Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Faded Flowers......

Fireworks stands are not the only temporary, seasonal retail outlets.  In the same parking lot I showed you on Monday were these little plastic huts....


Abandoned in the sweltering July heat, but they were pretty busy a month or so back.  


I peeked inside.  Did I mention its been really hot lately?  It might be time for a further price reduction........




Monday, July 4, 2022

4th of July - Lets Make Some Noise

Of course the Fourth of July is about more than things that go Bang!  But that is part of it.  A few random pictures.....

Note the special Divorce fireworks package!  


And for when things work out a bit better and you have a big Announcement to make....


Shockingly they only sell two genders of the stuff, but I guess anyone who goes in for this sort of thing could mix up any variations that they felt were necessary.  One hopes, for the sake of everyone's ear drums, that nobody does this when expecting triplets and quads.

And of course as the 4th draws near we have the proliferation of fireworks stands and tents.  In Wisconsin there is this odd situation.  Other than puny stuff like sparklers and smoke bombs, fireworks are illegal to light off without a permit.  Heck, even transporting them without the proper paperwork is against the law.  But buying them?  No problem.  I suppose there is this implicit wink-wink that you are going to go right out and get a permit.  Sure you are.  Or drive to South Dakota where it is legal to put match to fuse.  It probably says something about our Revolutionary past and our attitude towards authority.


When speaking with friends over in the UK the subject of what Americans really want did come up.  I think the flag below gets it wrong....


Nah.  I don't think most of us insist on  boasting about America being On Top of the World.  Most of us just want to live our lives without being bothered unduly by assorted nonsense that sometimes includes the more petty aspects of government.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Photography Nuts and Bolts. With some actual nuts and bolts.

It is Off Season for robotics.  But there is always planning to be done.  One area where our team did not live up to previous accomplishments was on the Media/PR side.  It was expected......we had a very capable photographer/videographer who graduated, and when essentially rebuilding the team post Covid it was not an area we chose to emphasize.

But we will going forward.  Thanks to a nice grant for equipment we now have a good SLR camera that can shoot still or video, along with all manner of lens and filter options and a laptop dedicated to editing.  Of course this means many new things to learn, and while the kids are all off being sleep 'til noon idlers (as they should be) I'll try to pick up the rudiments.

So far I've figured out how to charge the batteries, turn it on, point and shoot.  So.....with this admittedly basic start, how much improvement in quality will we see?

I decided to try three options.  The new camera, my phone, and my travel camera.  I've tried to make it a fair challenge, same light, same subject, same minimal skill level.

This is a swerve drive gearbox system.  I put it on a weathered picnic table as a back drop.

First my travel camera.  This is a Panasonic Lumix TS25.  I carry it on expeditions because it is light weight and can be dropped, chewed on, covered with dust etc without making a fuss about it.  Picture One:


Note that I have not done anything with photo editing on this series so it is a bit washed out in bright sunlight.

Now my phone.  This is a four year old Motorola that I got mostly because of long battery life, not for any camera features.  Phones always have the advantage of convenience, and a picture you take that is not ideal is always better than the missed opportunity.


I think it is better.  Honestly I carry the travel camera more for its superior close up function which comes in handy when snapping small Roman artifacts.  Now, the SLR.  It is a Canon 250D with a standard lens.


Hmmmm.  Not that much different.  It did appear to be engaging an autofocus feature which has made the blue tread material less defined.  I have not figured out how to disengage that yet.

To be fair we are mostly expecting this to be a video camera and one used for event pictures where the telephoto lens will be in use.  Also to be fair I am at best a sloppy photographer who has so far just figured out where the ON switch is.

As I laboriously climb the steep learning curve I'll inflict a few more updates on you.


Maybe the SLR is significantly better.  When walking back to the house I encountered a cute bird sitting on the sidewalk.  Here's a point and shoot that turned out pretty well...




Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Strange Fish Geocache - Bull(is)head

Bit of an idle stretch of late.  And at such times I get around to one of my ongoing projects, the Strange Fish Geocache Series.  Its a spin off of my multi species fishing expeditions of the Covid era.  The premise is that I'll catch an odd, unloved fish species somewhere then put "the cache near the catch".  Setting out to catch a specific species is never fool proof, and there are not that many gaps in the map of local geocaches.  But I do have my moments.

Recently my attention wandered over to a body of water....well mostly mud and weeds but there is water there too....called Bullis Pond.  It supposedly is named after a large farm that occupied the area but is now entirely surrounded by commercial development.  At one end is a huge culvert that must channel run off water from an expansive parking lot around the local mall.  This is not good for water quality.  But here's a photo from better days...


