kv0925: (photo lens)


So I finally got that Yongnuo 35mm f/2 lens I mentioned a while back--it took the slow boat from China, literally! I made a point of trying it out over the weekend, so I thought I'd share some of those photos with a little review and some notes on the lens' performance.

So the short version first: if you can score it for somewhere near the $65 I paid, it's a great value. Even the MSRP of $120ish is reasonable, really.

As I'd read, it does *feel* like a cheap lens--it's mostly plastic (with a metal mounting ring, which helps), and there's simply a cheapness to it. If you've ever played with Canon's (or presumably Nikon's) low-end 50mm f/1.8 lens, it's a lot like that in design and build. When I shake it, there's a very slight rattle from the focusing ring, that sort of cheap. Even so, I'm not concerned the thing will fall apart or anything like that, at least under normal circumstances.

But the optics are what matters most, and really I have no complaints there. Reviews I read noted softness away from the center, but since I'm still using crop-sensor bodies I'm not really seeing that. Center sharpness, and even overall sharpness, look fine to me. I can count eyelashes when I zoom in on a well-focused portrait like the one above, and that's good enough. I'd say the autofocus is also plenty quick and snappy, though there's no full-time manual, and the focusing ring itself is small and not-ergonomic. Those things aren't a surprise at this price.

Some more images and notes under the cut!

Clicky! )
So yeah, for $75 or so, assuming you're not in a hurry to get it, I would definitely recommend one of these. It's a nice walkaround focal length (more or less equivalent to a 50mm on a crop-sensor camera, and a bit wider full-frame), and the f/2 makes it more useful indoors as well. Worth checking out!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)


I am not even going to look up the date of my last post, because I know it's been forever and confirming that would probably depress me. So I'll just pretend that I haven't been a stranger here, okay?

So yeah, we got a puppy! She's actually a foster-puppy. My wife came across a place near us that trains service dogs to assist disabled people to be more independent, and the girls loved the idea, so she applied to foster and I guess we impressed them because the whole thing moved along pretty quickly. We got the puppy last Wednesday, so today is one week. Her name is January, I guess because she was born early on January 1st, and her Mom's name is April so I think there's a theme there. So that makes her about 3 months old. Ignore the green tinge to her ear--they get an inside-ear ID tattoo, and the ink stained her fur a bit and it's taken a while to fade. So far she's a very good pup. The first few nights she whined and yipped a lot at night, but for the past few nights she's been nice and quiet, and has even been going the whole night without needing to go out. So that's nice! She hasn't interacted much with our dog or the cats, but that's probably good. Our dog is pretty shy and skittish, so we're hoping her getting used to being around another dog will be good for her too.

Otherwise things have been going along pretty normally. Work has been a bit of a madhouse since right after Christmas, seems like, so that explains my LJ-hiatus. There is light at the end of the tunnel, though it may be a train: I've been told my current position is temporary and will end by the end of June, most likely. My current boss is in Connecticut and wants his managers to be located there too, which I guess makes sense. I'm not really able or willing to make the move, so he'll have to find someone else. I'm going to look around for another opportunity within the company, of course--I happen to know my old boss is opening a few manager positions, one of which I actually already put in for, so we'll see how that goes. I wouldn't necessarily be averse to leaving this company on general principle, but it is nonetheless a scary thought, for a variety of reasons. But there's still some time on all that, so we shall see.

Better keep this short for now and get my nose back to the grindstone. I hope you've all been well!

Sigh.

Nov. 23rd, 2016 03:35 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)


Okay, look, LJ. It's not that I don't love you. I just don't know what we're doing anymore. It's like after all this time, I hardly know you. Maybe we've changed. I WANT to post more, I want to share, I want to interact, I do. But the time flies by, one day after another, and it just doesn't happen. It's not you, it's me. I feel like I need an LJ reboot, somehow. So to that end, last week I combed through my flist and removed a whole bunch of people. Most were people who abandoned the LJ ship years ago, but who I still kept listed in case they ever come back. But they aren't coming back. I know that now. I accept it. I also removed dead communities, and a few people who are still active but who I never really connected with, and/or had otherwise been meaning to remove--absolutely no offense intended, all the best to those folks. My LJ has always been 99.5% public anyway, and I don't really expect to change that, so feel free to follow me if you like. But I kinda want to get my friends page down to just the people I feel a real connection with, if that makes sense. So that's what I'm going to try as this year winds down and the new one rolls in.

