A blog by W. Brian Murphy

Ramblings from a mind in overdrive

The Blizzard of 2017…

HI All!

It’s January 7th, 2017, and the blizzard is upon us.  We’ve already been assaulted by an amazing 3-4 inches of snow in Virginia Beach, and there is more to come!  Oh, the humanity… We will try to stay strong and survive until Virginia Beach’s lone snowplow comes to dig us out.  But there are things we can do to make life easier!

Seriously though, here are a few items that will make your life easier when the frozen water attacks us again, cuz this blizzard ain’t gonna be the last!

First off, get yourself a good snow shovel.  A well designed shovel can make all the difference in how hard or easy it is to get the snow off your driveway and walks.  Look for one that is long enough and is designed ergonomically to save the strain on your back muscles.   It’s worth spending a few extra dollars and get a good one.  Here are a few…


Suncast SC3250 18-Inch Snow Shovel/Pusher Combo with Ergonomic Shaped Handle And Wear Strip, Green

Snow Joe Shovelution SJ-SHLV01 Back-Saving Snow Shovel

Suncast SF1850 22-Inch Big Scoop Snow Shovel with Wear Strip

If you have pets and like to salt your walks, get a pet friendly deicer like this one…

Next up if you’re going to venture out onto the permafrost that will be Virginia Beach’s streets is a quality snow and ice scraper to clean the offensive white stuff off your vehicles.  You can find crazy hi-tech offerings, but a long brush and scraper is sufficient.  I like the ones designed for trucks, as they tend to be longer, sturdier, and make it much easier to reach across your windshield.  They also tend to have a more heavy-duty scraper and padded grips/handles.

Check these out…

Hopkins 532 Mallory 26″ Snow Brush with Foam Grip (Colors may vary)

Hopkins 16511 Subzero 23″ Ice Hammer Snowbrush (Colors may vary)

Hopkins 886-PKUS Mallory Pink Snow Tools 31″ Snow Brush



Please note, I get a referral fee from amazon for anything you purchase.  Thanks!

Tamrom AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Zoom Lens

I want to get into both portrait and nature photography.  I don’t have a lot of disposable income laying around and feared having to buy 2 new lenses.  During my research I came up with a single lens that would serve both purposes.  The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM UD Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon EOS SLR Cameras is an amazing lens.  But it is very expensive; I just can’t justify $1400.00 for a lens.  While researching lenses, I kept seeing the Tamron version of the Canon lens being exceptional.  I read many reviews which state, and I agree, that it is tack sharp.  It cost only $449.00, which was much more reasonable for my uses.  Photography is my hobby and not an income generator.

The Canon version (which I bought) comes with the lens, a lens cap, and a flower type lens hood.

There are versions for both Canon and Nikon cameras, BTW.  In the coming weeks, I will post photos I have taken with this lens on my Canon 6D body to show its quality.

Here are links to both the Canon and Nikon versions…

For Canon:

Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 SP Di VC USD XLD for Canon Digital SLR Cameras

For Nikon:

Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 SP Di VC USD XLD for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras


Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV

As more and more Americans are frustrated by the high costs associated with televised entertainment, many are tempted to “Cut The Cord” so to speak.  We are one of those families.  We still use our local cable company for internet access, as its the fastest available to us.  Before we get rid of DirecTV, I need to find an alternative which will work for us.  We watch A LOT of television.

Enter Amazon’s Amazon Fire TV Stick and  Amazon Fire TV.  They connect through your wifi and stream video and music content to your TV.  We are using the Fire Stick and it is amazing.  It has dual core processors.  I hardly ever see buffering with it.  It’s really affordable, and if you’re an Amazon Prime member (Get a trial membership here if not!) you can stream a ton of video and music content in high def, to boot!   The Fire Stick is a small thumb drive-looking device that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port.  there is also a power plug that can connect to a USB port, or plug into a standard outlet.  Set up takes about 10 minutes.  There is a remote included.  All in all, not bad for 40 bucks!  It simply works.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Amazon’s Amazon Fire TV works similarly, but has Quad Core processors and I’m told runs smoother and more powerfully.  I don’t have one, so I’ll have to trust those who do.  It’s also a better device for playing games, I’ve read.  I’m not much into games, so I don’t care.  One neat thing about this device is that the remote can be voice controlled, which is a plus.  It goes for around 99 bucks, which is worth it if you’re into gaming and want the voice remote.


Canon 6D

About a million years ago, I was a fairly decent photographer.  At least I fooled my Dad into thinking so, anyway.   That was back when cameras used actual film to capture an image.

I then got a point and shoot digital camera (several of them, actually) and their ease of use helped me forget everything I once knew about using a real camera.

Now, I feel the need to be more involved in the process of creating beautiful images.  I have had a Canon EOS Rebel XS for a few years, and it is a rather decent entry level DSLR  (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera, but one thing on it that bothered me the most was the fact that it has a smaller sensor in it than a full frame camera.  So using a 50mm lens on it doesn’t equal using a 50mm lens on an old 35mm film camera.

