Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Watch it twice.

I had to watch it twice to see how this was done.

And he didn't spill his drink!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

You Must Play Nice!

Look, I really don't have a problem if a squirrel wants to have a bite to eat from my bird feeder.  But when one of them gets a little greedy it's time to change the rules.
Modifications are in the works.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mathews Cemetery

Over the past few weeks I've driven down a stretch of highway south of Greenwood, SC.  Go ahead and look that up on a map if you don't know South Carolina geography.  Greenwood sits all alone in the middle of nowhere.  South of Greenwood becomes part of the nowhere.  So I found it odd that there were some brick works on the sides of the road.

The style of brick work in this photo is done on each side of the road, like forming a gate.
There are two sets approximately one mile apart.  Half way in between is another set.  This set at the half way are on each side of driveway.  A marble plaque on one side reads MATHEWS.

I pulled onto the driveway initially just to read the name plate.  As I sat just off the road I contemplated driving down the driveway to see what hides in the woods. This was my view.
I didn't know what or who I would find back there.  Nobody knew I was stopping here.  I was alone, I hoped.  The explorer in me wanted to drive on but my imagination of horror held me back. With the car idling I noticed a white cross poking up from the grass.  From my perspective, it looked tall.  Seeing that cross gave me some comfort and some courage. I decided that whatever horrible things my imagination was conjuring couldn't be all that bad if they were displaying a large white cross. Other than the cross, I saw only trees and bushes. Besides my car I heard nothing but the sound of cicadas.

I drove down, still nervous, realizing that my only escape would be to drive backwards.

The drive ended in a circle with the center of the circle filled full of overgrown grass.  At the farthest end of the loop, I found this family cemetery.
 This small cemetery seems to sit alone out here. I got out and looked at some of the memorials. Most of them were from the mid 1800's to early 1900's.  A few were older.  While I didn't venture away from the cemetery, I didn't see any evidence of buildings or other development.

I was proud of myself for gathering up the courage to explore this bit of land.  I'll probably go back someday and record some of the names of the people buried here and see what history I can find on them.  This small mission of investigating the brick gates has lead into the potential of a bigger mission.  I'm hoping that some investigation on the names and dates will provide me with some insight into the people buried here or even some information on the brick gates spread a mile apart.

I have found small cemeteries like this in the past, but this is the first I've encountered to be marked off with brick works protecting the entrance.  I still wonder if those brick designs had other intentions at some time in the past, or if they were built for this family plot.  Someone went through some expense to create this paved drive and brick gates for a small family cemetery located south of the middle of nowhere.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Suspect #1

I had to go looking for the baby.  She was quiet for about fifteen minutes and I knew with that much peace and quiet something was wrong.  As I hunted her down, she emerged from her brother's bedroom.  This is the look she gave me. . .
 I smelled it before I saw it.  "What's on your face?", I asked her.  She admitted it was chocolate.  Of course, she refused to readily give up details and I had to dig for every bit of information I was going to get.  There was probably a stash of wrappers or remaining chocolate stashed somewhere and I had to find it.

Using my detective skills I asked, "Where did you get the chocolate?"  At first she told me it was from the garbage.  But upon further questioning she admitted it was in my room.

I lead suspect #1 into my room and had her show me what she was talking about.  There in the corner, next to the Dora pillow was half of a Little Debby cake package.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Humorized Label

I really like when a product uses sarcasm and humor on their product labels.  The company that always stood out to me in this category is Vitaminwater.

Recently I came across a bluetooth device by Fuse.  I didn't buy it, but as I read the box, they had a line that caught my attention. After the description of the product they had a section of technical details that they called: "Specs for you ├╝ber nerds:"

Then two nights ago at dinner we had the bottle of A1 on the table.  On the side label:
 "SHAKE WELL  If there's only one drop left, a more extreme form of shaking may be required.  Like dancing.  Or jumping jacks. You can do it.    Yeah, it's that important.
Do I buy more from a company that humorizes their label?  But they certainly earn a lot of cool points with me.  If I'm going to buy a product, I guess I'm more likely to buy it from a cool company when possible.

What's your favorite humorized label?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Color By Number

Color by number.  When coloring the book the way you wanted was just too complicated.  Look at all the choices you had to make.  I think Crayola is to blame for this.  When they released their box of 96 crayons it just added so much stress to the children of the world.  How many blues does a kid really need anyway?

