In keeping with our newly established Thanksgiving tradition, we took the day yesterday to go exploring and visit a place with a name that echoes back to our past life. Last year, we visited Washington. This year, we went a little farther afield.

pike city

On the way up to our target, we stopped by Pike City. As you can see, it's a hoppin' town. It turns out, folks, that in America, you can have a city without having a cathedral. Weird.


Pike City was not our final destination. We drove on up the mountain. The sun was shining (unlike the dreary rain we're getting today) and the snow lay all about us. The views were pretty spectacular, as well. After Pike City, we also tried the turn for Forest City, but after a mile or so, the steep road became pretty icy. We came upon a trio of young men with a light pickup truck. They couldn't get the thing up the hill and were worried about going any farther. I added my weight to the bed to help the rear-wheel-drive get some grip, but it wasn't enough. A few broken pine tree branches got them a few feet up the hill -- sometimes just a little grip is all you need -- but then the tires just kept kicking them away.

So we plugged a giant eye-hook into the back of our little car and tied a cable to their hitch. We snapped one of their ropes, but we pulled the truck twenty feet up onto ice-free road. I didn't think the little car had it in her, but all wheel drive really makes a difference.

Even so, we decided to skip the trip to Forest City and ran on up to our final destination.

alleghany supply

Of course, we were thinking of Allegany County, where Maryland's Cumberland sits in the western part of the state. This town, and the name of its founding mine, comes from the Allegheny River in south western Pennsylvania. (As you probably know, the Allegheny River is the true headwaters of the Mississippi River.) All of which is closer to some of our old stomping grounds.

This Alleghany is a small town up in the mountains of Sierra County, about a 30 minute drive north of Route 49. The road there was well-maintained and fairly passable until we got to the town itself.

The town has a nice basketball court:

basketball goal with snow

and a playground.

alleghany playground

But the playground is only for local people, I guess.

alleghany playground sign

You never know what you're going to find in these remote places, which is part of the adventure. However, I'm pretty sure that this sign was not meant to indicate the presence of fast food. If it was, we never saw it.

mcdonalds sign

We stopped by Casey's Place, which looked interesting. We stomped up onto the porch to find that the place doesn't open until 1. The proprietor opened the door to greet us and reinforce this opening at 1 thing. She said that they had only gotten power back on that day, so they were going to have a family Thanksgiving dinner. She pointed to the part of the bar where the family would sit. We told her we'd take a walk around and be back for 1 o'-clock.

caseys place

Apparently, though, we misunderstood her. When we got back around 1:15, the place was still closed and nobody came to the door. Maybe she meant they wouldn't be open because of Thanksgiving? Then why didn't she object when we said we'd be back at one? Oh, it's just too confusing. It's a shame because I've been craving a good burger. At any rate, we drove an hour down to Downieville and had some of the best Mexican food I've had in a while.

And that was Thanksgiving 2010.

Scrum Comics #1


Feel free to put alternate dialog in the comments.

The underlying image is from the excellent indicommons project, where museums and libraries all over the world put their photographs on the web for public consumption. This image is from the Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library.

Something a Little Less Confrontational

Invading comets!

It's the Picture of the Day from NASA.

The TSA Sent Me an Email

I don't really know why or how they got my address, but the TSA sent me an email. Well, to be more specific, the employees union for the Treasury department sent me an email.

Obligatory Picture of Our Downed Tree

Apparently, everybody has at least one of these. Our current downed-tree-count stands at 3.

At any rate, I made it home safely!

Colfax Highway

Because 20 was closed, I came all the way to 174. I pulled over to take a picture of the road and wonder why it is under chain control.

Instead, I find myself staring at this fire site where there used to be a restaurant. This is the corner of 174 and the road to Rollins Lake, just down from The Red Frog.

20 is Still Closed

so I've continued on through Emigrant Gap


The iPhone thinks I want to say Longhair.

At any rate, I stopped off at the Shell station here to use the restroom. Six million of my closest friends had the same idea. But the line moved quickly.

Thank you for being here, Kingvale Shell.

The road is very much worse once you get over the pass and start coming down the western slope. The ride up and through was not terrible, though it was very slow.

