The Wheels on the Bike Go 'Round and 'Round

You know, this was not supposed to be another one of those whingeing reports about how I can't think straight when the Brunette's away. No, my plan these last two days was to keep a low profile, do a little biking, and generally play it safe while my wife is off on her father-daughter camping trip. I mean, it's two work days. These are days where I generally spend a good deal of time away from her doing work things. Plus, I'm an old man. I survived many years living on my own before getting married. How hard could this really be?

Geez, when the Brunette's away, I can't think straight.

Thursday didn't start off so badly. The weather was great and, with nobody waiting at home, it seemed a good opportunity to get a nice fall bike ride in after work. Sans laptop on my back, it was actually a fairly smooth ride down into Arlington county from the outer reaches of nowhere, Virginia. I still think the W&OD trail has too many stop signs, but I did manage a steady 10 mile per hour average, doing 25 miles in a little over two and a half hours. I think that's pretty good, considering I'm tootling along on my wife's purple hybrid.

Sure, you'd think that being purple wouldn't have anything to do with speed. But when I pull up at one of those cross walks and the other bikers (the road racers with their spandex and the construction workers without helmets) look at me, I just know they're giggling inside. It could be that they're making fun of my business casual biking attire or my helmet with its reflective stripes of orange tape. But I prefer to blame the bike.

I don't care what Lance Armstrong says.

Along about Rosslyn, I decided that I could continue on to Crystal City. I couldn't think of where I wanted to eat dinner in Rosslyn and the bike transfer from Crystal City's Yellow Line to the Green Line on the other side of the river would be much easier than a transfer from Blue/Orange to Green at L'Enfant. I'd hate to have to navigate that in a wheelchair. It's a wicked maze at L'Enfant, moving from elevator to elevator. Recently, I had read good things about Crystal City in this guy's blog. Sadly, I'm a fat, old man, so when I saw that the bikeway along the Potomac (which has a beautful and inspiring view of the Lincoln, Washington and Jefferson holy sites, by the way) curves around Crystal City, my hunger overtook me, and I decided to go to National Airport instead. They have food there, right?

(By the way, to me it will always be National Airport. Not because I hate Reagan or anything; I'm not likely to call BWI Thurgood Marshall, either. I'm just set in my ways. (I have always liked the sound of Friendship International, but I'm not that old.))

Here's a good tip for all you bikers out there who want to fly out of National. The bike racks are on the side of the Metro station opposite the terminal, so if you're coming down from the north, go to the right. Trust me, if you've got a couple of pieces of luggage and a steamer trunk, I imagine you're not going to want to be biking around in circles looking for the bike racks and Metro access. Go right.

Goodness gracious, Taleswapper, you do go on.

Yes, right, so I ate at California Pizza Kitchen and managed to avoid Cinnabon. Oh, but it smelled soooo good. I'd have thought that a guy walking around with metal-studded shoes and a helmet might attract some undue attention at an airport, but it all went smoothly. As I suspected, the transfer from Yellow to Green went flawlessly and I found myself back at the Greenbelt station at 9:20 or so. Sore, sure, but not a bad day all-in-all.

It was at this point I made my mistake. I was weary from the 25 mile trek and decided to take the bus home. But somehow, I got on the wrong bus. I blame the random weirdo, but I guess I should take some responsibility, too. Anyway, I noticed my mistake after the Pearl Express (the two routes are identical up to a block before this). Unfortunately, the next stop isn't until the 7-11 at the intersection of Rhode Island and Greenbelt Road. It was quite dark, but I got off the bus and rode the bike home from there. Not the safest choice, but what are you gonna do?

So, my day's ride total? 28.6 miles. Herndon/Monroe Park & Ride to National Airport + College Park to Greenbelt.

Corking Good Time

My imaginary friend Bertie looked around glumly. He mumbled something about the 'nice fountain' and then returned to staring at the table top. This was not the attitude I am used to: generally, Bertie jumps at any chance at free food. And, besides, he called me.

