The Mayan apocalypse failed to appear, so I had a nice New Year’s day here in Florida. The temperature got into the 70s here, and not too breezy, so Diane and I worked on various things that all too recently would have been too hot to do comfortably. But here in the evening, I’m reflecting a bit over what has gone by, and thinking about things to be accomplished in the coming year.
One of the major items in the works is finishing off a document for a plan of action in handling TalkOrigins Archive web sites. The success of the Panda’s Thumb has for some time made it the main point of interest, but there has been discussion about a major overhaul of the TalkOrigins web site itself. I’m putting this together via a Google Docs document. The document discusses a collection of web applications for future TalkOrigins Archive holdings. The Panda’s Thumb weblog serves as a front-lines resource with its usual interactivity. The current static HTML TalkOrigins Archive should be preserved so as not to break web resources with links to those materials. But those materials and more will be made available in a content management system. Developing new materials for the CMS will be part of the job for a Wiki. There is also the idea that a full-blown forum package could handle free-form discussions for those without good access to Usenet newsgroups. The critical component in all this, though, is setting up an effective volunteer organization. And that’s the part of the document that I am working on putting together now. When complete, we’ll be having a full call for volunteers. (If you would like to become a volunteer for the TalkOrigins Archive now, please leave a comment indicating your interest and skill set.)
I’m still looking to move ahead with various academic publications that have been in process for quite some time. One thing I was doing today was looking through files, which reminds me of just how much of a backlog there is. I did run across my script for my 2002 presentation at the World Skeptic’s Conference, which reminds me of another activity that I’ve deferred: putting my various presentations in video format and putting them online.
And the science education situation in Florida looks like it may get even more interesting in the future. Our new state education commissioner, Tony Bennett, was touted as a featured speaker for a “Creation Evidence Expo” in 2009, then cancelled when it made the news.
There’s the whole issue of data center consolidation for Florida’s state agencies, a process that is supposed to be complete within the next six years or so. The legislative mandate to do this came down some time ago, but it seems to me that the legislature was not properly informed of the downside of data center consolidation: you may save money on personnel, but a frighteningly large proportion of such projects fail outright. Failure of data systems for state agencies is a pretty bad potential downside to have. There are other issues with the implementation of the data centers. The state is aiming to put everything into two data centers, both of them physically located in the state capitol, Tallahassee. That makes it convenient for the state administration, certainly, but anyone who has looked at data bandwidth in high-speed Internet systems would notice that Tallahassee is not in the path of main trunk lines. Data flow, and low latency, is a critical part of client/server and n-tier architectures, and putting the central data repositories at the end of a thin pipe seems an odd choice. Part of the benefit of having multiple data centers is backup and failover capability; these, though, are rather less effective the closer the places are physically. Power outages are more likely to take down both centers when they are in the same geographic locale, and disasters are more likely to effect both, too. Having a data center in Tallahassee makes sense, but having the premier data center elsewhere (somewhere with much better bandwidth access, for one) would make much more sense. There’s lots more to talk about on this topic, and I hope to do some of that later.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 93943 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 6639 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Yesterday, we got busy with the fixing-up of the fixer-upper in Palmetto. While Sam worked on the electrical panel, I made a photographic record of the state of the house. We plan to ask Manatee County for a re-appraisal as the house is currently not ready for occupancy. So I have about 3.5 GB of photos showing everything from the exterior views below to the various fixtures without cover plates.
There was soaking rain when we left Clearwater. By the time we got to Palmetto, that had slowed to the drizzle. About an hour after we arrived, the clouds cleared and we had some sunshine. We took advantage of that to have a bit of a picnic lunch in and just outside the garage. I had called Manatee County during the week about a couple of abandoned vehicles parked on our seven acres, and the towing service sent out two tow trucks to handle those while we were there on Saturday.
The house itself was built in 1955. We’ve been told that it was neglected for some time before its purchase in 1998 by the previous owners. They replaced much of the roof structure and were working on renovating the interior room by room. The floors are all done in tile, with the exception of the hall bathroom and a couple of closets in the hall that are unfinished. The hall bathroom is completely stripped out, with exposed drywall and the previous set of tile taken off. There are no fixtures in there, so part of our work will be to get the hall bathroom finished again. The interior paint job was not complete, so we have that to look forward to as well. There is a bedroom suite at the east end of the house, with two adjoining rooms and a master bathroom. We are contemplating redoing the doorways there to make the rooms separate, rather than simply having a shared door to the hallway.
