Monday, July 27, 2009

Camera Found

I played golf with my father today. When I met him at my parents' house, I saw a small case on a bureau by the front door. Inside was a little Canon SD500 point-and-shoot camera I thought I had lost. I had actually left it inside my dad's SUV probably on some previous golf outing.

It must have sat in there for two or three months. Its battery still held a charge and its memory card still held empty space. So at the risk of leaving it in his SUV again, I brought it with me when we played at Lake Jovita in San Antonio.

That's Dad in the video with his golfing buddy Steve making a couple of cameos.

Yeah, the video's not great and the audio has a background hum. The LCD screen is fried so I have to use the tiny eyepiece to frame shots. The camera zoom function doesn't work any more, either, at least not shooting video. And the camera is difficult to hold still. But since I had given up the camera for lost, it's like I got a new one. And I like being able to shoot video with something that's about the size of a cigarette pack.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Now Here's Some Journalism

If you think television news is a vast refuge for the vacuous, homeland of fluff peddlers and capable of nothing greater than relating the superficial and superfluous, take this from the Fox affiliate in Los Angeles, California, USA:

Now that's journalism!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Another Ybor City Shooting

Yes, I know. I should find a new venue. I had signed up for an event called the Worldwide Photowalk. Scott Kelby, a photographer who writes digital photography and Photoshop books, hatched the idea as a book promotion. It now includes 24,000 camera toters in events around the world.

(My Firefox spellcheck is telling me that "toters" is not a word. It also believes that "spellcheck" is not a word. Hmph! Don't make me go back to Internet Explorer!)

Anyway. After last week's walk with the Riverview Digital Photography Meetup Group (glad I don't have to put that on a business card!), I didn't want to shoot in the middle of a Florida July afternoon at a place I've already shot numerous times.

But I had signed up. And, if nothing else, I show up when I say I'm going to show up. Give or take ten minutes. I knew there would be more people about at 4 p.m. than at 8 a.m. but I need to take more initiative about asking people if I can photograph them. I missed some good people shots.

Yet my fixation with railroad tracks continues. Here are a few of the vertically oriented shots.

Instead of the copyright notice © I finally thought to use that space to plug my photography website, I'll learn me this marketing stuff yet.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Secret Outback Blacklists

I'm going to have to resist using exclamation points after every sentence as I write this. It really is that outrageous.

I stumbled across an entry in a Canadian law blog that may be the next site added to the blacklist in question.

The Australian government -- yes, Australia, not China or Myanmar but Australia! -- plans to ban more than 1,300 websites. More than that, it wants to prohibit even linking to them.

"That’s not just like banning books," writes blog author Ezra Levant. "It’s like banning books, and banning saying the banned book’s title."

Right now it's only a pilot program with cooperation by Internet service providers. But if this voluntary test run works, it could become law, for which violators would risk a fine of $11,000. Per day!

That's not the best part. In a Catch-22 that would make Joseph Heller proud, and maybe Adolph Hitler too, the Aussie authorities won't reveal what sites are on the blacklist. That would, of course, be against the law. So you can't know that you've broken the law until you're arrested for doing it.

I'm guessing most of the sites are NSFW and many may be illegal. But how would you know? The blacklist was compiled in secret. Unless it leaked, which it has. The website published the entire list.

And I was right. There are a lot of sites whose very names will turn your stomach with disgust. Then there are sites like and, which are online poker sites. Not my thing but worth banning? Oops. Linking to those sites myself might have earned me place on the blacklist as well as an $11,000 fine. Today.

If I lived in some backwoods bush like Australia, that is.

The Sydney Morning Herald, which apparently has more time to scan the list -- and less fear of what its links might lead to -- than I do, found a dentist's website. The article points out the problem when perfectly innocuous sites make the blacklist: Their owners get lumped in with the child pornographers and other criminals because some bureaucrat somewhere, who doesn't have to answer for his actions, added them to the list, perhaps accidentally.

Incredible. If this actually becomes law you wonder:

Can the Sydney Witch Trials be far behind?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Too Funny!

Does the headline and verbiage in the screen capture below look familiar? (Click on it to see it normal size.) If not, scroll down a few entries on this blog.

I'm going to let them figure this one out on their own.

