Accounts of our experiences and adventures

Author: Andy (Page 1 of 3)

Virginia Beach Road Trip

At the end of May we decided we had modify our strict stay at home self-isolation regime to help our son, David, move from Chicago to Virginia Beach. David closed up his AirBnB apartment where he had spent the last three months working in Chicago on assignment with Mechdyne to the local power company. David drove a rented Tahoe with all his possessions down to Houston.

Preparing to move David to Virginia Beach, Houston, Texas, May 2020

We rented a 6’x12’ U-Haul trailer which we loaded with furniture donated by the Cameron’s, James and Charlotte’s friends and from our house. James and Charlotte very kindly allowed us to borrow their VW Atlas to tow the trailer up to Virginia Beach.

Preparing to move David to Virginia Beach, Houston, Texas, May 2020

With David driving the GTI following us in the Atlas with the trailer, we took three days to drive to Virginia Beach stopping overnight in Baton Rouge, LA and Augusta, GA. A long boring drive on Interstate Highway made bearable by us listening to the “Book Woman of Troublesome Creek”.

Moving David to Virginia Beach, Baton, Rouge, Louisiana, May 2020

After unloading and seeing David settled at his new house in Virginia Beach, Kathy and I took the long way round on a road trip back home. We drove up to Front Royal, VA and then down the Shenandoah Skyline to stay overnight in Waynesboro, VA.

Driving home down the Shenandoah Skyline, Virginia, May 2020

We then continued down the Blue Ridge Parkway to stay in Little Switzerland, NC. We continued to the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway and then over the Cherahola Skyway in to Tennessee staying overnight south of Natchez.

Driving home down the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia, May 2020
Driving home down the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina, May 2020

We drove down the Natchez Trace to Natchez, MS before returning home to Houston.

Sunken Trace, Natchez Trace, Mississippi, May 2020
Sunset over the Mississippi River, Natchez, Mississippi, May 2020

A 3,400 mile road trip! See all the pictures here!

Backyard Wildlife

Two small Downy Woodpeckers feast on the insects in the last of the oranges on the tree in our backyard

Two Downy Woodpeckers enjoy the insects in the last few oranges on our tree, Houston, Texas, April 2020
Downy Woodpecker enjoys the insects in the last few oranges on our tree, Houston, Texas, April 2020
Downy Woodpecker enjoys the insects in the last few oranges on our tree, Houston, Texas, April 2020

We enjoy a small Screech owl roosting in the Crape Myrtle bush in James’s backyard

Screech Owl in James’s Backyard, Houston, Texas, April 2020
Screech Owl in James’s Backyard, Houston, Texas, April 2020
Screech Owl in James’s Backyard, Houston, Texas, April 2020

Photo Management

On April 10th, I gave a presentation to the ALL PhotoSIG group on photo management. The Academy for Life-Long Learning (ALL) is managed through the Cy-Fair College which is part of the Lone Star College system around Houston, Texas.

Because of County and State social distancing rules and shelter-in-place orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the PhotoSIG meeting was conducted online. The following is an outline of what I presented.

Photo Management

  • Photo management is a subset of digital asset management.
  • Photo management is the organization and classification of photographs as digital assets.
  • Digital photography has allowed us all to become professional photographers in terms of the cost per image.
  • Digital photography has also allowed us to lose all of our photos with a single click, software upgrade or hard drive crash.

