Monday, December 31, 2007

Great Christmas Present

After the disaster of the expired license, I got a great early Christmas present from Ed and Jennifer an ice cream maker. It makes great ice cream. We did three batches. Two were vanilla and one I cut up a dark chocolate bar and added it in. One batch of vanilla did not turn out very well because we couldn't keep the freezer bowl cold enough.

Now you may wonder why I'm pointing up to the corner. Well my brother has a reputation of leaving the price tag on presents and that's what he did here. He told me it was the wrong price anyway.

Here I am testing to see how far along our final batch with the chocolate bar added is doing.

I will add once again that the ice cream tastes fantastic.

Making Ice Cream

Here I am along with my dad and brother making ice cream. My dad was official taster as you can see and my brother was camera operator.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Too much time on my hands

I ordered my dad some salmon from Omaha Steaks for Christmas. It arrived the day we went to the casino. After we opened up the container, I took the dry ice that was in it and put it in a bucket of water. This is what happened when I dropped it in. 

Yes you could say I had too much time on my hands but it was really cool.

A cult in Washington

I was walking around DuPont Circle yesterday and I got this card handed to me. 

The Scientologists took over a wonderful old mansion right near the Circle. I remember when it was a great restaurant but unfortunately it is now the headquarters to a cult.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Off to the Casino

Last Thursday my dad and I were up early. Then again we almost are always up early. Sleeping late means getting up around 7.

My dad had discovered another place to go gambling. It seems there are several casinos in Miami, Oklahoma. To say this place was out in the middle of no where would be an understatement.

We were off around 7:30. It took about two hours to get there. There was some fog on the drive down too. We got a little lost once we got off the interstate. A sign or two directing people where to go would have been helpful.

Buffalo Run, that's the place we went to, is essential a big Quonset hut. And while the town of Miami is out of the way Buffalo Run is really out of the way. It is a couple of miles from the town.

It is not as large as the other casinos that we've been to but it is still a good size. It has slot machines as well as black jack and other card games. There is even a video blackjack dealer that you can play against.

We played slots. This time there were no big winnings. In fact we probably lost about $50 a piece. There was one machine that we were on that no matter how things ended up we never lost any money. I think it was a dollar machine. We could bet one dollar or three dollars and we never lost any money. Our total always went back to $5. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if we had one once but that never happened.

We left right around 1 and got back to Springfield in a little over an hour and a half. It is amazing how much ground you can cover when the speed limit is 75 miles an hour.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Evil in the World

It is the only way I can describe what happened today in Pakistan. See this story in the Post for more information.

I have to say I was completely stunned at the death of Benazir Bhutto. She seemed to offer Pakistan a better tomorrow. A tomorrow where democracy and the rule of law would hold sway rather than the whims of a general.

Hopefully the people of Pakistan can withstand this cruel and horrible blow and come out in the end better.

Although right now that seems a very long ways away.

A Jolt in the Journey

Last Wednesday I headed out for Springfield. I got up around 5:30 to make my 8:25 flight. I decided that I could take the subway instead of trying to get a cab. I’ve never been very lucky in getting a cab around my neighborhood that early in the morning.

I’d printed out my boarding passes. I was told by a couple people at work that this would make things easier when checking in. I have to say they really didn’t. Either that or I didn’t do something so it would be easier. American was mobbed with people both inside and out. I wasn’t sure what to do. There was also no one to ask. Finally I just checked in again. I got my boarding passes and indicated the number of bags I was checking. Very quickly my name was called and the luggage tag applied. I walked the bag around to be x-rayed. I dropped it off and then just stood around for awhile. I had plenty of time before my flight was to take off. I watched the progress my bag made in getting x-rayed. It took some time. Bag after bag was placed in front of it but finally it went on its way.

It was time to head for security and the gate. I’m online for security. I get up to the guy and then I get my big surprise. My license expired in June. They let me go but I had to be checked. I was patted down and they used the wand on me and they also tested my shoes, coat, and carry on for any residue. I was told I was fine and that I could go on.

Now how does one describe what I was feeling. How to describe how I was feeling once I got to Springfield. I will just say I had hmm well a little melt down. Ok it was a big melt down. My main concern was whether I could get back to DC. My thinking was that DC is a big airport and Springfield isn’t a big airport. So maybe just maybe they might not be so forgiving and say sorry you don’t get to fly.

My brother found a TSA worker and asked him a few questions. My dad and I waited for my luggage. The time waiting helped me to calm down. My brother and I went back to the TSA guy and asked a few more questions. He asked if I had my social security card with me. I said no and thought to myself you aren’t supposed to have your card in your wallet just in case the wallet is stolen. The TSA guy said they would do the same thing in Springfield as was done in DC.

