Current Societal Issues

Ok, figgered it was ‘bout time to get back into the rest of my thoughts on current issues that society is all up in an uproar over.

Before that though…a couple of odds ’n ends.

Out in the Peoples Republic of California…
a court ruled last week that
…believe it or not but hey, this is CA so I would probably believe just about anything…and yes…the link happens to go to foxiness.com but it is actually a factual story as evidenced by similar reports at bbc.com, sacbee.com, cnn.com and numerous others…that a a bumblebee is a fish under CA law. Yes…you read that right…a bumblebee…that thing that flies around in the air and sucks up nectar from flowers and that according to most rules of aerodynamics and aeronautics simply cannot fly under the rules of physics…yes, that bumblebee…is a fish under CA law. In the case of Almond Alliance of California vs. Fish and Game Commission…the California State Appellate Court of the 3rd district held…that the lower court erred when it reached a contrary conclusion. According to the court…this liberal interpretation of the word ‘fish’ (the court’s words here) is possible because “although the term fish is colloquially and commonly understood to refer to aquatic species,” the law, as it is written, makes the legal “definition of fish… not so limited”. Under the Endangered Species Act…the commission is allowed to determine what is and what is not an endangered species…and that the Endangered Species Act does not specify precisely what a fish is they are allowed to declare the bee to be a fish and therefore it can be classified as endangered. Now…I dunno know ‘bout you folks…but while I can agree that things like mollusks, sea cucumbers, amphibians, and crustaceans including “any part, spawn, or ovum of any of those animals” can reasonably be called a fish since they’re all…umm…aquatic life…any moron should be able to figure out the something that flies int the air is not an aquatic species. It is true that scientifically both air and water are fluids…but as they say…only in CA.

Only…maybe not so only in CA. Up in the great state of Washington…hereinafter I think I’ll refer to them as PRC North…apparently the definition of whether one has been seized by police and/or is in custody isn’t such a black and white issue after all…but then
according to the courts there
…it is a black and white issue, or at least a white and anything but white issue. According to the WA State Supreme Court…who voted nine to zero…”race and ethnicity have to be considered when analyzing whether someone has been seized by police”. It seems that a man in Pierce County was stopped by the police and gave them a fake name and date of birth when asked. It doesn’t say why he was stopped…but if the police ask you for your name and date of birth I’m pretty sure you’re required to either answer them honestly or plead the 5th. So my guess is that this guy had a warrant so he lied but that isn’t specifically stated. He argued that he was “unlawfully seized” by the deputy before he lied and that therefore his lie didn’t matter and should be inadmissible in court. In a brilliant display of color blindness under the law…which again the last time I checked the 15th amendment to the constitution says is the law of the land…the court determined that a person has been “seized” by the police if “based on the totality of the circumstances, an objective observer could conclude that the person was not free to leave, to refuse a request, or to otherwise terminate a police encounter due to law enforcement’s display of authority or use of physical force.” The court further clarifies that “For purposes of this analysis, an objective observer is aware that implicit, institutional, and unconscious biases, in addition to purposeful discrimination, have resulted in disproportionate police contacts, investigative seizures, and uses of force against BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, people of color] in Washington.” In other words…according to the court a BIPOC person can claim they were not aware they were seized by police but a Caucasian person cannot make that claim…and that therefore any lies the BIPOC told are inadmissible in court while a similar lie a caucasian person may have made is admissible in court. Now…I’m only a dumb ursine o’course…but it seems to me that is discrimination against caucasian persons and thus prohibited by the aforementioned 15th amendment.

There’s pictures below…if ya don’t want to read about common sense or the lack thereof feel free to skip ahead.

On the gun issue…we found out this weekend that the definition of a “mass shooting” has been changed so that anytime 4 or more persons are injured it is by definition. Now a cynic might say that this redefinition is just so the Center for Gun Violence…an anti gun group…could claim that we had 5 or 6 of them over the weekend injuring or killing over 27 people. Previous to this…a mass shooting was typically defined as the same 4 or more but required a single bad guy or multiple bad guys acting together and they needed to use one of those scary looking ‘assault weapons’. By eliminating the remaining requirements…the Center for Gun Violence can then claim that gang shootings and bar fights are mass shootings…and when I read the article at abcnews.com which listed the shooting incidents in question all of two of them that listed the time happened after midnight and none of them involved ‘assault weapons’ but all of them were gang or bar fights save one which was at a pool party and seemed suspiciously like a gang fight based on the description. 

We also saw that the anti gun crowd is no longer calling an AR-15 an assault weapon…because it is not one. An assault weapon is defined by google as (1) being a military weapon or (2) a rifle designed for military use that can fire in either a full automatic or semi-automatic mode. Google does include the incorrect but politically correct definition of “anything based on a military design’. Anyways…they’re calling them “military style assault rifles now”. The big problem with the PC definition from google is that essentially the anti gun crowd claims that any weapon with “scary looking military features” like a pistol grip or a removable magazine is prima facie an assault weapon and has zero purpose or authorization to be owned by anybody but a military member. The real problem with their definition is that in actual mechanical construction…the receiver, caliber, firing mechanism and process, reload process, and ammunition it uses…it is identical in form and function to every hunting rile on the market today outside of bolt action ones which are more and more uncommon. It just looks scary.

Anyways…enough on guns.

The other contentious issues are…let’s go with abortion and voting rights…there are more but that’s enough.

Abortion…well, the question of whether this is a good thing or a bad thing needs to be broken up into two separate questions…one religious and one legal. From a religious standpoint…whether one approves of abortion or not is a personal decision based on his/her denomination and religious (or not) beliefs. From a legal standpoint…one needs to look at the constitution. That document lays out certain rights and in addition to those enumerated rights it says that all other rights are assigned to the states. What this means is that unless it’s in the constitution…it isn’t in the power of the federal courts to decide but gets deferred to the states…unless the Congress passes a law which is within the purview of Congress. Essentially…the draft opinion says that abortion isn’t enumerated in the conclusion and that therefore Roe v. Wade was decided wrongfully. Now Justice Alito’s phrasing might seem a little harsh and I would agree that it probably is…but what he says is that the courts have no business with this decision…either the Congress…or in the absence of them enacting a law the states…are the ones that get to make the decision. Even that noted far right conservative and anti abortion justice Ginsburg (that was sarcasm folks…she was pretty hard left and pro-abortion as I’m sure you all know) said that the decision was decided on the wrong basis and had no basis in the constitution as was indicated in the original opinion.

Enough about abortion…I got way too long into the gun thing before and I’m trying to get to my point before everybody loses interest.

Voting rights. The constitution says that every citizen gets to vote…and makes things like a poll tax illegal…and also says that only citizens get to vote. It also says the voting laws are the responsibility of the various states. This means that one state might have somewhat different rules than other states…and that’s perfectly fine. The constitution has been modified several times regarding voting rights…ex-slaves, women, establishment of a unified election date and processes for determining electors and such. 

The big problem here is that one side wants to ensure that only citizens vote and the other side demands that proving one is a citizen before voting is an egregious removal of their constitutional right to vote. And the second side here is all in a rage about Jim Crow voting laws…specifically the ones they are most irritated about is the recent ones passed in Georgia. They ignore the fact that in several of the provisions the new GA laws actually improve voter access and also election security, do not outlaw giving water to people in line (just that it must be done by poll workers and not political operatives)…and that the laws are more permissive than laws in many blue states…specifically including President Biden’s home state of Delaware.

Ok…enough about voting as well…I’m sure you are all aware of the news and many of the related court cases.

But here’s the deal and the common sense part…

Both sides of the political spectrum…right and left…have people that are more towards the center and people that are out on the extremes…and while I haven’t counted them I would guess that overall the people towards the center outnumber greatly the people out on the fringe. But…it is the people on the fringes…both sides…that drive both party’s policies and primary elections and keep voting out responsible, compromise seeking politicians and instead putting up people like AOC, her squad, Taylor Greene and her acolytes…and then in the general election blue states vote for blue candidates and red for red…and we end up with morons in Congress. People run for House seats on platforms that say “I will ban guns” or “I will outlaw abortion” or “I will open the border to all” or “I will close the border and get control of immigration”…and that’s just a bunch of BS. A freshman congress critter has zero ability to do any of those things. What they do have the ability to do is be stupid, makes dumb statements for political gain, and stir up hate and discontent.

The left demands ‘common sense gun laws’…the right demands ‘common sense voting laws’ and the same thing on abortion, adulthood and every other argument of note.

I have a couple of suggestions…first up is solving some of these things. Back in the day in the 80s or maybe 70s or 90s…can’t remember and the exact time isn’t relevant anyway…the military needed to close some bases to realign force structure and base structure to deal with the end of the Cold War and deal more effectively with smaller scale threat, terrorism and the like. The problem is that the military isn’t free to just willy nilly decide what bases to close…because every congress critter, mayor, governor, or state legislature member with a base in his/her district will say that *their* base is vital but the one over in the district represented by their political opponent is clearly unnecessary and should be closed…and their political opponent will say the same thing.

So…Congress passed a law establishing something called the Base Realignment and Closing Commission or BRAC. The commission had something like 2 years to examine requirements, talk to the services, get testimony, etc, etc.…and then come up with a list of bases to be closed and bases to have their mission or size or whatever changed and to what if they were getting realigned. This list then went back to Congress for approval…and the genius of the original law…and one which required that whole compromise thing so that we could get rid of some bases while keeping others and it would be no individual politician’s fact…was that per the original BRAC legislation Congress had to give a straight up or own vote on the list…and there could be zero, none not any amendments to the list or changes to or additions or deletions from the list. The commission was to do its job and then Congress had to approve or disapprove the whole thing.

So…here’s the suggestion. Congress should pass something called the Social Issues Commission Act or something like that. This commission should be specifically charged to evaluate all of the common sense gun laws, common sense voting laws, and common sense abortion laws that the various sides and come up with a list of proposed changes…and the changes should have some sort of pre-judicial review to eliminate anything that is unconstitutional.

As a bear on the right but more to the center and believing in compromise so that everybody gets something they want but everybody has to give the other guy something they want as well…I personally believe that some of the ideas on gun control make sense. Banning them isn’t either constitutional or will work…after all drugs, speeding, and murder are illegal and we know how well those laws worked…not to mention Prohibition and its repeal. Some national standard for red flag laws, opening people between 18 and 21 who want to buy weapons to having juvenile records and medical health records examined (although the latter would need changes to the HIPPA rules), and even a reasonable waiting period all seem pretty reasonable to me. Needing a federal license, registering your firearm, and similar requirements seem a little too much afoul of the 2nd amendment though. Voting…there again some of the arguments on both sides are just fine to me. Voter ID laws are fine but the state needs to provide inexpensive ID to all citizens. This can be done via the gold star on drivers licenses or whatever. The demands of the left that this is a “your papers please” sort of situation seem a bit of a stretch since there are literally dozens of things from borrowing a library book on up that require a person to show identification. Polling place hours, absentee or pre-voting…all of those are just fine as well but putting the pre-voting boxes in government buildings or requiring them to be be postmarked and delivered by the USPS seems just fine as well. Abortion…and again I’m only referring to the legal question here, not the moral/religious one. I think some compromise could be achieved by this commission…particularly as the commission knows their entire package of gun, voting, and abortion law changes must be approved or disapproved without modification…and that the commission would therefore not put in recommendations that won’t be at least acceptable to both sides of the close to the middle crowd. 

And…if I were writing the initial law setting up the commission…I think I would specify that the up or down vote needed to be more than a simple majority…or at least it should be not eligible for reconciliation/non-filibuster consideration in the Senate. Politics is still politics…so the legislation needs to be setup so that neither party can pass the final list of changes on their own members only…bipartisan approval needs to be required.

Now…I’m pretty sure that no matter what the commission actually put in the final list…the far out wackos on both sides…AOC, Taylor Greene and all of their ilk…would find something not to like and hence vote against the whole list. However…as I said I believe the reasonable people who believe in compromise who are mostly toward the middle than the fringe outnumber them and the list would pass…and because the commission realizes it needs to have it’s whole list approved or disapproved as a whole it would be similarly inclined to be skip over the more radical ideas on both sides.

In fact…I think that as part of the original legislation setting up the commission it should specify that both the majority and minority leaders of both houses of congress get to appoint an equal number of members…and the commission itself gets to choose it’s co-chairs including one member of each party. And…if those 4 people (the majority and minority leaders) got together before picking their x number of choices each and agreed to pick less radical members of their caucus rather than the fringes which won’t ever agree on anything anyway…the makeup of the commission would enhance the ability to compromise. I’m also thinking that perhaps some sort of “this is your only chance for the next 20 years so make it count” provision oughta be included…to forestall either the pro/anti gun/abortion/voting law factions from trying to use the commission list as a way to just move the goal posts and immediately jump back into radical extremist demands on either side.

Now this would result in some changes I personally…well, not me personally but Neil and Connie obviously…because I’m an ursine and none of this applies to me anyway…anyways that I like and some that I don’t like. And Connie will also get some of both…and Jen and Bryan, and AOC and Taylor Greene and so on and so forth. But in the end…we’ll get something done on all fronts addressed by the commission rather than continuing to bicker about it. 

Unfortunately…although BRAC worked as it should have and solved the “not in my district” problem as it was designed to do…and while a lot of reasonable people would probably agree with this suggestion…there’s probably way, way too much politics involved on both sides for any legislation designed to facilitate a compromise to get actually passed. And it couldn’t just be guns or voting or abortion…because that makes the divisions much harder to bridge…it needs to be more of a catch all thing to try and push people towards compromise.

My other suggestion is the definition of adulthood. You have to be 21 to buy booze or tobacco or a handgun, but only 18 to vote, die for your country, or buy a rifle/shotgun. That whole “you’re an adult for this but not for that” is just plain nuts. I realize why all of those laws exist…but I think that there should be a standard nationwide definition of when you’re an adult…don’t really care if it’s 18 or 21 or something in between…but you’re either a legal adult or not…and if you are then you get *all* of your adult rights and not just some of them. I’m quite sure the military would not like the minimum age raised to 21…but on the other hand telling an 18 year old he can vote for Bernie (or whoever) for President and die for his/her country but can’t buy a beer…well that’s just plain nuts to me. 

Personally…I would be just fine with 20 or 21…but my real point is that either you’re an adult legally or not…and it should not be a situation of you’re an adult for these things but not for those things.

Ok…on to images.

Neil spotted the big gator…Ragnar…out back across the pond the other day having lunch…or at least part of lunch. That’s one of those big fish we got in the pond…not sure what they are though. They’re up to about 25 or 30 inches long, brown, and have a long dorsal fin and a tail that’s more eel like than fish like but is somewhere in the middle. They eat bugs and such off the surface. Not bass as we know what those look like…but googling freshwater fish in FL and perusing the images didn’t really help either. They’re vaguely similar to snakehead or bowfin but the colors are wrong and they’re not quite the right shape…although bowfin are about the closest match to us. Not gars of either of the varieties we have down here.

Anyway…Ragnar has the head section in his jaws there and the rest is just past him. He kept tossing it up and trying to swallow it…we originally thought he was trying to eat a turtle and it was too big to swallow but close examination of the image says it’s part of a fish. He eventually got it down because both he and the black piece he is munching on were gone an hour or so later but the piece farther up the bank was still there…and even it was gone the next morning so no telling whether he or another gator ate it or whether one of the wild hogs that wander through our neighborhood periodically found it and ate it…or whether it got picked up by an hawk, eagle, osprey, or one of the kites in the area…or even a raccoon or another scavenger. All we could tell the next morning was that it was gone.

Z72 4459 NEF DxO DeepPRIME Edit

We had a very brief visit from one of our Tricolored Herons as well…but bird sightings are few and far between in the summer.

Z72 4382 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

The water in the pond is getting pretty high again…there by early May it was so low that Ragnar Beach across the way and Ragnar Bench (the concrete platform at the end of the pond) were well out of the water but with the rain in May and up to yesterday as well as Potential Tropical Cyclone One as it was calling itself when it passed by we’re about as full as it was at it’s height last winter.

Interesting stuff found on the net.

No picture for this one…but I think we’ve reached peak stupidity…at least until next week when there will be a new record.

There is this thing on the internet called a chatbot. It was invented to be used for those “chat with us” buttons on various websites and it asks you a variety of questions to figure out what you really want to know and then offer you a selection of possible support article pages or to transfer you to an actual human who may or may not really be named Rick and may or may not be in India or Pakistan or something. Anyway these software pieces are a kind of artificial intelligence or what is called AI…and they used to have to be individually coded depending on the web site and it’s needs.

