Sunday, December 30, 2007

Two footballs, one day

I didn't have to be to FedEx quite as early today; in a late switch because of the playoff implications, the game was moved from 1 to 4:30. (Those of you outside of EST may adjust accordingly.)

I left around 1 and, as usual, flipped on the Beeb. I was fortunate to catch the final few moments of the Manchester City-Liverpool game over in the Premier League.

Or, if the announcers were to believed, I wasn't so fortunate.

And that's part of the reason I love it: What wonderful use of language.

Just after the final whistle of the 0-0 tie, one announcer said: "It was a poor example of Premiership football."

Well, it is Britain, so the actual result was "nil-nil," and the announcer labeled that result as "miserable."

I'll have to take their word for it. Liverpool is fourth in the standings, err, table with 37 points (a 10-2-7 record) while Man. City is fifth with 36 points (10-4-6). A draw doesn't seem too implausible.

But the best language was reserved for the postgame report. The BBC recapped the league's other match of the day, Blackburn Rovers' 2-1 win over hapless Derby County.

Derby is in dead last with seven points and a 1-15-4 mark. Fulham, in second-to-last place, has 15 points and one more win. Needless to say, Derby seems to be a lock to be relegated at the end of the season (a concept that, by the way, is woefully underutilized here in the States. Back to AAA with you, Devil Rays!).

The announcer's comment: Derby is eight points "adrift of safety."

Excellent. In no way, shape or form would those words be heard at the game I was heading to, unless Roy Williams missed a tackle (which was still far more likely than that term being used).

My game was exciting for its own reasons and I'm sure most of you know them.

I can't, however, say I was as thrilled as some when, while walking down the main internal corridor, I had to make way for a limo carrying someone I vaguely knew.

It rolled by and I caught up by the time the driver was able to open the door (rough life, huh?).

"That's Ryan Seacrest!" some young woman whispered excitedly. As if it's not enough that we had TomKat at the season opener last year...

I was considerably more excited to get to the pressbox and see people I actually cared about. Like the folks I see each Wednesday and at home games. Oh, and Dan Reeves, too. Not sure why he was there, but I sent a text to Matt mentioning how interesting it was to see those two guys in a 30-minute span.

So the Redskins won and I'm in for another week. Saturday at Seattle, though I'll be watching from home.

Life goes on...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Post-travel notes

I am happy to be writing this. For much of the day, I've been wandering around, absolutely miserable: general achiness, a feeling of weakness (like picking up anything over 20 pounds would've been impossible), tiredness, chills, all kinds of stuff.

But I got up a little while ago after a nap that lasted around three hours (and one of several I've taken today). This is the best I've felt all day; though it's not perfect, it's a heck of a lot better than the general sense of drudgery that has otherwise been the hallmark of the day.

Given that I've (sort of) recovered, I don't think it was any sort of bug or illness - just my body saying, 'Hey, asshole, your tank's on 'E' and it's about time you gave it a rest.' Yes sir, I am listening.

So I'm doing much better, thanks.

Thursday, travel day, was an interesting one. As we had on the way out, we took a prop plane from Redmond (near Bend) to Seattle. The flight is surprisingly short, considering it's like a 6-hour drive.

Once in Seattle, we didn't have a whole lot of time to mess around, maybe an hour or so. Plus they were trying to speed up our departure time, since snow was on its way. Indeed, though it was raining, it had changed over to snow by the time we took off. (I did mention to my wife that I was thoroughly disappointed we didn't see better weather in Seattle.)

We did have a treat for the flight back to D.C. As we did on the way out, we took a Boeing 737-800 (like this one); coming back, we were treated to a special paint job celebrating Alaska's 75th anniversary - a gorgeous retro livery.

The flight itself was pretty quiet. Because of the intermittent bad weather, we had some minor turbulence from time to time, but nothing too bad.

Just before we began our descent, the pilot announced that we'd be flying the River Visual into National (here's a wing view and pilot's view) unless air traffic control switched runways on us.

Well, they did, and now we'd be approaching from the south. Still, we had an interesting view as we banked over Mt. Vernon on the way up the river.

We landed without incident and were on our way...

-- I FEEL AS IF I should apologize for the disjointed nature of the post. My mind still isn't totally with it, but as I said, it is a great improvement.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Lift a glass to Santa for all of his hard work...

And here's hoping that he's rewarded you for being good girls and boys this year.

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thursday's route

My wife and I are flying west on Thursday. We'll be aboard Alaska 3 from Washington National bound for Seattle-Tacoma International, then a prop flight into Redmond, Ore.

The main leg heads northwest before flattening out along the Northern Plains.

Here are the points we'll pass along the way:

National Airport, Arlington, Va.
Bolivar, Md.
Seven Springs, Pa.
Middle Bass, Ohio
Carleton, Mich.
Berryville, Mich.
Coats Grove, Mich.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
Borculo, Mich.
Wonewac, Wisc.
Nodine, Minn.
Kasota, Minn.
Redwood Falls, Minn.
*-Gettysburg, S.D.
*-Bowman, N.D.
Miles City, Mont.
Lewistown, Mont.
Mullan Pass, Idaho
Spokane, Wash.
Saint Andrews, Wash.
Maplecreek, Wash.
Telma, Wash.
Berne, Wash.
Startup, Wash.
Hilltop, Wash.
Sea-Tac International

A * indicates that those places are not on the projected flight plan. Instead, the projected flight plan didn't include any waypoints in either of the Dakotas, so I made my best guess.

We'll actually be over water for a while. Middle Bass, Ohio is actually an island in Lake Erie, part of a three-island chain. We'll also traverse Lake Michigan before hitting Milwaukee.

So there you have it. The actual flight plan looks like this, courtesy of


I know you were dying to know what the actual route was.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

New blog!

I just fired up a new blog for myself called Hustle's Wine Trials.

I explain the whys over there, but essentially it's a way for me to preserve what I think about the various wines that we try.

As you all know, I know nothing about wine, so I hope I don't come off as an expert. But I do want a reference point for when I'm looking for a good bottle - and there's no better reference point than past experience.

So off I go, doubling my presence in the blogosphere.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Holding pattern (UPDATED)

Despite the header, this blog won't be about aviation. Sorry to disappoint you (and I know you're terribly disappointed).

But it is about travel.

My wife and I had a simple plan for the weekend: Hit two family reunions in the same trip. The first, on Saturday night, is for my dad's side of the family back in my hometown. The second, on Sunday afternoon, is for my mom's side of the family in suburban Baltimore. From there, we'd head home.

Ah, but the best-laid plans...

As the east-coast folks know, we're in for a doozy of a storm this weekend. Supposedly.

We can't see it coming, but the weather folks assure us it's not going to be a weekend for the beach. We can't see it coming because it hasn't formed yet.

If we believe the forecasters - and that's your choice if you want to or not - here's what we know: The swath of land between New York and Washington is going to get some combination of winter weather: snow, sleet, freezing rain. Rain and ice aren't out of the equation yet. It's supposed to start in D.C. late Saturday afternoon and move northward.

I talked with my dad this evening, who caught the weather on the 10 p.m. news and The Weather Channel. The local guys predicted a mix; TWC foretold of a foot of snow, maybe more.

Our original plan for tonight was to start packing and getting things ready. We did neither. We're still not sure if we should go. We'll make a final call sometime tomorrow morning, only hours from our planned departure time.

Let's do a quick comparison. My hometown is technically in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre TV market, so we'll pit their three local stations' forecasts against what DC's four stations are saying. And we'll throw in Philly's four stations just for fun.

WNEP (from video): Chief meteorolgist Tom Clark says, "We'll get some snow starting here later Saturday night. Anytime after 8 or 9 o'clock, it could start snowing. It'll get kind of windy, and I expect the storm to wind up, a secondary storm to form, and Sunday is going to be a stormy day. We'll have snow; there's a chance of sleet; high winds; drifting; could be a foot of snow in some areas of our viewing area by Sunday night."

WBRE/WYOU (from webcast): Meteorologist Josh Hodell says, "This weekend, we're looking at a potential Nor'easter that will bring us a wintry mix of snow and sleet ... [As the initial storm] moves northeast, a coastal storm will develop and also move up the eastern seaboard. The combination, for us, will mean wintry weather Saturday into Sunday. Looks like it will be a wintry mix of snow and sleet. Poor road conditions are possible Saturday night into Sunday. And in addition to the snow and sleet, it's going to get windy around here."

(link for the Nor'easter provided for you west-coast folks)

KYW: Saturday - Mostly cloudy. A chance of snow showers and sleet in the afternoon. Highs in the mid 30s. Northeast winds 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation 40 percent. Saturday Night - Sleet and rain. Breezy with lows in the lower 30s. Northeast winds 10 to 20 mph. Chance of precipitation 90 percent. Sunday - Cloudy. Rain and likely in the morning...then a chance of rain and snow showers in the afternoon. Windy with highs around 40. Chance of precipitation 70 percent.

WPVI (from video): From meteorologist Cecily Tynan: "It'll be cold enough that we do expect it will begin as snow. And then what will happen is [one] low pressure will transfer its energy over to a coastal low. Where [the coastal] low develops will determine just how quickly we will change over to rain and how far up to the northwest it will go. At this point, it's too early to tell."

WCAU: Precious little detail over at NBC10's site; video wasn't very cooperative.

WTXF: Last webcast updated on Wednesday or very early Thursday. Come on guys!

WRC: See WCAU. Gotta love those NBC O&O's...

