Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Stardate 61083.08 - Coastal Navigation Certified

I took my ASA Coastal Navigation (105) exam tonight and while I'd like to say I beat everyone in the class, unfortunately I only tied for the highest score. Me and one other guy got 97 on the exam. Everyone in the class did pass, which the instructor said has only happened once before (there is something like a 25% fail rate for this class).

A few people have also commented on my lack of posts recently. I'm supporting a client here in NYC and the hours required are much higher than my previous work. By the time I get home at night (sometimes after 8 PM), and then catch up on things around the apartment or deal with old projects I'm trying to wrap up, there simply is no time to post. So I'm probably going to be down to 1-2 posts per week for the next couple of months while I'm working this assignment.

And again, I would have posted a picture but blogger is giving me some stupid random error message and won't upload the pictures. And it just told me it couldn't post my entry because bX-45y3w1.

Can you bastards at blogger get your crap together?


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Stardate 61076.99 - Friday Night Lights

Cheryl and I watched Friday Night Lights Saturday night (the movie, not to be confused with the television series of the same name). Two thumbs sideways.

First, it was a sports movie, and I'm not a big fan of the sense of entitlement high school and college athletes have. (I actually had a high school basketball player friend of mine say during his freshman year of college, "I didn't do well in a class but its ok 'cause coach will fix the grade." That doesn't sit well with me (and believe me, I could have used some grade fixing in college!). Second, they didn't do a good job (Cheryl put her finger on this) in linking the off-field and on-field characters. I'm not sure if it was the use of first names vs. last names for life vs. the field, but it just became tough to keep track of everyone. Third, it was apparent to us that there was about another hour of movie that ended up on the cutting room floor. Case in point, the coach's daughter shows up in a scence about 30 minute before the end of the 2 hour movie. Cheryl and I looked at each other and said, "He has a kid?" No previous mention of children, even though there were a few (very few) scenes with the wife at home.

It just seemed like it got jumbled up somewhat when they put it all together after shooting it. So two thumbs sideways.

Oh, and I'd put a picture up but blogger isn't accepting any pictures right now due to a "bX-45y3w1" error. No longer in beta my ass.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Stardate 61057.39 - Loren's First Resturant Meal

On Saturday we went to NJ to pick up some presents for Loren that had not arrived before Christmas and to exchange some items. And also to visit her parents. I spent most of the time doing homework for my class, and today I have to catch up on some work so this will be a really quick post.

Saturday night we all went to Baja Fresh for dinner (on our way back to NYC) and Cheryl ordered Loren a kid's meal. Loren loved the chips (but we already knew that) and ate a bunch of rice and applesauce with a spoon. She tried to use the spoon on the bean burrito, and that didn't go over so well so Grandpop finished that off for her. She also drank her milk with a straw which went as well as her attempts to use a straw normally go...she sometimes takes too much liquid into her mouth and so she lets it dump out onto her clothes. But she did very well.

And we realized during the meal that it was the first time we had actualy ordered Loren her own dinner, rather than bringing food and/or giving her some of ours. A milestone! And of course, we didn't have the camera with us so Cheryl and I each snapped a picture with my camera.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Stardate 61050.00 - No Time

I started a new project for a new client at work and I'm actually at the client's site here in NYC and not working from home and I suddenly find myself with not only a commute (at least it is short) but also with much less time during the day with which to write blog entries. I may end up going to a twice a week posting schedule (on the weekends) but I hope not because that will probably send my readership into the toilet.

I had a couple of people ask me about my class. I am taking the ASA's course Coastal Navigation. The exam is supposed to be quite more difficult than the Keelboat 101 course I took and passed last summer. This class involves charts and plots and fixes and all kinds of cool stuff. I know that GPS makes everything easier, but you need a back-up if your electronics fail and understanding the fundamentals helps you use your electronics even better.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Stardate 61043.07 - At the Ritz

I had an off-site to attend in Virginia Monday and Tuesday of this week, so I was on the 0600 shuttle down from NYC Monday morning. Since Monday was a Federal holiday, traffic was light, the plane was empty, and the airport was nearly deserted. We arrived at National Airport in record time and I was able to go to my office first and get some things done before I had to head over to The Ritz for the meetings.

