Monday, April 18, 2016

Turtles and a Heron

As part of our quest to see turtles a couple of times a year Melanie and I took short drive to McAlpine Creek Park. The park has two ponds. One is the more traditional cement ponds you see at a lot of parks. There is a second pond beyond it that is full of logs and stumps. I knew it had to be full of turtles. It was. Not only was it full of turtles it had tadpoles, fish and a blue heron. Not bad for the middle of a big city.

We saw this guy first. He was lounging on a dead tree on the surface of the front pond Turtle at McAlpine Creek Park

This small turtle just crawled out of the muck to get some sun
Turtle at McAlpine Creek Park

The blue heron wading and hunting
Heron at McAlpine Creek Park

Finally, the log with a shitload of turtles. I count 14. This is three photos stitched together. This log floating in the middle of the lake was a turtle resort
All the Turtles in the World

Friday, March 25, 2016

Knox Phillips

Another thing I learned while listening to Guralnick's biography of Sam Phillips is that his oldest son, Knox, did some producing in the late 60s and early 70s. He did some work with a local Memphis band called the Jesters. They cut this great tune called Cadillac Man.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Mystery Train

For the last couple of weeks I have been listening to Peter Guralnick's new biography of Sam Phillips. I was familiar with a lot of the recordings Sam Phillips made. I had heard the Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Howlin' Wolf and Jerry Lee Lewis stuff. I was unfamiliar with the large number of blues artists other than Howlin' Wolf that Sam Phillips had recorded. I didn't know that he started his recording service and eventual record label exclusively to record the black musicians in the Memphis area because he thought they were not being given the deserved opportunity to express themselves as artists. He was sure that through recording this beautiful music that the music could break down the barriers between black and white Americans.

I have been pausing my listening to the audio book a lot to listen to music I had not heard before. My Google Music account has come in handy in the last couple of weeks. One track that really stands out is the original version of Mystery Train by Little Junior's Blue Flames, a song recorded by Elvis late in his Sun stint and part of the last Presley single released by Sun. According to Guralnick, Sam Phillips considered Mystery Train to be the best work Elvis recorded at Sun but he asserted that Elvis' version of the song was not as good as the original. Little Junior is Junior Parker. There is so much music out there to discover.

Give Mystery Train by Little Junior's Blue Flames A listen, it is a perfect song. I have been continually impressed over the last couple of weeks while revisiting and discovering the recordings made by Sam Phillips, by just how great these sound. He built his studio with only the assistance of one other person, his assistant Marion Keisker and was barely getting by but recorded songs that will be listened to hundreds of years from now. I think he may have accomplished his goal.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Few Photos

Here are a few photos I took recently. Moss sprouts! I was walking with my dad and sister on dad's land in northern Michigan and came across some moss next to a large rock. I got down close with my camera and saw the moss was sprouting. I wonder if you can eat moss sprouts?


There was also reindeer moss in this field. It's actually lichen. If deer eat it can humans?


You can kind of see in this picture how much of that lichen is covering the ground here. It was everywhere.


This is lichen on the rock next to where I took the photo of the moss sprouts. Delicious?

Lichen on Rock

This is me at sunset standing all cool and shit. This spot next to my dad's house on top of a hill that has an incredible 360 degree view is one of my favorite places in the world.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

You can probably spend a whole day reading reviews and general observations on the new Star Wars movie. This one is mine.

I really enjoyed the movie, it gave me the thrill I was expecting when the first bad movie of the prequels was released. Like Jon Scalzi said in his much better review, it felt good just to sit back and enjoy a Star Wars movie as just a fine space romp, which is all they really need to be. Even if you aren't a fan of the Star Wars universe this is a movie you can just enjoy as a blockbuster science fiction movie.

A few things that stood out to me:

The stormtroopers are people behind those white helmets and this movie shows us that. They are not mere cannon fodder. They are now cannon fodder with souls. They still can't hit a hero with a blaster shot but they do try. Early in the movie there is a scene where stormtroopers are loaded into a transport for a mission and there is actual tension. What a great idea.

Not everyone here is coming back

The blaster fire is different. Blaster bolts seem to have weight now. They have mass. More "pop," if you will. I don't recall if that was the case in the prequels, since I have yet to watch any of them a second time, but in this movie if you get hit by a blaster bolt you go backwards. Especially if you get hit by Chewbaca's weapon. There are a couple of nice gags in the movie about that. In the original trilogy the blaster weapons were not unsatisfactory, these are just better. The weapons in this movie look like weapons, not toys.

These guns look dangerous

There was a lot of Han Solo. If you like Harrison Ford you will enjoy this movie. Ford has more screen time in this movie than in any of the other Star Wars movie. Han Solo is still a rogue, still partners with Chewbaca, still a hero and still funny. It's not unfair to say Ford is the best actor from the original trilogy and in this movie he is allowed to show that. He brings needed gravitas and humor to the movie. When he says the Force and the Jedi are real it feels more real because it came from Han Solo as played by Harrison Ford. About halfway into this movie I would have been just as happy if Han, Chewie and the two new young characters had turned the Millennium Falcon around and gone on to their own adventures as smugglers. That probably would have been a better movie.

