Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday morning Vegas report

JMF_1719Steve had a gig last night at the Mandarin Bar, high atop the Mandarin Oriental luxury hotel on the Vegas Strip, so I tagged along.

The music was great, Steve’s playing was most impressive, and the audience was very responsive. The guitarist, who had the microphone and did the talking for the band, introduced me in the audience, which resulted in a moderately embarrassing round of applause, and thanked me for fathering Steve. Glad to oblige.

I took a stroll on the Strip before joining Steve and shot what I fear will turn out to be rather pedestrian photos once I look at them on my desktop computer at home. It will probably take some HDR enhancements to make any of them interesting to look at. I also caught the fountain show at the Bellagio on my iPhone video.

Nicky flew off to New York yesterday afternoon.

We  dropped Lisa off at school this morning and now we’re just hanging out until it’s time to head for the airport for my 1:45 p.m. flight to Memphis, via Salt Lake City.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday morning Las Vegas report


My daughter-in-law Nicky needs a professional portrait for her work, so I brought my camera bag along and we did the photo shoot yesterday afternoon.

nickyportraitAA72She and Steve reviewed the images over dinner last evening and I think everyone is very happy with the results.

The wall separating their back yard from the street made a nice neutral background and I can Photoshop out the block pattern if needed. The combination of open shade and sunlight lit her hair as well as any studio lighting setup and the result was some really nice photos.

Nicky flies to New York for work early this afternoon and I’m going downtown with Steve later for a gig that has lots of great photo potential.

In the meantime, I’m developing a strong dislike for the Disney Channel, which Lisa has going 24/7. What with the non-stop overacting of the painfully precocious child stars, the phoney life views and values being portrayed and the ever-present laugh track, it comes across as poisonous eye candy. And a whole generation is growing up on it.

Oh, these kids today!

Do I sound like I’m 68?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Checking on my Aussies from 1,550 miles away


I’m happy to see Jack and Dora (right edge of the frame) are enjoying a lazy fall Saturday afternoon on the screened back porch.

The Dogcam setup lets me check on them from afar.

Good morning

It's about 8:15 AM on Saturday and I'm sitting in the sunshine on the patio at Steve and Nicky's house drinking my first cup of morning coffee.
It's another gorgeous Las Vegas morning with a perfect blue sky and temperatures in the low 60s.
I plan to shoot a professional portrait for Nicky today, and also photograph a gig that Steve has tonight in Henderson.
I am sitting with my back to the sun and just noticed that my hair is a little wild and looks really interesting when backlit.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Vegas Report for Friday morning

JMF_145072 We were up past midnight last night at Odds On Records – the most amazing studio I’ve ever seen – where drummer Willard Dyson, bassist Steve, and saxophonist Rick Margitza recorded several amazing jazz tracks.

Carlos Santana was using the studio the day before, working on an album featuring several guest artists, similar to his 1999 Supernatural that went 15 times platinum in the U.S. and won nine Grammy Awards, including album of the year.

I tagged along on the school run this morning where we dropped Lisa off and then cruised by Coffee Bean & Tea Leaves which Steve keeps supplied with Milk Bones so they can hand them out to Skip and Emily whenever he drive up with them aboard.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Viva Las Vegas


Like father, like son. Here I am with Steve, flashing cheesy grins for a photo to send to Maria while driving from the airport to his Las Vegas home.

I spent about six and a half hours in travel time yesterday, including about an hour layover in Salt Lake City, flying here from Memphis, much of it listening to a screaming infant two rows back, but it was all worth it when I was greeted at McCarran Airport by Steve, Nicky and Lisa.

Steve invited me to come along on a gig he had last night in Henderson, Nev., but I begged off because it would keep me up until way past 4 a.m. Arkansas time. I’m tagging along on a studio recording gig this evening and shooting photos.

Until then, I’m hanging out and dealing with my jet lag and the two-hour time difference.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Airman Basic Flora


Forty-eight years ago today, I awoke to the sound of Reveille on the first day of Air Force Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas.

Here I am with my fellow trainees in Flight 1306 of the 3703rd BMTS (Basic Military Training Squadron). I seem to recall the kid on my right trying to recruit being from the Deep South and trying to recruit for the KKK.

At the age of 20, I was the second or third-oldest guy in my unit. If I recall correctly, the Selective Service was only drafting for the Army and the Marines, so all of us were volunteers. I chose the Air Force because it has no infantry. It didn’t matter because my career was cut short after only 41 days when I received a medical discharge for allergies.

