Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Morning Express

57 degrees and light rain here this morning.  I couple from Spain sat next to me on the subway looking at the schedule for the Cherry Blossom Festival and asking where the cherry blossoms are.  They are still hiding from winter.  The tops of the trees in the sunniest locations are just starting to show a tiny bit of color. Last March we had 12 days with highs above 70, this year we have had 1 or 2.  A few days of warm days of sunshine and the trees will explode into bloom.  

I have bread dough rising, time to head off to run a few errands.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Memory Hat

I have a few collections, penguins, sheep, pennies, and hat pins.  It started innocently enough in the gift shop at Westminster Abbey looking for easy souvenirs, the hat pins were one-pound each and I bought a dozen. That was in 1990.  When I was done handing them out I had a couple left and stuck them on a hat.  The next time I traveled, I picked up a couple more from places I visited.  24  years and a couple of hats later there are over 120 pins on the hat, mementos of places I have been and things that I have done.  There are  a few I that I don't remember where they came from.  But most of them trigger memories and stories. If you want to hear about my journeys, ask me about the pins on my hat.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Five Flying Experiences

  1. Helicopter flight with a crazed pilot.  I was in Florida a few year’s ago visiting family  (I have a of stories that start that way) and in the corner of a nearby parking lot was a sign for helicopter tours.  I had never ridden in one, so I stopped and asked.  The deal was a 20 minute tour for two for like $100.  But I was alone.  The pilot / salesman suggested that I hang around for a while and see if another single showed up.  I did, none did, and after half an hour or so, I said, what the hey, it’s only $50 difference, I chartered the thing for a private tour.  Then the fun began.  The pilot was a local police officer, flying charters to pay for a helicopter of his own.  He was use to flying low and fast chasing teenagers in sports cars after drug deals gone wrong.  The flight started simply enough, with an absolutely magical assent.  The thing just sort of levitated upwards.  I have done a lot of flying in small aircraft, but this was the most amazing sensation. We turned north along the river, the pilot asked where I wanted to go, and I explained that I had spent a lot of hours in light aircraft in the area (my father was a private pilot.)  We turned and headed south, lower and faster, I was pointing out landmarks. He figured out that I was very comfortable with what Jimmy Buffet would describe as tree top flying.  Watching the tops of the trees blow under the downdraft from the rotors, we made a low and fast approach and landed, and the fastest 30 minutes of flying you will ever see came to an end.  The best $100 I had spent in a long time.
  2. Next on the list has to be a float plane ride.  I have done these a couple of times.  The first time was with Rusts Flying Service, from Anchorage, to Denali.  The plane was older than I am, with a huge radial engine.  As we were boarding the pilot asked for someone above 200 pounds who would volunteer to set up front.  One of the few times that being fat paid off.  The first thing that struck me was 100 miles or so north of Anchorage.  There are houses on the shores of lakes and banks of rivers and then you notice what is not there.  No roads, no power lines.  The air and the water are the way in and out. Amazing amount of nothing.  We flew up the canyon on the side of the mountain, with sheer stone cliffs on both sides and a glacier at the bottom, turned around and flew back out.  We then went around the side of the mountain and landed on a glacial melt lake.  The landing was so smooth, I had to look down to see that we were on the water - the pilot looked over and quipped “caught you looking!”  
  3. I think I mentioned that my father was a private pilot.  The local airport in Michigan had a new airplane in that my father wanted to fly.  It was fast, variable pitch propellor and retractable landing gear.  To satisfy the insurance companies, he had to do a “check ride” with a flight instructor to verify that he knew how everything worked.  I hopped in the back seat and off we went.  The instructor and my father put the plane and themselves through the paces.  There was one thing left on the insurance check list and that was to demonstrate how to manually put the landing gear down, if the power system failed.  The two of them bungled around for five minutes trying to figure out the procedure.  They finally found the crank, then couldn’t figure out which direction to turn it.  The flight instructor had me dig out the owners manual, so he could look up the answer. Major life lesson, sometimes you just need to look up the answer.   
  4. About the time I finished High School, Arthur Dunn the owner of one of the local airports in Florida finished restoring a Piper J-3 Cub.  The classic high wing, single engine, tandem seating plane.  The design predated WWII, and thousands of them were built.  This one was almost as old Arthur, and he might have had Wilbur Wright as a flight instructor.  My father had learned to fly in a J-3, in the 1950’s.  Arthur handed dad the keys and away we went.  The first surprise was the passenger sits in the front with the pilot behind them.  The take-off speed is about 40 miles per hour, and we started to climb and the door fell open.  The door split horizontally in the middle, half of it folded up against the wing and the other half folded down below the door opening.  The bottom half has failed to latch and fallen open. My father started laughing and I thought I might have to fly while he regained his composure. We survived.  
  5. In 1991, Bush Sr bombed Baghdad on a Wednesday night and on Friday night I flew to Amsterdam.  It was a KLM 747 from Atlanta to Amsterdam, and almost new plane with about 25 passengers.  There were more flight crew on the plane then passengers. They moved us all to business class and asked us which row we would like as our own.  We taxied out and the pilot came announced that it was rush hour in Atlanta, and it would be an hour or so before we took off  The cabin crew served dinner on the ground in Atlanta.  We took off and an hour or so later they served dinner again.  They were expecting a couple-hundred passengers and had provisions on board for all of them.  We landed in Amsterdam in such heavy fog, that the airport sent out an escort car to show is the way to the terminal.  It was an amazing flight.  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Weekend Rambling

