December 16, 2006

An Incidental Safari

I took these a few weeks ago, but never bothered downloading them until now.

Wood Stork

I didn't take a trip TO the Everglades. I could have. They're not far. But no, these are some pictures I took on my way home from Fort Myers. From a rest stop on Alligator Alley (I-75).

It was worth the stop. But I have to get a telephoto lens, dammit.

I was just leaving the rest stop when I saw this wood stork in the middle of a field just off the ramp. I've never seen one in the wild before, so I stopped and snapped his picture.

A few miles down the road, I decided to stop at a boat ramp (or "recreational area") to see if anything else was out.

There was.

Turkey Vulture

I really want to say that this is a snail kite, but it's not. This is a turkey vulture, and we have tens of thousands of them down here.

But he was just kind of hanging there like they do, so I took the shot.

Here's another shot of him.

No doubt about it; it's a turkey vulture.

This came out a lot better than I thought. I was using a digital camera, and I haven't been all that happy with digital cameras* for action shots, but this came out really well.

To be fair, I have adjusted* the color values a little bit to bring out some detail, but not really all that much.

Here's another shot of of the heron.

He's a little blurred here, but you can still see a lot of detail. Even the reflection is pretty cool.

I should mention that I followed him along the canal for about a half hour.

He kept noticing me and flying further up the canal.

What, I'm papparazzi all of a sudden?

This is what I love about Florida; the casual way you can find wildlife as you go about your daily life. I didn't drive anywhere special to get access to these birds, they were just THERE, right alongside the road. All it took was for me to STOP for a minute and take a look.

*These photos were taken on a Kodak DX7440, and edited with Irfanview.

December 15, 2006

Our Feckless Hero Faces the Unknown.

It's the season. You know that it is.

I know you saw the first signs in the store - a few weeks ago, just before thanksgiving. Maybe the week after Halloween, you were strolling past the dairy section when it caught your eye:


Creamy and yellow, thick and delicious. I know you love it, you know you do.

OK, so I can rhapsodize on egg nog, but how is this a "product review?"

I'll tell you.

I was shopping yesterday, and managed to pass up the half-gallon, the quart size, and yes, even the innocuous little pints that seem so small and harmless while packing enough calories to reverse a famine. Righteous in my self control, I went to the yogurt section, and began stocking up.

Publix brand, 7 for $4. grumble grumble odd numbers....lessee, two strawberry, two blueberry....peach? nah. black cherry? mm, nah. Blackberry, ok, I'll go with that. Now, one more. One more makes seven. OCD kicks in, I can't have THREE of one thing, and only TWO of everything else. Mmm. ARrrrrgh. Which to ch....

"Egg Nog?" Really? Egg nog YOGURT? Is that even legal? I certainly wouldn't want TWO of them, that's fer sure.

OK. Egg Nog it is.

It sat on the shelf in the fridge for two days. I admit, I was a-feared of it. unnatural thing. ABOMINATION!

So I uncapped it tonight, and dug in. AND......


It's not hideously sweet, or sickeningly cloying, but it doesn't taste much like egg nog, either. If you had me taste it at random, I would furrow my brow and suggest.... maybe.....kinda-sorta.......pumpkin pie..... without the pumpkin.

Yeah, I know, that makes no SENSE. But it's the nearest I can come up with. I think it's because the primary flavoring is nutmeg. It's got kind of a spicy warmth, a hint of sweetness. Not bad. Not great. Not worth it.

So grab a vanilla to fill out the batch or double the order to make an even number.

October 18, 2006

...In which Sprint drops the ball.

So my cel contract is up for renewal. A few months past, really.

I've been increasingly unhappy with the service, and I've sort of been sniffing around to see what the deals are. Actually, I keep forgetting to swap before my bill comes up, and then I pay it "for one more month." (Someday I'll get around to simply procrastinating, but I have to put it off for now.)

At the same time, I've been wondering what kind of great deal my current carrier - Sprint - would offer me to stay. Last time I was up for renewal, they replaced my phone and added a 100 minutes.

And wouldn't you know it, they called. And they (or she) more or less spoke english. Fairly thick accent; I'm thinking they were calling from Bangladesh or someplace like that. I might have the gender wrong; what're the child labor laws Over There, anyway?

"Hullo, sur, this is Alalala with Sprint calling, how are you today?"
"OK, I suppose..."
"First, I want to assure you that this call won't count against your Minutes. This is a courtesy call that we initiated so you don't have to pay for it..."

Hmmmm. How long does she plan to talk to me, anyway?

"I'm calling because as a loyal Sprint customer, and we wanted to take this opportunity to offer you an exciting new plan that will improve your user experience and optimize your monthly fee!"

I hate it already. She didn't ask if I was pleased with my service, and she used really annoying buzz words like "user experience" and "optimize."

"As a loyal customer, I'm authorized to offer you a free new phone and an additional line of service!"

"Uh huh," I say. I expect to be offered a free phone and more minutes. Is she REALLY offering a single person a SECOND phone line? "...I'm sorry, line of what?"

"We're pleased to offer you another line of service to optimize your experience. What are the terms of your current plan?"

"500 minutes, at $49 a month."

"Yes. 500 minutes....yes. OK, we can set you up with another line, and at $59 a month you'll be getting a much better value to your Sprint experience . The phone is a -"

I cut her off as she's extolling the virtues of some Motorola uberdevice.

"By line of service, you mean.. another phone number?" I ask.

"Coorect, soor! A second line you can use as you see fit, with all the features -"
"But I don't WANT another line."


"I'm not happy with the service I'm getting NOW, why would I want ANOTHER line that I have no use for? Besides, I'm single. It's just ME, who's going to use the other line?"

