Friday, December 25, 2009


This year's JingEling comes in four parts:

Merry Christmas!  Be sure to leave Ryan & Bethany lots of messages if you like it.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Biking! Statistics!

View Arlington Triangle in a larger map

Statistics are here.

Elevation Profile
I used my GPS while biking finally, and used it to create a Google Map and record all kinds of information about a ride around the Arlington Triangle. I also used GPS Visualizer to create the nifty profile view.
So I'm clearly not very fast out there; I averaged about 15 mph even disregarding stops for crossings. My friend Chris averaged 18.3 mph while doing the 112 mile bike portion of Ironman Louisville this past weekend. Humbling. Still, extremely neat to have the data - statistics help you quantify just how much fun you're having.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Winning Streak

I was relaxing this evening after my online submersible design class by watching video from a large aquarium in Okinawa (follow the link in my shared items on the right to see it yourself, or look up Okinawa Chiraumi on YouTube).  As I watched, I thought to myself I've had a very good couple of months, though I haven't written about it at all.

My class has been going really well, and I'm learning about the exact thing that got me into naval architecture in the first place.  Every weekend for the past two months has been outstanding in one way or another - good bike rides, excellent sailing on the Bay on Sarah & Paul's boat.  Matt has completed the custom CVT bike (follow the link to re-turn on the right) and I'll get to ride it in a week or so when I'm up in Maine.  My broken refrigerator got replaced, and the weather hasn't been too hot, and I've had some excellent evenings out at the Army Navy Club, Poblano, the Dairy Godmother, etc.  I finished reading Anathem, North to the Orient and am now reading Joan of Arc: By Herself and Her Witnesses and they've all been great.  I finally watched High Noon this past Sunday, and I feel like I could skip every other western ever made because it was just perfect.

The best part may be that the outlook continues to be good.  My project for class is coming together nicely.  Sarah passed the PE, so Study Group may reconvene as she studies for acquisition courses as Jane and I tackle Advanced Aero/Hydrodynamics.  There is preliminary planning for a long sailing voyage on the Bay - basically a Tour de Tiki Bars.  I get to see the whole family up in Maine, and I got permission to prune the overgrown hedge in front of my house. Soon my friend Tyson will have arrived with his family to assume his new billet, and Steph & Aaron will follow soon after.  Everything is coming up Dan.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The End of Thinking

Where was this  when I was in school?  It will take derivatives, including showing you all the steps so you can show "your" work.  So much potential, and probably the geekiest way to waste time on the internet short of posting on comic book message boards.  "Who would win in a fight, Spider-man or Boba Fett?"  Maybe Alpha can answer that question...

UPDATE: Seriously, check this thing out.  Watch the overview screencast - it is breathtaking how much data is already in place.


Friday was Bike to Work Day, and with only a little bit of trickery I managed to take part for the first time.

I used to ride to work almost every day, when I worked at our DC office.  The company has a small exercise space and locker rooms there, and the garage has a bike rack.  Ironically, my current home office in Alexandria is built on top of a very large gym, which is just finishing a long refurbishing.  Too bad it ain't free, or I'd bike to work there, too.

So I haven't ridden to work since I left the assignment in Southeast DC.  Sarah is working at that office now, and she mentioned that she was thinking about trying biking to work, and asked for pointers.  That was pretty much all the excuse I needed.  Since we are working on the same project, I knew I could "hot desk" for a day at that office without much trouble.

I got up a little early so I could ride to Paul & Sarah's to meet up.  The ride in went really well - I know every inch of that route along Four Mile Run and up the Mount Vernon Trail.  We went to the WABA pit stop at National's Park.  Bagels, bananas, swag.  We didn't stick around long - who knows, we may have missed our names being pulled for the raffle.  We did see some Coasties we knew, who told us there was a CG-only pit stop at HQ - apparently the Commandant is an avid cyclist.  They were quiet adorable with their new baby and their matching USCG jerseys.  Pretty sweet.

The weather held, though it was a little sticky on the ride home in the afternoon.  I had forgotten how much I enjoyed riding to work - it feels like I'm getting away with something.  And I enjoyed riding with someone, since I almost always do solo rides.  I was very impressed with Sarah - she was flying right along even though she was riding a much heavier mountain bike.  I was also sorry I didn't get to see Jane  in action - it sounds like she did extremely well, especially considering 1) it was her first bike commute, and 2) she hadn't been on most of those trails before.  So kudos to both of my new fellow bike commuters, I hope they both keep riding.  And this may have convinced me to get the cheapest possible membership for the gym at work, just so I could start back up myself.