Monday morning commute

It was a fun and fast week.  We made it home last Sunday from Bloggerpallooza before the snow moved in.  Monday the office was officially closed, but I had a major project I needed to move off my desk, so I laced up my boots and went in anyway.  Of the 250 staff in our DC office, about 10 people made it in on Monday.  The project took all day, but was an astonishing success.  I had a major conference call on Thursday that I expected to be nasty, it was difficult, but more pleasant than calls on the same issue over the past five years.  I have been preparing the participants for difficult decisions over the past three months, and it appears to have paid off.  One more call this week, and then deal with the complaints about the final cut on the project and that project will be moving into the easier phase.

Yesterday we went out to Mt Vernon for lunch (President Washington's home.)  I had not been to the Mt Vernon Inn.  It was interesting, the food was modern tidewater.  On the way back there was a group around a camera on a tripod with a huge telephoto lens on the side of the George Washington Parkway.  I looked in the direction of the lens, and there was a full grown Bald Eagle in the top of a tree.  Nice. 

This morning I dropped J off at the airport, to head back to teach the rest of the semester.  It is always kind of strange coming home to an empty house, when he goes back to Lexington.  No "Hi Honey I'm Home", for a few weeks.  Google Video chat really helps, we see one another everyday, from 530 miles away. 

The forecast  for this week calls for it to be cold again for a couple of days, with the possibility of a few snow flurries, this does seem to the be the winter that will not end.  The daffodils have started blooming, the trees are picking up color in the branches and buds.  The Cherry Blossom Festival opened this weekend with not a bloom in sight, last year the bloom was nearly finished when the festival opened.  Nature blooms, when nature is ready to bloom. Kind of like people. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Travel's Travel Plans

May will be a whirlwind of travel.  The end of April first of May I will be in Portland, Oregon.  I have never been there, and I am very much looking forward to it.  I'll be at a Hilton downtown.  I have conference duties, but I always find a way to squeeze out a few hours of fun.  The middle of the May I will be in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Flying out on a Monday evening and home mid day on Friday. The meetings are at a JW Marriott with wonderful dessert and mountain views.  I have meetings Tuesday afternoon, all day on Wednesday, Thursday morning and evening.  I went to the first grade in Phoenix, I this is my third trip back.  I am really looking forward to a few days in the dessert.  The following week we are going to Chicago for a few days. We will be at a Hyatt between Michigan Avenue and the Lake.  Three round trips by air, eleven hotel nights, May will be a busy month. Travel likes to travel!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Travel To-Do List

I’ve had an interesting journey, and I look forward to many more travels.  One day I will do a list of some of the unique experiences I have enjoyed in my travels.  But today, I am going to try a To-Do list, a list of things I want to do while I am still traveling this world.

  1. Fly in a blimp.  I have flown in a lot of aircraft, blimps fascinate me.
  2. Ride in a hot-air balloon. The drift must be almost magical, if I can overcome the lack of control.
  3. Live in a foreign country for 2-3 months.  I can’t think of a better way to understand another culture than to spend weeks as a local. This one will likely have to wait until I don’t need to go to office everyday.  
  4. Take a long distance, overnight train trip.  I have ridden from DC to Boston, but that is a day trip, I want to watch the sun set and rise over the backyards of America.
  5. Cross the Atlantic by ship.  My grandmother did it a couple of times back in the days of coal and steam.  I hate overnight flights, going east bound by ship would avoid the sleepless night.
  6. Visit the last five states.  I have yet to visit Wisconsin, Oregon (I’ll hit this one in May) Idaho, Wyoming and Hawaii.
  7. Cross the equator.  There is not a lot south of the equator on my “must see list” but crossing the equator is a travel milestone.
  8. Ride in a business jet.  I passed up an opportunity to ride in a Lear loaded with boat parts 35 years ago from Florida to Arizona and back, few regrets - that is one.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

At the beach, at Bloggerpalooza

We have just returned from Bloggerpalooza 2014 at Lewes Delaware.  What fun, about 20 bloggers from across the country gathered, talked, laughed, ate, drank,  and talked some more.  We put people with names, identities and faces. What a fun and bright bunch of people. Meeting in person helps to build relationships and friendships, we need to do this every year. 

