Thursday, October 28, 2010

Metro Stations Targeted

More news from our The Joys of Living in DC and Working in the Pentagon Department

First, a recap of previous incidents of note: 9/11 attack, anthrax attacks, sniper attacks, the gun battle at the entrance to the Pentagon in March, and someone taking potshots at the Pentagon from the parking lot earlier this month. Am I forgetting anything? There are most likely many attacks and near misses of which I am not even aware. 

Does terrorism work? Am I afraid? Well, I use Crystal City and Pentagon City stations every day: two of the four stations that Farood Ahmed is accused of planning to attack. I am worried and will increase my situational awareness. But afraid? Hmmm. Let's see:

  • I can honestly say that I am more or less resigned to stuff like this as part of the package of living in the DC area and working in the Pentagon.  
  • I guess part of me is extremely grateful that we caught this knucklehead before he was able to carry out his nefarious plot. Thank you to the FBI's Terrorism Task Force and other law enforcement agencies for their diligence and professionalism.
  • Still another part of me is concerned about the conditions that produce people like this who hate life enough to target innocent people.
  • I am a bit worried that some people will tune out the bad news altogether as a self-preservation technique. In reality, the situation calls for increased awareness and vigilance.

All that said, there are far more dangerous places in the world, and people far braver than I who face situations in those places on a daily basis. Care to trade jobs with a bus driver in Israel? So maybe the truth is that I am a little afraid, but unwilling to admit it as a matter of principle.

If Mr Ahmed is convicted, I trust he will take advantage of 50 years in confinement to do something useful with his life.

Lost Generation?

There is something about this video that really speaks to me. It starts out very dark and depressing, matching a mood that seems to dominate main stream media themes. But watch the entire thing. An uplifting message begins to emerge about halfway through.

Lost Generation?

Tip of the hat to Q of Travel for bringing this link to my attention.

The Wisdom to Survive

My mom said she learned how to swim. Someone took her out in the lake and threw her off the boat. That's how she learned how to swim. I said, "Mom, they weren't trying to teach you how to swim." --Paula Poundstone

Reframing what happens to us can be a healthy way to survive terrible things, or it can become a veil of denial that keeps us from moving on.Often, we simply have to trust that we will see the truth of things when we are strong enough and ready. --Mark Nepo

Nepo, M. (2000). The book of awakening: Having the life you want by being present to the life you have, pg. 350. San Francisco, CA: Conari Press.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Posing with a hot bike


Pretty, by Kate Makkai

What does it mean to be pretty? Veteran poetry slammer Kate Makkai provides a provocative definition.

Warning: adult language and themes, NSFW. This was, after all, recorded at a poetry slam, and it hits hard in places. 

Pretty, by Kate Makkai

I think appearances do matter, and to pretend otherwise is to deny human nature. The problem Kate Makkai so poignantly points to is that we place too much weight on appearances. My daughters are beautiful, but they must never be, as Kate so powerfully said, "merely" pretty.

Elvis Costello's rather dim view of humanity

"Man is a miserable ape and a sad pile of sticks
Comes out swinging, gets in a few licks
The longest of drum rolls for the shortest of tricks"

from My Lovely Jezebel

Question: How does this make you feel? Do you agree with this sentiment? 

My answer: I like this lyric a lot, even though it disturbs me--perhaps because it disturbs me. I would like to think that life is more than a game where the only outcome is an inevitable and permanent death. I'd like to think that I am here in this body and on this planet for reasons that go beyond the biological imperatives to reproduce and digest. Is there love, beauty, purpose, truth, or justice in this life? I believe that pursuing these things is worthwhile. I believe life (call it the soul if you will) continues after death. I am aware that EC would say that such thinking is really just a way of papering over a cold and harsh reality. 

Question: Are we, as EC suggests, merely piles of animated dust? 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Take a glimpse inside an actual Can-o-Whoopass

The plane climbs to altitude and you hear nothing over the roaring engines but your own pounding heart. You feel every bumpy air pocket and you pray that you aren't the first to puke. Packed in like sardines in those cold and cramped conditions, you feel a palpable tension building--a giant spring has been compressed inside that C-130 and that spring cannot wait to uncoil. You try to relax, to appear stoic, but inside your guts are churning and you know there is only one remedy: the open door, the green light, the shuffle, and the moment when you half jump, half get sucked into space. You dream about that brief feeling of freedom until all of the sudden, it's happening, and just as soon as you realize you are falling, your reverie is cut short by the violent shock of your parachute opening. You snap back to reality, check your canopy, and look around you. The sky is filled with 102 pissed off paratroopers, and somebody near the Drop Zone is fixin' to find out what happens when Uncle Sam opens a Can-o-Whoopass.

More about the C-17 Globemaster is HERE

When a Cancer Therapy Puts Others at Risk

Health care is a hot button issue in this country and this recent NY Times article puts the spotlight on the fundamental issue: preventive care vs interventions. It's fairly obvious that preventive care should lead to better health and lower costs, but the insurance companies in this country influence how much prevention is affordable when they decide what to cover.

In Europe, most thyroid cancer patients are quarantined in the hospital after radiation therapy. Why exactly are US hospitals releasing some 40,000 patients per year with conditions that are unsafe for some unsuspecting persons?

When a Cancer Therapy Puts Others at Risk

Many thanks to Chicago Diva who brought this recent NY Times article to my attention.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA)

It took me two months but I did it! I earned the PALA as part of the Army team. In fact, completing the PALA program was my primary training for both the Team River Runner biathlon and the Army 10-miler.

Anyone can participate in the PALA. It takes just 30 minutes per day for at least 5 days per week for at least 6 weeks in an 8 week period. Here's the link to sign up.

Presidental Active Lifestyle Award

Lyrics to The Dick Van Dyke Show theme song

Had the pleasure today of hearing DVD sing the theme song to his eponymous 1960s TV show, this during his appearance on "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me," the NPR quiz show. Delightful!

So you think that you’ve got trouble, well, trouble’s a bubble,
So tell ol’ Mr. Trouble to get lost.
Why not hold your head up high and stop cryin’, start tryin’
And don’t forget to keep your fingers crossed.

When you find the joy of livin’ is lovin’ and givin’
You’ll be there when the winning dice are tossed.
A smile is just a frown that’s turned upside down
So smile and that frown’ll defrost.
And don’t forget to keep your fingers crossed. 

Written by Morey Amsterdam

Happy Mole Day!

Today is Mole Day!  Celebrated annually on October 23 from 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m., Mole Day commemorates Avogadro's Number (6.02 x 10^23), which is a basic measuring unit in chemistry.

For a given molecule, one mole is a mass (in grams) whose number is equal to the atomic mass of the molecule. For example, the water molecule has an atomic mass of 18, therefore one mole of water weighs 18 grams. In general, one mole of any substance contains Avogadro's Number of molecules or atoms of that substance. 

Party on!

With a tip of the hat to fellow geek, Kathy Kielmeyer.

National Ransom by Elvis Costello

‎Soon these secrets will be scattered
Heaven knows what lies inside
Took a lifetime to discover
A moment to decide

enjoying an advance release of EC's forthcoming album, National Ransom

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fun with Facial Hair

Why do men grow beards? Because they can! Give me two weeks out of uniform, and I will play with my facial hair. Maybe someday I will have worked my way through the catalog of beard and moustache styles. My Fall 2010 effort began with a little scruff for Ocean City Bike Week in mid September and ended with these Five Stages of Transformation in early October.

0.       The transformation start point was the short Box beard and moustache. Unlike the Philosopher, the whiskers in a Box are all the same length. In contrast to a Full beard, the Box has a clean neck and some trimming on the edges. I prefer the clean neck because otherwise my helmet chin strap pulls whiskers.


1.       The jaw-line Chin Curtain and moustache, aka the Donegal. Just cut the sides down from the cheek to the jaw-line, leaving the sideburns, moustache, and chin whiskers alone. I actually like this better than the Box, which surprised me, since I have a long face.


2.       The Goatee and moustache, aka the Doorknocker or the Circle beard. Shown here with long sideburns and a bit of a goatee extension.  Next time I will extend the extension.


3.       Horseshoe moustache and Soul Patch aka Flavor Saver. The Horseshoe aka Hulk Hogan is different from a Fu Manchu in that the latter has longer whiskers that hang down past the jaw. The Chin Strip is a longer version of the Soul Patch. I like the look even though it does not fit my personality too well.

