Molt Be Blog

Friday, December 28, 2007

This Post Is 100% XO

Behold, the XO laptop.

XO Open

I got my hands on one of these through the give-one get-one program that OLPC is running. Basically, you pay double the standard donation; one laptop goes to a kid and the other comes to your house to play with.

If you don't know about the XO yet, read up on olpc's vision. Some people have called the idea of giving laptops to kids dumb, but I have enough arguments for it that I gave it a try (giving is good, education is important, connectivity in a global economy is vital, etc.).

A few notes:
The laptop comes with no instructions except for some graphics on proper use (do not dispose of battery in fire; do not drop). These seem obvious to me, but I've used electronics before, so I have to understand.
XO and Mac Keyboard Comparison

This thing requires small hands to type on... I mean, it's for kids, but this is ridiculous. After years of MasterType in elementary school, I was surprised to find myself inclined to hunt and peck when the XO was first under my fingers. With a little concentration I've found that I can type OK if I just keep remembering that my hands need to be about one key closer together than I'm used to.

While original reports talked about a hand crank for the XO that was built on, it was taken off due to concerns about wear and tear on the case [olpc wiki about this]. Mine didn't come with any kind of human or solar power device and it's been tough to find much information on where to get such. I hope that whatever kid received this got a bit more information than I did.

The machine browses like a champ. It's based on FireFox and can do all the JavaScript goodness of gmail, flickr, and blogger just as well as my Mac. It lacks the tabbed browsing of modern day browsers, but this is supposed to be made up for with something called "web sessions" involving bookmarks, which I've found to just make things more difficult. Maybe the whipper-snappers will understand it with a quickness.

You can put an SD card in, but what you can actually do with the contents of it is pretty limited. I can't browse it and upload a photo to the blog, and I can't save anything new to it.

There's a little video/still camera and full mic and audio. Once the VOIP app is out, kids'll be Skyping in no time.

No documentation forces me to play and play until I figure it out. Kids are great at this and, after trying to play with it for a while and resorting to the Wiki for documentation, I'm realize that I'm not as good at playing as I used to be.

More Minutiae:
  • I'm a big right-clicker and it's really hard to do on this thing. Nothing appears to be right-clickable (i.e. the work "clickable", which the browser has underlined as a spelling error, but I cannot right click to correct.

  • No two-finger scrolling or tap-click to be found on this touchpad

  • The touchpad appears to have three separate touch areas and some kind of pen/tablet ability, but I can't find any documentation on it and the lack of instructions don't make things any easier

  • There are tons of awesome music programs on this thing. This little laptop is going to produce some kickass artists

  • There's a Python interpreter on this thing! It's going to produce developers who will take my job

  • After 20 minutes of typing on this keyboard I'm still retyping every 7th keystroke and really know where the "erase" key is. I feel like I'm 10 again.

  • They got rid of the Caps Lock key!!! Hooray! What a useless developer-oriented key that was. Caps Lock is straight out of the 80s. Below, please find an image of Caps Lock accidentally turned on on my other laptop. How many times have I hit that key accidentally vs. purposefully? 222,221,323 vs. 5. I have to admit, I didn't realize all on my own that Caps lock was dumb. made me see the light.

Caps Lock = Useless


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Yeah, yeah

It's been a while... over a month since the last update. Things have been really busy around here. Thanksgiving came and went. We had a birthday party for R with pre-cake at Cakestro's place and dancing at DC9, MZ returned from Florence and had her own dance party at the BlackCat. This week also found me on the winning trivia team at Ventnor's Sports Cafe where I also happened to run into a few old coworkers.

I'm now working on two major projects at work and two side projects at home, so I'm finding little time to do anything else (the camera is as dusty as the blog). I've also been spending more time out and about at various happy hours, tech gatherings, etc.

This weekend is seeming particularly active. After working last night until about 8, I went straight to Bar Pilar with some friends, and then from there to BeBar via my place to drop off lappy here. At 7:30 this morning, R and I were up to go on an 8:30am tour of the White House with MM. A friend of hers who works for the Dept. of the Interior had extra tickets and R was the first person she found on gchat.

Flustered by the insane list of rules for White House attendance, MM accidentally left her keys in her purse which she then locked the trunk before we went on the tour. Her fluster (is that a word?) wasn't unjustified. For your pleasure, here is point #4 on the White House Tour Instructions:

4. Prohibited items include, but are not limited to, the following: handbags, book bags,
backpacks, purses, food and beverages of any kind, strollers, cameras, video recorders or
any type of recording device, tobacco products, personal grooming items (make-up, hair
brush or comb, lip or hand lotions, etc.), any pointed objects (pens, knitting needles, etc.),
aerosol containers, guns, ammunition, fireworks, electric stun guns, mace, martial arts
weapons/devices, or knives of any size. The U.S. Secret Service reserves the right to prohibit
any other personal items. Umbrellas, wallets, cell phones and car keys are permitted.

There are a few interesting items in there, but I especially like that they say "car keys" and not just "keys". What about house keys? I took mine in! Take that, suckers!

After the tour, we went to grab a coffee while MM called YZ who lives in her building and could bring her the spare key to the car. Once dropped off back at home, R and I immediately headed over to Glow's place with CG, who needed a costume for an xmas present he's working on. Yes. Glow has a basement full of costumes. No. They are not his. His landlord purchased the entire inventory of a soon-to-be-closed costume store with plans to sell it on the web. It now hangs on racks in the basement with bins that are labeled things like "santa stuff", "noses", "Uncle Sam Goatees", "pirate stuff" and, my favorite, "beatnick cigarette holderd". Yes. He has a box of them.

We found some choice material for CG and had quite a delightful time browsing through the inventory. As we searched, I happened upon a box of costume make-up and similar supplies which included this gem:

I liked the box, so I claimed it. Now I just need to find some applications for these 12 adhesive strips... or a toupee.

Things are only going to get busier with christmas coming up. I still haven't finished what shopping I need to do... which means it's too late to do everything online and I'll likely end up at a *shudder* mall sometime in the near future.


Saturday, November 10, 2007


Pardon the lack of postage, I was ill... and then busy. It rained for an entire week towards the end of October. I spent two days of that week laying on the couch nursing my first head cold in over a year. The cold hit quickly, but left after a two day double-barrel shot of ZiCam and Goldenseal, not to mention copious amounts of R's home-made chicken soup, water and ZERO daytime television - that crap will make you much, much sicker and Tivo'd episodes of the Colbert Report seem to make me better.

In any case, the rain came down for four days straight. Before work on Thursday morning I went out back to dispose of the garbage that I'd amassed laying about for 48 hours. I put my trash in one of the four cans in the back and noticed that the lid on the can closest to the back gate was ajar.

"Crap," I thought, "that can is going to have 2 feet of water in it. I'm going to dump it out and it will get my shoes wet and I'll have to change my shoes."

I opened the lid and peered down to find the two feet of water I'd expected as well as a small furry surprise. Taking its own life by jumping into the can full of water, a rat lay swirling counter-clockwise in a fetal position. I felt terrible. I don't like rats, but two near-drowning experiences in my life have given me a strong opinion that it is an undesirable method of kicking the bucket.... or, in this case, the garbage can.

It Rained a Lot a Few Weeks Ago

Despite my role as condo president, I assured myself that this drowned rodent was "not my problem" and placed the lid back on the can (not ajar, mind you, I didn't want it filling up with even more water... or another depressed rat using it as a means to its end).

Typically, the trash is picked up on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I figured that, it being Thursday, the rat would be gone before the weekend. Alas, I checked on Saturday and funeral services had yet to be held. Other than the rat and his watery grave the can was empty, so maybe the garbage men hadn't emptied it because they didn't look all the way down. Perhaps a layer of garbage on top would entice them. I started putting garbage into the rat-can instead of any of the others. On Saturday it smelled pretty bad and the trash bag made a disturbing "sploosh" as it landed in the water. On Sunday, the smell was markedly worse. By Monday morning, I had to hold my breath as a ran to and from the can, the smell lingered in the air for two minutes after I'd replaced the lid.

On Tuesday morning, I saw that all of the cans had shifted position. Problem solved! I thought. No dice. Covering my mouth and peering into the can I saw no more garbage, half the water and an even more decayed rat. At this point, the smell is so bad, I won't even put garbage in the can. What to do?!? Having heard the story when I first discovered it, a fellow tenant asked me yesterday in the hall if "my friend was still in the can." At what point did I take ownership of the little guy? "Finders keepers"? I think not.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Gotta Love that 2nd Amendment

I've been sick for the last two days. Looking at my watch, it's just about time to switch from Zicam and Goldenseal to NyQuil. Tomorrow, it's back to work with DayQuil. Hopefully I'm in good enough shape to get to the weekend feeling better... having already had to skip the Ponys/Spoon show last night.

In other news, what better way to sum up this country's warped priorities than with this awesome sign I saw scooting back from Silver Spring on Monday:

Drug War

What's the logic behind this one? I can only assume the sign is a result of laws being passed at different times - one of those times clearly having been when the "war on drugs" had reached its frenzy. I also have to wonder what group lobbies congress to increase the radius around a school in which guns should be allowed to be sold? Can you imagine being the slime-ball that has to try to get the 1000ft radius cut in half?

Time for the NQ!


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

NYC for 24 hours

This past Saturday, I went up to NYC for the Joomla! Day USA East conference at Google's offices in Manhattan.

Twitter posts can actually sum up most of the trip, so I'll summarize in some twitter-like short bursts:

Mobile gtalk broken! Can't handle bus ride without chat! Arg!

03:06 PM October 12, 2007 from txt

Being subjected to only the finest and loudest Chinese rock ballads as the Chinabus rolls into Chinatown. Makes sense!

08:14 PM October 12, 2007 from txt

Just Googled the word "Google" while inside Google's NYC offices for a nerd conference.

09:42 AM October 13, 2007 from im

checking out from my "mobile" - badass!

09:40 PM October 13, 2007 from web

Passing Baltimore on the Chinabus-massive headache not improved by the driver singing along to the same Chinese pop CD for the third time...

09:42 PM October 13, 2007 from web

As you can see, I spent most of my time twittering.

