Ramble On

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Our veterans are an asset -

I’ve made light of my USAF service before – I was “chairborne,” and a “legend in my own mind,” as my friends used to say when we were stationed in Berlin. But that’s not to say that our relatively cushy assignment there was without its perils: we had a fairly legendary traitor in our mix, for one thing, and there were some severe injuries that occurred during a training exercise shortly after I left. These are all in the daily mix for service members, but for those who currently serve our country, well, let’s take a moment to acknowledge and appreciate the sacrifices they make.

This story is a little dated, but it is one that I often recall when I think about the veterans returning from service in Afghanistan and Iraq, where post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been an emerging problem. PTSD isn’t something that was often diagnosed in past conflicts, but it may just be part of the reason so many of our veterans have found that reintegrating into every day society is so challenging.

My friend and I were driving in my Alexandria neighborhood and saw some teenagers skateboarding in the street ahead. As we approached, they got out of the road and stood in a group, lurking in their teenage resentment because we’d interrupted their fun, waiting for us to pass. My friend had gone quiet for a moment, and then told me he had passed the same group on his way to my house.

Except that time, he was taken back to his experiences driving the cratered and bombed out roads in Afghanistan, where groups like this one might harbor a conspiracy to do harm. He told me that when he’d seen the kids before, something clicked, taking him back to the days where he would automatically identify the first one in the group to “take out” – to shoot, should a confrontation ensue.

“But these are just kids here,” I said, “and we’re driving through a suburban neighborhood. You’re not thinking you have to do that here, are you?” My friend said he understood the difference of time and place, and he’d been more troubled by these kinds of thoughts earlier (he had been back for 2 months at that point). He said that the thoughts came less frequently and that he thought he was making his way through the issues. He never shared with me any details of encounters that might have reinforced these feelings when he was in Afghanistan – just this experience that had brought it all back.

So from time to time when I think about today’s veterans – the ones I encounter down near the Pentagon, often moving down the escalators on prosthetic legs, or even the fellow I saw in an Irish bar last weekend enjoying a Guinness with a colleague – I think not only of those who have physical reminders of what they’ve given for the rest of us, but also those who have these other wounds that aren’t so readily apparent.

A couple of years after that conversation with my friend I came across the organization “The Mission Continues” (linked below) – an organization that helps returning bets continue their service through fellowships and community projects. It’s meant to be a help for those returning from duty – whether they may have lost limbs, hearing, eyesight…or relationships…or loss of purpose. As they exit the service, the readjustment to life without the structure and camaraderie of their units can make things exceptionally difficult, and The Mission Continues attempts to support them by providing an outlet to further their lifelong mission of service.

Stay tuned for some follow-up posts on this topic, but thanks for taking a moment to think about our returning veterans today. And if you want to take that thought a step further, check out the web site below.


The Mission Continues

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Yes, That is a Toilet...

...and yes, it is in the middle of the master bedroom.  With the kitchen remodel complete, we just couldn't stop there.  Mary had seen some innovative features in one of the bungalows up the street, similar to ours, and thought that since the upstairs bathroom was overdue for remodeling, we might as well go for it.  So for a few weeks, we are sleeping in the guest bedroom downstairs.
As far as the innovation goes, what she has organized is a knee-wall closet.  See, the 1929 bungalow we have, and the four others up and down the neighboring two blocks, were designed as "story-and-a-half houses" - the upstairs footprint is about half of what the downstairs is, with a lot of lost space in the eaves of the roof.  At least in ours, one side is taken up with the central a/c and ductwork from a renovation in the '80's, which is when we think the bath was last done.

To get a sense of the idea, here is a photo of the space where the new knee wall closet will go, in its current state of "demo."  And also, here is the cedar planking, along with some of the wall trim that will go in there when it is complete.

Next on the agenda is the master bath upstairs.  There is a pedestal tub, a skylight, and some nice stained glass windows.  This space is a little pop-up dormer that we think is original to the house - although that is not the case in all the neighboring bungalows.  Note the color of the tub...that's what gives us the idea the renovation dates to the '80's...it kinda makes me want to put on some Katrina and the Waves.

Mary has contracted to have the tub reglazed (that's done already, as you can see in the photos), put new tile down to replace the white 8x8's - a new hex style that is something like the vintage tiles that might have been original.  Later, she's arranged to have wainscott paneling put in to update, and the skylight will be replaced with a working one.  The new sink and faucet have already been delivered too.