Since the meetings and dinner ran until late Monday evening and will start up again early this morning, I made a command decision to stay at the hotel so I didn't have to drive off to some other place late Monday night and then drive back over early this morning. It just made no sense to do that.

I know it is still winter, but it is depressing to look out my hotel window at 0730 and have it still be this dark. Sigh. I think I'm ready for spring, even though we really haven't had winter yet.

I called Cheryl this morning and Loren apparently did not have a restful night last night, so "you picked a good night to be away" she told me this morning. I hope it was just a one-off event, as she has been really good since we got back from the Christmas visit.

Finally, I took a self-portrait in the bathroom mirror, just for the fun of it. These pictures are from my phone, so they are not of the highest quality, but I wanted to get a post up this morning and I dislike posting without some type of picture.

I'll be back in NYC tonight in time for my class, as long as the flights are on schedule.

McLean, VA

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Stardate 61038.78 - Hectic Days

Cheryl didn't think the pictures from dinner after the play date on Saturday were too bad, so she gave me permission to put one up.

Today was extremely hectic. Cheryl had a couple of hours of work to do, so I watched Loren while she was out. Then I had about 3 hours of homework for my class, most of which I got done during Loren's nap. We still have to do laundry tonight and I have to pack as I am going to Virginia for Mon-Tue. I also had to pay bills, and we had to pay estimated taxes. I think I've had about 20 minutes of "leisure" time all day, and that was when Loren napped and I drank my large, decaf skim latte - before I started my homework. I hope to be able to take 45 minutes tonight after Loren goes to bed to see Law and Order from Friday night. But we still have laundry and I still have to pack and we still have dinner and on and on and on....

Very hectic. Loren is at that point where she requires almost constant supervision yet isn't playing by herself enough to just plop her down somewhere for an hour - she wants you involved in her play, too. While I love spending time with her, sometimes I just want an hour to myself! And my trip to VA is going to be a stressful, all day into the evening type of meeting so I will have very little "me" time on this one.

I was certainly unprepared for the total lack of leisure time once we had Loren. I am still reeling from Christmas when I thought having a week off from work would give me time to read, and work on my class work in advance, and have time to relax. Wrong. My leisure time was the 1.5-2 hours I was awake after Loren went to bed. That caught me by surprise. I only hope that by the time we go on vacation she is able to self-entertain somewhat, or else that won't be terribly relaxing either (apart from not having to work).


Stardate 61037.48 - Play Date

Loren has officially outgrown her current shoes, and Cheryl took her for a new measurement and new shoes Saturday morning. Loren is now a size 6 and has new Nike tennis shoes and a pair of dressier shoes. Loren also had a play date over in Queens on Saturday, and although we took the camera we forgot to take any pictures.

On the way back we decided to walk down Queen's Blvd to find a place to eat dinner. We stumbled upon a Turkish restaurant named Hemsin, and not only was the food really good but Loren was extremely well-behaved. She loved the bread and spent most of the meal working that. I did snap a couple of pictures at the resturant but Loren has been fighting off a cold for about a week and her nose came out pretty crusty-looking in the pictures, so I decided not to put them up.

Because of the Baba ghanoush appetizer neither of us could finish our meal and we got it wrapped up. Of course, this meant that we were fighting with (by that time) a very tired Loren, a diaper bag, the stroller, and a bag of left-over dinner for our subway ride back home.

And in the Curt was obviously too tired from getting up with Loren Saturday morning at 5 AM department, as I set the bill to the side with my credit card I knocked over an entire glass of water into my lap. I thought it was the children who were supposed to do things like that? And I was wearing cargo pants so it was really obvious. I put on my jacket and buttoned it up and hoped that it covered all the wet parts on me so it didn't look like I soiled myself. Cheryl pointed out that no-one pays attention to anyone else on the subway, and Loren was really tired for the ride home and was squirming and kicking and bumping into the people next to Cheryl and drawing all the attention anyway. Especially when we approached Grand Central and Cheryl took her phone away so we could make the transfer, and Loren began yelling. At least that meant she went to bed easily Saturday night!


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Stardate 61035.53 - Vera Drake

Cheryl and I watched Vera Drake Friday night in an attempt to get one movie in during the weekend before we both have to deal with work items left over from the week and my class and its homework and hair cuts and play dates and everything else this weekend that will suck the leisure time away like Mega Maid over Planet Druidia (lets see who gets that reference).

