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Amazing how much difference some light makes…

August 26, 2013, 10:59 PM

So today was the first day that my regular pool, Olney Indoor Swim Center, was open following the two week annual maintenance period.  This maintenance period usually involves completely draining the pool and scrubbing it down and deep cleaning the building.  They also tackle any other maintenance work that would be too disruptive to do while the pool is open, like lighting repairs, resurfacing the water umbrella in the kiddie pool, and welding some pieces back together on the pool that had come apart over the years.  They also replaced all of the lane ropes, which introduced a touch of red into the pool (the previous ropes were blue and white – the new ones are red, white, and blue).

But by far, the most striking change was the lighting.  For the past several months, the pool has looked like this:

Olney Indoor Swim Center on Thursday, August 8, 2013

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Categories: Olney, Swimming

Surprised that more people aren’t outraged by this…

August 22, 2013, 9:15 PM

Yesterday evening, I attended an event described on Facebook as “Emergency Protest of Whistleblower Bradley Manning’s Sentencing”.  For those not familiar, Manning (now Chelsea Manning) is a former US Army soldier who, according to Wikipedia, “was convicted in July 2013 of several violations of the Espionage Act and other offenses, after releasing the largest set of restricted documents ever leaked to the public. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison and dishonorably discharged.”

I really don’t understand why more people aren’t outraged by this.  This is your government and mine, and it operates, at least in theory, by the consent of the governed.  That requires an informed public, and people are all too willing to allow their government to harbor secrets about human rights abuses and other vile acts done in our name.  Government should have very few secrets, if any, because the best disinfectant for government is sunshine and transparency.  The government, out of anyone, is the entity that should have “nothing to hide”, because it is funded by our taxes, and therefore we are all stakeholders with an interest in its activities that are being done in all of our names.  Thus why it really concerns me that people are more up in arms about the fact that material was leaked and about the person who blew the whistle vs. the content of what was leaked.  People really should be more up in arms about what their government is doing in their name, and about protecting the messenger – not shooting the messenger.

That said, Manning should be held up as a hero and walking free rather than imprisoned.  And thus the message of this demonstration was simple: Free Bradley Manning.

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Categories: Activism, Washington DC

And who managed to dump themself out of their kayak in the first thirty seconds? That’s right. Me.

August 21, 2013, 1:46 PM

On Sunday, August 18, Melissa, Doreen, and I went down to the Key Bridge Boathouse (historically Jack’s Boathouse) right under the Key Bridge in Georgetown for a kayaking adventure.  This was a long time in coming.  We bought a Groupon voucher for this back in May, with the intention of going on May 19.  However, come May 19, the weather did not cooperate with those plans, giving us a cold and rainy day.  We ended up rescheduling, and this was the day we eventually settled on to reschedule.  It still ended up being a rainy day, but at least it wasn’t cold.

Doreen came along for our outing as well, and her participation ended up being something of a surprise.  Originally, Doreen didn’t want to go out on the water with us, and was going to be our designated photographer, using my real camera from the dock to photograph us.  Once we got to the dock, she decided that she wanted to go in the water, and so all three of us ended up going kayaking, and we just photographed using Duckie, which was securely clipped to my life jacket.

After signing all of our waivers and putting on life jackets, we got going.  First, Doreen got into her kayak:

Doreen gets into her kayak

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ELI5: the American electoral system

August 19, 2013, 12:23 PM

On Reddit, there is a forum (“subreddit”) called “Explain Like I’m Five” (ELI5).  It’s not intended for literal five-year-olds, but rather, it’s a venue for people to ask questions, and (hopefully) get a response explaining it all in plain English, with any jargon defined plainly, and complex concepts explained as clearly as possible.  Post titles typically begin with “ELI5” with the topic following.

Today on the ELI5 subreddit, this question came up about the American electoral system, as far as presidential elections go:

I’m Australian and having seen a lot about the election last year I couldn’t really find an explanation that I understood about things like swing states, etc.

I feel quite a bit of sympathy for this person.  The presidential electoral system in the United States is unique, and let’s admit it: the average American doesn’t even understand how our electoral system works, and many of them have lived with it for their entire lives.  For someone who does not live in the United States and is used to a different electoral system, I can imagine that trying to figure out our system can be headache-inducing, to say the least.

So I did my best to explain how it works, including the discussion of how swing states work into it all.  The guidelines for this subreddit say that while discussion of politics and controversial topics are allowed, “try to remain textbook-level fair to all sides, for both questions and answers.”  I think I did pretty well on that, but I’ll let you decide for yourself.  So here’s my (somewhat long-winded) explanation, in plain English:

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Categories: National politics, Reddit

Hot fun in the summertime…

August 17, 2013, 8:54 PM

So this summer has been a pretty fun one.  I’ve taken the various summer safety tips that I’ve picked up along the way to heart, like not drinking straight out of the hose while it’s at full blast, tying the waistband of your suit really well while bodysurfing, not putting too much sugar in your Kool-Aid, and not gossiping because it makes your tongue susceptible to sunburn (and I don’t like the taste of Solarcaine), and went out and had some fun with friends.

