Archive for April, 2006

Countdown to RATC Patch

Today my friend Mike and I hiked from VA-779, up the Andy Layne Trail to the Appalachian Trail and then back down to VA-220.  It was 13.1 miles total (or 12.1 if the one sign that contradicted the other sign and the map is correct).  

Carvin's Cove View 

The other pictures from this hike are on my website.

With that section out of the way, I'm down to two more hikes and 13.9 miles until I've hiked all of the trail maintained by the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club— earning their 119-mile patch.

Well, WordPress lets me add an <iframe> and it shows up beautifully in edit mode— but is stripped away during saving and publishing.  So, here's a link to my RATC Progress Spreadsheet (with links to my pictures for each section).

April 30, 2006 at 12:14 am 1 comment

Pride, Nature and the Nature of Pride

The first time I visited my Great Uncle Chuck's farm was about three years ago.  During the visit, he guided me around his various fields on his property.  We visited the cows, of course.  We visited his man-made pond and we also visited a forest composed of mostly pine trees.  My Great Uncle had planted those pine trees when he first purchased the farm when he returned from WWII.  In the 45 years since then, the pines had grown tall and strong.

45 Year Old Pine Tree

"I made my own forest," my Great Uncle said, "I think that is what I'm most proud of."

At the time, I found his statement curious.  This man had a lot to be proud of.  Not only did he fight in WWII but he trained numerous pilots beforehand.  He was injured in battle and endured 11 months in the V.A. hospital recovering.  After that, he became a successful civil engineer.  His been to every state in the union– including Hawaii four times and Alaska twice.  He's visited numerous countries, including France when he 87 years old (and just seven months after a bad accident with a manure spreader!).  He remained busy after retirement, running his own beef farm.  And presently at the age of 89 he is in better shape than most 20 year olds.  But it is the trees he planted in his youth that he is most fond of.

Well, now I think I can understand his pride a bit.  So far in 2006, I've found myself proud of a couple of surprising scenarios:

Blaze on the Appalachian Trail
A couple of years ago a girlfriend and I took a wrong turn on the Appalachian Trail.  Afterwards, I sent a suggestion to the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club to put a switchback blaze right before the veer off.  On January 1st of this year, another girlfriend and I were on the same section of trail.  As we hiked up a small incline, I could see the tree I suggested above and the two white blazes now on the trunk.  They took my suggestion and they marked the exact tree I had invisioned.  And I felt proud!  We're talking about two 2" x 6" white paint rectangles.  And did I paint them?  No!  Someone else did the actual work, but still I was thrilled to have had a small part in effecting the Appalachian Trail.

Baby Grass
Sean and I have some dirt patches in the back yard.  Recently, I raked in some leftover grass seed.  This week, the little baby grass is poking up.   Every morning, I walk the dogs and look at those delicate wisps of green and I smile.  Again, I didn't do the actual work.  I didn't cultivate the seeds so they weren't desirable to birds.  And I didn't speed time breeding different species to come up with a grass that would grow in the murky shade of our backyard.  All I did was drop some seed, run a rake over it and spray it briefly with a hose.  Granted I did have to drag the hose back there, but even with that, the effort I expended does not justify the happiness and pride I have when I greet the baby grass in the morning.

So maybe there is something innate inside of us that predisposes to that kind of pride.  It would make sense, our ancestors for thousands and thousands of years have cultivated, domesticated and harvested.  I suppose those leanings still linger in our bloodstream. When we exercise them, it feels right.  And by doing something that feels right, comes pride.

A couple of weeks ago, I got to meet a very interesting Amish man by the name of Joe Mast.  He said a number of thought-provoking things during the visit.  One item comes to mind now:

Man came from the earth.  The closer to the ground he is, the better off he is.

April 26, 2006 at 9:18 pm 8 comments

Sign Vandalism

Recently at Carolyn's 30th Birthday party, a handful of us reminisced about the "We Have No Balls Story".  A number of years ago, maybe even a decade ago, we were driving to Ocean City, Maryland when we passed a gas station with a marquee sign that proudly proclaimed:

WE HAVE
SNOW
BALLS!

"Wouldn't it be funny if the S and the W fell off?" someone asked (I believe it was Jeremy Turner).

Well, a few days later, on our way back we used team work to facilitate that exact scenario.  A couple of people went inside the gas station to serve as a distraction.  If I recall correctly, the diversion featured Clint inquiring why Ho Hos were in the same aisle as a seemingly unrelated product.  Meanwhile the others were outside trying to figure out a way to knock off the S and the W.  It turned out that task was quite easy.  Laying next to the sign was a long, metal pole …made especially for marquee letter management!  When we all met back in the car, the sign was modified:

WE HAVE
NO
BALLS!

"It looks like they are trying to emphasize the 'NO' because it is on its own line!" Chad pointed out as we all laughed.

We drove back and forth by the gas station a couple of times to admire our work.

Okay, now flash forward a number of years!  Yesterday at work, the IT department moved some old boxes into the hallway.  Sometimes it is ambigious whether something is actually trash.  Lucky for the IT team, there was a white board directly over the boxes.  So they wrote a note so there would be no misunderstanding:

The Items Below
ARE
Trash

And they drew an arrow pointing down to the boxes.

I saw that sign in the morning and didn't really give it much attention.  Right around lunch time, though, the sign was much more notable.  Someone printed out side by side pictures of our IT guys and taped it to the white board directly under the arrow!  (Here's a fuzzy picture from my cellphone)

And like our sign modification years ago, the emphasis of a word on its own line, made the message all the more entertaining! 