It was a good movie, but very serious. Cheryl said the entire time she felt like "Yes, I am watching an art house film that is very serious about a very serious topic." It was well acted, or I really should say very well improvised because Mike Leigh is famous for having his actors become the characters and then respond to events and each other without a real script. The Wikipedia entry for Vera Drake has even more details regarding what the actors went through, including (except for the star) not knowing the subject matter of the movie until it is revealed to their characters while the camera rolled.

Overall I liked the movie, although it was slow in parts and I kept thinking, "Why wasn't this cut for pacing?" Although due to the improvisational nature of the movie I assume it is more difficult to re-shot and edit and cut scenes (I'm not a movie maker so what do I know?). Also, like Cheryl I found myself saying things like, "Ah, here is where the contrast between classes will be illustrated," and "Here is where we see the importance of family sticking together."

Cheryl slept through the last 30 minutes and will have to go back to finish it, but I guess I give it a thumbs-up. I would not recommend this to my friends, unless they were the art house serious subject movie types (you know who you are...and who you aren't!).


Stardate 61034.85 - Official Attacks Top Law Firms Over Detainees - New York Times

Official Attacks Top Law Firms Over Detainees - New York Times

I try to keep my politics out of these posts for the most part, but I read this article this morning and it really made me angry. Charles D. Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, said in an interview this week that he was dismayed that lawyers at many of the nation’s top firms were representing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and that the firms’ corporate clients should consider ending their business ties.


The administration failed to deny access to lawyers for the prisoners, so they attempt an end-run-around by essentially blackballing the law firms whose attorneys are representing some prisoners. He has told corporate America to sever ties with any firm representing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. McCarthyism is apparently alive and well and actively practiced by the current administration.

Never mind the fact that our entire legal system is based on innocent until proven guilty. Mr. Stimson also implied in the interview that they are being paid to represent these individuals by terrorist organizations stating that they "are receiving moneys from who knows where." Never mind that the great majority of attorneys and firms are not being paid for their efforts, and those who are paid are they are donating the money to 9-11 charities.

Are there bad people in Guantanamo? Undoubtedly. But there are also people for whom the burden of proof has been lacking and they have been let free, some after long incarcerations.

I don't know if the administration put him up to this or if he said this on this own. Someone who recently said that he was learning “to choose my words carefully because I am a public figure on a very, very controversial topic” had clearly not done so here. Was he told to do so by the White House, or did he do this on his own?

Even though the US Attorney General (not exactly a bastion of civil rights) has said he disagrees with Mr. Stimson's position, the damage has been done. The insinuations have been made; the list of firms has been published. So I therefore think that Senator Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who wrote to President Bush on Friday asking him to disavow Mr. Stimson’s remarks did not go far enough.

Let me therefore be the first to call for Mr. Stimson's resignation. Trying to deny representation to prisoners is un-American, unethical, and illegal. The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that the detainees "have been imprisoned in territory over which the United States exercises exclusive jurisdiction and control." Therefore, the detainees have the fundamental right to due process of law under the Fifth Amendment. Mr Stimson has sought to overturn the Supreme Court. I'm pretty sure he has overstepped his authority, and if his comments were truly not sanctioned by the White House then he should resign on his own, or the President should ask for his resignation.

Have you no decency, sir?


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Stardate 61029.86 - The things you hear...

Today I had to run out to the UPS store to purchase a mailing envelope and postage to send a certificate to one of my staff for an award I gave him. While I was addressing the envelope I heard two people come into the store, but I didn't look up. I next heard this exchange (approximate):

Woman - "So she is saying that you pushed her..."

Man - "But I didn't touch her!"

Woman - "But she has a witness who saw you push her."

At this point I think it is a guy and his attorney, probably discussing a divorse proceeding. Then the conversation continues:

Man - "You didn't give me the chance to get my witnesses!"

Woman - "Well, the traffic cop is saying you pushed her, so I'm going to have to place you under arrest."

At this point, I looked up to see a 5' female cop and a 6' angry man by the door to the store. He apparently had been dialing someone during the conversation, because he then says into the phone,

"Sergent! She is telling me she has to arrest me!" Pause. To woman, "He wants to talk to you."

