Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Maddie Helps Get Mosby Ready for Christmas

This year is our second Christmas in our home, but it is our first with Mosby.  So, there is still a lot of new found excitement around our place as we brought out the Christmas decorations.

Thankfully Maddie is still showing Mosby the ropes, and she helped us keep him out of trouble while we put the tree up and un packed the decorations.

As a matter of fact after a little more than an hour of investigating all the new stuff that came with the tree and decoration boxes, both dogs climbed onto the couch to lay down and watch Barbie and I put everything up.

After nearly five hours, all of the inside decorations were in-place and we were able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labor before heading to bed from exhaustion.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Favorite Part of Thanksgiving Dinner

This years Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful.  We ate with a few family members and a few friends and neighbors.  I think that for most people, the Thanksgiving turkey is their favorite element of the meal. Our turkey was excellent, and at my request my Mom even put a little bacon on the top to keep the breast meat moist.

However, unlike most people, the turkey isn't my favorite element...the relish tray is.  I know it's odd since unlike turkey (which is not as common outside of the holiday season), the things on relish trays are readily available all year long.

So, for the record, this year's relish tray was awesome as well.  :-)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Commanding a Room of Young Minds

Today I had the chance to observe something that I have been looking forward to seeing for years.  While in Seattle, I had the chance to step into one of my Mom's classes at Bellevue College.

I didn't know what to expect from the experience, since it has been quite a long time since I sat down in an undergraduate class but I was eager to have the experience.

When my Mom initially asked if I would be interested in accompanying her, I happily said that I was looking forward to seeing her "command a room of young minds."  To which she laughed heartily.

Then when I asked her if a sport coat would be acceptable attire for me, there was an awkward silence for a few seconds.  When she told me that I needed to remember that BC is a west coast institution, and I that I would blend in wearing my cleanest pair of dirty jeans and a sweat shirt.  At that moment I realized that I have fully been assimilated into an east coast mind set.

I decided to wear a pair of clean jeans, a t-shirt and a leather jacket.  But I still stood out a bit.  Either way, the day was a lot of fun.  It was really cool to see my Mom leading a group of twenty (and thirty) somethings in a discussion.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Good Sign Before Our Flight

Today we are flying to Seattle to spend Thanksgiving with my Mom and Sher.  I have made this flight more than a dozen times, but I still dread the duration of it.  However, when we got to the gate we saw what I can only describe as a good sign for a smooth flight.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Did You Know…

Q. Why do men's clothes have buttons on the right while women's clothes have buttons on the left?

A. When buttons were invented, they were very expensive and worn primarily by the rich. Since most people are right-handed, it is easier to push buttons on the right through holes on the left. Because wealthy women were dressed by maids, dressmakers put the buttons on the maid's right! And that's where women's buttons have remained since.

Q. Why do ships and aircraft use 'mayday' as their call for help?

A. This comes from the French word m'aidez - meaning 'help me' - and is pronounced approximately, 'mayday.'

Q. Why are zero scores in tennis called 'love'?

A. In France , where tennis became popular, round zero on the scoreboard looked like an egg and was called 'l'oeuf,' which is French for 'egg.' When tennis was introduced in the US , Americans (mis)pronounced it 'love.'

Q. Why do X's at the end of a letter signify kisses?

A. In the Middle Ages, when many people were unable to read or write, documents were often signed using an X. Kissing the X represented an oath to fulfill obligations specified in the document. The X and the kiss eventually became synonymous.

Q. Why do people clink their glasses before drinking a toast?

A. It used to be common for someone to try to kill an enemy by offering him a poisoned drink. To prove to a guest that a drink was safe, it became customary for a guest to pour a small amount of his drink into the glass of the host. Both men would drink it simultaneously. When a guest trusted his host, he would only touch or clink the host's glass with his own.

Q. Why are people in the public eye said to be 'in the limelight'?

A. Invented in 1825,limelight was used in lighthouses and theatres by burning a cylinder of lime which produced a brilliant light. In the theatre, a performer 'in the limelight' was the center of attention.

Q. Why is someone who is feeling great 'on cloud nine'?

A. Types of clouds are numbered according to the altitudes they attain, with nine being the highest cloud If someone is said to be on cloud nine, that person is floating well above worldly cares.

Q. Why are many coin banks shaped like pigs?

A. Long ago, dishes and cookware in Europe were made of a dense orange clay called 'pygg'. When people saved coins in jars made of this clay, the jars became known as 'pygg banks.' When an English potter misunderstood the word, he made a container that resembled a pig. And it caught on.

Q. Did you ever wonder why dimes, quarters and half dollars have notches (milling), while pennies and nickels do not?

A. The US Mint began putting notches on the edges of coins containing gold and silver to discourage holders from shaving off small quantities of the precious metals. Dimes, quarters and half dollars are notched because they used to contain silver. Pennies and nickels aren't notched because the metals they contain are not valuable enough to shave.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bringing the Jefferson-Eppes Trophy Back to Charlottesville

Earlier tonight I watched one of the most exciting football games I have ever seen. UVA made the trip to Tallahassee for the annual game against Florida State where the schools compete for the Jefferson-Eppes Trophy.

Earlier in the year FSU was ranked as high as 5th in the country, and UVA has become bowl eligible for the first time since 2008. Coming into the game, UVA was still in contention for the ACC Coastal Division lead, and if they win they would play Virginia Tech next week to determine the Division winner and who would play Clemson in the ACC Championship game.

