Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Amber jan --a photographer's delight

I posted this picture about ten days ago, but some strange glitch developed so that the photo was shown by Flickr as being unavailable. So I have deleted the earlier post and am now adding it again, I hope with better results this time.

This is a young dance instructor named Amber Barnes. For the full story, click on the image and read the accompanying story on my Flickr page.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Her mother loves this picture

Her mother loves this picture
Originally uploaded by gwilmore
This is Lindsey Bianco, another of the dance instructors at the Fred Astaire Studio. She is intimately connected with the place in other ways as well. First, her mother, Lisa Bianco, owns the facility; and second, her dance partner here, Joshua Smith, is also an instructor at the studio, and he is Lindsey's fiance. They are scheduled to be married in Minnesota on September 22.

Lisa loved this image when she saw it on my camera's LCD screen, but I don't know if she has seen it since I posted it to Flickr. I hope she enjoys it as much now as she did when I showed it to her on the camera a few nights ago.

I'm adding this picture to my blog, partly because I like it, and partly because of a story involving Lindsey and me which might evoke a smile or two among my readers. I have danced with her many times, and it has always been a pleasure. But during one recent dance, when we were doing the foxtrot or the rhumba -- I don't recall which -- we got involved in a discussion about -- of all things -- the Battle of Leyte Gulf!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dancing like Khrushchev

Dancing like Khrushchev
Originally uploaded by gwilmore
The title of this image is based on a sort of private joke between Sheila and me. Click on the image and read the story. I'm not as good at this as I hope I will be someday, but I do know much more about the rhumba than I did a few months ago, and I hope this photograph provides some convincing proof in support of that claim.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My dark and sinister plot bears fruit

I just learned a bit of information that is worth passing along, hopefully to the amusement and edification of one and all. About six hours ago, one of my Iranian friends heard a knock on his door. No, it wasn’t the morals police or other thugs out to do the ayatollahs’ bidding; rather, it was the mailman, there to hand my friend a package I had sent a couple of weeks before. He knew it was coming, as we had discussed it beforehand, and he told me this was something he would love to have. Apparently the Iranian postal officials examine the contents of any package sent from abroad -- especially, I would assume, if its point of origin is somewhere within the dominions of the Great Satan; but the packages usually pass muster and finish their journey, unless they contain pornographic material and such. So apparently my package was examined closely as well, and obviously it went through without problems.

I purchased this item two weeks ago this coming Saturday, and the store clerks were very interested in the fact that I would be sending it to Iran. They asked me all kinds of questions about the intended recipient, of whom I spoke very highly. But a half-hour later, at the post office, the clerk put me through a rather mild version of the third degree, by reading off a sheet of paper taped to the wall and asking me if I was certain that the item in my package was permissible under the existing sanctions against Iran. I replied that I was, because I had researched the law and personal gifts valued at less than $100 were specifically permitted, as were items of the same type and classification as the one I was sending.

Well, to make a rather long story a bit shorter, I am pleased to learn that my nefarious little plot has been successful, in that the item reached its intended destination without any problems and neither I nor my friend have been hauled off somewhere in handcuffs. When I returned home after mailing this item, I remarked to my wife about what a ridiculous story it would be if I were to get into trouble, and have to face the possibility of hefty fines and imprisonment, for what I had just done.

The store where I made the purchase, and where the clerks expressed so much interest in my intentions, was the Chandler outlet of Deseret Book; and the item in question – which I am gratified to know apparently passes muster with the authorities in Iran – was a Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD titled “Consider the Lilies,” which I hope will give my friend and his remarkable wife many hours of listening pleasure.

Friday, June 08, 2007

What makes Mitt Romney tick

For the first time since 1960, a major presidential candidate's religious affiliation is a subject of serious public debate; and this time around, the debate is of special interest to me, partly because I am a good deal older than I was in 1960, but mainly because the religion in question is one I wholeheartedly share with the candidate. The candidate, of course, is Mitt Romney, who like myself is an active, practicing Mormon. (Apart from our political views, which are very compatible, that might be the only thing I have in common with Mr. Romney, as I am utterly unqualified to be President of the United States. I might add parenthetically that the fact that I will never be President is a great blessing for our country, although I am seriously concerned that the country at large might not appreciate this particular blessing nearly as much as it should. But I digress.)

