Friday, December 29, 2006

Gauley Carnage - Sweets Falls

Gauley Rafting Carnage

Here is a great carnage video.

Upper Gauley - Sweet Falls

This is a carnage video....this is the falls that one goes through at the end of the Upper Gauley trip. It is a place where if you are off line, you end up in trouble. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Rafting - Lower Gauley

Lower Gauley White Water Rafting

Last week I posted the Upper Gauley...the section we did in the morning. Here is a portion of the Lower, the section we did after lunch. Carnage videos to follow in the coming days.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day Greeting

Today is Boxing Day….for the VA Sears it is a rainy work day. This week is the busiest week for the ARC and with New Years being on a Monday Evie has to work Sunday. Jonathan headed out the door to the Day Care at 7:20 (he is on from 8 to 4 today). I arrived at the office at 7:55 after leaving at just a few minutes before 7:30 (light traffic today with most fed workers taking a vacation day). Last week and this will be the slowest two weeks of the year for me at the office.

Our thoughts will be with those who will be gathering in London for the annual gathering.

Our Christmas was quiet…just relaxing and watching movies. Jonathan stirred just after 7 and went back to bed. Josh woke up nearly thirty minutes later and crawled back for some more sleep. We all finally gathered around the tree and with the fire blazing in the background opened our presents around 9:30 (far different from when we were in Winnipeg and the boys awoke just after 3 and would not get back to sleep. We opened the presents around 4 AM). Later today when I get home I will add a picture of our Christmas morning fire.

Jonathan’s major gift this year was a lap top. He also received a speaker system for his ipod and a selection of movies. Josh too received a speaker system, a second trombone stand (one for keeping at school and one at home), drum corps CDs and video, and a big music stand. Josh’s major gift is all the airline tickets has been consuming. Both boys received various gift cards…we have stopped figuring out what clothing to get them.

Again, on this Boxing Day…have a great time enjoying the day.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

From Washington DC to our family in Calary, London, Oakville, Brampton, Pickering, Korea or wherever you may be, may you have a lovely and blessed Christmas.

Here are two pics...the first taken after the Candlelight Service at Arlington. The second taken just afternoon is Josh heading home after morning service all by himself while Evie and I headed out in my car. I think he likes the idea of being able to get himself home and not having to wait for Mom and Dad, or be with us as we stop to get a few items from the we did today.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Family Tradition Fulfilled

Starting with 7th grade (Grade 7), I have been involved with staffing kettles every year since...that is 39 years. The tradition started by my parents involved each of my siblings standing kettles. I do not know how many of us have continued into doing so each year into our adult years, but I have sought to do so every year. Even when I oversaw the kettles I would make it a point to get out there myself throughout the season to give 20 to 30 breaks and even take a couple of evenings myself.

As soon as they were young enough, I have involved the boys. I remember in Iowa City, Josh at the age of 6 being with me ringing the bell with gustro outside a grocery store. I am proud that my sons are involved in keeping the tradition alive.

Since moving to Washington Jonathan, Joshua and I have volunteered to staff a kettle for a full day. Normally we do the last Saturday before Christmas and the boys play their instruments....sometimes as a duet, more often solo while the other rests.

Below are pics of the boys outside one of the local Walmarts. We started at 8:45 and finished just over twelve hours later. We went through four kettles, including the big white pail. The only time the bell was rung was during a 25 minute stretch when the boys drove off to Burger King. Jonathan and Joshua were troopers.

Besides his lips being like rubber by the end of the day Jonathan's knee was killing him by the end of the day (he still has knee issues from when he blew it out five years ago). Though Joshua's lip was fine as he is use to playing longer, his arm and shoulder were very sore last night. Dad, well lets just say that I am walking this morning on tender feet.

