November 21

Wednesday I had the day off.  I had the Tracker inspected, and  took it in to get it registered.  I did a job that’s so unpleasant that I only do it once a year: move the cockroach colony into a fresh, clean aquarium.  The worst part is digging through the dried poo looking for babies.  Now they’re all cleaned up and indoors for the winter.  I repacked all my Galapagos stuff; it just barely fits in my internal frame pack.

My camera is still working, but the zoom ring and power button are a little stiff, presumably from the dried mud in them.  There isn’t too much dirt inside the lens, but I’m worried it will die at some point, such as in the Galapagos.  I ordered a new camera, and I have to tell the story.  First, I waited a week to order it, and the price dropped almost 100 dollars.  I did a Google search and compared all the online places.  TechonDigital had the lowest price.  They require telephone confirmation of their orders, unlike most online vendors, so I called them.  After being on hold awhile, I spoke to “James.”  You guessed it: James had a heavy Indian accent.  First he confirmed my address and stuff, then said that I would need a memory card.  Did I want the 512 Mb model or the 1Gb version?  I said I had lots of memory cards.  He said I would need a battery.  I said I had batteries.  Then he said that this was a grey market camera I would be getting.  I asked what he meant by that.  He said it was a Japanese model, with a Japanese manual and no US warranty.  I said, “So if you ship me a broken camera, there’s nothing I can do about it?”  He repeated that it had no US warranty.  I told him to cancel my order.  I had an inkling that this might happen.  I bought my current camera (Panasonic FZ30) two years ago from an online vendor, who called to say there was a credit card problem, then tried to sell me a spare battery.  That’s how these places make money.  They lowball the price of the camera, then make it up with WAY overpriced accessories, like $60 for a 512 Mb SD card, which is 6 times too high.  I really hadn’t counted on the grey market camera strategy.  I’ll bet if I had ordered a memory card and battery I would have gotten a USA camera.  So a couple days later I order from a different company (86th Street Camera), whose web site touts their customer service and 21 day guarantee.  Now the price has dropped again.  I get a confirmatory email, then another email indicating I needed to call them.  Big surprise.  He starts in with the confirmation of the address thing, and what a fine camera I’ve purchased, and if I have any questions, just ask.  Well, it’s the FZ50, almost the same as my FZ30, so I’m pretty sure I know it better than they do because they have about two hundred cameras to learn and I only one.  But I digress.  Then he starts telling me how bad the stock battery is, and how I need to order a second one.  Over the past two years I’ve run the battery down exactly once.  The stock battery still works great, while the aftermarket one I bought has recently died.  I told him I didn’t need a battery or a memory card because I had the spares from a broken FZ30.  He said, “Well, sir, enjoy your camera and use it in good health.”   I’m still thinking about the tone of his voice when he said that.  Stay tuned for new and, perhaps, improved pictures.

It rained on and off all day.  In the evening it snowed a little bit.  Starts to feel like winter.  The house is toasty from the wood furnace, though. 

I winterized the dog kennel.  Savannah and I combed out Kane and cut the huge mats of hair off of his butt and tail.  We decided to have a quiet holiday at home.  Stacey cooked an excellent meal, but we had no guests.  It snowed a bit today.  

Here’s the next chapter in the camera saga:

Dear Valued Customer,
We regret to inform you that the products you have ordered included in order# xxxxxx-W are sold out temporarily.  However, these products shall be available again within about 5-6 weeks from the date of this email.

Yeah, in about 5 or 6 weeks I’ll be back from the Galapagos already.  I wonder; if I had ordered a memory card or battery, would the camera have been in stock?  Remember, I talked to these people on the phone already.  Their web site still says the camera “usually ships in 2-3 days.”  I’m starting to get pretty pissed off at these places.  And furthermore, the price of the camera has jumped back up again.  I cancelled the order. 

OK, I found this great web site called  People write reviews and rate different vendors.  It turns out both places I dealt with are at the BOTTOM.  The first one has zero out of 10.  Zero.  Some of the reviews are hilarious, after you accept that everyone has had the same experience, with minor variations.  This practice of calling and trying to peddle expensive accessories is called upselling.  Apparently, it’s not entirely illegal.  I’ll be using a more reputable vendor if and when I buy a new camera.

Friday I took Kane out to Lowell’s.  We attempted quail hunting, and had about as much luck as last time.  At least we all got some exercise, and Kane enjoyed swimming in and drinking from all the ponds.  Water must taste better when you’re swimming in it.  I’ve never tried.  We had lunch in Ewing, and went back for some catfishing.  We got no action at the catfish pond, and moved down to the big lake.  Those catfish love smoky links.  I caught a beautiful channel cat almost immediately.  Kane wanted to retrieve it as it thrashed on the surface, but I let Lowell net it instead.  Not long afterward, Lowell caught a massive cat.  After that, they shut down.

Kane looks disappointed that he didn’t get to retrieve it.  Lowell was happier than he appears to be in this image. 

As we were walking back up the hill, I saw a large grey object out of place.  I said, “Lowell, is that an old log or a dead deer.”  He said, “A dead deer.”  I hiked across the ravine to check it out.  It was a button buck, slightly bloated, stiff, but no obvious signs of injury.  It must have been shot somewhere else, then run onto Lowell’s and keeled over on that little ridge.  Kane tried to cover it up with leaves using his nose.  I suppose he thought he was saving it for later (though Savannah thinks he was giving it a respectful burial).  I dragged it downhill to the pontoon boat dock while Lowell went for the Mule.  We heaved it into the back and drove it over to a little meadow, where a trail camera will record everything that comes to snack on it. 

Bambi won’t make it through this winter.

Saturday I stayed home and did odd jobs.  I finished a project I had started probably a year ago and never finished, a little animation.  It may not run in this message, but you can see it at my cicada killer page here:

We watched a few movies.  In the evening I went to the QU vs. Culver men’s basketball game.  Culver actually got out of the gate first with a decent lead, but it didn’t last.  QU came back and eventually ran away with it.  One of my students had the hot hand, scoring a career best 37.

Sunday I stayed home all day.  I did a short meditation, then rode the exercise bike while watching March of the Penguins.  It didn’t live up to the hype, and is way too slow for exercise purposes.  It was another day for lots of little jobs around the house and on the computer. 

It was a bad weekend for my students.  One totalled her car back in Indiana, but was uninjured.  Another was thrown from the back seat of a car and pinned under the trunk.  I awoke in the morning hearing about the accident and her name mentioned on the news.  She’s battered but OK.   

Monday night I went to our high school girls basketball games, both JV and varsity.  We were slaughtered by stronger teams.  It was embarrassing.  The first JV girl on our team to score was Savannah’s friend Katrina.  She’s short, but very athletic.  It was Savannah’s debut as a cheerleader at a real game.  I thought she did a great job.  I guess she made some mistakes, but I didn’t notice.  I attempted some photography, but even my big flash won’t light up that gymnasium.  All it does is give Savannah demon eyes.

Savannah with poms.  The whole squad performs during a time out (Savannah at right).

Tuesday afternoon I took my class out to Lowell’s again.  We put up a bluebird house next to the lake, and wired a bunch of small hollow logs into trees for bird nesting.  It was a good day, not too cold. 

I was notified that all four of my images submitted to the 2007 Insect Photo Salon were accepted.  Considering the international competition, I was happy with the results.  Here were mine:

Green Darner.  Meet the new me (periodical cicada).

Irridescent fly.  Monarch on butterfly bush. 

If you have some time, visit this page where you can see all the winners.  Some of them are extremely good:

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