Archive 2009

December 11 2009 - No Changes are Permanent...

Of all the places I've lived, the cornerstone is my childhood house from age four until I moved out post-college, and the parents eventually moved out of it about 10 yrs ago. The current owners are expanding - big time.

June 20 2009 - Year of the Roosters

1969 was certainly a busy year for many (and perhaps the latter half of 1968). Busy as in procreation - a lot of friends turning the big four oh this year. Don't really know how that happens as I'm so very much younger all of them!

I've made it to many celebrations but missed some, so here's a mass tribute to all the milestoners this year: Sherry, Ralph, Johnny, Leslie, John, Pat, and Dan . A healthy and hearty cock-a-doodle-do to all of you!

June 5 2009 - Climb On

As I await the radar to clear down at the New River Gorge before we hop in the car to make a weekend journey, I recall the last trip we made back in April. I wrote up a quick trip report for the ECP newsletter and realized I don't have anywhere on this site to house the smaller weekend outings and any kind of report. So, here seems as good a place as any. To those that haven't been to the gorge, you really should go - it's one of the great deep places of the east - our little grand canyon. Bridge Day is a fun time to experience, but be prepared for an immersive experience with a massive crowd.

To non-climbers, this may not hold much interest...

"Tons of Fun in the Sun"

New River Gorge, WV on April 25-26

Ron Edwards and Shane Shin

written by Ron Edwards

April boiled over sending the temperatures up into the eighties, insufferable for most climbing outings, but not enough to turn us back from the first real good opportunity to hit "The New". Shane and I packed up and drove down Fri evening. Mariann and Tom Thomas with a couple of friends and Ben McMillan and Colleen were also down for the weekend.

An early start Saturday at Junkyard allowed us to tick off New Yosemite (5.9) before anyone else even showed up. Shane took the sharp end on it, a very bold choice for early season and first climb of the weekend. Ron led up Ann's Revenge (5.8) a less popular but worthwhile route, and then successfully sent Team Jesus (5.10a). PSU students were amazed at the trad rack, wondering how much it weighed and cost and what those things were called. By then the crowds had swelled and we high-tailed it out for the approach to Fern Buttress at Endless Wall.

Parking by Tom and Mariann's car, we just had to "tag" the dirty rear window. Ron fingered in "Solid 5.2 Climber", certain it would please the passersby and irk the owners. Turns out he was right on both counts.

Down at Fern Buttress, Shane led the first pitch of the classic Ritz Cracker (5.9), and Ron took the second. Ron then convinced Shane (has no idea why he listened) to lead Anal Clenching Adventure (5.10a) - a smooth slide bracketed by two thin seams. The tag team approach got 'er done. Ron chose Emerald Dance (5.9) next -- a multi-starred climb. Sometimes you look at a route at the New and think, "hmm, I just don't see it", and it works out one of two ways: 1) you get up on it, and viola, the holds and moves reveal themselves as you go, or 2) you didn't see it because it wasn't there. Emerald Dance was the latter. There are now a few expletives written in Ron's guide book and the stars have been scratched. Wanting revenge, a better note to end the day on, and a change of pace, the trad rack was packed up, out came the quickdraws, and Ron lead up the very sweet Two-Tone Arete (5.10b). This area has many other classics in the 9 and 10 range that will have to wait for a return trip.

After pizza, wings, chips, and beers, we enjoyed fireside company of the Tom and Mariann gang. Up and out Sunday we headed to Junkyard for another couple quick sends before the crowds. The plan paid off and Ron finally got to onsight Four Sheets to the Wind (5.9) after many years of waiting. This one is not to be missed. Transferring the rope over to toprope Rapscallion's Blues (5.10c) allowed us to do battle with this amazing and sustained route. Now starting to broil in the rising sun, we again shot out to the car and headed over to Bubba City.

The approach revealed the startling and advanced progress of a housing development going in along half of the Bubba City buttress top. Those familiar with the old approach trail will be shocked at the changes to the landscape. We managed to find our way to the correct descent trail to Head Wall.

Choosing to finish out the day on some sport routes, each of us led Smoking Crack (5.8) and Czech Vacation (5.8), both short but nice. Ron chose She Rides (5.9) a starred route described as "good for the beginning leader" and "ends on easier 5.8". The grade, stars, and description were all horrible lies. This heinous beast is terribly sandbagged (by 2-3 grades) and we'd love to know if anyone else has experiences to share. Though we didn't intend to end on a low note, it was time to pull the ropes and head for home, happy for the overall great trip.

