Saturday, December 23, 2017

2017 Willow Creek Christmas

2017 Willow Creek Christmas 1:00 PM Saturday. The image was taken with a Nikon D3400 camera and Nikon 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens at ISO 2200 at 1/30 sec and f5.6 (aperture priority). Exposure compensation at -1.0 EV. Who says you can't take a great photo with an entry-level DSLR camera? Camera supported with a monopod.

The second shot was taken at ISO 800 at 1/40 sec and f5.6 with -0.7 EV compensation.

Lighting changed constantly throughout the program. I needed to compensate the lighting accordingly. Without good knowledge of lighting and the camera, I doubt most people trying to take images with their DSLR's or iPhones would have been able to get consistently decent shots.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Nikon D3400 Camera and Nikon 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 Kit Lens

Too often, I hear people complain that their "entry-level" camera and kit lens isn't good enough. Well, read on...

I recently purchased a Nikon D3400 and 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens from B&H Photo for $396.95 (on sale due to the holidays). I purchased this for the school in case someone needed to borrow it during the Photo Essentials class because they came in with the wrong camera for the class. 

Anyway, I had the chance to use it on my most recent cook of pulled pork on my new 14.5" Weber Smokey Mountain smoker. I was immediately impressed with how clean the image looked and how rich the colors were! Of course, I used one of the new Balanced Exposure Custom White Balance Reflectors to set the custom white balance... something I could never do with an iPhone for the food photos on my food blog. The images were SO GOOD for a camera and lens combo of only $396.95!

My very first digital camera was a Nikon D100 which cost $1999 at the time (without a lens). That camera was a 6.1 MP camera with terrible color in comparison to today's cameras. I used this to take "professional" photos! Today, the entry level D3400 is 24.2 megapixels... much larger than the old camera! It is so much more capable than my first digital camera and for a lot less money.

So, don't think your basic camera can't take a good photo... it can! You just need to be sure your exposures and color balance are correct and your composition is right. This image of the pork shows how rich the colors can be. There's ample shallow depth of field too from the lens. Also, look at the bricks behind it... very accurate colors if you saw the real bricks.

Make the most of the gear you have! Shoot correctly and you'll have very satisfying images.

Oh, if you want to see more images from this cook to compare the quality, check it out on my food blog:

Happy Holidays everyone!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mark Weins - Migrationology

Without doubt, my favorite "YouTuber" is Mark Weins.  Mark's food videos are fun to watch and to imagine what the food he eats tastes like.

I started watching Mark several years ago when I first started going on a diet.  Strangely, while I can't eat the food due to dieting, I have no problems watching someone else eating it!  I started watching a bunch of videos on food and stumbled onto Mark Weins.  His famous "head tilt" makes me laugh all the time, but it's his signature move.  He does this whenever he eats something he really likes.

Check out his YouTube channel: Mark Weins

He has two other channels as well: Mark Weins Abroad and Mark Weins Vlogs

And finally, his website,

Besides the food, I get to see the world as he travels throughout Asia and other places!

His friendly demeanor and upbeat descriptions of the food he eats makes the videos interesting to watch.  Typically, he uploads two videos per week.  With well over 1 million followers on YouTube, he's one of the most popular YouTubers in the food genres.  His wife Ying does most of the camera work, although at times, Mark will hold the camera himself (usually while he's walking and talking).  And let's not forget his new baby, Micah!  That kid's going to be traveling the world!

Check out Mark Weins on his YouTube channels!

(Image borrowed from the internet)

Let me also recommend to you a carbon steel wok I purchased.  It's a round bottom wok that I use with my outdoor propane wok burner.  I have included the link to that product as well.


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Flip Guard - Added Deadbolt Security

The Flip Guard from Ultimate Lock System is a great device if you want added security for your deadbolts!

