Saturday, August 31, 2013

Deja Vu....again. Twice.

Seems like it was only yesterday when my original treadmill died.

It had lasted for quite a few years.

The used replacement from Play It Again Sports slammed to a jolting stop after only three and a half months.


I called and said I was disappointed but understood it was a used unit so I hoped they could help me.

The immediate response was an apology. Nice.

And an offer to give me full store credit so I could see if there was something I would like.

That  was reasonable.

I found a new one I liked, paid a bit more and it came with a warranty  -  and free delivery.

They also pronounced the other one dead as a door nail and hauled it away.

(What the heck is a door nail?)

They added a free floor pad that cushions the machine from the floor and, I suppose, helps keep down collected dust and dirt.

Refurbished machinery can not be guaranteed and they certainly got me back on my exercise routine with a minimum delay.

The OTHER repeat was me going back to a Riverdogs baseball game.

Second one in a week after not having gone for several years.

 Unfortunately, I was watching from seats MUCH further away, and this time the home team lost against the Rome (GA) Braves.

I was seated behind the Rome pitcher's bullpen and watched them warm up and keep limber as the game progressed. They were generous in tossing foul balls back into the stands and the kids loved it.

Things were pretty even until the 7th inning when the visitors surged ahead by 5 runs. Yikes.

They added a few more and The Dogs made a weak comeback try but the final was 8-4.

Well, the beer was cold.

And I got to hear Tony The Peanut Man go through his singing spiel on the variety of boiled legumes he had in his basket.

Cajun Boiled sounded interesting.

It also was the last Friday night Piggly Wiggly fireworks show for the season.

I can't remember actually being in The Joe watching the fiery spectacle before.

While driving in the area, I had observed them on a Friday night so this close up view was a treat.

And, yes, my camera was adjusted properly.

Oh, and speaking of cameras, when you take a look at your digital image on the back and/or show it to another person, it's called "Chimping."

Could not figure a way to have me, my camera and the Riverdogs mascot* all together in a picture.

*I know Charlie T. Riverdog is the main mascot but this chimp was teaming up with Charlie on Friday evening.

He was more popular than a baseball tossed to a youngster in the stands.

Well, maybe AS popular.

I had won box seat passes for several games and managed to squeeze in both games before the season ends in a few days.

(Click on the photo for more details.)

It was a nice evening - even though the Dogs lost - and the fireworks were elaborate.

In the major leagues, I think fireworks are fired off after every home game.

The very last show this year will be on Labor Day evening.

Maybe I'll drive by.

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back to the Basico...

Driving near Park Circle, I stopped to see the new restaurant that opened July 4 next to the Mixson Market off Durant Avenue.

Basico is the name and it shares its dining & bar space with the general public as well as the Bath & Racquet Club. (That's Pool & Tennis.)

I sat on the public side and saw this succulent in front of me. Nice touch.

Well, actually, I thought it was part of a lamp but it wasn't.

It sat in a little bowl. I sat and perused the menu.
This new place is known for its modern take on Tacos,

I chose the shrimp (L) and the Pulled pork.

The side was a delicious tomato salad.

These I cannot make at home.

These were tasty and VERY filling.

Which, unfortunately,  stopped me from ordering scoops of mango ice cream for a dessert.

Next time for sure.
Of course I had a beer.

Thought I spotted a can that did not look familiar.

It was labeled a dark lager and had an odd-looking "bear" as the symbol.

Antlers? And a shawl?

Because I had kept track on a phone app called "BREWSTER," I knew I had had 540 different unique beers in the past 2 years.

Now I was able to add number 541.

Had a kind of IPA taste which I liked with my tacos.

The app also plots where I had the beer so this new Mixson place is starred on my beer map. It's by the Flats @ Mission.

I looked around a lot and liked the louver-effect across the back bar area.

The ceiling was VERY high which created an open feeling for the room.

Bright colors and arty artwork hanging on a wall made the place friendly, bright and cheery on a slightly muggy early afternoon in August.

The bartender said the  pool was filled with salt water.

Well, sure, to reach our beaches - and the ocean - means having to get in your car and driving a few miles.

We remarked that it didn't seem very busy today.

The server  smiled and said  she'll look back fondly on these quieter days after the 1-BR and 2-BR Flats are completed and start leasing.