Because the place was foreclosed, there is essentially nothing more complex than ceiling fans still there, except for the central air conditioning and heating system. We will need to get ourselves an oven/range combo unit, refrigerator, and, eventually, a dishwasher. There’s nothing in the utility room, so we can add getting a washer and dryer as well. It looks like the water heater in the garage is actually relatively recent (the tag references efficiency figures from 2004).
So on with the pictures. The exterior shots don’t hint at the work to be done on the inside.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 38623 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 6809 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
We looked at a property last September that stood out as a candidate for a home purchase. It had a house on 7 acres of land, and we could afford the asking price… barely. Now that might be ringing all sorts of bells, and to be sure there is a laundry list of issues to go with the house and the property. But there was nothing else close to it in terms of something that we could afford within commuting distance of downtown St. Petersburg that actually had a livable, or not-too-much-repair-needed-to-make-it-livable, house plus some land so that we had a place to train the dogs in agility or flyball.
The property is in Palmetto, Florida, and runs alongside a railroad line easement. It used to be a strawberry farm, but more recently the former owners had used it as a place to dump lumber from a tree surgeon’s patients and to fix up stock cars. It was foreclosed on last year, so we bought it from the bank. That turned out to be a saga, and took about as long as the usual short sale, despite the fact that we were dealing only with the bank’s selling agent.
You see, we got under contract for the place early in November. But it turned out that the bank’s title was incorrect, something that our lawyer pointed out to us. They had failed to get the easement for ingress and egress recorded when they foreclosed. So their task was to go back to the court and get the title corrected. We thought that our closing could be done late in November, but we got word that the seller’s agent wanted to extend to December 18th. Our real estate agent discouraged us from having any contact with the seller or people working for the seller, so time simply passed by until mid-December, when the seller’s agent again proposed an extension, this time to December 28th.
That got us worried about the process. I went online and found that Manatee County had an excellent online site for their courts. I found out that there was no scheduled motion putting the issue before the court. We gave up on the notion of being passive buyers at that point. Diane got the lead for which law practice was involved in the case and contacted them. It turned out that the first request for a change to the title was incorrectly formed, and the clerk had kicked it back with instructions for correction. In the meantime, the lawyer at the firm handling the case had moved on to other employment, and had not passed on the file to anybody else there. So as far as anybody at the firm could tell, the file needed no action. It took Diane’s pushing to locate someone there who agreed to pick it up and finish the job. But at that point, the holidays were in full swing, and it became apparent that nothing further would be done before the end of the year. With that also ended our anticipation that we could at least camp out in the house as ours in order to claim homestead exemption for 2010. The next extension took us into January, and more interaction with the lawyer handling the title correction effort. But it became apparent that things would not move fast enough to close in January. The next extension put the closing date at February 15th.
The court did act before the end of January, but getting the change recorded took us into early February. At that point, the seller’s agent finally woke up to the fact that the property could be sold, and started pushing for a close as fast as possible. We, though, needed to have the corrected title before ordering a survey, and getting the survey scheduled was an adventure itself. With assistance from the title company, we settled on a closing date of February 24th and worked toward that. The survey team actually got out to the property on the 19th, and the title company got the completed survey yesterday. Today, we got our funding sent to the title company in two wire transfers and went to their office in Tampa to get our papers signed and notarized. About an hour after that, the title company told us that the sellers had signed off on the settlement statement.
We still have oodles of work to accomplish before we can actually move in. But we’ve managed to clear a huge hurdle. The place is ours to restore and make our own.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 38833 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 6691 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
This past Monday, Diane was out house-hunting. She checked out a listing for a house that was interesting in part because it was close to a park. After looking at the house, Diane went over to the park to have a look at it, too. This was Sawgrass Lake Park in St. Petersburg, Florida, near I-275 and Gandy Boulevard. She took Ritka, our Vizsla, walking with her. Diane and Ritka were near the water’s edge at about 4:30 PM when Diane saw the water churn. She immediately called to Ritka and started moving away from the water. Ritka’s usual behavior is to run ahead, and that’s just what Ritka did. Diane, though, slipped on the slope and fell to her hands and knees, perhaps in part due to the slip-on “Crocs”-like shoes she was wearing at the time. The churning water was, indeed, a sign of a gator making a lunge, coming out of the water. The gator didn’t connect with anything on his first lunge, but he grabbed Diane’s left calf with his second lunge.
