Archive for March, 2008

Season Compare – Caldwell Fields

Continuing my tradition of season comparison shots, here is Caldwell Fields:


Caldwell Fields – March 24, 2008


Caldwell Fields – May 14, 2007

The above combination I architected on purpose, but when I was going through my pictures, I had a bonus season compare at the creek.


Rock and Creek – March 24, 2008


Rock and Creek – May 14, 2007

More pictures from Caldwell Fields can be found on my Flickr site:

Fields in May

Fields in March

Finally, if you yearn to read more about the fields, I have written about them on this blog before. ūüôā

March 31, 2008 at 9:01 am 6 comments

Gunfire at Jefferson National Forest

On Friday, I took the dogs out for a quick hike. We explored an old fire road off of Craig’s Creek Road that is marked for “Foot Traffic Only”. It was a pretty nice outing. The only downside was we were very close to the Blacksburg Shooting Range, so we could hear a lot of gunfire.

Henry in particular was bothered by the noise. Anytime the shooting started, he’d crouch real low to the ground and look around nervously. A couple of times, he started to run back to the car.

Now, I think that is probably a reasonable reaction for most animals. But Henry? Henry’s a beagle. What were beagles bred for?

Eating everything in sight?
Attacking other dogs over toilet paper rolls?
Cowering from the Hokie Bird?
Running away from Donkeys?
Arooing at doorbells?
Getting sticks caught in their mouth?
Cowering from balloons?
Rolling in feces?
Pissing on the floor?
Taking mini-dumps?

NO!!! Hunting! BEAGLES WERE BRED FOR HUNTING!!! Hunting, you know, as in… with guns.

As a hunting dog, Henry fails on so many levels.

But… as a trail dog, he ain’t half bad. And our outing on Friday afternoon was quite nice with plenty to see:


Mushrooms


Horticulture experiments


Dead things


Exclamation Points (HT Clint)

More pictures from our impromptu trip to Jefferson National Forest can be found on my Flickr site.

March 30, 2008 at 8:08 pm 4 comments

False Advertising: Maneater

Bah! Today I got roped into watching a bad movie. I knew it was going to be bad. I’m not an idiot. It stars Gary Busey and it was on the Sci-Fi Channel on a Sunday afternoon. But look at the Tivo description!


A wild animal goes on a bloodthirsty rampage on the Appalachian Trail

Amazon’s description of the DVD elaborates:

The hunter becomes the hunted when the forested shadows of the Appalachian Trail are stalked by a wild animal out of its element hungry and born to ravage. After Sheriff Grady (Gary Busey The Firm) finds a dismembered body in the area he quickly discovers a print near the scene that identifies the predator as a Bengal tiger. Six hundred pounds twelve feet from nose to tail it s one of the most powerful cats on Earth. Now it s loose and there[‘]s no man on the Appalachian Trail with the skill or the courage to take it down.

Well, heck! The Appalachian Trail in a movie? I’m in!

I watched the whole thing. I’ll overlook the fact that it was filmed in Winnipeg and the terrain* didn’t look right. But here’s an oddity. In a movie supposedly taking place on the AT, there was no mention of the trail. The tiger managed to keep a hiker-free diet…and there wasn’t even a single white blaze.

I know my conclusion may be controversial. And I know! It’s risky to take on the corporate giants like Amazon and Tivo. Tivo is especially scary since we are in the middle of a new season of Lost. But…I have to stay true to myself and my beliefs, right? So… here we go:

This movie had nothing to do with the Appalachian Trail.

That’s right, Tivo, YOU’RE WRONG. Now please, if you don’t mind, still record that new episode of Jon and Kate Plus Eight tomorrow night. Please?


*If you are saying to yourself, “Oh darn. I was really hoping to see a movie with terrain similar to the Southwest Virginia section of the Appalachian Trail”, then I know of two movies to refer right off the bat. Last of the Mohicans (filmed in North Carolina) is filled with familiar scenery and I couldn’t help but notice last time I watched Ned Betty‘s famous scene, that Deliverance (filmed in South Carolina and Georgia) features rhododendrons.

Heterosexual men– you now have an excuse to not look at Ned Betty’s ass. “Huh? What anal rape? Oooh! Sorry, I was too busy looking at the rhododendrons!”

March 30, 2008 at 6:38 pm 1 comment

Good for Gillie’s

This evening I was finishing up another home project. With moderate haste, I was removing excess grout from tile faces with a sponge and every so often, I’d yell downstairs, “HOW MUCH TIME?!?!”

Sean would look at a clock and tell me how close it was to 8 PM.

I finished my work at 7:52 PM… which gave me a good eight minutes to get ready for Earth Hour!

And right on time, the house went dark. With my contribution taken care of, I rushed outside to marvel at the global effort! It almost had the same feel of Halloween or 4th of July. That’s how excited I was.