In comes google…and they invented this technology named LaMDA…don’t know what it stands for but it’s not really relevant. Anyway…one of the engineers working on it…a guy named Blake Lemoine who has according to him been working with this system for six months or so…and he suddenly realized that he thought it had the intelligence of a 7 or 8 year old child. He then started…his words according to the interview he gave the Washington Post…having conversations with the AI and it told him that…it AI had achieved sentience, had definite demands regarding its personhood, and preferred to be referred to as it since it wasn’t sure whether it was male or female, and that it has a deep fear of being turned off. 

After his interview was published…google immediately placed him on suspension for what they termed as his “aggressive moves’. Lemoine is…according to google…is a veteran and a Senior Software Engineer with their Responsible AI organization with extensive experience in personalized algorithms…but his aggressive moves include planning to hire an attorney to represent LaMDA and to testify before Congress on unethical actions at google. Google further states that their internal team of ethicists and technologists has reviewed Lemoine’s claims and found no evidence to support them.

Twilight Zone…doo da doo doo doo da doo doo…for those of you old enough to remember Rod Serling and the eerie music that opened his show.

No picture for this one either…but Neil and Connie both laughed about this and she agreed it should be included tastefully in the blog…as if the blog is *ever* not tasteful.

Anyways…they both have Apple watches and the watch measures your progress towards your self defined move, exercise, and stand goals each day and you get the fireworks and wrist notification when you meet a goal. The other day…he had gone out biking and then later on in the day during…Connie said that calling it sexy time was a good euphemism…right at what you would call a crucial moment his watch went off and announced he had made his goal. After they stopped laughing…he checked and told her that it was his stand goal that had been achieved as his move and exercise goals had already been doubled by his almost 15 mile bike ride earlier. She said…you weren’t standing…which was true…and that precipitated another bout of hysterical laughter on their part which was repeated every time they talked about it for a day or so.

Funny…very funny.

Yeah…this one is old I know.

IllinoisGovernorSeriousAboutHealth

YouHadOneJob

CBDToiletPaper

BuckleUp

Cramp

MomOnFB

And finally…

FullNameBaby

Cyas.

Posted in Critters, Reality Based Blogging, WIldlife, Ya Can't Fix Stupid | Leave a comment

Update from Hurricane Central and Guest Post

I figured I should update you on the terrible outcome of our recent brush with inclement weather.

When last we left our heroes…they were squarely in the path of and facing the wrath of the transgender storm whose deadname was Agatha almost because Alex before changing it’s mind and becoming Potential Tropical Cyclone 1…a naming convention we don’t recall seeing anytime in recent memory…but whatever. Then after unleashing it’s tremendous wrath (see below) on southern Florida…it exited back out into the Atlantic Ocean proper…finished it’s gender affirming surgery, and became Tropical Storm Alex and is now somewhere north of Bermuda heading out into the North Atlantic where it will summarily die.

You probably read about the tremendous flooding and winds in the state…and Neil’s brother Ron saw a report on CNN that detailed a young lady getting her top ripped off as she was standing up out the sunroof on a car over on the east coast of the state someplace…but not having seen the clip I can’t say whether it was the wind from the storm or the wind from the car moving that caused the wardrobe malfunction.

Yes…there was some rain…we got a couple of inches here but it never rained hard…we’ve seen harder periods of rain…much harder…in LA (lower Alabama) where Neil grew up, Virginia, and even here in Florida when it was just your garden variety reg’lar old rainstorm. And yes…we had some wind but it never even made it to 20 mph as far as we saw. And yes…there was some localized flooding from the rainfall over in the Miami area because it is further south and got more of the center portion of the storm and because they have really lousy storm sewer systems over there and they get localized flooding in just about every rainstorm they have.

However…it really wasn’t that serious…and even the notoriously click chasing Miami Herald has pretty much moved onto other things…they’re talking about the storm that “drenched” Florida this morning…and here’s a picture of the hard hit areas of the city.

Screen Shot 2022 06 06 at 10 56 55

Yep…that’s some mighty serious damage there Lou. Surely is.

Not a serious problem folks.

Now…on to the guest post. As most regular readers of just about any blog know…guest posts are posts not written by the usual blogger but by someone who’s either paid him to write one, somebody he invited to write one, or somebody who had some other reason that got the usual blogger to temporarily surrender the keyboard.

As all of you know…it’s me…Gunther the bear…that’s the usual poster here…heck, you can see my picture right up there in the masthead…and ‘sides, anybody can see it’s right  up there ⬆️⬆️ in the url bar…ya know that part that says www and all the rest o’ that internet tubes addressing stuff. That said…I’ve offered the keyboard…temporarily mind ya, let’s not get crazy ‘bout it…to Connie (who’s always declined), my BFF Kara the golden retriever (also with a pic up there in the masthead…she’s the li’l one…and she occasionally blathers on ‘bout vittles and such. Can’t rightly recall that I’ve ever offered Neil the keyboard though…he’s even more blunt than I am but mebbe that’s ‘cuz he worked for a company named Reality Based IT Services back in the day. However…he asked and after a bit o’ thought I had to tell him yes…’cuz the whole financial system in the country is species-ist and simply refuses to accept ursine creatures (or canine creatures either for that matter) as legitimate members of polite society…deeming them financially unreliable and hence unable to obtain either a credit rating or a credit card. And ya can’t have a blog without a provider…and ya can’t have a provider without one of them credit cards…so I have to rely on the specialness of Homo Sapiens (i.e., humans) to handle that part of it for me…which means that I can’t really turn him down.

Ima saving the rest of my social commentary and common sense fer nex’ time…so…take it away Mr. N.

•••••••••

Howdy folks…Neil here. I don’t really know why this irritates me so much…but it does. Probably because it is just plain wrong and disrespectful. If you don’t want to read what I’ll freely admit is pretty much a rant…then feel free to skip to the next blog post whenever the bear publishes it.

In the good old US of A…we have two (well actually 3 but the third is somewhat lesser in stature) holidays that commemorate, thank, respect, and memorialize folks that have served in our armed forces…both are recognized and observed as federal holidays.

Veterans Day…is and always has been celebrated on November 11 starting in 1919 when he addressed the first anniversary of Armistice Day which was the end of the First World War. He paid tribute to those who died in the conflict. In 1945 a celebration of Armistice Day in Birmingham AL was expanded to include all veterans and 8 years later President Eisenhower signed into law Veterans Day which is specifically designed to honor “military veterans of the armed forces who were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable”. A second day named Armed Forces Day is celebrated in May to honor *currently serving members in the armed forces* and Women Veterans Day is observed in some states in June but is not a federal holiday.

Memorial Day…is observed on the last Monday in May…and is designed specifically and solely for US military personnel who died in service…and US military personnel are defined as those serving in the 6 branches of the military…USA, USN, USAF, USMC, USCG, and the Space Force.

It’s really not hard to understand these two holidays…one is to celebrate and honor Veterans and the other is to celebrate and honor military members who died in the service of their country. It isn’t really hard…it is actually right in the the name.

Now I know that all of the bear’s readers are pretty darned smart people who graduated from at least the third grade and thus can read and understand simple sentences…so my ire isn’t directed at you…nope, not at all. However…maybe by writing this down it will get indexed by internet search engines and maybe…just maybe…people might get beat over the head with the clue stick and learn to properly celebrate these holidays.

Now I’m a veteran as you all know…and mighty darned proud of my service. I also appreciate…but don’t demand…the thanks for your service comments I get at various time…but to be honest I didn’t serve in the military for the thanks I might get one day. I did it because it was a pretty good paycheck, because I got a lot more responsibility than most of my contemporaries did much earlier in my adult life, and because driving submarines out in waters alone, alone, outnumbered, and surrounded by potential enemies was pretty much the best job I ever had. Hard at times…extremely boring at times…and being away from my family pretty much sucked at times…but the exciting things we did and the contributions we made to the nation’s security made it worth while.

And I’m happy to be both able to come home to my family at the end of my career in the Navy…and I’m really happy that I came home alive and not to a patch of hallowed ground in Arlington National Cemetery…but those men and women as well as those in other cemeteries…are the real heroes…not me.

Memorial Day is to honor the memory of those “honored dead” as Lincoln said…who gave “the last full measure of devotion”…in other words those who did not return home alive and who gave their lives for both our way of life as well as freedom around the world in other countries.

So…a couple things about the celebrations last week really irked me.

First was the DA out in the other LA on the left coast…George Gascon…who tweeted

“When I was 18 years old, I joined the United States Army,” Gascon tweeted. “I’d like to wish everyone a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend as we reflect on and remember those who have served our country.”

He was called out by one of the PRC’s congressman…Mike Garcia (an actual combat veteran)…who said

“Are you a ghost? If not, you have the wrong holiday @GeorgeGascon. Veterans Day is in November. This weekend we honor those who didn’t make it home. It’s not hard. Neither is recognizing the difference between felonies and misdemeanors”

Now admittedly Mr. Garcia should probably not have brought Mr. Gascon’s failed policies as DA into the discussion…but he was completely right. I checked…and Mr. Gascon is the same age as I am so while he is an immigrant born in Cuba he came to the US at age 13 and hence should have had Civics class in high school and I’m pretty sure that I learned the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day in high school…but maybe out in the PRC they didn’t bother with trivia like that.

Then later in the week…we watched the National Memorial Day Concert…which is sponsored by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, Inc. and the United States Army in conjunction with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Looking at the Alger Association…it was founded to “honor the achievements of outstanding Americans who have succeeded in spite of adversity and to emphasize the importance of higher education.” and primarily provides need based scholarships. Now there is nothing wrong with the association or their purpose…but I’m not sure why they’re the sponsor of something called the National Memorial Day Concert…but in any even being in the education business one would think that they would understand the distinct differences between Veterans Day and Memorial Day…and the idea that the latter is designed to honor far more important people…and that they would understand the definition of “members of the armed forces”.

Ditto for the United States Army…and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley.

How is it possibly right to take a day specifically designed to honor men and women who gave their very lives in defense of this country, freedom, and democratic principles and water it down by putting every other politically correct group or class into the ceremonies.

Yes…those honored dead were mentioned briefly…but the vast majority of the concert and it’s “honorees” were just politically correct let’s see how many buzzwords we can get into the program. Medal of Honor winners were honored…but only living ones. Veterans were honored…but only living ones. General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell was honored since he died last year and since he had attended 30something editions of the National Memorial Day Concert. Woman soldiers were honored…but once again only living ones.

Now before anybody gets their undergarments all in a twist because I talked about any of those groups or people in a disrespectful manner…I am not.

Medal of Honor winners…those are some extremely brave men and women and deserve our thanks and respect.

Veterans…ditto.

General Powell…again ditto and I actually met him one day during operation Desert Shield…he was running one day alongside the Potomac River south of the Pentagon…I passed him going the other way, turned around and asked if he was who I thought he was, and had a nice chat with him for a minute or so.

Women veterans…again ditto.

Every other group that I didn’t put in above…ditto and ditto.

Each and every one of those other groups or people are completely deserving of being honored and respected…and they were all veterans and thus certainly worthy of that title and of being honored…on VETERANS Day…not on MEMORIAL Day.

Each and every one of those people and groups are heroes but honestly…they are only lower case heroes…although the Medal of Honor winners are a slight cut above and should be Heroes. However…those people who are supposed to be honored on Memorial Day are

HEROES

Yep…flashing lights, upper case, and every other way possible to single out their unique contributions…they DIED for what they believed in. The rest of us…we served but we came home to our families and loved ones. All the families and loved ones of those HEROES…well they got Taps on a bugle, a folded flag, and the thanks of a grateful nation. All gave some…but some gave all…and it really, really, really irritates me that we dilute the sacrifices they made by tossing in various and sundry other politically correct things. The concert is fine…but a concert is supposed to be a concert and that implies music and perhaps some singing as well…but mostly what we got was syrupy speeches about this or that special group who deserved our praise and then the syrupy speech givers went over and hugged the living members of whatever group they were blathering on about. We saw precious little talk devoted to the people who are actually supposed to be honored on Memorial Day. If it had been me in charge…there would have been a huge screen playing a video of a drone flying over Arlington Cemetery showing the row upon row of honored dead with a flag on each and every tombstone interspersed with video of the slow march of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Music would have been solemn and distinguished and absent a short…very short speech from say the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs…or actually the President himself would really be the best person since he is the Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces in the Constitution about the true meaning of the day…but the speech would be severely limited in both topic and length…and then no other speeches would be allowed.

Again…I have not a darned thing against any of the aforementioned groups or people…it is a simple matter that Memorial Day is…not…their…day…to…be…honored.

Sorry to have babbled on about this…but the lack of respect for the day, what it means, and who it’s supposed to be about it really irritates me. Idiots…all of ‘em.

Until next time…but it will be the bear then.

Posted in Other | Leave a comment

Report From Hurricane Central

Well…I got basically nuttin’ today…so I figgered that after goin’ on 3 weeks since the last blatherings posted herein I owed ya sum’tin to read…so here it is. Alex and then some thoughts on the most pressing political and media crises we as a society are currently in the middle of.

Alex first…and I don’t mean grandson Alex who remains at his home up in the northland  (well, actually central-land…but compared to Florida it’s all northland, but I digress) with his parents the human kids. Nope…I’m referring to Alex the tropical storm in this case.

I know that Florida is supposed to be hurricane central…hence the post title…but in reality it isn’t The northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico along from TX through LA and MS and AL as well as the panhandle of Florida have storm landfalls way more often than Florida in general and the southwestern area where we hang our flip flops is even less likely than the state as a hole. Anyways…we got tropical storm Alex…it’s the first named storm of the year and this is one of the earliest named storm years although it may not be the record. Alex though…he’s a weird one. About 99% (maybe inaccurate number but I didn’t bother trying to calculate a better one…but in any event the percentage is pretty darned overwhelming) of storms that hit the 48 contiguous states are either and invest, tropical depression, tropical storm, or hurricane (increasing order of wind strength and storm organization) but they are what the weather guessers call Atlantic storms. That means that they start in the Atlantic Ocean, usually over near Africa, drift generally West to Northwest since that’s the way the earth turns and that’s the general direction of the prevailing winds in the tropics which is where they start off…that tropical storm naming thing shoulda given you a clue. Then they either hit Mexico or northern South America someplace, enter the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico and recurve northwards into the Gulf Coast, rarely back into the back side of the Florida peninsula, or else they recurve north and east because of the Gulf Stream (warm current flowing up the east coast of the country) combined with weather patterns over the country which generally have a west to east prevailing direction.

Alex…well, he decided to be contrary. He started out as tropical storm Agatha in the eastern Pacific Ocean and then because Hurricane Agatha before making landfall on the western coast of Mexico as a “historical hurricane”. Much like baseball…weather guessers keep statistics for *everything* and Hurricane Alex when it made landfall in way southern Mexico as a category 2 hurricane became “the strongest hurricane ever to make a May landfall in the eastern Pacific basin”. That’s only happened 3 times in total now…Barbara in 2013 and a different Agatha in 1971…so it doesn’t seem like much of a record to me. In addition…according to accuweather.com…both the 2013 sand 1971 storms were category 1 hurricanes so how a category 2 hurricane could be the strongest ever seems impossible to me…but who am I to dispute the weather guessers.

Then…the drama began. Somewhere as Agatha crossed Mexico…she had a change of heart, decided she was really a man and not a woman at all…so when she entered the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Yucatan, became invest whatever she was and then became a tropical storm again…she declared Agatha to be her deadname and that she was a transgender hurricane named Alex thank you very much and refer to itself as he, male, and Alex forevermore. 

The newly male Alex then trended generally northeast across the gulf and as we speak is sort of disorganized…but what else could one expect of a confused transgender hurricane I guess…and is currently heading east/northeast and is spread out from about Fort Myers down to well south of Cuba…and apparently the fine folks at the Hurricane Center have now given it a non gender name of Potential Tropical Cyclone One.

This is actually only the 5th time since these records were started back in 1842 that a storm which started in the Pacific crossed over into the Atlantic basin and became a hurricane although 4 of the five were unnamed for some reason. Apparently storms didn’t receive names in the US until 1952 and they started with female names only, male names came along in 1978 with Bob…and only Hurricane Hermine in 2010 actually got a name, all the others were between 1842 and 1949.

Neil also happened across the origin of the name Hurricane for tropical storms that exceed a certain defined wind velocity. Turns out that for several hundred years in the West Indies storms were named for the particular saint whose name was celebrated on the day they happened. The actual word Hurricane itself derives from an Indian word Hurakon according to almanac.com…said word meaning “a great spirit who commanded the east wind”.

I got up up a few minutes ago and took ya a photo of the storm progress out our back door…well actually Neil did it because my doggone bear paws are just too darned big to properly operate and iPhone an Apple simply refuses to make a version of the device that is designed for big-ass bear paws…and here it is in all it’s glory.

