Friday, December 29, 2006

Casco Bay

More photos from Maine.

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

The other day, Mom had the day off from Panera, so we ran around all day getting into hijinx. The best part may have been going to the ocean. The sound of surf restores the soul, I find. Then we went to Arby's for lunch, and bought Chris some music for his birthday at a very cool shop in Portland, Bull Moose. We also went to a uniform shop so Bethany could buy a nurse's uniform, now that she has graduated from nursing school at Bunker Hill in Boston. While she tried them on, Chris, Ryan and I defaced children's coloring books in the waiting area. It was childish, but we laughed so hard I couldn't stand up.

I took some pictures at the shore; hopefully, I'll have some more holiday shots soon.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Vote for Kringle

Ryan and Bethany have been making JingEling videos for Christmas the past three years. Check out this year's offering, and selections from 2005, here. I love the first Scatitor sketch, and the Wykira chips, and the entire Kringle campaign. Have a look, and make sure to vote.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Catching Up

I love books. This is almost entirely a good thing. One of the few drawbacks is that I have a backlog of books to read. An entire shelf by my bed is dedicated to books "on deck." So I'm often behind the curve with the latest book that most other folks are reading and talking about. This clearly happened in a big way with The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. Most folks read this book last year, so I am a little late to the party.

It is a very intriguing book, though. And if you haven't read it, I recommend it. The topic is the increasing interconnectedness of the world, especially with regards to economics. Two things from the book have struck me, even though I haven't finished it yet. First, the growing ties between individuals, and the continuing rise of multinational organizations (especially corporations), has begun to roll back many of the changes wrought by the rise of nationalism in the 19th and early 20th centuries. And secondly, the rise of outsourcing and offshoring may not be bad for the US, on the whole. We are becoming a nation of robber-barons, controlling innovation and capital while the rest of the world does the dirty work. I find that very interesting, and look forward to finishing the book and thinking about this some more. If anyone else has read it, I'd like to hear your thoughts, too.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Behind Enemy Lines

I went undercover last night at one of our competitors' company Christmas party. Oddly enough, I skipped out on my company party to go to this one. What happened was, Jane got two tickets for the party at her new job, but at the last moment Ian wasn't able to go. So I said "I am willing to eat free steak at Ruth's Chris." I wanted to help her out, since it is the holidays and all. Actually, their party was free - my company charges $25 a head now. So, I talked it over with Sarah on Friday, and she agreed to give me a full report on our Christmas party, if I turned spy and gave her the lowdown on our rivals' party.
It was a lot of fun. Mostly because they avoided the unpleasant parts of many company holiday parties. No speeches; no dancing (I don't want to see my retirement-age coworkers doing the Electric Slide); an open bar; and good food. What made it especially good was the company - I got to sit at the Cool Kids table (a relative term, since the room is filled with engineers). I hung out with Jane, obviously, but also Megan, her date Richford, TatooGirl, Skunk-Nut and his russian mail order bride*, my old coworker Jon, and his filthy, awesome wife Jodie.

Jane, TatooGirl, and Meg

Jane in her chinesey dress from China

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that the bartender was making extremely stiff drinks. I'm glad Jane was driving. Hell, I wrote a text-message to Sarah as an update, and I had to have Jane spell-check it for me. Thanks for the help, Jane.

Somehow, I ended up being in the last group of people to leave from the rival company's party. Not my usual M.O., in a lot of ways. We adjourned to Jon and Jodie's for another few hours, and had a fantastic Cool Kids After-Party. The details of which are not suitable for public consumption. It was very memorable.

Jane's Party Post

[edited to change "russian girlfriend" to "russian mail-order bride." Thanks, Jane]

X-mas Marks the Spot

I do not recommend using DHL Express to ship anything. And I'll tell you why:

I designed my Christmas cards this year online at place called Zazzle, and ordered them the week after Thanksgiving. It takes time to print them up, ship them, and get them addressed, and sent to all the kith and kin. I gave myself plenty of time.

Like many online businesses, Zazzle hooks you right into the shipping company to track your package. After a while, I logged in to check where my stuff was. Imagine my surprise when the note says "Delivered to Front Door" ... two days ago. So, I took a long, hard look around the front door, and finding nothing, resolved to call the shipper.

The good folks at the DHL phone bank told me that it was delivered to my front door two days ago. Thanks! After a short conversation, they told me they would contact the actual driver on that route, and get back to me the next day.

The next evening, having heard nothing, I called again. It's getting close to being a time crunch at this point - I address everything by hand, and I like to try to give everyone a personalized touch in their card. Takes time. At any rate, they tell me they are going to call the driver "right now" and they'll call me before the night is over. And to their credit, they did. The driver double checked, and he had delivered it to another house around the corner. Same number, different street.

Easily Solved! I'll walk over, meet some more neighbors, and start addressing cards. I walk over... and the house is clearly empty. There is one light on, in the front hall. I can look through the window of the locked front door and see my package on the floor. I can also see the "For Sale" sign on the front lawn. I thought I might have to make an offer on the house just to get my Christmas cards back.

Thankfully, the "For Sale" sign had the number of the realtor. After I explained the situation, she was extremely helpful and offered to bring the package over sometime the next day. So, almost a week after I should have gotten them, I got my cards. I was a whirling dervish of address-writing and envelope licking, but they are all on their way. Less the "reserve" cards I hold back, in case I get cards from anyone I haven't sent cards to already.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Down with the sickness

Yesterday, I took my first sick day in a long time. I woke up with a splitting migraine and nausea at about 0300. I held out until my normal "start work" time, 0700. At that point, I still felt awful, so I said screw it.

I feel fine, now. I did nothing all day, so I'm actually glad to be back on the job. And if I skip Half Day Friday this week, it will only cost me 4 of my Personal Time Off (PTO) hours. Wheeee.

It was a pretty damn good weekend, before I got sick. I went out for lunch on Friday with Sarah, Grant, and Jane. I think we spent most of the time being geeks. Sarah is a big fan of geeking out, it seems. Or maybe she's just like that around Jane and I ... because we're such geeks. We did spend most of our time sharing an office talking about monkeys hooked up to robot arms.

