Linux – Bulk UnRAR

If you’re not familiar with RAR files, they are like ZIP files. RAR is an archive format.

I had a collection of more than 150 RAR files in a single folder I needed to unrar (that is, open and extract from the archive). Doing them one at a time via KDE’s Ark software would work, but it would have taken a long time. Why spend that much time when I could automate the process.

Enter a loop bash script in KDE’s Konsole:

for i in *.rar; do unrar x "$i"; done

Here’s how the command works. The “for i in” part starts the loop (note: you can use any letter here). The “*.rar” component indicates that we want the loop to run through all the RAR files in the directory, regardless of the name of the file. The “do” command tells the loop what command to run. The “unrar x “$i”” component tells the software to use the unrar function which unpacks the archive. The “x” in that command tells the software to use the directory structure inside the RAR archive. The final piece of the loop after the second semi-colon – “done” – indicates what the terminal should do once the loop completes.

It took about 20 minutes to run through all the RAR files, but I used that time to create this tutorial. Doing this by hand would have taken me hours.

 215 total views,  31 views today

Linux: Batch Convert .avi files to .mp4/.mkv

I’ve been trying to clean up my video library since building my latest NAS. In the process, I found a number of .avi files, which is an older file format that isn’t widely used these days. While every time a file is converted it loses some of its quality, I was willing to risk the slight quality reduction to convert the remaining few files I had to convert into more modern file formats.

I initially tried converting the files using HandBrake. But given the number I needed to convert, I decided pretty quickly that I needed a faster method for this. Enter stackoverflow.

Assuming you have all of your .avi video files in a single directory, navigate to that directory in a terminal and you can use the following single line of code to iterate through all of the .avi files and convert them to .mp4 files:

for i in *.avi; do ffmpeg -i "$i" "${i%.*}.mp4"; done

In case you’re interested, the code is a loop. The first part starts the loop (“for i in *.avi;”), telling the computer to look for every file with the file extension .avi. The second part tells the computer what to do with every file with that extension – convert it to a .mp4 file with the same name. The last piece indicates what to do when the loop is completed – done.

Of course, this code could also be used to convert any other file format into a different format by replacing the .avi or .mp4 file extensions in the appropriate places. For instance, to convert all the .avi files to .mkv, the code would look like this:

for i in *.avi; do ffmpeg -i "$i" "${i%.*}.mkv"; done

Or if you wanted to convert a bunch of .mp4 files into .mkv files, you could do this:

for i in *.avi; do ffmpeg -i "$i" "${i%.*}.mkv"; done

BONUS:

If you have .avi files in a number of subfolders, you’ll want to use this script:

find . -exec ffmpeg -i {} {}.mp4 \;

To use it, navigate in a terminal to the top-level folder, then execute this command. It will search through all the subfolders, find all the files in those subfolders, and convert them all to .mp4 files.

Of course, if you have a mixture of file types in the folders, you’ll want a variation of this command that searches for just the files of a certain type. To do that, use this command:

find . -name *.avi -exec ffmpeg -i {} {}.mp4 \;

This command will find all the files with the extension .avi and convert them all to .mp4 files using ffmpeg.

And, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you could search for multiple file types and convert them all:

find . -name *.avi -or -name *.mkv -exec ffmpeg -i {} {}.mp4 \;

This code would find every file with the extension .avi or .mkv and convert it to .mp4 using ffmpeg.

NOTE: This command uses the default conversion settings of ffmpeg. If you want more fine-tuned conversions, you can always check the options available in converting video files using ffmpeg.

 903 total views,  47 views today

HandBrake – H.265 NVEnc 1080p Ripping Chart and Guidelines

With a Plex server, I want my collection of movies backed up digitally so I can watch them when and where I want to. This involves a two-step process. First, I have to rip the video from Blu Ray, which I do using MakeMKV. Since that process is pretty straightforward, I’m not going to cover how to do it here. It’s the second step that is more complicated – compressing the video using HandBrake.

I’ve been using HandBrake for years, but have typically just used the default settings. That’s a terrible idea for a number of reasons, which I’ll detail in this post. But the primary reason why I’m posting is to detail how different settings translate into different file sizes so people have a better sense of what settings to use.

Format

The first thing you need to decide when ripping a video using HandBrake is the resulting file format. I’m using HandBrake 1.3.3 which includes three options: MPEG-4, Matroska, and WebM. Each of these formats has advantages and disadvantages.

You can choose which format you want on the summary tab of Handbrake

MPEG-4 (or mp4/MP4) is the most widespread format and the most compatible with various devices and programs. This is likely going to be the default for most people. However, MPEG-4 has a major limitation – you cannot store multiple subtitles in the video file itself. If you don’t care about subtitles (e.g., you never watch foreign films), that may not matter to you. But it is a problem for those of us who enjoy a good foreign film. (NOTE: The workaround for most people is to save the subtitles as an .srt file in the same folder, assuming your playback device can then load a separate SRT file.)

Matroska (or MKV) is kind of odd. It’s actually not a video codec. It’s an open-standard container. Basically, it’s like a zip file or folder for the actual media. Inside, it can have video files in a lot of different formats, including MPEG-4, but it can also include subtitle tracks and other media. Thus, the major advantage is that you can store more inside a Matroska file than you can in MPEG-4 files. The disadvantage is that not every device or app supports Matroska files natively. However, support for the format has increased quite a bit. Matroska is now my preferred format, mostly because all of the devices I use for playback can play MKV files and I can store subtitles in the same file.

WebM is actually a variant of Matroska but is meant to be a royalty-free alternative to MP4 that is primarily sponsored by Google and supports Google’s VP8 and VP9 codecs. It is licensed under a BSD license. Basically, MP4 is a proprietary codec while WebM is an open-source one. (NOTE: I don’t have any videos stored in WebM format. However, when I create videos to upload to YouTube, I typically rip them into VP9, which is the preferred format for YouTube.)

Audio

HandBrake searches for the default audio track from the video you are planning on converting but then does something very odd. By default, it sets whatever audio track that is to be converted to stereo audio (i.e., 2.0 or 2 channels – left and right). You can see that in the screenshot below:

HandBrake’s default setting on audio is to convert the default audio track to Stereo (2.0) sound.

If you have a home theater or good headphones, you’ll want 5.1 surround sound at a minimum. If you have a nicer setup, you’ll want 7.1 surround sound. So, make sure that you delete the default Audio option and instead include a 5.1 surround sound option into your new file. Like this:

5.1 audio track instead of stereo.

