Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Long Day's Journey into Night

I had one hell of a weekend.

On Friday, I took the day to drive up to Portland to see my parent's, as well as Papa who is visiting for the week while Aunt Jan and her family are in Cancun. I had a nice visit with the folks in Maine. We didn't do much, really, but it was very familiar and pleasant. I hadn't seen Papa in a while, so that was a especially welcome.

On Saturday, I stuck around 'till lunch then drove for Boston. The plan was to stow Stella at the Wonderland T station overnight, stay at Ryan's, then visit Tyson's parents and pick up the boat he is giving me on Sunday. I'd get a head start on the drive back, and be home Monday night, with plenty of time to spare.

As Moltke said, no plans survive contact with the enemy.

On the drive to Boston, I started hearing a rhythmic thumping. It became worse, and developed a squealing, frictional background. I did some tests (coasting in neutral, braking, etc), to try to divine the problem. Based on the noise and the apparent direction of the source, I suspected something to do with the front wheels or axle.

I get to Wonderland and found out they tow if you park overnight. So I drove, with Ryan's navigational assistance over the phone, to Alewife. I T in to his house, and we I join Ryan and Chris for a night of dim sum, video games, and catching up. It was good.

On Sunday, we started calling around for mechanics, but were shocked to find no one open on the Sunday of a long weekend. What happened to the American work ethic? Even AAA was no help. So we spent the day seeing Ryan's office at BC, emailing my supervisors to let them know I would be a day late getting back to work, and visting Beth at Brigham and Women's Hospital. We even got to watch Beth take blood samples from a sleep study subject.

Memorial Day we actually found an open repair shop near Alewife. Ryan and Chris were good enough to come with me, so I wouldn't be stuck by myself all day while it was fixed. It was hot, with blazing sunlight. We hid in a movie theater, seeing the matinee of X-Men III. Meh. Then we had something like a 2 1/2 hour lunch while we waited for the car to be done.

Turns out I wasn't quite right. Chris was closer - he suspected a CV joint. It was the left front hub - the one or more of the bearings wore out. So, one $300 used hub later, we're on our way. I dropped of the brothers at Ryan's and said my goodbyes. I made it to Tyson's parents at about 5, and they were extremely helpful getting me on my way with all the boat's equipment. They even packed me a dinner!

I was on the road by 7 PM, and ended up driving straight through the night. I took regular breaks to take naps, and let the trailer tires cool. I got home at about 5:30. Definitely not bothering with work.

At first, I was disappointed in my weekend. Plenty of bad luck, uncomfortable weather, and now I'm tired and it's still too hot. But in a lot of way's, I was very fortunate this weekend. I got to be in Portland while Papa was visiting, which was lucky. My car had a mechanical failure, but close to family so I had a place to stay. It was hard to find a repair shop, but the wait let me spend extra time with my brothers. The mechanic was close to the Alewife station, and he had a used hub on hand at a cheaper price to effect the repairs. Tyson's folks were incredibly helpful getting me everything I needed, including dinner and directions. They even offered their spare bedroom if I wanted it. And since I had stayed up late the previous two days screwing around, I was able to stay up and make it back to Alexandria in one shot. So, yeah, I'm hot and tired and out $300, but it was still a damn fine weekend.

An Odd Building in Portland; the brick and clapboard facades are part of the same building - the second story is rotated about 30 degrees off from the ground floor

Chris, Dan, and Ryan, waiting for T to Alewife

Everyone, meet Pegasus Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 25, 2006

O'Sullivan's Travels

I had a really great day today. Work was light, since I only had to put in a partial day in light of my extra work on the shipcheck earlier. I took the extra time to prep for the long weekend and straighten up the house a little. I ran a few errands, including a quick trip over to East Potomac Park. The Coast Guard Change of Command, where Admiral Thad Allen (made famous during the Hurrican Katrina response) took over as Commandant, took place onboard EAGLE moored in the Washington Ship Channel today.