Diane turned and grabbed the gator’s jaw to discourage it from ripping her calf muscle. The gator then released her calf, but when it snapped its jaws shut the second time, Diane’s left thumb was caught there by a tooth. She says that she didn’t care to play tug with a gator, not with just her thumb as the part in the middle. She reached over with her right hand and grabbed the gator’s eye ridge. Diane says that after maybe 30 seconds to a minute of this standoff, the gator opened his jaws, releasing Diane’s thumb. Diane released the gator’s eye ridge. She says that she briefly had considered trying to hold the gator’s jaws closed and using Ritka’s leash to tie it up, but that she didn’t think that she was up to any more tussling with the gator. So the gator headed back to the water and Diane on up the bank and away.
Diane then went back to the van with Ritka, and called to find out about where the nearest medical facility that would treat a gator bite and take our insurance for payment was. She then drove there, to the Morton Plant Bardmoor emergency facility at Starkey and Bryan Dairy Road. Her parents and then I caught up with her there. Her bite wounds were cleaned and dressed, and somewhere around there she had a bout of nausea, sometime about two hours post-attack. The medical staff gave her IV anti-nausea medicine, morphine, and then Vancomycin. They decided she should have observation for the next 24 hours, so they arranged for admittance at Morton Plant Mease in Clearwater. On Tuesday, she received more anitbiotics, since gator bites almost always get infected, and the infections can themselves be fatal. The principal pathogen to be countered is apparently Aeromonas hydrophila. Two orthopedic surgeons had a look and concurred that she would not need surgery. Diane was discharged around 5 PM on Tuesday.
Diane has a couple of weeks of oral antibiotics to continue with, plus twice-daily changes of the wound dressings. We are watching for fever or any sign of infection in the wounds, but so far she is doing fine. She is sleeping a good chunk of the day. That is, when the reporters will leave her alone. She has marks from about two dozen gator teeth on her calf, ranging from scratches through scrapes, tears, and full punctures. She has a pretty big puncture on her left thumb. She had some cuts and abrasions on her right hand.
A second nuisance complaint from the same park was called in Wednesday. A trapper went out and found a gator that had no fear of people at the site of Diane’s attack. He measured it at 6′ 9″ and noted that it was missing about a foot of tail, making it overall about an eight-footer. In looking at past records of fatal attacks, those have been done by gators as small as 6′ 6″. Diane was very fortunate to have come out of this with as little damage as she did.
Here’s some of the coverage of Diane’s story so far:
St. Petersburg Times. This one is slightly inaccurate in places, but was filed before Harwell did an in-person interview with Diane, so we are hoping for a better article later.
Diane says that she wouldn’t mind going to an alligator-free place for a while, so please go vote for our bid to blog an Antarctic trip next February.
Update: ABC News has taken the story to the national audience. Fox News had a segment, but I don’t know if that was regional or national.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 42001 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 8703 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Family Wesley R. Elsberry on 03 Sep 2009
One who has gone through a molt and requires another domicile.
Diane has been looking at properties within about 40 to 50 minutes commute of my new place of work in St. Petersburg, Florida. Of course, she is restricting the search to things that (1) are within our current limited means to qualify for a loan on, which until Diane finds a job will be under $100K and probably closer to $80K, (2) that have a useful amount of yard (hopefully larger than 0.25 acre, ideally an acre or more), and (3) which we have some chance of closing on before the end of November so as to qualify for the stimulus package $8K tax credit. After work today, we went around to about four places this evening to check them out.
One has a pretty large yard, is situated in a nice neighborhood, and has a goodly amount of interior space at about 1500 square feet. However, over half that space has a nearly flat roof over it, and when I looked up there, about half of it was covered by a puddle left from the rain we had yesterday. We’ll check into how much a roof and ceiling repair would be, but the type of loan needed for including repair work itself takes about 90 days to process, which could mean we’d be out the $8K stimulus tax credit.
