Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A bunch of freaks!

A bunch of freaks!
Originally uploaded by fainer.
Just returned from a trip to Westminster Woods with some of our Middle Schoolers. For my friend Jose, who sometimes reads this blog, all I can say is, get yourself some college student volunteers. It's the greatest thing ever!

Sorry it's been so long, Jose.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The last three days

I’m sorry for the way I’ll deal with the last few days. You are entitled to more, but I’ve overworked my typing.

We reunited Marg and her friend Red to visit the WWII and FDR memorials. Red is losing her marbles unfortunately, and is much frailer than Marg. Around 1 pm-ish we arrived at her house to receive a tour. The walls were lined with presidential Christmas cards, graduate degrees and impressive titles because her husband was a 2-star general and deputy assistant secretary of business in one of the departments.

The tag team approach to old ladies and site-seeing goes like this: Steve and ladies are dropped off at site, Dad parks car and walks 1/4 mile back. By the time Dad arrives, ladies are ready to leave. Dad returns to car, picks up Steve and ladies.

We did this twice- and on Dad’s first pick-up at WWII, he got misdirected and drove over the Potomac before he could get back to us. Shamefully, I was the one who was cold sitting out waiting for him. The old ladies were properly attired.

Two memorials in 3 hours were enough to do in Red, so we went to dinner at Essy’s Carriage house in Arlington. I had Wienerschnitzel and was insulted by the owner (as all guests seem to be regularly chastised by the Persian owner of a German/American/French restaurant.

Came home, Marg was happy, went to bed.

Roanoke! Awake 6 am, drive to Roanoke. A long but beautiful drive through the Shenandoah Valley followed by a sunny arrival in Roanoke. We drove around town and looked at various neighborhoods, and got ourselves up to the town landmark mountain and hundred foot star.

We met up with Homer Bartley around noon and saw two multi-family Victorians. One in need of much work, one with work completed. The 2nd one I had wanted to see, and it was great. All apartments rented, and one hardly ever has an occupant because its for an organization that teaches living skills. This was, of course, a very neat apartment. Next door to the house, is a neighborhood restaurant and bakery where we ate lunch. It was delicious. I had a sandwich popular in New Orleans called a Muffaleta. A special of the day.

We toured around Roanoke a bit more, looking at the popular, but affordable, neighborhoods. One in particular reminds me of the parts of downtown Sacramento that everyone in their late 20’s flocked to three or four years ago. Hip little business district and cool Victorian and other houses.

Eventually, we headed over to the Blue Ridge parkway and ate dinner as the sun set at Otter’s peak lodge overlooking a lake. We continued on the BRP, found a place where the Appalachian Trail crossed the road, took a picture, and headed back to DC. I can’t decide whether seeing 379 Walnut Avenue or standing on the Appalachian trail was more thrilling. Second for second, probably the AT.

The morning was spent writing up a preliminary offer for the property in Roanoke because Dave Fainer wanted to get on it if we were going to do it. Plus, his time is free when he’s on vacation. We didn’t have any plans until lunchtime anyway.

I met Robin Rector for a quick lunch in Georgetown and we ate at Booeymonger’s Deli as I couldn’t remember where I’d placed Erik’s list of restaurant suggestions. She’ll be home in two weeks, but it was good to see her in her enviroment. She reports knowing Pierce Bush, nephew of the President, and says he’s actually quite funny.

From Georgetown, I practically ran back to the metro (a long distance really), across the wind-whipping Key Bridge. I met up with Marg, Dad, and Legislative Assistant Dan Bresette at the Dirksen Senate Building. Actually, I walked in unescorted, was searched, went up in an elevator to the fourth floor with many other people, and walked right in to Senator Jeffords office. Senator Jim Jeffords of “defecting from the Republicans” fame. Also, of Vermont.

Dan took us on a brief tour of the Capital building, including the underground Senate trains from the office buildings to below the Capital. Serious big-whig stuff. Actually, I nearly brushed shoulders with Sen. Orrin Hatch-R of Utah. Someone even I recognized! This was an exciting moment. We also went into the Senate gallery where Dan’s boss was reading during a quorum call and waited to beginning presenting a $300 billion highway bill. We didn’t stick around too long. Dan had to work, and the Senators weren’t doing much anyway.

