Sunday, February 27, 2005

Weekend roundup

Xmas is officially over. Saturday I got my last hold-out present. It was from the girl, her dad (in a roundabout way) and the US Government. I got a fancy new Sigma 70-200mm zoom lens. It's light-years above my existing el-cheapo zoom. I had been debating and considering and reading about and comparing the lens for a couple of weeks. Saturday came, and I made my desision to get it. A quick trip to Rockville (the lens was lightly used and posted on CraigsList) an exchange of a couple of bucks, and she's mine.

To celebrate the new addition, the girl and I decided to head to the Eastern Shore for a mini, one-nighter vacation. There's a place calle Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, MD and word on the net is that Bald Eagels are plentiful there. We made the 2 hour drive, found the refuge and (I) spent a few hours snapping off frames. The results are amazing (Technologically speaking. There's no help for my technique).

I'll spare most of the boring details about shooting everything that moved over the weekend, and I'll jump to the part where I blew two really great shots, ok? Cool. I got kinda pissed when it happened, but since this is becoming a regular thing for me, I figured I may as well share.

The refuge is a driving loop of maybe 4 miles. So I would crawl through it in the car at about 15mph, peering into the trees, hoping to see an eagle close enough for my 200mm lens to capture (for reference, 400mm is usually considered the bare minimum for shooting birds, and I saw a couple 500mm and 600mm lenses with 2x extenders in use, so essentially the shooters were using 1000mm and 1200mm lenses). Anyway, on about my 20th loop Saturday, I come upon the eagle nest box just off the road and *finally* there's a friggin' eagle on it (the first 19 trips there was nuthin'). So I slowly stop the car, quietly open the door, remove my camera, remove my tripod, walk around to the back of the car, set down the tripod and look up to see the all-too-familiar scene of a bird's ass as he's flying off into the distance. Prick. So to continue the "imagination-photography" aspect of my blog:

Annoying, right? Well, it gets better. So I'm doing my laps today. And I'm crawling along, peering off over the water looking for eagles in the solitary, tall, dead trees that they like. I decide to pull over and get out to to take a better look. I stop the car, open the door, and not 30' from me a *huge* eagle takes flight. He was in the tree just in front of where I stopped the car, and I was so busy looking out to my left, I never even saw him. Again, use your imagination:

(Note: all imagination-photography pictures are to scale. Where the red circles are is the space that would have been taken up by the absentee bird(s)).

So I missed the big game-winning, frame-filling shot, but I did get almost 2GB of other shots. I'm going through them now and will probably post a bunch on my new account. I figure I'll post the let's-all-laugh-at-gary's-missed-shots here on the blog, my favorite/artsy shots on, and the stuff that falls somewhere in the middle on pbase.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Ultimate Spin?

Heard this on the news this morning:

Since 1999, AT&T has avoided paying about $500,000,000.00 (five hundred million dollars) in calling card fees which it should be paying to local phone companies (the details are complicated, Google it if you want more). Anyway, their arguement is that they *used to* pay the fees but since 1999 people using the cards have been hearing advertisements every time they placed a call. This makes AT&T an information service and therefore exempt from the fees.

I love big business.

Full (short) writeup here: (I tried to pick the least intrusive site I could, so I skipped the Wash Post and a few others and went with this source).

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

So wrong

There's something very wrong with Microsoft licensing Kurtis Blow's song "Basketball" to sell their MSN Search. I bet none of them Seattle whities ever heard that song before their ad company bought it for them.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Try, try again

So Monday, I figured "if you can't go find wild animals in the wild to take photos of, go somewhere the poor bastards can't get away from you". So that's just what I did.

The girl and I spent the early part of the day at the National Zoo in DC, tho I'm not much a fan of large sized captive animals (they always look bored and sad to me). I had to do what I could to get some interesting pix, damnit. As a form of protest, we didn't spend any money there all day (and that had *nothing* to do with the $2.50 20oz bottled water, I swear).

I tried my hand at shooting photos of critters behind glass in the reptile house, but found that that was infinitely harder than expected. The shots came out like crap. I got maybe one good one out of 20.

Outside I did a bit better, tho on closer inspection at home later, I decided that I *really* need a better lens than my $129 70-300mm zoom.

