Saturday, February 25, 2006


Went out to Taqueria Poblano for dinner last night with Steph & Aaron, followed by a trip to the ex-Dreamery, the Dairy Godmother. I had the chicken breast Sinaloan tacos, and they were incredibly good. And the custard flavor of the day was Dulce de Leche, one of my favorites. Caramel custard with a swirl of caramel - it's decadent, to be sure. But so wonderfully good.

This was the first time I've really been over to any of my favorite places on Mt Vernon Avenue in Del Ray since moving. It's only 3 blocks away now, to the Dairy Godmother, Poblano, the Cheesetique, and a number of other great places. Other favorites, like the Evening Star Cafe, are not much further. And the closest library branch is just a block beyond the taqueria. It's Heaven.

After dinner, I gave Steph & Aaron the nickel tour of my new place. I had given Mike a brief walk-through earlier this week, but this was the first time I really had a chance to show off about it. They all agreed it is a great place; I'm really glad they liked it.

In less positive news, I got screwed on my check-out inspection at my old apartment. The woman doing the inspection was... very detail-oriented. And clearly I've lost a step or two since my days of prepping for Formal Room & Wing Inspections in my Academy days. The upshot was, I was given a choice - address all their comments myself (which would take hours) and pay a $50 penalty for having a second inspection, or pay for cleaners. I decided that I have neither the dedication nor the aptitude to clean to their standards, so I tossed it to the pros. The cost will be deducted from my security deposit, and will be around $200. So the marginal cost of having cleaners becomes $150 - not great, but worth it. I'm sick of killing my brain cells with Scrubby Bubble fumes.

So, now that I've finished setting up house, and washed my hands of my old place, I don't know what to do with myself. Time to dive back into my NetFlix queue.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Dance, Dance... Revolution!

I was in a meeting the other day, and had to step out to make photocopies. The copier bay was off a hall around the corner. As I come around the bend, I see one of my coworkers, a younger engineer named Katie. And she is rocking the hell out in the hallway by the copier. Doing a kick-ass Robot Dance. She didn't notice me, at first, so I say "That's an awesome Robot you got going there." She says, "Yeah, thanks. Sometimes I start doing the Robot without even knowing it. Once I did it in a meeting." I told Jane about it, and she says she saw Katie doing something like the Electric Boogaloo in Reception one time. I think that's fantastic. I'm not much of a dancer, but I sometimes wish we were a little more laid back at work, and Katie is a great example of what I'm talking about. Rock on, Robot Dancer.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Master of the Universe

Last week, when we had two warm days in a row, I managed to sneak in a quick bike ride on the Mount Vernon trail. It was beautiful outside, and while there was a bit of a chill coming off the river, I really enjoyed myself. Then I saw Skeletor.
Or maybe it was James Carville.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Set Up

I've spent most of my evenings for the past week unpacking everything from the move, and setting up house. Today, I finished. It still needs to be cleaned, and I'm sure some things will move as I learn what works best, but boxes are emptied and pictures are hung. I'm very pleased.

A few hiccups, though. I tried the fireplace for the first time yesterday, and it was a less than stellar success. It burned great, and gave plenty of heat. It also gave a lot of smoke. Before you ask, yes, I opened the flue beforehand. And the draft from the chimney was excellent. But I still got enough smoke to set off the smoke alarm. And now my living room smells like a campsite. I'd open the windows to air things out, but a) it's pretty cold, and 2) the windows are painted shut. Suggestions are welcomed.

In other news, Jane had her last day of work on Friday. On Thursday, we had a large group go over to Cap City in Shirlington for lunch, and gave her a low-key little send-off. And on Friday I met up with her, Ian, Tracy Kerr, and another former McMullen-er for dinner and drinks at Bungalow Billiards. It was fun, but bittersweet since Jane won't be at work tomorrow. I'm glad she's got an exciting new job, but I feel like work is going to be lonely, since Jane is one of the few people I interact with consistently there.

