Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A sports story that will make you proud

An open letter to Bob Costas

Let me preface my remarks by saying that I think Bob Costas is the most intelligent announcer in sports or any other forum. He is, in my opinion, the very best there is when it comes to insight and perspective. he doesn't like fantasy football and resents the way that sports shows have started catering to the fantasy football crowd but everyone has their faults. That being said I would like to talk directly to him with an urgent appeal:

Stop dyeing your hair, Bob.

Listen, I know that there is pressure to remain young and youthful when you're on TV (and you're baby-faced to begin with) but you're not fooling anyone with that orange/rust color hair you were sporting last night on Costas Now. We made fun of Elvis when he did it, we still make fun of Jerry Lewis' pitch black head. Just don't do it. Or, if you're gonna do it, dye it blond so that it's obvious that you know you're not fooling anyone. The way it is now I'm afraid that you suddenly think that the viewers aren't quick enough to pick up on the fact that your hair has never been orange in the 30 years we've known you.

My hair is turning gray at an alarming rate but that's okay because I'm getting older. Let it go Bob. It's beneath you.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Shopping from A-XXL

Yesterday we went to Target, as we do every day and twice on weekends, and I bought some t-shirts and shorts. Why is this significant? Well, I'll tell you in a minute but first I want to point out that I bought three shirts, all XL and when I checked them at home they were three different sizes. As near as I can tell they are LG, XL, and XXL. Seriously, how bad is your quality control that only one shirt in three is the actual size printed on the label.

Anyway, the reason I'm telling you this is that I bought XL t-shirts for the first time in over a year (probably 2 or 3 actually). It's a great moment when you come down from the XXL mountain. let me tell you. First of all, you don't want to be extra, extra anything in life. Just one extra is fine. That's what extra is... more than enough. If you need more than more than enough you're already sliding into a dangerous territory. Plus, they charge you more for extra, extra. A $7.99 t-shirt is the same price be it small, medium, large or extra-large but go up to the extra, extra large and it's $9.99. That's a 25% markup for one size difference. It's like they have quite simply reached the breaking point on pricing. We can't go on! We simply must charge more money for your tent-sized outerwear you fat hump! As bad as it is that they charge the fat people more, it's worse for the small people because by that logic the small t-shirt should be $1.99. You're getting screwed, smalls. Fight the power! Raise up your little hobbit-sized appendages and unite for fair pricing you poor, poor deformed people.

I also bought some shorts, size 40. I was wearing 44's at one point and then my 42's starting falling off me so I've made the move. I actually threw out all my older shorts. I'm not looking back baby!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Why Hillary isn't a shit

It seems like everywhere you look now it's all about how Hillary Clinton should drop out of the race and let Obama seal the nomination. The fact is that she cannot overtake Obama in the delegate count and can only win if the super-delegates swing over to her. Many people say that the Democratic party will implode if the super-delegates dare to nominate someone who didn't win the popular vote. But the truth is a little more detailed. From Salon:

"If the Democrats heeded the "winner takes all" democracy that prevails in American politics, and that determines the president, Clinton would be comfortably in front. In a popular-vote winner-take-all system, Clinton would now have 1,743 pledged delegates to Obama's 1,257."

What the hell does that mean!? It's like this: In the Presidential election, whoever wins the state gets all the electoral votes from that state, despite the margin of victory( that's why Gore lost to Bush despite winning the popular vote). In the primaries, each state has their own system. For example, Hillary beat Obama in Nevada but she didn't get all the delegates because Nevada doesn't do winner-take-all. She also won the popular vote in Texas but didn't get all the delegates because Obama won the caucus. I don't even know what a caucus is..

So, what it comes down to is this: The screwed up rules that govern the primaries have allowed Obama to get delegates in some states that he wouldn't get if the state operated the same way as the rest of them ( the same way as the national election). These same screwed up rules allow the super-delegates to swing their votes to any candidate they choose. So, both sides are benefiting from using the rules to their advantage. I'm sure that Hillary would be more than happy to have the super-delegates vote with the popular vote if Obama would give her all the delegates in the states that she won because, if that were the case she would be in the lead.

