Saturday, January 31, 2009

Today I did some bird spotting.

I went first to Sunset Park. It was a beautiful day here. Sunny, 66F. Doesn't get much better.
Gilded Flicker

There was a larger variety of birds today than I have usually found at Sunset Park. The Gilded Flicker is a beautiful bird! He just sat there staring at me as I took pics of him. I've never seen a Gilded Flicker before. Only (Yellow Shafted)Northern Flickers.

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Gambrel Quails are like pigeons back home. They are everywhere!

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A view of part of the strip from the Wetlands Preserve. Just to show that Vegas has more to offer than the "strip".

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Not sure if he's building a nest or what.

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This Road Runnner is brining a leaf to his mate. I think they were building a nest. It seems more or less like spring time here.

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This is a new one on me. I've never seen a Phainopepla before.

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An American Coot. Very common here and back in Michigan.

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Another new one on me. A Northern Shoveler.

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Other than to say it is a Hummingbird, I don't know what to say. Hummingbirds are VERY difficult to differentiate to me.

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Just a shot of a pond in the Wetland Preserve.

Had a great time today. Spent about 4 hours bird spotting. Took nearly 300 photographs, kept about 40 of them and posted about a dozen to Flickr.

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What to do

when you are used to working on Thursdays, and you dont anymore??? Well if you are me the choice is obvious. Combining my two favorite pastimes...photography and aviation. Nellis AFB does not usually fly much on the weekends so it limits my picture taking. Last week though they were holding the Red Flag Training Exercise which involves military aviatyion from many of our allies.

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This is a F-22. The F-22 was designed to be the elite fighting aircraft of the USA replacing the F-15. The F-35 ,on the other hand, is the cheaper mass produced aircraft to replace the F-16.


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My favorite pic from Red Flag. An F-15 breaks off for laning at Nellis.

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An F-16 returning from training.

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Here is Big Daddy just after lift off from Nellis AFB. Quite impressive I must say!

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Loaded down on short final.

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An A-10 "Warthog" on short final.

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A poor picture of a helicopter used to rescue downed pilots, or so I think.

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A Brittish Harrier.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The conventional

wisdom is that if you get a big return on your taxes, you should reduce your withholding to more or less break even. I've never followed that "wisdom". Mostly because I'm horrible at saving money. This year though, with the reduction in hours, it will be a life saver. My return this year, partly because I did not qualify for the $1,200 until this year, will be well over $5,000. That is called "planning!!!!"

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Feast or Famine

This job has always been about feast or famine. 50+ hours one week, 35 the next. It was all good though, because you always atleast broke even over a few weeks. Lately though, not so much. Un employment in Las Vegas is over 9% now days and continuing to climb. It is expected to reach double digit levels in 2009.

Our particular branch has NEVER laid anyone off....ever. In an effort to continue this trend, all hourly employees have been given an extra day off. One of our company mottos is "Share the pain, share the gain". Indeed after a rough spot morethan a decade ago, the owner instituded a 10% across the board pay cut. Many employees left at that time, but many, many more stayed. Since that time the pay cut was rescinded and a profit sharing program was instituted. Last year I collected more than $1,100 in profit sharing......not to bad!

Today, we find ourselves short of work. Some mechanics have been sent home after 1 hour due to a lack of work. It was the luck of the draw. Unfortunately, one or two mechanics seemed to always have the bad luck and get sent home early. After being unable to control this on the front end with dispatching mechanics to calls, our manager decided to try to share the pain amongst everyone by giving everyone a 32 hour work week, and hoping that they may actually work close to 4-10 hour days.

At the very least it is hoped that it will help to equally distribute the "pain". The manager explained that he likes the "crew" he has now and does not want to lay anyone off. He also said that he wanted to be pro active and find a solution(If possible), without corperate giving him instructions to lay people off.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

The media

is still in love with President Obama. The headline for an AP story on Yahoo today reads:

Obama breaks from Bush, avoids divisive stands

So if President Obama is so undivisive, it should be easy to tell from his actions thus far.

He has issued executive orders to:
1. End the so called "Mexico City" regulations preventing the US Taxpayer from paying for abortions over seas. Whether you agree with that policy is not the point. His decision to change it is far from un divisive.

