So Big They Have Two Names

This is your heart … Thump …….. Thump……….. Thump ………… Thump ………… Thump. This is your heart when the month is nearly over and you have not met your blog quota ..Thump.Thump.Thump.Thump.Thump. Good thing a Boy Scout is always prepared (and for the record, by Boy Scout I mean the one month I actually lasted in that organization but hey, something sunk in.. that and hitch knots). Today’s subject is one of those animals you tend to stand there in awe over.  Are they capable of blinding speed, gifted jumping abilities or possibly grace in the water or sky? Not so much. To be honest I think it tends to bring back memories of our country’s heritage, a reminder of our past both good and bad.

If you are from the heartlands of America (with a slight lean to the West), you will recognize this animal as the Bison or the Buffalo depending on your history books. These hoofed animals are simply huge and can be seen quite far away as they move their bulk around the grasslands. These shots were actually taken at our local Wildlife Prairie Park (Edwards, Illinois) featuring animals historically native to the great plains.

Linda and I watched this particular animal stroll in from afar. It didn’t take us long to figure out the reason for soon after spotting it, we noticed the park workers spreading out the grain to our right. Another fine example of Pavlovian Training.  I have no idea how many times they eat a week, but clearly the number of buckets they were spreading around was not sufficient enough to fill up this guy, much less the rest of the herd that was following a little behind.  The next time I am at the park I’ll try to hunt someone down that can give me the full story on their eating habits.  It is possible this is just done as a treat to bring them closer to the public and the real feeding happens out in the back fields.  I’ll let you know what I find out.

One of my observations from numerous encounters while visiting the park and on various vacations out West is how calming these animals are. They never seem to be concerned about anything and go about their business pretty much oblivious to their surroundings. This is likely due to their size relative to their competing food chains, but those horns might make a few of the more aggressive predators a little squeamish. This doesn’t mean they are not keeping an eye on you.

Okay, sometimes they have to squint a little … but they are still open enough to size up your scrawny body. Oh, I just remembered one amazing scene we experience out in Yellowstone a couple of years ago. Linda and I were out on a trail snapping some pictures of elk and and few Bison that happened to be shading themselves under a grove of trees. All of sudden I heard a commotion in the parking lot several hundred feet away. Eventually I pinpointed the source. A huge buffalo was actually running across the parking lot somehow dodging the incoming cars and avoiding the parked one. Definitely not gazelle speed, but they can get moving far faster than previously expected. Just imagine that bulk moving at you… yikes, let’s hope they keep that docile gene.

They next time you have the pleasure of encountering one of these majestic creatures, take a few minutes to just enjoy the moment. Yes, I know they were a victim of America’s advancement and there is absolutely nothing you or I can do to change the past. Instead focus on the proud heritage of the creature and what it has come to stand for.  A great representation of how proud we are to call America our home.

And if you have a differing opinion of our country…. well, I can’t say it any better than this:

Them Girls are Deceptive

There are a few things I really look forward to over the course of the year. This includes standing at the top of the slopes with the feet strapped into the Burton, lining up at the start of the Bix7 race and setting up for the annual Halloween cookout (oh, in case she is reading this, coming home every day to see Linda). Not to be left out, ripping into the first box of frozen Girl Scout Thin Mints is ranked right up there in the top ten. Unfortunately, it is getting harder and harder to actually order boxes. The daughters of my friends are now either to old for selling cookies or on the other end of the age spectrum. This year a friend of mine let me order from his relative and my Sister-in-Law was able to put in n order for me with one of her contacts from the school she teaches at. Once the orders came I rushed home and cleared space in the freezer and patiently waited for those babies to chill. Now I have to ask, is there really any form of food that tastes better than a frozen Thin Mint? (any answer other than NO is an unacceptable response by the way)

So, after a couple of hours, the time had arrived.  Freezer door opened with haste, the green box grabbed with zeal and seconds later I had ripped through the packaging to get to the goods.  Suddenly, the frantic pace came to a halting screech.  Have you opened a chip bag lately and been disappointed in the amount of empty space inside the packaging?  Regardless of whether the vendor feels guilty enough to add the “Some settling may occur” marketing line to the packaging, you feel a little empty inside, an emptiness originating out of a overwhelming feeling you’ve been taken.  Actually, I think the better word is d-e-c-e-i-v-e-d.  To my surprise, this is the exact same feeling I got while staring at the inner packaging … apparently some settling had occurred.  This picture below doesn’t provide the best angle for comparison, but you can tell there is a definite difference between the height of the box and the interior sleeve of thin mints. Due to the fact these cookies are like crack, I had consumed a majority of the package before realizing I forgot to assess the difference in cookie units between the inner packaging and the extra space in the box.  Post estimate has this at about 4-5 cookies x2 for the two sleeves and you are looking at 8-10 cookies that won’t be pleasing the taste buds.

