Monday, June 30, 2008

New Travel Bag

The other week I had the opportunity to experience the joy of traveling after the airlines started charging for the 1st and 2nd bags. Needless to say, trying to finding an overhead bin was "fun". Just before the trip, I retired my old 21" carry on. My new favorite bag is a 17" SwissGear bag from Target. It was a difficult decision between this bag or the 17" Eddie Bauer bag. I ultimately went with the SwissGear bag because it has 2 pockets on the outside, similar to my old luggage. The Eddie Bauer bag had a sleeve for a laptop, but my laptop always travels in the backpack instead. The real beauty of this bag is that it will fit wheels first on the short side of an American Airlines MD-80. On this trip I had the opportunity to try it out on an Express Jet & US Airways Embraer, and US Airways Airbus 320. Even on the small commuter jet, where most people have to gate check a bag, this one goes right on the plane and into the overhead bin.
Anyone considering carrying on a bag, should consider going as small as possible, to give them maximum options. This SwissGear 17" bag will even fit on European airlines which are more restrictive than US carriers.

Events this Weekend

This is going to be a weekend to celebrate (actually it started this past weekend with fireworks at Spotsylvania Court House). Starting Friday there is the Beach Wop series at the Volvo/Mercedes dealers park. Then on Friday their are a series of events for the Heritage Festival, quoted from the visitors center:

A traditional family Fourth of July celebration throughout the region with a
runner's race, parade, craft show, antique auto show, live entertainment,
children's activities, and great food, all crowned with a fireworks display
If it's open, you can also watch the display from the city's Old Mill Park, or just about anywhere downtown.

If that doesn't suit you, there is the Fabulous 4th at Ferry Farm. Another family celebration that goes all day.

Then on Saturday, The Taters are playing Bluemont at 7:30pm. Unfortunately it looks like their Friday 7/4 appearance at the Museum has been cancelled. At 'press time' I do not yet have a replacement band for the museum, which has tentatively moved the concert to Saturday but are still searching for a band.

Bicycling in Fredericksburg (updated)

Today's FLS lead off today with a front page article on Bicycling around the Fredericksburg area. As good as the article was at bringing up the major issues for people wanting to ride in and around the city, it missed a few vital bits of information.

The article had some good tips for bikers, however, I would move their last tip to #1 - wear a helmet. I see this missing safety gear every day I'm out, and I wouldn't think of leaving the house without my helmet. Maybe it's my tendency to cut it too close on trees, or my general lack of trust of drivers, especially those talking on their cell phone. Please, please, please wear a helmet.

The Fredericksburg area does have a bicycle organization supported by the city. They have put together a plan for city riding trails. The pathways plan has become part of the City's comprehensive plan. All new road projects are expected to have bike lanes or pathways large enough for pedestrians and bicycles such as Cowan Blvd. Unfortunately legacy roadways are a difficult fix.

Just this weekend this group was opening up the Smith Run trail (see blog post here). This trail connects several streets and neighborhoods. I like this trail addition because it allows me to ride from Rt3 to Cowan Blvd, which then connects me to downtown, all without having to ride on Rt3 or the Blue & Grey parkway.

Just this week, the city received notice that they will receive a $410k grant from VDOT for work on the Rappahannock Heritage Trail. This work will go toward extending the existing trail and connecting to the canal trail.

The Rappahannock River Heritage Trail will begin where the established Canal Trail ends at Princess Anne Street, then will cross over to Caroline Street, and follow along the Rappahannock River down Riverside Drive. The trail then goes up Fall Hill, to the other end of the Canal Trail at the Fall Hill bridge, forming a complete loop.

The article did mention work on the Virginia Central Trail, which is a rail bed that once extended from the Fredericksburg canal (train station) all the way into Orange County. This will be a nice easy flat ride from I-95 to downtown once completed.