On Friday night I got a chance to catch up with DW and GW and DW's cousins. I also got a chance to meet up with MT and MK to go to one of the awesome restaurants where he's been taking pictures for Early Saturday morning was spent dealing with the subway after several beers (I wonder if what the conductor is saying has to do with me... oops.) and then waking up 4 hours later to shower and head to Chelsea for the knowledge bombs. The conference was a bit of a bust, but I did get to see Google's offices and was quite impressed. The knowledge bombs were more like knowledge BB pellets. The most I learned about Joomla! was that I already know a lot more than I think I do about Joomla!.
Right after the conference ended, I head over towards Penn station to be early for the Chinabus. With only an hour to spare, I didn't have time for anything meaningful, but ended up with just enough time to be bored and have to wander around Penn Plaza taking pictures. Oh well, I can't complain as a few good photos resulted. Two below and then more in the flickr set
Dirt Reflection

Ditmas Ave


Friday, September 28, 2007

Heavy Bologna Users

While over at my teacher's writing studio for the party the other night, one of the other guests noticed a prominently placed book and pointed it out: A Life Style Study of Bologna Users 1980.

"The author?" you ask.

"Union Carbide"


I'll tell you WTF: thirty pages of pure hilarity (ok, maybe ten of thirty). This document appears to be a marketing study on Bologna. Clearly, like most gigantic corporations, Union Carbide had interests other than polluting Indian water supplies and kicking puppies.

I won't go into all of it's contents, but I can't help but post the first two pages from Bertha, the "heavy user" (pages 16 and 17).

Bertha represents the heaviest user of bologna. Members of Bertha's household eat bologna several times a week and together they consume about nine slices during this period. Families like Bertha's make up 30% of the bologna-using households and they account for 48% of the bologna consumed...

Bertha's attitudes toward marriage and family are generally conservative and traditional. She does not think women can successfully combine career, marriage and motherhood. She does agree with her more liberal sisters, however, that men should share household tasks with women...

Bertha has a generally positive self-image, thinking of herself as happy and healthy. However, she may be letting her physical appearance slip somewhat. She does not go to the beauty shop, nor is she an exerciser or jogger.

I never would have guessed any of this information about "Heavy Users" of bologna! Her name is also almost too fitting. "Bertha"? Really? Come on! That just screams "fat bologna eating woman".

If this is what all marketing studies are like, I want more!

Here's the PDF for your full viewing pleasure. (Also available as a 21MB File here that's far more readable...)


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

morbid inspiration

There are moments when I can't stand my job - dealing with tiny nonprofits with no IT budget that want an amazing website with a Google map and integrated social network ("can it be, like, facebook?") - and then there are days like today, days when I realize that (a) things could be so much worse and (b) my lack of pay is actually doing some good.

This morning I checked my outlook calendar before leaving home and realized that I didn't have single internal meeting. I hadn't had a day without an internal meeting in a long time and decided it was a prime opportunity to work from home. One of the great things about the new job is that I don't have to lie when I say I want to work from home. Here's what I wrote:

Looking at my schedule I see my first day with no meetings in quite a while, so I’m taking the chance to work from home. I’ll be on email and cell all day and may get lonely and wander in later.

One of the tasks on my calendar was to follow up with a hospice for the homeless located in Adams Morgan. They'd called about some glitches in an Access Database that someone at the company had built for them back in 2001-02. I called up and arranged to come in to take a look at the issue at 2pm.

The hospice is located in a large old house on a street behind Columbia road. I had a little trouble finding it because the address in our company database was wrong, but called after knocking on the wrong door and was directed by Candice. Once up the steps and through the doorway, I found myself in the foyer of a classic DC corner row-house. A large living room opened up to the left with a rounded window looking out onto the corner of the street. To the right, four people were sitting at a thick wood dining-room table. The youngest (about 14) picked at some food in his hands as he talked to the others and leaned back on the hind legs of his chair.

I'd never been to a hospice before, but had looked at the database on our own servers a little bit before hand. We didn't have any resident information, but we did have lookup lists of the various diagnoses that could be checked off for incoming patients: HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis C, Dementia caused by AIDS...

"Hi!" I said, "is, um, Candice here?"

"She might be in there," the youngest one said, pointing to the doorway straight ahead of me.

I walked around and into a long restaurant-style galley kitchen. Two women there directed me upstairs two flights where I met Candice and had her walk me through the various problems. Most of it was pretty easy stuff and an hour and a cup of coffee later, I had it all wrapped up.

On my way back out the door, I stopped by the kitchen to drop off my empty coffee mug and passed the youngest resident who was on the phone.

As I passed, he put his hand over the receiver and asked, "are you from DC Teen AIDS?"

It took me a minute to process before responding, "No. Sorry. I'm just an IT guy."

I left and the whole way home I couldn't help but think what an asshole I've been for having complained about anything in the past, well... ever. Who cares if I feel busy with trying to balance work and a class and the wedding and everything else? I'd never even considered the idea of seeing a 14 year-old with AIDS... let a lone a 14 year-old in a hospice. I'd expected to see elderly people, but only one of the six residents that I saw there looked to be over the age of 50.

Later this evening, I went to a party to celebrate the end of the small writing class that I took over at the USDA Grad School. Our teacher has a space that he uses for his business and writing classes over on Q street and I made it there only a little late after trying to wedge in some random home improvement tasks after finishing my work stuff.

Shortly after we arrived, someone asked the teacher what classes he was teaching now. Amongst others, he mentioned teaching a class at the University of Maryland which he'd been asked to take over after one of his colleagues, Nick, had died unexpectedly. Nick was only fifty-four and had died of a heart attack with no prior symptoms. The teacher told us a few stories about the funeral (including a priest refusing to stop a Liturgy while a mourner had a stroke and was carried out by EMTs) that lightened the mood a bit.

Later, we were talking about the class at UMD again and I asked what the course title was.

"Technical Writing," he said.

"Oh! I took technical writing when I went there," I said.

"Who was your professor?"

"I can't remember his name," I said, "but I remember that he was really good.... maybe it was Ni... oh shit."

"What was his last name?"

"I don't remember... maybe..."


"Oh yeah," I said. "That was it. Oh my god. It was him?"

And indeed it was. Nick Allocca was one of the few inspirational professors I can remember having at Maryland. He'd given me a recommendation for a temp job when I came back from Spain and had been one of the few professors to tell me that I was doing a good job verbally instead of through a grade, a rare feat in a school as big as Maryland. And now he's gone. There's another service in College Park on Wednesday and I think I'll go.

Some days I might feel like I'm overworked or that I'm not making a difference - not affecting something bigger than myself. Other days I don't consider anything larger than me at all. My day today was full of death - all of it making me feel sad and grateful.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Scotts in the Rockies

Estes Park Long's Peak Scottish/Irish Highland Festival - Drum01
Our visit to the Grandparents' house in Colorado coincided with the annual Long's Peak Scottish/Irish Highland Festival in Estes Park, which is kicked off by a parade on Saturday morning at 9:30am. Granpda talked about it enough on Friday night when we arrived and again on Saturday morning that we figured we'd better go check out the parade to see what all the fuss was about. Given his recommendation, we kind of assumed that Grandpa would go.

"Have you ever seen the parade?" I asked grandpa.

"Oh, about once in the last 20 years."

"Do you want to come with?"

"Oh no! I don't want to see all that!"

The Scottish/Irish parade actually turned out to be a pretty big deal here in Estes, complete with bagpipers from Scotland and loads of Scottish Terriers and Wolfhounds. Tourists and residents crowded the parade route with collapsible chairs, which made viewing easy for us as we waited behind them. Our view was only blocked occasionally as everyone in attendance insisted on standing up every time an American flag came by.

After the parade, we headed over to the Post Office so that I could mail home my house keys before going to Safeway to get some stuff for next week and a short trip to Radio Shack to pick up a DC/AC car attachment that let's you plug in normal appliance (i.e. laptop).

After lunch, we headed back to Safeway with grandpa to pick up the raw materials for making home made ice cream in the evening.

I also got put in charge of making dinner, which went swimmingly until I dumped 2/3 of the pasta I was cooking into the sink as I tried to drain it. Oh well. R came to my aid and helped to finish the recipe (a good thing, too, as I'd missed a crucial instruction that involved taking a sauce off the heat before adding a bunch of ingredients).

This morning, we set out early to climb up to Sky Pond via Lock Vale and the Lake of Glass. A 4.4 mile hike in Rocky Mountain National park with a significant elevation gain that had our feet in pain within the first hour.

We ate lunch next to the Lake of Glass after climbing a massive waterfall (seen in the very back of the picture here). A storm started to roll in as we were finishing our sandwiches, so we had to give up on Sky pond and make our way quickly below tree line.
Waterfall on the way to Sky Pond

The way down seemed to take a lot longer than we'd expected, but we reached the car with only a little bit of rain and whining about our feet hurting. Then it was a 25 minute drive back to the grandparents where R made a delicious lasagna for the six of us. We also got to polish it off with the ice cream that we made last night. A caloric avalanche, but about what I'd expected from a trip to grandparents'.

Tomorrow, we leave early and drive Westward. We haven't really decided where we're going to go for sure, but know that we have to be in Vegas by Friday so that we can check in and appreciate the MGM Grand. I'd like to see the Grand Canyon for a second time along the way as the last time I saw it we were only there for half an hour. We're also planning on spending a day or two around Arches and Canyonlands and another one camping in Glen Canyon near the Utah/Arizona border. In any case, we'll try to head out around 8am tomorrow to drive up over the mountains and down to towards Moab or Mesa Verde.

All for now. More from the road!


Friday, September 07, 2007

Definitely not a vacation from technology

I'm currently waiting for Sis and her boyfriend SG at the Denver airport. Their flight said it was on time on all of the airport signage, but she'd texted from her layover in Detroit to say that they would be an hour late. Had she been wrong or had the airport screwed up the signs. She goes to Cornell. She is smart. The airport clearly attended some unaccredited university run by Jerry Falwell. It is dumb.

Thanks to this handy dandy blackberry bluetooth modem thing I got figured out before we left, I'm able to have free wireless wherever I get a phone data signal and could check the flight online at to see that it was actually scheduled to arrive 45 minutes late. Stupid signs.

Stupid me, too. I remembered shortly after boarding the plane that I totally forgot to turn off my alarm clock before I left. Sorry neighbors! You're going to be waking up to track 5 of Peter, Bjorn and John's Writer's Block for the next two days until I can FedEx a set of keys to our friend CG to have him go over and unplug the thing. That'll teach me to reset it in my sleep every morning.

Once the kid and SG get off the plane and get their bags (she just texted that it arrived) we can go pick up the car and then drive the hour and a half North to Grandpa and Grandma's house in Estes Park.


Thursday, September 06, 2007


I'm taking the first vacation I've had since last July's trip to India that doesn't revolve around a specific event. R and I are off to visit the Gparents in Estes Park, CO and then road tripping to Vegas via Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce, Zion, the Grand Canyon and Death Valley.

I haven't done a Western road trip since 2001 and can't wait to see all that open space again! I thought about trying to ignore the blackberry and the laptop and all that jazz for a week, but I've been ignoring it all for the last two months in preparation for the wedding anyway... so what the hell. I figure I'll try to blog an entry a day from the road and maybe take care of my whole supposed to write for 30 minutes a day thing while I'm at it.

With that said, I'm off to bed. Look forward to a post a day starting tomorrow night from Mountain Time zones (with pictures, I hope).


Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Sorry 'bout the lack of posts. Two deadlines at work and our wedding reception on the first of Sept, so no time for bloggin'. Will return. Don't fret.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Found through stumbleupon

Found this and realized that half the installations are in my neighborhood. Awesome!
Mark Jenkins: Street Installations


NYC Trip

Made it up to NYC for one night only this past weekend. Still recovering a little. Thought I'd just throw up my favorite pictures.


Bus 1

An Apartment Building in Brklyn

Key Food 1

Mostly Ground


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah I never post

I've been busy.

Keep yourself busy with this nerdiness that I found Stumbling around el internet: Symbaloo


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tag - Ugh.


1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged write their own blog post about their eight things and include these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. (Cross your fingers NOW that you're not one of them.)
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged and that they should read your blog.

False, Pete.

In reaction to being tagged, here are eight random facts about me:

1. I can't swim worth a damn.
2. I went to Kindergarten in France and was beat up daily at lunch... by French kids.
3. I never beat Super Mario Brothers, but may or may not have nodded my head while listening to someone describe the final level.
4. My left foot is half a size smaller than my right, but it has nothing to do with club foot... I don't think. Might need to give mom a ring.
5. My shoe size is a 9.5 right, 9 left.
6. I'm hoping Pete's is a 9.5 left, 9 right and we have similar taste in footwear.
7. I'm not kidding about any of this.
8. I started the first "spread this or you will die" blog chain. Tell 8 people this in the next 8 seconds or you will die 8 times.

People I'm tagging below and Pete's post that tagged me.

1. Chris M. at Blogs Are Stupid
2. nick
3. HarlanTurk
4. AP at Just Off The Boat
5. Corbett3000
6. Bart
7. I need more friends with blogs that weren't already taken by Pete
8. See #7


Wednesday, July 25, 2007


My company sets up goals for everyone each quarter. A measure for each goal is also set up, as well as scorers who rate me on my ability to meet the measure. Ten percent of my pay is contingent on my overall score on these goals. This payment can be made in the form of cash or vacation time as decided by me.

One goal is always a Quality Assurance goal, wherein one or more of the clients I've worked with for more than 40 hours is randomly selected and asked to fill out a survey. Another is a billing goal, which asks for me to meet a dollar amount that works out to about 5.5 billable hours per day. Given vacations and the number of non-billable meetings I'm in, this isn't actually the easiest goal to meet (especially since everyone leaves the office by 6pm at the latest). After those goals, everyone is supposed to set up some personal goals that address what we do outside of work. These don't count for much of a percentage of the entire score, but are a great motivator. In my case, the goal for the 2nd quarter was to enroll in a writing class and the goal for the 3rd quarter is to actually complete the homework for said class, which is the 30 minutes of writing that I've been neglecting to do every day. The goal started scoring on Monday and I've been doing pretty well since.

On Sunday afternoon, the Mac Book Pro, which I've been sorely disappointed with, decided to die. I went to open iTunes and the laptop threw an error dialog box that contained a glowing button and no text. I didn't click the button (that would just be stupid); instead, I decided that it was time for a reboot. Upon reboot, I was presented with a "do not enter sign". I googled "Do Not Enter Sign" in various configurations for at least half an hour before calling tech support. I would later learn that the "do not enter sign" or "prohibitory sign" was the old "broken folder icon" from OS X 10.2, which has been upgraded in its lingo, but not fixed with some kind of written explanation in OS X 10.4. (Macs are great and all, but they could really just shut the hell up with the awesome design elements when it comes to the symbols that show you you're going to lose all your data.)

On the phone with tech support, I learned that the prohibitory sign is a symbol of "massive kernel failure" and it was recommended that I try to get what data I could off of the computer by firewire-ing to my other mac and copying. This proved fruitless as I could only connect to it through the terminal (you know, the text interface) and even then couldn't get a directory listing of any of the folders.

I don't keep a lot of permanent information on the laptop as a rule. I've had one stolen before and realized that keeping the data on an external drive at home was a safer bet. In the case of the Mac Book, the only thing that I had on it that I hadn't saved was the folder full of daily writings for the class I'm taking. All gone! It's OK, though. There wasn't much there to speak of. The whole exercise is about getting words on a page, not actually reading them later (hence the fantastic term "crap-draft" to refer to the first things you right down... like this!).

So here I am.... no daily musings to speak of before this one and only ten minutes into my total writing time for today.

On Monday I counted writing time as time spent retyping the first five pages of one of the pieces I'd been working on for class that only exists now as a fifteen page print-out that's the combination of the two-and-a-half blog entries that I wrote after R and I went to India. It's actually a lot more fun to write it when it's not in a public forum since I get to use R's real name and generally not consider what others are seeing. Then again, paper may be even more permanent than the internet as it isn't subject to power outages.

On Tuesday I had class and counted all of the exercises that we did as my writing assignments. We had a few interesting exercises assigned, but the one that really brought forth some interesting stories asked everyone to close their eyes and try to remember a summer job through all their senses. Aurally, Visually, Nose-umm... -ally (Olfactorily?).

The most fantastic part about the whole exercise was listening to what everyone had come up with after fifteen minutes of scribbling and realizing that everyone had really loved their summer jobs. Whether it was cutting grass out next to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, working landscaping in Vermont or the iced cream parlor in Michigan; each speaker's face lit up when they were allowed to spin their yarn.

I had the same feeling when I was sitting there describing my own summer job.

Coming up on the summer after my Freshman year of college, I started looking for a job out where my grandparents lived in Estes Park, Colorado. Besides getting to see them, which I rarely did on account of how far away they lived, the weather there was a hell of a lot better than Maryland and I really wanted to drive out there to see what a road trip on my own was like.

I had Grandpa look around in the local papers to see if there were any jobs and he sent me back one that asked for a roofer's assistant. Having helped my dad roof two houses previously, I knew a thing or two about tar-paper and shingling and called them up. They were happy to have me; I was willing to work for beans because I was living with my grandparents and wasn't attached to a contracting company.

After the spring semester ended, I went home to visit my Mom and Dad in New York. My Dad was excited about me doing a summer job that involved manual labor. Given my tendency towards all things computer-related, I can't help but blame him when I think back on it now. He made a point of taking me out to buy a pair of "good boots".

"You want good boots that won't let a nail go through your sole. Have I ever told you about the time that I stepped on a nail? Yyyyow!" He said, crossing his eyes.

I walked out of a work-boot store somewhere near Carmel, New York the proud owner of a pair of $80 steel-soled, steel-toed boots that where the most expensive footwear I'd ever worn before that day and I still have almost ten years later. These things were amazing. Nothing hurt. I spent an afternoon kicking rocks with my toes and showing my mom that I could drop heavy objects on them. Looking back, I'd say it was childish, but I'm still just as excited about them today and might write the rest of this while wearing them... Nope. Too lazy.

On a Tuesday, I started the drive from New York to Colorado in my four door, 1987 Toyota Camry Hatchback. Years before, a girlfriend had nicknamed the car "the noisy cricket" due to the on-off squealing sound that the engine made. I never liked the nickname, but never thought of my own so it stuck. Other than some boring nights in low-budget motels, a cracked oil pan and my window falling into the door in the middle of Kansas while it was raining (it rains in Kansas in June?) the trip was uneventful and three days later I pulled into my grandparents' driveway with exactly 2,001 miles on the trip-odometer.

I arrived on a Friday afternoon with the roofing gig starting on Monday. I spent Saturday and Sunday chatting with Grandpa, reading any of the two dozen magazines lying around the house and getting my stuff moved into the basement next to the grow-lamps for grandpa's Colorado Tomatoes. Grandpa and Grandma have been retired in Estes park since 1965. They were both the children of farmers in Illinois, both taught high-school (Grandpa Physics, Grandma English) and both retired at 50 to move to the place they'd always gone on vacation. They're both still kicking and have now been retired longer than they ever worked a job.

While they may not seem old in their independence, the grandparents' age shows in their eating times. Breakfast is at 5am, lunch is at 11am and dinner starts promptly at 5. Due to their lack of a dish washing machine, each meal is followed by a wash and dry session. Luckily, the air is so dry in the mountains of Estes Park that drying can be accomplished by lightly waving a dish or a glass in the air for thirty seconds.

At 5:30pm on my first Sunday there, a phone call interrupted dinner. It was Cindy from the developer's office of the company I'd been hired by to roof. The project that I'd been scheduled to work on had been canceled.

"I drove two thousand miles for this job," I told Cindy.

"I'm sorry. I understand. I think that there might be some jobs at the gas station at the bottom of the hill.

I stammered a bit, but didn't have any kind of comeback. In fact, being me, I probably ended up saying something like "I understand. It's not your fault. Thanks anyway." and then promised myself to write them a nasty letter that I never sent. How passive-aggressive can you get.

I spent the next week looking in papers for other jobs. Being a bit new to the job market (my previous jobs had been found through friends) an ad caught my eye that read "GREAT PAY. NO OFFICE. MAKE YOUR OWN HOURS." After a forty-five minute drive down the valley from Estes and another forty-five North I found myself in a tiny conference room of an office in a building of an office park straight out of Office Space being sold on the idea of selling knives. Again, being young, I don't think I recognized that knife-selling was a pyramid scheme immediately, but I did recognize that it wasn't something I wanted to do. The selling strategy was to start demonstrating the amazing cutting power of these knives to friends of your parents and other relatives and to then get the names of their friends so that you could demonstrate the amazing cutting power to them. The salesman, Steve, demonstrated the cutting power for us by easily slicing through a piece of rope with one of the knives from his case. If we wanted to sell knives, we would have to make a $220 deposit on our own demonstration case. I grew skeptical. Steve said we should take a break and asked me if I would walk outside with him.

"I could tell by the look on your face that you might not be into this, and that's OK."

"OK," I said. "Can I go?"

"You probably should," he said.

I walked out to the parking lot with a feeling like I'd done something wrong. It wasn't that I'd been denied a job or anything - who wants to sell knives - it was that I wasn't able to conceal my emotions during the demonstration of cutting power. I should never have felt that way. My emotional candor released me from could have been at least another hour of listening to Steve prattle on about how great knives are or, even worse, a career selling knives to my grandparents friends.

Later, Grandpa shook his head as I told him the story.

"Why couldn't they just tell you that it was a job selling knives before having you drive all the way down to Fort Collins?" He asked.

If I'd been smarter then, I would have said: "I guess they just don't have enough faith in their own product to tell people what it is."

