Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Botanical Lunch

With this crazy great January weather, I took the opportunity to walk around the South Carolina Botanical Gardens in Clemson during one of my lunch breaks.  

I have been there several times before, but this was the first time I found this sculpture. 
It's called Crucible: Crucibulum Evoltum

Inside, the stone floor spirals down to the center where a natural spring bubbles up.  Directly above the spring is an opening to the sky.
It was a really interesting sculpture tucked away in the woods and I enjoyed exploring it on a quiet afternoon.  There are probably other treasures out there that I've over looked in my prior visits.

I finished my lunch on a nature trail as I examined the texture of the bark of various trees.

Can you name them all?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Time for a Date

Cari and I went on a date Friday night and we decided to head into downtown Greenville.  After dinner, we walked around town and started a game.  As we passed strangers on the sidewalk, we'd hear parts of their conversation, and then we would fill in the blanks of the story.

There was the street preacher, the girl crying out like a horse (yeah...true), and the couple on the bridge.  The couple on the bridge was our favorite.  They were each dressed up a bit and standing a few steps away from each other.  As we approached, it was obvious in their body language that they weren't having a great evening. The woman said something about not wanting to spend time with him.  "That's why I made other plans for tonight! I don't want to be with you."  He mumbled a response as we passed them and as we got farther away I heard her say something about him calling all the time.

Cari and I had a great time trying to figure out that story.  If she had made other plans and didn't want to be with him, how did they both end up dressed nicely, standing on a bridge together?  Cari's favorite scenario for them is that the woman was at a nearby restaurant with her friends when the stalker boyfriend stood on the sidewalk tapping on the windows.  She finally had to come out and confront him.

We made our way over to Falls Park and got coffee in a place filled with hipsters.  Then we saw it.  This sign.
Under 18 not allowed in the park after 10pm.  I looked around for some teens so I could point my finger and taunt them.  As I was choosing my target, Cari grabbed my arm and stopped me.  "It's not ten o'clock yet."  

Even though the teens were allowed in the park with us, it was still a great date and we had a great time.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Your Serving Size Is Stupid

How many pop tarts are in a foil package?  Two.  How many pop tarts make up a serving size?  One.
What the hell should I do with the other one?  It's in a foil pouch that disintegrates as soon as you start to open it.  If they intend for you to only eat one at a time, then they should wrap them individually.  Is this more efficient packaging in action? That's not possible!  Once I start to open it, if I only eat one as they supposedly expect, then I'll have to find some other means of wrapping up the extra tart. Where's the efficiency in that?  This isn't about packaging or anything else innocent.  This is about a scam! They want to put lower values on the nutritional label to encourage you ... no. . .. to trick you into thinking their product isn't so bad.

I'm okay with having multiple servings in the same package.  There are plenty of examples of this.  Stuff like BREAD does this.  They usually include a twist tie so I can get my serving of bread and then close it back up.  It's not like you tear open a foil pouch containing a loaf of bread, get your one or two pieces out, and then look at it like, "What the f*ck am I supposed to do with the rest of this bread?"

I'm just waiting for other companies to really start taking advantage of this.  Things like candy bars.  Imagine a Snickers with two servings. What are you supposed to do with a half eaten Snickers?  I'll tell you what.  If you want your nutritional info to look great, just jack up the servings per container.  Let's make a Snickers bar equal to thirty servings. At that point, I'd print "ONLY 9 CALORIES" really large on the wrapper. People would be on the damn Snickers diet the next day!  This makes about as much sense to me as 2 servings in a pop tart pouch.

(Yes. I know the picture I posted is not Pop-Tart brand.  But it's the same thing and the same issue)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Life Without Television

Every once in a while I'll spot something while I'm driving and say, "Oh! Look at that!".  Most of the time I just keep driving and thinking about how cool that thing was.  When I drove past this piece of graffiti in an industrial part of town, I immediately started looking for a place to turn around or make a u-turn. 
I picture someone with a can of spray paint walking around town looking for a canvas.  Here was a run-down industrial building at the intersection of a main road, perfect for getting the message out. 

So what's the artist trying to say?  Life without television looks horrible?   Maybe the artist wants us to contemplate our lives without television. 

Then again, maybe the intention was to get someone to say, "Oh! Look at that!"

Monday, January 23, 2012

Temple Run

This four year old is going for the record score in Temple Run.  
It's just a matter of days before her skill and concentration defeats us all.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

South Carolina Rocks!

Time to vote for a Republican.  They say that being an early primary state is good for us.  We get a lot of attention for this.  All the media is scouring the countryside interviewing people.  All the candidates are hopping from town to town clapping their hands.  The bonus is all of them are talking about South Carolina.  It's like free advertising.