Anyway, I was able to get a couple of ok shots of one of the pandas (which I'll post later) and the new cheetah cubs:

as well as some elephants and other random creatures. I'll post process and see what I have that's worth sharing either here, or on

For any other photographer types reading, I also learned that tripods are allowed in the zoo (at least the outside areas). I assumed they weren't, so I only took my monopod (which didn't help my images at all).

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Third time is evidently no chram after all

Saturday I went out to Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria to try and find interesting things to shoot. Ha. No such luck. I'm 0-for-3 lately. I hiked about 4 miles and didn't see much interesting. Some weird small spotted woodpecker (who looked nothing at all like Woody Woodpecker). A bunch of red-winged blackbirds. Some crows. And a hawk, but he was way too far off in the distance for me to get pictures of. Oh well. I may go to the zoo tomorrow and see what I can get.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Dear Santa...

After that last downer of a post, and for no other reason than the *drool* factor, I figured I'd make a quick post about the most insane lens for Canon cameras. The 1200mm f5.6L USM lens. I made a reference to it in an earlier post, but decided to do a little digging for fun. Here's what I found:

A DPReview discussion about the lens.

A writeup by a guy who had the opportunity to play with one at the 2002 Olympics.

An airliner photography page. Scroll down about halfway to see a couple of shots of the lens with a little teeny DSLR camera hanging off of it.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Semi-instant Karma

Editor's note: This is not a happy story. And I use the word "fuck" a lot. You have been warned.

"Mom Charged in Pet Arson That Killed Kids"

Since the story is copyrighted and all, I'll just re-tell it:

Stardate 1990: This fucking idiot woman had two kids (toddlers) and a dog. One of the kids was allergic to the dog, so the fucking idiot woman "tried to get the dog to run away", which didn't work out. So then she drove the dog "several miles" from home and abandoned it (evidently Pittsburgh has exactly zero dog pounds/humane societies/animal shelters). Unfortunately (for the dog) he found his way home. So then this fucking idiot woman and her fucking idiot friend douse the dog in gasoline and set it on fire. (Nice. If I were king of the world, an application of Hammurabi's law would be meeted out right about here and this story would have a semi-happy ending). The flaming dog, in a last ditch attempt to avenge it's own horrible death, runs into the house and sets it on fire, which ends up killing this fucking idiot woman's two kids. Payback's a bitch, huh.

So, I suppose I shouldn't make jokes about Darwin cleaning out the gene pool or anything. But I really can't help it.

As for the latest chapter of this sorry tale...Stardate 2005: the fucking idiot woman has *finally* been charged with criminal homicide in the deaths of her two kids and is facing prison time. Better late than never, I guess. They ought to tack on an animal cruelty charge too.

If you still haven't heard enough, Google News Search to the rescue.

And for a more funner take, read the Fark comments on the story. User comments are always a hoot.
Irony (iro·ny (n))

"MANASSAS, Va. (AP) - A woman convicted of animal cruelty after an emaciated pit bull was discovered eating at the carcass of another dog in her backyard was sentenced Monday to two days in jail."


"She said she was angry that the city took Big Daddy [her other pitbull] from her and now wants to euthanize him."


"I love my dogs to death," she said after the hearing.
You know what I hate?...

Product placement in TV news programs. Does my local Fox morning news think I give a flying f*ck what happened on the last episode of "American Idiot"? They must, because they keep telling me about it each morning. Does my local NBC affiliate think anything in my world will change if I don't know who got voted off of Survivor the previous night? It won't. (And I know what you're going to say about expecting great things from Fox news. But it's the only station showing local news that I can get on the rabbit-ears-antenna-havin' TV in my bedroom).

It would be one thing if they were reporting on "entertainment news". I could almost forgive that (tho, in my opinion "news" should be stuff that has an impact on the world/nation/community. "Entertainment" and even "sports" for the most part shouldn't count. But each local network has a strange way of only reporting on the "entertainment" value of their own programs.

