Daily Post / 10-4-10 – Dinner!

This morning, before trying my hand at doing 3 things at once and not mixing the client’s materials up, I started dinner.

Over the weekend, my wife, daughter and I  went to one of the warehouse stores to stock up on some items that we had been running low on.

While there, I went past the meat counter, as I had been successful in picking a rather large roast up, and wanted to see if it was a fluke or if the quality of the meat here was actually not too bad. After a short search, I found one that would be at least two trips to crock-pot land.

So, back to this morning.  I used my very sharp boning knife to divide the roast into two parts, one of which went into the freezer for later.

Putting about a quart of hot water into the crock, I then gently placed the roast fat side up in the water.  Next, I liberally sprinkled granulated beef broth into the hot water, sliced up two medium onions and added those, and then finished up with large amounts of Mrs. Dash and black pepper, flipping the switch to high at the end.

There – dinner’s done.

Well, not exactly.  One of the things that I truly enjoy with roast beef is gravy.  Yep – the American Heart Association Official Condiment (TM). (Not to be confused with the American Heart Association Breakfast – 2 eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast.)

I don’t particularly like the type you find at some restaurants, where it is a light brown, somewhat pasty, opaque gel that is covers everything.  No, I like my gravy just a little transparent, and a dark, savory brown. (I was probably spoiled by my Aunt Helen’s cooking.  She and her husband owned the YoGo Inn in Melvin, Iowa for many years.  Every once in a while we would go to her house for Sunday dinner and this was the type of gravy she made.)

I start by fishing all the caramelized onions from the beef broth in the crock.  Then I add a ladle or three of the broth to the onions in a saucepan.  Next, I heat this over a high heat, to bring it to a rapid boil, taking a moment to add a couple tablespoons of sliced mushrooms and a liberal shaking of pepper.

If I have more time, I add another two cups of broth and mix up some corn starch and cold water to add and thicken the gravy.  Tonight was not a night of a lot of extra time, so I did the next best thing.  Two jars of Heinz Brown Gravy.  This is pretty close to homemade and tastes pretty good as well.

The end result was a nice dark brown savory sauce that was transparent enough that you could see the food through it, but was thick enough to stay where placed and not runaway from the food. A perfect companion to what turned out to be a very tender, not too dry, mouth watering roast.  Coupled with mashed potatoes, rice and noodles on the side, and a perfect glass of fresh brewed iced tea.

Nap time at about 6:30.



Oh, by the way, no posts last week.  Just that kind of week. I’ll try better this week.

Friday Comment – Facebook Fail

This week it’s not so much a comment on a specific news story, but an event that triggered many news stories.

Here is a link to the story on CNN.

It seems that technical difficulties brought about the death of Facebook for several hours yesterday.

I thought something was up as in one of my classes, people weren’t Facebooking as is normal during lecture.

The upside to this story is that, after that monumental failure of modern technology, we are all still here.


Daily Post – 9/23/10 – Remember the treadmill guys?

This time with puppys.

You have to hand it to these guys. (And their dog trainers.)

I wonder how many takes they went through to get this right. If you watch carefully, it appears to be ONE SHOT. I can’t seem to find a single cut in it at all.

Impressive.  Even my 13 year old daughter remarked that they had too much time on their hands.



Daily Post – 9/22/10 – ‘Run the day’

(Beware – long post to follow!)

Sometimes, very important people, upon arriving at the office, have their secretary or administrative assistant ‘run the day’.

This means that they want a verbal rundown of the upcoming events.  This entry will be that, only in reverse.  We’ll call it a ‘review of the day’. (I know that’s pretty original……)

6:00am – Day starts at the sound of the alarm.  Can’t say what the song’s name was, but I recognize it from something my daughter has sung along with on her iPod.  Something about tears on a guitar. Yep, it’s KSUX-FM.

6:20am – Into the kitchen to start breakfast, after turning the radio on. (The kitchen set is usually tuned to KWIT.  If I don’t want a daily dose of news, I’ll flip the iPod in the dock on.)  I usually do the breakfast cooking, and like doing it. Most of the time I keep it pretty simple.  This morning it is scrambled eggs with onions and cheese for my wife and I, and some hash browns for the kids and I. (My wife doesn’t like hash browns. That’s OK. My son says my eggs “don’t taste right”. That’s OK, too.  It’s probably because they are cooked with salt, pepper and onions and with a little bacon grease.  Hey, if you are going to have the cholesterol, why not go all out!)  I fry some bacon as well. Everybody likes Bacon! By 6:40 the table’s set and the feast begins.

