Thursday, September 30, 2010

Status updates

As you all well know, I'm not really one for the Facebook. But a friend passed along these, somewhat old, status updates that show me just how useful this too can be.

For instance, say you've just made a stunning scientific discovery and you want to get the word out, but you're not too sure how your parish priest might feel about your endeavors. Well, you can just throw it up there and see what happens, as such:

Or, what do you do when you and your buddies throw on some wool clothes, lock yourselves in a room at the height of summer (long before air conditioning is discovered, I might add) and then decide to break it off with the mother country? What's the best way to tell the king and Parliament that while you think you should still be friends, you're going to have to see other forms of government for a few centuries? This is especially a problem when the fastest way to get the word back to Merry Ol' England is by sailing ship. Just do a status update:

And, as we all know, it can sometimes be a bit of a problem to get tickets to see the latest shows here in D.C. But, when you do get tickets to see Our American Cousin, you want all your friends to know you're taking the little lady out to see the biggest show of the year. And, because you're treating her right, you're also probably going to get laid that night.

So, I have to admit, Facebook might be useful after all.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Just like the little engine

After about 60 or so miles of riding, just about the time you'd like nothing better than to puke your guts out, there stands one final hill between you and the finish line. You and no more pedaling. You and cold shower. You and a seat that isn't wedged up your ass.

"What the Hell, what's one more hill?" you ask yourself. And then the answer comes: One more hill.

That said, I had a good time at the St. Mary's Century on Saturday. Aside from the warmer than expected temps and a course that could have been slightly better marked, it was a fun ride. Yanno, except for those last couple of miles, those pretty much sucked. And the five miles we rode out of our way because the left turn at the bottom of a high-speed hill was really badly marked.

When I finally got back to the parking lot, after doing a couple of laps to cool down and gross-up my odometer (even numbers are so much prettier, don't ya think?), I stopped, carefully leaned my bike up against a tree, took the remaining food and my camera out of my back pockets, and then laid down on the wonderfully cool concrete sidewalk.

It felt glorious.

It didn't matter it was, literally, hard as a rock. It was cool. So, so deliciously cool. And, you know how you pillow gets warm after a couple of minutes? Yeah, I actually had to scoot over after a bit because I sucked all the cool out of the concrete. Not that I couldn't use some, as some might say.

But after a couple of minutes I was up and about and headed to the picnic for some more calories and then to the gym for a quick shower before heading home.

Let me 'splain the lessons learned from the St. Mary's Century, no, there is too much, let me sum up:

First, and I can't stress this enough, don't do two personal best long rides on consecutive weekends. This is just stupid.

Next, there's a big, big difference between riding 50 miles and riding and 65 miles. I imagine it's like the difference between running 20 miles and running 26.2. While neither of the first two are exactly easy, they're doable on what you've got inside. To do the others - ride 65 or run 26.2 - you've got to find a different place to get your energy from. At least I had to.

Speaking of energy, I'm still getting used to eating during and while I ride. All told, I think I shoved about 1,000 calories down my throat before and during the ride. Wasn't enough and, once you get behind that power curve, it's nigh on impossible to catch up. Personally, I'm sure I got right to the edge of boinking, but didn't. I took the Beasties' advice throughout the last five or so miles: "Low and slow, that is the tempo."

The evidence of my almost boink came when I got home. I thought I'd take a nap at 5 p.m., and I did. It lasted until just about midnight. When I woke up my body was screaming out for food. Luckily, I live right next to a 24-hour diner, so I pulled on some shorts, shoes and a hat and limped on over. After inhaling a steak omelet, I headed home and went back to bed. This time I woke up at 9 a.m. feeling pretty all right. If you do the math there, I slept for seven and eight hours with a one-hour break in between. To put that in perspective, I generally get by on six hours a night and haven't slept more than eight in I don't know how long. Saturday night, I slept for 15 hours.

Finally, I'll definitely do another one. And this time, I'd like it to be a full century. But that's going to take a lot more training. Perhaps next spring, in March or April before it gets too warm. Anyone care to join?

And one more thing, you can still help my friend out by sponsoring him in his eight-day, 635-mile ride from San Francisco to San Diego next month. Make a donation by going to his LIVESTRONG fundraising site and following the directions.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Harvest Moonset

Wednesday night a Harvest Moon rose over D.C. and I thought about going down to the Netherlands Carillon to shoot some pictures. But, as I got off my bus on the way home from work I took a look to the east and it looked a bit cloudy.

