Space Shuttle Atlantis Launch

On July 8th, Alice and I drove to Florida to stay with my cousin Val and her husband Bob to see the last space shuttle launch.

Val, Hugh and Alice waiting for Space Shuttle Atlantis to launch.

It was a bit of a drive from Asheville but totally worth it. Initially the weather was looking very dicy and there was a 70% chance that the launch would be delayed.  Upon waking up on Friday the rain had stopped, the clouds had lifted a bit and there was some sun shining too. Bob got a parking pass out on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station so we were about 3 miles from the launch pad and I got a little bit of video too.

Podcast recommendations, April 2011

When doing monotonous physical tasks, I like to give my brain something to think about. Mowing grass, painting trim, drilling parts or digging holes don’t provide much in the way of mental stimulation, but an audio book or podcast can provide some mental stimulation or entertainment and make the time fly by faster.

For all things about the art and science of beer brewing along with some occasional irreverent humor.
The BN Presents – Brew Strong
The BN Presents – The Jamil Show

News related podcasts from a variety of sources.
The Economist
NPR: Most Emailed Stories
NPR: Planet Money
Wall Street Journal
Science Talk
Science Update Podcast from AAAS

Human interest stories and interviews with unique individuals.
The Moth Podcast
NPR: Fresh Air
This American Life

Edit: A couple of recommendations from friends as we were solving the worlds problems over beers one Thursday night.

From Dain; Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History

From Martin; Late Night Live (ABC Radio National Australia)

And from Nick;
In Our Time (BBC)
You Look Nice Today
The Sound of Young America
The Night Air (ABC Radio National / Australia)
The Bugle
Shift Run Stop (currently on hiatus)
Answer Me This!
Bookworm (KCRW)
Writers & Company (CBC)

And Dan Benjamin’s 5×5 podcasts — Back to Work w/ Merlin Mann, The Talk Show w/ John Gruber, etc.

Blue Ridge Parkway Ride, June 13th



Motorcycling on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Motorcycling on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Well, it finally stopped raining heavily for a day so I went for a ride up to and on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This photo is from the section between Mount Pisgah and Asheville. To get to the top of Mount Pisgah I took a single lane fire road from the Mills River campground over to Highway 276. Heading up the Davidson River on Hwy 276 puts you on the Blue Ridge Parkway a couple of miles from the Mount Pisgah Inn. From there I followed the parkway down 3000 feet to the French Broad River and back home. Lots of twistys, dirt and beautiful views on this ride.

View Mt Pisgah Ride in a larger map

Motorcycle, Work and Winter

So a lot has been happening here in the last month. So in chronological order here is the scoop.

Pieces and parts…

I have started to fix stuff on my motorcycle with the hope that it will warm up around here and I can go for a ride someday soon. As you can see the motorcycle is in a state of partial disassembly. I will need to take it apart a little bit more before everything starts going back together again. New tires arrived this week and the next batch of parts will be ordered soon.

The next bit of news came last week as the company that I have worked at for the last 10 years had to layoff half of the staff due to the slowdown in orders from customers. I was one of the workers let go, and so now I find myself one of the gainfully unemployed. I am not really that concerned at the moment, as I have a large backlog of projects at home and several job prospects lined up already.

Oh the weather outside is frightful

And finally, we have been having what feels like a real winter for a change. So last night the temperature started falling along with the snow and this morning when Boots and I went for our walk this morning it was 13 degrees, and everything was covered in snow which was covering over the ice underneath. Although it is only supposed to get to a high of 29 today, I expect that the roads will be dry by mid afternoon.

Hope everyone is staying warm and doing well.


New addition to the Asheville house

Well they can’t throw us out of West Asheville now that we have adopted a dog from some of Alices relatives in Tennesee.

Boots is a 13 year old Border Collie mix of some sort and quite spry for her age. She came to us after Alices Great-Aunt passed away in December. Alices Great-Uncle passed away about 4 years ago so Boots has had a rough couple of years lately. But she seems to be adjusting well to life in Asheville and is doing her best to wear us out. She doesn’t really care about other dogs, but she likes to know where all the humans are.

More Boating in North Carolina

Well when it rains 2 1/2 inches over the course of a day and a half the rivers get a little high.