Anyhow, I took a few shots of the new place with everything set up. Please feel free to tell me how I should have done it to get better Feng Shui, or whatever.

The living room, just inside the front door

Living room from the far end

The master bedroom still looks kind of bare...

...very bare

Bathroom with new shower curtain. At least it was cheap.

The new library is in a small room, so it's difficult to photograph. I can only fit one more shelf, then there is no more wall space. I guess I'll have to build an annex.

The dining room. The green carpet has diagonal hatching, though you can't see it here. The table is lined up with that cross hatching. [/geek]

The kitchen. The disposal is fixed, and the range working properly. The cabinets and countertops are still pretty awful, but it is certainly better than my old kitchen.

Crazy Uncle in the Attic. I've set up the TV and computer in the attic space. I was going to put the guest bed up here in the garrett (not pictured), but the box spring would not fit up the stairs. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Go Reds

The Reds signed Adam Dunn to a two year contract, with a team option for a third. And today is one of my favorite days of the year: pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. I can't wait for baseball season to start. I may even pay attention to Bud Selig's little World Baseball Classic boondoggle, just so I can watch sooner.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Early Adopter

I got my internets hooked up last night at my new place, as well as my cable. I actually upgraded to a DVR as well, following my parent's lead. I just set it up tonight, so I'll be taking it for a test toast as the week goes on. I'm excited to be skipping commercials, and hopefully channel surfing less, and making more time for books. I like books.

I've also started using a few handy little online tools. I'm listening to new music using a widget they created at the Music Genome Project. It's called Pandora, and it's pretty slick. It's hard to find anything that sounds like the Blues Explosion, but I've got some leads now. I'm also using 30 Boxes, an online calendar tool. Seems pretty handy, though in order to share invites and such, I think invitees have to be using it as well. At least it will keep my schedule straight.

The move is essentially complete. I'm hanging pictures, and sorting books into their proper places. I'm at the point where the only real problem is tracking down a few specific items that I can't remember which box I packed them in. For instance, some pictures Chris gave me for Christmas were put in a book for safety, but I can't remember which book. And my slippers have disappeared to parts unknown. Probably in a book box that hasn't been opened yet.

I was going to take snow pictures from the big storm, but by the time I found my camera, the snow had all melted. It was in the 50s today. Bad luck for some; Steph did a Valentine's Day fun run, when it was still topping out in the 30s. If they had waited two days they could have done it comfortably in shorts and t-shirts. Life is inherently unfair.

Monday, February 13, 2006


The storm that left record amounts of snow in New York City this weekend passed through DC on Saturday night. It actually started raining while I was moving out of my old place, and the snow began (very lightly) as we began carrying items into my new place. Fun! Accumulation was very light when I went to bed, but the big stuff came overnight. My place has about 6 inches on the ground. Sunday morning was beautiful; clear skies, temperatures in the 30's, and unspoilt snow everywhere. I spent most of the morning unpacking, and at lunchtime I shoveled the walk and freed Stella (my car) from her frozen cocoon. I am glad the snow was easily cleared - I had to go out and get groceries, since I didn't have a bite eat in the place. Thanks to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, I will not starve this week. Plus, chocolate milk in glass bottles - cool.

Most of the weekend, clearly, was taken up with packing, moving, and unpacking. I'll take a moment to shill for the folks who literally did the heavy lifting, Gulliver's Movers, who did an outstanding job. They packed everything safely and quickly, moved it out expertly, and were friendly and personable. My thanks to Rocky, Jose, and Edwin. Once I unpack my camera and get my internets hooked up at home I will post shots of my new place with everything set up and nice, as well as snow photos of my own.

Also, a big Happy Birthday to Kim Yong-Nam, or Kelly Pellegrini, or whatever you want to call Chris's beautiful and talented wife. Go see pictures of their trip to Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan (posted on the 12th and 13th).

