Nov 13, 2004

The past few weeks have just whizzed by. I kicked the cold I had in about a week. My dad came to visit me a few weeks ago. I had to work on the Thu he was here, but I was able to leave a little early and I arranged for a tour of the Pentagon for the both of us. It was a pretty interesting tour – they took us all around the building and we also went to the area where American Airlines flight 77 crashed in to the building on 9/11. There was a very simple memorial there and a small chapel too. Friday we saw some sites and then went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai. Like Alegría, it was simply amazing.

Sat we visited the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. This was an amazing museum! The facility itself is one of the largest hangers in the world. They have a good number of aircraft in the building… including a Concorde jet, a Boeing passenger jet, fighters and the best of all… the space shuttle Enterprise! But we didn’t get to see the Enterprise up close – that wing of the museum was still being prepared but has opened since our visit. The Enterprise actually never went into space. It was released from a 747 and used to test out the aerodynamics of the shuttle before the others were made. I need to get back there to see it soon.

We went to church on Sun and had lunch with some friends and kicked back. I had to work Mon but we managed to see and visit a few other places before he left the following Thu. We took a drive up to Ft Meade, MD and checked out the NSA’s facilities from afar. My dad worked there back in the 60’s and we just wanted to see how it looked. The place has grown quite a bit. One cool thing, there is a small museum there called the National Cryptologic Museum. They have a mish mash of technology and devices used by the US and other countries during the years to ensure that data and information was and is kept secret. One of the coolest was a German Enigma machine that you could play with. We ventured around Ft Meade and found the house that my dad lived in the second time he was stationed there – that was cool. It was amazing that he could remember where it was – we were in the area and the street names were familiar. We drove up this one street and he was like, “that’s IT!” It was pretty cool.

Other than that, we ventured down to the national mall and also made it over to Ford's Theatre, where President Lincoln was assassinated. One of the highlights was a fabulous dinner we had at Harry's Tap Room in Clarendon/Arlington. We started off with a large order of steamed mussels. Then we each had a pair of tenderloins cooked medium-rare. For a buck, you can have your beef slathered with a sumptuous sauce. My dad had the horseradish and I had the peppercorn mustard sauce. We also paired our steaks with a glorious red wine. It was simply a fantastic dining experience! Then we cross the street and had some cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory… yum! All in all… a great visit with my pop. We had a great time and I enjoyed spending time with my old man. Thanks dad – I had a great time.

Since then – I haven’t done much. I started taking my video production classes at Arlington Independent Media. My field class was pretty cool – we got some hands on with a DV camera. Apparently, the DV cameras are pretty darn expensive – about $25k for the whole unit. I was a little hesitant hoisting that bad boy onto my shoulder. They told us about one guy that didn’t mount one new camera on a tripod once… it fell off. He’s still paying off the repair. My studio class was equally interesting. We went over how the studio works and how the cameras work and about all the lights and such. Then we spent some time analyzing TV commercials and what methods they use to convey their message in 30 seconds. We’ll spend quite a bit of time doing that every class. So far, I think that the field class will be my favorite. After I take these two classes, I am going to take a digital non-linear video editing class. This will be similar to the video editing I do at home on my PC, but more advanced. Should be fun!

In the news… the elections are over! No more political ads and hype. I have to say that the buzz over the election was higher here than any other place I have seen in the country. It wasn’t bad, but I found myself getting into some heated political conversations – I have never done that before. It was a trip! I caught myself and couldn’t believe it. Arafat passed away this week. I don’t think region will ever see peace. I can’t believe that they were not prepared to have someone take over if he passed. At work, we all agree that the rumors were in fact true. He had passed away earlier in the week. But Muslim doctrine states that a person must be buried within 72 hours of the death. So, they kept him ‘alive’ on a heart lung machine long enough to make all the funeral plans and then pulled the plug when they were ready to make it happen. I guess there’s nothing wrong with that – but they sure had a hard time keeping their news under wraps.

