Archive for September, 2008


I donated blood today! The American Red Cross now has an extra pint of A- blood in their inventory, but more importantly, I now have license to eat whatever I want for the rest of the day.

Once they had the needle in me, they instructed me to squeeze a stress ball every 5-10 seconds with my right hand. The squeezing ensures my blood keeps flowing and making its way into the bag. So the whole time I talked to the nurse about defragging harddrives (she wanted to know if she should be logged on to her own Internet account or her husband’s Internet account to do this), I had a background process running:


I finished up, partook in guilt-free soda and Cheetos and headed home.

There I had to VPN into a client-site and remote into their server to archive about 26,000 PDFs. I commenced my Cut and Paste operation and as the hourglass struggled, I would flick my mouse every 5-10 seconds with my right hand. The flicking ensures my files keep flowing and making their way into the new directory (In the past I’ve had the frustrating discovery that when the server’s screen saver comes on, Windows Explorer crashes). So the whole time I stared at the screen (just about as captivating as the defrag conversation), I had a background process running:


And suddenly, I had a bit of déjà vu!

P.S. For a great blood donation story, be sure to read The Thrill of Losing a Pint of Blood.

September 16, 2008 at 8:08 pm 20 comments

More on Mountain Lake

If you are interested in more coverage of the disappearance of Mountain Lake, check out the blogs for the Mountain Lake Conservancy:

Mountain Lake Conservancy Blog

Throughout August and September, they have been posting regular pictures of the water level and the lake bed.

Mountain Lake Conservancy Recreation Blog

This blog focuses mostly on recreation opportunities at Mountain Lake, but they also discuss their attempts at stopping the leakage with sandbags.

September 15, 2008 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Mosaic Meme

Well, I didn’t feel all that driven to create my own superhero.  But Christina posted this Mosaic Meme that I decided to go ahead and try. 

a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page of results, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd’s mosaic maker.

The Questions:

1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.**
12. Your flickr name

Here’s what I came up with:

1. Cataratas Victoria, Vic Falls, Zambia, 2. Injera, 3. IMG_4033.JPG, 4. ♫ YO Yo yo, there’s no place like a green penthouse… so i told the genie i wanted to be well hung. ^o^ ♫ nah… wildlife from singapore♫, 5. Mr. Spacey, 6. sweet ice tea in Alabama, 7. The Volcano Rumbles, 8. day 58: creme brulee, 9. blue nun, 10. technicolor bois de boulogne in Paris 🙂, 11. happiness is a warm puppy (and a handful of them is even better), 12. 20080803 – Assateague – pony – overlooking the ocean – (by Vicky) – 2741491152_9c092213d1_o

September 13, 2008 at 11:15 pm 3 comments

Crappiest View Picture Ever

Again, the rain last weekend encouraged me to leave my camera behind, so I had to rely on my cell phone to capture images, including this one of the view at Signal Knob.  Between the cloud cover, the wind, the rain AND a crappy focus job by my LG enV, I’m ready to declare this the “Crappiest View Picture Ever”

Horrible picture from Signal Knob on September 6, 2008

And so you know just how poor this photo is, here’s a similiar shot from 2004:

Jimmie at Signal Knob on June 18, 2004

More pictures from the Signal Knob Hike in 2004 are available on my Flickr site.

September 13, 2008 at 12:00 pm 4 comments

More Red Efts!

The rain last weekend did not keep us from hiking Signal Knob, but it did keep me from taking my camera with me.  So all my shots on Signal Knob were courtesy of my LG enV.  That includes the super cool, almost phosphorescent-looking red eft.

As luck would have it my friend, Marty Martin from, got some delightful shots of his own when he encountered red efts in Botetourt County.  So here are some closer peaks at the Red-Spotted Newt in its terrestrial stage:

Red Eft (Photo by croakingtoad)

Red Eft (Photo by croakingtoad)

More of Marty’s Red Eft pictures can be found on his Flickr site.

September 13, 2008 at 1:40 am 5 comments

Signal Knob and a Birthday Hike

I am a fan of the birthday hike. Friends and colleagues of mine are well aware that regardless of what day of the week my birthday falls on, that day I *will* be taking off work and going for a hike. It is a given. And just like with weddings, I will happily tag along on other people’s birthday hike as well.

So it is no surprise that this year when one Ryan Somma indicated that he wanted to celebrate his birthday with a hike that I would quickly attach myself to those plans.

But as the hike day neared, a tiny, tiny, tiny little obstacle surfaced. It went by the name of “Tropical Storm Hanna”. Earlier in the week, watching storm projections, a backup plan involving various nearby caverns was discussed.

On Saturday morning, I woke up in the Elizabeth Furnace campground and noted the dry surface area in my tent was becoming more scarce. I further observed that sleeping bags have quite the impressive capillary action. Finally, I stepped outside of the tent and witnessed steady rain.

Oh yeah,” I concluded, “This is definitely a cavern day.”

But my findings were subject to a peer review and Ryan Somma had a different assessment.

“I still want to try the hike,” he said.

And since he was in fact, the birthday boy, his vote counted just a tad more than mine.

We ate an Omega-3 filled breakfast of smoked salmon and avocados on pita bread, put on ponchos and headed out. When we started out, I still suspected that we would have to summon the strength to wuss out. Especially when we had conversations like this one:

Vicky: Are your shoes water tight?

Ryan: Water tight?

Ready to Hike
Poncho and shoes that are not water-tight

Lo and behold, we completed the entire 10.6 mile hike, including a 2,680 foot climb. In fact, I would  tag on “with ease” to the end of that statement. And even though the views were obscured (Vicky: Umm…I think there is supposed to be a mountain over there), hiking in the storm brought forth other benefits.

