Accounts of our experiences and adventures

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 3)

Texas Independence Trail

The Texas Independence Trail is a road route that links up the locations of the major events that led up to Texas becoming independent from Mexico in 1836. I had laid out a 880 mile route that took in the most important locations from the Alamo in San Antonio to the Texas Monument on the site of the Battle of San Jacinto east of Houston. I split the route into two days with an overnight spot in Gonzales, Texas.

Planned Texas Independence Trail Ride

On the last day in June, I rode south down the west side of Houston to Brazos Bend State Park and then on to Angleton and Freeport on the coast. I then turned east to ride along the coast, visiting the beach at San Bernard, Matagordo and Palacios.

Turning north east, I rode up to Victoria, the Battlefield at Fannin and the Presidio La Bahia at Goliad.

Texas Independence Trail Ride, Goliad, Texas, June 2020

Riding north into San Antonio the temperature was 96 degF and it was very uncomfortable, especially when I was slowed by traffic. The Alamo was a disappointment as it was all border up and under renovation. I turned west through Cibolo and Seguin to Gonzalez where I spent the night. 480 miles in 9 hours.

The forecast for the first of July was even hotter so I was on the road at 6:30am. I rode north through Luling and then turned west to Lockhart, Smithville, Winchester, Round Top and Burton. From Independence I rode into Washington on the Brazos where the Texas Independence charter was signed.

As It was getting very hot, I decided to cut short this day’s ride and rode home through Chapel Hill and Bellville. 254 miles in 5 hours.

See my Texas Independence Trail Ride here

Ignoring Science

I feel one of the biggest problems we have in this country is an ignorance of science. While so many other countries have based their response to the COVID-19 pandemic on science, sometimes imperfectly, the USA Government at the Federal, State and Local level seems to have decided that Politics is more important. While I understand that sustaining the economy is important, I believe that the public health crisis takes precedence. You can recover an economy, you cannot recover dead grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, siblings and friends.

USA COVID-19 Cases
USA Covid-19 New Positive Cases per day

This graph created from data from the COVID Tracking Project shows that while the USA managed to “turn and flatten the curve” in March and April we never sustained this effort to reduce the daily new cases below 20,000 per day. Given the limited testing in April and May this to me showed we clearly still had a huge problem.

USA COVID-19 Tests Per Day

So when many States relaxed “stay-at-home” mandates in early May, ignoring both the Federal and their own guides for reopening, I knew we were going to have a major problem.

Texas – COVID-19 New Cases per day

I hope that we can soon stop ignoring science and bring back strict “stay-at-home” and business closures so we can flatten the curve to the point where a “trace and track” strategy can control the spread of the virus.

Remember, it took four years to end WW1, and six years to end WW2. I don’t see this new world war being any shorter or less devastating.

I continue to monitor the situation and publish the data

Evie, Flynn and Georgie

After returning from helping to move David to Virginia Beach, and enjoying a scenic drive home, we went into self-quarantine again for two weeks to ensure we had not been infected with Coronavirus while away from home. We were not able to see Evie, Flynn and Georgie during this quarantine period so we relied on great pictures Charlotte share with us.

Charlotte with Georgie and Flynn, Houston, Texas, June 2020

From mid-June it was great to again be able to interact with Evie, and to see how much Flynn and Georgie have grown.

Andy with Evie and Flynn, Houston, Texas, June 2020
Kathy with Georgie, Houston, Texas, June 2020
Andy with Flynn, Houston, Texas, June 2020

We look forward to seeing much more of Charlotte, James, Evie, Flynn and Georgie as the month progresses.

New Garmin Zumo XT GPS

I had been thinking about upgrading my Garmin Navigator V GPS on KBiK to the newer Navigator VI GPS but always balked at the price and what I considered the limited improvements over the Navigator V.

Then Garmin came out with the Zumo XT! This new GPS seemed to be the perfect replacement for the old Nuvi 2555 we used in the car and would also supplement the Navigator V on KBiK. Initially I thought I would replace the Garmin Montana GPS but decided to leave that in place.

Used it last week for a 3,500 drive by car up to Virginia Beach and back. Love the clear and bright screen. Very easy to use.

Installed my new Garmin Zumo XT GPS on KBiK. Used a Wunderlich Multipod mount that I bought a while back but had not used. It blocks the view of the speedometer, but I cannot remember when I bothered to last look at that!

Wired it into my PDM60 with my other farkles.

Installed Garmin Zumo XT GPS on KBiK, Houston, Texas, June 2020
Installed Garmin Zumo XT GPS on KBiK, Houston, Texas, June 2020
Installed Garmin Zumo XT GPS on KBiK, Houston, Texas, June 2020

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?

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