Friday, March 31, 2006


Beautiful weather here, just in time for the Cherry Blossom Festival across the river. I've seen them a few other years, and there are a number of trees in my neighborhood that I can see bloom without being troubled with the crowds of tourists. They're "Weeping Higans," I think, but I'm no horticulturist - they could be Yoshino. Regardless, it's all very nice and spring-like.

With spring comes gardening, though. More cleanup starting tomorrow, possibly to include planting some kind of vine to grow along the fences. Hops, perhaps, to make it a little less garish. The thing is, I hate gardening. The line on me giving up and goofing off instead is about 50-50.

Today, I took advantage of Half Day Friday and went for a bike ride down to Mount Vernon. Thanks to my new bike computer, I can tell you it was 29.08 miles, and I averaged 16.9 miles per hour. It would have been faster, but some idiot almost ran me off the trail coming the other way and I had to stop to avoid him. And the trail runs on the streets through Old Town, which was clearly already in the throes of tourist season. The going was slow. But it was an excellent day to be riding - a little breezy, but warm and not too much sun.

And lastly, I've subjected myself to more torture by HTML. I'm trying to get the title background image on this page to rotate, so it's different each time you reload. I can make it work on a blank page, but not in the background slot. Maybe there's a brilliant coder out there who will give me the answer via comments.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Per Ardua Ad Astra

It's the Earth, Stupid: "NASA's new budget blows it."

I just read this article on Slate regarding the proposed NASA budget. I've always been very interested in manned spaceflight - Jane and I followed the X-Prize competition very closely. I still believe in the ideals of the early days of space exploration, the idea that our next step is out there, and that we should go to Mars for the same reason we climb Everest or descend to the bottom of the Marianas Trench. I also buy into the argument that we should colonize Mars someday (the far future, most likely) because it doesn't seem prudent to have all our eggs in one basket, planetarily speaking.

Having said that, Easterbrook makes some excellent arguments about prioritization. I am especially persuaded by what he has to say about the International Space Station and the Shuttle - at this point there is little use for either of them. I can't help but wonder what could be accomplished with the billions of dollars spent on shuttle launches if it was wedded to innovative design-and-build efforts like SpaceShip One.

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Fraud! Recently, I tried to check my credit card account online, to see if certain things had been billed properly and estimate how much my next bill will be. And I was denied access. Then I started getting emails from the company, saying there had been suspicious activity on my account. Again, I tried to access the records online, in order to review these actions for myself. Still no luck. So I called them up last night and after a lengthy verification process, had them tell me about the suspicious activity. They said it was a number of cash advances over the past few days. I've never used the cash advance on my credit card, so that seems a mite off.

So, I'm not responsible for those transactions, and they've deactivated the card. A new one is on the way, so all is well. I just can't figure out how this happened - I don't use my credit card that often, and I try to be careful about where I use it, especially online. Any advice out there on how to avoid this problem in the future?

We finally got a little rain yesterday, but not much. We're experiencing a near-drought here right now. Normal rain for March is 3.56", and we've received something like 0.07". My lawn has a lot of dead grass. This weekend I've scheduled for spring cleaning, so I may go ahead and turn the hose on the lawn for a while. Maybe the previous tenants left a sprinkler lying around somewhere. Hopefully I'll find more interesting things in the shrubbery around the house. So far I've found shattered glass and pottery, puzzle pieces, two action figure torsos, thumbtacks, batteries, nuts & bolts, three balls, a plastic tree stump, three garden gnomes, and a mailbox.

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Monday, March 27, 2006


Chris came to visit on Sunday, which was great. He was in West Virginia to celebrate on of his VT classmates passing his architecture licensing exams. And he made the time to stop over on his way home to Vermont.