[Update 6/30]
A few more links that I failed to mention before: (Fredericksburg Bike Club) (Mountain Bike Trails & Racing) (Team from Bike Works downtown) (Bike Shop on Rt 3)

Get out and bike more.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tree Requirement for Development

This week I took a few more samples in my experiment of temp differences between area strip malls and treed neighborhoods. By far, Altoona which was built in the 70's and has tons of trees beats every shopping area by 5+ degrees or more. The smallest difference was 3 degrees and that was a day with a few clouds, but the temp was 95+. These differences become more apparent as the temps cross 90. I don't really think to check the gauge on days when it's cooler. I expect an overcast day like today with a temp around 87F, we probably wouldn't see much difference.

When are governments going to get real about creating a healthy place to live? Endless expanses of parking lots might signal good retail income. However, if that same parking lot is shaded by adequate tree cover, it not only helps to replace trees removed by development, it will help lower temps in these hot spots. Virginia Tech cooperative extension has even done research on which trees are good choices for parking.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hybrid Safety

This guy gets pulled over for doing 50 on I-95 - is he an idiot? He sure gives those of us that drive Hybrids a bad name. I've been known to stretch mpg when there is no one around, because I'm not impacting anyone else's safety - but to try to do this on I-95? What? The guy deserved a ticket, not just a warning. Just goes to show you that common sense can evade anyone.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

City Council Update

InTheBurg is actively trying to assist in the combined effort of - so tonights update in city council news is posted there.

I encourage everyone to go read it, as well as check out the new website that is attempting to pull together full blown original news from around the area.

City Services had a busy year

In the last fiscal year (ending June 30th), the city teams, employees, council and agencies have been very busy. Here is the list of items that apply to city council goals. This is just a slice of the overall picture of all the items the City does for residents and visitors (along with some of my comments).

1. Historic District Character and Vitality
a. Riverfront Park Development (Legacy Initiative) - 2 of 3 properties acquired
b. Downtown Streetscape and Service Improvements - sidewalks/signage
c. Downtown Parking Policies
d. Historic Preservation Plan
e. Executive Plaza Renovation and Use
f. Court Improvements Plan (Legacy Initiative)
g. Post Office Site Reuse

2. Character of the City and Neighborhoods
a. Comprehensive Plan Update Adoption and Zoning Ordinance Update
Significant Progress or Adoption
b. Zoning and Building Maintenance Enforcement Improvements
c. Neighborhood Streetscape Assessment and Repairs

3. Economic Vitality
a. Economic Development Program and JumpStart Implementation
b. Regional Tourism Partnerships
c. Celebrate Virginia South Development - Wegmans (2009) & Kalahari (2010)

4. Rappahannock River and the Environment
a. Riparian Lands Protection and Management Program - hired manager
b. Wastewater Treatment Plant Renovation or Consolidation
c. Stormwater Management and Erosion & Sediment Control Programs

5. Parks, Recreation & Open Space
a. Dixon Park Community Center
b. Pathways Plan - received VDOT grant for heritage trail, engineering on VCR trail
c. Park & Open Space Location and Master Planning

6. Public Safety
a. EMS Fee for Service
b. Fire Station 3 Evaluation Decision

7. Transportation
a. Fall Hill Avenue Improvements
b. Future of FRED Transit - new center up and running

8. Governance
a. Information Technology Management - look for new website coming soon
b. Emphasis of Continuous Improvement of Services
c. Refuse and Recycling Services Improvement

Water Safety - Stop The Drownings

After 2 drownings this year, lets talk about water safety.

