Camera Nerdiness

Since Jennifer and I are relatively new to hunting, we’ve gotten a lot of help from DanielS at Among the Leaves, who has been hunting for pretty much his entire life. He drove up to our property on several occasions to advise and help us reclaim the lost art that both of our families enjoyed only a couple generations ago. Daniel even loaned us one of his game cameras that he wasn’t using, a Moultrie I40. It has been in pretty constant use on the family farm in a location where the deer like to hang out.

The last time I changed out the card, the display was blank. I figured the batteries were depleted and took the camera home with me. When we checked the card, it was pretty clear that it had stopped taking pictures a few weeks earlier. Toward the end of the run of pics, there were blank files interspersed with the pictures, as if it tried to take pictures but the files didn’t save to the card properly. It seemed pretty obvious that it was batteries. I put six fresh batteries into the camera and found that the display screen was still not displaying. I could hear the camera click as if it was functioning though. Upon closer inspection, I found that it was not capturing images at all. The photo folder in the SD card was empty.

We’ve had some nasty storms lately, and I guess it was damaged in one of them. A little internet research showed that the screen is a pretty common problem with this model, which Moultrie will fix for about $40. Failure to capture images is a separate problem. Crap. Since I can get a brand new Moultrie camera delivered to my door for well under $100, this one is probably not worth fixing. Daniel was quite understanding.

Jennifer and I had recently discussed that we would like to add more cameras, but I guess we now need to work our way back up to a pair of them. In shopping the interwebtron for trail cameras, I kept seeing people referring to ‘homebrews’. My dad has spent much time on the back porch, homebrewing beer, but I didn’t have any idea what that had to do with hunting. A quick Google search dumped me into quite the rabbit hole. I have an insatiable desire to buy some $20 camera on ebay and hack it into a game camera.

Most game animal activity occurs in the dark. I have gotten a few daylight pics of deer, but nothing like the after dark activity! It seems like most of the homebrew camera guys rig theirs with factory or add on flash units, and just light up the deer when they least expect it. I can see how this would be effective, but it won’t work in my application. Since there are trespassers on the property from time to time, if they had a flash go off at them, I’m likely to have a camera stolen. Scaring the living crap out of some unsuspecting deer notwithstanding, my cameras have to be discreet because of two-legged critters. The commercial cameras take color photos during the day and infrared pictures at night with the aid of an IR LED array. I wondered how they did that.

Many trail cameras are put together in such a way that there is an articulated light filter over the sensor inside the camera. When the light sensor detects that it is bright out, the filter covers the sensor with a hot mirror that blocks out all but the visible light spectrum. When it’s dark out, the filter switches over to an infrared filter and lights up its array. What a marvel that they can use such an impressive instrument in a device that they can sell for so cheap! Well, as it turns out, all digital cameras have a sensor capable of recording light outside of our range of sight.

You see, the light spectrum that is detectable to our eyes runs from around 400 to 700 nanometers. Below 400 nm we get into Ultraviolet range before it give way to X-rays, and above 700 nm is infrared range. The sensor in your typical digital camera can detect light waves from around 200 to 1,000, but it has a hot mirror filter to block out the light waves at the top and bottom of the range.

In fact, the trick thing to do among some of the photography geeks is to have a camera shop rip out the hot mirror from your old DSLR and replace it with an IR filter when you upgrade your camera so you have a dedicated IR camera. In fact, there are some folks out there that have done similar hacks at home to cheaper cameras.

Of course, I wondered whether the sensor needed a filter at all. What would be the harm in letting it record visible light simultaneously with infrared and ultraviolet? A little more digging revealed that this is called “full spectrum” and is also practiced among photographers. It appears that when you go full-spectrum with a digital camera colors can get funky. I can live with this. If I built an unfiltered trail cam that ran an IR array at night, I’d get my day pics and my night pics, and not have an obvious flash that will scare the crap out of animals and direct meth heads to smash or steal my camera. This is a good thing even if some of the pics are a little trippy. I’ll just pretend the deer have been dropping acid.

