Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

While Christina was in North Carolina a couple of weeks ago, I got this book out of the library, took it home and read it all in one evening. I guess that's a pretty good recommendation, so feel free to pay more attention to that than the rest of my rambling.

I guess my political views have been lately more left than right, because I found myself agreeing with most of what Franken had to say. Occasionally, he was a bit too far out there...I guess at heart, I'm a moderate. Still, I appreciate a partisan who backs what he's saying with facts. Franken does (he has a Harvard research staff). I did find three mistakes...two of which I recall. At one point, he refers to a South Carolina politician named "Carole Campbell." I'm pretty sure he meant "Carroll Campbell." Also, he refers to a McCain-Bush debate from early 2001. I think he means 2000; I don't think Bush has debated anyone since he had to during the campaign.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Be Careful Where You Eat In Stratford...

I was composing an e-mail to my friend Melissa, and I thought I'd share one of the anecdotes I typed out with the rest of the world...

Earlier this month, I went to Stratford to see 'Cymbeline' with some associates. Stratford itself seemed like a bit of tourist trap. The restaurant we ate in had instructions for ordering in a pub that seemed aimed at foreigners unfamiliar with pub food, except the instructions made absolutely no sense. We ordered at the bar and sat down at our table to await the food being delivered. As we were sitting there I nudged a friend -- one of the two bartenders who had taken our order had lifted his shirt up and was happily rubbing his belly. I feel bad, but when he came over a few minutes later with two orders of fish and chips, I let the people who were seated facing away from the bar raise their hands and got mine only when the second bartender arrived with the third plate.

I enjoyed 'Cymbeline'. We had very nice seats two or three rows back from the stage. The actors would run by and narrowly avoid hitting me with their swords. I later read that the play is one of the few 'original' stories by Shakespeare, but he seems to have borrowed every cliche from every other play...royal remarriages, mistaken identity, women dressing up like men, poisoning, etc...

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Grantham v. Hornet

Christina recently got a fan to put in the kitchen window to clear out the "kitchen smells". When we deployed it, however, some hornets found their way in, attracted either by the sound of the fan or the aromas of Christina's cooking. That wasn't fun. I suspected that there was a nest around somewhere, but I couldn't locate it.

Today, I was out mowing the lawn, when I saw hornets buzzing around a bush. (Pictured below.)

I looked around, and eventually spotted the hornets congregating around a hole where the eaves met the wall of the house. So when Christina came home, we propped up a ladder to allow me access.

I wanted to spray the hornets with Raid, but Christina insisted that I cover up to protect myself. I ended up cloaked in a hooded windbreaker, jeans, gloves, ski goggles and a mask -- I felt like an extra from "Outbreak". But no wasp was going to get through to sting me.

So I climbed up the ladder and let loose with the Raid. I soaked the opening fairly well before the wind changed direction and prevented me from doing further damage. A couple of hours later, no wasps could be seen near the opening, though several survivors wandered around the yard. Below is a picture of the opening (green arrow) and and one of the victims (red circle).

So, next up is to look at the problem from the inside. It seems like the hornet nest was probably on the far side of the upstairs attic. Opening the attic door didn't produce a torrent of wasps (or any, for that matter), but I should go up there with a flashlight and explore further. And we're going to plug that hole soon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Arizona Diamondbacks

My father writes...

I was hiking in the early morning when this rattled at me. I hadn't seen it lying in the shade along the trail. I have heard rattlers before but this one was sooo loud that, at first, I didn't realize what it was. It sounded like a locust right in my ear. I backed away from the sound until I spotted the snake. I suppose I was a couple of feet away from it when it began to warn me. In this picture, the snake is looking down the trail in the direction of my approach. I try and be watchful but the rattlers really blend into the desert landscape. That is my second close encounter within two weeks. This one is a big (old) snake, probably 4-5 feet long.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Surviving Isabel

Christina and I returned home from the Redskins' loss to find our 3-day ordeal without power to be over. As of this morning, we even have Internet access back. So what was it like to face the fury of the storm?

Well, I wasn't too impressed during the storm. I took this picture to show what the storm itself was like. Doesn't look like much, does it?

Somewhat more impressive was the scene at the end of our block the next morning...

Including the snapped-off top of the utility pole...

Thursday, September 18, 2003


I've been working on a project to re-teach myself American History over the past few years, in a process more in-depth than I learned in high school (the last time I studied such things). I started with the Revolutionary War era a few years back, and I've been working my way forward. I got sort of stuck after the Civil War. There's a lot written about that conflict, but not much about the late 19th century. I had mostly been reading political and military histories (well, specifically, biographies), but I got a little stuck.

I eventually realized that political and military personalities did not loom large in the post-Reconstruction era. Instead, the most interesting stories I read were those about technologies -- the railroad, the telegraph, and in this book, the steamship.

I started to read Transatlantic: Samuel Cunard, Isambard Brunel, and the Great Atlantic Steamships, appropriately enough, on my recently trip to the UK. It's a pretty good history of the development of the transatlantic steamships from the mid-19th century to around 1910.

Let me get my rating out of the way: 4 out of 5 stars. Good, now I can nitpick. What happened after 1910? Why end the story there? When did airplane supplant steamships as the best way to cross the Atlantic? What were the social and political impacts of the reduced time for transatlantic crossing? (Fox does have one chapter on that topic, but I find that more intriguing than all the details about ship construction or (heaven help us) ship financing.)

I think I've heard of this one before...

OK, the hurricane is bearing down on MD now, so I'll probably lose power soon, but I found something amusing I wanted to share.

I was reading this article when I came across this sentence,

"People talk about "customizing" outfits with accessories, but how long before on-the-spot manufacturing of clothing lets people design clothing themselves, or download designs from the Internet, and produce truly one-of-a-kind outfits? "

"On-the-spot manufacturing of clothing"? Hmm. I think Christina has been experimenting with something like that. You know, sewing.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Finca Las Paredes

It occurs to me that if I'm going to learn about wine, I should start keeping a record of what I drink.


Finca Las Paredes 2001, an Argentinian Malbec. "Soft." Fairly flavorful, nonetheless.

Monday, September 01, 2003

More Storm Pictures

Christina took this picture from our neighbor's house of the workers starting to remove the fallen tree...

More tree removal...

Here's a picture of a tree that had fallen on a local church...