Life’s Toolbox – The Voltmeter

Once again, I’m on the road and taking the opportunity to close out the post quota for the month. I must congratulate myself for making it through the entire month without a single bird picture. Just a little relief from the barrage last month… and a break since next month will once again be all about our feathered friends – not sure yet if it will be from our Banner Marsh outing our vacation up in Wisconsin over Easter. I can tell you are already filled with excitement. Today is actually a new topic to the blog and one I’ve been kicking around for awhile. There are tools/devices that have been around for the ages yet still play a pivotal roll in our life (well, at least mine). The ones I wanted to focus on are those that really have not changed in functionality or operation. For example, I’m ruling out the cell phone – granted it really hasn’t been around all that long – but the sexy smartphones of today are far cry from the bag phones of yesteryear. So, the guidelines are it has to have the same basic functionality that it had when I became aware of it and still providing value today.

The inaugural entry in what I am referring to as Life’s Toolbox is … drum roll….the Voltmeter. One of the reasons for this choice is due to recently having to employ it to fix my tractor. My brother originally showed me how to use this device when I was growing up and we were geeking it up modifying the Commodore 64 and testing out other circuit boards – by the way, the Radio Shack experiment set should be mandatory for ALL grade schoolers. I had a number of circuit logic classes in college and oh, there was that electronic circuit class I took just for fun one summer back – I was driving over there for some Psych classes and figured I’d just stay an extra hour and compliment my human wiring classes.

Since those days tinkering with breadboards, the voltmeter has never been far -nor has the voltmeter changed one iota. I have the same one I acquired in college and used exactly the same way I did back then. Whenever something electrical breaks around the house our need to figure out what the hell our electricians did while building our house (looooong story there), I start slapping the probes on any wires I can find. This was the case when my old John Deere decided to become stubborn. I have a 316 that was built in 1985 and a 212 built in 1975 which are used as brush and trail mowers in order to keep the wear off our X500. Nothing can stop that 212 even though its used as a trail blazer in the woods. The 316 can be a little finicky and this time it wouldn’t turn over. Alright, into the garage it went and out came the voltmeter.

Hit the jump to see how the voltmeter recently came in quite handy

Continue reading Life’s Toolbox – The Voltmeter

Our Prehistoric Visitor

Wow, I thought last month was a lot of work to meet my quota, but this month has not been ANY easier.  It would probably be simpler if I started a little earlier in the month (or actually pre-wrote the posts, but I’m not going there!)  Today’s entry is coming to you from the road as were on our way to Lincoln to meet the parents.  Since there isn’t much else to do in the car I’ve cranked up the laptop along with the Verizon hotspot and  here we are.  Before you panic, Linda is driving.  If you recall from yesterday, we recently had a unique visitor to the homestead (link here).  Turns out this was not the only interesting creature to find its way to our place.  As some background, I had spent a significant amount of time reworking our landscaping.  This included removing the crappy mulch we had used previously, putting down all new fabric and back filling with all new mulch (about 3 tons of it).  To be honest, it looked pretty awesome when it was all done – a nice reward for all the hard work.  Unfortunately, that lasted less than a week.  One night something decided to dig holes all over the mulch pulling up sections of fabric in various places.  I was pissed and spent a significant amount of time hurling insults (my mother would not be proud) at the raccoons that were clearly responsible for this vandalism.  This started an annoying loop of fixing the holes, waking up to more holes the next day, hurling insults, fixing holes… you get the picture.  One Saturday night we came home around 1am and sure enough the mulch was torn up again.  The fabric was ripped up more than usual this time with what appeared to be a new sense of vigor.  Our youngest poodle (and largest at 10 pounds) made its way from the car and made a beeline to one of our bushes.  To my surprise it wasn’t for the reason I expected – he started sniffing around in a cautious manner that caught my attention.  On closer investigation I noticed THIS!

I have seen a lot of turtles in my lifetime but this has to be the largest specimen I have ever seen outside of captivity.  I did make a quick apology to the raccoons in the area.  This moment was not going to be wasted so I dashed off for the camera .. after, of course, getting our dogs safely inside.  To be honest I have never really engaged turtles before.  I’ve moved a boxer turtle off the road before but I was very naive when it came to this creature.  Want to know how naive?  Well, the first thing I thought of was to provide a size reference so all my readers would have a good understanding of the situation.