"What's wrong?" I asked him. "You sounded all excited about your new business idea on the phone."

"What kind of restaurant is this?" he wanted to know.

"Turkish." He just nodded his head slowly at this. "Oh, geez," I said. "C'mon, get it off your chest."

"I think," he said very slowly. "I think that you picked this restaurant just so you could call my idea a turkey."

It was my turn to stare quietly.

"Man," I said. "That's harsh. I picked Temel because it has Sucuk Pizza. It's a boat-shaped piece of heaven with spicy sausage on top. Oh, and the falafel is good, too."

He brightened a little, his inner mooch perking up at the mention of food.

"Any second now," I said, "they are going to bring out a disc of warm bread, and you'll see what I'm talking about. Besides, I've been working out in this crazy state, so I had to pick a Northern Virginia restaurant."

He nodded slowly and his eyes lit up when the bread actually did arrive. The delivery meant he could busy his hands with food swiping. This always cheers Bertie up.

"Give us your idea," I said.

With a bit of a flourish (a bit overdone, if you ask me, after all that pre-emptive moping), Bertie placed onto the table a small bottle of glue and four or five miniscule corks. The corks were smaller than thimbles, bigger than what, ants?

"What do you think?" he asked.

"Well," I said. "Cork-flavored Jujubes?"

"Ha," he fake-laughed. "They're finger pad extenders."

"finger pad extenders?"

"Yeah, you know, if you have really long fingernails, it's hard to type."

"I have to admit I wasn't aware --"

"It's true," he insisted. "Unless you've got really short nails, then typing is troublesome. But if you glue these onto the tips of your fingers -- pick a size that's longer than your nail, of course..."

"Glue..."

"Well, women glue stuff to themselves all the time, right?"

"All the time?"

"Sure. Well, at first, I did try little Velcro straps, but that didn't work at all because they were too hard to fasten."

"And forget about buckles," I said.

"Exactly!" he beamed. Luckily, we were interrupted by the arrival of food. I wasn't kidding about the sucuk, you know. Of course, Bertie swiped half my toppings.

"Anyway," he said, eventually. "What do you think of my idea?"

"I'm sorry, Bertie," I said. "I have to say it's a bit of a turkey."

Riders Advisory Committee

It seems that our little Metro system has decided to take applications for a Riders Advisory Committee. After trying my hardest to use the system within the constraints of my workstyle (as opposed to lifestyle!), I think I could provide some insight for Metro's planning and decision making, so I've just submitted an application. Here is a quick extract.

Identify improvements to the Metro system you would seek to work on through the Riders Advisory Council and strengths of the system you would seek to protect below.
...Finally, I'd like to know why the seats on rail cars must have arms.

Broccoli Schmoccoli

A Community Report

So, we here in Greenbelt are proud of our little cooperative community. We're also proud of our cooperative grocery. So, I get a little grumpy when I read Scan furniture dissing us:
Back in 1960 Scan began by selling a single chair in the Greenbelt Cooperative - a grocery owned ... That was over 45 years ago. A lot has changed over the years. The Greenbelt Cooperative is gone, Scan is now privately owned and you won’t find any broccoli in Scan showrooms.
That's all well and good, but our cooperative is still here, thank you very much. And it doesn't sell your stinky furniture any more since you abandoned our less-than-wealthy county for greener pastures over on the other side of the city, you elitest joiners.

Dry on the Vine

I'm not sure when this blog turned into a picture-fest, but here's another one. This dry spell has been great for randomly biking to work, but it has not been kind to the rainbow pepper plants. They are crying out for rain.

Yard Sale Yard Sale Yard Sale

Looking for a yardsale? Then, friend, where you want to be is in Greenbelt on Saturday morning at the GHI Community Yard Sale.

Need a map? Click here.

