CategoryObservations

Chronolog – Taking pictures for nature

Recently on a walk at a new local park, I came across a placard and place for my phone with instructions to take a picture of the area and email it. The system is from a startup called Chronolog. I had never seen anything like this on my walks through other local parks. Apparently, they’re using it to target specific areas for a variety of issues.

Chronolog sign post with bracket to take a picture that I took a picture of to remember where to email the photo later.

I like being able to do my part to help build the time lapse and give them more information about the park.

I couldn’t find anything about it on my county’s web site, but Greenbelt, MD had a news article about the system from September 2018.

When asked about what these stations are and how they should be used, Ky Wildermuth of Chronolog said “The idea was to create stationary reference points that would position cell phone cameras in a specific direction. Park conservationist would mount brackets in front of ecosystems they needed to monitor. People who ventured out into these areas could place their phone into the bracket, take a picture, and email it to be compiled for a time lapse. That time lapse could be analyzed to track plant life, a restoration project, or environmental change.”

The email I got back in confirmation and thanks said what they were looking to monitor with this particular site.

The North Branch Rock Creek flows directly into Rock Creek and ultimately into the Potomac River. This site is a popular creek crossing. We hope to monitor bank erosion and channeling of this creek.

Unfortunately, there is not a public-facing page for the site I contributed to but here’s an example from their site of the Vernal Pool that goes from dry to wet land as the seasons change.

Two Titans and a Hunter – My Podcast

I have been playing Destiny since September 13, 2014 and poured 1518 hours into it. I have played Destiny 2 since September 6, 2017 and have poured 1063 hours into it so far. I say so far because I continue to play it almost daily. From a 15 minute dip into the pool to an almost 14 hour gaming session where 5 hours 55 minutes of that was our first attempt at the raid, a 6-player team-based activity.

And of course, people in the community have made apps and web sites where I can look up all this information.

Destiny is a lifestyle. It’s the only game I spend much time on. It’s where I went into battle with a real-life friend and have made so many more in the years I’ve spent chatting and shooting with them. I count my friends reaching from my home near Washington DC to the UK, Canada, Australia and those are the ones I can list off-hand.

For a couple of months, we thought about doing something with Destiny. None of us are good enough to be streamers. We’ve not Youtube stars. Nor do we aspire to be. We love playing the game and talking about it. So that’s what we’ve been doing since early last month.

Two Titans and a Hunter is my Destiny 2 podcast.

Two Titans and a Hunter logo

It was Nitedemon’s idea to start it. He was talking about it and I was interested. No1RespawnsinRL was excited about it too. Together, we make a good trio of opinions, styles of play and what we want to get out of the game. We released our first episode on Feb 6th and have kept up a weekly pace. With an extra bonus episode mid-week once since we had a great conversation that didn’t really fit into the episode so we released it on its own. After 7 episodes and 320 downloads it’s been a blast to do and I look forward to it every week.

It’s been a fun challenge trying to work around life and schedules and a 5-hour time difference between the east coast of the US and the UK. That’s been an interesting challenge running with my clanmates from across the world as well. Trying to remember what time it is in Australia when I am online. Am I catching a buddy at the start of his day or as he’s struggling to stay awake choosing to exchange game time for rest.

It’s a niche podcast for sure. And as I tell people I’m podcasting, they ask what about, then their eyes roll as I say it’s about the video game that I play. But that’s OK. It’s not for everyone, nor should it be. We are not gaming professionals. We’re three guys talking about a video game (with occasional guests from the Fr0zen Clan. Motto: “We tried to win, but we let it go.”)

In addition to the audio podcast, we release a video version on Youtube where I take the show and put some gaming footage I’ve collected that week behind it. It’s more interesting than the static image we had up for the for few shows and since we don’t record with webcams, it would be a very dull video watching Skype icons light up when we talk.

I am a very amateur video “editor” and I have all the respect in the world for the folks who do this professionally in the gaming realm, television and on the web. It’s a ton of work! A lot fewer kids would want to grow up to be Youtube stars if they knew the hours of work behind it.

