Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Funnies

Sign says it all . . . most definitely.

And we stayed (very) far behind this rig.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

N&W 1218 moves again!!!!!

This past weekend we attended the 10th anniversary of the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke, Va.  Link was a well known commercial photographer. You've probably seen his work but never knew it. His passion though was steam locomotives. From the early 1950's until the last steam locomotive was retired, Link photographed them on the Norfolk & Western Railway. His specialty was night photography. To see some of his amazing work, go to O. Winston Link. More on Link in another post.

As part of the celebration, one of the last N&W steam locomotives, NW1218, was brought from the Virginia Transportation Museum (just up the tracks) to the Link museum. This particular locomotive was one of Link's favorites and he was adamant that it be preserved. NW1218 was parked behind the museum so other railroad photographers could photograph it without obstructions. We were early enough to be able to photo chronicle the move by Norfolk Southern crews.
This video has 31 pictures in it so please give it time to load. If you are on a slow DSL connection or a dial-up connection it may not ever load. SOOOOO here is one of the best pictures of the series.
This was taken as NW1218 went under the bridge i was sitting on. For those that may be interested, NW1218 is a Class A, Norfolk Western 2-8-4 locomotive. That translates to 2 lead wheels, 4 drive wheels, 4 more drive wheels, and 4 trailing wheels.
Since 1218 hasn't been in service for many years, the NS crew used an SD-40 diesel locomotive to push 1218. From my vantage point it was hardly noticeable.

Here We Snow (Again)

The announcement on the local radio station was straightforward yesterday morning.

Overnight Tuesday, the VA Eastern Shore received its second major snow fall in 2 weeks with northern areas getting 4-6 inches; up to 7-1/2 inches towards the southern end. Temperatures were frigid too, starting with a morning low of 14 degrees F and daytime high of 21 degrees. 

OK, so this is not a major big snow event to folks in other parts of the U.S. But, around here, this was a heavy snowfall, just ask folks in neighboring southern states. These were early morning scenes at The Frog & PenguINN.

Closures included all public and private schools in two counties, also a local hardware store, bakery, YMCA, medical facilities, including dialysis treatment. There's no snow plowing of local roadways. Snow removal is done by vehicles driving on the roads. 

Grenville has his own method of snow removal with some help from his Deere "friend" John. Can you tell he's really enjoying himself?

After he plowed our drive and the local firehouse/EMS building, it was time for pancakes!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Charity Junk Mail

If you receive a check from the National Cancer Research Center as I did this week, do some research before you send a donation. You might change your mind. 
My $2.50 check arrived inside a fundraising appeal letter. My first thought was to toss it in recycling. (Always trust your first instincts, I learned. I'll tell you why.)

Sometimes, unsolicited checks can be used as vehicles for scams. Your endorsement can commit you to further obligations in fine print. That was not the case; the accompanying letter stated:

"The $2.50 check is real.  You could put this letter aside, cash the check, and forget all about our important laboratory research and national cancer education programs.  But what I really hope you will do is return the $2.50 check along with your own gift of $10.00 or more to help in our fight against cancer."

Several friends and family members have been or are undergoing cancer treatments, so my second thought was to send a minimum donation with the request NOT to solicit further. Of course, that hardly ever never seems to work. What was I thinking?

Deciding to trust my first instinct (tossing it), I checked on the National Cancer Research Center online and learned from blog postings that others had received similar checks as far back as 2-3 years ago with the same M.O. One blogger suggested going to the Charity Navigator site and I've bookmarked it for reference.

The National Cancer Research Institute is a project of the Walker Cancer Research Institute (WCRI) headed by Helen Marie Walker, president. Evan Harris Walker, an American physicist, who died in 2006, founded WCRI in 1981.

Charity Navigator gave it 1 star (out of a possible 4) for accountability and transparency, and 0 for financial. Most of the funds raised (over 90%) are used for more fundraising.  So with a $10 donation, most goes to send mailings to more people (and so on and so on). See the pattern here.