Now the falling snow has picked up its pace. Is this the beginning of the second storm? Well, time to get back on the road.

Wagon Train

I'm not sure how I feel about restaurants associating themselves with the Donner Party.

I stopped in Truckee for a quick lunch before the scary part of the drive. As for the Wagon Train, the food was quick/good and there was a model train riding around over my head. On the other hand, they're already playing Xmas music and they don't have pumpernickel for my grilled cheese sandwich.

Of course, nobody has pumpernickel out here. The waitress: "I don't even know what that is." That's some refreshing honesty there.


The road from Reno to Truckee is not so bad, but it definitely gets worse as you climb. The snow covered trees are lovely.

I made it through the snow chain/4wd checkpoint. All vehicles on I80 are stopped. There are chain installers ready to leap into action. The car in front of me was forced to turn back; I guess they didn't want to put on chains.

The speed limit is 30 mph.

(Don't worry, I'm not typing on my iPhone while I drive.)

First Stop, Cabela's

It is sunny here, but the signs warning of chain control have many of the trucks putting on chains almost in Reno proper, and once they've got chains, they don't do much better than 15 mph.

Or so it seems. It took 35 minutes to go the ten miles to this store. But it's festive inside and I spent some money on gloves, a hoodie, and an Elmer Fudd hat.

Now I am prepared for Donner Pass and also for rascally wabbits. But first, time for some gas.

Good Morning, Reno

Good morning from slightly snowy Reno, Nevada, where people have interesting ideas about shoveling snow. I landed late last night on a delayed flight and decided I wanted to attack Donner Pass in the daylight. is showing some heavy snow up there.

I'm waiting for Cabela's to open. I have no gloves or hat or anything and I want to be better prepared if something goes wrong along the way. Then it's gas and I'll be off. I might try liveblogging (safely, of course) along the way if it's really slow. There is a rumor that 20 is closed from downed trees. (Which is confirmed by the electronic sign shown on Magnifeye. Cool service.)


One thing I really love about living in Nevada City is that I have two airports to choose from and they're both rather small. There's a disadvantage to this: neither supports enough traffic on any given airline for me to rack up significant airline mileage (it seems every trip is on a different carrier). However, with the amount of travel I do, I've come to really value the small airport: the TSA lines are rarely long, the parking is not ridiculously far away (though Sacramento is stretching this a bit), and there is a level of calm in general in the waiting areas that I don't see in the larger airports.

Plus, they aren't taking nekkid pictures here yet.

I particularly love flying out of Reno (RNO), when the flights are right. It seems that RNO is my best bet for Baltimore/Washington, and it was also the best bet for flying to Dublin. Sacramento seems to be better for Seattle/Vancouver/Portland. It's a toss-up for Denver, it seems. In addition to all the small-airport advantages, the drive to RNO alone is worth the extra ten minutes. This morning the clouds seemed to be poured into the nooks and crannies between the peaks, which themselves were covered with snow tinged pink by the rising sun. Today, I'm just starting my day with a calmer, happier feeling. And that's important for a system designed to maximize grumpiness.

Sadly, though, Donner Pass sits between my home and RNO, so this is probably my last Reno flight before winter sets in. I knew I was pushing it trying for a last flight in November. This morning was beautiful, but the Nevada County Weather blog is predicting snow for the weekend: '2-3 feet of snow above 6,000 Ft with over a foot of snow above 4,000Ft. 6-12″ of snowfall possible above 2,000Ft.' Our house is just under 3,000 ft, so we'll be having snow at home, but I wonder if I'll be able to come back through the pass (7,000 ft) on Saturday night after I land.

Let the adventure begin.

The TSA Wants to See You Naked

I agree with everything in this post.

Wonderful Weather

Today, I nearly had to turn the air conditioning on, it feels so sunny and warm.

