Saturday, December 29, 2007

NJ Gas Pumping Safey

The transition to the new job was bittersweet - I'm going to miss the folks I worked with even as I look forward to the new challenges.  To celebrate the past/future job situation, Rebecca surprised me on my last day with a trip to New York to see Cyrano de Bergerac.  I'll try to write about that trip later, but the New Jersey gas pumping situation was so ironic that I felt compelled to write about it first.  

Now, we've driven to New York across the turnpike a few times and I've always found it strange that I couldn't pump my own gas.  So, this trip was no exception, we needed to fuel up on one of those service exits on the turnpike.  While I was waiting in line - and Becca retrieved the Starbucks - I notice this fine fellow helping out.  

Now, I'd seen him before walking around the line of cars, directing traffic etc.  By his actions and the clipboard in his hand I assume he must be some sort of supervisor - presumably responsible for the smooth operation and safety of the gas pumps.   Wait a minute, he's actually going to pump the gas too?  

What a good supervisor - helping out when things get really busy.

Now, I should pause a minute to give my understanding of the insanity that disallows people from pumping their own petrol.  I have assumed all along that it is for our own safety.  To protect us from ourselves.  I supposed perhaps it could be just to employ more people so I figured I'd look it up.  It turns out Yahoo Ask, agrees with me:
The ban on self-service gas stations is a highly combustible issue and makes for some heated debates. New Jersey passed the law making it illegal to pump your own gas in 1949. At the time, legislators felt it was too dangerous to have untrained people dispensing such a flammable liquid.
Having said all this, let's take a closer look at the photo:

Ok, not the best photograph, but you can probably tell  - it's a cigar.  To be fair to the gentleman, I never actually saw him smoke it.  Now each trip I live by the rules and let the clowns pump gas for me; making me feel about the same as I would in asking another man for directions.  I understand that I may not be the safest person at the gas pump - heck, I don't touch metal prior to grabbing the pump to remove the static electricity - but I can do much better than this apparent supervisor.  I'd really love to make a bold statement banning New Jersey from my future travel plans on principle but, unfortunately, it's the only reasonable way to get from D.C. to N.Y. 

Monday, December 24, 2007

Taste tester extraordinaire

So I frequently get asked about "kid stories" and never come up with anything.  It's not that they aren't doing funny/cute/adorable stuff all the time; it's that I'm not sharp enough to remember any of it.  Occasionally, I'll even think about writing it down but then think - hey, there's no way I'm going to forget that.   So, some small tid-bits of the day:
  • I was baking a carrot cake for dessert tomorrow and Grace was my little helper.  She stirred the dry ingredients for me as I creamed and mixed the wet.  Every ingredient we'd add (cinnamon, flour, freshly ground nutmeg, etc.) she'd stop me and say, "taste."  I now know to just offer a taste of all ingredients prior to adding them.  When it came time to do the cream cheese frosting I was tweaking it a little because I wanted the cream cheese to be more apparent than the sweet.  So each time I'd stop the mixer while I was making it she'd yell "Taste test" (I'm fairly confident where she got that from).  Then after a while, as if sensing it was about to end - she would say "one more taste test". 
  • After working hard at the carrot cake, Grace and I sat down on the sofa - each with a little bag of Dorittos (her with Cool Ranch and me with Nacho).  I was tired and not paying much attention apparently.  She was eating out of my bag - "tasting" them I suppose.  It's been a while since I've had a Cool Ranch dorrito so after mine were gone I reach over and grabbed one of hers.  It tasted funny, bland really.  I tried another.  Same thing.  Then I sat back and watched her "eat" her doritto.  Her process involved sticking the doritto in her mouth, sucking off all the flavor and sticking it back in the bag.  I love Grace, but I doubt we'll be sharing a bag of chips any time soon.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


One of the annoying bits of leaving a job is leaving behind a laptop that has accumulated mass amounts of data. I've spent a good amount of time this weekend sifting through what's mine/what's not and transferring to the new machine.