I don't think that Hillary will be able to pull it off. But I don't blame her one bit for trying. The super-delegates are there for a reason. They are there for the very reason that they are now so crucial. Electoral math is a tricky game and the party wanted a group of people to have the power to swing the nomination based on the realities of the upcoming election, rather than the "will of the people." I know that sounds bad but under the stupid electoral system that we have, most people don't count. Obama won Idaho and Wyoming but both states will go to McCain in the fall. The fact that more democrats in those states like Obama then Hillary won't mean squat in the big show. Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida.... these are the states that could go either way in the general and in every one of them the voters have chosen Hillary over Obama. In polls in Florida, Ohio and Penn, Hillary beats McCain. In those same states, McCain beats Obama. This is why they have super-delegates. Ordinary voters vote for who they like. The super-delegates should vote for who can win.

Personally, I don't really care at this point. But, if by some freak chance the super-delegates do swing the nomination to Hillary there will be chaos, despite the fact that she clearly has the best chance to beat McCain. What will be sad is if they give it to Obama (which seems certain) and then he fails to deliver enough swing states to win. If that should happen, Hillary will join Gore on the pedestal of "I told you so" for the rest of her life.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Next week Tracy uses concentration camp victims to satirize workers in a pizza kitchen...

I like to think that I have a high tolerance for satire. In most cases when someone makes a joke about something that other people find in poor taste, I generally take the attitude that what really matters is, "Is it funny?" I've never really thought about where my personal line is on the issue. I don't know at what point I decide that something is inappropriate, sort of like the classic definition of porn: "I can't define it but I know where to hide it so, if I die, please never look in the garage behind the water heater."

The other night, Bobbi and I were watching Dancing with the Stars because Bobbi likes it and I like that girl with the moonpie face who dances with the Latin dude because she always wears a dress that shows her ass-crack (I call her "my Little moonpie-face-ass-crack girl). During the commercial I flipped over to Tracy Ullman's new HBO show and landed on a sketch about Jet Blue stranding people on the tarmac. At the end of the sketch the passengers on the plane got so fed up that they grabbed a drink cart and rammed the door with it, complete with a guy on his cellphone saying goodbye to his wife and Tracy saying, "Let's Roll!"

Now, I'm not a prude. I've never been a prude. I don't even like prude juice. But, did you really think it would be funny to satirize the Jet Blue incident by pretending to be the passengers of Flight 93? Really!? Do you really want to take the story of these people who died fighting for there lives on an airplane and turn it into a punchline?

You're better than that Tracy.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Veterans Ford Tampa part 3

I received comment on my last post today from the service manager at Veterans Ford:

It looks like the bass population is very healthy in your lake. All I can manage to catch for my 2 girls is a boatload of catfish.

I have a favor/request to ask: I am the Service Manager at Veterans Ford, and I came across a link which you posted back in March 2007(found during a Google search) about a poor sales experience. Since that time, we have gone through a bit if management/staff transition. I believe we have come a long way since then, but every day reveals more and more room for improvement. I'm asking if you would consider removing that link. If you don't I understand. I wanted to ask though.Happy fishing.If you need anything that I can assist with on the Service side, please contact me.


Here's a link to the post I made about my experience at the dealership. In fact, it was the second post and the first one was even more detailed but didn't contain the name of the dealership. I don't think he saw that one.

I don't feel right about removing the story because I just don't do that sort of thing unless my wife is threatening to withhold sex, in which case it's delete-city. However, I will say that the comment was first-rate and definitely impressed me. So, what I will do is go back to my previous post about Veterans Ford and insert a link to this post so that anyone who reads it can see that things may be quite a bit better at the dealership. If Brian is as courteous and concerned with his customers as he seemed to be in the comment he left then he is just the sort of person you want to deal with.

I thought about calling and discussing this with Brian but decided against it because despite the fact that I eventually bought my truck from another dealership, I have used Veterans Ford for my scheduled maintenance because they are very close to my wife's office. Unfortunately, when I took it in the first time I mentioned that the airbag light was on. When I picked it up the light was off and the order said that they had cleared the "DTC" (whatever that is) and the problem didn't recur. A week later it came back on again. The next time I took it in (Sept. 07') I mentioned the light was on again. When I picked it up, the light was off and the work order said it had been an open circuit that was repaired. Anyone want to take a guess about the status of the light now? If you said, "on" you're our winner! However, I don't hold the dealership responsible for this, I mean, you fix it, the light goes out, what more can you do? It's just annoying that the damn thing is on all the time because you are always afraid that maybe there is a real problem with the airbag.

