Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Convertible takes on I-15

Tuesday, March 16...we get up and get ready to make the three
and a half hour drive to my mom's house in California. The sun
is out, it is warm, oh yes, we are excited.

My perfect brother in law makes us a great breakfast, then I go
out and fill up the tank. The Daughter stocks up on essentials...
Skittles, chips, and Gatorade.

We logically decide that three hours on the freeway with the
wind blowing in our hair may be too much fun for us to handle,
so we wisely opt to start out with the top up. Perhaps later,
when we are approaching our destination, we can stop and put
down the top.

There are only three of us...myself, my sister, and The
Daughter. And we each have a suitcase, and the few extra bags
of stuff that females must carry with them. Recall the trunk is
really too small for anything except a few bags. Three
suitcases must go into the back seat...and so must The Daughter.

She is not terribly excited about spending three and half hours
folded up like a pretzel, but she did want the convertible...
Speaking for myself, with the top up, there is not much
visibility, since the windows are pretty small, but at least I
have leg room.

The nearest In-N-Out we encountered did not come up until we
are only minutes from my mom's house, so we have pretty much
made the drive with the top up the whole way. Since it was a
warm day, that is odd, because we had thought we were going to
enjoy the drive with the top down part of the way.

But it is great re-visiting my Double-Double with cheese!

We are enjoying the convertible a little less than we had planned,
but we still took down the top so we can all look cool when we
pull into the driveway at my mom's house. Enjoy it while you can,
because when we arrived, we put the top back up and there it
stayed for the rest of the week!

I promise better pictures of California next...

Peace be with you.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Convertible and The Strip

We got back from Red Rock, and had time to take a nice little
nap. We planned on taking a drive down the strip that evening,
but first, my sister wanted to drive the convertible. I had
discovered that while it was fun to drive, you really have to
keep focused on whatever is right in front of you, and if you
happen to be sitting in the back seat, you are scrunched up like
a little doll. So I think it is really best for whoever is
sitting in the passenger seat.

I tried to explain this to my sister, but she balked, telling me
that I was just saying that so she wouldn't want to drive it. My
sister is a very good driver, but still, it was a rental, and I
am technically the only one authorized to drive it. But I did
let her take it out to pick up a friend of hers, and when she
got back, she admitted that this was so.

After dark, we went to The Strip, just myself and my sister in
front, and The Daughter crammed into the back seat. Our plan
was not to stop anywhere, since my sister has obviously had her
fill of casinos, having lived there for the past ten years, and
I had also seen enough of the glitz in my day as well. The
Daughter was content to just look at the lights and the sights.

Traffic was VERY heavy, with lots of stops at the stoplights,
but that was fine, since with the top down, and me stuck at
stoplights, it was easy for me to snap a few pictures. I know
they are not great, but it is proof that we were there!

It got a little chilly that night, and when we were driving back
to my sister's place, we did NOT like the convertible, and we
didn't feel like pulling off the freeway so we could stop and
put the top up. Between the small trunk and cramped back seat,
and the coolness factor only existing when the weather was
perfect, the shine was beginning to come off the convertible a
little bit.

Coming up, we drive the convertible to California.

Peace be with you.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Convertible at Red Rock Canyon

Monday, March 15...we are still in love with the convertible as
myself and The Daughter, along with my sister and brother in law
head out to Red Rock Canyon on a gorgeous warm sunny day.
It was great for my bro in law and myself, as we were in the front
seat. For sis and Daughter in the tiny back seat...not so much.
Luckily we didn't have very far to drive, as Red Rock is not far
outside of Vegas.

Many beautiful vistas, but I cannot upload the full-size images,
due to their massive size. The ones below are low-res images,
but if you click on them, you will notice some blue squares on
the images. These correspond to a few crops of the full-size
images so you can see some of the hikers and rock climbers.
This is to give you some sense of scale on the immense size of
the rocks.

