Thursday, December 30, 2010

#434 The Joy of Packing

Our packing for the spring voyage is based on cool temperatures on the ship, warm temperatures in port, and shoes for every occasion!
Destination   Arrival      AvgHigh
Nassau, Bahamas 12-Jan 71
Roseau, Dominica 16-Jan 84
Manaus, Brazil 23-Jan 86
Takoradi, Ghana 6-Feb 88
Cape Town, South Africa 17-Feb 80
Port Louis, Mauritius 27-Feb 84
Chennai, India 6-Mar 89
Singapore 16-Mar 88
Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam 19-Mar 93
Hong Kong / Shanghai, China 26-Mar 77
Kobe / Yokohama, Japan 4-Apr 64
Hilo, Hawaii, USA 17-Apr 79
San Diego, California, USA 24-Apr 68

Yours in making it all fit,

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

#433 Mappy Voyage!

We're off on a thrilling adventure - sailing with Semester at Sea on the Spring 2011 voyage.

At last count, we'll be sailing with 605 undergraduate students representing 250 schools, 77 faculty and staff, and 54 lifelong learners.

With so many new ports of call, we don't know which we're most excited to visit.  Some early predictions include our 1,000-mile trek up the Amazon River to Manaus, Brazil and our safari near Port Elizabeth, South Africa.   

Yours in circumnavigation,

Monday, December 27, 2010

#432 Christmas is all around

From Strasbourg, France (the capitale de Noel)...

to Washington, DC...

we've found that, in the immortal words of Billy Mack, "Christmas is all around."

Yours in believing in the magic of Christmas,

Sunday, December 26, 2010

#431 White Christmas

What's better?  The movie White Christmas or the musical White Christmas or an actual white Christmas?

This year, we were lucky enough to experience all three.

The 1954 movie White Christmas has long been my favorite Christmas movie.   I watched it again this year to make sure Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye could pull off the Christmas miracle and save General Waverly's inn in Vermont from bankruptcy.  And yes, with lots of musical numbers and romantic hijinks, they are able to do just that.

The musical White Christmas is new to our Christmas traditions.  Though it premiered in 2004, we just got around to seeing it this year at the Empire Theatre in Richmond.  Though the story lines differ a little, the live production featured vocal powerhouses in the leading roles, fun song-and-dance numbers, and snow showers over the audience at the conclusion.  Our expectations were high and we were not disappointed.

But driving home through the snow-covered Charlottesville streets on Christmas night after a fun afternoon and evening with friends wins the White Christmas contest in 2010.

Yours in White Christmas heaven,

Sunday, November 07, 2010

#430 Changing Time

Last night we enjoyed an annual fall rite of passage.  We set our clocks back one hour.  We fell back.  By convention, we choose to apply the time change overnight so we get an extra hour of rest.  I suppose we'd all be even more confused if we turned the clocks back in the middle of the day when folks are up and about.

Changing time is all about the math.  We've divided the Earth into 360 degrees of longitude.  That means the earth must spin 15 degrees every hour to make a complete turn of 360 degrees every 24 hours.  At the equator, each degree of longitude spans about 70 miles, so time zones are about 1050 miles wide. 

Let's say you're traveling westbound around the world on a ship.  Every couple days you'd grab a bonus hour of sleep as you move your clock back at each time zone crossing.  But if you're eastbound, many 23-hour days you'd meet, setting your clock forward with each time zone crossing.

Yours in soon meeting 23-hour days head on,

Sunday, October 31, 2010

#429 Our Blue Ridge Tunnel

On Halloween we hiked nearly a mile into an abandoned rocky tunnel under the Blue Ridge Mountains stepping over piles of fallen debris in the dark while bat colonies roosted silently overhead and water dripped slowly from the soot-stained ceiling.

Yea, that was fun.
Built before the Civil War and before dynamite, this engineering marvel was once the longest tunnel in the United States at 4,263 feet. Now the west entrance to the Blue Ridge Tunnel lies in a woodsy grotto at the end of an unmarked trail a short hike off the beaten track and unknown to the hordes motoring Skyline Drive and walking the Appalachian Trail overhead.
Locals plan to refurbish the arrow-straight passage as a rail-trail connecting the Shenandoah Valley with the Virginia Piedmont. Until then, it's our dank hidden gem.
Yours in finding the light at the end of every tunnel,

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

#428 My first Purple Martin field day

For sixteen years now, Purple Martin groupies in central Virginia have congregated each summer to hear about their favorite feathered friends.
Lance Wood leads the field day cheers.  Orating from beneath shade trees with 120 nesting martin pairs as a backdrop, Mr. Wood explains the diligence required of humans looking to be successful purple martin landlords.  In two hours he hit the highlights and answered every question from the lawn-chair crowd of veterans and wanna-be landlords.

My take-aways...passive landlords need not apply... bring ingenuity, fortitude, and commitment to be successful.  Without attention to detail we humans are luring martins to their demise inside our carefully manufactured martin houses from predators like snakes, raccoons, and owls.
So it's not all fun and games at the PM field day, but the birds sure are fun to watch.  Mark your calendars, June 25, 2011 for Purple Martin Field Day 17. 

Yours in admiring successful landlords everywhere, 

Saturday, May 08, 2010

#427 Happy Mother's Day

It's been 10 years since I've been able to celebrate Mother's Day in person, but I like to look back through the years, through all the letters and homemade cards, through all the photos, and remember. 