The weather here has turned much cooler. The highs in the past few days have been in the 40-50s and lows in the 30s. I quite like it, but you have to layer like crazy – at least I do. I get hot quick and have to be able to remove layers to be comfortable. I am adapting to this new schedule okay. With my classes Mon and Tue nights and small group Wed night, I usually have to catch a nap right after work, then wake up, shower, eat, go to class/group, come home and sleep a few hours before I have to get up for work again. I leave Thu night open to relax. I have been assisting a gentleman from church with his home computers for a few weeks now too. He calls me up and I make a house call as necessary. Lately I have been putting in about 3-6 hours a week. I work quickly, he pays me well and we continue to have a good business relationship. I’m just getting his systems to work better and quicker, cleaning up and adding features that he wants. It’s good because it helps keep my skills up. I have also been building server racks at work – which keeps my work skills honed too. And I have been doing some server stuff that is new to me, but I have picked it up quite well and can use these new skills in the future.

Work is going quite well. I have settled in with my coworkers and conditions have improved. I am staying busy and the time is passing well. We have determined that, barring en extension (which we don’t think will happen,) we should be on our way back to Ft Hood to redeploy at the end of March 2005 and should be home sometime at the beginning of April. We will have accrued a nearly month of leave and will be on leave the last month or our tour – or so we think. More details to come…

I have managed to get the entire Thanksgiving week off as Holly will be visiting me! Woo hooo!!! I’m looking forward to a relaxing time with my sweetie. About half the guys will be working and half got the weekend off. So, it will be opposite for the rst of the holidays… the other half get Christmas off and we’ll have to work. As it stands, I am scheduled to work Christmas and New Years eves and days – my regular morning shift. I really don’t mind. Holly doesn’t have enough time to come up again, so I don’t mind working so that everyone here can spend time with their families. I have to admit though – it will be strange working Xmas and NY days. I’m hoping I’ll be able to at least venture over to somebody’s house later Xmas day to have some semblance of a Xmas experience. We’ll see.

I promise I’ll post more regularly from here on out. I got so busy – and the schedule change kicked my butt too. That about wraps up the past few weeks.

Oct 7, 2004

I have been sooo sick. It has been a while since a cold kicked my butt like this. I left work early yesterday and they pretty much told me to go home today. I came home and slept some more. My stomach has been a bit uneasy and I have been chowing down on chicken soup, jello and ginger ale. I took some more DayQuil today, but this coughing has given me a headache. I am off tomorrow, so I'll be able to sleep in. I guess I just need to rest this thing off.

I uploaded a smaller version of the slideshow that I created for the CrosspointDC retreat this past weekend. Check it out - I think we all did a great job. Click here to see it. They are going to play it again at church this weekend for all those that missed it or could not attend the retreat. Enjoy..

Oct 6, 2004

I went to a retreat with Crosspoint DC and had a blast! The retreat was this past weekend at the 4-H conference center in Front Royal, VA. The conference and speaker were great. But the scenery was terrific. I’ll try to post some pics soon. I’m not feeling too hot today. Monday I woke up from a nap and my throat felt sore. I ran out and got some Cold-Eeze, vitamin C drops and Chloraseptic. I slept okay Monday night but slept like crap last night. I kept waking up due to a cough and stuffy nose. Then I got a headache from being congested. I took some Advil and was finally able to get a few hours of sleep – I think I slept about 3-4 hours. Today at work I was a zombie. I bought some DayQuil to make me feel better, but it also made me sleepy, even though it is supposed to non-drowsy. I’m going to buy some NyQuil for tonight and go to sleep early. I need to kick this cold.

My dad will be here a week from today for a week! I am working over this weekend so that I can be off when he is here. I will only have to work one day while he’s here, but he’ll be able to venture out on his own just fine. I am very excited about him coming out here. It will be nice to spend some quality time with my old man.

The weather here is quite crisp! Lows last night were in the mid 40s. Highs today will only be in the low 60s. Fall is definitely here… it will warm up into the 70s later this week – but the warm humid weather should be gone for the most part.

