Sunday, November 18, 2007

Paddle harder before we sink.

Paddle harder before we sink.
Originally uploaded by P_Linehan.

This is my entry for this week's Photo Friday Challenge: Travel. I really like how they choose the themes for the challenges. They are interesting, but generic enough to be open for a lot of interpretation. It makes it more fun.

In this picture, they made it back in time and didn't go under. The Cardboard Canoe Race is a fun event put on by the School of Forest Resources at Penn State in the fall at the Stone Valley Recreation Area. This is the first time that a Mont Alto contingent competed. We will have to do it again next year!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Portland Oregon Area

I'm leaving for the airport in about an hour. We had time yesterday to take a quick car ride up the Columbia River and around Mount Hood then back to Portland. The top picture is the approach to Mount Hood from the North after climbing out of the gorge. The mountain is totally unexpected. It is all alone. It must have been an impressive volcano when erupting.
There are so many waterfalls along the Oregon side of the Columbia. This is a smaller one, Bridal Veil. You have to hike along a winding hill to reach it. The trail circles around, crosses a bridge and then you see it. It's really worth seeing.

Some day I hope to have time to come back and hike some of the trails. There is so much more to see.
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Friday, October 26, 2007

New War and Peace

I have read the reviews of the new translation of War and Peace by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. I was planning to get around to reading it eventually. So, before leaving on a long airplane flight this past Tuesday I was browsing in a bookstore at the the airport and there it was. I couldn't resist the compulsion to get it.

This is a heavy book! It may not be the best for a flight. It is certainly great reading. I read War and Peace years ago. Now that I am older I am finding it even more interesting. The part where Prince Andrei says goodbye to his gruff old father, Prince Nilolai, certainly rings true. They don't say much, yet they understand each other completely. With the passing of my own father last year I very much get what Tolstoy was saying. I am looking forward to the adventure of this book.

Friday, September 21, 2007

New map stretching tool

Here is a link to a new mixed map of the Michaux State Forest around Mont Alto. This is a cool application that lets you stretch a map over the Yahoo imagery. It is also pretty easy to use. You upload the map image and identify two points on the map and imagery.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mystery Flowers

In late August these mystery flowers appeared behind our house. This was an area near a lawn that had been under tree cover for many years. . It was then exposed to the sun after a white pine was destroyed by wind last fall and our landlord cleard out a few other trees. It looks like an amyrillis of some kind? It only lasted a few day before withering away. With luck, they will be back next year!

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Saturday, July 21, 2007


Someone committed this vandalism on my truck last weekend. There is nothing more cowardly than senseless destruction like this. There is a spree of vandalism going on in this part of Shippensburg. I hope it ends soon!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Come study at the Conakry Airport

This Washington Post article describes hundreds of students of all ages flocking to the Conakry Airport in Guinea to study under its fluorescent lamps. Guinea follows a French-style education system, based on high stakes exams. So, students really have to succeed to advance. Also, with the lack of textbooks and other educational resources, students become really good note takers. They also have to learn how to memorize well, skills we are losing in the United States.

When I visited Guinea last December, the airport is one of the most striking features. It is hot, dusty, and noisy. Conakry is located on a long peninsula. The airport is at the base of the peninsula. The city has grown right up to the edge of the airport. There is a blackened mosque right outside the airport terminal. I thought, at first, that it had been destroyed or burned. But I learned later that it had never been completed.

Ironically, Guinea should have more than enough electricity for everyone. the Fouta Djalon highlands have a lot of water and good locations for hydroelectric dams. The mineral wealth in Guinea, if used properly, would buy enough electric power. I worked at the C.E.E.D. (Center for Environmental Education and Development) in Kinkan, right next door to a working dam. One of the advantages to using this school for workshops is that it always has electricity. My overwhelming impression of Guineans, of all ages, is that with just a few more resources and opportunities, they can compete with and excel anywhere in the world.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Faith Based Action Figures Coming to a Walmart near you

Today Walmart announced that it will start selling a line of faith-based action figures in stores where they sell many bibles and other religious items. The toys are produced by a company called One2believe. Our local paper said that the Carlisle store is one of the chosen.

I guess if people want these toys, and the sell, than why not? I am always amazed that "Christians" or "fundamental Christians" want to create their own parallel society. It's a doomed effort. They will always be struggling with how much of the dominant society do they want to include in their parallel one.

There was a story in the Washington Post this morning about whole series of fantasy books to replace Harry Potter. It's great if the stories are well written. If the children feel they are just propaganda, then they won't succeed.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Celtic Fling

A few weeks ago we went to see Enter the Haggis perform at the Celtic Fling at the Renaissance Fairgrounds. It was a great day with a great performance by the band. Another group, The Elders, that I hadn't heard before also was on stage. Here are the pictures.

Friday, July 06, 2007


I tried the special fireworks setting on my Panasonic DMC-FX7 camera. It is a long exposure setting that requires a tripod. The manual suggested using manual focus and I found that is very good advice. The other important thing is to center the fireworks in the viewfinder, which I didn't do so well.

Created with Paul's flickrSLiDR.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra,

Bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra,
Originally uploaded by absxml.

These amazing pictures illustrate the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Iraq. So far, I haven't heard anyone claim responsibility for this atrocity. The madness of this war, or is it wars now, continues unabated.

I remember visiting a mosque in Touba, Senegal. This was a desparately poor area, but the people had spared no expense in building there mosque. As this is a major shrine, there much be even more reverence and feeling for this mosque. I can't imagine Muslims blowing up each other's mosques, even given the rivalry between the sects.

Thanks to the photographer, absxml on Flickr, for these pictures.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Great Old Time Folk Music

While visiting my hometown, Lewiston ME, two a week ago I attended a concert at St. Patrick's church. Then Neighbor to Neighbor concert benefited several food charities in the area. It featured a 100 voice chorus from the First Universalist Church in Rockland. Led by the super-dynamic Mimi Bornstein, the group did a great job on many spiritual and fold tunes. They got the audience involved, clapping and singing along.

The guest artist was James Durst, a traditional folk singer for all ages. He does a lot of tunes from the Weavers and leads a tribute group called Work of the Weavers. The image is from his latest CD: Internationally Unknown. I really liked his version of El Condor Pasa, a traditional Peruvian tune that Paul Simon made famous. Durst added his own words in Spanish.

St. Patrick's is a great venue for a concert. There is something in the acoustics of the old churches that really works great for voices. The concert was recorded and will be out on CD in a few weeks.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Whad' Ya Know at Penn State

I love the Whad' Ya Know Show with Michael Feldman. How he can do so much from such minimal material is amazing. I would definitely like to attend a live show some day. Unfortunately, out local station, WITF, broadcasts the show a day late. This link from the PSU news department also has a picture gallery. I have my own image of what a show is like. I guess it's similar.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Creating Maps

This is a cool new tool that lets you place a saved Google map in a blog, or other web page. You could do the same thing by learning how to program the Gooogle Maps API, but it's nice to have it automated. This is a map of the road from the Mont Alto to the Waynesboro Reservoir, where we go for many labs.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Best and the Brightest

With the passing of journalist and author David Halberstam two weeks ago, I decided to go to the library to see if they had his big work on Vietnam, The Best and the Brightest. I had heard about it years ago, but had never gotten around to reading it.

So far I have only made it through the first few chapters. I am still in the Kennedy administration before the big commitment was made. Still, the overwhelming arrogance and ignorance of the policy-making apparatus is amazing. Those who were making decisions were reacting to short term political decisions. They never understood what was really going on in Vietnam. I will never think of the Kennedy administration as Camelot again.

The parallels to Iraq and all the decisions to go to war are amazing. Not in the details, but in the mindset. I wish the people in charge had read this before voting yes or making a decision for war. Maybe that would have kept us out of it.

Historical Marker Database

I have just found a very interesting site called the Historical Marker Database. Simply put, volunteers add information on historical markers they come across in their travels. After editing, each entry can be searched and viewed. Some of the information that can be entered includes: the inscription, location by street and lat/long, pictures, and commentary. There are already quite a few entries in the database. But when you think of all the markers out there, this could grow to be something very interesting for the armchair traveler.

It could also be a fun tool for history teachers to get their students interested in local events or class trips. This is definitely worth a look!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

New Bluegrass Band

I'm not a great connoiseur of bluegrass music. Aside from O Brother Where Art Thou I am pretty limited. But last Saturday I had the chance to hear a performance of the Deer Creek Boys in Clifton Forge, VA. at the Dabney S. Lancaster Community College. It was at the end of a long day of Woodsmen sports competition. Everyone was wet, cold, and tired. The Deer Creek Boys livened everyone up as we ate and got ready for the awards.

