Tuesday, September 25, 2007

W&M team golfs at Sunset Beach!

The Flat Hat: Men's Golf: W&M sets school record for 54-holes at Sea Trail

We're going to have to get CollegeGirl interested in the golf team! William and Mary participated this past weekend in the Sea Trail Intercollegiate which is just across the bridge from her grandparents' beach house. The Tribe placed fourth out of 19 teams.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

CollegeGirl Update: Dining with polMom in Richmond!

While the boys and I were out camping, CollegeGirl paid a surprise visit to Richmond!

Her way-cool Saturday history class had traveled up to historic Saint Mary's City, Maryland which was the site of the fourth permanent settlement in British North America as well Maryland's first capital. It has a living history center with costumed interpreters similar to Colonial Williamsburg.

After spending the day attending court, being put in the stockade, learning about tobacco farming, and climbing aboard the replica square-rigged ship Maryland Dove, the class headed back to Williamsburg and decided to stop in Richmond for dinner at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. In an act of daughterly devotion that earned many, many brownie points, she phoned her mother at home to ask if she would like to join them. polMom was so excited that she called us out at camp to let us know she was going to see her.

Her visit was brief but she did fill in some of the holes that her Facebook account didn't provide. She's still has major love for William & Mary, enjoys her classes, and is apparently still doing well. She didn't miss a beat from high school and is still quite the social butterfly, participating in lots of clubs and activities ... some of them of questionable legality. She's very proud of completing the traditional Triathlon, a set of three tasks to be completed by each student prior to graduation. I won't post the tasks here but feel free to check out this Wikipedia article on W&M traditions and see what you think of our saintly daughter.

She hangs out a lot with her fellow Dinwiddie Hall dorm residents in which have really seemed to bond into a great social and support unit. Dinwiddie is the smallest of the freshman dorms and is also the furthest away from the academic campus tucked back in the woods by Lake Matoaka. With only 44 students in the dorm, the setting is almost familial and the residents do a lot of activities together, recently forming the Flying Lemurs intramural team.

Apparently, the local WaWa on Richmond Road is something akin to a religious site and has even prompted the creation of a "Cult of the WaWa" group on Facebook. CollegeGirl and her hoard wait until the wee hours of the morning and creep across campus in the dark of night on their pilgrimage for late-night (actually early morning) snacks. If you're thinking of sending something to her, one of these would be a welcome gift.

Apparently there was blackout last night in Williamsburg which triggered a crisis amongst the many Wawa fanatics. CollegeGirl posted this at 1:08am this morning:
Was anyone else part of the 50 or so people waiting in front of WaWa after the blackout? Wawa closed?? I about died...
Hopefully we'll hear more from her in the days ahead but were very grateful for even the brief time she was able to spend with her mom.

Laid-back Scout weekend

Our Boy Scout troop camped out at our local scout reservation this past weekend ... just for the heck of it. We had originally planned to travel over the mountains to Lake Sherando but the group campsite was already booked every weekend in September by the time we got our ducks in a row. In attempting to come up with an alternative we were reminded of desire expressed by some of the boys during summer camp for a campout just for the sake of going camping. No structured activities, no big event, but just camping for the fun of it. So we got a reservation for a campsite in Douglas Fleet and actively engaged in non-planning of activities.

And it was great!

Aside from the rain while we were setting up on Friday night, the weekend couldn't have been much better. On Saturday and Sunday we were blessed with perfect camping weather. Bright sunny skies with highs in the upper 70s and lows at night down around 50. Absolutely beautiful.

Through a reservation quirk we also had the entire reservation to ourselves. Turns out that the council office shouldn't have allowed us to camp as there was a big triathlon taking place on Sunday. The camp director, who I know pretty well, stopped by on Friday night to ask how we managed to get a reservation. After we discussed the circumstances he said we'd be fine as we would be leaving before the activities took place and even though the organizers were setting everything up on Saturday we should be okay using the trails and such.

While no formal activities were planned, the adult leaders (all 3 of us), and the older Scouts all said they'd be happy to help anyone complete rank requirements or teach Scout skills. This worked out extremely well with some motivated youth learning woods tools, fire building, knot tying, lashings, cooking, plant & animal identification, among other topics.