7:20am – out the door to take my daughter  to middle school.  I really try to get her out the door by about 10 after, because if I don’t, the wait time to get onto Indian Hills Drive can be almost 10 minutes some days.  Today it’s no exception, and after watching about 45 cars go by in both directions, manage to do a NASCAR style pit exit to take my place on the road.

7:40am – back in the house and time to go “to work”.  This means it’s time to go downstairs to my desk and see what the overnight email consists of.  Maybe someone bought something of mine from eBay? (Nope.)  Well I start in on the task of the day.  With no homework left over from last night, I start company work.  Project for today is ten 3 minute presentations.  Over the course of about 3 mornings in the last couple weeks, I have worked with a member of my church to cut audio for some mission presentations.  The audio is all edited and I have all the photos lined up, so here we go.  First I get my laptop where (I swear) I have the original project which we did as a proposal.  Nope, not on the laptop.  Oh well, since that leaves me somewhat befuddled, I start up the videotape to DVD rack, and load it up.  By now, it’s almost 8:30 and I walk upstairs to see my wife off to work.  Then, it’s back downstairs.

8:45am – I locate the project files on my desktop computer (how’d they get there?), and fire up Final Cut Pro and start editing.

8:47am – Phone rings.  It’s a client, wanting to ask some questions about transferring some 8mm film to DVD.  He’s been getting ready to send his stuff for some time and has evidently been looking at other sites and asks the infamous question:  “I like all the info on your site but why should I send my stuff to you?”  Having answered this question many times in the past, I recite all the points about experience, high end equipment, professional software and so on. (I leave out the part about making a house payment. I figure that goes unsaid.)  I don’t criticize other companies, and really don’t like it when I hear someone boosting their company by attacking someone else.  Probably why I don’t do political spots as a rule.  He’s satisfied with all my explanations and we go over some other information, and he agrees to send his film in.  Back to editing.

9:00 am – time to change tapes in the dub rack, then back to editing.  My goal is to be out the door today by 11:15am, since I have a physics lab at 11:45.  Let’s see if that happens.

9:15am – phone again.  A friend of mine is having trouble getting a new Mac up and running with Final Cut.  This problem has been around a day or two, and the suggestions from yesterday didn’t work. Seems a previous owner turned on something called “file vault” and it has succeeded in encrypting parts of the operating system.   Time to wipe the HD and start over, we decide.

9:21am – phone. It’s someone I talked to yesterday who has a tape from a surveillance camera.  It’s of somebody stealing a political yard sign.  Yesterday he asked if I could “clear it up, or enhance it” so they could get a license number off the car. (Thank you CSI!) I told him that there was not going to be enough resolution on the VHS tape to do much, if anything.  Today, he just wants to “sit down and see what can be done.” He’ll even pay!  I reiterate that there is more than likely no hope of getting anything useful from the tape.  In order to get a license plate, the camera pretty much has to be zoomed all the way in and fill the screen with the tags. I also tell him that my schedule is pretty full and I don’t have time to even meet today.  The fellow thanks me and says they will be back in touch. Back to Final Cut.  Now I have three of the ten done.

9:30am – I get an email from AOL that the piece I went to Sioux Falls to shoot last Tuesday has failed quality control.  I open the email to find out why, and all they have done is to send me the original instructions. Huh?  Not what needs to be changed, but just a cut and paste of the original guide. (This graphic, this font, so on and so on.) I quickly log on to the message board for the project and post that I need something specific to change, because to me, I did exactly what the instructions called for. I then call my contact, Daniel, and leave a voicemail stating the same thing.  Oh, by the way, this (whatever it is) needs to be fixed and re-submitted in 24 hours.

9:40am – Back to Final Cut.

9:50am – Daniel returns my call.  He agrees that it was poor for the person doing QC just to regurgitate the original instructions.  We both look at the piece and find out that there was a communications gaffe in the instructions and I used the wrong graphic, which was what the instructions said to use. No harm, no foul, quick fix. He does compliment me on the quality of the video.  That’s nice to hear.  I get the feeling that they sometimes don’t get the “A” team to go out and shoot these things (The instructions start out ominously enough with “Use a tripod”, “Use a microphone” and “Use Lights” !?!?!?!) I pull out one of my laptops and start doing the changes on it while continuing to edit on my desktop.  Two fisted editing.  (Yes – I do have four licenses for Final Cut. No cheating here.)

10:15am – Flip the dub rack again,and I’m up to 5 pieces edited.  Looks like the dream of getting to physics lab is fading a bit.

