Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Random picture day

Last Sunday, instead of lazying about on the couch and watching football like any good, red-blooded American man, I headed up to Bethesda with a friend for the Dieciocho festival. For those of you who, like me, have a Spanish vocabulary limited to the menu at Taco Bell, the festival was a celebration of Chile's independence. Food, music and games abounded.

For a better description than I can offer here, head over to my friend Fresh Muddy Waters' place. She does it much more justice than I ever could. Except in pictures, of which, I offer these:

It was a hard-fought match, but the kids on the left side emerged victorious.

Thank goodness for instant replay or we never would have caught the holding.

Yeah, the kid on the right side won this heat.

This kinda reminds me of the Far Side cartoon of the porcupine child playing with the balloon: It's not going to end well. Thankfully his sister was there to make more bubbles.

This little guy was having a ball with his Bubble Gun. I really need to get me one of these.

Does this really need a description?

The friday night before the Dieciocho, this was the view from my balcony. Not quite fall yet, but the evening sky is getting close.

Red sky at night: A sailor's delight.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Who's in?

I saw a show about this years ago on Discovery or one of those channels and it has intrigued me ever since. I've always wanted to go, but haven't, until this year, had the time.
So, the question is this: Who's with me? Who else wants to go to the 2009 World Championship Punkin Chunkin?
As you can see, it takes place Nov. 6, 7 and 8 over in Delaware. Folks from all over show up and there's camping and such, but I'm just thinking of driving up for the day to see men like this:
go for the world record punkin chunk. The current record, set last year by Young Glory III is 4,483.51 feet. Perhaps, if we're lucky, we'll get to see someone break that mythical barrier of 5,280 feet. Like Chuck Yeager through the sound barrier, the first team to chunk a punkin a mile, well my friend, their names are sure to go down in history.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Oooh YEAH!!

While I don't normally make it a policy to post cell phone pics, this one from the Metro Friday night is just too good to pass up:

Duffman can never die, only the actors who play him. Ooh yeah!

About two minutes after I took this (I asked politely, "Hey Duffman? Can I take your picture?" Duffman consented) another, very much more attractive person (read Hawt! but with a kinda funky hairdo), also got his picture. Duffman, though, did not get her number (or mine, just thought I'd mention that).

Are you ready for some Duff love?!?!?

Here's a picture of the real-live Duffman played by Barry Duffman, (voiced by the great Hank Azaria):

Our D.C. Duffman is missing the white gloves, cape and the Devil-may-care attitude of the real Duffman, but not too bad an imitation.
I now have only one question for you: "Are you ready to get DUFFED?!?!?"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Yesterday, Tuesday, Sept. 15, was a good day. A decision on one major aspect of my life was made, and two other developments, unexpected but thoroughly pleasant nonetheless, came to pass. All this followed a wonderful late summer weekend so, basically, I guess I’m tempting the Fates with this post.

So. Be. It.

You may remember earlier this year when I wrote about losing one job only to get hired by another company, in a better position, in the same office later that very same day. To those of you unfamiliar with how the U.S. government works, this is the dealio (and yes, I know most of you reading this live either in or very near the Beltway, but there are some who don’t): Many of the folks who keep this behemoth running aren’t actually employees of the government but, rather, contractors. It’s a pretty cool gig except for one little detail: Every three-to-five years you have to rebid for the work you’re doing and convince the government you’re still the best company for the job.

As I said, earlier this year, the company I used to work for lost its re-compete for our contract and like that *snaps fingers* I and my coworkers were out on our asses. No job, no paycheck, no benefits. Nada. Simply said, it sucked big, sweaty monkey balls.

But, like I said, I fell into it and came up smelling like Buffalo wings and cheesesteaks (Hey, I’m a guy, those things are like Channel No. 5 to us). The only little detail was that the contract I moved to was up for re-bid over the summer. We worked our asses off in June and July, put together a KICK-ASS proposal, submitted it and…waited. It was kinda like the Sitzkieg of 1939-40.

Until yesterday.

The boss called us all together at 8:30 and, with a hangdog expression on his face, said, “I got the word last night and……….We won!”

There you go, I’ve got a job for the next five years. That was the big news.

Right on the heels of that meeting, I went into another with my client who told me, now that we’d won the contract, his boss was reorganizing the office. Instead of supervising four, sometimes surly, people who don’t even work for my company, they will be moving out to other positions and replaced by people from my company who will actually work for me. I believe the term is management. Seriously, after years in journalism – a generally solitary profession – this is the first time I’ll actually have people working for me since I was a 23-year-old Marine corporal.

Heady wine indeed.

And finally, speaking of wine, well, actually water, my brother called me as I was on my way home from one of the better days in the office in a very long time. Trust me, that sentence will make sense.

The result of our conversation is I’m to be Godfather to my niece, Neve, when she and her sister, Quinn, are baptized next month. Here, aren’t they cute? (Neve’s the one on the left with the drool on her chin. Awww.)

This picture’s kinda old, it was taken back in April when they were 5 months old, but they’re still the sweetest little girls.

So to ‘splain, no, there is too much, let me sum up: My contract got renewed for 5 more years, I’m actually a going to be a real manager now and my brother trusts me to not totally screw up.

Now all I have to do is keep looking up for the falling safe.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Justification for higher education

Back in March, as some of you may remember, I switched jobs moving from a big company (12k-plus employees) to a much smaller company (500 or so employees). This was forced upon me by the old company’s (let’s just say its acronym is a homonym for a type of tan-ish fabric) inability to win the re-compete for the contract I was working on.

Lazy bastards.

In the past six months I’ve come to really like my new company. It’s consistently rated as one of the best places to work in D.C. and I can see why. One of the best reasons I’ve found so far is the company’s season tickets at Nationals Park work their way through the rotation a whole lot quicker.

