A Moving Tale of Trust for Christmas*

elephants1In 1986, Mkele Mbembe was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University. On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Mbembe approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it.

As carefully and as gently as he could, Mbembe worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot. The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments.

Mbembe stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Mbembe never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty four years later, Mbembe was walking through the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Mbembe and his son Tapu were standing.

The large bull elephant stared at Mbembe, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.

Remembering the encounter in 1986, Mbembe couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant. Mbembe summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant looked at Mbembe as if could see straight into his soul.

The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Mbembe's legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn't the same elephant.

* Yes, this is a repeat of from the last four Christmases. But I have to keep up the tradition. And Lincoln Park Zoo hasn't had elephants for a few years now.

I hope you are had / are having a very merry Christmas.


She's A Winner! But You Already Knew That.

Yeah, yeah, so it's my birthday today.  Not what I want to talk about.

I know most of you already know from Facebook, but I don't care.

Gonna brag on The Daughter over here, too.

Walgreens was running a contest in Chicago and St. Louis for high school students to enter works of art for their "Expressions" contest.  On the day before the contest ended, The Daughter entered a stop motion animation project she'd been working on for weeks.

  • She made the puppet.
  • She made the background
  • She shot the nearly 1,000 pictures herself.
  • She made the stills into a video and added a song in the background.

We were so proud of the work she did, and it was awesome.

And then the people from Walgreens called on the day the contest was ending.  They loved the video, but…

  • The video was 5 seconds too long.
  • The song in the video was copyrighted, and unless she could get it cleared, she had to replace it or just remove the sound entirely.

This news came after she got home from school, and she had to resubmit it by midnight if she wanted to enter, but they REALLY wanted her to enter.

As she heard the clock loudly ticking, she cut the video down to size, removed the song, and removed the lip-syncing to the song.  Then, she found a website that let her mix her own soundtrack for it, and she put that in as the soundtrack for the video.

It's now 11:20, and she went to the website to submit it…

And it was closed!  Turned out, they were hosting the contest on servers in Philadelphia, and since it was after midnight there, they closed the contest.

So, she called the Walgreens lady who had called us.  She gave us an email address to send the video to, and we submitted it with little time to spare.

Then there was a round of public voting (thank you all who voted), where we saw the other 50 or so videos she was up against.

And yesterday, it was announced:  The Daughter won first place in the Chicago Multimedia category.

  • She won $500 for her school.
  • She won $500 for her teacher.
  • She will be one of the guests of honor at an awards ceremony where they will present her with a check for $2,000.

Yesterday, she asked me if I was proud of her for winning.  "I'm HAPPY for you that you won.  I'm PROUD of the effort and dedication you put into it, especially when you had every reason to give up."

And here's a link to the ORIGINAL full video, song and all:

Yup, I'm proud of her.


Mickey Mousing Around For Thanksgiving – Part 2

While I know that many people would consider this a crime against nature, our alarm went off at 4:30 am on Thanksgiving morning.  And we had no turkey to get cooking.  We had to get to Disneyland an hour early for our "Magic Morning" that let us in the park an hour before everyone else.  That let us in before everyone else, which let us ride the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean a couple of times before things got crazy.


We then wandered over and tried to pull the sword from the stone.  Didn't budge for any of us.


The Daughter took her Halloween costume dress (san makeup and wig) and wore it on Thursday.  It was really cool.  A lot of the cast-members (the term for Disney employees) seemed to be genuinely thrilled to see someone her age getting into the magic aspect of it all.

And Jack was impressed.

We then ran over to Toon Town and played with all the sight gags that they've got going on over there.


We ran across the Mad Hatter and Alice playing a musical chairs style game along Main Street USA.  The Hatter played the self-obsessed joker.  Alice was his dizzy blonde assistant / victim.


The whole gang met up for Thanksgiving dinner (and the only whole group shot of the trip) at a restaurant by one of the hotels.  I had the Thanksgiving plate, and it was pretty good.  Even came with a slice of pumpkin pie.  And still suffering from the lack of sleep, I took full advantage of the free refills on the Diet Coke.


And then we posed with the B-I-L and his girlfriend before heading back to the parks.


We then saw "Small World" all lit up for the evening, which was, I have to admit, pretty breathtaking.

