I am so angry at this story, that I am having trouble stringing sentences together.

If someone decides to email me some marijuana, the police might come in and kill my pets? Without tracing the source of this package or any evidence that I asked for it? In this country, there is absolutely no way for me to prevent people from mailing things to me. In fact, I would like for there to be a way to prevent people from mailing things to me, but without individual court orders, I can't go around getting this junk mail stopped.

If I had a dog and the neighbor wasn't happy about it barking, perhaps he could send me a package of weed and the police will take care of that noise?

"As the police came in, Calvo said, they shot his 7-year-old black Labrador retriever, Payton, near the front door and then his 4-year-old dog, Chase, also a black Lab, as the dog ran into a back room." The police claimed that they were afraid of the dogs. This shows they're not only chicken hearted, they're also stupid. How much danger are you in from a dog that's running away from you?

The police were in control of this situation from start to finish. They decided when to deliver the package. They had all the time in the world to figure out whether the mayor had dogs and what other factors might be in play in that environment. There's no reason they should have been unprepared for the existence of a couple of labs. If they were, it just shows they don't know how to do their jobs.

Why were the city police not informed? What is wrong with our state that the cities can be invaded by the counties without real provocation? This was the dang mayor!

If this investigation started in a shipping facility in Arizona, then why isn't this a Federal issue instead of a county issue?

"There, a police dog at a shipping facility identified the package as being filled with marijuana. Prince George's officers posed as deliverymen and brought it to Calvo's home..." Pretty amazing dog. Not only can it tell that there's marijuana in a package (which I believe), it can also tell you exactly how much.

This is nowhere near as appalling as killing a suspect in custody, but it's yet another indication that something is seriously, seriously wrong with the police in my county.

Update: Not surprisingly, the article in The Examiner made me angrier. It says that "officers seized about 32 pounds of marijuana delivered to the home of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo." It fails to mention that the officers are the ones who had the package delivered. They placed a package of marijuana on the guy's porch and then the newspaper reports it as a bunch of drugs seized from his house.

"Police say the investigation into how the drugs were in his home continues..." Dang, Bert. How did those drugs get into his home? I dunno, Ernie, can't figure out how they got there.

Update 2 (8 Aug): Could it be our fine county police officers like to shoot dogs "for sport"? From a new article:

In the first case, Winkleman said, sheriff's deputies arrived at the Accokeek home of Frank and Pamela Myers with a warrant for another house on their street. After the couple informed the deputies of their error, they continued to question the couple and looked around their home.

As they spoke, the couple's 5-year-old German boxer began barking in a yard, out of sight. Soon after, according to Winkleman, the couple heard gunshots, and they found the dog shot to death.

Emphasis mine.

Pickle Progress

Dang! I have to put these pickles back, but which barrel?

Still two weeks left until we can try the pickles. They are sitting quietly on the kitchen counter.

In the meantime, let me share my new obsession with you: Shorpy. It's a blog reproducing photographs from the last 140 years or so. Many of them are from the DC area. The one above is from New York in 1959.

Don't Turn Back From Ahead, It's the Future Now

Shaking a fist at the air
Seems to bring only blackening skies -- Mark Heard

I'm no closet Luddite, you understand. I'm a big fan of most things tech. I make my living from technology. And I'm aware that my comments here will not stop progress, nor am I convinced they should. I know there's a lot to love in this new world, but that shouldn't prevent us from mourning the past, should it? I'm only standing here shaking my fist at the air, and that'll probably be enough to get it out of my system.

I've been listening to the podcast Dragon Page: Cover to Cover and Mike and Mike over there are constantly blathering on about the coming revolution: Moving from print to electronic books.

It's a lot like the original joy of the iPod: Your entire library at your fingertips! The text easily searchable, enlargeable, and downloadable! Access to the world library wherever you go!

The other day I was staring at my vinyl albums. They sit in a box in the spare bedroom. There aren't many because vinyl was already dying by the time I started having money of my own. But there are a few albums in there that I really loved (even though my beliefs have moved on). There was this band called Prodigal. I have Electric Eye in vinyl and I used to have Just Like Real Life on cassette. The cassette is long dead, and I haven't had a record player for years.

Prodigal and their record company didn't quite make it into the CD era, as far as I can tell, so their product is long kaput. If I want to listen to my content, I'm out of luck with JLRL and I'll have to buy a record player to access EE. So, my $10 vinyl album is no longer just a $10 vinyl album, it's a $10 vinyl album looking for a $100 ticket to ride.