I had made vague plans to do something with Steph, since she is leaving town for two weeks for some temporarily assigned duty on the West Coast. On Sunday, she called and suggested the bluegrass brunch at Fireflies. I didn't know when Chris would arrive, so I left a note with directions to and headed out. Strange coincidence, Chris pulled up and parked at the restaurant right in front of Steph & Aaron as they were walking over. Imagine my surprise when they all walked up together as I waited for a table.

The meal was great, and I think we all had a good time. Afterwards, I showed Chris my new place and he approved. Then we went for a walk around Del Ray, and I showed off a few of the more interesting buildings. Chris said that he was surprised I didn't take more pictures, since there are so many nice houses here. I said I got bored of trying to capture every outstanding home, and have shifted to photographing the freaky houses, the ones with poorly designed renovations or additions.

We didn't do much after that - the rest of the family called at various times, so we caught up all around. We watched some Simpsons - Season 7 and Arrested Development episodes, talked about work and baseball. It was good, in a very low-key way, befitting Chris's low-key demeanor. I'm really glad he came to visit.

I found some more drawings of the planned Nationals stadium:

The plan views seem to be at ground level, showing everything that will be below grade in the lower seating bowl. Nothing especially unusual or interesting.

The section view, however, is troubling. The upper decks are really far back - the barely overlap the grandstands. And they're awfully high - mostly because of the club seating (green) and the double deck of luxury suites (red). The nosebleed seats seem like they'll be pretty poor. I believe I read in the Post that the top deck is 21 feet higher than at RFK, even though there are 15000 less seats in the new park.

I would contrast this with some of the work that's being done at Fenway. For a long time, Fenway has essentially been a grandstand-only stadium, with a smattering of seats placed on the roof. I think this year, though, about 3000 more seats are being added along the first and third base sides, expanding the upper deck from 4 rows to 8. Plus they are taking down a lot of the huge glass curtain wall behind home plate. The concept drawings look really good, I think.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Who are the People in Your Neighborhood?

WETA, one of the Washington area PBS stations, has been running a series on various neighborhoods here. They just broadcast one about Del Ray, and you can watch some of the videos here, as well as archived photos, etc.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Indoor Outhouse

I came home yesterday to a bit of a surprise. As I walked in the door, I noticed smell that I couldn't quite place, at first. Sweet and chemical, like model airplane glue. Noxious. What the hell?

I hang up my coat, put away my work gear, and go to change into my play clothes. Then I find the source of the odor. One of my bathroom doors is locked, and the other is closed. And the light is on. And everything has been moved out of the bathroom and dumped on my bed. Neat!

Turns out the bathroom refinishing that was scheduled to begin today started early. The smell was the new coating of the bathtub, courtesy of Bath Masters, whoever the hell they are. Apparently they are coming back today to take down all of the plastic screens they hung and let me have my bathroom back.

Unfortunately, I only have the one bathroom. So now I'm dirty and high on fumes. On the other hand, since I couldn't shower, I got to sleep in a little. A rare opportunity to use the snooze button.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I watched two pretty good movies courtesy Netflix this past weekend, M and Metropolis, both directed by Fritz Lang. The first is in German, and the second is silent AND almost 1/4 of the original footage has been lost. So they were both challenging viewings, in their own ways. But they were good, Metropolis especially. Not for everyone, though - they are very much of their time, the incunabula of movies, as it were. Somewhat crude by modern standards, and the acting is much more... theatrical. You might even say hammy.

The two differ remarkably in tone, which highlights their historic context. Metropolis is all about hope (eventually) for the future. It has an upbeat ending, and a positive message about what can be accomplished as long as there is balance between "the head and the hand." M, however, is pretty dark. I suspect this may have something to do with the fact that while both were filmed in Germany, Metropolis was made in 1927, and M was made in 1933. Shortly after M was made, Lang fled the Nazis and the movie was banned.

