Thursday, December 31, 2015

"Last post of the year"...

...and it's just a dump of pictures I took tonight. I had bought a new tripod over the weekend (Targus Pro Series 3-Way Panhead and Bubble Level Tripod, 60-Inch) because my 15 year old Kodak finally bit the bullet, and it was time to get a new one. Good riddance, Steely.

8pm and humid / muggy and hot, I had some interesting captures. Between people coming and going, lots of airplanes, and a random firework burst, I think it was an eventful 45 minutes.

Attached to my Canon EOS Rebel T3 Digital SLR Camera camera, I used Canon Remote Switch RS60 E3 to attempt to get more solid (aka not so blurry) photos. I kept the setting on "manual" and adjusted when necessary. I figured I'd try most of them on auto focus, and I have to admit, they came out pretty good.

I threw the pictures in Photoshop just to put my name on it, but outside of that, I didn't do any editing. Everything is "as is".

Outside of the pictures, I was thinking: I don't recall "seeing" midnight on New Years Eve in 3 years or so. Maybe the last time I saw the clock strike 12 was 2011 going on 2012, and no one died that night in some catastrophic world ending event.. at least nothing stands out right now. I remember going to someone's house, but after that, the years become hazy.

Therefore, it's an easy assumption that I have been sound asleep as the decades roll on, and the world counts the seconds down to let acquaintances be forgot(ten). Couples kiss, kids rub their sleep encrusted eyes (wondering what's happening).. people are joyous. Me, I'm dreaming of days to come and asking my brain how I can prosper in the weeks ahead without comparing my life to my past.

Just like everyone does when the year ends. We all get nostalgic and we all pray for a better future - even if we aren't the praying type. We put enough effort into that little positive bin, that corner where we hope we can perhaps push in the right direction.

At least one could hope, right? Either way, could this be a turning stone? Who knows; time will tell and we'll find out soon enough!

Pictures or it didn't happen:

Have a safe and healthy start to the new year, and see you in the future...


Rest easy, Peter. 
You were a good kid.
(PRM 1967 - 2015)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

"The Day After"

While there's still time to commit to a "day after Christmas" post, I figure, "might as well". I only get to do this once a year; and while I was hastily celebrating the random birth of a random stranger with a bunch of other random strangers, I just as quickly went shopping today. I have the receipts to prove my shopping spree (like the Targus Pro Series 3-Way Panhead and Bubble Level Tripod because my Kodak finally kicked the bucket.. after 15 years of service. *sad face*) and the pictures to prove debauchery yesterday.

I do have to admit, I plugged my laptop into the third HDMI port of a Sanyo 39" TV (a television you can not find anymore on Amazon. Closet I came to searching was this and this.. all "previously loved"), so the colors of the pictures will be skewed on different machines, as I was going off the vibrancy of the television, instead of my not-so- calibrated laptop monitor (another defunct product - a Dell Inspiron N5010).

As per usual, I did some exploring around my community. Not as much as recent years, due to the fact it was an in between time - that moment when everyone was feeling too full to continue eating, and too tired to play another round of Farkle.

While the company enjoyed a humid sunset on the lanai, I enjoyed walking to the front gate.
Seriously; go back to which you came. No one can let you in.
Place is emptier than a funeral home.

Front gate

Sometimes you need a little time to see the sun go down by yourself.

However, prior to that moment, I had some pretty nice subjects to focus my attention on: Peanut and Sophie.

Peanut is ready for his closeup

Peanut's ready for action! Front and center!

Sophie can help too!

Sophie has a couple secrets that she will never share...

Due to the fact the people I visited face a lake, I was able to catch a bird hanging out, trying to cool itself from the 85 degree warmth (it felt 90).
I used a Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 zoom lens
on my Canon EOS Rebel T3 Digital SLR Camera

I think it caught on people were watching it, because it flew away and didn't return the rest of the night.

sunset from lanai

another sunset

What did transpire, was a lot of drinking, a lot of dice, and a lot of merrily drunken people singing too many Christmas songs.  Did I enjoy any of that? Sure I did; except I know enough not so sing a long (because someone always has a recording device.. he-he), and I was just bursting at the seams from too much good food. 

We all needed a walk afterwards, but we didn't. Good times were had by all at any rate and there are plans for making this a yearly deal - we shall all get together for the party and the game again... not that we don't do it at any other time of year, but certain holidays make it better... more special.

(... doesn't help the fact half the group doesn't celebrate the holiday, but the attempt was made and fun as had...)

