Saturday, May 31, 2008

So Much Pollen

There's a B-17 visiting the area this weekend, giving people expensive rides. Flying the B-17 in battle in WWII is an example of extreme terrifying machine drama. It makes me shudder to imagine the adrenaline/excitement/fear of the guys who crewed those planes in war. There are some of these veterans left, and they come out to see the plane and relate stories like this: After one mission, Knight had to land his B-17 with a shot-up tire and one engine out. But he kept his 11-man crew safe. “The co-pilot and I, we really had to manhandle that thing to a stop with brute strength,” Knight said. “But those are tough planes. I’ve seen some that were nearly shot in two come in and land, and the belly would just be bouncing up and down, the ball turret and the gunner gone, of course.” This reminds me that Memorial day has just passed.

So I've had my ears tuned for the sound of huge flying piston engines. I spotted the plane a few times on my way to Arden this morning to pick up some free firewood, and noticed the sky was hazy and yellow. I was parked in the person's yard for about 20 minutes loading up the big old logs. When I said thanks and got back in the car, the windshield had a noticeable new film of pollen on it. On the way back I took the parkway, and the long range views were also now yellow and hazy like the view of the plane. Then I looked at the car ahead of me and saw that it was kicking up clouds of pollen as if we were driving on a dirt road. Amazing. I've never seen that before. That's a lot of pollen.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Summer Trip 2008

Remember last year? I had plans to do a lot of interesting blog posts about my vacation, but only a few came to fruition. It's a new year and another interesting trip has filled my cameras with images and my head with ideas. So I'll try to whip up at least a few posts from all the information stirring around in my head.

This trip became my "Industrial Heritage" tour of southern West Virginia. It did include plenty of scenic splendor like you see above in the panoramic photo from Pinnacle Rock. The theme of the trip though, was about coal mining and the sudden, dramatic industrial development that resulted. Sounds like thesis material doesn't it? It is a rich history with so many compelling stories. Amazing wealth rapidly descended upon a very cash-poor area of the south. An influx of European immigrants and African Americans from the deep south mixed with the locals, and strangely, they mostly got along. There was lots of incredibly hard and dangerous work to do, and these people were up for that opportunity, American style. Their descendants inherited that spirit and applied it to life outside of mining.

The Industrial Heritage theme also put me in close proximity to a couple other genres I love. As I mentioned recently here, I have a strange attraction to old buildings and derelict structures. Let's just say that this is a very rich area for that type of scenery. I am also a fan of "machine drama," like trains, big cranes, bridges, dams, and basically all things that would appeal to a little boy. I also got to do some bike riding on rail-trails, my favorite type of bicycling.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The End

It's the last meeting of the last GIS class for me. It's sad. I enjoyed the classes and learned quite a bit. Our instructor Pete Kennedy brought a lot to the material for me, by relating it to real world applications. I feel this is critical in technology instruction. Above is the group photo of us. I'm going to miss going to GIS class, it was fun.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Variety Pack

(I started this post weeks ago, and now it is finally ready to release.)

This week's GIS class was a variety pack. I remember on special occasions, maybe 3 or 4 times in my whole childhood, Mom would get the variety pack of cereals. All those cute little boxes of different types of cereal. (Do they even exist anymore?) It was special. Mom didn't go for that kind of extravagance very often. Her argument to me was that I wouldn't eat all the different types of cereals in the package, which was probably true. She probably also saw the lack of economy with all the extra packaging and higher cost. Mom grew up in The Depression.

That paragraph above brought back some memories of shopping trips with Mom to the grocery store in the small town we lived in when I was about 6-12 years old. It was Colonial Beach, Virginia. A town of about 2000 people on the Potomac River, near where it meets the Chesapeake Bay. It's a big river there, 3 or 4 miles across. It was a special place to live for those years of my life. Lots of cool things for a kid to do like swimming, fishing, boating, biking everywhere, and developing a powerful curiosity about the natural world and how things work. The grocery store we went to was the A&P. It seemed huge. Over the years, I've had dreams of being in a grocery store, and vaguely feeling like I was a kid in the dream. I always thought it was just a generic grocery store, but the variety pack memories got me thinking about that A&P and I realized that it has been that store in my dreams.

