Monthly Archives: October 2012

Sandy Moves Out

Some storms are destructive. Other storms less so. Many are less destructive in one area and more so in another. That’s the way Sandy looks.

Chesapeake opened up its Emergency Operations Center and two shelters, so I spent most of yesterday evening and today helping out with communications. Meanwhile the storm was mainly a non-event. Our street briefly had one section with perhaps 3 inches of water – nothing like we’ve experienced in the past. As I said, a non-event.


North of here things may not be so calm.

I hope everybody up there does okay.

The (Hurricane Sandy) Saga Continues

So far, Hurricane Sandy appears to be headed north of us. Of course, that’s the actual center of the storm – the southern part of the storm that we may experience is still within the system and will manifest itself primarily as wind and rain.

The biggest problem may be at high tide tomorrow. The tide goes in. The tide goes out. Except when it doesn’t.

WTKR Weather Coverage

At times like this, the tide comes in and the wind keeps it in. Then the next high tide comes along and pushes more water in. That’s when the street looks like a small river – which will probably happen tomorrow morning around 9:42 or so, when high tide occurs.

The other big issue is that as the wind hits, trees with leaves are more affected by the wind than trees without leaves. The trees still have lots of leaves. Trees falling over in and of themselves are not a big deal, but they do have a nasty habit of toppling power lines and blocking roads.

So the bottom line is that of the many things that may happen…

…at any minute…

…because this is a tense situation…

…so take cover…

Very little has happened so far.

But you never know.

Preparing for Frankenstorm

All eyes around here are on Hurricane Sandy – the weatherguessers are calling this the “Possible Perfect Storm!” But to quote a meteorologist I know, “In what other job can you be wrong 70% of the time and be seen as fantastic?”

A storm or two ago one of the reporters for a national weather channel was out at Virginia Beach acting like he was heroically braving the elements. It was windy, but nothing deadly, so some of the local teenagers got behind him and waved. It ruined the illusion, so his response was something like “Don’t these people realize the danger they’re in?”

Weather people are adrenaline junkies. Remember the movie “Twister”? (One of my favorites, by the way.) The real weather chasers are pretty much like that.

If you live up north and haven’t experienced a hurricane, think blizzard – lots of moisture and lots of wind. You get enough warning to stock up on the essentials and then sit inside and watch it happen.

We did get up early this morning and clean up all the miscellaneous in the yard so that nothing will become airborne and break a window. With wind and rain that can be messy.

So now we wait.

Oh, and I can cross “Clean up the yard” off my general purpose list of things to do.

Inside Every Grown Man…

I admit I’ve led an interesting life.

Working in a hospital I routinely dealt with the real life version of what others watch on television.

I’ve worked rescue and recovery operations after tornadoes, hurricanes and floods.

I learned to fly and got my pilot’s license.

I was a supervisor for the resupply of McMurdo Station, Antarctica and watched the sun go in a big circle without rising or setting. I had my picture with a flock of penguins just so I could say, “I’m the tall one in the middle.”

I served in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

I got to play guitar for a USO show.

After so many experiences you’d think I’d have a pretty staid reaction to things.

I want one!

But when I see one of those small size bulldozers I am reduced to a virtual four-year-old and all I can think of is, “How can I get my hands on one and go dig something?”

I’m sure Tim (the Toolman) Taylor would understand.


Wouldn’t it seem that somewhere at some time someone who encountered a porcupine would have the quills hit just the right acupuncture point so that he wouldn’t feel any pain?

When I was a kid, after sending the two box tops and fifty cents, I’d wait seemingly forever for my treasure to arrive from Battle Creek, Michigan. Now, thanks to computers, bar code scanners and the internet I can track my package. Right now I’m tracking one that accidently went to Richmond and has been floating around over there for almost a week. (Apparently neither people nor the optical scanners read the actual address, just the bar code.) Thanks to technology I no longer have to say “I think they screwed up!” Now I can say with absolute certainty, “They screwed up!”

If you worked in a plant where the made hand sanitizer, would you need to wash your hands before lunch?

As you walk through the frozen food section of the supermarket, did you ever realize that all those microwavable meals are actually mass produced leftovers?

The US Postal Service is actively trying to attract more junk mail when we’re already inundated with spam through e-mail. All this marketing and we end up with the worst economy in years.

Does anyone have pleasant dreams about feasting on healthy foods?

Have you ever felt sorry for Bette Nesmith Graham the woman who invented white-out? A multimillion dollar industry that was wiped out by the computer? (Actually she sold the business for $47.5 million shortly before she died. For the whole story, click here.)