Each week we put out 60-90 minutes of show. During the week, I try to record 5-6 hours of footage that’s clean. Games where I don’t open my menu and switch armor and weapons too much. Complete matches where the game hasn’t errored out. I’m always looking for fun little moments to bookend the show with. A clip of a buddy and I using the same special attach at the same time. A couple of people dancing or doing the same emote in a group. An absolutely epic failure where I lunge off a cliff to my death. I try to find a little Easter egg for someone in the clan each episode or something that makes me laugh (or cry).

After I collect the footage, I open it up and review it, seeing how much unbroken game play I can string together. I review the footage, usually playing it at double speed or more to look for any glitches or things I don’t want to make the audience sit through. Then I split the clips together with natural cuts in the action, usually fading to black between them since it’s the transition I’ve figured out and works reliably.

Then after putting it all together, I rend out the video file which went from 6 hours on my first try down to just under an hour once I better understood what I was doing. Then it’s time to upload to Youtube. That’s an adventure in itself. I have no idea how long it will ever take to upload. Sometimes it’s an hour. Other times it’s multiple hours. It loves to sit at 95% for a seemingly random amount of time.

Once it’s up there, it’s time to name it, add in the show notes from the podcast page, tag it as a podcast, add it’s gaming footage with the hopes it’ll catch someone’s eye or get picked up in a search and then go to sleep since it’s usually between 1 and 2am when I do this. I try to get the show up on Youtube as close as I can to when the podcast gets released.

If you’ve stuck with me this far. This is all to say, I am doing a Destiny podcast. It’s a lot of fun. It’s made me appreciate the game and my friendship with my co-hosts all the more. I look forward to sitting down to talk with them every week and I hope at least some of that comes across in the show. As much grief as Nitedemon (the suave British voice of reason) and No1RespawnsinRL (guaranteed to be angrier on a random Tuesday than you ever will be in your entire life) give each other. We love this show and playing together.

If you are interested at all, you can find our show on Podbean. It will give you the RSS feed to put into your podcatcher. We’re on iTunes, PocketCasts, Overcast, Spotify, and Youtube. Search for “Two Titans and a Hunter” and you’ll find us in your audio purveyor of choice.

Most of you will roll your eyes or skip this post entirely because who cares about a gaming podcast to a game you don’t play. It’s OK. I fully expect most of you to be the Merlin Mann to my John Siracusa. And that’s OK. Because we don’t all have to like the same things. This is my little thing and it’s been a ton of fun to make.

What Day 20 of the Government Shutdown Looks Like

Overall, about 420,000 government employees are working under the promise they will be paid retroactively, with nearly another 350,000 on furlough at home. This does not account for the hundreds of thousands of contractors who will never see this missing pay. This includes the janitorial, food service, information technology and security professionals. Most make at or near minimum wage and cannot afford to miss pay checks. As the shutdown lasts into its third week, these people are missing pay checks and paying the price of a prolonged fight in the government.

Over a million people are being hurt directly by the shutdown which doesn’t even account for local restaurants and convenience stores who benefit from the foot traffic and nutrtional needs of those workers. Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers are seeing a sharp decline in business due to the lack of people moving around the city either to commute or to take meetings throughout town.

The public transit system is taking a huge hit with nearly 40% of its daily commuters government employees and contractors.

It’s also outrageously expensive. The U.S. economy will have lost $3.6 billion by Friday, according to S&P. In 2013, the government shutdown cost $24 billion after just 16 days. As we roll into Days 21 and 22.

Here is a snapshot of what’s not getting done and a reminder that anyone still working is not getting paid to work. How long would you do your job without a pay check?

See How the Effects of the Government Shutdown Are Piling Up

What’s Already Happened

Dec 22nd:

  • The Food and Drug Administration stops its routine inspections and many research activities and stops accepting approval applications for new drugs.

Dec 26:

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency issues a “stop work” order to all contractors, telling them they will not be paid.

