kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
As a Florida native, I'm probably jaded about these things. The talking heads on tv always roll up their sleeves and look serious and advise barely-restrained panic, because of course they don't want to get the blame if things turn out worse than expected. Then we get some rain, maybe a gust or two, and everybody shrugs and says gee, was that it? So while Matthew will very likely make for some rough stuff on the coast over the next couple days, my feeling right now is that those of us a bit further inland will see plenty of rain but not much else. Probably a blustery day for sure, maybe even some tropical-storm-force gusts, but nothing sustained and certainly nothing like a category-4 hurricane. But the panic is certainly out there; the wife went to the grocery store this morning (for our regular stuff, mainly) and said it was rather busier than usual for a weekday morning, and the canned-goods section was pretty picked-over. Not surprising, really. Schools will probably be closed tomorrow and Friday, which means the girls' homeschool-enrichment dealio will be cancelled Friday as well. If it's an especially ugly day, I suppose I could beg off work myself on the grounds that driving is dangerous. But I live 3 miles away, so I doubt it will be necessary, really.

Of course, now the latest forecast models are starting to indicate Matthew will make a loop and swing west towards FL again next week. Not to mention Tropical Storm Nicole, also swirling and looping around out there. So it might be an interesting week indeed!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
For those of you who expressed interest in my experience with Canon Price Watch, here's your quick follow-up: Big Thumbs Up. The 7D2 arrived yesterday, a day ahead of when I was expecting it (and, I hasten to add, a day sooner than even Amazon said they could get it to me--and this from Canada!), and is indeed the real McCoy. New in box with all included accessories, Canon warranty cards, and though I only had time to configure a few settings and fire off a few indoor test shots, it seems to work just fine. I didn't actually try the battery grip yet, but it's impressive too: I bought relatively cheap aftermarket grips for my other dSLRs, and there's a definite look-and-feel quality difference in the genuine Canon grip (which makes sense given the price difference).

ETA: Just to be sure, I found a little application which grabs the shutter count from Canon dSLRs to verify the 7D2 was truly brand new, and it checked out. Around 99,500 actuations on my trusty old 7D, which sounds about right. It's rated for 150k (the Mk II is rated for 200k), so it should be good as a backup for some time.

So anyway, definitely give CPW a try if you're in the market for Canon gear (looks like they offer deals on some third-party lenses as well). I'm a believer!

Now back to hunkering down for this oncoming storm. But more about that in a bit.

Hiya LJ!

Oct. 3rd, 2016 04:29 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

I dunno, I don't really want to bore you with my photos from NYC, mainly because I'm not especially happy with them. I can't even really say why, but they feel more like snapshots than usual. Out of practice, perhaps. But it was a nice day in the city. The above is from the Empire State Building's observation deck, which I visited a little before sunset, which was nice. It was packed up there, though. Like whoa. Central Park was pretty similar, which isn't surprising since it was such a gorgeous day. I think the high temperature was right around 70F, which was a very refreshing change after a summer in the mid-90s down here.

Anyway, the quick recap: Flew into LaGuardia on a smooth red-eye flight, and caught a Lyft (my first!) to Penn Station in Manhattan. Stowed my luggage there and set off on foot. Visited Herald Square, Bryant Park, the library (closed, unfortunately), Times Square, popped in for a quick peek at St. Patrick's (it was Sunday so a service was underway). Then to Central Park (did I mention it was packed?), where I walked for a bit. Caught a cab over to the west side for the Intrepid Museum, which was pretty decent. Then another Lyft to the ESB before walking back over to Penn Station to catch my train to Connecticut.

Actually, one more photo:

Exciting, right? It's a hunk of iron stuck in a rock! But I was thrilled to find it. You see, in the early days of New York City, the now well-known notion of the (mostly) orthogonal and evenly-spaced grid of streets and avenues in Manhattan was a new idea. And urban parks were rare, so Central Park had no place in the original plan. Starting in 1811, a man named John Randel (the same man who designed the grid layout in the first place) began the process of marking where each intersection would be, by means of iron rods or marble monuments. Most of those markers were of course removed as the streets were built, and others disappeared to the ravages of time and humanity. But a few remain, especially in places where streets were planned but never built. And this one is there in Central Park, marking the never-built intersection of 6th Avenue and 65th Street. It's actually pretty much right out in the open, surely passed within feet by many thousands of people every year. But I'd wager hardly any of them ever notice it, let alone have any idea what it is. So I thought that was pretty special, to seek out and find this little piece of history, a simple iron rod set in its place two centuries ago and left to watch as one of the world's greatest cities sprang up all around it.

The visit to Stamford was pretty okay. It was nice to actually meet the people I've been working with by phone and e-mail for the past couple months. And we covered a lot of stuff, but not the most top-of-mind thing, which is how our organization will actually look when all is said and done. I think my Presumptive New Boss (PNB) really thought it would be settled by the time we got together, but no such luck. Maybe within the next few weeks. It's certainly 99.9% obvious that I'm destined for his team, but exactly what form that will take seems a little less clear. And some of it may depend on whether I'm willing to relocate to CT, which frankly I'm not. Even if finances didn't constrain us to our house here, it's not an area we'd really choose to move to, and it's not like this is my dream job that I'd chase anywhere. So I'm planning to stick around here, and if that means the job and I eventually part ways, I guess we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

In other news, we got the information on the pension payout, and... underwhelming is putting it mildly. I don't know what math they used to calculate it, but it was a lot less than I was minimally expecting, and FAR less than I was hoping. So refinancing the house is basically a non-starter. We can at least pay off the cars and some other small things, which will put some money back in the budget each month. And there will be some left over, which can go to trips and whatnot. Bottom line, it still beats a kick in the nuts, that's for sure. But I can't help but be disappointed that it wasn't the game-changer I was hoping for.

