Monday, February 13, 2017

Why I gave up on Instagram - It ain't hack proof

Its kind of a strange day here.  Frustrated, melancholy and just a little sense of loss.  I've given up on Instagram.  Its not that I don't enjoy ease of use of the app nor the ease of cross posting on multiple social media platforms.  Its not hack proof and after a month of dealing with .ru email addresses hijacking my account, they finally succeeded in completely taking over the account and locking me out.  Apologies if you were a follower and something inappropriate gets posted and makes it to your news feed.

It all started with a hack about a month ago.  I had to send a pic of me with a code word to Instagram and have my account verified.  After it was verified the hacks intensified, sometimes 2-3 times a day.  No matter how often I changed my password to gobbledy gook they still got in and took over the account.  I was usually able to go back through an email chain of notices and get it back.  This last hack there was no email notice and chance to reclaim.

Fortunately a follower reported my account hacked shortly after it happened and the account was shut down.  Getting it back will be a nightmare.

My recommendation to anyone who values their privacy and images DO NOT USE INSTAGRAM.  If you are on Instagram, consider deleting the account.  Serioiusly, its that bad.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

We are truly as house divided and it troubles me greatly

Abraham Lincoln said in a speech "house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided."

Abraham Lincoln was a wise soul and we could use his guidance now.  We are truly divided ideologically.  Largely urban centers vs rural states. One is the 200 lb gorilla and the other the silent majority.  One ignored the others needs when they had the majority in DC, partisan politics ensued and voila the vitriol acid of the current election was enough to give me migraines.

Where this will all end I don't know.  There's talk of secession from the union by one of the gorilla's and I can't partake in that nonsense as I won't forsake my country or citizenship just because "my candidate didn't win".  (For the record I'm a voter without a party, both dominant parties are so busy with partisan politics that I can't consider either ones candidates and didn't again this election season).

Running away, or leaving the sandbox when you can't have your way isn't option.  Neither is continuous attacking the victors.  Standing up for what is right and making your voice known by your representatives is what needs to be done.  Hold their feet to the fire to ensure your voice is heard and they act accordingly.  So no, I won't support the nonsensical notion of secession from the Union, I'll stay and fight for our birthright...simple Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

What I've said for a while is we need a leader, one who can bridge the gaps between the two dominant ideological centers and find common grounds so we all can go forth and do great things.

My shiny copper bits on the the problem and a simple solution.  I don't see us getting it anytime soon so I won't hold my breath.

Cheers to a house no longer divided as a common goal.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sainte Genevieve MO...a little road trip to the past

The best preserved French Colonial settlement in the USA
Beauvais Linden House, home of Bulduc Museum
I grew up near Sainte Genevieve and knew of its history as the first and oldest settlement on the west banks of the Mississippi.  I knew that it was first settled in a slightly different location in 1735 and that won us the round at a local trivia bowl, but I digress.  "Ste Gen" as us locals referred to it was renowned in the area for it history, hospitality (never was a dry county as where I lived was), and of course floods.  Floods in the 1785 is what lead to the relocation to the current site.  

First stop on my tour was the Beauvais Linden house ca 1820 with and addition on the right that mirrored the original house added in the 1850s,  This is a traditional "shotgun" style house with a central hallway that seperated the family quarters from the public or social and entertaining portions of the house.  It now serves as the museum to the Bolduc house across the street.  Trivia:  The boxwood hedges on this property that you can walk in and under are over 200 years old.
Louis Bolduc House ca 1793
After touring museum we bought the tour ($8) for the Louis Bolduc house.  This home was built by Mr Bolduc when he arrived in Ste Genevieve after the fall of Canadian territory to British control.  This home was built in the traditional vertical beams style of France with a mixture of mud, animal hair and straw packed between the beams to serve as insulation and seal the cracks.  Unique to the house is the "Haitian Porch" or wide porch that wrapped around the home protecting the interior walls from the summer sun and aide in keeping the home cooler in the scorching humid Missouri summers.

The Bolduc house was also built in the shot gun style with a central hallway.  This central hall served as Mr Bolduc business office where he traded and sold goods with the other settlers.  From this central hall he could access an attic or cellar that was used for storage.  

The left side of the house was a large social room used to entertain potential business partners and travelers that he did business with.
Bolduc family living quarters
To the right of the main hall way was the Bolduc family living quarters.  It was tight with as many as 3 generations living under one roof.  There are several family heirlooms on display in both sides of the house as well as the central hall way.
LeMeilleur House family quarters
After touring the Bolduc house we went to the LeMeilleur House which was built to house relations of Mr Bolduc.  It served many purposes over the years including a black smith shop, convent, school house and an auto repair shop.  It was carefully restored with period correct pieces ca 1820 gathered in the area.

excerpts from Le Code Noir
Interesting to note in our discussion and tour of the Bolduc and LeMeilleur homes was that the families and settlers in general didn't view slaves as property and treat them as harshly as they were treated in the British colonies.  They believe slavery was wrong, though they owned a few, but treated them considerably less like chattel and more like extended members of the household.  The Code Noir outlined how blacks were to be treated and they ignored many of the provisions that were adhered to in the British Colonies.

