John’s Recon

May 30, 2009

Is A Vibrator And 5 Blades Worth It In The Morning?

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 10:10 am

Now that I have your attention with my catchy title … I recently moved up from the Gillette Mach3 Turbo (3-blades) to the Gillette Fusion Power (5-blades with a vibrator). I know, why move up when you had a razor that could go 3 times the speed of sound and had some kind of Turbo … not sure exactly where the exhaust port was. I did this because I read that 5 blades were spaced closer together so your skin didn’t push up into and between the blades as easily … so a close shave, a more comfortable shave, with less pressure.

After 6 months of experimentation, I would have to make the following conclusions:

  1. Both shave fast, close and easy with a new blade in them
  2. Both wear out the blade at the ten day mark
  3. Both give about 4 more days of shave with a daily stropping (piece of leather I use as a strop to the visible side of the blade)
  4. The Fusion vibrator makes the last 4 days less excruciating by randomizing which layers of epidermis will be chosen for laceration

So save your money if you haven’t moved up. I will continue to use the Fusion since I’m not sure what Gillette is using for feed-back to get the Turbo on the other one.

Both of these razors are much much better than the Gillette Safety Razor I had to use twice a day in boot camp during the Vietnam Era. You see, even though we were training for war we had to have the “uniform” look of baby faces. Yes!-Drill-Sergeant used to say, “I want your faces as smooth as a baby’s behind”. I’m not sure what woman would allow her baby close enough to this sadistic SOB to allow him to touch its behind. Drop-and-give-me-10 used to joyously mis-pronounce my name as Pric-Hard instead of Prichard (like Richard with a P in front). I got a new nickname later, see note below. It wasn’t even true since I’m sure they were feeding us saltpeter in our food. In fact, the only day in boot camp that I didn’t have to shave twice was on Gas day.

The evening before Gas Training day, don’t-call-me-sir-I-work-for-a-living got us all together and said, “If all you congressmen’s sons choose not to shave tomorrow, I won’t notice.” Well this was as bad an omen as it comes. His expression for sniveling baby pansies was “congressman’s son”, since drill sergeants were recently disciplined the year before after a congressman came after them for bullying his son. I can’t even imagine what it was like before this more “relaxed” environment although there were stories. Now he was showing a nice side … it is going to be hell tomorrow. It was. Many learned how to puke in a gas mask that day. Not me … I learned how to burp military grade CS Gas after I had gulped too much … a huge guy on my right had rolled over onto my gas mask in the low-crawl pit which made it difficult for me to retrieve quickly. To my knowledge, this was the last time my breath ever smelled like burning insulation from an electrical fire … CS Gas has a very recognizable odor … it also burns raw skin … very nice of Drill Sergeant to spare us on this one.

My new nickname: During an inspection, where you line up in front of your bunk, I got a new nickname. You line up in a line and stand at attention and have this 5-foot sadist take two steps to the next person in line, you, abrupt left-face, one step in, and his chest is within an inch of yours. Since he is over a foot shorter and standing so close, his Drill Sergeant’s hat (smokey the bear style) touches my chin when he looks up to stare into my eyes … of course, at attention means I am staring out across the barrack hallway over his head into the eyes of another poor soldier waiting his turn.

“Pric-Hard”, he says with the same tone of voice that Jerry Seinfeld used to say, “Hello!      New-man!”.  The tension in the barracks was so thick you could cut it with a knife. “What did you do before you were drafted?” he barks out loudly so the entire barracks could hear. Well, I was traveling all over the place to concerts and such before I was drafted. I took my Dad’s advice of not sticking out in a crowd and cut my long hair before I went in. All of these thoughts racing through my mind … I am going to be “outed” … I needed an answer quick. I said in my loudest and most respectful voice, “I just bummed around, Drill Sergeant!” with as straight a face as I could muster. I have never seen or heard of an entire platoon completely loose their composure. I looked out of the corner of my eye without changing my gaze and they were doubled over with laughter. He rapidly turned to face the others and gaffaws were instantly choked off in the middle all over the building. He faced me again, “And what kind of job allows you to bum around, Pric-Hard”. “A Hippie job, Drill Sergeant”, I shouted back with equal conviction. I could see there was “silent” laughs on this one but no one made a sound. He glanced at my neatly folded locker and said, “Carry on, Hippie”. Wow, I didn’t even get an inspection where he always finds something to make you do 50.

