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A settled nomad living on the edge of Appalachia. I love to listen to music, spend time with my family, and play sports. I'm lucky enough to write code for a living. I'm often accused of having no "filter" as I tend to overshare. I make beer on occasion and try to sample new beers whenever I can.$BillRawlinson

Passage of Time 2011

1 min read

I have updated our passage of time page to reflect the year 2011. I still need to find some photos to fill in the gaps for Lisa and Myself between 2000-2003. This is always fun for me to look at. Shannon, with her much shorter hair and plumper cheeks, looks quite a bit different while Emily looks as if she has aged more than one year in these past 12 months. I've gained some hair on my scalp while losing it from my chin and Lisa's hair is both shorter and brighter - she has now kept her part to the left for two consecutive years after swinging it to the right for the three years prior; I guess she is happy with the change.

You can view the entire timeline at our passage of time page

My Mice

1 min read



The girls took a small break at Disney World at the Hall of Presidents

What Happened in Vegas

8 min read

Lisa and I headed to Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago for a sunny vacation with my brother and his wife. We drove up to Cleveland a couple days before we had to fly out and dropped the kids off with Lisa's parents before jetting away on Monday of the week. Our flight, with American Airlines, generally sucked (and unfortunate condition I'm coming to expect from most domestic carriers) and we arrived in Vegas late. We then hired a shuttle service and got a ride to the Westin. I had booked the Westin room via back in December when I first told Lisa about the trip as part of our Christmas present and we had a pretty good deal of $70/night.

As the trip approached Lisa was getting pretty nervous about the Westin being off the strip but it wasn't very far off the strip at all and you could walk right across the street to Bally's to catch the monorail which worked out wonderfully for us as Ted and Cyndy were staying one monorail stop up at the MGM Grand. The Westin was OK. I can't really give it a great review but it wasn't that bad either. The hallways were a bit dingy but our room was clean and the staff was generally friendly. However, our initial check-in was full of problems. Our first room (on the fifth floor) didn't have an in-room safe. Of course we didn't know that till we got to the room so we locked our bags in the room and went back to the front desk where we had to wait in line again. We were moved to a new room on the fifth floor but it had two problems. The first was a dead battery in the smoke detector (they fixed that) but the second was the presence of a very large dog in the room beside us. I was unaware that the Westin was a dog friendly hotel. The neighbor dog didn't like the smell of me or something because we could hear him growling through the wall so I went back downstairs and got in line again. We were then given a room on the 12th floor. Finally, we had a solid room with a safe, no neighboring dogs, and a working smoke detector. We were settled in about an hour after we first arrived at the hotel. I don't want to dog the Westin entirely becuase, quite frankly their seemingly hyperbolicly named "Heavenly Bed" is one damn comfortable bed. In fact I'd say it was vastly more comfortable than any bed I've slept on including our tempurpedic (Lisa has always liked the tempurpedic but she even preferred the Heavenly Bed). If I had $3500 to blow on a bed I'd order one today.

That night Ted and Cyndy came down to our hotel and we enjoyed some very light snacks at the hotels mixer for guests and then we headed out and did a little light gambling. Ted, Cyndy, and Lisa all like doing slot machines so that was all we did that night. I don't really care much for the machines but I tried to enjoy them and managed to lose my days gambling money in record time. It was not a good sign for things to come in regards to me gambling during the week.

We had pre-purchased some tickets to go to the Price is Right show at Balleys on Tuesday and so, once we had breakfast, we headed over there and made sure we were signed in and that we had our name badges on. Bally's and Paris are connected so while we waited for the show to start we walked around Paris a bit and did some minor sight-seeing. Then we headed back to the show and had a great time. It was a lot like the version on TV but there were some noticeable differences. First if you were called to "Come on Down" you only got one chance to get up on stage. If your bid wasn't the closest without going over you were sent back to your seat with a tee-shirt as a consolation prize. By rotating contestants through this way they were able to give a lot more people a chance to play which was pretty cool. The second noticable difference was that between each prize round they gave away 1000 gaming credits at Bally's to four people in the audience. Via these two gimmicks they could claim to have more than 50 winners in the show. Finally, in the show case showdown there was only one show-case and both contestants (people who hadn't played in any game at all yet) bid on the same prize package. The person closest without going over would win a cruise to Mexico and if they were within $100 they would win the entire showcase (including a new Nissan). Both players overbid by about $7000. It wasn't that their bids seemed that outlandish but that the value of the showcase was so incredibly low; $13,000! It had the cruise, a 61" DLP, the Nissan, a fridge/freezer, and some other stuff. It was pretty shocking.

We had a great time cheering on the contestants and shouting out "HIGHER", "LOWER", and "ONE DOLLAR!!" and we felt the show was well worth the money even though we didn't get called up to play. It was neat being a part of something we all remembered from our childhood.

Wednesday was a day with nothing planned so we just wandered around a lot and had a good time. To be honest I don't even remember Wednesday.

For Thursday we had a special treat planned as we had pre-ordered tickets to see the Cirque Du Soleil show, "O". All four of us saw "Ka" the last time we were in Vegas and Lisa and I had seen "La Nouba" when we were in Orlando back in 2001 so we knew we were in for a nice treat. Even though Lisa and I were a little let down by Ka after La Nouba our faith in Cirque was fully restored by "O". "O" was much more enjoyable to us than "Ka" and Lisa thought it was even better than "La Nouba" - I'm not sure about that assessment but I really enjoyed "O". My favorite part of the show wasn't one of the acts or athletes but rather the technological marvel that is the stage they performed on and in. "O" is a water based show and the stage can disappear in part or entirely and leave a pool in its wake. It was awesome. At times the entire stage would sink beneath the water while at other times just a small pie wedge would be submerged. The flow of the show was so well timed that it would seem like the stage couldn't have time to disappear before a suicidal high diver would descend head first into the water. It never seemed like the water could be deep enough yet it was. It was fantastic.

On Friday we two couples split up and did our own things. Ted and Cyndy were flying home while Lisa and I were flying, via helicopter, to the Grand Canyon. Our shuttle bus picked us up at the hotel and then took us to a small nearby airport where we met our pilot and, before we knew it, we ascended to about 3,000 feet for a great trip around the Hoover Dam and then onward to the Canyon. We only got to see a small part of the canyon but it was still really cool. We flew past the Grand Canyon Skywalk and then landed at the base of the canyon for a picnic lunch and about 30 minutes of photographic opportunities. After that the pilot loaded us all back up and we flew on a different route back to the airport. Lisa had never flown in a helicopter before so she was a bit nervous before the flight started but by the time we landed in the canyon she was loving it. It was a great excursion and I highly recommend it. However, don't limit your Grand Canyon encounter to just that - you need to make sure you visit the South Rim at some point as well becuase it is a much grander vision than the portions of the canyon we visited. Someday I'll be taking Lisa back to see that part (and, who knows, maybe another Helicopter flight from the Canyon rim).

Finally, Saturday arrived and we had to check out and prepare to leave. By this point I had not won at all during the trip but instead had lost my daily allowance each day. It was very strange. However, even ignoring my losses the trip itself was great. It was nice to see Ted and Cyndy and I was really glad to get Lisa to the Grand Canyon and in a helicopter. Overall it was a great trip and I look forward to our next vacation (wherever that may be).

Upside Down You're Turning Me

5 min read

This past weekend was a long planned Mountain Biking trip to Mount Wood State Park in northern West Virginia (near Parkersburgh). Typically we just ride some local trails so it was pretty exciting to be going about 2 hours out to hit some totally new single track. I woke up pretty early (7am) on Saturday because I couldn't remember what time I was picking Ed up at (9am). Since I was up so early I went to Walmart to get a spare tube and then came back home and had some oatmeal, loaded up the car, and then drove over to Eds. I was still there half an hour early.

