Thursday, December 1, 2016

Sarasota Medieval Fair - 2016

Continuing my quest to visit Renaissance faires in Florida I've not before visited - The Sarasota Medieval Fair.  I've heard very mixed reviews from friends on this event. I would prefer to get my information first hand - like actually going myself. I always try and get as much information as I can before I travel to new places. The Sarasota Medieval Fair web page was the perfect place to start.


They have one of the most informative websites I've seen so far. Good sign. I discovered I knew a few acts and vendors already but there was going to be over half the acts I've never seen before. That is really the point of making these journeys.


One of the common comments I've heard about this show is it's small. It may have been at one time but it was pretty extensive on my visit. From the map it did not seem like it was going to be an all day event but they managed to squeeze a tremendous amount of fun in a small space.


I was there from before opening gun till closing and try as I might, I did not see all the shows. If time was available I could have easily spent a second day and filled it with the things I didn't get a chance to enjoy.


As a 20+ year veteran of fair going, there have been a few acts I have seen dozens and dozens of times over the years. The Washing Well Wenches in particular.  I have enjoyed them in now four different cities and know several cast members. This show was in fact the only show I ever participated in - and that was on my first ever visit to a fair. One heck of an introduction to live theater.


In 20+ years I have never laughed as hard as I did at this particular show. I have never seen an audience member so stubborn as to receive a whole bucket of water to the head. This is live performance at its unpredictable and hilarious best and why I personally travel hundreds of miles to experience it.


The one thing that stood out was the number of friends I ran into. Both costumed or working but more importantly performers who were just in street clothes there to see the shows. I can't think of another venue I've been to that performers I know well just come to have some fun.


Oh - and I got a shattered lance shot. Only my second ever and it's a good one. For the rest of my photos from this event [click here] 

They are not all as good as this one but they certainly will give you a birdseye view of the this fair. Even though this one is the farthest from my house, I can see myself coming back next year.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ringling Museum - Sarasota

I know I brought my daughter to the Ringling Museum but is was in a time before I carried a camera everywhere I go. I have other photos from our "Tour of Old Florida" trip way back 10 years ago on her high school break. I have actually been revisiting many places in recent years from that trip.


This particular stop is still vivid in my mind like the colored glass that makes up the entire back of this incredible house. It was for some reason a place my daughter enjoyed fully.


I'm not sure if it was the beautiful house and furnishings, the outdoor sculpture garden, or the gigantic ancient paintings in the galleries I was not allowed to photograph.  This was actually a last minute choice as I discovered pre-internet our original stop was closed mondays. All I remember was my daughter and I spending way more time than originally allotted.


It was the same on my latest trip. What was supposed to be a quick visit and on to other things turned instead to an all day event and barely catching the sunset at our final destination.


There was a new tour added since my visit many years ago. The Private Places Tour. I did not take that tour but I should have. It was only $10.00 more than the guided tour and I am seriously thinking of driving back to do it. But on a Monday as normal admission is free for Florida residents.


I am actually old enough to remember a Big Top circus show. Seeing the entire circus life laid out in this model really made me think how lucky I was to have caught the very last performances of this kind. Of course the circus still lives in smaller venues but it's the Big Top that has passed on to history.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Lady of the Lakes Renaissance Faire - 2016

I began a quest in May to visit my friends all across the country performing in various medieval faires. Well.... life. Not always the best facilitator of a well conceived plan. So I have regrouped and changed my focus to Florida Faires I have never yet attended. First stop on this re-imagined adventure - The Lady of the Lakes Renaissance Faire.


The last two faires I attended and the one I missed are huge. That has a certain appeal and plenty of variety. It also comes with crowds and a lack of interaction. I have other places I go for that type of activity.


I have over the last 20+ years made quite a few friends but friends that travel. There are shows I can no longer get a front row seat or spend time in conversation with the people I know and the people I will soon know.


Case in point is the Flight of the Raptor show. It has been many years since I have been in the front row with camera ready and right after been able to chat with the performers.


It has always been my goal to feel like part of the show rather than a far off spectator. At one point the falcon returned to center stage passing inches over my head. They do not make a sound by the way, just a puff of air as the pass by.