(NOTE: I haven’t figured out the best options for 5.1 surround sound. I’m not sure whether AC3 or AC3 passthrough is better. And I’m not sure if Dolby Surround, Dolby ProLogic II, or 5.1 Surround is better. Perhaps someone out there will have insights on this.)

(NOTE: Most modern video players are capable of converting 5.1 surround sound into stereo sound [a.k.a. downsampling]. Not including a 2.0 option is perfectly fine for most people as playback devices will compensate.)

Tags

If you haven’t ever used the Tags tab in Handbrake, you really should. By default, the “Title” tag is filled in with whatever information is stored in the video file or DVD you are converting, like this:

Default tag information loaded by HandBrake

However, what you include in the “Title” tag is also what video playback software or devices will think is the name of the video. It is worth taking two minutes to fill in the tags. I typically will change the “Title,” at a minimum, as well as the “Release Date” and “Genre” tags, like this:

I have filled in the tags in this screenshot.

Video

Now on to the primary purpose of this post – video quality settings. To determine the ideal balance between quality and file size, I actually converted the same file using different settings. The original file is a rip of the film Amadeus (Director’s Cut) from the Blu-Ray disc that was 28.4 GB in size. The table below illustrates the results of converting the file using different Constant Quality options – all into 1080p video. For each of these conversions, I used identical settings except I changed the Constant Quality option in HandBrake. Each of these used the H.265 (NVenc) encoder with all the other video options on their default settings. Each conversion took about 1 hour (give or take 10 to 15 minutes).

SettingResulting File SizeCompression
(% of original file)
CQ 2214.3 GB50.35%
CQ 248.6 GB30.28%
CQ 266.5 GB22.89%
CQ 284.9 GB17.23%
CQ 303.7 GB13.03%
CQ 322.9 GB10.21%

The big question, of course, is how much degradation there is in quality with the smaller file sizes. To illustrate this, I took a screenshot using VLC from four of the video files: the original, unconverted Blu-Ray rip (28.4 GB file), from the CQ 22 rip, the CQ 28 file, and the CQ 32 file. I uploaded the full resolution files below so you can see and compare the differences.

Screenshot from the original MKV file – 28.4 GB.
Screenshot from the converted file at CQ 22.
Screenshot from the converted file at CQ 28.
Screenshot from the converted file at CQ 32.

To help my old eyes see the differences, I zoomed in on just one part of these photos to see if I could tell if there were any meaningful differences:

I thought I might see differences in the quality of the screenshots with the musical score (that’s why I chose this frame). I thought the lines might get blurred or the notes would become fuzzier. But that isn’t actually the case. Most of the space savings actually came from the detail in the brown section of this frame. In the original, if you look closely at the bottom right of the image, you can see lots of “noise.” This is basically film grain. The compression algorithm must look for that kind of noise and then remove it. If you look closely at the CQ 22 frame, there is less film grain. In CQ 28, large swathes of the film grain have been removed. And in CQ 32, all of the film grain has been removed and converted to blocks of single colors. Where there is fine detail in the video or distinct color differences, that has been retained. I should probably try this same exercise with a more modern movie shot digitally and not on film to see how the compression varies. Even so, this is a good illustration of how compression algorithms save space – they look for areas that can be considered generally the same color and drop detail that is deemed unimportant.

TL:DR: My recommendation for file sizes and CQ settings…

Scenario 1: Storage space is genuinely not an issue and you have a very fast internet connect, file server, and home network. You should rip your BluRay disks using MakeMKV and leave them as an MKV file with their full size. That will give you the best resolution with lots of options for future conversion if you want.

Scenario 2: You have a fair amount of storage space, a decent internet connection, a reasonably fast/powerful file server, and a good home network, then I’d suggest a dual approach. If it’s a movie you absolutely love and want the ideal combination of quality while minimizing file size, use a CQ of 22 to 26. That will reduce the quality, but retain much of the detail. If it’s just a movie that you enjoyed and think you might want to watch it again in the future but don’t care so much about the quality, go with a lower quality setting (e.g., CQ of 30 or 32).

Scenario 3: You have very little storage space, your internet connection isn’t great, your file server cannot convert files on the fly, and your home network is meh, then you should probably go for higher levels of compression, like CQ 30 or 32. You’ll still get very good quality videos (compression algorithms are very impressive these days) but in a much smaller sized video. Oh, and you should probably convert your files to MP4.

 2,300 total views,  70 views today

go vote sign

Hillsborough County, FL – 2020 General Election

Below is the information I found on the various candidates and constitutional amendments for the 2020 general election in Hillsborough County, Florida for my district. You can find your own sample ballot here. I’m politically an independent but registered as a Democrat so I can vote in Florida’s primaries. I generally try not to endorse candidates in my election guides.

(NOTE 09-29-2020: I have entered information for every candidate and amendment. If I find new information, I will update this page. Feel free to comment if you think I missed something important.)

President/Vice-President

I’m fairly confident you’re not on my website looking for information about the candidates for President/Vice-President. Even so, I went ahead and put together the standard links I do for candidates.

Donald J. Trump & Michael R. Pence

Party: Republican
Background Information: Trump was in business and real estate. Pence was governor of Indiana.
Finances: Federal Election Commission
Websites: campaign website,

Joseph R. Biden & Kamala D. Harris

Party: Democrat
Background Information: Biden and Harris have been US Senators. Harris was also the attorney general of California.
Finances: Federal Election Commission
Websites: campaign website,
Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times

Jo Jorgensen & Jeremy “Spike” Cohen

Party: Libertarian
Background Information: Jo Jorgensen worked in the tech industry before becoming a professor at Clemson University, where she now teaches. Cohen is a former web-designer turned podcast and libertarian activist.
Finances: Federal Election Commission
Websites: campaign website, Twitter, Wikipedia – Jorgensen, Wikipedia – Cohen,

Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente & Darcy G. Richardson

Party: Reform Party (in Florida), Alliance Party (in other states)
Background Information: de la Fuente is in business, inheriting his father’s businesses. He’s wealthy and has engaged in some sketchy business practices. Richardson is an author and blogger focusing on third party candidates.
Finances: Federal Election Commission
Websites: campaign website, Twitter, Wikipedia – de la Fuente, Wikipedia – Richardson,

Gloria La Riva & Sunil Freeman

Party: Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) and the Peace and Freedom Party
Background Information: La Riva is an activist. Freeman is an author and activist.
Finances: Federal Election Commission
Websites: campaign website, Twitter, Wikipedia – La Riva,

