Friday, May 30, 2014

The Tower's Ledge

It was back in August of 2012 that Paula and I took a 4 day vacation to Chicago. You can read my 10 post series trip report if you look through my blog archives back around that time period. 

Yesterday, I saw a news report about an incident at one of the most popular Chicago tourist attractions we visited on that trip. 

The Willis tower, a 109 story building, is the 2nd tallest in the United States. On the 103rd floor there is an observation deck. The unique feature of that deck is "The Ledge." There are several along the side of the building. They are a series of clear boxes that extend out over the edge of the building to give visitors a view as if they were floating outside the building more than 1350 above street level. 

Here's what it looked like when I was standing on it looking straight down, 2 years ago. 

These boxes are very secure and have very thick sheets of glass all around them, especially on the bottom. They can support up to 10,000 pounds.

The event that sparked the news story was the cracking of the 1/2 in thick top layer on the top of of the bottom glass of the Ledge box. Here's what it looked like at the time of the incident. 
You can probably find details about the story by doing an internet search. 

When I saw this story on the news it gave me a bit of a chill down my spine. Having been on that Ledge glass I could relate to what those guys felt when they saw the glass crack. 

The story's relevance give me an opportunity to share a few more pictures I took when Paula and I visited Willis Tower. 

Here is a view of the Ledge box from the side. 
You can see the thickness of the glass on the bottom of the box. From a close up you can see it even better. 

If you look close you can get a better perspective on the very top sheet of the glass that the visitor stands on. It's meant to experience damage from the public standing on it and is changed every 3 to 6 months.

Here's one more of the pictures I took on the Ledge with both Paula and I standing on it. This one looks out over the area just a little bit more. 

The "glass cracking" incident presented no danger to those who were on it when it happened. If you ever get to go to Willis Tower don't hesitate to go on "The Ledge" it is safe and one of the most unnerving while at the same time thrilling experiences you'll ever have while standing still.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Next Step

Been away from the blog focusing on moving forward with other things this past week. But today I have a major announcement that will effect the future of this blog and it's content.  

In the past I have had difficulty posting videos to this blog so I've been limited to sharing just pictures.

I've been putting off expanding my internet footprint in order to allow my readers to see videos I want to share with them. But there is something online that I want to participate in during the next few weeks that requires making a You Tube video. So there was only one thing to do.   

Today I am proud to announce you that I have created the RHFactors You Tube Channel. Here is the link. 

RHFactors You Tube Channel

Please go to it and subscribe to have access to all the videos I plan on putting up in the future. That includes those I write about on this blog and those I don't. I'd appreciate it. 

I am still working on setting up the channel and there's only one video uploaded as of this post. I'm kind of flying blind and learning about this social media that has become an integral part of everyday life in the world. 

Now on to the story behind my first posted You Tube video. Three years, ago in 2011, my friend and associate pastor at my church, Mark, and I created a couple of characters to help promote the upcoming week of Vacation Bible School. 

Since both of us grew up in the northeast, Mark in New York state and me in New Jersey, our characters, Vinnie Gandalfo (Mark) and Eric O'Leary (me) were exaggerated versions of residents of New York City. 

We wrote and performed 3 short sketches that year and they were well received. Ever since then we've been talking about doing another one but hadn't had the opportunity. 

This past Sunday, May 25, the Memorial Day holiday gave us a reason to bring Eric and Vinnie back. 

Built around a song we wanted to sing to honor all who have served in the military, Mark came up with an premise and most of the dialogue for a sketch. I added some jokes, my ukulele, and some special effects. 

The results of our efforts is in the first video I've posted on my You Tube channel. Below is a direct link. 

Now this is not a perfect video. The audio is not the best and during the song my mic does not work very well. But overall I'm proud of this sketch. Not bad for a couple of amateurs.

So there you have my major announcement. I now have a You Tube channel so you can look forward to more videos directly connected to this blog, videos of my ministries at church, ventriloquist videos and more.

This is a new door I've opened for me but I'm just taking the first step down a new road. I invite you to come along on this journey with me. I'd appreciate any support I can get. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Random Stuff From My Week

Nothing specific to write about today. Just wanted to make sure I published something before midnight. So here's a bunch of unconnected stuff that filled this past week for me. 

On Monday I received the Lego pieces I had ordered from their customer service department a few weeks ago after a bunch of them were missing from my Aviation Adventures kit. 

On Wednesday I tried to bake a chocolate cake and failed miserably. I think I had the oven temperature too high. 
As you can see the top of the cake is slightly burned while the middle is sunk in because it wasn't finished baking. 

