Friday, May 30, 2008

Kitchen Lighting Upgrade Pays for Itself

Ever since we moved into our house we've talked about changing out the lights in the kitchen. The track lighting spots that had been there before did a good job lighting, but with all the white cabinets we wanted a little color. After talking about it for months, this past week I finally put up new lights. These were about $45 each at Lowe's after purchasing both the lamps and pendants. These 4 lights replaced for 50 watt spots.

At the time, I didn't even consider the fact that there might be energy savings from this project. When picking out light bulbs, I just happened to walk past the CFLs and noticed that they now come in a candelabra size, which is what was needed for our new lights. A quick calculation using shows that replacing the 200 watts w/24 watts of CFLs could save me $132 over the life of the bulbs. The payback is as short as 14 months, with 2 hours of use a day even after considering the regular candelabra lights cost as little as 25 cents apiece.

Plus it makes everyone in the house happy with the new look of the kitchen, and that makes me happy, regardless of the savings.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Healthcare Reform

Last night an enterprising group of folks were going door-to-door in our neighborhood polling people on their thoughts about topics for the upcoming election. At first, I thought it was generic, but it became obvious that they were pushing for health care reform to be the top priority (I rated other things like the economy higher). It got me to thinking.

Health care reform - what would I like to see change (in order).

1. Wait times for the doctor to go from several hours to my appointment time.
As we waited today in a doctors office, I became amused at one of their signs. "If you are over 30 minutes late...your appointment will be cancelled...and you will be charged". As I looked at my watch, we were well over 30 minutes past our appointment time. We went back, the nurse did her things, and we were sent back to the waiting room to wait for the doctor to get back from rounds at the Hospital.
Now I know emergencies come up, and I know this is a good doctor who likes to spend time with patients. However, the last time were at this doctor's office we were there 4 hours from start to finish. Most of that time was blown waiting for the doctor. I've dropped my family practice doc for less. Unfortunately in this particular case it's a specialist, and they have a virtual monopoly here in the area.
There are stories of doctors showing up to work an hour after the first patient appointment (this is NOT a story from the hospital). I encourage everyone to make note of your value of time, remind the office of this, and if there is equal competition, this should take care of itself.
Where are the people protesting the need for a patients' bill of rights that include wait time like they are for the airlines.

2. One bill.
For those that don't know, my wife is in health care management, so she likes to give me a hard time about why this can't happen. When I go to a doctor, I pay that office. I don't care what lab that doc uses, I don't care what other specialist he/she has to call in to assist with whatever I'm having done (think anesthesiologist). As far as I'm concerned, these are subcontracted parties, that are working at this one doctor's request. When I purchase a service (the doctor's visit), I want to write one check to one person, and have them take care of everything. This thing about receiving a separate bill from everyone that stuck, drew, rolled or touched me is ridiculous. No other business would be able to get away with this. How would you like it if the next time you got on an airplane, you received a bill the next week from the caterer for the # of soft drinks you had while on the flight? Subcontracted labor should be treated as such.
And while we're on the topic of bills, I really don't need a statement saying "This is not a bill" when they send something to insurance. Lately I'm seeing fewer and fewer of these, the cost of paper must be going up.

3. More businesses should offer medical savings accounts, along with high deductible insurance.
Until this type of plan reaches a critical mass, we won't be able to tell if this is a valuable type of insurance or not. Detractors will talk about how this takes low risk contributors away from group health care, but are there really enough examples out there to show this impact on a reasonable scale? There have been detractors of HMOs and PPOs, yet those plans have succeeded in providing health care to massive portions of the population. I've noticed that over the last few years the popularity of non-referral specialist co-pays has increased dramatically, so the idea of a traditional HMO is gradually dieing away.

4. Finally lets address health care reform in the traditional sense. Does this mean national health care? Maybe, I'm not completely sold on a requirement to provide it, maybe some incentives would be good, or an optional national group plan. Wouldn't that be one of the largest group health care plans ever created, they should get major discounts from the provider company. I do feel that all children should be covered somehow, whether through parents or medicaid. Someone is picking up the costs, some schools are even tasked with providing eye care/eye glasses to those in need. So for those readers that stick to 'we don't need any more welfare in this country', I would state that you're paying for it in one place or another right now. So lets make it official so that it can be tracked, expended, and made efficient.

Many other articles are going to talk about the ever increasing costs of health care. Yes, I don't like it, but on the other hand I do like the fact that I can get services today that weren't available in years past. The chance of surviving major medical issues is much higher today, which comes at an increased cost. The population is lawsuit prone today, which is also driving up malpractice insurance costs. And like everything else, health care overhead costs are soaring. With two new hospitals opening (one new, one expansion), the competition for nursing and administrative staffs around the Fredericksburg area is only going to increase. Until the costs to do business start dropping for doctor's offices, the costs to the purchaser's aren't going to drop. In reality, until the nation as a whole become more healthy, requiring fewer or less costly visits, the rate to insure the populous isn't going to drop.