Howie Hawkins & Angela Nicole Walker

Party: Green Party
Background Information: Hawkins is an activist and politician. Walker was a professional driver before becoming a union representative.
Finances: Federal Election Commission
Websites: campaign website, Twitter, Wikipedia – Hawkins, Wikipedia – Walker,
Endorsements:

Don Blankenship & William Mohr

Party: Constitution Party
Background Information: Blankenship was a coal company CEO and is a convicted criminal. Mohr is self-employed in building and construction.
Finances: Federal Election Commission
Websites: campaign website, Twitter, Wikipedia – Blankenship, Wikipedia – Mohr,
Endorsements:

Florida and Local Elections

The Tampa Bay Times now has their election guide up. It’s pretty similar to what I put together but with all the local candidates (I only covered the ones on my ballot). Also, the Tampa Bay Times doesn’t include links to candidates’ websites or information on candidates for the Water District. So, I guess my information is still helpful for those who want to learn about the candidates directly from the candidates.

Representative in Congress District 14

Christine Y. Quinn

Party: Republican
Background Information: Originally from California. Graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Child Development. Small business owner selling spices.
Finances: Federal Election Commission
Websites: campaign website, Twitter, Facebook
Endorsements:

Kathy Castor

Party: Democrat
Background Information: Incumbent candidate. Daughter of a well-known Florida politician, Betty Castor. Graduated from Emory for undergrad and Florida State for law school. Was elected to Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners in 2002. Practiced law until being elected to the US House in 2006.
Finances: Federal Election Commission
Websites: campaign website, Twitter, Wikipedia
Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times

State Attorney, 13th Judicial Circuit

Mike Perotti

Party: Republican
Background Information: He’s a Tampa native and a graduate of Jesuit High School in Tampa. Earned a BA from the University of Florida and his JD from University of Florida College of Law. Per his LinkedIn page, he is currently a staff attorney at the Hillsborough County’s Sheriff’s Office. He previously was a prosecuting attorney in Hillsborough County and ran his own law firm.
Finances (per Florida Department of State Division of Elections): $123,207.25 (as of 2020-09-26)
Websites: campaign website, Facebook, LinkedIn,
Endorsements:

Andrew Warren

Party: Democrat
Background Information: Incumbent candidate. Florida native. Earned BAs in Economics and Political Science at Brandeis University and his JD from Columbia Law School. Currently the State Attorney for the 13th district (since 2016). Married with two kids.
Finances (per Florida Department of State Division of Elections): $182,867.85 (as of 2020-09-26)
Websites: campaign website, Twitter, LinkedIn
Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times,

State Representative District 62

Angel S. Urbina Capo

Party: Republican
Background Information: Doesn’t provide any background information about himself on his website. I found this Tampa Bay Times article that provides some information: he is a cyber-security consultant with limited knowledge of politics and the issues facing Tampa Bay. (I still don’t know where he is from or if he went to college). Speaks Spanish and English. Advocate for “freedom of religion” which he interprets to mean that no one can force him to act against his religious principles (translation: he should be allowed to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals). Big fan of Donald Trump.
Finances (per Florida Department of State Division of Elections): $4,805.00 (as of 2020-09-26); Voterfocus indicates he has received more money.
Websites: campaign website, Twitter, Facebook
Endorsements:

Susan L. Valdés

Party: Democrat
Background Information: Incumbent. Born in NY but moved to Florida at 8. Graduate of Leto High School. BASc in Business Administration and Management from Nova Southeastern University and an MA in Organizational Leadership from Manhattan College (notes an Honorary Doctorate from Everest University – former for-profit university that doesn’t have any meaningful credentials to grant such an honor). Was a member of the Hillsborough County School Board for 14 years (2004-2018). Elected to Florida House in 2018. Worked for St. Joseph’s Community Care Clinic before that.
Finances (per Florida Department of State Division of Elections): $58,950.00 (as of 2020-09-26); See Voterfocus as well.
Websites: Florida House page, campaign website, Twitter, Wikipedia, LinkedIn
Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times

Laurie Rodriguez-Person

Party: Independent? (ran against Susan Valdes in the Democratic Primary)
Background Information: Went to Leto High School; studied at USF (no indication of a degree). Teaches “exceptional education” at various schools in Tampa. Not a lot of information available. Found one Twitter post suggesting she is running to oppose Susan Valdes.
Finances (per Florida Department of State Division of Elections): $3,500.00 (as of 2020-09-26).
Websites: Facebook
Endorsements:

Sheriff

Chad Chronister

Party: Republican
Background Information: Incumbent. BA in Criminal Justice and MA in Criminology from St. Leo University. Initially appointed by Rick Scott in 2017; elected in 2018. Served with Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for 28 years. Mentions his religion prominently on his website.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: campaign website, Facebook,
Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times (though they also posted a story suggesting his office may be targeting gay men for prosecution)

Gary Pruitt

Party: Democrat
Background Information: Retired Tampa police Corporal; worked for 25 years for the Tampa Police department. Not a lot of personal information available on him (nothing on his website). This site suggests he’s not the best partner/father.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: campaign website, Facebook, LinkedIn
Endorsements:

Ron McMullen

Party: no party affiliation
Background Information: Tampa native. Graduated from Brandon High School. BA in Criminal Justice from St. Leo University and a MA in Criminology from Florida State. Retired Tampa police major; served for 29 years; last two years was in charge of Special Operations. Wanted to run as a Democrat but didn’t change his party affiliation from Republican by the legal deadline (deadline was June 8, 2019; he switched it in January 2020); see this Tampa Bay Times article.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: campaign website, Facebook
Endorsements:

Property Appraiser

D.C. Goutoufas

Party: Republican
Background Information: Tampa native. Graduated from University of Tampa with a degree in Business Administration. Worked in bank management then became a serial entrepreneur. Has also adjuncted at USF. He has served on a number of local boards. He lost his hearing at 4 and eventually got a cochlear implant.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: campaign website, Facebook, Twitter
Endorsements:

Bob “Coach” Henriquez

Party: Democrat
Background Information: Incumbent. Tampa native. Graduated from Tampa Catholic High School and Princeton University. Served in the Florida House of Representatives (1998-2006). Was the head coach of Tampa Catholic’s football team (thus the “coach” in his name)
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: campaign website, Facebook, Wikipedia
Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times,