I've made quite a few cakes in that oven but this is the first time I've had a problem. It may be time to replace the oven.  

The cake was supposed to be for my daughter-in-law's birthday. So on Thursday, her birthday, I went to a local bakery and got a pair of cupcakes and took them to Brandi. 

I have a personal belief that everyone should have cake on their birthday. So I do my best to see that each of my family members get some kind of cake on their special days. 

After I delivered the birthday cupcakes I got to visit with Brandi and Aria for a while. Aria was playing with a hat. I had her pose for a picture wearing it. I thought this shot looked rather cute and stylish. I sent it to Paula in a text. 

The three of us counted the money in Aria's piggy bank and played by spinning the coins on the floor for a while. 

Then Aria showed me how she can play the alphabet puzzle game on her mommy's Ipad. She really likes it and is pretty good at it. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a dog person. I love dogs of just about any shape and size with few exceptions. In general dogs usually like me. 

This past week I went to our church office to meet with my friend and associate pastor, Mark. The church secretary, Alice, was "puppy sitting" for the dog of a church member and had the dog at the office. She ( the dog not Alice) was a toy Yorkshire terrier puppy named "Lucy." As you can see she is a cutie. 

The first time I went to the office early in the week she was there. As soon as I walked in with a black canvas bag and my ukulele case in my hands she communicated very clearly that she did not like me at all. She barked and ran away from me all the while I was there. I was really bothered by her reaction to me. The consensus of Mark, Alice and I was that it was the black bag and uke case that scared her.  

On Friday I went back to the office and Lucy was there again. 
This time I wasn't carrying the black canvas bag I had with me the first time Lucy met me. 

I was redeemed when she decided that this time she would be my friend. She let me pet her and feed her treats. She is so adorable. 

This afternoon Paula and I went to the movies to see the new Godzilla movie. I'll be posting my thoughts about the movie in a future post.

On the way into the theater I saw this stand up and thought it was amusing. Don't know why but I did. 

One final thing in this collection of randomness. Today, while talking with Paula she mentioned something that might be important to this blog. She said that if I don't include a working link on Facebook when I announce a new blog post, she doesn't take the time to bring up the blog to read the post. 

So from now on I will be including a working link with every announcement. I need to make it as easy for my readers as possible. 

There you have some of the events of my week and pictures to go with them.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

My Spring T-Shirt Project

Blogger's Note: When I was a sophomore in high school I took a psychology class. One day the teacher went around the class randomly calling on students to stand up at their desk and talk for 60 seconds about a subject of the teacher's choosing. 

When he got to me he chose "bottle caps" for my topic. While for many kids in the class the spontaneous exercise was a struggle or complete failure, the teacher had to interrupt my speech after a minute and a half. 

That was back in 1975. But some things never change. Although bottle caps are, for the most part, a thing of the past, this post is about something that is probably just about as "interesting". 

It's safe to admit that this post tells you more about me, my mindset and behavior, than it does the project I'm writing about. Ironically if you read it quickly enough you will finish it in about a minute and a half. Enjoy. 

The Memorial Day weekend is upon us and that means the "unofficial" beginning of summer. It's time to make sure I have access to the part of my wardrobe that goes with the season. 

Having completed the exchange of long pants for shorts in my dresser there was one more part of my seasonal clothing transition to make. That would be the shirts in my closet. 

For months the OCD part of me has not allowed me to relax completely at night because my side of our bedroom closet was in disarray.

Tourist tees have been mixed in with Disney shirts. Novelty shirts have infiltrated MLB team tees. Randomly hung among all of them are my favorite collard casual dress shirts. 

You know the shirts I mean. Those that are appropriate to wear to church or when we are meeting family or friends for dinner. 

So after weeks of being bothered by the chaos that is my closet, yesterday I found the time to organize my shirts. 

First, I sorted out the long sleeved shirts that I won't be wearing again until next winter. I put them back in our storage closet in the back bedroom of the house. I brought out the baseball shirts I'll be wearing all summer. 

But that's just the beginning of my change over. All the shirts came out of the closet and, still on their hangers, were sorted in piles on the bed. I put them back of my half of the closet in this order, right to left. 

First the long sleeved light weight dress shirts; just in case I need to go somewhere that requires a shirt and tie. Then the aforementioned casual shirts.  

Next are the baseball shirts organized into 3 subsets. First are the shirts with minor league team logos. They include the Chattanooga Lookouts, Louisville Bats, and about half a dozen Bowling Green Hot Rods shirts. 

