Smile! It’s time for a new week

smile_ip_3160Thanks to the skywriters who gave me this smile a few weekends ago.  I thought I’d share it as we begin a blustery new week.  I have so much to be thankful for, even in the midst of such challenging times for our family.  Temps are expected to hit the 80s again later this week, I’ve got some very exciting irons in the fire, and I have God and my family.  It’s already a great week.

Gettin’ big

ducklings_30047This year’s batch of ducklings don’t look like babies anymore, even if they do still stay hunkered down together!  They’re still pretty cute.

 

ducks_19862Just a reminder, this is what they look like when they’re younger. 🙂

If you need more cuteness, don’t forget to go to visit the Daily Squee!

Bismarck Tribune article shows racism, bigotry, hatred, hostility, and abusiveness

bistrib_20140504_1I love North Dakota history, and the truly fascinating stories of many North Dakotans remain untold or in danger of disappearing into total obscurity.  That’s why I’m such a big fan of columns by Curt Eriksmoen for the Bismarck Tribune.  But today’s column about Hilaire du Berrier treads on dangerous ground with its Hostile and Abusive™ content.


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As you can read in the text of the above graphic, Curt makes a couple of racist, bigoted, hateful, hostile, and abusive comments about the neighboring Native American people:

  • He calls them Sioux;
  • He accuses them of bravery;
  • He asserts that they accepted dangerous challenges.

What, you say?  Why the offense?  Exactly.  These are the very same things that have been targeted and banished by the NCAA with regard to the UND Fighting Sioux logo and nickname.

I haven’t been to a UND hockey game since the banishment of the logo and nickname, but before a video used to play prior to the games.  It described the brave heritage of the Sioux warriors and the admired characteristics that were inspiration for the UND Fighting Sioux moniker.  I can’t forget the quote by Archie Fool Bear of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe: “We went to a hockey game, and they talked about the courage and integrity of the Sioux people. We looked at each other like, ‘Wow, we don’t even honor our Sioux warriors or veterans like this on the reservation.’ ”

It’s unfortunate that I have to drag Curt Eriksmoen into this, but it shows the hypocrisy of the NCAA and opponents of the Fighting Sioux name.  One could say that he obviously didn’t mean anything offensive or controversial by his generalizations about the local Native American population, and I agree – but neither did the proponents of the UND Fighting Sioux.  For our beliefs we were branded as Racists™ and other typical epithets used by the “politically correct” enforcement goons.  Hopefully the same doesn’t happen to Curt or the Bismarck Tribune.

Cold War Mancation, Part Six: Strategic Air & Space Museum

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If you aren’t familiar with my Cold War Mancation series, don’t worry: I’ll provide some links for you to get caught up at the end of this post.  My best friend and I took the opportunity last week to visit the Strategic Air and Space Museum (formerly the SAC Museum) in Ashland, Nebraska.  We’d been talking about it seemingly forever, and finally made it happen thanks to some overtime and my gracious wife letting me bolt for a few days. To put it mildly, this trip was absolutely worth the wait.  Let’s get started.

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I’ll begin with a snarky comment.  This is a Snark missile, the SM-62.  It was an early cruise missile capable of delivering a nuclear payload to the Russkies, and it waits to greet you as you pull into the parking lot.

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Zoom.  Weapons and aircraft like this, deployed by the Strategic Air Command, are the focus of the museum.  That means everything from bombs and missiles to rockets to bombers to…well, let’s just go inside.

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This is what greets you in the lobby: an honest to goodness SR-71 Blackbird.  Sigh.  Seeing one of these was on my bucket list.  Touching one (yes, I leaned over the railing) wasn’t something I ever imagined possible.  Yet, here we are.

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Right off the bat I was astonished at how BIG this thing is.  I’ve been enamored of this plane since the 1980s, and I thought I was reasonably familiar with its stats as a civilian fanboy, but until one of these things is perched diagonally above your head you will have absolutely ZERO comprehension of its girth.

