june 2003

6.2.03
Sigh. Another baseball game, another cold, rainy night. On Saturday, we showed up at Camden Yards for a game between the Orioles and the Rangers with our raincoats in hand and expecting the worst. It was cloudy and breezy and the weather forecast called for intermittent thunderstorms throughtout the evening. But on our way from the car to the stadium, the sun actually came out, the sky turned blue, and it generally began to look like it's supposed to look when you're going to a baseball game. We got our food from Big Jim's (I tried the marinated chicken breast instead of my usual hotdog), found our seats, and enjoyed the batting practice and warmup activities in what was becoming quite a nice evening.

Even though it did get a little cloudier after an hour or so, everything was still looking fine until about 20 minutes before the start of the game. The sky still looked pretty clear, but we saw the ominous signs of the grounds crew rolling out the infield tarp, and it was pretty clear why when we looked behind us. From the west, some nasty looking clouds were moving in fast, and it didn't look like they were in any mood to watch a baseball game. A couple of minutes after they got the tarp in place, we felt the first drops start to fall, and ran for cover out in the promenade behind the seats, followed by everyone else who wasn't sitting under an overhang. In the 30 seconds it took us to get out there, the rain came on full force, blowing in through the bars of the gates and forcing everyone into a narrow 30 foot ring around the seating area between the entrance tunnels and the soaked pavement where the water was blowing in.

Since it was a thunderstorm, we had hopes that it would pass over quickly and we could still get the game started within a reasonable amount of time. By 8:15, more than an hour after the game should have started, we were still huddled in the promenade with increasingly small numbers of people and not so hopeful that we were going to see a game that night. We decided to stay until 9:00 and leave if they hadn't started the game yet. Of course, at 8:55 they made an announcement that the rain was supposed to stop at 9:15. By 9:30 they had cleared the tarp from the field, and at 9:45 the first pitch of the game was thrown.

We knew we couldn't stay the whole game because we hadn't arranged for a catsitter to come and give our diabetic cat his shot and feed him, but I at least wanted to see Alex Rodriguez come to bat a couple of times. The second time he came up, at the beginning of the fourth inning, he was the first one up, and he quickly flied out to the same spot near the center field warning track that he had flied out to in the first inning, but we decided to stay for the rest of the inning to see Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez hit as well. After they flied out to virtually the same spot as Rodriguez, we headed for the gates and listened to the rest of the game on the radio on the way home.

I'm not sorry that we got these tickets, because I just enjoy going to the park and watching a game. But for god's sake, it's June now, and we have yet to see what I would call a typical game. Every time we've gone, it's been cold enough so that you have to wear long sleeves and a jacket, and about half the time it's been raining. Last night was the second longest rain delay in the history of the Orioles (we missed setting a new record by two minutes—you think they could have just held on for a couple of more minutes so at least we could feel like it was worth it because we stayed through a record-breaking delay), and it snowed on Opening Day. I just want to go to the ballpark on a hot summer night and watch a game all the way through without thinking I need to put on a jacket or having to run for cover because some form of precipitation has arrived. Is that really too much to ask?

6.3.03
Googlism has been around for a while, and I've played with it before, but for some reason yesterday I started messing around with it again. It still doesn't have anything interesting to say about me (all it says is that I am "responsible for the gathering and collecting of data provided by the client"), but here's what it has to say about this site:

brain coral is dying
brain coral is mostly dead and infested with algae and sea whips
brain coral is one of the most recognizable of all of the corals because of its unique shape
brain coral is a large
brain coral is a long polyp stony
brain coral is also referred to as a folded brain
brain coral is photosynthetic and requires no direct feeding
brain coral is typically available in one of two colors
brain coral is a hard coral
brain coral is also commonly known as giant brain coral
brain coral is at the bottom center and a green brain coral at the right on the rock ledge
brain coral is a large and healthy specimen
brain coral is taken over by algae
brain coral is also placed outside of the body as it is within the functioning of the brain that the physical world is removed from the senses and
brain coral is really easy to identify
brain coral is a hard or stony coral
brain coral is found here at the coral gardens dive site
brain coral is about 60 years old
brain coral is hardest to break brain coral is hardest to break brain coral is to be found
brain coral is greater then 5 " in diameter
brain coral is suffering from white band disease
brain coral is very
brain coral is neat fire coral is poisonous fan coral can bend
brain coral is slightly bleached
brain coral is one of my favorites
brain coral is not capturing food makes it apparent that you are trying to feed it while its
brain coral is placed on the sand
brain coral is nearly spherical and has furrows that make it look like a human brain
brain coral is distinguished by having a distinct line or groove running along ridge crests
brain coral is one of about 10 brain coral species found in the caribbean
brain coral is interesting because its outside looks just like the ridges on the outside of a person's brain
brain coral is adjacent to the anchor's right side while orange encrusting sponge envelops the crown and lesser starlet coral resides on the shank
brain coral is the centerpiece of the reef
brain coral is actually looking the best out of all the corals i brought back
brain coral is probably platygyra daedalea
brain coral is over six feet across
brain coral is one of the few corals found in south australian waters and grows on the shallow coastal reefs
brain coral is an example of a stressed coral
brain coral is another that
brain coral is expected to go off
brain coral is one centimeter a year
brain coral is dome
brain coral is about 3 feet accross
brain coral is among the largest in the world
brain coral is about 12
brain coral is the most abundant coral species on our reefs
brain coral is a classic example
brain coral is surrounded with shoals of trigger fish
brain coral is at 18 meter
brain coral is convalescing in 20
brain coral is a hard coral that looks more like a rock sculpture of a human brain than an animal
brain coral is the size of vw
brain coral is located at a depth of 60 feet/18 m
brain coral is fun but there is also a rounder coral that is common
brain coral is an example of one of the many invertebrates that thrive on jamaican reefs
brain coral is still along the inland trails
brain coral is not the only brain in the sea "sea" more
brain coral is still alive but appears white because the white skeleton is visible through the now transparent tissue
brain coral is showing it's skeleton on one side
brain coral is the highlight of this area and deep drop offs are common to the northeast and east sides
brain coral is a product of bioerosion
brain coral is a delightful introduction to bvi's underwater community
brain coral is massive and has a resident nurse shark chilling under its canopy
brain coral is a colony of tiny
brain coral is found on reef slopes or flats
brain coral is an animal too
brain coral is pointed out as the meanders in ps stevens
brain coral is located leads to more great snorkeling
brain coral is the first map

I also love what it had to say about Tom (I used his full name when I entered it into Googlism, but I'm just using his first name here becase I'm not sure how paranoid he is about his full name being on this site):

tom is vice
tom is looking for a good skill assessment package for clerical people
tom is a senior management consultant with reagan consulting
tom is senior vice president and principal of reagan consulting
tom is the vice president of the americas & india in intergraph's process and building solutions division
tom is at the helm of the swimmers
tom is a man with a spring in his step

Tom is indeed at the helm of the swimmers...


6.4.03
Work has been really sucking the last couple of weeks, but yesterday my day was considerably brightened when I got home and found two music surprises in the mail, one snail and one electronic. First was a CD, "Out of the Shadow", from an Oakland band called Rogue Wave. Their frontman, Zach, wrote me earlier in the week asking if he could submit his CD for review on Plug, and after sampling a few tracks on their web site, I was eager to hear more. I've only listened to it a couple of times so far, but I'm still liking what I'm hearing—it's somewhere between the Shins and Death Cab for Cutie, with a bit of southern California thrown in for good measure. The band bio that came with the CD says that they have just finished recording five new tracks at Tarbox Studios in upstate New York, where Mercury Rev, Sparklehorse, and the Flaming Lips have famously recorded over the last few years with David Fridmann. I'll try to get a more complete review up on Plug in the near future, but you can always visit the web site using the link above if you want to hear/learn more. Definitely worth a listen if you like either of the bands I compared them to.

The second surprise came when I opened my email and found a solitary real email from Tom amid a sea of over a hundred spams:

hi Chris,

This is your successful orientation to the two cd audio units arriving
soon. One is an EP of six songs by Ignominy, a band led by my brother's friend Derek. He's in with the Saddle Creek people somehow and went out to Lincoln, Nebraska to record these songs in the studio there with Mike Mogis (he's the main studio guy of the operation it seems). 2001, I think. They never had any serious distribution and are currently in some sort of limbo.

The other cd is by the Books (2002). Samples and then mainly acoustic instruments. It can sound like a novelty record, but for me it has been way more durable. I think it's actually pretty thoughtful. Here is the track listing below. - Tom


The Books: Thought for Food

1. Enjoy Your Worries, You May Never Have Them Again
2. Read, Eat, Sleep
3. All Bad Ends All
4. Contempt
5. All Our Base Are Belong to Them
6. Thankyoubranch
7. Motherless Bastard
8. Mikey Bass
9. Excess Straussess
10. Getting the Done Job
11. A Dead Fish Gains the Power of Observation
12. Deafkids

Tom has been in a pretty mellow mood recently, music-wise, and has been sending me lots of new stuff to sample (sometimes courtesy of his CD burner, although he did send me a nice little bundle of purchased CDs for my birthday), like Daniel Lanios, Will Oldham (under his latest moniker, Bonnie Prince Billy), and a Brian Eno album from 1977. I'm not in quite as tranquil a mood as he is, but I've been liking the stuff he's sent me well enough to go out and purchase real copies on my own (see, you corporate music fuckers, sharing music doesn't equal stealing), and I'm hoping that these two new ones will continue that trend. In turn, I have recommended that he try the new Arab Strap, either of the Reindeer Section records, and the latest from Yo La Tengo (I've also been pushing the new Cursive, but Tom has said that he needs to take a break from indie rock for a while).