This theme of color by number has carried into our food selection now.  All the Mexican restaurants I have been to seem to use the same menu, and when I go in, I can safely order a combination #4.  Curious about what I like to eat?  Go to a local "hole in the wall" Mexican restaurant and order a Combo #4.   It's order by number at fast food too.  Even Chick-fil-a, a place with limited options (chicken) has numbered their menu. My choice on chicken is #1 in case you were wondering.

In some ways I like this numbering system entering into every part of my life.  Sometimes options can overwhelm me.  I recently complained about the options at Subway in this blog.  They really do need a numbering system!

One of my favorite topics to write about, because of the stress it puts on me, is getting a haircut.  It's a million questions by the same person every month.  Now I've started going to Great Clips because it's convenient.  The girls in there don't ask as many questions.  It's mostly, "what guard number do you want on the sides?"  Again, we have been reduced to color by number.  Over here, I go with a 4.

There are other areas of our lives that could be made simpliar with a great numbering system.  Imagine going into the grocery store and ordering a number one.  A number one is bread, eggs, milk.  The grocer would have a board near the front with about twenty combo numbers listed.  The combos will be pre-packed, and a teen age boy will bring your packs to the register as you call them out.  Simple.

How about trying to get in touch with someone?  Imagine being able to push a number in your phone and get. . . never mind.

What part of your life would be better with a numbering system?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Two Cups of Coffee

Sunday morning I got up a few minutes before anyone else in the house.  I went into the kitchen and started some coffee.  I had an hour before I had to start getting ready for church, so I sat down at the computer and a few minutes later I was reading the news with my first cup of coffee.

On a normal day, I drink only one cup of coffee.  But being up an hour early on a Sunday morning wasn't a normal day.  I drank my second cup of coffee before jumping into the shower.

Fast forward to church. Cari and I were standing together in the pews singing the first hymn.  I was holding the hymnal for the both of us. Steady for the first verse, and then not so steady. I slowly tilted the book so it would be hard for Cari to see.  Then when she put her hand on it to steady it, I started pushing it closer and closer to her nose.

After the hymn, we sat in the pew and Cari whispered in my ear, "God is frowning on you this morning".

Sunday, May 15, 2011

One of My Favorite Songs

Oh I love this song!  I was down in Augusta, Ga for work last week and I heard the music of the 13 year Cicadas.  It's been a few years since I've heard the Cicada buzz.

There are different groups of Cicada, known as a brood, and not all of them are on a 13 year cycle.  That's explains why you can hear them more often then what their name indicates.  These insects can populate up to one million per acre!  They have been hiding under ground sucking out the juices of tree roots for the past 13 years and now their ready to make some babies.  They'll be around for about a month before they have all mated and died.  They haven't come up around my house yet, a few hours North of Augusta, but a map of their range says they can still populate this area.

As I drove through the forested area near Augusta, Ga I turned off the radio and rolled down the windows to listen to them.  The constant buzz is certainly loud enough to hear without putting the windows down, but I wanted to really enjoy them while I could.   With the air rushing in, I listened to the song and looked at the trees surrounding the road.  Cicadas were flying all around and a good many of them were colliding with my car.  They have no natural defense against predators like birds and cars except for their massive numbers.  There is just no way the birds can eat them all fast enough.

There is something really amazing about the song of the Cicada army.    This really is one of my favorite nature songs during the summer.  But with millions of Cicadas flying through the air, maybe I shouldn't have rolled the windows down.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Life in a Tree

I recently got an invitation to join my friend, Chip, in the Pisgah forrest for a day of hiking.  Saturday morning we met up at the ranger station early enough that we beat everyone that hadn't camped Friday night.  From there we headed up to our planned hike of the Pink Beds loop.  It's obviously the wrong time of year, because I didn't see anything pink out there, just lots of green.

There are areas of the trail where there is no underbrush below the hardwood trees.  It was very clean and peaceful looking with light grass coving the ground among the tall trees.  In fact, Chip and I stopped at several areas just to stop and appreciate the scene in front of us.  One of the things we talked about is if you take the time to stop and listen in places like this, nature will come alive.  The insects and animals that hide when you approach will start to continue their day in your quiet presense.   Unfortunately, in our quiet moments, we were unable to convince any bears to show themselves. 
The other half of the trail followed along some creeks and muddy areas.   We examined the paw prints in the mud, but the bears still eluded us.

Look at the below photo.  Do you see it?
You are looking at a very well camaflaged camp site just off the trail.  The smoke in the right side of the photo is a small camp fire being shielded from view by a mound of leaves and small branches.  To the left of the clump of tree near center is a green tarp.  There is a stick coming through the tarp and the tarp is open on the back side.  If it wasn't for the smell of the smoke, we wouldn't have noticed this well hidden camp.