At this point they left the store and the UPS clerk told me that she thought a meter maid was trying to ticket him and he apparently thought he still had time on the meter but she didn't see any pushing. By the time I concluded my business he was rummaging around in his car, but the cops were still parked there, blocking him in.

So I'll never know how it turned out.


Stardate 61029.53 - Erection Continues

As you can see from the relative position measured against the crane, the erection of the cancer center across the street continues. Of course, as they have been working almost every Saturday for months I'd expect them to be a bit ahead of schedule. It is generally loud, constant noise outside the apartment every day that I am here trying to work. Soon we'll be able to recognize the construction crew in the mornings as we open the window shades as they will be working level with our apartment. And to remind you, this project has already been going on for more than a year. Quite annoying, and it will continue for another year.

As a reminder, here is what it is supposed to look like when completed.

Our apartment will look directly into the glass portion at the top, which will be doctors' offices, according to the community board meeting I attended.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Stardate 61024.00 - Loren Reading

Just one last picture from Christmas, taken by the Durham family, showing Loren permitting their son Joseph to read to her. She has been very stand-offish recently from people other than me and Cheryl (and her teachers at daycare), so it was pretty surprising that she voluntarily wanted Joseph to read to her.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Stardate 61019.79 - Meeting Max

Today we drove up to Denise and Greg's place in Monroe, NY to meet their new son, Max. Loren had a great time playing with Alison, while Max (less than a month old) mainly ate, slept, and cried. Above is a photo of Denise holding Max (they are looking at Gregg who was also taking a picture at the same time), and Cheryl holding Loren and Alison. Traffic was very, very light going out there this morning at 1030, and moderate but mostly moving on the trip back around 1530.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Stardate 61016.66 - Bronx Zoo

Today it was nearly 70 in NYC so we took a little trip to the Bronx Zoo so Loren could see the animals. She particularly liked the wild dogs and kept saying "Dog" to the signs, displays, and of course, the actual wild dogs. She also seemed to like the giraffes as well as the pizza for lunch.


Stardate 61015.66 - Hauru no ugoku shiro

Last night Cheryl and I watched Hauru no ugoku shiro (Howl's Moving Castle). Actually, I watched the almost 2-hour movie while Cheryl slept for about an hour of it. I had selected it becauase I recalled that Entertainment Weekly had given it an "A". I was not familiar with the book upon which it was based, but it seemed like an interesting concept - a world in the middle of an industrial revolution but with magic and witches. A land of both steam locomotives and huge flying battleships. And let me say first of all that the animation (or anime or whatever it is called) was really quite stunning. The backgrounds in particular were quite impressive, as was the detail in Howl's moving castle.

Essentially, the young female lead insults the Witch of the Waste and is cursed to live life as an old woman. The movie is about her journey to try and live with or to break the curse. Add in a young, attractive wizard (Howl of the title) and some sidekicks and you have a movie.

I have to give it a mixed review. The first half of the movie went to great lengths to explain in a very logical fashion precisely how various things works and the relationship between technology and magic (like how the moving castle is powered). But the second half almost felt rushed (except that the movie was actually slow in parts - I know, a contradiction), and things were not explained very well. The ending felt particularly rushed and I was left saying, "Huh?".

In general, it was too long. There was one scene in the early-middle of the movie where Howl became quite self-indulgent and while it probably worked in the book it seemed too far out of character in the movie. I understand the point they were trying to make, but I said to myself, "Oh, come on!" while watching that portion.

In the final analysis, one thumb sideways. Since Cheryl missed a great deal of the plot while sleeping, I didn't really ask her for her review.


Friday, January 05, 2007

Stardate 61014.06 - Technology Marches On

From Good Morning Silicon Valley:

September 13, 1956 - IBM uncrated the RAMAC -- the world's first hard disk. It was 5 feet square, weighed a full ton and stored just 5 megabytes of data -- barely enough to hold a single song in MP3 format. My how far we have come in 50 years. Hitachi announced Thursday a 1-terabyte hard disk drive. Just 3.5-inches in diameter, the drive can hold about 250,000 MP3s.