In baseball news, the Reds have made a number of trades recently that I find a bit questionable. Wily Mo Pena was traded to Boston for Bronson Arroyo. I had looked forward to watching Pena come into his own in Cincinnati, but I guess it does make sense. The Reds had one of the best offenses in the league last year, and the worst pitching by far. Though Arroyo is only a little better than league average, he will probably upgrade the starting staff. The trade raises questions about the plan for position players - will Dunn move back to left, leaving Hatteberg to play first? Or will Womack be sent to left? Or mayble leave Womack on the bench where he belongs, and find another suitable LF? Or, you could follow Chris's suggetions, and start the following:

C LaRue / Valentin
1B Dunn
2B Aurilia
3B Encarnacion
SS Lopez
LF Griffey
CF Freel
RF Kearns

This plan keeps as many heavy hitters in the lineup as possible, moves Griffey to a less demanding fielding position to protect him from injury, and leaves some flexibility to use their bench players (Hatteberg at 1B, Bergolla and Olmedo at 2B and SS, Denorfia and Stratton in the OF). But it won't happen. The Reds also traded a pitching prospect, Bobby Basham, for a third catcher, Dave Ross from San Diego. This move sucks. Potential pitching help for a catcher they have no need for. So now I'm betting on the following:

C LaRue / Ross
1B Hatteberg
2B Aurilia / Womack
3B Encarnacion / Aurilia
SS Lopez
LF Dunn
CF Griffey
RF Kearns

With Freel as a super-sub at 2B, 3B and all the outfield positions. This second lineup is demonstrably worse on offense AND defense. It can be frustrating to be a Reds fan.

Happily, I read yesterday that EAGLE is coming to the area for the Commandant's Change of Command this summer. I look forward to seeing her again - maybe I'll brave the crowds and visit.

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Streets of Del Ray

I did some more exploring in the neighborhood today. I didn't find nearly as many "freak show" houses as last time, to my disappointment. I actually gave up trying to photograph every good example of smart, small bungalows, because they truly are everywhere. But I hope you enjoy more from the streets where I live. I added a few more commercial examples, since many of them have interesting styles and features. Come and visit Del Ray, and I'll show you.

The Gold Bond Portable Chapel; a kit-built church


Easily the most modern-looking house in Del Ray, and an enormous amount of glass for this size home

Typical Del Ray bungalow, but I liked the sailboat emblem on the screen door

A good example of the most popular type of addition in Del Ray; the house footprint stays the same or close to it, the owners just extrude new rooms out of the roof

The Half House; the address is even 2705 1/2 Mount Vernon Avenue

Art Deco style commercial style building on Mount Vernon, now housing a church

Detail on the central 2nd story window, a representation of the Chrysler Building

The Heavy-Lidded House; I can't imagine why the eaves on this house are so large

The Twins. Clearly these two homes were built to the same plans, but have evolved in slightly different ways

The new addition to the Duncan Branch Library

...and the original Duncan Library building

The Caboose that Got Loose. At the Mount Vernon Community School
Though it seems to be a home, I'm almost certain this was originally a commercial structure, maybe a restaurant

Nice house with excellent landscaping

There are many churches in Del Ray, though most are quite small. A few larger churces are located just to the west along Russell Road, which puts them on a bluff above the houses. This particular steeple stands out strikingly at sunset

Interesting use of some different angles. This house also abuts right up against its neighbor to the right

I think the large octagon rooms inside the tower must be very interesting. What would you use them for?

Another of the small, eccentric parks that pierce through residential blocks in Del Ray

Traditional home meets alternative power

In bloom

This house makes me think of Beth & Ryan's wedding, since green and purple were their wedding colors

Del Ray Methodist Church. Easily the biggest church in Del Ray. I want to see the interior; the rose window must be really impressive

Another trend I've noticed in Del Ray additions - window craziness. They may be very nice inside, but I think they give the exterior an unattractive, disjointed appearance

This building was just refurbished and converted into bank, though I do not know what it was before. It looks like it should have always been a bank

Another roof extrusion. I've been watching this site, since the pre-fabricated roof trusses were delivered a few weeks ago Posted by Picasa

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Johnny Rotten's Favorite Film

or Anarchy in the UK

Mike is staying in my guest room while he is closing up accounts here before deploying over to the Gulf. My first houseguest. After work, we joined Steph & Aaron to see V for Vendetta. I enjoyed it, though I wouldn't describe it as subtle or truly subversive. It borrows from Phantom of the Opera a great deal, though it's also in keeping with the sub-genre of "What if it Happened Here?" See Phillip Roth's The Plot Against America, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, A Clockwork Orange, a little Fahrenheit 451, and most importantly Nineteen Eighty-Four for other examples.