Horseshoe + Soul Patch

4.       Toothbrush moustache, aka the aptly named Mouthbrow. While this moustache is acceptable in the military, it does not look particularly good on me. What Charlie Chaplin made famous, Hitler made infamous. Some guys really labor over their moustache. Think of the John Waters pencil, the Wilford Brimley walrus, or the Salvador Dali spiked handlebar. I don’t know that I would ever want to go to that much trouble, but to each his own.  For me, facial hair is about fun and freedom. Life can be tedious enough without adding to the tedium, right?

5.       Back to “normal.” Now I need a haircut and then it’s back to the salt mines for me, until next time! 


Speaking of next time, I didn’t realize how the lighting over my bathroom sink would give everything a yellow wash. Next time I will find some better lighting. And maybe some Grecian Formula?

For names and descriptions of beard styles, I referred mainly to the Beard Style Guide at

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thirty Conversations on Design

Thirty of the world’s most creative professionals were asked two questions: “What single example of design inspires you most?” and “What problem should design solve next?”
Their answers might surprise you. And, hopefully they’ll inspire you. Discover what they have to say. Then share your thoughts. After all, this is a conversation. We’d love for you to join.
With a tip of the hat to zefrank

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Team River Runner Biathlon 2010

Great time Sunday morning! Paddled upstream to Three Sisters, downstream to Key Bridge, and back to the Canoe Club for the kayak leg (about a mile), and then ran along the C&O canal for the running leg (about 3 miles but it felt like 4!). It was a pleasure and an honor to support such a worthy cause. About 200 people competed, including about 20 wounded warriors. Another 20 or so volunteers helped with myriad tasks such as pulling the boats out of the water at the transition point. I want to thank all my supporters, especially my 7 sponsors: Cynthia, Richard, Janet, PK / PM, Mary, AJKA, and MFL / GG. We raised $265 towards the goal of $40,000 to further the TRR mission of helping wounded warriors heal through paddle sports. Check the website in a few days for pics and race results!

Friday, October 1, 2010

What I am bringing to Sunday's cuisine a la biere party

Beet and Arugula Salad with Walnuts and Feta Cheese
From: "Food to Live By: The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook" by Myra Goodman 
Serves 4 as a side salad 

The vibrant colors and sweet flavors of the beets and oranges in this salad contrast deliciously with the smooth white feta and crunchy nuts. Blood oranges are spectacular in this salad, but if they're not available, don't hesitate to make it with any oranges you like. You can easily substitute mixed baby greens, mâche or frisée for the arugula.

1 pound cooked beets (roasted, steamed, or boiled)
About 1/3 cup Orange Walnut Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
5 ounces (about 6 cups) Earthbound Farm Organic Baby Arugula
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup candied or toasted walnuts
2 blood oranges (if available) or navel oranges, segmented

Orange-Walnut Vinaigrette:
Makes about 1-1/4 cups
1/2 cup good-quality roasted walnut oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon orange juice or blood orange juice
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
5 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely minced shallots
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


To make the vinaigrette, place all the dressing ingredients in a glass jar and close the lid tightly. Shake vigorously to combine. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Allow the dressing to sit at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop before serving. (Store any leftover vinaigrette in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 1 month.)
Cut the beets in half or quarters (if you're using larger beets, cut into 1/2-inch dice) so they're bite-size. Place the beets in a small bowl, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette, and toss until the beets are coated. (This step can be done a day in advance, if desired.)
Just before serving, place the arugula in a large salad bowl. Add about 3 tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Toss to coat the leaves lightly, then taste and add more vinaigrette if needed.
Transfer the arugula to a platter or individual salad plates. Arrange the beets and orange segments (if using) on the greens and sprinkle them with the feta and nuts. Serve immediately.

Shopping List
  • 1 pound cooked beets
  • 5 ounces (about 6 cups) Earthbound Farm Organic Baby Arugula
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup candied or toasted walnuts
  • 2 blood oranges (if available) or navel oranges, segmented
  • 1/2 cup good-quality roasted walnut oil
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice or blood orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 5 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon shallots