The MLB t-shirts are arranged leagues by divisional groups like they would be in the season standings. The are in this order: American League East, West, and Central followed by the National League in the same divisional order. Of course the New York Yankees tees are always first. 

As you continue to move to the left you will next see all my Disney shirts. They include my small collection of tees with Goofy on them, all my Mickey Mouse shirts, the shirts I have from my 2004 trip to "The World", and my Muppets t-shirts. 

Among favorite Disney shirts are my very first Mickey shirt and my "Mission Space" and "ESPN Baseball Tonight" shirts. Those last two were purchased during my first trip to Walt Disney World back in 2004. 

You know the phrase "been there, done that, got the t-shirt"? Well, that's what the next group of tees in my closet are all about. I call them "Tourist Ts". I have shirts I bought as a reminder of the great time I had on my vacations over the years. My favorite one is I got at "The Comedy Barn" in Pigeon Forge, TN back in 2001.  

Last but not least are my "novelty" t-shirts. They are unique in a variety of ways. Some have nostalgic advertising for products like "Twinkies" and "Tootsie Pops". Others have sayings on them like the CSI shirt I posted about back on April 3rd. 

A shirt that I bought from a female comedian at Zanies comedy club in Nashville. It has her act's catch phrase printed on it: Just because you can talk doesn't mean you should. 

So there you have the order in which I organized my closet yesterday. Now I'm ready with more than enough t-shirts to wear during the summer and fall months.  

 Just so you don't think I've gone totally "Sheldon Cooper" with this project, I don't have an exact count of how many shirts I have. My best educated guess would be anywhere from 75 to 100. 

So if I make my goal to wear each one at least twice I may be able to do it by Thanksgiving. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Celebrity Pictures

Posting the picture of Lou Mongello and me in my last post, got me thinking about other pictures I have taken with celebrities. Today is the perfect opportunity for me to share some of them. After all it is "Throwback Thursday". So here we go these are some of my favorites. 

These first two pictures were taken at the Vent Haven Ventriloquist Convention in July 2006. The man with me in this picture is Steve Axtell. 

He is the founder, owner, and creative force behind Axtell Expressions in California. His latex puppet creations and props are amazing. My Cecil the turtle and lion are Axtell puppets. 

He may He not be well known outside of the world of puppets but to me he's a celebrity. 

Also at the same convention I met and had my picture taken with a guy who has since taken ventriloquism to another level. 

Jeff Dunham was just on the verge of skyrocketing to stardom when he spoke and performed at Vent Haven. The construction paper version of his Jose Jalapeno puppet was used as a prop in his lecture.

This is me and comedian Frank Caliendo in August of 2006. Frank was still a member of the cast of the Fox Network's MAD TV show. I caught his night club act at Zanies comedy club in Nashville. In this picture he is making face he does when he impersonated, President George W. Bush in his act. 

Six years later in February 2012 I met these next two celebrities on the same day in Nashville. 

The first one is Taylor Mason. He's a multi-talented comedian and ventriloquist. 

I caught Taylor Mason's act at Zanies, also. It was the 2nd time I'd seen him there. This was right after I had finished reading his book "The Idiot's Guide To Ventriloquism." 

Not only did he take this picture with me, he answered some of my questions and gave me some very useful advice. 

BTW, the pig puppet on my shoulder is Paco, Taylor's "lawyer."

Earlier in that February day, out of curiosity I decide to seek out the Nashville branch of the Antique  Archaeology store. The place had just been opened by the two guys who star in the reality show "American Pickers." 

I only went there to look around out of curiosity. Much to my surprise one of the owners, Mike Wolf, was there. 

He was very nice and kind enough to pose for a picture. I know in this shot he kinda looks like a cutout. But believe me he was there live and in person. 

My last two celebrity pictures was taken during a pair of very special vacations. There's nothing unique about these shots. Millions of people take pictures like this each year. 

In September 2010 Paula took me to Walt Disney World to celebrate my 50th birthday. It was also a celebration of the success Paula and I had in getting healthy after our by pass surgery a year earlier. 

One day while in the Animal Kingdom we happened upon a photo op with one of my favorite characters. I took a picture with him and another of one of Disney's "Fab Five."

I am proud of this shot because it was the only character picture I took during my birthday trip and I am a "Goofy guy". 

Since I'm posting pictures from Walt Disney World, here's the ultimate character picture taken during our family trip there in 2004. 

This photo op was totally as well unexpected. We were just walking into the Hall of Presidents in the Liberty Square section of the Magic Kingdom hoping to get in line to get a good seat. 

