Jumping on the bandwagon? Or just a test of how self-aware I am?

Can't be the latter because there's no way to make my animation fat! Sadly, there's no way to change the eyebrow color, far as I could see.

The Zombies gave us a scary book! woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

Dear Fellow Riders

Dear Fellow Riders of the R12:

If you happened to be riding the R12 this morning and noticed a crotchedy old man sitting sideways in a seat toward the back, let me help by identifying myself as that man. I'm sure you looked back and said to yourself, "Gosh, this is one crowded bus. Why is that old man all splayed out across the seat like this were his living room and the rest of us his favorite TV show?" Well, I'll tell you dear friend.

Yes, you are my favorite TV show.

But aside from that, I'm afraid that I was forced to be a bit on the rude side this morning. I tried to sit in the standard forward-facing manner. I truly did. I eased my knees in. I pushed my legs in. I hammered my legs in. I had no success whatsoever. The seats were simply too close together. I could find no way to orient myself -- comfortably or not -- that would allow anyone else to share the space.

Many apologies for the inconvenience, but please forward complaints to Metro.

Stupid Cat

We try to treat the thing with dignity and love. We feed him and house him and even bother to pet him once in a while. He doesn't have the greatest sense of gratitude, though. We bought him a bed so he could have somewhere comfortable to sleep.

This is not that bed.

He won't touch his bed. Oh, no. We spent money on that. The bed in which we see Tubby relaxing so effortlessly belongs to the neighbors' dog, Hazel. Poor Hazel came over to visit and Tubby kicked her out of her own bed. Mean cat.

Wait, Wait I've Got Another Idea

The self-doubt continues. What if I chose the wrong topic for the Public Radio Talent Quest? Maybe I should have suggested a show idea like:

  • A kid show with skits and newscasts. The newscasts could all be presented from the point of view of zombies and leprechauns. For the Eoin Colfer crowd.
  • Bertie's show where he reviews books based on their covers alone. Like "The DaVinci Code is another yawn-fest about Italian software developers and corruption."
  • Radio Shadow Puppet Theater of the air, where we do plays using shadow puppets. On the radio. It'll be, you know, international, 'cause shadow puppets are an Asian tradition. But it'll be modern and all 'cause it's on the radio.
  • Listener Directed Reading Hour. Just a voice reading off the entries the bubble up in Digg. It's community content driven!
  • The 802.11n show. Completely devoted to discussion of the 802.11n standard.
Well, I guess I'll have to stick with my original idea. You can still listen and vote!

Pictures for CQ Monkey

Here are some icons for the CQ GreaseMonkey script.

NASA Found the Death Star

Geez. I like the NASA pictures of the day that pop up on my Google home page, but this picture from Cassini worried me a bit. Darth is out there, man.

Oh, Maryland. My Maryland?

Uffde. That stupid Christmas tree song that is our state's march is sadly also a call for the state to join the Confederate cause. I knew there was sympathy for the south in our little borderland state: we always want to have it both ways here. But I didn't know we'd enshrined it in our state song.

More horrifying, Wikipedia tells us that the third verse is sung by the Naval Academy Chorus during the Preakness. Guys! Guys! You don't have to sing that; your side won!

How To Know When the List Has Jumped The Shark

GHI-related posts

Some non-GHI subscribers have been a little taken aback at how GHI subjects tend to dominate the Greenbelters list. GHI-related posts (and there have been some wonderful exchanges lately) are, of course, welcome on Greenbelters (as are post related to any other neighborhood or development in Greenbelt. But as a courtesy to our non-GHI neighbors, please be certain to include "GHI" in your subject line for any posts or replies related specifically to Greenbelt Homes Inc.

Thank you all in advance for observing this courtesy.


