Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hard times for truckers

I saw this truck the other day. Look closely and you can see where someone has spray painted over both of the call in numbers for jobs. Guess this guy doesn't want the competition. This morning there was this article on the surplus of drivers http://mobile.reuters.com/mobile/m/FullArticle/CUSN/ndomesticNews_uUSTRE52U01L20090331?src=RSS-USN

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Ultimate Arts Directory

Is that what the city hopes to come up with as a result of the 2009 Arts survey? Check out the details here: http://www.fburgnews.com/2009/03/fredericksburg-cultural-inventory/

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Get Ready for the F'burg Soapbox Derby

Every year it seems to get bigger. Today's Weekender announced that registration for the June soapbox derby is now underway. I don't think our 6mo old will be ready to compete this year, but we will probably be out to watch the other contestants.


Turn It Off This Weekend

Earth Hour 2009 is just around the corner. Over 2000 cities and many individuals will be participating in Earth Hour on Sat the 28th from 8:30 to 9:30 pm. See what it's like at http://www.earthhour.org/home/

If the weather is nice, maybe we can all go outside and see a few extra stars.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bryan's Picks

2009 brings new events list to InTheBurg. I will be cross posting to fburgnews.com items by tagging posts with an events tag. This list is not everything going on in town, but it's my picks and highlights, things I think are going to be fun.

6/12 Molly Hatchet w/HOMEGROWN opening @ Celebrate VA Live
6/12 "Find A Patriot" w/Daughters of the American Revolution 5:30 to 7 pm at the Chancellor Ruritan Building 5994 Plank Rd, Fredericksburg, VA.
6/13 FOR Civil War Canoe Float - $30 individual/ $75 family
6/19 ZOSO (Led Zeppelin Tribute) @ Celebrate VA Live
6/20 FOR Family River Safety and Tubing Trip - $15 individual/ $45 family
6/26 Jo Dee Messina @ Celebrate VA Live
6/27 Black Sheep @ Bluemont located at Maury Stadium
6/27 FOR River Easement Hike and Float - $15 individual/ $45 family
7/4 Scott Ainslie @ Bluemont located at Maury Stadium
8/1 Notorious @ Bluemont located at Maury Stadium
7/7 Dark Star Orchestra (rescheduled) @ Celebrate VA Live
7/11 Junkyard Saints @ Bluemont located at Maury Stadium
7/11 FOR Nighttime Canoe Float - $15 individual/ $45 family
7/18 Martinsburg Jazz Orchestra @ Bluemont located at Maury Stadium
7/18 FOR Lightning Bug Canoe Float - $15 individual/ $45 family
7/17 Travis Tritt @ Celebrate VA Live
7/24 Blues Traveler @ Celebrate VA Live
7/25 John McCutcheon @ Bluemont located at Maury Stadium
7/25 FOR Crow’s Nest Float - $30 individual/ $75 family
8/1 Keller Williams @ Celebrate VA Live
8/8 The Lindsay Family @ Bluemont located at Maury Stadium
8/15 Knicely Jazz Combo @ Bluemont located at Maury Stadium
8/15 FOR Sunset Canoe Float - $15 individual/ $45 family
8/22 The Daryl Davis Band @ Bluemont located at Maury Stadium
9/19 Rappahannock RiverFest
10/9 FOR Volunteer Appreciation Cookout - Free
10/17 FOR Rappahannock Fall Colors Float - $15 individual/ $45 family
10/24 FOR Fall River Cleanup - Free
11/7 FOR - Fall Birding Hike - $5 individual/ $15 family
12/11 FOR Holiday Open House - Free

Reoccuring Events:
- First Fridays is a variety of art events that take place around downtown every first friday of the month.
- Open Mic Night happens every Second Thursday of the month @ the Wounded Bookshop
- Lunch concerts @ Hurkamp Park on Tuesdays in May, June & Sept.

(Shows listed on this page are gathered from other websites, and are subject to change. Check the original links to verify.)

If anyone has events they believe belong on this list, contact me and I'll gladly add them.

Lawn Music is Best

See my post at fburgnews.com on the Celebrate Virginia Live concert series this spring/summer. I'll be adding these concerts to the list of my picks for events.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Every Friday concerts

If you read this blog often, you know I've been advocating for concerts downtown every Friday. Well, close. Looks like a Central Park is going to pick up an event. Check www.fredericksburg.com/blogs/citybeat for all the details.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St Patty's day In The Burg

I'm falling behind, but thankfully other bloggers are picking up the slack.  Be sure to check out Sarah's perfectly condensed post of places to get Irish tonight.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Students Can Win $1000

Icon Talent Extravaganza
By: Fredericksburg Boys & Girls Club
When: May 14, 2009 6-9pm (Time Subject to Change)
Where: Original Walker-Grant
200 Gunnery Rd, Fredericksburg VA 22401
Win an Educational Scholarship of $1000
This talent show is open to all young people ages 5-17
(Must join b&g club to participate)
Sign up now
For information, contact Forest Parker 540-368-9531 (please leave message if necessary)

Peanut allergies

We've all said it (all may be a little strong), when we were younger there weren't this many children with peanut allergies. Think about how many pb&j sandwiches were pulled out of lunch bags when we could barely reach a table! Does recent research point to the answer:http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29707036/ ?

Too early to tell, but I'm definitely interested in what this leads to in the next few years.

Pick up today's FLS

That title will surely bring flogging from some of my blogging friends, to recommend paying for a print edition of a newspaper. Have I totally lost it?

What a difference a week makes. Last week we were commenting on the Girl Scouts strong arm reaction to one scouts creativity using youtube. Today you can find not one, but two stories about the great work of the Boy Scouts. Front page is one of the most impressive eagle scout projects I have seen in a while, partnering with various agencies to upgrade the child safe harbor center. Then on the front of the region section is the scouts' rocketry weekend.

Go read the entire details at http://www.fredericksburg.com

It will start your week off right.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

New Lenses for the Nikon

This week I took the leap to expand my camera bag (read about my choice of the D90 here). We're looking at doing some travel this summer, and I wanted to add some perspective changes. I've also found that the factory 18-200mm just doesn't get up close enough for many event type pictures. So off to Adorama to pick out a few reasonably priced additions.

I don't have the budget for a several thousand dollar high powered lens, so when reading Pop Photography this past trip, I found the ProOptic 500mm mirror lens. This is basically like strapping a 5in telescope to the front of your camera. The lens is compatible with just about any DSLR out there, because it uses T-adaptors to attach. This means you'll be putting the camera in manual mode, and focusing it yourself. But this shouldn't be much of a stretch if you've had a camera for a little while. I also now see in post editing that the window I was shooting through also added haziness and some added distortion on the other super fisheye lens.

Caveats, this fixed aperture lens requires a lot of light, and a very steady hand. It was very overcast, and using a simple tripod, it was still difficult to get a clear photo. I obviously need to play with this one a little more. A more thorough review can be found at Popular Photography.

The other item purchased was a Phoenix Super Fisheye lens. The field of view of this lens is claimed to be up around 180 degrees. In reality, things are so distorted at the edges, you're always going to have something less, however, it still gets a lot more in the picture. I took a photo of Gail feeding Bennett along with the entire scene of the kitchen. This perspective is much closer to what you see with your eye, and seems to be a more realistic photo. So often, I find that the bounds of a photo can't tell the whole story, because you can't pull in the surrounding environment.

The photo below is taken from the same photo as the squirrel picture above. I then used PTLens and Gimp to stretch it out to full frame. I'm still playing with the best way to do this, and have had mixed results.

Lastly, I now needed a bigger case to put all of this stuff in, so off the Internet again for an answer. I've long admired Pelican Cases for the indestructibility, and now they offer an option with a fitted bag. There is one flaw in this bag, in order to provide an internal net pocket at the top of the bag, they didn't include any Velcro along 75% of this edge. This considerably limits your configuration options. So the first thing I did was to rip out the Velcro sections and put two of these together to span the top edge (edge closest to the photographer in the picture below). I then reconfigured the remaining dividers to match my camera and accessories. Hey, if I don't like it, I can always get foam and custom fit the Pelican case to my setup. So here is my Pelican 1526 (1520 case with a 1527 carry bag), purchased from Cases4Less.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Riverfront Fridays Idea

Below is a writeup I did showing the benefits of having a live music event every Friday downtown. The feedback has been positive, but I'm not sure if that's a positive I'll take this up and push it forward, or that sounds nice type positive. Read away, and please pass it to your local council member, and even if you live outside the city and think you'd be interested in coming downtown more often, please write to the Mayor and let them know.

Riverfront Fridays, Live Music Fridays in Fredericksburg VA

A proposal to host live music every summer Friday night in downtown Fredericksburg, highlighting the Sophia street and downtown areas.

One Friday a month, the City of Fredericksburg hosts a live music event in the Sophia St parking lot. This event is open to the public and a popular draw of people downtown. This proposal is to extend this effort to every Friday night, making several changes to improve revenue, lessen some expenses, and provide additional residual benefits to the City.

1.1 Why change anything?

The current Fridays event is widely popular, and could easily be expanded to provide economic benefit to the City in several ways. When you are financially constrained, rather than trying anything radical, it is best to use tried and true methods. Here is a program that has already been started, that we can copy to provide an even bigger benefit.

Non-Profit Support

This budget year and the next are particularly challenging to the City of Fredericksburg. One casualty of this economic recession is the funding for outside agencies. These are typically small area non-profits, that aid in various City duties. Often times these groups have access to ample volunteer labor, but limited financial resources. Some of these groups had previously been funded with less than one thousand dollars. This proposal addresses this by providing a enhanced revenue stream for agencies that provide the volunteer labor for Fridays. They currently work the events one night a month, we could now provide them with four or five nights a month, quadrupling the number of volunteer hours available, providing four to five times the amount of revenue to these agencies.

Downtown Business Benefit

The downtown businesses have repeated on several occasions the need for more foot traffic before committing to staying open later hours. Here is the one way to provide that foot traffic, at minimal cost. Advertising for Finally Fridays is already developed. Simply changing the copy to document it is every Friday, and a larger list of bands, or even link to a website for dynamic content. Higher foot traffic on Caroline and Sophia St will benefit many of the surrounding businesses, from either after Fridays dinner sales, browsing/shopping, or business recognition for future sales.

Regional Recognition

Competition is increasing for our retail areas. Stafford and Spotsylvania are quickly catching up with the City in this arena. What we have is a developed Riverfront area (downtown), that in a few years will be a developed riverfront park. It's unique compared to the surrounding areas. If we make it easy on people, we should be able to draw a higher number of people from outside the City.

1.2 Observations

Several personal observations with the way Fridays is current run.


Being only one Friday a month, planning to "go to Fridays" takes a bit more planning and effort. It's not possible to just spontaneously decide, it's Friday night, lets head to Downtown Fredericksburg and see who's playing.


When you arrive, you are likely to end up waiting in a line that stretches across Sophia St and down the sidewalk. Good that there is this much interest, bad that the time is wasted in line vs visiting the vendors.

Size (Cost) of Acts

The bands are small national or large regional acts. This is great exposure to get people downtown. I suggest making the other three nights more local bands, even a few unknowns. Perhaps it would even work to have an opening and main act some nights. Cover costs for these bands should be significantly less than those in previous years. To maintain the draw, and keep a high level of interest, it may be beneficial to maintain one Friday a month of these larger, popular acts.

Local Support

Although the arts council asked for Fridays to be moved off of the First Fridays, in conversations with other Arts participants and studios such as Libertytown, if it was every Friday, the foot traffic would benefit the studios too. The spillover from the Charlottesville "Fridays after Five" events drove a lot of arts purchases in their downtown.

1.3 Proposal

Switch to every Friday

+ Benefits as proposed above
+ A way to promote to a group of people downtown every week (sponsorships, tourism promotion)
- Need to monitor event sizes to see how much attendance changes
- Need to contact non-profits to get additional volunteers

Add Smaller Bands to supplement the large acts

+ on average, this should reduce the weekly costs
+ provides a great platform for local area bands to get out to a larger audience
- won't get the draw because people know the bands.
- Need to create a mentality of Fridays being a think to go do every week after work, or with friends.

Switch revenues from ticket sales to beverage sales

+ Many adults use the 2-drink special, negating the ticket sale anyway
+ This will reduce the line to get in
+ Can re-allocate those people at the entry ticket tent to ID checkers, moving the lines "inside the gate"
+ Will allow people to try out the experience who normally might not go to Fridays
- Will need to monitor overall revenue to ensure similar profits. May have to modify beverage costs
- Will need different color tickets to keep revenue up each week. The last Fridays might use any color.

Move Barriers

+ By moving away from ticket sales to ID checks, the barriers can be extended to include the block
+ Using Sophia St adds to the block party atmosphere, and moves more inside.
+ Could add a second or third entrance
- May require additional equipment.
- Need to design to provide limited IN/OUT for security, only unopened water bottles should be permitted

Added Costs: These will have to be accepted in order to be successful

+ Net revenue should increase, alleviating any city concerns with the items below
- Need to provide security support for each event
- Need to provide setup, take down and cleanup resources for each event
- Will need to provide the overhead to setup the additional bands and coordinate with the volunteer groups

1.4 Conclusion

By providing additional volunteer hours, those outside agencies are part of their own solution. Those able to get out volunteers, are able to take the excess revenues from the event and supplement their operations. Even small organizations will have an opportunity with all the extra hours available. Even if going to multiple Fridays doesn't equate to four times the revenue, the emphasis on lower cost bands should provide three to four times the revenue available to the volunteer groups. In addition, we provide a popular event to draw revenue dollars from nearby localities, as well as providing a regular outdoor event for citizens. Businesses should back this plan, as we are providing foot traffic downtown free of charge to those businesses.

The citizens of Fredericksburg, and surrounding counties, will enjoy having a place to meet friends every week. I used to enjoy meeting friends at Fridays after Five (Charlottesville), and as the band started winding down, we would walk to one of several favorite restaurants and the whole group would get dinner. I'd say we averaged about $10-15 per person at Fridays, and most of us went 2-3 weeks out of the month. Those with children probably spent a little more due to pizza and hot dog sales. It was a nice family atmosphere, where many of us forged friendships with people we would never have met otherwise.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Industrial Brewpub

I was in Tucson Arizona this past week, and one night on the way back to the hotel I was getting a little hungry. I don't know exactly why I tried this, but it definitely worked in my favor. I flipped out my Blackberry Storm, brought up Google Maps. It quickly located where I was, and I typed "Interesting Stuff" into the map search. Boy was I surprised when a number of things came back. There were lots of balloons marking things in downtown, but near my location I clicked the one balloon and saw "Nimbus Brewing". I about fell over (good thing I was buckled in). A green light delayed me a bit until the next intersection with a red stop, which let me take time to see exactly where it was located. A few u-turns, down a road that lead through a refinery, and into an industrial park and there it was. Nimbus. (Leaving I went out to a more traveled roadway.)

Now for a little Fredericksburg history. About a year ago, there was a brief moment when some of us thought that Blue&Gray Brewing might move into a Fredericksburg industrial park. I distinctly remember someone on council questioning the brewery's business plan, and expected revenue. If they had been with me on this particular night, there would have been no questioning revenue. I walked in at 5pm, and the place was packed. I took one of two remaining spots at the bar.

I started the visit with a Nimbus Pale Ale. A bit more bitter than I like for a Pale Ale, but good to start off with. I finished with a Nimbus Old Monkeyshine, an Old English Ale. It was dark and mysterious. This was the more interesting of the two beers. It had hints of the typical cocoa and coffee, but finished with a bark and honey type aftertaste. I know - weird.

I'd been craving a good burger all week, and theirs was a perfect match. It also came with the freshest crispy pickles I've ever had in a restaurant. Unfortunately when I went to get a picture leaving, it had cleared out, but I overheard a waiter talking about grabbing a smoke outside before the rush hit later in the evening. The wait staff was quick and friendly, making this a must visit place on future travel.

Does GM Get It?

Just finished a week of business travel, with one of the worst rental cars I've ever gotten. No big surprise here, it's a GM vehicle. Now it's not all GM's fault, but then in this world of blame it never is right? I chose to take the cheapest compact available from Hertz. I know that Hertz doesn't have the best cars (I like Avis's much better fleet), but I do love Hertz gold service. I've rented compacts at Avis, and never gotten anything as basic as this one.

I was given a GM Cobalt. A nice little car. I'd say this competes with the Ford Focus. Peppy too - GM definitely knows how to build a car that drives.

But what a surprise when I go to start the car and realize there is no fob. Manual door locks, and of course Hertz had to leave all the doors unlocked, so here I am climbing in the back to secure the vehicle. And then there are the manual windows. WHAT? I haven't had manual windows in fifteen years. Wait, it gets even better, the side mirrors are manual TOO! Now I am fully aware that Hertz paid the least amount possible for this car, but the impression it leaves me with the Chevy Cobalt is there is no way in h*ll I'd ever even think of buying one of these.

But lets get back to the price of the vehicle. GM probably thinks they are saving money by offering Hertz this stripped down vehicle. I beg to differ, they would have been better off cutting the price of the standard consumer version of the cobalt, and here is my reasoning. This is the low end of their offering, which means they should be optimizing price across the entire Cobalt line. Instead, they are ordering 4x special door panels, 4x special armrests, 4x manual window parts, 4x different locks, 2x manual mirror parts, 2x different plastic trim pieces for the mirrors.

Just my quick observations, that's 20 extra parts to carry. Now add on top of that the 20 different times they had to enter that into their inventory system, or the guy on the docks doing part inspection, or the warehouse team that has to track and manage those parts. How about the training of the line workers to install those pieces. Lets add on top of that the effort it took to quote and manage the Hertz order for these stripped cars. Even further, what about extra parts and labor for maintenance?

I don't know if this is a GM thing or not, but I can say that Avis' smallest Toyota or Hyundai still had power door locks and mirrors. So much for GM being able to make a first impression in their Cobalt.

(In full disclosure, I've owned GM vehicles, and they were great. I really wish GM could break this latest lack of foresight and dig themselves out of this hole they are in.)

Stories From Other Blogs