Monday, December 6, 2004

A Blogger's Holiday

As you can probably tell, I haven't had much time to blog lately.  I'm going to take a little break from the blog to do some revamping and reorganizing.  The new and improved blog should show up around Christmas with some additions and surprises.  Thanks for checking in and I hope everyone has a great December!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Practice Turkey

Tomorrow my family arrives at Cicada Manor for Thanksgiving, so The Missus and I have a lot of cooking to do.  Including a 19 pound turkey.

I'd never made a turkey before so last week I made a practice turkey, based on a recipe from my favorite cooking show, Good Eats.  The turkey is soaked in a brine overnight, so that water and flavor are pushed into the turkey meat by osmosis.  It sounds good, and as Alton Brown would say, has sound science behind it.  Unfortunately it wasn't as good in practice as it was in theory.  Not that there was anything wrong with it, the turkey tasted just fine.  It just wasn't spectacular.  It tasted like a regular old tom turkey.  The cost/benefit analysis showed too much cost in work and not enough benefit in taste.

So now I'm just going to bag the turkey.  Put the turkey in a bag, that is.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Clean Bill O' Health

Visited with my cardiologist (it's still strange to type that.)  All my tests came back and showed that the ol' ticker is perfectly normal.  Still need to stay away from ice cream though.  Dammit.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


I was ten years old.  It was the Summer Olympics in Montreal, 1976.  With millions of others I watched on TV a tiny fourteen-year old girl from Romania score perfect tens in gymnastics.  Nadia Comeneci was a perfect ten in my book alright, not that I was aware of that term, or would I have known what it meant if I did.  I knew there was something.  That's when I realized that I liked girls.

It was her birthday yesterday.  She's now 43.  Sigh.  Tempus fugit.

Tuesday, November 2, 2004


Last Friday, I took a Nuclear Stress Test.  Radioactive material was injected into my cardiovascular system, allowing the doctor to take pictures showing how well blood flows in and out of my heart.  I immediately asked them that if I was bitten by a spider during the test, would I turn into Spider-Man?  Because that would be really cool.  Unfortunately the answer was "no."  The isotope used was actually pretty whimpy, considering it was, well, freakin' radioactive!

The worst part of the test was that it took all morning and I couldn't eat breakfast.  And the sweaty treadmill part wasn't that good.  The needle kind of sucked too.

Let me start at the beginning.  Since I have some of the classic risk factors for heart disease: elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol and a troubling family history, my friendly neighborhood doctor wanted me to do a few things, including eating better, losing some weight and, to make sure everything looked good, get a stress test.  He also sent me to see a cardiologist who told me to eat better, lose some weight and take a stress test.  I began to see a pattern.

Before the test, I always pictured myself all alone in the diagnostic center.  Of course, it was packed with people.  There was a lot of waiting built into the procedure, so there were three or four of us guinea pigs going through one of the various steps at any given time.  In the first step, the tech inserted a catheter into a vein on the back of my left hand.  (That was the sucky needle part.)  Next came the tracer material, which was a man-made element called technetium.  Listen, bud, I had radioactive blood—at least for a while.

The tech told me to take a hike, or at least a nice walk around the building for a while to help the isotope spread throughout my system.  Then, back to the waiting room, where I passed the time watching old reruns of The Cosby Show.  That Rudy was such a cute kid.  She's probably pushing 40 now.

Soon it was my turn to be scanned by the "gamma camera" that can picture where the technetium is.  It's so sensitive that they told me not to wear deoderant, which contains small amounts of metal that could interfere with the scan.  The plates of the camera rotated around my torso.  It got pretty boring, especially because I couldn't see anything.  For a half a million dollars per machine, you think they'd be able to let me see the heart scans while I was in the middle of it, or at least find a way to pipe ESPN in when it's working.

Back to the waiting room again, where Cosby was replaced by its spinoff, A Different World, starting the lovely Lisa Bonet, who's probably pushing 50 now.  (It's impossible not to dwell on mortality when your heart is being scanned.)