2. Close GITMO. Americans are about evenly split on closing this place. Again this goes in the divisive column.

He has already sought to use the $350 billion left in TARP funds. Given that well over 60% of Americans are against these so called bail outs. This is a divisive course of action.

In addition to being divisive thus far, he is also showing he is not going to follow his stated intentions during the campaign....big surprise there.
He has banned torture and required all government agencies to follow the Army Field Manual for interrogations. Yet he has left himself a way to allow harsh interrogations with Presidential approval. When the left figures this out they will not be happy. It is for all intents and purposes, the same policy Bush had.

He made a big deal about not having lobbyists work in the government departments they they once lobbied, and then hired an ex lobbyist and put him in charge of the agency that he recently lobbied for. He called this action a "waiver"....lol The lesson learned is that his rules apply, only when he wants them to!!!

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Its gone too far

the President has to do something about the economy. And I mean right now. Today saw the end results of the slowing economy. It has finally hit home and I demand that President Obama take swift, decisive and effective action to stimulate the economy. The suffering has to stop.

The job losses have now reached to Microsoft!!!!! The have dissolved Aces Studio which produces my all time favorite game. We are likely to be stuck with FSX aka FS10 forever!!!!

I demand that President Obama get personally involved in this dire situation before it is too late. We were promised that FSNext would deliver TRUE DX10 along with un surpassable frame rate friendly world to fly in!!!!! Oh what has become of America???



For those that need it, please note that this post was made in jest.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama

has declared he will close Gitmo within a year. That leads me to ask what will become of the people held there? Most of thier native countries will either not accept them, or will not garuntee that they will not be tortured. By that I mean "real" torture, not waterboarding, or humiliation, or being made to be un comfortable. May I suggest that instead, we send Rep. Murtha to GITMO?Real torture is shoving bamboo under finger nails, or chopping fingers off. Should these people be brought to U.S. soil where they can access criminal courts all of the way up to the US Supmreme Court? I say no! They are not criminal defendants caught up in a criminal trial. They are illegal combatans, as clearly defined by the UN. As such they can be held indefinately until the end of hostilities.

To treat the actions of Al Qaeda as criminal events is a big mistake. One that Obama seems determined to make. They are acts of war and should be treated as such. Of the 700 or so individuals held at Gitmo around 500 have been released. The ones that are left for the most part, the worst of the worst. Rep John Murtha invited them to be sent to his state. May I sugest instead, that we send Rp. Murtha to GITMO? I doubt most Americans would cozy up to the idea of having Al Qaeda terrorist in thier back yard....unless it was for a hangingThat way he can get up close and personal with each of these fine individuals.......I'm quite sure he will go over in a big way there.

Are we to really think it is a good idea to bring them to U.S. soil? That would make Ted Rall happy but I doubt most Americans would cozy up to the idea of having Al Qaeda terrorist in thier back yard....unless it was for a hanging, that might be ok! Just think of what would happen if one of these upstanding citizens were to get his day in court in the 9th circuit court.

Treating these people as criminal defendants is a BIG mistake. We will see what ultimately happen. President Obama, like most presidents, has left himself a great deal of wiggle room.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Clear problems...Blurry solutions

Today, in a historic time for the United States of America, the 44th President of the United States, Barak H. Obama was sworn in. While I did not vote for the new President, he won the election, and I accept that. It is over. It is time to get behind our new President and support him as best we can. There are many Democrats that I know that refused to accept Bush as the 43rd President of the United States. Regardless of what you thought of that election, he was, after the "process" finnished, declared the winner. They should have accepted that. You win some, you lose some.

Personally I don't think that President Obama has the answers to our country's financial problems, but then again, I don't think the government can solve our financial problems, I think the government created them in the first place. To expect them to "fix" them is just throwing good money after bad. The government is notthe answer. Every company, and every individual that made poor decisions, should bear the consequences of those decision. From AIG that got involved in "Credit Default Swaps" to the person who bought a house they couldn't afford using a "Liar Loan" should suffer the consequences of those actions.

That said, I hope that President Obama proves me wrong. I hope that he can move the country in the right direction. I do realize though that no one can live up to the expectations layed upon this President.

