Thrashing About in the Woods

First off, Happy Birthday to Kerby! (by the way, based on strange looks from the Walmart employee last night, apparently all dogs do not get their own birthday cakes)

Initially I was pretty excited about the opportunity to bring you a NEW bird sighting.  Over the course of about a week I kept hearing a very unique bird song.  It was almost like three distinct sounds that it would alternate through repeatedly.  Probably the most fascinating thing about this was how loud it was.  I would be out back and still hear the singing coming from the front woods.  Three times I ran inside, grabbed The Beast and went looking for the source.  Eventually the search would be narrowed down to a couple of trees, but the sound would either stop or there would be a rustle of leaves followed by some non-distinguishable bird launching itself in a different direction.  A few minutes later the chatter would start up again a couple hundred feet away.  Get close to it again and I’m in another rinse and repeat cycle.  As luck would have it, I stepped out of the truck one evening after a run and heard it again.  This damn bird was not going to school me again (earlier that day I had failed at another attempt even with Linda help in track it down).  Clearly stealth is the key so I grabbed the trusty Nikon and slinked my way over to the woods.  It took a some patience, but eventually it was spotted sitting on some high branches.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the pictures!

Continue reading Thrashing About in the Woods

It Just Works

Hi all, I’m fresh off of the range having let the lead fly for about 6 hours.  My friends and I are sufficiently prepared for any zombie attacks … how about you?  For my sanity, let’s just assume that answer is a resounding YES!  (if not, you might want to befriend a Republican and get them on speed dial immediately or figure out whether you prefer salt or mustard on your brains).  This, of course, has nothing to do with the post topic today unless you take into consideration that that I was cleaning my weapons last night while my mobile computing device was happily being upgraded (foreshadowing).

As a professional IT Architect, I’ve spent most of my professional career designing and consulting on large computing systems.  To grossly simplify this landscape, there are really two defined camps in this space.  One camp puts forth the mantra of interoperability is king with a nod to Best in Breed.  The other camp preaches the tight integration card with a willingness to reduce capabilities at a gain of simplicity.  The challenge is to mediate between these ideologies and come up with the best solution.  For years, the Best of Breed camp enjoyed big success riding the benefits of reduced vendor lock in and the ability to pick and choose the best answer for each specific need.  This all started changing about 10 years ago when the complexities of integration and the inability for vendors to deliver on open standards (I’m speaking to you SUN).  Suites and proprietary solutions found their weak spot in the system armor.  Since then, the Best of Breed roar has become more of a whimper and the vendor suites have become as sweet as they sound.  There is one place where this battle raging … probably the last real battleground for this argument.  Any guesses where that is?  If you guessed the mobile computing field, you are dead on… and the players?  No need for extra power to the synapse – Android vs Apple.

I am on the Android side of this colossal tug of war.  As of such I am barraged with the “It Just Works” sermons from the other camp.  Apple is so great because everything just works, my Apple products are a gift from heaven because they just work, I did not even have to do anything special to get this new feature functioning because it just works.   Hell, Apple is so cool I’ll immediately go out an buy the next version even though it doesn’t really provide me much more value, but I know it will just work even better than what I have.  Wow, I have to hand it to Apple, their marketing arm is amazing.  I can see how this would be so appealing based on the quirks and idiosyncrasies we encounter with their competitors.  Clearly there is room for improvement in the other devices, but what is the price of that discomfort over the benefit of not being held captive to a vendor that essentially limits your freedom on what can and cannot run on YOUR computing device?  To me, that price is $100.  I can say that because we bought an HP Touchpad during their fire sale.  A quick mod of the kernel and we had swapped out the WebOS for Android!  Linda now had a fairly functional tablet device she could use for her photography business and (gasp) Facebook.  The downside of this is Linda had to put up with the quirks.  Not a big deal for me, but I can understand the annoyances of not everything working all the time but some of that is due to bad programming – take for example the Facebook app requiring a location indicator before it will run – this was solved with a fake GPS app, but again, it took some effort to figure out what was wrong.