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This is how the SR-71 looked to Russian planes and missiles, although far less distant.  If this thing flew past you at peak speed and you fired a 150 grain 30-06 bullet at it, it would still outrun the bullet by over 300 feet per second.  As a former motorcycle roadracer I can appreciate that kind of speed.  My puny 180mph seems rather insignificant by comparison.

sac_museum_HDR_28342-4One more thing on my bucket list: the Convair B-36 Peacemaker…the longest wingspan of any combat aircraft ever built.  Note the three giant piston engines and rear-facing propellers on this wing…each blade is taller than I.  Then we’ve got the pair of jet engines on the end of the wing for good measure.  As the phrase goes, “Six turnin’, and four burnin’.”  I was able to walk beneath this behemoth’s bomb bay without even ducking my head.  These used to be based out of South Dakota.   Now they’re rare, and none fly.

sac_museum_HDR_28316-18Then we’ve got this beast: the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft.  I have encountered one of these in flight before, and I must say it is by far the single loudest sound of any kind that I’ve ever heard.  It was deceptively quiet until the pilot poured it on and shot up to over 70,000 feet.  Even with my custom-made earplugs I was astonished at the noise.

sac_museum_HDR_28517-9Here’s a bright, shiny Soviet Mig-21 fighter jet.  No need for paint, comrade.  It was cool to see the Russian labels stamped into certain parts as well as the way they riveted the panels together.

sac_museum_HDR_28457-9In addition to some other really cool spacecraft and aircraft, this KC-97 Stratotanker was among the largest on display.  As with the other big birds, it had an absolutely hilarious looking front end.  It was also open for tours from time to time, so we got to go up and run around in it.

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One other bird on my list was the B-58 Scrambler, a hardcore bomber that set a long list of speed records during its period of service.  Later models had “capsules” for pilots to eject with, because apparently ejecting at supersonic speeds is bad or something.  Huh.

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I once made a record run from Dickinson to Bismarck (I won’t quote the time), but nothing like averaging over 900mph for the length of an average work day!  This plane really knew how to rock ‘n’ roll.

Some of my favorite pics are just waiting, eager to be posted.  They’ll come soon.  In the mean time, I would like to share with you the previous iteration of our Cold War Mancation via the links below.

Cold War Mancation Part One: The Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site

Cold War Mancation Part Two: Nekoma Missile Site, Mickelson Safeguard Complex

Cold War Mancation Part Three: The Tower formerly known as OMEGA

Cold War Mancation Part Four: Cavalier Air Station

Cold War Mancation Part Five: Minot

Bonus: The Cold War in North Dakota

There.  That should keep you entertained until I get around to posting some of the REALLY cool photos from the trip.

All that ye survey

blockhouse_bw_25400My boys love going to Fort Abraham Lincoln.  They especially like the blockhouses, and we get pretty good use out of our annual State Parks pass.  Last night we got to watch a DVD about President Abraham Lincoln!  I like not only broadening their horizons but also helping them connect the dots on what they’re learning…and watching the little light bulbs come on.

With so much history being rewritten these days in order to fit a variety of leftist agendas, it’s important as parents that we keep a close eye on what our children are being taught… or teaching them ourselves.

A little research pays off

Good photography can be by accident, but most often it’s not.  In the case of this weekend’s photo adventure, I actually did a pretty good deal of scouting.  I knew that I wanted to try for a sunset photo, but that foreground was very important.  I’d selected in my head a set of old bridge pilings that have been very good to me in the past.  What I needed was to scope ’em out a little bit.

pilings_clouds_27590This is what I came up with in the morning.  I was so pleased with the high, wispy clouds that I actually took some time to start framing and snapping instead of just scouting.  I also took a little bit of time to check out the angles and see if it would work right:

sun_surveyorThis is the Sun Surveyor App, available on iTunes.  It allows you to hold your iPhone in position where your camera would be, orient accordingly, and see where the sun will be at various hours of the day.  You can even scrub back and forth to see it move and track its path across the sky.  We used this on a couple of locations for the Tigirlily “North Dakota” music video recently.  It’s very handy.

sunset_pilings_27870Then came the sunset.  Sadly, as this location was well out of town, I missed the light I was hoping for by a mere five minutes or so.  Despite that setback I was determined to come away with a shot I liked.  As it turned out, having the sun absent made it a little easier to expose details in the shadows as well as the sky, and the clouds suddenly aligned in a symmetry that played very nicely off the reflective surface of the pond.  I found myself okay with the fact that I’d missed the sun.