In the lobby we discovered Disney's "big cheese" and his best gal. 

There you have some of my all time favorite "Ron With Celebrities" pictures. Just something I wanted to share on a "Throw Back Thursday." 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Handshake & A Hug

In the last two posts I told you the story of my decision to drive to Atlanta to meet one of my favorite Disney podcasters, Lou Mongello, at a small downtown restaurant and what happened when I first got there.

I must emphasize once again that the rain and the restaurant management's decision to seat the WDW Radio fan group where they did, were the only factors that initially made me uncomfortable at The Nook. 

I had brought along my digital recorder with the intention of asking Lou to record some sound bites and liners for my 2014 Rewind Soundtrack program. 

But as I mentioned yesterday there was so much noise in the place that I knew the recording wouldn't be possible. 

But our host turned the day around for me. Lou did a great job at mingling with his guests and talking to them. He was as friendly and genuine as he is on his podcasts. He spent as much time as he could with each guest. He posed for pictures with them all as well. 

He came to my table and talked with me several times. The first time he came over, I brought up the fact that we were both from New Jersey. We talked about watching some of our favorite shows on New York TV stations when we were kids. 

The second time he came by Lou was very impressed and astonished when he found out that I had traveled so far to meet with him.

He then mentioned the tweet I had sent out before I left my house that morning. He said, at first, he thought he had misread it. He then assumed that I must have been coming to Atlanta for another reason and was just coming by because I was there. He was impressed that I made the effort to be there. 

He told me that one of his close friends, Glen, had just moved from Orlando to Nashville. His friend told him he would like to have come to Atlanta to meet with Lou but it was too far to drive. 

Lou took a picture of the two of us with his phone. He sent it in a text to Glen with a note about me and how far I had traveled. 

The third time he came over to talk it was getting close to the time I had to leave so I wouldn't get over tired on the drive home. I made sure I had one of the other guests take a picture of me with Lou using my phone. 

He was interested in my phone because it was a Windows Phone and had such a good camera. I showed him how the Windows OS worked on a phone. 

I also showed him how his website and app wouldn't work with my phone. He promised me that he'd get his IT people to work on getting it updated and working. 

Here's the picture of the two of us. 

I can never fully explain the importance of this picture to me. Can you tell how excited I was? Actually I wish didn't look so "goofy" in the shot. It's destined to be one of my favorite pictures of the year.  

As the 3 o'clock hour came around I realized that the "official" scheduled time for the meet up was over but only a few people had left. Lou made sure he got up and thanked them for coming as they said "good-bye." 

I knew that if I stuck around the opportunity to talk more with Lou would avail itself.  But about 3:30 I decided that it was going to take too long for that to happen. 

I knew I had to go so I could make it home at a decent hour. 

I got Lou's attention to tell him I was leaving. I told him "thank you" for the opportunity to finally get together. In return he thanked me for coming such a long way. 

He told me to email him the phrases I wanted him to record. He'd do it from his broadcast studio in his home and send them to me. He also promised that he would send me a gift as a "thank you" for driving all the way to Atlanta. 

Since I knew Lou was going to stay in the city for a TV appearance on Tuesday morning I suggested might be interested in seeing the Muppets exhibit at the Atlanta puppetry museum. 

Finally and most importantly, after hearing him say it for so many years, I got my Lou Mongello handshake and hug. He was right; nothing beats it. 

As I left the restaurant I was conflicted. The adult in me knew that it was time to go because I had to drive home. But the Disney fan in me begged to stay. I just couldn't. I had a long trip home. 

I walked back to my car and soon was on my way back to Kentucky. It was about 3:45 EDT. While driving back through Georgia, the rain was still coming down but I did see some clearing in the distance. 

 By the time I reached the hills between Chattanooga and Murfreesboro,  the clouds had parted and it was sunny for most of the rest of my trip. 

As I drove through Nashville, the sunset was beautiful.  

I listened to a couple of podcasts and most of the Yankees/Pirates double header on my XM radio along the way. 

The last hour or so of the trip I started to feel the fatigue from the long day. The familiarity of the drive from Nashville to Smiths Grove proved to be a good thing. I got back home a little after 8:30 CDT.   

So there you have the story of my road trip to meet Lou Mongello.

Ironically, I never got the chance to sit and talk specifically about Disney with him. But hopefully some time in the future I will. It would be terrific if that conversation could be in one of the Disney parks in Orlando. 