The good news is that the new machine is a beautiful new 24" iMac. I've wanted one for years but could never really justify the purchase for myself and Becca didn't want one as her computer. I purchased it through Amazon which allowed me to skip out on some hefty sales tax and overnight it for $3.99 (I love Amazon Prime).

The only semi-challenging part so far is getting a proper development environment set up. I've long used TortoiseSVN for version control with Forrest and I'm going to miss it for sure. I immediately began the hunt for a mac replacement for it. It didn't take long to turn up SCPlugin which hooks right into Finder. I had only one last hurdle to clear in using it. I attempted to check out the Apache Forrest trunk and immediately got a PROPFIND error:
PROPFIND of '/repos/asf/forrest/trunk': Server certificate verification failed: issuer is not trusted (

After poking around a while, it seems you need to use the command line svn client (included in Leopard) to make an initial connection to the Subversion server to let it know that you trust the certificate (e.g. "svn ls https://somelocation/path" then, when prompted, type "p" to permanently accept it). Why SCPlugin couldn't simply do that for me? I haven't a clue but whatever. It's a small nit.

Ok, as I write this I realize there were some other challenges as well:
  • Quicken.  I was a Quicken user on Windows and it's not exactly easy to convert the data to Quicken for Mac.  It's odd that Quicken's internal data format is different for different operating systems.  It's even more odd that they seem unable to create a loss-less conversion from one format to the other.  Fortunately, they have at least documented the quirkiness.    
  • Picasa.  This, I will miss.  I've been a huge fan of all things Google but Picasa has to be one of my favorite.  Folks seem to think iPhoto will fill the void but so far I have found it unsatisfying.  No more simple enhancements.  No more geo-tagging.  Oh well.  
Fortunately, the intuitiveness, responsiveness, etc. of the Mac easily make me forget these trouble spots.  

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Heading toward unemployment

It's true, beginning December 22d, I'll be officially unemployed. Assuming all goes according to plan, I'll remain in this state for four whole days. I've resigned from my current employer effective 21 December and will start the new one 26 December. I've had a good time over the past 6 years, worked with some great people and learned a lot. Now the time has come to move on and have a new experience. I'm heading to a small (~12 folks) company and suspect I'm going to like it.

Housing update

Well... it's been a while and most know the status of things but just in case...

We were excited about the house and agreed upon price. Then we let our trusty home inspector loose on the place and, well, he inspected really well. While he spoke really well of the double masonry construction of the place, he found the dreaded termites. I think we would likely have been able to overcome the termites with some treatment but it turns out there were also issues with the drainage, basement dampness, and roof fungus.

Given the issues and the seller's unwillingness to adequately compensate us for them, we decide the best thing to do was sign a release based on our inspection contingency.

We also briefly toyed with the idea of just moving into something safe in South Riding but quickly abandoned that idea and will eventually continue pursuing something in Arlington or Alexandria.

For now, we're going to decorate the rental townhouse properly and relax and enjoy the holiday season. We'll begin the search again next year with a keen eye on the poor state of this economy - assuming we're not in an all-out recession by then, in which case, we'll hold off indefinitely:)

Monday, November 12, 2007


It's been rare lately to see Rebecca as unwavering, resolute, and determined as she has of late. She's nothing short of marvelous when in that "mode." A real site to behold. I simply sit back and watch her work - like a skilled craftsman whittling fine details in some hand-crafted furniture - confident in every movement and knowing precisely what the next will be.

Least that's the way it seems from the peanut gallery - I was eaves-dropping while taking care of the kids.

It started Sunday when we decided to go take a look at a couple open houses. First on the list was a small Cape Cod in N. Arlington. This house, it turns out, was great but it was located alongside a fairly large street - making peace and quiet virtually impossible outside the walls of the house. On the way to the next stop we saw some FSBO properties where a guy named Wayne, it turns out, apparently owns or has owned the majority of houses in northern South Arlington. We've never really considered south Arlington because of the schools but these are really nice locations - unfortunately we found out after going inside that they were only two bedrooms.

