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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Avengers!

Ok, I admit...I'm a fanboy.

My wife and I have been anticipating The Avengers on the big screen for some time.  As soon as it The Avengerswas available, I went online to order advance tickets at the Carmike 14 theater in Tyler, Texas.  This is our favorite theater in the area.  Specifically, I wanted to see this blockbuster in the Carmike's Big D auditorium, complete with a 78' x 35' screen, advanced 7.1 digital surround sound, and luxury over-sized theater seating. The BigD really delivers a perfect cinematic experience, and I am thus spoiled.

Initially, I was a bit disappointed to discover The Avengers would only be in 3D in the BigD auditorium.  You see, 3D is much maligned on the internet by naysayers, spewing that 3D is only a fad and a gimmick not worth the extra cost.  Then, there are those, purists, who proclaim that the only 3D worth viewing are those that are actually shot in 3D, and that post-production 3D results in a "fake" and distracting viewing experience. Then you have the IMAX fanboys who say only an IMAX 3D movie is worth watching.

Not having anything more than online propaganda to deter me, ultimately, I feared the 3D addition would detract from an otherwise spectacular film.  Additionally, I've had difficulty "seeing" old-school 3D (anaglyph) that uses different colored lenses, due to my mild astigmatism.  I now have corrective contacts, but I'd yet to test them out on 3D.  In fact, I'd never seen a 3D movie on the big screen.  That said, the majority of 3D movies in the US, utilize a more modern technology such as RealD that overcomes some of the hurdles of the older 3D technologies like a dark picture, poor color separation and resolution.

Then, there was the concern for my wife who has migraines and sometimes seizures that at least have the potential to be stimulated by certain visual cues such as strobing and flickering.  Even I have had issues with motion sickness in some unsettling 2D action sequences.

All of this made me quite hesitant to proceed with watching the 3D version, but our desire to see the film in all its big-screen glory, we opted to give it a try.  We are so glad we did.  The 3D effects were astonishing.  It was so immersive and natural I can't imagine seeing it any other way. My wife nor I noticed any ill effects and the image was bright and crisp.  I caught myself flinching on a few occasions.

Carmike Cinema BigDAdditionally, I can't speak highly enough about Carmike Cinema's BigD experience.  The sound and image quality is truly outstanding.

Now, to the movie itself.  If you enjoyed Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, or Captain America: The First Avenger, you won't disappointed in The Avengers.  It delivers all of the punch of its predecessors and then some. Thanks to writer and director (and my hero) Joss Whedon, the dialogue is snappier and wittier and the characters are more lovable.  And the effects?  I dare say the chaos and mayhem of The Avengers' 40-minute battle in Manhattan surpasses that of any of the Michael Bay Transformers flicks, a franchise I still hold as the standard for visual effects.  I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it, yet, but I will say this may be the best super hero film yet.

8:27 am cdt

Sunday, February 26, 2012

He-brew Turkish Coffee Stout

A friend of mine gave me a bottle of "He-brew Turkish Coffee Stout."  This beer clearly makes it to my top 5 all-time favorites, ranking up there with Corsendonk and Maredsous. I detected cardamon, but clearly this is an artisan beer--not one of those flavored beers.  So, a shout out to Ryan Gunderson and "Byrne & Friends." You get this beer out there, and I'll be able to say, "I knew 'em when..."

He-brew Turkish Coffee Stout
 

 

1:26 pm cst

Saturday, September 17, 2011

By the way...

...I'm bald now.  Or, in the more specific, proper term, I'm "bald-by-choice".  I naturally have a Bald 120inna55thick head of wavy hair.  When I was in high school, I used to spend a lot of time with a hot hair dryer and a brush to make said wavy hair straighter.  Since adulthood, I've opted for lower maintenance, and in more recent years, my wife has been cutting my hair.  She would always cut it as short as I liked it and as often as I liked, but it was only perfect for about two weeks.  At which point, the curls would begin to return and no amount of mousse or gel would control it to my liking.  I actually would receive compliments regarding my curls, but it always felt unkempt and unruly. Additionally, I've always liked hats---fedoras and the like---but I've never worn one due to the inevitable "hat head".

