Ramble On

Saturday, January 31, 2009

7 summiters - it's a small world

Since I put that Outside Blog on the blogroll here, I've noticed several posts about 7 summiters. Last week, there was one about a youth putting together this incredible effort. The Outside post opened with, "Jordon Romero wants to climb the Seven Summits by the time he's 14."

It also happens that my friend David is back from the Antarctica climb by way of Patagonia. I sent the link on Romero to him - David sent back this photo with the note, "I met him at High Camp on Denali."
The kid is engaged in a fund raising effort so that he can complete all seven summits by the time he is 16 - he'll be the youngest person to accomplish this is he's successful.

Small world in that group, eh?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Detachable Economic Stimulus

Today I was going to post on the cabin renovations. Instead, after a quick perusal of the discussion on the stimulus bill on The Nation site, on HBBlogs' Blue Ridge Data, and the WaPo, I am giving way to a rant.

With all this talk about the stimulus bill, I was was reminded that somewhere in the depths of history that I also took macroecomonics classes, and one of the things I learned about was the multiplier affect of government spending.

Admittedly, after 8 years of misguided and misdirected government spending, which racked up national debt at an unprecedented pace and to an unprecedented level, this kind of an approach has some risk. But something has to be done quickly - and that's one thing that seems to be the consensus in Washington today. As our friends at the Blue Ridge Data blog have noted, the stimulus is likely to require about a year to 18 months to have the full desired impact, and depending on the final approach in the package, the result could take longer.

It's one of the ironies of politics and government that the House GOP caucus, who during the Bush era bore much responsibility for the situation we are in, has now decided to vote against the stimulus package. The package was designed to include a direct approach that capitalizes on the multiplier affect of infrastructure spending to create jobs for those in need. The GOP caucus negotiated to orient it in favor of tax reductions that are less potent because they tend to benefit people who are keeping their jobs, and because the money is more often saved or used to pay down debt.

However, it's no matter to them that this was a significant change in direction, less likely to help the many and more likely to benefit the few. They then united in voting against it.

Maybe they were negotiating based on experience...after all, that Bush era spending that they pushed through really hasn't left the majority of Americans better off than they were back in 2000.

Now, the WaPo says GOP leadership is crowing about some sort of victory this represents for themselves - and I suppose that they have the right perspective about it, when we get to brass tacks - because it certainly isn't any kind of victory for the rest of us. We can only hope that the final package comes back around significantly improved after committee work and final passage.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

As seen on US 11

From time to time we drive to H-burg via New Market, heading south from town on US 11 to get to I-81. We have alternative routes, and we generally decide which to use at the last minute.
Right there at the intersection of 11 and 81, there is this old barn with a memorial to the Leonard Skynyrd band members who died in a plane crash on October 20 1977 - the painting was done on the 2005 anniversary.
This crash happened on a Thursday of that year, but the media being what it was in 1977, the coverage didn't really gear up until Saturday morning.
I happen to remember where I was that Saturday - I was driving my '73 Plymouth Duster, sunroof open, up US 1 from Key West to Miami, where I planned to spend the weekend with a high school friend who lived in Little Havana.
The three hour drive over the bridges was wonderful, and we had a great weekend hanging out in Miami. But one of the things about that trip that I always remember are all the eulogies from the DJ's I heard on the way up - and the "Free Bird" marathons.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Offering for the Tech-Watch Geek

From the Outside Blog - a review:

Timex Expedition WS4 -- Features on this giant-faced sports watch include an altimeter, barometer, thermometer and compass, all encased in a "widescreen dashboard" that looks like something Dick Tracey would wear. Timex calls the watch "boldly stylish," and it is available in six styles, including combinations of black, orange, yellow, blue, and white. Other more common features include the requisite chronograph, alarm and timer. Available in May for $199.

I like the topo feature here...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Presgraves Update

There has been a little bit of reporting lately on the continuing saga about Page County Sheriff Presgraves. The latest developments are that a federal jury trial is set to begin March 16, but his defense team wants his trial on 22 charges of alleged corruption delayed. The charges include racketeering and sexual assault, which may make for a complex case, but Presgraves attorney also is calling it a “voluminous” case, according to reporting in H-burg’s Daily News and Record (DNR), reported by Jeremy Hunt.

As of Friday the motion to delay the trial was denied. Still pending is a decision about where to hold the trial – it’s been moved out of the county and will likely be held in H-burg or Roanoke. Also, a new petition to remove Presgraves from office is making the rounds after the first one was rejected.

The DNR reported Friday that the new petition is about 50 pages, including the indictment and bond order, and that about 100 people had signed it – 10 percent of the voting population needs to sign for it to be valid, or about 800 Page County residents.

Meanwhile, Presgraves continues to draw the Sheriff’s nearly $100K salary despite the indictment and subsequent orders that prohibit his wearing the uniform, using official vehicles, and even entering the office or meeting with employees.

Frankly, with the Page County paper full of letters to the editor about hard-working folks worried about keeping their homes and facing other challenges from the economic situation we face, seems like a good faith gesture from him waiving the salary, or a new court motion putting him on a leave without pay situation, would be the right thing to do. That’s money that could help a lot of people who probably need it more than him – or reduce the county’s prospective deficits this year.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Canine Renal Failure update 1

Since I posted on Gracie’s diagnosis of canine renal failure (January 15 post), we have some updates. We did some web research on the situation, and one thing that is emphasized is that the disease upsets the stomach so the dog won’t eat. This is what results in food boycotting, which we had been attributing to her not liking the food.

The advice we got on this was that it is important to get her to eat – even if it’s not necessarily the prescription diet (costly prescription diet, let me add). So we’re checking all the protein levels on stuff we can use to incentivize.
Also, we read on a blog that additives such as B- vitamins and safflower oil may be a help (readers finding this blog from a search on Canine Renal Failure – please be sure to do your own due diligence, and check with your vet!). Our vet confirmed that these things can be helpful, but she wants to check the dosages the next time we are in. That will be some welcome advice.