There are a few things I find interesting about this movie. First, the filmmakers place some characters in morally grey areas, but not as many as they might have. The structure of the movie drives you to root for a terrorist. That is, someone who uses asymetrical threats to wield fear as a weapon against his enemies. Is this an inherently immoral action? What if it is in service of freedom, against a totalitarian state, a righteous cause? The movie comes down pretty firmly on the side of yes, it is justified. But doesn't everyone see their cause as righteous? I thought the movie missed a real opportunity by exploring this from only the protagonist's point of view. The villians, the fascists, also use fear as a weapon, also see their cause as just - and justifying their actions. Explore that duality, and the movie becomes much more interesting. But the villians are clearly identified as capital-E Evil, only interested in holding on to power. I think portraying them as evil men who genuinely believe what they are doing is right and for the greater good would make a better, more complex film. Real villians don't sit around twirling their mustaches and kicking puppies. They think they are the heroes.

Another interesting thing I noted was that the main characters were not quite so central. That is, the main character played by Natalie Portman doesn't actually do much. Things happen to her, and her character evolves, but she doesn't do anything until the very end, really. And the other lead, played by Hugo Weaving, is unstoppable, sees obstacles in advance and easily avoids them, and is generally flawless in the execution of his plans. Hell, his expression doesn't even change, since he wears a mask throughout. He does quite a bit, moving the plot forward, but doesn't really change. He has his plan and sticks to it. Cool to watch, but not an especially compelling character arc, because there isn't one.

I thought the most interesting character was the Chief Inspector, played by Stephen Rea. He begins as a supporter of the villians and their fascist regime, and ends by aiding the heroes. He does plenty, piecing together the mystery of the hero's background, which in turn reveals the Big Lie behind the villians rise to power. He has a compelling arc, and is a realistic portrayal of a flawed man who supports an evil government not because he is evil, but because he has believed the Big Lie. Watching him come to terms with the truth is interesting, and I found it to be the real heart of the movie.

So, I wouldn't call it a great movie. And on the surface, it doesn't ask the big questions I wish it would, about the morality of violence, the true nature of evil and how it's followers truly believe they are doing good. It tries to, but doesn't quite make it. But it does serve as a gateway to these questions, and they are interesting questions to me because I don't have the answers.

After the movie, things got much simpler as we went to Hard Times in Old Town. Mike was a good Catholic and only had fish, and Steph stuck to they veggie side of flexetarianism. But I think Aaron really enjoyed his chili cheeseburger, and I know I enjoyed my order of coneys. It was a really fun night, I'm glad we were all able to get together.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

They Don't Need No Stinking Badges

Team Mexico won, 2-1, against the US last night in the World Baseball Classic, eliminating the Americans. Too bad for us, I guess. But it sets up a 3rd game between Japan and Korea, who have a great rivalry going. What's better than Yankee fans vs. Red Sox Nation? Actual countries mixing it up on the diamond. That will be an exceptional game. I look forward to Chris's reports from Tokyo on how the nation responds. Hell, I'd like to hear what his wife, Kelly, thinks, since she is from Korea.

I don't have a horse in this race anymore, though I wouldn't mind seeing dark horse Cuba advance. Not because I'm any fan of Cuba (Abajo Fidel!), but it would be unexpected and interesting. DR vs. Korea (both favorites going into the tournament) is just, I don't know, conventional. Plus, the Cubans are mysterious - I think all of the Dominican starters are major league regulars, and most of the Koreans are known quantities. But who can guess what players will come out of the unreconstructed socialist anachronism that is Cuba?