This all brings up another good point. There are things that IR and UV are useful beyond what I’ve mentioned yet. And regardless of utility, it would just be fun to have a full-spectrum camera to tote around. I sourced some very affordable IR and UV LEDs and have conspired with my brother to make a light accessory. I believe that I’m going to build myself a full-spectrum game camera and also a full-spectrum point-and-shoot from one of the cameras we have laying around the Evyl Robot Empyre. If this is as much fun as I suspect, I’ll have updates for you later!


I don’t usually embed comics here. What I mean to say is that I don’t believe I’ve ever embedded an XKCD comic here, but I found this one particularly compelling:

I would challenge each of you to deliberately spread words of kindness this weekend. Except if you’re talking to a werewolf. You probably shouldn’t talk to werewolves at all. It’s a full moon tonight after all. Keep your silver bullets on hand.

My Stupid Ears

Somewhere on the order of a decade ago, I began to feel some discomfort in my ears. It was a progressive condition that became painful and I woke up one morning feeling like I had a foam ear plug in one of my ears and a nasty earache. So, I made an appointment with the family doctor. He asked me a few questions and then used his ear scope thingy to peer into the recesses of my head.

“Yup,” he commented, “I’m surprised this only just now started to bother you. Let’s see the other one.”

“Well, I’m only experiencing it on the one side,” I protested, as I am wont to do with the doctor.

He smiled at me, “just humor me.”

When he looked into the other ear he commented again, “this one is almost as bad. I’m surprised you can hear from it.”

He then pulled out this frightening device that I have since learned is not so nearly exotic as it seemed at the time. What can I say? I’d never seen an ear syringe before. He placed a towel over my shoulder and handed me a bed pan, instructing me to hold it on my shoulder under my ear. He then placed a tube from one end of the syringe in a cup of water and placed the nozzle in my ear canal. He then furiously pumped the plunger until I heard a POP and a WHOOSH! The world was suddenly so loud! On this page, scroll down to the picture entitled “Ear Syringing”. The look on that little girl’s face says it all.

“There we go,” he said. In the catch pan, was a clump of blackish material that was approximately 1.5-inch long and at least 3/4-inch in diameter.

“Holy cow!” I exclaimed, “that came out of my ear? No wonder it hurt so badly!”

“Yup,” he said, “now, let’s do the other side.”

To my surprise, that much buildup flushed out of my other ear as well. I asked whether there was something that I should be doing different hygienically to avoid such a situation again. He explained that some people have physiology such that they will get earwax buildup no matter what they do, and I’d likely need to have my ears flushed out every few years.

Every time I get my ears blown out, they feel sensitive. As one would imagine, I can hear a lot of sounds that I don’t otherwise. breezes feel uncomfortable, as if they are blowing straight into my head and brushing my bare eardrums. The definition of the sound I hear is a lot more crisp right after this procedure. After a few weeks, they stop feeling so vulnerable, and after a few years, I have to have it done again.

True to his advice, I went to see him on two subsequent occasions to have my ears blown out. Then, he retired. I don’t know why I doubted that every GP had his very own ear syringe, but the last time my ears felt plugged up, I sought an at-home remedy. At one of the local stores, I purchased a Debrox Earwax Removal Kit.

At home, Jennifer helped me administer the solution and the rubber bulb syringe handily emptied my ears of their offending wax buildup with a little warm water. So, I didn’t have to make an appointment, sit in a waiting room, reading an expired magazine, and get probed in a cold office. The kit is a much gentler treatment than an industrial ear syringe, so it’s a more comfortable experience. All this, and the removal kit is about half of my insurance copay!

Over the last few days, my ears have been feeling a little yucky. Many times, they’ll clear themselves up. But this morning, I woke up with my left ear completely plugged. So, I dragged out the kit and attempted to blow out both ears. Lots of material came out of my right ear, and it feels quite clean now. Much material came out of my left ear, but it still felt plugged. The kit says that it can be used twice a day for four days, so I tried it again around lunch time. Again, lots of junk came out, but my ear still feels plugged. Granted, the little rubber bulb syringe doesn’t have the oomph of the pro version, and it may take a few attempts to get it right. Which sucks now, but there are people in the world with bigger problems, so you won’t catch me whining too loudly about it.