Mountain pan one:

Full-size crops:

Mountain pan two:

Full-size crops:

Roadside pan:

The Daughter, Bro-in-law, and sis:

The Daughter on a rock:

We ended up at Bonnie Springs Ranch, a nice little outpost
with a restaurant, bar, and a petting zoo.

My sister amused herself by teasing some swans...and if you
have had any experience with large aggressive birds like geese
and swans, you may know that this is not a good idea.

A deer took a hankering to my bro in law's shirt for some
reason, and chewed contentedly on it for several minutes.
When the deer finally let go, we were pretty amazed that his
whole shirt was just soaking wet, and the funny part was that
my bro, after touching it, exclaimed "Oh, man, it's HOT!" I
think deer have a normal body temperature over 100 degrees.
I guess you just had to be there.

For the next report, we will take the convertible down to The

Peace be with you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Field Report from Las Vegas

The Daughter and I arrived in Las Vegas on Saturday, March 13.
We proceeded over to National Car Rentals to pick up our vehicle.
Since it was my sister's birthday, at The Daughter's urging we
opted to upgrade to a white convertible, since I had always
wanted to drive one, the weather was promising to be great, and
it has been a dream of my sister to someday own one.

As it turned out, while the convertible was cool, there were some
downsides to it, and we were able to learn all that without the
expense of having to purchase one.

For one thing, while we were initially impressed on the size of
the trunk, once we opened it, we found that the bulk of it was
not HAD to be huge because that is where the top
gets stored when it is down. We really didn't have enough
room in the trunk to even put our suitcases in. So, into the
back seat they go.

So The Daughter and I head to my sister's house, we put the top
down, as it was a glorious sunny day. It was fabulous to cruise
down the highway with the sun shining on us, radio blaring, and
pretending that we were cool.

I found it was odd that to put the top up or down, you have to
keep holding down the button, or it stops. I would think that
once you hit the button, the operation would complete without
having to do this. Oh, well, a minor inconvenience.

Here is a picture of The Daughter with the top going down.
Notice that as the top retracts, it is going into the trunk, and
that is pretty much all the trunk is good for!

Here is a shot of The Daughter and my sister in the convertible,
and then one with me included:

A few pictures of the eclectic decor of my sister's house:

Peace be with you.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Observations on The Daughter

As some of you may be able to glean from my past posts, one of
the biggest challenges of my miserable little life it to get any
kind of positive attention from The Daughter. Now, I do get some
attention from her, but it is usually centered on something that
I am doing that just happens to annoy her (such as looking at
her, being in the same room as her, or breathing).

It is odd that she will insist that I sit with her sometimes
when she is watching TV, but then I will get groans of
disapproval because I am either sitting too close to her, or
making too much noise while eating, or for accidentally looking
in her direction.

I think she just wants me there so I can go and fetch her snacks
and drinks, plug in her laptop, or bring the cat to her. I think
though, she may be smarter than I realize, because sometimes I
catch her making a little expression that can only be translated
as 'I am really just kidding when I tell you that I have no use
for you...I am just trying to see how flustered I can get you'.

She likes to go with me to Roger's house on Thursday nights for
band practice, but only because she likes Roger, and because his
grand daughter is just her age, and they can hang out. We try to
teach her a few chords on the guitar or keyboard, and she likes
to pound away on the drums as well, so she is easily entertained.

But mostly, her and Roger just sit next to each other on the
sofa and text each other! It is like watching the two stooges,
their thumbs flying away, silly little grins on their faces. The
only way I can get a word in edgewise is to try to send a text

Then The Daughter stops and gives me an evil glare, as if I had
interrupted something important. Roger just chuckles...he has
raised kids, he knows what teenagers are like.

Once, several weeks ago, I had accidentally left the key turned on
in the car, and when it was time to leave, my battery was dead.
Can you believe The Daughter was actually GLAD about this, so
we didn't have to go home yet??? I hated to disappoint her by
getting a jump from the bass player, but all good things must

But she surprises me too...on the way home, she thanked me for
letting her come with me to practice...and I think she might
have even smiled at me!