The population in the neighborhood will grow by leaps and bounds she added..

Looking up, I saw a grouse that was famous, hanging out with a bird friend who probably wasn't.

A Modelo Mexican beer in a can, about to be served, had the traditional lime slice wedged into the opening.

I could hear children splashing and enjoying themselves in the pool right outside.

Two other couples came in and took seats at tables.

Don't know if they "lived there" or were visitors too.

Not sure if any of the Flats have opened yet.

Finishing my meal, and heading for a movie, I thanked our server and wished her well as the crowds grow larger.

I had the feeling she looked forward to it.

Nice working for a company that can afford to open to a smaller audience and be patient until all the pieces are in place.

I'm thinking they're going to have to enlarge the parking lot.

Make one MUCH bigger.

(Click on the photos for more detail.)

The links will provide all the promotional details on the rates and amenities.

I had stopped by when Allagash Brewing "took over the taps" a few months ago in the Market and enjoyed myself.

Now I've sampled an upscale taco.

Park Circle is expanding.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Shem Creek Twilight Saga....

Sunsets are pretty to photograph.

Sometimes the clouds don't cooperate and it's more about colors and reflections.

Nearly 40 members of my Photography Group experimented Wednesday night.

We gathered on the boardwalk at Shem Creek Park to try for a sunset at 7:57pm.

Then, we turned and looked in the opposite direction to see a full moon rising at 8:12. A celestial "two-fer."

As the sky darkened, the lights on the Ravenel Bridge caught our eyes and it stood out nicely.

Click. Click. Click.

Just a few minutes later, the new full moon (aka a "Blue Moon") slowly rose on the other side of the creek.

This was becoming a regular "Twilight Saga."

Looking up why the second full moon happening in the same month is called "Blue," I found that was a mistake and not accurate.

Photographers would notice if the moon were actually colored blue.

We've seen and photographed a Harvest Moon and it really does look Orange....and is quite large.

Dinner later at Water's Edge, seated out on the deck, gave another view of the moon.

 It was much higher in the sky and my camera - with a long 8 second exposure - made it appear to have flares.

Sort of like the nearby street lights.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

When you take an exposure longer than 1/60 second, be sure the camera is steady on a tripod or on a flat surface.

That reduces camera movement and a sad blurred effect.

None of these pictures was taken with a flash.

I like "natural" lighting.

Thanks for entering The Twilight Zone with me.

**This is just part of the group of members who came out to shoot the moon.

Others were strung out along the boardwalk, setting up their sunset shots. Thanks!
(Photo by Bill Goff)

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Friday, August 23, 2013

"Buy me some popcorn and Cracker Jack..."

About a month ago, I won some box seat tickets to a baseball game. They came from Charleston Currents.

WooHoo. Box seats for the Riverdogs, our local minor league baseball team.

They play in The Joe, a 7,000+ seat stadium that's named after our Mayor-For-Life Joseph P. Riley, Jr.

Last night the attendance was 4,356. Most were NOT blessed with box seats.
Saw a ballpark legend, Tony The Peanut Man, working the crowd during the game.

Had not noticed before that the iconic straw boater he always wears is open on top.

That's his head you see when he bends forward to hand out bags of boiled peanuts.

Or to add to the stash of cash in his hand.

Did I mention the box seats have a server in each section who takes your requests for popcorn, Cracker Jack, hot dogs and beverages?

No leaving the game to go stand in line. She handed out a menu. A distinctly Charleston/ Lowcountry list of tasty items.

Sunset over the Ashley River is a beautiful sight from the ballpark.

And, as usual for an August evening, the breeze off the river was very welcome.

Oh yeah!

The humidity seemed slightly lower even as the scoreboard clock flashed 80 degrees.

It was a good game - marred by a few bone-head errors by both teams - but the home team was trailing 4-3 into the 9th inning.

Empty box seats started appearing around us but we staunch still-seated fans rooted for a come-from-behind miracle.

Of course, it helps to get some men on base.

The West Virginia Power had pitched 5 hitless innings.

We were pleased to see the pitcher now distracted by a runner at first.

Number 7, Jose Rosario (2B) got back safely.

The BIG finish was a walk-off, two RBI double by outfielder Jake Cave.

