A New Checkmark for the Birding List

As a note, I highly recommend checking out this particular set of pictures on our SmugMug page at http://eddiesoft.smugmg.com.  The reason for this is the required size reduction for this blog really takes away from the detail and coloring found on the full sized shots up on smug – you can pick any size you want to view by putting your cursor inside the border for the picture and picking from the menu that comes up on the right.

Today is the true unveiling of the capability of The Beast.  We took it out one morning to see what we could find.  For the most part, our attempts to capture some interesting sunrises fell short.  A few of our favorite locations were either weak with color or there was nothing real interesting going on in the cloud front (trust me, sunrise pictures without anything to add to the composition are pretty boring.  Striking out there, we headed over to Jubilee Park to see what kind of wildlife was out and about.  That ended up being a great shoot, but more about that in another post.  I was elated that we didn’t come away empty handed and was feeling pretty good about the outing as we drove the short distance back to home.  That’s when the day turned from great to awesome.  It is a fact I am always looking around for any interesting wildlife.  To my surprise, this little guy was busy running alongside the road!

What luck.  Not only have I not been able to capture this particular bird on camera yet, but The Beast was already attached to the camera.  I quickly yelled out our code word for “Stop the car I see something worth taking a picture” (yes, we have a secret code for that since the time it would take to say all that could spoil the whole shot).  In immediate recognition of the command, Linda pulled to the side of the road and I brought The Beast into firing position through the open car window.  The added stability of the car frame to rest the camera on turned out to be a big plus.  This was the first outing with the big glass so there was some quick learning going on to figure out how to get the focus points where I wanted on a moving animal.  The size of the glass barrel may have alarmed it a bit since it tried to keep an eye on me as it ran around in the tall grass.

Again, it is hard to really see the detail in the small pictures here, but a quick crop should give you an idea of how pleased I was with the results.  Nice to know this huge investment pays off when it comes to the quality of the glass and the ability to get close enough to wildlife to see this level of eye detail. For the record, this is a Ring-Necked Pheasant for those keeping track and more importantly, a new check mark in the bird shot list.

Hit the jump to see even more pictures of this bird and more examples of the clarity the big glass brings to the table.

Continue reading A New Checkmark for the Birding List

Devalued, Dissappointed and Done

It’s time to set the get the ramps moved into position, 3D is full steam ahead towards the shark tank.  Probably a month ago by now, I went to see the opening of Thor with some friends of mine.  Admittedly, I was a fan of the groundbreaking 3D work in Avatar (which was previously blogged about here), but I started becoming skeptical based on some crap movies that simply added it as a gimmick – likely an attempt to get people not to notice how poorly developed the plotline was.  We decided to go all out on this particular showing and take in the new local IMAX screen which was actually showing the 3D version.  The first shock was the ticket prices were $15 and I am pretty sure that was matinee pricing.  Big cities may be used to that outrageous price, but trust me, this doesn’t play well in Peoria.  Now, I am probably a tad more sensitive to this than most, but I spent over $3K in LASIK so I would not have to wear glasses/contacts anymore.  Yet there I was paying for a pair of glasses to sit and watch a movie for two hours.  If you viewed the Avatar link above, you probably noticed how “Roy” cool I looked in those glasses (well, minimally, I didn’t look totally stupid in the theater).  Contrast this with the high dork level these IMAX 3D glasses produce.

A big thanks to Sung for his willingness to take my picture in the theater lobby.  Just shoot me and put me out of my misery.  To be fair, this was a big step up from the helmet we had to wear in Las Vegas to watch the last Matrix movie, but that was many many many moons ago.  The first signs of concern started with the 3D trailers.  There was some definite depth generated by the glasses that may have been even more enhanced by the concave design of the screen.  However, the depth was so large I had problems focusing crisply on objects that were moving a significant distance.  This resulted in the effect being a little blurry and almost jumpy as my brain attempted to process the visuals.  The hope was that this less than appealing effect was simply due to a poor use of the technology by the 3rd Pirates movie.  I ended up taking the glasses off for a rest before the start of the movie while rethinking the $15 premium.

Eventually the movie started.  Thor was always in my comic book reading collection primarily because they always had cool looking wolves guarding Asgard.  As a spoiler, there are NO wolves in this movie, immediately reducing the maximum stars possible to 4.  I’m not going to go into the real plot of the movie because a) I thought it was actually pretty boring and b) it really doesn’t deserve that much attention.  I’ll state for the record, that my friends thought it was okay and were at least entertained by it.  I on the other hand thought the plot line developed too clunky and the characters beyond Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings (a personal favorite of mine since seeing her in Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist) were average at best.  Loki didn’t feel right at all based on my on interpretation from the comic books, but Thor’s friends were just plain stiff.  At first I was down a little bit on Natalie, but decided it was due to having just seen Black Swan and couldn’t get those images out of my head for this more whimsical role.