This one is mounted on the back door leading into our garage.  Once both cars are in the garage and we are inside the home, we flip the guard to securely lock the deadbolt so that nobody can get inside even with a key!  When we leave the home, we pull the latch down so that the deadbolt works as normal.

Paranoid?  Perhaps, but having worked in law enforcement in the past, I know that you cannot have too much security.  I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS DEVICE for anyone who is security conscious.  If you simply search "Lock Bumping" or "Bump Key" on YouTube, you'll be shocked at how easy it is for an intruder to enter your home.  With this device on your deadbolt, they can't bump the lock to get in.

Installation is extremely easy... just loosen the deadbolt by unscrewing the two screws that hold your deadbolt in place and slip the flip guard behind the lock.  Then tighten the screws and you are done!  I decided to slide the Flip Guard further in so that the flip mechanism is centered to the deadbolt lever.  I think they make it a bit larger so that it can fit any type of deadbolt.  Also, be sure to position it so that the guard flips down when open.  This way, it can't accidentally flip into the lock position when you are outside of the home which would lock you out!  There's really no way it would happen even if you did mount it wrong as the flip handle is tight enough that it does not swing open or closed by itself anyway.

This device is used to keep you safe while you are INSIDE your home.  It doesn't do any extra protection for you when you are outside the home since it doesn't engage when you leave.  You can only engage it when you are inside.  Still, it's one added safety for you to protect you from home invasions.

I have an Amazon link for you in case you have an interest in this device.  I chose the satin nickel finish as it matches our hardware better, but there are other finishes available.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Why There Aren't As Many Blog Posts Lately

You might be wondering why there aren't as many blog posts lately.  Well, there are... they just are on my food blog!

Lately, I've been on a kick of cooking up some food and so I started a second blog so I would not over burden this blog with so many food photos and descriptions!  To see all of these posts, be sure to visit my second blog at  You see plenty of blog posts there when there aren't any here.

I'll continue to post entries on this blog when they are not food related.  It's just that lately, it seems I have more to say about my food adventures than anything else.

See you at the new blog (and here too)!

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Falling Out of Bed

I have fallen out of my bed at least five times in the last year since purchasing a new mattress.  The new mattress has a "rolled edge" rather than a hard solid edge (like on cheaper mattresses), so it's easier to roll out of bed.

Each time, I have a dream that either requires me to fight off someone who is trying to attack my family and I need to defend them, or my dream requires me to jump or move to another area (from point A to point B).  Each time though, I end up on the ground instead!

In the past, I would fall out of bed and be ok, but last night, when rolling towards the floor, my chin and throat hit the edge of my nightstand causing my neck to snap back.  Also, my big toe from my left foot got caught between the bed frame and the box spring, so it is hurt as well.

I am lucky I didn't snap my neck or cause major damage to my throat or larynx.  This morning, I had a huge "sore throat" in the larynx area and a bit of whiplash.  My big toe is aching as well.

Perhaps I need to look into a bed rail or something!  Sounds weird for an adult, but apparently, many seniors have this problem of falling out of bed as well.  I'm not technically a "senior" yet by legal definition, but I'm close.

I have fallen out of bed many times in the past as well.  I recall within the first couple of days of being married, I fell out of bed!  I give my wife a lot of room on the bed, so I tend to sleep right on the edge of the bed.  I've been doing this for over 30 years.  I usually sleep on my side too.  So any false move, I'm on the floor.  I'd estimate that since being married (and counting this past year), I've probably fallen out of bed 8 or 9 times!

It's getting dangerous now that I'm older and so I am seriously considering some kind of restraint system going forward.  What do you think... bed rails?  Yikes!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Guitar Get Together - Oct 29, 2017

We hosted another fun guitar get together yesterday!

Besides playing guitar (ok... I actually played bass since we have so many guitars, we don't need another person playing guitar), I smoked up six full racks of ribs on my Weber Smokey Mountain 22.5" smoker!  My wife made egg rolls and potstickers, and the other appetizers were brought in by our friends.

