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Friday, June 25, 2004

Down for a bit

Dear reader,

It is my sad duty to inform you that Cleek will be dormant until the 4th of July. I know this will upset all of your routines, and for that I apologize. But, duty calls and I must attend a wedding scheduled to occur in a place without a phone, nevermind internet service. So, unless I can find a nice person sharing WiFi service for my little laptop (see below) to sponge off of, you'll not hear from me for many days.

Remember: be excellent to each other, both of you.
Stupid Fish

Q: Will catfish eat basketballs ?
A: Yes
Ipso facto e pluribus unum, ergo: you die

FYI, the US leads the world in Death from Legal intervention.

Nikon D100, 50mm

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Nikon N80, Fuji Sensia 100, 70-250mm

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Big sigh

Shopping for cars is done. No more scouring Consumer Reports; no more weekends spent snooping around car dealers, wondering why dealerships aren't open on Sunday; no more cursing dealers who won't even acknowledge our presence on their lots; no more fretting about affordability and practicality; no more comparing colors and option packages; no more wondering if I really need a convertible or not. It's all done. See below.

Now, it's into the world of "Which bottle of sunblock will fit in the glove box and won't leave me smelling like a beach ?" and "Does it look like rain?"

Nikon D100, 50mm

Tuesday, June 22, 2004


Komo News has a little story about someone who got really lucky, twice. First, he got a A One In A Million Photo; second, he didn't get struck by lightning in the process.

Nikon N80, Fuji Sensia 100, 105mm macro

Monday, June 21, 2004

Sony P7

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Nikon D100, 70-250mm

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Nikon D100, 50mm

Friday, June 18, 2004

Sony P7

Thursday, June 17, 2004

difficult books. yes! name dropping. yes! preening. yes!

Since yesterday was the 100th anniversary of "Bloomsday" (the day depicted in the book), the BBC has a Cheat's guide to Joyce's Ulysses. It's far more entertaining than the book.

I tried reading Ulysses once, and I think I got about thirty pages into it before I realized there was absolutely no way I was going to be able to finish it; that stream-O'-consciousness stuff is tough reading: too much style, too little substance - or maybe, too much substance that I wasn't insterested in excavating, sifting and cataloging - who knows which flashback is going to be important later on, and which isn't? I did read Joyce's "Portrait Of the Artist as a Young Man" in high school, but that book was short enough that I could always see the end in sight - and regardless, it was a class assignment.

If I recall correctly, I tried Ulysses just after finishing "Gravity's Rainbow", another long hard brain workout, and was all like "I am the King of Book Readers! Which one of you bastards is next ? Arright Ulysses, spread 'em!" Well, James Joyce makes Thomas Pynchon look like J.K. Rowling. It was a long time before I tried any of the notoriously difficult books again.

But eventually I did dare to try another one, so I chose Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon", after hearing about it on Slashdot. That book was only difficult in that it had multiple plotlines happening in different eras - once you get familiar with the characters and their settings, it's fairly straightforward. It wouldn't be a difficult movie to watch. I felt somewhat unchallenged.

So then it was off to David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest"; it's a huge, sprawling slow monster of a book with multiple storylines and dozens of characters, set in a strange near-future Boston. It has 100 pages of endnotes that fill out the characters and their history with facts about the book's world, not necessarily about how the book relates to the real world - a technique used also in Jeff VanderMeer's excellent, and too short "City of Saints and Madmen"; it's a nice trick since it makes the text feel like a small window on an otherwise huge world. Like Ulysses, Infinite Jest has a very high detail to plot ratio, but I could at least catch most of the cultural references, and I felt more connected to the future Boston than I did to Dublin of 1904. It was tough reading at times, but I did enjoy most of it.

Now, after a seven-year wait, I've started re-reading Gravity's Rainbow, slowly, patiently. And happily, it's much easier reading this time. I should be done sometime near Christmas...

Sony P7

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Disposable panoramic

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


I'm in the market for a new car. It's a strange situation in that suddenly I'm neither offended nor enraged by the fact that every third commercial on TV is an ad for a car or truck of some kind; these days, I'm actually paying attention and take mental notes. It's an amazing little shift in attitude. I'm a little disappointed in myself that I was able to put aside years of loathing car dealers and their ads, but I'm sure that after I get my new car, I'll start hating those loud, annoying commercials again.

I've been visiting car dealers and test driving things - or trying to. Some dealers simply will not acknowledge me. I can wander around their lot for a half hour, sit in all the cars and look in their trunks without ever having a salesperson approach me. It's probably because I look young for my age (at 33, I still get carded) and on the weekends, I don't dress like the kind of person who could afford one of the cars I'm looking at. I probably look like a 17 year old kid who just got done with a shift at the hardware store.

