Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ships And Machine Guns

Took a 2 hour cruise on the Mississippi today, oboard a steam-powered paddlewheel.

Coast Guard on the job. Keep it up! 

I'm kinda fascinated by modern lifeboats. 

Cruise ship loading. 

Did you know that you can Google a ship's name and instantly know all about it? I was pointing to vessels we were passing and telling people how long they'd been docked, what they were carrying, tonnage, etc. 

If you're ever in New Orleans I recommend taking The Natchez. 

We knew we wanted to take the boat but it came together last-minute so I had the "wrong" camera with me, but these pics turned out fine. Might be the first time I've blogged color photos from the F828 instead of the usual infrared black & whites. 

On the subject of Tasty Treats: A bunch of us hit a scuzzy little dump just off Bourbon St. for Po' Boys. Mine was fried chicken, while the others went with catfish and shrimp. 
It's hard to make a bad chicken sandwich--I don't even mind McDonald's--so it's not like my standards are all that high... 
But the one I ate tonight was the best I've ever had by far. 
And it was so big I really wanted to save half for later, but couldn't bring myself to stop eating until it was gone. 

The first bite got stuck somehow, and it took a few minutes before I was able to get it to go down. Instead of worrying about almost choking to death I just got mad about having to wait on that second bite. 

Is that a good review, or what? 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

New Orleans

Two views from the roof of our hotel, pointing towards then away from the Mississippi River:


I just ate a big plate of red beans and rice that had a piece of the very best smoked sausage I've ever tasted in my life. 

Friday, June 20, 2014


This week I built a birdfeeder using crap I had around the house--a scrap of fence board, mason jar, florist wire, and a thin sheet of bamboo Ken and I had bandsawed off a cutlery organizer that was a little too long for it's drawer.

I was instantly disappointed by the photos I could get from inside the house, through the patio window. The birds won't come if you're sitting outside, and it's too hot and boring anyway.  And even a 1/1000 shutter won't freeze bird-motion well at all, so you're stuck with catching them sitting and eating. 

Luckily the plan all along was to get tricky and game those birds: 


I need to update this post tomorrow with a photo of my setup and some of the shots without flash.

What I did is put my main flash (Sunpak 383-Super) on a stand on the patio, about 6 feet from the feeder. It fires when the camera's shutter opens, triggered by wireless radio transmitter/receiver. That flash sets off two smaller ones mounted a few inches in front of and below it via their optical sensors. I'm trying to overpower the sun to a currently unknown amount.
The camera is on a tripod about 4 feet closer to the house, and I take the picture from indoors using an infrared remote aimed thru the curtains. Focus is already set manually to cover a zone around the feeder.
Exposure is also set manually to knock down the background levels a stop or two.

Since flashes pulse MUCH faster than typical shutter speeds, they freeze motion more better. Also, lighting something intentionally gives you control over many aspects of how the camera "sees". It's different for sure, and looks cool right out of the camera.

The finch pics were done yesterday, and kept me interested.

This dove shot was from today, and I scrapped the pair of slave flashes 'cuz I didn't need as much light as I thought because of the short distance, and the response delay inherent in optical triggers was giving me a longer duration of flash, although I can't tell if it helps yet.  

I didn't put the feeder and camera stuff outside until 4pm, and that may be responsible for a light turnout. Word hadn't spread that there was a free buffet in our backyard.
We've been getting a nice cardinal couple, and the finch has a wife, too.
Sparrows are like soccer fans--one of them will get on the feeder and sweep a bunch of seed into the grass so his 5 buddies can peck for it.
The woodpecker is a jerk.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

"First" Rides

This Polaroid is a rare shot of my first car, a 1977 Chevy Monte Carlo my  mom bought for me at the end of my senior year 1980 for $3750.
My brother took WAY too long choosing his first car a few years earlier, and mom got fed up. He ended up getting stuck with a Dodge Dart that wasn't bad but also wasn't cool. 
Ever the clever boy, I made up my mind to be quick.
We found the Monte at the 2nd lot on the first day, and I wanted it badly.
It was about $1000 over budget but the prospect of being done car shopping in the first hour instead of the first month was worth the price so I got the car and brownie points, too.

