Another UB Competition in the Books

It’s times like these I truly appreciate it when I get ambitious early in the month and crank out most of the quota before … well … today.  Par for course, I’ve been busy this month with some projects, training and even birding with my brother.  The good news is Project Auuurrnooold is coming along nicely.  The drop ceiling is going in much easier now that I’ve had one room to learn on.  Without a doubt, a third hand is clearly the next evolution stop.  To cap off this month we have the sweep in non-birding posts.  Thanks to Ron getting sidetracked on insects I have a little extra time before upping the bird list.  Besides, you want to hear about this year’s UB contest results don’tcha!?!

Sure you do.  Linda’s year of being the UB had come to a close.  From an assessment perspective she definitely gets kudos for driving me to birding locations both intra and inter state and even managed to get me some cool +1’s to add to the Bird List.  She did such a good job that I’ll even overlook a little incident in the Georgia Swamps.  There will be more on that trip in the future but as a teaser – Linda ..err, the 2014/2015 UB abandoned me out in the field.  Rather than stay with me and keep an eye on an alligator that was sizing me up for lunch, she ran.  She literally left me there as Gate Bait.  The UB guidelines are still being painstakingly reviewed, but I am pretty sure that might qualify as a violation resulting in defaulting another year of UB!

Fortunately, we do not need to wait around for the results of that review because this year’s contests came out favorable to yours truly.  This year we added a new venue to the competition – the Princeville IL. Fine Art Fair focused on artist in the area.  Each of us submitted entries into that event (my Cardinal and I think Linda entered a couple of her Jubilee pictures).

That event netted me a first place and Linda a got a second, third and a fourth.  A Doerfler sweep and 1 major point for me in the UB Competition.

2015 Photography Competition

Hit the jump to see how the rest of the results came out!

Continue reading Another UB Competition in the Books

Book Recollection: Think I’ll Take Advice and Give Up

Think Like a Freak

Welcome to the fifth installment of “It’s not a bird” posts.  I can feel the love from all you bird haters out there hehehe.  Clearly my reading as of late has taken a backseat due to having way too many projects in progress at the moment.  Luckily I was able to get a quick book in during our last vacation to the Georgia swamps.  Today’s recollection is their third book in the Freakenomics series from Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.  The first book was extremely entertaining and informative.  I recommend it to all my friends and anybody who wants to understand the power of economics to solve everyday issues.  Then came Super Freakenomics which I listened to via audio book.  That was a bit of a letdown but I still had some takeaways.  I am not as apt to recommend that book to people unless they are absolutely craving additional economic insights.  To be honest, I thought it rehashed too much of Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers offering (link here).  If you want to know what it takes to be a pro or tops in your sport read that book instead.  Then the third book came out and decided to put it on my wish list.  Linda ended up surprising me and getting it for me as a gift so I saved it for the upcoming trip.  First thing is the book didn’t last me the trip – only about three short days of travel and I was done with it.  This was especially irritating since I had not brought a backup which resulted in wasted reading days.  The second comment is it was found wanting.  In my opinion, a definite step down from the other two offerings.  It felt like they were just cranking out a book with material that didn’t make the other two and decorating it with a narrative about how you could learn to think like a freak.  Now that I’m done with it I can summarize my key takeaway as .. quitting is a viable option.  Apparently to think like a Freak means to consider quitting endeavors.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much this contradicts with my personal philosophy.  I do not believe in quitting unless that is the absolute last option and I’ve given everything available to try and push it over the goal line.  It isn’t so much the effort at hand as it is the impact it has on everything you undertake from that point on.  The minute you let the option of quitting get added you have involuntarily added that as an option in everything you do.  Miss a post quota – eh, I get it next month.. next month.. well, it doesn’t really matter since I already missed it last month and next thing you know you are Googling for the next time I am Cait instead of looking through your picture archives for interesting material.  As soon as you give up on a race every time it gets difficult you’ll be debating the option of stopping instead of putting the next foot in front of another.  Convince yourself you don’t need to go out and train for a race and quickly find out you’ll be hitting the snooze button instead of putting your bib on.  It may take longer, it may not look exactly as planned but to the very best of my ability it is going to have a bow on it.  To look forward to this book only to read a contradictory philosophy is a nasty kick.  Note, it isn’t that I do not get their point but they fail to understand the benefits that would have been obtained by not quitting – just example after example of someone who did something else.