After leaving we meandered down the block to the Jean Baptiste Valle house built in 1794 and served as the home of central government for the colony.  In fact when the Louisiana Purchase was complete, Mr Valley was appointed Commandant of the new territory.  This house has gone through a couple of renovations over the years with the last family member vacating the home in 1940.  It currently is staffed with artists from the "D'majj group" that use it as a gallery and work to help preserve it.
Rose Garden at the Jean Baptiste Valle House
Interesting trivia from the Valle house was that the Rose Gardens are documented through records as having been established over 200 years ago.  The D'Majj group and the National Society of Colonial Dames that owns the property is going to have a forensic archeologist conduct research to validate this claim as being the oldest continuous rose garden west of the Mississippi next year.

Ste Genevieve is a marvelous community.  Aside from all the history its got two big events that I remember from when I was a kid that is still a big deal.  Entering into its 150 year is Oberle Meat, maker of what I call the best smoked sausage on the planet. Slightly new is the annual, held 2nd weekend of August, Jour de Fete, a huge community art festival and carnival. 

More pics from my road trip on Flickr

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Make Your Own Kind of Music, be the best you possible

I stumbled across this song by accident and it struck a cord.  I was a wee lad when it was released summer of 1969,  I had my transistor radio glued to my ear via head phone and rode my bike all over just to get out and ride.  Funny how a song can transport you back to a point in time and suddenly you remember a turning point.

Summer of 1969 was a tumultuous for this country.  I have vague memories of that summer from the news...Walter Cronkite was a staple every night.  Protests.  Riots.  Anti-war Marches.  Summer of Love culminating in Woodstock.  I was way to young to partake, but it made an impression on me.

This song in particular made me decide enough of being forced into a mold.  I hated math and didn't want to be an engineer.  I loved art and and the arts.  I loved my cameras.  I decided that summer I'd pursue my dreams and be a photographer.  Much to my fathers consternation and my mothers support I did just that.  Thanks Mom and Mama Cass for the encouragement to be the best possible me.
"Footsteps and Shadows" Versailles, France April, 2007

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Press junkets and stuff...adventures galore

Fog rolling in at Carmel Valley Ranch Lodge

This summer has had some fun press junket adventures.  I blog with integrity and include a disclaimer on the posts advising who sponsored me.  The words are always my own, in my own conversational tone, as if anyone can make me say something I didn't believe in the first place.  Its a fine line being diplomatic when there's something you don't care for yet not offend your hosts...after all you want to be invited back again for another event!

One of the best events ever that I have been on was host by Nissan as part of their #NissanAdventureDrive and #NissanYearoftheTruck campaign.  It was held in Big Sur country up on the northern end of the Central Coast.  Nissan hosted us at the Carmel Valley Ranch which has got to be one of the nicest, poshest resorts I've ever stayed at.

Fireplace in the guest suites at Carmel Valley Ranch Lodge

The event itself was a ton of fun.  Even with a wild fire in Big Sur that forced us to change the route and off-roading course for the Nissan Armada Platinum didn't really put a damper on things.  Smokey yes, but not a damper on the 3 days worth of activity.  

We had 3 vehicles, half day in each to test drive on and off road.  Each vehicle had a unique route so  you got to see tremendous cross sections of what the Monterey peninsula has to offer.  The off roading routes were fun as well. 
Nissan Armada Platinums at Laguna Seca off road course

With the aforementioned wild fire our course for the Armada was changed.  WE got to use a specifically designed course at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, yes that Laguna Seca that I've always wanted to visit got scratched off the old bucket list and added to my bucket of adventures!  Yes, it was fun putting their trucks through their paces in the mountains, but this was the icing on the cake for this adventure.
Formal dinner in the Organic Garden at Carmel Valley Ranch

Of course a good host, and Nissan excelled at this, made sure your meals were fun and memorable.  First night at the country club was a 13, yes thirteen course, tasting menu.  Very nice and really a tremendous meal.  The final night of the Adventure Drive was a sit down dinner in the Ranch's organic garden featuring farm to table fresh produce, herbs and meats from their.  Amazing meal, great company and so much fun to watch the sunset from atop a hill overlooking Carmel Valley then watching the stars fill the darkening sky.  This has got to be a memory I won't soon forget.

Carmel Valley Ranch is on my return destination list.  Their concierge services are top notch as are all the facilities and the staff is uber friendly making your stay oh so very pampered. I'm telling you I didn't want to go down the hill for the return trip to Los Angeles.