This win brought the Riverdogs to .500 for the second half (30-30).

The team shot out onto the field and celebrated  with smiles, hugs and, probably, a few slaps on the butt.

Hey, it's the American, I mean.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

It was Thirsty Thursday with beer specials all over the park.

I had some popcorn with my beer but was amused by the slogan printed on the large $4 bag.

People often mistake hot for fresh in theaters.

Popcorn is REALLY good and fresh for about only 2 days.



Oops. Forgot about the Cracker Jacks.

And apple pie.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

$50 is NOT trivial....

A buddy of mine has a standing routine for Monday nights...he's part of a Trivia Team.

It actually started as a regular night out with his wife, then she changed jobs and now has to work late that night.

I was invited to tag along.

I hoped I could keep up with the trivia crowd at The Roost Bar 'N Grille in Avondale.

Yes, you're way ahead of me - as usual.

We are indeed holding a bright red winning certificate.

First place paid $50 toward a bar tab.

There was a chance for me to delve back into my history - much older and deeper than these guys - and come up with the name of a Playboy cartoonist who later wrote several books.

One was "A Light In The Attic."

Yes, Shel wrote children's stories/books.

Probably NOT based on events and sights he saw at the Playboy Mansion.

While I lived in Los Angeles, I got to go to one of the last Playboy Clubs, in Century City as I recall.

What really helped was Marty being able to rattle off 10 titles of songs by The Doors. He actually reached 15 before we said "hey, Phil the MC only asked for ten." [The link shows 5 albums with titles.]

Eyes around the room were alert to make sure Smartphones were not being used for an unfair advantage. There were about 8 or 9 teams competing.

Marty and I both reacted when a young lady, seated with a team at the table behind us, called out a groan "Oh no, not another "old man" question?!". 

I had not been there for many  months but here's what the back bar looked like right after it opened.

The owners then remarked they had scouted the Avondale area, saw there was no real Sports Bar there and chose to open a great one.

Good choice.

Judging from the large crowd on a slow Monday night, the decision was pure genius.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

This evening, more than 30 members of my Photo Group will gather at the Shem Creek boardwalk to snap a double header: the sunset at 7:50 and a full moonrise 15 minutes later.

Watch your step around all those tripods!

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

WHISKEY with an "E"...

I think some overseas beverages - well, Scotch comes to mind - spell it w-h-i-s-k-y, but the band I enjoyed last night at Home Team BBQ in West Ashley is All America.

Whiskey Diablo does it right and spells it correctly.

Patrick Blake, guitar and vocals, is the leader, ably backed by Jonathan Grey on double bass.

Whitt Algar played piano and organ keyboards while Brian Widlowski kept an incredibly energetic beat.

The band's first album Wail & Serenade came out last October.

I read the rave review that announced they would play 9 to midnight at the West Ashley food and music "cue" site.

Then I listened to a cut from the album, grabbed my camera and headed right over.

The venue did not charge a cover and the place was packed. Diners morphed into music fans as the band kicked off.

I also appreciated the earlier starting time.

A very nice Friday night crowd.

This is a local band in much demand but keep alert to where they will play next. Wherever, it will be an exciting evening I can assure you.

Brian the drummer played back in the shadows but got to impress with a solo several times.

He and Jonathan on the upright bass both graduated from the College of Charleston.

Whitt was playing both keyboards right up front, bouncing up and down, his fingers really flying.

The comments, banter and laughter among the group showed these friends were having a great time.

It was a fast-paced show and, as usual at Home Team, the sound was excellent.

It was the first time I've seen the sound man standing on stage, speaking into and tweaking the individual microphone settings, making the adjustment on an electronic tablet in his hands.

So very high tech!

This was another chance for me to shoot available light photos without squint-producing bright flashes of light.

I suppose the performers get used to those random bursts of white as many people do that during live music performances.

I felt this band also would look good in black & white, so shot a few like that. Glad that I did.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Is  anybody else ready for more early starting music shows?

Been to a few recently that didn't begin until almost midnight.

Yes, I need my beauty sleep.

Thanks for listening in.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Starry, starry night....

Late, late Sunday (August 12 or 13) I stayed awake for 25 hours and joined 7 fellow members of my Photo Group on a dark (very dark) boardwalk in a marsh, to  take photos of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. 

