Sunday, May 30, 2010

Why Do Kids Make Friends So Easily?


We went to the big playground last weekend, and I swear weren't there 5 minutes, before the girls had two new friends. They played together for over an hour; laughing, giggling and holding hands as they went from slide to slide and bridge to bridge. When it was time to go home, they hugged and said goodbye.

This isn't the first time I've seen something like this with my kids. I remember way back when we first moved to Tyndall AFB Florida in the mid 90s. Justin was about 5 years old when we moved into base housing. The day the movers came, and we got to the house, he immediately started walking up and down the street, knocking on doors. Whenever someone would answer, he'd say "I'm Justin, I'm new here, do you have any kids that might want to play with me?" Simple and effective. Justin always had plenty of friends.

Contrast this with most adults ...

Even just at the playground, while the girls were skipping around with their newfound friends, I was sitting at a little round table at the center of the park reading the paper. Several parents came into the playground with their kids, started to approach the table, and then turned around when they saw me there. One guy, I even offered "hey there's plenty of room here, I don't mind", still insisted on sitting over on one of the little bridges.

I'm not very scary looking, and I don't think I smelled too bad that day. And while it still might be tempting to be a little self conscious, I suspect the problem was probably not just me. It seems that we adults can sometimes be a little reluctant to interact with people we don't already know.


What happens to us, between the time that we're 5 or 6 years old, when making new friends was a pleasurable experience; and adulthood where we become suspicious if someone we don't know, so much as looks in our direction for too long?

Was high school that traumatic?

Or maybe the world is just a scarier place the longer you live, and the more you know?

Unfortunately, I don't really have a good answer to this question ...

But I just can't shake the thought that maybe the world would be a much better place if more of us acted like 6 year olds every once in a while ;-)


Schofield High Dive

Today's Hawaii Picture of the Day is my daughter Jordan leaping off the 5 meter platform at the Schofield Barracks swimming pool.


There are several military pools on the Oahu that we frequent; Hickam, Pearl Harbor and the Hale Koa among them. But, since my step-kids go to see their dad in Wahiawa on the weekends, Schofield's pool is by far the most convenient for a Sunday afternoon. And with it being free for Active duty, and only a buck each for dependents, it's an extremely cost effective way to let the kids have their fun.

Jasmine and I spend most of our time hanging out at the kiddie pool, while Jordan took on the diving boards, and Johnathan hung out in the shallows with one of his friends from school (who also happened to be there). Schofield also has a big slide at the pool, but unfortunately it wasn't open today ... no biggie we had fun anyway.

And, the real purpose of our trip (so mom could have a day all to herself) worked out very well too ... she watched a movie and had a long nap ... all around, it was a pretty happy mother's day.


originally postes on in 2008

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Facebook Privacy Silliness

What is all the big hub bub lately about facebook privacy? I don't get it, I think some people just like to complain ...

Start Rant

Seriously folks, it's a FREE site, and it's on the Internet. And really, who, in 2010, is actually naive enough to think that Anything they put on the Internet is really "private"? [pullquote]If I have a thought, opinion, picture, story, etc., that I don't want people to know about, I wouldn't dream of putting it on the Internet.[/pullquote]

As for me ....

But since, generally speaking, I Do want people to know what I think, and what I do, I have no problem with the fact that my status updates on Facebook are now searchable by the entire Internet. In fact, truth be told, I think it's good.

I'm a marketer. One of the reasons I jump on the computer every day is that I want to meet, and connect with, interesting new people. The easier it is for them to find, and learn about me, the better.

Which is why, to me, one of the strangest things about this whole "controversy" is that many of my marketing friends are some of the people throwing the biggest hissy fits about facebook's privacy settings. I honestly don't understand?

Facebook Instant Personalization Pilot Program

I also have no problem with the idea that if I visit a site on the Internet, while I'm logged into my facebook account, and they have access to my facebook interests, they might use that information to present me with more relevant advertisements.

If these sites are going to show me ads anyway, why wouldn't I want to see something I might actually be interested in?

What, am I afraid I might be more likely to buy something if the ads are relevant to me?

If you really need privacy on a network ...