WebMD has a good first step with these safety tips:

1. Whenever young children are swimming, playing, or bathing in water, make sure an adult is constantly watching them. By definition this means that the supervising adult should not read, play cards, talk on the phone, mow the lawn, or do any other distracting activity while watching children.
2. Never swim alone or in unsupervised places. Teach children to always swim with a buddy.
3. Keep small children away from buckets containing liquid: 5-gallon industrial containers are a particular danger. Be sure to empty buckets when household chores are done.
4. Never drink alcohol during or just before swimming, boating, or water skiing. Never drink alcohol while supervising children. Teach teenagers about the danger of drinking alcohol and swimming, boating, or water skiing.
5. To prevent choking, never chew gum or eat while swimming, diving, or playing in
6. Learn to swim. Enroll yourself and/or your children aged 4 and older in swimming classes. Swimming classes are not recommended for children under age 4.
7. Learn CPR (cardio-pulmonary resusitation). This is particularly important for pool owners and individuals who regularly participate in water recreation.
8. Do NOT use air-filled swimming aids (such as "water wings") in place of life jackets or life preservers with children. These can give parents and children a false sense of security and increase the risk of drowning.
9. Check the water depth before entering. The American Red Cross recommends 9 feet as a minimum depth for diving or jumping.

Specifically tips 1&2 and 6 have been factors in the last two drownings.

The city website documents that swimming is not allowed at Old Mill Park. It also states that no one should enter the water without a coast gaurd approved personal floatation device (life vest).

Now, onto what you can do. I'm a strong advocate of teaching children to swim asap.

According to Parents Fredericksburg, contact the following for lessons:
Dixon Pool: 310-0665
Little Fish Swimming (taught at Regency Park): 540-645-0954
Regency Park Sports: 786-8688
SwimKids at Central Park Sport&Health: 446-KIDS.
Tsunami Swimming: 540-371-4369
YMCA pools: both locations, 371-9622
Woodlands Pool: 658-4241
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 4 years for beginning lessons, based on a study showing that whether beginning at ages 2-4, they became proficient at 5 1/2. This article also points out that this doesn't mean you can't start working with children in a pool before that age. I can attest to my brother starting out at a very young age. We both spent a lot of time in a pool which has saved my butt several times.

Motorcycle Safety Foundation course

Oh how I have neglected the blog this week. This weekend I spent sweating it out at the Locust Grove Germana Campus parking lot at the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic RiderCourse. Friday night we spent four hours going over safe riding videos and book work. Saturday we spent the day building up motorcycle riding techniques, then Sunday we built on that with additional techniques. The last day encompasses both the written and riding tests. This was a great class for ANYONE that rides, and if you have many years of experience, they teach an experienced course. For someone with me with, lets admit it, no experience, it's a great way to safely get on a bike. Admittedly, the course teaches you to ride around in a parking lot. However, for my short 3mi commute to the train station, it taught all of the tools needed. Won't be jumping out on I-95 just yet.

As reported in the Examiner, accidents involving motorcycles is on the rise as ridership increases. Riders will find that taking the safety course will cut insurance rates and allow them to bypass the 30day learner period with DMV. Auto drivers will also benefit from the ForCarDrivers course to help recognize bikes on the road.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mars Water Ice

Ok, so give this earth away to the energy companies and global warming disbelievers - we can now totally **** up this world, we gots another one in the backyard with water just in case. News today is that the latest lander has uncovered evidence of water in the form of underground ice near the north pole of Mars. So at least now we have a fall back plan if we continue to poison our oceans, air and fresh water resources. We'll just have to figure out how to get the staples from here to there.

Sarcastic Rant finished (airport wine is looking better and better).

Rappahannock Ind. Film Festival

In September, the first Rappahannock Independent Film Festival will overtake the town (technically Third Floor at 810 Caroline St) from 9/18-21 with "Portraits in 24 Frames". They are now looking for volunteers. Anyone interested should attend the volunteer meetings either Wed June 18th or Thurs the 19th.

Much more info available over at their website and blog:

Fly ExpressJet

If every airline had service like ExpressJet, I'd be ecstatic. I had to go from Tucson to Sacramento, and flew on this exceptional small carrier. Their ERJ isn't the biggest jet, with just one flight attendant, but with the food service (hear that Airlines? Food on a 2 hour flight), snack offers, happy attendants, and on time service, the flight was exceptional. Oh, did I mention they gave out free ear buds for XM radio?

