Wrapping up 2015, Part Deux

I posted yesterday and said that I was splitting my end-of-2015 blog into two separate posts, one for shots I took with a “proper” camera, and one of shots taken with my cell phone. This is part two–and if you like what you see, by all means go back and check out part one–of that promised post. Feel free to leave a comment down below or pass the link along to your friends/followers if you think they would enjoy some of the images.

Without further ado, here are the images:


Greater Minnesota #2: Red Wing

Red Wing, MN

*Note: I will say at the outset that these are all photographs from my phone; I use my favorite app, called Hipstamatic. The app allows you to program a ‚Äúlens‚ÄĚ and a ‚Äúfilm‚ÄĚ before you take the shot, but once it has been captured, it cannot be altered. The low resolution was a product of a new setting which I did not realize until after the trip, and the differing lenses and films used were because I used the ‚Äúshake to randomize‚ÄĚ setting, which I don‚Äôt normally use. I especially avoid this setting when I aim to tell a story of something, as the visual narrative is interrupted by the constant changes.*

The second of our summer day trips was to the town of Red Wing, Minnesota. Red Wing is just over an hour south of Saint Paul, and we arrived in town on the back of our trip to New Ulm, which you can read about in my previous post. The biggest thing in town is by far the Red Wing Shoe Co., which has been around since 1905.


We arrived from New Ulm and spent the evening in the pool at the hotel. Inclement weather (which ultimately did not end up happening) kept us from camping, which had been the original plan. Oddly enough, Max didn’t complain.



The next morning, we packed up and headed into town. We stopped at the Red Wing store and museum in town, which told the (rather interesting) story of the company, with a small exhibit upstairs. It also holds the world’s largest boot (size 638.5, since you’re wondering). The story of the company and its growth was very interesting; in many ways, it mirrors the growth of 20th-century America.



We walked through town, which was pleasant. Certainly more people were around than in New Ulm, and the shops all seemed to be open for business during the week. We checked out a number of shops in the center of town, including the confectionary, where we acquired a few tasty treats to keep us going through the day.

Candy Wrapper

Main Street


After working up an appetite in town, we grabbed lunch at a lovely little cafe called “Bev’s Cafe”, which had a good assortment of food and homemade pie, along with plenty of retro-cafe vibe. It was busy, and seemingly popular with both locals and tourists. If you’re in Red Wing I would recommend checking it out for a decent lunch that is priced well.

Just don’t forget to save room for dessert!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp


Finally, we hiked up Barn Bluff, which overlooks the city. Our walk out to the bluff was a bit of an eye-opener, as we walked through what must have been the rough part of town, as things took a turn from the gentrified city center we had spent the day in. In many ways, what I saw strikingly similar to what I saw in Anchorage, Alaska. The hike to the overlook was pleasant enough, despite the constant sound of trucks below. At the overlooks, we found a flag and a vantage point to see the city below, and the river.

Barn Bluff



Red Wing was enjoyable on the whole, and after our hike up and down Barn Bluff, we climbed back in the car and headed north to Saint Paul.

I’ve decided that this will be an ongoing project to visit and blog about the small towns across the state that I can visit. Some of the ones I’ve already been to–Grand Marais, Tofte, Pipestone, Moorhead, Alexandria, etc–may get a blog post at some point if I have time to go back through my¬†archives and post them. Either way, I’m going to plan on more trips in the future to see more of the great state I call home.


Shadow Days


Greater Minnesota #1: New Ulm

“The Most German Town in America”

We took two day trips to small towns in southern Minnesota this week; this post will talk about the first of them. The town is New Ulm, and is located in the southwestern part of the state. It is mostly farmland along the roughly two-hour drive from the Twin Cities–frankly, it’s not much to look at. Honestly, that’s the case with most of the southern part of the state.

Billed as “the most German town in America”, New Ulm is proud of its heritage. It was founded by German immigrants before Minnesota was even recognized as a state, and has clung to its roots. My son has been attending the German immersion school in St. Paul since pre-school, and is interested in German culture and language. That was one reason we chose New Ulm as a destination for summer vacation.