The bottom line is that I would give Veterans Ford another try if I were looking to buy a new car thanks to Brian the Service Manager going the extra mile to write that comment. That, to me, shows pride in your reputation that usually means good customer service. Of course, Brian is in the service department and my problems with Veterans Ford were all in sales. I think if I were going to buy a car I would contact Brian and ask him to hand me off to a sales person who showed his level of proffesionalism.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The morning ritual

The girls have been asking for blueberry pancakes for the last week so I picked up some blueberry Eggo's at the grocery store. Eggo's are as close to pancakes as you're gonna get at 7:00 in the morning in our house. If you're lucky, they'll actually be toasted.

This morning, Mac woke up screaming at 5 a.m. and Bobbi eventually went in to get her to go back to sleep. I was a little groggy because, well, it was 5 a.m., but I think someone got sent to the mat as well, although I'm not sure who it was. I'm pretty sure it wasn't Bobbi.

By 6a.m. we had Sam in bed with us and Mac seemed to be on a quest to scream in every room in the house. She was just a wandering screamer, like nails on a chalkboard traveling from room to room. We have a monitor in her room so whenever she would get near it we got a nice surround sound effect because we could hear her voice coming from the door to our room and also from the monitor beside the bed. It's THX certified.

Finally, about 7 a.m. I had reached the breaking point. Sam was in the bed talking about blueberry pancakes and Mac was wandering aimlessly screaming "blueberry pancakes" at the top of her lungs. So, I jumped up and put both of them in their rooms. I shut the doors, came back to the bedroom and told Bobbi, "Turn off the monitor."

It got quiet for the first time in 2 hours and then Bobbi said, "Why are you so upset?"
"Because they have been screaming for 2 hours!" I said.
There was a pause and then Bobbi said, "But they weren't talking to you."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


"Bobbi! Get out here quick and bring the camera!"
"What the hell is that?" she says since all she can see is the gigantic head sticking out of the water.
"It's a bass!" I reply.

If you click on the picture it will enlarge. Click again and it will go to full size. Go ahead. I dare ya....

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Kids are funny because...

...when you ask them to quietly go and wake their sister, they tip-toe like a Bugs Bunny cartoon in complete earnestness.

Learning to pose

"Cross your arms," I said.
"Like a Super-Hero," she replied.

Building a home photography studio

Having read every blog post on the subject I could find, I set out to build my own home photography studio. I started out with a modest budget which doubled by the time I was through. However, I now feel confident that I have all the tools I need to do truly great work (well, I would like soft boxes, but more on that later). There are plenty of blogs out there that detail a home studio so I will just note some of the things I learned during the process:

4 lights, 4 stands
Not 2, not 3. I started with just two and soon discovered that you really need a background light if you want separation from the subject. So, I bought a reflector to use as my fill and discovered that I lost too much control. So, I bought a third light. Then, I went through the same process with a hair light and reflector. If I had to do it over again, I would just buy four lights to start with: main. fill. hair, background.

Light meter and grey card
These are essential if you want to get it right the first time. I will no longer even look at a picture I shot before these arrived.

I tried everything possible to get the hair light like I wanted it without buying a boom. It just doesn't work. Spend the money, buy the boom and be happy.

I really would like to have softboxes but shoot-through umbrellas do a good job and are cheaper. Plus, they are reversible for when you need to wash the whole scene.

Great for getting wrinkles out of your backdrop. The best $30 I spent.

This is a tough one for most. I spent $500 on a printer after sending my prints to four different processing services and having no two of them come back looking the same. It was a tough purchase that really pushed my cost up but now I can print up to 13'x19' prints on fine art paper that are perfect. It does you no good to spend all the time and money building a studio if some technician down at the lab gets the final say on what your prints look like. There is no substitute for controlling the process start to finish.

Paint Shop Pro
It ain't Photoshop but it's close and at a far better price. I already have experience with this program but if you are new to studio photography you need to be prepared to learn how to re-touch.

Light grids
Once you get them you won't know how you lived without them. A must for the hair light and background light.

How to get wrinkles out of muslin background

If you're wondering why the title of this post is so technical, it's so that people who type that phrase into Google might have an easier time finding this. Any other photographers out there facing my problem will appreciate this solution.
I bought a $30 steamer from Target this weekend and used it on one of my backgrounds and what a difference! As you can see in these before and after shots, it's sooo much better. (BTW, I'm aware that the shot of Sam is not a good one but such is the case when your model is 4 years old. She refuses to ever stand still long enough to get a good shot. My respect for children's photographers is limitless.)
I feel that everything is really starting to come together with the studio now. I have spent more money than I ever intended but I now finally have all the tools I need to take excellent portraits. I started out just wanting to take decent portraits but soon discovered that it's very frustrating to know you can do better if you just get the right equipment. In a later post I may detail all that I bought and why so that others thinking of doing a home studio will have some pointers. I know that I read every blog post on the subject that I could find.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Billy Bass

We live on a pond. It's a pretty good-sized pond (wraps around two sides of the house). It's not so big that you would put a boat on it but it would probably take you 30 minutes to walk around it. It's a golf-course pond but rumor has it that there are bass to be caught in it.

