Ramble On

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fresh Tomatoes at West Main Market

We are officially into fall now, and the next weekend will be the last opening of the Luray Farmers' Market. There is still produce coming off of the plantings, but this is simply the time to wrap things up.
In town last weekend we decided to grab a sandwich at the little cafe (website: http://westmainmarket.com/) . (Favorites: Italian Cold Cut, and the Cuban). The folks were out of town for vacation in the previous week.

As we pulled in, I noticed these laden tomato vines. This is a sunny spot that gets morning sun, and is in the shade in the afternoon. As long as there is no frost, they will have fruit for a couple of more weeks.

Clarendon Construction Update

To close out the month, I thought we might take a look at the buildings going up in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, where my office is.

The big building across the street is nearly topped out after several months of pouring a floor a week. While it is being built as a single large project, I understand there will be multiple uses on this site, and it may actually comprise more than one property. I expect the facade work to begin in the next few weeks, so it won't be long until the appearance of progress will be slowed, even though a lot will still be going on, out of site.

The second site in the middle block - between Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards - is also progressing. This site is on top of the Orange Line metro, so a lot of infrastructure and support is visible in the below ground areas of the new buildings. This middle block is typically first floor retail and restaurants, with parking on the second and third floors.

Even the Hard Times restaurant that is the block's capstone is getting into the act. This Hard Times - a local chili parlor, for those who are not familiar with it - has been in this building since I moved here in 1990. They have expanded into the second floor of their building and built out a sports bar there. After a short closing early in the month, they've extensively updated the interior as shown in these photos.

Things are coming along. We'll take another look in late October.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pool Closin'

As if there weren't enough signs of fall already, we ran into Uncle D and Tammy at the Mimslyn O-fest on Sunday. (Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/Luray-VA/Uncle-Ds-Pools-Spas-LLC/82303143717?ref=ts) They told us they'd be coming by the Hawksbill Cabin to do our pool closing this week.
Now, when we first looked into getting the pool repaired, we were skeptical that anything could be done. The team at Uncle D's proved us wrong, and actually got the job done at a very reasonable cost.
We have ongoing conversations about the possibility of snakes in our yard, and that was a concern when they got to work on the pool rehab. Darris asked if we had checked out the pool cover (green bag near the cabana in the photo) to make sure that there weren't any snakes. I told him no, we hadn't checked, and it was still right where we left it in the spring. He said, "Well, darn it, there are probably snakes in there. If you find any bullet holes in the cover next weekend, you'll know what happened!"

So herewith, a few parting shots of the pool. It seemed like a short swimming season because June was so rainy and cold in the Valley. But Mary and I agreed we managed to use the pool intensively in July and August, once the temperature warmed up.

But, the maple tree by the pool hasn't changed yet, and we need to get the pool covered before all those leaves start to come down. This little pile is just from overnight, from the nut trees that aren't anywhere near the pool.

We tried a few things to keep the pool area looking nice this year, including this new planting by Mary - previously, there was a monster hosta here, but we wanted more color and chose the coleus. Also, there's a hummingbird feeder, and we had at least three birds around the yard, possibly a fourth. I filled this for the last time on Sunday.

The last photo here is one of my favorite fall foilage views. There is a little gap in the trees looking eastward from our yard, to a ridge that rises over the little hollow. The oaks and cottonwoods change early on the ridge, and they catch the last sunlight at dusk, bathing the front of the cabin in a golden glow just before sunset.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

In Munchen Stadt Ein Hofbrauhaus

A few weeks ago we got word that the folks up at the Mimslyn Inn (http://www.mimslyninn.com/) were putting together a plan for an Octoberfest in Luray. Mary and I immediately began to plan to be there.

The fest was yesterday, and although there was a quick blast of rain just as things were getting started - a couple of these photos were taken right after the little storm - it quickly cleared up and it was a splendid early fall day in the Shenandoah Valley.

We'd invited our home brewing (Beaver Run Brewery - http://beaverrunbrewery.com/) neighbor Dan to join us. I figure have a fellow beer lover with you for one of these things.

So for photo highlights, we have the oompah band and costumed dancers, other action around the main tent area...then the wursts and hahnchens, including Mary's and my plates as we took our seats under one of the tents - the food was terrific.
For beverage choices, there was Spaten and Dominion Octoberfest on tap, and among bottles available were Beck's and Beck's Octoberfest. Local Virginia wines could be found, and they had a number of little German souvenirs vendors on-site selling their wares.
Next week, there is a German style October Wine Festival at North Mountain Vineyard (http://northmountainvineyard.com/Oktoberfest.html) - Mary and I went to this event last year, and I have to admit it's tempting!