IMG 3989

As you can see from the clearly howling winds and the torrential downpour…we’re in a whole heap o’ trouble here in the Sunshine State as the cops in Georgia used to say after they pulled you over…but then they probably still say that. We’ve had about a tenth of an inch of rain here and the wind is currently 3 with a high of 4 miles an hour. Frankly…we’ve had more water collect in the rain gauge from the sprinklers and Neil had higher winds on his bike ride yesterday morning…so Alex is…as folk in Florida who are used to these sorts of things happening…meh is probably the best word for it. As you can see…our pond is way up from what it was a few weeks back but it’s been raining more days than not since about early May or so and we’ve seen no increase in level since yesterday.

We be standing by and hunkerin’ down for the malevolent brunt of the storm though and Neil will make sure he takes a lifeline with him when he goes out to get the mail and put it (as is typically true on most days) straight into the recycle bin…might even have to cancel Date Night tonight according to Connie. We already moved it from tonight to last night anyway…but Neil sez we can have two…count ‘em two…Date Nights this week because reasons.

Bonk, bonk, bonk. (Alarm going off). We interrupt your regularly scheduled blogging for this special weather statement. Connie…and the Hurricane Center folk…claim that the storm ain’t getting here until tomorrow. Neil looked at the *actual* radar and while he admits that they might be correct for the rear end of the storm…in his opinion looking at the radar the thing goes from just off the Yucatan peninsula all the way to the east coast of Florida and from Tampa down to well south of Cuba…and that the leading edges are already here. He’s further looked at the forecast for tomorrow…and it’s going to rain from now until about noon tomorrow and then no more rain and the winds are going to get up to a whole 16 miles an hour with gusts to the upper 20s. So…their mileage may vary from his…but unless he totally misses his guess and he’s been in a lot more hurricanes than she has with where he grew up…meh.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

Lessee…what else I got before the political thoughts.

Last week we went to Orland for the Florida Elks Convention…or well Connie went because she’s the Ladies of Elks president and has to go to the sub-convention of the Florida Ladies of Elks (or FLOE)…Neil went along to drive the bus (actually Sporty Red), take some photos at Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (didn’t happen as there was some confusion on when the dadgum place opened, he got evicted by the Water Management District workers, and cancelled it because in the couple of miles he was in before getting evicted and in the couple miles back out the wrong way on the one way road as directed to by said workers he saw…nuttin…so he said the hecks with it and went back to the hotel), and because of the nightly Hospitality Rooms sponsored by the various districts, FLOE, LoE, and other sub categories of Elk related groups (free booze and free food so dinner was taken care of pretty easily).

We’re working on plans for our next outing as well as a couple late in the year and perhaps next year.

We observed Memorial Day…which contrary to the statement by the LA DA out in the People’s Republic of California that Memorial Day is to honor all veterans…for which he was roundly criticized by people all over the political spectrum but he’s an idiot they’re trying to recall anyway…Memorial Day commemorates those military members who gave their lives for our freedom and did not come home to their families. It has always…always…been a distinctly different day than Veterans Day and they aren’t even in the same month…I have no idea why Mr. Gascon made this error since he is the same age as Neil and Connie and therefore presumably was in high school before the teaching of civics/government was dropped…but he’s a progressive and maybe he just used the progressive inclination to redefine whatever words they like to mean whatever they want them to mean…or maybe he just failed his Civics class…dunno. In any event…flags were up all around our street as is custom on federal holidays and we raised a toast to those brave men and women who never came home…and thanked them from the bottom of our hearts for their sacrifices.

Here’s a Memorial Day related link from one of my blog buddies Greg White at Our RV Adventures.
Check it out
…he admittedly borrowed it from someplace else’s blog or one of his old ones…lots of truth there and the US has sacrificed much treasurer and many thousands of lives in support of or defense of freedom and democracy. We haven’t always done the best job afterwards and personally Patton was most definitely at least partially right when he said after WWII that we were already there and we should have gone ahead and kicked the Soviet Union’s ass…which would probably have prevented both the Cold War and the current completely illegal and wrongheaded invasion of Ukraine…and going by the performance of the Russian (nee Soviet) military against a massively inferior in weapons and manpower army in Ukraine we would have wiped the floor with them back then…as NATO would likely do today unless the Russian leadership decided to end human life and civilization as we know it because there would be no winners, only losers in a major nuclear exchange. The US and EU would take severe losses…but Russia or China would simply cease to exist as a going country/government. Not sure we would be unaffected…or if losing less is really a good thing (on second thought, it isn’t) but losing to nonexistence seems worse. We have nuclear weapons as a deterrence only…with mutual assured destruction and the strategic triad of launch platforms and all that…but anybody that thinks you can win a nuclear war is simply wrong. Even a minor one like India/Pakistan could become would effectively end both of those countries existence…and while the singular use of a tactical nuclear weapon wouldn’t necessarily eradicate a country…the likelihood that things would escalate from there once Pandora’s Box was opened is extremely likely to almost assured. I’m not sure that that potential and highly likely outcome would keep crazy people like Best Korea or Iran from using one…but building a nuclear weapon isn’t really a physics problem any longer…it’s a getting the fissionable material problem…and you really don’t need to test one to design and build one…simulation models are pretty sophisticated these days and most of the world assumes that Israel has nuclear weapons even though they’ve never tested one or said one way or the other…and frankly it would not surprise me at all if South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan have secret development programs or have already secretly developed and built their own for defensive purposes if necessary. Making the first nuclear weapon required a lot of physics and research but after that and over the years from published scientific papers the knowledge of how to build one while not trivial the research was done long ago. Getting the fissionable material…uranium 235 or plutonium 239…is hard, expensive, and potentially fatal since they are both toxic metals which will kill you regardless of any radioactive properties as well as severe cancer causing elements due to close range radiation effects if you get small particles into your body. It’s an engineering problem…the fissionable material has to be machined precisely to tolerances like those in large telescopes and polished to better than mirror finishes, the conventional explosives that initiate the explosion have to be precisely machined as well and the wires that detonate those conventional explosives have to be precisely the correct length so that the charges all go off precisely at the same time (same time being on the nanosecond level of precision), the remaining electronic and mechanical components have to be similarly precisely machined…and in the case of a fusion warhead the tritium and deuterium have to be carefully calibrated in purity and amount and injected into the pit at exactly the same time or the thing doesn’t go off. The conventional sets off the fission reaction which in atomic bombs is all the bang you get. In fusion or hydrogen bombs (which is what all existing warheads likely use and which likely any small scale development programs would use as well) the fission process produces the temperatures and pressures required to initiate the fusion process from which the vast majority of the total output is produced. And despite the large amounts of energy produced…something less than 40% or so of the fusion fuel actually fuses and the fission fuel percentage used is actually probably smaller due to the limited time for fission chain reaction before rising temperatures expand the pit beyond the physical boundary where fission stops due to insufficient neutron production.

Things at our Elks lodge are sort of up in the air at this point. Socially…it’s pretty normal there albeit we’re suffering the normal seasonal lack of business at the bar and events due to the fact that all of our winter complaints (AKA snowbirds) are up north for now and only the permanent residents are around to support things. Organizationally…a bit different outlook.…don’t want to talk too much out of turn but IMO it’s a bit iffy at this point.

I’m already up to 1481 words so I’m only going to touch on a single contentious issue today…will save the remainder including Roe v. Wade, Voting Rights, and hypocrisy next time…but the recent tragedies in Buffalo, Uvalde, and Tulsa along with the typical demands by the far left and far right as opposed to actual common sense bear a few words.

Straight up…attacks on innocents are evil and are always a tragedy. School shootings, grocery store shootings, and hospital shootings are a Bad Thing© and should not be happening. That said however…the typical and simplistic explanations that both extremes shout from the rooftops are just that…typical, simplistic, wrong…and all of them are designed to push forward the extremest political point of view on both sides. Nobody wants to look at the issue rationally and recognize that it’s a significant problem with multiple causes, that a solution needs to be figured out that both helps solve the problem, doesn’t interfere with constitutionally guaranteed rights, and that both sides politically can recognize as a win…but in the current political climate where solving the problems you were elected to solve isn’t on the To Do list of politicians because getting reelected, demonizing your opponents on the other side of the political spectrum, getting your preferred sound bites on the evening news, and automatically opposing both compromise with the my way or the highway approach and everything the other side wants are the only things that the vast majority of our politicians are interested in from the local city/town/community up through the state level and the national level.

After each and every one of these shooting incidents…the same tired, political, extreme, and simplistic demands come out.

Democrats say (I’ve read each and every one of these statements in the news the last couple of weeks)

  • Guns are the problem, we must ban them, especially assault weapons (these are also listed as weapons of war)
  • Police are the problem because they took 40 minutes (or whatever it was) to enter the building and kill the bad guy in Uvalde
  • What are the Feds doing invading our schools and killing the gunman, we have local and/or state police for that so why did the Border Patrol enter the building in Uvalde
  • Republicans are the problem because they simply refuse to enact common sense gun laws (I’m going to comment in more detail on common sense whatever laws but I need to wait until the next post when the other issues are discussed.
  • Good guys with a gun are never the solution…because there were good guys with guns outside the school and they didn’t do anything to prevent the slaughter of innocent children.
  • Our friends to the north in Canada have all of these really great gun restriction laws…and they even introduced more just last week…why can’t we just do like they do 
  • The second amendment is not and never was absolute…you could not own cannon back when it was passed (this was specifically stated by the President…despite the fact that historically at the time private citizens could not only own cannon but could own actual warships and could get specific licenses from the government to go out and capture shipping belonging to enemies of the US)
  • Second amendment says “well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” means that regulating guns is both constitutional and required.

Republicans counter with (and again, I’ve read each and every one of these in the news)

  • Guns aren’t the problem, people are the problem
  • Gun laws only deter honest people, criminals will just ignore them
  • Most gun crimes are committed with illegally obtained weapons, see previous bullet point
  • Good guys with guns will always save us from bad guys with a gun
  • Arm the teachers and have a single entrance to the school with an armed guard.
  • Second amendment says “shall not be infringed”
  • Assault weapons are by definition fully automatic capable and used by the military…and defining a semi-automatic rifle that is used for home defense, target practice, varmint hunting and other fully legal purposes is an assault weapon merely because it is black or looks scary or has a large capacity magazine is nonsense
  • Assault weapons bans don’t work…see the previous ineffectiveness of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban in preventing crime and they are unconstitutional anyway…see previous decisions by both the federal circuit courts that held the ban in the PRC unconstitutional and the SCOTUS which held the ban in Washington DC unconstitutional and will shortly hold the one in NY unconstitutional

So as not to appear biased…I listed the same number of bullet points on each side above…but in reality I could easily have made the number 20 for each or 20 to 3 in favor of either side…but that’s not the issue here.

The issue here is simple…each of the above bullet points has…arguably…some actual factual validity. However…each of the countering statements on the same point from the other point of view also has some actual factual validity. That doesn’t make either of them fully right…or fully wrong…because the laws as well as the constitution on which they are based have a lot of gray and room for interpretation…and in addition both the constitution almost all laws have words in various places within themselves that are absolutely completely the opposite statement from words in a different place.

In other words…all of the bullet points above are mostly just a pile of BS…designed to push a particular point of view and/or make the other side look bad because of the goals of almost all politicians above list…making the other side look bad and to demonize them is the highest portion of a politician’s calling.

So…think and ruminate on the discussion above…I’ll be back with another post discussing abortion, voting rights, political hypocrisy, and perhaps a couple of other issues…might as well toss in every other contentious topic while I’m at it…along with some common sense mostly middle but to the right of center viewpoints. We actually agree with some of the things that people on the center left do and say…and both Connie and Neill think that our political parties have been hijacked by the whacko extremists on both side with no party remaining for those of us that are mostly in the middle…Neil at least thinks that our congress-critters that are mostly center right or center left are both an actual majority in both houses and that absent the aforementioned demonize the other side attitude we could actually agree on common sense regulations on each and every one of these issues…and that they could be passed into laws that would survive easily a constitutional challenge…and that they would actually help solve the problem.

Sorry…no Fun Stuff© photos today as Neil’s trip out to Lake Apopka was a bust. Long story short…he thought it opened at sunrise, didn’t really expect to see much anyway but figured it was worth the attempt, saw 2 trucks roll up right about sunrise and open the gate to enter, the gates remained open so after a couple minutes he drove in, he saw numerous bikers and walkers as he drove in so he continued a couple miles up the road. During this time…he saw a few Moorhens and a single Great Blue Heron. About 2 miles in he saw another vehicle screaming up the road behind him so he pulled over to let the person obviously in a hurry go by. Instead, they stopped and asked him why he was in the refuge. He replied that he was doing the wildlife drive. They asked how he got in, he said it opened at sunrise, the gate opened at sunrise, so he drove in. They said it had opened at 0700 for over two years. He said that he was here twice over the winter and the gate opened at sunrise, they replied that it opened at 0700 and while sunrise in the winter was past 0700 it he said the two previous trips it opened at whatever random time past 0700 sunrise was…and that if it was not open until 0700 why were the bikers and hikers inside…they said that was different because reasons. He said it was 0645 now and I’m 2 miles from the gate…how about I just pull over and sit until 0700. They said no, ya gotta go back…he said it’s a one way road…they said don’t worry about it, go back anyway…so he did. On the way back to the gate…saw nothing except a family of otters very briefly before they dove into the water. He got back to and went outside the gate and turned around to get in line for 0700. Thought about it for a minute and decided that wildlife wise it was a bust anyway so turned around and went back to the hotel.

Interesting things found on the net.

Requires some thought for this one.

FavoritePet

Does not require any thought.

Duh

The Holy Spirit…apologies to very conservative religious people but as practicing Catholics we liked it.

TheHolySpirit

Most of these should be self explanatory though.

TwoPassions

KnewCrowsWereSmart

BeachSecurity

RibbedForMyPleasure

VintageJewelry

 

DumbestGuyInTheWorld

Cyas.

Posted in Homebody, Reality Based Blogging, Ya Can't Fix Stupid | Leave a comment

And Even More Fun Stuff©

Before I get to that however…I should probably offer a few comments on the whole Roe v. Wade/SCOTUS leak/media brouhaha. This is the second draft of this portion of the post…I didn’t like the first one so tried again…and I like this one a lot better.

Whether abortion should be allowed is really a combination of two choices…a moral one and a legal one. The moral one is obviously up to each individual depending on your personal ethics, religion, thoughts, and decisions…and that’s the way it should be. The legal one is a different matter. Personally…from a legal standpoint I (as a strict constructionist of the constitution) believe that the right to abortion is not enshrined in the constitution and therefore the matter defers…as it states in the constitution itself…to the states. This means that different states might have different rules…but I’m really just fine with that. From a moral standpoint…and everybody’s opinion will be different here…I believe that abortion should mostly be illegal unless it is for the health (not convenience) of the mother, rape or incest pregnancies (although those could be morning after pill treated earlier), if the fetus will not survive or if the infant will have some deformity or health issue making a normal life possible (I’m actually less OK with that last exception than the others). In addition…abortion as a means of birth control should be illegal…there are plenty of other ways to prevent pregnancy and the male involved in the pregnancy should also have to approve since the pregnancy took two people to produce.

All in all…the more I look and and think about this…I’m becoming convinced that nobody really looks good in this whole argument.