*Note: I will say at the outset that these are all photographs from my phone; I use my favorite app, called Hipstamatic. The app allows you to program a “lens” and a “film” before you take the shot, but once it has been captured, it cannot be altered. The low resolution was a product of a new setting which I did not realize until after the trip, and the differing lenses and films used were because I used the “shake to randomize” setting, which I don’t normally use. I especially avoid this setting when I aim to tell a story of something, as the visual narrative is interrupted by the constant changes.*

Cultural Exchange

After we arrived, we decided to park and head to the tourist office. The tourism center offers free coffee and cookies, and is staffed by the friendliest collection of ladies I can remember meeting. They didn’t stop smiling the entire time and seemed really enthused about New Ulm. In hindsight, they probably were at least partially responsible for setting the bar a bit too high for the town; more on that later.

We ambled through town to see the sights, among them the Heritage Tree. The heritage tree is essentially a tree-looking tower which has various models that represent parts of the heritage of the town on each level (I realize now that the picture I took of it doesn’t really explain much about what it is).

Heritage Tree


Bustling Downtown

We also saw a lot of local businesses–a fair number of them were closed, but some were not. Most of them had German-sounding names, but little to do with anything actually from Germany. Most of the heritage seems to be bastardized and turned into a kitschy bit of cultural nostalgerotica for those into these types of things. That needn’t sound negative; I suppose a small town like this has to use what it has to attract tourists.

Local Offerings

Weekday Hours

The town seems to have a disproportionate amount of both banks and barber shops, of which I found multiple of each within the span of a few short blocks. Apparently New Ulm is both the banking and hairstyling capitol of the local area. We even found some shops that were open during the week, and we enjoyed perusing their wares.

Variety is the Spice of Life

We had lunch in “the most German restaurant in town”, which, as you can imagine, had my blood pumping pretty hard. We indulged in a lunch that was, shall we say, “German-inspired”. The decor was straight out of the old country, even if the menu wasn’t entirely.

The Old Country

If you’re visiting New Ulm–or in the event you’ve already been there–you have certainly heard of Hermann the German. This teutonic titan managed to unite the Germanic tribes in the year 9 AD and defeat the Romans at some battle I could google for you, but am to lazy to. Let’s just say he was the talk of the town. He has a 102-foot statue near the Martin Luther College campus, and we went to climb it and get a greater appreciation for Hermann’s feats, while also getting a bird’s-eye view of the city.

Respect for History

Hermann’s Casts a Shadow

Overlooking New Ulm

We saw the local cathedral, which was nice, and offered some reprieve from the heat of the afternoon sun. We also took in the thrice-daily Glockenspiel (which, if I lived or worked in the town, and was subjected to constantly, I could envision becoming less charming), ate some baked goods at the German bakery, saw the German-Bohemian Immigrant Monument, and visited German Park (astute readers may notice a pattern developing).


As we headed back to the car to depart after a long day, I noticed what looked like a minor league baseball stadium, and took a slight detour to check it out. Johnson Park, as it is called, was empty and locked up, but two of the groundskeepers noticed me looking in and offered to let me in to see it. Thankfully, I took them up on the offer; I’m sure glad that I did. Turns out it was the home of the New Ulm Brewers, who play in the East Tomahawk League of the MN Baseball League.

What really made it cool is the fact that the stadium was a WPA project from 1939, which a plaque at the base of the stand near the entrance indicates. Much of it seems to have not been upgraded since then, which lends it a sense of history and charm. This, for me, was the highlight of the day.

Johnson Park

Third Base

There is an accompanying football field, called Johnson Field, right next door. While I didn’t get inside, it looked to be about the same vintage. Following this, we got back in the car and headed off to our next destination. New Ulm ended up being a bit underwhelming–this coming from the guy who has been to Wigan, and has season tickets to the Timberwolves–but perhaps that is part of its charm? It’s a small town in southern Minnesota, which draws on its heritage to attract tourists; personally, I felt the “German heritage” bit was oversold.

Still, all in all, a nice day out.

German Street


Shooting isn’t an option. For me, it’s necessary. I don’t have a lot of time, don’t have a lot of light. I’ll have to use the phone to shoot if that’s all I have.

The only thing I can’t afford to do is not shoot.

So I’ll do what I can, and press on. Heading to Houston this weekend and will do some shooting there. The M6 is the one indispensable thing in my luggage.

Hopefully things will get better, and I can post real shots soon enough. Thanks for continuing to follow the blog!


A few quick phone shots to show what I’ve been up to lately. I don’t often just throw up random collection of images, but I am today. This has no discernible theme other than having been taken with my phone and just being things I’ve done over the last month. Some of you may be interested in that.

It’s nice to have a camera in my pocket at all times, wherever I go. I generally have a camera with me anyway. It this works too.

Happy Sunday!







