Sunday, September 26, 2010

Picture Post, Sunday September 26, 2010

My Big Sis and her Number Two Son came to Florida and visited us in June. A HUGE blessing to us.

Here are a few photos from when they were here.

We took Big Sis and Nephew Number Two to a restaurant in Sebastian, Florida, that is called Squid Lips. We'd always wanted to eat there, but finally took the chance. Wow, the food was good! How could you not want to eat at a restaurant called Squid Lips?

Here's the fambly at our table in Squid Lips. It's open to the Indian River Lagoon. It was a hot day, but surprisingly comfortable in the restaurant.

Then we went to the beach. Here's a photo of Big Sis and Nephew Number Two.

This is looking north along the beach...

...and this is looking south along the beach.

As you can tell, the water was all turquoise like it is in photos of the Bahamas, and the beach had almost no one on there, except that one couple with their blue umbrella. We were so disgusted at this turn of events that we didn't stay long, and left in a huff.

You know I'm kidding, right? These photos were taken the second week of June, and this beach was deserted. IT WAS PERFECT!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Count Your Blessings Every Day


Count them every day.

I haven't posted much here over the past two years, coinciding with an increase in pain in my lower back and left leg. I didn't want to always be talking about it, because it seemed so selfish.

Even with back pain at a level that I've tried many strange (to me) but accepted medical procedures and untold numbers of pain shots directly into my back, and even with the stress of a demanding job, I KNOW that I am very blessed.

Lovely Wife of 26 years, two lovely daughters, family on both sides that love us and we love them.

A nice house, a job at a great company, dogs, a cat, a fish.

I keep waking up every day so far, and that in itself is the greatest blessing.

Counting my blessings, ie. thanking God every day for them in prayer, is one way that helps me keep from descending into a deep, dark pit of despair because of the grinding pain that never, ever lets up.

Counting my blessings reminds me that I have a good life and keeps both of my feet on the ground.

But today, I have to admit that things were getting to me a bit. Trying to perform my best at work. A training class and test, and the struggle of merely walking. (As I've said before, I literally have a finite number of steps I can take in a day before the pain in my left leg and back say, No More.)

My training class ended at lunchtime, so I came home to eat, and was just thankful for the nearly horizontal relief of my recliner for a few minutes with three dogs draped on me. (They're my Buds)

And on TV I saw a man who had been burned so bad when he was two in a gasoline can explosion that doctors didn't think he'd live. He has no real hands or feet, but he's grown now, a college graduate, thankful of his many gifts.

Oh, and he's an amazing drummer. He can grab one drum stick with the pincher-like claw that is his left hand, and uses a wrist sweat band with rubber bands to attach a stick to his right hand. Played an amazing drum solo.

I was sitting there, crying like I haven't in a long, long time, watching this man's joy, and you could truly see he was joyful, and begged God for forgiveness for allowing myself to have gotten down, hurting and tired by lunchtime.

The afternoon at work went OK, I made some progress on a self-guided training project at work, and I came home completely spent and really hurting, but I was not letting the pain get to me.

Then Lovely Wife gets an instant message from her first cousin's daughter, that the wife of another first cousin had died last night, Monday night.

Lovely Wife and I met while young and both living with our families in Monroe, Louisiana. A year or two after we had begun dating, her family took in one of Lovely Wife's first cousins, whose father had kicked him out.

Lovely Wife and I both were in college and working for a regional pizza chain when her cousin moved in with them in Monroe.

He later worked with me at the particular restaurant that I worked at, and eventually began dating a girl that worked there with us, a girl I had know from school in the Monroe area for five years or so.

They fell in love, and eventually moved back to J's hometown of Birmingham, Alabama.

The instant message that Lovely Wife received tonight (Tuesday) was that J's wife D had died on Monday night. She had a shortness of breath and died, they believe it was a heart attack at this point.

D was a pretty, sweet, and musically talented woman. As a teen she won two national singer/songwriter first place honors that I know of. Could sing and play guitar and sing as good as anyone I've ever heard.

I hadn't talked to D or J in years, time, distance and life in general took care of that.

But although I grieve for a lost friend who has passed, she was a year behind me in school, so that puts her at about age 45 or 46, I'm so glad that the last time I talked with her, she was beaming with happiness. She's become a Christian and tonight I praise God for touching her years ago, as no one could know she'd die so young.