UPDATE – Last night, I was able to clear out my left ear and now I can tell how limited my hearing is in my right ear. I thought that I was working with only one ear when it turns out that I was working with half an ear!

Pictures of Pictures of Pictures

The NRA Meeting was a lot of fun, but we had a lot of fun outside of the show floor. JayG posted a picture of Jennifer taking a picture of both of their Nikon D3100s. Here’s the picture I took of him taking that picture:


I looked for the picture she took of the two cameras, but it appears that she hasn’t yet loaded it on the server. We may have to put out a formal request for her to post said picture. Jennifer? We’re talking about you! 😉

Don’t Run, We Are Your Friends.

The whole “nobody is trying to take your guns” mantra has always struck me like this:

It has always been so glaringly obvious that they are in fact trying to take away our guns, despite the lies seeping from between their teeth. During the 2008 Presidential Election, I commented to a coworker my concerns over upcoming gun control measures. My coworker shook his head and said, “every time a Democrat gets elected to office the conservatives think they’re going to ban guns.” And where would we ever get that idea?

The real question is why do they think we’re so stupid? Don’t run, We are your friends. Nobody is trying to take your guns away. Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes? These are not the droids you’re looking for. We still know alarmingly little about our current sitting president’s history, but we do have a very clear picture of his stance on guns. It was obviously only a matter of time before the administration took on gun control as a pet project. Despite their best efforts, our representatives are actually doing their job and have blocked unsavory and unpopular legislation to limit our rights. Obama has not hidden his disappointment at all and in fact has pouted about the defeat.


But still, nobody is trying to take your guns. Right.


Recently, renewing my carry permit has been in the back of my mind, as it has been almost five years since my permit was issued. There have been more pressing things to attend to, and I got sidetracked, but I started researching what I needed to do when we got back from the NRA Convention in Houston. My permit was set to expire in about five weeks. The state’s website advises that the renewal application may take 60-90 days to process. Crap. It also reads that one may apply for renewal within 90-days of expiration. They do allow a 30-day grace period after expiration, but apparently we’re supposed to get our application in exactly 90-days prior to expiration. Lovely. So, Jennifer and I got our applications sent in last week. Her original permit got issued after mine, so she should be in her grace period when her new permit comes in, if they take as long as they are rumored to. I, on the other hand, will likely have to leave my gun at home for a couple of weeks. If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you probably had some idea that this was going on.

This morning I got a letter in the mail from the OSBI. Surely that couldn’t be in response to my application already! I felt the envelope, and it clearly didn’t contain a renewed permit, but only paper. Surely they didn’t already review my renewal application and find some reason to not issue me a new permit! I don’t know why I get so paranoid when it comes to these dealings. I tenuously opened the letter. It appears to be an auto-generated letter sent to notify me that my permit expires next month and that I should apply for renewal. *head scratch* It seems to me that this would be significantly more useful if they sent them out 90-days prior rather than 30-days prior to expiration, considering that if one waits until the last few weeks, one is pretty well guaranteed to be out of a permit for a while. And, if they’re not going to be any more helpful than that, why even waste the paper and postage? There’s our tax dollars at work. *sigh*

UPDATE – Jennifer tells me that the payments to the state have cleared our account, so apparently they’ve received our applications and have done SOMETHING. I’ll update you when we see permits.

Soft Drinks, Artificial Sweetener, and Childhood

This morning I attempted to pop open a can of Pepsi Throwback, but apparently the top of the can was not scored deeply enough for the opening tab to function properly, and I wound up with an unopened can and the separated pull tab in my hand. Not to be discouraged, I used the can opener in my Leatherman to open the can, and enjoy my Pepsi. this brought back memories of my childhood. When I was around seven years old, I liked to use my finger to push the flap of can top flat against the underside of the lid for some reason. I honestly have no idea why that held such appeal to me. When my dad saw me doing this on several occasions, he mistakenly thought that I was dropping the pull tab into the can, and he’d take the drink away from me, citing that I could accidentally swallow the pull tab and injure myself. He never understood my explanation when I tried to clarify that in reality, there was no loose metal in the can. I would often drink diet sodas, because the aspartame would give me such a buzz. In fact, I’d often eat artificial sweetener tabs like mints for the same head rush. At the time I never made the connection that the subsequent skull-throbbing headache was a direct result of the aspartame. I always had headaches when I was younger. When I started avoiding that crap, the headaches disappeared. As I have matured, artificial sweeteners stopped giving me any kind of buzz, but the headaches are still guaranteed, often accompanied by nausea. Sometimes I wish that everything was so simple as misunderstandings over soft drink cans and avoiding the wrong food additives.

