Prepare to enter a world of both shadow and substance

Take a journey of body, mind and spirit where you'll encounter things you won't find anywhere else.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

One Word Or Two?

I suppose it's only one word - PhotoShop, but whichever it is.... man, I love it! I found this older digital image of mine, one that wasn't very interesting initially, and went wild with all the different things I could do to it using that venerable Adobe program everybody is so familiar with. What's that you say - you're not familiar with it? Well take a look at the shot below and consider looking up where to get this program. It's sold on many online stores and can probably be found at your local big box computer store. I thoroughly enjoy bringing to life an old image that was fairly crappy to begin with. By using this powerful program, you, too can discover the joys of saving some of your old photos and making them into something much more interesting to look at.


Recently, I had an opportunity to visit Logan's Roadhouse once again. The main reason I like to go back is that their steaks are always tender; they can almost be cut with a fork! When you walk in the place to get seated, the first thing you notice is all the peanut shells all over the floor. They provide each table with a mini-bucket full of peanuts and it's customary to crack them open and throw the empty shells on the floor. Most people love the chance to be messy out in public, hence the fact that every time a server comes near your table, you hear the floor start to crunch as they walk past. Sort of like a radar signal alerting you to their approach. I'll admit that I don't follow the tradition. I feel that I don't throw trash on my floor at home and I'm certainly not going to do it somebody else's place. It doesn't seem sanitary. The young couple across the aisle from me had two kids and they were all eating the peanuts and tossing the shells. I noticed the young mother doing it and every time the waiter came crunching by, gave her a stern look. I think she got my meaning after awhile. I hated to be that way, but it was quite annoying to hear and hard to enjoy my meal with all the noise.

After you've made your order, but before it's served, they bring out their famous sweet rolls for you to munch on. I'll spread mine with a generous dollop of butter and it's hard to stop eating them. But, knowing that my main order is coming soon, I pull myself away.

This time, I tried their house steak, "The Logan." On the menu, they tout it as being their best steak, and I'll have to admit, it was very good.

Cooked to perfection, medium-rare as I requested, it was placed in front of me with the macaroni and cheese still sizzling in it's dish. It's hard to know just where to start when a sight like this greets you, but I grabbed a knife and fork and cut my steak up for a quick mouthful. I had waited quite long enough already for the taste of sirloin. I consider myself a carnivore and love meat and potatoes over desserts. Before long, my meal was finished and it was time to go. I'll have to get back there soon.

If you're ever driving down the road around lunchtime and come upon a restaurant that looks like this, stop in. I don't think you'll be disappointed with whatever you order. I'd suggest a steak, though, over the other items they feature on their menu. Bon appetit!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Old Portraits

Recently, I purchased a new scanner and the great thing about it is that it can scan film negatives. So, I've been going through my collection of old negatives and finding lots of interesting images. Here are some portraits I did here and there and I think they turned out pretty good. Yes, looking back, they're not too bad. Photography is certainly a fun hobby to have!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Shawnee National Forest Photo Expedition

Recently, I was part of a group of photographers whose combined efforts would encompass the Earth. There was a project called One Rokkor Around The World which was started on which consisted of one 50mm Minolta Rokkor prime lens which would be used by people all over the globe on their own Minolta film camera bodies and then passed on to the next person in the group. Each user would have two weeks with which to use the lens and document what their area looked like. The project is still ongoing, but you can see some of the pictures that have been posted so far to the group pool here.
Now, my area isn't the most picturesque, but we do have the Shawnee National Forest. It is very beautiful there and not that far from my home, so I considered it to be in my area. While taking pictures for the project, I travelled far and wide in search of scenes which represented my area. Here are some I found while driving all around the Shawnee National Forest area.

A little country church in Hardin County called Pleasant Ridge.

A view from down in the canyon at Bell Smith Springs.

The stone stairway leading up out of the canyon at Bell Smith Springs.

On the observation trail at the Garden of the Gods. A sudden storm developed while I was there.

