Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Pictures

These pictures are from our first Christmas Eve in our own house.  Barbie’s mom and my dad were both here for the Christmas holiday, so they took pictures to document the day with us.  It was a lot of fun for everyone.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Our Christmas Tree Is Ready

With a new house, came a new Christmas tree.  With a new tree, comes new lights and decorations.  Once Barbie’s mom got here, she helped finish our tree by making more than 30 glass ornaments for us.  We are so proud of our tree that we had the drapes behind it open the entire time the tree was up so that our entire neighborhood could see it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ahh, this is the life...

Earlier today we saw our first snow accumulation in the new house. That meant that we also had to remove that snow from our new driveway for the first time today. Barbie seemed to really like that, while I was working on a strategy for how often that task needed to be repeated. (Can you tell who had the shovel?)

Back to this post title...after the last shoveling of the night I decided that it was time to try out the hot tub. After-all, it has been maintaining a temperature of 102 all the way through the storm where last nights low was in the teens!

I must say that the 10-15 minutes I spent in there were all that I hoped it could be.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Getting Into The Holiday Spirit

As we continue to get even more settled into our new home, we get to enjoy lots of “firsts” as the holidays approach.  Recently we purchased our first Christmas tree and ornaments to decorate it.  So, our “Black Friday” activities this year included setting up our tree.

Madison has been around Christmas trees before, but as you can see by the picture above, she was very interested and patient in this evenings activities.

After a few hours of decorating (by all three of us), our tree was complete and it looked great from inside our house as well as from the street outside.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

POTUS Gives an Election Day Message via AOL

A lot of new buzz has been made around AOL’s revised content strategy over the last year.  Several months ago this included bringing the white house into the AOL family via several co-branded events.  This morning the CinC delivered an election day message on the aol.com home page in a new feature called “You’ve Got…”.  Check it out!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

It’s been a while…

Over the last couple of months, we have had a lot going on.  Way more than could be captured in blog posts, which is the explanation for the recent lack of activity here.  We closed on a new house a while back, and had some work done on it before we moved in.  Then came the really tough stuff…unpacking all of our stuff after the movers brought it all into the new house.

Well, as of tonight it feels like we are finally turning the corner on settling into our new home.  Part of that was to get ready for trick or treaters.  We knew to make sure that we had a ton of candy, but to make our house a a little more unique we placed Halloween luminarias rather than jack-o-lanterns outside.  Luminarias are an element associated with the southwestern United States, and are typically set out on Christmas Eve.

IMG_6874

I’m not sure that any of the 50+ kids that came by thought much about the luminarias when they passed them as they walked up to our door, but we did get lot’s of comments about how “awesome” our candy bucket was and how “(we had) the best house in the neighborhood”.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The National Cathedral

While on the way back to Virginia, I told my dad that we could stop by the National Cathedral so that he could see that as well.  Like most Americans, he had heard of the National Cathedral and even seen it on TV, but hadn’t sever seen it in person.  We stopped for a few minutes to walk through and take a few pictures.  The scale of this structure is nothing short of amazing.

The Navy Museum

We also came across The Navy Museum which also shares the same parking lot with the NCIS building and the USN Barry.  I had heard of this museum before, but never bothered to make the trip out to see it.  On a map, it didn’t look big enough to warrant the trip and trouble of getting onto a military base.  However, once we got inside the front door I realized that I was sooo wrong in my initial assessment.

One of the most interesting items that I saw in this museum was the bell from the USS Merrimack.  The Merrimac was a frigate and sailing vessel of the United States Navy, best known as the hull upon which the ironclad warship, CSS Virginia was constructed during the American Civil War. The CSS Virginia then took part in the Battle of Hampton Roads (also known as "the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimac") in the first engagement between ironclad warships.

Also in this museum is a deep water submarine named Alvin.  Alvin is a 17-ton, manned deep-ocean research submersible owned by the United States Navy and operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The vehicle was built by General Mills' Electronics Group in the same factory used to manufacture breakfast cereal-producing machinery in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The submersible has taken 12,000 people on over 4,000 dives to observe the life forms that must cope with super-pressures and move about in total darkness. It is said that research conducted by Alvin has been featured in nearly 2,000 scientific papers.

