Saturday, December 30, 2006

Now that's Bogus


Great weather above the inversion.
One great day of many spent enjoying local ski hill, Bogus Basin.

It's a silly name for sure, but certainly it's the best $200 I spend every year.

View Photoset

Blizzard Redux

Flying home. Time for another snowstorm in Denver!

Flights ahead and behind me were canceled. They pushed me forward to an earlier flight to Denver and I just managed to barely slide through with only an hour delayed arrival on the other end.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Love Actually

I love airports, especially around the holidays. Love actually is all around us.

Very happy to see me late on Christmas Eve


I love these two. They taught me the meaning of love and after over 30 years, they're still in love, actually.

They dance to At Last by Etta James every time it plays

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Bumping Christmas

Christmas Eve I got up early and made sure I was at the airport two hours early. Though I had no way of knowing how, I had a sneaking suspicion United Airlines wasn’t done complicating my life. I checked in for my flight two hours early, slid through security with no complications and even got to the gate without issue. A few minutes later the gate agent called my name. You, Mr. Thomas are being “involuntarily bumped!”

Involuntary bumping I learned does not involve pelvic motion, but instead exciting route selection:

You thought you were headed east?
Wrong! You’re going to Portland.
You thought your flight was to BWI?
Wrong! We’re routing you through National.
You thought you’d be at Christmas Eve dinner with family and friends?
Wrong! You’ll be lucky to get in before Santa arrives.
I handled that with pretty good spirits considering, but I was puzzled over my ticket:

It contained a few more surprises!
  • Note how long that flight is from Portland to National? No, I'm not flying on a turbo-prop across the continent. No! I'm enjoying an unadvertised stop in Los Angeles! And for added fun they were letting passengers in Boise who were going to LAX via Portland to change flights and fly directly, however I wasn't told I'd be visiting LAX on Christmas Eve, so I got to go the long way and cram a second breakfast down my throat in Portland thinking it'd be my only meal of the day except...
  • See that knife and fork on my ticket? It means, apparently, that cutlery is available, because there wasn’t any stinking meal.
The only good to come of this saga was a free airline ticket in the contiguous states via United for the pleasure of the bump.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Robo-Hosed

I realize that talking to irate customers is not the most attractive job, but the executive who approved the use of the United Airlines Robo-Prompter really should be reassigned. Customer Service would be a good starting point.

For the last eight hours I have been calling the United Airlines robo-prompter. I endure a minute of banter, struggle through getting the robo-ear to decipher a few simple responses and then it hangs up on me. There's more than a little room for improvement:

  • If you tell me you are going to transfer me, transfer me. Don't hang up on me. This is upsetting.
  • Don't make me listen to the same minute-long introduction every time I call. It adds to my stress.
  • If the lines are so flooded that you are going to hang up on me after three minutes of prompting, don't even answer the phone. Do you have any idea how annoying it is to spend one minute listening to your adverts and bulletins, then two more answering questions only to be hung up on?
  • I understand text recognition is hip, but if you are going to use it, make it work. The letter "L" and "P" don't remotely sound similar. If your robo-ear isn't good enough to differentiate the two, maybe you should try employing a human.
  • When I do finally get a human they should not under any circumstances ask me the same question I just struggled to get the robo-prompter to answer.
  • If I ask for an operator give me one, or don't give me the option.
I wasn't really annoyed when your Denver hub closed for a blizzard. That makes perfect sense. But when I have to spend an entire day when I was supposed to be traveling and I could have been getting paid, instead being robo-hosed, it's more than a bit upsetting.

Thankfully, Shel came up with the idea to switch languages and found a real person on the Spanish Customer Support (who was even bilingual). I'll arrive at my parents' house the evening on the 24th, four days later than I planned. If I'd waited for an operator on the English Customer Support I'd still be calling and definitely arriving after Santa Claus.

¡Si Shel no hubiera llamado en español, me hubiese jodido!

