I Mock Your Quota Concerns

Let’s see, a one, a two, a three, a four, a five… uhhh a five…crap! I’m guessing everyone out there is figuring this time I was surely beat. Even with the late blitz I’m STILL one short for the monthly quota. Is it time to panic, time to break out the shame sign and walk the local mall?  That would be a big fat NOPE. One advantage of being so far behind on processing my photo shoots is I have a lot to choose from when in a bind. Like the Copperhead posting (link here), I’ve opted with pulling one off the back of the FIFO queue.

This a brand new bird to the blog and to my birding list.  My brother once asked me if there were birds that  could be considered common that I haven’t had the opportunity to shoot yet.   The answer to that thought provoking question is “yes”.  One of the birds that has surprisingly alluded me is the Purple Martin.  For a bird supposedly in everyone’s backyard around my neck of the woods, it has failed to make its way into my tin.  Another supposedly common bird that was lacking from the list is this one – the Northern Mockingbird.  Not so common around where I am, but definitely inhabits a large cross section of places Linda and I have been while out on shoots.   As you can see, that is no longer the case.

This particular specimen was found while we were visiting  the Biltmore Estates near Ashville,  North Carolina.  We actually spent two days exploring this amazing place.  The first day we arrived in the late afternoon and opted to simply explore the grounds and save the house viewing for the next day.  When we first arrived the first thing I noticed was how perfectly laid out and clean the grounds were – it was like someone had handpicked the placement of every element of the forest.  To my surprise, this ended up being the case as the construction pictures revealed that there was nothing in the area when the house was built.  Along with that, they also cared for a massive flower garden.  Clean forest and tons of flowers – what better conditions can you ask for when in search of birds.    I’ll probably go into detail in a later post on the house, but we managed to pull a Big Ben, Parliament moment when we got there.  Somehow we managed to miss the parking lot turnoff which meant we had to traverse the entire grounds a second time before we could get out and explore.  If you have never been there, let me tell you, that is not a short drive.

Check out how much meaner this bird looks when you are head on – I can imagine how prey must feel – well, those with eyes – they are omnivores.

Hit the jump to even more pictures of the Mockingbird!

Continue reading I Mock Your Quota Concerns

Heat Treat Complete

Seems like just yesterday I was being treated to an ambulance ride to our favorite Emergency Room.   If you recall, there was an “incident” after one of my long runs that left me a ummm let’s go with less than fresh (link here).  Since that episode I’ve slowly been working my way back to running form.  From a residuals perspective it was pretty clear that the heat stroke took at least 30 seconds off my pace and as warned more susceptible to the heat.  Essentially the body would start to panic as soon as it felt the temp going up and just start sweating profusely – pretty much premature panic.  Each training run I tried to get more conditioned to the weather and gradually increased the mileage eventually topping out at 9 miles, 2 miles short of the incident mileage.  The reason for the continued push to get back in running form was primarily due to the fact the Bix 7 was just around the corner.  No rest for the wicked and the Bix hills are nothing to take lightly.  Well, race day was last Saturday and as you can tell from the fact this post exists, I survived the first real test since the escort to the hospital.

The Bix 7 isn’t usually a medal event, but thanks to it being the 40th anniversary of the race they broke out the medals.  This was a nice addition to the 3oth and 35th anniversary medals already hanging on my walls.  More importantly, the cool medal was enough to motivate my friend Sung to run the race with me.  He has recently started to run as part of his new health kick which has provided some amazing results.  If you recall he went up with us to complete the Bix@6 training run a few weeks back.  The success of that effort coupled with the opportunity to get a trophy for the wall was enough to convince him to sign up for the real thing.  In addition to Sung, another friend, Ryan, was also signed up to experience the mega-party.  The recruiting effort is going well, Rhonda and Ron were also there to participate in their second year (hope they got their pins) – once you experience the Bix you definitely want to set plans for attending the next year – one of the funnest races in the area for sure.  We were unable to meet up with Rhonda and Ron before the race but (from L to R) Ryan, Sung and I were able to take the traditional pre-race shot together.

Hit the jump to read how everything turned out

Continue reading Heat Treat Complete

It’s a Sweep

So it’s mid Summer which is a very important time around here at LifeIntrigued. Sure, it’s the heart of running season but there is another race of sorts that is just as important to me and one in which the results can have a lasting (as in a year’s worth) of impact. Unlike running where the competition is between me and my less than amused inner voice, this particular race is between myself and my wife. Yes, we are talking about the highly competitive photography contest we affectionately refer to as the UB Battle. If you recall last year was hard fought with the victory going to yours truly (link here).  I guess for clarity it really meant the umbrella handle was firmly in Linda’s hands.  With the new year, a whole new batch of photographs had to investigated and the candidates painstakingly poured over.  If you really want to add some stress in your life try taking your “babies” and deciding which ones are worthy of public viewing.  In the past I’ve often relied on Linda to be my final critic once the set was whittled down to a manageable number.  Knowing how much she hated losing last year (and how painful it was to hold the umbrella for me all year) I wasn’t sure how objective that process was going to be.  To offset any bias there, I also employed my brother and his wife to help make the final choices.  The final responsibility (and all blame) still lies with me but having a third and fourth set of eyes is extremely helpful in this nerve racking process.

