Saturday, April 28, 2012

Little Orlando Stories Around the Edges

Christ Is Saviour / God Is Love
Orlando Union Rescue Mission - Central Blvd

There's not a lot you can do when you're homeless and have no job. With the brutal collapse of the economy many who were the "working poor" are working no longer. The state, in its infinite wisdom, cuts back on human services and education while leaving such items as prisons (privatized and state-run) untouched in the budget. The poor and children don't have the same lobbying muscle as our prisons. In today's twisted political algebra it makes more sense to jail people than to house and educate them so they avoid prison.

Locally in Orlando we'd rather spend millions on a newer, more ugly "sports and entertainment center" where individually we can spend a small fortune each season watching spoiled millionaire pro basketball players, while blowing up the older arena so it can be turned into something else more profitable, more gentrified. In the mean time private services such as the Orlando Union Rescue Mission attempt to help and support as many as they can with what can only charitably be described as a shoe-string budget.

The Lone Reader
The Lone Reader - Somewhere close to the Courthouse

Meanwhile the homeless find spots during the day where they can simply live without being hassled until the evening comes and they can go back and find a spot to sleep. Some find temporary work, many don't. Many, like the gentleman above, find a spot to sit and read. How is it that someone who is literate can't find a job? Any job would be fine, but a decent permanent job that can allow someone to pay for room and board and keep a roof over them would be far better.

Downtown Greenspace for Sale

Just south of our huge monolithic courthouse is this small wooded lot in the middle of downtown. It could be used as green space, but instead it's up for sale for residential (read: condominium) development. The city at one time made a small attempt to turn it into a park, as you can see by the curving line of seats, identical to seats found next to Lake Eola further south. But something went wrong, probably the economy, and now the land with its old oaks is up for sale.

The Personal New Car Field Narrows

Wheels Within Wheels

We went to the Fiat dealership to test drive a Fiat 500C as we begin to get Real Serious about trading in the old 2002 Kia van. But after waiting for a salesman to let us drive one, and never getting the chance, it looks like the Fiat 500C is out of the running.

We tried really hard (my wife tried really really hard) to keep liking the car. But my wife kept looking at the rear and mumbling about a pair of Labs and luggage, and when she had me climb into the shotgun position of a model she'd taken a particular shine to I found myself having to go through a bit of contortion just to get in. Once inside it was quite comfortable, but the getting in and out was a bit more work than it is with our other cars. At 6ft-4inches I have to be careful what kind of vehicle I purchase (or rent on travel, for that mater).

In this particular case what had happened was the selection of a car with "special seating". It was all the  special stuff added to the shotgun side seat that made it more difficult for me to get in. In a more downscale model (read cheaper) I found it easier to get in and out of the car's shotgun side. Interesting what a few inches can do one way or the other. And the final straw (for my wife) was how the price was creeping over $20K. She kept saying at those prices she should go back and look at the new Prius and Hyundai models.

Red Side Mirror

It wasn't as if we were impatient. I had more than enough time to wander around with my E-P2 snapping away like some mad little tourist. I was sitting and squatting and looking all around for interesting angles to photograph. I was a big kid with his toy trying to keep out of the way while my wife talked to the salesperson. This will be her car, not mine.


And we both loved this car. She especially loved the five-speed, calling it very smooth. The styling, choice of materials, fit and finish are all first-rate. Of all the cars I've seen I think the Fiat 500C is the best looking car on the road, inside or out. My wife feels the same way.

Rear Seating

Over the last three months we've noticed that the Fiats are going "up scale". with more add-ons and features. That's pushing the cost above $20K on every one we saw today. In addition, the mileage is creeping down. That's a bit perplexing as gas is still close to $4/gallon all over Orlando and it's price bound to climb higher around Memorial day at the end of May. Gas prices always rise around the start of summer vacation.

But in the end the practical side of my wife overwhelmed her care-free girlish side trying to break free. If she were still single and didn't have the Labs to worry about, then the car would have been perfect for her. But mix two large dogs and an oversized husband into your life, and all of a sudden the cute fun car isn't quite so cute nor so fun.

So the field has now narrowed down to just two manufacturers, Toyota and Hyundai.The month of May will be interesting.

Friday, April 27, 2012


Shingle Creek Headwaters

Shingle Creek is considered the northern-most headwaters of the Everglades to the south. Although it is supposed to be protected wetlands, if you look at the map you'll find it's been heavily engineered (straightened) as it passes through south Orlando on its way to Lake Tohopekaliga, just south of Kissimmee. And it doesn't take long looking at the map to note all of the gated communities, golf courses, and expensive hotels that dot the area.