But instead I probably said something like: "I don't know."

In any case, They were glad that I wasn't going to try to sell them or their friends knives.

A few days later, I found a job waiting tables at a restaurant at the bottom of the mountain that grandpa and grandma lived halfway up and ended up working there the rest of the summer.

What reminded me of the whole experience and why I bothered to write this all down, was when I recalled how I felt physically while I was working at the restaurant and my first immediate thought was how much much feet and knees hurt. I realized, thinking back, that the uniform for the restaurant had require brown shoes and that I'd only brought one pair that were steel-toed and steel-soled. Despite weighing five pounds apiece, I wore those boots every day of work that summer and only now wonder if it was just sour grapes at having lost a job that I traveled 2,000 miles for the day before I started.


I Thought I Was Done Working at 2am

But here I am... oh well, at least it's for a good cause and I'm in charge. I volunteered for this piece of the project and will suffer the consequences. No time for writing here as I have php code to type somewhere else. explode() this implode() that;
explode(",","blah, blah, blah") becomes array ([0] => blah, [1] => blah, [2] => blah) You get the idea (it's boring).
Here's the latest spam to make it through the filter!

From: Randi Hooker
Subject: graduate student pulled
learned by those

Hi. Are you doing good? Email me at only. I am lonely girl. I will reply with my pics
academy report says. complaint. However it for your kids if you mind. However it must

You have to love that name. It says it all (unlike the message, which doesn't say much of anything).


Monday, July 23, 2007


I'm really tired. Too tired to write. But not too tired to paste my favorite spam of the day (this one actually made it through Google's filter)

Subject: when to stop blogging
From: Allan Duarte
it struggling with academic

Good afternoon. How is the day going? Email me at only. I am nice girl. If you would like to see some of my pictures.

balanced with plenty out my final

I like the ending the best. I have no idea what it means. It might be just a bunch of random words... or it could mean something very dirty.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Day... ok, I have no idea.

I wrote some stuff on Monday night for class, but have been so swamped at work that there's no time to blog it as well. This is the last week that I schedule a website launch and any major work on anything else at the same time. In the meantime, I found this awesome warning label on the bureau from a curling iron that R bought. It can burn eyes, but can it burn... noses? Eyebrows? (not mine, of course)


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Day Two? Wait. No. Three.

I didn't find time to write for the mandatory half hour yesterday. Given that it was only day two of my attempts to meet the requirement, I could say it was either a pathetic showing or a habit that will take some getting used to. I think I'll go with the latter.

Yesterday, R and I rented a Zipcar and drove down to the jewelry place in VA where I got her engagement ring. Sometime earlier in the week, one of the small stones in the ring had fallen out and we needed to get it replaced. The jewelry store is run by three brothers from Korea and located in a strip mall somewhere near Dunn Loring.

Driving down Lee Highway and Rt 50 reveals an American landscape that is vastly different from downtown DC and probably more akin to what you'd find somewhere in the Midwest... except for all the Vietnamese grocery stores. The four lane highway undulates over little hills blanketed in cars and SUVs waiting at any of what seem like 10,000 stoplights. A small strip of grass separates the main road from an access road on either side. The grass has grown tall and started to seed. Plastic bags and cigarette butts dot the shoulder and are caught in the long grass. More strips of uncut grass separate the access roads from the parking lots in front of strip malls. The strip malls repeat the same basic stores: a Chinese carry-out, a nail salon, a hair salon, a convenience store, a real estate office, and a gift store that sells mylar heart-shaped balloons, teddy bears, cards and little porcelain statues of dolphins and angels. Occasionally, a larger parking lot is encountered in front of one of the big box Wal Marts, Targets, K-Marts, and your lesser Ross' and Marshals.

With the same stores repeating endlessly, It's easy to not recognize where you're driving down these roads. There are no more unique landmarks, just street names or recognizable traffic back-ups (“We must be close to Glebe road,” you catch yourself thinking as you wait for ten minutes as the stop light ahead runs its cycle five times letting a trickle of cars through.

After dropping off the ring to have the stone replaced, R and I headed back down Lee Hwy to look for a suit for me at Sym's. I'd never been to Sym's before, but found their selection of ugly pleated pants vast. Pants aside, I ended up with a good tan suit that I'll get altered next weekend if I don't find one better between now and then.

Searching for something to eat afterwards amongst the vast stip-malls off Lee Highway proved nerve-racking. We ended up at eating some Pho at a Vietnamese restaurant called Saigon Cafe. The soup wasn't bad, but the beef in both of ours had that rainbow thing going on that's usually reserved for the roast beef at a Subway. According to the Internet (where else?) this iridescence is caused by the combination of the muscle fiber structure of the meet and water droplets; the effect is enhanced when phosphates are used to increase the amount of water that the meat can hold. No matter what the science is behind it, rainbow meat still looks bad in my soup. R and I both left most of it on the side... looking at the reasons for iridescence now, I won't do the same thing the next time.

After we picked up the ring, we had some extra time in the Zipcar and spent it driving around Columbia Heights looking at houses. We might be moving in year or two and the possibility of finding something affordable and big enough is a lot better up north. Also, there are a lot of excellent hipster bars up there that could use me as a customer.

We returned the car around 5pm and headed home for a bit before going over to PC's apartment for his birthday party. An enjoyable evening was had by all, including the fun of getting into a long winded argument about single-payer health care that ended in only minor cursing. Hooray! For now, I need to get ready for another week.


Friday, July 13, 2007


Almost Done
I'm taking a writing class at the USDA grad school one evening a week. As part of it, we're supposed to write for 30 minutes everyday about something or other. I haven't been, but figure that it might be a motivator if I just post whatever I write up on here. The class is Creative NonFiction, which is supposedly the art of writing about the mundane. With that in mind, I described my morning.

I wake up around 8am after snoozing the alarm about thirty times. Currently, it's set to a Justin Timberlake song that is far better suited to romantic encounters than waking up. R has already woken up, showered, dressed and left for work by about 7:30am. Our morning encounters are limited to me babbling randomly in a state of torpor while she gets ready and a kiss goodbye before she goes out the door. I step over a cat and into the next room to open the laptop. I left it running last night because some podcasts were downloading in iTunes and I didn't want to just turn it off in the middle. I don't know why I bother, given that I never listen to the podcasts I download anyway. Who has the time? I click over to my “most played” playlist and hit the first item, NPR on WNYC in New York. I grew up on WNYC and can't seem to let it go despite not having lived in New York for ten years. Listening along to “Morning Edition”, I read email and the news until about 8:15 when I go to shower, brush my teeth and get dressed. Before leaving for work I go through my standard check to make sure that I have everything: laptop, any mail that needs to be sent, wallet, keys, cell phone, iPod, headphones, cell phone again. By this time it's usually about 8:45. On the rare occasion that I'm running ahead of schedule I will inevitably be unable to find my keys. I will look for them for at least seven minutes before giving up and using the spare set – partly because I don't really know where the spare set is. After looking for seven minutes, I will take a deep breath and remember that I put the keys either under a magazine on my bedside table or in the pocket of my jeans from the day before that I've already checked once, just not thoroughly. Just before I'm about to walk out the door, I'll remember the cat – which has been meowing all morning – and empty it's litter box and fill food or water if R hasn't done it already. With the whole mess of laptop wires, mail, keys, etc. shoved into my bag, I walk out the door, realize I forgot to close the window (which, since we had someone come in through an open window last year, is something I'm more conscious of now), go back in, close the window, look for my keys again, because I had them in my hand just a second ago and set them down to close the window, find them and then leave the house.

In other news, I finally go around to installing parallels on the mac so that I could once again take advantage of the bliss that is (no only available through the alltunes PC application). As such, I was able to download some albums I've been looking forward to, including the new Kings of Leon, Interpol, some Feist albums I've been meaning to get, the new Kaiser Chiefs album (mainly due to that damn "ruby" song stuck in my head) and the new Rufus. All good stuff. Out.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I'ts Official: Bush Can do Whatever The Hell He Wants

Commuting Libby's sentence is the cherry on top of the Executive Power cake. God forbid that Libby should have to serve a single day of prison time, "Stopping short of issuing a pardon, Mr. Bush issued a statement Monday sparing Libby from jail, but he left in place a $250,000 fine and probation for the ex-chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. The president's announcement came just hours after a federal appeals panel ruled that Libby could not delay his prison term." [npr] It only makes sense that Bush waited until every last judge and appeal had confirmed that Libby was guilty before agreeing that, yes, he was guilty, but that doesn't mean he should have to be punisihed with jail time for it. I mean, really! It's a non-violent offense and jail is excessive. Now pot-smokers? Those people should be locked up. Brilliant.

The Post reports that Bush consulted with few when making the decision, but this is partly explained by another post article from yesterday that seemed designed to encourage sympathy for A President Besieged and Isolated, Yet at Ease. Of course he's at Ease! He can do whatever the hell he wants and only has to answer to some "God" that he thinks is OK with torture, capital punishment and pardoning of Cheney's former Chief of Staff. Granted, the last of these isn't nearly as important as the first two, but that's really just the point. How long did Bush spend thinking about commuting the sentence? Did he, like me, not even know what "commuting" was until a few days ago? Bush wakes up at 5:30am and is in the Oval office at 6:30am. He takes a break around dinner and then works until 9pm. He also takes weekends off and has taken more vacation than all former presidents and all of Europe combined. Why is he taking the time to even think about someone as tiny as Libby? There are much bigger problems in the world. The wife is of the opinion that this deal was struck long ago: Libby would accept the blame and the POTUS would commute/pardon him. Wife also doubts that Libby will pay the $250,000 himself.

This is all part of a much larger push by the President, Cheney and their cohorts to drastically increase the power fo the executive branch. As featured in a New Yorker article of a few months ago, the power of the Executive Branch is increasing thanks in large part to a crazy asshat named David S. Addington, who's Wikipedia entry reads like a who's who of neo-con jackasses:
David S. Addington - Asshat

Addington was also a special assistant to President Ronald Reagan for one year in 1987, before becoming Reagan's deputy assistant. He was Republican counsel on the Iran-Contra committee in the 1980's. From 1989 to 1992, Addington served as special assistant to the Secretary of Defense, before becoming the Department of Defense's general counsel in 1992.

From 1993 to 2001, he worked in private practice, for law firms Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz and Holland & Knight, and the American Trucking Associations. He headed a political action committee, the Alliance for American Leadership, set up in large part to explore a possible presidential candidacy for Mr. Cheney.

Addington's influence strongly reflects his hawkish views on U.S. foreign policy, a position he had apparently already committed to as a teenager during the late phase of the Vietnam War in the early 1970s.

