Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday Lights

A bit more practice with the new Canon S 90. I've been very happy with the low-light results.

Morty's Christmas present -- new signs from Build-a-Sign front and rear from  proclaiming: . Designing and obtaining the signs was a good experience. All done on-line and delivered by United Parcel. Even making the application onto the front and rear windows was good. Highly recommended.

A most thoughtful present -- a Christmas tree ornament from an old friend:

From RV Ornament

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Low Light Canon S90 vs. Nikon D90

The Canon S90 is a new model camera with a large sensor and lens. This means that it gives some great results in low light without flash or a lot of pushing the ISO sensitivity. Here are some samples from Christmas Eve:

shutter: 1/60; opening: f/2.0; ISO: Auto 2500

From Fern Monty Xmas

shutter: 1/60; opening: f/2.0; ISO auto 2000

From Fern Monty Xmas

Here for comparison is a sample from my Nikon D90 -- a camera with about 10 times the mass of the Canon. This could have been improved by setting shutter priority to 1/60, but I didn't have the time to experiment or think about what made sense when the S90 was getting the job done automatically. 

shutter 1/10; opening: f4.2; ISO: 1600

From Fern Monty Xmas

Thursday, December 24, 2009

New Zealand Notes from 1999(?)

The pictures are from our 1994 trip to the North Island of New Zealand. The notes are more rescuees from my old PDA data and the 1999 trip to the "South Island:

Our Great Kiwi Adventure

Flight experiences
    Seated next to 10 month old twin girls Jenna & Anna, Lynne is happy to relinquish custody at fliqht's end.
    Our new eMap GPS tracks ths flight path flawlessly. Jim looks for Hope Arkansas with no luck.
    Continental does a good job.
        Planes fly full and hot
        Sandwich fare
        Pleasant crew
        Movie watchers get a darkened cabin

Travel zone
    one leg at a time  - most are just a few hours
    Cramped feeling - how the future will differ,
        Space to spread
        Leisure  - not hurry
        Cut-off from market  - need reliable wimeless
    Bradley Terminal much-more civilized . But there seems to be a lack of aircraft.
Lady going home to Dunedin after visiting son in San Diego.
    Recommends Waneka and the drive up the west coast.
New Zealand Air
    award-winning seats
    Big 747
    dinner smells wonderful.
    Turkey or beef
    Southern Cross and thunderstorrms
        Fly straight through a major thunderhead - major turbulence.
        Gps batteries run  too low
    English Breakfast just as big
    Domestic terminal - big wait to find out we need to be waiting there
    Newly - leased plane from POLAND NO ROW 5 plane only half full -the front half still much to sort out for assigning us a new seat.
    We have a ball switching from one side of the plane to the other for the best pictures
    Another nearly full breakfast on board.
        French toast that only resembles a fish chimichanga - but hey ya gots ta love the attitude.
Sprinkles move in. The ride on the plane makes it clear (no pun intended) that clouds and rain are the order of the day.

Keith, our cab driver, talks of the flooding in Queenstown. It's starting to look like we head nort tomorrow.
    The whole place is caught in a time warp - except for the shoes.
        Shoes - vertical steel plates on pumps - major anti-retro.
        Sandals - wear with socks for ultimate cold-weather protection.
    Cars live the brand - they are customized for accessibiliy and ease of use.
    Kaikoura rainy bit a wonderful crayfish restaurant HISSOP'S. Fish chowder half a three pound crayfish.
        Crayfish that make me think of New England without the claws.
    Weather so wet and cold the locals wamt to postpone the hoghloght summer activity - the Santa parade.
    Sunday head further North in search of more sun. Drive through a couple of mountain ranges.
    Havelock for lunch at tne Mussle bouys.  Fresh salmon and green lipped NZ mussels. Beyond comprehension..
    Pohara is the perfect beach (campground)..
        Tonight, Pohara is hosting anEco-challenge (a made for MTV race) Kayaks from the beach in the mornng. A thousand racers tenting down for the night. May prove interesring or annoying.
        Southern Traverse is the Kiwi-sponsored event. Other legs of the contonuous race include biking, hiking/run. white river rafting.
            One team has a new Unimog - nearly as large as a deuce-and- a-half for part of the support team.
    Pohara- has a nesting penguin colony. But the manager knows of no one ever seeing one. The DOC thinks the're there though - they just put up a new sign warning visitors to steer clear.

    We do see several interesting species: blue heron, red beaked oyster eaters, red foted gulls, and larger gulls.
    Hot meat pies for lunch. $2 NZ for a complete meal at the Pohara General Store - on the beach.
    Conspicuous Consumption or Yank demands  come to the Kiwis: A Maui campervan puls in near us with an Electrolux air conditioning unit on the roof.

    Beach tide coverage is enormous. Perhaps up to mile, if today's experience is average.
    In Tekaka, Telegraph Hotel and Restaurant - a major surptise in a region with absolutely no competition. Superb seafood gumbo followed by the dish being entered in the Marlborough Winery Seafood Competion - Golden Bay crab sauteed with lemon and grapefruit zest over herb-roasted  ricotta and served with a glass of  sauvignon blanc.  Hot chocolate cake with cream and ice cream top it off. Tab $26.
        Need an encore performance.

