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657-multiple-exposure-photography

These are literally my first attempts at multiple exposure photography. No photoshopping involved, except for cropping and resizing. Well, I might have shopped out my shadow in this one...sue me. My first guinea pig, Will running across our backyard.

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Drew, with Amber joining in, taking his turn running past my viewfinder.

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Two exposures this time. Will had the right idea, that he came up with all by himself, to change poses to make the photo more interesting.

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Finally, Drew and I were sitting on the couch while I was reviewing exposure options and I snapped off two images of him. All these were just experiments to see what my camera could do. Perhaps I'll take some more carefully crafted multi-exposure photos in the future.

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I was in Boise City today for a hearing and on the way back...the long way back...I broke up the early monotony by photographing some old farm houses. I also took the opportunity to to check out my in-camera HDR (high dynamic range) capability.

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I wish I could have seen the homes when they were new. I can't help but wonder what the story is that accompanies each home.

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My camera's HDR options were fun to play with and gave me a needed distraction on the first leg of my drive home. Hopefully, I'll be able to more subtlety put them to use in the future.

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[UPDATE]: Had to go back to Boise City for another hearing. On the way back, I found another old farm house I had missed the first time.

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We just discovered Lowe's awesome Build and Grow program. It's a free program, that has apparently been going on for years, which allows kids to build all kinds of simple yet cool little projects. Each child received an apron, goggles, a patch and a certificate in addition to the project which, this weekend, was a Monsters University Chest.

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Half way through their builds.

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Landon did a surprisingly great job of hammering. He was a little soft but had excellent aim. He would patiently tap away at his nails that I started for him until they were pretty close to all the way down.

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Will did great following the instruction even correcting me one time when I was using the wrong size nail. All he needed was a little assistance getting the nails started and off he went.

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Drew did the entire project by himself. My offers of assistance were politely rebuked.

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After the boys finished, proudly displaying their completed chests.

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Once home, the boys put the finishing touches on their Lowe's Grow and Play Monster University Chests by applying the supplied stickers. Great job boys and thank you to Lowe's. We will certainly be going back!

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Feb 27 2013

Pinewood Derby 2013

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This year's entrants in the Cub Scout Pack 983 Pinewood Derby. While we already have a small pack, the field was further narrowed by three of the older boys not being present (one Drew's age and two a year older). To see the making of Drew and Will's Pinewood Derby cars for this year, click here.

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First up was Will, on the left, with his dragon car on the right.

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Drew and his car both on the left.

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Will, tongue in cheek, very carefully lining up his car.

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Drew lining up his car with great precision.

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Will pushing the button to start the race.

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Drew taking his turn starting the race.

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Will at the finish to see his car cross the line first.

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Drew watching over his car as it takes an easy victory.

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Drew and Will really enjoyed it when they got to race against each other

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In this race, Will with an electronically measured time of 3.359 seconds beat out Drew with a time of 3.376 seconds by just 17 thousandths of a second.

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Drew crossing the finish line just ahead of Will.

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Will won Most Animaltastic for his car design as well as 1st place in his den and 2nd place over all for the whole pack.

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Drew won Most Modern for his car design as well as 1st place in his den and he repeated his performance last year with another 1st place for the whole pack.

Mary saw the final race results printout and said that Drew's winning time beat out Will's by only 4 thousandths of a second. The difference between the two was just 1/4 of that shown three pictures above when they crossed the finish line 17 thousandths of a second apart! That's pretty much a tie in my book.

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Our two awesome Pinewood Derby champions!

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It's that time of year again. Drew, Will and I have been working on their Cub Scouts Pinewood Derby cars. After discussing aerodynamics, weight distribution, handling, race rules and coolness, the boys designed their respective cars. First up for no-nonsense Drew is taking some unnecessary drag off the top.

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Next, Drew wanted a more pointy front end compared to last year.

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The ever creative Will came up with the idea for a dragon car. In addition to an aerodynamic slope, Will had me carve out a dragon head front-end.

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It's a pretty cool design Will came up with if I do say so myself.

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The dragon's head, both sleek and unique.

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Drew's car wasn't tall enough to drill out a cavity to put in weights like last year, so we simply cut off a section the size of the weights, clued them in and puttied around them.

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Will's car was perfect for drilling out a hole to put in the necessary weights in order to bring it up to the maximum allowed 5 ounces.

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The final results, Will's dragon car and Drew's form-follows-function aerodynamic car with what we've come to call Volvo accents on the rear end. We call them that because they kind of make it look like the back end of our Volvo S80. It's also look we carried over from last year.

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The front ends of two terrific Pinewood Derby cars.

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The rear ends of the boys' Pinewood Derby cars with Will's awesome dragon tail and Drew's taillights.

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The finished Pinewood Derby cars with their polished axles and wheels fully assembled. The cars are covered in lubricating graphite dust that gets everywhere after well-coating the axles and where the wheels rub against the cars. Tomorrow night, the big event!

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Soccer City asked us if they could use the boys' awesome photo in their electronic billboard advertising campaign. Drew and Will are now, officially, advertising models!

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One of the billboards at night (iPhone photo).

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The advertisement has been hopping around different electronic billboards along highway 169 and the Broken Arrow Expressway. A lot of friends have pointed out to us that they saw the boys on a billboard. Aunt Donelda even got to see it when I was taking her to the airport on the way out of town.

Video of the boys when I took them by one of the billboards. Be sure to make the video full screen and crank up the video quality by clicking on one of icons in the lower right of the video. (Sometimes you then have to drag the slider back to the beginning to get the change in quality to actually take effect.)

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Early this evening a summer rain storm started up out of nowhere and caught the boys playing in the backyard by surprise, especially since the sun was still shining brightly without the least bit of cloud obstruction.

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It made such a great photo opportunity that I grabbed my camera and took a bunch of shots. It was fun at first, but by the time Daddy had the boys run to and from the fence in the rain for the half-dozenth time...not such much. The pictures turned about great and the full size are amazing. Thanks Oklahoma weather!

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Aug 25 2012

Grandpa Danz's Desk

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In eighth grade shop class my father, Grandpa Danz, made this desk. It was my desk growing up and now it is Will's desk (or, at least, it's in Will's room). It's got some dings on it from all the years I put it to good use, but it is still in great shape. No need to have it refinished or otherwise worked on. It is beautiful, sturdy and wonderfully functional. Dad did a terrific job making it.

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In seventh and eighth shop class I made a desktop bookend pen set combo, a Thanksgiving turkey candle holder and a non-flexible solid wood skateboard...they were all horrible. While my parents dutifully complemented me on my creations and kept them around until they died, they have since been thrown out...not even close to being worth keeping. But my dad's desk...definitely a permanent family heirloom.

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Aug 16 2012

Full Rainbow

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Mary was on the ball again when it stopped raining today and found another rainbow to show the boys.

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Aug 12 2012

Cumulonimbus Cloud

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Driving home from Kansas City, I spotted an awesome cumulonimbus cloud. The picture utterly fails to convey its size and beauty. The cumulonimbus cloud was far away in the distance and relatively still behind the small darker clouds in front which were whizzing by traveling the opposite direction of my car.