The band's playing is great. The vocals need to develop, though. They will try anything and I think they have a great future. Here's a link to their site: Definitely check it out.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Mission Song

I just finished John LeCarré's latest novel: The Mission Song. This book is shorter than the author's previous novels. Yet it follows a similar plot as his latest books. An eccentric hero on the fringes of the intelligence world gets involved with some scandalous or outrageous operation. He decides to fight against the wrong, but is eventually betrayed and ruined for his efforts. In this case the hero is a highly skilled interpreter of African languages from the Congo region. He gets involved with a scheme to steal the mineral resources of eastern Congo by a business syndicate led by a British politician. On the way, he falls in love with a sympathetic, but damaged woman with a young child.

In spite of this being familiar ground, I found myself drawn into the story. I knew that the hero was doomed, but I couldn't help reading on to see how it happened. LeCarré is a master of working a political point into his spy stories. The end of the cold war hasn't slowed him down. The bleak war on terror and the continued injustices of the world give him a lot of material to write about.

Cool Word Tool

I came across this new capability in Word 2007. It can now upload text directly to a blog. There is also a section to add a pictures. I suppose I could put pictures in the document and they would load. This is a very cool tool. It must be an attempt to make the internet experience almost seamless.

Thursday, February 22, 2007 Guinea: The Case for U.S. Action (Page 1 of 2) Guinea: The Case for U.S. Action (Page 1 of 2)

This editorial in by Herbert S. Challenor powerfully explains why the US should get involved in the situation in Guinea. We have direct economic and moral interests in what happens in Guinea.

Guinea is a natural ally of the USA. All its people want is a fair chance at a good life. They want an honest government. When I visited Guinea a few weeks ago, I was astounded at the patience of the Guineans dealing with so much corruption an incompetence. But that patience is at an end.

We can't let the situation in Iraq distract us from another possible tragedy which would have dire consequences for the people of Guinea, the rest of west Africa, and the USA.

Friday, February 16, 2007

NPR : Guinea Under Martial Law as Protests, Riots Mount

NPR : Guinea Under Martial Law as Protests, Riots Mount: by Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, who I believe is based in Dakar. I'm glad to see NPR do a story on the situation in Guinea. It's well worth a listen. The imposition of a state of siege and the curfew will not help. It will only postpone the eventual changes that have to happen.
I liked the interview with the injured man in the hospital in Conakry. It showed how so many innocent people are suffering. I remember driving right by the hospital when I was there. I never imagined how it would be needed in a few weeks.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

More Megapixels

This is an article by David Pogue in the New York Times. He describes a test, done twice, where identical prints are made at three different megapixel densities. In spite of what most people think, almost no one can tell the difference between the prints. They are essentially identical.

So, this means that in choosing a camera megapixels are just one factor. The lens, electronics, storage capacity, etc. are equally as important.

I just upgraded from my three year old Gateway 5 megapixel camera to a 6 megapixel Panasonic DMC-FZ7. I was looking for the zoom lens (12X vs. 3X optical) and the faster response time in a newer camera. Also, to be honest, I couldn't afford the 8 or 9 megapixel model.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Terror Bird

I love these stories about new archaeological finds. The terror bird looks pretty fearsome. I'm glad our ancestors didn't have to face them. It seems that they were gone from this hemisphere long before there were any people here. We only have to worry about them in science fiction movies!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Guinea Demonstrations

The community of Guineans in the USA demonstrated in Washington yesterday in support of the general strike back in Guinea. Above is a link to, a site which has so far had the most up to date information. I copied this picture from the ones posted.

The news of the strike and the police retaliations has started to permeate the western, english- language press. It seems that with the war in Iraq still raging only many deaths will penetrate the news organizations. I hope it doesn't came to that!
Here is a link to a Washington Post article yesterday:
Maybe as the price of aluminum goes up, the world will take notice.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Four more killed in Guinea as crisis talks under way | Agence France-Presse, a global news agency

This article summarizes the situation in Guinea eleven days into the strike. It also has pictures of the burned out cars in Conakry and people lining up for gas.

I left Guinea almost two weeks ago, just as the strike was starting. There was no doubt that the people were fed up with the corruption and impoverishment of their country, especially since Guinea is such a potentially rich country. I hope the strike ends soon, peacefully and with the kind of government that Guinea deserves at last.