Saturday, May 17, 2008

Now See This!

Kicked back hiding out in the bedroom with the laptop.  Alvis just had her 8th grade senior dance tonight.  She has two of her BFF's over for a post-gala sleep-over.

Too much drama for Dad.  It's a tough thing to see my beautiful baby daughter as a glamorous young woman.  She's doing well at it and as hard as it is, this father is proud of her and wants her to soar...even it leads away from our nest one day.

Alvis's New Colorful Neighbor

I was trimming back our prolific hibiscus bushes this afternoon and was started when a bird flew out of one of them.  They are thick but I reckoned I would have seen a bird up that close.

I figured it was a bold mockingbird that had been shadowing me a few minutes earlier after I had cut the yard and was searching for fresh dining opportunities.

Imagine my surprise when I went to do more pruning and found a well-hidden and crafted bird's nest in the top-third of one of the bushes.

I topped off the tops, but left pretty much of the rest of the bush intact so as not to disturb.

I didn't get a good look at the bird and it was nowhere to be seen.

When I was done, I went into the house and slowly opened up the blinds in Alvis's room.  Her window is on the immediate backside of the hibiscus and less than two feet from the nest. It was a perfect view.

A few minutes later the nest-builder returned.  I caught a glimpse of a brownish-red body, a small crest and a bright orange beak.  Definitely not a mockingbird.

Not being a birder, I did a quick Google search and turned up the new neighbor's identity; a Northern Cardinal female.

This explains much of the fluttering occasionally encountered as we take out the trash and pass the hibiscus bush.  And Alvis's recent complaints about a noisy bird waking her up faithfully each morning around six A.M.  I do have to give this girl with feathers credit.  Although it seems daring to be so close to the ground and accessible, the nest appears well built amongst the branches and is well protected from rain and winds by being so close to our house.  The hibiscus are under the house eaves and quite sheltered from inclement weather.

I haven't been brave enough to get a mirror to check to see if she is nesting on eggs.  We plan on giving her privacy and if we hear a chorus of peeps, we will let everyone know.

Now Updated: Houston

Google Earth's Lat Long Blog announced recently that they have updated imagery in Google Earth, including Houston!

New high resolution:

We have added a significant amount of new satellite imagery in Ecuador, Peru, Senegal, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, India, Iran, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and The Philippines. Additionally, we have new 2.5m imagery for part of Western Australia

Updated Imagery:
- USA: LA, San Diego, Houston, Miami, Chicago and Milwaukee area suburbs, New York City area suburbs, much of coastal New Jersey, and Harney County (Oregon).

Europe, Middle East & Africa:

- England: Isle of Man, Suffolk
- Spain: Madrid
- Portugal: Lisbon, Guimaraes, Porto, Sevilla, Coimbra, Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca
- Italy: Milan
- France: Toulon, Montbeliard
- The Netherlands: Assen
Asia & Oceania:

- Armenia: Yerevan
- Australia: Melbourne, Darwin
Updated Terrain:
- Westport, Ireland
- Hawaii
- Puerto Rico

I love using Google Maps but have found that many-times it takes a while for image updates to Google Earth to appear on Google Maps. However, cross checking some locations finds that they seem to be up to date for the Houston area.  I even found Lavie's car parked outside our home this time. Cool!  Not sure where I was at the time...

I have to confess. I have previously not used Google Earth. But to do the comparisons I had to.  I am pretty impressed.  Very cool and fun to use.  Geography would have been much more enjoyable in college that summer had I had this software.

And the Sky Beyond....

Now Microsoft has recently pulled up a stool to the imaging bar with the release of WorldWide Telescope.

This blends Microsoft's Photosynth imaging management with incredible photos from a wide range of sources into a fun universal journey.

It requires a quick download, DirectX, and .NET 2.0 or greater.  I plopped it onto our Vista laptop tonight and quickly lost about an hour exploring just the thirty-two pages of Hubble images alone.

It is still "beta" so it will be exciting to see where this product is going.  When Alvis and I get some time I can't wait to show her.

It is a fine addition to my growing collection of astronomical software; Stellarium and Celestia.

If you happen to find some stunning images in WorldWide Telescope, Long Zheng has some great tips on how to capture images for posterity and wallpapering: Capturing screenshots from Worldwide Telescope - istartedsomething

Take those 35mm and Digitize Them!

I've mentioned before that Dad and Mom were once pretty accomplished 35mm photography hobbyists.  Growing up I remember weekends where the guest bathroom would be converted into a darkroom with the red-light, pans of developing baths and fixers, and strips of processed negatives hung to dry in the bathtub like strange ladies nylons.

Mom excelled in landscapes and Dad was a macro-photography guru.  Bugs and butterflies were his game.

We did have a few scrap-books, but the majority of those images were preserved in slide format.  Dozens and dozens of slide carousels filled the closets.  Every few months as kids relatives or friends of the parental units would be invited over, the large screen pulled out and up, and the hum of the slide-projector would signal slide-night.  An American Experience repeated no doubt across many a suburb in the sixties and seventies.  Sadly lost now.

Anyway, Dad has mentioned getting back into photography when he begins his second retirement. I set him up with a home pc system with the juice to handle it, and my brother is helping him with a digital camera selection.  We have also discussed converting the tons of slides and strips into digital formats.

Many scanners can accomplish this, but quality ranges pretty wide as they really aren't designed for that format. Task specific scanning tools for slide and film negative scanning have been quite pricey.

So imagine my surprise while reading RetroThing, that I would find a great product endorsement for a reasonably priced slide/negative scanner: The Photo Industry's Little Secret - Retro Thing

Amazon has it for less than $200 so I think I will send an email to Dad to see if he is interested.

So much to see, so much remains...


No comments: