Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy Birthday Jack!

My boy is two years old today. Wow! I can't believe it's been two years now. He's growing like a weed and talking a lot. He loves books, trains, cars, and grocery carts. His mommy and sissy are the most important people in his life, but I'm still pretty popular with him. I get a "Daddy!" and a leg hug every time he sees me. He's almost too big to carry around very much now, which makes me sad.

We had his birthday party a few weeks ago so people could show up, but we're going to go to Chuck E. Cheese tomorrow to have one more small celebration. Expect pictures soon.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Happy Birthday Granddaddy

My maternal grandfather, Fred Melton Strother, would have turned 100 years old today. He lived a good life, and he was and always will be one of my best friends. Even when I was really young, he couldn't wait to pick me up and take me with him all over. He took me places and showed me things that are too numerous to recount them all. We used to just go places just to go places. Whether it was to the quarry to watch them blast that day, or just to stop by a spring he knew about since it had such good water.

He almost never treated me like a child, just as someone he loved and trusted. If we went to a cattle auction he let me, a 10 year old, bid on livestock and decide how high we would go. I had a shotgun at that age too, and he'd send me down to the creek next to the bottom lands to kill a couple of squirrels so Maw Maw could make dumplings with them.

From the time I was 6 or so, he would have me driving the tractor in 1st gear low, hauling a trailer so they could walk along behind it and throw the bales of hay up on it. He'd always try to get me to pick up a bale of hay, and of course I couldn't pick it up until I was about 14. From then on I didn't get to drive the tractor when they were bailing hay any more. I was walking behind the trailer throwing them up on it. Heh.

I know people that knew him either loved him or hated him, but I don't think anyone could ask for a better grandfather than him. He's been gone for 14 years now, but I still miss him so much it hurts. I was lucky enough to have all four of my grandparents until he passed away and they were all very special to me. Granddaddy was different though. My parents never had to ask him if I could stay with them. If anything, they had to make me come home, which disappointed both of us usually.

He lived his life exactly the way he wanted, which is the most important lesson I learned from him. He survived a bout of colon cancer, and didn't have his boys with him when he was buried. I hope to take mine with me, even if they're in a pickle jar tucked under my arm.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hmmmm. What's that flushing sound?

Gotta love incoming links, even if they're from just another bass player...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Finding Jacko

Here's the boy dressed up as Nemo for Halloween.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Happy Birthday Marissa

Happy Birthday to my beautiful wife, Marissa!

She's 29 years old today! Woo hoo! I'm so lucky to have such a young wife. Yowza! We managed to score a baby sitter tomorrow night so we're going to eat at her favorite restaurant, Sakura.

Last night we took Jack and Victoria to "Trunk or Treat" at a local church. Jack figured out the whole "grab candy and stick in the bucket" concept very quickly. Once again everyone loved his Nemo outfit. It has a little tail that shakes back and forth when he walks. At one point there was a swimming pool full of plastic eggs with candy in them. He saw his cousin Brynn in there grabbing candy so he ran up and rolled over the side and started grabbing it himself. I had to go "fish" him out of there. Har, har.

In other news back home, long time friend and cousin Heff also celebrates a birthday today. He's 40 years old! Wow! Hard to believe he made it this far. I think he's going to braid his James Spann Hair Island for the event today. I've also heard his office in Columbiana has been vandalized in celebration of the event. No pictures yet though.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

New Hatcher

There's a new Hatch loose on the world. Adler Silas Hatcher was born yesterday morning in Nashville, TN. He was 20 inches long and 6 lbs, 11 ounces. His father Shawn is my first cousin, and his mother's name is Autumn. I visited them yesterday when Silas was about 5 hours old and everyone was doing fine. Marissa stopped by today to visit and I'm afraid she may be Jonesing for a baby now. Ack. Here's some pictures.

Halloween Thoughts

Jack looks really cute this year dressed up as Nemo. Every time he goes out in the costume, everyone loves to run up to him and say "Look! We 'found' Nemo!" Man, that never gets old. Heh.

Of course every Halloween also brings to mind that my good friend Mok should be celebrating a birthday this morning. Heff and I should be sending goofy emails to him today that would mark a major milestone in life. Mok would probably respond as he always would, embarrassed but with that goofy grin on his face.

Mok would have turned 40 today, but he didn't.

In happier news, it's also my cousin Debbie's birthday today! Happy Birthday Debbie. I won't tell anyone how old you are.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hatcher Reunion

I drove up to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky on Saturday morning to attend a Hatcher family reunion that was held by some distant cousins I've never met. I had read about them on the Hatcher Family Resources Center and since I had the time I decided to drive up and introduce myself.

I pulled up to the picnic area and walked into the building that looked like it was having a reunion. I didn't know anyone, but I knew one of the people hosting the reunion was named Maxie Hatcher, so I walked up to two gentlemen and asked if they could introduce me to Maxie. Turns out one of them was Maxie Hatcher, and the other man was his brother Jackie.

After I explained who I was they quickly welcomed me and made sure I was going to stay for lunch. They had quite a spread laid out, so I didn't argue with them too much about that. I ended up staying for about three hours and met lots of Hatcher cousins. We're not exactly sure how I'm related to this Hatcher branch, although I've been told that through genetic testing we know we're not too far distant. There is some question about how my 3rd Great Grandfather William Hatcher fits into the full family tree of the descendants of William Hatcher who came to Jamestown, Virginia in the 1630's.

Here's a picture of me and Jackie Hatcher, taken by Maxie Hatcher. It turns out that Maxie used to live about 3 miles from where I do, and Jackie lives less than 10 miles from me.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cool Cave Picture

I led another weeknight trip to Hardins Cave late last month. My friend John from work went along and snapped this cool picture of me about to climb up a mud bank. Say hello to my little friend. There were a lot of bats in the cave that night. More than I had seen on any other trips there. They were flying around a lot as well and we were ducking to avoid them a lot on the trip.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Five Years!

We did it! Marissa and I have made it through five years of marriage as of today! In that time we've bought a house, two cars, a dachshund, a pacemaker, braces for the Girl, and we brought home the Boy to tear it all up!

It's been a great time so far, and we're hoping for many more. We ate at Melting Pot last night, and as usual got completely stuffed. We splurged a little for the lobster tail and it came out pretty good. I think Marissa just goes for the chocolate at the end, though.

I love you baby! You are the reason.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Help Me

Well, God has a sense of humor I suppose. That's the only way to explain that my son is likely going to be an athlete. The boy spends all day throwing balls around the house. It's his favorite word, and he's getting to be a pretty good shot on the mini basketball goal we bought him. What's a non-sport playing, geeky father to do?

Last night when I put him in his crib, I left a small rubber basketball in the crib with him, which he was cradling next to him when I tucked him in. This morning, he woke us up over the monitor saying "Ball! Ball! Ball!" over and over again, where he usually just starts off babbling or saying "Daddy!" until someone comes and gets him.

I'm so pitiful I didn't even know what the game of "Horse" means for basketball until Marissa explained it to me. Jack basically plays Horse by himself, and moves to different positions around the living room to throw the ball towards the hoop. He even crouches down and shoots the ball up with a fling on the wrists like real basketball players do. For an 18 month old, he has a pretty good technique, or so I've been told.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Past Weekend

We had a good time over the last weekend. Saturday morning we got up earlier than normal and headed out to the zoo to meet up with Uncle Paul and Aunt Ferlie and cute little Rani. Jack and Rani both love to ride in the Radio Flyer wagon we recently bought that has a built in awning, and lots of people at the zoo would ask us about it.

I would post some pictures of the zoo visit, but the camera is starting to mess up and didn't take many of the pictures that I thought I was taking. Maybe it made a few too many cave trips.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Book Review - The Plot to Save Socrates

I recently finished reading The Plot to Save Socrates, which was a book I picked up at the library in the recently added section. I needed to find a book quick, and I saw Socrates and Time Travel in the blurb on the back cover, so I grabbed it and checked out.

I've been burned in the past by choosing books like this before, but I'm a sucker for Time Travel stories and this one didn't disappoint. It reads a little like The Davinci Code, being a page turner and keeping me up to 2am the first night I had it. However, it's not quite as skillfully written as the Davinci Code, and sometimes jumps the story along abruptly. In one section the characters set up a plan and said something to the effect that "they hoped it worked." Then the next sentence was "It did."

Still, examples like that are not common in the book, and it's a fun read. It introduced me to some historical figures like Alciabides that I knew little about, and prodded me to look up more about them, so any book of fiction that prompts further historical study can't be all bad. I'll give it a 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pokemon Wayward Cave

Wayward Cave is located at the very back of Route 206. The entire cave is
pitch black except for a small circle of light around you. It's recommended you
get the TM "Flash" before attempting this area, as it will make it much easier.
There are a few items in the cave, you can find the list below. At the
back of the cave you will find a trainer named Mira. She will ask you to
escort her to the entrance. You cannot use Dig or an Escape Rope to get there.
Once you get to the entrance she will thank you and leave. When you finish this quest and you visit the Battle Tower, Mira will then team up with you.

Rare Candy
Escape Rope
TM32 (Double Team)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Genealogy Frustration

The genealogy project I've been working on lately is to find as many of the descendants of my 2nd Great Grandfather Andrew Jackson Hatcher as possible. He had 11 kids with two women, so the number of individuals could get fairly high in the end. I've had pretty good luck finding descendants of his younger children, but I've hit complete dead ends so far trying to find anyone descended from Hester or Della Hatcher, who were the oldest children of his second wife, Sarah Ann. Hester married a man named Bayless Joshua Moses, and Della married James Thomas Jones.

My cousin Tommy Hatcher in Tuscaloosa gave me a clue about Della's youngest daughter, Mabel A. Jones. Tommy's father was her 1st cousin and he visited her in Mobile several times, but the last time was back in 1996 and she was in poor health at the time.

I did a search on the Social Security Death Index and found a Mabel Cochran that died in 2002 in Mobile. The birth date was in 1912, which matched up with what her date of birth was thought to approximate based on US Census records. I tried to find her obituary listing online, but apparently the Mobile Register has a gap in their obituary index around 2002.

Finally, I contacted the genealogy department of the Mobile Public Library, and a very kind lady there looked up the obituary and faxed me a copy. It listed all of Mabel Cochran's children, and I found one in the phone records for Florida. Her middle initial was even "A" for Anderson, so I was getting excited thinking I had finally found one of Della Hatcher's children.

I called the number tonight and spoke to a nice gentleman in the Florida panhandle, but it turns out this was not the right Mabel A. who was born in 1912. He had never heard of the Hatcher or Jones surname in his family history, and he had done some research himself recently. Argh!

I'm back to a complete dead end on the children of James Thomas Jones and Della Hatcher at this point, except for the one young son named Toney who is buried next to them in the Friendship Baptist Cemetery in Tuscaloosa County. My only other clue at this point is that Tommy's mother remembers them always pronouncing her name as "May-Bell", so I guess I'll have to search for alternate spellings.

Back from the Beach

My uncle Eugene and my aunt Naomi invited us to stay in a condo that they had rented for the week last week in Mexico Beach, Florida. This happened to coincide with the 4 extra vacation days that work gave out the week before, so we took them up on the offer and left Nashville on Tuesday afternoon.

We stopped in Columbiana for the night, then left the next morning for the beach. I thought it was going to take us about 5 hours to get there, but it ended up taking 7 with all the stops we had to make for Jack. He was good for about 2 hours, then he wanted out of that car seat for a while.

Last year when we went to the beach near Daytona, Jackson didn't care for the sand and the water too much. This year he loved it. My uncles had set up big tents down near the water, and he spent hours out there playing in the sand, or in the small inflatable pool that Marissa set up for him inside a smaller tent. We let him run around in the buff for a while, but his 10 year old cousins seemed to be scandalized by the wanton nudity. Maybe uncle Bull will send him a thong for next year.

Vacations are never long enough, and this one was no exception. We all cleared out of the condo by 9am on Saturday morning, then we took 9 hours to get back to Columbiana. We detoured through Ft. Walton to visit Beasley Park, where Marissa and I got married almost 5 years ago. I get frustrated driving on the coast, since it's soooooo slow and every little town has got a speed trap set up.

We eventually made it back to Nashville. We're going to plan on renting a smaller condo near their's next year and spending the whole week down there since I'll have more vacation time by then.

Check out the pictures on Jack's Blog.


Warning, don't click on this link if you don't want to lose time playing a simple little flash game. Desktop Tower Defense is one of the best little games I've played in a long while. I may even try to pick up some Flash skills myself and put together a TOL simulator.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Picture Update

After a hint from my aunt Naomi, we figured out that it's my aunt Barbara in the picture with my great grandfather. Based on her how small she is in the photo and her date of birth, I figure it was taken sometime around 1946.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

My Great Grandfather

My cousin Thomas Blackwell sent me this picture today. It's my Great-Grandfather Ausman C. Hatcher. I'm not sure who the girl with him is. I've never seen this picture before either and had no idea what "Poppa Hatcher" even looked like. He reminds me a lot of my grandfather Luther Hatcher. I'm also not sure when the picture was taken. I'll update when I find more.

I've been making contact with 2nd and 3rd cousins like crazy the last few weeks. I'm not sure how many descendants Andrew Jackson Hatcher has yet, but it's up to several hundred at least by now. The man had 11 children with two wives, so it will likely be up in the thousands if I manage to find them all.

Ausman C. Hatcher and Barbara Hatcher circa 1946

Monday, June 04, 2007

Awful Saturday, Great Sunday

So I'd known about SERA being this past weekend for about a year, but once again I failed to properly prepare for it. I left the house later than I wanted to Friday night, and didn't get on the road headed towards Cookeville until about 9:45. I still figured I'd make it there by 11:30 or so, since it was only about 90 miles away from my house.

I got about 30 miles away from the house and realized that I had packed everything I'd need for a weekend of caving except for something to sleep on. I only had a sheet that I had shoved into the bottom of my basket of clothes. I had planned to bring my tent, blow up mattress, sleeping bag, pillows, and a comforter just in case the cabin that the Grotto had acquired turned out to be a bad place to sleep, which I had suspicions it might be.

I almost turned around at that point, and I wish I had, because the misery began shortly thereafter. About 15 miles past Lebanon I started going through a pretty heavy thunderstorm, with spectacular lighting strikes to go along with it. A few minutes later, traffic ground down to a crawl, and several emergency vehicles made their way past us on the shoulder. Shortly after that the traffic came to a complete stop. I soon turned off the motor and sat there for a bit, hoping it would start moving along soon.

After twenty minutes of sitting there, I called Marissa and told her about it. After 45 minutes, I got out to see what I could see ahead, and could see some flashing lights. The guy in the car next to me had called 911 and they told him someone had died in the accident ahead, so it was probably going to be a while. Marissa called back and had checked the TDOT site and they were saying it should be cleared up by 6am! Ugh. I found out later that it involved a motorcyclist who had been hit from behind, then thrown into the left lane where he was run over by an 18 wheeler.

I sat there for another 45 minutes, then I got my flashlight out and started scouting the median to see if it was possible to get across. There was no culvert or major ditch, so it seemed like it was possible. I talked a guy in an SUV into going across first, and that cleared a way for me to get over to the shoulder. I gunned the Civic and made it across with a few fishtails, but I was back on the road.

Once again, I was faced with a decision on whether to go back home or push on to SERA. I decided to head towards SERA since I was almost half-way there and I had pre-paid for it. I got on a back road and followed a bunch of 18 wheelers at 20 mph for about 10 miles until I made it back onto the Interstate past the wreck.

I pulled up at the registration tent about 1:20 am. There was only one person on duty, but I was the only one checking in, so it shouldn't have taken long since I pre-registered. I'm thinking they picked who had to work this shift by how much beer consumed earlier in the evening. It took 10 minutes for me to pick up a packet, sign a sheet of paper, and head into the camp.

I parked somewhere near cabin 8, got out, and wandered around a bit. A band was playing by the lake and they had about 5 drunks swaying in front of them. I headed down towards the vendor area and found Don from the grotto. He showed me where most of the grotto had pitched their tents and I found Joey's truck where he and Aimee were already asleep. I hassled them for a bit, but they refused to wake up, so then Don and I walked over to another camping area where some people from the Birmingham Grotto were hanging out.

About this point, my stomach started feeling a little queasy. Nothing too bad, but I definitely felt nauseous. I said goodnight to Don and headed back towards the cabin after grabbing some stuff from my car.

The cabin was not all that great. I only saw it in near total darkness, but it was just a square room with 10 bunk beds in it. There wasn't even a real door, just a screen door and there were lots of large screened windows that allowed all of the music from the crappy band that decided to play until 3:15 am come in loud and clear. I found my bunk and laid down with a towel for my pillow and my sheet wrapped around me. A frog was right outside the window as well, so I knew that getting any sleep was likely not going to happen.

After the band finally gave it up or passed out, the snoring began. Now I snore myself, so I can't blame anyone else for it, but when two people started snoring in stereo I sat up, grabbed all my stuff, and walked back to my car. I stood there at the car for a bit then decided that it was all just too much and that I wanted to go home. So after being at SERA for a grand total of 2 hours, 27 minutes, I drove back to Hermitage.

On the way 90 minute trip back, my stomach really started hurting, and a lot of heart burn set in as well. I probably should have made myself throw up at that point, but that's something that I really, really hate doing so I toughed it out. I called Marissa just before I got home so I wouldn't scare her coming in, and she told me she was having a lot of stomach problems as well, so it was likely some kind of bug.

Not long after I got home, the problems moved on down lower in the old GI tract, so I spent most of Saturday running back and forth between the bedroom and the bathroom or trying to sleep. It was pretty miserable. I probably should have told someone that I was leaving SERA, since Joey left about 6 messages on my phone that day. Apparently no-one was completely sure that they had seen me there that night, due to lack of sleep and alcohol, so they were developing theories that I had projected my image there to confuse everyone.

I woke up for a little while Saturday afternoon, but went to sleep about 9pm that night and slept for a long, long time. That morning I woke up and was lazy on the couch until Marissa and Jack got back from church, but that afternoon we went swimming and we had a great time. Jack loves the water and he and I spent about half and hour floating around in the pool at the Y. The rest of the time he just likes to walk around and around the pool, checking everything out. After that we went back to the house and played until he went to sleep. It was a great end to what could have been an awful weekend.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Aunt Naomi's Blog

I've been forgetting to put the link to my Aunt Naomi's new blog on here for quite a while. It's also been added to the Friends and Family links on the right.

The Blog of Heff has once again failed to maintain any staying power, so it's been removed from the list. Some people just don't have what it takes to take on a long term project like this I guess. It's the same kind of people that let classic Mustangs rot in their basement.

Weekend Research

I spent most of Saturday and Sunday in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama doing some genealogy research and meeting long-lost family members. I drove down to Columbiana very late Friday night, stopping along the way in Cullman to have coffee and an omelet with my old friend David Chappell, who is moving to Arkansas sometime in the next few weeks. I didn't get to my brother's house until about 4am, so I slept a little late until around 10am.

After a quick shower, I drove to my uncle Eugene's house and picked him up and we headed for Tuscaloosa. Our first stop was Bucksville Cemetery, where we found the gravestone of my 2nd Great Grandmother Sarah Ann Hatcher nee Bircheat. This is an old cemetery for that area, and some of the tombstones are very intricate, especially for those who were members of the Woodmen of the World.

After we walked around this cemetery for a while, we headed down to the Brookwood exit and met up with my Second Cousin, Once Removed, Tommy Hatcher and his wife and daughter. I recently made contact with Tommy while I was doing some online family research. I called a number I found online for a Thomas Hatcher, and a black woman answered. I asked for Thomas Hatcher and she gave the phone to her husband. After a few minutes of discussion about former slaves from Dallas County, Alabama he told me that he gets phone calls for another Thomas Hatcher all the time, and he looked up the number in the phone book for me. My wife thinks I'm insane for just calling strangers out of the blue, but I've been doing it most of my life and very rarely get bad reactions from people once I explain why I'm calling.

So Tommy takes us to his nephews house, where we meet Tommy's mother, sister, nephew and his wife, niece, great niece, step-father and others. Eugene had met a couple of them many years ago, but it was nice to get acquainted with cousins that aren't very distant on the family tree. I pulled out the laptop and got all of their information entered, so I've filled in another branch of the Hatcher's now.

After feeding us burgers and hot dogs, Tommy led us around to about four cemeteries in Tuscaloosa County, showing us the graves of several of his family members. I had done some research beforehand, so I was able to show him a few graves in these cemeteries that he and his mother didn't know about. We finished the day around 7pm and I drove Eugene back to Westover. Then I visited my Aunt Patricia and stopped by Heff's for a bit then went back and crashed pretty early at my brother's house.

The next morning I woke up and drove back to Tuscaloosa County, this time to Hepzibah Baptist Church off Exit 100 on I20/59. My great-grandparents and one 2nd Great Grandmother are buried there along with lots of cousins. We used to go there quite often with my grandfather Luther Hatcher, and my uncle Eugene still goes every year. This was their homecoming weekend, and after the church service they had a incredible potluck dinner spread out.

My cousins Casey Wortham, Shawn Hatcher, Lisa Wills and her Brett and daughter Adelyn made it to the homecoming as well. My dad's first cousins Vernon and David Hatcher and their sister Betty were there also with their mother, and Vernon's daughter Vicky was there as well. Once again I pulled out the laptop and made everyone give me names and dates and locations to go into the genealogy files.

After that, Eugene, Shawn, Casey, and I drove down to Exit 97 and found the old Shamblin Cemetery. I'm likely related to everyone in this small cemetery, but I haven't made all of the connections yet. I do know I have 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Great Grandparents buried here. I had never been to the cemetery before, but Eugene and Shawn had at different times in the past. It's very well maintained and apparently some of the modern day Shamblins still own the property.

I called some random Shamblins in Tuscaloosa last night and ended up finding a cousin named Robert Shamblin who is a vet in Northport. He told me about a reunion that they're going to have there on June 10 for the Shamblin family, so it looks like I may be headed back down there with the laptop in tow. I also made contact via Robert with another cousin in Illinois that does a lot of genealogy research, so hopefully I'll be adding a lot more information to the family tree soon.

Left to Right: Shawn Hatcher, Alan Hatcher, Eugene Hatcher, Casey Wortham

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pictures of the Boy

My wife recently updated Jackson's Blog with more pictures. I think this is my favorite. He's more fun to be around every day. He's starting to get a pretty good arm on him too. He throws a ball pretty hard, unlike his dad who never learned how to throw a ball.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cave #18 - Camps Gulf Cave

It's been a while since I've been to a new cave. In fact it was back in December when I visited Big Bone Cave, which is Heff's favorite cave name of all time I believe. Joey called me earlier in the week and asked me if I wanted to go to Camps Gulf. I said yes of course, since this is a cave I've been wanting to visit for several years now.

Joey, Aimee, Joe, and Eve camped out at Rock Island State park the night before, and I met them there Saturday morning on May 12 around 9:30 am. We got everything loaded up and drove over to the cave, taking what seemed to be a "certuferous" route via Joey's fancy new talking GPS.

We got to the cave about 11am, and met a couple of cavers from the Dogwood City Grotto who had just come back down from the cave. They were going to hike some more in the park that day then head to Nashville since they had tickets for the Opry that night. After a brief chat we got all of our gear loaded up and started up the road towards the cave.

Until recently, you could drive up the road almost to the cave, but now a gate has been installed right at what is now the parking area. This has caused a lot of discussion among the cavers in the TAG area, with many seeming to be upset about this. The walk to the cave from the gate is 3/4 of a mile according to my trusty Omron pedometer, and it's completely flat until you get right up to the cave entrance. I'd have to say that if this hike causes you much trouble, you really have no business going into a cave in the first place.

After the quick hike, we got to the cave entrance. This entrance is really pretty. It's set in a bowl, the back of which is a bluff about 100 feet tall or so. The entrance passage goes almost straight in for several hundred feet, and you can see the light from the entrance for quite a ways back into the cave.

Every cave has a theme. The theme for Camps Gulf is big rooms and breakdown. At the end of the short walk down the entrance passage, you hit the first and worst pile of breakdown. Imagine if you will a large, domed room, about the size of the Nashville Arena. Now fill it up about halfway with a large pile of rocks, so that the pile is pressing against the sides. So to get into the first big room, you have to climb up this nearly vertical pile of rocks, squeezing through several tight areas.

I like to call some of these tight squeezes "cheese graters" since that's what my body looks like I've been through afterwards. The picture below is me emerging from a particularly difficult "L" shaped squeeze where I'm sure I left several layers of skin behind. Note that these are tight squeezes for me, who weighs 275 lbs. The skinny people on the trip went right through them.

There are also some climb-ups in this area that I was a little uncomfortable with. The hand and footholds weren't all that great, plus it's wet and muddy. The drop would have been less than 10 feet, but it wouldn't have been good to slip.

Eventually we made it up to the top and I had my first good look at a really large room in a cave. It's definitely impressive, and makes for some great echoes as well. We spent some time whooping and hollering to test it out, then started down the breakdown towards the register.

To get some scale perspective, imagine ants crawling down a 4 or 5 foot high pile of gravel, then scale the ants up to human size. I could be completely wrong on the size of the gravel pile, but it's a mongo pile of rocks, trust me. We eventually found the register, and took a break while a few people filled it out, then headed for the second room, with Joey in the lead.

After some path finding by our fearless leader, we made it into the second room, which is more impressive than the first. It's roughly the same size, but the dome is much more obvious, and there's not as much breakdown in it. At one end of this room, there is a large mostly flat area of dirt, and a stream runs down into a small lake. We stopped here for an extended break, resting on the soft dirt, but we found we were being swarmed by gnats. They were completely white, and really seemed to like the light from my Apex headlamp. They would gather so thick around it that it was hard to see more than a foot or so.

The rest of the group decided to push on to the third room, but I was approaching my limits at this point so I decided to stay behind in the 2nd room and rest and explore a bit. I went down to the water and found even more gnats, and collected a few in a ziplock bag to look at later. After a long rest by the water, I poked around the breakdown pile for a while, and then headed back up the passage to the first room and planted myself on a rock until the others got back.

They soon rejoined me, and we headed out. We got turned around a bit on the way out, and my legs were just about shot from the breakdown climbing, so it was slow going. That first breakdown climb on the way into the cave is also tricky on the way out, since the lack of good hand holds in a few places are perhaps even scarier on the way down than on the way up. We took it slow and careful though, and made it out of the cave around 3:30 pm.

On the hike back to the cars, we saw a small non-poisonous snake and then ran into a couple of cavers from Michigan named Jason and Tammy. They're students at MSU and were down in the area for the week to do some caving. They told us that the trunk was open on a blue Honda back in the parking area. Oops. Guess I didn't notice that. Fortunately, everything was still in the trunk when we got back.

We drove back to the campground and I left for Nashville. I could tell my legs were going to be sore, and my quads still ache right now on Monday afternoon, so it was definitely a great trip. Remember, if you don't feel like you were in a train wreck the next day, the cave wasn't hard enough. Heh.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Blogging in May

Sorry for the lack of updates. There's just really not been too much interesting stuff going on lately. Mostly I just work, go home, play with Jack, feed Jack, bathe Jack, and put Jack to sleep. Then I relax for a few hours and go to bed myself.

I'm maintaining my weight around 275 right now. A bout with a stomach virus last week pushed me down to 271 for a day or two. That sure wasn't fun. At one point all four of us in the house were sick. Thank goodness we have 3 bathrooms and one in diapers.

I'm going caving tomorrow, so I'll have a good trip report out of that I hope. We're going to explore Camps Gulf Cave, and this will be my first trip to this classic TAG cave.

Monday, April 30, 2007


This is a picture of my grandfather, Luther Vernon Hatcher, holding my father, James Aubry Hatcher sometime around the spring of 1939. I had never seen this picture before, but this past weekend I visited my uncle Eugene Hatcher and he let me scan a lot of old photos that he's kept up with for many years now.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A New Hatcher Biped

The boy took another step towards becoming human recently by moving into the bipedal stage. Of course he won't become fully human until he takes the Humanity Test and faces the Gom Jabbar.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Today's D.B.A.N. came in at 276.2 lbs. I'm on my 11th straight day of low carbs with no cheating, even though Paul desperately tried to get me to cheat this past Saturday at his latest boxing PPV party. I've been hitting the gym 2 or 3 times a week as well, so the $89.00 I pay to the YMCA every month won't be a total waste. I also cut a new hole in my belt a few days ago. I need to buy a new belt and new clothes, but I'm trying to wait until I can fit into the next lower size at least. Right now the size 44's look like clown pants on me from the knees up.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Hatch Sets a Quarter Milestone

I went to the gym for the 3rd time this week last night. I really didn't want to, but I blabbed about it so much to Heff that I felt compelled to do so. I did 3 sets of arms and shoulders and back, then about a mile on the treadmill and a quick sit in the sauna.

When I got home, I still needed about 2,000 more steps to hit 10K for the day, so I started out down the sidewalk in the neighborhood. I was feeling pretty loose, so I started out jogging. I've been doing some intervals on the treadmill for the last few weeks, so my stamina has been going up. I usually push it about 100 strides then walk til I catch my breath. Last night I just kept going for a while. I kept making deals with myself to stop every 50 strides past 100, but I kept pushing it and eventually went 300 strides non-stop, which is over a quarter of a mile.

Last year I remember sending an email to Uncle Bull where I proudly stated that I had "walked a quarter of a mile yesterday." That sounds so pitiful now, but when I was 330 lbs at the time it was an effort just to walk up the stairs at my house. I'm still stuck at 280 lbs right now, but I'm making progress.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Hatch Hits the Gym

Well, I finished my second workout of the month last night at the gym. Sunday was arms, and last night was shoulder, back, and lats. I did my first mile on the treadmill in 15:14. Let's go over and check with Heff and see how his workouts are going this month:

"Well, Hatch, as you can see from my special calendar here, there are in fact, no workouts completed for the month of April. I can't really explain this, other than the fact that I had to pay my bills and move some Broyhill furniture. Broyhill, Hatch! Besides, Uncle Bull is so far ahead of us that it's just not hardly worth trying anymore. It's not fair Hatch. Why wasn't I born with a frame worthy of hanging some meat off of like you and Bill?"

Stay tuned for more exciting workout updates and exciting quotes from Heff and Uncle Bull as thong season fast approaches.

Friday, March 30, 2007

My Gourdneck Shame

Well, this past Saturday I loaded up my caving gear and rode with Joey to Gourdneck Cave, the same cave which I got all of 5 steps into last year. They've removed the ladders since then, but my friend John said it was "just a climbdown with a handline." We got there and I took a good hard look at the "climbdown" and decided not to go in. I'm pretty sure I could have gotten down OK, but the climb back out would have been nasty, and they might have had to haul me up it, which just wouldn't be fun for anyone. It can be climbed out of with just a handline, but people that were in a lot better shape than me had a hard time doing it.

I will master this cave some day soon, but only after I have some vertical equipment and a little more training on climbing. For now Gourdneck is still my master.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Around Again

As of approximately 0600 this morning, I've completed my 39th orbit around Sol, the homely G2 main sequence star in this solar system I've been assigned to. All systems are currently nominal, although Triglyceride levels remain elevated. Reproductive components of the mission plan have been completed, although many components involved in the education of named successor are still in the implementation phase. Said successor has recently acquired the ability to gain the attention of necessary parental units by the utterance of the phrase "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" in a repetitious manner until said parental unit engages its bipedal locomotive appendages and ascends to the second level of assigned domicile to retrieve it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hatch Go Ugh

Ugh. I'm finally feeling better after being laid low for a week with a sinus cold. I've been walking some during the time, but I'm on a carb break for the countdown to my birthday next week.

I'm planning on going caving on Saturday, and it will be a return to Gourdneck, which defeated me last year. They removed the ladders recently, so supposedly it's a climbdown with a rope now. My friend John has promised to bring an extra long rope to hook up to his truck in case of difficulty. Should be interesting regardless.

Friday, March 16, 2007

There Goes the Neighborhood

I came home about 10:00 tonight after going to a Nashville Grotto meeting. As I pulled into the driveway and parked the car, I looked out to my left at the common grounds and saw a rabbit sitting in the grass about 30 feet away. After about 5 seconds, another rabbit runs up, mounts it, and starts going to town. A few seconds after that, another rabbit runs up and starts chasing both of the other rabbits, so there are three rabbits running around in big circles in the grass. The whole time I'm watching this, the saxophone music from Benny Hill is running through my head. I had to take a few minutes to stop laughing before I went into the house.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Baby Morning Blues

Yesterday started out as a "where the hell are my keys?" morning. We spent 10 minutes looking for them, but the girl was going to be late for school so we took my wife's car. I get back, get mostly dressed for work, then start looking for the keys. Marissa is convinced that the boy picked them up at some point and stashed them somewhere so he can pull them out two days hence and go "ta-da!" He did this same trick with her cell phone last month.

After about 45 minutes, I finally remember that I was using my keys out in the garage the previous afternoon to pry off something from the boy's wagon so I could get the wheel to be tighter. A quick dash out to the garage and I have them. I finish getting dressed, and as I'm about to leave, I hear a cry of anguish from Marissa...

Yes, the boy got into a bucket of paint. We turned the very small back deck into a play area, complete with astroturf and a slide, but somehow an old rusty bucket of white paint had materialized in the corner under the bench, and the lid was of course loose enough for the boy to get it off. After getting the majority of the paint off of him, I finally stumbled into work about 9:45, just thankful to be there.

Back Under

I got home at 11pm last night. My knees and elbows were sore, scraped up, and bruised. My boots were water logged, and most of my body was covered in mud and guano. What a great night!

Yes, I went caving last night. We had a group of 12 that went on a trip to Hardins Cave in Davidson County. This was my second trip to the cave, but I was in much better shape this time. Some of the group pushed almost to the back of the cave, but we various levels of abilities in the group, so since I was the "leader" of the trip I stayed behind to make sure everyone was getting along OK and I didn't go quite as deep.

We spent about 2.5 hours in the cave. There wasn't much water, but we saw probably 100 bats. Since it was fairly warm outside there were a lot of them flying around in the cave as well. At one point one flew close enough to my head that I could hear the wings fluttering as it went by.

I carbed out for dinner last night since I was going caving and needed the extra energy, but today I'm back on the low carbs until the next caving trip. I'll also be back at the gym tonight to keep the weight lifting streak alive. I'm starting my third week of lifting this week. No big results yet, but thong season is just around the corner you know.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Weekend Meat

Sometime in the last year or so, Heff and my brother have gotten me hooked on Chuck Eye steaks. Apparently the Piggly Wiggly in Columbiana has an endless supply of them. They cook up and taste exactly like a Rib Eye steak, but they cost less than half.

I've tried to find them around Nashville, but I've had no luck. The butchers I've talked to at the super markets here say that they rarely have them, maybe a few packages a week. Apparently the Pig in Columbiana has access to a bigger supply of them.

Well, this Saturday when we were at the local Krogers, I finally found two packs of them, so I fired the grill up for the first time this year. This is what makes the Low Carb diet such a great thing. I let the grill heat up for about 10 minutes, and then put the steak on that had been soaking in Dales for a few hours. Three minutes on each side, then I chowed down on a pound of steak that I paid three whole dollars for. I'm sure there's some nit-picky reason that rib eye is so much more expensive, but I sure can't find any reason to pay twice as much for it.

Sunday Legs

Yesterday's step total = 19,136 = 8.75 miles. Nuff Said.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Doctor's Visit

Well, the two week follow up visit to the doctor was yesterday afternoon. Everything went well. My blood pressure was still a little high, about 20 pts or so, but much lower than it was two weeks ago. According to their scales I had dropped 10 lbs, and the doc was pretty impressed with that. We decided I'd keep exercising and losing weight, and stay on the same medicine, with another follow up in two months.

As for Baby Hatch, he's like a brand new baby after the tubes were put in. He's talking a lot more and is a lot more active. Marissa turned our small back deck into a play area, with a slide, and he gets angry if he doesn't get to go out there right after breakfast.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sarah Ann Hatcher

As I said in a previous post, I've been doing some more family research lately. One of my ancestors that's been difficult to find information about is my 2nd Great Grandmother, Sarah Ann Hatcher. She was married to Andrew Jackson Hatcher, who is my 2nd Great Grandfather and is who my son Jackson is named after. Even today, nobody is completely sure what Sarah Ann's maiden name was. It could be Bircheat, Birgett, or maybe even Hyde.

The online resources I had found had Sarah Ann as being buried in "B'ville Cemetery in Birmingham." I wanted to find this cemetery so I could visit it on my next trip down to Birmingham, so I started trying to find it online. After a week of complete frustration, I finally contacted the Genealogy department at the Birmingham Public Library and within a few minutes they were able to confirm that it was actually "Bucksville Cemetery" which is in Tuscaloosa County. It's adjacent to the Tannehill Golf Course and is right off I20/59.

I had made some postings online before I figured it out, and this week someone who lives close by the cemetery was actually kind enough to take some pictures of Sarah Ann's tombstone. I still want to check it out myself, but it's great to finally know where she's buried. No one knows so far where Andrew Jackson Hatcher is buried, but he could be in an unmarked grave next to hers. He died in 1893, just 4 years after she did. She was also his second wife, so it's possible he's buried next to his first wife, but I don't know where she's buried yet. The search continues.

The Tired Ole Hatch

Well, with the big 3-9 birthday coming up fast, and a blood pressure spike the week before last which was too high to mention on a family blog, the time finally came for me to give up the delusion of the low calorie diet and just plain old get my fat ass into gear and lose some weight. So last Wednesday I polished up the old pedometer told myself I'd do at least 7k steps a day for the next 7 days. I also got back on the low carb diet after reading the Atkins book for the first time in a while to get myself back in practice.

So here's my chart of steps walked for the last 7 days including today:
3/1/2007 7350
3/5/2007 11165

This is probably the best overall week I've had since I first got the pedometer. I kept my pledge to do at least 7k steps a day, and for the week I averaged 9,638 steps a day and walked a total of almost 31 miles. Not too shabby for a fat hairy white boy.

I've also been getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night, but that's mostly because I'm just plain tired. This morning I weighed in at 280.9, so I've lost almost 12 pounds since the new year. I went to the gym twice this past week as well, but that was mostly to use the treadmill when it was freezing outside. I did a little bit of weights, but just with the arms. My next cave trip is March 14, so I should be in pretty good shape by then at this rate.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Oh Lawd!

Apparently Heff has finally gotten tired of having no outlet to abuse me on the Internet, since I've been heavily censoring his comments here for the last year or so. It appears that his blog has returned. Before you rush over there, be warned that Heff is one of the most disgusting and despicable bloggers that you'll ever meet, but he's also my best friend and my Fourth Cousin, Once Removed. His blog is NC-17 on it's best day, while I strive to maintain at PG-13 rating.

Don't click on the link Nana!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Hatcher Implants

Jack has had 5 ear infections in the last three months, so when we visited the ear, nose, and throat specialist on Tuesday he said we should definitely get tubes inserted as soon as possible. Both ears were full of fluid and it's probably been affecting his hearing for the last few months.

So we woke up this morning at 6am and got to Summit Hospital at 6:45 to check into the Same Day Surgery area. It was pretty nerve wracking, since they had to put him under for a few minutes to do the surgery. Everything went fine though, and he's already feeling a lot better this afternoon. The doctor said both ears were full of fluid and pus, and he's been on a strong antibiotic for a week now.

Jack now has something implanted within him just like his Daddy. Fortunately, his will be gone naturally in about a year, while I still feel like I'm part Borg. Actually, I don't really notice my pacemaker much now after having it for three years as of yesterday.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

102nd Anniversary

Yesterday was the 102 year anniversary of the Virginia Mines Explosion that killed my great-uncle Bruce Hopkins father, Irvin Hopkins. Bruce was the half brother of my grandfather Luther Vernon Hatcher.

Here's a nice collection of articles from back then about the disaster that I just happened to come across last night while I was doing some research on my family tree after talking on the phone to my uncle Eugene for several hours.

I've started doing some more genealogy research, which I haven't really done since about 1986. I've already added several more generations of Hatchers, which was a complete dead end for us when we were researching before the Internet came along. It turns out there's now a very large online Hatcher research site, and they're even doing some genetic testing to help fill in some of the missing generations.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Limrock Pictures

Here's a couple of pictures that Joey sent me from our trip to Limrock Blowing Cave last weekend. In the first one, taken at the entrance, I'm showing everyone that I need to buy a larger caving shirt, while Joey appears to be scratching his butt on an icicle.

The second picture is the first waterfall in the cave, about 150 feet or so inside. The water is coming out of a V shaped hole, and just above my head was a large gathering of cave crickets. The water flows around the large rock I'm leaning on and goes out through a small hole in the cave wall to my right.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Weekend Caving

This past weekend I finally got motivated again and decided to go caving, which is the first time I've been since the trip to Big Bone Cave back in December, which I guess I still haven't talked about on the blog. I'll have to try to sneak in a Big Bone trip report while Heff is distracted. I can only imagine the heinousness of the comments he would come up with for it.

Joey was camping near Scottsboro with an old friend of his, another friend of that friend, and their wives. They wanted to go caving, and Joey wanted to go somewhere new, so he decided on Limrock Blowing Cave and then a trip up to Stephens Gap to rappel the big pit there. I had been to both caves, so I told him I'd come along and act as guide for Limrock.

This was my second trip to Limrock, and it was a bit different this time. I went during SERA last year, and the cave was warmer and drier. The cave wasn't blowing air on Saturday, it was sucking air in. Cold air. It was right at freezing outside I think. There was also a lot more water in the cave. I was dressed in my standard caving outfit, which is cargo shorts and a synthetic t-shirt, along with Smart Wool socks. As long as my feet stay warm I can take pretty low temperatures.

As we got deeper in the cave, it warmed up significantly. We reached one point in a 50 foot dome with a waterfall where we guessed it may have been as warm as 60 degrees, which felt like a sauna compared to the cave entrance. We spent about 2.5 hours in the cave, and we made really good time. We pushed down the main bore hole passage until we hit the large pile of breakdown and turned around. We skipped the loop on the way out where we'd have to swim for a bit, and managed to find a crawl that skipped another medium sized pile of breakdown that we had climbed over on the way in.

After a sandwich break in the parking lot, we drove over to the parking area for Stephens Gap. This was my third trip here, and I was dreading the one mile hike since my legs were already tired. I almost backed out, but decided to go ahead and hike up. I warned the rest of the group that I would be slow making it all the way up, so just go on ahead. They needed to rig the pit anyway.

I was really huffing and puffing by the time I made it up to the entrance, but the trip up there is always worth the hike. Stephens Gap truly is one of the natural wonders of Alabama. On Saturday there was a lot more water going into the pit than the last two times I was there. I sat and watched them rig the rope through the keyhole for a bit, then went down into the cave through the horizontal entrance, which was trickier this time due to the ice coating the breakdown. At least I didn't have to worry about copperheads this time of year.

From below the big pit was very interesting. There were actually two waterfalls in the pit, the big one at the top and another one that entered from a crack about 50 feet down and across from the other one. The water from both merge about 50 feet below that, but it's a strange effect since the water from the big waterfall is moving a lot faster at the point where they merge. It's hard to describe, but it's cool to watch.

I sat on a ledge and watched Joey rappel the pit, then I decided I'd had enough for the day. I wanted to get home in time to put Jack to bed. Joey asked me to make sure his truck was OK since he couldn't lock the back of it and he was worried someone would break into it. I trudged down the valley, having to will my legs to take one more step. They were pretty much shot by that point. When I got back to the vehicles, I immediately broke into Joey's truck and stole a sandwich and a beer. I made good time back to Nashville, and was there to give the boy a bath and put him to bed. I took an Aleve, fell asleep on the couch, and didn't move for about 14 hours. My quadriceps were complaining the rest of the weekend, but they were fine by Monday.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tuesday Morning DBAN Coming Down

So the DBAN today was 281.3. It's been slow going, but progress is being made. People at work are asking me if I've lost weight now, so it must be starting to show. I know my belt is getting really loose again and it's on the last notch.

Sunday I put over 10k steps on the pedometer for the first time since I broke my toe in early January. I clocked 11.6k for the day and the next day the toe only ached a little and my legs were pretty much worn out. I put over a mile on it Sunday morning by pushing 1 year olds around in a large cart at church. I made six laps around the church with them and broke a pretty good sweat doing so.

Yesterday I only did 6.1k steps since I was just plain tuckered out by the time I got home and got Jack ready for bed. Plus it's cold and I hate walking on the treadmill. I'm going to try to do 10k again today and then slow it down the rest of the week since I'm going caving in north Alabama on Saturday.

A Hatch Book Meme

I don't normally do these, but Wilfred keeps doing them and I'm jealous, so when I saw one that was related to sci-fi books I decided to snag it from Eve who snagged it from some other blogger.

Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror?
An even mixture of Sci-Fi and Fantasty. I rarely read Horror. I read Amityville Horror back in elementary school and I think it scarred me for life.

Hardback or Trade Paperback or Mass Market Paperback?
Honestly, I don't care. I even read online books occasionally, especially at Project Gutenburg. In 2005 I read Candide there. At home I have mostly Hardback and trades. I do avoid the Mass Markets for the most part because they fall apart so easily.

Heinlein or Asimov?
As far as Sci-Fi goes, it would be Heinlein, who I read voraciously as a horny teenage geek. I've read most of Asimov's Foundation series, and I've read a lot of his non-fiction as well. The man wrote an insane amount of books on vastly different topics.

Amazon or Brick and Mortar?
I buy a lot from Amazon, although I pick up an impulse buy a few times a year at a Brick and Mortar. I hit the local library a lot too.

Barnes & Noble or Borders?
There aren't any Borders in Nashville that I know of, so I don't really have a choice usually. When I lived in Atlanta we would drive to the huge Borders in Buckhead several times a month. It was an insanely great bookstore and was big enough to require escalators. It had a huge selection of science, computer, and sci-fi/fantasy books.

Hitchhiker or Discworld?
I've been meaning to read some Discworld novels for years now, but I've never gotten around to it. I read the Hitchhiker books a lot when I was a teenager and loved them at the time. I tried to read the first Hitchhiker book again a few years ago and found it unappealing.

Bookmark or Dog ear?
About once a year, a certain someone in my house tries to be helpful and saves the place in a book I've left lying open by dog earring the page. This drives me completely nuts and there's usually an argument involved.

Magazine: Asimov’s Science Fiction or Fantasy & Science Fiction?
Neither. I prefer Analog and I've read it for years.

Alphabetize by author Alphabetize by title or random?
Totally random. Boxes of books laying around in the garage random.

Keep, Throw Away or Sell?
I did a huge purge several years ago and so far it hasn't built back up too much. I tend to use the library more now, so that helps. I also tend to gather up a pile and give them to Paul and he will do the same for me.

Year’s Best Science Fiction series (edited by Gardner Dozois) or Years Best SF series (edited by David G. Hartwell)?
Haven't read either, so can't comment.

Keep dust jacket or toss it?
I often take the dust jacket off to read and then lose it, so it's not a planned action.

Read with dust jacket or remove it?
See previous entry.

Short story or novel?
I like both. I buy a few issues of Analog magazine every year and I'll tend to read an anthology every once and a while.

Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket?
I haven't read either. I'll probably read Harry Potter along with Jack when he gets old enough. I think Victoria read Lemony Snicket books a few years back.

Stop reading when tired or at chapter breaks?
Sometimes in the middle of a paragraph depending on how tired I am. If I've already stayed up too late but I really want to keep reading, I'll make a deal with myself to stop at the end of the next chapter.

“It was a dark and stormy night” or “Once upon a time”?
Once upon a time.

Buy or Borrow?
I do both in equal measures. It's been a while since PC and I did a swap, so I may need to take a pile over to his house this Sunday.

Buying choice: Book Reviews, Recommendation or Browse?
I rarely read reviews, so it's usually a recommendation or browsing.

Lewis or Tolkien?
I've only read the first Narnia book and that was a looooonng time ago back in middle school I think. I've read The Hobbit and The Ring Trilogy by Tolkien. I tried to read some of his other stuff but it's like reading an atlas. On three occasions I've tried to slog through the Silmarillion, but I get bogged down about 1/4 of the way through.

Hard SF or Space Opera?
Hard Sci-fi all the way. I did recently read a great Space Opera though. Check out the 2006 reading list.

Collection (short stories by the same author) or Anthology (short stories by different authors)?
Both. I'm in the process of reading The Compleat Enchanter (collection) and The Enchanter Compleated (anthology), both about the character created by L. Sprague DeCamp.

Hugo or Nebula?
I've read many of the books awarded the Hugo and I've never been disappointed. Forever War is one of the best, as was A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge. I'm not very familiar with the Nebula so again I can't comment.

Golden Age SF or New Wave SF?
New Wave for the most part. I'm not sure when the "Golden Era" stopped, but I tend to pick up a 1970's Sci-fi book every time I'm near Hillsboro Village and I'm able to stop in Book Man/Book Woman, which has an insanely great, if random, selection of old sci-fi paperbacks.

Tidy ending or Cliffhanger?
Tidy. Cliffhangers suck unless there's another book to resolve it later.

Morning reading, Afternoon reading or Nighttime reading?
Almost always at night. Sometimes I read at lunch, but lately I haven't been taking long lunches.

Standalone or Series?
I like series, but they usually bog down if they go longer than 3 books. The best example of this is the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. It started out being insanely great, but after the third book it slowly ground down until the last couple have been almost intolerably bad and boring. He says he's going to wrap it all up in one more novel, but I can't see how he will without rushing things and leaving a lot of plot lines open.

Urban fantasy or high fantasy?
I'm not sure what "urban fantasy" is. I pretty much like the traditional fantasy worlds where magic is rare, feared, and often misunderstood. I did enjoy the Thieves World books, but again, like most series they bogged down soon after the third book.

New or used?
I buy both, but often used. I tend to go to Book Man/Book Woman and buy a stack of used paperbacks for the same price a new hardback would cost.

Favorite book of which nobody else has heard?
I don't tend to read unknown books. Since I tend to read some of the older stuff, I'm sure a lot of people my age and younger have never heard of some of them. Check out anything by Alfred Bester, but if you only read one, read The Demolished Man, which won the first Hugo award. If you read two, go with The Stars my Destination, which is probably the original "Cyberpunk" novel.

Top X favorite genre books read last year? (Where X is 5 or less)
A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin
The Night's Dawn Trilogy - Peter F. Hamilton

Top X favorite genre books of all time? (Where X is 5 or less)
Dune - Frank Herbert
Voice of the Whirlwind - Walter Jon Williams. (I re-read it every few years. Probably my favorite book.)
The Demolished Man - Alfred Bester
Starship Troopers - Robert Heinlein
Battlefield Earth - L. Ron Hubbard (Yes, I love this book. I've read it multiple times since I was 16 and haven't seen any signs of Scientology in it. It's just a great big campy sci-fi book that's a lot of fun to read.)

X favorite genre series? (Where X is 5 or less)
A Song of Fire and Ice - George R.R. Martin
Wheel of Time (The first 5 books) - Robert Jordan
The Belgariad - David Eddings (You can safely skip The Mallorean, the sequel series.)
The Night's Dawn Trilogy - Peter F. Hamilton
The Riftwar Saga - Raymond E. Feist

Top X favorite genre short stories? (Where X is 5 or less)
I don't tend to remember short stories much after I read them. They're sort of like eating M&M's. I really enjoyed the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber, and I need to read them again soon. The short stories in Thieves World and Wildcards were always enjoyable too. I've read a lot of sci-fi in Analog magazine over the years as well.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

DBAN Update

This morning's DBAN read exactly 284.0 lbs, so I've dropped about 8.5 lbs in the last three weeks. This isn't as much as I had hoped, but I also broke the second toe on my left foot about three weeks ago, so the walking and exercise has been minimal. The toe is still hurting a little, but it's not completely black and blue like it was two weeks ago and you can barely tell I'm limping.

I decided this week to start a modified version of Weight Watchers, which is what my wife has been doing with great success the last three weeks. I'm not allowed to mention specific numbers for her, but she's doing great so far. Weight Watchers has traditionally been seen as geared towards women, and I think I know why. They love all the complexity of it since it gives them something to talk about and focus their minds on. There's little paper calculators and books and group discussions and all that helps them stick to it.

I decided to simplify it. I'm multiplying my weight by 5 and that's the max number of calories I'm eating every day, split into 5 small meals. So right now it's 1420 calories. That's 284 calories per meal, which is exactly what a Lean Pocket is. So I bought 10 boxes of them on Sunday and I eat one about every 3 hours starting at 8 am. It's cheap, it's portioned, and there's so many varieties it will be a while before I get sick of them. I also bought some cereal, but so far I haven't eaten that for breakfast yet.

Weight Watchers includes extra points you can use during the week, and I'm allowing myself an extra 1000 calories maximum on any day I go caving, which could be a few more weeks until my toe completely heals up.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

What I Learned Today

This evening I've been reading a biology book and I thought I actually caught a typo so I looked it up. The author was talking about reproduction and used the phrase "sperms and eggs." I took biology in high school and at the university level and never realized the plural of "sperm" is "sperms." I would have bet a small amount of money that its singular and plural forms were both just "sperm," sort of like sheep and sheep.

I'm guessing that both are probably acceptable. After I guessed that I checked a few other dictionaries and some actually list both as plural. The author of the book is British, so that could explain why I haven't seen that particular plural form before.

Fentress County Showdown

Near Pall Mall, TN in Fentress county is a cave the locals call Blowing Cave. Cavers refer to it as Wolf River Cave and it was purchased a few years back by the SCCi and the Nature Conservancy. Before this purchase it was gated by the previous owners, and the SCCi declined to remove the gate to maintain the protection of the Indiana Bats that roost there during the winter. I haven't visited this cave yet, but it's well known as an important cave within the caving community, especially since the Indiana Bat is on the verge of extinction.

Also near Pall Mall, which by the way is the home of Alvin York the World War I hero, is a road named State Route 28 and US127 and the Alvin C. York Highway. (One thing about Tennessee is that almost every road has at least three names.) The stretch of highway near the cave is very curvy, steep, and tends to slide down the hill every couple of days. It reminds me of the road from Vandiver to Leeds back in Shelby County. People tend to die on this road at a regular rate, and TDOT spends a lot of time repairing the road, sometimes on a daily basis.

So obviously many years ago, a decision was made that it needed to be fixed. Being a large bueracracy, TDOT took its sweet time making up its mind, and I'm sure the people of Fentress county spent a lot of time and effort and money pushing them to get it completed. So TDOT comes up with a plan, they bid the contract, and then they decided to apply for the necessary permits with TDEC to alter or destroy several streams and a tiny wetland (0.05 acres).

Normally this wouldn't be a big deal, but in this case one of the streams emerges from a conduit in the side of an abandoned quarry then exits the quarry at the bottom through a crack which is termed a "karst fissure." TDOT wants to fill in the quarry and re-route part of the road to go over the top of it. The problem is that they want to fill it with waste material from the cuts they're making for the rest of the road, and that material will almost certainly contain pyrite (Fool's Gold). Pyrite reacts with oxygen and water to produce sulfuric acid, so if the pyritic material were placed in this quarry, it would likely produce acid runoff that would enter the karst region below directly through the fissure.

TDOT's plan to prevent this is to "encapsulate" the material by putting a 6 foot layer of very compacted clay around it and layering crushed limestone every 3 feet which as a base would neutralize the acid. The problem with this is that they have no idea how long the encapsulation would last. They've given various figures of 50 years to 100 years. That's fine, but what about 200 years from now? If the acid enters the karst system and makes its way to the cave, the aquatic life will die. This includes species that are likely unique to that cave system, which has not had a full biological inventory performed on it yet.

The simple solution is just to put the material somewhere else, but TDOT is stubbornly clinging to the encapsulation idea, and the local people, who only want to get the road finished as fast as possible, have fully embraced it.

Fortunately, before TDEC issues permits, it is required to call for public comments. Enough cavers sent in concerns and requested a public hearing that TDEC announced a hearing in Jamestown, TN on January 16, 2007. Four people from the Nashville Grotto rode up to Fentress County that night, along with a few people from the Nature Conservancy and a couple of other cavers. I had a speech prepared since I was representing the Nashville Grotto as I've been elected to be Vice-Chair for 2007. I think we were all expecting a small affair, with a few TDOT, TDEC and maybe some locals that had some interest in the project.

We got there early, and as we chatted amongst ourselves in the lunchroom of the local elementary school, the place filled up. I'm not sure how many people were there, but I'd say well over 200. Fentress County was angry that night, my friends. We were getting stared at early on, but no one was outright rude at that point.

When the poor guy from TDEC stood up to make some opening comments he was immediately barraged with questions and comments from the crowd. Everyone was angry that the road work had been delayed once again, and they were there to voice their discontent. The TDEC rep stated again and again that this hearing was only to hear about "water quality issues", but nearly all of the local people ignored that and repeated over and over how badly the road was needed. At one point someone said "well apparently the only ones opposed to this are the cavers." We knew at this point it might get ugly.

Finally things settled down enough for TDOT to give a powerpoint presentation about the project. It was very slick and polished and designed to play into the emotions of the Fentress county residents. Unfortunately, it left out certain key facts, like the existence of the karst fissure at the bottom of the quarry. The TDOT speaker also made a few snide comments about the people that were concerned about the encapsulation, which was us of course.

There was another barrage of questions to the TDOT rep, and some of them were pretty good. A few locals asked why they couldn't dump the material somewhere else, and someone even asked why they let the bid before they had the necessary permits. The TDOT rep avoided direct answers here. I asked "What is the expected lifespan of the encapsulation?" He hemmed and hawed, and never gave an answer past "a long time" although he did mention a figure of 50 years.

Finally came the time for testimonials. There was a microphone at the front of the room and each person that spoke was required to give their name and then have their say. One of the locals requested that everyone identify where they were from, since someone had asked earlier if the people objecting to the permit were from "New York or China or somewheres?"

The first couple of people that spoke were politicians. As expected, they really had nothing to say about water quality issues and were there to speak to the crowd instead of TDEC. Then 20 to 30 local residents were called and most of them only touched on water quality issues and focused on how dangerous the road was. At this point I was being torn, since I could identify heavily with them and I sure wouldn't want my kids on a bus going down this road twice a day.

Three people opposed to the permit spoke near the end. The first was Heather from the Nature Conservancy. She was clearly nervous and told me afterwards that if our group hadn't been sitting directly in front of the microphone she thought she would have fainted. Next was Bill from the SCCi, and did well going through his prepared speech, although he skipped parts of it since it was getting late. Since the SCCi owns the cave and he was representing them, the anger of the room quickly focused on Bill and there was some muttering while he was up there.

Soon after that it was my turn. I had a two page prepared speech with lots of two dollar words in it, but when I stood up there and looked out across that room I decided at that moment not to use it. I just spoke from my heart. I started with "Hello, my name is Alan Hatcher and as someone requested earlier, I'll say that I live in Hermitage, Tennessee in Davidson county."

I don't remember a lot after that since I got a bit emotional and let some of my anger at TDOT come out. I remember mentioning that I have two children at home and that I'd surely hate to send them over that mountain every day, and that I'd lost an uncle on a similar road in Alabama (the one from Vandiver to Leeds). As we had all said up to that point, we had no desire to block the road project. We only want the pyritic material placed somewhere safer since TDOT has no idea where the karst fissure leads. I also mentioned the creatures in the cave, including the crayfish which can live 40 to 80 years. Apparently I lost them a bit when I mentioned it was important for their grandchildren to be able to see those creatures. Their anger here was about the cave gate and they had been talking about the danger the road presented to the children all evening as well.

Afterwards, no one was rude to me at least. One lady did come up to Bill and introduce herself and then whispered to him "I hope you rot in hell." I talked to someone from the contractor that's going to do the work, and the we left and headed back to Nashville. This was my baptism of fire in speaking at public hearings. It was also the first time I've spoken in front of a hostile crowd. I may have lost my cool a bit, but at least I looked them all in the eye while I was speaking to them.

The only other interesting part of this story is that I was sitting at the same lunch room table with Alvin York's son, who is a ranger at the park that's now where Alvin lived. I didn't get to speak to him, but it was a slightly odd feeling being only one degree of separation away from someone I read about many times as a child and who was one of my childhood heroes, but being worlds away that night due to a disagreement over a hole in the ground.

Reading Lists

I finished updating my 2006 Reading List and started my 2007 Reading List. As is usual for me lately, I'm reading 2 or 3 books at a time, but they won't be listed until I've actually finished reading them.

The first book for 2007 was Dune by Frank Herbert, which I finished last night. This is the third time I've read it and it didn't let me down this time either. I first read it when I was about 14 and I found it dry but passable. I read it the second time when the movie came out in my 20's, to see how badly they screwed up in the movie. The movie was a mess, and you can trust me that the book is much better.

This time I think it was different because I could relate more to the character Paul near the end of the book when he's a father. I won't spoil anything, but the ending of the book struck me in more of an emotional way this time around. It also helps to have a laptop with Wikipedia called up next to you when you're reading it. I looked up things on several occasions and gained a deeper understanding of some of the terms and concepts. All of this was unavailable when I first read the book 25 years ago.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Hatch the New Year

Ugh. I was trying to keep my holiday weight gain down to 5 lbs, and I was doing pretty good until the last couple of weeks. I ended up putting on about 7.5 lbs, so after a final carb binge at Uncle Paul's house yesterday topped off by a big helping of his Cobbler-less Blackberry Cobbler, I'm back on track to start another big weight loss push.

This morning's DBAN was 292.4. I walked 5196 steps yesterday and my goal is to average 7k steps per day for the next week. Get ready for lots of boring statistics in the coming weeks. It's just what I do. Don't make me tell the story about the frog and the scorpion again...