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Sunday, July 31, 2005


Stolen from Cindra

I found this at Cindra's Blog. Go ahead squeeze your brain.

Your IQ Is 120

Your Logical Intelligence is Above Average
Your Verbal Intelligence is Exceptional
Your Mathematical Intelligence is Genius
Your General Knowledge is Exceptional

A Quick and Dirty IQ Test

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, July 30, 2005


Playing with my camera

In the aftermath of destroying my last camera, I moved up to a Canon S2 IS. I took a photo of my dog in portrait mode and was surprised at the detail when I zoomed in on his eyes. In each eye, you can see the reflection of me taking the picture. This is not any trick photography, just the detail of 5 mp's.


Bear's left eye

Now, back to my toy.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, July 29, 2005


Died and gone to heaven

I was married 8 years before moving into a house. Apartment living kept us dry and out of the elements, but we dreamed of the day we could have some luxuries only home owners enjoyed. For instance, doing laundry at the apartment was a pain. We had to carry our clothes a long distance, pump bad machines full of quarters, and endure waiting for dryers to be available. I could write an entire post about this topic. Eventually, though, we moved into a house. The house had a washer and dryer. We no longer needed quarters. We did not have to wait on people or race to be first anymore. We thought we'd died and gone to heaven.

I was born with cataracts, which have rendered me legally blind. I wore thick thick glasses until I was a junior in high school. When I got contact lenses, I no longer looked like a Japanese radioman from WWII. After a while (23 years) my eyes no longer tolerated contacts so I had lens implant surgery. The result is I can see (the same) without having to fuss with glasses or contacts. No more expensive contact lens solution, no more losing contacts, no more worries about how late I am going to be out and how it will effect my eyes. When I think about this I feel like I died and went to heaven.

One winter we were without hot water for a few days, but we got it back.
Several hurricanes have knocked out our power for a day or two, but it was reconnected.
Our AC has broken about this time of year and the inside of the house became a sauna, but we got it fixed.
Our sewer once backed up and flooded our bedroom, but we cleaned it up.
I have been sick and injured, but I healed.
My job situation over the years has become very stressful, even abusive, but they always got better.
And perhaps worst of all, my DSL modem broke and I went a week without the Internet.

All of these things were problems that when solved left me feeling like I had died and gone to heaven.

It is funny how when something good happens to us we are grateful, but in time that gratitude turns to an expectation. What was first a luxury or a dream becomes something expected and eventually taken for granted. Only when we lose it are we reminded of its value - a treasure lost.

I don't see anything wrong with this process. It is only natural to get used to something and not praise it daily. Infatuation for another does not stay at the initial emotional intensity. The trap to me is when we are not aware of the process. If we are not aware, we move through life with in insatiable appetite. We seem to live by the philosophy advertised on t-shirts that says, "Whoever dies with the most toys wins." The truth is we are never completely satisfied with stuff, but it is fun to get stuff.

Life is much more than acquiring a better home, car, clothes, and jewelry. I think we can do some of both; Get stuff and have that "died and gone to heaven" feeling once in a while AND be grateful for what we have in between.

The best thing is that some day I will die and wake up in heaven.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, July 28, 2005


Miles to go before we sleep

According to my running log, since January 1, 2005,

I have run 1006 miles at an average pace of 7 minutes and 34 seconds per mile.

It has taken me: 5 days 6 hours 59 minutes and 33 seconds.


The map above shows a circle of that distance from my home. If I had run in a straight line each day, I could have gone that far by now. At this rate, by the end of the year, I will have been able to run anywhere in the country.

Just think what a difference you can make by doing something each day. We hear the phrase, "Rome wasn't built in a day," but somebody worked on it each day. Big things are accomplished a little bit at a time. Don't let the goal overwhelm you to inaction, simply do a little at a time and be consistent and the big thing will happen.

Now, where's my running shoes?

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Grammar and Stuff

This post-it note was found on a vending machine near me:
Post-it note

The text of the missive reads:
This machine is jacking people money I paid $1.00 for a .50 bag of chips!!! Fix this machine! (Then someone else added) Yeah! And put some gum in it too!

