Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Prius' Progress

I reached 80,000 miles on my 2005 Toyota Prius this evening. The blink-over conveniently came just as I was pulling up to the 5-Points traffic light to make the left from Route 1 to Savannah Road.

It's been 42 days since my last milestone report, on June 20, when I passed 77,777 miles. That blog post sparked a discussion of my commuting habits.

I calculated then that I had averaged nearly 87 miles per day in the Prius over the 4 months between 66,666 and 77,777. Today I calculate that I've averaged almost 53 miles each day since June 20. I should note, though, that for two full weeks, while we were up north, the Prius sat quietly in the garage.

By the way, I've taken enough of these odometer-graphs now to create a Prius' Progress flickr set. I'm so proud.

Monday, July 30, 2007

I Thought This Must Be A Joke

But it is not. It is simply tragic irony that Russia is sending an expedition 14,000 feet below the surface of the Arctic Sea to plant a Russian flag at on the sea floor below the north pole.

According to the news reports I've heard, Russia is making a symbolic claim while also searching for geological evidence to support a claim of about half of the Arctic Sea. Why?
Melting ice in the Arctic has raised hopes of accessing energy reserves.

Russia's claim to a vast swathe of territory in the Arctic, thought to contain oil, gas and mineral reserves, has been challenged by other powers, including the US.
So. Because of climate changes, arguably the result of our (humanity as a whole) over-use of fossil fuels, the sea ice is retreating, making it easier to access the supposed so-far untouched cache of fossil fuels under the Arctic Sea.

And the natural reaction to that fact is a determined effort to lay claim to, extract, and burn more fossil fuels?

I think that kind of sucks.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sixth and Seventh Golf Games in 2007

I had two chances to play golf while we were in Vermont this summer. Vermont is, topographically, so much different from Delaware that is great fun and a real challenge to play up there.

At Bakersfield Country Club
On the Tuesday of our week at the Tyler Place, we put together a group of 10 interested in playing a round of golf and headed out to Bakersfield Country Club. Several of us had played there in the past; it is one of my favorite places to play just for being so different from what I am used to here in the flat lands.

Bakersfield is a local club and very down to earth. The parking lot is gravel and the members are neither hoity nor toity. The holes range from rolling meadow layouts to long thin dog-legs that hug the sides of what seem like towering mountains. There are plenty of elevation changes and challenges.

I played poorly, as is my habit, though there were some good moments. Since my drives are dicey at best, I usually play safe and use my 3-wood off the tee. On a course like Bakersfield, where many of the holes feature dense forest on one side and yawning chasms on the other, straight-though-short is a good approach. I carded a par on one hole and felt mostly positive about my game despite a few blow-up holes and a final score of 126.

The weather was lovely, with blue skies and a few clouds.

At Richford Country Club
Later in the week, Andy Southmayd and I headed a bit further out to play a neat little 9-hole course at Richford Country Club. This is another very local club that sits just south of the border with Canada and boasts a healthy membership from north of the line.

Andy found this place and counts it among his favorites. I am fond of it as well. It also varies between meadow and woods and has even more elevation changes than Bakersfield. Like many courses in the area, it includes wonderful mid-fairway boulders that, if hit, can send your ball well off to almost anywhere.

Our round was wet. we played in a slowly lifting fog that occasionally forgot itself and became light rain. On the positive side, it made reading the greens a bit more interesting.

Again I played badly, mixing in a par with a series of mediocre holes and a few blow-ups. Not terrible, but not great. Good only another 126.

Over the last nine years, I've played some seven different courses in upstate Vermont and New York. I've enjoyed all of them, played poorly, learned things, and seen some spectacular views. I've bought golf shirts and hats. There are grass stains from mountainsides on my golf shoes and towel.

Thanks north country. It's been great fun.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Vacation Report #4: At the Tyler Place

This summer was our ninth, and might have been our last, at The Tyler Place family resort, at Highgate Springs, Vermont. Not our last because we don't like the place; we love it. But Colleen next year will be too old for the kid's programs and too young for the adult. The Tyler Place is wonderfully well designed for families with younger kids. Unfortunately, we're starting to leave that demographic.