My heart goes out to J, who is apparently crushed and despondent, from the sketchy news we got over the internet. I pray that he has found the comfort that becoming a Christian can provide, but last I saw him, he was not.

So I know that D is eating at the King's table in a place with no pain or sorrow.

I hope that if J hasn't found Jesus, that he might turn his heart over now.

And I've had two amazing reminders in this single day, that life is precious, it's short, and no matter what kind of pain, physical or mental, that we may be going through, every day of life is a gift, even in the middle of difficult times.

My older brother died at the age of 41, and with D's passing last night, I am reminded, yet again, that we are not guaranteed tomorrow, only the moment we're living in, so we must make the best of it, and choose to count our blessings every day and thank God for them.

We don't get a second chance at life, Every Day Is The Superbowl for all of us. We must try to make our lives count. To mean something every day.

Sarah Palin vs. Barack Obama - Holy Cow!

Fifty-two percent (52%) of Likely U.S. Voters say their own views are closer to Sarah Palin’s than they are to President Obama’s, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey.

The whole result was 52% with Sarah Palin and 40% identify more with President Obama's views.

This would be a pretty dramatic set of polling data if it were just taken from a random selection of Americans, but this poll is taken from LIKELY VOTERS, which is much more potentially damaging to the Democrats in near future elections.

Here's the whole article from Hot Air...

I personally don't think that Sarah Palin would win in a presidential election (she's just too polarizing), but there's no denying that she's a force to be reckoned with.

Her being gorgeous doesn't hurt either.

Monday, September 20, 2010

United States Politics - September 2010

Holy smokes, this is one screwed up country right now!

I follow what is going on in the world, and would even like to talk about some things on this blog, but it's like trying to eat a watermelon in one bite.

So I won't even really try.

I just want to say that the Obama administration is, in my opinion, ten times the disaster that George W. Bush's administration was. Bush spent ridiculous sums like a drunken sailor, but Obama makes W. Bush seem like a model of restraint and propriety.

Obama has already increased the US deficit more than all the US Presidents from George Washington through Ronald Reagan put together, according the the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office. And this in only eighteen months!

That alone is simply unsustainable.

These are scary times.

And that's about all I can manage to say about politics right now without having to throw up.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Tears For Fears - Orlando - August 28, 2010

I seriously do very little in the way of getting out and doing anything fun because of my back.

I have to work, so I do that as best I can, though even the average day of an electrical engineer can elevate my pain levels to "Need to lay down, NOW" levels.

But a few weeks ago, one of my two all-time favorite musical groups, Tears For Fears, performed at a free concert in downtown Orlando, Florida. (That's Roland Orzabal, one of the two founders of Tears For Fears to the left.)

You just have NO IDEA how much their music has meant to me over the years (since 1983! How time flies).

In one instance, one of their songs quite literally helped to change my life. I would truly be living in a different state, doing a different job if not for them. (That's Curt Smith, the other founding band member on the right)

I have missed opportunities to see them in concert since the summer of 1990, and as late as 2005.

But this free concert, put on by WMMO 98.9 in Orlando, was on an off-Saturday and my daughters and I planned to go.

As the concert date arrived, I was getting scared that I would be unable to deal with attending an outside (HOT and HUMID) concert with my back pain and not knowing if we should/could bring chairs, etc.

But the night before the concert, I found on the radio station's web site that one could purchase a V.I.P ticket and be allowed to sit close into the stage in chairs they would set up. So I purchased three V.I.P. tickets for me and the girls, and rested a little easier that night.

Number One daughter drove us all over there; I don't drive when I'm taking my pain meds, and we were able to park a mere block from the concert site.

We got there before the opening bands even started, and stuck it out in the heat and the sun because I was determined to see TFF perform, or die trying.

No telling how much I spent on $1.25 bottled water.

Tears For Fears came out at 8pm, and performed an absolutely amazing concert. They played all of their hit songs, and other songs from all their CDs.

I had taken my D90 with the 18-200mm lens and set the camera to ISO 3200 when the sun went down, Shutter priority, and 1/200sec to stop most of their movements while performing.

