Thursday, July 29, 2010

More DC

The Washington Monument as seen from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I love the open space in DC.

I also posted more DC pictures on my photo blog.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Being A Tour Guide

If you're a regular reader, you know I love living near Washington DC. A few days ago, a very dear friend from North Carolina came to visit me and two other friends of hers who live in the area. It was her first time here. She got a taste of the enormity, beauty and history as well as museums, restaurants, bars, traffic jams and a Dave Matthews concert at a Major League Baseball park. Even though the three of us who she spent time with are not native to DC, we have lived here long enough to call it home and we love showing it off.

Visit my photo site for more pictures.

And visit DC some time.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Thousand Words

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This particular photo represents a thousand words or more about my recent 'staycation.' More pictures and words coming soon.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

More Moon Talk

Someone born after July 20, 1969 has never known a time in their life when humans had not walked on the moon. Someone born after December 14, 1972, the date of the last moon walk, would have to view a lunar stroll as history not current events.

The time span from the first powered human flight, the Wright Brothers in 1903, to the first human flight to the moon was just under 66 years. The time span from an American President’s challenge to send men to the moon and return them safely to earth to the day that actually happened was just over 7 years. The time span from the first to the last lunar flight was only 3 and 1/2 years and it has been more than 38 years from the last moon flight to today. The last American space shuttle flight is scheduled for 7 months from now; after that, American astronauts will have to hitch a ride to the International Space Station on Russian spacecraft.

These numbers aren’t adding up for me.

Humans are explorers, constantly seeking the new, boldly trying to go where no one has gone before (sound familiar?). Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were sort of like the Columbus of their day, taking a chance on geographic exploration that most people thought was impossible. The motivations of the two crews in my example were vastly different, but the idea of an exploratory challenge is similar.

Part of the race to the moon in the 1960s was based on ego and national security, American pride in seeking to be the first at everything and a massive attempt to reduce the possibility that another nation, specifically Russia, could set up military operations on the lunar surface. Without Kennedy’s challenge and our own fear, it might have taken decades to reach the moon; it might not have happened at all. Funny how the future American trips into space will be with the Russians

There has been talk of sending people to Mars. George W. Bush, the least visionary President in my lifetime, spelled out a great vision for sending humans to Mars. So far, Barrack Obama, one of the most visionary Presidents in my lifetime, has halted that dream.

I get it and I don’t.

On one side of the argument, the race to the moon led to significant scientific advances that we benefit from to this day … computer technology, satellites, portability of food, fuel economy, health research, lightweight metals, miniaturized communication devices. And a general interest in science among a generation of students. And significant national pride.

On the other side of the argument, is spending money on space flight justifiable when we have poverty, security and education issues to finance?

Maybe the most significant thing I learned from watching astronaut adventures as a kid is that every dream is possible. That lesson will stay with me till the day I die.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

One Small Almost-Forgotten Step

So this is how far we’ve come, or not come … today was the 41st anniversary of a human’s first step on the moon. And I, geekiest of space flight geeks in my childhood circle of friends, forgot it. And so, apparently, did everyone else because I did not see one mention of it in any news source I stumbled across.

It was probably on the traditional network newscasts; I didn’t happen to see them. But it was nowhere to be found on my daily and nightly channel surfing and web hopping. I remembered because a Facebook friend mentioned it.

As a kid in 1969, I watched the launch of Apollo 11 on all the channels (there were only three channels then, really). I watched the endless, boring coverage of the four-day flight there; boring because there was not continuous live camera coverage from the space craft. I listened to the radio transmission from the astronauts as they were coming in for a landing, Buzz Aldrin calling out flight data, but had no clue till much later that they were nearly out of fuel as they touched down. And I watched the live coverage of Neil Armstrong as he took one small step onto the lunar surface. I even took a few pictures of my TV at that moment (I know they’re around here somewhere).

And today I almost let the entire day pass without remembering or acknowledging this historic day.

The command module from that flight is on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. Maybe I’ll visit it this week.

When Insults Had Class!

This is serious old-school. A friend sent me this collection of glorious insults from an era before the English language got boiled down to four-letter words.

