Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Finding the Hidden World in Our Front Yard

Hiro Hunts for Voles in the yard.
Hummers are draining the feeder
So, what do you do when you have a new found freedom of time at your disposal?   It has taken a while to find the "zen" in simple things without having to worry about a job.   Cheryl is still struggling with the lack of "Time Structure" a job provides. But before I go off on a rant against jobs ( again!)  I'll try to maintain focus on what I have been up to. 
Monarch in flight
Newly hatched Cicada
This guy hangs around here a lot!
Silver spotted Skipper
The new camera is different from the old Nikon.  Not better or worse, mind you;  just different.   It excels in taking close up and still shots.   This may prove invaluable over the up coming months as we retake all of those Christmas Stocking pictures for the Etsy Shop.  While helping out Cheryl with the "mechanics" of the camera,   I took it outside and tried to push it to the limits of its functions.  

Attempting to capture small things and detail is usually a challenge with the various cameras her have had before.   Many times, I favor taking rapid shots and selecting the ones that turn out the best.  This camera allows that a bit.  But, by taking time, I'm able to take some very interesting photos.  

One of the many  types of Tiger Moths
Another Moth larva... perhaps?
And that brings me to the world that exists right under our noses but we often fail to see. I noted a couple caterpillars munching about on our front yard cone flowers.   I have yet to ID the fuzzy one.  I'm thinking it is a member of the Tiger Moth family.  There are many look-a-likes out there.  

Not sure about the inch worm either.  Most likely a moth as well, since I'm familiar with most of the larvae of North American butterflies. 

Bumbles lands on Orange Ruffle
Bumble launches off to another flower.
I tried to capture a bumblebee in flight, but had mixed results.  

Ctenucha virginica. with Soldier beetle.
Check out hot the soldier beetle and the  Ctenucha virginica.  It's a moth!  I'm  not sure of the common name, but I'm guessing it looks like this to imitate either a wasp or a beetle of some sort...( perhaps the Solider Beetle after all!) 

New Camera Captures Aphids!
And last but not least...aphids with Strange ants.   I'm not sure if these are related to the honey pot ants, but they were hanging around the aphid stem ( although, I did not see any interaction between the two)  
Members of Honey Pot Ants?
The aphids are on one small plant, and the ants and soldier beetles were leaving them alone. Perhaps they were not aware of each other.   I was impressed I could capture the smallest of Aphids with the camera on zoom. 

Squirrel with Nut "Coolaid" Mustache
Of coarse the cat and squirrels are always there to practice my focus.  

Wisconsin Beer....Mmmmm! Good!
And finally,  BEER!  Having returned from Wisconsin with a trunk full of brews,  I thought I would show off the latest tasting the Beer State has to offer.  All of the beers from Wisconsin have been great!   It is difficult to nail down which one is the best because they all excel in their various niches.   However, Cheryl and I agree that the Inaugural Red is one of our favorites...( at this time) A rich malty flavor seems to hit the right notes at this time of year.   Maybe it is how Oktoberfest beers are meant to be. 
Hiro Stands guard on the Porch!

Other than that,  Cheryl and I have been taking steps to get the shop up and running.  I edidted a bunch of listings today, while Cheryl "retrained" on the SAT scoring at home for ETS.   ( Alphabet soup, I know....)   Let me just sign off with how we are trying to wind down after a very long summer project this year.  Plus, we will need the be fully rested for the upcoming Chicago Marathon and Stocking season.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ethan's Famous Love of Barbershop Harmony.

 There are few things Cheryl and I disagree on, ( Ok, perhaps I'm not counting the little things...) but music is one of them.  Oh, sure,  we find "common ground" now and then.  But specifically,  Cheryl is no fan of Barbershop Music.   She  could possibly be lumped into the "I hate it!" category.  But I find the music calming and relaxing.  Music is one of those things that can take you away from your troubled world for a few moments and transport you to a happier time, happier place, or even happier state of being.  I'm understanding though.   I simply despise Country and Rap music.  Everyone has their own taste in music.