Free Monday Music @ the Library

The Library has just announced their summer music series which kicks off June 2nd and then continues every Monday night rain or shine. Should sprinkles be in the forecast, they plan to move indoors to the stage at the library. Bring a chair or blanket, and a picnic if you want. The event is free and should bring another great opportunity to experience some local music intermixed with a few out-of-town bands. I've added this to the current events list. The music starts at 7 and ends at 8, which like the FLS states here, gives people enough time to do things before and after the band plays.

Monday Night Music on the Library Steps 2008

Join your friends and neighbors at the Library's Monday Night Music on the Steps. Every Monday this summer at 7pm local musicians will entertain and delight. Please bring a blanket or lawn chair and a picnic dinner. In case of inclement weather, the concert will be held in the theater. Headquarters Library, 1201 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg, VA.

2008 Line-up

June 2 - The Company Store,

June 9 - Dixie Power Trio,

June 16 - John Vreeland Jazz Quartet

June 23 - Jim Canty and Friends,

June 30 - Doc Scantlin and His Imperial Palms Orchestra,, (held at James Monroe High School Theater)

July 7 - Laurie Rose Griffith and Peter Mealy,

July 14 - Fabulous Sensations

July 21 - Homegrown String Band,

July 28 - St. George's Jazz Ensemble

August 4 - The Believers

August 11 - Borderdrive

August 18 - World Jam Club

August 25 - fourtè

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

City Council update

Tonights a busy night at city council, check back for updates later.

3 recognitions, one of which was for a 26yr veteran of the fire Dept.
EMT training for James Monroe students.

Budget has been tabled for 2 more weeks.

Hurricane prep presentation
Flashlights and batteries
Batt radio or crank radio
3 days of Food, water, medications
First aid kit
Make a plan in case family is split up

Items of interest:
City is pursuing a ROAM system for text message alerts. Nothing is free though, but they are looking at a grant.

City investigating meter taxi rates, vs the current zone system.

Housing advisory commission needs people to apply. The only applicant is already on 2 other commissions.

The first fine arts commission is now set with 8 members.

The budget is tabled, but rate increases have been approved for water and sewer. Not much, but like everything else the increased costs are being passed onto the users.

233/235 Charles St. Special use permit was only for flood plain, but the ordinance may allow for agreement with comprehensive plan.

The city is accepting 10 acres to be included in the city park system. At some future point it will be available as open space for all residents.

The school board found they didn't spend all of their 07 budget (572k), so they will now get that back this year.

Panhandling ordinance clarification, its ok to be on a sidewalk with a sign, the police shouldn't ticket. Just can't stand in the road. And due to legal issues with discriminating for/against EMS, they won't be able to stand in the road either. The city is going to try to find alternative solutions for the rescue squad to raise money.

Over 100 people attended the city business appreciation meeting.

The city is looking at efficiencies, tonight the city manager reports that by consolidating mobile phones across the city they expect to save 35-40k per year. Good for them, hopefully we will see more coming.

Looks like without budget items, they will get out of here by 9:05pm

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Pops Memorial Day Concert

Free Memorial Day Concert at Mary Washington Hospital w/the Rappahannock Pops. 7pm, bring a chair.

MEMORIAL Day Concert
The POPS Salutes Heroes
May 26, 2008
7:00 PM
Food - Dave's Famous BBQ, drinks, ice creamBring chair and picnic or purchase food
Admission --Free

Charlottesville Trip - Art Everywhere

This weekend the wife and I loaded up the dog and took off for Charlottesville. On the way into town we passed the normal art in the median. This year it's a sculpture called Conversation.

The Charlottesville city council sponsors the ArtInPlace nonprofit, which runs a competition annually for outdoor sculpture. This year there are about ten outdoor displays. Occassionally one of the pieces is so popular that it becomes part of a permanent display like "A Bad Case of Mondays" whish is an invisible person (blue coat) with papers falling from the briefcase running up the hill on one of the bypass entranceways.

The non-profit is also sponsoring other art events and displays. An interesting one is for artistic bike racks. So far they have 2 bike rack installations.

We arrived downtown at about 6:30, just missing the opening band for Fridays After Five.

By the time The Groove Train took the stage, the place was full of people chatting with friends, playing in the grass, and enjoying the wonderful spring day. To encourage residents to come enjoy the festivities, admissions are free. Drink tickets are $5 apiece, which along with several sponsors, goes to pay the bands and beer, with the remaining profits being returned to numerous non-profits that help staff the events.

Charlottesville of organic and healthy eating establishments started poping up all around town several years ago, so now it isn't hard to find something almost any place you go. This sign was on one of the food tents at FridaysAfterFive. Across the street were kettle corn and hot donuts, so there was something for everyone.

Saturday we awoke from our friends new house out in Crozet, VA - looking out the window at a spectacular view of the blue ridge mountains.