I hope the others in the group did better than I. My shots were of the starry, starry sky but none showing shooting stars, meteors, comets, satellites or other streaks of celestial light in motion.

OK, of course I know the stars were moving (or we were) and they rose higher and higher above the marsh horizon. I did shoot the "Big Dipper" the only galaxy cluster I recognized.

We had gathered in a Wal-Mart shopping center at 2:45am Monday morning and then drove in a convoy 22 miles to a national forest, Cape Romaine, parked and then hiked 1/3 mile ( it seemed much longer) along a path in dense woods, teeming with skeeters, ticks and - possibly - lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

Eight people with flashlights strung out on the wooded path, backpacks filled with snacks, bottled water, bug spray, several cameras, timing devices to snap continuous 30-second photos for hours and large tripods. 

I had my usual Point & Shoot small Canon S90 digital camera. Two of them actually, just in case one malfunctioned at 4 am a long, long way from civilization.

The bugs were not as fierce as we had been told to expect. I was more concerned with ominous Critter sounds coming from beneath the wooden boardwalk where we had set up. 

What does an alligator sound like in the dark? Or an upset possum? I was told that even shrimp make noises. Good grief.

I'm assuming sensible snakes were asleep at this hour.

I came home around 7am, took a shower and dropped my sweaty shirt and jeans into the washer to kill all the ticks I'm sure hitch-hiked home with me. 

The cat was confused with these new activities at strange hours. She left me alone as I adjusted my sleep mask, put in earplugs and started snoring close to 7:45.

I slept till noon and then uploaded what I had shot.

I did see a lot of streaks but found that I had not caught any with my camera. 

They either flashed overhead right after my shutter closed on a 15-second exposure.

Or I saw them to my left or right of where I was aimed. 

I was taking single shots. 

Others were automated, snapping hundreds of pictures that they could layer together with post-production software.

I had enjoyed a night out with friends, savoring the darkness, the conversations and the humid setting.
I smiled as I remembered the policeman who had quietly glided up to our several cars  gathered in the
otherwise deserted Wal-Mart lot around 2:30 am. 

I explained who we were and why we were there. He seemed relieved!

Will post some more of the pictures soon if I see something really different. 

Right now, I'm thinking another nap would be good. 

The cat seems resigned to this disruption of her routine.. 

She's a sweet kitty. And very quiet while I sleep.

(Click on the pictures for more details.)

Others will be uploading their photos of  the star chase that evening/ early morning.

Go to the Photography Group site to see some actual star trails and meteors.

Some were stymied by clouds or excessive light "pollution" at other locations.

If nothing else, our leader Alistair Nicol knew where to take us and showed us how to enjoy snapping in a pitch black setting. He's posted a time-lapse view of the morning.

Thanks Alistair and members of the Photo Group.

These meteors come around every year.

I better let the cops know to expect us.

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Friday, August 09, 2013

"But....on the OTHER hand."

A friend sent me an image similar to this.

Supposedly when you see one face, you're using the left side of your brain.

When you observe the other face, that's your right side of your brain at work.

I thought it was just a 2-faced person.

Not that I am.

Several things I noticed while playing with these images:

1. an open mouth smile does not work as well and 2. glasses complicate the effect.

I did like the pompadour hairstyle look I had achieved.

Yes, it is eerie.

One finished "face" reminded me of the Beavis & Butthead cartoon characters.

I think it's the "open mouth breathing" look.

But, again, the white hair jutting forward came out great.

Manipulating photos is a fun thing I do with my pictures.

Tonight I have been invited to tag along with a couple of experienced "Star Trail" photographers.

Don't know yet where we are going but we are to meet up around 10pm tonight.

There is a new moon but I've been assured it sets early this month. So we should have the required darkened sky.

One how-to guide I looked up said for better shots of the pattern left by the moving stars, one should avoid humidity.

Hmm. Summer in Charleston - that could be a problem.

I found a picture I took years and years ago when I lived on James Island.

I was close to Folly Beach but was too lazy to drive out there for a dark sky away from lights.

This was literally by my front door, looking up past a tree in my yard.

Late at night after a few beers.

This was taken with a film camera and I had the luxury of using the "B" (for Bulb) setting that let me open the shutter for about 20 minutes then close it.