In particular, the expensive and expansive Ritz-Carlton Orlando sits right next to this portion of Shingle Creek, with a carefully constructed berm separating fake Florida on the left from what's left of real Florida on the right.


The South Florida Water Management District manages and controls access to the waterway and the lands around it, which I believe to be a Good Thing. Without some sort of minimal intervention on the part of the state it would have been completely overrun and trashed decades ago. It may yet, depending on the (poor) quality of government we keep sending to Tallahassee.


Taken with the Olympus E-P2 and ZD 9-18mm w/MMF-1 adapter.

In and Out and In and Out

Yeah, I changed the blog template yet again.

In the period of about a week.

First it was stuck on this blue template for years. I don't remember what it was called. Then one day, I got a wild hair ('cause that's about all that's left on my thinning scalp) and switched the blog over to Dynamic Views.

I thought I liked it. It was full of tricks that only Google Gears and HTML5 could provide, cross-browser tricks like expanding panels on top of the main blog, or special compositions like 'magazine', which I actually liked. But after a few days of living with it I came to become truly annoyed with its behaviors, especially on portable devices such as my Android-powered phone (Gingerbread 2.3.4) and my Android-powered tables (ICS 4.0.3). Dynamic Views might look just dandy on a regular browser with a classic OS underneath, but on a portable device such as a tablet it was slow, sloppy mess. Which I found rather amusing, considering all of this came from Google. You'd think there'd be enough inter-team communication such that the Blogger team would design for and test against Google's Android-powered devices.

So I switched again to Awesome.

While it wasn't quite awesome, it was a lot lighter and displayed quite well over every device, from notebook to smartphone. Turned out it was a pretty popular theme, used by a number of sites I visit. And I was pretty happy until I came across Kirk Tuck's site, where he'd switched to Dynamic. And that's when I began to doubt my decision to switch from Dynamic.

So I switched back yet again, and put up with it for another 48 hours.

Now I'm back using Awesome and I'll continue using it until something better comes along. Unfortunately for Dynamic it won't be Dynamic.

And for Kirk, well, good luck with that. It really is a matter of personal tasted. I tend towards a lean and light-weight web page structure that is viewable as-is across a wide variety of devices. That's where the web is right now, and it will only grow more so as we gather more diverse devices. The simplistic web view that Blogger is capable of providing is brain-dead, and I hate it. That's why I want a single design that will render equally well. That's a pretty tough design to pull off, either deliberately or by accident.

Update 28 April

Back to Dynamic again. I'm curious to see if it drives up site views again, like it did before. Kirk Tuck has noticed this effect as well.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Jimmy Hula's

Where once stood a Back Yard Burgers there now stands a new Jimmy Hula's. I met with three other fellow engineers/managers for a working lunch that lasted about an hour-and-a-half at Jimmy Hula's. Jimmy Hula's is a "taco and burger bar" which specializes in tacos, especially "surf" (fish) tacos.
When I got there I ordered three fish tacos; an epic cali, a voodoo, and a baja shrimp, all blackened, plus drink. The damage was around $14. I could probably get by with just two, but I'd missed breakfast and I was pretty hungry.

I did manage to fill up on the three tacos, but I wasn't stuffed. All of them were great. If I go back I might try to see if I can be satisfied with just two. If I can then I'll save about $4. The one thing I don't care for is the high price of a diet soda. While it's a great place to sit and eat, I can save about $3 by getting it to go and eating back at my desk. Or maybe I'll just get water the next time.
The place is like a big open shady spot. Lots of big bay windows, wide doors, allowing in plenty of light and air. The staff were very attentive and friendly, coming by numerous times to get us drink refills and keep the table clean. It looks big enough to hold a fair sized crowd, but small enough for a certain degree of intimacy, unlike the World of Beer across the street and the even bigger Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar just down the street. I wrote earlier before this place opened that they'd have stiff competition with at least five other eateries with built-in bars, and I still feel they will. Based on what I experienced today they might just have a chance to hang in there.

Based on what I saw today they had a constant crowd and pretty good traffic, which would indicate a reasonable turnover. It was unusual for us to spend over an hour in Jimmy's; I would suspect that 30 to 45 minutes tops is the amount of time it would take to place an order, eat it, and then leave.

