Monday, December 14, 2015


After another few days with the Primos 02 Trail Camera I have continued to have great luck. Placing it where I would not expect to find much it consistently finds animals. This weekend, it found a coyote four times, a skunk, and a squirrel:



Fox Squirrel:

The camera consistently produces identifiable pictures even of relatively small animals. It does trigger a lot on wind, but that sort of adds to the excitement of going through images. Since it can store 80,000 photos a few extra won't be an issue even if I send it off to the jungle for a month or two.

Rorabaugh Census Data

I decided to go download a bunch of old census data.

The earliest references I found which is plausibly my ancesstors were two entries in the census, one in the 1810 census for John Rorabaugh which is plausibly my 6th great grandfather . In that era it doesn't have much information beyond that he was in Scipio New York.

In the 1840 census there were two plausible entries, another for John Rorabaugh, and one for Nathan Rorabaugh which is plausibly my 6th great grandfather. Again these entries provide little information.

The 1850 census starts to get more interesting with an entry for Nathan Rohrbought and family. In this era, at least they give information about the names of all family members:

The 1860 census has the same, an entry for Nathan Rorabaugh and Family:

The 1870 census has an entry for John Rorebach and family. By this time they say profession and net worth.

In 1880 Nathan Rorabaugh shows up again, this time living only with his youngest son:

For some reason there was an 1885 census in Iowa which found John Rorabaw and family.

1900 through 1930 finds John W Rorabaugh and his quickly growing family. I was not able to find names for all his 21 children, but I at least found all the ones from his first wife:

Henry Emmett Rorabaugh shows up in the 1930 census. I particularly like his Occupation: "Odd Jobs" Industry: "Any Place" entries.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Composite Images for Photo Spheres

I have started trying to use a camera instead of a cell phone to make photo spheres to submit to google maps. The basic idea is simple, take photos in every direction, then stick them into Microsoft Composite Image Editor. That can turn them into photo spheres relatively easily.

This is turning out to be a lot harder than a cell phone though. It is easy to miss a spot or two since you do not have feedback when you took photos in every direction. Also, the exposure to get the sky is not the same exposure to get the ground. So if you don't take a lot of care you end up with patches where one or the other look bad. For example, this photo sphere managed to do great on the pictures perpendicular to the sun. However into the sun, there is a big ugly patch where the exposure is wrong.

Trail Camera

After some debate on which trail camera to buy, I purchased a Primos 12MP Proof Cam 02 HD Trail Camera. This is a neat way to try and make iNaturalist submissions. It opens up a whole lot of species that I am just not going to find any other way.

So far it has only spent three days in the hills near me. It was pointing at a completely boring patch of earth which animals would have little reason to visit. Still, I managed to find a couple birds a rabbit and this skunk:

Friday, December 4, 2015

Rorabaw Quack Medicine

More impressive than the pictures of my fourth great grandfather, are some of his handbills:

Old Photos

Ran into a collection of old Rorabaugh family photos online. Most are only of minor interest. These pictures of my fourth great grandfather, John Mitchell Rorabaugh are pretty classic though:

According to the caption, he built whatever farm vehicle that is.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Natural History of Orange County Pictures

For a long time, I have used the Natural History of Orange County website for identifications. For most species, it is amazing. However, for fish it is somewhat disappointing. So, the other day I sent the person who organizes it a few of my iNaturalist submissions of common species not on the site.

Within a day, they were on the site.

Unfortunately, none of these were particularly great pictures. Still, photos I took are now posted for the Rock Wrasse, Kelp Perch, Black Surfperch, Halfmoon, Striped Kelpfish, Senorita,  and Blacksmith

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Heisler Park with 40 Foot Visibility

Managed to get as close to ideal conditions as I am likely to see in Laguna. Didn't see much out of the ordinary but since I now have some experience with the GoPro I was able to get some of the best pictures yet.

Kelp Bass

Sand Bass

Green Abalone

Giant Kelp


And a video:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Past 5,000 Creatures

This cliff aster was my 5,000th iNaturalist submission:

Surprisingly, even with that high number almost all of which were in 2015 I am not even going to make top ten for most submissions.

Everyone uses Google Maps.

I have never seen an art form where it is so easy to get an audience than google street view. So far I have submitted a total of 14 photo spheres. All have been submitted in the past five weeks and most are of hiking trails. From those 14 photospheres, I have got over 29,000 views!

It is surprisingly spotty, one has 15,000 views, another 5,000 views, while the rest are nowhere near those numbers. Google must advertise good ones in some form.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Photo Spheres

I recently discovered that it is relatively easy to create photo spheres similar to what you see on Google Maps. This is using the Street View app for iPhones. Unfortunately, while they are really neat, they are not easy at all to share. The app makes your only option for sharing emailing a flat version or publishing to google maps. That very much limits what can be done with them. Right now it is not even easy to embed one of them into this blog!

Still, it is easy to create photo spheres of outdoor areas so I will probably make more while hiking. Here is one I took in Nashville.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Mirrorless Underwater Setups

Within the next three years I will likely start putting together an underwater mirrorless camera setup. So I decided to price out a few options. They are all with the Sony E mount since my daughter has a camera on the same lens system.

