Mar 15, 2015

Back to the iPhone

After using the HTC One (M8) for the last year, I missed the simplicity and design of the Apple iPhone. The HTC was actually a good phone and the camera, specifically, was amazing but now that I use a Macbook Pro, I was eager to switch back to the iPhone.  You know... all those synergies and whatnot. Although, one thing I never liked was iTunes. Syncing up my music library and contacts has been a real pain in the ass. But I think I've got it now.

My previous experience with iPhones has been positive. When I was living in NY, I used a couple different versions of iPhones and really enjoyed the straight-from-the-pocket creativity it provided. Looking through my blog there are actually 34 posts tagged "iPhone". Not only did I enjoy snapping photos and using fun applications like the Tilt Shift Generator, Shake It & Pano, but I also enjoyed taking short video clips and splicing them into videos.

Aside from the photo/video fun that iPhones provide, they just work really well. The user interface is intuitive and friendly. I'm glad I made the switch back to Apple.

Mar 8, 2015

The Alpha and the Omega?

When I was in Munich, in December, I popped into a camera store to take a closer look at a camera that really caught my eye: The Sony Alpha 7.  This is a full frame mirrorless camera. It's basically everything I've been hoping one of the major companies would create.  And I find it funny that Sony came out with it. Not Nikon.  Not Canon. It's a full frame camera packed in a small body. It's got a great shape to it; classic. After reading/watching many reviews, I think that I will make this my  next piece of equipment. Sony has a small but fantastic suit of E-mount lenses featuring Zeiss glass. Most are very fast primes. The reviews I've read and seen show stunning results.  Stay tuned!


Wow.  I didn't blog once in the month of February.  Work has consumed my life over the past few months.  Although working 60 hours a week to stay on top of things has paid off; I just got promoted to Director of Quality Assurance last week. I'm proud of myself, and I really do like my job, but I'm afraid that work has left me little time for the things I enjoy most; biking and photography.  I'm hoping that I can find a way to balance my work and personal life this spring, because I really do miss expressing myself creatively and I sure would like to get out on the trails again.  
My office.  Home away from home lately.

Jan 24, 2015

Loading 405 Winchester

The other night, a friend from work, taught me the basics of loading my own ammunition.  I've always been interested in loading my own, and with the recent spike in ammo prices, I was pretty jazzed when my friend offered to show me the ropes.  My father had recently gifted me a beautiful Winchester Model 1895.  The rifle is a Winchester-made, reproduction of the rifle that was produced from 1895 to 1932, totalling 425,825 pieces in all.  Although this rifle was chambered in many calibers with many intended uses, including military, mine is chambered in the heaviest of them; 405 Win.  This '95 is the rifle Teddy Roosevelt used in his famous African safari in 1909, and the rifle which he referred to as "big medicine" (Read more about Roosevelt's safari here).  It was used to take down hippopotamus, rhinoceros, and lions as well.  The big advantage of this rifle, at the time it was introduced, was its ability to hold pointed bullets, stacked in its non-detachable magazine.  Up until this rifle was introduced, lever action rifles held their bullets in tubular magazines, that paralleled their barrels. Due to the fact that the bullets sat in the magazine, with the nose of one bullet resting upon the primer of the next, rifles with these tubular magazines were limited to holding only flat-nosed bullets  Like many of my rifles, I look at this one as a marvel of engineering geneous.  Coincidentally, this was the last of the lever action rifles, that John Browning designed for Winchester. Surprising to me, is the fact that a musket version of this rifle, with an extended forestock and bayonet lug, was even used by the Army of the Russian Empire, in WWI and Finland in WWII.

Along with the rifle, my father gave me shell casings, powder, primers, bullets and even the dies needed to flare, seat and crimp the rounds.  The only pieces of the puzzle missing, were the actual loading press, primer seating tool, powder measure and scale.  My friend had these pieces.  After finding the right recipe for 405 Win rounds, my friend showed me the way to go about it.  Over the next few hours, of swapping stories and drinking a few pilsners, I made 40 rounds.  I was using a single stage system, so the process was slow, and there was a learning curve, and I did make a few mistakes (like forgetting to seat the primer before charging the bullet!)  So, not only did I learn how to load, I learned how to correct my mistakes.  There's a neat tool, called a kinetic hammer, which you use to remove bullets when you do silly things, like underload them, or forget to install primers.  When I was finished I marvelled at the sheer size of the rounds I loaded. They make a 30-06 round, look small.  They just look like great big cowboy bullets!  I cannot wait to get to the range.