I am not sure if the author is a product of the Louisiana school system, but I have my suspicions. I first noticed the problem with the subject and verb agreement:
This machine is jacking people money

should read

This machine BE jacking people money Sounds much better don't you think?

Also, what's with the reluctance to use the 19th letter of the alphabet "S"? Here are some better ways to say it:
This machine be(s) jacking people money
This machine(s) be jacking people money
This machine is jacking people's money

Take your pick.
I suppose I should not laugh at some poor devil paying double for some chips, but someone else found it appropriate to voice another complaint on the same post-it note. This is good stuff. Vending machines should have a pad and pencil attached to them as standard equipment.

Well, it all just struck me funny. No matter how bad things get, I didn't have to pay double for a bag of chips in a vending machine without gum today.

Oh yeah. I checked the temp Tuesday afternoon and a cold front must have come through. It was 89 with a heat index of 96 - and me without my muff.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, July 25, 2005


Dog Days of Summer

Do you know why we call the hottest days of summer the "dog days"? It has something to do with the stars, I'm Sirius. To find out follow this link: Dog Days of Summer

Now for the news . . .

Buck: I never called the vet to find out about Buck. I thought long and hard and then decided that one dog is enough. I will find out where he goes, but I am sure he will go to a good home.

New Camera: The new Canon S2 IS arrives Monday. I will have a new toy with which to play. Naturally, you will get to see what I do with it. I have been going through withdrawal without a camera.

Hot Weather: I think most of us are experiencing some serious heat. Our heat index has been in the triple digits. In the course of a weekend, I must drink ten million gallons of water and Gatorade. Today, I had to run 15 miles. By the time I got around to starting, it was 10:00 AM and already in the 80's. I opted to run on the treadmill at the gym. It was a pretty nice run. I ran for 2 hours and logged 15.4 miles. The gym is 3/4 of a mile from our house, so I run to and from for a good warm up and cool down.

Bent Crank Shaft: I hit an oak root while mowing Saturday and stopped the mower. When I restarted it, it was shaking like a dog trying to pass a peach seed. I replaced the blade and the flywheel key, but it still shakes. That means the crankshaft is bent. In other words, the mower is toast. I can buy a whole new engine for $150. I think I will do that then keep the other engine for spare parts since it is almost new itself.

Lance Armstrong: I really admire Lance Armstrong. His achievements are beyond comprehension. I am going to miss him being in the Tour De France next year. On a lucky note, I won a Discovery Channel Team water bottle on the Trek Lucky Seven Sweepstakes.

I think the heat has burnt out my writing creativity. I have been struggling to think of something to write as of late. To top things off, I had a cold last week. That did not help my mental acuity either. But I am feeling better and you can't keep a good man down long.

Here's hoping you have a great week. Stay cool

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, July 21, 2005



On Wednesday, Barbara went to the vet to purchase a bag of dog food. While there, she learned that Buck, our dog Bear's brother, was soon to be without a home. Buck lived with the same family that gave up Bear. Now they are giving up Buck. I sure would like to adopt him so the two brothers could be reunited.

A new home may already be secured, but I have been scheming. Reasons not to get him are money, more time, and more mess. Reasons to get him are to give Bear company, reunite siblings, and to put more love in our house.

It probably won't happen, but I haven't given up on the idea yet.

I don't know if the "Buck" stops here or not. Time will tell.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Be Still

Tuesday evening, Barb, Bear, and I were headed down our driveway for a walk. I noticed a lady walking past our yard and she was talking away on a cell phone. When we go to the gym, people move about zombie like and unaware of me saying hi, because they have headphones crammed in their ears. At the LSU campus, 75% of the peple walking down the sidewalk are pressing a cell phone to one ear.

We see this more and more. With the advent of phones, MP3 players, and podcasts, people can keep voices playing in their head no matter where they are. This is time efficient. This is sheik. This, I fear, is mind numbing and stealing away our moments of stillness.

Our minds need to shut down and rest. Our spirits need to be fed, not with electronic noise, but by the sounds of nature and stillness. We need to quiet the world around us so we can hear our own internal still, small voice.

You know this and you learn it every time you look out across the pounding surf and hear the waves thunder on the shore. When you hear the eagle's screech echoing off of mountain sides something primal awakes within your breast. When I am walking, I sometimes check my senses. I will ask myself: What do I see? What do I smell? What do I feel? What do I hear? Concentrating on the senses is one way of waking up to wonder and the miracles before us.

