Friday, August 31, 2007
That being said, the lawn looks great. The cool weather we've been having lately has really caused it to green-up quite nicely. I'll have to water at some point (it's been a few weeks since I have), but it really doesn't look like it needs it. Maybe the recent rains we've had have been enough for it to last. One thing I need to get around to doing is aerate and overseed before it gets too late in the season. Last year I waited too long and it didn't take as much as I'd hoped. This year, however, I'll be able to use the poor-man's underground sprinkler system I installed back in June to keep the grass properly watered while the seed takes root and grows into mature grass.
Although I tried to finish Angels and Demons, I put it down. I reached the climax (or what I thought was the climax) and then had about 50 more pages to go. I was wondering what the author was going to do with the remaining pages and the more I read, the more I was turned off. He had a good book (although pretty much fluff) up until that point and then he puts it over the point of believability. I put it down without finishing it with about 20 pages left to go. I'll finish it over the weekend, but now the desire to finish it just isn't there.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
We had the first dish from D going to Dinner Done last night: Salmon Wellington. At first I didn't think I'd like it (when D said that's what she was making I think I said "Ew"), but after thinking about it, I didn't think it'd be all that bad. After tasting it, however, I was quite pleased. I could have eaten the second one that was leftover, but wanted to save it for later. M didn't care for the puff pastry shell, but at least she ate the salmon. Oh well, at least she tried it, which is better than N will do.
Another set of issues came up with Melon, so I had to investigate those. Fortunately I was able to identify the problem and released an update. The upside of having only two customers use Melon is that only two customers are affected when an error is discovered. The downside is that only two customers have ponied up $15 to use Melon. Hopefully that will change in the coming months as I add additional functionality.
After practice, N and I hit the bike store for another pair of inner tubes. I discovered that one of the reasons why my tires felt like I was riding on a sponge was because the inner tubes were too small for the tire. Whoops! As it turned out, that was only part of the reason. The other reason was because some of the spokes on the rear wheel were way too loose (while their counterparts were way too tight). I was able to fix the problem and rode around the court at 945p testing my mad bicycle fixing skills. Much to my surprise, one of my neighbors was out. I'm sure she was wondering what I was doing, but I didn't care. I had fixed the problem and was a happy camper!
After D got home, I read a bit of Angels and Demons. I'm really into this book and am looking to finish it within the next few days. (Hopefully by Thursday as that'll have been one week since I started it.) I typically don't read books this fast, but I also typically don't read fiction. Every once in a while, though, a good beach novel is what you need to escape from your everyday reality.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
I struggled through work (I was pretty beat from the late night at Sweetwater and reading) and finally left for the gym around 330p. I knew that if I hadn't gone then, I wouldn't be able to work out until Wednesday. (Baseball practice starts tomorrow.) There was a new guy there that looked like he was fresh out of the Brady Bunch school of style (think of what Buddy Hinton looked like). I really don't care for the hair styles the kids are wearing these days, it was bad then and it's still bad. I'm glad I never had to go through that phase (the styles of the early '80s made me learn my lesson...although not until after a decade or so of bad hair).
I read Angels and Demons in bed for about an hour or so. Like The Da Vinci Code, this one's a page turner. I started it last week at the beach (I read five chapters) and haven't been able to put it down since. I really should've gone to bed earlier as I was pretty tired, but I just couldn't. Finally, about 1040p, I turned out the lights and was asleep by 1041p.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Have you cut your cross short? Will it still be long enough to reach the other side of the ditch?
After Mass we went to visit Rudy in the hospital. He suffered a heart attack Thursday morning and was taken to the hospital, where he was admitted for observation. Apparently he also pulled a muscle in his leg while there and also had some pretty high blood pressure. Fortunately he's recovering and it looks like he'll be released in the next day or two. While we were there we were able to have a pretty good conversation with him. He shared with us the story of how he first came to the US from Russia back in 1923 and how he was in charge of the basket containing all the money his family had to their name.
Since Rudy's getting up their in years (he's 89), I asked him what one thing made the biggest impact on his life during his lifetime. His answer? Indoor plumbing. He no longer had to go to the outhouse to use the facilities. I really couldn't fathom the difference as I've never relied on an outhouse, but I could see where he was coming from. (Just for the record, I'd have to say that up to this point, the personal computer/Internet has been the biggest impact on my life.)
He skipped ahead to the World's Fair, and how he and his sister saw the first television. He said the screen was about the size of a baseball and that the people in the crowd were on the screen. It's amazing when you look back to that point in time, television wasn't much of a technology and now, some 70 years later, the screen on an iPod is about the same size, but it offers much more with regard to clarity (and color).
The wheel had been around for thousands of years before someone attached a motor to it and made the horse obsolete. Then, in a matter of decades after automobiles are available to the masses, mankind is going into space. It's mind boggling what changes occur over a lifetime (especially now), but it seems that during the past 100 years, amazing things have come to pass as everyday. I wonder what M and N will consider the item that made the biggest impact on their lives when they're grandparents.
After we left the hospital, we drove by our old house in Vienna. Much to our surprise, we discovered it was on the market. (I later found out it was being offered at $440,000.) The neighborhood looks like it had been cleaned up. Lots houses had new roofs, siding and windows. The last time I was there it was looking pretty scabby. I guess the ACC has been pretty busy getting people to take care of their homes. Good for them.
After we got home, I took the kids to the pool for a last swim before the summer ends. (Actually it will still be open until next weekend, but since school starts tomorrow, it's doubtful they'll make it back.) It was pretty empty and, for the most part, we had it to ourselves. The guards were busy cleaning all the deck chairs and had a countdown calendar on the wall in the clubhouse. From what I could tell, they were looking forward to the summer being over.
