Another Medal for the Collection

Bix 7 MedalTo complete this month’s quota, I figured I would mention I recently earned another medal for my running collection.  I basically train year round for one key race a year and that race is the Bix7 held in Davenport Iowa.  For those who have never experienced it, the event is 7 miles  (actually 2 miles if you choose to do the QuickBix) in some difficult hills.  The first 7/10ths of the mile is basically straight up followed by ~2 miles down and then the smaller but definitely harder hill short of the turnaround and then reversed.  This year I finally lined up at the start without much injury for a change and that coupled with favorable start temperature led to a P.R. for me.  Usually the temperature and humidity are through the roof due to the late July start, but thanks to Global Warming (smirk) we starting the morning at 57 degrees (yes, I was shivering when I got out of the car) and warmed up to around 87 by mid race.  I’ve ran it in the past over 90 with 23 people going to the hospital that year.

The best part of this race is all the spectators that come out to cheer you on along the road.  Lots of bands are also playing around the route to help cheer on the 15K or so runners.  Of course there are also those participants who sacrifice themselves (at least their dignity) to run in costumes.  Standouts this year included 2 young men running in diapers with pacifiers, the annual appearance of the Elvis’ and the Oscar Mayer Wiener.   The wiener cracks me because he is in full costume and I can’t figure out how he actually makes it around the 2 mile Quick Bix.  If you want to get a dig on my wife, mention the fact she lost to the wiener one year.  There was a valid reason for this, but I am not going to reveal it because it is my favorite thing to kid her about.  For the record, Linda also had a P.R. in the Quick Bix but I am contributing that to performance enhancing drugs.

Almost forgot, similar to a site that has been burned into my retinas last year, this time I was subjected to a 6’4″ or so guy running in a bright blue spandex wrestling outfit and as far as I can tell, that was it.  While working hard to make it up the return hill, I took a brief look up the hill to see how much further I had to go.  Expecting to see some key landmarks I was instead met with this guys butt about 3 feet in front of my face.  Imagine if you will what this site consisted of about 5 miles into the race.  I had to mentally poke my eyes out just to keep from puking on the spot.  Fellow male runners, please stop the spandex on long runs or minimally put some shorts over it.  This warning does not apply to hot looking ladies.

Tomorrow starts the 361 days of training until next year’s race!

Yellowstone Trip – All About the Moose (Part 2 of Many)

 Update: 8/16/09 (original post 7/28/09) – Please see the corresponding Errata Page for a correction on the location this moose was seen at

As we traveled through Yellowstone Park we were checking off the various wildlife we saw against the field guild I mentioned in the last post.  There was one particular animal that was successfully eluding us almost the entire time. That particular animal was the following.

Yellowstone Moose

We had completely given up as we headed out of the park to the South on our way to the Grand Tetons.  Literally 5 minutes from the park exit we come upon this fine specimen.  Not carrying the same fear we had with the bears, we actually pulled over on the shoulder and exited the vehicle to get a closer look.  I must say, I was re-thinking that idea when I took this shot.

Yellowstone Moose

From this angle it looked a lot more ferocious and although this one did not have the biggest rack, it was still one of the largest animals we had seen on the vacation.  I am guessing for a brief moment this moose was thinking steak would taste better than those weeds.  Luckily it turned its attention back to the grass which calmed my heart down some.

Yellowstone Moose

Oddly, this was the only moose in the area as opposed to the other wildlife (with exception of the bears) that was not mingling with others in a herd.    The moose was very content to just eat his veggies and taken in the likely oddity of humans pointing cameras in its direction.  The dark fur really stood out against the greenery providing a nice contrast to the photos.   The following shot is probably my favorite since the branch looks like a hand tickling the fur under his snout causing his foot to raise up in a mock scratch.  My dogs do this all the time which makes me laugh.

