kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So Thanksgiving is behind us. Already! This year, for all its nonsense and loss and horror, has at least flown by for me. Seems like we were just celebrating the New Year and looking ahead to an interesting election year. Who knew then that 'interesting' would so quickly and drastically take on the Chinese-curse parameters?

Anyway, the long weekend was good. The quick rundown:
-Thanksgiving Day: We started out with a quick trip to a park for some play and a short walk, but otherwise I stayed home with the family, since the wife had already bought a turkey to cook and Hermione was still getting over the cold she had (and which unfortunately put a bit of a damper on her birthday last Tuesday, poor kid). So it was a nice, quiet day, really.
-Black Friday: We tend not to plan on much BF shopping, but I did run out on a little adventure to procure a new (artificial) Christmas tree. Our old one was handed down to us by my Dad at least 8 years ago, and for the past few years we've wanted to retire it and get a new one since it was starting to disintegrate. The room our tree goes in has vaulted ceilings, so I wanted a taller tree, and I also wanted to go with a pre-lit (LED) tree. So I found a nice nine footer on sale at Home Depot. I went first to our closest location, only to find that the inventory of 1 indicated on the HD website was the display model, which was already spoken for. Our next-closest HD also showed 1 in stock, so I presumed that might be the same situation, and instead headed to the east Orlando store which showed 4 in stock. Sure enough, there it was, so I grabbed that and also a new pair of lighted deer for the front of the house, since our old ones were on their last legs too.

We'd also seen that our favorite big comics/collectibles shop was having a storewide Black Friday sale, so we headed out for lunch and to stop by there. We found some good stuff there for Xmas, so that was nice. On the way home we stopped at the exotic pet store to buy a pinkie mouse. Did I mention Hermione got a pet snake for her birthday? She'd wanted one for a while, so we went ahead and got that when we got back from our trip. Anyway, it wasn't taking the frozen pinkies we'd tried feeding it, so we picked up a live one to try on our way home, and that did the trick. Though Hallie had already named it and everything by the time we got home. She didn't take it too hard, though. :) Then we put up the new Xmas tree and decorated it.

Saturday: I had a photoshoot scheduled in the afternoon, so we stayed close to home. I spent the morning putting up the outside Christmas lights, which went fairly well and looks pretty good, if I do say so myself. We might go a little further and do our driveway/island too, we'll see how ambitions I feel about that!

The photoshoot was at Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney). The client was looking for Christmas decor, and could only do it Saturday, so I suggested Disney since I knew their decor would be up and lit. But of course it's a madhouse at WDW this time of year, and she wanted afternoon, so the place was packed and that made it tough to work. It was the lady, her husband, and their 18-month-old son, and they were all nice enough, but the kid (while cute and generally well-behaved) was very easily distracted and tough to get to look at the camera. So I haven't even looked at the photos yet, but I'm a little worried I might not have gotten a great set. Ah well, it is what it is. I'm sure there are some decent shots in there, at least.

Sunday: We headed over to the coast to visit my Mom, and also meet up with some friends at a park. That was a pretty good time, really. The lowlight was when we stopped by mi sister's house. Ugh. She's so totally different than me. They had a Trump sign (still) in the yard, a Trump sign (still) in their front window, and a big yellow sign saying "Trespassers Will Be Shot On Sight" and something about the 2nd Amendment. Just.. ugh. They just got the house a few months ago (a HUD home, because they both live on Social Security Disability, so their agitation for the candidate and party who loathe government handouts is supremely ironic), and it already reeks of cigarette smoke, so badly that Hermione could only stand to be inside for a couple minutes. Just ugh. I hate to say it, and I don't really want to tell Mom this, but if we can just pretend she doesn't exist next time I come for a visit, that would be swell.

Anyway. While we were there we stopped at a thrift store we like to go to when we're in the area, and found they were having a weekend-long BF sale, 50% off of everything. So we found a few things, including a jigsaw puzzle of the little town in Georgia we just visited! But the real gem was a little cd/dvd box set of the band Tool's 2000 album, Salival. It was 50 cents after the sale discount, so I snagged it because I like Tool well enough, but also because it looked like it might be a collector's item. And sure enough, I looked it up when I got home and found that not only is it rare and out-of-print, the first printing was even more rare because it contained several typos in the booklet. I checked, and sure enough, this one has the typos. Looked like the misprint version sells on eBay in the $75-100 range, so I think I will resell that for a tidy profit. I love finding things like that!