God Is Purple

Oh, forgot to mention that when I decided to try these occasional bike jaunts out to Sterling I wandered down to get my bike out of the garage and discovered that its chain was still jammed from the last long ride I did. I worked on it with some cleaner and grease, but I couldn't get it to go back to its flexible self. I didn't want to give up on my little bit of exercise, so I took the Brunette's bike.

Oh, I was only slightly embarrassed to be seen riding along on a swoopy purple bike. But at least it doesn't have tassels.

Too Much of One; Not Enough of the Other

So, I get to work with no problem, but I can't get back onto the MetroRail until after 7 (preferably after 8, to be honest). A few times, the Brunette has driven out to pick me up. It doesn't save gas, but it keeps us at one car (and I get to see her earlier). But what's a cyclist to do when his wife's away?

Probably something stupid.

Heck, I say to myself, it sure looks like there's a nice little bike trail all the way down to Rosslyn. Why don't I just bike on down to the city, get something to eat, and then ride the rails home later in the evening?

I mean, how far can it be?

I'll tell you, it's more than 25 miles. Twenty-five is how far I got before I gave up in Ballston. I had to stop to find something to eat and it was getting dark, you know. (Oh, and I was completely zonked.) I got a nice kebab at the Food Factory.

Still, it is a nice ride. There are way too many stop signs. I'm not the fastest rider out there and I'm on a hybrid, but the stop sign density keeps even me from picking up any speed. Just when you get up to a decent clip, another stop sign appears. On the other hand, the stop signs do provide one with philosophical nuts to chew over during the ride. Consider these truths:

  • If a crosswalk exists, then cars must yield the right-of-way.
  • If a stop sign exists, the user must stop.
  • What do you do when there's a stop sign on the bike path and a crosswalk on the road?
At any rate, while there are way too many stop signs, there are other amenities. One example: ice cream shops! Well, there are two ice cream shops. And the two are both in the same town. But, still, it's better than a sharp stick in the eye.

Washington & Old Dominion Trail

As I described here, my biggest worry with the long public transport ride out to the Dulles region is unreliability leading to connection mismatches. If I miss one part of the linkage, I could be out at least an extra hour.

So, you might understand if I panic if the 5A breaks down.

When I boarded the 5A at L'Enfant this morning, I was impressed because it was obviously a fairly new bus. Not only was it clean, but the bus driver's seat was on shock absorbers. As we bounced along the highway, the digital stop display and recorded messages about remembering your things nearly made me feel like I'm on rail instead of road. However, about halfway between Rosslyn and Herndon, the idyllic journey was interrupted by an annoying beeping alarm. The driver looked down to his dashboard to see a flashing red indicator and whipped out his mobile phone for assistance.

But the phone didn't make the beeping go away. When we limped into the Herndon/Monroe Park & Ride, he pulled the bus over to the curb and announced that the bus was not going to make it to Dulles Airport. The next bus was scheduled for an hour later and if it didn't connect well with the Loudoun bus at IAD, it's likely I would have been two hours late and freaking out.

Well, I'd have freaked out if I cared. Today, I brought my bicycle.

In order to avoid the Loudoun bus, I've tried a couple of mornings bringing the bike to this park & ride and hopping up to the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) trail for a short six or seven mile ride to work. Not only do I avoid the connection fears, I generally beat the Loudoun bus's scheduled arrival, and I get some exercise, to boot.

This has been my first experience with taking the bike on the bus. The racks on front are terribly convenient and easy to use. It's quicker to put the bike on the bus rack than on the rack at the back of my car, to be honest. In fact, the bike on bus is nicer than rail because you don't have to stand there holding the bike and you don't have to worry about whether it is rush hour or not. (Bikes aren't allowed on rail during rush hour, and even if they were, you wouldn't want to do it.)

So, I'm feeling pretty chuffed. The bus broke down on the way to work, but I wasn't late. Nope, I was ten minutes too early to even get in the building.