So anyway. This music isn't likely to make my days at work any better, since I'm rarely ever at my desk long enough to put on my headphones anymore, but they ought to make my commute a little more bearable.


6.5.03
I am Lucy Liu. Give me your spines.

6.5.03
More fun in the mail yesterday: not only did the two CDs Tom sent me the email about arrive, but I also got a care package from Tori with homemade cookies, a few boxes of cereal (including Boo Berry, the blue cousin to Count Chocula and Frankenberry and a childhood favorite that is apparently only sold in Iowa City these days), and some assorted Easter knicknacks I'm sure she picked up during the post-holiday sale at the grocery store where she works. (It doesn't seem right that I'm the adult at home and she's the college student away at school and yet she's the one sending care packages to me, but since she apparently enjoys sending them, I love receiving them, and I'm far too lazy to mail one back to her in any reasonable amount of time, I guess that's the way it's going to be.) Also included was an FAQ on preserving your hard won turkey carcass for the taxidermist, courtesy of Sterner Taxidermy of Lone Tree, Iowa:

I'VE JUST SHOT A TURKEY AND
WOULD LIKE TO HAVE IT MOUNTED

NOW WHAT DO I DO??


FIELD CARE TIPS

  • Do not step on the head

  • Do not wring the bird's neck

  • Pick up any feathers on the ground

  • Carry the bird carefully by the feet

  • Keep the bird our of direct sunlight

  • Keep the bird clean and dry

  • It is important that the bird cool down as soon as possible

  • Once the bird has cooled down, place in a cotton or mesh bag

  • Try to get the bird to your taxidermist the same day

  • If you can't get to the taxidermist, place the bird in two plastic bags, remove air, seal tight and freeze

  • If it is a very warm day, it is important to get the bird to the taxidermist, refrigerator, or freezer as soon as possible

So there you go. Now if your turkey carcass decays before you can get it properly stuffed and mounted, you have no one to blame but yourself.


6.6.03
Society is never going to make any progress until we all learn to pretend to like each other.

6.6.03
No time to write. I'm doing more freelance work. Which is good, because I can always use the extra money, but I'm just so exhausted from my day job that I don't have much left to give to anything else. And that means sacrificing attention to this page for a couple of weeks until I finish this freelance project. But I'm going on vacation for several days this month, which should help both to rejuvenate me and give me content for this site, so maybe it will all end up working out so that I can do this freelance stuff and still maintain this page appropriately. But not today.

6.9.03
Woo hoo! I finally got my grade for the book class: A+. I didn't know they really gave those out in grad school; the last time I got one was probably in the first couple of years of high school, because I know I didn't get any at NCSSM, I don't even think they existed at Davidson, and I sure didn't pick any up at UVA. It doesn't matter that much—as long as you get a B or above, Hopkins pays for your class—but it's still pretty cool.

6.9.03
Yesterday was our seventh wedding anniversary, and the fifteenth anniversary of when we first started going out. We aren't real big on celebrations, but we usually do something nice, like going out for a nice dinner or taking a mini-vacation together, and this year, since we're going to be traveling so much in the next few weeks, we decided that a nice dinner would be good enough (our trip to Pittsburgh in two weeks will be a nice weekend away together; it didn't make sense to do another one this weekend, then travel to NC next weekend, and then to Pittsburgh the next).

I thought about taking one of the harbor cruises that serve dinner, thinking we might be able to have a romantic evening out on the water at a quiet table for two on the deck. But when I read the fine print on the cruises, it turned out that they don't guarantee deck seating, and that every table is caberet-style, with 8-10 people per. Plus, the food was served buffet style, which doesn't necessarily make it bad, but it certainly makes it less likely to go well with a romantic evening out.

We considered a couple of other options, but in the end we decided to go to the Joy America Cafe, which is located on the top floor of the American Visionary Art Museum, has views of the inner harbor, and also comes highly recommended by pretty much everyone who has ever been there (including us now). They seated us at a quiet table, and our waiter spent a lot of time educating us about the menu, which was brand new (they had been serving it for less than a week, and it was the first menu by their new chef who was hired three months ago). For an appetizer, we got their guacamole, prepared fresh at the table (my boss came here a few months ago and raved about this dish) and served with blue corn tortilla and plantain chips, and for entrees, Julie got the jerk seasoned game hen and I got the roast pork loin with some kind of spicy coating and a plum sauce. Everything was really good (including the margaritas), and although we didn't have the best table for appreciating the views, it was nice and quiet in our corner, and we really couldn't complain about anything.

That was Saturday, the day before our anniversary; on Sunday, we slept in and then went to an early showing of the new Matrix movie (our second viewing). We thought about Finding Nemo, but I really wanted to see the Matrix again now that I've had a little time for the first viewing to sink in, and I figured that Nemo would still be really popular this weekend and that even the early shows would be packed with kids (I was right; the lobby was swarming with children under ten, even though the show we saw was before noon). Reloaded is much better after a second movie (just like the first one was), and I suspect that it will become even richer with future viewings (just like the first one did).

We spent the rest of the afternoon running errands (normally we might have waited until later, but our nights are pretty booked up this week), but we still managed to finish our anniversary weekend by getting takeout chinese and relaxing with the Simpsons. It might sound a little boring to some people, but we're going to get so little one-on-one time over the next month that I really don't think either of us would have wanted it any other way.

6.10.03
Ugh. There is a project at work that I've been working on since last September and which was supposed to end in January or February that is still dragging on, and even though there is a consultant who's making money off of it and who should be project-managing it (his lack of involvement is one of the big reasons it has dragged on so long), and even though several different divisions have invested sizable sums of money in it, I'm pretty much the only one working on it (from Hopkins, anyway; the developers, of course, are doing most of the real work, with me functioning more as a quality-control and feedback person for us). It's this close to being done, and in fact it would have been done yesterday if the zip file of the final executable hadn't gotten corrupt when the developer tried to FTP it to us (by the time I was able to download it and figure this out, it was too late to get them to recompress it because they are several hours ahead of us).

I'm just praying that there are no hitches today; this is going to be a really cool project (I'll probably post more details once we've released it to the public), but it's also one of four major projects I've been working on for months now, and I really need to finish at least one of them. I feel like I go into work every day and my list of tasks gets longer and longer no matter what I do, and I never get as much done as I had hoped because, well, I have to spend all this time keeping track of all the new work coming across my desk. Marking something as complete, especially something that I've invested as much time in as I have on this particular project, would make me feel like that maybe there's a light at the end of the tunnel. I don't think I'll actually be able to see that light yet, but I'll at least have a little more faith that someday, many months from now, there's a reasonable chance that the light may appear.

I'm hoping my upcoming vacations will help, too.

6.10.03
That's funny. I usually schedule my daily photo selections anywhere from two to four weeks in advance, and today's selection is no exception: I chose it about two weeks ago and I haven't looked at it since. But I must have subconsciously registered the subject matter of today's photo when I was writing about the light at the end of the tunnel in the previous entry.

6.11.03
There is no light. I'm even beginning to doubt the existence of the tunnel.

6.12.03
In response to my recent pessimism about work, Doug sent me these words of encouragement yesterday in an email titled "The Word":

I have found that in these trying times, as we search for our tunnels and our pinpricks of light signifying their end, there is one Word that will bring to your life the lumens of 100 Suns. And that Word, of course, is "monkeypox"...


6.12.03
Grrr...another Orioles game, another rain delay. Add to that the fact that Sammy started his suspension mere hours before the game was to begin, and it was another weird night on what is becoming a very strange series of games we've attended this season. And of course the Orioles sucked, admittedly not quite as much as usual (they rallied in the eight and would have had a decent chance of tying it up or pulling ahead if Cubs manager Dusty Baker hadn't managed to stall until the rain came by switching pitchers after every hitter), but they still sucked enough to lose. I'm not generally superstitious about the number 13, but I'm beginning to think that we're going to get nothing but bad luck with our 13 game season ticket plan. At least it wasn't cold for once.

6.13.03
I'm going on vacation for a few days next week, so don't expect to hear from me until Wednesday at the earliest. Hopefully I'll come back well-rested with a better outlook on work, and also a bunch of new pictures. See you then.

6.18.03
After a non-stop weekend, an 8 1/2 hour drive home, and a botched attempt at take-out from a local restaurant that has screwed up our order one too many times, I tried to log on to my site to check email and found that it had been suspended for some reason. The tech support people told me that my billing information had expired, whatever that means (the card I use to pay them with doesn't expire for another couple of years, so I'm guessing that they recently changed billing systems and I somehow got lost in the shuffle). Anyway. All this means to you is that you won't be reading this today, you'll (hopefully) be reading it tomorrow after they have restored my site. And since no one's going to see today's posts for at least another 24 hours anyhow, I'll save the real content for then.

6.19.03
I got a copy of the new Harry Potter book last weekend (I didn't break any rules, but I'm betting the bookseller did), but since the publisher is apparently getting pretty testy about advance info coming out before the official publication date, I think I'll wait to post a review until next week. Suffice it to say, if you liked the other ones, you'll like this one. I don't really think that's giving away too much.

6.19.03
Well, as has been the case for my last several vacations, all of which seem to focus on visiting one branch of the family or another, my trip down to NC last weekend was very hectic and more than a little tiring, but still pretty okay. We were going to leave on Friday afternoon, drive down to spend the night at Julie's parents, and go to a family picnic with them before heading down to see my mom at Atlantic beach, but we were both so tied up with work stuff that we just couldn't get ready to go in time. Instead, we left early on Saturday morning, had lunch with her parents, and spend about an hour at her family pig picking before heading down to the condo my mom was renting for the week.

