A New Camera


Austin American Statesman

I have the Austin American Statesman newspaper delivered everyday and one of my morning rituals is to eat breakfast, drink my first cup of coffee and catch up with the news from around the world as well as anything interesting happening on the local front. Generally speaking, I finish both the breakfast (except for drinking the coffee which I finish in front of the computer) and the newspaper at about the same time. The paper gets re-cycled either in the re-cycling bag or to be used as litter on the cats room floor, the dishes go in the sink and are immediately washed and put away and then I sit down at the computer to check e-mails and websites. And so starts my day. Prior to this ritual, I have already walked around the garden, fed the fish, changed and cleaned filters and generally checked to see that everything came through the night OK. Then I turn my attention to the little guys and mix their food and put it in front of them. All 3 of them are usually clamoring to be fed after the long night. The 2 cats have constant access to their food placed high on my old desk out of the way of the dogs who, for some unknown reason, really like cat food.

This past week, I suppose mainly because of the trait of holding a “Black Friday” the day after Thanksgiving, the paper has been filled with advertisements for just about everything under the sun. You name it and it was on sale somewhere. Incidentally, “Black Friday” is a bit of a misnomer as the sales start before and end after Friday. My eye was caught by a full page advertisement from Precision Camera and Video, one of several they have been running all week, telling me that the camera that I have been coveting for the past couple of months is “On sale and don’t miss out on the fantastic price”. I had been kicking it over in my mind whether or not I wanted to switch to the new advanced mirrorless cameras but I couldn’t seem to get anyone very interested in discussing the merits of the DSLR versus the mirrorless cameras. The main interest for me is that they weigh much less than the DSLR. I already have four different lenses for the Nikon that I currently own, a D7100, so it did not seem very cost effective to switch at this point. Maybe when I get older and more feeble, then will be the right time. It is not that I needed to change but after getting so shoulder sore at the last hike it did need some serious consideration. The D7100 is a good camera and there is nothing wrong with the one that I have. It’s just that I wanted the next version with the additional ability of WiFi and many other technical upgrades that I thought would surely improve my picture taking or make the quality much better. At least, that is what I keep telling myself. An added bonus from my point of view is that both cameras are almost identical in terms of the layout of the various buttons and controls and there would not be any additional learning curve in making the switch.  So, I was suckered into the sales pitch and before I knew it, had made up my mind that I REALLY needed and just like a little kid, had to have that new camera. I justified purchasing the camera by saying to myself that I would treat it as an early Christmas present and an even earlier birthday gift for my 80th birthday in January.


Nikon D7200

I took the opportunity of collecting up some of my old camera gear in the hope that I could trade it in against the new camera. I have my original D5100 plus an older video camera that were both collecting dust and if I added the current D7100 to that stack, surely, I could get something for all three to help with the cost of the new one. An hour later, I was standing at the trade-in counter at Precision Camera showing them what I had and awaiting for them to tell me what they were worth as trade-ins. Of course, I never got just what I expected but as they were all obsolete (to me),  I took what they had offered and moved over to the sales counter to tell the salesman what I wanted. Interestingly enough, they would not take the video camera as they considered it not up to the quality of used merchandise they like to resell. It was a cheaper model from Best Buy and my original video camera and was a few years old. Fifteen minutes later, I was the proud owner of a brand new Nikon D7200 and after paying for my goodies, I spent the next 30 minutes wandering around and looking at all of the wonderful things they have in that store. That is if you are a camera and photography buff like me. I took all of my things out to the car and unpacked the box to look at my new camera. I couldn’t try it out as the battery needed to be charged but that didn’t stop me from closely admiring my purchase.