So I guess we are about halfway through with this project, since the tile seemed to be the long pole in the tent.  But I can't wait to get that toilet back where it belongs.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

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Kitchen Complete

For a few weeks now we've been enjoying the newly remodeled kitchen at the Alexandria house, but I got carried away by some business travel that distracted me from posting an update.  So here are some photos I took last weekend while Mary made brunch for us (and Tessie helped).

First, of course, is the new row of cabinets that runs along the wall where the doorway to the dining room used to be.  We had the stove moved out from the corner and moved the door over.  Now all the traffic stays to that part of the kitchen and there is a lot more work area.

We also had to move the fridge as part of that plan - shown here, it is now on the opposite wall.  So not only is the triangle more compact, you can open the doors wide to get a look inside, and there is still room for cabinetry above.  Now it's a little known detail, but after the returns were installed to house the fridge, Mary went back to the designer to work up some details on the enclosure, settling on buying a few more cabinet doors and having them mounted here for the finished look.

I'll skip the pantry for this post, but it is a nice area with additional storage.  Mary has organized me into this space for my breakfast preparations.  And she also organized me into this space to feed the dog.

Then we have the sun room.  We finally reconciled the closets that had been built back here - the area was originally the back porch of the house, and our neighbor has told us childhood stories of playing back here.  We took out the old door and then centered a new sliding glass double-wide door on the wall.  We've been using this room for summer dinners and breakfasts since we moved here in 2003, so this little makeover is going to be well used.  Second view is looking towards the bump out window, which we kept for all the plants.

Tomorrow I will post about the big project going on upstairs in the house.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Good Fences

"He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors?' Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense."

-from Mending Wall, Robert Frost, 1914.
reposted from http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15719

It occured to me I have a couple of home projects to post on - I never wrapped up the kitchen remodel, for example, and then we have a big project going on upstairs in the Alexandria house.  I will put those posts up later in the week.  For now, I want to post about a project that has been on the to-do list for a couple of years:  putting in a new fence along the west side of the front lots.

A couple of years ago, our neighbor developed his lot on the west side of us.  We'll leave aside for now our feelings about how he chose to do that; what's done is done and it was his property, after all.  Unfortunately, things didn't end with that, and in getting to resolution of the situation, let's just say the old line from Frost's poem is what kept coming to mind.

Our neighbor's intention was to sell the house he'd built; since it was delivered right into the teeth of the recession, that's been a challenge, and he has pursued a rent-to-own strategy.  We've watched three of these deals come and go, but it was the first that inspired us to put up a fence, a practical three-rail affair, after buying a legacy easement back between the two properties where an alley might have been constructed.

Since the first tenants, who were very difficult and showed progressively worse behavior to the neighbors (and the landlord) over the six months or so they were there, we've been thinking that a fence along the property line would help to create a sense of respect for each other, so we've finally had it built after surveying the property line last fall.  The new fence extends from the road back to the northwest corner of the westernmost lot, ending along the lean-to "carport" of the shed, in a clump of bamboo that we allow to go wild for privacy.

The current neighbors are nice enough.  But "Good fences make good neighbors," and in this case we want to maintain a good relationship.  The fence is nothing personal...no offense meant, Mr. Frost.  

Friday, April 22, 2011

Adventure Racing in the Valley

Epic shot of Gary crossing the low water bridge in Shenandoah River State Park.

Howard preparing for the biking descent from Edith Gap.

Page County has a wonderful combination of assets – mountains, country roads, and the river – that make it perfect for adventure tourism. It’s proximity to the DC area and other mid-Atlantic population centers make it an attractive venue for triathlons and bike races, and after just a few years of developmental efforts, we already have events on a half dozen weekends annually. I’ve written about this before, but I think this is an exciting addition to the area’s economic mix – it’s something that planners should carefully integrate into any forward looking strategy for the area.

A new event came to town last weekend – adventure racing. Our local folks at Appalachian Outdoors Adventures (AOA) were sponsors, and they fielded a four person team in the event. The sport mixes biking, trail running, trekking, and water sports with navigation skills, making for a very challenging adventure that the word “epic” perfectly communicates. As you can see from the pictures AOA’s Gary Drum shared with me here, it’s a very rewarding experience that brings out the best in the individual and team participants.

The team at the finish...something like 3am, I'm told.