The pitter patter of the rain in the tree canopy definitely added a peaceful soundtrack to the journey. The moisture made the trees seem more vibrant and alive. The clouds and the rain kept us at comfortable temperatures. Finally, just as the different seasons provide different views, we got to see a slightly different forest than we would have if it were sunny.

In a blog post about his own birthday hike in 2006, Marty Martin from observed:

It had rained during the night so the woods were good and wet, which normally can lead to an uncomfortable hiking experience, but I also know that certain woodland critters come out after a rain…

He then goes on to share his encounter with Red Efts (the terrestrial stage of the Red-Spotted Newt). Ryan and I got to encounter the very same, captivating creature:

Red Eft
Red Eft

Now, there were couple of items that we came across, that could have been around on a sunnier day. We got to see my favorite reptile, the box turtle, and when I wasn’t even looking for it, we came across an unexpected American Chestnut burr on the trail!

American Chestnut Burr!
American Chestnut Burr!

And here was another amusing conversation:

Vicky (holding the chestnut burr): Wow!!!! I want to eat it! Do you know how to eat it? Do I have to cook it?

Ryan: You don’t want to plant it?

Vicky (suddenly remembering the restoration effort and the importance of keeping the gene pool diverse): Oh… uh… yeah. Yeah, I’ll plant it.

I’ve already started research on planting the nut. Even if my efforts fail, I figure I can turn it into some kind of blog post. Though I do have to admit, part of me still wants to eat the nuts within and see what tastes extinction (or near extinction) has deprived me of.

Even without a chestnut in my belly, it was an amazing time. We did have a couple of casualties though. Remember my question about water tight shoes?  Well, my Asolo hiking boots and SmartWool socks kept my feet pretty dry and comfy.  My hiking companion, on the other hand, got to be a living example of osmosis at work:

Prune Feet
Prune Feet!

And remember my wet tent? I put it in my car where it helped demonstrate three concepts:

1) Evaporation
2) Condensation
and most importantly:
3) the Conductivity of Water

All the water from the tent evaporated and then condensed on my cold windshield where it trickled down and shorted out my radio for a good half day. 🙂

The water in my radio.
All that water WAS in my tent. Not pictured: The water in my radio.

The conditions certainly were not ideal and we could have easily been miserable, but instead we ended up with a great adventure. We got to exercise. We got to enjoy the outdoors. We got to be invigorated by new discoveries, fascinated by old ones, and feel the soothing sense of accomplishment that comes with worked muscles.

In other words– we got to share everything a great birthday hike should be.

Signal Knob Circuit Hike
Massanutten Trail – Tuscarora Trail
Map and Mileage

Elizabeth Furnace Recreation Area
Strasburg, VA

Length: 10.6 mile loop

Elevation Gain: 2680 feet

Parking: Park at the Signal Knob Parking Lot

September 13, 2008 at 1:22 am 7 comments


As of a couple of weekends ago, my house is pretty much vacant. With no couch, no bed and a dwindling blanket supply, my poor animals have had to get inventive. Henry simply chooses to lay in his crate when he can’t find a spot. This morning, I found Stench laying in what is serving as my temporary dresser– my suitcase.

Stench has a bed

That’s not too odd. I can see Stench making himself at home in a suitcase under any circumstances. This one, however, is more unexpected:

Jimmie has a chair

(And don’t worry– I will be strategically placing some blankets and pillows in the living room for these poor creatures)

September 12, 2008 at 12:21 am 8 comments

Season Compare: Sharp Top

This season compare comes courtesy of Andrew Reams (aka “The Camera”). It’s of Sharp Top Mountain off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Peaks of Otter.

Sharp Top Mountain always amuses me because it was once believed to be the tallest mountain in Virginia. In fact, a stone from Sharp Top Mountain was inscribed and included at the top of the Washington Monument because it was thought to be “Virginia’s Loftiest Peak“. It turns out, Sharp Top isn’t the tallest mountain in Virginia. It isn’t even taller than the mountain RIGHT NEXT TO IT!


Even if it isn’t the tallest mountain in Virginia, Sharp Top is definitely a beautiful mountain and an absolutely gorgeous and rigorous hike. Gorgeous + Rigorous = Fulfilling.

And with that, here is Sharp Top on March 16, 2008 and then Sharp Top again on June 18, 2008.

Sharp Top on March 16, 2008 (Photo by The Camera)

Sharp Top on June 18, 2008 (Photo by The Camera)

September 10, 2008 at 8:00 am 2 comments

Season Compare: Angel’s Rest

I have made many trips to Angel’s Rest over the years. Here are some comparison shots from two of those trips – October 13, 2003 and August 31, 2008.

View from Angel’s Rest – October 13, 2003

Angel’s Rest – August 31, 2008

Shot from Wilburn Valley Overlook – October 13, 2003

Shot from Wilburn Valley Overlook – August 31, 2008
Lily checks out the view at Wilburn Valley – October 13, 2003

Ryan Somma checks out the view at Wilburn Valley – August 31, 2008

September 9, 2008 at 8:00 am 4 comments

New Traffic Pattern

I got stuck in traffic on I-66 Friday night. I know, groundbreaking news! I-66? Traffic? What’s up with that? Anyway as I waited I saw something that was new to me.

Me photographing something odd.

Do you see it? Here, how’s this:


Some guy decided he was too good to sit in the traffic. So he simply turned around and started to drive down the wrong way… on the grass median.

And he wasn’t the only one.

Apparently this was socially acceptable.

September 8, 2008 at 10:05 am 4 comments

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