After that short detour, we were at our next stop - a bit of a whim - in the City of Alexandria. We haven't really been looking in Alexandria either - again because of the schools - but decided to take a look at this one for various reasons. The house was well done on the inside and the kitchen totally renovated. It's a 1939 colonial just behind the Masonic Temple and it's gorgeous. Street's nice, house is nice, back yard is nice, basement is nice. From the house, we strolled across the deck and into the backyard where we were able to find some privacy to discuss what we'd seen so far. I told her I really liked it. Becca looked at me with a look unique to her and said, "I want this house." I looked back and smiling (half-chuckle) said "yeah, me too." She then looked back with an even more serious Becca look and said, "no, I mean I *really* want this house. I'll do what it takes, this is our house."

That kicked her into a mode I haven't witnessed in a while. Total focus. Total determination. She came home and spent the better part of the night wheeling and dealing. Going over the contract. Writing a depressingly large check. Waking up loan officers to generate a pre-approval letter to make the offer stronger. Will we end up with this house? I don't yet know, seems like the seller is a bit stubborn so far, but he may have just met his match in the captain of our team;)

** Just to be clear in case this entry leads to a different perception - we are very equal in our desire for the house.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Grace's costume...

In response to Gwen's comments/questions, I figured I'd post them here. Grace had a tail and some ears to be some sort of last-minute rodent - but she had no interest in wearing them. Her napping was just off on Halloween (making her grumpy) and truth-be-told, she doesn't yet get Halloween, pumpkins, or costumes. Anyway, she stayed home with me passing out candy to various kids that came begging in funky garb. For her efforts, she learned a valuable lesson: "She who passes out the candy eats the most."

Maybe next year Gracie;)

Monday, October 29, 2007

I should have known...

... that, when given a choice, John would choose the most difficult pumpkin to carve. Truthfully, I actually enjoyed the challenge and was glad about his selection. Knowing his love for pirates of late, I offered three pumpkin options - two pirates and one "smiling Jack". He quickly decided on the more difficult of the two pirates and I began carving. Fortunately, I helped steer us towards a whopper of a pumpkin earlier in the evening that served as the canvas for this adventure - a 35 pounder to be exact;)

Anyway, bad pictures, but here's a look at our final result. First with flash to appreciate the overgrown squash.

Now, without flash, to appreciate its spooky goodness.

and again... just for fun...

John will be a great (albeit incredibly expensive) pirate for Halloween this year - I'll try to get some pictures of our human and squash varieties together.

Time confusion...

In case your clocks were as confused as ours, here's what happened.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Well... I did it

After months of John and I drooling over the big flat panel TV's when we walk into Costco, I finally took the High Definition (HD) plunge. After surprisingly little research (because of being overwhelmed by confusion), I decided to just look for something that accepted HDMI and supported all popular formats (1080p/i, 720p/i). I was originally looking at a Philips but after reading this article I decided to go with a Vizio. This 47"er was exactly what I was hoping for.

I got the beast home and was immediately dissappointed. It's huge. It's beautiful. No doubt. But it turns out that my Cox Digital Cable box actually converts an incoming analog signal into digital only so that it can infuse the guide/info/feature s and send an analog signal out to the TV. The TV, in this case, is too good in that it highlights all the defects of the inferior picture and looks like surprisingly poor quality. Fortunately, a dood at work led me on to over-the-air HD. I promptly went to Radio Shack and purchased a cheap antenna fully expecting it to pick up nothing in my basement rec room. I, and Becca, was pleasantly suprised to see all the major stations displayed in High Definition - a beautiful thing. Over-the-air HD is looking so good, I find myself watching junk I don't even like;)

Now, I find myself in a bind. The over the air HD is sweet, but I'm paying for a bunch of channels that look like junk on my TV. I've got to figure out whether to make a convincing argument to pay Cox yet another $5 a month to get the true digital/HD signal or make a convincing argument to drop it all together. Already, we've had some weather come in that has shown the weakness of the air broadcast, but its cheapness is appealing. When we do move to our final destination, we won't be fortunate enough to have a rec room at all (and we'll be <5miles from the broadcasts) so I don't expect the air broadcast to have the same weaknesses. Still, for now, I'm leaning toward paying Cox for the upgrade.

