John McCain picks Sarah Palin as his running mate. Interesting…

August 29, 2008, 11:38 PM

Finally, the battle lines are completely drawn for the 2008 election. Barack Obama has selected Joe Biden as his running mate, and John McCain surprised us all by picking Sarah Palin of Alaska, whom most of us have never heard of, as his running mate. Interesting move.

What got me was in reading this AP article on the VP pick. Specifically: “She mentioned that she followed in the footsteps of Geraldine Ferraro, who was the Democratic vice presidential running mate in 1984[…]”

It’s always a good idea to invoke the name of a vice presidential candidate whose ticket lost by a HUGE landslide in the 1984 election. Not to mention that this is the same person who, back in March, left-wing pundit Randi Rhodes described as “the David Duke in drag” due to Ferraro’s comments about why Barack Obama has gotten as far as he has. Excellent strategy, bringing a failed VP candidate’s name into the mix.

I say that if we’re going to invoke the name of Geraldine Ferraro, let’s see if we can’t make sure that they go the whole way down that Ferraro road. We do that by making sure that the McCain-Palin ticket goes the same way as the Mondale-Ferraro ticket did in 1984. Recall that in 1984, Ronald Reagan won in a landslide victory. Let’s see if we can’t secure as big of a landslide victory as Reagan did in 1984 for the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008. It’s doable.

Categories: National politics

And we’re back!

August 29, 2008, 10:00 PM

And we’re back in Silver Spring once again, after a fun vacation. Now we’re refreshed and ready to take on the real world once again.

It’s interesting, though – the way my travels usually go, usually one leg of the trip goes flawlessly, and one has issues. The outbound leg went flawlessly. Perfect driving conditions, and traffic was fairly light. The return trip, however, was not so flawless. Traffic was heavy the entire way, and I had to detour around a bit within Hampton Roads.

First of all, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Hampton Roads area, let me explain for a moment. Hampton Roads is encircled by the Hampton Road Beltway, which is formed from the final 36 miles of I-64, and roughly 20 additional miles of I-664. Inside that, going roughly east-west through the middle, is I-264, which runs from I-64’s terminus to the Virginia Beach oceanfront. Then there’s also I-464, which runs from the Downtown Tunnel in Norfolk (part of I-264) to State Route 168 on a roughly north-south track, intersecting I-64 along the way. Confused yet?

My detour started because I saw a sign on one of those highway message signs: “HRBT 4.5 MILE BACKUP, MMMBT CLEAR”. This told me that the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) had a massive backup nearly five miles long on westbound, while the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (MMMBT) was going smoothly. My understanding is that these HRBT backups are common, and that they’re looking into a permanent solution to the problem.

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Categories: Driving, Travel

Thursday was fun…

August 29, 2008, 9:11 AM

Thursday was fun. I spent much of it wandering along the strip, checking out the various stores and such. However, I only spent money at Flipper McCoy’s, which, unlike the visit on Tuesday night, was pretty quiet this time around. I had so much fun. I took both Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man for a number of spins, I played skee-ball, I played Spin-to-Win, and I got to see someone win 1500 tickets on the Deal Or No Deal machine.

Perhaps the most interesting was skee-ball. They have two different versions. One named along the lines of your typical skee-ball game and styled as such, and then the other was called “Ice Ball”. The gameplay between regular skee ball and Ice Ball was exactly the same, but the Ice Ball balls were white, and they felt ever so slightly heavier, which I preferred. In play, I somehow managed to hit every spot, including the 10,000 spot, except for 5,000. Why not 5,000? Dunno. Got 1K, 2K, 3K, and 4K no problem. Go figure. I also found that I scored better by changing my angle. I was initially playing like it was bowling. Underhanded roll, hitting the rolling surface fairly close to the edge. When I changed to a different style throw, aiming for it to start rolling along the track towards the back, I did a lot better. Go fig.

