The notion of the knights of the ancient European world is something that warms every ounce of the average westernized male.  We have visions of knights riding on beautiful steeds with large glistening swords at their sides as they fight dragons and save damsels.  There is nothing wrong with these images of knights as they help to solidify a sense of valor. There is an idea embodied here of fighting for a cause and saving humanity from the horrors of evil.

There is something else that belonged to these knights of old that seems to be largely forgotten.  They had a great deal of faith in God.  Make no mistakes, this God was not Buddha, Ganesha, Allah or the Great Spirit.  This was the God of the Christian and the Jew.  His compound name is El Elohim or Yahweh (the unpronounceable name).  The name was considered so sacred that no one was allowed to pronounce it and to this day no one even remembers how it was pronounced.  This is the God the knights worshiped.  The God who freed the Jew and the Gentile.

We can argue about the Crusades which followed later in the knights evolution as not being of God and there is certainly enough blame to be cast there but I would like to suggest that we take the best of the knights of old and make them our own.  I would like us to start a new era of morality based on the knights inner code of Christianity. This is what drove them to fight for those who could not fight.  To be the savior of the peasant and the king.

I want us to cast off immoral thoughts, pornography, adultery, lying, jealously and hatred.  I today, make this vow that I will do everything within the power of God and the power he has given me to never partake in these behaviors.  I vow to not drink alcohol or use profane language.  You are my God and I will be your knight and servant.  I will bring my sword of scripture to bear on your enemy Satan and his followers.  I will share my faith with others and make a difference for you.  I will exercise my mind an my body to be stronger. I will be a better father and husband.  You El Elohim are my God and there is none to compare!  I will worship you and cast off the sin around me every day.

I trust and hope that everyone who reads this will do the same. Join me in taking back the western culture for Christ, the Son of the Most High God!
It was a crisp, fall morning and my brother Rick, Mom, Gram and Gramp were off to pick some apples at the local orchard.  This had become quite a tradition for the family every fall.  We would often pick several bushels which would eventually turn into apple pies, apple sauce and apple grunt.  This morning was different from other apple picking ventures, because in the open trunk of our car, in a basket sat a new puppy.  A Brittany Spaniel (now called a Brittany) my brother had named Brandy because of her orange colored spots and ticking.  This brit was unhappy at recently being taken from the company of her  mother's warm protection and was letting us know by yelping at the top of her lungs.  Needless to say my brother and I took turns trying to comfort the poor dog but on she yelped.

We didn't know it then, but that morning would start a relationship that would change our lives in many ways.  Rick spent hour after hour training this dog to sit and lay down and retrieve birds.  Brandy loved feathers naturally and would immediately get excited whenever a pheasant tail was presented for play.  There was something happening here that I don't know if any of us intended.  Day by day this dog became less of Rick's hunting dog and more like the Cuda family dog.  Day after day this dog played with socks, feathers and swam in our pool with us.  She had a look of complete intelligence I have never seen on a dog and don't know if I ever will again.

Did she hunt you may ask?  I think she did go on a hunt or two but never went on many.  She was too involved in being a pampered family dog to dream about hunting.  She had it made.  All she had to do was flash those eyes and she melted our hearts.  She was the type of dog who would sit at your feet and respect you.  She was not prone to growling or biting and was always happy to see Dad or Rick come home. By the hour she would sit at the front window waiting for any sign of them.  She would only take time to eat and play a bit and back she was at her post.   She died of diabetes many many years ago but her memory lives on in each of us.

I thought I would just write down these thoughts as I think back on our childhood pets.  All I can say in conclusion is there will never be another dog like Brandy. She was the true embodiment of the notion of "mans best friend."
As I look out the window, I can see how the leaves are mostly fallen from the trees and I know that the best of the 2013 landscapes and outdoor photography are behind me.  Although North Carolina does offer the occasional snow, it is really not something the average photographer here can look forward too.  This year I spent a great deal of time hiking the mountains of North Carolina and enjoyed every minute of it.  Yes, even the day it poured rain on me.   So I guess today is a good day to show my top photos of the 2013 season.