My real complaint is on the 3D front.  I ended up having to take the glasses off at least twice during the movie to give my head a break.  Having to take in that big IMAX screen and then adjust to the depth effects took its toll.  The annoyance of having to wear glasses coupled with the slight headache had me asking myself “for what” by the end of the movie.  I thought Avatar leveraged 3D well to draw the viewer into the visually appealing Pandora landscape.  The 3D in this movie felt like simple eye candy that wore off after the first few tastes.  The heart of any good movie is the plot, character development and then enabling cinematography.  In my opinion, the director jumped past the first two and tried to cover it up with the latest industry trick.  Well, that appears to have backfired on the industry as a whole from my perspective.  At this point I’m probably done with 3D and there is no way in hell I’ll be spending any money on a 3D TV for the house.

Hit the jump to see some interesting pictures (also thanks to Sung) from the whole movie outing

Continue reading Devalued, Dissappointed and Done

Persevering through the Steamboat

Today we have another guest photographer (my wife)  bringing you images from my second race of the year.  More importantly, I have an action shot PROVING that I indeed ran this race (in case there are any doubters out there…hmmm who could that be?).  Last Saturday was the annual running of the Steamboat Classic in Peoria IL.  They actually have multiple options to participate in.  They offer the “World’s Fastest Four Mile” race and “Illinois’ Toughest 15K.”  This race has been somewhat of a nemesis for me having initially injured my hamstring in the 15K race a couple of years ago which eventually led to a major injury during the following Bix7 race.  Due to the rehab, I was forced to go with the 4 mile option last year, but this year I was back to defeat the 15K!  My training went well and I was already at 10 mile runs before the race date.  To cut to the chase, I man’d up and got me another medal for my slowly growing collection and another check on the Life List.

This was actually a pleasant surprise considering I almost pulled out of race 40 minutes before it started.  To set the stage, I have a fairly regular routine the week before an actual race consisting of a nice taper down and a steady diet of bland food.  For this race, I closed out my last 10 mile the Saturday before and reduced it to a 6 mile run that Monday.  That Wednesday was my 3.5 mile easy run to complete the training program.  For some reason the mechanics felt off on that last run even to the point I stopped and took my shoes off and put back on hoping something was amiss.  That didn’t help much, but it got me through the remaining miles.  While in the cool down my left hamstring developed a twinge that would not shake out.  Panic set in (well, actually anger first and then panic).  I went home and tried my best to rest it hoping it would disappear  – to no avail.  The rest of the week was spent trying to rub the strain out with a steady diet of a foam roller and anti-inflammatory cream used during my rehab.  By Friday night it was feeling pretty good, but I was not about to test it until the race.  On that same Friday I decided to go with a conservative hamburger lunch at a downtown street vendor followed up by the traditional home cooked carb loading spaghetti dinner that night.  All was good until some pains started showing up in my stomach around 10pm.  At midnight this turned into an all out evacuation on the hour until it was time to get up around 5.  So there I was carb-deloaded and questioning whether I could actually keep anything in the stomach.  Not wanting to throw the towel in yet (hell, I trained my ass off for this) so Linda and I headed down to the Peoria riverfront cautiously eating a couple of Eggos and gingerly trying to drink some Powerade.  If there is one bright side in this, I really wasn’t thinking much about the hamstring.  Eventually it came time to do the traditional pre-race picture.  That would be a look of serious worry by the way.

Now, some of that worry was due to the upcoming 15K with limited fuel.  The rest of that concern was the resulting composition for this shot.  “Not that there is anything wrong with that”, but that guy in the poster .. the one with the shirt off and staring directly at me .. was creeping me out.

Hit the jump to read more about Steamboat Classic 2011

Continue reading Persevering through the Steamboat

Racing Season is Upon Us

Although the guy code was in full swing, I needed to break away and work on some other posts or once again I’ll be struggling to get the quota done. Have no worries, I’ll continue to monitor the comments on the guy code post. Moving on, I wanted to officially kickoff the 2011 race season. Although it was a difficult season last year, I have a big goal for this year and so far I am on my planned schedule.  I do not want to jinx myself so I’ll keep that goal a secret for now. After 8 months of rehab on my damaged quad I’m finally back to near full strength and the miles are definitely far ahead of any other year at this time – this includes a weekly 10 mile run in the hills of Jubilee Park. I usually start with the Caterpillar 5K Power Race, but this year they decided to move it into June which effectively removed that from my race schedule. Instead, my first race was the Chase Corporate 3.5 Mile Race held on May 26th in Chicago IL.

Notice anything unusual about this pre-race picture?