Alvin’s capabilities were made possible in part by the development of syntactic foam, which is buoyant and yet strong enough to serve as a structural material at great depths. The three-person vessel allows for two scientists and one pilot to dive for up to nine hours at 4500 meters (15,000 ft). The submersible features two robotic arms and can be fitted with mission-specific sampling and experimental gear. The hatch of the vessel is 19 inches in diameter and somewhat thicker than the 2 in thick titanium pressure hull and held in place by the pressure of the water above it.

Alvin’s most credited accomplishment is that it took the first human eyes to the final resting place of the RMS Titanic in 1986.

Ever Watch NCIS?

While visiting the USN Barry, my dad pointed out an interesting building to me across the parking lot.  The US Naval Criminal Investigative Service building.  Not only is this the same agency featured on the CBS television show, but this building can be seen in the title scene of each episode.

We also saw several large guns, propellers and armor plating from old Navy ships as well.  Check out the size of the propeller that my dad is standing next to in the picture below.

Visiting the US Navy Display Ship Barry (DD-933)

My dad is in town for a long weekend visit.  As with all of his visits, he wanted to see something new this trip, and this time he came with a list of those new things.  At the top of his list was a visit to the Naval District Washington Display Ship Barry.

My father was like a kid on a jungle gym climbing around this ship.  Visitors to the ship have access to nearly all of the vessel (which is pretty cool).  I took the photo below of my dad going up the exterior of the ship.  Based on the smile on his face, you would never tell that he was 40-50 feet above the water at this point!

After my dad told me he wanted to see this ship, I didn’t have high expectations for what we would find there.  However, after nearly 2 hours climbing all around it and taking a ton of pictures, we both realized that we were having a great time.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Things We Say Wrong

We stumbled upon http://www.whatyououghttoknow.com by accident this morning, and we both laughed at the clip below for hours.  This person captured the thoughts that we both have occasionally and the strange “inside conversations” we have with ourselves.  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Money Tree

Amy Krouse Rosenthal attached one hundred dollar bills (that's one hundred singles) to a tree on a Chicago street, each bill stamped with a message like "Don't ask, just enjoy!" and "Some things just can't be explained."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Once In A Lifetime…

At 6 minutes and 7 seconds after 5 o’clock today, it will be:

 

05:06:07 08/09/10

 

This won’t happen again until 3010.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Two Things America Got Right: Cars & Freedom

I am not the biggest Dogde fan, but when I saw this commercial for the first time a few months ago I smiled and laughed.  I just saw it again on ESPN, and laughed just as hard as the first time I saw it.  Enjoy!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cats vs. Treadmill

This video had us both laughing for a good 15 minutes.  It almost makes us want to get some cats…and a treadmill.  LOL

Sunday, July 25, 2010

2010 Patio Garden

This is the third consecutive year that we have planted a patio garden.  We didn’t make any major changes with what we planted  several weeks ago, but we did make some significant changes in how we planted them.  First, was tomatoes.  We have planted tomatoes for the last two years in different large pots with lack luster success.  This year we purchased an upside down planter with the intent of avoiding some of the soil mold challenges that we faced last year.

We have 8 plans in this planter (2 on each side).  We have attached it to a wooden wheeled plate on the bottom to make it easy to rotate for watering and even sun exposure.

On the top of the planter we have lavender.  We have several large lavender plants in the soil that is shared with the tomato plants, and four small planters with lavender that will eventually come inside the house.

We have also planted three rosemary plants in one large pot.  This pot has become the most fragrant element on our patio and is one of Maddie’s favorite things to investigate while we water.

Last but not least is the pepper planter.  We have used this each of the last two years very successfully, but we have slightly changed the types of peppers that are in it.

This year we planted Jalapenos, as in the past, but this year we limited the number of plants.  Last year we found that our garden was producing more peppers than we could consume.