All and all, the move to HD is incredible. Most people I've talked to say that once you routinely watch shows in HD you'll never go back. So far, I'm inclined to agree.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Which direction?

Clock-wise or Counter? We've just had a heated debate at work with no real conclusion. Let me know how you see it...

Which way?

Friday, October 12, 2007

More Sweet Music...

As Gwen eluded to in her comments, John received another harmonica yesterday in the mail. We told him that we could look at exchanging it for something else if he wanted. He was having none of it though - "take it out". We took it out of the package and he bounced around the room blowing and sucking into his new harmonica as if it were his first one. We played harmonica's most of the evening yesterday. I was flipping through a book and trying to read how to play Jingle Bells and John just looked at me, shook his head, and began to play - sounded much closer to Jingle Bells than my version that had benefited from the reading. He has enjoyed both of his new instruments and seems to give them equal playing time;)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Sweet Music...

John got a harmonica from his last doctor's visit - after hitting his head in Little Ninja's;) He's had a blast playing it, but the sounds it produced were, ehem, rough. Worse than that, he gets absolutely worn out playing it. He'll play for a few seconds and be out of breath - because of the force of air required to make a sound from it.

Fortunately for him [and Becca and I], he's just received a really nice harmonica in for his birthday. He's so used to the effort required by the other one that he can play this one for extended periods. The music it produces is sweet. It just came yesterday, but I love watching him play the "real" one - his head bounces around and his fingers flutter likes he's playing a horn. Becca and I just sit back and enjoy his sweet music...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sunday C&O Canal Ride

Pablo and I took the bicycles for a trip down the tow path. We rode it from Georgetown, D.C. to Great Falls, Md - a total of around 28 miles round trip. It was a gorgeous day, a little cool in the morning but warming to a perfect low-70s by afternoon.

We picked up the tow path off of Wisconsin Ave in Georgetown.

The majority of this section of the canal is well maintained clay and crushed stone. This was one of the rare opportunities to get a little dirty - on the way out, I took the bridge - Pablo took the water; coming back, we both got wet.

I don't remember exactly where this was so I couldn't geotag it, but this was the first lock that we encountered. We'd both seen locks before up on the Virginia side of Great Falls, but they have fallen into disrepair so it requires some imagination to appreciate what a feat they truly are. All along the tow path, you get to see great examples of the locks in pretty good condition.

Locktenders were responsible for efficiently getting the boat traffic through the lock at all hours of the night. For their efforts, they received a small house and an acre of land...

... and a sweet commute.

I'd love to see how the gears actually worked to open and close each of the upstream lock doors. I suspect the park service would frown on a can of WD-40 and some genuine curiosity though.

This was a more sophisticated "double-lock" that flows into a basin. We didn't stop to read what it was all about though.

And finally... Great Falls... Either the falls look much more dramatic from the Virginia side or the water is really low.

A trout? No. A salmon? No. Just some dood thinking he's gonna be the one to beat the odds;) In our 15 minutes of observing, I calculated the score to be:
- man-in-little-boat = 0
- thousands-of-gallons-of-water-per-second = 8

more pictures here.

and map view too!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Heading out...

It stormed last night and isn't looking so great this morning. I
typed a day 2 summary but was having trouble posting it. We are
packing up and heading out from just south of Boston. More later...


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

L.L. Bean Ride Plan

Well, I'm at it again. I'm taking a long weekend to do some real mileage on the bike. The plan right now is to leave from L.L. Bean in Tysons Corner, Virginia at 6am this Friday and head [the long way] towards L.L. Bean, Freeport, Maine - hopefully by Saturday;) The route will take us through Pennsylvania to Hancock, NY, then take 30 across the northern border of the Catskills. 30 then turns north and will lead us directly into Adirondacks. The current plan has us camping overnight somewhere in the Adirondacks but we'll see how inviting the ground looks after that many hours on a bike.

