Archive for October, 2010

Fall Preview

In Elizabeth City, North Carolina, I’m still waiting for a lot of the leaves to change.  There is no hope for the pines, of course.  The Bald Cypresses have started to brown and a few of the other species have decided it is fall just in past week.  The baby American Chestnuts are still green, but a few of the baby Pawpaws have started to yellow.  Overall, the predominant color is still green.  Two weeks ago, I was in Wisconsin for business.  Wisconsin trees have solidly acknowledged it is autumn and the result is beautiful!  One afternoon after my day’s meetings, I went for a quick walk around my hotel.  I got to enjoy the crisp air, the sound of leaves crunching under my feet and get a quick preview of what’s to come back home.  : )

Marshfield, Wisconsin - Fall Leaves on Park Street
Leaves on the Ground!!!

Marshfield Wisconsin - Maple Leaves...and a Skeleton!
Changing Maple… and a Skeleton!

Marshfield, Wisconsin - Knot Flowers (Far)
Nature Taking Over Nature

Marshfield, Wisconsin - Yellow Lichen
Lichen and Tree Bark

Marshfield, Wisconsin - Yellow and Green Maple Leaves
Green and Yellow

Marshfield, Wisconsin - Leaf Compositing

Marshfield, Wisconsin - Which Way
Witch Way?

Marshfield, Wisconsin - Oak Leaves in Fall
Oak Leaves

More pictures of my walk in Marshfield, Wisconsin can be found on my Flickr site.

October 31, 2010 at 11:19 pm 2 comments

Earth 383 8th Anniversary

For roughly five years, Ryan has been helping out at Earth 383 Comics and Games. The neighborhood kids and I started to tag along on Friday nights when Ryan manages the WotC Friday Night Magic games. At first, the kids and I showed up for endeavors other than Magic. I rather liked the shop as a place to catch up on programming tasks. Meanwhile the kids were drawn in by the XBox and Rock Band.

Over the summer, our motives for showing up Friday nights have changed. Ryan taught the boys Magic… and they LOVE it. They play amongst themselves, come over for card interpretations, save up for card sleeves and dice, and text me each Friday afternoon to see what time they can come to Earth 383. As I tried to be supportive of their first WotC draft and helped the younger ones with their matches, I found myself captivated as well. There are still Friday nights where I use the time to program… but now there are also Friday nights where after a long week, I look forward to shutting the laptop down and playing Magic with Ryan and the kids.

Friday Night Magic has become such a mainstay of our week that when Earth 383 had a party celebrating its 8th Anniversary, it was a no brainer! We had to go! So Saturday, October 16th we headed down to Earth 383 for the celebration. There were people in costumes, delicious food to eat and lots of games– Yu-gi-oh!, Dominion, RoboRally and of course, Magic.

Earth 383 Anniversary - Mark and Liza
Mark and Liza Dressed Up As Green Lanterns

Earth 383 Anniversary - Ryan and Terrance
Ryan and Terrance

Earth 383 Anniversary - Zombie Gets a Hot Dog
A Zombie Gets Food

Earth 383 Anniversary - Young Batman Eats
An Adorable Little Batman

Earth 383 Anniversary - Malena Draws Green Lantern Vicky (and Green Latern Vicky is HOT!)
Malena Draws a “Green Lantern Vicky”. (I was quite pleased with the flattering curves she gave me!!!)

Earth 383 Anniversary - Games and Rock Band
Games and Rock Band

Earth 383 Anniversary - Robo Rally in Action
Khalif, Jacal, Dada, Terrance and RoboRally!

Earth 383 Anniversary - Robo Rally - Pressure's on Khalif
Khalif Under Pressure in RoboRally

Earth 383 Anniversary - Jacal and Fletcher
Jacal and Fletcher Play Magic

The comic book shop has been such a great community for us and has brought along so many great memories and experiences. I hope there are many more anniversaries to come!

More pictures of the Earth 383 8th Anniversary can be found on my Flickr site.

Follow Earth 383 Comic and Games on Facebook!

October 24, 2010 at 12:37 pm 1 comment

Chowan County Fair, Selective Breeding and Project Runway

Last year at the Chowan County Fair, Ryan and I were dumbfounded with how many different types of ducks and chickens there were on display. This year, we brought both cameras specifically to document all the birds. Ryan will upload a complete set of poultry to his Flickr site, but for now here’s a small sampling.