The four kettles, without checks included, totaled $1,512 (with checks $2,512). I am proud of Jonathan and Joshua for volunteering the whole day, and for helping to fulfill the family tradition.
Christmas Lights X

Here is the tenth and last light show for the season. Which is your favorite of the ten? Which one's are the favorite of other family members that have watched?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Lights IX

Another house. The videographer comments that the video does not do the show justice. That may well be but he detracts from the show by having comments in the background from himself, his wife and kid. That said, the show is a fairly good one once you get beyond the videographer's issues.
Christmas Lights VIII

Unfortunately the car lights on the left side detract from the show. Still this is an enjoyable show.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Whitewater Rafting - Gauley I

You read the report and saw the pics. Here is video of the upper Gauley...the section we did before lunch. Next week I will post some carnage video I have found.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Lights VII

Dancing Christmas Lights!

Watch for Christmas Lights VIII and IX to be posted in the coming days.

Christmas Lights VI

Christmas Lights - Good King Joy

Some People Need to Really Get a Life and Then Some

Last night on the local news it was announced that a 5 yr old boy in Maryland has been suspended from school for sexual harassment. He pinched a girl on the behind. And the parents are filing against the boy’s parents and the school.

Five year olds have little to no understanding of sexuality or sexual activity. What in the world are we doing a society to saddle young children adult standards and phoebes? The problem is not the boy or the girl. The problem is adults over-reacting. Instead of using it as a teaching moment punitive action is taken that will scare both the young girl and boy for years to come. Instead of taking a deep breathe and realize that we are talking about two innocent kindergartners hypersensitive adults are ripping away their innocence before they have any understanding. Instead of having a balanced view, we have adults looking for a way to get money.

What are we teaching our children in the process? If you are offended or touched in a way that could be argued as inappropriate even if it is well beyond common sense understanding, look for a way to get the dollar. Go for the maximum. Work to tear away innocence because of adult sexual hang-ups. Get back by hitting the pocket book. Demand punishment and retribution.

In this situation is the antithesis of the Christmas message of peace and reconciliation toward our God and fellow human being.

Part of me hopes that one day the parents will find themselves will be subject of a law suit because their child has not behaved as an adult. Yet I major part of me hopes that when their child errors or does something that is innocent but viewed contrary that they will receive grace, forgiveness, calm reflection and understanding.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Lights V

One more to add to the show list. More to be added in the next few days. I would hate to see the electric bills. There is one of these places in Alexandria that has 130,000 lights in their show. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a video of that one.

Christmas Lights IV

Here is another light show. Enjoy.

Living In Washington DC II

One of the more interesting things about living in the Washington DC area is the traffic. Like most major cities this area has heavy traffic and their road infrastructure is constantly trying to play catch-up as for the most part it has not kept pace the evolution of the community. Light sequencing along several major routes in Fairfax County does not help. At election time, politicians talk of fixing the traffic by widening and building new roads, but little gets done. Interestingly little talk is given to computerizing the light system for commute adjustments.

Depending upon the route, I live 14 to 17 miles from the office. The shortest route, I-66, I am not allowed to take during rush hours when only I am the car. From the beltway in I-66 is HOV-2 (you have to have at least two people in the car). I have done I-66 from time to time on the way out with someone from the office or a family member and have been home in 25 to 30 minutes with traffic. My standard route involves taking one of two city streets into the office.

I use to take a route that could take normally from 55 to 80 minutes. If I left at 7:30 I would not arrive at the office until nearly 9:00. Last April, thanks to someone I know from the Canadian embassy I changed my route. Now I can leave at 7:45 and arrive at the office by 8:25.

The above is common to most major centers. What makes Washington traffic interesting are the “feddies”….people who work for the government or involved in political activity. When Congress is out, traffic commute times drop. In the summer Monday mornings are a breeze. City routes are fine Friday afternoons but not the interstates going to the beaches. “Feddies” have to put in a set number hours. Hence, flexible hours make Monday mornings and Friday afternoons light.

In the summer beach route traffic on Friday afternoons after 1:00 and Saturday mornings is a killer. If you get out of the city by 12:30, your commute to VA Beach would be three hours (normal drive). Much after 1:00 it would take you five hours. If you head out much after 2:15, you would not get to VA Beach until after 9.