Around 2pm we led the Scouts on a 5-mile hike using the new circumferential trail that goes around the reservation. Again, the weather was perfect and everyone got to see whole sections of the camp that we hadn't been to before. Near the start we stopped by to admire the new shooting area at Brady Saunders before diving into the woods and heading over to the Cub Camp side of the reservation. This was nice because we took "Angelo's Trail" over which is a nature trail dedicated to one of the boys from our Cub Scout pack who died when he was just eight years old.

I think this campout may become a staple for us in September as it doesn't require a lot of pre-planning and was very well received by the boys who went. We do our annual program planning in August so September is always one of the harder campouts to plan because of the short amount of time available to make reservations, secure equipment, line up transportation, etc.

A great way to spend the weekend.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Getting behind again!

Whew! Lots of stuff going on and I'm once again behind in my blogging. I don't know how people do this every day. However, I'll try and post a few updates tonight after the Scout meeting. Lots to talk about so stay tuned!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Not Just an American Shrine

There's another way to keep up with CollegeGirl. She's taking a very cool history class on Saturdays that focuses on the history of the Tidewater area during the colonial and revolutionary periods ... pretty much from the founding of Jamestown in 1607 to the death of Thomas Jefferson in 1826. In return for giving up the bulk of her day on Saturdays, the classes are conducted as field trips to various sites around the Tidewater area.

Part of the class is writing a journal and they're available for viewing online. You can read CollegeGirl's journal by clicking here. For those technically savvy family members, you can also subscribe to her journal entries via the RSS feed icon on the upper right-hand section of the webpage.

Her first entry is entitled "Not Just an American Shrine" and provides proof that she's actually attending class, enjoying the experience, and can still write very well.


Dude, Where's My Bus?

Another banner day for the transportation department of Henrico County Public Schools.

Pretty much the same story as last week. No bus pick up for OlderSon. Call the transportation office and, sure enough, the shuttle's already left Freeman for Highland Springs. This one has a couple of additional features, however.

"The normal bus didn't run today because it had been vandalized." Okay, where was the substitute? "Oh, he says he drove the whole route, your son must not have been at the bus stop." No, he was at the bus stop for almost an hour. "Well, the driver said he ran the whole route." I guess he was wrong because my son is still here. "No, your son must not have been at the stop." Yes, he was ... for an hour now. "Are you sure he was at the right place?" He was standing under the street sign for Sweetbriar and Woodberry roads ... yes, he was there. The bus was not. "Well the driver said he ran the whole route so we let the bus go to Highland Springs."

So again, polMom has to drive OlderSon to the other side of the county. When they get to the school OlderSon is, of course, late. When they check in at the office with the many, many other students who are also late they try to give him an unexcused tardy.

Pardon me? He didn't get a bus this morning. "Yes, then he's late." No, you don't understand. The bus never came for him. "Uh, huh. He's still late." No, we live on the other side of the county, his bus never came, they released the shuttle when they shouldn't have, and we had to drive all the way out here. "That's a long drive. I'm sorry. He's still late."

Have you ever seen those cartoons where the person's face will get redder and redder and then steam will start to come out of their ears (with a little whistling noise) while their eyes begin to bulge from their sockets? Because that's how I imagine polMom as she stalked back to the car and called the transportation department.

She managed to get a hold of a nice lady who, again, assured us this would never happen again. Plus she said she'd call the school to tell them not to make our boy all tardy.

Can't wait for tomorrow.

A weekend of Cheerful Service

OA Fall Service Weekend
Originally uploaded by stepol

OlderSon and I spent the weekend out at Camp T. Brady Saunders to participate in the Fall Service Weekend for the Nawakwa Order of the Arrow Lodge. The Order of the Arrow, or OA, is the Boy Scout's national honorary society for experienced campers, based on Native American traditions, and dedicated to the ideal of cheerful service. They hold service weekends in the spring, summer, and fall to complete work projects at the camp.

