Geminids Meteor Shower – December 13, 2010

I am not an avid sky watcher, but I do like to enjoy sitting in the hot tub at night watching the stars and smoking a big fat stogie.

Over the past few nights, I have been noticing more and more shooting stars, and to my surprise tonight was spectacular. So impressive that I had to look it up just to see what was going on. In the hour that I saw out there, I saw dozens and dozens of shooting stars. Some were quite spectacular, like this one, that trailed sparkling dust across half the sky, and then broke up into several pieces.

Now some were just mere specs, and if you blinked you would miss them, but for the most part, the trails went a quarter of the night sky. Very bright, and moving very fast.

If you have never seen a meteor shower, I would urge you to look up when the next one is supposed to happen, and take the time to check it out. I would compare the excitement to watching a good fireworks display, only the show keeps on going all night long.

So what is the Geminids Meteor Shower?

I would have to say that this is one of the best meteor showers of the year. I do not get the chance to often watch them, but this one never seems to disappoint.

This shower gets its name “Geminids” because the star trails seem to come from the constellation Gemini. For us observers in the  in the Northern Hemisphere these meteors start becoming visible as early as December 6, when one meteor every hour or so could be visible. I personally counted about 3-4 an hour this year. During the next week, rates increase until a peak of 50-80 meteors per hour is attained on the night of December 13/14. Tonight as I recall, there were at least 50-60 in the hour that I was watching around 3 AM CST. The last of the Geminids meteors can be seen on December 18, when an observer might see a rate of one every hour or so.

If you see some falling stars, keep in mind that there are other, weaker meteor showers going on at the same time as this one from Gemini. To know if you indeed are seeing a Geminids meteor, imagine a line backwards and trace it across the sky, and if you end up in Gemini, then its probably a Geminid Meteor! If you are not sure where Gemini is in the sky, the following charts will help you find it from the Northern Hemisphere.

If you missed this one, dont worry, you will have more chances to see some great star trails.

2011 Meteor Showers

Name Date of Peak
Quadrantids night of January 3
Lyrids nights of April 21/22
Eta Aquarids night of May 5,6,7
Perseids night of August 11,12
Orionids night of October 21
Leonids night of November 17
Geminids night of December 13

NOTES These are approximate times for the Lower 48 states; actual shower times can vary. Bright moonlight makes it difficult to see all but the brightest meteors.

Movie Review: Faster (2010)

Well, tonight I went and saw the movie Faster starring Dwayne Johnson, aka the Rock, Billy Bob Thornton, Carla Gugino, and Maggie Grace.

This is another what I like to call Tuesday Movie. Basically my theater gives a half price discount for tickets on Tuesday, so that’s when I usually like to go and see these B-Rated movies.

The trailers for Faster made me initially think the movie is a simple action movie with a revenge plot, and for the most part it is.  But somehow I found it far more entertaining that I had originally thought I would. The flick starts out with Dwayne Johnson playing a character known only as the “Driver”. He is just getting out of a 10 year prison sentence. On his way out, we get a sneak peek at his personality as a Bad-ass during an interview with the warden.  We learn later on that he was imprisoned for a bank heist gone horribly wrong.  He was, yep you guessed it, the driver in the getaway car. As soon as he gets out of jail, he immediately starts killing off people one by one.

We learn that these people were the ones responsible in part for him being in jail.  You see, the bank heist was a setup, and they were all double crossed and killed.. save one, the driver.  We also learn that one of the people in the robbery was his brother, and that is why is so hell bent on revenge.

During his killing spree, he is a ruthless killing machine with no remorse or guilt. Little by little, we get to know him a little deeper, as he only wants to kill those directly responsible for his brother’s death, and as such, he lets a few people go that are trying to hunt him down.  One of these people is a cop that has been after him from the beginning.  The decision to let him go he later will regret, as they have a last show down at the very end of the film.

But there are quite a few twists and turns as the movie progresses, and one surprise at the very ending, that I did not see coming until the last 20 mins of the movie.

There are intermixed a couple of love stories, that seem more out of place and are just injected in to prolong the movie rather than seem a true part of it.

Probably the best part of the movie are the couple of rather amazing car chases where he truly shines and gets his well deserved name.

All in all, I give it 2.5 stars **1/2.  Theatrical Release Date: November 24, 2010. Runtime: 98 min

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Movie Review: The Expendables (2010)


If you have only one choice this weekend, go see this movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it. To me it was a mix somewhere between Commando meets Rambo after leaving the A-Team.

So, Sly does it again. His most recent movies, in my opinion have been getting better and better, and this is no different. Here he plays a mercenary Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his crew of mercenaries (played by Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, and Terry Crews) are known as “The Expendables”.  They have their own jackets and matching tattoos and everything.

The film opens up with them kicking the azz out of Somali pirates. Lots of gunz blazing and lots and lots of deaths. Isn’t that what makes a good Rambo movie after all? Talking of Rambo, this could actually pass for a Rambo 5 if they had of changed the names. Then they are hired by a super secret shadowy figure/cameo (Bruce Willis) to take down a general (David Zayas) and end the totalitarian reghime in the fictional country of Vilena. However, it turns out that the general is just a puppet of a rogue CIA agent and his henchmen.

This is a great setup for a totally awesome kick-ass action movie. They go in, and do some recon and the body count continues to climb. The special effects are wonderfully done, with a mix of realism and fake blood squirting and limbs being severed. Nothing as gruesome as the 300, but totally done in the good old Rambo style movie making that seems to have become Sly’s forte. I loved it.

There is some banter, comedy, mixed in with some seriousness, drama, and some romance.

In the end, the good guys win, the bad guys loose, and the body count is well over 100. Lots of explosions, shoot outs, knife fights, etc.

My favorite part of the movie is where Terry Crews is showing off his new gun.. a fully automatic shotgun with uranium depleted high explosion shells. They are in a fight for their life, and loosing.. and then the explosions start. The sounds, the shells, the explosions.. just simply WOW.

The other was the 1 minute cameo with Arnold Schwarzenegger and the one liner of Bruce Willis saying “He’s just mad because he thinks he wants to be President.” HA! Wonderful!

This is a must see, and go and see it at the movies. The big screen will only make this movie that much more enjoyable.

My rating.. 3.5 stars.. ***1/2.

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Movie Review: Other Guys (2010)

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg play wanna be cop detectives Allen Gambel and Terry Hoitz. They are terribly mismatched police partners. One is a gung ho wanna be shoot’em up bad ass cop, who had the misfortune of wrecking his career by shooting a famous actor. The other is a pimp-gone-cop who is trying to make a change in his life. Basically these two cops are at the lowest rung of the totem pole. They are overshadowed by two super cops played by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson. These are the uber hip, super popular, gunz blazing, total bad azz, media loving, darlings of the police force. They are loved by everybody except for Terry.

As the film opens up with a super cop chase scene that was meant to be over the top, I immediately got the impression that I was in for a really stupid movie. However, from there it tones down a bit and it gets a little funnier. I may have even enjoyed it more if the guy sitting behind me wasn’t overly laughing at every single joke, even the really lame ones.  But I digress.

The main plot is these two super cops, get killed early on, and there is now a open spot in the force for two more. So our two wanna-be’s try to fill those shoes. Terry wants to go after the biggest cases he can find, Gambel wants to stay on the more mundane cases, like a scaffolding tax evasion charge.

They chase some bad guys, and learn about each other. Terry finds out that Gambel used to be a pimp, and that all of the drop dead gorgeous women in the world just fall for him…which leads to even more really bad jokes. And then there are a few scenes with Terry trying to maintain a relationship with his own gal. I could have done without those scenes all together.

In the end, Terry gets his guns blazing bad guy, and Gambel gets his scaffold tax evasion guy. And they become the new super cops.

Overall, I found the film sporadically funny. There were way too many gags and really lame jokes to want me to even think of telling people to go and see this movie. It definately will only appeal to a very limited crowd, which I am obviously not in.

So, I will give it * 1/2.

Save your money, and go see some of the much better movies that are out now. Like the expendables.. which I really enjoyed.

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Movie Review: Dinner for Schmucks (2010)

Tonight I got the chance to see Dinner for Schmucks, released July 30, 2010. The movie stars Steve Carell as Barry, and Paul Rudd as Tim. The general plot is that Tim is a wanna-be-moving-up-in-the-world executive at a venture capital firm. In his quest for success after he impresses the boss he is invited to a private dinner where each of the attendees invite someone with a talent so they can make fun of them. The idea being that they are all so much of an idiot that they will never know the difference. Of course, Tim meets up with Bary through an automotive accident, and for the life of him, just cannot get rid of him. Tim sees how obsessed Barry is with making stuffed mouse shadow boxes that he figures this is the perfect person to invite as his guest to this dinner.

There is also a romantic sub-plot between Tim and his wife Julie played by Stephanie Szostak. They have a rocky romance such that he has proposed numerous times and she continues to profess her undying love and happily ever afters.. just not today. She finds out about the dinner and is quite confused and upset that Tim would even think about attending a party that is designed to make fun of others. This is where he begins his downward spiral of lies and deceit trying to keep his relationship with his wire, but also to keep Barry in the dark about what is really going on.

Overall, my impressions was the movie was going all centered around a dinner party. That was definitely not the case, as the dinner did take place, but only in the last 20 minutes of the movie. The plot was wonderfully done, and intermixed with romance, comedy, and a few tidbits of wisdom. Unfortunately my anticipation of the dinner (which was by far the best part of the movie) detracted from my enjoyment. I kept wondering, “Ok is the dinner going to start now? How much longer till dinner?”

I did laugh out loud several times, so that is a bonus. The audience was quite energetic also, although they laughed a lot more than I did. Sometimes I am often reminded of a friends words of wisdom.. “Simple minds, simple pleasures”.

All in all, I give the movie 3 stars. Mainly for the ideas that the author wanted to get across, and the attempts at humor. This is one of those movies best seen at the movies, and not at home. Having the big theater experience and the laughter of the crowd makes the movie. If I were to watch this at home alone, it would drop at least a star maybe more. So go and see it while you still can at the theaters.

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DIY – Building a wine cellar

I love wine, that is no big surprise considering, I own a winery. But I am just now building a wine cellar. This will be my personal wine cellar, and the progress is coming along quite nicely. We took our little red barn out back and converted the middle room into the cellar. The walls will be insulated to R-32, and the ceiling to R-45. The floor I am undecided yet, but it will probably be R-13. The insulation consists of 3.5″ of fiberglass batting, followed by 5″ of rigid foam. To keep everything cool, we will be using a regular window A/C unit that will be modified to stay on until the temperature is a consistent 55 degrees F. This is idea for my red and white wine collection that I just cannot wait to get in there. I will be doing everything from scratch from the installation of the insulation to the construction of the wine racks to the laying of stone on the floor. Granted I have some help from family and friends (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE). So far, we have the fiberglass and foam installed. Here are a couple of pictures to give you a status update and to see how I envision it looking when I’m done. When it is all said and done, it should hold around 800 bottles.

I took quite a few pictures, so if you want to see more or something specific, just let me know. Also, everything was done on a shoestring budget. The whole project should come in under 1000 dollars, but I will update with the final costs when it is all said and done. So far we have spend around 20 hours on it, and we are about 1/4 of the way done.

Want to build your own wine cellar?  It is pretty easy, and in this book you will learn how!  

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Movie Review: Salt (2010)

So, yesterday I went and saw the new move Salt with Angelina Jolie. This movie basically is your B-rated spy movie with a budget.

The story is about a CIA operative named Evelyn Salt who from the get go, is marked a traitor by a Russian defector and is on the run. She claims to be on the run to find her husband but as the the movie progresses, it makes you wonder if the claim is true or not. However, the movie doesn’t keep you guessing for long, and most attentive viewers will quickly determine who the real villain(s) are, and well before the climax. But I guess that was the authors intent for the flick to be about the chase and not any real mystery. But of course, then they really should have not stuck the “Who is Salt?” on very ad poster in existence.

She dons several disguises in an attempt to avoid capture, and there are quite a few car chases and chocked full of action. There is even one scene where with the help of a facial mask, almost appears to be a guy.

While the movie is definitely preposterous at every turn, the action and plot is very similar to recent James Bond movies, but without the debonair or dialog to go with it. However, almost all of the stunts appear to be realistic and not full of animated CGI to help sell the scenes.

There is overtures that the author wants to convey mainly that there exists the real possibility that sleeper spys from Mother Russia still exist in the united states, and they could be impersonating anybody.

The main negatives, are the shallow dialog. Definitely the character needed more background more flair to help sell the story. It almost seems that they filmed alot of background, but it was cut out at the last minute to keep the movie at a reasonable 1 hour 39 minutes.

That said, I absolutely loved Jolie’s performance, it was spot on for what I expect from the now retired Tomb Raider. The car chases kept me on the edge of my seat wondering if this time she would get caught.

All in all, it was an average B-Movie  spy flick with a budget.

I will have to give it **1/2 stars and say wait for the DVD.

Opened July 23, 2010 Runtime:1 hr. 39 min

Movie Review: Inception (2010)

So I went to the movies tonight and saw Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Caine,  Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe, Marion Cottilard, Tom Hardy, Tom Berenger and Lukas Haas. Now, as this is my first movie review, you should be a little worried at this point. It was either really good or really bad. Well, worry no longer, the movie was AWESOME. I don’t give many movies 4 stars, but this one is top notch in my book. This is one of those movies where when it is over, and the lights come on at the theater, and you just sit there wondering what the hell just happened. I mean seriously it really blows your mind away.

The story is about a man named Dom Cobb (Leonardo) who is known as an Extractor. He goes into people’s dreams, and steals their corporate secrets.  Now, he is hunted by the law, and is constantly on the run. If you can steal something, why not be able to plant something as well? That is the basics for the plot, is he must go into somebody’s mind and try the reverse. If he succeeds, he will be granted immunity and all charges against him dropped so he can go and see his children again. Sounds easy enough, but from the moment they enter the dream, things start to go wrong, and they are fighting the clock. The suspense is non stop from that moment on until the very end of the movie.

The special effects are amazing. One of the best done so far that I have seen. Spectacular scenes of whole cities created and destroyed including shuffling staircases, and bending and twisting bridges.

My only disappointment of the entire film, is that it was cut short by about 10 minutes. It seems that the authors, were pressed for time and just abruptly cut out like 10 minutes of the final scenes. I don’t know if this was actually the case, it just seems that there is a few scenes missing. It doesn’t detract from the ending however, it could have been just extended a little bit. Even thought the run time is 2 hours 22 minutes (142 minutes) it doesn’t seem like the movie was that long. The action scenes are so fast paced that the time flies by.

So to sum up, 4 stars (****) from me.

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Tried out a new product – The Pivotrim Weedeater Head

Click to Buy

Man, this thing is awesom.  You see, I have to trim around my young grape vines.  This is a very delicate task, because if you nick them just a little, it opens the door for infection, and they die pretty easily.  However, with this new weedeater head, that is no longer a problem.  For bigger weeds, it wraps around the vines instead of cutting them, and hence doesnt cut them.   However, it does hit it with enough force, that if you were trimming

Johnson Grass, like I was, it will still cut it, just very slowly.  It is much better designed for trimming actual grass and not big thick weeds, but it will get the job done.    And with 4 strands on it (which is 8 cutting lines), it cuts really fast and you dont have to replace the lines very often at all.   I would estimate that the lines last about 8 times as long as regular t

wine on a single or double line weedeater head.  I can cut 3 full rows of johnson grass, before I have to even think about replacing the lines.  And if I’m not cutting johnson grass, it will last about 3 times that, or about 9 rows.  Thats a lot for 2 feet of twine.

Check it out, and tell me what YOU think about it.

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Beavers Family Vineyards and Winery – The Dream Coming True

This is kinda of a belated announcement, but since I now have a website, I’m starting to go back through all of my endeavors, and update everyone. A couple years ago, back in 2008 to be exact, I got the notion of starting my own winery. I had been drinking wine for several years before. It all started out, going out with friends, and family and they would drink wine. I have never really liked much alcohol, but there was something about wine that just fascinated me. Some people like the smell of coffee or the smell of fresh baked bread. I love the smell of wine. That is how I got into drinking wine. I would order a glass, just to smell it. Over time, the taste started to grow on me, and now I just love it. I typically enjoy a bottle of wine a week, drank with family and friends, over a good meal and good company. Wine, just seems to make the meal much more enjoyable, and when the conversation gets slim, you can always talk about the bottle of wine.

At any rate, I started falling in love with wine. About the middle of 2006, I though about what it would take to try and make my own. I tried some recipes of what you might call balloon wine. Its where you make some wine in a gallon jug, and put a balloon on it, with a hole from a pin needle. The balloon will rise, and then eventually fall when the fermentation is done. Having watched this over the course of a month, I just knew this is what I wanted to do. It was fascinating. Knowing that I made this. All me. Well, with a little help from God, but the rest all me.

I was hooked. I started looking into vines, and what I could grow here. I couldn’t decide right away, so I bought 300 vines of wines I had heard of and that my limited research said they would grow here, and grow fairly well. So I planted some Shiraz, Norton, and Viognier grapes. They took off, and I made my first batch of wine last year in 2009. Now, I had to dump about half of it because of mistakes, and the fact that the grapes were still very young, and the vines had a very difficult time of ripening them. But I did make some wine!!!

Since, we have planted another 1000 vines, and are well on the way to establishing a real winery. Feel free to visit its own web page at Beavers Family Vineyards and Winery.  It is very nice to walk through the vineyard, and watch them growing. Watching the grapes, bud, flower, and ripen is a fantastic way that I relax in the evenings. The dogs have gotten accustomed to my routines too, as they trot along beside me while I walk the entire perimeter of my property and take in the sights of the growing grapes.

In a way, it is very romantic, having a vineyard and making wine. Knowing that everything here, I made with my own two hands through hard work, a lot of sweat, and sometimes even blood. Things are progressing as time passes, the vines are getting older, and the wine a little better each year. Soon, we will have a tasting room, and a dedicated building for the winery.

As I look back on it all, I would not trade it for the world. I love where I am in life, and where my life is going. Having now experienced some of the finer things in life, I can only encourage everybody I meet, to try and fulfill their own dreams whatever they might be. And if your passion is grapes and wine, then we have something in common, and perhaps one day we will share an evening chatting about life, dreams, and our love of wine, while watching the sun set over the vineyard.

Until then. . . may God bless you, and don’t ever give up on your dreams.