Sunday, May 16, 2021

Camping at Eisenhower State Park at Lake Melvern was a Success with Cold and Rain

Lake Melvern Damn from One of Our Walks

Carrie, Oliver, and I went on our first camping adventure May 10 - 12, 2021. Our location was Eisenhower State Park located on Lake Melvern. Carrie had researched a number of camp sites and spots at various sites. We settled on 5 Star Camp Ground located in the Eisenhower State Park. We selected lot 514 and after arriving, we changed to 516. Going in the middle of the week, there was no one else in our camp area that was camping, so we were able to change without any issue. We were pleased with site 516. Great view of the lake, paths to hike, and most important, a good spot to pitch our tent. 

We both took off work for our camping adventure. I ended up taking the whole week off even though we were camping three days. We attended Erins’ graduation Friday following our camping trip, so it worked out to take the whole week. Plus, as it turns out, after camping three days, I could use the rest on Thursday. It also helped that I needed to mow, so that happened Thursday.

Packed Full Car with Camping Items

Carrie did a lot of research on camping. She has been watching video blogs (vlogs) and we have watched a few of them together. She got a lot of great ideas from the vblogs. Ideas from lights, washing dishes, to how to cook. We had also ordered a number of items to take on our trip which was from her research and included mats that self inflate and have foam, better sleeping bags, a rug for the tent, and then spots for our shoes inside and out of the tent. This means we had a lot of items to pack for the car. Not to mention items for Oliver that we were taking too. A three day, two night, camping experience meant we had the back completely packed with items with the seat next to Oliver also packed to the ceiling. I believe Carrie was holding items in her lap as there was no place else to put it in the car. Luckily, the drive to the camp site was only about 45 minutes.

Our Camp Site Before Setting Up with All of Items

Site 516 was close to the water with a little trail down to the water. We later found out it was a hot fishing spot to catch Crappie as we saw people in there fishing throughout the three days we were there and they were catching a lot of fish. One guy on our last day caught his limit, left, and came back to fish more. We watched them catch fish and decided at some point our future camping experience, we will fish and enjoy that experience too.

Really, site 516 was perfect with the location, the fire pit, and then we ended up putting our tent to the west of the large tree in the picture to the left. It was a nice flat spot for the tent. We used a tarp to set our tent on so that moisture from the ground would not come up through the tent. As it turned out, good we did as it rained on us pretty hard on the second morning we were there… More on this later on in the story.

Wide Shot of Our Camp Site

It did not take long at all to set up our tent and get situated with our camp site. Staked out Oliver while we set up our tent, got the picnic table situated, and made preparations for a light lunch which included chicken salad sandwiches. It was a good way to start our camping experience. Check-in for our site was anytime after 2 pm, so we had a late lunch and a chance to enjoy the scenery. As we were beginning to set up our tent, we noticed a tick on the tent. It would be one of two we would see the whole time we were camping, but still have to be careful. We will be inspecting Oliver, and ourselves, over the next several days. We did take bug spray for ticks, chiggers, and mosquitos, so hopefully that helped for us. Then Oliver of course takes a pill to prevent ticket or flea bites that I had just given to him a week earlier. 

Fire Pit and Grill Combo Unit

Monday afternoon following lunch, we spent reading, and looking at the beautiful surroundings. We went on a late afternoon walk down the road to see what was beyond our camp site. We found the bathroom facilities that included a swing set we would return to upon our return back to our camp site. Following our little walk, we returned to our camp site to prepare for dinner. We were grilling skirt steak with veggies in aluminum foil to make fajitas. We thought we had read on the Eisenhower State Park site that there were full grills on site, but we found only in-ground grill with the ability to do a fire pit from the same location. It worked out well, but took a little bit to get the hang of the fire using charcoal. It took a while to cook the veggies or at least longer than we thought it should take, so Carrie finished them off in a pot over a flame. Overall, the dinner turned out great and following dinner we had a fire pit where we sat around, drank wine, and played games. It was a little chilly that first night, so the fire helped. Oliver started having some reaction to the smoke where he was having problems breathing, so we decided to call it a night and head to bed.