We got her some pepcid and that seems to have quieted the stomach issues. Mary is taking some extra care to make the food more attractive – it’s quite a project – but now mealtimes attract quite a bit of canine attention as they stand patiently in the door of the kitchen, patiently as they can, that is. Mary says, "I'm just glad they're domesticated!" when they finally charge in to the food bowls.

Gracie’s appetite has returned, though, and she is gaining some of the lost weight back…her energy is back - even during the stomach issues she wanted to play - all good things. She's almost her pesky border collie self again. Will continue to post on this as I have updates.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Follow-up to last week's LEED post

Following up on my recent post on the two LEED certified homes that WMH Investments recently delivered in Alexandria, I went to the US Green Building Council to find out what’s involved. I downloaded their checklist for the homes rating system, basically to get a project certified you need to map out a process for meeting requirements and also have the project assessed by a third party rater.

There are 8 scoring categories, each with sub-categories, which I listed below. Some categories have minimum scoring requirements. Overall, to be LEED Certified, the home must score in a range of 45-59; Silver is 60-74; Gold is 75=89; and Platinum is 90-136.

· Innovation and Design Process
-Integrated project planning
-Durability management process
-Innovative or regional design
· Location and Linkages
-LEED Neighborhood Development
-Site selection
-Preferred location
-Community resources
-Access to open space
· Sustainable Sites
-Site stewardship
-Local heat island effects
-Surface water management
-Nontoxic pest control
-Compact development
· Water Efficiency
-Water reuse
-Irrigation system
-Indoor water use
· Energy and Atmosphere
-Optimize energy performance
-Water heating
-Residential refrigerant management
· Materials and Resources
-Material efficient framing
-Environmentally preferable products
-Waste management
· Indoor Environmental quality
-ENERGY STAR with Indoor Air Package
-Combustion venting
-Moisture control
-Outdoor air ventilation
-Local exhaust
-Distribution of space heating and cooling
-Air filtering
-Contaminant control
-Radon protection
-Garage pollutant protection
· Awareness and Education
-Education of the homeowner or tenant
-Education of the building manager
· Energy and Atmosphere
-Air filtration
-Heating and cooling distribution
-Space heating and cooling
-Water heating
-Renewable energy
-Residential refrigerant management

Is it worth it? When the developer at the Gold house in Alexandria showed us the yellow cards from the kitchen appliances, I quickly summed the annual total operating cost at less than $500; I think our old refrigerator was at that level by itself. So it seems like it would be worth it to have a go at adopting these practices.

While the renovations of the Hawksbill Cabin were of an emergency nature (search on Big Projects to see the related blog posts, or click on the tag at the end of this post), there is still a lot of opportunity for us to apply some of these concepts to our ongoing project list. I’d like to think that with some of what we did, we have a good start on Certification – we are certainly not very far along in terms of the other ratings!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Inauguration Day - a wrap

Here's a final post to go with the new video I've posted. Thanks everyone for keeping an eye on our blog here, and for your very special and important posts, as we experienced the peaceful change in our government once again, and as we celebrate our democracy in this special way we do once every four years.

The first week hasn't been without its shenanigans from the press, comically focusing on so many misdirected and frankly not-newsworthy elements of the Inauguration. The taped music, the flubbed oath.

My own attribution of this kind of comedy is that it started with the Newt era in 1994...it's a failed movement, and it's over. Although there are still the pitiful remarks eminating from the likes of Chris Wallace and Rush Limbaugh. They have nothing new to offer and I hope that their listeners will come around to that fact - and they will, unless they are listening solely for entertainment value.

Getting back to the change, I've dug up this old video of Mick and Keith at the 9-11 concerts. While this event was directed at marking the events of that time, I think the song has a broader connection to us all. It's rarely performed live, but let's keep the Salt of the Earth in our minds and hearts as the change takes hold, it's a big part of what this is all about.

One warning, if you stay with it and watch to the end, there is an f-bomb after the song is over. I know it's there and this is an advisory to you. It's an accurate statement, however, and was meant as a comfort to the audience.

Inauguration Day - a few more comments

These posts were in the comments we received during the Inauguration Day observances. They are from relatives, but I thought they were worth being brought out into a single post that stands on its own. Putting them up in chronological order – thanks all for a special, virtual Inauguration experience.

From Mom:
“As a senior citizen,I am once again having hope in our country. This is a great day in American History and I am very glad and proud to be an American today in History.”

From Dad:
“On inauguration day in 2001 and 2005, I was full of fear and worry, because I knew that the USA had made the wrong choice for leadership. Today, I am full of peace and joy because finally we have gotten it right! It is about hope and optimism not about fear and dread. The upcoming changes to our country and even to our way of life will be slow coming, but will be drastic, and will be the foundation of a new and lasting legacy of hope and security for us all.”

From Aunt Rusti:
“It has been a long long march. It was wonderful having Sterling here with me and sharing with him my joy. I remember getting together in a subsicized housing complex in 1955 and meeting Martin Luther King just one of ten or twenty Duke Students; I remember refusing to get married in the First Baptist Church in Greensboro unless Yank and Effie could be seated with my family; I remember hearing noises in the woods behind my house in Durham and peeping through the woods to a field with a huge cross burning and men in robes (1961); My list is long. But these just help to let you know how deeply thrilled I am that he proved himself to me and to others, we elected him, and we must work for and with him for changes.”

Friday, January 23, 2009

Antarctica Update

I saw a post on Facebook yesterday - my friend David, featured in the recent post about Alpine Mountaineering (see link at the end of this post) is in South America after wrapping up the trek to Mt. Vinson in Antarctica. I hope to have a post from him when he is back to the US.

