Laurel-CSC Fall Cookout and Morton Overlook

Grilling ChickenThis past Saturday was the annual Fall Cookout at Caroline Evan’s house. In the past few years it has been scheduled for either the Georgia or Alabama game, since those rotate between home and away each year. Since the Alabama game was away this year, the cookout was scheduled for the 3rd weekend in October. One thing they like to do is setup a projector and show the game. Anytime you show something outside you are going to have problems with ambient sunlight, but when the game starts at 12:30 and you are trying to show something around that time, there is little you can do to overcome it. Such was the case this year. As time passed and the sun moved west, it got a little bit easier to see.

One thing I noticed this year was the the attendance seemed lower than usual. They were fewer college kids, fewer Laurel members, and also fewer youth group kids. In past years the cookout had been in the afternoon or the evening, so I had usually scheduled a trip to get some hiking in before the cookout. This year, since it was at 12:30, there wasn’t time to head up to the mountains before the cookout. I figured I wouldn’t be able to get any hiking in after the cookout either, but I decided I was going to try and take some pictures with my dSLR. Speaking of my dSLR, towards the ends of the cookout, some of the LYF group kids wanted to take some pictures with it themselves. I was a little nervous, but I figured they would be careful because they knew they were handling something expensive. You can view the rest of my pictures, as well as some of Philip’s, Lydia’s, Connor’s, Alex’s, and Sean’s pictures here.

Fall colors around Newfound GapI hadn’t made any plans to go with anybody else, I was just going to stay in the front country and not go much into the back country. I figured I might have some time to head up to Clingman’s Dome. Technically to get to Clingman’s Dome you have to “hike” half a mile to the tower, so I would be heading into the back country, but not really, since Clingman’s Dome is usually populated by lots of people. After taking some shots at Clingman’s, on my way back I would stop at Morton Overlook for some sunset pictures.

The Chimney's seen at sunset from Morton OverlookI was a little bit late leaving the cookout, but I thought I should still have time to do what I wanted to do. Sunset on Saturday was going to be right around 7:00. To get to where I wanted to go from the cookout, there were a few options. I could head to Townsend and take 321 through Wear Valley and end up in Pigeon Forge, or I could Turn left at the Townsend Wye and take Little River Road to Sugarlands and head up to Newfound Gap from there. The way I ended up taking was to go out to Chapman Highway and then take Veterans Boulevard to bypass as much of Pigeon Forge as I can and then take the Gatlinburg Bypass to get to Sugarlands and head up to Newfound Gap.

I was wrong about the amount of time I would actually have. I figured there would be a lot of traffic leaving the Smokey Mountains, but I hadn’t expected as many people heading into them, since it was later in the day. It took almost 2 hours from the time I left Caroline’s house until I got up to Morton Overlook. That was about 25 minutes before sunset. Figuring I would have no time to get much of anything if I went up to Clingman’s Dome, I decided to just go ahead and get a spot at Morton Overlook. Morton Overlook is a popular place to photograph sunsets since it looks west. The Chimney Tops are also very prominent when looking out from Morton Overlook. Not only did it take a long time to get up to Newfound Gap, it took a long time to get back down. Traffic was backed up all the way to the Chimney’s picnic area from Gatlinburg. I guess my average speed was 5 miles per hour since it took just about an hour to get from the Chimney’s picnic area to Sugarlands (which is about 5 miles apart). After Sugarlands, I was able to get on the bypass. I got home later than I wanted, but all in all, I got some really good pictures that I am happy with, so it was definitely worth the hassle. You can view the rest of my pictures here.

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Are we afraid of silence? What happens when we just stop and listen to encounter God? That was the theme of the fall retreat for the youth group. Instead of a lot of free time like most retreats have, there was a lot of quiet time. A couple of the quiet time sessions were guided by a couple of question sheets that the students were to journal there thoughts down. Another session, the kids were free to journal whatever was on their mind.
Group Shot... What you don't know is that in 10 seconds I had to run up the hill with a 15% grade and sit down like I was already in the shot.
The retreat was held at Camp Smokey Christian. This was a depart from the usually og CLabin Lodge in Dandridge. Over the past couple of years, things have gotten progressively worse at the Log Cabin Lodge. Last year several of the girls’ rooms had mold. Camp Smokey Christian actually was a decent place. First off, its really close to the Smokey Mountains (about 10 minutes away from Greenbrier). It’s really near the Arts Community just outside Gatlinburg. Being an adult chaperone usually means that you are going to be helping out in two things… cooking and cleaning. What makes Camp Smokey Christian so good is that you don’t have to do either. Now I’ve gone to places that cooked for you, but this place said that we didn’t have to clean. All we had to do was make sure the big trash gets put away and we take the trash out to the garbage cans.