Peace be with you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Special Effects in the Dark

While I get my road trip pictures ready, I thought I would
just toss out a few pictures of some car trails at night:

And these were made by leaving the shutter open while
pointing the camera outside the car while driving at

Thanks for everything!

Peace be with you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Unidentified UFO'S

When I was younger, I believed very fervently in the existence
of extra-terrestrial beings visiting our planet. Over the past
several years, however, and mostly due to the tabloid-style
"documentaries" that are prolific on TV these days, I have
decided that most of these people that say they see UFO's are,
unfortunately, mistaken. I say 'most' of them, because of course
I understand that a lot of people really do see strange things
in the sky, and they don't know what they are. But I would be
willing to say that all of these sightings really do have
rational explanations.

If the governments of the world really did have factual
information regarding UFO's, a secret that big could not
possibly be kept for all these years. Knowing the nature of
human beings, I cannot believe that a person or persons knowing
the actual truth...and having the proof... would be able to keep
a secret like this to themselves for the decades these rumors
have been around.

By proof, I don't actually mean clear photos or videos, as
these days that kind of media is easily faked, with the
results being so realistic as to be accused of being doctored
for that very reason.

(Of course, that being said, all the current photos and videos
are always fuzzy and out of focus anyway).

I guess for me, proof would be legitimate scientific documentation
that shows detailed and lengthy videos of government officials
interacting with said alien beings, and footage of an actual
craft, inside and outside, and having the craft remain there
long enough for it to be confirmed by various sources.

Again, while these things can be faked, if it were recorded
on video tape instead of film, it would be more difficult
to rig it. This footage would then have to appear on mainstream
news media, with the reporters gaining access to the site.

I realize that if such a thing came true, we would not expect
the reporters to actually board the craft, as there would
be restrictions by the military for security reasons, but I would
also expect that if a government were willing to acknowledge the
incident as fact, they would at least allow enough investigation
to confirm the truth.

I know, logically, if there was a government cover-up, you
would not HAVE these government officials interacting with
the aliens...but I state again...we all know how people LOVE
to blab a secret. If someone really had any concrete proof,
you KNOW that someone, somewhere over that past 60 years or
so would have leaked it out.

Instead, what we have are these shady interviews with people
whose identity is hidden, voices disguised. Trust me, if these
people REALLY had the proof, all they would have to do is go
to the Press, and nobody could touch them.

This does not mean that I don't wish it were true...nobody would
be more excited than I if actual proof were to come about...the
things we could learn from other races in the universe would be
astounding, and it would be fascinating to visit another planet,
observe its ecology, geology, environment, its culture and life

I do believe that there is a great chance that there is intelligent
life in other places in the universe, but the great distances
involved lead me to believe that it would not be possible for
any being to travel them in a reasonable amount of time. I hope
I am proven wrong someday.

Peace be with you.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Too much Photo Manipulation?

Well, my friends, the road trip continues...and again,
I find that I have added new followers by not really
being here! I don't understand how that happens, but
I can't argue with it.

We had a great time in Red Rock Canyon, and we spent
Monday night driving back and forth across the Strip in
the convertible. The cool part was, we didn't even have
to park or get out of the car. I was able to get all the
pictures I wanted just by sitting in the open-air car.

This was the one time I was glad for huge traffic jams,
as being stuck at a red light was the perfect chance for
me to snap some photos without worrying about it
taking so long.

Driving to California yesterday was also very nice, and it
was a huge pleasure to stop at In-N-Out on the way!
I have photos of all this, I was able to download them onto
my mom's computer, but they are not ready to be posted.
I need to be at home to 'clean them up'. Some are too dark,
some are not balanced correctly.

This will give me something to post when I return home,
and make them more presentable.