The game was evenly played and very close throughout all four quarters. The only stand out on the field was the capricious officiating that had fans of both teams wondering what the officials were calling.

In the end this game was not decided until less than fifteen seconds remained in the game. When it was done UVA won by a single point, and in his second year as their head coach, Mike London lead the Wahoos to their first ever win in Tallahassee.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Which 1% Are You Angry/Envious/Proud Of?

The Occupy Wall Street movement has most of the media talking about the 99% versus 1% dichotomy, which vilifies the the smaller group.  Although I may disagree with the methods that the Occupy groups are using, I do understand their general position.  What I seem to have an issue with is the arbitrary line that they draw that the Occupy movement drew to separate “us” from “them”.  I saw the video below today on one of the blogs at work and it spoke to the issue that I have very well:

Furthermore, what really aggravates me is that there is a logical separation within this country which splits the population into two mutually exclusive groups of 0.8% and 99.2%.  The groups I am referring to are those Americans that serve in the military and those who do not.  This division was brought to my attention at an event I attended this past Veteran’s Day in my office.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Damn, It Feels Good To Be…An Active Citizen

Several weeks ago I got a call from a phone number that I didn’t recognize. I answered not knowing who it was or what to expect. The person on the other end of the phone sounded like an older woman who told me that in the past I said I was interested in helping Loudoun County with elections, and she wanted to know if I was still interested.

I couldn’t remember when I said I was interested, but that didn’t mean that I wasn’t. So, I told her that I was and asked what kind of help was needed. The joy in her voice was something that I cannot describe. She quickly ran through a high level description of three or four roles that needed to be filled and they all seemed reasonable. She said she would send me some forms that I need to fill out and bring back to the county elections office.

A week or so later I had taken the completed forms back to the office as requested and I became a sworn officer of election for Loudoun County, Virginia. When I left, I had a packet of information to take home and study, as well as a date to attend a 4 hour training session with other election officers in preparation for the November 8th election.

IMG_0595Today I fulfilled that commitment as I served a 17 hour shift in Loudoun County’s 112th precinct as an officer of election. Woot, Woot!

This was one of the most exciting activities I have ever had the pleasure to participate in. The day began at 5am as I reported to the precinct’s voting location with six other election officers. We all arrived with bags of snacks and drinks for the day since we were not to leave until the polls had closed.  Three of those officers were veterans who had worked the last 3-6 elections in similar capacities.

The day began as we entered the Freedom High School performing arts auditorium were we found a cart that the county elections office had delivered. One of the items covered in the training session I attended was a detailed description of this cart to know where exactly everything was on the cart, and how we were to re-pack the cart at the end of the day.

The tactical operation of this election, like most is all about traffic flow and through-put. The mechanics of how to verify voters were casting votes in the correct precinct, the formal collection of ballot, and how to tally the votes were very well documented and described in detail. What we had to figure out in the morning was how to place the mechanical operations in the auditorium that allow adequate lines to form, while providing each voter the privacy they are entitled to.

The day was long and tiring, but as it ended it got very exciting. The precinct I worked at had more than 1,200 voters cast ballots. Having cast ballots in past elections in both electronic and paper form, I thought I knew what these voting machines did. And, I suppose I did, but I didn’t have a very good appreciation for how they did it. For example, the paper ballots were scanned and collected in a large locked container. With other election officials present and observing, I got to pass the ENDER CARD through the scanner. When this paper is scanned, it stops the collection of ballots going forward.

The next step was to run several reports from the scanner that were generated on ticker tape (like from an old adding machine). These reports summarized all of the ballots that were cast and at the bottom of each report was lines for each presiding election official to sign and attest to. This was something that I simply never thought about.

I felt privileged to see what happens next: how the totals on each report are called into the county election office where they are aggregated into the county report, before being further relayed to the state level. Each of the election summary reports, and all of the ballots were signed and sealed for delivery to the county elections office. From what I could tell, the purpose of calling to tell the county office what we recorded is to speed up the tabulation and delivery of the results. I have a whole new appreciation for those screen scrolls on the TV on election night as votes are collected.

By the time I got home, I was mentally and physically exhausted. Being an officer of election is hard work, but it is very fulfilling and I highly recommend doing it to anyone who has the opportunity.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hyundai’s and Hokies?

Hyundai is in the midst of a major campaign ad in the US that is targeting college sports fans.  We have seen a few ads from them that made us smile or laugh as college sports traditions were incorporated into people’s interaction's with their Hyundai vehicles.

Below is one of these ads that we both absolutely love.  This ad incorporates a Virginia Tech tradition where football players touch a “Hokie Stone” as they enter the stadium.  Neither I nor Barbie are big VT fans, but we still love this commercial for one reason…the last member of the family to touch the stone in the house.  Enjoy:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Capturing Celestial Imagery

Last month I posted a picture of the moon that we took with Barbie’s birthday present and our DSLR camera.  A few people have asked how we were able to get the camera to capture an image from the telescope, so I thought I would just show you what the fully assembled rig looks like.

This telescope has a navigation keypad that will not only locate or identify objects in the sky, but it will also track items as the move through the sky.  This movement is critical to our ability to take pictures since everything in the sky is actually moving.  Without the ability to move the telescope at the same rate as the object we are trying to photograph, the image would be very blurry.

To reduce the amount of vibration in the camera, we have a remote shutter button attached.  Without it, the camera would shake the telescope when the shutter button on the camera body is pushed.