Speaking of whatnot, I did get permission to use some to get myself a new camera. My venerable 7D has exhibited a couple of concerning symptoms recently, which made me realize the thing is very nearly 5 years old. And as much as I use it, that's gotta put the shutter at or over its expected lifespan. So I found a great deal* on a 7D Mark II--I figure I may as well stick with the crop sensor since for most of the work I do it's a benefit, and the shooting speed is crucial for my HDR predilections. Hopefully the high-ISO performance is improved, and I think it adds some other nice upgrades as well. That should arrive in a couple days, something to look forward to. And good timing, as I have a photoshoot this weekend with a family I work with every year. I'll bring the old camera as backup, just in case. :)

There's probably more, but that's plenty for now. I hope your week is off to a fine start!

* Photographer friends, let me throw out a tentative plug here for Canon Price Watch. I was planning to just snag a 7D2 body at Best Buy since I have their credit card and they do no-interest financing, plus it was on Canon instant rebate for $1499 ($300 off the usual price). But none of the stores nearest to me had it in stock, so I Googled and came across CPW, which mentioned a deal on the body PLUS the genuine Canon battery grip for $1349 total. The battery grip alone retails for $200, so yeah, that's a great deal. CPW seemed a bit shady, somehow, at first--on the CPW site you submit your name and e-mail address, then they e-mail you with a few potential deals on the product you're after. You reply with which deal you want, along with your name and address, and only then do they actually e-mail you the info on which store you're dealing with, and a link to the deal you selected. In my case, it turned out to be a camera dealer out of Ontario. But hey, no sales tax, free shipping, and I figured if it was a scam I'd just reverse the charge, right? So I bit, and got the shipping notice from Canada Post within just a few hours. That was Friday afternoon, and the camera should arrive Wednesday, which was actually the best Amazon Prime said they could do anyway. If it's truly new-in-box product with a valid Canon warranty and all that, I will be a CPW customer from now on, no question. I still want a Canon 100-400mm, after all. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So the in-laws were in town for the past few days. It was pretty good, really. They stayed with us, but that worked better than I expected, and they're pretty decent for in-laws so we mostly enjoyed their company. There was something of a ground rule that political discussion was off-limits; they're both big Trump supporters, and as you can imagine I find that pretty awful. But at least I kinda loathe Hillary too, so at least we have that in common, right? Anyway.

For their whole visit we were driving around in the minivan, since they didn't get a rental and it can hold all 7 of us. But when the time came to take them to the airport yesterday, the wife had to take Hermione to her weekly band practice, so it fell to me and my car to be the airport taxi. So we load up and set off, only to find that the air conditioning isn't working. And I don't just mean it wasn't blowing cold air, I mean it was actually blowing HOT air, as if the temperature dial were stuck on the highest setting. Whatever mode I tried--whatever vent, whatever temperature, A/C compressor on or off, outside or recirculated--same thing, HOT air coming out. So eventually we gave up and shut it off completely, and rode with all the windows down, but since it was 92F outside that really didn't help a whole lot and it was a pretty miserable ride. It was like that on the way home, too. And ironically, I was just thinking the other day about how this car really hadn't ever given me the first bit of trouble.

I gave it a while to cool down and looked up some possibilities on the Interwebz, and some people said maybe it's the electronics, so disconnect/reconnect the battery to reset everything. So I gave that a try and it did work, but then later when I pulled the car into the garage it wasn't working again. But today so far, on my morning commute and then a trip out to grab something for lunch, it's been fine. So I've concluded that the problem must have been THEM. After months of sporting a Bernie sticker on the rear window (which I finally did remove--it felt like it was time, him being out of the race and out of the spotlight these days), I think it rubbed off on the car and it just couldn't tolerate carrying a load of Trump fans. It's the only explanation.

Nah, actually I figure it will act up again eventually and I'll have to take it somewhere, which I am frankly dreading. A/C is an absolute necessity in these parts, no matter what time of year it is. So there we are. But if it can at least keep working until it's not in the upper 80s and low 90s every day, that would be swell.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Oh, and let me share this for those of you who might enjoy it too. :)

I've been a DJ Shadow fan for years, ever since a guy I worked with in the early aughts turned me on to him. This song is from his latest album, and I loved it as soon as I heard it. The video just came out a few weeks ago, and ever since then I typically give it a spin at least once a day, it's just so.. yeah. At the office I particularly like the line, "I don't work for free, I am barely giving a f--k away."