Chicken (By Ryan Somma) Chicken (By Ryan Somma)
Chicken (By Ryan Somma) Chicken (By Ryan Somma)
Chicken (By Ryan Somma) Chicken (By Ryan Somma)
Chicken (By Ryan Somma) Chicken (By Ryan Somma)
Chicken (By Ryan Somma) Chicken (By Ryan Somma)
Chicken (By Ryan Somma) Rooster

Photos mostly by Ryan Somma

Ryan and I were surprised by all the chickens, but we shouldn’t have been. It’s just another example of “selective breeding” which is far from a new concept. Man has been making made use of the technique for thousands of years to domesticate plants and livestock and it’s produced a lot of results. Just look at all the dog breeds! Roughly 150 years ago, as Charles Darwin formulated his theory on the much slower, natural version of the process, pigeons caught his attention. How from plain grey rock doves one could breed fancy pigeons like barbs and tumblers and frillbacks and fantails.

But I do have a confession. As I strolled between the aisles and aisles of chickens, my thoughts were not of selective breeding or Darwin. Instead I was thinking of… Project Runway!

I’m still quite a fan of the show and I knew that when I got home that night a new episode would be waiting for me on In past seasons, the contestants were taken to a destination, armed with a camera and instructed to find inspiration for a garment. In Season 2, they were strolling the streets of New York City. Season 5, they visited the New York Botanical Gardens. Season 6, the Los Angeles’ Getty Center.

As I wandered amoung the chickens, I was struck by all the colors– Gretchen Jones could still find the tans and greys she seems to favor. April could find her black. If Michael C wanted to continue to make pumpkin orange pants, he could find his color in the breast and the eyes of one of the hens. There was even a rooster whose teal tail would compliment that unfortunate ocean dress of Ivy’s.

Some feathers appeared matte. Some appeared shiny. Some were iridescent for more glam. There were sleek chickens with clean silhouettes and poofy chickens reminiscent of the Siriano/March couture look in Season 4. There were chickens with dramatic headdresses, chickens with feathered boots–chickens to inspire accessories for a complete head to toe look. Finally, there were no shortage of intricate patterns and textures for designers like Mondo to tackle.

“They should bring the designers here!” I thought.

Poultry at a county fair would certainly be a humble destination and admittedly, there are some odors I don’t think are usually found in Parsons. But I bet some absolutely amazing designs could stem from these small, straw-lined cages.

I’d love to see what the Project Runway competitors could come up with inspired by chickens…and selective breeding.

October 13, 2010 at 11:14 am 1 comment

Kayaking: Charles Creek to Albemarle Hospital

A few weeks ago, Ryan and I had some free time, so we went kayaking! If we had waited a couple of days we could have launched from our front porch. We still had it pretty good. We carried the kayaks to a little inlet near our house and we were off. I’ve got to say– it was very appealing to finish up the trip and not have to worry about mounting the kayaks to the top of the X-Terra.

We started off on Dawson near the Elizabeth City Fish Court. We paddled along the Charles Creek Park and past the Charles Creek Bridge construction. By the way, the bear bag technique is still employeed! After that, past the Harbor of Hospitality, the Downtown Market and then under the 158 Drawbridge. Soon we were passing by Camden Causeway Park. We took a large bend in the river, went under some railroad tracks and eventually we made our way to Albemarle Hospital. We explored the little inlet near the College of the Albemarle Nature Trail and headed back.

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Charles Creek 'Bridge'
Charles Creek Bridge Construction

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Charles Creek Crane
Bear Bag Action

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Harbor of Hospitality
Harbor of Hospitality Sign

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - River and Farmer's Market
Downtown Market (The Tents on the Right)

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Ryan Paddles Near Elizabeth Road Bridge
Ryan Approaches 158 Bridge

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Backside of Camden Causeway Season Compare
Camden Causeway Park From the Water

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Ryan with Oasis of Vegetation
Ryan in Pasquotank River

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Old Winch
Old Winch in Water

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Albemarle Hospital Gazebo 2
Gazebo Behind Albemarle Hospital

We were fighting the wind back home, but we arrived safe and sound. The whole trip was between 8-10 miles.

Kayaking Trip

It was a rather beautiful day. Numerous wild flowers were blooming, meanwhile the baldcypress trees were just starting their fall colors. In urban areas, I am enamoured by nature taking over. It’s even more impressive when you are in the middle of a river and still get to see trees and plants finding a way to survive.