So I bagged it. I'd been out the night before and my ass was dragging a bit so I decided I'd go home, relax and get a good night sleep.

Turns out that was a good thing. I bounced out of bed Thursday morn ready to face the day. After I'd finished my breakfast and was heading to the shower I took a glance out the door and saw a the Harvest Moon setting over the Pike.

Seeing as I was running a bit ahead of schedule I grabbed the camera, tripod and remote and went out on the balcony. Score!! An orange moon on an indigo sky. The images are clickable, so if you want to see the bigger versions, go ahead and click away.

These pictures, obviously, didn't come from my balcony. They were shot two Saturday's past at the Arts on F, along the Mall and at the Hirshhorn during the Yves Klein exhibit. I was playing around with close-ups in some of them, as you can see, and others were targets of opportunity.

These images are from the frieze surrounding the Building Museum. I find the mule skinner particularly captivating.

I never knew there was a "Diana" street in D.C.

Sisters. At least I assume so.

This just kinda drew my eye.

The Klein exhibit was a display of pure color. Sadly, they didn't let you take pictures so I had to sneak some in and trust in Fate. This one turned out pretty OK.

Up or down?

Amazing what a reflection becomes.

Well, that's all for now. I'm headed down to St. Mary's County tomorrow for my little bike ride. If you haven't yet, you've still got a chance to contribute to my friend's ride next month out in California to support the Lance Armstrong Foundation. You know you wanna.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A turn of the wheel

For those of you wondering how Saturday turned out, well, I have to say it went pretty good. All in all my friend and I rode just about 50 miles, so I'm confident I'll be able to complete my metric century this coming weekend.

Trust me when I say I tried to create a map to show our route but failed miserably due to the technical flaws inherent in Google Maps. It's all the technology's fault. Therefore, you'll get a description of the route via the written word.

Started at Lee Highway and Glebe in Arlington. At 6:30. On a Saturday morning. The roads were very clear. Along with six other riders (a group that soon became four others due to some broken spokes) we headed from there to Great Falls (the Virginia side) for the morning coffee.

After splitting off from the group the two of us rode from Great Falls to Reston on a variety of roads, including a lovely jaunte down Sunrise Valley Drive, and then down to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail (the WOD). Fourteen or so miles later, at the intersection of the WOD and Columbia Pike, I passed my personal best for distance at 35.5 miles. By the time we made the turn onto the Potomac Trail by National, we'd done around 40 miles, just 10 to go.

The next five or so miles - National to Rosslyn - skipped right by. Hey man, I was thinking, this is easy. And then we got to Rosslyn and Lee Highway again. While riding from west-to-east on this road is pretty fun, it's definitely no fun going west. Straight. Up. Hill. For the last five miles. Not a serious grade, but just a long, dedicated pull up hill.

But I did it. And now I'm looking forward to the ride down in St. Mary's this weekend. Who knows, maybe one of these days soon I'll be able to throw away that "metric" tag and just do a real century.

As I mentioned in my last post, while I'm doing this for fun, my friend has a more important purpose in mind. He's riding 635 miles from San Francisco to San Diego in eight days next month to raise money for LIVESTRONG. And, while he's 80 percent of the way to his $5,000 goal, every little bit helps. So here's how you can help:

You can make a donation by going to his LIVESTRONG fundraising site
Enter an amount in the box
Click “Continue,” and follow the instructions from there

See you on the trails...

Friday, September 17, 2010

May the road rise up

Tomorrow, a friend and I are headed out for a little bike ride. For me, the ride will be the longest I’ve ever done – 50 miles. Not so much for him. He’s ridden 50s and more before, but it’s still an important ride.

You see, next week, the two of us will be heading over to Maryland for the St. Mary’s Century. For those of you unfamiliar with biking terms, that’s a hundred miles. I, personally, will be taking the wimp’s way out and doing the metric century – 100 kilometers (about 65 miles), so I’ll be setting personal bests on two consecutive weekends.