We headed back into town to do some shopping (and by shopping I mean browsing). Gail took me to one of her favorite organic markets Feast. I had to get a picture of the place next door called The Organic Butcher. There seems to be some irony in that. The prices were amazing. About 75% of what I've seen here, and yet it was on main street, where rents aren't that cheap. In this establishment, several storefronts are all within a single building, which probably helps spread out some costs.

We then took off for the downtown mall. The rest of the day was spent ducking into retail, antique, art galleries. Eyeing a few empty buildings, and checking out the renovations on what is going to become Charlottesville's newest hotel right on the downtown mall.

This is the renovated Paramount Theatre that hosts stage productions throughout the fall, winter and spring.
The walking mall is full of outdoor restaurant seating, street performers, artwork, shopping tables, and a few sculptural water fountains. There are plans underway to start a multi million dollar renovation to the 30 year old mall.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Short Trips from Fredericksburg - Charlottesville

Jeff has a great idea over at the fburg real estate blog. So I'm stealing it for a post.

Short Trip ideas so as not to break the bank on gas or airline fees.

Charlottesville VA
1 to 1.5 hours South West of Fredericksburg

Charlottesville is a very historic town. The home of Thomas Jefferson, who also founded the University of Virginia. The city now is home to some 50k residents plus a sizeable student population. Back in the 70's and 80's, to revitalize downtown, they closed several blocks of main street to traffic, bricked over the street, planted trees, and created a downtown mall. Today it's just one center of activities, and always lively (except maybe Sunday mornings).

How to get there is part of your adventure. I suggest going west on RT 3, the south on RT 20, when you get to the traffic circle at Gordonsville you have no less than 3 choices. Go west on 33 to 29 south (passing Barboursville and Horton vineyards), or go 231 south to 64 through horse country (passing Keswick vineyard), or take the bigger road 15 south to 64 east to cville.

If you aren't big on 2 lane roads, you can either take 3 west to 29 south or go south on 95 to 64 west.

Things I suggest doing
- take off Friday early and hit the free downtown concert Fridays After Five
- wake up early on Sat to enjoy the farmers market, go early
- visit Monticello or Montpelier
- for children, go to the discovery museum on the downtown mall (bricked over treed walking mall)
- on a warm summer day, get your bathing suit on and try tubing on the James River ( or )
- for adults, check out a wine tour

Suggestions on vineyards
Stone mountain vineyards (tiny country road, well worth it for the view)
Horton vineyards
Barboursville (Shakespeare in the ruins is fun)
White Hall
There are many many more, so be sure to check both the Charlottesville website and google

While in town, be sure to experience cville dining. I suggest Mas for Spanish tapas, Blue Light for seafood and pasta, Bang for Asian, South Street Brewery for good food and delicious in house microbrews. Sal's pizza and atomic burrito are always good and quick. I haven't tried Ten, but I hear its THE place for sushi.

This town has a lot of art and music. You can catch a show at the restored Paramount Theatre (get tickets well in advance) or check for concerts either at the downtown amphitheater (Charlottesville Pavilion) or at John Paul Jones arena on UVA's campus. If you go in the fall the school hosts the Virginia film festival with shows all over town. Almost all of the places downtown and on 'the corner' have live music one night a week. Even atomic burrito which has all of probably 5 tables has a DJ or band. Art galleries are spread throughout the city, and have various hours. Stop at any grocery store on the way into town and pick up either C'Ville Weekly or The Hook for a good listing of happenings.

Of course if you have teens thinking of college, be sure to get a tour of the UVA campus. Look for the signature Jefferson walls, and the optical illusion of the lawn. Go to 'the corner' (around 1500 University Ave for your GPS) for a view of college life, get a UVA cap at the bookstore, or a Gus burger at the white spot restaurant.

Whew, I started this thinking of a weekend, but I think you could easily turn it into a week. If you stay, check out the many b&b's. Silver Thatch Inn is a popular place, if you have the time to venture up the blue ridge parkway, you might think of staying at Graves Mountain Inn.

Keep your eyes open for celebs, but if you see one please act like a local and don't act crazy. They are all very normal people. Its funny to look down the bar and realize who you might be having drinks with. They much prefer to talk about the special on the menu as the last thing you saw them in.

Message for Memorial Day

Below is a Memorial Day message from Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the armed forces of the United States

"'Let no ravages of time testify to the present or the coming generations that we, as a people, have forgotten the cost of a free and undivided republic.'

"With that solemn promise, Army General John Logan signed the order in 1868 that established Memorial Day. We have honored his promise faithfully ever since, and this year -- with our nation still at war and a new generation of heroes fighting and dying for freedom -- we will do it again.

"The 'cost' of which Logan wrote is, of course, the blood spilt of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It is the hardest currency of all, once spent never to be recouped, a debt we can never truly, fully repay.

"And yet, Memorial Day provides us the opportunity at the very least to acknowledge that debt, to recognize this incredible sacrifice and to recommit ourselves to making sure it wasn't spent in vain.

