Friday, June 29, 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Drink Up

From the Uk Daily Mail:

Coca-Cola and Pepsi contain minute traces of alcohol, scientific research published in France has revealed. 
The revelation will cause concern among those who chose the carbonated soft drink for religious, health or safety reasons. 
According to tests carried out by the Paris-based National Institute of Consumption (INC) more than half of leading colas contain the traces of alcohol. 
These include the brand leaders Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola, while it is mainly only cheap supermarket versions of the drink which are alcohol-free.

Disaster in Colorado?

I wonder if President Obama will declare wildfire-ravaged areas of Colorado as disaster areas?

Of course he will (and he should).  Colorado is a pretty liberal place... unlike Texas.

The Supreme Court Just Fixed Everything

So Obamacare is a "tax."

By declaring Obamacare a "tax," the Supreme Court has just also confirmed that he has enacted a hefty new tax directly on the middle class.

This new tax and all this new government power and upheaval of the best medical system in the world just because 7% of the population didn't have health insurance.

Note to Republicans in Congress: this is exactly why it's a really, really bad idea to pass a flawed law in the interest of compromise and let the courts "fix" it later. Yeah, they fixed it real good, didn't they? They fixed us all.  As in- they just neutered our economy and out health care system and our individual rights.

And what really makes me mad is that Elena Kagan shouldn't have even been allowed to rule on the subject because she helped write the law as Solicitor General.

Note to Republicans in the Senate: this is why Supreme Court confirmation hearings matter!  Kagan essentially got a rubber stamp appointment because Republicans didn't have the stomach to fight for a better candidate due to the fact that she was a) Hispanic and b) a woman.

I'm really, really ticked off today.  Can we please have an election, already?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stonehenge Demystified


Researchers working at Stonehenge have concluded, after ten years of archaeological investigation at the site, that it was built as a monument to unify the peoples of Britain after a long period of conflict and regional differences.

The researchers theorize that the stones symbolize the ancestors of different groups of people. The origins of the different stones are from completely different parts of the country, some coming from southern England and others from as far away as western Wales.

“When Stonehenge was built”, said Professor Mike Parker Pearson of the University of Sheffield, “there was a growing island-wide culture – the same styles of houses, pottery and other material forms were used from Orkney to the south coast. This was very different to the regionalism of previous centuries. Stonehenge itself was a massive undertaking, requiring the labour of thousands to move stones from as far away as west Wales, shaping them and erecting them. Just the work itself, requiring everyone literally to pull together, would have been an act of unification.”

Fascinating.  So Stonehenge was the original lyrics to Kumbaya. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Why Even Bother Camping?

A couple of weekends ago our family went with another family to Garner State Park, about an hour and a half west of San Antonio. We had a great time, almost in spite of the other campers around us.

But before I get into the meat of my rant, I want to pose the question: why do people go camping?  What I mean is, why camp and not stay in a cabin or a trailer or a hotel somewhere?  I guess the obvious answer is that camping is less expensive than those other options.  But me- I go camping to be outdoors and to connect to nature and a simpler, quieter kind of life.  I was a Boy Scout up until I was 18 and couldn't be one anymore.  And I kept camping after that well into college.  I absolutely love camping and being outdoors and just being a small speck of nature.

Let me assure you that based on my last three camping experiences that it seems that the vast majority of people out there do not go camping for the same reason.  There may have been a time when people camped to connect with nature.  But I think these days people just camp because they can get away with behavior that they couldn't get away with at a hotel.  And even worse, it seems that people have lost all common decency and consideration for others as well.

Let me share three camping experiences with you as illustration:

Three years ago, a bunch of us guys (the "Dudes") went camping at a Rocky Creek, local Army Corps of Engineers park, on Lake Somerville.  We camped next to the water at one of the best campsites in the entire park and were all set to have a great weekend hanging out, fishing, drinking and just being guys.  But in the campsite next to ours were a group of teenagers from the local high school on spring break.  Those kids were loud and obnoxious [and yes, I fully realize how old and crotchety I sound writing this] all weekend.  There were about twenty boys and girls partying and coming and going at all hours, yelling and having all sorts of teenage drama all weekend at the tops of their lungs.  It was hell- especially at night when they got really cranked up.  At one point after what sounded like a fight between two of the boys over one of the girls we shouted at the kids to keep it down.  Only it wasn't quite as nice as that.  There may have been some profanity laced in there, as well.  The thing is, it didn't even begin to compare to the profanity we had been hearing spewing from the next campsite all weekend.  The kids shut up... for awhile.  But it was too late.  The trip was less awesome than it should have been because of those $@#*! kids.

