The Red Dragons

Welcome back everyone!  Still busy as hell around her at LifeIntrigued.  I have a half marathon race tomorrow in a creepy cemetery, Halloween is just around the corner and my basement is “finish me” shaming me every time I go down there.  Luckily almost all the materials have arrived to finish out the trim in the basement, so hoping to get through most of that this weekend barring any issues with the run tomorrow night.  Making some progress on the decorations but still a lot to do there .. not likely to get to everything I was hoping to have done, but it should be another good display with what appears to be in my means.  Of course, if that isn’t enough, I have blog quota demands to deal with as well – so far those have not been writing themselves, so let’s get to today’s feature.
Red Dragonflies from August 2013

When it comes to Dragonflies, they really do not get much cooler looking that the one above.  Well, except for the one below, but we’ll get to that in a second.  Decided it was time to get this post out there.  I’ve been sitting on these red dragons for a while now.  It occurred to me that they themed well together because they are both Dragons, and well… they both feature the color red – albeit the one above is more of an orange than a red.  One thing about them is they were shot in completely different locations.  The one above I believe is called a Flame Skimmer.  As with all posts on this site, corrections, confirmations, complaints are always welcome in the comments.  This particular Flame was located at Red Rocks Canyon near Las Vegas Nevada.  There have been a number of posts for this particular site on this blog due to its huge diversity in photography options.  Linda enjoys taking shots of the gorgeous red hues in the rock terrain and I spend my times hunting for anything that moves on the ground, in the air and guessing water if they actually had any water there.  I mention the latter because ironically, this particular dragonfly prefers hanging out near water supplies such as hot spring out in the Southwest.  Note as a unique trait, the Flamer doesn’t actually seek out prey.  They basically hang out around the house waiting for the food delivery guy to pull up and hand them dinner.  A good life if you can get it I guess.

Red Dragonfly from International Crane Foundation - July 2013

The dragon above has to be my favorite so far.  The deep red body accentuated by the orange tinted wings and the gorgeous red pattern on the lower abs and tail.  Going off of images my brother Ron sent me and some quick searches on the internet, this appears to be a Red Saddlebag.  The only thing that leaves a bit of question on that is this one has a very distinct red pattern on the back.  The reference images I see have a much  more blotchy red coloring – what do you think?

Hit the jump to see a couple more shots

Continue reading The Red Dragons

They Can Hear for Miles and Miles and Miles

Greetings everyone from the blistering hot Midwest.  It’s been a tad on the bake side as of late – not so much the actual temps since those have been ranging in the high 80’s to low 90’s, but the feels like temperature has been a test for the internal thermostat.  Ever since my heat stroke episode (link here), my body has had the nasty habit of panicking whenever it thinks it is going to overheat.  It is kind of intriguing in the sense I’ll be running along in one of my training runs and all of a sudden I’ll go from expected levels of sweat to totally soaked.  The doctors warned me about this happening and I’ve been trying hard to get it reset.  The only way to do that is to keep at it – it is definitely better in the sense it is taking longer at higher temps now before the panic sets in (for the last couple of runs the feels like temp has been tipping the hundred mark).  The Bix 7 race is always a good test of your cooling mechanics since that is traditionally as hot as it gets for the running circuit.  A week to go before that race so fingers are crossed.  In the meantime, I’m sitting here in the air conditioning at a dog show getting a few posts out of the way.

Today’s featured critter falls under the category of “Cute as hell!”
Henderson Nevada - Cute Bunnies August 2013

This ball of fur was just hanging out under some trees enjoying a hot Nevada day at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve.  Taking it all in, clearly too young and carefree to realize the dangers it will face in the coming years from all the predators that lurk about the area.  In case you do not know your bunnies (and not talking about the ones on the top shelf of your local magazine store), this is a young Jackrabbit.  They have actually been featured previously on the blog because… say it with me – they are just too damn cute to ignore (link here).  Pretty sure it is the long ears, or fluffy tail or maybe the large round eyes or that button nose … or more likely the fact that all those characteristics reside on a single creature that make them irresistible.  Unlike most animals, these Jackrabbits are not just adorable when they are babies – they still tug at the hearts as the years add up.