I don't have this problem with legacy books because they had not yet separated the content from the its delivery mechanism.

Separating the content from its delivery inherently limits the life of your content. It also synchronizes the end of life of all your content on the same medium. Today, if I drop a book in the bath, I've lost a single book -- the other 999 are unaffected. Tomorrow, if I drop my iPod Touch in the bath, I've lost access to the entire library. I'll have to pay another $400 to resync with the laptop. Heaven forbid I drop the iPod Touch five years from now.

It's a fine thing to make fun of the wax cylinder crowd, but keep in mind that wax cylinders and vinyl had lifespans measured in decades. As we have moved forward, delivery lifespans have decreased: consider the move from DVD to BlueRay; it was much quicker than VHS to DVD. I predict BlueRay will die even more quickly. For the standard reader, this is a big leap: we can still read books recorded hundreds of years ago. It is very difficult to consume a recording of President Harding from less than a century ago.

The music consumer is better prepared for this gestalt switch because they have been undergoing format changes through their lifetimes. For the mainstream reader, the change away from integrated content/medium is a discontinuous one. It is a fundamental change in a way that changing from cassette to CD was not. It is not simply a change in format for us. It is a leap into the world of planned obsolesence and syncronized product death. Book readers have not faced this (in earnest) until now, so it's no wonder there's a little consternation.

Aye, change is the way of the world, and I cannot stop it. I will likely jump in as far as the next guy; I'm willing to sell my stuff out there as much as on paper. There are ecological, economic, and empowerment advantages to this new world order.

But I'd appreciate a little more respect for the gulf that's being leapt here.

A Poetry Tinker

A writing exercise from Tinker X.

Think of an activity you could possibly write a poem about.
Ok. I pick developing software.
List narrative elements that go along with that activity; basically, verbs.
gathering requirements, unit testing, coding, designing, integrating, asking the daily standup three questions
For each of those activities, write out some descriptive terms. For example, “navigating” might yield, “lost,” “concerned,” “confident,” “ambitious,” “anxious,” etc. At least one descriptive term or phrase for each action, please.
  • gathering requirements: constraining, confused, collaborative, graphic, probing, conflict resolution
  • unit testing: secure, reassuring, frustrating, tedious, don't want to do it
  • coding: creative, fulfilling, powerful, controlling, generative, logical
  • designing: creative, graphic, interactive, modelled
  • integrating: continuous, constant, tense, repeatable
  • asking the daily standup three questions: collaborative, unifying, short, repetitive, required, informative, nosy

Now… as usual in these exercises, time to mix it up. Grab another activity.
I pick developing software! Ha ha. Just kidding. I pick...eating lunch. I am always hungry these days.
List narrative elements for [this second activity]
preparing lunch, opening backpack, unpacking sandwich, chewing sandwich, drinking soda, surfing the web
Now the finisher: write a poem for that second activity where you match the descriptive terms of the first activity with the narrative elements of the second.
Um. I never liked poetry. Why did I decide to do this? Is my life that empty? Anyway:

The Daily Standup of Lunch

What did you eat yesterday?

I modeled my sandwich using the Bumstead pattern
But a review of the dietary use case (and its supplemental specs)
Showed I could not trace my design to my stakeholder needs --
This stakeholder needs to hold a steak! --
So I packed a thin client of a sandwich, leaving everything back on the server.

What will you eat today?

I will remove the same sandwich from the same backpack
In exactly the same manner as yesterday (and the day before).
I will continuously integrate this sandwich with my body --
My mind has to be on CruiseControl to eat this stuff --
In a repeatable, repetitive, repeating process until I break the build of my meal.

What obstacles are in your way?

There is a conflict between my major stakeholders, stomach and mind;
This diet's requirements are frustrating my culinary creativity;
I long to build castles from the common components: sugar, and fat, and more sugar...--
Oh, the power and control of creating my own product --
Lord, let Google distract me from the random memory of sweet creations

Nope. Not quite right. Guess I'll stick to Book Tales.

Another Grey Day Out Here in the City

Just a quick Godfather Horse Head run (5.3/0:31) this morning. It's a bit grey, but the temperature wasn't too bad. I'm awfully sore. Could this biking thing be unhealthy?

Out of iTouch

Bought an iPod Touch last Sunday. The one I won from Rational for my CM video last summer died. I depend on the thing as much as a portable drive as I do for podcasts and music. The software I install for customers (Rational, Subversion, and CruiseControl, mainly) is easy to shove onto the iPod and carry around instead of pulling it from the web every time. Since I was driving to West Virginia Monday for a proposal presentation and coming back on Tuesday to jump right on an airplane to Indianapolis for a continuous integration gig, I thought it would be nice to replace the old thing.

So, we walked into the Apple store in the Columbia Mall. Actually, I walked in. The Brunette avoided the place because it is terribly stressful to shop in the Apple store, especially on a day when it is very crowded, as it was that Sunday. I looked at one of the display models of the Touch and then wandered around trying to get someone to sell it to me. In the Apple store, there is not a cash register. You buy what you want from the employees hovering around. Except, sometimes they're not hovering; they're helping someone else. That's fine, but there's no queueing mechanism.

This means I'm faced with a bunch of other folks standing around waiting to be helped and there is no way for the store employees to know whose turn is next. In fact, with all of the cool toys around for people to play with, it's not clear to any particular customer who else is waiting around to be helped. This system is inherently unfair: it is pretty easy and understandable that the employees often turn to someone who came in later than me. How would they know?

It's probably not because I'm a grumpy looking old curmudgeon, but I felt slighted none-the-less. The process works best for those who are willing to be rude or at least aggressive. It doesn't work well for me.

If I wasn't in such a hurry, I'd have probably walked out. I can get what I need on-line without dealing with all you people.

But the real point was that the store is annoying and inherently unfair, but it is unfair without anyone actually intending to be mean. And I can understand the motivations behind wanting to opt-out.

And all that made me think about our city's little election system trouble.


I kinda like drawing these because it gives me a feel for the compass directions I'm hitting while riding along. For example, I didn't realize there was such a southern jog on Powder Mill over in Beltsville west of Route 1. In my mind, it's a straight east-west road.

I am surprised that the realignment of 212 is not captured by Google Maps yet. Also, their satellite picture doesn't yet show the skate park.

On Crescent, we have another entry for our Bad Parking Blog:

The Quick and The Dead

Haven't quite made it home yet. From BWI, we drove out to Easton, MD, to enjoy the Plein Air Competition and Arts Festival. We brought our paints and registered for Quick Draw -- a contest where you find a spot in town and have no more than two hours to create a painting masterpiece. There must have been two hundred artists in town. I haven't painted in nearly a year and a half, so I just tried to have some fun.

I found a nice spot in a cemetery, but I was not alone:

I thought this building offered some interesting possibilities.


Wow, two hours is really not very much time. I was using acrylics -- can't imagine what the oil painters must have had to deal with. I had a little trouble with ants wandering onto my painting.

I also learned that it's probably a good idea to go to the bathroom before starting this competition.

After an hour, I hadn't made much progress:


Plus, I made way too much tree. But I think I made something that wasn't totally embarrassing. Here are my painting and the Brunette's. She did a watercolor in the farmers market.


I wanted to put in so many more details. There wasn't even enough time to put in the second door, and I had picked the building because of the cool oil tank, but there it all goes by so dang fast.

One of the rules that we didn't know before we arrived is that you have to frame your picture at the end of the two hours. So we grabbed a couple of five-dollar frames from Walgreens right after registering. Also, next time we'll do like everybody else and bring easels for display.


Overall, I think the two hour contest was a blast. I really enjoyed it. Apparently, I'm a sucker for time-based challenges. It's easiest to do if I just accept that I'm not going to produce something as amazing as this:


At least not without a little more practice...

Indiana Indiana Indiana

Not quite the same as Oklahoma. I'll be heading home tomorrow. I do not feel well. This place has done something to my stomach.

What Do You Do (Proclaimers)

The challenge: Set your iPod on shuffle, listen to the first song that plays, write something. The written thing can be an essay, a poem, a story, whatever. It might only be tenuously related to the song, but it has to be written in a timebox. No editing later, no polishing forever. It is what it is. (Well, okay, spell checking is allowed.)

I'm randomly trolling through my list of songs from a morning's commute. (There's still time to go and guess what the songs are!) The other stories so far are available at the MusicTale link. This item's timebox was one hour of the airplane ride from Heathrow to BWI.

There was an odd event yesterday at the local high school and the boy responsible has just boarded the R12 bus. He can't be sure his appeal had its intended effect because the counting was done by the math teacher, Mr. Solomon, after hours last night. Anthony is a good kid, or so his mother claims. And he believes it, too. He isn't one to pull pranks, but the time seemed ripe and Monica seemed ready for a lesson.