"Well, um, sorry you're not happy.... the other line is a Great Bargain..."

"..That I have utterly no use for. I mean, the line I've GOT keeps cutting out and dropping calls, and voice messages sometimes show up a week after they're left. and you're offering me another line for more money." I'm starting to get a little testy. I mean, not only are they offering me something STUPID, they're trying to increase my RATE.

"Oh." I can almost see her scanning through the script for an appropriate response. Or maybe she's translating what I've said so far. "Well, we want to help you optimize the rate you're paying so you get more for your money! It's really a much better deal for you!

"No, it's NOT. Look, another line of service is hardly an attractive offer, when the line I've got isn't reliable..." I continue, prompting her. MORE minutes, SAME price, BETTER phone. C'mon, sweeten the pot....

"Well," she says,"you could use the other phone when the battery on the first one runs out!"

"I've never run the battery out," I explain. "That's not a problem I have.So that's no solution to anything. I don't NEED a second phone. I don't WANT a second phone. I'm one guy. It's just ME."

"'d really be optimizing, I mean, well, it's economical..."

"No, it's not. It's a fifth wheel on my car; I don't need it, it won't do anything for me. I'll put this bluntly; ANY PLAN that involves A SECOND PHONE LINE is NO DEAL at all."

"Oh." She's completely lost. Her script doesn't cover this AT ALL. He's an American, right? More is always better for Americans.

"Well....the..." she starts, hesitantly.

"NO SECOND LINES." I reply firmly.

I can't stand it any more. So I close the door.

"Look. You got nothing, I won't accept ANY deal that involves a stupid new line of service I don't need or want, I can't continue with a service that can't deliver my voice messages at least on the same day they were left. Do you have ANY offer for me that will make up for dropped calls, and messages that show up a week later."

"I... I'm sorry that...but the new's free...and you've got credit..."

"We're done. Forget about it. I'm going to find a new carrier that can offer me a better deal. One that DOESN'T," I say disdainfully, "involve a second phone line."

NOW she gets passionate "Well, I understand - I'm sorry about the problems - but if you DO change your mind and you WANT the Deal, call us back at this number ANYTIME!"

"Yeah. Great." Don't hold your breath.

So I've started looking around, checking for customer satisfaction, coverage, the whole deal. I even checked Sprint's own site, in case Allalalalala missed a deal she could have offered. The "great deal" for their "loyal customer?" It's the one they're offering to EVERYBODY.

August 8, 2006

Law Enforcement or Gang of Thugs?

First, you should read this story in the Miami Herald: THE FTAA TAPES

Basically, way back during the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit, Broward Deputies open fire on unarmed protesters and reporters. There are videotapes (linked above) that show beyond any doubt that the deputies had no cause at all to fire their weapons. The only defense they can offer is that they used rubber bullets.

The footage shows an attorney walking along the street carrying a sign, followed by a massive wall of deputies in riot gear. Suddenly, one of them shoots her in the back. When she turns to complain to them, pointing out that they have been following her for half an hour, and that they have observered that she has been peaceful, they open fire on her, forcing her to hide behind her sign. Other protestors - and a news camera crew - are also fired upon. At no time do any of the protestors threaten the phalanx of shock troop deputies.

Another tape, shot the next day, shows the deputies being addressed by Captiain John Brooks, who congratulates them on the shooting, and laughs about the attorney specifically when Sgt. Michael Kallman asks about "the woman hiding behind that sign."

`The good news about being able to watch you guys live on TV is that the lady with the red dress, I don't know who got her, but it went right through the sign and hit her smack dab in the middle of the head!''

Yes, the commanding officer watched his deputies shoot an unarmed and harmless woman on LIVE TV and COMMENDED HIS MEN for doing it.

''How about yesterday, huh? I would go to war with everyone here.''

Not only should this officer be fired - along with every single deputy on that detail that day - they should be prosecuted for assault with a weapon.

Think about it - if you or I shot rubber bullets into a crowd of people, we'd be arrested, tried, and thrown in jail. THESE guys were commended and promoted!

As these tapes clearly show, there was absolutely no threat of any kind to the armed and armored troops. The protestors - completely unarmed - were in fact walking AWAY from the officers.

This is the kind of behavior we expect in third world country; CASTRO does this kind of thing. It is completely unacceptable here. These actions were clearly criminal, and we are a nation of laws. And our laws dictate how criminals are handled. Promoting them, giving them raises, and heaping praise on them isn't. These men are criminals, period. They give good cops a bad name. They denigrate every law enforcement officer who risks their lives to maintain law and order.

So email your elected officials and demand that Major John Brooks, Sgt. Michael Kallman, and every officer on the FTAA detail on Nov. 20, 2003 be brought up on charges in court. If this is America, they are criminals, and if they are NOT criminals, then this isn't the United States of America anymore.

February 16, 2006

Cheney's Theme

To the tune of "I shot the sheriff" by Bob Marly

I shot the lawyer-

But I did not shoot the terrorists
I Shot the lawyer-
But I wish I'd shot evolution theorists...

There a real threats in this world-
but I will not really deal with them at all
I should be tracking Bin Laden down
Instead, I shot my friend and watched him fall
He came through the bushes
and did not call...

I shot the lawyer-
But I did not shoot the terrorists
I Shot the lawyer-
But I wish I'd shot evolution theorists...

Howard Dean, he tries to tell you the truth
I just laugh, and say that facts aren't proof
And some day I will throw him off the roof
But for now, go fuck yourselves...
All you taxpayers can go straight to hell...

I shot the lawyer-
But I did not shoot the terrorists
I Shot the lawyer-
But I wish I'd shot evolution theorists...