Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Odds and Ends

ODD:
An envelope came in the mail for my Mom yesterday with this enticing blurb on the outside:

Huh. Sooooo. That really makes me want to look inside. And the font. It says "feminine hygiene product" to me.

And if it's Free, then why is it also Pre-Paid? That seems fairly redundant.

OK, so looking inside, I find not only is it Free and Pre-Paid, but you get to WIN it! Later on in the flyer they call it a "pre-need cremation plan." Frankly, I'd rather not cremate my Mom before she needs it.

ENDS:
At work the other day, I found a dried up spider egg sack complete with deceased spider inside a clear acrylic sign holder. My co-worker and I found it pretty fascinating. I mis-used taxpayer funded equipment to scan both sides of the acrylic. You can't really see from these pictures, but in addition to the dead adult, there are several dessicated little spider babies, too. It's kind of like one of those ant farm dealies where they run around sandwiched between two panes of glass so you can see what they're up to. Except with a lot less scurrying.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Pick Your Prez, Not Your Nose

Having trouble deciding between Ron Paul and Barak Obama? This handy website will help! View candidate's responses to issue questions without knowing whose responses they are. Agree and Disagree with 10 categories of questions, and then check your results at the end. You aren't given an answer: "Vote for Joe!", but you are given a run down of how much you agreed and disagreed with each candidate.

This didn't end up helping me, as Clinton and Obama came out equally agreeable for me. Since I couldn't go to a caucus, and since voting on the 19th apparently doesn't count for Democrats (it's an advisory vote), I guess it doesn't matter too much.

Make sure to do the quiz all in one sitting, because if you go in and out or back and forth, the questions get all shuffled, so you can't just go back and mark ADAAADA on a particular issue's screen that you think you already sorted out.

Have fun!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Camera Incura Adora

I have an incurable crush on -- my new camera! I got a Sony Cybershot DSC-H9. I'm having lots of fun playing with it and learning all of its tricks. I wanted to be really familiar with it before I go to Ecuador in March. I'll be going for 2 weeks to see my Mom; my sister-in-law Colleen and my nephews Ian and Julian will also be there visiting. I can't wait!

Meanwhile, I've been testing it out on Bijou, JoJo, and the birds in the backyard. Here's a straightforward one of Bijou, and a nice close-up of some bun-tocks:



















The camera has a very nice movie function. My old camera would only do 30 seconds a pop, so if the action didn't happen in 30 seconds, I didn't get it. Now I can let "tape" roll until I get what I want! I've been wanting to capture a nice bun-flop, and the other night I got two that I would rate about a 5 on a 10 point Olympic scale. Not JoJo's best work, but still cute. The second one has an appropriate voice over from the PBS show I was watching, Pioneers of Television: Late Night.


Today was the first really beautiful Spring-ish day, and all three of us girls enjoyed hanging out in the back yard while I waited for photo ops. JoJo does a great job with the screen pet-door, and then after much grass munching she did a very small binky and a sprint.


I was able to use my absolutely amazing new 15x macro on my camera to capture a really nice close-up of one of "my" Anna's hummingbirds. I love this photo! My new camera has a repeater setting, where you can hold down the button and take a rapid succession of photos. I tried that with the hummer and got about 30 so-so pictures, but this one on the right was taken as a regular one-off shot. I wonder if the repeater shakes the camera a little, or if I just got really lucky with the clarity on this one.

I also took a brief video of the hummer. The videos lose clarity getting them on the web. They're really amazing my own computer!


We occasionally have a hawk visit us in the back yard. We keep an eye out for hawks, since they may find JoJo to be a tasty tidbit. This one looked a little small, and we think he may be a sharp-shinned hawk. I got a photo of his back, and then some video of him just looking around. Today I saw a mob of crows chasing him out of the neighborhood.

Monday, February 11, 2008

NestCam

I finally got my NestCam up and running! Several days ago I installed the teeny tiny camera into the nest box. Today I finished tacking up and trying to hide the cable around the yard and house. It's not too ugly, but I could definitely work on hiding it better later in the year when it's nicer to be outside. The worst of it was fighting my way through a pretty thick jasmine vine. I went to BuyMore and bought a nifty little adapter which takes the ordinary A/V input from the camera and immediately digitizes it. If I want, I can let the capture go on for 16 hours! I figure once I start seeing activity around the nest, I'll turn it on in the days, and then trim out the good parts at night. I can't wait!

I did a little test run of the camera. For some reason the audio isn't working yet on my NestCam, but I have some ideas to try. Meanwhile, here's my first bird. I used SloMo because the birdie moved too fast.

video
For those of you interested in maybe doing this yourself, here's the equipment so far:
  • Bird house
  • Night Owl Spy Cam, available from many sites. The cam comes with 100 feet of cable, and you can buy 100 ft extensions. You can also buy a cam already installed in a birdhouse. The house looks pretty big, and the hole looks big enough for you to get sparrows and the like in the house. You might want to put a smaller hole covering on the front (and no perch!), if you want small birds like chickadees or wrens.
  • Dazzle DVD recorder. This has a regular video input and an S-Video input. It also has L and R Audio inputs. I'm thinking this may be why I have no sound, since the bird cam only has one audio jack. I tried each input, but no sound. Maybe they don't work at all if there isn't something plugged into both. I'm going to buy a splitter and see. You need USB 2.0 inputs for this to work on your computer. [update: the sound is just fine! It turns out I was having issues with my computer's sound settings. The video above still doesn't have sounds, but my real birdie videos will. I'll get a splitter anyway so that the sound comes out of both speakers.]
  • I've already got video editing software on my computer, and I think any kind will do. You can get a more expensive Dazzle thingy that comes with editing software, if you need to.
You need to consider how you are going to get the cable in your house, too.

Now hopefully some birds will move in! It would be very sad if they didn't. :<

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hey Baby, What's Your Book?

A short little quiz will determine your psyche as if you were a book. I took the quiz and ended up being pegged as war prose. This book is about Vietnam war soldiers:




You're The Things They Carried!


by Tim O'Brien

Harsh and bitter, you tell it like it is. This usually comes in short,
dramatic spurts of spilling your guts in various ways. You carry a heavy load, and this
has weighed you down with all the horrors that humanity has to offer. Having seen and
done a great deal that you aren't proud of, you have no choice but to walk forward,
trudging slowly through ongoing mud. In the next life, you will come back as a water
buffalo.

Strangely accurate. Especially today, when Michael and I are on our 7th day of being sick. Bleh.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Signs of Spring

Not much has been happening in life lately, so I really haven't had anything to post about. But SPRING is coming, and that's got me excited. One of the reasons I love living in Seattle is that the signs of Spring start so early.

My blue stars and some protected daffodils have been blooming for weeks. Snowdrops are just showing themselves, and many bulbs have been poking themselves through the soil.

This morning the resident flicker started hammering on our metal chimney like he does every year. For the next month or so we'll be awakened by his jack hammering every morning.

The Bewick's wrens have been inspecting their old nest box. Last year there was a bit of contention between the chickadees and the wrens for the nest box, so this year I added an extra one. It's in a very sheltered spot and kind of hidden, so I've hung some suet there to attract birds to the area.

I ordered a small video camera to put in the original nest box. I'm pretty excited! It's not wireless, though, so I've got to figure out how to get the input all the way into my computer. I might need a wireless transmitter/receiver adapter, if it's not too expensive. The camera was a deal at $60 from Cooper Seeds.

We've had a long cold winter of pretty consistent gray days and temps staying in the upper 30s and lower 40s. Nothing terrible, but I'm looking forward to some warm sunshine.