Oh, NSFW language, obviously. And if you just hate hip-hop/rap, probably not for you either. Though the video really is awesome. :)

kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I took Hermione and Amy to Magic Kingdom this past Monday. Hallie didn't come because she's not a roller coaster fan (yet, anyway) and we were planning to ride a couple. Space Mountain (Amy's first time on that one), and I finally scored Fast Passes for the (relatively) new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. It was all of our first time on that one, because I never see available FPs for it, and the standby lines are almost always 60-120 minutes when we go. And we live here, so we're damned if we'll wait that long for anything! Anyway, I was worried how Amy would do on Space Mountain since it's dark and all, but she'd done Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom with me a few weeks ago and loved it, even though it had more dark parts than I remembered. So no worries, her first words when we pulled into the unload station at SM were, "Can we do it again?" Heh. And then we all loved the Mine Train--that may be the smoothest coaster I've ever experienced, very nice indeed. Other than that we did Peter Pan, the Haunted Mansion, and the Mad Hatter's Tea Party to kill time between FPs. I must say, it's kinda nice to be able to pre-book rides with the FP+ system these days. Even so, I suspect when our passes expire next year we may be done with the Disney parks, at least for a while. I tend to get a pass because I occasionally book photo sessions at the parks and it pays for the pass, but as a family I think the girls are starting to grow out of it, and/or just generally be Disney'd out. Yes, it's possible. :) So maybe we'll go for Universal passes next year, unless I hear we're still doing our company event out there. I rather expect not in the post-merger world, but who knows?

What else.. the wife's parents are coming for a visit. They get in Saturday evening, and leave on Wednesday. I'm taking Tuesday and Wednesday off, though I don't think we really have much planned. They're both Trump supporters, so let's just say it should be interesting. I think politics will be off the table as a topic of discussion.

Thinking about my day in NYC coming up in a few weeks! I haven't really planned too much out since it's just one day--I may end up just seeing where my feet take me. Central Park is the one place I know I really want to spend some time, that's really an incredible place in my mind. I hope to find some of the nooks and crannies and historic bits that most people don't see. Other than that, I think maybe the Empire State Building since the girls and I didn't make it there. Perhaps a little time in one or two of the museums around Central Park. I could do the Intrepid Air & Space Museum, I think I get in there free which is nice. We'll see what happens, I guess!

And then we've more or less decided to take a trip in early November, a drive up to northern Georgia to spend a few days in a cabin and do lots of hiking. I've found some really nice cabins in the area where we plan to stay, now I have to pick one! A number of them have pool tables, which is a big attraction for me. When I was a kid our neighbor had a nice pool table, and I'd go over there to play all the time. And then eventually he gave it to me, so we moved it over to our house. But once I moved out it was all apartments for a while, and I wasn't going to haul around a huge slate pool table even if I had room for it, so that was that. Anyway, I never get to play anymore and I'd love to see how the girls take to it so I like the idea of getting a cabin with one! Just need to talk the wife into splurging a few more bucks for that, but I think that will be easy enough, especially if and when the pension payout info comes. Which I hope will be soon!

Okay, enough babbling for now. Almost time to call it a day. I hope you're all doing well out there in LJ-Land!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
You know, I never thought I'd rue the fact that my vote, for better or worse, counts more in Presidential elections than do those of most Americans. My home state of Florida is the largest of the swing states, and I also live right in the middle of the so-called I-4 Corridor, the region of the state that basically determines which way we swing. I'm sure you remember the 2000 "hanging chads" fiasco that eventually brought us George W. Bush as POTUS. My vote is going to matter.

And yet, as I'm sure most of you know and perhaps agree, I just can't fathom or stomach voting for either of the major-party candidates this year. Trump for all the obvious reasons, of course. Even if he had a cogent platform (and he most certainly does not), he has zero business around any of the levers of government. Clinton, on the other hand, is perfectly suited to be President, and I do not at all mean that as a compliment. She's sneaky, shady, corrupt, corrupting and corruptible. While we might get some incremental progress under her, and while she won't completely blow up the Supreme Court like Trump probably would, I expect that she'd make everything that truly matters worse. We'd go the wrong way on fixing the influence of money on politics, because that's the system she knows and exploits and has long benefited from. We'd go the wrong way on world peace, because she's never met an armed intervention she didn't like. We'd go the wrong way on global warming (though perhaps not as badly as under a denier like Trump) because she'd allow the fossil fuel interests to influence things. We'd go the wrong way economically because she'd allow the banks and other big corporations to continue putting their short-term profits ahead of the interests of their employees and consumers, and ahead of the interests of the nation and the planet.

Aside from the headlines and video clips and pundits I enjoy/respect, I've more or less tuned out of the election. Campaign pablum and pandering are what they are, and this election especially is all sizzle and no steak. It is frankly remarkable what a sporting event, a contest of personalities, this race has been and will continue to be. It's a race from one gaffe or rumor or pseudo-scandal to the next. There's hardly any actual substance, and what little there is can hardly be trusted. On the right because Trump says something different (and/or ridiculous, and/or offensive) every time he opens his mouth, and on the left because when Clinton isn't keeping herself isolated from the press, she's spouting her usual generalized and focus-grouped platitudes that ultimately mean nothing, and which I expect would be discarded like the garbage she thinks it is when she takes office.