Saturday night, Sarah & Paul invited Jane, Megan and I over for dinner. Enchiladas! And surprisingly good store-bought eggnog. The bourbon may have helped. It was a really enjoyable, laid-back night. We even came up with nicknames for people in our offices: Timeburglar, Minivan, Skunk Nut.

Sunday, it was out for brunch with Steph & Aaron. While they were waiting for me, two other USCGA types happened by, including Morgan G., who was my AIM cadre AND my first Offshore sailing team crew chief. I was with him on Arctic Tern, the "racing" Luders yawl crewed entirely by freshman (save 1/c Morgan and 3/c Josh). I have very fond memories of that boat. It was a pig, and we always finished DFL (dead f***ing last). Good times.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


I won't bore anyone with the details of the past month; other than a very enjoyable family Thanksgiving in Boston, including a visit with my old friend Vanessa, things have been very quiet.

Actually, I should reconsider that statement. Mike did come to visit while on leave from Bahrain, and that as a lot of fun. We caught up, visited with Kirk over in Annapolis, and had a nice, low-key week. I'm glad he was able to swing by during his limited time stateside. While he was here, I got a chance to check out one of his little gadgets, a PSP. Since I travel fairly regularly for work and pleasure, I caved pretty quick and got myself one, too. Normally, I'd wait until after Christmas to buy myself stuff, but I can't imagine anyone getting me one for a gift. Besides, I'd rather people get me books. Now I can play games, and even watch tv and movies I export from my computer. I'm becoming a gizmo nerd.

After all that relative quiet, though, I had a nice business trip early this week. I went to Pascagoula, Mississippi and New Orleans to meet with folks at two of the shipyards working my current program. It was mostly a meet-and-greet, putting faces to names and such. But there were some good briefings, and I came away with a warm-and-fuzzy feeling about how things are going on that side of the fence.

More interesting, however, were the side benefits of business travel. I got to see the Gulf region from the air, and it is still very much in recovery from the storm. The airport in Gulfport seems like it is being rebuilt from the foundation up. There were still a lot of Katrina Cottages and FEMA trailers all over the place. And New Orleans was a quiet as I've ever seen it (granted, it was a cold Monday night in December).

I got a chance to walk around the French Quarter, since I found a hotel there that is under the GSA hotel rate and very nice. I took some photos:

After walking down to Jackson Square, I got to meet with Kevin and his wife Stacey for dinner. Actually, I had to wait for them a little, and enjoyed rum & coke in the bar (chasing the very stiff free check-in cocktail at the hotel - a white russian, but only because they couldn't make a dark & stormy). We had an excellent 5-course dinner at Tujagues, across from the famous Cafe Du Monde. Bread was followed by shrimp remoulade, gumbo, beef brisket with creole sauce, lamb chop, and bread pudding. All the courses were outstanding, particularly the brisket. But the real pleasure was seeing Kevin and Stacey, who are always a treat. Hopefully this job will lead to more trips to New Orleans, and I will have additional opportunities to spend time with them.

The next big thing is getting squared away for Christmas. Cards are on order, lights are up, but gifts and supplemental decorations are still to come. With luck, this weekend I can leave those in my wake. Then it's nothing but candy canes and eggnog until Epiphany (Jan 6th). Or maybe I'll hold out for Elvismas (Jan 8th).

Friday, November 03, 2006

Jamie Madrox

I was bored this evening, so I decided to experiment with cloning. Pictures are in the following album:

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Keep Halloween in Your Heart All Year 'Round

The candy is gone, and squirrels are eating my pumpkins. But I got a shot of them on Halloween. And they were Smell-o-Lanterns: apple-cinnamon scented candles were all I had handy.

The one on the right had lots of little pointy teeth, but the squirrels ate them as soon as I put them out on the 29th. The other is inspired by The Goonies. Sloth loves Chunk! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Recent Photos

Here are a few recent pictures. Their quality is not very high, since I took them with my cell phone. I either couldn't take my digital camera to these places, or I just plain forgot. Enjoy the low-resolution splendor!

The fountain in the atrium of the National Building Museum

The inner face of the clock on the Old Post Office Tower

The view to the SW from my temporary office on-site in DC. You can just see to the left the cranes at the new baseball stadium construction site

The corresponding view to the NW, including the Washington Monument and the National Cathedral. Not a bad office.

The current state of affairs on the new Wilson Bridge

I split from work early today, since I "banked" some hours on Friday working unbilled overtime. It allowed me enough sunlight to enjoy the beautiful weather and get a full bike ride in - might be the last for the season. I'm not very partial to cold-weather biking.

Once I got home, I rigged for trick-or-treaters. Some nice kids in cute costumes, but some people suck. Teenagers who just walk on to the porch and yell "trick-or-treat," don't even knock, and aren't even dressed up. Then the little bastards take handfuls of candy. Hell, even the small kids take all that their little hands can grab. Greedy little monsters. I hate to break this out, but in my day you got lots of candy by pounding the pavement all night long, working every last house. Not by sucking one place dry. Though, I've learned that Bristol did holidays better than most places. Per capita, I've never found a town that does a superior Halloween or Independence Day. There, you knew there were a lot of houses with a lot of candy - it was an endurance trial, and you sure as hell had better map out your evening in advance to hit all the streets in the most efficient pattern possible. These people here are amateurs.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


I had my first big visit at my new (ish) place. My parents, my godparents, and some friends of the family all came down a little over a week ago for a long weekend. Our friends had never been to visit DC before, so we did a lot of the more tourist-y stuff. It was fun, though: I was looking forward to the company more than any particular activity.

We did the Air&Space, the Post Office Tower (still my pick for anyone visiting DC for the first time), the Museum of American Art/ National Portrait Gallery (featuring the excellent Sam and the Perfect World and the freaky Giant Baby Head), and the National Building Museum. We drove the monuments at night, stopping to have a closer look at the Lincoln and the Korean War Memorials. We covered a lot, in not much time.

We also went out for some very good meals. We went to Poblano, Mai Thai, and a fairly new place in Del Ray called the Del Merei Grill. A little pricey, but I liked it a lot; excellent garlic mashed potatoes.