See the copy on their website here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The "Feed Me!" Purr

You know cats purr when they're happy. And I've read where cats will also purr when they're distressed to calm themselves -- it's even been reported in cats who are in labor. "Reverse purring," I call it when I think Annie's doing it.

Now some British researchers say that cats have different purrs for different occasions. And that people can tell them apart. Video from the Associated Press via the St. Petersburg Times website.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On the Map

Along Hill Brady Road in Battle Creek, Michigan, you'll find an industrial park that you enter by turning onto McQuiston Drive. No kidding!

View Larger Map
Unfortunately, the park is home to an auto parts plant that is shutting down.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dear -- AGAIN!

An item on your website ( was copied in whole from an entry on my blog (

Brief excerpts are welcome with a link to the rest of the article or essay on my blog. Please edit the item on your site accordingly.

At least this time you couldn't swipe the photo slide show.

This is the second time this has happened (that I know of) and it needs to stop.


I did send this message, as well as the previous one, to staff through the contact page on its website. My website stat counter tells me that someone from Media General ('s owner, which also owns WFLA-TV and the Tampa Tribune) has seen my original complaint.

Let's see if they act.

Update (7/15/09): has removed the posts and promises it is trying to figure out how entire articles were being quoted in its blog roll.

Just Don't Hurt Yourself on Live Television

Bang your toe on the coffee table? The expletive that escapes your lips immediately afterward may help you feel better. I am totally bleeping serious. So are researchers at Keele University in England, who say that you may be able to increase your pain tolerance by swearing.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


An item on your website ( was copied in whole from an entry on my blog (

Brief excerpts are welcome with a link to the rest of the article or essay on my blog. Please edit the item on your site accordingly.

Shot in Ybor City

Just photos. I went to the historic Ybor City section of Tampa this morning to take pictures. I didn't have a model this time, though I caught at least one bum still sleeping off the night before. I'm not sure that counts as someone posing.

There's something about shooting places that are often crowded while they're empty. Ybor City is party town Friday and Saturday and probably a lot of other nights, a fact which you can smell the following morning.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I Guess United Didn't Count on the Guy Havning Another Guitar

A Canadian musician who says United Airlines heavily damaged a $3,500 guitar, gave him the runaround and ultimately gave him the finger when he complained is getting the last laugh.

And more. He turned his tale of woe into a tune of wow -- as in an Internet sensation with more than 600,000 hits on YouTube so far.

According to the Associated Press (via MSNBC), Taylor, the maker of the guitar, has offered to try to restore the damaged instrument. And -- guess what? -- now United wants to make it up to him.


Would this be the PR equivalent of locking the barn doors after the horses have escaped? When will these morons learn? It's not enough now that any disgruntled customer can vent his frustrations about you on his blog and create a stain on your reputation that you may never rub out of Google searches.

You have to tee off a guy who writes songs for a living? A guy who, enraged and inspired, can create a sensation that makes you look like a colossal jerk in front of the whole world? OK, so it's only 1% of the world so far but this viral party may just be getting started. Oprah wants him on her show.

That's what these idiots have to grasp who don't care about their customers. It used to be that if you screwed one guy, who cared? How many people could he tell?


Wednesday, July 08, 2009


I mentioned my struggle writing the family documentary on which I'm working. How's this for a kick in the pants: I got an e-mail from a St. Petersburg Times reporter who stumbled across my personal documentary site (, if you don't know) and thought it might make a good story idea.

Although I'm happy with the site now, if I could get a couple clips from this current project up there, it would make an even better impression on anyone who visited. Should I get a mention in the Times, that should bring a lot of traffic. It would be good to have my best foot forward.

It might not happen. I confessed in reply to the reporter that I had not started marketing the business and I did not yet have any paying customers. I did include several possible angles for her to pursue if she was not deterred by my opening admission.

In fact, there they are:
First, in the YouTube era people are much more conscious about capturing and sharing themselves on video. A personal documentary is a richer ore in the same vein. People can have their life stories professionally told and preserved on video. They're also using more multi-media in the events of their lives.

Wedding receptions now feature "how they met" film clips. Funeral services often include a memorial tribute video. Anniversary celebrations and birthday parties, including bar and bat mitzvahs, are now sometimes incomplete without the "how they got to this point" video.

Those who would not subject their friends or loved ones to sitting through home movies can hire someone like me who can turn a rambling recollection of memories in to a memorable film.