The return trip started out normal enough.  We got a notice our flight was delayed 45 minutes from Monterey airport.  No biggy right, still ample time to get to SFO and make our connections home.  We're sitting at the gate and we get another message...flight delayed as United couldn't find a plane.  This time I'd miss my connection, as would others sitting there with me from the event.

Nissan went out of its way to reroute and re-book tickets.  For those of us that wanted to, and I did, make the SFO connection they provided a driver to take us there (hour and a half drive) and we were rushed off to SFO.  What an interesting ride that was, great conversation with my fellow adventurers and we were at SFO in time for our connections.

I got to SFO and United struck again.  They were prepared to bounce me from my flight as the flight from Monterey was delayed past my flight to Burbank departure time.  They ignored the confirmation of the flight done by the good folks at Nissan and put me on stand by...why because they were oversold by 9 passengers for the SFO-BUR flight.  Grrr...long story short I was able to get on and got home in time for the Grand's first concert in the park with his pre-school!
some folks can sleep the carpet at SF

I'm working on my next adventure or two before summer is out.  A road trip to Las Vegas is part of the scenario.  If I can squeeze in a trip to Palm Springs yet I'll do that too...I have Hilton points to burn so that's a cheap trip if I can make it happen.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Paso Robles Wine it up on the wine trail

This past weekend was Paso Robles Wine country 2.0.  AS in our second time and with a group of former coworkers hell bent on a good time tasting wine on the Central Coast.  Added bonus is we got to enjoy cooler weather than home as So Cal was broiling in record breaking heat.

I've reviewed the wineries in more detail on Yelp.  Click that link for the details.  

First up having toured more than a few wineries over the years its imperative you have a designated driver as you get tipsy without trying after a few stops.  In our case since we had a group of 7 we opted to rent a limo for the day and be escorted to the wineries rather than drive ourselves.  We use Grand Cru in Paso Robles and was not disappointed.   If you can ask for a driver, ask for Kyle was really terrific.

First stop on our tour was up a barely one lane wide yak trail to Le Cuvier wineries.  Don't let the drive scare you, this place is worth the drive to get up there.  The wines from this boutique winery are among the best I've ever had. The tasting experience is at the top as well.  Then you get the incredible views from the cliff side patio overlooking the Paso Robles valley.  Amazing experience.  A must do.

Another hilltop stop with views to die for is Calcareous.  This winery is named for the limestone formation in the area that adds to the terroir or minerality to their wines.  All very good wines, terrific gift shop and very friendly staff.  Meg was terrific in lightening up the day and setting us off on the right foot.

Next on our loop of the West Valley of Paso Robles was Minnassian-Young Winery.  This winery is unique in that it is a dry farming operation relying only on local rainfall to keep the grapes growing.  They do several varietals but specialize in Zinfandel.  Truly one of the highlight stops for us of the day.

Oso Libre is a winery more need to model after.  Its a sustainable winery and cattle farm.  The two working to keep each other going.  We were there the day before Fathers Day and hit it just right.  The place was crowded yet Kyle was able to maneuver the limo to the main tasting room and there we joined the celebration of a fresh Angus beef burger cooked over a wood fire with a glass of their award winning "Carnal" red blend wine.

Next in our round of stops was Thacher Winery. It was a decent winery, tastings were #10 flight and their Zin was pretty exceptional.  Ditto the Grenache.

Our last and final stop of the day was Rabbit Ridge.  The place was a ton of fun and needs to be on anyone's must stop list.  Its set up in a warehouse with barrels and cases of wines. Joanne and her daughter Sara made us feel totally welcome, led us through a tasting flight of 12 wines that were all good to excellent...more of the latter than the former and they are priced so well we came home with a mixed case!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Aquarium of the Pacific

"Undulating Jelly"

Aquarium of the Pacific is a must see place, not as big or dramatic as the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, but it does a marvelous job none the less of presenting local sea life to the visitors.  They do an exceptional job of displaying local aquatic habitats found here along the Pacific coast.

They even have shark and stingray tanks where you can use the two finger stroke to "pet" those creatures.  Having been stung by a 'ray once, I've learned to give them a healty respect and give them ample leeway...but that's another story for another day.

There's even a Lorikeet aviary where you can buy "nectar" concocted to match what the birds feed on in the wild.  Its a hit among all the visitors as the Lorikeet will land on your arm for that tasty treat.
"Lorikeet feeding"

On top of the exhibits where you get to touch and feel they have a variety of movies available during the day that are either free or need special tickets to see that address the sea, its life and vitality and what we can do to protect it.  

"Undulating Jelly" was simply post processed to remove the blue cast caused by the water and artificial lights and wall color.  Clarity was amped up a bit so details were retained when resized for the web.  "Lorikeet feeding" got a similar simple post process from RAW to remove the blue cast from an overcast day.