Front Page News

Leaving the airport a little dejected after my flight cancellation, I was surprised to happen upon my handiwork gracing the front page of the Statesman. Damn skippy.

Sorry about the image quality, my camera was still wet... I'll have to take a picture of a copy of the paper I have at home.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Photo Safari Update


Sadly, this was the best picture of the day, a
camouflaged mullet combination contemplating
an air-hockey table purchase in sporting goods.
I tried my hand at the Wal-Mart Photo Safari on Sunday. The challenge was shockingly harder than I expected. You just can't raise a digital camera to your face and take pictures of the clientèle. It requires far more crafty methods. The camera phone proved to be the only practical method for image capture, and even then flash was out of the question.

The customers too proved to be, though unique, difficult to categorize. At least in my local Wal-Mart whole categories such as whaletail, bra straps, cut offs and other flesh-revealing groupings were not represented. There were some fabulous individuals however sporting skullettes, amazing bow-leggedness and most likely to be killed by their own father for coming out. Definitely if we do this again it will be open categories. Best five photos, self-labeled.

I really struggled. There was a great muffintop which I just couldn't get a good photo of without being snapped in half by her muscled boyfriend, a fabulous camouflaged Wal-Mart employee who defied documentation due to poor fluorescent lighting in the bike aisle and I was nearly busted by a store employee while attempting capture of a mullet in the dairy aisle.
All told it's amazing I didn't get escorted out of the store.

Doggone It!

You live somewhere for three years and you think you have a pretty good feel for the place. But no.

The foothills are right there. They've been there, I look at them everyday. Yet I haven't taken the time to explore them. Shel took me mountain biking and hiking in the foothills this weekend. It's like a big people fun park! And right in my backyard. What the heck was I doing at Home Depot all these Saturdays?

Kootenai's and Desi's stupid smiles sum it up pretty well.

Why I Should Hit Girls

I really need to start hitting girls. Guys I have no problem dropping, but for some reason I shy away from dropping girls. I paid for that last night for the last time.

Three identical situations. The first two were guys on breakaways. I met them on the top of the key and just collided full speed. I won both balls. Yet when the ball was passed to a girl and came out to meet her, I laid off just a little bit. So when we collided the ball kind of hovered between us, she raised her leg to volley it, I dove to get my hands around it and she kicked it right through my hands.

In our co-ed league a girl's goal is worth two points. Out of the goal second half I didn't manage to score, so that play cost us the tie and the win. We did only lose 5-4 to a team that beat us 7-2 in our first game. We're getting better. Now if the goalkeeper would just stop playing like a girl we'd be set.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

It's the Simple Things

There are simple joys in life:

  • sex
  • food
  • beer
  • warm showers
  • ear wax removal
And sometimes you combine them, but we'll leave that for another post.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Strong Arm of the Law

So I was headed home from The Bouquet after the Clumsy Lovers show. I'd had a few, but I'd danced all night and was far from inebriated. Just as I was turning onto my street, blue and red lights illuminated everything around me. I pulled over. I was laughing before he even got out of the car.

The officer came forward and started asking questions:
Officer: Where are you coming from?
Me: Downtown, Sir.
Officer: Are you coming from the bars or do you work downtown?
Me: Both.
Officer: Do you have any idea why I pulled you over?
Me: Not especially, but if we're going to sit and have a conversation, why don't you come inside my house and we can make ourselves comfortable (it was about 12 degrees outside)?
Officer: Why do you live near here?
Me: Sir, that's my house three doors down you're illuminating with your lights.
Officer: That won't be necessary. How long have you lived here?
Me: Three years.
Officer: Did you know you need a light on your bike at night?
Me: Now I do.

He then ran my license, issued me a verbal warning for not having a light (he did tell me a headlamp was ok, so I don't have to go buy a light) and let me go. He was actually very nice considering he had to deal with my bemused smile through the whole ordeal, but the situation amused me immensely.