Now, in the past there has been some wiggle room in determining the UB.  Maybe the rules were slightly vague in a particular area or the scoring may have been open for a different interpretation.  Hell, there were even outside conditions such as expert critics making comments that clearly played into a people’s choice vote.  The good news is this year there is no question who the winner is and therefore who the UB is.  Quite frankly it was a clean sweep on all fronts but we’ll go ahead and throw a small lifeline out just to lessen the blow.

So we’ll start with the HOI Fair results.  Each of us selected our best efforts and put them out there to be judged.  This year I went with two color 8×10’s, 4 color 11×14’s and one BW 11×14.  Linda went with 1 color 8×10, 4 color 11×14’s, 1 BW 11×14 and two entries for the special pet portrait category they had this year.  When we went to check the results I was somewhat stunned that I had earned two Honorable Mentions – one in the 11×14 color category and on in the 8×10 – Yeah!!!

So you might have noticed there is actually a third picture in the frame – a BW selection that was submitted by Linda.  Turns out that later in the evening Linda got a call indicating they had disqualified a BW winner (no explanation as to why) and that her picture was the next one in the ranking order so they awarded her an Honorable Mention as well.  A big congratulations to Linda for her first ribbon in the large pond – well done!  That gave us three HMs for the HOI fair – the most we’ve ever taken and the most for both of us individually.  We are slowly breaking the code for that venue.

Hit the link to see all the images entered and more importantly .. the result so of the county fair!

Continue reading It’s a Sweep

Project: Losing My Mancard

Still trying to get the body regulated after yesterday’s race so figured it was a good time to ummm how should I put it … put myself up for public shaming.  At least some major chastising from my male friends thanks to a little project I completed last weekend.  I was going to hold off on this until I could get it buried in a high output blog month but Linda has already announced the end product to the world thanks to Facebook and who knows when there will ever be a high output blog month – this is in light of the very apparent issue of it being near the end of the month and light on the entries so far this month.  Using the band-aid principle, best to just get this over with and feel the heat (which technically brings us full circle since that is exactly what I did yesterday).

So, not a new revelation that I will often try to make something for Linda on special occasions.  Not so much that I’m creative or really gifted at it as much as Linda rarely provides me any ideas on what to get her on these occasions.  She’ll point to her Amazon Wish List as a source only to find out there isn’t really anything there that costs more than $2.50.  She should really rename that to the I Wish Brian Total Frustration List.  Knowing this is always an issue I swallowed my pride and looked to better resources for ideas.  I had read about Pinterest and was aware that was predominantly a female hangout.  If you want to take pictures of exotic animals you go to the zoo so it seemed logical if you want craft ideas for women.. go to the zoo.. I mean where the crafty women are.  I won’t go into the long drawn out story of getting into that site and sifting through way to much content to finally find the craft sources.  What I did easily find is a storm of references to a craft idea related to Nail Polish Flowers.  There were hundreds of links that eventually all ended up at a non-English site called guang.taobao.com (link here).   Clearly there was nothing on this site I could actually interpret and it essentially just had a set of pictures somewhat outlining how to do it.  Intrigued, I “pinned” it for future reference not expecting to have to use it less than a week later.  Sure enough the calendar gods tricked me into thinking there was plenty of time before our anniversary (funny how that is becoming a general theme across all aspects of my life).  When realization set in it was too late to pry out any suggestions from Linda so went with the standard mega-flowers option and set to work on something more creative as icing on the cake.  Still being fresh in memory, the recent pin came to mind and plans were set in motion.

The project seemed relatively simple – raid you wife’s vanity for nail polish, run to Menards for some wire, grab a  few basic tools and 10 minutes later have a cool gift she will forever cherish.   This early assessment turned out to be a completely WRONG.  I did find some nail polish without Linda finding out (that would have been a difficult discussion) and even found some thin gauge wire at Menards – silver as well as green figuring it would work well for the stem.  Grabbed some pliers,  a drumstick, a piece of wax paper and went to work.

Note, the three to the far right were the items I procured from Linda’s vanity, the three on the left were future purchases as a result of wanting to try out some additional ideas to put my stamp on the idea.  Linda found it quite amusing helping me pick out some options at the local drugstore.

