Hornets visit Bismarck-Mandan in February (updated)

f18s_44360I got a tip that a group of F-18s were inbound for Bismarck yesterday, so I took a long lunch break to wait for them to arrive.  I love few things as much as military aircraft, despite being afraid of flying myself.

f18s_44378Aren’t they breathtaking?  There was a group of seven of them en route to Washington state, returning from a few weeks in Florida.  A friend of mine who moved up here from Pensacola said he got to see F-18s in the air all the time.  That’d be amazing, until you’re trying to take a nap with the Sound of Freedom roaring overhead.

f18s_44504-6Three of the planes stopped in Sioux Falls, but four of them were able to come to the Bizzo and tank up on fuel from Executive Air and pizza from A&B (of course).  If you were only in North Dakota for an hour or two and wanted pizza, wouldn’t you pick the best too?  I actually think it may have been complimentary for them.  Awesome.

f18s_44522-4I watched as one truck was drained dry and another came up to finish the task.  Perhaps it’s good that they weren’t trying to top off all seven!

f18s_44459-61 Nice tail. Just sayin’. I’ve been told that these are F-18F Super Hornets, which are two seater models and used for electronic warfare. They’re part of VAQ-129, an Electronic Attack Squadron based out of Whidbey Island naval air station in Puget Sound, Washington.

f18s_video1These pods on the wings house antennae.  Lots of ’em, apparently.  So since it’s the navy, the wings gotta fold anyway (for carrier space limitations?) but I’m guessing they also want to protect these from damage.  I forgot to ask if that’s a secondary reason why they folded ’em up when they parked.

f18s_44432-4If I was expected to fuel up visiting aircraft on a daily basis, I’d absolutely live for days when a pack of military jets roll in for some juice.  I’d probably be humming the Top Gun theme, even though they flew F-14s in the movie.

f18s_44355Love the colors on that bubble. It takes a while to fuel four of these, which thankfully left plenty of time for conversation.  A friend’s brother is one of the crew here, so we got to chat him up about the flight.  They were all very nice and accommodating.

f18s_9612Joe gives an interview to…somebody.  Since I don’t work in television anymore I have no idea who most of the reporters are.  I haven’t seen any reports online, and the cameras these days are too small to slap a logo upon, so your guess is as good as mine.

f18_44504-6Last one to get gas.  Yes, they do actually have Navy credit cards they use to pay for their fuel, one per plane.  How’d you like those bonus points?

f18s_video3Then it was time to fire ’em up.  What’s cool about these is that they can start themselves; no need for an APU to power ’em up and get the engines turning.  No remote starter, though, although we joked about that.

f18s_video2Then, with a wave it was time to roll out, one at a time.  They didn’t leave close together, as you can probably tell from the open cockpit in the back.  I suppose they bunched up later after everyone was in the air and headed westward.

I took a little ShakyCam™ (I haven’t trademarked that, but I should) video of the arrival and departure.  Using a still photo lens not suited for video, I still got some passable results.  I do enough video work with actual video cameras that I don’t care to do it with still cameras, but if I do more of this I’ll probably have to nab a stabilizer rig to have with me.  Anyway, here’s the video.  If you view it full screen it’ll be 1080p.

It has been a LONG time since I’ve been able to get out with my camera. This was incredibly therapeutic, even if it was dreadfully cold outside. Getting some photo time feels GREAT!

Happy Birthday!

capitol_2017_44339You’d think I would be wishing you a Happy New Year, but that’s so cliche’.  Instead I’m celebrating the birthday of this website.  It was New Year’s Day 2006 when I started this thing with a photo of the year in the capitol windows.  Since then I’ve written thousands of posts, with more thousands of photos, and I’m still standing.

I used to post almost daily, and wondered how long it would be until I simply ran out of material.  That hasn’t happened.  There have been plenty of life changes since then…kids, new house, severe medical setbacks, and just generally being busy.  For instance, it’s been two months since I’ve taken any significant photos, even though I bought a new drone in December!  Life is like that some times.

I’m hoping the next couple of months bring a slowdown so I can get back to doing what I enjoy: roaming Bismarck-Mandan and other parts of North Dakota, having fun with my cameras and sharing the results here.  Hopefully there will be many more anniversaries like this one each New Year’s Day!

The four most important words you’ll hear this Christmas

Hark the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.