A bit more water now...
A bit more water now...

This is the United States Geological Survey gage for the French Broad River that flows through Asheville. As you can see the water level went from about 500 cfs (cubic feet per second) to 6000 cfs in two days. This is not a flood level but it makes for some fun boating. The water level will most likely drop almost as fast as it went up because we are still technically in a drought here in the SE. But a few more rains like this and maybe our water levels will come back up and the ground won’t be so dried out. As a historical perspective, four years ago when the hurricanes came to NC the river peaked at 43,100 cfs. Which is not even the highest it’s ever been. In 1916 the river peaked at 110,000 cfs. Which is also 15 feet above flood stage. Compare all of this with earlier this year when the river reached the lowest recorded level of 176 cfs in the 113 years that they have been keeping records.¬†

French Broad River at 176 cfs.
French Broad River at 176 cfs.

Here is a photo of the river at 176 cfs. The river is 100 yards wide at this point and today the river was at least 4 feet higher on the big rock in the top right of the photo. There was also a wave/hole 3 feet deep that I could surf in my kayak that was created by the rock that is just submurged in the center of the photo. Needless to say I didn’t get a photo today because the rock I stood on then today is 4 feet under water that is moving 10 mph.

Here is the link to the USGS Realtime water data for the nation. They have all sorts of information about streams, rivers, lakes, precipitation and water quality.

Thanksgiving day Boating

While I am thankful that there was some water, there could have been a lot more. At least there was some sun and the temps were resonable. The water temp on the other hand was frigid so my roll practice was cut short after the first one. The hill in the distance is Mount Spivey in West Asheville.

boating on thanksgiving day
boating on thanksgiving day

So lots of food and a big bottle of Belgum style trappist beer later and it was nap time. But we have a whole other pan of mac and cheese since we made a 3x batch. Nobody going hungry here.

WV Trip Report

Almost done....
Almost done…

So the roof is on and walls are about 80% complete. All in all, a sucessful trip. The casualty list is as follows. 1) Backpacking stove fuel pump. 2) My left thumb. 3) My trailer and 4 sheets of plywood. In the future (Spring 2009) will see completion of the rest of the walls, outside trim and roof trim. Until then it’s designing web sites and staying warm.

Building a Tower by Lashings

The art of Lashing, that is binding multiple poles together with rope and knots, was one of the earliest skills that civilized humans developed. But it’s not just a skill for ancient peoples. For very little cost and an afternoon of effort with your friends and family you can build your own tower in the backyard.

With the advent of the technology of rope and knots over 10,000 years ago, humans now had a way to tie two things together in a temporary or more permanent manner. Some of the more obvious applications include sewing clothing together, weaving of cloth, sailing of ships, fishing and suturing wounds closed by the earliest surgeons. At some point the first architects and engineers discovered that by lashing multiple poles together with ropes and knots they could build towers, bridges, buildings and other structures.

Since those early days the lashing technology has not changed much but is still employed to great effect today. The Boy Scouts have a merit badge specifically for lashing skills which they call pioneering. Competitions are held frequently to see which group can build the highest structure, most interesting structure or most useful structure.

In August of 2007, three generations of our family got together while travelling in the Puget Sound region of Washington state and decided that something needed to be built that afternoon. We had numerous pine poles in the nearby woods to use and found some suitable rope as well. After some discussion we decided to start off by building a tripod tower. This simple structure is a tripod of three long pine poles lashed together. Once the tripod is spread apart, cross bracing is lashed to the upright poles to stabilize the tripod and to act as hand and footholds for ascending the tower.


tripod tipping up
Here I am tipping up the basic tripod structure with the assistance from my father David.
square lashing cross brace
My brother Mike is helping my nephew David with a square lashing on one of the lower cross bracing pieces.
square lashing cross brace
Here I am doing a square lashing on a cross brace. This piece will also act as a ladder rung so that you can climb up the tripod tower structure.
square lashing cross brace
My nephew David, myself and my brother Mike, all near the top of the tower lashing on the last level of cross bracing.
tripod tower
My nephew David, my brother Mike and myself all on the tripod tower.
three generations building tripod tower
Three generations, building together. My nephew David, my brother Mike, myself and my father David.