The thing is, while I’ll be curled up in a ball whining in pain the next day, my friend’s going to head back out on the road to see if he can do it again. There is a method to his madness: He’s training for an even longer ride for a better cause than just a T-shirt. But I’ll let him explain in his own words:

Colleagues, friends, family, and fellow cyclists,

As some of you may know, I am riding my bike from San Francisco to San Diego, Calif., next month as part of KPMG’s Chasing Daylight charity ride to raise money to help fight cancer. The Chasing Daylight Tour will cover 635 miles from San Francisco to San Diego in eight days from Oct. 10 to the 17.

This year, we are raising money for Lance Armstrong’s Foundation, LIVESTRONG. My personal goal is to raise $5,000. Our collective goal is to raise $200,000, which will make us the biggest single grassroots fundraiser for LIVESTRONG. You can be sure that your donations will be put to good use. KPMG and the individual Chasing Daylight riders are bearing all costs for the ride: transportation, lodging, food, and support. That means that 100 percent percent of the money that you donate will go to LIVESTRONG to help inspire and empower people affected by cancer.

Most of us probably know or love someone who has been touched by cancer. Please help me honor those people and help others who are currently fighting the battle by donating whatever you can.

You can make a donation by going to
my LIVESTRONG fundraising site

Enter an amount in the box
Click “Continue,” and follow the instructions from there

If you are interested in finding out more about LIVESTRONG, please click on the links below:
What We Do
Get Help
Our History

Yeah, you read that right, 635 miles in eight days. In case you didn’t, lemme spell it out for ya: Six hundred and thirty-five miles. In eight days. San Francisco to San Diego.

As he said, “Most of us probably know or love someone who has been touched by cancer,” and that is true in my case as well. My brother-in-law was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease two weeks before he married my sister. And, come Nov. 1, it’ll be nine years since my mom died after her second go ‘round with cancer.

I checked this morning, my friend’s a little more than halfway to his $5,000 goal. Any help you can give to help him reach that goal is greatly appreciated.

Live. Strong.

“May the road rise up to meet you,may the wind be ever at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields.
And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Unoriginal Idea*

I have a friend. A very, very educated friend - he's been through, like, 24th grade. Every once in a while I'll get a text from him that, quite simply, must be shared with the world at large. That said, I'll identify him no further.

Also, I don't think he reads my blog (sadly), so I feel pretty safe posting his missives. One or two of you might recognize the style, but I don't think you'll rat me out.

The Rant

"My GOD...Wal-Mart is an amazing example of what happens when natural selection is halted by misplaced social programs, entitlement mentalities and a philosophy of redistribution. The anthropologist in me can't help but stare in a macabre curiosity typically reserved for only the fringes of human behavior. Like head shrinking or bestiality; you don't want to look but you can't look away. We need to allow for certain Darwinian realities or the human race is SCREWED!!"

My first though about his observations was perhaps it was just the area where he lived. An area, I might add, that has long been the brunt of jokes about the evolutionary success of its residents. Then I realized he'd probably feel the say way about the clientele of a high-end boutique on Rodeo (I like to pronounce it the way they did in Tejas) Drive.

Then I realized he was entirely serious.

*As Mark Hunter said, "All the great themes have been used up and turned into theme parks."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Northside flu

Windiess Bleacherus.

It'a a rare condition, I'll admit, usually only found in certain neighborhoods in the far northern reaches of Chicago on 50 to 60 days each spring and summer. Sadly, while I feel its characteristic symptoms today, I will somehow have to muddle through the day.

Damn it!

(and even though he went to Dook, I'm still posting his picture here)

The Nats are playing an extremely rare day home game today at 12:35 p.m. As much as I'd love to blow off work and head out to the ballpark, sadly, the work culture in this town is like an antibody to Northside, or Wrigley flu. Half of D.C. bills by the hour, and the other half are clients checking the billing records. This effectively negates the possibility of taking a little undertime, chucking the tie and lounging in the outfield for an afternoon.


Playing hookie from work is so entrenched in the Chicago culture you almost feel a little silly not going to the game. My brother told me he and three guys in his IT department each used to sign out to a different location downtown - specifically Clark and Addison; Addison and Sheffield; Sheffield and Waveland; and Waveland and Clark - and take in a game.

D.C. is a night game town, and that sucks. But, and this is a big but, if they started playing day games, I bet people would loosen up and come.

"This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."
- Terence Mann, Field of Dreams

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ultimate test of Good v. Evil

Jesus and Satan were having an ongoing argument about who was better on the computer. They had been going at it for days, and frankly God was tired of hearing all the bickering.