[photo of capitol from, a great local weather site]

Friday, February 10, 2006

Measure for Measure

I picked up the keys to my new place yesterday. I went by after work to take dimensions on all the rooms, so I could put together a rough floorplan and start planning where everything will go. The result of my efforts is seen to the right. It is very crude - my drafting skills are rusty, and I rushed the measuring, so I had some convergence problems, getting walls to line up and such. But it should be enough to plan by. Click on it for a higher-resolution view. The furniture placements depicted are merely notional, and don't even include everything that's going in. For instance, on the 2nd floor, I plan on placing two reclining chairs, a trunk/coffee table, and all the tv furniture. Probably also my desk, and maybe even the guest bed in the garret on the north end. But I solicit your suggestions; pictures of the house are here.

In an unusual coincidence, as I was there taking measurements, the mailman dropped off my first piece of mail at my new address. My mail doesn't start forwarding until Monday, so I was understandably confused until I noticed that it actually had the new address. It was from my grandparents, a package of articles and clippings they thought I would find interesting, plus a very nice little letter.

It's worth noting that the last few days at work have been much better than most from the last few months. We've been busy, working on a very interesting project that has been delayed by security issues and bureaucracy. It's a shame Jane won't be here much longer, since I feel like we're effective together. But next week we'll have her a nice send-off lunch. Jane had a good one yesterday, actually. She thinks the reason many of our superiors are traumatized to see her go is because they see her as their "work daughter." It's empty nest syndrome. But does that make me the loser son who keeps living at home and can't seem to get his life together?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Wine & Cheese

I was lucky enough to be invited to a wine & cheese affair this past Saturday night, hosted by Aaron Scholer and Steph Morrison at his place in Dupont Circle. There was a fantastic spread of food and drink, including small salmon skewers with wasabi mayonnaise, breaded sausage, snow peas and other raw vegetables, little chocolate cube things, baked brie with raspberry jam, Ghiradelli chocolate, stuffed mushrooms, an apple tart, and a bewildering array of wines and cheeses. I went for the gouda in a pretty big way, but everything was incredibly good.

More so than the food, even, I enjoyed the company. I always look forward to seeing Steph & Aaron, but I also had the pleasure of visiting with Mike Cintron (along with his dad and stepmother), the Stockwells, Erica Mohr, Rob Moore, Angie Hidalgo, Abby Benson, Aaron's classmate Andy and his wife Philippa, and a number of their friends from the Capital Rowing Club. As often happens, there was a tendency to group off with folks you were more familiar with. The split was pretty much Coast Guard and Rowers, but there was some cross-pollination by the end of the evening. I had a fantastic time, and though I was there for more than 5 hours, it passed all too quickly.

It's worth mentioning that Aaron had a very nice library. I noticed many titles from my own shelves, plus more than a few that I've had on my shopping list for some time. A little heavy on the professional references (Rules of Order for the US Senate, etc) and more William Gibson than I care for, but on the whole it was outstanding.

Also on Saturday, I met with the movers and everything is set for the 11th. The plan calls for me to pack up about one room a night for the rest of the week. And by pack up, I mean little more than get all the loose items thrown in a box. I also still have to get all the utilities straightened out, but that shouldn't take too long. I'm just anxious to be done with the hassle of it.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sex, Politics, and Religion

There is an old rule aboard ships that one does not discuss the above topics in the wardroom. By their very nature, they are topics that can lead to arguments rather than healthy debate and conversation. And at sea, it's often best to avoid creating any unnecessary conflicts and tension. Who knows how long you'll be underway together?

It is a rule I've carried on with. So even when there are topics regarding sex, politics, and religion that interest me, I avoid bringing them up in social settings. I think I may be missing out on some good conversations, though. Recently, I've been following the story of the carictures of the Prophet Mohammed in many European newspapers. I was surprised at how strongly I reacted to the story. Christopher Hitchens at Slate wrote a good editorial that captures many of the points I would make, though more aggressively and belligerently. I would have liked to have brought up the topic at a party I went to Saturday night (more on that to follow), since it was a smart group. But it is a live wire, and I'd hate to introduce any unpleasantness to such an enjoyable evening. But it's a fascinating topic, and I'd like to find out what other people think about it.

