Snow Falling on Rottweilers

Christmas Lights and Snow
Christmas Lights Plus Snow (click image for rest of album)

As the final day of 2012 draws to a close, I decided to snap a few exterior candids while the light still held.  Since snow has been falling all day, and will continue falling through New Year’s Eve, I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to photograph a phenomenal sunset.  I don’t have high hopes for a fabulous New Year’s Day sunrise either, since it will probably still be snowing then.  When I pulled the memory card out of my camera, I found several photographs I took of our exterior Christmas lights eleven days ago, before the world ended.  We received our first winter snow the day before winter and that snow still rests on some of our lawn.  Sunday’s high of nearly 50 degrees almost wiped it out, but today’s snow fall and plunging temperatures are shoring up the white.

I let Apollo and Lexy out in the backyard about an hour before sunset.  Snow fell steadily around them while I took a few snapshots:

Snow Falling on Rottweilers
Snow Falling on Rottweilers (click image for rest of album)

I also took some photos of the house, trees, fence, mailbox and yard.

Because the weather is forecast to be rotten for the rest of the night, Terry, Apollo, Lexy and I will ring in the new year from the safety and warmth of our own home.

Rather than wax overlong recapping this past year (which you can review through my past blog posts just as easily as I can), I’ll leave you with this quote from Charles Dickens as parting thought for 2012:

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.”

 Farewell, 2012!

Product Review: LG Behind-The-Neck Stereo Bluetooth Headset (HBS-700)

LG Behind-The-Neck Stereo Bluetooth Headset w/ Music Streaming/ Call Waiting Support (HBS-700)
LG Behind-The-Neck Stereo Bluetooth Headset w/ Music Streaming/ Call Waiting Support (HBS-700)

During my Thanksgiving break, I ordered a new Bluetooth headset.  I desperately wanted to assuage my boredom while walking Apollo during the evenings, and if I could listen to music or, even better, audiobooks, I thought it would encourage me to walk longer and get more exercise.  Earlier in November, I took advantage of a sale NewEgg had on headsets, but that first pair went over my head and made my ears extremely uncomfortable.  My daughter liked them, so I sent them south to her as a pseudo-Chirstmas gift.  That first headset had superior sound for music listening, but I couldn’t overcome the ear cartilage torture side-effect.

I’ve had the second LG headset for nearly a month now and I wear it daily.  Most of the time, I can’t even tell I have it around my neck.  The LG Behind-the-Neck headset is very lightweight and the actual ear buds are nicely unobtrusive.  I often wear my sunglasses and a scarf without hampering their usefulness or tangling them up.  One of the niftiest features of the headset are the magnetic receptacles for the ear buds.  When I remove them from my ear canal and lay them against my body, they will often snap back to their ‘home’ spot.

LG Behind-The-Neck Stereo Bluetooth Headset w/ Music Streaming/ Call Waiting Support (HBS-700)
LG Behind-The-Neck Stereo Bluetooth Headset w/ Music Streaming/ Call Waiting Support (HBS-700)

If I’m listening to an audiobook, which I do quite frequently since acquiring this headset, and I receive a phone call, the headset vibrates on my neck and plays a ring tone in my ear (I always have my phone on silent/vibrate).  It automatically pauses my audiobook when I click the answer call button found on the left hand nacelle.  When I finish with the call, my audiobook automatically resumes.

The battery life is purported to be ten hours of talk or music listening time.  I have only run the battery down once.  As a rule, I charge it overnight every two or three days.  The range is about thirty feet, so I can leave my phone in the center of the main floor and have good coverage for most of the house.  The power switch is simple, and I do love simple designs.  Simple works.  No holding a button down for a certain number of seconds.  Just slide the switch to either ‘On’ or ‘Off.’

Pairing with a Bluetooth device is also exceptionally easy.  No need to hold a button down for another second/different designated number of seconds.  Once the headset is on, it connects to my cell phone.  No muss, no fuss.  Again, simple works.

The price was right as well.  In fact, if you want your own pair of LG Behind-The-Neck Stereo Bluetooth Headset w/ Music Streaming/ Call Waiting Support (HBS-700), you can still get them (as of December 29, 2012) for the same price I did:  $39.99 (including free shipping).  My husband liked them so much, I bought him his own pair a couple of weeks ago.

Rolling Back the Odometer

As I sit here sipping a freshly brewed cup of Irish Blend tea, I wrote my final monthly fare payment check for the year 2012.  I reviewed my statement from the Advantage Vanpool program at KCATA and decided to run the numbers and see if another year of not driving my personal automobile to work was worth it.

The Pros:

My total outlay for 2012 in fares came to $1,686.  It should have been less, but 7/12 of this year the van had five riders instead of six, so the fare increased slightly those months.  I hope next year the van will remain fully occupied so I can look forward to only spending $1,536 annually on my work commute.  Either way, I’m sure I did better than most people who live in Leavenworth or Lansing and work in Kansas City.  Most of them probably have car payments (I don’t), higher insurance rates (not needed since I don’t drive my personal automobiles much), routine maintenance (oil, tires, etc.) and fuel costs.