Tax Collector

TK Mathew

Party: Republican
Background Information: Identifies himself as a conservative businessman. Worked for Doug Belden as a tax collector for a few years. Doesn’t know how to spell “Hillsborough” (major typo on the home page of his website – “Hillsbrorough”). The Tampa Bay Times calls him a “mystery candidate.” Given how little is known about him, that sounds about right.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: campaign website, Facebook,
Endorsements:

Nancy C. Millan

Party: Democrat
Background: Has worked for the tax collector’s office for decades (31 years), rising through the ranks; served on a number of boards, including the Board of Trinity School for Children from 2005-2008 (full disclosure – my son attended Trinity School for Children from about 2012 until 2020);
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Personal Commentary: I received a flyer for Nancy Millan that was riddled with typos. That lack of detail bothers me. Millan is also purchasing ads on Google’s search engine. The Tax Collector’s website, hillstax.org, does use Cloudfare to protect against DDOS attacks, though the settings for the protection wouldn’t let me access the website, so someone set it up wrong.
Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times,

Board of County Commissioners District 3

Maura Cruz Lanz

Party: Republican
Background Information: Tampa native. Graduated from Jefferson High School. Attended a beauty school and became a licensed cosmetologist. Lives in Wellswood (full disclosure: that’s where I live!). Her husband works in construction and she was the vice president of his company.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: campaign website, Facebook, LinkedIn
Endorsements:

Gwen Myers

Party: Democrat
Background: Tampa native; graduate of FAMU; worked for Hillsborough County for 25 years; now retired; served on a variety of local boards (e.g., Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Council)
Endorsements: County Commissioner Pat Kemp among others, Tampa Bay Times
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Personal Commentary: Likes the color green. Platform seems to be focused on public transit.

Board of County Commissioners District 6

Tampa Bay Times story on some of the policy differences between Murman and Kemp.

Sandra L. Murman

Party: Republican
Background Information: Current County Commissioner but term-limited for her seat so running for a county-wide seat. First elected in 2010. Served in the Florida House of Representatives for 8 years. Graduate of Indiana University (Marketing degree). Married to an attorney and have a daughter. Murman has a sizable fundraising lead over Kemp. (Her campaign website looks like it was designed in 2010.)
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: campaign website, Twitter, Facebook
Endorsements:

Patricia “Pat” Kemp

Party: Democrat
Background Information: Incumbent. First elected in 2016. Was an aide to Kathy Castor when she was on the county commission. She is both an attorney and a journalist. Worked in private practice as an attorney and as a radio talk show host at WUSF and WMNF.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: campaign website, Twitter, Facebook
Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times

Judges

In case you are wondering, if the majority of voters in Florida vote against retention, a judge will actually be removed from office (see here). Of course, the Governor will then be able to appoint a new judge to replace the judge who vacated the office. So, in making your decisions to vote for or against a judge, you should really weigh whether you think the existing judge is better than a judge who might be selected to replace them.

Justice of the Supreme Court

Shall Justice Carlos G. Muñiz of the Supreme Court be retained in office?

Party: non-partisan (appointed by Ron DeSantis)
Background Information: Appointed in 2019 by Ron DeSantis. Originally from Virginia. Attended Catholic schools as a youth. Graduated from University of Virginia for his undergraduate degree and Yale Law School. Prior to his appointment by DeSantis in 2019 he worked as the general counsel for the US Department of Education under Betsy DeVos. Before that, he worked as deputy attorney general in the state of Florida under Pam Bondi. Also worked as general counsel for Jeb Bush. He is a member of the conservative Federalist Society. You can see an interview with him here.
Websites: FL Supreme Court website, Wikipedia,
Endorsements: 71% of the Florida Bar voted to retain him

District Court of Appeal

Shall Judge Drew Atkinson of the Second District Court of Appeal be retained in office?

Party: non-partisan (appointed by Rick Scott)
Background Information: Appointed in 2018 by Rick Scott. Native of Tampa. BA from Florida State and law degree from Nova Southeastern. Veteran of the US Army. Worked in the Attorney General’s office, General Counsel for the state, and for a private law firm.
Websites: FL Second District Court of Appeal
Endorsements: 76% of the Florida Bar voted to retain him

Shall Judge Morris Silberman of the Second District Court of Appeal be retained in office?

Party: non-partisan (appointed by Jeb Bush)
Background Information: Appointed in 2001. Undergraduate degree from Tulane. Law degree from the University of Florida in 1982. Clerked with the Second District Court of Appeal then went into private practice in Sarasota and Clearwater.
Websites: FL Second District Court of Appeal
Endorsements: 90% of the Florida Bar voted to retain him

Shall Judge Daniel H. Sleet of the Second District Court of Appeal be retained in office?

Party: non-partisan (appointed by Jeb Bush)
Background Information: Appointed in 2005. Undergraduate degree from Furman University. Played college football. Law degree from Cumberland School of Law in 1987. Worked as an assistant state attorney then joined a private law firm. Has adjuncted at Stetson University and University of Tampa (full disclosure – that is where I teach).
Websites: FL Second District Court of Appeal
Endorsements: 85% of the Florida Bar voted to retain him

Shall Judge Andrea Teves Smith of the Second District Court of Appeal be retained in office?

Party: non-partisan (appointed by Rick Scott)
Background Information: Appointed in 2019. From Bradenton Florida. Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the University of Florida and her law degree from Stetson University in 1991. Worked for a private law firm in Lakeland. Was also a judge on the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court before being appointed to the Second District Court of Appeal.
Websites: FL Second District Court of Appeal
Endorsements: 82% of the Florida Bar voted to retain her

County Court Judge Group 7

The Tampa Bay Times endorsed Bill Yanger.

Monique Scott

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: BA in Criminology and Psychology from USF; former Tampa police officer (left for health reasons) and public school teacher; worked as an assistant state attorney; accident attorney; volunteers with epilepsy groups; married to a chiropractor
Endorsements:
Personal Commentary:
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website, Franchi Law firm

Bill Yanger

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: Admitted to Florida Bar in 1989; admitted to Texas bar in 1986; graduate of Jesuit High School; went to University of Florida for undergrad; South Texas College of Law for law degree; founder of Yanger Law Group; works on complex business litigation; former Chair of the Tampa Chamber of Commerce; Board of Fellows member at the University of Tampa (full disclosure, I am a professor at the University of Tampa); Presbyterian – goes to Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church
Endorsements: local firefighters unions, Tampa City Council members Guido Maniscalco, Charlie Miranda, and Luis Viera; Tampa Bay Times
Personal Commentary: He drives a truck, per his flyer he circulated (seems important to him).
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Judicial Candidate Forum responses
Websites: election website, Facebook, Instagram

School Board Member District 1

In the primary election, no candidate received sufficient votes to win the election outright. The two candidates below are the top vote getters and are competing in this runoff election.