Saturday, February 04, 2006


Have you ever had an idea that you thought was completely original? Perhaps an insight that no one else had gained? You feel pretty good about it - you're so clever! Maybe you want to test your idea, read up on the subject to flesh out some details. And in the course of your research, you find that your unique idea has already been thought. Does it make 'your' idea any less original, if someone else thought of it before you came up with it on your own?

Clearly, this is not entirely hypothetical. I was reading the State of the Union (I felt I should back up my claims that it sucked by checking for myself. Confirmed!). In the course of it, I was reflecting on the commoness of religious references in public speech in recent years. Usually not references in the Lincolnian sense of language and imagery, but direct invokation of God and His will. This put me to wondering at the historical context and precedence for this kind of language in American public life.

Most high school history students are briefly introduced to the 1st and 2nd Great Awakenings, though there was also a 3rd. These were religious revivals in the 1740's, 1820's, and 1880's (approximately). They were all characterized by changes in religious thought, but also a rise to prominence of piety and religiosity in public life. Many scholars posit a cycle of awakenings, tracing their ancestry back to the Reformation, and claiming that another Great Awakening took place in the 1960's-1970's with the rise of Pentecostal churches. Others claim the cycle expressed itself in spiritual and revolutionary movements fo the same era.

My thought was that the present is the actual time of a Great Awakening. I equate the rise of "megachurches" with the great camp meetings of the 2nd Awakening. The splintering of many churches over issues such as female or gay clergy, or positions on abortion, reminds me of the rise of new faiths such as Mormonism that started in the same era. I don't have useful statistics to back up this theory, such as an increase in church membership or numbers of registered sects. I'm basing this on the shakey foundation of common wisdom.

However, I found that at least one person has already had this thought. Robert William Fogel has written a book that appears to theorize that a 4th Great Awakening began in the 1950's and is still going. I'd have to read the book, but it looks like I was on the same track he already rode ahead on. It is still an interesting topic, though. And it begs the question, what happens next? If we are indeed in a Great Awakening, what can the first three tell us to expect next? The others have cycled out as new, radical religious ideas have been incorporated into mainstream religion, and as it stabilizes the prominence of religion in public discourse declines.

I would add that it is entirely possible that this is not what will come to pass. It has become cliche to say that modern communication technology has "shrunk the planet" and helped public opinion and thought move faster (the Feiler Faster Thesis). But doesn't greater connectivity between like-minded people encourage radicalization? It is generally accepted that humans are social animals, and want to belong to groups. Hence fads and trends. But what if there is less of an impetus to modify your beliefs to belong to the mainstream, since technology allows you to belong to virtual groupings of people who already agree with you? There is less pressure to moderate, so radical views (and the fundamentalist revivals that oppose them) can persist. So how does a 4th Awakening end if there's no pressure to return to the norm? Will decreased social pressure to return to the mainstream eventually hollow out the mainstream, not only in religion but any regime of opinion? Is this why there are fewer and fewer moderates in government?

At any rate, it's not a well formed idea. But I was thinking about it, and welcome anyone's thoughts.

Friday, February 03, 2006

1.21 Gigawatts

I always did like the Back to the Future movies. So this made me laugh, and laugh, and laugh. Very well done. I may never see the trilogy the same way again.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


I saw Picasso at the Lapin Agile by Steve Martin at the Little Theatre of Alexandria last night with Steph Morrison. Originally I was going to bring over the fixings for calzones to have for dinner beforehand. But Steph was home sick all day, and said that anything beyond soup would be too much. So I went over after dinner and we walked down to the theater. I'm glad she made it out - only the play and a trip to Trader Joe's for cheese were reason enough to fight off her head cold to brave the outdoors.

The show was pretty good. It's a fictional "what-if" scenario of Picasso and Einstein meeting in a bar in Paris in 1904. It's about art and science, the potential of the 20th Century fulfilled and wasted. Also, Elvis and a little person. I had read the play in Martin's book, but never seen it performed. Most of the cast was excellent - Einstein in particular. The actor playing the old drunk bar fly Gaston was a bit broad in his performance, and the actress playing Suzanne (one of Picasso's paramours) had trouble with some of her more overwrought dialogue. But it was a good show, and I felt it had something to say between all of the laughs.