Coming in at number one is "T-6 at Sunrise."  I really enjoyed shooting on this early Friday morning back in September at the Smith-Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem, NC.  I enjoy this photo because it was the photo that almost wasn't.  The morning was rather dark and dreary and only one pilot had shown up to uncover his T-6 and hang around for interviews.  About 30 minutes before I was about to leave, the sky opened up and lit the aircraft perfectly. As a side note this appears to also be the "people's choice" on my Flickr account.
T-6 Sunrise - T-6 Texan at the Smith-Reynolds Airport - © 2013 Matt Cuda

Next at number two is "Moravian Falls." This is one of those locations that has been photographed many many times, but I believe I managed to capture the falls in a more unique way.  I arrived very early on this summer morning just as the sun rose. The lighting in this little cove was so soft and calming that it seemed like every shot spoke to me.  I chose this one as the final shot from the day as it emphasizes the cascading creek in the foreground, tapering back to the actual falls before your eyes leave the photo.  This shot was featured as a winner in a KEH photo contest and won best in show at the Stokes County Fair.

Moravian Falls - © 2013 Matt Cuda

Number three is "F-86."  I like this image first because it is an iconic aircraft from the 1950s.  It was made famous shooting down Soviet made aircraft during the Korean War over "Mig Alley".  Beyond that the aircraft is interesting in that it is in a nice knife edge set against the contrast of the clouds and blue sky.

F-86 Sabre - © 2013 Matt Cuda

Next at number four is "Titmouse."  Although the name is very odd, I find the Tufted Titmouse a very inquisitive and spirited bird.  This image seems more striking than others I have taken of the Titmouse because first, it shows the bird perching on a vertical surface, and secondly it has a spider web spread across its head. The spider web shows just how much this bird forages through underbrush to find other food sources such as insects and spiders.  The photo is not technically perfect but I really enjoy it from a journalistic perspective.

Titmouse -  © 2013 Matt Cuda

At five is another waterfall that seems to keep grabbing my attention. Maybe I am a sucker for fall color or maybe I just like the serenity of cascading water.  From a technical perspective, I do like the rushing water in the foreground and the strong yellow color of fall contrasting against the soft lighting on the falls.  This photo was featured as a KEH photo of the month for October 2013.

Triple Falls - © 2013 Matt Cuda

Water was certainly a big theme this year.  At number six is a stunning falls I found in the South Mountains of North Carolina called High Shoals Falls. Photographs cannot do this falls justice in scale and beauty. Surrounded by beautiful boulders and awesome greenery, it is a symbol of total relaxation. Forget about the horrors of life because here you enter the presence of one of God's best paintings.

High Shoals Falls - © 2013 Matt Cuda

There were several others I would like to put out here but I guess I should just end it here.  What a great year of photography.  I can't remember having this much fun with photography since I was back in college.  Special thanks to my friend Buck, who went out shooting with me a couple times this year.  Also thanks to my brother Rick and his son Thomas for some good photo ops in Pennsylvania and upstate New York. I really enjoyed it.  God's creation has been a special theme in my photography and he doesn't disappoint me with his never ending canvas of color we call nature.  It is so easy to forget just how stunning our God's artwork really is.  See how intricately the feathers of the bird are woven together. This is not only so it can stay warm and fly but so it can show God's artistic side.  The raw power of water as it drops 60 feet into a dark pool, surrounded by giant boulders. Contrast that scene of rugged beauty against the soft sounds of a babbling mountain brook.  We can never accomplish this kind of art.  All we can do is capture it on canvas or film or some other medium and hope that somehow it can be done a fraction of the justice the real scene deserves.

Recently, while on a tight budget, I purchased the Vivitar 19-35mm AF lens for my Canon EOS 1D Mark II camera body.  Mainly I wanted a lens in the ultra wide category for tight scenics and this lens fit the bill. I bought the lens from auction on ebay for about $50.00 in like new condition. It came with the original box, a lens hood and lens cap.

Lens Build
The build of the lens is consistent with most of the affordable lenses in this category.  It made entirely from plastic but does have a metal mount.  Like most Vivitar products it was created by other manufacturers and marketed under the name Vivitar.  The plastic lens hood that comes with it is acceptable but you may wish to purchase something a little bit better to cut down on flare. It also sports a 77mm filter diameter which can be costly when compared to the price of the lens.

First, I need to say that the autofocus works quite quickly except for some minor connectivity issues causing the autofocus to not engage properly.  To overcome this I had to really snug the lens down one more time after it clicked into place.  The focus speed of the lens was as quick as any of my Canon lenses so I feel like it is a non-issue.  I have heard other complain about a noisy focus with this lens but I was satisfied with the noise from the motor. Perhaps they are comparing the noise to the "L" quality lenses which is really just silly.