We looked at a house whose floors were obviously damaged and would require extensive repair. It had an odd layout and one of the two bathrooms was a large room situated in between the kitchen and a bedroom to the rear of the house. In addition to toilet, shower, and sink, it had what could become a small dance floor plus a washer and dryer on the opposite side of the room. Another house had small rooms and not much otherwise to commend it. The final one we looked at had a more normal layout and basic condition of a house, though the yard was among the smallest we were considering. It had some problems, including the fact that someone had almost succeeded in driving a car into the living room. There was not much obvious in the twilight outside, but inside there were scattered pieces of drywall and the studs had been obviously been broken and displaced inwards. The general conditions inside included a great deal of dirt and clutter, as it seemed that perhaps the previous tenants had been evicted or somehow came to leave the place full of their clutter and mess. There was a broken window in one of the bedrooms. However, the complete set of repairs needed would likely still fit in the strictures for an FHA loan, and most of the rest of the negative impression could be fixed by a thorough cleaning. On the down side, though, it may be a “short” sale, and thus unlikely to be one that could be closed by the end of November.
So the house hunt goes on. Diane looked at some properties in Tampa across the bay yesterday, including the exterior of a house on two acres. She’ll do a drive-by of a house in Manatee County across the Sunshine Skyway bridge tomorrow. If anyone has suggestions, drop a line in comments or email.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 34553 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 6132 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Life is change.
I’m at a change point in my life. My time here at Michigan State University is up. Fortunately, there is a next job in the offing. I am currently in the midst of packing to head south to Florida. I will be taking up a job at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) in St. Petersburg, Florida. It has been quite a while since I last worked for the State of Florida.
I will be working on various projects there to collect, collate, store, retrieve, and analyze wildlife research data. FWRI handles most of the research data that the state’s biologists collect on species like the critically endangered Florida panther, manatees, and many others.
Florida also happens to be where I was born, and where my family and Diane’s family reside. That part is a plus. My sister, Emily Kay, will be coming up here in about a week to help us with the end of the packing and loading up two trailers for the move south. Moving is always a chore, and we’ve moved our stuff from place to place about 11 times in the past 23 years. That part doesn’t really seem to get any better with time. Unfortunately, there is no moving allowance for the particular job at FWRI. If you feel like helping out, drop some change in the tip jar: look in the right sidebar for “Money Stuff” and the “Make a Donation” button there.
Update: My thanks to those who have contributed to the moving fund. That will be such a help over the next few weeks.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 41211 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 6947 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
I’m up late, so when it turns early on the 23rd, I’ll post this. On this day in 1960, the bathyscaphe Trieste visited the bottom of the Marianas Trench, and I was born in Lakeland, Florida. Shortly I’ll turn in for the night, and time will slide smoothly by like the dark waters of the Pacific slid past the windows Walsh and Piccard looked through on the way down and back. I’d like to think of the life I’m leading as a continuing voyage of discovery, though many of the discoveries are also dark. My aunt on my mother’s side died earlier this week, and her funeral will be held Monday.
Tomorrow Today is shaping up as a busy day. I have a meeting scheduled to discuss a short-term programming project that will carry me through the end of April, and later in the day an interview for a position that could pick up thereafter. I’m sure that there must be eating establishments in the area that give discounts on birthdays; maybe I’ll see about doing something for a birthday dinner out.
Cheers to all my fellow voyagers. Be prepared to learn something, and perhaps the day will surprise you.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 9948 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3410 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
The holiday season is upon us. Something we do each year is come up with a list of cool things (toys) we’d like for Christmas, or needful things (socks and underwear). There’s the small stuff that we’re likely to get some of, and bigger-ticket items that we can dream about. And, of course, season’s greetings make us feel good and fit anyone’s budget. So think of the following as the not-quite-grown-up version of a long letter to Santa.
For everyone who thinks, with justification, that even with the recession on there are needier people around, please consider helping out Amnesty International… the donation link is in the right sidebar here. If you would like to encourage me to do the sort of stuff I do to help out science education, contributions to my PayPal donate button, also on the right, will help me worry less about getting the money to cover the costs of Internet service, web hosting, and, when it gets right down to it, rent, gas, and groceries. If you like the idea of seeing a specific wish-list, either with the thought that you might drop something on Diane or I, or get an idea for a significant other or family member, read on.
A recurring need we have is for digital storage of various sorts.
SD/MMC to Compact Flash adapter, Amazon.com, $18.16. Some of the digital gear uses Compact Flash, and this adapter will work for the Nikon and the Axim PDA. Most gear seems to be headed toward use of smaller media, like the SD, though, so if we get SD media and adapters, we should be set for future uses of the media.
The bane of my childhood Christmas mornings was getting socks… it just seemed wrong that socks might take up space under the Christmas tree that could have been something cool. Well, having something warm on the feet now seems cool. I basically do black Gold Toe Fluffy when possible for dress occasions, and white sport or winter socks otherwise, sized to fit men’s size 13. I’ll spare y’all my underwear choices.
