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There were some flurries as I drove in to work today. Turns out it wants to do more than flurry. Someone said, "Hey, it's really coming down out there!" So I grabbed my little camera out of my notebook bag and snapped a picture. And here that picture is!

Okay, so it's nothing really entertaining or amazing, but it is out there. For those friends of mine who used to live in Omaha and hated winter, I'm sure this will bet yet another reason they're glad they're not here any more.

Me? I don't mind it. But then again, when you grow up in Northern Minnesota, you do tend to basically ignore the fact that it's snowing. It's just kind of a fact of life.

I'll likely be keeping my camera with me for Thanksgiving. I might get a couple pictures of some things - I don't know. Probably nothing particularly interesting. I'm sure nobody really cares to see a group of my friends acting crazy while playing Guitar Hero or whatever we end up doing tomorrow. Maybe I'll get a picture of a cat or three nibbling down their allotment of turkey (tryptophan really seems to do a number on them... or maybe it's their normal sleep schedule since cats sleep all the time anyhow...)

That reminds me, I need to stop on my way home for some ping-pong balls. I have a cat torture device to create tonight to try out tomorrow.

Three Hours at Luaritzen Gardens

Victorian Garden #1
Originally uploaded by Veldcath
This last Saturday was the first reasonably nice day in weeks. Nice enough that the zoo sounded like a great idea. Get out there with the camera, see what I could find. Wonderful idea, indeed. Such a great idea that it seems a quarter of the population of Omaha had exactly the same idea. For those familiar with the Omaha Zoo, almost half of Rosenblatt's parking lot was full by 10:30.

I didn't feel like dealing with that many people, so I decided to take a miss on the zoo. It wasn't like the zoo was going to go anywhere, after all. It'd be there another weekend. The problem was, I had four hours to kill before I was supposed to show up at a friend's house, which was all of ten blocks away. Fortunately, I remembered that Laurtizen Gardens is just up the street, so I made a little detour and went there.

My camera and I toured the gardens for the better part of those four hours. I shot around 220 photos there, all in RAW+JPEG mode. I was later pleasantly surprised to find that Picasa now supports my camera's RAW files, so I can stop shooting JPEG when I want quality. But the real point of this post is to say Lauritzen Gardens is a very pretty place. I can't imagine going there frequently as it's all flowers and flowers aren't my favorite subject to shoot pictures of, but it is a nice place to take a break.

You can see the rest of the photos over at Flickr. I think I got some good ones, this time out!

Missed the Zoo

I had full well intended to go to the zoo on Sunday. I really had. The weather was going to be just about perfect and I was going to get up and go and then have lunch at Pietrow's or someplace. That plan was sidetracked by my not getting home until something like 2:30 AM. I'd been at Joe and Katie's for what we've called "Boot Camp LAN", where we practice our more difficult games (like Pacific Fighters).

It had been a good evening. I'd managed to be a very difficult target for one person and we did quite a lot of bombing and rocket and torpedo runs, just to get some practice in. We spent all day working on Pacific Fighters, taking off, forming up and flying down to a target area to make our attacks and (if possible) try to fly back and land.

Anyhow, I finally got myself home at about 2:30 AM. Unloaded the car, brushed my teeth and started getting ready for bed. And then I heard sirens.

I peeked out my bedroom window. They sounded close. They WERE close. I saw them turning in to my development. So I pulled on pants and my coat and grabbed my camera. Got a few photos. It wasn't a severe fire, luckily. The house looks largely undamaged. The smoke coming out of it was pure white. My guess is something caught fire down in the laundry/utility room - and there was lots of plastic around to make the horribly acrid smell that was in the air.

By the time I did finally get to sleep, there was no way I was going to wake up early enough to get to the zoo. Ah well. Pity, I had wanted to go. Maybe THIS weekend, on Sunday. All I can do is try, try again.

Since I didn't get more zoo photos...