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And while I’m on vacation, the Democrats put an end to the nomination fight once and for all…

August 28, 2008, 1:43 AM

Let me say that the fourth day in Virginia Beach was a lot of fun. It started with a walk down the beach. Recall that on Monday, I took Duckie into the water for a swim, and got those amazing wave photos. Today, I again took Duckie to the water, though this time I was mainly out to cover the beach. I got people making sandcastles, as well as completed sandcastles. Some people made forts for themselves, while one person dug a small tunnel system in the sand. Metro for the sand crabs, maybe? Looked as though he had just completed his system’s equivalent of Metro Center when I passed by. And most people, by and large, were very friendly, even offering to pose with their creations as they were building them. However, considering the style of photos I normally like to take, the phrase “act natural” became a fairly common phrase for me.

This, by the way, is the pièce de résistance when it comes to Virginia Beach sandcastles today:


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Late start, but not bad.

August 27, 2008, 11:28 AM

I got a late start on Tuesday, owing to a sore foot. But the day definitely made up for the late start. I kind of explored around the city a bit by car, and it was certainly worth the time, as I got to see what kind of city Virginia Beach was in the “local” department, vs. the resort area. Not bad. I don’t think I’d want to ever live here, if nothing else but for the constant sound of jet noise due to the presence of the Oceana Naval Air Station in the town. You can hear those jets even when you’re driving in your car. Very disconcerting, because I’m thinking it’s something wrong with the car or something, and it’s the military flying jets overhead. And then a jet flew directly overhead – that’s ear-splittingly loud. Give me a Wheelock 7002T to the face any day, thank you.

Due to a strong wind blowing over the area, the ocean was a bit rougher than usual. The strong waves actually reshaped the beach somewhat – it was a smooth slope down to the ocean from the main beach on Monday, but today, there was a noticeable step down to the water, as the waves carved it out as they took sand out to sea. I went down to the water in the early evening, and got in this rough surf, and the waves were noticeably more forceful than the day before. And I got sand up my suit. No fun. But it was a good experience out there.

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Categories: Travel, Virginia Beach

Cold water is COLD!

August 25, 2008, 10:24 PM

It’s Day 2 of vacation! And let me just say that the cold water in the ocean is as cold as longcat is long. I went swimming in the ocean today. And it was interesting how the temperatures turned out. I believe the majority of the water around here was quite cold. But as the waves crashed, the heat off of the beach would warm the water up, and then it would roll back in, it made a warm layer in the water. It was quite a weird feeling. But on a warm day, the cold water in the ocean was quite refreshing.

I also took Duckie out in the ocean today, and I had a great time. Duckie is a great in-the-water camera, and I had fun taking up-close photos of the waves. Check it out…

Big Mavica would certainly never have gotten this close to the ocean!
Big Mavica would certainly never have gotten this close to the ocean!

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Categories: Travel, Virginia Beach

Watch as the highway narrows…

August 24, 2008, 10:39 PM

So I made the trip to the beach today, and I am now writing from the Travelodge Suites on the Virginia Beach oceanfront.

And the best way to describe the trip down is watching the highway as it gets narrower and narrow. I started in Silver Spring, where I caught the beltway – each side four lanes wide. Then after I cleared the DC area, I-95 dropped a lane and was down to three lanes. This was the configuration all the way to Richmond and onto I-64. Then once I cleared Richmond, I-64 dropped down to two lanes, and stayed this way into Newport News, when it fluctuated between two and three lanes as we went through Newport News, Hampton, and Norfolk, and finally three lanes to the oceanfront.

On the way in, I swung by the site of the former Coliseum Mall in Hampton, which I visited back in 2005. Recall that they had Edwards horn/strobes, and that I visited in 2005 to positively identify the mystery mall that I had briefly visited back in 2003. Now, though, Coliseum Mall is very different. The mall was demolished in early 2007, and construction of a new open-air “town center” style shopping center called Peninsula Town Center is well underway. Currently, the only stores open are JCPenney in a new building, and Macy’s in its original building. I never thought I’d see an anchor store with one of those “STILL OPEN” signs on the side in person like I’ve seen in various retail blogs, but there it was. These signs are generally used to indicate that the anchor store is still open despite that the rest of the mall is being torn down. In this case, the regular Macy’s logo is on the side, and a sign saying “IS OPEN” was right beneath it. This was the case on all of the Macy’s building’s logos. The new town center is certainly cute-looking, but the 1970s-era Macy’s building will look really strange next to the rest of the buildings. Of course, they may renovate the exterior of Macy’s and make it match, but we’ll see.