Dog toys… both Ritka and Beka are far harder on toys than Farli ever was. Tug toys, squeak toys, balls, etc., they are all good. The more play time they can manage between them, the better.
Six Toughtek 9000 Booties XS (extra small) for Ritka, 2 1/4″ across the widest part, 5″ tall. Ritka has the usual four legs for a dog, but booties are notorious for getting lost, so six seems like a good initial set. They are $2.50 each.
Diane would like some sweater vests, women’s medium size. These come in handy for a warmer experience lecturing while keeping that professional look.
Speaking of the PDA, a software accessory would help make my Axim PDA pretty complete. It’s ClearVue Suite, a package that permits creation, editing, and presentation of PowerPoint files. And it’s $30. When I got the PDA, the base didn’t actually charge it, so I got a cable that allows for power, USB, and VGA out connections. Adding the ClearVue software would give me a small system for portable presentations.
This year has been rough on keyboards. The fact that our budget has kept our purchases of computer gear to a minimum means that our newest keyboard is now about five years old. Diane’s has stiff keys, an incipient sign of a problem. Something to would be really useful to keep down the number of keyboards we need would be a KVM (keyboard-video-mouse) switcher. Our living room has four desktops in it, so a KVM would help.
A Kibble Nibble food dispenser for Beka, about $20.00.
A Masterpiece Component Bed for our 300 Vari-Kennel crate, about $73.
A ChaseIt toy system. We’re thinking that this should make a good toy for Rusty and Shelby, especially after hunting season closes next March. It’s $22.50.
Again with the digital media…
Western Digital 1 terabyte SATA hard disk, $99.99. This would plug into our server and increase room for the photos and media files.
Bigger hard disks for our laptops would always be welcome. Newegg has decent prices on 250 GB ($80) laptop drives in ATA-6 format.
We recently put together a system to feed video from the hawk’s mews inside, so we can have a look inside pretty much whenever we want to. We managed to get the camera and wireless transmitter and receiver pretty cheaply, going for a used wireless system and a new but inexpensive camera designed as a vehicle back-up camera with a very wide-angle lens. The next step would be to equip a machine with some sort of video capture card so that we can periodically push an image to the server and be able to monitor the hawks wherever we can get an Internet connection. While there are some cheap video cards out there, we’re thinking that being able to use the card for a media center would be good, too. B&H Photo has the Hauppage PVR 350 card used for $100. This is a card known to work under Windows and also with the Linux MythTV system.
Garmin Astro 220 Receiver and DC30 GPS Dog Collar, about $600.00. This would help keep track of Ritka where cover might prevent us from seeing her, especially when she goes on point.
A Deben Long Range Terrier Finder for Beka, about $330. Between the two, the GPS system for Ritka is probably the higher priority.
It’s an unfortunate fact that telemetry gear doesn’t last forever. We could use another 30-day version of the RT Plus transmitter or two to make sure we can keep track of the hawks in the field.
A 4×6″ photo printer could come in handy for dog events and being able to print right at the site. It looks like this Epson PictureMate Dash PM260 Compact Photo Inkjet Printer fits the bill.
On the audio side of things, I’m still interested in the M-Audio Microtrack II digital audio recorder. The price has come down, but it’s still about $240.
Venturing further into FantasyLand, I think that I’ll be drooling over the idea of having a Nikon D3 or Nikon D3x for a long time, but maybe a Nikon SB-900 or Nikon SB-800 flash might show up before Nikon announces their D5 camera. I’ve got good glass from 12mm with the Sigma 12-24mm lens and out to 200mm with the Nikkor 70-200mm VR lens, but having a longer lens on hand would be a good thing.
And the best holiday news I can think of would be if somebody would buy the 190 acres or so seen here for me. I spent a chunk of my time growing up wandering around that land and the set of small lakes on it. It’s in Lakeland, Florida, in the Combee area, and is zoned “industrial”. It lies south of Main Street and west of Reynolds Road there, extending over half the distance to Combee Road to the west. There’s a golf course and housing to the south and southeast, and various businesses to the west and north of the property. It is an area of reclaimed phosphate mining land, and has bloomed into a bunch of central Florida style meadow land. I don’t know of anybody prepared to drop several million on me, though. I’d like to see it sold to someone who would appreciate it at the least, even if I don’t get to wander there in the future.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 10984 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 4232 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
I gave up on the idea of partying on Halloween when a headache I got in the afternoon insisted on getting worse instead of better. Diane chose to spend the evening with me rather than head off to the party we’d been invited to.