So much for Vietnam and the great adventure of my generation. Nevertheless, I have the greatest admiration for those who served.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Our photo sales site goes live


Our photo sales site at went live this morning with two galleries of photos from grade school football games over the weekend.

Wish us luck.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Senior photos


This was a rather productive Sunday for us. We went to the gym this morning and knocked out a half-hour of treadmill time. It was the easiest and most energizing session I’ve had and I walked out of the place feeling great.

This afternoon, we shot a portfolio of senior photos for our neighbor’s oldest son, Blake. As usual, Maria did the directing and setups and I worked the camera. This is one of my favorites.

Fifth and final day for antibiotic drops

Almost healed.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Run, Clay, run!


That’s our neighbor boy Clay Holland (98) playing for the Eagles in a third-grade football league this morning at Greene County Tech Junior High in Paragould.

We had beautiful weather – sunny with temps in the 60s – thanks to a cold front that swept in last night after a full day of rain.

Clay’s team played two games. Maria showed up and helped me shoot the second game and this is one of her photos. Now to put them up on our Flora Photo web site.

Back in the photo biz


We’re getting back into the professional photography business and I created an Internet storefront this week at

We’ve worked with before, back when we lived in Indiana, and it’s a great way to showcase and sell images from weddings and events.

I’m leaving shortly to photograph a youth football game for our first new gallery.

Check us out.

Thursday, September 19, 2013



We hit the new Qdoba for dinner this evening and were not disappointed.

It may seem like an inconsequential thing that a fast-food Mexican style chain restaurant opened here this week, but we loved to eat at Qdoba back in Indiana –particularly the one in Carmel.

When we moved here six years ago, Jonesboro was largely a culinary wasteland where all of the food was brown – either fried or barbecue. It was interesting for awhile, but we longed for the variety we had come to take for granted back in Indiana. Jonesboro has the only Chili’s I’ve ever seen that doesn’t serve alcoholic beverages. It’s a dry county.

But things have improved since the autumn of 2007. Downtown got revitalized with lots of dining choices and south Stadium Avenue has exploded with Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Longhorn Steak House, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Cheddar’s, Panera, Starbucks, and now Qdoba and a new Wings to Go. There’s even a BW3 nearing completion.

OK, it’s not fine dining, but it represents a variety that was absent when we arrived.

So we were almost giddy when we dived into our steak burrito this evening.

Slightly better

Feels better too.

iOS 7.0

When I turned on my iPhone 5 this morning, it told me there is a new operating system.
Of course I installed it.
I didn't like the look if it at first, but I'm getting used to it and liking most if the improvements.
And the passcode access requirement is a nice security feature.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


augenrotI’m up early and off to the doctor this morning to have this eye inflammation looked at.
I think it’s a simple case of conjunctivitis (pink eye), but want to get on top of it before it gets any worse. Whatever the diagnosis, I won’t be wearing my contact lenses for awhile.
Dora is out of puppy food, so I needed to go into town today anyway.
More later…
Yep, it's conjunctivitis. Got some antibiotic drops to use 4x/day. No contact lenses for a week.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

60-year-old comics


It was the fall of my four-grade year when 3-D comic books showed up at the dime store where I bought my reading material.

While regular comics were a dime, these deluxe editions were priced at a hefty 25 cents. That was decades before Indiana instituted a sales tax, so it was still just a quarter.

The one I bought back in October, 1953 is long gone, but I picked up this copy several years ago from a comic collector’s store in my neighborhood in Indianapolis for $4. It’s rare in that the 3-D glasses are still with it.

The cover is loose, but all the pages are there, although they are discolored with age. I’ve found examples in better condition online for around $12, so there’s no bonanza here.


Obviously, if you try to read it without the glasses, you’re asking for a headache.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Terra incognita

Now that we have a break in the weather and it’s more comfortable to work outside, I was able to do some overdue service on our John Deere LA125 lawn tractor.

I was pleased that my oil filter wrench was exactly where I thought it was and that I had a pair or latex mechanic’s gloves remaining.

I decided to do the work because we never got the mower into the local dealership for service last spring and it was long overdue for attention.

Of course, I may have mowed for the last time this season, but at least we’re ready for next year. The work included:

  • Oil change
  • Oil filter change
  • Front axle lube
  • Tire pressure check

Why am I making such a big deal out of this? Because I’m a writer and a photographer, not a mechanic and this is a domain into which I rarely venture.

So there.