Well, since I didn't get more zoo photos, I'll substitute a couple others I shot for experimentation purposes. These photos were taken at the last D&D game I took... and before it, when there was a fun rain-storm that left some nifty shots around my house, especially around the windows.

So, I had some fun experimenting with the new camera. I got to use the macro filters, I got to see how well my hotshoe flash works with the Sony. I love being able to direct the flash up at a ceiling to really flood an area with light and soften up shadows a lot. That statement will make sense when you look at the photos of the cats (all but the one of them on the bed, where I used the built-in flash.)

I did have to get my tripod out for the macro shots, though. The raindrops photos were shot with all my macro filters on, and that meant I needed to have a perfectly still camera. I even used the ten-second timer so the camera had time to become still after I clicked the shutter release button.

The photos can be seen over at my Live Journal Scrapbook.

Missed The Zoo

Well, I'd meant to go back to the zoo this last weekend and visit the indoor exhibits (since it was COLD out again), but I didn't quite make it there. I went shopping around for a couple things and then didn't want to leave my purchases in the back of the car as I went in to the zoo. So I stopped in at Fredd and Linda's to chat for a while instead. Stayed there for quite a while and went home.

I'll just have to go THIS weekend. IF I can find the time. This is going to be one heck of a busy weekend. Gaming on Friday, Boot Camp LAN on Saturday or Sunday (not sure exactly which, yet). And who knows what else might crop up?

First Zoo Walk

Sunday was a great day for walking around the zoo, and that's what I did. A whole lot of walking. I've created a little map to show where all I went at the zoo. I spent three hours there and didn't quite get to everything. I took a miss on the Desert Dome and Kingdom Of The Night. I didn't quite get to all the outdoor animals and a couple of them weren't out on display either due to the cold weather. I did, however, get a few really good pictures and chatted a bit with several other people who were out taking advantage of the good weather to do the same as me (namely, try out their new Digital SLRs).

So, I started at the North Entrance and walked just about everywhere. You can see the path I walked, or a reasonable approximation thereof, in the animated map. And even better, you can see some of the best photos I got over in my gallery.

Next weekend? I'm thinking I'll visit the Desert Dome and the Kingdom Of The Night. And head up to Lauritzen Gardens, if the weather cooperates, to see if things are starting to happen there - since the trees are starting to bud nicely. Or maybe down to "Freedom Park" to see the Douglas A-4D Skyhawk, USS Marlin and other things they have on display.

New Camera, New Workout

So, I got my tax refund a little bit ago and had been eying digital SLR cameras for a while. The refund was rather sizable and the price of the Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 has recently dropped significantly, so I decided it was time to take the plunge and step up to a REAL digital camera. No more "push here dummy" stuff. Not even my Fujifilm S5100 "superzoom" class camera (which served me so very well). Nope, it was time to join the big boys with a big toy.

So, I placed my order and sat on the edge of my seat for a few days until it arrived. And it did arrive. On Tuesday. Of course, I had it out of the box in a heartbeat, the battery charging, the memory card in... And then I had to wait. And wait. And wait until after work to go out and shoot a couple pictures in the parking lot.

I haven't shot with an SLR for quite a while. Not since probably 2002, when digital cameras really started getting good enough to replace film for everyday use. It's taking a bit of getting used to. The controls are fairly complex and I haven't quite mastered them all yet, though they're similar in some ways to my S5100, so it's not a bad learning curve. Unfortunately, Tuesday was a gray day, not a lot of contrast. Just blah. Shot a couple pictures of my car and the office building. Nothing spectacular. Drove home and tested the camera with my old Minolta AF lenses. Worked fine. Then I set it aside.

Along came yesterday. It was a fairly nice day out. On my way home from work, I pulled into Standing Bear Lake Park and went for a hike. Around the lake. All the way around the lake. Not that it's a big lake, or anything. Lakes in Nebraska are just man-made glorified puddles. But it's named "... Lake". So, anyhow... I took my camera with me and shot some pictures. A few of them turned out pretty well.