However, there is more to this devious story.  My friend’s order was fulfilled by a Chicago area scout troop.  In line with how politics goes in this state, the “down-staters” once again take it on chin.  Cookies in the Chicago area are sold at a cost of $4.00 per box.  Contrast that with the local scout troop charge of $3.50 per box.  My Sister-in-Law’s order came in this week allowing me to verify that the local cookie boxes also had less than a full cookie box sleeve.  This means both investments fell short of expectations, but the empty space in the first box cost my $.50 more.  I wonder if they get a merit badge with a giant screw on it if they sell a certain number of boxes.

Okay, before someone gets all worked up, this post was somewhat in jest.  I realize it is a fund raiser for a good cause and I not at all concerned about the monetary difference between the various troop regions.  Actually, I congratulate them for embracing supply and demand principles and charging what the market can bear.  They might want to consider hanging out on streets and passing out a  free frozen thin mint to people who pass by – guaranteed people would be back drooling with money in hand looking for the next hit.. I mean bite.  I did get the empty feeling in my stomach when I saw the dead space in the packaging.  After all, per Wikipedia, the Girl Scout code consists of “I will do my best to be honest and fair”.

Before I leave this post, I wanted to mention something my brother brought to my attention.  During one of our calls, he mentioned that McDonald’s had their Shamrock Shakes available again.  Don’t ask me how we ended up on this topic, but he confessed when he orders these shakes he has them add in the crushed Oreo topping used in their McFlurries.  The resultant concoction tastes like a Thin Mint shake.  Intrigued, Linda and I ordered one while traveling to a dog show in Wisconsin.  After 15 minutes of trying to explain what I wanted to the cashier, her calling over the manager, both exchanging looks of utter contempt and a hundred buttons being pushed on the register they finally produced the augmented shake (note, based on the amount I had to pay for this sucker, I think they ended up charging for the shake and a small cone).  I grabbed the shake and headed back to the car taking special effort not to look back for any mocking that might have been going on.

Safely in our car, Linda and I dug into the experiment.  Survey says… Not Bad!  I am not entirely sure it was worth the trouble to order, but it definitely tasted like a Thin Mint shake.  Kudos to my brother for discovering this.  On second thought, we probably should not be that surprised since his repeat business has basically earned him an honorary degree from the McDonald’s Academy!

Later peeps, I’m heading down for some tasty frozen slices straight from heaven.

Pseudo WIT: I Think I’ll Pass

It’s been awhile since I’ve followed up the introductory WIT (What is This) category.  To help remedy this situation, today’s post is about a topic that made us go WIT.  This is actually a pseudo WIT in the sense you do not have to wait until the next post to see the answer, but it isn’t something you want to really know what it is (foreshadowing).  So with that, I give you images of today’s two WIT specimens.



I’ll give you some time to ponder our two candidates today.  When your mind is good and lathered up, hit the jump to learn what it [they in this case] is [are].

Continue reading Pseudo WIT: I Think I’ll Pass

Book Recollection: Life by Keith Richards

Keeping with my goal to get through my reading material, I was able to make a serious dent in the stack recently.  By dent I mean a good 2 inches thanks to getting through Life, the autobiography of Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones.  I need to stop reading about celebrities and definitely avoid all biographies related to those I happen to enjoy listening to or watching.  Every time I spend time doing this, I come away with a bad feeling or worse a complete desire to disassociate myself from that particular entertainer.  I’ve been an avid Stones fan since I can remember, have all my computers named after the band members, use one of their names as my gaming alias, have just about all their albums including bootlegs and spent way to much to see them in concert over the years.  After reading Ron Wood’s book previously and now Keith’s latest efforts, my relationship with the Stones is now reduced to a non-monetary enjoyment.  Translated, I doubt I’ll ever give them any more of my hard earned money.  I realize it is a lifestyle expectation, but pretty sick and tired of executives in the music industry (looking right at you RIAA and related production executives) soap boxing about how they are being driven into the ground by the hordes of criminals out there illegally taking their profits.  So let me get this right, a music enthusiast happens to download a song from his favorite band he has likely invested tons of money over the years in souvenirs and concerts and he is labeled a criminal worthy of dragging to court and seeking ridiculous fines.  Let’s contrast that with Keith Richards, an artist which thrives in this industry and essentially the reason the RIAA and music executives exist (who leach off the creativity of others).  In a quick summary; drug addict (illegal), transport of drugs across country boundaries (illegal), coercing others to do drugs (illegal), possession of firearms by a felon (illegal), moves to France to avoid paying taxes (actually probably smart on his part), although not a father myself I hardly believe what he exposed his kids to was healthy in any way,  driving under the influence (illegal), endangering the life of a pregnant wife (and baby) while wrecking under the influence, admitted poacher (illegal) and lastly considering the Beatles as friends (criminal in every aspect).   Now you tell me, who is the kettle?