Today I'm back to work, but so far it's been a pretty quiet day--I think a lot of the muckety-mucks are still on vacation. So in another consumer coup, I looked around for a compact point-and-shoot camera for Hermione (who just recently mentioned wishing she had one of her own, which was good timing because we were a little stumped on Xmas presents for her this year) and found a steal--a refurbished ELPH camera direct from Canon (which means the full 1-year warranty) with a free memory card, $60 and free shipping. Not bad at all! It's last year's model so it doesn't have WiFi, but that's not a dealbreaker by any means. 12x optical zoom with IS, so that should be pretty versatile.

Okay, enough of this nonsense, time to get a little work done. I hope everyone's week is off to a good start!


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! )
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!


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! )


Feb. 22nd, 2016 02:37 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Almost 3 weeks and I am STILL fighting the Great Phlegm Wars. Constantly trying (and failing) to clear my throat, and coughing even though the coughing does nothing. It is annoying. But it shall pass. Someday.

This morning.. should I even post about this? We live in an area with city water but not city sewer, so we have a septic system. And we'd never had the thing pumped out, so we decided we should do that before we have actual problems. So that happened. All was fine, and I learned a bit. The odd thing is that there's a pump in the system somewhere, the purpose of which is to pump water to the drainfield in the back yard. And the pump has been unplugged for who knows how long. But even so, everything looked okay with the tank and all. The septic guy was a bit flabbergasted, called it a miracle. Though in my experience miracles don't tend to involve anything septic-system-related. But whatever.

Weekend was pretty okay. Saturday we went over to the coast to visit my Mom, because Amy said she wanted to do that for her upcoming birthday. She'll be 5 tomorrow, hard to believe! Anyway, that was a pretty good visit. We had lunch at a yummy Mexican place we like (and my sister met us there--she is still a moron). Afterwards we went to check out the house my sister is planning to buy, since it was just around the corner from the restaurant. It's a HUD home with some issues, but for the price it's pretty impressive. Nice big separate garage that includes a bonus room and a little bathroom. And the house itself, apparently when they built the separate garage they converted the attached garage into additional living space, so the kitchen and living room were both huge. Sis has huge dreams for the place, though how she plans to accomplish them when she and her husband both live on disability insurance is beyond me. Should I also note that she's a big Trump supporter? Like I said, she's a moron.

Sunday it was decided that I'd take the girls to EPCOT and get us new WDW passes. We'd been tossing the idea around for a bit and decided to go ahead. I'm shooting a colleague's wedding this summer, and she asked if we could do the engagement session at EPCOT. I told her that wasn't an option since we were between passes, but then I got to thinking about it, and thought why not? I like to have a pass for myself and photo sessions when they come up, and I generally make enough from photography to cover the cost. So then the question was, who else gets a pass? The wife just wasn't interested--she's not a big fan these days because she says the place is always busy, and she's not too wrong (though I think she doth protest too much). But the girls and I still like to go, and it's particularly unfair to Amy since she's at a perfect age for the place, and would be missing out since we've almost always had passes when her sisters were her age. So at first I suggested just me and Amy, but we decided that wasn't fair to the other two either, so everyone but the wife got one. It's a win for her because it gives me a place to take the girls for a good chunk of the day now and then, which will give her a nice break to sew or clean or just relax in a quiet house with no rugrats. Nice, right? So anyway, we headed out there and had a nice time for a few hours. Didn't do much to speak of, just got our passes, had lunch at The Land, and made the grand circle tour of the world. And I scouted some nice nooks and crannies for that upcoming engagement shoot.

Speaking of photography, I need to get back on the ball with that. I've been feeling like my skills have gone downhill, and that was reinforced this morning while I was waiting for the septic guy to finish. Amy wanted to see photos of herself as a baby, after Heather was telling her we moved in to the house when Hallie was a baby. So they were looking at my Flickr photos from back then, and I realized I just don't take photos that good these days, for whatever reason. I need to figure out why that is, and what to do about it. I should really fire up Shutterbuggery again, if for no other reason than to pose some exercises for myself and whomever else cares.

That said, my Creative Commons photos seem to get picked up pretty regularly. I was paging through a recent Orlando Weekly, which is the free alternative newspaper thing around these parts, and there was a photo of the old mill at DeLeon Springs State Park that looked awfully familiar. I was like, "Is that mine?" And sure enough, there was a credit to my Flickr username. And on FB, someone posted a link to an article with some photos of the Bulow Creek sugar mill ruins, and the majority of photos were mine. Always kinda fun to see that. :) I need to get those chops back up as well.