Stardate 61013.16 - Christmas "B" Roll

Here are the photos that were not too bad, but still did not make the cut for the post about Christmas in Virginia. Consider them the second string.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Stardate 61010.38 - Down by the River

Since my Mom is selling the place in Virginia to move to Vermont, I took a stroll with Loren and Cheryl down to the river to snap a few pictures, since I may not have the opportunity to do so again. This is not the house where I grew up, so selling it does not invoke the same sence of nostalgia that selling the house in Churchville did. After my parents were divorced my sister and I lived with our Dad for a short time in Lexington VA, and then we moved to the Churchville property when I was in second grade. I don't really remember too much about the Lexington house or yard, but the Churchville house was sold while I was in college and I knew every nook and cranny of those 11 acres, and I even have background material for a novel based on a fantasy land my sister and I invented and played in as children - a land that remarkably matches that property, except on a much grander scale. In late High School I actually outlined the novel and wrote 20 pages or so, but have not gotten back to it.

Anyway, the Verona house was purchased after I graduated college (if I remember the dates correctly) so I never really played as a kid down by the river (although I have taken a canoe ride or two there).

Regardless, the pictures are pretty cool and I thought I'd share.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Stardate 61007.77 - The Pursuit of Happyness

Cheryl and I went out last Thursday night while we were in Virginia for the holidays and we left Loren with Nanna and Kraker. Our movie selection was limited to what we could squeeze in between lunch and the start of Loren's nighttime routine, so we ended up seeing The Pursuit of Happyness (not our first choice). Jessica Stover has been telling me that I really need to see The Fountain, but it was not playing in Staunton (surprise, surprise).

The Pursuit of Happyness was an alright movie, but not something that benefited from the big screen. It would have made a fine NetFlix rental or airplane movie. The climatic scene was well done, and I don't think it is giving anything away to say that at the end Cheryl did comment, "That is the first time I've cried over someone getting a job."

In Entertainment Weekly lingo we probably give it a B or B-. Two thumbs sideways.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Stardate 61005.01 - Gift Wrapping Gone Bad

I purchased a gift for a family member from the Gap. This particular relative sub-group has decided to put names in a hat and everyone who wants a present draws a name to give a present to. That way, the family is only giving/receiving a single gift. We have also put a $40 limit on the gifts. This procedure was to curb the out-of-control spending wars that had been escalating for years. Since the item I purchased was a little less than $40, I decided to spring for the $5 gift-wrap option. Here is what I got:

Please notice that not only is there no wrapping paper, but the single ribbon is too long for the box, the ribbon has been badly taped to the bottom, there are two advertisements for The Gap taped to the bottom, and the box the present is in is the same free box I could have gotten at the store. So I paid $5 for a poorly measured and poorly attached ribbon.

Gap, I give you an "F" for gift wrapping. My advice is to save $4.75 by choosing to recycle a box and buying your own crappy ribbon.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Stardate 61003.23 - New Year's

For New Year's Eve we drove from my Mom's place up to Andy and Jen's new condo in Arlington (I'm sorry, that would be self-designated "Fun Uncle Andy and Fun Aunt Jen").

We then went out to dinner with them and 4 of their friends at The Matchbox restaurant in Washington, DC (which their condo is conveniently close to - we got into DC, parked, and were at the restaurant in about 20 minutes). The food was alright, although it was a little disappointing that they didn't have the correct number of chairs or the high-chair already at the table when we showed up. We had a reservation, we were right on time, they knew how many people were coming and that we would have a baby, and yet the table was not ready.

Not that it really mattered, because Loren was so sleep deprived that she was not on her best behavior and we had to leave before dessert. Here she is looking mad, with a cut on her nose from her fingernail, and scrapes on her cheeks where she fell trying to run down Nana's gravel road to the creek. (I told her that is what happens when she jerks her hand out of Daddy's hand and tries to run downhill on her own.)

We then went back to Andy and Jen's where we watched a couple of old episodes of The Office (US Version) and Small Space, Big Style until Jen and Cheryl each fell asleep around 10 PM. Then we went to bed. I think only Andy stayed up until midnight to watch the ball drop.

We got up the next morning (today) and drove back home. Luckily for us, traffic was pretty light and we didn't have any problems. Even with a 30-minute stop for lunch, we made it back in less than 5 hours.