We didn't end up getting to Atlantic Beach until around 6:30 or so, and my mom, sister Carrie, and grandfather were all starving, so we left almost immediately to go to the Sanitary Fish Market for dinner. It's a pretty well-known restaurant around there, having been around for several decades, but on the whole I wasn't that impressed. The scallops were okay, but the shrimp and the hush puppies weren't that great, and the crab cakes were just plain awful (I guess we're spoiled living in Maryland now, but still, it shouldn't even be legal to call those things they were serving crab cakes). I thought my dislike of the place when I was a kid was because I didn't like much of anything when I was a kid, but I think now it's because the food isn't very good.

After that, we went back to the condo and went to bed early because we had to get up at 5 a.m. the next day to go fishing on a charter boat my grandfather had rented for the morning. I have a feeling I've done this before, but I don't have any distinct memories of it. I know that I went out fishing with my dad many times in the inland waterway near his house when I was a kid (we mostly caught perch and flounder if I remember right), and I just assume that the reason I don't specifically remember going out on a charter boat as a child is because I was very used to being around boats and water and it wouldn't have been a big deal for me, but I can't say for sure that I've ever done it before.

Anyhow. We go to the boat around 6:30, and our captain Dave (filling in for Scott, who owned the boat but who was taking the day off for Father's Day), his son Max, and the mate Mark were ready to head out as soon as we got our stuff on board. There were four seats that you could fish from, the idea being that whoever caught one would get up and make room for the odd person out, and that way everyone would get plenty of chances to catch some fish. Mark rigged up five rods postioned arond the back of the boat and had us catching fish before we'd even left the channel that led out to see. Julie caught the first fish, a beautiful spanish mackeral with yellow spots, and Mark quickly unhooked it and threw it into the icebox for storage.

Now, I'm not a vegetarian, but I'm not a real big fan of killing things for no reason (I hate spiders worse than death, but when I see one creeping down the hall, I catch it and let it go outside rather than stepping on it), and I'm not really that unhappy about living in an age where we're relatively removed from the slaughtering process that puts meat on our tables. Still, I've always been a fan of a high school friend's philosophy about meat eating: she would eat fish and chicken because she would have no problem killing a fish or a chicken, but she wouldn't eat beef because she couldn't bring herself to kill a cow. If push comes to shove, and if it meant the difference between me eating and not eating, I'm pretty confident that I could bring myself to kill any of the animals whose meat I consume. I don't mean that callously—I hold life in high regard (although the Buddhists and vegetarians are probably cringing now), and killing them wouldn't come easy to me. But I could do it if that's what I had to do to survive. (What's weird is that, if someone broke into my home and was threatening me or my family, I would have no problem pointing a gun at them and pulling the trigger—I don't even have to give that a second thought—which means that I'm more confident about my ability to kill another human being than I am about animals. I don't really know what to make of this, except that someone who was invading my home and looking to harm me is cognizant of what they are doing and should know that they are risking death or injury by breaking society's laws and would therefore deserve whatever someone might dole out to them, whereas the only thing animals have done to "deserve" death is to be born and happen to taste good. But I digress.) I got many chance to test this on Sunday, because those fish don't just take a couple of lasts breaths and expire peacefully after you pull them out of the water: they flop around for three or four minutes, before going into their final death violent death spasms.

At first I was a little freaked out by it, almost afraid to look at the fish while they were still alive, and wincing every time one of them managed to slap their tail against the side of the icebox. But I was surprised at how quickly I got used to it; by the time we finished up around noon, I didn't even notice it anymore. As far as I was concerned, as soon as they bit that hook, they were dead, even if they didn't technically die until a few minutes later. I still had great appreciation for the fact that they were giving up their lives so that we could eat, but I do think I lost some of the empathy I had for them at the beginning of the trip.

We ended up with a pretty good haul, catching 39 fish total, 33 spanish mackeral and 6 bluefish. We cooked up quite a few for dinner that night, and froze the rest. I'm not a huge fan of fish, but the mackeral was pretty good, although it was so mild as to have almost no taste, and the blues were especially good—very mild and not at all fishy, but with a distinct taste that made it easy to differentiate from the mackeral.

After dinner, we played poker for a while and then headed to bed relatively early again. We were all exhausted from getting up so early and fishing for almost six hours, and I had to get up relatively early again to head out to the golf course with granddad. But it was well worth it—my granddad said it was the best Father's Day he can remember having, and it was really cool just to be out on the water, drifting and looking at the clouds and the sea.

6.20.03
I was going to write more today about our trip down to NC, but I got obsessed with finishing the new Harry Potter book so that I can have the dubious distinction of being one of what is probably a few thousand people who have read the book before its official publication date (well, that plus the fact that the book is pretty entertaining and is just as hard to put down as its predecessors). Just in case anyone doubts that I actually have the new book and have read it, here are some obscure but significant phrases that will make sense once you have read the book: Kreacher, Extendable Ears, The Inquisitorial Squad, number ninety-three Diagon Alley, the D.A., "I must not tell lies", the Quibbler, Legilimens, row ninety-seven, Grawp.

