Second RV trip

SC photos

We decided to take another RV trip to visit friends and family in SC. We tried to stay safe by only visiting outside. Since I am unable to fly my drone here in DC, I was happy to be able to capture some amazing photos and video. Below are just a few of the photos. (Click here to view video.)

I had never been to Beaufort, and was quite taken by the beauty of the marshes all around. We stayed two nights on Saint Helena Island, which is actually comprised of many different islands. Huntington Beach State Park was also quite beautiful.

St. Helena, SC
St. Helena, SC
Huntington Beach State Park Murrells Inlet, SC
Huntington Beach State Park Murrells Inlet, SC
Huntington Beach State Park Murrells Inlet, SC

Life is about being present

Life is about being present and enjoying the things you are doing, even if they are mundane and not inherently enjoyable. Below (from Thich Nhat Hanah) is something to think about each time you now spend a whole minute (or at least 20 seconds) washing your hands correctly:

Seriously, spend one full minute reading this and thinking about it as you go about your daily routine.…/washing-the-dishes-thich-…

Though Provoking

A more intimate view into a family’s life is hardly possible.

Lots of thought provoking films at AFI Docs Festival this yeas, as usual. One of the more immediate films I saw last night was called 17 Blocks. A more intimate view into a family’s home, I could not imagine. Filmed over 20 years, just blocks away from where I live, it provided me a view of the neighborhood that I had only seen from a distance. While I do bike through all parts of the city and follow local political discourse on blogs and neighborhood List-serves, I don’t really know what happens behind closed doors. And if I do know or read about something in the paper, it is still less real than witnessing it from someone’s kitchen and listening to those who have lived it and must deal with the consequences day after day.

The previous evening I watched a similar film about the same topic, After Parkland, which was also deeply moving. The effect of a bullet is the same, whether the victim is rich or poor. Both films take the viewer into their living rooms, where one can see and hear their most intimate thoughts. The subjects’ lives could not be more different, but the pain and sorrow are identical.

Documentary film is ideal for rekindling ones awareness of human suffering. Sparking in the viewer the sense that they should do more to address situations effecting the community in which they live, whether it be a few blocks away, or on the other side of the country. Normally, it is easy to focus on your immediate needs and family, but great documentary film forces you to take a more expansive view, which then demands action. These film will open many people’s eyes to what they would rather not see. It will spur them to take action, whether it be donating money or time, or being more mindful of how their actions/inactions have consequences. It is increasingly more difficult to ignore the fact that as citizens we have a moral and ethical duty to be active participants in the world, not just idol bystanders.

l am looking forward to doing something, perhaps more that just donating money. According to Molly Ivans, the subject of another film at the festival: “What you need is sustained outrage…there’s far too much unthinking respect given to authority.” “You can’t ignore politics, no matter how much you’d like to.” “In truth, there is no rational argument for guns in this society. This is no longer a frontier nation in which people hunt their own food. It is a crowded, overwhelmingly urban country in which letting people have access to guns is a continuing disaster.”


I just watched Roma on Netflix.  It transports the viewer to Mexico City in the 1970s.  The cinematography is outstanding, shot entirely in black and white. The plot is compelling and the characters are very real. There is plenty of drama and emotion, but also a lot of tranquil long-held shots without human characters. This gives the built environment a role in the film.  The sets are recreated with exactitude and the soundscape is also compelling.  Combined, these attributes almost place the viewer into the scenes. The indigenous maid, Cleo, plays the staring role, and her relationships with the other characters is quite impactful, and reminiscent of the role played by Viola Davis in The Help.

As an aside, apparently, despite being nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Davis says she regrets doing that role.

Cleo is played by Yalitza Aparicio, a pre-school teacher from Oaxaca, who is making a lot of waves for a first time actress.

Recently Acquired Drone

I’m just learning to fly my new drone and here is a short video I made with some of the initial footage. While it is fairly easy to fly, there is a lot to learn, because it has so many features. This footage was taken from the back yard of the house where my wife’s brothers live in Georgetown, SC. As you can see, there is a great big marsh. It exists upon the remains of the rice paddies that prospered here before the Civil War in what was called the Willowbank Plantation. While you can’t quite see the rivers, they are in the distance. There are two rivers in the marsh: The Black and The Waccamaw. If the drone goes down in the marsh, it is essentially lost forever in the Pluff Mud.

AFI Documentary Festival

AFI DOCS runs June 14–18, 2017, in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD

I have not studied the program in depth, and none of the films that I screened made the festival, but, if you are interested in documentary film, I recommend you buy advance tickets to at least one film. If you do not buy tickets in advance, you will likely be relegated to the stand-by line, which is not as futile as it sounds. Most films screen once in DC and once in Silver Spring.

Here are a few films that did jump out at me:



I note that two films below appear to be showing only once (instead of twice) and also seem to be programed for the smallest theater in Silver Spring (theater 3). Seems like one of the high level programmers thought these were very important films, but not anticipated to appeal to a larger audience.



If you are a serious documentary film buff or an inspiring filmmaker, you may want to check out the AFI Docs Forum. In the past, it has only been for filmmakers and Industry people. You may want to look at the schedule of events. It does not include films (or food) only lectures. It seems like a good deal, although last year all of the forum sessions were streamed live.

Free Topographical Maps

National Geographic has built an easy to use web interface that allows anyone to quickly find any 7.5 minute topo map in the continental U.S.A. for downloading and printing. Each topo map has been pre-processed to print on a standard home, letter size printer. These are the same topo maps that were printed by USGS for decades on giant sized presses but are now available in multi-page PDFs that can be printed just about anywhere.
Click the link to the website below that contains the instructions:

Anacostia River Trail

This extension of the trail is not yet officially open, but there were many people riding it.  We started just north of Benning Road and turned around at the Blandensburg Waterfron Park.  The trail passes the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and some very lovely sections of river and wetlands.  It looks like it could be completed in the next 4-8 weeks. In the meantime, ride the section that goes from RFK to the Nationals Stadium:


Access trail 100 yards north of Benning Road from Anacostia Ave (see green marking on photo below).

Google_Maps AR trail