I am now hosting a weekly Monday small group at my apartment. It is nice to have people over – makes it feel like home. This Monday I have to provide food though. I haven’t decided if I am going to cook or buy food. The first time we met there were fourteen people, but only six this last time. The numbers are hit or miss – that worries me a little bit. Let me know if you have any suggestions for me on what to cook.

Sep 26, 2004

I haven’t been motivated to write lately. I have been keeping busy with lots of activities in the past few weeks. Here are the highlights:

  • The new work schedule is taking some time to get used to. I am a night owl – getting up at 4am is killing me. The past few days I have had to take a nap right after work. Two hours will keep me going until about 10pm. I’ve also had to adjust my eating habits. I was making a big dinner and bringing it to work when I was on the swing shift. When I started working days, I brought the dinner food for lunch. It was way to much and now I’m just bringing a sandwich and some chips and fruit. I can save dinner for, well… dinner. Seems to be getting better.
  • My friend Katie, who I used to work with at SWK, was in town for a few days this past week. I met up with her and her co-worker for dinner one evening. They weren’t interested in seeing any sights – the conference they were attending wore them out and they just wanted to chill. It was nice to have some company and to see a familiar face.
  • I joined a Fantasy Football league with my coworkers back at RFL in Austin. So far, my team sucks. I didn’t get a chance to prerank my players for the draft and I ended up with crap players. Anyway, after week two, I am in dead last place – 14 of 14. This week I am playing number 13 – so this week’s game is a battle for last place. Yee haw.
  • I have been going to Crosspoint DC for church Sunday evenings. Their annual fall retreat is this coming weekend. I found someone to work for me Sunday morning and have signed up to go. I also volunteered to take pictures throughout the event and then work with a team to create a photo slide show to show on the last day. I have done something similar in the past, but we had to scan in digital pictures. This time we’ll use digital cameras, we’ll just need to download and go. I am also considering renting a faster digital camera if its not too expensive. Better zoom and faster picture taking… much better flash too.
  • The other church that I have been attending, Grace Community Church, needs people to fill some gaps. Their service is on the local cable public access channels in the area. I have caught the show and it could use some help. I signed up to take classes and will be talking field and studio production classes starting in late Oct. I hope to be able to help them with either running a second camera to record the service, or with post-production of the show to get it to fit into a convenient 30 minute segment. I will be able to do one of those jobs no matter what schedule I am on in the future. I have always been interested in TV production. If it paid enough, I would be a TV news cameraman and do production for a living. That sounds like fun to me. I can’t wait to start taking the classes!
  • My dad is coming to visit me in the middle of Oct for a week. I have managed to get a few days off and will only have to work one day while he is here. I have to work straight thru the Columbus Day holiday, but it will be worth it. I have to find an air mattress or something for me to sleep on while he’s here. I will not fit on the sofa. It’ll be nice to spend some time with my pop.
  • I am hosting our Grace weekly Monday evening small group at my apartment Monday. I haven’t had anybody over – not a lot of people, at least. I need to tidy up tonight and get a few groceries. Someone else is bringing food, but I need to provide the beverages. Should be fun!

I guess that’s about it for this installment. The weather here is getting very pleasant: Highs in the 80s, lows in the 60s and this week into the 50s. Dry air most of the time – just very nice. We expect to get some rain this week from Jeanne, but not as much as we did from Ivan last week. He spawned about 30 tornados in a three hours period, or something like that. I was glued to the TV watching it go crazy to the west of us. It should not be as bad this time – or so they say.

Sep 12, 2004

It has been a few weeks since I have posted. When I last wrote, I was preparing to head out to Austin for my grandmother’s funeral. My trip to Texas was great! It was so nice to go home for a few days. It was a bit strange though – I had forgotten where some things were around the house. It was a strange feeling, being home after being away for almost three months. The memorial service for my grandmother was very nice. The service was held at my parent’s church, Northwest Fellowship, in north Austin. The pastor did a great job at conveying what a wonderful, gentle, but spirit filled woman my grandmother was. I suppose I gave the eulogy – I read what I wrote on the blog on the morning of her death. The service was so uplifting – there were very few dry eyes in the sanctuary. After the service, we celebrated in classic Panamanian style – we had a potluck and enjoyed way too much food. It was fun to see so many people having a good time… people I have not seen in quite a while. I got to spend some time with all my sisters and also with my tia Chela from LA. And she also brought an old friend of the family who I have not seen in over ten years. Later in the day, we all went to dinner at the Catfish Parlor (an Austin original) and had a fun time.