For years I'd "threatened" to shave my head, but I never took the plunge.  I was concerned that to achieve a good slick bald look I'd have to shave daily.  I'm not much of a fan of shaving my face daily, so shaving my head too wasn't really appealing.  Ultimately, that was the only thing holding me back.  Finally, I rationalized, with my thick head of hair, I had to periodically fuss with it throughout the day and some days it just simply wouldn't cooperate.  If I had to spend an additional five or six minutes in the shower to shave my head daily, I would still save time not having to perform any further maintenance throughout the day.  My wife provided the final word of confidence by stating, "Your hair grows so fast anyway, if you don't like it, it'll grow out within a month or so anyway."  So on August 21, 2011, the decision was made.  I entered into a realm of freedom known as baldness!

After taking my hair down to a "burr" using my clipper without a guard, I hopped in the shower, lathered up, and scraped the scalp bare using my trusty vintage double-edge Gillette that has served my face so well over the years.  I made a few rookie mistakes, i.e. spending too much time on a virgin scalp trying to ensure complete slickness by making too many repeated passes resulting in some razor burn.  All in all, however, I was very pleased with the results.

I then ventured onto the internet for some tips.  Little did I know there's a wealth of information out there regarding head shaving.  The first place I stumbled upon was HeadSHaver.org.  It proved to be a nice informative site providing unbiased information about products and techniques.  It's a great place to check out even if you've been shaving for years.  It's also a very informative those who think they already know everything there is to know about face shaving. You will learn something. 

HeadShaver.org recommended other sites, one of which was the invaluable SlyBaldGuys.com.  SlyBaldGuys is a great community of folks who are eager to share their experiences and advice about not only head shaving but many other related topics as well.  The site also helps those who suffer from male pattern baldness and serves as support and encouragement for those with self-esteem problems related to the condition.  For some, shaving their heads provides freedom from feeble attempts to hide their male pattern baldness while others, such as myself, have gained freedom from their hair.

HeadBlade SportSo for the past four weeks, I've been experimenting with different razors and products to obtain the fastest, closest, and most comfortable shave.  I found many guys recommending the HeadBlade Sport.  I was skeptical at first thinking it was a gimmick.  It looks like a cross between a Hotwheels car and a toy spaceship.  (Click thumbnail picture for a larger version).  I probably never would have purchased one had I not come across it in Walgreens for $13.  What did I have to lose?  So, I picked one up and tried it the next morning.  I was amazed.  It fits on your middle finger and you simply swipe your hand across your dome in a motion similar to slicking your hair back.  The result is a very close shave within about 3 minutes after practice.  I've been shaving daily for the past ten days using this ingenious contraption.  I highly recommend it!

Check out this video from HeadBlade spokesman, Jack, giving a demonstration of the HeadBlade Sport:


4:16 pm cdt

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My contempt for humanity

Most of you know, I'm an RN that works in a hospital, but I don't work for the hospital.  I work for a cardiologist.  It is not unusual for patients and patients' families to assume I work for the hospital, even though my name badge clearly indicates differently.  I've been known to answer the phone and help out a colleague from time to time, but I do have my own job to do.  As a result, when a patient or family member comes up to me to ask a question, I generally avoid eye contact so they'll ask someone else.  If they don't get the message and proceed with their question, I'll usually preface it with, "I don't work here, but...", and then I'll usually direct them.  I've worked in this hospital for 15 years so, I probably know the answer.

Today, a patient's family member approached me while I was sitting at the nurses desk, looking through a chart.  I have a very effective 'I'm busy' look.  This lady apparently, despite her years, was not familiar with this method of anti-communication.  She proceeded to ask, "Where is the ice machine?"  She asked twice.  The nurse sitting right next to me - the nurse who actually works for the hospital - apparently has honed her 'I'm busy' look better than mine and managed to completely ignore said nuisance. (Thanks Judith). 

So, while getting up to leave the desk, I pointed to the nourishment room, that is - oddly enough - labeled "nourishment room", and told her, "It's over there in the nourishment room."  Because I'm there as her servant, no "thank you" was offered or even implied.  I went my way and she headed for the nourishment room.  I knew the room was locked, and that it requires your pass key (which I have) or the ward secretary to push a button to allow access. Ultimately, this is just one more pointless task the staff must endure, because I cannot see how this has squelched the inappropriate access to snacks by the patients, families, vagabonds, and truants since implementing this procedure. I assumed this person would do what every other semi-sentient being has done since implementing the procedure, and that is to abruptly shake and rattle the locked door handle a minimum of three times before turning around and issuing a perplexed look at the ward secretary thus prompting her to push the button granting access to the snack mecca that is the nourishment room.