So, while looking around the endless YouTube videos, I discovered that I missed out on the 2016 Barbershop finals in August.  ( No matter, I was not going to be able to attend anyway.) I maybe know what you are thinking....Judge me if you must.    I'll take this over any Hank Williams song any day.
First,  Masters of Harmony.

Be sure to check out the build up at 3:11.    Also the finishing chord at 4:26.   What can I say?  It sends shivers...
 The conductor was the lead conductor of the Westminster Chorus during the 2009 chorus of the world win.  Just a bit of trivia...although I'm unfamiliar with how promotions are run in the World of Harmony Choruses.

Next:   A new group to me.  The Voices of Gotham.   This song caught me by surprise.   Who does not love Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory?

Check out 2: 36 into this one to hear the refrain chords. Then later at 3:43.   At first I thought they rushed  through some parts a bit, but later,  after listening to it over and over again...I now deem it intentional and suitable.

So, if you enjoy a good harmony with only male voices and no instruments,  give these two vids a listen.  And hopefully,  they will brighten your day a tad.   Enjoy!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Madison Mini-Marathon Finish!

Chock up another one!
The collection Grows!
 Add another half marathon to the trophy rack!   13.1 more miles in the can!  It was an interesting race today,

Early Start.  Noe the rain!
Preparing for Precipitation!
 Despite the bleak prediction of rain, the rain held off for most of the race.  The day started out wet, however the drizzle stopped moments before the start time and the did not return until we were packing up for home back at the hotel.  In fact, as I speak,  there are blue skies and sunshine here in Iowa.   It looks like Wellman got plenty of rain from the puddles and mud.  But before I get sidetracked,   let's focus back on the race...

Time to get wet....maybe.

A quick visit to the Bathrooms.
Early morning start time with drizzle in the back ground.   Cheryl has been planning for a wet race ever since the first Grandma's Marathon;  and they poor emergency ponchos have been languishing in the glove box ever since.   She was VERY excited to be able to pull them out and actually use them.  ( You can actually see her excitement!)

So excited, she can barely contain it!

Lose the Poncho, check the Garmin.
But moments after we arrived at the start line,  the rain stopped and the heat picked up.  Time to lose the Ponchos!  It was a strange thing.  The clouds hid the sun for most of the day, but the heat and high humidity stuck around for the entire race!   It did not cool down until we were packing up the car.   And then, along with the cool air, came the wind!  Luckily the race was over for Cheryl before she had to battle that challenge.   As it was,  the heat and humidity were plenty.
No mascot captures this year.

So, with bathroom breaks and national anthem out of the way,  the race began.   I was a little bummed that I was unable to capture any race shots this time.  The new camera has it's own identity... and taking action sport shots is not one of them.   Not that it mattered much.   Cheryl ran past me so quickly,  I probably would have had trouble capturing her with the old camera.  I finally gave up and decided to record her with video.  With only moderate success.
Cheryl's elbow...behind the blue guy

Wanna see?   Check out how she blows past me at the 30 second mark.  (look for the guy with the green shirt,  Cheryl is hidden behind the lady in the purple-ish top.   Don't feel too bad if you miss her the first time;   she's a blur!)  At 30 seconds,  she is in the lower right corner wearing orange shorts and turquoise top.
 The video quality is crap compared to the original... Hmm,  Guess blogger does not like videos much.

Cheryl rounds the corner to the finish.
Finally a still shot that turned out.
At the finish,  I managed to capture a couple of stills before she raced past me.   Her final time was 1 hour 47 minutes.   She averaged an 8:12 minute per mile pace.  Not her best, but the heat, rain, and job are all factors.  On the brighter note:   She did say she had a good time running and felt like she was running well,  until she saw the time.  Ah, but how time seems to always  ruin everything.....

Time to hang out by the water
And show off the medal.
Afterwards,  we collected the beer and finishers medal  ( not in that order); and sat around swapping stories, drinking beer and feeding the imaginary fish and ducks near the water.  We sat next to the bandstand as they read off the winners and age group awards.

And drink the beer!

And hear about the "winners" 
 Cheryl did not win any...but informed me that she did manage to place 12th in her age group.   (Which sounds good on a blog, but I guess that is about as good as finishing next to last...So she tells me.)  