Yes, spoked rims and yellow pinstripes, we thought it was kinda pimp.
Turns out moreso than we thought.
The first time I drove it in downtown Albany NY was interesting. People would see the car, walk closer to the curb and wave. Until they got a look at me.
The body language was easy to read:
"What's that white boy doing drivin' Leroy's car? Sheeit!"

I turned the tires around so it had raised white letters instead of stripes--Goodyear Eagle 70-series by the way. Put it a good stereo. Flipped over the air cleaner lid so it could suck wind from all sides. This car could light up the tires at will, and had a ton of room inside for guitars and amps, friends, roadtrips, and drive-in movie fun. Very reliable, too.

This is right after I moved to Texas--still had the parking sticker from the State University Of New York/ Albany. 
And because this was the early '80s when we all drove around while drinking beer--legally, until you got wasted--I put the bumper sticker on it to seem like a more upstanding citizen. 


I took this picture of Ken in 1987.
Had just taken him to the Harley dealer to pick up his brand new Sportster.
He'd hit too many snags in the restoration of his 1972 Triumph Bonneville and I had suggested just getting the HD so he could ride again and worry about the Triumph later.
He never did finish it.
And the Sportster was never as clean as it is in this photo again.

Just found this pic while going through Ken's mountain of stuff.
It's a bittersweet memory for me because he was riding this bike that I talked him into buying when he died, but he also got over 25 years of pleasure from it and sure does look happy.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Spurs Mascot Fun

Here in San Antonio we love the Spurs and their mascot, the Coyote.
The original was amazing, and after he suffered a stroke and couldn't carry on his understudy has grown into the job so well you wouldn't know the difference.

The last game we went to was vs my cousin's home team the Memphis Grizzlies, game # 77 of 82 in the regular season. That night the first 10,000 people through the gate received a Coyote Bobblehead!

Here's the pic I took in the stands and posted to Facebook right before tipoff:
Five of us went to the game (Spurs won) and 6 coyotes came home. Somebody didn't want to keep theirs and left it unattended for long enough that our friend snagged it. Is the box empty? Do we need to call security of the homeland variety? Is this a test of honesty? What would an American in the 1990s do?

The deal announced during a break in the game was that free lower-level tickets to an upcoming game would be awarded to the best photo tagged #coyotebobblehead on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Well hell, I was all over that idea.
Within a couple of days we were in Austin and I had brought a mascot.

After the capitol we hit an Irish pub on 6th Street for a few hours:
After getting home I kept having fun with the coyote under the self-imposed limitation of only taking pictures with my phone:

Amazing what you can do using LED flashlights and a tripod with a DIY smartphone mount.

But my photos never showed up in the pool of contest contenders, so either they didn't add FB entries for some reason or there was a very short time window to get them in. Almost every entry I saw was weak in concept and especially execution.

Oh well, no free tickets but at least I had fun trying.

It's not really a bobblehead anyway.
When you flick the head it goes "Boing-ing-ing-ing-ing" and that's about it.
A real bobblehead has a balancing act going on between the weight of the head and the action of the spring it's mounted upon that sucks you in and takes way more than 2 seconds to finish.
Slow and hypnotic, random and magical.

Much like Spurs basketball when they are playing the way they do when we win.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

My Father's Air Force ring, from 1955. 
It wouldn't fit Ken so I wore it as a teen. Then I lost it, which made me feel like the worst son in history. Luckily I had a very special cat named Morris who adored me, and he found it. 
(Biggest cat I've ever seen, too. He ended up moving to Texas while I stayed in New York and eventually lost a fight with a coyote). 

Today (Sunday) started weird, yet fitting. 
The very top item on my Facebook news feed this morning was this: 

Seems a friend of one of my cousins lives in Maryland and went to Arlington National Cemetery this weekend. I'm guessing my cousin requested an extra mission to find and photograph my dad's marker so we could all see it. 
A couple years after the ceremony in late 2004 I stumbled across a pic of the stone online, but these are much better. Especially with all the little flags for Memorial Day. 

Went through a bunch of documents last night, and noticed a few things. 
Such as: what are the odds that 3 of the six men onboard my dad's AC-47 had the middle name Eugene? 
One of the other 3 was NMI, which raises the "Gene Pool" to 60%. 

Our prayers go out to all those lost while serving this great country, and their survivors.