Another team shot, working out a plan.
 The AOA team was comprised of Gary, Howard, Kris Haynes, and Chris Spiller, and they were signed up for the Epic race, which staged from Shenandoah River State Park. There was a canoeing stage of the event that was cancelled because of the rain – I’ve spent a few minutes to myself thinking of all these folks out on the race course while that weather was going on around them, probably not realizing for the most part how dangerous that system was on the whole. It was a relief to hear that the participants made it in safely – still looking for confirmation of one possible storm related injury.

AOA’s sponsorship included providing maps for the navigation challenges, and the store served as the packet pickup location for the nearly 300 participants. Gary tells me there were 33 teams in the Epic event, and the AOA team completed the course in in 19 hours for 16th place overall – pretty good for only their second race.

Waiting for the shuttle at the River checkpoint, since the canoe portion was cancelled.
  Gary said that being in last year’s race provided some important lessons about how to prepare, including being sure that you’d provided proper nutrition – comparing some of the photos from last time to this, which you can do by checking out Gary’s or Howard’s blogs (links below) will show how far they’ve come with the sport already. Granted, only three teams even finished that first race they were in!

I asked Gary what his favorite memory of the event was, and he said the slog through deep water and mud on the state park’s Bluebell Trail was best. The most challenging part was the mountain bike course there in the park; this biking portion was in addition to a 40-mile extension that was added to the course to replace the canoeing when it was cancelled.

Gary says that AOA is looking forward to sponsorship activities for future races, and that yes, with all of the fun they had as a team in this race, they’ll likely do another when the time comes!

Here is a link to some addition photo highlights:  http://www.daddiophoto.com/AdventureRacing/Rev3-Adventure-April-16-2011/16655105_2sRS49#1255610238_QBG8fjm

Here’s the homepage of the race organizer:  http://www.rev3adventure.com/

Gary’s blog (often includes reviews of gear and adventures): http://runtechinthevalley.blogspot.com/

Howard’s blog (often includes reviews of events and other adventure activities): http://adventuresinthevalley.blogspot.com/

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Don't Miss: Luray's Earthday on the Greenway

Today a quick note to mention the Earth Day observance in Luray along the Greenway this Saturday.  Mary and I have attended this even the last few years and it's always worthwhile - there will be live music, exhibits and activities.  There's a full day planned again this time, beginning with a 9AM Earth Day 5Krun!

Here are the scheduled events:
10:-10-45 Felicia Housden will be strumming her sweet guitar for your listening enjoyment...Felicia is awesome...hear her roar!

11:00- 12 The Wildlife Center of Virginia will be in attendance to speak about Virginia habitats and how you can help the animals within them.

12:15- 1 Rob Christensen returns to soothe our souls a bit with sweet song. take a little time to slow down and have a listen!

1-1:30 Yoga instruction with Jason Nichols, last year I believe this was one of the most fantastic scenes at EDotG...alot of kiddos focused and enjoying yoga by the creekside...beautiful...anyone can participate!

1:30-2:30 Fear & Whisky come to us from Harrisonburg, VA. This band is righteous! Jim Shelley on guitar, Amy Bugg on bass, and Jeff Lown on drums! LOTS OF FUN!

3-4 SLeePFeeDeR returns with some new rocking material! Ike Sours on bass, Greg Flynn on drums and Casey Firkin on guitar! You'd better tie your socks on, because they might just get rocked off on this day!

Here's a link to the event's home page for more information!  http://www.earthdayonthegreenway.com/

Here's a shout out to Deana and the team for organizing another great event!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Little Taste of the Marines' Culture

While I was visiting the base in Beaufort, I did manage to see a few unique things that illustrate the experience of being assigned there, working there, or living there.  It is one of those things I try to do whenever I get out on one of these trips - as I learned during my own time in the service, these units have a culture that is forged by their shared experience...whether they are under fire and in harm's way, as the Marines often are, or whether they were "chairborne" and enjoyed "cuisine" in the "dining facility," as we zoomies did.

You do get a sense that something special goes on here from the first time you come on base.  You might hear a pair of jets on a training exercise screaming overhead as you pass the aircraft on display near the gate and read the welcome sign that says, "That noise you hear is the sound of freedom."  So it was a treat to get a look inside a room that is used to celebrate the departure on deployments, and more importantly, to celebrate the return from them.