Nadia Combs

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: BA in Social Studies Education and MA in Educational Leadership from USF; taught in Japan; taught in Hillsborough County Schools for 10 years; founded a company in 2005 as part of the Supplemental Education Services – provides free tutoring to students in Hillsborough County; opened Brighton Learning tutoring center in 2014
Personal Commentary:
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website, Brighton Learning
Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times

Steve Cona

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: Tampa native; Bachelor’s from USF; CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors Florida Gulf Coast Chapter; on the Board of Trustees of Hillsborough Community College; platform is to improve Florida’s skilled labor force; incumbent
Endorsements:
Personal Commentary: Platform is three-fold: fiscal accountability, school security, and addressing maintenance problems in schools. Raised almost 10 times as much money as all the other candidates combined. Pretty telling that the Tampa Bay Times didn’t endorse him as the incumbent.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website,

School Board Member District 5

This race isn’t on my ballot but someone asked if I’d look up information on the race. “As you wish…”

Tammy Shamburger

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: Incumbent. Tampa native. Graduated from Bloomingdale Senior High School. Has a Liberal Arts degree from HCC, BA in Political Science from USF, and an MBA from St. Leo University. Worked in the insurance industry before being elected to the school board. Elected to the board for District 5 in 2016.
Personal Commentary: No personal experience as an educator.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: campaign website, Facebook, Twitter
Endorsements:

Henry “Shake” Washington

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: Graduated from Middleton Senior High School. Played sports in high school. Served in the military for 22 years. Received his BA from the University of Southwest Louisiana. Worked his way through the Hillsborough County Public Schools. Started as an assistant teacher, taught physical education and driver’s ed. Was also a coach. Eventually became a principal and then an area superintendent. He is now retired. Member of Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Personal Commentary: Clearly has a lot of experience in Hillsborough County Public Schools.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: campaign website, Facebook, Twitter
Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times

School Board Member District 7

In the primary election, no candidate received sufficient votes to win the election outright. The two candidates below are the top vote getters and are competing in this runoff election.

Lynn Gray

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: worked for over 20 years as a teacher in Tampa; incumbent on the school board; platform – healthier kids (healthier foods and recess); more support for students; improved literacy
Personal Commentary:
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Endorsements: Tampa Bay Times

Sally A. Harris

Party: nonpartisan race
Background: South Tampa native; owner of Circle C Ranch Academy – early care and education company; focus is on safety, discipline, and management
Endorsements:
Personal Commentary: She seems to care more about policing the kids than educating them.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: election website

Soil and Water Conservation District Group 2

Erik S. Challenger

Party: non-partisan race (but he’s a Democrat)
Background Information: Lives in Apollo Beach. Has raised no money. Not sure how serious a candidate he is. I couldn’t find any useful information about him.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: Facebook
Endorsements:

Michael Harvey

Party: non-partisan race (but he’s a Democrat)
Background Information: Born into a military family. Graduated from something (per his website). Photo suggests he likes to fly. Married with five kids and a dog. Indicates he is a successful businessman on his website. He details his platform in this youtube video.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: campaign website,
Endorsements:

Karen Cox Jaroch

Party: non-partisan race (but she’s a Republican)
Background Information: Went to Plant High School. Studied engineering at USF. Worked for Northrup Grumman (1991-2002). Works for Heritage Action for America. Per her Facebook page, “God, Family, Country, Conservative & Blessed!”
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: campaign website, Facebook, LinkedIn
Endorsements:

Douglas “Doug” Rivero

Party: non-partisan race (but he’s a Democrat)
Background Information: College professor. Immigrant from Cuba during the Mariel boatlift. Graduated from Florida International University with a BA in Environmental Science. Worked for AmeriCorps in Florida State Parks. His MA and PhD were in Political Science. Works at Saint Petersburg College. He gardens and is a birder. Can see an interview with him on Facebook. (Seems qualified to me.)
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: campaign website, Twitter, Facebook
Endorsements:

Soil and Water Conservation District Group 4

Sonja P. Brookins

Party: non-partisan race (but she’s a Democrat)
Background Information: Tampa native. Graduate of Chamberlain HighSchool. Graduated from Texas Chiropractic College. Has a certificate in Nursing from Austin Peay State University and a Master of Education in Counseling from Prairie View A&M. Worked as an Executive Director for Emergency Shelters for domestic violence victims. Also taught school.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: campaign website, Facebook
Endorsements:

D.B. “Brig” Maynard

Party: non-partisan race
Background Information: From West Virginia. Studied at USF. Formerly held a seat on the Soil and Water Conservation Board. No campaign website. His name is David Maynard but he goes by “Brig.”
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: Facebook,
Endorsements:

Mark Proctor

Party: non-partisan race (but he’s Republican)
Background Information: He’s the current chairman of the Soil & Water Conservation District. He is in real estate as an investor, agent, and broker. Posted on his twitter page that he voted for Trump on September 23rd. The website linked to from his Twitter profile redirects to a Chinese gambling website. Either he’s been hacked or he makes his money off Chinese gambling websites.
Finances (per voterfocus.com)
Websites: Twitter, LinkedIn
Endorsements:

Constitutional Amendments

The Tampa Bay Times has an article explaining all of the constitutional amendments on the 2020 ballot.

No. 1 Constitutional Amendment

Citizenship Requirement to Vote in Florida Elections

This amendment provides that only United States Citizens who are at least eighteen years of age, a permanent resident of Florida, and registered to vote, as provided by law, shall be qualified to vote in a Florida election.

Because the proposed amendment is not expected to result in any changes to the voter registration process in Florida, it will have no impact on state or local government costs or revenue. Further, it will have no effect on the state’s economy.

My Translation: This is a very minor change to the Florida constitution that already says that “every citizen” can vote. So, the change would be from “every citizen” to “only a citizen.” This is basically an anti-immigrant amendment that is trying to circumvent a problem that doesn’t exist in Florida of some cities/counties allowing non-citizen immigrants/residents to vote in elections. This seems completely superfluous given that it doesn’t actually change anything but rather is a symbolic change to indicate that Florida is anti-immigrant. It’s also a voter intimidation amendment trying to reduce voter turnout.
Background Information: John Loudon, Republican, is the chairman of the sponsoring organization.
Websites: amendment website
Tampa Bay Times opposes this amendment.