Between about now and Noon, I probably take about 15 to 20 calls, while continuing to edit.  Most of them are clients, and a couple are telemarketers.  I will always take time to talk to a client, no matter how impossible the task they need (My husband erased our wedding tape! Advice: Sorry, nothing short of re-staging the wedding will help that, no matter what you’ve seen on CSI.)  Telemarketers get even shorter amounts of my time now.  I always hang up on the robots and the humans get the “Don’t have time, please remove my number from your list.” recitation.

12:15pm – Lab started 30 minutes ago.  (I can make it up later.) Now I am up to 8 finished pieces.  Well, at least I can eat lunch today.

12:45pm – Must leave by 1:15 to get to Ross’ class. I need to do just one final piece.

1:10pm – Hit the “Submit” button and send all ten pieces to Compressor.  Run upstairs and grab my backpack and out the door with 5 minutes to spare.

1:35pm – I walk into the faculty suite in Mass Comm.  Chris Levine is dis-assembling a tripod for Doc to use as a wall mount for a camera in the broadcast booth at Olson stadium. I try to help.  2 minutes later, my cell phone rings (my business line is forwarded).  It’s the client from this morning telling me that he has all the film ready to ship.  He confirms my address (correct for 5 years ago.  He has been thinking of this for a while.) and promises to email me the Fed Ex tracking number.

I hang up and  within 30 seconds, it rings again.  My wife (the secretary) takes it from me and quickly takes a number as I walk quickly to class.

After class – I wait for my wife so we can leave at the same time, and follow her home across town.  Down to the basement, I flip the dub rack again and then print on a dozen DVD’s to burn the projects from this morning onto.

From now until dinner, which Joan fixes, I return phone calls and burn one DVD after another. (Each project has to be seperate and one disc holds all 11 finished projects.) I also get an email with a tracking number from this morning’s client. (Yes!)

Break for dinner about 5:20, then back downstairs to work on some homework and kick all 11 mission projects through Compressor again to create web versions.

About 6:45, it’s off to church.  After returning from church, about 8:15, I decide to sample the German chocolate cake from the Spoonholder Joan and I picked up yesterday.  Delicious.  From now till about 9:45 I do homework and print out the email from my physics professor reminding me about the quiz in his class Thursday. (By the way, my cell phone shows two missed calls during church. A friend once said about being self employed: “It’s a part time job! 12 hours is only half of the day!” I’m not complaining, though.  eBay is full of people who are selling their video gear because the phone has not rang enough lately.)

At ten, I go upstairs long enough to pour a glass of ice tea, tuck the family in, and head back downstairs for homework.

I turn in at about Midnight. Well, that’s my day in 1801 words.  The rest of my posts will be shorter, I promise.

Till tomorrow (wait, that’s today.),


Daily Post – 9/21/10 – Physics . . . . .

I’ve been reviewing notes from the two physics classes I am enrolled in this semester.

I’ll just say that I get it, but I’m not sure I understand it.

Two tests in the next week.  Let’s see how that rolls.

Sometimes my diagrams that should look like this:

Look more like this:

On that note i’ll close . . .

Till tomorrow,


Daily post – 9/20/10 Looking for Jupiter

It was time for amateur stargazers to dig out those telescopes and binoculars.

Jupiter made its closest approach to Earth Monday, only 368 million miles, and my family and I dusted off the ole’ Celestron and headed out to see what was to be seen.

According to the good folks at the Sky and Telescope web site, this was the gas giants’ closest approach since 1963.

1963 – The Beatles released their first album, Please Please Me, Sean Connery stared in the second James Bond movie, From Russia with Love, and President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

But I digress…..

A little after 9pm, we struggled the telescope outside, and after some mild frustration (“I can’t even find the Moon to focus!!!), I re-educated myself on the basics of telescope operation, tweaked the finder scope, and there it was.

Jupiter, with 4 of it’s moons strung out like bright little pearls. A little victory for my (very) weak astronomy skills.

Courtesy Shoestring Astronomy

I borrowed this image because although I tried mightily, I was unable to get my Nikon D-40 to give me a clear image.

As I studied closer, I was barely able to discern the cloud patterns in Jupiter’s atmosphere. We also had some help from an app on my iPad called GoSkyWatchP.

Jupiter won’t be that big or bright again until 2022. I should have my degree by then.

Oh yeah, I was lazy and did not post this weekend. My bad.

Till tomorrow…


Daily post for Friday – Disaster narrowly averted!

It’s late so this daily post will be pretty short.