Henderson Nevada - Cute Bunnies August 2013

Hit the jump to see a couple more shots of the adorable Hare

Continue reading They Can Hear for Miles and Miles and Miles

Serenity Survives, Long Live Serenity

It’s day two of groundhog day err agility showing.  More dogs, more jumping and a lot  more sitting around.  None the less, yesterday actually turned out fairly productive with each of our dogs going 4 for 4, made a blog post and even got some photo shoots in at Chain O Lakes and Lake of Geneva.  Regarding the latter, it is now very obvious where the Chicago discretionary money is heading – straight to Wisconsin.  Good lord those houses around that lake are HUGE.  Also had an entertaining conversation with a Spring Grove Dairy Queen employee who thought the green Arctic Rush flavor jar was apple and not lemon lime.  DQ probably owes me a free blizzard for training their staff.

While digging around the Internet for some details for this post I stumbled on this quote.

Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.. anonymous

This seemed a perfect intro to today’s post.  This is actually a pretty popular quote on the net but none of the references attributed it to anyone in particular.  A shame since it is a pretty insightful quote – ESPECIALLY if you own a bridge named Serenity.  Note, I was really looking for relevant quotes from the movie Serenity when the one above came up.  If you recall, Serenity was a project to give access to the back of our lot (link here).  When it was designed consideration was given to how high to make it to account for the seasonal flooding that had occurred in the past.  Since building it, our Springs were pretty tame and as far as recollection serves, the stream stayed in the banks.  That was then.. this is now!

Welcome to the record flood of 2013.  The shot above is actually a few days after the water started to recede.  Still high, still displaying the awesome power associated with unbridled water.  The weather heads were calling for flash flood warnings but based on their accuracy over the last couple of years there was not a lot of concern given.  Well, at least until I headed off to work that morning and saw the massive flooding – Peoria was under attack by the Kracken.  All I could think of is whether Serenity was going to survive or not.  It was engineered for the worst… but maybe not for record amounts of waterfall.

Eventually Linda and I headed down to assess the situation.  Apprehension abounds.  Feelings were not getting any better at the first view of the stream.  What you couldn’t tell from that shot is the missing trees that used to be along the banks (now middle of the water path).  A quick look to the left revealed that my “debris” buffer was GONE.  There was a tangle of trees that was serving as insurance if anything decided to break away upstream.  It had already caught some large branches etc. during the smaller expansions.  That area was now free of all tangles – hell, even the bank had eroded significantly.

One of the trees was found shortly after…

SAVED.  the roots were tangled up in another bank tree which prevented it from harming Serenity.  Hopes were building especially when a hesitant glance downstream revealed she still standing tall.

Hit the jump to see more details of Serenity’s battle

Continue reading Serenity Survives, Long Live Serenity

Operation: Bridge to Vegas

Well, this has been an interesting weekend.  It started out pretty good with a lumber run to Lowe’s, a saw session followed up with a fun night of Rock Band with Billy and Pakage (the R!Vagiants reunion tour – with fans calling out where’s David all night).  Around 3 in morning things turned ugly.  That is when Pakage informed me our well had gone dry – major suckage.  We played a few more songs for the crowd and made our way off the stage.  After verifying the well pump breaker had tripped I set out to find a cause.  The master bath shower faucet had a few drips so I tried taking advantage of the water pressure loss to see if I could change out the springs.  An hour later I gave up lacking some needed tools and worried I’d snap the pipes at 4:30am – not good.  I hit the bed after putting the faucet back together to get some shuteye before the long day of hauling water.  6:30am I was back up, Linda helped me get the tank in the truck and 3.5 hours later I’d hauled 24oo gallons of water….. but that was just the beginning of the days work.. there was Vegas to build!

.. and that brings us to the topic of today’s post.  (Note, my brother has been giving me grief that I pre-write some of my posts ahead of time so felt obligated to write this the same day I completed the project).  Last year I built a foot bridge over a gully on the lot so the people at our Halloween party could go see Serenity (link here).  That bridge was working out great until the Spring flooding came.  One day it was there, the next it had taken a vacation down the stream.  Multiple searches up and down the stream have been fruitless which is odd since there are numerous places where trees had fallen across the stream.  You would think it would have been caught up in those branches.  With the Halloween party approaching once again, it was time to remedy this situation.  Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Serenity’s little brother VEGAS.

hit the jump to read all about the project.