About 30 minutes later, I returned to the desk to discover that the nurse who was previously oblivious to everything around her now had an in depth account of the circumstances following my departure.

Apparently, this lady fell apart, sobbing, and ranting to the charge nurse and anyone else who would hear her plight about my complete lack of compassion by directing her to a locked door.  Compassion?  You are able to derive my lack of compassion based on a single sentence uttered from my lips?  A 10 second conversation, the subject of which amounted to a bucket of ice?  If this is how you want to play the game, fine.  I will therefore deduce from our soul-revealing encounter that you are a heartless, self-centered, individual who thinks everyone is around you to be at your beck and call.

Now, before any of you bleeding hearts out there start to tell me how I don't know what she's going through.  Perhaps a loved one is in declining health and her emotions are on edge...

Save it.

I've been on the other side of the nurses desk.

My contempt for humanity is growing.

6:36 pm cdt

Monday, September 5, 2011

Only one moon

I suppose Facebook is causing independent, illegitimate, bloggers such as myself to neglect our meek little personal websites.  So, since I believe, someday, Facebook will become a paysite, I'm back.  I'm still on Facebook, mind you.  I'm also on Twitter, for what it's worth.

So, now there is only one moon...

I suppose that statement requires a little background. I have a vision problem that I only notice while looking at bright objects against a dark background such as headlights at night, end credits to a movie, or the night sky.  The problem is such that when I look at the moon, I see a perfect crisp image of the moon with a lighter, blurry, repeated image up and to the right of the "original".

About 5 years ago, I went to an optometrist who diagnosed the problem an astigmatism.  While she felt my degree of astigmatism was mild, she offered glasses.  I asked her about contacts, but she said they didn't make contacts for astigmatism.  Otherwise, my vision was perfect.  I opted for the glasses, but ultimately they never really made much difference, so I rarely wore them.

I'd heard there are now toric contact lenses to correct astigmatism.  Since my first visit with the optometrist, my insurance has changed, so I had to go to a different doctor.  The experience was incredible, to say the least. I saw Dr. Valerie Mace with EyeCare Associates of East Texas.  She confirmed my astigmatism, but again indicated my visual acuity is still perfect.  I told her I wanted contacts partly due to wanting to be able to enjoy 3D movies, a technology that untreated astigmatism sufferers cannot enjoy due to the inherent "stereovision" trick on the brain. Interestingly, she said this was not the first time she'd heard this rationale for an individual's decision to correct their astigmatism.

So, what made this little visit to the optometrist an "incredible" experience?  Never having worn contacts before in my life, I walked out of her office within one hour with perfect vision!  A patient put it best when she said, "You can't even get an oil change done right in an hour." I can't say enough about Dr. Mace and her professional staff.  Now, there is only one moon.

6:32 pm cdt

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Snake(s) Won

We came home from church tonight to find the nest pillaged.  The babies gone.  And a fat, happy snake comfortably resting on a vent on the side of the house.

Pillaged Nest  Snake Snake Snake

My wife's blog entry describes the event here: Rushlight's Muse

8:53 pm cdt

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Snake vs. Bird

Baby WrensA wren made a nest in what originally seemed to be a precarious location atop a wind chime hanging underneath the eaves of our home.  She secured it with mud, such that it now appears to be quite stable.  I don't imagine the nest sways anymore on the wind chime than it would on a tree branch.  At either rate, she now has babies in the nest.

Last night, I saw a rather large chicken snake on the deck near the nest.  I initially thought nothing of it, so I stepped on his tail to make him scurry along, thereby preserving his life.  Otherwise, if our dogs had noticed him, he'd surely be killed.

A few minutes later, I walked into the kitchen to discover the same snake crawling along the windowSnake sill (outside).  It immediately became apparent his intent was to get to the baby wrens.  So, after shooting some video and snapping some pics, I flung the snake about 20 yards away.

Just a few minutes later, I found the snake back on the window.  So, when I walked out on the deck, I found two more snakes.  We now have a family of snakes, presumably on a mission to eat these birds.  One of the snakes was at least 6 feet in length!  As the medium sized and smaller snake would climb on the window, they would stretch their bodies in an attempt to reach the bird's nest.  The big snake was simply too large to fit on the window sill, so he quickly gave up and escaped underneath the house.  The small snake was too small to pull it off either.  The medium sized snake (the one featured in the video) was almost long enough to reach the nest, but he would fall each time.  He must have fallen 10 feet to the ground at least 6 times that I witnessed.  Each time, he would return for another try.

