Friday, December 26, 2008

Coal Harbour, BC

We had a nice breakfast at the Best Western in Campbell River this morning, then headed into town. We found a good parking lot (meaning: off the street, not too snowy, and a place I didn't have to back into / out of so I wouldn't get stuck), then we hiked around town for an hour or so. There wasn't much open (Boxing Day), but it was nice anyway.

It had been snowing since breakfast, and there was a couple of inches on the ground when we left town. The road north was in pretty good shape, though there were patches of ice from time to time.

We arrived in Port Hardy about 1500, and scoped out the town. Between seasonal closings (most of the hotels in town looked closed for the season) and Boxing Day closures, there wasn't much open.

Lorraine called around to find us a great place to stay -- we wound up at a bed and breakfast in Coal Harbour, BC, not too far from Port Hardy. After we checked in, we headed back to Port Hardy to get a bite to eat. We stopped to see if we could grab a geocache outside of town, but it was snowed in. Ugh.

Lorraine had spied a sports bar when we were in town in the afternoon, so we headed back there to see what they had to eat. The bar was, indeed, open, but they hadn't received their food shipment because of the weather, so all they had was booze. Time for Plan B, which turned out to be a convenience store (again). The Subway was open, but we couldn't go back to Virginia and report that we had a Subway dinner while north of 50 deg.

The convenience store had frozen dinners, and we got a few other things while we were there.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Campbell River, BC

2033 PST Thursday, 25 December 2008

We took a nice, leisurely drive from Vancouver to the West Vancouver ferry terminal this afternoon. The scenery was terrific, and the skies cleared enough to give us a few glimpses of the mountains north of the city.

We took the 1500 ferry to Nanaimo, arriving just before 1700. We headed directly north, along the coast, to Campbell River. We got a room at the Best Western Austrian Chalet after scoping out the town to see if there was ANY place open for dinner (there wasn't). After we checked in to the hotel, we went back south about 3 km to the 7-11 to see if we could get something edible. The 7-11 had a Pizza Hut Express in it, but we decided to get something that we could make on the stove in our motel room, instead. We'll find a pizza place tomorrow, in Port Hardy.

The roads were in good shape today; there were a few icy spots, but in general everything was fine.

We'll be heading north, tomorrow, to Port Hardy.

Vancouver, BC (part 2)

0954 PST Thursday, 25 December 2009

We got up about 0900, and we're ready to head out for breakfast. It looks pretty chilly on the street, but we're all bundled up and ready for a hike.

Vancouver, BC

2334 PST, Wednesday, 24 December 2008

We arrived in Seattle a little after 1800, and got through the rental car check-in process and on the road about 1920. After an uneventful drive north, we arrived in Vancouver a little after 2300.

We're staying at the Hotel Le Soleil, and we're blown away by the quality. We got a GREAT deal through, and are in a two-room suite on the 12th floor, with a great view.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

On the road (well, in the air) again

1330 EST Wednesday, 24 December 2008.

Lorraine and I did the car / train / aircraft thing this morning. We had our timing just right, leaving the house in time to park at the office at 0830, then arriving at Union Station in time for the 0930 MARC train to BWI. Our flight from BWI was delayed somewhat by weather in Chicago, but we left okay at about 1310 EST.

Today was my first experience with MARC. It's okay -- it's like Greyhound on rails: no frills, drab colors, but it gets you from A to B.

BWI is pretty nice these days. I first flew through BWI in the summer of 1977, on my way to pick up USS VOGE (FF 1047) in Naples, Italy. BWI, like Dulles International, was much smaller in those days, and seemed pretty remote to me. Airline traffic is much higher now, especially with Southwest operating from BWI as a hub, and the area around the airport has grown significantly.

Air travel has changed in subtle ways since the days I was on the road about 50% of the time. Flights are more full, airlines charge for everything (luggage? pillows? blankets? snacks?), and security is MUCH tighter.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Continued lack of consumer, what?

Imagine my surprise to learn this evening that there is a lack of consumer credit, and this lack of consumer credit means that Chrysler LLC is taking at least a month off. My surprise is a result of the seemingly endless stream of credit card offers I receive, along with assurances from my credit union (the best in the world, for my money) that auto loans are available for as low as 3.75% APR.

So, which is it? Continued lack of consumer credit, or continued consumer apathy about Chrysler vehicles?

Are people with decent credit ratings now being shown the door? Really?