The stress part of the stress test was up next.  As the tech was shaving interesting patterns into my chest hair to make room for the electrodes, he explained that they wanted my heart rate up to 100% capacity.  For my age, that's 182 beats per minute.  The cardiologist came in and I got onto the elevated treadmill and started walking.  Fast.  

They monitored my heart beats and periodically took my blood pressure.  Part of what they looked for was how my BP responds when stressed.  At 80% capacity, I was given another shot of technetium and then told to go as hard as I could, to get to 182.  The tech turned the elevation up, and I really wished I was Spider-Man, since I felt I was climbing straight up a wall.  Actually it wasn't too bad, just a really intense workout, though it certainly wasn't the best day to skip deoderant.

They scanned me again.  Comparing the pictures from before and after the exercise gives the doctors information about the blood flow and whether or not there were any blockages.  I just found out today that everything looks normal, though I am scheduled to talk to the doctor.  I'm sure that losing weight and eating better will come up.

I have to say I was disappointed Friday evening though.  When my cardiologist first told me about the test, he say my concern when "radioactivity" was mentioned.  "Don't worry," he said.  "Your genitals are not going to fall off."  They didn't, but I was kind of hoping they'd glow.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


For those of a scientific mind, here's Scientific American magazine's Science & Technology Web Awards 2004.  Among the listed sites, one of my favorites is the Bad Astronomy website, that debunks inaccuracy and pseudoscientific stupidity related to Astronomy.

Another cool website is the LogoServer, featuring the logos of many sports teams, professional and collegiate.  Pretty fun!  Some more old logos, this time for television networks can be found here.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Birthday Party

A couple of Saturdays ago, my nephew Noah's birthday party was held at the old Tally Ho Theater in Leesburg.  There's a little balcony area that can be reserved for parties.  My sister-in-law invited about twenty of Noah's classmates to come and watch Shark Tale.  

The Missus and I were on hand to help chaperone the kids, though "herding cats" is the term that comes to mind more than "chaperone."  The kids were really good for the most part, although panic did set in among the adults at one point when we realized that we had run out of planned activities for them, and we still had an hour before the movie started.  We fed them some more cupcakes, which, in retrospect, may not have been the right thing to do.  In theory, I don't believe in drugging children, but if I had some Ritalin available, I would have been mighty tempted to spike some of their Hawaiian Punches.

They settled down once the movie started.  Shark Tale was okay, it certainly kept the kids' attention for a while, but I don't think it will be a classic like Finding Nemo is.  Nemo had a story that any child would identify with: being separated from your parents and trying to get home.  Shark Tale didn't have such a clear-cut story.  Much of it's entertainment was based on the fact that the characters on screen looked and acted like their real-life counterparts: Will Smith, Robert DeNiro, Renée Zellweger and Angelina Jolie.  I guess that part was directed at the adults, because the kids certainly didn't care.  They did like the movie, but in ten years will anyone really care who Will Smith was?  I hope not.  I bet people will still be watching Nemo then.

Here's a couple of pictures of the festivities:


Fight the Power!

Do you get sick of being sent application after application for new credit cards?  Citibank is especially bad at this.  I've been tearing out anything that has my name on it and mailing the rest of the crap back to them in the Business Reply Mail envelope they so kindly supply.  It costs them money, helps the U.S. Post Office and, best of all, makes me feel better.

Friday, October 15, 2004

"Free" & "Food"

Two of the best words in the English language are "free" and "food," don't you think?  Best of all is how they sound when they are used together: "free food."  Say it with me: "free food."  "Free food!" Yes!

Occasionally at work we'll luck into some free food.  Usually it's when there's a meeting with some bigwigs nearby.  When they're done breakfast or lunch, the leftovers will be wheeled out on a cart and put in the hallway near the offices of the hungry programmers and engineers.  The leftovers seldom last long, but everyone is left feeling that it was a good day.

Yesterday it was a really good day.

Unfortunately it was also the first day of my new frickin' diet.