We then hopped across the no man's land separating Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.  The park was MUCH emptier.  Except for the weird teenage rave that is the Mad T Party.

And the it was off to the Tower of Terror…


… where I wondered how they ever dusted an attraction that is supposed to look a certain level of dusty?  Until I started wondering why I was flying up out of my seat.


  • When did "guacamole" become a politically incorrect term?  Bought a chicken sandwich in Disneyland that came with "avocado salsa".  Really?  REALLY?  Avocado salsa?  Trust me, I know guacamole, and that was guacamole.
  • The patio in front of the Pizza Port in Tomorrowland is a great place to view the nightly fireworks.  I know they are designed to be seen form Main Street, but that's where everyone is, and you have to fight the crowds, and get there early, and wait in a human corral with the rest of the herd, etc.  Tomorrowland is a lot less crowded, and you still have great sight lines.
  • Hitting a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner is a great way to keep from REALLY overeating.


Mickey Mousing Around For Thanksgiving – Part 1

So, let's just jump into it, shall we?  Wednesday morning the alarm went off @ 2:30 am, the cab arrived at 4:00 am, and by 6:30 am, Cora, The Daughter, and I were on a plane heading for LAX and Disneyland to meet up with most of her family for Thanksgiving.

Jealous yet?

The flight went smoothly, there was no real issue with holiday travel crowds at all.  Now, the Super Shuttle people getting us to our hotel seemed like they were making it up as they went along, but eventually a van zipped at 70 mph to our hotel, where it turned out that our hotel room was ready early!


And we were in the Disneyland park by lunchtime.  The castle was decorated for the winter, but the weather was far from wintery.


In fact, it felt a lot like Halloween around the Haunted Mansion.  Since "A Nightmare Before Christmas" is The Daughter's favorite movie, we made many, many, many passes through its haunted halls.


We tracked down a couple of cute kids from Cora's family, and got them to pose with Jack Skellington.


And we got nice little video of Jack chatting with the family.

We hung out with the family the rest of the day, riding rides and hearing about their cruise the week before.  The Daughter was so psyched to see them all, but she REALLY missed Boy-Cousin and Grandma the most.


As night rolled in, the lights came on, and our get up and go, got up and went.  So, we trudged back across the street to the hotel and passed out.


  • This is my third "Disney" visit and my third Disney park.  First was Euro (now Paris), then came Disney World, and now Disneyland.  World is my favorite park, but this was my favorite trip.
  • This was The Daughter's third Disney visit, all to Disneyland.  She has never seen the Haunted Mansion in its traditional form.  Always decked out for Nightmare Before Christmas.  And she likes it that way.
  • We met up with Cora's mom, sister, brother-in-law, their three kids, her brother and his girlfriend.  We were scattered across various hotels.
  • I saw far more Jack Skellington T-shirts than Mickey Mouse T-shirts.  I think Disney is seriously going to need to consider making a permanent Nightmare attraction, probably in California Adventure, maybe by the Tower of Terror.


Poetry For Un-poetic Justice


Over the past year and a half, the below E. E. Cummings poem has been popping into my head a lot.  I first read it in a college rhetoric class, way back in the day.  (Don't want you thinking I'm some kind of hippie going to poetry readings at some beatnik joint.) It's a poem about a guy not believing in the horrors of war.  That is until the Japanese drop a bomb on his head.

In a "real world" situation, I am routinely left gobsmacked (hence the picture) by how utterly myopic a certain person I'm dealing with is. They, with a determination and assurance of a right and noble cause that would make a Jehovah's Witness blush, have continued to plunge headlong and headstrong through things heedless of the consequences; ignoring all advice to the contrary.  (What a sentence.)

And now, Mr. Cummings…

plato told

him:he couldn't
believe it(jesus

told him;he
wouldn't believe

certainly told
him,and general

and even
(believe it

told him:i told
him;we told him
(he didn't believe it,no

sir)it took
a nipponized bit of
the old sixth

el;in the top of his head:to tell



Phriday Phunny

This is ancient.  But still an utter classic.  And this just goes to show you kids out there, that even as there is talk of upping TV resolution from "HDTV" to "UHDTV" (Ultra), you can improve picture quality, but you can't always improve on content quality.