Please stop.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Met up with DT, Jason (DiscoCowboy), and Steve (www.i' last night. They were kind enough to invite me along on their new weekly Swill ride. Basic premise: ride, drink, ride, end. The week before, they did about 40 miles out to Old Dominion Brewery and back. This week, we started in Falls Church and rode into Founder's bar in Alexandria. It was only about 15 miles each way, but by the time we got to the bar, I was done. I tried a couple of new beers, ate a burger, and called the girl to come rescue me (thanks again baby). Yep, I bailed. I can blame it on the cold I'm coming off of. Or blame it on the hills through Roselyn (I did a 20 miler' a few weeks back with DT without problem). But the bottom line is that I need to get my fat ass out and ride more often. Even with the guys holding back for me, I was playing boat anchor the whole time. Thanks for taking it easy on me!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Shooting Spree Continued

After the failed attempts at nature photography Sunday monrning, I had hoped to do some street shooting in the afternoon at a Chinese New Year celebration ('s a Washington Post link, so beware of lack of Firefox support, stupid registration and annoying pop-ups) in Washington DC. The celebration was supposed to run between 2pm and 6pm and include dancers, drummers, fireworks and a parade.

It had to have been one of the most poorly put together celebrations I'd ever seen in DC. When we arrived at about 3pm, we had already missed the parade (???) and some other big-ticket (if you will) performances. Very annoying, especially since none of the 3 announcements that I read made specific mention of the time of the parade. They all just said "from 2-6pm".

The performances that we hand't missed were happening at street-level, so unless you were one of the first 4 people surrounding it, you couldn't see anything. Furthermore, there was a DC Department of Parks mobile stage thing set up just behind the performers, but it was used for VIP seating, instead of the performances themselves. There were hundred of kids there who couldn't possibly have seen much interesting. Dumb setup.

So, I spent the afternoon trying to find interesting candids to snap (since seeing the performers was out of the question). I managed to get a few that might be ok,

but overall it was a very disappointing camera day.
Shooting Spree

Up early Sunday morning to try my hand photographing birds at Dyke Marsh in Alexandria (see also the Friends of Dyke Marsh site). It amazes me how in this area we manage to cram a "wildlife sanctuary" on a narrow strip of land, between a 4 lane highway and a river, but I digress.

Got to the park with only a general idea of where the trial was so I had to wander a bit. Eventually found the path and headed off along the river. about a mile into the walk (not having seen anything interesting) I met a woman who was out birding. We talked for a minute and she told me about an adult Bald Eagle sitting in a tree, further down the path. She was actually able to point it out to me since the path curved around on itself. Cool! That's something I don't get to shoot every day. I thanked her and headed off down the trail at a faster pace, wanting to get to the bird before he decided to leave.

I was able to keep an eye on him as I walked, tho he was too far away to shoot (damn...where's that 1200mm lens* when I need it? . When I finally rounded the last corner, it was amazing. About 100 yards away, across a marshy part of the river was the Eagle, maybe 60' up in a tree...practically posing. Well within range of my crappy 300mm lens.

He didn't look like he was the least bit concernd with my presence. Good. The camera was mounted on my tripod, which i carried bazooka style over my shoulder. I quietly approached the edge of the marsh and set the tripod down. I look up, ready to frame my shot:

Notice anything missing? Yeah, you got it. An Eagle. As I set my tripod down and took my eyes off of him for 1/10th of a second, he split. I caught a glimpse of him soaring majestically off over the river, but since my camera was locked to my tripod, I wasn't even able to get a picture of that. Dumbass bird. So I stood around in 34* temps for another hour, hoping he'd return with a clawful of fish. But he never showed.

I ended up heading home having shot exactly one photo (seen above). Oh well. 0 for 1 on the day. Maybe the Chinese New Year celebration in DC later in the day would prove more fruitful...

* (Semi-interesting side note regarding the Canon 1200mm's available only via special order and is rumored to cost about $60,000. Drool.)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The girl kicks ass!

Got a little present at work today by way of

The girl bought me two six-packs of New Belgium Brewery's Fat Tire Amber Ale. A tasty amber (complete with bicycle theme), almost never found east of the Mississippi (at least not that I've found). In fact, after hearing about it for a couple of years, my first encounter with it was a few months ago in San Francisco. I can see why those westerners want to keep it for themselves.

It wasn't a particularly cheap gift (as far as beer goes). I think the shipping cost more than the $16 beer. Ah well. A worthy investment, I say. 1 given to the boss. 2 consumed with dinner. 9 left. Man, they don't last long, do they? make reference to a couple of other dangerous creatures, but they don't seem to have them for sale currently. Might be something to keep an eye on for future purchases.