Be good, be safe, don't run anyone over this week. Relax and enjoy the ride, tip your waiter and pay for your cab. See you soon.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

It was another "Go Play" day...

... and it had several uses.

Due to the culmination of me finishing my Holiday Rush work and the fact we were at a slow moment of the day, my boss wanted to figure out how we can generate more revenue and get people in the store. My "go... play..." served as both a time waster as well as prove Pinnacle Studio 18 can upload Youtube videos.

Wait, what?

I haven't upgraded to the newest software, as I'm still trying to use figure out the aforementioned editing suite. There are way too many options to clearly make us get the new version. The bells and whistles work fine for now, so we can digitize people's movie reels as well as make one solid streaming video from smart devices (phones, tablets).

Lately, we've been asking the question "where's the next big thing coming from, and how can we obtain it?". So far, people want their phone videos off and playable on a DVD. We can do that. But what's next?

After getting some rare phone calls if we offer a service to help edit videos and post them to Youtube (or any social network), we haven't had the opportunity to fully check it out and set up a payment plan. To be honest, we don't get that much traffic as it is; therefore, with the technological savvy society we (generally speaking) have become, everyone is doing it themselves - posting immediately to Facebook, Instagram, and the like. This was the first phone call in months, asking if we provide any video editing and network sharing. I had to tell the customer we don't, but after a discussion with my boss, it was decided "maybe we should figure it out... there might be a selling option here".

Therefore, off I went; taking my Canon EOS Rebel T3 outside, put the video mode on and my lens on manual focus, and off I shot. I had 9 different clips, because it's hard as hell to see if you're focusing correctly while facing the sun. Because there was very little shade, I was going by (what I hoped was) instinct. You really need to know your camera because the Auto setting can't help you if you "go blindly" into a situation with the thing. Like I've shared in the past with the videos, auto focus can hurt you if you try to do too much video at one time and aren't paying attention. Everything turns out blurry. Therefore, manual focus is your friend, even on the auto setting.

I got back in, after spending a good 20 minutes outside, walking around our lake, imported my videos (it took 10 minutes or so), put three shorter ones together, and did a quick title. I didn't fully edit them, as I was only trying to make a point. After reviewing them, I admit, I'm not too thrilled with it. Given the opportunity to play with the settings more (in my camera), or at least fix the color and use enhancements in Pinnacle. It was a rush job and I stand by my work 100 per cent, but I'm not 100 per cent happy with it. Maybe next week I'll try taking video again, uploading it and editing it, but for today, "it is what it is". At least I learned from this venture today, and can fix my mistakes for the next time. Perhaps as well, it's a learning curve and a teaching tool for what we can do, not only for ourselves, but what new service my work can offer.

Tonight, children, be well, be merry, don't drink too much. Some people are expecting a jolly fat man in a red outfit, to squeeze his gelatin ass down a chimney and deliver presents under a tree. Other people are using it as an excuse to do some catching up with family and friends, while I know other humans that really don't care it's a holiday; they are waiting for the candy to go on sale tomorrow. You get it, buddy!!


Video and photos or it never happened (My laptop monitor isn't calibrated; forgive the discoloration in some):

Saturday, November 28, 2015

It's a weekend cooking show!

Not really, but I did spend my Friday night making some chocolate covered pretzel rods.

Yes, I know you can buy them in the store, but what's the fun in doing that? When you've got all the ingredients at home, just mash them all together and have a party.

Which is what I'm doing later this evening.

The first step is not admitting you have a problem, but making sure you have everything correct.

The list of ingredients:

  • Pretzel Rods (any will do, honestly. I happened to have Benzel's available).
  • Chocolate Chips (again, any will do; I had some Toll House left over from my last excursion).
  • Wax Paper (because you'll need one sheet to leave the pretzels on to dry, and one for jimmies).
  • Jimmies (rainbow is the best. But if you're doing this for a themed party, get different colors and make each rod a solid color).
  • Whoppers (I think the last time I had some of these malt balls, I was 7. "I haven't had them in years!!!!!" I said out loud). 
  • A short glass (I happened to have an Old Fashioned type of glass. guess we're drinkers here. You're going to need this to stand the pretzels in the Whoppers in the end),
  • A microwaveable safe bowl (because you're going to need to melt the chocolate).
I'm not going to go step by step with pictures, as any person who attempts to cook, will understand what to do (I hope).

