Thursday, December 31, 2009

BBQ Chicken!

All day long Cari was promising us BBQ Chicken sandwiches for dinner.  She bragged on it so much that the smell was already getting into my head.  I could almost taste it.  Amanda was getting excited about it as well and we discussed eating our sandwiches.

So imagine my surprise when I walked into the kitchen. . .

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Get OUT!

Well, I dumped my sister-in-law off at the airport yesterday.  After some hugging, we left Amanda at the airport to fend for herself and the rest of us went shopping.

It was during that shopping trip that Cari's cell phone rang.  I heard part of the conversation.
"Uh, huh."
"Did they charge you for that?"

Then she hung up.  Cari looked at me and said we were heading back to the airport.  Due to some weather in Michigan on Monday the flight was cancelled.  I did as I was told and retrieved my sister-in-law from the airport.

It's a good thing for her that we enjoy having her.

Having said that, we'll try and dump her off again on Wednesday.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Return to Virginia Hawkins

Here's a short video of our hike to see Virginia Hawkins Falls.  This is the same place that Cari and I had hiked back on December 15.  We liked the hike so much we decided to take the kids and Amanda to see it.  We offered the kids some hiking poles to help keep them entertained on the hike and this trail also offers some entertainment in the form of several small streams to cross.  This was a success because I don't remember hearing any complaining as we made our way to the falls.  In fact, we were singing Christmas carols on the way.

The last shot of the video is my shoes in the middle of the creek.  I had taken them off to get some photos from the opposite bank.  The water was absolutely freezing.  I tried to stand in the middle of the creek for a photograph, but my feet started to hurt it was so cold, so I kept moving.

Oh, and by the way, there was no singing on the way back to the car.  Everyone started to get a bit tired and yeah, there was a minor amount of complaining on the way out.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's Cold in Here

It was REALLY cold this past Friday.
I guess that's why my car decided to stop spitting out hot air.

In fact, it chose to only give me super cold air.  It was taking the cold wet air of the outside, chilling it about ten degrees cooler and then shoving it at my face.  As I drove home in my new ice box, I fiddled with the controls that control the air.  I pushed them down to cold and back to hot, hoping to reset something inside the heater.  I turned the dial from fresh air to recirculate a few times hoping that one would be warmer than the other.  Nothing changed the status of the air inside the car.

As cars passed me driving the other direction, I noticed how warm and cozy the drivers appeared to be in their cars.  I dreamed of being that warm.  Then I imagined how they were seeing me?  Would they notice the blanket wrapped around my chest and the clouds of cold air that was my breath?  Would they see my thick winter gloves?

For every minute that passed during the next thirty minutes, I became colder.  At one point I thought, "I can't get colder than this." and then a few minutes later, I proved myself wrong.

When I arrived home I complained to the whole family about my car and how it tortured me horribly during my drive.  I got some sympathy and also some laughter in return of my story.

This weekend Cari took my car to the grocery store two miles from the house.  When she came home, she bragged how hot the air got.  She said she even had to turn the temperature sliders down half way.  She laughed and said I should be nicer to the car.

Seriously? It's a car!  If I want (need) hot air, then I expect it.  It's not about being "nice".

Just in case I'm not being quite nice enough, I've decided to either keep all my blankets and gloves with me in the car or just keep Cari in the car on cold days.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Computers are Evil

My newest computer, the Motorola Droid gave me fits last week.  Cari and I went hiking and when I got home I prepared to upload a few videos to Youtube.  But the Droid started coughing as I asked it to show me the video.

Suddenly, there was nothing left on the memory card.  A months worth of video and photos was gone.  I started on a mission to recover those files from the SD card with some software I found online.  Most of that software I learned was only free to the point of finding my files.  To actually have and to hold my files again would cost me around $40.  I hunted down and started using some freeware.  With the freeware, scanning a sixteen gig SD card took almost twenty hours.

A day without my phone. . . that's a blog for another day.  I survived it, barely.

At the end of a long day, I was unable to recover the videos I wanted most from my phone,  but I did get more than 90% of my photos recovered.  I wanted one more try at getting my videos back before I moved on.  I started by looking around on some sketchy sites for some more software.  During that time, Cari got an email from a friend on Facebook that turned out to have been sent by a virus.  The computer started acting a bit weird, and every Google search result I clicked on became an ad.  Now I was starting a new battle.  The phone was nearly complete, but not back in my hands yet, the computer software was slow and awkward, and now I was trying to remove a stupid virus.  The computer had turned evil.  Did the virus come from a foul piece of software I found or from Cari's friend?  It didn't matter.  The computer chuckled at my every move to try and fix it.