This was filmed live, and Tim Conway (as is his nature), went off the rails trying to bust up his cast mates.  If you've never seen this before, be warned, it is not nearly as fast paced as today's shorter attention spans call for, but it is comedy gold.

**SNORK** – That bit still kills me.

Have a good weekend all.


Chicago - Off The Eaten Track Part 4

Do you like eating? I like eating. And odds are, some of the foods you grew up enjoying aren't the same in other parts of the country. Heck, they may not even exist at all. Everywhere has their own styles of foods and drinks. Styles that are unique to your region, and which may even be world famous. Or local secrets. Lobster rolls. Cheesestake. BBQ. All good food that sections of the country take pride in.

Chicago has it's famous foods. Chicago style pizza. Chicago hotdogs. Ribs. And if you're in town for a while, here's the stuff you should try.



There really is no other choice on this one. It's Garrett's. Everybody knows it. This is truly a "Taste of Chicago". And you have to do the "Chicago Mix". Cheese corn and caramel corn. Mixed together.

A few quick points:

  • Yes, cheese corn and caramel corn mixed together. Trust me, it works.
  • Grab more napkins than you think you'll need, and grab about 3 more. You're fingers will be yellow. Your face will need some, too.
  • There may well be a line out the door. Yes. For. Popcorn. Why? Because it's worth it. Don't worry, it moves fast.
  • Garrett's is basically either in the Loop or at O'Hare. If you're out in the burbs, forget it. But they will ship you a tin if you need.



It's Eli's Cheesecake. Eli's started out as a steak restaurant in Chicago, that had a really good cheesecake dessert. The restaurant is no longer, but the factory is still churning out some tasty cheesecake. The factory is about 5.5 miles due west of me, and while you can get a taste of it at the factory, you can also pick it up at about any grocery store in town. But you may not even need to hop on a plane to try some. They may be available in a grocery store near you. I know, you think that you can get cheesecake from anywhere. But this is GOOD stuff.


Chicago-Style-Chocolate-01 Chicago-Style-Chocolate-02

Chicago's a candy city.  Probably our biggest is the Wrigley Company.  Yeah, Wrigley Field.  The Wrigley Building.  Then there's also Tootsie Roll.  We used to have Brach's (the hospital that blew up in The Dark Knight was their old factory).  And then there's Fanny May (not to be confused with Fannie Mae, the mortgage place).  They only recently declared bankruptcy, were bought and sold a couple of times, and had production moved to Ohio.

But they still have shops all over the area, and they make some killer chocolate.  My wife, Cora, is a chocolate aficionado, and loves her some Fannie May.  Trinidads.  Pixies.  Mint Meltaways.  But you don't have to get fancy, even their candy bars are awesome.  So are their ice cream bars.  So if you need a little boost while walking around, Fannie May will give you that little boost to keep going.

So, if I'm in your town, what sweets would you recommend?


Chicago - Off The Eaten Track Part 3

Do you like eating? I like eating. And odds are, some of the foods you grew up enjoying aren't the same in other parts of the country. Heck, they may not even exist at all. Everywhere has their own styles of foods and drinks. Styles that are unique to your region, and which may even be world famous. Or local secrets. Lobster rolls. Cheesestake. BBQ. All good food that sections of the country take pride in.

Chicago has it's famous foods. Chicago style pizza. Chicago hotdogs. Ribs. And if you're in town for a while, here's the stuff you should try.



Chicago ribs are pork ribs.  (I'm a beef rib man, myself.)  There are a lot of good places to get ribs.  Some of the big boys are Carson's & Robinson's.  There are also little guys like Smokin' Woody's or Fat Willy's.  But for my taste, nothing beats Twin Anchors.

The ribs are good.  Maybe not the best in town, but pretty dang tasty, but the atmosphere… Oh, the atmosphere…

The place joint is in the heart of the Old Town neighborhood.  It was a favorite of Mr. Frank Sinatra his-own-self.  And he's even on the well stocked jukebox, but as is emblazoned on all the staff's shirts, "Positively No Dancing."  The bar up front is about as large as the back dining area.  Did you see "The Dark Knight"?  That scene where Two Face confronts the crooked cop in the bar?  Twin Anchors.  Did you see "Return to Me" with David Duchovny and Minnie Driver?  Much of it was shot at Twin Anchors.