Re: GHI-related posts

Perhaps non-GHIers could be sure to put "NON-GHI" in the subject line. That would help, too. -->Taleswapper

Message not approved: GHI-related posts

No doubt unintentional, but your post comes across as abrasive and liable to provoke a sharp response. If you *really* wish this message to post, please just re-submit it. You are invited to reconsider. MODERATOR3

Re: Message not approved: GHI-related posts

Oh, no, the tone was intended to be abrasive. While it was abrasive and sarcastic, it was not an attack on any person, but an honest reaction to a policy. (I was under the impression that the new regime was meant to discourage personal attacks, not disagreement with policy.) It was meant to point out how rude it is to single out one segment of the population for special treatment. I was offended, and still am offended, by the idea that my neighborhood's discussions are any less interesting than any other neighborhood's. Perhaps "Non-GHI" was too generic, and I should have suggested that each neighborhood or association prefix with appropriate acronyms, like EGB, SHL, etc. Perhaps I should have taken the policy further, in that I'd just as soon start seeing those darn brick dwellers preface all their subjects with GHI:BRICK.

Wallowing in Self-Doubt

Well, if that title doesn't make you just drool to read my posts, I don't know what will. :)

I should be cleaning the house. I could be writing a story or messing with software. Groceries must be purchased. Instead, I've been sitting on my duff listening to other contestants on the Public Radio Talent Quest. And, boy, do I wonder why I entered the thing. Oof.

To be sure, there's a lot of chaff in the 1368 entries, but there are a few diamonds, too. I've heard some pretty good ones and I've only been able to listen to 170 myself.

The trends I'm hearing are:

  1. I wonder if they'll give that Contegix woman a show?
  2. A lot of teachers want to be national radio hosts. This is probably no surprise. I guess you have to like being in front of people to be a teacher.
  3. A lot of people have an opinion on whats-his-name getting fired. I wouldn't have thought that Don Imus would be such an interesting topic for entrants in an NPR contest, but I suppose he is was a radio host.
  4. There are a lot of people out there with tiny little bits of radio experience (or even podcast experience). I'm tending to give these folks lower scores than the amateurs.
  5. I'm also tending to reduce points for overly-produced entries.
  6. Inevitably, there are duplicate ideas. In addition to the Don Imus threads, there are a lot of hopes for shows about local music events, business/employment improvement, and the unique young person's perspective.
  7. I seem to be giving higher marks to Marylanders.
  8. Everybody is leaving very nice comments. Even the guy hyping email marketing got a nice comment.
  9. One way to save money and time is to interview yourself.

I'm going to try to get to 200, then go clean the bathroom. Or crawl back into bed. One or the other.

You still have a chance to help me out. Go to this address, register and push that 5-star button!

It's a Magic Number

One hundred movies with one hundred numbers. You'll probably be able to predict what #1 will be, but can you guess the movies that will provide the other 99?

This is the most addictive video I've seen this month.

Free Stuff!

A bag, a t-shirt, a towel, a bottle of anti-bacterial hand gel (with metal clip), and a compass. All for riding to work in my bike today. It's National Bike to Work Day.

DC Blogs, meanwhile, is insulting the day by celebrating the automobile.

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

Two well-mannered men of the class we often call sin casa sat in Roosevelt Center and watched the world go by. A particularly creaky rust-colored vehicle rattled into a parking spot in front of Beijing.

"Haven't seen a Chevette in some time," one said.

"Tain't a Chevette," the other replied. "That's a Pacer."

The debate waned a bit, neither wanting to upset the quiet dignity of their situation -- two gentlemen enjoying a cordial afternoon, as it were, in the sunny plaza with silent dignity.

"I'll wager that heap wouldn't make it to Columbia," the first suggested.

"I'd wager that Beltsville is out of range," was the response.

Ah, the witty repartee of the common classes. We must leave them for a bit to join the driver of the "heap." Bertie opened the door of his AMC Gremlin, rust-colored because it was rust-composed. He stepped out of the car and gently closed the door. As always, that failed to work and he was forced to use the full force of his derrière to get the door to latch. Bertie straightened up, dusted off and marched with purpose past our cheerfully debating denizens into the shrub-ringed table area. He pulled back a heavy metal chair, placed a book upon the table and carefully lowered himself to a near-seated position, bent over the work with apparently full attention.

This caused quite a stir at the table to his right. Around the table were arrayed three women, each of a certain age and experience, each free to meet in the square to review the goings on and happenings in our sweet little town. The three women began buzzing like a huge transformer.

It was this buzzing that affected my table. I sat drinking a diet Cricket and listening to my iPod. Though I was isolated by the wall of sound spewing from the ear buds, this hum of interest caught my attention. I watched as one-by-one the women visited with Bertie, enjoined in a lengthy discussion and returned to the table. Each visit increased the shuddering until it finally reached the point it could be felt in Takoma Park. When the last woman finished her visit, the three giggled and left the table to hurry into the grocery store.