I managed to find this photo of him on the Denali approach, taken last July. Also recently found out that he has ascended Aconcagua in South America, so by my recollection, he's checked off North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Antarctica from the 7 summits list (http://7summits.com/)

Dave also has a cause, posted on his blog. He's formed a charity, in fact:

"Live to Give is dedicated to the memory of Patrick Brandt, who lost a courageous battle with brain cancer on March 2, 2008. Pat’s motto: “live, love life, give love” is the inspiration for our name and for our mission. During his 37 years on earth, Pat lived life to the fullest and gave of himself every day—to his family, to his friends and to the causes he held dear. Throughout his decade-long battle with cancer, Pat never stopped setting goals and taking action to achieve them. The day he died, he was one of the top salespeople in his company and an inspirational supporter of the Relay for Life (American Cancer Society)."

The earlier post on Dave's trip to Antarctica is at: http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2009/01/hes-alpine-mountaineer.html

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Day Trip to Annapolis

Yesterday was an out and back to Annapolis for work - we had a very successful day at the Naval Academy meeting with clients and learning about the hisory of the facilities there. A highlight for me on the installation was our drive by the old hospital, where I was born.

At lunch we drove out to old town, near the little harbor. You can really feel the history here at the old dockside.

This is where George Washington came to catch a ferry across to Rock Hall when he made his trips to Philadelphia and New York, and he very likely stopped for a break in the tavern we had lunch at, since it was in operation back then.

A short trip, but successful. It's funny, earlier in my consulting career I really liked to travel, and I still think site visits are the best part. But I can hardly stand air travel anymore, even for a vacation. Maybe these day trips by car and train are easing me back into it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

One day later: history's perspective on GWB

LEED Platinum and Gold Remodels in Alexandria

On Sunday, as we were heading off to brunch in Old Town, Mary and I noticed an open house in the neighborhood, and drove by to take a look.

Turns out that one of the old two-family homes had been renovated and now is on the market. We went in for a look around at this now 3beds 3.5baths house - the developer was there and gave us a tour of the features.

Turns out that the firm, WMH Investments LLC, is specializing in "Green" renovations, and had achieved a gold rating on this home.

In an earlier project, they had completed the next door house to the platinum level. Here are two views.

We remembered both of these houses as having been in poor shape despite the housing boom that went through the neighborhood from 1998 to 2005. The results here are really an improvement.

In the case of the gold house, an elderly couple lived in the house and had consolidated themselves to the main floor. The upstairs had become unliveable - infested with raccoons, even. When the inevitable 9-1-1 call happened when the wife had a health concern, the EMT team reported the condition of the house as unsafe and it was condemned.

Family members from LA came out and took their parents back with them to southern California, and in the meantime, met up with WMH, then working on the gold-rated home next door. They made a deal and the renovation became WMH's next project.

On a tip from WMH, I've taken a look at the US Green Building Council (USGBC) website and checklist. I plan to do some future posts on the project checklist and some other examples. It is a hope of ours that some of the future work on the Hawksbill Cabin can be done using these methods and materials - we'd like to think that our selection of the standing seem roof, ceiling insulation, and other aspects of that big job met some criteria, but further research is needed.

The street where these two houses are located has had a number of renovations over the last five years or so, including this one, next door to the LEED Platinum house. The neighborhood is mostly kit homes on builder lots, constructed beginning around 1920 along a street car route.

One of the goals MWH outlined in the project is to complete their projects so that the renovated home is affordable by neighborhood standards. With the gold house, it seems they were successful - the house, less than a half mile from King Street Metro, is list at $895K.

Readers interested in more information about WMH should post a comment letting me know how to reply, and I will send contact info about the firm.

Inauguration Day - Eyewitness blog from a volunteer

Blue Ridge Data, one of the H-burg blogs in my blogging community, has this post up today, from volunteer Jill who worked on the Mall during the festivities yesterday:


Good on you, Jill!

Inauguration Day - Satellite Image of the Mall

My friend Karl sent along a link to this image, published at geoeye.com, where it is currently available for download.
MSNBC was quoting crowd estimates of 1.8 million at the swearing in, this part of the crowd is likely to be less than 20% of them!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day - the West Coast checks in

This from Brian, in San Francisco, a frequent commenter:

"I think it is very cool that Barrack is basically our age and rose to the
highest elected post (I say elected ~ because we all know that Oprah wields much
more power than any ol' President of these here United States) in our country
from a very common background. No spoiled silver-spoon-in-my-mouth Yalie there.

I was watching some of the Inauguration festivities at work during lunch and
thought it both exciting and gutsy when he got out and walked several blocks
along the route to the White House. The whole procession seemed a bit surreal...
this was better than watching your home team win the Superbowl and have a parade
down Main Street. Who knew that Barrack is a Rock star?! "

Inauguration Day - some late arriving texts

From Greg, my former roommate in Berlin:

“…but I loved hearing the phrase ‘former President Bush’… it started bad, it framed his presidency...a farce from day one.”

I don't want to hear anymore [bs] about red states and blue states and Jesus and SCARY [homosexuals] and any of that other divisive Rovian [stuff]!!

James Joyce wrote a brilliant line in "Ulysses," “history is a nightmare from which i am trying to awaken." …time to wake up.

...and from Yiming, another USAF friend:

"As far as the inauguration goes, I have great hope for the coming years and am extremely impressed with the transition so far. I am mindful that 48 million Americans do not support what he stands for, though I'm sure he will win some of them over. He's a calm cucumber, that's for sure too. I was kind of p'o'ed at Roberts for flubbing a simple 30 some word oath.

As far as the other stuff, I liked Michelle's Toledo outfit, very courageous statement, her own fashion sense and proud of it. I actually liked the grand dame Aretha Franklin's hat, very dapper, early 20th century feel. I was wondering why GHW Bush was limping with a cane - will have to research it a little. I was struck by how the VP wives were all in such good shape physically, Carter is shrinking because of his age. The president and VP men all are aging much quicker than their wives.