Photo Management Software

  • Google search ”what is the best free photo management software?”
    • Adobe bridge. Bridge CC is a free photo organizing software that provides central access to all files and resources that are needed to work with creative projects. …
    • Google photos. …
    • Picktorial. …
    • Google picasa. …
    • Studioline photo basic. …
    • Jetphoto studio. …
    • Xnviewmp. …
    • Faststone.
  • My recommendation: Adobe Bridge
    • Adobe Bridge is a core product of Adobe’s Creative Suite which is used by thousands of professional photographers
  • I use Adobe Lightroom to manage over 150,000 images

Adobe Lightroom for Photo Management

  • Incorporates all the features of Adobe Bridge plus extensive additional bulk photo management and editing features
    • Used by most of the professional photographers I have met
    • Saves Metadata from Catalogs into each Image File
    • Can manage thousands of large image files effectively
    • Can sync GPS Track-log to insert geospatial metadata
  • Cost US$9.99/Month Subscription
    • Lightroom on desktop (PC & Mac) and mobile
    • Lightroom Classic (Cloud based)
    • Photoshop on desktop (PC & Mac) and iPad
    • Your own portfolio website and social media tools
    • 20GB of cloud storage (about 4,000 JPEGs)

Photo Management Workflow

Professional photographers recommending establishing a workflow to follow to organize your photographs on a regular and consistent basis.

My Photo Management Workflow

  1. In the Camera
    • Ensure all cameras are set to the correct date and time
    • Memory Card Management
      • Shoot RAW & JPEG
        (You have two copies of every image in camera)
      • Use High Speed Memory Cards. Essential for high speed, HDR and video photography
      • Multiple memory cards in some cameras
      • Swap out memory cards if possible
    • Cloud Synchronization
      • Turn on My Photo Stream on iPhone/iPad. Photos will sync with your Mac
      • Android? – Sorry, I don’t know.
      • Make sure your data plan can afford synchronization, particularly Internationally
  2. Every Day
    • Swap out memory cards in Camera
    • Copy images from card to external drive and/or laptop Mac/PC
    • Export images from MacOS Photos to filesystem as JPGs
    • Make at least two copies of all photos in different folders
      • Ideally have one copy on multiple devices
      • Retain one as ORIGINAL (Remember Negatives!) and make READ ONLY.
    • My recommendation for travelers:
      Western Digital My Passport Pro
      • 1 to 4 Tb Hard Drive self-contained with USB battery and WiFi Hub
      • Automatically copies photos from SD Cards, USB drives and Phones to hard drive
      • View and manage photos on Tablet/Phone over WiFi
  3. Post-Processing
    • Organize, annotate and categorize one copy of all images
    • File System Organization
      • Recommend Year and Month Folder Organization
        • 2020 – 2029
        • 2020
          • 01 – January
          • 02 – February
          • ……
    • Copy today’s photos from all cameras to this month’s folder
    • Synchronize folder to import photos in Lightroom
    • Quick view and delete obvious bad photos
    • Organize, annotate and categorize one copy of all images
      • Photo annotation. Editing Photo Metadata (EXIF and IPTC)
        • Copyright
        • Photographer
        • Title/Caption/Comment
        • Capture Date and Time (If necessary)
        • Face Recognition
        • Geospatial (GPS) coordinates
        • Rating (0-5/Color)
      • Photo Categorization
        • Use Keywords
      • Save Metadata to Image Files. Stored in EXIF and IPTC data fields
      • Bulk Renaming of Photo filenames
        • Recommend:
          YYYY_MM_{1-9999 Sequence}
    • Cloud Synchronization
      • Use WiFI Internet Connection
      • Synchronize to Home Computer
    • Editing (Non-destructive, with bulk file capability in Lightroom)
      • Spot and Red Eye removal
      • Crop, Rotate, Transform, Lens Correction
      • White Balance, Exposure, Highlights, Shadows
      • Contrast, Vignette, Saturation, Clarity
    • Photoshop
      • All the other image editing stuff!
    • Organize Favorites
    • Display / Share / Publishing / Printing / Blogging
  4. Backup your Photos!
    • Multiple Local Copies
    • Automated if possible, at least every day
    • Cloud Synchronization (not storage)
      • Microsoft OneDrive, Apple iCloud
      • I use SugarSync to synchronize across multiple PCs and Macs
    • Avoid single file backups
      • Single large backup files can be corrupted and everything is lost
      • File copying is slower but safer. Use incremental file copy so only new images and changes are copied.
    • Store at least one copy of all your images offsite

A PDF copy of the presentation is here!