In the Field
After purchasing the lens, I took it out for two days of shooting waterfalls in western NC.

My first test was to shoot Looking Glass Falls located in the Pisgah National Forest.  I have photographed this falls in the past so I thought it would make a good test subject.  After shooting the falls from several angles I returned back to the cabin for post process and a good look at the results. I found the color to be warm which is ideal for this type of shooting.  The edges look like they lose resolution slightly but it was an adequate performer.  Below is the most straight forward shot of the falls.

Looking Glass Falls - Canon EOS 1D Mark II,  Vivitar19-35mm AF (At 19mm), 4 seconds, ISO 50
Next, I took the camera to Pearson Falls in Saluda, NC.  The lens performed quite well, but it has its own unique style compared to Canon lenses.  It has good contrast and a nice warm color to it.  This may not work for you if you prefer a cooler temperature. Especially if you shoot film and do not have control over white balance.  Sharpness was better than adequate and was quite close to my 22-55mm Canon kit lens.  Below is the image taken near Pearson Falls...

Pearson Cascade - Canon EOS 1D Mark II, Vivitar 19-35mm AF (at 19mm),  F22, 8 seconds, ISO 50

If you are on a budget, which most of us are, this is a fairly good performer and will not disappoint the average weekender out there.  A professional might need a little more resolving power but then again, I assume if you make money from your photography you wouldn't be looking at an inexpensive lens.  By the way, I don't believe in looking at charts of lens tests to figure out which lenses to buy. The best way to decide if you like the lens is rent it or buy it and give it a try.  If it works for what you want it for then do not feel like you need to go higher in price on a lens. I doubt I will keep this lens forever but for now it fills a need in a poor economy.

I had an opportunity to do a little photography in upstate PA and NY recently and thought I would just share a couple images for you.  First I visited the Wellsboro area where I spent a great deal of my early life growing up.  There are many opportunities for photographs in this area especially during the fall peak color, but this day I found myself, my brother and his son walking down the Turkey Path located at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.  This canyon is really just a simple gorge that winds threw a few mountains, but none the less it is a beautiful attraction and well worth the visit.  At the bottom of the canyon there is a small river called Pine Creek where as a child I spent many hours trying to catch trout and Small Mouth Bass with my grandfather. I rarely caught any fish, but my grandfather could catch fish even on the worst of days.

About a half mile down the Harrison Park Turkey Path there is a creek running along the trail called Four Mile Creek.  Since this creek is running off the side of the mountain it creates a series of cascading waterfalls surrounded by moss covered rocks. Eventually Four Mile runs all the way down the mountain and empties into Pine Creek.  Although the water flow was a bit low, I did manage to grab a few shots.  What I really like about the shot below is the extreme green caused by the rich soil and large amount of rainfall earlier in the summer.  The cascading water provides a serene scene.  Sorry the resolution is kind of poor here.

Four Mile Creek Falls, Pennsylvania Grand Canyon - © Matt Cuda 2013

Next, Rick, Thomas and I headed up to a park where I had never visited.  The park is called Letchworth State Park and it is no doubt on my top ten list of places to go back and visit for fall color.  The park, is located in the north western region of New York state and is known for a large gorge winding its way through many miles of the park.  At the base of the gorge runs the beautiful Genesee River.  I have to admit when we saw this gorge we all were in total amazement at the shear raw beauty laid out before us.  The gorge is highlighted by three large waterfalls called upper, middle and lower falls. If you enjoy viewing powerful falls then this is the place for you.  All three of these falls are utterly amazing.  My only complaint at this park is that we were not allowed access to the creek river bed.  I have to admit this doesn't surprise me as New York has always been the land of silly and useless laws.  Below is a shot of middle falls looking down the gorge.  This park appears to have been designed for upper middle class to higher class individuals and there are many amenities here to prove that.  It is not often that one can find ice cream stands, inns and museums in the rugged mountains.  There is also a fairly modest 8.00 per car price tag for entry into the park, but considering NY citizens are footing the bill for the park, I thought any charge is kind of sad really.