And one comment on the crowd. Obviously very few of those folks had ever been to a big event on the mall. The fact that they had to stand in line just to get into the museums and other buildings to get/stay warm after the ceremony was a bummer I would not have subjected myself to without adequate preparation.

And lastly, I'm not sure partying is something I would be doing. Commemorating the occasion and then rolling up the sleeves and getting to work is the only way to go. We've been partying with wall street excesses for too many years now. All that wealth and prosperity during the Bush administration, well, it was not real wealth and prosperity. Some ugly truths need to laid bare for those who think we can return to that. And that's not a job I want."

Inauguration Day - From Janice, on the Mall

Janice has just posted me after attending the Inauguration in person.

"All I can say is...Wow. Today was truly a once in a lifetime experience. There is no way to describe what this day meant to me personally as a young African-American woman and an American citizen. I'm so taken by what this man has created.

A movement of hope and change, and a renewed faith for everyone. His sincerity and warm demeanor is contagious and it was evident in the crowd today. The idea It was so stunning, so phenomenal, so breath taking that all I could all say was "Wow."

Barack Obama has set a defining moment for the US and the world. I believe that because of the gift God created in President Obama, this world is forever changed for the better.

I am so honored and blessed to have been a part of it and to have shared this experience with my children; especially my young sons who will never remember a world where a black man couldn't be president. I rejoice in the fact that their norm is that of a more equal and just America, an America more like the one their ancestors dreamed of and prayed for. They have no idea how greatly this moment will forever impact their lives.

I'm looking forward to responding to the call of President Obamato take personal ownership in the restoration of our magnificent country. Change has come and more change is coming. As you said Jim, today is the first of many steps. So let's get to work! This is going to be an AWESOME 4 years!"

Inauguration Day - activities update

For our own observation of the inauguration, Mary and I decided to put our bunting up – we’ll keep it up for the rest of the week – and we took our chances on driving to friends Pris and Art’s house in Arlington. We hit the road after 10am, and we very surprised to see almost no traffic on the roads by that time.
When we arrived, the brunch spread was on. Art cooked up barbeque with cole slaw, Memphis style, and there were all kinds of other goodies to munch on.

Here are two of my photos from significant events during the program – the inauguration of the Vice President – at that moment, change was official; and then the inauguration of the President, at last.

Finally, here is the photo of ex-President Bush getting on the helicopter. It is a fond memory of mine to think back to the ’93 inauguration, I happened to be on the east side of the Capitol when the Bushes came out and boarded their flight away. Mary and I met during the '93 campaign.

I sent a congratulatory “wheels up” message to many of the friends in my phone directory – and rec’d a half dozen “cheers” in response.

Now it’s time to put these last 8 years behind us. It is a new and beautiful day. Let’s get started.

Inauguration Day - some more text greetings

I had notes from two friends who went down to the Mall to be a part of the events today, Janice and Stan, and another, Jack, who texted in from LA.

Janice, a great friend from a few years ago at Jacobs, brought the family up from Raleigh to be a part of the event. She, her husband and kids, all were part of this great experience on the Mall today with an estimated 1.8 million.

Also from Stan, a USAF friend from Berlin, who’s family went downtown to be part of the events.

And finally, Jack, one of my mentors and a professor at USC, who watched the festivities in LA. Last summer during my visit out to the campus, I happened to follow Jack in from the beaches and saw his Obama bumper sticker. This is significant for him, he said, a long road from the sixties. Jack demonstrated against the Oakland draft board in 1964, something I just learned today.

Inauguration Days Thoughts from Friends

I'll post the emails and thoughts coming in as I can today.

Here's one from Roy, an Air Force buddy in Illinois:

"In my mind, growing up in Central Illinois and living here now, I think our perspective is a little different - we tend to lean to the right. One thing that is amazing is that it does feel that we've finally moved past something in electing this president. There is new hope, new energy that may just help pull us out of a long period of not feeling good about ourselves and questioning our country's purpose. I'm impressed by the new President's pragmatism and willingness to move past ideology. Hopefully he help unite all of us for the better."

Yes We Will

Something big is happening today and I don't think there's anyone not feeling the energy. You have to admit that there is a charge in the air - that everyone has something to look forward to, today - when our government will go through a peaceful transition.

The papers are full of stories today on what's ahead, on the historic nature of this dawning presidency. Here on the morning of the big day, something we've been looking forward to for eight years, a couple of perspective induced thoughts come to mind.

While we didn't agree with him then, and we never came around to any sort of agreement with outgoing President Bush's perspective, views or direction, he came to office with no less an enthusiastic group of supporters. And they set out to do what they thought were great things - a promise and optimism that was quickly squandered and then lost when it became clear this wasn't a vision that included everyone, only a powerful few.

Change we can believe in became the theme, echoed in 2004 and then again in 2006, and now, finally, creating the change will absorb the bulk of not just President Obama's energy - but the energy of the entire country, and it will be a long road ahead.

We heard the call to action this week, the call to service. Each of us has to make a contribution in the days ahead. What is the best way to have an impact? What is the best way to make that contribution?

One thing is for certain, this is a journey with many steps. The most important one is this first one, the one we take today, when President Obama is inaugurated.
(The poster pictured is Shepard Fairey's great work, which became the iconic image of the Obama campaign).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration Traffic - Update from Alexandria

It's America's big celebration of democracy, and the peaceful transition of government. But if yesterday is any example for what's to come, folks planning to attend the celebrations at the Mall tomorrow should be prepared for some challenging logistics. There is a link to a WaPo pdf map of the mall at the end of this post.

We went into Old Town Alexandria yesterday, a short trip for us that takes us by the King Street Metro station, which offers a direct trip into DC via the Blue or Yellow lines (they will both be re-routed tomorrow, a standard practice for big Mall events).

In every direction, for six blocks around the station, all of the street parking was taken. Fortunately as residents we know some secret back street locations to park and had no problem, however, I'd expect the parking challenge to be worse tomorrow.