Thanks, I hope you find these ideas useful!

My COVID-19 Tracking Project

One of the challenges I have in understanding our current problems is finding good data. When I worked, I always said to my colleagues that I was always interested in data rather than opinions when it came to making decisions.

I really liked this Medium article because it took a data driven approach to understanding the problem.

This article and lots of other sources have talked about the importance of social distancing as the only effective measure as an entry tactic to “flatten the curve” so our health care services can keep up with the demand and reduce the fatalities. But because our health care system is so decentralized, we don’t seem to have a government source that can provide credible data on where we are on the curve.

After a lot of searching, I finally found this site: The COVID Tracking Project which has collated data from all the States on where we are on the curve. They make all of the data with references to their sources publicly available.

So being a geek, who has all the time I need, I took this data and put it into a spreadsheet to try and understand better where we are on the curve. I picked the “worst” seven States, Texas, and then California and Washington as they were the two states to see and react to the virus with statewide self-distancing orders. I’ll probably add more States to better understand the problem as it expands across the USA.

See My COVID-19 Tracking Project

To try and understand the limited capacity of our health care system, I found a site that shows the number of ICU beds available by State and another that maps the counties in the USA with no hospital, or no hospital ICU beds.

The results are sobering. I see no evidence that we are flattening the curve. The lack of federal self-distancing regulations, rather than the guidelines released, has allowed the virus to spread throughout the country. The slow implementation of testing does not bode well for any exit strategy

April 23rd: Added New Cases/Day graphs as the move to relax self-distancing and open business grows in strength

May 1st: Changed the spreadsheet to access the data from The COVID Tracking Project automatically via the JSON web query. My spreadsheet is included with the links to the data sources.

March 2020

I think March 2020 is going to be a momentous month for historians to look back on in the years to come just like September 1940. Though we were told of the first warnings of the Coronavirus Pandemic in January, it was not until March that it set off our alarm bells. What a dramatic change it has brought to society, the economy and our way of life since the start of this month of March.

As we come to the final day of the month, Kathy and I have enjoyed social distancing while walking the bayous in our neighbourhood. The wildlife often surprises us.

Whistling Ducks, Horsepen Creek, Houston, Texas, March 2020

With the end of the month, I turned 65 so we celebrated with a virtual Birthday Party. It was great to have family from UK and Canada join in the fun!

Virtual Birthday Party, Houston, Texas, March 2020

Kathy made a great Lemoncello cake which we shared with our neighbours while carefully keeping our six feet spacing!

Birthday Party Cakes, Houston, Texas, March 2020

We hope that next month sees the “flattening of the curve” in the USA and other countries but I fear the worse is still to come and we shall not see much good news until June. Too many States in the USA have still not implemented State wide social-distancing mandates and our implementing useless travel restrictions when the virus is already here.

We hope that early next week we shall be able to visit with James and Charlotte to help look after Evie, Flynn and Georgie.

Coronavirus and Covid-19 Pandemic

We have been taking the Coronavirus and Covid-19 Pandemic seriously and as of March 16th we have decided to self-isolate.

Obtaining good information about the pandemic is critical. In this age of distrust, personality politics and lack of investment in our institutions, it is important to cut through the noise to determine what is really happening.

Here are some sources which we have been using:

The last article provides this advise:

  • The coronavirus is coming to you.
  • It’s coming at an exponential speed: gradually, and then suddenly.
  • It’s a matter of days. Maybe a week or two.
  • When it does, your healthcare system will be overwhelmed.
  • Your fellow citizens will be treated in the hallways.
  • Exhausted healthcare workers will break down. Some will die.
  • They will have to decide which patient gets the oxygen and which one dies.
  • The only way to prevent this is social distancing today. Not tomorrow. Today.

