Wednesday, October 19, 2016
The Long Game
Actually Belichick ripped just about all aspects of the league-controlled gameday communications technology, but the tablet got most of the bad press. Headlines (no doubt written by iPad fanboys) screamed, "Bill Belichick hates the Microsoft Surface!" I worked long enough in a tech support role to know that end users, particularly managers, do not care why a system isn't working, they just want to know when it is going to get fixed. Maybe the recurring problems actually are with the connectivity, not the Microsoft Surface tablet itself, but all Belichick knows is this stupid tablet thing is wasting his time while the game clock is running. So Belichick announced yesterday he is "done" with the tablets and will go back to using paper printouts.
Should Belichick's rant be taken at face value, or is it actually a very cunning act of revenge against Ginger for the Tom Brady suspension? For those of you unfamiliar with the situation, the Indianapolis team was frustrated after a playoff loss to Belichick's Patriots in 2014 and concocted a story about ball tampering. Probably much to the surprise of the Colts, which by the way are owned by a convicted drunk driver and admitted drug addict, the league office gleefully joined in the conspiracy. Under the direction of the commissioner, they manufactured some "evidence" in an attempt to support the allegations. Brady was suspended for four games (three games longer than a Josh Brown of the Giants got for physically and emotionally abusing his wife), and the league office defended this ridiculous decision through almost two years of court battles. Even though their fake "evidence" has drawn ridicule every time it is examined scientifically, the conspirators prevailed based on a strict reading of the Union agreement that gives the commissioner absolute power in suspending players regardless of the facts. Thus Brady was suspended for four games to start this season, which meant the Patriots went 3-1 rather than 4-0 and will wrap up the AFC East one week later than they would have otherwise.
Belichick is the most focused coach in sports. Anything that doesn't contribute to winning the next game is irrelevant and unworthy of his attention. He's not going to take a shot at Microsoft and possibly damage the all-important revenue stream just to make Ginger look more stupid than usual.
Go ahead and keep thinking that. You wouldn't want the Hoodie to get inside your head as you try to decipher his intent, would you?
Friday, October 14, 2016
Elk and Parks, and a few Olympians
Early October took us to five national parks, a couple of wildlife viewing hotspots, and the U.S. Olympic Training Complex in Park City, Utah. I split the trip into five photo galleries in chronological order: Tame Elk, National Park Landscapes, Olympic Skiers, Wild Elk on Trailcam, and Badlands Bighorn.
Tame Elk: The Omaha Zoo has a wildlife park west of the city, the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari, which features North American animals including elk, bison, bears, wolves, raptors, and other birds. For me, the highlight is the elk, which are huge and very easy to photograph in their drive-through enclosure. I previously visited the park in 2008.
National Park Landscapes: I never claimed to be a landscape photographer, and only posted a few images from the parks that don't have wildlife in them. But I think one image from Bryce Canyon is more than just the usual snapshot.
Olympic Skiers: We happened to hit Park City while the aerial skiers were practicing. They jump off a ramp to do their twisting routines, then land in a pool. I snapped a bunch of images.
Wild Elk: Even though I can easily get images of huge placid elk near Omaha, I still like to stalk the wild elk in the Black Hills. During the recent six-month period I had three trailcams deployed in Wind Cave National Park. The Reconyx got a few decent images in the location where it has been for the past four years, but the best shots were on the Moultrie located a few hundred feet further south. The new Primos camera takes a decent image, but is far too sensitive. It fired off more than 60,000 shots in a month before the batteries died, and so far I've only found a handful that were anything other than wind-blown grass. I took the Primos out of service while I figure out how to work around the problem. I did post one image from the Primos. Because it was mounted on the same tree as the Moultrie, they both captured a shot of a cow elk at about the same time. One problem I have with trailcam JPGs is adjusting the color to look natural in various lighting conditions. The images from the two cameras illustrate this problem.
Badlands Bighorn: We knew from a previous side trip to the Badlands that there are a few bighorns in the park. We were not disappointed as we saw a bighorn working his way down steep cliffs from a peak to the vegetation below. I posted 25 images just of that sequence, because I can. Click on any of the images below to start the 87-image slide show.
Monday, July 25, 2016
Sioux Falls Air Show
I've been photographing air shows from time to time for 14 years now. In fact, my first trip overseas ever was to attend the 2002 Flying Legends show in England.
I didn't have to fly across the pond last weekend as the Blue Angels and a number of other interesting aircraft came to Sioux Falls. Rather than deal with the crowds, I decided to shoot the show from a hill about three miles from the airport. I tried this back in 2009 on one of the two days, and it worked fairly well for the larger aircraft.
