Monday, June 30, 2008

Lest You Think I Hallucinate...

Occasionally, I come prepared.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"She's Dead....... Wrapped in Plastic!"

It's quiz time, kids! Having nothing better to do last night.. (Margaret's still in Ann Arbor selling everything).. I decided to start watching my Christmas present.

Margaret originally got me the first season of 30 Rock (see? not a jealous bone in her body). But I had already watched it on Netflix, so she had to get something else. What did she get me?

(I'd prefer not to get Google-assisted answers... let's just hear from the folks who actually know without looking it up) ;-)

UPDATE: We've got two guesses so far... I'll post all the comments when I decide we've had enough fun. I think, though, it's time for a hint: One of the main characters is Harry S. Truman.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Using the Tools.

Click to see bigger image.

The Nikon D300 has a built-in intervalometer, (think of it as a self timer on overdrive). It allows me to place the camera up on a tripod, and set it to take pictures at any interval that I select, from every second to every "X" number of hours. It can also be set to take more than 1 image each interval. It's useful for doing things like flowers blooming, capturing the life on game trails, or my big plan: Set it up high inside the Express and see what these hounds do to amuse themselves while Margaret and I aren't at home.... But first I had to test it.

This was set at one image every second for 40 seconds.. (the first three images were culled).

I know, I could have just taken the Fuji, set it on movie, put it on a tripod and just make a short film, but.... what fun would that be?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Flora.

We don't always see interesting fauna when we walk the park's trails, although the diversity is amazing, being this close to civilization. Sometimes it's the flora that gets our attention. We need our anonymous botanist from last year's mystery "Cardinal Flower", to pipe in again with this fairly ubiquitous blossom. I really like the color- almost the same color as the Texas Bluebonnet.

Some flowers are already done blooming for the season...
And for you fungus fans... just hang on as they're only now beginning to erupt. Probably throw some images up next week before we take off for parts known, and unknown.

UPDATE 1: I've done a little looking around, and it would seem that the blue flower might be some type of Lupine... which would explain the similarity to the bluebonnet, which is also in the Lupine family. Still looking for specifics..
That seedball reminds me of some of my fireworks pictures.. or a fountain I've seen somewhere; probably in a mall.

Walkin' the Dog.

Bar Mitzvah! He's a "man" now...
And have I mentioned what a pain the deerflies are when we're walking? Oh, I think I have. Illustration:

Who is That Guy?

This has been driving me crazy.. ever since the first "McCain for President" TV ads started up here... (running incessantly about every 15 minutes). They always end up with this picture of some guy..

...supposedly this is John McCain. Does he look like this guy?

Now that looks like McCain.. (doing his best Pete Coors- well known right wing Nazi- impersonation; love the way the pocket flaps wave in the breeze!). Could it be that the first image has been manipulated to make him appear more... oh, I don't know... younger? Presidential? ...instead of like the old guy in your neighborhood who stands in the yard in his bathrobe, shaking his fist at all the cars, and yelling at them to "slow down!.. whippersnappers!" Hey, it works for all the fashion magazines.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Preparing to Travel.

We've been sitting still- and therefore not burning expensive fuel (at least in the Express... the Escape's another matter altogether)- for over two weeks now. Got another week to sit (although not necessarily to relax), and then it's off to Metamora, MI for 3 days of lure coursing trials.

Then we'll be off on a "leisurely" 2+ week trip to Lompoc, CA, where we'll be shooting a whole lot more lure coursing, plus LGRA racing. Specifically, we'll be there for the Scottish Deerhound Club of America's National Specialty, but there will be other Regional specialties going on, including greyhounds, and a couple of other breeds.

We've been told Lompoc is a "must experience" at least once. Beautiful surroundings. Cool nights, warm days, and near the ocean. As it turns out, the coursing and racing will be taking place in Santa Maria, about 30 miles away, so I'm not sure how much Lompoc we'll get to "experience".

In our "Year of Meeting Bloggers", we'll add Christie Keith of Dogged Blog, Pet Connection, and other blogs, to the list we started back in February with Steve B. As we're both Deerhound owners, I guess this meeting would be inevitable... eventually.