I'd really appreciate it if someone would do a credible study to determine exactly WHO can't get credit in this environment, because I live in such an insular community that I don't know anyone in that condition.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Wow...I just learned that MillerCoors (?) announced, in October 2008, that it has killed the Zima brand of "alcopop". Just like those television shows that run for years that I just can't bring myself to watch, I've seen Zima on store shelves for lo these past 15 years without ever bothering to see how [bad] it tastes. And now, I've lost my opportunity.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Voters in Louisiana's 2nd Congressional District have sent William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson home after nine terms in Congress. I've been watching this race carefully to see if Rep Jefferson would pull a "Marion Barry", and get reelected despite the lack of plausible explanation for the $90K in his freezer, the 16-count indictment, or the impending trial. He didn't.

Anh "Joseph" Cao is now the first Vietnamese-American elected to the Congress. Good for him, good for the voters in 2LA, and good for the American public.

I'm looking forward to the trial, as I'm sure William Jefferson is.

Chilly weather

It's 34 degrees F at the moment, but we have quite a breeze blowing through North Springfield, so the wind chill-adjusted temperature is about 21 degrees F. Brrr. I have at least one outside chore today, that may be postponed: tuning a 6m vertical antenna for next Saturday's 6m test in Fairfax County. I don't like the idea of "just in time" tuning for a test, but I don't like freezing (literally) while trying to do the job, either.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving holiday 2008

We had another great Thanksgiving holiday this year.

Lorraine and I went to the Fairfax County Civilian Police Academy graduation on Saturday morning; Lorraine was on travel for the graduation day for our class, so this was a "make up" opportunity. Lorraine had an opportunity to fire the Sig Sauer 9mm pistol and the Remington 870P shotgun. We both had an opportunity to drive a high-speed precision driving course (this was significantly different than the driving opportunity for our CPA class). The driving course was a blast. We stayed for the "pot luck" lunch, which was also great.

Emily and Joe traveled to Virginia, arriving late Saturday afternoon. We stayed in Fairfax County until Tuesday late afternoon, then headed to Nelson County for the holiday.

Cindy and Paul joined us from Maine, Joe came from Washington, DC, and Hank and Nate drove from Maryland to join us at Rhue Hollow.

This year's Thanksgiving Day hike was to the top of Crabtree Falls. The weather was just about perfect.

Em, Joe, and I returned to Fairfax County last night, so they could catch their flight from Washington's National Airport this morning.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving, 2008

Like last year, we took some time during Thanksgiving Day to take a nice hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains. This year's hike was to the top of Crabtree Falls, here in Nelson County.

Cindy, Paul, and Joe Fortier, Emily and Joe Wilson, and Lorraine and I were the hikers this year. It was a beautiful, clear, and somewhat crisp day for hiking -- just the kind I like.

Winter preparations

Along with all of the other things to think about when winter comes, we put firewood near the top. Joe, Paul Fortier, and I spent some quality time Wednesday laying in big stack of split firewood.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mason Law Federalist Society and American Constitution Society Symposium

The Federalist Society at George Mason University's School of Law and the American Constitution Society are sponsoring a symposium at 1700 -- 2000 on Wednesday, 19 November 2008, on the subject of District of Columbia v. Heller. I'm a fan of several of the panelists, so I recommend folks go if they can afford the time. The price is right: free.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Antenna repairs

The Cobra Ultralite Jr that's been way up in the maple trees in the back yard for the past few years needed a little repair today, so after the Marine Corps Marathon meeting at the Armed Forces Retirement Home this morning, I headed to Ham Radio Outlet to get a new slingshot.

It looks like squirrels chewed through one of the support lines -- that line was through a crook in one of the trees that I think also contained a squirrel's nest.

After about an hour of fussing around getting the new line in the tree, I had things back to better than they were when I did the installation the first time.

So, the good news is that the HF antenna is back up, and appears to be working just fine. The bad news is that we're still at the sunspot minimum, and propagation is TERRIBLE. Well, if history is any indication, it (and the stock market, for that matter) will get better.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Rhue Hollow on the air

I spent some time yesterday hanging an Alpha Delta DX-OCF (apparently not marketed by Alpha Delta anymore) in the trees to the north of the house on Rhue Hollow.

The center of the antenna is at about 35 feet, a bit higher than the spec value of 30 feet. The ends of the antenna are at about the spec value of 8 feet. One is a bit close to the rear deck pilings, so a tuner will be required to reduce SWR.