Once you are on the train, from King Street you progress through Crystal and Pentagon City stations - both areas are rich with tourist and business hotels, so already crowded trains will be delayed and only get more crowded.

Finally, at the destination, there will be all the walking and check points - not to be underestimated, the distance from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol is 2 miles. So this note is not to discourage attendance, but to let everyone know to be prepared.

A few more random notes. A big news story going around is about the lack of sanitary facilities - they are saying that only about half of the number of port-a-potties for the estimated crowd size will be available. Also, we heard that yesterday there were more police in DC than there are soldiers in Afghanistan.

Here is a link to a pdf on WashingtonPost.com - a map of the Mall.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

9-1-1 Bob on the AT

This weekend a friend of mine, let's give him a trail name of "9-1-1 Bob," checked out the blog. He sent an email after he read the post about the Awol on the Appalachian Trail book.

Bob was stationed with me in Berlin in the '80's, and like me he was a Russian Linguist. While our time in the USAF pretty much overlapped, he'd had a great tour in Crete before his arrival in Berlin. He now lives in Pensacola (I fondly remember a visit there where we went to a Greek diner and enjoyed incredible seafood). After reading the post, 9-1-1 Bob told me a story about an encounter with the AT back in the '70's.

Here's his story:

"...glanced atcher blog this morning. saw the bit about the app trail. in 1973 a buddy and i hitchhiked to the start in georgia and hiked it for a little more than a week. extremely nice."

I followed up, asking about the Georgia start, which I've heard is tough because you get into some difficult country right away.

"...the terrain wasn't too tuff, of course i was about 19 also. we ate different berries and puff ball mushrooms with our freeze dried food and drank out of springs w/out purification tabs.i remember we met a fella on the trail day hiking. for retirement his kids bought him a VW camper van. he was out on the trail with a canteen, knife, and camera. we went to his van for a shot of whiskey and a pack of real cigs (my buddy and i were rolling bugler or some such crap). i remember thinking that guy had it made. we stopped at a small rocky bluff at a stream to laundry and there were some city punks there. freaked em out: i'd raise my hand and extend a finger and butterflies would alight.we ran into a boy scout group one eve and they insisted we save our food and join them for dinner. even the people we caught rides with on the hitch back in that part of the world were extremely nice. young folks, old folks, just nice mountain folk. keep in mind we were both very longhaired college types at the time.i'm to the point that my idea of camping is the holiday inn, HBO, room service, and a heated pool.the pics of yer place and that whole area look quite nice and calming."

In the final exchange, I asked him if he'd made it out of Georgia.

"...we didn't. we weren't seasoned vets, but we didn't lollygag. then again, we had no agenda to be at such and such point by whatever date. one of the best times of my life.

"...i'm gonna check out that book, but i'm into about 6 right now so it will be a bit."

The original Awol on the Appalachian Trail post is here, and there is a link to the book on Amazon if other readers are interested: http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2009/01/book-review-awol-on-appalachian-trail.html

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Facebook Experience

We're working through the process of getting the blog put up on Facebook - if you are a member there, check us out.

So far, it's been a great experience checking in there. I've reconnected with several past communities, and looking forward to running into other friends there.

I've posted about it before, but in particular the veterans' group of folks who were stationed with me in Berlin are as close to a fraternity as you can get. Many of them are on the Facebook network. This Thursday we had a virtual reunion - back in the old days, our NCO club, "Silverwings," had Rock 'n' Roll night on Thursdays.

I thought we might try something interesting and announced the return of this event. There were some challenges for all of us learning how to use the various features (I think that is a process we will be going through for some time). But by the end of the evening, we'd had 8 or so of the group check in, post some YouTube videos, tell the same old jokes, and chat. A good time, only the 85-cent heinekens were missing!

On another note, I've added the blog to the Amazon Associates program. So from time to time a "badge" will be included in the blog post, usually related to books, music or films. As with the Google Adsense ads in the right column, any revenues associated with either of these programs will be donated to animal rescue charities, such as the Page County Shelter, Lost Dogs, ASPCA, other others.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Luray's Hawksbill Greenway

The Hawksbill Greenway was one of Luray's first charms we noticed on our visit to Spring Fest in 2007. This park stretches almost 2 miles through town, following the Hawksbill Creek, providing both a riparian buffer zone and a community recreational resource.

Completed in four phases over 7 years, at a cost of about $1.4 million (according to a Page News and Courier article by Benjamin Weathers on November 13, 2008), Mary and I took a walk last weekend to look at the newest, fourth phase. These photos are some of the highlights of this .25 mile stretch.

This portion of the Greenway joins where the last phase leftoff, crosses under the railway bridge and US 340 Business, then crosses the creek on a footbridge before ending near an old mill race almost at the edge of town.

There are only a few 90 degree turns in the trail, owing to its path following the creek, but those spots are typically widened out and feature resting points or other items of interest, like this millstone near the foot bridge.

Almost every time we pass the trail, we've been impressed with the number of people out taking a walk. During the holidays, we often saw family groups of 10 taking in some fresh air. Lots of dog walkers and bicycing use the trail.

The PNC article quotes a couple of Luray residents:

Hank Overton, who said, "...a place where you can meet your neighbors."
Susan Kline said, "{the greenway} is the reason my husband and I bought bicycles."
Finally, Priti Lal said, "It has only improved everyone's lives. This good for us." The paper noted that Lal was walking her dog during the interview.

It's a charming feature, and we're looking forward to using it more in 2009.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thoughts on ... Canine Renal Disease

I hesitate to write this post - while the blog is meant to journalize experiences, and is certainly personal, once I make this entry I'll have started down a path revisiting this topic until a final post sometime.

(May 2009 update: Gracie is still with us and doing well. If you are finding this post from a search engine, click the "canine renal" label below for follow-up posts. My wife has put together a series of posts on our experience dealing with the disease, and they are in the process of being published - clicking the label will take you to them.)