Fiddling While Rome Burns

Hold on tight! I'm fiddling about with the way things work here on Swapping Tales. I moved over to Blogger's commenting system. Can't do the Feedsweep of comments anymore, but at least I get an email when you make a comment.

So now I can stare forlornly at my email system waiting for comments instead of obsessively reloading my own blog every 35.2 seconds.

I'm also adding a categorization feature. Let's see how it works.

Filed under:

LibraryThing

I'm not sure what to make of it, but it seems like fun: It's called Library Thing, and it lets you catalog your own library. I think I'll use it to organize my little book tales a little better.

For now, I just have it showing random books from my library (over there in the left hand corner; go ahead, I saw you were peeking).

I hope the FBI doesn't get all excited about this...

No Intelligent Life at Toyota

Is Toyota really meaning to insult all those SUV drivers out there? "Nobody intelligent around, dude. The only person I see is you."

Vellum, by Hal Duncan

A Saturday Afternoon, August 1437. A young lad and his younger sister listen at the door of their cottage in the forests of what will some day be called Southern Germany. Their father is a poor woodcutter and sometime joiner. Their larder is never full at the best of times and its barrenness is a constant beginning and ending point for arguments between their father and stepmother.

The boy crouches on the stoop, all muscles tense. He is locked in place but ready to sprint if the door should open. The voices inside spiral up in volume, and the boy makes a decision. He understands that the moment for action has arrived.

"Come along, Gretel," Hansel says. "We will go play in the forest."

A Saturday Night, August 1894. A girl leads a boy as they run through the forest. The wooded slopes of the American Appalachians are never easy footing in full daylight. At night the path is treacherous. Roots spring into being across small ravines and grab at the boy's feet. He falls and cries out to his older cousin.

She stops her flight and returns. They are both panting. Now that the world has stopped moving, she can see that it is much too dark to see properly. There may be a full moon, but it makes precious little difference under the heavy tree-cover.

"It is so late! We must find shelter and rest, Hank," Greta tells her cousin as he climbs to his feet.

"How 'bout over there?" Hank points to a nearby clearing. Was that there before? Greta can't remember. The moonlight sparkles on a beautiful small house. It is brightly painted, especially along the gingerbread trim.

"I'm not so sure," she starts, but Hank is already marching to the cottage. Witch or no witch, he wants to lay down.

A Sunday Morning, August 2005. There is a knock on my door. I open it to find Prasad and Neil (or is it Gary? Why can't I remember this kid's name?) on my doorstep. These weans are imaginary denizens of my neighborhood. And they aren't following their script.

"What are you doing here?" I ask. "You're supposed to be knocking on the next door up."

Prasad adjusts his tie, then his glasses, and shoots his cuffs preparing to answer me. Paul simply plows right through into the living room.

"Your neighbor is not a witch," Prasad explains to me, with that tone he uses. You know the one I mean: you probably use it to explain things to your cat. It's the tone that stresses how hard it is to find single syllable words for every single conversation. "She has some, erm, troubles with her mind, certainly, but it has been the way of many generations to abuse the mentally ill."

Now that I think about it, it's really more the tone the cat would use to explain things to you.

1437. "She's just a lonely old woman," Hansel reassures Gretel with a whisper. Gretel is not reassured, but she puts on a brave face for Hansel's benefit. Older brothers need to believe they know what they're doing.

"Would you like something to eat, my pretties?" calls the gingerbread cottage's occupant. "Come along into the kitchen, why don't you?"

2005. My conversation with (lecture from?) Prasad is interrupted by a crash from the kitchen. This is quickly followed by a short, high-pitched "Ooops!" So we run into the kitchen. It is a dire mess: all the cabinets open, spice jars and boxes everywhere. Lawrence is rooting through the cupboard closest to the refrigerator.

He is coated in flour.

"I knocked over your flour box," he says. "Sorry."