Details of my loading data is as follows:
Powder:    Hodgdon H4895 - 58 gr
Bullets:     405 Cal .411 300 gr InterLock® FP
Brass:       Hornady 405 unprimed cases
Primers:   CCI standard

Jan 17, 2015

Austria & Czech Republic: Fantastic quick trip

I'm back.  Finally.  What a whirlwind of a trip.  I spent about a week in Austria (In Kamaten, about an hour and a half west of Vienna) with one night in the town of Bruno in the Czech Republic.  I'm always stoked to travel, but this trip, was so full of actually traveling (flying & driving) that I hardly had any time to myself.  The only time I had to really explore, was the first day I arrived in Kamaten, but I was so tired, from being awake for 24 hours, that I had to go to sleep.  With that said, I do not have any great photos to share.  Nor any great stories, really.  The purpose of my trip was to meet my overseas contacts within my company and learn about their quality structure and operations.  So, most of my time, was spent in a conference room, reviewing org charts, processes and discussing quality strategy. 

I did stay in a really nice resort:  The Kothmuhle.  The room was excellent, with a nice balcony overlooking the rolling hills.  You could see the snowcapped mountains in the distance.  The restaurant was top notch, and I ate 5 course meals each night (*burp*).  The people I spoke with there, were very friendly, and spoke fluent English.
Driving in Austria was super fun.  I rented a nice BMW and got to open it up on the Autobahn, a few times.  The roads in the backcountry, are stunning.  They're twisty and roll through the hillside.  The fields and pastures through which I zipped, were completely free of any sort of garbage or litter.  Just absolutely beautiful.


Jan 12, 2015

Hello from Austria

Hello folks. Work has me in Austria and the Czech Republic this week. I'm happy to be here, but wish I had more time to enjoy myself and explore, the way I love to explore. Still, I'm making the most of it, and trying to capture what I can with my camera. The trip over here was hellacious. One debacle after another Including nearly losing my luggage and almost missing flights. But, I made ​​it. I'm extremely jetlagged so I'm just going to toss up some photos from the last days worth of travel from Baltimore to New York to Dusseldorf, Germany to Vienna Austria.
A quick photo through the glass at BWI airport Sunday afternoon at 2:30 pm.

After switching planes in Dusseldorf, Germany, I arrived at Vienna via this weird airline ...
This is just one of the cool scenes inside the Vienna Airport. Although, by the time I got here I had been awake all night and what exhausted. I do not sleep well on international flights. All I wanted to do what find my rental car agency and get to my hotel.
I walked around forever, trying to find the car rental office. I found the cars ... but could not find the office. Probably I spent 45 minutes just wandering around different levels in the parking garages looking for the Hertz office. Holy frustrating.
At last, I was on my way. I rented a BMW and hit the Autobahn (Super fun!). An hour and a half later, I arrived helped in Kematen, Austria, at my hotel.

Jan 1, 2015

Squirrel Hunting & Hornets nests

Well, it's the first day of 2015, and I decided I'd kick it off with a morning hunt.  I thought I'd go to my usual spot for squirrels, and then pop over to another field area and see if I could kick out any rabbits.  So, I packed my .17 caliber and my 12 gauge in the truck, with a bunch of wool layers and headed over to Patuxent River State Park.  It was pretty damned cold this morning.  When I stepped out of the truck, it was only 17ºF.  It was so cold, that the earth was frozen solid and ice crystals clung to the tall grass and weeds.  I took advantage of the sun's horizontal rays whenever I stopped to look and listen for my furry friends.  I did see one large squirrel, just as I entered the woods, but I was still too close to the houses that sit on the edge of the public land I was hunting.  I was more than 150 yards away from the houses, but I didn't feel comfortable shooting, so I let him go.

After walking for a while, I came across the remains of a deer.  It was the same deer I had seen exactly 327 days ago, while hunting squirrels in this area.  Check out the amount of decay that took place since then: [Time warp back to February 8, 2014].

These photos remind me of the importance of regular brushing and flossing.  

The area that I hunt, at Patuxent River State park, is too small to ever need a map and compass, still I always carry one.  This morning I took my new Suunto KB-14, which Debbie gave to me for Christmas.  I really love it, and have had my eye on it for a couple of years now.  You could describe it as a simplified lensatic compass.  Used by surveyors and forestry folks alike, it is a liquid filled, aluminum-bodied compass with an optical feature that makes it very easy to accurately shoot an azimuth.  You simply hold it up to your eye, aim the compass at your target by looking over the top of it, and look through the lens to read the azimuth (70º as shown above).  It's got some other cool features, like a standard tripod mount (for those surveyors out there) and super robust construction.  It's lighter than it looks too; which is awesome.