This is the reason I am choosing to pursue the smaller venues this season.  It's great to see old friends, recent friends, and make new friends. It is especially gratifying seeing old friends in new roles and marveling at the depth of their talents. 


I have several more Florida festivals planned so stay tuned. Or better yet join me.



For the rest of the photos from this festival [click here]

Monday, November 14, 2016

Tavares FL, America's Seaplane City

If you have been following along, I was in Mount Dora almost two months ago. We arrived  in Tavares on the Orange Blossom Cannonball, the vintage train that runs along Lake Dora. There was an event at the time but as we were enjoying that, I watched a seaplane launch down a boat ramp and take off.


There was not enough time on that trip to do it so I made a special trip just to fly. I have to say, there is a huge difference in this town between a festival day and a national holiday. I did not book ahead so I was taking a chance but I also only live 3 hours away and weather is a factor.


We had an event scheduled for the weekend so we took our chances and booked a room at the Key West Resort on Lake Dora. Perfect choice. The hotel is so new it's not quite completed. Actually a lot of the downtown was newly renovated or receiving those last minute final touches. When we arrived - it was a ghost town. We managed to walk right up and book one of the two planes. Total wait time - nothing.


There are several flights available from Jones Brothers at various prices so check ahead to decide what fits for you. We picked the middle of the road flight of $99.00 for a 30 minute tour of the lakes. Any longer would have exceeded my budget, but any shorter and I would have been right back in the office to fly again.


The plane flies low enough you can see every detail on the ground. We even skipped off a lake for that added thrill. You just have to say "This is better than an airboat ride" apparently. Our pilot was very accommodating. He even swung past the event were were going to the next day. I can not tell you how much I want to take flying lessons right now.


Sunset on Lake Dora is a magnificent site. This is now my third for the year. The locals tell me it never gets old. Speaking of which, this little daytime ghost town became a happening place right after the sun went down. There is plenty of parking which filled to the brim around 8:00 PM.


Sunrise from our hotel was far more spectacular than my cell phone could capture. Puddle Jumpers is right there in the photo. They made our lunch, dinner, and evening entertainment a truly special event. The manager took a special interest in us..... we seemed a bit lost when we were wandering around looking for a lunch place. It's not so much the place that's special in these tiny towns, it's the people.

The seaplane base is just a half block away. The train station just a bit farther. Everything we found of interest was a short walk. This was the perfect escape from our big town lives. Huge thanks to everyone who made us feel welcome.

Stuart Air Show - 2016

My goals this year were simple. Enjoy the show. Get good photos. I certainly enjoyed the show. I'll let me fans decide if the second goal was achieved. For the rest of my photos of the event,
[click here].












Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Mount Dora - Florida

Nothing says happy retirement like a mini vacation. I have had quite a few and many more planned in the upcoming months. Not all are worth writing home about. Especially the ones I've already done multiple times.

Now that my Disney Annual Pass has run out, I really wanted a total relax-ication. Away from the crowds, theme parks, roller coasters. Something peaceful and laid back. But with great food and something to occupy my time. I found that in Mount Dora.

I have been here before but with my daughter on one of those trips we took when she was in highschool. Not much more than a dinner and a sleep over. That was about 7 years ago.

This trip was more of an adult get-away with fine food, a boat trip, train ride, and almost a seaplane flight. Late planning fail on my part. Not to worry. I'm already looking into it for my next trip.

For the ultimate in convenience and old time charm, I stayed in the Lakeside Inn right on Lake Dora. The boat, train, and seaplane are right on the doorstep and all of downtown is just across the train tracks. The staff is the friendliest I've experienced in a long time and yes I made 10 separate trips to Disney in the last year so my standards are pretty high.

The biggest problem I had was picking a restaurant. That happened no less than 6 times and every time was a winner. We even found a great coffee/ice cream shop and a hidden away wine bar. There was live music scattered around the town but honestly I was not a fan of much of it. Still very enjoyable to sit and give a listen with a beer in hand and not a care in the world in my head. That was pretty much the goal of this trip and it was mission accomplished for 3 days.