An hour later, I was home after my mandatory stop at Starbucks for the inevitable Grande Latte and spent the next couple of hours assembling the camera and then taking pictures of things inside the house and outside that I could see through the window. I had also recently purchased on-line direct from the manufacturer, Cotton Carriers, a new camera carrying system for when I am out hiking. I noticed the last time out at Pedernales Falls, the current backpack type bag containing the camera and a spare wide angle lens began to get really heavy after a few miles especially after I had to put the camera up because of the heavy rain. My back and especially my shoulders were really sore with the weight. The new system allows me to clip the camera to a special holder on the very wide belt to leave my hands free for walking but is quickly retrievable when I need it. I got to thinking that if it does rain, I need a place to put the camera but none of the current camera bags that I have are of the right type to clip on my belt with the new carrying system.


Precision Camera and Video in Austin, TX

The next day found me back at Precision Camera to find the right bag. I was not there entirely for that reason as the previous day, I had purchased a filter for my wide angled lens only to discover it was the wrong size so I needed to exchange it for the correct one. I brought both the camera and lens in with me and literally tried out the carry bags by putting both of these two items in to see if they would comfortably fit. After 20 minutes of searching around, I found one that exactly suited my purpose and took my treasures to the nearest salesman, told him which filter I needed as they are kept behind the counter, paid for everything and was on my way home.

I forgot to mention that the weather these past few days has been miserable to those of us that really like the sun to be shining. It is dull and overcast with very heavy rain showers. On top of that it is cold, 43 degrees cold and not the weather for even the hardiest of us to be out, new camera or not. I have had to content myself with taking pictures of dogs and cats, furniture, pots and pans, views outside the window and anything else that comes to mind. I have even resorted to watching training videos to fill in the urge to get out and walk. The salesman did say that this camera is pretty watertight but not in a real heavy rain. Then I reminded him that it was not the camera I was worried about, it was me and he told me that is what rain slickers are for…

The weather forecasts this gloomy weather to last a couple more days and then it is supposed to warm up and the sun will shine with temperatures in the low 60’s. I can handle that and it is well within my comfort zone. I can’t wait to get out and try my new camera along with the new carrying system. You will be the first to know how it goes…

How the weather affects us

Another grey day

Another grey day

Another day with the weather bad
staying inside and feeling sad
as I sit by the window and gaze outside
wishing the sun would not hide
like the weather my mood is grey
because inside is where I will have to stay
dreaming of walks along trails so wide
with the sun shining no clouds to hide
taking pictures of anything that appeals to me
to put in my blog so that others can see
instead I sit here wracking my brain
with many thoughts that I choose to disdain
thinking of something about which I can write
a verse or a story about one of the walks
or one of the meeting where someone talked
about ponds or fish or garden plants too
or Thanksgiving just passed spent with friends
eating turkey and pie and other nice things
other people to meet with impossible dreams
of things they want to do with their lives
husbands, lovers, children and wives
and all to soon we go on our way
getting ready to face another grey day…

Grey skies and cooler days

Rainy Day

Rainy Day in Texas

I did not go out today
the weather was cold and the skies were grey
I stayed inside and found things to do
writing and reading and blogging too.

Alas, the summer is long gone
and the weather is cooler now
not cold like in other climes
but even so not one I like.

Warm blooded creatures us Texans be
which is very plain to see
as we light the fires and turn up the heat
and put on the clothes the warmth to keep.

No more shorts and sleeveless shirts
no more swimming in the creek
as temperatures begin to drop
our outside activities will slowly stop.

After a week or two of this
we will say, “Stop acting like a wuss
put on long pants to keep your legs warm
and a jacket or sweater to conform”.

So we dress up in different attire
and go about our business in the usual way
we still go outside to do our thing
and act as though it is early Spring

I do not like it when the weather is cold
and yearn for the long summer days
and even though Texas summers are hot
the heat I can stand and like it a lot.

One thing is always very clear
that the weather in Texas doesn’t last for long
they have a saying which may sound strange
“Just wait a while and the weather will change”.




First-ThanksgivingSitting here on Thanksgiving day
thinking of those far away
of son’s and daughter and my sister too
though ten years older and still going strong
as a part of this world she still belongs.