I sat for a few moments more, considering the events I had just witnessed and tried to examine the results from all possible angles. Even so, I was at a loss. I removed my ear buds and paused my iPod, mid-TMBG song. I wandered over to Bertie's table and demanded to know what was the deal.

"What is the deal?" I said.

"And hello to you," he responded. "How are you?"

"Cut it, Bertie," I said. "I don't like my imaginary friends harassing the women of Greenbelt."

"I'm hurt," he said. "I was just reading this book."

"Again with the books," I exclaimed. "What did they care if you read a book?"

"I don't know," he said. He smiled on one side of his mouth. "Look, this book really inspired me."

"OK, what book?"

"Dead Souls," he said.

"And it inspired you to ...?"

"Well, I had this idea. You know that deal about paying to reduce your carbon footprint?"

"Yeah, that's a big thing in this liberal bastion," I said.

"Why, sure it is. Why not take it one step further?"

"And how might you do that?"

"You could extend the concept to other areas, like, say, meat eating?"


"Sure," he said. "Look, the average American eats 211 pounds of meat in a year. Vegetarians -- and you can't deny this -- must get sick of looking at these people putting away the cow."

"Uh-huh. It must hurt their sensibilities."

"No, I mean, they've gotta be jealous."


"So, I figured," Bertie went on. "If you want to eat meat, who am I to stop you? I can help! 'Cause I'm a pretty big meat eater. I figure I eat at least the average every year. So, I let each one of those women pay me to skip a meat-based meal. I'll be veggie for three meals tomorrow, and they can have a bit of bacon tonight."

"Bertie," I admonished.

"Oh, c'mon. Who gets hurt? The same amount of meat gets consumed, so the veggies aren't contributing to the evil. Plus they get to enjoy a meal for a change."

"That's awfully nice of you," I said. "And all you get is some money."

"Oh, you're harsh," he said, hand on heart. "I'm helping people. Plus, I get to experience vegetarianism. Maybe it'll stick. You never know."

"Uh-huh," I said. I watched the grocery store door nervously. "I think you missed the point of that book. I -- oop." I stopped as the three women came out of the store. Each was carrying a parcel. Judging on size alone, I guessed they went for bacon, bologna, and a side of beef. They looked at each other a little guiltily. They stared at their feet. The looked the other way. Then, as one, they looked at Bertie, set their shoulders back, and marched over to the table. I stood back a step.

"Bertie," said Bacon, stiffly. "We have the three of us thought over this little enterprise of yours. We find it shaky on multiple fronts and have agreed that it is an insult to our moral integrity for you to have even made the suggestion. Further, we are ashamed to have been weak enough to accept your proposal."

Thereupon, she removed her package of bacon from the shopping bag, presented it to all to see, then slapped him with it. The others attempted to follow suit: the bologna bounced off his head, but the side of beef was too heavy and the best she could do was place it forcefully on the table. She resigned herself to a simple grumpy look and a snort. The three harrumphed, flipped their hair, and stomped off.

Perhaps Side of Beef looked back a bit wistfully, but I might have misunderstood.

"I think you're right," Bertie said eventually. "I did miss the point of that book."

"You mean that people will eventually see through disreputable schemes and turn on the perpetrator?"

"No, of course not," he said as he gathered up the meat. "Proper execution of a plan includes choosing the right time to make an exit."

Harp Harp Harp

Hey! The Public Radio Talent Quest entry deadline has passed. There are 1010 entries. As I mentioned before, I entered this contest. I like to think of myself as that bright orange guy there or the one scratching his knee with his right foot (only with less hair).

There will be 10 people who pass the first round, so I have roughly a 1 in 100 shot.

You still have a chance to help me out. Go to this address, register and push that 5-star button!


Ok. This is the last bike map for a while.


The route. These are the notes I kept as I rode along. Notice how my entries shrink as my energy drops:

8:40 I put on my bicycling skeletons shirt and headed out. The goal is to ride as far west as I can and get a hotel when I need to crash.