Lewes, pronounced Louis, is in lower slower Delaware, just at the opening to Delaware bay. The town is charming, the hotel, the Inn at Canal Square was very comfortable.  

For the second year in a row, Ron, from Retired in Delaware did a stellar job of organizing the gathering.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for doing a great job of planning and organizing a great time for all.  

I look forward to reading even more bloggs, to seeing some of the bloggers over the course of the year, and to seeing you all again next year. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Gathering a few things

Getting ready to pack for the blogger gathering.  See you Saturday!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

12 on 12

This is my second 12 on 12, 12 photos, sort of a day in the life.  
I am inspired for this by Eric at

Toes, in this case my toes.  Why, a text message this evening, my only Uncle is about to have one amputated, complications from an infection and under controlled diabetes. This is his second hospital stay in a month.  Not good. 

An poster campaign in the DC subway on colon cancer screening, totally unrelated to the reader.

I could do a whole 12 on the Metro, I love this poster. 

On my way to have lunch with a friend at Union Station

Maryland Avenue entrance to Union Station in DC.  A great old station saved from the wrecking ball in the 1970's and now a vibrant train station. 

Another great metro poster

Down into the lobby of my office building

Enough searching and you could figure out what building my office is in.  My office is on the other side of the building, the alley side.

DC in the morning sun over the Potomac

National Airport this morning from the subway.  The subway is the best way to get in and out of DC from National Airport

The sun was out last week at this hour.

My home desk this morning, much cleaner than last month.  I had to do something when I was snowed one day last week, 

Commentary on Comments

Comments are a way of verifying that someone is reading. They are social contact.  I think all bloggers look for content.  I read a dozen or so blogs a day and regularly comment on 3 or 4. Hence I am a lurker on more then I am a social interactor.  I think the 5 or 10 to 1 ratio of readers to comments would hold true.  The heavier the traffic, likely the more lurkers. 

Comment can have issues.  I leave my blog open to all, and occasionally have to delete a nutter with a message unrelated to the blog.  Some review and approve comments.  Some get into arguments with commentors (and sometimes delete their blog in a huff.) Sometimes the software makes posting comments difficult.  I had one recently that didn't post, I waited and recommented, the next morning three comments appeared.  Oh well. 

I blog because I want to.  I love comments as they verify that someone is reading.  I appreciate the social interaction.  I will keep rambling, please keep commenting. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Two Wheels

I love riding bikes, I long have.  I started riding before the age of 10 and have owned one or more bikes ever since.  I have not always ridden, there have been a couple of long spells of not riding, from my late teens into my late 20’s I didn’t ride, and from my late 30’s into my early 50’s, I didn’t ride.  

In my late 20’s I got fit, very fit.  I started riding as part of a workout routine. On my 30th birthday, I competed in my first sprint series triathlon, on a decent bike.  A few months later I bought a very-very fast racing bike. I had difficulty buying it, I was shopping and falling in love with bikes that were way past my needs and borderline beyond my abilities. A couple of shops tried hard to sell me something more in keeping with my age and ability.  I finally found the right bike and the right shop.  For several years after buying it I rode  two - three thousand miles a year.  My riding skills developed and under dry conditions, on good roads, I could put it anyplace I wanted to go, at 30 miles per hour.  I did two seasons of sprint series triathlons, culminating with completing the Coca-Cola National Spring Championship race in Boca Raton Florida. I still own it, I take it out once in a while to remind myself how fun and how fast it can be.  

I still own my first full sized bike, a red Schwinn Typhoon, that was a birthday present when I was about 12.  It was one of the last years that Schwinn made steel bikes in Chicago.

About three years ago, DC rolled out a bike sharing system.  For a $75 annual fee, I can pick up a bike from any parking station and drop it off at any station, as long as the ride is less than 30 minutes.  I have ridden bike share bikes over 2,000 miles.  

A couple of years ago, I bought a new bike. A street hybrid.  It a lite frame, sits upright, has decent components, and moderately narrow tires.  It is not nearly as fast as the racing bike, but it is much more stable.  It will ride on a variety of surfaces, you can go off onto the grass with it and easily maintain control.  It is my commuter bike, I ride it to and from the office when the weather is decent. I have also taken it out for longer distance rides, it is comfortable for two or three hours in the saddle. It is not the fastest, I average about 12 miles per hour on it.  I have taken it in the car on vacation a couple of times. I rode it about 1,800 miles last year.

