Friday, March 31, 2017

Best moment Thursday

Long before there were drones buzzing around, taking video of everything, there was KAP - Kite Aerial Photography.  Although I've done a lot of KAPping over the years, especially here in Puerto Rico, I've been away from it for a while. I've missed it. Late Thursday afternoon, I went to Playuela to start KAPping again and relearn some forgotten skills.

Basically, KAP is using a kite to lift a camera to take aerial photos. There are a variety of methods to control the camera, from no control at all and just a rubber band to release the shutter to elaborate gyro-stabilized, full video downlink systems. My rig is pretty basic: using an RC airplane radio and the rig I built, I can rotate the camera 360 degrees horizontally, tilt 90 degrees vertically from horizontal to looking straight down, and trip the shutter.

KAP has some limitations compared to drones. Kites are at the mercy of the wind so you can't always get them to go where you want them. They aren't stable enough to shoot video. You can do it but watching the playback will make you sick. Unless you have a downlink system, you can see what you're shooting.

But all that is part of what I love about KAP. It is a challenge. Watching the camera and the kite dance you are doing realtime 3D calculus in your head ("I think I know what it's pointed at!"). And I kinda like the not knowing exactly. It's like Forrest Gump's mother's box of chocolates: you never know exactly what you've got til you go home and download the images. Sometimes there are surprises - "wow! I had no idea it looked like that!" Sometimes you get a photo that is just the way you visualized it. Sometimes you get crap. But that's the joy of digital - you can delete the crap.

I've wanted to KAP at Playuela for a while. I wanted to KAP near sunset to get the long shadows of the palm trees. So I had to wait for 1) an afternoon that was 2) clear and 30 had wind and 4) Ola Lola's wasn't open. That last one limits me to three evenings a week. It took til Thursday for everything to fall into place.

I set up on the wrong side of the area and then the wind started to die just before sunset so I didn't get everything I wanted. But I was out, KAPping a new place. I learned a lot from it and had fun.

That's good. I will return.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

best moment Wednesday

Wednesday was about as polar opposite from Tuesday as it could be. But what was the best moment? The wonderful morning Gentle Yoga session on Ola Lola deck? Or the late afternoon ride on the beach? Do I really have to decide? Can't they both be "best moments?" Yes! they can. And they are.

Can't wait to see what Thursday has in store.

Best moment Tuesday

Tuesday was such a laid-back, downtime day, the best moment was almost going scuba diving. Almost, But not quite. Loaded everything in the truck, drove to the dive site, and realized I took the tank of air that I'd carried around for six weeks in hopes of diving out of the truck. So no air, no dive for me.

But almost. That's closer than I've been to diving for a month.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Best moment Monday

Hmmm - KTJ doesn't seem quite as amused by whatever had Chris and Elaine laughing.

Hands down, the best of Sunday was spending time with our friends Chris and Is. They are both horse people - Is is an equine massage therapist and Chris is an equine people trainer, that is, he trains people to work with horses.

We got some great training time with Chris (while Is hung out on the beach) and then some great "visit" time with both of them.

Look for more best moment to come out from the training we did with Chris. It's always interesting  - and frequently helpful - to swee yourself through someone else's eyes.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Best moment Sunday

We flew kites!

Some of you may know that in another lifetime Elaine and I were professional stunt kite flyers. We performed at festivals throughout the Midwest. We competed together as a pairs team and on three- four- and six-person teams, At our best, our pairs team Pegasus was ranked fourth in the country and our four-person team was sixth. For the first five years we were in Puerto Rico we traveled back to the States to perform.

After we stopped going back to perform, kite flying became a bit of a "that was then, this is now" thing. We pretty much stopped flying. So often we have ripping over-the-top winds (one of the reasons kite surfers love it here). Big winds combined with soft beach sand are hard on the body. Since we didn't need to practice for performances or competitions, and since we had other activities here, the was no compelling reason to keep flying. We let it go by the wayside. Honestly, I can't tell you the last time we flew. I think it was on my birthday in 2013.

Until Sunday.

I haven't written much about the Columbus Landing project along our coast in an area called Playuela. Columbus Landing is a proposed hotel-casino-condo-resort that will occupy 121 acres of pristine ocean-front and destroy about a mile coast, reefs and surf breaks. The project actually started in 1993 but was shut down.The project has been revived and some preliminary construction has actually started.