My son’s in England are both grown
and have children of there own
to get together on this day
and celebrate in their own way
but for them, not a Holiday.

My daughter and her family
will get together to celebrate
as they have been here long enough
to enjoy the customs and the way
to celebrate Thanksgiving day.

Me, I have friends to see
to celebrate in the American way
eat turkey, drink wine and watch a game
with pumpkin pie tasting so supreme
good friends together to cheer on our team.

Happy Thanksgiving…


Austin Pond Society Christmas Party November 2015

Members enjoying themselves

Members enjoying themselves

The Austin Pond Society held their Christmas Party for 2015 at the Zilker Gardens Meeting Room on Monday, November 16. It was attended by about 45 members and guests who gathered to celebrate, Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled into one and also to celebrate another successful year which for us, ends after this evening as we do not meet again until January 18, 2016.

The main course was provided by Austin Pond Society and President Jeannie filled in as the Hospitality Person to cook the meats. Members brought all kinds of side dishes and deserts so there was a wide variety of food all of which was delicious. Even the punch bowl had extra flavor added with a touch of Sangria. Members arrived early to decorate the hall and it was a real showplace with green table cloths and even twinkling, sparkling lights hanging from the ceiling. To add to the spirit of the evening, Christmas music was playing in the background.

Blue Santa's Helpers accepting the check

Blue Santa’s Helpers accepting the check

The main guest for the evening was Blue Santa who unfortunately for us, had a prior engagement so he sent three of his elves, all members of both the EMS or Austin Police Force, to accept the check for $1500 that the Pond Society had donated as part of the proceedings from the Pond Tour. The members had been asked to bring unwrapped toys as gifts for the needy kids in Austin and the gift table was loaded down with their donations which Blue Santa’s crew took with them along with their check. You can see this presentation in the Business Video which also cover the election of Officers to the Board for the upcoming year, 2016.

Table full of donated gifts

Table full of donated gifts

There was one item of business that needed our attention and that was the small matter of electing officers for the 2016 Board. With one exception, the Pond Tour Director, all of the current members of the Board were either re-elected to their existing positions or in the case of BJ, divested herself of the Pond Tour Director role so that she could devote her attention full time to that as the Publicity Director. Ted Paone nominated himself to fill the role as the Pond Tour Director. All of the nominated positions were elected by acclamation.

The only position not yet filled is probably the most important one in the eyes of most of the members and definitely wins the award as the most popular Board member and that is Hospitality. If you or you know of anyone that may be interested have them e-mail Jeannie, our President.

Ugly Sweater Contest

Ugly Sweater Contest

With all of the business out of the way, the first of the evenings entertainment began with the Ugly Sweater Contest. It was not restricted to just sweaters as members came in with ugly ties, ugly hats and some the members were going to enter their wives or husbands as just plain ugly until it was pointed out that was not in the rules. Finally, it was time to roll up the carpet and get the dance floor ready. Beth Coffey and Marlon McAllister from Dancin’ Austin were the dance instructors and also provided the music. They were here to instruct those willing and wanting to learn, the basic steps of country and western dancing. The dozen or so members that participated appeared to have a great time but unfortunately many other members chose the moment to leave either not wanting to join in or maybe they already knew how to dance and weren’t interested in the dance lessons.

Dancing up a storm

Dancing up a storm

The evening finally came to a close around 9:00 pm and all that was left was to clean up and straighten up the tables and chairs. It was a little disappointing that more members did not show up but those that did, enjoyed good food and good company and the camaraderie that comes with having a mutual interest.

Thanks go to Jeannie and the other members of the Board that helped to organize and set this up.

To view the party video:

APS November Party 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

To view the business video:

APS November Business 2015 from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

To view the slide show:

2015 Party Slideshow (Enhanced) from Francis Allcorn on Vimeo.

Skunk Perfume…

I was sitting in front of the computer working on a blog and it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen one of my little dogs, Richie, the only male of the trio, for a couple of hours. Now it is not unusual for him to find something of interest out in the garden but he usually checks in from time to time just in case there is a handout of some sort that he doesn’t want to miss.