Middle Falls, Letchworth State Park - © Matt Cuda 2013

Upper Falls along the Genesee River - © Matt Cuda 2013

In conclusion, if you enjoy nature, then don't miss either of these parks.  I promise you will not be disappointed.  To view these images in better resolution, and see other park images,  feel free to visit my flicker site at

When telling people I was going to head down to South Mountains State Park, I got a strange look as if they had never heard of such a place.  It is true that although it is common to hear others talk about places like Grandfather Mountain and Linville Falls, I never hear anything about South Mountains State Park.  This is really a shame since this park has so much to offer to those who love the outdoors.

First, the park has many miles of great trout fishing streams containing predominately Brook Trout and Browns but I am told there are also Rainbows there as well.  These creeks are full of large boulders, rippling cascades and lined with many different species of trees.

One of many beautiful locations along the trail at South Mountain State Park
Photo by Matt Cuda (c) 2013
Next, if you enjoy horseback riding there are wide trails cut through the woods to accommodate horses.  The way these trails have been created seem to make it easy  for any skill of rider.  There is a dedicated parking area for horse trailers and easy trail access for them.

For the hiker, there are endless options in this park.  I counted 19 trails total and I am sure there are others which are not part of the official list of trails. The length of the trails run from .5 to 5.2 miles and have various difficulty ratings.  Raven rock trail seems to be the most difficult as it zigzags through several switchbacks up the mountain.  If you only have time for one trail, I recommend you head up the High Shoals Falls Loop.  This is a somewhat difficult trail which takes you to the awe inspiring High Shoals Falls.  The view is well worth the hike.

High Shoals Falls
Photo by Matt Cuda (c) 2013
In conclusion, I cannot find anything that needs improvement in this facility.  It is one of the best I have seen in North Carolina and would take many visits to discover all it has to offer.  My best advice is to stop by the park office and ask them the best parking areas and what is good during the time of year you are visiting.  Otherwise you might end up taking a trail that takes you away from the sites you wanted to see and leaves you exhausted.

A cascade near the bottom of High Shoals Falls.
Photo by Matt Cuda (c) 2013

Well the whole family packed up and headed to North Myrtle Beach last weekend for a time of rest and relaxation.  I generally find North Myrtle to be much more relaxing than Myrtle Beach due to more room and less crowds.

For me this was a time to do some pier fishing.  We stayed near the Cherry Grove Fishing Pier so that is where I decided to fish.  The first day proved quite tiring due to a poor bite and a frustrating, windy day.  I did however catch a 14 inch Red Drum, a shark pup and a whiting or two.  Day two was much nicer as far as speed of the catch.  In three hours I brought in a couple spots, a shark pup, a nice sized whiting or two and a Croaker.  I even caught a silly star fish which caused me to really sit and scratch my head as to how it found my shrimp that quickly and be such a slow to move crustacean.  By the way if you have never caught a Croaker, you are in for a treat. They actually make a "croaking" sound when you catch them but to me it sounds more like a snort.

I like to use fairly heavy gear just in case you get into something big.  The last thing you want is a flimsy rod which breaks under the pressure of a 10 pound fish.  I took my Shakespeare "Big Water" rod and large Shakespeare reel spooled with Stren 20lb. mono.  Just remember that with a heavy action rod, you need to keep your right index finger on the line to check for subtle bites.  On the terminal end, I like to use a 3 ounce triangle weight with two size 2.0 circle hooks.  All of this can be purchased at the pier or at any outdoor sporting goods store.  For bait, I used shrimp, but you can also use mole crabs or blood worms.  Just be careful with blood worms!  They bite :)

No records were set here but all in all not a bad couple days. The great thing about fishing the ocean is you never know what is going to bite.  It all depends on what is cruising through at that time of the year.   I hope to return next year and try for some King Mackerel.

A nice pan sized spot caught off the pier

Yesterday, was certainly a day to remember in all my years of photography.  I decided to head up to Tom's Creek Falls and attempt to capture the overcast lighting for maximum color saturation and for the soft effects it has on the final image, but the weather conditions were unpredictable to say the least.

I arrived at Tom's Creek Falls sometime around 1:30pm at a parking lot which had no markings at all.  I deduced that this must be the trail as there were several other cars there and I was literally at the end of the road.  The rain had slacked up and the cloud conditions were perfectly overcast creating a giant soft box across the region.  Soon, I had my backpack strapped on, the tripod slung across my shoulder and I was off down the path.