It's not everyday you get pulled over. It's not everyday you get pulled over in front of your house. And it's certainly not everyday you get pulled over on a bicycle. Combine all three and there I am sitting on my bike bathed in spotlights with red and blue lights flashing off my neighbor's houses while they peek out their windows at me. Smile and nod, smile and nod.

Friday, December 15, 2006

One Good Idea

I'm still looking for that one good idea. I know it's ruminating around in my brain just waiting to come out so I can retire and work full-time doing good in the world.
(DISCLOSURE: My jobs are far from evil, in fact I genuinely believe I am doing good in the world through my occupations, but I could do more)

Post It Notes, Chia Pets, Roomba... these ideas kill me. Especially the later, I had this idea when I was 8 years old. I just didn't know how to engineer or bring it to the marketplace.

Whenever an everyday event annoys me, even a little I try to look for new ideas or ways to deal with it. Unfortunately, thanks to Google I usually learn someone else has already thought of it.

For example, my next house will have two large dishwashers and no cupboards. Why put dishes away when they can just move from the clean to the dirty dishwasher?

And as good ideas go this one takes the cake.

Season Shot - Ammo with flavor. Shoot your bird and it is already infused with seasoning. No picking shot out, no crunching your teeth on steel pellets, no lead in the environment. Pick your seasoning, shoot your bird, chuck in the oven. Pure brilliance.

How to Peel a Banana

If you're like me you grew up opening bananas just like this picture. You'd grasp the stem and pull back, sometimes digging your thumb in to assist cleaving the stem from the fruit.

And you'd be wrong.

How should you open a banana?

This is the question I just posed to my officemates, none of which were aware of the simple solution monkeys know:

  1. Flip the banana around so that you're holding the stem of the banana. (The stem being the growth that connects with other bananas to form a bunch.)
  2. Start the peel at the end that's facing up, doing a pinch-and-tug to get the peel off.
  3. Peel it on down. It should peel just right.
The monkey method has several advantages:
  • It does not smash the top of the banana
  • There is a handy stem to hold onto while you eat
  • You get far less of the stringy fibers to remove
This revelation certainly leads one to question this thesis about the banana:



Whether God begot the banana is irrelevant, the humor for me lies in the fact that the demonstration of God's perfection contains an imperfection that would make a monkey howl.

Didn't Charles Darwin suggest monkeys were the origin of our species? Why don't we inherently know how to open a banana?

Ben Franklin said, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." Maybe it is that simple. Because there's one more benefit to the banana our apostle forgot: humor.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hook Day

Michael and I hooked work today to ski at Anthony. The Stupid Dingo was delighted with these plans. She loves water in all its forms, especially snow. Michael loves snow, including in the form of a woman. And who am I to argue? I love all these things.

The snow was a little wet for Anthony, but it didn't keep us from enjoying ourselves.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Passion

I limped into the work again today. By now this is no surprise to my coworkers who simply smirk and ask, “How’d the game go? Did you win?” I reply with the same bemused smile they’ve come to expect and begin regaling the latest saga.

No position is more fun than goalie. Well, the way I play, goalie isn’t really an accurate descriptor; it’s more like a goalie/sweeper. It is all instinct; hesitate for a moment and you’re beaten. Pure passion, aggression and gobs of cockiness with no thought of the consequences. It doesn’t matter if you are going to collide full speed, it doesn’t matter if you’re putting your head between an opposing player’s foot and the ball. The only thinking, if you can call it that, is the knowledge that the ball is in your box and it belongs to you and not on their foot or the back of net.

Up until last weekend, it had been 15 years since I last played keeper. While I didn’t shut the other team down like last week I made a few brilliant saves, stole the ball off a number of attackers way out on the red line, and even got one shot on goal (as keeper).

The second half, our regular keeper arrived, and I managed two quick goals (one a double nutmeg of defender and keeper) before enjoying a forced retirement to, you guessed it, sweeper.