Neither Fit for Man nor Beast

I repaired the antenna where the dog had chewed it. I had the kids, the tools and the supplies out in the semi-dark and full dark under the not-so inviting glare of the halogen work lights. Naturally a problem like this couldn’t happen during the long days of summer. Nope, it waits until the early darkness days of fall.

The Antenna Eating Dog from Hades

In any case, I fixed it.

I buried as much of the new cable as I could under the mulch so as not to attract the dog.

I used black duct tape to tape what I could to the antenna mast. So he wouldn’t be able to get at it.

Then to discourage the dog from hanging around the antenna, I placed mothballs around its base.

My son worried that the dog might eat them. I told him not to worry, that dogs found the smell repulsive.

As I cleaned up the tools and supplies, I realized that some of the smell of the mothballs had clung to me.

My mind immediately went to the days of my youth and visiting great aunts and uncles and having that pervasive smell of mothballs. How the smell would cling to you forever.

I don’t know if the smell will keep the dog away, but I’m glad the other end of the connection is in the house.

Because I’m certainly not going out anywhere near that smell.

Style vs. Substance

NPR had an interesting piece on “All Things Considered” (<- Click for link) in which they rated presidents in terms of charisma. The last question by the interviewer was, “Could Washington be elected today?” The answer was “I don’t think Washington would have a prayer of being elected president today.”

Sorry, George.

How sad.

I accept the fact that it takes a different set of skills to get a job than it takes to actually do that job – perhaps with the exception of accountants and actuaries. Somehow I can’t envision a truly great CPA as being the model of wit and charm in an interview. It’s like hiring a skinny chef – something is wrong with that picture. I’d suspect a charming accountant of cooking the books and stealing from me, and a skinny chef as, well, not really capable of cooking anything.

I guess we are so enamored with style that we have given up on substance in many areas of our life. Roses used to have a distinctively pleasant aroma; in order to have a hardier, more commercially viable flower we essentially bred out the smell. A rose by any other hybrid name, does not, in fact, smell as sweet.

So we weed out Washington and the Jefferson and without a doubt the “obnoxious and disliked” John Adams in our quest for a prettier package.

Be careful of what you wish for, you just might get it.

Dog Days

As you know, yesterday I wrote about 2 of the four cats of the apocalypse. How they reign terror and destruction.

I didn’t anticipate the possibilitly that the dog could read.

I never discussed the fact that I had written about the cats. There’s no way he could have overheard a discussion. Nevertheless, somehow he seems to have known.

His response?

He ate my ham radio antenna.

Actually, not the whole antenna, just the coax and RF isolator (don’t worry about knowing what each is – the fact is he knocked me off the air.)

Bottom line – in a fit of pique after seeing the cats being featured, he decided to strike back, and an effective strike it was.

After the cats’ and dog’s actions, I plan on disconnecting all the telephone lines as pre-emptive effort before the parrot calls someone and creates significant issues. If the police, fire department or a semi-tractor trailed load of pistachios show up, it will be the third phase of the pets-against-me-attack.

Don’t be fooled by the innocent expression.

Wish me luck.


“The fog comes

On little cat feet…”

As you know, we have a small menagerie -1 dog, 2 cats and a parrot. These are not the first domestic animals I have owned (or been owned by), so I feel that I have some authority to speak about pets.

My cats do not in any way resemble the quiet fog, unless “Quiet Fog” is the stage name of a Sumo Wrestler. Late at night and early in the morning the cats play, resulting in sounds one would expect the Foley Artist to use during a barroom brawl on the big screen.




Is that one of the kids? Is it a burglar? No, it can’t be, it’s much too loud.

So, sorry Carl, I don’t buy it.

It’s a normal day when you doubt politicians. It’s a sad day when you begin to doubt poets.

The Great Train Experience

Washington, D.C., like many major metropolitan areas, boasts of its rapid transit system. Rapid transit is great if the majority of people live in peripheral areas and congregate in a central location for work. The system works, more or less because that is the situation in the district. Everyone who can lives out in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, etc. and then travels to D.C. for work. I guess it would also work if half the people live in “A” and work in “B” and the other half have the opposite, but I’ve yet to see that.

The morning commute has been good. About 6:15 AM, catch the Metro, sit down, relax and arrive at our meeting place about 15 minutes later.

Getting back to the hotel during rush hour is a bit different.

Remember the cowboy movies with the cattle drives? All the cows packed into the trains? The SPCA would never let you pack cows that closely. For that matter, the Sardine association wouldn’t let you pack sardines like that, either.

