Ayr Bike Sign

Ayr Bike Sign
Originally uploaded by taleswapper.

Verrazano Bridge

So I trundled over the hump-back bridge that connects Assateague to the mainland. It was a sunny Veteran's Day Weekend, but the wind was biting. I crested the hump and was wondering why the horses don't saunter over the bridge and break for freedom when I noticed a figure at the foot of the bridge on the mainland side.

It was Izzy, my imaginary friend. Izzy is the one who travels from historical marker to historical marker trying to find a way to break through his writer's block. So far, this historical marker project has not successfully loosed the floodgates, but he keeps trying. And I am always happy to lend a hand, even if he never runs with my story ideas.

"Ho! Izzy!" I called.

Izzy jumped a bit, startled (I assumed) from his intense concentration on the words of the marker before him:

Verrazano Bridge

Named in 1976 for the courageous Florentine navigator, Giovanni Da Verrazano (c.1485-1528.) In the ship La Jauphine under a commission from King Francis I of France, he explored the Atlantic Coastline of North America in the spring of 1524, searching in vain for a route to Asia. In the crew of 50 was his brother, the map maker Girolam Da Verrazano. Some historians believe the navigator came ashore near here, calling the land Arcadia because of the beauty of the trees.

"Now, there's a lot to go on there," I told Izzy. I emphasized my statement with a firm nod of the old noggin. "So many ideas spring immediately to mind."

Izzy just stared at me.

"You know, er," I said. I wanted to be careful to avoid any talk of searching in vain. "You could interview folks around here and find out what it was like on that fateful day."

"Fateful day?"

"You know; the day the bridge strummed itself to pieces because a stray breeze kicked it into harmonic overdrive or something. It'd make a great disaster story: human drama (cars flopping hither and yon) and maybe even courageous animals. Ooh, I know! Maybe the key love interest is saved by one of the famous ponies. He catches her sweater in his teeth just as she's about to hit the freezing waters of Sinepuxent Bay. Brr."

I shivered for effect. Izzy chewed on this nugget for a moment before responding.

"What are you talking about?"

"You know," I said and pointed at the bridge behind us. "The Verrazano Narrows Bridge."

"The bridge in New York?"

"You mean it was a bridge in New York that failed because of wind-induced oscillation?"

"No," Izzy said. "It was not."

"Oh," I said. "So, this is the bridge that fell apart?"

"Stop that. The bridge you are thinking of is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge."

"Oh," I said. "That's a relief. I was a little worried about walking back to the campsite. Hey, speaking of campsite, do you want to join our camping adventure? The horses are very friendly."

"No, thank you. We have struggled through three million years of evolution to climb up to this miniscule plateau where humanity is no longer required to sleep on the cold, hard ground," Izzy replied. "It would be an insult to our forebears. Besides, the horses bite."

"They do?"

"Now, look," Izzy said and patted me on the back. "I really do appreciate your help here, but what I need is just a little bit of quiet while I think."

I nodded. See, I would have said, "Sure, no problemo," but he had just requested quiet, so I was being quiet to show him respect and all that. That's what friends do for each other; you know, show respect and stuff. Even if they're imaginary friends. Respect, yep. And a little encouragement, too. I quietly thought good, encouraging thoughts at Izzy. Izzy, who is like a brother to me, even though we only met this year. Astute readers might point out that the fact that Izzy doesn't really exist might hinder his chances at being much like a brother. However, I'm forced to point out (in response) that I don't have a real-life brother, either, so he's that much closer to being like a brother right from the get-go.

So, at any rate, I don't know how brothers interact, but I'd imagine that brothers would support each other in their endeavors in the same way that I stood there quietly rooting for Izzy. Of course, to be honest, as I watch the Brunette's brothers, the word "quiet" rarely springs to mind.

"And so there were these two Verrazano brothers trapped on a ship for months on end. I doubt they were quiet!" Izzy looked at me. "Oh, did I say that out loud? I was just thinking --"

But Izzy strolled off. "Where are you going?" I shouted. "Izzy!" But he had disappeared into the mist. I started back up the bridge, but as I reached the top of the arc, I felt a little bit of a breeze. I stopped and felt for vibrations with my feet. Nothing, yet. Then, my mobile phone rang. It was the Brunette.

