One of our dogwood trees is really putting on a show these last couple of weeks:

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Quote of the Day

“We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” ― Winston Churchill

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“A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.” ― Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967

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Laser Mosquito Zapper

I am irrationally excited about this “photonic fence” that uses lasers to track and kill bugs.  Here is the IEEE article, which makes valid points about fighting malaria:

Laser Bug Zapper Inches To Market

Favorite quote: “We cooked the bug with a lot lower power than we had thought possible.”—Arty Makagon, Intellectual Ventures

CAN. NOT. WAIT. When can I have this at my house? I might be making pew pew “laser” noises at my desk right now.

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Relatives in the news

How neat. Congrats Jean!

Jean Ippolito is the 2015 recipient of the Alice B. Tompkins Community Service Award, given annually by the Community Roundtable of Brandon.

2015-03-19_Jean Ippolito charity award


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QotD – Tax Season Edition

“Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” – Frederic Bastiat, 1848

Full text here, which should be required reading:


Text copied below so you have no excuse not to read it: For extra credit, read Bastiat’s extended essay “The Law”, a fast read well worth your time.

Continue reading

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“Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible for anyone to accomplish.” – Marcus Aurelius

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Ski Winterplace WV

Yeah I know I just got back from skiing in Utah. Ski season is short here in NC, and you kinda have to take what you can get, and go as often as you can. 21″ of fresh snow at Winterplace + friends skipping work to go play = me spending all day Friday on the slopes:) Temps were really cold too, with a high somewhere in the teens. Bright sun and almost no wind meant I actually managed to stay warm and enjoy the best snow of the year.


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Thermal Imaging Camera

We finally broke down and bought an infrared camera (its for work, I swear). The Seek thermal camera is (I think) the first to market for android devices. You just plug it into the usb port, and use the app and device/phone display to operate the camera.

Naturally, Kevin was playing with it 5 minutes after it arrived. The colors auto-scale to whatever the camera is looking at, so each color does not represent an absolute temperature, just the relative temperature within that shot. Here is Cody and his cold nose:

Taken with SAMSUNG-SGH-I337, Android 4.4.2

When I got home from my ski trip, we both though this photo of me with a cup of hot tea came out pretty neat:

Continue reading

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Ski Park City UT

Took a ski trip with some friends to the Park City and Canyons ski resorts in Utah last week. This is the first time I’ve skied out west, and I am now officially spoiled forever. All the talk is true, east coast skiing is pathetic in comparison. The resorts in Utah are huge and absolutely amazing, and we had an awesome time. I will definitely be back.

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“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.” ” – Robert A.Heinlein, Time Enough for Love (1973)

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Ski Beech

Actually managed to take a group photo during a ski day a couple of Fridays ago. Its a sort of terrible cell phone shot, but in fairness, the weather was pretty terrible and it looked about like that in person anyway. Waterproof outer layers, friends, and surprisingly decent snow for most of the day meant it was fun regardless of the wet and foggy conditions.


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January Moto

This weekend, it turned out that Sunday was even warmer than Saturday, when we went on a hike (evidence below), with highs in the 50s and sunny. In the middle of January. This is part of why I love North Carolina. Sometimes we get real winter weather here, but mostly we don’t. NC also has the best motorcycle riding roads in the North America (ok, the southern Appalachian’s have the best roads if you want to be accurate).

This photo from our moto tag ride this Sunday turned out kinda neat. (You know, ’cause we need more photos of our motorycles).


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A sunny winter hike

It was a beautiful warm and sunny NC winter day today. Highs in the upper 40s are nearly moto riding temperatures (for me, Kevin is good to go), but Cody was really glad we decided to  put cabin fever at bay and go for a five mile hike instead.  Took just a few pics of what I think is our first hike of 2015, where we joined lots of other people enjoying being outside at the always lovely Hanging Rock State Park.

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Link – The Robot Cars are Coming

…and I STILL CAN’T WAIT. Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about robot cars.

This Wired article on Audi’s prototype self-driving car is an excellent report of the current state of technology for autonomous driving. It does a great job of dispelling the oddly pervasive (in my experience) myth that we’ll all just magically one day go from manual to fully robotic driving in cars with no steering wheels (or some such).  Instead, autonomous features are slowly being made available.

Check it out: I Rode 500 Miles in a Self-Driving Car and Saw the Future. It’s Delightfully Dull.

Some key quotes that I liked:

“Piloted driving is about safety and comfort.”

“Our experience is that our customer wants to accept first and understand first what they are getting, and what the limitations are as well,” says Schlinkheider. I don’t understand the opposition to robot cars at all. I get that some people like driving sometimes. I know I like the experience of driving on a curvy road. But not on a long, boring highway trip. Why the opposition to having options? Not everyone likes to drive all the time. Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to? Imagine the possibilities: safe texting and playing with your phone while going down the road, taking a nap, no more worries about drunk or impaired or tired driving, safe transportation for the elderly who really shouldn’t be driving any longer, blind people could have their own cars and use them by themselves. I could go on. The Audi car in the article isn’t there yet, but I have no doubt it will be eventually.