Yard of Mysteries

Odd appearances, strange comings and goings in my yard recently.

FIRST - The Metal Detective.  Last weekend, a man I did not know came to my side door (not the front), knocking as I was getting ready to go for a bike ride.  He explained he had spoken with my landlord about sweeping the lawn to look for... treasure, I suppose.  I explained that I had no problem with it, provided he didn't dig any especially large holes.  He's reappeared a few times, sweeping various sections of the yard.  He said he was hoping to find silver coins, since the property is pretty old for the area.  I don't think he's found anything.

SECOND - Beach Ball.  A cheap plastic beach ball, inflated, showed up in my fenced yard.  Not odd in of itself, but I couldn't figure how it got there.  The fence would keep most things out, and if someone threw it in, why wouldn't they come and get it back?  It probably blew in on a windy day; admittedly a minor mystery.

THIRD - Chutes & Ladders.  I'm impressed I even noticed this one, at first.  As I drove past the side yard on my way to back into the garage, I noticed an extension ladder, lying partially hidden alongside the house.  There's been a house going up down the street, and some painting crews working nearby.  But I could't figure for the life of me why anyone would just drop a ladder in my yard.  I figured the landlord had contracted for some work on the house.  Further evidence supports this theory - there are now paint chips in the yard, and the trim in those areas looks like it has been repainted.

For all the time I've been here, I've never known anyone to come into the yard.  Now in the space of a few weeks it is starting to seem like a public park.  Maybe I can get the city to mow the grass for me...

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Rolling like a droog...

...with my clockwork orange.  Windsor Clockwork, in orange, to be exact.  I've ordered the parts for Matt to begin construction up in Vermont of a Continuously Variable Planetary transmission version of the bike.  I think it will be an extraordinarily cool bike once he is done - nice road frame with no fixed gears.  I may have to swap out the tires, though - it comes with a road set, and I'd like to get it with some hybrid-style tires.  I'm not sure the really knobby cyclocross tires are what I'm looking for, or that they would even fit.  I just need something a little tougher, with a little bit of tread, that can handle the C&O Canal towpath and the gravel stretches of the Capital Crescent trail.

Regardless, I'm very excited about this project.  I hope Matt will be capturing the construction progress, or at least commenting on it, on his site  The last thing to figure out now is how to get the finished bike from Vermont to Virginia.


School's out, school's out
Teacher let the monkeys out
One was jailed
And one prevailed
Both asked God
"How have I failed?"
-Grad School chant (traditional)

Good stuff from Matt Groenig's book "School is Hell."

I've finished my first class towards my masters via the Virginia Tech online system.  It wasn't too rough; I think it did what I needed it to, which was reacquaint me with the habits of study and homework.  Now over the summer I'll be taking a course with material I've never taken before, Manned Submersible Design.  I'm looking forward to it - submersibles are what got me interested in this field in the first place.  You can draw a straight line from Peter Buonincontro buying me a copy of Seven Miles Down at the middle school library sale through my acceptance to the Coast Guard Academy to finishing my BS in Ocean Engineering and earning my PE in naval architecture.  And it looks like that line will continue with a masters in Ocean Engineering... in about 4 years.  At least I'm off to a good start.


I watched Into the Wild earlier this week.  I had never seen it before, nor had I read the book.  I'm usually pretty good about reading books before seeing movies based on them - the books are almost always better.  I think I may have to go back and read Krakauer's book - but not because I liked the movie.

It was a very interesting movie, but I found it frustrating.  Not the movie itself, but the story it tells.  As a technical exercise, the movie is very good - Sean Penn directed it and does a good job of giving the movie the visual scope it deserves, since so much of it takes place in the great wide spaces of the American West.  My trouble is one that many others have - the young man in the movie, Chris McCandless, was gifted and willful and capable and foolish.  He essentially walked away from his life and tramped for two years, ending up in the hinterlands near Denali National Park, where he eventually starved to death.  My reaction, over and over in the movie, was that almost every choice reflected staggering hubris and egotism.  From his surviving letters and journals, plus the recollections of the many people he met and befriended, McCandless was looking for a latter-day Walden experience, to live as Thoreau did.  This does not align with the spirit of Walden in some ways - Walden was basically a suburb of Boston, even when Thoreau was there, just out by Lynn, inside route 128.  He would often leave the cabin and visit town.