We took the special trains again and then Dan left us on the first floor. Dad wanted to see the Supreme Court so Marg and I sat inside the building while Dad walked around reading all the exhibits he could in 30 minutes. For him, this was a mecca, and since he’d never actually visited the Supreme Court when he was in college, it was a big deal.

It being Marg’s 83rd birthday, we looked for a French restaurant. Thanks be to Erik for his quick survey of friends for a restaurant. La Chaumiere was the most highly recommended place, which was perfect because we had driven to Georgetown before Erik called us back and this place was right in Georgetown. Also, for a French restaurant, it was cheaper than normal and no-less tasty. All three of us were super pleased with the results, and my lamb shank was magnificent (though I’ve never had lamb shank so maybe it always is?).

We were tired, bloated, full, and content following dinner so we made our way to the Radisson, did laundry and lazed about. Happy Birthday to Marg!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Shuttle!

The Shuttle!
Originally uploaded by fainer.
Hey, hey its the Shuttle, People say it Shuttles around, But we're to busy singing, to shuttle anyone around.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Expecting Something

Expectations are a funny thing. Sometimes we will have them, and things will not go as expected. You either roll with it, or your emotions play games with you. Today, three odd things happened to mess with expectations.

Stop #1 The National Cathedral. I found out after we visited that there is a Darth Vader gargoyle here- but that’s just fun information. My expectations were shattered when we arrived to a worship service on a Saturday, I was hoping for a tour. Instead, we were there for the installation of the Ninth Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. Meaning: the new Senior Pastor/Administrator was commissioned. This was a 2 hour service for which we only stayed one hour. Both Dad and Marg would have stayed longer, but I got confused about what Marg wanted and I was itching to beat the cluster-f that would result at the end of the service. Also, in spite of the glorious organ and music (really, quite good, but not new to my ears), I was excited to get to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Hangar out at Dulles.

Stop #2 Steven F. Udvar-Hazy. This 3 year-old addition to the Air & Space museum is awesome! What did we see all in one place?
The Enola Gay: the B-29 bomber that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima (I was much more solemn and serious in front of this plane, I didn’t know how to really feel about it being in the museum).
The SR-71 Blackbird: the fastest plane ever, perfectly designed for spy missions. As a kid, I loved the Blackbird. I think I wrote a story or two about it.
The Space Shuttle Enterprise: I was sad to learn about the Enterprise only being a test shuttle, it never went into space. All the same, Enterprise is a cool name for a spaceship. And the boosters on its rear end are huge!
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter: the fighter jet that will replace much of the U.S. military’s current plane arsenal. The JSF is being built for the Air Force, Navy & Marines in different configurations. And yes, it will also kick arse. Sorry, I may dislike war, but war planes are cool.

Now, we also got tickets to an Imax movie. “Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag.” Red Flag is a cooperative military combat exercise in Nevada with many NATO countries participating. It was pretty cool. But about 40 minutes through the film, just when the one character we’ve been following is stranded out in the desert for a major rescue mission, the power to the whole hangar goes out. Well, nothing gets you thinking about potential terrorist traps like a power outage in a room with five hundred people, in building with several thousand more and 50 billion dollars worth of retired military aircraft. And we sat there for ten minutes hoping the power would come on. Nope. So we left.

Stop #3 Dinner with Dan, Janice, Justin, Patrick, Jean & Kate. I only knew Dan beforehand. We went to Clark together, had half our classes together, edited each other’s papers, and made fun of his affable roommate Paul. Dan works for Sen. Jeffords of Vermont as did everyone else around the table other than myself and Janice. Janice works for Sen. Leahy, also of Vermont. The people were from Vermont. It was Dan’s birthday, I got thrown in as a guest and it was WONDERFUL. We ate at Logan Tavern, north of Dupont circle and I had fried chicken. I also finished Janice’s plate of pork loin. I decided at that point, I really have become my father. Anyway, it was superb meal and conversation in a very loud place, and Dan, Janice and I planned to make one more stop at a bar for a final drink together. When we get to Biddy Mulligan’s, the place is packed so after several awkward moments of everyone willing to wait it out, or just call it a night, we decide to call it a night. This was totally acceptable as we were too full and already sleepy at 10 pm. But again, I expected a little more time with my friend who I see once a year at best. We parted ways and I took the metro back here, where I was greeted by Dave Fainer on his bed in his underwear. Classic.