Enter my new camera, the Canon 6D.  It’s still in the EOS family of camera, so the controls are familiar.  There is a little difference in the placement of them, etc.  But all in all the menu system, etc are really intuitive.  It is a Full Frame camera, meaning that the digital sensor in it is the same size as a 35mm camera piece of film.  This makes thing look “right” to me.  When I look through a 50mm lens, I see what I used to see.   It feels rugged in my hands.  The light sensitivity it amazing, with ISO settings up to 25,600 and an extended range of up to 102,400- which is just freaking nuts.

The Canon 6D has an amazing ability to focus automatically in very low light situations.  It can focus in the dark better than I can, that’s for certain.

It also features Wifi and GPS.  The GPS is useful for geotagging photos, etc., which will make them appear in Google searches more readily.  The Wifi feature allows the camera to be controlled by an App installed on your phone or table, as well as allowing the photos on the camera to be viewed and downloaded to your mobile devices, etc…

If you are looking for a GREAT camera, consider the Canon 6D.  It’s a very affordable full frame camera…




Ninja Duo Blender and Juicer… Amazing!

Hi All!

Karen and I have wanted to get into juicing for a while now.  We recently picked up a Ninja Juicer, actually the Nutri Ninja Duo Blender.  It juices, in that it actually pulverizes everything down to a really smooth consistency.  We’ve been using it to make smoothies and breakfast drinks.  It also turns ice into the equivalent of snow for frozen drinks.  Can you say margaritas on the patio?


I’ll post a proper review once we get used to using it and putting it through its paces a little more.  I have kale on standby!  I just wanted to post my initial impressions in case you are thinking about getting a juicer or a blender.  This rocks, so far.

Julians Thing

Two Little Fishies ATLJT Julians Thing Multi Purpose Tool


Here’s a handy little aquarium gadget to let you blow detritus off you rocks with some degree of precision.  Also a good target feeder!


From Amazon’s site:  Julian’s Thing is a NEW multi-purpose device. Use it for feeding corals, for feeding anemones, for feeding zoanthids, for feeding seahorses and other timid or slow moving fishes. Use it for applying solutions onto Aiptasia and manjano anemones. Use it to siphon out small things or to blow jets to clean the sand. Patent pending design by Julian Sprung.

A couple great protein skimmers for your saltwater aquarium

Protein skimmers are a fantastic way to remove waste from your aquarium, making a healthier environment for your fish, corals and inverts.  They work by having a rising column of tiny bubbles.  The wastes that accumulate in an aquarium, dissolved and suspended in the water column, stick to the bubbles and make a kind of sludgy foam which collects in a cup.  Nature does the same thing.  You’ve seen it if you’ve ever been at the beach and see the brownish-tan foam that washes up on the shoreline.  There are literally hundreds of different brands and models of protein skimmers; many suck.  These do not.  In fact they are great.


The first is the ASM G-3.  I don;t have this one, but a friend of mine with a 265 gallon tank does and it’s a fantastic skimmer.  If you don’t happen to have a 265 gallon tank, don;t worry, they make smaller ones as well.  Click the link and check them out!

ASM G-3 Protein Skimmer w/ Sedra 5000 Pump


The second skimmer I’ll introduce you to, is what I use on my 65 gallon mixed reef (actually about 80 gallons when you include my sump volume).  This thing pulls some nasty, funky brown skimmate (ie: crud) from my tank.  It’s great, and the price is reasonable, too.  Coralife is a trusted name in the reefkeeping hobby/addiction world and make great products.  They also come in different sizes.  If you follow the link, you can check out the others as well.

Coralife 05272 Super Skimmer with Pump, 125-Gallon

Please check these out, and thanks for checking out my page!  Hopefully I’ll get some video of my skimmer in action, soon!

Great Aquarium Powerheads!

I needed some increased flow in my mixed reef tank.  I’ve been doing some research on it and really wanted Tunzes.  But the cost of them are astronomical.  Well, a company called Jebao has come out with a similar unit for a fraction of the cost.  I just put one (WP-25) in my 65 gallon mixed reef, saltwater tank today and it is amazing!  ONE powerhead replaced the three I had in the tank which makes the tank MUCH more appealing to look at.  Check them out!

They also have a controller to use it as a wavemaker, and a feature on the WP-25 and larger is a light sensor that can tell when your lights are off and reduces the flow in the tank automatically!

Here’s a couple youtube videos of the WP-25 in action (not of my tank, mind you!)


WP-10 (for a smaller tank)   Moves 530-1000 GPH!

Jebao WP-10 Wavemaker with Controller, 530 to 1000 GPH

WP-25 (What I chose for my 65 Gallon tank)  Moves 800-2,000 gallons/hour!

Jebao WP-25 Wavemaker with Controller, 800gph-2000gph

WP-40 moves 900-3,400 GPH!

Jebao WP-40 Wavemaker with Controller, 900gph-3400gph


And for you big tank owners, here’s the WP-60…

Jebao WP-60 Wavemaker with Controller, 2600gph to 5300gph