So hey, my last post was November 3--what's happened in the world since then, anything noteworthy? Ahahahahahaha, I kill me. I'm not going to belabor the horrendous new world in which we woke up on November 9, enough has been said about that everywhere else, and if you actually want my political ramblings we should connect on FB. Suffice it to say that I was not pleased, and every day of this transition period feels more and more (to borrow a Glen Phillips lyric) like a train wreck, that could have been avoided, in a third-world country, by a long stretch of farmland, where the waters had run high and run the topsoil down the river so that next year there would be no crops. But it is, as they say, what it is. Now we resist, now we defend those who find targets on their backs, now we refuse to let hatred and graft and incompetence and delusion and actual neo-Nazism become normalized. That's all we can do, until we can take it all back.

In other news, there was our family road trip up to northern Georgia, which went quite well. There was a drought going on, and a wildfire that made for some smoky mornings, but aside from that the weather was gorgeous and we saw and did lots of good stuff. So here's a batch of photos from the trip:

Clicky! )
Okay, that's about it for now. I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving, or just a nice weekend. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)


Toad the Wet Sprocket! Not everyone's cup of tea, I suppose, but I'm definitely a fan. I discovered them when their Coil album came out in the late 90s--I loved that record, so I went back to their earlier stuff and loved that too. And then they basically broke up, which made me sad. But then they got back together and put out a (fantastic) new album a couple years ago, and I was thrilled to see them on the roster for the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival this year. Hermione likes them too and was interested in coming, but the timing was bad so I ended up going alone. Just as well, I doubt she'd have wanted to stay for 2 sets like I did. Great shows!

A few more pics:
Clicky! )

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)
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!

Sigh.

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!

Photos!

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)


Manatees! I'll get to that.

So let's see, stuff to catch up on!

Friday I had a couple meetings with my boss and his boss (our VP), so I got to make a second drive for the week over to St. Petersburg. This is going to be an awesome expense report, I need to get that submitted today! The meetings went well--one was about how the merger is taking shape, and it actually left me feeling pretty optimistic. The big fear, of course, has been that the new company will try to slash costs and consolidate operations as much as possible, meaning lots of layoffs. But it actually sounds like their plan is just the opposite: they intend to leave most of the local operations in place, and not only do they not plan major layoffs, they expect to increase internal headcount by bringing the calls we currently outsource back in-house. Our VP said that when the deal closes, the new company will have 80k employees, and that's expected to increase to 100k as they bring that volume back in. And the company will have a presence in 41 states, so the opportunities for both advancement and relocation will be much better. Not that I'm actively looking to go anywhere soon, but it's always good to have options. Maybe some of what we're being told is smokescreen, but that's not the feeling I have. We'll see, but I guess we aren't expecting any major changes around here until next year at the earliest.

After the meetings, I went to check out a park not too far from the office. I was a little hesitant driving in--the entrance was at the back of a fairly run-down neighborhood, and the first thing you see driving in is a little retention pond strewn with trash. But the park itself ended up being pretty awesome! A nice long boardwalk through wetlands, essentially a huge cypress swamp at the edge of a lake. It was a gorgeous day, so I had a nice walk and saw some good critters: a few juvenile alligators (and one rather huge adult) lounging in the sun, a few armadilloes, the usual birds and whatnot. Nice place. There are a few places over there I want to show the girls, we'll have to make the trek on a nice weekend. Maybe next weekend!