Though perhaps McCandless was more right than he knew; he benefited from the kindness of those he met on the road many times, and Thoreau was actually living on his friend Emerson's property.  Yet he still thought he could walk out into some of the harshest country known and survive on his own.  Even if he had the skills and wherewithal to do so, I think I may have a fundamental issue with his desire to isolate himself.  I prefer Donne to Thoreau:
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee
Krakauer himself has argued in McCandless' favor, saying that he didn't take a map so he could "create" a blank place on the map to explore.  I don't find self-deception sympathetic.  Others who agree with Krakauer argue that McCandless was trying to live in harmony with nature, and acted out of respect.  Nature is one mean mother, and respect first means you never forget that she is trying to kill you (and eventually will).  I feel like his actions were fundamentally disrespectful - he acted as one trying to impose their will on nature, to live as they see fit rather than as they can.  And lastly, for someone who has been described as being so personable and friendly, his willingness to walk away from so many people strikes me as cold.  Even in the movie's depiction of him, I found him selfish.

I have to admit, all I have to go on is the movie.  I have not educated myself on the facts.  So I will definitely read the book.  My real point is that the movie, whether or not you enjoy the story, is very good, because it forces you to form an opinion, to think about what you've seen.  I enjoyed that, and look forward to learning more.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Beep Beep Ribbey Ribbey

After a brief but thorough search, I have a successor to Stella.  I picked up a 2008 Subaru Impreza hatchback this week.  While it is used, it was never sold - it was the dealer's, a "corporate fleet" vehicle.  Not sure exactly what that means, but it has under 10,000 miles and is in great shape.

It seems they've made real strides in automotive features since they built Stella in 1996.  The car is quieter, rides smoother, and the radio even tells you the name of the station you're listening to.  What an age to be alive.  All jokes aside, it is a great little car, just the right size - my kayak will fit on top once I get new adapters for the roof rack, and my groceries fit perfectly in the back.  Also, the engineer in me gets a kick out of the opposed pistons in the flat-4 or boxster style engine.  Much cooler than the more common V or inline arrangements.  Too bad it isn't a rotary...

Jane was good enough to help me when I went to test drive, and then again when I bought the car.  That proved invaluable, as I had never actually bought a car before.  While I did test-drive Stella back in '99, my folks took a look the next day and made the purchase.  They said "We bought it; if you liked it, you can pay us back, but otherwise we like it so much we're keeping it as our second car."  So I never haggled over a car price, never had to assess financing (since the Academy car loan was also taken care of for us, for the most part), never took care of title transfers and such.  I've been getting by on luck and good looks for too long, maybe.

So the new car is in the garage, and Stella was towed to the wreckers this morning.  I've moved all my maps and such into the Subaru, and set my radio stations.  Pretty soon it will actually feel like my car.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Le Car est Mort

The days have been just packed.  I enjoyed two day long meetings down at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren this week, which was awesome.  Well, the part where I heard them test-firing the guns was.  Everything else was somewhat less fantastic.  It ate up all my time, and driving back and forth ate up even more time, and my other project is stuck in the mud, and whine whine whine.

Also, Stella has passed on.  After just over ten years of faithful service, my Saab 900S is no longer viable.  Panamanian running lights, so to speak.  Her transmission is shot, and it would cost twice her blue book value to repair.  So she's headed out back like Old Yeller.

Stella was my first car, and most of the work of buying her actually fell to my parents.  So I've never bought a car myself, really.  I'm concerned I'm going to get taken.  So I'm doing all sorts of research, and trying to figure this out without taking a lot of time - I'm picking up a rental tomorrow, and I'd rather not be in the kickin' Hyundai Accent longer than I have to be.  Though I should keep an open mind - Ryan & Bethany have an Accent, and it seems to be working out for them.

I figure I need something that I can car-top my sailing kayak and load up with my groceries.  It would be nice to have something with a tow hitch, since I already have a hitch-mounted bike rack.  so I'm spending lots of time on the Carmax website.  And USAA, figuring out what kinds of loans I can get.  Super fun, mostly because I love have to deal with things where I have no clue what I'm doing.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Turn for the better

I was in a crummy mood after some dodgy business at work this week.  My nice stone desk globe, a graduation gift, was knocked off my desk and broken by parties unknown.  I found out I'll have to take a two-day meeting of the most boring variety down in Dahlgren.  And when I went over the monthly invoice for one of my projects, I learned why we're burning money so fast.  Still haven't learned how to fix that, however.

Yesterday was better - had a very productive day, including a solid Study Group.  Sarah even passed along a book from Paul and her dad, Halsey's Typhoon, which looks very promising.  But things really picked up today.  The weather suddenly got perfect, and all my chores were done and there was nothing in the To Do pile.  So I finally got back out on the bike paths.