I met Coach Mike at Sweetwater to talk about the upcoming baseball season. He's continuing to try his hand at head coaching and I signed on to assist. Neil wasn't working, so we had to resort to - Gasp! - paying for our drinks! Oh, the horror of it all. We talked a little strategy and a lot about a lot of other things. It was a pretty good time as I never had the chance to sit and shoot the breeze with him one on one. I'm looking forward to the upcoming season and hope it's just as fun as last year
As I rode across, my front wheel skidded to the right and then my back wheel skidded out from under me as well. This wasn't an intermittent stream, but a year-round stream. Or at least a stream that's fairly wet most of the time. Wet enough for a covering of algae to grow on the cement of the crossing. Fortunately I was able to recover and didn't test out my new helmet. Unfortunately, the torque of the skid, coupled with the correction caused my tube to be pinched between the rim and it ruptured.
I found a place to fix my flat and this time I did it the right way (wait for the glue to dry before applying the patch). As I was sitting there, a woman drove into the driveway of the house I was working in front of and asked me:
"Do you have to do that here?"
Uh?!? Do I have to do this here? Well, no, but...
"Yeah, I'm just fixing the flat I got."
I thought that she wasn't too happy that I was working on my bike in front of her house based on her initial question. I turned out to be wrong, however, when she followed up her first question with:
"Can I get you anything?"
Wow, I guess I was wrong about that!
"Thanks, but I've got everything I need."
"Alright, well, if there's anything you need, let me know."
And with that, she went inside.
Later on my ride, after fixing the flat, I saw her up at Fair Lakes. She was coming out of Target and saw me riding down the road. She waved and said she was happy that I was able to fix it and wished me luck on the rest of my ride.
Wow, I thought, that sure didn't end like I thought it would based on the way it started!"
After returning from my bike ride, I mowed the yard. For some reason I decided to raise the blade and after I was done, I regretted it. While it looked nice and neat, it still looked like it needed to be cut again. Oh well, lesson learned. Next time I'll put it back to the previous length.
We had originally planned on hitting the Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center this afternoon with D's aunt and uncle, however, he wasn't feeling up to snuff, so D dropped the kids and I off and we went by ourselves. I've never been, so I was looking forward to going. Of course, I knew going in that I wouldn't be able to take everything in (e.g., read everything like I like to do when I visit museums), so my expectations were met when the kids wouldn't let me stop for more than 30 seconds at any one display.
I tried to make it fun for them and tried to explain the theory behind flying, as well as how an engine works. I don't think either one of them got it (especially N), but I couldn't just not share my enthusiasm for aviation with them!
D picked us up and we wound our way through Herndon before heading back home. The kids wanted to do a drive-by at Dulles, so I decided I wanted to do a detour through Herndon.
The Craigs were hosting a party tonight where the guest of honor was the candidate running for state delegate in our district. He seemed pretty young and when he presented his three main campaign issues (education, transportation and immigration), the ideas he espoused as solutions were quickly shot down by those in attendance. I spoke with him at length, trying to be supportive and offering ideas he should look at (smaller, lower cost solutions vs. trying to put all the funds toward fewer large scale solutions). He seemed pretty interested in hearing what I had to say, but in the end, I don't think it will matter. If what he said to us is truly what he thinks will win, he's not going to be very effective if he does win.
After work I hit the gym in order to get my second workout in for the week. I'm hoping to up that to three weight sessions each week, but not until school's been back in session and D and I can work out a driving schedule with the kids. (Or maybe I could just go after work once a week or so.)
Friday, August 24, 2007
Since we weren't able to get our regular rental this summer, we punted on going to the beach in favor of our trip to Illinois and Williamsburg. I was hoping to get a couple of days in, but as the summer wound down, it turned out even a couple wasn't going to be easy. We had originally planned on going Tuesday, but the weather wasn't cooperative, so we postponed it until today. (Even still, the weather was overcast and on the cool side, although that wasn't so bad as we weren't baking in the heat and having to worry about sunburn.)
We left the house about 845a, just in time to beat most of the backup inside the Beltway on 66. We cut through the city and hooked up with 395 by the Jefferson Memorial and then linked up with 295 before getting on 50 on the other side of the city. Although it took us about an hour to make it to this point, the only portion where traffic was bad was on 66 outside the Beltway. The rest of the trip was smooth sailing (save for a couple points where construction caused us to have to slow it down). Our estimated time of arrival (according to Claire) was 1205p, which we pretty much hit right on the button.
After parking, we carted our stuff down to the beach and set up camp. After a quick bite of lunch, we did beach stuff. You know, played in the surf, built sand castles, etc. Not being satisfied with the sand castle, I built a sand anchor that I had to protect from wandering toddlers on more than one occasion. I was able to successfully protect it from the tykes, but not from the rogue wave. Right after I finished the body, a wave came up and smoothed it out for me.
But then, after looking at it, found that it looked even better than the way I had carved it! The rough edges had been smoothed out by the water and it looked more like a sculpture than a sand anchor.
After collecting a bucket of shells, we headed back to the car, where we changed out of our wet suits and into street clothes before hitting the stores for a whirlwind shopping trip and dinner. Afterwards, we stopped by TCBY for a cool treat and headed back to the car.
We arrived home about 9p, just over 12 hours after we left this morning. All in all, it was a great day. The kids enjoyed it (for the most part, save for the time spent in the car), as did D and I. Some might say that a trip to the beach for the day is a bit much, but if you're lucky enough not to hit traffic (like we were), it's worth the escape, if only for the day.