Endnotes: the new guidebook is reportedly due out this fall and believed to be by the author of the Red River Gorge guide - one of the finest guidebooks ever composed. Fingers crossed. The efforts to create parking and access permits for Bubba City are stalled. For now, though posted, there are no permits available. Approach at will - and seethe at the march of humanity: "Wild Rocks" housing development - they should be ashamed of themselves and the hypocrisy of their name.

May 29 2009 - Things are Thieves

It seems that most items that have failed me this year are technological: cell phone, camera, TV, CD burner, and now my DVD player. Consider the effort required to replace them:

  • Cell phone - failed over to perfectly fine cast off from a business partner, taking time to fiddle with the SIM, update my master list (categorized Outlook contacts), install a Bluetooth dongle on the PC, download and install sync software, sync the data over, configure phone functions to my needs.

  • Camera - pick up old camera donation from Aunt, install new (to me) type of memory card reader. Ultimately the incredibly bad battery use and offer from Alexis of her old camera (same as one I had before) caused me to abandon the first one. Configure newer camera settings to my needs.

  • CD burner - still broken. Using secondary DVD/CD burner for everything now, just requiring an extra step in some cases

  • TV - pickup old TV donation from Mike and Kathy. Still need to arrange disposal of dead big screen TV.

  • DVD player- swap with my very old original DVD player that I was using in my home gym. Planning to suffer through the annoyance during workouts.

The car also needed a new ball joint and some other esoteric part replaced. Observations on all of this:

  1. I might blame technology as being cheap and not built to last, which in many cases is true. However, some of these items I've kept alive for well past their expected lifecycle - some for more than 3 to 4 times expected life span.

  2. It's an odd coincidence that all of these items failed in a very tight timeframe and also at a time when I have no purchasing power to replace with new.

  3. Family and friends are amazingly generous, if you just ask.

  4. There are a lot of perfectly serviceable devices out there that can be passed on for a second term. This is as good a place as any to refer to one of my favorite educational pieces on our species' darkest obsession: The Story of Stuff. Well worth the 20-minute viewing time!

  5. Time spent on acquiring and maintaining these things is a shame. Think of all those hours I could have better spent in a so many more meaningful ways.

A couple of related blog posts.

"Things are thieves of time." -unknown

"There are only two kinds of freedom in the world; the freedom of the rich and powerful, and the freedom of the artist and the monk who renounces possessions." -Anais Nin (1903 - 1977)

May 21 2009 - Digital Birthday

Tomorrow, 05.22.2009, marks the day that launched back in 2001 -- so happy 8th HTML-FTP day! Not many of my friends have their own websites, especially ones that have persisted, grown, and continue to provide new and interesting content. I've enjoyed the constant companionship of Glen's digital self through the years (often times more than the meatspace version, but don't text him). I've submitted my fair share of comments through the web form, mostly taunting and insipient, but I think of them as sort of light exercise to keep the code in shape - my duty to cyberspace. In times when I really needed someone to lean on and Glen wasn't answering the phone, I'd bring up the web page and the green glow of the header would calm me.

So, here's to many more years of Worldview, F&F posts for us privileged, and continued quotes of the month. This FTP is for you,

May 8 2009 - Idiopathic Intersection

Dr. John Holdren, President Obama’s science adviser, impressed me with this dead on response to Andrew Revkin's interview question "Is climate change the prime issue of our time?" {emphasis added}:

Before I was appointed, I was saying that the intersection of energy, climate and the economy is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Obviously another is avoiding blowing up substantial chunks of our society and others with nuclear weapons….

Without energy there is no economy. Without climate, there is no environment. Without the economy and environment there is no well-being. We’ve got to get this right as an intersection of problems. Right now, we’re getting energy and an economy in ways that are wrecking the climate.

Follow Up:

NPR's Science Friday interviewed J. Holdren on May 8, and it is available here. It's 45 min long, broad in scope, and gives a great perspective from 120 days in office.

May 1 2009 - "Do Not Deliver" Does Not Matter

They delivered again! Those foul delivery troglodytes pouring pulverized trees from their white van, polluting neighborhoods in rapid fashion have done it again. They continue to ignore the list of those that opt out of their long-dead directories.

