Thursday, September 30, 2010


Diana was out walking the mutt this evening just before I got home from work, and came across yellowjackets, with about forty stings. So we took a quick trip to the hospital ER. No allergic reactions, just painful stings; an IV with antihistamine and steroids seems to have taken care of most of it, at least for now.

Peruvian alfajores

My company's International Business rep put on a Peruvian lunch caterd by Don Gallo. I didn't actually make it to the lunch but I did snag an alfajor, which in this case was a sandwich of two almond cookies with something like dulche de leche in the middle, covered by powdered sugar.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Habitable planet

Gliese 581g, a planet around a red dwarf star about 20 light years away, appears to be in the habitable zone around its star. The planet itself isn't necessarily habitable--it's probably tidally locked, which means that one side is always facing its sun (and thus hotter) and the other facing away (and may be frozen). There may be an area between the Hot side and the Cold side which is actually habitable; there may not. But right now we live in places as diverse as the Arctic, the Amazon, the Gobi Desert and Polynesia. Maybe we could live on Gliese 581g as well. And if there's one more habitable planet, maybe there's more than one!


September 29th is the Feast of St Michael

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mom to Zambia

Mom has left to join Dad in Zambia for a couple of months. It's a two day trip, with a layover in London.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Stephen Colbert was called to Congress to testify, in character, about immigration policy. It somehow seems appropriate that this Administration would choose to get Congressional testimony from a fictional character.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sound check

I was helping set up the sound equipment at church, and we needed a sound check on one of the mikes. So I picked it up and said "Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe. All mimsy were the borogroves, and the mome raths outgrabe." 
And Charlie Pittman said "I see now why Josh got that way."

AAR: Last Survivor of the Nile

Josh and I will each be participating in Close Action games near the Trafalgar anniversary, so we decided to put some ships on a map and have at it--what better way to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day? ("Rum and a buxom wench, yarrrr!")(Hush!) Two French ships escaped the Battle of the Nile (a.k.a. Aboukir Bay); one, Guillaume Tell, 80, made it to Malta, and then tried to break out past a British blockade. The scenario starts with the French ship of the line closely tailed by the British frigate Penelope; off in the distance, but gaining, are Lion, 64, and Foudroyant, 80. The frigate has to play picador to the French bull, slowing it without getting hit too hard. We played twice, with me as the French both times.
In the first playing, the frigate wasn't cautious enough and I caught it with a couple of good broadsides at close range; she lost a mast and couldn't keep up with me, and I had enough of a lead that the two British heavies couldn't catch up. Guillaume Tell sailed off to the open sea and a successful escape.
In the second, the frigate first beat upwind, opening the range; then it swept in behind me, getting  two stern rakes which did major damage to my rigging and cut my speed in half. The Guillaume Tell was still sound, just slow, but I couldn't get enough broadsides on the frigate to cripple it before the reinforcements swept up. I bowed to the inevitable and struck my colors.

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Two unidentified pirates, arrrrrrrh!
Avast, ye scurvy dog! Why do so many pirates have earrings?
Shiver me timbers, they're cheap--a buck an ear!

"Me mast! Ye bilge rats, where's me mast?"
"What happened to your mast?"
"It's mizzen!"

"Avast, ye scallywag! Out with yer cutlass! Have at ye!"
"But I'm not a fighter, I'm a lubber!"

"What makes a pirate?"
"Ye just aarrrrrrh!"


Where there's an airshow at Oceana Naval Air Station, you can't sleep too late. The Blue Angels roaring by overhead make sure of that--and it feels like they're right overhead, like "I can stand on the balcony and hand them a cup of coffee as they go by". It doesn't just drown out conversation, it shakes the house. The coolest thing I saw today, though, was an F22 which went vertical and then just hung there in midair until the pilot got good and ready to let the nose back down.

Put together a new bookcase that Diana got from Ikea for the living room. I actively dislike adding more stuff to the house, but it's hard to say "no" to a bookcase which will, at a minimum, be a place to put excess stuff which would otherwise be on the coffee table.

We've had a plague of pantry moths, so this morning's tedious-but-necessary project was cleaning out the pantry, throwing away the oatmeal, flour, pasta, cereal, and other carbs, then wiping down all surfaces with bleach. I also applied peppermint oil, just to discourage any survivors.