Only… everything looked just the same. Across the street, my neighbor’s dog laid in the driveway. I could see this clearly because the floodlight above the garage was still on. To the left, I saw houses dotted with lit rooms. To the right, I saw houses dotted with lit rooms. The street lights were still on. Even the neighbor who religiously walks or takes the bus to work had light emanating from his upstairs.

And it wasn’t a fluke with our street. Sean and I leashed the two dogs and walked through adjacent neighborhoods. We found only one house that had the distinctive faint flicker of candlelight from within. What happened? Don’t these people use Google?

I was pretty bummed out, but not so distraught to ignore my grumbling stomach. With half of Earth Hour to go, Sean and I ditched the dogs in the completely dark house (ha ha suckers) and set out to find some grub. The drive downtown only served to dampen my mood. I looked out the window and watched the lights of various franchises whiz by.


Lights on North Main Street


And even MORE lights on North Main Street

BUT– on College Avenue, amongst all these blaring lights there was a glimmer of hope! Gillie’s was dark! And as you got closer, you could see they were still open for business. They had turned out the lights in the dining area. Patrons were eating by candlelight!


Gillie’s dining area, lit by candles


Candle at Gillie’s

Well, I joined those patrons! I had salmon with blackberry sauce, fresh asparagus and some cream of broccoli and asparagus soup. The meal was delicious. But tonight, Gillie’s served me up something better.

They saved my Earth Hour.

March 30, 2008 at 12:47 am 6 comments

links for 2008-03-29

March 29, 2008 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

Gwyn vs. the Volcano

I was cleaning off one of my SanDisk cards for my camera and I ran across some pictures I never processed. These are from February 22nd, when Ann, Larry, Sean and I took Penn and Gwyn to Kabuki for supper.

For the most part, the evening progressed normally. The kids oohed and ahhed at the fish tank while we waited for a table and after that they oohed and ahhed at the chef preparing the meal. Then it came time for the ONION VOLCANO!!!

Both children lean in with great expectations:

Let’s take a closer look at Gwyn’s face:


Gwyn excited about the volcano

BUT… when the volcano was actually lit, Gwyn was no longer happy:

And let’s take a closer look at that face:


Terrified Gwyn

Once the terror subsided, she watched the flames with worry:


Gwyn worried

Finally she just covered her eyes:

Know what the best part about the picture above is? That kid in the background (a stranger) is laughing at her!


Sympathetic Stranger

And in the end, it was Mama to the rescue:


Ann consoles Gwyn. Brother doesn’t look so concerned, does he?

March 28, 2008 at 7:24 pm 4 comments

Easiest Lent Ever

Well, it turns out Lent 2008 was my easiest Lent ever.¬† The leap to giving up red meat wasn’t as difficult as I had anticipated and I adjusted well to the text messaging restriction.¬†

Courtesy of text messaging, 2008 was also one of more amusing Lents.¬† I allowed myself to read text messages, but I wouldn’t write back.¬† This opened the door for a series of taunting messages.¬† When they knew I was on the road Derek, Sean and Larry all found it fit to send messages like this one:

From: Derek
Mar 17, 12:35 pm

Haha you can’t reply ūüôā

Meanwhile, one of my old co-workers took a very different approach.  He simply sent text messages to tell me when HE was driving.

From: Mark
Feb 21, 6:44 PM

I’m driving.¬† ūüôā

Giving up red meat, on the other hand,¬†has been educational.¬† It taught me just how effective ad campaigns are.¬† You have no idea how many people approached me, insisting that pork is white meat.¬† It’s not!¬† The National Pork Board can¬†use its slogan all it wants, but nutrition-wise PORK IS RED MEAT.¬† From the USDA Fact Sheet on Pork:

Why is Pork a “Red” Meat?
Oxygen is delivered to muscles by the red cells in the blood. One of the proteins in meat, myoglobin, holds the oxygen in the muscle. The amount of myoglobin in animal muscles determines the color of meat. Pork is classified a “red” meat because it contains more myoglobin than chicken or fish. When fresh pork is cooked, it becomes lighter in color, but it is still a red meat. Pork is classed as “livestock” along with veal, lamb and beef. All livestock are considered “red meat.”

As far as post-Lent, I’ve sort of had quite a reunion with red meat (including that deceptive pork).¬† A Pot Roast Burger from Red Robin, Meatball Sub from Substation II, Pork BBQ from Due South¬†and a Victoria Filet with Horseradish Crust from Outback have all been ingested in just this week.¬† Hopefully, this reunion is brief and I’ll settle down to substantially less red meat.

But on a positive note, chriggy and ClintJCL may be happy to learn that I’m still not¬†typing away while driving.¬† I’m aiming for that change to stick!¬† ūüôā

March 28, 2008 at 10:51 am 4 comments

Billy Joel Exposes Me

Recently I heard Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” again.¬† It had been quite some time since I had listened to it.¬† I struggled singing along, but I hit my stride around Sally Ride (for real– I didn’t pick that because it rhymed).