The exchange between Churchill & Lady Astor:
She said, "If you were my husband I'd give you poison."
He said, "If you were my wife, I'd drink it."

A Member of Parliament to Disraeli:
"Sir, you will either die on the gallows or of some unspeakable disease."
"That depends, Sir," said Disraeli, "whether I embrace your policies or your mistress."

"He had delusions of adequacy." - Walter Kerr

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." - Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." - Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." - William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway).

"Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I'll waste no time reading it." -
Moses Hadas

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." - Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." - Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend . . . if you have one." - George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second, if there is one." - Winston Churchill, in response.

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here.." - Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator." - John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." - Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.." - Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up." - Paul Keating

"In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily." - Charles, Count Talleyrand

"He loves nature in spite of what it did to him." - Forrest Tucker

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" - Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." - Mae West

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." - Oscar Wilde

"He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts. . .for support rather than illumination." - Andrew Lang (1844-1912)

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music." - Billy Wilder

Monday, July 19, 2010

Rainbow Over Rockville

I own a very nice Nikon digital SLR camera and a very nice Canon pocket sized digital camera and both were home today when I saw this beautiful rainbow at work. So here is a so-so cell phone shot of an awesome rainbow, viewed from a balcony on the 6th floor of my office building.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Coffee Coffee Coffee

In my youth, drinking coffee was a right of passage, a clear sign from my parents that I was growing up. They drank coffee every morning; not just any coffee, but that strong blend of New Orleans coffee. During my early teen years I was allowed to have a cup each morning of our family vacations. One cup, on vacation days only. And thus began my lifelong love affair with coffee.

I am certain that with the exception of one six-week period in 1989 I have not gone a single day without caffeinated coffee for more than thirty years. That six weeks began with twelve days in the hospital, followed by my attempt to stay decaffeinated till the day they ran out of decaf at the office and I had one cup of regular. I was instantly hooked again and haven’t missed a day since.

Medical experts seem conflicted on possible health risks associated with coffee. On one hand, drinking coffee can increase heart rate and blood pressure and cause irregular heartbeat. On the other hand, an article published by Harvard Medical School says drinking coffee may have positive health benefits. It can lower the risk for type 2 diabetes, “discourage the development of colon cancer, improve cognitive function, reduce the risk of liver damage in people at high risk for liver disease, and reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease.”

Who am I to argue with the Harvard Medical School?

I’m on an email list for a coffee-related website that touts the benefits of coffee. I honestly do not know how I got on their list, but I read their weekly news releases with great interest and a little snickering. One recent article discussed various benefits of coffee drinking, including reduce risk for cancer and stroke. In that same email, the CEO of ‘’ said, “Coffee actually contains a high level of antioxidants, which prevent cell damage and aging. In fact, a morning cup of coffee is the number one source of antioxidants for many adults.”

OK, they are a little biased. If you visit you’ll see that a web sites ending with “.org” does not always represent a non-profit organization.

That site is quite humorous. Another of their newsletters explained some uses for coffee grounds, including removing odors from your hands and kitchen sink drains, cleaning stained surfaces and freshening breath. I don’t know about that last one; doesn’t drinking coffee have the opposite effect?

One government study says the safe daily dosage of caffeine is 300 milligrams, or approximately three 12 oz. cups. The picture with this post shows my breakfast this morning. I filled that cup twice. Maybe I could have some more. I’m just not human till I’ve had my coffee.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

That Damn Journey

A year ago today I was enjoying the first stop on a road trip that paralleled my self-discovery journey. I was looking forward to ten days of me being me and not that guy so many people in my world expect me to be. By the time I returned home I was well on my way to living the next chapter of my life.

That road trip was the single best vacation of my life; honestly, I’ve had many memorable vacations, but that one tops the list. I was me every minute. There were good reactions, bad reactions and unusual reactions, but every minute was authentic and memorable. During the first two days the ‘real me’ helped fuel the beginning of a new, awesome friendship. On the third day I spent an hour with a member of one of my favorite bands in the middle of his hometown. On the fourth and fifth days being totally me almost destroyed the single most significant friendship of my life; being me has hopefully helped that connection recover since then. The next few days included quality time with my sister, wonderful catching up time with several cousins and a great dinner with two of my best high school buddies whom I hadn’t seen since college. The drive home included much literary and photographic reflection on my journey and the adventure was capped off on the last evening by a few more hours of conversation with the new awesome friend.