About 100 feet down the trail I noticed the humidity had really increased and the trail was very wet and muddy.  The thick rhododendron were hanging low from the damp conditions and to me it looked more like a rain forest than a Western North Carolina forest.  I walked for what seemed about a half mile and I heard the roar of water ahead.  I love that sound as I am approaching a waterfall.  Finally, I arrived to see a much larger waterfall than I had seen in pictures online.  The drenching rain of the past few weeks had given the falls a completely new look.

At first, I found this a pleasing sight and indeed it was beautiful with the water flowing so quickly.  I say at first, because as soon as I took out the camera I had a problem.  The rain began to fall and the wind picked up dramatically. It only took a few seconds for the polarizer I had attached to my lens to become covered in the mist from the falls.  I wiped the filter off and took a couple shots before it completely fogged.  Now I had two problems.  The humidity was fogging the filter and was condensing on each side.  Attempts to defog it and wipe it off now were futile so I took it off and started shooting again

I got a few more shots off before the lens was now covered in spray.  Realize that I am not on top of the falls, but I am standing back a couple hundred feet. Next, my view finder began to fog and now I am getting a bit irritated.  Here stands a beautiful falls with high water flow and the humidity is horrendous.

I decided to take a break and see if conditions approved, but they really never did.  I took a few more shots and packed it up.  Even though I didn't get the shots I really wanted, I did get to see a waterfall in a much more spectacular condition than it normally is.  This, although not the reward I was expecting, was a pleasant surprise.

Takeaways and Lessons Learned
So my biggest lesson learned here is even if the lighting conditions are favorable, be careful of  humidity caused right after a rain.  It is brutal on the equipment and your creative energy.  Below are a couple shots I grabbed before it got really bad.  Nature photography is a game of light and weather which when combined correctly makes for some great photos, but when it is off in one direction or another it can be disastrous.  When you have a day like this realize that you learned a great deal about not only general conditions and how it affects the final photograph, but you also know how to scout a location so the next time you shoot it, you will be fully prepared.  For example, I learned how this falls looks in overcast conditions in July.  The foliage is very saturated in color and the falls have a much softer glow. Furthermore, the trees frame the falls in a way that make it difficult to get shots from all angles.  No doubt this scene would be considerably different in the fall.  I also learned that the rocks at the base of the falls are about one to two feet wide in most cases and have a scattered look.  This makes it difficult to have large foreground interest and still maintain the natural perspective of the falls.  Perhaps next time I would rent a 17mm lens and come in close when the water flow has receded some.  I also came up with several ideas to combat the rainy and windy conditions.  Perhaps next time I can have several clean, dry UV filters ready to slap onto my lens to take the brunt of the rain instead of constantly trying to wipe off the filter.  You may look at these photos and think you like the look of shooting in these conditions and build a style around it.

Many time we are out and about on vacation or heading to work and we inevitably will stop for breakfast.  Usually we order some type of egg and many times that egg is scrambled.  Scrambled eggs are available in just about every restaurant open for breakfast but why do they often times taste so dull?

Scrambled eggs are probably about the easiest item to make for breakfast and perhaps that is why proper cooking is overlooked. Below are my suggestions for making great eggs.

  1.  Use salt!  I can't tell you how many times I have eaten eggs at a restaurant that taste as flat as the pancakes look at the next table.  A couple shakes will not do.
  2. Use black pepper!  You have to be a little careful with the pepper, but you should be able to taste the pepper without the heat of the pepper interfering.
  3.  Use butter!  Preheat the pan over a low medium heat then put two pats of butter in the pan.  Don't overhead the butter because it has a low smoke point and will burn easily. Burned butter tastes really bad.
  4.  Use medium heat, never high heat!  Eggs can't take high heat.  They turn rubbery when cooked this way. Let them slowly cook until the are no longer runny but not rubbery.
  5. Use a small amount of milk!  When blending the eggs together, use a small amount of milk to give it a creamier flavor and consistency.

Well that is pretty much all there is to great eggs.  Hopefully some of the restaurant owners will read this.

