Archive for October, 2006

Indirect Kisses

Here’s something for the gossip fans–  Last night, Bill kissed me…..indirectly.

Young Gwyn Jones was running around in her diaper and pink pajamas when her mother (Ann) instructed her, “Give Vicky a kiss goodnight.”

The toddler looked at me and I blew her a kiss.   Apparently she was unsatisfied because she started to walk towards me.   So I leaned close to her face and said, “Moooah!” as I kissed the air.  But the child continued to approach me!

“Yeah…she’s going to want to kiss your lips,” Ann said.  Her eyebrows took on an apologetic scrunch and she added, “Sorry.”

So what could I do?  I leaned in and let little Gwyn kiss me.   

Immediately afterwards, Gwyn went over to Bill and gave him his kiss goodnight!  So, via Gwyn, Bill indirectly kissed… me!

The “Indirect Kiss” logic is not as amusing when I think about the dogs.  Courtesy of Jimmie, I probably indirectly kiss my own toilet bowl multiple times a day!

So from Toilet Bowl->Jimmie->Me->Gwyn->Bill.   I think that means in a very microscopic, miniscule way– Bill Kissed My Toilet Bowl!


October 30, 2006 at 12:22 am 1 comment

Family News Day

Two of my family members made appearences in the press this week!

Bret Herrala (brother-in-law)
Get a customized ride of a different type
October 22, 2006 Issue of The Tidewater News

Adam Sawyer (cousin)
In Iraqi Villages, Troops See Strides and a Big Challenge
October 29, 2006 Issue of The Washington Post

October 29, 2006 at 11:51 pm Leave a comment

Get a Customized Ride of a Different Type

Below is an article from the October 22, 2006 Issue of The Tidewater News about the customization work my brother-in-law, Bret, is doing on golf cars.  It was written by Wendy Walker, one of the staff reporters for The Tidewater News.

FRANKLIN – You don’t have to be on the green to enjoy getting around on your own customized wheels.

Walters Outdoor Power Equipment is selling stock and customized golf cars at the business on Walters Highway.

According to Mechanic Bret Herrala, who conducts all of the work on the vehicles at the establishment, folks use them for a variety of reasons.

“Sometimes people who have large yards or long driveways use them to get around their property,” he said.

“Older people who can’t get around very well use them to get their mail.”

Farmers, often other businesses and industries also utilize them for their workers, who may need to carry a lot of tools from place to place.

“We started doing this last August,” said Herrala.

“We got one from a guy in Chesapeake, and it sold before we got it to the shop.

“We had stopped at a store in Windsor on our way home and someone asked about buying it.

“I had been looking around and saw some kits that you could use to make them look like hummers and jeeps.

“I thought it would be fun.”

Herrala said the vehicles are made just like little cars, hence the use of the word “car”, rather than “cart.”

“We sell some stock and others that are customized,” he said.

“I fixed up one by painting it red, putting chrome wheels on it and installing a radio.  It sold soon afterward.”

One couple brought their own in and had it customized.

“We work on and sell any Club car,” he said of the models.

“I don’t usually work on anything else.”

Walters OPE has sold approximately 30 of the golf cars, most coming from a wholesaler outside of Lynchburg.

Although the business has sold a couple of the electric ones, most of the ones that they have in stock are the gas-powered ones.

“Some people like the quietness of the electric ones,” said Herrala.

“We try to keep several different models and at least one electric car.  We usually have six or so at a given time.

“We like to keep some different ones out as examples.”

The cars are on display across the street from the building.

“There is an endless number of things you can do to customize them,” said Herrala.

Lift kits, radios, speakers, rims, specialty wheels that look like car tires, and flip-flop boxes are just a few examples.

“Decals, doors, headlights, brake lights, air conditioning, heating and enclosures are some other options.”

According to Herrala, the cheapest golf car would run a customer about $2,200.

He added, “After that, if you’re customizing it, the cost could be limitless.”

Walters OPE will be providing service as well as stocking parts for these specialty vehicles.

“And if we don’t have it, we can get it in a couple of days anyway,” he said.