Like an optical illusion, we must focus before we see. Then slowly but surely, the image appears. Only when we are still and open will we be fed in this way. The iPod must be off and we must be away from traffic, telephones, and chatter.

Shhhhhh. Slow down. Be still. Peace. Relaxation and spiritual nourishment is only moments away.

Listen to the Eagles sing "Learn to be Still"

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Today is my 2nd Blogiversary

I'm speechless.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, July 18, 2005



This time of year in Louisiana tests the body's cooling system. Mine works just fine. I sweated from Saturday morning until Sunday afternoon. Two long days of yard work and a 16-mile run kept the perspiration flowing out of me as if salty springs were beneath my skin.

Before I cut the grass, I decided to trim a few low-lying oak limbs. They had been brushing cars that dared turn in our driveway. I also had some in the alley I had to duck to mow under. I got the ladder, saw, and lopping shears and went to work. Starting in the back, I got the offending limbs, but then went to work on 6 overgrown azalea bushes. Before I knew it, I had piles of limbs and quite a clean up job looming.

I mowed a portion of the front so I could pile the limbs on cut grass. Then I cut the limb guarding the drive. It had been resting on a power line so I had been leaving it alone, until the guy across the street told me it was just a phone line; he works for the phone company so I figured he knew what he was talking about. More ladders and sawing, only one minor cut and some scrapes. The limbs always fight back.
Piles of sticks

The rest of the weekend consisted of mowing and cleaning up the mess, oh yeah, and sweating buckets. I drank gallons. It was a vicious cycle. Now, though, the yard looks great and it is time to go back to work while it slowly returns to disarray. It does not seem fair.

Bear was out there with me most of the time. He loves to be around. Most of the time, he was lying under a bush. He is always ready for a walk or a game of fetch. As a matter of fact, I need to take him out right now.
Bear with his leash

As my sister says, it's kick-ass Monday. Grab the day like one would a bull by the horns. Only don't grab it and hold on, grab it and shake the hell out of it.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, July 16, 2005


White Trash?

Take the White Trasy Quiz. In the spirit of full disclosure, I stole this from Sarah.

I am 28% White Trash.
Not Too White Trashy
The white trash in my blood will not keep me from becoming a doctor or a lawyer, but it will keep me from a good haircut and any sort of fashion sense.
Take the
White Trash Test
@ FualiDotCom

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, July 14, 2005


The Star Spangled Banner

I was thinking about the old days again. Do you remember falling asleep in front of the TV and then waking to the strains of the Star Spangled Banner? Hearing that song signaled the end of programming for that channel that day. If you were not quick enough to switch off the TV, the static that followed the National Anthem would blast you out and wake up everyone else in the house. Of course, nowadays, TV never goes off and the Star Spangled Banner is no longer played late at night.

I have heard the Star Spangled Banner a lot of times in my life. Thinking about it conjures many pleasant memories.

One place I recall hearing the song is at, what is now, Kaughman Stadium in Kansas City before a Royals game. Out over the left field wall in the evening air, the flag waves. As the National Anthem is played, the buzzing crowd stills and with eyes fixed on the flag, caps removed, and hands over hearts, silent reverence overtakes the picnic atmosphere. I don't know about everyone else, but I almost always get a lump in my throat. I think about freedom and what my countrymen have sacrificed to provide me with it. I look around and see little kids and old men and things seem to make sense. It does not matter if we are democrats or republicans. When this song is played we are all Americans.

As a Boy Scout I have stood at attention facing the flag giving the Scout salute as the Anthem played. I was learning respect then and even if I did not understand it then the way I do now, I went through the motions. At first, I said the words, giving little thought to their meaning, but over the years, the words began to make sense. Experiences and circumstances brought the words to life.

My chest has swelled with pride, listening to the Star Spangled Banner, as our athletes have taken the top step of podiums in various competitions. The song played in the background as I peered out over a North Georgia lake watching fireworks in the night on a past Independence Day. The song played over loudspeakers at Boston in the noon sun just before the marathon. Its tune is etched into my memory and is associated with so many good times. It is an appropriate song in good times and in bad, because it tells us that no matter what our circumstances - we are free. We have been down, but even then we were a free people.