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Happy New Year 2015

Let’s start the year off right with more pictures of the neighbor’s horses in our front field from yesterday and today: (We got a fancy new lens for our camera for Christmas, so Kevin has been playing around with it. This photography thing definitely has a learning curve:)

2014 was another great  year for us, with the most obvious highlight being our epic moto trip to Alaska this summer. We don’t have any plans for trips on that scale for 2015, but we still have plenty to look forward to. Once again, we’re both excited about the coming year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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The Great 2014 Year End Link Dump

Lately, I have not been disciplined about curating interesting links, and posting them here regularly like I have in the past. Every time I look at my saved links, I get lazy, and think, “I’ll post that later.” The list has gotten quite long, and some of the links are getting a bit old. But there’s a whole bunch of really good stuff in there, covering a wide range of subjects. I can’t pick just one, so I’m going to clear out the list, and start 2015 off with a blank slate. Thus, I give you The Great 2014 Year End Link Dump. Happy Reading and Happy New Year! (You can thank me for the distraction later).

Moto/Auto Links:
Electric MotoCzysz E1pc Is Epic
Brammo Gets Dirty With Six Speeds
Visual Dictionary: Funny Motorcycle Terms You Should Know

People saying interesting things:
An interview with Lorde (I’m not supposed to admit I like her music but I do)
Quite Simply The Greatest Graduation Speech Ever Given. And Just 335 Words Long
50 Reasons We’re Living Through the Greatest Period in World History
An opinion on gun control – I kind of just want to point people to this rather than repeat myself over and over
Meet Patrick Byrne: Bitcoin Messiah, CEO of Overstock, Scourge of Wall Street – This guy is GREAT, and this article is fantastic
The Local-Global Flip, or, “The Lanier Effect”

Why Do Societies Give Up?
Chicago police stop immediate responses to burglaries and thefts
Government – by Frederic Bastiat, 1848 – should be mandatory reading
When Work Is Punished: The Tragedy Of America’s Welfare State

Retrotechtacular: Lighting the Way for Talkie Pictures with Optical Sound Recording
Celebrating 25 Years of Not Getting Lost Thanks to GPS
A Virtuoso Robot Band Whose Guitarist Has 78 Fingers (Of course Squarepusher wrote music for this)
AFTERGLOW – Lightsuit Segment (fun video)
A Rare Peek Inside Amazon’s Massive Wish-Fulfilling Machine

Design/Web Design
Why Jony Ive Shouldn’t Kill Off Apple’s Skeuomorphic Interfaces
Why Things Fail: From Tires to Helicopter Blades, Everything Breaks Eventually
How a Web Design goes straigh to hell – this. so much this.
Restaurant websites: Why are they so awful?
What I want from a restaurant website – again, The Oatmeal nails it :)

And finally, a couple of random food gifs
Chocolate Chip Cookies

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“For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday, and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Andrew’s Great Adventures – crossing paths again

Remember when we met Andrew Siess this summer at a rest stop in North Dakota, on our way to Alaska on an epic moto adventure? (Third picture down on this page.) Andrew is walking (and sometimes running, or sailing) around the world. He took a couple of months off from his journey earlier this year when he reached his home in MN (he started in Italy over two years ago).

About a month ago, I noticed his facebook page said he was on the move again, and in TN. So I emailed him.  Fast forward a bit, and we got a call the Monday before Thanksgiving saying he would reach Winston-Salem that evening.  Let’s see: Andrew the world traveler, a random guy we happened upon in ND this summer, is passing within about an hours’ moto ride of our house, and its an unusually warm and sunny 70°F day in NC. Clearly  no more work was getting done that day: I baked some brownies for him to fuel his journey, and we rode off to find Andrew along the side of the road.


We managed to find him on the road not far from the end of his day. As expected, Andrew’s trip is as fun and interesting as ever. At least, I get a huge kick out of it. Our afternoon mission morphed into an evening hanging out with more fellow travelers and moto enthusiasts, listening to the stories of varied experience I love so much. For Andrew’s part, he’s on his way east right now, headed for somewhere on the east coast of the US, where he’ll leave for Portugal, to walk to his starting location in Italy. Safe Travels Andrew!

P.S. – Here is a great video about Andrew’s friends finding and meeting up with him in Mongolia: IDEA Finds Andrew

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Rosetta Spacecraft Comet Landing

Humans are currently (as in literally right now, the morning of 11/12/2014) trying to land a robotic probe on a comet for the first time.

Aside from the incredible technical challenge, the Rosetta Orbiter and Philae Lander are just cool; the lander has harpoons (space harpoons!) and thrusters and drills. Plus, the graphic supplied by the ESA (yeah, official graphic from the European Space Agency) in this article has an Imperial Star Destroyer in it for scale. That might be my favorite part.

The linked article has nice graphics and information explaining the mission, timeline, and links to more info. Good Luck Rosetta team!