Yellowstone Moose

It was close, but we did get to check this animal off of our checklist.  Next time we hope to catch one with a larger rack

Yellowstone Trip – All About the Bears (Part 1 of Many)

It’s getting late in the month again and I have a few posts to go to make my quota for the month.  Luckily there is plenty of content waiting in the wings many of which came from our recent trip out to Yellowstone.  I already posted the oddities collection from that adventure and now it is time to start the wildlife segment.  I thought I would lead with something we do not see much of out here in Illinois.

Black Bears in Yellowstone

If you look real close you will see today’s subjects.  Surprisingly, we had just entered the park from the East side when there were a few cars parked on the side of the road and some people looking out over the valley.  Figuring there was something of interest, we parked and grabbed the cameras.  Sure enough, waaaaaay out in the distance were these two black bears.  Keep in mind, I have a full Nikon 70-200 glass fully out and manually focusing this to get through all the trees.   Although not tack sharp for sure, I am pretty pleased I even got them at all.  Here is a zoomed version and it looks like they spotted me.

Black Bears in Yellowstone

Just 5 minutes into the park and we already had our first bear sighting.   Since I was not sure there was going to be anymore chances to see the elusive bears, I was snapping a ton of shots in the hopes one or two would come out decent enough I could prove we saw them.  It should be noted that there is actually snow on the ground.  It was the middle of June and we were definitely feeling the chill.  Apparently the bears were quite comfortable in their winter fur.  These two shots are a little better, but again, there were hard to see with the naked eye and having to manually focus was making it difficult to draw them in clear.

Black Bears in Yellowstone

After awhile they grew bored with watching us and headed back into the woodlands.  I caught this one taking a final look back probably thinking how tasty I would be for lunch.

Black Bears in Yellowstone

The good news is we actually had 3 other bear sightings while we were out there.  Take the jump to see some much better shot.  Well, actually three better shots and one crappy one with a frustrating story.

Continue reading Yellowstone Trip – All About the Bears (Part 1 of Many)

You’re GRRRRRRRRRRR[EAT]

Target Rating SystemIt is very apparent that I spend waay too much time at Target or there is just waay to much stuff to be observed there.  I think this is like my third post based on things that I have seen there and thought was interesting.  This particular incident occurred at the checkout lane a few days ago.  While we were completing our purchase there, something on the electronic register display caught my eye.  On the lower left hand of the LCD panel there was a section labeled as Last 10 Ratings (or something very close to that heading, I forgot to write down the actual words).  Underneath that label was a series of 10 letters which I am guessing where the results of the last 10 assessments.  In this particular situation there were only the letters G and R.  There were definitely more R’s than G’s, but there was absolutely no legend for what they actually meant.  If it was important enough to have it visible to the customer, you would think there would be some explanation for the values provided.  I decided not to question the clerk on the chance the ratings she was getting were not flattering.  The trip home was spent pondering the potential rating options:

G’s

  • Great (Tony the Tiger would approve)
  • Good (Seems kind of boring)
  • Goddess (The male clerks might be offended)
  • Gracious (She was nice)
  • God Awful
  • Get your *ss moving (nothing like a little motivation)

R’s

  • Respectable (Wouldn’t just an O for Okay work better)
  • Really Good (And Jack Handy is happy)
  • Reprehensible (it’s Target.. thinking this is not the one)
  • Really get your *ss moving (the boss is not happy)
  • RaaawwttRoh (for the Scooby Do fans out there)
  • Rest (cause you are doing sooo well)

If anyone knows the real definitions, please drop me a comment because I am running low on other options.  Oh well, time to get some sleep, I the main race of the year coming up this Saturday (Bix7) and I don’t want to give myself any excuses other than I have not been able to acclimate to the heat thanks to this joke of a Global Warming Threat that is keeping it in the 60’s in the middle of July.

AppleDees – Corrected – Ched’duh’s

  Update: 8/16/09 (original post 7/12/09) – Please see the corresponding Errata Page for a correction on the location this event occurred at – note, it was NOT AppleDees but rather Chedduhs. – My apologies for this incorrect identification.