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Jul 13 2012

Rainbow

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As soon as it stopped raining today, Mama said that there would probably be a rainbow. She and the boys rushed outside and Mama was right. You can even just make out a double rainbow present. I'm amazed by the color differentiation of the sky above and below the rainbow. I don't know if I've ever noticed that before but, like the one above, it is clearly present in most of my photos.

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Jun 5 2012

Venus Transit 2012

Today the planet Venus transited the Sun, that is, it passed directly between the Earth and the Sun. The transit is much like a solar eclipse by the Moon, except that Venus which is about three times the diameter of the moon is so far away that it looks like a small dot crossing the Sun.

The transit of Venus is considered one of the rarest predictable astronomical phenomena, occurring in a pattern that repeats every 243 years, with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by long gaps of 121.5 years and 105.5 years. The last transit of Venus, the first of the current pair, was on June 8, 2004, two days before I began this blog. The next transit of Venus will occur on December 10, 2117, over 105 years from now.

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There are multiple ways to safely observe the transit since you obviously can't look directly at the sun. I chose to set up a pair of binoculars on a tripod using some duct tape and projecting the transit on a white poster board.

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The binoculars with one eye taped off and the resulting projection on the poster board.

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The shadow of my setup showing the Sun's image projected through the binoculars with Venus visible as a small dot in the lower right of the bright circle.

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The start of the transit of Venus across the Sun. Venus is the black dot on the bottom right edge. Notice the faint sun spots visible near the center of the sun.

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A sharper picture later in the transit of Venus, my technique improved as the transit progressed.

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It started to get cloudy later in the transit. But, it made for an interesting image when I was able to catch Venus in a gap in the clouds.

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The images above were contrast adjusted and this one was additionally artificially colored. I really like how it came out. This was about the peak of the transit that I was able to capture before clouds interfered as the Sun was setting. The total transit lasted 6 hours and 40 minutes but I was only able to get clear images for a little over the first two hours.

By my rough calculations, with the next transit of Venus in 105 years, Drew, Will and Landon will never see another one. But, their children, my grandchildren, will be around 65 to 85 years old. Hopefully, I will get to bounce a few of you all on my knee. In addition to your fathers, which this blog is obviously all about, think of me during the next transit as I was thinking of you during this one.

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Mar 25 2012

Moon and Planets

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Tonight, we all went in the backyard and observed Venus (top) in the closest conjunction to Jupiter (bottom) that we'll see for years, combined with the crescent moon in between.

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Last night, was also a fairly rare occurrence, as we all easily spotted four planets in the sky at the same time. Venus and Jupiter were the same as above but with no moon. Mars was close to being overhead and was easy to pick out because of its brightness and orange color. Saturn was low on the horizon and near Spica the brightest star of the Virgo constellation. Though equally bright, the boys could easily distinguish between Jupiter and Spica...planets don't twinkle and Spica was twinkling away.

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Mar 7 2012

Pinewood Derby Race

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Drew had his Pinewood Derby race tonight. This was his competition, an amazing variety of creative hand-crafted pinewood race cars.

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Drew and another scout at the start lined up behind their respective cars.

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The start of the first set of three races. Each car takes a turn in each lane and the times are recorded electronically and averaged together.

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Drew's car is on the right and in the lead in his second heat.

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By the end of the evening, Drew had won first place in his den and first place in the whole pack. He received the two medals on his chest and, ironically, before the race results were even known, he received the blue ribbon for the Fastest Looking Car.

Drew's school had an assembly today where students got to trade in "gotchas" received for good behavior in exchange for participation in turning the principal into a chocolate sunday. Drew traded in the most gotchas of any student and was able to pour syrup, whip cream and sprinkles on his principal. Then, tonight, Drew won two first place medals in the Pinewood Derby. Drew said this was the greatest day of his life!

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Mar 6 2012

Pinewood Derby Car

This is Drew's first year of Boy Scouts Pinewood Derby.

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The evolution of Drew's Pinewood Derby car. His design drawn on the side of the raw block, a rough saw down to size, a Dremel shaping and sanding, a primer coat, one of three coats of Regal Red enamel gloss, and finally with decals...No. 28.

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The car weighed in at about 2 ounces so we drilled out the back end and put in 3 ounces of lead fishing weights to bring it up to the maximum allowed 5 ounces. The first picture shows the car after we wood puttied the rear and sanded it in preparation for some touch-up painting. After the first weigh in, a week before the race, the car was still .2 ounces shy, so we drilled out some of the bottom rear and added .25 ounces more of lead and puttied it up again. Race day, we were again a little short by the "official" scale so we glued some tungsten putty to the bottom rear to finally weigh in at 5.0 ounces.

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We spent several hours filing the ridges off the official supplied axles and sanding them down with sandpaper progressing through grits of 200, 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1500 and 2000 and then finally with some diamond polishing compound. The end result was a flawless mirror-like finish which will hopefully eliminate a lot of friction resulting in a faster car.

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The finished product, Drew's Pinewood Derby car.

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Race day, with a good dusting of dry graphite lubrication on the axles which gets all over everything. Next post...race results!

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Dec 16 2011

Jupiter and Its Moons

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The sky was really clear tonight and Jupiter stood plainly out above us. I've never tried to take pictures of any of the planets before and suggested to Drew that maybe we should try tonight. He was really excited, so we I took my camera out and set it on the tripod along with our relatively measly 200mm zoom and started shooting. To our amazement, we were able to capture 3 of Jupiter's 4 Galilean moons discovered by Galileo in 1610 (the fourth is no doubt in front or behind Jupiter). All totaled, Jupiter has 64 moons with about half being so small they were only discovered in the last ten years.

This is a 100% crop and the moons are only 5 or 6 pixels wide. I had no idea you could see another planet's moons with an average zoom lens the equivalent of a good pair of binoculars. I think they'll be more planetary photography in the future. I'm interested to see if I can resolve some surface detail. Saturn will definitely be a future subject.

[Update:]

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After further research and review of the photos I took of Jupiter and its moons, I've changed my opinion on what I originally thought was just a background star. I now think we did in fact capture all four of Jupiter's Galilean moons. I think the displacement of the fourth moon is exaggerated because the other three moons just happen to be closer to Jupiter in their current orbits. If the moons were a little more spread out, the displacement would appear less and the fourth moon would appear to be more where I've seen it in other photos. All this combined with this moon being less bright than its siblings caused me to miss it the first time around. This photos is another 100% crop which clearly shows four moons! (Jupiter is not bigger, or more zoomed in, in this photo, rather it is just overexposed.)

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Dec 10 2011

Partial Lunar Eclipse

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Early this morning, just before sunrise, this year's second total eclipse occurred. There will not be another total lunar eclipse until April 15, 2014. I took this shot about 5:46 am, about an hour before the one below.

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Unfortunately, here in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the eclipse was only partial...very partial. I shot this photo about 6:49 am as the moon was getting roof-top low on the horizon and the sun was just thinking about coming up.

The West Coast of the United States had the rare opportunity to observe the unusual effect known as a "selenelion," where both the sun and the eclipsed moon can be seen in the sky at the same time.

The next partial lunar eclipse will occur on June 4, 2012, and should be visible across most of North America.

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Nov 28 2011

Amazing Reflection

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Today I noticed the above reflection while walking next door to get my lunch. I was absolutely amazed by the reflection and couldn't understand what was making it. So...