Here's the cold hard truth: if you really need a "private" place to interact and share with your friends and family, Facebook (or any other "free" social networking site, for that matter) is probably NOT a good option for you.

Here's what I'd do if I wanted to set up a (theoretically) private network online ...

  1. I'd buy my own web hosting account (you can find them for $10 or less a month)

  2. I'd install either wordpress with the buddypress plugin, or I'd use a free message board script such as phpBB or SMF (which can be installed with one click via fantastico).

  3. I'd password protect the directory, and just for good measure upload a robot.txt file with "User-agent: *
    Disallow: /"

  4. I'd invite (and give the password to) only the people that I want to share my stuff with

This is probably a workable solution. But, it's not terribly easy, and it's not free. Plus, honestly, how many of my friends are really going to take the time to read and/or post anything on "Todd's private network" anyway?

Bottom line, if you want to network online (especially when using a "free" site) you should expect that your information will be shared with others; and that the site will try to monetize your content and information in some way.

If either of those prospects are unacceptable to you, I'm sorry but you really shouldn't sign up for the "free" sites in the first place.

Thought to remember:

On the Internet (actually really in life) "free" is almost never actually FREE

End Rant

Til next time ...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Distant Thunderstorm at Sunset

We had some big thunderstorms in the area again yesterday afternoon. None of them made it all the way over us, but in this case I think that worked out well for my pictures. A couple of well developed thunderstorms were off in the distant horizon right at sunset ...

Going in reverse order, this is the last picture I took, but also the one I like the best. The sun was well below the horizon at this point, but gave a nice contrast between the blue and the orange in the clouds.

This was just a little bit earlier, taken from the hill behind our house. You can see three distinct cumulonimbus here ... one in front of the sun; the one in the middle that looks small, is probably just as big as the others, but it's way off in the distance; and finally, to the right, that well developed mid-level overhang on the supercell that was over Waco at about this time.

The structure of the storms isn't quite as nice in this picture, but the rays of the sun from just below the horizon give off some nice orange rays, and also highlight that little line of towering cumulus between the two thunderstorms.

And finally, this is the earliest picture in the series, showing the largest thunderstorm while it was still well off in the distance.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I Got A Good Deal On A 2005 Dodge Neon

red 2005 dodge neon SXT with SRT styling

Just for the heck of it, on the way home yesterday I swung by the "lemon lot" here on Fort Hood to see what kind of cars they had. I was immediately drawn to this little red Dodge Neon. I was even more happy when I saw the price (right in my range).

I gave a quick call to the number on the windshield, and set up a test drive for a little later in the afternoon. The car drives really good, and I kind of like the fact that a "cheap" car can still look so sporty. It's a 2005 Neon SXT, but it has the SRT styling package ... the scooped hood, wing on the back, and cool aluminum wheels. Unfortunately, this is still a standard 2.0L, 135HP Neon ... it just looks on the outside kind of like the real SRT-4, which is much quicker, much more powerful, and as you would expect, more expensive.

That said, I got a pretty good deal on the car. The guy I bought it from is an old retired guy who had traded a 57 Chevy for this car, intending to use it for every day driving. Unfortunately, he hurt his back, and now has a hard time getting in and out of the Neon, which sit's very low to the ground. He wasn't giving the car away or anything. But I am quite stoked to be able to drive a sporty little car, while having a payment just barely north of $100 a month.

I really didn't intend to get a car this soon. I really do want to try to ride my bike to work as often as possible, and I will still try ride at least once or twice a week. But, on days where there's bad weather, or on mornings with early PT, it sure will be nice to have the option of driving, instead of dealing with these wonderful central texas hills.

Til next time ...


A Weather Geek Photographer in Texas

We had a pretty good line of strong Thunderstorms move through the Fort Hood area yesterday afternoon. Still no tornadoes, hail, or anything like that, but the "scenic value" is getting a little better ...


As a self described "weather geek" (I'm one of those lucky people who actually enjoys what I do at work), this time of year, in the section of the country, can occasionally be pretty exciting. Although, yesterday I might have overdone it just a little bit ...