The party was a costume party, and Diane had borrowed a pretty stunning cloak. For myself, I had a set of scrubs, a stethoscope, and a large pair of forceps. Unfortunately, that didn’t see use this year. Maybe next year.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 8998 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 2959 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
A panorama, that is.
Given the pitiful wages that postdocs and adjunct faculty earn, the debt accrued through grad school for two, the further problems that my medical issues have caused to our finances, and the rapidly rising cost of living, we need to sell our trailer so we can take down some of the debt. In order to further that cause, we gave the interior a thorough cleaning in preparation for taking pictures. My previous experimentation with the Hugin panorama tool made me confident that I could do a 360 degree panorama to show most of the stuff in the trailer. And here is the first one:
And another, with the beds raised:
And another, configured for cargo (“toy”) hauling:
Hand-holding the camera for panorama stitching wasn’t completely satisfactory, so I looked into panorama heads. These are devices that allow you to mount a camera and lens such that the whole apparatus rotates around an axis that passes through the nodal point of the lens. When that happens, things that were in alignment in foreground and background remain in alignment. Unfortunately, panorama heads start at about $80 and quickly run up to a couple of grand. The device at the low end of the scale, the Panosaurus, seems reasonably engineered. There are, of course, things one doesn’t get that the more expensive heads deliver. However, even $80 is out of my budget at the moment. In making my online searches, though, I came across a cheaper alternative: do-it-yourself. I spec’d out the materials, and my father-in-law Sam sprang for the parts: 48″ of 1×4″ oak, 1/4-20 insert nuts, washers, and wingnuts. From that $16 purchase, I’m putting together two homemade panorama heads and will ship one to Sam.
The homemade job doesn’t offer adjustments like the commercial heads do, but if one is careful in measuring where the lens nodal point lies and physical dimensions involving the camera/lens combination, one can get good performance out of the setup. The trailer panorama was made with the homemade head, and Hugin reported a mean alignment error of 0.6 pixels, maximum 20.6 pixels, and pronounced the fit “very good”. There were a total of 19 pictures aligned and stitched to make that panorama. I also used the Qtpfsgui HDR software, so each of the 19 pictures is actually derived from three separate bracketed exposures that were tonemapped using the same settings. The one thing that I didn’t nail down that I should have was the white balance used; you can see that the auto white balance thought the cabinets on one side of the trailer were slightly different in color from those on the other side.
Now, on the slim chance that anybody reading this is looking for a trailer, here’s the summary. The trailer is a 2006 model Northwood Desert Fox SW-21. That’s a 21-foot “toy hauler” model bumper-pull trailer, total length of about 25′ from hitch to rear end. It has a bathroom with shower and tiny tub, refrigerator (propane and electric, with automatic switchover), gas oven and range, microwave oven, two beds with electric lift, 4 kilowatt Onan generator, gas tank and pump, central heat and air-conditioning, and completely enclosed tanks for water and wastewater. Besides the two queen-sized bed mattresses, the dinette bench seats fold to make another bed, and the couch seat folds to make another. This model has insulation and the tank enclosure for all-weather use; if the heater is run to keep the interior warm, it also keeps the plumbing from freezing. Diane got this model trailer in order to have a place in the field in Wyoming where she was doing research back in February through April, 2006, and it worked fine through the cold weather there. We’ve used the trailer as a guest room for company and an emergency shelter for times when the electricity has gone out at the house we’re renting in addition to trips to places where we’ve dry-camped. For those unfamiliar with the toy-hauler concept, this trailer’s basic reason for being was to transport one or two “toys”: motorcycles, dune buggy, ATVs, etc., to a place where the toy could be used in the great outdoors, and while on the spot, provide a place to sleep and cook meals. The back of the trailer is a large ramp that folds down, permitting the “toy” to be loaded in and taken out. One reason I like this design is that it has a high roof; I don’t feel like I’m going to bump the top of my 6′ 3″ frame into the ceiling while moving around inside. We don’t have “toys” of the sort that the trailer was intended to carry, but the floor comes equipped with a number of internal tie-down points for securing a load from shifting around. We use a 2005 Ford E-350 one-ton van to tow the trailer, which it does fine with a weight-distributing hitch. We’d consider selling the van and trailer as a complete package. We’re looking to get Blue Book value on the trailer or both. We’ll toss in the macerator pump with the trailer; that’s a handy device for being able to dump the blackwater tank through an ordinary garden hose to either a distant dump station or septic system standpipe. [Other features that I missed initially: indoor/outdoor stereo system with AM/FM radio and CD player, bedside light and stereo power switches, roll-up awning, 6 gallon capacity propane gas water heater, kitchen sink, bathroom sink, carries two propane tanks, two 12V deep discharge batteries, exterior light with switch by electrical and water hookups, outside shower, and space for a bar-be-que. We never got the bar-be-que, but I'm sure that could be high on someone else's list of amenities to acquire.]