The one question I have is how five major bars can be open on University Blvd between Rouse and the main entrance to UCF. UCF has somewhere between 50,000 and 60,000 students, between the ages of 18 to 22. The drinking age in Florida is 21. Jimmy's, WoB, and Wild Wings is definitely built to appeal to the college age. So, if the drinking age is 21, who from UCF is at the bar? Seniors and graduate students? Are they carding everyone who walks in? I've never believed in the blue-collar age limit for drinking. I've always believed if you're old enough to vote, drive, and die for your country, you're old enough to drink.


Yesterday. Walked back up Rouse Road. Stood back and looked at this lone warning that the intersection you're approaching is setup as an automated traffic trap. This one lone sign, up high, and far back from the road, is unreadable unless you happen to be sitting in traffic a good ways back from the intersection, which does occur late in the afternoon, between 5 and 6pm, as everybody streams to head back home. But otherwise you don't see this sign at all, unless you're out walking down the sidewalk.
Sitting in the burger joint you see an old and stained parking lot that's been here nearly forever. Who knows how many times the place has been re-designed since it was first built. But it's empty on the inside, just a few customers. Instead you see car after car pass by from picking up the lunches from the drive-through window. Car after car, usually just one person in each car. Students in beat-up Hondas, soccer moms in over-sized late-model SUVs, managers in Lexuses and Beemers and what-have-you, and the occasional odd-ball car that doesn't fit into any category.
On the way out you pass the little planted Home Depot garden specials, a little limp color to break up the monotony of cypress ground cover and painted-and-stuccoed concrete walls next to the parking lot. As the heat rises during the day, as the asphalt in the parking lot raises the temperature another 10° to 20°, hte flowers and the leaves wilt further and further. Maybe if the plants are lucky a hidden sprinkler will come to life later in the evening and give it enough water that it can recover for the next day. Or maybe it will wilt and finally die in a few days. A morbid science experiment.
Siting in traffic at the ligths you find yourself boxed in by vehicles larger than you like buses and trucks. I look out the driver's side and see this UCF shuttle like some traveling abstract painting. It's been in service for a while; the school colors are showing the signs of bleaching in the sun, the panels are cracking at the odd place due to day-to-day wear and tear, the paint carries the brush marks of all those automated washes they send the buses through to keep them clean.


Classic LinesThat's the only way to describe it. This is my second M.Zuiko 17mm µ4/3rds pancake lens. The first one, a silver model, was used until the front cosmetic element fell off somewhere in Boston.

Before that time I had a rather extended honeymoon with that lens. But when it lost its front bit I felt somewhat annoyed with it and thus put it in the bag, where it pretty much stayed until I sold it to a friend of mine. Of course he felt he'd gotten the bargain and he's put it to good use himself.

Along the way I picked up three new primes for the E-P2; the M.Zuiko 45mm and the Panasonic 20mm and 14mm. All three of those lenses are stellar performers.

But I felt guilty for having abandoned my first love, the 17mm. It never did anything to me, and quite frankly, it never stopped working as a lens. It was my very silly reaction to the cosmetic blemish that developed on the front edge. So when the price dropped down to a 'mere' $200 for the black version, well, I snapped it up and put it back in my bag along with all my other µ4/3rds lenses.

I pull it out now and use it along with the other lenses. It has a field of view (34mm equivalent) I appreciate and can work with quite well. And I've started using it with a method I'd long forgotten; hyperfocal focusing. I set the lens to manual focus, set the aperture to f/8, and let the camera pick the shutter speed and an ISO value between 200 and 800. Now, when I want to do street photography I focus out about eight feet (estimating, really) and I have a depth of field from about 4 feet out to infinity. Without having to wait for the E-P2 to focus I can get an exposure off as fast as my arthritic shutter finger can react to the 'decisive moment'. To be honest I can do the same thing with the Panasonic 14mm, but for whatever reason that all-black 17mm on that all-black E-P1 with its all-black leather holder is, well, just a sexy little combination in the hand.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Lucy Napping

We often talk about how intelligent we humans are and how playing and playtime help make us human. But it was the animals that learned to play long before man ever showed them how. Either wild or tame, animals like to play. Little Lucy loves to play with string and the laser toy, but when given something like the mouse (above) she was completely indifferent. Then we gave her this toy mouse (picked up at a Walmart for $3), and Lucy has taken to it the way our Labs take to their toys. And it's not due to some additive, like catnip. I've seen the cats react around catnip, and this wasn't one of those reactions.