This is the third cycle since I've opted out that they continue to deliver. Again another demon-dialing battle to get through to Idearc Media - the directory denizens that I demand burn in hell. Again an apology and offer to pick them up. NO, I won't fall for that trash swap routine again! (See my September 25 2008 - Garbage Replaces Trash post in the News Archives - sorry, accelerators don't work on my host.)

I'll try and file a formal complaint with their head office and contracted distributor, but it'll probably have no effect. These bastards need to be shut down. I'm so utterly incensed I will bash that van with their own garbage if I ever get the chance again. Grrrr.

Follow Up:

I made inroads this time around with my phone calls. It seemed as thought the people I got through to were genuinely apologetic and recognize that their system of "do not deliver" is problematic. This is due to the fragmented nature of the business and, in my opinion, the rapid-fire delivery mode of the van. For your information and my records, it goes like this:

  • Verizon commissions the print directories.

  • Idearc Media is the printer/producer, and they have a distribution center that handles concerns like mine. 1-800-888-8448.

  • Product Development Corporation distributes the directories to the households. They create routes from address groups, train the people, run QC to ensure effective delivery. It (or at least my area) is run by a pastor of all people.

I garnered three names and direct numbers (even a home number!) from folks that are trying to do the right thing. I personally think it will take a major shift such as Verizon ceasing production, localized return/recycle centers, shift to opt-in, and/or legislation. One off requests such as mine are just not going to work under the current system.

May 1 2009 - Shot in the Arm

Blew the dust off the Pay Statements folder to file the first pay stub since June 2007 (shocking and sad, I know). It's half the amount of its predecessor which depresses me when I should be ecstatic.

A couple of months ago, upon a suggestion from my dear aunt, I submitted for the US Census temporary work. The test was timed, basic data processing, logic, and proves that you're not moronic. I scored 96%, so I'm 4% moron - I can deal with that. At application time it was estimated to be 20 hours per week for 10 weeks, evenings and weekends. They called and said, "minimum 32 hours per week for approximately 5 months, during daylight hours ". I shook my head thinking "well, it's government, what did you expect?".

So, my original plan was to have a little income from work out of the way of the regular work week in case something else came along and allowing me to continue a near-full time job search. I thought, for 10 weeks I could do anything and it might be interesting to learn about the Census process. (The history of the United States Census is really quite fascinating, for example, punch cards and IBM were spawned from census activities.) Now, my crew leader ("boss" - it's kind of fun and odd to have a boss for the first time in a long while - he's quite cool) tells me I'm number one on his crew. Very kind words - nice to know I can march streets and check off addresses and GPS points like a pro. So, this means I'm first in line for continued work in June. So much for short term. Just as well since the depression continues to deepen and there's really nowhere to run in the world since nearly every nation is affected.

I try not to think about the fact that I'm a professional with 20 years experience. I suppress the reality that I'm trading away unrecoverable time for survival cash. It makes me angry at how we've let money corrupt so much of life. At times I'm disgusted by the decadence of the wealthy (I've enumerated MANY high-end homes), also the paranoia and utter stupidity in attempted "security".

On the plus side, it simply feels good to be productive, no matter how mundane it is. There's substantial pleasure in a tangible measure of the day's work. (I sort of obsess over my numbers, subtotaling and setting personal goals - absolutely unnecessary.) The completionist in me takes pleasure in making incremental progress step by step, day by day. My feet are dogged, but you couldn't ask for a healthier job (minus the driving, road-walking, dog bite, and high particulate Pittsburgh air hazards).

Life has been surreal for the past two years, and this fits right in. Strange times when you feel utterly guilty buying lunch but know that by working during it will cover the bill. Better than flipping burgers, but not by much.

Follow Up:

I was called back to work on the "group quarters validation" operation from end of September through mid-October. I continue to learn about this interesting process and the procedural preparation for this seemingly simple but actually highly complex task: count everyone in your nation once, and only once. For the first time in my life I visited (if only briefly) and learned about marinas, convents, group homes, shelters, rehabilitation and correctional facilities, and soup kitchens. Many of these social services are invisible to the average mid- to upper-class citizen, sprinkled throughout our neighborhoods and cities and blending in with the background.