Having the van and trailer got us to a campsite in the Smoky Mountains where I could get this picture of Ritka:
And here are a couple of pictures of the rig on the road.
OK, there’s a new critter underfoot here. Follow the link for a “cute” overdose.
But there is some method here… we’re looking for a canine substitute for a weasel or ferret, to pop down rabbit holes and flush the rabbits out where the hawks can have a chance at them. This one should be about ready to hunt come fall. So far, the hawks seem to have no problem recognizing that the new pack member is not a rabbit itself.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 15269 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 4453 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
I mentioned in a previous post that we picked up a bunch of quail for training our Hungarian pointer (Vizsla), Ritka. Yesterday, Diane went out to the bird house we have for quail, chukar, and pigeons to collect a couple of quail. She discovered that an extra bird had gotten into the house, presumably through the pigeon door bobs: a Cooper’s hawk. It was helping itself to dinner in the form of one of the quail. We had to kill that quail; raptors are not always considerate of niceties like whether the prey item they are munching on is actually dead or not. I’m not sure what would have ensued if the Cooper’s hawk had been stuck in the house after its meal, since the pigeon door bobs are designed for one-way access. Would it have ended up perched next to the chukar? We don’t know exactly.
In any case, Diane managed to extract the Cooper’s hawk from the bird house. Somewhere in there, the Cooper’s hawk attached itself firmly to Diane’s right breast. This is something that you really don’t want to try at home. It took a while for it to decide that it could let go. Once we had the Cooper’s hawk free and clear of tender body parts, I got a few pictures. These will illustrate something about the nickname for these birds, “blue streak”. I set the camera to program mode, upping the bias for higher shutter speeds, set crop mode, and put it in continuous high-speed mode. With those settings, I expect to get 8 frames per second. First, a couple pics of bird in the hand:
Now for the release… These are all the photos I have that have some part of the Cooper’s hawk in the frame. Mind you, I set up to capture frames quickly and was prepared to try to follow movement… and I failed. The blue streak is nothing if not fast.
There you have it. Instead of a long series showing the blue streak flying off into the sunset, I have about one second’s worth of it flying right out of the frame while I futilely try to keep up.
Diane’s impression at the time was that the Cooper’s hawk took a couple of flaps in the time it took for it to leave the immediate vicinity. The sequence of photos is telling me something different. Notice that the hawk’s wings are in almost the same position in every frame? I’m taking this to mean that there is almost one complete wingbeat per each photo, or almost 8 wingbeats per second from a standing start. Wow.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 8668 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3170 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Diane had it, and it looked like a misery. Rob, my boss, has it now, and he certainly doesn’t look comfortable. I got a flu shot a couple of weeks ago, and until last night I had no symptoms. But within the space of a couple of hours, I went from nothing to severe shivering coupled with muscle and joint pains.
The clinic said they had a treatment to help shorten the course of this stuff, so I need to drag myself to the clinic today.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 13449 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 3823 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Blackwood’s Linden Farli CD, RN, JH, OA, OAJ, TF1, ONYX, UTP3, TDI
Born July 2nd, 1993
Died December 10th, 2007
Farli was our first dog, a Vizsla (or Hungarian pointer). Our female Harris’ hawk, Rusty, really enjoyed chasing, and sometimes catching, upland birds. It is hard for a human to effectively work a field to flush upland birds. It was time to look for a hunting companion for Rusty. Diane auditioned several breeds of dogs with Rusty, and determined that Rusty was only going to work over a pointing dog. We talked about different breeds of pointer, and got down to Brittanys and Vizslas. I voted for less hair, though if Diane really had wanted a Brittany, I think we’d have gotten one.