I took a couple of photos of the trophies in this room - some were murals, as in the photo of the F-4 and Mig-21 with the fighter pilot - and some were artifacts, as the metal plaque with Saddam's image was (note the exceptional marksmanship of the Marines when you get a closer look at the plaque).

Then there are some elaborate commemorations of deployments.  The more recent ones are Persian Gulf missions, of course.  I have two examples of many that were on display here.

And the last item I had time to take note of were some artifacts from the movie "The Great Santini" which starred Robert Duvall and was filmed here in the late '70's.  I remember the movie as being popular about the time that I arrived in Berlin. 

The story is a father and son tale about a fighter pilot and his family here, and the challenges of the lifestyle.  There was a poster and the actual baskeball backboard and goal that figured prominently in the family's history, but was also a prop in the movie.

So I promised and delivered a cultural post about that most recent business trip.  Not quite as much material to work with as I had in Japan and Yosemite last year...but there you go.  Next trip, already on the calendar, will be equally as interesting; looking forward to Barstow in early May.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Beaufort "Knife and Forker"

That's what you call it when the project trip calls to mind a few good restaurants.  In the case of Beaufort, SC last week, the restaurants were definitely one of the highlights - I expect that I'll be able to compare and contrast with next month's trip to Barstow, CA (although I may be writing about In 'n' Out...I don't know off hand if they've got one).

On Monday night, after our first day of project work - site visits and preliminary interviews, we headed out to a place in Beaufort along the water front there - authentic place along the pier with shrimp boats docked right in front of it, suggesting, of course, they bring in their own.  I had the shrimp and grits, something I've heard about many times - it was very good.  I paired that up with a salad - I saw the rich sauce before I ordered it as another table's fare was delivered.

On Tuesday night, we went to a new place in Beaufort proper, I had the stew - another shrimp dish.  And on the last night in town, the group went to the club at Parris Island, for steak night.  Phew.

On that second night as we were walking around town, I was struck by how much the area reminded me of Chestertown, Maryland, with lower prices.  Here's a photo of the house I might choose if I was going to settle there...don't worry, there is no temptation.

Now, there was a cultural connection that I am able to post about today...actually, the final post will have a cultural element to it also, but this one is also historic in nature.  The area that MCAS Beaufort is built upon is actually pieced together out of several old plantations that were owned by families stretching back to the colonial era.

In fact, on Parris Island, they have a few archaeological sites that can be traced to Spanish explorations in the early to mid 1500's. 

It happened that one of the plantation owning families had their cemetery across the street from the base lodging, and easy walk for me before breakfast (you had to keep your eyes open though - there were some streams and ponds around, and I saw a gator in one).  The white stone in this cemetery marks a family member who served as a Major in the Revolutionary War.

A plaque nearby says the plantations had fallen into disrepair from wars and Reconstruction before first the Navy and then the Marines moved into the area beginning in the early 1900's. 

While we were taking care of some logistics at the gate on Monday, a couple was there working on getting their visitor credentials.  I overheard them talking about the trip they'd made up from Florida to do genealogical research - they wanted to visit this little cemetery and one other on the base over near the flight line.

As they were waiting on their pass, I showed them the big post map that was in the gate house and pointed out the cemeteries, since I'd already checked them out that morning.  Nice accessory to the business part of the trip, being able to help them out.

Tomorrow I have one final post about the Beaufort trip - as I mentioned above, there is a "cultural" aspect to it.  Remember, this was a Marines fighter base I was visiting.  The whole atmosphere is charged with history and tradition.  

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dog Day Morning

After a horrific weather day Saturday, a day that we still don't know the entire scope of impacts from, Sunday dawned a beautiful spring morning - so often the case after such bad weather.  So Tessie and I decided to get out for a walk on the Hawksbill Greenway in Luray - me with the hopes of finding a spot where I might be able to get her off leash without inconveniencing everybody else out for a walk on such a fine day.

We found a spot on the north end, a mown area that has been carved out of an old hay field, about a quarter mile there that stretches along the creek.  I let her off leash and we walked back and forth along it a couple of times, then we took a short walk farther along towards town. 

After all the rain, the creek was way up - you could see that all along 340 and you could see the signs that the water had been even higher over night.  I hope there is no lasting damage to the Greenway's new section, up by the swimming hole - that's where it looks like the stream got out of its banks.  Maybe some of the little trees got knocked over, but hopefully not much more than that.