Monica was running for student council president. She had been running for this office since pre-school. Way back in kindergarten, she had realized the attributes she would need and the activities she would have to participate in in order to influence the right crowds and ensure a victory in these seminal elections -- which had been held yesterday at the high school. As you can imagine, some find Monica a little hard to take. A few think she's downright annoying. Anthony thinks she's embarrassing.

Anthony and Monica are fraternal twins.

To be fair, Anthony has never understood Monica's position. Anthony is an easy-going kid to whom popularity and influence float naturally. It is not possible for him to grasp how much Monica feels she needs to work to maintain friendships. For her, every interaction is a struggle, and she is no more impressed by his nonchalance than he by her schmoozing.

So the high school held an election yesterday, and Monica ran a good campaign and Mr. Solomon counted the votes. Anthony smiles in the back of the bus, anxious to get to school and find out how well his plan has gone.

But he will not find out today.

Mr. Solomon has contacted the principal, Patricia Wallace, and given her the results. Patricia, who is younger than Mr. Solomon and tries to get the teachers and students to call her Patsy, has already decided that the results will not be shared with the students today. Lawyers must be contacted first. In this day and age, lawyers must always be contacted first. Plans must be made.

To Mr. Solomon, who thinks the word 'patsy' is an insult -- his is just that old -- has been directed by Patricia to gather the teachers in order to apprise them of the situation. He has already collected the vast majority of them together in the auditorium. The only outliers are Mrs. McGillicutty and Mr. Jones (who are tasked with keeping an eye on any early students) and Karl, the Driver's Ed teacher who refuses to drive to school.

Karl is on the bus with Anthony. As we have already seen, Karl is counting nurses and checking his watch. Where is Monica? Monica is in her room, crying. Anthony told Monica this morning that he had gotten all the kids at school to write in their own names instead of choosing hers. In this way, Monica would simply be one part of a 1200-way tie. Losing the election this way would be terribly depressing to anyone, but the salt in the wound was that Monica had run unopposed. How could she live down losing the election to no one?

"Actually, you're losing to everyone," Anthony helpfully pointed out. This was the point at which Monica started throwing things and Anthony thought he would hop an earlier bus to check on the situation at school.

The principal decides to hold the teacher conference without the presence of that nit-picking driving instructor. The lawyers have agreed that discretion and caution are the prudent watchwords in the current climate. Patricia strolls into the auditorium and faces the assembled teachers. They eventually quiet down after a series of shushes from the more rule-abiding teachers in the crowd and a hiss of cross-shushes from the teachers who don't appreciate being shushed by their self-important peers.

Patricia explains to the teachers that their students will be disappointed to hear that the election results from yesterday will not be announced today. The teachers are disappointed to find that she will only say that the initial counts have been "odd." It is better if the teachers as a group are no better informed than the students. Any teacher, especially in this town, (according to the risk-averse lawyers) is a likely candidate for running to the ACLU or any number of other bodies that might take an interest before the proper planning and action-taking have occurred.

In reality, Patricia just wishes the situation would go away. It isn't as if she lets the student council do anything important anyway.

The teachers are not amused. Several of them were hustled into the auditorium without having the opportunity to sip their Starbucks. Because the auditorium is a no-drinking/no-eating zone, Mr. Solomon had prevented them from bringing in their caffeinated pacifiers. They are wondering if they'll recognize their lattes in the crowd of cups sitting on the table outside the auditorium doors. Few principals want to face an angry crowd of uncoffeed teachers, and Patricia is even less keen than most. She is younger and more energetic than the staff; she represents change and they all know it.

The mood among the teachers grows dark. They want to be treated like adults. They deserve to be let in on the decision-making. The buzz in the room turns to a moan and then into a real growl. Patsy does not have control.

"People, people," she bleats. The angry crowd starts barking. They grow silent quickly, however, when Mr. Stephens stands up. Mr. Stephens, who sometimes lets his students call him Greg, is one of those "popular" physics teachers.

"I'm sure Patricia knows what she's doing," Greg says and tosses her an ingratiating smile. "This situation is ripe for a media circus and I think we all--"

Greg is cut off when Miss Cook, the Spanish teacher who has been standing calmly to his right, lifts her umbrella and knee-caps him. Greg's knees are a vulnerable spot because of an old lacrosse injury, and he goes down like an abandoned marionette. The other teachers pause only briefly before jumping to get their own licks in, which leads to various and sundry sub-fights, and the entire teaching force (except for Mr. Solomon, Karl, and Mrs. McGillicutty, of course) are soon involved in the bloody mêlée.