In other news, my shoulder is getting better. It is no longer especially sore, and while the abrasion is still tender, it is healing quickly. I was reminded, too late, that super glue was originally developed as a liquid bandage / artificial skin. I could have used that instead of the duct tape - very cool. Well, we live and we learn.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006


The Washington Nationals have presented their plans for their new stadium, after 18 months of negotiations over the financing by the City. It may very well be highway robbery on the part of Selig and the owners. They are splitting the massive profits from the sale of the team to new owners, and the District is picking up most of the tab for the $611 Million ballpark. But I don't live in the District, and I love baseball. So let's have a look at it.

So, it's clearly very different from many recent stadiums. No brick - not even stone. Glass, metal, and concrete. It could be interesting, when it is new. But from what I've seen, concrete buildings often don't age well - think of the water stains and cracking. I'm not sure if I have a better solution for DC, though - this is what most of the buildings in the District look like, especially along M Street SE and K Street NW. It will fit right in. As a fan, though, I would have liked to have seen only 2 decks instead of 3 - it keeps you closer to the field. This was done at PNC Park in Pittsburgh to great effect, I think. It would have helped the stadium keep a low profile, blending in with the fairly short skyline of Washington.

In other baseball news, the World Baseball Classic may be getting more interesting. I still object to it on principle, since it is Bud Selig's idea. And it isn't a good time for it, competing against March Madness and interfering with Spring Training. But it is baseball on TV in March, so I don't argue with that. It looks like the US team is hanging by a thread. If I read the standings and rules correctly, the US has to beat Mexico on Thursday. And if Japan beats Mexico today, they have to lose to Korea tomorrow. I'm still pulling for the US-Cuba finale, but seeing how Korea, the DR, and Puerto Rico have been playing, I'm not sure if that will happen

Team / ERA / OPS
Korea / 1.40 / .827
DR / 2.80 / .878
PR / 2.09 / .823
USA / 4.05 / .918

Korea's pitching and defense have been very good, and the Dominicans and Puerto Ricans have pretty balanced teams. The US has an offensive juggernaut with some very weak outings on the mound. It's worth noting that Japan's stats are also strong, but they would have to win out to have any chance of advancing. Though that is only two games, so it could happen. This is actually pretty exciting.

[pictures from the HOK Sport via the Washington Post]

Monday, March 13, 2006


or Grievous Wounds, Honorably Received

The weather continues to be gorgeous, though it is supposed to slip back down to the 50s and 40s later in the week. It's what the forecasters here call "a return to wintry conditions." That always makes me smile.

At any rate, I decided to take advantage of the weather while it lasted. Low 80's, partly cloudy, some breeze. I decided to bike the Arlington Triangle, a very nice little loop. This also allowed me to take care of some business. A few days ago, I received a Flat Stanley in the mail from Aaron & Lorissa. Apparently it originated with Lorissa's second cousin's nephew or something.

Mr. Stanley Goes to Washington

I decided to take Stanley up the Potomac so I could get a picture with the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument in the background. It think it came out pretty well.

It was also my first chance to try out some new toys for my bike. For Christmas, Steph gave me a Camelbak, and it worked out great. Just enough storage for Stanley and a camera, and plenty of water that stayed nice and cool. I also got to test the wireless bike computer Mike got me for my birthday. It too worked very well, giving me current speed, average speed, max speed, distance, and elapsed time. And what a great day for a ride!

So, of course that didn't last. Near the corner of Mount Vernon Avenue and South Glebe Road, just a short distance from home, the bike path doubles back on itself as it loops around to rise up to a bridge. I took the curve at speed, though it was nothing I haven't done before. But the front wheel slipped right out from under me. It went flat, either in the crash or shortly before; I didn't notice anything until it was too late. It may have just been underinflated, though I checked before I left the house.