Once the Lompoc event is done, and we haven't yet experienced an earthquake, wildfire, mudslide, traffic jam, inversion layer, or any of the other events that make California.. special, we plan on hanging around to do the lure coursing trials up in Hollister, California. The folks there have tried to get us to come out for a while now, and this is the best opportunity we'll have. Hollister is best known for the 1947 "takeover" by motorcycle gangs that was the inspiration for the movie, The Wild One. Cool- I hope there's a museum!

After that? We're workin' on it, but I'm sure we'll be tired of the People's Republic of California by that time and will be working our way back East.

Stay tuned, and watch the schedule.

Lure Coursing, Racing, and OFC stuff..

It appears some friends of ours have decided to advertise with the big "G"... and as luck would have it, because of the subject of many of of the posts here, their "link" has shown up in the bar above... so if you're looking for really slick coursing or racing "attire"... or slips... you might want to check them out. Hint, hint. I've had this business linked below for a long time, but it works better for me if you "look up" ;-) You'll figure it out.

There.. that should be vague enough to not violate Big G's terms of service.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Visitor.

11:45 PM.

I hear the dog food container hit the ground. We keep it outside, secured, on the picnic table next to the Express. It was on the ground this morning, too. Neighbors tell me about a marauding raccoon seen on the premesis last night.

Rocky:

Belligerent. Wouldn't run away, even with 5 dogs pushing me from behind as I stood in the doorway to capture this, admittedly soft, (understatement), image.

Dammit, they're a pain in the ass, but they sure are cute!




Margaret's Garage Sale

The morning started busy.. even before the signs were placed, and before the Ann Arbor News hit the street. And it got busier from there. Just before 5PM, Margaret reports we're doing good, and should have the Express's new radiator covered!

Today's science report involves that tree in the background, to the left of the EZ-Up. The one with all the clumps of white flowers. It's a Japanese Lilac Tree, and it's attracted a number... a large number... of Carpenter bees. At one point they were too numerous to count- over 30, anyway, plus numerous smaller bees, flies, and butterflies.

And no wonder; it's loaded with pollen. The fragrance is nearly overwhelming, but not cloying. Several shoppers commented on it. One was going to go out and buy one.

Look at the hind leg on this guy. He'll be popular when he returns to the nest.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I Did It.... Again!

Nature photography is best left, apparently, to professional nature photographers... or Boy Scouts.

Today's missed opportunity: Baby turkeys.

Reconsidered taking the camera when I walked Sandia, and I was still close enough to go back for it, but decided, "nah.. won't see anything today". I had even taken a few steps back toward the Express. Sigh.

Out of the brush and onto the trail they came... singly, and occasionally in pairs. About 5 inches tall. Not sure how old that would make them, but they could fly! Once they realized there was a large human- with a dog- not 15 feet away, they took to the trees. They fly better than adults, who wandered slowly off in the opposite direction. I think we were meant to follow.

What next? Waiting for our first Bobcat!

Oh yeah... I did pick up at least one tick. Penance.

No.18 In A Series.

How not to photograph lure coursing:







Lure coursing photography is a dangerous art, and should be left to experienced professionals only. Do not try this at home!

Thanks, and a big Hat Tip to our friend and unofficial II sub-contractor, Ben Brodeur.

Democrats Have Cooler Funerals.

But Don't Let Him Pee on the Water Cooler!

Tomorrow is the 10th Annual "Take Your Dog to Work Day". I've been taking my dogs to work with me- every day- for the last 14 years! Does your company let you bring your dogs to work regularly? Will they let you bring your dog tomorrow (June 20th)? I'll bet my old employer won't. They've become quite boring over the years since I left.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I Rest My Case..

I use newspaper, kindling, and one match. Mrs. Bubba uses the Darwin Award shortcut. (Identity obscured to protect the stupid.)















Good Luck Little Guy

I mentioned the other day that I've seen Wood Ducks in the trees over the RVs. These are shots from earlier in the Spring.. end of April, early May. I fact, they're among the first images I captured with the D300.. way before I knew how to manipulate the menu for optimal color! This is the spectacularly colored male, or drake.