Last weekend, I went to Wal-Mart and picked up some fishing gear. Nothing fancy, just a small box and some worms and a few baits. I'm a bass fisherman, always have been. I don't like to use live bait. I much prefer casting for hours and getting absolutly no strikes. My dad, a master at the art of not catching fish, taught me his craft at a young age.

I've gone out to the pond a few times this week and tossed a few to no avail. Sam likes to go with me and I let her reel in the lures. I don't get to do much actual fishing when Sam is with me.

Today I decided to go out after the kids had gone to bed and see if sunset would draw any fish out to feed. I tried a white spinner bait and on my second cast hooked the biggest bass I have ever caught. Now, considering that I only caught two bass in all my years living in the Sportsman's Paradise it doesn't take a very big bass to be the biggest ever. Still, it had to run five pounds or more and was longer than my forearm. I managed to get it on camera video.


All That Jazz

The children (mostly Sam) now have me playing the guitar at least twice a week. Sam always wants to do "The Mookie Mookie Mookie Song." It's a simple song that basically involves me playing while they dance around like epileptics at a rave. Then, I'll stop playing suddenly and they'll freeze in place. Then I'll start again and the fits continue.

This fine example of energetic self-expression has led to other dances as well. Usually, after doing "The Mookie Mookie Mookie Song," Sam will want to do "The Mookie Mookie Mookie Girl Dance." This dance involves no less than three distinct moves (the moves change each time) which Sam demonstrates before the dance begins. Then, once the music starts, she quickly forgets her well-thought-out choreography and regresses into "The Mookie Mookie Mookie Dance."

A few minutes later it will be time for "The Mookie Mookie Mookie Boy Dance." More choreography, more forgetting choreography, more flailing and freezing.

It's a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Jo was commenting on the wonders of photoshop so I thought I might show a true before/after picture here. Since my wife will not allow me to show a "before" picture of her (It wouldn't do any good anyway because I never photoshop her portraits. Ever. She's perfect.) I will use one of me. I like to tell Bobbi that one picture shows what I look like and the other shows what I think I look like. The first picture is raw, just as it came out of the camera. The second one is retouched.
When you look at me, you see this:

When I look in the mirror, I see this:

Fact #19

If the UPS website says that your package went on the truck for delivery at 7:00 a.m. you will be getting it around 6:00 p.m.

Improv Everywhere

I've always liked the idea behind this group. They stage public things just for the sake of doing it and some of them are quite funny. However, this one is the best so far because they went so far as to even get the Goodyear Blimp to participate.

I'm an idea man, Chuck...

Lately, I have been teaching Sam some sign language. She already knows her letters pretty well so I've been adding some basic words (boy, girl, beer..). I feel confident that she will soon be able to say, "No I will NOT brush my teeth" without actually speaking.

It must be tough to be the parent of a deaf child because everytime they interupt what you're doing to tell you something (which is about once every 22 seconds by my calculation) you have to actuallly pay attention to them. It's not so easy to just brush them off with a word or two (without looking away from the computer screen) when you actually have to face them and use your hands to say, "No, I don't know what we're having for lunch but I'm sure it won't be ice cream."

At lunch the other day my sister commented that some schools let you take American Sign Language as a second language. I then remebered that ASL is the most widely used language in the world. No matter where you live, if you are deaf, you use ASL. This is because sign language doesn't convey words, it conveys meaning (you point at your ear for "hear" or "listen..").

So, here's my idea. Why not make ASL required at every college in the world. No matter where you live, if you go to college you must take two semesters of ASL. Think of what it would mean! You could go anywhere in the world and talk to any other college graduate regardless of their native language! Why learn French or Arabic when you could just learn ASL and talk to people who hate you in both countries?

Ideally, you would teach it in grade school and reinforce it a little each year. Eventually, any person in the world who had gone to school would be able to communicate to every other person.

Monday, April 07, 2008

He was only 44 years old....