There were a couple of interesting chapters.  The concept of admitting you do not know something is a refreshing approach to difficult decisions/expectations.  There are times when you do not have all the information or knowledge to weigh in on a decision.  It might take some extra time to obtain that or need to consider some alternatives before jumping to conclusions.  Whenever I hear someone that I trust admit they do not know the answer at that point in time I inherently trust them that much more.  This is something I’ll definitely take forward.  The other story took a fact I had known to a new level.  Somewhere in the past I read how ulcers were not due to stress (the early hypothesis) and instead became treatable with antibiotics.  This brought an end to a multi-billion industry that was treating the symptom and not the cause.  Turns out there was more to the story.  It is too disturbing to really go into detail here, but let’s just say the discoverer of this solution found it by testing HIMSELF.  This topic eventually drove down into a concept of shit swapping or more clinically sounding transpoosion.   This is probably a good time to get to the takeaways.  There were more than expected, but a lot of them were more reminders for future Trivia Crack questions as to true takeaways.  I’ll leave the choice up to you, but I’d probably find another book to invest time in.  It is always a bigger let down if you let your anticipation get too high which is probably coming into play here.

Hit the jump to read the takeaways

Continue reading Book Recollection: Think I’ll Take Advice and Give Up

Fit to be Converted

FitBit Charge HR Broken Band Sitting here waiting for the sun to go down a bit before a run so figured this would be a good time to make another post.  Like the time before this and the time before that and the time before that we once again have another bird free post.  For the record I sure expected at least a few dozen fan emails thanking me for this drought of feathers based on the amount of hate mail that shows up when I relish in them for extended periods.  Nope, nada, no sir, completely empty.  Oh well, I try.  Anyway, today’s post focused on a topic that hasn’t been touched in a while… Service.  Truth be told, it is usually a good thing there hasn’t been a lot of discussion on this topic because it means there was generally good experiences.  Today is in support of that hypothesis.  That good experience may have been amplified due to a bad experience followed by a bad experience followed by a bad experience followed by a bad experience.  Regardless, the good aspect warranted a mention because it is rare that I change an opinion of a vendor after a bad experience.

Let me walk you through the history real quick.  For Christmas, I bought Linda a health tracker.  After studying review after review I picked a Garmin product.  It fit Linda’s price point, had what I thought was the key features.  After talking about it she decided she would like the heart rate feature available on other models.  This resulted in re-investigating the options and deciding upon the Fitbit Charge HR.  Only problem .. it wasn’t available yet.  Deciding to pre-order we sat back and waited for it to arrive.  Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait…. after two months I sent them an email asking what the hold up.  Their response – we said 8-10 weeks..fine, I was at the 8 weeks – should have assumed it was going to be the worst case – strike one.  At 10 weeks I get an email saying.. sorry, we are going to be late – strike two, however, because of the delay we are taking 20% off your cost… some redemption.  It did finally show up and after some hardships getting it sync’d Linda was quickly tracking her steps, heart beat and whatever else that thing monitors.

Things were apparently going great until Linda informed me the strap had broken at the clasp!  strike 3.  This is not what I wanted to hear but it shouldn’t be too hard to get a new band, I’ve seen packs of Fitbit bands with different colors etc. at Best Buy so we’ll just go to Amazon and pick up a new plum one.   That was a total failure.  Not only were there no plum bands available.. there were NO bands available at all for the Charge HR.  I was flabbergasted – who would sell a product that you couldn’t replace the element that had the most likely fault point.  Bad engineering gets an automatic STRIKE FOUR – whiff on the pitch and get tagged out for good measure.  Only option was to contact Fitbit directly and at least voice our displeasure.  This task I gave to Linda (for Fitbit’s benefit – I was way over the edge).

Linda called them up (after spending forever to find their support number) and explained the situation.  Their response was something to the effect that it shouldn’t do that.  Duh!  They then started an information gathering phase along with an email address where they sent an incident number.  I am not exactly sure how the transaction on the phone went because I was not able to hear the entire conversation, but basically they agreed to replace the strap – sweet.  I remember her trying to confirm if she just waits for a box to send the bad one back in and then wait until they sent a new one.  That is when things took a change for the better.  The support person corrected her and told her to simply write the number they provided on a piece of paper and take a picture of the damaged strap with it.  Once done, simply email it back to him while he waited on the phone.  Wow, that was definitely a new approach.  Once he received the email he informed her a new one would be sent out immediately.  Oh, by the way, by “new” one I mean an entire new Fitbit .. not just the strap.  I will contend they did screw up their design since the strap CANNOT be replaced on this model without getting an entire new unit.  In closing, Linda asked them if there was a charge involved .. NOPE.  Totally free to us and they didn’t even want the broken one back even though it was just the strap that had the issue.  The unit was working fine other than that.  I thought that was a nice recovery for Fitbit to the point I actually took them off my quasi-ban list.  Other than the troubles getting it, Linda likes the Charge HR and seems to be giving her the data she wants.  She likes to tell me how many steps she was able to crank out for the day or high her heartbeat got during an agility run.