I've developed some definite opinions about air shows, and I suppose they are tied to my photographic preferences. I like to get closeups of powerful planes in flight. I find big aircraft on the ground less interesting, and little aerobatic planes (airborne or not) even less so. I don't like being in a crowd when shooting air shows because (a) it's hard to carry my 500mm lens and tripod into the show particularly when backpacks are prohibited, and (b) even if I'm shooting handheld with the 400mm zoom, it's possible to bonk someone in the head as I'm trying to follow the planes. So I parked at the Southeast Vo-Tech and only had to carry my big lens and tripod about 10 feet. I missed out on the ground displays and the aerobatics by being further away, but I got some great shots of the B-17 Sentimental Journey and other planes as they came close, sometimes directly overhead. Click on the image to start the 14-image slide show.
Sunday, July 03, 2016
- Best beer: Samuel Adams Boston Lager. I've decided the best beer style is Vienna Lager, and Sam is the best of this style. It is the perfect balance of hops and malt, creamy head, and it is available everywhere. Whenever I'm in New York I get Brooklyn Lager on draft when possible, but my recent side-by-side comparison of bottles from Brooklyn and Boston came out in favor of Boston. I've been consulting BeerAdvocate.com to find beers to try, and even though regional brewers such as Great Lakes and New Glarus have higher-rated entries, I still prefer Sam.
- Best amber: Colorado Native Amber Lager. Hoppy but not a hop bomb like an IPA. Unfortunately only available in Colorado. Alaskan Amber isn't bad, and on a related note:
- Best local (South Dakota) beer: Red Water Ale from Crow Peak Brewery in Spearfish. I think this is a spring seasonal so not always available.
- Best IPA: 7,000 varieties tied for first place. Bell's Two-Hearted is my most recent try, not too bad. I actually prefer an IPL such as Colorado Native IPL or even Leinenkugel IPL.
- Best wheat beer: Like IPA, I don't think it makes much difference which you choose. 312 is ok, Blue Moon usually available, whatever.
- Best stout: Guinness Draft. I've decided I don't like most stouts but the Nitro creaminess of Guinness sets it apart.
- Best pilsner: Small sample size but I'm going with Brooklyn Pilsner. Wish I could get it more often. Sierra Nevada Nooner is often but not always available in my area. Eastern Europe imports often available and usually good.
- Best cheap crap: Pabst Blue Ribbon. The purpose of yellow fizzy beer is to quench your thirst on a hot day. PBR fills this niche. Other mainstream beers suffer in comparison, but I have been known to suck down the occasional Coors (but NOT Coors Light).
- Best shandy: Seriously? Shandy sucks. I hate that it steals shelf space from real beer. I can't find the aforementioned Leinenkugel IPL because of all that shandy crap they sell.
- Best hard cider: Don't know, don't care.
- Best lite beer: Does not exist. Beer-flavored fizzy water.
Just speculating here, but I think the term "Pre-Prohibition" some brewers use (e.g. Brooklyn Lager) came into existence to emphasize that 100 years ago brewers didn't use cheap ingredients like corn and rice in place of barley. These cheap ingredients are called adjuncts, so crap like Bud and Miller are categorized as Adjunct Lagers. They really do have inferior flavor, and the reason is the ingredients. PBR makes the best of this disadvantage and has its place as I described above, but it is still inferior. The beer revolution is not some marketing gimmick as Bud might want you to believe. It's an ongoing revolution against the pale imitation beers that somehow became popular in this country in the 20th century.
Some beer snobs turn up their nose at Boston Lager because it has become a national brand over the past 25 years. But as far as I can tell they still aren't cutting corners, and there's something to be said for being able to go into a restaurant anywhere in the country and being sure there is at least one good beer on the menu.
I don't consider myself a beer snob. I don't really care about Belgian brews that almost taste like wine, and are bottled (and priced) accordingly. Even Boston Beer Company dabbles in this stuff. As long as they don't screw up Boston Lager, I don't care.
All of the above is my opinion. You are welcome to your own opinion, but I'm probably not interested in hearing it.
Thursday, May 05, 2016
Black Hills Coyotes
For the past six years, I've spent May away from home in either New York or Chicago. This year, my annual May project has been split into a semiannual project in February and August, so I'm home in May for the first time since 2009.
The latest run out to the Black Hills to retrieve trailcam images was this week and the most interesting series took a bit of deciphering. The first four images showed a coyote, which is not unusual. The fifth image showed a deer popping up from behind the hill. Shown here is the sixth image where it appears the coyote is taking off after the deer (upper right). Not a great image, but an interesting scenario with an unknown ending. Click on any of the images to bring up the thumbnail page. Also included are some SLR shots of bluebirds and baby bison, and a bad shot of the transit of Mercury.