Luckily, my road bike didn't need too much pre-season tuning - just reinflate the tires and go.  There were some headwinds to buck, but nothing too bad.  And though they haven't had the official ribbon-cutting, the underpass on the Four Mile Run trail under West Glebe Road and I-395 shooting straight into Shirlington is open.  It's great, much better than waiting for crosswalk lights and riding up the side streets to the pedestrian bridge.  That set the tone for the whole ride - so good to be back out there, even if it was kind of crowded down along the Potomac.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The most kindest cut of all

I had my do-over back surgery last week, and it went even better than the first time.  Instead of getting nauseated by the painkiller IV and staying overnight, I came out of surgery feeling great and they let me go late in the afternoon.  I was home with my mom for dinner, which was worlds better than the night of tossing and turning I worked through after the previous surgery.

I should say it was not all perfect.  Originally, the surgery was scheduled for Thursday morning, but the night before the doctor's office called and canceled due to an emergency.  I never did get the full run down on that.  It was rescheduled the next day for Monday morning.  This was difficult, since it meant either finding someone else to get me to and from the hospital, or extending Mom's stay by changing her flight.  We actually ended up buying  her a one-way ticket home - it was cheaper than trying to switch her return.  And everyone here and in Maine had to adjust their schedules to accommodate, for which I'm grateful.  I burn up some vacation days, Mom misses some more work, Dad has to feed himself for a few extra days - sacrifices were made all around.

It's been almost a week now, and I don't even need my painkiller prescription for the incision pain anymore.  I'm still stiff, and I have to take it easy so everything heals up inside and out, but I feel like I'm doing really well.  It has been beautiful weather the past few days, so between that and the immense increase in comfort, I'm excited about getting back in the saddle and taking some bike rides.

Which brings me back to the CVT bike Matt and I have been discussing.  I've been reviewing his various proposals, and they all sound pretty fantastic.  What I really need to do is figure out where and how I'll use this bike, so we can build it properly.  I need to educate myself some in order to make an informed choice, as well.  But the trails will beckon soon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


The past few months, I had been having trouble with my back again.  Nothing overwhelming, but enough so that I got it checked out.  After some examinations and an MRI, turns out the disc had burst again.  Well not technically I suppose - discs are made of fibrous casings containing a more fluid filling.  The fibrous case is similar to hair, in that it there is no blood flow to it and it cannot heal.  So when I got my back fixed the first time, the surgeon just trimmed away the part of the filling that had pushed out of the casing.  But the hole remained, and it looks like more filling has burst forth.

In anticipation of surgery, I decided to get my car serviced, since I didn't want anything to happen while my Mom was here in town driving me to and from the hospital.  It was time for some fluids and filters.  The day before I went to Jiffy Lube, I happened to get a low coolant warning.  What good luck - I was headed in anyway.  As I pulled up to the garage, though, I noticed more smoke than I'd like to see coming out of my hood.  Turns out I had burst the upper coolant hose from the radiator.  Luckily, the service station next door was able to fix up my car in fairly short order.

Now, I'm fit to burst.  My do-over surgery was scheduled for tomorrow.  The doctor's office just called, and informed me that due to an emergency, my surgeon is unavailable until Monday.  I will probably be "first on the list" for surgery then.  Great news, now that my mom has paid to fly down here, I've arranged my work schedule to accommodate the next two days off, and I have arranged everything to take care of this Thursday.  So now I get to take more time off next week to get the new surgery date, and need to find someone new to take me to and from the airport since Mom will have flown home by then.  Just a string of bad luck lately.

On the other hand, Matt has some great ideas for a possible home-built CVT road bike for me.  That's worth getting excited about.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Busy but Bored

I've been very busy the past few weeks, trying to shepherd a project to a significant milestone.  I've been in the office early, leaving late.  I don't care for it.  And even though I'm busy, with many tasks to occupy my time, I'm bored.  I really look forward to having it done.

On the flip side, once I get my sweet Stimulus Money, I found something to spend it on.  I mean, that's what we're supposed to do with our extra money from tax reductions, right?  Well, I may do my part.  I mentioned once before the Ellsworth bike that uses the continuously variably planetary transmission.  Well, there are more out now from other manufacturers that use the same transmission, for much cheaper.  So I'm considering getting the Cadillac Bikes AV-T .  It's a "commuter" bike - I'd use it to replace my old Head hybrid, which has been pretty much demoted to fluid trainer duty.  Though I may wait just a little longer; I'd really like to get a CVP-equipped road bike.  Someone just has to make one...

Sunday, February 01, 2009

C'mon baby hold together

There have been a few instances lately where my car, Stella, has not exactly driven trouble-free.  The worst was when she went into "Limp Home" mode while I was trying to give Steph a ride to the airport.  Turns out it was just a completely drained battery that was not even accepting a charge from the alternator anymore.  Easily fixed, but catastrophic in its impact.