On Wednesday, my boss called to see if I wanted to go to the game that night and, having nothing else to do that evening except contemplate my navel, I said “Sure, no problem.” He told me the tickets were in the top drawer of his desk and just asked that I not scalp them. Not that I’d do that of course but, after opening the envelope I found in his desk, I understood the warning. Here’s why:

It’s not often you get offered four, fifth-row, behind home plate tickets. Except for some of the tickets I got for Heels’ games in the Dean Dome (front row, behind the goal, SCORE!) these were probably the best tickets I’ve ever had in my life. And best of all, they were free (just like the food that was served to us in our 22-inch-wide padded seats).

Seriously. I’ve never actually had to go down before to get to my seats at a baseball park. The climb to my seats, usually halfway to the stratosphere, was an integral part of the game for me. To get to our seats we had to ride the elevator down and then go through this door:

which was guarded by not one, but two very large men.

I’m not kidding with the title of this post, seats like these are seriously a justification for higher education, cause trust me baby, these seats ain’t cheap. As a comparison, I just bought four pairs of tickets to Caps games this winter all of them cost me only marginally more than just one of the tickets I used on Wednesday.

These seats confirmed something I already knew: Nationals Park is one of the nicest places around to watch baseball. It's just a pretty, well thought out stadium. This is a good thing because the team sucks so bad the Nats are almost painful to watch and the folks running the stadium do their best to make watching a bad team even harder.

Anyway, here’s a couple more shots from Section E, Row E, Seat 3:

Shortly after this picture was taken, Abe cut blocked Tom and both of them ended up on their asses. Tom still won the race.
Technically, this one wasn't taken from our seats, but it's pretty close

A view into the secret world of the goings on in the Nats' dugout
Adam Dunn watching Cristian Guzman watch one go by
And while I won’t say leaving the park that night was difficult cause, c’mon, the Nats lost again, I do look forward to the next time the boss calls.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean

I want to go back to the island,
Where the shrimp boats
. .tie up to the pilin'.
Give me oysters and beer
. .for dinner ev'ry day of the year,
And I'll feel fine, I'll feel fine.

Two hundred and two days ago my friends and I all went online to TicketMonster and started clicking away like test rats beating on the food bar trying to get a treat. It’s an annual ritual for us and this year, unlike last, we were eminently successful.

Last year, when we tried to buy tickets only one out of six of us got through and we were forced to get our tickets to the show on the aftermarket. This, of course, sucked major monkey balls since the price automatically doubles.

This year? Well this year all of us got through and we found ourselves with 36 tickets to tomorrow’s Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band show at Nissan. The bus to the show starts loading at 1:30. Yeah, I said "bus." Four years ago we all decided we all made enough money to rent a bus to take us to-and-from the concert eliminating the need for a DD. Also, it gave us our own private bathroom. A much treasured luxury in the parking lot of Nissan Pavilion.

'Cause I want to be there,
I want to go back down and lie beside the sea there.
With a tin cup for a chalice
Fill it up with good red wine,
And I'm-a chewin' on a honeysuckle vine.

I’ve lost count to the number of Buffett shows I’ve been to, but this year is either 13 or 14. Every one is different (even though many of the same songs are played), and every one is special. Special because I’m there with my best friends, some of the people I love the most in the world.

So, if you too are headed out to the show tomorrow, I’ll see you there and maybe we can share a beer or two. If you’re not, well, the pirate has looked at 60 and if you’ve ever wondered why he sells out all his shows you’re running out of chances to see why.

Yes, and now you heard my strange proposal;
Get that pack gear on and let's move.
I want to be there before the day
Tries to steal away and leave us behind;
I've made up my mind

- selected lyrics from the song Tin Cup Chalice, one of my favs.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Eighteen layers of fun

One of my most favorite things to do is cook and then try out the results on my friends. So far, I’ve been lucky, and I've never had to order pizza to cover a mistake. This past weekend was no exception.

I had some friends over for burgers and beer to celebrate the end of summer. Not that that’s really anything to celebrate, but it was an excuse to have burgers and drink beer. Not that it takes much to inspire that behavior.

Anyway. I also made dessert. From scratch. This weekend, the past couple of years, has traditionally been the weekend for Shakes in the Park up at Carter Barron. Not this year, which also had the unfortunate side effect of me not baking my famous $40-Brownies. Yeah, I said $40-Brownies ‘cause that’s how much the ingredients cost. Imagine if you will a confectionary concoction containing not one, not two, but two and a half pounds of chocolate and not a measly dozen, but 16 eggs (among other secret ingredients). It's enough to stop your heart

Wait. Wait! WAIT! C’mon back to me. It’s OK, the $40-Brownies have a way of doing that to a person. Just wipe that little bit drool off your face. So, instead of the $40-Brownies, I had to come up with something new. Something different. Something, dare I say, challenging?

This is what I came up with. Behold, the
Smith Island Cake. A cake so famous, the NYT wrote about it almost a month before our local rag.

Doesn’t look like much, does it eh? A little lopsided and, perhaps, and very humble looking cake. But wait till you cut into it, that’s when the delicious magic starts. This is what you see when you cut into it.

Nine layers of cake and nine layers of delicious chocolate icing. Eighteen layers in all. Eighteen layers of cakey, chocolaty yumminess. I swear some of my friends started chanting like third-graders, “Cut the cake! Cut the cake!”

And so I did.

And I looked upon it and it was good.

For those of you adventurous enough, click here for the recipe. Note: The only thing I changed is I did half again as much icing, i.e. 12 ounces of evaporated milk, 3 cups of sugar etc. etc. Trust, you’ll need it to cover this monster.