Second, the same advances in technology that have made consumer grade equipment better and easier to use have also brought professional equipment into more people's price range. Camera and editing equipment that would have required a second mortgage on my house just a decade ago cost me less than $10,000. It has already paid for itself in freelance work.

What that means is that someone like me who knows his way around a camera as well as script writing, narration and editing, can work as a one person crew for smaller jobs. That, in turn, brings the cost of production down into an individual's price range. Not that these productions are cheap. You're talking between $5,000 and $9,000 depending on how complex the project is. But it's still a lot less than if you had to hire a producer, camera person, narrator and editor separately.

Last and probably least, I'm a former TV news and sports reporter looking for a new way to put his video storytelling skills to profitable use. I don't have to tell you how the media landscape is changing and how many people displaced from traditional media outlets have to find other places to ply their trades. The term "enterprising reporter" may now entail a different kind of enterprising.

I tell people's stories. This is my enterprise.

I'll let you know if I hear anything back.

My personal documentary site as well as are both getting traffic from links embedded in e-mails. While I do now include both sites in my e-mail signature, I don't think that can account for it. The visitors are coming from places, according to my StatCounter, where I have not sent e-mails.

That means that some good soul is spreading word around about my sites for me. I'm curious to know who and why. And I'd like to say thank you.

I Thought It Was a Butter Knife

I gashed my left index finger open while slicing a bagel Monday. Perhaps low on concentration after the 3:30 a.m. wakeup call to report traffic on WFTS that morning. It looked like a closed eye weeping blood.

It felt like I had gashed my finger open with a knife.

I was visiting my parents at the time and luckily my mother has more Band-Aids than Walgreen's. A little Neosporin first and I was good to go. You can golf without your left index finger. At least you can do my approximation of golf without it. Same for playing piano.

Guitar? Not so much.

No such mishaps on the air at WFTS, though. That was the good news. I had a highlight during one of the local cut-ins we do during ABC's Good Morning America. A semi truck had crashed, overturned and caught fire on I-75 near Brooksville, about 50 miles north of Tampa. The wreckage blocked both the southbound lanes all morning.

The station's helicopter pilot had done reports from the scene but had to fly back to Tampa to refuel. The earpiece that lets the producer talk to me was working intermittently so I caught only that "we don't have Captain Al." I knew we had recorded video but didn't know if I was supposed to talk about it or not.

The anchor tosses to me. I show the location of the accident on the map and say casually, "we may have video of the scene." That's a cue to them to roll tape if they have it but I keep going in case they don't. A couple seconds later, the tape pops up and I smoothly explain that the cleanup continues as well as the investigation into the crash that killed the truck driver.

It looked it went according to script. Only there was no script.

I still know how to do this.

Progress on the family documentary project I'm trying to write is slow. I don't know why. I still know how to do this, too, but it's a task making myself sit there and plow through it. I don't have a deadline but I do need to get the project done so I can add excerpts to my website.

It's time to get going on this.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The $151 Photograph

Business is slow enough that the free in freelance is time. I was glad when I got a chance to do some volunteer work for the WUSF Radio Reading Service. I was less glad when I took a wrong turn on the way there, drove over a sidewalk and got a $151 citation from the USF campus police. $151 I could have spent on something I wanted.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Afterward I went to the USF Botanical Garden. I had brought my camera thinking I'd try to snap some shots in the butterfly garden. Of course, by the time I got finished with the police and did my reading, it was after 4 p.m. I stiffed them on the $5 entrance fee. I have already pledged enough to the university for one day.

So the picture below of the largest insect I have ever seen cost me $151 to take. I don't even know what it is. I just noticed a funny looking yellow color on a flower and went to investigate.

Trust me, that bug may have been three inches long.

It could have been worse. I got rained on and rushed back to my car. As I sat waiting to see if the rain would pass, I noticed two people coming out of the botanical gardens' gift shop and head to the the only two other cars in the lot.

That's when I realized the place was closing. Had the rain not sent me fleeing to my car I'd have been locked inside the gardens until 9 a.m. tomorrow. Just late enough to completely miss my shift doing the traffic at WFTS.

I can't afford to miss any paying work. I have a check to write. At least I won't have trouble finding time in my schedule to go to traffic school.