Geez, how the hell can I top that?! I want another vacation like that! I want every day of my life to be like those ten days!

I’m still working on my self-discovery but I have made much progress, at least in my head. I’m still trapped in a few parts of my life but I know what I want and don’t want and I am more confident than ever that I will be successful in getting to the next stop on the journey. My best analogy: I’m on the right train on the right track but the train is behind schedule because of some freight traffic ahead. It will all get sorted out in due time. Another lesson I’m learning on this journey … patience.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Did the Earth Move?

I didn’t sleep well last night. Woke up at 1:15, again at 2:00, 3:05. After that last time I couldn’t get back to sleep for a long time. I remember watching the clock change from 3:59 to 4:00 am.

Then … finally … zzzzzz.

Till just past 5, when I woke to the sound of rumbling, the kind of ground shaking usually made by a passing truck or a low-flying jet. Then it stopped. No truck. No jet. It wasn’t even my dogs hurtling down the hall to go out. There was just enough to wake me up, followed by the usual silence of rural Maryland.

For a brief moment I thought ‘earthquake’. I laughed and went back to sleep.

Two hours later I’m up eating breakfast and watching the news. The first local story: “Breaking News: 3.6 magnitude earthquake hits the DC region.” Wow! It really was an earthquake. My first!

It was centered near Germantown, Maryland and felt throughout the Washington DC area. There have been others during the past few decades. Most, like this one, resulted in little or no damage or injury. We don’t expect earthquakes around here and most have been smaller than this one.

But they do make for a great story.

Click Here for more info.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Connecting With a Song

Some people hear the message in the lyrics the first time they hear a song. I usually hear the instrumentation and structure and how the parts fit together first. The words finally sink in around the fifth or sixth time I hear a song.

A few weeks ago I finally “heard” Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me,” a song that’s on the radio constantly, and realize that parts of the song are taken right out of my life. How do songwriters do that? Even if you’re not a country music fan, I think you’ll recognize the power of this song (check out the video below).

The main character in the song is trying to ‘find herself’ and although she realizes the truth of the old adage “they say you can’t go home again” she still thinks maybe she can gain some insight by visiting her childhood home. She spends a few minutes there and sees how this house connects parts of her life. The house belongs to another family now, but some pieces of her life remain there, in reality and in spirit.

Fortunately for me, my childhood home is still in my family (my sister owns it and lives there) and each time I visit it, I gain new insight into my own life. My Dad built the house himself from plans he and Mom saw in a magazine, sort of like in the song. Lambert sings about her handprints in the front steps; my name and my sister’s name are carved into are cement swing set anchors in the backyard. In the song, the singer’s bedroom is where she did her homework and learned how to play guitar, leading to her eventual career; my childhood bedroom is now the guest room and when I stay there I recall doing my homework and listening to the radio, my eventual career. My Dad built his own life in a rock solid manner and built the house the same way; the house was remodeled after Hurricane Katrina but it remains rock solid and I can sometimes feel my Dad’s spirit there.

Corny? Sentimental? Slightly overdramatic? Rock solid? Yes, yes, yes and yes. Tough shit; that’s who I am. Like in the song, that little cottage is the house that built me. I think about it fondly every time I hear the song.

I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing
Out here it’s like I’m someone else
I thought that maybe I could find myself
If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave
Won’t take nothing but a memory
From the house that built me

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Another DC Daytrip

Washington DC is an awesome place. I never get tired of photographing it.

Click Here for some more photos.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What Else Would You Do?

Do you ever wonder if you’re in the right line of work? Have you ever taken one of those tests that is supposed to tell you what kind of work you should be in? Or what kind of jobs are held by people with skills, interests and personalities that are similar to yours?