WJLA: Saturday: A chance of rain, freezing rain and sleet. Cloudy, with a high near 37. Northeast wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible. Saturday Night: Periods of rain, freezing rain and sleet before 1am, then periods of snow, freezing rain and sleet. Low around 34. East wind between 11 and 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible. Sunday: A chance of rain. Mostly cloudy and breezy, with a high near 40. Chance of precipitation is 50%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

WUSA (from webcast): Meteorologist Kim Martucci says, "It's going to be an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-storm on Saturday and Sunday." Sums it up nicely.

WTTG: Nothing but a graphic over at Channel 5.

So there you have it. Somehow, we're going to get pummeled, or so they say.

In the meantime, we wait for better information and hope we make the right call...

-- UPDATE: It's 11:12 p.m. on Friday night and we're firmly planted at home.

In consultation with my dad this afternoon, we figured it would be best to skip out on Saturday night's family party.

A phone call from my uncle in Baltimore informed us that, because of the bad weather, Sunday's event would be postponed as well.

Luckily, we have a couple of local events to take in. It should be a fun weekend anyway, though I am disappointed I won't get to see my family.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hank earns his keep

Turns out he's good for something after all...
We keed, keed. We love Hank. But this was still a funny pic.
And considering what a wimpy cat he is, the remote didn't bother his sleep in the least.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Celebration, but not your typical holiday fare

I rushed out of work early Friday afternoon - a story in and of itself of why I was rushing - to make the trip up I-395 to a place I'd never been but a place all of us know.

The Pentagon.

My cousin, currently based there, was having a promotion ceremony. He sent me instructions on where to park and where to find my escort. Great. I was ready to roll.

I've been to MCB Quantico several times. The process is always the same: you drive through the entry road off of Rt. 1, explain to the MP why you're visiting and go about your way. And don't lie to the MP, as he's got an M-16.

I figured the process would certainly be the same at the Pentagon; then I could get clear directions on where to find the row I needed to park in.

Except, in the area I parked, there were no guards or MPs or even Pentagon Police. So I was on my own - and had to get it right the first time. I circled around the parking area three times to figure out where I should be; during one of those trips, it did cross my mind that if I botched this, I could turn on a TV and see "Breaking News" on Channel 7: Suspicious Vehicle At Pentagon.

I finally figured out that the rows are numbered on the pavement; no signs, which I had been looking for. I was looking for Row 47 and somehow found myself on Row 57. Sweet, just a few more rows down.

I drive further down and get to Row 49, after which the numbers are covered over. There are two more rows left before a vehicle bridge (which runs to an inner, more secure lot) separates the lot. I figure, well, this is 47, right?

I parked at an inconspicous spot, got out and started hoofing to the Pentagon Conference Center - not within the main building but well within security, so as far as I'm concerned, I was in the Pentagon. As I'm walking, I look at the lot just past the vehicle bridge and what do I see? An officially marked Row 47. Balls.

But I'm already out of the car on walking, so I keep going, through the main security building, explaining why I'm there, going through a metal detector. I go into a second building nearby and meet up with my escort.

After quick introductions - the program is about to begin - I explained the situation. He seemed to think it was 50-50 that anyone would care. Well, I'd prefer my Explorer not be on the evening news so I hoof back out, move the car, hoof back in.

The ceremony has started, I'm told, and they've reserved a spot for me in the front right.

I really have no idea what I'm walking into. I knew my cousins, Scott and Tom Boushell, had gone off to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs after high school. And I knew they'd moved around quite a bit since then, and I had a pretty good idea they were successful. Tom was teaching, and Scott had put in time inside the mountain in Cheyenne, Wyo. And I knew that today, Scott was getting promoted.

I walked in during a speech by someone, who was explaining the Airman's Creed and how it related to my cousin. As I listened, I noticed that his uniform was richly decorated with six rows of those multi-colored pins. He must be somebody, I thought. Then I noticed his shoulder. One star was pinned there.

Good gravy, the guy's a general!

He gave a very moving speech that was pretty easy to understand. Occasionally there were some terms I didn't understand as he recounted Scott's career. He did it without notes, though he'd ask for assurances from Scott that he was right on some details - like Scott's time with the 400th Missile Squadron. The 400th, right?

He ended it by saying that he was aware the only barrier between Scott and his new rank was his flapping gums, so he wrapped up. Scott took the floor and I was one of the first people he thanked - he recounted how crazy the past few weeks had been, with Sean Taylor's death, two Redskins games in five days, high school football playoffs and getting ready for the winter season - and said he really appreciated that I shortened my day to be there.

I was honored that he did, but thanks weren't necessary. I wouldn't miss it!

He talked for a little while longer, then received his new pins (put on his uniform by his wife, Ellen, and my aunt and uncle) and his shoulder insignias, put on by Ellen's two sons, Armand and Rosario. Then he went into a longer thank-you speech, punctuated by many happy tears.

By then, he was officially a lieutenant colonel.

After the ceremony, we hung around and chatted with some of Scott's close friends and had a nice conversation with the man who gave the speech, Brigadier General Fadok. Apparently he was told of my parking problems!

When I left, I was still confused about the wider context of the promotion. Obviously, it's special to me and my family. But I really wasn't sure what it all meant.

I tracked down a frequent poster on who is also in the military (Army, as it turns out) and sent him a quick note. So while he wasn't totally sure, the Army does have lieutenant colonels; he said among their top jobs is running a battalion (around 500 soldiers) or being the No. 2 person in a brigade (five-six battalions, 3,500-4,000 soldiers).

He left me with this line: "If your cousin's a lieutenant colonel at the Pentagon, yeah, he's made it."

So Scott's made it. We couldn't be more proud of him.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A night at the office

I would have sworn sometime over the summer that I snapped a little photo with my cell phone from the press box at RFK. But I can't seem to find that post at the moment. I don't remember what I wrote, which generally hampers search engine functionality.

Anyway, as you may have guessed, I'm at work tonight, blessed with an internet connection because of the 8 p.m. kickoff. Otherwise, there's no way we'd get anything in the paper for tomorrow.

At any rate, now you have a shot from a different office.
Now, help me root for what we always root for: short games and good storylines.


For a while, I had my XM lineup listed over on the right. I took it down to save space, as it changes so infrequently. At the moment, XMLed has replaced The Blend (until XMLed goes off air) and XM Chill has replaced The Move (until The Move comes back once all the Christmas channels finish).

I may be on the cusp of another switch.

The last dial is set to CNN, me being a news junkie and all. But listening to CNN has its own hazards: perpetual self-promotion (of course CNN is going to tell me it has the best political team on television; though it's not nearly as insufferable as ESPN); intermittent sensationalism ("Tell me what you're working on at the Breaking News desk"); and moments when CNN lives up to its billing as the anti-Fox News - and that's not a good thing. I once heard one anchor praise Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) for being beligerent during a hearing.

"Good for her," he said.

No, not really. From what I could gather, she was out of turn and kept blathering on anyway. Such flauting of the rules should not be tolerated from anyone of either party. You want a free-for-all? Go run for a House seat.

With all of this mind - and after reading a well-done L.A. Times editorial blasting CNN for its GOP YouTube debate performance - I wondered if I wasn't wasting my time with the channel.

So I looked for an alternative. Just a few channels north, I rediscovered the BBC World Service.

All meat. Few commercials. In-depth reporting presented in a measured tone.

In short, journalism as it should be.

The old cliche tells us that we shouldn't worry about the price of tea in China. Yet the BBC had a compelling story about the skyrocketing cost of food in China, and how work-a-day Joes are struggling to keep up.

I tuned in smack in the middle of a story about some new movie that uses special effects to recreate a dramatic scene on the open ocean. The water effects took like 120 people seven months to do; once they left the office for the day, their PCs joined their collective computing might to help the larger mainframe keep chugging on the project. The water movement had to be designed then rendered; bubbles below the surface and whitewater all required their own simulation and rendering.

They had an interview with a regional UN spokesman over a controversy that UN peacekeepers would be engaging in battle. What a concept: They let him have his say without cutting him off in mid-sentence.

Fascinating stuff, particularly for a guy who fancies himself with a wider worldview.

I haven't made the switch just yet. But it's coming.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

RIP, Leiby's

One of my old haunts closed its doors for the last time today.

Leiby's was a family restaurant located in South Tamaqua, Pa.; very down home, very low key, but very popular too.

I went there a lot as a kid. I often got the same thing, too, a hot hamburger. A little plate of fries and a burger covered in gravy... good times. And yes, at least once I forgot to use my fork and wound up with gravy all over my fingers.

The desserts were what made the place, however. They had a rotation billboard of ice cream flavors (four sides) and that's where I tried cookies and cream. The pies were legendary, such that my uncle just outside of Baltimore would make a point to request a blueberry pie from the place. I never much cared for blueberries, but I sure did get hooked on that pie. (The pies were so popular for Christmas that a section of the restaurant would be closed off to accomodate all of the pies waiting for pick-up.)

And who could forget The Atomic? Leiby's most decadent dessert was, if I remember right, 32 ounces of ice cream with a couple of toppings thrown on for the hell of it.

I couldn't begin to tell you how many times I've gone there over the years. Even after moving south, we made it a point to go back every so often; my mom and dad would occasionally bring a pie from there as well.

But as of today, it's a thing of the past. Sad to hear, but I suppose time marches on...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A long, difficult day

I usually spend Wednesdays at Redskin Park. I was up there all day today; perhaps you've heard why.

It was long, difficult and incredibly depressing.

By the time I arrived, well before noon, the number of media in attendance was double what it usually is. By the time I left around 4:30, it was probably triple. Instead of two reporters, the Washington Post had three reporters and two columnists. Instead of one reporter and one camera person, WRC had three reporters and who knows how many camera people. At one point, I stood in the foyer just inside the main entrance and counted 30 or so people.