Be sure and hit the jump to see how this turned out (I think you’ll get a few chuckles

Continue reading Our Prehistoric Visitor

A Giant Leopard Came By My House Today

It was a little bit scary around here last week.  Linda came back into the house and informed me there was something worth checking out on the porch.  To her credit, she is usually dead on when it comes to knowing what types of things intrigue me enough to go and take a gander.  This was no exception.  Before you jump to any conclusions, Linda is not out there really looking for fodder for my blog.  The truth is she is out there keeping an eagle eye out for anything that might be slithering around.  It is a relief when she comes back in and calmly tells me to go check out something, otherwise all hell breaks loose and off I go to get the hoe.  Otherwise it’s a quick trip to the kitchen to get the macro mounted camera to capture the moment.  This was one of those times.  Turns out a Leopard had made its way to our humble dwelling.  This was not just any old leopard, this was a GIANT leopard.

Okay, so it wasn’t one of the cats… otherwise that might have been the end of this blog unless I was able to make it back to the AR in time.  Nope, this was actually the Giant Leopard Moth and to the best of my recollection the first time I’ve ever witnessed one around here.  When it comes to moths, these have to rank right up there with the coolest.  As you can tell, they are predominantly snow white with the traditional leopard print dominating their markings.  What turned out to be difficult to capture was the brilliant blue detail in the legs and along their undersides. After taking a number of pictures from its resting spot under our porch, I decided to delicately try to relocate it for some better angles.  I usually hate to mess with insects out of fear of injuring them and I know that even small contact with their delicate wings can lead to loss of flight causing an imminent demise.  In this case I spent 15 minutes slowly bringing a piece of mulch in contact with the legs and worked the stick into place whenever it shifted its legs.  Slowly it made its way onto the stick and I lifted it out to a resting place on top of the stoop.  To the moth’s credit it was pretty docile and really didn’t mind all the hoopla with the camera.  It basically just sat there and twiddled the antennas (is that the right plural?.. might be antennae).   In the new position, I could capture the top markings much better.

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of our visitor

Continue reading A Giant Leopard Came By My House Today

Movie Recollection: Rock of Ages

“Hello, My name is Brian and I (was forced) to go see Rock of Ages the movie. [all] Welcome Brian!” Phew, now that the first step is over I am clearly on the road to recovering my manhood.  Actually, it is even worse than that.  Not only did I go to the cinema, I’ve also seen the play.  That probably cost me at least 100 yards from the He-Man Woman Haters Clubhouse.  Before you dial up the jokes let me say that both events were date nights and Linda paid me back by going shooting with me last Saturday (and I’m not talking about a shutter, more like .22s, 9mm  and 45’s YES!).. but enough of the interesting stuff, back to the crap.. I mean the movie.  As a start let me reiterate my complete disgust at the cost of actually going to a movie these days .. (with the exception of the last theater I went to – link here).  Tickets were $7.50 a piece which is isn’t too awful, but two small drinks and a small popcorn cost us $12.00.  Do you realize how much you can get for $12 at Walmart?  You could probably feed a large family and still have some left over for an exhilarating game of miniature golf.

To say I my expectations were low for this movie would be a gross understatement.  It was basically a laundry list of things I can’t stand when it comes to entertainment

  • Tom Cruise (ugh – going to this movie broke my self imposed ban on anything he ever touches)
  • A musical (man was not put on this earth to go to musicals)
  • Tom Cruise
  • Any post High-Infidelity REO Song
  • and Tom Cruise

Eventually the movie started after an obnoxious amount of commercials followed by what appears to be trailers for an entire summer of bad movies.  Wasting no time at all, we were immediately thrown into the musical format when Julianne Hough starts in on Sister Christian.  Linda had to remind me she was the girl in the re-make of Footloose (dammit, that is another 50 yards from the clubhouse).  I am going to go on record as saying this woman needs better roles… umm… rather more roles as a stripper… wow.  Oh, and her pipes are not that bad either.  I’ll give some props to Diego Boneta.  I have no idea who he is, but again, did a pretty good job on the songs.  let’s contrast those performances with a horrible offering from Catherine Zeta-Jones whose stiff rendition in the church and an unbelievably bad dance send up to Michael Jackson’s Beat It will have you begging for reruns of Chicago to cleanse the mind.  The sad thing is that was still Academy Awards better than what came out from Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin.  I was already numb from seeing the play so their “big surprise” was lost on me .. for a multitude of reasons.  Brand has the ability to turn a side role into a scene stealer but this was definitely not one of those occasions.  Oh, and Mary J. Blige brought her ‘A’ game to the set as well.