Comments left at Charity Navigator indicate that some folks cash the check donating the money to "real" charities. Of course, you could cash the check and keep the money, but your name and address are on the check with a series of bar codes. Cashing it could lead to even more problems, and would you really need the $2.50 that much?

WHY more problems?
The WCRI could then sell your info to other "charities"  and you could be inundated with even more junk mail. People often complain of being inundated by requests for money that they can't  seem to stop.

If you get one of these letters, it's your choice. Mine went into the shredder after I salvaged the included postage: four 1-cent stamps. Postage this week went to 49 cents for a U.S. postage stamp.

(Credits: The graphic herein is from the Devon Authorities Recycling Partnership, U.K.)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"Effective" City Lights

An ordinary evening scene can usually be transformed to something quite magical looking when filters are applied. In days past, when I used 35mm single lens reflex cameras (SLRs) and later digital SLRs, many special effects were done using add on filters. My favorite then was the cross-screen (CS) filter.

Last fall, I purchased an Olympus Tough waterproof camera for our trip to Niagara Falls. For myself, the one-time cost was preferable to spending $8-10 for a disposable waterproof camera and we woulve needed several of these. And, a huge downside to the disposable ones is they offered no preview so photos would not be seen until processed -- too late to get a better shot. Besides, the Olympus could be used for future trips, in all types of bad weather, and Amazon had refurbished ones; mine is also red.

AND, this camera also has built-in "magic" filters including fish-eye, pencil sketch, soft focus, reflection and my favorite, a cross-screen effect called sparkle. On our recent road trip to Roanoke, VA, I used this effect at the Norfolk & Southern RR yard at sunset. Then, I had fun with special effects in Picasa. These are only a few of what's available and I've included a brief description of each 

This is the original SOOC (straight out of camera) scene shot with the sparkle filter applied. No post-processing was done to this image.

First is "HDR-ish" or high-dynamic-range imaging, a set of techniques used in imaging and photography to reproduce a greater dynamic range (luminosity) than possible using standard digital imaging or photographic techniques. HDR images can represent more accurately the range of intensity levels found in scenes.

The "orton-ish" effect comes from a slide-sandwich technique devised by photographer Michael Orton in the mid-1980s. This photo technique blends two completely different photos of the same scene, resulting in a distinctive mix of high and low detail areas within the same photo and adds depth and richness to the photo. 
This is the "soften" effect which softens the focus around a center point by using sliders to control the size of the focused area and also the amount of softness applied.
This is "B&W" (black and white) which gives the original color image a historic or nostalgic effect. Stark contrasts can enhance the subject matter.
Next is "focal B&W" which converts a photo to black and white, while keeping one circular area of color intact. Using sliders lets you define size and sharpness of the colored spot.

This last effect, "graduated tint" is similar to using a graduated color filter on a camera. It allows you to apply a colored tint to the top half of a photo. You can adjust the shade of the tint and the degree at which it feathers into the rest of the photo. This is useful for enhancing a sunset (as shown below) or making gray skies blue.

It was fun playing around with these special effects. These are just a very small sampling of the countless effects possible in this easy and FREE photo editing program. If you don't like a particular effect, it can be undone. I kept the original photo, then did alterations saving each with a different file name.

Have you ever tried Picasa special effects? AND 
Which of these effects did you find the most effective or dramatic?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Taking a Walk

What would you do if you lost everything and nearly all about the same time?

That's what happened to 28-year old Seattle ad exec Alan Christoffersen who lost the love of his life, his job, and home within 1 month, then he went for a walk -- cross-country.

In reality, similar misfortunes (and worse) have happened to many; however, Alan's story is  detailed in a fictional series by author Richard Paul Evans. These books relate how Alan, in the wake of several personal tragedies, sets out to walk from Bellevue, Washington to the farthest point on his map, Key West, Florida.
In the first book, The Walk, Christoffersen, who heads his own ad company (Madgic) is wildly successful in his business, and madly in love with his wife, McKale, whom he's known since they grew up as next door neighbors. His life is perfect, until McKale breaks her back in a riding accident and is paralyzed. Alan stays with her, leaving his partner, Kyle, to run the business. Kyle betrays him, taking clients and associates to form his own firm. When McKale dies after contracting an infection, Alan plans suicide, but instead, leaves everything behind to set off on a walk. The people and situations he encounters and the lessons they share with him, save and inspire his life.