On a side note, the Fitbit is trying to move in on our relationship.  She woke up one day and the display said SMOOCHES.  Back off Charge!! – You’ve been warned

Another Bix7 in the Books

This has to be a new record over the last year or two – not one, not two but three non-birding posts in a row.  Basically, I am just buttering you up because you are about to get hit with another wave of birding posts.  Just trying to quell the growing pile of hate mail from all the non-birders out there.   I am an equal opportunity time waster.  Having just completed my second half marathon distance training run in 4 days, figure it would be appropriate to get a running related post out.  So today I bring you the results of the Bix 7 race – you know, that annual race in Davenport, IA that goes for a paltry 7 miles (unless you take that right turn at the top and go for the 2 mile alternative)

…. and this is how I felt afterwards!

2015 Bix 7 Race in Davenport IA

As bad as that looks it is still not INSIDE the ambulance.  Actually we were just goofing around, I didn’t feel that bad at the end but it was harder on me than expected.  Unlike the last couple of years, the weather gods were not helping out as much.  Sure missed those colder starts from the previous years, but still not as bad as it has been – being at the end of July, you can start tipping the mercury in the mid-80’s at the start only to spiral down into a sticky mess half way through the race.

2015 Bix 7 Race in Davenport IA

Hit the jump to see how the race turned out!

Continue reading Another Bix7 in the Books

Operation Display It, See It, Sell It

Welcome back everyone.  Today happens to be a dog show day and we all know what that means don’t we !?!  Yep, plenty of time just waiting around for the next runs which translates to a perfect time to bust out another post.  Keeping with the non-bird theme let’s go with a show and tell entry.  It has  been awhile since we have had one of these (at least that I can remember) to the point I kinda feel like a slacker – although all free time has been invested in finishing up project Aaaauuuurrrnnnnoooollld.  The topic today is an addition we made to our photography business.  Linda is starting to get a lot of attention with her dog photography and even has a major dog show event coming up in a month or so.  She had asked me for a better way to display our wares.  Of course this was met with procrastination until the day before one of her shows last week.  Guilt stricken I headed down my favorite PVC aisle and planned something out.

PVC Picture Frame Display

Key design points was it could not fall over and had to handle a variety of sizes – particular the large 13x19s down to the more standard 8×10 framed offerings.  As per all my PVC projects a (very) rough concept is sketched out and the rest is designed either in the store or during the build process.  Concerned about the stability element a general collection of 1″ connectors were purchased and 10 5′ sections of pipe – usually I’d buy the larger size but did not want to bother tying them down in the truck.  They were also the same price whether cut or not so advantage anyway.

Hit the jump to read how this frame was put together!

Continue reading Operation Display It, See It, Sell It

Click Click Click Went the Kit

Another month and the quota resets.  Last month was a big posting month as I tried to get as many in before going through the rigor of updating my Birding Life List.  I realized while doing that why I do not do it more frequently – IT’S A LOT OF WORK!  But now that it’s done I can start building up for the next list update.  So to kick the new cycle off right let’s go with another bird post…

What!?! I know, I know, I promised a non-birding post last time.   Well, I always try and keep my promises so time to check out the queue and see what options are available.  Hmmmm bird, bird, another bird, hey that bird is cool, a bird… a bird…. wow, I have a lot of bird posts still in the queue.  Wait a minute, hold the presses.  That isn’t a bird – score.

This is a story of a mother and her kits living out West in the beautiful but dangerous confines of Yellowstone National Park.  One sunny afternoon the mother – let’s call her Foxy – was keeping a keen eye on her surroundings.  Looking straight, looking left, looking right and always keenly aware of what was behind her.   Ears up, threat assessing all that came within her sight perimeter.

Foxes shot at Yellowstone National Park

And why was Foxy in such an highly alert state?  Because her most valuable assets were out and about enjoying the fine Yellowstone afternoon.  Assets that had many enemies and little capability to defend themselves. These precious assets were, of course, her kits.  Each was busy doing what kits do best – playing.  One was busy stalking an unwary intruder

Click Click Click went the Kit

Foxes shot at Yellowstone National Park

Hit the jump to see how this little story turns out

Continue reading Click Click Click Went the Kit