One ubiquitous Christmas holiday phrase is “Peace on Earth.” As the hymn above shows, that is entirely appropriate; however, we tend to assign an earthly context to it by mistake. It’s not about peace between men at all; rather, it means peace between men and God. Those four most important words I alluded to in the title are the last four in the verse above: “God and sinners reconciled.” That is the source of peace on earth.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:13-14)

That peace and good will didn’t transmit from man to man; it came from God to all men. Since the fall of Adam, that peace between God and men did not exist. By giving the gift of His son, however, God was offering that peace and good will to men once again:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

There’s your peace…

“Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” (Romans 5:18)

Repeatedly in the Old and New Testaments, the Bible reminds us that “there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Romans 3:23 points out that “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We need as Savior, one whose birth we celebrate each Christmas. As the angel told Joseph:

“Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20)

This was the Savior foretold by the prophets. For example:

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

God’s desire is to restore that fellowship and peace, reconciling (see those four important words once again) us to Him through his Son:

“For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled…”

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I believe what Jesus says in the Bible: “you must be born again.” He means that in order to be forgiven and assured a place in heaven, you must put your faith and trust in Him. We can not do anything to assuage the sin that we carry in our lives; only He can.

By placing your belief and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive your sins, acknowledging that He made the only sufficient sacrifice for them on the cross, you can be saved. Only then will you be able to truly partake in that “peace on earth” that the angel of the Lord spoke of when declaring good news to those shepherds.

I love the spirit of Christmas as much as, if not more than, the next guy… but the joy, the spirit, the family time, the celebrations, the lights, the gifts… those are all simply a by-product and a shadow of the joy that God extends to each and every person through His son, the one through whom we enjoy unspeakable joy and peace each Christmas and throughout the year.

Please support local businesses that do this

exxon_sign_44326It’s been a while since I’ve posted…well, anything, but especially about a local business standing up for Christianity.  Well, here’s a reason to top off your tank or get your morning coffee at I-94 Exxon, the one on the north side of the Centennial overpass along I-94.


exxon_sign_44327In case you’re a firebreathing fundamentalist and the first sign was a little too milquetoast for you, here’s the other side.  Right on.


The last I recall is Dairy Queen in Mandan declaring “Christ is Risen” on Easter weekend. Awesome.  Clearly these businesses understand their customers, not nationally driven agendas funded by minute groups of activists.
Along those same lines, you may have seen this local ad run during the Christmas season for the past few years:

With so many national businesses trying to eschew the Christian faith while championing those who wish to attack it, I’m thankful to see local businesses who aren’t so out-of-touch and are willing to make a declaration for their customers.  Thank you, I-94 Exxon and Dvorak Motors, for adding your voices to the Christmas season.

PS: Try the White Chocolate Caramel cappuccino.  Just sayin’.

2016 Christmas Music Playlist: Quality, not quantity

Charlie-Brown-ChristmasLast year I posted a lengthy Christmas music playlist, but to be honest I felt the need to pare down my playlist for this year.  Don’t get me wrong, I have still been adding music to my collection…after all, what kind of connoisseur would I be if I didn’t? But I did trim the fat a little bit, decreasing the odds of getting two or three of the same song (via different artists) in succession while shuffling in iTunes or on a mobile device.

Here’s what I have going on this year so far (I’m not above adding more to this list later):