I decided to have my friend who was cat sitting go over to my house and get my passport and send it to me FedEx. Unfortunately it took an extra day to get out to Springfield because last Friday the city was fogged in and the FedEx plane could not get in from Nashville. I also didn’t realize that a signature was not required so it wasn’t necessary for someone to be at my dad’s house to sign for it.

That was the unfun excitement on trip.

Oh yes and the upshot on the license. Since its been expired for over six months, I have to take a written and driving test to get it back. I’ll start the process next week. I’d thought there was a DMV office right downtown essentially on the way to work but that’s not the case so now getting there will be a little more complicated. I’ve downloaded a rules to the road book but I want to see if there are a sample questions you can look at.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A great Christmas

I just got back from Missouri well actually I got back about 6 hours ago.

I had a great time and got some fantastic presents. It was a very fun time but it didn't start out that way.

More on that in a future post.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Cat

I know it's a little early (actually it is only a week away) but I wanted to send out a Christmas wish to everyone.

And what better way to send it than with pictures of Sam under the tree.

To close a classic Christmas song

Christmas Time Is Here

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

Christmas time is here
We’ll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year

Another podcast

This is yet another in a series of political podcasts that I will be doing with my friend Arthur from New Zealand.

Because of his travel schedule, this will be the last podcast we do before all the election fun begins.

We discuss how the political landscape is shaping up as Iowa is set to caucus in just 16 days. We give opinion on Romney's speech on religion if Huckabee and where the Democrats stand (mostly we talk about Clinton and Obama).

Hope you enjoy it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday Smile

It's the start of the work week and we all need a smile. So here are a few.

Back to Afghanistan

There's a story in today's Post about the rising concern in the Bush administration over Afghanistan. Seems the Taliban is making a come back and there is pressure to move resources form Iraq to Afghanistan.

From the story:

Administration officials say the White House has become more concerned in recent months about the situation in Afghanistan, where grinding poverty, rampant corruption, poor infrastructure and the growing challenge from the Taliban are hindering U.S. stabilization efforts. Senior administration officials now believe Afghanistan may pose a greater longer-term challenge than Iraq.

and this:
A new White House emphasis on Afghanistan would probably expose Bush to even more criticism from Democrats, who have long accused him of taking his eye off the hunt for Osama bin Laden with the invasion of Iraq.
The moral to the story seems to be to pursue one war at a time and make sure you win it before heading on to the next.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A perfect evening

It really was a perfect evening and those seldom come along.

I went off to see Spamalot again at the National Theater.

The first thing I needed to decide was what to do after work. It seemed rather silly to go home and then a little over an hour and a half later come back downtown. This is especially true since the National is only a few blocks from where I work.

So I decided to go to the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum. They are in the same block. The are also about a ten minute walk from my office. What is great about these museums is that they are open until 7:30 each night.

I saw two great exhibits. One on Katharine Hepburn which was a series of photos through the course of her career. Here’s a link to follow to get a look and the exhibit. Also on hand was the contract Hepburn signed which gave her the rights to the Philadelphia Story. The film that relaunched her career and made her a super star. The other one was called Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American portraits. Follow this link to take a look at it. It was a series of portraits of famous African Americans starting from the mid 1860s and going to the present. I got a very quick look at Legacy: Spain and the United States in the Age of Independence, 1763-1848 but want to go back and look at that one again. Actually I want to go back and look at everything again.

If that wasn’t enough I got to see the Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard. This is a courtyard created by placing a ceiling in the space between the two buildings. It was used in the past but now obviously can be used all year round. It is spectacular and that I really want to go back and see on a bright sunny day.

For dinner I went to the Capitol City Brewery. I had a chicken Caesar Salad and for dessert I had pumpkin pie with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream. On the side of the dish was sprinkled pumpkin pie spice. It was fantastic!

Then it was off for another great performance of Spamalot. Here's a link of the review in the Post. Most of the actors were the same from the last time I saw it but a couple were new. The Lady of the Lake and Sir Robin. It is a very enjoyable show. It was two hours of great entertainment and laughter. Here's what I said the last time I went.

I just may have to go back and see it again!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Odds and Ends, political

The Oprah effect

Gee was there just a little press on Oprah Winfrey campaigning for Sen. Barack Obama. What I thought was interesting was the coverage was almost completely about here and there was very little on what Obama said at the rallies. At least that was the way TV seemed to be covering the story. I'm not sure how I feel about this. This is not like a regular endorsement by some celebrity for a campaign. There were great crowds but I guess the question has to be will that translate into votes for Obama. It is very much a we'll see as we say in my family. Follow this link to read the coverage in the Post.