Other minor hiccups have been popping up - some brake squeal, some indications the belts need to be adjusted or replaced, a telltale shimmy crying for a tire alignment.  My favorite, though, was just today while out running errands.  Everything was fine, but the gas gauge didn't register at all.  I knew the tank was at least one quarter full, and there was no indication of any kind of leak.  Must be the gauge.

Now, how many times has a mechanical device or electronic doodad failed you, and you couldn't help but knock on it a few times hoping it would kick back in?  Has that ever worked?  But you try anyway.  As I did this morning - and it springs right back to life, one quarter tank.  I'm not sure if I should worry, or just enjoy being Han Solo to my car's Millennium Falcon, Fonzie to it's jukebox at Arnold's.

Really, besides the battery fiasco, there have been no major issues with Stella.  But I've had her for 10 years now, and she's a 1996 model.  I have to admit I'm thinking of finding something a bit more current.  Too bad those affordable, practical electric cars aren't around yet.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


While I live just outside Washington DC, I did not venture across the Potomac for any of the Inaugural festivities.  Not for lack of interest - I think it was a great and important day for a number of reasons.  But you tell me there's going to be a crowd of 2 million people, my only question is which direction leads away from them.  Far too much hassle, as I'm sure everyone has heard from the news, and not enough return on the effort.  Most people on the Mall watched the ceremony on a screen, so why shouldn't I as well, in my office on my lunch break?  Plus I don't lose the day, which I desperately need in order to get projects delivered on time.

However, watching and reading about all that has happened today, a peculiar sense of familiarity came to me.  It was actually described best by a kindegartener to an old friend of mine: "It's like the country is having a wedding to get married to Obama."  This rang particularly true while I briefly tuned in to one of the Inaugural Balls, and the President had a first dance with the First Lady while the old Etta James standard "At Last" was sung.  You could write a paper unpacking all the symbolism there between history and race and politics.  But on the surface, it was a first dance, with a man in a tuxedo and his wife in a formal gown.  And they are the only ones dancing, and everyone is watching.  It was very much like a wedding.

The thing of it is, there is a long history of Heads of State "marrying" their nations, though usually in the case of royalty.  I'm especially reminded of the Doge of Venice, who each year would renew the marriage of the Venetian Empire and the Sea by tossing a ring into the Adriatic.  The parallel is not perfect, but it illustrates the essential idea of a union between leader and state, with accompanying pomp and pageantry.

Like many other in the country, I'm excited about this administration.  I look forward to governance based on facts and reason, if nothing else.  I'm glad America has found a nice boy to settle down with.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


To look at the entries here, you'd think it has been a very slow couple of weeks.  If you thought that you would be wrong.  In fact, since coming back to DC from Maine right before New Year's, there's been a great deal of activity.  Besides a very enjoyable New Year's Eve at the Army Navy Country Club and Southeast DC, I've become very busy with two separate major projects at work, enrolled in online graduate courses from Virginia Tech to start my master's (plus all the legwork to get tuition assistance at work), and winterized my "backyard boat" Pegasus.

The most significant thing maybe be one that was less time consuming.  But I've winterized boats and taken courses before.  This is a unique and novel event.  I'm selling off some of my library.  Well, trying - I've picked out the duplicates and candidates for "reduction in force."  They fill a grocery sack and a rolling suitcase.  Some are good titles that I have multiple copies of - The Sea Wolf, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, House of Leaves - while others just haven't aged well for me.  I'm getting rid of all of my old Mass Market Tom Clancys (Clancies?) except for my still-beloved The Hunt for Red October.  Goodbye to all of the "Hannibal" novels by Thomas Harris except, again, the best of them, Silence of the Lambs.

The reasoning for the sale is twofold.  First, and primarily, I need more shelf space, especially in my fiction section.  Second, with the exception of the duplicate copies, I could not see myself ever re-reading any of these titles, or needing to refer to any of the non-fiction volumes.

So I've got them set for their departure.  The only problem is the destination.  Used bookstores, good used bookstores, are a rare thing.  Alexandria only has a few candidates, none of which I've visited.  I've heard good things about Capitol Hill Books, though..  What I wouldn't give to be near The Crow back in Burlington.  Or really, my old used book section at the South Burlington Barnes & Noble.  Then I could sell them to myself for store credit and use my employee discount on new purchases to trade in 10 old books for about 5 new ones.  That's a pretty good swap, unless one of your used books is a Gutenberg Bible.