I took such a test in college and their suggested occupations for me included civil engineer, psychologist and plant store owner. What?! Maybe it is because I’m detail-oriented, compassionate and enjoy working in small groups. I was a radio DJ for half my career so maybe they got it right: I handled technical details of keeping the music and banter flowing without ‘dead air’, listened to phone callers whine about their problems and worked alone in a small, dimly-lit room.

I’m happy with my career and current job but the number of people needed in the media world is shrinking so I’m thinking about the future. What else would I do if I lost my job and couldn’t find another one like it?

So I took a few of the free career aptitude tests on line and here are some results from two of them:

The first one says these jobs might be right for me: mathematician, astronomer, political scientist, economist, atmospheric and space science teacher, computer software engineer and actuary. Puh-leeeeze! I was a weather geek and space geek as a kid, but the rest of those? No way.

The second test didn’t delve into career specifics so much as it painted broad strokes relating to my personality. A creative job is most likely to be your dream career, so you probably shouldn't bother with formulas and bar graphs. You usually like the challenge of creative something out of nothing. It's a skill not everyone has. We'd tell you exactly what you should do, but something tells us you've invented some pretty good ideas already. I already have a creative job and plenty of what they said is true.

There is another more traditional test that I took two years ago called the Jung Typology Test and its partner the Jung Career Indicator. It says I am an INFJ. The website I used translates it specifically for me: moderate introvert, moderate intuitive, moderate feeling and highly judging. I wonder if the results would be different if I took it again today … or if I had taken it again a week later. Many of the questions are ambiguous, in my opinion, or offer too many options.

That test, by the way, suggests these as possible careers for me: social worker, teacher, librarian, lawyer, psychologist, counselor and designer. Some of those come a little closer to the real me, I suppose, but I don’t have the patience for most of those professions.

My current job is a hybrid position that includes writing, voicing and editing radio commercials, interviewing non-profit organization staffers and contributing ideas to other departments of several radio stations. And I’m still a DJ once a week.

Other jobs I did have at one time or another: public relations consultant, band booker at a blues bar, stock clerk at a car parts warehouse, retail sales person in clothes, sporting goods and music, catering server/bartender, photographer’s assistant, hotel sales person, Army private. I was not very good at any of them.

Other jobs I seriously considered but rejected as unrealistic ways to make a good living include photographer, newspaper reporter, television weather guy and history teacher. I have actually been a paid freelance photographer a few times and I got as far as a second interview for a part-time TV weather job.

All things considered, I’m better off doing what I now do and continuing to improve my technical and networking skills.

What about you? Do you work in the field you enjoy? Do you struggle with it sometimes but stick with it because it’s the right thing for you? Do you need encouragement? (hmm, back to that psychologist thing again – maybe I could do that if I learned patience). Do you often wonder why these life choices seem so complicated? If you won Power Ball would you say “WTF” and just take a 5-year vacation?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Who Decides What Is Old?

I never admit my age because I don’t want people to define me by a number, but I do admit to being fascinated by other people’s ages. I never ask someone their age but I usually find out. I hope I don’t define them by their number. I’m just curious.

Geography, education, parenting, religion, physical attributes and mental acuity are some of the other defining characteristics. The era in which a person comes of age also plays a role, in part because of the influence of culture.

But what goes into defining a person if they are one of the cultural icons who helped define their era?

The Beatles are arguably the most influential group in the history of recorded music, yet their recording career only spanned seven years. During that fairly brief time, the times changed and their music changed. They were initially influenced by music icons like Elvis, Chuck Berry and other mostly American blues and early rock artists. But they rapidly became the influencers and their own unique lyrics and sound changed radically. The entire sound landscape of popular music changed along with them.

So here are two number-related facts that might shock you: 1) the Beatles broke up in 1970 and 2) drummer Ringo Starr turned 70 today. Said another way, the most popular band in history broke up 40 years ago and their drummer is 70.

Those statements ‘sound old.’ But just what is old? The digitally re-mastered Beatles CDs, the newest of which is over 40 years old, were a huge sales success last fall; five of the eighteen CDs were in the Top 10 charts during the first week of release, beating out recordings by many popular contemporary artists.