Then I happened to pass by my usual Goodwill over there on the way home, so I said what the heck. I didn't spend much time there, because I quickly found something I couldn't pass up--I've been meaning to get a new ceiling fan for Hallie's room, since the one in there is old and kinda noisy. Found one in the box, not new but in good shape, for $12. I figured that was worth a try. Haven't installed it yet, I'll have to do that some evening this week.

Saturday we decided to go walk around Downtown Disney--sorry, now it's called Disney Springs. Mainly we wanted to see if the LEGO store there has the awesome new Ghostbusters firehouse in stock. They did, but we didn't want to drop $350 on it just yet. Bonus time, perhaps. :) Or I should book a couple photography gigs and earmark the proceeds.

Saturday evening I was excited to go to the rare (for me, anyway) concert! I think I mentioned it before--last summer Def Leppard had a date in Tampa with Tesla and Styx, and I didn't get tickets. Turned out that was a good call, because the venue was an outdoor amphitheater and there was a big thunderstorm which kept a couple of the bands from even taking the stage. So when I found out that same lineup had added a date at Orlando's arena, I jumped on it as a Christmas present for myself. :) So anyway, I headed out, ready to rock. I was going to park in the garage attached to the arena because that's convenient, so I got in the line of cars for that--and quickly saw something was amiss. For some reason they weren't letting any cars into the garage. I rolled down my windows and heard someone say something about police activity in the garage. Hm, okay. Right on the other side of the street were a couple of private parking lots, so I hopped over there instead. But I didn't have the cash and they didn't take credit, so the attendant said no problem, just park and then you can walk down to the ATM and come back. So I did that--but on my way back to the parking lot I overheard people saying the show had been cancelled. I hung around for a few minutes until I was convinced that was the official word, and then headed home. Bummer! I'd heard Def Lep's lead singer had laryngitis, which prevented him from performing on a cruise last week. Sure enough, that was the reason for the cancel. I guess that's just as well, I'd prefer to see them in proper form anyway. They intend to reschedule, and my ticket will be good for that, of course. I just hope they're able to reschedule on a day I can go, and with the same lineup of bands! It's kinda funny, Def Leppard and I seem cursed. Way back in 1988, my step-sister and her boyfriend at the time (later her husband, now her ex-husband) very kindly tried to take me to see them on the Hysteria tour, and his car broke down on the way so we never made it. Now almost 30 years later I try again, and it's the band who's a no-show. Sheesh.

Sunday was another nice day, so we headed out to Blue Spring State Park. In the winter the park's spring run is very popular with manatees, who seek out its warmer waters (the springs around here are around 72F year-round) on cool nights. Park staff conduct a headcount of manatees in the spring run each morning and post it for visitors--a good morning is usually around 150, so we were a bit shocked to drive up and see the count posted at 277! Very cool, though. And we managed to get there early enough that the park wasn't too crowded yet--it tends to fill up quickly on winter days when the manatees are there in force, and on summer days when people come to swim instead. So that was a good time.

On the way home we stopped at a few stores, including GameStop where I indeed sold back that Wii game I found at Goodwill last week. I paid $3, and since they were running a 50%-bonus deal I ended up getting $16 in credit for it. Nice! So I turned around and bought a couple more LEGo Dimensions fun packs. The girls have been enjoying playing that, so I figured it was a good investment. I've already got that compartmentalized container I bought last week almost full!

Today I'm back to work, and a little anxious to see how tonight's caucuses in Iowa turn out. As Paul Krugman put it, the Republican side of the contest is easy enough to predict: "someone horrifying will come in first, and someone horrifying will come in second. The names are less clear." But on the Democratic side, this will be the first chance to see whether the huge crowds and numbers of donations Bernie Sanders has been able to attract can translate to turnout at the polls. It's really up to the Millennials, and whether they will turn their excitement into attendance. If they show up, I say Sanders carries the majority. If not, it's Hillary's day. From the standpoint of delegates at the nominating convention, it matters hardly at all--but the momentum Bernie would get from wining both Iowa and New Hampshire next week would be huge. Similarly, if Hillary handily wins Iowa, it could boost her momentum to make her more competitive in NH, and going forward. And no candidate going back to 1980 has won their party's nomination without winning Iowa, New Hampshire, or both. Definitely going to be interesting, whatever happens.