We're going to Pittsburgh this weekend, which means that by the end of June I should have quite a backlog of photos and some pretty decent new content as well (more stories from last weekend and presumably this upcoming weekend in addition to reviews of The Matrix: Reloaded and The Order of the Phoenix). But as usual, I'm going to put you off with promises for now.

6.23.03
We had a fun weekend in Pittsburgh: Pirates games, Fallingwater, and a family day visit to the convent where my 83 year old grandfather's 89 year old sister is a nun. But those stories will have to wait until after I've finished writing about last weekend in North Carolina...

6.23.03
On Monday (this is a week ago today now), we slept in a little, but I had to be up and ready to go by 10 because granddad had gotten us a tee time at one of the country clubs in Atlantic Beach. Tori was also supposed to be arriving by 10 and I was hoping to see her before I left. But even though I convinced granddad that we didn't need to leave until 10:30 (the course was only five minutes away, and our tee time wasn't until 11:15), she still hadn't shown up by the time we left.

As I suspected we would, granddad and I arrived way too early at the golf course and ended up sitting around in the pro shop for a while. A couple of times granddad asked if we might get on the course earlier than our tee time, but the staff member insisted that they were completely booked up until our tee time. Still, about half an hour before we were scheduled to start, we headed over to the first tee just to see if the starter could fit us in a little early. To our surprise, there was no starter, which is unusual for a place that is so strict about the start times. After watching a group of three take their first shots and then watching them clear the distance that we needed to take our first shots, without seeing anyone even beginning to head over to the tee box, we decided to just go ahead and take our turn, which is customary on courses without a formal starter.

It worked out fine. We were playing poorly enough that we never really caught up to the group in front of us, and whoever it was that was playing behind us never even got within a hole of us. Aside from the overwhelming humidity, it was a pretty nice outing. We though about playing 18, but the first 9 had taken a lot out of granddad (for the first time I can ever remember, he is starting to show his age a bit, although he's still more active, mentally and physicall, than a lot of people twenty years his junior).

When we returned to the condo after stopping for lunch at a fast food place, we found it deserted; my mom, Carrie, Julie, and Tori had all headed over to Beaufort for lunch and shopping, and granddad's wife Laryce had gone down to the pool to sit in the sun and read. But we couldn't have been back more than 15 minutes before Julie et al returned from their outing with a surprise: a copy of the new Harry Potter book, sold five days before its official release. Now, I had been trying not to get too excited by all the hype, because I knew that Julie and I would be in Pittsburgh the day the book was released and probably wouldn't even be able to purchase our copy until sometime the following week, and we probably wouldn't be able to finish it until several days after that. But now that I got it early, not only would I have it on the official release date, I would have been able to finish it, too. And luckily Julie and I didn't have to play tug of war with it: she was still in the midst of re-reading the fourth book, so for a few days, I could have the fifth book all to myself.

After I finished the first few chapters and everyone else recovered from shopping, we all went down and went swimming in the ocean. I swear, I could stay out there all day, bobbing in the water and swimming against the current to keep from getting pulled down to the other end of the beach. All five of us (everyone but granddad and Laryce) went in at first, but after two and a half hours, Tori, Julie, and I were the only ones left. I always know its time to come in when I start to get leg cramps, but we needed to head back up to the condo to get ready for dinner anyway.

We went to dinner at another fish restaurant, one that was much better than the Sanitary Fish Market that serves mostly fried foods and is so popular with the less experienced tourists. I got whatever the special was, blackened something or other (mahi mahi, maybe?), and it was really good. Between the fish we caught and the meal that night, I probably ate more fish than I've eaten in the last year (especially if you don't count fishsticks, which most people don't).

Even though a lot of us were dead tired (including me), we couldn't resist the temptation to go to Jungleland, one of the local bumper boat/mini golf/go kart mini-theme parks, and play a round of mini golf. I won with a 41, despite an extra two strokes I picked up thanks to a wayward child running across the hole on my shot. We were thinking about playing some air hockey in the arcade, but the older members of our party were starting to get seriously worn out, so we settled for a stop at Dairy Queen on the way home.

I wasn't any less tired than I had been before Jungleland, but since this was our last night here, I really wanted to take a walk on the beach. Normally when we go to the beach, we're able to spend at least three days where our primary activities are swimming in the ocean and walking up and down the beach. Julie and I had taken short walk the the afternoon after we got back from fishing, but other than that and the two hours we had spent in the water earlier in the day, we hadn't gotten to spend any time just relaxing outdoors (granted, golf was outdoors, and fishing was outdoors, but even though those were fairly relaxing, they were also structured activities). Tori joined us, and we probably spent an hour walking down to the closest pier and back. We took a small flashlight with us, and on the way back we were able to spot several ghost crabs scuttling in and out of the waves, including one fellow who was so mesmerized by the light that I was able to take several pictures of him (unfortunately, most of them came out blurry). I read a few more chapters of Harry Potter before turning off the light and finally allowing my body to rest after a long (but enjoyable) day.