"What in the name of all that is holy and just are you doing?" I ask, reasonably.

"Where is your food coloring?" Prasad asks as he joins Mike's search.

"Food coloring? Whatever for?" I try to sweep up spilled Splenda with my hands. Prasad hands me an orange book. I look at it with horror. "You haven't been reading this, have you?"

Don't get me wrong. Vellum is a wonderful book. Quite a recipe: Take a little James Joyce, fold in a glop of Perez-Reverte and dust in a little nanotech. It's only that I would have thought it was a bit adult for these wee lads.

I'm often wrong in this area, to be completely honest.

"Don't worry," Prasad pats my elbow reassuringly. "Although he starts off at 1.27 'F-words' per page, by the middle of the book he's down to .42 per page, or so."

1894. There is a cave behind the house. Hank and Greta peer inside nervously. It's awfully dark, and a cool breeze emerges from the yawning mouth to caress their cheeks. Hank shivers.

"I guess we'd better get on with it," he says. The old man whose home they had found had offered them food. When he realized his cupboard was bare, he asked Hank and Greta to fetch provisions from his root cellar.

"I fancy it as a 'root cellar'," the old man had wheezed at them. "But it's really just a small hole in the hill out back."

"Quite a big hole," mutters Greta in the dark.

"But he said not to worry," responds Hank. He holds up a bird cage. "As long as this bird is happy, we'll be fine, he said."

"What's that?" Greta interrupts.

2005. "That's called Irn Bru," I say and move the fluorescent orange bottles out of his reach. "We'd use that for Snow White or something else with poison. This is the Hansel & Gretel story. Why do you want food coloring?"

"It's a little idea we got from Vellum," Duncan explains. I don't like the sound of that at all. I'm starting to worry these kids are in over their heads. All I can think is, what will the Brunette say if I let these kids tattoo themselves with food coloring?

"If you think I'm going to --" I start.

"Oh," interrupts Prasad. "What about bread crumbs?"

"I, uh." They stare at me for a second while I flounder for a word. Luckily, Richard's mobile phone rings. It's his mother. I'm saved. Thank you, thank you.

"Ok, mom," says Al (or is it Hal?) eventually. "C'mon Prasad, maybe we'll try to make paper and ink some other time."

New From Ronco

A Sporting Report

Ok, we went to our first Nationals game today and I only have one question:

What's the deal with the guys riding around shooting t-shirts at the crowd? Is this some kind of homeland defense training or something?

At any rate, we decided to go see a Nationals game today on the spur of the moment. We came to this decision at 11:45. By 12:30, we were at the stadium buying $7 cheap seat tickets. Is this a great place to live, or what?

Sadly, after 42 different pitchers and three thrown bats, our Nats weren't able to defeat the Braves. But they did make it interesting: at the top of the ninth, in fact, they were one out away from winning. But it was not to be.

Still, and all, it was a fun game and (aside from food) not terribly expensive. The weather was perfect. Personally, I like the old stadium with its curvy overhangs and view of the Anacostia.

We Will Arrest You If We Haven't Authorized You

Freedom isn't Free, and Neither is the Freedom Walk

If you didn't pre-register (i.e., give the DoD your name and email address), then don't go walking downtown tomorrow. This from the Washington Post:
The march, sponsored by the Department of Defense, will wend its way from the Pentagon to the Mall along a route that ... will be lined with four-foot-high snow fencing to keep it closed and "sterile," said Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense.

I just love the word "sterile", don't you?

Oh, and since we're at "war" with a shadowy organization, the President can lock up anybody he wants. This from WTOP:

"The exceedingly important question before us is whether the President of the United States possesses the authority to detain militarily a citizen of this country who is closely associated with al-Qaida, an entity with which the United States is at war," Judge J. Michael Luttig wrote. "We conclude that the President does possess such authority."
Last time I checked, Congress gets to declare war. And we haven't declared war since World War II. Darn activist judges!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Well, automobile, train, bus, and airport, anyway.