Addington has consistently advocated that under the Constitution, the President has unlimited powers as commander in chief during wartime. In October 2005, Addington was tapped to become the Vice President's chief of staff, replacing I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who had resigned after being indicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. He is the legal force behind over 750 signing statements President Bush has added to bills passed by Congress. Addington was a legal advisor to President Reagan, and suggested that such signing statements be used to exempt President Reagan from responsibility for the Iran-Contra scandal.

Addington helped to shape an August 2002 opinion from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel that said torture might be justified in some cases. He advocates scaling back the authority of lawyers in the uniformed services. He consistently advocates the expansion of presidential powers and Unitary Executive theory, nearly absolute deference to the Executive Branch from Congress and the Federal judiciary.

Addington was mentioned by title in "Scooter" I. Lewis Libby Jr.'s indictment for five felony charges related to the Plame affair, regarding the leak of the identity of a CIA officer.

In November 2006, the German government received a complaint seeking the prosecution of Addington for alleged war crimes.

The Post has a good blurb on Addington here: Cheney's Cheney. All bad things. I wonder what the National Review has to say about all this. Oh, that's right, it was Appropriate Presidential Mercy. I guess every story has two sides. Finally, if you really want to read a ridiculous amount about Addington, try the 9 page article in US News from back in May here.

Granted, Addington and co have done nothing to increase the power that the President has to pardon, commute and otherwise grant mercy. But what they have done is give enough power to the Executive Branch to make Bush think that this is going to fly... and I sure hope it doesn't. The Constitution gives Bush the right to commute whomever he wants and this is something that should remain intact. What shouldn't remain intact is Bush's confidence that he can get away with doing whatever he wants. This kind of behavior is indicative of Bush's lack of respect for the will of the people. If all the terrorism scares in recent days don't tell us that Bush's policies aren't working, what will? The man needs to be taken to task.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Things to Do: Get Married. Check.

Yes. It's true. Put a big check mark next to married. R and I tied the knot on Monday at the DC Superior Court. The big party with all the family in town isn't until September, but with different nuclear family members going in and out of town over the summer, the best time to get them down to DC turned out to be this past weekend.

I'll write a longer update at some point, but this week work is literally beating me over the head with a stick as I have a pretty complicated piece of site to design by the end of the day tomorrow and don't yet have the data in place to base it on.



Friday, June 22, 2007

The System Works!

Yes. I'm about to stop complaining about those sidewalk closed signs. Because today, without my having to even send a letter to a councilman, they literally closed an entire lane of U street to let people walk in it. This is exactly what I suggested the other week! Fantastic! Nice work DC... today.
Sidewalk (not so) Closed


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Just what I've been up to...

20040811 - 033
A week from tomorrow, I'll be a married man. Sorry, ladies!

Not too much else to report. The last week at work involved a bit more project management and a little less coding than I'd normally like, but I'm largely in control of what I get to do, so just need to make a mental note to spend more less time considering budgets and timelines and more time considering if...then statements and while loops.

Wednesday evening, we went out to see the Feist/Grizzly Bear show and it was incredible. I came home to find that the Mac Book Pro here had decided to stop charging its battery since I'd plugged it in the night before. I looked around on the interweb a bit and read something saying that a firmware update (sorry... getting nerdy here) had been released for MBP batteries. I installed the update and was told that I needed to restart. I clicked OK, but the computer just shut down and showed my background screen for five minutes. At this point, I made the fatal mistake of just holding down the power button to shut it down hard.

When I went to turn it back on, nothing happened. I tried holding down the power button for a few minutes, tried holding down Command+Option+P+R to reset the PRAM, yada, yada. Nothing. It wouldn't work on AC power, with the battery or on AC with the battery removed. Nada. Luckily, I still had the other computer working and started to figure out that the battery was probably completely toast. As it was now about 1am, I gave up and went to bed with plans to try to solve the problem again on Thursday night.

As usual, I couldn't wait; so Thursday morning I took out the battery and unplugged the computer and let it sit for twenty minutes while I got ready for work. This "patience" approach worked once when the other computer wouldn't recognize an external drive after it had been accidentally unplugged. Apparently, just leaving everything unconnected for twenty minutes or so allows for various things to reset. It worked again this time and when I plugged the mac back in after 20 it powered right up... with the fan blowing full force and loudly.

Once it was running, the battery appeared with a little X and wouldn't accept a charge. Late for work, I hussled there with the laptop in tow and after a little internet research at lunch on dead batteries, made an appointment at the Apple Store online for Saturday morning.

Friday night R and didn't do much at all as she had to work early on Saturday morning. Shortly after she went to work, I went to the hell hole that is Pentagon City to get the battery replaced. This proved largely uneventful, except that I had to wait from 10:40 until 11am before anyone even said "hello" even though my appt was at 10:40. After some inspection, I was issued a new $110 battery for no charge as the current one was still under warranty.

With the laptop fixed, I spent another hour searching for a new pair of brown shoes for the wedding and finally found them at Aldo after finding nothing at DSW, Nordstrom's or Macy's. I hate the mall and high-tailed it out of there to end up spending the next 20 minutes waiting for the metro due to work being done on the Yellow, Green, Blue and Orange lines.

After R got off work, we scooted up to MD so that she could pick up her dress for the wedding. Once back, we ate dinner and then I went of to BeBar with CG, DK, and PG where we met up with some others and then ended the night at the Black Cat. All for now, though I suppose I should insert a picture up at the top to make this interesting...


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Out and About

Went for a ride along the C&O canal today after getting the bike from R's parents' house the other weekend and realized that I should have been riding a lot more in the last year or two.
C&O Bridge 2

District of Columbia WWI Memorial


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

All the news that's fit to be really depressed about

I knew there was a reason I only check in on the news once a day instead of looking at the 24 hour news cycle! What a horrible world we live in. To wit:

The NYT published this article on that troop surge's lack of efficacy. I found it surprisingly even-handed towards the Bush admin for their plan's failure... but then, he can only go so low in the polls, right?

Commanders Say Push in Baghdad Is Short of Goal

BAGHDAD, June 3 — Three months after the start of the Baghdad security plan that has added thousands of American and Iraqi troops to the capital, they control fewer than one-third of the city’s neighborhoods, far short of the initial goal for the operation, according to some commanders and an internal military assessment.

After the NYT broke it, the Post picked it up here.

Also in Iraq news, the Guardian reports that all three of the captured soldiers from May are now dead.

Soldiers seized in Baghdad ambush are all dead, says video

The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group of insurgents that includes al-Qaida in Iraq, released a video yesterday in which it claimed to have killed all three American soldiers who went missing in the country last month.
In a translation by Associated Press, the video makers say the captives were killed in retaliation for the intense US search for them: "Fearing that this will have bad repercussions, the State of Islam decided to, and announced, their killing, making it a bitter result for the enemies of God, because they were alive and then dead."

On the environmental front, Bush is asking for countries to set "aspiration goals" regarding greehouse gas emissions when you really know that he and his cronies are just going to try to find a way to make money off of carbon trading. Meanwhile, China Outlines Modest Environmental Goals, rejecting caps because they "hurt economic development". My real problem with the whole "hurts economic development" excuse is that I don't think it's a worthwhile excuse for polluting the environment. Production and profits may be sky high, but there's a larger cost that really needs to be considered. Someone needs to send China a copy of The Lorax and CC Bush while they're at it.

And last, but not least, Hillary speaks out about how her "faith" helped her deal with Bill's infidelity. Notice her non-demoninational use of the word "faith" and then ask yourself whether this is all just politics. And she really had me liking her after the debate last night on CNN!

Clinton: Faith Got Me Past Marital Woes

"I am very grateful that I had a grounding in faith that gave me the courage and the strength to do what I thought was right, regardless of what the world thought," Clinton said during a forum where the three leading Democratic presidential candidates talked about faith and values.

"I'm not sure I would have gotten through it without my faith," she said in response to a question about how she dealt with the infidelity.

"I take my faith very seriously and very personally," she said. "And I come from a tradition that is perhaps a little too suspicious of people who wear their faith on their sleeves."

As far as what she says about tradition, I actually understand since my Mom went to the same high school as Hillary and also has the same Mid-Western approach towards keeping religion personal.

Per the article, my candidate Obama had some good points that didn't talk about Bill's tomcatting.
Obama's appearance focused more on policy than the personal. Asked whether he agreed with President Bush's portrayal of the current global struggles in terms of good verses evil, Obama said there is a risk in viewing the world in such terms.

He said he believes that the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were the result of evil. But he said that the United States' treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay is unjust.

"The danger of using good verses evil in the context of war is that it may lead us to be not as critical as we should about our own actions," Obama said to applause.

OK, that's all I've got.


Friday, June 01, 2007


I saw this graffiti and realized that I recognized it from somewhere. I think that it might be a Banksy, but can't really be sure. There are a few hits on Flickr to compare to that are tagged with both "Banksy" and "Rat" here, but this one looks a bit mocked up and doesn't carry the usual wit in the sign that the rat is holding.

The New Yorker just published this article in a recent issue, which, after reading, had me remembering about the Wired article on Banksy from August of 2005. I'm pretty sure I'd heard of him even before (in Adbuster's or something), but until reading the New Yorker article I hadn't even considered that he'd hit DC.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I hate you, Sidewalk Closed sign

Yes. I’m about to bitch about this street sign.

They’re doing some work on U street and put up one of these signs telling me to walk on the other side of the road. I can’t stand these things! I’m not going to cross the street because you’re working on the sidewalk or, even more infuriating, a building above the sidewalk. This happens in DC all the time and I’ve never seen it happen back in NYC, but maybe they’re just a more pedestrian-focused city. The fact that no one actually pays attention to these signs leaves tons of people walking in the street wherever the sidewalk is closed. I say, shut down a lane of vehicular traffic for pedestrian use. We’re going to do it anyway, but at least it would be safer than what goes on now.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

How to Get Married in Washington DC

B&W Stat Laboratory
Step 1 - Really? (just kidding)

Step 2 - Propose
You'll never know until you ask. It's also customary to ask Dad first. I recommend just telling him what you have planned and then gauging the whole "yes/no" business by his reaction.

If you say, "I'm planning on asking R to marry me" and he says, "what the hell did you just say?" then you might want to go back to step 1.

Step 3 - Get your blood tests
In DC, you have to get tested for Syphilis. Yes. Syphilis. You'll need to get tested and get a signed DHR 366 form within 30 days of going to the courthouse to apply for your marriage license, so don't dilly-dally after getting your results.

