Saturday, September 17, 2005

Fish Photos!

On my recent snorkeling trip, I tried a new toy... a disposable underwater camera. These cameras are just like the cardboard disposables. In fact, they ARE cardboard disposables, with a watertight plastic case around them. (Supposedly the plastic cases get recycled.)

I had a lot of fun with the camera, and I would be even happier if the pictures were better. The water in Maui was incredibly clear, the sun was bright, and the fish were beautiful. Unfortunately, none of that comes through in the photos! The snapshot to the right is about the best of the bunch I took.

I should emphasize that the camera is capable of pretty good pictures. It's just hard to realize how quickly the water attentuates light. So if you want to get good results, keep three things in mind:

(1) Use the camera near the surface on a BRIGHT day. Don;t even bother if it's overcast.

(2) Try to take pictures with the sunlight coming over your shoulder and shining directly on the fish.

(3) Get within 3 to 6 feet of the fish... anything beyond that comes out dark, even if the water seems clear and bright.

I'm glad I tried one of these things... it's fun showing off my fish pictures! But if you remember my three simple rules, you'll get much better results than El Cotoro!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Snorkeling with Bob

El Cotero recently took a trip to Maui to visit some distant relatives. (Parrots aren’t really native to Hawaii, but the climate is great!)

While in Maui, El Cotero spent some time snorkeling. We rented our gear from Snorkel Bob’s. There are many places on Maui that advertise cheap prices for snorkel gear. Bob’s prices are a little higher. But I certainly felt like we got our money’s worth. Bob’s offers masks in several sizes (many of the places have a one-size fits all approach). They make their own masks with silicon bodies so they seal really well. They also have masks with prescription lenses, so those of us who need glasses can actually see the fish! I was really surprised at how well the prescription lenses worked.

The girl who helped us was very careful to make sure I had a good prescription match… she made me try several. She also checked the fit on our masks and fins. We had a great time snorkeling, and I think it had a lot to do with the excellent service, advice, and equipment we got at Snorkel Bob’s.

I know that most of my readers probably won’t be headed to Maui in the near future… so why write about Snorkel Bob’s? Because good service is a rare thing these days, when everyone seems to be shopping for the lowest possible prices. So when you find a place that give really good service, it’s worth paying a little more… and taking the time to tell people about it.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

It's a Hoax!

I frequently get e-mail from friends and family urging me to boycott a company because of something terrible they've done, or to buy a product in order to suppport a worthy cause, or to send a greeting card to a sick child. These messages all have one thing in common: they are hoaxes.

No, I don't mean that my friends are deliberately trying to trick me. They are simply forwarding messages that they believe to be worthwhile. But the messages are, in almost every case, false. In the very few cases I found where the original message was true, it was long ago expired. (For example, the Mars candy company really did make donations for breast cancer research every time someone bought special pink and white M&Ms. But the offer expired in 2004, and the mail is STILL being forwarded around the Internet.)

These perpetually circulating messages of often innocent enough, but in in some cases they are malicious and can cause a great deal of damage. I recently got an e-mail urging me not to shop at Target stores because Target refused to support veterans group, and was owned by a French company (gasp!). Of course, the story was false - but how many people now have a bad image of Target because of the e-mail?

It's pretty simple to stop these messages. Just don't forward them - ever, and ask your friends not to send them to you. Of the dozens I've received, only ONE has turned out to be valid.

If you need help proving to your friends that a particular message is a hoax, visit or, or use your favorite search engine to search for the title of the mail message plus the word "hoax".