This winter I bought another bike, I tiny little folding bike.  It is on 20 inch wheels, I hadn’t ridden 20 inch wheels in 40 years.  It is nimble.  It has a 7 speed drive-train, and easily folds up.  The DC subway system prohibits bikes entering the system during peak morning and afternoon travel times, except for folding bikes, folding bikes can enter the system at anytime.

So, yes I own four bikes. Two get ridden on a regular basis, the old Schwinn, I keep for nostalgia - it is almost an antique and I am the original owner.  It is a parade float, waiting for a parade.  The racing bike I ride once in a while to remind me what it is like to be fast and alive.  The folding bike and the street hybrid are my daily rides.  

It has been a long cold winter, it looks like Tuesday will be warm enough to ride to the office for the first time in a couple of months.  I will write about my commuting route one day.   

Friday, March 07, 2014


The man in the picture is Robert Ruben, you may have his signature in your wallet, he was Secretary of the Treasury during the Clinton administration.  He was a speaker at a forum I attended this week. 

Daylight savings time arrives this weekend. I hate the transition.  It is just getting to the point that the sun is up when I get up in the morning, and we are going to screw with the clocks so I will be up in the dark again.  

Spring has got to be here soon, I can feel it, but only through the snow and ice left on the ground. The forecast for Tuesday looks good enough to ride the bike to the office.  I haven’t ridden to the office since December.  I took the new folding bike out last Sunday (before this week’s snow storm hit) I have used Bike-Share a couple of times this week.  I am so ready to get back on two wheels.    

I confirmed the commitment to a major new project this week.  I am writing a chapter for a graduate school text book.  The commitment is 25 pages in a particular format, by early summer.  It fulfills both personal and professional goals - it will be a chunk of work.  

A week from now and my sweet bear will be here and we will be headed out to the blogger gathering a week from Saturday.  

It was a busy week in the office.  I started on a major policy proposal, continued development on a national conference and I am pushing all of my normal work forward.  I like being busy, but the 12 hour days kick my a$$.  

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


It has been a long cold winter, I haven't ridden the bike to work since early December.  DC just made the top of the list for gridlock.  I am so glad I don't drive to work.  

My typical morning commute at this time of the year, is a 10 minute walk to the subway station, wait in the cold for 5-7 minutes for the train, ride into the City, change lines, wait 5-7 minutes for another train, and three stops in the right direction and I come up an escalator right in front of the office door.  If I catch the trains without the waits, I can do it in 45 minutes, on a bad day, it can take an hour each way, on a really bad day it can take 1.5 hours each way.  On average I can ride it on the bike in just under an hour each way, plus time for a shower and changing clothes at the office.  

This afternoon, Metro (the subway system) was having a really - really bad day on one of the lines but not as bad of day as one of the customers.  The signs said, "Customer Struck by a Train."  That is Metro public relations for speak for someone has jumped in front of a train.  Nine our ten times it is a man who has jumped. Because of the design of the system, the jump almost always happens at the entrance to a station. If the jumper is in the middle of the line, the trains have to single track around the site, until the "extraction" and investigation are complete. Single tracking slows train volume by at least half, causing massive delays, especially at rush hour. Only once have I heard of a jumper at the end of the line (I live 10 minutes from the end of the Yellow line.) That guy really wanted to avoid inconveniencing others,  he jumped on a Saturday afternoon at the end of the line.  

No matter how bad of day I had, I had a better day then the guy who jumped.

I had two sisters in my office one day talking about their mother, one of them was really going on about what a terrible person mom had been.  The other sister stopped her in her tracks by saying, "she was better then that women in Texas who drowned all of her kids in the bathtub." It is all a matter of perspective. 

Monday, March 03, 2014

Ten Things to do on a Snow Day

It snowed today and the office was closed.  So what are my top ten options for a snow day?
  1. Sleep late, if I know the evening before that it it is a snow day, or go back to bed in the morning when I find out the office is closed. 
  2. Cook, I love to make slow cooked soups and stews and a snow day is the perfect opportunity to indulge. 
  3. Bake, I made french bread today. 
  4. Read for fun. 
  5. Deep cleaning, my home desk hasn't been so dust free and clutter free in a year. 
  6. Watch meaningless TV.
  7. Take an afternoon nap. 
  8. Blog
  9. Update bookmarks on my computer, a few more blogs have gone silent, look for a few new ones to add to the list. 
  10. Relax and enjoy the unexpected random day of personal time.