Extreme social-distancing seems to be the best tactic for this global pandemic, but what is the exit strategy?

RanchSTOC IX

In March, I rode KBiK up to Meridian in north central Texas to camp at Fergie’s family ranch near Cranfills Gap where he was sponsoring the ST-Owners RanchSTOC IX event.

RanchSTOC, Cranfill’s Gap, Texas, March 2020
RanchSTOC, Cranfill’s Gap, Texas, March 2020
RanchSTOC, Cranfill’s Gap, Texas, March 2020
RanchSTOC, Cranfill’s Gap, Texas, March 2020

As always, we had riders from all over the US attend this event.

RanchSTOC, Cranfill’s Gap, Texas, March 2020

On Friday, a few of us rode out to the Regency Suspension Bridge on the Colorado River just north of San Saba. This bridge is the last wooden suspension bridge still in use in Texas.

Regency Suspension Bridge, San Saba, RanchSTOC, Texas, March 2020
Regency Suspension Bridge, San Saba, RanchSTOC, Texas, March 2020
Regency Suspension Bridge, San Saba, RanchSTOC, Texas, March 2020

See all the pictures from RanchSTOC here

White Shaman

In early March, Kathy and I traveled again out to west Texas to visit the White Shaman Preserve which is one of the most pristine examples of paleo-Indian rock art in the lower Pecos area. Earlier in the year, we had toured the rock art in Presa Canyon, which joins up to Seminole Canyon west of Comstock, Texas.

After staying overnight in Del Rio, we drove out to Seminole Canyon State Park and hiked the Canyon Rim to the Presa Canyon overlook.

Hiking to the Presa Canyon Overlook, Seminole Canyon State Park, Comstock, Texas, March 2020

We did not have enough time to hike all the way along the Canyon Rim trail to the Rio Grande where it is possible to see the Panther Cave rock art site. We plan to do the full hike when we come out to Big Bend in December.

After lunch, we joined Aimee Sapna, our tour guide from the Witte Museum, and the rest of the group at the White Shaman Preserve.

White Shaman Preserve, Pecos River, Texas, March 2020

We drove along a dirt road for about a mile and then hiked down to the rock shelter where the rock art was created.

White Shaman Preserve, Pecos River, Texas, March 2020

The White Shaman Preserve is a small rock shelter compared to others we have visited but the artwork is incredible. It is an absolutely stunning composition of anthropomorphic shapes, symbols and figures. Our guide explained the meaning of the rock art as first theorised by Dr Carolyn Boyd.

White Shaman Preserve, Pecos River, Texas, March 2020

While taking pictures of the rock art, we listened to our guides describe the various theories of the artwork.

It was an amazing experience which we thoroughly enjoyed. We look forward to visiting other paleo-Indian rock art locations in the lower Pecos area.

After leaving the White Shaman Preserve, we drove down to the boat ramp on the Pecos, and then up to the overlook, to view the impressive bridge where US90 crosses the Pecos River.

Pecos River Bridge, Pecos River, Texas, March 2020

See all the pictures from our adventure here!

2020 Lemoncello

Our 2020 Lemoncello production made from our home grown lemons is now ready for distribution!

2020 Lemoncello production readyy for distribution, Houston, Texas, March 2020

If you don’t want to drink it when, mixed with aloe vera gel, it makes a great handwash!

Terry Fox 5K Walk

A new month and on the first day we are up at 5:45am on a Sunday (groan!) to participate in the Houston Terry Fox Commemorative 5K walk.

Okay, we are retired so every day is a Saturday, so I should not complain! It was a great day for a short walk along White Oak Bayou from Stude Park. Nice and cool with temperatures in the mid 60’s with overcast skies.

Terry Fox Run, Houston, Texas, March 2020

We met the Canadian Consular General from Dallas who we hope to see again on Tuesday evening when we shall see “Come from Away” again at the Hobby Center.

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