You feel so alive on the field it brought to mind a conversation I had with a friend recently returned from Latin America. Upon returning to the North, what struck her were not American conveniences or even our infamous rudeness, but the lack of passion, the distance and the hesitation. Abroad, life and death were tangible. The people could only respond by living passionately for the moment.

Soccer, when played with intensity is pure passion. It was not until we were raising pints in celebration after our victory that I realized my knee made grinding noises when I bent it and my pinky wasn’t functioning properly.

But, running the risk of mistaking fútbol for football, the immortal words of Shane Falco still apply, even in our 27th Division Co-Ed Indoor League, “Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory... lasts forever.”

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Great Wal-Mart Photo Safari

We all know I hate Wal-Mart, but it does have its uses, one of which is to serve as a winter time destination for Carney-folk once the summer fairs have departed. If you're like me you also are getting a little stir-crazy this time of year. Not enough snow to ski, too wet to bike... fear not my friends!

Grab your digital camara and mobile phone, it's time for the 1st Annual Wal-Mart Photo Safari!

With the aisles full of holiday shoppers, now is the time to document the diversity that graces your local Wal-Mart!

The rules are simple.
You must find and document as many items on the list as possible on Saturday December 16th between 2 and 5PM local time during a consecutive 3 hour period between Friday December 15th at 12:01PM MST and Saturday December 16th 23rd at 11:59PM MST. All photos must be taken at the same Wal-Mart Store. Photos may not be posed or self-portraits. You may work alone or in pairs. All entries must be received before 12:00AM Sunday December 17th 24th (reply to this post if you would like to participate). Entries will be judged on Sunday December 17th 24th and the winners posted on this blog. Awards will be bestowed for best in category, best of show, and winner and runner-up for best photo album. All judging will be highly subjective. Entries must include a team picture (or avatar) and a picture and address of the Wal-Mart visited.
NOTE: Due to several requests the contest has been expanded to span one week.

The Bag List (subject to change up until noon Friday)

  • mullet
  • mushroom top (muffin top)
  • whaletail
  • plumber's crack
  • multi-generational (extra points for tightest grouping)
  • camouflage
  • cut offs
  • rat tail
  • creative use of duct tape
  • most repulsive body hair
  • public orifice cleaning
  • most surface area covered in sweat material
  • seasonal display
  • bra strap display
  • kid on a leash
  • public display of affection
  • public spanking
  • largest beverage container (held by customer)
  • lowest riding pants New!
  • most bling New!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Lost Cause


12/05/2005 2PM Downtown Boise, Idaho

As my co-worker so artfully summarized,
Sounds like a good group of folks whose hearts are in the right place, but they might be doing as much for the sport as Ted Nugent.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bloodletting

Our resident vampire at work guilted me into giving blood this morning.

I knew it was mistake. A body fed a steady diet of coffee and beer mixed with exercise is not designed for bloodletting. Generally I have trouble filling the bag before time expires. Today my blood didn't even make it to the bag before they had to start digging the needle around in my arm. After 20 minutes the bag was only about a quarter full despite my steady squeezing of the stress ball provided. Not soon thereafter it clotted completely inside the needle (the phlebotomist showed it to me).

This all resulted in a lengthy lecture from the phlebotomist on the importance of hydrating your system for blood donations and circulatory health. Apparently 2 pots of coffee a day is not sufficient to hydrate.

Four pints of water later I'm visiting the bathroom at 15 minute intervals. I think this is an improvement. At least walking to the bathroom so often adverts deep leg thrombosis.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cold Snap

It was 16 degrees this morning. When I tried to open my door the handle snapped. Later, a friend called me to jump her car and the wires on my cheap car safety kit jumper cables smoked and melted free from all four clamps. I arrived home to a note from my neighbor informing me I had been irrigating my roof after the shutoff valve for my sprinkler system froze and split resulting in an attractive geyser.