I just about had the virus killed when the computer showed some control in this war and shoved a blue screen of death at my face.  I restarted the computer and Windows Vista would not load.  Things were getting worse.  A few more restarts and I realized that safe mode was useless.  I used the Windows disc to try and recover with no success.  In all of my efforts, I even played around in the Bios trying to coax something to load, the only thing that I could get was a blue screen describing a crash dump.  Yeah, "dump" is the key word.  My computer was taking a dump on me.  A re-install of Windows Vista seemed to be the only solution and it was asking for me to format the hard disc.

That meant losing everything on the drive!  I felt sick to my stomach.  First of all, all the photos I had just spent twenty four hours recovering from the phone were about to be deleted again.  My technology world was collapsing around me.

Cari heard my weeping and came into the office to find me sitting on the floor next to my chair.  Skipping past the parts of me crying and holding my computer through the night, the next part of this story is coming home from Best Buy with a new computer.

Before the new computer could be powered on I took a few minutes to pillage my crashed computer for parts.  I took my video card and power supply from that computer and injected them into the new computer.

The parts that came out of the new computer went into the old one and made a very nice family computer for the kids to use.

Three quick notes:
1. I was able to recover the data from the hard drive of my computer with just a few exceptions.
2. The above photo was a step not described here, which was pillaging an even older computer to finalize the family computer and putting the oldest one to the computer grave yard forever.
3. The Droid is working great again.  Turns out an evil programmer over at Slacker Radio caused the memory card to get deleted and it has since been fixed (probably).

It turns out that not all computers are evil.   Just my old computer.  It was running on Vista, so I am going to go ahead and narrow down the evilness to Vista.  Exorcism complete.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Be Careful Hiking!

You have to be careful when you are hiking.  There are so many hazards looking to get you.  On top of those hazards, if you don't prepare you could make things much worse on yourself.  I always try to minimize the risks when I am on the trail.

Sometimes I seem to take the hazard with me.  Sometimes it's just more fun that way.

You would think he would have seen that GIANT root hanging out above the trail.  You would also think he wouldn't stick his ankle in there.  You would think!

Then again, who would have thought I would have ended up down here, off the trail on my back. . .

. . . but I did. Last words while squished in between tree roots, "I think something is crawling on my butt!"

Not long after I climbed out and checked myself for bugs and critters we caught a panoramic view of the valley below.

When we left the house, there was dense fog, but as we drove to the top of the mountain for the trail head, we found ourselves, high above the clouds.  There were a few areas that offered amazing views like I have never seen before.  It was like being in an airplane.  Dense clouds below us as far as the eye could see.  In some area, mountains poked out above the clouds.  There were ripples throughout the horizon.  It was like looking at an ocean, but this ocean didn't move.  Above our heads was a thin layer of clouds blocking the sun.  We were in this band of clear air and we just stood and watched it for a while.

The view seemed to sober up our crazy antics on the trail but just long enough until we got back to the car!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Yesterday was my birthday and I decided to document the occasion with my camera.  For every birthday the kids have, I take a photo of them holding up the number of fingers of their age.  Now that Randy is ten, I may come up with a new plan for next year.  But for me, I decided I didn't have enough fingers and I'd do better with a few pieces of paper.

After a slight freak out, I realized I had the papers backwards.... whew.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Virginia Hawkins!

On Monday, Cari and I (and baby), were able to get back out on a hike.  This time we headed up to the mountains in search of adventure.

After taking my car on a single lane gravel road for a few miles, we found the parking area next to a partially collapsed ridge.  The adventure had begun!

Other than hiking on an old road bed, we found that the trail wasn't marked very well, and we referred back to our paper notes frequently for the first half mile.  At one point, we backtracked a bit, and then decided we were right to start with, so we traveled that bit again.

Some of the adventures that we came across included:
Jumping three small creeks, bathroom breaks in the woods, losing a baby mitten, and getting chased by a bear.

Alright, one of those may not be exactly true.  But this hike was still a great adventure.

The mile trail stayed near the water much of the time and was a gorgeous hike.  Before long, we arrived at the Virginia Hawkins waterfall and it is an amazing site.

