I want to try astrophotography! We have a good camera for it and I think I just found a great location, Grassland Mountain Observatory in Madison County. Unfortunately, it is privately owned and permission is required to go there. Here are directions. On the weather report, dark blue is good. This site is frequently used by the Astronomy Club of Asheville. I think I should use the following setup:
- Manfrotto tripod
- Sony camera
- 24 mm lens
- shutter speed of below 20 seconds (based on 500 / lens in mm [24 in my case])
- RAW files
- ISO of 1600 - 3200
Has anyone done this?
As a raft guide at the Nantahala Outdoor Center from 2002 - 2008, I made several trip to what would become my favorite waterfall destination in Western North Carolina: Wildcat Falls. I was first introduced to Wildcat Falls on a day off during my first year there by Stephan Hart, my botanical buddy. His nomenclature was phenomenal, and my wife will tell you, I don't say that about every man I know. Wildcat Falls is found in rural Graham County and accessed most directly via the Big Fat Gap trail head. This requires 7 miles of driving on a gravel forest road, best experienced in a Subaru which facilitates the most eloquent of fishtails around the corners. If you drive in at night, you can also detect oncoming cars more easily (there were none our entire drive in or out) allowing for a slightly higher rate of travel.
She and I have enjoyed backpacking together for several years now and my goals of carrying a lightweight pack have been realized thanks to a gift from my favorite college buddy, Mac Johnson, who gave me a 1 lb frameless pack made of silicone impregnated nylon (silny). For gear heads, it's a G4 54 pack and I carry 30 lbs. max in it. But to go even lighter on this trip, we camped at the same spot for two nights and the next day, we set out on an aggressive 20+ mile loop carrying only our water and lunch. Trail 42A had not likely been maintained in at least several years, perhaps five, and our shins were scratched and bloodied after miles of bushwhacking. The morning of the third day, I took a dip in Slickrock Creek and then headed over to the "touristy" part of Joyce Kilmer for some enormous Tulip Poplars.
- we didn't see another person on a 3 day-2 night trip in the Eastern US. Awesome!
- the blue ghost fireflies were out in number creating an other-worldly hike in at night
Photographed highlights included:
- nocturnal snails
- poorly maintained trails that were even more poorly signed (54 A is uphill)
- a fungal feast for some bugs
- Indian cucumber root as far as we could see (Thanks Lee Knight for teaching me this one!)
- Susan telling me she is terrible at creek crossings as we are in for 5 creek crossings! (she was fine :)
- groves of gigantic Eastern trees that escaped the axe and saw
Susan and I were fortunate enough to travel to Barbados for a week in March of 2016 for a surfing based vacation. This decision was based on two wildly successful hours of surfing on massive two foot waves using massive 12 ft. Bic surfboards at Folly Beach, SC. The decision to go to Barbados was also based on the fact that we had a free place to stay. It really helps to know a certain bald, handsome, intelligent bachelor diplomat with a three bedroom three bath fortified domicile replete with security guards, all paid for by our wonderful tax dollars. To
We had a glorious time riding the giants. Fortunately for us beginners, the waves at Freights Bay were the smallest he had seen them in his one and a half year tenure. Highlights of our trip included:
- epic body surfing sessions
- entering a sea cave (not recommended during most tides and slightly terrifying)
- the best fried chicken of our lives
- the longest wait of our entire lives for fried chicken
- touring a rum distillery
- seeing the critically acclaimed TWA terminal at JFK
- not getting sick the day before the flight in someone else's house in NYC requiring evacuation to a hotel and subsequent rebooking of entire vacation including use of travel insurance
- Animal Flower Cave tour guide who was "tied to the cross" and prefers to "polish it and wax it"
It's true and so can you! Last year for Christmas, my in-laws gave me a cheese making kit and I finally got the motivation to use it. Thanks for the encouragement, Susan! The process was easy and the results were fantastic. I made a 3/4 lbs. ball of mozzarella that was better than anything I've tasted.
With crust and sauce from Standard Pizza, Susan and I made the best home-made pizza I've ever had. I used Boar's Head prosciutto, basil, and my mozzarella shown in the first photo. (Why yes, that is a Chambers stove in the background!) I drizzled a cookie sheet and the crust with olive oil and pre-baked it for 6 minutes at 500 degrees. This makes for a crisper crust that doesn't necessarily need to be thin to be crunchy. Our wonderful neighbors, Hadley and Margot, helped with consumption of the pizza (and a bottle or three of wine).
Milk selection is the most important component of cheese making. I used Mills River Creamery Cream Line milk that is low temperature pasteurized and not homogenized. Their website reports "that this leaves our milk with a better more natural flavor and protects some of the healthy enzymes that are needed for a healthier product" and I couldn't agree more. My attempts to make the mozzarella with an inferior product failed miserably. The bottom photo shows this.
It's not budget cheese at *gasp* $8 per gallon yielding 12 ounces of cheese, but you won't find anything fresher. Let me know if you want to come over and we can make some cheese!
This summer was awesome! Pictured below are some of the things I did:
- kayaked on Lake Michigan
- went the historic Pullman neighborhood of Chicago
- hiked at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore where I had a summer internship
- went to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park
- saw thick deposits of heavy mineral in Indiana
- watched the sunrise from a teepee with my beautiful wife in Oregon
- backpacked in the Wallowa Mountains of eastern Oregon with Susan
- had dinner with Vivian Wampler (b. 1910) who was the nanny for my wife!