I did get to spend quality some time with Holly. We slept in late and ate out and ran errands together – it sure was nice to be home. We had dinner with our good friends Joy & TJ at the new house. I had been hearing about it so it was nice to finally see it. I got to meet with up with my good friends David and we enjoyed some tacos from Maria’s Taco Xpress while his kids ran circles around us (literally,) but they are cuties. Sunday we went to church at Southwest Fellowship. Again, it was so nice to see everybody – it was like I never left. After service we had to head right over to the airport to catch my flight home.

I got a very inexpensive fare from American Airlines, which is good because I am a frequent flier, but I had to fly through O’Hare, which makes for a long day of sitting in airplanes and airports. I was surprised when I was in DC preparing my bags and I got a call from American telling me that my flight from Reagan to Chicago was cancelled due to weather. They booked me on a flight to Dallas instead and I got there an hour earlier! What a treat – kudos to AA! My flight home was a different story. No, AA didn’t make any mistakes or have any delays… I unexpectedly fell asleep and slept the whole flight from Austin to Chicago. I grabbed some “dinner” (mmm… airport food) and didn’t want to fall asleep again, so I stopped by Starbuck’s and bought an Iced Chai Tea Latte. I had a taste of someone else’s once and it was really yummy, so I figured it would keep me up. I sucked it down and boarded my flight. The flight was okay and the Metro ride home was uneventful. It wasn’t until I was back in my apartment, unpacking, that I noticed my heart was racing and I was burning up! This was about four hours later and the caffeine was still in my system. Anyway, I was wired and couldn’t fall asleep for another couple of hours. It wasn’t until a few days ago when I shared this with some folks from church and they told me that the ingredient in that tea, black tea, is rich in caffeine. Duly noted.

So then Holly came up the following weekend, for Labor Day. I was told that I could have Sunday off a month and a half ago, but I guess they forgot (?) and scheduled me anyway. When I asked about it, they didn’t even apologize, they just told me to find someone else to work it or I would have to. Kenny was kind enough to fill in for me – many thanks to him. We had a fantastic time together and finally had a chance to sit around and just enjoy each other’s company. She came in early morning Friday (I mean early – like 1am early) and we got to sit in a traffic jam at 2:30am. I love life in DC. Friday we went to Gallaudet University for a tour of the campus. Gallaudet is the Largent deaf university in the country. Holly is studying sign language and really wanted to take a tour of the campus. I have to admit, I was very impressed with the history of the school and camaraderie of the student body. Interesting note, Holly had to request an interpreter for me! The tour was given in sign language and I am not fluent at all. Holly is though – she was able to keep up just fine. Later that night, we met up with some friends from Grace to drive up to the Maryland State Fair to check out one of our favorite Christian bands, Switchfoot. The fair was only about a 40 mile drive – it should have taken maybe an hour and a half. We left at 5pm and got there just after 8pm! That’s right – over three hours to get there. We got stuck in traffic headed to a preseason Redskins game, and then two wrecks were blocking the road. I don’t know how many times we thought, “maybe we should just turn around and go home.” We got there, parked and walked to the entrance and the line was longer than I have seen anywhere in a while! I walked to the front of the line and learned that people had been standing in line for over 30 minutes. It was already after 8 and they were supposed to come on at 8. I started to walk down the other line that had formed and as I came over a hill, I could hear and see the band only about 150 yards away. I called the rest of the crew and they all joined me. We enjoyed the show from a distance, but could hear them and see just fine. So we never made it into the fair, but at least we got to see the show. What a trip! BTW – the return drive took only about 45 minutes.