Did you know there are four verses to the Star Spangled Banner? Did you know it was originally a poem written by Francis Scott Key? Here are the words and a brief history of the song:

—Francis Scott Key, 1814
The Star Spangled Banner
O say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thro' the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen thro' the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand
Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

On Sept. 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key visited the British fleet in Chesapeake Bay to secure the release of Dr. William Beanes, who had been captured after the burning of Washington, DC. The release was secured, but Key was detained on ship overnight during the shelling of Fort McHenry, one of the forts defending Baltimore. In the morning, he was so delighted to see the American flag still flying over the fort that he began a poem to commemorate the occasion. First published under the title “Defense of Fort M'Henry,” the poem soon attained wide popularity as sung to the tune “To Anacreon in Heaven.” The origin of this tune is obscure, but it may have been written by John Stafford Smith, a British composer born in 1750. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was officially made the national anthem by Congress in 1931, although it already had been adopted as such by the army and the navy.

Information Please® Database, © 2005 Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
Here is another link about the Star Spangled Banner and the War of 1812. Go there for a lot more information and to see a photo of the original Star Spangled Banner.

I noticed in verse four there is a line, "And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust!'" If the ACLU finds out about this, they will try to have it removed so no one is offended.

A good reminder of what the Star Spangled Banner is about is captured in a video of a fallen Marine. See it here, but have a box of tissue as you view it.

Also check out some of my "patriotic links" I have added to my sidebar. Learn about the First Navy Jack and what it has to do with the war on terror.

So have a great day folks, you are living in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, July 13, 2005



I wrote earlier about my digital camera not working after me carrying it with me at the Four on the 4th Race. Evidently, my sweat fried something in the camera. I hoped it would work once it dried out, but no luck. I took it apart and have had it lying here by the computer. Every so often, I put the battery and memory card in it and try to power it up to no avail. I am officially calling an end to the code blue. The time of death has been recorded and I am awaiting the coroner to haul it away.

It served me well. We witnessed a lot of good times together, but all good things must come to an end - so they say.

I have been reading camera reviews and looking at message boards in an effort to find a successor to my Canon Powershot Digital Elph S110. I purchased it in 2001. At the time, 2.1 megapixels was a lot. I want to stay with Canon and they are highly rated.

My pick is the Canon S2 IS If you are interested in the stats, follow the link. The thing I like is the 12X optical zoom, which translates to having a 430 mm lens.

I really need two cameras. One like the one I had; that can fit in my pocket and another bigger one with lots of bells and whistles like the S2. If money were no object, I would get a digital SLR, like the XT.

If you are in the market for another camera, here are two great sites:
Steve's Digital Cams
Digital Photography Review

I haven't ordered it yet, but I plan to very soon.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, July 12, 2005


Life is Fragile

Skateboarders, freestyle climbers, mountain bikers, hang gliders, surfers, and bull runners reach out and grab life by the nads. They feel that to live is to teeter on the line between life and death.

Tragically, a 24 year-old man from New Orleans died in the running of the bulls Monday in Pamplona, Spain. He wasn't gored like four other participants, but he fell 80 feet off of a wall.

Life is a gift and it can be delicate, yet some live as though it is indestructible. Sometimes we must take risks. I would hope that I would run into traffic to save a toddler from being run down or throw myself on a gernade to save my buddies. This sort of thing is more sacrificial and noble. To gamble with your life for a thrill, however is a different story.

With the X-Games and Xtreme Sports a false notion of indestructibility is presented and some gamble with their lives just to do a flip on a bike or to run next to a bull. I remember cartoons and Three Stooges episodes being criticized because of the impression they might make on young people. Still, as a child, I never dropped a safe on one of my enemies or blew them up expecting them to be OK.

I fear that with the advent and promotion of Xtreme sports, people believe they can defy gravity and body crushing physics. I crashed on my bike doing 20 mph a couple of years ago and it took me a while to get up. I suspect it would hurt falling off of a mountain as well.

Life can be boring if one never takes risks, but the wrong kind of risk can result in you spending the rest of your life in a wheel chair. The wrong kind of risk can kill you for no better reason than to say, "I ran next to a bull in Pamplona."