On the bus, Anthony is still smiling. From the way his mother describes him, I doubt that Anthony would be smiling if he knew his actions had led to the brutal beating of a popular teacher. In fact, it is not even his sister's crying that is making Anthony smile. He does not hate her that much. He is smiling because he knows that although all of the other students probably wrote their own names at his urging, Monica has still won the election. He only wanted her to get a little bit of perspective. Any brother would understand. So, in addition to her own vote, she also got his.

And the teachers fight on, all because of an election result of 2 to 1 to 1 to 1 to 1 to 1 to 1...


Went over to the Arts and Design District of Carmel. I had a delicious dinner in a restaurant that used to be a Carnegie library.


I still find realistic statues of people creepy and weird.


Pillow Talk

So tell me, who needs seven pillows? Actually, there are two beds in this DoubleTree suite in Indianapolis/Carmel. What am I going to do with fourteen pillows? It's like I'm in some mad out-of-control arms race for a pillow fight.

The Horse You Rode in On

Yesterday, I did the short Godfather Horsehead Ride (5.3/0:30), then drove off to West Virginia. No biking for me the rest of the week, I expect. It's raining here. We're going to do our presentation, then I drive back to Maryland to hop a plane to Indianapolis. I'm going to be tired and cranky.

I'll try not to take it out on you.

Get Your Dry Roasted Peanuts

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army Comic book adaptation, live action (mostly).
Theater Location: Hoyts West Nursery Linthicum
Noise Level: Good.
The Skinny: If they had left out the German ectoplasm guy, I think this would have been a passable movie.


Same ride as yesterday, 12 minutes longer. What's up with that?

Someone had some fun on Research Road last night:

Big East

This is not about football or basketball.


This is a nice loop around the east side of Greenbelt (mostly outside Greenbelt, really). I like the ride through BARC. It was almost chilly riding down the hill through the trees. This is a pretty easy 10 mile loop and doesn't feel terribly dangerous, although the bit under the BW Parkway is dark and the road there is rough.

I would only do this ride clockwise. The hill along Research Road going away from Ridge is quite a nice one.


I'm not a racer, I'm a tourist. I'm not a racer, I'm a tourist. I'm not a racer, I'm a tourist.

I keep repeating that to remind myself that it's okay that I'm so dang slow.

I tried to make this a little longer ride by going beyond Cipriano on Good Luck to get to Greenbelt Road.

Don't Drink the Kool-Aid

Mongol An small epic about the emergence of Gengis Khan. In Mongolian with subtitles.
Theater Location: Old Greenbelt Theatre
Noise Level: Good.
The Skinny: I am ready for my throat singing lessons, now. The flick was a bit long, and it was short on tension. But the kids were cute. Landscape is nice, too. The battle scenes were stylized and the blood looked a bit like Kool-Aid. Look out Mulan!


Took the Godfather horse's head ride this morning with the same results: 5.3/0:30. I suppose this means that for a short ride, the rain does not affect my time.

Last night, we went down to the Greenbelt Advisory Planning Board meeting because their agenda included "discussion of the Development of a City-Wide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan." Attendance was pretty good, the peanut gallery had as many folks as the board did (5).

I wasn't really sure what the GAPB does, but I now believe its role is to advise the council when development occurs. (If I'm wrong, let me know, eh?) Since the market has slumped, I guess they haven't had as much excitement, so they thought they'd look into a sort of master plan for bicycling and pedestrianing in Greenbelt. A worthy goal, but they've only reached the stage of talking about "survey instruments" and other approaches. There isn't a plan to review or anything yet.

But they were nice enough to let us complain about sidewalks and roads for nearly an hour. There are some complications in that the city doesn't have much control over 193 (ironic that Greenbelt can't control Greenbelt Road), some land is protected or in private hands (including the poorly maintained (and too narrow) part of the cross-city bike path near Ivy lane), and money is always an issue. There were also some rice bowl debates: broken existing is (mostly) a Greenbelt Public Works issue (unless it's a state issue or a property owner issue) and street cleaning (which I would like to see more of on Greenbelt Road; glass and nails on the road do not encourage cycling) is also a Public Works issue except on Greenbelt Road.