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...I walked up the grass, turned around, stood in the light and took a picture of what was causing the amazing reflection. However, the answer caused even more confusion. I simply don't see how the uniform geometric pattern of glass can create the above irregular curving reflection pattern. I am amazed. In a hundred years, if given the light source and the reflective surface, I could not have come up with the pattern above.

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Oct 28 2011

Candy from the 70s

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This is a bucket of candy from about 35 years ago...sometime in the 1970s. It smells...bad. It's been sealed up since I hid it in my parents house when I was a kid. I took Halloween very seriously, mapping out my trick-or-treat route through the neighborhood on paper, starting early, ending late and always going alone so that I could go faster and get more "sympathy" candy..."Oh, are you alone, here take two." As a result, I acquired a greater than average haul by the end of the night. I was also very disciplined in my candy consumption, dolling out just a few pieces each or every few days, so that the supply would literally last a whole year until the next Halloween.

The only problem was that at some point I noticed my supply of sweet treats dwindling down faster than I myself was consuming it. My one sibling, Aunt Donelda, had a sweet tooth and was "borrowing" from my abundant supply...which I, otherwise, refused to share. So, I did what any child would do...I hid my stash! I'm guessing, the next Halloween rolled around with a whole new batch of candy and I forgot about my old stash. Recently, when Aunt Donelda was cleaning out our parents house, she found the candy...and knew instantly exactly what it was!

On a completely different subject, notice the quality of the photograph. Rather professional looking if I do say so myself. Click on it to make a larger version pop up. This was taken with the assistance of my new homemade light tent. I am extremely pleased with the results!

Finally, check out the half gallon lid: Sealtest, Vegetable Fat Frozen Dessert, Fudge Royale. Wow, does that sound delicious! I guess they were a little more truthful in advertising in the 70s.

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Oct 27 2011

Homemade Light Tent

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I want to be able to take better pictures of small objects and for that I need better more reliable and consistent lighting and that means a light tent. After a lot of research on the internet, I decided that I could build a light tent myself that was not only cheaper but, more importantly, better. Not to mention, I get the satisfaction of building it myself.

Parts: two ten foot 3/4 inch PVC pipes (1 inch seemed like overkill and 1/2 inch seemed too flimsy), 4 T-connectors, 4 L-connectors and 4 caps, 3 light reflectors with clamps, 3 blubs (1750 lumen, 5000k daylight, fluorescent blubs), one shower curtain, one triple outlet and, of course, one pipe-cutter (if you don't already have one).

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There's no set formula for size. I started with 24 inch lengths and worked them down from there to fit the shower curtain that drapes across so that it lands flush with the floor.

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The boys inspecting the end result, a terrific homemade light tent, with three powerful lights that all folds up nicely and wasn't very expensive to make. Will, Landon and Drew are checking out my first photo project which appears in the next post: Candy from the 70s.

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Fine, I'm going to hell...because at church this morning I whipped out my cell phone in the middle of services and snapped some shots of my two year-old. We were all singing when Landon decided to join in and pulled out the correct color hymnal (blue), oriented it the right way, opened it up, and to the best of his ability followed along.

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It wasn't even a fluke. Later on, during a different song out of a different book (red), Landon was right there following along. I say following because he wasn't singing which is a good thing since he sings just as badly as his father but twice as loud! I'm off to do some Hail Marys and Our Fathers.

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Sep 14 2011

JibJab Cubs Baseball

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Earlier this summer Aunt Donelda created a hilarious Cubs baseball animation with the assistance of the always talented people at JibJab.

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Landon, Drew and Will absolutely love the video and have watched it a dozen times. The very first time, Landon immediately recognized himself and exclaimed, "Me catch," halfway through when his character caught the ball.

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Just click the play button below to see Donelda's JibJab's creation:

Alternatively, here is the YouTube version:

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Apr 11 2011

Colorful Clouds

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I love finding surprises on our camera when I come home from work. Mary took this photo of some colorful clouds in front of our house today.

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Apr 3 2011

Radio Flyer Wagon

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The is the Radio Flyer wagon that my sister Donelda and I played with as little kids on our grandparents farm in Goltry, Oklahoma, forty some odd years ago. I only got a few iphone snaps before I dropped it off at Huber Restorations to be fully restored. They are a small vehicle restoration company but they do great work and, most importantly, they sometimes take on odd little projects to keep things interesting. And, the owner, Jeff Huber is an incredibly nice guy who seems genuinely passionate about his work.

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All and all, the wagon wasn't in the worst possible shape, not too beat up and only scattered surface rust. I could have just given it to the boys to play with, but I wanted them to start out with something nice as well as filled with family memories.

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The end result...phenomenal! Their restoration was perfect, flawless. They disassembled everything, stripped it all, put on multiple coats of paint (the perfect color), had an exact duplicate stencil of the Radio Flyer logo created by a graphics artist, and rebuilt it all with new hardware. It's as good a new...but better, because it's the same red wagon I played with as a little boy.

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The interior of the wagon. Note the handle isn't exactly Radio Flyer standard issue. Somewhere along the way, the original handle broke and my grandfather Spiv welded a new--better--one to the stem. Of course, I left that improvement untouched. I care less about restoring to factory specs than I do of restoring memories.

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Modern models have features such as "no-pinch ball joint keeps fingers safe" and "controlled turning radius prevents tipping." Not this one, just pure old school danger.

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I'm having trouble locating information on dating Radio Flyer wagon models. The white wheels with grey hubcaps seem to correspond to a relatively narrow range of years. I just can't pin it down. I assume my grandparents bought it in the late 60's or early 70's. If anyone knows about dating Radio Flyer wagons or can point me to some resources, please send me an email or post a comment.

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Apr 2 2011

Restored Milk Can

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This is a milk can that my grandfather Spiv actually used on his farm long ago. I've been wanting to restore it for years and finally gave in and decided to just get it professionally done. A little more expensive than doing it myself but there's no doubt the quality of the job is far better than I could have ever done. I didn't get a good photo of the milk can before its restoration but it was in the exact same condition as the two below.

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These are two more milk cans from my grandfather's farm. I plan to have them restored too, currently I'm thinking one a navy blue and one brick red. Each of the boys will then get a milk can their great-grandfather used to use on his farm in Goltry, Oklahoma.

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659-thermometer.pngBack on February 10, 2011, Nowata, Oklahoma, set the all time Oklahoma record for the coldest temperature ever. At 7:40 a.m., the Oklahoma Mesonet weather station in Nowata reached 31 degrees below zero...minus 31! Bear in mind, mercury freezes at -38 degrees. It was so cold in Nowata that the thermometers were just 7 degrees away from freezing solid! This broke the previous Oklahoma all-time record low temperature of minus 27 degrees, set at in Vinita on February 13, 1905, and also in Watts on January 18, 1930.

But, that's not the only amazing thing that happened weather wise in Nowata. As Will Rogers once quipped, "If you don't like the weather in Oklahoma, wait a minute and it'll change." Today, just 7 days after its record cold, Nowata was a pleasant 75 degrees, a 106 degree change in just a week!

(Alternatively, the low a week ago was -27 and the high today was 82 for a 109 degree change. There appears to be some discrepancy between the National Weather Service and the Oklahoma Mesonet.)