By participating in the vanpool this year, I did NOT put 15,000 miles on my personal automobile.

Had I driven myself to work, alone, in either of my cars (which both require premium grade gasoline), I would have spent a minimum of $2,000.00 on fuel alone (visit AAA’s Fuel Guage Report site for my tidbits about the cost of gasoline).  My insurance would have risen to reflect the additional risk of subjecting myself to rush hour traffic.  I would have had to change my oil at least twice, possibly three times (this is a matter of debate in our household because we use only expensive synthetic oil and filters which are supposed to allow you to change your oil less frequently).  I wouldn’t have had to buy new tires, since we did that last year, but I would have used up a significant portion of the tread life of said tires.

The Cons:

I only have a couple of negatives, and I consider them small ones compared to the overwhelming positives I experience from the vanpool.  The most obvious one happens to be the extended commute time.  On average I spend an extra thirty minutes per day in the van as opposed to what I would spend if I drove myself.  Totaled for the year, that comes to 120 hours or about five days.

Driving daily, instead of riding, comes in as my second downside.  When I joined the vanpool a couple of years ago, I didn’t mind the extra time, because I could read, listen to music or just plain sleep while someone else got me to work and dealt with all the stressful traffic or inclement weather.  For the last year (14 months actually), I’ve been the primary driver for the vanpool.  I am thankful, though, that weather, thanks to the worst drought in decades, has been a non-entity until very recently (see companion post at the van’s blog).

Rolling Forward

Despite these slight bumps on the road to transportation redemption, I look forward to many more months, dare I say years, of smooth driving and my quest to preserve the planet … one van at a time.

Fourteenth Bak’tun Compliant

I wanted to share some of the best post-apocalyptic gems I found yesterday.  Most of these got at least a chuckle, and sometimes a chortle.  Enjoy.


∞ ∞ ∞


∞ ∞ ∞


This last one is my personal favorite, bringing back fond memories of my last apocalyptic fizzle … Y2K.  And in case you’re wondering what the heck a “Bak’tun” is, please see my post from last month on Mayan calendars and other astronomical wonders.

Movie Review: The Hobbit ~ An Unexpected Journey (2012)

totem-trekThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

4 out of 5 stars

I waited until the last possible moment to decide to watch The Hobbit ~ An Unexpected Journey this past weekend.  If I plan to spend the money to watch a movie in a theater, I do it opening weekend, because then most of the money goes back to the studio, which in turns means more movies that I like being produced.  In other words, I vote with my money.  And, Terry and I prefer to watch movies from the VIP seating on the balcony of Theater 7 at the Legends.  Well worth the climb up the stairs to the third floor Saturday afternoon.  We arrived with eight minutes to spare and sat through an amazing number of previews, but not any advertisements, which was a change for the better.

My most recent reading of The Hobbit occurred three years ago, when it was chosen as the book of the month for November 2009 for the Fantasy Book Club at GoodReads.  While I like The Hobbit, I’m not really the target audience for the book, since Tolkien wrote it for children.  But as with most well written children’s tales, there is much to be gleaned and learned by the adult reader.  I’m excited to re-read The Silmarillion next month for the same book club. In fact, I may read it as an ebook and also listen to it as an audiobook.

I loved the increased frame rate speed used to film The Hobbit.  I’ve been screaming for smoother sharper filming for years.  Really, there’s no excuse not to.  My eyes can drink in more than just 24 frames per second so please flood me with clean, crisp imaging.

I felt the focus of the story shifted away from Bilbo almost too much, and became Thorin’s story with Bilbo relegated to comedic sidekick. My foggy memory of reading The Hobbit three years ago recalls an older Thorin, still prideful to the point of arrogance, but not this brooding barely middle-aged dwarf, a veteran of many hard-fought battles.  I came away thinking Peter Jackson tried to turn Thorin into a darker, shorter Aragorn.

And the whole albino orc and warg subplot is just a bit much.  I’m pretty sure that wasn’t conceived in Tolkien’s mind.

Overall, I’m satisfied with the first installment of the drawn-out film trilogy adaptation of Tolkien’s The Hobbit.  If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d encourage you to catch it on a big screen near you soon.

A Dozen Quintupled

12-12-12Just because it’s all the rage today, being the 12th day of the 12th month of the 12th year of the second millennium*, I’m publishing a short blog post at exactly twelve seconds after noon (Central time zone).  I did a similar timed pasting last year for Veterans Day.

Five twelves.  Not quite a gross, not even halfway, but I do my best.

Thirteen days until the Twelve Days of Christmas begin!

Ciao, Jon

* Although that last bit is probably not completely accurate as I believe there was some debate back during the Y2K craze about when the millennium officially began.  Oh, and originally December was the 10th month (see my post back in October explaining this).

Orion Rising

I went outside Wednesday evening to photograph our exterior Christmas lighting decorations.  As I walked down the front steps, I could see most of Orion rising in the east.  The Hunter seemed to be reclining in a dreamy, wispy, foggy pose.  I couldn’t resist taking a couple of photos, the best of which is displayed below:

Orion Rising
Orion Rising (click image for rest of album)