No. 2 Constitutional Amendment

Raising Florida’s Minimum Wage

Raises minimum wage to $10.00 per hour effective September 30th, 2021. Each September 30th thereafter, minimum wage shall increase by $1.00 per hour until the minimum wage reaches $15.00 per hour on September 30th, 2026. From that point forward, future minimum wage increases shall revert to being adjusted annually for inflation starting September 30th, 2027.

State and local government costs will increase to comply with the new minimum wage levels. Additional annual wage costs will be approximately $16 million in 2022, increasing to about $540 million in 2027 and thereafter. Government actions to mitigate these costs are unlikely to produce material savings. Other government costs and revenue impacts, both positive and negative, are not quantifiable.

This proposed constitutional amendment is estimated to have a net negative impact on the state budget. This impact may result in higher taxes or a loss of government services in order to maintain a balanced state budget as required by the constitution.

My Translation: This amendment would increase Florida’s minimum wage over time. I am fascinated by the estimates that are included with this amendment. They seem like a straightforward effort to try to dissuade voters from approving this.
Background Information: Florida’s minimum wage does increase slightly with inflation at present. However, as of 01/01/2020, minimum wage in Florida is $8.56. John Morgan of Morgan & Morgan is the chairman of the sponsoring organization.
Websites: sponsor’s website
Tampa Bay Times opposes this amendment.

No. 3 Constitutional Amendment

All Voters Vote in Primary Elections for State Legislature, Governor, and Cabinet

Allows all registered voters to vote in primaries for state legislature, governor, and cabinet regardless of political party affiliation. All candidates for an office, including party nominated candidates, appear on the same primary ballot. Two highest vote getters advance to general election. If only two candidates qualify, no primary is held and winner is determined in general election. Candidate’s party affiliation may appear on ballot as provided by law. Effective January 1, 2024.

It is probably that the proposed amendment will result in additional local government costs to conduct elections in Florida. The Financial Impact Estimating Conference projects that the combined costs across counties will range from $5.2 million to $5.8 million for each of the first three election cycles occurring in even-numbered years after the amendment’s effective date, with the costs for each of the intervening years dropping to less than $450,000. With respect to state costs for oversight, the additional costs for administering elections are expected to be minimal. Further, there are no revenues linked to voting in Florida. Since there is no impact on state costs or revenues, there will be no impact on the state’s budget. While the proposed amendment will result in an increase in local expenditures, this change is expected to be below the threshold that would produce a statewide economic impact.

My Translation: This amendment would open up certain primary races in Florida so anyone can vote for any candidate. In other words, an independent voter could vote for Democratic or Republican candidates in the primaries. Likewise, a voter registered as a Democratic could vote for Republican candidates and vice versa. In principle, this seems like a good idea. The one possible drawback is that it is also coupled with a change that the top two vote-getters in a primary would then run in the general election. So, if two Republicans got the most votes in the primary, they would run against each other in the general election. In hyper-partisan districts, this could guarantee single-party dominance. Of course, it could also end up splitting the vote in one party, allowing the candidate in another party to win.
Background Information: Currently, in Florida, voters can only vote for candidates from their party in primaries.
Websites: amendment website
Tampa Bay Times opposes this amendment.

No. 4 Constitutional Amendment

Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments

Requires all proposed amendments or revisions to the state constitution to be approved by the voters in two elections, instead of one, in order to take effect. The proposal applies the current thresholds for passage to each of the two elections.

It is probably that the proposed amendment will result in additional state and local government costs to conduct elections in Florida. Overall, these costs will vary from election cycle to election cycle depending on the unique circumstances of each ballot and cannot be estimated at this time. The key factors determining cost include the number of amendments appearing for the second time on each ballot and the length of those amendments. Since the maximum state cost is likely less than $1 million per cycle but the impact cannot be discretely quantified, the change to the state’s budget is unknown. Similarly, the economic impact cannot be modelled, although the spending increase is expected to be below the threshold that would produce a statewide economic impact. Because there are no revenues linked to voting in Florida, there will be no impact on government taxes or fees.

The financial impact of this amendment cannot be determined due to ambiguities and uncertainties surrounding the amendment’s impact.

My Translation: Per this article in the Tampa Bay Times, it’s not clear who funded this amendment, but it appears to be right-leaning corporations that are frustrated with the ability of Floridians to occasionally govern themselves. Powerful entities from political parties to corporations in Florida are frustrated when the citizens actually enact legislation that a super-majority wants. This is another attempt by shadowy figures to attempt to reduce the ability of the people to govern themselves by making it harder to pass a constitutional amendment. I’ll go ahead and make my position on this clear – vote NO on Amendment 4.
Background Information: Currently, in order for an amendment to be added to the Florida constitution it requires just one election and a supermajority of voters to approve it of 60%.
Websites: sponsor’s website
The Tampa Bay Times opposes this amendment.

No. 5 Constitutional Amendment

Limitations on Homestead Property Tax Assessments; increased portability period to transfer accrued benefit

Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution, effective January 1, 2021, to increase, from 2 years to 3 years, the period of time during which accrued Save-Our-Homes benefits may be transferred from a prior homestead to a new homestead.

My Translation: This is somewhat technical but basically gives people who sell their home that has the homestead exemption in Florida an extra year to buy another home so they can save some money through the homestead exemption.
Background Information: See the Tampa Bay Times’s analysis of this amendment. And you can learn about homestead exemptions here and here.
Websites: This actually got added to the ballot via a joint resolution of the Legislature where it passed with very little opposition.
Tampa Bay Times supports this amendment.

No. 6 Constitutional Amendment

Ad Valorem Tax Discount for Spouses of Certain Deceased Veterans Who Had Permanent, Combat-Related Disabilities

Provides that the homestead property tax discount for certain veterans with permanent combat-related disabilities carries over to such veteran’s surviving spouse who holds legal or beneficial title to, and who permanently resides on, the homestead property, until he or she remarries or sells or otherwise disposes of the property. The discount may be transferred to a new homestead property of the surviving spouse under certain conditions. The amendment takes effect January 1, 2021.