I was already laughing, I had to laugh harder. Perhaps a bit maniacally, but I was laughing. What else can you do?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Home Again


Boise Train Depot at daybreak.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Success By the 6 P's

Without doubt this was my best trip east, at least for my parents and my relationship, since I moved back west to Idaho more than three years previous.

It required strategy.

The problem I face with both my family and my friends is time. Invariably I short change one or more of my friends and I always leave my mother feeling jilted.

This trip I took a different tact. Instead of emailing my mother my flight schedule the second I purchased it, I emailed her an itinerary of our time together. The main problem is one of expectation. Once she sees I will be home from a-z, she plans out every moment between the two and when I schedule time with friends from c-g and m-t she feel short changed. So this time she didn't even see my flight schedule until she begged for it, and in the process she learned she had an additional evening with me on my arrival date. Once on the east coast, she discovered she had another part of a day with me. It may sound small, but this peace is huge. This is the first trip I didn't spend half the vacation stressed out trying to appease everyone and failing miserably.

One negative to this plan is I had several very tempting offers to hang out with friends I couldn't accommodate because they violated the pact we had already established. It stunk to tell my friends no, but in the end I think it was worth it.

I am such a spur of the moment fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of person it is almost unfortunate this succeeded.

I am already in trouble for my trip home for Christmas. My mother knows my flight times and I haven't scheduled one visit with friends yet. This could be bad.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Privatization of the Commons

I was both appalled and delighted five years ago when "The Avenue" opened in White Marsh, Maryland. It is everything that was great about early 20th century small town America, packaged up by big box stores and dropped onto a sea of asphalt like a parked starship. But it also represents acknowledgment of what is needed in America.

It is not a smattering of box stores, it is not a strip mall, it is not even a mall, but instead an artificial public space built on a human scale with mixed uses. If you stand in the right spot and don't notice the acres of asphalt stretching into the distance you just might mistake your reality for a place of substance. But there is no five and dime, and certainly no one is going to know your name at the corner pub.

This is a good step forward and I want to embrace it. But then I start thinking more about what we are doing in packaging what was public space. Make no mistake; this is not Main Street America. This is no more Main Street than the 7/8th model Walt built. You can't picket, parade or protest in this space. This is private property.

The Avenue is no longer alone. This trip I discovered a richer "Town Centre" in what was once Hunt Valley Mall (and a vast improvement on the original). Yes, there is still a large parking lot, but it is no longer simply a redesigned shopping experience. The "street" aligning the shops sits at the end of a light rail line that runs to Baltimore and nearly respects the existing street pattern of the community. The development contains many retail stores, but also a bevy of restaurants, bars, a large supermarket, a department store, and a megaplex.

Harford Mall is currently receiving a similar, alas much smaller make-over.

Maybe there is hope for good design. At least for upper middle class white Anglo-Saxon Protestants who are happy with the status quo to enjoy. Maybe with time we'll even start building our businesses on public street fronts again without the need for stadium-sized parking lots.

Heck, college students are now coming up from Baltimore to go to the bars in Bel Air. When I was young the biggest thing happening in Bel Air was the Rock Spring McDonald's.

Lost in Place

One thing I abhor about coming home is change. The Harford County of my youth is gone.

In my youth there were cows in downtown Bel Air. That field is now a Chili's, Taco Bell and strip mall. And for Bel Air today that's an old development.

There are whole communities built and inhabited between my visits.

Just recently it started creeping toward my parent's house. Mini-mansions are popping up like dandelions. My favorite gravel roads are paved, woods flattened and creeks culvertized. It depresses me.

When will we find a way to develop in synergy with the land? Ian McHarg did a fairly good job directing growth in Baltimore County. Suburban expansion was restricted to clusters around urban cores which encouraged mixed use (with limited success). The rural areas however became outlets for the rich and gentrified estates quickly replaced family farms.

We need smarter people working on building livable communities. Without strong leadership from Planning Boards we'll get the same cookie cutter subdivisions and strip malls. Anymore I'm not certain if I'm in Peoria, Columbus or Abingdon. Everywhere I find the same characterless boxes.