A rib joint.  But so much more than just a rib joint.



Chicago's after bar food is definitely burritos.  Don't ask me to explain it, it just is.  Especially in Lincoln Park.  Which is a fun place to go out drinking for the 20 something to 30ish crowd.  And my favorites there La Bamba ("Burritos as big as your head.") and Taco and Burrito Palace #2.  (Because you just don't want a corporate Chipotle late at night.)

Chicago-Style-Burritos-03 Chicago-Style-Burritos-01

There's not really anything "Chicago Style" about them.  La Bamba is good enough that I eat there once a month or so for lunch.  And for the vegetarians, the cheese quesadillas are pretty good.

What's the "after bar" food in your area?  Some places it's pizza.  Others get breakfast.  What do you do?




Did you grow up in the 70's?  If you did, then you remember Chicken in a Biskit crackers.  When your parents brought out those rippled edged crackers with the ranch-eque flavor seasoning, you knew there was going to be a PAR-TEE!  This was the era when adding French onion soup mix to sour cream to make a dip was going all out.  The snack food companies hadn't really gotten into gear with flavors.  Oh, there were BBQ potato chips but salsa and chips hadn't penetrated the group conscious.

If you wanted a flavored chip, Chicken in a Biskit was your go to move.

I bought some recently, and discovered something that blew my mind.

  • Oyster crackers – Contain no oysters
  • Goldfish crackers – Contain no goldfish
  • Girl Scout Cookies – Contain no girl scouts
  • Nips – Don't get me started on why something called a "nip" is square and has a hole in the middle instead of being round with a bump in the middle.

But Chicken in a Biskit? 


Yes, there is "dehydrated cooked chicken" in Chicken in a Biskit!

Seriously!  Look right over there.  Dehydrated Cooked Chicken!  There's particulated dried chicken matter in/on the crackers.  I know it says it in the name, and all, but like I said, you shouldn't trust the name for the content.

Did you know about this?

I know people will describe snake or rabbit as "tastes like chicken".  But never once when I bit into the zesty goodness of a Chicken in a Biskit snack cracker did I think, "Hmmm… Tastes like chicken."

Not that this is going to stop me from eating them, mind you, I just found it startling.


Halloweens of Scope's Past

So, around the turn of the century (man, doesn't that sound olde tyme), I had a routine Halloween party that I went to for many years.  As today is Halloween, I thought I would TREAT you (or maybe TRICK?) with a few pictures of Scope of Halloween's past.

2002 – Blind referee (glasses missing) with one of the hostess of the party.

2004 – Bacchus, Roman god of wine, and some really drunk dude, on the L.


2007 – Pilot.  Please note the handmade shirt and the official cheesy mustache.


2008 – Mad scientist.


Yeah, I know I'm missing a few years.  There was a Rastafarian, a rabid sports fan with a basketball head, the "Hi Guy" (a local Chicago lunatic), and a few others that seemed to have escaped the camera's lens.

You know you're a crappy blogger when:

  • You throw together a post of old Halloween costumes just to have something to post.
  • You then look at your old posts for further ideas, and realize that you did the same damn thing 2 years ago.
  • You decide you don't really care because you don't have time to do anything creative, and go with it anyway.


Even this picture is a repeat.  I just colored it orange.

Be safe and egg any house that give out those gnasty peanut butter taffy things in the orange and black waxed paper.


Chicago - Off The Eaten Track Part 2

Do you like eating? I like eating. And odds are, some of the foods you grew up enjoying aren't the same in other parts of the country. Heck, they may not even exist at all. Everywhere has their own styles of foods and drinks. Styles that are unique to your region, and which may even be world famous. Or local secrets. Lobster rolls. Cheesestake. BBQ. All good food that sections of the country take pride in.

Chicago has it's famous foods. Chicago style pizza. Chicago hotdogs. Ribs. And if you're in town for a while, here's the stuff you should try.