Did you detect a certain feeling of coldness?  Maybe a little bundled up for a race that was being held in May?  Turns out this particular day put the whole gloBULL warming fear peddlers into perspective.  The race actually starts near Grant Park which provides a slightly chillier condition thanks to the wind blowing in off of Lake Michigan.  But the conditions this day lead to a feels like temperature of 38 degrees.  Now I definitely prefer colder over hot and humid days for racing, but this was ridiculous.  From the moment I stepped off the bus, I was second guessing my apparel choices.  But the coldness wasn’t the only issue we had to deal with.

Hit the jump to read the rest of the details on the race!

Continue reading Racing Season is Upon Us

The Guys Guide to Bathroom Etiquette – A Work in Progress

Updated:6/16/2011 – Bathroom etiquette has been a pretty hot topic as of late with some of my friends… that is when we can tear ourselves away from discussing the drama of Weinergate or Paris Hilton’s latest reality show.  There appears to be some confusion on some of the guy codes associated with the bathroom and I blame it all on our education system.  Just kidding, we all know it’s the fault of liberals.  Regardless, this situation must be corrected or there will be big trouble come the next Rapture prediction.  Clearly god will not take the risk of someone crossing streams or heaven forbid someone talking on their phone while in the stall.  In an attempt to document the major rules, I decided to go ahead and make a reference post…. and to give my friends the ability to quickly look up some protocols before using the bathroom at work.  Amazingly, I was able to find some notes I made about 10 years ago on this subject to use as a starting point (some of the points on that old list were cryptically written and I am having some trouble understanding what those entries were for – needless to say I may have been under the influence of alcohol when that was first penned).  Please post comments if you need a further explanation, desire to contest a rule, want to add some additional rules or maybe even need a call on a sticky situation.

Hit the Jump to see the Guy Code Rules for Bathroom Etiquette

Continue reading The Guys Guide to Bathroom Etiquette – A Work in Progress

Book Recollection: SEAL Team One

Having been a little disappointed that my last few book recollections did absolutely nothing to the original reading commitment stack, I decided it was time to get with the program or I’ll be putting a DNF next to that goal. Those who know me should understand how angry failure makes me, so when it came time to pick a new reading subject I headed right to the stack. In honor of the recent accomplishment of SEAL Team Six in taking out a spineless terrorist living in relatively luxury compared to his brainwashed followers, I selected SEAL Team One. This book was the first effort from Dick Couch who has become one of my favorite authors. You may recall my growing collection of his with the previous Chosen Soldier post and the Down Range read. This book originally came out in 1990 to great acclaim for its authenticity to a true deployed team SEAL experience. The back cover even has an endorsement by Stephen Coonts, an author whose complete portfolio I’ve completely devoured.

Unlike the other two books from Dick, this one is more story based than the other more technical skills based offerings. The story focuses on the main character James McConnell as he progresses through the SEAL training program and first deployment to Vietnam. This is not a biographical account of Dick’s own experience in the Vietnam War (yes, he is a SEAL), but rather a composite of experiences and events of his tour along with those of his fellow SEALs deployed in the region. Unlike Dick’s other books, he went through the training experience pretty quick leaving an open canvas to paint the life of a SEAL team leader as he plans, executes and deals with the aftermath of combat missions in the jungle. The book is first person from Jim’s perspective allowing you to get the true emotions involved and probably more surprising, peeling back the layers of dirt, grime, sweat, ego and conviction to convey the fear and sadness that they must deal with in their role.  As with the Lone Survivor book this read puts your supposed difficult days in perspective.  It is kind of hard to get too down because your boss needs a hot report while there are soldiers crawling through the jungle in total darkness playing a game of cat and mouse with weapons capable of producing a most violent death.  As I was reading about Jim’s numerous excursions up the Vietnam waterways I found my inner voice routinely asking could I do what these characters were doing, could the fire teams rely on me to make the right decisions while being chased down by VC or would I hesitate or worse freeze putting my team in further peril.  I may be able to tell myself the answer to that, but the comforting fact is I’ll likely never have to find out for sure.  This in part to the fact there are people out there who are willing to volunteer to put themselves in harm’s way for the safety of our country.  This is definitely one of the reasons it infuriated me when I found out Disney was trying to copyright SEAL Team Six after OBL was taken out.  SEALs have never asked for personal recognition of their feats yet some marketing clown thinks it would be good to slap an ear hat on their military organization.

I’ll leave details for the recollection list, but there was a personal eerie moment while reading this book.  Deep into the book I was engrossed in the storyline and asked myself “where do these decisive people come from?”  Three sentences later, Dick’s main characters asks the very same question.  I do not know the answer to that question, but one thing is for certain, thanks to Dick Couch I have a much better understanding of what it takes to be a member of our elite fighting forces.

Hit the jump for the takeaways:

Continue reading Book Recollection: SEAL Team One