I think it's interesting that most of my desires for changes to biking in Greenbelt have to do with improving how to get out of Greenbelt. (And back in of course.) I'm worried about commuter biking, but the Brunette covered some of the sorest walking issues for us: the primary one being the intersection of Hanover Parkway and Greenbelt Road.

I did feel that the board was listening and somewhat responsive. They wrote down some of our ideas, and a City employee suggested she would look into scheduling the City's speed monitoring sign to Greenbelt Road because I complained about the speeders on the stretch near the National Park.

Did you know our city has a National Park and the National Park has a bus stop? How cool is that?

Sadly, the board didn't seem to be willing to do anything about some of the worse hills in our community. (insert smiley face here)

Peter Piper

No biking this morning. I had to drive out to Reston and I had a hard time getting out of bed early enough to ride and drive both. Kinda like this guy, I guess:

I don't think he likes his new home. We went down to the National Harbor to see how he was doing and to wander around. It's kinda weird creating a city out of whole cloth. It's a little DisneyWorldish. Inside the conference center there is a huge glassed-in atrium that's air conditioned and contains a few replicas of Williamsburg buildings. It's like being in a snow globe. I wonder how many people will come to this convention center, never cross the river and believe that they've been to DC...

At any rate, it's not done, yet, of course, but there are some things open. We dropped by a Saturday market and bought some hot sauce. There was also a guy vending pickles with horseradish and with other spices. It inspired me to go to Greenbelt's own farmers market and purchase some small cucumbers:

As you can see, I also bought some salt and some spices. Plus, I went and got some jars. I'm makin' pickles! Our Co-Op sells nice quart sized jars and lids and junk:

Unfortunately, they don't fit in our big goat pot. I guess it's really a baby goat pot. You have to boil these jars at some point, so the water has to cover them:

I was able to get some almost-pint-sized jars at the local Giant.

I had a heck of a time finding canning or pickling salt. Standard salt, sea salt, and some Kosher salts are not pure salt. They have some anti-caking agent and that messes with the process. Finally, I found some pure Kosher salt at a Weiss market. I found a recipe on the internet (gotta trust the ole internet right?) and went to work. First step is to brine the cucumbers. (Let them sit in salt water over night.)

Then, you cook up some pickling juice (vinegar, sugar, pickling spices, salt). I used Splenda for this run.

Then, you shove the cucumbers into jars and stuff in some basil and mustard. I had seven jars. I made two from the base recipe, two with jalapeños added, one with cumin, and one with cinnamon stick and cardamom. It's going to be a real adventure, eh?

Seal them up and toss them in the water for ten minutes. It took forever to get the water boiling before I put the jars in. I think I'll try using the tea pot to create hot water to start with next time.

Also, next time, I will put jars in the water to see how much water I really need in there. It's not fun having a big pot of boiling water and then find out when you're adding the jars that you have too much water and it goes everywhere, hissing and steaming.

Now, we just have to wait four to six weeks to see how they taste. Anybody want to try them with us?

Greenbelt Compass Ride

Use the force Luke!

There's an observatory out at the end of Northway, down near the dog park and the compost facility.

This one was a concept ride: Ride each way on the compass roads of Greenbelt (Eastway, Northway, Westway, Southway). I had to add a second loop around Crescent/field path to make the ride over 30 minutes. I didn't quite get all the way to the end of Southway because I didn't want to do the U turn on 193. Also, much of Northway is gravel. I suppose Southway is the most heavily-trafficked. I found Westway to be the most intimidating, though, because it's relatively narrow and lined with parked cars.

But it sure makes an interesting ink blot. (6/0:38)

The First Test

This is the fourth day of my mid-year's resolution to bike every day, and it came with the first real test of my resolve: It was raining at 5:45 this morning. In general, I'm not a fan of riding in low-visibility conditions, but it wasn't really all that dark. In general, I won't ride in a driving rain or with lightning, but although it was coming down steadily, there was no wind and no thunder. So, I climbed on the bike and did a short ride. I tried to stick to the roads less-traveled and/or better lit.

I think this will be the shortest of my rides. I had to take a little circle in the garage parking lot to make sure I hit 30 minutes.

Tomorrow's a more serious test: I think work is going to make me go out to Reston. Every minute I'm biking will be a minute later into rush hour that I'll get stuck driving. We'll see what I decide to do.