But let us not dwell on that thought. Let me tell you about our week.

We took two days to drive around Lake Ontario from Niagara Falls. We spent a night at Trenton, Ontario; a small town about half-way around. The next morning, we continued around the lake, crossing the St. Lawrence River at Cornwall and re-entering the US at Rooseveltown. We drove along the very top of New York State, crossed the top of Lake Champlain from Rouses Point in New York to Alburg in Vermont and drove through Swanton to The Tyler Place.

Over the years, we've tried most of the activities that are possible at the Tyler Place. We have our favorites, and we indulged ourselves with walks in the woods and along the lake shore. We went on canoe and kayak trips. We enjoyed sunsets. Karen played tennis. I played golf. We went on a mountain hike that ended in a clear, cold mountain stream. We did all the great things that one can do in Vermont in the summer.

We also met great people and reconnected with old friends. Folks stay at the Tyler Place for a week at a time, and most return the same week each summer. Each year, there are a few new couples joining the group. In our time, Karen and I and our friends have tried to meet at least one, if not two, of the new couples in our week. Entering that group of vacationing families can be daunting, but the Tyler Family makes a point of welcoming everyone. We have found great pleasure, and many new friends, by trying to be as welcoming as possible.

At the end of our week this year, someone called me a "camp counselor." It was a nice complement.

I think I find my greatest joy in the waters of Lake Champlain. The Tyler Place includes a variety of boats and water sports. I played around with the hobie cats and made sure to slide off the lake-slide. And at the end of almost every afternoon, I swam from the dock above out to one of the blue and yellow floating trampolines for a water-born loaf.

The lake waters were remarkably refreshing.

And then we drove home. I've posted many photographs. And I'm back at work.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Vacation Report #3: The Falls at Niagara

We got to Niagara Falls late in the day on Wednesday, crossed the river/border, chatted briefly with a pleasant young man at Canadian customs, and found our way to a stylishly vintage-looking Holiday Inn just up the hill from the Falls.

I had been to Niagara Falls for a very brief visit back in the fall of 2005 as part of that year's NSGIC Conference. I knew then that I wanted to bring Karen and the girls back for a bit longer stay. This time, we had an evening and a full day to check things out.

We started with a dinner in the revolving restaurant at the top of the "Skylon" tower. It featured good food and great views of the Falls and both the US and Canadian Niagaras.

On Thursday, we carried a full load of tourism. We viewed the Falls from up close, both above and below. We walked in the tunnels under the Falls and got soaked on the lower viewing platform. We walked the trail along the wild white water downstream from the Falls. And we visited the butterfly conservatory, where clouds of pastel bugs floated around and among crowds of delighted visitors. If one is lucky (and I was) butterflies stop by to check you out.

Of course we also rode the Maid of the Mist, which ferries visitors up river and as close to the Falls as is prudent. Each passenger is given a blue plastic poncho. When the wind is up, as it was on our visit, these ponchos are a challenge to control. And it is the case that once into the thick spray below the falls, photography is impossible. But this trip is always worth the wetting.

We finished our visit with a dinner at the Table Rock Restaurant, which overlooks the Falls themselves.

The area around Niagara Falls is remarkably developed. When I used to hear about Niagara Falls as a child, I imagined a wild, natural scene. In reality, the Falls provide a center-point between two largish cities; one in each nation. On both sides, the river banks are parks with nicely developed trails and amenities. Back from the banks are hotels and tourist attractions. The Canadian side seems more developed and features towers and a casino or two. But it is a pleasant place to visit.

If only for a day or two.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Vacation Report #2: At Watkins Glen

On Wednesday morning, we headed west from the Binghamton area towards Elmira, then north to Watkins Glen at the southern end of Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes. We wanted to take an hour or two to wander through Watkins Glen State Park.

Watkins Glen includes a deep canyon cut through layers of sedimentary rock by a stream that now drops down a series of waterfalls. Several trails wind along the stream and along the top of the canyon.

It's a lovely spot.

After a quick lunch, we drove north along the west shore of Seneca Lake through New York's wine country. We picked-up the New York State Throughway (I-80) at Geneva and headed west to Niagara Falls.