(August 2009 update: Gracie is still with us. We are managing the canine renal failure, which requires quite a bit of prescription medicine, careful attention to diet, and plenty of vet care. Knowing that she has this condition keeps us attentive to subtle changes. It can be expensive; we're very lucky to have the resources to manage this. If you click the "canine renal" label below, you'll be able to resource a good 15 to 20 posts on the topic.)

(September 2009 update: We had to put our beloved Gracie to sleep on September 7. Given time, we'll add a few more, backdated posts about our final few visits to the vet, and the care we were giving her at the time. She was a real trooper through it all. We were very lucky to have had so much time with her, and we all - Mary, me, and Sofie Dawg, miss Gracie very much.)

This week we learned that Gracie is very likely in chronic renal failure, which means her kidneys aren't clearing all the toxins from her body. She has progressed from a mild stage of the disease which was diagnosed last Fall. About three weeks ago, she started boycotting her food, and we thought, okay - she really doesn't like the food (a special diet we had been treating the early stage with), and the battle to try and get her to eat it isn't worth it.

So we went to the vet for alternatives. In the meantime they tested her again - she lost 5 pounds over the last month and although she was always pushing it on being just a tad overweight and this brings her in line with typical border collie weights - it was an abrupt loss and concerned us.

We found another version of the food (wet - of course - the previous one was dry), and the vet confirmed that her condition had progressed in a positive direction yesterday. This dog is still a nut, driven like the border collie she is, constantly trying to tempt us with her toys, as always. She even tried to convince a Page County Deputy to play football with her over the weekend!

But the simple matter is she is 14 and her body is starting to wear out. Stage 2 renal failure is the final stage, and the vet tells us it could be weeks (! given the spirits she is in this is hard to believe) but it could be months. In any case, the news was that it is likely that we'll lose her this year.

She's been with us a long time and we've been blessed to have her by us over the years - she's been really special to us the whole way. And meanwhile, Sofie the Chow Mix still amazes everyone, thanks to her hybrid vigor!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hiking Prospects for the Winter

With all these posts on outside activities the last few days, readers may have wondered what I was coming around to...while nobody has told me they put more hiking down on their 2009 resolutions list, a couple of hiking compadres have mentioned they'd be interested in doing a few hikes this year.

So I've been thinking, and in my reading (Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine, specifically) I came across this two-day hike in the GW National Forest (excerpting from the description here):

The Massanutten Trail

Two-day hike: a 19-mile mini-loop that combines pieces of the Massanutten Trail with the Tuscarora Trail for a two-day highlight reel of the area.

Day One: Park at Signal Knob and head north on the orange-blazed trail, where you’ll climb to the Buzzard Rock overlook. After that, two miles of ridgeline hiking leads to views from Signal Knob, from which you can see Great North Mountain on the WV border. Signal Knob is 2,100 feet, the high point of this trek. Descent past the junction of the Tuscarora Trail into a small creek valley. For campers, look in the meadow near the creek. 8.5 miles.

Day Two: Follow the Massanutten Trail for a mile, intersecting again with the Tuscarora Trail. Take a right following blue blazes to the ridge to Three Top Mountain. Hiking 3.5 miles on the ridgeline via bolders and scrambles – with views of the Valley along the way. Continue following the blue blazes past another intersection, 5.5 miles to the day one parking area. 10 miles.

I'm going to check Hiking Upward and other resources on this route. We'll probably base out of the cabin for it, since we are so close to the route, and use car shuttling so we don't have to camp.

The route is outlined as a winter hike, but we are more likely to do this in March - may be slightly overlapping into the spring.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

From the Outside Blog - best adventure sites

In a recent post on the Outside magazine blog, they reviewed the 100 best adventure web sites. I was curious – when I check out Backcountry.com and others, there is a strong west-of-the-Mississippi flavor, and while it’s beautiful country out there, we have boastful charm here in the mid-Atlantic as well.

So much for my own prejudices. This Outside post (link to the blog below) is organized by sections – travel, sports, adventure and environment, health, gear, weather, maps, widgets and friends, and phones – and is a one-stop review of a host of web-sites, rather than some adventure travel rating site.

I found the environment section pretty interesting, with citations of eco-news and commentary, sustainable business, and enviro-culture sites. These included grist.org, greenbiz.com, and thedailygreen.com. The inclusion of newwest.net does make the reference to the Rocky Mountain West, but including it among the others rounds out and softens the tendency to emphasize west over east.

The nutrition section has some pluses, too – eatwellguide.com has local sustainable food vendors by zip code (unfortunately HBBlogs own abowlofgood.com wasn't there - hopefully they'll keep up the good work and make it on this list someday!), and of course there is a link to livestrong.com (Lance is on the cover of the hardcopy magazine this month).

A final highlight for me are two sites I am going to take some time and explore further – breadcrumbz, a site that allows you to log a picture and gps route, and peakbaggers, which is a journal about summiting (I’ll start with Hawksbill and Stoneyman, of course, but I also did the Half Dome a few years ago…who knows, I may do Shasta or Washington someday!).

Here is a link to the Outside post: http://outside.away.com/outside/culture/200902/outside-guide-to-adventure-web-sites.html

Book Review: Awol on the Appalachian Trail

Lately I’ve turned to a few outdoor adventure stories, and this is the second I’ve recently read (a few weeks back I read "Into the Wild" and I recently read Bryson's "Walk in the Woods"). Like "Into the Wild," I picked this up at Evergreen Outfitters in Luray.

Thinking back on the experience of preparing for some longer day hikes I was especially curious about the motivation for a thru-hike, so I picked up Miller’s well-written book – it’s one of quite a few books and web journals out there but I’d rate it the best I’ve read on this topic so far.