All the memories of the A&P got me wondering about the store and what became of it over the years. I remembered seeing at one point it had become a hardware store whose proprietor was one of my classmates from those childhood days. Some googling showed evidence that the whole little strip of a shopping center has been somewhat updated and is now for sale. I could find no decent photos of it on the net though. There's a talented photographer I know from flickr named Shari Pastore. I found her work on that site doing some searches for Colonial Beach photos some time ago. I asked her if she had any photos of the little shopping center and the old A&P building. No she didn't, but offered to take on a little assignment to go out and shoot some especially for this blog post! The subject matter is less than inspiring, but the photo she got, at the top of this post is pretty nice, I think. I mentioned remembering that cupola on top of the building, and asked if she would shoot anything that looked like traces of what the building used to be. If you click the photo and look at the larger version you can better enjoy its beauty. You can also see how the roof is all patched up and the end of the building is just bare plywood. Colonial Beach has always been like that. It probably has more than its share of old derelict businesses that did once thrive, but maybe it was a long time ago. Or new ones that were never really going to get off the ground and just folded and ended up sitting to slowly decline. I've always been attracted to that kind of stuff, and maybe that attraction comes from those formative years in Colonial Beach. Those sad old stores and houses and cars and boats and towns seem to have a lot to say to me. I just keep thinking about all the lives they have seen and the stories they might tell. This may be one reason I keep taking vacations in West Virginia. It also has a bounty of derelict structures, along with dramatic natural beauty and a tough, hard-working spirit that appeals to me.

(We now rejoin the original GIS class blog post from several weeks ago)

I did some work on a map that will be featured in an upcoming blog post about the kite powered message in bottle release project I recently completed. This involved assembling a map of the North Atlantic with some continents on it and drawing a 1000 mile long line at a particular angle.

I did some more work on my geodatabase. Pete says we should concentrate on the geodatabase part of it and less on making maps. That sounds good, since the last 2 courses have been more about making the maps. I worked on creating a geometric network out of the MSD data I got last week.

We got our tests back. I've been getting grades a little lower than I would like on the tests this semester.

I had a near disaster when I almost shut off the computer before copying my work back off of the hard drive. When you shut down the computer it erases all the changes you have made, so it is very important to copy your work to removable media so you don't lose all you have done. I was ready to hit the last key in the keyboard sequence that shuts it down, then remembered. Really close. That would have really sucked.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Neighborhood Disconnects

It was Saturday afternoon and the perfect time for a nap. I had been hearing loud music from outdoors for a while, and trying to figure out where it was coming from. The nap idea quickly evaporated as the music continued to drift in my windows. So I decided to do some GIS class homework and find out where the music was coming from at the same time. I went by bicycle and found the music to be at the Rainbow Mountain Children's School which was having some sort of festival. To the right is an overview of my trip.

Once I determined the source of the music I decided to explore some disconnections in the neighborhood. Below is a detail map of the 2 "disconnected" features I wanted to explore. Dale Street comes to an abrupt end, though there is now some infill housing being built there. Nearby as the crow flies, but much farther by road, is the Fairfax Ave stub. I have noticed for years that it appears this was planned as a continuous road, and even had been cleared at one time. It's pretty obvious from the aerial photo data.

The other feature I have wondered about is a huge culvert that emerges from under I-240 and empties into the French Broad River. It must be about 48 inches in diameter. On Virginia Avenue there is a neihborhood low spot that is backed up against a very large fill that appears to have been created when I-240 was constructed. It seems to me that this drains an area of a couple square miles. (further anaylsis required) I thought that the other end of the giant culvert by the river might be here. But judging by the GPS data that I captured, it is more likely that the other end is near the Fairfax Avenue stub. This is the same type of area as on Virginia Ave. A large drainage comes to a low point that is cut off from draining to the river by I-240.

I also visited the ruins of the hydroelectric plant on Hominy Creek which once powered Asheville's electric street cars. It was an interesting afternoon of data collection, and even more interesting analysing the data afterwards.