It's just so sad, so dismaying, that these are our choices. Sadder still when you consider that Trump is where he is because the will of the voters--albeit primarily the racist, xenophobic, bigoted voters--overcame the party establishment, while Clinton is where she is because the party establishment was able to subvert progressive voters. My inclination all along has been to vote for neither: either write in Bernie, cast a third-party vote (though I don't really care for Stein and Johnson is right out for me), or simply not cast a vote for the top office. But I keep going back to the fact that my area and my vote are going to be pretty crucial in determining who wins. And while I despise Clinton, obviously I can't even imagine handing the White House to Trump. So I don't know. Depending on how polls look (and how sad is it that Clinton isn't already wiping the floor with Trump in polls?) I may feel compelled to cast an anti-Trump vote for Clinton.

And then go take a shower, of course.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Popping back in since I know a number of my friends here are gamers. Did any of you pull the trigger on No Man's Sky, PC version in particular?

I admit, I was a bit intrigued by the hype. NMS seems like such a cool concept with vast potential, and to me the visuals look nifty. My own expectations were probably toned down a bit--I don't care about online multiplayer, the lack of which seemed to offend a lot of people, and I would be fine with a more chilled-out and peaceful exploration experience than endless survival/crafting and constant combat. It seemed like something the girls would enjoy, too. But after watching videos and early gameplay footage and reading endless comments and reviews, I'm holding off on it for now. There are clearly issues and deficits in the game, and it appears that as it stands right now it should have an indie-game price rather than the full AAA retail. So I'll wait until it drops to that range, and/or Hello Games comes out with some serious fixes (a lot of complaints from PC players seem to be that the PC version is clearly a console port and lacks many PC niceties like hotkeys, not to mention graphic and optimization issues) and feature adds (like the promised base-building element).

But I was nonetheless curious, did any of you guys and gals jump on it? Any thoughts either way?
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I dunno, LJ. I check in on my flist every day or two, but I never seem to find that much worth contributing lately, either by way of comment or entries of my own. I wonder if I'm not sort of winding down my time here, as many others before me have done. That sounds more melodramatic than I mean it to. But I do still like the idea of having my LJ history as a window into the past, so I suppose I should make at least the occasional post here so future me has more of past me to revisit. So long as LJ itself sticks around, anyway!

So let's see, what's happening lately? I guess I'll start with the work situation, since that's where I sit presently. As I may have already mentioned, the merger that was potentially looming in the future for the past year or two is now in the rearview mirror as a done deal, and change is afoot. Some folks are already gone, some already find themselves reporting to new bosses, even if they don't have new duties. I'm neither of those, or at least not yet. But it seems like I'm going to fall out somewhere closer to my old gig than my most recent one, which is frankly a relief and a Good Thing. The role my boss tried to slot me into for the past year wasn't an ideal fit for me, and didn't actually consist of much. So while having an extremely light year in terms of workload has been nice, it also never made me feel like much of a contributor, and therefore made me feel a bit insecure. We pay that guy how much, and to do what?! So it will be nice if I land in a new role which is more in my comfort zone, and where I feel like I can be more valuable. Whether I also get a new boss or not, I dunno. But that's okay, I certainly don't mind my present boss. If I do get a new boss, it might be nice if they're based at the company HQ in Connecticut, and I have to go visit them there now and then. I wouldn't mind that at all! Still waiting to hear about other changes like benefits, and what our options will be for the old company's pension plan. Some people have been kicking around calculators and it could be a nice chunk of money.

At home, things are mostly business-as-usual. We homeschool, as you probably know, so summer vacation isn't necessarily a thing for us. But Heather usually does take a break from most of their schoolwork over the summer, and we let the girls each pick a summer-camp type thing to go to.

Hallie's was last week--she went to a camp at a horse-riding school in the area, since she's the one who seems to have gotten the horse bug. :) She loved it, of course. We'll probably let her go back there for a lesson now and then. Hermione's camp is this week, she's doing a YMCA one, which is basically what you think of when you hear 'summer camp', though she's not spending the nights there. She's been having a blast too, though yesterday she skipped it because she wasn't feeling so good--maybe 3 days out in the heat (and it has been HOT this week) wore her down, or she caught a summer cold or something. She's there today for the last day, hopefully she's feeling okay and having fun. Later in the summer is Amy's turn, she's doing the camp her gymnastics class offers, so she should have fun at that one.

Speaking of Amy, did I mention that she and I started taking karate classes? I think I did say I'd started taking her, but I joined in myself after watching for a few weeks. :) It's been a lot of fun, and a great weekly workout for me. Plus I'm really enjoying learning it, of course. I was always drawn to aikido personally, but that just never worked out in terms of finding a class at a time and place (and price!) that we liked. So this is far better than nothing, and the teachers we've worked with are good folks. I can't say Amy's really picking it up, mainly because I need to get her to practice with me more at home. But she does try to follow along in class, and she has fun and burns off energy, which is the important thing at her age.

I guess I should mention the Pulse shooting. Just awful. Unspeakable. The evil of some people, and our insistence as a nation on making it so easy for everyone who wants the machinery of mass murder to acquire it, and with less scrutiny than you need to buy a damn package of Sudafed. It infuriated me. And still does. I went to bed Saturday night in the Happiest Place on Earth, and woke up in the city now associated with the worst gun massacre in American history. So far, anyway. But talking about all that is what my Facebook is for, and I sure did, probably until most people following me there were beyond sick of it. But that's the whole problem, isn't it? A massacre happens, we get outraged and talk about it for a few days until we're all sick of it, and then we stop. Until the next massacre, anyway. And there always is the next massacre. Anyway.