Because all of the golf cars are used, there is a six-month warranty on major parts such as the engine or transmission.

“We will deliver them just as if you came in and bought a lawn mower,” he said.

And if you’re driving by, make sure you wave to Lulu [the mannequin].  She’ll be sitting in her favorite car waiting to greet customers.

For more information, call Walters Outdoor Power Equipment, 562-4760

October 29, 2006 at 11:48 pm 4 comments

Journal Excerpt: Misguided Tick

When I was looking for my FDR journal excerpt (I wrongly assumed I saw the speech draft in Caen or London, not New Orleans), I ran across this passage.  It amused me, so I’ll share. 

From my entry on June 6, 2004:

When I was home, before we left for Europe, I saw my first lightening bug of the season.  My parents’ yard was filled with them!  Still haven’t seen any down here in Blacksburg.

I have, however, seen more ticks.  I’ve always been told that ticks can sense heat– they like to bite down on the hot parts of the body.  Supposedly they wait up in trees and when they sense heat below, they let themselves fall.

Well I saw one tick today whose senses let him down.  He was hovering on my laptop, trying to find a place to burrow.  The laptop, due to the poor fan placement, was hotter than anything in the room.

I felt a little sorry for this misguided tick, but not sorry enough to spare him.  I flicked him in the toilet and urinated on him before flushing him to his death.

What a way to go.

October 22, 2006 at 10:43 pm 4 comments

Uniformed Motivation

Last week I wrote how thinking about the men at D-Day can be a motivating force.  I heard a story about my brother that shows he thinks about a different set of uniformed men.

Jay works on a cruise ship at the moment.  This week, he was carrying a large tray of full wine glasses across the room to a table.  The ship hit some tough turbulence, but my brother kept his stride and delivered the wine without a single drop lost.  The customers were impressed.

“How do you do that without spilling?!?” a lady at the table asked.

“It’s easy,” my brother replied, “I just pretend I’m drunk and a cop is watching me.”


October 22, 2006 at 10:09 pm 1 comment

“A Powerful Agent is the Right Word”

I ran across this quote by Mark Twain.  It’s from an essay he wrote on William Dean Howells in 1906:

A powerful agent is the right word. Whenever we come upon one of those intensely right words in a book or a newspaper the resulting effect is physical as well as spiritual, and electrically prompt.

As soon as I read that an example sprang to mind – Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor speech.   Sean and I got to view the typed draft (with Roosevelt’s last minute changes) in the National D-Day Musuem in New Orleans.  We were surprised to see the original opening line.

From my journal entry dated January 8, 2005:

The most fascinating item in the musuem (in my opinion) was FDR’s first draft of the speech he gave after Pearl Harbor.  The speech is quite famous, especially the line:

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy…”

Well– in Roosevelt’s original draft he had the phrase “world history” in that sentence instead of “infamy”.  On the draft in the musuem, you can see where Roosevelt crossed out “world history” and scrawled “infamy” above it.


He sluffed off one syllable with his edit and yet the meaning of his sentence was more powerful, more true, more visceral.

True, the circumstances were serious and any speech on this matter would have had been powerful.  But, one would be hard pressed to improve upon the word choice of “infamy.”  The speech just would not have been the same.

With photographs, we’ve seen the impact of timing and angles.  And with speeches and publications, Twain was dead-on.  The right word can be a powerful agent.

October 22, 2006 at 9:53 pm 1 comment

Boston Recap – Arrival, Freedom Trail, VT vs. BC

Some highlights of our Boston trip with some journal excerpts and pictures thrown in. 

Flickr User: Some of this may be redundant.

P.R. Squared – Plane Ride and Project Runway
Usually on flights, I sleep a significant portion.  This trip we flew JetBlue which features DirecTV.  I was enamored with the fact that I had live Bravo on a Wednesday and that had its consequences.

Our plane threw a hitch into my usual flying routine.  We had DirecTV on each seat and instead of sleeping I found myself watching two reruns of Project Runway.  I kept text messaging Ann [ another Project Runway fan] before take-off.

“I’m watching Project Runway on a plane!!!” I declared.