No damage to the bike, though it did knock the computer off. I have to reattach it, somehow. I was not so lucky.

Road rash, cooooool

It's not so bad. In fact, it's my first real road rash since I started riding again a year or so ago. But it's probably going to bruise as well - it was the main point of impact as I went over. To add insult to injury, I have no bandages big enough to cover it. So I put on some Neosporin and improvised.

Is there anything this stuff can't do? Posted by Picasa

It's a little sore, and I'll probably skip lifting and swimming tomorrow. But it's fine. Tyson once said, "If you don't capsize every once in a while, you're not sailing hard enough." Perhaps the same is true in cycling.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


I want to tell you about the time I almost died.

Last night, after Half Day Friday, I had myself a great afternoon. I watched some TV. I went for a bike ride on the Mount Vernon trail. It was warm and sunny, but very windy, especially closer to the river. It felt like I was going uphill the whole way south. However, the ride back was a wind-assisted rocket ride to the moon.

As soon as I got home and cleaned up, I went to the store to get ingredients for apple pie, and vanilla custard to serve on the side. The new apple-peeling machine that Beth & Ryan gave me for my birthday worked incredibly well - I foresee many pies in the near future. The pie came out of the oven about 15 minutes before I head over to Steph's for the 1st barbecue of the season with her and Aaron.

It was a massive amount of food. Chips and homemade guacamole (excellent), barbecue shrimp (a first for me; it was ok), cold noodles with spicy thai peanut sauce (fantastic), mashed potatoes (great), grilled vegetables (tasty), salmon (succulent), beer can chicken (superb), and the pie. A word about the chicken. I was not there to see it started, but to make it you shove an open can of beer into a chicken. Steph & Aaron both agreed it was graphically disturbing, in a way. Aaron and I nicknamed it either "SVU: Chicken" or "Detective Munch's Barbecue Chicken." Watch Law&Order enough and it starts to seem funny. Since Steph is a "flexetarian" and not having meat that night, Aaron and I were left to eat the chicken. We did a number on it, and by the end were tearing pieces off with our fingers (neither good at carving birds).

Sat back and relaxed a little after dinner, and cleaned up the mess we'd made eating in the back yard. It was a really great evening, and I appreciate it even more since they will be out of town traveling, on-and-off, for a few weeks. It's been a damned good day, and now I can go watch the finale of Battlestar Galactica (It's a good show. NO, I'm not a geek) and hit the hay.

I take the leftover pie and start driving home. At the intersection of Oronoco and North Patrick Streets, I was not paying attention, and almost completely ran the red light. I screeched to stop in the middle of the intersection. In front of a white Ford LTD heading east on Oronoco. He stopped just in time. He was about to hit me, at speed, fully on the beam. I back out of the intersection. He yells out his window, giving me a fully deserved ration of shit. I drive home, knuckles white on the wheel.

Stella should be totalled. At the very least, I should have a broken left arm and a concussion. Who knows what my mistake would have cost the man in the LTD. And it would have been completely and utterly my fault.

When I first learned to drive, Mom told me the same thing Papa told her when she first got behind the wheel. "This is a deadly machine and you could kill someone with it, including yourself. Never forget that." I forgot that, and only by the greatest luck avoided paying for it. I wasn't going to write about this, because it certainly doesn't reflect well on me, and will surely worry my folks ('cause that's what folks do). But I decided that it is better for me to be embarrassed and let anyone who can, learn from my mistake.

Be careful out there.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Ginkgo Biloba Baggins

I've been a little off my game the last few days. I keep forgetting to do things: bring gym clothes to work, recharge my phone, get heating oil, fax my check-in inspection, get tax forms, etc. It's as if I'm distracted, but there's been nothing on my mind; a zen-like blank slate. Work is busy, but not so busy I should be so neglectful of other things. But just today, I forgot to pack a towel in my gym bag, so I couldn't use the pool. But I was doubly forgetful, because I didn't remember that I have my Emergency Towel stowed in Stella's trunk. It's good tomorrow is Half Day Friday - I need some time to get my head straight.