The next day, Julie and I packed up our stuff and left around 10, hoping to get back home before rush hour in DC. I had briefly considered staying another day even though I was already completely booked up with meetings the next day just so I could have more time to walk and swim, but the driving, steady rain that was falling convinced me that we should leave when we had planned. The going was extremely slow thanks to the monsoon-like storm that seemed to be following us up the coast, but thanks to a new alternate route around DC that granddad told us about, we were still hopeful that we could avoid rush hour traffic.

6.24.03
I'm literally angry with rage.

6.24.03
The rain delayed us so much on the first part of our trip back home from NC that we decided we were definitely going to try the alternate route around DC that my grandfather had suggested, which involved getting off of the interstate near the King's Dominion amusement park and switching to a four lane highway. We knew it would take a little longer than going straight around the DC beltway if things weren't backed up there, but we also knew that between 4 and 6 on weekdays, traffic is always backed up there. Even with the extra miles on a lower speed limit road, we figured we would still get home sooner than we would trying to fight the rush hour traffic on the beltway.

At first it was very pleasant: a fairly straight four-lane highway that ran through some pretty country. It was still raining intermittently, and even when it wasn't actively precipitating the roads were still wet, but there wasn't much traffic and we were moving along at a pretty good clip. As we approached the Maryland state line, however, we began to see more and more small towns pop up that had reduced speed limits, stoplights, and congestion from shopping centers, etc. Often these would appear with little or no warning: one minute you would be cruising along in what looked like rural woodlands, and the next minute a town would appear, forcing you to readjust your speed and driving mentality.

Now, I tend to drive around five miles above the posted speed limit, and sometimes a little more than that if I fall in with a group of two or more other drivers who are willing to take point at a higher speed. On one of the longer stretches in between the small towns in Maryland, I found one of these groups, and I took the rear behind a red Toyota. We were driving along at a decent clip, but not really that much over the speed limit of 55 when all of a sudden stoplights started appearing on the outskirts of the next town. But they were all green, and they seemed to be synced up to our speed, so I didn't really give much thought to slowing down: the rest of my group was still keeping their pace, and there wasn't really much local traffic on the roads to cause problems.

As we approached one light, however, it turned yellow, and I had to quickly decide whether I could get through it safely or whether I should try to stop. Since I was going over 50 at the time, and we were fairly close to the light when it turn, and the guy in front of me in the red Toyota (who I thought had already passed the point of no return vis a vis crossing the intersection) had apparently decided to go, I figured I could make it through without too much risk of running a red light.

But then the red Toyota in front of me changed his mind at the last second. I don't know whether he hadn't been paying attention to the lights and was braking because he thought it was going to turn red sooner than it did, or whether he just panicked at the last second and lost his nerve, but at a point when I think most drivers would have bitten the bullet and made a run across the intersection, he slammed on his brakes and came screeching to a halt in front of me.

I was driving at what I really thought was a safe distance, and even though I was a little annoyed that the driver in front of me, who up until that point had seemed fairly aggressively, had bailed out on crossing the intersection, I really wasn't worried about stopping in time; it was more of an annoyance than anything else. I immediately pressed hard on my brakes, and on a normal day I'm sure that I would have glided to a halt behind him with a minimum of fuss. But the wet roads changed the situation: my anti-lock brakes came on, which was good in one way because they allowed me to maintain control of the car on the slick roadway, but bad because they also make the braking process much slower. We were coming in too fast, and I was certain we were going to slam into the back of the Toyota, not hard enough to hurt anyone, but certainly hard enough to ruin the front end of my car and the back of the Toyota.

We were in the left hand lane, and as I approached the intersection, another left hand turn lane opened up, but it was full of cars so I couldn't use it to swerve around the Toyota. I couldn't turn my and look to the right to see if that lane was clear, so I instinctively steered to the left of the Toyota, aiming for a far too small space between it and a gigantic white pickup truck that was waiting to turn left. In retrospect, it seems foolish: the best case scenario was that I would just hit the Toyota on the back or the side, and in the worst case I end up damaging both the truck and the Toyota. But it was a given that I was going to hit something.

Everything was moving in slow motion; I kept waiting and waiting for the hit. First we squeaked past the Toyota's bumper, and then we kept edging further and further up the gap between the two vehicles. When we eventually stopped, Julie and I looked around and were amazed to find that I hadn't touched either of the other two vehicles. None of the three cars had even a scratch. And there were only inches between us; neither Julie or I could have opened our doors even a crack if we had wanted to. Looking back on it now, I honestly don't think I could have done the same thing if I was slowing inching along at a couple of miles an hour, much less while trying to control a car moving 20 miles per hour on rainslicked pavement.