After work I went home via Stonecroft vs. 50. It's been a while since I went that route and it felt good to be on the bike for 30 minutes vs. 20 for the trip home. I think I'll start mixing it up (if possible) and go different routes on different days in order to increase the amount of cardio I'm able to get in on a weekly basis. My doc said I needed to start exercising more as the last time I went in for bloodwork, I had gained three pounds since my previous visit three months earlier. Although I attributed that to not putting my wallet and keys on the desk (which I usually do), I have been slacking off in the exercise department over the course of the summer.
That being said, muscle does weigh more than fat, so maybe it's because I've been lifting more. Who knows? All I know is that I need to get more cardio in as my metabolism is definitely slowing down.
I turned 39.5 yesterday. I've been posting once a day for the past six months. Well not exactly once per day, but an average of once per day. Sometimes I'll write 2-3 days worth of posts in a single day. Other times I'll write the draft and some cursory information and then go back and flesh it out. No matter, I'm still doing what I set out to do: write about each day over the course of my 39th year in existence. Overall, I've enjoyed the routine. I didn't expect it to get out into the public, but there was that risk (otherwise why would I write about my life in a blog?). Who knows what the next six months will bring me?
In the end, I'm not really sure what I'll do with it. It's not like I'm going to bind it up in a book and have it available for purchase at Borders. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
With the weather the way it's been over the past few days (damp and dreary), I just wasn't feeling up to doing much at the office so I took off just before five. I got home just in time to take M to her first softball practice of the fall season. She's a little concerned about playing this season since other kids will be pitching to her. She settled down on the way there, though and with a little prodding, she finally joined the circle of girls already there. When I left she was comfortable and when N and I went back to pick her up she was excited about the season. It's amazing what a single practice session will do for her self-confidence. She knows a couple of girls on her team from last year, which helped her out.
The rest of the night was spent dragging through the evening until it was time to go to bed. I had been looking forward to sleep all day and after my head hit the pillow I was asleep in minutes.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
On a completely unrelated subject, I made lasagna for dinner tonight. We had D's relatives from Illinois up for dinner and I wanted to do something simple. Well, simple in that it's a one-dish meal. Anyway, here's the recipe (perfected over eight years of trial and error).
1# Spicy Italian sausage (bulk)*
1# Mild or Medium Italian sausage (bulk)*
*If bulk sausage isn’t available, remove the casing from the link and coarsely chop the sausage before cooking it. You may use whichever flavor suits your palate, but two pounds of sausage is recommended. Fake sausage doesn't impart the flavor that the real stuff does. Consider yourself forewarned!
32 oz. Spaghetti sauce (your choice)
28 oz. canned whole Italian tomatoes (coarsely chopped, liquid drained and reserved)
14 oz. Del Monte Italian Seasoned crushed tomatoes
2 tsp. Fennel
2 tsp. Crushed red pepper (more or less, depending on personal taste)
2 tsp. Rosemary
1 tsp. Thyme
1 tbsp. Oregano
1 tsp. Sage
1 tsp. McCormick Italian Seasoning (or equivalent)
1# Portobello mushrooms, coarsely chopped (I think these absorb the flavors best)
1 can tomato paste (optional)
2# Ricotta Cheese (low-fat doesn’t work as well as regular)
1# shredded Mozzarella Cheese (add more if you want it “cheesier” – I’ll typically use a pound)
½ bunch of parsley, finely chopped (remove the stems prior to chopping)
1# lasagna noodles (regular – NOT the “No-boil” kind)
Brown the sausage with 1 tsp. fennel and 1 tsp. crushed red pepper. Make sure the sausage is broken up into pea-sized or smaller pieces. While browning the sausage, add the rest of the ingredients (except for the tomato paste) to a large pot and bring to a simmer. Drain off the excess grease from the sausage and it to the tomato sauce.
Simmer over low heat for 45 minutes to an hour. If the sauce gets too thick while simmering, add some of the reserved tomato juice. If the sauce looks too watery after 45 minutes or so, add a bit of tomato paste to thicken it up and keep simmering. You want to reach a thin tomato soup consistency. You don’t want it too thick, however, since the extra liquid in the sauce is the key to “cooking” the noodles while sitting overnight.
While the meat and tomato sauce is simmering, make the cheese layer by combining all the ingredients and mixing well.
Once the sauce is done cooking, it’s time to build the lasagna. Arrange one layer of noodles to the bottom of a 13”x9” pan. Add a layer of meat sauce and then a layer of cheese sauce. Repeat the process until you run out of ingredients or reach the top of the pan. When you reach the top of the pan, any noodles that may be visible MUST be covered with the meat and cheese. If they’re not covered, they’ll dry out while cooking. You’ll probably have leftover noodles: Save them for the next time you make lasagna.
Cover the lasagna with foil and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.
You may also freeze the lasagna. If so, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and then cover it with foil. (Don’t forget to remove the plastic wrap prior to cooking or you’ll have unknown results.) Completely thaw it prior to cooking.To finish it, preheat the oven to 400˚, cook the lasagna for 45 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350˚ and cook for an additional 30 minutes or until the center is nice and hot (probably around 160˚ - 175˚). For easier serving, let it sit a few minutes before cutting it.
There you have it. Enjoy!
Monday, August 20, 2007
That afternoon we went down to Fredericksburg to visit with D's aunts and uncles who were visiting from Illinois. It was a nice visit and after spending some time at the house, we headed over to Stephen and Stacey's for the out-of-towners to see their house and visit with them. Since we were right there, we decided to leave from downtown Fred (vs. driving back out to Doug and Nancy's) and hit the road.