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Dec 21 2010

Lunar Eclipse

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I took a few photos of last night's lunar eclipse. This one is from 2:27 am. It was a little hazy which affected the clarity of my shots but, at least, it wasn't as cloudy as was predicted. It was also a little foggy and all my equipment was lightly coated with moisture. Thankfully everything is weather resistant. On the positive side, at least it wasn't real cold. I'm a little disappointed in the quality of the image, but its better than nothing.

A lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes behind the earth so that the earth blocks the sun's rays from striking the moon. Last night's lunar eclipse was the first to fall on the same day as the winter solstice in 372 years. But, otherwise, lunar eclipses are not particularly rare and actually come in clusters. There can be two or three during a period of a year or a year and a half, followed by a lull of two or three years before another round begins. The next total lunar eclipse is just a year away, December 10, 2011. Hopefully, the conditions will be better for photographing!

For a comparison of how sharp of a picture I was hoping to get, see my prior photo of the moon.

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Nov 28 2010

Star Trails

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Last night I stayed up late and played around with my digital camera, laptop computer and EOS Utility software that controls the camera via the computer. The result is this star trails photo with Polaris at the center. Locating Polaris is no small feat with all the light pollution around. But, with the help of some astronomy/star gazing iPhone apps, it was easy to find, even if I couldn't actually see it.

The photo is made up of 240 photos taken over two hours on my Canon EOS 500D (Rebel T1i) and merged together with Photoshop CS5 using the import command: File - Scripts - Statistics - Stack Mode: Maximum. After quite a bit of experimentation I found that there were a lot of camera setting combinations that would produce workable results. So, by no means am I saying what I used is best (I know, unusual for me), it is just what worked for me: f/2.8, 20mm focal length, ISO 200, 20 second exposure, taken 30 seconds apart.

There was quite a bit of light pollution on the horizon so I couldn't aim lower. The objects on the lower right are beams from our pergola which prevented me from aiming farther right. And, since I did it really, really, late at night, there are no airplane trails. All and all, I'm very pleased with the outcome.

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Oct 25 2010

Disney World Vacation

Last night we all got back from a full week in Disney World! We flew to Orlando on Monday, went to the Magic Kingdom on Tuesday, Epcot on Wednesday, Animal Kingdom on Thursday, Hollywood Studios on Friday, back to the Magic Kingdom on Saturday and flew back to Tulsa on Sunday. We all had an amazing time that was truly magical. Thanks to Mama who planned the whole thing and Aunt Donelda who met us at our hotel/resort and was an instrumental third-adult the whole week.

I don't know if I'll ever get around to putting up all the photos that I want to, but if I don't start, I never will, so here we go:

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The iconic Cinderella Castle is the central point of the Magic Kingdom which first opened in October 1, 1971. Last year it was the most visited theme park park in the world with an estimated 17.2 million visitors.

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The visionary Walt Disney and his 1928 creation that started it all, Mickey Mouse.

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Aug 18 2010

Drew's Summer Reading

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The Tulsa City-County Library had a program this summer that asked kids to read 12 books and visit the library four times for a coupon book reward. For those reading an additional eight books, they would receive a medal and another prize. Hearing the conditions, Drew immediately set his goal at 100 books!

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After Drew read each book, it was placed between the stair rails and the collection quickly progressed up the stairs. By the end of summer, Drew had read a total of 152 books! I think he's prepared for first grade.

(I couldn't decide which picture to lead this post with, the top is more artsy but doesn't show the number of books as well. Then I remembered, I don't have to decide. So, after the jump another picture of the books Drew read.)

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Jul 11 2010

Fun with Sparklers

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Tonight we enjoyed some sparklers left over from our celebration of the 4th of July. Drew is making a big circle with a more modern sparkler. Notice how the sparks flying off are different at their ends than the old fashioned ones in the next two photos. The first three photos are each 1 second exposure.

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Drew with an old fashioned metal sparkler, which supposedly burns at a higher temperature, making some crazy circles.

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Finally, Drew with the same old fashioned sparkler making small circles.

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I really love this photo I took of myself holding a sparkler. Canon 500D, f/2.8, 1/6 sec., ISO-100.

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The same photo enlarged.

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Finally, the full native resolution of the same photo. Pretty cool. I had no idea before hand how well it would turn out.

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Jan 2 2010

Lego iPhone App

On December 31st I was sitting in a day long CLE (continuing legal education)...bored and trying to kill time, I surfed the iPhone application store and came across the free Lego iPhone App.

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Will made of Lego studs.

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Drew made of Lego studs. After the jump, a self-portrait I took during the CLE.

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A blue moon isn't really blue. Rather, it is the second full moon to occur in a single calendar month. Tonight, the last day of the year, there was a blue moon. A full moon occurs every 29.5 days. Blue moons occur on average about every 2.7 years which works out to about 3% of all full moons. The last time there was a blue moon on New Year's Eve was on December 31, 1990. The next blue moon will be on August 31, 2012, while the next New Year's Eve blue moon won't happen until December 31, 2028. Finally, the last time a decade ended on a full moon (if you believe the decade ended tonight) was on December 31, 1819.

Taken with Canon EOS Rebel T1i (500D), Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L IS USM Lens, 1/400 sec, F5.0, ISO 100, exposure bias 0/1, 200.00mm, no flash, auto exposure, spot metering.

Previously, Half Moon.

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Nov 24 2009

Half Moon

Elsewhere on the internet, a fellow Oklahoman posted a beautiful picture of the moon he had taken with a telescope. I don't currently have my telescope hooked up but i do have a new digital camera and 200mm telephoto lens and thought that I might be able to reproduce similar results.

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So, the boys and I headed outside tonight just before bedtime and with a tripod and timer set so that there wouldn't be any camera shake we got the above image.

Taken with Canon EOS Rebel T1i (500D), Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L IS USM Lens, 1/200 sec, F4.0, ISO 100, exposure bias -2/1, 200.00mm, no flash, auto exposure, spot metering.

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Mar 10 2009

30 Years Ago Today

Thirty years ago today I made my television debut as a magician...

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...unfortunately, or fortunately, my interest in magic pretty much peaked at that moment and I don't recall performing much, if ever, after that. Basketball pretty much dominated my interests for the next decade. My parents were still a year or two away from getting their first VCR so all we have are these two pictures of our television during the broadcast.

The television show, called "Kidding Around," was a highly regarded childrens program which won 5 Emmy Awards during its 7 year run (1978-1985) on the local NBC affiliate in Chicago WMAQ. The show was co-hosted by Steve Smith who went on to become Director of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College for ten years and an inductee to the International Clown Hall of Fame. Along with Steve Smith, the program had a number of young female co-hosts including, at the time of my performance, Shawn Gourdie, who later turned out to be a classmate of mine in high school.

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114-hip-button.pngThe fine folks at the Earnest Parenting blog have awarded yours truly the Heroes in Parenting award! AmyL explains the award as part of a project "to highlight people who are doing great things in their parenting." I couldn't be more flattered, thank you AmyL.

AmyL adds: "If you know of someone else who deserves to be part of the HIP honor roll, please do let me know as I'm always on the lookout for more people to honor." Stop by her Earnest Parenting website and if you have a nomination pass it along.

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Drew and Will got some soak-in-water and watch-them-grow toys for Christmas. This week's soak-n-grow experiment was the Amazing Spider-Man. Click on "Continue reading" to see before and after photos.