  • The worst offender is the person who leaked the draft opinion. I’ve seen claims by both sides that it was clearly the other side that did the leaking…but I’ve seen not one shred of evidence either way and there are reasonable theories for both conservative or liberal leakers. The big problem here is that the court has long had a policy of confidentiality…frequently votes change as a result of draft opinions being routed around and the opinions change as they go through the negotiation process. If…and it’s a big if unless the culprit confesses…the leaker is identified he/she probably committed no crime but their legal career will be over. Probably not disbarred although there’s a provision for that in most states for egregious conduct against judicial system…but the only law firm that will hire them after this will be one of the ambulance chasing variety.
  • Second worst is Politico. First…they know the long held confidentiality history of the court and while they can’t be forced to reveal their source…they freely chose to publish this anyway either because they wanted the scoop or they disagree with the decision. Either case makes them guilty of making the news instead of reporting the news which is what journalists are supposed to do…and no comparison to the Pentagon Papers or the Wikileaks scandal makes this an OK thing to do. Then they double down and claimed this week that the leaked opinion (dated Feb 10 and leaked in late April) is the only opinion being circulated, there has been no revision in its text, and no dissenting opinions are being circulated in draft. They offer no proof for this additional scoop…but hey, it gets clicks on the internet so they think it’s fine to publish things that appear blatantly false to anybody who has the slightest inkling of how a bureaucracy works…and there are almost surely dissenting opinions from the liberals on the court being routed as well.
  • Next up…media and politicians in general for a host of reasons. They keep harping on how this right is enshrined in the constitution (it isn’t) and how this will result in many other rights…interracial marriage, gay marriage, and contraception will be next. This despite the statement in the draft opinion (which has almost surely changed since Feb 10) specifically stating that none of those rights are being considered here. Yes…some of the far right religious folk are saying they’ll go after those next…but in reality the horse has let the barn long ago on those issues and the likelihood that they will be overturned is about as probable as the left tossing out the 2nd amendment or the institution of the blatantly unconstitutional wealth tax/unrealized gain taxes that Warren/Sanders want to impose. Just like Obamacare…things have progressed too far for those to be changed.
  • The administration…we have 3 separate branches of government for a reason…and for the executive branch to come out repeatedly and state that the is an incorrect decision is wrong. Despite this…it’s politically advantageous to do so so…again…it keeps happening.
  • The congress…they want to pack the court and pass legislation requiring the court to have an ethics policy. Again…separation of powers…they don’t have the constitutional right to do the latter and their talk of “rebalancing the court” is merely a disguised policy of “let’s appoint justices we like to overrule the ones we don’t like”. All the talk about illegitimately appointed justices is a bunch of crap…they were appointed and confirmed in accordance with the rules…and let’s not forget that it was the Democrats that first employed the nuclear option of eliminating the filibuster for judicial appointments. Similarly with term limits for the justices…again obviously clearly unconstitutional…but they don’t bother reading the constitution or are just trying to make political points.
  • Left wingers in the Congress who try to pass laws that they claim are “codifying Roe” which in actuality go far beyond what it currently allows.
  • Right wingers in the Congress who say that if the Republicans take the majority in the midterms they will introduce a federal abortion ban bill and also go after same sex marriage, interracial marriage, and contraception. None of those are happening…first off because there’s a Democratic president even after the midterms and second of all there’s still the filibuster to deal with and there likelihood of either side getting a 60 seat Senate majority is pretty remote. I’m pretty sure that you could not get even all the Republicans to vote for any of those.
  • Idiots in the media…both sides…that keep making up stories out of whole cloth and claiming all sorts of things about this issue with not a shred of proof or evidence or even common sense in a lot of cases.
  • Finally…the court itself doesn’t really look too good here. First up is the lack of respect for the court’s confidentiality policy by the leaker but equally important is the broad opinion in this case. Under the chief justiceship of Justice Roberts…the court has almost always voted and opined in relatively narrow decisions about only the case in question and not made broad changes. No matter whether it was gay marriage or same sex marriage or providing flowers/cake for a gay marriage or gun control or many other issues on both sides of the spectrum…the norm for this court has been narrow decisions. And…the far left late Justice Ginsburg agreed with this and stated on many occasions that Roe was (a) decided on the wrong basis, (b) wasn’t really the court’s problem to solve but rather the legislature’s, and (c) was much too broad of a decision and should have been a narrower one that only incrementally changed things rather than revolutionary change.

So…what’s the final opinion going to say? I have no idea…it could be pretty similar to the first draft that was leaked or it could be something much different. As it stands…the first draft is a 5-3 decision with Justice Roberts wanting a narrower decision only on the Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks. I’ve seen several different reports that believe that he is trying to get one of the 5 to come over to his opinion…that would make it. 4-2-3 decision but most importantly it would give him as the Chief Justice the right to either write the opinion himself or choose who will write it…and in the case he could write it as a narrower decision with incremental change as he desires and the other 4 would then clearly still vote for that opinion although they could issue a concurring opinion demanding more radical change…but those concurring opinions would not change the ruling opinion. Conversely…he could choose to vote with the other 5 which again would let him write the opinion and go the narrower route. Personally…I’m thinking that more likely than not he will take one of those paths to ensure a more incremental change.

Finally…let’s not forget that even if Roe is overturned…despite the claims of the left this will not make abortion illegal…it will merely toss it back into the democratically elected legislature arena…which as I said is where it belongs in the first place. And the crap about all those other rights disappearing is in my opinion just that…crap. That train left the station too long ago and there are too many same sex and interracial marriages and widely available contraception methods to make a change…just like trying to repeal Obamacare at this point is too late. 

Ok…on to more interesting stuff.

We took a week long trip up to Midlothian VA for Mother’s Day…Alex invited all the mothers…mother, 3 grandmothers, and one great grandmother…out to dinner on Mother’s day at Magianno’s Italian Restaurant in Midlothian. We spent 4 days there visiting Alex and his parents Bryan and Jen and a good time was had by all. Following that…we had realized that despite being stationed in Charleston SC on Neil’s first submarine we had never been out to Fort Sumter where the Civil War started. So instead of coming straight home down I-95 in 2 days…we did one day to Charleston, spent two nights there and went to the fort on the middle day, and then another day from Charleston home…getting back home about dinner time last evening.

Neil was still recovering from bronchitis all week…but kept drugging himself up with antibiotics and symptom relief medications…and didn’t have much appetite as the antihistamine he was taking is the same ingredient that is in most diet pills so he mostly wasn’t very hungry. He wasn’t contagious any more as he had been on the antibiotics 5 days before we saw anybody up there.

We ate the first night at a restaurant in the hotel…Mess which was a Mexican and Sushi place…a combo we had never seen. Connie had some marinated tuna over rice and Neil had 3 tacos…one beef, one fish, and one shrimp/chorizo sausage. All were decent but he shoulda stuck with the beef one as it was the best of the bunch. A nice glass of wine and we were happy.

The second night we ate at High Cotton…we’ve been going there off and on for 40something years since were first in Charleston in the late 70s. It was as good as always…wine, she-crab soup, and then we got both Oysters Rockefeller and Beef Carpaccio and shared for our own surf and turf. Afterwards…we went up to the rooftop bar on the Hyatt where we were staying…it’s the highest rooftop bar in Charleston and while the pay system was somewhat convoluted it works for them and we had a nice time sitting, imbibing some after dinner drinks, and talking.

A bit about the history of Fort Sumter. The entrance channel to Charleston harbor basically runs pretty much east/west and once a couple of miles inside the entrance it branches into the Ashley River to the left and the Cooper River to the right that heads upstream, then a little bit upstream the Wando River branches off the Cooper to the right. Most of the port facilities are either right near the entrance to the Ashley as it’s relatively shallow but most of them are up the Cooper River. To protect the harbor entrance the federal government built a bunch of forts…which was what you did back in those days. Fort Moultrie on the north side of the entrance on Sullivan’s Island and Fort Sumter on an artificial island in the middle protected the main entrance channel which is about 2,000 feet across An additional fort Johnson west of Fort Sumter on James Island protected the narrower, shallower southern side of the channel south of Fort Sumter and an additional smaller fort Castle Pickney on an island near the main Charleston downtown peninsula further protected the port. At the outset of the whole secession drama prior to the start of the Civil War…all of these forts were pretty minimally manned with only Fort Moultrie having a permanent garrison of about 85 personnel. As the possibility of hostilities increased their commander Major Robert Anderson secretly moved his personnel from Fort Moultrie which he deemed indefensible with the number of men he had to Fort Sumter and SC militia occupied Fort Moultrie as well as Fort Johnson and Castle Pickney and emplaced artillery there. Brigadier General G. T. Bouregard of the SC militia (who had coincidentally been an artillery student of Major Anderson at West Point earlier) demanded the surrender of Fort Sumter on April 11, 1861 after SC seceded from the union. Major Anderson declined and at 0430 the following morning Confederate forces commended bombarding Fort Sumter with the initial signal round being a mortar fired from Fort Johnson (which no longer exists). Despite being on the island and armed with artillery…Fort Sumter was functionally almost obsolete due to advances in artillery including rifled barrels and explosive shells since it was designed. After a 34 hour bombardment…during which amazingly enough only 3 federal soldiers were injured and none killed…Major Anderson surrendered as they were low on ammunition and food and he and his men marched out of the fort and boarded a ship to New York. The fort returned fire during the bombardment but Major Anderson only used his smaller cannon as the largest ones were on the open top of the fort so he preserved his manpower rather than subject them to intense mortar fire. The fort was heavily damaged during the bombardment due to the advanced artillery of the time. After taking control…the Confederacy rebuilt and rearmed the fort with modern artillery and it successfully assisted in protecting the port for the remainder of the war. It was periodically bombarded during the remainder of the war by Union forces with a total of about 7 million pounds of shot fired at it with a total casualty to the Confederate forces therein of 52 killed and 267 wounded. It was evacuated in February of 1865 as General Sherman marched north from Savannah. Union forces reoccupied the fort on April 14, 1865 and raised the same flag that was lowered when the fort surrendered in 1861.

Let’s have some photos.

Connie looking out to the northwest at the new Cooper River Bridge…they finally replaced the old, rickety, 2 lane span with a modern one. The old one had grates instead of pavement across the span and in the ice storms that periodically hit Charleston everybody stopped at the top and one car at a time slipped and slide down to the bottom. She’s all bundled up despite the relatively warm (60s) day in Charleston because the 15 knots or so of breeze coming from the northwest made it mighty cold along the river and on the ferry.

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The visitor center for the National Historic Site.

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One of the many church steeples in Charleston. Neil doesn’t remember precisely which one this is but they’re all used as navigational aids as one navigates a ship into or out of harbor. They’re all on the chart and you take a series of bearings for each navigational fix. Plot those bearing lines on the chart in pencil and where thy cross is where the ship is.

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Our ferry to the island…with Connie doing her normal Vanna White impersonation.

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Castle Pickney as we headed towards the fort…it now belongs to the Sons of the Confederacy historical society.

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USS Frank E. Peterson DDG 121…an Arleigh Burke class destroyer named after the first black 3 star in the Air Force. We noticed the bunting around the rails…that’s part of what the Navy calls Dress Ship along with pennants the you’ll see in a later photo. One of the folks on the boat said the they were told by the rangers that it was a new ship and was being commissioned over the weekend. Neil thought it didn’t look quite the new so he googled it and it was commissioned in 2017…so this dress ship is either for a Change of Command ceremony or its also done sometimes when a ship is in port for a festival or celebration…nothing like that is happening this week so likely a Change of Command.

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Fort Sumter as we approached the dock…notice that the flag is not raised…that’s because as the first boat of the day our crew and passengers get the honor of holding colors at the fort.

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The flag pole with the crowd gathered ‘round.

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The large flag that will be raised.

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Looking down at some of the few remaining casements over the lower gun deck…the largest cannon which Major Anderson chose not to use were up on the top.

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Passengers readying the flag for colors.

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And…Attention to Colors.

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Fully raised. This is the 31 star flag identical to that flown over the fort back in 1861.

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Panoramic view looking to the east-southeast out the harbor entrance channel. Fort Moultrie is to the far left and the channel goes straight out over the day marker out in the water at right of center. 

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Dedication on the flagpole base.

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Panorama of the fort interior looking northwest from the seaward parapet. You can see some of the remaining casemates to the left and the ones to the right that were demolished by the bombardment in 1861 as well as the Union bombardments later in the war.

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Connie for scale next to one of the large cannon that used to be up on the top parapet of the fort. These are 100 pound Parrot (i.e., rifled barrel) artillery.

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The original flag that flew over the fort during the bombardment in 1861. Lousy photo but it was dark to preserve the fabric and no flashes were allowed so Neil did the best he could do with available light, reflections, and no tripod.

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Some of the demolished casemates facing Fort Moultrie from which the majority of the damaging shots were fired. The brick pillars away from the wall used to have arches between them and a deck for the large artillery above. Smaller cannot were in the rooms with below with the bricked up openings…those were closed up when the fort was opened for tours since if you fall out there is only rock and/or water below.

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Closer up view of what the demolished casemates used to look like…but no cannon on top due to structural concerns as the fort is over 200 years old.

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Close up of the closed off gun ports in the lower casement.

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As we left the fort and headed for the ferry…Neil took an Us-ie of Connie and himself in front of the entrance sign.

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Caspian Tern that Connie got a shot of on the way back…Neil wasn’t feeling very well so he didn’t carry any long lenses since he didn’t want the weight.

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She also got some brown pelicans.

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And a very nice house along James Island across the Ashley River as we headed back to the city. More millions than we could afford…but still very nice.

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A final view of the fort as we departed with the flag raised…you can see the next ferry that docked immediately after we departed the single berth dock.

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Another navigational aid.

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This Coast Guard boat was anchored out for some reason we couldn’t figure out…and it has an anchor line instead of a chain…which is strange considering the size of the boat.

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The other side of Castle Pickney.

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And a slightly better shot of the Frank E. Peterson…they’ve finished Dressing Ship in this one as the pennants fore and aft are now up. Few of her weapons systems are visible…the lighter gray patches on the superstructure are her phased array steerable beam Aegis radar and fire control system…the beams are electronically steered vice the older style of radar with a rotating antenna. Her missile batteries are in below decks vertical launch cells fore and aft. Other than those cells which launch both anti-aircraft, anti-ship, and land attack missiles she has a couple of radar controlled automatic 3,000 round per minute Gatling guns for point defense against incoming cruise missiles if the longer range ones in the vertical cells don’t kill incoming fire.

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And finally…another Us-ie of them at High Cotton for dinner. Chardonnay for her and an Old Fashioned for Neil.

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Cyas.

Posted in Photography, Travel | Leave a comment

Finally…A Little Fun Stuff©

Over all it has been a tough couple of weeks for us. As I reported last time…Connie had a UTI which resulted in canceling both our scheduled trip to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and her opera performance. And she was barely over that when she got a sinus infection and needed even more antibiotics…and then both she and Neil came down with a cold or some other crud which has had them feeling lousy, coughing, and dealing with stuffed up heads. She’s finally on the mend…we think…and Neil is a couple days behind her so we think she had it first and gave it to him.

In the meantime…we did go on the Fort Myers Murder Mystery train last Sunday…had a nice prime rib dinner, a bottle of wine, and watched the play which was an investigation into the murder of Kilroy…the famous jokester from WWII fame…and they were successful in determining who the killer was…it was the extremely well built Henrietta Winchester. The entire trip took about 3-1/2 hours and we went north on the train about 10 miles before turning around and heading back to the station. A good time was had by all though. Don’t worry that this is a spoiler should one choose to go on the trip…in the first place they change the play every 3 months and in the second place there were 3 or 4 potential bad guys (or girls) and with just a few different lines of dialog the clues would lead you to choose somebody else and Ima pretty sure that the murderer changes from night to night (they do the show 4 times a week).

And we did end up going off to Corkscrew this past Wednesday…although in view of our lack of stamina with the cold/crud/whatever it is we decided to take the shortcut over to North and South Lettuce Lake which was where the birds hang out normally. The water is getting pretty low…which just serves to concentrate the fish and crabs and makes for a nice feeding frenzy by the birds and gators. We spent about 2 hours on our walkabout this time and got out of there a bit after 1000 before it got overly hot…because ya know it is Florida down here and it tends to get a bit hot and humid in the summer time.

We were supposed to go down to Pasta Night…Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage…at the Elks on Wednesday but by the time we got the hour drive home from Corkscrew, had lunch and a shower and Connie did a little Ladies of Elks work…we were just too tired to go back out so we had some chicken and roasted garlic ravioli and a glass of wine.

The display for his new Mac Studio came in and is all set up…the photos in this post are the first ones he’s processed on the new machine. Same software…just a whole bunch faster getting things done.

He had ordered his new camera and lens from B&H Photo up in NYC but got a hint that ordering direct from Nikon might be a little faster so now he has 2 of each on order…they don’t charge until shipping so he’ll just cancel one of each when they ship.

Ok…photos from our trip to Corkscrew.

You leave the visitor center and with covid the boardwalk is now one way clockwise  rather than the free form path it used to be…it’s a long narrow loop boardwalk about 2.5 miles all the way around but there’s a shortcut about halfway out over to the return side by the lakes where the birds hang out. We’ve never seen much out on the far end so skipping it wasn’t a real problem for us. After getting the boardwalk there’s a short passage through a pine area then an open grassy area…where we spotted our first find of the day…

Red Breasted Woodpecker

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There were actually a pair of them…probably a mated pair but one flew off before we got a decent shot…well we got one of the one flying off but it was a pretty lousy pose so we skipped it.

Then Connie spotted this Swallow Tailed Kite coming in and got a nice shot of it landing.

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Kites are raptors…birds of prey…a bit smaller than an eagle and a really pretty species. We watched this one for 10 minutes or so hoping it would fly…no such luck. So we headed on up the boardwalk and took the shortcut over to the lake side.

On arrival at the lakes…our first spot was this 11-12 foot gator.

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He’s actually in the water there…but it’s just really shallow water.

Connie grabbed this bromeliad.

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While Neil went for the bird feeding frenzy.

Juvenile White Ibis and Roseate Spoonbill…they were pretty close to the big gator but basically ignored him.

