Number 9 Number 9 Number 9…

Wow, it is getting down to the wire when I have to resort to a Beatles song for a blog title.  Think of it more of a mocking gesture like when I attend birthday parties and continually tell people “Well it’s my birthday too, yeah”…Yes, I dislike that band.  Anyway, it is literally one day left in the month and I have one post to go to make my quota.  Fortunately for me, I already had this topic planned and just needed make sure I had 5 posts in before today.  It may have been planned, but I needed to successfully complete something first.  If you have been around the blog for at least a few years you know the end of July brings a very important event for me in the running schedule.  The BIX7 race was held in Davenport IA this morning and I was there wearing my racing orange.

Linda took my traditional pre-race picture and I must say I look a lot happier than I did for the Steamboat Race.  I can contribute a lot of that happiness to not having a bad hamburger the night before.  In fact, we made doubly sure nothing like the night before Steamboat happened again.   Instead,  Linda made my favorite spaghetti recipe rather than risk  another carry out catastrophe.  In the past, this has been the race I’ve trained for all year.  Normally I would be peaking at 8 miles the week before the race with plenty of hill work and a healthy dose of 5K speed runs to get the leg turnover I wanted.  That was not the case this year due to a Life List event planned for later in the year that is pretty much getting my full training attention.  This year I lined up with a completely retooled body.  I probably hit the line at around 153 pounds as a result of a planned shedding over 12 pounds of weight since late last year (click here if you want details on some of the loss).  With the weight off I could focus on resetting the body to meet the demands of the future event.  This brought me to a peak of 12.3 miles but at the cost of my previous speed, losing at least a minute per mile on average.  With all that considered along with the Bix@6 training run earlier in July the initial projections was to come in around the 63 minute mark…. ummmmm that didn’t end up happening.

Hit the jump to read details of the race and see the all important post race pictures.

Continue reading Number 9 Number 9 Number 9…

Operation: Pesky Varmint Control

It has been awhile since I’ve embarked on an operation around here.  Most of my time has been spent training for some upcoming runs and dealing with the daily upkeep around the lot.  Unfortunately,  the catalyst for this effort is based in some sadness.  We had to say goodbye to an old friend this month.  While scouting out our lot to set the placement for the house, we became attached a tall sturdy oak in the middle of the woods.  In fact, we liked it so much we actually positioned our house around it so we could enjoy it from our windows every day.  There was a lot of construction near it which might have caused it some undue trauma or possibly succumbed to some tree pests invading the area.  In either case, the tree didn’t make it through the Spring and we had to put it down.

Not only did we lose an excellent source of shade, but I also lost my bird theater since our feeders were hung off its branches.  I literally have thousands of bird pictures as a result of that tree and it was heart tugging to watch it be ravaged by the chainsaws.  Once down my immediate concern went to how to keep from losing all the birds that had adopted my feeders.  In desperation I rigged a temporary solution off of the deck railing.  This sounded like a plan until I came home and saw this one day.

That would be a mother raccoon hanging onto the bird feeder in order to drop seed down to her 3 (actually 4) babies. Unbelievable how intelligent these creatures are. From that point on, those babies came back all day long to feast on whatever the birds dropped into the grass or porch. Of course, this included a passion for digging holes in search of any seeds that may have slipped into a crack. This is unacceptable and since I will not harm a young animal or an adult with its young I was forced to initiate Operation Pesky Varmint Control…for simplicity, lets call it Operation PVC. This was going to take something that can withstand the elements, be easy to work with and be a hindrance to bandits with thumbs. A trip to Lowes was in order and I knew just the aisle to start in. After about 6 hours across multiple trips to Lowes I had gathered the following.

If you are curious how all these fit together, hit the jump to see the rest of the post.

Continue reading Operation: Pesky Varmint Control

A View from the Zoo

Greetings from the road to Terre Haute.  Linda and I are on our way back home from our trip to French Lick (chuckle) and thanks to being so far behind on posts this month I have resorted to using our travel time to pump a few blog posts out.  Today we have a special treat and by that I mean a guest photographer.  The first stop on our mini-vacation was to the Indianapolis Zoo.  Linda and I loaded up all of our camera equipment and headed out for a day of mirror slapping.  Later that night, Linda post processed some of her pictures for her peeps on Facebook (sigh).  I must say, she produced some amazing shots and thought I would share them with you.  Let’s start with the big cats.

That cat came out tack sharp with nice detail in the fur.  The tiger also has a look of intent as it stares down a small child with a face painting of a deer… kidding, it was actually watching his mate (below) taking a morning swim.  In truth, I would hate to be a deer that came face to face with that killing machine.  The composition isn’t the only thing that impresses me about this particular shot.  The fact that it even came out at all is a credit to Linda’s photographic abilities.  The tiger was actually behind GLASS at high sun.  One might be able to dismiss this as pure luck (hints of a certain sunflower picture), but then she pulled out this shot.

