Sunday, June 29, 2008


I just wanted to highlight a post over at Baseball Musings.  Even casual fans of baseball know David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez.  But it seems like a lot of people don't know Adam Dunn.  He often gets knocked as a guy who strikes out too much to be valuable.  Consider, however, that he is a Three True Outcomes kind of hitter.  He strikes out a lot, he walks a lot, and he hits a lot of homeruns.  He leads the league in walks right now, and only two people have hit more homeruns than him in the past 4 1/2 years, and one of them is an inner-circle first ballot hall of famer to-be.  He is an immensely valuable hitter, and he doesn't get nearly enough credit.  I hope the Reds give him a nice extension, I would like to see him continue playing in Cincinnati.

Cutter Tour

Baltimore June 2008
We found out recently through the SNAME email newsletter that the new National Security Cutter, USCGC Bertholf, would be visiting Baltimore this weekend and open for tours. Jane got the word out, and I joined her, Jen, and Zina to have a look. Jane and I got there before Jen and Zina, so we went for a walk around Fells Point. I had never been there before - it seems nice, but kind of geared towards tourists and nightlife (lots of bars). However, walking around was a good call, because we came across a green 1972 Buick Riviera, a "Boat-Tail." I've wanted this exact car since I was a teenager. I think it is absolutely beautiful. This one in particular even had a little Creature from the Black Lagoon hood ornament - very apropos, since this car is a beast. It probably drinks gas like it is water, and is thoroughly impractical in this day and age. But it is absolutely gorgeous. Jane was good enough to humor me as I gushed and took many photos. Once Zina and Jen arrived, we had a very nice tour. Obviously, we couldn't go everywhere we would have liked. The EM2 leading our tour asked the OOD if he could get us down into the engine room or even Main Control, but we were not allowed. A shame. But we did see the new 57mm gun, the bridge, the CO's cabin, the messdeck, and finished up with the stern-launched boats and the flight deck. The stern launch system still looks like it would be very tricky in a seaway, and I don't see how traversing the boats on a gantry crane can be safe if the cutter is rolling much. On the flight deck, they had parked on of the new re-engined and armed MH-65 helicopters. Apparently a bunch of the brass, including the Thadmiral and Secretary Chertoff were aboard the other day, so they were clearly bringing out all the new toys to show them off. But they were impressive - the armament on the helo even includes one of the big anti-material .50 caliber sniper rifles the Army uses from time to time. So it was a very successful trip up to the Charm City. On the way back Jane and I even stopped at the College Park Ikea, so I could get a more comfortable chair for guests in my tv room. As one of Ryan's friends once said after driving his tractor into an abandoned car (for a movie): "Not bad for a Sunday."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Victoire pour l'Ingénieur

The many nights of studying, working through practice exams and review problems, the study sessions on Saturday afternoons - they all paid off. While I have not received my official notification or certificate, I found this entry online at the Virginia Department of Occupational Regulation. Look it up if you need confirmation. I know I had to look 3 or 4 times, to be absolutely sure.

Maybe it isn't that big of a deal, but I am extremely pleased. Even more so knowing that Jane also passed. Maryland hasn't posted yet, but I am confident of a similar result for Jackie. And next year, Sarah will pass as well. Then it will be a trend, with us as the trendsetters. "Professional Engineering: All the Cool Kids Are Doing It!"

In truth, passing the test was not entirely my own doing. I owe a debt to Jane, Jackie, and Sarah, who all helped me to be more studious, and taught me many useful techniques to become a better engineer; to Tyson, who pushed me to get my ass in gear and take the test already (as well as providing one of my reference letters); and certainly to my folks, who whenever I bitched and moaned about all of the studying reminded me that it would all be worthwhile in the end.