I didn't see the pair again until just the other day, while I was punishing myself walking Rally. (She has to make interminable circles on the flexi lead before she will do her thing... there have been times I swear I've fallen asleep waiting for her to pee!). Naturally, I don't have the camera with me when I'm doing this, so it was really frustrating when I glanced up and saw the pair of ducks fly to a nearby tree and disappear. I kept my eye on the spot, thinking they were perching on a limb. I didn't see them fly away, so when Rally finally finished her chore, I tossed her in the door and grabbed the camera, and ran to the base of the tree thinking I would get them taking off- (they're very skittish and shy).
Nothing. I know I would have seen them leave while I was out, and with a little searching, I spotted a trail of down hanging out of a cavity about 50 feet up.

A nest!
This tree's about 200 yards from the nearest water, but that's not all that unusual, nor is the way the young leave the nest when it's time:

"The Wood Duck nests in trees near water, sometimes directly over water, but other times up to 2 km (1.2 mi) away. After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water. The mother calls them to her, but does not help them in any way. The ducklings may jump from heights of up to 89 m (290 ft) without injury." (emphasis mine- DG)

Which brings us to today's tale. Once again, walking Rally sans camera, I saw a quick-moving bird crossing the campground road, heading in our direction. Baby duckling. Cursing the dog and my luck, my impatience finally won over, and I took her back to the Express and tossed her in to do whatever she was going to do inside, but I was not going to miss this picture!


Aix Sponsa (Wood duck)
I hope the little guy makes it to the water.. this was not the best of all possible weekends to be hatching here.. it's a race weekend in our part of Michigan, and there are more than the usual number of NASCAR Bubba's at the campground- you know, the guys who build giant campfires when the overnight low is only going to be the upper 70's and that number matches the humidity, and they're drinking Miller Lite. Need I say more?

Anyway, he moves pretty quickly for a tiny tot, when you approach him, so I couldn't interfere with "nature" even if I wanted to. Still, the odds are against him, which must be why the hens typically lay 6-15 eggs, and can sometimes lay up to 40 (!). And they do it twice a year. Their numbers are solid, and trail only Mallards in numbers shot each season.

I could be seeing more.

Friday, June 13, 2008

With "Friends" (of the planet) Like This, Who Needs Enemies?

There are times I'm really glad we don't have satellite, or cable TV access. This is apparently one of those times.

Any of you who may have viewed the Planet Green network in its brief life, let me know if it's really this bad...
"It's impossible to say whether the show's smug superiority is more grating than its anorexic thinness of content, but seeing them in combination may fill you with a kind of retributive rage. I for one want to go out and kill a dolphin."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Things You See When You Haven't Got a Camera...

Wouldn't you know it? Took Sandia for a walk on the campground trails yesterday. Had to stick to the open areas on the North end, because we were quickly flushed from the trail that runs through the woods.. (See the previous post on deerflies). I had the boy on the new 110lb Flexi, but didn't bring the camera, mostly out of pure laziness.

Now, I've seen lots and lots of interesting critters and things at the old Holiday RV Campground... Sandhill Cranes, deer, geese, turkeys, turtles, wood ducks (in the trees over the RV!), squirrels, cottontails, fungi, wildflowers, raptors.. the list is endless. Yesterday morning, while I was walking Rally, a coyote- bigger than Rally- stopped at the edge of the cornfield, about 20 yards away, and gave us a good long stare before proceeding on with his daily business.

Nothing previously could have prepared me for yesterday's event, however. We had just seen a pair of spotted fawns rollicking in the tall grass out by the interstate.. no adults in evidence. I was cursing the fact that the camera was in the motor home, and we were approaching a large thicket where a lot of deer often rest during the late afternoon. I was anticipating the explosion of mass deer-flight when, from behind us, I heard, "Excuse me!". Huh? That didn't compute- like when you hear a powerful jet, and look up in the sky and the first thing your eyes fall on is a soaring turkey vulture. I turned and, bearing down on us, was a horse.. a trotter, in fact, complete with sulky and a little black driver in goggles! As he sped by, he said, "How you doin' today?", and I said.. "uh... um... er.. fine?"