I used a cable release so I did not shake or jar the camera.

Sigh. Progress in the digital age.

My small digital camera can only give me a 15-second long exposure.

So, we'll see what the "big boys" get with their fancy, larger, more expensive camera rigs.

This is a tune-up for next Tuesday's outing to catch some meteors and "fireballs." at 3 o'clock in the morning.

Slappin' skeeters.

(Click to see if the images get larger.)

The police say "nothing good happens after midnight."

Let's hope they're wrong in this case.

I'd better take a nap. 

Gonna be a couple of late nights.

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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

"Look to the sky.."

Yeah, right. Thank you very much.

No I did NOT take this picture of a Perseid Meteor Shower. I found it online.

BUT, members of my Photography Group and I will make a pre-dawn effort to take some ourselves next Monday. Late Monday night.

Actually early Tuesday morning.

Mid-August is the best time and apparently you need to be in the darkest possible place for best results.

Our leader on this expedition, Alistair Nicol,  is an accomplished fine art, nature and landscape photographer and educator.

Be sure and click on the link to see examples of his excellent work.

I have asked him to steer us in the right direction.

Instead of a deserted section of Folly Beach, which was my first thought, he researched and found the "darkest" area close to us would be in the Francis Marion National Forest, near McClellanville, off Hwy 17, north of Charleston.

Uh oh. That sounds like camping.
Wilderness. Critters.

When my kids were growing up, I tried to expose them to the wonders of sleeping in a tent.

I'm a former Marine who has carried his bedroll and camo shelter-half in a backpack. A very heavy backpack.

But, back then. I HAD to do it. There was no discussion.

My children shared my joy of sleeping on the ground, feeding mosquitoes. And this picture was taken in the back yard.

With an air conditioned house less than 15 feet away.

And indoor plumbing.

So I'm waiting for more details from Alistair.

He said the best time for photos -  when the most visible meteors and fireballs light up the sky - happens after midnight and peaks just before sunrise.

Now, does that mean Monday August 12 is really late, late Sunday night? Or early, early Tuesday morning?

Wonder where I can find an inexpensive sleeping bag?

(Click on the photo for details of two excited youngsters and their cats.)

The internet photo probably will not enlarge.

Hope my camera works.

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Saturday, August 03, 2013

Flipping Channels ....

My existing cable and television provider Comcost does a great job.

Of raising my monthly fees.

I had dropped my wired phone service out of the bundle they offered. I no longer had a phone "anchored" in my home.

My bill did not go down.

I now was receiving only 2 services instead of 3 but it cost me more??!

They explained my reduction happened at the same time they were raising rates so it only looked like I was not saving money. Huh?
I had been with this company ever since it was just a beta service, new in my neighborhood.

I would receive flyers offering a REALLY low price but the small print always said "for new customers only."

The lower price did not apply to loyal, long time customers. Sigh.

I had them wired into my home for almost 20 years.

An ad from a newcomer cable company caught my eye. A great rate and, this time, I WOULD be a new client. Wow!

No, WOW! ...that's the name of the cable company that was coming to hook me up and save me a bundle. It used to be called Knology.

No contract, a 60-day money back guarantee and the lower monthly rate will stay the same until 2015.

I looked out the front door about 10 minutes before the installer was due. A truck was parked out front.

He was early. I'm impressed. Good way to start.

He had already climbed up the pole on the corner to start stringing a "WOW!" wire from there to my house.

He battled his way through the tangle of trees I've been meaning to trim and brought the new cable through the treetops and attached it to my house.

Then he brought it down to a new service entry box he had just installed.

He answered my questions as he worked toward giving me service for my big screen digital HD tv and my computer.

A new beginning!

Uh oh. He's looking at a meter and frowning.

The signal from atop the pole is weak. Very poor.

Not something that would please me.

He called the Dispatcher and made an appointment for some trouble-shooters to come out Monday.

They would correct whatever was causing the faulty signal.

My Installer was packing up his bags of tools and I offered him a cold can of cola which he accepted.

I asked if this meant I had no cable or TV for the next few days?

He said "No, you're still hooked up to C**cast. I don't disconnect until I can properly switch you over."

So the Cable Caper continues into next week.

(Click on the photo for more details.)

The picture on my tv in the kitchen already looks better.



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