I can't think of anything I'd like to do more than sit in an Epcot restaurant enjoying a meal, and talking about Walt Disney World with a man who has literally written books about it, my friend, Lou Mongello.   

Blogger's Note: FYI. The Yankees lost the game at Wrigley Field that I chose not to go to 6-1. Derek Jeter was honored before the game and went 2 for 4 with a stolen base. Not a bad night but given the choice again I wouldn't change a thing.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Getting To "The Nook"

Yesterday I ended my post just as I was heading south toward Nashville with Atlanta, GA as my destination. 

The sun was bright as I made my way through Nashville. This picture shows the moment just before leaving I-65 and getting on I-24. I would be heading east toward Chattanooga. Notice the sign on the left and the downtown Nashville skyline in the background. 

An hour later I passed Murfreesboro and approached the series of steep hills along I-24. The weather took a turn for the worse. It began to rain. 

After three hours of driving through the rain I found myself in downtown Atlanta. It was still over cast but no longer raining. 

I followed my GPS directions and soon found myself driving down Piedmont Avenue next to Piedmont park. Across from the park I saw The Nook, a small restaurant where the WDW Radio group was meeting. 

I had left home with what I thought was plenty of time to get there early. The event was scheduled from 1-3 PM. My plan was to get to the restaurant about 30 minutes before the "official" start of the event. Because of the weather and stops I had made along the way I ended up getting to the restaurant a few minutes after 1. 

I knew it was important to be there early but that just didn't work out. It turned out to initially make a difference in my experience.  

I parked along 14th Street about a block away at a public parking area next to the "W" hotel. 

It wasn't raining as I was walking down to the restaurant but you could tell it had been raining most of the day. 

Once I got to The Nook I was surprised at how incredibly small it was for the amount of people I thought would be at the meet up.

There was a rather large patio with about a dozen tables. But it had an open roof and it was not being used because of the rain. It has started to come down again shortly after I arrived at the restaurant. 

The main room of the place was rather small. My best guess would be that it was a 50X40 ft room. 

The bar was the centerpiece of the restaurant. There was about 2 dozen chairs for patrons to sit around it. The main seating area was a series of booths along the side and back walls of the room; elevated about one step up above the level of the bar.  

The place was packed. The hostess at the door told me that a lot of the "Disney group" was already seated but they had to set up more tables for me and the rest of those who had also just arrived. 

There really wasn't any place for me to stand while I waited. I spotted Lou Mongello in a little group of tables on surrounding the bar. The tables were full but I couldn't tell if all of the people seated there were part of the WDW Radio group. 

I soon realized that the setting was not a very good situation for mixing with and getting to know all those who were there to talk Disney.  

I later learned that the reason Lou picked the place was so that the group could utilize the patio. The rain changed those plans. There was nothing he could do about it. 

After about 10 minutes or so the staff, ironically, brought in two tables from the patio area (they had to be dried off) so that me and a family of 4 could sit with the rest of the group. I was on the end of the table. Here's a picture I took that shows how things were set up.

Lou was sitting to my right 4 or 5 tables down. It was obvious that the way we were sitting would make socializing with him very difficult. In this picture he's the 2nd person on the right. 

Now that may look close but the cacophony of conversation and activity made the room very loud. You could only talk to the people next to you but even that was a bit difficult. 

I became very discouraged about the situation. Here I had just traveled 4 hours to meet Lou and all I was going to be able to do was just say briefly say "hi".  

Perhaps things would change as the meet went along and I would get at least a minute or two of conversation with Lou on a one-on-one basis. 

I decided to try and make the best of things. I introduced myself to the two people two my left. The young lady was named "Emily" and her father next to her was "Jim". They were from nearby Lawrenceburg, GA. Jim told me he was a city planning consultant. Emily was a recent graduate from Vanderbuilt college in Nashville. She had plans to continue her education with a goal of a career in cancer research. 

The Nook's food specialty was something called "Totachos". They are tater tots topped like nachos. They were offered in about half a dozen varieties; none of which I cared for at all. 

The only thing I found on the menu that I even thought I would like was a 1/3 pound cheese burger with a side of sweet potato fries. 

At this point in the meet I still wasn't convinced that the experience was going to be worth the time and effort it took to get there. I wasn't blaming Lou, it was just the way things were working out. 

But then things happened that turned it all around. I'll have the details on just why and how this happened in part 3 of my story tomorrow. 


Monday, May 19, 2014

Road To Meeting Lou

Blogger's Note: Been about a week since I've posted anything. I do apologize. As usually happens when I take a long time between posts, there were a couple of reason for it. Most relevant  among them were my writing efforts were focused on another project and I didn't have anything new, different or interesting to write about. (I know that last reason hasn't stopped me in the past, but anyway...)