Somewhere in My Memory (Chorus & Orchestra Version) – John Williams
Snoopy’s Christmas – Royal Guardsmen
Carol of the Bells – David Benoit
Candy Cane Christmas – Darius Rucker
Run Rudolph Run – Bryan Adams
Winter Wonderland (Christian Prommer Remix) – Shirley Horn
I Pray On Christmas – Harry Connick, Jr.
We Need a Little Christmas – Percy Faith
Jingle Bells – Count Basie Orchestra
The Star Carol – Simon & Garfunkel
We Wish You a Merry Christmas / Silent Night, Holy Night / O Come, All Ye Faithful / Jingle Bells / Where Is Love – Tony Bennett
Dominick the Donkey – Lou Monte
Christmastime Again – MercyMe
The Most Wonderful Day Of The Year (Music from the Videocraft TV Musical Spectacular) – Burl Ives
Snow (From White Christmas) – Seth MacFarlane
O Come All Ye Faithful – Amy Grant
Sleigh Ride – The Ventures
I Don’t Intend to Spend Christmas Without You – Claudine Longet
All the Love – XO-IQ
O Holy Night – Ray Conniff Singers
Sleigh Ride – The Ronettes
Silent Night – Sarah Brightman
Snow Snow Snow – Band of Merrymakers
Go Where I Send Thee – Fred Waring & The Pennsylvanians
Merry Christmas Polka – Tex Ritter
We Three Kings – The Edwin Hawkins Singers
Christmas Medley (From “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” TV Special) – Burl Ives
Suzy Snowflake – Dale Evans
What I Didn’t Get for Christmas – Jimmy Buffett
Here We Come A-Caroling – The New Christy Minstrels
My Favorite Things – The Brian Setzer Orchestra
White Winter Hymnal – Pentatonix
I Saw Three Ships – Sting
The Amens – The Brian Setzer Orchestra
Must Be Santa – Bob Dylan
Jingle Bell Rock – Brenda Lee
Name – Artist
Zat You Santa Claus – Louis Armstrong
All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey
My Everything – Owl City
Come On! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance! – Sufjan Stevens
Where Did the Snowman Go – Petula Clark
Jing-a-Ling, Jing-a-Ling – The Andrews Sisters
Light of Christmas (feat. tobyMac) – Owl City
The First Noel – David Archuleta
I’m a Little Christmas Cracker – Diana Decker
Jing, Jing, Jingle – XO-IQ
Silver And Gold (Music from the Videocraft TV Musical Spectacular) – Burl Ives
The Things We Did Last Summer – Dean Martin
Pat-A-Pan / While Shepherds Watched Their Flock – Bing Crosby
Christmas Medley – Neil Diamond
Wish List – Neon Trees
Christmas At the Airport – Nick Lowe
What God Wants For Christmas – Darius Rucker
Christmas Wrapping – The Waitresses
Santa Bring My Baby Back (To Me) – Elvis Presley
White Christmas – The Drifters
It’s Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas – Michael Bublé
Carol of the Bells / Jingle Bells – Barry Manilow
All I Want for Christmas Is You – The 88
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Rascal Flatts
Stille Nacht (Silent Night) – Mannheim Steamroller
Christmas in Killarney – Bing Crosby
Frosty the Snowman – Jimmy Durante
O Holy Night – John Williams & Chorus
Shake Hands with Santa Claus – Louis Prima
What a Glorious Night – Sidewalk Prophets
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas – Gayla Peevey
The First Noel  – Plácido Domingo & Vienna Symphony Orchestra
Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas) [Single Version] – Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters
I’m Gonna Lasso Santa Claus – Brenda Lee
Dream a Dream – Charlotte Church
The Twelve Days of Christmas – Mitch Miller & The Gang
Song of the Sleighbells – June Hutton
Christmas / Sarajevo 12/24 (Instrumental) – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Deck the Halls (Stephen “Shebby” Ruchelman Remix) – XO-IQ
Santa’s Beard – The Beach Boys
It’s Christmas Time – The Five Keys
Merry & Bright – The Ellas
A Christmas Prayer – The Penguins
A Marshmallow World – Dean Martin
Christmas In Hollis – Run-DMC
O Tannenbaum – Naturally 7
Peppermint Winter – Owl City
O Holy Night – Lorie Line & Robert Robinson
Yabba-Dabba Yuletide (extended) – The Brian Setzer Orchestra
Hallelujah (Remix) – Mannheim Steamroller
Thirty Two Feet, Eight Little Tails – Dale Evans
Joy to the World – Mannheim Steamroller
It’s Christmas (Medley) [Live] – Chris Tomlin
Happy Holidays – Percy Faith & His Orchestra and Chorus
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear – Norah Jones
Christmas Lights – Coldplay
Last Christmas (Studio Version) – Jimmy Eat World
Angels We Have Heard On High – The Brian Setzer Orchestra
Christmas Dinner Country Style – Bing Crosby
Christmas As I Knew It – Johnny Cash
Sleigh Ride – Johnny Mathis
Deck the Halls – Mannheim Steamroller
The Merriest – June Christy
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (A Shrift Remix) – Andy Williams
Christmas Time Is Here (Instrumental) – Vince Guaraldi Trio
Winter Wonderland (Bonus Track) – Jason Mraz
Another Christmas Song – Stephen Colbert
Little Jack Frost Get Lost – Frankie Carle and His Orchestra
He Shall Reign Forevermore (Live) – Chris Tomlin
O Come, O Come – MercyMe
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Mannheim Steamroller
Joy to the World – Percy Faith
Jingle Bells – Band of Merrymakers
It Snowed – Meaghan Smith
They Shined up Rudolphs Nose – Johnny Horton
What Christmas Means to Me – Stevie Wonder
We Wish You a Merry Christmas – Weezer
My Favorite Things – Kelly Clarkson
The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle – Burt Bacharach
December Prayer – Idina Menzel
I Believe in Christmas – Glen Campbell
Christmas Dreaming – Seth MacFarlane
Auld Lange Syne – The Lonesome Travelers
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee
I Wanna Spend Christmas with Elvis – Marlene Paula
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – U2
Little Saint Nick (Single Version) – The Beach Boys
Children Go Where I Send Thee – Nick Lowe
The Little Drummer Boy – Harry Simeone Chorale
Rise Up Shepherd – Nick Lowe
Sing We Now of Christmas – Straight No Chaser
Twinkling Lights (feat. Syd Butler, Seth Jabour & Amy Carlson) – Office Romance
Christmas the Whole Year Round – Sabrina Carpenter
Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town – Wayne Newton
The Christmas Song – Mel Tormé
O Tannenbaum – Vince Guaraldi Trio
Very Merry Christmas – Dave Barnes
Jingle Jangle – The Penguins
Humbug – Greg Lake
Christmas Is – Run-DMC
Mistletoe & Holly – Robert Davi
Carol of the Bells – Mannheim Steamroller
Light of Christmas (feat. tobyMac) – Owl City
Gabriel’s Message – Sting
What Child Is This (Greensleeves) – Lorie Line & Robert Robinson