What they didn't tell us, the citizens of this beautiful State, is that we'd have to put up with so much noise.  Political ads are almost impossible to escape unless you lock yourself in your room.  But even then, Santorum, will still be standing in your yard throwing pebbles at your window.

And now it's time to go vote for a Republican.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Eight Cents Too High

Some people will drive several blocks, or even across town to find the cheapest gas.  The joke has always been that you'll spend more money in gas getting there than the amount you'll save shopping there.  Usually, gas prices don't vary more than a few cents from store to store in the same town.

Me?  I just buy gas where ever I am when the car runs out.  I don't have time to be filling up all the time, so I just wait until I think it's about to shut off and then pop into a station.   When I got to that point yesterday I had the choice of two gas stations.  One was a local "cheap gas" option and the other was a Shell station.

Shell was TEN CENTS higher than their cheap neighbor.  Really?  If Shell was two cents higher, I might have chosen them.  Partly because of their advertising about how awesome they are.  But for a dime a gallon I'll just stay on this side of the intersection.

It would have cost me more to fill up at Shell than driving across the street.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

You Must Choose

Board game vs Video game.

On Sunday after lunch I made each kid choose if they would rather play a board game with the family or play their video games.  I indicated they could have one or the other, not both, although the older kids pleaded for that option.

As I went around the table polling the family with my question I found that the four year old quickly chose the board game.  The older children sitting at the table winced and squished their faces in pain as they were forced to choose the board game (the answer they knew I wanted) or their video games.

After much deliberation and after I assured them that my feelings weren't going to be hurt no matter the answer, I got my answers.  Meredith chose the video games and Randy, refusing to answer, asked his sister to answer for him.  Not wanting to be alone in her choice, she chose video games for Randy, but I could tell he wasn't upset with the result.

So for the next hour or two the children went their separate ways to play video games.  Then I brought out a board game and started setting it up.  One by one, the electronics were turned off and everyone came to the table.  Yes, the four year old was the first one there.

It turns out that we had plenty of time for both electronic and non-electric games that day.  When we were finishing up our board game, Randy asked, "So why did you make us choose only one earlier."  I told him I was just curious what they would say.

Truly, I knew I was setting myself up by making them choose.  We limit access to the video games pretty strictly most of the time, so their time playing games is precious to them.  I wasn't surprised that the video games won the vote, but it made me glad that they struggled with their choice.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Um. . . ewwwww..

Yesterday at lunch I decided to snap this quick photo of Meredith.  Shortly after the photo she went to take a drink and found some chunks of food floating in her cup.  Her little sister was sitting next to her but wouldn't confess to anything.  

Friday, January 13, 2012

What Are You Using?

There used to be five, and sometimes more, toothbrushes in the bathroom.  Considering the amount of people living in my house, that felt about right.

Last night I went into the bathroom and saw only one toothbrush.


This concerned me greatly.  First of all, was there some issue in the bathroom that everyone felt a need to remove their toothbrush?  Second, what are they using now that there is only one in there.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Real Tears

Yeah.  Those are real tears rolling down her cheeks.  When your baby is crying, what's the first thing you do?  I have a feeling picking up your camera isn't how you answered.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Consuming the News

If you want to read the news then buy a newspaper smart phone or a tablet.

Probably the thing I use my tablet for more than any other purpose is consuming the news.  There are countless apps to assist you in doing this.  Many will gather up news from a pile of sources which gives a better spectrum than if you were just on one site or app such as CNN.  These apps require a range of setup on your part so you can determine what subjects get priority.

After trying around a dozen news apps, I've determined that there isn't a single solution for the way I read the news.  I've got it narrowed down to three main apps.  If you use an Android tablet or smart phone, and you want to read the news, then these are my recommendations.  These aren't the only three apps I use for getting news, but they are the principle ones I use.

News360 - this is my first stop when I'm looking for headlines.  First off, this app looks great and is easy to navigate. This one takes no setup on your part.  Just load it up and you'll see the categories listed to the side.  Two features pushed this app my list of favorites.  First is Twitter integration.  While reading a story you can hit a button and see what people on Twitter are saying about the story.   You can also add your tweet about the story, including a link if you choose, from within this app.  Second, while reading a story, the top of the page shows you what site the content came from and also other news sources that have the story.  Meaning you can read the same story from two or more sources.  Think one is biased? Then read another.  I have used this multiple times on stories.  Especially if some sources are more local to the story.  Usually that local source will have more detailed info than the national sources.