Also, Scouts who were elected to the OA go through an Ordeal after which they are welcomed as full members in the Lodge. For the second session in a row, OlderSon was an enlangomat which is a guide or big brother to the ordeal candidates. OlderSon was in charge of the Eagle Clan group of candidates and once again performed his job well. If he serves again in the spring he receives a special red elangomat sash to keep.

The camp was hit by two pretty brutal storms in August so much of the work to be done involved cutting up fallen trees and dragging brush out of the camping/activity areas and back into the woods. I spent most of the morning doing that but also worked in the administration building at the Cub Camp fixing computers and doing web work that the council wanted done.

Early Saturday afternoon I got to take a break to see a father/son combo from our troop go through the Brotherhood ceremony. After 10 months as an Ordel member, OA members can seal their membership by going through the Brotherhood ceremony which I did just this past June. Going through the Brotherhood process is probably the best way to go through a service weekend. You learn a lot about the customs and goals of the OA program that kind of flew by during your Ordeal weekend. Also, the Brotherhood ceremony is very well done and I really enjoyed even just watching it as a participant.

After dinner, the three of us went back down to the OA circle to see another member of our troop, actually our current SPL, go through the Ordeal ceremony and be inducted as a new member. Again, a great ceremony that's always performed well by our award-winning ceremony team. We had a lot of new members so they actually ran three ceremonies with performance by the Lodge's dance team in between.

The weather was great and OlderSon got to use the Hennessy Hammock tent that he order back in June. He had just missed out on using at the last backpacking trip to Three Ridges (polMom called when we were halfway to the mountains to say that it had arrived). He had glowing reviews about it so I think it will be a staple in his camping experiences from now on.

This weekend also marked the 98th night of Scout camping he has done since joining the troop in March of 2004. The troop's camping again this coming weekend which will be nights 99 and 100 for him. That earns him the cool National Camping Award for 100 Nights and Days of camping. Actually, Scouts may include camping that they've done with their family while they were Boy Scouts so in reality he's well over the number needed. There's a Court of Honor coming up at the end of the month so it'll be cool if he gets it at that ceremony.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Sunset Beach Bridge

Cape Fear Pride: Sunset Beach Bridge | WWAY NewsChannel 3

A couple of posts ago we talked about our love of the old pontoon bridge in Sunset Beach, NC. Last night WWAY NewsChannel 3 in Wilmington ran a nice piece on the bridge that they posted to their website. The above link takes you to the transcript text but there is also a link on that page to the video that you can watch.

UPDATE: Ran across two other news videos about Sunset Beach ... very cool! Links are below:

Thursday, September 6, 2007

MMD Volume II: Needles in a Haystack

Last week I included a mix CD in the package polMom mailed out to CollegeGirl at William and Mary. It was mostly some recent adult top 40 stuff but I thought I could do some more interesting and themed mixes in the coming weeks.

The new Lightscribe drive is super-cool and does a nice job etching a label on the disk that includes a track list but the type is really tiny and hard to see. I'd also like to have an explanation about why certain tracks were included in the mix. So, what follows is my first attempt at a mix CD post.

The inspiration for this disk was the Haystack online music service. It's a social music community whose goal is to help forge stronger ties between music and the people who love it. You can comment on music tracks that artists have offered and see what other "tastemakers" think. It's a great way to find new music and to be introduced to artists you weren't familiar with before. It should show up in CollegeGirl's mail today so let's look at the picks:

  1. Battle Without Honor or Humanity
    Tomoyasu Hotei
    Okay, this song isn't from Haystack but it's the only one in the mix that's not. I just love the song as an opening theme. Plus it was used in the movie Kill Bill that had lots of women with swords so CollegeGirl should enjoy it.

  2. Nervous
    A good rocking Foo Fighters-esque song from the alt-metal trio from New York City. Lots of power-chording but also has a nice acoustic thing going on in the background. Good song to start things off.

  3. The Great Escape
    Boys Like Girls
    Yes, it's all sugary, emo-blasted pop/rock. Yes, the band lacks substance. And yes, it was probably all written to appeal teen-aged girls. However, this song is the best thing the Boston-based band has recorded in their brief existence and it's just flat-out fun to listen to. Plus CollegeGirl is still technically a teenager.