I had finally shed the dredded Pric-Hard. From that moment forward I was called, Hippie by the Drill Sergeant and the platoon. I also found other “hippie-companions” who had drafted in disguise like myself. As for the entire platoon, they did 20 laps in the low-crawl pit for loosing their composure … I went away scott free.

May 28, 2009

Lesser John

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 8:57 am

I was looking through my zoo pictures and noticed the Lesser Kuduand the Lesser Flamingo6237 Lesser Kudu, Fort Worth Zoo, Tx 6235 Lesser Flamingo, Fort Worth Zoo, Tx.

I was thinking, it is fortunate that I wasn’t named by the same animal-naming biologist that these two were. It was bad enough going through childhood and some teenage known as Little John to distinguish me from my Dad who was also named John. In fact, we were named exactly the same … a tradition of the South … my Dad was the II and I was the III. It was a real drag being called little John. When I was two inches taller than my Dad I pointed this out and the “little” was dropped. Although, he could have pointed out that his waist size was considerably larger than mine. I named my firstborn son, Russell, breaking the longstanding tradition and drew quite a bit of controversy from the traditionalists in the extended family. My Dad had died before my Son was born so I didn’t have to disappoint him with not having a IV in the family.

How different my life would have been had I been named by unimaginative-thinking biologist … Lesser John. I’m sure I would have been a person with no ambition instead of the TV-watching couch-potato that I am today.

May 21, 2009

Collin Creek Mall: There Will Be No Picture Taking Here

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 5:45 pm

For a good time, wield a camera in Collin Creek Mall, Plano, Tx. This morning I took my SLK in to Autobahn in Plano, Tx (a place I have used for years and highly recommend). Since I had some time to kill, had my bike on the back, and the camera in the car, I decided to pedal over to Collin Creek Mall … it is only 2.5 miles away. I remember seeing it in the morning once and there were photo opportunities to be had.

After walking around, snapping up the morning sunlight streaming in, a security guard accosts me.  “What are you taking pictures of, SIR”, he said sharply. I hadn’t heard the word SIR used with such loathing since we used it that way in Vietnam. I turned around and smiled, “Why, your great mall in the early morning sunlight”. He just looked at me sternly. He was not amused. I held up the back of the camera and showed my latest one, “See”. Obviously, he was not an art lover. Or maybe he wasn’t a lover of my art. Or maybe a 3″ screen just isn’t representative. Or maybe he was late to a mall harassment seminar and I was slowing him down.

Whatever the reason he said, “There is no picture taking in the mall”. I asked why. I said that I wasn’t shooting people or product as he could plainly see. He repeated with more emphasis, “There is no picture taking in the mall! If you take your camera out of your pocket again, I will have you physically escorted off the premises.” As he said this he was looking at me in a cocked head sideways kind of pose like David Carusso in CSI: Miami but with a Smokey Bear type hat. I fully expected him to take off his sunglasses … but he didn’t. All I could say was, “OK”, since I didn’t want to have an arm twisted behind my back … I needed it to ride back to Autobahn. I tried to look at some more stores to retain some sort of dignity but he was following me … I wasn’t brave enough to reach into my pocket and take out my camera half way to see what he would do … so I left.

I thought about why there is no picture taking in the mall. It couldn’t be people, especially kids because I wasn’t. It couldn’t be competition because I wasn’t taking pictures of product. Then I remembered … terrorism. I was wearing a weight vest (see note below), I am somewhat silver haired, I’m a little overweight, and I was doing the opposite of everyone else … no one else was walking slowly, admiring the sun streaming in, enjoying themselves with plenty of time to burn, and looking at different angles and different directions … Yup, the profile fits. I was definitely a nogoodnik and up to something.

I will probably go back, since it is the closest mall and I have been going there for 20 years. If I do take a picture I am going to use a little spy camera and if I see security coming I am going to take the memory card out and swallow it in plain sight to see if they go into a major scramble.

The pictures will be at my Flickr site here under their own set 200905 Collin Creek Mall. I did get some good ones.

Note: I borrowed a weight vest from my son. He carries around gobs of weight to train for different fireman tests. I am only using 15 lbs (10 + vest) (see addendum), but it has lost me 2 lbs per day every day I wear it. This is enough to burn up some fat due to the additional weight carry. Of course, it looks a little dorky since it is only a half vest. Most people take a glance and immediately look away as they assume it is some sort of prosthetic. One girl asked if it was a bullet-proof vest … I told her it was a cheaper version that could only protect the heart … if I was gut shot I was screwed. Anyway, I think it must make me look like a terrorist with little pockets to carry miniature blocks of C4.

addendum: I just measured the weights. The weights are only 2.5 lbs apiece so I am only carrying 6 lbs (5 + vest). Still remarkable how much I am losing although this has slowed down too … there probably is a point of diminishing return unless you up your activities with this vest.