Now I'm going to go order an official stamp and mark every piece of paper that I can. Grocery lists, playing cards, individual paper towels, the works.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I'll Cut You, Bitch

(With apologies for the coarse language, but without it the humor is lost)

I've had some trouble for some time now regarding the landscaping around my house. Overgrowth along the fenceline. Trees growing up against the house. Crabgrass. But over the past few weekends, I think I've turned the tide.

First, I cut the lawn as short as I could and sprayed the hell out of it with anti-crabgrass solution. Pretty easy, and pretty successful.

Second, I finally got some clippers and went to town with them and the weedwhacker along the fence. And after I had chopped up the superweeds that had sprung up, I emptied about half a bottle of weed-killer into what was left. I've got a pretty long fenceline for a plot this size, so maybe I should look into a "family size" bucket of weed spray. That has worked like gangbusters - no need to pull out the weedwhacker since.

Lastly, the trees. Specifically, the tree in the tight piece of yard between my house and the neighbors. It has grown up into the eaves of the roof, and over the roof, and up against the upstairs window. Squirrels us it to climb up into the window and nest beside the air conditioner. Vermin! I've been putting this off for too long.

Since I have no ladder, I climbed the tree and hauled a hand saw up on a bit of line. The principal offending branch was larger than I expected. Big enough I had to take breaks while sawing through it. But down it came. Some other smaller ones as well, that looked like in a breeze might brush against the roof and damage the shingles.

So I've got a lot of branch to deal with now. Alexandria won't haul away brush unless it is bound up in bales no more than 4 feet long, and weighing under 70 pounds. So, the picture above shows the product of my rather lengthy labors. Five bales, ready to go. Next time, I think I will just burn the tree down.

High Tea in Narnia

Have a cup of chamomile with Aslan! I had never seen this before. I laughed for about 5 minutes after I walked past it in the grocery store yesterday.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Things To Do

  • Get a copy of the new Firefox 3.0 browser. Even better than the previous edition. There is an especially nifty feature where you can tag your bookmarks as well as sorting them into folders, and they can have multiple tags. And you can find all the bookmarks that share a tag just by typing the tag into the address bar - pretty slick.
  • Go read It is hilarious - I especially like the one about Teddy Roosevelt, "Adventure Time." Teddy Roosevelt was awesome.
  • Find something pulpy for summer reading. I recommend skipping the latest bestsellers and sampling a the work of a classic author of thrillers, Eric Ambler. The Care of Time is one of my favorites, and I'm reading Journey Into Fear right now. I've heard The Coffin of Dimitrios is also extremely good.
  • If you are in the Baltimore/DC area and are interested in ships, consider heading up to the Charm City to tour the USCGC Bertholf, the first new major cutter in decades. She's scheduled to be open for tours the weekend of the 27th.
  • Find something decent to watch on tv now that Battlestar is off the air until sometime in 2009. At least the mid-season finale was awesome.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Prom Night

Sarah & Paul were kind enough to invite me along to "Prom Night" last night at the Army-Navy Club in DC. They are members, and from time to time they have put together excellent nights out for cocktails and dinner. Paul's brother Philip and his wife Sarah were there, along with their friends Matt & Gillian. It was an excellent group.

I had only been to the downstairs club before, so this was my first time in the main dining room. Jacket and tie required sort of situation, so the gentlemen were suitably attired, the ladies in very fashionable dresses, jewelry, and well-coiffed. This is where the "prom night" nickname comes from - I gather most of us do not dress up for dinner on many occasions nowadays.

While it was a "dressy" night, it was not overly formal or stuffy. It was pretty fantastic- mostly because these are just fun people. In that setting, particularly Gillian and Philip's wife Sarah AKA "Sarah the Great." Gillian makes me think of Dorothy Parker, and Sarah is so completely without pretense you can't help but be charmed. She turned up the car radio when "The Humpty Dance" came on - that's my kind of people.