Result: 5.3/0:30

Bottom Line (77s)

The challenge: Set your iPod on shuffle, listen to the first song that plays, write something. The written thing can be an essay, a poem, a story, whatever. It might only be tenuously related to the song, but it has to be written in a timebox. No editing later, no polishing forever. It is what it is. (Well, okay, spellchecking is allowed.)

I'm randomly trolling through my list of songs from a morning's commute. (There's still time to go and guess what the songs are!) The other stories so far are available at the MusicTale link. This item's timebox was a part of our train ride in England: Southampton Airport (Parkway) to Waterloo.

There was a terribly annoying couple seated next to us at the train's table. They nattered on about their privileged racket-ball driven lives, the oddities in American law, the rampant moose population of Wyoming, and the saloons in the American West ("the most authentic ones have the bar stools with saddles on top"). I don't think they realized we were from the US, because we stayed uncharacteristically silent.

Sheila clutched her shoebox under her arm as she boarded the R12 at Westchester. The shoebox did not contain shoes; Sheila kept everything in shoeboxes. Everything she could figure out how to fit in them at any rate. She wasn't one for buying shoes, but she collected the boxes from family and friends and colleagues.

And, yes, on occasion she snatched a box from the dumpster at the mall.

It was her secret activity. Sheila felt it important to keep an aspect of her life secret from others in order to giver herself a hidden depth. She chose the dumpster diving for shoeboxes, because its safety-to-potential-shock ratio was relatively positive. The hidden depth would bring dividends for Sheila when she went on dates or met strangers in other venues. If only they knew, she'd think with a smile and inner laugh.

Sheila worried about whether anyone would find her complicated enough. In general she thought of herself as an empty shell, so the secret box hunting built up her own image as a person with secrets. A person who needed to keep secrets had to be exciting.

On the bus, Billy shifted his guitar to make room, but Sheila chose a seat across from him. She placed her shoebox on her lap and stroked its lid. She supposed this box to contain her quarterly receipts. Sheila sells pot holders on spec via eBay, and, as an independent businesswoman, she is required to submit taxes each quarter.

She dutifully packed up her accounting shoebox and rode the bus up to her accountant every three months. It wasn't as if she had her own personal accountant. The personal potholder business was hardly a sustaining cash flow, let alone a source of endless riches.

Sheila did find a strong connection with the customers who stumbled upon her little corner of cyberspace. This was mainly due to her method. Sheila's personal potholders were very personal. Sheila asked for artifacts from her customers' lives so that she could spin a web of emotion around the person and generate a perfect design. Potholders are about protection and comfort, and Sheila's potholder users find their comfort enhanced by her targeted designs.

They seemed oddly willing to provide the bits of debris from their lives that Sheila requested. She was always careful to return these items, except for the grocery lists. The grocery lists she put aside in a special shoebox, a bright pink shoebox that Sheila had acquired from a neighbor's balcony.

The pink box had a special place in Sheila's apartment. It didn't sit in the various closets with her other containers. It sat atop a table near the front door. Sheila was aware that other people didn't clutter their homes with objects stored in shoeboxes, and, on the off chance that anyone would ever visit she generally kept them safely out of sight. But the pink box of grocery lists took pride of place in case someone might stumble by -- a sort of conversation piece, Sheila thought, to pick up in the lulls that might occur if that cute guy from down the hall or that hot guitarist on the bus ever stopped by and ran out of things to talk about.

"Oh, that?" she would say mysteriously. "That's just a part of my hobby. It's really too dangerous to talk about."

She felt a little thrill every time she opened the door. The bright pink box was clearly visible from the apartment hallway if the neighbor from whom she purloined it happened to be both in the right place and looking in the right direction. So far, though, the pink theft had gone undiscovered and Sheila's secret remained her own alone. As the bus passed under the parking garage at the mall, Sheila wondered if maybe she didn't need another shoebox, perhaps to keep her hair clips in. She smiled to herself as she wandered through the back of the mall in her mind.

Billy looked across the aisle through his hair at Sheila. He saw her frequently on the bus. Most of the time, she seemed so lovely and fragile like a butterfly that he nearly worked up the courage to talk to her. But when she smiled like that, in her secret way, he knew that she had depths that he could never plumb and a life of adventure with which he could never compete. And so he pulled back.

The bus pulled onto Cherry Lane and Sheila and her box hopped down to the pavement to deal with the regular drudgery of taxes.