Farli was originally set to go to someone else. Breeders of Vizslas at the time often had buyers for particular breedings well in advance. But the vet who docked the tails on the litter got things mixed up: he was supposed to dock about 1/3rd of the tail, and he docked closer to 2/3rds. The original buyers backed out, and since we had no intention of showing our dog in conformation, we got her instead.
Farli turned out to be an exceptionally gifted hunting dog. Her nose was acute, and she had a tremendous drive to retrieve game. Once, at a Shoot to Retrieve trial, I was the shooter for Farli. They had put out pen-raised quail. I took a shot at a flushing quail, missed, and since the quail had veered off in the direction of others at the buildings, did not take any subsequent shot. Diane released Farli after the shot, so she was off. As I stood there, the judge said, “Call safety”. I responded that I had already set the safety on the gun. What I didn’t know was that in StR, calling “Safety” would allow a dog to receive a default retrieve score for that particular instance. So the judge and I had an Abbott and Costello routine going for a couple of minutes, at the end of which Farli came trotting up to Diane — with the quail in her mouth. The judge gave her a 100% score and remarked that he wished that he had a dog like that.
Farli got into dog sports. Diane took her to a Vizsla “fun day” that featured a flyball demonstration. Farli got all excited about that, so Diane took her to the start line after the demonstration was over, and Farli took off, jumped over the hurdles going to the box, tripped the box, and then chased the tennis ball and ran around with it. Flyball was her favorite, and her lifetime point total is the third highest in NAFA flyball for a Vizsla.
Farli had a brief modeling career, too. A friend of ours served as an agent, and Farli appeared on pet product packaging, advertisements, annual reports, and appeared in a pharmaceutical infomercial. This was when she was between 6 and 9 years old.
Farli’s arthritis and hip dysplasia became an issue in later life. We had to restrict her diet, since carrying extra pounds would have made the arthritis pain that much worse. We went through a series of different pain medicines and regimens looking for something that would relieve her pain, without much success in these last months. This ongoing, chronic pain was a major issue when we were considering what to do in her final days. Last year, she added a senior dog vestibular disorder to her list of problems. Since then, Farli went around with a permanent rightward head tilt and inherent wobbliness on her feet.
Farli went into kidney failure. We noticed that she wasn’t eating well, which had never been a problem with her. We got blood work done, taking a fasting blood value last Thursday, and got the news midday on Friday. This put us in a bind, since treatment would mean intravenous fluids, which we could not do at home. Diane wasn’t willing to leave Farli in a place where she would be caged overnight without anyone in attendance, so we arranged to provide subcutaneous fluid treatment over the weekend. This would simply be a maintenance, not a therapy, so we took her back to the vet Monday morning for another look. Diane was able to call from in between teaching classes and speak with the vet. While the vet wasn’t willing to talk plainly about possible prognosis, our sense was that treatment might or might not work, and depending upon the cause of the kidney failure, she might live anywhere from days to a few more months. Given Farli’s continuing chronic pain, we felt that putting her down was the right thing to do now. Since Farli had protested even the short car ride to and from the vet clinic, we got a vet service that made house calls to come out to provide euthanasia for Farli.
Diane took a bit of a nap with Farli that last afternoon, and late in the day, we let Farli chase and retrieve a chukar, something that she did with a last glimmer of vitality, though it left her quite tired afterward. The vet arrived about an hour and a half later. Farli died around 6:35 Monday night, as comfortable as we could make her on the couch, with Diane and I petting her.
It’s hard to say whether Ritka, our younger dog, gets what has transpired. She came out with us Tuesday morning when we buried Farli. If Rusty notices at all, it will likely be in wondering why the dog hunting with us isn’t as talented a hunter. But for Diane and I, it is a wrench to let go, and I expect that Farli will live long in our memory.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 15672 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 4499 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Family Wesley R. Elsberry on 25 Oct 2007
Last weekend, I was in Florida and visited my uncle, Ernest Elsberry, Jr. He was having complications from a failure of a replacement mitral valve. Despite the fatigue and pain, we were able to talk about bird dogs and hunting in central Florida, among other things.
Ernest Jr. had a career in the US Customs service, with most of that service being in the Miami area. When he retired, the family moved to Gainesville.
I just got a call from my father to tell me that Ernest Jr. died earlier today. What I’ve been told so far is that we will likely have a memorial service after Thanksgiving.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 8510 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 2748 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>