I'd been watching the towering cumulus build up all day, and we actually got a pretty good thunderstorm just down to our South East a bit earlier in the afternoon, so I had a pretty good idea that we were probably going to get hit. So I'm sitting in the living room with Ana, watching tv, and I decide to go look out the window. The sky was getting really dark, really quick out to the west.

I went over to open the door, and almost had it blow back in my face. I poked my head back in the living room, and told Ana (half-jokingly) "oh boy, I think our stuff is going to blow away". Then I ran upstairs to grab my camera and take some pictures from the balcony.

About 15 minutes later, I decided to go get a few pictures from "street level". As I came out front, camera in hand, I was greeted with a serious version of "the look" from my loving wife ...

It turns out that a couple of our lawn chairs, and a few toys actually Had Blown Away!

I suppose she had a point, with her "look". A normal person's first reaction to a big thunderstorm, with strong winds, probably would have been to either secure our stuff, or if it looked really bad, take cover.

But ...

I'm a weather geek photographer in Texas.

My first thought when I see a big thunderstorm is almost always ...

Where the heck did I put my camera? :-D

til next time ...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Setting Up Our Backyard Pool


Last summer, when I was at training in Florida, Ana bought one of those little above ground pools for the kids. It's nothing fancy, I can set it up and take it down by myself, but it's not a quick process, as the thing holds a couple thousand gallons of water.

In the fall, before I left for Iraq, I drained the pool, took it apart, and packed it up for the winter. I expected to reassemble it when I got back this spring. However, I have an impatient wife. So for some reason, she (while 7 months pregnant) decided to set the silly thing at about the end of March (I was still gone). She didn't put any water in it, but it sat there for a month and a half, so it did accumulate some rain water ... enough that a bit of algae had started to grow.

Yesterday was the day that I decided to set up the pool properly for the upcoming summer ...

The first step was taking it apart, so that I could get that pesky rain water out. There was just enough nasty, green water, that this task was not nearly as easy as it may sound; but it worked out eventually. Next I had to scrub off the algae ... which surprisingly, Was much easier than I expected ... a little brushing, and a squirt of clean water from the hose, and it came right off.

Quick reassembly (with as little cussing as I could manage), and positioning of the pool on the least steep section of our absolutely Not flat backyard, and it was ready for water ... wait, it would be ready for the water after I found Ana to help me figure out which one of those silly tubes goes in which hole of the pool and pump.

The picture at the top of this post is about 3 hours later. Apparently a couple thousand gallons of water takes a little while to make it's way out of the faucet, through the hose, and into the pool. Just before dark, I turned off the hose, turned on the pump, and put the cover on the pool. I figured the chemicals could wait until the morning.

Well, morning is here, and pool chemicals is what I'm doing. I added some stuff called Ph minus, then I have to go test the water. After that, it's the shock treatment, followed by more testing. The the algae guard, and yep, test again. At some point, I know I have to put chlorine in there (I have a whole list of directions), and there's even some stuff called clarifier, which sounds important. I'll figure it all out. But really, this seems like it's a bit more complicated than it has to be, for a pool that we bought for $100 on Craig's List.

Back in the 90's, when I was stationed at Opp / Andalusia Alabama, my redneck neighbor Butch had a totally different approach to maintaining a similar type of pool ...

We're standing there on his porch one day, while his kids, and mine, are swimming in his little backyard pool. They seem to be having fun, and I remark to Butch that getting a pool was a good idea. He mumbles yea (he talked like Boomhauer from King of the Hill), and points out that he's not the only one in the neighborhood with a pool (he literally points) across the way at another pool a few houses down. And that's where it got funny ...

He tells me (with a straight face, and no irony at all) "them neighbors make it way harder than it has to be"

"How so?" I ask.

To which Butch replied: "They use all sorts of them fancy chemicals and stuff ... don't really need em"

Me (curiously): "Well what do you do to keep your pool clean?"

Butch: "About once a week, I just dump a gallon of bleach in that sucker ... same difference"

I wanted to laugh, but not really, as I could, at that very moment see my two young kids splashing around in Butch's pool. Talk about your unintentional bad parenting moments.

Ok, well let's wrap this up, I have to go back out in the yard and test my "fancy" pool chemicals.

til next time ...