Flash forward to last month when I decided to breakdown and get Linda an iPad HD.  Her photography business was doing well and figured switching over to that platform would work out for her… and we all know .. it just works!  Eventually this showed up in the mail:

Hit the jump to read the rest of the story

Continue reading It Just Works

Just Who’s in the LEaD

Since I pulled out the bad service post this month I figured it would be a good time to produce a bad product post.  In truth, I have seen a great product trump a bad service experience, but I have never witnessed a great service making up for a crap product.  Case in point is a situation I experienced with a gift Linda gave me for Christmas (yeh, I know it has been awhile, but to say that I have too many irons in the fire at the moment is an understatement to the size of the fire).  To set the stage, the viewing quality of a movie or TV show really doesn’t rate high on my viewing experience.  Analog was just fine with me for what little TV I actually watched since it is more of a background noise device than a center of attention.  Trust me, baseball is just as exciting when you can’t see every pimple on the batters face.  What really comes out of this type of viewing experience is how good the plot is (or the talent of the players based on your viewing pleasure).  As a result, the old 14 inch Magnavox Analog TV had been a fixture in my den for years.  I’d turn it on as white noise whenever I was on the computer and from time to time catch a show while writing posts etc.  Hit the power button, turn it to channel 14 or 3 (more on this later) and with the reliability of Biden saying something stupid every time he opens his mouth, I was watching a show .. out of my peripherals of course, but it was on and playing without any hassles.  Linda decided it was time to enter the current decade so took it upon herself to purchase a new LED TV as a present.  I have to admit, the flat panel had a nice benefit of freeing up some space on my shelf top, but the hassles this brought were totally unexpected.

I hauled the new 24 inch Insignia upstairs and began the process of switching out the old TV (with a tear in the eye – like losing an old friend).

  • Take the cable off the old TV
  • Haul the old TV off the shelf and put it in the backroom
  • Take the new TV out of the box
  • Take all the protective coverings and stickers off
  • Find a screwdriver to attach the stand to the base
  • Attach the stand to the TV
  • Attach the cable to the new TV
  • Put the TV back up on the shelf
  • Unwrap the remote and batteries
  • Load the batteries into the remote and start navigating menus to program the channels
  • Wait for it to find channel 3 and 14 and ….ugh

The new TV would not find channel 14.  A quick jump back, we have Dish Network for our TV subscription on two receivers.  This allows me to watch Top Shot while Linda watches drivel.  One receiver mainlines to a the coax on channel 3 while the second receiver’s output has the channel pushed up to channel 14 and then unsplit (technical term for running a splitter backwards) to combine it back into the mainline.  Turn to channel 3 you can watch one satellite, simply switch to channel 14 and you can watch the other – add in UHF remotes and we have complete freedom to watch our shows on any TV we want.  Apparently this new LED TV isn’t recognizing the uplifted channel.  No big deal, I’ll just add it in manually.  A few menu clicks and sure enough there is an Add Channel option.  Sweet, just keypad in the number 14 and … and .. and .. umm there is no entry field.  All it provides is a list of channels it found allowing you to delete or add from what it found in the scan.  You have go to be kidding me.  A quick check on the internet confirmed this.  There was an account of someone who had a rotating aerial to pull in Canadian and American signals.  The company’s response to his issue (same as mine, not being able to add manually) was “The menu is acting as designed and simply running the rescan every time you move the aerial will solve the problem”.  His response – I’m boxing it up and sending it back immediately.

Hit the jump to see how this story turns out.

Continue reading Just Who’s in the LEaD

Book Recollection: Within the Frame

It has actually been awhile since I posted a recollection – let’s just do something about that.  Today’s recollection once again comes from the field of photography.  Last year I obtained a book recommended by a photography podcast that Linda and I are regular listeners of.  It was also recommended by Scott Kelby so it had two very good things going for it.  The book at hand is by David duChemin and called Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision.  It was billed as a book about the art of photography, those things that go beyond the technical aspects of taking a photograph that make your images compelling.  I have definitely had my fill of the science side of photography books as of late, so figured I’d pull this book out for insights on how a professional photographer sees the image, or as the book characterizes it, how the shot is framed.  There were two things that caught my attention immediately.  The first was the fact that the author was Canadian.  Based on a quick skim of the photographs in the book revealed a large number of Middle Eastern and Asian portraits and figured it was due to proximity.  Nope, David is actually a well traveled photographer and to say he has seen the world would be an understatement – and that isn’t just book a flight, walk around the tourist attractions and call it a day.  David truly immerses himself in the culture and tries to capture that in his photography.  Ironically, duChemin means “of the road”.  The second thing that stuck out immediately is he’s primarily a portrait photographer and not that into wildlife.  This is exactly contrary to my preferences so immediately there were concerns as to whether I should invest time in this book.  I consider my free time pretty precious so most of my reading is focused on learning something – but you should know that by now if you’ve looked at many of the recollections on this blog.  After some waffling, a decision was made to proceed and since giving up on a book is pretty rare, figured I was in for the long haul .. good .. or bad.