As usual, traffic wasn't looking too good on 95, so we went 17. I wanted to avoid the 29/66 interchange, so took the back roads, talking Elk Lick Road to 28. It was much better than last week (since last week Claire was set for "shortest distance" and this week she was set for "fastest time"), although we got stuck behind an old truck barely pushing 40 on 28. (The speed limit is 45.) Other than that, the ride was nice. I much prefer going the back way over 95 (even if it takes a little longer. I typically arrive relaxed and rested vs. stressed out and tired, plus the scenery is much better. The only downside of going the back route is getting stuck behind slow(er) moving vehicles, especially if I can't see around/through them. If there's something I can't stand, it's being stuck behind a minivan, truck or other large vehicle with darkened windows. I want to see what's ahead of me, not look at black glass.
After finishing Melon, I mowed the yard, cleaned up and went to Mass. It's been a while since I've been to Saturday evening Mass and was quite surprised with the number of older folk in attendance. It felt like I was intruding. Oh well, we're all there for the same reason, regardless of our age.
Tonight we had the first (and probably last) outdoor movie night in the pipestem. One of our neighbors has a projector and a screen that he sets up out in the yard. Some of the neighbors (and their kids) all gather around dusk, popcorn and beverages at the ready and watch a movie under the stars. This year he added a 104" screen and I must say it looked great. Last year we watched a Veggie Tales movie and this year it was Cars. The kids loved it, as did most of the adults. Although I've seen bits and pieces here and there, I hadn't seen it from start to finish and seeing it on the big(ger) screen made it that much better.
As it turned out, it was another late night for the kids. The movie wasn't over until 10ish and by the time they got to sleep, it was closer to eleven. Oh, well, there's still another week before school starts!
We settled in to watch the movie, but it was not to be. About an hour into it, M called and I ended up going to pick her (and N) up. I guess the three days in Fredericksburg and the late night at my mom's (plus the pool) finally caught up with them. Hopefully we can get them back on track over the course of the next week so they're ready when school starts.
Once I got back, we put the kids to bed. Since it was too late to finish watching the movie, D went to bed and I worked on Melon. I've received a few issues in the past day or so and need to correct them. I can't stand it when I get error reports from customers, especially from those that just purchased a license. It makes me feel dirty that I sold them a product that didn't work as it should. Anyway, I was able to get most of the kinks worked out and in doing so discovered a gaping error that no one has reported as of yet. Whoops!
Put the kids to bed and worked on Melon. Fixed some issues, but one still remains.
Friday, August 17, 2007
I headed home and helped D with last minute items (e.g., getting her iPod to play the playlist she had created). After hanging with the ladies for a while, I finally gave them their space and hit the basement where I practiced my guitar for a few hours. Every once in a while I was called up to help open a bottle of wine, but other than that, I stayed in the basement.
After practicing until my fingers couldn't take it anymore, I switched on the tube and surfed for a while. I landed on the Travel Channel and watched part of "Beachgoers Exposed."
Synopsis: Travel Channel scoured the nation looking for the extremes of beach behavior from coast to coast. Now a panel of beach experts, including athletes, comedians and stylists, will offer their unique insight into what we love and hate about the beach.
Of course, I was fortunate enough to turn it on right when they were talking about the wacky things people see at the beach, like the guy in Santa Monica who was shown roller blading down the boardwalk with various red, white and blue patriotic items adorning his body.
Oh yeah, he was wearing a red thong.
With a small American flag on a dowel rod clenched between his cheeks and flying behind him in the wind.
As one of the commentators said, it was wrong on ALL levels.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
The highlight of the day was provided by Karsten (as usual) when he snarfed his Coke out of the blue. There was some ribbing on each other flying earlier in the meal (which is also usual), but the atmosphere had died down somewhat when the highlight occurred. I guess he was still processing it when he took his drink at the wrong time. As usual, the folks surrounding Karsten immediately made some space for him as you never know what might happen when the K-Rex starts thrashing. Frank, in his attempt to move out of the danger zone, somehow bit the middle of his tongue pretty bad. We're not sure how that happened as it was a good way back, but it was pretty bad (bad enough to warrant thinking about making a trip to the doc's for a stitch or two).
When it came time for the draw, we were our usual rambunctious selves, which caused (again, as usual) the surrounding tables to get into the excitement. I was drawn fourth, so I enjoyed the rest of the draw, which ended when Bryan's card was the last one remaining in the waitresses hand. The hat was exchanged and Bryan proudly wore it out of the restaurant.
The hat is a sombrero from Chevy's Mexican Restaurant. The loser from the previous outing has to wear it throughout the next meal and proudly display it in their office between meals. It usually elicits stares from fellow patrons, but that's alright, it's all part of the fun that is CCR.
Of course, it's not as much fun when you lose, but when you win, it's all good, baby!
Over the course of lunch, I looked up and saw a friend of ours that I hadn't seen in a while being shown to her table by the hostess. D and I used to hang with her and her husband, but when they separated, the friendship dwindled.
I tried to reconnect with the husband, meeting him for lunch and happy hour over the past few years, but we stopped meeting up. I'm guessing that one of the reasons for not continuing our lunches and happy hours is probably because I had no interest in joining him in his "men's club" where membership is attained by attending a Sterling Institute of Relationship's Weekend for Men. He and another friend of mine had gone and both claimed it turned them around. Yeah, I saw some changes in each of them, but I didn't like what I saw. More than that, I didn't like what I read online either once I found out the name of the organization. Search Sterling Institute cult and read some of what comes up -- sure, it might not all be true, but there's enough there to raise your suspicions.
Anyway, when I saw her, I got the distinct impression she had seen me and had no intention of making eye contact. I've seen her a couple of times over the past year at rehab (she broke her arm and was rehabbing at the same place I was for my knee), and tried to catch up, but she seemed distant and not interested in talking. I'm chalking it up to embarrassment over the reason for the separation (and maybe her not knowing what her husband shared of it).