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No "shrinkage" problem for Spider-Man!

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My original YouTube video, "National Anthem: Star Spangled Banner," has now been viewed over 100,000 times! As of this post it has 100,923 views, 269 comments, rated 4 1/2 stars after 168 ratings and has been favorited 319 times.

From an October 14, 2006, post about the origin of the video:

This video was shot in September at Bricktown in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, during the Okie Blogger Round-Up 2006. I was on my way to dinner with Charles Hill and Michael Bates when I saw Bricktown's huge Old Glory waving against a perfectly clear blue background and just had to stop to take some pictures and video footage.
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About once a year I grow a goatee/mustache...no particular reason. I came across a self-portrait from when I got my first digital camera in 2001. I thought recreating the pose before I shaved off this year's appurtenance would be interesting. Yikes, tell me it's the lighting, otherwise someone's getting old!

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Is there anything as great as new sneakers? These are Will's new Stride Rites. Will is very proud of his new sneakers.

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And, these are Drew's new New Balance shoes...the same brand that Daddy is currently wearing. We're pretty certain they make Drew jump just a little bit higher. But, don't new shoes always do that?

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Jan 11 2008

Flash Physics

Not a whole lot to post about so here are some simple flash physics games. I find the simply elegance of these games/simulations appealing. I can still remember the day when these would have been considered advanced and marveled at for hours...ahhh simpler times.

I can remember my college roommate, Jon Platt, and I spending way too much time playing a simple orbital simulation on the University of Illinois PLATO computers. It was either that or actually doing our physics labs, so it was an easy choice.



These are just two that I recently stumbled across, maybe in the future when I come across a good one I'll come back and post it here. Anybody else have any suggestions? The only constraint is that it must not be a game or, otherwise, have an actual goal. It must be physics for physics sake alone.
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A new and improved version of "What American Accent Do You Have?" is out and now with result mapping. Last time my accent was described as "The Midland." This time, I'm "Neutral":

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)

Neutral

You're not Northern, Southern, or Western, you're just plain -American-. Your national identity is more important than your local identity, because you don't really have a local identity. You might be from the region in that map, which is defined by this kind of accent, but you could easily not be. Or maybe you just moved around a lot growing up.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by YouThink.com quizzes and personality tests.

Having grown up in the Chicago suburbs, far enough away from Wisconsin not have a northern influence, I would say the quiz is still spot on and confirms the fact that I do not have an accent.

What American accent do you have?

[Update #1:] Mary scored a "Neutral" too, so maybe there's hope for the boys to not have too much of a southern drawl.

[Update #2:]

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Donelda scored a "Northern - That could either be the Chicago/Detroit/Cleveland/Buffalo accent (easily recognizable) or the Western New England accent that news networks go for."

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Sep 16 2007

Comic Book Boys

Last week Will's vocabulary doubled almost overnight. In a just a day or two span he went from "mama" and "dada" (much more of the former than the latter) to include "uh-oh" and "nana" (a much loved fruit). For Will, "uh-oh" included accidentally dropping his sippy-cup as well as throwing his sippy-cup...as in, he's done drinking, he tosses his sippy-cup, we turn and look at him and he says "Uh-oh!"

I'm always forgetting to write down the funny things Drew says, but here are a couple of recent items:

Mary: (reading traffic signs on trip from St. Louis to Chicago) 259 miles to Chicago!

Drew: Mama that's a lot of miles.

Mary: Yes. It's over three hours to get there.

Drew: Tell me when there are zero miles.

Drew: (playing eye-spy in the car) I spy something yellow.

Mary: (after many wrong guesses) Give me a hint.

Drew: It has green around it.

Mary: (after many more wrong guesses) Give me another hint.

Drew: It is outside of the car.

Mary: (ponders a long time) I give up, what is it?

Drew: Corn. (they were driving through central Illinois surrounded by fields of corn)

Drew: (in McDonald's...a person passes the table and in a surprising clear and not-so-soft voice) Is that a boy or a girl?

Mary: (*pause*...*pause*...in a low voice) I don't know, let's wait and see which bathroom the person goes into.

Mary: It's a girl!

Drew: (coming out of the bathroom at home) Daddy, the little boat is a big boat.

Don: Yes, Drew, the toilet is clogged. Thank you.

(The outline of the water surface is the shape of a boat's hull, normally small, but big when clogged.)

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Sep 15 2007

Military Motivator

In May a website started that I only recently found called Military Motivator. It is a takeoff on the well known inspirational posters but with a military theme. The site encourages reader contribution and so I created and submitted five of which four were used (one really wasn't that great). You can make your own too (on any subject). Here are two of the ones I made with three more after the jump.

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GRATITUDE: How do you thank those who most bear the burden of ultimate sacrifice?

[UPDATE:] Blackfive has determined my "Gratitude" MilMo (Military Motivator) to be The BEST Military Motivator Photo- EVER.

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FIRE POWER: Knowing that when each side calls up to heaven, your side will deliver the goods!

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FOG OF WAR: Only those that have put their life on the line get to second guess a soldier in the field.

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U.S. NAVY: Providing the greatest office views since 1794.

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PARTY TIME: Having a few friends drop in.

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Yesterday's celebration of Flag Day pushed my original YouTube video, "National Anthem: Star Spangled Banner," over the 20,000 views mark! As of this post it has 20,257 views, 74 comments, a rating of 84/100 and has been favorited 101 times.

[Update 07/09/07: 25,000+ views]

[Update 08/28/07: 30,000+ views]

[Update 10/14/07: 35,000+ views]

[Update 11/16/07: 40,000+ views]

[Update 12/18/07: 45,000+ views]

[Update 01/16/08: 50,000+ views]

[Update 04/25/08: 75,000+ views]

[Update 09/10/08: 100,000+ views]

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Jun 6 2007

Speed Racer Movie

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According to the Internet Movie Database, filming started this week on the movie version of my absolute favorite cartoon as a kid, Speed Racer!

It is being directed by the Wachowski brothers (Matrix trilogy, V for Vendetta) and USA Today reports that, "unlike those darker movies, Speed Racer is going to be very bright, very family-friendly...and it will have great effects like the Matrix, just with the car."

I won't hold my breath on the "family friendly" aspect. Hollywood pretty much attributes a different meaning to those words than I do. However, I am still very excited about the movie which is scheduled for a May 2008 release date.

(Click on the Mach 5 to hear the Speed Racer theme.) Go Speed Racer Go!

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Mar 26 2007

Greatest Blog Ever?

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If the first week of posts is any indicator GeekDad could be the greatest blog ever! I mean, its geeks and dads...what could be more cool? An ex-NFL player dad? I don't think so, sounds like a one trick pony. Hey, ya wanna hear about how my dad did roids in the big league? Nah, we heard about that last week when he was going in for his kidney dialysis.

Instead, how about, ya wanna make oobleck, create stop motion animation, fly combat gliders, install a Lego autopilot, capture a spider web, learn to talk backwards, make a video game out of drawings, prove the theory of relativity in the minivan, or build the world's cheapest aerial video platform? Heck yeah! Your dad is sooo cool!!!

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Feb 7 2007

Wheel of Fortune

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Did you happen to catch Wheel of Fortune the other day? It was a pretty easy puzzle. After all, the clue totally gave it away.