After a couple of hours exploring the woods and occasionally looking for the elusive grey squirrel, I packed it up and headed over to the fields I had planned on kicking through, in search of rabbits.  I exchanged my .17 caliber for my 12 gauge and loaded it with a couple No 6, low brass shells.  I spent the next couple of hours meandering fields and hedge rows, kicking brush piles but had no luck.  Still, it was a beautiful walk.  I happened across a bald faced hornets' nest which was really neat to find.  The top of it was frosted with a light layer of sparkling ice crystals.  Boldly, I shook the nest.  I wasn't really sure if the wasps were still inside or not.  Thinking that the nest would look great perched atop my gun cabinet (Its no wonder I am not an interior decorator) I used my small Kabar to cut the sapling it was fixed to, and carried it back to the truck with me.  After researching, I learned that most hornets flee the nest by October each year, and they do not reuse the nests.  

 (As usual, click the images to see them larger, and in all their glory)

Dec 31, 2014

No resolutions this year

Well, Christmas has come and gone.  Here it is New Year's Eve.  I've been on vacation from work since 12/23 and spent my time off, visiting my family in Sherrill, New York and generally loafing around the house.  My Christmas was really nice.  I got some really nice gifts for Debbie and she got me some beauties as well.  The best gifts from here, were my new gun cabinet, my Brother's of Bushcraft knife, my Suunto compass and Mr.Beer Beer Kit (I'm looking forward to brewing my own).  All, are great things.  I'll have to post some pictures and reviews once I get out and use them.

If you know me, only by reading this blog, you'd think that everything in my life was just about perfect.  I tend to post, only positive things here; not the negative.  I have a great job, I'm in a healthy relationship, I have lots of freedom to do things that interest me.  But the truth is, my job is stressing me out beyond belief.  I got promoted from Supplier Quality Manager to Quality Assurance Manager, and that has brought a ton of increased and sudden responsibility. I think the people I manage hate me, and I haven't worked less than 60 hours/week since I got the promotion, a couple months ago.   My nights are always the same, tossing and turning fretting about what I may have missed or what issues at work, I may not be handling in the best way. I eventually fall asleep and wake up unrested and stressed out, before I even get my first cup of coffee.  But, hey, it's gotta get better right?  My relationship is good, I'm with a great girl, but I still have regretful dreams, about my x-wife, that torture me throughout the next day.  At the same time, I proposed to my girlfriend last year and then backed out of it, because I don't know what I want in a relationship anymore.  And lastly, as for all that freedom I have:  I have the freedom to do what I want, when I want to, but nothing interests me the way it used to.  My photography has dropped me into an eternal rut, where I have no interest in capturing scenes like I used to, what's more; blog about it.  My interest in mountainbiking has virtually evaporated, leaving me with great bikes to ride but no ambition to actually get on one and start pedaling.  Even my urge to hunt has subsided.  I only got out hunting two or three times this season.  So what AM I doing these days?  Drinking beer and binge-watching TV series.  This is about it.  Something's gotta change, but lately, I don't have the motivation to apply any effort to that end.

Don't get me wrong; I'm am thankful for what I have and how my life is going.  I'm just not sure that my life is going the way its supposed to.  I'm glad I'm healthy, I'm glad I'm successful.  I'm glad I live in the US.  But, is this it?  Is there something else I'm supposed to be doing that might make me truly happy?

With 2015 coming for me in the morning, I suppose I should think about what I'm going to resolve to do in this great new year ahead of me.  Although, to be honest, who ever sticks with their resolutions?   Not me.   Looking back, through my blog, I see that I always seem to post the same thing on New Years Eve:  Lose weight, ride more, push myself creatively.  This year, I don't think I'm going to resolve to do anything.  What's the point, if you never stick to it? So this year's resolution is, to just keep hanging in there.

Dec 24, 2014

I'm baaaaack.

Well, I'm back in the US.  I got back on the 15th, but have been too busy to blog.  Life has just been so busy lately.  I never mentioned that I got a promotion a couple of months ago.  So now I'm the Quality Assurance Manager.  I'm happy about it, but its been a hell of a chance.  My scope of work is much larger now, and I have a lot of direct reports to manage.  Hopefully, things will settle down.  It's been 60 hour work weeks since I got the promotion and I feel like I'm drowning.  Ugh.  Anyway, it's good to be back.  Germany was amazing and I'm so thankful that I got the opportunity to go and experience another great part of Europe.  I made a friend over there, that I'm sure will come visit this spring/summer.  I have a lot of photos to process from my trip, namely my Alpine photos I took on the free weekend I had over there.  There's just no time these days!  Here it is, Christmas Eve already!