Here are a couple of shots of the stream in the area where we took our walk, a couple of the rapids reaching category two level, I think, for paddlers - although this stream is probably too constrained for any of that sport.  The one spot under the highway overpass is definitely something you wouldn't want to take lightly in your kayak...

From the blue skies you can see what a beautiful day we had. 

The first photo above shows the pup finally feeling it when we got back to the stretch of old pasture.  She figured out she could run here, and she put in a good leg stretcher for a couple of laps.  Later on, after we got back to the house, I gave her a brushing to check for ticks and then put her sporting new safety bandana on while we sat on the brick terrace.

One more encounter...the cows were out in the pasture that the Greenway surrounds.  As we approached the fence there, the pup was interested in them, but not too much.  We didn't get much closer than this before she decided she didn't need to check them out better.

Now the encounter with cows reminded me of a walk Mary and I took with Gracie back in 1995, when we just got her.  On Q Street NW in the District, there is an old trolley car bridge over the Rock Creek Parkway that has four large statues of bison on it.  As we passed through the shadow of one of the statues, Gracie pause to look up and saw the big bison.  A bark fest ensued - she didn't know what to make of it.

No barking from Tessie on Sunday, but she was a happy tired little doggie on the drive back home.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Back from Beaufort

I'm just back from a business trip to Beaufort, SC - if you noticed I was gone, thanks!  Actually, I had wireless internet access at the hotel and work site, but for some reason I couldn't post to the blog, even though I tried.  I have a few posts to catch up on for the trip - probably do this over the next few days.

The Marine Corps base I visited this time is probably slightly bigger than the Army base I visited in Japan a couple of months ago, and like the Army base, there were nearby installations I needed to visit for some data gathering efforts - one of my trips this time took me to Parris Island, one of the two basic training installations for the Marines.  It's beautiful there - but I'm sure the recruits don't have time to notice and enjoy it!

As you enter the gate at the main base where I worked, there are a half dozen aircraft on display, dating back to the Korean War and Vietnam, although I didn't go over to those and photograph them.  There was some refurbishment and painting going on, and they were just outside the gate - walkable, but with a little bit of logistics, more than I wanted.

These three aircraft were fairly close by the lodging, so I took a quick walk over to them on Tuesday morning to have a look.  The first, and my favorite, is the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter, done up here in the search and rescue paint scheme.  Second, the A-4 Skyhawk, shown here in Agressor paint scheme, which mimics Warsaw Pact camoflage of the '70's and '80's - besides the tactical missions these planes were used for through the 1980's, they were also used in this important air combat training role (even at the TOPGUN school).  Finally, befitting a Marine fighter base (Beaufort is known as Fightertown East), here is an F/A-18 Hornet. 
Like I said, I have a few more posts to put up from the trip...and then we'll get back to our regularly scheduled programming!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Taking Offense...at an Image of Handgun Violence

Before I start the post today I suppose I need to say that, living in a Washington, DC suburb, I know just enough about politics and how the government works to be socially acceptable here. Maybe I understand a little better than that since I make a living consulting to government about business decisions. That said, the recent discussions over the budget were truly eye opening in some ways, but there was a particularly ugly image I came across, being used by groups associated with the Tea Party, that is something I can’t gloss over and have to post about. Call it a rant if you want.

This image, which I won’t dignify with a repost, showed a gross caricature of the president – one that harkens back to the racist images these groups continue to post when they are talking amongst themselves. But that part of the image, while offensive, wasn’t what struck me as the most offensive part of the cartoon.  By the way, I also don't intend to use this blog as a forum on this topic, so if you comment, I may or may not publish your remards.

The image showed the president with his arm around the neck of a soldier in battle dress. The suggestion was that the president was holding the troops hostage over the budget negotiations, since one of the warnings that was laid out to everyone involved in the negotiations was that a failure to come to closure on the budget, averting a shutdown, could delay paychecks and benefits to the military. Even as ironic as this was – the president is commander-in-chief after all, and only recently called upon our armed forces to be part of the situation in Libya – this was not the item that I found most offensive.

What struck me about the image was the fact that while holding the soldier hostage, the image had the president holding a hand gun in his hand, pressing it to the head of this soldier. I have a bottom line rule on Facebook, where I saw this image, and that is, if I encounter images of handgun violence there in any context, I will call you on it - and so I did, simply telling the poster that I found it offensive.