I'm very, very impressed with the "Super SteadyShot" feature in the Alpha. That's an image stabilization system that's in the body of the camera rather than in the lens. Any lens that can work with the camera is stabilized. I put on my old 100-300mm zoom, zoomed it all the way out and snapped a picture of the moon up in the early evening sky. Hand-held. Then I snapped a picture of a commercial airliner flying overhead. It's not like it's a super closeup or anything, but you can make out the jet's shape and the contrails actually have texture. I had a go at the "sunset program" mode as well, even though the sunset had no real color to it.

When I got home, I messed around with the photos a bit. A little post processing on them, checking out how they turned out. I was quite pleased with them, and with myself for having walked that far. I came up with a plan - buy a zoo membership and go to the zoo at least two days each month with my camera. Walk around and see what photos I can get and what features I can learn about the camera.

Shocked! Shocked, I say!

Well, not really. But I thought it'd be better than it is.

Okay, so I went to Wendy's for lunch today. Before I went, I checked on some nutritional information, since I'm trying to eat a bit healthier (yeah, yeah... I know. Going to Wendy's is the first mistake). I was a bit taken aback by what I found.

Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich and a Broccoli and Cheese Potato
700 calories, 90 from fat (10g, 2.5g saturated), 110g carb, 43g protein
1440mg sodium, 2290mg potassium, 10g dietary fiber
Plus, decent levels of Vitamins A and C, Calcium and Iron.

Compare that to...

Mandarin Chicken Salad
550 calories, 230 from fat (26g, 3.0g saturated), 53g carb, 29g protein
1230mg sodium, 860mg potassium, 6g dietary fiber
And... lower levels of Vitamin A and C, Calcium and Iron.

So... let me get this straight... The salad has more fat (by far), more saturated fat, less protein, far less potassium and less dietary fiber and lower levels of vitamins and minerals... And it's supposed to be the healthier choice?

By the way, only their new Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad is about the same (at 10g fat). Don't even think about the Southwest Taco Salad (at 41g) or the Chicken BLT Salad (at 46). I might as well get my favorite Spicy Chicken Combo with fries. Eesh.


Snowstorm Pics And More Warmth

I uploaded some pics from the snow storm to my journal. All that snow's gone now... Two weeks and it's all gone. Two weeks from cold and snowing to 80 degrees... we'll be below freezing again, tomorrow night, if the forecast is accurate. What a screwed-up place to live, where the weather does this kind of thing. Yeay, Nebraska?

I'm keeping an eye on the temperature in the server room. It's not as bad as yesterday, but it's still four or five degrees warmer than it should be. And, of course, I'm exhausted from sitting in the heat all of yesterday. Yeay, work? Makes me wonder if I'll have enough energy to run my Feng Shui game Friday, after work. At this point, it's not looking too good. I have to clean up the house and when I got home last night I couldn't even pull together the energy to watch TV properly. I suppose it didn't help that the house was ALSO up to 78 degrees. Yeay, Exhaus... oh, never mind. Too much effort.

Part Two...

So, yeah. I was right. They supposedly had the air on today. Considering that the peak in the server cage was 84.something, I'm not sure I buy it. The thermostat inside the door of the server room? It actually read over eighty once. Most of the day it was over 78. Guess which room my desk is in?

So, now I'm just totally wiped out. Sitting in that kind of heat all day doesn't do well for keeping your mind focused on... well, anything. It doesn't do well for the 12-pack of cans of pop I'd brought in just the previous morning. And it wasn't much better when I got home. Temperature outside was still 79, temperature in the house was 78. Three nights ago, I had to use heat. Heck, I'll probably have to use it again tonight, but I just had to kick the A/C on today just to get the house livable.

Thursday? Forecast is for a high of 47. Tonight's low is supposed to be 46. Yeay, Nebraska?