Of the 30, I had seen six before in my life.

The media room was packed, such that moving around was difficult. People from Baltimore, Philly, ESPN, and network correspondents showed up.

Obviously, that's the least of anyone's worries. I mention that first because that's how the majority of the day was spent: standing around and waiting.

The Redskins' PR staff did what they could for us; this shouldn't be taken as a dig at them at all. But the simple fact of it was that not many of the players wanted to talk - a situation all of us can understand. Outside of the last press conference of the day with head coach Joe Gibbs and owner Daniel Snyder, we had little warning on when players would speak.

When they did speak, it was a slap back to reality of why all those people were there in the first place.

Reed Doughty, the safety who filled in while Sean Taylor recovered from a knee injury, broke down in tears moments before I arrived. Quarterback Jason Campbell did likewise, bowing his head and wiping away a tear. Guard Pete Kendall, an open and frank sort, spoke in hushed tones about how Taylor was one of the first people to greet him after his training-camp trade from the New York Jets.

It was hard to see this from them.

Six days ago, Campbell smiled a bit when I asked him about the Iron Bowl. Earlier in the season, after a win at home, I just happened to walk next to him when leaving the stadium. At FedEx Field, a tunnel leads from the bowels of the stadium to the players' parking lot; fans gather around the mouth of the tunnel to catch a glimpse of their favorite players.

We walked and I said, "So, when we get out of here, are all those people going to be cheering for you, or are they going to be cheering for me?"

He chuckled and said maybe I had some fans too. I slowed down to let him pass and he turned around to say something else with a wide smile on his face. I couldn't really hear him though - by then, the fans had recognized him and all started yelling, "Jason! Jason!"

It's hard to see good people be in so much pain.

I'll let the greater meaning of Taylor's death to people smarter than me.

I only know what I saw: the fallout of it all.

It was not a fun day to be at Redskin Park.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Two links to check out

First off is something that helps everyone, which is always cool:

We get to play a game. The game gives you a word, you identify what it means from a list of four words. So yeah, it's a vocabulary builder.

But here's the best part: Every time you get a word right, the World Food Programme buys 10 grams of rice to distribute to people around the world who need it. According to a graphic on the WFP's Web site, the top 10 recipient countries for rice in 2007 were: Myanmar, Nepal, Cambodia, Phillipines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Cote d'Ivory, India, Madagascar and Ecuador.

Ten grains isn't very much, but with all the people around the world playing the game, over 3 billion grains of rice have been purchased. WFP gets the money from advertisers at the bottom of the page, so be sure and click those links too.

I heard the idea on WTOP, our all news station, and thought it would be worth passing on to all three of my blog readers!

-- AND, EVEN MORE RANDOMLY: My pal Keith got me to sign up for Facebook, and I quickly gathered a list of friends over there. It's a pretty cool place, actually; I never thought I'd get into that sort of thing.

Anyway, while searching through groups, I came across this. Brace yourself.

Hunsickers, Unite!

As I wrote over there: Ain't the Internets great?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The combination to a safe? Or just our way home?

Just heard a stat on Nightline that several million Americans traveled 50 miles or more to reach their Thanksgiving destination. I immediately put my hand up.

I cussed at, gestured at and got pissed off by what seemed to be the remainder of the American population, which all seemed headed from Alexandria, Va. to Lehighton, Pa. (via Ashburn, Va.), just like I was.

Virtually every road, at some point, was a mess. Traffic bogged down 75 percent of the trip from Northern Virginia to past Harrisburg, Pa. The rest of the trip was hampered by fog that worsened as we got closer to Lehighton.

In all, it was a four-hour trip that took five. (And if you count the hours I was working, it took more like nine hours. And that doesn't include the inconvience of having to call two coaches back because I couldn't really interview them while driving in the fog, working on a preview for a game I'll never get to see.)

So, yeah, Wednesday was fun.

In bite-by-bite segments, broken down by road traveled:

I-395, Alexandria, Va. to Springfield, Va.

I-495 (inner loop), Springfield, Va. to Tysons Corner, Va.

VA-267 (Dulles Toll Road), Tysons Corner, Va. to Dulles, Va.

VA-28, Dulles, Va. to Ashburn, Va.

It was at this point we made our first stop. I needed to get some information for my Redskins page; the Redskins went back to work today in preparation for Sunday's game in Tampa. My wife did some running around while I did some work.

Once I finished, we were back on the road, headed for Pennsylvania. The rest of our trip:

VA-28, Ashburn, Va. to Sterling, Va. (Near the end of Rt. 28, we passed the building that house the regional air traffic control center - Washington Center.)

VA-7, Sterling, Va. to Leesburg, Va.

US-15, Leesburg, Va. to near Mechanicsburg, Pa.

I-76 (Pennsylvania Turnpike), near Mechanicsburg, Pa. to near Westfield Terrace, Pa.

I-83, near Westfield Terrace, Pa. to Colonial Park, Pa.

I-81, Colonial Park, Pa. to near Lickdale, Pa.

I-78, near Lickdale, Pa. to Hamburg, Pa.

PA-61, Hamburg, Pa. to Orwigsburg, Pa.

PA-895, Orwigsburg, Pa. to New Ringgold, Pa.

PA-443, New-Ringgold, Pa. to Lehighton, Pa.

Across the bridge, and finally a quarter-mile stretch on PA-248 to my old neighborhood.

So there you have it. Recapping: 395, 495, 267, 28, 7, 15, 76, 83, 81, 78, 61, 895, 443, 248.

That would be one hell of a safe.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Weekend football report - and a programming note

My wife got in touch with a long lost friend last night. They chatted for a good 30 minutes.

When she returned and got me up to speed on pertinent details, she soon became enthralled in the documentary I was watching on HD Theater called "Riding Giants."

It was about the rise of surfing in Hawaii and NorCal; the shots were breathtaking the story was well told. There's a part about Laird Hamilton taking a killer wave in Tahiti that appears on YouTube. So here you go:

Anyway, on with it. Viewing options weren't great this weekend, but here you are (and my apologies for not putting one together last week; we were hosting folks on Saturday and I just didn't have the time to put it together):

Army (lost to Tulsa 49-39)
Boise State (beat Idaho 58-14)
Boston College (beat Clemson 20-17)
California (lost to Washington 37-23)
Cincinnati (lost to WVU 28-23)
Clemson (lost to BC 20-17)
Connecticut (beat Syracuse 30-7)
Delaware (lost to Villanova 16-10)
Duke (lost to Notre Dame 28-7)
Florida (beat Florida Atlantic 59-20)
Florida Atlantic (lost to Florida 59-20)
Florida State (beat Maryland 24-16)
Gardner-Webb (lost to Liberty 31-0)
Georgia (beat Kentucky 24-13)
Georgia Tech (beat UNC 27-25)
Idaho (lost to Boise State 58-14)
Illinois (beat Northwestern 41-22)
Iowa State (lost to Kansas 45-7)
Kansas (beat Iowa State 45-7)
Kentucky (lost to Georgia 24-13)
Liberty (beat Gardner-Webb 31-0)
LSU (beat Ole Miss 41-24)
Maryland (lost to Florida St. 24-16)
Miami, Fla. (lost to Virginia Tech 44-14)
Michigan (lost to Ohio State 17-3)
Michigan State (beat Penn State 35-31)
Mississippi (lost to LSU 41-24)
Montana (beat Montana St. 41-20)
Montana State (lost to Montana 41-20)
Northwestern (lost to Illinois 41-22)
North Carolina (lost to Ga. Tech 27-25)
Notre Dame (beat Duke 28-7)
Ohio State (beat Michigan 17-3)
Penn State (lost to Michigan State 35-31)
Pittsburgh (lost to Rutgers 20-16)
Richmond (beat W&M 31-20)
Rutgers (beat Pitt 20-16)
Syracuse (lost to UConn 30-7)
Tennessee (beat Vanderbilt 25-24)
Tulsa (beat Army 49-39)
Vanderbilt (lost to Tennessee 25-24)
Villanova (beat Delaware 16-10)
Virginia Tech (beat Miami, Fla. 44-14)
Washington (beat Cal 37-23)
West Virginia (beat Cincinnati 28-23)
William & Mary (lost to Richmond 31-20)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A random blast from the past

My wife and I spent Sunday morning out and about, running a few errands. First it was off to Washington Golf Center so my wife could finally pick out her birthday present - a new golf bag. (She got a purple and gray Titleist bag, which I must say fits her well.)

Out next stop was open-ended. We knew we needed food, but didn't want to deal with the mess we were sure would await us at Costco in Pentagon City. So we then agreed on Safeway, but detoured at the last minute to a nearby Harris Teeter, which opened only within the past six months.

It's a very urban-ish shopping experience: parking deck, wine and snacks upstairs, less room to navigate through rows and shopping areas.

Sensing that I was starting to annoy my dear wife (who, bless her heart, had put up with me so well up to that point), I trudged upstairs to check out the wine. After a lot of searching - the wine selection was fair but not great - I picked out a pinot grigio from Columbia Valley. I returned to show my wife, who asked me to walk back upstairs and get some Doritos for a mid-afternoon snack.

I did and was walking back toward the wine when a woman passed by.

"She's short," I thought, instinctively. "Son of a gun, she looks an awful lot like..."

Of course, I'm going to keep up the suspense.

I met up with my wife downstairs. With our basket full (or at least full of what we needed), we walked to the checkout line. There was that woman again, just ahead of us, with a guy.

They exchanged words, and my suspicions were confirmed.

It was her.