  4. The One
    Stroke 9
    A catchy pop-punk song that's the first single off the band's latest album, the wonderfully glowing The Last of the International Playboys. Everything on the album is good but there's something endearing about a punk love song that makes it hard to not include.

  5. You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb
    I'll bet the execs over at Elektra Records are kicking themselves for dropping these guys back in '98. The latest album from the Austin, TX band, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, is currently one of the most heavily played at colleges across the country. The songs are beautifully crafted and use a wide array of sounds without overwhelming the music. This song has some great hooks and sounds like it came right out of Motown with its horns, tambourines, and bells. One of my favorite songs on the disk.

  6. 18
    Bridges and a Bottle
    Another benefit of Haystack is that you can accidentally discover good music from obscure regional bands. I clicked the wrong button and ended up listening to this song from Harrisburg, PA's own Bridges and a Bottle. Playing primarily in their hometown and smaller NYC clubs, they are releasing their first album called Trojan Horse. I can't understand half the lyrics and have no idea where the song title comes from but I really enjoy it. Plus it's great to share music no one else has probably heard.

  7. Wish Upon a Dog Star
    Satellite Party
    A trippy pseudo-psychadelic song that's the lead, and best, track off the bizarre Ultra Payloaded album. It's apparently a concept album about global warming in which a musician and a night nurse are beamed aboard an intergalactic spaceship party thrown by "Jim" who likes Earth because he uses it to sculpt ice caps. Yeah, I don't understand it either but the song is fun.

  8. See the World
    This is a great song from this British band known for their bluesy rock. Critics have said that this is a song R.E.M. would have written before they started believing they were more than they really were. Bright acoustic guitar, upbeat lyrics, catchy tune, cute backing vocals, plus an exhortation to go out and get more from life ... what more could you want. I said Spoon's Cherry Bomb was one of my favorites songs on the disk but this is the best right here. Listen to it over and over again. It'll make you happy.

  9. Carolina
    Matt Wertz
    Like the band Boys Like Girls, Matt Wertz is over-produced. His voice is too smooth, his song writing's not that great, and Marissa Brown of AMG said he's "just a product of lots of studio time and money rather than an artist with his own ideas and voice." All that's true but he did manage to get one nice song out and it's got a little mandolin thing going on which I know CollegeGirl likes. It probably didn't hurt that I first heard while down at the beach in Carolina.

  10. Know Your Onion!
    The Shins
    I know, I know. New Slang is supposed to be the quintessential Shins song to include ... the best example of the band's talent ... beautiful and ethereal ... blah de blah blah blah. Know Your Onion! is off the same album and is light, fun, and the first Shins song I ever heard so it's on the disk ... so there. Plus if you listen carefully, James Mercer sounds just like a young Brian Wilson.

  11. This Life
    La Rocca
    Seriously ... how many Irish piano rock quartets do you know of? The song off of last year's The Truth album is included because it reminds me of Electric Light Orchestra's stuff from the 70s which I love.

  12. No Radio
    Dirty on Purpose
    Another random selection from Haystack recommendations that I enjoyed. Just great melodies, instantly memorable chorus hooks, great guitar work, and simple, low-key rhythms. A great drive-to-the-beach song.

  13. Anytime
    My Morning Jacket
    This four piece band from Louisville, KY is built around the singing and songwriting of its leader Jim James. James is a more pop version of Neil Young and his talent comes through on Anytime which sounds like pop, blues, and country all rolled into one. A good song to help ease us down the backside of the disk.

  14. What's the New Girl Wonder
    The Sharp Things
    The Sharp Things didn't settle for the neuftet sound ... they pushed on and became an onzetet! This 11-member (!) groups' latest album, A Moveable Feast, was recorded almost completely on a laptop but the recording is clean and smooth. Critics have hailed it as their best album and this song perfectly represents their retro-chic sound. It's probably not the best song off the album but I liked the link to CollegeGirl as the "new girl" at W&M.