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Old Pier and Changing Leaves near Camden Causeway Park
Baldcypress Tree in Autumn

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Berries and Sky
Berries and Sky (Would these be Winged Sumac Maybe?)

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - River Tree (Portait)
Tree in the River (Tupelo Maybe?)

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Yellow Flower (By Ryan Somma)
Yellow Flowers (By Ryan Somma)

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Changing Leaves in Light
Changing Leaves

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Oasis of Wildflowers
An Island of Wildflowers

Our trip would be fitting for the Circus of the Spineless. Spiders, grasshoppers, bumblebees, ants and a nostalgic childhood favorite of mine– bag worms!!!

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Spider From Side (Photo by Ryan Somma)
Spider (by Ryan Somma)

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Grasshopper
This Grasshopper Found a Dry Home in the Middle of the River

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Bumblebee (By Ryan Somma)
Bumblebee (by Ryan Somma)

Kayaking - Pasquotank River - Bagworm (Blurry)

This outing we may have encountered the most unsavory kind of scat. Human scat. Ryan and I were paddling along when Ryan noticed a peculiar odor. At first he suspected himself as we all do from time to time and then in horror he remembered a newspaper article from earlier in the week.

“I have some bad news to tell you,” he said, “But I don’t know if I should.”

I paddled closer and wondered what could possibly be so bad. Noting we were far from shore, I knew what *my* worst case scenario would be.

“Are you sick to your stomach?” I asked.

“That [500,000 gallon] sewage spill I told you about,” Ryan said, “It was here.”

Whoopsie. We had both totally forgotten about that little incident when we left.

I was still digesting the news when a waterskiier whizzed by.

“Welp,” I thought, “At least I’m not him!” : )

More pictures of our Pasquotank Kayaking Trip can be found on my Flickr site.

October 11, 2010 at 10:20 pm Leave a comment

Adventure Day with the Neighborhood Kids — Chowan County Fair

Ever since the first cartoon pig banner showed up in Elizabeth City, the neighborhood kids have been talking about the Chowan County Fair. It would be difficult to resist such enthusiasm. For the second year in a row, Ryan and I agreed to drive. On Friday October 1, with part of our yard still underwater, we left Elizabeth City behind and headed to Edenton, North Carolina for an evening of fun!

It’s safe to say that Ryan and the kids are more enthusiastic about the rides than I. I am a fan of “The Drop” (perk: it is over almost immediately), but this year I opted to steer clear of the rides that have a significant amount of spinning, particularly that nasty Fireball I ventured on last year. On the upside, this gave me more quality time with my camera!

Chowan County Fair - Khalif and Jacal on Freak Out
Khalif and Jacal on a Ride I Didn’t Ride

Chowan County Fair - Ryan and Terrance on Code
Ryan and Terrance on a Ride I Didn’t Ride

Chowan County Fair - Ferris Wheel
Ferris Wheel! I’ll Ride That!

Chowan County Fair - Games From Ferris Wheel
Vendors and Games From the Ferris Wheel

Chowan County Fair - Drop Zone Approach From Ferris Wheel
“The Drop” – I Actually Rather Like This One

Chowan County Fair - Terrance

Chowan County Fair - DJ, Tavon, Armani, Terrance
Some of the Boys

Chowan County Fair - Deja and Khaliya
The Girls

Petting Zoo
On Friday nights, I tend to use up the quarters I have on hand at the Hot Tamale machine at Earth 383 Comic and Games. This particular Friday night, we were far from the Hot Tamale machine, but I did find a use for the week’s quarter stockpile. The petting zoo had little dispensers of food! We purposely fed some ducks and the longhorn bull. I not so purposely fed a goat.

Chowan County Fair - Petting Zoo - Kids with Longhorn
Khaliya Feeds the Longhorn Bull

Chowan County Fair - Petting Zoo - Goat Eats Vicky's Bookbag (By Ryan Somma)
This Goat Thought My Bookbag was Yummy

Last year, Ryan and I were surprised by the exhibitions, particularly the diversity in poultry (more on them in a different post). This year we both brought our cameras specifically to take pictures of some of the entries. The Chowan County Fair has over $12,000 in cash prizes for handiwork. The amount of categories is amazing. In all age groups you can enter crafts, cooking, fruits, vegetables, dried food, you name it. They even had a category for chestnuts!