Now I am back and I have several ideas and pictures for upcoming posts. Thanks for coming back. I appreciate and thank you for being a faithful reader. 

I've been listening to Lou Mongello's podcasts since 2007. His first one, Mouse Tunes, was the first podcast I ever listened to. His current podcast, WDW Radio, is on my list of a half dozen, Disney based podcasts I listen to each week.

Over the years I've watched his progression from a lawyer living in New Jersey, who wrote a book of trivia questions and facts as a means of sharing his passion for Walt Disney World, to an Orlando resident considered one of the leading Disney experts around. 

His personal drive and philosophy about following your dreams and making them come true, working at something your passionate about, and that it's important to keep moving forward, are an inspiration to me.  

Although he is very humble and would never brag about it, in just 7 years, Lou has built the WDW Radio brand into a highly successful business which includes: his podcast, social media, books, magazines, multimedia recordings, public speaking and, most importantly, face to face contact with other Disney fans. 

Over the last seven years, although we never met face to face, Lou has become a friend. But while Lou states on each podcast that he considers all his listeners his friends (whether he has met in person or not) he also says nothing beats a handshake and a hug. So for a long time I have wanted to meet him in person.

Always open to meeting his listeners, for the last several years, Lou has hosted the WDW Radio Meet of the Month each month at a specific location in Walt Disney World.

Recently, he's started hosting "road events" which are essentially a "meet of the month" in places across the country other than Orlando. Unfortunately all his road meets have been too far away for me to be able to get to. 

Recently, I found out through the WDW radio podcast, that Lou was holding a road event in Atlanta on Sunday May 18. 

The event was scheduled from 1-3 at a restaurant near a park in downtown Atlanta. I knew that the drive to Georgia would take about 4 hours. Was it worth it? Comparatively it was. 

You see before I found out about Lou's meet. I was considering traveling to Wrigley Field in Chicago on May 20 to see the Yankees play. The trip would have accomplished two cool things. I finally would get to Wrigley Field for a game and would get to see Derek Jeter play for one last time. 

Going to Chicago would be a 6 hour drive both ways and require an over night hotel stay. It would cost quite a bit once you factored in the price of a game ticket (a decent seat would be close to $100) and paying for gas. Also it would essentially be a two day trip and Paula wasn't going to be able to go with me. 

The trip to see Lou would be one day and be about 1/3 of the cost of the trip to Chicago. I've had "meet a Disney podcaster" on my personal "to do" list for quite a while now. Here was my chance to do it. 

The choice was easy. The investment of driving time might not have been worth it to most people. But I had been "itching" for a long road trip for a while and I would finally get the chance to get that "handshake and a hug." So I decided to go to Atlanta this past Sunday. 

I left my house at 6AM. It was a beautiful crisp Sunday morning at least while I was in Kentucky. 


As you check out the picture below you will see that I was set up with my Ipod loaded with the latest episode of all my favorite podcasts (upper left), my GPS (upper right), and XM satellite radio (you can see half of it in lower right corner to the right of the steering wheel); ready for my road trip.

I sent out a message on Facebook and on Twitter about how excited I was about the trip. A tweet that would play a big part in my day. 

After pick up breakfast at Mickey D's, I headed down the highway. I was going to Atlanta to meet the WDW Radio guy, Lou Mongello.

More in part 2 tomorrow. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Brush Burning

About six weeks ago I had a local landscaping service clear out the overgrown area in back of our property, outside our chain link fence. 

I had them put the branches that they cut off the trees on the cement pad, that used to be the boy's basketball court, just inside the fence's back gate. 

Those branches along with some others that I cut from the bushes near the back of our house pretty much covered up the paved area.

Since then my personal "To Do" list has included burning the brush in my back yard. But it wasn't until late yesterday afternoon that did it. Or at least I got it started. 

Here's a short video of some of my effort. 

I fed the fire for about 30 minutes. As I sat in my lawn chair watching it burn the sky changed from twilight to the darkness of night. I heard an owl hooting in the distance. It was very relaxing. 

When I was finished burning for the night I waited for the fire to die down. Stirring the ashes a couple of times reignited flames that took care of any remaining branches. 

I then thoroughly soaked the pile of embers with water from the hose. I have to be more than make sure the fire's out for my own peace of mind.  

A couple of months ago I wrote two posts about things that I wouldn't have ever done if I hadn't moved to Kentucky. Well, here's another one of them. 