The next morning we'll head east through Vermont and New Hampshire arriving in the afternoon at L.L. Bean in Freeport, Maine. From there we'll head home. My "plan" pretty much ends there other than we'll get home sometime Sunday - and even that, I reckon, is somewhat flexible. I'd like to hug the coast as much as possible but we'll just see how we're doing on time as we get there. Anyway, that's the plan, I'll try to post along the way and certainly post pictures at the end.

Click the "View Larger Map" link to see the rough route.

View Larger Map

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Feasting on Pork Butt

I was excited about the new "Feasting on Asphalt" premiere last night so I thought a fitting tribute to Alton would be to smoke a butt. So, to wear off some anxious energy awaiting the new episode, I dove into the spice cabinet and whipped up a good blend. After rubbing the butt real good, I properly wrapped it in plastic wrap for its rest in the refrigerator for a few hours. After getting the BGE to ~225 degrees, I rubbed the butt one final time, tossed some chunks of hickory on and closed it down. Now, normally, I simply wait it out but this time I added a couple handfuls of apple chips when the butt reached ~175/180 degrees. It's final destination would be a couple hours later at an internal temperature of 195. I've tried various temperatures and now believe that 195 is perfect. So, after 17 hours - and long after Feasting On Asphalt had reached its end - I took this hunk of meat off the smoker:

Pulling it was a trivial job resulting in this pile:

Sometimes I impress myself;) This was good. I mean, really good. I made two sauces to top it and was suprisingly partial to the slightly sweetened one. I'm still just playing around with the sauces so this makes a very small quantity but it was something like this:
1/4c - Cider Vinegar
1/4c - Water
2T - Ketchup
2T - Mustard
2T - Dark Brown Sugar
1T - Worchestire Sauce
1t - Chili Powder(generous t)
Few squirts of Hot Sauce (I used Goya)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste (I probably use a teaspoon or so)
a couple flakes of red pepper

I bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for a while until it reduces and starts to thicken. I feel like adding the water; then reducing it back out again, does something happy with the vinegar - but it could be in my mind;)

Anyway, Alton didn't disappoint. He's ride for this journey was an R12GS - the perfect machine for it. Happy riding Mr. Brown!

Shenandoah River Ride

A little late posting my ride last Sunday. I headed west on Rt 50 with no clear route in mind. Immediately after crossing the Shenandoah River, I noticed a nice dirt road running parallel so it was an obvious choice. The road was well maintained:

Shortly, the fun alongside the river ended with this bridge:

Which had a view like this:

The dirt then gave way to unlined old roads higher in elevation:

Noticing those mountains in the distance made me want to see them closer. So, I went back up Rt 50 and took Blue Ridge Mountain Rd. which was a nice way to finish up. Unfortunately, I put the camera away and just enjoyed the curves of the mountain roads.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Carne Asada

Rebecca found my recipe for carne asada marinade the other day so I was excited to give it a try again. Smelling the marinade alone gets me all excited. It's roughly (from memory) juice from 1 lime, 1 lemon, 1 orange; 3T chile powder; 1T oregano; 2 jalepanos; 1 medium onion; 5 cloves of garlic; 2T cumin; and 1/4 cup of soy sauce. I put it in the food processor for a few pulses. I put the flank steak into a large ziploc bag along with the marinade (sucking out the excess air) and place it in the fridge for several hours - massaging the meat every time I happened by the refrigerator. I fire up the Green Egg to ~450 with lump coal. Right before cooking I throw on some hickory chips and grill it. Here's what I came up with:

I must say, it was tasty. I personally would have liked more char on it. Had I known at the time I was going to take pictures of it, I wouldn't have done the wimpy thing and cut into it as my "done-ness" check.

Gateau di patate

I finally made Gianugo's Gateau di patate[1]. I think it turned out well and by Rebecca's 5 servings (yep, that's not a typo), I think she enjoyed it too. It's essentially a potatoe pie with a nice little surprise on the inside. For the inside surprise I chose bacon and sharp cheddar cheese - I reckon Gianugo would frown on the Sharp Cheddar part but I had to make it my own.