After you get everything out and on the kitchen counter or dining room table, get the wax paper set up. Two pieces near each other - one has a mound of jimmies on it (so you can roll the newly melted chocolate rod), and the other has nothing (so you can put it down to dry). 

Pour some Whoppers in the short glass and set it to the side.

Pour the chocolate chips in the microwaveable safe bowl, and microwave for 40 seconds. Take out and stir (with a spoon, duh). Put it back in for 45 seconds and when it's done, take it out and stir. It'll start to become melty and hot, so if you're doing this with kids, have them use pot holders from this point on. If the chips are still lumpy, keep repeating the process until the chocolate is smooth.

From this point on, you can start dipping the pretzels in the chocolate, and then roll them in the jimmies. It's best to have a helper, as the chocolate will harden quickly; therefore you need to keep it stirred (or at least kept warm so it stays a liquid form). 

If you have a lot of pretzels and not enough chocolate, don't go all the way down the rods with it. But if you have equal amount, you can certainly go halfway down the stick with the melted goodness. You can even choose where you want the jimmies rolled on it - be creative. 

Let it all set for a few hours, if not over night. If you have time, set it on an oven pan (with the wax paper) and put it in the fridge if you're not using them right away. 

Once you're set to stand them up for your party, take the glass you filled with the malted balls, and stick the pretzels (non chocolate jimmies side) in the cup. Voila, neat little party snack!

Have fun baking!


By the way: Cyber Monday 2015 deals start today on Amazon. Go play :)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Another recipe (for disaster?)

A few weeks ago, I went into Starbucks and got one of those refreshers drink they sell (both in the coffee shop and as "create / drink at home" in the grocer aisle). It was a combination of "Sweet and Sour" refresher mixes, blended together as a Frappucino instead of being poured as a liquid.

The combination was interesting, as the ingredients were equal parts Very Berry Hibiscus and Cool Lime. Substitute lemonade and blend like a Frappucino. Add some berries to it, and no lime wedge because that's just weird to blend in. The outcome is odd because it looks like it's a new ice drink - all pink and red, with spots of berry seeds. The liquid actually stays somewhat on the bottom because it's too heavy, but you get a tart kick when you first drink it.

Definitely one for the books.

I figured this afternoon, I'd try something similar at home.

What I did, was substitute the lemonade for Ocean Spray 100% Juice - Cranberry Mango, and left out the Cool Lime and the berries. It's tangy, it's tart, it's sweet... it's a lot of things mashed together. Not for the faint of heart - more for the sweet tooth lovers who want that kick of sour.

My first mistake was putting the Hibiscus packet in the blender and then the juice and  (already crushed) ice (my ice maker makes cubes and crushed. The crushed actually makes the drink more airy, I'm thinking), to mix all at once. 

I should have blended the juice and powder first, as the instructions normally call for powder in the cup, a little water to start the mix, then more water once the mix gets dissolved, followed by ice and how much more water you want. 

Either way, I think it would work, as the mistake didn't turn out to be bad; I just had to add more juice to the mix, to get the clumps out of the bottom of the blender. So it's more liquid than ice, and the ice became airy, so it floats to the top (which is what ended up happening with my original drink from the chain).

I think, if I had a Vitamix blender instead a Black and Decker, maybe it would have come out better. I don't know; allegedly Vitamix is the blender every restaurant / bar / food establishment uses. 

I guess all in all, there's always room for improvement and keep trying. Sometimes things just work out!


Friday, November 6, 2015

Start singing when you're playing!

Yesterday, I was editing some movie film, and pieces of the family memories were from Camp Dearborn in Milford, Michigan.

Elmo projector.
Yes, that's Pinnacle Studio 18 Ultimate on the monitor.

I've not had the opportunity to visit The Mitten State, but I did have to laugh, as I kept singing "Second Week Of Deer Camp" by Da Yoopers (search around for the music video. You'll laugh too, I promise). I don't know why it popped in my head; maybe Milford is one of the villages (who knew it was a village and not a city?) where the Upper Peninsula toes the line to the rest of the state (so I read somewhere.. also saw on a map). It's that last stop for "yoopers" before they get into normal charted territory (maybe?). I shrugged it off because I don't know that much about the city nor do I know a lot about the state (Except "M Go Blue" [Hi, Abby]).

Needless to say, it was a good couple minutes of rummaging through comedy songs... all in no thanks to my Michigan and Canada friends.

Outside of having play time with an old projector, old movie film and a new computer, I had time to spend with a quiet old broad that runs the front office.