She also captured the tiger’s mate taking a swim in their pond.  Again, tack sharp (check), captivating expression (check), difficult lighting (check) with the added composition element of reflection (score).  All that is plenty enough but yes, it was taken through the very same glass protecting it from us.  She actually manually focused these shots to compensate for the false glass readings.  My only credit point is I taught her how to take pictures in full manual exposure mode which she is now downplaying as just a refresher from her 35mm Pentax days.  This is probably a good time to point out that it was extremely hot the day we were there which is probably why a cat (notorious for not really liking water) decided to seek relief in the stream.  “How hot was it?… it was so hot, even the cheetahs had their sneakers off and lounging in the weeds.”

Although not through glass, this big cat shot was nicely done as well.  It was actually in mid sentence asking us if we’d be willing to get it a slurpy (antelope flavored) to help cool down.  One of the features at the Indy zoo was to test your speed against a cheetah.  I had heard the programmed announcer (Tony Stewart who helped fund this exhibit) initiating the races which were going off about 3 minutes apart.  I was actually feeling sorry for the poor cheetah having to continually race in blistering heat until I came upon the race site.  It was just an electronic simulation consisting of lights representing the cheetah’s speed above a single lane track for the human to run on.  If those lights were accurate, that cat can move!    The heat was getting to everyone that day and most of the animals were seeking any shelter they could find in their natural pens.  The polar bear below was taking a snooze when we first arrived at the zoo around 9:15am.

Hit the jump to see a few more great pictures of wildlife at the Indy Zoo

Continue reading A View from the Zoo

Bombs Bursting in Air

Greetings everyone from our hotel in French Lick Indiana (and no, I’ll never get tired of saying or typing that!).  Linda and I are on a mini-vacation to celebrate our 20th Wedding Anniversary.  To help bring back the memories from 20 years ago, the weather has decided to flashback as well and provide us a heatwave.  So it is in the high nineties this week which I am sure the Globull pundits are claiming are man-made, but for the record it was 105 in Iowa the day we got married which by my quick math was HOTTER than this week.  I’ll certainly save a post for our vacation experience, but as of now I am in a world of hurt on this blog.  I have less than a week to go and a lot of posts to get through.  With the training runs this week for the Bix7 next weekend and trying to get some blogs out, this mini-vacation feels a lot more like work.  But there is still time to pull this through, so let’s not waste anymore time.  In a continuation of the last post, I am bringing you some shots from a local fireworks display that happened on July 3rd. I just took a sampling for this particular post, feel free to stop by our photography website (eddiesoft.smugmug.com) to check out the rest of the images – actually the ones through post processing – there are still a number of them to get through from the Peoria display.

While reviewing the shots for post production, I was definitely in a less is more frame of mind.  Sure, the sky filling barrage and wall of sound is fun to watch, but a lot of the true beauty of the individual fireworks tend to get lost in all the light.  This also includes a wash out of an pictures if you are not careful about reducing your shutter speed or closing down the aperture when they start the huge displays.

There is definitely something in the simplicity that really appeals to me and I think highlights the creativity in designing and developing essentially missile (or rather a mortar) that delivers a specific pattern of light.  The last one is probably my favorite of the single firework pictures and one I’ll probably end up getting printed for my den (considering purple being my favorite color and all)  .  The following caught my attention from a Rorschach Test perspective.  Quick, what do you see in this shot?   If you said a headless praying mantis you are likely right there alongside me in the nut house.

Hit the jump to see more fireworks shots including my favorite one out of the entire set and some odd ones that caught my attention for their creepiness.

Continue reading Bombs Bursting in Air

The Most Annoying People at a 4th of July Celebration

Happy Independence Day everyone in America.  Always remember our freedom was not free.  When I was young, fireworks were legal (at least in Illinois) and we generally spent the weekend lighting up our Black Cats, Roman candles, rockets and all kinds of colorful fountains.  Today, of course, the legal sterilization of anything fun (spearheaded by insurance company lobbyists and over protective soccer moms I’m sure) has reduced the youth of today to looking on with gloom as carbon snakes smolder on the pavement and displays of mock enjoyment at throwing pieces of tissue paper on the ground to produce a sound slightly lower than a cap.  Those realizing just how inane that is usually whisk their kids into the car and head down to the local traffic jam they call a community fireworks display.  Linda and I try to make the best of it by hauling our camera equipment out and experimenting with slow shutter speeds.  Each year we encounter the same annoying types of people at these events and figured I would highlight them in hopes of stopping some of these trends – probably not going to happen, but at least I get to spend a post making fun of rude people.