In any case, I'm looking forward to the event in Luray next year already!

Diary of Gracie's Canine Renal Failure - 12

Today, the final post on our story of Gracie’s canine kidney disease. Best, Jim and Mary

Monday, September 7

After our visit to the vet last Thursday, Gracie seemed to perk up a bit, finding a tennis ball under a table in the sun room and bringing it to me for some play. Months ago, we modified the game to one where she lays down and I roll the ball to her, which she then traps between her front legs and bites soundly to stop. She seems so happy during these moments, recalling perhaps the more rigorous games of fetch we played in her younger days up on the hill at the Masonic Temple here in Alexandria, or, later, the “stairmaster” game when she would stand or lay at the top of the stairs and I would toss the ball up to her, which she would catch, then roll back down the steps to me to start the game all over again. However, this burst of energy and interest is short-lived and she grows weaker.

We are out at the cabin in the Shenandoah for the Labor Day weekend. On Saturday, she had enough strength to walk with Jim around the house, sniffing and enjoying being with him as she explored some of her favorite bushes and trees. During the night from Sunday to Monday, Gracie woke me up and I took her outside to pee. She sniffs in the dark for awhile then returns to me but has a difficult time walking over the black drain pipe leading from the downspout that crosses the back path. I also help her up the step to the side porch and into the house. She wags her tail as I pat her now boney back.

As I clean up the kitchen this morning, Jim has Gracie outside and tries to give her the semi-weekly dose of calcitriol. She is suddenly drastically weaker and can no longer lift her head and can’t seem to swallow, and must be carried back to the house. She can no longer stand-up. We’re not sure if she’s had a stroke or not. She’s conscious and continent but we realize that the time as come to end Gracie’s fight against the disease that has taken her strength and dignity.

We return to Alexandria and take Gracie to the vet, which we have called ahead of time. Jim carries our girl into a pleasant green-painted room with some comfortable chairs and plants and an examination table covered with towels. After a brief consultation, the vet agrees that to continue Gracie’s life in this way would be cruel and we begin the process that we have been dreading for so long. We have a chance to hold and kiss her before they administer the sedative and she is unconscious when the last medication is given. She leaves us quickly and peacefully, a gentle, loving companion to the end. She was three months short of her 15th birthday.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Diary of Gracie's Canine Renal Failure - 11

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Gracie seems so much weaker today that both Jim and I take her to the vet. I am steeling myself to the possibility that the doctor may advise us to put her to sleep today.

After the exam, the vet advises us that Gracie is in decline and that she probably only has about a week or two left at the most. As the disease progresses, she may suffer a stroke or go into a coma. The vet also gently answers our questions about the process of euthanasia and also tells us that today isn’t Gracie’s time, that we should enjoy her last days but to prepare ourselves.

When the time comes, we have decided that we want her sedated before the administration of the medication that will cause her heart to stop. We don’t want her to know what is happening and we also don’t want her – or us – to experience the involuntary twitches or vocalization that may occur as that medication takes effect.

Diary of Gracie's Canine Renal Failure - 10

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I was away last weekend working on chores at the cabin; Jim had to stay at home to catch-up on some office work. We decided to leave the girls with him to reduce their travel stress and to give me a break from the demanding routine of caring for Gracie. Jim administered the correct meds, fluids, and food but Gracie started to refuse food by Sunday, August 23rd. For probably more than a year she has howled on occasion if I have left her even to run errands and she has always been very close to me, following me from room to room and being my constant companion as I work in my home office.

I was able to get her to eat a small bit but her appetite had definitely fallen off to almost nothing. I decided to take her to the vet to have her blood tested to see what we were dealing with and if her meds needed to be adjusted. We saw the vet today. Gracie seems fatigued but her weight seems stable, which may be the result of being weighed in a different exam room.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gracie’s test results came back and her numbers have risen. Her BUN has gone from 82 to 117, creatinine from 3.5 to 4.3, but most troubling, her blood pressure has risen from 160 to over 200. In response, we have increased her amplodipine dosage from 1 tablet to 1.5 tablets every 12 hours for the high blood pressure, and will begin daily administration of 500 ml of fluids. The doctor has advised us that at this point it is probably best to let her eat whatever she wants just to keep her from starving, even if the food isn’t on the strict diet. The vet also advised stopping the AlternaGel dosages with her food since forcing the liquid medicine down her throat with the oral syringe at meal time is probably not helping her at this point.