March 29 2009 - Weird Western PA

I read of Centralia in Bryson's A Walk in the Woods last year which may have been the seed of this journey. Further inspiration came from Weird Pennsylvania, a book that both Johnny and I have. Such was the basis for a 2-day road trip to central PA and back with Johnny last week. Many thanks to Johnny for providing the enthusiasm in pursuing offbeat americana and roadside attractions - he got us from just books and discussions to actually getting into the car. Also for the diligent photo documentation - all photos credited to him: Subset of pictures/lower res | Full set/full resolution. Equipment: Subaru Outback, 2 Garmin GPSes, Whistler radar detector, iPod, bike, and pair of rollerblades.


  • Abandoned Turnpike tunnel where we rollerbladded/biked through and back. The ventilation shaft above was the wildest part.

  • The Haines Shoe House, which was unfortunately closed for the season. Our own personal perimeter tour was well worth it, though.

  • Maple Doughnuts - a family-owned operation out of York PA. My kind of dinner!

  • Boston Beer Company (AKA Sam Adams brewery) - closed to visitors (so we're boycotting here by not providing a link!).

  • Centralia - a mostly abandoned town site of a 45-year old mine fire that still burns. We also sought out a 2 geocaches while there.

  • Slinky Factory where no tours are given but the fine folks in the front office were very friendly and accommodating. We were given literature on its history and composition (10% virgin pig iron and 90% recycled scrap from automotive, appliances, industrial and construction waste/debris).

  • The U.S. Hotel Restaurant and Tavern built in 1835.

  • One massive ham sandwich, scary motel room, May's Drive In Restaurant, drive by of Boyer's candies, and 3 hours of shufflebowling and draft beers with too much Led Zeppelin.

March 14 2009 - Finest Healthcare in the World!

While ice climbing in the Catskills in January, I took a 100+ pound hunk of ice in the face. (Official statement to any insurers: I fell on the ice). It split my upper lip - pic available near end of the Catskills photo gallery. Being the dedicated climber that I am ("if you're not dyin', keep climin'", I alway say,) I waited until end of day and returning back to Pittsburgh at midnight. I thought it would be best to be "in network" for best coverage and in a familiar facility (they've patched me up a couple of times before). It was Superbowl Sunday and I was lucky to beat the post-game rush by mere minutes.

I often hear a) we have the best healthcare in the world, and b) our healthcare system is broken -- a strange combination, really. Well, I recall the total bill for a broken ankle many years ago was around $10,000. This time it was three little stitches. OK...let that sink in: three stitches. Nothing special. No complications. THREE stitches.

Grand total: $1080. Yup, damn well must be the finest healthcare on the planet if it's $360 per stitch!

March 13 2009 - This American Life

A couple of years ago, my ever-wise friend Glen was regularly praising the weekly national public radio show This American Life. Since I never was able to prioritize time slots for TV or radio shows it took awhile before I found a way to start listening via their free podcast. It's been about two years now and I don't think I've missed an episode. He was right - it's a top notch program.

I could go on and on about the show in general, but that's not the point of this post. I want to call out a recent episode and two related ones from last year. Episode 375: Bad Bank aired on 02.27.2009. It's sort of part three to a related set, the previous two being 355: The Giant Pool of Money on 05.09.2008 and 365: Another Frightening Show About the Economy on 10.03.2008.

They are brilliantly crafted presentations on the key aspects of the evolving economic depression. The TV and print news has become so terribly convoluted, confusing, biased, narrrow-minded, and often utterly misinformative. The amazing thing about thess shows is the way they present the details with such clarity, simplicity and leave you with a deep understanding in just 60 short minutes. And all with a light touch, even humourous at times. Masterful journalism that is so sadly absent in our times.

It's important to note that I have very little interest in economy, money matters, financial institutions, or banking beyond the necessary direct affect on me. And still, these episodes still managed to astound and amaze.

Do yourself a big favor. Throw those newspapers in the recycle bin, turn off that lousy TV "news", and tap into true intellect and information. The show is rarely about these kinds of topics - I just wanted to praise the connection to and superb treatment on current events. Podcast download is FREE for the first week after the episodes air, and 95 cents after that. Well worth your time and money. Public radio, in general, is still the solid bedrock of the airwaves.

March 11 2009 - Bad Batteries

Why is it that a significant part of every day is spent mounting and dismounting devices from charging stations? To those that say battery technology has been improving, I say BAH! Lithium-Ion was the last big innovation, first available in 1991 but I recall only seeing them widely available around the turn of the century. Still, it's been 10 years and nothing new. Meantime, most of my batts are heavily hobbled in performance, and in some cases barely hold a charge at all. The inventory of rechargeable items in my life: cell phone (w/2 spare batts), mp3 player, laptop computer, mouse, camera (lost the 2 spares), 3 home phone handsets, toothbrush, and beard trimmer. Most beep and flash at me on a daily basis for recharge. Either we need to revolutionize the battery tech, or I need to continue to ween off these deadbeat appliances. What's your inventory?