In April, my brother and I went camping at Mission Tejas State Park in East Texas.  The park and the weather were great.  We had a great time cooking and hiking - and night hiking - and fishing.  The only major hiccup was a large group that was in a campsite about 100 yards away from us.  I'm not sure if it was a Girl Scout troop or some sort of club or what, but there was a mix of parents and boys and girls of all ages.  They weren't really loud, but their generator was.  That's right... they brought a generator.  And while that's not completely unheard of, it was one of the biggest, highest horsepower generators on the market - you know, the kind that can power an entire house.  And it was loud.  Really loud.  And it echoed all throughout the park from when they fired it up at about 6pm until about 10:30 pm when they shut it down.  Then they would fire it up promptly at 6 am the next morning and run it until about 10 am.  What should have been a quiet weekend in the woods for my brother and I and all the other campers in the park was ruined by the sound of that flibbin flabbin generator.  And the best part of all is that Adam and I were curious about what they could possibly be powering with the generator since they seemed to be cooking on propane stoves.  There was a trail than directly behind their campsite, so as we walked by we decided to look and see what was being powered.  It turns out that the Monster generator was being used to power - wait for it - a strand of rope lights and a coffee pot.  That's it.

And then, finally, there's our trip to Garner.  What I experienced at Garner was mindblowingly ridiculous (enough to spawn this here little rant.)  We experienced inconsiderate people (and not just one or two, but three neighbors around us - not to mention the groups that we saw and heard near the bathrooms and showers) as well as stunning displays of "you brought what camping?"

First off, I could't believe just how inconsiderate people were.  There was a trail (one of many) at the back of our campsite that headed down to the Frio River.  People seemed to have no problem walking directly through our (and our neighbor's) campsites to get to the trail.  It was easily accessible by walking in between the sites, but there were several times I saw people walk directly through sites to get down to the river.

Then, there was the music.  The people in the campsite across from ours seemed to have music blaring from their truck all day and into the night.  It was an odd mix of death metal and country.  The peopl next to them were playing Journey and other more classic rock songs, but still loudly enough so that it could be heard in out site about fifty yards away.  The people in the campsite next to ours also enjoyed listening to music playing from their vehicle. And for some reason, all these people seemed to turn up the music at night after dark.  I'm just glad that we weren't near the showers.  They were blasting Tejano polka up there that could be heard from over a hundred yards away. When all of our neighbors had their music going at 9:30 at night, it seemed almost as if they were having a contest.  And everyone around them was the losers.

I couldn't believe what people bring camping with them.  There were the death metal people that brought their dog, but then left it tied to a tree for the entire weekend.  As we were driving back to the campsite one time, I saw a mini refrigerator  - the kind that a student would use in a dorm room - up on a picnic table.  But that was nothing compared to what Tony told me about... and I didn't believe him until I saw it with my own eyes.  The Tejano music people had brought - in addition to enough Christmas lights to cover a house - a full refrigerator/freezer combo.  This is the kind of stand up refrigerator that most of us have in our kitchens at home.  This one had a refrigerator on bottom and a freezer section on top.  It was just standing there in the grass in their campsite, plugged in to the outlet at their campsite.  I never saw it, but there was also a report of someone having a deep freeze cabinet  in their site, also.

And as we were taking a hayride around the park on the first night, we saw a tent that had a window AC unit sticking out of it.  The park host who was giving the tour said that a lot of tents are actually made with spots for AC units now.

Which brings me back around to my main point - why?  What's the point of leaving the house?  If it's such a burden for people to do without their modern conveniences for a weekend, why don't they just stay home?  It would make them happier and it would make the people in the campsites around them happier.  Why do people feel like they have the right to be inconsiderate just because they're not at home?  Or a far scarier thought - how must they act when they are comfortably at home?  I would hate to be their neighbors.

And please keep in mind that you might, in fact, be the only one who wants to listen to your music.  Keep it down, please.

Friends, this is my plea to you: if you're one of those people, please stay home.  Or get a cabin or a hotel.  Or at the very least, try to be considerate of those around you and remember that some people are out there in our parks trying to have a quiet weekend away from all the conveniences of home.  Some of us are trying to "get away from it all."  Please don't make us have to go home just to get away from you.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mind Your Own Business

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Luckily, I'm Not Ready to Climb Everest Yet

The next time I have an extra $600 to spend on camping gear - ahem - this is the tent I'm going to get.  No word on when they'll offer a solid gold rainfly option, but I'll keep you posted.

Of course, once I get it, it won't be allowed out of the house to get dirty and NO ONE will be able to touch it, much less sleep in it.  And GOD HELP the first person that unzips it wrong.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Birthday, Beauty

Today is Kayci's 9th birthday.  It's a little hard to fathom that it's been nine years since she came into our lives and changed everything (for the better.)  It seems - literally - like another lifetime ago.  We still lived in Houston, I was doing freelance work out of the house, Kristi was still in the classroom teaching and, upon looking back at some of the photos of when she was born, both Kristi and I both look so much like kids.

