Saturday, November 26, 2011

How Blue Are The Angels!

I had planned to do this post near Veteran’s Day, but no matter, photos of the Blue Angel Air show are great anytime. The local naval air station was hosting the event and despite a cold (for Florida), overcast day I grabbed the camera and jumped at the chance to go. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

The Blue Angels are a flying team known for their precision flying and the planes, even when standing still, give the appearance of being built for speed.

Seeing them in formation just before take-off for the show was impressive. One could only imagine the treat that was in store.

While we waited for the air show to begin, there were numerous planes on display and we did a walk-about. There were loads of kids (both young and old)who had the same idea which produced some very exciting moments just standing on firm ground.

The Navy pilots were more than patient as they answered questions about their planes and allowed others to take photos. This young woman seems to have hit the jackpot and landed a photo with two pilots.

I particularly liked the "Swamp Fox" chopper because it has such a mysterious history of being able to do so many things almost unseen. The airman inside offered a short history in guerrilla warfare which is where the name originated.

With very little coaxing, he was willing to smile for my photo next to some of the chopper's equipment. I didn't tell him, but he does look like one of those guys with the "right stuff."

A big treat for the crowd following the precision flying of the Blue Angels was when the pilots took time to sign autographs. There were truly a friendly sort and the kids just loved it!

I know people come to the air shows to see the precision in air flying but I was particularly taken with the pilot of the "Fat Albert" transport plane. The plane is huge so it does not do split second fly-byes, but take a good look at this guy and then view the video of his landing maneuver below. He is able to land this big baby on a dime and then make a U-turn that most of us cannot manage driving our much smaller cars.

It was heady stuff indeed and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Anyone Want a Beer?

I had planned to visit the Budweiser plant here in Jacksonville during the month of October and do an Oktoberfest post. But, time and tide were against me. I took the tour only in November. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

As you take the factory tour the thought that jumps out at you is the story of beer and Budweiser is a German and yet uniquely American tale of immigrants who came to this country looking for a taste of home who transformed it into something completely different.

Adolphus Busch was a German immigrant who through a love of beer, making connections, and being a skilled promoter transformed American beer. He had the good fortune to meet and marry Lilly Anheuser whose father owned a brewery. The old man helped him finance his own brewery which was first named Anheuser and Company and later when the old man died became Anheuser-Busch.

Busch had the foresight to analyze and use the tools of the day. As the railroad transformed America, he looked for a beer that was lighter in color and taste that would retain its special quality no matter where it was shipped using the Bavarian bottom fermenting process. Pasteurization and a network of ice houses near railroad stations, allowed him to distribute better than anyone.

Once he had established his network, he set about promotion after promotion to keep the Anheuser-Busch name out in front of as many Americans as possible, right down to announcing that Budweiser was America' s favorite beer. One of his most famous promotions was the distribution of "Custer's Last Fight" as a lithograph after acquiring it in 1888. Saloon keepers wanted it and agreed to carry his beer to get it.

He used all kinds of ideas to promote his beer and perception became reality in the minds of the people. This made Busch a wealthy man and a force in the brewing industry as a result.

However, nothing in his American journey could have prepared him for January 16, 1920, the beginning of Prohibition. For years he had worked to keep those forces away from the production of beer and never imagined they would get national legislation passed. But he and his son, Busch Sr. who assumed leadership of the company, had diversified into other areas which kept the company going during those years.

I have often wondered how the famous Clydesdales became the emblem for the company and learned it was tied to Prohibition. Busch Sr. surprised the old man in 1933 with the famous bright red hitch complete with Clydesdale horses as a gift to mark the end of Prohibition. I guess there was still a bit of the little boy in Adolphus because it became one of his prized possessions.

That too was turned into a marketing wonder. He made big productions of the horse drawn hitch showing up at all manner of places to deliver beer to famous people. So much so that the Clydesdales are an international symbol of the company.

And now, into the 21st century the company remains a power house. But, is now owned by a Brazilian-Belgian brewing company, InBev, with several major brands.

The end of the tour leads you into a nice little "Hospitality Room" where you are allowed to sample new types of beer the company is developing as well as current brands. You really do have to view beer from a totally different perspective knowing what you now know about the formation of the company.

Anyone want a beer?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Butterflies in October... Oh My !

I recently purchased a new camera and wanted to test it out. After giving it some thought, what better place to put it to the test than the Butterfly Museum! It had been awhile and driving to Gainesville should make for a grand adventure. As usual, click each photo for a better view.

I have featured the Butterfly Museum before so I will omit background detail and simply say that it is a great place to experience living in a rainforest and interact with some very beautiful creatures.

As soon as I walked into the rainforest I ran into this guy.

He flew away and then returned so I could capture a front view as well.

In addition to butterflies the museum is truly a living rainforest with all kinds of plants, and is loaded with these little birds. There seemed to be more of them since my last visit.

The new camera has a super zoom that really came in handy as I got a shot of these two beauties.

I realized that close-ups will be easier in the future because I was able to get up close and personal with this one.

I almost felt like I had won the lottery with this particular shot. It seemed that the butterflies almost knew they were on display and went out of their way to accommodate me.

In fact, a few people in the museum started calling me the butterfly whisperer because they started following me around. It was the strangest feeling as they sat on my blouse and I was almost afraid to move. A woman standing near by took this picture of my predicament.

I particularly liked this one because you are able to see the detail in the butterfly's body. One of the guides explained that the red coloring on some is an indication to predators that they are not a good meal. It seems they can eat a poisonous bug and convert the toxin into the coloring as a defense. Amazing!

This guy just flew into sight and sat there.

But this one is truly my favorite because the stem of the flower adds to the visual excitement of the butterfly enjoying a sip of nectar.

And a fitting close to the day was this guy who worked in the museum, and decided to get into the spirit of the event. Life is good!