March 11 2009 - Transport Report

Sold the Nissan Pathfinder last month, the BMW this month, and now cruising in a 2000 Subaru Outback. No pics since the camera died - just your standard green and tan. Managed to rack up a $180 NY speeding ticket and a $4 parking ticket already. Sad to see it has the same curse (me).

March 11 2009 - Movie News

Winter Morning Pictures has been busy! New web site. Trapped is now available on and will eventually be available on Netflix. Since I don't Have You plugged by Gavin on on Skyliners stage.

February 21 2009 - Star Projector

A recent article in Pittsburgh Quarterly rocketed me back to my first experiences in exploring the stars through presentation systems at the Buhl Planetarium. I was utterly enthralled from the very second of stepping into the enormous domed room. It was so unlike any other space I had ever experienced from the circular layout of the chairs, their ability to lay way back, the lighting and atmosphere, and even the aural sensations caused by this specialized environment.

Submerged in its layer in the center of the room was the Zeiss Model II, a marvel of electro-mechanical engineering specially designed to project the stars in all their glory for scripted study and armchair exploration. The Zeiss Model II was installed in 1939 and reigned supreme in planetarium technology through all of my youth and well into adulthood. As the lights dimmed, this behemoth would rise ever so slowly creating a blended sense of awe and reverence that was a palpable part of the transcendence from an indoor environment to floating in space. The 6000-pound projector looked simultaneously organic as a giant ant but also as a futuristic spaceship. It was so odd in shape I suspect most small brains couldn't really grasp how it could create the star scene around us. I felt more like detached observer observing the heavens from within that machine - it was our abstract transportation.

The glorious old beast was replaced by the Evans & Sutherland Digistar I in 1996, which I'm not sure I've ever had the chance to experience. Ten years later the rapid advance of technology was succeeded by the DigitalSky 2 by SkySkan, installed in 2006. I have yet to see this stellar new presentation system and hope to this summer. The Buhl Planetarium has been a part of the Pittsburgh science education scene since 1939 and will forever hold a special place in my memories.

Several archival sites of some history and vintage photos.

"The sky is the ultimate art gallery just above us." —Ralph Waldo Emerson

February 18 2009 - Brought to you by the Letter R

R is for Ron, as in Uncle Ron. And also for Rabbit. Behold the Rabbit with an egg that's a bit early for Easter, but cherished all the same. Thanks to my #1 (as in 1 of 3) neph, Anthony.

February 12 2009 - Evolve!

A big bicentennial birthday to brilliant brit boy, Charles Robert Darwin, born 12 February 1809, died 19 April 1882.

No one can more eloquently illustrate than the luminary Carl Sagan, from his Cosmos series (7 minutes that will be well spent!):

(view embedded above or watch the video hosted on GoogleVideo)

The brilliant Carl Sagan explains in a short video the 4 billion years of evolution. Update: In the part of the video he talks about "dinosaurs mysteriously disappeared" In fact by the time Sagan passed he along with most scientist adhere to the belief that a meteor destroyed the dinosaurs.

View at least the excerpt (from full version above) of "40 seconds of evolution"

Mr. Darwin, my apologies that some of our species still dispute your opus. With so many types to choose from, it may be awhile until we can say exactly why your facts ('s only a "theory" now, isn't it?) are all false.

Until then, we'll try to not snuff ourselves out, continue to accelerate the evolution of the creatures that surround us, and dutifully mutate (most of my friends have that covered). We celebrate your great contribution to homo sapiens' enduring pursuit of enlightenment. Thanks, too, for your wonderful words of wisdom:

"The very essence of instinct is that it's followed independently of reason."

"A man's friendships are one of the best measures of his worth."

"We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities... still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin."

" A man who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life."

February 11 2009 - Address of the Future

Perfect: The Address on Climate Policy I’d Like from President Obama - July 2009. I've been following Marc Stuart's writings for about a year now, mainly when he posts to

On the topic of green, I've begun the 2nd course in my professional certificate program (see October 6 2008 post), Solar Energy Conversion.