All in all, it turned out to be a good thing – or rather really good in the beginning and eventually tapering off as he began to hone in on the portrait details.  There were a number of thought provoking concepts scattered throughout the first half of the book.  The one that touched home was the belief that photography is a journey.  This I can relate to.  I’ll probably never get to where I’d like to be with this form of art, but looking back it is pretty easy to tell that there has been significant progress since those younger years of shooting film.  Granted, some of this is due to an improved income which enables better equipment, but there is a definite change in how I compose a shot and there is more interest for me beyond the common postcard shots on our vacations.  To sum it up, my shots are more about what I want to remember from a trip and less what I want to be able to show people where we went.  If there was one sentence in this book that stood out for me, it was definitely in the Afterword by Vincent Versace.  “Most likely there is one image that sent you on the path of photography.”  Wow, that is a tough one.  My early interest in photography was thanks to my brother Ron who would take me out with him to parks and what not to take pictures with the trusty 35mm Nikon – I still remember shooting deer in a park in Rockford and even further back when we were out chasing the moon on country backroads trying to get the perfect angle for a shot (don’t ask).  However when the digital age came I likely embraced that ahead of him when my wife and I would head out to the local wildlife park to shoot the animals.  At some point I came upon the work of Joel Sartore (link here) and Scott Linstead (link here). From that moment on the hook was set.  If I was to answer for Linda she’d probably go with Ansel Adams and me (hehehe, sorry had to get the dig in since she is currently lagging in the awards department – If she reads this, she’ll probably make some crazy excuse for what that isn’t true, but the jury has already rendered their decision!)  Take the time to ask yourself that very same question and see what you come up with.  The look back is well worth the time.

So if there is one aspect that gets some scrutiny, it has to be the impression that you should just travel somewhere and immerse yourself in the culture and come back with great shots.  First of all, depending on what your preferences are you could be carrying more than the locals would see in their lifetime.  Second of all, depending on your heritage, you might not be welcome in certain parts.  This thought made me cringe when he wrote “When seeing and capturing the spirit of a place, nothing can compete with wandering on foot and getting good and lost, Not momentarily lost, but completely and unfindably lost….you have no idea if it will open …. into a narrow alley that is the de-facto red-light district of town.  Clearly David has knowledge, experience and contacts that far exceed most of us and this familiarity allows him greater freedom the other cultures.  However, the thought of walking around in the back alleys and local haunts seems dangerous at best especially carrying stuff that says Nikon or Canon on it.  Hell, even he mentioned he was almost arrested for taking a picture of a Muslim girl.  To his credit, he does recommend using resources like Lonely Planet before you go, but for my comfort we’ll pick safer shoots and keep the danger to just the footing.

It does look like duChemin is an active blogger ( so check him out if you want to learn more about him and his art – described as World and Humanitarian Photographer.

Hit the jump to see my takeaways (which were actually more than initially anticipated)

Continue reading Book Recollection: Within the Frame

The I’ll Pass Bro Shop

Okay, it’s been awhile since I ranted about the concept of good service but I’m full to the brim with disgust at the moment.   Since I am down some posts this month (ugh),  figured it was time to let off some steam.  So, let’s do some associative math.

Profit =  Money Gained – Money Spent

Money Gained = Customer Money Spent

Customer Money Spent = Customer Satisfaction (yes, this is dependent on the industry since there are clear examples of customers spending money that are not happy about it at all)

so by association:

Profit = Customer Satisfaction.