SnakeMost of you know that I love nature and all God's creatures.  I undSnakeerstand the "family" of snakes were hungry, but I could not bear to see these defenseless baby birds meet their demise after I have watched them grow from eggs.  I could not kill the snakes as many have suggested, as I just do not have the heart for that.  I therefore fudged the prime directive and removed most of the wood pile giving them access and also coated the wall with soap.

I woke this morning to find the baby wrens safe and sound.  Hopefully the snakes found a meal elsewhere.

Here's the video:

5:58 am cdt

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gruesome Tragedy Stuns Local Citizens

December 11, 2010, Baxter, TX - A quiet Texas community was literally shaken at its core early Jack Tupp, victimSaturday morning when local landowner, Matt Hilton, stumbled upon a gruesome crime scene.  Texas native, John Tupp, known by his friends as "Jack", was found eviscerated just outside his home off County Road 4508, the apparent victim of homicide. Mr. Tupp served his community for years as a hard working excavator.  Friends of the victim indicate he mostly kept to himself with nary an enemy except that of suspect Gypsy Hilton.  

Ms. HilGypsy Hilton, irreverent perpetratorton is on record for having submitted many informal verbal complaints with regard to the victim's late night construction jobs, accusing Mr. Tupp of interrupting her sleep.  Apparently Ms. Hilton's rage was further fueled by her landlords' dismissive attitude toward her outbursts calling them simply imaginative fabrications. Attempts were made to interview Ms. Hilton at the scene, but she refused comment.  While this reporter would never speculate in the interest of justice, it seems obvious that Ms. Hilton clearly is the perpetrator of this crime. Crime scene photographs reveal a Blood evidencebright red substance on her chin that could only be the blood of the late Mr. Tupp. Local transient, Toby Kins, initially seemed to be a reliable witness as he ambitiously gave his account.  Unfortunately, in the middle of the interview, Mr. Kins seemed to get lost in thought and began rambling about unrelated matters regarding tennis balls and squeaky chew toys.  A brief encounter was had with local curmudgeon, old maid Mercy Hilton (no relation), who only muttered, "They should all be locked up."  One thing is for sure, it will be quite some time before the Baxter community reels from this horrible tragedy.

Toby Kins, local blabbermouth  Mercy Hilton, curmudgeon Criminal, fleeing the scene

Click on thumbnail images for larger versions.  WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

10:50 am cst

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Better Late Than Never: I Finally Watched The Sopranos

SopranosIn January 1999, there was a buzz about a new HBO series, The Sopranos.  As a huge fan of the mobster movie genre, there was little doubt I would enjoy the series, but, at the time, I had too many "appointment" television shows and thus never watched it.  It did not take long for the series to achieve accolades and critical acclaim, winning Emmy's, Golden Globe awards, Peabody's, and multiple major guild awards.  At that point, I knew I had missed the foundation of the story, and therefore I never watched a single episode.  I knew someday, I would have the time to watch the entire series. 

The Sopranos spanned six seasons before ending on a high in June 2007 with a very controversial series finale.  Despite all the Sopranoshype, blogging, and prolonged critical analysis of the final episode, I managed to avoid any spoilers.  All I did understand is that many fans of the series were outraged and / or confused by the ending.

So, three years later, I have found the time to watch this series---all six seasons.  I started in July and finished yesterday.  What a ride!  Almost every episode made me laugh out loud as well as cringe at the suspense and violence.  Homicide: Life on the Street still holds its rank as my all-time favorite television series, but The Sopranos holds a close second.  It was a roller coaster ride, watching Tony Soprano, an innately evil man, come so close to redemption only to fall again.  Unlike most other gangster movies in which the audience is subconsciously encouraged to check their morals at the door and unwittingly cheer for the evil gangster, I found myself longing to see Tony overcome his dark inclinations. Again and again, I was disappointed in him as he came so close and then failed.

I assume if you are reading this far, you are not concerned about having the ending spoiled for you, so let me, as many bloggers before me, give my $0.02 on the ending.  Perhaps I was at an advantage with having watched the entire series within two months as opposed to 8 years.  I quickly became accustomed to the writing and directorial style of The Sopranos.  The creators take for granted that their audience is intelligent, and therefore details are not spoon-fed to the audience as in many network serials. 

