Random (but not really)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Traveling WV: Berkeley Springs

There was also supposed to be good color at Berkeley Springs, which was also a lie.

However, I love Berkeley Springs and love watching the air bubble up from the bottom of the springs.

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Written by Michelle at 10:09 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Traveling WV: Fall Color at Cacapon

The report we read said there we be good color at Berkeley Springs & Cacapon. There was color, but not good color, sadly.

But, it was a beautiful day, and we were outside, so the lack of color is only a minimal complaint.

Oh, for anyone with an electric car, Cacapon State Park has EV charging stations now.

This was taken on the Ziller Loop trail. I’m currently restricted from strenuous activity or carrying weight, so we just did a brief saunter and then walked back down.

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Here’s the view from Cacapon Mountain Overlook.

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Not much color, but you can see four states from there. (WV, VA, MD, PA)

Written by Michelle at 9:47 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Traveling WV: Fall Color, Finally

Leaf color change in the Canaan / Blackwater Falls area is supposed to be mid September. The previous two weekends there was minimal color in the area, although the hikes and walks were still beautiful.

This Saturday was sunny and gorgeous and full of color. We went to Canaan Valley State Park, Freeland Boardwalk in Canaan Wilderness Refuge, and Blackwater Falls State Park.

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Written by Michelle at 9:37 am      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The BOOKS of September!

It’s time for the books of September!

We had some beautiful weather, so we did a lot of hiking. Which is awesome. But also reduces the number of books I read. But I’m OK with that.

My favorite books of the month were Firebug by Lish McBride, a re-read of Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay, and the audio books of A Rare Book of Cunning Device by Ben Aaronovitch narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith and Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? by Paul Cornell narrated by Damian Lynch. All are fantasy, but the first two are very different from the two audio books.

Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favorite authors, however, I have to be in the mood to read his stories, because they are long and intricate and fascinating and need to be read slowly. Lish McBride writes YA urban fantasy, and I really enjoy her writing.

YA Fantasy

Firebug (2014) Lish McBride (8.5/10)

Audio Books

A Rare Book of Cunning Device, Audio Short Story (2017) Ben Aaronovitch narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (8/10)
Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? Audio Edition (2016) Paul Cornell narrated by Damian Lynch (8.5/10)
Spenser
Ceremony, Audio Book (1982/1992) Robert B. Parker narrated by Michael Prichard
The Widening Gyre, Audio Version (1983/1992) Robert B. Parker narrated by Michael Prichard (7.5/10)
Valediction, Audio Version (1984/1992) Robert B Parker narrated by Michael Prichard (7.5/10)

Fantasy

Under Heaven (2010) Guy Gavriel Kay (9/10)

Historical Mystery

A Study In Scarlet Women (2016) Sherry Thomas (6.5/10)

Historical Romance

As Luck Would Have It (2008) Alissa Johnson (7.5/10)
Tempting Fate (2009) Alissa Johnson (8/10)
McAlistair’s Fortune (2009) Alissa Johnson (8.5/10)
Destined To Last (2010) Alissa Johnson (7.5/10)
It Takes a Scandal (2014) Caroline Linden (6/10)

And now the breakdown!

eBooks : 8
Audio : 5
Re-Reads: 5

Because we traveled a good deal, and because I did a fair amount of work around the house, there were a lot of audio books.

Fantasy : 4
Mystery : 6
Romance : 4
YA : 1

The books were pretty evenly split between three different genres.

Male : 6
Female : 7

And a pretty even split between male and female authors this month.

And those are the books of September!

Written by Michelle at 7:53 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Time or Money

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about work and time and poverty.

That would be because I’m currently not working. (Short version: last year this time I was physically ill from the way my supervisor bullied me, so I quit, because I didn’t deserve to be treated that way.)

I was terrified by that decision, but almost immediately my health issues ceased, so I realized I’d made the right choice, and tried not to worry about money.

Over the spring and summer I worked for several months through a staffing agency, but instead of taking a permanent position that wouldn’t make me happy in the long run, I decided to go back to job hunting. However, that’s not the point of this.

A couple months into not working I discovered something: Except when we spent money on expensive items I was using for house projects (I re-protected our wood floors and the repaired, re-protected, and recovered the kitchen chairs), our expenses remained below our income.

I tend to be frugal with money, but I was still surprised that we weren’t hemorrhaging money. I mean, we no longer had almost half our previous income, so how we were keeping our heads above water?

After a lot of thought, I realized it came down to multiple things.

1. I’ve spent the last decade paying off debts and building up our savings.

Currently, the only debt we have is our mortgage. All student loans are paid off, the car is paid off, we have no outstanding credit card debt. This means that not only do we have a cushion, but also that the only money that has to go out each month is for the mortgage and utilities and necessities.

2. We have only one car, it is relatively new, and we have done regular maintenance on it.

When we purchased our car we focused on reliability and gas mileage, because I’ve owned unreliable cars before and I hated them. HATED them. This means that we have escaped the unexpected expenses that come with a car that breaks down, as well as the related problem of trying to finagle rides while the car is in the shop and all that time suck. (We get our car maintenance at a place within walking distance of both our house and Michael’s work. The car gets dropped off on his way to work, and picked up on his way home. Basically: no time lost.)

3. We’ve replaced every single appliance in our house since we bought it.

All those unexpected expenses of a broken furnace or washing machine have already happened. It also means that the new appliances are more energy-efficient than the old, so they cost less to run.

4. Because I am not working, I have time to bake and cook; This has decreased our food bill far more than I ever would have expected.

One reason is we no longer have days where we both come home from work and neither of us wants to make dinner. Eating at home is far cheaper than going out to eat, of course, but on top of that, buying ingredients is cheaper than buying prepared items. I’ve also had lots of time to freeze and can fruits and vegetables from the Farmers Market (I did this before, but it did take part or all of a weekend). All of which means that our food bill is much much less than it had been.

It also means that I’ve had time to expand my repertoire in the kitchen, and to get more recipes down pat, so if I don’t want to spend much time cooking, I have multiple recipes that require little time and effort, and come together quickly because I’m familiar with them. All of which means that I’m making a wider variety of dinners, which means I don’t want to go out to eat as much, since I haven’t had the same meals in rotation for a month (or year). Realizing that I can make something more delicious than I’d get at most restaurants is even further encouragement to cook, so it’s a self-rewarding cycle.

All which brings me to my point: Poverty isn’t laziness.

We can get by with less money because I have the time to do things that save money in the long run. If we were making the same amount of money and both of us were working, it would be a struggle to make ends meet, because I would no longer have the time to cook and take care of house maintenance.

But more importantly, we can get by with less money because I’m starting from a far more secure place than most people: We have a reliable car. We have savings. Our monthly bills are low because we have energy efficient appliances, a fuel efficient car, and a cheap mortgage.

Terry Pratchett of course said all this much more elegantly in Men at Arms:

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of okay for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. These were the kinds of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years time, when a poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.

We don’t have to keep repairing our car. We don’t have to keep repairing or replacing broken appliances. We don’t have to spend a lot of money on gas, because we were able to purchase a fuel-efficient car. We don’t have high utility bills, because we were able to purchase energy-efficient appliances.

We don’t have to keep buying new boots.

This is why the myth of the lazy poor outrages me so very much.

I have lived struggling to make ends meet before. Where the car breaking down not only meant a struggle to come up with the money but also time wasted trying to get around without a car. Where I had to work an exhausting job, with a schedule that changed from week to week, where my sleep patterns were constantly interrupted and I rarely get two days off in a row. And heaven forbid I get sick.

Instead, I am in a place where I spent money in the past so I could save money in the future.

Where I have the time to spend less money.

I know precisely how lucky I am to be in the situation I am and it’s not because I’m more moral or smarter or less lazy. It’s because I got lucky.

And for this, I am thankful every single day.

Written by Michelle at 2:23 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Politics,Random Notes from All Over  

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Hiking WV: Roaring Plains (Monongahela Nat’l Forest)

The Roaring Plains are only 3 miles from Dolly Sods, but aren’t quite as crowded (which is nice). We saw people on the trail, but not a constant flow, the way our last hikes at Dolly Sods have been.

Compared to last weekend, we had a relatively easy hike–most of the trail was relatively flat, with only a few steep sections.

Location: Roaring Plains West
Trail: South Prong Trail (partial)
Distance: 6.3 miles
Elevation: 3929-4217 (676 feet climb)
Temperature: 60-57 F

The view of the valleys below was mostly just out of sight. This was the best view of the hike.