Continue reading Operation: Bridge to Vegas

Frightened by Allegiant – Oh, and Happy Halloween

It’s October 31st, do you know what day it is?  That’s right, the last day for me to get my blog quota in for the month.  Thankfully I had a long month or just might have missed it.  As a strange coincidence, there happens to be another event going on today so in that spirit Happy Halloween everyone.  I have to make this post short today due to a big decision that is pending regarding whether I want to take the effort to carve a new pumpkin this year, but first things first.

The topic today is actually a result of a recent trip to our local Peoria Airport to purchase some tickets to escape to our favorite warm, bright, gaudy and decadent place.  Yep, we’re heading back to Vegas for our fall trip.  To be more accurate, we are heading back to Vegas and then heading up to Zion National Park from there for a few days.  If there is one part of this that annoys me more than anything is the nickel and diming we have to through these days to actually get flight tickets.  First off, Allegiant (our local direct flight to Vegas carrier) charges you an additional 30 dollar per person to book online.  Can you believe that?  When did ordering stuff on the Internet become more pricey to a company than brick and mortar operations.  You would think the reduction in ticket order staff and the improved accuracy delivered by automated processing would drive incentives to use online options as opposed to bottling up their ticket counters.  We are 15 or so minutes from the airport so last Thursday we trekked out there to get our tickets.  Per their website, they do ticket sales for one hour after the flight leaves.  They had a flight going out at 7:55 so we got there ahead of that.  There were people checking in so we hung out to give them a chance to clear.  While sitting there, Linda noticed the flight had been delayed until 10pm.  Clearly waiting around  that long was not worth the $60 of savings, but we decided to see what they would do once everyone was checked through.  About 10  minutes later, the line was cleared (this included the now common scene “your carry on is too large and needs to be checked through for a one way $35 charge”).  We walked up to the counter and asked if we could purchase tickets.  The ticket lady mentioned they usually only sell tickets after the boarding, but quickly followed up that the plane was delayed anyway so agreed to process our order.  Finally, service with the customer or may be viewing it as a fish nibbling on the hook.

Now the price jab cycle started.  I don’t recall how the clerk initiated the conversation on checked luggage, but she expected us to say we didn’t need that charge.  Linda replied we don’t have a choice which was quickly countered by “you can take carry ons”.  This will not work because our carry on items will need to cover all of the photography equipment for the national park shoots.  Chalk up another $50 each round trip.  Note, this is $20 each cheaper than if you pay to check baggage the day of.  Then there are the seat assignment charges if you want to pick your spots.  For that pleasure it is 12 or so dollars per seat per way and if you want a good seat (read as exit row) you have to pay a couple dollars more.  About this time I’m feeling like a pin cushion.  We ended up having to go with standard reservations on the way out in order to get the 2 seat side, but were able to get the exits coming back.  The clerk completed the transaction and printed out the papers for us to sign.  The ever diligent Linda noticed our seat assignments didn’t come out on the papers.  Turns out the clerk screwed that up so we went back through that process.  This time we scored.  The software glitched (let’s hope it isn’t the same system controlling the flight controls) and it didn’t charge us for one of the expensive seat reservations on the way back.  It still showed we had reserved it and it printed out on the sheets so we’ll see how this turns out on travel day.  At that point I start scanning down the list of charges, curious as to the damage that had been inflicted.  It is at that moment my mouth dropped open.  One of the charges was for 9/11 Security.  I immediately asked Linda what that was for.  She didn’t know and really wasn’t eager to start an interrogation of the clerk – especially at an airport.  Probably a little too loud I asked why I was getting charged, “I didn’t do anything bad to cause 9/11”  At that point I think my loving wife shooed me out of the terminal.  This charge bugged the crap out of me aaaaalllll the way home.  I still have not discovered the purpose for this $10 charge.  As far as I can tell, it should be charged to TSA for their complete failure in keeping my travel experience safe and non-eventful.  In fact, due to their incompetence, they should be paying me $10 for completely ruining air-travel for the masses.  These days I feel like I’m putting people out for having the audacity to fly to my destinations.  My friend Skidmarks recently sent me a few articles on how I should expect a firm hand (literally) if I request a manual scan instead of going through the full body x-ray porn scanner.  At this point, if I have to pay $10 of my own money to protect myself while traveling… they can earn the money by having to staff someone for a pat down.  I guess the good part of all of this is for 8 hours of inconvenience I get to be in Vegas!