We'll do it again next Spring!  Photos courtesy of Gayle Hortelano.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Hewlett Packard - HP12C Financial Calculator

Look what I found after so many years!  My Hewlett Packard HP12C financial calculator!

I purchased this calculator around 1987 if I'm not mistaken.  That would make it 30 years old.  It takes three LR44  (A76) batteries which I promptly ordered on eBay.  It still works!

The calculator works with Reverse Polish Notation, so you don't enter data the same as a "regular" calculator.  For instance, for an equation like 5+8= 13, you would enter it this way... 5 ENTER 8 +

Definitely takes some getting used to, but I'm very familiar with it and it seems I haven't lost the ability to work it!  And of course, you can calculate things like interest and payments (for real estate, car payments, etc.)

I checked on Amazon and they still sell this calculator, although it is now less expensive than I paid for it in 1987.  I believe it cost around $89 back then.  Today you can get it on Amazon for only $52.88!  But reading the comments, many seem to say that the quality of construction has gone down compared to the older versions.

I'm looking forward to re-learning the calculator and using it again.  I even downloaded a free iPhone ap that looks and works just like it!  The ap is called Touch Fin (financial calculator).  Check it out!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Ryan's Favorite Bear

My nephew Ryan wanted me to put his favorite bear on my blog.  He named it "Honey Bear".  It is sitting on his favorite blanket.

He has had this bear ever since he was born.  In fact, my sister got it for free from Target before he was born... so actually, this bear is older than he is!

Friday, September 29, 2017


My nephew got this cool robot!  It fires projectiles, walks, talks, plays music... it even does the moon walk!  Kids got great toys these days!

Ocean Beach - San Francisco - Revisited

A trip to San Francisco wouldn't be complete without visiting Ocean Beach!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Final Fishing Trip For 2017

I did a lot of fishing this season for salmon, but the fish did not cooperate at all. Not even a single bite or bump of my line. It has been a very tough season this year and it just seems that every year for the past three years has been more difficult than the last. Even so, I still enjoy being out there trying. I get to see stars before the dawn over the water. I get to see the sunrise. I don't get that privilege hanging around at home. So here's the sunrise from my final fishing trip of the season taken on 9-20-17. It was nice of the angler in the boat to be in my shot as well.

The image was taken with my small Lumix DMC-LX5 camera. It's a four thirds sensor and I shot the image in manual settings. While it's a "point and shoot" camera, it has basic manual controls. There's no way an iPhone would have been able to shoot an image like this.
You don't always need a top of the line camera to get a shot if you know the basics. This camera cost about $250 many years ago. It has limitations, but you can overcome that if you have the knowledge of how to use a camera.
And yes, it was dark out there when this image was taken!

Friday, September 08, 2017

Business Card From The San Diego District Attorneys Office

Found an old business card of mine when I worked at the San Diego District Attorney's Office!

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Born To Fish

Not exactly true since I love my job teaching photography, but I found this sign up in Wisconsin. No, I didn't buy it as it isn't exactly true for me, but I decided to take a photo of it instead.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Sunrise at Racine Harbor

I went fishing at Racine Harbor last week but didn't catch anything (as usual), but I did get to see the sunrise over the water at least. The sun was peeking through a layer of clouds. The image was taken with a Lumix DMC-LX5 "point and shoot" sized camera, but shot on full manual. The image was processed with Adobe Lightroom.

"13 Reasons Why" - A Netflix Original Series

I have watched "13 Reasons Why" twice now, once by myself and the second time with my wife.  It's a controversial show, no doubt.  Some feel it glorifies suicide.  Others feel it is important to watch so that others can see what goes through the mind of someone who is contemplating suicide.

For me, I think it was a powerful series that all students should watch.  It brings up the issues of bullying in many different ways and how this type of behavior could push someone to do something as terrible as suicide.