This past week, I've started working at a different office, a "collaboration site" in DC where engineers and managers from a number of different companies and federal entities gather to work on one big project. And it is big. They've spent $4.6 billion on it so far; time to get my cut, I guess. Actually, the office site is pretty slick, and we get some toys for the job (new Core Duo laptops, company cell phones, etc). But the site is so crowded, we don't even have our own desks; we have to "hot-desk" in empty cubicles, visitor offices, or conference rooms. At least the work is pretty easy - no complaints there. It will be a lot like my previous work at the 80 M street office, for a different program. I'm experienced; I guess that makes me an expert.

This weekend has been a busy one; Steph was back in town, since her Dad ran in the Marine Corps Marathon. And Kirk's wife Melissa was running in the associated 10K as well. So Kirk, Melissa, and her son Kolton came over to stay at my house Saturday night, which was a lot of fun. We all went to Steph's and had a big pasta dinner with Steph, her older sister Heather, her parent's, and Aaron. I made an apple pie, and Kirk bought vanilla frozen custard so we could have it a la mode. It was an excellent meal, and a nice chance to catch up with Steph since she's been on travel for the past month (and for the next two).

Lastly, I got my two pumpkins carved and waiting for trick-or-treaters. This is my fifth Halloween in Alexandria, and I've gotten a grand total of 3 trick-or-treaters. That's just not right. I'm hoping that here in the heart of Del Ray, with it's many families and children, I can finally give away some of all the candy I bought, instead of eating it for lunch for the next couple of weeks.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Make with the Art

Today is Art on the Avenue in Del Ray. From Bellefonte to Hume, Mount Vernon Avenue is closed to traffic and filled with food, paintings, sculpture, and jewelry. It's a big event of the neighborhood, with thousands of people from all over the area coming to visit.

I took a walk through the whole of the festival, taking the time to get myself an outstanding chopped barbecue pork sandwich from the Rockland's booth. I also stopped by the Dairy Godmother for a brownie sundae. The weather was not ideal for eating frozen custard, with breeze, overcast skies, and temperatures in the 50's. But it's been a while, and the brownie sundae is totally worth getting a little chilly.

I was tempted to buy one of the really neat photo collages at one of the booths, but art is expensive. I'd much rather try to make something myself, though I'm not so sure I'd hang anything of my own up in my house. Chris and Ryan have a knack for creative pursuits that I lack. I did recently make a self-portrait made to look like something by Lichtenstein, but it's kind of amateurish. I included it with a few pictures from the festival here.

The festival is more than just art and food. There are a lot of community organizations trying to recruit or raise awareness, two or three massage/yoga businesses with booths, and lots of music. I listened to a little bit of the Irish Breakfast Band, which included a class of girls who were learning Irish step dancing. It was nice, and went well with the grey, damp weather.

The one purchase I did make was from a silk-screen artist. She had a number of t-shirts; the famous picture of Che Guevara, some other kind of kitschy stuff. But I got the one shown above. Hail to the King! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Party Like It's 1999

Almost 1999, anyway. I had tried to make some CDs to listen to some music in my car, but the old CD player in my trunk doesn't like to read homemade CDs. It has given me trouble in the past. I finally decided to give up and get a portable mp3 player. I know - I must be some kind of Luddite, right? Totally - machines are the work of Lucifer. Now I have to go home and churn butter for 10 hours.

So I found that Apple offers refurbished items at reduced prices at their online store. So I got a 2GB player for almost half-price. I'm also going to get a super-cheesy cassette adapter so I can output to my car stereo easily. I'll be Rockin' like Dokken. Except more so, because Dokken never rocked. So now I've caught up with the latest thing from 4 years ago.

On the home front, I came home the other day to a bit of a surprise. Someone went to town on the bushes and hedges around the house. There was a lilac bush that was quite nice. Now... not so much. It's pretty much gone. I hope it was the property management company, or the landlord. Otherwise, I've got to worry about roving bands of topiary vandals. Chilling.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


I had an outstanding day today. I slept in, then as soon as I got up, I prepped my hybrid bike, loaded it onto Stella, packed a lunch, and drove over to Maryland. I've been meaning to ride further out on the C&O Canal towpath for some time now, but some of the places I want to see are simply too far to ride out and back from my house. This ride, for instance, would be about 90 miles round-trip from my front door. So, I made it into a 50-miler. An easy 50, though, since the towpath by definition has essentially no grade.

It's a great ride, though I'm glad the hybrid has a more comfortable saddle than my road bike.

I've been as far as Violettes Lock at Mile 22 before, so most of this ride was new to me. Beyond the beltway, much of the canal is drained, and it is little more than a trench alongside the dirt road of the towpath. Trees growing in it. But it makes for nice, secluded ride in the country.

The big reward at the far end (Mile 42 and change) is the "crown jewel" of the C&O Canal, the Monocacy Aqueduct. It is an amazing feat of engineering, recently restored to its past glory. I put a number of pictures of it, as well as other sights along the ride, here.

It was a very long ride, and I expect I'll be awfully sore tomorrow. But it was the perfect day for it, good weather and nothing else to worry about. Now, if I can set up a one-way ride with a pick-up at the end, Harper's Ferry beckons...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

G Love and Special Sauce

How was your weekend? Mine was fantastic. Not that anything spectacular happened - just a good, solid couple of days. I spent Half Day Friday (the good half, anyway) doing some light chores, watching some TV, and finishing The Ruins. Saturday was kind of rainy most of the morning, but I took Stella the Saab to get her emissions inspection. While she was in the shop (just two blocks from my house, sweet), I went to the Del Ray Farmer's Market across the street. I got an excellent loaf of cinnamon bread, some apples and peaches, and organic fennel sausage from the Free-Range Meat Lady. I'm looking forward to trying that.

Saturday afternoon and night I finally watched Barry Lyndon, directed by Stanley Kubrick. It's long (3 hrs), and kind of challenging since the main character is such a dick. But like it for it's technical skill, a given with any Kubrick film. I hesitate to recommend this one for everyone - but consider it. Kubrick's films reward your efforts.