"Upon the graves of our war dead -- be they from Lexington and Concord; Gettysburg and Antietam; the Argonne Forest or the beaches of Normandy; Chosin and Inchon; Saigon and the Mekong Delta; Baghdad or Kandahar -- rests not only the memories and the pride of valor past, but the hope and the vision of a better, more peaceful future.

"Please join me this Memorial Day in remembering, on behalf of present and coming generations, the deep and abiding debt we owe to our fallen and to their loved ones."

New Gas Price Widget will now be providing local gas prices through a GasBuddy widget

Current data:
Lowest Gas Prices in Fredericksburg
Sunoco201 Jefferson Davis Hwy & Hanson Ave
Wawa275 Butler Rd & Chatham Heights Rd
7-Eleven905 Lafayette Blvd & Shepherd St
7-Eleven1 Commerce Pkwy & Warrenton Rd
Wawa830 Warrenton Rd & Lichfield Blvd
7-ElevenRt 3 (in front of Ukrops)
Wawa4527 Plank Rd & Chewning Ln
Wawa2390 Plank Rd & Gateway Blvd
Pure1600 Princess Anne St & Canal St
Texaco2010 Princess Anne & Bunker Hill
Fredericksburg Gas Prices provided by

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gas - How High Will it Go?

This morning when I drove to the VRE, gas was $3.73. On the way home, it was $3.77. Went out later tonight, it was $3.83. Wow. I'm sorta at a loss for words.

So a few weeks ago I posted this snapshot from the previous tank of gas in my Ford Escape Hybrid. By the time I was done with the tank of gas, my average was down to 34.5mpg. Not too bad for a vehicle rated 30 city/34 Highway.

I sometimes wonder if some drivers care about their gas mileage. There can be a considerable difference from accelerating with a puuuuuuuurrrrrrr vs. hearing a raaaarrrrrrr. Yet every evening I tend to hear at least one or two cars just in the time it takes to get from the VRE station back home (3 miles).

On that particular good tank of gas, here were the things I attempted to do:
- When no one was behind me, accelerate at hypermiling, but I am doing better than the sticker estimates. If you don't have a hybrid, many of these things will still benefit your vehicle, especially those with a continuously variable transmission.

Of course there is always the fall back plan to use the bike around town. I passed Sunken Well the other day and probably 5 bikes were locked up to the street sign outside. It was a beautiful sight.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Historic Half followup

The general consensus was that the Historic Half was hugely successful. The feeling of increased retail and restaurant business, along with good management of traffic, seems to have resulted in a great weekend of fun for many. We were one family that wondered how the various street closures were going to work, especially around the hospital. In the end, I think it worked pretty well. The race course had it's challenging sections, and it seems like there were plenty of places to watch from (the best one I saw was folks watching from the RT1 Bridge over RT3 sidewalks - wish I had thought of that).

So for all those that missed the race this year, get your running shoes on and get ready to register for next year's race. We should have the opportunity to host the Historic Half for the next few years.

Here are the dates for the next four years:
May 17, 2009
May 16, 2010
May 15, 2011
May 20, 2012

Sat Night Luminary Tour

From the website and

15,300 candles light the Fredericksburg National Cemetery for the annual luminaria to honor those who have given their lives for their country.

Saturday, May 24, 2008 (rain date, Sunday, May 25, 2008). Program open to the public from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm. The cemetery will remain open until the luminaria lights are out.

The program includes a historical walking tour to view the illumination of 15,300 candles, one for each solider buried in the cemetery on Marye's Heights. Taps will be played every 30 minutes.

Due to limited parking, a free shuttle service will be provided from the University of Mary Washington parking lot on the corner of William Street and Sunken Road. Handicap parking will be available in the parking lot behind the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center and people shuttled up to the cemetery.

Sponsorship Information:
Volunteers make this event possible, your support is greatly appreciated.

A service project by:
* The Commonwealth Girl Scout Council
* Boy Scouts of America
* Friends of Fredericksburg Area Battlefields
* Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

Kalahari traffic

This past weekend the city had its first dry run of traffic from kalahari. Of course I'm talking about the visitors from the Marine Corps Historic Half. With 5800+ runners, family cars etc, arriving on Friday and Saturday, area residents got a feel for what traffic will be like with 2000+ extra cars a day. I didn't see any VDOT counters out to verify the numbers here, so we'll use conservative estimates.

The presentations from Kalahari on traffic flow show an influx of visitors during the day, settling down as heavy rush hour(s) traffic picks up. Listening to the radio on Friday evening, their didn't seem to be any unusual traffic on I-95 at the RT3 interchange. Backups on RT3 can be attributed to normal afternoon commuter traffic. There was added volumn around the Central Park area, particularly over at Celebrate Virginia. The same goes for Saturday, when you would have thought that there was no problem with the economy with the number of vehicles in CP.