It has been raining a lot here lately, giving the creek plenty of water to dump off the rocky cliff.  I scrambled down a hill to get some photos while Cari stayed back a bit and fed the baby some snacks.

The way back up felt much harder.  Turns out we were headed downhill most of the way to the falls.  During my hike back up the hill, Brenna fell asleep strapped to my back and she slouched over to the side.  She suddenly felt much heavier.

It was really great to get out and get a good hike with my love.

On top of all the adventure we found today,  I think I found a great location for some future backpacking adventures.  Anyone up for a drive to South Carolina?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Test Number One

I'm trying to figure out the best way to get my blog posted onto Facebook.  There are a lot of options of importing RSS feeds into Facebook and I'm not sure which one will give me the look I want.

Hope this works!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Goodbye Yankee!

I mean this in the nicest way possible. . . really.  I do.


Their house goes up for sale next month!

Gosh I really won't miss them not waving at me.  I really won't miss their kids stomping through the garden on the way to the bus in the morning.  I really won't miss waiting for them to cut that waist deep yard of theirs either.

When the sign goes up, I'll be watching closely at the prospective buyers.   Oh yeah, and I'll also be piling all my trash in that back yard.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Christmas photos - 2009

This past weekend we took our family Christmas photo to put in the Christmas cards.  It took two sessions to try and get the shot, for a total of over one hundred photos.  Certainly, we could get at least one shot with all five people looking at the camera, halfway smiling, and not crying.

After I recover in a few weeks, I'll show you what I captured.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Resting at the Dam

A trip out to the Hartwell dam provided me with an opportunity to snap some photos recently.  The lake is much fuller these days thanks to the tons of rain we have been having and also due to some repairs taking place farther down the Savannah river.  Some repairs are needed at a dam downstream, so the Army Corps of Engineers is holding water in lake Hartwell to allow the other lake levels to drop.

This situation made the lake a beautiful sight, but on the other side of the dam, the river looked pretty pitiful.

When I look out over this lake, I am amazed how man has created and engineered something on such a grand scale.  It's as simple as some planning and building a large wall across the river, but taking control of nature in this way seems much more powerful.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


It's been about a year since our last trip to the flea market.  With Christmas coming up so quick we thought we should head over and see what treasures were on offer.

None of the expired foods and medicines appealed to us, but we did notice a few people that seemed to be doing their grocery shopping for the week at those tables.  Cari didn't have much interest in the dozen tables selling various models of weaponry although those seemed to be among the most popular.

As we walked through the market on that cold morning I spent some time observing the people around me.  I spoke to a few of the sellers and got the feeling that they share the same story over and over, week after week, and that they enjoy telling that story.

Some of the sellers seemed to be motivated at selling and they tried to get my attention as I walked by.  Others just sat back in a chair and watched people mull over their table.  One specific lady sticks in my mind.  She was the one we were trading with to get some wool socks.  She had the socks priced and on her table.  When Cari started asking questions about the socks, the lady got up from her lawn chair and started her pitch.  "Oh, I have priced these too low.  I was just getting ready to mark them up, but I'll sell to you if you buy right now."


We had walked past a few other tables with wool socks but didn't bother talking to anyone.  The prices seemed to fluctuate a few dollars from table to table on the same sock.  I tried to remember the first sock table across the muddy field.  Did he have three packs or two packs for this price?  Was he going to jack his prices in the next five minutes as well?

As I continued the math in my head, Cari made her purchase.  We both now own wool socks.  

It was a cold and rainy morning.  Look close, and you may see the rain drops in the mud puddles in the photo.  If it wasn't so cold I would have revisited that sock table a bit later in the morning to see if she was pulling the same pricing scheme on other potential buyers.

I looked at some binoculars being sold by a guy with a lot of guns and I stood over a table full of old hand tools for a few minutes before heading out.  While I was occupied at the tool table, Cari was across the shed talking to a guy selling jam.  She came away from that table with some Strawberry Rhubarb jam.  When she held it up to me with pride I realized that there are treasures for everyone at the flea market.  But I had to ask,
"Did he just make that in the back of his van?"

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Lighted for Christmas

All my neighbors got theirs done the week before Thanksgiving.  Well, all except the one with crazy teens crawling on their roof.   Thanksgiving day I got out the extension ladder and hung the lights above the porch while Cari and the kids did the low stuff.  

I went out and took a few shots the other night with an almost full moon.  I believe the shots were about a 5 second exposure.  The top shot has the moon and a few stars in it that I thought came out pretty well.  This bottom shot is more straight on to the house, but shows a bit more of the lights. 