I put on a jacket as it was 45 degrees outside after the first of the cooler weather had blown in. My indoor/outdoor thermometer showed that it had dropped down to 35 degrees overnight, not too far off freezing. Seems a little early for frosts in Austin, Texas as I usually associate late December for that to happen.

Anyway, I went looking for the dog and did at least 3 tours of the yard. My real concern is that he will take it into his little doggy head to dig out under the fence and get on the road or lost in the woods that back up to my property. I have an electric doggy wire surrounding the property which I know he has run into a couple of times as he is always very wary when he gets close to it. My problem is, that because he is a Dachshund, he is low to the ground and therefore the wire also has to  be low. If the wire happens to come into contact with grass or plants, it grounds out and is not effective. Luckily, Richie is working on the memory of having hit it a couple of times so he doesn’t know if it is working or not and would rather not find out.

There were no signs of him having dug his way out and so I checked all of his usual hang outs where he “thinks or maybe hopes” the rats and mice will be like under the workshop, under the deck or under the hot tub. I could not find him and no amount of calling brought him out in the open. When he is sniffing out something, he tends to have selective hearing.

Finally, I checked under the shed where I keep the mowers and power equipment to see if by chance, he might be there. When Rich is on to something or thinks he is onto something, he growls and whines making considerable noise and that is what I heard as I approached this particular shed. Only if he has cornered a ‘Coon or Possum or is chasing a squirrel, things that move and he can run after, does he usually bark. Sometimes very loud as goes after the unfortunate animal although usually, ‘Coons are more than a match for him and he sometimes comes off the worst.

Skunk5I stood by the shed and called for him to come out as I had no idea what he had cornered and I was not about to lay down on my belly to get eye level with whatever it was. After a couple of minutes, he came dashing out and immediately headed for the grass and plants to roll and wipe his head and eyes on them. I figured that it was a skunk as I could smell the “sweet” odor that skunks use for defense and as I looked down by my feet, this big ole skunk followed Richie out from under the shed. I don’t know who was more surprised, me or the Skunk but both of us took off in opposite directions or at least, I did. Maybe the Skunk was just turning around to unload on me.  Richie could have cared less now that the Skunk was out in the open as he was too interested in getting the spray out of his eyes and had his fill of the Skunk. Me. I just kept moving in the opposite direction as fast as I could move and it was a race between me and Richie to see who could get out of range first.

We got up on the deck and I immediately went inside and closed the doggie door as I didn’t want Rich in the house until I could clean him up. I got on the computer and googled Skunk and pretty quick, came up with a recipe to clean him up, (By Margaret H. Bonham – Part of the Dog Grooming For Dummies Cheat Sheet).
Combine 1/2 quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/8 cup of baking soda, and 1 teaspoon liquid dish washing soap in an open container. Draw a tepid bath and put your dog in it. Apply the solution liberally throughout your dog’s coat and suds him up well (to the skin). Avoid getting any solution in his eyes…..

The first problem was finding the necessary ingredients and although I know that I have Hydrogen Peroxide around somewhere, of course I could not find it so I had to jump in the car and drive to the nearest HEB to make my purchases. Luckily, with Rich shut outside, I did not have to put the cats in their room for their own safety. I spent a grand total of $1.16 cents on Peroxide and Baking Soda and it probably cost me more for gas to drive the 4 miles there and back than I spent in the store.

When I got back, Richie was sitting in the sun and looking really dejected and feeling sorry for himself. He wagged his tail when he saw me. He did not know what I had in store for him as he hates baths. Dachshunds and water do not go well together. I had pre-prepared the mix above and with towels and shampoo at the ready was all set to grab him and commence the battle. Just as I was about to run the bath, I noticed that the screw stopper was not in the bath drain and remembered taking it out when I did the bath re-model. I had an idea where it might be and after searching for 15 minutes or so, managed to locate it.