Their magazine in the back pocket wasn't a magazine at all, but a display of several places the airline flies, with activities and events that might be interesting to travelers. There were almost no ads. It's the only airline product I've seen recently that didn't have at least one Bose noise-cancelling headset ad.

All this for $120 for a one-way non-stop ticket.

Friday is Happiest Day of the Year

Reason to celebrate, Friday June 20th is the happiest day of the year, at least according to the Stress Institute. Read the full article in today's USA Today:

I know I'll be happy Friday if my airline gets me home on time. I should be getting back on the red eye in time to get a few zzz's before a full weekend. If all that happens as planned, I'll be very happy.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Soap Box Derby Street Closures

Thanks to "kcw" for the comments on a previous post. Here are the closures for Saturday's race.

Tomorrow, the Rappahannock Regional Soap Box Derby will roll through Fredericksburg again.
To ensure the safety of the drivers, roads near the track will be blocked off.
William Street will be closed to traffic between College Avenue and Washington Avenue.
Barricades will be placed on Sunken Road, Littlepage Street and Kenmore Avenue one block from their intersections with William Street.
Brompton Street will be open to resident traffic only.
The closures will last from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more info on the soap box derby, it's entrants, and what it takes to get into next years race, visit the FLS website here:

I Must Have This Mental Disorder

I've finally found out what's wrong with me (well, at least one thing). From Wired Magazine: WTF!? Internet Addiction Nominated for Entry in the Manual of Mental Disorders. That's it, I now have an excuse for ignoring the wife and the dog, for staying up way too late, for wondering why my thumb hurts after a busy day on the blackberry - it's a disorder! Not a personally flaw, not play time run amok, not being a jerk for hogging the Internet, it's a medical disorder! Wow, now can I get my insurance to pay for the ISP charges as part of my cure?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bluemont Schedule Posted

They finally posted the list of bands for Bluemont in Fredericksburg

Events this weekend

Biggest event this weekend is going to be the 5th annual soap box derby. Check out all the details here: .

If you want to get out on the river, Friends of the Rappahannock is having a canoe float:

June 14 - Civil War Canoe Float
Park Service Historian Greg Mertz will lead this engaging canoe trip through the history of the Civil War…from the river’s perspective. As you paddle down the river, you will stop at several sites to learn about significant Civil War events. This trip fills up fast, so register early! Bring a bag lunch. Min. age 8 yrs. 9am-4pm. $30 indiv/$60 family.

The great American canoe race has been postponed due to high water, but on Sunday you can still do paddle for a cause to benefit hospice and the SPCA.

A couple of places to catch some tunes:
KC's, The Colonial Tavern, The Griffin Bookshop, as well as many other local spots have live music. Monday night the library has the John Vreeland Jazz Quartet.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

City Council Meeting

Oh, lets see if I can sum up the city council meeting. I'm sure some of the hot topics (slavery museum) will be written up in the paper.
On the slavery museum asking for tax waivers (as allowed by law):
Former Governor Wilder was in the audience, and spoke about the possibilities of the slavery museum. I fear a few of his remarks such as "If we are successful, just consider the possibilities of what those revenues ..." are going to be. Sounds too visionary, with little backing. However, if you listen to the other supporters, you get a genuine heartfelt love for the museum. One of the most data driven comments was that the 40k per year in taxes could be money spent toward construction. A quick search of city records shows that previously the tax bill wasn't nearly that high. In 2006 and 2007 the assessment for the land was approx $380k. In 2008 that assessment is now $7.6M. Times are tight not only for the city but also for the fund raising activities related to the museum. Wilder stated that even some large donors are holding back on earlier commitments, or asking for a delay in when they send money. The item was deferred until 6/24 to do more research...
The city is requesting through state representatives that the GSA examine the per diem rate for Fredericksburg. Stafford shares the same rate as Prince William, which is $88 per hotel room per night. Technically Fredericksburg is not a defined city or county, therefore it falls into the standard statewide rate of $70 per night.
On Budget:
The rate appears to be $0.56 per $100 in value (needs another vote in 2 weeks). This rate means that city staff is going to take a hit, including some benefits limitations, and no raises. At the previously discussed $0.58, there was talk about at least 1/2 year raises, but some other benefits limitations. The affect is roughly $90 for a home valued at $300k.
The city is going to be required to reduced spending within city officers and outside agencies by $400k. The other $400k comes from a fund balance (reserve), which won't be available in future years. It was justified as a one time use in order to fund outside agencies. This gives outside agencies one year to look for alternate sources of revenue. The city grant writer will be busy. This also means that the city is operating on less revenue than last year, so expect to see some efficiencies, or reduction in services. It's setting the city up for a more difficult budget discussion next year.
Storm cleanup:
The city will continue to gather trees/limbs until 6/17. They noted that some equipment acquired last year is being put to good use, and doing work that previously would have required outside contractors.
The city is also rejecting a request for Northern Virginia Car and Bike Show since the application wasn't filed 60 days in advance. Apparently they can't pull together comprehensive plan for traffic, police and support. It's ~10,000 vehicles, which could have been a lot of ancilary revenue. Kinda funny since their website: is already selling tickets on their website for the Fredericksburg Fairgrounds. Shouldn't the fairgrounds have been all over the paperwork for this?

Monday, June 9, 2008

Memorial Info for Officer Bahr

Several of us have wondered if there was going to be a place to donate for fallen officer Bahr. Saw this on today's frederickburg city website:

In Memoriam

Officer Todd Allen Bahr, a two year veteran of the Fredericksburg Police Department, was killed in the line of duty on the night of Friday, June 6. Officer Bahr grew up in Stafford County, graduating from Stafford High School in 1986. He owned Damage Incorporated, a Stafford gun shop, and became an Auxiliary Officer for the Fredericksburg Police Department. He joined the ranks of full-time officers in September 2006 as a member of the Patrol division.

He is survived by his wife, Stefanie, his parents Kathy and Del Bahr of Fredericksburg, and his sister, Trisha Byrd of Port Orchard, Washington. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, in Washington D.C.

The family will received friends from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 11, at Covenant Funeral Service in Fredericksburg. A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m., June 12, at Spotswood Baptist Church, with burial with Police Honors immediately following at Sunset Memorial Gardens.

The City grieves for this sudden and tragic loss of a colleague and friend, and our hearts go out to Todd's wife, Stefanie, and Todd's parents and sister. Additional information is available on the Police Department web pages.

Spotsy ZIP codes - Google Affect

Over the weekend I was catching up on some area news articles. In particular I tried to read the chain of postings about Spotsylvania meetings related to changing 22407 and 22408 from "Fredericksburg, VA" to something else (links here, here and here). The reasons for doing this are to create community and to correct some tax payment confusion. But are the county supervisors forgetting the Google affect?

Let me explain. When I'm looking for any type of business, one of the first things I do if I'm anywhere close to my laptop or blackberry is to Google "business" near:Fredericksburg, VA. A quick browse down the list and I normally choose someone close by. If it's just a service that I need without visiting, I simply look for a Fredericksburg, VA address. If I need to visit, I tend to look for 22401. Businesses with Spotsylvania, VA are normally left out, with my belief that they are further away, therefor less timely if there is travel involved (Stafford, KG usually fall into this boat too).

I wonder what the impact is going to be if they switch to "Spotsylvania, VA". It might improve a little with "Massaponax, VA", but I doubt if out of town folks will associate Massaponax with Fredericksburg.

- buy fresh, buy local

City News

- The city will pick up storm damage "reasonable quantities of tree debris" until 6/17
- The city is going to be paving Rt3 from Gateway Blvd (Wawa) to Huntington Hills Ln (cemetery). The work should go from 9pm to 5am, so that it avoids most traffic. The city recommends using Cowan Blvd as an alternate.
- And for those that missed it, the city website has had a notice up for several weeks now about water safety on the Rappahannock.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Parking Lot Temps & Cold Beer

Ah, I'm sitting here with an ice cold Tecate, watching the birds and squirels fight over the bird feeder, on an absolutely balmy day. It's 5 degrees cooler here than at the strip mall in front of my subdivision.

Today I was out grabbing some paint and supplies, stopped by a shop in the Greenbriar shopping center, then decided that the overwhelming heat needed to be quenched with a little cold beer. I ducked into one of the most interesting markets around, our very own Latin Market. A quick browse of the beverage cooler, and I settled on a six pack of Tecate.

Hopped back in the car, and started out the parking lot. As I made the turn onto Altoona drive, I noted that the temperature was 101. Wow. Less than one mile later, I was sitting in my driveway in the Altoona subdivision, having watched the temp gauge on the car the entire way. The shaded neighborhood was registering a cooller 96. Can you believe it? 5 degrees just from having trees planted.

So my constant chatter about the acres and acres of parking lots has yet one more leg - temperature. Greenbriar is a classic flat parking area. It too is acres of asphault, with no coverage. I hate parking there, because there is no shade to hide a car under. Most of the time we just walk there anyway.

Check out the Latin Market if you get a chance, they have everything from authentic foods to cowboy hats. If you can speak a hint of spanish, it can be a lot of fun (hint: know your meats by their spanish name). Very friendly folks.

However, if you're affiliated with any developer in the area, please pass on how much I dislike this parking design.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Get Out and Do More

Lots of things happening this weekend, starting Thursday night at the new Volvo/Mercedes park (behind said dealerships on fall hill).

June 5 - Beach Wop @ 3400 Fall Hill Ave - $8/$4 The Rhondels
June 5 - Fredericksburg Festival of Arts #2 @ Trinity Episcopal Church - 7:30pm ($25 adults/Free otherwise)
June 6 - First Fridays @ Sophia St Lot - $4 - The Love Haters
June 6 - First Fridays @ the Museum - Praying the Rosemary with Emily Barker
June 6 - Fredericksburg Festival of Arts #3 @ Trinity Episcopal Church - 7:30pm ($25 adults/Free otherwise)
June 7,8 - The Great Rappahannock Whitewater Canoe Race
June 7 - Fredericksburg Festival of the Arts Music Concerts for children at Kenmore and Ferry Farm
June 7 - Fredericksburg Festival of Arts #4 @ The Presbyterian Church of Fredericksburg w/The Vivaldi Four Seasons ($25 adults/Free otherwise)
June 8 - SPCA Rescue Run downtown
June 9 - Dixie Power Trio @ Library,

On Saturday, there are also tons of interesting things going on for the whole family. There is a kids fishing derby at Mott's Run, the Rappahannock Model Railroad Club is having an open house at 406H Hudgins Road, the Chamber music series, the Antique Auto show downtown. All new art around town for First Fridays.

And of course, lots of bands at your favorite watering holes.

WOW what a weekend. (Next weekend is the Soap Box Derby)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Techie's Tornado/Emergency Supplies

In the spirit of the nation's hurricane supplies checklist, and the recent storms, let me give you my list of a techie's emergency supplies.

Short term power outage supplies
Laptop (or 2) - for use while lighting occurring outside, disconnect the power brick
UPS for the cable modem/voip/wireless router
UPS for the TV/DVR/Slingbox
Favorite beverage (whatever wine is in the fidge/rack, might as well keep a good mind)
Camera/video Cam (and extra mem cards/tapes)

Long term supplies

First Aid kit (I'm prone to accidents)
Ladder (to use w/the first aid kit)
Plenty of Mountain Dew (or other bev)
Water (just in case)
Grill (w/extra propane), small propane stove (just in case)
Food (non-perishable to use after grilling everything in the fridge)
Crank Lantern/cell phone charger
Crank/Solar Radio
Tarps (to keep the electronics dry in the event of damage)
Chainsaw (for when you're ready to go back to work)

Cooking Column in FLS

Emily Battle who writes the City Beat blog for the Free Lance-Star is branching out from the city stories and had her first cooking simple column in the Life section today (funny, I would have sworn the title was food, but in the online edition it's definitely life).

Check out the articles every two weeks. The first one out was WHITE BEAN PESTO DIP.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Thank You Medic 1

After being outside this weekend I was bitten by a tick (and maybe something else), and today at lunch my foot was swollen enough to make me consider going to a doctor. Note to other people - when things start swelling, it's time to go to the doctor. I took the normal train home, and went straight to Medic 1 on Rt1 across from the Ford Dealer.

I walked in at 5:50pm, even though I'd used them before, it took about 10 minutes to update paperwork, and by 6:25 I was back in the exam room. After the nurse left, it was only about 5 minutes before the Physician's Assistant Margo Bragg came in, explained I had a mild bacterial infection and got my prescription. One tetanus update later, and I was outa there (6:40pm).

That's service! Thanks so much to the staff and medical personnel for the fast, efficient, friendly care. This is what healthcare should be like.

Pay Raises

(warning, opinion ahead, let the beating begin)
The FLS more stories today here and here about the teacher cost of living increases, or lack of, in Stafford county.

A couple of interesting things in the report. One teacher states the need to carefully monitor their personal expenses because of the commute from Spotsylvania. The very next paragraph has protest organizers talking about potential job opportunities in Fairfax and Prince William counties. Are organizers looking at commuting expense and the time investment to work that far from home?

And since when does anyone have a right to expect a 4.5% raise every year for just doing the same job as last year? I myself have what I would call a nice engineering job. It required years of engineering school, then more after work education to get a masters. After many years of experience, I know not to expect a raise unless my company excels, and even then, it is usually no more than just cost of living. There is no concept of a step increase, no entitlement. If I want more money I need to go out there and perform better than my peers and beat out other companies for more work.

Bravo to those teachers riding bicycles to work. They are doing exactly what many of is commuters are doing, looking for cheaper modes of travel! And maybe they are teaching a lesson to some of the students - you might not need a car. Unfortunately I feel that others are mixing in a bad lesson about entitlement.

PS. The teachers that excel and promote the overall capability of the school system at this financially tight time should be generously rewarded after we come out of this hole. That's how the rest of a capitalist society work.

One Big Family

I knew I liked Barack Obama, and now I find out that he's really just one of the family. Well, we're all related if you go back far enough. I'm sure by now you've heard of the New England Historic Genealogical Society's study of the candidates family trees. Well, it turns out Senetor Obama is the 5th cousin 8 times removed to Robert E. Lee. R.E.Lee's brother Charles was 8 generations back on my tree. Meaning that we shared ancestors Richard Eltonhead & Anne Sutton. That makes us 13th cousins. Wow - wonder when he's going to invite me over for drinks?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ridiculous Theft

From the 5/23 police reports, some punk stoke a copper downspout from the Circuit Court building. If the courts aren't safe from quick fingers.... I hope they catch the guy and literally throw the book at him, or how about a rough downspout - that would be justice.

"Circuit Court, 815 Princess Anne St, 5/15 6:00 am – 5/19 6:00 am. A city employee reported
that a copper downspout was stolen from the exterior of the building. No suspects or witnesses at this time."

New Kalahari Site Drawings

The election is over, and the final votes on the letter of intent, tax vehicles, and incentive values have been cast. Now a few more things are starting to firm up on the Kalahari® plans for Fredericksburg.

The Frederickburg, VA resort is prominently presented on the very first page of the Kalahari® resorts website. Clicking through you can now get some images that show initial site plan sketches. The hotel and resort spaces encircle a grand entrance. This will be west facing, which matches the current expo center. The City of Fredericksburg has also uploaded the overall site plan sketch which shows the aerial view of how the resort will cover the development area.

From the pictures you can see the amount of construction this project really entails. All sides of the buildings seem to carry the Kalahari® design points, which will make it appealing from any direction. You can see in some of the drawings the indoor waterpark, with a partial glass roof. This will be on the interstate side of the building. There are roads constructed encircling the entire building. A closer look also reveals potential plans for connection to the existing expo center, with upgraded conference space between the hotel and the Expo Center. This additional conference space is planned for the area that is now the north parking lot at the Expo Center.

The drawings do not yet address one critical design element, lighting. The city currently has a zoning ordinance limiting glare from corporate lighting. Requests were sent to Kalahari® and Silver Companies requesting additional information. Scott Little of Silver Companies responded to my requests and indicated that exterior lighting is high on their radar, and will definitely be given some careful review. They also pointed out the number of other green initiatives that Kalahari® has undertaken. Some based on pre-existing zoning requirements such as low impact development, others based on sound business decisions, such as reducing water usage, and some initiatives have been undertaken as good neighbors.

The Kalahari® website calls at these items on their green initiatives page which documents what some of the other two locations have done.

  • AquaRecycle® system for resort laundry will conserve 26 million gallons of water each year (From their press release this is allowing them to recapture up to 70% of their laundry water)
  • Roof top solar panels which heat more than 60% of the hot water for the resort’s laundry facilities
  • Entergize Energy Control Systems in guest rooms which control energy use based on guest presence
  • Low-flow showerheads for guest rooms, reducing water consumption by 2.46 million gallons per year
  • Most advanced lighting control systems in the industry
  • Transition to energy saving fluorescent light bulbs
  • Motion sensor lights in public areas
  • Low-flow dishwasher spray heads
  • Upgrading to digital thermostats in guest rooms
  • Low energy consumption water pumps in the park
  • Upgrading exit signage to LED display
  • Installation of massive fans in the Waterpark to lower heating costs by pushing warm air near the ceiling to floor level

It's apparent that Silver Co's is involved in the parking design (I don't know that for a fact, so let me explain). The massive parking lots are reminiscent of Central Park, which show tons of pavement separated by miniature islands barely big enough for one or two trees. The current zoning ordinances to not require any type of parking lot design, except that businesses are required to provide adequate parking. The current design is going to result in a lot of roasting dashboards. I've often thought a parking deck would have been great paired with the large hotel space, however, that plan would require more upfront investment.

Several people, myself included, questioned the height of the hotel, in relation to the river. Unless something major changes with the design, it shouldn't be any problem. There is a ridge just south of the Rappahannock river that creates a fairly high sight line. With Google and a little geometry you can calculate out that boaters shouldn't be able to see the resort from the water, or even the far bank. Now if they can figure out how to keep all that parking lighting turned down at night, I'll be much happier (sorry, couldn't resist one more dig).

One other interesting 'future upgrade' to the resort is the addition of 20 "5-Key" condo buildings. This would mimic the condo ownership concepts that are in place at both the Sandusky OH and Wisconsin Dells WI locations.

I was actually quite impressed by the email I received back from Mr. Little of Silver Companies, so I hope he doesn't mind me reprinting it here. "...we remain focused on the finer points within these projects, and that Kalahari delights in actually addressing concerns, following through, and implementing environmentally friendly solutions. " If this project continues to listen to constructive criticism from the community, and explain how they weigh those concerns against business needs, this project will evolve successfully as a partner in the community.

As with all building plans, expect many changes and tweaks to the original plan. The expected opening of Dec 2010 is still a ways off (although it will be here before you know it).

(images from Kalahari® Resorts and City of Fredericksburg websites)

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