  15. Vampires in Blue Dresses
    Margot and the Nuclear So and So's
    Another big band, this one made up of eight members from Indianapolis. Last year the released their first album, The Dust of Retreat, which AMG says is "an album that both the casual music fan and music perfectionist will enjoy." Again, it's not the most acclaimed song off the album but, come on, would you pass up an opportunity to include a song called Vampires in Blue Dresses? No, I didn't think so.

  16. Am I Wry? No
    Had to include this one because I felt that Danish space pop groups were underrepresented on the disk. Actually, this one had to grow on me. I think it was the last song to make the cut. In the end I was swayed by the opinion of the Danish Music Critics Awards who gave Mew Band of the Year and Album of the Year back in 2003 primarily based on the strength of this song. I suppose it's okay.

  17. Love and Memories
    O.A.R. (Of A Revolution) started out as a true local university band at Ohio State before hitting it big with a major label. It's probably how they manage to keep their homespun approach to pop while refining it along the way. Love and Memories is described as being "full of guitar and yearning, like a less self-righteous Switchfoot or a wordier Goo Goo Dolls." Me? I just enjoy listening to it and thought it was a godd song to have as we came up towards the end of the disk.

  18. Hey Now Now
    The Cloud Room
    This song was a huge hit on college radio back in 2005. It sounds like a really cool David Bowie song and has that catchy-as-anything chorus to keep you coming back. If you like the Killers' Mr. Brightside, you'll love this. It grows on you a little more every time you listen to it.

  19. Henrietta
    The Fratellis
    This Dublin band gets major points in my book just for naming themselves after the nemesis from the The Goonies movie. This song, which sounds like a vaudeville routine, was the group's second single and their firat top 20 hit in the UK. A nice high energy song from an Irish band that helps tee up the disc for the last song which is:

  20. One Last Drink
    Enter the Haggis
    A perfect way to end a mix CD for CollegeGirl which pays homage to her love of Richmond Celtic rockers Carbon Leaf. On their website, this Toronto band lays claim to 18 different genres of music including rock, fusion, bluegrass, traditional Celtic fare, agitpop, folk, even Latin flavors. I don't know about all that but the first time I heard One Last Drink I knew it was going to be my disk closer.

    PS: I noticed on their website they've just recently added a tour date in Williamsburg on September 26th to play at Pints and Pipes which is not far from CollegeGirl's dorm!

School starts with a long and winding road

Heading out to school
Originally uploaded by stepol

School started for both boys on Tuesday. When we got home Monday night, the boys still had a bit of work to get done on their summer assignments to get them ready to turn in the next day. polMom also did the lion's share of the prep work by labeling all of the boys' stuff and filling out the myriad of papers that the schools require ... most requiring the exact same information on each. You'd think with the advances they made with the hcpsLink system they would get this process streamlined. Instead, poor polMom's still recovering from writer's cramp.

YoungerSon is headed back to Tuckahoe Middle School for seventh grade while OlderSon travels to the other side of the county to begin ninth grade at the Center for Engineering at Highland Springs High School.

And thus begins our transportation nightmare.

Both boys left for their bus stops at about 7:30am, OlderSon slightly before and YoungerSon slightly after. OlderSon is supposed to catch a bus at 7:37am that takes him to the nearby Freeman High School transportation hub where he catches the bus for the long trip to Highland Springs. At 7:45 he calls home to say that the bus hasn't arrived but we're not too concerned as the buses are always late on the first day. Also, the transportation hub ensures that the bus to Highland Springs won't leave until the first bus has arrived.

At 8:00 OlderSon calls again to say that he's still at the bus stop. polMom gets on the phone to the transportation department (a number she is unfortunately well acquainted with). We figure we can haul him over to Freeman but want to make sure the shuttle is still there. After 20 minutes, three disconnects, and many radio calls to bus drivers we find out that the shuttle has left because OlderSon's bus did go to Freeman ... without picking him up. Apparently it was a substitute driver who failed to grab two of his route sheets.

We're very frustrated but we say we'll take him to Highland Springs ourselves. It's now just after 8:30 and school starts at 8:45. We drive up to the bus stop ... and no one is there. We're momentarily flummoxed but are hoping that he simply got on the regular Freeman bus with the other high school students. We double-check the area to make sure he's not there and head over to Freeman.