I had to go see her. I loved EAGLE as a cadet - I spent as much time as I could aboard her, and loved every minute of it. So whenever she's pulling into port near me, I make an effort to go see her. I didn't have a chance to go aboard her, but I did manage to take a few photos. If you like sailing, and are in the DC area, make the time to get down to the DC Waterfront, near the fish market, and take a look at the last working tall ship flying US colors.

After that, I met up with Steph, Aaron, and erstwhile classmate Sheila O'Sullivan. Sheila is living in Alaska with Megadeath, and knows Steph from rowing crew. She says she'll be living in Pittsburgh soon, so she may be coming to visit more often. Always good to see old friends. And Steph and Aaron were in rare form, telling us stories about their recent trip to Hawaii. A really fun evening.

And even though I got teased about it, I will write about my dinner. I had tacos al pastor at Taqueria Poblano. It was excellent - spicy pork with sweet pineapple slices. Fantastic. And S'mores custard at the Dairy Godmother for dessert. You see how it was a great day?

The old Wilson Bridge, with the New behind; it is set to open in the coming weeks

USCGC Frank Drew, one of the Ida Lewis class buoy tenders

The Slave Barge

Note the long line of visitors

Fine on the port stern quarter

She's a beautiful ship; I have very fond memories of her Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Somebody set up us the bomb

It has been an interesting day at work. I've been busy, gettings some documents completed and juggling some tasks to wrap up the shipcheck and start the associated project. Lunch time rolls around, and I'm thinking about nuking my leftover macaroni and cheese and checking the baseball scores from yesterday while I eat. Then we all hear a pipe over the intercom: "ATTENTION. Evacuate the building immediately, there has been a bomb threat." Well, that's new...

We all get outside to where we assemble for fire drills, and a whole slew of police cars are pulled up around the office complex. There are Federal Protective Service agents, Alexandria PD, Metro Washington PD, etc. We are instructed to move farther away from all the buildings.

After talking with one of the Alexandria cops, we find out that the threat was to the building next door, which houses some USDA offices. I can't imagine why anyone would want to threaten the Department of Agriculture, but that's what we heard.

We decided, since it was lunchtime anyway, to make the best of it. A few of us walked over to Five Guys and had a very tasty lunch. And the weather is beautiful, so it's a nice day for a stroll. While we eat, we call the front desk to see if everyone has been let back in yet. No answer, so we figure we've got time.

By the time we amble back to the office, everyone is still sitting around, or has wandered away for lunch like we did. One of the officers says "It could be 30 minutes, it could be 6 hours" before we get the all clear. Drag. A few minutes later, they let us back in. Kind of anticlimactic, but it beats the alternative.

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Saturday, May 20, 2006


It has been a long week. Last Friday, I had my regular Half Day. Additionally, I had worked late on Monday and Tuesday to complete a bid proposal for the Marine Sealift Command, so I could leave even earlier. As part of the bid, I had to list the personnel we planned on sending on a trip to San Diego for what is called a shipcheck. This is where engineers visit a vessel, either while she is being built or already in service. They then review the vessel "as built" versus plans, in order to design various modifications or alterations. I wrote up the proposal, and the list of engineers for the shipcheck had four names; none of them were "Dan."

Imagine my surprise Friday afternoon when the engineer in charge of the job called me at home and said "We won the contract. Pack your bags, we need to be at NASSCO on Monday morning, so try to fly Sunday." There was some scrambling, some rushed packing. Steph was good enough to look after my vegetables, and I was off. So for the past week I've been in California, running around the USNS LEWIS AND CLARK, T-AKE 1, for hours on end. It was tiring, since it is a big damn ship. Not aircraft carrier big, but big enough. One morning, I had to go from the bottom of the forward hold, up 13 decks and aft to climb a mast, and back. A couple of times.