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Big Playground on Fort Hood

One of the really cool things about living on a very large Army post, such as Fort Hood, is all the activities available for the kids. And even better, many are free, or nearly free! This huge playground that the girls and I visited the past two days is a perfect example.


There are playgrounds everywhere here on Fort Hood. We even have one almost literally in our back yard. Jasmine is there every day, and I take Jaiden over there as often as I can too. But the other night, when I drove Justin down to the Bronco youth center to check out the skateboard park, we discovered that adjoining the skatepark is a massive playground, that's about 10 times the size of the one in our back yard.

I knew that I had to take the girls ... and my camera :-)


I like this image above so much that I used it as my project365 picture for yesterday. Why exactly I liked it, I'm not even sure. I just know that Jaiden was having a great time running along all the little bridges that connect the various slides and platforms. Then every once in a while she would stop and peek out at me through the bars ... accompanied by laughter, of course.


Yesterday, we couldn't get Jaiden to go down any of the slides; which was odd, because she likes the slide at "our" park. This morning, she was a bit braver. This picture is from yesterday, looking up through the tube of the slide, trying to coax her to jump on. I like the swirly reflections.


Jasmine is such a good big sister. She's pretty much follows Jaiden around, helps her onto the equipment, and alerts me if she goes too high, or tries to climb a ladder/stairs that's too steep. In this shot, and the one of Jaiden, below, the girls came running down off that little hill behind them, and right past me on to the next set of slides. I caught Jasmine in mid stride.

But Jaiden was already slowing down to survey the situation ...

And then, it was time to go home.

See you next time !


Saturday, May 15, 2010

How To Organize Google Reader For Peak Productivity

My Google Reader is unequivocally my #1 time waster. Facebook is probably a close second, but at least there I actually interact with people, so it's somewhat productive. For the most part, with blog feeds it's a one way thing, we me reading the articles, and very rarely taking any immediate action.

I can sometimes spend hours just reading. I don't have an outrageous amount of blogs in my reader (I think it's about 120 right now), but the way I had them organized really made it easy to use the information unproductively. I previously categorized all the blogs by type .. ie, "marketing", "friends", "technology", "politics" etc., While on the surface, this sounds like it would be useful, in reality all it really did was let me easily skip from time waster to time waster without even realizing it.

My new organizing plan only has 3 categories:

  1. - interact: These are blogs that are either written by people I'm already friends with, people I want to be friends with, and/or they have a strong sense of community. My friend Sire's wassup blog is a good example of #s 1 and 2. And Jim's marketing blog falls into # 2 .. a site that I like reading, but would like to participate in a bit more.

    I placed this category in the #1 position, because this is the area where reading can be most productive, and therefore where I plan to try to spend most of my time. A while back, I wrote a post called Don't Be an Invisible Reader where I outlined some steps to take to interact better with these types of blogs ...

    If I read something good in this section, I want to do one of several things: tweet about it, share it on facebook, go leave a comment on the blog, and/or share it in google reader (which will send it immediately to Buzz, and allow me to use it later in a "link love" type post.

    That's my goal, we'll so it works out ... I've been way more invisible than I should be here lately.

  2. - learn: These are blogs that I definitely want to have in my reader, and reading them can be very productive ... but I usually don't have anything to add to the conversation, so I won't stress too much about trying to interact with blogs such ask Seth Godin's, or Zen Habits

  3. - time waster: This final section, as you can probably guess, now contains the type f blogs that I think I've been spending too much of my time on lately. I'm not going to link to anything that have termed a "time waster" (that wouldn't be fair, as there are some really good blogs in this section). But suffice it to say, this section contains things like news sites, political blogs, technology blogs, and even the majority of the marketing blogs that I'm subscribed to.

    These are sites that I still want to be able to read, but I need to be careful that I'm not spending too much of my (limited) online time simply perusing the equivalent of mental candy. I'd like to have about a 2 or 3 to 1 ratio between this section and the others. Then, if I've had a good productive day interacting and making new friends, I can go read about politics for a while, and not feel guilty.

So how about you ... what are some things you do to help stay productive when you're online and reading other people's blogs?

Thanks in advance for your answers.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Talk About Having Your Head In The Clouds


14 May 2010

Today's picture is another one of those "accidentally cool" type of shots ...