As for the club itself, I always get a kick out of it. Good food, and just a cool setting - lots of the historical arcana that I enjoy. The dining room was full of pleasant older couples - think grandparents - but they didn't seem to mind our... let's call it youthful vigor. So start to finish it was an outstanding evening.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Annual Customs and Yearly Traditions

Early June is when the strawberries ripen. For the past few years, I go up to Larriland Farm about an hour north of Alexandria to pick my own. I can usually get enough for about 4 batches of jam in one tray worth of picking. Once you add in the price of driving up there and back, it is probably more expensive than just buying jam at the store. But I find I enjoy the trip out of the city, and even the bustle and activity of making the jam.

Also, as I've mentioned in previous years, near the farm is a small village named Etchison that has a general store. The store sells outstanding pulled pork sandwiches. So I go, I pick, and I eat my sandwich, and it is a fine day.

I had planned to do all of this on Saturday. But there were some problems. My house - the yard, specifically - has been in a parlous state for a while. I had neglected it while Chris and Aaron visited successively over the past week and a half. So there were giant Cretaceous-looking weeds and plants growing along the fenceline, long grass: a general picture of decay and abandonment.

So Friday after work I got some supplies, including some sturdy shears, and set myself to work. Everything went very well until the very end. I went inside to fetch some durable trash bags to haul away the debris. They are under the sink. And as I stood it was like getting stabbed. I aggravated my back somehow. I think the common term would be I "threw my back out." Rest became the priority of the night. And all of the next day.

It felt good enough today to go up to the farm and get what I needed. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get my yearly sandwich - the Etchison Country Store is closed on Sundays. Fast food is a pale substitute. But I got my fruit, I made my jam, and my back is already feeling much better. I think a few days rest and all will be well. It is so damn hot right now, I don't especially mind laying low for a bit.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Big Time in the Jungle

On his way back from Grandma & Grandpa's 60th anniversary party, Chris was able to stop by this past weekend. He had spent some time in Columbus as well, watching minor league games and visiting his old friend Virgil. He got here late on Thursday, and I left him to his own devices on Friday.

Saturday, we had hoped to go out to Shenandoah and hike Old Rag, but the forecast said there could be strong thunderstorms because the atmosphere was "energetic." Instead, we went up to Rock Creek Park.

I've ridden through the park plenty of times, but never really stopped there. We hiked out from the Nature Center (which includes a planetarium!) and went to the ruins of a Civil War battery, Fort Drury. Not particularly impressive, just mounds of dirt really. But interesting for as a touchstone of local history.

We headed down into the park, and ended up going along the creek for some distance. Not rough hiking, by any means - easy grades, well maintained trails. Really quite nice. It was easy to forget we were essentially in the middle of the city - felt like a "real" forest. We even came upon a deer on the trail - clearly used to people, since it let us get within about 15 feet before shambling off. And while it was hot and humid, but proximity to the creek and the plentiful shade helped ease things a little.

Unfortunately, the free park map doesn't include a lot of detail on the trails, things like the badging used to mark the way. And the signage and badging was fairly poor. So we ended up doing a figure eight instead of a loop, since I took us left when we should have gone right. Still, it was a lucky mistake - the distance ended up being just about perfect, about four and half miles of easy trails. And that extra loop was very nice - it reminded me of some of the cross country trails we ran in high school.

The timing could not have been better - we got home, and just as we finished cleaning up, the sky opened up. The storms were brief but intense. I'm glad we weren't stuck out in anything like that out on the Blue Ridge.

After that, we had lunch, and went to see the new Indiana Jones movie at the Odeon Uptown, the big movie palace up by the zoo. Pretty fun movie, if you know what to expect (basically a 50s B-movie with modern effects and a huge budget). And the Uptown is just a fun place to see a movie - huge curved CinemaScope screen, real balcony, etc. They even show the awesome 70mm prints sometimes - better than HD.

And we ended up back in Del Ray, having dinner at the Afghan Restaurant and Strawberry Shortcake (with fresh Del Ray Farmer's Market berries) at the Dairy Godmother. So, pretty good visit.