What to say about his speech. Seems to me the less the better. Here are two quick quotes that sum up the speech for me:

Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone.

The other is this:

We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

It seems to me what Mr. Romney is aiming for is a Christian Democracy and that the form of Christianity would be dictated by the religious right in this country. I for one am not interested in that.

Huckabee surge?

Seems the Mike Huckabee is on a roll. A very big roll.

In the Republican race, Huckabee's surge in Iowa, where he has overtaken longtime front-runner Romney in recent polls, has begun to translate to the national stage, further shaking up a race that has been volatile from the outset.

Among all Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, Giuliani's national lead is as low as it has been since the campaign began. And among likely Republican voters, 25 percent now back Giuliani, while 19 percent back Huckabee, whose support jumped from 9 percent last month. Romney ranks third at 17 percent, with Thompson at 14 percent and McCain at 12 percent. In the new poll, Giuliani is at his lowest level to date among conservatives, down nine points over the past month to 19 percent.

I saw another poll recently about the race in Iowa where Huckabee had a double digit lead over Romney. I don't remember who did the poll. It will be interesting to see if Huckabee is able to translate this new popularity into votes and much needed money.

Romney is trying to define Huckabee as being too liberal for Iowa. Romney has to be careful on this one because Huckabee could fight back on the ever shifting position Romney has on so many issues.

To think the fun really starts three weeks from tomorrow.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sam's first videos

Sam is finally ready for his close up.

He also does all of his own stunts.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A little snow, a big mess, total chaos

I've lived in Washington for 30 years but it never ceases to amaze me how a little snow can cause complete and total panic in this city. That's what happened on Wednesday. Of course the weather people got it wrong on how much total snow we were going to get which only added to the problem.

Sam's trouble returned and I had to take him to the vet. The drive over was not too bad. The walk to the vet wasn't bad either the sidewalks were in pretty good shape. The walk back to the car was another matter entirely. Several times I had to think and move really fast or there was going to be a cat and cat carrier launch. Luckily that did not happen. Now, however, I have to give Sam medicine. Currently he is hiding underneath the bed upstairs. But he will have to come out some time and then I'll have him.

Below are a few pictures of the snow we had.

Fun quiz

Follow this link to a quiz on the Washington Post site. There are 25 questions and answers from the major candidates to each one. You select the answer you like the most. At the end it tells which candidate has similar positions.

I took the quiz for the Democratic candidates. I thought taking the one for the Republicans would have been a complete waste of time.

Christmas Decorations phase one

Sam and I have been a bit under the weather so I've been a little remiss in posting. Sam paid a visit to the vet on the day of the DC snow "storm" more on that later. Here are a couple of pictures from the first phase of putting up decorations.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Political podcast and more

I'm on anther podcast with my friend Art in New Zealand. Follow the link to listen.

When we were growing up we would talk for hours about politics. As you can tell from the podcast, not a great deal has changes except we don't talk as long.

It's interesting that part of our discussion centered on Mike Huckabee. Well now it seems in at least one poll (from the Des Moines Register) he is in the lead (see this story in the Post about it). It will be interesting to see if he is able to maintain that position. The smart thing for his campaign to do would be to play down expectations and say that a top three finish would be great.

The problem is that a caucus state requires a great deal more organization then the Huckabee campaign not has in Iowa. But if he can motivate his people enough he just might be able to pull off the upset. (he's launched a new ad which talks about how he is a Christian Leader whatever that means) and hold of the attacks that are now coming especially from Romney, he just might have a chance of winning in Iowa.

And the reason for the sudden rise of Huckabee? The reason Romney may not come in first in Iowa? That can be summed up in one word Mormonism. This seems to be developing into a problem for Romney with he one group he seems to be courting the most: Christian Conservatives. Here's an interesting take on that from the Post. In part the article says:

In a memo summing up their findings, the three scholars wrote: "Voters across the board respond most favorably to a message that dispels the negative stereotypes about Mormons (such as learning that the church banned polygamy about 100 years ago, the LDS Church stresses traditional family values, and that the LDS Church's policy is to be politically neutral). But what does NOT work is a simple appeal to religious tolerance."

Demystifying the Mormon religion will be one of Romney's key challenges, if not in the speech on Thursday then possibly as the campaign progresses. Romney may be the best salesman for this, in part because the scholars found that among those who know he is a Mormon, the issue of his religion becomes less of a political problem.

