Rover Realized in Miniature

I’ve long been a big fan of The Prisoner, Patrick McGoohan’s 1967 spy series. One of the strange an interesting feature of the program was a robotic security device known simply as “Rover.” Rover was basically a weather balloon that rolled along the ground or water. Rover was dispatched to fetch people trying to escape from The Village. It seems to me that Sphero has the potential to be a 3” Rover.

I wonder if this could be used to add a new layer of spooky/creepy to our Halloween presentation? It would be really cool to see a herd of them behaving like the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

A Little Gratuitous Coffee Porn

That’s about all I can think of to describe the Scanomat TopBrewer. Just $4300. Fortunately, Scanomat products are not currently available in North America.

Amazon & I Have Confused Our David Wilcox’s

Dual-David-WilcoxWhen I was in college I lived in a large student housing co-op in the middle of downtown Toronto. It was dominated  by students from what was then called Ryerson Polytechnic Institute (RPI.)

While I did not attend RPI officially, I attended numerous social functions on the campus. It was there that I was introduced to David Wilcox, one of Canada’s leading blues/rock guitarists. True to the tales of my beer-soaked room-mates, his live show was awesome.

A few years ago I was filling some holes in my music collection and started to seek out some David Wilcox titles. By then I was living in the US and found that south of that border there is another David Wilcox that is a prominent American fold singer and songwriter. He’s not the blues guitar master of his Canadian counterpart, but he is a very good songwriter nonetheless.

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A Pecan Tree, Grass and Rain

When we bought our house, some twelve years ago, it had a largish deck in the back yard. It was in several levels and built along side a mature Pecan tree that remains the centerpiece of the property. We really like that Pecan tree. Our best guess is that it’s around 90 years old.

The lower-most level of the deck was covered. This made perfect sense since the Pecan drops shedloads of junk at different times of year. What we didn’t really understand was why the deck, which occupied most of the back yard, was as large as it was. It left precious little room for grass.

Some years later we rebuilt the back deck, making smaller so we could have a little more grassed yard. After rebuilding the deck we had new sod put in the back yard.  Not long after the sod was installed it started to rain. That summer it rained every day for over seven weeks. Not continuously, but every day. It was enough that our new back yard literally downed. Apparently sod doesn’t like that much water.

We didn’t do anything to remedy the back yard for quite some time. Over time we noticed over time that very little grew around the Pecan tree. In fact, if you think back, you probably can’t recall seeing a Pecan with lovely grass leading up to it’s trunk. That just doesn’t seem to happen in nature. Pecan leaves are both plentiful and highly acidic. They assure that not much will grow around a Pecan. It’s a natural form of protection.

The past two years Texas has been in a very serious drought. This took quite a toll on the yard and the garden. However, Stella has recently put a lot of effort into reviving the garden. Last spring we had the Boxwoods removed from the front yard, replacing them with bi-level brick flower beds planted with roses and various annuals. This spring the side and back gardens have started to look pretty good, too.

This past week Stella decided that we would once again have sod put down in the back yard. This time we had the landscape company level the yard and install drains to ensure that excess water would run off to the storm sewers.

This morning the company came to do the work. They’ve done a pretty good job. However, the last portion they had to do in a hurry…while it’s barely rained in weeks, today it seems that a thunder storm has spun up and it’s now raining quite seriously.

I’m sure that somewhere a minor deity, or perhaps demon, is laughing at us.

A TED Talk That You Really Should See

Sonoma In The Heights Goes To The Dogs

Rarely do two of my passions come together so nicely. Saturday, February 2nd Sonoma Wine Bar in The Heights is hosting a fund raising event for SNAP.

Sonoma Paws For Wine

A Saturday afternoon spent tasting wine is a nice idea all in itself. The fact that its in support of a worthy cause makes it so much the better.

TEDxHouston 2012 Edited Videos Now Online

Earlier today there was an announcement that the TEDxHouston 2012 video recordings were finally edited and being put online via You Tube. You can find the entire playlist here.

You may recall that I was a volunteer working at that event. Working with the TEDxHouston team was a great experience. It was, for me, a return to my roots as I operated a camera for the first time in many years. It was great to just be in attendance, but also nice to feel that I was doing something useful to foster the production.

This video featuring Jay Berckley on education was an particular favorite. His was the very last talk of the day. By then I was running the camera on the back of the stage, getting the rear view of the presenter and the audience reaction. I think that point I was getting to be reasonably comfortable in the role of camera operator.

It’s a curious things to have spent more than two decades in the business of video production and broadcast technology. Invariably we get to be specialists of a sort, even though we all start out with the basics of tele-production. My comfort zone has always been editing and graphics.

The tricky thing is that, as a professional, we come to know enough to question our own abilities at these basic tasks that we once did without thought. After all, there were few other people there who are in fact professional, freelance camera-people.

Like riding a bike, it eventually comes back. I’m grateful for everyone on the crew who were both gracious and patient.

I look forward to helping with TEDxHouston 2013. That is, if they’ll have me again. I even have some nice ideas for how to leverage one or two of my personal passions to augment the production. How about TEDxHouston presented in full surround sound? That might be fun.

A Hopeful Sign

We plant a lot of Milkweed in our garden. It’s the favorite food of Monarch butterfly caterpillars. This afternoon I found the little fellow in the side yard. He’s just about dry enough to fly. He was flying around about an hour later.

This video was shot using my Galaxy Nexus cell phone.

Halloween 2012 Photos


Halloween 2012, a set on Flickr.

These are the photos that I took in the weeks prior to and on Halloween 2012. We had some family help with carving pumpkins and creating a few new headstones. Then some folks came in costume to help creep out the kiddies.

There are over 120 photos in the set on Flikr. Click on through to see them all. Some were taken so that we can write some description of how we do certain things for those who want to do something similar elsewhere.

Thanks to all who helped.

Halloween Hangout 2012

2012-10-27 22.04.12cHalloween is well and truly upon us. I can tell from the mass of junk assembled in our front yard and the banking alerts arising from the candy spend.

We’ll be up to our old tricks and expect a fairly typical amount of traffic. It could be as many as 400 kids. The weather is perfect, but it is mid-week.

There are those who for various reasons may not get to see any trick or treaters this year. We decided to setup a Google Hangout so that others might share in our action.

A Google Hangout “On Air” is streamed via You Tube and anyone can watch. It’s also recorded. You may be able to hear us, but we won’t be able to hear you.

We should get underway around 5:30 pm CDT. I’ll update this post with a link to the stream once it goes live.

It should be live now. Here’s the URL: