Captain Rick : Every Christmas my Gilbert Arizona Oasis bursts with thousands of lights. In 2015 I installed Holiday Brilliant light controllers that made 8000 lights sequence and dance to a playlist of music beaming from a digital music box. I captured a video of the lights dancing to ‘Deck the Halls’ Dixieland style in Full 1080p HD video with stereo sound using my new LUMIX 16 megapixel camera.

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Click the image above to view the video in Full 1080p HD with stereo sound      via Captain Rick’s Flickr Site.

Light rings and bands of red, white and blue sequence and dance up and down, back and forth in time to the music, including the giant red, white and blue dancing ‘2015’ in the palo verde tree.

3 weeks are required to install the lights and a week to take them down. A quarter mile of cords are used to hook up all of the circuits.  A dedicated 15 amp circuit runs at full capacity to supply power to illuminate all of the lights.

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Captain Rick’s Christmas Lights Spectacular YouTube Playlist

Captain Rick : U.S. Labor Report disappoints those looking for a job and paints a stagnant image of the U.S. Economy as it continues its course toward Socialism.

The Labor Department reported the U.S. economy added only 151,000 jobs in January, well below expectations for 190,000 jobs. The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.9% from 5% the month prior, while forecasts called for it to remain unchanged. Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate rose to 62.7% from 62.6%, despite expectations for it to hold steady. Its all a sign of America headed toward Socialism.

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This Labor Report sends a cold chill for the U.S. Economy …

The creation of only 151,000 jobs is very weak considering it is only 0.56 % of U.S. population (323 million). That does not even equal the U.S. population growth rate which is about 0.7% … which means that job growth is not only stagnant, but going in reverse. The U.S. still has not recovered millions of jobs lost during the Great Recession.

The unemployment rate of 4.9% is totally bogus … its meaningless. It only represents the minority of job seekers that are still receiving unemployment compensation. The real unemployment rate is more than twice as high. Most job seekers have exhausted their benefits, still looking for work with no income, are working a part-time job to make ends meet or have given up looking for work.

Perhaps the most important statistic in the labor  report is the drop in the Labor Force Participation Rate … to just 62.6%. It means that about 1/3 of eligible U.S. workers are not working. Some retired early and are living off of savings. Some have managed to work the system and are living off of welfare benefits, including many who have managed to acquire ‘Disability’ status and are collecting U.S. Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI) and some who are being supported by friends or relatives and some who are homeless. The Labor Force Participation rate has been in steady decline since its peak of 67.3% in 2000. This trend is a vivid indicator of America’s march toward Socialism.

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Captain Rick : I am proud to announce 70% completion of my 1999 New Years resolution to walk/bicycle the equivalent of once around the world (25,000 miles) to combat high blood pressure. I hope to reach my goal in 2020.

In 1999, at age 52, I was diagnosed with HBP (High Blood Pressure), placing me at an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. My doctor urged me to develop a healthier diet (less fat, cholesterol, salt, sugar) and a daily exercise routine.

On New Years Eve in 1999, I made a resolution to begin eating healthy and walk a mile or more every day for exercise. It is a resolution that I have faithfully fulfilled over the many years since.

The death of my father from a heart attack a couple of years later fortified my resolution. I sharpened my diet and increased my exercise routine.

In 2005 I bought a bicycle and added a daily ride to my to my daily walking routine.

On New Years Eve, preceding 2006, I expanded my resolution to walk/bicycle the equivalent of once around the world … 25,000 miles. With only a few thousand miles logged, I knew this was a very tall resolution … but, it was a goal that I was bound and determined to achieve.

I logged my miles every day since the beginning of my trek in 2000. In 2009 I began publishing my progress. I did so to recognize my difficult achievement, but more importantly to remind me that I had a long way to go and to help give me strength to carry on … and to give courage to the many people who have HBP and ‘walk in my shoes’.

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Captain Rick’s ‘Round-the-World’ Walking/Bicycling Trek Progress Report:

Goal status as of January 1, 2016

Completed Distance: 17,421 miles (28,036 km), 70.0% of Earth’s 24,901 mile circumference

Remaining Distance: 7,480 miles (12,038 km), 30.0% of Earth’s 24,901 mile circumference

Estimated year of World Trek completion at current rate of 4.41 miles per day: 2020

Annual Progress History:

2015:

Walking: 628 miles (Trek total: 8,399 miles)

Bicycling: 982 miles (Trek total 9,022 miles)

Walking + Bicycling: 1,610 miles (Trek total: 17,421 miles, 70.0% completed)

Average: 4.41 miles per day (Estimated year of World Trek completion: 2020)

Age: 68

Captain Rick’s entire progress report: Captain Ricks HBP World Trek

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Captain Rick of Atridim News Journal: Russian President Vladimir Putin is one of the world’s most intelligent leaders, while President Obama ‘speaks down’ of him, as do many U.S. presidential contenders and much of the western world news media.

I am encouraged by an apparent bonding between Putin and Trump. It reminds me of the bond between President Ronald Reagan and Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that helped tear down the Berlin Wall in 1989. I believe we are witnessing the beginning of a bonding of two great minds for the betterment of America and the world.

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Donald Trump has said that he would "get along very well" with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The feeling is apparently mutual. Putin offered high praise for the billionaire businessman-turned-Republican presidential front-runner on Thursday during an annual news conference with reporters. "He is a bright and talented person without any doubt," Putin said, adding that Trump is "an outstanding and talented personality." And in remarks closely mirroring Trump’s assessment of the campaign, Putin called Trump "the absolute leader of the presidential race." Later Thursday, Trump returned the warm words "It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond. I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect."

While most Republican presidential contenders have demonized the Russian president — including calling him a "gangster" and a "thug" — and pushed plans to isolate Russia on the world stage, Trump has instead touted his ability to improve Washington-Moscow relations by working with the iron-fisted Russian leader.

Trump said in October that he and Putin "are very different"; but suggested that the two men could move beyond the frigid relations that have come to define U.S.-Russia relations under President Barack Obama. "I think that I would at the same time get along very well with him. He does not like Obama at all. He doesn’t respect Obama at all. And I’m sure that Obama doesn’t like him very much," Trump said then. "But I think that I would probably get along with him very well. And I don’t think you’d be having the kind of problems that you’re having right now."

Putin referenced Trump’s reported desire "to reach another, deeper level of relations" with Russia in his remarks Thursday. "What else can we do but to welcome it? Certainly, we welcome it," Putin said.

While fellow Republican contenders have been highly skeptical of stepped up Russian military involvement in Syria, Trump has welcomed it. Trump suggested in his September "60 Minutes" appearance that the U.S. should avoid deepening its involvement in Syria, instead allowing Russia to take a leading role in combating the radical Islamist group that has called for attacks on the U.S. "Russia wants to get rid of ISIS. We want to get rid of ISIS. Maybe let Russia do it. Let them get rid of ISIS" Trump said.

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Captain Rick

Captain Rick : By now your MasterCard, Visa and other credit cards have the new EMV microchip. All U.S. merchants need to have the new chip readers installed and operational by October 1, 2015 or they face increased responsibility to cover losses if someone goes shopping with a stolen credit card.

EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, the companies that created the standard in the mid-1990s. Its a years-in-the-making liability shift aimed at prodding American merchants into finally adopting a more secure payment technology that is ubiquitous in Europe and Canada but still rare in the United States. Starting next month, retailers that haven’t upgraded their payment systems to read EMV microchips — the small, metallic rectangles that are increasingly prevalent on the front of American charge cards — will bear the financial liability for some fraudulent charges. (Gas stations have an extra two years to make the switch for charges from their fuel pumps.) 
 
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How it works: The credit card is inserted into the bottom of the card reader and remains there until the transaction is finalized (instead of being swiped down its side). The chip on the card generates a unique code that is validated by the issuing bank. This makes the cards harder to copy than the magnetic strip.

The merchant hardware (up to $600 per terminal) and software ($Thousands) required is expensive. Walmart and Target are among the few companies already using the new technology. 27% of U.S. merchants will be ready by the deadline. The old card swipe readers will continue to work for consumers while the balance of merchants switch to using the new technology.

I experienced my first credit card chip transaction about a month ago at Walmart. I swiped my card as usual. The cashier said “you have to insert your card in the chip slot”. I asked “were is that?” The cashier replied “at the bottom”. I inserted my credit card in the slot at the bottom. It did not work because I inserted the wrong end of the card. Once I inserted the end with the chip face up, it worked, but I made the mistake of pulling it back out. The card needs to stay inserted during the entire transaction. Those standing in line, the cashier and I all had a good laugh. It was a learning experience for me. Another transaction a few days later was executed perfectly on the first try. I am a pro now. When it is time to pay, I  ask “is your chip reader is working.” Most say “no not yet. It should be working by October 1.”  In any case, I can conclude that this “old dog is not too old to learn a new trick”. 

