Project Undead: Another Year, Another Haunt

Down to the wire now. Murphy has entered stage right and wreaking all kinds of chaos on my valiant attempts to make my blog quota for this month. Turns out my hotspot can’t even get a signal on one of the busiest highways in the Midwest. Everyone is excited about driverless vehicles and we can’t even get reliable Internet access driving on major highways. I envision some kind of Simpson’s episode where all the autonomous vehicles suddenly take a right turn off the road when then hit a dead spot. Well, no time to cry over spilt milk – I have typing to do (and hopefully upload if I ever get a signal again).

Decided the last post of month would focus on something that is taking a majority of the time left over after races and training. That’s right, I bring you the first of what is likely to be many posts on the road to Halloween. Our annual Halloween party is fast approaching which means work is picking up on the highlight of the night – the Trail of Tears our haunted trek through the woods. I say picking up, rather than start because the work on this trail is a year long event. Ask my wife who has to put up with all the decoration builds that are always cluttering up the basement. Thought I would give you glimpse at one of those new decorations

Zombie Build - Halloween 2017

Although it is tough for me to admit it around friends, I do hang out on Pinterest a lot. I get accused of being a soccer mom by Linda. Truth is, the haunters are all over that site and a great wealth of ideas. One of the links that caught my attention was a backlit witches scene someone had posted. This got me thinking that would be a good idea for the trail. Seemed simple enough, cut out some shapes, add some lights and presto – new scare. To switch it up a bit, I wanted to go with a zombie theme.  First task was to find some decent zombie shapes.  That ended up being a bit of work searching through the expanse that is the Internet.  Probably went through a couple thousand images and eventually narrowed it down to two – note, not sure the source of these images are, but all rights remain with that identity – this is a non-profit use and only documented here as a reference to the concept.  Those images were placed on a grid and printed out on a standard paper.  Using the tried and true method from my childhood, gridded up larger sheets of butcher paper and transferred images by hand.  The key was to minimize cost (a critical theme in my decoration planning).  I knew I wanted to use plywood, so that gave a 4×8 dimension to work with without having to invest in multiple sheets.  With a few tweaks and rearranging, I got it to fit.  Cut those larger versions out and laid them out on the plywood.  Note, Linda and I spent a loooong time in Menards trying to find the cheapest option.  Turns out, 3/4 sealed underlayment was the cheapest plywood choice – ~$15 a sheet.  A bit rough on one side, but nice and smooth on the top side.

Zombie Build - Halloween 2017

Hit the jump to see how these new decorations turn out!

Continue reading Project Undead: Another Year, Another Haunt

The Underwhelming, the Better and the Good

There are times to be concerned, times to fret and even times to worry.  This happens to be one of those situations where none of those fit.  Nope, this is those rare occurrences when I am in an all out PANIC!  For some stupid reason I thought it was still the middle of September.  This is likely due to outright denial that October was closing fast and I was running out of valuable runway to prep for our annual haunted trail.  Fortunately, I knew there was ample warning before the end of the month because I had my nephew’s wedding on the 30th.  I would assuredly be reminded of that ahead of time and trigger myself that there was a blog quota to tend to.  Today I woke up, headed to the shower and got slammed by a bag full of bricks.  Holy Crap!  Today is my nephew’s birthday.  True to expectations… that triggered the blog quota thought and wham – I’m down two posts, last day of the  month and a day full of travel.  I can’t let me streak fall without a fight so here we are typing from the road.

Luckily I already had some topics in mind and just had to do some quick uploading of the images to the blog gallery.  How about we get to the first of the posts this morning.
Lee Childs and David Baldacci Books

Regular visitors here at Life Intrigued should be aware I try to get some reading in from time to time.  Typically, those escapes are intended as an avenue to learn something new.  Better myself in some manner.  As a result, most of my reading fodder is technical in nature or some life improvement or social observation technique.  All work and no play tends to stress the brain a bit.  From time to time I give the gray matter a break and just consume myself with pure entertainment.  Technical materials naturally take longer to consume as I pour over the details, re-read to insure I understand the theories and from time to time implore the Internet to validate assumptions and theories that define the baseline of the book.  Contrast that with entertainment books which required none of that making these reading sessions slightly longer than reading the menu and Denny’s.

Due to the brevity of the activity, I was able to blast through books from two of my favorite authors.  I have read or listened to every single book by Lee Child.  He is my go to author when I want to let go of the real world and experience the action packed world of espionage and take no prisoner attitude of a 6’5 250lb ex Army MP named Reacher.  I only mention the stats thanks to some idiot movie caster that thought Tom Cruise was a perfect choice to portray him on the big screen – congratulations on alienating the fan base – no, I did not nor have any desire to see either of the two movies based on Lee Child’s character.  Anyway, I finally got around to reading one of his latest offerings  Make Me (think he has another one out now).  Trying to keep my excitement in check, I broke open the book and delved back into my favorite character.  With each page turned that excitement started to decrease.  The book moved much slower than his previous works and the plot situation wasn’t really putting me in suspense.  Sure there were some action sequences, bad guys brutalized by overbearing force and a bit of mystery, but Lee has set the bar high with previous works – this launch was falling short.  I will not reveal the plot for those who still plan to read this effort.  I will tell you I was very disappointed in the end.  I had already figured out the twist well before the getting to the big reveal and, although I cannot remember the exact source, it felt like a rehash of a bad horror movie.  Sorry, Lee, I have to put this on the lower echelon of your efforts.  Chalk this one up as an underwhelmer.