As part of the resistance against the project, protesters are organizing simple activities to attract people to the area and to show people first hand what will be lost if this project is allowed to continue.On Sunday it was a kite fly. Although we couldn't stay for most of the activity (had to oepn the bar and all that) we broke out a couple of stunt kites and put on a little show for the campers (who are part of the on-going protest) and the early arrivals.

Honestly, it felt really good to fly together again. Kite flying is what brought Elaine and me together in the first place. It was always one of our "together" activities. I've missed it. The area at Playuela has enough open space - and enough wind - to make a good place to fly. Maybe this is the start of getting back in to flying, at least a little bit.

I hope so.

(Thanks to our friend Angie for the bit of video.)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Best moment Friday

The best moment on Friday was reconnecting with Elaine's "evil twin" Stephanie. Stephanie is also a speech-language pathologist and she and Elaine worked together back in Michigan a whole lot of years ago.

She and her daughter Morgan came for a short weekend visit. They live in Miami but this is the first time we've seen Stephanie in at least six years. This is the first time we met Morgan.

Stephanie is originally from Haiti. If you've ever had an Ola Lola's Bomba Burger - the spicy version of the Peanut Butter Burger - you can thank Stephanie. She is the one who introduced us to the Haitian practice of putting habanero peppers in peanut butter.

Elaine made this spicy peanut butter treat for Stephanie's birthday one year. She made a small jar of the stuff. Spreading the concoction on crackers the three of us ate the whole jar in one sitting. When we started making Peanut Butter Burgers at Ola Lola's, it was obvious that we had try a "bomba" version. I gotta tell ya, it is a food group on of its own.

So thanks to Stephanie for bomba and thanks for bringing Morgan to visit.

Best Momement Saturday

(note: there is a Best Moment Friday. It's just coming out of order.)

It's not that my lives are run by my animals or anything, but my best moments lately seem to be related to the animals. First the dogs, then the horses, then the dogs again. Saturday was no exception; it's back to the horses. This was a totally different experience.

I've written before about the ups and downs of working with Chocolate. Most of that training and work has been physical, about movement. But there are more ways than one to establish connection with a horse. Many trainers suggest you spend time just sitting with your horse. Take a chair into the corral and just sit, no agenda, no plan, no objective. It's not feeding time, not exercise time, it's no time. Let your horse see you in a different circumstance and just see what he/she does.

We sometimes take this idea a little further using a sort of meditative technique called the "trust technique" (,com).. I thought maybe after the physical sessions Chocolate and I have gone through lately that a quiet connection, just being mindful and present, might be a good idea. I put my chair in the corral, sat down, found my focus spot, and just sat.

Choco took a couple of steps but KTJ reached me first. She stopped in front of me and stood. And Choco stood. And I sat. After a bit, KT reached over and scratched her chin on the top of my hat, As she played with my hat, I could see Choco just standing, his head drooping toward his chest, his eyes heavy, licking his lips, totally relaxed.

And that's the why: first the connection as the meditative state (not really the right word but the closest I can come) reaches across space and species, and then the relaxation. This connection with another being is truly amazing and awe-inspiring. For Choco and me, after the sometimes rocky trail we've been on lately, the quiet,present, mindful connection was incredibly important. It felt amazing.

One more note: more that 40 minutes later Choco was still "yawning." For a horse, this yawning is actually a tension reliever called a "jaw release." That was a great connection!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Best moment Thursday

I'm really a pretty simple easy person. It doesn't take a lot to make me smile, to make me happy.

Already there are a number of repeats this new best moments quest. Thursday's best moment was when I ran the dogs on the beach. For this one, a photo just won't do so I'm breaking character and posting a video.

The reason this is a best moment is Amber. We actually thought we would lose him before Jazz. In fact I thought we were going to lose him three years ago. Some days it seems like those back legs won't get him up the steps or up on to the bed. But then we go to the beach.

He sees me put on my take-the-dog-to-the-beach shorts, a pair of board shorts I pretty much wear only to run the dogs. His head comes up, his ears perk up and he bounds off the bed. When we get to the beach, for a few minutes he's a puppy again.

We both live for these moments.

Best Moment Wednesday

Wednesday's best moment was walking Oz on the beach. On Tuesday, Oz opted out of our walk to the beach. On Wednesday, he was not going to miss it again! He was all energy and rambunctiousness and ready-to-go-ness. Even though it was his choice not to go on Tuesday, he was not going to be left behind on Wednesday! He was so funny.

