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March 18, 2013 / noplasticshowers

Paintings, Oiling the Pony, and Skulls

At this secret location, art is a critical piece in the whole experience and art has to hang at the right place, right? Our host was artistic for a couple minutes, and tried to hang the art right. He essentially showed off his calf muscles and nice slippers, but didn’t get anything done.Image

When you live on a far, you seem to have two choices, you wash goats (like me), or you oil ponies (like our host). It’s important that the engine of the (robot? who knows!) pony gets some oil once in a while. Mission accomplished, the pony ran fine after the oiling.


Last but not least, it is important to keep drinking while you’re at the hosts location. If not…


Thanks to the bartender on duty that day, we had great drinks. The new drink of the eve was the joint (girly?) cocktail we created (right?):

  • 2 ounces of Zacapa 23
  • 1 ounce of  Glogg
  • 2 ounces of fresh pineapple juice
  • 1 ounce of Coconut rum
  • 1 ounce of Simple syrup


I can highly recommend the Matusalem 15 for the bar! When you’ve enough Amer, I’ll bring you that one! (Or maybe the next guest at the guesthouse can bring that for you…)

Almost forgot, instead of going straight to the big city, we took a detour to Harpers Ferry where the Potomac river and the Shenandoah river come together. I can highly recommend this visit. On the one hand, it’s all about American history, on the other hand, it’s all about mother nature as two gigantic rivers collide; really impressive!


February 26, 2013 / coalstovesinkguest

We came, we saw and we conquered (or got conquered in foosball)

We got our fill of liberals, Americana, and a dusting of crystalline precipitate from Ma nature. At some point we actually watched a good Super Bowl game and ate a lot of crazy food that will likely preserve many of our vital organs for years and years after we’ve already
kicked the bucket.

We even got some culture with an art show (pictures attached).

Xena being art.

Xena being art.



Ready to go to the show.

Ready to go to the show.

Discussing over liberals.

Discussing over liberals.

You wanted a lion's tale?

You wanted a lion’s tale?

February 24, 2013 / coalstovesinkguest

Abdicating Responsibility

For my most recent stay at Coal Stove Sink, I was greeted by this:


And though a Fisher Price toy xylophone looks harmless enough, I should have known that this would be no ordinary visit to [location deleted].

Intrigue grew to eleven once there was an Aubrey sighting:


And, even though Aubrey was in the house for the where’s aubrey performance, he was nowhere to be seen for the opening of the second set. Fortunately, he wasn’t lost. Maybe he was just chatting up a bartender?

The crowd was a joy—warm, enthusiastic, a true pleasure to play for. They can be heard but not seen at the end of this video:

A highlight of the evening was being joined by the rest of the Bitter Liberals. The first three tunes with these fine minstrels were a complete blast. Then, all !@#$%^%$ broke loose on the opening of the fourth song. In fact, the start of this tune has been described as a sonic version of some super-famous explosion on Battlestar Galactica. Either my bandmate can’t count very well, doesn’t know Spanish, or possibly both. Fortunately, the pulse somehow emerged from the rather chaotic opening, as you can hear if you stick with it:

The music and merriment continued late into the evening at the post-performance gathering back at Coal Stove Sink. Finally, when the festivities really had to come to an end, we abdicated all responsibility for the remainder of the night (or was it for the rest of all time?) with a Berryville Passage. At last I called it an end to a beautiful day-evening-night-morning and headed up to the guest house as Eno’s new ambient masterpiece Lux was playing.

Oddly enough, Eno was still playing in an infinite loop at 11am the next day. In fact, Eno continued as the soundtrack of our Sunday recovery until Aubrey left…

Hey, wait a minute, where is aubrey???

February 15, 2013 / coalstovesinkguest

Americana Extravaganza


Another fun filled visit to the Coal Stove Sink. What was best this time? My favorite fondue? Mixology? Snowflakes drifting down on pastoral scenes? An art show with a neat visit to the artist’s log cabin for drinks? Or even the game? Who won? Who played?

One highlight was the fiercely fought battle of foozeball. Look at the concentration of these two participants!

Love you guys, Moe and Laura

January 27, 2013 / coalstovesinkguest

Braving the arctic air

Sorry this post is shy of too many pictures.  When I was at the guesthouse, the temperature was so low that cameras (even those on phones) ceased to work.  The temperature was so low that even the animals needed to be brought inside against their wishes.  I witnessed firsthand just how hard a man will work to type the word “Yes” in an email to his bride.  My host’s wife was traveling and emailed back to make sure the goats and horses and chickens and dogs and cats and even the peacock were brought inside for the rare evening that temperatures were too cold for these seasoned animals.  My host braved the arctic freeze to gather the animals … and, pleased as could be with himself, gave his wife an affirmative.  What a man will do to please his woman!

These dogs don't think it is all that cold (but don't tell Laurie). [picture by Xena.]

These dogs don’t think it is all that cold (but don’t tell Laurie). [picture by Xena.]

