Archive for January, 2009

Blog News: Festival of the Trees

For the most part, trees tend to be homebodies. They put their roots down and they stay put. There are exceptions, of course, like Old Glory or the Costa Rica Walking Tree.

Blog Carnivals, on the other hand, don’t stay put. With each issue they travel around to another host blog. Festival of the Trees does just that. A blog carnival the celebrates all things arboreal, issues are published monthly, are chock full of interesting links and pictures and have been hosted by blogs in locales as diverse as trees themselves.

Roundrock Journal in the Mississippi Ozarks
Flatbush Gardener from New York City
Rock, Paper, Lizard in British Columbia
A Neotropic Savanna from Panama
Earth, Wind and Water from the Caribbean

And come this summer, we can add this blog to the list. I’m scheduled to host July 1st! 🙂

P.S. Photo by Austin Tolin

January 30, 2009 at 9:14 am 1 comment

Random Things About Me

I keep getting tagged on Facebook for that “Random Things About Me List” so I succumbed last night and made a list. Now I can kill two birds with one stone and make a quick blog post as well.

27 Random Things About Vicky

1) I’m missing a tooth (the one between your front tooth and your canine tooth). It’s genetic. Some of my extended family are missing the same tooth.

2) My hair is SIGNIFICANTLY gray now. When it grows out, a vast majority of the roots are white. That’s also genetic- from my paternal grandmother’s side.

3) I snore. I’m not sure if that is genetic or not, but I have observed that my father also snores.

4) In high school my father used to drive me to school so I was in charge of waking him up. That was at times difficult to do. One day I put slices of bologna all over his limbs and let the family dog in the room. That seemed to be pretty effective.

5) There is little in this world that I find more thrilling than receiving letters and mail. I keep and file away all the letters and postcards I receive. When I die, I want those items returned to the original authors so they will be reunited with their own words.

6) I tend not to like the feeling of fingernail polish on my fingers, but I almost always have polish on my toenails.

7) My great uncle, a man who flew in WWII and was an successful engineer, says the accomplishment he is most proud of is a bunch of pine trees he planted in the 50’s. “I made my own forest,” he said. I hope to one day follow in his footsteps.

8] If I ever got a tattoo, I think it would be of rhododendron, mountain laurel or something indigenous to the Appalachian Trail. That way no matter where I go, I have a piece of the mountains with me.

9) I don’t even have my ears pierced (So don’t hold your breath on #8 )

10) The day after Thanksgiving I met my new boyfriend’s family at SpaWorld in Centreville. It turned out it was a nude spa. So, I have now been naked in front of my new boyfriend’s sister, my new boyfriend’s sister-in-law and….my new boyfriend’s mother.

11) I’ve been a groomsman in a wedding! I got to escort a bridesmaid down the aisle and everything.

12) For high school graduation, my grandmother gave me a pair of rollerblades. 16 years later I still have them. They have gone with my on many trips and I have rollerbladed in 21 different U.S. States and 5 different countries.

13) When I was a young girl, I played a lot of tournament bridge with my father. I made Life Master when I was fifteen. I’m currently retired.

14) I love coming up with Plastic Canvas designs. It’s a neat challenge to figure out how to architect the item you want.

15) I know how to install a toilet! I installed one all by myself this past summer. As long as you are turning things the right way, it’s not that hard.

16) I would really like to learn more about mushrooms and fungi so I can go out and eat some.

17) I think I secretly like taking support calls. I like uncovering the cause of an issue and being creative with a workaround… and being the hero. 🙂

18] When I die, I want my ashes dumped off the Wilburn Valley Overlook on Pearis Mountain. I plan on spreading Jimmie’s ashes there as well.

19) I’m tough on keyboards. Currently my laptop is missing the V key and the right arrow key.

20) “Float On” by Modest Mouse was a prominent positive force this past year. You have no idea how many times I would start off an evening of programming or painting, dancing around in a vacant house to that song. It’s impossible NOT to be in a good mood with that song.

21) I’m on Page 78 of the “Remarkable Trees of Virginia” book. I’m the hiker in front of the large oak tree.

22) I would really like to meet Nalini Nadkarni of Evergreen State College. I’m going through a tree obsession phase at the moment and I keep coming across her writings and her work. She captivates me.