He does a great job of describing the trail experience – the people he meets and the natural world the trail moves through; for example, how a community naturally forms around the annual class of thru-hikers as they make their way north or south, how one is always fairly close to civilization (they call it the “outside world” while they are on the trail) yet far enough away so that there could be real trouble with even a slight injury or other accident.

The jacket blurb says it is a book about “liberation, motivation, and perseverance;” that comes through in the telling. The book may help those thinking about taking on an AT thru-hike to make a decision about doing it. But, it was enough for me to read the story to know that section hiking is the way I’ll go…for now.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Keep your refridgerator happy

Mary and I host an annual New Year's Open House, and this year was no exception. One of my perennial problems with the festivities is how much beer to buy...will people feel like having one "the day after" - what kind should I get - how much lite beer should there be - etc.

As an example of the problem, last year I bought four cases, including a 12-pack of Amstel Light. That was clearly too much, as I had beer until May (except for the Amstel Light - I finally poured it out - all 12 bottles - in November).
So this year, I adapted two guiding principles - first, I would buy three cases and suffer with the leftovers, if any; and second, I would only buy beer I'd drink.

So, we had Bitburger, Stella, Warsteiner Dunkles, Sam Adams Winter Lager, Dominion Lager, and a few others. No light beers. One of my neighbors commented on the stock out in the back yard - I stored it on the deck during the party, as the temps were in the 30's - "you're a rich man when it comes to beer!"
To this, generous visitors added a growler of IPA, a mixed six of homebrew "Recession Ale" and lambric, and a six of Shiner Bock.

I gave my neighbor a mixed-six of the leftovers. He gave me back two Leinies he'd brought back from Wisconsin. I still have a case and a half in there, as the photos will attest.

What's the point of the blog entry today, you ask?

The way I see it, you have to understand and embrace your neighborly responsibilities. When they recognize you as a leader, you have to respond and you have to deliver. Or the next thing you know, they are parking their car in space in front of your house. That won't happen to me.

Friday, January 9, 2009

He's an Alpine Mountaineer

My friend Dave is an alpine mountaineer. He is the only person I know who actually lists this as his avocation on his LinkedIn profile. I’ve known him a few years – he’s my friend Felice’s fiancĂ©.

Yesterday, checking my Facebook page, Felice was on line. After catching up on the holidays, she told me Dave was in Antarctica. “What’s he doing there?” I asked. Her answer: “Climbing Mt. Vinson, the highest peak on the continent.”

Here’s the story of Mt. Vinson, from the website http://www.7summits.com/:
“Vinson Massif, at 78°35'S, 85°25'W is 21km (13 miles) long and 13km (8 miles) wide. It lies on the southern part of the main ridge of the Sentinel Range. Named for Carl G Vinson, a Georgia congressman and a major force in 20th century US Antarctic exploration, it was first climbed in December 1966 by a combined group from the American Alpine Club and the National Science Foundation.

Four members of the joint expedition led by Nicholas B. Clinch made the first ascent of the mountain on 17 December 1966. During the next days the team continued climbing in the local area adding Mount Tyree (4845m/15,892ft), Mount Shinn (4801m/15,747ft) and Mount Gardner (4686m/15,370ft).”

At 4897m/16,067ft) Vinson is taller than these three, making it the tallest peak on Antarctica. Dave’s goal is to climb the “7 Summits” – the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents. He’s been working on this goal for two or three years, and with Vinson will have completed four of the seven. The other three he's done are Mt. Kilimanjaro (Africa), Mt. Elbrus (Europe), and Denali - also known as Mt. McKinley (North America).

Despite the training and preparation that these and the remaining two ascents, Carstenz Pyramid (Australia) and Aconcagua (South America), will provide, the preparation for Everest (Asia) will involve additional work and training. It’s dangerous, you have to master specialized equipment including oxygen apparatus, and you have to be able to help with rescues and first aid in your expedition.

Dave’s pursuit gives a new meaning to adventure travel. Hawksbill (4049 ft) and Stony Man (4010 ft) pale in comparison to these, but that’s what we’ve got in the Valley. Just think of it though, our two mountains could be the early stepping stones for someone achieving this great feat!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

On the Way to Clementines: The Shops at Mauzy

During one of our weekends last month we decided to make the trek down to H-burg for lunch at Clementines. We'd heard a lot about the place through 81 Monthly, the HBBlogs site, and our neighbors. While we didn't catch a show, we enjoyed lunch, and found a lot of things on the menu we'd like to try sometime - not to mention we'd like to visit the neighboring institutions too.

We drove via New Market to US 11 and made a stop at this rustic set of shops in "Mauzy." Apparently, the main building was built as a stage coach stop. It's heritage as an inn is easy to make out, and it has a number of associated outbuildings as well. The first photos are of the inn and the general store.

There doesn't seem to be any historic certification or protection in effect with the buildings, and to a large extent their exteriors seem to be neglected. It does give the impression of a rustic, even primitive decor, which matches a lot of the items for sale here.

Here is a photo of one of the outbuildings, which include a lock-up, school house, and ice house among others. I was particularly interested in the mill stone, since you find them around the area. Milling was a major income source in the Valley, historically. I didn't see an acknowledgement of where this one came from.

There were the typical booths of antiques in the store, and a number of small displays of crafts: jewelry, soap, and candles, etc. It was a pleasant stop and the building was interesting, but I couldn't say we'd go out of the way for another visit. After a half hour or so we packed it up and headed south on US 11 to Clementines.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Enough with the BCS already

A colleague sent me this.

The Presgraves Saga Goes On and On...

Over the weekend, I took some time to catch up on my Page News and Courier reading – I had about 6 back issues I wanted to get through. The focus of this post was the contents of a cover story, two letters to the editor, and a two-column, full-page editorial on the charges against Sheriff Presgraves.

In several past posts I’ve mentioned the breaking news from October about 22 counts ranging from sexual harassment to stealing sheriff department property. If convicted, the sheriff could be sentenced to 200+ years in prison and more than $2 million in fines.