(And, yes, I'm aware they're not "clues," they're "categories.")

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You can create your own dancing paint-person at Pictaps.

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Dec 21 2006

Go Elf Yourself

Very busy lately, so not much posting. I only have time to pass on a message from Will and Drew to go Elf Yourself!

Update...Drew now has a message for you!

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Dec 1 2006

Tulsa Snow Storm

Last night it snowed 10" in Tulsa. It was an all time record November snowfall and particularly amazing considering Tulsa averages just 9" of snowfall a year. The entire city is shut down today. Nothing is open. And, I got to stay home and play with the boys! Unfortunately, Will could only watch as Drew and I made snow angels, built a snowman, threw snowballs and played in the deep snow drifts:

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After playing around our home, Drew and I went sledding down the hills which are part of a flood retention reservoir near our house. For over an hour, Drew sledded down while I chased after and hauled his sled back up. A couple of times while I rested, Drew carried his own sled up the steep snow covered hill, "like the big boys do." He was so exhausted afterwards, he had to be carried home. After getting into some warm dry clothes and having a snack, Drew almost immediately fell asleep for a long afternoon nap.

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What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The South
The Inland North
The West
The Northeast
Philadelphia
Boston
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

I liked this item because one of the questions it asks involves "Don" and "Dawn" which are two very distinct words which sound nothing alike...unless you were born and raised in Oklahoma. I swear, every native Oklahoman I've met pronounces them the same. The other is the fact that it confirmed the fact that I have no accent.

(I tried centering the box but wound up centering the red bars too since it's not an image but rather a table. I could center the box and then individually left justify the cells, but I'm too tired. Besides, I'm fairly certain I'm the only one that cares.)

[Update:] Mary took the test and scored: "The West - Your accent is the lowest common denominator of American speech. Unless you're a SoCal surfer, no one thinks you have an accent. And really, you may not even be from the West at all, you could easily be from Florida or one of those big Southern cities like Dallas or Atlanta.

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Oct 22 2006

Carpet Rainbow

We've all been very busy lately so not much time for blogging. For the first time that I can remember, we all took a nap together today...Mommy, Daddy, Drew, Will...and Joey (the cat)...were all sacked out in bed for a lazy afternoon snooze.

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The picture is a rainbow on our carpet that appears during certain times of the year when the early morning sunlight comes through our front skylight at just the right angle. The intensity of the colors is really amazing...Roy G. Biv in all his glory.

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Given Google/YouTube's latest political shenanigans, deleting or flagging as potentially "inappropriate for some users" conservative YouTube videos while far more shocking and inappropriate leftest and jihadist videos go untouched, I went in search of another free video hosting service and after comparing a few, I found Vimeo (video with an "m" instead of a "d" so that it contains "me," as in "me video").

541-vimeo-logo.gifSigning up took less than 10 second and I was uploading my first video only a few seconds thereafter. The first area in which Vimeo whips up on YouTube is availability of the video after upload. With Vimeo, my video was available to everyone immediately when the upload finished. With YouTube, I've upload four videos, two were available in 5-10 minutes, one took over an hour and one took more than half a day. As to probably the most important consideration, quality, I think Vimeo may also be superior. Finally, reliability, for which YouTube has been touch-and-go lately, will be determined after more usage.

This video was shot in September at Bricktown in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, during the Okie Blogger Round-Up 2006. I was on my way to dinner with Charles Hill and Michael Bates when I saw Bricktown's huge Old Glory waving against a perfectly clear blue background and just had to stop to take some pictures and video footage.

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Oct 13 2006

Nintendo 64 Emulation

536-nintendo-64-logo.gifSome time ago, I got a hankering to play some old Nintendo games that I used to play with friends. I looked around at old consoles and determined that I didn't want to waste a bunch of money on old equipment and cartridges knowing full well that I really only wanted to get a quick fix and wasn't likely to play them much afterwards.

537-nintendo-64.gifI searched the internet and found there were software emulators for the console, Nintendo 64, that played the games I remember playing years ago. After a little research, I picked the emulator Project64. Next, I needed a controller. 538-rumblepad-2.gifFirst choice for maximum authenticity was to purchase a used Nintendo 64 controller and a USB adapter. However, no adapter was available locally and I was too impatient to wait a few days to get one by mail order. So, it was off to BestBuy to pick up a Logitech RumblePad 2 Game Pad. Besides immediacy, this also had the benefit of being able to use it for other non-Nintendo games.

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Now, I suppose I could have just played the game on my computer but that wouldn't fully duplicate the same sit-on-the-couch and play-on-the-TV experience of the real thing. So, using our laptop and a cable or two I was able to hook everything up to the big screen. In no time at all I was up and running old classics like Donkey Kong 64 and Super Mario 64 among others. I also took the opportunity to download a bunch of games for Drew and Will: A Bug's Life, Elmo's Letter Adventure and Number Journey, Tigger's Honey Hunt, Tom and Jerry and...Drew's favorite...Toy Story 2.

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These are a few screen shots from Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue. They don't do the game justice as I wasn't able to get a good action screen shot while, at the same time, working the controller.

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386-simpsons-don.jpgI make a lousy Simpsons character.

Perhaps you can make a better one yourself.








387-simpsons-mary.jpg[Update] Va va va voom! Mary created her own self-portrait!

I must say, her character looks more like her than mine does me.







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Jan 1 2006

Best Photos of 2005

Here are the top ten best photos we took this past year with links to the original posts:

Best Use of a Mammal as a Cushioning Device:

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Best Outdoor Life Appreciation:

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Best Look Towards the Future:

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Best Product Placement:

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Best Example of Unionized Zoo Animals:

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Best Example of a Phrase You'll Never See in a Modern Day Memorial (in light of the designers of the World War II memorial in Washington D.C. going out of their way to make it wholly devoid of any mention of God):

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Best View:

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Most Postcard Like Image:

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Best Swim Break:

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Best Portrayal of a Fictional Character:

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Dec 29 2005

Hand Me the "Clicker"

329remote.pngPC World recently listed their 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years. The list is a little too heavy on cell phones (five), too few on calculators (one) and omits some ground-breaking gadgets like the Mattel Electronics handheld LED games of the 70s or any mention of a GPS device. One gadget that brought back memories and made me think of a trivia question was the Zenith Space Command which is ranked ridiculously low at 21st since its progeny is probably more used by more people than anything else on the list. And, the question is:

Do you know why old people sometimes call the TV remote the "clicker"? Because, the first untethered remote literally clicked:

Zenith Space Command (1956)

Zenith's Dr. Robert Adler suggested using "ultrasonics," that is, high-frequency sound, beyond the range of human hearing. He was assigned to lead a team of engineers to work on the first use of ultrasonics technology in the home as a new approach for a remote control.

The transmitter used no batteries; it was built around aluminum rods that were light in weight and, when struck at one end, emitted distinctive high-frequency sounds. The first such remote control used four rods, each approximately 2-1/2 inches long: one for channel up, one for channel down, one for sound on and off, and one for on and off.

They were very carefully cut to lengths that would generate four slightly different frequencies. They were excited by a trigger mechanism - similar to the trigger of a gun - that stretched a spring and then released it so that a small hammer would strike the end of the aluminum rod.