This morning, I met Steph and Aaron at Fireflies for brunch. I caved and finally tried the steak and eggs that I've been eyeing for a while. The steak is served with bearnaise sauce and it was mighty fine. Of course, I wasn't hungry for the rest of the day - very filling, and very delicious. Even more enjoyable was the company. However, it was a little bittersweet since Steph is going on Temporarily Assigned Duty (TAD) to the Academy for quite some time. They've had some serious problems at the Academy lately, and she's on the task force that is going to figure out how to set things straight.

After doing more chores, I got a 40 miler in on the W&OD trail. I haven't done anything over 30 in a while, so I'm a little sore. "Pain is weakness leaving the body" and all that, I guess.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


One of my favorite pleasures is when I find a book that I cannot put down. Usually, there are a number of unfortunate side effects: I stay up too late reading, leaving me tired and unable to focus at work the next day. I skip doing chores, exercising, etc, so I can get back to that book. Nevertheless, I can think of few things I find more enjoyable. So I was very pleased this week when I started Scott Smith's The Ruins. It's fantastic.

I don't think it is a great book, necessarily. I admire it for it's elegance, but it's not really art. It's like a machine, with the plot elements and characters meshing together likes gears and cogs to move you from beginning to conclusion. But it does it so well, and you can't wait to see how it happens. Smith also wrote A Simple Plan, which he adapted into a movie of the same name which may be the most depressing film I've ever seen.

So, if you enjoy thrillers, I recommend The Ruins without reservation. And if you like that, read this: House of Leaves. It will blow your mind.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Finally uploaded a handful of underwhelming photos from the USNA vs. UMass football game last weekend. Enjoy... if you dare!

Monday, September 11, 2006


I've had some folks tell me that they can't leave comments anymore, and I'm here to tell you: "It's not my fault." Well, it kind of is.

I recently upgraded from using the normal Blogger framework to the new Blogger Beta. It made it easy to make some layout changes, adds labels to posts, etc. However, it seems since I now have a Blogger Beta account, I can't leave comments on regular Blogger sites, and folks who use regular Blogger cannot leave comments on mine, unless they too trade up to Beta. Google says that this will be addressed, but nothing has happened yet. The workaround I use is to leave comments as a "Guest" user, and just manually add my name and a link back to here. Technology is a double-edged sword.

I had a very productive weekend. On Saturday, I visited Kirk, Melissa and Kolton in Annapolis. They have a kick-ass apartment right across the street from the Naval Academy where Kirk is teaching. We all went to the Navy vs. UMass football game, which was pretty great. We got a very low flyover from some S-3 Vikings, and watched the Brigade of Midshipmen march on to start the game. And the contest itself was a good one - Navy barely managed to pull it off, 21-20. Many, many turnovers, and some spectacular reversals of fortune. After the game, we went to downtown Annapolis for dinner - one of maybe two places I know where every bar serves a solid Dark and Stormy. I don't go to Annapolis often, so it a nice change of pace; next time I need to remember to take my camera out around town to get some photos of the old buildings, sailboats, etc.

Sunday also went well. I finally got some... stuff... to kill my crabgrass, so that got sprayed down. I got a new mailbox installed, so my letter carrier doesn't destroy all my letters trying to fit them into the matchbox-sized box I used to have. And I refined some details on the replacement duct-tape wallet I made Saturday. Not a day of earth-shattering accomplishment, maybe.

More impressively, Steph competed in the Iron Man Wisconsin race, in and around Madison. I followed her progress online, and she finished in 13:22:10. Apparently in quite punishing conditions, temperatures in the 50's with rain all day. It doesn't sound bad at first, but when's the last time you spent 13 hours continuously running in the rain?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Save Room for the Desert

After doing some yard work and visiting Steve and his family down in Springfield yesterday, I met Steph & Aaron in Silver Spring for dinner at Mandalay, followed by Lawrence of Arabia at the AFI Silver. I had been to Mandalay once before, with Nessa, and it was as good as I remembered. Really tasty, and a huge selection of dishes.

The movie was fantastic. I've seen Lawrence plenty of times before, but always on TV or DVD. Seeing it on the big screen, especially at a restored movie palace like the Silver, is really the only way to do it justice. The cinematography is epic in scale, and the 40 foot screen puts it on spectacular display. It is a taxing movie to watch at the end of a full day, though. They started a little later than they advertised, so we were watching from 7:20 until 10:30 or so. When the 15 minute intermission started. After which we powered through another hour or so. I gave Steph & Aaron a ride home, and got home myself a little after midnight.

It was a long movie, epic in every respect. I recommend it without reservation. And then you should read more about T.E. Lawrence and the Arabian Campaign in WWI. So many of the contemporary issues in the region started with that war and its aftermath. That is the mark of my favorite kind of entertainment, be it movie, music, television, or print: something that drives you to go out and learn more.

Understanding is joyous. -Carl Sagan

Saturday, September 02, 2006


A few minor changes today. I've added the new post labels now offered by Blogger, as well as using the hierarchical Archives menu. While I was at it, I tweaked the layout a little bit, which meant I pulled an Orpheus and descended back into HTM-Hell this morning. But I managed to get the random image generator up and working again, which was my real goal. Moving everything else around was pretty simple, actually. I hope to continue modifying the basic template to make it a little more visually interesting.

We've gotten quite a bit of rain over the past few days, but nothing like the Deluge 2006 rain earlier this summer. Enough to keep my lawn from completely dying. And the much cooler air that came with the rain is very welcome. Once it dries out, it will be ideal weather for long bike rides.

In a happy coincidence the rains coincided with the arrival of my new Simpsons - Season 8 and Arrested Development - Season 3 DVDs. If you didn't watch AD while it was being broadcast, put it on your NetFlix queue or give it a chance somehow. It really lends itself to DVD viewing - so much hidden background humor that demands a quick hand on the pause button. Maybe it isn't for everyone, but I think it is brilliant. So the rainy weather gave me a chance to curl up in front of the TV and tear through the whole thing in 3 nights.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Demolition Man

Most folks would say the weather was a less than ideal today, but I thought it was perfect. Low humidity, temperatures in the 70's, and overcast. The Sun is our enemy.

