Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wiki Me This, Bowell

I've been wanting to do this for a while. I finally set up the Shelby County Wiki. If you don't know what a Wiki is, I'll explain it sometime soon. If you do know what it is, get on over there and start making new articles.

It Takes a Village Idiot

There was great sadness in the hamlet of Midlothian this week as Uncle Bull learned that his hero and idol, the Policeman from the Village People was arrested on drug charges in San Francisco.

"I used to make Wilfred be the cowboy, and I'd be the Policeman, and we'd sing 'YMCA' and 'In The Navy' out in the garage all weekend," said Uncle Bull in a prepared statement. "I was all set to join the Navy when I turned 18, but my hips wouldn't fit through the hatches on the ships. So I ended up in the Air Force."

"Now Victor has gone and ruined everything," continued Uncle Bull. "I can't possibly play the Policemen anymore and Wilfred took the cowboy outfit down to Georgia with him, if he hasn't pawned it yet to buy more TOL swag."

Sunday, March 26, 2006

38 Years and Still Festering

I turned 38 today. Yea! I didn't meet my weight goal that I hoped to be at this point, but I didn't totally fail it either. I'm still sitting at 285 lbs, which is what I've weighed for several months now. That's 45 pounds lighter than I was this time last year. I've still got three months until our trip to the beach when I may be forced to pose for a thong picture if I don't weigh less than Uncle Bull.

We had my birthday lunch at Sakura, a local Japanese steakhouse that we all really enjoy. We were joined by two couples from church. We're probably going to have to stop eating out for a while, since Jackson has started becoming grumpy about halfway through meals and we end up scarfing down the food and running out of the restaurant with him screaming the whole time.

Jackson was sitting in his little bouncy recliner tonight with Marissa and me in the basement. The chair has little colorful animals that hang down right in front of his face. Tonight he started batting them with his hands, which is the first time we've seen him do that. We were pretty excited. Then he stared at his hand for a few minutes and started grabbing them. We were both cheering at that point and he started laughing. It's really cool to be able to watch him learn new things almost every day.

I'll close this blog post with a picture of me when I was six months old. I'm sure Heff will photoshop it somehow. Too bad he doesn't have a blog to post it on anymore though.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Ides of March

Happy birthday Archer. You may always be 11 days older than me, but at least I'm prettier. I guess we've known each other for right at 35 years now. Scary.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Whistle While You Work

Something unusual happened this morning. I actually enjoyed my drive to work. I was singing along with the radio while tapping the steering wheel and had a smile on my face. Why you ask? Because I started a new job today. I had no idea what to expect at this new place of employment, but I knew in the core of my soul that it would be better than where I was working before.

It turns out someone I used to work with at the last job is sitting about three cubicles down from me at the new job. I went to lunch with him and 4 other people today and one of the guys congratulated me from escaping. It turns out he used to work there as well. We exchanged horror stories throughout the lunch hour. It was a kind of catharsis.

I didn't even have a computer or anything much to do today, but just the fact that the slime and stupidity of the last place was finally rinsing off made it one of the best work days in a long, long time. It can only lead to better things. The one good thing I can say about the old job is that it gave me enough anger and frustration to take to the sidewalks, so I left 45 lbs of fat behind as well.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Hatcher Boys Vs. Mount LeConte

My brother Brian, my nephew Garrison, and I decided to try our luck on the Alum Cave Bluff trail in the Smoky Mountains this past Friday while we were all there on vacation. We got to the trail about 1pm and headed up. It's about 2.5 miles to where we wanted to go and about 1300 feet of elevation gained. We really had no business being there. Brian and Garrison had been on antibiotics earlier in the week and I was having serious problems with sinus drainage and keeping my nasal passages clear.

I knew in the first mile it was going to be rough on me, but I was still enjoying it. I had my day pack with me but I ended up making Brian carry it after the first quarter of a mile since it had about two gallons of water in it. The weather was perfect at least. It was about 60 degrees with a slight breeze. After the first mile it starts getting steeper, and I was having to stop to catch my breath quite often. I just didn't have any wind that day. I'm sure the elevation had something to do with it, since by the time we turned around we were getting close to being at 5000 feet.

In the end we stopped about half a mile from the cave bluffs. I wanted to try to go on, but my left nostril had started bleeding some and Garrison had already had runny poop about 3 times on the way up to there. The trip down was much easier and quicker, but by the time we made back to the truck we were all three dragging pretty hard.

Still, the trail we saw was extremely beautiful and we saw some interesting features, even a few snow banks left over in the shade from a snow storm that came through about three weeks ago. My legs were whipped after the hike, but I didn't really have any pain the next day, so my walking the past six months at least paid off in that respect. Who am I kidding, six months ago I would have been lucky to make it a half mile up that trail and back. Hopefully next year when we go back we won't be sick before we head up and we'll make it to the top. I'll have some pictures of the hike up in the next few days.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Stones River Greenway Pictures

I've been walking on the greenway a good bit lately since the weather has been nice. I thought I'd share a few pictures I took back in January. The two pictures below show one of my favorite spots on the greenway, which is where an old railway trestle crossed the Stones River. The tracks are long gone, but the stonework is still very solid and will likely be there long after I'm gone.

The first picture shows the old bridge abutment on the west side of the Stones River. I believe the railroad was the Tennessee and Pacific Railroad, and the last train ran on it in 1935. It's easy to climb up to the top of the abutment on the right side and I like to sit on the top, which is about 20 to 25 feet high and take a rest and watch the other people on the path or listen to the silence since there's no roadway noise this far down the greenway.

The second picture was taken from the top of the abutment and you can see two of the bridge piers and the greenway itself. The second pier in the picture is sitting in the Stones River and has a small cedar tree growing out of it. I'm assuming the bridge was a truss bridge, but there's no trace of the superstructure left and no rails that I can see on top of the abutment. It was probably all removed for scrap, maybe even during World War II when metal was scarce, but I'm just guessing at this point.

Sometimes You Don't Even Have to Comment

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Beware the Hatch of March

“With rushing winds and gloomy skies The dark and stubborn Winter dies: Far-off, unseen,
Spring faintly cries, Bidding her earliest child arise; March!”

- Bayard Taylor

I love March. It's the month I was born in, and the buttercups blooming all over the place right now are my favorite flowers. Unfortunately, the buttercups in my front yard are not butterworth. They're pretty sad, even though it's been two years since I moved the bulbs to where they are. I think the soil is not deep enough there and it has a lot of leftover gravel from when the driveway was paved.

We're going over to the Smoky Mountains later this week. I'm starting a new job on the 13th and I'm in the middle of taking almost two weeks off between jobs. I plan on hiking part of the way up Mt. LeConte and sounding my barbaric "Yaulp!" from the Alum Cave bluffs on either Friday or Saturday.

We'll probably go to Cades Cove or "The Loop of Death" as my wife and I like to call it. We had no idea what to expect when we first drove it about 4 years ago. It's an 11 mile, one lane, oneway loop and you literally see about 1000 deer. People drive it at about 5 miles/hour and stop every 50 feet to ooh and aah over the deer, like they didn't just see 30 of them 100 yards back. We didn't have any food or water with us and we had to pee like racehorses, so when we finally found the bathrooms about halfway through the loop we were thankful, but were ready to pull our hair out when we finally made it out of the area about 3 hours after we entered it. This time we'll know what we're getting into and will be prepared for it at least.

I've been hitting the greenway and getting lots of walking in this week. The battery in my scales died and I haven't found a replacement for it yet, so I have no idea what the weight situation is right now. I suspect nothing has changed since I've been really spotty about the low carb diet the last week or two but have continued to exercise.

We had Jackson's dedication at church tonight. That went well, although he did fill up his diaper while I was holding him on the stage in front of the whole congregation. He went to the doctor Saturday morning when Marissa thought he might have pink eye. He didn't, turns out it's a mild case of eczema which he's probably inherited from his mother. He weighed 13 lbs 9 ounces, so he continues to grow like a monster.

Happy birthday to everyone I know who has a birthday in March: Dick Sturm, Stephen Archer, Deidre Arledge and I are all turning 38. I'm sure I'm forgetting someone's birthday.

Cave #4

I left the house Saturday morning at 6:30 and met up with five other cavers: Gerald and Avis Moni, Jay Santiago, Thany Mann, and Gareth Gould. Our objective was Pattons Cave. It's right next to Percy Priest Lake just inside Rutherford County. The water level in the cave depends on the level of the lake. This time of year they keep the water level low, so we were expecting about 2 feet of water in the cave.

Pattons Cave is listed in Dr. Barr's book "Caves of Tennessee", but according to Gerald it had been "lost" until last year because Dr. Barr's location was off by about 1000 feet. We parked and walked about 500 feet to get to the cave. The entrance is in a small rocky cleft in the ground and is marked by the rusted remains of the cab of some type of vehicle. I'm always amazed at the efforts that idiots will go to in spoiling spots like this. It would be a total pain in the ass to get this large hunk of metal out of there, so I'm sure it will be there until it totally rusts away.

We entered the cave and found that the water level was very low, but it was still extremely muddy. In fact, most of the cave is mud. Mud was the theme for this trip. The passage we went down probably averaged about 7 feet high and 10 to 15 feet wide, but was about 40 percent filled in with mud. A narrow channel ran down the middle of it that was mostly limestone, but had anywhere from 1 to 2 feet of mud and water in it. It made for heavy boots and lots of highstepping.

Gerald said that the cave was listed in the Tennessee Cave Survey at about 1500 feet long. We didn't measure it, but we all agreed that's about how far we went until we reached the back. At the end of the passage we went down, it got down to about 2 feet high and about 10 feet wide, with lots of gravel. Thany and Gareth crawled all the way to the small room at the end and thought they felt a small amount of air flow from the outside and lots of dangerous looking overhead rocks, but no further passageway.

We took it slow on the way to the back of the cave, since we were on the lookout for Southern Cave Fish and the elusive Tennessee Cave Salamander. We saw 4 of the blind cave fish, but there were no definite sightings of any salamanders. We also saw a lot of regular crayfish and some small isopods. The cave is known to have a large gray bat population in the warmer months, but we only saw one near the entrance.

On the way out, we stopped about 75 feet from the entrance to let Thany and Gareth check out what was listed by Barr and others as a small 75 foot loop. They ended up finding another passage that they crawled down for almost an hour without finding an end before turning around. They guessed that they probably went another 1500 feet down that passage, which is actually the main stream passage, so the cave is about double in length what it was thought to be.

We had planned to go to two more caves on Saturday, but we couldn't find the land owners of one, and while we actually stuck our head in a small one near Murfreesboro, Gareth thought he smelled skunk and saw eyes in the back of it, so we skipped it.

I kept up with everyone pretty well in Pattons Cave, although 77 year old Avis is still in much, much better shape than me. The crawl at the end of the passage is what did me in, although pulling my muddy boots out of the foot deep mud probably took its toll as well.

My thighs are really sore today. I've been walking a lot lately, so my calves and feet are fine, but highstepping in the mud and climbing over rocks and out of trenches is still pushing my quads beyond what they're used to. I'm going to take the advice of Mike Ray and start doing some lunges to get them built up some more. I don't want to blow my knees out with squats and I don't have the equipment to do leg presses.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Clemmons Anniversary

Five years ago today I was standing in a small Episcopal church in Manama, Bahrain in the southern Persian Gulf. I was there to see my best friend Paul Clemmons get married, along with three other people. I was sent there by everyone else in the United States that knew Paul to bear witness, because no one actually believed that Paul Clemmons was getting married.

Now five years later I'm married as well and we both have kids. We also live in the same city. I guess we were just meant to be together. Heh. Anyway, Happy Anniversary Paul and Ferlie!