Since then, we've moved to a new town, gotten new jobs, family members have passed away and we've been blessed with others.  In fact, it's tough for us to remember much about our lives - what we did with our time - before Kayci came along.

And it's been a great nine years.  We've watched our little Bitty grow and blossom into a Beauty - a young lady who is smart and determined and just simply amazing.  It hurts the heart how big she is. We find ourselves trying not to think about how old she's getting and what that means. We just want to savor every moment with her and relish her youth and, as the words to the song say, "let her be little."

So Happy Birthday, Beauty.  Somehow, that just doesn't say what's in our hearts.  Mommy and I love you more than you can possibly imagine and we're so proud of who you are and who you're becoming.  Somehow, you find new ways to amaze us and to make us more proud every day.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Error 99ed

The day after the Dallmeyer shoot, my Canon 40D started giving me an "error 99" code when I tried to shoot with it.  On Canon cameras and error 99 is a catch-all error that could mean anything from a bad battery connection to a bad connection with a lens to a loose ribbon cable on the internal circuit board.  I've gotten error 99s at work before, so I started going through all the procedures that usually fix them.

The very first shot that I took with my Canon 40D in December 2009

Then I tried them again, doing a more thorough job.  I cleaned connections and replaced batteries and tested with someone else's battery and reformatted my memory cards and reloaded the firmware.


So I took it to my favorite camera shop, Precision Photo and Video, in Austin.  The tech said that with that kind of an error they usually have to send them off to Canon to have them work on them.  That, along with shipping and any parts and labor usually costs around $400.  Heck, I could've bought a USED 40D that very day for $450.  But I figured that if I was going to spend that much money, I might as well put it towards a brand new camera instead.  So my old trusty 40D went where all good broken cameras go - eBay.

The very last shot that I took with my Canon 40D in March 2012
I was actually surprised how much I got for my non-working (except in Live View) old camera - $270!!!  So between that, some birthday money (thanks, Dad, Janet and Grandma Hagler!) and some freelance money I was able to get a brand new Canon 60D.

I'm going to miss that great old 40D.  We had been through a lot together and I used it to learn quite a bit about photography.  But frankly, after using the 60D at work for awhile I was starting to get frustrated with its limitations.  It was starting to feel its age.  So its demise ended up being a good thing.  An unexpected thing that wasn't budgeted for, but a good thing in the long run.

About 40 days passed between when the 40D died and when I got the 60D - a period of time the length of lent and just about as trying.  It was really weird to not have a camera other than the iPhone to be able to grab when the kids were doing something amazing.  My hand felt empty at family functions and pretty much all spring.  But the time in the wilderness has passed, thankfully.  And I'm grateful that getting a new camera was even an option (and especially grateful to have such an understanding wife who knew that it was a need.)

On to a new exciting chapter in my photographic (and video) journey... with my new 60D in hand!  I can't wait to see what I can do with it and to share those images with you!

Friend Portraits - Mason and Alex (and Austin)

Still needing more practice, another one of our favorite families allowed me to shoot some wildflower shots of their boys.  The boys have a new baby brother, Austin, and the original idea was to do some wildflower portrait shots of the three of them at sunset.  But sometimes things don't go as you planned...  For one, there wasn't much of a sunset that night.  And Austin wasn't feeling well, so we only got a couple of shots with him in it.  But we did get some shots of Mason and Alex that I think really capture their personalities, including one that is going in my portfolio.

Friend Portraits - Kannon

This spring, I decided I needed some practice shooting portraits of people and families and especially kids.  I wanted to practice and experiment using flash to light an outdoor scene in a live portrait situation.  So I enlisted the aid of a couple of friends' and their kids to shoot some location evening shots.

The wildflowers were pretty good this year, so we headed out to a great bluebonnet field to take some shots of Kannon at sunset.

I was having a rough day and my gear was malfunctioning - okay, okay... it was completely amateur user error.  But that's why I was there!

We ended up getting some really nice shots of Kannon and his family.

And as a bonus, I got a really great shot of Kayci at sunset, too...

What Have I Been Doing?

Many of you - family included - have heard either form me or form Kristi how busy I've been lately and that's what has prevented us from coming down for a visit or being able to get together.  April and May (and part of June) is the busiest freelance time of the year there is for me.  I know, I know... everyone's busy. So, what have I been doing, exactly?

I've been shooting a lot of photos and video... and creating an illustration.

The next few posts are intended to catch up a little and show what I've been working on...

Saturday, June 2, 2012