Thanks baby.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Good news!

The state in which I live (Virginia) has evidently solved every other crime ever committed here, and therefore has time to devote to making droopy-drawers illegal, so they'll have something to do to keep busy! Man, I feel safer already. I hate this state.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Way to go Chicago. Copyright public art in a public park, funded by city money (taxes, I'm guessing) and forbid pro photographers from taking pictures of it. Somehow, that doesn't seem very fair.

You hassling *me*, Sparky?

I'm home sick today (dampening my usual chipper mood), but I had to run up to CVS for some meds and other essentials. I decide to take a quick detour to the Micro Center which is in the same mini-mall. I couldn't bear rushing back home for more daytime TV.

The trip went well, as my letter to the store manager and corporate HQ will show...

February 8, 2005

Store Manager, Micro Center
3089 Nutley Street
Fairfax, VA 22031

Dear Sir or Madam,

Today, 02/08/2005, at about 2:00pm as I attempted to leave your store, I was harassed by a scruffy-looking, bearded, disheveled man who claims to be an employee of yours in some way.

As I stood in the checkout line for approximately 5-10 minutes with my purchases, I witnessed a woman attempt to leave after checking out at another register. She set off the security alarm. The employee who checked her out went over, walked her package through the alarm and set it off again. Satisfied that the customer had not stolen anything, the employee apologized, gave the customer her package and went back to her register.

A moment later, a male customer attempted to leave after checking out at a different register (perhaps the customer service desk). He too set off the alarm. As he attempted to continue out the door, a scruffy-looking, bearded man (wearing no store identification or uniform) stopped him and told the customer that he had to go back to the register at which he checked out. I then heard the customer say "are you an employee here" and "can I see some identification". The scruffy looking man replied that he "helps with security at the store". The customer then said "'helping with security' and working here are two different things". The customer then began (unhappily) making his way back to the register at which he checked out originally.

At this time, I had finished checking out (after spending my $130). As I walked through the door, I too set off the alarm. The scruffy-looking man, who at this time was walking through the entrance area, towards the returns area, stopped walking, turned to face me, and told me I had to go back to the register. Having just watched the confrontation between the scruffy-pseudo-employee and the male customer, and knowing that I hadn't stolen anything, I said "I'm not going back anywhere. I just stood here and watched three people in a row set off that security alarm. It seems to me there's a problem with the alarm". I then continued out towards my vehicle. At this, he began following me, still going on about me having to go back. I again said "I'm not going anywhere". He then said "that's fine, I'll just follow you to your car and take down your tag number". I said "you can take down whatever you want". I then proceeded to my truck, got in, waited for him to get out from behind my vehicle (as he was blocking my exit while he took down my license plate number), and drove away.

I live less than a mile from your store. I shop there pretty frequently. I have never been harassed in this manner by a person claiming to represent a company before. And I want to make damn sure it never happens again. I refuse to shop in businesses where I'm made to feel like a criminal and followed out to my vehicle by someone who can't even truthfully call himself an employee. This is OUTRAGEOUS! I'm writing this letter to the store manager, the corporate headquarters (assuming I have the address below correct), and I'm posting it on my blog. If I can save my friends from being harassed at your stores, I'm happy to do it.


Gary Ryan

Micro Center
Customer Service
4115 Leap Road
Hillard, OH 43026

Corporate Headquarters

I've got two copies printed out. Nothing spurs people to action more than actual letters written on actual paper, sent through the actual mail, with a real, live stamp stuck on them. Mom showed me that a long time ago, and it's even more true now in our instant-gratification-email-based world. Thanks mom.

You already know how I don't like being hassled by store door-jockeys trying to search my shit after I've made a purchase. And I'm damn sure not taking this shit. It seriously took a bit of self-control not to spin around and deck this guy while he was following me to my truck. Tho, I guess if he "sorta" works there...I know where to find him after his shift ends :)

Monday, February 07, 2005

I hate to say "I told you so"...

Ah screw it, who am I trying to I don't. I love it.