Finally fed up, He said, “THAT'S IT! I have had enough. I am going to give you a test that will run for two hours, and from the results, I will judge who does the better job.”

So Satan and Jesus sat down at the keyboards and typed away.

They moused.

They faxed.

They e-mailed.

They e-mailed with attachments.

They created PowerPoint presentations.

They downloaded.

They did Excel spreadsheets.

They created more PowerPoint presentations.

They wrote reports.

They created labels and cards.

They created even more PowerPoint presentations.

They created charts and graphs.

They did some genealogy reports.

They did every job known to man (and then did another PowerPoint presentation to sum it all up).

Jesus worked with heavenly efficiency and Satan was faster than hell.

Then, 10 minutes before the two hours were up, lightning flashed across the sky, thunder rolled, rain poured down and, of course, the power went off. Satan stared at his blank screen and screamed every curse word known in the underworld. Jesus just sighed.

Finally the electricity came back on, and each of them restarted their computers.

Satan started searching frantically, screaming: “It’s gone! It's all GONE!! I lost everything when the power went out!”

Meanwhile, Jesus quietly started printing out all of his files from the past two hours of work. Satan observed this and became irate.“Wait!” he screamed. “That’s not fair! He cheated! How come he has all his work and I don’t have any?”

God just shrugged and said, “Jesus saves.”

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Trying to Reason with the Hurricane Season

Squalls out on the gulfstream
Big storms coming soon
I passed out in my hammock
God, I slept way past noon
Stood up and tried to focus
I hoped I wouldn't have to look far
I knew I could use a Bloody Mary
So I stumbled next door to the bar

I’ve found myself mentally looking over my shoulder the past couple of days. You know, like when you feel there’s a powerful force lurking out there just waiting for you to let your guard down.

No, I’m not paranoid. Really. You’re not paranoid if something actually is out to get you. In my memories their names read like a rogues’ gallery of malcontents:

Hugo – ’89
Emily – ’93
Fran – ’96
Dennis – ’99 (x2)
Floyd – ’99
Irene – ’99
Ivan – ’04
Katrina – ’05
Rita – ’05

This is a pretty kick-ass image of Rita (that bitch). Seriously,
it's basically covering the Gulf of Mexico.

There are a couple of other hurricanes I’ve been the fringes of, but their names are lost to me in the mists of time - and alcohol. Definitely alcohol.

Honestly, along with a desire to move closer to my family, the dream of moving somewhere that didn’t have a bull’s eye painted on it was a big part of my leaving Texas. After covering Katrina and living through and covering Rita, I was through with tropical cyclones.



Never again.

We bitched and moaned up here when the power went out for a couple of hours or a day or two last month. But imagine what it’d be like if the greater D.C. area was without power for eight days ... and the farther reaches had to do without for weeks. Say end of September until Thanksgiving. That’s what happened to the town where I lived after Rita slammed into us on Sept. 23, 2005. Do you know how long it took me to break the habit of stopping at stoplights to looking both ways before pulling through the intersection? That’s what you do when the traffic signals don’t have power. (The answer: I sometimes still do it.)

I only spent a couple of days in Louisiana after Katrina, but I saw enough. I’m not downplaying what Louisiana and the people living there went through during and after Katrina. But the fact is Rita was a bigger and more powerful storm – the fourth most powerful hurricane ever – and I’m wondering when CNN is going to do it’s weekend-long coverage about the aftermath of the storm that flattened Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana.

Towns like Sabine Pass, Texas, and Johnsons Bayou, La., just vanished. Beaumont, where I lived and worked as a reporter, lost power around 2 a.m. on Sept. 24 and the lights didn't come back on until about 8 p.m. Oct. 1. The days were long and hot and the nights were pitch dark and eerily quiet. You really don't realize all the white noise (air conditioners, fluorescent lights etc.) that fills our lives ... until it's gone. On the plus side, you could really see the stars.

And now here comes Earl. Like your drunken uncle, all ready to spoil the big holiday weekend. Thankfully, unless you had plans of heading to the OBX or Ocean City, or up to Lawn Guyland or Bar Harbor, you shouldn’t have any problems.

But you know what? Even though I live in a hi-rise on top of a hill, I’m going to keep looking over my shoulder until our drunken fool of an uncle is well past. And then I’ll start looking for the “Rita – Five Years Later” news special.

But I won’t be holding my breath.