So for all those speaking against the new resort based on traffic congestion, take a look back at your Friday/Saturday commutes and see if you noticed much of an impact.

Embarrasing Activities

Ok, this is a follow-on post to my previous one "Excessive Noise leads to Tax Cheat". I have been telling friends, coworkers and neighbors about the nice job the city and local organizations have done this summer in putting together a series of music events, and other activities to invite people out to the city. I hope that the good work generates a sense of community, where residents from here and surrounding areas can get together, share a drink, tell some stories, listen to some music, and have a good time.

Today I opened the paper, and not one, but two stories slapped me in the face. I'm embarrassed at the sometimes prudish behavior exhibited here. The story about the bar raid - it's obvious that the main intent wasn't the unpaid taxes, it was because of a one night event. If it had been the taxes, and the ABC violation for carrying a beer to the parking lot, the city would have left it at that, but no - they had to include in the concerns the Girls Gone Wild event.

Couple that with an editorial Ms Wilson wrote talking about how city police asked her to leave the dog park, and I get the distinct impression that all the talk about inviting people into the city to spend money here is just that - TALK. Actions speak louder than words. I have NEVER been asked when visiting a dog park to state my residency. I live here in the city - and I'm embarrassed of our behavior. The dog park is like a theater, it's an enticement to get people into the city. I'm proposing that the city lighten up, encourage people and their dogs to take a walk downtown to get lunch after playing in the park.

What a disappointing news day.

Excessive noise leads to tax cheat?

[Editor's Update] The way the news articles are written obviously are meant to entice readers. A city council member did email me to say that the Commissioner of Revenue had identified the owner for failure to pay taxes. So how it went from that, to being tied to lewd behavior in the news stories - well, draw your own conclusions. When I wrote this, I didn't intend to let the owner off the hook. He is accussed of failing to pay taxes, and they should prosecute as strongly as possible on that case.]

Front page of the region section in today's FLS is an article about a local bar owner arrested for ABC violations, and not paying taxes. It's repeated on NBC4, but with more biased headline "Bar Owner Faces Charges Following 'Girls Gone Wild' Event". But take a look at what prompted the investigation, and you start to get an uneasy feeling. The paper stated

"excessive noise" - its a bar
"public urinating" - patrons should be arrested
"cars peeling out" - again, the offending patron should be arrested.

I will point out that Virginia ABC laws do make it a liability to continue to serve someone who is intoxicated, so the owners don't get a fee pass. I just hope for their case that the raiding of the bar was based more on what they found after starting the investigation, not what the paper printed as past complaints.

Still feeling uneasy - last year Sunken Well was prevented from extending their hours to a more reasonable weekend closing time.

Moral of the story here I guess is to stick to the rules, and don't invite the "girls gone wild" crew to your bar, and make sure your business has the correct licenses.

WAIT a minute, you mean my tax dollars paid for city detectives to see the girls gone wild promotion, and purchase beer! Maybe I should consider a city job!

Work to the rule

Did I miss something? According to the requests during last months city budget hearings, our city schools are in danger of loosing teachers to Stafford because of their wages! Now front page of the FLS, there are the Stafford teachers looking like they are on picket lines. I'm sure the city school system would gladly take the resume of any good teacher and consider them.

Good or bad, Virginia is a right to work state. If you're unhappy with your job, look around and find something better.

Let's take another view, if Stafford is unhappy, because their salaries can't compete with Loudoun, Manassass etc, and Fredericksburg and Spotsy try to match Stafford, and then king George matches Spotsy, next thing you know we're all paying Loudoun prices, but with substantially less revenue and cost of living.

I know its tough, I grew up in a family of teachers, but I'm tired of business as usual. Kudos to Fredericksburg city school board for cutting expenses to get a cola raise. But don't put it on the front page that we can't do everything we want because of those reduced expenses.

If the surrounding areas were gutsy, maybe they could have run an add on page 2, "don't work to the rule, instead come work for us".

Monday, May 19, 2008

My 2 Cents Worth 2.52c

Have you seen an establishment lately that DOESN'T have a give-a-penny take-a-penny tray? Several weeks ago I was reading this article about the cost to manufacture pennies and nickels. The price of copper still enjoys record prices, and based on conversations with people in construction, even Fredericksburg has experienced copper thefts.

What I don't understand is why the federal reserve and the government are stuck on continuing to produce these two coins. Sure, the Jefferson and Lincoln fans would probably want to move their faces to some new currency. I don't know about you, but I hate carrying around such small fractions of a dollar. I'll hang onto dimes and quarters (ok, I'll save the nickels, but I think it's more of a size of coin, not value). The pennies go into the give-a-penny every time. Today at lunch I didn't even wait for the lunch mart owner to hand me the few cents change. I also regularly find he rounds out change, instead of 23 cents, it's a quarter back.