I'm convinced it can be done well. I've seen it.

The answers lie in mixed use development of urban cores, strong value placed on rural agricultural production and high speed efficient mixed-mode transportation networks.

Of course none of this will happen until we break off our love affair with the automobile. When will that happen? When gasoline and highways charge their true cost. Federal underwriting of the two results in the Mickey Mouse development we currently endure:

  • Subdivisions without sidewalks, or worse yet sidewalks that lead nowhere.
  • Box stores standing like islands in a sea of asphalt
  • Stop lights every 100 yards on multilane "highways"
  • Neighborhoods where garages are all that address the street, and all neighbors know of their neighbors are the makes and model of their automobile.

We know good design when we see it. In fact, we flock to communities built on a human scale. Heard of Disneyland? Not only is Main Street follow a nostalgic archetype, it's built at 7/8th scale. A human dimension.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cheap Chicken

I've been having a great time visiting this week. With a little time, it's easy to forget just how many great friends you have made in past lives. Spending a week back home it is so utterly delightful to fall back into these friendships like no time has passed. Almost enough to make me want to move back.

Then I got stuck in traffic. At 1:30 in the morning. Ah, Delaware.

Back when I was debating whether to leave my old job in Delaware and move to Idaho I did pro-con analysis. Idaho had great skiing, wilderness, hot springs, a laid-back lifestyle, promised the ability to bike to work, a job that truly was doing some good in the world, less stress and more time. And on the other hand Delaware had cheap chicken.

I left one off though... some really, really, great people.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

State College


Road Trip + Algiers Reunion + ABC + Ratchet + Tailgate + Justice of the Peace + Beanbags + Flip Cup + Drinko + OG in Beaver + Naptime + Lucky + Pong + Gaff + Rail Grind + Dance, Dance, Reach-Around = Good Times.

 >> Now I have to make a Griz Bean Bag Game. That's quality.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Stupid Business Models

I'm visiting my parents this week and they only have dial up. No problem I figured, just head into town find a nice cafe and work from there on their wireless. Wrong.

I try my best to avoid corporate food and coffee. So first I tried four or five different local cafes, none of them had wireless. By this point I am frustrated and wardriving around town to corporate coffee, bagel and bookstores. At all of them I discovered fee walls.

This makes no sense. Wireless is a value-added thing. Like heat, comfy chairs, or good music it draws people in and gets them to spend more time in your establishment. You don't pay for wireless.

It became a principle thing. I have no problem dropping a good tip for letting me sit there for a while, but I am not going to pay by the minute for wireless.

Frustrated, I walked into a Starbucks/Barnes and Noble and asked them directly, "Who do I have to sleep with to get online?" The barista handing out samples looked at me very confused and asked me to repeat the question, so I did more plainly, "I see you are charging to get online. If I go up to the counter and pay $4.79 for a $1.00 coffee will you give me the password to get online?" No was the best she could do for me. So I drank the free sample she whored me and left.

After another thirty minutes I stumbled upon the aptly named "Open Door Cafe" and free wireless. Three hours and a four coffee refills later I asked for my bill, it came to $1.20. I left her a five.

If you need to get online in Bel Air, MD here's the spot: http://www.open-door-cafe.com/

Thy Despot's Heal is on Thy Shore

I'm visiting my home state of Maryland this week, and I have to say we have by far the best flag in the union. I'd long known it to be the combination of the Maryland founder's crests, but it wasn't until this afternoon that I stumbled across the rest of the story.

As it turns out our state flag, like our state song (a rehashing of O' Tannenbaum or as my Uncle sings, "Oh, Maryland, Oh Maryland, how lovely are thy branches") harkens back to the days when Maryland was forcibly held in the Union. I could tell the tale in detail, but I think the state song does it far more colorfully in, "Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!"