She gets dolled up every Christmas with a red Santa's hat, and people laugh at her... only after they think she's real. 

As soon as you walk in the door, bam, there she is. 

Yeah, I know, I screwed up the background blur.

She quietly waits outside one of the offices, wanting to give you a plate of nothing. 

What else do you need in life, I ask? She doesn't talk back, although she vibrates if you plug her in (stop guttering). She'll keep your secrets safe (for a song) and don't bother looking up her skirt. She's all coiled wires and Styrofoam.

(All in all, I'm amazed how I've edited my pictures in Photoshop. All without the use of a Wacom tablet and pen! It's nice to have a digital camera and practice editing.)


Saturday, October 24, 2015

There comes a point...

... where it's a decision to stay indoors and take random photos

or go outside and do some exploring.

All because there are moments where I'm thinking of the line from Sid & Nancy where Johnny says "Boring, Sidney, Boring. Boring". Nancy says it once as well. It's been quite "boring" lately, so I've had my camera out a little more as I roam around.

All I know is summer's over, fall is here and snowbirds are coming soon. Some already have started to arrive. It's a matter of time before traffic becomes unbearable and full time residents get mad. Then we're like, "is it Easter yet? Can the snowbirds go home?". It's a vicious cycle!

I can has something different now? Haha.


See also:
Light sources used in the indoor photos (or something similar):

Photography Photo Portrait Studio 600W Day Light Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit by LimoStudio LMS103

Camera used in all photos:

Sunday, October 4, 2015

"The Osprey flies at midnight"

Towards the end of September, I had the opportunity to use my boss' Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera.

Attached to that, was the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens (minus the flash trigger).

The only thing that I found to be a pain was the simple fact I'm not used to a heavy zoom lens. It's nice and all, but the heft can be challenging if you're not used to it. It felt a little clunky as well. Like, I could feel the reason my boss told me to wrap the strap of the camera fully around my wrist if I wasn't going to hang the camera from my neck. One wrong move (slip) and this thing go flying if you're not careful.

Because this camera is geared towards the professional photographers, the card compartment only allows the use of a Compact Flash. Not that I am complaining, but it did take me a few minutes to figure out how to get the card door open. It's a little more flush against the camera than I anticipated. Beggars can't be choosers, I suppose, as I was given full permission to "go play" with it... only after the camera was put in auto mode and made sure the card in the camera had locked images worth saving. I ended up shooting both camera raw and jpg files.

All I can say is, thank god for slow days.

The whole reason I was able to "have fun" with the camera, is the simplest of answers: we had a visitor outside.

Due to having a (man made) lake in front of our little plaza, people are constantly fishing in it. Somehow water creatures always end up in this water, and when they do, winged animals arrive. First time I got to see an osprey "up close" was when I was out taking pictures with the Mark III.

I'm so used to my Canon EOS Rebel T3, that I honestly don't have any more experience with newer cameras. I'm glad it got me into the 21st Century, I'll give Canon that, but it seems that the Mark III is in a different league of it's own (like I said, it's geared to people who use it in business... and a lot more money if you want "updates" like the use of a compact flash).

At any rate, the Osprey was sitting pretty for quite some time on a post. I felt like I was out playing speed patrol. People passing by kept slowing down when they saw me with this clunker in my hands. I'm sure they saw the bird, but it didn't help I was out with what appeared to be a new radar gun. Or the fact we share the entrance to our street with the local sheriff department.

The power of the internet allowed me to learn to zoom in on my pictures, as I can honestly say that I'm still a "noob" when it comes to photo editing. Therefore, I'm kind of proud of how I was able to save the pictures!

Sorry the color may be off. They are the camera raw images and I don't have my laptop monitor calibrated to the best possible use.

The Original:

The zoomed in edit:



It was fun standing outside for twenty minutes watching the bird. I didn't want to get too close because I didn't know what kind it was until my boss told me it's a fish eating animal. Which explains why I see a similar looking one near my house. It keeps catching fish and eating it on a lamp post.

Every once in a while, I've been told, these birds come and hang out at the lake. I do see them flying around with the egrets and herons, but the ospreys don't stay. If there wasn't a bird sanctuary near by, I don't think I'd get to see the different local birds to begin with. So it's pretty cool.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Update for Roku

I figured I would do an update from my last post about the Roku 3 Streaming Media Player.