Hit the jump to read about how to make them and some shots of the finished product

Continue reading Project: Losing My Mancard

Wait, That Head’s Flat

This month on flying by and I’m running a little behind on my posts. This of course is nothing new around here at LifeIntrigued but things have definitely been hectic as of late. We did just get back from a quick vacation out east to see hurricane Arthur. Well, not exactly to SEE Arthur but sure enough as soon as we picked our vacation destination the weather gods decide to throw us one of the few hurricanes that has hit the US in some time (a slap in the face to the current administration that keeps claiming Globull Warming is going to produce horrendous hurricanes, frog plagues and whatever else they can try to claim to push their hidden agendas). For the record, Arthur hit us with a category two and based on observations at the NC Outer Banks did relatively minor damage. It did manage to get us half off our camp site for a night since the pool wasn’t open yet. This being kinda ironic since our site was 20 feet from a sand dune that stood between us and the OCEAN!

In light of being behind and almost giving up any hope of ever being caught up on photo shoots, I’m going to break from tradition and jump right to the new stuff. I know, I know crazy talk. Going all out here and bringing you something that hasn’t been featured yet on the blog (at least I can’t recall) and that is partly due to the risk of having to sleep in the shed…..

I can only imagine the “talk” I’m going to get as soon as Linda sees this post.  My only out (and why I chose this time) is that today is our Anniversary and I made her something special to celebrate the occasion.  There might be a future post on that but trying to figure out if it is worth revealing that at the risk of losing my mancard.

So, we found this nice specimen while coming back through the Smokey Mountains on our way home.  Going out was all about the birds so on the reverse we were trying to find as many waterfalls as possible for Linda.  One of the reasons for heading through Ashford NC was due to the fact they had a lot of waterfalls.  One of these that Linda tracked down on Google was located in Gorges State Park  (link here).  For starters, that park has one of the nicest visitor centers we have ever seen – even tops most of the national park visitor centers we have been in.  A quick trip in there confirmed the waterfall location and what later figured out was incorrect trail mileage.  The ranger gave us twice the distance not knowing the distance he had was round trip.  This meant the 1 mile trip to the selected waterfall was only a quarter mile down and back.  As we were heading out of the center to the designated parking area Mr. Slither was basking in the sun on the other side of the road.  Based on how bad the birding was that week I jumped out of the car and went to work – Linda actually thought the snake was dead which is the only reason she stopped the RV at all.

On the contrary it was quite alive but relatively subdued to my presence.  Thanks to The Beast a safe distance could be maintained.  All of the snakes that I’ve come into contact with the exception of the Water Moccasin (or Cottonmouth) have been non-venomous.  The tell-tale round shape of the head was always the standard safety checkoff.  This particular snake didn’t seem to fit that profile so went to check out the head.  Sure enough, this one was flat and diamond profiled which means keep the ‘F’ away (think there is probably a common rhyme to help remember that like poison ivy but that is my memory jogger hehehe).   Okay, so there will be no picking it up.  Again, due to The Beast a proper safety zone could be maintained.  Thankfully there were no other cars on the road.

Hit the jump to see and read more about this slithery encounter

Continue reading Wait, That Head’s Flat

Easy Pleasy

Heat StrokeOn July 3rd Linda, myself and two of my friends headed up for a Bix practice run.  If you happen to be new to the blog in the last year then you may not know that the Bix7 is my premier run of the race season.  This is the race that started it all so many years ago and definitely the most enjoyable of the lot.  As in the past, I like to get a practice run in just to set expectations.  The two big hills in that race are nothing to be taken lightly – always good to know ahead of time how much of a struggle it is going to be.  For this particular race, there was another reason for self validation…. but will get to that in a bit.  This year Sung made the trek up there with us.  He has been getting himself in shape and has lost an impressive amount of weight from a healthy diet and getting back into running.  This was his second Bix training run and had intentions of going a little further than his previous 4 to 5 mile.  His current 10K training program had put him around 6 miles but that was flat outings.  The plan was to stick with him to help him negotiate however far he felt like going with a side benefit of forcing myself to take it easy.  In the end, Sung made it over both hills and completed the course giving him two PRs in the process – the longest distance yet (7.3 miles – way ahead of his 10K program) and at an average pace of 11:07 which again was his fastest yet.  I find it always helps when someone is talking to you the whole time so chatted him up the entire distance.  On my front, that pace puts me 2 to 3 minutes over my standard pace so that part of the plan came out perfect as well.  Nice and easy, got to enjoy running with a good friend and the fact that I completed it without issue pleased me GREATLY!!

Now find out the cause for caution by hitting the jump to read about a scary experience

Continue reading Easy Pleasy