23) I have never been hit on by a member of the same sex (So even if I do get to meet Nalini, odds are she won’t hit on me).

24) I’ve never had stitches and I’ve never broken a bone. I almost constantly have scratches, cuts and scabs on my legs though.

25) The “Y” in my name is a product of jealousy. When I was young girl known as “Vicki” my family had placemats at the dinner table with everyone’s name on it. Noting “Jay” and “Carolyn” both had Y’s in the their, I became envious. So I procured myself a Y.

26) I have not really vomitted since 1988. Nonetheless, I spent a significant portion of my teens and twenties, worrying about vomit. Talk about a waste of time.

27) I think Sinking Creek Mountain on the Appalachian Trail is underrated. Dayhikers don’t tend to go there. But they should. It’s beautiful.

January 29, 2009 at 9:24 am 7 comments

Hearts in Nature: Ipomeoa Tricolor

This Heart in Nature is brought to you by Creative Commons and the Hearts in Nature Flickr Pool. The Ipomoea tricolor is a species of Morning Glory. This bloom hadn’t opened yet and I thought the photographer, larkes, had such vision to spot the heart.

Ipomoea tricolor (Photo by larkes)

January 28, 2009 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

links for 2009-01-27

January 27, 2009 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

Open Source Holiday Letter

For the 2008 Holiday Season, I sent out a custom-made Holiday Letter. I’m particularly pleased with the outcome, so I thought I would share.

I think a picture really does say a thousand words, so I knew I wanted to share a lot of my Flickr images. I decided to make a border around each page of the letter and fill it with some of my favorite 2008 pictures. Inside was content typical to the genre– paragraphs recapping the past year and wishing everyone well…only my content was in a font I made of my own handwriting. I also felt it was important to identify the pictures, so at the very bottom of each page, I made a footnote explaining each picture. Finally, I purposely left some white space at the bottom of the last page, so I could squeeze in personalized messages.

Here’s what I ended up with:

Holiday Letter Screenshot - Page 1
Holiday Letter – Page 1

Holiday Letter Screenshot - Page 2
Holiday Letter – Page 2

And here’s what I did:


I made that font of my own handwriting at least five years ago. I don’t remember the name of the software I used, but it was free and intuitive. Pretty much I wrote out all my letters and punctuation marks on a piece of paper, I scanned it in, sliced it up into little bitmaps and imported it into the software. Now I have my own TrueType Font.

Vicky Font

If you want to make your own font, a good starting point may be So You Want to Create a Font, Part I.


All my layout work was done in good ole Microsoft Word (2003). On each page, I just made a 3 column, 3 row table. The center area was content. Each corner cell hosted one picture, everything else was filled with multiple pictures. I will admit it took a lot of patience and trial and error to get all the images sized right.

Holiday Letter Screenshot - Word Table


Once I was satisfied with my content, I wanted to prepare it for printing. Since I didn’t have my own color laser printer, I was going to have it printed for me. Both OfficeMax and FedEx Kinko’s allow you to upload documents to their website and then go pick up the printed work at a local store.

DO NOT USE OFFICEMAX. Their interface is horrid. You can’t get an online preview of your work, the order status page shows nothing of value (not even the estimated cost), and there is no convenient way to find contact information to inquire about your order. I waited five days for my promised PDF proof and it never arrived. At that point, I started calling all the numbers I could find until I was finally able to cancel my order.

OfficeMax Sucks
OfficeMax’s Online Printing Interface. Click on image to see the Flickr version with notes

DO USE FEDEX KINKO’S. I have now been extremely pleased by them two years in a row. They deliver impeccable work (last year they exceeded my expectations) and they have a great online interface. You get a full preview of your project with zoom in capabilities and every step of the way you can see the cost. And they are fast. As soon as I cancelled my OfficeMax order, I placed my FedEx Kinko’s order during a layover in Atlanta. By the time my flight landed in Roanoke, my order was ready. So I placed AND received my order on the same day.

And OfficeMax made me wait five days for nothing.