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But don’t think that made this a bad hike. It was a beautiful hike.

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Written by Michelle at 8:42 pm      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Patriotism, or the Lack Thereof

This was originally a response to a comment on someone’s FB post, but I decided this is something I feel strongly about, and want to say to more than someone in a comment thread:

I have seen about a zillion people getting upset over athletes protesting by kneeling during the national anthem. Honestly, I think most of it is jumping on the wagon based upon little or no thought.

Here’s what I think about it.

Consider the American flag. There was a huge issue years ago about the constitutionality of burning the flag as a form of protest. Lots of people threw fits about protestors buring flags, wanted them arrested, locked up, they key thrown away, etc.

Here’s the thing. I actually know the guidelines for flying and care of the flag.

  • The flag should not be used as a drapery, or for covering a speakers desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
  • The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use.
  • The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
  • When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.
  • The flag should … displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night.

I own a flag, and I fly it on national holidays (sadly, admittedly, I often forget). When not in use that flag is ceremonially folded and stored in a safe place.

The flag and the national anthem are important and should be respected. That means making a protest using the flag or the national anthem should be done only as part of a protest or message about something the protester finds vitally important.

In the 60s and 70s that something was the Vietnam war. Currently that something is the plight of minority communities.

If you believe something strongly enough that you feel the only way to express that deeply held believe is to kneel during the national anthem or burn the flag, then you should do so. It is your right, but also, I believe, your DUTY.

I am far more offended by individuals leaving their flags out 24 x 7 unlit and uncared for because they want to be seen as “patriotic” than by someone burning the flag in political protest.

I cringe at the sight of torn and worn flags flying, because the people who are leaving them there care only about the veneer of patriotism. Literally, they want to be seen flying the flag, but they can’t be bothered to actually care for the item they are flying, or learn how to respectfully treat it.

If you believe that something is so wrong with our country that you need to burn a flag or kneel during the national anthem, then I believe it is your right–nay your moral duty–to do so. If you use the flag and the national anthem to give yourself the veneer of patriotism while acting in an utterly unpatriotic manner, that is, to me, FAR more offensive than taking a principled stand for something important to you.

Things I believe are patriotic:

  • Honoring and caring for our military veterans.
  • Voting in all elections.
  • Being aware of all the sides of political topics and making a reasoned choice based upon your deeply held beliefs rather than what looks good to those around you.

Patriotism is not spouting political rhetoric and pretending to care about an item of cloth or a song. Patriotism is how you act, based upon your fundamental beliefs about our country.

Written by Michelle at 2:51 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics  

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hiking WV: Blackwater Falls State Park

Our last stop was Blackwater Falls State Park. Initially we were going to wander around Pendleton Point and Pendleton lake, and then hike Lindy Point trail, but we both decided we were tired, and it was time to get ice cream and head home.

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Written by Michelle at 7:51 pm      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Canaan Valley State Park

I’ve hiked this trail several times before, and will do so many times again. It’s a very short trail, with little elevation change, yet you go through several different types of habitat.

It’s a beautiful hike, perfect for kids, and one I highly recommend.

Location: Canaan Valley State Park
Trail: Blackwater River Trail
Distance: 0.9 miles
Elevation: 3158-3334 feet

OK, this is actually not along the Blackwater River trail, but the beaver pond is on the way to the trail.

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The Blackwater River, meandering through Canaan Valley

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Written by Michelle at 7:45 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,Photos,State Park / Forest,West Virginia  

Hiking WV: Blackwater Canyon Rim

This was not a true hike, because we had difficulty getting there (you can’t enter trail head into the GPS, then we both misread what the road sign was saying) so we ended up wandering briefly around both ends of the Canyon Rim Trail, as well as climbing up Olsen Lookout Tower.

Location: Backbone Mountain, Monongahela National Forest
Trail: Blackwater Canyon Rim Trail
Elevation: 3200-3785

I did climb Olsen Lookout Tower, but since this is me, I was very slow and careful and did not stumble or fall once!

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The view from the tower. We had two separate 360 views this weekend. Pretty impressive.

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On the other side of the trail, we found this lovely waterfall.

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We will hike this entire trail eventually.

Written by Michelle at 7:36 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Hiking,National Park / Forest,Photos,West Virginia  
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