There are entire essays analyzing the final scene of The Sopranos, so I will not presume to duplicate them.  The final scene can be summed up like this: Throughout the series, it is alluded to---if not emphasized---by Tony himself, that there are only two possible fates for men like him: "dead or in the can." Additionally, in the final few episodes it is proclaimed that the guy taking the bullet never hears it.  In the final scene, a tempo and pattern is established.  We see Tony, then the very next image is from his point of view, i.e. what he sees.  This pattern is repeated at least six times in this final sequence, therefore, the viewer is trained to know that the image following any scene Tonywith Tony looking up is what he sees.  Now, there are other shots, mind you, to maintain continuity and to add to the mood, but make no mistake, if Tony is center frame, the next image is from his point-of-view.  This is further emphasized by the ringing of the bell that occurs when the diner door is opened.  So, we have both visual and auditory clues: The bell rings, Tony looks up, we see exactly what he sees, then we see his reaction.  The viewer already knows this is the final episode which no doubt adds to the tension. Finally, we hear the bell, we see Tony casually look up expectantly awaiting his daughter, the only member of his family not yet seated at the table, then---the intelligent audience knowing the next thing we see is what Tony sees---nothing.  The screen goes black.  The music playing in the diner simultaneously and abruptly ceases.  Black...silence...nothingness.  For a full 10 seconds we are shown only a blank screen, then the credits roll, even still, no music.  In 86 episodes, this is the only episode that has no music during the credits.  It is jarring and unsettling.  The only logical explanation is that we saw what Tony saw.  He died.  Presumably from a gunshot to the head given the abruptness. He "never heard it". The Sopranos creators assumed their intelligent audience would be taken off guard, but ultimately would understand it after the initial shock given the foreshadowing. Pure.  Genius. 

Here's the final sequence in question:

 

4:50 pm cdt

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sweet Pea Bistro & Espresso Bar

Athens, Texas finally has a real barista!  Today, I ventured into "Sweet Pea Bistro & Espresso Bar" on the square in Athens.  I started off with the Chicken Salad sandwich on a Jalapeño Cheese bun.  The chicken salad had fresh big chunks of white meat chicken, dried cranberries and pecans---delicious.  It was served with kettle chips, grapes, cantaloupe, and a pickled okra pod (a nice Texas alternative to the standard pickle).  This was surprisingly filling as the sandwich was huge! The waitress was genuinely friendly and pleasant.  The overall environment was warm and inviting as if you were at a friend's house.

But the real reason I stopped by was for an espresso.  I was fully prepared to be disappointed.  Athens has seen coffee shops come and go.  The Pendulum was unique and a wonderful addition of culture and class to Athens, but unfortunately it was short-lived.  The espresso was great and consistent for a while, but it in its final days, it seemed to be rushed by poorly -trained "kids" who just wanted to collect a paycheck. The Pendulum often had its doors locked early---I suspect the result of the kids needing to cut out early.

Then there's the Flying Gatto.  Their espresso is as inconsistent as their business hours.  Just two weeks ago, I called to ask when they close.  I called at 4:15 p.m. and was told they would be closing at 5 p.m.  I arrived at 4:30 p.m. and the doors were locked.  The Flying Gatto had so much potential in the beginning, but again, it seems it's been turned over to the youth who apparently have no vested interest in its success.

DJNow, enter Sweet Pea Bistro & Espresso Bar.  It's a more mature environment than The Flying Gatto, but certainly not stuffy. For one, there's DJ, the bubbly, witty barista.  She knows what she's doing.  Period.  She pulls an espresso as good as I do.  And as my friends know, being a self-professed coffee snob, that's saying something.  My doppio was the perfect temperature with a beautiful, thick crema and intense espresso without being bitter.  Like a good cigar, it lingered for a good 15 minutes.  It was everything an espresso is supposed to be. Here's to hoping Sweet Pea endures and finds its niche in Athens, Texas.

 

Click here to discuss this in the forums.