[I referenced ginkgo biloba for the quick memory gag, but when I checked the spelling on wikipedia, I found out that they are pretty fascinating plants. They are almost completely unrelated to any other trees - the full Linnaean classification is Plantae Ginkgophyta Ginkgoopsida Ginkgoales Ginkgoaceae Ginkgo Ginkgo biloba. And they are supposedly one of the best species of tree to plant in urban areas - keep that in mind for Arbor Day, I guess.]

And just in time for the warmer weather, my oil tank was refilled today. I prefer to think of this as cannily trading in energy futures. I'm betting the price of oil will go up, so sitting on this fuel for 7 months will save me a bundle come October. This explanation has the benefit of making me look smart, instead of lazy and forgetful.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


I am forgetful and not terribly bright, I'm going to admit to that right up front.

Not my best evening last night. I lost track of time at the end of work, and ended up leaving too late to fit in any time at the gym before dinner. I get home and do some chores, and go to start dinner. "Seems a little chilly - I'll turn up the heat." I do so, but I don't hear the furnace kick in. I don't think much of it, and after dinner head upstairs to work on my tax return and such. It's always warmer in the attic, so I don't think about the temperature.

I got a fair amount of the return done, and head downstairs to work on indexing the library. And it's actually pretty cold. I check the thermostat, and it all seems in order. I head to the basement to check the furnace. Nothing obviously wrong. But attached to the furnace is a check sheet, with a list of items to inspect if the furnace isn't operating. "Check oil tank." Oh, of course. I couldn't find a gauge anywhere, but the hollow noise when I knocked on the tank answered all of my questions. Damn.

But I'm in luck! I have the fireplace, and wood on the porch. I get the fire going, thinking this time will be different. I'll keep the doors closed, so the smoke goes up the chimney instead of into my living room. But the doors are not air tight. Not at all. So, it starts to smell like a campsite again. I set off two smoke alarms. I dump water on the fire, because if this goes on much longer, I won't be able to sleep. I go looking for air fresheners to cover up the smoke. While I'm away, the fire reignites. Damn! I put it out again, and start ventilating my living room. At least it isn't below freezing outside.

I check the thermometer in the kitchen, and it reads 62°. I decided to call it a night.

I remember once growing up, when our old furnace died. In the middle of winter. In Vermont. It was frigid. I remember going to bed in long underwear, under many extra layers of blankets, comforters, and afghans, for about a week. So this wasn't so bad. But it got down below freezing overnight, and the kitchen thermometer read 51° when I got up. Oddly, plenty of hot water - turns out my hot water heater is gas fired, like my oven. Only the furnace needs oil.

Then I forgot my gym bag, so I probably won't go the pool today, either. This sucks, and the fact that it is all of my own doing makes it embarrassing to boot. Not exactly my best day ever. And if the fuel had just held out a few more days, I might have been fine - we may touch 70° this weekend.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Naan Proliferation Treaty

For a few years now, I've been meaning to try the Afghan Restaurant on Route 1 just south of Crystal City. Well, my new place is about 400 meters away, as the crow flies, and not much further when you can't cut across any backyards (damned barbed wire). I finally gave it a try last night with Steph, and it was incredibly good. The naan bread alone was worth the trip- it came fresh from the oven, and was delicious. We tried an appetizer, a kind of pastry called boolawnee, stuffed with potatoes and leeks - very good. Steph had the vegetarian curry and said it was excellent, and I went overboard and got the Super Combo, because I wanted to try a little of everything. Beef, lamb, and chicken kabobs over saffron rice, with meat sauce on the side. I'm going to steal an idea from the rice - it was basmati rice served with raisins and thin strips of carrot, and it was superb. And I had a side of naan, of course - I used it to make little kabob sandwiches. Clearly, we were stuffed by the time we left. Though the exterior is a little sketchy looking, and the interior is a little oddly lit, I recommend the Afghan Restaurant without reservation.