Vacation Report #1

We've returned from just under two weeks up north. We got back early yesterday afternoon. We hugged our cats, unpacked, started lots of laundry, mowed long grass, took the carrier off the roof of the car, and went off to see the new Hairspray movie (which was great).

We started our wanderings on Tuesday, July 10. We drove north, taking I-95 out of Delaware, I-76 past Philadelphia, and I-476 north through Pennsylvania to Scranton, where we picked-up I-81 to New Milford, PA, where there is a large truck stop and a small Holiday Inn Express.

The truck stop was a Flying J. We had an excellent dinner there and wandered around the store for a bit. The food was wonderful, plentiful and inexpensive, though it might be a challenge to eat healthy there on a daily basis. Clearly, the Flying J folks use their great and low-priced fare to attract business for the fuel and supply sales.

As we ate, we heard the public address system calling out reservation numbers for the showers. The truckers -- who came in all shapes, sizes, colors and genders -- entered tired, hungry and rumpled and left rested, sated, clean and ready to go.

Keep an eye out for Flying J's when you travel. They are pretty cool.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

One Approach to Collecting Really Large Things

I've started a new collection to add to my collection of collections of not-really collectible objects: benchmarks, cornerstones and water towers.

This time, I'm collecting images of the container ships, tankers, ferries and other large watercraft that steam about on the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay near my home in Lewes.

Sometimes I'm able to get clear, close-up shots. More often, I'm capturing images hazy with distance through thick, humid seaside air.

I like ships and boats. I like the sea. I like the work-a-day-ness of these ships. They bring cargo and cars and rust and people from all over. It's part of the joy of living where land and sea meet.

And I like the distance and mystery of these photographs. At first I was disappointed to not get sharper images. But after living with them a while, I realize that they have a ghostly quality that only deepens their attraction for me. Now, the farther out towards the horizon, the more interested I am in the ship.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Some Newspaper Editor Has My Sense of Humor

This headline from today's News Journal is simply wonderful:
Md. sex-ed plan includes sex education
The accompanying text explains that the Maryland Board of Education has ruled that the Sex-Ed curriculum in Montgomery County, Maryland, may indeed include educational information about sex.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy Fourth of July

Tom has posted the text of the Declaration of Independence over at TommyWonk. The Fourth is always a good time to re-read this document and reflect on why and how our nation came into being.

This year, it's more than ever true.

I thought about posting earlier this week on the commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence. It does, after all, symbolize the state of our nation today.

I couldn't do it. I'm too depressed about where we've come to. I'm exasperated. I'm angry.

And yet there is a small germ of hope. People do protest. People do speak up. We may yet return to the ideals expressed in memorable prose 231 years ago.

Happy Fourth.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Blog Tourism

If you have a moment, and you are in Delaware, click on over to visit The Deets. That's Ed Kohler's blog. He's out in Minnesota and he was upset that no one from Delaware had visited his blog. We can fix that.

Fifth Golf Game in 2007

I'm traveling this evening, staying in a Holiday Inn Express near North East, Maryland. Tomorrow I will run out to Westminster to pick Colleen up from Lacrosse Camp.

I thought it would be easier to drive north from Dover this afternoon and get half-way to Westminster. It's not a long drive, but I'd rather start from here tomorrow than make the trek from home out to Westminster and back again all in one day.

And it gave me an excuse to play Delcastle Golf Club again with my colleague Sandy Schenck. Sandy and I played there last June with several friends for the Quasi-Annual DGS Golf Tournament.

We had to start fairly late this afternoon; I don't leave work until 4:30. But we were able to squeeze-in the 13th hole as the light faded away at about 8:50 p.m.

Delcastle is about midway between Newark and Wilmington. It is a nice, affordable, and pretty course. It has hills and mature trees and rocks and other things to make golf interesting.

I hit more of those trees than I'm happy to report. My first three holes were eights. But then I started to make some headway. Sandy provided a fresh set of eyes for my swing and had a few helpful thoughts. I parred the fourth and felt good about parts of my game this evening.

I think I may have found a swing that works with the driver. Time will tell.