Most of these are available on iTunes, but I lack the ambition tonight to build the links. 🙂  Here are a few thoughts:

  • Nick Lowe.  You may remember his one big USA Top 40 hit in the 80s, “Cruel to Be Kind”.  He is the single greatest surprise I encountered when looking for new Christmas music.  You owe it to yourself to check him out.
  • Owl City (Adam Young): He’s got some awesome Christmas tunes, one of which is featured in a Veggie Tales film.  I have three in this playlist.  One is not Christmas specific, but a great tune nonetheless.
  • Sidewalk Prophets: I admit, I’m a sucker for any song that starts out with dialogue from A Charlie Brown Christmas.  But it’s a great song anyway.
  • The Brian Setzer Orchestra: These guys have a really upbeat take on Christmas music, and I especially like their Yabba Dabba Yuletide (obviously to the tune of the Flintstones theme).
  • Actor Robert Davi channels a pretty good SInatra.  I’ve seen him in dozens of films and TV appearances, but I always think of him of the Bond villain Sanchez in “Licence to Kill”.

I have lots of the old classics…the Andrews Sisters, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, and the like. But in this list I’m more selective with the old standards and trying to painstakingly grab the best of the newer stuff.  I hope you like it.

Something missing in Minot

With great anticipation I awaited the announcement of another Northern Neighbors’ Day at Minot Air Force Base.  The last one I attended was 2009, and I don’t think there had been one since.  So when Summer 2016 brought the return of this awesome event, I was all over it.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one, as traffic was backed up all the way into Minot for hours, even after the show had begun.  Once I got there with my kids we had a nice time, and I’m sure I’ll comb thru the photos and share them later.  But there was one thing that stood out to me right away as we reached the tarmac:

mafb_sign_missing_42788This sign on the side of one of the hangars had been removed.  The photo doesn’t really do it justice as far as its size; this is an enormous sign.  And it’s gone.  I was actually looking forward to seeing it again.  Why?


mafb_nnd_43619This is what it said last time I was on the base.  I’m extremely proud of the mission the Air Force carries on from our beloved state, and I’m equally proud of the global presence the United States maintains as a force of stability in the world.  Sadly, those things aren’t in vogue right now with the people in charge of our armed forces.


mafb_nnd_43605It seems everything is political today, but the aggressors set the rules – and there are people in power these days that turn everything into a political issue.  That’s why plenty of people at the show even back in 2009 were referring to this little guy as “Obama’s new fighter prototype”.  It’s disheartening, actually.