According to, "a physician, clinic, area hospital, and all military service labs can certify the results", but anecdotal evidence from a guy I work with says that most doctors don't actually have the DHR 366 form in the office and will likely screw up the process. For this reason, R and I recommend the no-nonsense B&W Stat Laboratory (pictured at right) at 3104 Georgia Avenue NW. B&W's location on Georgia Avenue near Howard University leaves something to be desired as it's a bit out of the way and not in the greatest of neighborhoods. Don't let this dissuade you, though. They'll take your blood in the middle of the waiting room (basically, since there's no curtain) and have you out the door in 15 minutes with your DHR 366 in hand and $40 less cash in your pocket. While you're more than likely to contract something new while you're at B&W, they've got the correct form and are open from 6AM to 11AM on Saturdays, in case you want to get a jump on the weekend.

Step 4 - Apply for a Marriage License
You need to apply for your marriage license within 30 days of the blood test. DC's website actually does a pretty good job of summarizing the process (when the site is actually working), so definitely check out the information that they have here.

You'll need to:
  1. Go down to the DC Superior Courthouse and go to room 4485

    • They're open from 8:30am to 5pm Monday through Friday

    • Here's the address:
      Moultrie Courthouse
      500 Indiana Avenue, N.W., Room 4485
      Washington, D.C. 20001

  2. Fill out a marriage application form

    • You'll want to do this ahead of time if you're not doing a civil ceremony as you need to have your officiant sign as a witness to the application.

  3. Turn it in and get a print-out

    • If you're doing a Civil Ceremony, they'll give you a phone number to call (It's Ms. Johnson.) to arrange for a time to do the Ceremony

  4. Go to room 4204 and pay the $35 fee for the application and another $10 fee for a copy of the marriage license.

DC Superior Court Civil Wedding Space

Step 5 - Arrange for a Civil Ceremony
If you're doing a civil ceremony, you can call the number immediately after you pay the $45 fee at the court house. R and I called from outside room 4204. When arranging a time, you can only ask for dates that are 10 or more days after the date of your application. The courthouse does not do ceremonies on Fridays (information that I wasn't able to find anywhere on the web and had to hear straight from Ms. Johnson). The first two dates that we'd picked out weren't available, so definitely have a bunch of different ones in mind ahead of time.

Step 6 - Get married (as of today, this part hasn't happened, so this is just how things are supposed to work.)
Call ahead 3 to 5 days before your Civil Ceremony date to confirm that there hasn't been a mix up.

Show up at the courthouse and go back to room 4485. There, you'll go into a disgusting side room (pictured third), the door of which is covered in wrapping paper and has a huge bow on it. In 10 minutes, you'll be husband and wife. Done. Now go throw a huge party!

In case you're wondering... Marriage accomplished - posted here. Enjoy.


"So, what, you only blog once a week now?"


Apparently that's the case.

Let's see... not too much new to report. Had a relatively easy week at work, given that everyone was off Friday except for the few of us in the office.

On Friday morning I went to an Open Coffee Club at Pete's office wherein I got to network/share/drink coffee with a bunch of folks in the tech industry, with a focus on open source. Some of the more interesting things that came out of the meeting:

  • The nonprofit world is a tad behind as far as Web 2.0 goes, but this might just be because they don't have the money to innovate and need to wait to see if new technologies catch on or not.
  • Then again, a lot of the new Open Source Software web 2.0-type stuff is relatively cheap to install.
  • Some very cool new websites to check out:
    • for web 2.0 flash geneology.
    • Tech Crunch for all the new nerdy hotness
    •, a site that takes a pessimistic approach to all the new nerdy hotness on Tech Crunch. My personal favorite.
    • - A site for printing/distributing self-made media
    • Technorati's revamped site.
    • and the fact that their search results are better than Google's.... better Google "" and find out what it's all about.

Friday night was a BBQ on the roof of Post for CS's birthday. Saturday was spent mostly in up in Bethesda digging a hole in the yard for a pond and then waking my mountain bike out of its hibernation in the shed to bring it back down to DC. It's been way too long since I went riding, but now it seems way too hot to even consider it.

I'm also working on blogging the whole DC marriage license process, which could be useful an interesting.... if there's a post above this one that means I've already begun.

All for now.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Busy, Busy.

It's been a bit too long since a post. I've been super busy between getting caught up at work after the extended vacation and working on some side projects. I also managed to make it to the first half of two shows over the weekend (Dr. Dog at RNR on Sat and then LCD Soundsystem at 930 on Sunday). Both shows were good, but, being completely different styles of music, it's really hard to compare.

There's some real BS in the news this week that deserves a mention.

This article in Wednesday's post regarding the late-night, intensive-care-unit visit to Ashcroft to get him to sign off on domestic wire-tapping should have everyone in the country really pissed off.

Wolfowitz Resigned, which is pretty rad given that he's such an asshole. Another hawk bites the dust. First Perle drops off the face of the earth, then Rumsfeld finally leaves and now Wolfy lost the position that was handed to him by his buddy Bush. This only leaves Cheney as the last PNAC douchebag left close to the administration... I'm not satisfied.
Here's what kills me about the Wolfowitz thing: part of the mission of the World Bank is to help eliminate poverty and here Wolfowitz is increasing his girlfriend's salary from $133K a year to $193K a year between 2005 and 2007. Ummm... buddy, that money could go a lot further somewhere else.
The wikipedia article on the World Bank grabs some great tidbits as well, including this World Bank statement:
"Recognizing that any program to assist in controlling corruption worldwide needs to start with the example of best practices at home, the Bank has taken initiatives to stamp out conflicts of interest and any possible corrupt practices among its own staff."
Snap! Suck it Wolfowitz, you hypocritical SOB.

Man, all these guys are just total creeps. It's insane! Ethics violations left and right in the house and senate, spying on people, handing out raises to girlfriends, strong-arming colleagues while they're in intensive care. What's the drive behind this stuff? Is it just greed? Pride? Fear?

But really, this is all just a distraction. What happened in Iraq today? How many people were kidnapped in Nigeria? Why are Fatah troops entering Gaza with Israeli assent? What the hell in Gonzalez still doing around? (OK, that last one is a little bit of a distraction compared to the rest.)


Friday, May 11, 2007

Really? Is This Really What I Have to Deal With?

Another fantastic exchange w/unit # 5 on the condo board showing how to complicate an issue and have a complete lack of humor at the same time. The email speaks for itself.
My (witty) email:

I noticed that there's a retired futon out back. As the item is too
big to fit in the trash cans, Goode Trash will not pick it up with
their regular service. Instead we'd have to get a specific pick-up for
the item. We considered doing this once before and, upon
investigation, found the cost prohibitively expensive. There are a
couple of cheaper solutions that I'd recommend:
1- take it apart and fit the pieces in the cans. I have a drill with a
Phillips head attachment that would make this really easy. Just ask
and I'll let you borrow it.
2- rent a zipcar and take it to the dump. This can take a while
depending on how long the line out by the dump is, but it's always
cheaper than Our trash co.
3- illegally place your item in the dumpster of a neighborhood eatery.
(this one is less of an "option" and more of a "misdemeanor")

Again, the trash co will not pick this up. Would whoever threw it away
please do one of the options above ASAP or let me know if you would
like to pay for a Goode Trash bulk pickup and I can help arrange for

Let me know if you need help!

The response:
Thanks for the note, Greg. I do not endorse your last option of dumping the futon illegally. But I would agree with your message that owners/tenants need to make arrangements for their large, bulky trash items.

Enough already! You should not expect your neighbors to clean after you and/or foot your trash bill.

Whoever dumped the futon please make arrangements with the trash company and pay for it. In the future, I do not want to re-visit this subject. We already had enough fights over this issue with the so-called "investors."

Wow. This is my Friday.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

A few quick things

(1) Reminder to self to check out Joost
(2) Reminder to self to check out RRS vs "way of the master" on ABC.
(3) A huge congratulations to Le Loup who got an exclusive write up in Pitchfork today for having been signed with Hardly Art.

Exclusive: Sub Pop's Hardly Art Signs Le Loup

You read that right: another lupine act has joined Wolf Parade and Wolf Eyes in the Sub Pop (extended) family.

Le Loup, which-- as Babelfish tells this non-French speaker-- means "The Wolf", have inked a deal with Sub Pop off-shoot Hardly Art, which will release their debut, The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly, this fall.

The album takes its wordy title from a lavish devotional work by Henry Darger-esque reclusive folk artist James Hampton. The DC-based septet, meanwhile, sprung from the solo work of one Sam Simkoff (banjo, keys, loop pedal), and now also includes Michael Ferguson (guitar), Nicole Keenan (keys, french horn), Dan Ryan (bass, double bass), Robert Sahm (drums), May Tabol (guitar, violin), and Jim Thomson (guitar). Pretty much everybody sings.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Missed Connections, Missed Encounters and an All Around Awesome Time in Europe or “I Can't Believe I Saw the Whole Thing”

This is what you get when I take my laptop on the plane... a seven page blog entry. Don't even attempt to read this all at once or you will fall asleep on your desk in boredom.

The bachelor party for the wedding R and I attended last week was held in Amsterdam. We were visiting our friend AP in Copenhagen and I left on Sunday after going with them to visit the castle in Helsinore where the story of Hamlet is supposed to have been based.


There were 14 guys total that were attending the bachelor party, which was really more of a gathering. The groom, CA, had arranged the whole trip, including making reservations at the hostel that we'd be staying at as well as buying tickets for all of us for the return flight from Amsterdam back to Florence on May 1, which was awesome because it meant we'd all get to travel in together. Additionally, after I'd told him my arrival time when I booked my tickets, we'd figured out that I'd be coming into Amsterdam half an hour before CA and two of his friends from Florence who were flying up together, so we could meet up at the airport before heading into town.

Once off my flight I looked for any information that would tell me about arrivals and gates, but found nothing. I also needed to get downstairs to baggage claim to collect my own luggage and figured I'd just meet them where their bags would come out (I should have realized that they wouldn't have any bags...). I went downstairs, got my own bag and then asked where theirs were coming out. An agent explained that their flight had been delayed until 7:05pm (half an hour more) and that I'd have to wait to find out. Just like in Copenhagen, my cell phone still didn't work, so I used a pay phone to call R and had her send a text to CA to tell him that I'd be at his baggage claim. Unfortunately, I'd given her the wrong number and the text never went through. After waiting outside of CA's baggage claim for half an hour after all the bags were out, I gave him a call with the correct number and he explained that they were already on the train downtown, which I should catch and then meet the at the McDonald's at the train station. Half an hour later, after buying a ticket and taking the next train downtown, I arrived at the station and learned that there was no McDonald's, but there was a Burger King. I got there, found no one, made another call and was finally united with CA and his two friends.
The "McDonald's". Damn!

The four of us then walked from the station to our hostel on the other side of town, where we met up with the rest of the party minus one, ZC, who was still MIA.