Like the pizza, everyone knows about the Chicago Style Hotdog. And there's really no debate on how it's made: a beef frank with yellow mustard, chopped white onions, nuclear green sweet pickle relish, tomato wedges, sport peppers, celery salt, and a dill pickle spear, all on a steamed poppy seed bun. AND ABSOLUTELY NO KETCHUP! Okay, you can (usually) order a plain dog with ketchup, no problem, just don't put it on a Chicago Style dog. There's no room. You don't need it. It already has tomatoes. And face it, if you put ketchup on something, that's all you are going to taste. And that would be a shame.

You can get a quality one at any place you see the big blue Vienna "V". Or you can try a "gourmet" dog from a place like Hot Doug's, Chicago's Dog House, or Franks 'N' Dawgs. Yes, gourmet hot dogs.


BUT DID YOU KNOW? – There's something better on buns then the hot dog or even a hamburger at Kuma's Corner, and that's the Italian Combo. This is a Chicago Ciller Combo.

You start with the bun. This isn't some puffy poppy seed roll. This is a sturdy, tough, crusty roll. Inside of it, you lay down a fire grilled spicy Italian sausage link. But one item does not a combo make. On top of the sausage is a heaping helping of Italian beef. Now this isn't beef from Italy. No, it's a thinly sliced roast beef that is seasoned with Italian herbs and spices, and simmered in it's own pot of au jus.

Now, you've reached your first decision point: wet, dry, or dipped.

  • DRY – My preferred method. And "dry" is a very relative term here. The beef is pulled out of the au jus, and held for a second or two while most of the juice runs off. You're gonna need a napkin, but your shirt shouldn't be in too much danger.
  • WET – This is the default. The beef is pulled out of the au jus and slopped right on the sandwich, carrying a lot of the liquid with it. You will need a couple of napkins and probably will need to hunch to eat it.
  • DIPPED – "Dipped" means exactly what you can't believe it means. The beef is placed on the sandwich, and then the whole sandwich, BUN AND ALL, are dunked backed into the au jus. Forget a napkin, if you've never had one of these before, you will need a beach towel.

Your second decision point is peppers: sweet or hot.

  • SWEET – Roasted green bell peppers. This is what I would recommend for your first one. You may not like the giardiniera (hot pepper/vegetable mix) and I'd rather that not taint your impression of the combo.
  • HOT – As mentioned above, a hot mixture of peppers and vegetables. You can ask for a side of it if you are REALLY curious about it, as it is the only condiment allowed on the sandwich.

Your third and final decision point is cheese: Yes or No.

  • YES - Rarely do any of the places offer varieties of cheese. They have one type, and that's what you get. It will be one of the following: mozzarella, provolone, or cheddar. I prefer either mozzarella or provolone. But if they only have cheddar…
  • NO – The proper response when offered cheddar for your combo is "no"

There are very few options here. There are no condiments allowed. Putting ketchup on this creation is more offensive than putting it on your Chicago Style hotdog. Or putting on your breakfast cereal. Oh, and if you are a guy, no knife or fork is allowed. You have to bare hand this.

Oddly – Writing this last section has had my mouth watering like Pavlov's pooch tied up outside the Ten Bells Pub in London. If you want to try this yourself (ZIBBS), THIS SITE has a couple of recipes and tips.

So, what is your local specialty on a bun or a roll?  Does it involve casing meats?


Chicago - Off The Eaten Track Part 1

Do you like eating?  I like eating.  And odds are, some of the foods you grew up enjoying aren't the same in other parts of the country.  Heck, they may not even exist at all.  Everywhere has their own styles of foods and drinks.  Styles that are unique to your region, and which may even be world famous.  Or local secrets.  Lobster rolls.  Cheesestake.  BBQ.  All good food that sections of the country take pride in.

Chicago has it's famous foods.  Chicago style pizza.  Chicago hotdogs.  Ribs.  And if you're in town for a while, here's the stuff you should try.