As you may recall, I'm a development environment and process consultant. I wander from client to client teaching about software development process, installing development environment support tools, and mentoring/coaching projects to transfer knowledge about administering toolsets (like Rational ClearCase/ClearQuest). The nature of my job is that I mostly hang out only long enough to get a project up and running or to lend a hand to get over a hump. I don't really have a permanent place to call my workplace.

In many ways, this is exciting and interesting. I rarely get bored before I have to go off and do the next thing. I generally get to move on before inertia and disgruntlement set in. And sometimes I do get a longer (say 4-8 months) gig doing real work just to keep on top of the game.

But it doesn't make it easy to plan a commute. And sometimes the location of an assignment can put a strain on our commitment to remain a one-car family. (How sad. There were two years when we were able to be a no-car family. But that was a different job situation and a different country altogether.) This spring, Germantown was outside of reasonable public transportation (at least when originating in Greenbelt), but when the Brunette needed the car, she could at least drop me off in the same state we live in.

This month, I'm lending a hand to a company near Dulles Town Center. It's 40.2 miles from my home. That's a hike. The timeframe is a bit open-ended, but I think we're looking at six weeks. Oi. Even before Katrina, I looked at the gas prices over $3 a gallon and said: Surely $3/gallon and a 40.2 mile trip combine to make Metro a financial alternative? I doodled out the numbers and driving (including tolls but not wear/tear on the vehicle) was still two dollars cheaper than public transport.

Still, close enough to give it a try, eh? It is possible to get there by public transit: Train from Greenbelt to L'Enfant Plaza. Metro bus from L'Enfant to Dulles Airport (IAD). Loudoun County bus from IAD to the worksite.

I was worried that Metro reliability would let me down. The Metro bus runs only hourly (surprisingly infrequent considering it was crowded every time I rode it - at $3 per passenger, a pretty good cash flow for Metro). So, if the train was delayed, I was going to lose an hour in the morning.

But the four times in the week that I rode, the train-bus connection was flawless. The problem was on the other end. The Loudoun bus runs only every hour, too, and it does not sync well with the Metro drop-off. Of the four mornings, three had the little Loudoun county bus missing us. Twice, it came five minutes too early. Once it came 45 minutes too late (or was it 15 minutes early for the next run?)

Sorry, kids, but it just isn't possible to walk into a customer's office an hour late on a regular basis. And it certainly wasn't pleasant waiting around in the afternoon for the hour-late bus to show up. ("The bus driver says nobody was there when he drove by," said the receptionist when I called. "Nobody was here," I replied, "because he was more than 15 minutes early. I know, I was standing here.")

On the best day, the trip took 2 hrs, 15 minutes. The worst day: 3 1/2 hours. That's each way! I want to support public transport, but this just isn't workable. I believe the reluctance of most people to join the public transport crowd is not solely due to money. There's also the extreme inconvenience involved.

The best day of the next week driving? 1 hour, 5 minutes. The worst? 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Buy 'em By The Bag!

A Restaurant Report

So, the Brunette wanders off for a day-trip with her mother and what do I do? That's right! Go eat something extremely bad for me. It might not rate historic status, but Little Tavern always means a return to my childhood. Laurel, MD, is not at the top of anybody's list of fine restaurant locales, but it's the only place I know that still has one of these little green buildings actually operating as a Little Tavern.

The siren song of Little Tavern is sung by tiny burgers. They are not good for you and are not even particularly appetizing. But I find them awfully comforting. The building is in pretty bad shape and I always expect to be offered a drug sale in this neighborhood, but it's worth the trek. And they must be doing well, because every window had a "Help Wanted" sign.

As for the health, well, I'm going to make up for it with a long bike ride, tomorrow. Really. Sure.