Okay, have some more photos from the events described above. :)
Clicky! )
That's it for now, thanks for reading and have a fantastic day!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)


The microscope is very cool! Didn't get a lot of time to play with it over the weekend, but we looked at some of the set of prepared slides I also got, and I messed around with the camera mount, as you can see above. That's a bit of dandelion fluff, but not magnified too extremely. I need to mess with it some more, figure out some stuff. Pleased so far, though!

I started researching telescopes too, and pretty quickly realized that the ones I'd want are out of my budget right now. I'd like to get into astrophotography, and to do that well you need a good motorized tracking mount, which does not come cheap. But then I discovered a network of folks who do actual deep-sky astrophotography--and get some breathtaking results--with nothing more than a dSLR and standard lenses. It's a rather involved process, but still one I'd like to try sometime. A tracking mount would still be helpful, but there are ways around that, including building a simple equatorial mount out of a strap hinge and $5 worth of nuts and bolts. Gonna try it!

Along with the microscope came the bearings for the pool pump, and am pleased to say that little project was a complete success. I had to invest in some new tools to get it done, though. I got the motor apart and found I needed a special pair of pliers to remove the bearing retainer ring, so I ran out and got that. And then I discovered that the bearing puller I found in the workshop wasn't even remotely up to the task, so I had to order a good one, which happily made short work of that task. The front bearing was definitely the culprit--it was difficult to turn, and very grindy when it did. So I replaced that one, and left the back one because it felt fine. Got it all reassembled, threw the switch with no small amount of trepidation, and now it's nice and quiet, probably even quieter than the less-powerful motor it replaced. I also put back on the proper impeller and diffuser (they're different based on the power of the motor) so it should pump more efficiently too. The wife asked why I didn't do all that months ago! Good question. :)

Speaking of home stuff, after I posted last week, a front moved through with a heavy band of rain, and Heather reported that our living room roof leak was back in full force. So I guess that's now a top priority to get fixed with my bonus money. I strongly suspect it originates around the skylights in the roof above the leaky area, so I'm planning to go ahead and get those replaced. They're plastic and sound like drums when it rains hard, so I think a nice set of glass ones would fix that, and be a lot more thermally insulated as well. A guy stopped by yesterday while we were all out to take a quick look and provide an estimate for that job, which was about what I expected. But I suspect there are some more repairs needed due to the leak, certainly some ceiling repair in the living room. Though maybe I can handle that myself, if the sheetrock itself doesn't need to be replaced. I guess we'll see. I have another guy coming out Thursday to take a look and provide an estimate, so maybe that will give me a better picture. I'd like to get moving on that pretty quick, I guess. Luckily it's the dry season!

MIL's visit went pretty well. The only full day we had with her (and my sister-in-law, who brought her over) was Sunday. We went up to Mount Dora for lunch and to roam around the downtown shopping district there, which was fun. And the weather started out all gloomy but turned really lovely as the day went on. So in the afternoon we left MIL and the kids at home, and Heather and her sister and I went for a nice walk at Lake Lotus. Good times.

Yesterday I had the day off for the MLK holiday, so I took Hallie over to Melbourne to meet up with my Dad for lunch, and then to visit with the tour of WWII aircraft that comes through every year. Great weather for that as well, and Hallie and I had fun crawling through the B-17 and B-24, snapping pics as we went. I think she took more than I did! I just barely started going through the pics, but I'm sure I'll post some up when I get them done. :)

And that's about it. Back to work today, with our weekly staff meeting coming up in a half an hour. But the boss is dialing in because he's in a meeting all afternoon, so hopefully that means it will be a short one. I hope everyone's week is off to a good start!