I've been on that trail dozens of times. This was definitely a first. There are horses on the nearby property. I just never realized they were racing horses, although there is a harness racing track in Jackson. It is an interesting practice track, though, because it's far from level. He disappeared around the bend, and I immediately got on the phone to Margaret to pass on the story. While talking to her, we passed the last photo opportunity of the walk, when I spied a box turtle laying eggs next to the trail.

SO.. today I took the camera when the boy and I went out for our daily constitutional. No fawns. No horses,sulkies, or diminutive drivers.. of any color. No turtle. No nuthin'! Well, nearly no nuthin'. I did see this perfect, living description of "gossamer wing"..

And Sandia self-posed for me in a nice setting...
What's the Boy Scouts' motto? Oh yeah.. Be Prepared. Well, I once hacked a hole in my knee with a hatchet... during a "hatchet safety" session at a Boy Scout "Camporee". But, that's just me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another Milestone.

If you look at the "Where Are You?" box in the sidebar, you'll see the names of countries scrolling up. Since I added this feature in January of this year, this blog has, as of this hour, now been viewed in 100 different countries. Many of the visitors have simply been searching for this, but most are actually here on purpose. Cool!

Not So Cold.

Doesn't seem all that long ago I was bemoaning the lack of warmth in our Michigan climate. We're back, after our 1500 mile jaunt to the II and the Saluki specialty, and things have changed. For one, there's been a whole lot of rain in the area, and it's turning into a steamy jungle. And that brings out...
...these guys. As sure a sign of summer as there could be. Oh, and mosquitos, too. Be careful what you wish for. I see there was snow at the Snoqualmie Pass in Washington yesterday. It looked nice. ;-)

Scary..

Hey.. play me some George Winston......

Doubly Suspended, at the ASFA II

They say the closer you can run to the ground, the faster you will go. This guy must be really flying! Or crashing.

And here's something only a handful of people saw on Saturday. The lightning and thunder were closing in, the judges on Field B decided to get the hell off the top of the hill, and to get the lure operator off the ladder. The whippets that had been at the line, were on their way down the hill to shelter. I caught movement out of the corner of my eye in the direction of the woods...


...and away he (she?) went, across the coursing field, and over a fence and out of sight. Someone shouted the obvious, "loose the Deerhounds!". Only myself, 2 of the field clerks, and the two judges saw it.

I have no idea if the deer was watching from the edge of the forest, waiting for an opportunity to bolt, or if it was just the beneficiary of extremely lucky timing. Whichever... it showed great form!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Video Evidence.

video

Why didn't I mind being towed? We had two big climbs in front of us, including Sidling Hill, seen here. We figured we saved $30-$50 in gas! This thing looks much more foreboding when approaching from the East.

Speaking of hills... here's the driveway at Bill's Truck & Auto-


video

Somehow, we didn't get a shot from the bottom looking up. But you can see me in the only place I could get a cellular signal!

Home Again, Jiggety-Jog...

When we last posted, (not counting the fabulous Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup win), we were leaving Cabela's in Wheeling. We stopped that night at a campground just off I-68 in Maryland. That allowed us to fill in another state on the Express-side map, (conveniently ignoring the fact that we crossed the PA border about a mile and a half... their mailing address is Flintstone, Maryland!).

Prompting our stop was I-68 itself. Mountains. If this trip taught us anything, it's that the Express needs a new radiator. We boiled the coolant once between Wheeling and the campground (which was just past Cumberland). We figured to let it rest overnight for the remaining climbs before the descent into Virginia.
We were only about 125 miles from the site of the ASFA II now, and we got an early start to take advantage of the cool morning. We were halfway up our second climb of the morning, the transmission had dropped to 2nd, and our speed to 30mph when there was a loud "BANG!!", followed by a rhythmic "bang-bang-bang-bang...." etc. Margaret, believing I am all-knowing said "What was that?". Proving I knew a little something, I replied, "Uh, nothing good". We kept climbing, the temp didn't rise, and other than the noise we kept rolling until we could get to an exit.