I Call Dibs on Getting Out of Here

Journey to the Center of the Earth One of those weird Brendan Fraser things. This time he's a scientist obsessed with his missing brother who was obsessed with the Jules Verne tale.
Theater Location: Beltway Plaza
Noise Level: Good.
The Skinny: This movie violates Chekhov's Law: If a yo-yo is introduced in the first act, by the third act somebody oughta kill a dinosaur by Walking the Dog or Rocking the Baby or something.


Eventually, I'll either give up riding or settle on a couple of routes and so the ink blots will stop. At any rate, here is this morning's:

It seems that Google maps don't yet know that Soil Conservation Road has been realigned and the spur near 193 renamed ICEsat Road or whatever it is. The new alignment bit is a little like riding through a barbed wire tunnel, but that's just the shininess of the fencing. A Sunday morning is still a nice green country ride.

I know I'm not a fast rider. The intent here is not to increase the speed but to settle into a regular routine and build up endurance


This morning's ride was through the farmland of the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and the warehouse land of the Beltsville Industrial Park. Riding down Research Road away from Ridge is a big wheeeeeeeeeeeee!


I can get to the Blogger dashboard and post new blog posts, but I can't actually navigate a browser to my own blog and read it or respond to any comments. What's up with that? I see that you people out there can get to my blog because I got an email from a comment. Why can't I go there? What's wrong with me?

The browser just spins and spins and then crashes.


Another ink blot test. What do you see in this picture?

I can't really bike to work these days since there's no shower and an inconsistent work location, but I'm going to get up every morning and do at least thirty minutes before I shower and go off to the grind. Probably every day. Most days. Some days? Once in a while, certainly.

I've just come back from England to find that things are changing. Things that I've mentioned in the Music Tales are either gone (the Spellman marker near the overpass) or under discussion for removal (the R12 bus). Time marches on.

In the short thirty minutes of my ride, it went from almost comfortable to ickily humid. Yuck. Remind me again why we didn't accidentally miss the plane back and get stuck in the UK?

I'd Like to Turn You On

This is the Albert Hall. Somehow, I always imagined it was full of holes. Yet again popular music has led me astray.

This is the Albert Memorial on the south side of Kensington Gardens. Victoria threw this little remembrance together in grief. (This picture does not show the entire plaza, which is quite a large outlay.) What would you want as a monument after you're gone?

I've been uploading pictures with back-dating, so scroll on down past Tubby to see the rest of our trip. Pretty much Tuesday and Wednesday were taken up with my attendance at the British Computer Society CM conference. My presentation went fairly well, I thought. I wish I could do that more often.

Traidcraft B&B

On Monday, we had to leave our little Bed and Breakfast, which was a converted free-trade/thrift shop. The proprietors were very nice and the vegetarian breakfast was grand.

We left the island and jumped back on the train to wander north.

Back in London, we faced gloomy skies. I like the way these buildings near the O2 pavilion (previously the Millennium Dome) stood out.

Tubby in a Box

I'm scheduling this for the middle of our trip overseas so that you get some new content while we're away (assuming we don't get internet connection while we're over there).

Blowing in the Wind

Sunday was a blustery day, with wind and rain causing quite a stir.

So of course we went out for a long walk around the less-built-up side of the island (yesterday was much more like Ocean City).

The coast is just beautiful here. This is Tennyson country. In the distance, there's a monument to the poet.

It is lovely even on rainy, blustery days. The bay above is Freshwater Bay. There's a path through a wooded marsh along a creek down to the bay, but if you're not careful, you'll stumble through the jungle for an hour in a big circle and wind up where you were going.

Not telling you why I know this.

Island Life

Island life is not so hurried and a bit rooted in the past.

The buildings are smaller (or the people are bigger?)

And the cliffs are so steep you need an elevator to get down to them.

A Hint for American Travellers

It's a nice three-hour train ride down to the ferry to take us across to the Isle of Wight at Yarmouth.

A long walk to the west side of the island gave us a hazy view of the Needles.

A shorter walk took us to the local grocery store. It never seems like we can get away from the Co-op.

One of the interesting things has been that Britain is moving to a credit card system where the cards have an embedded chip and customers use a PIN for every transaction. Sadly, our American credit cards have not yet followed suit. We had no trouble using them in London, but it's hit and miss when they're accepted out here away from the city. Check with your credit card company about this before popping over here if you won't be in London.


We landed in the UK and immediately stopped to eat a traditional English lunch:

We lodged near the Tower Bridge so that we can jump on the train at Waterloo tomorrow and ride down to the Isle of Wight. This lovely building is the Egg, London's new City Hall.