Pocket Texting

I have a friend staying with us for a few days. She booked the flight two days before coming down, in desperate need of a reprieve from winter. She had been telecommuting from her home, so why not move to a poolside office with plenty of sunshine and warmth?

My husband and I were out for a walk this morning and while he was picking up something to eat, I checked my phone and found a text from my friend. After responding, I slipped the phone back in my pocket and we walked home. When we got back to the house, I checked the phone again, only to find out I had been pocket texting while walking. I am distinguishing it from butt texting, as the phone was in my front pocket.

My message looked like this:
You know
I somehow managed to send 5 separate text messages without realizing it. Auto-correct struggled to make sense from my random letter bumping. Naturally, my friend’s reply was “Mini You know I Prom??”

I then responded by posting a map of my current location, which I didn’t even know was possible and then one final cryptic bit of text – lipi. The reply to that was, of course Lmao!! By now my friend had realized that I wasn’t being held captive somewhere, desperately attempting a call for help using only my nose, but merely pocket texting. I’ve been on the receiving end of more than a few butt dials, but I’ve never sent gibberish texts before.

We had a good laugh over it and silently I vowed to remember to lock my phone before sticking it in a pocket. Who knows what rude messages my pocket might send next time.

Not on Exhibit

One of my favorite photography subjects from our trip to the zoo was not an official resident. I’m referring to the elusive hummingbird, of course. I am forever trying to get the perfect hummingbird image. It’s one of my holy grail images. It’s rare for me to even see a hummingbird when I’m holding a camera with a really long lens. I did at the zoo.

A19A0477 (web)This little fellow darted around and fed long enough for me to get quite a few images. None were perfect, of course. Either the background was distracting or the bird wasn’t in focus or there was a leaf or twig blocking part of his body. But some were pretty darn good.

A19A0492 (web)I tried to clean up the background as much as possible. If I was a little more skilled at Photoshop and a little more patient, I could probably get a clear blue sky behind the bird.

A19A0444 (web)This one had the cleanest background, but the wings were a little blurrier than I would like. You want a little blur to convey motion, but not this much. It would take a ridiculously fast shutter speed to completely freeze the wing motion anyway.

Once again I’ve managed to stretch one day’s worth of photography into 5 posts. Pretty impressive, don’t you think? It might be a while before I break out the camera again.

Technicolor Plumage

Another bird photo obsession I have is with the Scarlet Macaw. There used to be two at the Phoenix Zoo, but I’ve only seen one the last few times we visited.

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He was doing a lot of grooming when I stopped by, so I took some interesting photos of an apparently headless bird. His feathers are just stunning. I wish I could have zoomed in enough to just fill the frame with feathers. I think it would make an interesting abstract. I could get a similar effect by cropping more tightly, but then I lose a lot of resolution.

A19A0574 (web)The very last exhibit we stopped by was their new orangutan home. One of the occupants was huddled in a corner under a blanket, but two were out and about. Unfortunately the sun was getting pretty low at this point, so there was a lot of shade. This was the best of some not really great images. I definitely need to visit it again when the light is better.

In the Pink

It just wouldn’t be a trip to the zoo without some pink Flamingos.

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I have some sort of weird obsession with photographing flamingos. Their enclosure at the zoo allows you to get pretty close to them, so I just shot a ton of different images and hoped some would work. The hardest part was holding up the camera for an extended period. My new lens is about the heaviest I would ever attempt to hand hold (3 1/2 pounds) and I was really feeling it at the flamingo pen. It’s a good thing I lift weights on a regular basis.

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I really love it when the flamingos contort into these funky S shapes. I wish there wasn’t another bird behind the one on the right, I think it would have made a stronger image with a cleaner background. But again, you can’t really control for everything. I managed to get a number of keepers, so I’m not complaining.

More Fun at the Zoo

You didn’t think I was only going to do one post on the zoo, did you?

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I have way too much good material for that. Like these cute little Spider Monkeys. They can be tricky to photograph, as they like to hide in the trees and when they come out it’s usually to quickly move from one spot to another. They are super cute though.

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Then there were these two beauties, who would probably make a nice meal of the monkeys. The one on the left is a jaguar and the one on the right is a cheetah.

The contrast between the bright sun and deep shade is another one of the tricky parts of photography at the zoo. A little sun on the animal and a shady background, like the jaguar photo, works well. The opposite, not so much. But the cheetah only stopped for a brief moment and you have to take the shot when you can. He’s one of a pair of brothers who were just recently transferred to the zoo. They have a lot of energy and were pacing the pen.

Stay tuned, I’ve got a couple more days worth of post worthy photos.

It’s a Jungle Out There

We went to the zoo today. I just received a new lens and wanted to test it out with my new camera. Our original plan was to get there a little early, but as soon as we backed the car out of the garage, it started to rain. So we immediately pulled back in. Good thing, as it quickly turned into a pretty heavy downpour. We ended up waiting two hours for take two.

The rain turned out to be beneficial for several reasons – it kept the temperature cooler, it kept people away from the zoo and, once the sun came out, so did the animals.

A19A0069 (web)The first enclosure we entered featured animals native to Arizona, including this Snowy Egret. The sparkles in the background are the water droplets on the mesh enclosure.

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One of the biggest tricks of zoo photography is trying to make the cages disappear. The Phoenix Zoo does of pretty good job of creating natural enclosures, but the animals aren’t always in a good spot for a photo. The egret at left was far enough from the mesh to make it disappear completely. The prairie dog on the right just had dirt behind him.