Being prescient, we had decided to finally renew our RV road service plan about 5 days earlier, (it had expired last November). Fortunately, there was cellular service at this particular remote exit, so I called them up and told them what had transpired: After getting out I went around to the driver's side where the noise was the loudest, got down, and was hit square in the face with pulsing hot air mixed with oil. It was coming from the back cylinder, where the spark plug used to reside. Half of it was hanging uselessly from the wire, while the rest was still in the cylinder head. It just decided to blow up. Inspecting the remaining pieces, it appeared it had worked itself loose over the months since we'd had the plugs replaced last August.
Had we been in a normal part of the country, where roads are flat, we could have driven it, but the road service determined this..

...was the wisest option. We'll try to post some video in the future to show why I couldn't disagree. And they were paying anyway.

But the fun was only beginning! The tow truck company was located up in Pennsylvania, about 45 miles away. The road service folks, in their infinite wisdom, tucked away from the realities of the world somewhere out in Phoenix,
decided "Bill's Auto & Truck" in Hedgesville, West Virginia was the place to go. "They're only 17 miles from where you are now", the road service tech told me. Not even as the crow flies was it that close! 60-some miles later, we were parked on a rural two-lane, at the foot of the steepest driveway I've ever seen. It was 20 degrees if it was 1. I drove the car up to the garage, where a hand-written sign on the window proclaimed, "Closed today for doctor visit. Sorry for the inconvenience".

This was more than a little confusing, as the road service people had talked to "Bill", and so had I. He was expecting us. I wanted to call him and find out WTF? what was going on. But there was no cell service. Big surprise.. look up Hedgesville, WV on a map sometime... the garage is up in the hills, 5 miles west of the town. I returned to the wrecker driver who stated the obvious: he couldn't pull the RV up that driveway.. and he couldn't turn around with the Express attached.

I kept trying my phone, and finally found that if I stood up on a stone block next to the driveway, and held my head perfectly still, facing in a northwesterly direction, I could manage 2 bars! First I called the road service folks and told them, as civilly as I could manage, that this was bullshit. If the truck had towed us up to PA to his garage, we'd be back on the road already. Next I actually got hold of "Bill", who told us about an alternative driveway, (not unlike an alternate universe) right next to the steep one. It's actually a "road" which showed up on my map program. We explored it, and I wasn't crazy about its possibilities either.

At this point, the tow driver said he had to go. So there the Express was left, on the side of the road, in the hopes that Mr. Bill would arrive soon.

Margaret drove off towards Hedgesville to do business at the post office, get gas in the car, which was nearly empty, and to try and get a better signal with which to speak to Bill, the mystery mechanic.

About a half hour after the tow truck left, Bill arrived in his vintage Ford Escort.. (popular item.. his neighbor was driving one as well!). Here is where things speed up; finally! Bill decided he could do the work right on the roadside as long as I turned the rig around so his legs wouldn't hang out on the road. He didn't have the right plug, or wire, and couldn't find one locally, but he had acceptable substitutes, which he magically modified. We fired that sucker up, as Charlie Daniels would say, and I swear it sounded better than it did before the explosion. The bill was $40. The tow was covered. We were on the road by 3:30, and got to Morven Park in Leesburg, VA way before dark!

It's now more than ten days later, we're back at the Holiday RV Park in Michigan, with the II and the Saluki National Specialty under our belts, and nowhere to go for over three weeks, and frankly, we can use the rest.

We'll post some pictures from the II and such in subsequent posts.. Meanwhile, I'll be searching the internet for a suitable radiator... it's got to be installed before we make the brutal drive to Lompoc, CA in July!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Welcome Back, Stanley

AP Photo
Lord Stanley's Cup is back where it belongs... in Detroit... and all is right with the world. Congratulations Detroit Red Wings.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

My Vote Must Matter.

Okay.. forget what I said the other day. Today is Primary day in South Dakota, and I got no less than three calls from the Obama campaign. And they were all recorded messages.

The first was from Barack Obama his own self.

The second was from Michelle Obama.

And the last was from the hottest member of the US House , our lone Representative, Stephanie Herseth-something..

...(she went and got married! The Horror! The Horror. )