May 18, 2009

Beyond Electronic Post-Its

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 7:52 am

My memory is no longer the “steel trap” it once was. Who came up with that expression “memory like a steel trap” ?. This expression doesn’t really “hold water” now does it. Any way, back in older days I used a lot of Post-Its on my computer monitor. Even though I kept a pad of paper and a pencil on my person at all times, the Post-Its were in your face as constant reminders that you had something on your mind.

These served well but the glue definitely aged under fluorescent lights and they kept falling off my monitor. I would pick them up and re-paste them to the edge of my computer screen … sometimes using scotch tape. An email my brother sent me in March of 1996 (I am loving the awesome search capability in gmail)  painted an image that has always stuck with me … my brother said that his monitor had aged Post-Its that “litter the base of my monitor like dead bugs around an outside light.” Later on he told me that this had a benefit … ones that drop off don’t have to be done, reasoning that if you haven’t done them by the time the glue ages then it is better off letting them lay where they are.

Then I got electronic Post-Its. These served well but always cluttered my screen using up valuable real estate. Plus these did not have a natural aging process. Perhaps the programmers should have improved this program by having them slowly slide down your monitor screen until they are halfway visible and you could drag them up again to give them a new lease of life … eventually though the un-helped sliding down out of reach until they are gone forever. Unfortunately/fortunately, I moved to a new operating system and lost all my electronic Post-Its forever. I was anxious about what I had not done just like when you lose your entire email in-box. At first you expect angry messages to barrage you … but they don’t. In fact a few will ask if you got their email and you tell them how you “lost” your in-box. They will express sympathy and maybe resend it if important but most often will tell you it wasn’t that important anyway. After this misplaced anxiousness, comes the lifting of a great weight off your shoulders … a new lease on life, unburdened by past things you “had” to do. I know a person who has over 5000 emails in his in-box to process … I have often thought how kind an act it would be to have his in-box purged … yes, it would cause him dismay, but eventually the wrinkle lines around his eyes would fade and there would be renewed light in his eyes and maybe a thank-you.

The PDA picked up where the electronic Post-Its left off. These little gems even have internal clocks with alarms to make your life even more convenient/hectic. A note could all of a sudden come up from the past and force you to re-bury it or Nike “just do it”. Oh, the elegance of technology.

I have moved on from this. Since most of my to do is looking/researching with a browser, the new “to do” is the tabs of a browser. Now, when I am looking at something and it gives me another link to investigate, I can just right click my Firefox and open this link in another tab on the browser. I don’t even have to go to it right now … it will just be a tab that I will get to eventually. It seems though that even when I am mostly retired, the tabs just grow and grow to the right faster than I can consume them from the left. BUT I did an install with the browser the other day and it opened a fresh window after I had just closed my tab-filled browser and it had only one tab (the install) when I closed it. Uh Oh, I just lost about 30 tabs even though I had a session manager add on. Disgusted, I went out and rode my bike a few extra miles and then felt the great weight lift. I will just have to start over.

Another friend just reminded me at lunch that he has his session manager remember a few backup sessions just to thwart this very case. Now, the problem becomes:  Do I too, extend my session manager to remember a few backup sessions OR do I count on my ability to screw up on occasion and delete my burden of history to refresh my life and give me a new start?

May 14, 2009

Arkansas Rain

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 11:04 am

Poor Arkansas. It has rained heavy every day for more than 2 weeks somewhere in either the Ozarks or the Ouachitas or both. It made it cool around 60 F but it made it dreary. Our first trail was at Lake Ouachita appropriately named the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail. I was told that the mountain bike portion was now up to 18 miles long. This trail was actually in the best shape (except for the parts that were under water) but we didn’t know it until we saw the other trails later in the week. So we walked about 1.5 miles of it until it dived into the lake and then we walked back. I now wish we had ridden it since there were longer parts and this trail drained very fast after a rain.

We hiked a Petit Jean trail and were later told that they were almost done with their mountain bike addition. We did the complete Bench Road Trail at Mount Nebo which was quite muddy in parts. On the 2nd to last day we did a portion of Fossil Flats trail in Devil’s Den but it was starting to rain hard so I didn’t get any pictures. All in all … a partial success. We got our feet wet in mountain biking and like it. Definitely do it again … especially the Lake Ouachita Vista Trail.