Dec 28:

  • The Department of Agriculture closes its Farm Service Agency county offices and later extends a deadline for farmers to apply for subsidies to offset the effects of Chinese tariffs.

Dec 30:

  • The National Park Service suspends services like trash collection and road maintenance, and plans to close certain parks. The parks are losing about $400,000 a day in fees.

January:

  • The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau halts approvals for new beer labels, delaying the release of some craft brewers’ products.
  • The Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo close their doors.
  • The National Gallery of Art closes to the public.

Jan 4:

  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development sends letters to 1,500 landlords asking them not to evict residents in housing assistance programs — including those with Section 8 vouchers — for which funding has lapsed.

Jan 11:

  • Many federal workers miss their first paycheck. While some earn six-figure salaries, an average employee’s weekly take-home pay is about $500, according to a labor union for government employees.

Upcoming Deadlines

Jan 12:

  • Miami International Airport closes a terminal as security screeners have been calling in sick at twice the airport’s normal rate.

Jan 18:

  • Federal district courts run out of funds. Civil cases may be suspended or postponed, but criminal cases and other essential work will proceed.

Jan 25

  • Federal workers miss another paycheck.

Congress approves back pay — eventually — for furloughed federal employees

The House on Friday approved the measure on a 411-to-7 vote, following Senate passage Thursday under a shortcut procedure called unanimous consent, in which a bill is deemed passed if no member objects.

The measure would apply only to furloughed federal employees. Separate legislation is pending in Congress calling for contractors to similarly pay their lower- and middle-income employees who have been furloughed because of the partial shutdown.


The 7 Republicans who voted against back pay for furloughed workers

But seven lawmakers — all House Republicans — opposed the measure. Those “no” votes came from:

Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.)
Andy Biggs (Ariz.)
Paul Gosar (Ariz.)
Glen Grothman (Wis.)
Thomas Massie (Ky.)
Chip Roy (Texas)
Ted Yoho (Fla.).

Their main objection is the legislation passed by Congress this week would also guarantee back pay in the event of a future shutdown.


Government Shutdown Curtails F.D.A. Food Inspections

The Food and Drug Administration has stopped routine food safety inspections of seafood, fruits, vegetables and many other foods at high risk of contamination because of the federal government’s shutdown, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the agency’s commissioner, said on Wednesday.

F.D.A. inspectors normally examine operations at about 160 domestic manufacturing and food processing plants each week. Nearly one-third of them are considered to be at high risk of causing food-borne illnesses. Food-borne diseases in the United States send about 128,000 people to the hospital each year, and kill 3,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Coast Guard families told they can have garage sales to cope with government shutdown – The Washington Post

Employees of the U.S. Coast Guard who are facing a long U.S. government shutdown just received a suggestion: To get by without pay, consider holding a garage sale, babysitting, dog-walking or serving as a “mystery shopper.”

The tip sheet, titled “Managing your finances during a furlough,” applies to the Coast Guard’s 8,500-person civilian workforce. About 6,400 of them are on indefinite furlough, while 2,100 are working without pay after being identified as essential workers, said Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a service spokesman.


‘Could you make these guys essential?’: Mortgage industry gets shutdown relief after appeal to senior Treasury officials

Because of the shutdown, the IRS was unable to process a key form that lenders use to confirm borrowers’ incomes before they can grant home loans — a roadblock that threatened to bring the mortgage industry to a halt.


‘We all have bills. We all have to eat.’ For furloughed federal workers, the first missed paychecks ratchet up anxiety.

With only a few weeks’ worth of cash reserves in the bank, and no end in sight to the war of political attrition between Trump and his Capitol Hill foes, the couple have been lowering the thermostat and skimping at the supermarket, part of their overall belt-tightening.
“Using up what’s in the freezer,” Lisa said.
“Stopped eating out,” said Gordy.
“Keeping the lights off when we’re not in the room.”
“Cable TV might have to go.”
“Paying the minimum on the credit cards.”
“Not driving if we don’t have to.”
“I would love a haircut,” Gordy said, “but that’ll have to wait.”