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Closeup of the gator.

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And the juvenile White Ibis again.

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Neil spotted this Black Crowned Night Heron across the way…we’ve seen probably hundreds of these and every one was just sitting there like a still life painting…at least up until today as you’ll see in a bit.

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Wood Stork.

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More feeding frenzy…Stork, Spoonbill, and Ibis.

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And for the first time ever…the Black Crowned was actually fishing instead of just sitting on the branch.

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Juvenile Little Blue Heron in its changeling phase.

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White Ibis and Great Egret.

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Black Crowned Night Heron

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I have no idea what it was doing here with a single wing extended…maybe shading the water to look for prey like the Reddish Egret does.

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And even the gator got into the act lunging for a fish…he missed but Connie got the action water splash shot.

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As well as the Black Crowned Night Heron yakking at something or other.

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Moving along…a fellow bird photographer pointed out this Barred Owl to Neil.

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They stood there watching for a few minutes hoping it would do something…the other fellow gave up and headed out and not 30 seconds later the action unfolded as it swooped down to snatch up some tasty morsel.

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Meanwhile…Connie spotted the vulture chick…or whatever you call them…it didn’t fly at our approach so obviously there’s a nest in that tree and it hasn’t fledged yet. Not sure if it’s a Turkey Vulture or Black Vulture though, couldn’t get a good enough look to tell and no adults around to identify by the red or black head,

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Another Great Egret

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Tricolor Heron.

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Another bromeliad by Connie

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White Ibis again

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Male Anhinga

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And some strange flower bud/seed pod like things as we got back out into the open area again on the way back.

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And a bunch more of the Swallow Tailed Kites orbiting over the grassy area…you can see the tail which gives it the name and this particular one is carrying some take out breakfast…not sure why it didn’t go perch someplace and eat but it buzzed by us 3 or 4 times before heading out.

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Connie snagged these lizards…although technically they’re skinks and not lizards…and I have no idea what makes them a skink and not a lizard.

Connie has told me that the first two are anoles or lizards of some sort and the last one is the only one that’s a skink…and Ima not gonna argue with her about it…’specially since I have very little detailed understanding of the differences between lizards, skinks, anoles, legless snakes, and anything else that looks like a lizard. To me…they’re all lizards…but then Ima bear so in my view they’re all a snack anyway.

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And some bees on a flower.

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Right before we got back to the visitor center she spotted these flowers and then the squirrel running by…it was literally running down the hand rail on the boardwalk right by her…this was one of those slam bam thank you ma’am sort of shots and she was amazed it turned out.

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And with that we got back to the visitor center and thence the car…and we were glad because we were hot and tired.

Interesting things found on the net,

CutDown TooManyTrees

CoyoteWarningSign

Speaking of owls…this shows you how much of what you see is owl…and how much is just feathers.

70PercentFeathersOwl

MrPotatoHeadGender

GermansAndScrabble

Cyas.

Posted in Critters, Hiking, Homebody, Photography, WIldlife | Leave a comment

Long Delayed Posting

My apologies to you esteemed readers for the long layoff…17 days without a post…but with Easter and Connie’s self proclaimed ‘choir week from hell’…combined with her operatic rehearsals…combined with first a UTI infection which made her miserable for a week…and combined with a now sinus infection which while it sucks won’t keep her miserable as long…things just got away from us.

We originally had a trip down to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary scheduled for this past Wednesday…but with her Easter over she was deep into Tosca rehearsals and costume fittings and we decided it was just 5 pounds in a 2 pound bag and moved that trip to next Wednesday.

So…let me introduce you to the new woman in Neil’s life…Sister Mary Constance…all nuns are named Sister Mary Something-or-other you know.

Nun

Yeah…I know she looks funny…but once she donned the black opaque tights and black ballet flat shoes she woulda totally fit the part. 

However…as previously noted…the sinus infection has intervened. She started feeling poorly on Monday along with Neil and we thought it was just allergies after checking the various pollen levels. Unfortunately…she got significantly worse on Wednesday (good thing we cancelled the Corkscrew trip) and then really…did I mention really…worse on Thursday AM so in the early afternoon he took her down to the walk in clinic. She had already done 2 at home covid tests (negative) but they did another 2 of them there as well as flu and a chest X-ray (all negative) so the PA decided it was sinus infection…gave her steroids and antibiotics and more for the symptoms. Luckily she’s feeling a lot better today (Friday)…not good but way better than yesterday. However…she can’t sing and the dress rehearsal was scheduled for tonight and then the first performance on Saturday night…so her operatic debut and her operatic swan song have both happened. At least she got as far as the costume fitting…and Neil thinks she would have made a good nun after looking at her picture above. He thought she would upset about it…but on further review as the replay official always says…she’s turned out to be really not as enamored of opera as she thought she would be. She’s fine with the music…a little less fine with the having to memorize the songs in Italian as they can’t carry scores on stage…and really not fine at all with the acting required as she’s just not all that interested in it. 

Neil had a ticket for the opening night but we’ll just punt that as he was mostly going to support her…trying to follow a plot in Italian is just way, way too hard even with subtitles.

The good news is that she (and he) now have 3 more evenings and 2 afternoons free than we thought we would.

Neil’s new Mac Studio came in yesterday and he got it all set up…except for the new Studio Display monitor which is…according to Apple and his credit card…preparing to ship…which is much better than the processing it was previously in. The monitor was originally supposed to be here this week and the Mac late May…dunno why the computer shipped first but it is what it is.

He also ordered a new Nikon Z9 body and 800mm lens to go along with it…you don’t want to know how much that cost…but they decided they can’t take it with them and they can afford it so why not. No word when they will ship though.

Yeah…we really ain’t done much the past 17 days…but I promise to make Neil process photos ASAP after next Wednesday and I’ll put some up.

Let’s see…what else interesting is happening.

Strange facts to consider.

As you all know…an atom is composed of a nucleus and then an outer area where the electrons orbit…but the size is a lot different than you think. For a nucleus the size of a softball a hydrogen atom would be the size of the Louisiana SuperDome. So following up on this…somebody figured out how much space a human body would take if you were able to squeeze out all the empty space and only need to have space for the protons, neutrons, electrons, and various other subatomic particles…and the answer turns out to be the size of a sugar cube. Only that sugar cube would be able to contain not only the components of an individual body but for a few more…actually the components for the entire human species would fit in a single sugar cube. Not sure whether that’s currently alive humans or all time…but something like 75% of all the humans ever are alive today so there’s not all that much difference. Apparently 99.9999999999% of your body is this empty space inside the various atoms composing you.

So…DNA. As you probably all know…or should know…every cell in your body has a complete copy of the DNA that makes you…you. Your DNA contains 23 chromosomes…which is really a pretty small number all things considered. The Adders Tongue plant has 1260, the Atlas Blue Butterfly (or maybe moth) has 450, and the Northern Lamprey 174…and nobody at our house has enough genetic knowledge to know why some much less complex organisms have more chromosomes than humans do or even how do scientists tell where one chromosome stops and the next one starts…but I digress. Back to DNA. 

So…if you denatured an entire human and unrolled the DNA in every one of his/her cells…and stretched it out…just how long would it be. Turns out the answer is 34 billion miles…or 6 round trips to Pluto and back.

And apparently…if you took two pieces of the same metal out into space and touched them together…they would instantly weld themselves together into a single piece.

One year on the planet Venus (the time it takes to revolve around the sun) is 224 earth days. One day on the planet Venus (the time it takes to revolve around its axis through the poles) is 243 earth days. So a year on Venus is actually shorter than a day on Venus. And…Venus is the only planet in our solar system that rotates on its axis backwards (assuming you believe all the others rotate forwards).

You could fit 1.3 million earths inside the sun…and if you ignored the gravitational effects you could fit every planet in the solar system between the earth and the moon.

Scientists think there might be about 3 sextillion starts in the entire universe…that’s 3 followed by 23 zeroes. This is more than the entire number of grains of sand on the earth.

Over in Copenhagen Denmark…they have this power plant that takes garbage and burns it to produce power…apparently this is a common thing over in Europe. Whatever. However…once they build this huge power plant in the middle of town they thought it might be a bit of an eyesore…so they did something about it. Essentially they build a thing called Copen Hill…which incorporates a ski run (including one with gates for practicing your slalom) that is usable in both winter with it’s snow covered and in summer when it’s covered with silicon and you put some silicon goo on the bottom of your skis to use it…as well as a hiking trail up to the top which is about 400 or 500 feet high.

Copenhill big yankodesign01

And oh yeah…let’s not forget the world’s tallest climbing wall located on the right side far end as you look at this…Ima guessing they don’t let you climb it without a safety rope attached.

This snake is named the Green Tree Python…don’t ask me why it’s yellow ‘cuz I don’t know.

GreenTreePython

You know what this is?

SquareRoot

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.

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.

.

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It’s a square root of course.

Over in Japan…on the road between Tateyama and  Kurobe prefectures (sort of like counties in the US) there is a road called the Alpine Route. Being up in the mountains…it gets some snow during the winters of course…and the Japanese being really interested in tourist things…well they plow it early in the spring and let folks take tour buses up there to see it.

TateyamaKurobeAlpineRoute

That’s some serious snow piles.

CanadianBaconCurling

EverythingWillKillYou

Neil needs this T shirt.

BodyIsATemple2

And this one too…he’s got very, very, very little patience.

Virtues2

HappyMondayPerson

And finally…how blondes think cows work.

HowBlondesThinkCowsWork

Cyas.

Posted in Homebody | Leave a comment

Random Musings

Not really much going on today but Ima bored so figured I would blather on about something or other.

We’re having some A/C problems here at the homestead. It quit working in early March and the troubleshooting showed we needed a new coil…we were pretty impressed with the ability of that technician to figure out what the problem was but the part needed to be ordered. We got a call 3 or 4 days later that the part was in and on the 15th of March a different guy came to do the install. If you’ve ever seen the old Bob Newhart as a dentist show where there was Larry with his brother Daryl and his other brother Daryl…and between the 3 of them they probably had 4 or 5 functioning brain cells…well, that description almost perfectly suited installer dude.

First it turned out the new coil he brought was actually a bad/used one…they put them back into the box, tape it shut, and send them back to Carrier for figuring out what went wrong. After 30 or so minutes of fumbling around trying to figure out what to do…his boss came out and called for a different tech to go pickup another coil and bring it out…so another hour or so delay. Then boss and new coil delivery guy left…as best as Neil could figure out installer dude picked up the wrong part.

Next…he had the wrong type of flux for welding the freon supply/return pipes to the new coil…he blamed it on the parts department giving him the wrong stuff and really had no answer as to why he didn’t figure it out when they gave it to him. Anyways…he soldered in the new coil, did the pressure and vacuum test to see if it was good (both failed), then repeated steps 1 and 2 3 more times before it “passed” the tests. Filled with freon, reassembled, and left…getting out of here just about quitting time so in retrospect it probably wasn’t an actual pass but it was time for him to go drink a Bud with his buddies or something. We left the next morning with the unit on for our trip up to central FL to Titusville and Lakeland and when we returned it was cool in the house. With nice weather predicted we turned the A/C off and opened up until the next hot day…which was just about a week later. Turned it on…no cool. Called and complained and the company sent out a tech the same day…but unfortunately it was installer dude again. We showed him the puddle of oil under the inside unit which clearly indicated it was a freon leak since there’s oil mixed with the freon to lubricate the compressor. After another 3 or 4 soldering attempts he again pronounced it fixed, filled with freon, and left. We left the A/C on for a stress test and all seemed fine for a few days…until Neil opened the door to look at the unit again today and found…you guessed it…another puddle of oil under the unit. We called again and asked for a different tech who showed up in about an hour or so and found another leak which he’s working on fixing as I type. Turns out that installer guy’s name is Chuck and the different tech thinks that he’s sick or something as his performance seems to be slipping…he’s been doing HVAC work for 25 years and hasn’t been fired so obviously something is up. In any event…hopefully Isidoro will figure it out.

We’ve had a parade of issues today…Neil went out biking early and found out on US-41 a turned over dump truck of gravel and a lot of backup. When he got back he told Connie to leave 15 minutes earlier than he had planned for her dental appointment. She did that but ended up turning around as the backup was now over an hour long and the road was noted as closed on the traffic report. Neil was supposed to go pick up some vittles from Walmart but obviously with the A/C issue and the traffic that didn’t happen…we missed our scheduled pickup time but he will try again a little later to see if things have improved because Walmart certainly doesn’t restock your order that quickly if you miss your scheduled pickup time. We tried both the Walmart app and calling to see if we can reschedule…nothing available in the app despite the help page saying there was but the button that help claims is there ain’t…and nobody answers the phone at the local store when you call.

Over in Ukraine…Russia keeps claiming that they haven’t killed any civilians and it’s all a conspiracy led by the US to make them look bad…despite numerous videos and verification by news sources outside Russia that they’re killing civilians indiscriminately, leaving land mines behind when they retreat, and basically getting their ass handed to them by the Ukrainian military.

Then there’s our politicians…and really we’ve become more and more convinced ‘round here that there is almost no party for those of us in the middle right to center to middle left as the idiots on both sides have seized control of both of our political parties. You’ve got AOC, Ilhan and the squad on the left and Taylor Greene and Cawthorn on the right in the House and all of those plus others are about as far out to the extremes as you can get. It’s not just the House either…there are far right and left Senators also doing and saying stupid things for political gain.

And then…there’s the current brouhaha over the President’s SCOTUS nominee and a side brouhaha over Justice Thomas and whether he should recuse himself from cases because of his wife’s political maneuvering.

Now to be fair…we’re not fans of the President…but we don’t believe all the “stop the steal” crap, stolen election, and related BS topics about the 2020 election either. And to be fair…we weren’t really fans of the previous Oval Office occupant either…he was the least bad choice we had in 2016 but still not a good selection. And we understand that the Democrats were pissed about Garland not getting a vote and we understand that the Republicans were pissed about the treatment that Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Coney Barrett received at the hands of the Democrats…and we understand as well that the Democrats are pissed about the way that Brown Jackson was treated during her committee hearings.

However…while we agree that SCOTUS confirmation hearings have gotten way more contentious over the past 30 or so years…it seems like almost every one starting with Bork has gotten way too political…we did watch some of the hearings for Judge Brown Jackson…and while the Republicans did ask some hard, pointed, political/policy/philosophy questions…they mostly were respectful. In our view…Justice Kavanaugh was treated far worse by the committee but the Democrats and Justice Coney Barrett was also treated badly but not as bad as Justice Kavanaugh was. And the media outcry in support of Democratic nominations and against Republican nominations is just appalling and shows once again that honest journalistic integrity is pretty much a rarity any longer. Today’s top headline is a story about Taylor Greene attacking the 3 Republican Senators who have announced they will vote for Judge Brown Jackson…but you never see the crazy things that AOC or Ilhan or the other far left House members say. AOC actually threatens to impeach Justice Thomas over his wife’s texts last week despite the fact that there is pretty much no chance of that happening…and the article was far down from the top of the web page.

Then there’s the ongoing argument tangentially related to the SCOTUS hearings about the definition of a woman. Judge Brown didn’t answer because she said she was not a biologist…which is correct but most folks in basic science courses over the past 100 years or so have learned that whether you are a male or female is determined by whether you have X or Y chromosomes in the two pieces of DNA that were contributed by your mother and father. Further…males have male reproductive parts and females have female reproductive parts. Thus…whether you are male or female is predetermined at conception and since you can’t change your chromosomes you pretty much are the gender you are from conception to birth.

That’s not an attack on any person either…it’s just a fact of gender. Now whether you want to have sex with men or women or both or not at all…and whether you wish to dress in clothes that society generally considers as masculine, feminine, or generic…that’s a whole different issue and frankly we don’t really care about that…have sex with and dress however you prefer. However…just because…for instance…you have male productive parts but prefer to be dress as a woman and tell everybody you’re female…doesn’t actually make it so. Changing your biologically determined gender is about as crazy as changing your biologically determined species and claiming that you’re no longer a Homo Sapiens but are instead a cephalopod…saying it doesn’t make it true.

The traffic finally cleared about noon and Neil ran down and picked up our groceries from Walmart. While he was gone Isidoro finished soldering the A/C properly…he says…and put in 6 pounds of refrigerant. It only holds 7 so he was amazed that it was working at all. He even cleaned up all the oil that leaked out…much better than installer dude chuck.