Maryland My Maryland
Written by James Ryder Randall

The despot's heel is on thy shore,
Maryland, My Maryland!
His torch is at thy temple door,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Hark to an exiled son's appeal,
Maryland, My Maryland!
My Mother State! to thee I kneel,
Maryland, My Maryland!
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird they beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Remember Carroll's sacred trust,
Remember Howard's warlike thrust,-
And all they slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Come! 'tis the red dawn of the day,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Come with thy panoplied array,
Maryland, My Maryland!
With Ringgold's spirit for the fray,
With Watson's blood at Monterey,
With fearless Lowe and dashing May,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Come! for thy shield is bright and strong,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Come! to thine own heroic throng,
Stalking with Liberty along,
And cgive a new Key to thy song,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Dear Mother! burst the tyrant's chain,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Virginia should not call in vain!
Maryland, My Maryland!
She meets her sisters on the plain-
"Sic semper!" 'tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back amain,
Maryland! My Maryland!

I see the blush upon thy cheek,
Maryland, My Maryland!
For thou wast ever bravely meek,
Maryland, My Maryland!
But lo! There surges forth a shriek
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thou wilt not yield the vandal toll,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Thou wilt not crook to his control,
Maryland, My Maryland!
Better the fire upon thee roll,
Better the blade, the shot, the bowl,
Than crucifixion of the soul,
Maryland! My Maryland!

I hear the distant thunder-hum,
Maryland, My Maryland!
The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
Maryland, My Maryland!
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she'll come! she'll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!



The flag is in fact a post-civil war compromise between the Calvert yellow and black which came to symbolize union stewardship over Maryland, and the red and white cross bottony which was worn by Maryland Confederate troops at a time when red and white were synonymous with Confederate sympathies. In fact, the original Crossland Crest is a red and silver cross bottony, not red and white.

This flag made it's first appearance in 1888, when the Maryland National Guard carried it at the dedication ceremonies for the Maryland monument at the Gettysburg Battlefield. The Fifth Regiment adopted it shortly thereafter.

From the Maryland State Department:
The adoption of this new flag by the Fifth Regiment helped popularize the design. The Fifth was the largest component of Maryland's military after 1870, and it played a conspicuous part in major public events both in and out of the state. Organized in May 1867, the Fifth Regiment was the successor organization to the Old Maryland Guard, a military unit formed in Baltimore in 1859 that dissolved when most of its officers and men went south in 1861 to join the Confederate Army. More

Capture the Flag

Now that progressives have retaken the legislature, can I have my country back?


O'say does that Star-spangled banner
yet wave o'er Fort McHenry
Five years ago I was late leaving for work, the TV was on. My girlfriend at the time came running down the hall screaming, she knew friends in New York. I was living in Delaware, which many of you may not be aware is the financial back office for most of Manhattan's banks. I had many friends working in DC, a couple in defense agencies. I'm not that old. The cold war was scary, but I'd never seen my country attacked.

In the end, no one I knew directly died in the attacks, but I had friends and co-workers who lost family members and friends.

I can't describe the feeling. I'm not especially nationalistic... but for about a month I seriously considered signing up for one of the government intelligence agencies (with my skills in GIS and remote sensing it is where I'd do the most good). We had the world's good will behind us. And then I watched as the neo-cons took all that political capital and burned it and all our nation stood for... they might as well have burned the flag. Oh, the irony.

When I was young, America was the beacon of hope, democracy and justice in the world. It was where oppressed citizens of corrupt governments around the world dreamed of going. I am only a generation or two removed from immigration. My grandparents were filled with pride to be Americans. When I was tracing my ancestry, I remember hitting a brick wall with my great-grandfather who would only provide, "If I liked it so much I wouldn't have left."

He was proud to be an American. And so was I. I want that back.



I wouldn't hesitate to die for the ideals of this nation... if only we still stood for them.