Chowan County Fair - Chestnuts
Award Winning Chestnuts

Chowan County Fair - Gourds
Award-Winning Gourds

Some of the items I thought would be tricky to judge. I took the following picture of the blueberries because to my untrained eyes they didn’t seem any different. I wondered how one plate of blueberries were conclusively deemed better than the other. But when I showed the pictures at home, the answer was obvious to Tyrek. “The one of the left,” he said with authority, “They are bluer.”

Chowan County Fair - Blueberries
Award-Winning Blueberries

I love that there are so many categories and so many opportunities to be recognized. It rewards local talent… and promotes growing your own food as well. I’m somewhat tempted to try to enter something next year. : )

Hiking Knowledge in Action
A hike leader from the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club once told me about a hard lesson he learned on one of his group hikes. In the middle of the hot, humid summer season, he led a lengthy day hike with a formidable ascent. He didn’t realize it until they were well within the hike– one of the hikers in the group didn’t bring ANY water with him at all. After that, the hike leader told me, he always checked everyone’s supplies before they left the trailhead. I exercised a similiar practice for the fair. The fair is one of few adventure days Ryan and I don’t fully fund, so I made sure all the kids had enough money for the entrance fee before we left Elizabeth City. I may live far from the mountains, but I still find a way to apply the knowledge I’ve learned from the hiking community! : )

For the second year in a row, we all had a fabulous time at the Chowan County Fair. I have already heard murmurs about our trip next year. Only 348 more days to go!

More pictures of the Chowan County Fair can be found on my Flickr site.

October 9, 2010 at 10:00 pm 6 comments

Bark for Life 2010

Thank you to everyone who supported Henry at Bark for Life! Little Henry raised $167 for the American Cancer Society and in return mailed out five crocheted hats.  I am still struck and touched by the donations of blog readers I have never met in person.  Thanks so much for your continued interest and support in my causes!

With his donations secured, on September 11th Henry (along with Ryan, Jimmie and I) headed to Meyler Farms for the Bark for Life event. 

The event was great fun from beginning to end. Jimmie and Henry were far from the only attendants. A large variety of dogs showed up. They represented different breeds and different talents. Some dogs were good at looking cute. Some dogs were good at jumping through obstacles. One German Shepard was trained to respond only to commands in French. Oh la la!

Bark for Life -Ryan and Henry
Ryan and Henry at Bark for Life

Bark for Life -Perched Hound

Bark for Life -Woman Holds Dog

Bark for Life -Most Relay Handsome Dog - 1

Since this was a day event, instead of the typical Relay for Life candles and bags which thrive at night, colorful pinwheels served as the Luminaria.

Bark for Life - Luminaria

Throughout the day, they had a number of different contests…with prizes.  They had a costume contest, an award for the most Relay-spirited dog, a pet-owner look-a-like contest, a most handsome dog award and a timed obstacle course.

Bark for Life - Trophies
Prizes Waiting to be Claimed

Bark for Life - Costume Contest - Mimi Rogers as Turtle 3
Mimi Dressed as Turtle for the Costume Contest

Bark for Life -Lacey's Haircut
Lacie Showed Her Relay Spirit with a Pink Cancer Ribbon Haircut!

Bark for Life -Obstacle Race  11
Relay Co-Chair Debbie Morrisettes Runs the Obstacle Course with Rocky(?)

Bark for Life -Obstacle Race 7
This Owner Ran the Obstacle Course with Two Dogs at ONCE!

Jimmie’s Old
There was one downside to the event. It reminded me how much poor Jimmie has aged. When we were practicing for the obstacle course race, I came to a jump that was well within Jimmie’s abilities….. when he was young! I forgot all about the stiff and calculated manuevers he uses to get on the couch or how he can no longer get on the bed by himself or the times he tries to jump into the car and falls backwards onto the driveway. Instead I thought of the younger Jimmie, the spry one who could fly over the jump with ease. Without a second thought I hopped over the jump and encouraged Jimmie to do the same.

Bless his valiant heart. He tried. And he did a face plant right in the ground! The poor guy’s nose was covered in dirt.

Bark for Life -Jimmie's Old
Poor Jimmie

But he rebounded. Before long he was happy again and eating some homemade dog treats and sniffing things I wish he wouldn’t. And when it came time for the official timed run— I carried him over that jump. : )

Despite Jimmie’s faceplant, I think it is safe to say, we all had a splendid time. We look forward to next year’s Bark for Life! Till then, more pictures from Bark for Life 2010 can be found on my Flickr site.

October 5, 2010 at 8:45 am 2 comments

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