After EPCOT I took Amy to the home improvement store to get lumber for the additional LEGO cabinet shelves, and tackled that yesterday before dinner. Didn't take long at all! And I think the LEGO cabinet is pretty awesome. I'll have to get some photos to share, because while it's silly to have a huge cabinet full of LEGO, and even more silly to be proud of such a thing.. we do have it, and I am kinda proud. :)

Have a great afternoon!
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)
Just things going on, and floating around my brain, bullet-point style:

• Just pulled the trigger on buying a microscope. I mentioned to the wife that with my upcoming annual bonus I'd like to get some good optics: a decent microscope and telescope. We have a little beginner's reflector telescope, and a kiddie digital microscope, but neither are all that good, and frankly I've never been a fan of kiddie and dumbed-down stuff like that. The idea is to pique an interest without spending a lot of money, sure, but if the result is frustration because you immediately run into the limitations of the thing.. that can have the opposite effect, you know? So the microscope is a nice, sturdy metal one, trinocular so I can slap a camera on the top eyepiece and leave the pair of binocular eyepieces available. So I ordered the camera adapter as well, and a set of prepared slides so we'll have stuff to look at immediately, and blank slides for stuff the girls find. Should be a hit. Now to research the telescopes!
• We've been getting into spring cleaning early this year! With the new year our county (finally) rolled out automated garbage and recycling collection, and provided huuuuge 95-gallon bins for each. We've been taking advantage to fill those suckers to the brim with boxes and other big things we've had stashed in the garage and around the house. Not that we couldn't have gotten rid of the stuff before, but having the big containers really makes it easy. And now that I've cleared a few spots outside, I'm inspired to do some landscaping. I'm hoping to use some bonus money to replace some of our wooden fencing as well, it looks ragged. Maybe even get some sod replaced, that's never looked great. I guess we'll see. If nothing else, I have some notions of adding pavers to some spots, and maybe adding some new plants here and there. And I should finally sand and seal the arbor bench thing I built a few years back. And there's always the Library Project. I should make a list.
• Speaking of projects, a while back I had to replace our pool pump motor--again. The one I replaced was less than a year old, but the pump itself had been sporting a small leak--it's a salt water pool, so a few months of leaking was enough to rust out the motor housing. Grr. The new motor I got a good deal on as an open-box, and it does work--but it's way (WAY) louder than it should be. So I also ordered a new set of bearings to swap in, I'm hoping that and maybe some other lubrication will quiet the thing down a bit.
• How 'bout that Sanders campaign, huh? If you follow me on FB you already know my joy, but things are really looking good for ol' Bernie. The first polls of 2016 show him widening his lead over Hillary in NH, starting to surpass her in Iowa, bringing the national (national!) gap to within the margin of error, and--perhaps most importantly--outperforming HC in every poll of hypothetical general-election matchups. It's amazing to see, and really very encouraging. If he pulls off wins in IA and NH, no matter how small, I think the momentum will be even more on his side than it already is, the media will finally have to say okay, maybe he's not the no-hoper we've been portraying him as, and all those fence-sitters and people who haven't paid him much attention so far will start thinking maybe he's worth voting for after all. And if all that happens, it won't make a bit of difference what happens on the GOP side. The only question at that point will be whether the Dems can recapture the House along with the Senate, which is unlikely, but we can hope. :)
• I had a number of photo sessions over the past few weeks (two of which I still need to finish editing, oops). There was the family in Oviedo right after Christmas, an extended-family thing in Kissimmee after New Year's, and later that week a short family session at one of the Disney hotels. In a couple weeks I have an engagement shoot with a couple whose wedding I'm shooting in July. I had an inquiry for a June wedding that I was actually pretty excited about because the location looked great, but they ditched me. I haven't even been advertising lately, really--I should do that since now I don't have much booked. And the weather is finally nice!
• Poor Hallie. When she was 2 or so, she had an incident that knocked out one of her top front teeth, so she's had that gap ever since. When she started going to the dentist he kept an eye on it, and said when the other front tooth fell out and started growing back we'd see if the adult tooth under the knocked-out incisor would also start coming in--if not, it would need a little help to get through the gum. As you might guess, it didn't, so in a couple weeks she goes in for a quick procedure to make an incision for that tooth to start coming through. Hopefully it will be no big deal, but being a huge dentist-phobe for no good reason, I'm anxious on her behalf. :)
• Like half of America, I sped through Making a Murderer on Netflix over the past week or two. Quite a show, that. I am loath to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it but wants to, so I will restrain myself. But it's all pretty infuriating, the stuff in that show. I didn't come away from it convinced of the innocence of the two men on trial, but utterly convinced that the legal system did not perform well during the entire process. To say the least.
• As part of my goal to be more musical this year, I was learning a few new songs to play on the guitar, so I'm pleased with that. If I'm not too embarrassed I should record myself as I get good at some of these songs, maybe share them here. But I'll probably be embarrassed. :)
• This weekend my mother-in-law is down for a visit, so she and my sister-in-law will be staying at a nearby hotel and we'll likely roam around the area doing fun stuff, weather permitting. And her foot permitting too, apparently she injured it recently and has been having trouble walking. Hopefully it will be feeling a bit better in a few days! Then I get Monday off for MLK Day, and that happens to coincide with the arrival of the tour of WWII-era aircraft that swings through the area each year. The nearest stop is Melbourne, so I'm hoping to drive over there, probably just me and Hallie since she's interested in climbing around in airplanes. Weather permitting, again.
• Yesterday I was over in St. Pete for our staff meeting, and on the way back the weather was glorious so I stopped by Weedon Island Preserve for a walk. There were almost no crabs this time, though--last time I visited little fiddler crabs were all over the boardwalk and in the mangroves, it was awesome. But at least it was a great day for a little walk. On the way out I noticed a little memorial along the side of the road--apparently nearby was the site of a 2000 helicopter crash, wherein 3 crewmembers died when their Bayflite medical chopper hit a radio tower and crashed. Hadn't heard about that one.