So, it was a great day for a bike ride after work. I did the Mount Vernon Trail, as usual. The trail has been altered a number of times in the past few months, constantly dodging the latest work on the Wilson Bridge. Right now you have to go around using the surface roads in Old Town. At any rate, you still have to go right past the construction site, and to the left is the current view.

This past Monday, a little past midnight, a man who won a contest for Worst Bridge Commute pushed the plunger to detonate a large section of the Old Wilson Bridge to make room for the second of two spans for the New Wilson Bridge (the first is already open). You can see in the picture that while the explosion was pretty cool (undeniable), there is still a lot of disassembly and cleanup to do. I should go back with my car and get me some scrap steel. You know; for fun.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Paintings, Scupture, Music, Buildings

I hit the culture trifecta today.

First thing, I got outside before it got too hot and muggy and cleaned up the yard; mowing, weed-whacking, etc. I had been letting some of the fast-growing "weeds" along the fence to grow all summer. One was so big, it was like some Pleistocene-era tree. I had to cut it down with the saw on my Leatherman. Fun.

While I finished up mowing, Steph & Aaron called and invited me to join them for brunch at Fireflies. It was excellent, and they had some excellent stories from some of their recent hijinx. They have almost perfected the tandem-storytelling technique that so many couples use. Keep practicing, kids. If you know them, ask about Aaron and the forks, and Steph's concussion.

After brunch, I finished my laundry and Metroed into D.C. to visit the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. I spent about 2 hours in the museums, mostly in the Modernist and Contemporary sections, my personal favorite styles. I took many pictures, but since flash photography is not allowed, many of the pictures came out bit blurry - I think the 'exposure' time must be longer. Regardless, I got some shots of some of my favorites, but I urge any and everyone to go see it for themselves - there's a lot more, and these photos don't even do these few pieces justice.

There were a few pieces that I especially liked. The Adoration of Saint Joan of Arc by William Fosdick is really something; it's made of fire-etched wood, and is quite striking. Carved in the bottom in French is "My last wishes, my last thoughts, are for my God, my Country, and my King." In the modern gallery, Untitled by Larry Bell is made of panels of smoked glass; it changes appearance from every angle, going from reflective to transparent and back again. Megatron Matrix is a media installation by Nam June Paik, made of grid of monitors and speakers playing old rock music, with images of flags, Olympic Sports, news telecasts, and raster graphics of ducks. It's insane, and hypnotic. Bird in Space by Liz Lerner is an amazing piece made of small rope woven together to make a large, 3D web evocative of a bird in flight. I'd have taken a picture, but it's small white line with white walls behind - it barely shows up.

At 3:00, I went into the basement auditorium for a concert by a classical trio associated with the Smithsonian. They play on instruments from the Museum's collection: a recently restored Steinway piano from the 1940's, a violin from Paris made in the 1770's, and a violincello from Milan made in the 1750's. It was a very nice concert, featuring Trio in C Major (Hob. XV: 27) by Joseph Haydn, Trio in E-flat Major (Op. 70, No. 2) by Ludwig von Beethoven, and Trio in D Minor (Op. 49) by Felix Mendelssohn. I don't have a very good ear for music in general, and classical music especially. I find I like almost all smaller pieces (chamber muic, trios and duets, etc.), but find that larger works (symphonies, operas) are pretty hit-or-miss; some I love, others I can't warm up to.

After the concert, I took a short walk outside to quickly photograph the outside of the Museum, which was originally the United States Patent Office. You can still see busts of great, early inventors like Franklin or Fulton in the lobbies. Walt Whitman thought it was the finest looking building in Washington, and it has hosted many Inaugural Balls, including Lincoln's. And right
across the street, and only 130 years later, is the Martin Luther King Jr. Central Library, designed by the great architect Mies van der Rohe. The two buildings are very different, but both are masterful.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


When I was between the Academy and Virginia Tech, I worked at the Barnes & Noble in South Burlington. Eventually I became the Lead Bookseller in charge of the Used Book Section (the store was one of 7 in the company that had such a section). Before that, though, I was just one of the general booksellers who worked the floor. One of the dullest jobs was after closing, from 2300 to about Midnight, slushing. Books that had been taken off the shelves by customers and left on coffee tables, dropped on the floor, or tucked away anywhere other than their proper place in the stacks is called slush. Slushing is picking them up and properly re-shelving them.

It is very boring work, but satisfying in the same way that cleaning your house can be. Mostly, it just made me mad at customers for mistreating the books so much.

I bring this up because I finally finished my own, personal slushing. I put it off for a long time, and then only worked on it intermittently. But my library is reorganized and reshelved, on the Library of Congress system no less. The updated catalog spreadsheet is in the Documents section of the Homepage (follow the link to the right, or just click here). Six hundred thirty-eight volumes - a good start.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


More photos from the Cocktail Hour, courtesy Mrs. Best.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Wedding, Reception, Children, etc

Centennial Field, Burlington VT Posted by Picasa

The much-awaited Kim - Pellegrini Stateside Wedding Reception and Cocktail Hour was held this past weekend in Bristol. After flying up late on Thursday, my brother Chris let me borrow his car so I could tour around and see my friends while he worked. I managed to catch up with Chris (the groom) as well as Cindy and Julie, who I haven't seen in a while. Most of Friday was spent at trying to help Chris and Kelly (and their moms) prepare for the party. Some arts and crafts, nothing much. I did get to go down to Otter Creek Brewery and sample everything they had on draft to help choose a beer for the keg. We went with the Oktoberfest, but I liked the Wolavers Wit myself.

That night, after picking up Chris at work, we went to a Vermont Lake Monsters game. I thought they were still called the Expos, but apparently when the Expos became the Nationals, they changed their name as well. Too bad. They played a good game, but lost 7-5 to the Williamsport Cross-Cutters. In the eighth the game was delayed a few minutes when a skunk ran across the field. The grounds crew got a solid ovation for their efforts chasing it from the field.