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Categories: Driving, Travel, Virginia Beach

So the last day with the coworkers before vacation went well…

August 23, 2008, 4:21 PM

Indeed, I a fun time was had by all at our all-staff retreat. One of the fun parts of it is that I maintained an open-Kodak policy. Anyone who wanted to fire off some photos on my camera was welcome to do so, and so we had a number of photographers over the course of the day. We had a catered lunch together, we hung out and socialized a bit, and we went on a three-mile-or-so hike. Check it out…

A number of us, including myself, played a few hands of Spades out on the deck.
A number of us, including myself, played a few hands of Spades out on the deck.

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Categories: Recreation/Exercise, Work

I am now officially on vacation…

August 22, 2008, 7:02 PM

Yes, today marks the beginning of vacation. I am excited, and looking forward to it. And the last day at work prior to vacation was exciting, as we had an all-staff retreat at our executive director’s house. That was a lot of fun.

And so now I get to clean up and pack. I need to finish the milk in the fridge, since that expires during vacation (and we don’t like spoiled milk), do my laundry, and then pack for the beach.

And then the beach is going to be exciting, too. I’m taking both cameras – Duckie and the Kodak. Duckie will be used for some in-the-water shots, and then the Kodak will be used for the stuff on dry land. I’m taking my tripod, and I’m going to be giving the Kodak its first experience with night photography.

I’d hoped to practice locally doing night photography on the Kodak, but stuff happens, and I never got a chance to. One of the things for my to-do list is to do some night photos in downtown Silver Spring, since it’s so close to me. I also want to eventually cover the memorials at night – start at Jefferson, and then do the full circuit, going from Jefferson to FDR to Korea to Lincoln to Vietnam to World War II. I would love to take a friend along for that shoot – mainly so I can have someone to talk to while I do my thing. My JMU photo shoot in December was one of the loneliest photo shoots I’ve ever done, because due to my schedule, the shoot had to be done over Christmas, and the campus was deserted.

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Categories: Travel

I don’t know anyone in Olive Branch, Mississippi…

August 21, 2008, 12:20 AM

Okay, so for the past week, I’ve been receiving FedEx door tags on my door, as FedEx has tried to deliver something to me. Slight problem: I have no idea what is being sent to me, or who’s sending it to me. I ran the door tag number and got the tracking number, and it’s coming from Olive Branch, Mississippi (a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee), and it weighs seven pounds. I don’t know anyone from Olive Branch, Mississippi. For that matter, I don’t know anyone in Mississippi – period.

At first, I figured it was a mistake, and that the door tag was actually for my neighbor. Calling her, I found out that she was expecting a package. So after consulting with my neighbor, I moved the door tag to her door, figuring the FedEx guy goofed, because after all, the door numbers in my building are really tiny and easy to miss. And there was no apartment number written on the door tag. I used a little tape to make sure the door tag stayed on her door, since the sticky note-type adhesive was less fresh, now having been touched by fingers, and being on more than one door.

So okay. Next day, the FedEx guy came back while I was again out, and moved the unmarked door tag back over, tape and all. Okay. I moved it back over again, thinking the FedEx guy is a dope. My neighbor even wrote a note on it saying that if it was for her, then leave the package at her door. Then yesterday, I got a new door tag on my door, again unmarked. I didn’t even bother with it, and left it on the door.

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Categories: Companies

So the fire drill went well.

August 13, 2008, 11:20 PM

So the fire drill at work went off without a hitch. At 11:15 AM, the fire alarm went off, and all of us on “Team Wheelock” (since the signals in our building are Wheelock) put on our safety vests and hard hats and got down to business, doing a sweep across the floor, making sure that everyone was clear before leaving. And after the fire drill was over, here’s Team Wheelock, victorious:

"Team Wheelock" during the fire drill

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Categories: Fire drills, Work

Ever wondered what a single person’s apartment looks like?