I often get coyotes running past my trailcam as they track elk, deer, or whatever. This is one of the better shots I've gotten.
Here's one of a devil dog (or a devil yote) at night.
And finally, this is what they are chasing.
I only had one trailcam deployed during this 7-month stretch. This time I put the Moultrie back in service and also put a new Primos on the same tree as the Moultrie. Doing this will give me a chance to compare the two. I've had trailcams in Wind Cave National Park since 2009 and at this particular site since 2012. It might be time for a change to a different site in the fall. I've already picked out a potential site in Custer State Park, but I haven't actually visited it yet.
Tuesday, March 08, 2016
I have a really weird work schedule that is five weeks on followed by five months off. The "on" time this time was in downtown Los Angeles. The real estate I traversed on my daily walk from Little Tokyo to the Staples Center area ran the gamut from posh to scary. I got back into big city mode very quickly – do not make eye contact with crazy people. And there seemed to be plenty of those.
Anyway, here are a few photos from the month, which included a weekend trip to San Diego. I'm safely back home in South Dakota awaiting my next assignment, which is supposed to start in mid-August in Minneapolis.
Monday, February 01, 2016
Photo of the Year 2015
My interest in photography as a hobby was revived around 1999 and probably peaked in 2003-04 when I made the majority of my international journeys. It was a way to get away from work, really. Now that I'm semi-retired, the urge to hit the road doesn't seem as strong. But there are the occasional trips, usually to familiar places, and from one of those I select the 2015 Photo of the Year. This is from Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Missouri. There was one of the biggest flocks of snow geese I've ever seen filling the sky as sunset approached.
First prize, which I award to myself every year, is a trip to Keokuk, Iowa to see wintering eagles. I did go through eastern Iowa this January but didn't make it down to Keokuk. Instead what few eagle shots I got were actually from Squaw Creek again. Here is this year's POY and previous winners.
Here are my POY selections for 2002-2014.
Junior I 2002
Gentoo Penguins 2003
Little Brothers 2004
Bald Eagle 2005
Blue Jay 2006
Eagle with fish 2007
Great Horned Owls 2008
Custer SP Bighorn 2009
Keokuk Eagle 2010
|Sertoma Butterfly 2011||Dark Morph 2012||Night heron 2013|
|Elk Frame 2014|
Tuesday, January 05, 2016
I had to get from Chicago to South Dakota and wanted to include my annual Mississippi River eagles trip as part of the trip. Alas, the Corp of Engineers site wasn't giving me good news about eagle numbers around Keokuk and Burlington, so I decided to hit Squaw Creek in northwest Missouri for the second time in a month. The snow geese were mostly gone, but eagle numbers had increased. Along the way I made the usual stop at Neal Smith NWR just east of Des Moines to see the small elk and bison herds.
Click on the image to start the slide show.
Friday, December 04, 2015
Geese and more
This is a fairly big photo update covering the past 6+ months, including:
- Images of a sphinx moth in Newton Hills State Park last summer, and a few other images around the park and my yard.
- Trail camera images from March to September from my cameras in Wind Cave National Park, including the full sequence (7 shots) of an elk trying to scratch itself with its antlers. As you may notice, there are some color differences between the Reconyx images at the start and the Moultrie images later on. The Reconyx images appear greenish, and the Moutrie images appear reddish. I've tried to remove the color cast to some extent, but I'm not going to fiddle with it too much. By the way, I am retiring the very old Bushnell which suffers from inferior image quality and short battery life. I have a new Primos camera on order that I will deploy at some point. The biggest problem I see with trail cameras is image quality. The Primos is relatively inexpensive but is supposed to have above average image quality. We'll see.
- A few shots from a November trip to New Mexico, including Bosque del Apache NWR and White Sands National Monument.
- A recent quick trip to Squaw Creek NWR in northwest Missouri.
The trips to the two wildlife refuges in late November and early December were quite different experiences. I have been to Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico many times. For this late in the year I was expecting many cranes and geese, and a number of raptors. For whatever reason, the migratory bird numbers were down and there were no raptors in view. On the positive side, the snow geese were close enough to provide opportunities to photograph individuals and small groups. A highlight was seeing a leucistic sandhill crane. The crane had mostly white feathers, but it still had the red patch on the head and colored eyes so it was not an albino. Refuge staff said this was the bird's second year on the refuge. Seeing this bird reminded me of the leucistic penguin I saw in Antarctica 12 years ago.