In retrospect, I wish I slept instead.  I arrived in Boston with that typical blah feeling when you’ve glazed over your intelligence with too much TV and advertisements.

Airport Inaccuracy
Bill C generously picked us up at the airport and he drove us the dinner the first night as well as escorted me around Lowell on Saturday.  Alas, there were some moments were Bill was… slightly inaccurate.  The one I find most humourous was the first one.

When we arrived at the airport and got to the baggage claim, Sean messaged Bill to see where he was.  Sean’s phone quickly beeped with a reply.  It turns out Bill was just leaving his house.  Sean read the message outloud to me, Bret and Phifer.

“Leaving now.  Will be there in 45 minutes.  It will take you that long to get your luggage.”

As Sean was reading that message, we were watching our luggage come towards us on the carousel!  🙂

Freedom Trail – Granary Cemetary
The Granary Cemetary (where Paul Revere, John Hancock and Ben Franklin’s parents are all buried) spurred a lot of thoughts.  First off, I found the carvings on the tombstone very interesting:

Often there was no holds barred in regards to what the stone was marking– they’d carve a skull and sometimes crossbones right smack on top of the tombstone!  [It left no question what lied beneath.]

There was a sign that explained that the different carvers of the day had different […] techniques [that could be noticed in the carving].  I thought that was neat.  The tombstones not only tell you about the person who lies underneath– but they tell you a bit about the artist as well.

Next, it had me think a bit about my burial plans.

I tell people my primary contender for my post mortum plans is to have my ashes spread on Pearis Mountain.  I’m not certain of that route […]

But– after looking at this cemetary, Pearis Mountain looks more promising.  This cemetary is only 2 centuries old.  A lot of the stones are illegible.  Erosion is sneaking up on them– as more and more soil envelops the bottom halves of the stones.  One stone was partially encompassed in a tree which had grown around it.

It seems to me Pearis Mountain will outlast any cemetary.  It may not bear my name and the date of my birth and death– but will will embody my spirit.

I’m more certain of the Pearis Mountain route after my visit to Lowell.  A number of my ancestors are buried in a cemetary in Lowell, but I did not visit it.  Instead, I visited the buildings they built and inhabited, looked at the river they would have seen every day and,  most importantly, I walked the streets they would have walked .  I felt close to my family then and perhaps in a few generations, my progeny will capture a similiar feeling as well– walking the trail on my favorite mountain.

U.S.S. Constitution
The U.S.S. Constitution had a lot of neat aspects.

Sean commented that it took a lot of rope to sustain a sailboat.  Boy was he right!  Lots and lots of ropes of all sizes donned the ship.

The U.S.S. Constitution also connected to a story Bill told us the day before.  He told us about Tom McHale who saved the Massachussetts Bay Transportation Authority an estimated $126,000 a year simply by putting hair caps on the air intake pipes for the T trains.  (It lets air in, but keeps the engine-damaging snow out).

The U.S.S. Constitution had the inverse with its cannons.  Where Tom McHale used netting to cover the opening of the intake pipe, the U.S.S. Constitution had the netting covering the area around the cannon opening. 

I’m not sure of the purpose– maybe it is just purely cosmetic.  Or maybe, the netting is serving a similiar function as its cousins on the T.  Perhaps it was intended to keep large outside debris out?

A few years ago, one of my co-workers went onsite at a mine and came back with the cutest calendar.  The miners’ children had drawn different pictures with safety messages like, “Break the Rock, Daddy, Not Your Head!”

[The Naval Yard had a faded billboard] touting similiar safety measures– in specific wearing steel-toed boots.  It depicted a sailor grabbing his foot and saying,

“Ouch!  Not even a dog deserves this!!!”

Note: Bill isn’t the only one with inaccuracies this trip— my journal recollection was wrong.  The sign actually reads, “OUCH! It shouldn’t happen to a dog!”

It’s amusing because there are some people who treat their dogs better than their neighbors.  And there is evidence of that all around the area.  We’ve past quite a number of dog specialty stores, gourmet treats, etc

Old Businesses
A couple of journal comments on old businesses:

Bell in Hand Tavern
We briefly passed by the oldest tavern in the U.S.  I believe it was established in the 1700s.  In Blacksburgs, some bars barely last a year! […]

There are a lot of businesses that are pretty old.  Near Quincy Square we passed by a restaurant whose sign read, “Established Before You Were Born.”