Just before we encountered the camp, we passed an older man with a long grey beard on the trail.  He was dressed in full camo and stepped off trail with his back to us as we approached.  After we passed him he came back on trail and slowly followed behind us.  Shortly after passing the old man I heard some noise in the brush on the right of the trail.  There was a young man laying in the leaves, again in full camo.  He was digging around on the ground with his hands.  He was right next to the trail, but like his camp, I wouldn't have seen him had he been quiet when we passed.

After our advendtures on the Pink Beds trail, Chip took me up to the Mt Pisgah trail.
It was on the Mt. Pisgah trail that I contemplated life in a tree.  Near the trail head we encountered this tree.

The trunk was only a shell and I decided to see if I could fit inside the cavity.  While I attempted to squeeze my entire body in the tree I realized I was pushing quite hard and I started to consider an exit strategy.  Chip encouraged me to push harder and assured me he would help pull me out if I became stuck. As I squeezed into the tree I considered how hard Chip would work to get me out.  How many photos would be taken before I was extracted?  How many other visitors on Pisgah would take photos with the man stuck in the tree?  I decided not to push my luck.

When you get to the top of Pisgah you see two things.  First you see an incredible view in any direction.  From above the world, we looked into the hills.  For all the miles and miles that were visible we saw very little evidence of people below us. It was a view of mostly endless nature.
Second, you see a massive television antenna.  Although this tower is man made, it didn't really upset me to find it in such a beautiful and natural surrounding.  
I found the tower quite interesting.  Maybe it is the engineering that went into building it in such a remote location that interested me.  In it's own way, I found it amazing.  If you scout around the base of the tower you will find the survey disk marking the top of Mt. Pisgah.
On our way back down the mountain we encountered a family with several children.  The boys were climbing some rocks and I asked them if they had tried to climb into the tree at the beginning of the trail.  They looked at me like I was crazy.  Apparently I was the only one contemplating life in a tree that day.


Thanks Blogger!  I had two posts written and waiting.  Apparently that was too much awesome writing sitting in limbo, so you deleted it.

Tonight I re-write.  Without music.  Without quiet.  Not the same.

Thanks Blogger.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

May 10th

So did you do anything special for Confederate Memorial Day yesterday?

Do you believe there should be such a holiday?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Google Latitude

Ever get that sneaky suspicion that someone is watching you?  It might be Google.  It might be your friends. It might even be your neighbor.  Creeped out yet?

If you are running around town with a smart phone in your pocket, one of the apps you can load up is Google Latitude.  With an Android phone, it's built into Google maps.  Latitude will track your location and allow you to "check in" to the places you visit.  It will also allow you to develop a friends list.  What's interesting about Latitude is that when everyone on your friends list is using it, you can use the map and visually see where everyone is at. . . at any time.  Creeped out yet?

I love technology and it's that part of me that says, "WOW! This is great!".  Well, I've never had anyone that I wanted to share that kind of data with until Cari upgraded to a smart phone last week.  She and I turned on Latitude and went about our day tracking each other.  It worked really well when you stopped to visit a location.  While on the move, it seemed to use cell towers to define your location and it could get a little off.

It was kinda cool.  I could look down and see that she was STILL at Walmart.  She could look at her phone and see that I was STILL on the couch.

We ran it for a day and then we sat down and talked about it.  One of my concerns was the effect on my phones battery.  These batteries were already stretched to lasting a day.  During our one day test I didn't see much of a drop in battery life.  Maybe an extra 7% was being used.  That doesn't count for more than an hour or so in my guess.  More of the battery drain I experienced came from constantly turning on the phone to see where people (Cari and I) were.  The screen is the biggest draw of power on these devices, so constantly turning the screen on to verify that I am sitting at home was pretty much a waste.

The next thing we talked about is, "What's the point?"  The fact is I go to work and come home.  I'm not a very exciting person to watch if you're tracking me.  Cari and I talk all the time and we already know where each other are pretty much all the time.  There's no point in Latitude.  If we were in college and trying to meet up with friends in town all the time, then maybe.

Then there's the creepy factor.  Even if you are the type to hit the town every night and want it to be easy for your friends to meet up with you, do you really want them to be able to track you like that? I'll tell you when I want to meet up with you by calling or texting you.  Imagine you are in Walmart shopping for for some new underwear and then a friend pops up to say hi.  They tell you that they were next door at the Dollar Store and noticed that you were in Walmart.  Maybe you weren't in the mood to get noticed buying pink panties.  Even if you are only sharing it with your best friend, how much can we trust the security of that data that Google is holding? Creeped out yet?