While I was there I learned of a Steam Punk festival which I missed but I did attend the Rifles and Rails event. In talking with some of the Civil War re-enactors, I found there is a much larger event in my own area. There are events all through the year which will be bringing me back to Mount Dora.

One of the great things, all throughout our stay we had conversations with people we just met. No one was texting, they were talking. It's just one of those places where people put their phones down and just live. Probably why it's taken me so long to post in my blog. Oh - and stay for the sunset. It happens every night like clockwork and it is definitely something to write home about.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

PINE64 Affordable Single Board Computer - First Impressions

I Purchased the PINE64, single board computer from a recent Kickstarter campaign. If you have never heard of it, here's the link to PINE64. I read about this project earlier in the year and it sounded interesting. I've now had mine several weeks and I have spent a lot more time with it than I expected. Some full days actually.
PINE64 Pricing From the Kickstarter Project

A little about my background. I started my computer career as a COBOL programmer in 1980 but prior to that I bought a Commodore Vic 20. The first $300.00 computer you didn't have to assemble yourself. It was basically a computer inside a keyboard that required a TV as a display and a tape recorder to store programs. After I took that as far as I could, I bought a $5,000 IBM XT with 10MB hard drive and 512k ram. It cost more than my car. But it came with a programming language called BASIC and I spent untold hours writing programs.

Since then I've tested and implemented all sorts of Mainframe, PC, peripheral equipment, datacom, networking, wireless, and mobile computing. I get a certain joy out of learning new systems and conquering new challenges. 

If you have been following my blog you are probably thinking "Hey - I thought you retired!" True but it's hot right now in Florida, rains every day, and I'm in that little area where the algae bloom has made national news so I have some time to kill in the AC. Also, considering all the equipment I've seen over the years - this little board is amazing. I've seen very mixed reviews though. If your first introduction to computing was an iPhone, well then the PINE64 possibly won't impress you that much. If you burned out a soldering iron during your career, this board will simply blow you away. 

I opted for the $89 package. If I did it again I may have not gone with the LCD but I did enjoy the challenge of getting it to work. Based on many comments I saw out there, very few people know how to research but sure know how to complain. It took me less than 20 minutes to know what my problem was. I made a few simple videos to help out anyone willing to suffer through them but they may save you a bit of time deciding if this device is for you. 

One thing I learned in my career - there is always someone smarter than you who already has the answer. In the old days it was face to face, user groups, long distance phone calls, message boards on dial in modems, software on floppies sent through the mail. 99% of the time you are looking for answers, 1% of the time you have them and are only too happy to share. Now days, 5 minutes on the internet and done. 

In a nutshell, I really like the PINE64. I've have zero problems other than a few unexpected reboots after I've loaded new applications. I had the screen shimmer once. My unit came with Android but I tested Ubuntu and Remix OS as well.  I'm more comfortable with Remix OS but I think it needs refining. It was the glitchiest. On my board - the most powerful option you can buy for now, I found Ubuntu the slowest but not by much. The Android was the clear winner for me. I had no problem downloading apps and both the HDMI and LCD versions worked with no hangups. From reading others complaints, the biggest culprit seemed to be random power supplies. Always match the power supply exactly to the specs of the machine. Computing 101 and often ignored when equipment gets moved and people just stick in what fits. Yes - I managed a Helpdesk too. If you have the time, check out my videos. I'm going the spend the next couple of weeks writing my own apps. If it goes badly or gets too frustrating, I can always go back to retiring. 

If you are just starting to look into a computer career or maybe as an Android App builder - you may want to invest. If this little board frustrates you, computing might not a good fit. I personally think this is the beginning of a total revolution in the industry and I wanted to be part of it. Just like when I was a user of Delphi and ARPNET thinking the internet might be big one day if there was only some content worth viewing. Or when the only use for Wifi was to move files between laptops faster than the optical port and thinking if only there was way to connect to the network with no wires. I have been fortunate to have worked in an industry that has made epic changes during my time. I've not coded in a very long while but I bought this device to see if I can write even one app for it. My goal is to transfer it to the PINE64 on a USB and run it. If you have already, feel free to comment.