I happen to like Mitt Romney, and would feel entirely comfortable with having him in the White House, although that is not because of the obvious religious affinity; after all, Harry Reid, who as a politician and Senator does not particularly impress me, is likewise a practicing Latter-day Saint, and probably a pretty good one at that. But given the widespread misconceptions about Mormons and the controversy we inevitably seem to generate, plus the troubling polls which indicate that over a third of potential voters would not vote for a Mormon, period, I think it highly unlikely that Mr. Romney could be elected. But he does seem to represent his church well, and I hope that when his campaign is over -- whatever the result -- the faith's overall image will be improved by it.

In connection with the foregoing, I found this in yesterday's edition of Meridian Magazine, which is second only to Flickr as my favorite website. It is the transcript of a question-and-answer session between Richard Bushman, a respected historian who happens to be a practicing Latter-day Saint, and an impressive cross-section of the media. It's probably as good a summary of the historical relationship between Mormons and politics as one is likely to find anywhere. (Note: I was unable to link directly to the transcript, but the Meridian article does contain a link to it.)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

This day's workout

I have been losing weight, which is a good thing after I ballooned to 205 pounds early in March -- the heaviest I have ever been. I don't know how much I weigh at the moment, because our cats recently knocked our bathroom scale to the pavement, and it doesn't work anymore; but my wife says my paunch has diminished appreciably, while I have noticed that my clothes fit more loosely than before. Some of my friends and co-workers have also told me I look a bit more slender, so it apparently is pretty obvious. I think I weigh around 193 now, and I am trying to drop to 175, which might take me awhile. (The last time I weighed 175 pounds was shortly after I was married, which was 20 years ago.)

There are several explanations for the drop in my weight. I was sick in bed for most of the second half of April, during which time I had no appetite to speak of. After I re-entered the land of the living, I noticed that I was still eating less of nearly everything, but especially cookies and anything containing chocolate, for both of which I have always had a notorious weakness. I resumed my bicycling regimen only a few days ago, after a hiatus of two months -- practically unheard-of for me at this time of the year. I have been swimming laps in our backyard swimming pool, but no more than I have in previous years. But one additional factor comes into play, which has never been the case before this year; namely, the dance lessons and the Thursday-night practice parties at the Fred Astaire studio, every one of which I have attended since the end of January, when I started taking the lessons as a surprise for my wife. I think a lot of calories may have been meeting their final doom during those visits.

I dropped by the studio this evening, accompanied by Vanessa and my Nikon D50. I had intended to do nothing more than check to see when my next lesson with Sheila was scheduled, and then take a few pictures; but Angie Hines, our instructor, asked me if I was there for the evening's group lesson. I had known nothing about any group lesson until then, but quickly learned that this one was being taught by a new instructor named Amber Barnes, and on the spur of the moment decided to attend it. I turned out to be Amber's only student, and man, did she give me a workout! By the time this lesson ended 45 minutes later, my feet were sore from practicing the triple-step and a complex series of moves Angie had been teaching me, and I was surprised to discover that my shirt was soaked all the way through between my chest and my neck. I did not get to ride my bike this morning before going to work, but I think Amber enabled me to make up for the omission.

So, as I indicated above, I think the dance lessons are an additional explanation for my recent weight loss. Just today I read in the Arizona Republic that one of the recent contestants on "Dancing with the Stars," after being approached several times about participating in the program, finally decided to sign on because he thought it would help him to lose some weight, while enabling him to have a lot of fun in the process. I can relate. If I keep doing this -- and if Amber and Angie and the other instructors keep giving me workouts like this one -- I might be able to reach my goal of 175 after all. Especially if I continue cutting down on the chocolate.

Making the big time (sorta)

A picture I took several months ago has been published in the online edition of New York Magazine. One of the mag's editors contacted me the other day to request permission to use a landscape image from my Flickr photostream in connection with a travel article about Scottsdale, Arizona. I told him to go ahead, adding that if imitation was the sincerest form of flattery, a request such as this one would be a close second. I only asked that he give me proper credit for the photo, and later I had to correct him on the spelling of my name (just as I have to do for nearly everyone else). The picture may be seen here.