Saturday, April 29, 2006

Open Rule

I drove up to Pasadena, Maryland this afternoon to watch a portion of the Volvo Ocean Race (formerly the Whitbread Around the World Race). The Volvo is a multi-stage sailing race around the world. The most recent leg was nonstop from Rio de Janeiro to Baltimore. Today's race, which counts for points in the race standings, was an Inport race, looks like leeward-windward or a triangle, in Chesapeake Bay north of the Bay Bridge. The boats are all nearly identical, conforming to the Open 70 Rule.

The course was quite far off. The boats were hull-down (hulls not visible since they are beyond the horizon) the entire time, so I figure they were between 4 and 8 miles away. The boat movistar walked all over the fleet - she was so far ahead, she didn't have to make any tactical maneuvers. She just made for the mark and trimmed for speed. The other boats, in the pack, were more interesting. The 2nd and 3rd place boats seemed to get in a tacking duel towards the end. And the boat that was in last had a great rounding of the leeward mark to surge ahead into sixth, which she seemed to hold onto to the end. I took some photos, most through my binoculars, so the quality is not too great. But it was fun. I may even go over to Annapolis next weekend to get a closer look at the boats.

I didn't catch the finish, since I wanted to get back to Alexandria to run some errands. Specifically, buying the makings of a potted vegetable garden. I now have two cherry tomato plants, one cucumber vine, a watermelon, and a bell pepper. It's all very exciting. They should all be dead by next weekend.

A schooner, with two of the Open 70s in the distance

At the leeward mark; At the far left is the eventual winner, movistar

The bulk of the fleet heads for the windward mark; movistar is off the frame on the downwind leg

It was a good day to be on the water, be it on a giant Open 70 or a sturdy little Laser Posted by Picasa

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Thursday, April 27, 2006


Wednesday was a busy one, in the best possible sense. I put in a half-day at the office, switching into my Friday routine. I skipped out and went home to get into my play clothes and catch a bus. So began my Bus Adventure. I ride Metro enough to be familiar with the rail system, but I almost never take the bus. So, naturally, I got on the wrong bus. Turns out I wanted the 10A, 10P, or 10E, I think. I took the 10B. My goal was to get to a Metro station and ride to RFK for the game, Cincinnati Reds at Washington Nationals. But the 10B (Northbound) doesn't go to Braddock Road, or Crystal City, or the Pentagon. It goes to Ballston, out on the Orange Line. Okay, that's fine, I left early so I could catch a little of batting practice, so I've got time to spare. But the Orange Line was single-tracking yesterday for maintenance, so I sat around, underground, for about half an hour before a train showed up. And since Ballston is farther west then I planned on picking up a train, the ride was longer than I anticipated. So I missed the first inning.

Robert F. Kennedy Stadium

I didn't miss much in the first; both pitchers had 1-2-3 innings. The game was fantastic. Some of the interesting points:

  • Alfonso Soriano, one of the National's most potent power threats, was leading off. Kind of unusual, I thought, but he has a pretty good On Base Percentage (OBP), which is critical for leadoff hitters
  • The Reds started their regular lineup, sans Ken Griffey Jr. who is still on the DL, and Dave Ross catching in place of Jason Larue.
  • Ross had a pretty good day, hitting an upper-deck homerun to left field for the first run of the game, and getting 2 intentional walks (so DC could get the easy out off the bat of Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo)
  • Cincinnati benefitted from 2 errors and some misplays by the home team.
    • A throwing error by the pitcher, former Red Ramon Ortiz. He lobbed what could have been a double play ball (1-4-3) over the second baseman's head into center. A run or two scored, I think.
    • Ryan Church, the centerfielder, couldn't make the catch on a fly to centerfield, then dropped the ball when he tried to pick it up and throw it to the infield. Two runs scored.
    • 2B Marlon Anderson couldn't get the ball out of his glove on what should have been a double play, getting only the lead runner.
    • Felipe Lopez made it to first after striking out, when Brian Schneider allowed a passed ball.
  • Reds 2B Brandon Phillips made a great play on a sharp hit grounder, very quickly turning to make the throw to second to just catch the runner for the out.
  • Adam Dunn is a mountain of a man, and when he makes good contact the ball rockets off his bat. He hit a foul ball to right that was like a bolt of lightning, it moved so quick.
  • A ball was fouled back towards the luxury boxes just up the 1B side of the press box. It came to rest on a ledge about in front of the box, about 4 feet down. Upon urging from the crowd, the Air Force Major General seated there leaned waaaaaaayyy out and managed to scoop it up. We all cheered.
  • Ryan Freel made a great running catch in the 8th to haul in a fly ball to deep center.