Vices and Devices, Part 1

In shooting around the cities this summer, it has become painfully aware that people spend far too much time on their mobile devices. ¬†Mostly, this is our smartphones, which have increasingly penetrated our lives to the very core. ¬†The vast majority of us are now addicted to them, slavishly devoting every spare moment to them. ¬†Studies have recently shown that this constant exposure is, in fact, re-wiring our brains permanently. ¬†Before we even know what we are doing to ourselves, the changes may have already created lasting effects. ¬†Some studies point to radiation levels emitted by cell phones, others argue that the addiction is messing with our brains…the point is that all this use of electronic devices is not necessarily good for us, and it’s happening so fast that we don’t have time to assess what is happening.

Let me ask you this: has your device become simply a vice?

Waiting for the bus? ¬†Send someone a text to let them know you’re waiting for the bus.

People are less aware of their surroundings. ¬†How often have you seen someone walking down the street, while the text or tweet on their phone? ¬†They aren’t paying any attention to where they are going, so engrossed are they in their electronic universe. ¬†Even worse, how many drivers do you see every time you go out who are texting or reading something on their phone as they drive? ¬†I see quite a few, and I live in a state where that is illegal.

Lot of good the law seems to be as a deterrent.

Waiting for the light to change so you can cross the street?  Check your Facebook!

Every spare moment we have, we reach into our pockets and pull out our phones. ¬†It’s an addiction. ¬†I admit, I’m as guilty as the next guy (or girl)…I have been drawn into the cell phone thing and regardless of if I am in public or at home, if I have a few minutes, I whip mine out and play with it on the spot.

Sorry if that sounded gross…but that’s how it is!

Got a minute waiting on someone going to the bathroom?  Send a tweet!

We can debate the merits of virtual living through various social media. ¬†Checking up on your twitter, facebook, flickr, google+, or…yes, even your WordPress blog is one thing when you are at your computer. ¬†I’m not saying that it’s not an issue there as well, as the Internet is always there to distract you at work, school, or home. ¬†Internet distraction is an epidemic. ¬†Oh, and multi-tasking? ¬†Don’t make me laugh. ¬†That doesn’t exist, and recent studies have shown it to be a farce.

Are you actually going out to an event in public (also known as real life) tonight? ¬†Better take a minute and “check in” with your phone so your virtual friends know where you are!

I’m not on some kind of crusade, and I’m not saying that we should all go cold turkey and quit using our phones, and detach ourselves from our virtual communities. ¬†In many ways the Internet, and mobile technology, has made it easier for us to do a great many things. ¬†When I travel abroad, I can keep in touch with friends; when people move away from the local area, staying in contact is much easier with them; if I’m out and about and I forgot something, I can text or call home while I’m on the go. ¬†There are lots of reasons to be thankful for technology.

There are also lots of reasons to dislike it, and to be wary of the consequences of using it to the degree that we do. ¬†Ever seen the movie Wall-E? ¬†Yeah, ’nuff said.

At the ballpark with your kid? ¬†Better make sure all your “Facebook Friends” know what you’re up to!

Tomorrow will be the second part of the series…including more photographs, and what I plan to do to counteract all this virtual living and its impacts on my real life.

Do you have any stories to share about virtual living? ¬†Are you fed up with your own addiction to your device? ¬†Please share your stories below for others to read. ¬†I know I’m not the only one who has had enough and who is fed up with people all around who don’t seem to care about anything but their phones…




I snapped this a few days ago and quite liked it. I really like how much is going on in the image. It could surely be better, and it does have that “snapshotty” feel, but the depth of the shot, provided by shooting through the window, is really something.

What do you think? Is this well executed, or is this a weak composition, and I’m deluding myself?

Well…vacation beckons!


I’m Off!


I’m off for a week of sun and surf on Anna Maria Island, Florida! I will see you all when I get back. I may be blogging down there, and I may not be. Honestly, I’d say it’s 50/50. I kind of like the idea of unplugging for a week…

So we’ll see. If you don’t hear from me, then I’ll see you all on the flip side.




As loyal readers know, I was hospitalized last week and needed an emergency appendectomy. This is the story of that adventure. Read on, if you dare…

What started with a few days of pain ended up with my wife finally convincing me to go to the doctor, so after work on Saturday evening, she and I headed off to urgent care to get checked out, just to make sure it was nothing serious. After some waiting, and some questioning, the doctors weren’t sure what the cause of my discomfort was. So I had to give up some blood and urine. The results didn’t help any, so a second doctor was brought in to probe around my stomach. It was decided that a CT scan was needed to rule out appendicitis.