It certainly was a rough weekend for Orlando. Before the massacre we had the shooting of Christina Grimmie, who I can't say I'd ever heard of. But still, she died and didn't deserve to die, just another instance of someone off their rocker--in this case an obsessed and demented fan--who shouldn't have owned a gun but did, and decided it would be swell to use it. And then after the massacre there was the toddler killed by an alligator at Disney World, which is just horrible. That it should happen to anyone is awful, but a family here to enjoy a joyful vacation? At freaking Walt Disney World, of all places? Somehow that all makes it that much worse. I'm at least glad to see that unlike the Cincinnati Zoo incident, people don't seem to be blaming the parents. Yes, there were No Swimming signs, but wading isn't swimming in my book, especially if the area in question is a sandy beach, next to a hotel, which extends out into the water. They had no reason to suspect that sort of danger--I'd wager most Floridians wouldn't, and we're aware gators are around, so why should a family from freaking Nebraska?--and I'm sure for many thousands of people in that exact same spot over the last however-many years it wasn't a dangerous place or activity. This time it turned out to be dangerous, and tragically so. Sad, to say the least.

Now it's Friday, and I'm just running out the clock until I can go home. Or actually, before I can go pick Hermione up from camp before heading home. And not much going on today. So here, have some photos, too. Or maybe a whole bunch of photos, now that I take a look!

Hermione's band had a little performance at a homeschooling convention at the Gaylord Palms, so we all went to that. It was probably more trouble than it was worth, but it was nice to walk around there.

Clicky for more! )
And whew, I guess that's all for this episode. Thanks for reading!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

A batch of photos from the concert I went to last week, and some other stuff too.

Clicky! )
Okay, that's all for now. Hope your week is going well!


May. 18th, 2016 01:55 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

On the plus side, I went to a neat new (to me) park on the way home from St. Petersburg yesterday. It's called Edward Medard Park, a little outside of Plant City, and the highlight is an area called the Sacred Hills: Southern live oak trees growing in sandy hills, which have eroded over time and left a lot of the trees' root structures exposed. It was pretty amazing, and I'll have to take the girls there sometime. They love climbing hills and trees, so they'd be in heaven here. But it was already super hot there, so it'll have to wait until cooler weather comes back. Hopefully I'll remember it when that time comes!

So today is the day my employer officially gets subsumed into what is now the 2nd-largest cable company in the US. So I expect the news and changes will start coming down soon. There's already been some--last week we had to register for our e-mail address and intranet account for the new company, and yesterday they told us about some payroll changes. I think I mentioned the pension thing, right? Hm, maybe I didn't. My company has always offered both a matched 401(k) retirement plan as well as a pension plan, which is pretty awesome since it's a rarity these days. So of course with the merger looming, a few weeks ago we got word that they were freezing the pension and would give us some options about what to do with the funds at some point in the future. So that part is interesting, since there could be a lump-sum payout option which might be nice. But I just love the logic: Here's something that makes us exceptional as an employer, and we can't have that so we're pulling the plug. Yay capitalism, indeed. Probably a sign of things to come. I am mostly concerned about whether our (quite generous) management bonus program will also go the way of the dodo.

And we're also waiting to hear about inevitable organizational changes. Right now my boss is in charge of several different but sorta-interconnected parts of the business, and he fully expects that will not be the case as we get more absorbed into the larger company. So I could very well end up with a new boss at some point in the not-too-distant future. And maybe a new role too, who knows. Which might be kinda nice, since right now I feel way underutilized and it makes me feel a little guilty and worried. Picture the scene in Office Space: What would you say you DO here?

In other news, this past Sunday we decided to head down to Downtown Disney--er, I mean Disney Springs--because Heather had read that the second parking garage had opened last week. And that's cool because our main reason for going there is the LEGO store, which is a lot closer to the second garage. So we got there and headed for that.. and found that the garage was closed! So we looped around to the first garage instead, and when we came out of that we discovered that it was the opening day for a whole new section of Disney Springs: the Town Center and the titular fake springs themselves. Since the second garage feeds people right into the middle of the Town Center, they were waiting to open it up until they were done with the ribbon-cutting festivities and whatnot. Anyway, we walked through there and were fairly impressed. The fake springs are quite something, for one thing:

And the selection of new stores was impressive. Though they're mainly high-end clothing and accessory stores, things like Sephora and Vera Bradley and Ugg, which we could care less about. Just another step in the direction of Disney catering mainly to the wealthy and pricing out everyone else, really. Still, neat to (accidentally) be there on opening day to see the new area.

In other news, I've been sickly AGAIN. Feels like I've been sick most of this year so far, if you count allergies (and I certainly do). This time it was another cold type bug, left me feeling puny for a day or two. I feel mostly better, but it's going on two weeks of blowing my nose and clearing my throat and coughing, which is surely as fun for everyone around me as it is for me personally. :)

Anyway. I think that's about it for now, not too much else exciting going on. This evening, if the forecasted thunderstorms don't get in the way, I'm planning to take the girls to the Magic Kingdom for a last hurrah before the summer blackout period kicks in.