Pulse - Pulse takes a few minutes to get up and going.  From a list, choose the sites where you want your content to come from.  You can also add your own favorite sites if you don't see the one you are looking for.  There are also options in Pulse to add your Facebook feed.  After setting up your content sources and organizing them on pages, you are ready to go.  In the app, you have horizontal strips of boxes.  Each horizontal line is a source (ex. Time magazine), and each box in the line is a story that you can click on.   You decide which order the sources are stacked and can create multiple pages to organize your view.  The resulting grid of boxes makes it very easy to quickly scan and read multiple news sites and their headlines.

Currents - This is a new one by Google for their tablets.  Currents reads like a magazine.  I tend not to use it as much for head lines, but for reading and viewing longer articles like you may do in a magazine.  The layout is great and is easy to use.  Again, you are choosing your sources, but this is very easy to use and doesn't take much time or effort to get up and running.

And now I know why newspapers are dying.  Besides having coupons folded into their pages, the need for them is fading away.  Most of my local news uses Twitter nowadays and I can quickly find out about headlines happening around town on my smart phone and without buying a paper.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

1,500 POSTS!!!!

That's a lot of words!  That's a lot of posts!

October 18, 2004 was my first post on this blog.  More than seven years of writing and still going!
Largest number of posts in a year: 2005 with 266 posts.  (2011 had 184)

The post with the largest number of views, well over 10,000 views, is Murphy's Village.
I don't believe that is representative of my best blog post, but I have learned that key words will draw an audience pretty quickly.  Writing about gypsies is one of those key words.  That is also the only post that I had to shut down comments.  For months after writing the post I would get comments either VERY against the Travelers or VERY supportive.  This blog isn't meant to be a sounding board for those arguments, so I had to shut down the comments.

Another key word that quickly gets attention is NAKED.  My post last month about Santa is Naked quickly got over 100 views.  Considering my average post in the past few years doesn't get more than 12 views, it appears that a lot of people are searching Google for a Naked Santa.  Sick.

It's a good thing I don't write this blog hoping for a huge audience.  Fact is, there aren't many of you reading this. My motivation to keep going is partly for my joy of sitting down and writing and partly me keeping a (public) journal of my life.  Besides family, readers have come and gone over the years.  Three come to mind that have stuck around longer than most.

Farm Girl - who I happened upon years ago by reading blogs and following links to other blogs.  She's got some great photography and enjoyable writing.
Melba - she hasn't updated this blog in a few months, but she has others.  Melba was an email pen-pal before you even knew what email was.
Random Connections - a local (to me) blogger that shares a lot of the same interests as myself. Also a great writer with a lot of wisdom.

As my kids get older and I get busier driving them around town, I feel like I have less time than I used to.  I'm sure there are the same number of hours in a day as there were seven years ago, but it doesn't always feel like it.  As a result, I find it harder to stop and read blogs like I used to do.  Sometimes it's all I can do to keep writing this one.

Originally, I intended to post a top ten blog posts here, but I couldn't do it.  I started scrolling through posts from the beginning and as I was reminded of different events in my life or things I've said, I found it hard to find "the best".  If you have a few minutes to kill, and you have any interest, the archive is always available in the margin of the blog.  Some of the pictures from seven years ago made me say, "Wow! The kids were YOUNG."

Only one post has ever been deleted from the blog.  It had something to do with peeing in a jar.  That's all I'll say about that!  (Note - that isn't the only post about peeing in a jar! Seriously!)

April Fool's posts are usually fun to write.  Since I normally post the truth, making up a complete lie is entertaining for me.  I hope it is for you too.

Well, I think I've come to the end of blog number 1,500.  I appreciate you stopping by to read, especially, all the way to the end!  Although some say that social media sites like Facebook and Google+ have killed blogs, I intend to keep writing, and I hope you keep stopping by to see what I have to say.

My goal for the blog this year is to add in more posts of ranting about random stuff that pops in my head.  I'm afraid you'll tire of the, "we went to the park" blogs if I don't try and mix it up a bit.  Those random rant blogs take a bit more effort and time on my part, so the number of those posts will be directly related to the amount of quiet time I can scrounge up.

We'll pick back up on Monday morning with post 1501.

Thursday, January 05, 2012


For a long time I didn't use YouTube because it was hard for me to find content that interested me.  I  would go and search for a specific topic or video and then leave the site.  Over the past year I've started to subscribe to some people that consistently post great videos and I've found myself using YouTube more because of it.  It's about content discovery.  It can be hard to get started.  Once you have found some stuff that interests you, you realize there are some great things on YouTube.