Not bad for a nine-almost-10-year-old chow-chow.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Best moment Monday

Monday's best moment was a fun surf photo session at Wilderness. Surf photo sessions have been "runner-up" best moments nearly every day for the last week or so. We've been treated to some really good surf and really good surfers through the middle of March.

Overall, it's been a crazy winter. Earlier we had some big surf but high winds and rain made it unsurfable. The waves and wind and rain have meant an absolute drought in scuba diving this winter. By now I hoped to have 20 or more dives on my way to 100 for the year. So far, I have four dives this year.

But it has been fun shooting surf photos. You can see the most recent photos on our website, The best of January and February surf photos are on our Flickr page.

More best surfing moments to come.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Best Moment Sunday

The best moment Sunday was reconnecting with our friends Maria (left) and Wendy Topp (right) from St. Lucia. They are here on our island for a break from their island. My time with them was short and I (!) didn't take an photos. But they brought Pitons! So a photo of the Pitons will have to suffice.

Elaine met Maria and Wendy when she was work in St. Lucia a few years ago. We also learned to love Piton lager then. In my opinion, Piton is one of the two best island beers, the other being Kabuli from Dominica.

We're planning to meet up with Wendy and Maria later in the week. If that works out, I will take pictures of the real Wendy and Maria.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Best moment Saturday


Saturday was a pretty low-key day, a day for getting lots of little things done. There was nothing special about my day.

But that's actually one of the great things about this "best moment" theme. It forces me to look a little deeper into my days.

At the risk of repeating myself, Saturday's best moment was working with Chocolate and Elaine. She gave me some pointers on ways to get by some of the blocks we ran into on Friday. This work with him is paying off: he's beginning to have more respect for me as a leader, not just trust, but respect.

And that's important.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Best moment Friday

The best moment on Friday was taking the dogs for a run on the beach.

It's bittersweet: when I'm rounding them up, getting their leashes on, heading out the gate, that's the time Jazz's absence is the most obvious and the most painful for me. But my last great memory of Jazz is running on the beach.

Seeing Oz, who is nearly 10 years old, get excited about going for a walk and then watching Amber lope and play like a puppy is an every day best moment. Okay, he's a little slower than when he was a puppy. He doesn't jump or run or even walk as far. But all us old guys still go to the beach every day.

And that's a best moment for all of us. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Best moment Thursday

It's only day four and I'm already repeating myself.

Thursday's best moment was an even better workout with Chocolate. The join-up (connection) that took 45 minutes of hard work on Tuesday took less than 15 minutes on Thursday! I'm really happy about this. We are making progress.

Friday update:

Friday's workout did not go as well. We kind of moved back to square 1. Oh, well - let's see what Saturday brings.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Wednesday's best moment

Today was our second time doing yoga on the Ola Lola deck.

We've both wanted to do yoga. There are lots of yoga classes and teachers in our area. We've even tried a few of them.The problem, for us, is nearly all of the classes are for people who already do yoga, who have some experience. who know what a "cat" posture is. Some of them are like bootcamp, constant strenuous flow. All the teachers say, "do what you can; don't strain." We found there is no time to catch up if you fall behind, which we do pretty quickly. I don't begrudge people in those classes. In fact I'm somewhat envious of people my age or even older rockin' through the class. But - and it's a big "but" - they've been doing it a while, many of them for years. They didn't start out that way. All the teachers here seem to direct their teaching energies to advanced students.

Let's face it: we're old, with stiff joints and tight muscles. We need a class that emphasizes breathing, balance, and stretching (yes, they all do) but a very fundamental foundational level. Until last week we not found a basic beginner class.

In a flash of inspiration, Elaine called our friend Rosie who has been a yoga instructor for more than 20 years. Rosie agreed to begin doing gentle yoga sessions for us. Our first one was last week, the second was Wednesday. This the first time I've done yoga two weeks in a row!

Why is this a best moment? I like yoga! Who knew? I just needed yoga at my level. Can't wait for next week!

Thank you, Rosie!!!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tuesday's best moemnt

Today's best moment is about a horse. And a human.