You can view the rest of my pictures from the retreat at:

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A while ago someone passed this video onto me and I watched all 26 minutes or so of it. I never thought I would find myself in that situation, but today I did. Here’s the story… Thursday is about the only day that I watch TV. I also usually bring my laptop downstairs so I can do some other things while watching TV. But this time, it could not connect to my network. I go through some standard things to see if I can get it to connect (scan for networks, disable and enable the card, turn off wi-fi and then turn it back on) but none of those works. Since I had also been having some intermittent problems with my speakers, I figured I would check the cables that are in the hinge of the LCD. Sure enough the wireless antenna cable had been cut. Extended warranties are usually a rip off, but in the case of laptop computers, I’m all for getting as long of a warranty as you can. So back when I bought this computer, I got a 4 year warranty.

So on Thursday evening I called up Dell Support. In 95% of the times I’ve had to call Dell Support, I already know what the problem and solution is, however they are usually required to walk you through different diagnostic things. This time I was sure to specify that the problem is a broken cable so any diagnostic regarding the wireless is sure to fail since the antenna cable is broken. Surprisingly, the guy decided within 30 seconds that a replacement LCD assembly needed to be shipped (he was correct and that’s the outcome I expected before I called). However, he didn’t want it to be user serviceable, so he was going to ship it to a Dell Certified Technician who would preform the work on the laptop.

So this morning, the Dell Certified Technician showed up and began working on my laptop. I was busy with other things at work so I left the technician to work on his own. Normally, I would expect that the technician should have been able to replace the LCD screen and verify that all is working within 10 minutes of beginning. Well about 20 minutes pass and the guy is still “working” on it. I walk in and the guy is doing stuff to my hard drive and proceeds to tell me that I have a major software problem (I don’t). At this point I get a little mad. The guy was supposed to be fixing a hardware issue, but is browsing around my hard drive to find what he says is a software problem. (I realize I should have logged out before I gave it to him, this way, I would have to type in my password before he could have done anything.) I told him it absolutely isn’t a software problem and that I am pretty competent when it comes to computers so he should double check his work. I press Function+F2 which is the hotkey to enable the wireless on my computer and it doesn’t do anything. I tell him at the least, that light should turn on and off. The guy then says it won’t do anything unless there is a wireless signal detected (also a lie the guy just made up). I said I can get another laptop and show him that there is a wireless signal in this room. He doesn’t believe me until I get another laptop and show him that there is a signal and that it can connect to the network. Then I show him that pressing Function+F2 should turn on and off the Wi-Fi status light on the laptop regardless of presence of a signal. He tells me that I should call Dell and report the problem. I tell him that I won’t do that because it is supposed to be the technician to report any additional problems that did not get fixed on the service call. I tell him that he needs to double check his work. At this point the guy gets mad at me and says to give him 5 minutes and he will fix it.

Well about 10 minutes later he comes in and asks me to log in. (He has called up Dell Support.) So I go to type my password and nothing happens. The keyboard is total unresponsive. The guy then proceeds to tell me that I have a bad keyboard. I’m like, it worked this morning, so I seriously doubt its the keyboard. At this point the guy has proved to me that he wasn’t all that competent to be working on my system. I turn the system off and say lets check that you reconnected the keyboard. Well it turns out he did not. This is the most probable explanation to why the first time I tried Fn+F2 the wireless did not enable. I hadn’t tried typing anything else so I wouldn’t have caught it then.

Well the moral of the story is that after watching that video and having first hand experience, I don’t think I can trust anybody but myself to work on computers. I can only imagine how somebody who doesn’t know much about computers getting taking advantage of or their solution taking a lot longer than it should take to get resolved. What’s crazy is that this guy really had no reason to do that. He wasn’t getting paid by me (maybe Dell pays him more for each additional trip he has to make to get a problem resolved, I don’t know). For example if he said the problem was with the motherboard or the wireless card, Dell would just send a replacement one at no charge to me since the machine is still under warranty. So it would seem pointless for him to do anything but fix the problem.

In the end, I told the guy I was sorry if it seemed I was angry at him. The system is now working the way it should, so its pointless to stay angry. (Though the next time I have Dell work that they say they need to send a technician for, I will probably request that they not send this guy.) Dell also usually sends a follow up survey, which I usually ignore, but to protect other people, I will be honest about how I felt this guy was not competent enough to be performing this work. Anybody else have any good or bad stories about their experiences with computer support like Geek Squad?

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Sawmill and Laurel Fork in Big South Fork

Ok, I promise I hadn’t forgotten about my blog. Sure its been over a month since I last posted, but things have just been really busy. A lot has happened over the last month since I lasted updated and never mind that this hike was done almost 2 months ago…

Sawmill Laurel Fork Trail
Sawmill Laurel Fork Elevation Profile

I did this hike with Matt Troxler and was going to meet up with Bryan and a group from Brentwood Hills. It is a pretty basic Big South Fork hike. What I mean by that is that you start out by losing elevation and at the end you gain that elevation again. You will see lots of rock formations along the way.

Since Matt and I ended up going at a faster pace, we ended up getting to see a few things that the rest of the group missed out on. As we were about to cross Laurel Fork for about the 9th or 10th time, I heard something come romping through the trees. I also vaguely made it out to be a boar, which Matt saw. A little later on, there was a nice snake just off the trail. The last little unique thing I saw along the way was a tree that a beaver had been working on.

Tree a beaver had been working on

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