Virginia Tech vs. Boston College
We met Bill and his cousin, Matty, for a quick tailgate and then headed off to the game.

Tech lost the Boston College game miserably.  In fact the local paper used the verb “trounce” in describing the outcome.

Nonetheless I found something to cheer about.  BC’s kicker, affectionately called “Sid Vicious” (because his last name is long and hard to pronounce), is a walk-on to the team.  He was kicking field goals for fun when a coach saw him and invited him to join the team.  Their regular kicker got in a bar fight so now it was time for Sid Vicious to show his stuff.

The Virginia Tech game was his first game ever and this boy shined!  He kicked two field goals and two extra points– 8 points total.  Not bad for his first game!!!

“Boston is Not a College Football Town”
Early in the week, Bill told us that Boston is not a college football town.  In the two days after the game, we saw Bill’s statement was quite accurate.

The friendly inhabinants we met certainly proved that [statement].  Thursday night we lost the game.  All day Friday and Saturday, friendly passers-by would note our shirts and say stuff like, “Have fun at the game!”, “Hope you win!” or “When’s the game?”

They had no idea it already occurred or that the results were so decisive! 🙂

October 20, 2006 at 11:47 pm 1 comment

Boston Pictures

Got back today from Boston and just like after the Smokies, time is tight.  I have some narrative attached to my Flickr uploads and my brother-in-law has his pictures uploaded to Facebook. 


My Boston Pictures on Flickr

My Lowell Pictures on Flickr

Bret’s Random Boston Pictures

Bret’s Aquarium Pictures

Bret’s Brewery Tour Pictures

Bret’s Fenway Park Pictures

Bret’s Virginia Tech vs Boston College Pictures

October 15, 2006 at 9:39 pm 1 comment

Fatigue and Fatigues

Shortly Sean and I will be living to catch a plane to Boston.  Knowing I did not have to get up this morning and work, I stayed up super late….doing work.   My sleep afterwards was intermittent as Henry was up to some unusual antics.  Combine that with getting up early to pack, I did not get much sleep last night.

In my Out of State Ian Fund Efforts post from Colorado, I talked about the practice of offering trials up.  There is another thing I find myself doing during trying times– I think about the men of D-Day. 

For example, when I used to be terrified of flying (and why was I so scared?  It had nothing to do with death– I was scared that I or someone was going to… throw up) and our flight hit turbulence, I would think about all the paratroopers and pathfinders flying in the wee morning hours and all the uncertainty and flak and erratic bumps they had to face. 

Last weekend while hiking in the Smokies with a heavy pack, I found myself rattling on to Mike about how the D-Day soldiers carried packs that were 60 pounds.  Not only did they carry a lot more weight that I, they were doing so through water and sand and had death-inducing machine gun fire to contend with.

Finally, the example that applies today!  On days where I am lacking sleep, I think about how in the months preceding the D-Day invasion, Dwight Eisenhower only got 2 hours a sleep a night.  If Eisenhower can plan the most complicated amphibious invasion in history with consistent fatigue, then I can certainly suck it up for one work day. 

There are times, though, where my Eisenhower thought does not work.  Here is a barely legible quote from my November 11, 2005 journal.  It was written when Mark and I foolishly took a flight that left Las Vegas at 1 AM and had to switch planes at both Minneapolis and Detroit before arriving in Roanoke.  As Bill C so aptly summed up, “If you are going to take a red-eye, make sure it is a direct flight!”

Minneapolis Airport
~6:20 AM CST

In the months preceeding the D-Day Invasion, Dwight Eisenhower got about 2 hours a sleep each night.  I’m trying to imagine planning and strategizing the way I feel now.

Dwight wins.  I’m exhausted!

Is it blasphemous of me to think about the D-Day soldiers instead of Jesus suffering on the crucifix?  I hope not.  I find the tales of these soldiers to set a slightly more obtainable precedent.  These are not feats the son of a diety performed.  These are feats of mere mortals.  Not just that, some of these mortal men were only 17, 18 and 19 years old.  These were the feats of “mortal kids”.