There are strong sentiments both ways on this – he has his supporters and detractors, as evidenced by a petition to remove him from office and a fund raiser to get some money together to support his defense. By the way, the photo included here is from the paper – it’s often a part of the reporting that appears there.

Since we live in Alexandria and are not Page County voters, our thoughts won’t necessarily be counted in the final outcome on Presgraves. Still - and these are my own thoughts - I come down on the side of not paying him while this process works itself out. That doesn’t mean he’s out of office. I think it would be most efficient to suspend him without pay.

In a November 20 editorial, the paper headlined with “Resign, Mr. Presgraves” and subtitled the article with “Page County Sheriff has Lost Credibility.” On the sexual harassment charge, the article mentions that prosecutors allege that Presgraves told some victims to “take it to the grave.”

The letters to the editor alternatively support a referendum to remove him from office, or encourage him to “admit wrongdoing and stop wasting people’s time and money.” Finally, the article I read is about the rejection of the petition to remove Presgraves, signed by 800+ Page County voters, for various shortcomings. The petition’s sponsor has vowed to revise and resubmit the petition.

From other reports, we know that the county has needed consultation from the sheriff to complete the development of its law enforcement budgets – a process that keeps him out of direct contact with the responsible staff by allowing only written communication back and forth.

This is an example of how the case clearly has a potential impact on public safety and effective law enforcement in the county. Suspending without pay would allow the county to obtain a well-qualified replacement while the sheriff’s case goes to trial and is resolved.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Bourne Marathon

Last weekend I did an overnight at the Hawksbill Cabin. Since Mary didn't join me, I was left to my own devices and goofed off, of course. I created a project for myself and watched all the Bourne movies over the course of 24 hours.

It's pretty old news by now, but the movies are very well done - great action scenes, great pace, facinating location work. They're pure entertainment.

Only one thing bugged me, that they killed off the girlfriend in the beginning of movie 2. I guess it was necessary to move the story along, but didn't they do this in the 2nd Austin Powers movie too?

A quick look at other web sources tells me that there is a "Bourne 4" sequel in the works, with Matt Damon again starring as Jason Bourne. And that there are four books beyond "Supremacy."

Has anybody read the books? Do you recommend them?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Into the Wild - Book Review

I recently posted on Amazon.com - a review of Into the Wild, by John Krakauer. Here's the full text.

"Just finished this one. I think there is something in all of us that wants to get in touch with the great big world outside, a hunger, a keening...and it's especially true with US corporate types challenged to find the balance. While Alex McCandless embraced this search early in his life before he had other responsibilities, and he was reckless about it, the picture here is one of a man who - by looking inward - comes to terms with his need for external relationships. The book was recommended to me by my local outfitter - Evergreen Outfitters, in Luray, VA. I found the experience reading this fascinating and moving."

Bottles and cans - clap your hands!

I've posted about my home brewing friends at Beaver Run Brewery before - since I did, the home brewing community is coming out of the woodwork. There is a whole lot of interest.

On 1/1, Mary and I had our traditional open house in Alexandria. It really is a wonderful opportunity to catch up with the neighbors here, as well as old friends from past work - for Mary that includes Skidmore Owings Merrill and the National Building Museum, for me, Berlin, Jacobs, and Booz Allen, among others.

This year, Stan (who was in Berlin with me way back) and his wife Beate dropped by. Stan just bottled an IPA, and brought a growler along. It's about a week away from being finished, and I've stored in the basement. The problem with a growler is, you have to finish it once it's opened. What to do?

Also, our friends Bill and Barb showed up - Bill went to the same program as I did at USC, and did the road trip with me this summer. He did some holiday bottling as well - this recession ale is the product. "It's good for what ales you!" he says. Also hidden away in the sixpack are some "high volume" Belgians.

Excuse the lame attempt at a glamor shot with the holiday lights. But, like the dude says, "careful man, there's a beverage here!" Thanks guys!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Hawksbill Mountain Holiday Hike - part 2

Of course I like to observe the change of seasons on the Hawksbill Mountain hike, but another thing I find interesting about it is the clusters of evergreens along the way - I have a couple of photos of them to post today. But first, here is a view of Bird's Nest #2, one of the wayside shelters along the Appalachian Trail.

This photo is taken just as you get to the crest of the hike, where the access trails meet the AT. A second note to mention is that for the past couple of years, there has been a nesting pair or pairs of ospreys coming to these cliffs. The Park Service has closed about 200 yards of the AT, detouring hikers around the nesting area to protect the birds.

The two unusual evergreen species that we have here are red spruce and balsam fir. Virginia is the southern extent of their ranges, although some trees can be seen here and there in the mountains in North Carolina. In the Park, they are all above 3,500 feet or so, and usually they are seen clustered in little groups of a few trees.

Oaks are the main trees seen in the Park these days, so during the winter there is not much foilage. That's one of the reasons these trees stand out so much. With average temperatures climbing, I wonder if they will begin to recede to the north.
Last photo is from the summit, looking northwest to the Shenandoah Valley. Luray is visible below.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Hawksbill Mountain Holiday Hike - part 1

I mentioned last week that Mary and I set out on the short hike to Hawksbill summit last weekend. We were greated by a sparkling day - in the mid-sixties, with a lot of the haze that typically hangs over the Valley cleared out by a front that had moved through, bringing the warmer air with it.

Once we were on the trail, this inviting view of the fairly easy way ahead greeted us.

Here are a couple of photos from our drive up to the trail head. There were a number of visitors in the Park, having taken inspiration in the weather change, even though all of the facilities are closed at this time of year. Since there were typically no other cars in most waysides, I pulled off more frequently than I typically would have.

Here are two photos overlooking the Valley, first in the direction of the New Market Gap, and second, looking north of Luray.

Next, a photo of Old Rag Mountain - I think this is the clearest shot of it I have ever taken from Skyline Drive.