And it's Not photoshopped !

There were some thunderstorms off in the distance, so Justin actually called me on the phone as he was walking to see if I wanted to get some pictures of the lightning. So I met him near the hill he was getting ready to walk down, and set up the camera and tripod.

I was shooting 25 second exposures, at F11. The shots were coming out ok, but the lightning was just too far away, and not frequent enough to get any good captures.

In the very last shot I took, Justin decided that he was going to head off to his friend's house, and walked in front of the camera before turning around to tell me when he'd be back.

He stood still for about 4-5 seconds ... which was apparently long enough to show up in the image.

So, even though it was totally not what I intended, I thought it ended up being a somewhat interesting shot.

The only other pictures I took today, were a couple of quick snaps of my girls as I was on my way out the door to meet Justin. Those actually came out pretty nice too ...

Jasmine and Jaiden being happy sisters (I'm gonna enjoy it while it lasts)
smile_sisters2_s smile_sisters_s


p.s. I was hoping to actually get some lighting shots tonight, but I just had a peek at the radar, and it looking like the storms are all falling apart as they move east into the relatively more stable airmass over us. It's ok though, the Storm Prediction Center has us in Slight Risk areas for severe the next two days as well ... so I might get my lightning pictures sometime this weekend.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Getting Air at the Fort Hood Skateboard Parks


Justin has been skateboarding since he was about 8 years old, and we lived in Hawaii. I've been taking skateboard pictures for almost as long. Justin recently came back to live with us here at Fort Hood, and we were happy to discover that there are three skateboard parks here on the post. They're all relatively small. Nothing like the Hickam Skate Park that we used to go to in Hawaii; with it's street course, big half pipes, and two huge bowls. But, one of them is within walking distance of our house, and all of them are free.

The one closest to our house is near the Comanche youth center. It can't be too bad, as the boy is there for a couple of hours every day ... along with many other kids, every time I've stopped by, ranging in age from 7 to 21. As I mentioned above, there are also two other skate parks on Fort Hood. One is in the center of the post, not too far from the hospital. From driving past, it looks pretty similar to the one we have here at Comanche. Further to the east side of the base, near the Bronco youth center, there is supposed to be a larger (and thus "better" set of ramps). We haven't made it over there yet, but one of these weekends I do plan to grab my camera and run Justin over there for a couple of hours.

... it should be fun.

What I really like best about the fact that my son loves to skateboard, is that when you combine it with my photography, it's an activity that we can do together, where we can both participate in our favorite hobbies at the same time.

Below are a few pictures from a "burst" series of pictures which show Justin getting some air, turning in flight, and landing perfectly on the rail. They are in order from shot #1 at the top of the page thru shots 2-4 below:




Til next time ...


Friday, May 7, 2010

Riding My Bike In Texas Hill Country

Hill at Fort Hood Texas

When most people think of Texas, they automatically think "flat". Not so much around here. The part of central Texas where Fort Hood is located, is known at Hill Country ... and after riding my bike back and forth to work the past couple of days I can definitely confirm that we have some pretty decent hills around here.

... in fact, that the primary reason I took this picture today. In my post about riding my bicycle to work, my friend Lissie was having a hard time believing that Texas isn't flat.

Well, I offer up as proof, this picture above which was taken from the top of one of the smaller hills that I had to ride up on my way home from work this afternoon. Needless to say, my legs aren't too happy with me right about now.

So, yes I can definitely confirm that there are hills in Texas.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Girls Are 100% Angel


My two youngest daughers, Jaiden and Joey are only 20 months apart, so we still have almost all of Jaiden's baby clothes. This outfit in particular, that says "100% Angel" was definitely one we wanted to get a picture of Joey wearing before she gets too old (she's 9 days old today).

You see, I have a picture of Jaiden wearing the exact same outfit when she was less than a week old ...

It's really neat to compare the two pictures to see how much they're alike ... and how different they are.

I'll have to go back through my baby pictures of Jaiden to see if there are any other "compare and contrast" type shots that I can try to set up. In the mean time, I'm pretty happy with the way these came out. I may end up taking one more set sometime next week before we decide which one is getting printed and put up on the wall.