So I get to ask myself– if mortal kids can face what they faced, then what’s my excuse?  🙂 

October 11, 2006 at 7:36 am 5 comments

Great Smokey Mountains: Quick Recap

This weekend, I traveled to Great Smokey Mountain National Park with Soleless Red and Spit McCoy (aka Kipp and Mike).  We have just started to scratch the surface with all the pictures from this trip, but here is a quick recap (not proofread):

A Tale of Two Blue Cranes
On Friday, we got stuck in hideous traffic in Pigeon Forge.  We were driving in two cars which quickly got seperated in all the traffic and confusion.  At one point, we were coordinating on cells phones trying to figure out who was where. 

“What do you see?” Mike asked. 

Kipp described a neon blue crane that was spinning around.

“Oh you’re behind us,” Mike said, “We passed that a while ago.”

It was a reasonable conclusion– I think most cities would be able to sustain just one glowing blue crane business.  But not in Pigeon Forge– it apparently needed TWO such neon structures.  It turns out Kipp was ahead of us…at the blue crane we had yet to see.

I was also amused that Pigeon Forge had a Jamboree, a Jubilee and a Hoe Down all within the same city block.

Rainbow Falls
On Saturday, we woke up at 5:30 AM and headed out to hit the trails!  It was still dark when we were filling out the registration at the Sugarlands Visitor Center.  We parked Kipp’s car up at Newfound Gap and then drove back down to the Rainbow Falls Trailhead.  We loaded up all our backpacking gear and I got to do my very first hike with a full pack (special thanks for Carolyn who lent me her pack!). 

Sometimes carrying two retractable leashes and the water for myself and two dogs feels heavy– but it certainly did not compare to my pack on Saturday!  I had some difficulty putting the pack on by myself and often after a break, I needed my companions to assist loading me back up.  I read once about an experiment where scientists put a crab inside a clear jar in an octopus’s tank and they would time how long it took the octopus to figure out how to unscrew the lid of the jar to get to the crab.  I believe part of the experiment was they let the subject octopus watch another octopus figure out how to get the crab.  The subject octopus then immediately knew what it needed to do when it was presented with the same problem.  The octopus’s ability to learn through example was not lost through evolution.  During one of our breaks, I noticed Mike unloaded his pack on a tall rock.  When it was time to suit back up for action, he merely sat down on the rock, snapped on all the buckles and stood back up.  I started using that technique and suddenly I was empowered to get my pack on without assistance.

Kipp help me find my way around the pack as well.  At first, I found myself with quick a bit of sensation in my shoulders.  Kipp did some targeted strap yanking– he loosened my shoulder straps and tightened the waist.  That simple gesture shifted more of the weight to my hips which I found vastly more comfortable.

The first mile was not the steepest, but it was the most difficult for me and during that difficult period– I did have my hiking doubts that I would make the trek (Refer to “People Get Held Back by the Voices Inside Them“).  However, after that first mile, I think I adjusted to the extra weight or perhaps just built up a little bit of confidence.  From there on, it was smooth sailing.

Well, smooth sailing for me.  Poor Mike had thought he had just gotten over a cold, but discovered that the illness had returned in full force.   By the time we reached Rainbow Falls, it was apparent the cold was having an effect.  We were able to travel an estimated 1.5 miles further, before Mike had to Summon the Strength to Wuss Out.  The decision was difficult, but in the end, our group definitely made the right call.  After carrying heavy packs 4 miles and up a 2000 foot ascent, we turned back and returned to the car.

It was still a wonderful outing with great fall views and an amazing collection of mushrooms!

Soleless Red and Black Bears
Turning back had some fringe benefits.  On our way down, the sole of Kipp’s right shoe came off.  We tried securing it back on with rope– but alas, that sole wanted nothing to do with Kipp.  As a result, he descended the rest of the trail with significantly more awareness of the rocks on the trail.