I have owned a high end DSLR now for about a month and it has totally changed my outlook on my photography.  I have always been a film guy and perhaps there will always be a part of me that remains that way, but there are several reason I feel that digital is a better choice for me.  Please note that my inventory of cameras is quite diverse so I do have some idea of what I am talking about here.  I own quite a few film cameras.  I own the Mamiya RB 67 Pro, Kiev 88, Contax 167MT, Yashica FX-3 Super 2000 and the Canon EOS 1N.  All good cameras that produce some good photographs when coupled with the right glass.  Below are the reasons for switching to digital as my primary medium.

Professional film costs about $5 to $6 a roll to purchase in rolls of 36.  Typically on a shoot I will use somewhere between 2 to 3 rolls minium.  To process this film in today's marked has a cost of about $8 a roll.  So a typical shoot will cost me in the neighborhood of $40.00.  If I go on about 10 shoots a year, that is $400.00. Wow, when I began to look at it that way I soon realized that film was expensive.  With the extra savings, I could buy a good mid-range lens and maybe a really nice lens from KEH.

Overall my quality "per roll" for lack of a better way to say it, is up with digital.  Because I have instant feedback on my LCD, I know that my exposure is pretty much right on track.  I can't rely completely on the LCD but it gets me really close.  Note that film can actually produce a different image that can be very pleasing compared to digital, but I have found that this "look" is not often needed.

Piece of Mind
Many times I would go out in the field and say to myself "I hope I got a good shot."  With digital there is no guessing or hoping the light is captured the way I am seeing it.  To me this is a great load off my mind.  Finally,  because film, especially color,  needs to be sent out to a lab for processing you run the risk of the film being lost or heat damaged in transport.  

Modern Conveniences
With digital, I have a myriad of choices when it comes to actually pressing the shutter.  First, my camera has the ability to write to two SD cards simultaneously providing me with a backup of every shot I take.  Secondly, I can tether my camera to a computer for studio preview.  This can be done with polaroid backs on my Mamiya RB but the backs are expensive and now we have added another film to the cost equation. 

Will I stop Shooting Film
No, I will continue to shoot film until the stop making it, but my choice to use film in all situations has completely changed.  For day to day shooting I will use my DSLR, but for specialty images I will use film.  For example, film will still be used for IR shooting and fine art black and white.


I continued my testing of the new Canon 1D Mark II by stopping by Moravian Falls on the way to work this morning. Again, generally very pleased by the photos.  The battery did run low but it is getting some age and it is probably time to replace it.  Mirror lockup and exposures seemed quite accurate in general.

So let me start by saying I am a film guy and to some degree probably will remain until the last roll of film is manufactured.  Having made that statement and getting it out of my system, let me say that the Canon 1D Mark II is a true joy to shoot and the images are really quite good.

I bought my 1D Mark II from KEH camera used for $325.00 and the for that price I really couldn't say no.  It was a BGN (bargain) grade camera but it arrived in fine condition and ready to shoot.

Great Features
I am not going to spend a great deal of time on features.  This camera has been out for a long time and you can find numerous pro analysis on many different websites.  Instead let me pick out a few of the features I find useful.  First is the very fast autofocus.  So fast, in fact there are times it is difficult for my eye to pick up that a focus adjustment was made.  If it wasn't for the fact that I actually heard the motor, I would think it didn't work.  This camera was made for the photojournalist pro and Canon made sure the auto-focus and drive were as fast as they could be.  The second feature that I find very interesting, is that of redundancy.  This camera can simultaneously write a RAW/JPEG image to the CF and SD card.  Using this feature you always have a backup of the image in case one card should fail. That is great for peace of mind.

Just a simple photo of some flowers we had here in the house
Not so Great Features
The list of features which fail are really zero, but if I had to nitpick it would be the lack of preview and the smaller 2.0 inch display.  Other than that, I really would have wanted to see a physical mirror lockup button. The photographer can still use mirror lockup but it is buried in the menus. The camera has an 8.2 mp sensor but when this camera was introduced that was top of the line.

Below I have taken a few test shots with the modestly priced Canon Ultrasonic 22-55 mm zoom lens.  This is a "prosumer" type of lens so it won't have the sharpness of Canon's pro lenses but the images were more than fine.

After packing up the car with fishing gear for my two kids and wife, we headed out for a day of fishing at Tanglewood Park in Clemmons, NC.  Scattered thunderstorms were forecasted with rainy periods throughout the day but we decided to go despite the conditions.