Happy Ghouling everyone – stay safe and be sure to give rocks to anyone with the nerve to dress up like a clown.  (oh, and this makes the 6th for the month – yeah!)

Diiiiirty Giiiirls In The City of Silicone

Since I am heading to Vegas in about 2 hours and the fact my brother is insinuating lack of content from his glass house I figured I would quickly post on my my favorite observations in Vegas.  Yes, I admit it, I like watching the prostitutes try and pick up their customers in the City That Never Sleeps.  Purely from a marketing perspective, mind you, because I do not get to see that much in my rather small town.  About 6 or 7 years ago was my first true observation of this.  I was waiting for the Luxor inclinator about 2:30 in the morning and I was literally surrounded by very well dressed and jeweled women in very suggestive clothing just milling around.  At that time, they had a security guard sitting at a small desk next to the inclinator and you had to show your room key before he would let you get on it.  Strangely enough, none of these women would make eye contact with him, but just kept pacing around.  Finally, the inclinator arrives and out pops a couple of guys.  The first one says his name and a girl came over and they left the area.  The other guy also says his name and two blondes made their way over and then proceeded to step back into the inclinator that I had just entered.  I hit a floor number below their destination and made the socially expected move of backing into the farthest possible corner.  For the duration of my ride I was subjected to what each of the women were going to do in the whirlpool along with their champagne, strawberries and chocolate.  I chuckled as I was exiting to my floor and was actually intrigued on how much that little event was going to cost him – and no, there is no way I was going to pursue that answer.

A few years later in Vegas, I got a call from a buddy of mine that went out there with us.  Again, about 2 am, he calls my cell to inform me he was just propositioned by a prostitute and thought it was pretty funny.  This is the first time someone I new well was asked for this type of employment in Vegas.  Of course, still thinking about my unanswered question I asked him if he inquired as to the cost – FOR RESEARCH ONLY.  He didn’t ask and actually before I got done asking the question I was hoping he didn’t because I think that would represent a transaction which could have been a whole lot more fun to blog on.

Then came last time I was in Vegas about 3 or so months back.  Sure enough, around 2 am (something tells me I should start watching where I go at those hours) My nephew-in-law and I were heading out of Hooters (how appropriate) and all of sudden a lady at the bar reaches out into our path and asks us how we were doing that night.  From an observation perspective, I am guessing significant less bills would be required to complete any type of transaction as opposed to the shelf quality of the previous Luxor setting.  For the record, this may have just been a very friendly lady who likes to reach out and greet people.  However, said we were fine and continued walking out the door and headed to the crossover between the Tropicana and the MGM.  On our approach, we see two more ladies quite frankly the more traditional prostitute garb just pacing back and forth in front of the escalator.  I must admit, the general quality (assuredly from an appearance perspective only) is significantly higher in Vegas and augmentation is either very cheap elective surgery or the business setting there is very lucrative – or the longevity of the showgirl career isn’t very long.  We responded with disinterest and proceeded back to the Luxor where we were staying.  The following night I stayed up all night so I didn’t have to bother waking up to leave for the airport at 5:30am.  The same friend that gave me the call about his proposition met me about 1 am to play some video poker.  After a couple of hours of that, he headed back to the MGM where he was staying.  Sure enough, he shows up again about 15 minutes later and asks me if I saw a particular lady prowling around the outer slot machine banks.  I had not seen that particular girl.  Apparently she came up  to him and asked if he was winning or not.  I am not sure that is the best opening line that early in the morning – is anyone going to tell someone they have been windfalling it all night and basically beg to be rolled?  There was some banter back and forth and I am not sure of the exact line, but basically asked if he was interested.  He said no and that he was heading back to his wife at another hotel.  Disappointed she then asked optimistically, “Does she like women?”  Now that is a savvy business woman and probably could use those talents in a legitimate profession.  First distract, next engage, then make the offer, sidestep rejection and take another angle.  There are a lot of people I meet in business trying to sell me something that could learn a lot by watching those in the oldest profession.  Oh, by the way in case you are wondering he told her no.