The Ozarks and the Ouachitas are beautiful … even in rain. The only thing marring this beauty … trailer homes and chicken farms. You are driving along and the forest opens up a little to show you a spectacular view and what do you see … a trailer home on the edge of the cliff enjoying its view but detracting from yours. I think the state needs to invest in Log Cabin plastic siding so that it looks like you built a quaint little log cabin on the cliff edge. Slap this on the sides of the trailers and it will up the visual and tourist wealth of the state. Better yet Camouflage plastic siding … since most who live here are avid hunters … camouflage might be the way to go. Heck, if you do a good job, your house becomes the new blind … you could shoot your dinner 20 feet from the house.

There is nothing like the experience of driving along topless (I mean with the top down) and coming around a curve and being met head-on with a smell that reaches down into your stomach and can wrench loose your lunch. The most god-awful smell of a chicken farm can make you lose track of your line in a turn. I don’t know if they are dead, dying, or just pooped out … I just know it is a blight on such a beautiful land. This smell is even stronger and more putrid than a 18-hour-dead road-kill that catches a portion on the low-slung part of a fast moving roadster. Don’t ask me how I know this.

I have no ideas on how to fix this … no nifty concoction you can feed them to lower chicken BO.  So, my idea is to put a warning sign up about a 1/3 of a mile away that has a skull and crossbones and the words “Hold Your Breath”. One third of a mile isn’t really good enough for the real stinkers but at 55 mph it is hard to hold your breath for the entire maximum smell radius … this should give you a 30 second hold time thus protecting you through the 99% probability of gag/puke radius.

Pictures of this trip (not the road kill and certainly not a chicken farm), will gradually be uploaded in a new set “200905 Lake Ouachita, Petit Jean, Mount Nebo, Devil’s Den, State Parks, Arkansas”. Here is some in a slideshow.

May 7, 2009

Vacationing With Ticks

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 7:41 am

The best way to forget about the Swine Flu is to replace it with something else … Lyme Disease. Yes, we have chosen to go to Arkansas for almost a week starting tomorrow afternoon. Although we have done mostly the twisty roads through the forest in the past, this time we will have two mountain bikes strapped to the back of the roadster. This way we can get right in and feel the vegetation.

So we will spend some of the time hiking in Petit Jean State Park and riding trails in Mount Nebo and Devil’s Den State Parks. Plus there is a choice on Saturday before we get to Petit Jean. We could go either to Lake Ouachita Vista Trail or Fern Hollow Trail that circles White Oak Lake State Park. Although Fern Hollow Trail is probably a safer way to go for our first Arkansas mountain bike trail, I kind of favor the spectacular pictures I might get since Lake Ouachita State Park has one of the prettiest lakes you will ever visit. We even spent a summer vacation on the lake in a houseboat with a hot tub and slide, when our kids were teenagers (haven’t posted those pictures yet – film camera). Plus Lake Ouachita is closer to Petit Jean so we will have to be careful if we go here … we wouldn’t want to take a bad fall or ride off a cliff on our second day now would we.

All told, we are maximizing our exposure to the Ouachita and Ozark tick habitats. Now ticks aren’t as bad as the blood-sucking gruesome leaches of Vietnam, but they tend to prefer the more private areas where detection is made harder due to additional body camouflage … leaches don’t give a damn where they suck blood. In either case, I’d rather have neither. Such is life … there seems to be a direct correlation between scenic areas and body predators … except maybe Hawaii.

May 6, 2009

It’s Still Happening At The Zoo

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 7:29 am

Last Wednesday my wife decided to take off work so that we could take our grandson to the zoo. As usual for this time of year, the weather was not dependable … it was either drizzling or threatening to rain … basically a dark dreary day made enjoyable by kids. Not just the one we brought but by thousands who got to go on a field trip to the Fort Worth Zoo. Two buses were from Anna, Tx which is a long way from Fort Worth, Tx. I’m just starting to put up pictures. We walked through a small sea of school buses. My wife said it was going to be a zoo in there … I said it doesn’t look too bad … but she was so so right.