Bronson Arroyo begins his pitch




During the 8th frame I toured around RFK, walking a circuit of the upper deck. It's not a bad stadium, really. It's just not fancy. It is functional. Pretty good views, all around. The front row of the upper deck seems very close to the field - it's not as high as most upper decks, since RFK has two decks vice the usual 3. Also, only one small row of luxury boxes (which don't look especially luxurious). The concourses are nothing special, and the concessions are... adequate. They have food for you to buy - mission accomplished. I was disappointed that my hot dogs were a little on the cool side, but that's minor. Comfortable seats, okay scoreboards (poor out-of-town scores, no interesting sabremetric stats shown anywhere), bathrooms that are clean enough, and good mass transit access. RFK is a pretty good deal - the super cheap upper deck outfield seats especially. The view is surprisingly good, and it is not crowded - attendance was about 19000, less than half full. Entire sections up there were empty, as you can see in the photos.

Dan at the Baseball Game

Emptying Out

Architecturally, RFK is interesting. It's a 60s space donut multi-use facility. The first of its kind, I think. But the swooping roofline is interesting - it is caused by the axial assymetry of the upper deck. The stadium is a perfect circle. But the first row of the upper deck is not a circle, it follows the foul lines, creating a secant line. Since the deck begins further away from the outer edge of the circle along this line than it does where the first row is circular, it has space to rise up farther, creating the smooth, visually pleasing curved roof.

Also interesting to me was the cantilevering design of the upper deck. This is almost a universal feature in modern stadiums, but it is very visible in RFK. To access the upper deck in the infield, you must cross catwalks over the lower seating bowl, and from there you can see the beams. Everything on the upper deck, from the entrances down, is cantilevered, balanced by the weight of the roof and the rest of the upper deck.

The game was fantastic, especially since the Reds won 5-0. Arroyo pitched 8 full innings of one-hit ball, walking 2 and getting 8 strikeouts. And the win means the Reds swept the series against the Nationals, and remain a half game out of first.


Nearing Completion Posted by Picasa

I had another Bus Adventure on the way home. I got on the wrong 10B at Braddock Road, taking the Southbound down to the end of the line. I got kicked off, and had to walk to another stop to try and find a Northbound 10A or 10B. I have a lot to learn about public transportation. On my walk home I took a few more neighborhood photos. The second of the two above shows the house around the corner from me. There should be an earlier view in the archives - they've made a lot of progress.

After a quick dinner, I went over to pick up Steph and go see Love, Sex, and the IRS at the Little Theatre of Alexandria. I was very glad to catch Steph, since she is extremely busy right now, with all of her training for the triathlon as well as a very busy work schedule. She was underway for two weeks recently, then had visitors for a few days, then was up in Philly, and next week leaves for a vacation in Hawaii. It was a good time, and I got to hear about her recent adventures and plans for her trip. Though it sounds like it's been a tough week - her rent got raised, her OER (Officer Evaluation Report) is due soon, and it sounds like she's got some allergies acting up. Definitely a good time for a vacation.

The play was pretty good, a farce with switched identities and genders, plenty of dramatic irony, and a very quick pace. Some of it was very broad humor, but it worked. I was very impressed with the 3 leads - they had a massive amount of dialogue, as well as challenging character aspects. Steph and I both had a really good time.

So it was a pretty full day for me.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Paved with Good Intentions

I stepped out early this afternoon, intending to catch a bus to the Metro station. I was going to ride into DC and go see the Hokusai exhibition at the Freer-Sackler Gallery. But either I misread the bus schedule or just missed the bus, because I sat around for half an hour before I decided to chuck it an go to the library. Not a bad thing - the exhibit continues into next month, and libraries are always good. I went and geeked out a little, read a few books. On my way home I took a few photos of the neighborhood. I think I should get cell phone with a camera in it, since I seem to find something new every time I walk around.

Tomorrow is for errands, so maybe I'll see the exhibit on my way back from trying to catch the Volvo Ocean Race boats in Baltimore next weekend.

More sidewalk tags; Rotary phones, phonographs... what's next? I predict an old-fashioned vacuum tube radio

I like the 'tombstone' window on the front gable

A house for sale around the corner. Take a guess how much they are asking?

Here's the flyer. $665K! That's 1400 sqft, 4 bed 3 bath, no central A/C, on 7150 sqft of property.