Everyone knows about "Chicago Style" pizza.  Actually, there are two types that are easily confused (and to be honest, for shoving in your pizza pie hole, it doesn't really matter), deep dish & stuffed.  Stuffed has a thin layer of crust over the toppings but under the sauce.  Both are gut busters, and I will simply refer to both as "deep dish".  While there may be neighborhood places to get good deep dish pizza, there are some chains where you just can't go wrong:  Pizzeria Uno / Pizzeria Due, Giordano's, Lou Malnati's, Chicago's Pizza & Pasta, Edwardo's, & Gino's East.  I have eaten my share of all of them, and let me tell you a few things:

  • If you order the sausage at Gino's East, get "crumble" not "patty" unless you don't have any plans for the rest of the day.  Imagine a 1/4 inch think sausage patty covering the entire bottom of the pizza.  Good, but an overload.
  • Edwardo's makes an awesome deep dish spinach pizza. But have them add mushrooms.
  • Our standard is from Chicago's Pizza & Pasta – The "Chicago Special" – sausage, mushrooms, green peppers & onions.  Taste & texture!  And they deliver late.

Chicago Style Pizza 02

BUT DID YOU KNOW? - Chicago has a distinctive style of thin crust pizza, too.  And this you can get from any neighborhood joint.  The crust is crisp, firm, and thick enough so that it does not bend, sag, or fold.  But then since it is cut "Sicilian" style (#) into about 2.5" squares, it's not really going to sag anyway.  With these, keep it simple.  One, two ingredients, max.  There is nothing wrong with plain sausage or pepperoni.  Or sausage and pepperoni.

And everybody has their favorite type of slice.  I like the "inside" pieces.  Others like "edges".  But everyone agrees that the little corner pieces like the one up there have no calories.

Oddly – Deep dish and thin have different sauces.  Deep dish has a very chunky tomato sauce, while the thin crust is blended smooth.

So, what's your regional style of pizza?  What are your favorite toppings?


3 Years Ago


Exactly 3 years ago (October 24, 2009 11:40 am), I did the smartest, simplest thing I've ever done.  I got down on one knee, and proposed to the the most amazing woman I had ever met.

And Cora said, "Yes"!

Cora, there's not a day that goes by that I'm not thankful for the magic that you have brought to my life.

I love you with all my heart.

Thank you so much, internets, for helping me to find the great love of my life.


It's A Tech Tuesday World After All

So, as I mentioned in my last post, Jan & Yemi are planning a 6 month trip around the world and will be blogging it out.
If you were taking a long trip around the world, what tech would you take?  You're not traveling on your own private yacht.  You're going carry-on with only a couple of bags that need to last you for months, and that includes clothes.  So traveling light is key.  But, as a once in a lifetime trip, you want to make sure that you capture the memories and enhance your enjoyment.
What tech gear would I take on a round the world trip with Cora?

POWER MANAGEMENT – Let's throw this out on the table right here, right now.  We're taking stuff that's going to need recharged.  Some of it almost daily.  And since not everywhere (read "no where") uses the same plug/power configuration that we do, we'll need a plug adapter AND power converter.  And the power converter is equally as important as the adapter, so spring for an all-in-one.  You don't want to fry your electronics with the wrong voltage.  And you REALLY don't want to fry your wife's hair with her curling/straightening iron getting over juiced.  And they now have converter models that also have a USB charging slot, too.

We'd probably want a small adapter to convert the one outlet to 3 for charging.  But we wouldn't bring a spare power converter.  We should be able to pick one about about anywhere within reason if necessary.

CAMERA/S – We would definitely take two cameras. One is Cora's DSLR. The other is her point-n-shoot. (Hey, the wife has better gear than I do.) On a round the world trip, pictures are going to be our most important souvenirs. And while we would want to take the best pictures possible (DSLR), there are going to be times when we don't want to lug a big camera around. And as the saying goes, "The best camera is the one you have with you." We would want something pocketable that we could carry with us at all times.

And here the redundancy factor is important to me. Both cameras take the same memory cards. And I would bring a spare battery (or two) for both. You don't want to be running out of juice midday. And for the DSLR, both a standard lens, and a telephoto.  And a whole bunch of 8 GB SD cards.

OPTIONS – If we didn't already have 2 great cameras, and really wanted to save weight, I would get a micro 4/3 camera like one of the Sony NEX line.  They are smaller than DSLRs but bulkier than a simple point-n-shoot.  They allow for interchangeable lenses and pretty good picture quality. It might not fit in every pocket, but it would fit in a pair of cargo shorts or easily in a day bag.