So I am driving to Wooster, OH for a romantic weekend getaway with my wife and want to estimate the tolls on I-90/I-80 from Porter, IN. On the E-ZPass website, I see that the fare from Portage to Eastpoint is $8.10, but with E-ZPass, it's only $4.15. So here is my big question:
Does the Indiana Department of Transportation the same amount of $$$ from a car that uses E-ZPass and one that doesn't?
I have a problem with privatization efforts in general, especially when the system in place was working. If you can't remember how this turned out for private debt collection agencies, let me remind you. In 2003, the Ways and Means Committee had it's first session on the benefits of privatizing collection of debt. In 2004, it was law. By 2012, the results were clear and the IRS opted not to renew the contracts. Taxpayer Advocate Services released this nice little report in 2013 with the figure below. Now back to E-ZPass.
I can't really find the answer to my question. I find it impossible to believe that E-ZPass turns over all the money they collect from the customer and make their business run on the other fees they collect. The fees are highly variable from state to state. The four main variables are initial transponder cost ($0 - $40), whether you get the money back (yes/no), the cost per month ($0 - $3), and the discount you get off the cash toll rate (0 - 50%). Obviously a state that charges nothing for the transponder might impose a monthly fee. PA charges the most monthly (3$ per transponder) while IL users enjoy a flat 50% discount off cash rates. Now I am sure the math on this would get way over my head quickly with 4 variables and all, but I still have a hard time believing that somehow taxpayers aren't footing the bill on this one.
E-ZPass is owned wholly by (get this, Aaron) an Austrian company, Kapsch TrafficCom (KTC). While the government is by definition a non-profit (ok, that's a separate discussion), KTC is looking like one lately. According to their 2013/2014 financials, they only made 5.5 M Euroes. As an aside, my goodness, what if they went under? Wouldn't that be a mess? They delivered 9.2 M transponders, but profits declined by a whopping 83% in 2013/2014. More plausibly, what would happen if they had long-term financial trouble? Would about 30 states in the US and over 30 countries come to their aid?
What should my position on E-ZPass be? What am I missing here?
The 135 S. La Salle Building in Chicago is considered to be the last true Art Deco skyscraper constructed in the city. It was originally constructed with a central vacuum system that still works! The letter box is also in the shape of the building and indicates the elevator locations.
Susan and I did a rigorous three day loop earlier this week and my legs are still a little sore. The Bartram Trail is a 100+ mile gem running from SC into GA and NC. New extensions pop up here and there, but I think the trail originally began at Rabun Bald in GA. Staring at the map, Susan and I dreamed up a loop from Rabun Bald to Otto, NC with a bicycle trip back to the car. The hiking was fairly straight forward, but the biking after all the hiking was quite rigorous. Here's what we did:
Sunday: drop bikes in Otto, NC. Drive to Beegum Gap, GA. Camp.
Monday: hike to the top of Rabun Bald without packs (4 miles, round trip). Hit the Bartram Trail North. Camp at Tessentee Creek. 4 miles plus 11 miles = 15 miles.
Tuesday: Tessentee Creek to campsite 2 miles above Buckeye Creek Trailhead. 9 miles.
Wednesday: Walk 7 miles to Otto, NC. Bike 16 miles back to the car.
See the map below the photos. Click on the photos for full resolution. Photos clockwise from top left: Susan on Scaly looking back at Rabun Bald, a painted Trillium, a cute salamander, a cute rattlesnake, a patch of yellow Lady's Slipper, and a lovely log.
Some of you may know that I was recently inspired by my friend Tim to re-rip my entire CD library into ALAC format. This made a modest improvement in sound quality, but the addition of a DAC (digital to analog converter) made a much bigger difference. When I bought an engagement ring for Susan, I bought myself a present - a Peachtree iNova with a built-in DAC. A DAC basically does this:
The sound quality from the iNova is amazing. If you don't believe me, come over sometime and we can listen to some Peter Gabriel. Because I love music much, it broke my heart when my brother told me he didn't have any speakers these days, only headphones. I decided to get him a 40th birthday present of some computer speakers and after some quick research realized I could get very high quality audio for less money than many computer speaker systems.
I decided to get him the Topping VX1 class T amplifier - 2 x 25 watts. I had it shipped to me to test it first and I was blown away with the audio quality. For $90 delivered, it has a DAC with specs on par with the Peachtree DAC - 24 bit/96kHz. It only has two inputs, one aux but the other is a USB, a digital input meaning this the perfect companion for computer audio. If you like high sound quality, pair this with some Mission-MS50 or Paradigm Titan speakers.
I've heard that sugar has been the bad guy for millions of Americans and others around the world for years now. I never really paid attention, but now that I am staring 40 years old in the face in a couple short years, I've noticed my metabolism decrease. I've started counting calories a little bit and I glance at fat grams and sugar content halfheartedly. It wasn't until I watched this brilliant piece on sugar by John Oliver that I realized the insidiousness of the sugar industry.
The left image below looks ridiculous and the right image looks awesome, right? Who wouldn't want a salad with cherries on top? Incredibly, the salads have identical amounts of sugar. For a 40 g serving size of either Starburst minis or tart cherries, you get 28g of sugar. I even looked at the back of the cherry package in the store but had no comparison. For this reason, I support the idea of a daily allowance of sugar based on a 2,000 or 2,500 calorie diet.
Don't worry, I didn't eat the left salad. I ate the really healthy one on the right.
Of interest to me and hopefully at least one other person