9:40 New York Avenue (near Bladensburg Road)

  • Forgot I'd pass Fort Lincoln. I have grandparents and great-grandparents there. I've always thought of myself as a roamer, and here I am not ten miles away from my history.
  • My eyes have been bothering me already. Dang pollen or wind or whatever.
  • Sure is a lot of traffic for a Saturday morning
10:40 outside Rosslyn/Custis Trail

10:50 - 11:15 BREAK: CVS near Lee Highway. This is my first major stop. I'm suddenly aware that it'll pretty much be uphill from here.

  • Folklife Festival is being set up on the Mall. There are a lot of tanks down there and a big tent with the tag, "Virtual Army Experience." I'm having trouble believing that's pleasant!
  • Black and White Cookie, Diet Coke Plus. Vitamins!
12:03 Cross Beltway!

12:15 Vienna

12:30 - 12:40 BREAK: Hunter Mill Road I was certain there was an ice cream shop (or even shoppe) along here. Should have stopped in Vienna. There's a town square dedication going on. Dang stop signs.

1:20 - 2:00 LUNCH: Herndon DQ The ice cream is in Herndon! There's a Dairy Queen right on the trail. I'm having a hot dog first, to cool down, but that ice cream is going down! No fries. Chips.

2:45 Ashburn? MP 28 The wind has picked up and I am exhausted. There's a roller hockey rink here. There have been two challenges to my resolve so far: the Hyatt at Reston and the CarMax near Orbital.

3:35 Leesburg Comfort Suites, Room 108

  • I didn't think I'd make it. I remembered that bit of fear we'd get every time we approached a town: what if none of the hotels have rooms? What if there are no hotels? Luckily, this one had two rooms left.
  • The trail does continue on for a few miles more, but I'm knackered. I don't know if Purcellville has any hotels; certainly, this place has a Roy Rogers, so I'm not budging.
  • There's wireless, but I didn't lug that laptop all the way here. A shame, because it would be nice to listen to some Public Radio Talent Quest entries. I'm suspecting that voting on other shows is going to be part of the judging.
  • If you hear about a hundred dogs barking, then you're getting close.
  • There are people who regularly do centuries, but I'm kaput and I doubt I'll get a hundred miles even if you count both days.
Shower and stare at the ceiling. That's what's next.


I slept very well after dinner at Roy's and a stop at Books-A-Million for a replacement book. I've been to a Borders and this BAM and neither has had The Great Gatsby, so I've settled for This Side of Paradise. It's better than Lucky Jim, if you ask me.

9:00 On the road.

10:10 - 10:25 BREAK I paused slightly earlier to take a picture of a quarry. We can make our own Grand Canyons, I guess. Brisk; Breezy; Brr.

11:15 - 11:30 BREAK: Reston Just crossed Sunset and Sunrise. Going and coming both put that dang song in my mind. The frustrating part of that, of course, is that I only know two words from the song, so I'm forced to make up my own: "Sunrise, Sunset/Butt hurts? -- You bet!"

12 - 12:10 BREAK: Vienna Square

12:30 Cross Beltway!

12:50 East Falls Church Metro If you were planning this trip from the west and hadn't been here before, you might be surprised to see the "leaving Falls Church" sign before you get to the EFC Metro.

Well, that's my biking for the week done, except for Bike to Work Day on Friday!

2 Hours

Ok. I'm going to stop mapping my little bike rides from work on Gmaps Pedometer, because every time I think it's going to be like 20 miles and instead it's a mere 14. That means I'm moving at 7 miles per hour. Great Uncle Leadbelly could ride his Big Wheel faster than that.

If he existed, of course.

I saw a fox near the West Hyattsville Metro Station, along the Northwest Branch Trail. He was actually on the trail and if I wasn't such a klutz, I'd have gotten a picture of him with my cameraphone. Instead, I got a nice shot of my shadow. Ah, well.

When I came through Greenbelt National Park, I was surprised to find the road blocked. As I stopped to figure out what to do, something like three million bicycles flew by. Apparently, there is a bike race there every Wednesday through the summer. After what I was sure (at that point) was a sixty mile trip from Silver Spring, I decided to pass on the race and limp through to Greenbelt Road. I know it's surprising with so many people there, but I was the only biker wearing Dockers.

