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...