Casita Trip Archive from 2000

To Stratham NH to visit my sister and her family. Our second trip in our 16 foot travel trailer. The first had been to Winter Haven Florida for Cleveland Indians Spring training. We pulled Casi with our new Honda Odyssey known as Mesabi because of its Mesa Beige exterior. This was all recorded one hand-written letter at a time on my Palm Pilot-like Handspring PDA. The software is supposed to recognize you printing as long as you adhere to the rules of graffiti -- or as we say in the real world: not so much.

From Casita
New England Camping July, 2000

Saturday 7/15 to Salem, Ohio
Mesabi pulls the Casita, with little complaint, except at the gas pump where highway mileage is cut in half from 30 to 16 mpg. Navigator lady does a good job with the routing, but we had been there a time or two before. The big news is that we are finally on vacation, without any trace of jet-lag. We hook up to 20 amp electricity in the Mother's house, and find that needing the air conditioner to dry out the humidity, that is sufficient.

Sunday we set out east at 7 am, after dealing with Navigator Lady's lack of knowledge of local streets. But then all is well. Our stops are a lot more frequent than the 500 plus miles that would normally come with the 20 gallon tank in Mesabi, but with no jet-lag, that is a minor inconvenience.

Sunday afternoon, Lynne gets familiar with the AAA Camping Guide, by directing us to the Huesatonic State Park campgrounds in Northern Connecticut, while thinking that it was only a mile from I84 in the southern part of the state.

Site was far from level, and after many tries, we pulled in a couple of places down slope, and had a fine time.

Leveling the camper is critical to refigerator function, and I read that a little stationary operation without being level, can cause a major repair experience.
 England 7/16-18 Sunday

Needing hook-ups, we head further north yet, to East Canaan and the Lone Oak Campground arriving around 5. Rates are a pricy $39, but that includes a lot of amenities. Met a friendly Ann Forrester, running the store, and camping there also. Just recently retired, they had crossed the country twice already, and were settling in for a spell. Need to look for them on the Compuserve RV forum. Tried to reach Mary on the cell phone from the campground, but the hassel of roaming credit-card calling proved just a tad too difficult, and who-knows-how expensive.

Up early on Monday with showers and yogurt. Only have a couple of hours travel to the coast. Drove through some of the prettiest towns of the Berkshires on the way to the Mass Turnpike.

Finally reached Mary on the cell while driving. Actually a suprisingly clear connection.

Got to Mary's a little after 1, Danny was napping, but Julia and Mary had a bite of lunch for us.

Shel-Al Campground in North Hampton was found by Navigator Lady getting close, and Lynne, figuring out the rest. Nice quiet place  under the shade of big maple trees. Had to try a couple of times to get level, but then all was fine.

To the Lobster Pound for dinner. $8 per pound, really increases one's shellfish appetite to about 2.5 pounds. Unquestionably the best taste ever.

New England 7/22-23 weekend

We arrived at the Gloucester Cape Ann Camp site right on time, and so did Barbara. We toured the city, the had dinner, and walked the small beach. On Sunday, we saw Rockport, and the most famous Motif Number 1 fisherman's shack decorated with lobster trap floats. Really enjoyed the walk through the fillage shops. Saw som scuba divers coming up the rocks with the several large lobsters. Given the local prices and freshness, it is difficult to understand the appeal or cost effectiveness of this practice, but they did seem to be enjoying themselves. They even had the proper tool to place the heavy ruberbands on the claws.

Went on the Yankee Spirit whale watch and  saw 17 humpbacks lounging about after a morning of filtering out their ton of food for the day. Some mothers and babies along with a unwelcome escort that had the mother trumpeting her blows. Barbara saw more than ever before, even though it had been a staple in the vistor itinerary of hers for years.

New England 7/24 Monday

Draggin from a busy pace over the weekend with Barbara. Set out for the Rusnik Family Campground in Salisbury, Mass.

Looked over Seabrook NH with its rusted out nuclear reactors. Beach towns were quite ghetto-ish. Saw the entrance to Plum Island and Newburyport, and understood how its Martha-Stewart-ness appealed to Barbara.

Stopped in downtown Newburyport for lunch, and marvelled at the efeciency of a quaint but touristy small town. Cops on cell phones keeping traffic out of the construction. Lots of places to eat, but Angies is where the locals and observant tourists stop. The county sheriff has a $75m anti-graffitti rig staffed with two deputies and three "workers" who look more than able to take care of themselves.

This is a very effecient and secure camping area. Gate access is controlled with coded cards. Everything is clean and tidy. Will swim as soon as the sun dips a little.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cruise Archives

In digging through some old files looking for contact info for Christmas Cards, I found some interesting history. Here is a listing of our cruising experiences -- a fairly regular item, with breaks for Hawaii and New Zealand -- up until we started going to the North Carolina beach.