I actually kind of liked the expression on her face a bit better in this one ...

But the eyes were much better in the picture that I put up there at the top.

Natural lighting btw. I laid out the pink blanket in her playpen, and opened the window shades to let in some nice soft afternoon light. There are a few shadows there, but it's all good, I'm not a pro or anything ... which is a good thing too, because I took a few shots earlier in the week with a flash on my camera ... they all came out horrible ... I just plain can't take good pictures with a flash.

Anyhow, let me end this post, I go back to work for the first time tomorrow, so I should probably try to get to bed at a decent hour.

Til next time ...


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pictures and Blog Posts


Pretty much as I expected, keeping up with my picture and blog post every single day has proven to be not such an easy task, now that I'm home and don't have 3-5 hours to myself every evening. I've actually done just fine with the pictures. There are plenty of shots to be had around here. It's the daily blog posts that are a little harder to come by ... especially when the clock's hitting 11 or 11:30, and I have to get up in the morning to take the kids to school.

So here's the plan ...

I'm going to "semi" de-link the project365 picture a day from the posts on this blog. I will still do a picture every single day, which I will upload to both flickr and facebook. And when it comes to this blog, every post will still have a picture to go with it. I just don't plan on trying to write a post to go with every single picture I take, as I did in Iraq.

Actually, in Iraq, it was a very good idea. Not only did I have more time. But committing to writing a post to go with each picture actually gave me more ideas for both pictures and stories.

Here, back home, I think just the opposite will be true.

I know some of you like seeing and hearing about my family. But at some point, seeing pictures of kids that aren't yours is going to get kind of boring ... even for my friends. I'd like my blog posts to at least once a week offer up something of value to the readers. Now don't get me wrong, I still believe in the idea that pictures can help to inspire writing, and I will continue to utilize it, but I plan to start writing fewer, but "meatier" posts.

On the picture front is where I really expect it to free me up. There are things I'd like to take pictures of, that I just can't imagine I'd have anything to write about. The bug on the flower from this evening being a perfect example. For the remaining 235 days of my 2010 picture a day project, I get to just take pictures ... it already sounds so liberating!

Anyhow, that's where things stand here at the Todd Morris blog. I appreciate all who have been following along, and I hope to continue to provide you with some good information over the coming days, weeks, months and years.

Catch up with you again soon,

Riding My Bicycle To Work


For the next couple of months at least, I will be riding my bicycle (pictured above) back and forth to work every day. It's not a long trip, I measured it out in the Van the other day, and it came to 6.7 miles. There are however, a couple of pretty significant hills along the way. It should be "fun" the first week or two, until I get used to it.

After a couple of misfires in my search for an inexpensive used car, I finally just gave up and decided to go with the bike idea.

I've actually been considering doing something like this for quite a while now. But before I went to Iraq, I already had a car, so it wasn't as easy to justify going out and spending money on a decent bicycle too. Now, on the other hand, I am carless, and what I spent on the bike only comes to a month and a half or two months car payment + insurance anyway.

I plan to ride the bike at least until the fall when it starts to get cooler. I have two main motivations ...

  1. Extra Exercise - we already do military PT every day at work. But, I am getting older; plus I really enjoy food, so every lit bit of extra PT definitely helps.

  2. Saving Money - I figure even if I got a relatively cheap car, the payments + insurance + maintenance was probably going to cost me something north of $200 bucks a months. While I'm riding the bike, that amount will simply be diverted into "Todd's car fund". In addition, I have a sneaky suspicion that gas prices are going to get up over $3 a gallon again this summer (if not sooner). I have to ride right past a gas station every day on the route to work, so if I feel like complaining about the hills, seeing the price of gas should give me a little extra motivation.

I do plan to buy a car before the winter, but I hope to have a better plan by then. Hopefully I can sock enough away with what I'll be saving to put a better down payment on something a bit nicer. And then even more hopefully, our candle company actually has a car bonus, where they pay for a lease or car payment once you reach a certainly level. Who knows, maybe if I really have a kick butt summer selling candles I can get them to pay for it. ;-)

In any case, I'm sure I'll have a few more stories about riding on hills here in Texas over the coming months ... check back often.

Catch up with you again soon,