Cheryl offers a bribe.
Hiro displays his disappointment
Upon arriving home,  the cat was a little upset with us for leaving him cooped up inside for a day and a half.  From the looks of it,  the squirrels and birds must have had a heyday wit the feeders.  Both of them were empty.   I filled them up while Cheryl bribed the cat with a Boston Creme cake slice.  Hiro seemed interested in just the creme frosting.
Hiro inspects he offer...

Takes a sniff...

So,  Cheryl gets to add another medal to her growing list of successes ( and semi- successes)  in the world of running.  She thinks that this year's medals are fewer than she had hoped, but at least some of the medals have ulterior uses that come in handy from time to time.
And then a taste.   Bribe accepted!

These medals come in handy
If only Cheryl would use them properly
Speaking of beer,  we managed to purchase a fine sampling of the local brews that are not found here in Iowa.   I can't wait to try them all!   The one I had last night was very nice.  I guess the Germans are good for  a few things after all.  ( I can say that, because I'm part German.....The bad half)

Lift and pull...lift and pull!
Hope everyone is having a great weekend so far and if you happen on a good German beer from Wisconsin,  I would recommend giving it a go.  you never know where you may discover your next newest favorite beer.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Madison Mini-Marathon Check In...

This way to the Expo!
Cheryl sizes up the shoes...
Here we are in Wisconsin,  alive and well.   The Travel time was just a few minutes past annoying, but we did not have to swap drivers or experience driver burnout.  That being said,   after three and a half hours driving....( ok,  a little over 4 hours with bathroom breaks included) We are both a little exhausted.
Cheryl remembers those Chairs

Waiting for the Packets
I'm not sure why, but I seem to remember last year's event going slightly more smoothly than this year.   We first had a little trouble trying to find parking.   And then we ended up walking about 3/4ths of a mile to the Expo.

Cheryl makes sure papers are in order.
Time to see what the Packet contains.
The Expo and registration was in the Student Union for University of Wisconsin.  After checking in and getting the packet,  we checked out the merchandise to see if there was anything Cheryl could add to her arsenal of running gear.
Checking out the Merchandise

Cheryl thinks it is a little too big.

They did have a pretty cool shirt with the names of the people who were running the race this year.   unfortunately,  Cheryl felt it was too big for her and that she most likely would never wear it.  But it was cool to see her name on one of the shirts.

But this shirt literally has her name on it!
Pizza with lots of Wisconsin Cheese!
After that,  we climbed down the stairs to the food court,   We sampled a slice of veggie-pizza and  some cheesy french bread.   Yumm!

Checking out the school market
We noticed that the dairy products were all produced locally.   Meaning:   there on campus!   This should not be much of a surprise, as MSU also had the food science building supply all of the ice-cream, milk and cheese for the campus and city of East Lansing.  It also makes sense since this is WISCONSIN!   The Dairy capitol of the country.
Milk produced on campus.

Along with Ice-cream and cheese.
Heading back to the Hotel
So we have finally checked in to the hotel room and purchased our Wisconsin beer for the return trip.   Cheryl tried on her race shirt to make sure it fit properly and looks good.   Now, the only thing left is to post this blog entry and get some rest.  Looks like thunderstorms pretty much all during the race and even into the afternoon.  Good news if you need to keep cool while you are running.   Bad news if the lightning cancels the race.  Also,  the forecast called for the temps to hover in the 70's.   That is still a little warm for a race,  but perhaps the drizzle will counter it enough for Cheryl to endure it. We shall see.
The Official Race Shirt.

Rain and thunder predicted.   Might be fun!
The weather this year has just been kind of dud.   Mostly wet and hot all summer long.   These is not the most fun conditions for running....or even biking for that matter.   Heck,  I don't even like walking outside when the weather is 80+ degrees with a 90% humidity.  I'm hoping this fall can somehow compensate for the last few months of hostile weather.   I'm sure Cheryl would appreciate it if the conditions for Chicago improved as well.  Fingers crossed...and wish us all luck for tomorrow.


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