Hope everyone out there is doing well!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Hm, that title sounds kind of ominous. It implies there's something going on. But really? Nah, same stuff, different day. Some highlights lately:

I had 3 photoshoots in 8 days last week! And all repeat business, which was kinda nice. I did a maternity shoot out at the Polynesian for a couple I know (we used to work together and I shot their wedding a year or two back). Then a Massachusetts family I shot out at WDW a couple years ago were back down for a cruise, and we met out at Cocoa Beach last weekend before they set sail. And then last Monday, a family I'd shot twice before hit me up for Round 3--EPCOT this time. Pretty nice weather for all, thankfully, though the beach was ├╝ber-windy. We made the best of it, anyway. I have the first two sets all done, just need to plow through editing the last one and I'll be all caught up. Then I have another maternity shoot in early May, and a family down on vacation later in the month. And whenever the aforementioned couple's new baby arrives I'll be doing a newborn session with them. Keeping busy, kinda nice! The extra money is certainly helpful, and has already paid for some new toys. Observe:

Cut for those who don't care! )
In other musical news, I've been playing more--practicing more, I should say. Trying to polish up some areas of my playing that I've always neglected, while also trying to cram more musical theory knowledge into my aging brain, especially as it pertains to the guitar. Helps to know the rules before you trash them, right?

Oh, and one more recent purchase with my gig money: I'd been wanting a new tablet, since my aging first-gen Nexus 7 was getting more and more clunky. Given my musical aspirations I wanted one that could serve as a mobile music-making platform, so I decided to go to the dark side and get an Apple. I prefer the smaller form factor for tablets, so I decided on an iPad Mini, and had just about talked myself into going for a refurbed Mini 2 for $250 when I got an e-mail from Best Buy that they had new ones on sale for $200. Nice! So I grabbed one of those Friday, and spent a little time over the weekend setting it up. So far I really like it. Performance is snappy, screen is a good size and looks amazing, battery life seems quite good. My only real complaint so far is that a couple apps I have and use on my iPhone aren't available in iPad versions, for no good reason I can see. But there are workarounds and alternatives, so I guess that's not too terrible.

Now to actually indulge my creative side more often. And stay off of Facebook more, I've been getting unduly annoyed by stupid people on there lately, especially with this whole bathroom-bill fiasco. Win-win if I skip FB and go to tinkering with music instead. :)

Otherwise.. Work is work, though we got a treat Friday in the form of a fun team event, bowling at Downtown Disney. I hadn't been bowling for a few years--I should do that more often, it is fun. I should take the girls sometime too, see if they take to it.

Speaking of the girls, I started taking Amy to a karate class we found at a neighborhood rec center not too far from home. She likes it, and I think I might start doing it with her. That should be fun. I'm waiting for the instructor to send me the e-mail he promised, and I'll ask him if I could join in too. I'll look silly doing it, of course, but it's been on my wanna-do list for ages and would be good for me.

This past weekend we didn't roam too far from home. Saturday we headed out to a park or two up towards Sanford, and yesterday Heather had to take Hermione to a concert at a church for the morning. After that we went for a hike in the woods and found a geocache, something else I've been meaning to get back into. That reminds me, I need to log that find.

Okay, better get some work done today, even if it's just submitting an expense report for my work-related road trips last week. Hope everyone is having a fine day!


Apr. 13th, 2016 04:25 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Huh. Just got an e-mail from LEGO that dropped my jaw a bit. A few weeks back I visited Wal-Mart to check for clearance LEGO sets, and found a couple at prices I couldn't resist. One of them, the box was pretty beat up and looked like it had been resealed, but for the price I couldn't resist--it was normally a $50 set and I got it for under $10. But when I recently went to build it, I discovered that an entire bag of parts was missing. I figured oh well, at least I didn't pay much for the set, right? But I also figured what the hell, let me e-mail LEGO and see how much it would be to replace that bag, maybe it would still be a decent deal for the set. I said in my e-mail that it was a clearance set and appeared to have been opened, because I wanted to be clear that I didn't think the missing bag was LEGO's fault, and I asked for the replacement cost of that bag since otherwise you have to order individual pieces on their website, which is tedious and probably overpriced. But the e-mail I just got? They're just shipping me a replacement bag, no questions asked. That's my first time getting in touch with LEGO for anything like that--that's because of something else amazing, their quality control--but wow, not what I expected! Just wanted to give them a thumbs-up. :)

Now, time to go home!


Apr. 13th, 2016 04:15 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Yeah, I really suck at LJ lately, sorry. But hey, have some photos from the last few weeks as a sort of recap of all the stuff I haven't been posting about. Lots of photos here, and maybe a couple snakes. :)

We went to an open-mic night at Hallie's music school. Turned out she was the only instrumentalist at the thing--everyone else was there to sing, either to piano accompaniment or backing tracks. I'd say she was probably the youngest person performing, too. And she just got up and played all by herself, in front of probably 30 people, no problems at all. She amazes me sometimes.