Anyway, when I¬†heard “Childen of Thalidomide”, I realized I¬†wouldn’t have known what that was in 1989 when Billy Joel first released this song.¬† In fact, I don’t think I¬†had any conscious knowledge of¬†thalidomide¬†until¬†11 years later when I read a Discover magazine article on the drug.

So I thought it would be neat to look at the full lyrics of the song and color-code¬†all the items I learned about in the two decades after its release.¬† So I got me the lyrics, started reading,¬†and my activity backfired something awful!¬† Instead of revealing how much I have learned since Billy Joel released the song, I uncovered¬†that I’m still pretty clueless.¬†

It’s humbling, but below is my color-coded lyrics list (verses only).¬† Blue indicates stuff I think I learned about after the song was popular.¬† Red indicates stuff that I just learned today via Wikipedia’s list of the historical references in the song.

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H-Bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, “The King and I”, and “The Catcher in the Rye”

Eisenhower, vaccine, England’s got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

Josef Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
Dien Bien Phu Falls
, Rock Around the Clock

Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev
Princess Grace, Peyton Place, Trouble in the Suez

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, Bridge On The River Kwai

Lebanon, Charles de Gaulle, California Baseball,
Starkwether, Homicide, Children of Thalidomide

Buddy Holly, Ben Hur, Space Monkey, Mafia
Hula Hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go

U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, Psycho, Belgians in the Congo

Hemingway, Eichmann, Stranger in a Strange Land,
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion

Lawrence of Arabia, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British Politician sex
J.F.K. blown away, what else do I have to say

Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock

Begin, Reagan, Palestine, Terror on the airline
Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless Vets, AIDS, Crack, Bernie Goetz

Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law
Rock and Roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore

Some Notes:
With “Malcolm X”, I may have heard of him in 1989, but I really did not have a full understanding of the man until I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which by the way– everyone should read.¬†

“Begin”— Ha!¬† This whole time I though Joel meant that Ronald Reagan’s term was beginning.¬†

March 23, 2008 at 3:57 pm 10 comments

Web Pages With a Lot of Work

Having a history in web development, I’m very used to my milestones being measured in the terms of web pages.

Now, there are times were there is a whole lot of effort behind a single web page. I have had “push weeks” where we plug away for 80+ hours. I’ve had all nighters. I’ve had months of writing behind-the-scenes business logic between support calls.¬† Even webpages with static content can go through a long series of design iterations and debates before a look is settled on.

Sometimes, I think the end result is deceptive.¬† When you look at a webpage, you don’t quite get a feel for all the work that went into it.


This screen may look like a simple form, but the prerequisite database design, business logic and user controls took months to complete before this page could even be started.


The “Featured Webcasts” section above took two different design resources, three iterations before this director’s clapboard theme was chosen.¬†¬†

This week, I have run across the ultimate example.¬† I didn’t even write this webpage, but believe me, a LOT of work went into this real estate listing:

My parent’s house is now officially on the market, complete with pictures of the house!

Behind the scenes of this listing– the work of an entire family and two helpful neighbors.¬† Painting, cleaning, caulking, furniture rearranging, rug removal and there was even a drape hemming effort at 1 AM.¬† We ended with an array of damaged clothing (I learned that caulk does NOT come of out jeans…or hair) and fingernails.¬† And we have three dogs that still sport caked paint on their feet and flanks.

It’s definitely one of the webpages I have worked the hardest on.¬† And when I look at the house now and see how great it looks in the listing, it’s also one of the webpages I’m most proud of.

P.S. If anyone is looking for a beautiful 5 bedroom, 4.5 bath house with an elevator and jacuzzi tub, all within walking distance of Historic Occoquan, be sure to check out the full listing.

March 23, 2008 at 3:02 pm 1 comment

Sinking Creek Mountain Pictures on Flickr

So Tuesday I turned 33.¬† As is the case when I do not have stupid strep throat, I went on a birthday hike.¬† Unfortunately, I don’t have time to tell you about said hike at the moment as I’ll be driving to my parents today to help with an ambitious painting endeavor.¬† But the pictures are up at Flickr and you can take a look.

Sinking Creek Mountain Hike Pictures

And other Flickr users–
Here is your chance (well, sort of) to effect THIS blog.¬† There have been a couple of occassions where a picture I don’t think this is all that great, solicits comments on Flickr that¬†qualifies it for “blog-inclusion”.¬† So if you see a picture you like, comment and maybe, just maybe, a picture YOU¬†liked will be highlighted on MY birthday hike post.¬†

That’s right!¬†¬†¬†Out of 203 pictures, 55 pictures got uploaded to Flickr.¬† And if I don’t veto, ignore or totally trivialize¬†your opinion, YOU could determine what handful of pictures¬†of that 55 get posted on the blog.

Now, who can resist that?¬† ūüôā

Anyway, I got to get going.  I have a long drive ahead of me.

March 20, 2008 at 8:43 am 3 comments

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