The places I lived in back in Pennsylvania and New Jersey were urban areas. You couldn't have open fires within the city limits. 

So for an old northern city dweller like me, what is probably a chore for most farmers in the south, was fun. 

With the amount of wood to burn will take a few evenings of setting the basketball court (or at least a small area of it) ablaze again. 

One of those times I'm going to take the hot dogs I have in the fridge and have me an old fashioned weenie roast. Anyone want to bring the marshmellows? 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day Weekend

The 2nd week in May is always a special one for a couple of reasons. My son, Michael, celebrates his birthday on the 10th and that Sunday is Mother's Day. 

This year those occasions happened on Saturday and Sunday respectively. Also adding to the uniqueness of this weekend is the fact that I am teaching Children's Church at Oakland Baptist this month. 

The weekend events actually began on Friday afternoon when James called me on my cell. He informed me that both Michael and he weren't going to contact with their Mom on Mother's Day on purpose. It was my job to take Paula out to dinner late in the afternoon. They would meet us at the restaurant. 

So I was given the task of getting my wife to a restaurant on Sunday afternoon so her sons, daughters-in-law and granddaughter could surprise her for Mother's Day. 

Given the fact that Paula usually likes to relax at home on the last half of Sunday; I had my work cut out for me.  

I planned on Saturday being a day of rest and relaxation for my wife. But the morning proved to be a bit different. She was kind enough to make us bacon and eggs for breakfast. 

It was then time for me to get out my supplies and prepare part of the craft for children's church the next day. I had large popcicle sticks (more like colored tongue depressors), small foam shapes with adhesive on the back and magnetic tape.

The final craft turned out a bit different from original idea I had in my head. Paula helped me solve my design problems. She was then gracious enough to help me make the frames I wanted to have ready so it would save time during class. We glued together 15 of them having to clamp them so they would dry stuck together.
Here are some pictures of the process.  

The final results was a multi-colored picture frame that would serve as a refrigerator magnet. I planned on having the kids draw a picture, glue it to the center of the frame and then add some of the shapes for enhancement. Here's my quickly put together example; not my best drawing of a flower.

We finished with all 15 picture frames by about 2 o'clock. It turned out to be a nice "together" project for us. 

I spent the rest of the afternoon gathering the other materials and things I would need for teaching the kids the next day. 

Saturday night's dinner turned out to be a delicious joint effort as well. Paula baked some sweet potatoes for our dinner and some chicken quarters we could have for dinner sometime in the next day or so. I cooked a couple of steaks on the grill. They were very good. 

The rest of the night was spent sitting back and relaxing on our love seat recliners. We watched the new episode of our favorite TV show, Orphan Black on BBC America. 

Children's church went very well. My second lesson on creativity focused on Jesus. I taught the children that Jesus, as God, was responsible for creation of all things. I then demonstrated how as a carpenter on earth he made things out of wood and as a teacher he created stories, or parables, to illustrate his wisdom. 

The kids really liked seeing Cecil the turtle, acting out building things like a carpenter, making their gift for their moms, and learning the song about "The wise man and the foolish man." If you don't know it, here's a link to it on You Tube. 
A Wise man Built His House Upon The Rock 

For lunch Paula turned the left over steak from Saturday's dinner into a delicious open face steak and smoked gouda cheese sandwich for lunch. 

Paula watched "The Hobbit: Decimation of Smaug" on Blu Ray while I napped on the couch. 

It took a little doing but I finally convinced my wife to go to Cheddars in Bowling Green for dinner. 

We got there about 5:10. The kids were sitting in the restaurant's outside patio area. At first Paula thought it was just a coincidence that they were there. But she quickly caught on. 

We spent about 30 minutes on the patio waiting for out table. Paula got to spend time with the kids; especially with Aria. 

The kids gave Paula some nice Mother's Day gifts like jewelry and a certificate for a manicure.

About 6 o'clock we were escorted to our table. After a delicious dinner and a wonderful time together we left the restaurant. 

After a stop at Stakz, our favorite frozen yogurt shop, for desert we came home and relaxed. 

Paula spent the rest of the night enjoying the 2 hour season finale of her favorite TV show "Once Upon A Time." Don't want to put up any spoilers but the end was very "chilling". 

Just one side note to wrap things up. On Saturday, Michael and Heather went to Nashville to celebrate his birthday together. 

While he was there he went to the Lego store in the Opry Mills mall. We told him to pick out a set or two that he wanted as our birthday gift to him. 