I was playing golf on Saturday and when I got to the 7th hole I was 1 under par. I had just birdied two holes in a row with a 60-ft chip-in and a 25-foot putt. I was shooting the lowest score for 9 holes in my life. Then, on the 7th hole I lost 3 balls and shot +5.

As I stood there on the green, frustrated beyond belief at having monumentally choked, I looked around. It was a nice day with a slight breeze and the birds were chirping. I was so mad at myself for blowing a rare opportunity. So mad that I wouldn't get to spend the rest of the day in a great mood because I shot so well. It's nice to have a little pick-me-up like that. Then it hit me: Hank Murphy is dead.

Hank and I worked together at ABC Radio in the 90's. Hank was part-time because he had a good career in telecomunications but just couldn't stay away from radio. You see that a lot, guys with good jobs who will work on Christmas just to stay on the mic.

He was a conservative and we used to argue politics. We played golf a few times and for years I used a divot tool that I won from him in a friendly wager. One time he got into an argument with a group behind us that was hitting into us. For a second I actually thought it would come to blows and at one point Hank had his phone out threatening to call the police. It was pretty funny in retrospect.

We used to call him a "mover and a shaker." He always seemed to be in a hurry... always had something to do, somewhere to go. I liked him. He was always up for a good conversation and he never seemed to hold a grudge if you didn't agree with him (which is important if you are talking to me). After I moved to Tampa we kept in touch because I built a website for him. It was nothing but pictures of his little girl and it wasn't until my first daughter arrived that I understood why he took so many. Bobbi met him once when he was on a business trip to Orlando and drove down to visit us for the evening.

He got cancer a few years ago and it finally took him last week.

I stood on that green and I looked around and thought about my old friend Hank and how much I wished he could be there with me. We'd have a lot to talk about, him and me. But now he's gone and lately I can't look at my own girls without thinking about his daughter, just two years older than Samantha. I guess that's Hank's legacy to me. Maybe I'll stop and look around a little more. Maybe I'll hug a little longer. I just wish he could have taught me that lesson without such a high price.

Paint Shop Pro FTW

My cousin, Jo, (who actually is my cousin's wife but I've decided to just call her my cousin from now on because it's easier) commented on the picture of Bobbi that I posted so I thought I would post the update. I spent a great deal of time this weekend working on what I call "The Playboy Look." That is, getting skin tones on women so smooth that they almost look painted without actually looking painted. Here's the latest result. It's not a dramatic step up from the last photo but I believe it will print better. Also, I colored Bobbi's lips just for fun.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

What a difference $20 makes...

I got two packages from the postman today. The first was my new light meter. It's much easier to set up my shots now because the meter will tell me exactly what f-stop to set my camera at. Also, it's easier to set up the key/fill ratio when you can meter each one separately. I hesitated on the purchase because a good one costs almost $200 and the really good ones are over $300 (I got a "good" one...).

The other package was a white balance card. It only cost $20 but boy, what a difference. Now that I have these two tools, I know that my shots will be at the right exposure and the right color balance. This is huge because otherwise you have to spend 20 minutes on each picture adjusting these things and you are never really sure that they're right. The picture at left has no color, brightness or saturation adjustments by me at all. It's the first picture I have taken since I started that came out of the camera exactly right. I can't tell you how many pictures I have adjusted the color on only to re-adjust a day later and again the day after that. It's much better if I keep my hands out of changes that affect the entire color scheme of the photo. If you scroll down and look at the other shots I have posted lately you'll see the difference. Looking at the last picture of Bobbi I can see now that there is too much red. If I took that picture now I wouldn't have that problem. I really think that everything is starting to come together now and I'm ready to start doing some shooting. Now I just need models....

I also ordered a new printer yesterday because my old one is about dead. Of course I had to order an Epson photo printer. Remember when I mentioned that i was going to send some test photo's off to different processors and see what came back? Well, what came back was four sets of photo's with no two color balanced the same. Screw that, I'll spend the extra money on a good printer and do it myself.

Note: There were a few cosmetic things I did but only because Bobbi was tired and wearing no makeup. I don't have any qualms about doing a little retouching on a photo because in the days before Photoshop you would have a makeup artist on the set. Also, you don't get your wife to model for you much if you don't make sure she comes out looking good. Not that she needs my help to look good. Now I'm digging a hole....

My favorite April Fool's jokes on the web

World of Warcraft introduces a new character class

Muppett outakes (if you don't know why this is funny, go here)


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