Sunday, December 5, 2010
A few weeks ago we added two kittens to the menagerie here. Please let me introduce Charles and Clint. They were discovered living in a backhoe by a former coworker. She contacted me and asked if I could do anything to find them a home. I originally intended to foster them but you know how that goes! They are now members of the gang here and as you can see in the photo they are very happy and spoiled.
This is Charles. Since we got them at about 4 weeks of age they were emotionally insecure. Charles likes to latch onto my neck and dry suckle. This is the first time I've faced that behavior but I put up with it. Despite having a heart murmur Charles is very active and playful, though he is more contemplative than his brother.
...and here is his brother Clint. You can just tell from his look that Clint is looking for trouble! He is very affectionate but at the same time Clint is always getting into things here. I have nicknamed them "The Manic Twins" because they are constantly flying around the house and wrestling with each other. They get along great with the other cats here. Clint has taken up with Sam the Man who will undoubtedly teach him how to be a major troublemaker. Charles has a girlfriend, our 12 pound white girl Luvey. He is quite a Romeo and has her licking his head at times.
So that is the news here on the cat front. Later I will write about my latest photography trips and share some photos from them.
Friday, November 19, 2010
One thing I expected but still can't understand is that when challenged about this mess the supporters of it simply say "Don't you remember September 11th?". Yes I do remember it and I fully support a comprehensive security upgrade for all aspects of our infrastructure that could be attacked. As a society that has prided itself on defending personal liberty I also believe the litmus test for any changes in security has to ask the most important question, "In what ways can we defend our society from these nuts without giving up our freedoms and making our society more repressive than those we are fighting." In other words we should not give in to our fears and give our freedoms up to a small minority in our country who are using this as a pretext to gain more power over the citizens of this great nation.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Any person with a little ingenuity could make a component type of bomb that would easily pass through both nude scanners and frisking. Simply break the parts down into small pieces and hide them inside common items in take-on luggage and on your person. Disguise wires and minimize the use of wire and metal parts. Once on the plane, put the parts together. This is not brain surgery, folks, and it is not a task beyond the skills of a bright teenager. Why haven't we seen this so far? We have some really stupid terrorists out there. These frisks and nude scanners might catch people like them but these approaches will not deter a talented bomber with a death wish.
So what do we get for our money with these scanners and frisks? We pay more for our tickets, we get to stand in longer lines, and we don't have to worry about people with an average I.Q. of a doughnut smuggling onboard submachine guns or sticks of dynamite taped together with "have a nice day" stickers plastered on them. Since people are opting out of flying and are driving on trips now due to all of the hassles the gas prices are skyrocketing. This should make the oil companies, all of whom have the same politicians who are vigorously pushing for this garbage in their pockets, very happy. Hmmm... If I were a conspiracy oriented person I would be thinking that perhaps the politicians are doing this as a sneaky way to jack up the gas prices for their oil company pals.
Why are we allowing our country to be turned into a nation that may soon make the Nazis look downright liberal by comparison? When did we lose our sense of liberty, justice, and decency, and let people rule our lives who are bullying thugs? Why do we so blithely give away our freedoms for the fictitious promise of flight safety. Where do we draw the line? Nude screening by walking down an aisle in front of other passengers? Forced body cavity searches? Having to provide documentation of your ethnic purity before boarding? Giving up freedoms is a very slippery slope once you start.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
The link is "Ballad of the Cat Wrangler".
I had a ball making it and I think the cats enjoyed it too.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I posted a couple of photographs of Willie on my website. Here is the one you see above: Willie Green, Bluesman. It would make a great framed photograph for anyone who truly loves the old blues masters. You can literally see the blues etched in the lines on his face.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Sam has a new Facebook page now at Sam's Facebook Page. Here you can check out the latest news on The Man himself and view his fantastic videos. Drop by and become a fan. Sam expects it!
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
I thought some of you might find it interesting how I made this demented, funny little music video so here are the basics:
1) I storyboarded the original idea to get a feel for what would be needed to put this thing together.