We'd managed to land ourselves in Amsterdam the day before their national holiday of Queen's day, which, from what I could figure out, is a lot like Mardi Gras, involves wearing lots of orange clothing, drinking and eating hamburgers while getting lost in the cobweb that is Amsterdam's street system.

Our first night there, after waiting an hour to check in, we all headed down the street to stuff a Shwarma in our mouths and then go to a bar. The 14th member of the group, ZC, was still missing when we sat down at the first bar, but, lo and behold, he was spotted by the groom walking by about 15 minutes after we'd sat down.

“Boy am I glad I found you guys,” ZC said in his Dallas drawl. “I've been looking everywhere for you.”

“Are you joking? There must be eight million extra people in this city today,” CA said. “How did you find us?”

“Well, I just started calling all the numbers I had and then I started looking for you.”

ZC's ridiculous string of luck would continue the next day as we all wandered around the city in huge orange socks provided by CA and ZC was separated from the main group again and again, only to be found each time by someone in the group when they happened upon him elsewhere in the city (by a lake watching swans, in a coffeeshop, coming out of an alley, etc.).
Queen's Day Crowds

On Tuesday, May 1, we woke up at 7am to get all of our things packed up and to head for the airport. CA, the groom, had bought tickets for all of us on Meridiana airlines for a flight at 10:20am. Our taxis were a bit late in picking us up to get the airport, but we arrived by 8:50am and went to check in. The electronic check in wasn't working for any of our tickets, so we had to get into a huge mess of a line at the KLM counter where we were directed by one of the airport agents. Somehow the group got split up, with five guys, including the groom, headed down one line and six of us headed down another. The line moved slowly. After half an hour and with only two groups between us and the check-in counter, we watched as one lady had to twice remove items from her bag because it was too heavy to check. When we finally got to the counter, the woman explained that she could only check in three of us at a time. This seemed a bit strange since we were all traveling together, but since we only had about forty minutes before the flight was to leave, the first three went and she started checking them in. After five minutes she stopped, saying that the computer was saying their tickets were paper tickets, but that we were presenting her with electronic tickets. She made a phone call and five minutes later said that everything was OK and continued checking the first three in. Once their bags were gone and they had their boarding passes, they took off running for security and the remaining three of us put our passports out for the agent. With my bag on the belt, she proceeded to take about five minutes to find all of our names in the computer. I could watch what she was doing from where I was standing and saw that the system was running in what looked like Windows 3.1 and that she was having real problem finding each of our names. The computers was extremely slow to respond to her commands, stalling half a second after each click before showing any results. After she had all of our names found, she picked up the phone again and started speaking with someone. She wrote down a phone number, hung up and then made another call. She spoke again for about three minutes and then hung up saying, “I'm sorry, but the plane is no longer accepting luggage and you each have an item that you will have to check. This means that the flight is closed to you and you cannot get on.”

“What?!? That's impossible! We were with those three right ahead of us! How can they get on and we can't?!?”

“I'm sorry. You were late.”

“But we're part of the same party! We're going to a wedding! We're all in the same wedding together! We can't get split up! We didn't even buy these tickets! All the people we could call are on that plane because we're traveling together!”

She explained the issue again and told us that we'd have to go to the flight assistance counter behind us to see what they could do about finding us another flight. We went and grabbed a number, B075, and looked up to see that they were currently serving B031 and that there were B numbers and P numbers being served at the same three counters that were open. I ran to a pay phone and called CA to tell him what was happening.

“Seriously?” he asked. “How can they say the flight is closed? I'm standing outside the gate waiting for it to board and there's still a half hour.”

“Well, that's what they said and they won't let us check our bags or get a boarding pass. We're going to try to figure out another way to get there and I'll give you a call around the time you're supposed to land.”

Part of why I was so frustrated was that R had arrived in Florence from Copenhagen that morning, had been alone all day to check into the hotel and was expecting me to be there around 1pm. I asked CA to make sure that R found out as soon as possible what had happened so that she wouldn't worry and then went back to see how the other two, JC and ZC, were doing. I'd only met ZC for the first time two days prior when he happened upon us at the bar in Amsterdam, but JC and I had met previously back when R and I lived in Barcelona. ZC is a friend of the bride and groom's from Dallas with a Forrest Gump accent, a great eye with a camera and a carefree attitude.
In the Bardini Gardens

The three of us that remained waited for the number a bit while I held my head in my hands. I went to the bathroom and when I came back JC was over at the original check-in counter talking to a different agent. ZC explained that she had come over and said that she heard about our situation and was going to try to take care of us.

With the new agent helping us in particular, things were finally starting to look up... or so we thought. After ten minutes, she came back over and explained that she couldn't get through on the telephone to try to help us because all of the lines were jammed and that she'd try again in ten minutes. She called JC over again in fifteen minutes and told him that the we would actually need to contact whatever agency originally sold us the tickets. We explained that we didn't actually purchase the tickets, so wouldn't even know where to start in figuring it out. After fifteen more minutes, she came back over and gave us a phone number to call and suggested we do so. We explained that we didn't even have a phone. Being the fantastic person that she was, she called the number for us and brought back the nightmarish news that Meridiana would not pay for us to get on another flight. By this time, it was around 1130am and the rest of the group would be landing in Florence in an hour. They told JC to get another number and to see if the main tickets counter could do anything for us. We ended up waiting behind five Italians who had had the same thing happen to them on the same flight. While JC and ZC where waiting, I headed down to the train station to see what it would cost to get us to Florence by train. After a ten minute wait, an agent helped me plan out the trip at a cost of around 230 Euro apiece. I went back upstairs just as JC was getting the news that there was nothing they could do today and the only flights out were going to be 600 Euro the next afternoon and that he'd just heard the Italians get told the same thing. We went downstairs and got back in line for the train tickets, noticing that the five Italians from earlier were now waiting in the same line ahead of us. While we were waiting, JC went over to the rental car desk and looked into our automotive options. He came back to explain that we could rent a car with French plates for 155 Euro with unlimited mileage, but that we'd have to drop it off in France and then find our way from France to Florence. We pondered this for a bit and then had our number called for the international train reservation booth where we found out that the Italians had taken the cheap seats I'd been quoted earlier and were now looking at 260 Euro each for the train ride.
Frankfurt Train Station

We gave the romantic thought of a road trip one last consideration (asking the agent to look at travel from Nice to Florence) before deciding that a road trip across three countries would be too unpredictable when we all had a wedding to go to. Thus, at noon, we bought tickets for the 12:12 train to Utrecht and, with no time to call anyone in Florence to tell them the plan, rushed downstairs to the platform.

Once there, we met an insane Dutchman who explained that he was taking the train and not flying because he was taking back a computer and “these big five liter cans of beer” which he couldn't bring on the plane. We told him our story and he took pity on us and let us try to send a text message with his phone, which he'd never tried before. I think I figured it out, but still haven't checked with CA to see if he ever got the message.

Over the next seventeen hours and four train switches across Europe, things were relatively uneventful. ZC slept and took pictures of JC and I almost the entire time, which led to a good catalog of shots with me looking angry, tired and frustrated. We almost blew our first train to Utrecht, as there was a local on one track and an express on the other within a few minutes of each other and we almost got on the local (thanks, crazy Dutchman for not letting us do that).

At Utrecht, despite only having 12 minutes to get to our next train, we made it fine and I managed to have time to call CA and let him know that we'd be arriving in Florence at 5:30am. We transferred to a train that would take us to Frankfurt and ended up sitting at one of those table-seats in the middle of the smoking car. Across from us were four gay, deaf Germans who were playing Uno. One of them was cradling a teddy bear and another was breathing loudly through his mouth. “Uno” was said by a small squeaking noise while putting an index finger in the left corner of the mouth. All very strange. ZC took a picture and then fell asleep immediately, not waking up until our next transfer in Frankfurt.
The Moon Outside the Villa

Our next stop gave us a tiny bit more time, but not much. The Frankfurt train station was all too familiar for me as R and I spent eight hours there hiding from the rain while we were waited for a bus to Sweden back in July of 2003. Not much has changed. I picked up some water and apple-flavored mentos for the next leg to Munich and then headed to the platform.

The next train to Munich was completely full. There was a massive push of people to find unreserved seats on the train. I led the way down the aisles and, in the third car we came to, had to lift my entire suitcase over my head to get by someone going the other direction. We ended up at another four-person table, but the signs above the windows said that it was going to be reserved after the next stop. Just after sitting down, I went to grab my train tickets out of my pocket and realized that they weren't there. I asked JC and ZC if I'd handed them my tickets at some point, both looked a bit and then said, “no”. As soon as the train started moving and everyone had sat down I started searching back through the way we came, asking the conductor and the dining car guy along the way if anyone had turned any tickets in. I figured they probably fell out when I had lifted my suitcase over that guy and searched all over the floor as I headed back to my seat. Finding nothing, I started to worry a little bit and assumed that I'd just have to pay again for my ticket to Frankfurt (I'd handed over possession of the joint tickets for the Frankfurt-Munich and Munich-Florence legs to JC as soon as we received them, so at least I hadn't lost those). Just as the conductor was coming up to collect the tickets, a lady tapped on my shoulder and asked me something in German that definitely contained the word “tickets”.

“Yes! I lost my tickets!” I said, whereupon she went back to her seat and brought them back to me. Too relieved to say “thanks”, I just smiled really big and waited for the adrenaline to run out of my system.

Once we hit the next stop, we were supplanted by a group of students who I assumed were from a deaf school (on account of their deafness and backpacks, of course). JC and I secured one empty seat and placed ZC in it where he could sleep (man, did he sleep a lot) and, over the next two hours, the two of us ended up standing in between cars with a bunch of other people, which isn't such a bad place to be on a German train. JC and I were standing with some of the other students when we came to another station and the seat next to ZC became free. JC jumped on it and put his bag down, but then decided to give his seat to one of the students to try to up our karma. Another seat opened up about an hour outside of Munich and I nabbed it and then napped the rest of the way.
Doner Kebap's in Munich

Arriving in Munich around 7pm, our last connection to the train that would take us to Florence gave us an hour to spare in the station. While on the train to Munich, I'd realized that I still didn't know if R had even made it from Copenhagen to Florence, if she'd found the hotel, or if she knew where I was; so I was pretty pressed to get to a phone. We managed to contact CA after getting some change and found that everyone, R included, was doing just fine sitting at a bar in a square somewhere in Florence. CA gave the phone to R whose first words were something along the lines of: “You've got a bunch of my clothes in your bag! I need my flip-flops and stuff for the spa day tomorrow! When are you getting here?”

“I love you, too,” I said, “and I'm fine.”