My Translation: This amendment would extend a tax exemption from veterans over 65 to their spouses when the veteran dies.
Background Information: There are a number of special exemptions to taxes that get carved out for different groups in Florida.
Websites: This also got added to the ballot via the Florida Legislature where it passed with no opposition.
Tampa Bay Times supports this amendment.

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How to Export Garmin Tracks/Activities to Google Maps

While it’s possible to share your Garmin tracks or activities with people through the Garmin website, I like exporting my tracks to Google Maps so I can embed them on my website. Here’s how I do that.

First, log in to your Garmin Connect account. Once you have logged in, click on the Activities tab.

You’ll see a list of your activities. Look for and find the activity you want to share.

Click on the activity you want and you’ll see all the details for the activity. To export the GPS track of your activity, look for the gear icon on the upper right of the screen:

Click on the gear icon and you’ll see several options. The one you want is “Export to GPX.”

You should then get a prompt to download a GPX file. Download it to your computer (and, of course, remember where you downloaded it to). If you’re curious, you can open the GPX file with a text editor and see that it is basically just a list of points using a markup language.

Now, log in to your Google account. The next part is always the part that takes me the longest when doing this – figuring out the URL where I can upload the GPX file to create a map. Google doesn’t make this easy (and, admittedly, it has changed over time). The link to upload and create maps using Google Maps is this one: https://www.google.com/maps/d/ Assuming you are signed in and everything works, you should see a page called “My Maps” that looks like this:

I’ve made a fair number of maps!

Click on “+CREATE A NEW MAP”, the big red button. On the next screen, you’ll see a checkbox next to “Untitled Layer” and below that a link that says “Import.”

Click on the “Import” link and you’ll get this window:

You can either click on the blue button and select your GPX file or just drag it to the window. Either way, as soon as it has been uploaded, the site will process it and overlay your track onto a map, like this:

(BONUS: Since I have created quite a few of these for my hikes, I actually try to keep them organized in my Google Drive. If you’re going to create a lot of these, you should do the same.)

Now you have lots of options to customize your map. You should obviously click on where it says “Untitled map” and give it a name. You can also add layers, add points of interest, insert pins, etc. You can also change the Base map to terrain or satellite instead of the default map. I added three pins, a title, and a description to my map:

When you’re done modifying your map, you should do two things to share it. First, change the permissions by clicking on the “Share” icon.

By default, maps are restricted and you can only provide access to specific people. You can change that by clicking at the bottom of that window where it says “Change to anyone with the link.”

Now you can embed the map into a different website or just share the link with people. To embed the map, click the three little vertical dots near the title and select “Embed on my site”:

You’ll then get a window with the embed code:

The code should look something like this:

<iframe src="https://www.google.com/maps/d/embed?mid=1hCMJebINYk1cTYWCUEo48YN48oUO1GGK" width="640" height="480"></iframe>

And here’s how it looks actually embedded on your site:

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Teaching with a Mask – Headset Solution on Linux

My university, the University of Tampa, is doing what it can to continue teaching in-person classes (many are hybrid) during the COVID-19 pandemic. To facilitate that, our IT folks installed webcams and microphones in all of our classrooms. Unfortunately, the classrooms all have Windows-based desktops that don’t include all the software I need for educating my students (e.g., LibreOffice, Zotero, RStudio, etc.). I have always just plugged my laptop into an HDMI cable and then projected directly from it.

However, now that I’m teaching in a mask that substantially muffles my voice, I need a microphone that is projected through the speakers in the classroom so the students in the back can hear me, particularly when the A/C is on. I tried using the microphone provided the first day of class and ended up having to hold it for the entire class and it still cut out regularly. Our IT folks suggested we could start a Zoom meeting on the desktop, connect our laptop to it, and then display our laptop in the Zoom meeting and project that onto the screen so we can use our laptop and a microphone. That seemed like a kludge approach to solve the problem.

I figured there had to be a better way. So, I did a little thinking and a little research and found one. The answer – a bluetooth headset designed for truckers! Yep, truckers to the rescue!

If I could get a bluetooth headset to connect to my computer and then project the sound through the classroom’s speakers via bluetooth, I could continue to use my laptop to teach my class while still having a microphone to project my mask-muffled voice. Admittedly, this required a couple of hours of testing and some trial and error, but I got it working. Now, I have my own microphone set up for the classroom (I bring it with me) and can continue to use my laptop instead of the Windows-based PC.

So, how did I do it?

First, get yourself a bluetooth headset. I bought the Mpow M5 from Amazon. This is the perfect style headset as it has just one earphone, meaning I can still hear perfectly fine when students are talking to me in the classroom.

Second, connect the headset to your laptop. I’m going to assume your laptop has built-in bluetooth. Mine, a Dell Latitude 7390, does. Pairing it with my laptop was super easy. (If you don’t have bluetooth built-in, there are cheap USB bluetooth dongles you can buy as well.)

Third, the Linux part. I installed the package “blueman,” which provides a GUI interface for working with bluetooth devices. I didn’t know if this would be necessary, but, it turns out, it definitely was. Once you have your headset connected, open the blueman GUI and you’ll see this:

The next part stymied me for a while. Initially, my computer detected the headset as just headphones and not a headset with a microphone. I didn’t know why. Eventually, I got lucky and right-clicked on the Mpow M5 device in blueman and got a context window with the option I needed:

When you right-click on the device, you can select “Audio Profile” and then “Headset Head Unit”. The default, for some reason, was “High Fidelity Playback.” Once I did that, Linux detected the microphone.

Before you continue, make sure you have plugged in the HDMI cable as you’ll need that connected for the next part.

Next up was making sure all my audio settings were correct. This, too, took some trial and error. The settings window you need is paudio or Pulse Audio, which goes by different names in various versions of Linux. Regardless, here’s what the window looks like:

I’ll go over the settings for each tab, though the first two – Playback and Recording – won’t have anything in them until you start up OBS Studio, which I’ll cover shortly.

In the Configuration tab, you should now see your Mpow M5 connected as a Headset and you should see Built-in Audio. This may not say “Digital Stereo (HDMI) Output” to begin with. There is a drop down menu there. Click on it and you’ll see various options:

The default is “Analog Stereo Duplex”. Click on that drop down and select the HDMI Output. (NOTE: I typically use just “Digital Stereo (HDMI) Output” without the “+ Analog Stereo Input”. I have the wrong one highlighted above, but it should still work.)

Here’s what the Input Devices tab should look like:

And here’s how the Output Devices tab should look:

You probably will need to change one thing on the Output Devices tab. Make the HDMI output the default (click the little blue icon). You may also need to mute the Mpow M5 on this screen. Either way, you want to make sure that the HDMI output is where the sound is going.