2) Worked on the drums, banjo, and bass using a MIDI program. Once this was transferred to .wav format I burned it on a CD for further use.
3) I added live vocals and background acoustic guitar while monitoring the CD. After putting all tracks on a program called Kristal I added a prerecorded jaw harp and balanced everything for volume. I also added a little reverb and compression to a couple of the tracks. I then mixed down and recorded the result as a single .wav file to be used in the video.
4) I went through hundreds of cat photos to get a few that would be suitable. The main cat photo was touched up with a paint program and made into a series of photos showing the mouth opening. I had to add a tongue and teeth cut out of another photo to make these look realistic. Otherwise all you would see would be a gaping black hole for a mouth!
5) Now comes the tedious part. Each photo was converted to transparent .GIF photos and stratigically placed over a background photo of a field. Each photo had to be lined up in the proper sequence and place to show the mouth opening and closing in time with the singing. I did this one or two frames at a time over thousands of frames. This step took about 2 long days of work.
6) I then added peripheral touches like the other cat heads and flying bird and placed them in proper locations on the screen, moving them in the desired direction using the Adobe Premiere motion feature.
7) One day of fine tuning and fixing goofs in the movements and it was done. I then converted the whole thing to mpg2 format using Premiere and put it on YouTube.
I hope this helps any aspiring videographic animators out there. The result was crude but serviceable and the cost was 0$ since I already had Adobe Premiere and the other programs were free. I used a program called Audacity to record the sound and Kristal for sound mixing.
All the best from the Cat Wrangler! Now I need to get back in the field and take some nature photos.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Well, my former principal at Bartram High School, Brennan Asplen, has managed to scare the crap out of most of the faculty so they will not even talk with me. You see, he and school superintendent Joiner are afraid that I will tell some of the garbage that goes on behind the scenes in what passes for education in St. Johns county. Joiner and his minion Asplen decided that the best way to muzzle me is to cut off all communication between myself and my former coworkers. The funny thing is that I really couldn't care less what they are up to. I have too much of a full life here without picking through their dirty laundry. I guess that is how paranoid public officials act when they have a lot to hide. It is both humorous and tragic at the same time.
Our 13 1/2 year old cat Sebastian has been fighting a tremendous battle with calicivirus, a virus that attacks his gums and trachea. He developed pneumonia and spent time in a hospital in Jacksonville. He has just finished a 2 month course of antibiotics and has been going to our local vet daily for medication to help his nausea and lack of appetite. He is a tough little guy and is hanging in there.
Here is a recent photo of him.
I have been making new videos about our cat menagerie here. My favorite so far is a music video I made about Sam The Man. I think you will enjoy it!
I have also been taking lots of photographs in my second career as a wildlife/nature photographer. Here is one of a robber fly:
My commercial website has these and a lot more photographs I have been taking this summer. It is Kenneth Albin Wildlife/Nature Photography. I have greeting cards, posters, and framed portraits of my best work there.
So that is pretty much what I have been accomplishing so far this season. I will try to update this blog more often but with so much going on it will probably be hit and miss. Take care and hope everyone is doing well.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
The other day I hiked with all of my equipment to Porpoise Point to shoot the protected nesting grounds of the least tern, a bird I did not have in my portfolio. It was a real eye opening experience! These tiny birds had the attitude of hawks. They did not like me intruding into their territory so they made every effort to drive me off. This included divebombing me, trying to poop on me, and charging my tripod across the sand.
My work is on my commercial website at Kenneth Albin Wildlife/Nature Photography. You can order framed prints, canvas, posters, and greeting cards of the beautiful Florida wildlife and nature scenes I have captured. There are more than 120 images to choose from and they are divided into galleries to make it easy to find a particular type of image. I am very happy to be able to share a little of native Florida with the world. Wildlife in Florida is wonderful and it is sad to see that it is vanishing with the oil spill and the encroachment of civilization.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
The rookery is in full swing now. There are more than 150 nests with noisy baby birds. The predominant types of birds there are great egrets, wood storks, snowy egrets, and tricolor herons. There are also a small number of green herons and roseate spoonbills this year.