So who is left…. that’s right Stacee Jaxx played by Mr. Scientology himself.  Picture me biting my lip right now as you read “Tom actually managed to pull it off”.  Even with my worst wishes, I have to admit he was able to perfectly channel deadbeat Axl Rose for this role which was a perfect choice.  A washed up, over hyped, self important carcass of a rock star… yep, pretty much sums up Axl for me and who Linda and I both thought of when we saw the play.  As far as his ability to sing, well we have paid to see a lot worse in concert – hell, we paid to see Sebastian Bach which managed to permanently scar Linda (she’d rather see Danger Kitty than ever see that train wreck again)

Now time to talk about a terrible trend in cinematography that must stop immediately, especially if the movie industry ever expects to continue reaping my hard earned money.  About a third of the way into the movie I looked over at Linda expecting to see a big smile on her face (if not from the movie, then watching me suffer through cheesy REO Speedwagon cover).  Instead, I see her looking a little pale and nauseous.  Linda is very sensitive to excessive camera movement and movies like Days of Thunder, Terminator 2 and the new Star Trek all have the distinction of forcing Linda to leave the movie before it was halfway through.  I think I’ve commented on just how bad Star Trek was with the Shaky Cam effect.  If you don’t believe me, re-watch the scene in the bar at the beginning of the movie – two stationary people having a drink in bar DOES NOT REQUIRE the camera to tossed around like an epileptic attack.  It is really just an overcompensation for the inability to frame up a scene.  Now that Linda had alerted me to camera movement it became very obvious.  The camera NEVER stood still for even a minute.  It would either scroll up from the bottom, down from the top or move left or right on every scene.  With the scotoma lifted, it was noticeable for the rest of the film… well, except the part we had to leave for a bit for Linda to clear her head.  To her credit, she agreed to tough out the rest of the movie, but this time we sat by the exit which also put us closer to the screen.  Oddly, this seemed to actually help Linda out which is the exact opposite of what I expected.  If that wasn’t bad enough, another annoying detail was soon picked up on.  The director chose to film the movie up close and personal.  I have a pretty wide personal circle (ask anyone and they’ll confirm).  Super close camera work forces the actors (and actresses) into that personal space which makes me very uncomfortable.  How do you know when you are too close … when you have to pan the camera back and forth to follow a conversation between two people standing next to each other or worse yet constantly scene flip back and forth.  UBER ANNOYING!  The funny thing is Linda has no problem watching these movies on our home TV.  Maybe we should just forget about the theater and watch everything at home… with our $12 Walmart feast.  Guessing the movie execs might be looking a little pale after reading that comment.

So there you have it.  Was it an awful movie… no, Was it an epic masterpiece.. no was it worth seeing for free (oops, did I mention our tickets were actually free?).. I guess.  If you go, see if you can locate some cameos in the protest audience (here’s a hint… REO).

Steamed Over

It’s June, the temperatures were cresting the 90’s once again and the humidity, well let’s just say it was another fine example of Midwest Summer. What does all this mean? Yes, once again I found myself standing in the starting gates at the 39th running of the Steamboat Classic Race held in Peoria IL. This race actually has a 15K, 4mile and now a 4K walk event. Like last year I went for the 15K because it’s considered Illinois’  Toughest 15K and I’m going to spend the time to train why not go big…. and what does that hard work get you? One of these and a big dose of pride.

Unlike last year (link here) I didn’t spend the night before in the bathroom and was basically feeling pretty good about my chances before the race.  Sticking with my tried and true routine, I had my spaghetti dinner the night before, normal breakfast, pack of Stingers, hydrated up as usual and put on the race orange.  Clearly a better pre-race picture than last year!

Hit the jump to read how the race went

Continue reading Steamed Over

Movie Recollection: [p]ROMETHEU[s] – warning spoilers

First off, Happy Father’s Day everyone!  My kids are a little odd in that they both have 4 legs and by human standards probably need a shave, but they woke me up with extra zest this morning (translated as slobbery licks).  Today I’m actually taking it pretty easy due to a strenuous event yesterday morning which will be a topic of an upcoming post.  I can’t think of a better way to relax than propping the feet up and banging out a post.  Today’s topic of choice is a recollection from last Thursday when a bunch of friends and I gathered to go see the latest from Ridley Scott.  For those not aware, this movie is considered a prequel to the hugely popular Alien series.  Admittedly, I was somewhat excited about this movie purely based on how high of an opinion I had on the first Alien film but at the same time a little concerned based on how bad the 2nd Alien vs Predator movie was (yeah, I was entertained by the first one probably due to the fact I am a huge Predator fan but the 2nd one was just awful).  For this outing we decided to hit Landmark’s Theaters which is one of the older theaters in the area and quite frankly has a tendency for interesting people watching.  The rest of the guys had a bad experience the last time they went there with some people in the audience behind them, but apparently not traumatic enough to sway their decision this time.  It should be pointed out that the ticket prices are very reasonable with $6 for the movie and a small popcorn/drink combination for $2 more.  Contrast that with the two small drinks and small popcorn that cost my wife and I $12 at the Rave Theater last night (that didn’t include the ticket which we actually had a pass for).

Hit the jump to see how I felt about this outing

Continue reading Movie Recollection: [p]ROMETHEU[s] – warning spoilers