Within a week, I read the first four books, published between 2010 and 2013. The final one is due this spring; I've already placed a reserve at our local library.
  • The Walk (2010)
  • Miles to Go (2011)
  • The Road to Grace (2012)
  • A Step of Faith (2013)
  • Waking on Water (due May 2014)
While the characters are fictional, Evans has a way of drawing readers into the story; his characters become people you care about. The books are "quick reads" that kept me reading nearly non-stop, sometimes late at night to complete one. (You may find yourself doing the same if you choose to start the series.) 

Other books by this #1 best selling author include The Christmas Box, Timepiece, The Letter, The Locket, The Looking Glass, The Promise, A Perfect Day. Evans is also author of the popular teen series, Michael Vey

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Easter is When?

Easter is April 20 this year. 
According to our calendar, as I write this, it's January 4. Stepping back in time today as this post was written a couple of weeks ago and unpublished.

WHY is this significant?
Apparently, it's NOT soon enough as some most retailers need an early start to put out their Easter-themed candy confections. This past weekend, these well-known creme eggs were on display along with Valentine's candies and leftover holiday candies.

These other candy brands were also displayed at a well-known chain store this weekend. 

While, the store's name is being withheld here, there are other retailers I am sure with similar (early) displays.

By the way, when did these these candy brands become special for every holiday?

Isn't a Milky Way or Snickers  still the same candy bar, regardless of the holiday?

OK, I'm dating myself here, but in years past, "traditional" Easter treats were mainly chocolate bunnies, jelly beans,  and this personal favorite, which disappears quickly (like egg nog after Christmas).

Remember when toys were reserved for Christmas and not put in Easter baskets?

AND, Easter candy sales did not start 2 weeks after Christmas OR before Valentine's Day hearts were put away.

Yes, the Valentine cards, candies and gifts were on adjoining shelves near the Christmas clearance items.

Do you recall when holidays were less rushed and enjoyed more ?

As you can tell, I do. Now, excuse me while I go out to gather hoard marshmallow eggs before they disappear (like the egg nog).

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Snuggle & Share

Keeping warm on a winter's day . . .

Can be hard to do.

There's some who prefer to dine alone . . .

While others share together (even if briefly) . . .

These images were captured in the F&P yard this week from an inside view.

We hope you are keeping warm during this very cold weather. Enjoy the weekend.

White Bean & Kale Soup

When it's cold (and snowy) outside, homemade soup is on The Frog & PenguINN menu. This hearty soup made me think of something that's offered as the first course at a family-style Italian restaurant, it's that "homey" and warming. And, it's also healthy.

Substitute store-bought broth if you don't have homemade vegetable (or chicken) stock. I didn't have homemade and used store bought. The ingredients can be used as a guide, as just about any veggies will work in this soup; swap Swiss chard or any other leafy green, like spinach, for the kale, depending on your preference.
You can add more beans or greens for a jam-packed bowlful of soup and it is perfect for winter days.
White Bean & Kale Soup
  • 1 whole garlic head
  • 4 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 C finely chopped onion
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 C chopped carrot
  • 1 C chopped and peeled potato
  • 1 C chopped celery
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 TBSP tomato paste
  • 8 C homemade vegetable stock OR los-sodium chicken stock, if unavailable
  • 2 (16-ounce) cans, drained cannellini beans
  • 6 C chopped fresh kale
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley (optional for garnish)
  1. Remove white papery skin from garlic, do not peel or separate cloves.  Brush garlic with 1 teaspoon olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour (toaster oven is useful).  Let stand for 10 minutes, then separate cloves and squeeze out pulp.  Discard  skins.
  2. Heat remaining 3 teaspoons olive oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and salt; sauté for 5 minutes.  Add carrot, potato, celery, rosemary, and tomato paste; cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Add Vegetable Stock and cannellini beans; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  4. Stir in roasted garlic pulp and kale; simmer for final 10 minutes, until kale is tender.  Ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle with optional parsley if desired.
This soup was our dinner served with a side salad and Grenville's homemade bread.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Funny