Greenbelt Labor Day Festival 2005

I suppose that I'm something of a failure as a blogger. I rarely keep this thing updated in anything resembling a regular schedule. I veer from diary entries about my favorite toe to random grumpy reports on commuting to strange little fictions about books and restaurants.

And it's now Wednesday already and I'm just now getting around to posting stuff about the Labor Day Festival this last weekend.


Boy, a game of "Destroy the Earth" might just be the picker-upper I need, eh? I don't know what those astronomers were thinking when they decided it would be a good idea to let people pretend they're comets and meteors attempting to destroy our wee little planet. It's not exactly that cheerful, all-American thing you're looking for on Labor Day, right?


On the other hand, there are always horsies! The parade was wonderful: not too crowded, lots of things to look at, and did I mention not too crowded? Nobody tried to stand in front of us at the last minute. We had a fine tree-shaded spot at the corner across from the gas station. I hope you all run out to the parade next year; it's worth the trip.

The parade seemed to be overrun with Red Hat Ladies, but there were also a lot of fire engines and beauty queens. And, of course, there were things you might only see in a Greenbelt parade: environmentalist drivers, 1930s re-enactors, peace-niks, and animal-welfare marchers. After the gay/lesbian pride crew went by, I spotted a Muslim woman with a little rainbow flag.

Yeah, this is a great little town!

More pictures here.

Drop A Penny

"I'm worried," said the Brunette when I returned from the restroom. I patted her hand.

"No worries," I said. "Weren't the appetizers delicious?" I'd have thought she couldn't help but nod at the wisdom in that. After all, the chicken satay and the veggie cakes had been wonderful. I could have had three more dishes of each with no problem at all. And there was more to come!

But instead of nodding, she gave me a puzzled frown.

"I'm not worried about the quality of our upcoming entrees," she said and took back her frown. "Yesterday's lunch was grand. Tonight should be no different."

Yes, that's right. In between samping books and authors at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, we had wandered down to Time 4 Thai and gotten ourselves ensnared.

"Then, why are you worried?"

"Because you've been to the bathroom five times since we got here," she pointed out. I hadn't realized she'd been counting. I smiled reassuringly.

"Oh, that," I said. "I'm not actually using it every time I go."

"Stop patting my hand," she said. "What have you been doing, then?"

"Throwing coins into the fountain."

"Fountain? What fountain?"

"The one in the men's room," I said. "It's a nice one. Metallic, against the wall. Rippled so the water makes this relaxing sound as it falls." I searched my pockets for more change.

"What are you wishing for?" she wanted to know.

"Oh, for the food to continue to be excellent," I said. I haven't had good Thai food in so long, I didn't want the experience to stop. "And it's working! Every bite tastes better than the last."

She deepend her frown. "There wasn't a fountain in the women's room."

"Well," I said. "This is Europe, after all. They're not always as progressive in matters of gender equality as we Americans."

That made her roll her eyes. "I don't think it's a fountain," she said.

"Oh? Then what--"

"Excuse me," the head waiter interrupted. "I'm sorry, but there has been a delay. Something's gone wrong with the water supply. We hope to have it fixed, soon."

"That's definitely not what I wished for," I said when he had gone. I harrumphed for emphasis. "I wonder--"

This time I was interrupted by laughter from the wait staff. The head waiter noticed our attention and came over to explain.

"It seems," he said with a smile, "that someone's child has filled the men's room, um, equipment with pennies. The obstruction automatically shut off all of our water. We'll have it fixed soon and your food will be out directly."

We nodded him politely off. The Brunette gave me a look.

"What?" I said.

"Have you learned anything from this?" she asked.

"Well," I said. "I learned that I was being cheap. I should have thrown in tuppence and asked for the place to be cleared of kids, too."

Creepy

I don't know about you, but I find empty carnivals kinda creepy. This picture is from a survey of the activity going on over at the center of Greenbelt in preparation for its 51st annual Labor Day Festival.