Now on Craigslist, Facebook: Household items from furloughed workers trying to make ends meet

A federal worker in Morgantown, W.Va., took to Facebook this week to sell welding tools, left behind by his deceased father-in-law. Another, a die-hard Star Wars fan in Woodbridge, Va., did the same with a life-size copy of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber. A single father in Indiana hosted a sale on eBay with five pages of things found around the house, including Bibles, Nintendo bedsheets and Dr. Seuss neckties.

“I have $24 in cash on me, I don’t use credit cards and I have $2.40 left in my bank account,” Simeone said. “If we miss this upcoming paycheck, I will be completely broke.”


Over 300 small-business loans a day aren’t happening because of the shutdown

The SBA typically handles almost 200 loans for working capital via the 7(a) loan program and about 120 loans a day for commercial properties through what’s known as the 504 loan program. In total, these two programs alone are dispensing nearly $200 million worth of loans a day to small and midsize U.S. businesses.


‘There’s no money’: Shutdown freezes HUD funds for low-income senior citizens

More than 200 of the contracts that expired in December are for properties, like San Jose Manor II, that provide rental assistance for the elderly, according to LeadingAge, an association for nonprofit providers of aging services. Known as Section 202, the program houses about 400,000 low-income elderly people as part of HUD’s Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance as well as a separate HUD program.

That could mean even fewer options for poor senior citizens. The waiting list for San Jose Manor II Apartments is already one year to one-and-a-half years long, according to Ballard, who said that if residents were forced to leave, they wouldn’t have anywhere else to go. “They would live on the street,” she said. “There’s nothing for them.”


T.S.A. Agents Refuse to Work During Shutdown, Raising Fears of Airport Turmoil

The partial shutdown of the federal government is starting to affect air travel as a growing number of security agents are refusing to work for no pay.

The nation’s 51,000 airport security agents are among the federal employees who have been ordered to work through the partial shutdown, which began on Dec. 22.

On Friday, they missed their first paycheck since it started, a lapse that their union leaders feared would cause more of them to stop showing up for work or even to quit their jobs.

The agents earn about $35,000 a year, on average, union officials said. “We have people that work from paycheck to paycheck and there’s quite a few of them,” said Vincent R. Castellano, national vice president for the union’s second district, which encompasses the Northeast.

My first day with Daily Burn

I signed up for Daily Burn today. They are well-reviewed, it works on my Roku (or anything with a browser) and had a generous month-long free trial. I doubled the trial with a Groupon for 60 days free. I always look for a coupon, a promo code or a better deal when I can. The two pricing tiers are Standard for $15/month and Premium for $27/month. I don’t entirely understand the differences in the two tiers, but it seems like Standard would be more than enough as it seems to offer 20 workout series including the 365 show. They produce a 30-minute workout show every day of the year and stream it live at 9am. It’s then available on-demand after that.

I downloaded the app to our living room Roku and connected it to my account. (Sidenote: I did not have to sign into service on Roku, so you can use a generated password without having to enter it using the Roku remote or Roku app). The free trial is for the Premium membership. It provides access to a huge list of workouts and programs. It’s a little overwhelming at first. This is where the Premium access looks good for the amount of choice, but I don’t need 600 workout videos especially when I am on the beginner/intermediate end of workouts. I’m not going to do anything with hardcore or extreme in the name.

I am at “fat guy, you’ll feel better if you workout today” level.

Since I didn’t want to explore the pile of workouts available to me, I tried the Daily Burn 365 since it was 30 minutes and meant for anyone. It was a good workout. I was dripping and dragging by the end of it. But I was able to do every move in the program today. That’s a major accomplishment. The only thing I couldn’t do was a mountain climber move where you bring your knees to the opposite hand. I’m too fat to pull that move off, but I was able to do a modified version of it and felt good.