Still, I have been able to catch the attention of a salesman or two. After expressing my interest in his wares, and indicating my desire to take a test drive, he'll eagerly fetch the keys, then show me the car. The tour always starts with the engine. He'll proudly pop up the hood and point at the shiny stuff, mumble some acronyms and nod appreciatively. I'll nod too, cause I'm smart enough to know when I'm supposed to be impressed, even if I'm not smart enough to actually know what I'm looking at - "Yep, it's got a full set of wires and rubber hoses in there. Sweet." One engine looks pretty much any other engine to me; all I care about is 1) can it push me back in my seat and 2) can I abuse it everyday for two years before I have to bring it in for maintenance. So, the Presentation Of The Engine seems like a waste of time to me.

It's like the cork/sipping ritual at a restaurant; the waiter arrives with the wine and shows me the bottle, I nod approvingly; he opens the wine and hands me the cork; I pick it up, look at it (1...2...) and nod approvingly; he pours a little glass for me to try; I try it and nod approvingly; then he gives my wife a full glass before filling mine the rest of the way. It's a silly little ceremony, but I haven't figured out a way to avoid it. I don't know why I need to look at the cork (or plork, or screwcap in one case - the waitress assured us the wine was good, and it was, but warned us in hushed tones when we ordered it that it came in a screwtop bottle). I don't know why I need to approve the wine before my wife gets some. The whole ceremony is an annoying distraction and only delays the enjoyment of the intoxication for which I've payed a 200% markup.

At least test drives are free.

Nikon N80, Fuji Sensia 100, 105mm macro

Monday, June 14, 2004

Nikon N80, Fuji Sensia 100, 70-240mm

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Nikon D100, 105mm macro

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Jesus, mom! If I do it will you shut up already????

CNN reports:
    "Elizabeth Shannon told investigators she killed her stepfather because she was tired of her mother asking her to do it. She also said her mother gave her the gun."

Nikon D100, 70-240mm

Friday, June 11, 2004

Prison wine

The Black Table provides instructions on how to make your own prison wine (aka "Pruno"). Here's part:

  1. Toss the oranges into the Ziploc bag.
  2. Open the can of fruit cocktail and dump it into the bag, along with your own emotional cocktail of nihilism, depression and crippling boredom.
  3. Mash them furiously, feeling the anger of being unjustly sentenced to hellish bourgeois existence of cable television and suburban shopping malls.
  4. Squeeze in a state of frenzied self-involvement.

Read the rest!
Fame Throwa

Last week, the Mrs. won tickets to see Fame, The Musical. She had to sing the first verse of "Fame! I'm gonna live forever!" on the radio. And she did. So, even though I generally despise musicals I volunteered to go along, because I like my wife.

Well, lemme tell ya...

If you enjoy plays about one-dimensional stereotyped characters who deal with stock situations by singing trite songs to canned music, while dancing, this might be for you.

Here are some of the characters (I'm sure you've seen them before):

  • The Black Guy: he's a tough street kid with amazing natural dance talent. But he can't focus on his schoolwork and might get thrown out of the school. Drama! He raps.
  • The Jew: he's a Serious Pianist who's struggling to live up to the expectations of his family. His name is (no joke) "Schlomo". He has an original piano piece, which he calls a "sonata", that just happens to be ideal as the background for the vapid lovesong lyrics that the cute Black Girl wrote. It's an instant American Idol song.
  • The Latina: she's a firey diva. All her songs are Latin flavored - like Taco Bell. Aye! ¬°Ella es tan caliente!
  • The Punk Rock Girl: she's a drummer. She does a drum solo and tries to start a "punk" band. She just wants to rock.
  • The Latino: he's a wise-cracking playboy who hides his real self behind a macho front. He does a mucho sexy dance with lots of pelvic thrusts and inane innuendo.
  • The Serious Actor: he's an actor who's had some commercial success (in a TV commercial) but really wants to be a Serious Actor. He looks like Will Wheaton. He's hounded by...
  • The Romantic: she's a shy girl who's never been kissed and wants to explore romance with the Serious Actor. He's all like "Don't be ridiculous. Let's do some Beckett." She's all like "Let's do a love scene of our own! Wahh!"
  • The Dance Teacher: she's a free-spirited artistic type who sees the raw talent in Black Guy and wants to overlook his academic failures, much to the chagrin of...
  • The Principal: she's a hard-nosed disciplinarian who knows that few of these kids will make it ("that movie" about the school has given all the new kids false hope, she moans). So she insists they all have to pass all their academic classes. She sings a duet with The Dance Teacher (good grades! / raw talent!). It sucks and makes me embarassed to be in the same room as the actors.

In the first half, each character gets 3 minutes to tell you which stereotype they'll be playing, in song. So, it's just a mind-numbing stream of crappy songs with insipid lyrics about predictable situations. Then I think there was something about an end-of-year recital or pageant or something - gotta have goals!

We left during intermission - my wife's suggestion.