I wished I had brought my monopod/walking stick that my son gave me. It is a telescoping walking stick with a camera mount on top … a nice way to hold a camera steady in low light conditions. Even with image stabilization it is hard to hold a camera steady at anything below 1/60 of a second … then there is the subject that moves. I fully expected to throw 2/3 of the pictures away since either I or the subject moved … Chimpanzees bad, Gorillas worse, lazy lions, tigers, and reptiles ok. So for every shot, imagine me standing in a crowd of waist-high munchkins jostling for viewing position while under constant barage of don’t-commands by their handlers. It’s hard to take a steady shot when you are constantly bumped … sorry mister.

The wild animals weren’t always in their cages. I tried to take a picture of 8 kids occupying one of the tiger viewing windows but only two were left in the time it took me to compose the shot. The last few years I have used Canon point-n-shoots because they fit in the pocket, have good color, lens, and great internal firmware. I don’t use them in full automatic since they have a tendency to blow out the bright areas in order to maximize the overall light for the picture. My current G9 is the best point-n-shoot I have owned because it is the best at having extra buttons that you can redefine for exposure lock and focus lock for great semi-automatic pictures. For years I have used the Canons by first zooming for best composition, then moving the spot around between light/dark to get the best light balanced image on the display, and then pointing to what had to be in focus and then finally composing and squeezing the trigger. The G9 is the best at this technique but most point-n-shoots can be manually overridden this way. See the sunset at the end of my Grand Tetons set … I was surrounded by people wanting me to show them how to use their automatic to capture the sunset … the more people I showed, the more they showed their friends … many got good shots from their lowly point-n-shoots that day. I can do this technique just under 2 seconds which is still not quite enough for action sports but good enough for scenery.

Also the G9 has 12 megapixels to work with. More megapixels means less chip portions per pixel … which means more noise … so I don’t go over ISO 200. But, I shoot at only 8 megapixels in most cases giving me extra non-digital zoom (not digitally approximated but real resolution) … the equivalent of 15x zoom. Canons allow you to trade zoom for megapixels since only the center of the chip is used anyway. Some say you can just take the picture at full resolution and then crop it to what you want and it’s the same thing. Not quite true. By zooming first you can eliminate overbearing bright or dark objects that are averaged in the exposure … this gives much better exposure control which can even give better focus … plus now you will remember what the subject of the picture was about later. Of course, my wife’s pictures of me and my grandson on the zoo train were fully automatic … nice too  … but it was flat light with no overbearing anomalies to overcome.

Enough about cameras and photography (one of my favorite subjects).  A couple of other observations from my trip at the zoo. Some teacher helpers (parents) were good at letting kids enjoy themselves and some weren’t … some expected a lot of dicipline which was a little annoying. The kids with one particular parent were miserable … she kept (well dressed business professional looking – maybe a lawyer) spouting off wonderful animal facts to the kids and asking them questions … the kids just wanted to see the monkey lick his thing and not answer questions about habitat, social behavior, or food preferences … where are we, the classroom, you’re not my teacher. I was quite impressed with her knowledge until I saw her reading the signs before the kids got there and then quizzing them on the content. I remember this in my own childhood … some parents can be so cruel … educating us on our very rare field trips when we thought we were going to catch a break from school. My final observation is this. There were kids that were not part of the herd … obviously intelligent … clever in their mischief … good observers of their surroundings … and sometimes leaders/controllers of their little groups. These kids could have chosen to race ahead and read the signs and be little know-it-alls and teacher’s pets but that just wasn’t their thing. These kids were constantly scolded and I bet have had a few parent teacher meetings … these kids will be our leaders some day. Be reassured … there is a darn fine crop of them coming up.

May 5, 2009

When It’s Food, It’s Not Fraud

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Prichard @ 1:39 pm

Being a novice calorie counter, I have just recently been looking at food packaging. I see the Melba Toast by Devonsheer at Costco and pick up the package. Serving size 3 pieces … 60 calories per serving, 5 of which are from fat. Not bad for a snack food. So I get them.

Later on I’m eating one from their nice little cellophane packets and notice that the packets are wrapped with 5 toasts in them. That’s not right. So, I ask my wife. She says that this doesn’t surprise her. I asked how is this not fraud, especially when it is used as a selection criteria. She says they do it all the time in food to compete on calories.

What! That is a valid reason to defraud someone? For a second, I am ready to get on my high horse and right this wrong to mankind … but then, I realize, I don’t know which way to ride when it is everyone that is at fault. So, I do like everyone else and say, “When it’s food. It’s not Fraud”. There must be a way to move this legislative immunity over to other areas … can we bury a chip in a doughnut and say it can go half a gigahertz with 6 volts even though it is designed around 5 volts?

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