There are a few like this in the area; Rowhouses with no rows. They look very out of place to my eye. Also, the chimney is ugly

This house struck me as odd. The partial stone facade makes it look like it has a skin condition. And the single double-hung window on the right gives that side a weird cycloptic appearance. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Forgive and Forget

I dropped the ball last night. We had a SNAME meeting, the Student Paper presentations and dinner. We had an executive meeting beforehand, so I had to go straight there from work and get down to business. It was a good set of presentations, the students were very impressive.

Now, I had made plans for afterwards to meet a friend who I hadn't seen in a few weeks. I wanted to catch up, get some Mint Oreo custard - nothing earth-shattering, but I was looking forward to it. But the presentations went long, and I ended up being too late. I was going to call once the meeting was over and meet up at the custard shop, but my friend had been waiting there for some time instead. Then went ahead and had some custard and went home, since she was tired.

I feel like a jerk. I didn't even think to call once the meeting started running over - I assumed we weren't heading out until I called. So now I'm looking for ways to redeem myself a little.

I've always thought the ideas of penance and atonement were very interesting. That you could work off your sins, or even pay them off. The topic would have been more germaine during Lent, Ramadan, or Yom Kippur. But I think it's fascinating that there are so many different traditions and methods to recognize that we've done wrong, and can try to make things right. And even then, we haven't covered all our bases. There's an interesting line regarding Yom Kippur:

The Day of Atonement absolves from sins against God, but not from sins against a fellow man unless the pardon of the offended person be secured. (Mishnah tractate Yoma 8:9)
Being good is so damn hard.
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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Women's Corps

I recently saw this site, a photo-essay on the conscription of women in the Israeli Defense Forces. Further reading informed me that while there are many women who receive waivers, the majority serve. This fascinates me, for some reason. In fact, my first reaction to the images was "there is a great story here." And a very cinematic one, at that. I'm sure many of you have seen, or at least are familiar with, Full Metal Jacket, Biloxi Blues, Stripes, etc. I can only think of one example of a "boot camp" movie that explores it from a female perspective, Private Benjamin. And I don't remember it being especially good. But I look at those pictures and I want to learn more.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Past Didn't Go Anywhere

I slipped out of work a little early on Friday so I could drive south to Blacksburg. I made it just in time to catch Tyson's masters thesis defense in Randolph Hall, my old stomping ground. It was an excellent presentation, and a strong thesis. It's on human factors concept design for naval ships - good material. If he wasn't already dialed in with the Coast Guard, it's the kind of work that would get him a job in no time.

After the presentation, I got to see some of my old professors and caught up a little. Then we picked up Tyson's wife Michelle and their daughter Anna and went out for pizza. Once the sitter came over, the grown-ups were able to head out to celebrate a little. We went to Sharkey's, which moved into the corner spot that used to be Preston's. The old Sharkey's is all closed up. And that's just the beginning - Blacksburg has changed a lot since my time there. More and more of the open plots on campus are filled up: new dorms, new offices, new academic halls & research facilities. And the growth of the town is keeping up - a number of buildings in downtown were completely new to me.

Anna and Dan

After Sharkey's, we went to Champs. Both were pretty typical college drinking halls, though I did hear them play the Blues Explosion at Sharkey's, which was surprising. We were joined by some of Tyson's fellow grad students, including a CGA 01'er named Brook, who I had been in a few musicals with. All were doing well.

Being in Blacksburg again was a bit odd. I never especially liked it there - nothing really with it, I just never felt any real attachment to the place. All the grey HokieStone buildings were depressing in winter, it felt like Castle Greyskull. Returning, it just seemed like the place was overrun with kids trying to act like adults, wearing their poser clothes just so, listening to crappy music and drinking more than they can handle. I do not miss college.

On Saturday, after running some errands and taking Anna to see Franklin the Turtle (?) and the Easter Bunny, Tyson, Anna and I went to Lane Stadium for the spring intrasquad football game. Free admission, nice weather - it was good. And actually the first time I've been inside Lane - I never went to a game when I was a student.

Lane Stadium

More of Lane, including the expanded luxury boxes that tower over the campus

Had a little cookout on Saturday night, and then dyed easter eggs, which were hidden after Anna went to bed. Got up early today, found those eggs, ate some candy, and headed back to DC. It was nice to have a change of scenery for a few days. And Michelle made me a plate of food from the easter dinner I missed. Ham, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pineapple stuffing, etc. It was delicious.

Michelle, Tyson, and Anna dressed up for Easter services Posted by Picasa

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Thursday, April 13, 2006


Tuesday night, I turned in at my usual hour, after a normal day of work and play. But for no apparent reason, I could. Not. Sleep. I tossed and turned for hours, and I don't know why. I started to fidget.