One person that I recommend you check out goes by the name of Swoozie.  I first found Adande's videos through a link to his video about working at Disney.  If you haven't seen it you should.  He also made a second video about Disney that is equally entertaining.  That got me interested in seeing what else he does and I haven't found a video of his yet that isn't fun to watch.

You know what it is?  First of all, it's his ability to tell a story.  Some people, and you know this, don't know how to tell a story.  Adande knows how to tell a story and that talent alone makes his videos worth watching.  But it doesn't stop there, his talent at editing together his story and adding in animation puts the polish on his stories.  You may not like his style, but I really enjoying listening to him tell a story.

Do you have a favorite person to watch on YouTube?  Let me know if you have a recommendation.  In the meantime be sure you watch the Disney video that Swoozie put together.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

15 years

I've been working for the same company for fifteen years now.  At their amazement that I lasted this long, they decided to offer me a gift.  I'm not sure how other companies amazed and bewildered by a long lasting employee offer rewards, but my company sent me to a website and urged me to select a gift.

I was expecting jackets and watches that feature the company logo, and those were a part of the offering, but there were also dozens of other items I could choose.  More jewelry, a camping tent, binoculars, a dart board, and cooking ware are all on the list.

There was nothing that struck me that it was "the" item.  As a result, I haven't selected anything yet.  I've been back to the website twice to review and narrow down my options.  I'm down to a tent and a watch.  I don't really need either but I'd probably use those the most.  I'm not sure why I'm taking it so seriously.  Maybe because it's a one time deal, like if I choose the wrong item I'll be stuck with it forever.

After fifteen years you would think I would be able to make a decision!  In the back of my head I keep telling myself that I ought to hurry up and make my selection before they fire me and I miss the opportunity.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

History Filled New Year

It's been too long since we've taken a field trip, so Cari and I sprung a surprise trip on the kids for New Year's Eve yesterday.  "We're going on a picnic", we told them.  That part was true.  We just didn't explain where the picnic was going to be until the car was loaded.

Even after they were told we were headed to Ninety Six National Historic Site for some hiking and history, there was very little (if any) complaining.  AWESOME!

Ninety Six is the site of a earthen works fort called Star fort - named for it's shape - and was the site of two revolutionary war battles.  The longest of these battles was a month long siege of the fort when Patriots tried to attack and take the fort from the army loyal to England.   The fort was connected to the town of Ninety Six by a three foot deep trench that provided cover for men and supplies traveling between the two.  The town was also the site of a successful trading post.  Merchants and Indians both came to town along several trading roads to buy and sell their wares.

In the park, you can see the mounds of earth that were the steep walls of the fort.  It doesn't show as well in my photos, but standing there, it is very clear how the Star fort stood to protect the town of Ninety Six.  During the siege, the Patriots dug trenches at night that slowly lead to the fort walls.  A wooden tower was built, nearly 30 foot tall, to allow Patriot sharp shooters to fire into the fort.  This tower forced the army in the fort to build their walls even taller with sandbags.

In the end, word came that thousands of Loyalist soldiers were on their way to support the fort and the Patriot force had to make a decision.  Leave or attack.  Fifty Patriots stormed the fort but were unable to breach the high walls.  Thirty of them were killed or wounded.

After the attack, the Loyalists were ordered to burn and abandon the fort and town.  The location in the back country of South Carolina was too remote from other bases to be supported in an area where Patriots were gaining.

You can see more photos and more detail of the are by visiting the website.

The promised picnic:
 The hike to history:
 Standing back where the Patriots attacked from... the path roughly follows some of the trenches dug by the Patriots.  You can see the mounds of earth near the path.  In the back of the photo you can see the larger hill - the eroded walls of the fort.  These trenches were originally 5-6' deep, providing protection as they approached the fort.  Most of the work would have been done at night in the cover of darkness.   By the way, the soil down here is red clay.  Described as digging into soft rocks.
 A partial reconstruction of the tower.  A few small cannons were also used to fire upon the fort.
 This was taken at a reconstruction of another fort at the site.  These types of sharpened poles also lined the walls of the Star fort.  If an attacker breached the first line of defense, a line of sharpened branches - like ancient barbed wire, they would have to cross into the trench and then climb up a steep hill and around these poles while being fired at and stabbed with bayonets.

Trips like these are some of my favorite family field trips.  At times, it gets so busy around here that we don't make it out as often as we'd like.  We're (Cari and I) hoping 2012 provides even more opportunity for these trips.  Not sure the kids are excited about that hope, but we won't tell them until the car is loaded.