I had a sensible small bowl of cereal (with non-fat milk) for breakfast, and a tasty turkey sammich for lunch.  But, here's what I missed:

1. free danishes and donuts from the leftover breakfast tray
2. free chocolate chip cookies given out to celebrate Diversity Day
3. free barbecue chicken, baked beans and cole slaw from the leftover lunch tray
4. more free cookies left in the conference room where we had our department meeting
5. candy passed out in the department meeting by our manager

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  I passed on everything, went home and had a nice cry.  And a carrot stick.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


Had a physical today.  Weight—bad!  Cholesterol—bad!  Let's just say these are some of the following foods that I'm going to have to give up: ice cream, chocolate....  Actually, there's a whole list of things, but it's just too depressing to type them all out.  I'm going to go and have a nice cry now.  And maybe a carrot stick.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Couch Potato

I did order and receive a bigger TV--a 65-inch Mitsubishi rear-projection beauty.  Since it breaks down into two pieces, it was only a really tight squeeze getting it downstairs instead of an impossibility.  It's awesome.  The picture is great, especially when I am receiving high-definition signal, which I get off the air using an antenna I installed in my attic.  Most prime-time shows and football games are in HD.  DVDs look great too.  The trouble is that I'm becoming a bigger couch potato than I already was.


Speaking of DVD's, I received the Star Wars DVDs this week and started rewatching them.  The first three movies, that is, or as any geek can tell you, Episodes IV, V and VI.  Episode V, uh, I mean The Empire Strikes Back was and is still the best of these movies.  I think it was the only one that was actually aimed at adults, or at least mature people of all ages.  It holds up well and looks great.  In fact, all of the films look great.  They were spiffed up for the DVDs, and some minor changes were added.  Even those stupid Ewoks in The Return of the Jedi or Episode VI.

Last night at Friday Night at the Movies (sometimes I go and see a movie on Friday night to avoid the ugly end-of-the-week traffic), one of my Faithful Readers and I saw Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.  I thought it was a pretty neat movie really.  It's the movie I would have made if I was thirteen years old.  And I had a boatload of computer imaging power available.  And it was 1939.

Optical Illusion

Check out this optical illusion.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


I don't expect much sympathy, in this world of people in true pain.  But, for me, last Friday was a terrible day.  After years of research, planning and plotting, my big-screen TV didn't fit down the basement stairs.  They had to take it back!

(Let me pause here for a second to compose myself.)

Okay, I'm better.  I didn't stay down for long.  I did what any red-blooded, consumer-American would do.  I marched right back to the store and ordered a bigger TV.  It comes this Friday.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

I'm back!

Forgive me again, Faithful Reader(s?), but the month of August, between work and the demands of a new house, hasn't been a really good bloggy time.  But I'm back now, for better or worse!  Maybe I just needed a little vacation.

My most recent project at home has been three bookshelves for my basement.  We bought them unfinished at Lowe's and managed to stuff the boxes inside the back of our Subaru Forester.  They barely fit.  We had to move the seats up so far that the Missus had to drive.  There's no way I would've been able to since my torso ended up only inches from the dash.  I begged her to drive carefully, since if the airbag deployed it would have went right up my nose and out the back of my head.  I sanded down each bookshelf piece, put a primer on, and then a final coat.  Here's a picture of one of them under production.  All three are done now.

My next project—there's always a next project, isn't there?—is to install the garage door openers.  Hoo boy.

To round off today's entry, since we don't want to do to much on our first day back, I'll include a picture of my nephew Noah and my niece Morgan.  Extra cute!


Saturday, August 7, 2004

Yard Day

Forgive me, Faithful Reader(s?), but the Missus and I have been extremely busy for the past month as we've been trying to settle in to our new house.  My "Honey, Do!" list is about ten miles long.  

We spent much of the gorgeous day today having a yard sale at my sister-in-law's house.  Ah, capitalism in action.  It does my Repbulican heart good.  It was especially fun to see my seven-year-old nephew haggling and bargaining with customers over the price of his used video games.  I hope he remembers his Uncle Chris when he becomes the next Bill Gates or Sam Walton.