Before taking the photos, I ran around the house turning off the lights.  Of course, as soon as I get out there, someone pops on a light upstairs.  After taking photos, I went in and climbed the stairs.  The light was still on up there, but nobody was in the room.  Can you believe that?

Sunday, November 29, 2009


I fixed Facebook.
I have a lot of problems with Facebook that keep me from using and enjoying it. Anyone that is my "friend" on the site may have noticed that I have never updated my "status". Ever.
Now that I am making progress in fixing Facebook, I am closer to the possibility of my first "update".

When I first got onto Facebook I added people from high school that I remembered or remembered not hating. Next I added people that I have met online, including most of you reading this. Co-workers were excluded and always will be.

Since setting up my account and adding "friends", I found that I can barely tolerate Facebook. Too many "friends" are too annoying. I was constantly scrolling through two pages of crap to find two interesting updates. It was so bad that for several weeks I debated deleting more than half of my list.

Last week, as I scrolled through a sea of "updates", I found my way to fix Facebook. I selected the most annoying "friend" and noticed the option to block their updates from my view.

Within ten minutes I had blocked everyone that needed to be muted. I reloaded the site and saw four status updates.

All four were from people that I was really interested in hearing about. It was perfect!

That was the first day I started to enjoy using Facebook. One step at a time.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas Lights

We took part of our Thanksgiving holiday to put up our Christmas decorations.  While most houses on our block were decorated in the week leading up to Thanksgiving day, one neighbor had the same idea we did.  Only their idea seemed a little bit crazier then ours.

Why waste time dragging a ladder from the back and trying to maneuver it around flowers and shrubs when you have a perfectly fearless teen around the house?  That seemed to be the mood across the street.

Meanwhile, since we don't own a fearless teen, I went and got my ladder.  I only dropped the ladder once while trying to reposition it.  In that single drop I managed to take out Cari's decorative flag pole hanging from the porch.  Out of frustration, I picked up the broken flag pole and threw it onto the porch.  As the pole hit the porch I heard it scream, "Owww!"

Seriously!  I didn't realize that Cari was sitting up there untangling lights.  Sorry!

Speaking of untangling light strands.  Cari had a good point when she said that she didn't remember putting them away in a big knot last winter.  She said she specifically remembers neatly winding them and setting them gently into the box.  How did they become so tangled in the attic?

The kids were observing (spying on) our conversation about the lights and chimed in,  "Maybe that's what the elves do during the summer."

By Thursday evening our house had joined the rest of the neighbors with bright Christmas lights.  Nobody fell off of the roof in the process, and we had no major injuries.  Oh yeah, and I figured out what to get Cari for Christmas in the process.  Do you think a new decorative flag pole will fit in her stocking?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Google Wave Invites?

If anyone is interested in giving Google Wave a try I have some invites to hand out.  Let me know.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I love owning the Motorola Droid!  I have never owned a smart phone before and I'm so excited at all the little things it does.  Having never used a device like this before, I have no way to compare it to others, but for me, this is awesome.

First of all, using the large touchscreen is fun!  It does the job it is supposed to do and is a whole new level of interaction for me.  Using arrow keys and pushing ok doesn't make sense to me anymore.   Trying to line up a button below a list of on-screen options, like an ATM, is so yesterday.  I want to touch the screen and interact with it.

Typing on the virtual keyboard that appears on the touchscreen when needed takes some getting used to.  At first I didn't like it.  I was slow and not very accurate.  That's ok, because the Droid has a full keyboard that slides out from its hiding space below the screen.  Like the virtual keys, I was a bit slow during the first few days on the slide out keyboard.   After owning the phone for two weeks, I am getting much more comfortable on the virtual keys and tons faster on the slide out keyboard.  Depending on what I am doing, I have found myself using both methods to type.  For longer messages, I usually slide out the keyboard because I'm more accurate and quicker with it.

I also am really enjoying getting my email sent to my phone as the author hits the send button.  You should see my eyes light up when I hear that notification sound.  I used to be so curious after work to get on the computer and see if I had a comment on my blog or a rare email that wasn't a forwarded joke.  Now I don't have a reason to randomly log in and check my email.  If I didn't get a notification on the Droid, I didn't get a new email.