I have begun to feed Gracie grilled or fried hamburger, about 4 to 6 ozs. per meal. She will sometimes take penne pasta cut up in small pieces. I also try to entice her with some “maximum calorie” dog food provided by the vet that they give to sick dogs recovering in the hospital. Everything must be hand-fed or given to her in small amounts on the floor as she lies in the kitchen. She will no longer stand and eat from a bowl. Chicken, rice, baby food, even bread are no longer palatable to her. She will still accept small bites of Iams weight control dog biscuits, but it is now a struggle to get her to take her meds in the pill pockets or in the G3 Chews. She seems to have the most problem with the tramadol tablets; I have to break them up and put the pieces in separate pill pockets so she doesn’t have to chew them – their taste is something Gracie definitely does not like.

This situation is not good and I am trying to accept the fact that our long journey with Gracie along this difficult path of canine renal disease may be coming to an end. I will work hard to keep her with us but the disease can not be reversed and it is taking its toll on our dear girl. She still seems engaged and happy and not in pain but she is losing strength by the day.

Diary of Gracie's Canine Renal Failure - 9

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gracie had another blood test to see how she’s doing. Her numbers indicate that she’s stable: creatinine at 3.5, down from 5 at the last test; BUN at 82, which is a little high but acceptable; and her calcium level is at 11.7, 1.2 for the ionized test. This is all very good news. The vet said to do a retest in three months unless she seems to be declining. We have our fingers-crossed that she will meet this milestone.

Gracie remains alert and interested in her toys and walks. She gets a little sleepy from both the arthritis medicine and the blood pressure medication but is still willing to roll the fuzzy soccer ball for a little game of easy fetch. Meal times are still trying – she needs incentives in her food and she has a tendency to spit out the rice as she walks away from her bowl. Grains of rice can be found all over the house.

Mealtimes are time-consuming. She gets her pills first thing, then her food, but she can’t be fed too close to the time she has her pills because the AlternaGel she must receive shortly after eating to coat her stomach must be given at least an hour after she receives her meds. Warming the subQ fluids, then administering them to her takes another 20 minutes or so in the morning every other day. So, her morning meds-meal-and fluids routine can take about 90 minutes to complete. She needs a mid-day dose of AlternaGel with some food, again to coat her stomach and protect against ulcers. Evenings repeat the meds-meals-AlternaGel routine.

Over the weekend the posts will be focused on our story of Gracie’s canine kidney disease. We’ll return to other topics next week. Best, Jim and Mary

Friday, September 25, 2009

The loss of Gracie Dawg

Readers of the blog already know this, but Mary, Sofie and I lost our beloved friend Gracie a few weeks ago. Gracie, the Border Collie we adopted from relatives in 1995, suffered canine renal failure for about two years, entering the final stage in approximately January of this year.

Mary took on the primary care giver role for Gracie as the disease progressed. She compiled a series of previous entries on the disease; since Gracie passed away she put together her records from the last three months, July to September, 2009. You can follow the story by clicking on the “canine renal” label for this post or in the index in the right hand column.

It is still hard and perhaps too early to look back at these events for us. We definitely still feel the emptiness of loss. But we wanted to publish these notes on the blog for other owners who may be just receiving the diagnosis. I hope that in some way these posts will help prepare those owners for what’s ahead and the decisions that will need to be made along the way during the course of the disease.

For my part, I thought I might have more to add after reading Mary’s eloquent posts, and preparing them for the blog. It’s still too early for that, like it is for Mary and Sofie, although I find that now, more often when I think of her my thoughts are turning to fond memories:

· playing soccer with her on the hillside near the grade school in Adams Morgan, or at several of the other parks there in the District
· fun times we had when we first moved to Alexandria, when Sofie and Gracie would play up at the Masonic Memorial
· the special cove that both dogs liked at Great Falls, their anticipation picking up as soon as they got on the trail
· vacations in the Outer Banks and later at the Hawksbill Cabin, where the girls delighted in exploring the outdoors with us, an alternative to our urban environments – the city wasn’t a bad place for dogs, just necessarily constrained because of the confined populations.

Our vet sent a condolence card after Gracie died. As a near final note, her words:

Gracie was truly a special patient and I will share your loss. Her tenacity to forge ahead and live life to the fullest was admired by all. Your dedication to her these past nine months has been dearly recognized. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of her life all these years. My thoughts are with you, Fondly, Donna.