Monday stuff

starbucks yet again I’m at the Starbucks on Stadium Avenue in Jonesboro, enjoying my free (in exchange for an empty Starbucks coffee bag) cup of dark roast coffee.

And it confirms my belief that the kids making coffee at the Cafe on the Mile in the St. Bernards fitness facility don’t know what they’re doing. I’ve had a mocha cappuccino and two cups of coffee from their coffee bar that advertises Starbucks coffees. None of them were up to my expectations.

IMHO, the kids working there need a bit more training to be competent baristas.

Maria reminds me that we need butter in addition to the gallon of milk I plan to pick up on the way home.

My goal for the day is to do an oil change on our John Deere LA125 lawn tractor. The blades kick up so much dust that I’m sure we need a new air filter as well, but that will have to wait until later this week.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A milestone for Dora


Dora started the night in her kennel but, after a few minutes of backyard bathroom time about 2:30 a.m., indicated she wanted up onto the bed.

So we decided to give her another chance at sleeping with us, expecting her to grow fidgety after a few minutes and have to be returned to her kennel. She fussed a little, then flopped down next to Maria’s leg and drifted off to sleep. We both woke up at various times during the rest of the night and were pleased to find her still there. She was in the same position when we woke up for good about 8:30 a.m.

We are amazed.

She has achieved at the age of 4.5 months what it took Pete two or three years and which Jack has not yet achieved at two years of age. But Pete and Jack were/are both boys and perhaps a bit more rambunctious. At any rate, she is becoming the sweet velcro dog we hoped she could be.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

New roof for the post office


The Brookland Post Office is getting a new roof. The roofing crew tore off the old shingles yesterday and laid down this moisture barrier.

I expect it will look quite difference next time I visit.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Jack and Dora on a Friday morning

Maria and I spent some quality time this morning photographing Jack and Dora as they played in the back yard.

Here’s some of what we got.







Thursday, September 12, 2013

Betrayed and abandoned


We’re still waiting for the truth about ATO brother Chris Stevens.

Thursday report


Here I am hanging out in the lounge area at Black River Technical College in Paragould while Maria is in class as part of an entrepreneur course of study.

The air conditioning has crapped out on the Subaru in the midst of this miserable heat wave, so I’ve been chauffeuring Maria in the Lexus. I’ll probably take the Subaru in for service next week and get the AC fixed.

I like the weather her just fine most of the year, but the summers can be brutal with sustained periods of heat indexes of 100+ degrees. We’re supposed to get a cold front through here tonight that will cool things off for a few days.

We hit the St. Bernards fitness facilities again this morning and this time I brought my iPod with my special treadmill playlist which made the half-hour pass remarkably quickly. The right music can be a great energizer, prompting me to exert more, yet suffer less. I won’t go near the treadmill without it from now on.

Even though I burned and mailed the class reunion CDs earlier this week, I revisited some of Maria’s photos from that evening – specifically from when we gathered at the Carroll County Courthouse square for our group photo – and made some HDR images.



That’s me in the turquoise shirt on the far right.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What the headline should have been


The original headline, which I think was the best of the day, screamed, “Bastards!”

I would have preferred something a bit stronger. Like this.

9/11 Budweiser Commercial - AIRED ONLY ONCE

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


On the treadmill


I did another half-hour on the treadmill at the St. Bernards fitness facilities this morning.

Here’s a HDR-ized iPhone panorama I shot after I finished, covering 180 degrees from the treadmill monitor to me and beyond. Kinda reminds me of those WPA murals you used to see in post offices. The Broad Ripple Post Office in Indianapolis comes to mind.

I finally got around to burning the CDs of the Delphi High School Class of 1963 reunion. I sold a bunch of them at the reunion last month and was waiting to see if there would be any late submissions before I finalized the disks. Now all I have to do is create basic instruction sheets, stuff everything into mailers and send them on their way. That will be my task for this afternoon.