Chocolate was our first horse here. Over the past three or four years Elaine has gravitated more towards KTJ  and Choco has become more and more "my" horse. As I've worked more with him, and with Elaine and Marie and our friend Chris as trainers, I've learned there are two things you work toward as you develop your relationship with a horse: trust and respect. Choco and I have developed a deep trust but there is still noticeable lack of respect. This most evident when I ask him to do certain ground exercises.

I've tried different activities and methods to get him to exercise, Some of the activities worked for other trainers and some worked for me for a few times. But in the end we come back to the same place: Choco refuses to do what I ask him to do. These sessions frequently end with me frustrated and Choco no closer to respecting me. In fact, quite the opposite, they give him reason to not see me as a herd leader.

Today the human - Elaine - gave me a new way to work with Choco. We worked in a larger - but still confined - space in what horse trainers call "at liberty," without lead ropes or lunge lines, without a hard connection between me and Chocolate. He is untethered, free to choose whether to accept and do what I ask or not. However, if he makes the "wrong" (i.e., does not do what I'm asking) choice, there are consequences. He has to work longer and harder. He doesn't get out of the exercise until he demonstrates respect.

This a more physically demanding training method for both of us, but I like it. It seems to do what I really want in training: Chocolate gets exercise, good exercise, and he is learning to respect me as a herd leader. I have to learn to be very clear in what I ask him for and how I ask for it. I have to be very aware of my own body position and body language so I send clear, understandable messages to him. It is great training for both of us.

We've only done it once but this seems like something that will work. It will take a while, more than a few sessions. But we made progress, more that we've made in weeks.

And that is Tuesday's best moment.

(I said that some days I have to pick through a number of positives for the best "best moment." Tuesday was one of those days. Close runner-up was a long, wonderful, long overdue conversation with our daughter followed by two really good surf shoots.)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Empty place on the beach

Where is the best moment in a day where you say goodbye to a member of your family? How can there even be a best moment in such a day?

Today we said goodbye to our 15-year-old Vizsla, Jazz. Yesterday he was running on the beach, playing with his older brother, jumping off the dunes. Today his backend collapsed. He couldn't use or feel anything in his back legs.

We took him to the vet. His x-rays showed five vertebrae fused together by arthritis. They finally put so much pressure his spinal cord that nerve impulses couldn't get through. He was in pain. The vet said with treatment, he might walk again but he would never run on the beach (or anywhere), never climb or jump off a dune, never swim in the ocean. For a being with all his heart and his energy that is not a life. Since three of our dogs are all pretty old, we have talked about this possibility many times. So the decision, while painful, was not difficult.

So where is the best moment in this? First, there is Jazz's life. He has been a member of our family, and we his pack, since he was eight weeks old. He was a certified therapy dog. He touched the lives of so many people, children and adults, with disabilities. He was silly, mischievous, incredibly intelligent and full of energy and heart right to the end. He brought so much love and joy to not only our lives, but so many others as well.

This morning when he collapsed, Elaine was here to take care of him, to get him to the vet. I was out but close by and got to the vet very quickly. We were both with him, sitting on the floor, holding him, loving him, giving him peace right up to his last breath.

We're all leaving this plane of existence at some point. I can't think of a better way than at peace, held in the loving arms of those who love you the most. That was the best moment in this day.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Best moments

A very dear friend of ours has a chronic condition that severely limits her activities, that keeps her confined to bed for days at a time. As you might imagine, this can be wearing and discouraging, especially for a person who, up until the time she was stricken, led a very full, very active life.

A couple of months ago, as a way to stay focused on the positive, Elaine and our friend began trading daily "best moments." However small, these best moments are victories. Some days they are easy to find. Other days one has to sift through what feels like a mountain for that one positive grain.

I'm going to use that idea as a way to push myself to write something here every day. If I focus on that one small thing, maybe I'll be better at it than I've been. I really hate it when I leave big gaps between posts.

Today's best moment is especially for our friend, not only because it's the first but also because she loves sea turtles and this best moment is about swimming with a turtle.

Plans to go scuba diving this morning fell through so I went snorkeling at Wishing Well, one of our favorite snorkeling sites. This site is under threat by planned resort development so getting there as often as possible and documenting what's there is important.

Although we snorkel there frequently, we tend to cover the same parts of the reef. Today seemed like a good time to check out less familiar parts of the reef. I swam over a small hole in the reef and this little guy popped up. He was completely unconcerned with my presence. We swam together for several minutes.

So that's today's "best moment:" swimming with a sea turtle.