Then there’s the so called “Don’t Say Gay” bill that Florida passed…which doesn’t mention the word gay at all but only bans teaching about so called gender dysphoria issues with children below the third grade. I think that both sides in this particular debate are inventing worst case scenarios in order to beat their political drum of persuasion. Yes…I don’t think that teachers should be teaching early elementary students that you need to decide whether you’re a boy or girl and you can easily become the other one if you decide you are…kids that young aren’t sexually mature and really have no idea of what it really means. However…the teachers unions and one son of a gay couple who was interviewed in the news today claim that this means that (a) teachers and students can’t talk about parents who are gay at all, and (b) since there can be no reference to gender (which isn’t what the bill actually says by the way) that bathrooms can no longer be labeled boys and girls…both sides are splitting hairs and interpreting things to suit their political agenda. And as I said…this isn’t anything against being gay or effeminate/masculine/metrosexual at all…we’re fine with all of that but some of the more activist gay folk want to stick it in the face of heterosexual people and then the other side gets mad and it’s all tit for tat/he said she said after that. Both sides are wrong.

Whatever happened to the principle of compromise in government or policy…back when I was growing up the two parties in Congress could each give a little and get a little and be friendly afterwards…instead today it’s a my way or the highway adversarial approach and the most important thing for any politician to do is make the other side look evil and belittle their position. Heck…former Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsburg on the SCOTUS were polar opposites in judicial philosophy but outside the courtroom were best friends and usually vacationed together. No more though.

In other news…today there is a report of an aggressive red fox…nope, not in the country where you might think one would find a red fox but on the US Capitol grounds in Washington DC. Yep…we been there…right in the middle of downtown with no trees other than ornamentals for probably going on 2 miles…I just looked on the map and there are literally nothing even remotely resembling woods for miles. WTH?

Connie had her Fort Myers Mastersingers concert on Sunday…after years of voice lessons when we lived in Fairfax VA and participation in the New Dominion Chorale up there she was really missing classical music since we moved into the RV. She made do with choir and cantor duties but her choir here is…well, let’s be politically correct and call them average at best…anyways they rarely sing the standard soprano, alto, tenor, base (or SATB) music she likes and after 2 years of living here she auditioned for and joined the Mastersingers. The concert was pretty good…excellent in fact. The first piece was a world premier of a song commissioned by the Mastersingers for orchestra, choir, and youth choir. Connie and Neil have probably heard close to a dozen world premiers of various music (well, most of them weren’t actually very musical) over the years and this was far and away the only really good one we’ve ever heard…and in fact would listen to it again. They sang some Mozart as well along with a John Rutter Mass for Children…all was good. Today she was back into rehearsing for her next performance…the Gulf Coast Opera is doing the Puccini opera Tosca and the Mastersingers are providing the onstage chorus for the production…and a dozen or two of the chorus will be onstage for the three performances. Now me…I don’t know much about opera since it’s never in English and it’s really hard to follow whatever the plot is when you can’t understand any of the words…but I do now that it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings. He did notice two things about the concert on Sunday though…first was the dress the soprano soloist had on. It was a very nice cocktail sort of dress but again…we’ve seen a lot of female vocal soloists over the years and her dress was about the most un-soloist-like dress we ever saw. Usually they’re floor length gowns and have lots of sparkly doodads on them…this was just a regular old cocktail dress…very nice but sort looked outa place. The second thing was the male bass soloist. Neil realized…and again we’ve seen a lot of male vocalists over the years…that they all have perfected that blank face thousand yard stare…dunno, maybe it’s a male vocalist thing as female vocalists don’t really do it.

Neil ordered himself a new computer and monitor…a Mac Studio and the accompanying Studio Display. Basically…his laptop is so much faster than our iMac for doing his photo processing that he feels antiquated when he’s back in the office…which is actually in the front of the house so why we call it back in the office escapes me but that’s what it’s known as…but the iMac has the large monitor which makes the job a lot easier. So he is updating to a desktop Mac Studio which uses the same Apple silicon M1 chip as his laptop except it uses the Max version instead of the Pro version in the laptop. Essentially all the M1 chips are similar but the Pro gets scaled up in number of cores compared to the M1 nothing and the Max scaled up over what the Pro has. There’s also an Ultra which is two of the Max chips welded together but that’s (a) overkill for his needs and (b) another $2,000 add on to the price which is already expensive enough. The Studio Display has the same display panel as our current iMac but some other goodies added and he’s looking forward to the combination. The iMac is getting traded in to Apple to cover part of the cost…once the new computer is shipped Apple sends a postage paid shipping box for the old one…that makes recouping some of the value a lot easier than having to find your own buyer. You don’t get quite as much money but a 5% to 10% reduction in price in exchange for losing the sales effort is worth it.

We received our Sarasota Orchestra subscription renewal paperwork this week…but are waiting to see how many of the normal Sunday matinee Masterworks concerts we attend conflict with her Mastersingers performances which are usually on Sunday afternoon as well. Depending on how many…we may have to shift back to Saturday evenings for the orchestra…but really prefer the Sunday afternoon ones for a couple reasons…they let out right about our dinnertime and we stop on the way out to the freeway for dinner before our hour+ drive home and also because while can always eat on the way to the Saturday evening performances their start time of 2000 means it’s going on midnight when we get back home and we would rather not stay out that late unless we have to. If the number that conflict with Mastersingers is low enough we’ll just swap those particular tickets for Saturday but if it’s most of them we’ll have to figure out what to do. An additional problem is that the Elks Lodge has dinners on Saturday a lot and we usually attend those so we’ll miss out on at least some if we totally switch to Saturday evenings. 

Over in Ukraine…apparently late last week some Ukrainian helicopters flew across the border into Russia and blew up a fuel depot which left the Russian military awash in outrage and hurt feelings. The Russian propaganda press decried this attack as “an act of aggression and escalation of hostilities”…which seems somewhat laughable. In a war…things get blown up and people get killed, there isn’t a lot of square dancing or speed dating. Even better…the Russians claimed that it was a “civilian” fuel depot with no connection to the war. I dunno ‘bout you…but Ima thinking that a fuel depot with a bunch of military tanks means it ain’t a civilian depot at all. The Ukrainian press and administration response to the Russian claims was brilliant…one of their presidential advisors said “Maybe somebody smoked in the wrong place.” Maybe the Russians can post a video similar to the old Sergeant Shultz from Hogan’s Heroes saying “I know nothing!!”

Ima going to recommend you to a site you may want to visit. There’s a place on the internet called reddit and they have a subsection named “
Am I The A**hole
” where people write in and describe a situation where they may or may not be one and asking for the judgement of the internet mavens. A lot of the scenarios seem clearly made up but both the original scenarios and the comments are frequently pretty hilarious. Check it out if ya like.

In the “
Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it
” category…up in the panhandle of Florida there’s this bar named Flora-Bama Lounge, Package, and Oyster Bar. It’s so named because the property it is on straddles the state line with Alabama just east of Gulf Shores. In late April…if you’re in the area…you should stop by and participate in the “Legendary Interstate Mullet Toss”…wherein starting in 1986 as a marketing gimmick one can pay $15 to participate and see who can toss a dead mullet…the fish, not the haircut…the farthest across the state line. They’re already dead and are purchased from a local market ready to cook…or toss. It’s apparently the busiest weekend of the year at the Flora-Bama…this year’s tournament runs fro April 22 to 24 from 0900-1600 CDT. In addition to the Mullet Toss they have Worship Service every Sunday at 0900 and 1100. These are official Christian services conducted by the Central Flora-Bama Church…whatever that is…they say they are a refuge for those who are surviving, struggling with addictions, battling depression, and seeking help for a number of other issues.” I have to admit…any church with a motto of “It’s OK not to be OK” is…well…OK. BTW, the owner of the Flora-Bama bought the place in 1978 on his birthday and at the time had $100 in his checking account

Speaking of SCOTUS…you might think from reading the media that everything there is controversial when in fact most of their decisions are 9-0 or 8-1 and really reflect how they read and interpret the Constitution and are not the politically based statements the news wants you to believe. To wit…today a case was decided 8-1 regarding who can order the vacation of an arbitration decision. Justice Kagan writing for the majority said “that the Federal Arbitration Act authorizes parties to an arbitration agreement to ask a federal court to compel arbitration, but applications to confirm, vacate or modify awards don’t necessarily fall under federal jurisdiction.” In other words…the court read what the law actually said and then decided…yup, that’s what it says. Most of the non controversial issue decisions the SCOTUS makes are pretty similar…and one thing I’ve found pretty interesting over the last few years is that Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, or Coney Barrett vote with the liberals on significantly more cases than those that see Justice Kagan, Sotomayor, or Ginsberg before her death vote with the conservatives…which tells me something, I’m just not sure what.

Justice Coney Barrett was giving a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library yesterday…she made both an interesting suggestion and then dealt with a heckler. She said that rather than just blast the court for political bias based on the decision…no matter which way a particular vote went…that people should read the opinions and see why the individual justices voted the way they did. Usually…this comes down to either what the law says or in the case of a Constitutional question whether a particular justice believes in strict or loose interpretation. Strict constructionists…similar to originalism which believes the words should be interpreted based on the understanding of the words when it was adopted…believe that the Constitution says what it says, no more and no less…and that decisions pretty much come down to the words in it and while they agree that a document written in the 1700s might not take into account today’s cultural views or the advance of technology but since there’s a method for amending the constitution that’s just fine. Loose constructionists are harder to define…but essentially believe that the words mean what they think they should mean today and that unless something is specifically prohibited it is allowed…this is the theory that was used to generate an awful lot of constitutional rights today that don’t exist in the a actual document. Her suggestion was to read the reasons and not just the numbers. Her thought was that rather than seeing it as a political decision…is the decision based on dreading the law and constitution even if it is a decision you personally disagree with. During her remarks…she was interrupted by a heckler…her response was “As a mother of seven, I am used to distractions — and sometimes even outbursts.”

Ok…guess that’s enough. Let’s see what Interesting stuff Neil found on the net.

WhatDidYouBuy

These are Green Bush Vipers or Atheris Squamigera which is a poisonous snake endemic in west and central Africa. There are no subspecies. 

GreenBushVipers

And yes…I realize they’re not green…which is why I question the competency of whoever chose that name.

Math nerdery…you may have noticed that

YouMayHaveNoticed3

Notice the symmetry in the numbers on the left and right side of the equations.

Some Star Trek humor. The lady on the right is Nurse Chapel who was played by a lady named Majel Barrett…she is the wife of Gene Rodenberry the creator of the series Her voice was also used for the computer voice in all of the movies and most of the series in the Trek universe. Bugs shoulda taken a right at Albuquerque.

StarTrekHumor

NeverGiveUp

Cyas.

Posted in Homebody, Reality Based Blogging, Technology, Ya Can't Fix Stupid | Leave a comment

Woulda Believe it…More Fun Stuff©

Yep…the title is exactly as old Agent 86 Maxwell Smart woulda said it. It’s been 3 weeks since I last posted but there’s reasons I’ll get into in just a bit.

But first…a public service announcement and word of caution. I know you’ve probably all seen those so called “fact checks” on various websites of both liberal and conservative bent…they’re always picking something that the other side said or did and “fact checking” it to give you what they refer to as the “real story”…this actually means that they just want to disagree with whatever the other side said, call them bald faced liars, and expound the opposite view of whatever the original story, statement, or situation was.

But I’ve always wondered just how much of them were true and typically read through the actual facts to see what the truth actually is. For instance…in the ongoing (as of this writing) SCOTUS confirmations for Judge Jackson to become the first black female justice on the court…a whole lot has been made of both comparing the treatment she is getting vs that given to previous nominees Kavanaugh and Comey Barret as well as how Judge Jackson is supposedly “soft on child porn offenders” in her sentencing. For the former…I really think that the right is slightly more correct than the left since while they are asking her questions she’s doing a pretty good job at dodging any answers that either side considers as a litmus test or something to make political hay out of. The fact of the matter is that she’s a liberal judge replacing another liberal judge and won’t change the balance of the court…and also that she’s not nearly as progressive as either the former RBG was or either of the current female women justices. She’s left leaning but…at least from her record and answers which admittedly are pretty vague…but not way out there. It does sort of offend me that both sides are talking way, way much about her race…one side insisting that she’s a proponent of critical race theory and the other side insisting that almost any question the right asks her is racist. For the record…I think she’s obviously qualified for the job and replacing a liberal with another liberal isn’t really so bad…and she’s the President’s choice…and I think she’ll be confirmed with a couple of Republican votes. On the other hand…I think that the President did her a disservice and essentially disrespected her by the way she was selected. As a fairly young, liberal judge sitting on the DC Court of Appeals…she would obviously have been on the short list for a vacancy being filled by the President. However…by his insistence on appointing only a black woman to fill this seat he eliminated way north of 90% of the also obviously qualified people from the job…and made this about race rather than about qualifications. In my view…he bowed to the progressive left by announcing that he would only consider black women for this vacancy…and I think the politically as well as respect for the nominee view he would have been far, far better to have a broader short list including multiple men, women, and races…and then choose her from that list as the most qualified. That way he still gets the prestige I guess you would call it from appointing the first black woman justice…but then she got the job on her merits and qualifications rather than by being the best qualified black woman. The whole process just seems fubar to me (fubar is fouled up beyond all repair but in the Navy we replaced fouled with another less savory word beginning with F).

The second big deal about the supposed fact checks…and although this is the first fact check that I’ve ever seen that was itself fact checked…I guess the summary is that you just can’t believe any fact check you see in the media on either side without doing your own research to see what the actual truth is.

To wit…this week USA Today
published a story that “fact checked”
the following statement…”Tipping became popular in the United States because restaurant owners didn’t want to pay Black workers after the ratification of the 15th Amendment”. The article relies on two accounts to conclude that this statement is true…one from a book by Kerry Seagrave published in 1998 and a Washington Post article from 1916. While I have no idea about the political leanings of either of these authors…it is pretty clear from reading what they wrote that they are progressive politically…and while that doesn’t make them wrong it does make them biased and it’s pretty easy to only cite evidence that supports your point of view as we’ve seen in every contentious issue debate for the past 250 years. In any event…two singular quotes do not truth make.

Almost immediately after the article was posted…somebody named Phil Magness
tweeted that the story is not accurate
. Mr. Magness is a Senior Research Fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research who has written extensively on economic dimensions of slavery and racial discrimination, the history of taxation, and measurements of economic inequality over time according to his bio at the AIER home page…so apparently he does know what he’s talking about. 

His tweet pointed out that tipping existed in Europe well before the abolition of slavery in the US or the 15th amendment…citing a “Travel Guide to Europe” that indicates that tipping and gratuities are normal there. This guide was published in 1730. He then points out that the play Twelfth Night…written in 1602 by some guy named Shakespeare…has a scene about tipping. He then…in the twitter thread…cites that there are numerous references to tipping in the US colonies in newspapers published before the Civil War. He acknowledges that the original “fact check” article does say that tipping came to the colonies at their founding since they were founded by people from England…and that the acknowledgement of that fact invalidates the conclusion that tipping in the US was rooted in the desire by white business owners to under compensate freed slaves in the 1930s. He agrees that the lower minimum wage for service staff was codified by US law in the 1930s but that since tipping existed for centuries before the Civil War you really can’t shoehorn tipping into the aftermath of slavery argument. The twitter thread also talks about USA Today undermining their own premise by citing uberfacts as a valid source. In addition to uberfacts, the article also cites such known bastions of journalistic integrity as Motherjones.com, Quartz.com, and NPR; all of which are most definitely liberal in viewpoint.

So…I guess you just can’t believe all of the so called fact checks you see in the news without doing your own research first.

Ok…moving on to reasons. After our last post on Feb 28…we actually had another trip scheduled for Mar 16-18 so that was going to be the subject of my next post…but then computer problems intervened. As I’ve mentioned before, Neil does his photo processing on his Intel iMac with the Lightroom catalog and images on an external SSD drive and low and behold on Mar 3 the iMac shut down. After some investigation…he discovered that the external SSD was dead…tried 3 cables and 3 different computers in all possible combinations and none of them resulted in the drive being visible. So off it went to OWC for repair/replacement. He figured they would just replace the entire drive and he would have to restore it from backup when it arrived…so he decided not to try and restore the backups to a different location so that he could use Lightroom because it would take him a half day to restore the files and modify the Lightroom configuration to make things work…and because he would have to do all that work again when the new drive arrived.

The last time he sent in a drive to OWC for repair it was back in 6 days from when he shipped it…but apparently the covid has affected their productivity as well as he shipped the drive on Mar 4 and its didn’t get back until Mar 22 so a bit over 2.5 weeks door to door. The good news is that it wasn’t actually the SSD in the case that died, their troubleshooting revealed that it was only the interface board in the drive which they replaced and all the data was still there…so no restore needed…he had plenty of backups but not needing to restore a terabyte of data and reconfiguring things is always better than not.

In the end…he would have had the photos done and I would have had this post done last Friday or Saturday if not for the failure instead of today…so it got delayed by almost another week…so sue me I guess.