National Cathedral

National Cathedral
Originally uploaded by fainer.
Darth Vader Gargoyle not shown here.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Father and Son

Storming the Castle
Originally uploaded by fainer.
This is not our house.

Traveling so far to sleep

Late arrivals can be difficult. No one has eaten, everyone is tired, the directions you’ve been given may be wrong. Such was the case with my father’s drive to the Radisson. Hertz rental car said go south when he should have been going north. I ordered some sandwiches at the hotel restaurant just before closing and waited for Marg and Dad to arrive and inhale the food.

They did, and they did. Sleep.

Awoken by the cruel offer of coffee, it is now 8:15. Eventually, Marg is called. A half hour later, Marg is called again. She has not yet moved since previous call. It is at this point I realize what we’re dealing with here.

After some breakfast, Marg decides to rest more. Steve and Dad head out to town. Its nearly noon by now. Nothing like vacations with early rising fathers and late rising grandmothers.

I navigate Dad to downtown via the metro and he wants to walk. Basically, I repeated my 1.5 mile circuit I’d done the day before but with much better and closer views of the White House.

We attempt to leave the basic area of the White House and here is where the conflict in today’s story occurs…

I seem to have a knack for traveling with incompetent map readers (actually, this doesn’t apply to Jane, but with my friend Timmy it did). Perhaps you know that Washington, DC is laid out in straight lines, with a few diagonal exceptions. Pennsylvania Avenue for example. Otherwise, its all rectangles.

Well, dad has a map. A very good and accurate map with descriptions of many buildings, etc. But he keeps turning and walking in the wrong direction. And I keep telling him, “No, DAD, this way.” He gets confused as to my challenges. I reason with him. Explain slowly. Show him the map. Orient the map so that whatever way he is standing, he is looking at the map in the correct direction. Then he changes his own orientation. Return to “explain slowly”, and repeat. 3 times! This is a 52 year-old man we’re talking about here, this shouldn’t happen.

Here’s the problem with know-it-alls. We assume we know it all. My father was an intern for the Department of Labor in college. His office was on Pennsylvania Avenue. He would ride in on a bus, which stopped outside his building. Interestingly, that bus stop is now another building. And remember how Pennsylvania is at a diagonal to all the other streets? Good memory. Dad’s entire orientation to town was based on his summer working in an office 30 years ago on a street that doesn’t conform to the grid. Walking with him this morning, he had no concept of the supremely basic rectangular grids that aid children in not getting lost in their nation’s capital.

Therefore, I abused him the rest of the day regarding this deficiency.

We made it to the American History museum, saw one exhibit, and then exited for an hour worth of phone calls. Not me, him. Sorry Jane. I was wrong about him getting off the phone, he got right back on another call.
By 3:30 pm, we were ready to return to the museum. And we saw some stuff about history. Interesting to see, boring to write and read about. But we did stay until closing and the guard was shooing people out. I tried to walk back ten feet behind a partition to retrieve pops and the guard verbally chastened me. I was displeased by his authoritative use of authority.

By now its time for dinner- Marg has been called several times and knew we wouldn’t be coming home if she was napping-and we return to the hotel.

An excellent Italian dinner followed by a late evening drive into the city were delightful, but we did get lost. Several times. I blame the Pennsylvania Avenue problem.

Old-Timey advertising is the best!

Old-Timey advertising is the best!
Originally uploaded by fainer.
I think some Confederate wanted revenge. Lincoln's Revenge!

Storming the Castle

Storming the Castle
Originally uploaded by fainer.
We're tall.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Sunrise from Dulles

Originally uploaded by fainer.
Attention Security, there are bags left unaccounted for at door 4.

Its paradise to me

Truly, there is nothing like red-eye travel. You fly out of Oakland at 10 pm and arrive in DC at 6 am, after just 5 actual hours of elapsed time. You stop at the first Airport Starbucks, quietly betting yourself how long this dose of caffeine will last. You struggle against the poor signage at Dulles, but manage to walk only 200 unnecessary yards. This is the time where you realize the suitcase with wheels was a good idea. Stumbling upon exactly where you want to go is always glorious, and you do so; blearily charming your way into the heart of the eastern European girl selling you your eight dollar ticket into town. Spend 20 minutes waiting. The sun is rising- you have two choices. Go outside with your camera and take a picture, or stay inside and keep watch over you luggage and your reputation as a non-threat to the airport. Schnell, Option A! Sunrise over the airport is also glorious.