I have been to a couple of suicide scenes while working in law enforcement.  My first was a scene of a young boy who took a shotgun and shot himself in the backyard of a neighbor's home.  The other was a murder / suicide of a mom who killed her own son (I believe he was around 6 years old) and then killed herself.  She used a knife and it was the bloodiest crime scene I had ever witnessed.  Blood was spattered all over the walls of their home's utility room and all over the floor.  We had to be careful not to walk on all the blood.  I can still see these scenes in my mind.  These things don't go away.

Suicide should not be an option if you are bullied or depressed.  You can contact the suicide hotline for help.  Call 1-800-273-8255 if you need help.

Realize too that if you commit suicide, it forces those who you leave behind with a lot to deal with and cope with.

I have personally known four people who committed suicide.  One was a student at my high school.  Another was a mother with postpartum depression.  Another was a student from Trinity College who did some internship work at our church.  Finally, there was the son of a family who attended our church who committed suicide while in the Marine Corps.  Way too many people...

So please, do not consider suicide as an option.  Things will get better.  Call out for help.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pink Butcher Paper for Wrapping Beef Brisket While Smoking

Pink Butcher Paper... does it really work? (Photo courtesy of Burnt End Paper)

Legendary pit master, Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas uses it to wrap his beef brisket to power through the stall.  Others just use aluminum foil.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Cubs vs Brewers at Miller Park - Milwaukee. Cubs Win 4-2

My wife and I drove to Milwaukee today to watch the Chicago Cubs play the Milwaukee Brewers.  Cubs won 4-2!

The drive wasn't really that bad... less than 1-1/2 hours from our home.  Because of my handicap placard, we were able to park about 4 rows away from the closest parking spot by the stadium!  Plus, there are escalators moving you to the upper decks of the stadium!

Miller Stadium is really nice, I have to admit.  We really like it and are planning to go see more games up there in the future.  It's less expensive than seeing the Cubs play at Wrigley Field!  But ticket prices are definitely higher when the Brewer play the Cubs than when they play other teams.

We sat in section 415 in the second row.  It's the highest section up in the stadium, but it wasn't that bad really.  We think we will try sitting closer next time.

Because we were so far away, getting closeup photos was not possible.  The photo of Addison Russell at bat is as close as I was able to get with my Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 lens.  The photo of John Lackey on the mound was cropped closer.  Both images were taken with my Nikon D4.  The selfie photo and the stadium photo were taken with an Apple iPhone 6s+.

As I sat in my car getting ready to drive off to go home, a Brewer's fan said to me through my window, "I'll be home in about 5 minutes.  How long will it take you?"  Ok... so he's close by... but we still won today!!  :)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Zenware - Shedder Claws For Pulled Pork

I purchased these Zenware BBQ Meat Pulled Pork Shedder Claws on Amazon for only $5.99.  It made pulling apart pulled pork a lot easier than trying to do it with two forks!  For the price, I don't think you can beat it.  It's really sharp too, so be careful!  It would make an awesome weapon...

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Body Worlds - Animal Inside Out

Body Worlds -  Animal Inside Out at the Milwaukee County Zoo!  The best part was hearing a guy ask his girlfriend why she wasn't taking some photos with her iPhone.  Her reply, "The lights are too difficult to get a good shot!" - I was thinking, "Uh, not for my DSLR and knowledge of how to control lighting!!!"

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Father's Day Present From My Daughter - Cubs Jersey!

My daughter got me a Cubs Jersey with my name on it for Father's Day!  Ok, it's Addison Russell, but hey... it's still my name!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker - 22.5 Inch Smoker

I added a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker - 22.5 inch smoker to join my 18.5 inch smoker!

I purchased it used on Craigslist for $225 including 5.5 bags of 18.6 lb Kingsford Original charcoal.  Not a bad deal overall!  I washed it off and cleaned the grates... it's all good!

I'll likely update the access door with a new stainless steel Cajun Bandit door like you see on the 18.5 inch smoker. Other than that, the smoker is in great condition!