I hope that we can continue to elect leaders that will strengthen and equip our nation’s armed forces to do what they’ve always done: protect the United States and its allies in an ever more dangerous world.  North Dakota has played a significant role in that mission, and I hope it continues to do so with well deserved pride and satisfaction.


Dramatic clouds east of Bismarck-Mandan

clouds_44287-9_fusedA couple of nights ago I saw these really wild clouds east of town, and had to snap a photo once I got home.  They remind me of jellyfish in a way…tendrils hanging down and all that.  Or perhaps something from a science fiction feature?


clouds_44317-9_fusedThese reminded me of birds, perhaps blue jays.  I got home just in time to catch some golden light reflecting off the clouds, so they looked even more dramatic.

Work and stuff is so chaotic right now that I haven’t had much time to chase any sunrises or sunsets, so to catch these clouds at such an opportune time was a really nice break!

Why North Dakota can’t afford to vote Democrat, not even for dog catcher

north_dakota_wayIt’s that time again, when Democrats don folksy apparel and adopt phrases like “The North Dakota Way” and “working with both parties”. Don’t fall for it. Don’t vote Democrat, not even for dog catcher.

Even Senators Conrad and Dorgan (now retired after decades of damage) started small. Decades later they were North Dakotans on paper only, maintaining shoebox apartments in Bismarck to stay eligible for reelection. Their final legacy: casting deciding votes for Obamacare, legislation wildly unpopular with North Dakota voters, then retiring to multimillion dollar East Coast homes near their lobbyist cronies. Was that the “North Dakota Way”?

Then we elected the “Independent Voice™” for North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp, who has since voted with her Democrat Party puppet masters 97% of the time according to Congressional Quarterly. We should have seen that one coming.

Democrats never actually campaign on what they stand for. Where are the campaign ads saying they support Obamacare, amnesty for illegals, the right to abortion, or gun control legislation? The ads promising to punish big corporations and advance the homosexual/transgender agenda? Conspicuously absent, but Democrats are beholden to people who want these things because their votes are guaranteed. Deception and feel-good rhetoric are required to get yours. Guess who they’ll serve.

The deal-breaker issue for me will always be religious liberty.  The candidates at the top of the Democrat ticket are hostile toward people of non-Muslim faith, no matter what they say.  At best, they claim to support your “right to worship”, which slyly confines religious liberty to your church building or (for now) your home.

Find an issue that’s popular in North Dakota, and Democrats are on the wrong side of it. Compare their campaign marketing to their behavior once elected. A Democrat elected to local office this year could cast the deciding vote for disastrous federal regulation in twenty years. We can’t afford to advance their dangerous ideology based on platitudes and deception.

Not only did we actually have an autumn this year, but I actually photographed it

fall_barn_43937-9_hdrIn several years past the leaves have fallen from the trees so quickly that there hasn’t been much opportunity for photography.  2016 will not count as one of those years.  While I’ve been beyond busy lately, I did manage to take a couple of trips roaming around and pointing my cameras at some of the fall colors.


fall_barn_43907-9_hdrAnyone know a good roofer?  I’ve found some gaps.


fall_bridge_44099-101_hdrIt wouldn’t be fall without a walk down the trolley tracks.  There were a few portrait photographers utilizing the bridges that morning.


fall_trolley_tracks_43961-3_hdrI used to play on these tracks and bridges as a kid.  That’s why I had Poison Ivy so many times.  These days I just get one little spot, and that’s it.  I guess I built up a tolerance.


churchtown_43836-8_hdrNaturally I had to chase down one of my favorite former country churches.  This one still receives plenty of TLC.


churchtown_43943-5_hdrThe first day was cloudy, so I went back for some blue sky.  I can’t decide which I like better.

I have some other fall photos too, but it’s a busy morning – so I’ll have to stop there for now.

I’d say it was a couple of bucks but it’s actually a load of bull

elk_41665I’m no hunter, so I had to use Google to verify that a male elk is a bull and not a buck.  Don’t ask me why.  All I know is that these guys and a few of their friends hung out near me for a little while after I arrived at the part of Theodore Roosevelt National Park where they were grazing at sunrise.

badlands_sunrise_41752-7_hdrI’m glad they sauntered off when they did, because if they hadn’t I’d have missed this shot…my favorite of the summer!