In the meantime, speaking about photo manipulation, I
want to say that unless I am trying to be 'artistic', I really
try not to go overboard with it.

A lot of times, photographers are tempted to over-do their
images in Photoshop, and sometimes I am guilty of that. I try to
only do very minimal adjustments, such as correcting some
lighting problems or some color balance errors.

If I am going to do a lot more than that, then the end result is
going to be more of an artistic venture, and it will be
obviously manipulated. But sometimes that is OK.

So I found this old boring snapshot of our house taken a few
years ago. I started wondering if there was anything I could do
to make it more appealing if I really worked hard on it.
Here is the original:

The first thing I did was to run a de-noiser on it.
Next, I ran it through the unsharp mask filter.

I adjusted the curves and the levels a bit, but then it was too
I darkened it bit, then created a new layer and set it to
I combined the original picture with the negative layer, merged
them, and then ran another de-noiser on it.

I saved off the result so far, converted it to a Tif (which I
should have done right off the bat), copied it a few times, and
then varied the brightness over several different levels for
each image.

I wanted to layer them in Photoshop, so I could then dodge the
dark areas and burn the light areas of each layer. I was hoping
I could then blend them together in a decently-exposed photo.

I brought all these images into Photomatix, increased the
saturation, and saved it off again.

Next, I opened the original photos with the adjusted brightness
levels back into Photomatix, and this time I just tone-mapped
it. (I find that in Photomatix, the results you get when doing
Details Enhancer is very different than when doing Tone

Opened both files from Photomatix up again in Photoshop, added
a THIRD negative layer, and combined all three.

Next, I again ran a de-noiser and the unsharp mask.
Finally, I ran the faux-IR thingy on it, converted it to B & W,
and sharpened it.

FINALLY...I cloned out the two trees in front of the house so
I was able to see it better.

So here is my result after all this work...But I am really
starting to wonder if it was all worth it.
I am thinking the original boring image is better than the
finished result, what do you think?

Peace be with you.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Report from the Road

Well, this is pretty interesting...I go away for a few days, and
I have a few more followers! Quite cool...I wonder how that
happens? I promise when I get back home in my own environs
I will check out these new pages.

Anyway, quick report. Haven't made it to the Strip yet, and
we may not...but that's cool, we are mainly here to visit family.
I forgot to bring my thingy to download pictures from my camera,
so I won't be able to post and photos until I get back. Too bad.

At the airport before we left on Saturday, things continued to be
normal. While we were walking through the airport before
boarding our flight, dragging the suitcases behind us on those
wheels they have, The Daughter complained that that I was
making 'too much noise' while walking. When you go over those
tiles in the airport, the luggage thingy makes those 'clack clack'
noises, and I guess I wasn't doing it right, and this caught her
attention. Sometimes it's hard to know when she is kidding or not...

There is a tavern within walking distance of my sister's
house, so my brother in law and I went over there for a little
bit yesterday afternoon. I am not a big gambler, but he convinced
me to spend a little bit at one of the video poker games in the bar.
Peer pressure...I succumbed to it!

I only lost about 20 bucks, but I made it last about an hour. And
my bro in law bought me some beers, so it came out even.

We had a nice little party at my sister's house last night for her
birthday. One of her friends had made a chicken casserole, and
had put it in the oven while she went upstairs to get ready. But
she failed to leave instructions for my brother in law as far as how
long to leave it in.

We opened the oven a few times, and it looked like it may be
near to being done, but we couldn't be sure. In the meantime,
she texted him with info on how to tell if it was done or not. I
suggested he take a photo of it in the oven with his cell and send
it to her so she could render an opinion.

We waited...hopefully we weren't going to burn it...
Finally she replied that it looked like it may be done, so we took it
out to see. And it was fine...really very delicious. And now, due to
technology, we saw that she was able to pull off a remote cooking

My bro in law is so cool...he is a perfect host. He makes us
breakfast in the morning, always has a pot of coffee on, makes
smoothies for The Daughter.