Snow Blower

Eastern Shore Style

Thursday, January 23, 2014

ES Snowfall

Have you ever heard the Christmas song "Snowfall"? It is one of my favorites. But more favorite is a real snow fall here at the F&P. And that is what we went to sleep to last night. Howling wind, blowing snow and arctic temperatures. But the beauty after the storm this morning was worth it.
First Light

Now i'm not one for getting up to much before the sun. I really wouldn't want to take his job. AND even then i'm usually a little groggy. But this morning was so glorious i was the first one to grab a camera (i know,,,, hard to believe.) Even before i got the coffee i was clicking away. It is a little hard to see, but in the upper middle pic above, the little white dot is the setting half moon. The lower right is the sun rising.
Frosty Window Panes
A morning that starts out at 12 F degrees is Arctic for the Eastern Shore. Although I'm sure our friends in Alaska and Montana are laughing about now saying "thats balmy." The blowing snow and the ultra chilly air last night gave us a great frost display on the windows this morning. Even the screens on the inside of the storms got some crystal frosting.
Frosted Pines
Even with all of the wind overnight our pines held onto their lovely frosting. I thought about lighting a nice fire on our meadow patio but about this time i was losing feeling in my hands. 
"How many days till Spring?"
YEP, even our feathered friends were feeling the chill. I found these guys waiting for breakfast to be brought out by the Princess.

I've always loved the day after a snowfall. The air is so crisp and fresh. The sky so clear and vivid blue. And this morning was no disappointment.
Morning after sky
Back lit by the winter sun, even the clouds were dramatic this morning. 
This was my second foray out into the frigid morning. I had finally found a pair of gloves that were thin enough to manipulate the camera but still keep my fingers slightly warm. BUT then my zoom decided it had had enough of this and froze up. Thankfully it is not an "Internet Ready" camera. No telling what it might have done. 
We hope all of you who got this storm stayed safe and sound and got to enjoy some of natures beauty.
Grenville (Thawing his zoom)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Going Thru the Wash

That's what Grenville's Jeep needed during our road trip to Lancaster, PA a couple of weeks ago. We drove through snowy roads in VA, MD, DE and then PA.

BEFORE . . .

During . . .

And AFTER . . . (that's Grenville waving)

Somehow, a clean car always seems to ride better.

After yesterday's 5-inch snowfall here (a lot for the VA eastern shore) we will be going through a car wash again soon.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Then There Was None

Ever try to find eggnog on store shelves before Christmas celebrations are over?

It disappears faster than the decorations, which go on half-price in some stores on Christmas Eve.

Grenville and myself are both eggnog aficionados. It's the one store drink we eagerly anticipate at the holidays. We enjoy ours straight-up (no alcohol).

But, unless you compile a stockpile to last through the week-long holidays, none can be found in stores by Dec 24 (earlier in most cases).

This year, we managed to find several pint-size containers at a local Royal Farms store. Of course, we bought hoarded them and happily enjoyed our bounty beyond New Years.

Sadly, good things don't last forever. This week we finished the last one.

Next year, we'll start earlier, but may make our own batch before then.

Anyone have a recipe to share?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Double Anniversary

We're celebrating 2X this month!

No, it's not our wedding anniversary (not until August). And, it's not a birthday either (Beatrice celebrates that event next month).

It was our 4th blog anniversary last week and we shamefully missed sharing that happy date. January 17, marked the first post on this blog written by Grenville, way back in 2010.

Today, January 20, is when we closed on our VA home, naming it The Frog & PenguINN, 11 years ago.

Here's a few "before" photos from when we first saw our future home. We've posted lots of before and after house photo posts in recent years, especially in this 2012 post by Grenville.

And, more recent photos of our home.
The F&P remains "on the market." While we are hopeful that someday (soon) a new owner will purchase and like love this house, we continue to  enjoy it daily.

AND, of course we're STILL having fun and look forward to another year in blogville. Doesn't it show?

We always welcome & enjoy YOUR visits and comments.