We arrived at  Tanglewood around 9:30 am, purchased our fishing passes and headed toward Mallard Lake.  Pulling into the parking lot we immediately noticed the water was down about 10 feet!  I had no idea what to think of this since we had plenty of rainfall and even if it was a drought that wouldn't explain that kind of drop in water level.  We took a brief walk along the water line and my wife said she did spot some fish breaking the water.

Five minutes later, we were back in the car pondering this strange enigma when a park official pulled up next to us and began to feed the ducks.  Although feeding ducks is fascinating to children, my wife had to ask "what happened to the lake?"  The man feeding the ducks said the dam had broke and it was fixed but it was going to have to fill up by rainwater alone.  She then asked if there were still fish in the lake to which the man responded "oh yeah."  Apparently there were still a good number of bass gathering the deeper areas of the lake.  Ok, so that solved that. 

We both decided to stay and fish, so we packed up the gear and headed toward the dock area.  I got my son Jacob set up with his spiderman zebco fishing outfit and cast out toward the doc.  Within a few seconds, a bluegill was on the line.  I handed the rod to him and let him reel it in. 

Well, Jacob caught his first bluegill which was a great experience, I think more for us than him.  As you can see by the photo above, he is very suspect of this strange creature with spiny fins.  

Well not to be outdone by my son, I started fishing for the bass which were supposed to be in this lake.  I started out with my "go to plastic worm."  I shall keep this secret as it is all I have in my tricks arsenal.  I fished the lower dock area and sure enough I had a couple strikes but nothing solid.  I rebaited and threw out and within seconds I caught a nice sized largemouth. 

Well the fishing continued and I landed 7 largemouth total.  My wife got skunked which I thought was crazy. I don't think I have ever seen her not catch a fish.  My daughter didn't catch any fish but she landed a couple really stupid turtles.  Note in the photo above I am standing where the water used to be!

Anyway, give Mallard lake a try if you want to land some bass. They may not be huge bass but I had a lot of fun.

So this post is a rant about something which has really become a serious issue for me to deal with in my daily life.  The incessant use of the OM* (i didn't use the last letter because of my reverence for God). Not only is this without a doubt the most flippant use of the American proper name for Adonai but I also find it incredibly annoying.  

So first, on the whole blasphemy issue, I would point the reader in the direction of the ten commandments.  Folks, it doesn't get any more basic than the ten commandments.  This is the starting place for God's law for both the Hebrew and the Christian.  In Exodus 20 and verse 7 we have the following: "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." God's name is to be respected not tossed about in an instant message without restraint. 

Secondly, it just looks totally and completely ridiculous and has no right to be in any sentence.  Here are some perfectly normal substitutions: "Wow, amazing, what in the world, how can this be?, you are kidding, unbelievable, I can't believe this."  The bottom line is to be creative!

So, please, please stop using this terrible abbreviation in your texts, instant messages and posts!  And now people of course use it in an actual sentence while speaking audibly. Will it ever end? 
During the past three weeks I have been plagued by some form of Pneumonia, but I wished I could say that that was the hard part.  You see, on my second visit to the doctors, he decided to do an x-ray of my lungs just to (as he put it) be more academic.

Well I of course I complied because, well, a test after all can determine if you are sick, right?  Well as it turns out that is not totally accurate.  You see there are these troublesome little anomalies which can occur on x-rays of the chest which dumbfound the doctor but still raise a red flag enough to push you through the ever larger patient diagnostic system.  Basically what that means is that I had to go for a second type of test called a CT (CAT) Scan.  This test will determine if the the weird mess the doctors saw on the x-ray was just a fluke or if there really is a problem.  Well, apparently the CT can also produce these same types of anomalies which dumbfound the doctors, so who knows.

To make matters worse, there are all sorts of legitimate, benign problems in the lungs which can sometimes look more serious then they really are.  Among these are calcified nodes, blood vessels which are caught in odd positions and fungal lung infections.

I think the worst part of all this is the way it has an effect on the family.  Sometimes, waiting three days for test results is not uncommon with these types of tests and this makes my wife nervous beyond anything I have ever seen.  Even my kids seem a bit different as they can feel that something is up and the family is not running as smoothly as it normally does.

Well, bottom line is that God is the only source to both heal and calm our spirits and body in such a situation so I am daily seeking his council and healing.   Philippians 4:6 always comes to mind in these situations, but man it can be really, really tough to put that verse into practice :)