At Eds house we filled up our water packs (my house was under a water boil advisory due to a water main break). And then we headed to route 2 to meet up with the other car for the drive up at around 9:30. The drive took 2 hours and then, once everyone was ready to go it was just about noon. At this point I really should have had a snack of some sort but I wasn't hungry and nor was I thinking about food. This was my first mistake of the day.

We started the ride from Mike's mom's house which is in an awesome location about 200 feet from the trail head. We jumped in and started a great ride of short descents and short climbs. The one constant of the days ride is there would be no time spent on flat terrain. Mike has a cool GPS unit and he uploaded the course we rode so you can see all the cool details. The bottom of the page has four tabs (they are really faded so its hard to tell they do anything) but the elevation tab does work and it will show you how the course bounced up and down. It was a ton of fun to ride though I'm not sure I was fully ready for 16 miles of it.

At about the seven mile marker we came out into a place called the Savannah and a really cool, but slightly overgrown, obstacle course was waiting for us. It had neat rails you could try to ride on, a teeter totter, and a long ramped jump. The approaches to many of the parts was really overgrown but we still managed to try a few of the things. I successfully rode onto one of the small rails but had to bail before reaching the second. Ed conquered the teeter-totter and then we each took a try at the jump.

Ed Jumping

This first photo is of Ed making the jump look pretty easy. None of us got very much air but I think Ed may have gotten the most. He also rode down the jump very slowly and amazed me by nothing flipping his bike in the process.

Mike Jumping

Mike made the jump too. He didn't get as much air as I expected but he still did a good job. He also rode slowly over the jump and surprised himself by not flipping his bike.

Gilbert followed and landed a nice jump as well.

Gilbert Jumping

This photo of Gilbert is great. I like this head on angle becuase it makes the jump look a bit more impressive. Though, honestly, I'm not sure anyone's jump was as impressive as mine.

Bill Crashing

I had neither sufficient speed to make the jump nor sufficient upper-body strength to save it at the last minute. Nor did I have the technical skills necessary to ride slowly over the jump without flipping so I flipped. Hard. I landed pretty squarely on my head and broke my helmet in three places. I also bruised my face, shoulder, and knee a bit. Thankfully, that was all. The rest of me was OK - my bike wasn't even damaged. Needless to say I think I'll leave off jumping for a while. (This was my second mistake of the day for those counting.)

After this tumble the other three played around a little more then we resumed our trek around the park.

At the 9 mile marker I was starting to feel pretty worn out and Mike offered me a chance to bail and return to his house. I declined (mistake #3) and kept on riding. By the 11 mile marker I was exhausted. My legs were like jelly and I was hiking my bike more and more often. Steering becomes pretty difficult as you fatigue but amazingly I didn't crash again that day but I sure did come close a few times. At one point I was going so slow I just told the others to keep riding and to put stick arrows at any intersection that I might need directions at.

Near the very end of the ride I was getting a bit of a twentieth wind and I managed to ride for the last mile or so without having to hike but boy was I tired at the end!

Once at Mike's house we all cleaned up and then headed out for some grub at Wendy's. I knocked back a half-pound burger and a chili and Dr. Pepper. I also finished off my big Gatorade bottle that I had started before the ride. My total dietary intake for the day was 2077 calories. It wasn't enough - not by a long shot. If you noticed on Mike's Garmin page his computer estimated we burned exactly 2077 calories during the ride. I was at a net of 0 by the time I had eaten at Wendy's - after the ride. Next time I will not only eat a small snack before we start but I'll bring some granola bars or something to eat on the trail.

Even with my crash and my exhaustion I had a great time. The trails were great and the other three guys were pretty patient with my slow pace. I'd definitely return to Mt Wood for another ride.

2009 Timeline Update

1 min read

I have updated our families "Passage of Time" page to reflect 2009. It's amazing how much the girls have changed in just one year. Lisa thinks I haven't changed at all since last years photo - I think she is missing my great head of hair!