Now we were all set. I picked up Richie and contemplated on taking off his collar but decided that I might need it to hold him in the bath, so left it on. Carefully, lowering him in the water, which only came up to his belly, I wetted him down and applied the pre-mixed solution onto every part of him and began to rub it in. He actually was very good and did not struggle after he recognized we meant business and his fate was already sealed.

Ten minutes later after a succession of treatment, showers, doggie shampoo and more showers, we were all through and he was standing on the toilet cover as I dried him off. Luckily, Dachshunds have a smooth coat and dry very quickly and as most dogs do, when I put him on the floor, ran around in crazy circles shaking from time to time as if to shake off the very memory of the terrible injustice that he had just been through.

The next thing was to try to get the smell out of the house which meant lighting scented candles all over the place. I still noticed the smell and realized that my clothes and me were the culprits. Next stop was the laundry room where I stripped off to nothing and quickly started a load of laundry. Grabbing my shoes, I headed for the shower and for the second time in a few hours was standing under the water, shampooing my head (I have barely enough hair to wash) and soaping down my body. With a completely clean set of clothes, we were all set.

I gave Richie (and the other two) a treat for being so good and headed to the computer to write the story. I have to say that cleaning up after a skunk and Richie encounter was not what I had planned for today or come to that, any other day either.

The one thing that I still haven’t figured out about the whole incident is why Richie didn’t bark when he was going after the skunk. I can usually tell when he is facing a live animal because his barking is very excited and non-stop, probably part of his attack as he tries to scare whatever he is after. He has had run ins with ‘Coons and Possums on an ongoing basis. He even had a go at a couple of snakes, both around 6 feet long but of the harmless variety until I called him off to let the snakes glide away and if a Buzzard happens to fly circles overhead, he chases up and down the garden at top speed barking wildly. He loves to chase Squirrels even when he knows he can’t catch them. He has managed to catch 3 of them but they came down to get water and were not quick enough to get back into the trees. As far as I can tell, this is the first Skunk that he has tried to do battle with. Hopefully, it is his last if he has learned anything from today’s encounter.

Richie just went back out about 15 minutes ago and I went out to find him or rather to see where he had gone. I noticed that he steered well clear of the shed. I need to block up the hole that they use but not until tomorrow. I want to give anything that may still be under there, time to get out overnight. I figured that Richie is smart enough not to want to tangle with that skunk again especially for getting sprayed and the indignities of losing out to a Skunk. Or maybe it was the thought of having to take another bath that is keeping him away…


Hiking at Pedernales Falls State Park 11-14-2105

Fall Colors

Fall Colors

Fall Color

More Fall Color

I went for a hike at Pedernales Falls State Park mostly because I needed to get out and start walking and also because I wanted to take more pictures using the new 16-300 zoom lens that I have recently purchased. Before I left the house, I was thinking where would be a good place, somewhere I haven’t been in a while. I checked the internet for the State Parks in and around Austin and the Pedernales Falls popped up.

I haven’t been there to do any serious walking having only viewed the falls on my previous visit. I checked in with the Park Rangers when I first got there and asked one of them for suggestions. He came up with a couple but neither of them were long enough to suit my purpose. I sat in the parking lot and looked at the maps and decided that the Wolf Mountain Trail looked very interesting. I drove to the trail head and prepared for the trip which usually consists of putting on my hiking boots, retrieving my hiking stick, checking for extra batteries and such, grabbing my water bottle and cap and setting off.

The parking lot was very full and there were a lot of people heading out or coming back from wherever they had hiked. This trail head also led to the Primitive Camping Areas and I passed a lot of different groups both adults and youths all carrying heavy backpacks that contained their camping gear. Most were coming back out after spending overnight(s) in the park. Some were obviously boy scouts, others just friends and a couple of groups all had on the same colored tee shirts naming some club or another. Seeing them brought back memories when I was a kid all those many years ago and some of the camping trips that I took with many different friends. I was a Boy Scout until I was almost 17 so some of those camping trips were a bit wild.