On Saturday, Beth & Ryan, and Mom & Dad all arrived from Maine and Boston. We visited Mike and Mary-Jane, and visited their son Ben at the house he just bought in Middlebury. He's in the middle of tearing it apart to refurbish it, and Dad's eyes just lit up. He really wants a house to tinker with.

Finally, we got to the main event, the party. I got to see Jesse & Zita (and meet their son Elek), Ryan, Frank, Travis & Devon, Sara, Sheppie, Sean & Lisa, and so on. I got to see Mrs. Katherine Giovanni Pellegrini Welch for the first time, having missed her wedding the weekend before. And many more besides. It was a lot of fun, just getting to see so many old friends. I'm sorry Jack and his fiance Alex couldn't be there. And since I flew back early on Sunday, I missed out on Ryan & Magda's justice of the peace wedding ceremony (which I didn't even know about until Friday).

It was a very good visit home, only far too brief.

I forgot to take many pictures, but the ones I did take are here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


The weather was finally nice starting late last week, so this past weekend was an opportunity I couldn't waste. On Friday night I did all my lawn chores, mowing and weed-whacking. Death to Crabgrass. Saturday, I took a ride on the W&OD Trail, out to mile 14.5, which makes for about a 40 mile ride. I was brutally slow - the cuban tacos from lunch on Friday may have still been slowing me down a touch. It was beautiful weather to be outside, and despite my slow pace I really enjoyed myself - it's been a few weeks since I've gotten in a good long ride. On the way back some little kids had set up a water and lemonade stand in Fall Church. Good lemonade - I gulped down 4 cups in a few seconds, enriching them to the tune of $1.

That night, I went to a Potomac Nationals game against the visiting Wilmington Blue Rocks down in Woodbridge. Jane & Ian and Dave & Sadie also came, and we had a good time. Lots of early offense, some fielding errors and misplays, good times. However, as I was relating an anecedote or witticism of some sort, I moth fluttered towards me. I figured "He's gonna swerve first" and went on talking. The little bastard flew right into my mouth as I was talking. I was stunned. Then, disgusted - moths taste nasty.

The next day, suitably recovered, I got a call from Kirk. He, Melissa, Kolten (sp?), and Melissa's folks had pretty much finished moving in, and were coming into DC to do the tourist thing. After doing my chores, I went in and met them at the Air & Space Museum. I've seen that Museum plenty over the years, but it was fun to show first-timers around. And then I took them to the Post Office Tower, for a view of the District. Then I got myself ice cream - I earned my treat.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

New Toy

Just this evening I got a new computer, something I've been considering for a while now. After a few years with a tower, I've switched back to a laptop. However, I also got a wireless router so I don't have to be anchored to my desk. It's pretty sweet, but I'm way behind the curve on that, right? I asked Ian and Jane for advice on wireless and if it was worth the effort, and Ian said "Yeah, the future is five years ago and it's awesome." More than a little sarcastic, but more than a little true.

At any rate, it's a pretty nice little laptop, with an extra-wide screen and the ability to play DVDs without a full boot-up. I will probably take it with me on my trip home next weekend, so I can watch a movie when I'm doing my layovers (drag) at LaGuardia and JFK.

Tomorrow I will be back on track with Half Day Friday. With all the travel and projects lately, I haven't been able to enjoy that particular minor blessing. Walking away from the office for lunch and never coming back is a very good thing. And tomorrow, lunch is Cap City for Cuban Tacos to celebrate Sarah coming back to work. Welcome Back to D.C., Sarah! Tacos!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lay Down Your Burdens

"Work to live, don't live to work."

My friend Nate said that while we were catching up a few weeks back in Kansas City. And I needed to hear it. I've been working a lot of overtime lately - more in the past four weeks than the preceding four years. I've never been much for extra hours on the clock - I'm there to get paid, and I am paid enough that I don't need to stay late. But the project I've been working on has been my responsibility; I'm what's called a Project Engineer, which means I'm the engineer of record. All of the Work Items (documents that describe the details of the work, guiding the shipyard during construction) have gone out with only one name on them in the title block - mine. So I have more than a passing interest in the timeliness and quality of the work.

Last week I put in 60 hours on this. And it's such a stupid project - mostly redesigning kitchens on a cargo ship. It shouldn't be this hard.

But here's the sweet news - it is done. We passed in the CD today. Sure, there are odds and ends left, but the major effort is now in our wake. I can go back to doing what I want to do on the weekends, and actually having time to bike and swim after work. It's a very exciting time.

Other exciting news includes the return of my friend Sarah to work (permanent hire this time), the engagement of Jane and Gigantor, the upcoming wedding of Katie P., and the 1st Anniversary / Stateside Reception for Chris and Kelly, which I will be attending back in Bristol.

And I'm almost, finally, done reshelving my library. Library of Congress System or bust.

Monday, July 31, 2006

That's the Sweat of the Blues Explosion

The forecast calls for record highs this week, matching the temperatures from my first summer in DC. I do not have fond memories of the walks from my internship at NAVSEA to the Navy Yard Metro in SE. It was only a few blocks, but by the time we got back to our trailer at CUA, we would have sweat right through our clothes. Nasty times.

Didn't follow through on many of my plans this past weekend. I did go to Jane & Ian's for a very fun little party on Saturday night. There was pirate cake, dark & stormies, and a fun crowd. And there were a few hidden connections that surfaced over the course of the evening: one of Jane's friends from HS shared an office at Tech with my good friend Tyson while they were working on their post-grad degrees. And Jane's new coworker Megan was a big Bob Ballard fangirl (as I was a fanboy) while she was growing up, and knew one of the cadets I knew once upon a time at USCGA. It's a small world.

Mike Cintron called from Overseas and we caught up some. He'll be coming to town in October, apparently, so I look forward to hearing his about his adventures. Ryan also called; he and Beth are getting ready to move to their new apartment, which is exciting. This will be their 2nd place in Boston, but this one will have more than just one room, so they are stoked.

Lastly, I finally saw a movie Dad has been talking about for years, The Ruling Class. It was... interesting. Very much a product of its times, I think. I really like parts of it; any movie that features a characted named "The Electric Messiah" can't be all bad, right?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Carry on Wayward Son

or, "Boxing the Compass."