I'll use this larger smoker whenever we do ribs or whenever we have family events.  Approximately 40% more space is afforded to the larger 22.5 inch smoker compared to the 18.5 inch smoker.

Edit Note:  Upgraded the door and latch on the 22.5 inch smoker:

Best Selling Kitchen Items

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Arlington Park Racetrack

Today at Arlington Park racetrack... third race. We learned to pan our cameras. Good times, but hot. Glad we had a breeze though! Thank to everyone who came to learn and practice with me!

Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Seventh Smoking With The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker - Country Style Ribs with Apple Wood Smoke

Still on my smoker kick! This time, Country Style Ribs!
Smoked with apple wood with only rub on the country ribs at 225 degrees for 1.5 hours and then removed and placed into an aluminum foil pan and sauced up with Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce. Aluminum foil was used to cover the pan up tight and then returned to the smoker for another 1.5 hours. Finally, removed the country ribs from the foil and returned to the smoker's grill grate for 15 minutes.
Not bad! I had to do these country ribs since my very first use of the smoker dried out the country ribs a little too much since I didn't know the smoker yet. But since then, every cook for the last six times have been getting better and better! I'm getting used to smoking now.

I have to say, the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker smoker is really nice.  It is actually easier to do smoking than grilling on my Weber Spirit E-310 propane gas grill.  With the gas grill, I have to stand and keep and eye on the grilling all the time.  But with a smoker and a remote thermometer, I don't do anything except spray some apple juice every now and then, go out and wrap the meat and unwrap it in an hour.  One last trip to the smoker's grill grate and it's done!  It may take longer, but it's really easier on the long run.

Friday, June 09, 2017

The Sixth Smoke With The Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker Smoker and ThermoWorks Smoke Thermometer/Alarm - Baby Back Ribs

A lot of "firsts" on this cooking of ribs!

I got to use my new ThermoWorks Smoke 2-channel thermometer / alarm.  It worked perfectly!  I was able to stay inside and monitor the entire cooking process without having to run outside and open the smoker to take a temperature.  Every time you open the lid to the smoker, you lose heat and smoke.  By having the remote, I could easily tell how the meat was doing and how hot the temperature of the smoker was at the grate level.

I also got a new access door for the Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker smoker too!  Made by Canjun Bandit, this new door and latch is a huge improvement over the standard door from Weber.  Made of a thicker gauge stainless steel, the door helps cut down heat loss and smoke loss.  Through the access door, I got to use my new Panacea Products fireplace poker too.  It worked great by pulling coals towards me when needed.

As for the ribs, I used my fishing buddy Jim's secret recipe again, but this time, we cooked the baby back ribs without wood smoke!  My family decided that the wood smoke actually is not a desired component to this particular recipe, so we used the smoker strictly as a slow barbecue pit.  The ribs came out just great!  Still had a "smoke ring" too!  I suppose it was due to the charcoal.

I am getting better at cooking this way.  The thermometer makes it a lot easier to keep track of the cooking process.  Well worth the money in my opinion.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Panacea Products 15347 - 30" Black Fireplace Poker

Never thought I'd blog about a fireplace poker (especially in June!) but I have to say, this Panacea Products 15347 - 30" Black Fireplace Poker is extremely well made!

I needed something to move the coals around in my Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker smoker.  I first used a long wooden dowel rod because that's all I had available at the time.  Bad idea since the coals started burning the dowel rod!  I decided that the best thing would probably be to look into a fireplace poker, so I went to Amazon and searched and found this high quality, inexpensive poker.

I have to say, it is so well made for an item that's under $17 including shipping!  It's all one piece so nothing detaches or can be broken or lost.  It does the job well too!  The small hook at the end of the poker allows me to pull coals towards me or push it to another location.  The hook on the other end allows it to be hung on something too if I want.

I've put a link to the poker if you need one.  Click on it and order one if you have a wood fireplace or a smoker!