The late arriver:

I have to put this at the top of my annoyance list because it breaks a common code of respect for other people who probably have no other course of action beyond just accepting the fact they have been victimized or doing something about it and likely spending July 5th in jail.  In blame of politicians who vote sterilization rules into law, community firework displays have evolved into big events drawing in lots of people from the surrounding areas.  Smart people are aware that is necessary to sacrifice a part of the day (length of time dependent on the investment in the the fireworks and distance to competing communities with their own show) to get situated in their favorite viewing spots.  Due to their disposable time, they are granted the privilege of selecting their choice spot.  I should point at this time, that I think it should be required that at least one of the party is in their chair for the duration of the reservation.  Running down early and throwing your chair in a spot and then hightailing it back to the air conditioner is a violation of the reservation integrity and should be subjected to having their seats moved to the back of the viewing area or into the water should you happen to be on the waterfront – by definition this means that seat reserving is generally only for parties of two or more since bathroom breaks could result in you having to dive in for your chair.  It is a good assumption that all the best viewing spots will be taken under an 1.5 hours before the show starts by individuals who have been sitting in their chair for hours possibly drinking lots of alcohol to help pass the monotony of having people ask them if the surrounding empty chairs can be hurled into the water.  Eventually the local radio announcer will get on the microphone to inform you of the one thing those in their seats ALREADY KNOW having looked at your watch every minute up to the moment he tells you the fireworks are going to start in 10 minutes.  In truth, this appears to be a signal to all the later arrivers to rush to the front of the walkway, fence, water’s edge (or whatever the natural barrier is between you and the gunpowder) and stand there.  I find this happen more in the larger city arenas (witnessed firsthand at Peoria’s riverfront a number of years ago), but lately it has been happening at the small community shows as well – take for instance last night at a local party down the street where all the hip college kids decided a blind person picked out their party spot and felt entitled to haul their coolers in front of the people who applied a little intelligence to their seating selection.  To be honest, those kids didn’t have a dramatic impact on the viewing since we were pretty close to where they were shooting them off.  Now the Peoria incident was a different story thanks to the launch angle of the fireworks and the difference in the levels of those standing and those sitting.  I kept my camera trained on some elderly couples up front waiting for something to come out of the arguments that were triggered.  Well, argument may be a strong word since that implies both sides engaged in a heated discussion where in this case the late arrivers simply ignored them and concentrated on the fireworks display they now had a perfect view of.  I think the only option in this case is to extend the chair rule to include throwing these idiots into the water as well… which brings us full circle to the July 5th comment.

Hit the jump to see a description of other annoying people encountered at celebrations of our Independence.

Continue reading The Most Annoying People at a 4th of July Celebration

Night Dwellers Part 3 – The Big, The Hairy and The Scary

So last post we brought out the big guns and showed you what the 200-400 Beast is capable of pulling in.  To contrast that, I figured I’d go all the way in the opposite direction and feature the 105 Macro glass for this post.  And the best picture opportunity for the Macro is?.. you guessed it, my porch.  Continuing the Night Dweller themed posts (here, here and here), I bring you the latest set of arachnids found late at night out here in the Midwest country.  Thanks to our toy poodles we often have the opportunity to check out the creatures that visit our house late at night.  As of late, the spiders look like they’ve been on a steroid kick resulting in some rather large specimens.  One night I stumbled on this huge spider and ran for the camera.

It always creeps me out a bit when looking through the macro glass.  The unassisted viewing reveals enough features to make your heart skip a beat, but add the full blown macro magnifications and it’s like you’re staring at creature from a bad B-Horror movie.  So there I was laying the ground taking pictures of this spider when a large moth dropped out of nowhere in striking distance from a natural predator.

This might get very interesting.  Both subjects remained very still which might have been due to my presence potentially interfering in the survival of the fittest experiment.  The small macro depth made it difficult to get both creatures in focus but it did create a nice effect.  (Yes, I had to manually fix the moth due to pet eye, but for my first attempt ever at it Photoshop it turned out pretty good).  After about 10 shots, there still wasn’t any movement between the two.  It reminded me of an Old West quick-draw, each waiting for the other to flinch.  Low and behold, another visitor showed up to take part.

The first thing that came to mind was the Mexican standoff from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  Unlike the Eastwood show, only one of these competitors had a loaded gun in terms of a bite and venom.  Now I am officially way beyond the  field depth for an eye level view so I moved up higher in an attempt to bring a little more focus into the shot.  The Opilione (or as we call them around here – Daddy Long Legs)  and Moth are still on the wrong end of this fight for survival, unless they can team up – maybe the moth does a 360 maneuver to land on top of the spider while the Harvestmen (another common name for the Opilione) pokes the spider’s eyes out with its long legs.  Although this might be more difficult that choreographed since the Harvestmen can’t make out images with their eyes and thus have to use the second set of legs as antennae to navigate the world.  Come for the pictures leave with trivia – what a deal!

By the way, I generally try to provide some reference for size since the macro has the ability to distort reality.  There was no way I was going to stick my finger in that mess.  Instead I tried to get the old standby penny visual in, but even that proved difficult due to my reluctance to get real close to the wolf spider.  Here is the best I could do … sorry!

I have a lot more pictures of our eight legged friends after the jump (if you dare)- most of them have the more traditional macro shots showing them up close and personal.

Continue reading Night Dwellers Part 3 – The Big, The Hairy and The Scary