Skydiving Reality Check

May 29, 2006

CNN reported two separate skydiving accidents over the weekend. Today in Kentucky, two experienced skydivers collided about 200 feet above the ground. One died after impact, and the other, his fall broken by a tree, survived with a broken leg.

Two days prior in Ohio, a a first-time skydiver slipped out of her harness during a tandem jump with an instructor, and fell to her death.

According to the Skydiving Fatalities Database, there were 69 skydiving fatalities in 2004, 59 in 2005, and 11 (now 13?) so far in 2006. There are a lot of ways to spin the numbers, and there are many websites and other resources out there asserting that skydiving or (insert favorite outdoor adventure sport here) is safer than driving your car in traffic.

Probably. Maybe. Whatever. If it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go. Might as well have fun doing it. Skydiving remains on my “to do” list. I’ve just promised my wife that I’ll tell her about it after the fact.


Greatest Play in Baseball

May 28, 2006

Barry Bonds hit his 715th steroid-enhanced home run today, passing Babe Ruth. However, Bonds’ asterisk-accompanied accomplishment is not the “greatest play” referred to in the title of this post.


Thirty years ago last month, during a baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers, a father and son jumped out of the stands and ran into the outfield. Once they got there, they pulled out an American flag, soaked it with lighter fluid, and attempted to set it on fire. Before they could get it going, Cubs center fielder Rick Monday sprinted up and grabbed the lighter fluid-soaked flag away from the protesters. Afterward, the crowd in the stands spontaneously started singing “God Bless America.”

I firmly believe, as does the Supreme Court of the United States, that burning the flag is constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution. See (Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989)).

I also firmly believe that Rick Monday did a great thing in grabbing that flag. has photos and video.

Fork in the Road

May 26, 2006

More old photos, more memories. Not that I need a photograph to recall the summer of 1984. Summer camp that year was spent not at Camp Shenandoah, but at Camp Upshur, for Officer Candidates School. At Camp Shenandoah I carried a walking stick; at Camp Upshur I carried an M-16. At Camp Shenandoah I was trying to earn merit badges; at Camp Upshur I was trying to earn the gold bar of a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.

I wonder about the guys in this photo. How many of them went to Kuwait? To Afghanistan? To Iraq? Were any killed or injured? Are any still in the Corps? If so, the guys in the khaki shirts in the front row would be addressing them respectfully as “Colonel” and not contemptuously as “Candidate” now.

As for me, the summer of 1984 was the sum total of my experience in the Marine Corps. Four or five weeks into the program, I felt like my body was falling apart. Slowed by a bum knee and fatigued to the point where I was letting the drill instructors get inside my head and stay there, I believed that I was at risk for washing out, and that was a prospect that I could not bear. So I “dropped on request”, with the stated intention of reapplying once I was healed up.

Long story short, I didn’t reapply. As I look back over the last 42 years, this was one of the proverbial “forks in the road” of my life that stands out. If I had stuck with the Marine Corps, would I have met my wife? Would I have my 4 kids? Would my life bear any resemblance to what it does today?

Doubtful. And so, while I have immense respect for those who have served, and an occasional twinge of remorse at not finishing what I had started, I am grateful beyond words that I took the fork in the road that I did.

By the way, I’m in the middle row, 3rd from left. My wife hates this photo – says I look “mean”. Believe me, I felt mean.

Where It Began

May 26, 2006

Rummaging through old pictures….

My outdoor adventuring got off to a less than auspicious start in the summer of 1975, as a newly-minted Boy Scout at Camp Shenandoah. My troop arrived at camp on Sunday afternoon, and when my parents came for family night on the following Thursday, they found me laying in my tent with pneumonia and a 104 degree temperature. I had been having such a good time that I didn’t want to let anyone know that I was sick. Suffice it to say that we didn’t stick around for the family night campfire.

In the photo I’m in the second row, 5th from the left.

America’s Running Routes

May 24, 2006

I came across a great feature on the USA Track & Field website – a searchable database of running routes across the country. Far too often when I’m traveling on business I’ll ask the concierge or desk clerk for suggestions as to running routes, and I’ll either get a blank stare or directions to the hotel’s treadmill. Problem solved!

The site isn’t just a good resource for travelers, however – it lists no less than 78 routes right here in Charlottesville. And, it has a very cool mapping feature that allows users to map (and measure!) their own routes and add them to the list. Surprisingly, I noticed that the Charlottesville 10 Miler course isn’t one of them – I’ll have to get on that….

Summer Teeth

May 22, 2006

This photo is from October 2005 – “Pillow Rock”, one of the class 5+ rapids on the Upper Gauley River in West Virginia. I’m the one in the right front of the boat (bottom right-hand corner). If you run this rapid aggressively, the object is to paddle hard straight into the big rock on the left, and let your momentum pop the front of the raft up as high as possible – sometimes the raft will get nearly vertical. The hope is that the rafters will remain in the boat while this is happening.

I’ve called this one “Summer Teeth” because that’s what I almost gave my buddy Tom on my left. Our guide explained that “Summer Teeth” is West Virginia-speak for one of the most common injuries sustained on the river – it occurs when the uncovered T-grip (handle) of a rafter’s paddle connects with the mouth of a fellow rafter. The result of the contact is “Summer Teeth” (“some are here, some are over there….”) Thankfully Tom was able to keep his pearly whites intact despite me taking my left hand off of the T-grip. Hey, I was just trying to stay in the boat – swimming through a Class 5 is no fun!

C.S. Lewis on "The Da Vinci Code"

May 22, 2006

The op-ed page of the May 19th edition of the Wall Street Journal had a great piece by Joseph Loconte on the current “Da Vinci Code” controversy – Debunking the Debunkers: C.S. Lewis’ message to “Da Vinci Code” fans. Maybe it’s the lawyer in me, but I do wish that those who are protesting the movie would, in Loconte’s words, “take a cue” from Lewis, who based his own considerable faith in logic, reason, and common sense. If they would, they might come out with their faith strengthened, and possibly even bring some others along with them.