April 20, 2006 at 11:06 pm 3 comments

Pennsylvania and Kansas Pictures

I had a whirlwind series of trips in the past week.  I went to Washington, Pennsylvania for business.  Right after that I drove to New Castle, Pennsylvania to visit my Great Uncle Chuck's farm.  I left the farm and drove 6 1/2 hours home through West Virginia to Blacksburg, Virginia.  I spent one brief night in my own home and then bright an early the next morning, I drove to North Carolina to catch a plane to Georgia to catch a plane to Wichita, Kansas.  The very next day I did a presentation, attended a meeting and after 25 hours in Kansas, I hopped a series of planes back to North Carolina and then had a 2 1/2 hour drive home to Blacksburg.  In less that 48 hours, I had set foot in six different U.S. states.

The trips were pretty darn tiring, but still had their benefits.  I got to add two new states to my Rollerblading Resume (PA and KS), plus I got to visit Uncle Chuck and a park in Kansas.  I got pictures on my personal web site:

Uncle Chuck's Farm… featuring baby cows!
Pawnee Prairie Park in Wichita, Kansas

P.S.  Found out how Uncle Chuck lifts his cow back up.  "Well you take a rope and your tractor…."

P.S.S.  Uncle Chuck's cow I spoke of– it's innards did not squish.  Quite the opposite happened actually.  Because the cow was laying down, it could not regurgitate and it could not manage the gas building up in its digestive tract.  It was that gas buildup and expansion that proved fatal to the cow.

April 15, 2006 at 11:46 pm 3 comments

Sean’s Gift of Anticipation

In an earlier post, Dad Story: Hershey Kisses, I described a moment where Sean anticipated my thought and preemptively replied, "Yes, I'm sure it's not Hershey Kisses!"

This morning, I ran across an old e-mail where he displayed the exact same talent.  FYI: Stench is our cat.

—–Original Message—–
From: Sean
Sent: Wednesday, July 14, 2004 9:28 AM
To: Vicky
Subject: New one

I left the dryer door open with clothes in it and stench peed on them.

And yes, I'm sure it wasn't me.

April 6, 2006 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

New Appreciation of Road Rage

On the weekends, Sean and I often ride in the car together.  Mostly to lunch or to Larry's, sometimes a trip to Target is in the works.  It's not an enviable time of the week.  Regardless of whether Sean is the driver or passenger, his eyes are alert and constantly scanning the road for someone doing something stupid.  Even on a five minute trip to 7-11, he'll spot someone doing something that isn't to his liking.  And when he does, he announces it.   He'll cite cell phone usage, point out red light runners, complain about cyclists and ostracize those who abstain from cruise control.  He's even speculated on a variety of lane change conspiracies.  (It is no wonder he was called to create the Jackass Driver Registry back in 1998)

Sean's verbose road presence is something I've built up a tolerance for in the past decade.  However, I'm still not fully adjusted to when he rolls down the window to share his insights with the offending drivers.  The other week, we were driving down the road and we found our path blocked by a car with all its doors open and a couple taking their time unloading items from the vehicle.  I slowed down and waited for a good time to go around the car in the opposite lane of traffic.  Sean was, of course, complaining all the while.  As we cautiously inched around the car, I heard a familiar whir and felt a gust of fresh air.  Before I could even think about hitting the child lock button, Sean had his head out the window and was yelling at the couple.

"Why don't you just stop in the middle of the road next time!?!?"

My reaction at the time was irritation with a little bit of humilation mixed in.  I promptly complained to Sean to which he pointed out if he didn't say anything, the driver would never know any better.

"Next time they'll think twice before they do stupid shit like that," Sean said.

The Somalian rapper, K'naan has a quote in his song Hoobaale:

How come you turn the deafest ear when it's your own brother calling?

I don't know the answer to that question, but I am certainly susceptible to a similiar phenomenon.  Sean's explanation of his behavior certainly made sense and I may have even admitted as much at the time, but I still did not appreciate it.

Well, it took another K'naan quote for me to fully convert to Sean's way of thinking:

 It is better to light a candle than to curse the dark.

For a couple of weeks now, I've being very fond of that statement.  Instead of complaining about something, do something about it.  It's a good thought and I looked up to K'naan for articulating it so.  Then I realized that is exactly what my husband was doing that I found so distasteful.

Like many great scientists and artists, Sean was unappreciated in his time.

April 3, 2006 at 7:39 pm 2 comments

On the Subject of Cow Tipping

Last weekend, commuting from a hike, a friend told me how when you tip a cow, the cow actually dies– it's internal organs get crushed.  It was an interesting factoid.  I didn't think too much on whether it was true or not– just filed it away in my memory banks.

Fast forward 5 days.  I was talking on the phone to my eighty-eight year old great Uncle who still single-handedly runs his own cow farm. 

When I asked him how he was, he said, "Well, you know, I had to bury a cow today."

He then goes on to tell me how the cow had been laying down too long and it was so fat it crushed itself to death! 

"Now when I see one laying down, I pick it up," he said.   He also added that he won't be feeding the cows as much.

What are the odds of two "crushed bovine organs" conversations occuring so close together?  I victoriously reported back to my friend, "It's TRUE!  The cow does crush itself to death!"

Sadly, this afternoon I was reading on Wikipedia that cow tipping may be an urban legend.  Not only does the entry report that the cow would likely not die, but it speculates that it would be very difficult for a crew of people to even sneak up on a cow and much less tip it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cow_tipping

But— it does support what happened with my great Uncle's cow:

Although cows can die if prevented from sitting upright for an extended period of time…

I do have a couple of unanswered questions.  For example, if it is so hard for several people to push over a cow— how is my great Uncle "picking up" a cow while it is laying?  I'm assuming the cow does most of the work.  I'm visiting the farm next weekend, so I'll do some investigating then.

April 1, 2006 at 3:57 pm 1 comment


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