Arriving at the curb, the Washington Flyer Shuttle is greeted by your smile and duffel. Discover Washington Post Express inside the bus and gleefully read interesting puff pieces about numerous headlines.

Transfer from Shuttle to Metro at West Falls Church, Orange line. Exit Orange Line at Rosslyn, Transfer to Blue Line. Realize Blue Line is actually another orange line train. Go back one stop, get back on other direction. Repeat process at Rosslyn except be sure it’s blue this time. Exit Blue line at Crystal City Metro. By 8:15 am, stumble into Crystal City Radisson to store luggage. Consolidate and separate stuff. Return to metro, head downtown. Exit Smithsonian! Tire of odd grammatical and perspective choices.

I get off at the Smithsonian stop and come across a big brown castle of a building. A simply marvelous piece of replicated architecture. This is the information center for all the Smithsonian museums. The museums do not open until 10, but the information center (for which, there is a line!?) opens at 8:30. I want nothing to do with lines, and thus hope that something is open. The Museum of Natural History (read: DINOSAUR BONES!) does not yet have its doors unlocked to us common folk. I hike up a block, ask a cop for a good place for breakfast, dine at the Manhattan Deli. A similarly displaced woman asks me if I know why all the common sparrows have tags on their legs. I do not but suggest science is cheapest when it is closer and less sensible.

Jane needed a wake up call. By gum, I was going to do it from the White House. What they forget to tell you is that the White House is a fortress of 7 barricades and collections of guards. Couldn’t get within a quarter-mile of the place. But we talked, and eventually I came around some trees from far off and saw the temporary king’s familiar home.

Then I went back to my museums. Erin, the Hope diamond is only 45+ carats. It is blue though, and that’s what makes it special. I took a picture for you. I love dinosaurs and ancient mammals. If I didn’t need to go to school for 9 years to make a living at studying ancient mammal fossils, I might try out such a profession. Not because I don’t think dusting off bones isn’t tedious, but because so much of your imagination stretches you as you stretch skin and sinew over those old bones. Those old animals are so fugly, they’re beautiful.

Onto the National Gallery of Art. Not much to say since I was disappointed that a photograph I would have purchased was not available for purchase. When you’ve seen the Louvre and the Orsay (and so many more), one more art museum isn’t all that exciting. But it is something to do while you’re waiting for your hotel room to become available. I watch all the chaperones of junior high groups. I feel for them so much, but not too much because I’m on vacation.

Since 3 pm, I have enjoyed the coziness of a hotel bed, a hotel dinner, a hotel attempt to watch the OC, which was hijacked by my foolishly time-insensitive phone call to my mother, and a hotel full of those junior high kids.

When will Dad and Marg arrive? Who knows…

Hope Diamond Visited by Child's Ghost

Actually, that is what some people call a reflection.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Thursday, January 27, 2005

A few books

The month of January saw me taking trips to the Santa Clara Library and boy do I love me some new library. The self checkout, the coffee shop, the free internet, all simply splendid.

But it was a non-fiction month, folks. The top 5:

5. The Tightwad Gazette
As many of you know, I've been on a kick lately about saving money. This is a compilation of what was once a newsletter sent about by an extremely frugal family. Interesting ideas abound, but if you're not crafty or handy, well you're like me and can't yet imagine how to apply the super-frugality of these nice people. Tight ideas though for when I do learn how to do things with my hands.

4. Financial Peace University
This is a personal finance book with a "Christian" spin. It is Christian in that it puts tithing at the top of the list of things you pay in your monthly budget. This book put a smack down on my fever to buy a duplex in Roanoke, VA. If you don't know, it's a long story. The basic point that made sense was that why would you work so hard to get out of debt, just to re-enter debt on a larger scale (ie. with a mortgage). Save money first, then think about fancier ideas. That's the main thing.

3. Salt: A World History
Ok, so I really only read the intro and the first two chapters. But this book is fact-filled, especially when you are writing a sermon relating to salt. Quite readable, "Salt" makes salt ridiculously fascinating.