Now, in that Facebook way, I came across this because a friend saw the image and commented, so it came up on my page. I know the original poster has Tea Party sentiments, so that’s not a page I would lurk or troll in the first place to engage an argument. However, my post about the image showed up on her page, and it wasn’t long before my comments were engaged.

I haven’t gone back since reading the first one or two posts in response, I don’t need to because my beliefs in the matter are long held and won’t be negotiated away – and I don’t feel the need to argue the point…images (or threats for that matter) of handgun violence really don’t have a place in our society’s political discussion. But those first few remarks were astounding in their attempts to rationalize this image.

In one of my remarks I said that you don’t see democratic politicians using handgun imagery in their discussions over negotiations, suggesting that this is a Tea Party tactic. A responder asked me for statistics. I found this debate to be off the point…in fact, that’s what I’ve found whenever I’m engaged with the Tea Party in discussion: a blood lust rises blinding them to the fact that it’s simply part of life to need to get along politically with others. But I’ll engage that question here, without statistics; I’m going to try and remember the most recent cultural images of handgun violence that come to mind. And all of these will be since the Virginia Tech massacre.

  • First, there is this image. Brought to you by the Tea Party.
  • Second, we have the shootings in Arizona, similar to the Virginia Tech situation in that someone who probably shouldn’t have had a weapon managed to get one. This person’s rage was fueled by Beck rantings (again, closely aligned to the Tea Party) and empowered by lax enforcement of handgun purchases (not to mention the fact that he was using 30-round magazines, as was the Virginia Tech student, yet another topic).
  • Third, we have Tea Party candidate Sharon Angle discussing “Second Amendment Solutions” – and she wasn’t the only one using this kind of rhetoric during the 2010 election.
  • Fourth, all those open carry situations during the various demonstrations against health care reform over the last few years. You couldn’t avoid the image of the “Don’t Tread on Me” banner during all that – an historic banner that has been misappropriated by the Tea Party.
Related to this is an image another friend adopted as her Facebook profile photo during all that discussion. It drew from that iconic photograph of the Vietnamese assassination, you know the one, but it was a cartoon, and the person being shot in the head this time held what looked like a doctor bag in his hand. I’ve blocked that person's updates from appearing on my page, but I can’t “unfriend” her, as she was a high school friend.

  • Fifth, an anti-abortion protestor tracked down and killed a doctor – in church. You can’t rationalize the cold-blooded nature of this one.
Those are the first few that come to my mind. I’m drawing a blank on when Barack Obama or Joe Biden mentioned second amendment solutions in any of their campaigns. I don’t ever recall seeing Nancy Pelosi or Jim Moran doing open carry as part of a stance against pro-life demonstrations. Sorry, the statistics argument doesn’t fly.

Now in subsequent posts, while I was still reading them, I was presented with some other arguments: “Have you read the budget bill, Jim? I’ve read H.R. 1 and none of these issues (the EPA defunding, the Planned Parenthood issue, etc.) are in there.” This is an argument that falls on its face because the problems we are discussing here are riders…which means they are not germane to the discussion at hand or the bill, but are political agenda items that get tagged procedurally to the bill.

Following his request for statistics, the one poster answered me with a long post. I used a wrong word in describing it, but corrected myself later – it was a monologue, because at this point I’ve disengaged from the discussion. This individual – or the several that leapt into the fray on this topic, aren’t going to convince me that the image suggesting hand gun violence was okay. I prefer to leave them talking amongst themselves in the echo chamber they seem to enjoy being in.

That’s to say nothing of the other two offensive elements in this cartoon – the racist caricature of our president and the responsibility he showed in reminding the negotiators what was at stake in the budget discussions.

I’m happy with the outcome at this time, that we will finally have a budget, and I recognize that the current situation in government is one where there will be tense discussions on other issues ahead. But in this one, the president, the speaker, and Senator Reid all have done us proud. Let’s improve the quality of public discussion next time, eh?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Clarendon Construction - April 2011

Checking back, I haven't posted on this topic since January.  That's mainly because the buildings at Clarendon Center - the south and north blocks, were finished then after three years of construction.  People have moved into the apartments and offices, and even the restaurants there are open.  You can get a good look at the progress by looking over the posts with the label Clarendon Construction. 

But there is still one building going up near my office, and they are at that stage where progress comes quickly.  I realized this when I was taking a walk down to Courthouse the other to meet up with a friend at Four Courts.  I took this street level view of the building going up on the site of Clarendon Church.