I got the address of our hotel from R and then CA gave us addresses for his apartment and JC's rented apartment. He said that my hotel was around the corner from his place where ZC was going to stay, so we figured that ZC and I could just go to CA's apartment when we got to Florence and I could find my hotel from there.

Off the phone, JC remembered that there was a Donner Kebab place across from the Munich station from the last time he'd been there and his memory proved correct. The three of us went out and each scarfed one down before heading back into the station for the train.

“I really hope it's a German train,” JC said.

“Me too,” I said, “if it's an Italian train it'll be filthy, slow and late getting into Florence.”

Our string of bad luck continued as a dilapidated hunk of red metal rolled into the station on our track and we all let out a well-practiced groan. Luckily, we had reserved seats on the night train and settled into a six person booth-type deal able to each stretch our legs onto the seat across from us. Our karma being what it was, this only lasted for one stop when an older German man and his wife whose English was as good as our German (see “horrible”) joined us in our booth. Being seven feet tall, JC was NOT happy to have to sit across from me and we ended up having to arrange a I-get-to-put-my-crossed-feat-on-this-corner-of-your-seat-if-you-get-to-put-your-crossed-feet-on-the-corner-of-my-seat arrangement.

Being Italian, the train rolled into Florence's Campo di Marta station about forty minutes late. Unfortunately, this wasn't the station that we'd expected, and we had to look around for how to get to the central station. I asked the lady running the cafe and she said that bus number 12 would take us there. I'd seen a bus pulling up outside as I was going in to ask and ran out to see that it was the number 12, waved them down and hopped on with JC and ZC.

Once at the new station, we split up with ZC and I going to CA's apartment and JC going to the place that he'd rented with a few of the other guys. In front of CA's apartment, I paid the cab driver an asked him if he could direct me to Via Bentacorrdi, where the hotel was.

“It's a left and then the first street on the left,” he said.

I took off, made a left and started looking, but couldn't find the street. I asked someone else and he said it was up on the left back the way I'd come, but didn't sound very confident. I started to get the feeling that the residents that were out at 6:45am didn't want a tourist to think that they had no idea where the a street was. I traced my steps back to CA's apartment and asked someone else.
Looking down the street to the Duomo

“It's a right and then a right,” he said (in Italian).

I took off again, made a right and started looking for the street. Again, no dice. I went back and buzzed up to CA's apartment. He got out a map and explained that it was, “a right, across the square diagonally, then the middle street on the right out of three, then a right on the first street. About a five minute walk.”

Again, I took off, followed the instructions and, reaching the hotel door, saw R waiting for me.

“Finally! I was so worried,” she said. “But I have to leave in 15 minutes for the train station to meet with the girls for the spa.”

R left almost immediately and I proceeded to pass out until 11am before going over to CA's to hang out for a while and then go site-seeing with ZC a bit.

The next four days went off without a hitch. There was a fantastic party at the apartment of CA and LS (I guess LA now, right?) that was loud enough to be broken up by the police, an absolutely delicious rehearsal dinner of authentic Tuscan food right around the corner from where Meg's apartment in Florence is going to be followed by cigars and beer in a square, a gorgeous wedding at a villa on a hill that was perfectly timed to just miss the rainy weather twice and be spiced by a rainbow at the end of the ceremony, and finally a wine tour through Tuscany followed by a pizza dinner.
View from the Villa with a Branch

After four days of festivities, on Sunday morning, R and I woke up at 6am and headed to the airport to catch our Sterling flight back to Copenhagen for a connection on Iceland Air. The Sterling flight left at 9am and would land in Copenhagen at 11:15, giving us about 3 hours to make our 2pm flight. Because we'd had to split up in Copenhagen with me going to Amsterdam and R staying an extra day, I'd booked the travel separately. This was the first time I'd done this and, combined with my recent flying experience, I was a little nervous about making the first flight, because we'd have no recourse to be reimbursed for the second leg if we missed it. We got the airport two and a half hours early and were checked in and through security in no time. After we'd waited about an hour, another friend of CA's who was with me in Amsterdam (and one of the three who'd been lucky enough to get on in our group of six) came and sat down next to us to wait for his 10:15 flight to Paris. Just after he'd sat down, people started crowding around the gate counter where our flight to Copenhagen was going to leave from. We looked up at the monitors and saw that the plane had been rerouted to Bologna and now listed no departure time whatsoever. We checked with those around the counter and they said that a sudden patch of fog had caused the plane we were supposed to leave on to be rerouted and that they were going to put us on a bus to Bologna to meet the plane.

“How long is that going to delay our arrival in Copenhagen,” I asked. “I mean, we only have two hours and forty-five minutes as it is to collect our bags at baggage claim and check in again.”

“It will probably be a two or three hour delay,” the gate agent said.

R and I immediately went into action asking them if they had numbers for Iceland Air, where a phone was, etc. The only pay phone in the waiting area where we were wasn't working at all, so I jetted back out to the main terminal outside of security to search for a pay phone. Finding nothing working there either, I went to the information desk and asked if they could help me.

“This is a Sterling flight, you'll have to ask them for help in the other line there... but there are no Sterling agents,” one employee told me.

“Can't you do anything to help me?”

“I'm sorry.”

I went back through security and found R. She'd started up a conversation with the woman seated across from us, who volunteered to let us use her phone to try calling the one number we could find on our e-tickets for Iceland Air. We called and called, but it kept saying that the number didn't exist. I went and asked the gate agents if they had a number for Iceland Air. They said, “no”. I asked if they had a number that I could call to reach the airport in Copenhagen. Again, the same response.

“Seriously,” I asked, “there's no number that you can give me to help me solve this? You don't even have the number of the airport that this plane is flying into.”

“I'm sorry.”

R went into a jewelry shop within the terminal and asked the clerk if he could look up the Icelandair website for her. He had her sit down at the computer and let her look it up herself. She came back with four different numbers to try and the nice lady across from us let us borrow her phone again. I tried each of the numbers and each time was rerouted to the same call center which, after five menu options, told me it was closed on Sunday and gave me no further instructions. We were stuck. There was no number to call that would pick up. Right as all hope was lost, the screen changed again and said that the plane had come back to Florence and was now slated for departure at 10:30. This would put us into Copenhagen at 12:45 and leave us with an hour and fifteen minutes to get the two bags, check in again, go through security and make the plane. It would be tough, but doable. We both started to relax. Then, at 10:15 when we still hadn't boarded the plane, the departure time was changed to 11:20. This made things a lot tighter and would leave us with only 25 minutes to do everything. My stomach flipped upside down as I started to realize that there was no way we could make our second flight.
View of Florence from the Top of the Duomo

We boarded and were taken by bus to the plane. At 11:30, we were still sitting on the runway and “waiting for the last passenger”, finally taking off at 11:40. Not good. A half hour outside of Copenhagen, we struck up a conversation with a fabulous guy in the aisle seat, Peter, who listened to our story and took pity on us. If only there was something he could have done. We discussed the plan of what to do when the plane touched down and decided that I would run ahead to see if I could get somebody to hear us out while R went and waited for the bags. A flight attendant allowed me to move to a seat in the front row of the plane to give me a fast exit and I brought my stuff up as we were about to land.

As soon as the door opened, I bolted out and ran across two terminals to the gate where our flight was leaving from. I pushed my way to the front of the boarding line and explained the situation. The attendant said that the only thing I could do was wait for R with the bags, because neither Iceland Air nor Sterling would accept responsibility for them since we'd purchased the tickets separately.

R and I hadn't planned on meeting at the gate, but instead were going to meet up at the check-in counter outside of baggage claim, so I ran back down to baggage claim and found her waiting with Peter. I told her to meet me at the main check-in counter out front and ran into the main terminal.

Telling people your flight is leaving in 15 minutes works wonders and had me at the front of the line in no time. Once there, a really nice attendant tried to help me, but I could tell from the look on his face that there was no way I was going to make the flight with our two bags. We'd considered ditching the bags, but with all of the clothes we had in there for the wedding, it really wouldn't have been worth it. I spoke with a supervisor and he checked the flight info again to confirm that it was closed. He sent me over to the SAS ticketing counter and, unlike in Amsterdam, this time the number I pulled (137) sent me to a booth immediately. I explained the story and while the agent looked to see what my options are, I walked back and forth to the check-in counters to make sure I found R when she came out. After 10 minutes, she and Peter came out with the bags. We said goodbye to Peter, who wished us luck, and went back over to the ticketing counter to see what the situation was.

“Well, your tickets are changeable for $200, so that's good,” she said. “But, the next flight that is available with your class of ticket isn't until May 8th.”

“Ugh. How much would it cost to get a ticket for tomorrow,” I asked.

“A lot,” she said. (We had her look it up. $4,000 is, indeed, “a lot”).

“Couldn't they bump us up a class or something?”

“No, I'm sorry. With these tickets you can't move up a class. You would have to buy a new ticket.”

With no real other options, we had her start the booking process to get us on the Tuesday flight back to DC and went to try to contact our friend AP who we'd visited the week before to see if she have us as guests again. After calling a few times an hour for two hours or so, R finally got AP on the phone and all was well. She had another friend, LT, in town who we also hadn't seen in forever and the four of us met up and spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Copenhagen's parks.

The next day, LT, R and I took the train into town and walked the main shopping street, took a boat tour in the afternoon and then dropped LT off at the train station so that she could go to the airport to catch her flight back to London.

Our Iceland Air flights on Tuesday (today, I suppose) were uneventful and here I am.

In all, it was a fantastic trip. I've never missed a flight before in my life and have now missed two in a week. Given the number of planes R and I have been on, I think our record is actually still pretty good. I was really nervous this morning before heading out of AP's apartment to walk to the train station, but along the way had the realization that things could be a hell of a lot worse. Imagine if any of these flight problems had happened during our trip to India. Getting caught in a terminal there would have meant having to go back into the thick of New Delhi's chaos.
A Rainbow in Tuscany

Maybe this was just years of great luck catching up to me, though I don't really believe in luck. The real causes of our recent travel woes were: (1) a KLM agent who could only process 3 people at a time despite the fact that the woman next to her was able to check in a family of eight all at once and (2) a small cloud in Florence that lasted only 15 minutes but cost a few hundred dollars and two more days of negative vacation time. Thanks, little cloud!

I'd never been to Italy as an adult before this trip and can't say enough good things about it. The people were really nice, the city of Florence was clean and welcoming and the countryside was absolutely gorgeous. It was fantastic to see all of the old friends and to meet some amazing new ones. I'd also never been to Copenhagen or Amsterdam as an adult and found these places equally stunning.

Now R and I can settle in and start planning for our own wedding. With no foreseeable trips between now and then, we should have plenty of time.