The trail leading to Wolf Mountain

The trail leading to Wolf Mountain

As I walked along the trail leading to Wolf Mountain, I was struck by the makeup of this particular trail. It was almost the width of a two lane highway and was obviously very well maintained. This trail continued on like this all the way to the mountain with the only exception being that it narrowed down to be twelve to fifteen or so feet wide. It did make for very good walking which accounted for why I covered so many miles. Along the trail, I noticed a single hiker who as she got closer, seemed very familiar. She stopped as our paths met and we started to talk. When I asked her name, she also recognized me. I was her soccer coach from many years back from when she played on the Women’s Team I used to coach. I hadn’t seen her in ages and she commented on how bizarre that we should meet out in the middle of nowhere. It’s a funny old world.

We both continued on our respective ways and I walked on towards Wolf Mountain. The trail was beginning to climb upwards but not in an uncomfortable way and I still made good time. I stopped and chatted with another young couple that passed me going up. They were walking much faster than me but then again, everyone walks faster than me. Walking on, I eventually came to a fork in the trail and would you believe, there was a modern building standing there that had an up to date toilet within the room. This was in the middle of nowhere near the top of Wolf Mountain. I made full use of it but did not review the niceties of how it actually worked. I chose the trail that lead to Jones Spring and set off. By now, I was very high up and had a great view of the surrounding countryside which also gave me a chance to test the zoom qualities of my new lens. One shot in particular, I took of a section of water showing in the distance with the lens set short and then corresponding pictures using the zoom.

Meanwhile, the sky which had been cloudy anyway, began to fill in and a light rain began to fall. I stopped and put the camera away and debated on going back but decided that as I had already hiked about 5 miles, I would get no wetter going forward as going back, The rain was intermittent and only very light so did not make for unpleasant walking. As I walked along the Jones Spring trail, the trail began to narrow down quite considerably and the conditions underfoot turned more into a rocky climb. I met another young couple that asked me about Wolf Mountain and mentioned they were from Washington State where there are real mountains. We joked about it for a bit and they warned me that the trail ahead was narrowing down and getting much rockier as we both continued in our opposite directions. A bit further along, the first young couple I had spoken with passed me again going in the opposite direction and we bid each other “Hello, again”. They had been to the Spring and were heading back home.

I finally arrived at Jones Spring after a fairly long walk going downhill this time along the sort of trails that I am quite used to, narrow and tough and rocky going underfoot. I checked out the remains of the stone cabin and about that time, a party of 10-12 young boys with a couple of adults passed me heading towards the spring. By now, it was raining pretty hard and I did not want to risk getting my camera wet so opted to not take any pictures. I did follow the boys and checked out the spring which is not majorly spectacular to view but is a wonderland in itself as it continually pumps water from the bowels of the earth as it had done since time immemorial.

More wide trails

More wide trails

From Jones Spring, I headed back along another of those wide trails that seem to make up the major trails in this park. I was not sure where this trail would bring me but I knew that I was travelling in the right direction. Sound travels a long way on the trail and I could here the voices of several different campers that were spending the night in the primitive camp sites. The same is true of others using the same trail as I was as I could hear them as they eventually caught up to me or when we passed going in opposite directions long before they became visible.

It was beginning to get dark as I arrived back at my car. I gratefully unloaded my gear and changed back into my walking shoes and stripping off my wet shirt. I started the car and turned on the heater and was very grateful to feel the hot air blowing out. Makes a change from when I was out earlier in the week at the Wildflower Center where I was soaked with sweat after that comparatively short walk of only a couple of miles. They say that you have only to wait a little bit in Texas and the weather will change. So from 85 on Wednesday to 65 on Saturday. Go figure…