A few years ago when I went abroad I concealed the fact that I was American. Outrageously, I've heard some Americans even sewed Canadian flags to their packs. When asked, I'd clearly state I was an American, but I'd follow it up with "I'm sorry my President is an idiot, I didn't vote for him." That same sentence I had a on a business card in four languages. Amazingly, I was welcomed. Universally I was told, "I love Americans, I just despise your leader. Are Americans really that stupid to vote for him? Or where your elections just hijacked." Oddly, Europeans are better informed on US election fraud than Americans.

In the land of "freedom fries" are we smart enough to make the distinction between a country's leader and policy and their citizens?



We aren't exporting democracy to Iraq. To quote GW, "We're exporting war." And we're exporting capitalism. Don't confuse capitalism with democracy. A free market does not necessarily bring justice and liberty.

We have a window, I'd even argue progressives have a mandate.

I want my country back. Let's capture the flag.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What I Learned in my Crawlspace

I was innocently doing laundry Saturday morning when I first noticed the smell. At first I just thought Kootenai had a bad case of gas (she can clear a room quick on a good day). But then it didn't go away.

Entering my front bathroom I discovered excrement had filled my bathtub. The shower down the hall enjoyed the same fate. Delightful.

Some spelunking in the crawlspace led to the discovery of a wet spot in middle of the newest addition. Some pulaski digging under constrained conditions quickly yielded a nest of roots, a half dozen of which had a circumference that surpassed the thick end of a baseball bat some 15' from the nearest foundation wall. This is not good.

As it turned out when they built the last addition in the 1970s they decided to forgo any kind of coupler and just butted the new plastic pipe up to the old cement sewer line. Naturally, the trees were big fans of this year-round nutrient and water source.

But why stay just on the outside of the pipe when you can slip your way in and access solid material as well? And there was my problem.

Digging out the pipe and disconnecting it revealed a 12' long solid section of tree roots saturated in excrement. Now that's delightful. Especially delightful when removing this clog lets loose all the material behind it. And even more delightful when you realize the ramifications. You get to carry two gallon bucket after two gallon bucket of feces through an obstacle course of wires, pipes and cement walls to the backyard. At times the passage is less than 18" high. That's the way to spend a Saturday.

Of course no plumbing problem is ever simple, so naturally I had to wait until Monday for indoor plumbing since the connection from plastic to cement pipes requires a custom fitting that only the special plumbing supply store carries.



Top Ten Things I Learned From This Job

10.) A great appreciation for indoor plumbing.

9.) A modified bleach bottle makes a really good pooper scooper.

8.) Trees really, really like a constant supply of moisture and nutrients.

7.) Dogs and buckets of feces don't mix.

6.) My gag reflex is even better than I thought.

5.) Excrement turns black in sewer pipes (why would that be?)

4.) Exactly what happens when I flush the toilet or wash dishes.

3.) If you have to fix a sewer pipe, at least make sure you know the person intimately, for if not, you soon will.

2.) Who are my friends (after I asked to use their shower.)

1.) Why an exposed crack doesn't bother plumbers in the grand scheme of things.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Idaho Election 2006 as Ratios

After thinking about these maps last night, I realized though accurate the maps I made (see Mapping Idaho's Election 2006) were completely misleading. If by winning a county the candidate received all the electoral votes in that county (like states in national elections) the maps I made would have been appropriate, however that is not how statewide elections are tallied. Instead it is total vote count across the entire state (or district in the case of the US Representatives).

Exhibit Two: Maps by Sum, Proportion and Vote Differential
         I also improved the layout and quality a bit









Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mapping Idaho's Election 2006


UPDATE November 10, 2006: I have made vast improvement to the quality and clarity of these maps, see Idaho Election 2006 as Ratios.


I just slapped these maps together using unofficial totals available on the Idaho Secretary of State's website.

The results for the Superintendent of Public Instruction and Proposition 1 are particularly interesting. Apparently, liberals, college students, Mormons and socialists were the key supporters of both Jana Jones and Proposition 1.

If you'd like to see the results of any of the other races let me know.

(select a map to view full-size)