The first night it was really cold in our tent. It was around 45 outside and could feel every bit of it in the tent. From being outside around the fire pit, Oliver was pretty cold or at least we thought he was cold. We kept him bundled up and checked on him throughout the night. I know Carrie and I both commented the next day how cold we were as my nose, shoulders, and arms were cold. Hanging my arm out of the sleeping bag and I could feel the cold take over my whole arm before withdrawing back into the sleeping bag for warmth. 

Carrie and I both commented at how poorly we slept the first night. My issue was that each time I was about to fall asleep, I would hear a train and the whistle from the train. I think they were going all night long about every 30 minutes. It sounded as though they were right outside of our tent. At one point, I thought they were done, but then they started up again about 3 am and went until about 6:30 or 7 with every 30 minutes I could hear the rumble of the freight cars before the train would blow the whistle. It was a bit frustrating, but learned something that first night that Carrie had prepared for as she knew I would likely be snoring without my CPAP machine, so she wore ear plugs, but even then she said she did not sleep well.

Inside Tent Tuesday Morning During Rain Storm

The following morning (Tuesday), I got up about 6 am as I could not sleep hearing the train whistles all night. I took Oliver on a short walk to let him out. It was rather nice at 6 am. Still chilly but that was about all. We knew prior to leaving for our camping adventure that there was a chance of rain all three days. We watched the percentages go up and down the weeks leading up to our camping dates. The first day was nice overall with it being cold in the evening. Tuesday the weather said chance of rain 40% and it would start about 9 am. Sure enough, after returning from walking Oliver, Carrie was up for a short time, and then about 9 am it started to rain. It rained constantly until about noon. We remained in the tent the whole time. Having not slept well during the night, we used the time to try and sleep. I slept off and on through the morning while taking pictures and even a video of the rain from within the tent. Not the way we had imagined our first morning camping to occur, but we have to roll with the weather and made the best of the start of our first full day of camping.

The afternoon was much better on Tuesday. We went for a long walk all over the camp site. We made the full loop that we had walked partially on Monday afternoon. We figured out where the beach, other camping sites, and the cabins were located. We returned back to our camp site where we spent the remainder of the afternoon with chairs in front of our tent facing the lake, reading, and drinking beer. This was our second interaction with a fisherman fishing at the “hot fishing spot”. This time I watched him catch fish after fish. It looked like fun and made me want to fish again.

Tuesday night we had planned to grill and fire pit again, but as the evening started, the chill set in again, and it started to sprinkle with forecast saying it would rain until about 11. So, we changed our dinner plans and instead of grilling, we did leftovers from the night before, potatoes, peppers, onions, and cheese in a pot over the gas stove we had taken with us. It turned out great with some tortillas that we warmed over the open flame. As we finished dinner, the rain was picking up a bit more, so we decided to turn into the tent and watch a movie. We set up our cooler so we could easily access for beverages, and then set up the iPad so we could watch a movie we had downloaded prior to leaving from Netflix. A nice cozy evening and we were sleeping by midnight.

Oliver and John Walking on Wednesday Morning

Our second night of sleep was much better. Carrie loaned me some ear plugs so I would not have to listen to trains throughout the night. I am not sure I moved the entire night. I woke up about 6 am again, but felt much better after a full-nights sleep. We awoke to a much warmer morning and then sun was shining. It was beautiful out as we got about our day. I took Oliver on a walk and opened the screens on the tent so that light showed in from the front and back of the tent. As I returned from taking Oliver on walk, Carrie was up and preparing for the day. Carrie made us coffee and then eggs, bacon, and cheese along with toast. A perfect morning to finish our camping adventures.

Wonderful Camp Site to Start Our Camping ExperienceOverall, we were very pleased with Eisenhower State Park at Lake Melvern. The camping site, services, and views were just what we needed to help us start our camping adventures. We both look forward to many more camping adventures to come in the near future. We are already looking at locations and talking about making plans for our next site.

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Graduation for Ben and a Huge Congrats! Thank you for letting me Join you on this Journey.