Once again I'm reminded how our animals have many human-like characteristics, such as playing. Along with problem-solving and basic emotions. Cats in particular are fascinating to me.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day 2012


It was Earth Day today, the 42nd since the first one in 1970. To celebrate this year's E-Day I drove back up to the ongoing construction on Palm Parkway and documented what's occurred since the last time I was there on 5 April.

From what I could tell the first stage of construction has finished on the north side of I-4 (between I-4 and Palm Parkway) and moved to the south side where more pylons are being driven into the sand. Where once there was considerable water in the retention pond next to I-4, there is now bare and graded sand.


All of that water had to go somewhere, and that somewhere was the temporary pond built on the cleared land between Palm Parkway and I-4. If you look towards the mid-point of the sand wall to the left, you can see where the pond was increased; the original wall was knocked down to allow more water to be held until it could drain down into the sandy soil. That's because the retention ponds next to I-4 have clay to keep the water contained.


As you can see the water that was in the smaller pond on 5 April has drained back into the sandy soil. The area around the temporary holding pond has a barrier in place to keep the sand from washing into the nearby wooded area in case of heavy rains. It's actually supposed to keep the sand from spilling into streams and other regular waterways, but there's nothing like that around this area. The barrier is to keep the mess from spreading further in case of very severe weather.


By the time this is all finished there will be a short-cut across I-4 between the south end of International Drive and this side of I-4, which feeds both Disney Village and east back towards Universal. Right now there's very little traffic, but when this opens up I expect to see a tremendous increase of traffic, assuming of course we don't have another economic crash. Based on my observations around Orlando, I don't expect this bridge to be finished and opened until the first quarter of 2013 at the earliest.

If this project had started before 2008, I would have said it would have been finished by fall. But since construction has re-started in Orlando it looks like projects are taking twice as long to finish as they once did. This slower tempo might be due to a combination of tightness in the credit markets, the lack of experienced labor (many older and experienced construction workers were forced out into retirement or other locations when the construction industry imploded around 2008), the tightness of raw materials (especially concrete), or something else entirely. Whatever the reasons all the projects are progressing at a more measured, deliberate pace.


We've had a strong front pass through the area, leaving thundershowers in its wake. The lighting this afternoon was all over the place, first cloudy then the sun would peek out. In the end I just picked a common temperature and tint in post with LR4 and that's what I used with all the photos. That's why some of the photos seem dark and cloudy (it was) while the last was bright and sunny (it was). Chronologically the two middle photos were taken first, the last photo was taken last, while the top photo was taken next to last. During that period the clouds were clearing out and the light was getting brighter. I even got hit with a spitting shower, which is why I'm glad I had my E-1 and E-3 with me.

Entries To Date

Paving Paradise, Inc
Evening Adventures

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Good We Do

It's too easy to be overwhelmed by what's wrong with the world and fail to notice what's right. One of the right things we do is to rescue an animal and give it a better home. When I was out today I came across the Orange County Animal Services mobile kennel. If you've spent any time reading my blog you know what a sucker I am for four-footed creatures such as cats (3) and dogs (2 Labs). I have an affinity for four-footed creatures far stronger than for any camera or lens. I felt compelled to step inside.

The Human Trap
Resting Brindle Puppy

Sure enough I found a little two-month-old brindle male pit bull named Lightning. Before you flinch over "pit bull", keep in mind that their negative reputations are due to how they're mistreated and raised by humans. I now know of many pit bulls that are as docile and loving as my Labs. When I look into a little guy's face like Lightning's I have to wonder who would be a cruel enough bastard to mistreat such an animal. The only concern I would have is trying to properly raise this little guy up with the rest of the critters at my house.

"You know, I was asleep."
Queued Up

In the short time I was there I noticed quite a few people walking in and then out with animals. And while I was there the bus interior was filled with folks looking and oohing and awing. I hope little Lightning found a home today, because he really had that look in his eyes where he wanted to find a person. Of course I had to show Lightning to my wife, who also oohed and awed and then said, no, we have enough.

I have to quite going into places like that.

Friday, April 20, 2012

And The Beat Goes On

I took the last few days off blogging and photographing because I had no desire, no spirit to do so. I just didn't care, and I had other tasks to do. This morning some of the dark funk lifted and I stopped off by the Burger Kind next to the construction site and shot another 30 or so exposures with the E-3 and the ZD 12-60mm.