Oh, and RIP Glenn Frey--I've always dug the Eagles. I can recall as a kid, using our electric typewriter to type up the lyrics to "Hotel California," which (literally, I guess!) struck a chord with me even then. Great songwriter, definitely a loss. This year has been crazy with the celebrity deaths so far--a friend online suggested that it would seem George R.R. Martin is writing the script for 2016. Hmf.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)


We've talked forever about going camping--my wife used to go with her parents when she was a kid, and even occasionally camped herself in her college years, on road trips and whatnot. Me, I can't recall ever truly camping when I was a kid, but much of my childhood was extremely rural, so being out in the woods was the name of the game. We thought it was an experience the kids should have, at any rate, and they were interested, so we recently bought a tent and some other gear we lacked, and decided to go for it this past weekend.

For our first time we didn't want to go far in case anyone freaked out or we found we were missing something critical, so we went to Kelly Park in our home county, only 20 minutes or so from home. It's a park we've been to plenty of times before, but the main draw there is Rock Springs and its run, which is huge for swimming and tubing in the summer. We'd never checked out the campground or the hiking trails, so it seemed like a good opportunity. And it's fairly cheap for county residents, which was a plus in case we needed to abort as well. :)

So after waffling a bit due to rain chances, we spent Saturday morning shopping for food and other last-minute necessities, and packing the van full of stuff. Camping means hauling around a LOT of stuff, I discovered! And mid-afternoon we headed to the park. The campground was indeed nice, as online reviews had led me to expect. The sites were relatively well spaced, with some trees between each, which was nice. Water faucets at each site, along with an electrical hookup, picnic table and fire ring. We set up the tent, and took a hike on the trails before we headed back to get the fire going and cook dinner. We kept it simple, just hot dogs with some snacky stuff on the side like cheese and crackers. And then it started raining, naturally.

So we retreated to the tent for an hour or two, while the rain moved past. It wasn't a heavy rain, and I guess it was a nice test to make sure the tent was waterproof enough! Once the rain finally let up, I got the fire going again so we could toast marshmallows for Smores. And then we turned in, and discovered that we really need to invest in sleeping pads to go under the sleeping bags before we try camping again. :)

We also discovered that other campers are assholes. Well, maybe not. But we're generally quiet people and thought we might find some quiet in camping, but no such luck. There were a couple of larger groups who were extremely loud--talking, shouting, screaming, loud music, fireworks (including a few that sounded like freaking bombs), you name it. Eventually they settled down, but it made crystal-clear the trade-offs involved in the endeavor. You can have facilities like running water and actual bathrooms nearby, or you can escape the hell of other people, but apparently not both. Something to keep in mind. Maybe earplugs would be another good investment for next time!

Not much wildlife to report, really. On our hikes we saw a raccoon, a pair of deer, some woodpeckers and hawks, scads of squirrels, and.. that was it, really. At night we did hear some owls after everyone finally shut the hell up, which was nice. After we woke up Sunday morning we took a short early-morning hike back to the springhead, and were pleased to have it all to ourselves, which would probably be unheard-of at any other time of day. And it's a gorgeous spot indeed--I don't think I'd hiked to the springhead since I was a kid myself!

So all in all, pretty good experience. Learned some stuff, for sure. Could have done without the rain, and the loud fellow campers. The important thing it that the kids all seemed to enjoy the experience, so I think we'll do more of it in the future. But not in the summer!

Some more photos below the cut. :)

Clicky! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Another year-end thing I sometimes do is a recap of the year in photos. And usually there are a metric crap-ton of 'em. But to keep it (more) brief, this year I'm restricting myself to just one photo for each month. So let's see what I come up with, shall we?

January:

Clicky! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)


Been scarce around here for a while! No excuse, really, just life churning forward and me along for the ride, I s'pose. I think a bullet-style entry is the only way to go here.