There's a nice bike trail along Fenton Street near Montgomery College, but it ends at a broken up sidewalk. If you're going to pave a nice bike path along and then end it suddenly, you should at least provide a ramp down onto the road.

Vote for Me!

No, not for GHI board.

While the Brunette is away, I've been busily sending along contest entries and junk. I created a cartoon for work, and I submitted a short story for a Washington Post contest. You can't read the short story yet. I don't have high hopes for it, because I wrote a science fiction story for a Valentine's Day contest.

However, I also made a recording for a Pop-Idol-like contest to find three new NPR hosts.

You can go and give it a listen and vote for me (or not, if you don't want to. That's ok. I'll understand. Really. Don't worry about my feelings or anything.)

I already got my first comment:

...Your personality seems very straight up and serious on the surface, and you have a classic delivery. But your content seems to portray your subtle and ultra dry humor...


How about that. I started the bike ride with a race against deer and ended in a traffic jam. Actually, the four deer were near the middle: somewhere on the PG end of the Sligo Creek trail. They won.

It was a cold morning for May, but by the time I got to Takoma Park I was pretty warm. I thought I'd try Philadelphia (via Maple) instead of Sligo (via Park Valley) to skip the hill on Park Valley. There's still a hill, I found, but worse, there's a four way stop and no shoulder, so I spent about ten minutes between two bumpers inching toward the intersection. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Lean. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Lean. It was odd.

Children of Men (P.D. James)

The child was screaming. I didn't turn to look. It wasn't a minor whimper, either. That child was demanding attention, summoning all the power of Ehecatl to express that desire. There were dogs on the other side of the Beltway straining at their chains, instinct telling them, Kill it! Stop that noise or we'll be found out and eaten! It was an amazing sound for a small room at the side of a nice restaurant.

I didn't turn to look because I needed to keep my eye on Great Uncle Leadbelly. My imaginary great uncle (on my sister's side) has no patience and is part bulldog himself. I always worry at times like these that he will not be able to resist the pull of evolution, gig the baby with a salad fork, and run into wilds of Silver Spring waving it in the air.

A dingo took my baby, indeed.

In the instance, however, I was surprised to watch Great Uncle Leadbelly munch on his hamburger with only a slight grimace. (I will not digress into a description of how Leadbelly was able to get a fancy restaurant to provide him a hamburger.) Perhaps he's losing his hearing, I thought to myself, and clucked softly with pity. Age sneaks up on us all with salad forks of its own.

"You some kind of chicken?" he asked.

"No, Great Uncle. I'm just astonished at how these parents can let that child go on."

"It's not the child," he said.


"Perhaps he's losing his hearing," he said softly. Then, more loudly: "It's not the child."

"I could hear you," I said with a sniff. "But it didn't make any sense. You think it's the chef, maybe?"

"It's a cell phone. They've recorded the screaming and are using it for a ring tone."

"They sure are getting a lot of calls."

"They're showing off to their friends."

"Hmmph," I said. I ate some of my potatoes. Great Uncle shook his head. "Some parents. Coo and whoop and brag to all and sundry if their little brat can do something precious and wonderful like blink or breathe. All the world should stop for such as this?"

"People like to say something nice."

"Aye, they provide the cooing back, like some sort of Pavlovian dogs."

"Yes, well," I said.

"It's like the book I read..." Great Uncle started, but I interrupted.

"Book? What book?"

"Children of Men, by some mystery writer."

"That was a pretty good movie," I said. He shook his head.

"The book is very different. Everybody, including the author, seems to have this whacky idea that the simple existence of a baby changes everything. If I were some crazy despot working out my time as an all-powerful dictator convincing all that the country needs stability as the population decreases because of the lack of children -- my ability to remove all the civil rights of the population exists only because people have given up on the future -- wouldn't I see the existence of a baby as a threat? If I'd already exiled half my population to some horrendous penal colony, or sliced the throat of fairly defenseless doula, I think it would cross my mind that I'd probably have to kill the thing, just to stay in power."

"You would not," I object.

"No, I reckon I wouldn't," he admits after a pause while the cell phone played its tune. "But then, I'd make a terrible Richard 3. You have to admit that it's odd this doesn't cross anyone's mind in the book."

"I suppose," I said, uncertain.