As I was checking my comps at 4:30am I spotted a lady with the same description hanging on some dudes arm.  As they passed me she commented that letting him spank her was going to cost him more.  Yes, Information Technology technical marketers, the concept of Services Oriented pricing is not a new concept, it has been around for a long, long time.  Oh, and before anyone comments, I know that Silicone is been replaced but some of these women are pretty darn old.

Yikes, late for the airport – I’ll correct the typos later…. VEGAS HERE I COME

Can You Spare a Lesson

Wow, I was called out by a loyal reader on my lack of posts as of late.  There are really two reasons for my slacking.  One, I was in Vegas all last week and 2) Rock Band 2 came out this week and unfortunately, I have one addiction (and absolutely my only one) and that is playing the fake drums.  But I can’t disregard my readers so I decided to crank one out tonight foregoing badly needed sleep even with a long trip ahead of me to see the Cubs and Cards play in Chicago tomorrow.

Tonight’s quick topic actually covers a whole year time span.  The last time I went to Vegas was about this time last year.  One of the observations that always caught my attention was the individuals begging for money on the overpasses between the hotels.  Typically the approach has been “I’m a war vet and fell on hard times…” or “some wording followed by God Bless You”.  I am not going to get into a debate on the authenticity of these individuals, but from a marketing perspective, those are pretty good approaches if you want to elicit the emotional side of individuals.  I’ll confess that I never give any money mainly because I don’t think encouragement is the right thing to do in this situation – I also give a tremendous amount of money to other forms of assistance which I know each and every one of them have the opportunity to benefit from.  With that said, I was actually totally caught off guard last year when I was crossing the overpass to Bally’s.  As I reached the top of the stairs I passed an individual sitting on the ground.  I don’t know if it is a byproduct of spending so much time observing people or not, but I have a tendency to take mental snapshots that I ponder on as I walk – this gives me the ability to assess the situation without having to resort to staring.  The downside of this is I sometimes catch stuff a few seconds later while scanning the mental picture.  As I traversed down the mental image to the individual, I was able to read his cardboard sign “Ninjas killed my parents I need money to take karate lessons so I can have my revenge”.  I thought it was fantastic and actually considered turning back and donating to the cause.  Unfortunately, as I turned back, I realized I had actually walked completely to the other side of the overpass and didn’t really want to double back that far.  Regardless if the cause was fake (no, not the ninjas, the individual actually needing to beg) I thought he demonstrated ingenuity and distinguished himself from the rest of the begging community.  Surely there is some marketing organization out there that could harness this creativity and take a person off the street at the same time…. or he is already in the marketing industry and just gaming the system for extra cash.

Comparing that to last week’s Vegas trip, there are still people begging at all of the overpasses.  Unfortunately, almost every one of them was going with the “Why Lie I need a Beer” sign.  Although honesty is an admirable trait, in this setting it doesn’t really hit the marketing sweet spot.  I know the odds that a given donation is going to be diverted to non-sustaining or non-healthy decision are pretty high (we’re in VEGAS), but providing a donation under the pretense that he needs an alcoholic drink doesn’t generally make the giver feel that good about himself.  To be brutally honest, I believe this self benefit is at the root of giving.  I would be willing to debate this further, but I just don’t see someone giving away some money and chastising himself for doing it as opposed to taking a few lighter steps while “patting himself on the back”.  I wonder if you could measure the internal pleasure that comes from an act of kindness – maybe an internal heat change or chemical change?

However, I did notice the emergence of a new approach.  At a number of the overpasses, there were individuals carting around coolers selling cold water for a dollar.  In fact, I even saw this at the Bellagio Water Show and down on Fremont Street.  This might be another good example of marketing.  Assuming the bottle water can be obtained cheaply enough (yes, I’m dismissing the bathtub bottle filling for now) , the seller can actually make some change on each bottle sold providing a win-win situation for himself and they purchaser.  It was 105 degrees out so clearly fluids is a demand item and the price seems pretty good compared to the rest of the drink prices in the area…. and NO, the free drinks while gaming isn’t really FREE if you are actually playing the game.  I think it also brings some dignity to the seller since it requires effort as opposed to resting on the pavement.

Anyway, it’s late and time to get some shut eye