The applications that can be downloaded add so many new functions to the phone.  It seems like new items are being added every time I look in the market place.  All the apps I have downloaded so far have been free and have worked great.   Some of the apps I have been using are Pandora internet radio, a task list app that sends me comments if I don't finish on time ("Get this done, I'm sick of it." or "You can do it!").  The little comments have actually helped motivate me to getting things done.  I've also downloaded an app for Geocaching, stock market quotes, a great notepad, a podcast player that manages subscriptions and auto downloads episodes, and a photo program that adds effects to your shots.

I also use my phone a lot for text messaging.  This is the first phone that I have used that manages my texts like this.  It keeps all the messages between a friend and me in a running thread allowing me to easily scroll through and follow the conversation back.  Adding a photo or video is easy too!

Last week, I wanted to listen to a podcast of This American Life.  I used the headphone jack with my headphones swiped off of my MP3 player, started up the program, and quickly realized that my MP3 player won't be getting used as much anymore.

Well, I didn't want this to be a review of the Motorola Droid.  There are plenty of professionals out there doing that.  The phone does so much more than the few things I have pointed out here.  I just wanted to let you know a few of the things that have got me excited about this device.  In fact I have only begun to scratch the surface on telling you all the things I love about DROID.  If you have any questions about the Droid, leave a comment and I'll get an answer posted as quickly as possible.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Running Late

The pictured lunch lets you know that I was running late for work Friday morning.

When I went into the kitchen Friday morning I knew I was supposed to have left five minutes earlier.  I grabbed a plastic bag and started throwing in some pre-packaged food.  As you can see that was water, Cheerwine, crackers x2, and an apple.

I kinda forgot about it until lunch time.  When I got out to the car, drove over to the park, and opened my lunch I had to stop and frown at it for a second.  I told myself that this is the result of hitting snooze an few extra times.  Was this really worth an extra ten minutes of sleep?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

One Million Dollars!

As Cari and I sat watching Survivor the other night, I asked her what she would do if she won a million dollars.  Without much thought she said she would pay off all of our debt.  Then she asked me what would be the first thing I would do with a million dollars.  I quickly said, "Quit my job."

That started a brief discussion if a million dollars would be enough to quit my job over.

My first argument, "How many years will I have to work before I have earned a million dollars?"

I think a million would be plenty enough to quit my job.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Brenna came running into the office today holding a small bottle of bubbles.  My first reaction was to grab it before she dumped it on the floor.  Once I had the bubbles in my hand she kept pointing at the bottle, wanting me to open it.

I told her we couldn't do bubbles in the house but she persisted.  She put my free hand on the cap as she was jabbering.  I'm sure she was telling me to open the bottle and make her happy.

My initial thought was that I didn't want bubble soap on my floor, but I finally gave in to her cuteness.  How could I not?   I decided that I would blow one burst of bubbles and be done with it.

Her reaction was adorable.  She squealed with joy and clasped her hands as the bubbles came down around her.  As the last one popped, she looked at me.  She, of course, wanted more.  I couldn't resist. All together we did bubbles for more than ten minutes in the office.  The soapy floor can be wiped up.  Watching her excitement was worth way more than a bit of clean up.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Christians Ruin Everything!

One of the joys of working with the public, if there is one, is that I hear people say some crazy things.

This past Sunday, I overheard two people talking about going to Chick-Fil-A for lunch.  The man reminded the woman that Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sunday.  The woman grimaced and said that the restaurant must be like Hobby Lobby.

He looked over at her and asked what she meant and she said,

"Stupid Christians, ruining my Sunday!"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pinnacle Mountain Trail

Rick and I took a hike last week into Table Rock State park.  In the past we have tackled the Table Rock trail at the park during a severe thunderstorm.  Seriously!

This hike we decided to take on the Pinnacle Mountain Trail in much better weather.  Both trails are listed on the trail map as a strenuous hike.  The Pinnacle trail has a bit more elevation change and is also a bit longer overall compared to the Table Rock trail.  We would be hiking almost eight miles total in this hike.  We have done the Table Rock trail multiple times together and don't find it overly strenuous, so we were ready to tackle this trail.

Here is a overlay of our looped hike on Google Earth:

As we approached the three mile mark on our way up, we both agreed that we liked this trail more than the Table Rock trail.  The first part of this trail stays close to the Carrick creek which provides some nice background noise and some beautiful scenes.  We also hiked behind and below a few small waterfalls on our way to the top.

One of the best views along the trail is on a rock outcrop known as Bald Knob.  At this spot, we stood on the edge of a cliff that gave us awesome views.