I don't know what else to call it but a miracle. And not a miracle in the sense that god was personally interested in preventing my car from getting scratched up and me having to pay higher insurance premiums for the next few years; I don't think he cares any more about stuff like that than he does about who wins all those sporting events that the victorious athletes are always thanking him for. What I mean is a miracle in the sense that your subconscious mind takes over and perceives things about the world that you could never see when you are trying to and manages to transmit that information to the body so that you can do incredible things. An adrenaline miracle; a miracle of the human mind and body.

Not to say that I'm not grateful to the big guy for giving me that mind and body, and not that I don't feel incredibly lucky that we emerged without any damage. I was surprisingly calm afterwards, and I didn't even feel the need to pull off to the side for a few minutes. I didn't really learn anything from the experience other than that I need to allow even more space between me and the next car than usual when the roads are wet, and that sometimes when you screw up, you just have to try your best to work your way out of it even when it seems like it's a no win situation. Because sometimes you get lucky.

6.25.03
Hmm...I think we all need to take a break from the travelogue stuff for a couple of days before I start back in on Pittsburgh, and I haven't yet finished any of the movie, book, or music reviews I've been working on. So I'll just leave you with this quote that Scott sent me in response to the post about my near-accident yesterday: It is better to be lucky than good.

6.25.03
On a related Scott note, it always cracks me up to get an email from him. See, he's an attorney, and at the bottom of every message he includes the following legalese:

This message is confidential and subject to attorney-client privilege. If you are not the intended recipient of this message, immediately delete it and contact the sender. Thank you.

I mean, I know he has to put that in his sig to insure that everything that is sent through his account is protected in case it gets misdirected or otherwise intercepted, but it's hilarious to see that warning in the context of him sending me a link or him telling me what a moron I am (he means it in the nicest way, really).


6.26.03
Ah, to be young again. And also a robot.

6.26.03
Still no content from me, so I guess I'll share some odds and ends from my recent emails.

First we have a link to my grandfather's wife's new web site that she had created to help her market her novel. No, this is not a joke.

Next we have a couple of images from Tori of an edible book she made for a class at Iowa (I think there are words printed on the lollipops, but you can't read them in these pictures):



These next images are from Tom from a rainy day spent driving around Charlottesville shooting birdwood trees through his windshield:



And finally, a photo the Bogdan (another contributor to the Circular Ruins project) sent in response to Tom's birdwood photos (no, I don't get it either):


6.27.03
I am not a big basketball fan, but I am endlessly fascinated by the Streetball show on ESPN.

6.27.03
Just over six months after reaching 4000 SETI@home units, I have passed the 5000 mark. Let's have a look at the stats:


5000 units—June 25, 2003


4000 units—January 18, 2003

I'm seeing some nice improvements—I've moved up in rank and in percentile, my average results received per day has gone up dramatically from 3.05 to 3.40, and my average CPU time per work unit has dropped by about 15 minutes. That's not too surprising, since I currently have more and faster machines doing my bidding than at any time in the past (three G4s—dual 1.1 GHz, dual 450 MHz, and single 400 MHz—and a 1.8 GHz Pentium 4). I estimate that I will be able to process another 5000 units in about 2 years (since I expect my processor army to swell in numbers and GHz in the next year), about half the time it took me to crunch my first 5000.


6.30.03
So the New Tom Green Show has been on the air for a week now, and I'm surprised to say that I'm a fan again. I loved the first season of shows he did for MTV years ago, back before he escorted Monica Lewinsky around town for a weekend, married Drew Barrymore, and just generally fell into that sucky Hollywood half-life the destroys so many promising careers. I was excited when I heard he was making a return to television (I have zero desire to ever see him in a film; his real talent lies in confronting people in a more or less live context, not getting 20 takes to get some half-assed joke right for the director), but I was a little skeptical about his ability to handle a full hour of television five nights a week; after all, he sometimes had trouble filling a half hour one night a week with his old show.

He's still not a great interviewer, but you could see some progress comparing Monday night's show to Friday's. One trick that I am especially fond of is him confronting celebrities about their phobias or OCD tendencies (Fred Durst has to take two sips from a cup; a rapper whose name I've forgotten was so terrified of owls that he even recoiled from a crudely drawn version of one); it makes them seem a little more human, a little more real, and it goes hand in hand with Tom exposing using his own eccentricities (or those of Glen Humplick, who returns as his sidekick) as a springboard for bits on the show.

The things we really loved about Tom Green when he first blipped his way onto our entertainment radar—his willingness to put himself into humiliating and sometimes dangerous situations, his endearing relationships with family and friends that must love him very much to put up with his on-air use of their lives for our entertainment, and his ability to say and do incredibly outrageous things with a straight face, and above all, his need for us, the audience, to like him, despite his nerdy band-geek awkwardness—are all still present in this show, although he's starting to look like more a grown up in his suit and tie and classically arranged talk show set. We love you again Tom, but remember how irritated and bored we all got when you let fame go to your head? Let's not have any more of that, please.
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