I don't expect this one will win many Tony awards.
Something special

Need a gift for that special someone? Have you considered crack ?

Nikon D100, 28-80mm

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Venus, if you will

This guy took some great shots of the Transit of Venus.

Nikon D100, 50mm

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Nikon N80, Fuji Sensia 100, 105mm macro

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


So, I'm sitting on the couch with my guitar last night. I'm watching VH1 Classic (my favorite) and this video of Stevie Ray Vaughan comes on; it's the tremendous live version of Texas Flood from the Blues Before Sunrise CD. As soon as it starts I stop playing and watch with dropped jaw. It's the kind of performance that makes me feel like I don't even deserve to own a guitar: really incredible, amazing, superhuman talent. And halfway through the song, he swings the guitar behind his back and finishes the song without looking.

I spend the next half hour trying to get my stupid guitar in-tune.

Nikon N80, Delta 400, 50mm

Monday, June 07, 2004

Sony P7

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Sony P7

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Nikon N80, Delta 400, 105mm macro

Friday, June 04, 2004

Nikon D100, 28-80mm

Thursday, June 03, 2004


I am a programmer. I am not a manager. I do not manage things or people. I'm not interested in your "process" or your "system" - just give me my task then back away. I'll tell you when I want to talk to you again. And I don't do meetings. Meetings are where the same three people take turns having trouble getting some point through their skulls and The People Who Like To Explain Things explain the point over and over in different ways and argue with The People Who Like To Argue, about nothing at all.

So today I hear rumors that I have some meetings to attend. I look at my inbox and notice that, yes, I do have some meetings. I have five hours of meetings today. They're gonna discuss this new fancypants documentation and design scheme that they're imposing on us. Hooray, another initiative that someone with too much time on their hands came up with. We'll all freak out and learn the lingo, and for a month it'll dominate conversation. In two months, we'll have forgotten all about it.

I'm gonna save myself the hassle and not bother learning it in the first place.

(yes, i'm a miserable anti-social bastard. you would be too if you hadn't had a good night's sleep in a week.)

Nikon D100, 28-80mm

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Byebye film

Rumors are that Pentax is planning to stop manufacturing 35mm (and other, "compact"), film cameras in favor of all-digital models.


I got my first serious digital camera a few months ago, and haven't shot any film since. Well, that's not quite true - I did shoot some B&W this past weekend - but only a few shots and only because I found a roll sitting in my closet and felt bad about letting it expire unused. I don't know how the shots came out, of course, and likely won't know for at least three weeks after I finish the roll (special processing for B&W). Since I've become addicted to the instant gratification that my digital camera provides, it seems absurd to wait a month to see if I got anything right. So, maybe I'll not even bother finishing that roll, or the three rolls of my old-standby slide film (Fuji Sensia 100) that I found.

If Pentax has abandoned film, can the others be far behind ? Will my trusty Nikon N80 be among the last generation of film cameras ? Soon to be a collector's item ? Should I not trade it in for a new lens for the D100, and instead hold onto it until I can take it on Antiques Roadshow in 2030 ? Such a hard life.


Nikon D100, 105mm macro

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


I was out snooping around the rural parts south of Raleigh yesterday, looking for interesting things to take pictures of. I found a few things, including the acrobatic little barn swallow shown below; I'll be posting pix here in the next few days.

One thing I saw, while walking around in the woods near Jordan Lake was a black, brown and white bird that I'd never seen before. I tried to get a picture of him, but couldn't get my big lens on quick enough before he made himself scarce. But, I remembered what he looked like, so when I got home, I whipped out my handy Peterson Field Guide and tried to find him.

After a bit of flipping through, I saw what might have been it, a "Black-headed Grosbeak" - except they don't make it into my part of of the country, and the picture in the book doesn't show a head crest. However, right above the Black-headed is the "Rose-breasted Grosbeak"; the big patch of red disqualifies this one, too, but the description of its song was funny:

    Song, rising and falling in passages; resembles Robin's song, but mellower, given with more feeling (as if a Robin has taken voice lessons).

It's always nice to see someone having fun with their job (it gives me hope).

My bird turned out to be the one right below the Black-headed Grosbeak: the Rufous-sided Towhee - a name even stranger than "Grosbeak", which makes it even more interesting. The picture I linked to here shows the little crest on his head - Peterson's Guide doesn't show the crest, and had me believing I imagined it until I saw the pictures on the web. Always verify.

Top 100 Beautiful Women:

  1. Audrey Hepburn
  2. Liv Tyler
  3. Cate Blanchett
  4. Angelina Jolie
  5. Grace Kelly

Grace Kelly makes Cate Blanchett look like Courtney Love.

Cleopatra? We don't even know what she really looked like, right?

Scarlett Johansson? A fine actress and adequately good looking - but more beautiful than Marilyn Monroe ?

Nikon D100, 70-240mm

All images Copyright 2004-2005, cleek.