Clicky! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
In which I dissertate upon my musical past, present, and future. Cut because I'm sure it'll be long, and probably boring too. You have been warned! :)
Clicky! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
My morning routine is to shower and dress, then munch a bowl of cereal for breakfast while I sit at my desktop PC and catch up on FB, clear out the junk e-mail, maybe check some news, that sort of thing. I was doing that yesterday, nothing out of the ordinary, when Windows 10 suddenly gives me a Blue Screen of Death talking about CRITICAL_STRUCTURE_CORRUPTION. Yeah, that doesn't sound healthy, right? I try a reboot, and as soon as the boot process hands off to Windows and the loading screen appears, it almost immediately locks up. That's no good. So I try it a couple more times with the same result--occasionally there's text on the screen saying something about Automatic Repair, but that immediately freezes as well. But I've gotta get to work, so I just power it down to deal with when I get back home.

So I get home and set to work. Presuming it might be a failing hard drive with some corrupted Windows files, here at the office I'd downloaded the Win10 setup to a USB drive, so I try booting from that to run a repair.. and it won't boot from the USB. The latest copy of Windows I have on cd is 8.1, but I figure that's better than nothing if I need to reinstall anyway, so I try booting from that instead.. and it won't do that either. Every time, the PC goes through POST, but then as soon as it hands to Windows it freezes. I try some BIOS tweaks, I try the PC's boot menu, nada--it won't boot from the hard drive or anything else. I try getting to Windows' own boot menu to try going into Safe Mode but that won't even come up, and in fact starts giving me errors about disk read/write problems, which again makes me think it's a failing hard drive. That's actually not so bad, since I always dedicate a hard drive (or partition) to the OS, and keep all my data files on other drives so I can always format and reinstall the OS without losing much. But I want to try ruling out everything else before I get into that, so I go so far as to open up the PC, re-seat the RAM, disconnect and reconnect the hard drives, just to make sure everything is solid in there. Try booting up again, and still no dice.

I'm just about to swap out that hard drive with a spare I have lying around and do a fresh install, but before I do that I do one more search online for suggestions on PCs that freeze at boot. And I come across a forum post somewhere, guy says his PC wouldn't boot so he unplugged all his USB devices and then it worked. And guess what? I unplug everything USB aside from the mouse and keyboard, and the thing boots right up. Sheesh. So I figure maybe my USB memory card reader locked up somehow, and that was the whole problem. Though I swear I went so far as to turn off the power supply at some point, which should have powered down the USB ports and cleared that problem. But then again, maybe I didn't. So anyway, all that hassle and frustration and it was as simple as unplugging a card reader! Hopefully I'll remember that next time. :)

Jeez, I've been pretty absent in these parts lately. I should do a catch-up post that isn't quite so geeky and boring. Hope you're all well, anyway. :)


Mar. 16th, 2016 10:40 am
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Yesterday was not a great day. I'm not even going to talk about yesterday's round of Presidential primaries and what all that means. I'm not even going to talk about waking up with pinkeye. Again. As always seems to happen this time of year when the oak pollen hits and my allergies flare. Nah, let's talk about the pool.

So it's that time of year when I work on the pool, clean things up, make sure everything is in working order. The girls have already been going in the water, despite the water temperature only being 68F or so. They're crazy. But anyway. Yesterday evening I was working on it, cleared out some leaves, cleaned the salt cell, and replaced the filter. For reference, the filter housing looks like this:

The big nut on top attaches to a steel tie-rod which goes down through the middle and screws into the bottom of the housing to hold everything together. As has been the case the past few times I've opened the thing, the rod came unscrewed at the bottom, when it's just supposed to come unscrewed at the top. Whatever, after taking the top off I just unscrewed the rod there and screwed it back into the base instead, swapped out the filter, and screwed the top back on. Cranked up the pump and all seemed well.

Until a few minutes later, when we suddenly heard a loud pop, and I ran over to find the top had shot off and water was gushing everywhere. Good thing that happened while I was still out there working on the pool and could get it shut off in short order! Anyway, turned out the threads in the base where the tie-rod goes in finally failed, and there's really nothing to do about that except replace the whole thing. So that's ordered. So yay. I guess I'll try to get the old one removed this evening, and then hopefully installing the new one will be easy when it arrives tomorrow. It's the same make and model, so it should be a pretty easy swap. As long as I can do it without messing up the pipes that go in and out of it. I hate plumbing.

The joys of home ownership, especially with a pool. We weren't planning on the extra expense, of course, so we've decided to cancel our road trip for next week. Luckily we weren't committed--I booked hotels that were easy to cancel, and nothing else really obligated us to go. I'll still take the days off work, though--I need to burn a little time anyway, the year going by as quickly as it is. But we'll stay close to home, tackle some projects around the house, maybe take a few day trips to places we've been meaning to check out. Should be fun enough, if not quite the same adventure we were planning. Next time!

Okay, off to lunch. Hope everyone is having a better week than I.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I know, I've been scarce around here. Not much excuse, really. Can't say work has been especially busy! Though I have been spending a decent amount of time researching and planning for our upcoming road trip. We leave a week from Sunday, yikes! We had to juggle things around a little based on my step-sister's schedule, so we're going to drive up to Savannah and spend 2 nights there, then we'll go up through Columbia to Greenville, and spend the night in Spartanburg. Then on to Charlotte, where we'll stay with my sister for a couple nights. And then we're planning to make the drive home in one day with a stop somewhere (probably Columbia) to break it up, though we could decide to stop for a night somewhere along the way if we like, and get home Saturday instead of Friday. Should be a good time, I hope the weather turns out nice for us!