About halfway there we get a call from OlderSon who is, indeed, at Freeman and is standing with the West Zone transportation director who was very nice and helpful. They were trying to figure out how they were going to get him to Highland Springs but we said we were taking him. He directed us to drive right up the bus ramp and we could pick him up.

We picked him up and polMom dropped me off at work before heading to Highland Springs. She got OlderSon to school finally, made sure he didn't get a tardy, and reassured him that the ride home would go more smoothly because the bus would be starting from a school that it knew it had to go to.


I'm still not quite sure of all the details but the net result was that when the dust cleared after bus departures at Highland Springs, John and two other students were left standing alone ... under a tree ... not on a bus. Of course by the time polMom gets a call, the transportation office had closed so she worked her way up the org chart until she got Fred Morton, the Superintendent of Schools for the county (do not tick off polMom).

Eventually, John did make it home with assurances from every level of the transportation chain that it would not happen again. It that seems to be holding as we had no incidents yesterday or this morning.

Nothing could be finer ...

Getting ready to leave the beach
Originally uploaded by stepol

... then to be in Carolina. As long as we're at Sunset Beach, that is! We made our annual Labor Day pilgrimage down to Soft Days, my parents' beach house and now their retirement home from September to May. We're always happy to be there but our happiness was slightly tempered this year by the absence of CollegeGirl who just started at William and Mary and had classes ... even on Saturday! I think this is the first Labor Day weekend in her life that she hasn't been here and her absence was felt.

However, it is Sunset Beach so we did manage to have an excellent time. We had a couple of overcast days but mostly the weather cooperated to provide some quality beach time. The boys covered the four Bs: beach digging, boogie boarding (is that two Bs?), body surfing, and even boating. OlderSon found an inflatable two-man boat in the attic and rigged up a bicycle pump to get it inflated. They gleefully paddled around in the surf, first with a paddle and a shovel and then with two brand new paddles we found up at the new Waves shop just over the bridge.

We thought the parents wouldn't be down until Friday but were pleasantly surprised to see them on Thursday night where they joined us for quiche night. YoungerSon has been asking to have quiche for weeks so we took the opportunity to make it at the beach. We actually had three quiches: a spinach and artichoke quiche that YoungerSon made, a Quiche Lorraine that I threw together, and a single-serve ham & cheese, egg white-only quiche that OlderSon made. We served them up with grapes and some great strawberries we found at the world's most upscale Food Lion.

Dinners are always a big event at the beach and this weekend was no exception. Friday night was our big spaghetti and meatball dinner. Sissy and Peter from next door joined us on Saturday night for gourmet pizzas. We had four to choose from: a BLT pizza, a Margharetta pizza with fresh mozzarella, olive oil, basil, and tomatoes, a taco pizza, and finally a pizza with brie, herbs, onions, and olives. Sunday night finished the weekend up with grilled sirloin and roasted cauliflower. On Saturday night, Peter also brought over his new ice cream maker so the boys could try their hand at homemade ice cream. Unfortunately, we didn't let the chiller chill long enough and we had to settle for (very tasty) milkshakes.

We were particularly pleased to see the old pontoon bridge still in operation. The plans for installing the mammoth 65-foot McDonald's arch bridge that will make Sunset Beach just like EveryOtherBeach are currently on hold because even after two rounds of bidding, the prices quoted are still way too high. NC's transportation department estimate is now at about $26M and the lowest bid came in around $32M and they are bound by law to keep the price no greater than 10% over the estimate. So not only is it back to the drawing board but, because of the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, the cost of bridge materials is going up and the state is looking at more critical bridges that should take precedent over this one.

On Monday morning we managed to get up early enough to make a final trip to the beach and it turned out to be the best weather we had all weekend. After soaking up those final rays and getting the last breath of sweet salt air we went back up, got lunch and headed home. It's always sad to leave but we'll look forward to returning in the winter.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Getting the blog caught up

Whew! Lots of stuff is going on both at home and at work so I've fallen way behind in my blogging duties. Hopefully we'll make up for it today by posting some belated articles about our recent vacation, school starting for the boys, and the adventures of our own CollegeGirl. Stay tuned!