I started my new schedule at work: 0545-1415 Sun-Thu. It has been tough to adjust to, but not as bad I thought. The hardest part is waking up so early and also forcing myself to get to sleep around 10pm. I am not used to getting up that early! I have been doing a lot of software upgrades in the local DC area lately and it has been nice to work out of the office. And the weather here has been phenomenal! We had a bit of rain from the last hurricane turned tropical depression and we might get more late next week. I went for a 25 mile bike ride on Friday – I rode all the way up to Bethesda, MD and then back and down to see the Roosevelt and Jefferson memorials in DC. I need to start running again – PT test is soon.

Aug 23, 2004

I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to be stuck at work. I am being sarcastic, of course. I wish I was outside today. After the rain yesterday and the humidity of the past week, today was clear, dry and in the high 70’s. I drove to work with the windows open and hated every minute of it. It was so nice – I wished I was off or something. Incidentally, I’m not sure why, but I got a hankering for a quarter pounder today. I stopped at a McD and as I was ordering, I noticed that they now serve Mr. Pibb!! Of course, now it’s called Pibb Xtra. Xtra what? I have no idea. But it is my favorite soft drink. It’s hard to find anywhere and it’s a shame that they have it at McD’s – but they also have it at Chipotle too. I guess that makes sense since McD owns Chipotle.

It was a very slow night at work. Not one call, not one incident. We have a TV and we watched coverage of the Olympics all evening. I have to admit that I have very impressed with the coverage by NBC thus far. One can find almost any sport on one of six channels almost 24 hours a day. I would have to say that cycling, track & field, swimming and beach volleyball have been my favorites.

Hmm… flash back to Friday… grocery shopping, haircut, laundry, frozen pizza, chillin’. Pretty much sums up that day. Saturday morning I went to men’s group at church and really reached out to find some common ground with these guys. I’m not going to be able to go to men’s group anymore with my new schedule and wanted to try to create some new relationships. Anyway – it worked! Most of us traded numbers and will try to hook up in the future. In fact, I found out that one of the pastors, Derek, is an avid bicyclist. He invited me to join him for a ride that afternoon. And even though rain was in the forecast, I didn’t care and was excited to get on my bike for a ride. I loaded up the bike and all my gear and drove over to his house. We had some lunch and then headed out. He took me on some of the trails that start near his house and he showed me how all the trails in the area run together and are very well laid out. Indeed, they are… they even have signs and stripes painted on the trail. Most of the trails go under roads and rarely cross traffic! It’s like a highway for bikes. We took an easy ride, the trails were easy, the rain fell hard at times, but it was a blast. In all, we rode about 12 miles. My butt is sore and my shoulders ache a little bit. I’ll just need a few more rides to get my body used to the saddle again. I was very happy with how my bike handled, especially in the rain. And it cleaned up very easily.

Matt and Pili invited me to join them and some friends at a Spanish restaurant called Lauriol Plaza in DC later in the evening. The margaritas were excellent, and the platanos maduros were awesome, but the lomo saltado was just okay. I first had that dish at a Peruvian restaurant in LA and it was much better there. Here the flavor wasn’t as good and the meat tasted overcooked. At least the margaritas were yummy!

So this week I understand I'll be toodling around DC performing software upgrades at various sites. This will be a nice break from the norm - and I'll have to get to work early too so it will help me get on the right schedule. One day and a wake up until I go home!!!!

