Friday, September 30, 2005


Here's something special for you readers of CAoJ who also use an xD memory card in any of your equiptment!

Given that my new camera came with an itty bitty 16 Meg card, I immediately started searching for prices on a bigger card, and after checking eBay (watch out for shipping charges!) and the on-line sites of Best Buy and Wal-Mart, I remembered that I needed to go to my local Office Max today to get some stuff printed and thought to give them a check.

Right now, and I do not know for how long, they have the Olympus 512M xD memory card at 15 dollars off, ie, about 65 bucks, on line or in the store, and with a $15 mail in rebate! Thus, a 512 card for 50 bucks net!

I have a new card!



About 6:30 this morning, decided to give the moon a shot. Handheld, braced on my back porch railing, 30X zoom, combined optical and digital, highest quality setting, retouched in Corel. Not bad...


Thursday, September 29, 2005


For those of you following along, the men from NASA never did call yesterday. I called my contact this morning and he said, “Oh, we never got around to calling you.” He said he would have the other fellow call me within half an hour: an hour later, I went out.

But I had to make sure I was back in time for the scheduled delivery of my new digicam today at 4:30. I got back home about 2, and there it was sitting on my back porch: my new Digicam!

My old and new digicams: the size differential is shown by the black square on which they both sit- same in both shots. The color differential is directly from the light handling charcteristics of each camera, each used to shoot the other. The old one went to flash for this shot, the new one didn't.

Sure, I may remain a bit behind the times with a mere 3 Megapixels, but at less than one third the price my brother paid two years ago, I can live with that. And with this camera, with delight!

This new camera feels like a camera, shoots like a camera, and is quick like a camera! I lost so many pictures last week at SeaWorld waiting for my old digicam to start, or recycle. This baby starts fast and can shoot 3 or 4 or even 6 photos before it needs to take a break to process them. And then even that is quick! Low light- no problem: handles all lighting conditions well. I have even shot the moon with it!

And the zoom? 10X optical zoom! Wow! Now I can sit in the dry seats and still get a good shot of that whale! Not to mention the various wildlife that often comes to my yard here in Homosassa, but won’t let me get close enough to get a good shot with my older 3X optical zoom.

My old digicam served me well, and I don’t want to say it was anything but a joy- the simple matter of having a good digicam has opened up so much photographically! Shoot a thousand frames- who cares! It’s all free! Bad shot? Do a bit of work on it in Corel and there ya go! I love this stuff!

The same shot taken with old and new digicams: the old, with its 3X zoom on the left had to be re-worked in Corel to lighten it enough to be visible; the one on the right was shot with the new digicam, handheld with the 10X zoom.

But now I will be starting from so much a higher point!

Ya, this is good.

First “official” shoot will be a return trip to SeaWorld next week. I have reworked the map and figured out a key to that mad layout of attractions- might even see if they want to buy my map. A bit different than what I posted the other day- hadn’t found the key then. Got it now.

Also working on a new seat for my ECV. The existing one gets old real fast. After a couple of hours, it hurts! So did a sketch for a new frame and support and located a local metal fabricator, but alas, so many hundreds of dollars, so will have to work out an alternative myself.

Meanwhile, a good map, a good camera…


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

It rained here tonight, rained hard. Hasn't done that for quite a while. Only a few sprinkles on occasion over the last few weeks. It is typical for there to be a daily hard short rain here, so the lack has been like a piece of the day missing. It was good to hear it once again pounding on the sheet metal roof. It also gave me a chance to check out the effectiveness of the rain gutter I recently added to my back porch. Worked real fine! But not all was fine. I use satelite TV and rain, big heavy thunder and lightening storm, well, I know about five minutes before it hits cause I lose the signal. On the other hand, I know about five minutes ahead when it is going to be over... the only real problem tonight was the timing: lost the closing minutes of that new woman president show and the opening of that crazy Boston lawyer show. but did get a neat couple of flash pictures- those are not spots on the lens; they are raindrops frozen in the flash.