Pottery and Pneumonia

1 min read

I just put up a few photos that I wanted to share. This first set is of Shannon working on her Bowl for the Empty Bowls fundraiser.

These second photos are of Emily looking absolutely miserable while she was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. She is still as sick as a dog but she is now at home after spending about 2.5 days under medical supervision.

Spring = More Mountain Biking

4 min read

Ahh, the fresh air, the warm weather, and - best of all - the increased day light after work adds up to an additional day each week where my friends and I will be riding. Until the waning hours of fall approach we will be riding on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Most of the time we are still riding at Barboursville park because we generally like the trails there. However, I think we will try a few other places as well - including, perhaps a weekend trip to some remote part of the state later in the year.

While I haven't been blogging about it I have still been riding these past few weeks and, this past weekend, the weather couldn't have been better. It was a nice and dry day, no humidity at all, and the thermometer was stuck in the mid 70's. It was gorgeous. Mike, Gilbert, and I headed out to the park but we were running late so we missed riding with Ed. Once we did start, however, we didn't take any prisoners and we attacked the mountain more aggressively than we have before. We went up our normal starting ascent and then circled down and around the mountain back to our starting point. From there we headed back up and followed the "trail of doom" down all the way to the bottom, through "green rocks" and over to the river trail.

At this point we haven't gone much further than we usually do before reaching the bottom but we have changed altitude a lot more thanks to the extra initial ascent and we have ridden much harder going down than normal. I'm not sure exactly what happened but I developed horrible, horrible, horrible heart burn on the way down so I decided that instead of taking the river trail with Mike and Gilber that I would just coast along on the road and meet them back at the top. As I peddled away from them I decided that instead I would follow the road to where they come out of the river trail and join them on the difficult "Devil's Hollow" ascent. Taking the road, it turns out, is a bit faster than the river trail and, undoubtedly, a bit shorter as well. I waited for a bit at the foot of the ascent and then decided to just push on without them. I took my time because every time I started to really push myself the heartburn kicked back in. After one of my many breaks I saw Mike and Gilbert had begun the climb so I finished up and waited for them. After we were all at the top we split up again as they wanted to go down a semi-difficult deer trail, follow the river again, and then go back up the road. I knew my chest wasn't having any of that so I decided to work my way back towards the car.

Of course, my plans change as I ride and I saw a hill that I have never managed to climb before so I made a go at it. I got a bit further but still couldn't complete the climb in the saddle and I had to walk my bike on the upper half. Once up there my heart burn was miserable so I just took it easy and rode on some flat ground until I saw a fun looking descent trail that I hadn't ridden before. It ended in a dead end as a huge tree covered the foot of the trail so I had to blaze my own path until i came across a grassy hill that I was able to ride down to reach a gravel access road. I then took the access road around a bit and up again until I reached the parking lot we started at.

Overall I think I rode about 9 miles. Mike and Gilbert rode about 12; Mike probably rode about 1/2 mile more than Gilbert because Gilbert ran out of water and wasn't feeling too good near the end of their second river trail ride.

One cool part of this ride was that Mike brought his camera and we took some pictures before a short, but very steep, descent. Even though the photos are cool I'm not sure they do justice to the apparent steepness when you are riding down. Hopefully we will continue to take photos and, as we do, I'll stick some more up in this album to share. For the meantime here are three of me as I progress down the descent.

A Few London Photos

1 min read

Last summer I got to travel to London for a week for work along with three of my coworkers. One of those guys, Mark, gave me a copy of the photos he took while we were there and I uploaded a few to my online photo albums. The first two are of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace (I pose at attention alongside a guard, he looks a bit more professional). The others are taken from inside the eye which is a giant ferris wheel.

I didn't actually get to ride in the eye but Mark and Paul both did on a beautiful sunny day (Jason and I were actually working) and I'm really glad that Mark shared these photos with me because they show London from a totally different angle. I hope you enjoy them!

Frosty Morning

1 min read

It has been plenty cold lately and the trees are frozen with thick frost this morning. It's bitter out but beautiful at the same time.