Sony A7rII Camera with Nauticam Housing:
Ok, I will stop pretending this is an option. This will be almost $10,000 once strobes, gopro mounts, and better lenses are included. While mirrorless camera setups have cheaper housings than DSLR cameras, the high end still costs a fortune.

Sony A7II Camera and Meikon Housing:
 The A7II would probably take the best baby photos of the plausible cameras I could get. This may make it an attractive option. Additional cost of strobes would ultimately make sense to add on to this package.

Sony A7S Camera and Meikon Housing:
It is possible that I can get a cheap A7S since the A7SII is just about to come out. If that happens I may elect to go this route. The low light capabilities of the A7S are legendary, allowing photos to be taken of things too dark to see with the naked eye.

Sony A7SII Camera with Meikon Housing:
  • Sony A7SII Camera: ~3,000 (not yet released)
  • Meikon Housing: ~$300 (not yet released)
Having the best low light consumer camera released would be a lot of fun. Risking a $3,000 loss if a $300 housing fails is terrifying however.

Full Sony a6000 setup with Ikelite housing:
This is the nicest setup I could plausibly get. While after taxes it will be something like $4,500 it could be easily bought in pieces over a fairly long time. The camera could be one purchase, the macro lens another, the housing and ports another purchase, and the strobes bought one at a time after that. Probably because of the long delay before the kit is assembled I would wait until the next version of the a6000, although I might be able to get a good enough deal on the a6000 to stick with it.

Partial Sony a6000 setup with Ikelite Housing:
This build has the advantage that it is comparatively cheap, and upgradable to the full setup if it is insufficient. At a minimum it should blow the Gopro away. There is a high probability I will start with this setup.

Sony A7S Camera and Meikon Housing
This is one of the cheapest ways to get started with underwater photography with an E-mount camera. Unfortunately it is not upgradable, and will produce worse images than the other options because of a less nice port. Still, snorkeling it probably does just fine.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

College Scorecard

It has previously been very difficult to rank colleges on whether they are a financial disaster. Some reasonable looking schools give students lots of student loans and no more pay than they would get with simply a high school diploma.

The government just made it really easy to figure out whether schools are decent. Now there is a College Scorecard. They took income data from tax returns, so they have a very accurate picture of how much money college graduates make. They also assembled a lot of other information like cost, average debt levels, and graduation rate.

State schools in California still hold up rather well. The big name schools like UC Berkeley, UCLA, or UC Santa Barbara of course have great graduation rates, leave students with good incomes and are relatively cheap. The state college system does a much poorer job, but still is a solid system. For example Fresno State has above average graduation rates, above average incomes for graduates, and a cost which is way below average for in-state students.

A lot of the for profit schools rather predictably do horrible. University of Phoenix for example costs more than average and only about one in eight graduate. Surprisingly those who do graduate make decent income but would clearly have been better off at a state school.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

iNaturalist Cameras

Being only a few days away from hitting 4,000 iNaturalist submissions, I have been thinking too much about my options for cameras to use for iNaturalist submissions. Here I am putting what I have learned in one place so when I have more money I can remember what my best options are.