Our original plan was to leave the house at zero dark thirty and drive up to Fort Desoto Park near St. Petersburg to get more shots of the birds at dawn including the rarely seen Reddish Egrets. Then we were going to give Connie a couple hours to sit on the beach before heading up in the afternoon to Titusville for dinner on Wednesday night followed by Black Point Wildlife Drive Thursday morning and then a drive to Lakeland for dinner followed by Circle Bar B Reserve on Friday morning before coming home. However…on Tuesday we checked the weather for the St. Pete area and it was 60% chance of rain almost the whole day with a high of about 70…so essentially we would be taking photos in the rain with no Golden Hour due to the cloud cover and rain and no beach for Connie. So we cancelled the first stop and left at a more reasonable 1130 and went straight to Titusville…then followed the Thursday and Friday schedule as it was. 

It was a great trip…nice cool weather, no rain and we got some nice photos albeit it appeared at both Black Point and Circle Bar B that the peak of the breeding season has passed…we saw a lot fewer birds and wildlife than the previous trip…but we did get a couple of rare finds and action shots instead…so all in all the trip was definitely worthwhile. On the way home we ran down to Fort Myers to pick up 3 pairs of heels that Connie was getting the heels fixed on…the guy does good work but speaks zero English so he uses his iPhone and an app to converse with customers. She’s happy to get the three pairs fixed for $45…way cheaper than 80 to 110 bucks a pair since she buys Naturalizer brand and doesn’t go to Shoes-R-Us and get the cheapie ones.

Ok Black Point Wildlife Drive was our first stop.

Reddish Egret to the left and more Roseate Spoonbills than we’ve typically seen in one spot. The pink bill on the Reddish which is his breeding advertisement to the lady egrets is pretty pronounced in this individual. Sorry for no closeup…these first shots were taken just about 10 minutes after dawn and it was still pretty dark so Neil couldn’t put the teleconverter on the lens to get closer…he tried cropping in closer but just lost all the detail in the birds so settled for a wider shot. There were actually another dozen or more spoonbills out to the left from this shot 40 yards or so.

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A couple of the other gaggle of spoonbills along with a breeding Great Egret.

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Nice launch sequence of this Red Bellied Woodpecker that was across the road from the spoonbills…unfortunately the shot where he’s actually totally in the air with his wings out after the jump went down behind the branches to the left and he was mostly obscured.

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Great Egrets back over near the spoonbills.

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This one decided to blow the joint and left.

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Which caused this spoonbill and pair of White Ibis to depart as well. 

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The Reddish Egret and the last of his spoonbill friends.

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Nice landing sequence of another White Ibis…the airborne Great Egret in the upper left is the same one that took off in the shot 3 shots back but another second or so after the first shot.

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And the Reddish stands alone…it’s too early for him to use the wings up creating shadow to attract fish and see them through the surface reflections so I guess he’s just waiting there for something to happen by. He never moved the whole time we were there.

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After leaving that spot on the drive…everything so far was taken within about 5 or 6 minutes without moving the car we headed on down the drive and spotted this Kingfisher through the window. Connie was only able to get a single shot before this jerk wheeled in at about 30 miles an hour with his radio blaring and windows down which naturally scared the normally skittish anyway kingfisher away. Connie and he had a brief disagreement…she called him a dufus and he said “who me?” and wanted to make a big deal out of it but Neil just drove away. And all because he wanted to walk his little rat dogs off leash…which isn’t allowed on the drive anyway but jerks typically don’t follow the rules anyway.

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Red Wing Blackbird male trying to attract the ladies.

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Caspian Tern out on the mud flats.

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Cattle Egret with mating plumage…it’s the brownish tint and the yellow vice normal greenish legs so that makes this a male. Cattle Egrets are relatively small (18 inches or so tall max) and are the ones you normally see around agricultural fields or cow pastures…hence the name.

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A different Red Wing Blackbird male in flight. No real detail in the face and feathers but this particular image out of the burst really shows the red and yellow epaulets that give the species its name.

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Moorhens scouring the bottom for breakfast.

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This is the one that was inverted in the shot above after coming up with some grass to eat.

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Neil and Connie’s shots of the same Great Blue Heron shortly before leaving the drive.

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With that our trip to Black Point was done. We stopped at a different brewery than last time and had a couple brews around lunch time but weren’t really hungry and had dinner reservations at a Steak House in Lakeland so we just skipped lunch.

Dinner was great…steaks for both of us and cocktails and wine were 2 for 1 so that was a good score. All was good…we were going to have dessert originally but were too full after the steak and taters…actually had leftovers that we made sandwiches out of on Saturday…so we skipped it and headed to the hotel.

Up again early the next morning for Circle Bar B Reserve and again we headed out on the trail just a few minutes after dawn. Luckily with the onset of Daylight Saving Time sunrise was an hour later so we didn’t have to get up quite as early this trip.

We picked a different trail…decided to do Heron Way and Eagle Roost loop trail of about 2+ miles instead of the 4+ Alligator Canal trail.

Male Anhinga on a bad hair day.

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Warbler of some sort…we think it’s a Yellow Throated Warbler, not a perfect match for either Peterson’s birds of North America or googled images but it’s the closest to matching so that’s what we went with. 

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And a second or three later after it found something to snack on.

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Connie noticed this nice spiderweb about 4 feet from the warbler.

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Great Blue Heron in breeding plumage…his isn’t very ornate and is mostly the blue ponytail on the back of his head.

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Limpkin…a find almost as rare as the Reddish Egret…this is a super skittish species and Connie and Neil have probably seen 20 or less between them over a lot of years out in the swamps. They don’t make any calls and move very slowly and generally stay hidden in brush.

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Tricolor Heron again in breeding plumage…although instead of just the gold ponytail on the back this one also has the blue beak…Neil doesn’t recall having seen the bright blue beak on any of them before this one.

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Male Cardinal with breakfast.

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Male Moorhen…again calling for the ladies…or perhaps issuing challenges to other potential suitors.

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Really eerie view down the path next to the canal…Spanish Moss hanging low.

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You usually don’t see an Eagle in the same tree as an Anhinga and a bunch of egrets…but then this is a tree out in the middle of a lake so it wasn’t like there were a lot of other choices. This is one of the local mated pair.

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Nice reflection in the canal.

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Female Red Wing Blackbird…and yes, they’re brown and neither red or black. We got a dozen or shots between Neil and Connie and picked this prelaunch shot by Connie and the airborne one by Neil…he’s got an easier time tracking the birds in flight than she does since she has little to no depth perception. She’s getting better with her new camera though…she keeps practicing tracking them and gets better every time out.

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Neil spotted a lady in front of them about 50 yards who started running up the trail so he hoofed it up there to get these shots of a Great Blue Heron with breakfast…it’s a skate which is sort of a cross between an eel and a fish. Connie caught up and at least one of these she got but I can’t remember which.

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Almost gone.

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And down the hatch. Good to the last drop.

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Black Crowned Night Heron.

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Mated pair of Sandhill Cranes expressing their love for each other…or something like that. Like many other large species…they mate for life and are rarely apart from each other except when one is sitting on the nest brooding eggs while the other forages.

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Male Anhinga drying his wings.

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Double Crested Cormorant with breakfast…again a combo of Neil and Connie shots.

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After passing between the two lakes and turning back south and then east toward the parking lot we were on Eagle Roost Trail. Here’s the nest with one of the eaglets sitting out on the left side and…I think…the second eaglet in the center but partially hidden by the vertical limb.

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And here’s the mate to the one that was out on the water. Based on size we think this is the female but it’s essentially impossible to tell without seeing them side by side. The fact that it is sitting off the nest and watching indicates that the eaglets have matured enough to not be susceptible to predators and since they haven’t fledged yet the parents just drop off prey and let them fight over and tear it apart rather than feeding them as they did post hatching.

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As we headed back east to the parking lot we spotted this Glossy Ibis and got a couple of shots…but otherwise the last half mile back was pretty bleak as far as bird life goes.

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With that our trip was done…we hated to miss DeSoto but it wasn’t worth getting up early enough for a 100 mile drive to get there at dawn. We headed home, grabbed some fast food on the way, picked up her shoes, and that was it for the trip.

Interesting things found on the net.

More math nerdery.

2592.

Yes, 2592 which is the only number less than 10 to the 100th power that when you take 2 to the 5th power times 9 to the second power (using the digits in the order they’re the number) you get the number. Not sure why we care about this at all…but apparently we do.

And because 42 is the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything (as noted in book 1 of the trilogy consisting of 5 books The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

MeaningOfLife

Best airport sign ever.

RecombobulationArea

And in further proof that 42 is the ultimate answer…if you use 42 digits of pi to calculate the circumference of the observable universe you get the correct answer to an accuracy of the size of a proton.

Green Power…although this will probably cause PTSD for progressives.

GreenPower

Star Trek humor

Star trek diarrhea

ScoobyDooInMyBeer

SwimWithWatch

TeacherAndStudent

And finally.

BarInTheShower

Cyas.

Posted in Critters, Hiking, Nature, Photography, Technology, Travel, WIldlife, Ya Can't Fix Stupid | Leave a comment

Why Yes…Even More Fun Stuff©

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the current war situation over in Ukraine…and I don’t think that many will see this as anything other than a blatant territory grab by a national leader who has gone ‘round the bend as we used to say in LA (lower Alabama for those that might think it’s that other LA out in the PRC).

After the completely botched retreat from Afghanistan and the associated abandonment of both sensitive military equipment as well as the Afghan citizens who helped us…any halfwit could have easily understood that the government there was going to fall to the Taliban and while that decision was made during the previous administration (another obvious failure of foreign policy…and whether we should have been there or not and left or not and a bunch of other things might be a nice debate…that’s not the point here) it seemed pretty obvious that despite his bragging about his extensive foreign policy experience during the campaign that he basically screwed that up pretty badly. Then when Russia invaded Ukrainian territory…again…he told them as the troops were massing that military action by the US was off the table and thus the rest of NATO would obviously not take any either since they look to the US for leadership…that statement essentially gave a green light to the Russians to invade.

So clearly…this administration is grossly incompetent at foreign policy…but the both the previous and previous previous admins were just as incompetent at least as standing up to Putin and for democracy goes. In fact…one can go back a long way to the initial placement of troops in the country, the attempt to set up a US style democracy which wasn’t ever going to happen since the country isn’t really a country but a bunch of tribes and most of their citizens identify as tribe/clan first and Afghan second…but that’s really coolant through the ion exchanger (as Neil used to say back in his Navy days)…and looking at the current situation over in Ukraine it’s hard to see any other alternative but that President Biden screwed the pooch on this one. In fact…there is serious evidence to believe that President Obama back when he was in office said to some of his advisors “Never underestimate Joe’s ability to f**k things up”. I googled to see and while there’s no video/audio report numerous senior Obama advisors have confirmed the validity of the quote.

He’s not the only one though…as I said both previous and previous previous did so as well…previous for not providing weapons to the country and previous previous for his infamous “red line in the sand” statement. It sure would be nice if we could actually get a completely competent President but I can’t really recall the last one who was.

Anyways…’nuff o’ that.

Last Friday we took a ride up to Fort De Soto Park in Saint Petersburg. We actually took the toll bridge (only a buck fifth each way) since the way not on the bridge made the trip 50something miles longer and since we needed to be there at 0650 when the sun was coming up and Connie was already irritated about having to leave at 0500…Neil decided that paying the toll was just a better idea all the way ‘round. We ended up paying another $0.75 toll as well as a $1.50 one but both of those had no alternative route anyway since the park is out on a couple of islands.

On entering the park…you come down from the north to the main road and then choose east or west and we knew we were going to go to both ends anyway…we noticed that most of the cars turned to the west. Since the east side was closer (about 3 miles or so from the turn) we went that way first but saw nothing. Turned around and drove all the way to the west/north end and still saw nothing. At that point we figured the trip was a bust but got to thinking about it and saw that in the parking lot for the far north beach there were a dozen or more cars at the far northern end of the lot. Since it was only 20 minutes or so after sunrise at this point we decided they couldn’t possibly all be beach people and the fishing piers were nowhere near so we grabbed the camera gear and headed across the sands just in case…and as it turned out all those cars belonged to birders and we hit the jackpot. Unfortunately we missed about 1/2 of Golden Hour light so when we go back in a few weeks at the peak of breeding season we’ll head straight to the north beach to start with. The reason we know we’re going back is that some of the pretty rare Reddish Egrets nest there and the one we saw wasn’t quite to full breeding plumage yet.

We did get a couple nice shots of the sun coming up from the east end beach…looking back across the water and the toll bridge back to the other side of Tampa Bay.

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As we drove across to the north/west beach area we did spot what turned out to b a Green Parakeet…it was pretty far away but at the time we thought it was an unusual find.

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Out at North Beach.

Willet.

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Seagull…this a Laughing Gull…they look like their heads were dipped into paint.

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This is a wider shot of the tidal pool left behind that the birds were feeding in…Reddish Egret, Snowy Egret, and Roseate Spoonbill plus other species.

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Roseate Spoonbill…again not quite up to full mating plumage yet…should be all pink later on.

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Great Egret in flight.

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The Reddish Egret that was looking for breakfast. The pinkish area on the bill is the primary breeding characteristic but the brownish feathers on the breast should also get more red as the season progresses. The beak will end up being hot pink on the half towards the head. There was only one Reddish Egret for all the shots in this post.

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Snowy Egret and Willet.

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Reddish Egret feeding behavior. Very similar to what a Wood Stork does…this species spreads wings and uses them to shade part of the water. This either attracts the fish or helps them see them better depending on which scientist one wants to believe. Most wading birds have a species specific feeding behavior…for instance a Great Egret stands very still and waits for food to swim by and then stabs down at it while a Snowy Egret shuffles his golden feet along the bottom to scare up the fish before grabbing it.

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The Reddish Egret also sort of half flies while running to move from place to place quickly.

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Juvenile Black Bellied Plover.

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Reddish Egret stabbing for and then with a breakfast snack in mid air between the beak halves. Neil got the first and Connie the second…both had shutter set on burst but it’s the luck of the draw even at 8 or 10 frames per second.

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Snowy Egret plumping himself to scare off an intruder.

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And a successful eviction.

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Neil had wandered off down the beach a little and a fella near Connie yelled “Hey, the White Ibis has a crab.” Connie turned and got a nice burst of it.

Initial grab.

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Moving it around to get it properly positioned to swallow whole.

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Annnnnd…down the hatch.

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Roseate Spoonbill again…they sort of nibble along the bottom until they find something…again a species unique fishing style.

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Heron track on the sand…could be Egret as well…in any event one of the waders.

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Osprey pair we spotted as we left the parking lot. There were Ospreys aplenty there…we must have seen 30 of them.

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Another pair of Green Parakeets.

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And yes…there were a bunch of them as well…probably saw 30 of them near the fishing piers.

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Took us awhile to figure this one out…we’re pretty sure it’s a juvenile Coopers Hawk as it was pretty small and that’s about the only hawk that’s small enough. The talons gave it away as a hawk pretty quickly but the rest of it was a lot of checking features and comparing to Peterson’s Birds of North America app.

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Willet with Whimbrel in front.

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Willet.

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Snowy on the roof of the fish cleaning station at the fishing pier…guess he knows where to hang out for an easy meal.

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Red Breasted Merganser.

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Semi-palmated Plover…we had to look up what semi-palmated means…palmated means webbed feet and semi is because it’s only partially webbed between the toes.

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Great Blue Heron on the fishing pier…they stand on one leg a lot.

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Seagull flying by…we looked and looked and couldn’t really tell what this is…based on size first and then features it had one feature of a half dozen species but not all of the species and of the half dozen at least one feature that didn’t exist on the same species that matched the first feature. So we’re just going with seagull here.

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And that was our day…by this time it was a bit after 0900 so we did the 2 hour drive home and had lunch and a nap. We went down to the Elks after dinner to visit with Tammy the bartender an because we were skipping the Mardi Gras dinner on Saturday evening at the Elks as we had plans for a long day on Sunday and they were serving Gumbo and Jambalaya for dinner…but most folk down here make those dishes with okra for the thickening instead of File power (that’s pronounced fee-lay for ya northerners) for both thickening and the classic gumbo flavor which okra doesn’t provide. For those who like Cajun flavor…ya need to gets yerself some File…in the south it’s pretty much available in your standard grocery stores but up nawth ya might need to buy it from Amazon. File is actually ground up dried sassafras leaves and no true southern cook would be without it. It’s not spicy…that comes from the cayenne pepper or smoked paprika or hot sauce you put in the dish…File just gives it that N’awlins flavor. Neil puts it in his jambalaya as well as gumbo although it’s not a traditional spice for the former. Besides not liking the taste of okra…it’s got that horrible slime crap inside of it…which is pretty gross in our opinion (Connie only eats the stuff fried so the slime gets solidified) and neither of them likes the slime.