One of the scenic vistas at the Garden of the Gods.

You can see an eagle flying high overhead above some of the rock formations at the Garden of the Gods.

Another beautiful view of the scenic overlooks found at the Garden of the Gods.

Here is the swimming area found at Pounds Hollow.

And lastly, the beautiful waters found around Pounds Hollow.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

After The Storm

When late Spring and early Summer storms move into the Midwest, they usually move quickly and carry heavy rains, strong winds and thunder and lightning. They are beautiful and they are breath-taking. They are powerful and they are unbiased. And they can be deadly. And then just as suddenly as they appear - they are gone. Here is one from birth to death.

The first thing that usually happens is the storm front moves into the area, turning a perfectly clear sky to blackness within minutes.

Black, swirling miasmas with fingery tendrils of everchanging wisps. Stealing the day and bringing mock night.

Spilling over the calm skies until nothing but blackness remains.

A seemingly living, breathing entity who's only desire is to paint everything in onyx shrouds.

Once the front moves through, hard on it's heels come the rains. Sometimes they can be quite heavy. A couple years ago, we once got a foot of rain in less than an hour. That's what causes flash flooding and death. Fortunately, my town seems to be on higher ground. I have seen the flood waters reach the edge of my town about 2 blocks from where my house sits. So, who knows how safe we actually are?

After the rains stop falling, there is a moment when everything pauses. The winds stop crying out and the water stops coming down in torrents. A butterfly flits wildly about looking for a place of safety and lands inside the leaves of a sheltering bush before the next wave hits. If there is to be a next wave this time. Sometimes there are second, third and fourth waves. In this case, when it was over, no more cells followed.

There are subtle reminders left behind of what these storms are capable of. A jagged limb lying on the ground. Sudden puddles where once there were none. A leaf that only a moment ago was alive and clinging to a tree in the warm afternoon sun.

Sometimes high above, although there is calm at ground level, there are signs of the violence these storms can unleash. Above are some Mammatus clouds which indicate extreme winds high above. These kinds of formations are dangerous for pilots and airplanes.

Once the danger has passed, what remains of the day starts struggling to reassert itself. The sun spreads a glow that slowly infiltrates through the haze of the trailing edges of the vanishing storm clouds.

And finally, the sun comes blazing forth with the promise of a new day to come tomorrow. All is forgiven and forgotten.

Monday, June 14, 2010


Yesterday, ABC News released a story about how the "Obama administration" would be releasing information today, Monday, June 14th, 2010, that the United States government would stop sending checks of any kind and convert everything to "Direct Deposit." I reported that story to you here on this blog.
I watched 3 and a half hours of televised news today, Monday, June 14th, 2010, on four different news networks and there was not one single word mentioned about this announcement.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

You Heard It Here First!