I remember years ago when Stephen and Gayle were with us and we were going to the beach. They missed getting out to I-95 before 1:00. They arrived at the campground not much more than an hour before us and Evie and I did not hit the road until 5:30.

When Congress is out, many staffers and the lobbyists are out of town cutting traffic going into and out of the city. August heavy traffic almost disappears. Yet for the most part traffic in tech and manufacturing areas of Fairfax and Montgomery County, does not have the same flux.

Right now we have the triple blessing of Congress being in recess, end of the year and the holiday season. People with a day or two of vacation days left are taking them, and feddies are moving into a more flex schedule. Hence, this week and next week traffic into and out the city will be the lightest. This morning it took me only 32 minutes to travel to the office….the only way it could have been quicker would be to get all green lights. The first week of January it will be heavier but not at its heaviest for a week later. Then in May it will diminish again until the second week of September.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Josh's Trip to San Antonio

Josh was exhausted when he walked in the door just before 1:30 this morning. Up at 6, with an after school rehearsal followed by trombone lessons, today will be a long day. He enjoyed his time. His knowledge about drilling and playing techniques was broadened and refined much further. He also got to meet a good number of veterans who have been in the Crossman for years.

The final cut for the Crossman will be made in January. Josh has been invited back for the final cuts. At this point it is comes down to how many veterans will be returning. Josh knows he is on the bubble and has some thinking to do in the coming days.

Today he is meeting with school officials to better understand what would happen for the final weeks of his school year if he were to make it. He is wrestling with two conflicting goals. If he makes the Crossman he would have to give up being in the all-District band, which has been one of his goals. He has also a greater understanding of the physical, emotional, social and musical demands that would be made upon him if he were in the Crossman. Living for three months sleeping in school gymnasiums in sleeping bags, having few hot meals, spending 4 to 8 hours a day on buses day after day with the same group of people, drilling hours upon end in 90+ temperatures, and having to have your adrenaline pumped up for each evening’s 12 minute performance is demanding.

Mom and Dad will continue to help him work through the issues and decision making process. If he returns in January, and does not make it, we will deal with the disappointment of being so close. We are also proud that he has made it to this point. If he does make the Crossman, we will do what we can to support him along the way and come up with a way to cover the expenses. Either way, what he is going through is a life education process that can serve him well in his adult years.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Living in Washington DC I

Just over a year ago I took two THQ visitors to dinner at a high quality steak place at Tyson’s Corner. As we entered into the parking lot I noticed a black Suburban parked by the roadway entrance even though there was a dozen empty places before the doorway. As we entered the door four broad chested men were exiting. Turning to our two guests I mentioned that they were going to have a unique experience.

About twenty minutes into our meal three men and one lady entered wearing trench coats. One sat by a table best us, one went to a table across the room, one stood in the back of the room and one just stood by the door. A few minutes later another parade entered…a man, a woman and two young children along with two more dressed in trench coats. The two Secret Service men took up their positions a few feet from the table at which the family of four were seated. The five us at our table along with the other patrons were not bothered, but we were being watched for any sudden movements.

I thought of this event Monday when it took me 45 minutes to go the last .7 miles to DHQ. To say that the traffic crawled along would be mild statement. There was no accident. There was no construction taking three or four lanes down to one. Somewhere past our building were a street or two what were closed and traffic was being rerouted due to some high security official.

Whether it is having Secret Service watching you carefully while you enjoy a restaurant or a finding yourself suddenly in a traffic back-up, one takes it in stride. It is all part of living in Washington.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Discouraging A Telemarketer

Telemarketers are a bain to many families. Even if you put yourself on the "do not call" list may not work. The fine print for various free contests/drawings one enters can enter in malls and stores may say that you agree to come off the list for a minimum period (9 to 15 months). Even if you do not enter such contests, when you purchase products you can end up on the call list for that company and its related firms.

Here is a guy who takes a different approach to discourage calls. Be aware there is a word that can be offensive to some. I may just try a version of this sometime.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Christmas Lights III

Here are more Christmas Lights. This one seems to be to rushed for me at the beginning....but to each his/her own. One thing I know, I would not wish to live on across or beside these light shows. Night after night the flashing lights coming in the windows would drive me up the wall.

