Friday, October 31, 2014


At church a few weeks ago, we met a couple of Regent grad students from Kenya, and eventually got arround to inviting them over for dinner. Brian is from Nairobi, and Victor from Malindi, on the coast a bit north of Mombasa; they're studying business, with the intent of forming a full service travel agency so that you know exactly what to expect. They have at least some idea of the cultural differences; for example, in Kenya, a good might have someone armed and in camouflage on each floor; those are police, not soldiers, and they're there so you know there's good security and you don't have to worry. The tourist, however, is likely to say to himself, "They feel a need to station a soldier on every floor; it must be dangerous!" I'm not sure to what extent it's possible to say "This hotel is rated as a 5 but it's really a 4, so expect that", across all the different hotels and restaurants and safari tours and such that a tourist might want, and further to what extent they will be able to anticipate that sort of cultural difference. But that's what they're trying for. Very respectful, and willing to ask questions and accept the advice, so quite different from Americans...or at least "Americans who haven't tried every other possibility first."


We saw TWO bald eagles around 1pm today, over the river behind our deck. One flew off north, the other one disappeared into the marsh grass. I thought that one might have been injured, so I put out the kayak and went around the island. Turns out the "north" eagle had stopped at the platform for osprey nests; as I drifted down towards him, he grumbled and took to the air again, and that brought the second one up. They flew back and forth over the river for a few minutes, then one disappeared south and the other headed west.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Heat Pump

Well, we'd had a problem with it last year, and the tech had told us then that we'd need to get a new one sooner or later. Fortunately this is the slow season for HVAC and I got a hefty discount, which made it merely "painfully expensive". So now we have a new heat pump, air handler, and thermostat. Hurrah.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


Diana and I wanted to take Josh and Gwen to the Homestead resort, and decided that this was the weekend. We left a day early in order to visit Mom and Dad in Monterey, where they're renting a house. Monterey is a village--I'm told there are about 100 registered voters in town--in Highland County, on the border with West Virginia. The weather had just turned crisp, meaning 35° at night, and the leaves were turning gaudily gold and red. We saw one maple where the outer portions of the leaves were red, while the parts by the stems were still green. Some of the people up there raise sheep, and we saw a few flocks that had a llama or two added to protect them from dogs or coyotes.

The Homestead is a huge hotel--perhaps not in comparison with hotels in Vegas or New York or such, but it dominates the town of Hot Springs.  Apparently it's a little less ritzy than it used to be; they still have English style tea every afternoon, but you no longer have to have jacket and tie to take tea. A couple of restaurants, two arcades of shops, a pool, a theater--this is all inside the hotel itself, mind you--and they also have a couple of golf courses, a stable, a hawks mews, a shooting range, hiking trails, ski slope, archery range, and probably other stuff I didn't get to.

Saturday morning we started with a trip to the mews, which held an eagle owl, a pair of Harris hawks, and some saker falcons. These are birds selected for their ability to tolerate strangers; the instructor said that it's possible to train a redtail, for instance, but they won't cope with having other people around. She got out a Harris hawk and we walked around the area, with the hawk gliding from tree to tree, waiting to see if we might flush a rabbit or squirrel. This bird didn't mind getting close to us--once her wingtips brushed my wrist as she flew past, and she passed close by a couple other people if they happened to be between her perch and the trainer. The trick to getting the hawk to come to you is to hold up a piece of meat--chicken, in this case--and the hawk will pluck it out of your hand as she lands on your gauntlet. We all got a chance to try that. She weighed a bit over two pounds, although she felt lighter; she only stayed on our hands for a minute or so before going back to a tree.

That afternoon James met us and took us to the shooting range. Josh and I got an over/under 12 gauge shotgun, with about 100 round between us; Diana and Gwen had a Beretta 28 gauge shotgun, with 50 rounds. It was the first time shooting for the ladies, and they did pretty well; Josh and I managed to break a few clays as well, although some were a bit tricky. There was one that simulated a rabbit running along the ground, and I don't think I ever did hit that one; it always seemed to bounce at just the wrong moment. We had dinner with James and Heather at the local Italian place, then followed Sunday church with a hike up the Cascades trail, a couple of miles following the creek uphill and seeing the falls. Finished with a picnic at the upper end of the trail, before heading home.