Monday, September 09, 2013

De-mystifying HDR

Everything I shoot with my Nikon D200 these days is photographed with the potential to create HDR (High Dynamic Range) images.
An HDR image is a composite of three or more versions of the same image with different exposure values. When I started shooting HDR, I set my camera to make three bracketed frames of my subject on high-speed continuous shooting – one properly exposed (according to the built-in light meter), one underexposed by 2EV (exposure value, aka f-stops), and one overexposed by the same ratio. The overexposed and underexposed frames capture details that are outside the tonal range of a “properly” exposed frame.
When combined with good HDR software – I use Photomatix Pro – you get an image with a much wider range of detail from the deep shadows to the bright cloud-strewn sky.
The problem with shooting multiple frames is that you have to hold the camera perfectly still. Even then, people or things that move create ghost images in your picture.
Here’s an example of ghost images – the cross-traffic in this HDR image of an approaching storm in Crawfordsville, Ind.
But I’d seen HDR images of people and things in motion that were perfectly sharp and came to the realization that I could simulate a variety of EV levels starting with a picture shot in camera RAW.
Most people set their cameras to generate a jpg file for each photo, which is adequate for most purposes. A jpg arbitrarily discards a lot of data that isn’t needed to produce an acceptable photograph.
When you set the camera to shoot RAW, the resulting files contain all of the data the camera is capable of recording, far outside the limited range of a jpg. The result is a substantially larger file – something on the order of 16 megabytes, versus about 5 megabytes for a jpg – that you can manipulate with much greater precision when you import it into Photoshop.
Here’s a RAW image viewed in Photoshop. You can create multiple jpg versions of it at varying EV levels by adjusting the EV settings in the circled box and clicking on Save Image. I typically make five jpgs with settings at –4EV, –2EV, 0EV, +2EV and +4EV.
strip of 5
Then I import those five jpg images into Photomatix Pro, which combines them and their wide range of detail and offers me several choices of HDR effects:
I choose one – in this case it was Surreal 2 – and the program creates a jpg ranging in size from 5 to 11 megabytes that I can open in Photoshop to crop and edit to suit my taste.
If I decide not to go the HDR route with a RAW image, all I have to do is click the Open Copy button at the bottom of the Photoshop window and I get a jpg version of the photo, just as if I had set my camera to shoot jpgs only.
The only drawback to shooting RAW versus jpg is the loss of memory card capacity. But my 16 gigabyte memory card still holds more than 800 RAW images – more than I am likely to shoot at any one time unless I’m shooting a wedding or a similarly protracted event.
The Nikon D200 and subsequent models gives you the option of shooting RAW or jpg, or both – creating a RAW and a jpg version of each picture.

Saturday, September 07, 2013


dora tennis ball

Jack and Dora sleep in their kennels in our bedroom – an arrangement dictated by the fact that they occasionally have to go outside in the middle of the night to answer nature’s call.

Their predecessors, Ruthie and Pete, occasionally slept on the bed with us.

Back when I was deeply involved with the Transcendental Meditation program, I heard Maharishi Mahesh Yogi say we shouldn’t allow pets in the bedroom when we slept because they drew energy from us. That made sense to me and I followed that advice for decades. Until Ruthie showed up.

I’m sure Maharishi was right, but I love my dogs enough to not mind sharing my energy.

There is something loving and comforting about having a dog snuggle up against your legs while you sleep. The last time I felt it was the night before Pete died. He was terminally ill and had to be helped up onto the bed, but I think he was grateful to be close to us just one more time. Some nights I imagine I can still feel him pressed up against my lower legs. Pete was a good bed sleeper. Once he flopped down, he never moved or shifted until morning. It was like sleeping with a 40 pound sack of water softener salt.

Jack is too hyper to sleep on the bed with us. Now that he’s had his second birthday and has assumed the responsibility for helping to raise Dora, he’s calmed down a bit, but he has a ways to go.

Dora, however, is showing great potential for being a bed sleeper.

Both dogs stirred in their kennels about 2:30 a.m. today and I let them out to do their business in the back yard.

Jack is often reluctant to come back in, wanting to stay out and play, but Dora trots in as soon as I open the back door. This morning, she ran back into the bedroom and pawed the bed, signaling that she wanted up.

I set her on the bed and, after greeting Maria, she plopped down as if to stay awhile.

We let her remain, speaking softly and petting her. I think she dozed off a couple of times, but came wide awake when she heard Jack barking at some real or imagined threat outside the fence.

I returned her to her kennel and brought Jack back inside to his crate, but Maria and I agreed this was a very encouraging sign that Dora wants to snooze with her people.

Friday, September 06, 2013


Hot weather breaks things, especially things involved with air conditioning.

We knew the air conditioning units atop our downtown office building were an unknown quantity when we bought the building last spring, so it was no great surprise when one of them died last week. And another failed early this week.

Fortunately, we have a reliable plumbing, heating and air conditioning contractor who got right on it and had everything up and running yesterday. And fortunately, Bucksnort Properties LLC, which we created to manage the property had cash reserves to cover the repairs.