The device was developed quickly, with the design phase beginning in 1955. Called "Zenith Space Command," the remote went into production in the fall of 1956, becoming the first practical wireless remote control device.

While you couldn't hear the high frequency sound that was being emitted, you could very much hear the striking of the aluminum rod which is why remotes used to sometimes be referred to as the clicker. Interestingly, if you threw your keys down on a table near a TV controlled by one of these remotes it would sometimes cause the TV to change channels due to just the right sound being created.

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278cellphone.jpgYou can now send me emails directly to my cell phone by sending them to "cell" at my domain name (the name of this blog/website) dot com. How cool is that?!

OK, so sending emails to cell phones is old-school. But sending them to my domain name and having them automatically go to my cell phone, I think, is pretty cool. I could have done this a long time ago, but it just never occurred to me to set up an email account to forward to my cell phone. The result is a lot easier for the sender than having to remember mycellphonenumber@mobile.mycingular.com.

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Oct 3 2005

Gas Price Monitor

Well here's a neat little item for displaying your city's high and low gas prices provided by Gas Buddy. Even if you don't have a website, checking your city's Gas Buddy site before you fill up makes a lot of sense.

They also have a search tool, although I like the city-personalized icon above better:

Search for gas prices by US Zip Code

From the Gas Buddy webiste:

[City Name]GasPrices.com is a local website which offers an online method for website visitors to post and view recent retail gasoline prices.

Our mission is to serve the public by providing a real time gas prices forum so that consumers can have access to the information necessary to locate the lowest fuel prices available. By working together as a community everyone will save money at the pumps.



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261smokelong.jpgAnother issue of SmokeLong Quarterly is out.

For those yet unfamiliar, the point of SmokeLong is that the stories take about as long to read as it would to smoke a cigarette...and often shorter. The genre is also referred to as flash fiction. These vignettes of under a 1000 words (usually 400-700) are incredibly well written and well worth the small amount of your time they take to read.

The editor, Dave Clapper, is particularly fond of the latest issue:

Man, I LOVE this issue...I couldn't stop staring at it the first couple days it was in my hands. And the writing! Whoosh! Amazing.

Check it out!

Also, if you are interested, SmokeLong Annual, a hard-copy of the past year's editions of SmokeLong Quarterly, is available from CafePress.

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Aug 13 2005

Photo Puzzles

239puzzle.pngClick on the puzzle picture on the left to visit our puzzle page where there are four puzzles of increasing difficulty.

The first puzzle is a picture of Drew made up of 35 pieces (7x5) and is very simple. The next two puzzles, one of Drew and one of Drew and me, are both 70 pieces (10x7) and just the right difficulty level. The last puzzle is a very cool photo from a news event this past week consisting of 247 pieces (19x13) and will take you over an hour...trust me!

There are links for pictures of what each completed puzzle looks like and they open in a new window so as to not disturb the puzzle you are working on. Enjoy.

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In honor of National Hot Dog Month, July, and National Hot Dog Day, this past Wednesday, here are some pics of the Wienermobile I took in January during Okie-Blogger Bash.

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* The first hot dog was created in Frankfurt, Germany... and that's why sometimes they're called "frankfurters."

* Americans eat more than 20 billion hot dogs a year, enough to reach the moon and back four times.

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* The Wienermobile weighs the same as a million hot dogs!

* The first ever Wienermobile vehicle cruised the streets of Chicago in 1936.

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226smokelong.jpgAnother issue of SmokeLong Quarterly is out.

Once again, the point of SmokeLong is that the stories take about as long to read as it would to smoke a cigarette...and often shorter. The genre is also referred to as flash fiction. These vignettes of under a 1000 words (usually 400-700) are incredibly well written and well worth the small amount of your time they take to read.


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Apr 21 2005

SmokeLong Quarterly

172smokelong.jpgOne of my best friends and father to the two greatest Godsons ever, is the Founding Editor of the SmokeLong Quarterly. SmokeLong is a collection of very short, very well written, fiction works which should naturally appeal to the goldfish-like attention spans of bloggers.






Their mission in their own words:

SmokeLong Quarterly is dedicated to bringing the best flash fiction to the web on a quarterly basis, whether written by widely published authors, or those new to the craft. The term "smoke-long" comes from the Chinese, who noted that reading a piece of flash takes about the same length of time as smoking a cigarette. All the work we publish is precisely that--about a smoke long.

I urge you to check it out...it won’t take much of your time.

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Apr 1 2005

Perfect Rainbow

Given my prior post and the reported/retraction/impending death of the Pope, I thought this photo was somehow appropriate. After Tulsa's last rain storm a week ago there appeared the brightest rainbow I'd ever seen. Again, my camera phone pic can't do it justice. You could clearly and distinctly see every color of ROY-G-BIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). Even the almost always invisible violet was bright and easily apparent. More incredibly, for me at least, it was the first time I had ever seen a rainbow go continuously from the ground all the way up and back down again without a break. It was truly beautiful.

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Mar 5 2005

Gmail Invites

019gmail.jpgI've got fifty..."five zero"...Gmail invites. If anybody wants one, for any reason, post a comment with your name and email address that you want me to send the invite to. Even if you don't want to use Gmail for your email, I suggest at least trying it out...you might get hooked.

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Feb 25 2005

Alta Vista Babel Fish

This looked kind of interesting and so I thought I'd experiment with it as part of a post:

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Feb 11 2005

BOAC Junior Jet Club

144boac.jpgAnyone else been a member of the BOAC Junior Jet Club? Or, flew enough miles to get their 25,000 mile certificate? And, did this all before they were one year old? Without ever crying?

Thanks to my father's job as a Geophysicist for Standard Oil/Amoco, my family traveled quite a bit overseas. Starting when I was just eight weeks old, I took to the air: Bangkok to Teheran to London to Johannesburg back to London to Chicago, New York to Manchester to London to Johannesburg for a total of 33,486 miles in just eight months. My mom says I did it all without crying. Here's the log book:

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147boacpin.jpgI have my 25,000 mile certificate somewhere...just not too certain where that is right now.




[UPDATE:] I have a scan of blank pages from my logbook which I will gladly email to anyone who is still filling in their logbook and wants a copy. Just leave a comment below with your correct email address and I'll send it out to you.

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Jan 13 2005

Free Long Distance

To one Danzfamily.com lucky reader, I give 10 minutes of free long distance calling thanks to Folgers, Sprint, my employer who supplied the coffee and my distaste for getting cutoff in the middle of a conversation.

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Just go to the Folgers website and enter the code on the label and the other information requested. Enjoy!

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Oct 14 2004

Google Desktop

googledesktop.gifGoogle has just released what may be the most useful software program since the spellchecker! Google Desktop allows you to search your own files using the Google search engine.

You can search files in all sorts of formats including AOL Instant Messenger, Excel, Internet Explorer, Outlook/Outlook Express, PowerPoint, Text and Word. Finally, a useful method of searching Word files. This just made my job significantly easier as I frequently have to search through literally hundreds of thousands of Word files using only the limited and very slow Word or Windows Explorer search functions. Often, I wind up having to reinvent the wheel because I can't find the right document. In Google's own words:

After downloading Google Desktop Search, you can search your personal items as easily as you search the Internet using Google. Unlike traditional computer search software that updates once a day, Google Desktop Search updates continually for most file types, so that when you receive a new email in Outlook, for example, you can search for it within seconds. The index of searchable information created by Desktop Search is stored on your own computer.