Then I came home to mow my lawn.  I was actually looking forward to it, since I've recently traded up from this to this.  The new mower was great, especially the Personal Pace® self-propel system, (yeah, baby!), but after about ten minutes, I realized that I was cutting a lawn and I remembered that I hated cutting lawns.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Connor's 1971 Topps Baseball Card

I knew my brother would enjoy seeing his son on a 1971 Topps baseball card.  Wouldn't every father?

Why 1971?  Why Topps?  Well, the second question is easy, since Topps was the only company making baseball cards back then.  As far as the date was concerned, they are the best baseball cards ever, though I didn't even realize that they were 1971 cards.  I'd always thought of them as 1970 cards, since that was the date of the player's record on the back side.  Why are they the best?  Well the answer is personal, of course.

In the summer of '71, I was five years old.  My brother four, and my sister three.  We were quite a handful for my Mom, who had to figure out something to do with her three active kids every day.  One thing we did was walk to a little corner store down the block from our house on Wendover Road in Parkville, Maryland.  (I can't remember the name of the store, perhaps one of my siblings can.)  My brother and I would be treated to a 10-cent pack of baseball cards, my sister would get something else.  The pack came with a stick of gum—yum, and a small metal coin, featuring a baseball star.  Then we walked back home, down the middle of the street, since there were no sidewalks, perhaps of a very hot day, we'd get a snow cone from a little stand.  (For some reason, I never remember there being any traffic.) 

We did this just about every day, and soon amassed quite a collection of cards.  I remember doing this later on, for a couple of more years, but never as much as that summer in 1971.  Even now, those cards are special to me, the black border, the lack of capital!  (Yes, I am a troubled man.)

I guess there was a time when they weren't so special because I sold my half of the cards—which we kept in a big cardboard box—to my brother for ten bucks.  I think I was ten.  (He sold them later on—I'm not sure of all the details, but I'm sure he regrets it too.)

Harnessing the power of geek technology, I wanted to take one of the pictures I'd taken of my nephew playing baseball, and turn it into a classic baseball card.  First I searched eBay for a 1971 Topps card for sale and found a Frank Robinson card.  From this, I got the dimensions of the card's various parts.  I also cut-out the ORIOLES from the eBay picture, after I couldn't find a suitable font in my picture editor.  I cut out a picture of Connor playing catch and fit into the proper space on the card.  Finally to try and hide the fact that he was standing in my parent's front yard, I drew a filter around him and blurred the background.  I didn't need to change anything in that great expression he has.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Jib Jab

If you haven't seen This Land, you have to check it out!  Huh-larious!

Friday, July 16, 2004

An Update

Well, Faithful Reader, you may have noticed that it has been a little difficult to find the time to update the blog.  As you can imagine, we've been pretty busy with unpacking.  The good news is we've had a week where everything seems to be working the way it should, and nothing has flooded our basement lately.

It won't be long before I'm back to my usual bloviating self, and will be updating more often.

For now, here's a pretty nice picture I took from White's Ferry on my way to work one morning.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004


It has certainly been an interesting week for the Missus and myself.  We've survived heated arguments, carrying about a million boxes up and down countless stairs, a trip to and from Bowie in a cramped U-Haul cabin, trying to take a shower in a bathroom without curtains or shades, two minor basement floods, moving a 400-pound desk, shopping for new furniture, being made fun of by a six-and-a-half foot drag queen in a Baltimore gay bar, almost running over a rabbit on I-70, actually running over a screw someplace and having a flat tire, and finding out I wasn't going blind.  A very interesting week.

I'm finally back up and running, the cable guy was here yesterday and hooked us up for both TV and internet.  (I think I missed the internet more.)

I don't think there's anything quite as stressful as moving.  The house looks great and is awesomely roomy compared to our townhouse.  We've been having some problems though, including the two minor floods in the basement that I mentioned above.  The first was an AC malfunction, the second was plumbing.  Suffice to say that we're getting a new basement carpet next week.  The builder (Brookfield) has been very responsive, but it is a little depressing to have problems with a brand new house.

The Missus and I have survived the week and are ready to take on anything—preferably after getting some sleep though.  We're exhausted, and we still have to finish cleaning out our old townhouse and cleaning out our storage compartment before the 15th.

Here are a couple of pictures of the house after the move.