Today we will be driving up to Red Rock, and the weather will be
perfect. I hope to get some decent photographs that will be as
good as the ones that Pat and a few others that are into
photography produce.

We rented a white convertible for our trip, so this will be really
fun to drive to California in...the weather will be perfect and
sunny. But I have found that it is not quite as fun when you are
the one still have to focus on the road, and don't
have time to really appreciate the coolness.

I let my sister drive it, as she didn't believe me. She thought
I was just saying that so she wouldn't want to drive it. But
when she did, she admitted I was right! It is way more fun for
the people riding in it. But still, it will be a great trip.

Sorry for the long ramble, don't know when the next one
will be though. I am thinking of ya'll, I know there is a lot going
on. Many of you are busy and on hiatus, Kristy has just lost
her uncle, and Mr. Hendrik's brother is still ill.

We also need to keep thinking about Darla's friends' daughter
Kodi...I am praying for her as well.

I hope you all have peace.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Vegas, Baby!

My dear Gentle Readers, I will off for California tomorrow
morning (Actually, off to Las Vegas, where I will pick up my
baby sis and then drive the rest of the way).

Every time I visit my Mom in Southern Cal, my sister always
makes the drive over from Vegas just to visit lil' ol' me. Now,
quite understandably, I am her favorite brother, but still, she
jumps in her car and makes a nearly 7 hour round trip just for

So this time, The Daughter and I will fly to Vegas, and spend
some time with my sister at her place. I actually have another
of my sisters who lives there too, so we get to see her as well.
To save my baby sis some trouble, we will rent a car for the
drive to LA, thereby giving her and her car a break.

My timing is good, my sister's birthday will be on Sunday, and
we get to have a big party at her house. She also wants to take
The Daughter to The Strip, which should make for some pretty
interesting photos.

(The Daughter has been to Vegas, but not since 2003, and when
you are merely on the cusp of 13 years old, 7 years ago is a dim

So, camera in hand, and via my Mom's trusty computer, I hope to
be able to not only peruse my favorite blogs during the coming
week, but also, perhaps even make a post or two...lest my few
faithful followers allow me to slip from their memories.

Peace be with you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What's Cooking?

I have mentioned this before, and I will say it again.
While I don't mind making dinner at our house, the hardest
part about cooking is figuring out WHAT to make.

To compound this, I am not particularly fussy about what I eat,
so if I am asked what I want for dinner, and I say "anything is
fine", this is not a cop-out, it is just my way of saying that
'Anything you decide is fine with me'.
(Actually, yeah, it is a cop-out, sorry).

On Sundays, which is usually shopping day, we make the list.
We try to figure out what we will have on Monday, Tuesday, etc.
We take turns picking something for the day. I like to go
first, so I can pick the easy stuff.

"Ok, on Monday, we'll have pasta!" I exclaim helpfully.
(Cool, my responsibility for Monday is over).

My bride decides on chicken for Tuesday.
Being very picky, The Daughter selects Sonic for Wednesday.

Now, we could have leftovers for Thursday, and since Friday is
pizza night, we might be all done. Except I am the only one in
the house who actually eats leftovers. Maybe I am just too easy,
but if nobody is going to eat leftovers, then why bother cooking

If you are going to spend all that time and money making a big
meal, and then getting only one serving out of it, it is cheaper
to just eat out every day. Besides, the leftovers takes care of
a whole day that would otherwise need planning. Is my logic so
advanced that nobody else sees it but me?

And on top of that, I hate the cleaning up part. It all looks so
fun and easy on the cooking shows, where all the ingredients are
pre-measured for the chef in their own little containers. All
they have to do is dump everything together.

I haven't seen Chef Emeril dumping a pile of greasy pans into the
sink when he was done with his cooking show.
(But in his defense, I also concede that he has worked pretty
hard to get where he is, and has paid his dues).
The point being, cleaning up isn't fun.