Superzoom Cameras:
Superzooms are probably the best cameras for making iNaturalist submissions. Large zooms in a relatively small package lets them get pictures that you would otherwise miss. Even if a DSLR is your main camera, a pocket size superzoom to carry everywhere makes a lot of sense as a second camera. If they had GPS, a few of the 1" sensor superzoom cameras might make this list since they take nicer photos. Without GPS though they are too unwieldy to make sense for iNaturalist submissions with so many other good options out there. The following are the best superzoom cameras I could find for the application:
  1. Nikon P900: For birds, reptiles and mammals, the 83X zoom on this camera makes it almost certainly the best camera out there. A telephoto lens with a DSLR can take better pictures, but only at the cost of really heavy lenses.
  2. Sony HX400V: This is the camera I have. It is probably the second best camera for birds, reptiles and mammals, but may be able to beat the P900 for insects.
  3. Sony HX90V: The previous cameras are too big. People look at you funny in certain social situations and I have even been known to attract police while taking pictures. The HX90V is able to do 70% of what the other two superzooms can do while remaining small enough to not stand out. Once again, the lack of GPS in some of the competition makes this the obvious choice of compact superzoom. 
  4. Nikon Coolpix S9900: A somewhat cheaper compact superzoom that shares most features with the HX90V
Tough Cameras:
Superzooms won't do much good if taking pictures in a rough environment. It is not even possible to buy a commercial underwater housing for one. If taking pictures in less than ideal conditions, these cameras should be considered:
  1. Olympus TG-4: Waterproof to 50 feet, amazing macro, and includes GPS. This is what I should have got instead of a Gopro as it is the best option for underwater photography at a reasonable price. It has little use for birds, reptiles, and mammals, but for insects and plants should do well enough.
  2. Nikon 1 AW1: A hardened version of a mirrorless camera, also the only mirrorless camera to include GPS. It claims to be waterproof, but every third review on Amazon seems to be someone complaining because it wasn't waterproof. 
Mirrorless Cameras:
While all are a step up from a cell phone, the previously mentioned cameras do not take particularly good photos.  If trying to create better images, while still keeping a small package mirrorless cameras might make sense. Unfortunately, the lack of GPS in any of these cameras means none are particularly great choices for iNaturalist submissions. One of these cameras might make sense if you want a high end underwater camera in a smaller package than a DSLR:
  1. A6000: One of the best cameras for underwater use, but lacks GPS.
  2. Olympus E-M1: One of the best cameras for underwater use, but lacks GPS.
  3. Olympus E-PL5: Generally good reviews for underwater use. The cheapest mirrorless systems for underwater use seem to be built around this camera. Again, lacks GPS.
  4. A7S: A very unusual camera, expensive and only 12 Megapixels. However its amazing low light capabilities would make for very good underwater use if willing to pay the steep prices for a housing. It is also likely to be a very good insect camera since in most conditions it can take photos with very fast shutter times without needing a flash. Again, lacks GPS.
DSLR Cameras:
If you want photos with top of the line image quality and don't mind the increased cost and size, a DSLR can't be beat. Unlike mirrorless cameras many have built in GPS, or easily purchased adapters making them a good choice for nature photography. Like mirrorless cameras, they may require lens changes if you are switching between telephoto and macro photos. This causes them to miss some opportunities which a superzoom could easily catch. If pricing one out, make sure to see what it will cost to get a telephoto and macro lens to go with it as the cost of lenses often exceeds the price of the camera:
  1. Canon EOS 7D Mark II: Mid range DSLR with GPS. Since it has a variety of options for underwater housings it is likely a good choice for underwater photography.
  2. Nikon 7200: Mid range DSLR with GPS modules readily available. Since it has a variety of options for underwater housings it is likely a good choice for underwater photography.
  3. Sony A99V: Mid range DSLR with GPS. Lacks good options for underwater photography but would likely be fine for any photography on land.
  4. Pentax K-3II: Mid range DSLR with GPS. Lacks good options for underwater photography but would likely be fine for any photography on land.
  5. Canon EOS 1DX: High end DSLR, known as the best wildlife camera in the Canon line.
  6. Nikon D4S: High end DSLR. If you are not sure whether you want to buy a car or a camera this is probably the one for you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Laguna Pictures

I took more pictures in Laguna last weekend. Conditions were about ideal, 25 foot visibility in 70 degree water. The Gopro Hero 4 Black with a Sidekick Duo therefore did do quite a bit better. For a few pictures like the Lobster, the Sidekick Duo really was necessary to have any hope of getting a decent shot.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Year of Weights

Last September, I bought a scale. At some point I decided that weighing myself regularly would be about the best strategy to lose weight I could find. Here is a few days shy of one year of records. I weigh myself at the same time daily to try to confirm that the measures are meaningful.

After about three months of my tactic failing, I got annoyed with the whole thing, spent about two months being fairly hungry, and lost a bit more than ten pounds. This chart understates it since I was at about 195 for a couple years before this.

From what I hear it takes a year or two at a lower weight before your body stops trying to get back to the old weight. So we will see if I can hold this.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Sonoran Spotted Whiptails

I took some really nice pictures of lizards in a suburban backyard the other day:

The first is a Western Fence Lizard, quite common in Southern California. The second is something more interesting.

The first ID I made for the iNaturalist submission was an Orange-throated Whiptail which is the only similar looking lizard known to live in Orange County. This still looked a bit odd to me, but it isn't unheard of for females to lack the orange under the neck so it still made sense.

Then I got an email:
I'm the Curator of the _____ project here on iNaturalist. I saw your recent post of a Belding's Whiptail Lizard from Lake Forest. I was really surprised to see that your locality is at a very urbanized part of Lake Forest. Is that actually the correct locality?
I responded that the location was correct, but I wasn't all that sure of the species. Then the next day I got the following email:
Hi Jesse,
This is really interesting. I have been in communication with a colleague at the USGS who just found whiptail lizards about 2km NW of your location, but also near Jeronimo Lane. We also were unsure of the ID of his lizards, but the current hypothesis is that they are released Sonoran Spotted Whiptails, Aspidoscelis sonorae. My colleague is running some DNA sequencing to determine the ID. We had assumed that this was a very localized population, but your photos suggest that this is a much more widespread population.
Here are the other records:
As with your find, the initial assumption was Orange-throated Whiptails, but we later realized that was incorrect. For your whiptails, I am convinced they are not Orange-throats, but I am not sure of the correct ID. I have changed my ID of your lizards on the iNat record to only name the genus.
This is a very interesting, but also troubling, development. If this is an introduced species, it appears to already have a pretty good sized distribution.
In any case, your observations are especially interesting. I will keep you informed as this develops on our end.
If you see any more of these lizards in that area, please post them, but also please change the geoprivacy settings to "obscured" or "private." Part of my concern here is that if these are an introduced species, we don't want others to find them and move them around.
Thanks again for posting to RASCals. It is observations like this one that demonstrate the success of citizen science in urban areas.
 So it is fairly likely that I am only the second person to ever find this lizard in California!