Ben and John at Graduation for Ben Grad Day

Four years ago I became involved in mentoring for first generation college students at Washburn University through the Mabee Library. Through the process that was started I went to see Ben graduate on Saturday from Washburn University. I could not be more proud than I am to have Ben the past four years and see him graduate this weekend. It has been a pleasure to get to know Ben, see him progress through the semesters, and become a friend. 

Hopefully through the past four years, I was able to offer advice that helped in his college career. I told him from the start that I would not be one to rely on for help with homework, but if he needed to know who to talk to on campus, had questions about what to do, or just needed to talk, I was a visit or call away.

Post Graduation Picture of Ben

Congrats Ben! I look forward to staying in touch as you begin your post-college career. I am looking forward to our staying connected meeting every few months or if you need to just talk out something, you know I am available. 

Let the Camping Adventure Begin -- All Set for Our First Adventure


Picture of Our Tent Put up in Backyard
Carrie and I are ready for our first camping adventure. Carrie has spent the past few weeks since our initial test of putting up our tent (see Tent Set up and Happy Dog) back in April. Carrie has done a lot of research, we have our location selected, and our dates are set, she has ordered us air mattresses, pots, pans, and other odds and ends. We even have a lantern and lamps to wear on our heads.

I plan to document each of our camping trips taking pictures, posting updates, etc., upon our return. We are hoping to make this an experience that we do multiple times each spring. Eventually, we want to expand from doing camp sites in Kansas to camping in other locations and as a way to see the country and for the most part doing so rather cheaply. 

For our first camping trip, we are planning on a spot about 45 minutes from Topeka. We are doing two nights as it almost does not seem worth it to put up a tent and spend one night at a spot, so we are doing two on this first time. We are taking Oliver and I am not sure if he knows how excited he will be on this trip. All the new smells and all the places he can pee. The first site we have selected, as I am sure all sites, require pets to be kept on a leash. I am concerned about Oliver getting ticks or other insect bites, but he is current on his medication, so hopefully he will be alright. I think he will lose his mind as we explore our new camp site and process.

Any tips or recommendations that you have for camping?

Plans for Carrie and I are to play games, do a lot of reading, disconnect from technology (except for pictures), and exercise around the camp site taking long walks with Oliver. I think Carrie is excited for the cooking experience. I know we are both looking forward to the mornings and waking up to have a cup of coffee (which she bought camping coffee maker) and enjoying the mornings around our camp site.

Watch for future updates regarding our camping experiences and hopefully you will see more updates yet this year with other camping adventures. If you love to camp, where are your favorite camp sites? Any tips or recommendations that you have for camping?

Sunday, May 02, 2021

Graduation Day is Complete to Bring Closure to Completing Master of Arts in Leadership and Communication

Picture of John Celebrating Following Graduation
What a fun day! Graduation for Fall and Spring 2020 graduates occurred in-person on Saturday, May 1. What a wonderful way to bring in May and add closure to my time at Washburn completing my education. My time in the program officially ended in March February 2020. I remember I had a large final project to finish and a final presentation to give to end the program. It went very well and I was so glad that I was able to finish before work got crazy with COVID. It feels good to finish the program officially by walking across a stage, getting pictures, and celebrating with my family, friends, classmates, instructors, and staff from Washburn University. It was a special day and and so glad we were able to participate in graduation yesterday.

Congratulations to all the fall and spring 2020 graduates. We had a good showing with around 250 coming back to participate in the celebration. Congrats to the graduates for spring 2021 who will walk next Saturday. 

The weather was beautiful and got better as the celebration continued. Sunny but with a slight breeze although a few times there were slight wind gusts that blew off mortarboard for some. With guest limitations, I had requested four passes for guests. Carrie, Erin, and Greg were able to attend with Greg being a late add and I was happy to have them all in attendance. I could hear them cheering and celebrating.

Picture of Master of Arts Graduates
Master of Arts Graduates
(Pictured: Gene, John, Amber, Eileen, Lori, and Nicole)
We all met at 1:30 in the Dance Studio of Petro to get situated, robes, and ready for the event. Gene and I went up to another Master of Arts graduate office but who did not show up to walk to “borrow” some waters from his fridge. Thanks Bruce! We waited in the Dance Studio until almost 3 before they lined us up and starting the procession to Yager Stadium.