Allow me to share with you one of my favorite recipes:

Go to restaurant. Order. Eat. Drink. Be merry.

Peace be with you.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

All a Matter of Technology

I often feel overwhelmed by the great technological
achievements of our time. I love it all, but it makes me feel
so small. How can normal every day people create a machine
that will lift humans off the planet, bring them to the moon,
and bring them back again! Surely these people must be
exponentially smarter than myself!

I understand that this is a result of pooled knowledge, but
sheesh! As much as I think I know today, if I were to be
dropped off in the middle of a primitive society, could I be
expected to do anything for them to improve their life?

Wouldn't you think I should have a pretty good head start on
things, having lived in today's world, and getting some clue
about the way things work, even if I didn't invent anything? I
don't know that I could show them anything that would amaze

We are all used to seeing scientists in white lab coats standing
around huge and complicated machinery, conferring on how to fix
it, or make it work. Somehow, the computer does get created,
the satellite does lift off into space, and the space probe
actually travels to the outer reaches of our Solar System, and
then actually sends back close up photographs of Neptune!

I realize that each person plays a small part in the whole, from
the concept, invention, and creation of something, but I sure
find it hard to believe that I am just as human as these people
are. It only makes me think how great God must be, for what are
we, compared to Him?

Yet He has created beings with brains smart enough to
manipulate the physical world to such an extent that we can
dive to the deepest part of the ocean, travel to outer space,
and create fantastic cities, with all the logistics that go along
with them.

We always hear that anything is possible if we desire it
strongly enough. Looking around in today's world, I have to say
I agree with this statement. So how far, then, can modern
technology progress? Can there ever really be a limit to what
can be invented? How much more can we dream up?

I can remember reading somewhere about a move to close the US
Patent Office somewhere along the line of about a hundred years
ago because people thought that there was nothing left to
invent! But our only real limitations are the laws of physics.

Look how fast things change. The first PC I ever got in 1993
had a 250 Meg hard drive, and we thought that was HUGE.
Now look at these images, and really think about it.
My cell phone 'card' (they call it a card, I call it a chip) is
smaller than a dime...and it holds 4 times as much info as my
first computer did!

Even my 4 Gig camera card is not much bigger
than a dime:

The ingenuity of humans constantly surprises me, I believe that
there will always be something new and exciting conceived of and
developed. Is there anything that is actually impossible?

Imagine people chatting two hundred years ago, debating
the same thing. One person says, "Let's invent some way where I
can be here, and you can be on the complete opposite side of the
world, and yet we can still see and talk to each other in real

"Let's invent a flying machine that will carry two hundred
people at once from the West Coast to the East Coast in a couple
hours, and do it in complete comfort and calm."

"Let's invent a machine that can record and play back sounds and
moving pictures, do complex mathematical calculations, word
processing, play games, design and create virtually anything you
can imagine, communicate and share information with millions of
other machines around the entire planet, and oh, by the way,
let's make the machine smaller than a suitcase."

Is it really any more fantastic for us to sit around today, and
dream of artificial gills, re-generating lost body parts, or a
flying car?

Peace be with you.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

More Random Photos

Again keeping in mind that my blog was going to originally
be a photo journal, and since I know that Pat is a pretty
good photographer, I thought I would toss in a few more
random shots.

You do realize, of course, that the idea is to click on the
photos to see them full size, right??

First, I wanted to show two more of my 'Levitation' illusions...
both of these are from tossing some crumbs of cat food into
the sink, and flashing them to freeze them in mid air. I just
think it is so cool that they look like they are really just floating
there. I really need to find some other cool things to do this

These are some layered shots of The Daughter on her new
bicycle from last year, similar to my old post about Duplicity:

Finally, since I will be flying next week, I would like to
present what I call 'The Race':

This is one reason why I love California so much...
the gorgeous palm trees:

Peace be with you.