Kansas (North)

Kansas (East)

Kansas (South)

Kansas (West)

Kansas (Rock)

More photos of the Kansas City Wedding Weekend, and my side trip to Kansas, are here.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Freak Out

I'm a little upset and overstressed this morning, since I only have a few hours to finish some deliverables for work. But since I am acting as a project engineer, it's a matter of coordinating other people who actually do work, not doing it myself. But it isn't getting done, probably due to mismanagement on my part. Anyway, I'm finding it difficult to focus, and I'm apprehensive about this and a few other things besides. So, I took a moment, and instead of getting coffee (which I do not like and would not help at all), I decided to learn something new. That usually makes me feel better. So I read about LaGrange Points for a few minutes. Granted, the wikipedia entry is probably half-bogus, like so many of them are. But taking the time to try to understand the phenomenon took my mind off of work, and now I feel like I can concentrate again.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I went back to Ohio

I just had a fantastic four-day weekend traveling with my Dad and my brothers. They arrived last Tuesday, and toured DC while I worked on Wednesday. Early Thursday, we set out for my Uncle Tim's place in Kentucky. Our old skills from many long-distance driving family vacations quickly returned: we passed the time cooperating on crossword puzzles, cracking jokes, or quietly zoning out.

Kentucky was fun - our little cousins Tara and April were full of energy, and demanded a lot of attention. They were a blast, but we had to split time with them, especially April, or we would have all been worn out in a few hours.

Friday, Tim took Chris, Ryan, April, and Dad on a hike of the many natural stone arches that are near their home. I stayed behind to get some drawings done for work. Working on vacation blows. But, it had to be done to get things delivered on time.

That night, Tim and the girls hit the road with us to drive to the Elings' ancestral home in Greater Cincinnati. This time, we stopped in Florence to visit our grandparents. It's been a while since I've seen them, so that was a real treat. We ate pizza and caught everyone up with everyone else. Late, we drove into Ohio to Dad's cousin Mark's house. I guess that makes him my first cousin, once removed. Either that or second cousin. Anyway, he and his family were out of town so they let us use their house. A very cool log-cabin style place, with room for all 8 of us (Aunt Julia joined us Saturday).

Saturday, after playing catch with Ryan and Chris, the grandparents arrived with food, and were fairly closely followed by Uncle Jeff, Aunt Nancy, and cousins Nick and Nina. We ate, we laughed, we let April wear out Nick for a while. Good times continued.

Detail of Roebling suspension bridge over the Ohio

Everyone but G&G then went to the Reds Hall of Fame in Cincinnati. I got pictures of the incredible Roebling bridge over the Ohio to Kentucky, but I didn't take any pictures inside, but it was fairly slick. Especially for dyed-in-the-wool Reds fans like ourselves. Plus, it was Induction Weekend, so many past Reds greats were there, including Tom Browning, Lee May, Dave Concepcion, and Ken Griffey Senior. Weird fact: since Pete Rose is banned for life, he can't even be in the Reds Hall of Fame. This was unexpected - Rose was a god in Cincinnati - I'm surprised they didn't tell MLB to stuff it and induct him anyway.

Anyhow, after the Hall there was the game.

Chris and Dad at the game

Ryan at the game

It was a great game. The seats were ideal - good view of the whole field, out of the sun, nearby Skyline Chili stand selling outstanding coneys. We all had a really good time. Especially when the Reds came back after coughing up the lead in the 8th. They loaded the bases on walks and hit batsmen. Then a bloop to the shortstop snuck through, really should have been scored a hit and an error, allowing two to score and this one belongs to the Reds.

The Reds celebrate their victory, 3-2, over the Colorado Rockies Posted by Picasa

On Sunday we drove back to Alexandria, via Columbus to have lunch with Chris' friend from high school, Dr. Virgil Pierce. He teaches math at Ohio State. I haven't seen him in years, and I'm sure Chris was glad to catch up with him.

We had a long trip back to Alexandria, but made it without too much trouble. It was Mom's birthday (Happy Birthday, Mom!), so we called. And she saw Kiefer Sutherland at a restaurant in Portland. So everybody had a big weekend, really.

[more photos here]

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Just Call Me Ric Ocasek...

...'cause this is all about the Cars.

Stella has been having some problems, lately. I can feel her brakes wearing out, the A/C is weak, and there is something... off... in her electrical system. To whit:

  • When you turn the ignition, the radio will come on, then turn off while the engine idles. Until you touch the brakes. But if you release the brake pedal, the radio turns off again.
  • The radio works fine once she's in gear.
  • If the light selector switch is on the setting that allows the high beams to stay on, rather than flash, when you click the light stalk, turning the ignition will cause a CHECK GEAR BOX light to come on at ignition. When you put her in Drive, the car goes into 2nd gear, rather than first. The higher gears work fine.
  • If you select REVERSE, there is a distressing *thunk* before the car gets into reverse gear.
  • There have been intermittent CHECK ENGINE warning lights.
Seriously: what the hell?

So, I took her out to S&S for service - I go there for any major auto work, since they have a certified Saab master mechanic on staff. They also have free loaner vehicles. Good thing, too. Stella's been there since last Thursday, and they haven't exactly figured out what is the problem. The loaner is pretty fun to drive, though.

It's a '92 900 convertible with a turbocharger. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to enjoy the recent beautiful weather, since the roof motor has been disabled. I thought it was just a case of removed fuses, but when I cadged some (spares and fog lights), it still didn't work. What a drag - it was the perfect weekend for a convertible.

Now comes the part where I look a little dim. On Sunday I was going to drive into D.C. to see a movie at the Uptown. That did not happen, since I left the parking lights on for 2 days straight. Brilliant. Unfortunately, my friends who were available to help had no jumper cables, and those with jumper cables were unavailable. The good folks at AAA hooked me up, but not in time to make the show. Oh well.

In happier car news, Liz/Betsy just got a new car, a nice Audi A4.