• Forgive the Upper Midwesternisms of my subject line. Been watching the second season of Fargo, which is awesome. I really dug the first season, but I must say the second is even better. And they recently announced a third, so whoo-hoo! Good stuff.
• Also been working my way through The Walking Dead. Not bad at all, but man oh man is that show an emotional wringer. They have no shame, killing off people I was quite fond of. I must admit I took to cheating on IMDb to see how many more episodes this or that character had in store, or if they continue into the present season. I'm somewhere in season 5 presently. I'm enjoying it, but.. it seems a really difficult concept to sustain for so long, you know? It keeps wanting to settle down and keep the survivors safe and getting going on a new society of a sort, and then it realizes that's contrary to the nature of the show and yanks it all away, rinse and repeat. Anyway. Zombies are cool.
• The photo up top was a chance thing. Hallie's taken an interest in photography lately--something I really need to nurture. She was getting Hermione to pose for her and I was off to the side, and it was too nice an angle to pass up. :) I feel I fall short in teaching the girls the stuff I know, which should be the purview of every good Dad, right? I need to really start doing that. Photography, computers, cars, woodworking, all that stuff should be mine to teach. And guitar, if they want to rock out.
• Speaking of music, both Hermione and Hallie had their first performances last week! Hermione started playing flute a few months back and joined a nice homeschool band, and they had a Christmas concert. Not bad at all! And Hallie's been taking violin lessons and had her first recital. I can't even say what a big deal this is, for both of them. They're both pretty shy and hate to be the center of attention, so getting up on stage in front of people seems totally out of character for them. But they seemed to really enjoy it! It was probably easy for Hermione since she was just part of a band, but even alone, she has no problem playing flute or piano for people. And Hallie was out on stage all by herself (well, her teacher accompanied her on the piano, but still) and she seemed to have no trouble at all. I was really impressed! Awesome to see. :)
• Thanksgiving was good. Heather's sister came over the weekend before, and I took a couple days off for her visit. Part of the fun was a visit to FunSpot for Hermione's birthday, which was a lot of fun. Nice weather for it, too! Turkey Day itself was fine, we headed over to the coast to meet our friends at a park to catch up and play, and then we went to Mom's for a mid-afternoon feast. Good stuff. Didn't see Dad, and haven't in way too long. I think we'll see him around Christmas, though.
• Which is less than 3 weeks away! We decorated the house the weekend after Thanksgiving, as usual. Went a little further than usual with the lights this year, too. I'll have to get a photo to share, and so I remember how I did it next year! We really need a new tree, though. We've been using a hand-me-down artificial tree for years, and though it was a nice one when it was new, it's definitely the worse for wear. Might have to invest in a new one when they go on clearance this year. Present-wise, I think we're in pretty good shape. I always want to get more stuff for the kids, but I'm trying to hold back. The wife and I mainly picked our own gifts, at least the big ones. I have a few small surprises for her, and she's mentioned a thing or two on the way for me as well. It's mainly about the kids at this point anyway, of course. I am bothered presently (no pun intended) because I can't find one of the things I ordered! I know it came, and I know I tucked it away somewhere, but damned if I can remember where! Silly.
• I've been especially political on FB lately. Ugh, don't even get me started. There's the gun debate, which flares up every time there's a massacre--so weekly, at this point. There's Trump going full-Nazi when you NEVER go full-Nazi. There's TIME's Person of the Year, wherein Bernie Sanders very handily won their poll--twice the votes of the next-highest person--and yet was left out of the shortlist (and Trump, who was 19th in the poll, somehow made the cut). The signal boost would have done him some good, I think. It's all a mess. I remain hopeful, though. The first primaries are going to be stressful for me, I can tell!
• Work is okay. I had a really good training last week, a thing about leadership styles. Apparently the methodology began as a parenting strategy that was adapted to corporate management, so it might even be useful at home. Kinda useless at work since no one reports to me anymore. But oh well, still good stuff. Later this week I'm going to a class on Myers-Briggs personality types, which I think will be interesting as well.