Are there really any business people out there that do not understand the fact that satisfied customers lead to more profits?  Granted a loss may not be realized at the time the bad service is experienced (again, because there are some transactions that occur because there are no other options at that point in time), but looking forward, is that same customer going to subject herself to another bad experience or seek a more customer friendly vendor?  Thinking this is probably covered in Business Class 001.   I write that, yet I now have had 4 experiences this week alone that brings that into question (actually it should have been 3 but I broke my rule which allowed one of them to happen – more on that later).

Three of these experiences are directly related to a decision to increase my zombie survival coefficient – well, that and disgust over reading public statements by Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel who apparently hasn’t read the US Constitution and thinks he can restrict my rights to bear arms – but I digress.  Needless to say I did some research and had a general idea of what I wanted to purchase.  There were some questions on features and model variations but figured those could be easily handled by the expert at the store.  So off I went with Linda to check out the local offerings.  First off was Gander Mountain, a chain Sportsman/Outfitter that generally carries a number of different makes and models.  Up to the counter we went with a pretty high degree of excitement (well, I was excited, Linda .. not so much).  Their clerks were busy with other people so I walked over to the area I was interested in and started looking at the different options.  After exhausting everything I could find out about the different models and trying my best to match them up with my catalog, I turned back to get some help.  Still nobody available – more time to double check the catalog and pick a few up to check the weights and feel… anybody?  nope… guess I’ll try to figure out which one was posted in their ad we saw at the entrance to the store… ummm .. can’t even match that one.. finally I caught the attention of a lady working behind the counter.  Great, now to get down to business.

and to do that you need to hit the jump

Continue reading The I’ll Pass Bro Shop

It’s Official, Society is Doomed

I’d like to start this post with reading from a popular song….

“I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be”

At this point you should be staring down at a pinkish rendition of your most recent meal.. if not,  then you should introduce yourself much better genres of music (for starters, take a listen to The Gracious Few which appears to be about the only thing new worth listening to at the moment).  But my intention for referencing this umm garbage was not to make you sick, but unfortunately it was cheesy enough to fit the theme of this post… and that theme is “our society should be ashamed for openly torturing our young”.

Let’s look at Exhibit A:

I’ll wait a few minutes to allow you to catch your breath and bring your pulse back to a reasonable level .. tick tock tick tock tick tock tick tock.  If you need to, shield your eyes so you can only see the text, we definitely understand.  What you saw just before trying to find the closest red hot poker to burn your eyes out was a scene that Linda and I came upon while we were at the University of Iowa medical facility.   Imagine if you will already being a little on edge from being there in the first place, but to turn the corner and encounter this horrific scene about stopped my heart on the spot.  So I get the whole Iowa Hawkeye pride thing (well, I actually don’t but let’s go with it for my marriage’s sake).  They obviously like their Herky mascot even though it is far inferior to my revered Chief Illiniwek symbol (it is not a mascot for you uneducated people out there), but hey, if you wanna be a chicken hawk have at it.  From a design perspective, I can totally get the concept of putting pride swelling decor in facility that gets it share of daily bad news.  But if you recall from your quick glimpse of the image above, some idiot decided to expand on that design point.  This particular walkway led to the children’s section of the hospital (we had to go through it to get to the MRI area).  Apparently some idiot had the awful idea to replace the yellow and black pride with …just a sec, gotta grab a bucket… raaaaaaaauuuuuuuuullllllllllllpppppphhhh  eeesh, that Twinkie looked and tasted better going down.. now where was I? oh right . replace it with a cl   rauullllgaggggrauuulllfffgaggg  .. sorry.. replace it with a clown outfit.  I’m sorry, but this horrific.  Imagine an innocent child already having to endure the fear and uncertainty that comes with having to be in a place like this and instead of cheerful trains or cuddly creatures like teddy bears and wolves, they are instead met with the embodiment of pure evil.  How can our society allow this cruelty to our young?

(Note, the ONLY reason this picture was taken was because I promised a coworker I would do this if they were able to find something that would help Linda’s vertigo and I always keep my promise)

Still not convinced our society has one foot in the toilet (hopefully flushed after our previous upchuck)?  Well, I give you Exhibit B (for the squeamish prepare to cover your eyes.

hit the jump to read more of this horror story

Continue reading It’s Official, Society is Doomed