Life is fragile; even more so when one tempts the fates.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, July 10, 2005


Huricane Dennis

It looks like Louisiana is dodging another bullet in the form of a nasty category 4 hurricane. For my area, 30-50 mph winds are predicted from the north. This is nothing compared to the folks just to our east. Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida will receive the brunt of Dennis' fury. This storm will still be a hurricane way inland. Hattisburg, MS will experience hurricane conditions.Poor Bear has an ear infection from swimming. He has been flopping his ears more than usual, so I took him to the vet. The vet cleaned his ears out and gave me antibiotics to give him for the next ten days. Then I have some "swimmer's ear" stuff to give him once a week to keep them clean and dry.

I had better get to my list before the wind and rain start picking up.

Have a nice Sunday.

We fared just fine from the likes of Dennis. It hit well to our east. We had a little rain and some wind gusts, but nothing approaching serious. We were very fortunate. The poor folks in Pensacola and Navarre Beach are the ones who took the brunt. Their lives will be disrupted for a long time.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, July 09, 2005


What are they doing?

Naughty lady bugs

It's the weekend. I hope you enjoy yourself.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, July 07, 2005


Four on the 4th

Every 4th of July, our local running club hosts a four-mile race. This year I wanted to run the four miles in less than 28 minutes. I made it, just barely, with a time of 27:54. That time placed me 29th out of 320 and 6th in my age group.

Barbara, on the other hand, won her age group for walkers. Here is a photo of her receiving her prize.
Barbara receives her award

I brought my camera to the race and ran holding it. Evidently, my sweating seeped into the camera and killed it. It is non responsive. I guess I am going to have to lay it to rest. Now, I need a new camera, muahahahaha. I would love a Canon 350D, but $1,000 is a bit steep. I am burning up Steve's Digital Camera site reading reviews. I cannot go very long without a camera.

Now, it is time to walk Bear one more time then hit the sack. Have a nice Thursday folks.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Life Magazine

Life Magazine cover from 1962
View the Life Magazine Montage
This is a 6 mb download. Give it a chance to load.

View individual Life Magazine covers

I stumbled across a Life Magazine archive the other day and had fun strolling down memory lane. With each Life Magazine cover is a flood of memories and recollections to the mind. I made a musical montage with 40 covers I selected and I hope you enjoy it. You will need Quicktime to see it.

It is time to batten down the hatches in preparation for TS Cindy.

I hope you had a good time on the 4th, I did.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, July 03, 2005


Lord Let Me Live

Lord, let me live, that more and more
  Your wonder world I may adore;
With every dawn to grow and grow
  Alive to graciousness aglow;
And every eve in beauty see
  Reason for rhapsody.
Read the rest of "Lord Let Me Live" by Robert Service

We took a quick road trip to Vicksburg Friday evening and Saturday. While there, I took advantage of the great hills in the National Military Park. It is a great place to run and photograph. I did both at the same time. Click the photo (or this link) to see the rest of the pictures I took.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, July 01, 2005


Happy Birthday America

Flag and Lady Liberty

Click the flag to see my video tribute to America. It is a little piece I put together for America's Birthday 2003. The video is 14 mb and runs 3 minutes 57 seconds. The soundtrack is Celine Dion singing God Bless America. I hope you like it.

Until the next time
John Strain


A Day of Sunshine

How about a nice Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem to get you started in this new month? "A Day of Sunshine" is a nice summer poem to contemplate. I hope the feelings experienced by the poet will be yours over this holiday weekend.

this is an audio post - click to play

A Day of Sunshine
Oh gift of God! Oh perfect day;
Whereon shall no man work, but play;
Whereon it is enough for me;
Not to be doing, but to be!

Through every fibre of my brain,
Through every nerve, through every vein,
I feel the electric thrill, the touch
Of life, that seems almost too much.

I hear the wind among the trees
Playing celestial symphonies;
I see the branches downward bent,
Like keys of some great instrument.

And over me unrolls on high
The splendid scenery of the sky,
Where through a sapphire sea the sun
Sails like a golden galleon
Enjoy the weekend folks

Until the next time
John Strain