It is always great to see this country change leadership without shedding blood. The strongest memories I have of Presidential elections is the last flight of the President flying away from the White House. I have now watched Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and now Bush make that flight. In 4-8 years(hopefully 4) I hope to watch President Obama make that flight. They are moment that are forever seared in my memory.

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Photo Storage

I have been using a Google program called Picasa for quite some time now. Several things make this a great program. I will outline these below:

  • FREE-Always a good thing
  • Basic Editing tools-Inluding color balance, fill light, sharpening, color saturation, cropping and straightening among others. No one will mistake it for Photoshop, but it does give you a good set of basic features to correct most image problems especially since the release of version 3.
  • Easy ability to organize and tag photos.

Picasa is half of what I use. The other half, online hosting, is done by Flickr. Flickr, after much research on my part, wins hands down. For $24 you get unlimmited hosting. In addition, Flicker also has basic editing functions built in.

The great thing about Flicr and Picasa is that, with the download of a small API file, you can integrate Flickr and Picasa. This allows you to up load images from Picasa to Flickr. Even better is that, if you tag your images in Picasa, those tags are imported to Flickr also. This greatly reduces your workload.

Taken together, they are GREAT programs.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Auto vs Manual

Along the lines of the RAW vs JPG argument, and yes there are many arguments over it, there are also arguments over using manual vs auto on your camera. Some people will look down on you for using auto mode, or shooting JPG images. I find this funny. To me there are many times when Auto mode is preferable to manual mode.

Typically you will find my camera in manual mode set to take RAW photographs, but not always. When I am in a situation where the lighting conditions are changing so fast that I would miss a photograph because I was messing with the dials on my camera I will switch to auto in a heartbeat. Examples of this could be sports photography, some nature photography. Often if I am taking wildlife pictures I will be in auto mode because things happen so fast. A bird pops out of nowhere and there is little time to contemplate proper exposure and then change your settings accordingly.

Ofcourse if you are taking pictures of stationary subjects then manual mode is easy to use. So again do not be afraid of either mode. They both have a time and a place.
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I would have likely missed this picture had I been in manual mode.

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RAW vs JPG

A frequently asked question is "What is the difference between RAW and JPG? and why use one versus the other?" Many cameras, even some P&S(Point And Shoot) cmeras today support RAW in addition to standard JPG.

Each company makes its own unique RAW format. Canon RAW is not the same as Nikon RAW, yet they all give you the same advantages and disadvantages.

Without being too techinical, RAW format is essentially a digital negative. It contains all of the RAW information that was captured by the camera. Special software must be used to process the RAW file into a JPG file. On my Canon 5D a typical RAW file can be as large a 11mb where as a JPG from the same camera is about 8.5mb. This helps to illustrate the differance in the amount of information contained in the two different file types.

JPGs on the other hand are compressed files. Typically the camera will, in addition to compressing the image, preform some post processing to the image.This "in camera" post processing can inlude sharpening, color saturation, color balance, ect.

I typically shoot exclusively in RAW format now days, but not always. There are distinct advantages/disadvantages to each such as:
RAW:
Advantages:

  • More control over finished photograph
  • Easily correct for a under/over exposed photograph
  • Easily correct for color balance
  • More fine detail in RAW photographs

Disadvantages:

  • Larger file size
  • Increased workfow(You must post process and convert each picture)
  • Depending on camera, less frames per second

JPG:

Advantages:

  • Decreased work flow
  • Smaller file size
  • Increased frames per second

Disadvanteges:

  • Compressed photographs
  • Can be difficult to correct for incorrect exposure
  • Can be difficult to correct for color balance issues

Some people feel that you must always use RAW but I think that there can be times when you can use the advantages of one format over the other to your benefit. In short, don't be afraid of RAW, but JPG can be used just as effectively in many situations also.

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2 more days

Thats all that is left of President Bush's term. Despite his low poll numbers which, by the way, are higher than Congressional poll numbers, I think Bush did a failry good job considering all that happened on his watch.

The other day I was listening to the NPR show called "Wait, Wait, don't tell me"(I think it was anyways) and they were talking about how President Bush had spent roughly 2 of the last 8 years on vacation. Ofcourse everyone on the show was delighted at that statistic feeling that it showed how poor a President Bush was. No doubt most listeners were noding thier heads in agreement.