Fastest hunk o' junk in the galaxy

It has plot holes you can fly a death star through and it doesn't matter. The need to fill holes was one of the problems with the prequels. What are the odds of this heroic person meeting that heroic person and then running into a couple of legendary characters, one of whom may be related to the other? Astronomical! Who gives a shit? How did Indiana Jones survive on that submarine? No one cares. This type of movie doesn't need a plot that makes sense. It needs heroes you care about, funny dialog and fight scenes and special effects that kick ass. These movies require plot holes, I expect them.

The world's biggest plot hole and I don't care

There is a lot of nostalgia. Almost too much. The plot is very much inspired by the first Star Wars movie and that isn't bad. The first Star Wars movie is great because it is just a big mess with great action scenes. The magic of that movie is that the plot was not original and much of it was "borrowed" from earlier movies. So, this new one borrowing from the first big borrower works. The scenes where each of the original characters is introduced really work. The right mood is struck each time with a perfect touch of humor added during one scene. I wonder how these scenes will play to younger viewers who watched the original movies first at home. They haven't had over half a lifetime to create the emotional bonds with these characters like us old people. They are probably rolling their eyes while grandfather in the seat next to them sniffles when Han and Leia drown in each others eyes. There are a few times, though, when too much of the plot of lifted directly from the first Star Wars movie. It's a small quibble because everything else is so great, the dialog and the action. No complaints. So we get another even bigger death star, again, no one really cares. Just blow that bastard up and save the galaxy. For now.

Han holds Leia before he goes off to stomp some ass

Saturday, December 05, 2015

A Trip to Pyramid Point

Yesterday Allison and I took a jaunt to Pyramid Point. The trail we took goes about .6 miles up to a bluff that overlooks Lake Michigan. And the trail is almost entirely uphill. About 2/3 of the way up, I was feeling it. The view at the top of this bluff never gets old. The visibility was excellent yesterday. There was, however, a wall of fog a few miles out. It's odd to be that far above a fog bank. It made the horizon look blurry. I thought the first few photos I took with my phone were not in focus.

A stump provides a nice foreground. You can barely make out North Manitou Island on the horizon. The fog is obscuring the island.


Allison and her dog, Yuki. Or Zen Yuki. Or Dookie. Something like that.


After walking back down the hill we went to a nearby beach. The beach faces the west and the late afternoon late autumn sun provided some amazing light.

This picture has probably been taken a gazillion times.


Sometimes you have to lay down in the sand in order to get that shot you want.


This picture has also been taken a gazillion times.


This was cute. When I got too far away from them Yuki started barking at me to come back. I was a couple of hundred yards away when he was doing this.


I also took a panorama from the top of the bluff. It turned out pretty good, I think.

Pyramid Point Panorama 1

Friday, November 20, 2015

West Bay Panorama

On the way back from Meijer today I stopped by West Bay to take a few pictures. I may be cold and windy this week but it is still beautiful out.

West Bay Panorama

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

More Halo Chaos

These are some shots of me playing free for all in Halo 5. The first segment is me chasing a guy down and taking him out, the second three segments feature me getting bumped off and the final segment is me blowing up a couple of fools. Good stuff.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Halo 5

I've been having some fun with the new Halo that came out last week. I have been playing a lot of games of team death match and free for all. It took me a couple of days of heavy playing to get my Halo legs back and it has been worth it. The video below is me ending a match with a triple kill. I'm not sure why this particular team was all hiding in these rocks. We were stomping their ass and it may have been because they were hiding in the rocks the whole time. Sometimes when I am on a particularly shitty team I will run and hide. I am nobody's cannon fodder.

I am disappointed in the theater mode in this version of Halo. You have to use it in conjunction with the game DVR on the Xbox One and that system is not good. You have to start recording on the DVR and then go back to the game and start the video in order to record a segment. It is the opposite of user friendly. The editing that is available on the Xbox One is atrocious. I have had to resort to uploading segments to Youtube and editing them into a longer video using Youtube's editor which is much better than what is provided on the Xbox. One of the main complaints I have about the Xbox One is the user interface. I have found it to be a step backwards from what was available on the Xbox 360.

Friday, October 23, 2015

More Forza 6

Last night I was driving my 2009 Pagani Zonda on the high banks of Daytona. I tweaked the gearing so I could the car's speed up over 220 mph. 40 second laps at Daytona while using the driver's view is thrilling. There is a serious sense of speed when you are going over 220 mph and not lifting. Good fun.

The replay you see here is the preset race view setting. This view mimics a television broadcast.