It'll probably take a government funded study on the efficiency of making penny change before the big wigs figure out that it's getting rediculous. Oh wait - there it is, Wikipedia says the studies have already been done. Not to mention inflation doubles roughly every 20 years, so it would take 32 cents to purchase what that penny bought in 1908. Maybe we could leave the electronic value of a penny for use as micropayments. Stocks already trade at 10th of a penny value.

But what would fill the give-a get-a penny trays? Wait, maybe we could get rid of them. If the value of a coin is so little that we leave them just laying around, I think it's time to nix it.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Historic Half Photos

Gail and I were helping out at water station six for this morning's Historic Half.

First off, Tim Young sporting the JMU jersey coming up the hill on Sam Perry Blvd. He was well ahead of 2nd and 3rd place runners, and went on to win.
Mary Washington had setup time slots for helping man the water stations, so we were able to start out a little later in the morning. We snapped this on the way into down going under the Rt1 bridge.
The first of two flag bearing runners.
These ladies were happy to be rounding out the field. Quote "You'll remember the faces of the first and the last." They were in good spirits, and stopped to chat just a bit and down some cool water. Powerade and water were the drinks of the day. By this station, water was overwhelmingly the choice.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Marathon Setup

Had to go out to the Expo Center today to sign in as a worker for the half marathon. On the way down Blue & Grey Parkway, we noticed someone cleaning up all of the temporary ad signs along the roadway. There were a few dumpsters placed in odd places, however I'm sure it's for convenience. The rain this week obviously set groups back a few days of setup and prep time. Most businesses have cut their grass along the roadways and look GREAT. The medians around street exits (rt1, I-95) seem overgrown, and at Hurkamp park the contractor was still working on the brick sidewalk this morning. At the pace they were going, I wouldn't be surprised if they finished it up today.

I turned the corner to leave the expo center and couldn't stop laughing at this view for some reason. Hopefully 6000 runners won't all need to go at the same time.
By the time we returned home, a few enterprising builders already had new home for sale signs up. Oh well, at least most of the grass is cut, and the city seems ready for a great event.

Rec Center Lunch

Today Gail took me out for one of those classicly fredericksburg meals - a hotdog at the Rec Center. I had one chili, and one cheese. The fries are incredible. And afterwards, I found out something about Gail that I never new, she's a fan of pinball! I knew we were a perfect match! Notice that authentic Pac-Man sitting next to the pinball machine. It's got to be a refurb, the joystick still had texture on it, and the lettering around the buttons wasn't rubbed off. I love this place (and of course the woman playing pinball).

Friday, May 16, 2008

'Morality' in print

In today's FLS, Donnie Johnston once again demonstrates poor judgement in a headline. For those that didn't read it, he throws out there that there is a moral decision to be made to stop using corn for ethanol. At best you can say this article isn't researched, at worst he is giving I'll advised opinions and ignoring data. Even more alarming is that his column is syndicated -

In this column, Mr Johnston talks about the cost of corn going from $2 to $6 a buschel due to ethanol use, it is also higher due to increased farm costs, increased labor costs, and more demand. He doesn't even mention that the predecessor to the ethanol additive has been found to pollute out water supplies, nor that researchers are looking for alternatives such as switchgrass for making ethanol.

My bigest issue with this column is how it sets the argument as moral. Right there on the front of the Region section, "AT WHAT point does using corn for fuel become a moral issue?" is the first sentence. Not the opinion section, but the front of the region section. If we are going to make strategic national decisions, I really hope that we don't use morals as the anchor. Check out what is considered moral to this town in India where a family admitted to murdering two people (three for those counting the unborn child).

Morals are much too porus to use them as basis for sound scientific or economic analysis.

Fun Run on Sunday

For those of us that aren't quite as athletic to run a 1/2 Marathon, I was just reminded that on Sunday at 7:15 am everyone else can run in the Semper Fred Fun Run.

Already we can see an appreciable influx of visitors here for Sunday’s race. On your calendar for the weekend, don't forget the Semper Fred two-mile fun run at the Expo Cener on Sunday morning. That race starts at 7:15 a.m. You can sign up on line at
... the Semper Fred shirts look pretty cool!!

The 'Burg, Spring and Green Grass

The FLS posted this video of the race course for the 1/2 Marathon this weekend. They are allowing embedding this in other webpages, so I'm including it here. Take a few minutes to watch the entire video, and you realize how pretty the city is. I know that sometimes I forget to look around and see how nice the streets look, how many trees there are, how our streets are nicely paved w/relatively few potholes, and that most are nicely shaded.

Rockin' Weekend

Well, if you were waiting for a weekend to get out and do something on the town, this weekend is IT. The events are just popping up all over. Here is what I could pull together in just a few searches!