I have a large number of wildlife photos, including many rookery photos, on my commercial website, Kenneth Albin Wildlife/Nature Photography if you or someone you know would like one of my photographs to hang on your wall. They can supply the photographs as framed or unframed prints, on canvas, as posters, and on greeting cards.
Here is an interesting photograph I took several days ago at the rookery of a pair of tricolor heron chicks who seemed determined to outshout each other!
Friday, May 21, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
He caught a fish and carried it to the edge of the water. Here he worked at turning the fish around so he could swallow it. I felt sorry for the poor little fish but I guess the gull needs to eat too.
After eating his dinner the gull became fascinated by my camera and tripod. He walked over to where I was and studied me and the camera. He was obviously a little puzzled by this strange guy who was taking photographs of him! A cute little guy, isn't he?
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
Here are some of last week's photos from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm bird rookery. Nesting is in full swing now!
Three great egret chicks.
The great egrets even talk while flying!
Closeup of a tricolor heron.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I have a new commercial photography website. It is Ken Albin Fine Art Photography. The website company does excellent printing and framing work and I highly recommend them. If you are interested in a nature or wildlife photograph or canvas please check out my site. I currently have more than 140 photographs there. Many of them are placed into specific galleries to make it easier for you to find something specific you may be looking for. I hope you enjoy my efforts to show the beautiful scenery of Florida.
Last week I went to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm wild bird rookery to take some nesting photographs. It was a humbling experience shooting next to professionals from National Geographic and several other famous magazines. I certainly learned a lot being with them and had a great time with this opportunity to capture some images of these beautiful birds. The rookery is a swamp where herons, egrets, and storks come to raise their young. They have the natural protection of a group of alligators under the nests who keep ground predators away.
A roseate spoonbill in flight.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
This is the back of the color organ. The first thing you see is a large transformer. The original one was small and very cheap. It died after 6 months so my dad wired in this larger one he had in his parts box. The outer shell is just fiberboard and you can see the simple controls. It does not have a microphone so has to be wired into one of the speaker outputs from an amplifier to work.
Here is the front and as you can tell it is a total disaster! The plastic translucent cover with Moire design to scatter light is long gone. Over the years it became yellowed and brittle so I tossed it away about 20 years ago. The little bulbs had colored plastic covers on them. The heat from the bulbs melted most of them so I tossed them in the trash as well. There really isn't much to it, just a small circuit board with a couple of transistors and a few other parts on it. The bulbs are removed in preparation for the restoration. I also removed the cheap cardboard reflector with a thin aluminum coated paper glued to it.I attached leads from the color organ to my stereo and to my shock it still works!
Here are my plans for the restoration. I do not want to use those cheap plastic colored caps on the bulbs so I ordered a set of 6 high powered 6.3 volt wide angle colored light emitting diodes with bayonet mounts to use in place of the old bulbs. That way I won't need to fool with color filters. These came in yesterday and looked really cool but one of the diodes is bad. A replacement should arrive in a couple of days. I also ordered some Moire etched plastic which should be here in about 4-7 days. In place of the cheap coated cardboard reflector I will probably use some plastic pieces with a layer of aluminum foil attached to it. I also have a stack of junk CDs and I am pondering ways to cut and attach some of these to the aluminum foil to reflect and scatter the light like a prism. Those are the plans as they stand now. I will be posting periodic updates on how the project is going. With any luck in a couple of weeks I will have a working color organ that is better than the original.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
It would be illegal to copy an entire newspaper article on a blog so the photo is just the first part and I will explain the rest of the story. Apparently the military have been secretly training rabbits to act as guard animals similar to Dobermans. They are bred for aggression and trained to attack any intruders attempting to penetrate sensitive sites that worry Homeland Security such as nuclear plants, nuclear waste facilities, and government buildings at night. Their small size and silent, secretive nature makes them potentially ideal guard animals.