NETBOOK – While both Cora and I have laptops, for space and weight considerations, we'd probably take my netbook. It's so much more portable and better battery life.  But then why not a tablet like an iPad? No ports. Small storage. My netbook gives me 150 GB of storage, 3 USB ports for connections, and an SD card slot for the camera memory cards. Things an iPad doesn't have. And while it's not as easy to type on as a bigger machine, it's a lot better than the keyboard on an iPad.

The netbook would get as much storage cleared out as possible and reloaded with chunks of my iTunes and Cora's iTunes libraries, downloaded maps and travel information, etc. But with plenty of room left to store all the pictures and video we'll be taking.

I know the netbook is a dying term.  But I mean a small notebook with a 10" – 13" screen and as large of a hard drive as possible.  Current ones can have a 500 GB hard drive or more.  That can store a lot of pictures and video.  And I will be downloading all the pictures off those memory cards.  Redundancy again.  Those pictures will not be living only on tiny bits of plastic.

OTHER – Other bits of "tech" to go along:

  • iPods – Cora and I both have iPod minis that we would take.
  • Watch – A cheap ass Cassio watch with an alarm. Something that someone wouldn't want to steal. In fact, a mugger might give me money when he looks at the thing.
  • USB Thumbdrives – At least one, small, thumb drive with a text (.TXT) file that has our names, and emergency contact info. Also there will be a password protected zip (.ZIP) file full of PDFs with our passports, credit cards, etc. scanned. It will be painted white, with a red cross painted on it. This will, in theory be on one of us at all times.
  • Travel Alarm Clock – A little P.O.S. $20 that tells the time and beeps.  As small and light as possible.
  • Flashlight – A small LED flashlight can come in very handy staying in unfamiliar places.

SERVICES – Beforehand, there's a few sites / site types I would sign up for.

  • Video Calling – We'll want to talk the the folks back home on occasion. We'd probably use Skype, but Google has some cool video tools, too.  And both are free!
  • Picture Storage – I have a Flickr Pro account that allows me unlimited storage of pictures at full resolution. (Suck that, Zuck! Facebook really compress the photos.  So while I'd be posting some there, I wouldn't count that as my DR storage solution.) Whenever I had Wi-Fi, I would be uploading my pictures. While the memory cards would be backed up to the netbook, things happen, and I want these pictures stored someplace safe. I would be using YouTube for video. There are plenty of other cloud storage sites available, but I'm familiar with those, so there you have it.

LEAVE AT HOME – But there are a few things that would stay at home.

  • Cell Phone – I don't have a world phone, and I really would rather try and leach Wi-Fi from the universe vs. paying huge international data fees.  If for some reason we need to make call and Skype doesn't work, we can either buy a local "burner" phone and an international calling card.  I would also have paper maps so I don't need the GPS/Google Maps use.
  • iPad – It's designed for consumption, not production.  It stays at home.  Now, I haven't checked out the Microsoft Surface.
  • Keys – Won't be needing them, will I?
  • Multi-Tool – If you are flying, it will get confiscated before you even get to your seat.


Around The World In ??? Days


Phileas Fogg & Passepartout raced around the world in 80 days on a bet.  Fogg packed light.  “We’ll have no trunks. Only a carpet bag, with two shirts and three pairs of stockings for me, and the same for you. We’ll buy our clothes on the way. Bring down my mackintosh and travelling cloak, and some stout shoes…” (Around The World in 80 Days, Jules Verne, 1873).  They also carried a guidebook of rail & steamship time tables.

Well, a blogger that I have been following for a long time, through some serious ups and downs, Jan has started up a new blog, Travelers Not Tourists.  And she's definitely on an up swing.  On the new blog, she and her boyfriend, Yemi, will be documenting their trip around the world.  They'll also be letting us in on some of their previous trips, too.  And I'm not talking about quick trips down to the corner grocery store, either.  (As you can see from these pictures I borrowed from her blog.)


And they aren't going to do a sprint like Fogg did. This will be relaxing stroll. A "quitting our jobs and taking the trip of our lives" kind of stroll.

So, if you are looking to live vicariously through a young, beautiful couple as they prepare to take a once in a lifetime that you can only dream of, swing by Travelers Not Tourists.  Tell 'em Scope sent you.


Don't Panic–It's A Meme!


I'm really surprised I haven't seen this floating around the web.  And if you don't see it, make it, I guess.  Ah, this takes me back to high school.

What books take you back?