"Uh, so, you want to drive up to Ocean City for some pizza?" I asked. "You could drive over here and...Oh, I see, you have the fire going. Well, hmm." I looked to the bottom of the bridge. "There seem to be a couple of angry-looking horses between me and you. And I think the bridge is shaking. You sure you don't want to spend the night at the Comfort Suites?"

Living Doll

This really happened.

The New Deal Cafe sits on the square at Roosevelt Center in Greenbelt. So, you can guess the political leanings of the typical cafe client. As with most coffee houses, there is an assortment of bric-a-brac -- sculptures made from twigs, coffee-can tip jars, Einstein and Hitler dolls, books and games. In fact, on many nights you can find the Brunette and I playing a game of Scrabble and drinking Diet Cricket Cola.

Well, you'll see me drinking the stuff, the Brunette will stick to coffee or tea.

The other night a customer dropped in with his daughter. She was probably at the six-year mark. She wandered around while her father ordered at the counter. She showed off her doll: "This is my doll. She's called Frida Kahlo."

Now, you'll have to excuse us, but we are apparently not cultured enough nor are we true fellow travelers, so we did not recognize the name of this particular Mexican muralist. We simply smiled and nodded, as we are wont to do around OPC (other people's children).

Later, she was trying to reach for the Nazi doll which rested on one of the stage speakers.

"They want to play together," she told her father.

"I don't think so," he said to her.

"Why not?"

"Well, because she's a Communist, dear; she doesn't want to play with Fascists."

Imaginary Books

A Library Report

In the midst of documenting our library on Library Thing, we decided this weekend to buy matching bookcases to line the living room wall. So, we've spent an entire weekend moving books from upstairs to downstairs. All along, I think to myself, "We need more books!"

I was also thinking it would be cool to create an account on Library Thing to catalog all of the imaginary books that Jorge Luis Borges mentions in his essays. But tonight I've found that somebody has already started a similar project.

Outside the (Tool) Box

Some time ago, I started a project I called "Irrational Use of Rational Tools." The idea is to find alternative uses for each of the Rational Tools, using them to do things that they were not marketed to do. The goal for each exercise would be deeper knowledge of each tool with regard to its configurability.

I only got as far as making a Tic Tac Toe game for ClearQuest.

Now, there's no reason that this sort of project should be limited to Rational tools. Most development tools should be configurable to do unusual things. Here's an interesting example: Using ant as a video game engine.

The problem, I guess, is coming up with a new name.


It was a cold weekend, but we survived the camping trip, mostly. That is, we spent one night on the cold, hard sand, and we had five meals cooked on a fire on the beach.

The wildlife mostly cooperated, with regular viewings of deer, dolphins, and "wild" horses. The big advantage to being so late in the year was the absence of biting flies. However, the cold did not keep the loud neighbors away.

The state park is closed for the season, so we camped on the Assateague Island National Seashore side. That meant no showers, but there were portable toilets.

Take the Long Way Home

1 hour, 30 minutes
13.8 miles

Try to take bike trails instead of roads and it's a 13.8 mile trip instead of 9.1. (It also helps to miss your turn-off and to later not be able to find the bike trail.) Map details at: http://tinyurl.com/8qxdq

Pub Quiz

A Community Report

Well, the New Deal's expansion is finally open. It looks a little too clean for a good pub quiz, but it'll degrade quickly enough, I suspect. At any rate, on Monday (14 November), the monthly trivia contests will begin. We'll see how much they're like traditional pub quizes. (Or is it "quizzes"? If you know, you should jump into the games, too.)

Welcome Home, eh?

Well. Back in our fair city for mere days before the following occurred as I walked tried to leave Greenbelt Metro Station. Just before the turnstiles, a teenage boy moved in front of me to go through the fare gates. The girl that was with him wasn't impressed. She said:

"You are so rude. Jumping in front of that old man like that."

Veteran's Memorial Plaza

Still in Indianapolis, but I've found that they don't just want Baltimore's motto, they have DC's monument, too.

Come to think of it, I've seen this monument elsewhere. 'Zounds! Perhaps the Washington Monument isn't the first obelisk ever built? Who'da thunk?

Obelisk obelisk obelisk. Yep, that's definitely a Zippy kind of word.

B'lieve, Hon

It really is my own fault, I guess. I expended energy the other day crowing about being assigned to a long-term gig in my very own state; now, less than a week later, where am I? I'm here in Indianapolis, delivering a week's worth of ClearQuest and ClearCase admin training.

Not only did this city steal our football team back in the day, now they want to take our little bit of faith, too? Geez.