So these four concert shots were taken at ISO3200! Do you see any distracting digital noise from using such a high ISO setting? No. You do not.

FINALLY seeing Tears For Fears in concert, and seeing them with my daughters was priceless. The TFF concert was Awesome. My D90 performed way beyond my expectations and we got lots of great concert pics.

Just the block walk from the car to the concert site and sitting through the three bands totally took my back beyond any pain level I've felt in months. I walked part of the way back to where the car was parked, and waited for the girls to get it and come pick me up.

But it was worth it in the end, even if I was bed ridden for a day or two afterward.

This final photo is of the Orlando city skyline as seen by standing and turning around at my chair shortly before TFF came on the stage.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

About The Lack Of Posting...

I am alive, but still dealing with my lower back and left leg pain issues from an injury in 2003.

The lumbar fusion I had in my lower back in Oct, 2004 has given my back good stability; my back no longer feels as if it's precariously balanced on worn ball bearings.

That's a good thing, and made my two surgeries of 2004 worthwhile, but I have had chronic pain in an increasingly intense way in my lumbar back and left leg that has gotten almost unbearable since late 2009. This has basically put an end to my hobbies of bicycle riding and going for long walks with my camera. I quite literally have only a finite number of steps I can take in any given day before I MUST stop. So hardly any walks and no bike riding in a long time now.

My life, for the most part, consists of getting up way before I have to be at work, just to be able to get ready and get there. There is much pain involved and it takes me a long time. Then I work, and where I work has about 100 buildings, about the size of a small college, and I end up walking a lot and that uses up the aforementioned finite number of steps in any given day.

All of that is to say this, I give my all to simply making it through a work day and trying to make a living for me and Lovely Wife. My photography habit/walks are very few and very far between. Haven't ridden my bike in a couple of years now. Yeah, even the blogging suffers when it hurts to sit up and type.

But I really want to keep my blogs going, so I'm going to add posts and photos here as I can, and hope you'll be patient with me and check in from time to time to see if I have something new.

Thanks, John M. (Saturday, September 18, 2010)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

New Guitar, Agile AL-3100 (Les Paul clone)

I don't talk much here about playing guitar, mainly because I'm not very good.

I'm a competent strummer, and can get nifty sounding licks down OK if I practice them a billion times.

There's just no substitution for talent, no matter how many hours I practice. Maybe Santa will bring me some talent this coming Christmas.

I had a real Gibson Les Paul for a number of years, but, well, I'd rather not talk about having to sell it. Imagine having to sell a beloved pet.

While I love my cheap clone guitars that are like Fender Stratocasters and Fender Telecasters, I really missed playing that Les Paul.

I finally, after much searching found a guitar brand that makes less expensive versions of Gibson Les Pauls.

The guitar brand is Agile, and they are made in Korea and imported and sold in America by Rondo Music in New Hampshire. (Rondo music and their people are AWESOME to deal with, and all of their guitar brands are amazing, amazing values.)

So about three weeks ago, I ordered an Agile AL-3100. I can say with all honesty, that this guitar is absolutely every bit as well made as the "real" Les Paul that I used to own. I just cannot put this guitar down. I play it unplugged while we watch TV!

Anyway, here are some photos...
The top photo has the most accurate color of the front of the guitar, the others have too much of an orange look, but they were taken with flash and not natural light.

Oh, and the price? Literally one-sixth the cost of a Les Paul Standard ($400 vs. $2400). So even a no-talent hack like me can own a really fine guitar without selling a kidney.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Large Hadron Collider Finally Smashes Some Atoms!

You might not care about CERN's Large Hadron Collider that has been under construction on the Swiss/French border for over ten years, but as a dye-in-the-wool science geek, I'm excited that this collider, by far now the largest in the world smashed some hydrogen protons together this morning.

The collider is an elliptical tunnel of 17 miles in length in which atom protons are whizzed around the circuit by superconducting magnets until they are at 99.9% of the speed of light and then their paths are crossed at certain points to where the protons collide.

They then fly apart like cars in a head-on collision.

These collisions are carefully controlled to happen inside what are essentially many-layered digital cameras about the size of a three storey house and then the images are examined to see exactly what the constituent parts of these protons are.