Then when we were driving back to Gatlinburg, we came across a mini traffic jam on Cherokee Orchard Road.  Ultimately it was rubberneckers– but it was rubberneckers I can forgive— they were looking at a female black bear and her cub in a tree!  Our crew pulled over and I was able to see my very first live black bear (I saw a dead one with Meredith near Wind Rocks)!  I was extremely surprised at how high the two bears were and even more surprised at how at ease they were at that height.  The mother balanced on a branch to go to sleep, not at all concerned about the likes of gravity.  Soon it was brought to our attention that there were three more black bears on the ground.  I took a look and, man, there was a HUGE one out there.  I was under the impression that black bears looked like big dogs.  This one was no dog.  He was huge.  I’d prefer to not run into him when hiking alone.

Mike’s Picture of Bear on Flickr

Finally, we took our time returning to Kipp’s car and enjoyed a lot of the overlook pulloffs.  Marion’s Overlook was especially beautiful.  Looking at the valley below, the scenery didn’t even seem real.  “It feels like a painting,” Kipp said.

Appalachian Trail!
In preparation for the trip, I printed out a copy of the Smokey’s Trip Planner.  I marked a few waterfalls and in the margin of the “Favorite Destinations” page underneath “Clingman’s Dome”, I scrawled the notation “Pic by Sign”.  I was referring to the Appalachian Trail– which weaves 70 miles through the park and skirts the North Carolina-Tennesee Border.  After all the AT mileage Mike and I have done in Virginia, I wanted a picture of us at the AT in a different state.   Welp, we were able to fulfill that desire when we dropped Kipp off at Newfound Gap!

Clingman’s Dome
After dropping Kipp off, Mike and I headed off to Clingman’s Dome.  It is the highest point in Tennesee AND it is the highest point in the Appalachian Trail.  Mike and I were extremely lucky– we got to enjoy great views and we got to see first hand how quickly the Smokey’s namesake rolls in.  It was amazing to look up and see how quickly the fog moved. 


In my post last week I talked the importance of timing in pictures.  That message will be 100% reinforced by our Smokey pictures.  At one point, I was about to take a picture of a splendid view, but found myself out of batteries.  No problem– I had two in my pocket.  BUT– by the time I switched out the batteries and pulled the camera up again, fog already completely obscured the view.  Once we get all our pictures coordinated, Mike and I should have some good ones demonstrating the huge difference just a couple of seconds make way up on top of Ole Smokey.

On our way up, I overheard our youngest generation marvel at the fog.  A very young boy coming down the path, told his parents, “We was in the clouds!” 

Chimney Tops
This morning, Mike and I took a short but steep hike up to Chimney Tops.  It was an awesome hike with a great rock formation you can climb up for a view.  Mike made it to the top of the rocks very easily.  I struggled though–  It took me three tries to find a viable route to get up to the top.  How did I finally find the way?  Just like the octopus and the crab and my backpack loading lesson– I learned by copying.  I copied the route of a family of three!  The view at the top was awesome.  On one side we could see a clear sky and fall colors and on the other side we could see fog.  Our final hike in the Smokey’s was a great summary of the trip– fall colors and fog.

Impressions of Gatlinburg
Don’t get me wrong, I do think Gatlinburg is picturesque.  But my overall impression is damaged significantly by the parking and traffic situation.  Quite simply– it’s horrible.  It is difficult to admire the quaintness of a mountain city, when you’re constantly on the lookout for a barrage of pedestrains and lit brakelights… or when you are trying to plan your route three steps ahead to make sure you can make the turn you need to make or actually find a parking spot.

Mike and I counted at least 8 seperate businesses that focused on Old Time Photos– five of which concentrated within a couple of blocks.  Often there were two such businesses right across the street from each other (very much like Lewis Black’s “Starbucks across the street from a Starbuck’s” bit), or just a couple of doors from each other!  I was surprised by Pigeon Forge’s two blue cranes, but seriously can there really be that much demand for fake western photos?!?!

How about getting rid of one or two of those establishments and putting in…actual parking.  Call me crazy, but people who are coming to the mountains to “rough it” can probably make due with just six Old Time Photo venues.

October 8, 2006 at 11:45 pm 2 comments

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