I mentioned to Paula that I thought it was pretty strange that we were buying our 33 year old son Lego sets for his birthday. 

"Not any stranger than me buying them for my 53 year old husband for his." she returned. I guess she has a point. 

Thus ended a very busy but enjoyable Mother's Day weekend. Hope everyone had a nice couple of days as well.   

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mini-Figure Mission Part Two

After buying a couple dozen blind bags of the new Simpsons Lego mini-figures I completed my set on May 1; the day they were officially released. I also had 10 more for a second set. 

On May 2, I initially planned on going back to Toys R Us and search their stock for the characters I needed to complete that 2nd set. But I didn't want to stand in their store pressing on the multiple dozens of blind bags that they had on their shelves. 

Although I've done it many times, I've always felt rather awkward doing that. So this time, I decided to do something different. 

My plan was to buy an entire box of 60 bags, take it home, and go through them there.  I would sort the packs by the characters I deciphered to be inside using touch and the "bump codes" I found online. 

A bump code is a series of small round raised areas on the bottom of Lego mini-figure bags made as the result of the packaging process. Each character is supposed to have a different bump code. Once Lego fans discover these codes they put them up on blogs and websites for other FOLs. 

Having decided to actually go through with the plan, I took the sealed box of 60 Simpsons mini-figures to the check out. 

Unfortunately the cashier had to scan the packs individually. After she did that she asked if I wanted to save 15% on my purchase by applying for a Toy R Us credit card. 

They've been asking me this same question over the last couple of years and I have refused to open another credit card account until now. This time I decided to take advantage of the discount for such a large purchase.  

It was a rather hefty investment. But by applying and getting approved for the store card I got a discount of 60 cents per pack. 

This past Monday I took a dark blue marker and highlighted the bumps I could find at the bottom of each of the bags. I did this first because I planned on identifying the mini-figures I needed by just using the bump codes. 

But as it turned out the bumps on the packs weren't very definitive and I couldn't use them the way I wanted to. So I was left with the tactile method for identification. In the past it has been less reliable than bump codes. 

But I soon realized that the novelty of Series 13 was not just because of it's characters. The distinct shapes of the characters heads and their unique accessories made identifying them through touch a lot easier than the other 3 series I have collected. 

I won't go into the details for all 16 characters but the perfect illustration of my point is this picture of the last 4 characters in the set. 

The spiked club, ax, megaphone and club, as well as the fishbowl and fuel rod are pieces with shapes that are all exclusive to their characters. If you feel any of them from the outside of a pack there's no doubt that you have that mini-figure. 

After identifying the contents of each of the 60 blind bags the best I could, I had 16 plastic storage bags each with blind bags containing a different character. 

I opened 10 of those packs and revealed each of the citizens of Springfield needed to complete my second complete set. 

Although I was enjoying this process, the goal in compiling an extra set was to resell it in the future. 

As I opened the packs for set #2 I realized that there was almost enough for a 3rd set. The only problem was out of the entire box I had identified only one Maggie figure.  

Reasoning that there had to be more than that, I concluded that I had misidentified some of the Maggies for another character. The only one that could be was Lisa. Here's the comparison.

As you can see they are very similar. 
So I reexamined the packs I had determined to be Lisa. I was lucky enough to have find another Maggie. I opened another 16 bags to make up my 3rd set of Simpsons mini-figures. 

I put each of the 32 extra figures in a plastic snack storage bag along with one of the mini-posters that comes with them. I then put each of the sets in another plastic bags. They are now stored away in the box that I bought. 

Currently on Ebay, complete open sets are selling for between $90 and $100. If I sold them now I would make a nice profit. 
However, I will now hold on to them for a few months. I'm hoping the price will go up.

I brought this mini-figure mission to a close on Thursday. That's when I took the 43 blind bags that I didn't open back to the Toys R Us store for credit. My net cost for the whole "buy a box" experience was about $60. 

Just as a side note; when I took the bags back to the store one of the young ladies working at the front counter got excited about seeing the mini-figures packages. 

She said she loved Legos and The Simpsons and wanted to get some of them. Hearing her say that brought out the "geek" in me. I stood and explained to her how to discover which character was in a bag. She was impressed with my expertise. 

So now I'm finished collecting Lego Mini-Figure Series 13: The Simpsons. It was quick but exciting. 

Now I have to sit and wait for the announcement of the next series and the release date. My guess is that it will be sometime around late summer. 

I will probably try to repeat my Lego Simpsons success. But whether or not my method will work with the next set will depend on the details of the characters. Stay tuned. You know I'll be posting about it when it happens.