Yesterday was a different matter, which is altogether awesome. The Brunette and I hopped in the adventure car and drove up to see some snow. You could start seeing snow already by the time you hit White Cloud, but we went all the way over to I-80 and dropped off at Big Bend to hike a bit. This is the Loch Leven Trail.

snow on the trail

There is a half-frozen pond at a point in the trail. The trail itself was difficult to follow; it's not marked for walking in the snow. But there was really only one bad spot for climbing slippery rock.

a pond

Even so, it was a slow walk and we only made it as far as the bridge. We didn't make it to the tracks, but we did get to see a passenger train track through the snowy trees. Well worth the work.

the bridge

The other great thing about the two-hour walk was that it let us build up an appetite. We dropped in on the Rainbow Lodge for a late brunch and a game of Scrabble. The lodge is a 20s era stone building and it was a nice atmosphere for a tasty bit of food. We sat at the window and could just barely see the South Yuba River (when we sat up straight). I had a chile relleno omelet, which filled me for the rest of the day.

I definitely want to go back; it's very relaxing. Well, it would have been without the loud old-people convention at the next table. They'd had a few too many bloody marys with their brunch, if you ask me. The talk of past exploits with German au pairs was vaguely amusing, but the dismissive discussion of firefighter pensions made me grumpy.

But you can't blame the restaurant for that.

After food, we took the long way home, driving up to Truckee, through Sierraville and Sierra City, then back to town. We made a quick stop at Lower Sardine Lake to see how the snow was looking on the butte. What a beautiful day.

lower sardine

The Helicopters are Circling

Seriously, I've not heard this much low-flying helicoptering since leaving DC. Are they doing an exercise of some sort today?


I managed to purchase markers, post-its and index cards at the local Staples without getting into a single altercation.

Once Again, Cyclists Are Treated as Second-Class Citizens

Imagine this story with a pedestrian instead of a cyclist:

A financial manager for wealthy clients will not face felony charges for a hit-and-run because it could jeopardize his job, prosecutors said Thursday.


Erzinger, an Arrowhead homeowner, is a director in private wealth management at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Denver. His biography on states that Erzinger is “dedicated to ultra high net worth individuals, their families and foundations.”

Erzinger manages more than $1 billion in assets. He would have to publicly disclose any felony charge within 30 days, according to North American Securities Dealers regulations.


“Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger's profession, and that entered into it,” Hurlbert [the District Attorney] said. “When you're talking about restitution, you don't want to take away his ability to pay.”


Milo was bicycling eastbound on Highway 6 just east of Miller Ranch Road, when Erzinger allegedly hit him with the black 2010 Mercedes Benz sedan he was driving. Erzinger fled the scene and was arrested later, police say.

Erzinger allegedly veered onto the side of the road and hit Milo from behind. Milo was thrown to the pavement, while Erzinger struck a culvert and kept driving, according to court documents.

Erzinger drove all the way through Avon, the town's roundabouts, under I-70 and stopped in the Pizza Hut parking lot where he called the Mercedes auto assistance service to report damage to his vehicle, and asked that his car be towed, records show. He did not ask for law enforcement assistance, according to court records.

Since when is the DA's job about "restitution"? Since when would a DA pursue "restitution" when the victim says to ignore it? I'll tell you since when: Since the DA doesn't like cyclists. Since the DA doesn't like the cyclist's lawyer. Since the DA wants to keep a rich guy happy.

A Visit to Donner Lake

We wandered up to Donner Lake Saturday because I had read on the fabulous internets a good review of Donner Lake Kitchen. We're not allowed to move somewhere else until we've eaten at all the restaurants in the county.

We arrived about 10-til-2, but we were seated and well-fed without much grumbling. (The restaurant closes at 2.) I had an excellent grilled cheese sandwich and the Brunette had a half-size huevos rancheros, which was rather large enough all by itself. The food was good. There's not a view of the lake, but it is just across the street.

Afterward, we took a walk along the lake and then drove up over old US 40. The view is excellent, but the wind is strong.

The Third Man

I have a theory about The Third Man, an excellent post-war film written by Graham Greene. In the film, Holly Martins visits Allied-occupied Vienna to find that his friend Harry Lime is dead and accused of black market racketeering. Holly is a minor author of westerns and decides to turn detective. I just saw it for the first time last night and I'm sorry it has taken me so long to watch. It is an excellent film.

I think it would take very little editing to turn this into a Fight Club type of thing. There are little hints of identity trouble all over the movie:

  • Holly is constantly calling Calloway Calahan. (Calloway: "It's Calloway. I'm English not Irish.")
  • In the initial bar scene, Holly confuses himself (he is a bit drunk, after all): "Nobody knew Harry like he I did"
  • Anna several times names Holly as Harry.
  • Harry mispronounces Dr. Winkel's name on two separate occasions.
  • Anna tells Holly to stop giving his characteristics to Harry.

