2011 Holiday Letter

Merry Christmas and best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year.

2011 is drawing to a close as a rather unremarkable year for me personally. I’ve been back in the Virginia low country for about 18 months now and am slowly recovering from my stay up north. Last winter, I managed to paint the living room and hallway. This winter, stripping the master bedroom trim and painting are the plan. I’m slowly getting settled. Maybe I’ll actually make it by retirement.


The three of us (Dave, Rhea, and Lord Nick) remain in good health. Rhea will be twelve in a couple of months and Nick will be 6. Both are liking Tidewater after having their doubts about the 2010 heat and southern strength thunderstorms. The year started with the Boxing Day snow and the New Years day snow (a foot). For thunder storms, we only had a couple that were impressive here at home though several more passed through the area. We also had one gentlemanly hurricane which flooded the Hague and turned my church’s basement into an indoor wading pool. Later that week, the pecan tree did drop a widow maker in the yard, fortunately with nobody in the LZ.

Nick’s Toes

Nick is recovered from peeling nails. The horny outer covering was separating from the interior causing some distress. This condition can have several causes, bacterial, fungal, or autoimmune. In Nick’s case, several months of tetracycline cleared his condition so it was most likely bacterial. He goes back for a well baby check on Tuesday. He’s been making a big production of scuff marking, something which stopped while the toes were tender. Hopefully this is cured. But he’s missing his regular peanut butter treats.

Dave’s a Vegan, Mostly

Dave had a rather interesting encounter with his cardiologist back in November. After years of preaching the American Heart Association diet, Dr. Panigrahi is now advocating the “Eat to Live” diet because he was not pleased with the results the AHA diet was producing in his patient population. The Eat to Live diet is one of several low fat vegan diets. The author is a cardiologist and does have a side business selling some supplements and condiments but is promoting this diet because it offers quantifiable health benefits in his patient population. The diet is a vegan diet that is sustainable. It is plant based with fruits, vegetables, and beans being unlimited. The author recommends some nuts such as almonds or walnuts to cover essential fatty acids. Protein is not a concern as long as what you are eating is diverse. The author makes an interesting point, 100 calories of broccoli has more protein than 100 calories of beef.

The diet works by reducing fats and animal proteins, increasing vegetable and fruit antioxidants, and adding beans and their antioxidants and fiber. It is a really easy diet that is gimmick free and opens up the broad spectrum of world fare from Africa, India, and the Caribbean nations.

I do still have bacon and eggs for Saturday breakfast and eat meat for holiday meals and the occasional lunch in town. I’ve found that I’m less hungry and that a handful of nuts or dried fruit is a good filling snack. By eating complex whole foods, blood sugar remains more stable and I’m not bingy.

I had been moving in the vegan direction anyway for a number of reason, mostly the difficulty of obtaining tasty meat in the big city and the difficulties of cooking for a family of one. By the time I dropped in for my fall checkup, I was 90 percent of the way there. Cereal wasn’t working so I’d switched fruit and nuts for breakfast. I’d be ravenous by 11 AM when eating cereal breakfast. In January, I’d switched to vegan suppers. In June, I’d stopped eating frozen for lunch and switched to a vegan lunch. For me, only some small adjustments remained, mostly eating more greens. One advantage of the changes made was that in November, my cardiologist was able to halve my blood pressure medication (Diovan). I hope, that by watching grains and starchy vegetables, I can begin to loose the weight that has come to stay over the years.

Around the Neighborhood

Rhea and Nick are liking Tidewater. They enjoy oceanfront walks, trips to the local pet expos, and the luxury of a fenced yard. Nick likes to torment the squirrels. I suspect that is a sport the squirrels also take up from time to time because they’ll run along the top rail of my neighbor’s stockade fence just out of reach. Our bunnies have all learned to eat at the neighbors. Dave likes the access to the beach, big city parks, shopping, culture, and entertainment. And Tidewater has some of the best healthcare in the nation.

I live next to Norfolk airport. A lake, one of the city reservoirs, separates Azalea Acres from the airport and we have a nice treed park at the end of the street. The Norfolk Botanical Garden is our other major neighbor. The subdivision is mid-50’s modern hip roof ranches and most of the neighbors are senior Navy enlisted, Navy retirees, and small businessmen. We have a good mix of people. This morning while the air was still, the neighborhood was fragrant with the smells of Christmas curries in preparation. Many of my neighbors originated in the west Pacific island nations.

Bald Eagles Return

Norfolk Botanical Garden is home to a pair of bald eagles. This spring, the female flew into the path of an airliner on final approach at Norfolk airport and was killed. The wildlife folks took the three chicks off to raptor rescue because they were a size dad couldn’t feed by himself. The chicks have been released and migrated north normally. In early December a new pair had occupied the nest and set up house. They should be laying eggs soon. The Norfolk Eagle Cam has been updated and you should check in from time to time. There are now three cameras, one looking down on the nest, and two that can be tilted, panned, and zoomed to follow activity in and around the nest. You can read more about the Norfolk eagles here. The page should become active in January.

This Old House

I’m catching up on home repairs this year and next. The electrical service panel needs replacement. The old FPE panel is notorious for breakers that fail to trip and bus bars that fail to hold breakers. It will be history in the next few weeks. This is a good time to do such work. Our local tradesmen are pretty open right now and looking for renovation work with new construction still in the dumps. I also need to make some carpentry repairs to cover accesses that the plumbers cut to reach plugged and leaking kitchen drains and to cover the TV, phone, and data distribution panel in my closet.

Longer term plans are to renovate the baths and kitchens but those plans are still in the conceptual design phase. My old hip roof ranch is about 1000 square feet so the baths, linen closet, and utility closet are a Chinese box puzzle of interlocking pieces. The baths feature 24 inch doors and I’m a good 23 inches wide. I’d like proper 32 inch entry ways. That means moving everything around. The house has a full bath plus a half bath off the master bedroom, a bit of a conceit in such a small house. I’d like to reconfigure the space to separate the bath and the water closet with both accessible from the hall. That means moving the furnace which is a big cost driver because the central duct in the crawl space would need replaced and the gas and vent relocated. The furnace and air handler are about 5 years old with 15 years of service ahead.

21st Century TV

I did update the TV after 20 years of service from my faithful Hitachi CRT. I retired it and  added a new Panasonic plasma TV. It connects by HDMI to my TiVO HD and Apple TV 2. My old DVD player continues in service for now. I use the Apple TV for Netflix and iTunes rentals. I’m finding it difficult to justify a Blue Ray player when the Apple TV is playing HD video without trouble. We’ll see. The future new disk player will also pick up SACD duties but HD Tracks is making DRM free high resolution audio available at market disk prices.

The  TV passes audio to the hi-fi via TOSLINK. I can now hear nice stereo TV audio on my 70’s relic preamp, amp, and speakers. A Cambridge Audio DacMagic turns the bits back into analog stereo and does a glorious job of it. The DacMagic up samples the audio to 24 bit 192,000 samples per second audio which is lush and detailed. A new version of the DacMagic features another doubling of the up sampling and an audio level control allowing it to be used to directly drive a high quality power amp.

Between the Apple TV and the DacMagic, it looks like disc media is on the way out. Most music goes into the Mac to be added in lossless form to iTunes. I have the sound of the disk without having to search for it in a disorganized music library.

By davehamby

A modern Merlin, hell bent for glory, he shot the works and nothing worked.