Undated but the horse and wagon would seem to put it circa 1900.  And it must be early spring....I see a couple of kids goofing around out on the ice but also see grass growing up.  Oddly my hunt through early maps of the area does not show the pond at all.  Just not remarkable I guess.

Here's the site today,  roughly the same perspective.


I assumed there would be something living in there.  But my initial scouting trip was not encouraging.  Shallow.  Muddy.  Home to turtles and waterfowl.  Indeed, the pond might freeze to the bottom in particularly harsh winters and Lord knows what sort of chemicals run off that giant mall parking lot.  But still....

At least there is zero fishing pressure on this body of water.  In a few minutes I had on the line a mighty specimen that had never in its life seen a hook.  Behold.


Appropriate to Bullis Pond this is a Bullhead.  Specifically a black bullhead.  They tend to have variable color depending on their surroundings but generally are dark brown above and yellow below.  From what I've read they can't actually survive being frozen solid, but just about anything else won't bother them.  These are the cockroaches of the fish world.  Heat, low oxygen, salty run off....meh, no problem.  So an excellent choice for a Strange Fish geocache.  Now what do I have in stock that I can modify?

Bullheads are an odd shape, so most of the things I have lying around won't serve.  But I've done a few earlier Strange Fish using these earbud cases.  In fact I have one that was an earlier prototype for the Creek Chub container.


The color can be changed easily....its adding fins and such that is tricky.  As there will be inner waterproofing as well I decided I could buzz some slits in the top, put in fins and such made of thin polycarbonate, then glue them in with marine cement.  Here's how it looks with brown base layer bullhead paint job.


And with multi-hued bullhead paint.  Remember I'm not going for strict accuracy here.  A geocache should be whimsical, and should be hidden but not impossible to find.


I think the beady little eyes work nicely!  I still have to add "whiskers" and perhaps trim the tail a bit but this should be a worthy entry in the Strange Fish Series.


Monday, June 27, 2022

Tree Shaped Tombstones - Greenhead UK (Cumbria)

Part of my time in the UK was spent near a little hamlet called Greenhead.  There is not much there.  A hotel/pub that has regrettably gone Posh, a nice teashop, and of course a church and churchyard.

Here's a sort of tree form tombstone.  Like its US counterparts these tend to date to 1900 plus or minus a decade.


This was formerly a mining and farming community.  Large families.  Lots of children, lots of infant mortality.  Some of the tombstones give names, ages and sentiments of regrets.  Others such as this one, are rather stark and all the more poignant for it.



Friday, June 24, 2022

Sorta Like a Black Cat Crossing in front of you?

I was out for a walk yesterday and had this guy walk across the road in front of me.  What does it mean?  


Well I'm not particularly superstitious but I do think this is interesting in light of an upcoming appointment with my Investments Guy.  Bear market on the way?

It should be noted that while this is not an especially Large Bear it is a Bear that is Very Near.  

Make of it what you will. 


Wednesday, June 22, 2022

UK 2022 - Lead Mines and Pit Ponies

When overseas on excavating trips I always try to work in little expeditions on days off.  I mean, who really needs to rest and do laundry?  I'm fortunate to have friends of like inclination and we do have some interesting times.

On an "in between" weekend day in May I found myself trekking about with Kate and Bob in the hills near Alston.  The whole area is riddled with old lead mines and it was a fine trip walking the ridges above the River Nent.

There is a lot of interesting history associated with these mines...for me the most fascinating aspect is the 'pit ponies'.  These stumpy little critters spent much of their lives underground hauling pony sized carts of ore and rubble.  The last of them were only retired a few decades back.

Here is what seems to be a pony entrance to a mine complex.  These were usually at the bottom of the hills and went straight to the lower levels.


This one you could peer into a ways.  It seems to have a locked door, and if I have my locations down right it is still visited on occasion by people seeking unusual mineral specimens.  Crystals and such.


Here's a couple more entrances of similar dimensions.  The level of natural or man make blockade varies quite a bit.



There were also upper entrances to the mines.  These were straight shafts down from the higher points.  Men and sometimes ponies would be lowered down with winches.  As these are pretty severe hazards to sheep and cattle the efforts to block these are more deliberate.


A couple centuries of mining has interesting effects on the landscape.  Of course you see areas where mine collapse has caused big depressions in the surface.  Also areas where creeks and the river have been channeled and straightened to aid in ore washing.  But the most dramatic change is all the mine spoil that has been dumped everywhere.  This is not actually all that unsightly, and is fantastic habitat for rabbits.  In the loose dirt they dig bunny mega cities.


There was plenty to see, and a great deal more that calls for further exploration.  Here's a guide to the area that looks quite intriguing.

Signing off from England for another year.....