Note that it's even a Quattro model, as you can see from the dash badging in the 2nd picture.
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Monday, July 03, 2006

Erica Mohr, NYC

I had an unusually productive weekend the past two days. On Saturday I got up extra early to mow the lawn before it got too hot. Then I took care of a bunch of small errands, like a haircut, tuxedo measurements for Kirk's wedding in a few weeks, etc. Then I had to go in to the office for a few hours to finally put together an equipment list for a project that needs to be delivered this week. With the holiday tomorrow, I need to do whatever I can to clear the decks and get this thing over and done with. So that was kind of a drag, and because of it I couldn't go to the reopening of the Smithsonian American Art Museum like I hoped. I guess I'll try to go next weekend.

Sunday morning involved still more chores, but did bring a pleasant surprise. The potted vegetable plants in my side yard really benefitted from the recent rains - I've got like a peck or a bushel of sweet peppers, the cherry tomatoes are ripening, and there is a second cucumber. Still no watermelon, though. I picked some of the peppers and will try them tonight.

In the afternoon, I was able to drive out to Sterling to visit Amanda and Sean. They have a really nice place - very well put together. And they put on a nice barbecue since Heidi and Erica Mohr are down visiting from NYC. There were a bunch of folks there, including Angie and her fiance Sean. Good times. I was surprised when Erica Mohr said she Googled "Erica Mohr" and saw something I had written a few months back. Hmmmm... sounds a little suspect. How egotistical do you have to be to Google yourself?

At any rate, it was a really good time, I'm glad I made it out.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Very old destroyers, and the gantry crane of the Aker Philadelphia Yard (nee Kvaerner Philadelphia, nee Philadelphia Naval Shipyard)

The relatively new CG 47 Ticonderoga, alongside the Spruance-class Conolly. I toured Conolly once as a kid, in Norfolk

Old and rusted

Moored up ships, with the Naval Business center beyond


Cool lift bridge at the entrance to the mothball mooring Posted by Picasa

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Big Damn Weekend

A very busy few days. On Thursday, there was the SNAME Navy Museum tour. Friday night, Steph & Aaron hosted a kick-ass barbeque. Lots of good food and folks. Though, to hear Steph & Aaron tell it, we just missed out on having a "14 foot pork core." Too bad.

Saturday was mostly spent on a wine tasting tour planned out by Dave and Sadie. This was preceded by a very tasty brunch, including some kind of heatbar crunch candy coffee cake that Jill & Will brought. I'm still not much of a wine guy, but it was very fun to spend a day out in the country with my friends.

On the way home, there was a lot of traffic on I-66. And above, you'll see why. A truck freaking exploded on the westbound lanes. Well, it was on fire. The fuel had clearly lit off, because it was engulfed in flames. The gas was burning up through the exhaust stack, shooting fire like a flamethrower. I hope no one was hurt, but it was something else.

Well, after I made it through the ensuing mess, and went to visit Steve at his new place in Springfield. Very nice. I missed Jeanne, but I did get to hang out with Tyler. Friendly little bugger. And Steve grilled me up an outstanding steak. Kudos to the grillmaster.

And today, it was up to Philly for work. I hate driving on I-95. Anybody got a better way to get back to DC? 'Cause it took me 4 hours to go 140 miles.

Lastly, big congratulations to Steph for her performance at the Mountaineer Triathlon in Morgantown. She was 49th Overall, the 8th woman, and the 2nd woman in her age group, at 2:58:46.89. And this is only a tune-up for her Iron Man in Wisconsin.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


I had a real treat this evening. The locale SNAME section had it's last technical session of the year, a visit to the US Navy Museum at the Washington Navy Yard, followed by light dinner and a recap of the season's technical presentations.

The museum is not open to the general public, since it is on a secure military base. But it's not like it's Area 51 - we have meetings there regularly, and so we had no trouble setting up a visit to the museum. We only had an hour to wander around, but it was great for a naval buff like myself.

Titanium pressure sphere, identical to the one installed on DSV-2 Alvin


A step back from the sphere, better showing the three small portholes and the hatch

Out in front of the museum, they have a pressure sphere identical to the one used to make the first dives to the wreck of the Titanic. It is so perfectly smooth, and almost featureless; from certain angles, it looks like a piece of abstract art. Knowing the technical specs makes it even more impressive: 1.93 inches of titanium, weighing 7500 pounds and capable of diving to 12000 feet. It replaced a steel sphere of the same size that was 1.33 inches thick, but weighed 1000 pounds more, and could only go to 6000 feet.

A model of the USS Olympia, Admiral Dewey's flagship at the Battle of Manilla. The real ship is currently displayed in Philadelphia

Interior of the US Navy Museum in the Washington Navy Yard

Model of the battleship USS Vermont

Information plate for the Vermont model

Conning tower, entry passage, and pressure sphere of the bathyscaphe Trieste

Note the propulsion pod near the bow, and the forward iron shot container

Trieste's stern, including the after shot hopper, the rudder with sacrificial manganese strips, and the after propulsion pod

Another view of her underside

Detail on the bow

Detail of the single porthole. Five inches of german steel, and a reinforced plexiglass cone, and you can go to the very bottom of the sea

Trieste's original pressure sphere

The real highlight of the evening was getting to see the bathyscaphe Trieste. I geeked out a little, and started to lecture at some length to the other engineers about the vessel. Two of the museum curators came by to shoo us out since they were closing up, and they said they would hire me as a guide for the tourists, I knew so much about her. She was built in the 1950's by Swiss physicist Auguste Piccard and his son, Jacques. She's like a balloon that goes underwater; Piccard had actually become famous studying cosmic rays by ascending in high-altitude balloons, which inspired the bathyscaphe design.

Eventually, with upgrades and support from the US Navy, the Trieste descended to the absolute bottom of the ocean, the Challenger Deep of the Marianas Trench. Seven miles down. When I was in fourth grade, my friend Peter bought a copy of a book with that title, Seven Miles Down, from the middle school library book sale, and gave it to me. It cost a nickel. That book changed my life. That awakened love of exploration, and science, and the sea, that has shaped my life ever since. Because of that book I became a sailor, joined the Coast Guard, and became a naval architect. I still have it - I keep it on my bedside table.

So, getting the chance to see the boat I dreamed of as a kid was a great thrill.

Recreation of the gun deck on Constitution Posted by Picasa

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