And just got word via e-mail and fed-ex tracking that my new camera should be here Thursday afternoon! This is an awesome camera, with a 10-X optical zoom! Oh, the possibilities! And it handles low light really well, and is ready to shoot, and re-shoot, very quickly- both problems with many other digital cameras.

Of course that means I have to be here Thursday. I was going to go back to SeaWorld Thursday to continue my efforts to work out an effective tour plan. But then, I was going to actually do that tomorrow, Wednesday, until this morning when I got a call from my contact at the Astronaut Hall of Fame and he asked me to join him in a conference call tomorrow afternoon with himself and the man in charge of the NASA art collection. So that eliminated tomorrow as a day to be away. But that's okay.

And about noon, I got a call from, where I publish my books, and I am working with them on a new product promo. He asked me to stand by for a phone call from a reporter, so that kept me off the net (I use dial-up). While waiting for that, I did some work on the photo montage I did of aerial shots of Seaworld, to work out if an actual physical view would be better than their somewhat stylized map. The phone call came, and went well- always fun being interviewed- and it will be in the Des Moines Register on Monday, which is available on-line so that saves me a drive to Iowa, though there are worse things in the world... a lot of corn there... but after carefully working over the map of SeaWorld, coloring in the paths where they were hidden behind trees, working out hidden areas from their map, studying the different areas, labeling the different attractions, it turned out there is only one place where their map misleads a bit and adds to the confusion, but overall, the place is simply laid out badly!

On the plus side, I am now much more familiar with that layout and should be able to ease the navigation a bit when I meet my next "guests" in October.


Sunday, September 25, 2005


Well, it has been a while since I added anything, and I do see that some have been checking daily, so I figured I ought to add something!

I have been doing a lot of work outside the last few weeks, an hour or two at a time, for while most of the Gulf Coast has been dealing with terrible destructive weather, here in Citrus County, it has been gorgeous. Doing a lot of hammering to reclaim bent and damaged sections of aluminum, I have replaced damaged and missing sections of roof trim and skirting around the mobile home, much of which was lost in last year’s hurricanes, which found this area more inviting.

And more of the same to reclaim some material to build a shed on one end of the place to cover some utilities and provide a parking place for my lawn tractor, which I have also gotten working, no small accomplishment given that I don’t do engines! Let me pass this on: there is some stuff called Sea Foam, that is a cleaner for engines of all types, and is used in different ways depending on what you need to clean or for general tune up of the whole system. In the latter case, you simply add it to the gas. Marvelous stuff!

I used four different types of metal sheeting on the roof. One piece, 12 inches wide of one style of this material is $25 at Home Depot, so a bit of reshaping and hammer time was well justified! On all the repairs, all I had to actually buy were several boxes of the special large headed self-drilling sheet metal screws used to assemble this stuff. In Boston, where I worked in home repair for 20 years, it was a hammer and saw; here it is tin snips and sheet metal screws! Of course, they also have these things up there they call hurricanes, but they don’t really…

The corner posts of the shed are the remains of my power pole that was snapped in two in last years storm.

One day last week, as a break, I did go see a movie, something I used to do at least weekly, but of late have not done for a long time. I chose to see Lord of War, with Nicolas Cage, and I can heartily recommend this one! It is played subtly, but with great effectiveness, and in addition to its subtle moral commentary, provides a fascinating look at the whole subject of arms dealing, while at the same time acquainting you with a man you would otherwise probably never know, and yet feel you do when you get home after seeing it. All aspects are well done, writing, editing, pacing, imagery, and while not at all a pretty movie, it is one of those special experiences that the best movies can create.

Also one day last week, I once again acted as host and guide to a couple at an Orlando theme park, this time, an older neighbor couple at Sea World. They are selling their house and moving to 60 acres atop a mountain in Georgia, and after being here for 10+ years decided they ought to at least see one theme park before they left. Knowing of my “profession”, they asked me to accompany them, and as it was on their gas, I accepted. (It is now a very expensive drive to visit in my van, so I have cut way back on my visits.)