After a day of intense discussions on empirical studies of software security and a brisk hike up and down the river, my host prepared delectable salmon pasta accompanied by a fine choice of wine.  Over our dinner discussion, I was inspired to actually learn about the local wines during my international travels!  I will join the others who have posted that they were “over served” at the bar in the main house.  My host takes mixology to a new level with almost no bottle at the bar available to the common folk who simply go to their local ABC store.  Dessert consisted of a family recipe of yummy chocolate with my own addition of blueberries, which I see were shared with the visitors who came after me that week.

The guesthouse was a warm haven in the arctic cold.  It was hard to pry myself out of the HOT shower in the morning.  The tile on the shower has inspired ideas for some future shower in some future home I will own at some future time.


Intellectual stimulation and debate, crisp clean air, nature, fine food, good drinks, amazing music (some recorded by my host) … I hope I join others and post some day about my fourth (or more) visit!

January 25, 2013 / noplasticshowers

Technical Offsite 2013

It’s that time of year again. Snow. And technical planning meetings off site.

The brain trust of Cigital gathered at Coal Stove Sink to hash out the future of software security.

We started day one with an inspirational greeting from Jim Routh.

Scott and Sammy bright and early in the morning.

Scott and Sammy bright and early in the morning.

Del, Mike, virtual Paco, and, um, Scott contemplate Architecture Analysis.

Del, Mike, virtual Paco, and, um, Scott contemplate Architecture Analysis.

jOHN and Scott (?!) conduct the Principals Symphony.

jOHN and Scott (?!) conduct the Principals Symphony.

Ye Olde Euro Paco gives a presentation remotely from London as, um Scott tinkers with the iPad volume control.

Ye Olde Euro Paco gives a presentation remotely from London as, you guessed it, Scott (!!) tinkers with the iPad volume control.

Scott gets around.

We tried setting up the expensive Polycom videoconferencing system for poor Passportless Paco trapped in London. Sadly, it seems that Polycom can’t deal with a double NAT’ed system. After the local ISP said “Huh?” when we asked about forwarding various TCP ports, we gave up and switched to FaceTime. Apple can do it automatically.

Who is this London presence you ask?

Who is this London presence you ask?

January 24, 2013 / noplasticshowers

Fourth time’s a charm

Wow! I can’t believe this was my fourth visit to Coal Stove Sink…time flies! Once again I chose a mid winter visit and fortunately Mother Nature decided to add some white, fluffy stuff to the bone-chilling arctic freeze impacting the Northeast. The scenery was spectacular in the morning with about 1.5 inches of snow cover with the sun shinning through the tree branches with lots of sparkles of light. I also noticed the new mirror over the stove…very nice!

Puck crosses the creek.

Puck crosses the creek.

I also had a wonderful companion join me in bed to help keep me nice and warm. No, Ellen didn’t make this trip…instead Puck joined me and his company was much appreciated especially on the walk up to the cottage after midnight. I was over-served at the wonderfully decorated bar in the main house during the evening that started with a perfect Bourbon wonder with All Spice to go with my Old Spice [called a Lions Tail]. It warmed me right up and got my appetite engaged in preparation for a sumptuous dinner of Roast Tenderloin of Beast perfectly cooked (thanks to Drew and his timing from his iPhone). John Wyatt added his own unique brand of color commentary from down under that contributed to the lively conversation that was not remotely connected to work related topics. We were joined by [Xena, Zander and Zack] all of whom offered unique perspectives on life’s wonderful challenges. An example was the curriculum available at Colorodo College that enables students to concentrate on a single class for 3.5 weeks called a block. One such block involves re-reading Homer’s The Odyssey…the interesting part is students do this on a boat off the coast of Greece traveling to the exact locations (Ionia and Anatolia).

Lion’s Tail recipe inserted by the editor
2 oz. bourbon
.5 oz allspice dram
juice from 1/2 lime
2 dashes Angustora bitters

Lion's Tail found on the net.

Lion’s Tail found on the net.

Drew brought an excellent Cabernet (Palmyra from Western Australia) that paired well with the Beast especially when the Beast was topped with a “killer” horse radish cream sauce [special note: add 1/4 teaspoon of Coleman’s mustard to the sauce for a special zip]. The sleeper of the evening was definitely the Grenache (Clarendon Hills from McLaren Vale, 2005) that pleasantly surprised everone’s palate. OK I know what you’re thinking…two great wines from down under simply represents a little brown-nosing with the boss but I assure you it was simply serendipity at work or play as the case may be.

Zane’s tenacity persuaded me to try a taste of chocolate (I never touch the stuff) with vanilla ice cream for desert and I must admit that it had the power to convert me into a chocaholic at least at that moment. Washed it down with one of Zane’s Cailfornia Shirahs that was nice and smooth.

I watched the conversion of the CSS Cottage from hearth to conference center for some [software security] thought leadership planning led by jOHN Steven after a robust breakfast of farm-fresh scrambled eggs, fresh sausages and perfectly toasted English Muffins. Zane added a small bowl of blueberries that helped me remember the wonders of the previous night (blueberries improve your memory…even when Bourbon reduces it).

One thing is clear as a bell…the CSS is wonderfully warm and comforting even in the midst of an arctic chill. It is also stirring the embers of my memory banks as a now familiar and very comfortable place to enjoy a winter sojourn.

Jim Routh


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