FedEx Kinkos Rules
FedEx Kinko’s Printing Interface. Click on the image to see the Flickr version with notes

FedEx Kinkos Rules
FedEx Kinko’s has an online preview tool so you don’t have to be emailed a proof

PDF Conversion

If you are using a typical font such as Arial, all you have to worry about is uploading Word document to the FedEx Kinko’s. In my situation, I was using that special font. It is so darn special that even a powerhouse like FedEx Kinko’s doesn’t have it. So I had to convert my document into PDF format first before sending it off. For that, I used the free PrimoPDF. No complaints.

And there you have it. My 2008 Holiday Letter. Let’s see if I can top it for 2009!

January 27, 2009 at 8:00 am 5 comments

Frozen Falls Ridge

Greetings from Blacksburg, Virginia where I’ll be most of this coming week. I am here for business, but as soon as I heard about the trip I started to covet frozen waterfalls. It just so happens my drive into town took me right by the Nature Conservancy‘s Falls Ridge Nature Preserve. There was still a little bit of daylight, so I stopped by and see how the falls looked. They were indeed frozen!

If you have never seen a frozen waterfall in real life before, definitely put it on your life’s “To Do”  list.

Falls Ridge - Falls and Frozen Stream

Falls Ridge - Columns of Ice

Falls Ridge - Cylinder of Ice

Falls Ridge - Tree Grows in Ice

Falls Ridge - Shelves

More pictures of Frozen Falls Ridge can be found on my Flickr site.

Additional Posts from this Blog on Falls Ridge

January 26, 2009 at 8:00 am 4 comments

Weekly Winners – January 18 – January 24th

This week’s Weekly Winners is brought to you by the surprising beauty of decay… and a dirty beagle. We started off the week picking up both dogs from a kennel and realizing they smell… like a kennel, so they were promptly bathed. We ended the week taking the dogs out for a Saturday walk in Hetford, North Carolina at the Newbold-White House Recreation Trail. We explored a patch of bald cypress trees with the recycling effort that is typically to swamps. We found mushrooms patiently pulling nutrients from a dead tree. We saw a mussel silently sequestering carbon in its shell and then along the shore we noticed the elements trying their best to break down an automobile. Enjoy!

Henry Gets Rinsed

A clean, but cold, Henry cuddles under a wool coat

Decaying tree at a Bald Cypress Swamp

Mushrooms from above

Ridges in mussel shell, ridges in finger tips

Sand filled speedometer on the shore

More pictures of Doggie Bath Time and the Newbold-White House Recreation Trail are available on my Flickr site.

For more Weekly Winners, be sure to visit the original post with all the participants over at Sarcastic Mom.

January 25, 2009 at 10:31 am 13 comments

Squirrel Appreciation Day

Whoopsie. Wednesday, January 21 was Squirrel Appreciation Day (Hat Tip,

A hot squirrel rests on an 100 degree day in Oakland (Photo by headexplodie)

Squirrel sunning himself (Photo by akahodag)

Squirrel taking advantage of a balcony bean bag chair (Photo by mseckington)

Squirrel appreciating the coolness of fresh, shaded dirt (Photo by mandj98)

January 23, 2009 at 10:34 am 9 comments

Cats in Icosahedrons?

The Cats (and Dogs) in Suitcases Flickr group chriggy created continues to grow. We’re up to 371 images now! I think it is established beyond a doubt that cats love luggage. When I was poking around Flickr for my Plastic Canvas Icosahedron post, I ran across evidence that felines may also fancy platonic solids.

A cat in a icosahedron! (Photo by dodeckahedron)

And in case you want to get a picture of YOUR cat in an icosahedron, it appears this is a product available in France.

Oh la la!

January 23, 2009 at 8:00 am 1 comment

American Chestnut Foundation Cameos

In October, shortly after Ryan Somma and I attended the 2nd Annual Meeting of the Virginia Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation, he made a cameo appearance on the chapter’s homepage!

VA-TACF Annual Meeting
Ryan Somma, in a light blue shirt, appears in the bottom left corner of the header image

Last weekend I attended a fascinating lecture series on the “Restoration of the American Chestnut” in Richmond, Virginia. Now look who makes a cameo on the VA TACF site!

VA-TACF Homepage
Vicky, in a medium blue shirt, appears in the bottom left corner of the header image

And just for curiosity’s sake…a friendly, purely innocent observation, of course, let’s compare the actual sizes of the two cameos.

Ryan vs Vicky

I win. 🙂

January 22, 2009 at 11:04 pm 3 comments

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