I guess at some point some old friendships are meant to fade away and, eventually, disappear. I guess you could say that we're Christmas card friends, but even then, if you don't interact with folks on a personal basis over the years, when do you end up removing them from your list and letting them drop by the wayside? Is there a point in maintaining contact via a card once a year if there's no attempt to get together personally over the course of the year? Or at some point do you just resign yourself to continue the process, hoping that, at some point in the future you'll rekindle the relationship?
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
After Mass, we also stopped by Blockbuster to rent a movie. We ended up getting Breach (the story about the final months of the Robert Hanssen investigation).
I must say that even though the events happened in our backyard, I didn't really follow the story that closely, so I was quite surprised at the movie. Overall I thought Chris Cooper did an excellent job at portraying Robert Hanssen. I wouldn't be surprised if he were nominated for an Oscar. He really made you want to hate his character, right after he got you to feel for him.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
We were supposed to have a going away party for the guy at the customer site who's been giving us grief for the past year: his last day was Friday; he wasn't invited. However it turned into a going away party for one of my colleagues who submitted his two week notice. He works on our team and is a pretty well-liked guy to have around. He'll definitely be missed. (Of course, while the rest of us will pick up his work, we will not be picking up his paycheck. It's funny how that works, isn't it?!?)
Since the kids are still in Fredericksburg, D and I had an honest to goodness date night. We used a gift certificate to the Macaroni Grill (that we got from bowling -- or should I say I got for being the guy with the most improved average over the course of the season) and then afterwards went and saw The Bourne Ultimatum.
We both thought the movie was alright. I don't think it's the best movie of the year (although I wouldn't know as it's the only movie I've seen this year). Both of us were annoyed by the shaking camera used throughout the film. If that technique hadn't been used, it might have been more enjoyable. One of the things I did like was how it tied back to the first two. Not that it's necessary to see the first two before seeing this one, but it helped in allowing you to overlook the lack of character development.
Overall I'd say you should see it, but save your movie night out in the theatre for something else. See this one from the comfort of your couch.
Monday, August 13, 2007
On the way down, we stopped by Stephen and Stacey's to meet Evan. D and the kids had seen him when he was just a newborn, but I hadn't seen him yet. I can't imagine how little he must've been six weeks ago, because he's still a little thing. I guess that's what being four weeks early will do for you. We spent some time visiting with them before heading over to D's folks to drop the kids off.
Traffic on 95 was terrible, so we enlisted the services of Claire (remember Claire?) to avoid the traffic. However, in doing so, I forgot to change the setting from "least distance" to "fastest time" and we paid for it. I don't think we got home any faster, but we sure did discover some back roads of Stafford and Prince Williams counties on the way back home. (According to Google Maps, it should have taken us about 2 hours to go this route; in the end, it took about 90 minutes or so.) After looking at the map, there were a few places where I should have turned to hook up with 28, but kept on going with Claire.
At least D humored me and let me listen to part of the Big Broadcast on 88.5 WAMU. We were out of range for most of the previous show, but at 730p, we were close enough to not have too much static and were able to listen to Dragnet in its entirety.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
We left the house about 930a and made a couple of pit stops, the first at the coffee store and the second at the dump to drop off some chemicals. After the dump, we made our way to Burke Lake Park, where we unloaded our bikes from the van, strapped on the fishing gear to my bike rack and made our way around the lake. We weren't very successful in the fishing department (I had one bite, but when I was reeling it in, the bass jumped and spit out the lure), nor were they kids successful in the lack-of-complaints-about-being-hot-and-tired department, but we were successful in the having-fun-and-spending-quality-time-together department.
We ended up riding around the lake even though the kids didn't want to, but since we were more than halfway when we decided to call it a day, going all the way around was shorter than going back the way we came. Next time we'll have to not go as far (or they'll just have to deal).
After loading up our gear in the van, we headed down and took a ride on the train (as pictured above). This was the first time N rode the train without feeling anxious. We've tried doing it in previous years, but he was afraid of the tunnel. This time, however, there was no fear whatsoever, which is a good thing as during Halloween, they have "Boo Train" rides where there are kids in costumes along the route, some silly, some scary, tossing candy to the kids. It's a fun time, but not when the kids don't want to ride.
On the way home we stopped by Merrifield Garden Center (or, as N calls it, MerriGardenFields) for some plants. I wanted to plant some mint to use in mojitos and we ended up not only getting that, but also some basil, aloe and some rock garden plant that N picked out, in addition to a couple of planters. The one M is holding below will be taken to my office.
Once I saw it I knew I had to get it. Now I just need to get a plant to put in it. Why didn't I think of that while we were there? (I had originally envisioned putting the plant that I have in my office in it, but am not sure whether it will look good in it. We'll see.)
We checked out and headed home, where D and I planted/repotted the plants. D had enjoyed her day at home and was given some bonus time when I took the kids to the pool. It was hot and the pool wasn't very crowded, although the kids did enjoy the company of the Craig girls.
After the pool, we came home and enjoyed a rousing game of memory with the memory game I got at the Grand Canyon last year. M started out pretty quick and N surprised us with his mad memory skills, but in the end I wound up pulling it off on the backstretch and was first across the line when it came time to tally our matches.
Overall it was a great day. Nothing like spending some good, quality time with the kids on a Saturday. As for how I handled it without getting too worked up, it's simple: I expected them to do exactly what they did (not want to focus on fishing that much, complain about the bike ride, hit me up for a ride, etc.), so everything turned out as planned. Yes, I understand that's not the best tactic, but if you set the expectation that the day will be fun-filled and the kids won't complain about something, you're setting yourself up for failing to meet your expectations.