Aug 19, 2004

I have been trying to email a blog in from my pager while commuting, but every time I tried either the message was too long and it wouldn’t send or I didn’t have a signal. I wanted to quickly share my experiences over the past two days with you! Like, yesterday I picked up my bike from the shop. I rode it back to the apartment and it felt sooo good to be in the saddle again! I can’t wait to take it out for a long ride on a nearby trail. I might have to do that Saturday morning. And then there was the guy with one eye asking me for money while I was waiting for the Metro. And the other guy that wanted fifty cents to make a phone call or buy some drugs or something, but I couldn’t hear him because I was reading and listening to music and he had to repeat himself three times, each time successively louder. Wouldn’t you think, that if you came across someone who was reading and had earphones on, that they wouldn’t want to be disturbed? That ticks me off. I guess I don’t have to worry about it anymore though. I finally heard from work and they are unwilling to shift my schedule a mere 45 minutes so that I can take the Metro to work. They want me to get there at 0545 and the trains don’t run early enough to get me there by then. So, I will have no choice but to add another car to the road and all of its pollution and drive. I thought about riding my bike to work and taking Metro or riding home after work, but I’m going to have to think about that one real good. I don’t know if I am disciplined enough to get up reeeaaal early to leave, get to work, shower and report to work. And I have to lug all the clothes along and stuff too. Then there’s that whole winter cold thing… eesh! It was a nice thought – I might revisit the thought after a while. I understand that this new schedule will only be in effect for two months, so I may be able to Metro to work again soon. I have started buying some winter cycling gear that was on sale though – I do plan to ride for fun when it gets colder. But it hasn’t even shipped yet... even though I bought it on Sunday! I guess I need to call to see where it is. I was excited to be getting new stuff soon, but now that it hasn’t even shipped, all the fun is gone. I want my new stuff!

Aug 17, 2004

It has been another run of the mill week here in DC. The big news last week was the hurricanes that were supposed to make their way up here. The remnants of Bonnie were very disorganized and only brought us a short rain. Then came Charley… they put out tropical storm warnings and said we were going to get four inches of rain and high winds. I decided to grab some groceries early and just stay in and take care of laundry and other stuff in my apartment. Sure enough, the rain came and the heavy stuff was moving up from the south. But as the evening pressed on, the storm moved to the east of us and the sun was shining through the clouds around sunset. All that hype for nothing.

My grandmother’s funeral has been scheduled for Saturday, August 28 at 10am. I have been authorized a pass for the weekend and will be able to make it home for the services. My aunt from LA and all my sisters will also be there, so all of our close family will be there. Looks like that Saturday will be a family packed day.

Last Friday I ventured out a saw the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights at the National Archives. The wait was about 30 minutes just to see anything and the whole exhibit took about another 30 minutes. It was very cool to see our founding papers, but I was astonished at how faded some of the documents were. The Declaration of Independence was extremely faded. It made me sad to see this faded piece of paper that established our independence. I mean, really… it was so faded you could barely read the writing. The other two have fared a little better over the years.

After that, I walked over to the National Building Museum. It was on a list of top five things to see in the downtown DC area in my Lonely Planet book, otherwise, I never would have visited it. The building itself was very impressive. From the outside, it looks like a huge office building, but when you walk in, the interior of the building is a huge hall. And the architecture is spectacular. According to their website the building is “constructed of more than 15 million bricks, the Museum houses some of the largest Corinthian columns in the world and has been the site of fifteen Presidential Inaugural balls, from Grover Cleveland's in 1885 to George W. Bush's in 2001.” They currently have three exhibits. The first one I saw is called “Liquid Stone: New Architecture in Concrete.” It was an interesting view into how concrete is used in architecture. The other one is called “Symphony in Steel: Ironworkers and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.” It is an exhibit of striking black and white pictures capturing the beautiful lines of the new building and the spirit and courage of the men and women that built the hall. Check out the website of the museum for some pictures of the museum and info on the exhibits. I am seriously considering bringing Holly here next time she comes to visit. Maybe we’ll take a tour of the building.

Holly shipped my mountain bike to me last week and it arrived in one piece. It is being assembled at a bike shop down the street and it supposed to be ready tomorrow! I am pretty excited about getting my bike. I am so looking forward to checking out some of the trails around here after work. Of course, the after work thing will be next week, after my schedule changes. I still don’t know how that’s going to work out with my internal clock. I hate getting up early.

Aug 8, 2004

As you learned in my last post, my grandmother passed away yesterday. My family in Austin is current making funeral arrangements. Due to some legalities, the services may not take place for another week or so. It also appears that I may be able to return home for the services.