FRIDAY May 16th
Five Year Anniversary Gala at LibertyTown Arts
7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Various Live Bands:
The Shoredigger's Cats - 7pm Frederick's
Bobby T. and The Magic Voyagers - 9pm Colonial Tavern
Roger Henderson - 9pm Blarney StoneCadillac Rock Box, Fall Back Plan - 8pm Hard Times CafeUnheard Concept, Method of Friction - KC's (Central Station)
Bill Kirchen - 10pm The Loft
That 80's Band - Bogey's Sports Bar

Marathon Sidewalk Sale
All Day Downtown, various merchants

Children's Miracle Network fundraiser
9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fredericksburg Fairgrounds

Embry Dam & Fredericksburg Canal Tour
10 a.m. - 1 p.m. Friends of Rappahannock

Healthy Lifestyle Expo and Packet Pick-up presented by Aetna
10 a.m. - 8 p.m., Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center

36th Annual Fredericksburg Arts Festival
10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Hurkamp Park

Concert on Campus
3 p.m. - 5 p.m., University of Mary Washington

Ye Olde Pasta Party
5 p.m., Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center

Rock the Block Party
5 p.m. - 8 p.m., Sophia Street parking lot in downtown Fredericksburg

Various Live Bands:
Pete Mealy & Laurie Rose Griffith - 9pm Blarney Stone
Hobo Scarecrow - 7:30 The Griffin Bookshop
The Low Boys - 10pm The Loft
Bitter, Demolition Faction, Bucket - KC's (Central Station)
Method of Friction - Bogey's

Marine Corps Historic Half
7 a.m., Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center (and all around town)

36th Annual Fredericksburg Arts Festival
11 a.m. - 4 p.m. Hurkamp Park

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Our Thin Atmosphere

While the politicos down in Richmond battle over how to tax people to pay for transportation, and I sit here thinking about the price of gas, a friend from college was working on his hobby in Texas. One of his hobbies over the last few years has been to build a photo/video payload lofted with weather balloons to 100k feet, high enough in the atmosphere to capture the curvature of the earth, and the darkness of space.

I would not have considered the two related, but today he posted videos from his third attempt. Part of the posting included this comment "It’s hard to believe that our atmosphere is so thin and extremely fragile".

Earl's High Altitude Photographic Balloon project launch #3 page contains several videos of the launch, the edge of space, then landing and recovery. The recovery was a bit harrowing as the payload came down in a large lake, but luckily it was near the edge and they were able to enlist a boater to assist in the rescue.

That thin fragile atmosphere is all we've got.

(not exactly a Fredericksburg story, but hey, creative license on the application to global environmental issues)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Rappahannock River @ 9' and almost steady

The USGS readings at seem to be up an running. The latest reports are 9.86 ft at 9pm. Here are some afternoon photos as the river passed 9ft (measured the old fashioned way with a sign). These pictures were taken this afternoon, which would indicate that the signage isn't exactly calibrated to the USGS sensors.

Earlier this spring the receiving station for the electronic gauge was damaged due to a lightning strike.
Based on the chart of the river height throughout the day, it seems like the river peaked around 7pm tonight, and has held steady or dropped just slightly. NOAA's advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service is currently forecasting the level to rise to the 10.6ft by 2am.

Won't be launching any boats today

Here is a luck shot I was able to get looking across the boat ramp to the no wake sign. The bird is flying just over one of the pylons holding the edge of the walkway around the boat ramp. Take note of the round things in the water - those are the caps on the pylons.
Here is a photo from a few months ago. See the caps on the pylons? That is all that is visible today. It's hard to read, but the last number at the top of the river gauge in this picture is 9'. I no longer saw this sign sticking out from the water, it must have broken loose.

Fredericksburg Photo Tour

InTheBurg updated photos on Panoramio today of downtown Fredericksburg. This list of places to see and eat will be growing over the next few months as I get the time to take more photos. These should now start showing up on the "explore this area" feature when you use google maps.

LINK FOR RSS readers:

The wall that was

Whatdya know, that cemetery wall got in the way of another bumper. Have you noticed how the police reports discussed almost never include the drivers cause for running into the wall?

Check out the city beat

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fburg bloggers overtake FLS

The bloggers have taken over! Ok, maybe its just a short term lead, but today I noticed that Fredericksburg bloggers posted more local articles on 5/7 than the Free Lance-Star. See for yourself over at and compare those posts to the RSS local feed for the FLS. This is becoming a more regular occurrence. Its nice to see more and more interest in local reporting.

I can't speak for other bloggers, but web traffic is up on over the last two weeks. A large portion of visitors are looking for upcoming event info, particularly the Marine corps half marathon. My hope is that the new visitors to town will also read about other places to visit and feed the local economy.

So to the other bloggers, good job! Keep up the hard work, and I look forward to what's to come!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Time for Hybrid Vehicles

Last year I traded in a older Dodge Durango that I had really enjoyed for way too many miles. After an extensive search for a replacement, I settled on a new 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid. This vehicle didn't have the amount of interior space, but after really evaluating how often I used that space, I decided to downsize just a bit. The Escape is one of the few hybrids that is rated for towing. Ford doesn't have a factory tow package, but a quick trip to Leonard Building & Truck Accessories on the corner of RT1 and Cowan fixed it right up. I can now use our hitch mount bike rack, and also tow my utility trailer with no problems at all.