Oh yeah, it's also helpful not to get worked up when they're just kids being kids.
D came down with a fever last night and I wasn't sure whether she'd be better this morning, but she was, so I went into work. When she came down, she remarked how quiet the house was and why no one was bothering her. Then she realized it was because I was home and that the kids had scurried off to the basement so as not to bother their sick mother (or catch whatever germs she had to offer). As it turns out, she felt fine, so I went to work where I worked...
...on renaming my MP3 files in-between builds. I started doing this a few weeks ago when I realized there were doubles in my collection. Somehow I had copied a couple dozen folders from one place to another and therefore had dupes in the system. On my computer that's alright, but when playing them on the iPod, duplicate songs are annoying. I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel, however, and now the next step will be to make sure all the tags are correct. That should take a couple weeks at least.
I mowed the lawn tonight for the first time in two weeks. We haven't had that much rain this summer, so it hasn't needed mowing all that often. That and we were gone last weekend and when we got back I was just too lazy to mow it. I didn't trim, however, as I only do that every other time.
We're not sure whether we're going to punt on this one or not. The mix of cat urine and vinegar probably wouldn't make it the most appealing place for guests to sleep.
See, that's the thing about having more than one cat. When one of them uses something other than the litter box for their business, you really can't tell which one it is. Although I'm pretty sure it was Butterfly, I'm not positive. (She has a history of using beds as her personal urinal.)
Like I said, nothing exciting.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
The real excitement started after returning from gassing up the van. We watched...
...The Princess Bride.
We finished the book last week and I ordered it from Amazon on Monday. I was hoping to save it for the weekend, but the kids talked me into watching it tonight. It's been years since I last watched it and probably enjoyed it even more with the family on the couch. For the most part, the four of us laughed our way through the movie. Some parts, however, were a bit over the top with regard to intensity for the kids. During these portions of the movie, I felt a little uncomfortable having the kids (especially N) watch it. Since they were familiar with the story from reading the book, however, I looked past it. The one part that wasn't in the book (when Inigo Montoya calls Count Rugen an S.O.B.) took me by surprise though; I wasn't expecting it at all. I've since found out there's a section on IMDB entries that contain information pertaining to the different sections of the ratings. This contained a reference to this dialog and, had I read it, I would've been aware of it and avoided it either by fast forwarding the movie or muting it during that scene.
Live and learn I guess. Hopefully neither M nor M will take up using that phrase, but if they do, they will be quickly taught right from wrong. So far, neither one of them have used profanity in our presence, but that doesn't mean they haven't been exposed elsewhere. Well, N I'm pretty sure hasn't, otherwise he probably would have. He's not old enough to know what to filter. I recall learning the verboten words back in 1st grade, but I also knew well-enough not to use them in front of my parents. (I also probably didn't know what they meant until years later, but I knew that they weren't acceptable.)
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
"I wanted to see what it was like."
Well, I guess there's no argument with that logic, especially when coming from a five year old.
I went to the basement bathroom to brush my teeth before heading to work this morning and noticed the toilet seat in the up position. We keep our seat (and lid) down for two reasons:
1) I really don't want to look into the toilet when I walk into the bathroom, especially if the previous flush didn't work all the way; and
2) Cats get their paws wet when they drink out of toilets that they then track it around the house. It's bad enough that they walk on the table and counters with the paws that were just recently in their litter boxes, but having them also wet from the toilet? No thanks.
So, with the above two reasons in mind, we prefer to keep them shut. I've been trying to get N in the habit of putting the seat back down and, after not making much progress, decided to go the route I took with M regarding her leaving the lights on: For every time I find the seat up, I'm going to charge N 25¢ (I charge M the same when she leaves her lights on).
So, much to my chagrin, when I went down to brush my teeth, I was disappointed to see the seat up. But what really got me was seeing what was in the trashcan: an inch of pee (the trashcan is plastic and [fortunately] holds liquids). I wasn't sure what it was at first, but after pouring it into the toilet, it became obvious.
I came home to drop my guitar off after my lesson and saw N on the driveway. I told him we had to go inside and talk and marched him down to the basement. I asked him if he knew why he was down there and he broke down at the thought of losing a quarter.
"That's not it. Is there any other reason why I'd bring you down here?"
"Is there something you did in the bathroom you weren't supposed to?"
And that's when the waterworks started. Knowing he'd been nailed, he broke down and cried through his confession. At this point D came down. I hadn't told her what was going on so she was somewhat surprised at what was going on, but she was able to stifle her laughter when necessary.
Overall, it was quite humorous. Hopefully the point was made though, and we'll not find N using anything but the toilet for his bodily needs.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
I've mentioned before that Monday is $5 burger day at the South Riding Inn. I wasn't planning on heading out, but I did anyway. During lunch we got into a brief discussion on "working from home" and whether you get more done or not. One of the contractors mentioned that the last time he said he worked from home and ended up playing hooky was on January 6th. I asked him if he played hooky to go to Mass in celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany (he's Italian from New Jersey which led me to believe he was Catholic) and he replied that religion meant nothing to him. Since I knew he celebrated Christmas, I asked him whether he did.
"Of course!" he replied, rather curtly.
"Why do you celebrate Christmas if religion means nothing for you?" I asked.
"We do it for the kids," he responded, again in a curt manner.
"Oh, I see," was all I said, but if you celebrate something that holds no meaning for you, shouldn't you question why? I thought to myself, not wanting to continue this thread.