As near as I can tell, about 10% of the people get to sit. The other 90% hang onto the strategically placed grab-bars and try to not knock their neighbor over as the vehicle starts and stops. There’s just something about the group armpit sharing that seems just a bit odd. Most regular riders immerse themselves in their eBooks and iPods (together – not either/or). [rEmember wHen wE cApitalized tHe fIrst lEtter oF wOrds rAther tHan tHe sEcond oNe?]

However, the most profound thought I had (well, profound for me) was this; if you owned a business and had a location that would regularly be crowded with people that had a 4 foot drop with no barrier, in the face of high speed vehicles and an exposed high voltage source, OSHA would shut you down. However, that is exactly what each subway station is like.

Makes you wonder.

The Electoral College

Like many people, I grew up with the following understanding of the Electoral College.

“The reason we have the Electoral College instead of using the popular vote is to prevent presidential candidates from concentrating only on the most populace states.”

Now with modern statistical sampling, computerized analysis, demographic slicing and dicing, presidential candidates can decide who they already can depend upon and spend all their time on the “Swing States.”

In other words, the only states the candidates seem to worry about are Ohio, Florida, Virginia and a few others.

Maybe the Electoral College has outlived its usefulness?

Oh, God, No!

I wasn’t feeling real well that night after dinner. I tried to watch television, but I just felt so uncomfortable that I couldn’t, so I went to bed. If you’ll excuse the expression, I just plain felt like hell.

I tossed and turned. I got up and threw a few antacid tablets in my mouth. Surely it was nothing worse than a little heartburn. I lay down. I got up. Eventually I was able to fall asleep.

There was a bright light – like a tunnel. I felt drawn toward the other end and felt like I was walking toward the source of the light.

“Oh, my God, I’m dying!”

“Yes?” came a reply.

“What?” I answered, quite confused.

“You called me. You said, ‘Oh my God…’ so I answered you.”

“So I’m?”

“Sure looks like it, doesn’t it?” I just stood there, stunned. Everything around me seemed indistinct like it was foggy.

“Well, let’s see,” the voice continued. “You have faith, so that works in your favor. Not too bad a life overall. Nothing spectacular, but I grade on a very lenient curve.”

“So what does that mean?” I asked.

“Heaven,” came the reply. I realized that I had been holding my breath and I let it out all at once.

“Breathing is optional, here,” the voice explained. “Lots of folks find it helps keep things in perspective, but there’s no oxygen requirement.” The fog around me swirled together and became the form of a very tall and quite distinguished man.

“So let’s see where We’ll put you.” A large detailed, three-dimensional map appeared behind the figure. He walked over to a podium and waved his hand over it. As he did, different parts of the map lit up in different colors as he spoke.

“Let’s see… Baptists…Baptists who read the King James Version of the Bible – No… Baptists who practice full immersion…No. Christians – non-denominational…No

“Catholics…Here we go…Armenian, Byzantine, Hmmm, Roman Catholic.” Each time he spoke, a different part of the map lit up.

“Okay, Roman Catholic, Latin Mass/Douay Bible…No. Here we go, post Vatican II Ecumenical Roman Catholic.” One portion of the map began to blink brightly.

“Excuse me,” I interrupted without meaning to. After all, I’d figured out that this was God with whom I was dealing. “Uh, sir, I mean Lord. Why the map. I thought that in Heaven we’d all be together!”

“So did I,” He replied. “However, in order to have eternal happiness, I’ve had to precisely place all the Christians. I can put Anglicans – or as you call them – Episcopalians next to modern Catholics. I can put Contemporary Methodists in the same neighborhood. Lutherans aren’t too much of a problem either, but it gets more complicated from there, then even more complicated, then – well you get the picture.

“This can’t be!” I exclaimed. “It’s like exclusive neighborhoods based on which church people attended!”

“Yep! Crazy, ain’t it?”

I realized this wasn’t the Heaven that I had hoped for.

“If you let me go back, Lord, I promise I’ll be more open to other Christians! I promise I’ll cherish all your children. I promise….”

I woke up with a start and sat bolt upright in bed.

“I promise I’ll never eat a jalapeno, chipotle, anchovy pierogi with hot sauce before bed ever again.

“Oh, and I promise to be more Christian and love my neighbor as myself.”

No Blog Today

Sorry. My daytime job as a writer sucked all the neurons dry.

Wait – by writing this did I just make myself a liar?