Beatrice & Grenville
(+ Dorothy & Pat)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Getting Scarier

Oh Yea!!!!! Scarier may not be a big enough word to cover my feelings. I may have to advance to the 'T' word. If you thought the "Robo-Toity" was bad, hold on to your undies. Today i found that you may not even be safe in the woods. Nope, not even in the remotest part of the globe. You may still be within reach of the Internet Hackers. This little beauty comes complete with solar panel, battery, cellular or satellite connection, and high def flat panel.  This could turn into an evolutionary disaster. Just think, bears find this and stop pooping in the woods. Next they start sending emails and instant messaging their furry friends. Pretty soon there is a line of critters demanding "net time".  Suddenly no one is pooping in the woods, no fertilization, trees go extinct, greenhouse gasses skyrocket, the ozone hole  opens completely and the planet fries. I wonder if it will be covered by CNN??? On the bright side, the critters won't be texting while running and getting hurt. But then there won't be any trees left to run into.

News today is they have traced where many of the scam emails have been coming from. Hang on folks, this is a good one. An IT Security Tech at an un named company was bored and started tracing where some spam messages were coming from. It was SPAM BOTS!!!! Thats right, Robo Spammers. These are the folks that call up and tell you your computer is infected, offer you a 'free' something, or disguise a spam email as an official something and if you don't 'click here' (go ahead, click there...... nothing will happen) the world as you know it will end. Any thing to get you to 'click here'. The next thing your computer is seized and starts sending SPAM. And you probably won't even know it. Every time you turn on your 'zombie'  computer it will be sending out thousands of spam emails.

Remember the good old days when tweaking and hacking a garage door remote was high tech???? Remember all the laughs you got riding down the street and watching all the doors open as you passed???? Come on, admit it. Maybe it wasn't you doing it, but you thought it was cool.

WELL, the Spammers and Hackers have moved well into the digital
age. They have truly embraced the 'Internet of Everything'. That IT Security Tech finally was able to track the source of one spam email to of all things, a refrigerator. YEP, that nice fridge that told you the milk was turning was also sending thousands of spam emails between defrost cycles.
And what about the 'iCow' that the fridge text messaged to auto milk, homogenize, pasteurize, and ship your milk. All so it is ready when your 'Transfridgerator' comes thru the drive in. Scarrrrryyyyyy!!!!!!

I was watching an episode of Downton Abbey where the big problem was that the chimney for the wood cook stove  in the kitchen wasn't drawing properly and thus not heating and pushing smoke into the kitchen. What do you think Mrs. Padmor and Daisy would think of this.

And then there is the phenomenon of the Social Networking. Everyone telling everyone else what they are doing. And lets face it, some of the stuff that is shared should be shuttered instead.  My big quandary is whether anyone is listening or reading any of this drivel?? Really, when would they have time????  With minute by minute texts of their comings and goings, who would have time to read what anyone else is doing. But then, would anyone really care??
Soon all their 'social networking' devices will be chronicling their 'oh so exciting' lives. Maybe then someone will read this stuff.
Now i know what your thinking. I would caution you before uttering "What Next????" It may become the Utter that doesn't make it over the fence. But what do I know?????
Grenville (unplugging EVERYTHING!!!!!)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Snow, Eastern Shore Style

We often joke about the snow here on the Eastern Shore, but this was truly an Eastern Shore style snow.  Most of the fields this time of year are either barren or light green with a cover crop. The barren ones most likely had been corn or soy bean fields. With all of the rain we have had this fall many fields have not been tilled and seeded with a cover crop, leaving lots of left over delectables.
Some may not realize that the Eastern Shore is a major avian migratory route. Spring and fall we are treated to seeing many different birds. Some just stopping over, and some coming for the season.
The other day as we were heading to a friends house we happened to be passing one of those fields.
Eastern Shore folk really do not like snow. Not to walk in, drive in, or shovel. And sometimes i have to agree with them. Unless of course, the snow has black tipped wings. This is a field with a flock of about 1000 Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens.) Even larger flocks are normal here during the winter months. The show they put on is truly spectacular as one flies up and all the rest follow. A huge blur of white with black tips. And they don't go far. Sometimes just circling the field a few times and then landing. Until, of course, another one decides to take a spin.
AND the best part is....... NO Shoveling Required!!!!