It's a pretty nice installation; I'm hoping that as Cycle 24 gears up, I'll have good experiences with that antenna.

I'm using an FT-897D, with LDG AT-897 tuner. I connect the rig to the laptop, and run Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) and the full DxLab suite for both computer control of the rig and for logging.

I participated in the California QSO Party this weekend, but with all the station set-up (and a LOT of noise), I made only one CA contact. I made a contact with an operator in Ohio, and another operator in the Azores.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Timetable for withdrawal...from Chicago?

From the local CBS affiliate in Chicago comes a story about the summer death toll in Chicago being nearly twice the American death toll over the same period in Iraq.

What's up with this? Banning the lawful possession of firearms doesn't prevent firearm use by criminals? Huh?

Why is the storied Chicago political machine having trouble with crime control in the home town?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Phil Spector: another entertainer endorses Obama

The LA Times calls Phil Spector's endorsement of Barack Obama "dubious"...I'm inclined to think that Phil's endorsement is genuine and heartfelt. Perhaps the election is keeping Phil's mind off the tedious business of being tried (again) for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson.

Barack Obama endorsement...and, be careful what you ask for....

Convicted (and subsequently executed) kidnapper and murderer (okay, he was a "participant" -- the guy who actually did the deed with a claw hammer got life in prison -- Bishop's conviction was for felony murder under Mississippi law) Dale Leo Bishop endorsed presidential hopeful Barack Obama before his execution on Wednesday, 23 July 2008.

In the "be careful what you ask for" category, "Bishop, who was mentally ill [a fact disputed in his appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court], asked a judge for the death penalty after he was convicted." ...and so, he got satisfaction, nearly ten years after the crime of which he was convicted.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Heller and voting rights

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, commenter Mikeyes has drawn an interesting parallel between Heller and voting rights. Worth thinking about as Heller litigation rages on....

Friday, June 27, 2008

San Francisco Housing Authority suit

NRA, CCRKBA, and the California Rifle and Pistol Association filed suit yesterday (it's a challenge to keep up with the filings) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Francisco Division) seeking to overturn a public housing gun ban within the City and County of San Francisco. Nicely done. The plantiff is a homosexual man, living in public housing, and argues that the Second Amendment should be incorporated against the states.

More at: NRA-ILA :: Legislation

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Heller FAQ

Bart DePalma over at Citizen Pamphleteer put together a very nice FAQ, complete with cites and quotes: Citizen Pamphleteer: The Second Amendment Is Returned To The Bill Of Rights

First DC, now Chicago....

Now that District of Columbia v. Heller is decided, it's time to head west to The Windy City. Alan Gura, of Gura & Possessky, P.L.L.C, has launched Visit early and often, and lend your support to incorporation of the Second Amendment against the States. Selfishness in Action

Perfectly shameful.

The folks at trot out the dewey-eyed new mom and cute kid, then get her to read a plea to not call her son to national (read: military) service. Why is this unbelievably selfish (and isolationist) message at all appropriate?

"So, John McCain, when you said you would stay in Iraq for 100 years, were you counting on Alex?"

Why not? If not "Alex", whom?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Springfield Mall

I had occasion to visit Springfield Mall (N.B.: the web site is seriously misleading: 200 stores and eateries? Where?) the other day (I had mistakenly presumed that Springfield Mall would be vacant on the Saturday before Memorial Day -- the mall was, but the DMV office, my sole reason for visiting the mall, wasn't). With the line for the mall's DMV office stretching out the door (out the DMV's door, and nearly out the mall's door!), I took the opportunity to do a little shopping while the line got a bit shorter.

Springfield Mall has come on hard times -- really hard times. I don't shop there, but I don't really shop at any malls (competition is better on the World Wide Web, and I don't have to deal with traffic, parking, ....). Much of what I buy comes to me from on-line retailers; the rest comes from speciality retailers who aren't mall denizens (Best Buy, Borders, Petsmart, ...).

On a lark, I did a little on-line searching this afternoon to see if anyone else has noticed the sharp decline at Springfield Mall and lo, other people have. In fact, there's been some real discussion about redeveloping Springfield Mall. As recently as last November, Vornado Realty Trust (who also owns the Charles E Smith brand) announced a fall 2010 opening for at least a portion of the redeveloped mall (more recent news here). Since fall 2010 is only two years away, I'm surprised there's no evidence of construction. Surprisingly (and suspiciously), there's nary a peep about this Springfield Mall redevelopment at Vornado's web site.