I, Bigfoot – Part 2

Part 1 is here, part 3 here, and if you want to start at the beginning of The Becoming

And that was that. It felt as though we’d made a deal with the devil. Just as we had been warned, the others sneered at us.

“It’s just so gross,” I once overheard the other Electra comment one day, “the very thought of one of us married to a Bigfoot.” She said that last word as though it tasted bad. “They sleep together and everything. It makes me feel sick to my stomach.”

I had to note that it made her feel anything. I wondered whether that was specifically what Havoc was afraid of. There were very few creatures like us among the staff, and the vast majority of them were normal humans. From what I could tell, the exceptions were mostly like us; their treatments had failed to wipe their minds, so they were bribed into working for Deep Hawk and intimidated with the thought that they couldn’t rejoin normal society. I itched to get to doing something. I had no idea how long it had been since the last time I’d seen the sun.

Claire and Jovious had come to our training room for some actual instruction that was devoid of the mind and body altering treatments, or the theatrics that we’d seen in the beginning. Jovious and I sat to the side of the room as Claire and Naomi worked. Claire Placed a log on a pedestal and opened a can and began sprinkling it on the floor. The can scattered small pieces of metal. They looked like six-inch sections of piano wire. She sprinkled them in a fifteen foot trail between Naomi and the log. I’d seen her practice this exercise before, but she had gotten a lot faster with it. It no longer took a lot of concentration as it had at first. Once Claire stepped clear, Naomi raised her hands to her sides. Sparks showered from the corners of her eyes as she stared toward the log. Obeying her will, the pieces of wires rose up into the air and aligned themselves into two neat rows that extended from her hands to the log. Her eyes glowed white. The moment the rows of wires touched her fingers, there was a loud crack and a bright spark, and the log ignited.

“Very good,” praised Claire, “now can you put them back into their container?” she joked.

Naomi took a deep breath and scowled. Each wire pivoted until they were all vertical and then they snapped together into a bundle. Naomi whipped her gaze at the can and it slid across the floor to where the wires floated. It then elevated and enveloped the bundle of wires. the fire in Naomi’s eyes faded as she walked up to the can of wires and pulled it out of the air with her hand. She took it to Claire who blinked in disbelief.

“Wow!” she said as she took the can, “I was joking. I didn’t think that was even possible.”

“Don’t mess with me,” warned Naomi playfully, “and don’t ask me to do something unless you mean it.”

“Well,” Claire was visibly flustered now, “let’s call it a day for now.”

Ssshall we?” projected Jovious.

Claire hit the flaming log with an extinguisher. We took the room as she and Naomi sat down.

You have gotten very good at invisssibility,” praised Jovious, “today, we will sstart with human dissguissse. When you firsst met me, I dissguisssed myssself as General Havoc.

“I remember that,” I thought back to him.

When you get good, you will be able to imperssssonate sssspecific people. However, you will find that one or two formsss will come more naturally and will be easssier to hold for long periodsss. Now, concentrate and envision being ssssmaller, hairlesss, a man.

I closed my eyes and concentrated. Shorter than six feet. Wearing clothes. Finer hair on the body and some hair on the head. Accessories even. I felt warm. I suspected that my psychic projection was working. My suspicion was verified by a snicker from my wife. Jovious didn’t vocalize very often, but he gurgled in approval. Or, was he laughing at me? I opened my eyes and looked in the full-size mirror that I used for these exercises. It was easier for Sasquatch to see through the psychic disguises, but the projections even worked in a mirror. There before my eyes was a man. He was about four feet tall with a hunched back. He wore very thick glasses that made his eyes look tiny, and a trench coat. On top of his head was a tweed fedora. I reached up and pulled the hat off to find a thin, comb-over. This was not at all what I had in mind. I thought the form that would come naturally might look something like my previous human form.