"President George W. Bush will seek deep cuts in farm and commodity programs in his new budget and will propose overall limits on subsidy payments to farmers, administration officials said over the weekend"

"Thanks for voting for me, middle America. Now go f*ck yourself!"



Friday, February 04, 2005

Missed anniversary

Well, I totally forgot to mark an anniversary last month. Luckily, the only person who could get pissed at me about forgetting is me, and I'm pretty forgiving.

January 2000 - I quit smoking.

January 2005 - I'm still not smoking.

So I'm 5 years clean and sober (err..."sober" might be a bit strong of a word) and I'm really very happy about it.

According to the timeline for post-smoking recovery goes something like this:

• Blood pressure drops to normal
• Pulse rate drops to normal
• Body temperature of hands and feet increases to normal

• Carbon monoxide level in blood drops to normal
• Oxygen level in blood increases to normal

• Chance of heart attack decreases

• Nerve endings start regrowing
• Ability to smell and taste is enhanced

• Circulation improves
• Walking becomes easier
• Lung function increases up to 30 percent

• Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath decrease
• Cilia regrow in lungs, increasing their ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce infection
• Body's overall energy increases

• Excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker

• Lung cancer death rate for an average former smoker (one pack a day) decreases by almost half
• Stroke risk is reduced to that of a non-smoker five to 15 years after quitting
• Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, and esophagus is half that of a smoker's

My future milestones include:

• Lung cancer death rate is similar to that of a non-smoker
• Precancerous cells are replaced
• Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, cervix, and pancreas decreases

• Risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker

Yay for me! Ok, enough self-serving babble.
Oh, and...

Another milestond (as such). My little ego-stroking Blog counter thing (over there on the right) is up over 1000. Guess I can quit hitting "Refresh" now.


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

State of the Moron

Is it really necessary to have a standing ovation at the end of every sentence? Really? Granted, it's probably more exercise than most of these Congress people have had in a long time.
New pic up

Posted (to a better pic of the Mourning Dove from the other day.
So simple

I saw this in a Slashdot comment, and was immediately embarrassed that it had never occurred to me before. It's so simple:

"'Terrorism' is today what 'Communism' was in the 50's".

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

This just in from the "AAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!" department

This flat-out scares the shit out of me.

U.S. students say press freedoms go too far

Here are a more articles on it from Google News.

I may have been kidding about leaving the country when Bush 2.0 "won" his second term, but I seriously have to be out of here before these little freaks come into any kind of power.
Why I love NPR

1) No commercials
2) Smarter reporting
3) More in-depth stories (tho this gets a little old when the story is a 20 minute report on the 'Great Gouda Cheese Shortage in Katmandu in 1978'. But still).
4) Today (2/1/05), they told me it was Exene Cervenka's birthday. (She's one of the singers for the seminal punk band X (and also Mrs. Viggo "Aragorn" Mortnesen)).

How many local "rock", "modern rock" or "alternative" radio stations do you think will even mention this little tidbit? My bet is 0. Would that number have changed if WHFS was still around? Nope.

Ooh, the birthday thing also means that my kid shares a birthday with Exene. Pretty cool! (Side note: I'm now officially the parent of a teenager, god help us all). I only share my birthday with Einstein. He's OK, but not very punk.
*My hero*

(Props to DT for the link. I reprinted it here since you never know how long these news stories will stay up in the original location).

Man peed way out of avalanche

A Slovak man trapped in his car under an avalanche freed himself by drinking 60 bottles of beer and urinating on the snow to melt it.

Rescue teams found Richard Kral drunk and staggering along a mountain path four days after his Audi car was buried in the Slovak Tatra mountains.

He told them that after the avalanche, he had opened his car window and tried to dig his way out.

But as he dug with his hands, he realised the snow would fill his car before he managed to break through.

He had 60 half-litre bottles of beer in his car as he was going on holiday, and after cracking one open to think about the problem he realised he could urinate on the snow to melt it, local media reported.

He said: "I was scooping the snow from above me and packing it down below the window, and then I peed on it to melt it. It was hard and now my kidneys and liver hurt. But I'm glad the beer I took on holiday turned out to be useful and I managed to get out of there."

Parts of Europe have this week been hit by the heaviest snowfalls since 1941, with some places registering more than ten feet of snow in 24 hours.