Sea World seems to be a very confusing park, with a layout that appears to have been (not) designed to simply connect randomly placed buildings with walkways as needed. The “map” they supply at the entrance does little to aid in navigation, and though we managed to have a very enjoyable day, and get in pretty much everything we wanted to see, it left me with an overwhelming sense of hunger to somehow solve the mystery of efficiently touring this park. To that end, I downloaded and compiled about 60 aerial photos of the park from Terraserver and am going to study them and see if I can work out a better map and a better touring plan. I also intend to return to the park this coming week to independently explore it and see what I can work out. I have only been to this park three times, including a 1995 visit, and the last two visits were with others, so have not had the chance to really explore it.

I also discovered that for an additional $60 per person, one can sign up for a guided visit to the park, which puts one in a VIP group that is taken around the park by an employee, with several perks including front of the line access and a catered lunch with Shamu. The entire park, with all shows is covered in one day, so it can be done, and I briefly considered taking this tour as a shortcut to solving this mystery. Maybe someday, but for now, I shall seek my own solution.

I will end with one other thing I noticed the last week that again points out one of the significant differences between the familiar ways of the land of my upbringing and my new home here where it is warm. I was over at Wal-Mart and as I left, I glanced over at the vending machines outside. As expected, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and snacks were offered in these automated and stylish machines, but there on the end of the row was one such as I had never seen. It was similar to the others, and just as stylish, but what it offered…

Live Bait!


Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Voices of Experience

Among the members of an on-line group to which I belong, as in many other places, the "discussions" of late have been running on regarding the response to the devastation of the Gulf Coast brought on by Hurricane Katrina. As the subject of the group is ostensibly woodcarving, yesterday, Old Joe, the list owner, mentioned he was thinking of doing a carving of "a person- or several- up to their waste in water, waving and carrying a small sack of belongings, a pet or a child."
This got me thinking of the appropriate artistic response to this incident. The list postings showed, if nothing else, the strong feelings this situation has engendered in most everyone.
I looked for a precedent in Art for something that was appropriate to the matter at hand, and immediately thought of the one piece that is widely known, that both is fitting, and might also help some better understand Art.
That piece is Guernica by Pablo Picasso.
Guernica was a small town in Spain, a normal ordinary town where people went about their lives doing normal things, until it was destroyed most violently by Franco in the Spanish civil war.
On the PBS website, it is described thus: “On April 27th, 1937, unprecedented atrocities are perpetrated on behalf of Franco against the civilian population of a little Basque village in northern Spain. Chosen for bombing practice by Hitler's burgeoning war machine, the hamlet is pounded with high-explosive and incendiary bombs for over three hours. Townspeople are cut down as they run from the crumbling buildings. Guernica burns for three days. Sixteen hundred civilians are killed or wounded.”
Picasso used his medium to capture the horror of this- and all war- not in particular details or individual incident, but with an overall visual poem of the incident in stark vicious imagery that bypassed the familiar and cut directly to the soul. Looking at it is very troubling. It creates feelings of horror, fear and despair in the viewer. It captures the horror of what was done. It is not pretty. It is Art.
Another example that can be readily seen is Knox Martin's Whaling further down in this blog, though I think it has now shifted to the next page. Again, the familiar imagery is minimized to bypass the usual visual categorization and reach the soul.

Thinking about the effects of Katrina on the people and communities of the Gulf Coast, the artist must reach beyond the usual symbols and create something ‘bigger’ if he is to convey the enormity of an event such as this. He must invent a new language, a new imagery, he must create from his own soul to affect the souls of others. That is the job of the artist.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Courtesy of a report on CNN, I found this blog from the NOLA front:

"This journal has become the Survival of New Orleans blog. In less perilous times it was simply a blog for me to talk smack and chat with friends. Now this journal exists to share firsthand experience of the disaster and its aftermath with anyone interested."

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