I try and avoid interacting with this guy in general as he's very much of an in-your-face kind of guy who's the expert on all subjects and whose kids are the best on their respective teams and tops in the class. Anything they do must be shared with the rest of the team, but should you try and get a word in about your own, it's passed over while he talks about what he (or they) did in relation to that. Whatever. The only reason I went to lunch was that I didn't know he was going; had I known, I would've passed. Next time I'll be rude and inquire as to who's going. Or maybe I'll call him on his hypocrisy. Or, better yet, maybe I'll just keep my mouth shut. What others do with their lives is none of my business (until it effects me in a personal manner, that is).
On my way home I finally ran into trouble in the form of a flat tire. I've been jumping the curb at this one spot ever since I started going home on 50 and have never had a problem. Today was the end of that. As I rode over the curb and into the grass, I felt the back tire give way. By the time I was in the service road, there was no question about it, my tire was flat. Fortunately I carry a tire patching kit, so I set about to repair it. One hole led to another and it appeared I got them all as the tire held air. I reset the tube and started riding again, but it soon appeared there was another leak that I wasn't able to detect. Instead of troubleshooting it on the road, I gave up and called D for a ride home. Later on, the kids and I went out and got a couple new tubes and a pair of tire liner strips from REI (as well as a new helmet). Hopefully that will prevent any further flats on my commute. One is more than enough.
After we got our fishing fix out of us, we packed up the cars and started the drive back home. We weren't sure what the traffic would be like, but fortunately it wasn't bad at all. The only backup we had was going over the bridge. It wasn't backed up per se, it was just heavier and, of course, traffic slowed down as it went over the bridge.
On the way home we stopped for lunch and, lo and behold, ran into our old neighbors Tom and Teri. They had gone to Ocean City for the week to celebrate Ryan's 16th birthday. It was quite unexpected (as you could guess). We seem to see them all over the place: we ran into them at a store in the area awhile back, as well as running into Ryan at the bowling alley. We chatted briefly before getting back on the road.
What was funny was that when we first stopped for lunch, I went to use the restroom. As I was standing there, some kids walked in and one of them mentioned seeing his old neighbor outside. I thought hmmmmm, I guess it's not just us that run into people in out of the way places and continued with my business. On my way out of the bathroom, I walked right past Tom and Teri and realized that must've been Ryan in the bathroom making that comment. It is strange, though, how often we run into them considering the size of the area. We still stay in touch with them, but typically it's only to watch their guinea pigs when they go out of town. I wonder where we'll meet again.
It reinforces the interconnectedness we all have and reinforces the whole six degrees of separation theory. (Although, more accurately, this has nothing to do with that, it's just a coincidence that we were in the same point in the time-space continuum.) It's amazing that with so many people in this world, we run into people we know (or people who know people we know) everywhere we go. A couple other recent sightings occurred this week: One was at Great Wolf Lodge where I ran into a guy I went to high school with and the other was at RFK at the Nats game where I ran into another friend from high school.
...had dinner at Waterman's Crabhouse. It's up in Rock Hall (about a 20 minute drive north) and sits on the Rock Hall harbor overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. We (D, Betsy and I) split a couple dozen crabs, along with a few pitchers of Sam Adams and a slice of peanut butter pie for dessert. It was good. (Betsy had a salad to start her meal; D and I were there to eat crabs and forewent anything that would prevent us from enjoying them.)
After dinner, we sat at the table and chatted for a while before we moved over to the bar. It was there, while D and Betsy were dancing, that I spotted a couple of cougars out on the prowl (one 45-ish, the other 50-ish). They sat down next to me and we started chatting it up about the brush-off a guy down the bar gave them regarding his hat. Sheri had bleached blond hair that looked just a shade whiter than platinum (for this reason, I termed her the snow cougar). Germaine (the one sitting next to me) had tight skin, the kind you find after two too many facelifts. After a while, D and Betsey came back from dancing and we all started talking. Sheri was very forward and showed interest in both D and Betsy (especially D's engagement ring). At some point, another woman with platinum blond hair walked by. Sheri said something to her about hoping she could pull off looking that good at her age (the woman was probably in her mid-50s). The lady looked back and shot daggers at Sheri, making some remark about starting with a new wardrobe or something. Me-ow! I thought it was going to turn into a catfight, but, alas, it did not.
With that and other details I won't share here adding to the weird vibe in the air, we decided to leave for a pub back in Chestertown. While there wasn't a band (like there was at Waterman's), they did have Guinness on tap, so I was up for a change in venue.
Later on at O'Hannon's the bartender mentioned she had only been in town for eight months (the same as Sheri and Germaine), so Betsy asked if she knew them.
"Yeah, I know them. They're in every now and again." she told us. "But Rick here," she added, pointing to a man sitting to my left, "knows them better than most of us. Don't you, Rick?" The way she said it indicated his knowledge was more intimate than just sharing a beer at a bar.
"You could say that," was all he said, looking sheepishly into his beer.
I got the distinct impression he wasn't up for talking about it. I'm pretty sure if I was in his shoes, I wouldn't want to talk about it either.
We headed back to the house and sat on the porch talking and I strummed the guitar, trying to get in as much practice as possible before next week's lesson. (I didn't want to lose another weekend by not practicing like I did last weekend when we were in Williamsburg, so I had brought my guitar to Chestertown.)
Before heading towards the Eastern Shore, I had to stop by the uniform store for some additional clothes for the kids before school starts later this month. (Better yet, since today was a tax-free shopping day, we saved money to boot!) It's been a while since I've been over to Fair City Mall, but one thing hasn't changed: the parking. It's terrible. Fortunately, I was able to find a spot pretty quickly (close in to boot!) and in I went. It's a good thing I had a list of what I needed to get, because I was lost. (It was also a good thing there were plenty of sales staff to help lost souls like myself!) I finally got my order filled and was finally on my way...but first, I had to stop for lunch.