Now That Columbus Day Is Over

Once upon a time, Columbus Day was a national holiday and school children would celebrate the discovery of America. Of course they also celebrated Christmas instead of Winter Break and Easter instead of Spring Break.

That Scoundrel, Columbus!

But more important than the discovery of America is the discovery of the following important facts:

  • That Columbus didn’t really discover America. It had already been discovered by Leif Ericson or Leif the Red or a bunch of Asians who walked across the ice from Russia to Alaska.
  • That Columbus never actually made it to America, but only to several of the islands in the Caribbean, so he only discovered islands, not a continent.
  • That Columbus never discovered anything, but instead thought he was in India, which was why the indigenous people were referred to as Indians.
  • America was named after Amerigo Vespucci, a mapmaker who supposedly put his name in that big blank spot west of the Atlantic – proof that Columbus’ role was unimportant.
  • Columbus paved the way for evil Europeans to bring warfare and disease to the Native Americans (we dare not call them Indians, although without Vespucci we couldn’t call them Native Americans.)

And while we’re at it…

  • Edison didn’t invent the electric light bulb.
  • Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile.
  • Marconi didn’t invent the wireless (radio).

And we wonder why the world is in the shape it’s in.

So, I ask you to consider the following:

  • If Columbus hadn’t sailed west, you and I would probably be some peasant stock in Europe or Asia under some type of monarchy. If America hadn’t broken the mold, there’s no reason to believe that those born into royalty would have given up their power and prestige. Even after sending the royalty to the guillotine, the French managed to eke out an emperor or two. The Tsar ruled Russia until the Bolshevik revolution, the Shah didn’t let go until Jimmy Carter was president. Then there’s King Juan Carlos of Spain, Queen Elizabeth in Great Britain and of course Brad and Angelina of California.
  • The value of an invention is not necessarily thinking of the idea first or even being the first to make it work. The value is in making its benefit available to others.
  • It was because of Edison, that electric lights became the norm (even though it was Westinghouse’s power distribution system that made it work.)
  • Ford invented a way to make cars inexpensive enough for people to be able to afford. He even paid his workers a seemingly “obscene” wage so that Ford employees would have enough money to purchase Ford Automobiles.
  • Marconi Wireless created the interest and expectation that communications could occur instantly from virtually anywhere to virtually anywhere including to and from ships at sea.

So to those who are down on the explorers and inventors, take comfort in the words of that great American philosopher, George Carlin, who said, “Remember, inside every silver lining – there’s a dark cloud!”

Pets & Who Owns Whom

When we lived in Wyoming we adopted a dog from the shelter. She ran away the first day, jumping a 6 foot fence. After that she never was happy if she was more than 6 feet distant from my wife.

A cat that someone had abandoned in the country stopped by for a visit and stayed for quite a while. He lived outdoors but slept indoors. It was Wyoming, after all. When we moved, both moved with us. The cat would head out each night, and return in the morning, after which he’d try to get the dog’s attention. The dog would ignore the cat, after which the cat would spend time with my wife.

One day when the cat was well over thirteen years old, he went out one night but never came back the next morning. The dog was despondent and quickly deteriorated in health. We lost her several months later.

Soon all we had was Alex, my parrot.

That didn’t last.

The kids talked us into a kitten. Each. The usual promises of responsibility for caring for them were made, dismissed, and eventually caved into after which the follow through was somewhat lacking. Then, of course came the inevitable replacement for Jazz, the dog we lost.

And yes, the same promises were made again and promptly forgotten at the first taste of inconvenience.

Now that you’ve taught the cat to come when you call, what are you going to do?

I finished fencing in the yard today so that the dog can run without being on a chain. So much for the “inexpensive” dog from the animal shelter. In the meantime, the parrot calls for a snack, at which time the cats cluster around his cage as if he’s offering, not asking. As if that weren’t enough, the parrot calls my son’s cat mimicking my son’s voice.

The journey to the dark side is complete. The inmates are now officially running the zoo.

End of the Weekend

Katie’s team won the first game in a downpour one to nothing with Katie scoring the winning goal in the last minute of play.

It was worth getting soaked, but I was sorry that it was raining so hard I had to put the camera in the car.

Katie on the move.
Hey! The upload worked!

Katie was very disappointed that they didn’t place first. I was proud of the fact that they were playing here as a midfield and both the players and parents were excited by her contributions to the team over the weekend.

I guess I’ve gained enough wisdom to know what’s important.

In other words, I know when the glass is half full.


If it’s Saturday (or Sunday) it must be soccer!