Ain't that a hell of a thing. You make a seemingly innocuous trip to a grocery store, and look what you come away with.

And no, I didn't go introduce myself. I'd guess she gets that a fair amount as it is; I'd rather have her enjoy a Sunday morning of anonymity. One would think it gets tiresome.

But she looked well and I hope her life outside of the public eye has been fulfilling. I wish her the best.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Does this qualify as ironic?

Me, standing in my boss's office, watching my wife on TV sitting next to her boss.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Visa got it all wrong

Perhaps you've seen this commercial.

It's dead wrong.

Yesterday afternoon, my wonderful wife asked if I could stop by the store on the way home. We were in need of supplies. Certainly, I replied.

I desperately needed gas anyway, plus I was looking for this video game, which sounded pretty damn cool. Except the price was $50, so I walked out empty-handed.

Just up the walkway was a Shoppers, a regional chain that has one store outside of the immediate Baltimore-DC area.

After literally walking around the entire store to find ice cream, I finally arrived in the right aisle. I found some Breyers, picked it out and walked toward the express checkout line.

Had I guessed correctly on where the ice cream was, I'd have arrived at the checkout when both express lines were open. But by the time I actually got there, the second of the two was checking out its last customer.

So I settled in line behind two younger females in the only remaining line. Both were together, apparently, but were making separate purchases.

The first made it to the front of the line. She fumbled through her gear to produce ID to walk out with her wine coolers, but otherwise uneventful.

The second girl? Oy.

She had a debit card, but had no clue how to use it. She slid her card through the reader and then accidentally cancelled her transaction. That happens from time to time to me, so I understand that.

One would think the second time would go more smoothly. It did not.

It got to the point that the cashier was simply pushing the buttons for her.

"Do you want cash back?" the cashier said. No, came the reply. A split second later, the cashier hit the corresponding button. Finally, it was over. The two left.

The cashier rang up my ice cream, I handed her a $5, she handed me change and thanked me. All in under 20 seconds.

Apparently everyone in Visa's commercial knows how to correctly use their card.

Unlike the real world.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A rant, and then weekend football report No. 5

Three times today I was annoyed, almost beyond words.

I got so mad I could have made up a word to express my frustration. Like "asdasasafaf" or "inmindernate" or "trickeration."

Wait, someone already said the third term - three people, in fact. And that's why I'm so pissed off.

"Trickeration" is not a (excuse the French) fucking word. It's a word coined by our lords and masters at ESPN, because someone decided that trickery was just too damn dull. It describes any offensive football play that involves any level of razzle-dazzle: reverse passes, option passes, flea flickers, hook-and-ladders, whatever, because apparently using any of those terms - you know, actually describing the play - is so un-ESPNlike.


Its continued use, in a small way, dumbs down the English language. Obviously, it's not grammatically correct; yet it seems now to be so ubiqitous - and growing each weekend - that I fear some people may think it's perfectly correct.

It's not.

If the play's a flea flicker, say so. If you want to get creative, call it trickery - as much an underused word as donneybrook, shenanigans or tomfoolery.

Do not use "trickeration." It's not a word.

Anyway, on with the weekend viewing schedule:

Alabama (lost to LSU 41-34)
Arizona (beat UCLA 34-27)
Arkansas (beat South Carolina 48-36)
Arkansas State (beat Fla. Int'l 27-24)
Boise State (beat San Jose State 42-7)
Buffalo (lost to Miami, OH 31-28)
California (beat Wazzu 20-17)
Clemson (beat Duke 47-10)
Cincinnati (beat So. Florida 38-33)
Coastal Carolina (lost to Liberty 37-24)
Delaware (beat JMU 37-34)
Duke (lost to Clemson 47-10)
Florida (beat Vanderbilt 49-22)
Florida International (lost to Arkansas State 27-24)
Iowa (beat Northwestern 28-17)
Iowa State (beat Kansas State 31-20)
James Madison (lost to Delaware 37-34)
Kansas State (lost to Iowa St. 31-20)
Liberty (beat Coastal Carolina 37-24)
LSU (beat Alabama 41-34)
Miami, Ohio (beat Buffalo 31-28)
Michigan (beat Michigan State 28-24)
Michigan State (lost to Michigan 28-24)
Navy (beat Notre Dame 46-44, 3OT)
Northwestern (lost to Iowa 28-17)
Notre Dame (lost to Navy, 46-44, 3OT)
Oklahoma State (lost to Texas 38-35)
Penn (beat Princeton 7-0)
Penn State (beat Purdue 26-19)
Pittsburgh (beat Syracuse 20-17)
Princeton (lost to Penn 7-0)
Purdue (lost to Penn State 26-19)
Richmond (beat Villanova 35-27)
San Jose State (lost to Boise State 42-7)
South Carolina (lost to Arkansas 48-36)
South Florida (lost to Cincinnati 38-33)
Syracuse (lost to Pitt 20-17)
Texas (beat Oklahoma State 38-35)
UCLA (lost to Arizona 34-27)
Vanderbilt (lost to Florida 49-22)
Villanova (lost to Richmond 35-27)
Virginia (beat Wake Forest 17-16)
Wake Forest (lost to Virginia 17-16)
Washington State (lost to Cal 20-17)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Weekend football report No. 4

EDITED to update.

I'd be remiss if I didn't start out by saying we had a fun but sad Saturday night as we bid our good friends Andrew and Rebecca farewell. They're moving to Phoenix, a place they always figured they'd be moving to (both are Arizona grads and Andrew has extensive ties to the area).

We're both terribly sad to see them go. We had a lot of fun on Saturday nights, sharing friendship and a drink or several. We'll miss you guys - but we'll see you soon. We promise.

Anyway, on with it. A pretty productive weekend for football watching, so here's everyone we saw at least one play of:

Alabama-Birmingham (lost to East Carolina 41-6)
Arizona State (beat Cal 31-20)
Arkansas State (lost to Troy 27-0)
Auburn (beat Ole Miss 17-3)
Boise State (beat Fresno St. 34-21)
Boston College (beat Va. Tech 14-10)
Bowling Green (lost to Ohio 38-27)
California (lost to Arizona St. 31-20)
Central Florida (beat Southern Miss 34-17)
Clemson (beat Maryland 30-17)
Colorado (beat Texas Tech 31-26)
Connecticut (beat USF 22-15)
East Carolina (beat UAB 41-6)
Florida (lost to Georgia 42-30)
Fresno State (lost to Boise St. 34-21)
Georgia (beat Florida 42-30)
Hofstra (lost to Villanova 35-31)
Idaho (lost to Nevada 37-21)
Iowa (beat Michigan St. 34-27)
James Madison (lost to Richmond 17-16)
Kansas (beat Texas A&M 19-11)
Kentucky (lost to Mississippi St. 31-14)
Louisiana Tech (beat Utah St. 31-21)
Louisville (beat Pittsburgh 24-17)
Maryland (lost to Clemson 30-17)
Michigan State (lost to Iowa 34-27)
Mississippi (lost to Auburn 17-3)
Mississippi State (beat Kentucky 31-14)
Nebraska (lost to Texas 28-25)
Nevada (beat Idaho 37-21)
North Carolina (lost to Wake Forest 37-10)
Ohio (beat Bowling Green 38-27)
Ohio State (beat Penn State 37-17)
Oregon (beat USC 24-17)
Penn State (lost to Ohio State 37-17)
Pittsburgh (lost to Louisville 24-17)
Richmond (beat JMU 17-16)
Rutgers (lost to West Virginia 31-3)
South Carolina (lost to Tennessee 27-24)
South Florida (lost to UConn 22-15)
Southern Miss (lost to UCF 34-17)
Tennessee (beat South Carolina 27-24)
Texas (beat Nebraska 28-25)
Texas A&M (lost to Kansas 19-11)
Texas Tech (lost to Colorado 31-26)
Troy (beat Arkansas St. 27-0)
USC (lost to Oregon 24-17)
Utah State (lost to La. Tech 31-21)
Villanova (beat Hofstra 35-31)
Virginia Tech (lost to Boston College 14-10)
Wake Forest (beat North Carolina 37-10)
West Virginia (beat Rutgers 31-3)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

RIP Coach Pollard, Part 2

I can't really remember the first time I met Coach Doug Pollard. He was in charge of Moravian's highly-successful track and field teams; he and Mark Will-Weber - the head cross country coach, assistant track coach, marathoner and editor at Runner's World - were the backbone of a very strong Greyhound long-distance program.

It was probably because he was looking for volunteers to help run home track meets. I was happy to pitch in with the field events, since I had thrown javelin and discus in high school with varying levels of failure.

At one invitational meet - my sophomore year, I believe - I was in charge of both events. Since he was essentially running the meet, he had little time to actually coach. He was up in the press box, making sure everything was on schedule.

Once jav was over, we moved almost immediately to discus. Coach Pollard, in the press box, made the first call for men's discus. Eighteen folks made their way to the cage.

"I knew you were going to have a late day," Coach Pollard told me, "when I saw that mass of humanity start moving toward discus."

The days always ran late, it seemed. I'd always end up like a lobster from being in the sun all day, never thinking the days would last as long as they did. Those Saturday nights were spent with lots of aloe.

But I never minded.

Coach Pollard, who died on Monday far too soon, was a man who earned your confidence quickly. Besides the track meets, I knew him from hanging around the athletic department. Though I'd knew I wasn't much good enough to go out for track - and thus, never did - I always knew he would be the second person (behind Scot Dapp, the head football coach) I would go talk to if shit ever really hit the fan.

He was always quick with a smile, but didn't hesitate to tell you what he saw as the truth.