In my June 1st, 2010 post located here, I wrote about Direct Deposit and how someday it might become the only method the government uses to pay it's citizens. How prophetic was that? Tomorrow, June 14th, 2010, the Obama administration will announce that all payments from the government will now be made to consumers electronically, i.e. "Direct Deposit." I knew it would be here eventually, but never suspected that it would come this soon. But, then, Barack Obama is on an agenda which seems to be time-sensitive, so everything is happening fast these days.
American citizens receiving payments for Social Security, unemployment insurance, veteran's benefits, IRS tax refunds, railroad retirement and government benefits will now find the money automatically deposited into their personal bank accounts. It's just like I predicted - call me clairvoyant!
Why the shift to direct deposits? According to ABC News sources, for two reasons. One, it will be easier and faster for consumers to get paid and, two, it will save taxpayers money – an estimated $303 million over the first five years and about $120 million each year after that. Do you think your taxes are likely to go down because of this maneuver? Me neither.
The article from ABC went on to say: For instance, despite repeated attempts to get recipients to convert to electronic payments, the Treasury Department still mails out more than 136 million benefit checks each year. I suppose that many checks per year means that a lot of people didn't want Direct Deposit; count me among those people. But, after all, it is America - where we have the freedom to choose which method we want. Right....? Freedom? Guess again.
Now, as part of President Obama's effort to eliminate waste and modernize government for taxpayers, that will change with Monday's announcement of a complete shift to direct deposits. Obama is changing a lot of things; and he's doing it quicker than anybody before him ever did. Oh, sure - the "Obama administration" will make it sound like they're only doing it for good reasons to help the American people, but don't let it fool you. It's his ulterior motives that have brought about the announcement and change.
"[The] announcement is a win-win for the American public because it makes government more convenient and cost-effective while generating significant savings for the country," said Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag. "This is precisely the type of smart, streamlined improvement that this administration is committed to making across government to boost efficiency and modernize how we do business."
That's a bunch of hogwash. What he plans on doing is eliminating the Post Office. Think about it for just a moment. If your telephone doesn't work and the internet goes down, (guess who controls the internet - the government.), just how will you communicate with loved ones or convey information from one part of the country to the other if you can't mail a letter? The ability to mail letters is one of our basic freedoms, don't let them legislate it away as simple "economizing measures."
Wake up, America! Before it's too late. If the "Obama administration" succeeds with their plans, (and who is really doing anything to stop them?), there won't be an election this November. This country, as you and I know it, will not be functioning in the way it used to. It simply won't be the United States of America any longer. Maybe in name only.
Do you want your family and loved ones to survive the coming "fundamental transformation?" You'd better start stocking up on foods that won't need refrigeration. Don't be caught without a way to feed your starving family - you owe them that much.

First Time At Mimmo's Pizza

Mimmo's Pizza is located in my hometown of Norris City, Illinois, right on Division Street. They've been open for about a year now, but I hadn't heard about them until recently. And, loving pizza like I do, it was naturally only a matter of time until I paid them a visit.

It was just before the evening dinner rush as we made our way into the cozy little restaurant. I was treating my dad out that night, so we got their early to get a good seat and enjoy the air conditioning. I'd seen their front window before, but had never been inside. And yes, I do have their delivery number memorized!

Once we were seated inside, I began to look around at the place. They had a small salad bar that I'm sure would be well-stocked during lunchtime.

The decor was nice and what you'd usually expect to find in an Italian restaurant here in the midwest of the United States. Nice, solid chairs and tables, (although our table wobbled just a little bit), and prints emblazoned with scenes of Italy, clowns and pizza chefs.

Of course the only fixture in the place I was really interested in, was the pizza oven; which I could see through the window behind the front counter. The guy rolling the dough and making the pizzas was smooth in his work and knew exactly what he was doing. I've made lots of pizzas in my days and even worked at a couple pizza parlors, so I can recognize experience when I see it.

Soon the waitress brought our orders. My father had ordered the spaghetti and meatballs, but I wanted pizza. (What else!?) So, she placed the hot pan on the table first and then brought out his spaghetti. I noticed it had some large meatballs and looked very tasty. I ordered a thin crust sausage and mushroom pizza, so I only had eyes for the pie.

Here are a couple of luscious-looking slices on my plate. They're not the first slices I took, I forgot to get a picture of those, but these are some right after I'd had a few pieces and burned the roof of my mouth. That always happens because I can't wait for it to cool properly. When the waitress had first taken our order I found out that Mimmo's only served Pepsi products. What's up with that? It seems like every pizza parlor always has Pepsi instead of Coca Cola, which is my favorite cola. It must be a conspiracy. I don't know, maybe I'll have to contact the F.B.I. to look into it. I'm certain they'll get right on it.
Now, I don't go out to eat that often, (you'd hardly know that if you're a regular reader of Photo Journey and have seen all the other restaurant critiques I've posted), so I had the brilliant idea to order a bigger pizza so that there would be some left to take home and snack on later or tomorrow. The large pizza was $10 something, but they had three larger sizes as well. The largest one, a 20" pie was only $3 more, so I figured it was a good deal. 20" was written in the same font as all the other sizes, so it didn't mean that much to me. All I was thinking was that I was about to have pizza.
Well, when the waitress laid it down on our table, I looked at it and it was huge! It took up nearly half of the tabletop! I don't think I've seen a pizza this big in 30 years:

I started eating and it was aromatic and very tasty. I can highly recommend Mimmo's if you're in the mood for pizza, pasta or subs. They offer all three. But, you know what I'll be having next time. Count on it. We finished eating about the time the place started filling up with the evening dinner crowd. We saw several people we knew, so it must be quite the popular place already. I hope everybody keeps going there and that they do a lot of local business. That will insure that Mimmo's will stay open for a long time to come. Seeing as how I live only four blocks from them, I'm sure I'll be calling their delivery service soon. We boxed up our leftovers and walked outside. Of course, I had to take one last look before saying goodbye. Be sure to look for this sign if you're ever through these parts:

One great thing about going out for pizza is that there is usually some left to box up and take home for later. Seeing as how I had ordered Pizza-zilla, there was plenty left. So, I'll be eating on this baby for awhile. One of the greatest sights mankind can ever know:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mercury Blues

I just learned of another terrible blow to the United States auto industry. Ford announced plans today to kill off it's 71 year-old Mercury division by the end of the year. Yet another great old marque lost in the last decade. It started with the loss of Chrysler killing off it's storied Plymouth brand and was followed quickly by the oldest U.S. auto brand, Oldsmobile, being ditched by General Motors. Just last year, GM announced it was shutting down Pontiac, Saturn and then the Hummer brand of trucks. And now, this.... No more Mercurys. Being a car guy my whole life, this is particularly distressing to me. I've owned a lot of those brands in the past and now I won't ever be able to buy another one unless it's old and used to begin with.
I'm telling you, people.... this world can't continue on like it's been going the last few years - something's got to give. It's time you gathered up your family members and made peace with them. While you still can. There's about to be some very bad times soon. Get ready before it's too late.
And now a look at a few of my old cars whose brand names have gone to that great junkyard in the sky:

My full-sized 1985 Mercury Grand Marquis LS

My 1974 Pontiac Grand Prix LX

And lastly, a 1969 Oldsmobile 98 LS

I also had a 1957 DeSoto, but they stopped making that brand back in 1961; so I guess you can't count those in this recent rash of closures. Still, a mighty storied car company in it's day, though.

Good Things Are Coming To You In Due Of Time

After presenting a picture in my last post of the egg roll I recently enjoyed during a trip to a restaurant I hadn't tried before, it reminded me that I hadn't yet put up my pictoral review of said establishment. Well, let me now rectify this matter!
Said establishment being an authentic Chinese eatery called the New World Restaurant, located at the end of the mall on 1411 West Main Street, in Fairfield, Illinois. A friend of mine and myself stopped in for a late lunch about two weeks back and by arriving after the noontime rush, had the place all to ourselves for most of our meal. Our waiter, who also happened to be the owner took our drink orders, (we planned to eat at the buffet), and was quite cordial to us. We stepped up to the sumptuously-stocked buffet and availed ourselves of the huge variety offered there. Now, Chinese food has long been a favorite of mine and when confronted with the challenges of a buffet such as this, which had so many different choices, I knew I would really have to make my selections wisely. It is impossible to try eveything, so you have to go for your most favorite items first and let the chips fall where they may.
As far as I'm concerned, no proper Chinese meal should start without that venerable classic, and a dear favorite of mine, Egg Drop Soup. Based on chicken stock, it features lightly-beaten eggs drizzled into the boiling soup stock and allowed to feather out into tiny tendrils of chickeny goodness. It was such a good beginning that I ended up having two small bowls before I got properly started with the solid foods. I hope the picture below can do it the slightest justice, for it was wonderful indeed!

After I had ladled out a second helping of the egg drop soup, I started building my plate of favorites. There seemed to be just a little bit more to choose from than I had seen before in other restaurants, so it was a tough choice to narrow it down to just what would fit on one plate. I can't remember everything I had, but maybe by looking at the picture below, it will help jog my memory just a little bit.