As you can see below, they just about scrapped all the land clear, down below the original soil level, and filled it back up again with a different soil mixture in preparation for construction. I went back into my archives and I've pulled in photographs going back to 2009 when they first stated to knock all the trees down. It's been an on-going slow-motion environmental tragedy for the last three years.

Wide Shot 1

Digging and Moving

Wide Shot 2

More Digging
Taken February 2012 - The topsoil and remaining vegetation are being stripped away

Ragged Swath
Taken February 2012

Stripped land near where I work.
Taken March 2010 - More medium to heavy timber is knocked down

Paving Another Part of Paradise
Taken June 2009 - The land is starting to be cleared away

Paving Another Part of Paradise
Taken June 2009 - What it all looked like before it was cleared away

Paving Another Part of Paradise
Taken June 2009

The lot across the street on the corner of University and Quadrangle will eventually have a Racetrack gas station built on it. The top soil piled on top is to compress the wetlands enough so that they can go back in and bury fuel tanks as well as cover just about the entire area with asphalt and concrete.

Riding into work I heard on NPR how Florida's unemployment rate is 9%, Orlando's 8.4%, while nationally it's about the same as Orlando's. In looking back over the archives I've noted how I've been photographing more construction since about this time last year, from the work on the 408 to all sorts of projects scattered around the area. I guess that's a good sign. Some of the projects are on existing property, but the majority is clearing out new lands.

And we call this progress and prosperity.


All photos except the second photo taken February 2012 and the one taken March 2010 were taken with the E-3 and the 12-60mm. The other two used the E-P2, the first with the M.Z 45mm and the second with the 9-18mm and adapter. Technically, from June 2009 to today, the photos show increasingly better technique. Which I guess is good, as it seems to show that I'm slowly improving and learning something. But then, perhaps not. The worst of the lot is the one using the E-P2 and the 9-18mm. It's blurry, either due to improper focus or something else, I'm not sure what. What saves it is that it's documenting something important and the lens was set to f/8, which gave reasonable sharpness from front to back. But I know that combination can produce deadly sharp results, and this photo ain't got it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Day of Rage

Today was tax day in America. And I wrote a Large Check. Biggest one in my life to the U.S. Treasury. It was enough to (almost) make me become a Tea party member, where Tea stands for Taxed Enough Already.

And then they flew shuttle Discovery up to Washington so they could put it in a museum next to Dulles. I could have gone outside and and watched it fly overhead, but I expect working spaceships to be used as tools, not become museum pieces. I'm looking forward to April 30th and the launch of SpaceX's Dragon to the ISS. Go SpaceX!

And then finally is the story of Ted Nugent and his comments about the Obama administration. I love Ted, going back to his rocker days. And then, of course, there were the prissy Democrats who got all bent out of shape over what Ted said (see video below). And the Secret Service, which is investigating "any threats against the President." The same Secret Service that got caught with their dicks out of their pants in Columbia, embarrassing the President. So this is the Secret Service's way of trying to prove they're still competent and to draw attention away from their bad behavior. My damn tax dollars at work, eh?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Another Back From the Dead

ichiban Front Sign
The New ichiban

It only took eight months for this out-of-business former Perkins (below) to be transformed into an ichiban. There's one downtown. What's going to make this interesting is this is the second sushi bar to show up on this road. Just down University is Kyoto Sushi and Grill, which moved into where the Boston Market used to be located. I guess if you can have five sports bars on University between Alafaya and Rouse, I guess we can live with two sushi bar and grills.

Dead Perkins
The Old Perkins

Kyoto Japanese Sushi and Grill


The upper photo was taken with the E-P2 and Panasonic 20mm, moved straight off the camera and into Flickr before being used here. The middle was taken with the E-1 and ZD 12-60mm, post processed, while the lower was taken with the E-P2 and M.Zuiko 17mm, post processed.

Monday Lunch Walkabout

Mid-day is warm and hazy. It's Monday, the day before American Tax Day. After yesterday's little walk down memory lane about the A300 I decided to run through a series of photos in the E-P2 without benefit of elaborate post tinkering. I'm in something of a rebellious mood. I've had this camera for a good two years and I've yet to really exercise all its capabilities. All that money spent so I can deliberately restrict myself. What a waste of time and money.

Today I just said to hell with it. Grabbed the E-P2 with the 20 and the 45 and went walking to lunch. Played with the camera's art filters, shot everything in 6:6 aspect ratio, took it straight JPEG out of the camera, posted it directly to Blogger. Bypassed the entire post processing process; Lightroom and Flickr. I'll let you, the dear reader, figure out which art filter I used.