This particular Mother's Day card must have been made by me during my horse phase.   The card's inside left page shows my incredible knowledge of horses (probably copied from the World Book) and my amazing ability to scissor.  The card's inside right page highlights my early poetry skills.

About the time I created this card, I liked to ride our pony Shortstop at our home in Fairfax, VA.

And here's my lovely mom long before she ever thought about me or my silly Mother's Day cards.

Yours in remembering Mom,

Sunday, May 02, 2010

#426 Floating the Rivanna

Think about your dream job.  What would it be?

Hmmm...something that would make people say "You get PAID to do that?"

I recently met Allan Thomson. He has a dream job like that. He takes people on canoe trips to raise awareness for a healthy Chesapeake Bay watershed. Cool. He invited me to join him and a group from the University of Virginia for a day on the Rivanna River as part of Earth Week festivities. Even cooler.

So here's Allan steering our canoe.

A few international students in our group had never been on a float trip. With guidance from Allan and his colleague Pat, they did just fine. And they introduced us all to the concept of delicious boxed cake for shore lunch.

After lunch we hiked through woods to find the massive cut-stone remains of a long abandoned river lock.

Too soon our six-mile float was done and we were all smiling for the camera.

So Allan did his dream job well and we all left feeling a little more aware of our local ties to the Chesapeake Bay.

Yours in supporting dream jobs at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation or anywhere,

Sunday, April 18, 2010

#425 In the Virginia Spring

Spring is in full bloom in Virginia.  Follow along as we walk into work on Friday.

The azaleas are nearing their peak and Kelly's shirt is a nice match.

We cut through the woods and Kelly makes it successfully over the obstacle in our path.

Back out on city streets, the combined pink and white dogwood tree is blooming.

We look both ways and make it safely across the train tracks.

Sometimes we're forced to walk single file and share the sidewalk with pushy flowers.

Some of the Semester at Sea staff have moved into nice digs in Alumni Hall.  We're early, so I don't see anyone there yet.

It's a good thing The Villa is on route, 'cause we've worked up a breakfast hunger.  Notice how I forced our companions to squint into the sun!

The Aviator and Clemons Library are next door to Alderman Library.  We're almost at work.

We made it.  Kelly and I work about 100 steps apart inside Alderman Library.

My hallway is lined with old, no-longer-in-use-but-still-cool card catalogs.

Well, I'm here. Thanks for joining us on our morning commute. I better get to work now.

Yours in enjoying the Virginia spring time,

Saturday, April 10, 2010

#424 In the Arena

All roads to the 2010 NCAA men's basketball championship lead to Indianapolis, so we followed them and enjoyed...

friends in the next (fast?) lane...

and friendly places to stay...

and welcome gift bags...

and friends wearing fancy blue boots...

and friends who created the fabulous Destination Indiana exhibit...

and friends at restaurants...

and friends sitting on suitcases...

and friends at the Mass Avenue Pub on Easter Sunday...

and the end of the road at Lucas Oil Stadium where we witnessed basketball magic and cheered with all our might for the bravura Butler Bulldogs. As Teddy Roosevelt said, the credit belongs to the [team] who is actually in the arena.

Check our Indy photos to see all those that wouldn't fit on this blog post!

Yours in counting ourselves lucky to have been in the arena,

Saturday, March 06, 2010

#423 Mappy Oscars

Of the 10 films nominated for Best Picture, we have seen one: Up.

But even though we can't call ourselves Oscar fans, we do appreciate the worldwide settings for this year's nominees.

And for all you Avatar fans, you'll have to make your own map of the planet Pandora.  

Yours in wishing all a Mappy Oscars,

Saturday, February 13, 2010

#422 Mappy Valentine's Day!

Rather than sending you a traditional paper Valentine's Day card, we're showing our love geospatially.

Google Earth zooms us to heart-shaped features around the world.

Yours in mapping the heart,

Sunday, February 07, 2010

#421 Mappy Super Bowl!

Who are you rooting for in Super Bowl XLIV...and where?

In 2005, Michael Baldwin started the Common Census project where, among other things, fans could self-identify where they lived and what NFL team they followed.  When the map was last updated in 2008, over 24,000 people had voted.  Even though the data's a bit old now, it gives us an unusual geographic view of the NFL. 

Yours in watching the map then the game,

Saturday, January 30, 2010

#420 Wild Indiana

No, we're not talking about the Colts season. We're talking about the natural wonders to be found all over the Hoosier State.

After 20 years exploring outdoor Indiana, our friend Mike Habeck has written and published Wild Indiana.

Big Hat BooksIndianapolis' independent bookstore in Broad Ripple, sells Wild Indiana as does the Indiana Historical Bureau bookshop inside the Indiana State Library with more local outlets in the pipeline. 

We've heard good reviews from our outdoor Indiana friends and it has 5 stars on Amazon.  

The book has 160 maps. I like it too.

Yours in appreciating Wild Indiana,

Monday, January 25, 2010

#419 Digitizing the Johnstons

The Johnston family photos have been hidden away in boxes long enough!

Here are some of my favorites.

Lillian and Ira, Kelly's maternal grandparents

Glenn and Lorine, Kelly's parents on their wedding day

Kelly Gene at home with his parents who named him after Gene Kelly

Kelly's first day of school with his briefcase and fancy boots

If you want to see more Johnston family photos, check out our Flickr photo set.

Yours in enjoying a glimpse into the folks who made Kelly,