Would you want to live by or across from one of these homes? Or even on the same street with all the traffic?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas Lights II

Here is another light show. The work that goes into getting this all set up and coordinated must be significant. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas Lights I

Some people really get into decorating. Here is one example that I emailed to some family members last December. Enjoy.

Christmas Lights

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Josh's Bands

As some may know, Josh spent the last two weekends attending drum and bugle corps band clinics, in New Jersey and Chicago. In Chicago he was with the Cavaliers, three time world champion marching in the last five years. In New Jersey he was with the Crossman (based in San Antonio), another Corps that is frequently in the final twelve. He has returned with ideas how to refine his playing, drill and marching techniques. He also loved meeting some of the best marching band musicians in the country.

While he was willing to go through the audition process with each Corps Josh knew making the groups would be long. Attendees are these clinics are serious players and marchers. For the 40 open positions with the Crossman they have had about 500 people audition, of which about 7 are baritone positions (Josh auditions on baritone as they do not use trombones).

Josh was pleased to receive “2s” from the Cavaliers for playing and marching as most receive only a “3” grade. Josh knew making Cavaliers would be near impossible since nearly everyone who makes it into the Cavaliers have prior experience marching with a Corps.

Josh has been invited back to San Antonio by the Crossman for a more in depth evaluation of his marching and playing skills. We are proud of Josh for making it this far in his first year of eligibility (most Corps at this level set 16 as the minimum age).

If he makes it into the group he will be flying to San Antonio once a month for rehearsals through May. Starting in May he would be with the Crossman 24/7 through to mid August….each night would be in a different city. This may be the uniform Josh will be wearing this summer. If he makes it, where Evie and I go on vacation will be somewhat decided...we will be at the Rose Bowl for a week for the World Championship.

As you can see Josh has been a busy fellow between these events and the three advanced placement courses he is taking (AP courses high school courses taught at the college level and a student can get college credit if their grades are strong enough). His schedule will only get busier over the winter. In early January auditions for All District Band. Two weeks later he his in Blacksburg VA where he will be part of Virginia Tech’s honor band. A week later he will be in George Mason University’s honor band.

This is along with learning and playing the Clarinet in Concert II, being in Symphonic band and Jazz A. Add to the mix, his is also playing in an Orchestra and pit band for a play. Oh, yes...we must not forget the Corps Band and Songsters.

Somewhere in there Josh will need find time to breath and sleep.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Defining Moments

Flowing as a continuous stream, each day blends together. Only by using measure points do we acknowledge growth and change in ourselves and our loved ones. A handful of these defining moments appear on a regular basis that cause one to look back a year or more to the same date… one’s birthday, anniversary, Christmas and New Years are just such days. Other defining points come unplanned and often unannounced.

Last summer Evie had one of those moments when Josh flew to Europe. Her baby proudly going off to Europe with a group of strangers was a sign that the empty nest is a few years away. I had similar feelings but I kept them somewhat to myself and focused upon being alone with bride for two weeks camping before Josh returned. Throughout each day I found myself looking at my watch and glancing at his schedule.

This past week I had two events that have combined into one. The first was Josh flying to Chicago all by himself to attend a marching band clinic with the Cavaliers. People I had never met would be meeting him at the airport and taking him back to O’Hare. Again, Josh had that bold confidence while his father worried if all was going well.

The other took place Thursday when we completed a piece of paper. This week Josh was in Drivers Ed behind the wheel. The paper we completed authorized that if he passed his driving test this Monday that we approved him to receive his license. A license will give him greater independence, no longer having to rely upon Mom and/or Dad to run him to events. There is something to be said about having him run himself to events or sending him on an errand. Yet, there is something sorrowful within that regrets this moment.

That said, and regardless of internal feelings, there is also pride that joyfully celebrates each of these steps toward adulthood. His mother and I are proud of Josh, and we are proud of Jonathan too, as he continues to grow to be a fine young man.