We dropped by the building to check on our two tenants this morning and took a dozen donuts to each tenant.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Guard dogs on duty


Maria was photographing some quilts on a clothesline we strung between a couple of trees this afternoon when she turned and saw this.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Greatest Mysteries of WWII: Hitler's Stealth Fighter 720P

I never knew this aircraft reached the test flight level of development.

A wistful hope realized


This is a scene I’ve been thinking about since the St. Bernards Health & Wellness facilities opened two years ago – cruising down on my bike for a morning workout, coffee and Wifi.

Something always got in the way – lack of time, perceived lack of money, inertia…

No more. We signed up Sunday and are now members with access to all of the fitness equipment and amenities.

The heat wave has backed off about 10 degrees and the weather was perfect this morning for a ride into town to run errands and hit the fitness joint. And I even got the primo parking space right by the front door.

Morning hot tub and coffee

I’m sipping coffee in the St. Bernards Health & Wellness Institute’s cafe, having had a soak in the saltwater hot tub.
Maria had an early class this morning, so I rode the K75S to the post office and then down to Academy Sports where I made the happy discovery that some of their men’s swimwear was on sale for half price. I picked a $9.99 pair of swimming trunks that I can live with and ended up paying $5.43.
I swung by our downtown office property where I found the air conditioning guys had been up on the roof for about two hours working on the AC unit that failed yesterday. The fact that they were still working leads me to hope it’s fixable. We’re already committed to replacing another unit that failed last week at a cost of about $2,500.
I was impressed to discover the locker room amenities here include a wall-mounted machine that wrings out your swimsuit for you. Then it goes into a plastic bag, like the tear-off bags in the produce section of the supermarket, only larger, so the rest of the stuff in your gym bag stays dry. These folks have thought of everything.
It also occurred to me that I could leave my jacket and bag in the locker, rather than drag them around the cafe. I think I’m going to enjoy this place.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Here we go


At the urging of our neighbors, we signed up yesterday for a one-year membership at the St. Bernards Health & Wellness Institute.

That’s a fancy name for a pretty deluxe health club with state-of-the-art equipment, a couple of salt water pools and a salt water hot tub.

We still need an assessment by one of the fitness trainers, so we just kind of played with the equipment this afternoon.

After a frustrating 10 minutes trying to get a treadmill to go faster than 1 mph, I turned to the PrecorSelectorized Strength Equipment – an array of exercise machines designed to work specific muscle groups.

Back in the early 1980s when I worked at the downtown offices of The Indianapolis News, I joined a health club where I spent my lunch hours working out on Nautilus equipment. I was dedicated to my routine and ended up being able to use the full weight stack on most of the machines. I was, as you might suppose, in the best shape of my life.

Then the club closed and our memberships were transferred to a club in a shopping center across 16th Street from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which was impossible for me to use on my lunch hour. I went a few times in the evenings, but it was a hassle and I quit.

I’ve joined other clubs in Indianapolis, Carmel and Crawfordsville over the years, but never got a habit of exercise going well enough to benefit from them. Some oversold their memberships to the point where I had to wait to use machines, which was maddeningly frustrating and led to finding excuses not to go.

The Jonesboro facility seems sufficiently well-equipped enough that congestion may not be a problem. What I want is a trainer-structured routine that I can go through without interruption.

I’m sure our doctor was pleased when the St. Bernards folks checked with him to get him to sign off on our participation. He’s been nagging me about this sort of thing for years.

So, today I just familiarized myself with the Precor machines and reverted to my Nautilus training: Set what looks like a reasonable weight and do at least 8 reps and no more than 12 reps.

I love the keyless lockers that let you set your own 4-digit code, the showers are nicely appointed with bath gel, shampoo and conditioner and there are tons of clean towels.

We hit Academy Sports yesterday morning where I bought a pair of Nike cross-trainer shoes, some shorts and underwear and Maria picked up some shorts. Now I have to go back tomorrow and buy a swimsuit so I can use the pool and hot tub.

At 68, I am mindful that getting fit and staying fit is more important than ever, so it’s critical that I make this work.

Pretty much everything that ails me – hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, etc. is a consequence of being overweight and out of shape. When any luck, we can save our membership fee in no-longer-needed medicine over the coming year.

Monday, September 02, 2013

More from Jack’s birthday party


It was a little bit of a struggle getting Jack to wear his party hat.


But he posed obligingly once it was on.


On the other hand, Dora didn’t like her hat at all.


Dora has other uses for party hats.


Maria and Dora are developing a wonderful bond.