Now, we need another piece of software. (NOTE: For those using Windows or Mac who want to do this as well, here’s the software that you’ll use that should use a fairly similar set up.) The software is OBS Studio, which is free and open-source software that works on all platforms. Install OBS Studio, then open it up.

The software is very good at detecting everything on your computer. Here are the settings I had to adjust. In the bottom right corner of the software, click on “Settings” and you’ll get a window with various tabs (tabs are on the right). The one you need is “Audio”. Click on that and you’ll see this:

In the Devices section, you’ll need to change the following: “Desktop Audio” should be set to “Built-in Audio Digital Stereo (HDMI)”. “Desktop Audio 2” should be disabled. “Mic/Auxiliary Audio” should be set to “Mpow M5.” All the others should be disabled. Then, under “Advanced,” where it says “Monitoring Device,” select “Monitor of Mpow M5.” Then click Apply or OK.

Close that window then click on “Edit” -> “Advanced Audio Properties” and you’ll get this window:

In that window, where you see “Audio Monitoring,” click on the drop down option for “Mic/Aux” and set it to “Monitor and Output.” What this does is tells the operating system that you want to monitor the audio from your Mpow M5 headset and output it through the speakers. Select “Close” and, assuming you’ve done everything correctly, you should now hear your voice coming out of the speakers. Woot!

A little more detail may be helpful, though. Back to Linux. If you return to the Pulse Audio window, you’ll now see that there is information in the remaining two tabs. Here’s what you should see in the Recording tab:

And here’s what you should see in the Playback tab:

And here is how I look with my headset and a mask:

Some notes:

I haven’t tested this with Zoom yet. I probably will to make sure that the audio also goes through Zoom.

OBS Studio can actually be used to record your presentation as well. It’s designed for streaming gamers, but works just as well for screen capture. So, if you need to record your class, just use OBS Studio to record your audio and your screen during the class.

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Pickens, SC – Hiking Trip – Day 7 – movie marathon

It was supposed to rain on our last day of our trip to South Carolina. Our plan was to spend the day inside playing games and watching movies. It took us all day, but we managed to finish all of the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which is close to 12 hours of content.

We also got everything packed up so we could make an early start the next day. With some careful planning, we were able to make it from Pickens, SC to Tampa with just two stops to charge the car and were home in the early evening. This was a delightful trip. We’ll definitely consider doing something like it again.

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Pickens, SC – Hiking Trip – Day 6 – Table Rock

We saved our longest hike for last. Perhaps the most well-known and scenic hike in the area near our cabin is Table Rock Trail. This leads to the top of a mountain and then, just past the summit, to a beautiful overlook. Despite the trail being well-worn and marked with red blazes, we actually lost the trail twice on the way up and had to backtrack a little bit each time to find the main trail (marked in the map below). The hike is a good one with some pretty rugged, steep terrain at times.

The view from the overlook is quite impressive:

Per my watch, the hike was 6.79 miles round trip with 2,439 feet of elevation gain. With a stop at the overlook of about 30 minutes to eat some fruit and snacks, it took us just under 4 hours.

Toren ended up doing an advert for Nature Valley on the overlook:

Here are a few videos from the hike:

This is one of the small waterfalls you pass early on the hike.
This is another small waterfall right at the beginning of the hike.

We headed back to the cabin and continued our movie marathon, finishing The Hobbit series and beginning The Lord of the Rings series, each of which is almost 4 hours long. We only got through part of the first one but were committed to finish them during our South Carolina trip.

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Pickens, SC – Hiking Trip – Day 5 – Falls Creek Waterfalls

Our friends left early in the morning so it was just the three of us again. We opted for a hike to another waterfall – Falls Creek Waterfalls. It’s not the best name, but the waterfalls were, again, quite beautiful. Some of the trip reports for this hike suggested the trail was quite steep and challenging. That is an accurate portrayal of parts of the trail. If you’re not in good shape and willing to traverse some rugged and steep terrain, you shouldn’t attempt this trail. Even so, most of the trail was of an easy grade.

Here’s the route:

The round trip distance was 2.46 miles with 1,114 feet of elevation gain.

Here is a video of the upper falls:

Here’s a photosphere of the upper falls:

And here’s a photosphere of the lower falls:

Even though this hike was a decent workout, the hike was relatively short. We decided as a result to stop by a roadside hike on our way back to the cabin, the Wildcat Wayside Nature Trail. Meh. Probably a mistake. There is a cute little waterfall right by the side of the road maybe 50 feet from where you park. There were kids playing here as there is a nice, shallow pool below the waterfall. But this was the most scenic element of the hike. We ended up following the roughly 1-mile nature trail. It was fine. It eventually reaches a cliff face that had a trickle of water coming down it. Perhaps during a rainstorm there would be a decent volume of water coming down the cliff face making another waterfall. But it really was a trickle dripping down into a small puddle and about half a dozen young kids were playing in that puddle. The trail is pretty level and not at all rugged except for one spot where you have to work your way over some roots. So, if you’re looking for a nice, easy trail, this is the one for you.

After our hike, we headed back to the cabin, cleaned up, had a nice lunch, then began what would turn into a fairly epic movie marathon. We watched the first two movies in The Hobbit series. I have extended versions of all of these, so each movie is at least three hours long. We got through two of them the first day we started it, with a good game in between them.

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Pickens, SC – Hiking Trip – Day 4 – Rainbow Falls

Following the same pattern, we got up fairly early to do another hike – Rainbow Falls. This one was in the Jones Gap State Park, which does require a $6 parking fee per person (kids and seniors are less). The hike was to Rainbow Falls. Here’s the route:

Per my watch, the route was 5.01 miles round trip with just under 2,000 feet of elevation gain. It’s a fairly rugged trail at times but quite a pleasant hike and the waterfalls at the top were very pretty. Here is a photosphere showing the falls:

We didn’t stay very long because the forecast called for rain in the early afternoon. We got a little sprinkle on our way down but it was quite light.

Here are a couple videos of the falls:

These are the upper falls at Rainbow Falls.
One of the lower falls at Rainbow Falls in Jones Gap State Park.

The bottom part of the trail is the main trail in Jones Gap State Park, which follows a very scenic river:

After the hike, we headed back to the cabin, cleaned up, and then followed your daily routine – eat, play games, and relax. We ended the night with Deadpool 2!

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