And so I was sent to the hospital in downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota for the CT test. When I got there, I was required to drink some oddly-flavored stuff that apparently lights up your insides so that the CT scan-machine can read your insides better. Strange. I had to drink on glass of it, wait 30 minutes, and drink another. Then after another 30-minute wait, I was ready for the scan. During all this waiting, I wandered around with my iPhone, and snapped some shots.

Once inside the scanner, I had to pull down my shorts (and cover up with a towel–at this point I retained a shred of my dignity) while the technician gave me an IV of more light-up liquids to assist the machine. Rather than succeeding at first attempt, the technician administered the needle twice, leaving one arm very sore and bruised ūüė¶

Still, the scan continued, and was without further event. I waited in the waiting area for the “all clear” so I could finally get home and get some rest! Instead, I got a phone call from the doctor who sent me downtown (who had been, in the meantime, called by the hospital to inform her of the results of my scan) to tell me that it was indeed my appendix. It needed to come out, and I was sent to the ER to check in and prepare for the inevitable. I was given a hospital gown, another IV, and a bed.

Once the IV was in, and I was dressed (or undressed, as it were) for success, the nurse asked me if had a preference for a particular surgeon, to which I answered the rather obvious:

“I’ve only got one appendix…if I had a preference from a previous visit, we’d have a problem, no?”

She laughed.

And then she left, and called the surgeon. When she returned, I was informed that I would have surgery in about 2 hours. So I called my work, and let them know I wouldn’t be in the next day; I called my mom, and gave her the news; and I called my son, just to let him know what’s up.

The nurse returned rather quickly, saying my surgery had been moved ahead, and I was leaving now. And so, I was wheeled off to surgery.

I was wheeled up to surgery, and prepared myself for the inevitable.

Once inside the very cold surgery wing, I was given a blanket. I was also told that the actual room for surgery was even colder; they compared it to a large meat freezer. It is at times like this, I thought to myself, that it’s really great to have doctors with a sense of humor. A meat freezer. That mental image would accompany me until I was put to sleep, and then cut open.

As they wheeled me in, and I bid adieu to my wife, I wasn’t really nervous. The part I hate the most–the needles for shots and IVs–was already over. Or so I thought. Not to worry, there would be many more needles in my future. Then I was finally relieved of my blanket, moved to a smaller bed, had my arms and legs strapped down with leather buckles, and then had my hospital gown opened up. I had not felt this way since birth, when I entered the world in a hospital, wearing pretty much exactly what I was at that moment.

I was given the mask to breathe into, and made my final plea as they lifted my gown and I drifted off:

“Guys–it’s really cold in here. Don’t judge me.”

And with that, I was off.

I came to in my new room, after what was about 2 hours. I had a lovely view, complete with a whiteboard to keep track of the names of the nurses who rotated in and out of my life. I also had a television, and a small window.

I was only in the hospital for almost 48 hours total, and was able to get up and move within about 12 hours of surgery. Luckily the bathroom was only a few steps away, because with the steady drip of the IV in my arm, I had to go regularly.

The doctors also told me that I would be well served by getting out of the room and walking a bit. As they do this kind of thing regularly, there is a sort of loop around the wing of the hospital I was stationed in that was labeled as 4 laps = 0.5 miles. So I walked once I was able, a few times a day. By Monday, I was walking 2-3 laps each time (albeit very slowly), while I wheeled my IV along with me.

Naturally, I took my phone with me. Such a momentous occasion deserves to be documented!

This was my first stay in a hospital since I stayed here with my mom almost 29.5 years ago to the day. Recommending such a stay would be hard to do, but most of the people I met there were first-rate, I have to say. It was a positive experience, made better by the knowledge that I can’t do it again; one appendix means appendicitis is a one-and-done kind of thing ūüôā

By the time I took my last lap around the hospital wing, I was ready to leave. As nice as the people, amenities, food, and cable TV are…I wanted to get out. I took one last lap around the place, then got dressed and prepared to be discharged.


That was the saga of my infected appendix, the diagnosis, and its eventual removal and my recovery. I hope you enjoyed reading about it more than I enjoyed actually having to do it, which was kind of crummy. Surgery sucks, and recovery takes a while. I’m still recovering now but the doctors tell me I won’t be 100% and doing all the things I was before (lifting, working out, swimming, etc) for a full 4-6 weeks after surgery.

So I will be in Florida next week–where it will be unbearably hot–unable to get in the water.



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