My surprise must have been obvious to Jovious who assured me, “It iss pretty unpredictable what your mossst natural disssguisse will turn out like.” He chortled.

“But I look stupid,” the voice that came out was shrill and sounded like an old man. This elicited more laughter from Naomi, who was joined this time by Claire.

Yesssss,” thought Jovious, “and what man would ever guess that sssomeone who lookss as you do would have ssssuch great power as you do?

I had to admit, the furball had a point, “And I sound stupider than I look!” my voice actually cracked at the end.

Jovious reflected, “Fasscinating! Ssssince Sasquatch do not talk, I did not know how a voicce could be generated in a man disssguisse. It isss a good disssguisse.

Naomi blurted out, “you look like a moleman!”

“That’s it,” I said as I clamped my eyes closed and tried to force myself into concentration. Maybe I’d forgotten a little too much of what it was like to be a mostly normal human being. Let’s go for something taller than Moleman but shorter than Bigfoot. Muscles and a tan. If I can look however I like, why not live it up? No comb over. It felt like it was working, and I knew something had happened when Naomi howled with laughter. I opened my eyes and heard a baritone voice with an exotic accent say, “Now what is it?”

In the mirror, I saw the man on the cover of every paperback romance novel I’d ever seen a lonely old lady reading. He wore a pair of burmuda shorts with no shirt. The arms and chest were sculpted with the tell-tale signs of a gym and personal trainer. Gold curls of hair rested around the shoulders. “Oh, that’s even worse! I’d rather look like the pigeon feeding Moleman!” Everyone in the room seemed to think this was the most hilarious thing in the world except for me. I released the disguise and melted back into giant ape-man. The others were just beginning to compose themselves when Havoc came through the door.

“Alright you two,” he addressed us, “I think you’re finally ready for a dry run.”

Naomi and I looked at each other inquisitively and looked back to Havoc.

“You’ve been working hard and have learned a lot about your new abilities. I had some of my guys hide an object and I want to see if you can retrieve it.”

I probed Havoc’s mind. His was a little harder to read than many, but still not impossible. I could tell that they had hidden an aluminum briefcase that was marked “PROPERTY OF DEEP HAWK”, but I couldn’t tell where it had been hidden.

“What kind of object?” asked Naomi.

“You’ll have to ask Reid,” he winked at me, “I suspected you’d try to cheat. I don’t know where it is. I specifically had them hide it in a location of their choosing so it wouldn’t be too easy on you.”

“It will still be easy for us,” I confidently announced.

Havoc let out a skeptical guffaw, “whatever. Use your powers. Do whatever you have to do to get the object and bring it back as soon as you can. Step one was to identify what the object in question is, which you’ve already used your powers to determine. Keep it up.”

“Hey,” I asked, “I’ve learned to disguise myself as a human. What’s keeping me from just moving out and living among people?”

“If you can call that human,” Naomi mumbled.

“First of all, even if you could keep up your disguise twenty-four seven, your psychic projections won’t fool a camera,” General Havoc explained, “if you just went out to live somewhere among people, I guarantee you that people would come up with family pictures with Bigfoot walking in the background. Every backup camera on a truck or RV would reveal your true form. Plus, not every person will be fooled by your projections. The disguise works well for short-term stints such as this one, but you can’t live on it by itself. Besides that, what is Naomi supposed to do? She looks more human than you do, but she’s not exactly normal looking anymore.”

I looked at my wife. He was right. With her coal colored eyes and hair in contrast with her vampiric porcelain skin, there was just no way that she was going to blend in with regular people anymore. As Havoc walked us to the door, he offered more advice, “try to avoid people for the most part. Find food and water, and shelter if you need it. At all costs, avoid confrontations.”

“So, we don’t even get supplies?” Naomi asked.

“Only what you have with you now,” said Havoc.

The two of us stepped out the door into the blinding sunlight. We turned back toward the door. Havoc said, “good luck you two.” And at that, he locked the door behind us.