When our offensive line coach, Gary Williams, left the program after my junior year, we found out that Coach Pollard would be serving as our position coach. That really had me looking forward to my senior season; I knew we were getting a known commodity. Even better, I knew we were getting someone we could trust.

Our pregame ritual was always the same and not unlike most college teams. Specialists - punters, kickers, holders, returners - went out first, followed by backs and receivers. Then the big guys came out. As a team, we all went through warm-up drills from sideline to sideline, stretched, and did some positional warm-ups.

The last game I ever played was at home against Muhlenberg on a crisp, sunny October day. It also provides me with my lasting memory of Coach Pollard.

After those positional warm-ups, we all gathered into a huddle for some inspirational words.

"For some of you guys," he started, "today will be the last time you'll ever put on pads. And that's a tough thing to deal with."

Hearing those words, it hit home. It was my last game. It was the last time I'd ever put on pads.

Still, I was on a football field. As overcome with emotion as I was, I held back the tears.

Kind of like I am now.

Thank you, Coach, for all you've done for our school. We'll all miss you terribly.

RIP, Coach Pollard

More on this a little later, but my offensive line coach during my senior year in college died suddenly on Monday.

A story in the Allentown Morning Call is here.

I'll be back later with some thoughts. A very, very sad day.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Weekend football report

Before I get into that, a few notes on Saturday night's Catsino Night: As cool as I could have hoped. We were in the historic lobby, which gave us a grand view of a few planes (Alaska 737, Continental Express RJ, Delta MD-88, and what I believe to be a United 757) and the front end of the runway. So we saw planes just after touchdown, likely as they were just deploying reversers.

Just for showing up, we were given $10,000 in chips (play money, of course), except that most minimum bets were $1,000. Roulette was $500. I immediately gravitated toward the poker table which had two other folks. My first hand, I was dealt K-9 offsuit, big enough to play since there were only two others. Flop includes a nine and two undercards, so I've got top pair and top kicker. Dude keeps betting out at every opportunity and soon I've invested my whole stack. He flips over 3-5 offsuit.

And he wins with two pair.

I flashed my wife a look of anger she rarely sees. She implored me to calm down.

"The dealer was giving him instructions on how to play," she said. "What do you expect?"

I did buy back in and skipped poker for a while. Instead we had a grand time playing blackjack; I about broke even. So at least that part went well.

Anyway, on with the football. A fairly large list, I'd say, since we weren't even home on Saturday night...

Alabama (beat Tennessee 41-17)
Appalachian St. (lost to Georgia Southern 38-35)
Army (lost to Georgia Tech 34-10)
Baylor (lost to Texas 31-10)
California (lost to UCLA 30-21)
Cincinnati (lost to Pittsburgh 24-17)
Colorado (lost to Kansas 19-14)
Delaware St. (beat Morgan St. 25-17)
Florida (beat Kentucky 45-37)
Florida Atlantic (beat La.-Lafayette 39-32, OT)
Florida State (lost to Miami, Fla. 37-29)
Fresno St. (beat San Jose St. 30-0)
Georgia Southern (beat Appalachian St. 38-35)
Georgia Tech (beat Army 34-10)
Grambling (beat Jackson St. 30-20)
Howard (beat North Carolina A&T 35-27)
Indiana (lost to Penn State (36-31)
Iowa (lost to Purdue 31-6)
Iowa State (lost to Oklahoma 17-7)
Jackson St. (lost to Grambling 30-20)
Kansas (beat Colorado 19-14)
Kentucky (lost to Florida 45-37)
Louisiana-Lafayette (lost to Fla. Atlantic 39-32, OT)
Marshall (lost to Southern Miss 33-24)
Maryland (lost to Virginia 18-17)
UMass (beat Northeastern 24-7)
Miami, Fla. (beat Florida St. 37-29)
Miami, Ohio (lost to Temple 24-17)
Michigan St. (lost to Ohio St. 24-17)
Mississippi St. (lost to West Virginia 38-13)
Missouri (beat Texas Tech 41-10)
Morgan St. (lost to Delaware St. 25-17)
North Carolina A&T (lost to Howard 35-27)
Northeastern (lost to UMass 24-7)
Notre Dame (lost to USC 38-0)
Ohio St. (beat Michigan St. 24-17)
Oklahoma (beat Iowa State 17-7)
Penn State (beat Indiana 36-31)
Pittsburgh (beat Cincinnati 24-17)
Purdue (beat Iowa 31-6)
Rutgers (beat South Florida 30-27)
San Jose St. (lost to Fresno St. 30-0)
South Carolina (lost to Vanderbilt 17-6)
South Florida (lost to Rutgers 30-27)
Southern Miss (beat Marshall 33-24)
TCU (lost to Utah 27-20)
Temple (beat Miami, Ohio 24-17)
Tennessee (lost to Alabama 41-17)
Texas (beat Baylor 31-10)
Texas Tech (lost to Missouri 41-10)
UCLA (beat California 30-21)
USC (beat Notre Dame 38-0)
Utah (beat TCU 27-20)
Vanderbilt (beat South Carolina 17-6)
Virginia (beat Maryland 18-17)
West Virginia (beat Mississippi St. 38-13)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Whaddya know, Sony is still stupid

The Associated Press is reporting that Sony will drop prices on its PlayStation3 and introduce a third model, considerably cheaper than its other two.

Sony has slashed $100 off its top-end model, which will now cost $499 - still the most expensive game console out there. It comes with an 80-gig hard drive.

What was formerly the lower-end model has all but been eliminated. The new low-end model will cost $399 - still the second-most expensive game console out there. And here's the rub: The low-end model won't be compatible with any PS2 games.

So let me make sure I'm understanding Sony correctly.

They still want me to pay way to pay way too much - exorbitant, really - for their best console. They want me to pay $150 more than what I could get for a comparable XBox 360, and they want me to spend twice as much as I would for a Wii, which has gotten considerably better reviews.

Or I could opt for the less-expensive version. Which would be of no use to my old PS2 games whatsoever and, frankly, the only real reason I'd consider buying a PS3 in the first freaking place.

I've said in the past that PS3 will have to come way down for me to consider it. PS3 is down (in more ways than one), but not down far enough.

Stuff it, Sony.

-- IF YOU CHECKED HERE Thursday afternoon, you no doubt noticed that this post was not up yet. Yet the timestamp says 1:35 p.m.

Here's what happened: I started typing this post when I saw the Yahoo story on its front page. Since Bloogle (my new name for Blogger/Google) records the time as when the post was started, that explains the discrepancy.

I got about 2/3 of the way through during some down time at Redskin Park (the arrival schedule at Dulles was virtually the same as Wednesdays, so even that didn't really enthrall me). Then, rather unexpectedly, one of the PR folks came in and announced practice was over - meaning we were free to head down and conduct interviews. So I had to cut the post short - duty called.

-- JUST LIKE OLD TIMES? Occasionally, our regional sports network, Comcast SportsNet, has multiple programs they'd like to broadcast but only one channel to broadcast on. Instead, they hijack C-SPAN2 and put sports programming on there. This is shown on our lineup as CSN+.

So I cruised past CSN+ tonight and caught an unusual sight: The broadcast of the Devils-Flyers game from Philadelphia. See, there's a CSN there too; the Philly version is actually the original, celebrating its 10-year anniversary soon.

We somehow got the feed from CSN-Philly. Sweet, I thought. I'd get to watch the Flyers, re-connect with some of the on-air personalities I haven't seen in seven years, like Michael Barkann, and see those random, incessant commercials from places in Philly like Forman Mills and car dealers like Gary Barbera.

But that didn't happen.

The Devils-Flyers game didn't have any commercial breaks.

Well, they did. I just didn't see any of the commercials. Instead, we were treated to all the stuff they're doing while everyone else sees commercials - rewinding tape, moving the camera around, preparing graphics, announcers chatting with each other.

They were discussing NHL scores and one didn't seem surprised to learn the Rangers were trailing in Atlanta - even though the Thrashers started the season 0-6 and had just fired coach Bob Hartley.

The Rangers, he said, are "just brutal this year." Nothing, however, came anything close to scandalous.

Still, it was interesting hearing things that we're not supposed to hear...

The din of a city

I've given some thought lately to what other kinds of cities I'd want to live in (or near).

Places like Portland and Seattle and even San Jose or San Diego might sound cool. But I've had to separate my vision of a city from what it actually operates like. I think of the touristy, cool places, but that's different from what I really need to know: how a city operates.

How's traffic? Unless it's Los Angeles, it really can't be worse than DC. So that's a positive.

But what is nice about DC - or Northern Virginia really - is that if you know seven roads, you can get damn near anywhere you need to be: I-495 (Capital Beltway), I-95, I-66, US-1, US-50, US-29, VA-7.

What are the seven roads you need to know to get around Denver? What's the drive like on each?

These things intrigue me because on my drive, I see a lot of out-of-state plates (and no, Maryland doesn't count in this instance). I'd say damn near all those drivers fall into one of four categories: they're military (which explains the occasional Alaska or Hawaii plate), they're tourists, they're just driving through or they've just moved to the area and haven't changed their plates yet.

I know they probably don't look at any drive in DC the same way I do.

If we do move at some point, I'll probably be that same way for a bit. I just hope it's not that long.

-- THE BEST OF ALL WORLDS on Saturday night. Tomorrow, I'm planning on popping by the Arlington Animal Welfare Night to plunk down some cash for a fundraiser they're having. It's called Catsino Night.

Let's examine how awesome this will be.

1. As its name implies, there will be casino games. Including Texas Hold 'Em.

2. Free drinks.

3. It's in the lobby of Terminal A at National Airport.

Recounting: Poker, booze, planes.