Jalapeno

We also planted Serrano's.  We were successful with these last year as well, but we increased the number of plants from last year as they produce roughly half as many peppers as the Jalapeno plants.

Serrano

And last, but certainly not least, are Green Chile plants.  We planted these in hopes of getting flavor similar to what we both grew up with in the southern New Mexico area, but we have to see how the flavors evolve as the summer proceeds.

Green Chile

Saturday, July 24, 2010

“But Low Humidity…”

That’s what my friend Brian said as he took this picture of the thermometer in his car from Ashburn today.  Note that we weren’t with Brian as the walk from the home AC to the car AC was just too far today.  :-)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Another Indication That Summer Has Arrived

Living in the mid-Atlantic region of the US, there are a few seasonal things that I was never aware of before moving here.  Among these is the fact that the city of Washington was actually built upon a swamp.  This is ever so obvious in early summer as the only thing that gives high temperatures a run for their money is the humidity level.  Another example of this is the fact that fruit bats tend to come out in summer.

 

Although these are bats, they aren’t scary vampire bats like you see in the movies.  Actually, they are pretty docile animals and like most creatures in nature they tend to flee when a human comes near them.  Tonight when we came home we saw a lone fruit bat on our neighbors front stoop.

As we walked by, I noticed it right away and pointed it out to Barbie.  It wasn’t moving so we quickly went inside to get the camera!

It was pretty clear from the bat not moving after a few pictures with a very large flash, that this bat was not alive.  But it was just another indicator that summer was indeed here in full force.

Friday, July 16, 2010

3.6 Magnitude Quake At 5:04am

For friends and family far from us, the answer to the question “Did you feel it?” is a resounding…“Not a Bit.”

 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

5 Historic Symbols That Are Misrepresented

As young adults I think many of us have discovered that an icon that we were drawn to as teen agers turned out to be something other than we originally thought.  I know that for me this was the case, and in some respects it was my way of experiencing the old cliché that "you should never meet your idol, for they will only disappoint you".  I found an article the other day written by Phillip Moon on the topic of Historic Symbols That Mean The Opposite of What You Think that summarized a few of the most popular misconceptions in western culture today.

As I read the article I read the article I found myself smiling while simultaneously getting angry at the people in the world that follow symbols like these for the wrong reason with utter conviction.  Below are a handful of my favorite excerpts from Moon’s article:

Guy Fawkes

Despite anarchists' general failure to unite long enough to make any meaningful progress against their ideological enemies (democracy, capitalism, communism and Internet forum moderationism), they do have a few running themes and symbols in common. One of the most prominent symbols is the 17th century English revolutionary, Guy Fawkes, whose famed exploit was his attempt to blow up Parliament in order to destabilize the British government.

The comparison is probably most recognizable to popular culture as the basis of the graphic novel/box office catastrophe V For Vendetta, in which a dude dresses up like Fawkes and brings down an evil dystopian theocracy. In recent years, through some bizarre online game of Chinese whispers, Fawkes has also come to somehow represent Internet teenagers' struggle against Scientology.

While anarchists may be right that Fawkes was the only person ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions, they've forgotten what those intentions were. Fawkes wasn't trying to destroy an evil theocracy, he was trying to install one.

Fawkes was a fighter for Spain and the Catholic Church. His goal was to end the slightly more egalitarian Protestant revolution in England by restoring Catholic domination. If the Gunpowder Plot had actually succeeded, Britain would probably look less like an anarchist commune and more like the fascist police state Alan Moore warned us about.

The Inverted Cross

Modern Satanism walks the narrow line between bona fide religion and juvenile attention-seeking farce; like the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but with a lot more chains, hair dye and self-mutilation. Generally intended as a giant middle-finger to Christianity, Satanists deliberately adorn themselves with symbols that they think will inspire random people to try to give them a stern talking to.

One of the most popular Satanist symbols is the upside down cross, the reasoning behind which seems obvious enough. With the possible exception of that pentagram thing with the goat's head inside it, the inverted cross is the most immediately recognizable symbol of defiance against Christianity. It's certainly the easiest to tattoo onto your own face.