(There’s supposed to be a picture here, but the computer gods are angry.  I’ll try to upload a file 96 times, but after that, even we obsessive-compulsive types say, “Fugedaboutit!”)

The hard part is splitting up the parents so that each child gets equal attention. However, the adults also like to divide up the really long driving trips.

Without meaning to, my kids quote Tommy Smothers – “Mom always liked you best!”

I quote another of his lines, “Oh yeah! – That’s my snappy comeback!”

We long ago realized that juggling the kids’ activities makes for the perfectly designed no-win scenario. So we just divvy things up the best we can and try to enjoy the events.

I take pictures at whichever game I attend and post them on the team website. I may have mentioned it before, but I put myself through school shooting wedding pictures. Since it was a “job” I stopped taking pictures for enjoyment. Fortunately, after letting my photographic muse lie fallow for 30 years, I started enjoying it again.

Tonight after winning one and tying one, with a shot at the championship, my daughter’s team ate dinner together while most the parents went out for Mexican. I elected to edit 700 pictures from 2 games down to 120-ish. I then cropped and posted them on the websites. Since I’m in a hotel, I didn’t have my Photoshop available to me and had to use the minimal online tools (Complain, complain, complain). However, I did have a nice cup of tomato basil bisque, a ciabatta hamburger with Swiss cheese and some wine, so all in all it was okay.

I’ve never been very good at being a sports nut. However, I make up for it by being a nut about my children, so it works, no matter how you slice it.

It’s getting late. My pictures are posted. I’ve written my blog. Katie is watching Netflix on her computer.

All is right with the world.


I mentioned a few weeks ago how the media loves to jump on anything that challenges Christian faith. I can’t blame them, in a way. If you could prove that something held as true for thousands of years was not, in fact, true would indeed be newsworthy. You can’t prove a negative, and you can’t prove what is only believed through faith. However, you have to admit that the media reacts to these matters in the same way my dog reacts to a squirrel.

“Writings speak of Jesus’ wife!” {Squirrel!}

“Ossuary found of Jesus brother!” {Squirrel!}

“Einstein letter criticizes Jewish faith!” {Squirrel!}

“American Express receipt from last supper found! Jesus didn’t leave tip!” {Giant, ferocious squirrel!}

{Squirrel!} Sorry, the dog was on a roll.

Those of us blessed with it walk by faith and not by light. It’s a small but very personal miracle that we are privileged to take for granted. That’s pretty special, considering that even those who actually knew Jesus weren’t guaranteed faith. Judas lost his. Peter blinked. Thomas had his doubts. Paul had to be knocked off his horse to get his.

If you are blessed with faith, take a few moments and savor it. Then give thanks for the blessing.

You’ve probably seen a variation on this before. Notice that there’s no handle on the door. It means we have to open the door to let Him in,

It’s a Big Building Full of Generals…*

As I read the post-debate commentaries, I can’t help but be struck by similarities to something, somewhere.

But where?

Then it struck me.

“Airplane!” 1980.

Surely I’m kidding!

I’m not kidding. And don’t call me Shirley!

It’s the sequence of news readers and headlines ending with the National Enquirer headline, “Boy Trapped in Refrigerator Eats Own Foot!”

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to turn off the networks and watch my “Airplane!” DVD.


*”It’s a message from headquarters!”

“Headquarters! What is it?”

“It’s a big building full of generals, but that’s not important right now.”


They say that math and music are related in how they use the brain. Another way they are linked is that mathematicians and musicians get to name their work. “The Pythagorean Theory.” “The Sieve of Eratosthenes.” ” Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.” “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”

On the other hand, for all their education and experience doctors get their fame by naming diseases, molds, fungi and other ucky things.

Occam’s razor is a theory that says that the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions (i.e. the simplest) is probably correct. On the other hand, Sherlock Holmes said that “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” This is probably why no one ever wrote a series of detective stories with Occam as the hero.

It is a safe assumption that at a restaurant known for fine dining you will consume at least one whole stick of butter before the entre is complete.

If schools really want parents involved in their children’s education, why do they keep changing the way they teach math?

I don’t think I’ll let my kids watch the candidates’ debate – they might get new ideas on how to fight with one another.


Smithsonian magazine has an article in the latest issue about John Kennedy’s run for president. He credits “starting early;” That meant he started his campaign in January of the election year, not two years before. I miss those days.

Given inflation, why do we still say, “A penny for your thoughts,” and “If I had a nickel for every…”?

And, why do some Americans think it’s a good thing to copy the economic programs that have driven European countries to the brink of bankruptcy?