February 9 2009 - Ice Climbing

View the pictures from recent day trip to Elk Creek, PA for the last bit of local ice before the mid-winter meltdown. The day was made extra special by the occurrence of my first (and hopefully last) leader fall on ice. All turned out quite well - the screw held and the Screamer deployed:

February 8 2009 - Year in Review Part II

2008 was an abnormal year in many ways that led to spending recreational and leisure time more concentrated on simpler and basic outlets. There were no big vacations, just a bunch of long weekends within driving distance (see Excursions for details).

I believe I set a personal record, and not proud of it, in watching 200 movies. At least I tried to mix in plenty of "educational" material (see previous News post). The Movies section of this site has been heavily overhauled and includes all the results.

Not since 2005 have I managed to knock off at least one book per month. This past year seemed to have parallels to whatever driving force was behind the large amount of documentary watching - all twelve books were non-fiction. It wasn't premeditated and not noticed until near the end of the year. Out of all I highly recommend In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. He is well-respected authority on the subject of food, as is evidenced by this work, and delivers the material in near-perfect fashion. We nary go a day without food, water, or sleep - it seems obvious to take great interest in them. I've debated for awhile over whether or not to publish my reading history here since it certainly exposes a large amount of personal information. I decided to do so, and hereby launch the new Books section. <brief fireworks display>

And finally, some of the developments of the year I feel are deeply important and history-making (some off on wobbly legs, but starting to walk) and tuned into with varying degrees of interest:

  • Encyclopedia of Life launched

  • Project Chanology initiated against Scientology

  • Memristor (4th electrical circuit element) becomes reality

  • Same-sex marriages begin in Santa Clara County

  • Water ice on Mars found and confirmed

  • CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) completed

  • Barack Hussein Obama II elected the 44th President of the United States, the first African American to hold office

January 3 2009 - Year in Review Part I

It seems as though the quantity of documentaries and special interest shows, and my appetite for them, has increased in the recent year. I viewed 33 of them, listed below. Bold indicates very good/recommended, and 5 stars post-fixed indicates -- well, you can figure that out, right?

Flow: For Love of Water

American Teen

Man on Wire

Up the Yangtze

Shadow Company

Encounters at the End of the World

Three Gorges: Biggest Dam in the World

To the Limit

Taxi to the Dark Side

Monster Camp

A/K/A Tommy Chong

Paul Oakenfold: 24/7

Millions: A Lottery Story

Put the Needle on the Record

Super High Me

King Corn

The 11th Hour

Everest: The Death Zone

The Man Who Skied Down Everest

Confessions of a Superhero

The Business of Being Born *****

My Kid Could Paint That


In the Shadow of the Moon *****


Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy

Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson

The King of Kong

Chased by Dinosaurs *****

The Alps: Climb of Your Life (IMAX)

Everest (Season 2)

Navy Seals: BUDs Class 234

Hitler’s Lost Sub: Nova

E2: Design (Season 1)

This American Live (Season 1)

2008 Olympics: Opening Ceremony

January 2 2009 - Reeling in the Year

The wind up to the holidays always seems to have me in a dizzying spiral. The news has amassed, and so a commingled entry is necessary to clear out the year...

Holidays always brings good times in family and friends, often from long-distance visitors and almost always all too harried. It was great to see Susan and Adam. Unfortunate misses (near hits) with Dan and Beth. Catchup visits with Glen, Alexis, and Albert.

Joblessness continues. Overly surreal at this point since I've been seriously searching for 10 months, casually searching for over a year, and without pay or unemployment for 19 months.

The year's "vacations" consisted of all road trips for long weekends in: White Mountains (NH), Mt. Rogers (VA), Red River Gorge (KY) 4 times, Adirondacks (NY) 2 times, and Lakes Pymatuming and Canadohta (PA). I dug every one of them but I yearn for larger and distant travel.

The Nissan has reached the end of its life with me and had to be replaced. A 2000 Subaru Outback w/100K+ miles is my new ride. Both Nissan and BMW are on the selling block - sadly neither has sold yet.

The grade received in my first course: Excellent. Wahoo.

I treated myself for Christmas since I've held the desire at bay an entire year and it went on sale for $5. I finally played (and beat) Portal. It was immensely satisfying to "game" again. Sad that it actually had a place on my To Do list. I echo all the other player's kudos and strong recommendations.

Hope you all had wonderful holidays and a remarkable year. Time for me to portal out for cake...