The mind reels with how sweet this will be. "Why yes, I'll have a beer. Oh look, a US Air A319 from Dallas! Oh look, a flush draw!"

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fun, fun, fun

A gorgeous view, no?
Nothing quite like hitting traffic when you least expect it.
This is my view on I-395 northbound just after the Duke St. exit.
You'll notice the thick stream of white headlights in the center. That's I-395 southbound, still very much in the thick of rush hour.
Just to the right, you'll see another string of white headlights running a parallel course. That's part of the reason you see so many red brake lights.
OK, it's not the reason. Here's the reason. At the bottom of the hill, I-395 passes right over Sanger Ave., near where all of this was going on.
That same station is now reporting that the situation has ended peacefully, which didn't much help me.
I made my way down the hill and up to my normal exit, Seminary Rd., which was backlogged; the back end of the line of cars was actually still on the highway. I gave it the old college try, but gave up after a few minutes and not a whole lot of movement.
When an open spot came, I accelerated back onto the freeway with the idea of taking the next exit at King St. That went smoothly until I got off the freeway.
I meandered west on King St. hitting every traffic and nearly every red light. At the second red light, I heard an approaching siren and saw a fire truck come by and turn left, just as everyone had vacated their lane to make way.
I got back into the left of the two lanes with the intention of turning left onto Beauregard St. - which was still another three lights away. I think I hit two reds and had some yahoo decide that he needed to get in the left lane RIGHT THIS FREAKING INSTANT.
Finally, I made it to the turn lane to go left on Beauregard. But the green arrow is notoriously short; thanks to the numbnuts who wasn't paying attention and sat there for 10 seconds during the green arrow, I had to wait through a second cycle before proceeding.
Whew, I'm finally on Beauregard. Out of the woods? Hardly.
I approach the intersection with Seminary - my normal drive makes a giant hook-shape, this was just extending the hook - and it's all backed up because, whaddya know, Seminary connects with Sanger Ave., which is still closed.
It took me three cycles to get south of Seminary on Beauregard, all in traffic like I've never seen on that road. Fortunately, a series of parking lots runs parallel, so I was able to sneak through those. But that was about the only good thing.
A normally 20-minute drive that was about double that.
I'm reminded of an e-mail I received from Mark, my brother-in-law, a few weeks ago. Driving to work, he spotted a couple of moose roaming around a field near the road.
"Man, I live in the country," he wrote.
At this point, I'd take the country.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Saturday football report No. 2

I really did plan on writing this last night. But then after some drinks, typing became painfully slow. (And I'm doing all right - not great, but all right - this morning, thanks.)

I did learn, however, that I don't think mixing beer and wine is a great idea for me. I started off fine with my standard Yuengling. Once the Evolution was opened, well, what's a man to do? That's now become my favorite wine, though I regret its mention caused such consternation in the Zimmerman household (seventh graf).

Anyway, without further ado, here's who we saw yesterday:

Alabama (beat Ole Miss 27-24)
Arizona (lost to USC 20-13)
Arkansas (lost to Auburn 9-7)
Auburn (beat Arkansas 9-7)
Boston College (beat Notre Dame 27-14)
Bowling Green (lost to Miami-Ohio 47-14)
Colorado (lost to Kansas State 47-20)
Columbia (lost to Penn 59-28)
Duke (lost to Va. Tech 43-14)
East Carolina (beat UTEP 45-42, OT)
Eastern Michigan (lost to Ohio 48-42)
Fresno State (beat Idaho 37-24)
Georgia (beat Vanderbilt 20-17)
Georgia Tech (beat Miami, Fla. 17-14)
Hofstra (beat Towson 20-3)
Idaho (lost to Fresno State 37-24)
Illinois (lost to Iowa 10-6)
Iowa (beat Illinois 10-6)
Kansas State (beat Colorado 47-20)
Kentucky (beat LSU 43-37, 3OT)
LSU (lost to Kentucky 43-37, 3OT)
Miami, Fla. (lost to Ga. Tech 17-14)
Miami, Ohio (beat Bowling Green 47-14)
Mississippi State (lost to Tennessee 33-21)
North Carolina (lost to South Carolina 21-15)
Notre Dame (lost to BC 27-14)
Ohio (beat EMU 48-42)
Ole Miss (lost to Alabama 27-24)
Penn (beat Columbia 59-28)
Penn State (beat Wisconsin 38-7)
Rutgers (beat Syracuse 38-14)
South Carolina (beat North Carolina 21-15)
Southern Cal (beat Arizona 20-13)
Syracuse (lost to Rutgers 38-14)
Tennessee (beat Mississippi State 33-21)
Texas A&M (lost to Texas Tech 35-7)
Texas-El Paso (lost to East Carolina 45-42, OT)
Texas Tech (beat Texas A&M 35-7)
Towson (lost to Hofstra 20-3)
Wisconsin (lost to Penn State 38-7)
Vanderbilt (lost to Georgia 20-17)
Virginia Tech (beat Duke 43-14)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Saturday football roll call

As much as I complain about ESPN, their GamePlan package is pretty sweet.

Why watch that Fresno State-Nevada game? Because I can. (And also because I'd move to Reno a split second, so I guess I'd have to become a Wolfpack fan. Long live the pistol!)

Anyway, I saw at least one scrimmage play from each of the following:

Alabama (beat Houston 30-24)
Auburn (beat Vanderbilt 35-7)
Ball State (lost to Central Michigan 58-38)
Central Michigan (beat Ball State 58-38)
Cincinnati (beat Rutgers 28-23)
Clemson (lost to Virginia Tech 41-23)
Florida (lost to LSU 28-24)
Florida State (beat N.C. State 27-10)
Fresno State (beat Nevada 49-41)
Georgia (lost to Tennessee 35-14)
Georgia Tech (lost to Maryland 28-26)
Houston (lost to Alabama 30-24)
Illinois (beat Wisconsin 31-26)
Iowa (lost to Penn State 27-7)
Kent State (lost to Miami, Ohio 20-13)
Louisiana-Lafayette (beat North Texas 38-29)
LSU (beat Florida 28-24)
Maryland (beat Georgia Tech 28-26)
Miami, Fla. (lost to North Carolina 33-27)
Miami, Ohio (beat Kent State 20-13)
Middle Tennessee State (lost to Virginia 23-21)
Missouri (beat Nebraska 41-6)
Nebraska (lost to Missouri 41-6)
Nevada (lost to Fresno State 49-41)
North Carolina (beat Miami, Fla. 33-27)
North Carolina State (lost to Florida State 27-10)
North Texas (lost to La.-Lafayette 38-29)
Notre Dame (beat UCLA 20-6)
Ohio State (beat Purdue 23-7)
Oklahoma (beat Texas 28-21)
Penn State (beat Iowa 27-7)
Purdue (lost to Ohio State 23-7)
Richmond (lost to Towson 23-21)
Rutgers (lost to Cincinnati 28-23)
Stanford (beat USC 24-23)
Syracuse (lost to West Virginia 55-14)
Tennessee (beat Georgia 35-14)
Texas (lost to Oklahoma 28-21)
Towson (beat Richmond 23-21)
UCLA (lost to Notre Dame 20-6)
USC (lost to Stanford 24-23)
West Virginia (beat Syracuse 55-14)
Wisconsin (lost to Illinois 31-26)
Vanderbilt (lost to Auburn 35-7)
Virginia (beat MITSU 23-21)
Virginia Tech (beat Clemson 41-23)

I know it's Week 5, kinda late in the game, but hopefully I can remember to keep a running log of this. At the end of the season, we'll tally how many teams we managed to check out.

-- AND, ON ANOTHER NOTE, I see Colorado swept the Phillies. No, I didn't watch.

It's typical. Those teams build you up; you think you're finally getting a payoff and wham, nothing. And that's what kills you about each of the Philly teams: They all suck at varying times to varying degrees, but they're never bad enough for long enough to make you give up altogether.

They suck you back in, setting you up for another heartbreak.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Putting that glass pane to good use

I sat, as I always do, looking out the media center window at Redskin Park today. How convienent, it also provides a wonderful glimpse onto the approach path for runway 19R at Dulles International.

To get an idea of where I'm looking from, watch this video and pause it at 6:31.

In the lower right quadrant (an inch or so from the bottom and right), you'll see a patch of green that's more green than everything around it. That's the Redskins' artificial turf practice field. That building in front is their headquarters; the main entrance is in the middle, the media center just to the right.

So that's what it looks like from the sky.

Among the aircraft I had the pleasure of seeing:

-- British Airways 747

-- Saudi Arabian Airlines 747

-- United 747, 777 and 767

-- Air France 777

-- Virgin Atlantic A340

-- Scandinavian Airlines A330

-- KLM 777

And, on top of that, I sat in that same spot a few weeks ago and saw something I honestly never thought I'd see in my lifetime: A Korean Air 747.

God, I really am hopeless, aren't I?

NOTE: Links to pictures will be added as soon as I can. is undergoing a server change; it recommended I check out, but frankly the photos I saw there were of poor quality. (EDIT: Done.)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Son of a gun, they did it

Throughout the entire baseball season, I doubted the Phillies. Who wouldn't? Each of the past two years they were good enough to be in contention in the final days of September, only to be eliminated from the postseason with mere hours remaining in the season.