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Sep 14 2004

Terror Alert Level

Terror Alert Level Today's Terror Alert Level is "Ernie" for New York City and Washington D.C. and "Bert" for the rest of the country.

The indicator automatically changes color and matching Sesame Street characters with the current alert level of the real Homeland Security Advisory System. Accordingly, depending on when you are reading this, the alert shown may no longer be a combination of "Ernie" and "Bert." Continue reading for a legend showing all the alert levels.

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Credit belongs to Geek and Proud and it all can be found here.

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Sep 8 2004

Gmail Invites

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I have some Gmail invites to give out if anyone is interested. Just make a witty comment in response to this post being sure to include your email address and I'll pass along an invite. I will post a message in the comments when I am no longer giving out invites.

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Our neighbors have a hideous two-headed monster dog that eats little children...or maybe just two adorable golden labs who want a little attention.

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A good friend and avid fan of the classic rock group Rush has written an incredible review of Rush's now ongoing 30th Anniversary Tour. While there may be a greater Rush fan, although it's hard to imagine, there probably is not one who is as intelligent and articulate. Reading his review brought back memories of my own Rush experiences as he recounts the band's history through the songs they play, and don't play, during the concert. Below is JR's review:

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I have been a fan of the band for most of their 30 years. The first time I saw them was on the Moving Pictures tour. It was Independence Day at Alpine Valley ("acoustically designed by Mother Nature" - ask if you want to know) and the Joe Perry Project was the opener. I remember enjoying the show immensely, even though (or maybe because) I had some drinks thanks to my older cousin who wasn't drinking age himself.

I have seen the band at least once on every tour since then. The band could do no wrong for a while. They always seemed to play the favorites and most of the new album when they came to town. And they'd usually bring along a good opening act (Gary Moore, Marillion, Primus, Mr. Big), so I could act cool (just an act, though) because I knew and/or liked the opener. Hey, it was the '80s.

During the mid to late '80s, the band made good music even though it didn't do as much for me as other stuff (Power Windows & Hold Your Fire are good records - I just preferred their bookends much more). They seemed to want to experiment more and, I feel, they lost touch a little bit with their essence as a rock band. I liked Presto and Roll the Bones (hell, I like all of the records - even the one with John Rutsey). When Counterparts came out, it was a revelation for me. They ROCKED again. The only problem with them as a touring act was that their back catalogue was becoming too large for a normal set and they were going to be leaving out more and more as they continued forward.

They read my mind and starting with the Test for Echo tour, they played 2 sets and, in a sense, opened for themselves (and it's cheaper that way, I'd imagine). Now. if they'd just kill off some of the big radio hits and open up the set for the freaks like me, I'd achieve nirvana (or Xanadu)...

The band is celebrating 30 years as a touring act and they refer to this as their birthday party. A few days before the show, I looked at the songs in iTunes and picked out material they haven't played forever or for a while and left out the hits. I gave up at Hold Your Fire because I had about 40 songs...

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I saw them in Chicago with a long-time friend and in Milwaukee with another group of people while some long-time friends were in the audience.

Show time was 7:30 and they started just about on time (better than many airlines, I might add). There was a video montage which featured all of their album artwork morphing into one another and was very cool. Then we discover a short film featuring the world's oldest RUSH fan, Jerry Stiller. As he does a skit and as implores the guys to get on stage, Alex Lifeson rushes on to the stage and the band launch into a medley of snippets which has the crowd in a tizzy. We go from Finding My Way to Anthem to Bastille Day to Passage to Bangkok (yes, that song) to Cygnus X-1 to Hemishperes/Prelude. As the crowd (and Jerry Stiller) roar their approval, Alex Lifeson starts playing the famous intro to Spirit of Radio and off we go again. As the band and crowd catch their collective breaths, the taped intro to Force Ten breaks the chronological order of the set and hurtles us into a later phase of the band's career. Next up was Animate, a personal favorite of mine and one I was happy they wheeled out (it was not played on VT tour). Old studio/live favorite, Subdivisions, gets the crowd excited. A VT song, Earthshine is up next and features some excellent video work as stars appear to be shooting from the guitar during the solo. (Cynical comment alert) The crowd, weaned on today's Classic Rock stations which ignore bands current material and, thus ensures an aging and potentially dwindling listener base, heads for the bathrooms. I hope they washed their hands before they ran back to hear Red Barchetta (for the first time since Power Windows tour, I think). After Bravado, they play YYZ (sans drum solo) and The Trees. They have a new CD, Feedback, out now which features RUSH covering some '60s & '70s tunes and we get their take on The Seeker (The Who) before One Little Victory heats things up again and the band head off and take a well-earned break.

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After 15 minutes or so, another funny video montage starts and leads us into Tom Sawyer. Secret Touch (VT) is an impressive live song and is noticeably heavier live. My other favorite for the evening was Between the Wheels which I may have never seen live (can't remember them playing it on GUP tour). My only real complaint about the show was that they played Mystic Rhythms and followed it up with Red Sector A. I really like these songs - I just felt they stunted the momentum that was building. After Neil Peart's drum solo on his wicked looking new kit, we get Resist and Heart Full of Soul (cover #2) acoustically with Geddy Lee playing a Taylor (a man after my heart!). In the band's defense, they may have slowed down the pace because they increased the energy at the end as they ripped through Overture/Temples/Finale, La Villa Strangiato, By-Tor and the Snow Dog, Xanadu (ALL of it), and Working Man. Whew. Did I mention they weren't done? Sorry 'bout that.

For an encore they played a couple of covers and another song you might know. We heard Summertime Blues, Crossroads and Limelight before Jerry Stiller and the band's light set said "Bye bye."

A tremendous evening of awesome music played by people passionate and talented for a very partisan crowd. Besides Camera Eye, what else could I ask for...

For anybody that was wondering, we heard something from every album except Presto.

If you made it this far, thanks.

Any complaints, you've got the e-mail address. Just remember, this is one-take with no overdubs or tapes used. Just spell check.

Special thanks to Murph Dog (for asking me to do this) and to Randy and Dave for always being there as 2 shining examples of what friendship is truly about as well as tremendous RUSH fans.

JR

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Jul 18 2004

Gridlock Puzzle

Gridlock, by Corwin Derkatch, is a donationware puzzle game with 40 addictive levels where all you have to do is slide the blue block out the right hand side exit. It's a very elegant game which is simple to play but yet has a difficulty to solve akin to Solitaire or FreeCell which is perfect for playing during a conference call or short break. If you don't delete your cookies, you can come back another day and continue on at the level where you left off.

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I was given an invitation to create a Gmail account by a friend. I've only used it a little bit as I am in the process of transitioning from my Hotmail account that I use for everything that is non-business and non-personal such as registering products and communicating with miscellaneous companies.

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Already, I can tell you that Gmail is faster and easier to use than Hotmail which sometime ago apparently adopted the theory that its service would be better if you were forced to wait 5-10 seconds in between every action you want to take. Yahoo! mail isn't nearly as bad as Hotmail, but it still has its faults. I highly suggest that when Gmail finishes with its viral marketing beta program and goes fully public that you give it a try.

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