Monday, May 31, 2021

Memorial Day

Image of American Flag Waving in the Wind

Remembering Memorial Day and what it means... As I posted back in May 2016 (see May 30, 2016 post), it seems as though people confuse or forget what Memorial Day actually means. In the case of Memorial Day, it refers to someone who passed in active duty. I know that Memorial Day signifies opening of pools, summer, etc., but it is important to remember the real meaning behind Memorial Day and try not to confuse it with other holidays. 

Be safe and give thanks to those that served our country and gave the ultimate sacrafice.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

New Firedisc Grill Purchased, Tested, and Ready for Camping or Tailgating

Firedisc Testing in our Backyard Cooking Breakfast
Carrie and I bought a new purchase for our camping trips and we can also use it for tailgating. We are excited to use the new product. We did seasoning to prepare the equipment and did our first grill with it Thursday night. The new product is called Firedisc. It retails for $499 although if you get it from Ace Hardware, it is $349. We went with the tall version (36").

Just like a cast iron skillet, it takes a few times to season the grill. So, Thursday night, we did a process three times to get the grill hot, put in cooking oil, rub it into the grill, and then let it cool down removing excess oil from the grill. The grill got a nice char going and will only get more prominent as we use the Firedisc.

For our first grill, we did pork chops. It was somewhat trial and error and they turned out alright. We plan to use the grill for cooking breakfast (eggs, bacon, etc.) when we are camping. Probably also do steaks or chicken in the grill too. The best thing is that not only is it perfect for camping, but I am excited to be able to use it for Washburn football tailgates. Doing burgers and hotdogs on this thing will be easy and easy clean up.

We heard about the Firedic through a video blog (vlog) Carrie told me about and I have been hooked on ever since. The name of the vlog is DOME LIFE. They come out with new videos every Thursday. I went through and watched all of their videos and happened to be watching one when they interviewed another camper using the Firedisc. I immediately thought it looked cool, sent it to Carrie, she reviewed customer evaluations, and we bought it a few days later. DOME LIFE has certainly sparked the camping interest in Carrie and I while also sharing tips and hints on camping. I think the Firedisc will be a great addition to our camping experience.

I expect to be posting future updates about our new Firedisc. How it works camping and how it works in the fall when we return to tailgating.

Until next time, have a great rest of the day!

Request for ad-free with Background Play for YouTube TV Included in Cost

Screen Shot Taken from YouTube Premium Web Site

We use YouTube TV for our TV viewing. Both Carrie and I frequent regular YouTube for watching videos. Recently, I signed up for a trial of YouTube Premium. I had a 30 day trial of the premium service which simply means that I had ad-free viewing, background play, downloads, and YouTube Music Premium.

For me, I did the 30 day trial because we are YouTube TV customers and have been happy with the service. We have had the service for over a year at this point and enjoy the endless recordings. The features included in the YouTube Premium of ad-free viewing, background play, downloads, and music really did not do a lot for me for the four options. I did trial as I wanted to see if I could have TV streaming in the background or picture-in-picture feature on iOS. Nope! This is not possible!

I do not understand why these additional features of Premium are not included in YouTube TV. I did not realize until I was researching this that YouTube Music Premium is normally $9.99 a month, but if you subscribe through YouTube Premium, not only do you get music, but also the ad-free viewing, background play, and downloads. It seems that with those of us being YouTube TV customers, we should already be considered Premium and get the extras included in our subscription. 

This is nothing new and I recall seeing people post on Reddit, Twitter, etc., about this in the past. I simply make the case again that for those of us already subscribing to TV through Google, we should have the premium options available to us without requiring us to subscribe to those extra services.

I have since canceled my trial of YouTube Premium simply because the benefit of the extra features was not enough to continue paying $11.99 a month. I can live with the ads but it was nice to be able to play in the background. A much needed addition to YouTube TV is to be able to play in the background or the ability to play picture-in-picture on iOS as many other streaming services have allowed.

Carrie Performed in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in NOTO on Saturday, May 29

Carrie on Stage for Midsummer Night’s Dream in NOTO
Carrie on stage for Lady Shakes Theater Company production of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in NOTO on Saturday, May 29. The play was great and I hope they are able to do another production. The cast had been working since last fall with a break during the winter months when they could not rehearse. As the months started to warm, they started to rehearse every weekend for the past few months with ramped up rehearsals multiple times a week the past few weeks. It was so good to see Carrie and cast on stage and fun to see many people from the stage that I had not seen in many months in attendance. 

Carrie on Stage with Fellow Performers in NOTO
The weather was beautiful and so fun to see live theater after many months without. A great crowd gathered in RedBud Park of NOTO. Most people brought their own chairs and a few had blankets or sat on the rocks. I look forward to seeing other events at Redbud Park in NOTO in the future. A nice new addition to the area an already fantastic area of Topeka. If you have the chance to see a band, play, or sit in Redbud Park of NOTO, I highly recommend doing so.

Until next time, have a great day and get out to enjoy some theater.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Weekend Ramblings as the End of May Fast Approaches

It is hard to believe that this is the last full week of May. Have to be careful not to blink or summer will be over before we know it. The end of May certainly has brought a lot of rain to the area and the outlook for more rain the next week too. With all the rain brought to light the fact that I need to get out and clean some gutters. We do have protectors on our gutters, but the back and the front gutters were overflowing with water during the heavy rain we received Thursday night. I am hopeful to get in gutter cleaning before the next big rain.

Carrie and I are searching out camping sites for future camping weekends. We have our eyes on a few locations and continue to review various camping gear that we want to buy for our camping adventures. We loved the first adventure so much, we cannot wait to go again. As we look at upcoming dates, we review the weather and hope to have nice weather for our second adventure. We are event talking about camping in September for our wedding anniversary and making plans to do so in Arkansas possibly. Nothing confirmed for September, but we are reviewing options and will be making a plan soon.

A lazy weekend for me around the house Saturday and I hope to do some work Sunday as I mentioned earlier. The Royals game is currently in a rain delay as I write this Saturday afternoon, but hoping they can get the game in and get a much needed win.

Until next time, have a great week and talk to you again next Sunday.

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?