I like that there is a daily workout show I can do. That’s part of my problem with doing a workout program. Eventually you do the same routine for the 9th time and you know the same jokes and the witty banter is no longer enjoyable. I like that with a daily show, I get variety both in workouts and the banter. The latter is a small point but it’s something I notice.

Previously, I have only done the Beachbody on Demand workouts. Of those, I have done their 21 Day Fix (a variable-length introductory workout for the entire body), Core De Force (a 45 minute MMA-inspired workout that left me panting on the floor), Cize (a hip-hop dance program) and Country Heat (a country music dance program). There are plenty of Beachbody programs available but there are so many above my level, I will never attempt them. The P90 programs all live there. Lots of extreme and hard-core workouts. Lots of things for people who don’t look like they need to workout because they’re skinny and in amazing shape.

Show me a chubby person trying this workout. That’s the one I want to see. That’s where I need to start. I enjoyed the Beachbody on Demand workouts, especially with the in-set videos that focus on the person performing the modified activities. This was really helpful since sometimes they’ll talk about the modified exercise but will never show it, or show it for less than a rep so I’m left unsure of how to properly modify this crazy exercise I physically cannot do.

I understand it’s called Beachbody and they want to give me a beach body. However, I’m starting with a body that could pass for a sand dune. I am hoping the Daily Burn has more for me at my level. Even if I stick with the 30 minute daily workouts, it will be a huge improvement in my life. That’s the other hard part for me. When I finished a program with Beachbody, it was hard to decide where to go next. There was no obvious next step. I didn’t want to re-do the same workout program because I wanted something different. But the difficulty curve is so drastic, there’s not many options. For awhile, I was switching between something intense like Core de Force and Yoga on alternating days.

I hope with the 365 program, this will help keep me active and engaged. In addition to the huge amount of workout programs available to me. I hope when I finish something, there will be somewhere to go on a smaller difficulty jump. It’s only Day 1 and I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s so much about the service and programs I don’t know.

But I am optimistic after my first day. It felt good. I’ve got two months to decide if this is something worth paying for or not. By then I’ll know if it’s worth my time and effort or not. But there’s so much content, even if we opt for the Standard tier, it will be more than enough content to keep us engaged and moving.

Christmas 2018

The Season of Perpetual Food

I have a mixed history with Christmas. I need my alone time and the holidays are filled with people and activities and socializing and more people and travel. Thankfully, this year the travel was done pre-Christmas so I didn’t have to go anywhere more than a few miles to my sister-in-law for the morning to view the ceremonial small child unwrapping presents.

Which we did and had am excellent breakfast there as we played Headbanz. It worked pretty well and showed how hard some of us guessed at very easy items. The premise of the game is you put a card on your head which you can’t see and ask yes/no questions to figure out what it is.

I learned that I overthink the answers and need to keep it to simple things. Example cards were Giraffe, Train and Sandwich.

I struggled mightily with butterfly after determining it had wings and flew, but was not a bird or a bat, or Fly (another card we’d seen earlier).

The main event is of course, the Christmas Dinner. This year we hosted and my wife worked up the menu including a broccoli salad (very fresh and not filled with mayo), roasted potatoes (because the Big Potato mandates their inclusion at every holiday meal) spinach dip with fresh veggies in a sourdough loaf bowl (because you need fuel to prepare the rest of the meal).

The main course would be a double-header of grilled salmon and grilled turkey legs.Grilled SalmonGrilled Turkey Legs

It was my second time grilling turkey legs and my first time grilling salmon. I largely winged the salmon and focused on not over-cooking it. My key to any properly cooked meat is to remove it from the grill about 10 degrees before it hits the recommended temperature. It’s still going to cook inside and instead of dry, tough meat, you have a juicy, moist meal to enjoy.

We set the table. Complete with plants and a small child.

Christmas dinner set at the table with my nephew present.
Christmas dinner set at the table with my nephew present.

Christmas was a success. We sat in front of the fire and played some more Headbanz and visited as adults who have eaten too many delicious foods do on holidays.

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