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If you look carefully, you can see a dark streak on the Golden Eagle. He wasn’t far enough back from the fence to enable me to throw it completely out of focus. But overall, I think this was about our best trip to the zoo so far.

Architecting a Dream

After two months of relative quiet on the new home front, we received an email from our architect last Friday. He had promised to make our project his first priority in the new year and had finally managed to finish his existing commitments and put together a contract and schedule for us. Shit’s getting real now. I am simultaneously excited and terrified.

If we hold to the schedule he’s proposing, we will have plans ready to submit to the city by early May. Then it’s a 4-6 week wait to get the permit, assuming there are no major challenges to our request. So in theory, we could be breaking ground by mid to late June. The builder’s best guess, based on our verbal description of the house, is that it will be about 8 months to complete the build. Which would have us moving in next March.

Of course I expect that nothing will go to plan. If there’s one thing that working in IT taught me, it’s that projects rarely go to plan. The only thing we actually care about from a scheduling perspective is the the house is fully enclosed before the weather gets bad in Minnesota. That gives us about 4 months for the exterior work. Should be okay.

Check and contract were mailed today. Breathe deep. Stay calm. Let’s get this party started.

Shutter to Think

We had new shutters installed today. We ordered them back in October and they came in while we were in Minnesota. When I got the call, they wanted to install them the Saturday before Christmas. Nope, won’t be in town. Then of course the place was closed from Christmas until after New Year’s. Great. So 12 weeks after we placed the order, we finally got the shutters. Fortunately, they are completely awesome.

The shutters replace some top down/bottom up shades we had in our kitchen and guest bedroom. The kitchen shade broke almost immediately and has stayed in the down position ever since. The guest bedroom shade broke about a year ago. We managed to repair it to the point that it was still somewhat functional. In addition to their tendency to break, the shades really weren’t that attractive. All of our other window treatments are great, I guess we were just tapped out by the time we had to pick these.

The shutters are white and bright and they just look so much classier. It improves the look of the whole room. It makes me positively giddy. The only slight downside is that we can’t actually open the ones in the kitchen because the faucet is in the way. So guess what our next little project will be? Stupid faucet drips anyway and it’s the least attractive thing in the whole kitchen. Come to think of it, the sink isn’t much better. Shit. Projects never end.

It’s Sugar

My husband picked me up at the glass/tinting place after I dropped my car there yesterday. It was in North Scottsdale, which is a bit of a drive from our house, so instead of going home and waiting for the car to be ready, we decided to kill some time in an upscale mall nearby. Our first stop was Barnes & Noble, because there’s nothing like a giant bookstore for wasting time. Sadly, we soon discovered that it was closed. Permanently closed. Thanks, Amazon.

So we wandered around Sur La Table for a while and bought a few expensive and completely unnecessary kitchen gadgets. We followed that up with lunch at Tommy Bahama. Yes, there is such a thing as a Tommy Bahama restaurant and the food there is pretty darn good. We hadn’t heard about the car by the time we had finished lunch, so we had to broaden our pursuit of time-wasting options. Across the street we went.

There we found even more time wasting opportunities. Most of the stores were unremarkable, but one stood out as a testament to the excesses of consumption. Literally. It was called It’s Sugar and, unsurprisingly, it was dedicated to all things sugar. Besides the obvious stuff, like every kind of bulk candy you can name, it was filled with giant sized candy (2 lb Peppermint Patty!), “cereal” (Marshmallow Madness – 100% marshmallow, 0% cereal!) and any number of candy themed gift items, many inspired by Saturday Night Live. (Schweddy Balls!)

On some levels it was hilarious. My husband took a photo of me holding a box of “Nice Melons.” I have no idea what it actually contained, but it was a funny photo op. But mostly it was just absolutely sickening. As someone who puts a great deal of effort into staying healthy and fit, it is completely revolting to see a store that sells what is essentially white poison cloaked in a variety of colorful disguises. Just the smell of the place was overwhelming.

I was grateful to get out of there and retrieve my sporty red car, as good as new.

Chipped and Cracked

I got in my sporty little red car yesterday and as soon as I pulled into the sunshine, I noticed a giant crack in my windshield that wasn’t there the day before. When I parked I took a closer look. There was a chip low on the windshield, too low to be seen from inside the car. It couldĀ  have been there for a few days or a few months before it decided to bloom in to a giant crack in both directions. Shit, shit, shit. Now, I am not the kind of person who will drive around with a crack in my windshield. Besides the white trash feeling, it’s a safety issue.

So I sent a photo of it via text to my husband before going to my personal training session. By the time I got home, he had already done research online and requested an estimate. Normally, glass replacement places will just come to your house and do the work, but my situation was complicated by the fact that my windows are tinted. So we needed to have the replacement windshield tinted. Turns out, it’s actually easier (hence cheaper) that way.

The windshield replacement is covered by insurance and the glass/tinting place was a preferred vendor for my insurance company, so that was all handled on their end. I took the car in at 10:00 this morning and they already had the new windshield tinted and ready for installation. Unfortunately, the glass installer wasn’t due to arrive until noon. The manager of the tint shop talked me in to having a clear film put on the front of my car to protect it from dings, since the car would otherwise just be sitting there for a few hours and they clearly had no other work to do. They cut me a deal, so I went for it. Now, how to kill a few hours?