In June, when they were playing well: "Don't worry, they'll find a way to piss it like they always do."
In September: "Seven games back? With this team and those pitchers? Are you out of your damn mind?"
Last Sunday: "Don't worry. The Nationals will find God in that final series and become the reincarnation of the Big Red Machine."
Well, it's Monday morning, and I was wrong on all counts. The Phillies are NL East champions and going to the playoffs.
The only thing I'm really rooting for now is a Phillies-Cubs NLCS - a battle of the sorriest franchises for the right to go to the World Series. Wouldn't that be a great story? You have the 'woe is us' Cubs fans and the 'woe is us, and we'll kick your ass' Phillies fans.
But I do tread lightly on the subject; I know longtime readers Matt and Donna are both huge, huge Mets fans, and they have my greatest sympathies.
You invest your faith for six straight months, and just when it seems you've got a tangible reward in hand, the rug is ripped from under you. That's a shitty, shitty feeling, and I hate that it's two of my good friends that are dealing with that this morning. Keep the faith, guys. You've got a damn good team up there, and you'll be back next year - there can be no question about that.
As for the Phils, they'll find out their NLDS opponent this afternoon, when San Diego and Colorado have a one-game playoff to determine the wild card winner. Obviously, the way the Phils are constructed, I'd think they'll be pulling for the Rockies.
The Phillies aren't going to win 1-0, 2-0, 2-1; they have to score - usually a lot - to have a chance. Now look at the two teams that play today: The Padres play in Petco Field, where offense goes to die. The Rockies play in Coors Field, which is along the lines of MLB's own pinball machine.
Even if San Diego does win, the Phillies dodge a bullet. Ace (and NL Cy Young candidate) Jake Peavy will go for the Padres today, meaning the Phils get the rest of a staff that, aside from Peavy, has stumbled down the stretch.
All we can do now is wait.
Which ought to give me plenty of time to realize just how wrong I was - not that I really mind.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hank: Off to the vet

About a month ago, Hank told us he was sick the best way he could. He pissed on our tiled surfaces - the front entrance, the main bathroom, the bathroom with his litter box (though he convienently pulled out some litter and covered it on top of the tile).

Sure enough, the, uh, deposits he left varied between pink and blood red.

I don't want to speak for my wife, but I'm fairly certain we're in agreement on this: We love Hank. We really want him around for as long as he can be. Often, I find myself sitting on the recliner; Hank will jump up and plop himself into an open crevice. We'll sit and watch TV that way.

Who wouldn't love a cat like that?

So we want him to be healthy. We took him to the vet, but they couldn't make much of determination. It could be any of A, B, or C. (I did e-mail my pal, Matt, to tell him that the funniest moment of the exam was Hank getting his temp taken - through the back door. Hank tried to scramble away, a sort of WTF?!?!? gesture, all of which made me laugh. Is that wrong?)

We got him some antibiotics, but they didn't help much.

So we informed the vet of this, and she gave us a different antibiotic to try. The second one worked for a while, but before long, Hank was back to his old ways - pissing on the tiles in various shades of red.

I talked to my uncle's wife, Kathy, down in Richmond. She's a vet and I have full faith and confidence in her. She recommended a few steps to get Hank pointed in the right direction.

Saturday morning, he made a trip back to the vet for a re-check. We talked about all of the options available to us, all while Hank sat, freaked out, on the exam room table. (To his credit, he was mostly a good soldier.)

Monday morning, he'll be back in again for an X-ray (to make sure it's not bladder stones) and to determine a further course of action.

Who knows exactly what that will be.

All I know is that I want my buddy around for as long as possible.

My dad hated cats. Hell, most of my uncles hates cats too. As a result, I hated cats for a long time. We've also documented here that our other cat, Grace, and I aren't on the best of terms (though my wife continues to tell me that Grace loves me to no end).

But Hank's my boy. I never much thought I'd think so highly of any animal, let alone a cat, as I do of Hank. He's awesome because he doesn't judge; he just wants to hang with his people and get love from his people.

We oblige, because it's impossible not to love Hank.

And that's why my wonderful wife will be dropping him off at the vet on Monday morning. We want him healthy.

Hopefully he gets there soon.

EDIT to remind faithful readers that higher-order thinking, like constructing words and turning a phrase, tends not to work so well after a night of imbibement. So my profound apologies for the simplistic writing.

Friday, September 28, 2007

A change in attitude

For one reason or another, I've found myself thinking a lot about my hometown and reminiscing about growing up there.

When I was a wee tike, we got word that McDonald's was coming. Holy crap, that was a big deal; big corporate America knew we existed! Furthermore, none of the other towns around us - Palmerton, Jim Thorpe, Lansford, Summit Hill - had one. Suck on that, punks.

There's still a McDonald's where that first one was built - kind of. Apparently they had some sort of sewer issue that forced them to tear the whole thing down and rebuild.

From where I grew up, it was about a 5-6 minute drive, depending on how many of the lights you hit. (Back in high school, I could make that drive and only deal with two stoplights. Now, there's four, which could mean one of two things: The population has necessitated such a move - it hasn't - or our fine government does a great job of protecting us from ourselves. In fairness, one of those new lights was pretty badly needed. The other's just stupid.)

It was a 3-4 minute drive into town for the IGA there, since my dad despised the much bigger Laneco (we always just called it Lanes) supermarket, which is now a Giant.

Anyway, back then, we'd make occasional forays to visit an aunt and uncle in the northern Baltimore suburbs. How eye-opening it was back then; they could walk across the street, literally, to a supermarket! If they wanted to walk a few blocks, they could go to Arby's! Awesome! Man, imagine if we had that back home...

Well, my current home does have that. I could walk to a supermarket (but it's not very good, and we usually only stop there for milk, beer or other vitals). A 5-6 minute drive in any direction would yield four McDonald's, a Taco Bell, a Subway and a Wendy's.

When I'm at work, a 5-6 minute drive yields 3 McDonald's, a Taco Bell, a Subway, a Wendy's, a Burger King and a Chick-fil-A, plus whatever else is in the food court at Potomac Mills.

Sweet, right?

Well, no.

Now, I'd just as soon have something from a local or regional place - or, more to the point, someplace different. Like those four links at the side. I'm happy to run down the road to Five Guys, even if it means a trip to the ATM because they don't take debit cards.

I'm glad to go spend the money and enjoy the atmosphere at Clyde's. They have two barrooms there; the front more formal, the back more relaxed. The back is like a waterside shack you'd find on a beach somewhere; multiple TVs and background music that's always playing Big Tracks or Lucy. Hell, it's where we discovered Lucy was a damn good channel.

I'll take that over McDonald's any day. Maybe that wasn't the case at one time, but my attitude has done a 180.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Maybe it's time for a new blog

I don't mean getting rid of this one. I mean starting a new one.

You'll remember the stuff from Patrick Smith last week. Now, there's something that's really kind of stuck in my craw, as they say.

If you don't watch sports much, you probably missed Oklahoma State's football coach launch into a tirade at one of the Oklahoma City columnists. His team had just won its biggest game of the season, yet he decided he would dedicate his entire post-game press conference toward berating this columnist. Last I checked, a thread on it was up to 28 pages over at (the last time a thread moved that fast, it involved Mitch Albom).

I've yet to actually read her column; I will at some point.

But this has brought all of the goobers out to take a giant shit on the media. Yeah, the football coach from Oklahoma State put us in our place, all right. The school hasn't been really relevant since Barry Sanders played there.

Someone's got to fight back on behalf of us; Lord knows no one else is going to.

Maybe that's my job.

I'll sleep on it.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


The clock down here says 5:18. I should be sleeping, but here I am.

I tossed and turned for a good long while. I tried to go to one of several happy places - golfing among them - but it was of no use. Thoughts of work kept creeping back into my head.

Eventually (as you can tell) I just gave up. I figured if I get all this stuff down in an e-mail, I can get it the hell out of my head and perhaps enjoy what's left of the night. But it's going to take me a little while to wind down, so here I am.

But, as it stands, it looks like I'll be dozing through at least part of that Kent State-Akron game.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Lost... and found

"I miss the blog. Enough said," Cheryl wrote in an e-mail a few weeks ago.

"It's been over a month... new post?" Tara e-mailed a few days ago.

So, here I am. I've been negligent, obviously, but for many reasons. All will sound like excuses so I won't bore you with the details. But I will say it involves a heavier-than-normal work schedule, a slew of addictive online games and a sick cat who refuses to want to get better. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

I actually come here to inform you the set of links on the right has been slightly changed. The more astute of you will notice that Patrick Smith's column on Salon, Ask the Pilot, is no longer linked.

I freely admit I am no professional pilot. Though I have better knowledge than most about what it takes to fly a plane, my knowledge pales in comparison to real pilots. Hell, it pales in comparison to some of my friends at United Virtual. I recognize my limitations.

Mr. Smith is a pilot first; thus he is one of those folks with a lot more knowledge on flight than me. He's also a part-time journalist, writing that column for Salon. I'd like to think my journalistic knowledge would eclipse that of Mr. Smith, but apparently I'm wrong.

Seems lately the media can do no right for Mr. Smith. Two of the past three weeks, he's found it necessary to take a shit on the media - the mainstream media, of course, which seemingly can do no right for no one.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Smith wrote about the oft-replayed fire of a China Airlines jet burning after arriving at an Asian airport. The headline: "Lessons from a burning plane: What the media didn't tell you about a near disaster in Asia." We know where this is going.

Summing up Mr. Smith's complaints: An AP story generically referred to "the pilot" doing this or doing that, when in fact there are two crew members on the flight deck; the hype and overstatement of anchor comments as the replays aired on the networks (shocking! We've never seen that before); a CNN anchor mistakenly refers to the 737 as a big plane and the airline as "China Air." One of these is factually incorrect (the fourth); another, admittedly, could use more clarification (the first); the other two are merely opinion, one more agreeable than the other.