The truth is, this book did have some interesting tidbits in it with my favorites being small comments here and there which give some insights into his approach to song construction and meanings.  Based on Ron Wood’s book, it was essentially a literary masterpiece but I must recollect a comment from another book I read recently called Bird by Bird.  In that excellent work, the author referenced a review she received from one of her books that simply stated “You have made the mistake of thinking everything that has happened to you is interesting”.  I can’t think of a better comment for this book.  This biography could have easily been reduced to half its size by glossing over pointless events – an up front summary stating that Keith is a medical grade drug addict in the first paragraph could have reduced another quarter inch of the book preventing the literary broken record.  Granted, Keith has had a very eccentric life and some of them are quite interesting.  The Stones had to work to get where they are at now and I’m guessing a lot of people gloss over that fact when they see them up on the stage.  The question remains as to whether they could have gotten there without the all too familiar Rock and Roll lifestyle.  Does the lifestyle lead to the success or does the creativity require that behavior?  (does the love of motorcycles lead to the need to wear leather or does the affinity for leather make you want to get a motorcycle.. but I digress).

To summarize, was there was some value in spending precious personal time reading this book, but this is pretty much the end of my future Stones investments.  Their recent albums have been weak, their concerts have been way overpriced as of late and, quite frankly, they are old (there Linda, I said it).  Feel free to hit the jump to see my takeaways from the time investment.  Meanwhile, I’ll just pop over to the local news where they are detailing Theodora’s (Keith’s daughter) recent arrest for drug possession.  Looks like the nut didn’t fall far from the Fiji tree (yeah, I know it was a bad pun, but I had to go for it)

Continue reading Book Recollection: Life by Keith Richards

Know Thy Enemy

My mini vacation from blogging duties has come to its end. Truth be told, I have not written a new blog entry since January. Thanks to the scheduling capabilities in WordPress I was able to write all 6 of the February posts in January and simply queue them up for release at various times throughout the month. I even added an additional book recollection post to kick off the March posts just in case I did not get back in the swing of things in time. Enough slacking, it’s time to get back into the groove. The good news is the blogging downtime was filled with working on the photo backlog. While hunting for the Maine vacation pictures I stumbled on a set of Wildlife Prairie Park pictures we took last year. Those turned out pretty nice so I figured you might want to see some of them. This particular set focuses on an animal that is not one of my favorites.

For the city dwellers, this specimen before you comes from the coyote family. Unfortunately, I do not remember the specific species, but will make a point to track that down the next time we visit Wildlife Prairie Park. One might be under the impression that I as an avid Wolf enthusiast would have an equal affinity to these particular animals. This likely due to them both having four paws, a tail, tend to group in packs and have other similar canine features. If you happen believe this, it is my sad obligation to inform you that you are wrong. There are a few outward differences, the main one being stature. Wolves are generally much larger than coyotes and their legs tend to be longer relative to their overall body size (this is actually my first indicator when trying to distinguish the two).

To see the rest of the coyote collection, just hit the jump

Continue reading Know Thy Enemy

Book Recollection: Outliers – The Story of Success

It should be no surprise if you noticed the foreshadowing in the previous book recollection that another one was coming on its heels. Today’s post is on a book that took me awhile to get through. It was not a difficult read, but I was about halfway through the book last year when I put it down and didn’t pick it up until a few weeks ago. It has been so long now that it is hard to say with any confidence the reason for this delay. My guess at this point is it was a victim of redundancy. In the midst of the first read, my in car audio book selection was SuperFreakonomics by Levitt and Dubner. AS it turns out, that audio book and today’s recollection have an overlap in their topics and discussion. So, my advice to you is if you have read or plan to read the SuperFreakonomics book, put some time between that and book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. This is actually the third book I have read from Malcolm having previously completed The Tipping Point and Blink. If I had to put them in rank of preference I would go with Blink first, followed by Tipping and lastly, this particular effort. Again, this might be an unfair assessment due to the previously mentioned overlap, but this book felt incomplete to me. In credit to Malcolm’s other books, those kept my attention through just about every chapter. I can not say the same about this particular book. In fact, it was definitely one chapter too long (10 minutes of my life I’ll never get back).

So in summary, I thought the book had some interesting points and definitely had some takeaways (see below). However, I thought it was a letdown from his two other works. On the topic of becoming an expert through hard work and practice as opposed to talent and luck was addressed much more succinctly by Levitt and Dubner. The good news is I can simply blame my lack of desire to become a lawyer or doctor on the fact my parents were not Jewish immigrants. Thanks to Malcolm’s other two excellent books, he still has my interest. In fact, Linda got me his latest (What the Dog Saw) for my birthday. I have absolutely no idea what the topic is in that book, but I promise not to co-read it with any other economics books. On a side note, while getting the Amazon links for the books I noticed my favorite book of his (Blink) actually has a lower rating than this book and Tipping Point. Not sure what to think about that other than raters are obviously wrong .. hehehe.

Hit the jump to read some of the takeaways from from Outliers

Continue reading Book Recollection: Outliers – The Story of Success