Okay, I guess that's enough for now. I'm sure there's been more over the past few weeks, but I can't think of much at the moment. Hope everyone is having a good week so far!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I don't feel like I have a whole lot to say today, though the hamster wheel in my head is spinning as always. :) So instead, have some recent photos!



Last weekend I took Friday off--I have some more vacation days to burn by the end of the year, and we'd been talking about going back to St. Augustine on a weekday, hoping the fort and old town wouldn't be as busy as it is on weekends. Ha! Instead of gaggles of tourists, there were gaggles of school groups instead. Note to self, in the future go there in the first weeks of the school year or something. Though it's way hot then, and at least we had lovely weather!

Clicky! )
And that's that. Thanks for looking, as always!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)


Autumn decor notwithstanding, fall is taking its sweet time coming to these parts to stay--we've had a few nice days, and mornings/evenings are pretty pleasant, but the highs are still hanging out in the upper 80Fs with no big dips in sight. 86F on Halloween? Sheesh. Still, we've been getting out and about a bit more, which means photos!

Our Disney World passes expired Saturday, sadly. And odd as it sounds to everyone who doesn't live in Orlando, when our passes expire we're usually a bit tired of the place and so we take some time off before renewing. We might wait even longer and do LEGOLand and/or Universal this time instead. But before our WDW passes expired we figured we should make one more visit, so Friday I took the day off work and we went to the Magic Kingdom.

Clicky! )
And now I should get some work done around here. Hope everyone's week is off to a good start!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)


The weather has finally gotten nice, at least some days! It takes a while for fall to make its way down to these parts. Anyway, yesterday evening we were out doing some yardwork, and I came across this katydid so the girls and I got to know her a bit. It's the very-appropriately-named Giant katydid, I think the largest species in North America. It's fun to find such neat critters around the house!

Working today, though I must say my lack of motivation is palpable. Not much else going on, though. I saw Biden's announcement that he's not going to run for President after all. That was not what I expected to hear! But it should help clarify the Democratic race, since the polls have always included him in the mix and it's been hard to say how many of the people supporting him would go for Clinton or Bernie. So that will be interesting to see. And he seemed to have Elizabeth Warren potentially in his corner, so we'll see where she puts her weight now (though I would hope that's obvious). I just hope the so-called Bernie-mentum continues, even though the first debate seemed to shift things in her favor a bit. I'm looking forward to the next one.

Okay, enough for now, I'd better get some work done. Hope everyone is having a good day! Oh, and Happy BTTF Day!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)


Okay, I'm just gonna power through the rest of the New York photos and recap, cool? So this will be a whole mess of photos, be warned. :)

So where was I? Okay, Sunday, last full day of the trip. The weather looked to be a lot better and we wanted to explore more of Central Park, and I figured we'd start out at the Central Park Zoo. But we were up early, and the zoo didn't open until 10am, so I thought first we'd check out the 9/11 Memorial Plaza since it was so close to the hotel.

Clicky! )
Okay, that's it! Thanks for looking, as always. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)


Saturday dawned grey and rainy and windy--pretty ugly on the whole. I expected it to start clearing up later in the day, but to start out it made sense to head to something indoors. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was high on my list of must-do attractions, so we hopped a subway and off we went.

Clicky! )
Thanks for looking, still more to come!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)


So my birthday was Friday. The big four-oh, but I don't like to talk about that. With the NYC trip coming up this week, I elected to not take the day off from work, but my present to me was to treat myself to a visit to Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights that evening, which I try to do at least once each year when it rolls around. My subject line up there refers to the annual Bill & Ted show, which is always a highlight of HHN for me. :)

So anyway, I got some photos. Wanna see? I should note that there are some bloody/violent horror-movie-type images in here due to the theme of the event. Oh, and scary clowns. Nothing crazy or particularly NSFW, but be warned if that sort of thing bothers you.
Read more... )
And that was that, fun time though my feet were plenty sore by the end! Thanks for looking, as always. :)

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