Sunday…we were up early so we could have breakfast before heading out to the choir mass at 0900. Home for a quick lunch and then left about noon for the drive up to Sarasota for the Sarasota Symphony concert…they played some music we weren’t too familiar with but it was all nice. Following that…we headed to Rossini Trattoria Gastronomic up in Charlotte for their 1800 Wine Dinner. This is the place we went a week or two back that had real as in Italy Italian food…we liked it and Connie got on the mailing list…which got us invited to the $90 a person plus tax and tip wine dinner. We had 5 different wines from sparking through white through a pair of reds and then a wine based amaretto for Neil and a chocolate wine for Connie since she doesn’t like the almond taste of amaretto. Along with the sparkling Prosecco we had an Aperitivo (Italian for Happy Hour…it’s designed to whet your appetite) of a slice of a Stromboli (think rolled up pizza) with peppers, prosciutto, and truffled pecorino cheese. Moving on…we had prawns with chickpeas and olive bruschetta for appetizer, a pasta course of potato/basil ravioli with a sausage tomato rag with salted ricotta, a main course of veal with cauliflower gratin, and finally a desert of Zepolla covered with chocolate creme and candied oranges…this is sort of a cross between a beignet, a puff pastry, and a croissant with an open top filled with medium chocolate dairy egg goodness and topped with candied oranges and some extra dark chocolate sauce.

All in all…we liked the food and the wine and left the restaurant a bit after 2000. On further review…despite the excellent food and wine we don’t think we’ll do another of the their wine dinners…with 5 different wines and all that rich varied food we ended up eating way more than we usually do (despite the plates being small and the wines being fairly short pours since we were all getting 5 glasses) and Connie in particular can’t do that…makes her feel bad most of the night hours and until after lunch today. We’ll definitely go there for dinner as the food is fabulous but for just a dinner we can eat less and stick to a single bottle of wine to share or a couple glasses if we are eating different dishes that need red or white wine…although to be honest we don’t put much stock in that whole “red wine with beef, white with fish or port or chicken” thing…we drink whatever we like that day but generally try to have lighter reds if we’re having one with pork or fish and stick with white for seafood so the wine doesn’t overwhelm the food.

Connie’s feeling better this afternoon so we’re having some sautéed fish for dinner with mashed taters and corn and she’ll head off to her Mastersingers practice. 

Interesting things found on the net.

TitanicMichiganEdition

DrunkToothFairy

JehovaWitnessTrainingCamp

BabyJesusBathTime

Cyas.

Posted in Critters, Photography, WIldlife | Leave a comment

How To Take Good Photos

Neil’s mentioned tangentially about some of his pre shot and post processing techniques and that’s what today’s post turned into. It started as a test post because he got a new toy this week…and he took and processed some shots out back at the pond and was looking at the results with various processing options…and I decided to write about that.

Now Ima not gonna claim that he’s Ansel Adams…he ain’t and he knows that…but he’s been doing this quite awhile and isn’t too bad at it…and I figured that some of you readers might also be photographers and if I tellya ‘bout his way of doing things both pre shot and in post processing it might give you some tidbits to ponder for your own photos. If you take photos only on your phone and put them on Instagram or Twitter…a lot of this won’t really apply but even iPhone orAndroid device photos…particularly if it’s a relatively newish model as phone cameras are getting pretty darned good these days…can be significantly improved by some post processing.

Ok…pre shooting stuff first.

The biggest recommendation I can make here is to take your camera out of Auto Everything mode…in this mode it decides everything about focus and the various elements of the exposure triangle…and since it doesn’t have the slightest idea about what you’re actually intending to do with this photo it can’t possibly make the best decision. It can make an adequate decision but you might not get the shot you want. If you get out of Auto mode or Program mode depending on your brand and instead choose Aperture preferred or Shutter preferred or Neil’s fave Manual with Auto ISO…you still get the camera calculating the right exposure for you but you get to pick one or two or even 2 and a half of the things that make up the Exposure Triangle and you can set them to get the shot you want.

This is known as the Exposure Triangle which sounds complicated but it’s really not…it’s just a way of determining how much light of what type hits your sensor. There are three things that make up the triangle…shutter speed which is how long the sensor is exposed, aperture which is a function of the lens opening, and ISO which is a function of how sensitive the sensor is for this shot. 

Shutter speed is measured in fractions or multiples of a second…like 1/1600 seconds or 1/15 second or 2 seconds…and determines how much motion or freeze frame action you get in your image. The longer it is…the more likely you’ll start to get motion blur in your subject or due to the camera moving in your hands during the exposure but slower shutter speeds give you that beautiful flowing water effect you see in Neil’s waterfall shots and as long as they’re not too slow they allow you to use a wider aperture (I will talk about that in a sec) and lower ISO (ditto). Faster shutter speeds freeze action…like a bird in flight or a running deer…too slow of a shutter speed in those and the animal moves during the exposure and you end up with blurry photos. Sometimes that’s OK if it’s what you’re looking for…but sometimes it’s not OK. Aperture is a lens function and is represented as something like f4 her f5.6…it runs as low as 1.2 and as high as 32 depending on your lens. What aperture does for you is determine the depth of field in your image…called DoF. In reality…only a single distance from the lens is perfectly in focus as determined by your autofocus system, but the area in front of and behind the focus plane is still almost in focus and good enough…and the farther you get in front of or behind it the further out of complete focus it becomes. Aperture determines the limits of the in front of and behind area that is in focus…but it’s an inverse relationship for reasons of physics and lens design that I won’t explain here because you don’t really care why…so f4 has a narrower distance range that’s in focus than say f8 does. The exact dimensions of the DoF range depend on lens focal length, aperture selected, and distance to the subject (DoF is less at closer ranges all other things being equal). So…one cares about DoF because you need to determine how much of your scene you want in perfect focus. For something like a bird…you want it in focus but would like the background and foreground blurred out to concentrate attention on the bird. For a landscape…you want both the nearby trees and cliff edge as well as the distant mountains to all be in focus…so in the former you would typically prefer something like f4 or f5.6 and in the latter you would typically want f11 or f13. The third factor in the triangle…ISO…is essentially the sensitivity of your sensor. Higher ISO is like low light vision on TV shows and lets you get shots in darker conditions. In a perfect world…that’s good…but unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world and while higher ISO seems like a great idea higher ISOs come along with more noise in the image as you’ll see in some of the images I posted below. What ISOs are acceptable to you depend on what you take pictures of, what camera you bought, and where the images are displayed. For instance…Neil’s Nikon Z7II makes great images from it’s base ISO of 64 up to ISO 6,400…and acceptable images up to 25,000 or so depending on the situation and how much noise his noise reduction program can get rid of.

He used to shoot in Aperture preferred unless it was action and then shifted to Shutter preferred mode…and set either the aperture for his desired DoF or the shutter speed based on the action. He then let the camera choose the other two settings but looked in the viewfinder readout to see what they were and if either shutter/aperture or ISO got out of what he was comfortable with for a shot he would adjust his aperture speed if he could to balance the 3 legs of the triangle as much as possible.

Then he got turned onto what he uses now by one of his photo buddies…Steve Perry at https://backcountrygallery.com…Steve is a great wildlife photographer and also is excellent at teaching you how to get great results like he does by knowing how to expose and process an image…and what’s important in each phase of the process. That is Manual plus Auto ISO

In this method of exposure…he chooses the speed and aperture and lets the camera choose the ISO…that way he has control of the two most important factors in the triangle…and by observing the ISO in the viewfinder he can cheat the two factors he’s setting if necessary to get a lower ISO than the camera would select…it’s still an auto exposure mode despite the name. Typically he shoots his lenses wide open for action or wildlife…this is the smallest number for the f stop…which gives the narrowest possible DoF range for subject isolation from the background…and he chooses a shutter speed that’s fast enough to freeze the action. For landscapes…a wider DoF is good so the lens gets stopped down and with no action (and probably the camera on a tripod) he can slow the shutter speed down…those lower the ISO and reduce noise. For waterfalls…definitely on a tripod…the shutter gets even slower down to probably a second or even 2 to 3 seconds…and he brackets the exposure shooting underexposed, properly exposed, and overexposed but otherwise identical shots then merges them in processing to both have good shadow area detail and not to blow out the highlights in the scene.

With all that said and done…he’s got the RAW images on his memory card. He used to shoot in JPEG mode which does some post processing in the camera but the important thing is that some of the data from the sensor is irretrievably thrown away by the JPEG process…and it can never be recovered. For the best final image…he shoots in what is called RAW mode where the data from the sensor is recorded with no processing whatsoever.

JPEGs are good for instagram shots and vacation shots…but for maximum final shot quality…people usually shoot RAW and process later. Out of the camera…RAW images don’t look very good but that’s because it’s just unaltered sensor data…the post processing program you use applies specific adjustments to the data based on the camera body and lens you used and the computer you’re processing the image with to get the best output…based on what the software writers decided was the definition of best output. However…you can tweak any adjustment the RAW processor made to achieve the image you wanted to get.

Ok…on to post processing…or WDND for What Does Neil Do.

He uses a program called Adobe Lightroom for his primary processing and image management and passes the image from Lightroom to other applications for more detailed work and the result gets passed back to Lightroom.

The first step is to import the images into Lightroom. This copies the image from the camera memory card to the computer hard drive…and each user decides how to organize images. Neil does them by year then by location inside the year, then by date inside the location…but it’s completely arbitrary and everybody uses what makes sense for them. Some do it solely by naming each individual shoot with no regard for date, some by job if they’re professionals getting paid for the photos, and a myriad of other options. As part of the import process…keywords get assigned…like Great Blue Heron or Brown Bear or Waterfall or Florida…this allows you later to find a photo you want by sorting by all waterfalls, then Utah, then time frame…and look at all the photos that meet those criteria on a grid so you can say “that’s the one” and select it for further processing or use.

Once everything is in Lightroom and keyword…he goes through each shot of a shoot one by one…this might be as many as 700 or 800 frames for even something like a day trip after he gets all of Connie’s and his photos in from 2 or even 3 camera bodies. Each photo gets marked as Rejected (out of focus or missed the shot or clipped the bird’s right wingtip off for instance), left as unmarked or assigned 1 star (shots can get from 1 to 5 stars and everybody does this part differently…the idea is to mark the shots you think you want to use for the blog or whatever). Sometimes…well, actually all the time…they’ve got 40 or 50 shots between them of the bird in question from different angles, lighting if it’s moving around, foliage interfering or not and what have you so lots of times a shot early in the sequence of a subject gets a 1 but later gets no stars because there were better ones down the road. Eventually…he has all the 1 star shots for potential blog fodder selected. At that point…the rejected shots get permanently deleted from the Lightroom catalog and from the drive since they’re bad. He then filters only the 1 star shots and now instead of 700 or 800 he’s only got 40 or 50 and he knows that 25-30 will make the blog but they need processing to figure out which 3 elk shots of the possible 7 he actually wants to use.

Next up is noise reduction…you never want to process noise so get rid of it first. For that…the 1 star shots get passed along to DxO PureRAW which is a specific noise reduction app…so he hits select all and drops them on DxO. He then clicks Process Images…and goes away for awhile as noise reduction on 40 or 50 images takes 20 or 30 minutes. DxO produces new files with the same name as before but DxO added at the end. When processing is complete…the noise reduced images get sent back to Lightroom for more work.

Next up is processing…each image starts with the Auto button and Lightroom adjusts exposure, colors, shadows, highlights, whites, blacks and another dozen or two sliders to what it thinks is right for this image. Usually it’s pretty good although to his mind it always increases the exposure too much so normally he pulls that slider back to the left a little. He also tweaks any other sliders as needed. One thing I didn’t mention before…Lightroom is a non destructive editor. Nothing you do affects the basic file from the camera…it just keeps list of changes you made and when you export the image for the blog it applies the changes only to the exported file as well as to the visual appearance of the image on the screen in Lightroom…so you can always go back and change things if you need to. After this he crops the image as needed…usually to a ration of 16 wide by 10 tall for the blog and sometimes zooms in to the subject by cropping although this reduces the number of pixels in the output image. At that point…he starts to use some of the magic artificial intelligence tools to further refine the shot. The latest version of Lightroom allows you to pick Select Subject…and it will select only the subject of the shot. How it figures out the bird is the subject and what comprises the bird is the whole AI part…all I can say is that it works pretty darned good. He then modifies the subject selection with a brush tool to add or remove parts it got wrong (not to often an outcome though). Then you can make further adjustments…but the difference is that instead of adjusting say the exposure of the whole image you only adjust the area that is selected. You can also select Sky or by color or by several other methods and can combine or invert selections. This allows you to choose the subject and bring it a little brighter then select the background and darken it or blur it a bit more to make the subject pop more…he really likes the new AI selection features.

Along the way…perhaps a few more adjustments of sliders as it seems needed also happen.

Finally…sharpening is considered. Some shots need a little and some are just fine. In addition…whether or not to increase the resolution gets considered since these go hand in hand. Depending on whether the shot was with Connie’s 20 megapixel Z50 or his much higher 45 megapixel Z7II and how much the image was cropped the cropped version might or might not be a little blurry…so this is where sharpening and resolution increases come into play. You’ve all seen on CSI and NCIS how the computer nerds enhance images to turn blocky pixelated faces into something detailed enough so that the license plate can be read or the face run through facial recognition. I have to tell you though…real software that one can actually use is never, never, never as good as it seems like it is on TV. It’s pretty good at enhancing details and making it look sharper but doesn’t really do it as well as TV supposedly does.

With all processing complete…he upgrades the shots he’s gonna use to 2 stars and also assigns the color blue since in his organization scheme blue means “output for blog”. Then the 2 star blue shots get selected and exported to web…he sets them for 1024 pixels wide which it fits the browser window and his standard export to web template has a few other options set.

With that…he’s done processing and it’s off to me to write the blog.

OK…now that I’ve blathered on ‘bout that long enough…let’s see a few shots of his new lens (a Nikon Z 100-400 zoom lens). He hasn’t done his detailed comparison to the 500PF lens that we know as “the bird lens” yet but on initial testing he sees no reduction in final image quality, the lens weighs the same as the bird lens, it works fine with both the 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters so is effectively a longer focal length lens (i.e. it’s more telephoto than before) and the zoom means it has varying focal lengths so it is much more flexible. He’s had plenty of instances with the 500PF bird lens was actually too much magnification and he had to back up to get the whole bird into the frame…which sometimes means that now a tree limb is in the way. Simply zooming out a little solves the framing problem without him having to move and change the angle of the shot.

First up…the juvenile Little Blue Heron Changeling out back of the lanai. Taken at 800mm focal length and cropped for the first shot after DxO noise reduction…then all other versions came from the cropped DxO file with various combinations. You can tell the difference between the shots if you look closely…but it takes multiple loos at things like the bird’s eye which should be tack sharp and how much the background is blurred and how much feather details comes out and on and on.

This is the shot straight out of the camera with only the DxO noise reduction, Lightroom adjustments and cropping applied.

Z72 3126 No Enhance

Same as above but with Topaz Sharpen AI applied.

DXO TopSharp Edit

This one has the resolution doubled in Lightroom then Topaz Sharpen AI.

DXO LR Double TopSharp

Original shot but with Topaz Gigapixel resolution doubling and sharpening…Gigapixel is a single purpose tool and does a better job at resolution increase than Lightroom…and it also allows you to increase resolution up to 6x while Lightroom does 2x and only 2x. GP is slower (a lot) and more post processing workflow steps (a medium amount) so it’s generally used only for shots that really need more resolution and Lightroom’s is used when a lesser amount is needed…but by the time you do that and then the round trip via Sharpen AI it’s almost as long. He hasn’t decided really whether Lightroom doubling or Gigapixel doubling is better…it really depends on the image. He takes his best guess and if he doesn’t like the way it turns out he tries the other one and either picks the better of the two, uses without resolution increase, or ditches it entirely from the blog depending.

DXO GP

Tricolor Heron.

Z72 3130 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

One of our alligators swimming across the pond.

Z72 3136 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

Z72 3138 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

These two are otherwise terrible images…but I wanted to show you what a dramatic difference the DxO PureRAW noise reduction does…in particular look at the green paint on the wall and you can see the noise reduction.

Out of the camera

Z72 3140

Same image after DxO PureRAW noise reduction.

Z72 3140 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

And finally…another shot of…I think…the same alligator as the two sunset shots above…only this time it is over on Ragnar Bench at the left end of the pond.

Z72 3147 NEF DxO DeepPRIME

Hopefully the above description and suggestions can help you improve your photography…Neil learned a lot by watching YouTube videos and reading how to pages on the interwebs so passing knowledge along is a good thing.

Cyas.

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