And Ringo is on tour this summer! Most successful artists these days play weekends and take the week off; that’s roughly eight days a month. He is playing twenty dates this month and five of the first seven days next month. He plays big places (Radio City Music Hall in New York City this week) and small places (Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi on the 18th).

So who’s old? When I hear a 30, 40 or 50-year-old say they’re old, I laugh! Ringo is a working musician at 70 and Paul McCartney, the other surviving Beatle, is 68 and on the road. Both still put out recorded music too. And Ringo takes along other artists from his earlier era as part of his All Starr Band tour. This year’s lineup includes Edgar Winter, Gary Wright, Rick Derringer and others. If you’re underage, you might have to look them up to know who they are.
Watch this to see him sing one of his signature Beatles songs … the 2008 version.

It might look a little dated, but even though I hate the term ‘aging gracefully’ it does fit Mr. Starr. What 30-year-old star from 2010 will we be writing about in 2050?

Check Out This Song

I can't believe I heard this for the first time on a TV show, an episode of NCIS.

All we are, we are.
And every day is a start
of something beautiful.

Matt Nathanson

Monday, July 5, 2010

Follow Up Randomness

On the off chance you’ve been reading this blog or the previous one for awhile and you might have a passing interest in some of my personal stuff, here are a few updates:

The Nationals Game a few days ago … My party of five did our part to make it a sellout crowd. The Nats beat the Mets (in the last inning, barely). Nationals Park is a great place to see a game and I’m looking forward to seeing a concert there in just over two weeks.

Fitness … Gym 19 Vending Machine 4. Only five pounds down on the scale, but I’m one belt notch down and might be a pants size down in the fall. Patience.

Self Discovery Journey … I wrote plenty about this last summer and fall. I’ll write more in a few months. Basically, I have a clear picture of who I am and where I’m going. Progress is much slower than I want it to be but my determination is rock solid.

Italian lessons … I’ll try again in September.

Return to college … lower on the list than it was two years ago when I put it on hold again. Part of my self-discovery is effective prioritization. Other things are more important to me at present.

Annual keyword … in 2009 I chose play as the word that would guide my year. That strategy definitely worked, especially during July, October and December. This year, I continued with play and added simplify. Mixed results so far, but the year is only half over.

Makes You Think

I present this 30 seconds of awesome creativity and serious meaning, without judgment or ridicule, to several of my friends who I would like to be alive and still in my circle of friends decades from now.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Is She?

Is Lady Gaga the Madonna of the 2000s? That question occurred to me this morning as I watched the video of her latest song “Alejandro” on the VH-1 Video Countdown (and y’all thought I only liked country music).

She reminds me of Madonna in this song – flawless, fluid choreography, layered voice-over-voice singing, interspersed religious and sexual imagery and a bullet-boobs bra. The mood and tempo of this song reminds me of Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” and the video seems to play off “Like A Virgin.” The Wikipedia write-up on lady Gaga says her influences are David Bowie, Queen, Michael Jackson and, well, Madonna.

A few more curious similarities between her and Madonna: both are of Italian heritage, both grew up Catholic, neither uses a surname (Gaga’s full name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta), both got their musical start in New York, both frequently change their appearance, both have sometimes controversial public and private images.

If you have nine minutes to spare, check out this extended version of her latest video:

Back to my original question: Is Lady Gaga the Madonna of the 2000s?

Happy Independence Day!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Baseball and Music

I’m finally going to a Washington Nationals game tomorrow. I haven’t been to a Major League Baseball game since the 1990s. The tickets were free to me so I didn’t care who they’re playing or who is pitching, but it turns out they’re playing the New York Mets and the new Nats pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg will be on the mound. Sometime I have very good luck.

Three weeks from tonight I’ll be back at Nationals Park to see music … the Dave Matthews Band. I checked the chart again today and I believe I’ve got great seats for that show. I probably wont’ be sitting much, however. I’m quite certain the friend I’m going with will insist on standing, dancing and screaming. I like baseball but I know the concert will be a lot more fun than the game.