It's true, you can turn it on and off, but in my one day experiement it seemed like it's best used if you turn it on and leave it on. In fact, you can turn on a history feature that supposedly is only avaliable to yourself.  I logged onto Google Maps after my day of use and was able to see pin points of all the places I spent my day.  Latitude will even tell you how much time you spent at work and how much time at home.  While the technology aspect of this history interested me, it wasn't terribly exciting since I already knew where I was that day.  I already know how much time I spend at work or at home. 

At the end of our conversation we decided to turn it off.  Even if I was only sharing it with my best friend, how secure is that data?   I actually wasn't as creeped out about being tracked as Cari was.  For me it came down to "What's the point" and battery life.

In any case, even without Google Latitude - which is really cool - you can, and are, still be tracked every day by your smart phone. Creeped out yet?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

A 3rd New Phone

It's time for my phone upgrade and I had some choices to make.  I've been extremely happy with my Motorola Droid over the past 18 months. As newer and newer technology was released, nothing came out that made me really jealous.  My Droid could do anything they could do.  Still, it was time to step up from my first smart phone.  In addition, Cari was wanting to try out a smart phone for the first time and was willing to take over my Droid.

To make the move, I was willing to wait until summer when a new line of phones would be announced, but Cari didn't really want to wait that long.  I had to choose a phone that was out now.  I decided that I wanted the Incredible 2.

I drove over to Verizon two days before the Incredible 2 was to come out - don't ask why I did that.  It's a really long story to tell it that way.  While at Verizon I decided to pick up the Droid Thunderbolt 4G.  During the first day of using it I noticed a few things.  It's a nice phone.  It's quick. It's bulky. It's heavy. It sucks down a battery like Charlie Sheen sucks down cocaine.  Did I mention it's heavy?

For me, the Thunderbolt was a size too big to use comfortably.  Three days later I returned it and picked up the newly released Incredible 2.  Having owned that for three days as of writing this I can tell you that the Incredible 2 is incredible.

The technology inside the phone is essentially the same as the Thunderbolt without 4G.  It also really isn't that Incredible if you have a phone like the original Incredible.  BUT I came from the Original Droid and this is a nice step up.

So, using my third phone in a week turned out to be a winner.  I now have no doubt that I have a terrific device and I will be happy to carry it for the next few years.

One more thing about my phone experience this week.  Google.  Wow!  Google has this set up right.
Each time I went to Verizon and purchased a phone, I logged in with my account and the phone instantly downloaded all the apps I've already paid for, my contacts, and even my background wallpaper.  After about thirty minutes, my phone was loaded with my data and I was up and running.  This was all automatic and SO easy.

I feel confident that this phone will keep me satisfied and hold my jealousy of your new smart phone at bay for at least another 18 months.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Parks and Recreation

Ah! Parks and Recreation.  You really want to be The Office.  You get so close, but you can't seem to reach the top step on that ladder.  I like you anyway.  You have clever characters.  Characters like Tom.  

Here's a quote from a recent episode.

Tom:   'Zerts are what I call desserts. Tray-trays are entrees. I call sandwiches sammies, sandoozles, or Adam Sandlers. Air conditioners are cool blasterz, with a z. I don't know where that came from. I call cakes big ol' cookies. I call noodles long-ass rice. Fried chicken is fri-fri chicky-chick. Chicken parm is chicky chicky parm parm. Chicken cacciatore? Chicky catch. I call eggs pre-birds, or future birds. Root beer is super water. Tortillas are bean blankies. And I call forks...food rakes.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Family Trip

It was time to torture the kids with some history and sight seeing.  Let's go to Biltmore!  On our last trip there, Cari and I picked up annual passes, so it was time to get some use of them.
Going through the house went quite well with the children.  Randy was interested in it and even listened to some of the hosts in the house answer questions.  Meredith didn't seem to care too much, but behaved herself just fine.  While Brenna did behave through the house, she was mostly occupied looking for a princess.

This was my first visit to the house with flowers in bloom.  The field of tulips was awesome. The gardens are really something you have to see for yourself.
We are already thinking about going back in the summer to see the roses and take more time in the gardens.  While the kids did really good in the house, flowers just didn't hold their interest.  It might be an "adults only" trip when we go back to the gardens.
Our adventure of sight seeing with the kids turned out really well and we all had a great day.  While the history  and grandeur of the house can hold a child's interest, don't try and force to much of the gardens on the young.  They don't have time to stop and smell the flowers.