Yesterday I took the second photo here, from one of the offices in my 8th floor suite that looks down on the site.  There are several floors out of the ground now, and they are pouring a floor a week.  For a reminder of what the delightful building is going to look like when it is finished, you can check this post from last June, which includes a rendering: http://hawksbillcabin.blogspot.com/2010/06/clarendon-construction-june-2010-part-2.html

We got notice a few weeks ago that we are moving from the 8th floor, east side, down to the 7th floor, south side.  That may make it difficult for me to take the photos looking down into the church site, but I will try to get back on shecule with that...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

This Budget Thing...no Really I Want to Talk about Doner Kebabs

I was all prepared to make a rant this morning about the budget and looming threat of a government shutdown.  I realized that I would quickly become an incoherent partisan on this topic...just as so many have already.  Who needs another of those posts?  Resolve the budget impass without damaging the tenuous recovery already!

So what I really want to talk about is this review of a favorite in the Washington Post -  the Doner Bistro in Leesburg:


My friends from Berlin and I all have fond memories of doners - it's a very popular street food there and you can find a stand near any subway station.  And you can get one at just about any time of day.

Savory grilled meat, a little salad, some tzatziki, all on a special bread...it was a favorite.  Sometimes we would tell the dining hall to not bother to cook - we'd send somebody out to pick up doners for everybody.

I introduced Mary to them at the Potsdam train station in 2001.  She liked them too.  I wish I could have one more often...and now we have the Doner Bistro in Leesburg.

It's still a hike, but it is worth it.  We met Timo a few year's ago at our friend Chris's house.  At the time, the doner stand was still operating from a truck...in 2008 he relocated to the present restaurant...and added other Berliner favorites such as Curry Wurst to the menu. Now the article says he might be opening in Clarendon soon - near the office!

I'm looking forward to taking a seat in the bier garten there soon, in fact, and pairing the meal with a nice Warsteiner, vom fass!

(images from Wikipedia)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Danny Presgraves' Sentence Approaching its End

Presgraves in office, approximately 2008, from PN&C.
Last week we had news from the PN&C that the former sheriff of Page County, Danny Presgraves, had been moved from a federal minimum security prison in Massachusetts, where he served most of a 19 month sentence as the outcome of a racketeering case. The link to the PN&C article is below; Presgraves is now at a residential reentry center in the Baltimore area and is scheduled for release in June, about two months early. As a result of his plea, he will also have two years of probation after his release, must pay restitution to victims, and pay a fine of $1,000.

It’s been a while since I posted on the topic, but I found the link to the Washington Post article, also below, to refresh my memory of this situation. The Post recaps the original indictment:

“The 22-count indictment, returned in October 2008, accused Presgraves of accepting a $500 bribe to protect cockfighting at a pit known as Little Boxwood, sexually harassing a dozen female employees and using inmates from the jail to work on his and relatives' properties. The indictment also said he conspired to deal marijuana, tipped off a local company about the federal investigation, embezzled $86,410 -- including money extorted from the jail's pay phone vendor -- and attempted to launder about $200,000 through complex bank transactions.”

Presgraves pleaded guilty to some of the charges, which resulted in his sentencing. The Post also quoted his attorney after the sentencing, as follows:

“Today, Danny Presgraves acknowledged his wrongdoing and apologized to the citizens of Page County," his lead attorney, Charles E. James Jr., said afterward. "While recognizing the harm Danny has caused, the court also considered his entire life's work as a law enforcement officer."

Page County has certainly moved on from these events, we have a new sheriff in town and all, and hopefully the economy’s turnaround is started to be felt in more ways. So we can also hope that Danny has turned the corner after this experience.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Catching up with Page County Grown

I had a note from David Sours the other day with some news about the Page County Grown effort - the first four farms were certified in the new program last week:
David told me that any producer interested in being part of Page County Grown can contact him or pick up an application at Southern States in Luray.

He also posted a planting update at Public House Produce.  Onions, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, and cole crops are all in the ground - a mix of seeding and transplating.  Heirloom tomatoes and pak choy are part of the seeding effort.  This year, Public House is adding broiler chickens to their CSA offerings, and the meat chicks arrived and are getting started too.

If you needed reassurance besides the sketchy early spring weather, this is definitely a sign that spring has finally arrived!