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Captain Rick : Fish Creek Canyon is one of Arizona’s hidden treasures of scenic beauty. To experience its magnificence one must travel the Apache Trail (AZ 88) east from Mesa, Arizona. The paved road winds its way thru beautiful desert scenery in the Superstition Wilderness area and then past Canyon Lake, presenting one of the world’s most beautiful lake vistas. The trail continues east thru Arizona’s smallest original town of Tortilla Flat, once a place for workers to rest on their journey up the Salt River to build the mighty Roosevelt Dam that holds the massive Roosevelt Lake, a main source of water for over 4 million inhabitants of the Phoenix Valley of the Sun.

From Tortilla Flat, the trail climbs several hundred feet in elevation to a mountain setting that hosts beautiful wild flowers in the spring. Then the pavement ends. A gravel road continues. After a few more miles the beautiful Fish Creek Canyon comes into view around a breathtaking curve. The road descending into the canyon is narrow and treacherous. Vehicles need to tuck tightly against the cliff to allow those coming up the road to pass without falling off of a steep drop-off at the edge of the road that has no guardrail. This road is definitely not capable of handling anything larger than a passenger car or small pickup truck. A couple small pull offs at the bottom of Fish Creek Canyon allow for parking of a few cars. Great views of this magnificent canyon can be seen within a short walking distance.

 

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Click the photo above to view full screen in high definition via Captain Rick’s Flickr Photostream

The dark stained area running down the rock cliff at left becomes a beautiful, tall, cascading waterfall during and after a heavy rain. It is difficult to catch a glimpse of the waterfall because when it rains the road is closed at Tortilla Flat, due to water flowing over the road. The only access then is to travel the east section of the Apache Trail down from Roosevelt Lake. It is all gravel and a slow trip, however the scenery makes it a very rewarding experience.

Those continuing eastward from Fish Creek Canyon experience a beautiful vista of Apache Lake. The trail then connects with the Salt River. The scenery in the Salt River Gorge between Apache Lake and Roosevelt Lake is spectacular. The trip culminates with an incredible view of the 357 foot tall Roosevelt Dam from below. A series of switchbacks quickly gain elevation to the top of the dam exposing a breathtaking, panoramic view of the main portion of Roosevelt Lake. When full the lake is 2 miles wide x 22 long and 349 feet deep.

Fish Creek Canyon is a special hidden treasure of scenic beauty at the halfway mark of the 40 mile long Apache Trail … the most scenic road within a short distance of Phoenix and one of the most scenic in Arizona.

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Captain Rick’s Photography by Atridim

Captain Rick : I have seen lots of firsts along the morning trail on my around-world walking/biking trek, spanning 17,000 miles in 15 years. This morning I was passed by a roadrunner doing about 20 mph. Not a car … a bird running. It is the fastest runner of all flying birds. It was about a foot tall and nearly two feet long. It had a bright orange patch running rearward from its eye and a big feathery headdress. It was a beautiful bird, but I was disappointed that it did not go ‘beep beep’ like in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes I watched as a child.

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I was not expecting to be passed by a roadrunner on my morning exercise walk, so I did not have my camera along. As a Flickr PRO member, I searched Flickr and found a roadrunner that most closely resembled the one that passed me. Click on the image above to view the full photo presented in stunning 4K HD captured by Flickr’s susanloellison.

About the ‘Greater Roadrunner’

The Greater Roadrunner is a long-legged bird in the cuckoo family, prevalent in Arizona and the Southwestern United States and Mexico. Although capable of limited flight, it spends most of its time on the ground, and can run at speeds of up to 20 mph (32 km/h). Cases where roadrunners have run as fast as 26 mph (42 km/h) have been reported. This is the fastest running speed clocked for a flying bird.

Greater Roadrunners measure 61 cm (2.00 ft) in length and wingspan. About half of their length is tail feathers. They measure 30 cm (1 foot) tall. They have long legs and a slender, pointed bill. The upper body is mostly brown with black streaks and sometimes pink spots. The neck and upper breast are white or pale brown with dark brown streaks, and the belly is white. A crest of brown feathers sticks up on the head, and a bare patch of orange and blue skin lies behind each eye. Roadrunners have 4 toes on each zygodactyl foot; two face forward, and two face backward.

This bird walks around rapidly, running down prey. It feeds mainly on small animals including insects, spiders (including black widows), tarantulas, scorpions, mice, small birds and especially lizards and small snakes. Venomous serpents, including small rattlesnakes, are readily consumed. It kills prey by holding the victim in its bill and slamming it repeatedly against the ground.

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Captain Rick’s HBP World Trek

Captain Rick’s Photography by Atridim