I ended up making a big mug of hot chocolate with milk, hoping it would help me drift off. It didn't help much. I ended up getting about 4 hours of sleep that night. And it happened again last night. Yesterday at work was awful - I couldn't focus, I was squirming and fidgeting with nervous energy. My mind was alert, but couldn't focus. I had that awful feeling of tiredness, behind the eyes. I couldn't stop tapping my legs at my desk; I had to get up and pace the halls a number of times. Today has been a little better, but not as much as I hoped. At least I've been able to focus on the project I want to get finished before the weekend. Any ideas on how to stop this from recurring would be great.

On a more positive note, Tyson & Michelle have invited me to visit them in Christiansburg. Tyson is giving his thesis defense for his masters on Friday - hopefully I'll be able to catch it. It should be fun, and I'm glad I can catch them before they move on to Tyson's next billet. In Alaska. I'm looking forward to slipping out of town for the weekend - it's been a while.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Some Assembly Required

I found this via BLDGBLOG, a great site for oddities of architecture, landscaping, and geology. (Thanks to Matt for letting me know about it). They're highlighting the work of Dr. Ron Blakely at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. He's a geologist, and has put together some beautiful maps of North America as it appeared over the past 600 million years. The image is for 75 million years ago, in the "Late Cretaceous." More images, as well as the science behind them, are available here.

If you're interested in geology, make sure to check out In Suspect Terrain, Rising from the Plains, Basin and Range, and Assembling California, all by John McPhee. Or, pick up all four plus additional material (Crossing the Craton) collected together in Annals of the Former World. Make a voyage down to your local public library - it's all in books.

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Monday, April 10, 2006


Those of you who work in large offices probably know that much like at schools, the building engineers must occasionally test the fire alarms. Normally, they post warnings informing us worker drones that they will be testing, listing a date and approximate time. And when they do test, it takes just a few minutes.

Well, they did not post this time. And the damned bell has been ringing for 15 minutes, and it's way too damn early for this. Also, while the alarm is on, the HVAC system is automatically secured. Stuffy and noisy. Since there was no advanced notice, the few of us who are in this early set out for the rally point out front, and got turned back by the engineer heading for the door with the warning notices in his hand. What good does it do to post them now?

I hope they secure soon. I don't think it's going to be a very productive morning.


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Sunday, April 09, 2006

By Your Command

A few weeks back when Chris visited, we noticed a number of houses with stucco exteriors. Most of them were pretty poorly done. I've declined to include any photos of those - they tend to look like prisons. However, there was one house in particular that Chris thought was well done, and he asked me to photograph it and send him the pictures. I believe this may be in relation to a project he is working on, an addition to our Uncle Tim's house in Kentucky. Here are the shots I took today.

Stucco exterior with nicely done edge elements. Anybody know the right word for those?

Close-up on chimney with edge details Posted by Picasa

Also today, I finally finished with Phase I of the yard work. All of the leaves and trash have been bagged and are ready to be hauled away. There are still little bits of debris all about - sticks and twigs, and getting them all is nearly impossible. I also started pulling up the vines/ground cover/creeping devil plants that are everywhere in the backyard. And they're in the front too, but not to the same degree. But it takes a great deal of effort to get them up - they're tangled into the grass, and into each other, like a basket woven of live plants. It's going to be a long-term project, I think. That's Phase II.

Another project is coming along nicely - the library re-indexing. I've collected Library of Congress Classification or International Standard Book Numbers from all of the non-fiction titles. Using the online LoC index, I should get LCCNs for everything. They're all going into an Excel spreadsheet, which I may convert into an Access database. Six hundred thirty-five volumes and counting.

Friday, April 07, 2006


Happy Birthday, Ryan! Posted by Picasa

Saturday is Ryan's birthday - I hope he likes the gift I sent him.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Sixteen Miles on the Erie Canal

Recently my folks got a movie via NetFlix that Chris had recommended to them, My Architect. It was made by the son of Louis Kahn, the great architect. Read about him - he was an interesting man. But Mom & Dad, and Chris, all told me I should find out more about one project of his in particular. They couldn't give me all the details, since the film just passes over it, but it was a ship. Specially designed to be the home of an orchestra. And double as its performance space. Interesting, on a lot of levels. So I did some research, and it paid off today.

It's not truly a ship in the traditional sense. It's the Point/Counterpoint II, a self-propelled barge that seems to be based in Pittsburgh. Here are some photos I cribbed from across the internets.

Point/Counterpoint II underway

At the pier in Morganton, WV and opened up for a concert.

A good aerial view.