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Quote of the Day – Election Day Edition

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” ― H.L. Mencken

The longer version:

“When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost… All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
― H.L. Mencken, Baltimore Sun (26 July 1920)

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Trail Riding Pics

Peak fall leaves + perfect 70-some degrees and sunny Sunday afternoon + horseback riding through beautiful Pilot Mountain State park = Awesome

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Update Fall 2014 – Now with book recommendations

I haven’t blogged since returning from our trip, and even though we haven’t done much worth blogging about in the last two months (mostly just work and a few moto-tag day rides), I want to post that first post-trip entry, as sort of an official acknowledgement that life has returned to normal.

In the past, returning to the obligations of “normal” life after a long trip felt like a big let-down. Being at home paying the bills and getting the groceries and going to work is obviously not nearly as fun as riding to exciting new destinations for weeks on end. I couldn’t wait to leave on another adventure, and planning future trips provided some of my motivation to get up and go to work every day. Not as much this time. While I was briefly disappointed that our grand Alaska motorcycle adventure was coming to a close, we otherwise have a lot to look forward to. While work is called work for a reason, the drudgery is outweighed by several projects ahead of us that are really exciting. We’re also making real progress on our new house, which we may someday get to actually build. Plus, while I love traveling, I also really like being at home, and its nice to be able to spend time with family and friends after not seeing those people for two months. In short, I am grateful that awesome motorcycle adventures aren’t the only thing I have to look forward to.

That said, life right now is pretty quiet, and mostly involves work. So, here are a couple of books I’ve really enjoyed recently:

Far Pastures – by R.M. Patterson

Far Pastures by R.M. Patterson

Far Pastures by R.M. Patterson

About the author (copied from google books): “R.M. Patterson (1898-1984) moved to Canada when he realized that working in a London bank would never bring him happiness. He spent the remaining years of his life pursuing adventure in the Canadian West and was a delightfully evocative writer and an intrepid explorer. Authoring a total of five books about his excursions into the Canadian wilderness and his life on a southern Alberta ranch, Raymond Murray Patterson earned himself legions of fans and made Canada’s wilderness famous. “

It hadn’t occurred to me until we were traveling through the area how little history I really knew about the Canadian West. Virtually none probably covers it. Gold rush, harsh weather, and mosquitoes. While not a history book, Far Pastures is a collection of true stories of life in Canada’s west from the early 1900s through the 1950s, or from “horse to helicopter” as the author puts it. Both Kevin and I really enjoyed this book, which at times had us laughing out loud. I did not have any expectations of the north-country before traveling there; my views were a blank canvas, but we discovered that we both might like the Yukon and northern BC better than Alaska itself. Patterson’s descriptions of the landscape are full of beauty, wonder, and adventure, and allowed me to appreciate why he was so attracted to this part of the world.

Far Pastures was a gift to us from a friend we met on the trip who lives in Canada’s northwest, and who really nailed it by giving this book to us. We especially appreciated that so many of the places the author writes about were places we had actually been during this summer’s epic motorcycle adventure.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, and Other Lessons from the Crematory – by Caitlin Doughty

smokegetsinyoureyesAbout the author (copied from Amazon): “Caitlin Doughty is a licensed mortician and the host and creator of the “Ask a Mortician” web series. She founded the death acceptance collective The Order of the Good Death and cofounded Death Salon. She lives in Los Angeles. “

Basically, I love the author’s “ask a mortician” web series; aside from just shedding light on the difficult topic of death and modern postmortem practices, she’s smart, funny, and entirely right about the problems of modern death denial. For sure, modern American society does not do a good job of dealing with death. Her book is mostly a memoir that’s both illuminating and definitely entertaining.

Also, I added a link to my Goodreads “read” shelf (*points to right of page–>*), the “What I’ve been reading” link (under the Random category of links). I’ve mostly been remembering to add any books I’ve read to that Goodreads list, so if you are interested in what I’ve been reading, look there. What I am currently reading still shows up in the widget on the right called “currently reading.” (As long as I remember to update it).

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2014 Moto Alaska Photo Gallery

This gallery contains 126 photos.

There are too many photos to put the entire trip into one gallery (hundreds just seems too many to me), but I still like having a photo gallery as an easy way to scroll through the photos without combing through … Continue reading

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Moto AK – Trip Stats

As an aspiring map geek, you know I love to post maps of our trip routes. However, I’m annoyed, because GeoCommons, the usual service I use, is totally non-functional right now, and won’t let me upload any data. So here’s the trip route plotted using UMap, but I don’t know how to highlight the states and provinces we went through like I do on my GeoCommons map. It shouldn’t be that hard to make a simple map (like my usual Moto Tour Map), but I can’t find any other services that do what I want (even paid services). Maybe I need to look at desktop applications? But I don’t know where to start.

Anyway, this is our 2014 Moto Alaska Adventure: (click for larger image).

2014 Moto AK Route

2014 Moto Alaska Adventure Totals:

58 Days
13404 Miles
16 States
5 Canadian Provinces/Territories

Average miles per riding day (excluding <5 mi days): 274
Most miles in a day: 596 (This was a really big day for me)

Tent Camping: 32 nights
Hotels: 17 nights
Hosted: 8 nights

Edit 02/2015: For all of the posts and pictures from our Epic 2014 Moto Alaska Adventure, go here.

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