It's a good thing we were able to stop and relax at that place because the toughest was yet to come.  We only had about half a mile left to the top from Bald Knob, yet we had over 500 ft left to climb.  The trail started to become steep and we were forced to take frequent, short breaks.  At one of our breaks, I looked up the hill and saw a posted white sign.  It wasn't far from us.  I pointed it out to Rick and indicated that it may be the end of our climb.  We pushed on and reached the sign just in time for another break.  Unfortunately, the sign was not the top, in fact there was a large hill still to our right.  The hill laughed at us as we realized we would have to climb it.  The sign was a marker for the beginning of the Foothills Trail.  It also had a trail map of the Table Rock park area.  Again, it listed both trails as "strenuous".

"Wait a second!", I said.  "If Table Rock is strenuous, then this should be listed as ridiculous!  "It's not even a fair comparison to put them on the same level.  The scale is broken!"

Rick was getting a drink of water while I ranted about the difficulty.  I pointed to the top of the hill and reminded my partner that we still had to climb it.  He asked me to stop trying to motivate him.

The last one or two tenths of a mile felt like a climb that would never end.  It was so steep that when I would stop to catch my breath, I held onto the trees to keep from falling back down the hill.  Both of us struggled for a bit, but it made it that much more satisfying when we reached the summit.  On the very tippy top of the mountain stood a tree in the middle of a small clearing.  No, there was no man handing out balloons for our success.  Not even a sign that congratulated us.  There was only the tree.

Instead of following the same trail down, we used the Ridge trail that headed East toward Table Rock.  This trail was much easier, but we were also going down, so it may have been deceiving.  As we worked our way down we kept looking for a clearing to have our lunch.  The Ridge trail doesn't offer very many views into the mountains, because it takes you through such dense forest.  We finally got tired enough that we found a fallen tree to use as a bench and gave up on finding a view.  At lunch Rick said that the climb to the top was about as much as he could take.  I agreed that it was the steepest hike I can remember taking and then I started to complain about the trail being described as "strenuous" instead of "ridiculous" again.

Below is a the elevation map that my Garmin captured while we hiked.  You can see the sharp incline on the left of the peak that we traveled and that almost killed my friend.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Balloon Photos

Here's a few of the shots I took last weekend at the balloon festival.

This balloon floated directly over my head.  I thought it was a different view than what you normally see.

I think I told you earlier this week that I got to stand in the middle of the launch field on Sunday morning.  As each balloon was filled with hot air, there was a person attached to a rope holding the top of the balloon.  These ropes seemed to be everywhere as the mass of balloons were be prepared.

This was something I wanted to try with the photos and I wasn't sure if it would work.  I ended up really liking this shot.  The challenge:  Would a black and white of colorful balloons work?

No balloons here.  This is sunrise on lake Hartwell.  Taken somewhere around 6:30am on Sunday morning.  There was no traffic, so I stopped my car on the bridge and snapped two quick shots out of the car window. Here's one of those two:

In photography, light is everything.  Getting up at 5:30am on my day off was well worth getting these shots.  As the balloons ascended into the air, the sun was low on the horizon, giving each balloon some great side lighting.  Taking balloon shots in the afternoon, with the sun up high, would not have had the same effect.  Well, unless the flight was at sunset.  

Can I post hot air balloon photos without showing you some flames?  I almost did, but I decided I owe you at least one.  First, they fill the balloon with air using a big fan.  When the balloon is mostly inflated, they start shooting the flames into it, heating the air.  At that point, it only takes about a minute for the balloon to stand upright and start to gently lift off the ground.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

worthless stats

Tuesday was family game night at our house.  The kids and I were setting up the game when Cari said, "You know a person with blue eyes has won four of the last six games we've played."

I laughed a bit while the kids started comparing eye color. Cari was making a joke that started while we watched Nascar last week.  The announcers were spouting off worthless stats like:

Nobody has ever won this race when starting any farther back then twenty second.
The last seven races we have had a caution by lap ten.

The list goes on.  The commentators don't seem to consider that over time we have different drivers, different cars, etc... Now when they quote these stats we just laugh.

When the kids and I finished the setup of our game, and we all sat down.  Cari said, "The person that sits to my left has never won family game night."  Then she smirked at Randy sitting to her left.

"I'm going to my room!", Randy said.
I stopped him from storming off with no hope of winning, but only after I agreed to switch seats with him.