Romney is supposed to have a major speech on this issue on Thursday. It will be interesting to see what he has to say. It will be even more interesting to see how what he says is received.

World War III Postponed

Guess we're a littler further away from World War III then President Bush thinks:

A major U.S. intelligence review has concluded that Iran stopped work on a suspected nuclear weapons program more than four years ago, a stark reversal of previous intelligence assessments that Iran was actively moving toward a bomb.

The above is from a story in Post.

This once again shows that the over heated rhetoric of the administration is just furthering to erode our position in the world. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan there Bush goes again.

The story goes on to say:

Even if Iran were to restart its program now, the country probably could not produce enough highly enriched uranium for a single weapon before the middle of the next decade, the assessment stated. It also expressed doubt about whether Iran "currently intends to develop nuclear weapons."
It also seems the administration was well aware of this when Bush gave his speech at the recent Mideast Summit. A large part of that speech focused on the threat that Iran posed to the region.

I do have to say that this doesn't mean that Iran is not a threat to the region. The only country that served as any sort of check on Iran was Iraq. And we all know the mess that Iraq is in. I'm sure other Middle Eastern states are afraid of Iran. But the threat needs to stated in a truthful and forthright manner back up by facts. Not wishful thinking and bombast by the administration.

There is a great column in the Post by Dan Froomkin on Bush's spin on this report. I think this pretty well sums up the gist of President Bush' news conference on the report:

It was neck-snapping spin even by Bush standards. He intentionally misread the report's central point, failed to acknowledge a huge change in his argument for why Iran is dangerous and exhibited pure bullheaded stubbornness.

Isn't it nice to see how some things never change.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Charlie Brown Christmas

Yes, it is on again! The best Christmas special. Here's a link to my post from last year.

And here's one of the many great scenes from the show.

The Corcoran

The lions at the entrance of the Corcoran Gallery

I don’t go to the Corcoran all that often. It’s not that there are not exhibits there that I wouldn’t mind seeing it is you have to pay to get in. With all the museums that are available for free it is sort of hard to pay to see are. I will also say that many times I find out there are exhibits I want to see at the Corcoran the last weekend they are there. Usually I have something else planned that weekend too.

So I’m very proud of myself that I got to both the Annie Leibovitz and Ansel Adams exhibits before they closed which is in January. Both were spectacular. It was interesting that the majority of both of their works are in black and white.

Adams is of course best know for his landscape pictures of the national parks. Many of these pictures are from Yosemite National Park. Another main body of his work is from the southwest. An especially wonderful photo is called Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. There is a description of how Adams got the picture. He was driving down the road and pulled over. He worked frantically before he would loose all of the light. The sun was setting and moon was rising at the same time. He was able to get the shot off just before the sun dipped below the horizon. The level of detail of this small town is breath taking.

Leibovitz is best know for doing portraits. Although she had landscapes as well. Several of them were blown up to a huge size (think a large part of a gallery wall). They were of the wilds of upstate New York. The main body of her exhibition was her portraits of her family and famous people. It seems she has photographed all of Demi Moore’s children including the one that was on the cover of Vanity Fair with Moore being very pregnant. There was also a picture of Bush, Cheney, Rich, Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice, Tennat, Ashcroft. I was thinking the title could be picture of fools.

I found that the pictures of Leibovitz family were the most interesting. Many of them were taken at the beach. I also liked the fact that there were two walls with many pictures. Most of them were blown up and put in the exhibit. These smaller and what I have to assume original versions of the pictures were broken down by year taken. It gave an excellent sense of how Leibovitz’s career has progressed over time.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

On the way to the Corcoran

This is a protest put on by the Human Rights Campaign. Each flag represents a soldier who's been discharged under the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. There were over 12,000 flags. I didn't see that many because, as one of the people from HRC told me, there'd been a great deal of wind the night before and knocked down half of the flags. They thought that it would easier just to keep up with one square of the Mall covered in flags. It was a very impressive display.

In a rather ironic twist, the helicopter you see near the Washington Monument is Marine One. That's the helicopter the president uses.

A day off

I took Friday off and went out to museums. I stopped off at the National Gallery of Art and saw the Turner exhibit again. I got the recored tour. It was very good. I had some chocolate pudding by the waterfall in honor of my mom. I saw a few more galleries and then headed out for the Corcoran.

Sam in a box

Sam loves to sit in shoe boxes. Here he is in the one from the new shoes I bought last weekend.