Monday, May 26, 2008

DMA Choice Home

While I was researching "opt-out" capabilities, I ran across the one run by the Direct Marketing Association to cut down on "direct mail" AKA "junk mail":

DMA Choice Home

CITIZENS POLICE ACADEMY - Fairfax County, Virginia

Lorraine and I attended the Fairfax County Citizens Police Academy this spring -- this was time well spent. We learned a little about nearly every facet of Fairfax County law enforcement: training (at the Academy), traffic, patrol, call center operations, animal control, gangs, major crimes, narcotics, financial crimes, explosive ordnance disposal, canine, neighborhood patrols (bikes!), crime analysis, and the Adult Detention Center (which was offered by the Fairfax County Sheriff's Office).

If you're a resident of Fairfax County, this is 35 hours (or so) that will be spent wisely: CITIZENS POLICE ACADEMY - Fairfax County, Virginia.

One of the [many!] things I learned at the Fairfax County Citizen Police Academy was the existence of an "opt-out" program for pre-screened credit card offers (a significant source of credit card fraud and identity theft).

The program appears to be a lot like the national "do not call" list, only it helps protect your identity / credit score.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Urban camping

The homeless in our nation's capital aren't the only people [intentionally] sleeping on the streets tonight. Individuals hopeful for a seat during tomorrow's District of Columbia v. Heller oral arguments are camped out in front of the Supreme Court. The line started about 40 hours before the event, and it appears that the line is now at capacity. Temperatures will be near freezing again tonight, but an event like this is probably worth the privation, particularly for someone whom is younger than their mid-20s.

I do hope that someone offers to take Angela A., 19-year-old GWU sophomore, shooting. The NRA range isn't far away (City of Fairfax), and is a very nice range. I'll bet she gets at least one offer as a result of this week's line-sitting.

The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times : Camp SCOTUS: ""

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mann Act test?

If New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer is, as has been supposed (and reported by the New York Times today), the soon-to-be notorious Client-9, can we expect he will be charged with violation of 18 USC §2421, the venerable Mann Act?

US CODE: Title 18,2421. Transportation generally

Comedy writers across this great land are working overtime to scribble quips about this case.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Washington Post editorial re: Heller

I didn't see this until now -- I'm not a regular reader (meaning: I haven't sought out a Washington Post to read in more than 10 years), so it takes a pointer and a nudge to get me to check something out on

As predicted, District of Columbia v. Heller is causing people to go off the deep end. This editorial is a case in point.

A bipartisan majority in both houses of the U.S. Congress weigh in on the side of Mr Heller in his complaint against the District of Columbia. As our editorial writer observes, the Solicitor General weighs in (sort of) on both sides of the argument: 2A is an individual right (consistent with the plain-language reading of the constitution), but don't use strict scrutiny when applying the law (inexplicable concern that can only have been politically motivated: there's nothing in the facts or the law that would cause the SG's concerns to be valid).

So, when the VP joined in the amicus curiae brief submitted by the congressional majority, the Washington Post cries foul? "...irresponsible, selfish and unnecessary."? What's all this about? "Irresponsible" because the Washington Post editorial staff doesn't agree with the majority in the U.S. Congress? "Selfish"? "Unnecessary"? It's almost too bad these editorials aren't longer, so we can better understand the logic used to justify the language.

Anyway, this is a "drive by" on the VP -- nothing more, nothing less. Another reason to get my news from other sources.

Mr. Cheney's Government -

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Alcan Rally information center

I'm not organized well enough to think about this seriously, but it sure is fun to think about it casually. Lorraine and I have been to Tuktoyaktuk twice, but both times were in the summer (though the last time had plenty of sea ice in which we soaked our feet; photos are available!). The notion of heading north in the winter, experiencing the ice roads, is quite inviting....

This year's "Alcan 5000" had an optional roundtrip to Tuk. I certainly like the route they selected, but I would take at least three times as long to do the whole thing -- there's too much to see (even in the winter, when there isn't a whole lot of sun) to race through it.

More info to study and drool over at Alcan Rally information center.

Friday, February 22, 2008

At last, Michelle Obama proud of America -

Well, I'm gratified that Michelle Obama is finally proud of America. It's an amazing statement made once, but made repeatedly, it's nothing short of unbelievable, considering what's she trying to accomplish.

At last, Michelle Obama proud of America -