Of course, you have to include at least one egg roll proper with your meal; which I did. Next came the required crab rangoons, a crispy delight of both myself and my sister as well. She's the one who really turned me on to them long ago. Next I chose an oregano chicken combination which smelled as good as it tasted. I also had a pork dish which had the tiny, whole mushrooms in it. (I could eat mushrooms in just about anything.) There were some breaded shrimp, chicken nuggets for sweet and sour chicken, and I also chose a fried chicken wing. You can't go wrong with chicken as your main meat and I try to cook with it as much as I can. Before I ate the egg roll, I was sure to pose it on a napkin and get a portrait of it.

I suppose the owner liked photography as well and must have seen me taking the pictures I usually do when trying out a new restaurant (I sound like a restaurant critic - honest, I'm not! I just love food) for he came over and struck up a conversation about my Konica Minolta digital slr. He asked about the need for different lenses and what filters I could suggest. The lens I had on my camera body at that moment was a great little zoom lens that covers wide angles from 18mm all the way up to a very useful 70mm short telephoto length. It's great for closed spaces such as indoor at restaurants. I informed him that with today's lenses, which come already coated with light-correcting properties, that there is no real need for u/v or haze filters. He seemed pretty intrigued with the particular setup I was using, so I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't have a mid-range digital camera similar to mine soon. After he had left me and my dining companion, she leaned forward and told me about the tragic history the man had gone through. His whole family had moved there and opened the restaurant and it had been doing well in the small community of about 6000 people. But a couple years later, due to an automobile accident, most of his family were killed. I think she said that only two members of the family remained alive; him and his neice I think. He shut the restaurant down for a while, which is understandable, but finally opened it back up due to popular demand. I'm thankful he did, for his menu is outstanding and the food was excellent.

We were almost finished with our meal when some mutual acquaintances walked in with grandkids in tow. It had been raining on and off all day, so they hadn't gotten to pick fresh strawberries like planned. The kids wanted Chinese food, so they ended up at the New World Restaurant like us and seated themselves at the table next to ours. We chatted back and forth for a while before finally finishing and receiving the check.

The owner brought out the prerequisite fortune cookies to cap off our meal with and, call me superstitious or whatever, but I always open mine, eat the cookie and then read my fortune. The title of this post were the words the slip of paper inside the crunchy cookie revealed. I don't know how accurate these things are - they can't really be very specific - so I usually read them and forget them a few moments later. This one had the usual lottery numbers below the message and one other thing you don't usually find in your average fortune cookie. At least, I never remember seeing anything like it before; and I've eaten a lot of fortune cookies. I still have all the fortunes to show for it, too. (I'm a collector of trivial items such as this.) Call me old fashioned if you must, but when I get a fortune cookie, I think of all those old Charlie Chan movies and expect urgent fortune cookie messages such as "Help! I'm being held prisoner in a Chinese laundry!" Maybe the times really are a' changing for, there in tiny, precise letters at the bottom of my fortune were the words: Want more? Visit

I feel like it must be the Year of the Horse and I'm the old grey mare that should be put out to pasture already. I must be getting old.

Comment Moderation

I didn't want to have to do this, but I'm afraid that with all the spam I've been getting on certain posts lately, I'm going to have to moderate my comments for awhile. Hopefully, I will soon be able to revert back to the regular way of allowing comments to just appear when they're written. Maybe when all the spammers realize they're not able to spam anymore, they'll stop doing it and I can go back to normal. That's my hope anyway. I do want to make it perfectly clear that this action has absolutely nothing to do with any of my regular readers or anything they might have done. I treasure each and every comment from anybody that goes to the trouble of leaving them; when they do it for a legitimate reason, that is. But, to write gibberish in a language I can't even make out is just not cool. And now for one happy picture before I go. This was one course of a recent lunch outing I made to a local Chinese buffet - yum yum! One egg roll: