Asheviller: Ron and Valerie Move to Asheville…

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Fri
26
Aug '11

Rattlesnake Lodge

This Friday’s Blueridge Parkway Hike of the Week was to Rattlesnake Lodge. It’s a 3 mi roundtrip hike to the remains of a vacation lodge built in 1904 by Dr. Chase P. Ambler. The lodge burned in 1926 and all that remains are the stone foundations of the structures. It was another perfect day for a hike and the trailhead for this one was only five miles from our house. Most of the other hikes have been south on the parkway and a good one-hour drive away. Being so close gave us extra time to have a sit-down breakfast at City Bakery rather than eating it on the run. Serena likes their bacon!

Most of our other hikes were all about the views but this one was more about the destination. There were lots of flowers and berries along the route, several mushrooms, and a few peek-a-boo views. No rattlesnakes, though.

And, why was the retreat called “Rattlesnake Lodge”? It’s because Dr. Ambler had a “thing” for rattlesnakes. The story is that while the lodge was being constructed 41 rattlesnakes were killed on the property. Dr. Amber paid $5 (a week’s wages) for each rattlesnake skin and people brought them in from miles around. Each skin was hung from the ceiling of the living room, covering it from wall to wall. Maybe that was one of those ideas that sounded good at first, but then after a while, not so much…

 

 

 

 

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Thu
25
Aug '11

Thermos

It doesn’t seem like nearly a year ago but last October 13 was the point in construction when we foam insulated the house. Now, six weeks shy of a year, we’re at it again. This time it’s the shop. I debated doing this (vs installing standard fiberglass batts) because it’s more expensive, but two things, really three things, led to the decision. One, because the garage and the weight of two cars and a concrete floor is over the shop, all the ceiling and wall construction is on 12″ centers vs the normal 16″. Because of that, standard-width fiberglass batts won’t fit between the studs. We’d need to buy 24″ batts and cut them down the center which would be time-consuming and make for poor R-value because there wouldn’t always be a perfect cut and fit. Two, foam is just plain better than fiberglass for insulating because it has a greater R-value/inch and it fills every knook and cranny. We plan on having just a small propane wall heater so efficiency is king. I’d like to keep the shop warm and not worry about frozen pipes — and have a low gas bill, too. Turning our shop into a big Thermos bottle will do that. And three, Valerie said “Foam it!” Decision. Done.

Well, not exactly. It turns out that because our crawlspace under the shop is sealed it has a very slick white plastic fabric spread tightly over the dirt floor. The installation guys looked over the job and were concerned about ripping the fabric with their ladders and equipment (yes, you need a ladder to get to the ceiling in our crawlspace) so they recommended not foaming the ceiling over the crawlspace and instead using fiberglass batts. The floor joists there are 16″ on center and there are few if any wires or pipes. They claim they can easily push the standard batts into place with poles and not risk tearing the plastic that seals floor. It’s okay by me since there’s little heat loss through the floor and it’ll save a couple hundred $$. They’ll return next weeks with the fiberglass to do that work.

It took them nearly a full day to foam everything but they’re done and it looks good. On Monday the slatboard and pegboard will be  delivered and Steve will get to work finishing our shop.

 

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Sun
21
Aug '11

Speaking of Physicals…

I learned something this week. It’s legal in North Carolina for a woman to “go topless.” Today was national Go Topless Day and in typical Asheville fashion, that was an excuse to raise awareness/celebrate/protest/parade/party. Remember the Zombie Parade?…

While they may be uncomfortable, they won’t be breaking the law,
according to Police Department spokesman Wally Welch.
“They can breast away,” said Lt. Welch. “It’s not a crime.”
The North Carolina statute that covers indecent exposure bans the
exposure of “private parts,” specifically “external organs of sex
or excretion.” That only covers body parts below the waist, Welch said.

What made the event all the better was that just 100 yards away, on the other side of the park, was the Gateway Christian Community Church holding its regular outdoor Sunday service. According to a city spokesman, “They’ll be some distance apart, and the church said, if necessary, they’ll completely turn their event so they’re facing the other direction.”  

Since it’s Asheville, we can’t stop the irony and strangeness there…if the church members are so afraid of seeing bare breasts wait until they learn that the founder of Go Topless is also the founder of the Raelian Movement. “The Raelian Movement teaches that life on Earth was scientifically created by a species of extraterrestrials, which they call the Elohim. Members of this species appeared human and when having personal contacts with the descendants of the humans they made, they were mistaken for angels, cherubim or gods. Raëlians believe messengers, or prophets, of the Elohim include Buddha, Jesus, and others.” Actually, their beliefs probably aren’t too far off, but I digress…

Oh, you want video? Sorry, we didn’t attend. There were a couple videos posted on YouTube but they were “…removed as a violation of YouTube’s policy on nudity and sexual content.” Apparently YouTube doesn’t have that Asheville spirit!

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Fri
19
Aug '11

Devils Courthouse

Today’s Blueridge Parkway Hike of the Week was to Devil’s Courthouse. Admittedly, it was not much of a hike because it was only one mile round trip although it was fairly steep. In the first picture, the peak behind and above the sign is where we’re headed. The weather was perfect and the views of the surrounding area all the way into Georgia and South Carolina were great.

 

 

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Wed
17
Aug '11

Let’s Get Physicals

Cardiologist. Check. Veterinarian. Check. Hair dresser. Check. Dentist. Check. Primary Care Physician. Check—Finally. It’s been a loooong time since we’ve seen a primary care doctor. I’ve had my fill of cardiologists, surgeons, and hospitals but neither Valerie nor I have been to a family doctor since, well, at least two years for her and at least three years for me. My last trip to a family doctor was when he told me “Get to a cardiologist NOW!”

We’ve been busy (no, that’s not an excuse) but we’ve also had the issue of finding a good doctor in a small practice who is accepting patients and also accepts our insurance. We’ve made calls but haven’t had any luck…and….it’s only going to get worse with Obamacare (take a number and get in line for the next available doctor). So we followed my cardiologist’s recommendation and got in to see doctors at a recently opened office on the southside of Asheville. Today was physical day for both of us. We still have some follow-up tests to get done but no news is good news. My marching orders were to exercise more, eat healthy, eat less, lose weight (per the BMI index I’m 23 lbs overweight), stay out of the sun…and next year, have a colonoscopy. “Let me hear your body talk, Your body talk, let me hear your body talk…”

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Sun
14
Aug '11

Liquor City

We’ve always said that Asheville is a lot like a mini-Portland with its culture, attitude, arts, food, and craft beer. It’s even beat out Portland for the title of “Beer City” three years in a row. Friday and Saturday was the third annual Asheville Food and Wine Festival AKA “The Grand Tasting” and we attended both days. Wow. Wow. And Wow. You pay to get in (yah, it’s steep at $45) but you can then eat and drink samples and small-bites from dozens and dozens of great restaurants, wineries, dessert makers, food producers, and this year, craft breweries and liquor distillers. It’s foodie grazing heaven. It IS NOT the circus which is Bite of Seattle. There are several new restaurants that we’ve been meaning to visit but haven’t made it to yet — no problem, we were able to sample their fare. Cúrate, yum! Here we come! The wines were excellent and we’ll be planning a trip to North Carolina Wine Country. Yes, North Carolina has a wine country. Friday night we were so sugar’d up from the desserts that we had to walk around town for an hour before driving home. But the big news is that North Carolina relaxed its liquor production laws in 2008 to permit craft distillers. There are four new distilleries coming online and two of them are in Asheville (making a moonshine and a rum). The winner, in our opinion, after much sampling is Southern Artisan Spirits’ Cardinal Gin. All of our neighbors drink gin, gin and tonics to be precise. Valerie’s hooked on it, too. Maybe it’s an over 50 thing. Most people who’ve had the low end stuff (Gordon’s, etc) say gin tastes like pine sap, which is probably true. The interesting thing about gins, though, is that they’re all different. The botanicals and herbs added during production are what give each gin its unique taste. One does not taste like the other, and they don’t all taste like a pine tree. Cardinal recently won a silver medal at the 2010 International Spirits competition for their unique taste, derived from eleven botanicals including coriander, spearmint, cloves, and Grains of Paradise. It is really good stuff and makes a really good G&T (that’s what they were serving at the event). It’ll be in the NC ABC stores beginning this week and we’ll be picking up a bottle soon. What to do, what to do, though with our 1/2 empty Costco-sized bottle of Tanqueray under the bar?

P.S. This city, this area, this state continues to surprise and impress me.

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Fri
12
Aug '11

Shop Shop

Fall is coming and you know what that means…it’s time for arts and crafts. Oops, but wait, we never finished building our shop under the garage. We don’t have a place to do arts and crafts and all of our tools and supplies are still in boxes piled, inconveniently, in the future shop. This little bit of unfinished business has been gnawing at me because we’re technically not 100% moved in, yet, and because I can never find my screwdriver — is it in the cabinet in the mudroom, or on the temp workbench in the mechanical room, or on the rolling cart in the future shop?

I’ve been designing and sketching our future shop for the last several weeks and decided that it was time to begin work. This week we moved out all the boxes, putting them on the deck under the screened porch. It’s mostly dry under there and with the cardboard boxes against the walls and plastic totes in the front everything should stay out of the weather for a few weeks. Maybe I’ll throw a blue tarp over it for good measure.

The plan is this: I will do the electrical (lights, outlets, kiln power, etc) and plumbing (water heater, washtub, garage drainback valve, etc) and then Steve will come in and do everything else. He hasn’t started another house yet and Valerie would rather I not be readmitted to the hospital for working like a crazy man for several weeks. Fair enough. So next week I’ll work a few days doing my part and have it ready for Steve once he finishes the remodel project he’s currently on. Spray in some insulation, hang slatboard and pegboard, install a drop ceiling, put down rubber floor tile, do some trim and painting, and build the workbench (the most important piece), and we’ll soon have Shop Shop and be ready for fall and winter arts and crafts.

 

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Wed
10
Aug '11

Seven Year Itch

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It has been seven years since I bought a new PC and, until yesterday, I was still using Windows XP. Yes, I know. I’ll now admit it. Shame Shame Shame.

Yes, that’s right. Our main PC that we have in our office was purchased in 2004. A few years ago I added a second DVD drive, another GB of RAM (for 2 whole GB!), and a USB 2.0 card with two ports (the PC only had USB 1.0 built-in). That’s it. The dual 250GB drives (in a RAID 1 configuration because I’m paranoid) were still spinning right along. Windows XP was serving me well…until I decided to dust off my old programming skills and learn to program for the new Windows Phone. Alas, the development tools only run under Windows Vista or XP so I needed to upgrade. I’ve spent the last two days copying everything over, configuring, and networking the new PC – a spiffy 3.4GHz, 12GB, 64-bit, 2TB ZT Systems model, with Windows 7  Professional from Costco. I kept the 24″ monitor and all the other peripherals since they were working fine and they were newer than 2004. The only thing left for me to do is install a card for another couple USB 3.0 ports. This new PC has eight USB ports (six in the rear and two in the front) but it turns out I need eight in the back – mouse, keyboard, scanner, printer, UPS, external drive, bluetooth, and the monitor that has a built-in USB hub that the webcam and MP3 players connect to. My police scanner plugs into the front of the PC leaving me with one free port. Yeesh, that’s a lot of cables.

So far, everything appears to be working. I had to revert back to IE8 because the security camera software didn’t work with IE9 and Adobe Acrobat Reader 10 didn’t display PDFs properly so I had to uninstall it and revert back to v9. I also had to play with the network sharing settings since our laptops are still XP and they couldn’t see the main PC’s shared folders. My big fear was getting the antiquated Nokia sync software to work with our phones through the Bluetooth adapter but that process went flawlessly. You IT/Tester types will get a chuckle out of this…I didn’t plug in all those devices one-at-a-time, get each to work, then plug in the next. I thre caution to the wind and I plugged in EVERYTHING at once and turned on the PC. I figured, that’s what I would do at Microsoft, why not now? After about 10 minutes of driver crunching and downloading, they all worked! Windows 7 is pretty solid.

I read that there are only 1000 days left of XP support so the end is coming, it was time to upgrade. Now, what about those laptops…???

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