Harvey was one of the first attack rabbits in this experimental program which was jointly sponsored by by the Pentagon, Homeland Security, and the League of Republicans for U.S. Patriotism. He was stationed inside the perimeter fence at the Hampton nuclear facility when five off duty soldiers came by outside the fence. They began taunting the rabbit by beating on the fence and yelling. Harvey apparently became so enraged by this that he finally broke his rigid training, scaled the fence, and leaped at the soldiers. According to preliminary autopsy results three of the soldiers died almost immediately from the carotid arteries and jugular veins in their necks being ripped open while the other two soldiers died of blunt force chest trauma caused when Harvey hit them in their chests with his hind feet. During the trial the defense attempted to show that this incident was the fault of the military for initiating this foolhardy training program for rabbits and that Harvey was not to blame. This defense did not sway the verdict since the general consensus was that any rabbit who could be this violent had to be held accountable for their actions. Many pieces of evidence the defense attempted to enter into the record were blocked by Homeland Security on the grounds that it would violate national security. Harvey was given a 20 years sentence in solitary confinement at Boulder Penitentiary. He is now back in his kennel under heavy guard while the case is being appealed on the grounds that rabbits rarely live past the age of ten years. Since Harvey is already 2 years old this is effectively the same as giving him two terms of life imprisonment.
Here is where you can help. If you feel that Harvey is being unfairly punished for this please send a letter to the following address telling them why this is such a cruel travesty of justice:
Homeland Security, Experimental and Covert Division
21406 West Arlington Boulevard
Washington, D.C. 78209
You can also go to the ASPCA website and sign their petition to free Harvey. Their URL is http://www.aspca.org/
PETA also is organizing an email campaign for this cause. You can get more information on how to participate in this worthy cause at
PLEASE HELP HARVEY! He should not be given this cruel treatment for something he had no real control over. Animal lovers everywhere need to unite before it is too late for Harvey. If you love animals you need to help send the message to the government that we will not tolerate mistreating animals this way.
Thank you and please respond soon. Harvey's time grows short.
Oh yes, just one more thing. APRIL FOOL!!!!!!
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Friday, March 5, 2010
Let me point out a couple of things. While on the surface these bills make sense if you think about it a moment the flaws are apparent. In my teaching blog I kept harping about pressure being placed upon teachers to "teach for the test". What do you think this is going to do to finish driving them in that direction? A teacher would be crazy to not teach for the test if this passes. Their job will depend upon it. True education and creative teaching will be a thing of the past. Another thing is the potential for abuse of this by principals and superintendents. I have already talked about the pressure placed upon me by my old principal Brennan Asplen of Bartram Trail High School when I dared to say anything contrary to the party line. Imagine the pressure he could bring to bear upon teachers like me if their job depends upon a standardized test! Just change the teaching assignment and give that teacher poor classes and they will be certain to fail and be kicked out. It really frightens me to think that someone would have that amount of power over the lives of people they control, able to wipe out their lives on a whim just because the teacher doesn't always strive to make the principal look good. Under those circumstances I can't blame teachers if they all acted like sheep and blandly followed whatever lead the principal dictated.
The Bartram teachers already had been told about this proposed legislation. Could that have anything to do with why they suddenly cut off all communication with me?
I would also like to point out that Thrasher is good buddies with our superintendent
Joseph Joyner, the same guy who was behind the pressure for me to not say anything negative about the school system's policies in my blog. What would the passing of these laws do to increase the power of people like Joyner to coerce people into his "image is everything" model of education? Frankly I think it would mean the end of true learning. All the teachers would simply become shills (many already are to a great degree) who struggle daily to make the administration look good by having students excel on one silly test at the expense of true learning. Scary, isn't it?