8:26 pm cdt

Friday, August 20, 2010

French Press Cozy

The best method to prepare coffee to experience everything a quality bean has to offer is via espresso.  A close second, and probably closer to American coffee, is the French Press method. It's quite simple.  Freshly coarse ground beans are placed in a pre-warmed carafe.  Then water, just off the boil, is poured over the grounds.  After a brief stir, the carafe is wrapped in a towel to prevent heat loss, and the grounds are allowed to brew for 4 minutes.  The lid to the carafe has an incorporated plunger with a fine screen filter.  Immediately following the brew time, the plunger is depressed firmly, thereby separating the grounds from the coffee, leaving them compressed at the bottom of the carafe.  Then you pour your cup and enjoy.

The french press I have is a quality one made by Bodum ® .  I have had this press for years, and I absolutely love the results.  Some models, now, are made with a vacuum-sealed insulated steel carafe, but I believe the coffee experience loses a bit of its romance when you stifle it with the cold steel motif.

For years, I have been content with wrapping the press in towels, despite its inefficiency.  Recently,French Press it dawned on me that I should ask my mother to make a "french press cozy".  A tea cozy, as many of you may know, is a simple hat-shaped covering for tea kettles designed to preserve the warmth. I did not know if such an item existed for french presses, but by design they would need to be made differently to account for the plunger.  Ultimately, an online search revealed that many different styles of french press cozies are on the market.  However, sentimental as I am, I love to have items that have personal meaning and are functional at the same time.  For instance, the coffee mug I drink from every day is an old diner-style mug my dear aunt Lola used for years.  Every time I use the mug, I remember how she would slightly over fill it and then pour about a third of the cup into the saucer.  She would then methodically transfer the coffee from the saucer back into the mug, effectively cooling down the cup to a drinkable temperature since she'd made the coffee with an old fashioned percolator (an absolute horrible way to make coffee, by the way.)  Another example of my sentimentality is my razor and shaving mug, both of which were my grandfather's.  I use these every day, and I can not help but think that my grandfather, while I never knew him, must have had a similar routine.

But I digress...

As you know, my mother is well known for her magnificent crocheting abilities.  I have several functional afghans made by her that keep me quite warm in the winter.  She custom made the armrest covers on my sofa with only an emailed picture of the armrests with some crude measurements. They fit perfectly, complete with drawstrings, and they hold up to frequent machine washings.

I knew making a french press cozy would not be much of a challenge for her. The challenge came from my inability, as it were, to convey what I wanted.  Despite that, she exceeded my expectations.  She even made a pad on which the press can sit as well as a "hat" since she had some of the same style yarn left over.  I absolutely love the end result!  Click on the thumbnails for larger versions and to see the detail of her craftsmanship.

CozyCozyCozy Cozy

Click here to discuss this in the forums.

10:26 pm cdt

Friday, July 2, 2010

Camo Satellite Dish

Last Saturday, DISH Network upgraded my satellite system to ensure I'd continue to receive the latest HD programming.  My previous setup involved two separate dishes on my roof.  (For those who want the technical jargon: I had a hybrid system with one dish pointing at satellites 110°, 119° and a second wing dish pointing at 61.5°.  DISH Network is dividing up their channels and satellites such that a customer must either have a "Western Arc" configuration consisting of 110°, 119°, and 129° or "Eastern Arc" consisting of 61.5°, 72.7°, and 77°.  Each of these "arcs" would use a single unified dish.  In my case, due to line of site issues, I needed to have the Eastern Arc with the DISH Network 1000.4 dish.) The canopy of trees around my house made putting the upgraded dish on my roof an impossibility.  Therefore a pole mount was done about 130 feet behind my house in the only part of my property that actually has a semi-clear view of the eastern sky.  I had to cut down a couple trees to accomplish this, but the absence of those trees did not effect the overall appearance of the landscape.

When the installer arrived, he helped me determine which trees were impeding the line-of-site to the satellites.  Even though I live way out in the woods, he said it is illegal for him to dig the hole for the pole mount until the authorities inspect it and give him the go-ahead to proceed.  This would mean he would have to initially install a temporary tripod install and then return at a later date to dig the hole for the permanent install once the "dig test" people approved the site.  He told me the way to expedite the install would be for me to dig the 3 1/2 ' hole myself.  He left me with two bags of quick set concrete and a pole while he temporarily left to take care of another customer.  Three hours later, he returned, aimed the dish, ran the cable on top of the ground for me to bury later, and quickly connected the cables to my receivers.  He confirmed I was getting all the correct channels and left.  I started to feel as if I'd done all the work, but he did do a very professional job.