Apparently she's still in operation, home to the American Waterways Wind Orchestra. It's hard to find information on her portcalls or travels. But I've seen some indications that she'll be in Louisiana this summer. I think she may dock in New Orleans - maybe I can get Sarah to go have a look.

Speaking of Sarah, we got out of the office for lunch today for tacos over at Moe's. She seems like she's doing really well, even if her Spyder did get totalled a few weeks back. Everybody's fine, and it was the other guy's fault, and insurance is taken care of. She'll be around a little longer, but soon goes back to New Orleans to finish her thesis. I know we all look forward to the next time she'll be in the neighborhood.

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Eerily Beautiful

Stole this photo from the previously mentioned I've always liked good storm pictures. And the Jefferson Memorial is my favorite of the big three monuments on the Mall. Combined with the cherry blossoms in full bloom, I think it makes for an extraordinary photograph. I wish I could take pictures like this.

A surprise visitor on the job today - Sarah is up from New Orleans to do some work. It's good to see her; I knew she was coming to town, but I didn't know she'd be in at the office. So that brightens up my day some. It also sounds like a good excuse for Five Guys or Moe's for lunch.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Storm Front Company

We just had a terrible line of thunderstorms roll through, incredibly swift and potent. I went for a ride this afternoon, and it was partly cloudy and pleasant. Perhaps a little windy. Not an hour after I got home, we were in a tornado warning area courtesy of the National Weather Service. Shortly after that, the storm began in earnest. A great deal of lightning, high winds, hail - it was terrific. I captured the radar image from Weather Underground and posted it below. The black dots are lightning strikes. The most amazing thing about the storm was not its intensity, but the speed with which it arrived. I didn't even see storm clouds on the horizon while I was out riding. The world never fails to be interesting.

The radar image of the front rolling through Posted by Picasa

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The last few days I've been experimenting with HTML again, trying to introduce a few new elements into the page design here. I've managed to cobble together a randomizing script that should produce a new image banner at the top of the page each time you reload. The aesthetics aren't quite right, yet, but it's a semi-interesting puzzle to keep my mind occupied.

In more important news, it is Opening Day. The President is throwing out the first pitchi in Cincinnati as I type this. Unfortunately, I can't listen to the game as I would like. I have to renew my MLB audio subscription, but I can't do that until I get my replacement credit card. However, the game is being broadcast on ESPN. I'm actually recording it on my DVR. I can skip over pitching changes, at least. By the look of the lineup and the rotation, it could be a long season. Oh, the first batter of the season, Juan Pierre of the Cubs, just got a triple. Super. Followed by a Todd Walker double. A long, long season.

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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Failure Modes

Beautiful weather again today. I did do some work around the house, including raking up the yards, going over the gardens to see what needs to be done, etc. But since there was some rain this morning, I decided to do some things inside. The guest bed has needed some work for years now. It sits on a folding metal frame that has 4 legs with casters. The two casters at one end came equipped with locking brakes. I forgot to unlock them when moving the bed, and ended up shredding the cheap plastic wheels. So I finally decided to replace them. I took a nice walk down to the local hardware store and found casters I thought would work well.

On the way home, I stopped at the custard shop for the flavor of the day, Puree du Smurf. It was great - bright blue color, tasting of - I don't know. Sherbet? But what made it truly brilliant were the pieces of whipped marshmallow hidden inside. Delicious, and hilarious. Also, they had a drawing of smurf in a blender on the front door.

I got home and set to replacing the casters. Here's the new with the old:

The new, the slightly broken, and the totalled casters

The casters are set in a plastic sleeve that goes into the formed sheet metal frame. Mild steel, I think. And the shaft of the new caster fit perfectly. All done! Let's take her for a test toast.

The bed... settled underneath me. Hmmm.

Turns out the old casters had longer shafts for a reason. The upper end of the plastic sleeve was set into a small metal retaining tab that's welded to the frame. I hadn't noticed this. It's important because the center of the wheel, where the load will be centered, is offset from the axis of the shaft. This means that a moment couple is created, trying to bend the shaft. The shaft is plenty strong - no problem. But the metal tab is what normally resists the bending moment. If the shaft in the sleeve doesn't reach the tab, only the crappy plastic sleeve is there to stop the entire caster from rotating right out from under the frame.

Weld fracture and inelastic deformation at pre-stressed zone Posted by Picasa

As you see, the sleeve failed, the welds holding the bottom plate failed, and the pre-stressed areas where the side plate is bent over to become the bottom plate failed. As an engineer, I really should have caught this one ahead of time.

So the guest bed is now a frameless low-rider, just like my bed.

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