Went to the Norfolk Book Fair. Think of a very small local-interest bookstore with limited stock, set up under tents in Waterside Park, with about twenty authors available for signings. Think of it as being in downtown Norfolk, with no parking except in the city garages (that's $5, please), and next to Waterside, which should be filled with retail shops and bustling with activity, but instead looked deserted. If you have a special interest in local authors, I suppose it might have made sense to go there; otherwise not. It was a pleasant day to be in the park, though, and watch the fountains, get a little sun, and see a schooner heading out to the Bay.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Went to Azar's for Greek food. The lamb pizza was pretty heavily spiced, and tasted more of cinnamon than lamb; I don't think it needed the tzatziki sauce. I don't recall having stuffed grape leaves before; the main taste there is a bit of vinegar. The hummus and pita bread is good, and the sesame honey brittle candy is very good.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Funeral rights

When I die, cremate the body and put the ashes in a vase. I think I've urned it.

Battle of Gibraltar

At the Battle of Gibraltar, on April 25, 1697--a century before Aboukir Bay--a Dutch fleet surprised a Spanish fleet at anchor, doubled their line, and destroyed it. The Spanish didn't save a single ship. Nelson is famous for capturing or destroying 11 of 13 French ships at Aboukir Bay; nobody has heard van Heemskirk.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Crossing the Bay

The wind this morning was more East than North, which wasn't helpful; there were a few minutes when it was in the right direction, but the sail I made needed more sail area to be effective.However, the current was in the right direction and I made the trip in about 1 hour 20 minutes, including a lot of time spent drifting.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sailing prep

Tomorrow is supposed to be clear, winds from the north, and high tide around 1pm. Accordingly, I'm planning to launch the kayak from the Lesner Bridge, south across Lynnhaven Bay and up the Lynnhaven River towards home, roughly five miles. I've made a sail and the wind should be at my back; we'll see how well that works.

Next week we'll celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day, but that has nothing to do with this expedition. Really. Aaaaarh.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Twenty-two years ago, we were discussing what to name this baby who was due. I suggested good, strong, historical names, like Anaxagoras or Subotai. Diana pointed out that these were not following my family's tradition of Bible names, so I suggested the name of one of the prophet Isaiah's sons, Mahershalalhashbaz. She turned that down too. However, I recently discovered that one of the actors in Benjamin Buttons is Mahershalalhasbaz Ali; I'm pleased that someone appreciated a great name.

Labor Day weekend activities

  • Move all the stuff back onto the deck after the "hurricane"
  • Transplant crepe myrtle tree out of the power company right-of-way. Transplant azalea from the spot where Diana wanted the myrtle to a new spot.
  • Uninstall and reinstall Open Office, and verify that spellcheck works now. Set up templates for Character, Scene, and Chapter Log
  • Kayak. I saw a heron, a batch of snails, and a swimming snake. The snake had a diamond pattern and might have been a moccasin, although I suspect it was just a water snake. The snails climb grass stalks to get a few inches above the water. Herons are very timid and it's hard to get a good shot of them unless you have a zoom lens.
  • Set up new landline telephones. 
  • Set up and tear down sound gear for church. Our church is starting a third Sunday morning service in a hotel ballroom, more centrally located than our church building. I volunteered to help, which means getting up early and hauling speakers, stands, and cables, and watching the actual sound crew plug them in. 
  • Read You Can Write a Novel by James V Smith Jr. Despite the cheesy title, this is an excellent guide--particularly the chapter on editing your first draft.
  • Walk on the beach
  • Chinese food at Forbidden City.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hurricane Earl

The storm track looks about the same; we'll probably have winds of 40mph, maybe 60mph, but 75mph is unlikely. The only real thing to worry about is a tree falling on the house, but there are only two trees to worry about and they've both been through hurricanes before. Our house is several feet higher than the highest recorded storm surge (which is around nine feet). As long as Earl doesn't jog left, I think we're fine.

Edit Thursday 11pm: Earl has been downgraded to Category 2 and looks like it's farther offshore than previously predicted. The forecast still calls for 40-50mph winds but no more than an inch of rain and a storm surge of 1-3 feet. Nothing to worry about.

Edit Friday afternoon: A branch fell from one of the trees near our house, and I had to turn my windshield wipers to "medium" for part of the drive in to work.