Calling a 737 a big plane isn't entirely accurate, but it's not entirely inaccurate, either. It's certainly no comparison to a 747 or a 777, but compared to a regional jet or personal aircraft, it's pretty big. At some point in the past - and I apologize for not being able to find a link - Mr. Smith even wrote that when you get down to it, the size of even a 737 is impressive; that idea, though, has largely been lost because of jetways and the air travel's loss of innocence in the public's mind.

I left a note for Mr. Smith, detailing some of these concerns. I told him I didn't think it was fair for me to comment on the CNN and TV critiques, since that's not really my area of expertise. Mr. Smith wrote back saying that wasn't fair, and apparently it's too much to ask to a reporter to get every single detail right. No, it's not, but if that's how he wants to read it, I don't believe I can change his perception. It's his column, and I'm happy to give him the final say, so I left it at that.

But it takes a little more to get me really pissed off. Two weeks later, and Mr. Smith writes about the latest media ball-dropping (though without such a suggestive headline this time). You'll find my beef at the end of page 1 (this great line: "While we're at it, let's hit the newspapers and clarify a few other distortions.") and on the top of page 2.

Mr. Smith mentions AP reporter Audra Ang, who reported on the Phuket crash of a One-Two-Go Airlines jet. In order, Mr. Smith takes issue with: a quote from the director general of the Thailand's Air Transport Authority; the validity of accounts from those on the plane; and a statement in the story that Smith admits is true.

So, in order:

Mr. Smith doesn't like the summation given by Chaisak Angsuwan, who claims the plane appeared to have "lost its balance and crashed." Mr. Smith says balance is no factor for flight, thus it's an incorrect statement. But I ask you, Mr. Smith, what was the reporter to do? Modify the quote to reveal its inaccuracy? Change the quote? Man, that would really give Salon the rest of the anti-MSM crusade something to howl about.

Leaving the quote out isn't much of an option; the guy's in charge of Thai airways. The buck stops with him. He's supposed to be an authority; clearly his statement calls his credibility into question. But that's not the reporter's problem. Our challenge is to tell you what happened and what people said about what happened; you, the reader, are smart enough to figure out if the guy's legit or full of shit.

The second verse, same as the first. If eyewitnesses and people on the plane told this to the reporter, how is she not to believe it? Again, do you misquote people because you don't believe the accuracy of their claims? Of course not. You quote them and let the reader decide.

Third verse: Mr. Smith admits this statement - "Many budget airlines use older planes that have been leased or purchased after years of use by other airlines." - is true, but still seems to have a problem with it. Does its inclusion leave the reader with a certain impression? Perhaps, but it's all about what you read into it. Mr. Smith says that older planes aren't necessarily less safe than newer ones; but he fails to mention they also need more care. Me, personally, I'd feel better about riding on a 1982 MD-80 from American - which I know has the personnel and engineering to keep these planes safe - than I would from a regional carrier in certain parts of the world.

I know, this has gone on way too long for most of you. But I'll end it with this: Mr. Smith is fortunate enough to be able to have a side job where he writes about a field he is an expert in; there can be no question of that. His columns run once a week; he can write on Monday or Wednesday or Thursday if he wants.

But his disconnect seems to come from the fact that general assignment news reporters aren't necessarily aviation experts. I'd also assert that deadline reporting is harder than it looks.

I challenge him to go cover any Red Sox game for the Boston Globe. Write an early feature, an early notebook, a standing notebook, a full-quote game story and an updated notebook. And to get everything accurate, to the T. No mistakes.

It's not as easy as you'd think.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Catastrophe comes home

That red car belongs to my former co-worker, Garrett Ebling.

He is one of the scores of people injured in the 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis on Wednesday. He lived, but he's critically injured and will undergo surgery on Friday at the Hennepin County Medical Center.

I know the moment when we found out. I sit right next to our managing editor's office. She was on the phone and I heard her let out a loud gasp. This isn't unusual; she's a very exuberant person who laughs loudly, too. But each time I hear a noise like that, I hope everything's OK.

This time it wasn't. Ten minutes later, she was explaining this to our sports editor, who sits right across from me. I didn't pretend to hide my concern and afterwards, I immediately set to e-mailing former colleagues to tell them the news.

Garrett worked with us in various capacities on the newsside. After his final assignment here, as editor of one of our weeklies, he took a job back in his native Minnesota. He was out in the country, I believe, but he got considerably closer to his beloved Twins and Vikings.

We're still not sure why he was on the bridge when he was - we can only guess he was headed to see the Twins - but it's a miracle that he lived. Hell, when you think about it, it's a miracle that so many people survived.

That picture is haunting in some ways, affirming in others.

It's haunting to know that that car carried someone I call a friend. It's haunting to see it framed by such unwieldy, twisted metal. It's haunting to know that someone I know is at the center of the biggest story in the country.

But it's life affirming too: That car is on the precipice of disaster. A few more feet forward, and the car's completely underwater and maybe he becomes one of the casualties. I can't help but think were it not for the hand of God, I'd be a lot more sad than I am right now.

Get well, Garrett. We're all pulling for you.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Time to put this bad boy to use...

I always wanted a guitar.

Now, as you can see, I have one - had it for some time, actually.
But I don't get to playing it much.

When I first bought it, I did; but it quickly dawned on me that I had spent my whole life as a drummer. There's a one-dimensional aspect when it comes to reading music for percussion: You see a note, you do your job. If you can keep a beat, you can play most any sort of percussion instrument (well, in a very basic sense, anyway). You play NOW and NOW and NOW and NOW, etc.

Turns out, there's a whole other dimension for virtually every other instrument. You do the same thing, but with the added challenge of playing NOW (B-sharp) and NOW (F) and NOW (C-flat) and NOW (A).

And that's pretty damn hard! At least for me, anyway. Plus all those notes tend to run together after a while, so I lose my place on the page pretty quickly. (Drum notes, particularly on a set, are far more predictable.)

So I've seen that there are a few computer programs out there that offer an interactive way to teach guitar, and I'm wondering if it's worth plunking down the money. I do feel bad that the thing just sits there most of the time; it's a beautiful guitar. (You can see it better here, though my body color is a little darker blue.)

Perhaps that would make a nice Christmas present too...
-- I WOOTED: Picked up a new remote control (pictured here) for us just after the last Woot-off.
Linds didn't seem too happy when I told her about it; well, I'd peg her mood at decidedly unimpressed. I have a feeling she will be, however, once we get it going. The thing has its own screen for heaven's sakes!
It was a refurbished deal, but I can live with that (unless it's just a piece of crap). Besides, the new ones cost between $250-$400. I paid $85, plus shipping.

Friday, July 13, 2007

25 ways to tell you're out west

1. Dramatic topographical changes, like above. This pic was taken on the way to Portland; on the hill, you can see the trees come to a pretty abrupt end. There's a line there somewhere that delineates the forest from the high desert. This isn't like the east, as I can't really think of anywhere within a five-hour drive that would be vastly different than what's it like here; and even if I could, the change wouldn't be nearly as dramatic.

2. The desert. Even if it's the high desert.

3. Large trees. They make our forests look diminutive.

4. Large freaking mountains. In the photo, you can see Mt. Hood to the right. That whiteness isn't glare; it's snow. And this photo was taken on July 10. Are there any peaks in the east that even stretch past the treeline, let alone have year-round snow?

5. A long drive to get anywhere. It took us three hours to get from Bend to Portland - i.e., central Oregon to northwest Oregon. In that time from D.C., I could be in any one of seven states (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and possibly North Carolina). Mark, my brother-in-law, suffered through a 10-hour drive to get home to Idaho; that would likely put us in Atlanta.

6. Les Schwab Tires.

7. Taco Time. (Though, rather inexplicably, there's one location east of the Mississippi: Altoona, Pa.

8. Laid-back attitudes, which do not equate in the northeast cities.

9. Resort towns, like Bend. It's hard to imagine even places like Killington fitting this sort of definition.

10. One of a hundred places in Bend to get a mocha.

11. The presence of buttes and foothills. (Here, they're called mountains.)

12. Volcanoes, which Mt. Bachelor was, Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens are.

13. Cities laid out in a logical manner. (We're looking at you, Boston.)

14. Hearing Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Vancouver mentioned in the same way we talk about Baltimore, Philly and New York.

15. Hippies, which were in abundance in our trip to Powell's.

16. Sitting down to dinner and already knowing if the Phillies had won or lost.

17. Open ranges.

18. Cattle guards. (That story about the sheep is hilarious.)

19. Listening to the radio and hearing KQAK and KWLZ or watching TV and seeing KTVZ. It feels unnatural.

20. Realizing that Oregon became a state more than a century after my alma mater was founded.

21. Seeing a ranch.

22. How could I have forgotten this until now?! NO HUMIDITY. We went golfing one day when the temperature reached into the high 90s; it was hot, certainly, but not oppressive. And I didn't even feel sweaty! The sweat instantly evaporated in the dry air.

23. The chance to live waaaayyyy above sea level, which kicked my ass for most of the trip. Bend is about 3,500 feet above sea level; my in-laws' house a little more than 4,000. I'm happy to be able to walk up and down steps and not be out of breath anymore (while also admitting I'm grossly out of shape).

24. Driving on I-5. My normal commute takes me on the complete opposite, I-95.

And, lastly...

25. The big sky. I played softball just down from the Washington Monument, and I took the time to look: The sky really does seem bigger out west, though I have a feeling that is due in part to the vastness of the landscape. It's hard to see beyond a few miles anywhere in the east; when we took the photo above, we were still a good 30 miles (if not more) from Mt. Hood.