Hope every one has a Magnolious Weekend

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday Funnies

Sometimes, the words people put on their vehicles say it all . . .

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Be Scared, BE VERY SCARED!!!!!!

I'm not often frightened by reading the morning news, I'm a Jersey Guy. Admittedly, i have given up the printed version in favor of the online one. I find the convenience of getting all the news from all the outlets that i choose (unlike the cable conundrum of paying for 99 channels of no interest to get the two you like) is so refreshing. And yes, i have, for the most part abandoned paper calendars in preference to my iPod (someday maybe even a smartphone.) My to-do list is electronically captured and shared by no less than three devices, and i watch most tv on-line. BUT the other morning i was almost stopped in my tracks (thank goodness i was sitting in bed having my coffee) when i came across this from the Consumer Electronics Show:

Smart refrigerators that let you know when the milk is on the turn, toothbrushes that keep track of dental hygiene and tennis rackets that help you play better: Welcome to 'the Internet of Things'

The INTERNET OF EVERYTHING????????  In the past i have flirted with the idea of getting a wrist band monitor of  some sort. A more useful pedometer (i used to wear one until i realized that the silly thing was adding steps every time i twitched in my chair, sneezed, or even layer down for a therapeutic cat nap.) 
BUT the thought of my refrigerator knowing more than i was a bit unsettling. What next, milk starts to turn, the fridge contacts the dairy, text messages the cow???? And what about this, a fridge that is a transformer. Think of it. Milk goes sour, fridge texts the store, turns into a car, zips to the store drive thru, gets the milk (charging it to your supplied credit card of course), zips home and pops back to being the fridge.
Scary huh!!!!!
BUT thats not the worst.... Oh No, not by a long shot.
Turning inanimate objects into wirelessly connected devices would revolutionise the everyday lives of their owners. But could cyber attackers conceivably turn your cooker, your car or even your cardigan against you?
Now that is scary!!!!!! All those nice electronic toys turned into MONITORS!!!! Watching every move you make. Knowing everything you do. Analyzing every thought you have.
(SPECIAL NOTE: if you are from the NSA or any other similar bunch, please wipe the drool from your face right now and deposit the wipe in the supplied containers. We will analyze it momentarily)
As bad as that sounds it gets even worse. And you were just thinking "How bad could this really be?" Well, let me tell you,,,, A LOT WORSE!!!!!!!!
Smart toilets will monitor the frequency and consistency of your bowel movements, and tell you whether you ought to book an appointment with a dietician – or worse, a clinician.   
Then come the SPAMMERS......Emails up the Wazzoo for pastel colored stool softeners, auto wash and dry add ons, softer toilet paper, hygienic lifter seats, automatic colonoscopy, instant bowl cleaners (now that might be OK.)

BUT what about HACKERS????? Anonymous secretly takes control of all the toilets in the country. They all go into SUPER FLUSH, sucking the entire population to the seat. Ransom demands are texted out. Threats of a reverse super flush if payment isn't received. The devious dastardly scenarios are endless. 
Scared????? You better be..... I just put a piece of masking tape over the camera on my MacBook. I'm sure its been looking at me. Staring, smirking, plotting. 
I think i better go now. I'm sure i saw the paper shredder move. Probably has been listening to the key clicks and knows that I'm raising the alarm.... but the news is getting out:
Last year, for instance, a family in Houston, Texas found that a hacker had exploited security failings in its hi-tech baby monitor, made by the Chinese firm Foscam, to log in and begin verbally abusing the family's two-year-old, telling her she was a "little slut". Researchers recently uncovered similar vulnerabilities in a smart toilet, which can be controlled via Bluetooth using an Android smartphone app. According to the report by security firm Trustwave, hackers could cause the Inax Satis automatic toilet "to unexpectedly open/close the lid [or] activate bidet or air-dry functions, causing discomfort or distress to [the] user".