Thanks to everyone for the kinds thoughts and comforting words. We lost a good friend in Gracie.

12/27/1994 – 9/7/2009.

Over the weekend the posts will be focused on our story of Gracie’s canine kidney disease. We’ll return to other topics next week. Best, Jim and Mary

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Seasonal Changes - Pumpkins are in!

Sorry for the abrupt transition from Las Vegas, but as this is posting, I'm in the air...

Last week at the farmers' market in Luray, the folks from Public House Produce had brought in some fine pumpkins. Here are some highlight photos.

There is a guess the weight contest going on for the big one in the wagon. I'm pretty sure it's between 150 and 200 pounds. I think someone has already won.

On the way back last weekend we noticed that the pumpkin patch at Valley Star Farm, north of town, is open. That's a great destination for a day trip - in addition to the pumpkins they have a very entertaining herd of goats, plenty of games for the kids, a picnic area, and a corn maze.

It's a seasonal must for us!

Las Vegas (monorail field trip)

Well, last night here and all...so I thought I might head down to the Hard Rock, but I decided to stick with the monorail instead. There is a station right in the Hilton, so I was good to go. Here's a photo from the station - there's the Hilton sign (if I haven't mentioned it, Barry Manilow is playing here). Across the way is the Sahara, where Charo is playing.

That was tempting but I decided to go to the Strip; the last time I was hear I had walked the area from Ceasars down to Luxor. Full disclosure: I was driving from DC to LA and my radiator finally gave out. AAA recommended a repair shop on the Strip - it's gone now, it was right next to Ceasars and was probably sited in what is now the Bellagio fountain.

That was 15 years ago, and the Strip area is really built up with those deluxe themed hotels like Paris, Bellagio, and New York New York. I got off the train at Ballys, figuring I might walk to some of these places.

Ballys is ingenious, as monorail riders have to walk through the casino to get to the strip. I didn't find that unpleasant - of the four I walked through tonight, Hilton, Bellagio, Planet Hollywood and Ballys - it looked like the best. Here are photos of the empty sports book, tables (these were the busiest tables I saw - the only action at the Hilton is the craps tables).
Once I exited Ballys I crossed the footbridge to the Bellagio, where I found 5,000 or so close friends waiting for the fountains. My luck was with me, and the show started when I arrived. I have to admit, I was trying to frame up the location shot they had for the fountains in Ocean's 11. They must have done that late at night and closed the Strip for the shoot, everything is way too close for the shots that were in the movie.
Here are views north and south (south has a ghost image reflecting me) from the footbridge. I had a daylight picture of this south view in a post yesterday. I walked on down to Planet Hollywood and grabbed some carnitas in the Mexican place there. Make that, carnitas and Dos Equis lager, thank you very much.

I guess I managed to take a lot of Vegas in around the trade show. I have to say it's an acquired taste - I don't think I would come here for the gambling, or even sightseeing on the Strip. If I could put together tickets to that Cher or Bette Midler show, along with a little gaming, boating on Lake Mead, and another Grand Canyon tour...well, I guess I'd have to get to know Andre Agassi to make that happen.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Las Vegas Trade Show Recap

So the show's over and it was fairly productive for me. The two presentations went well, the new vid-blog productions are in progress - can't wait to see those products, and I had a couple of good meetings that could lead to projects or other types of collaboration in the future.

Here are a final couple of photos, just some proof that I actually came to Vegas to work (in case there was any question based on my helo trip yesterday!) Here are schedule posters with my talks listed, and a final one, the opening slide of my talk this afternoon, in the final session.
This is a great team running this conference - the same group that do the Baltimore one (link: http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2009/03/day-trip-to-baltimore.html). I am looking forward to working with them again!

Thinking of heading down to the Strip tonight, maybe grabbing a bite at the Hard Rock. Pretty beat though...we'll see.

Las Vegas (Trade Show)

There is a lot happening with the show today, so I'm planning to pack up and have everything with me in the speaker ready room:

  • a session and meeting first thing at 8
  • an interview at 11:30
  • exhibition floor 12-2
  • speaking again at 3
  • interview after

Meanwhile, I will be editing an article for publication during breaks.

Glad I got a little bit of extra-curricular out of the way yesterday!