A production company was hired to do the filming and streaming of this graduation and they will do it again next week for the Spring 2021 graduation. They did a good job! Gene and I were most impressed with the drone that was used where they got some really nice shots of the graduates and the stadium from far off videos that look really good. 

The Master of Arts Graduates Following the Ceremony
Master of Arts Graduates
Following the ceremony, we went to the north end of the stadium to take pictures. Eileen and Amber were in every class I took during the program. Gene I had in a few classes and I believe the same for Lori and Nicole where they were in a few classes with me. I know I enjoyed having Amber and Eileen in the classes so we could discuss, meet, and worry about the various papers, projects, etc. throughout the four years. I recall having various lunch meetings with them, or asking to have a meeting with Dr. Routsong to discuss a question or two about a paper. I also remember some late nights spent working with Amber, Eileen, and others that did not attend to finish projects. I recall the first semester when I started this program I spent nights and weekends working on the paper(s). It was a fun process and I would encourage others thinking about going back to school to do so. This was a good program to complete as it was 100% on-line and I could complete at my own pace which was nice as I recall a few times needing to finish before the course officially ended for vacation or other events, so that made it nice to have some flexibility in the program. 

The graduation ceremony was broadcast live in the stadium and then also to YouTube. If you would like to watch the full graduation, you can do so at this link. I enjoyed the day and happy to be done. I recognized some others that were graduating that I did not know had completed their undergraduate work which included one of our former student workers, Allison, and then Josh from ITS also graduated, so I was able to talk to them both and congratulate them both.

The video clip below jumps straight to where the Master of Arts group is recognized and walks across the stage, so you can see me and fellow graduates of the program walk in the video below.

Following the ceremony, Carrie, Greg, Erin, and I went to find a place to celebrate. We had planned to drive to Lawrence to eat there and hang out, but decided to remain in Topeka. We tried Blind Tiger but as you would expect, it was packed, so we ended up at Happy Basset on 29th Street. We called Brenda and she came out to meet us for a drink before we headed to we had planned to be another bar and food, but ended up going to Yuki Restaurant of Japan so we had a full celebration where they cook on the table. It was a perfect end to a perfect day! Following dinner, we went to Sheridan’s Frozen Custard which capped off a perfect day.

Picture of Me Being done
Thanks to Carrie for her willingness to read over my papers before I would submit them to be graded. Sometimes she would not know or understand the content, but she was always willing to read them over and provide corrections. 

I relied on my Mom to proof read almost all of my papers and I appreciate her doing so. I know a few times we had issues sharing them remotely so that she could review and provide corrections, but it was appreciated. I also have to say thanks to my Aunt Jane who proofed a paper one summer when she was visiting. 

Thanks to Greg, Erin, Joan, and Eddie for encouragement as I went through the various classes.

Thanks to our instructors and specifically Dr. Routsong, Mr. Peterson, VP Mazachek, Dr. Schnoebelen, Dr. Pilgram, and countless others… Thanks to Communication and Leadership Departments for your help and encouragement. 

Finally, I would like to thank Eileen, Amber, Gene, Bruce, Sarah, Miranda, Lori, Nicole, and others not mentioned from the various classes where we interacted and exchanged discussion posts to complete our projects. The countless projects we worked on in group sessions, thank you for making the process enjoyable. Congrats on your completion of Master of Arts!

Listen to Artists Planned for the 2021 King Biscuit Blues Festival via Apple Music

King Biscuit Blues Festival 2019

The King Biscuit Blues Festival 2021 is planned for October 2021. The Biscuit is Back! We missed the King Biscuit Blues Festival last year and glad it will be back this year. Each year of the Biscuit, I try to listen to the acts that will be playing the main stage. The past few years, I have created a playlist in Apple Music where I can listen to the various artists who will be on the main stage.