Friday night turned into guy’s night here at the ranch. My wife was out of town and my daughter went out with a friend for dinner and a movie. (Her first try of Thai, I later found out.) I had to do a delivery to a client and then my son and I went for some budget TexMex fare.

Upon returning home, we both went into the basement and I started hunting for a movie to watch.  I was originally looking for an ancient VHS tape of the HBO movie Fatherland, with Rutger Hauer, feeling the need for some alternative history. (The book was much better, by the way, but the movie wasn’t bad.)

We have quite a collection of DVD’s and tapes here, and I was looking through a set of them that happened to be on some of those shelves you attach to the wall with the metal strips and the brackets you can move around to adjust the shelves.

Also on these shelves is my Apple Time Capsule and a 1tb drive with all the backups for all the Mac’s here at home, as well as untold client DVD backups and other business materials.

As you probably deduced from the headline, disaster attempted to strike as I was standing in front of the shelves. One of the screws pulled loose and dumped three shelves and their contents into my arms.  I caught the shelf with the electronics, but the majority of the 200 or so DVD’s cascaded around me and over my son’s and my computers.

Failure analysis points to the screws attaching the metal strips to perhaps not have been into studs in the wall.  I’ll look into it more tomorrow, but a rebuilding is in order, using a stud finder first.

At least we were home when it happened. By the way, the movie we ended up watching was 1974’s Irwin Allen disaster epic The Towering Inferno.

Till tomorrow,


Daily post – 10/16/10 Let’s go shoot something.


That’s what I do sometimes to put bread on the table.  Not with firearms, but with a camera.  Most of the time it is video, but the art of still photography has earned me a buck or two over the years.

However, on Tuesday, it was the moving version of photography which made the coin. Responding to a request from a division of AOL, I was tasked to shoot and edit a 2 minute piece on a hairstyle done by one of the Sioux Falls hair salons.

After shooting for about three hours at the salon, I headed out to get some cover footage of Sioux Falls.

After navigating the delays on Minnesota Avenue due to construction, I found a parking place relatively close to the falls, where I could bail out, grab the camera, and get several shots for the opening of the piece.

As I set up, and started shooting, something caught my eye below the camera in front of me.  (As I am very wary of snakes, that was what first popped into my mind.) I looked down and there was a ground squirrel, just sitting there looking up at me like I was a tree or an extension of the fence post I was using for camera support.  I slowly tilted the camera down and this is what I saw:

At least I wasn’t compelled to kill a snake with a 3 month old, $10,000 camera.

I’m pretty sure insurance wouldn’t cover that.

Well, that’s all for today.

Daily Post #1

I am going to try something new.  Aside from class assignments, I will try to write something every day.  The topics here will run from school,to photography, to my business, to travels, to my hobby, or none of the above. (Comments and critiques are welcome, including yours, Ross!)

My first post here will be a picture from “my summer vacation”.

In June, my family and I took the first summer vacation, where it was just us, in almost 20 years.  Being a small business owner, vacations have been pretty limited to a weekend in Omaha or Sioux Falls.  Not always because of money, but more because of time.  Before I was ‘full time’ self employed, we did do a week here and there, but we usually tagged along with my mom and sister, aunts and uncles.  This would be the first time we would do a ‘biggie’ just by ourselves.

By ‘biggie’, I mean this: Two weeks.  On the road. In a car. No planes, airports, busses, etc.  Just like the old days, when my wife and I were kids.  There is something to be said regarding a vacation by car vs. flying.  I will admit that the convenience and speed of commercial aviation (hassles aside) have their advantages in this day and age, but there is something to be said for going the car way.

Which leaves me to my first photo.  This is where being ‘on vacation’ hit me the first time.  This was around noon on the second day out.  I’d been in St. Louis several times.  Once through the airport and several times blowing through on I-70.  This was the first time I had stopped, and we took the opportunity to visit the Arch.  More properly known as the Gateway Arch (part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial), I had never been up in the Arch.  Fascinating, and a good time.  Being a photographer, I took a selection of gear with me on the trip.  (I almost also took my newest HD camera, but space was a limiting factor, as well as the thought of a ‘smash and grab’ leaving me without one of my primary sources of income).  As it was, I took a small HD camcorder, Nikon D-40 DSLR and two lenses.  This was taken with the D-40 and a 18-55 VR zoom.

As I said, this was about the time I felt ‘on vacation’ for the first time.  The tour of the arch and the memorial around it was really neat.

Well, that’s all for now.  Hopefully I will post again tomorrow.