Next off the line was a bit of a sequence error.  After Lee Childs, I’d have to go with David Baldacii’s works.  I have always liked his writing style.  As with Lee, I’ve read most of David’s collection.  My favorite being the Camel Club series.  Since then he has had multiple duo based series – some better entertaining than others, however, all worthy of a read.  I accidentally got my reading order messed up and read No Man’s Land first.  This caused a bit of a problem since this book kept referring back to the previous book No Escape,  There was also this little problem with fact that the last time I read one of David’s books, a certain character was doing life in prison and now .. well, let’s just say that is no longer the situation.  So already things were a bit strange.  Now, there was a positive sequence aspect in that the last book alluded to a situation with the main character’s mother.  That happened to be the main plot of this work – felt like I was picking right up from the other book.  Truth be told, the main character of David’s latest works seems like an intrusion on Lee.  Both David’s hero John Puller is almost an exact duplicate of Lee.  Both military backgrounds and take no crap attitudes with physical abilities to back that up.  Puller just happens to be still employed by the government where Reacher is a drifter.  As mentioned, this book focuses on the mysterious death of John’s mother.  Hopefully not a spoiler, but there are theories his military father may have been involved.  My intent is not to spoil the read for others and thus will refrain from going into that.  I will say, that this book.. like Reachers .. had a repeat plot feel to it.  This time I know where – the Universal Soldier series.  That is all I will say.  Giving a slight knock to the originality of the plot, I put this book in the Better category.  Definitely entertained me and yes, far better than Lee.

Okay, that leave one of the three books.  My brother Dan is a big Baldacci fan as well. When I told him about reading No Man’s Land he recommended I immediately red No Escape.  He thought it was one of his better works and more importantly – explained the whole get out of jail free issue.  My curiosity needed to be addressed.  Picked up the book – discounted at Barnes and Noble (score) and immediately sat down and started reading.  Think this is the first time in my life I have read three books in a row purely for entertainment purposes.  Better be careful with that or I’m going to turn soft and mushy like our congressmen as of late, but I digress.  Sure enough, the book’s primary plot line was the individual last left off looking at a long life looking through bars.  Unlike the other two books, this plot felt fresh and pretty much kept me guessing and in suspense about the entire book.  The intriguing thing was I actually became more focused on the secondary character over Puller’s role in this plot.  That may have been the reason I really enjoyed the book.  David’s primary character (Puller) was actually a background thread that tied all the sub-plots with the secondary characters.  Lots of action, lots of twists and as hoped, may of the questions I had with No Man’s Land.  This was clearly the best of the three reads and put this as a high recommendation.

I can already feel the outer layer of synapsis getting a little sluggish – clearly screaming for something more educational like a shredding of the latest climate report, but if you are in the mood for some mindless entertainment, I’d opt for Baldacci’s books over Lee’s latest.  Sad to say, but I think he fumbled this one.



Blew My Streak and My Fuel

Getting in some final camping for the season this weekend. Had a chance to spend some time birding with my brother Ron and Linda even caught a local agility show to make sure Raven stays in practice. Dog shows mean I have extra time to get some to-dos off the list and one that always bubbles to the top is my blog quota. Always good to get ahead of the curve seeing how the end of the month usually comes faster than expected. Plus, we are creeping up on the witching hour which sucks up every available minute getting ready for the Trail of Tears (link here).

A few posts back I relayed the strenuous running activities that I once again have subject myself to – at some point I will learn. As a quick reminder I scheduled 4 half marathons (not to mention a 5K) in little over a month. This started with the 13.Wine race (link here), then the IVS Half Marathon (link here) and most recently the Oak Ridge Cemetery Moonlight Half Marathon in Springfield. Keeping with the theme, thought I would give a recount of that latest hell, I mean race.

2017 Moonlight Marathon September 16th Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield IL

Unlike last year (link here), this time Sung and Ryan were able to go down to Springfield IL with me and take part in this year’s activities.  They were both familiar with the course having teamed up with me to do the prediction race Marathon two years back (link here).  That year we took third … thanks to two cheaters but hey, that is water under the bridge now (or not hehehe).  The prediction aspect of the race is gone now along with the team Marathon.  In its place are individual races – 5K, Quarter Marathon and the Half Marathon.  Choose your poison at this point.  We had them all covered this year.  Sung opted for the 5K, Ryan the Quarter and your’s truly decided to punish himself with the Half variety.  There is a theme to the first three races of the 4 ‘peat.  HILLS.  The 13.Wine was a grueling battle through long rolling hills that seem to last forever trying to get to the crests.  IVS is well known in these parts to be one of the toughest courses you can take on due to their 6 shorter but much steeper hills.  Then there is Oak Ridge which combines the length of the Wine hills with the steepness of IVS.  Basically pure hell.  This double loop that beat me last year – my find an exit, throw up, continue the drive home, find an exit throw up cycle that plagued me the entire way home.  Time for redemption this year!  If nothing else, I had friends with me that could help me get home so had to be better than last year… well, I thought.