Date / Ship / Days / Destinations
1. 9/85 Ocean Princess 10 Rome - Venice - Nice
2. 4/89 Costa Riveria 7 Western Caribbean
3. 10/89 American Hawiian Constitution 7 Hawaii
4. 3/91 Carnval Tropical 7 San Juan Southern Caribbean
5.12/92 RCL Song of Amrica 7 West Mexico
6. 8/93 Princess Crown 7 Alaska
7. 4/95 Windjammer Fantome Leeward Islands
8. 8/95 Princess Island 14 Rome Black Sea
9. 6/96 Princess Royal 14 Scandanavia Russia
10. 12/96 Princess Sky 14 Sydney NZ French Polynesia. Different dessert souflee each evening.
11. 4/97 Windjammer Fantome 7 Belize Bay of Islands Honduras
12. 10/97 Holland America 10 Ryndam Eastern Southern Caribbean
13. 12/98 Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam 14 Singaporf Indonsia Australia
14. 3/00 Wind Star Wind Surf 7 Barbedos Leeward islands

And here are the notes from my old PDA on the Wind Surf experience:

WindSurf 3/19/00 5:23 am
Smooth Eticket check - in
Remembered frequent flyer number
Delta 253 Md88 only action but has lots of customers
Miami seems full of two kinds -- stand-bys comparing their seniority  to guess departure time and very disqruntled cruise passengers.
BWIA old equipment easy style
Dinner is outstanding mahi-mahi encrusted with hazlenuts and accompanied with a puree of sweet potatoes.
    We enjoyed a bottle of champagne from our travel agent Barbara.
Monday at sea we pause en route to rendez-vous with a supply barqe pickinq up a spare enqine and replacemen hydraulic ram.
    We sail by Dominica which our gps identifies. The only island Christopher Columbus would recognize today -- rough mountains rising straight out of the sea.
Tristan waiter
Putu room steward
Anguilla on Tuesday because Nevis was trashed by Hurricane Lenny in November, 1999.
    Tough to find a mooring out of the swells and where the local authorities alow disembarkation.
        We watch the inactivity on the teeny sand bar of an island  from on-board, moored near the channel separating St. Martin.
        Lunch includes chicken salad, pasta bar and seafood kabobs.
Wednesday - St Marten just across the channel from Anguilla, with most of the same swells to rock the boat. The stern thrusters are used with great vibration to position the bow to minimize the rolling.
Thursday - St Bartholemy
    Taxi tour. Villa of Rudolf Nureyev
    Airport tuckedin among peaks, roads, and beach.
    Roads and driving very rough.
    Bannana boat ride
    Spectacular sunset and moonrise under sail
Friday - Ilses de Saintes
    Pretty and quiet
Saturday - St. Lucia, Parrot Point

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holiday Feasts

In the great tradition of the Christmas Holidays, we have been meeting with friends for dinner, conversation and viewing of the lighted decorations. One surprise was how reasonable a shared dinner and desert was at the Cheesecake Factory -- someplace we have to get around to a little more often. Also a really great dinner at McCormick & Schmick's with our wonderful house-tending neighbors.

Canon S90

Practicing shooting with the new camera in a variety of venues. Some results:

Monday, December 07, 2009


Lynne wanted a little better TV accessibility at several of Morty's stops recently -- programs like Buckeye football, or the cable news shows. She asked about those satellite dishes some RVers put out but was a little put off by the cost [up to $5000] and hassel factors. So we decided to ask Santa for a suggestion and he came up with a Slingbox. This is a little box that sits between the cable box outputs and the TV. It also attaches to the Internet and sends the TV program or recording out to our computer wherever it is. It also sends commands from the computer back to control the cable box. Pretty awesome technology, and it's available for around $130.

Since we would need time to get it set up in advance of our next departure right after Christmas, an early opening was requested and approved. Good thing too, because I got the wires crossed and for the first day it was sending only a blue, out-of-sync picture that was barely acceptable. I tried to call customer support but couldn't get through so I had to use text-chat on the computer. You would have thought that a simple problem  like crossed inputs would have been easy enough to diagnose and solve, but it was a very difficult problem for the tech. After a couple of sessions spread out over a couple of days, I decided to just start over, and found the problem on my own. Now it's sending a great picture and sound. The only remaining challenge will be to see how well it works when we don't have WiFi and try to connect on the much slower cell phone.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

HELP! Planning for the South by Southwest Trip

We are doing some rough plans to route the big winter trip through some interesting places -- but are faced with huge space and limited time. So we are open for your comments and suggestions. Please let us know of places you think we should get to.

We are most interested in nature and historic venues with some museums and visual arts. Our time frame is January and February. Our daily travel will have to edge up into the 250 mile range. Here is the geographic plan at its most basic:

- Florida panhandle
- Southern Alabama / Mississippi
- Louisiana
- Southern Texas
- Western Texas
- Southwest New Mexico
- Arizona
- Southern California
- Return East and as far North as the temperatures go into the 70s -- except for Yosemite

View Planning South by Southwest in a larger map

So please chime in if you have any suggestions.