Okay, enough for now. Better get some work done before calling it a day!
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?


Clicky! )
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)

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. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

The weather didn't look too unbearably hot this past weekend, and the girls were having some vacation withdrawals and wanted to explore, so for Sunday we decided to take a little day trip up towards St. Augustine. It's only 90 minutes or so away, but we haven't spent much time there for some reason. And we kinda realized why on this trip, but I'll get to that.

Clicky! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Not much time for a proper update, but how about some photos from the past couple weeks?

Clicky! )
Okay, enough for now. Maybe more substance tomorrow. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So the family reunion this past weekend was okay, not nearly as bad as I'd feared it might be. Pretty early on, my uncle very wisely tossed out a ground rule about no political discussion, and for the most part everyone stuck to it. There were a few despicable comments here and there, but I don't think I heard Obama mentioned once, and that in itself is damn near miraculous. We also took our leave for a couple side-trips to parks in the area, which was fun. Except for the one state park where we took a hike and discovered the place was party central for Lone Star ticks. Ugh. At least that species is not known as a carrier for Lyme disease, that stuff is bad news.

I'm at work today--I'd planned to take the day off for a Disney trip, but we already have a tropical system brewing up off the east coast (almost a month prior to the start of hurricane season, which may be a bad sign) making the weather iffy this afternoon, so I figured I may as well bank the vacation time and come to the office. Tomorrow is when our NYC trip was supposed to start, sigh. Ah well, October will be lovely, I hope.

In other political news, I have found myself unduly excited by Bernie Sanders' announcement that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for President. I've admired the man for some time, as I think he's one of the very, very few people in Washington who have refused to sell out to the monied interests, and remained steadfast to their convictions and truly fought for the interests of their constituency. Certainly my initial thought when he announced was, "Well, there's no way in hell he could ever win, but maybe he can at least move the dialogue more to the left, since Hillary has never shown herself to be anything but a centrist, fully-engaged in the world of corporate establishment politics." But you know what? No. Fuck that.

I mean, really. For decades the mantra has been that a vote for a third-party candidate, or even a dark horse candidate within the two-party system, is a wasted vote. And historically that's been true--but how much of it is merely a self-fulfilling prophecy, foisted on us by those who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo? If everyone believes it, and votes accordingly because they believe it, then isn't that exactly WHY things are so? And exactly why we all hate being locked into the inevitable choice between two evils, yet convinced that no one can break that stranglehold?

So what if? What if people can become convinced that they don't have to vote only for the person who they think has the best chance of winning? What if they also put their money where their mouth is, and chip in a few bucks to help spread the word about a candidate they can actually support without holding their nose? Why the hell not?

So I'm telling that little voice in my head to shut up. I'm telling it that Bernie could actually have a shot here, if his message gets heard widely. If enough people like me feel strongly about the need for change, and spread the word that this is the guy who can speak to that change, and maybe get the media to change from the default of "guy's a no-hoper" to "you know, maybe he can actually pull something off here," maybe it could really be so. Idealistic? Naïve? Definitely. But otherwise nothing changes, and I loathe that idea.

So, proudly, I am a contributor to Bernie's campaign, and I'll do it again. I hope he continues to build momentum and shift the dialogue. I like what I see so far, and I want more of it. Give 'em hell, Bernie.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)

Spring is sprung! And pretty much over already, in these parts. The high today is 90F, though (thankfully) we seem to be going down a few degrees after this. Anyway, the butterfly above was a new sighting for me--a Dainty sulphur (Nathalis iole) spotted down by our neighborhood lake. Not shy at all, either--I was shooting with my 24mm pancake lens, which means I was maybe 10 inches away from the critter for that shot. Nice of him/her to cooperate!

Have some more? )
Okay, enough for now. What will the weekend bring? We shall see!

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