That's pretty hardcore. But there's only one man on Earth who is death metal enough to have an inverted cross carved into his own throne.

If those Satanists had paid attention in Sunday school, they would probably realize that the inverted cross is actually the personal trademark of Saint Peter, the first Pope, and one of the most revered figures in Catholic lore. When Peter was martyred by crucifixion he was said to have requested to be crucified upside down because he didn't feel worthy of dying the same way as Jesus. As a result, many dyed-in-the-wool Catholics actually consider the inverted cross to be a more acceptable thing to attach to your tacky jewelry than a regular right-way-up one.

By wearing an upside-down cross, Satanists are unwittingly showing humility and unworthiness before Christ. That makes about as much sense as a neo-Nazi sticking it to the Jews by swearing off pork for life. Take that!

Che Guevara

Go to any college campus and you'll find plenty of Che Guevara T-shirts amongst the student body, especially in the social sciences department. Ask a cultural studies major with a minor in White Guilt about Che and you'll hear how he was an anti-imperialist hero. Ask them about Che's time in Congo and you'll probably get a blank stare.

While the Motorcycle Diaries and other pop culture representations have covered Guevara's early life and the Cuban revolution, it wasn't until 2001 that Cuba finally released for publication The African Dream, Che Guevara's diary of his failed attempt to export the Cuban style revolution outside of Latin America. Che's Congo adventure, which he himself called an "unmitigated disaster," was the tragic result of his attempt to force Cuba onto places that aren't Cuba.

Che sauntered into Africa after the assassination of Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba. Using the political tragedy as a rallying point, he hoped to launch a people's revolution. By "people," we mean "Che Guevara's people," because although the local rebel leaders considered him a white guy and didn't take well to him barking orders, Che insisted on leading the project with a bunch of his own Cuban mercenaries. His lack of faith in the Congolese people being able to learn how to operate guns makes scholars think he just "sounds pretty much like an old-fashioned racist."

But he looks so open-minded on those T-shirts!

The Alamo

The Alamo was the site of the last stand of several influential American frontiersmen like David Crockett and Jim Bowie, against an overwhelming force of Mexican Troops. Though a loss for Texas, it inspired the revolution that finally led to their glorious independence.

As the Alamo's website puts it, "People worldwide continue to remember the Alamo as a heroic struggle against impossible odds - a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom." And what a freedom it was! Except for the 5,000 or so slaves who could now legally be declared personal property.

People who say "Remember the Alamo" conveniently neglect to remember that a considerable factor in the Texas Revolution was that dastardly Mexico decided to outlaw slavery, and that didn't wash well with the American slave-owning population, who needed them black folk to pick their cotton while they laid back on the porch sipping margaritas from coconut halves.

The Slogan “Don’t Mess With Texas”

We've all been there: One night you're sitting at the bar getting trashed and trying to make eyes with a hot blonde at the pool table when you're interrupted by a guy who, despite the fact that this is New Jersey, is dressed in boots with spurs, leather chaps and a cowboy hat.

He saddles up to the bar, orders some obscure Texas beer he knows they don't have, and settles for a Bud Light. You try to ignore him, but he insists on striking up a one-way conservation about his life in Texas and how great the state is. By now that hot blonde has already left the bar, while the unaware Texan tells a story about the Texas Rangers and ends the story saying, "That's why we say 'Don't Mess with Texas'!"

While he thinks he sounds badass spitting out that tired line, the fact of the matter is he might as well be saying, "Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute."

The phrase Don't Mess With Texas is trademarked by the Texas Department of Transportation as part of their anti-littering campaign started in 1986. If anything, that proves that the only people intimidated by that phrase are Texans, thanks to the Department of Transportation's first strike penalty of sending a litterbag to the offenders.

And, while Texans hope the rest of the world doesn't know about the origins of the phrase, there are a few who remember the last time someone actually messed with Texas, which was the Union in the Civil War. Texas was on the losing side and fell without having many significant battles or any Union troops in Texas at the time of surrender.