And those are just the ones I thought of this morning. The title of the movie itself is about the confusion surrounding Harry's accident and how many men really were there helping at the time.

Locals Doing Good Stuff

Check this out, people. This was made by Mythos Labs, which just happens to be based right here in Nevada City. I don't know these folks, but it's neat to think there are geeks like this running around the town.

I wonder if they've thought about making a landscape based on Nevada County. (Maybe for a grumpy biker game). In brighter fiscal times, cities might want to pay to have themselves skinned into a game like this, just for promotional/tourism reasons?

So, Elections

Yeah, I voted yesterday. It was a nice walk over to the Rood Center because there's a very smooth new path from North Bloomfield Road. It curves along the hill above 49 and is a rather pleasant way to pass ten minutes. It's a shame that the walk at the end of East Broad is so treacherous (what with the blind corner, narrow street and no sidewalk).

I've not got much to say about the election itself -- still feeling like an outsider here -- except to grump: Now that we've put that ceremony behind us, we can take pride in the knowledge that we've (as a nation) once again chosen people that we can send to DC and blame for everything that's wrong instead of taking the responsibility for our problems that democracy expects of us.

Dublin and Dreieich, Coaching Fun

Well, my week here in Germany is coming to a close and I can proudly say, "Ich bin ein Berliner." I feel that I can honestly make this statement because I do believe that you are what you eat.

A Berliner is a sugar-covered jelly donut, and it was good.

I am in a suburb of Frankfurt, and I was disappointed to find that I missed the "Frankfurter Fledermausnacht" celebration, which was in August. As far as I can tell, that translates as "Night of the Flying Hotdog Mouse." I haven't really had much problem with the language, partly because I am not talking to anybody. I am walking around in fear that I might accidentally "mention the war". So I am very quiet and people think that I am Spanish. People keep saying "sí" to me and calling me "Señor," even after I've spoken. It is surreal.

Two weeks of Europe, four two-day coaching sessions. At one of the sessions, one of the developers told me I reminded him of a character in Lost. I'm not going to tell you which character until I look it up and see what that might mean -- not having a TV is maybe a handicap? -- so it might be that they didn't like me at all! I'm thinking of adding this to my list of ice breakers: "Which Lost character do I most remind you of?" For these folks, I had them break into pairs and introduce each other. In the first session they gave each other a secret superpower (which didn't translate well for the Germans) and in the last session I asked them to tell me their partner's favorite game. The game thing worked really well, because it gave me a lot of levels to connect on. I mentioned that I'm a big fan of German board games (like Settlers of Catan and Carcassone). One guy had Carcassone on his iPad. It looked awesome.

I mention the game thing because I've decided that my goal for the next year is to identify or create a game for each one of the 12 agile principles. Since I believe that everything in Scrum should come back to those somehow, that can't help but be a good bag to pull from for future classes and coaching. (All of my the sessions' retrospectives had the teams asking for us to play more games.)

I also mention the game thing because at the end of the last session, they gave me a game that they bought for me. It's a card game called "Wizard Extreme," and the rules are all in German, but that's what babelfish is for, I guess. The way it was described to me, the game sounds like a fancy version of one my family always played called "Stab" (or sometimes, "Do your wife dirt"). All I can tell from the packaging so far is that angry babies are not allowed to play. I don't know how many times in Ireland I hinted that I liked whiskey, and the Dubliners didn't give me anything! (Maybe they could tell I was spelling it whisky in my head.) You can't help but love a job where your customers give you presents.

I stopped by a bakery in Neu Isenburg (which is the town between the office and the hotel). I saw a cookie that looked a lot like the Berger cookies I've eaten in Baltimore. I ordered it by pointing and it tasted good. I had to ask what they called the cookie so that I could know what I am after eating it. You know what she said?


So, I guess that means it's time to go home.

Horseshoes Near Neu Isenburg

A new country!

horseshoe and purple staff

close shot

long shot

no horseshoes sign

german sign