Most reasonable, thinking people would take exception to that statistic knowing that the President of the United Staes is NEVER on "vacation". "Vacation" is only something that the President can dream about. But why let the truth get in the way of a good story??

News reports are already surfacing of President Elect Obama begining to feel the "pressure" of not being able to live his life as he wants to, yet the "Presidential Cocoon" has not even fully enveloped him yet. Soon he too will understand that a President is NEVER on Vacation. If he thinks trips to get "shaved ice" treats is difficult now, what will those trips be like in a week??

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Never

ever, ever let a mechanic cut your hair....lol













Just not a good idea!

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Photograph

by Nickleback. What a great song. "How did my eyes get so red?"......."This is where I grew up"......"This is where I went to school"......."Criminal record says I must of broke it twice, must have done it half a dozen times........" I can so relate to this song.....Its the story of my life growing up.

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It is nice


to not be the only one with a camera.
Hair cut?? Maybe...
Smaller teeth?? Who knows?
Less wrinkles? Nah. Each and every one of those wrinkles was bought and paid for by a life well lived and well loved. Wrinkles show not age, but experience and wisdom. To subtract the wrinkles would be to subtract your life from your face. I love you mom!!!!(yes I tried to finnished off dad's rum tonight but its still true!!!)

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Friday, January 16, 2009

In other news

The pilot of the plane that crashed in New York used to fly the F-4 here at Nellis AFB in the 70's. I'm not sure if luck, or skill played a bigger role in the outcome, but there can be no doubt that the pilot took a deep and personal responsability for his aircraft and passengers. Having crashed into the river he twice went through the aircraft to check to make sure everyone was out. That is the mark of a true hero.

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Empty nesters again....

Once again our visitors have left. Its always sad when people leave although this time was not sooo bad because we know they will be back in about 10-12 weeks.

Damn it cold here. Our lows are in the low 50's and highs near 70. LOL. In Michigan today(Friday) it was like -11. Dont miss that at all! Couldn't even imagin laying under a forklift at -11!!!!

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

New York New York

All of us love the New York New York so the other day we ran over there to have a look, a drink and a pretzel...and to feed the machines....
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Of course we had to do some photography. Here is a long exposure of the strip.

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Here is dad using a impromptu tripod.

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Sitting just inside the New York New York, just off the strip.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pooh meets Lindsay Loham

and it just didn't go well!!! IMG_7601We had been wanting to take Pooh to Cactus Joes for a while now. We made it the other day. IMG_7609The sign posted outside says "well behaved dogs on leashes, welcomed!" Pooh fits that bill. IMG_7602So when we took my parents there we took Pooh along also. We didn't think we were going to see Pig at first, but we eventually did find her near her castle.

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All was going well until Pooh sniffed Lindsay's but.....lol. She didn't like it one bit.Apparently in pig speak its not the same as "hello" like it is for a dog.
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Pooh had not interest in fighting with the pig, he only wnated to escape.....

This little Terrier named "Sideways" because he had brain damage and walked in a sideways direction. Like all the animals there he was on "Death Row" when he came there. In fact, Sideways, was in a comma when he arrived at Cactus Joes.
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He didn't care much for Pooh either.

As Pooh was leaving the cat below was following and stalking him on the way out.
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All in all we had a great time though. It was quite chilly after we got there because the wind picked up. They had a fire going out in the yad though that helped keep us warm.

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Southpoint, Bellagio, Encore

Today we went to the Bellagio to see the atrium. They change the atrium 5 times a year. The day we went was the last day for Christmas.
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As always, the Bellagio was very nice.

The Encore
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The Encore, while nice enough, left us wanting more. Unlike the Bellagio, or many Las Vegas casinos, the Encore just did not have an attraction. The Bellagio has its atrium, The New York New York has the outside fascade, the Brooklyn Bride, and much more. Paris has the Baloon and the Eiffel tower, and so on. The Encore? Nothing like it, other than nice decorations on the wall and nice tile on the floor.

We went to the Southpoint for dinner. As ussual, very good.
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Below is a nice picture of the Excalibur in the early evening with a nice sunset background.
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A bit late

but I hope you had a great Christmas and a Happy New Year. We opened our gifts a bit late after my parents got here:
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Here is mom cooking up some fried chicken.

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Someone is tired!!!

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We took the tree down on the second.

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