Needless to say, I did not get any more packing done last night. I think I need to refocus my efforts onto the delicate items that must be boxed up carefully. It's not that the movers won't be careful, but I'd rather pay for their strength for moving beds and couches.

Though I was not very productive at work or at home, yesterday was an especially good day. There was the play, of course. But I also had a satisfying swim at the gym; my time was not any better than usual, but it felt better. Less like splashing down the lane and more like an actual, recognizable, swim stroke. And at work, Jane brought in an excellent batch of brownies. Two, actually: one was used to bribe IT into getting our secure computer ready faster. Jane has become devious.

(PS - Lapin Agile translates as "the nimble rabbit.")

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

We must move forward, not backward...

... upward, not forward, and forever twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!

Things change. Preparations for the move continue, including all the necessary utility activations and cancellations, the address shifts, insurance transfers, etc. Meanwhile, Jane has also decided to make a move of her own. She gave official notice earlier this week, and will be leaving the company on the 17th. She's going to continue as a naval architect for another company, one that will pay her more in line with her talents. That's great for her, but now I have no one to dump all of my crazy on at work. To wit, the past two days alone have included discussions about the etymology of the phrase "could care less," the 80's cartoons Jem and Kidd Video, Battle Android Troopers (B.A.T.s) and synthoids from G.I. Joe, my addiction to Minesweeper, and whether knowing about Dungeons and Dragons automatically makes you a nerd. So I'm not looking forward to her departure.

I could not bring myself to watch the State of the Union speech last night. I don't think there is much substance in most recent State of the Union addresses, but that is not why I skipped it. My problem is it is just a bad speech, consistently. From a rhetorical point of view, most modern political speeches suck. A good speech would use imagery, build a theme using that imagery, or at least use classical figures of speech and rhetorical devices like alliteration, synechdoche, antithesis, etc. Really, just read almost anything Winston Churchill ever said, and you'll get an idea of how to speak well in public. Instead, we get an address of 'trigger phrases' that are designed to elicit applause. It's boring, and it doesn't inform me of anything, it doesn't persuade me of anything. A speech is an argument - a chance to convince your audience. But major public speeches today, like the State of the Union, Inaugural, and nomination Acceptance, are empty. The whole speech is a series of money shots.

Every step toward freedom in the world makes our country safer, and so we will act boldly in freedom's cause. (APPLAUSE)

...we will never surrender to evil. (APPLAUSE)

Together, let us protect our country, support the men and women who defend us, and lead this world toward freedom.
At times, it is a bit too informal for my taste.
This year, the first of about 78 million baby boomers turns 60, including two of my dad's favorite people: me and President Clinton.



This milestone is more than a personal crisis.


It is a national challenge.

Otherwise, it's just repetitive bromides - haven't we heard most of this before?
We need to put aside partisan politics and work together and get this problem solved.
But look to past speeches. This is good stuff:
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
A great idea, presented in clear language that makes use of alliteration, repetition words and phrases (that are not cliches), and antithesis. Even a parody of Jesse Jackson on the old SNL "Dark Side with Nat X" sketch is better then most real speakers:
Who can answer such a speculative question? That’s nearly becoming the position of the day. I only know that your last name...your last name X, is a symbol, of which all African Americans from old Mississippi preachers to the Yankee Stadium bleachers. From the topper down, not the bottom up. Gibbety gibbety. Rat-a-tat-tat. I’m talkin’ about X. X as in great civil rights leader Malcom X. X as in 5-star Las Vegas hotel, Excalibur. X as in X-files, or the show Extra!, which is better than Inside Edition. X as in the movie Exorcist 3. X as in the band X, and not the Brand X. The X man, NightCrawler and Colossus. X as in I’ block!
So that's why I didn't watch.