Thursday, February 11, 2010
It's been a long, long time since I posted anything about my old workplace Bartram High School in St. Johns County, Florida. I thought that part of my life was finally behind me but I guess I was wrong. On several occasions I asked the assistant principals and the principal, Brennan Asplen, for a letter of recommendation so I could update my resume. At the time I did not think this would be a problem. After all, I am retired from teaching now and I did have excellent evaluations from all of them. After the assistant principals initially said they would be happy to do so they suddenly ceased having any contact with me and will not even answer my repeated emails politely asking for these letters. Recently my former coworkers have also stopped answering my emails to them.
Now I have heard a rumor, completely unsubstantiated, that Brennan has called teachers I worked with or had previously talked to into his office and that he has instructed them not to have any contact with me. I do not know if this is true or not but it would certainly explain why my friends have suddenly begun pretending that I do not exist. In education teachers always live with the fear that they are going to be attacked by the administration. I am speaking in general terms and not just my school. Most teachers who survive in education for any length of time learn to 'play the game' and suck up to the administrators. The talk you hear about cooperation between teachers and administrators is usually a pile of bullshit. Unfortunately what sometimes happens is the principal will implicitly or explicitly threaten teachers into doing what they want them to do. This usually entails making the principal, the superintendent, and, less importantly, the assistant principals look good. After all, image is everything! I do not know the truth of why everyone is suddenly refusing to talk to me. All I can say for certain is that I have my suspicions. If what I suspect is true then Brennan may in some warped way be trying to punish me for my old blog comments that he and the superintendent deemed critical of the administration. Of course this may not be the case but I can see no other reason for the odd behavior of my former coworkers. On the other hand how petty would someone have to be to hold a grudge for this length of time and to try to retaliate even after I have long since retired? It almost sounds like some type of paranoid movie plot, doesn't it?
Well, I can live without my so-called friends I used to work with. If they have caved so easily into pressure of this sort then they certainly are not friends of mine. I know from many, many conversations with them over the years that they are paranoid and just plain scared to death they are going to be attacked by the administration for some perceived slight. They have gone out of their way to fall in line and to try to make Brennan look good any way they can. Heaven forbid they would actually stand up and say or write something that might cause them to get slammed by the administration. Teachers can many times have the spines of jellyfish when it comes to being truthful in education. They sell their souls and their integrity just for the privilege of having a job. Never is this more true than in these hard economic times when teacher cutbacks are spoken of often in our county.
So what is the bottom line here? Yes, to be truthful to you all my feelings are deeply hurt to have my friends all abandon me like this. Why are they doing it? I have speculated about this earlier in this post but I may never have any solid proof of what I suspect. These types of things are usually covered up well so the person is not exposed to repercussions. That is why dealings like this usually happen in back rooms out of sight and hearing of others. It reminds me of cockroaches scurrying around in the darkness, avoiding the light at all costs. You see, some principals have their own paranoia and fear of being booted out because people view them as incompetent or at least as not promoting excellence in their roles as principals. It is not always like this. I have worked with principals before whom I respected and who dealt with teachers honestly, openly, and as equals. Unfortunately that has not always been the case. What exactly is behind the pressure to ostracize me from people I worked with for years? Is it old grudges driving this? Who the hell knows. All I know is that I am doing quite nicely anyway and in spite of my hurt feelings I will continue to live my life well and to speak as truthfully as I can about all aspects of it. It some people don't like that, and I imagine a couple will not like what I have written here, they can print out this post, roll it up, and shove it up their ass. I do have some regrets that I can't go back to Bartram and eat lunch with the old gang and talk over old times but I do not have any say over what is happening. If there is some type of stupid vendetta against me after all this time, whether the driving force is the principal or the superintendent, on one level I am very amused by it. Obviously some people must have a lot of time on their hands if they are going after a former teacher who was well respected in this manner. Is this type of stupidity and morally bankrupt behavior just found in education or is it common in all types of jobs? I suspect the latter is true. All I can tell you is that in the past I have stood up and supported these former coworkers at the risk of my own job security. I would have expected the same from them but that is not the reality of things in the world today.
