of photography, but did manage to get in a little bit off our balcony on Monday evening, and I drug myself out of bed for a little work on Tuesday morning. Nothing spectacular, but a few frames to show for the effort.

Here are a few more bonus shots to show the ‘clouds’ theme:

Evening cloud formations. Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Morning on the beach. Carolina Beach, North Carolina
Evening cloud formations. Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Last Bermuda Post!

View from our stateroom window while docked in Bermuda aboard Celebrity Summit

Very few people will be interested in this, but for those few who are, here is a brief post about our stateroom aboard Celebrity Summit.

View of our stateroom window from the helipad

On recent cruises, we have recognized the relatively better value of booking an “Ocean View” stateroom as opposed to a “Veranda” stateroom. The main difference is that an Ocean View stateroom has just a window, which can range from a porthole to a large picture window, while a Verandah stateroom has a balcony, with sliding glass doors from the room. The cruise lines have been quite successful in marketing the Verandah staterooms, since they cost more, thus being more profitable. Some of the newer ships have done away with all or nearly all Ocean View rooms for this reason. But depending on the specific cruise, the price difference can be significant.

Our stateroom #6001 on Celebrity Summit
Our stateroom #6001 on Celebrity Summit

This was our third cruise with an Ocean View room, and we have found that there are certain Ocean View staterooms on certain ships, that are much larger than “regular” Ocean View rooms, sometimes to the point where they are larger than the higher-priced Verandah rooms. We have really come to enjoy the rooms in the very front of the ship. They provide an interesting view and more space, with the tradeoff that they are on one end of the ship, so you have a long walk to just about anywhere. But we like it!

So this is just a short overview of our stateroom on Celebrity Summit. Those who have been on cruises will recognize the layout, those who have not might still be interested.

A Special Treat: Sail Away From the Helipad

On the day we left Bermuda, we along with “several hundred of our closest friends” were invited to experience Sail Away from the helipad. It is the second time we got to do this, the previous time was on a cruise sailing from Barbados.

On most cruise ships, the helipad is off-limits to everyone but crew. A few of the larger ships do allow passengers on the helipad when conditions are safe. Someone always has to do the “Titanic” thing on the bow.

Generally though, sail away is by invitation only. I asked the Captain’s Club hostess how people were chosen, and she kinda answered that there was no magic formula and that the number was determined by the captain. But I do know that our past-passenger status with Celebrity – high but nowhere near the highest! – had to have helped. It was a fun time, I got a few photos and we had some free champagne-like wine. It is always a treat, and we enjoyed the experience!