Another fun thing about these shows - I met a fellow presenter who works in Alexandria yesterday. There is some potential collaboration, so we're going to get together when we get back and look at some opportunities!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Las Vegas (extra curricular)

(apologies to Facebook readers - you may have already seen the photo album there also)

Give me found time on a business trip and I will try to find something to do. And so it was in Vegas. I finished my first talk and the follow-up interview taping and decided to see if I could book a same day flight to the Grand Canyon.

Readers may remember the recent book review of "The Man Who Walked Through Time" - link here: http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2009/09/vacation-book-review-man-who-walked.html - so this was a timely excursion. Heck, I told the pilot about the book and he had me field a question about the sandstone and limestone layers from the other tourists (note to Mary - I would like to be called Ranger Jim when I get home - to see what it's like.)
I decided on this rather than spending anything on gambling or a show. If you haven't seen the Grand Canyon in person, this may not make any sense. But it is an amazing perspective-giving experience, and I was up for the second visit.

Here are a few highlight photos - many others can be found on my Facebook album at:

Las Vegas Hilton - the temporary home of Barry Manilow and me

One of the big things going on in the Hilton is the Barry Manilow show - I guess it is a hit parade and he certainly had his share of success.


Unfortunately, the show isn't on during my stay here...I'm missing that and will have to find something else to keep me busy.

The alternative might have been a show with Cheap Trick performing Sgt Pepper's...I did think about this as I was planning the trip budget.

Here also is the big Hilton sign, taken from the Convention Center on my way back from the morning sessions.

If you haven't had enough of Barry, by the way, here is a link to a vid of the store here in the hotel!


Buy one or two to beautify your home!

Las Vegas Update (business)

I gave the first of two presentations this morning. It went well, 70 or so early risers turned out. They did a video, so I had to stay close to the podium.

Here are a couple of "highlight" photos - the convention center in the foreground from the 26th floor elevator lobby (with the Strip in the distance - it's about a mile away).

And the title slide from my deck. I had a good mix of people - east and west coasts as well as the central part of the country represented, and then also, equally divided between government, non-profit, and private sector.
Last, new for the show this year is a series of interview-style vid-blogs they're doing. I was first up, so here's the green-screen that they did the taping in front of. I understand that my topic tomorrow will also be a feature of one of these.

I have some extra-curricular plans this afternoon that I am not ready to disclose, although I may post later this evening...

Rejuvenated Kitchen

Jesse and his team made short work of the kitchen remodel, and our simple galley kitchen is transformed. Here is a photo with the new cabinets and coutertop installed, and a second of the sink area and new faucet set-up.

With these improvements and the new dishwasher, combined with the refrigerator and stove that were there, we have an updated kitchen that will serve us well.

Mary went through and removed the old shelf liners from the existing cabinets. Doing so may have removed the last vestiges of mildew that was left from the old kitchen.

The old kitchen - before we bought the place - was the source of the damage that ended up requiring us to replace the roof. Here is a reminder of how serious the situation was...the kichen would be in the lower left hand corner of the main house. The entire roof system had to be replaced due to water damage and termites.

In any case, it's good to be on the other side of this problem!

Monday, September 21, 2009

on arrival in Las Vegas

While I don't expect to be posting a lot while I am here, I may be able to put up an entry or two.
So today was my flight - thanks very much for the aisle bulkhead on both flights American Airlines. Bless you.

We flew over the Grand Canyon, it was the first time I have been over it in daylight since my flight from San Antonio to San Francisco, when I first joined the Air Force, 1980. In 2007 I used to fly Dulles to LA once a month - at night, so I could get upgrades to first class, and I remember seeing the strip all lit up as the descent began into LA. I had no idea that Vegas was virtually on the edge of the Canyon!

So, first impressions: I was very happy to see these slot machines at my gate upon arrival. Screw the luggage boys, I'm dropping some coin! ...not really.

Turns out my hotel is hosting as second convention, a bunch of VA folks. There were tons of them in the line around me, so we got together and booked a limo. We got the Hummer (cue up McGowan...keep it light, Brian!)

Also, now I'm in the hotel, got my usual high floor away from the elevators. Only, no view of the Strip - I guess they call this the "mountain view." There is a golf course somewhere down below.
More later. I have to prepare for my talk at 8am tomorrow, then I have part of the day available for ...other activities...
And one more disclosure about the hotel - it's the Las Vegas Hilton. A couple of Casinos, a Beni Hana's...and hey, this is Barry Manilow's home on the Strip. I'm living it up, baby!