KBBF 2019 Group Picture with the Guys
Using the main stage line up, I put together roughly two songs from each artist listed as playing the 2021 KBBF.

So, join me in listening to acts for the upcoming festival and reflect back on past arts from prior festivals. 

We will see you at the King Biscuit Blues Festival October 6 - 9, 2021.

YouTube TV App on Short Leash for Roku with Contract Disputes Between Google and Roku #Roku #YouTubeTV #Google

Roku and YouTube TV Battling it Out

Earlier this week I woke to find an email from Roku regarding YouTube TV possibly being pulled from the Roku services. This lit up a firestorm of complaints via Twitter and Reddit of people complaining. Roku says it is Google (owner of YouTube TV) not acting fairly which is why Google is pulling YouTube TV from the Roku service. Effective Friday, April 30, YouTube TV is no longer on the Roku to add for new customers or if you happen to remove the app it is not longer in the Roku store to add it back to the account. Until Roku and Google come to terms, it appears from the message received from Roku that streaming will continue, but do not remove the app from your Roku device as you will not be able to add it again.


I appreciate the fact that Roku is going to keep the YouTube TV as long as Google does not pull it from their services (per the email from Roku), but it is frustrating that no matter the service provider, these disputes occur and have a huge impact on us the customer. I get it that the companies are doing this to make a profit but it seems like they lose sight of why they are in business... that is for us the customer.

Later in the day on Friday, April 30, I received a message from YouTube TV covering their tracks and placing blame back on Roku. Ah, the fun of contract disputes!

If Google does pull the YouTube TV app from the Roku service, Carrie and I will be lucky as we have Apple TV in our family room we will be able to use to watch YouTube TV. The rest of our house, we have three other Roku devices and if Google pulls the app, we would lose the ability to watch YouTube TV in those other rooms. Frustrating! Hopefully it does not come to this but I would not be surprised if this were to occur. 

 Read Message from YouTube to Roku Customers via YouTube Blog.

Are you impacted by Google, Roku, and YouTube TV decisions? Or, is another company contract dispute impacting you and your ability to view your favorite shows, sports, or other entertainment?

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Finished Watching Movies Nominated for Best Picture and Ready for Oscars


Carrie and I finished watching the rest of Oscar nominated best picture movies last night. We had planned to watch them well ahead of Oscar night, but two movies were $20 and we were hoping they would drop in price before the big reveal. As I mentioned back in March (see Oscars post), we had watched half of the movies and needed to finish up four before the big night. 

Final Four Watched Movies

The movies were good, but they were not my favorite of the best picture category. Here are each of the four we watched and to finish out the category.

Mank was rather boring the first part of the movie. I might have fallen asleep during the first half of the movie, but the second half I found interesting and kept me awake. I am not sure that is a good standard for a movie where I fell asleep the first part and then stayed awake the last part of the movie. The cinematography was really good shot in black and white added flare of the movie. Although, really, I forgot it was filmed in black and white that I was watching. 

Minari we watched the night before. The story of a Korean family that moves to Arkansas to farm covering their struggles to make farming work. The story covered the family of four and a grandmother that joined the family. The movie was entertaining and in good company of the other best picture nominees.

The Father was one I was interested to see since the nominees were announced. The father forgetting most everything was uncomfortable to watch at times and numerous at other times. Overall, it was a sad movie and interesting to watch how the father was portrayed. 

Promising Young Woman was one of the movies I was not sure what to expect. As it turned out, the movie was good and shocking. A story about a woman who had something bad happen to her and seeks out revenge was a fun ride to see how she did her revenge. 


I think Nomadland is going to win best picture. The movie is getting all the buzz and it was very well done. The movie I like the best was Sound of Metal which as I stated in previous post (see Oscars post) it was a close tie between Sound of Metal and Judas and the Black Messiah, but I think after watching all of the nominated movies, Sound of Metal is my favorite. 

It was fun being able to watch all oft he movies the past few weeks. I look forward to next year resuming our marathon movie watching in a theater (I hope) as I really like watching all of them in one or two weekends. Congrats to all of the nominees and congrats to the winner of this category and all Oscar categories.