So, I had a long holiday weekend starting today.  I decided this would be a good time to bury the cable. The coaxial cable used for the install is bright orange.  While I was going to bury the cable, the part that trails up the pole and loops underneath the dish itself virtually glowed and stuck out like a sore thumb.  I decided it'd be amusing to obscure the cable with camouflage duct tape.  After consulting with some of my online buddies who are experts on such things, it was decided that I could use the tape to obscure the exposed bright orange cable with no ill effects.

While summertime in East Texas is never a good time to take on such a project, today was particularly uncomfortable as the humidity was so high, and the remnants of now tropical depression Alex are bringing scattered showers while I'm doing it.  The rain just turned to steam as it hit the already saturated ground.

Ultimately, the cable burial was not too hard.  The beauty of having wood ferns as a natural ground cover is that they provide a virtual carpet of fine roots on top of the soil.  I literally just scored the "carpet" with a flat transfer shovel and pealed it back just enough to slide the cable underneath it.  The grade of cable was "direct bury" so there was no need to use conduit.

Then came the duct tape trick. I made a cleaner loop of cable and re-affixed zip ties to make the cable lie completely flat against the pole. I decided to completely wrap the pole all the way up to the dish itself as well as wrap the loop such that none of the orange cable was visible. The cool thing is that the style of camo used on the duct tape is "digital camo".  Apropos for a digital satellite system.

It's not easy making a satellite dish blend into the woods, but I think I pulled it off pretty well.

Here are some before pictures (click on the thumbnails for larger versions).

too many loops 3 1/2' hole with 2 sacks of quick-set concrete orange coax sticking out like a sore thumb too many loopsfront

 After:

camo'd loops  camo'd loopscamo camo wide camo back camo close view from back of the house facing east

Click here to discuss this in the forums.

5:14 pm cdt

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pip's Eyes

Our beloved Pip is a Pit Bull mix. She has (had) glaucoma that resulted in complete blindness about 2 years ago. She adapted to the blindness quite well, and can even maneuver through the woods on her own to have her morning "movement".  Otherwise, she lives in the house with us and apparently loves it.  She retrieves her toys from her basket and plays with them.  She even stimulates herself by tossing her toys into the air and then searches them out.  She is a very content and gentle dog.

In simple terms, gPip's Enucleationlaucoma causes an increased pressure in the eyes. As is often the case, the medications that were designed to keep the pressure in her eyes under control were starting to fail to keep her comfortable. To to eliminate her pain, today, Pip had a complete enucleation (surgical removal of her eyes). She is doing quite well just 4 hours post-op. The stitches will be removed in about 2 weeks.

I took a picture of her just to document the occasion, but I realized the picture may be misleading (click the thumbnail for a larger version).  Even just four hours post-op, she's still a happy, content, dog.  So, I shot this short video of her wagging her tail.

Click here to discuss this in the forum or here to see pictures and read about the other HiltonHouse pets.

2:15 pm cdt

Friday, June 11, 2010

Three Movies I Must See This Summer
I don't go to the theater very much.  That's because HiltonHouse Theater is much better.  However, it may be hard to wait for these three films to be released on Blu-ray.

The first one, The Expendables.  Even if the plot and screenplay is terrible, with the lineup of "actors", it's sure to be a fun ride. It's almost as if a group of fanboys got together and said,  "wouldn't if be great to have Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Dolph Lundgren, and Mickey Rourke in the same shoot-em-up movie!"

 


The next one, Salt, looks to be in the same vein of a Bourne film and the sleeper, Breach.  I not a huge Angelina Jolie fan, but again it'll probably be a fun summer film.


 


The last one, Knight and Day, is a little confusing.  Say what you will about Tom Cruise as a person (weirdo?), but he is a pretty good actor.  If there's any doubt, check out MagnoliaKnight and Day is certainly going to have some humor, but it's apparently going to include some crazy stunts!



We started off the summer blockbuster season right with Iron Man 2.  I can't wait for what's to come.

Click here to discuss this in the forum.
2:08 pm cdt

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Copperhead
Look what I found this morning.  While I was taking out the trash, I noticed this beautiful specimen.  He, like me, probably wasn't expecting the 52 degree temperature.  I just took a few pics, and let him/her be.  He'll warm up later and slither off.  As everyone knows, at HiltonHouse, we live and let live. (Click on picture for larger version).

Agkistrodon contortrix


























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4:43 am cdt

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