AppleDees

My family recently lost a relative (Father’s brother).  Strangely, this side of the family does not keep in touch that frequently and it is actually somewhat rare when we are in the same place .  Unfortunately, visitations and funerals are one of these times when relatives gather.  Although I expected more, I did get to catch up with some of them and find out what has been happening in their world as of late.  After the visitation was over some of my family went out for dinner.  There were eight of us to be exact and after some discussion came to the consensus to head over to Applebees.  After some navigation problems (I will not go into that to spare the guilty), we arrived at the restaurant and were seated pretty quick.  Our orders were taken by a waiter who was desperately trying to revolutionize the use of the word “absolutely”.  I swear that was every other word out of the kids mouth to the point everyone was responding to his questions with the same word.  Shockingly, he did not seem to catch on to that little tidbit.  After what seemed a very long time, the food arrived and based on the comments around the table everyone was pleased with their orders.

When it came time to pay is when things became interesting.  My father insisted on paying for everyone (wish he would not do that, it’s our turn to take them out for all they have done for us).  Turns out, they had a $25 gift card which they handed to the waiter along with their credit card.  A little while longer, the waiter returned claiming the gift card was empty and had scanned it twice trying to get it to go through.  This was questioned and he indicated the manager was going to come out and discuss the problem.  In the meantime, my niece used her cell phone to call the validation number on the back of the card.  In less than 2 minutes she had confirmed through the Applebee’s hotline that the card was indeed valid and had a $25 credit on it (exactly as stated to the waiter).  The manager comes out, we explain the problem again and he proceeds to leave with the card to check it again.  10 Minutes later, he returns and states “I have good news and bad news”.  My interest peaked.  “I’ll start with the bad news, our systems are down and we cannot check the card” was the next line.  This is odd since we did it on our own at the table without any problems at all.  Surely, they had a working phone in the place if not an employee cell phone.  Then the kicker comes “but I am going to accept the $25 and try somehow to get the money back later”  Back the bus up.  Did I just hear that correctly.  Is that the way you would have handled the situation given a table of 8, well dressed people who are simply trying to use a valid gift card?  My translation, you are trying to screw us but I’ll do your lying cheats a favor and take the money off your bill.  The more we discussed this, the more angered I became.  Since the parents were taking care of the bill and the outcome was the same we let this go.  I seriously doubt this Applebees will be getting any of my hard earned cash in the future – there are likely many other restaurants that would appreciate the revenue.  At this point in time, the consensus is Applebees gets a grade of ‘D’ for this outing.

Some day I might comment on a pretty funny (if not surreal) episode that happened with a bouquet of flowers at the visitation.  Like the wedding topic previously, this one is staying between the family for now.

Happy Fourth of July America

 Fireworks

Once again, the greatest country in the world celebrates its birthday.  This means it is time for the light shows in the sky (courtesy of China firework factories).   Today is another guest blog entry courtesy of my wife’s photography.  We basically just learned the trick to taking fireworks pictures and was out catching the local displays to try it out.  To be honest, the settings are only about 40% of the effort.  It is all about timing since you have to keep the shutter open for a number of seconds.  However, when you get lucky, it sure looks good.

Fireworks

I really like this one she took for a couple of reasons.  The color is really crisp, but generally fountains give off way to much light and overpower the image.  She had the shutter timing perfectly for that oneand gives an interesting shadow as it shot through the trees.

This one came from the same display.  It gives the impression of huge sparklers suspended in the air.  Too bad the fountain had to be cut off the bottom, but that would have probably washed out the shot.

Fireworks

The hardest shots are the large flowering fireworks due to having to guess the timing (about 1 second after you see the propulsion flame go out works pretty good) and harder yet is trying to guess the diameter of the explosion to set the zoom appropriately (yes, we are zoomed in pretty good).  To be honest, the off center ones give an interesting artistic impression.

Hit the jump to see some of these pictures

Continue reading Happy Fourth of July America