It's been a solid 3 weeks or so, and I've got quite the collection of apps on the device. This past week I had ordered a red Monoprice Select Series High-Speed HDMI Cable 1.5 Feet Supports Ethernet, 3D, 4K and Audio Return in hopes that the flickering would stop while I am trying to watch something. I don't need anything bigger than 1.5 feet; I am not trying to connect the world in various rooms.I'm perfectly content in the Roku sitting behind my TV as the remote does a good job in sending a signal to the Roku anywhere in the house. Which is odd, considering you need to hook up the device to your TV. I guess it can be used for those who have a home theater system, where they have some sort of projector (with an HDMI input) and plan on streaming from far away. Even still, why would you need anything longer than 2 feet of cord?

But anyway, just a couple days after ordering the cable, I received it in the mail. Hooked it up and voila; flicker rate is nil. I'm glad I researched the problem before I got truly invested in anything stressful. Come to find out, the flickering is one of those things you either have to deal with, or you get a noise cancelling HDMI cable. That's basically what this Monoprice wire is. It has little nubs on either end that (I guess) stop anything from coming or going into this cable that is not the audio and video signal that it should be.

So what have I been doing with this media player now that I've got everything hooked up?

One of the first things I watched was Dana Carvey: Squatting Monkeys Tell No Lies. I had found it via the HBO Go app. From 2008, the guy is spot on in all his impersonations (see "Oracle Ronald Reagan") and his issues with his loving parents and his children (see: they're growing up too quickly and are in need of various sized condoms). Mr. Carvey isn't completely raunchy (no outlandish cursing or anything), but the whole condom bit was pretty funny. The second (and third) thing I saw were Tig Notaro specials, again, via the HBO app. She's okay as a comedienne, but can be rather monotone in how she tells her jokes.

Not everything has been HBO; I've started watching the Showtime / American version of Shameless (yet again). Thus far, I'm 7 episodes in. I was watching it when it originally aired, but got sick of it. I had seen every episode / season of the original Paul Abbott series, and thought this William H. Macy version was too much verbatim of the Manchester Gallaghers. I've read that season two of the Showtime allows the Yanks to do their own thing and any similarities between the Chatsworth and Chicagoans are null and void.

Suggestion: Anyone looking to invest in the original series, Amazon is selling series 1-11 as a box set, and you're going to need a multi region dvd player. Most players these days come with the North American adapter with the European plug / unit so there's no worry about buying anything extra. Just read the accessory list before you buy. I would honestly look into this comedy, as it's a definite change from the norm. It takes a few episodes to get used to, in regards to the accents, but worth every moment. Do some digging if you don't want to spend the money to get all 11 seasons together, and want to do one by one. It may be cheaper to buy in one swoop, and if you don't like it, there's always an auction site to resell it. *Shrugs*

What else is good with this Roku, now that I've gotten side tracked?

To reiterate a couple basic needs:

  • As long as you have a cable subscription, you are going to need to log into your subscriber's email to verify the app to run on your Roku.
    • If you have premium channels, you're going to need to log in to your cable email to watch something. I haven't looked in to every available app, but Showtime is the only one that I've seen that offers a second tiered app on for a cost. One app is "free" with cable subscription and the other one (actual Showtime streaming app) is $10.99 a month after a 30 day trial. It's the same premise as the free version, except you're not tied to a cable company. That's a good deal, considering Comcast is charging us an extra $10 a month to add Showtime to our line up.
    • HBO on the other hand, has a 30 day free trial and then costs $14.99 a month for "HBO Now". The freebie is "HBO Go" that comes with the cable subscription. HBO Now doesn't look like it's available (yet) for Roku, but it is for the streaming devices. The more I think about it, I think if you can figure out how to mirror the app from your phone / tablet or PC onto the Roku, you shouldn't have a problem streaming this app. But don't quote me; I haven't attempted to mirror anything yet. 
  • Once you pay for your Roku, you're essentially paying for whatever you want to watch. With all the free apps available (I've had on Sky News a couple times already), there's plenty to choose from. Kids must have hundreds of channels, and I even found a Jim Henson one, and all the seasons of Fraggle Rock is loaded. YAY!!!!! Brings me back to my youth *big grin*.

The more I sit and work at this device, the more I find things. I've got the iHeartRadio app and am able to listen to Boston radio stations, I've got the Weather Underground (weather app) to find out how hot it is, some retro TV channels to watch really old school shows, and a lot more. Every day I'm finding something new. So is this a good buy? I think so; like I've stated in other posts, this is more user friendly than Chromecast was to set up. Once you get the quirks out of the way (the HDMI cable, the registering a credit card, etc), this device is worth the investment.