After dinner, Steph hung out for a while, then it was TV time. I'm really glad I got the DVR. It's just as Jane predicted - I don't even know when shows are on anymore, I just wait for new stuff to appear in my recorded list. I just need to figure out how to export from the DVR to the computer with the DVD burner, so I can make copies of the movies I record (so far I've got Forbidden Planet, Back to the Future, The Conversation, and The Sting).

I got a nice comment about Pegasus recently, from a woman who was apparently just browsing through and saw the sailboat pictures. I thought that was kind of cool - I've never gotten comments from anyone but old friends and family before. Well, other than a few 'comments' about how I could make money in minutes and get "Great deals on C1ALIS." I'd like to find out if she sails - I'm a little rusty, and it would be good to have some crews lined up.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

On The Street Where You Live

I've lived in Del Ray for over a year now, but my old place was on the southern edge, by the middle school and Metro station. Also, I have a much smaller conception of 'neighborhood' than most people here. My new place is in the heart of Del Ray, and I'm getting out and exploring it more, now that I'm moved in. It's great.

The area now known as Del Ray began as housing for workers at the nearby Potomac Yard railroad yard. It included areas known as Del Ray, Mt. Ida, Hume, and St. Elmo (these all remain as street names in the neighborhood). It became the Town of Potomac, which was later annexed by the City of Alexandria. What were once blue-collar homes have become very trendy, as single family homes in traditional neighborhoods have become hard to come by close in to D.C. And we've got everything you need, usually within a few blocks. Elementary school, middle school, rec center, library, lots of restaurants, groceries, and various boutique shops (florists, artists,

I've been on a few walks of the area, and noticed a number of homes and buildings I thought were interesting. I went back today to get some pictures to share. It's a great neighborhood - come visit Del Ray and I'll show you around.

Nice, well tended home across Randolph Street from my backyard

Very nearly a House of Seven Gables. Note also a skylight and a gable with no windows

The Gable that Became a Room. Seems a little top-heavy

I once went to great lengths to mix a custom paint for some shelves I made, which I called 'Chrome Blue.' I never dreamed I would find a house painted in that color

Del Ray has a number of small parks, some of which are just short-cuts through residential blocks

The Octagon House. It always makes me think of spiders and octopi

It took me a moment to figure out why this house looks odd. Where's the foundation? The Sinking House

The Incredible Bungalow that Kept Growing and Became 217 East Del Ray Avenue

Royce Florist, with a nice mural of a flower on the side

The coolest little hardware store on Mt Vernon Avenue. I go there whenever I can find an excuse ("I need two-prong plug adapters!")

The Evening Star Cafe and Planet Wine. Excellent food and drink

The House with Teeth

I really like this place; It's a small, tidy little house

Alexandria Fire House #202, formerly the Town of Potomac Fire Station; one of the unofficial symbols of Del Ray. At first I didn't notice, but the entrance under the tower is also marked "Town Hall." I'll have to find out more about this building.

A single family home that used to be a duplex (note the old stairs and the windows on the right that used to be a front door)

A lot of windows for the front of a pretty small house

The Purple House

The Tiniest House in Del Ray (but they have a big corner lot, and a detached garage)

The House that Wanted to be a Caboose

I think there was a sale on miscellaneous windows and they jumped on it

Another smart little cape that typifies much of architecture in Del Ray

Tagged on the sidewalk; I don't know what it means

Apparently this house is on the town historic register; I haven't the foggiest idea why

My street, packed with well maintained bungalows, all about 70-80 years old

My favorite house in the neighborhood - right across from my front door. It's well maintained, a good size, great color, and even has some shaker shingles on the upper story. And... Posted by Picasa's registered with the Town of Potomac Historic District. Why, and what that means, remains a mystery.