The real reason for this post is that this weekend I filled up with gas, and after going a number of miles down RT1 in traffic around 40mph, I was able to snap this picture at a stop light.
The 40mph speed is the sweet spot for the Escape Hybrid. My average tank of gas is getting 31+ mpg, and I expect that even though I started off very high on this tank, it will be back in the mid-30s by the time I'm done. The mileage killer for me is the daily commute to the VRE. It's only a little more than 3 miles, but Ford programmed the hybrid to run for 5 minutes at startup to warm up all of the pollution controls/catalytic converters. So it doesn't get to kick into full electric until I'm pulling into the parking lot. Then in the afternoon, it's a steady climb up a hill, so again, no electric. All-in-all, a very happy customer here.

Kybecca's Semi-Official Opening

[Edit 5/16 - Didn't open this week after all (check their blog), we'll have to wait patiently]

Check out Kybecca's blog post today about their limited opening SOON. ...before getting to try out the new awning, sidewalk, and experience downtown! I wonder if they would consider doing a cheese & cheese event if something happens to the ABC license process?

I've learned in the past not to judge any place by the first say two weeks of operations - remember that this is when everyone from servers to managers are still learning how everything works with a full service. Hopefully there won't be any major stumbling blocks, and everyone likes wine and cheese right? The sidewalk looks great, the awning is pretty impressive, I know their wine selection is great, lets hope that their next adventure is equally successful.

Not sure about the first few weeks, but I did talk with them last night and confirmed that there will be a bottle service arrangement with the store (purchase any bottle at the store, and have it opened at the table for a small surcharge of $10 - much less than ordering a bottle in a restaurant). They are also going to have several dozen wines by the glass. And as with most wine bars, you will also be able to order flights of wine, several sampling sizes at once.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tomzak Wins City Election

I had the pleasure this evening of being at the celebration party for Tom Tomzak. It was an exciting night, with Mayor Tomzak thankful that it's over with. He pointed out that it took a team, which was the basis of his campaign all along. Here are a few photos from the event. Expect to see lots more tomorrow in the paper, I saw the newspaper (Emily Battle - City Beat) there, along with two radio stations.

Tomzak won by 1901 to only 1085 votes. That's a pretty good referendum on where the city has been over the last 4 years, and shows support for the path the city is going down. 27% of registered voters made it out to the polls today.

In other news Mary Katherine Greenlaw garnered the most votes for an at-large seat. She will be joined by incumbent Kerry Devine.

I have video, but the audio didn't turn out that great, so for now we have to do with just photos.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Bacon's Rebellion: Second Battle of Fredericksburg

Over at Bacon's Rebellion is an extensive article on Kalahari:
Bacon's Rebellion: Second Battle of Fredericksburg

Siblings, NASCAR, Horse Racing & Beer

Notes from around the web today:

I always knew it, now for all of us ‘oldest’ kids, we have a study supporting our long founded belief that we had it tougher as reported by MSNBC

And now I know why I watch NASCAR instead of horse racing. They both go around a circle turning left, but in NASCAR when cars two and three bump into each other, it’s only bruised feelings and some angry fans to deal with, not having to watch a racehorse be euthanized. Although I can’t be completely innocent on this one, I did enjoy a mint julep on Sat in celebration of the derby. Take a look at the differences in the sports, years ago when a racing legend died in a late race accident, the sanctioning body imposed extensive safety equipment requirements (head and neck restraints, better seats, safer barriers on the race track walls, and eventually designed a new car with a better roll cage and cushioning foam). Where have the safety improvements been in horse racing?

Finally, for anyone that isn’t enjoying the re-emergence of beer, let me point out the good publicity it’s been getting lately. Again MSNBC has an article on 6 festivals worth visiting …I also point anyone locally to our very own regional blog Musings Over A Pint at

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Fridays and other happenings this weekend

Friday night we headed out to First Fridays (Finally Fridays, but on the first friday for the first few weeks). By 8 the place was filling up.

The wishing trees had a variety of strings tied to them. This one I thought was particularly thought provoking.

Doing double duty. This guy was rocking the keyboards, while adjusting the sounds. I don't think I ever heard him skip a beat.

The kids (and earlier some adults) enjoyed the tree climb.

It was a great night, some great old dance songs, a little reggae, beach tunes. What an evening to be out on the town.

We followed last night up this morning with a trip out to the school for the hurricane supplies drill, where the gaurd and scouts loaded us up with three cases of water (I wonder where the tarps and other supplies were?) . Then we went downtown to the market, found our favorite lamb sausage and homemade butter. After that it was time to head east on Rt3 to Mayfest XXII to benefit RAAI (RASCB). We ended up with a car full of flowers and plants, and even managed to win an item from the raffle. The weekend has started off with a bang! Now off to go dig in the dirt for a little while.

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