09 January 2013

Shades of gray

Skies around Saint-Aignan have stayed very gray for days and days now. The weather is about to change, but not necessarily in a good way. Today our low gray clouds are supposed to turn into... dreary rain, which is moving in from Brittany and the Atlantic Ocean.

Then it's supposed to turn cold. You really have to find ways to entertain yourself over the winter in this part of the world. Cooking, of course, is one of my preferred pastimes. Not to mention eating. And walking the dog.

These are pictures I've taken recently around the neighorhood. Here's our back yard in winter.

Another activity that helps make the time pass is surfing the web. Learning something new. Reading blogs and newspaper articles on the computer. Writing a blog. Taking and processing photos.

So I bought myself a new computer yesterday. It's a tablet. I'm supposed to get it on Friday, delivered to the front door. I found the model I wanted at a reasonable price chez Darty, which is a chain of stores selling computers, home electronics, and appliances of all kinds. There's a bricks-and-mortar Darty store up in Blois.

A linden (or "lime") tree in the back yard, with our grape vines and apple and hazelnut trees.

I decided to buy the computer here in France rather than in the U.S. on my upcoming trip. Computers cost more here. The sales tax is 20%, for example, while in the U.S. I can buy a computer tax-free. And then the dollar is low against the euro, so prices seem higher here.

Neighbors' houses

At the same time, if I'm not satisfied with the new computer for any reason, I will be able to (try to) get it exchanged or replaced by the local merchant. Having to send something like a tablet computer back to the U.S. for repair, replacement, or exchange would be a nightmare.

The weed-filled pond out back, and our hedge and house

Another factor in buying a computer is the keyboard. Did you know that every country has its own peculiar keyboard layout? There are French French, Belgian French, Swiss French, and Canadian French keyboards, for example, and they are all at least slightly different. Certain keys are in unexpected places when you are used to your own country's — the U.S., in my case — keyboard layout.

On the French French keyboard, for example, the A and Q keys are swapped (Q is a character that is much used in French, with words like que, qui, quoi, quel, quand, and on and on). The Z and W keys are swapped too. The comma is in the wrong place, and the period is a shifted character. All the numbers are shifted characters too. If you are used to typing by touch, without looking at the keyboard much, you are in trouble.

Another view of the back yard

Even the British English keyboard is different from the American English keyboard (but only slightly — the @ key is in a different place, for example). I have a laptop computer with a British keyboard — I ordered it from Amazon in the United Kingdom. Walt and I both have British keyboards on our desktop computers. I had to order mine separately, from England, because the French computer I bought (a Dell) came with a French keyboard.

An apple tree reflected in the weedy waters of the pond

The nice thing about the tablet computer is that it doesn't have a physical, hardware keyboard. It has a virtual keyboard that pops up on the screen when you need it. You don't really type on it; you just "hunt and peck" — or hunt and tap, actually. That means I can buy the computer here in France without worrying about such details as keyboard layouts.


  1. Lovely pictures but the last picture is the nicest, Ken... your Lime is a wonderful classic shape... I've got to try and get ours back to that. Someone "tidied" ours sometime back... and left the hair [the vast quantity of small branches a lime forms round a wound] to grow on! Whilst it self-pruned most of them, some have grown on to become a ring of somewhat weeping branches that come ever lower each year... they have got to go... and if possible get the tree back to the upright fan that yours is... I'll bookmark this page so that I can use it as a copy!!

  2. Loved the black and white photos Ken.
    There are separate keyboards that one can purchase for tablets....check them out.

  3. Well, very nice, Ken! Looking forward to seeing it, maybe?

    Black and white photos-- very nice :)

  4. On our tablet, when you change the language setting, it changes the layout. Still not like exactly the same as the keyboard, so there's a bit of hunting and pecking no matter what the language.

    1. Ellen, my litte Archos tablet/radio lets me choose the French or the U.S. keyboard layout -- that is all. When you are hunting and tapping, those two layouts are not significantly different...

  5. I love my Zagg bluetooth keyboard for iPad. Typing on a pane of glass with no tactile feedback is a real challenge.

    1. Dean, bonjour, I am undecided about having a real keyboard to use with the tablet. since I will mostly be using it for reading and surfing at home, where I have other computers that have real keyoards.

  6. Tim, it's interesting to me how you can pronounce one photo to be somehow "better" than all the others. What criteria are you basing that on? Thanks for the opinion, and the forthcoming information.

  7. Very simple Ken, can I live with it on my wall!
    The other pictures are just B&W... the Linden is quite nice... but would have been better cropped tighter... get rid of the path, the evergreen and the left edge up to the first twigs... then clone out that bottom corner and the utility pole... and possibly with the B&W done using Photoshops "Image / Adjustments / Black & White" which allows you to give the effect of using a Red or Green fillter on the lens when using B&W film... it allows the effect to be totally adjusted until you get the desired result.

    My reason for choosing the Apple Tree & Pond is 1] the reflection... 2] the fact that by cropping it square and putting the actual tree on the top thirds line, the eye is immediately drawn to that and then begins to look at the rest of the picture... that reflection which shows more detail than the tree... the foreground and the contrast in foliage... the eye then travels up to the background trees from the white stick in the foreground... and so on... 3] there are a lot of diagonal, vertical and horizontal view lines... they keep your eye in the picture. It would look good as a metre square, matt-finished print... that's why I like that one the best.
    I could live with it on the wall!!

  8. I actually think that photo of the apple tree reflected in the pond is too gimmicky. Anyway, the eye of the beholder and all that. Sounds like you are a "method" photographer rather than an instinctual one.

  9. Ellen, oops, I was wrong about the Archos keyboard layouts. It has hundreds built in. I just hadn't found them yet.

  10. A bit of both Ken, instinct to see a shot... but then the "darkroom" instinct takes over... only nowdays it doesn't involve chemicals!! So a methodical approach to the final image... and I often take a picture wider than the shot I see... that allows me to crop to the picture I saw without getting lens edge aberation involved.

    And I've sold many prints of my pictures... so I must ring some peoples bells!!

  11. I have a love/hate affair with Darty. They always have too many things I NEED to buy even though I don't!

  12. I'm back at the very beginning...Shades of Grey. Any other meaning there - like a number?
    The black and white are stark, realistic, good reminders that we are stuck in winter!
    The sun did peak out barely, for a brief moment earlier, today!
    My daughter has a tablet that I've used a few times - I find the onscreen keypad very hard to get accustomed to.
    Hope it keeps you busy during these grey days, Ken!

  13. I'm enjoying all these black and white photos and am interesting in your tablet with any keyboard you want- what a cool idea!


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