So I move on. I am happy to have gotten this out of my system by writing about it and I hope I did not bore anyone who took the time to read this rather long post. I like the philosophy of John Kay who once wrote that he forgives but he doesn't forget. Bitterness takes a lot of energy and is not productive so I intend to forgive these people over time. I will never forget, though.
Why do we seem to have so much trouble finding school administrators and superintendents to hire who are capable, honest, and caring people? Are they really that scarce a commodity? In our county I suppose the blame should be placed upon us, the voters. After all we voted in the school board and they appoint the superintendent who in turn appoints the principals. As citizens we really need to take a hard look at the people we have been voting into the school board positions. These are critical jobs that affect the tone of the entire county's education and we let ourselves be swayed by smooth talk, promises, and a huge election advertising budget. We actually do have a couple of school board members here who are wonderful people. Notice I said a couple. It should be all of them and we have let ourselves down by electing some people for our school board in St. Johns county who should not be given any authority greater than as bag people at the local supermarket. (I apologize to all of the bag people out there. I know you probably have a hell of a lot more integrity than some of our board members here.) We have let education down by putting some people into the school board positions who have only their own self esteem and power in mind when they make critical decisions. Ultimately we should not be surprised when educational standards slip and the only value treasured is having a good image. Of course image won't help to support a student when they are out in the world but hey, it looks great for the school. That's the most important thing, right? Let me hear everyone shout "image is everything!". Amen. Thank God I am out of education. I am selfish that way. I just can't stand the odious smell of hypocrisy and bullshit. It's a hell of a way to run a railroad if you ask me, but then again, no one is asking me.
Please note that nowhere in this post did I actually state that my suspicions were true. In fact I just could be totally mistaken about the entire thing. I will let the readers draw their own conclusions on that.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
I will try to catch up on what has been happening the past month. First and most importantly, we lost our sweet little Iona who I had been working so hard with to tame. In the 8 weeks she was with us she turned into a very sweet girl who loved petting and who learned how to play with toys and with the other cats. She was really enjoying herself for the first time in her life. We think that during the surgery to place the pin in her leg she picked up an infection we did not know about. This bacteria spread slowly into her bone and then all through her body. Her other health issues we were dealing with masked symptoms until it was too late. She stopped eating and we took her to the vet. The two antibiotics they gave her did not help so we took her back in 3 days. The vet knew she had to have a stronger antibiotic even if there were risks involved if we were going to save her. He gave her an injection of gentamycin. She was allergic to this drug and she suddenly collapsed and stopped breathing. They gave her oxygen and tried to stimulate her to breathe. I gave CPR. All this did not help and in a few minutes her heart stopped. We buried Iona in the front yard next to a small lemon tree where she used to look out the window. The vet thinks the germ was already systemic throughout her body and in her weakened condition the gentamycin pushed her over the edge.
I have been extremely distraught over her death as I had become so close to her. Shortly after her death I developed eczema and had to go to the dermatologist. He said that it was the worst case of eczema he had seen in his 40 years of practice. He gave a cortisone shot, prednisone pills, and the strongest steroid cream made. I have been dealing with this for the past 3 weeks. It is about 75% cleared now and hopefully in another week or two it will clear up completely. I've been sleeping an hour or two at a time before waking up with the dryness, burning, and itching. If anyone out there needs a great moisturizer I can recommend Cerave lotion. It is very gentle on the skin but helps to lock in moisture better than any other moisturizer I've found. Even with this my skin absorbs it quickly and I have to put it on several times each day and then sit under a vaporizer.
That is pretty much what my life has been like for the past month. Hopefully after I finish healing I will be able to get back to my photography. In the meantime here is the last photo taken of our sweet Iona. Even that last evening she still managed to play with Sam through the baby gates, slapping playfully with him. She enriched my life and I miss her so much.