I've also been to Squaw Creek NWR in Missouri many times. Even though the geese were further away than in New Mexico, there were such massive numbers that it was easy to get the huge group shots you will see in the slide show. I also saw 15 eagles and a few hawks in the refuge, which is a low number compared to previous years, but I've included a few shots of those.
Click on one of the images below to start the 49-image slide show.
Friday, August 07, 2015
Sturgis at 75
I am compelled to comment on the 75th edition of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which is wrapping up this weekend. I drove through the Black Hills a couple weeks ago and already significant motorcycle traffic was evident, lending credence to the expectation that this year's rally would be a monster with attendance approaching 1 million bikers.
Many of the articles leading up to the 75th rally mentioned its start in 1938, giving credit to J.C. "Pappy" Hoel as the founder. I claim a unique perspective on the rally because, although I have never driven a motorcycle in my life, I was a reporter for the Sturgis weekly newspaper 1978-84, and I met with Clarence (as locals called him) and his wife Pearl at their home soon after I started at the paper. I remember him as a cordial but sort of deaf old gent. He talked about working as a young man in the family business, which was cutting and storing ice in the winter and delivering it in the summer. In 1936 when refrigeration was making ice delivery obsolete, he bought an Indian motorcycle franchise. Clarence founded the Jackpine Gypsies motorcycle club in 1936 and helped start the rally in 1938. I got the impression that he didn't want to take personal credit for founding the rally, but whether that was due to modesty or embarrassment about the crazier aspects of it, I'm not sure. Whenever I dealt with him after that initial interview, it didn't have to do with "the Rally," but with the White Plate Flat Trackers, an organization he helped found in 1979-80 that was devoted to preserving the history of motorcycle racing. ("White Plate" refers to the white numbered plate awarded to expert riders, and "Flat Track" was the dirt track upon which they raced.)
Part of my beat was city and county government, so I covered countless meetings where rally proponents and opponents came to debate whether the town should continue hosting this insane event. A near-riot by campers in the city park one year led to a series of meetings and a public vote. I wrote an opinion column in the paper advocating that the rally should continue because it was the thing that made the town unique. Without it, Sturgis would be just another ranch town like Belle Fourche. (No offense.) Proponents narrowly won the vote, but there were changes – camping was banned in the park and much of the partying moved, out of sight and out of mind, to new private campgrounds outside of city limits, such as the Buffalo Chip.
In 1989, nearby Deadwood embraced part of its dark history. Gambling was legalized, revitalizing that little town. Today there are dozens of casinos and hotels in Deadwood. Without Deadwood gambling and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, there still would be tourists in the Black Hills, but not nearly as many. Whatever judgments you want to make, moral or otherwise, those two decisions made back in the 1980's bring millions of dollars to the northern Black Hills each year.
Being in the middle of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was part of my job, not something I would do on my own time. These days I live 375 miles to the east and usually visit the Black Hills in the spring and fall when the roads aren't clogged with bikers and RVs. But the rally is a unique event and I'm always interested to see (on TV, not in person) what is going on.
A t-shirt from 1981, one of my few Sturgis souvenirs. The event has gone by various names over the years.
Thursday, August 06, 2015
Photo of the Year 2014
How about that, until now (Auguest 2015) I neglected to choose a Photo of the Year for 2014. There's no doubt I've spent less time hunting with my camera the last few years but I did get a few decent shots during the 2014. Nominees were the partial solar eclipse and my first photo of a Baltimore Oriole, but I picked a webcam shot of an elk framed by another elk's antlers. I have been diligent about checking my webcams in Wind Cave National Park every six months. First prize, which I award to myself every year, is a trip to Keokuk, Iowa to see wintering eagles, although I neglected to make the trip this year. Here is this year's POY and previous winners.
Looking back on the previous selections, I was wondering if I should pick a photo of the decade, but it is too hard. The 2003 penguins were snapped during the greatest adventure of my life, a trip to Antarctica. "Little Brothers" from 2004 ended up on the cover of a book. After I clicked the owl picture in 2008, I was thinking about retiring then because I didn't know if I would ever top it. Maybe the Sertoma Butterfly from 2011 comes close. So there will be no "photo of the decade" selection. Click on the images for larger views.
Here are my POY selections for 2002-2013.