Since Fair City Mall is on 236, I decided to take that to 395 and stop at the Arby's that's right there at 236 and 395. As I drove through Annandale, I was quite surprised as to how much has changed over the years. Most (if not all) of the signs were predominantly in Korean (with English subtitles). I had heard that Annandale had become a big Korean community, but didn't realize the extent. I guess this will be what Centreville looks like in a few years (Centreville is the new Annandale for the Koreans coming into the area -- it's more affordable.)
So after my stroll down memory lane, I finally got to Arby's where they proudly server America's Roast Beef, Yes Sir! Of course, once I got there and saw the Classic Italian sub, I changed my mind and got that (along with the required curley fries, natch). I was not disappointed. It was the bomb.
I continued my drive through Northern Virginia by taking Beauregard down to Seminary (as the light to get back to 236 was waaaaaay long. It's been ages since I was down that street as well and sort of forgot where it went. I almost missed the turn to Seminary, but was able to get over in time (vs. having to continue on to 7 to get to 395). I left Arby's at 203p and was out of DC by 230p. Traffic was slow at its normal points, but I took a few liberties here and there and was able to skirt most of it. (I finally found out where the road went to with the "Authorized Vehicles Only" sign on it by RFK.)
Once I was on 50, traffic moved quickly. There was a brief backup that slowed us down near the Severn River, but, other than that, it was light. When I got to the toll booth I decided to pay for the car behind me as well after seeing it was an elderly couple. I can't help but wonder how it made them feel, but I know that little act, which only cost me $2.50, made me feel good. It put me in a good mood as I continued my drive up and over the bridge.
I finally arrived at 4p and immediately went into vacation mode. The compound is nice and I can see why Betsy spends so much time there. It sits right on the Chester River and has not only river access (for swimming, fishing or boating), but also a pool and a hot tub. If I had that at my disposal, I'd spend a lot of time there as well.
About 6p I headed out for a ride. I wanted to get in an hour ride and hit it on the head. One hour later, I arrived home with fourteen miles behind me. One item that I'd like to point out was that I went down Walney Road to the trail. If you're not familiar with that road, it might not mean anything, but it's a winding road with zero shoulders (and a wall of earth on each side of the road, topped with towering trees). It's not really the most bike-friendly roads in the area. However, ever since VDOT blocked off the intersection at 28 and Walney, it's become an empty road amongst the traffic filled roads that surround it.
Since I hadn't eaten yet (and D is still out of town), I headed up to Baja Fresh for some fish tacos. I hadn't had any in a while and needed to get my fix. I guess I'm not the only one who loves their fish tacos as later on at Sweetwater, Neil (our friendly neighborhood bartender) said that's what he only ate there as well. Larry's never tried them, but with the two of us touting them, he said he'll have to give them a shot. One of the ideas floating around in my head is to launch a website committed to reviewing fish tacos. Of course, ilovefishtacos.com is parked somewhere. Maybe I'll have to come up with something else. Any suggestions?
Thursday, August 2, 2007
"Hey Ross, think you'll get a hit?"
"Hey Ross, what's it like hitting .208?"
"Hey Ross, ..."
With that, Ross, turned around and gave us the bird.
Yes, you read that right. He flipped the bird in our general direction.
He didn't pull a Michael Vick for all the world to see, though. No, he was subtle. He scratched his eye with his middle finger, but we were all too aware of what his real intentions were. We (along with a bunch of other folks in our section) decided at that point to lay it on thick. No way was he going to get away with what he just did.
After he hit into an infield ground out, we stood and clapped at his performance. On his way back to the dugout, he grabbed his crotch in a gesture that on television would've been mistaken for a cup adjustment, but at the game, with him looking right at us, there was no mistaking the ill-wishes he was tossing in our general direction.
The section was abuzz with what we all just witnessed. None of us had ever witnessed something like this and we were both taken aback, yet also intrigued as to how far we could take this. As it turned out, we couldn't take it much farther. He appeared briefly in the top of the 9th in the on-deck circle before being replaced with a pinch hitter. Apparently the skipper thought his .208 average wasn't enough to help them dig out of the deficit they were in.
No matter, the Reds couldn't pull it out and, in the end, the Nats won 7-2
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Here's hoping you're enjoying your day. What am I talking about?!? Of COURSE you're enjoying your day...you're on vacation and it's your birthday!
Today is also the day we decided to thank our intern for all his hard work and we took him out to lunch at the Malibu Grill. If you've never been there, it's a Brazilian place where guys walk around with meat on sticks. They'll keep giving you their meat (get your mind out of the gutter) until you tell them to stop. I had way too much (as is the norm in an all you can eat setting), but sort of planned it that way (w/ D out of town, I wasn't planning on dinner, so I took that into consideration).
Of course, I also rode my bike to work and hit the gym, so I took that into consideration, too. I needed the extra protein to replenish my muscles.
After forcing my way through the day without lapsing into a food coma, I rode home and tackled the chores I had ahead of me. As scheduled, I sealed the driveway, ruining a 13 year old t-shirt along the way. (Actually, it was on the road to being ruined after I splattered deck sealer on it when I sealed the deck. It was for this reason that I chose it to use when sealing the driveway.)
After finishing the driveway, I showered (surprisingly enough, the sealer came off easily with soap and water) and, taking advantage of the kidless house, watched a few episodes of The Sopranos on Tivo in the family room. Midway through the second episode, however, I realized the Giants were playing the Dodgers and switched over to the game to see if Bonds would tie the HR record. I finally called it quits at midnight and Tivo'd the rest of the game. I figured that if he did hit another HR, I'll watch the rest of the game. If he doesn't, well, I just saved some time!