I would still like a crack at this with the golden orb on the horizon and clouds lit accordingly, but the fact of the matter is that I may never see such perfect clouds at this location again.  I put in the preparation, I got a cool shot, and that may just have to be enough.  If I hadn’t come back out here in the morning to scout things I may not have been ready to get the shot I did before the clouds moved on and the sky got too dark. Therefore I’m certain that the preparation paid off.

Thanks for pushing me past 450 Facebook likes…here, have some panoramas

I started this blog as an online photo diary, so I’m not really concerned about driving up social media likes.  In fact, if all attention to this thing dried up completely I’d still be posting away, typing my drivel and business as usual.  Having said that, I’m still surprised by the amount of traffic I see.  Now that I have a Facebook page for this blog I’m starting to see the response ramp up there as well.  Thank you all for apparently finding my photos and/or musings interesting enough to follow.

I’ve been playing around with panoramas a little bit lately via a number of means.  First, there are 360 degree apps for iOS that are pretty cool.  Next is the built-in panorama feature that arrived with my iPhone 5.  Third is the photo stitcher in Photoshop.  I also have the one that came with my Canon cameras, but I don’t use that one.  Here are some of the results.  Note that clicking on the image will bring up a larger version in a new window.

 

pano_rooftop_091712I got the opportunity to climb a tall building at the same time as a call from my wife telling me that the clouds were amazing.  She wasn’t kidding.

 

pano_riverboat_0811Here’s a panorama from the front of the Lewis & Clark riverboat as we slowly chugged toward the Northern Pacific railroad bridge.

 

pano_sandbar_0757This is a cool blue sunset from one of my little boys’ favorite sandbars.  They’re chasing a toad behind me, so they don’t appear on camera playing in the sand here.

 

pano_ftlincoln_0464The clouds advancing on us as I showed the fellas the old cemetery at Fort Abraham Lincoln were very striking.  The sunset had just waned and we were ready to march back to the truck and load up our bikes.

 

pano_fireworks_0611Setting up for our own Independence Day celebration.  The capitol and rodeo grounds had nothing on this show.  It was spectacular!  The food was good, too…and parking was easy.

 

pano_clouds_0745This surprised me as Sam Sprynczynatyk and I were about to set up the crane and preparing our lighting gear for the video shoot for Tigirlily’s new single, which was released via the Internet yesterday.  I snapped a quick panorama before setting up the gear and waiting for the girls to arrive.

 

pano_camera_0368Getting Camera 1 ready for the monster truck show.  My little guys visited me at work that night, and they were pretty enthralled.  A couple of nights before they’d watched me on the roof of a local hospital, shooting video and stills of the helicopter landing and taking off.  Daddy’s got a pretty cool job, they said…but their uncle is a MAILMAN!  I guess I can’t top that.

 

pano_sunset_0714More sandbar stuff, because I have made good use of the tail end of the summer in order to enjoy sand, sun, Spyro Gyra, my sweetie, and my sons.  Superb.

 

pano_bubblebliss_0781“Bubble Bliss” at the Gateway to Science Center.   I think I’ll still be posting and blogging about that sometime soon, if I get the time.  I got encapsulated in a very large bubble, which was a new experience.

 

pano_flags_0451Each of these flags represents a murder.  It’s part of a traveling display to bring awareness to the blight of abortion on North Dakota.  I long for the day when such tragedies never take place in our great state.