Junior I 2002
Gentoo Penguins 2003
Little Brothers 2004
Bald Eagle 2005
Blue Jay 2006
Eagle with fish 2007
Great Horned Owls 2008
Custer SP Bighorn 2009
Keokuk Eagle 2010
|Sertoma Butterfly 2011||Dark Morph 2012||Night heron 2013|
Sunday, June 28, 2015
Every once in a while I have a hankering to watch a silly sci-fi movie, and this week I found GOG on Amazon Prime. It has its share of silly movie "science," but the premise is quite interesting: The story centers around a computer that, among other things, controls two robots, Gog and Magog. (Wiki says these names show up in the Old Testament in many different contexts, including the End of Days.) An unfriendly foreign government installed a Trojan Horse when the computer was being assembled by outside contractors, and are able to hack into the computer and control the robots and other systems. Several "accidents" and attacks occur before the intrusion is detected and stopped.
Have I mentioned this movie came out in 1954? In other words, more than 60 years after this movie was released the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is still too stupid to figure out that it might not be a good idea to trust outside contractors with access to confidential records. Although I have not received notice that my information has been compromised, as a former federal employee whose records were transferred to OPM upon my retirement, it appears I am at risk. Thanks Obama (and Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy and Eisenhower).
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
It's (almost) spring, and time for another trailcam check. I only had two cameras deployed due to a lock snafu with the third. The old Bushnell didn't deliver anything of note, but the newer Reconyx had some good nighttime shots of elk, a decent looking buck deer, and a couple of coyotes chasing through the snow. Strangely enough, there were absolutely no images from February, but some of the better nighttime elk and the coyotes were snapped during an early March snowstorm.
But what I'm showing here is (what I believe is) a yearling Bighorn that I snapped in Custer State Park while driving to the camera site in Wind Cave National Park. Click here for a slide show of the eight images.
Despite some frustration with another lock that I had to break, eventually, all three cameras including the Moultrie are now deployed a few hundred feet from each other in the national park.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Partial solar eclipses aren't spectacular events. I'm sure a lot of folks didn't even know why it was a bit darker than usual in the late afternoon.
If nothing else, I took this as a rehearsal for the total solar eclipse that will cross the US three years from now. I have a Coronado solar telescope, but I've never taken a decent photo through it, so my best setup for solar photos is a telescope with a neutral density filter and an SLR. These telescope images are not flipped, so north is at the bottom. Note the large sunspot. Click on an image to get into the slide show.
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Trailcam time again
I've gotten into a six-month cycle of April and October for checking my trail camera in Wind Cave National Park. I was eager to see the images this time since there were multiple cameras deployed for the first time. Alas, the cameras didn't capture any usable images past mid-August.
The problem with the two primary cameras, the Reconyx and the new Moultrie, was I followed a hint I read somewhere and set them just a couple feet off the ground. This probably would be fine if I was able to check the cameras every few weeks, but grass grew up in front of them as they sat there for six months. Both cameras took tens of thousands of images of wind-blown grass before the memory card filled up (Reconyx) or the batteries gave out (Moultrie). As for the old Bushnell, it got a few elk shots, but the batteries only last about a month and the image quality leaves a lot to be desired (which is why I've bought two cameras since).
I reset the Reconyx and the Bushnell, but there were some problems with the Moultrie. First, when I came up on it I was surprised to see that the cable lock securing it to the tree was loose. Hmmmm. Second, my key chains did not have the key to open the case, so I couldn't get to the memory card. Third, there was a bit of schmutz on the lens that wasn't easily removed. It was necessary to take the Moultrie home with me to get to the memory card and clean the lens. While reviewing the images it got before the batteries ran out, I discovered why the cable lock was loose. An elk had chewed on it and somehow managed to undo it. See below! I have to say my faith in Master Python cable locks has been shaken. The jostling turned the camera by about 20 degrees, so most of the Moultrie images are tilted. The Moultrie has new batteries and a clean lens, so now I'm trying to decide whether to drive out to the Black Hills in a few weeks to re-deploy it. By the way, this is the second time an elk has tried to eat my trail camera. Several years ago, one chewed up a solar panel connection on my old Bushnell.
Despite these trevails, I got some interesting images of elk, coyotes, and even a turkey. I have created an October 2014 gallery which also includes SLR shots of an elk, a bighorn ewe, Devil's Tower, and (for something completely different) a partial eclipse of the sun. Click on an image to get into the slide show.
Monday, June 23, 2014
The Windshield and the Oriole
Long story short, I'm getting my windshield replaced tomorrow so I headed down to Newton Hills State Park today to get some use out of my state park sticker. I was looking for woodpeckers but the best images I got were of a new species to my photo albums, a Baltimore Oriole. I also saw a little fox observing me from a distance. The images have been added to my generic South Dakota album which has different photos from the past 10 years or so. Click on the first image to launch the slideshow starting with the most recent seven images.
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