But it was fun, even if we did have to work the whole time. I love San Diego - we went out for all our dinners, so while I got outvoted every night, we did eat well. And it is a beautiful town, just to look at. I learned a lot about practical engineering, and a new-found respect for the yard workers - they are busting their asses every day from 0600 to 1500.

I had hoped to get out to Pacific Beach again, where Jesse and Trav once lived, as well as Steph, but the five of us shared one rental car, so that was not possible. Maybe next time. I also wanted to take pictures of some of the very cool houses, skyscrapers, and the new ballpark, but never had the chance. I do have some shots from around the yard.

A house, clinging to the edge of paradise


I went everywhere on that ship;

From the top of the masts, (fore,

- and atop the house)...

...to the bottom of shaft alley

View from the highest mast

The Coranado Bridge in grey weather

And again in more Californian conditions

A nice shot of some of the yard, with the bridge and downtown beyond

The pilot house and crew quarters from the main deck Posted by Picasa

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006


This past Sunday we lost someone very special. Ray Pellegrini, a close friend of our family, father of one of my best friends, passed away from a heart attack. He was 56. I am hesitant to write about it. I've searched for something meaningful to say, and I've come up with nothing. My friend Matt has written some thoughts here, and he says it in a way that I wish I could.

Ray was a good man, in every sense. As children, I never felt like he talked down to any of us. And he was one of the most gregarious men I've ever known. He was famous for coming to our high school and community musicals and always being the one laugh we could hear over everyone. He and his family have welcomed so many into their home over the years, and Ray's work as a teacher, principal, and educator has improved countless lives. We are lesser in his absence.

Very quickly, the communication has been humming between countless family, neighbors, and friends. I'm sure I've only seen a small fraction of it, but I know that we all stand ready to do anything to help Lucy, Chris, Scott, Kate, and all of Ray's family and loved ones.

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Fugaku sanjurokkei: Kanagawaoki namiura

A full morning and afternoon, today. I got up early, to the sounds of a crew of painters working on my porch. The owner wanted to get rid of the chipped, pink look and replace it with a fresh coat of battleship grey. It looks much better. I checked to make sure the painters didn't need anything, then I went and got a rechargeable electric weedwhacker and a full propane tank. Tools are always cool, and the propane means I can start grilling out on the porch.

On the way back from the big hardware store, I got my oil changed (thrilling!) and stopped by the farmers' market (exhilirating). I scored some free-range ground beef, fresh pasta, and a loaf of some kick-ass fresh bread.

The weedwhacker needs to be charged, but it had enough juice for me to take it for a test drive. Now, about 1/4 of my fenceline looks presentable. I don't especially enjoy lawn and garden work. But weedwhacking is pretty sweet. Almost as good as chainsawing.

After lunch, I metroed in to the Freer-Sackler gallery for the Hokusai exhibit. It's only around for another week, so those of you in the area should take the time to check it out while you can. It's great - lots of historical and biographical background, as well as explanations for why individual pieces had significance. I was struck by how modern much of his work is. Some of it reminded me of Audobon's ornithological illustrations. Other pieces were reminiscent of Art Deco illustrations; I thought of the Normandie poster by Adolphe Mouron Cassandre (I had to look that up, though). The economical use of lines, and colors that fade as you move away from the bold lines. And they even have a copy of his most famous woodcut print, "The Great Wave" from 36 Views of Mount Fuji. I've got a poster of it in my living room, but seeing the real thing for myself was a treat. Many of his works feature boats in them, so I spent a lot of my time trying to piece together the details of their design.

Photography isn't allowed in the exhibit, but I took some ok shots from the neigbhorhood on the way to the Metro, and some from the Mall.

Some kind of rose, I think; The bright pink is striking, but the smell is also quite nice - like raspberries.

They really wanted that window. An interesting solution.

A beautiful day at the Smithsonian Castle

The Dome of the National Museum of Natural History

Ah, Metro. Some of the best looking stations of any subway system I've ever seen. Posted by Picasa