Tech-Tuesday: Recovering From The Blue Death

So, you may remember that I suffered the true Blue Screen of Death.  I've had my new laptop for a couple of weeks now.  A new Dell Inspiron 15R.  I ordered it from Dell, it was delivered quickly, and my wonderful wife, Cora even found an on-line coupon at RetailMeNot to save me some additional CA$H.  In the few weeks I've had it, things are going okay.  But here's a quick roundup of my thoughts and lessons learned.

  • Routine and regular backups are a good thing.  Saved my bacon.  I had most everything stored off on an external hard drive.  I know I lost some stuff, but I'm not sure what it was.  I have upped my game a little by adding a 2 TB NAS (Network Attach Storage) device hanging off my wireless router.  It's doing automatic copies of my data weekly now.  I now need to get this set up on the other computers in the house.
  • When backing up your content, put some forethought into how your data is organized.  I have 3 sets of some data.  Which wouldn't be too bad, except that it's things like "My Pictures" and "My Music". Does anyone know of any good "de-duplicating" freeware?
  • This is my first personal laptop.  I've had a few at different jobs, and I have a netbook, but this is the first legit laptop I've owned.  Not really a fan of the keyboard on it.  A little mushy.  I usually use it at my desk where the desktop was, so currently, I use a real keyboard plugged into a USB hub.  I'm thinking of upgrading the USB hub with a full fledged dock that will allow me to more easily use my big monitor and wired network.
  • Wow, does the battery life on this thing suck.  I may buy an external battery/ charger so it has juice to make it that 4 hour flight to Seattle.
  • Back on the subject of backups, make sure to back up a copy of your browser favorites.  I hadn't done it in a couple of years.  Oooops. 
  • I had a BIIIG collection of fonts downloaded on the old machine.  Even though I still have many of them (thanks to those backups I mentioned), I'm really not looking forward to re-installing them.

Overall, I would say that once I got the laptop, I was about 2 or 3 days before I was mostly back to normal.

Let's see if my blog-posting is getting back to normal.


A Surf & Turf Wedding Reception


Earlier this summer, a former blogger we'll call the fabulous "Mrs. K" got married out on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state in a very small, very beautiful ceremony.  I know because I watched the video.

A couple weekends back, she had a reception down state in southeastern Illinois.  We weren't sure that we were going to make it.  After all, school had started and we didn't want to have the Daughter gone two weekends in a row with all the homework they tend to hit them with.  But then, the Chicago Teacher's Union decided to go on strike.  No school.  No homework.  So down the road we went.

The drive was about 5 hours.  As we rolled down I-57, the gas gauge kept dropping and dropping.  But I had it in my mind that I wanted to get to Mattoon before getting gas.  I could make it.  About 25 miles north of Mattoon, there was a ding and the gas light came on.  No big deal, I'm good.

But when it dinged a second time with 12 miles to go, I started to get nervous.  Shut off the A/C nervous.  But we made it.  Probably on fumes.  (Shouldn't play that game again any time soon.)  I fueled up and then we headed out across country to the hotel to change for the party.

We made it just in time.  And were greeted by this color scheme, don't adjust your set:


The hallway was a 70's yellow to boot.  ***shudder***

A quick change and a short drive out of town, we turned down a gravel road, and made the party.  It was held on Mrs. K's parent's farm under an impressive tent and a dance floor under lights strung in the tree canopy (pictures to follow).  But before we get there, here's a shot of Cora, Mrs. K, and me (trying to hide my beer).  Lovely ladies.


And now, Mr. & Mrs. K.  The whole wedding party re-wore what they did at the wedding, which was really kind of cool.


And here's a shot of the family in front of a beautiful southern Illinois sunset.


But I know what the women in the audience really want to see:

The ring…


The shoes…MRSK-08

And the cake…


Yes, carrot cake made by the groom's mom.

The tables were set beautifully with candles and pictures of the couple.


And speaking of a cute couple:


Okay, I teased the dance floor long enough:


And I certainly took my lovely wife for a spin around that parquet flooring.

But all too soon, the party was winding down, but not before we all broke out the sparklers.

Yes, sparklers!  And the haze.



And that's how bloggers role.  It was a great time and we had a blast.  I wish the happy couple all the best.