Thursday, August 31, 2006

Demolition Man

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

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

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

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Paintings, Scupture, Music, Buildings

I hit the culture trifecta today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 26, 2006


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

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

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

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


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

Monday, August 21, 2006

Wedding, Reception, Children, etc

Centennial Field, Burlington VT Posted by Picasa

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


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

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

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

Thursday, August 10, 2006

New Toy

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

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

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

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lay Down Your Burdens

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

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

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

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

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

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