Specifically, on August 4, I went down to Chesapeake Beach Water Park with Melissa, Doreen (friend of Melissa’s), and Chris (Melissa’s boyfriend).  We had a blast.  Chesapeake Beach Water Park is a little bit smaller (and a little more expensive) than Splash Down Waterpark in Manassas, where I’ve been many times before, but it’s not a bad time.  They have a lazy river, a small central pool, several small slides, and a slide tower that has two small slides and two big slides on it.  This is the slide tower:

The big slide tower at Chesapeake Beach Water Park

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Chicago 2013…

August 9, 2013, 8:10 PM

At the end of July, Mom and I took a trip to Chicago.  We took the Capitol Limited, like we usually do, leaving DC on July 25 and returning July 30.  Not a bad trip, but I believe that there was something pivotal about this particular trip: Chicago was becoming a regular thing.  This isn’t a bad thing by any means.  It doesn’t mean that I enjoyed the trip any less, though, it’s just that it’s become something that we do every year, and that’s fine.  With the trip’s becoming something of a regular thing, this is the only thing you’re goign to get that’s specifically about the trip.  There’s not going to be a Journal entry for each day like I did in 2011.  No special photo set about the trip like I did in 2010 and 2012.  And that’s fine.  That’s not to say that there’s not going to be a photo set from the trip, though.  But it’s going to be a regular photo set, in Photography, about the Chicago Botanic Garden.  That photo set’s going to be what I describe as “flower porn”.  Seriously, I got very close to a lot of flowering plants, and got detailed photos of them.  When I used the term “flower porn”, Sis commented that it was also accurate, as I was photographing the reproductive parts of flowers.  So there you go.

On the outbound trip, Mom and I were in a roomette.  Second car back, room 14.  That’s a lower level roomette.  Mom and I were surprised to find that we felt like we didn’t have quite enough space on this trip.  That came about mostly in regards to legroom, as neither one of us really could extend our legs very far without getting in the other person’s way, and sitting diagonally was a little uncomfortable for both of us.  Having only one electrical outlet was also a problem, as we had several devices that we needed to charge: my laptop, my phone (which we were also tethering for Internet access when we had service), Mom’s phone, and Mom’s iPod Touch.  And one electrical outlet.  It was a shame that, when the Superliner I roomette panels were updated around 2011 or so, they didn’t add at least one additional power outlet.  What we ended up doing was plugging in the laptop and charging everything off of that.  It didn’t work as well in this capacity as I would have liked, however, we were asking the computer to do something that it probably was not designed to do, i.e. be a mobile charging station for three devices (vs. just one).

Meanwhile, the ride out was at times like visiting familiar places.  This was not just because this was our fifth round trip on the Capitol Limited.  Realize that as of this trip, I had visited all of the towns where we made a station stop between DC and Cumberland.  DC, Rockville, Harpers Ferry, Martinsburg, and Cumberland.  Now mind you, it’s been eight years since I last visited Martinsburg, and even longer since I was in the part of Martinsburg where the train goes, but it still counts.  Then I added Harpers Ferry earlier in the same month, and Cumberland in April.

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Categories: Amtrak, Chicago, Vacations

Sometimes it just writes itself…

August 7, 2013, 11:47 AM

So I was looking at the Twitter last night after swimming, and I spotted this picture:

Hey @wmata - what kind of discounted fare does this guy have to pay? #NotSoSmartTrip
Source: Craig Sallinger

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Categories: Advertising, Amusing, WMATA

My newest piece of fitness equipment…

August 4, 2013, 12:47 AM

So I have a new piece of fitness equipment:

A bicycle.

Yep… it’s a bicycle.  Specifically, it’s my sister’s old bicycle – thus why it’s a female bicycle.  But no worries.  I’m secure enough in my masculinity to use a women’s bicycle, and besides, the only difference is one bar, and that lower bar means it’s easier to get on and off since I don’t have to lift my leg as high to get over the horizontal bar on a male bicycle (so there).  When I wanted to get a bicycle for myself, I asked my parents, thinking that all of the old bikes were still in the shed in Stuarts Draft.  Thus I was hoping to get my hands on my old bicycle (the “baby elephant“, as it was), which was a green Huffy mountain bike that cost $110 at Walmart’s “Sample Store” in Bentonville, which I got in 1992.  It was a very nice bike, though as one of my childhood friends mentioned, that bike was too big for me at first (I later grew into it).  Surprise: my parents got rid of my old bike.  I guess that’s what happens when you don’t ride a bicycle for more than a decade.  Don’t know what happened to it, but it’s gone.  However, Sis’s bike was available, so when Mom came up recently for our trip to Chicago (more on that in another entry), the bike came up with her.  This is a Mongoose Threshold mountain bike.  Not bad.

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Categories: Bicycle, Olney