Sitting to Cari's left on Tuesday night, would you believe that I lost?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Balloons Over Anderson 2009

Five people and a lot of volunteers really wanted to bring back a ballooning festival to Anderson, SC this year.  They worked hard to produce the first Balloons Over Anderson festival this past weekend.  I went on Saturday morning, Saturday night, and at sunrise on Sunday morning.  From my perspective, the festival turned out great.

In addition to a good turnout of balloons, we saw skydivers, and large scale model airplanes.

Saturday morning we noticed tethered rides in a balloon being offered and the line only had five people.

Randy and I paid and got in line.  As our turn was approaching, I started getting nervous.  I looked back at Cari to see if she would switch with me.  I had never been up in a wicker basket attached to a flame thrower attached to a large fabric envelope.  I was unable to get her attention before one of the workers was giving me instruction.  He told me as soon as the basket hit the ground, I needed to jump on because he would need my weight to help hold it down.  With no time for fear, I was in the basket.

Once we ascended, I realized how incredible it was.  It was such a gentle ride and my fear left me very quickly.  That's when we hit the full length of the tether at around 130 ft in the air. The basket jolted to the side a bit but nobody got kicked overboard. We continued floating in place for a few minutes before the balloon slowly drifted back down.

It was really awesome.  As soon as we got down, I begged Cari to go try.  She wasn't excited about it, but she went and Randy got his second ride.  Cari can be seen in this photo wearing the blue sweater:

Saturday night, Cari and I went back to see the balloons glow in the dark.  If you have never seen what I'm talking about, here's a video I made with my new Motorola Droid:

The final launch of the event was going to come on Sunday morning at sunrise, otherwise known as seven in the morning.  It's a thirty minute ride out there from the house and I wanted to have plenty of time to see the setup so I left my house at six.

I found myself in the middle of the launch field taking what would turn out to be 260 photos.  I was surrounded by balloons and it was really amazing.  Here's another video, again made with the Droid.

As I go through some more of my photos this week, I'll get some more ready to post toward the end of the week.

It's amazing what five people and their volunteers can put together.  I hope their efforts were well rewarded this weekend so they can start planning for next years event.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

It is MINE!

On Friday during lunch I headed over to the Verizon store with my lovely wife to pick up the new Motorola Droid.  I already blogged about this earlier in the week, so I'll just tell you . . .



Over the next week I'll try to type up some of my thoughts on this phone.  Maybe not a full, true review, but as close as I'll get to that.  For now, we're heading out to a balloon festival. . .

Thursday, November 05, 2009

QR Code

What is this funny looking square?  It's a QR Code!  I've been reading about smart phones over the past two weeks and I started to notice these codes on some websites.  A QR Code is like a barcode found on any product you purchase.  But the QR Code can hold MUCH more data than that silly old bar code on your box of tissues.  You can print a QR Code onto a business card that contains all of your contact info.  When someone needs your contact info, they can scan the code with their phones camera and instantly they have everything without typing a single key.

A company could put a QR Code into a magazine and when you scan the code, it would take you directly to their website.

There are some really interesting ways these codes can be utilized.  I've even seen photos of codes being used on giant screens like at Times Square.  When I get my first smart phone, this will be the first QR Code I will scan!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Over the past year I have become more and more interested in having a BlackBerry.  No, I don't need one.  It's just a really cool gadget that I want to have.  Really, I probably would have wanted an iPhone but I have zero interest in switching over to AT&T, so I have pretty well ignored the iPhone.

A few months ago my sister-in-law, Amanda, got herself a BlackBerry.  Initially, Cari and Amanda tried to keep it a secret from me.  Cari was afraid that my BlackBerry jealousy would cause me to run out and get one.  While it did ramp up my want of the device, I stayed fairly calm.

Then I heard that the BlackBerry Storm 2 was coming out at the end of October.  I started getting very excited and had the feeling that I just HAD to have one.

When Amanda visited in October, we got to see her with her BlackBerry.  Even the baby was excited about it!

 In the weeks leading up to the Storm 2 release, I started seeing more information about the Motorola Droid.

I quickly switched alliances and started scouring the internets for anything about the Droid.

At this point I have pretty much read every review and seen every YouTube video demonstrating the Droid.  I must have one.

Do I need one?  Nope.  Do I want one?  Yep.  Can I afford one?  Maybe.

The Droid comes out on Friday.  IF I get one, I'll be sure to post about it that day!