This collider, the largest ever built, was designed to be able to hopefully see some sub-atomic parts that have long been theorized but that scientists had never had the right tools powerful enough to actually capture one's image.

For example, one sub-atomic particle, the Higgs Boson, is perfectly provable with mathematics, but in science, theory must be followed up with an actual test that allows the theories to be proven empirically, or with the five human senses.

Theoretical physicists believe the Higgs Boson to be the sub-atomic particle that causes material to have mass, and is the only particle in the present standard model of particle physics that has yet to actually be measured/seen with scientific instruments.

The initial collisions of the Large Hadron Collider that were successful today will hopefully be the first experiments that allow the physicists to make some long sought after observations.

Rock on LHC!

Yeah, I understand that probably no one reading here gives a hoot, but hey, it's my blog.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lee Majors, the Bionic Man

or, How My Life Has Come Full Circle

My back is in pretty poor shape, hence the conspicuous lack of posts over the past few months.

One of the current issues I deal with, and have for many months now, is that my back pain will wake me up at 2-4am most nights. And with the kind of pain I have, there's no going back to sleep.

So I have consequently been getting to see all the eye candy offered for sale on late night infomercials.

But the other morning, I saw a commercial - a regular one, not a 30min infomercial - that had Lee Majors on it.

When I was a boy, in about 6th or 7th grade, around 1974 or so, the TV show The Six Million Dollar Man came on.

I totally dug the whole NASA/Space Program stuff as a kid, so a show about a former astronaut that is nearly killed in a crash, who is rebuilt with "bionic" parts that make him able to run along with cars at highway speeds, and an artificial eye that allowed him to zoom in on distant bad guys sans binoculars was pretty much tailor made for this guy when he was young.

Later, there was a "Bionic Woman" who was similarly pieced back together with a few different but complementary bionic parts than was Steve Austin.

He had the bionic eye, she had the bionic ear; get my drift?

So the other late, late night, or early, early morning, take your pick, what did my eyes see but a commercial starring none other than Lee Majors. The Bionic Man hero of my youth.

What was Steve Austin, astronaut, on a commercial for?

Well, ol' Lee Majors has gotten kinda old.

Now I'm no longer a spry young lad either, I'm 48 with a really bad back, so me and Mr. Majors could sit and compare ailments I'm sure.

So I was sitting there waiting for my pain medicine to kick in and ol' Lee starts to tell me about...

The Lee Majors Bionic Hearing Aid!
The Lee Majors Rechargeable Bionic Hearing Aid combines digital hearing aid technology with the ultra convenience of a rechargeable battery, so you can enjoy noticeable, digital quality hearing improvement without the hassles of traditional battery-operated hearing aids.

Which is basically a rechargeable, non-prescription hearing aid for us no-longer-faster-than-a-corvette type broken-down humans.

Now I've had tinnitus all of my life. As a kid I remember at quiet moments sitting and listening to the high-pitched whistle in my ears. Then working for years around jet airplanes at DFW and ATL airports only added to the problem. Now, at middle age, I'm getting the normal hearing loss on top of the tinnitus.

But even at the age of 48, there's ol' Lee Majors, still trying to be my hero by offering to sell me a bionic ear to help me better hear his commercial with.

And I thought, man, life has come full circle for me.

Lee Majors gets to be a hero to me in my youth, and then many years late to be my loss-of-hearing savior in my steadily less well heard middle age.

What's next, over the counter Bionic Knee Replacements for when my knees give out?

It's hard to grow old enough to find out your heroes have gotten old and sad enough to hawk hearing aids on late-night TV.

And also, since the Bionic Woman was the one with the bionic ear, shouldn't it have been the aged, but still lovely, Lindsay Wagner who was trying to sell me on a hearing aid at 3am?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

How Drunk Do You Have To Be... try to resuscitate a dead opossum?

You just can't make this stuff up, folks.

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. – Police say they charged a Pennsylvania man with public drunkenness after he was seen trying to resuscitate a long-dead opossum along a highway. (Opossum photo taken by Rex Lisman)

I know the old song line, "the girls get prettier at closing time" but man, this is some kinda drunk to do this.

I'd love to see the cop car's video of the man and opossum, if there is one.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

To Me, This Is Just Plain Funny...

I keep pulling this up and I laugh at it every time.