"It's the Englishness of it all," he said confidently. "They have this quaint notion that control of a bloodline (even without sharing the blood itself) is a valid route to power. Like being the step-parent of a random child provides some justification of power in a political sense. Why would Rolf believe that he'd automatically become dictator by being the kid's father? Why would the existing dictator care about marrying the mother? Crazy English."

"So, tell me again why you want to go see the Queen while she's here in the US?" I asked.

"Ah, well, that, my lad, is an interesting question. Let's just say she's a rich old bird and the Duke of E. cannot hang on forever. She's going to be wanting some real manly company, you know?"

"Not really," I said. "And I'm not upset to not know."

"In fact," he said, "I think we'd better skeedaddle if we want to get over there."

On our way out of the room, Great Uncle Leadbelly stopped at the table of parents. I jumped to his side, ready to jerk him out of the room if necessary. He complimented the parents on their excellent technological prowess, using the baby on their phone and all. Then, he pointed to me.

"That's my great-nephew," he said and puffed out his chest. "He writes a blog."

The parents promptly provided the cooing he was looking for, and we left to find the Queen.

You Say You Want a Motivation

Well, okay, we all want to change the world, but it sure is a drag just to get out of the bed, don't you think? It looks like a beautiful day out through that window, and I bet a bike ride would feel good, but I just want to crawl back into bed.

I wandered over to the mega bookstore yesterday, in search of The Great Gatsby, which I am always shocked to find we don't own. I was further shocked to find that the store didn't have a copy, either. Philistines. I grumbled a bit wandering around the science fiction section, noticing that they shelved Wicked there. Of all the -- I mean, how do they decide these things?

But then I noticed a couple of copies of a friend's book sitting in the literature section. (Ha! I almost said "straight literature" section!) Looks like Al's Vellum isn't getting ghettoized. Good for him.

Rorschach or Horshack?

One thing I like about using the Google Map based Pedometer Site to trace my bike routes (small as they are) is how I get a confirmation of my impression of wandering along the way. Sometimes, though, I think I'm riding along in a particular direction, and the map shows me how misguided my perceptions are.

Ridge and Crescent Roads do this to me all the time, I suppose because of the gentle long curve. I always imagine myself riding East when I'm really going North. I think something will be a nice circle, and it turns out to be more of a nine-mile elephant. What shape do you see in the bike route?

My thinking for the next two weeks is that if I want to eat something bad while the Brunette is out of town, I should make myself walk or bike to it. That should cancel out some of the bad karma from eating the food in the first place, right? Of course, I'm then reminded of our bike trip to Minnesota. I know I didn't lose any weight even after two months of bike riding daily; I think I might have gained weight from all the steak and fries we choked down.

At any rate, I had hoped to grab some breakfast at El Mexicano, but it wasn't open at 8am. What is it with restaurants not opening until crazy-late? So, I rode over to Kay's Diner IV. It's heavy food, perhaps not best for biking, but I ate slowly while reading. I thought I'd pop into the Circuit City afterward so I could buy a microphone to finish my movie off, but it doesn't open until 10!

If you go to the map, change it to satellite and zoom in on the El Mex parking lot, don't worry, I didn't really run into that car blowing all the smoke!


The co-op folks have sealed up our home like some freaky re-enactment of E.T. (except it's only the kitchen and I don't have any Reese's Pieces). Theoretically, this is to help dry the walls in preparation for plastering. The plastering is necessary because they tore great big holes in the wall. The great big holes in the wall were necessary because they needed to get to the pipe to fix the leak.

All these maintenance guys have been in this week trying to destroy our already half-destroyed kitchen. (Yes, there hasn't been a renovation update report in months because there hasn't been anything to report. We can get a few contractors to come and look at relocating the washer/dryer upstairs, but none ever come back.) I figured this would be a great time to get some extra plumbing to prepare for the washer move, but these guys aren't interested either.

So, in keeping with the E.T. theme, I rode my bike down to College Park for a meal next to Lake Artemesia, followed by a leisurely ride along Good Luck Road and back up Hanover Parkway. I figured if I was going to eat bad carbs, I should work for it. There's only one bad hill along that route, so it's a nice almost-13-mile ride. Unfortunately, Tubby wasn't all that interested in being covered in a sheet and stuffed in the bike basket.