Gianugo takes an in-precise approach to cooking which to the amateur can be challenging to follow. I don't work so well with a 'couple spoonfuls of flour' or a 'handful of parmesan' but I made do. I worked from his instructions and interpreted the following:
- plum cake mold? - yeah, I used a 10" cake pan;)
- 'some spuds' == 6 medium/large potatoes (I used russet)
- 'handful of parmesan' - 3/4 cup
- 'two-three spoonfuls of white flour' - 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour.

I would have liked a better crust on top. I think if I would have followed his guidance better and used grated cheese instead of finely shredded, it would have melded into a better crust for me. Anyway, with good quality parmesan, bacon, and cheddar, it was really fool-proof anyway;)

Rebecca suggested that some chopped smoked pork butt would be a perfect filling for this too. I think I'll be firing up the Green Egg with a couple of butts soon and see if she's right...

Many thanks to Gianugo for publicly cooking again!
[1] -

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunday Mountain Ride...

I rode west today out past Shenandoah into West Virginia. To give me more time at the destination, I took all highway miles (66W->81S) to 42S (exit 283) in Woodstock, Va. Well, rather than listing the whole directions which won't mean much anyway, you can get a feel for the ride here.

While the route encompassed a lot of highway-ish miles, there were plenty of miles on roads like this:

and eventually I was fortunate enough for those to give way to roads more like this:

shortly I climbed towards the top of the hill:

and a better look at the road:

views like this, with only the hum of the beast, are nice:

honestly, it looked steeper as I was riding along;)

Eventually, I had to face forward and head back home - I knew there was a really good beef brisket awaiting;)

So, back down the mountain and into the valley below:

For the most part, these were some well-maintained dirt/gravel roads and worth the ride to get there. The access to the views could have been better but the ride was great. All but the very last bit are worth a try on any bike, but I think from Mathias on are probably most comfortable on some sort of enduro machine.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


It's taken me a while but I finally got some pictures of adorable Isabella. Unfortunately, the light in Rebecca's Mom's house isn't so great, so most of them are either out of focus or have a horrible shadow behind them. Anyway, here's a sampling:

John loves "Baby 'Bella"

Grace definitely learned something from her big brother;)

A proud new Aunt

And the star of the show...

I hope to get some better pictures with natural lighting soon.

Helmet Head

John occasionally asks to wear my helmet as I mostly leave it sitting on the dining room table. He'll walk around hearing himself talk while raising and lowering the face-shield. He finds it amusing. Here he is taunting Grace with his "greetings Earthling" look.

I reckon the other day he didn't feel quite safe enough with only a helmet so he wanted to go in full gear. He actually tried my boots too but found he wasn't getting anywhere.

I found this amusing;) He'd trip if he took anything more than a baby step - good thing he had gear on.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Isabella is here!

Quick post to mark the arrival of my niece Isabella Ava Antelo. She arrive today at 3:07pm, 7lbs 7oz, and 19 inches long. I spent the day with John and Grace while Rebecca helped welcome her in. I hope to be able to see her in the next day or so. I have, however, seen pictures on the tiny screen of the digital Elph and she's beautiful. I'll get some pictures posted soon...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lions, tigers and clams?

One thing I didn't expect didn't expect with parenting is some of the odd middle of the night conversations I might be having. John has been waking up lately in the wee hours of the morning with irrational fears - apparently not extraordinary. They typically range from a man out of his window, to Santa Claus, to aliens - not sure where he picks up some of this stuff as we've not seen Dora or Blues talking much of aliens these days. Anyway, though I'm not sure if it definitely falls into the irrational fear category or half-dream/half-awake category, last night was particularly odd I thought. I walk into his room and he's sitting up in straight in his bed and looks at me immediately and declares:

"Daddy, I don't *like* crayams!";
Me: "Huh, you don't like crayons?"
John: "Daddy, I don't like *crayams*!"
Me: "Oh, you don't like (I had another guess last night but don't remember what it was now;)"
John: "Daddy, I don't like *crayams*!"
Me: [fully aware this was my last opportunity to guess before melt-down] "Oh, okay buddy, you don't like clams."
John: [calmer now] "Yes Daddy, I don't like clams"
Me: "That's okay, buddy, I don't like clams either. As a matter of fact, I don't think thing Grace or Mommy like clams either."
John: "Daddy, let's leave the clams at the clam store."
Me: "Um... ok buddy, no problem, we'll leave them at the clam store."
John: "Ok daddy."
Me: "Ok, let's get back to sleepy time."
John: [rolls over]
Me: "Sweet dreams"
John: "Sweet dreams daddy"

There was really more to the dialog than this but I can't remember it in full. It was odd to be talking about clams at 2 in the morning with a 2 year old though.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

John the artist

John is very artistic. He loves to play with clay, markers, water paint, finger paint and crayons; our refrigerator proudly displays his work. We've got tons of coloring books and stacks of construction paper to support him whenever a creative moment strikes. Sometimes, though, I'm not impressed. Let's critique this latest work, for example:

I know, your thinking, wow, that's good stuff. From the spiral elements on the left to the short aggressive strokes on the right - it's powerful. What's not to like? It's not the color selection, not the strokes, in short, not the art that failed to impress me - it was his choice of canvas! Below... his creation again in context:

One wall apparently wasn't a large enough canvas on which to express himself so it turns out he expanded to the other three walls in the room as well. Fortunately, Becca too knows a thing or two about paint brushes.

Barbeque Results...

I was very pleased with the results.

I think I'll be heading to Costco to pick up a few racks of baby backs this week;)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

4th Smoking Lesson

So I've been learning the art of smoked meat for the past couple years with small lessons here or there. During this time, I've been the proud owner of a Big Green Egg which, I'm rapidly learning 'fool proof's' things for me. For example, over this time I've never given a second thought to environmental factors. For my "4th smoke" this year that changed. I still used the BGE but noticed an odd +-2 degree fluctuation in temperature. Odd. I've never seen this before so when I figured out what was happening (it took standing out there and paying attention), I decided to send off a challenge to the senior smokers in the family. Here's what my note said:

"Which one of you can guess what's wrong with my setup? Besides, of
course, the obvious lack of a deck;) Other than pride, no prizes.
First response wins!


Roughly 45 minutes later, much to my surprise, the correct answer came back and he didn't even have to feel the breeze of that fan when it turned on. Congrats to my brother, though he's, embarrasingly enough, not rubbed a butt of his own this 4th - he did get my 4th trivia correct. Very impressive.

Here's the image:

My Brother:
"I am guessing that it has something to do with the sudden drafts created when "that big fan" next to the egg turns on? I would guess that not even the egg can withstand this type of environmental change???"

Yelp, the air conditioning unit in the corner causes a 'wind tunnel' effect.

I'm genuinely impressed...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Cheesesteak Ride

Had a hunkering yesterday for a cheesesteak so I took the bike out and got one - in Philly. I left out a little after 8am and, taking I-95 the whole way, got there by about 11:15 or so. The original plan was to try Pat's early, then after a couple hours try Geno's. I got a Whiz wit-out from Pat's and it was pretty tasty. The steak itself was good and juicy with apparently minced onions (maybe some garlic) providing the only enhancement to the natural flavor. I was a little dissappointed with the bun though - it as a little over done and rather tasteless. Not in an offensive way, it just didn't bring anything to the flavor party - if saltine crackers were bread, this is what it would taste like. Anyway, I took my steak over to the baseball field next door and watched some locals play softball for a while. When I finally decided I could handle at least a couple bites of another one, I walked over to Genos. Unfortunately, the line had grown considerably (~40 people) since I'd seen it before so I decided it wasn't worth it since Becca and I will likely re-do this trip again soon. Anyway, it was more about the bike ride anyway, so I decided to use the time to try a more interesting route home. After some significant traffic leaving Philly, I took 301 heading south towards the Bay Bridge. All and all, the ride home was unremarkable but nice. I was in bumper-to-fender traffic on the bay bridge which is a little nerve racking on a bike with the significant cross-winds and ease at which I could look over the side. I got home right at 5pm and just in time for a nice Italian dinner.