2. Affluenza
Would you like to be depressed at the state of world consumerism? Are you already, but would like a good deal more of statistics and comparisons to back up your unfocused anger? This is your book. PBS did some special 8 years ago and it was called Affluenza. Then somebody wrote a book. One factoid that stuck out was that since 1950, we (as in, all humankind) have used more resources than all of humankind through all of history up to 1950. Whether that says, "Boy, we sure didn't use much back then," or "We've got to stop our consumption," I'll leave for you to decide. The beauty of that factoid is that it assumes you'll make the unstated connection that using that many resouces in fifty years is bad. Isn't that tricky, even if you agree? Anyway, I really liked this book, but the solutions section was only so-so. It's easy to diagnose a problem, but when its this tricky, its not so easy to solve it. However, one of the solutions chapters does reference Book #1 on our list this month.

1. Your Money or Your Life
By far the best book about money and finances I've read. Now, I've read less than 20 of such books so there might be something else out there, but this is the book that's making me track my expenses (to the befuddlement and amusement of you young people) and dream about managing Jane and my life so that some time in the future we might be able to work a whole lot less. I think this would be advantageous once we had some kids. This is the book you should read from this list. Do it now. Do it before you spend another $100. Do it before you run up 12 thousand dollars in credit card debt when you're living in a free house because you just don't know anything about money and don't know how you spend it. Especially for you Cam, Laura, McFarland, and Erin-types (of the NFP personality type), you cannot become what is most important to you, if your spending habits totally disagree with what your mind values (sorry Deedub, I know you hate the MBTI stuff). But be sure to check it out from the library, first. If you really like it, buy it. Also, if you need a spending tracking sheet, I've got 'em.

I realized something over the last two months that is obvious, so I'm stupid, immature, and silly. Personal change requires an annoying number of tiny steps to accomplish anything. Duh! But I am conditioned by my culture to want achievement now, and for me achievement means "better prayer" or "deeper knowledge of God's word." But these are vague goals, and even though I have a vision of what it might be like, I'm not sure how to reach them. Therefore, I'm concentrating on the money thing as a discipline that is tangible enough for me to see the change over time. I wouldn't have thought of "being responsible with money" as a spiritual discipline before now, but it is. BIG TIME!

I would like to point out that in January, while I was reading about money, 4 young women in our youth group (and a fifth and maybe a sixth following L.O.G. 6) have been working on something called Girls' Economic Power Day. Sehr Interessant.

Sleepy, sleepy, weepy, Sleepy

My crazy wife has been gone far too much lately. As you may recall, she was gone for a week at the beginning of January. Then she was gone this past weekend in Lake Tahoe. Now, she's gone for a night in San Francisco, working for Epson and having meetings. She's staying at the W hotel again. When I leave her for a week, I sleep on a cot in a dustbowl in Mexico. She leaves me and sleeps in $300/night hotel rooms. And nobody could die when she's on business.

This leaves me alone, bored, eyes blood shot because of reading too much, and basically tired, but not tired. You know that weird equilibrium of equal parts sleepy and fully alert. That's where I'm at.

She's staying at the W hotel again. When I leave her for a week, I sleep on a cot in a dustbowl in Mexico. She leaves me and sleeps in $300/night hotel rooms. And nobody could die when she's on business.

I've been thinking I might make a list of the best books I've read this month. Using the library has been the single greatest breakthrough for me recently. No book purchases equals money at the end of the month. Brilliant! I even have savings in my Paypal account. Ridiculous.

This post is quite possibly the most boring post I have ever written. I think it's the writing of Erik's recommendation to a government internship that sucked all my decent writing out. Oh well.

I was thinking about my honeymoon. This little restaurant has greeted me the two times I stepped off the train in Dolsach, Austria. It is one of those totally odd things that you would never forget. Like the right turn out of the Otay Mesa border crossing into Tijuana.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

This is Jane the day after the wedding, I was playing around with the picture and thought I should post it.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

This is Erin posing for her beauty pageant several months ago. She didn't win.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Interestingly enough

Blogger now has comments. Which is a good thing because comments are important.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Starting over

It's been nearly 6 years since Jane and I enjoyed our first official date, our sunrise to sunset adventure, wherein we first enjoyed the pleasure of meeting our lips. I can't believe it. I had an annual report, a church newsletter article, a massive recommendation for a friend (shh, it's secret) and a sermon to write. Only the annual report is done. And here I am writing in this thing. I can't help it.