Otherwise, not much to report. Work is work, home is home. This weekend should be fun enough. Saturday morning is our neighborhood's annual Easter thing, a pancake breakfast and then an egg hunt for the kids. We always enjoy that. Sunday is the annual neighborhood festival in College Park where Heather's band always plays--I take the girls and we roam around the craft booths and whatnot while they play, and grab lunch after. Then that afternoon we're expecting storms, looks like, so it sounds like a good time to stay home and relax. I did have an engagement session at EPCOT last weekend which I need to finish editing, good opportunity for that.

And that's about it for now, I think. Hope you're all doing well too!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Yes, I meant to not misspell the word 'burn,' because yesterday I Felt The Bern, today I am indeed Feeling The Burn. Sunburn, that is. Yikes.

So yeah, yesterday I took the afternoon off from work and headed to Kissimmee for a stop on Bernie's pre-primary swing through Florida. The basic recap is this: I am glad I went, of course, but if I'd known exactly what was involved I probably wouldn't have. Hindsight being 20/20, if I'd known it was an all-outdoor event with plenty of space, I'd have shown up a lot later and been a lot more prepared to be out in the sun. But as it was, I took literally the phrase 'doors open at noon' (not to mention all the media clips I've see of indoor rallies) and was in line shortly after 11am, only to discover (after waiting in line for some time, of course) that the main event didn't begin until 3pm and the whole thing was taking place outside. But by then I was there and committed, so I stuck with it.

I made some friends in line, and we chatted while we waited. There were campaign volunteers roaming the line as more people arrived and it snaked back and forth. Some were leading little chants (Feel the? BERN! Hey hey, ho ho, corporate greed has got to go!), some were signing up volunteers for phonebanking and canvassing. There were also some capitalists roaming around, selling Bernie shirts and hats and buttons. I was pleased to see quite a diverse crowd--still majority white, but plenty of minorities represented as well, and every imaginable age from infants to seniors. Nice to see. I'd considered bringing one or two of the girls myself, but I'm glad I didn't given all the waiting around--they'd have been miserable.

Once we got into the actual area where the rally was to take place, we staked out a spot to the right of the stage, maybe 75 feet from the podium. And there we waited. Behind us there was a side stage, upon which a few local bands provided pre-show entertainment. Several of them were pretty decent. The first was a jazzy jam band, and I think several of its members stuck around as part of the next act, a band of (what looked to me like) high-school-age kids called The Charter. Then a group of Puerto Rican guys playing percussion and singing traditional Boricua music. And the last band was rather unusual: a 2-man group called Grey Market, consisting of a drummer and a guitarist, both singing and playing along to prerecorded backing tracks in a sort of Muse/Tool vein with a clear old-school-Rush-style sci-fi bent. The music was pretty good, but the singing was.. not. The guitarist tended to sing in a rather terrible falsetto. Maybe it was an off day, I'd be interested in hearing if they have any recorded material. Ah, I see they have an album coming out in May, may have to check it out.

At length Bernie's motorcade arrived, and a great cheer went through the crowd. But we still had a ways to go. A couple locals gave a little speech about supporting Bernie for the Latino community--Kissimmee has a huge Puerto Rican population. Then a lady sang the national anthem and did a pretty fine job of it. Then we waited a bit more. Then a real treat I was not expecting:

Tulsi Gabbard, a US Representative from Hawaii. She's the one who made some minor waves recently by resigning her position on the Democratic National Committee so she could endorse Bernie. Since then I've heard her name mentioned as a potential running mate, should it come to that. I'm not so sure about the idea--she's awesome, but she's so young: she's not even 35 until next month, which is the absolute minimum to serve as VP. And given Bernie's age, his VP choice would be a crucial consideration for a lot of voters. She also happens to be Hindu, and while I would love a completely non-Christian Presidential ticket, it would make the GOP's collective head explode. :) But anyway, not that I had one before, but Tulsi is my new political crush and I am not ashamed to admit it.

Then at last, sporting a UCF ballcap, Bernie took the stage. Having been a fan of his for years, well before he entered this race, I've listened to many of his speeches and of course they contain a lot of the same themes and elements. So not much new there. But I did like how he presented it. I'd call it the 'This Campaign Listens' speech, as that was the device he used to bring up each point. "This campaign listens to young people," before going into his bit on free college tuition and reducing student debt. "This campaign listens to women," before going into the equal pay stuff. "This campaign listens to African-Americans," before talking about poverty and the criminal justice system. You get the idea. It was nicely done, and the crowd was into it. Lots of cheers, boos for the villains, and chants of Ber-nie, Ber-nie! I enjoyed that part quite a bit.

But yeah, getting to that part was a minor ordeal, and today I am paying the price for 5 hours in the sun. Ugh. I wore a red shirt to work in hopes that it would match my face better. Luckily I can mostly stay in my office with the lights dimmed and the door shut. :)

And that was my Sanders rally experience. Definitely glad I can say I did it. And I am not at all eager to do it again. Though maybe I would, if he manages to win the nomination. There's still a hope, though much of that hope depends on how my own state goes next Tuesday. I've done my part!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Hey cp, what's in the cabinet?
Well let's open 'er up, shall we?
Open Sez-a Me )

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