I was scheduled to go off at 6:30 due to having two loops on my course.  Ryan went off at 6:45 to cover his one loop and then Sung launched at 7 for his shortened loop.  Sung took my finisher picture below.

2017 Moonlight Marathon September 16th Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield IL

Worth noting the genius of taking the finisher picture before I even started the race – look how relaxed and refreshed I looked!  A far cry from the reality over 2 hours later.  Seems this year the race coordinators thought the previous course was just too easy for us – that we might be getting soft.  To remedy that situation some masochist decided to move the starting line to the top of a big hill.  I remember seeing that and turning to Sung going “WTF!?!”.  Seriously people, that course through the Oak Ridge Cemetery would already make a normal guy sink to his knees.  It would be bad enough having to negotiate that hill at the halfway point, repeating that again at the end when the legs are jelly is just plain rude.  Time to worry about that later, one mile at a time, one foot in front of another.

Hit the jump to read how this race turned out – foreshadowing … not good

Continue reading Blew My Streak and My Fuel

Junco the Gray

Sorry folks, been a little bit lax on my postings as of late.  Actually I have been making non-wildlife posts on my other site, but doesn’t get me off the hook for not showing the wildlife some love.  In my defense, this has been a hell month which has included massive work preparing for this year’s Haunted Trail and the three half marathons with one more to go in just over a month has definitely left me blog shallow.  To help remedy the situation figured I’d go ahead and throw out a set from May 2014

Gray Headed Junco captured at Rocky Mountain National Park in May of 2014

You couldn’t ask for a bird to be more cooperative when it comes to getting them in the tin.  I swear this particular specimen was actually trying to work with me to get the best angles and background settings.  Hell, I can’t even get my Poodles to cooperate this much with me and we even FEED them!  As mentioned, this bird was shot a few years back on a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Believe we were out in Denver for the Poodle Agility Teacup Nationals and made a point to catch the park on our way back.

Gray Headed Junco captured at Rocky Mountain National Park in May of 2014

Hit the jump to see a few more of the Junco.

Continue reading Junco the Gray

Is She Even Sweating?

Well, I’m just sitting here resting the legs because once again, the road is beckoning me.  Yes, it’s time for my fourth half marathon of the season and more importantly, the third since August 20th.  If you recall, the last post from me chronicled that endeavor.  If you happen to be good at math, you are probably thinking thumb 13.Wine, 2 ummm and index finger tomorrow’s run.  One thumb + one finger equals … wait a minute… wait a minute… use some new core math techniques and carry the pinky .. HEY, THAT’S ONLY TWO races and he just said it was THREE.  First off, congratulations on your STEM training.  You are correct, I am a race behind – shall we remedy that … of course.
IVS Half Marathon September 10th, 2017

Hit the jump to read about the race recap.

Continue reading Is She Even Sweating?

Time to Wine

Busy, busy, busy!  Pretty much the story of my days at the moment.  If I’m not at my day job, I’m working on Halloween decoration projects.  If I’m not doing that I’m getting caught up on yard work and in between all of that, I’m on the road wearing rubber off my running shoes.  Probably not going to let up anytime soon, so might as well embrace it. The toughest part of all of this is a series of 4 half marathon races in something like a month and a half.  Seeing as how I just completed the second of that set two days ago, figured it was prudent to blog about the first one!
13.Wine Half Marathon in Baroda, Michigan August 20th 2017

The first of the half marathons happens to be a new one for me.  At the expo for the Illini Half Marathon back in April, they had placed a card in our packets advertising a 13.Wine run in Baroda, Michigan.  That was quite intriguing having never heard of a wine based race and it really wasn’t that far away – on a normal day looking at about 4 hours worth of driving.  Best of all, Linda was more than willing to take on the 5K if there was wine to be had at the end.  Ended up signing us both up for it (with the advertisement card there was a discount code yeah!).  This would also give a half marathon check in another state – a new life list concept I’ve been kicking around.  So up we went to Michigan to earn us some wine … after an overnight stay at the Joliet Casino campground – opted to cut the drive time a bit so we could pick up the race packets the day before.

13.Wine Half Marathon in Baroda, Michigan August 20th 2017

I must admit, having been spoiled by the like of the Bix7 race and other large events, my expectations were probably way too high.  After winding our way around traffic backups on the main highway between Chicago and Baroda and then fighting closed roads in that little town we finally arrived at the packet pick up located at the starting line of the course.  We drove up and it was just a small pop up tent in the middle of a field (literally in the middle of a field).  It was also a little concerning that there was only one other participant picking up their bibs.   Pretty apparent that this was not going to be a large event as was originally assumed. Again, part of this assumption was fueled by the fact they were advertising at a race in a different state which is fairly large – their marketing campaign at least worked on us.

13.Wine Half Marathon in Baroda, Michigan August 20th 2017

hit the jump to read how the race turned out!

Continue reading Time to Wine