 

pano_sunset_27158There’s no dramatic foreground or interesting perspective here; I just loved the colors of this sunset so much that I pulled over on a hill along Valley Drive, just south of the playground, and snapped a few shots to stitch together in Photoshop.  I’d just taken my little boy to TCBY for rainbow yogurt to tell him how proud Daddy is of him, and the sun provided us with quite a spectrum of its own.  I didn’t get a blue tongue from it, however.

Once again, clicking on these photos will bring up a larger version.  They’re not full-size, however; the largest one of this is over 880 MB!  Prints are always available, of course.  Thanks again for the likes and supporting this online photo diary with your following.  I hope to provide plenty more interesting material in the future.

Roadside raptor rescue

raptor_rescue_26309On a photo drive tonight I spotted something unusual in the road ahead.  I couldn’t believe it at first, but as I rolled nearer I saw it was true: a hawk in the oncoming lane.  He didn’t seem to flustered by the fact that I was there, either.  Usually hawks bolt as soon as my camera draws near, but not this guy.

raptor_rescue_26310Yep…determined to stay put.  No matter how close I or my telephoto lens came, this bird was set in place.  It didn’t look injured, sick, or even frightened; however, it was not about to fly away.  Soon passers-by joined me and noted that they’d seen this hawk earlier in their walk.  Clearly something was amiss.

raptor_rescue_26345Before long, a resourceful homeowner nearby came up with a solution to help the hawk find its way into the relative safety of the grass of the yard a short distance away. It was able to climb up on this broom, its wings worked to steady itself, and there was no sign of illness. We surmised that it was a young one from a nearby nest that wasn’t sure what to do. With the threat of immediate danger beneath the wheels of passing automobiles abated, it was time for him to pose for some photos. I was more than happy to oblige.

raptor_rescue_26371What a handsome specimen! After years of watching in vain as potential photo subjects took flight before my camera was ready, this was a welcome change.

raptor_rescue_26454After a long time of photographing my willing subject from various angles while lying on my stomach in the grass, I figured it was time to give him some space and venture on down the road for a chance at photographing the approaching sunset. Hopefully the hawk eventually decided to move on to safety, even if under some of the trees in the yard. I’m thankful that we got to spend some time together, and hopefully he’s in fine shape and fleeing from my camera in the future!

Well, there it goes

It should be obvious by now that one of my favorite spots to catch a sunset is at the north corner of the Double Ditch historic site north of Bismarck. A familiar foreground object in my photos is a large wooden fence post marking the boundary of the park. It looks like I’m going to have to find a new one.

Last August, while poking around beneath the cliffs of Double Ditch, I noticed that the collapse of those cliffs had finally encroached on that fence post. Even now, more large chunks of cliff nearby have cracked and separated, soon to tumble to the river below.

It seems as though this process has finally begun to claim my favorite fence post, as it no longer stands so firmly at the northwest corner of the park. It has begun to tilt at an ever greater angle, the fence it supports going slack. I presume it’s only a matter of time, some spring melting, and maybe a little bit of rain before the earth supporting it finally gives way.

This is a stark reminder of an even bigger problem; Double Ditch has been receding for years. The area above these cliffs used to be a popular recreation spot. At some point a wire fence was erected to prevent this, as the banks had become so unstable. The road, which used to make a loop from one end of the park to another, was cut off and no longer exists from the south end. As time goes by, I fear we may lose access to the west end of this park entirely. I hope that doesn’t happen any time soon.

Dakota Roads revisited

This isn’t the same stretch of road as my original Dakota Roads post from 2006, but if my memory serves me right I believe they may both be Highway 1.

A beautiful black road like this is not a common site in North Dakota, since various transportation and road departments have a chip-seal fetish that I can’t explain. Actually, as a motorcyclist, I resent it. It seems a shame to cover a beautifully smooth, sticky stretch of blacktop with a damaging abrasive, one especially hazardous when it’s first applied and left to sit for a week or two. As a result, a nice black road like this one is particularly noticeable and wonderful to me.