Total distance: ~340 miles.
States: (4 1/2) Va, D.C, Md, De, Pa

Friday, May 18, 2007

My "first" birthday party

Yesterday I came home to the best birthday surprise. When Rebecca
told John it was my birthday yesterday, he was so excited and
immediately began planning. He told her they had to get me birthday
balloons, birthday streamers and birthday cake. She apparently took
him to the store to by all of those party ingredients while I was at
work. I arrived home with yellow and blue streamers over all of the
chairs (done by John himself) and hanging around in other low-lying
areas. He was apparently upset when he realized he'd forgotten the
happy birthday candle for the cake, so yesterday I celebrated my first
birthday (from a candle left over from Grace). Two and 1/2 and I
think he's got better party-planning skills that Rebecca and I

Thanks John [and Rebecca], it was the best birthday party ever;)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Being different only okay so far...

One of the books we've been reading at bedtime lately is a Todd Parr book on "being different." The book is well illustrated but, I think, poorly written and no fun to read. Anyway, this is a story about John, not a book review. So for whatever reason, John likes the book. We read pages like the following:
"It's ok to have missing teeth."
"It's ok to have no hair."
"It's ok to be small, medium, large, and extra-large."
"It's ok...", Ok, you get the idea.

So John is all smiles through the most all of the book, enjoying the illustrations and such.

Then we come to a page that reads, "It's ok to eat macaroni and cheese in the bathtub," and John looks at me every time and says, "No way, it is *not* ok to eat in the bathtub. You eat macaroni and cheese at the table Daddy."

2 and a half years-old and he's clearly a lot brighter than this Todd clown.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Boxes, bubble wrap, and real presents

We received a rather large box from the post office the other day. It was addressed to John and Grace from Grandma and Grandpa Williams and we told John he could open it with Grace after dinner. So dinner came and went and we gave him the go-ahead. The box was wrapped with packaging paper on the outside and John opened it like a present. He got a couple sides opened so that the box was now exposed, stopped, and in wide-eyed excitement looked at us and said "it's a Box!". It took some convincing that there might actually be something in the box worth taking a look at and finally he allowed me to cut through the tape so that he could open the inside. He then proceeded to pull the flaps back, reach in to the box, and grabbed out a folded up piece of bubble wrap. He pulled that bubble wrap close to him and gave it a big bear hug and tells Rebecca and I, "it's so cute!". Go figure.

P.S. He did like the robot once he made it there;)

Old Houses

So it's been a long time since I've posted and many changes have taken place since. We've completed the first part of our move back to Virginia. Our original plan was to have a short term rental while we waited for the Georgia house to settle and searched for a house up here. Between the market being unstable up here (the prices keep falling) and no inventory in the area that we're looking that we love, we've decided to move to a longer term (1yr) rental while continuing to look at the market - albeit less aggressively. We're going to simply keep an eye on prices without looking for specific houses. Once things being to level off, we'll start seriously looking again.

The short term house that we're in is an old 1940's cape code. It was remodeled right before we moved in but it's structurally defective and the windows are still old so it's cold. Since we're really looking to buy an old house when we do buy, the real purpose of this one was to give us a feel for an old house and see if we could really do it - since we've only ever owned new ones. Turns out we could do it but here are some things that I now know to look for:
o) Solid foundation - look at and open all windows, roll a ball on the floor, evaluate all exposed joists in the basement. Look for crooked inner/outer door frames.
o) Windows - if windows aren't updated, add an estimate to do so to the price of the house (it'll have to be done).
o) Electrical - see if the electrical system has been updated, if not it'll likely need to be as our appliances seem to kick the breaker constantly in this one.