August 12, 2008, 10:52 PM

I was fiddling around with the Kodak camera a little bit this evening, trying to figure some stuff out. Specifically, I was trying to figure out how to overcome a focus problem where photos come out really pixelly. I think I have that figured out how to turn the feature that’s responsible for that problem off, but while I was playing around, I also screwed around with the panoramic shot mode.

What the panoramic mode does is take three images and stitch them together in the camera, giving you an edge to use to line it all up in the second and third images. And since I was practicing at home, let me show you what a “bachelor pad” looks like…

My living room, facing the balcony door

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Categories: House

Fire drill at work tomorrow…

August 12, 2008, 7:20 PM

Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve been in an honest-to-goodness, genuine fire drill? It has been five years, since the last time I was in an actual, planned fire drill was back in Potomac Hall in 2003. In fact, I got to pull that alarm. That was fun.

So now for tomorrow, we’ve been notified by the building management that we’ll be having a fire drill. They’ve given themselves a 30-minute window in which to conduct the drill, and that ought to be that. The alarms in our building are Wheelock 34 horns, and then those horns are attached to Space Age light plates. Thus we have these horns:

Wheelock 34

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Categories: Fire drills, Work

JMU class reunions in September 2008: Cancelled due to lack of interest.

August 6, 2008, 8:00 AM

JMU does so many things that make me laugh, and not in the hee-hee-that’s-funny kind of way, either. Unfortunately, it’s usually in a far more mean-spirited kind of way, as I laugh at some of the DUMB things that they do. I still remember back in 2003 when JMU announced that they were fighting spam, while at the same time constantly spamming the student body after they set a far-too-flexible process for campus organizations to promote their junk.

Of course, once you graduate JMU, you lose the abovementioned spam, and start hearing from the alumni people. JMU recently sent me mail about the reunions for the classes of 2008, 2003 (me), 1998, 1993, and 1988. That’s five graduating classes right there. I know – I’m exhausted just reading all those different years. And JMU had a whole slate of events for people to do, and an overblown fee for the package (read: “Good lord, that’s expensive!”). My exact reaction was, oh, hell no, as I’ve been through the procedure with JMU’s cheesy event scheduling before, and it’s not that much different than going to Sea World, going from one show to the next to the next all day.

So I was quite amused to get this in my Email yesterday:

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Categories: JMU

These glass guys aren’t exactly bright people, but they do good work.

August 4, 2008, 8:13 PM

First of all, let me preface this Journal entry by saying that the Sable is going through some rough times right now. Not long after I had to drop a new compressor into the car to get it moving again, I have something else go wrong. Let me explain. I’m driving in the car, going to Reston where my friend Matthew Tilley lives, in order to pay him a visit. I’ve gotten off of I-66, and I’m going up Fairfax County Parkway. There’s a car in front of me. And a rock comes right out from under that car, and *smack* hits my windshield, leaving a nice chip in it. So okay. It’s not a big deal. It’s just a chip, but I’m still a little bit pissed about this, even though it’s something that’s totally covered under my insurance.

So after I finished over at Matthew’s house, I headed back to Silver Spring to my house and filed the claim with Progressive. You go on their Web site, and you have to tell Progressive where you got nicked, and how you got nicked. Okay. Next day, bright and early, I got a call from Progressive. Okay. We went over everything, but first they needed proof that the windshield work was done back in 2006. So they had to call Whitesell’s, who, like the truly awesome folks that they are, came through with an invoice. So once Progressive had that in hand, we were going well. I agreed to use their roving glass service to fix the car, since I’m not taking the Sable anywhere to get it fixed if they can come to me.

So then later, the glass guys call me to schedule an appointment. We go over all the information that they got from Progressive, including make, model, body style, color, state of registration, tag number, plus we went over the damage again. In other words, there is only one car that fits that description – mine. And then I confirmed with them – I don’t need to be there for this job, right? Correct. I don’t need to be there. We also confirmed that it doesn’t matter which way I’ve got the car pointed, because they can get at it whether I’m parked forwards or backwards.

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Categories: Mercury Sable