I found out last week that my working schedule will be changed after Labor Day. I will most likely begin working the day shift, 0545 to 1415 Tue thru Sat. But since they encouraged us to take Metro, the soonest I can get to work is 0645 – so I may work 0645 to 1515 instead if they will allow me to. At first, I was not happy about the schedule change. I was not looking forward to having to get up so early. I guess I was being stubborn and selfish – wanting to sleep in every morning. But my wife is right, it would probably be better to live a more normal schedule. I still wasn’t sure, but after talking to everyone at church today – it will be really nice to be able to attend the weekly evening community meetings and to have the afternoon to myself. I’ll even be able to ride my bike since Holly shipped it to me this past week also… it should come some time this coming week. So bring on the schedule change.

This past weekend was good. I had to switch out my rental car on Friday morning. Apparently, Enterprise sold the Jetta I was driving. They told me there was a recall on it, but I think they just wanted it back quick. They didn’t have to lie to me! I was glad to give it back for a Nissan Altima. The Altima isn’t at cute as the Jetta, but it sure has a heck of a lot more power!

A friend from church, Matt, called me up before noon. A friend of his, David, was visiting from St. Louis. He asked me if I wanted to join them for lunch in DC. I was more than happy to say yes and hopped on the Metro. We met up at Federal Center SW and David wanted to see the WWII Memorial, so we took a stroll down there and checked it out. Then we had lunch near the White House and then met Matt’s girlfriend, Pili, at her work. She was just getting off work to go to the Women of Faith conference at the MCI Center. We accompanied her to meet her friends for dinner at this place called the Austin Grill. It is totally themed after Austin, TX – so I’ll have to check it out soon. Later that evening, Matt and David came over and we grilled streaks and veggies and ate outside. I have not had a steak in so long… it was delicious! BTW – I failed to mention that the weather this past weekend has been absolutely wonderful. Nice and dry, highs in the 70’s and lows in the low 60’s – a very nice reprieve from the humidity here.

Saturday, Kenny and I wandered to a military surplus store to try to find some stuff. He is looking for dress blues and I am looking for a black jacket to wear with my Class B’s for the wintertime. These jackets are about $70 new. They didn’t have anything for either of us, so I think I will have to try eBay next. Sat night I picked up Matt and David and we went over to a monthly get-together for the young folks at Grace. I met lots more great people and we ended up the evening playing Cranium.

So, I am looking forward to a change. I guess it is time to change things up a bit. My brother-in-law said its good to change things up – he was right.

Aug 7, 2004

I got word early this morning that my grandmother, my abuelita Eva, passed away. We learned yesterday morning that her health took a turn for the worse and my mother and father rushed to her bedside to make sure she was comfortable. We understand she may have gone in her sleep, which gives us all comfort. I am glad she no longer has to suffer due to her health. I have many memories of my grandmother, but the ones that will always stay with me are the pictures in my mind of her smiling face and her cooing laugh. My abuelita and I did not communicate in lengthy conversation due to the language barrier, but we always managed to understand each other with a laugh and a smile.

My abuelita was at times mischievous… she would sometimes do things just to get a rise out of us. I remember how she loved kids... she always loved kids – smiling at them and making baby sounds to them – that smile beaming through and through. For the most part, abuelita was quiet. While at my parents, she would retreat to her room and just lie on the bed and rest. We would always try to summon her out to join us, “Abuelita!! Don’t sleep! Come spend time with your family!!” We wouldn’t hear anything from her. After a few minutes my mom would notice that she was peeking at us from around the corner. We would all look and she would disappear. Usually, she would emerge and it was always a grand entrance, “Abuelita! It’s so good to see you!!” everyone would exclaim, “come sit here at the table with us and talk.” She would sit and just listen to us.

One time my mom, dad and wife went to a Chinese restaurant – abuelita joined us. She was so alive that night! She was talking and joking – it was so uncharacteristic! I remember that evening very well. Then there was our wedding... we couldn’t believe it when she got up and made her way to the dance floor. She joined the rest of us, dancing away for a good while. Our guests said to me, “Hey man… your grandma is cooool! Check her out!!” What an impact that made on me. I once thought – maybe she’s always resting to save up her energy for these moments.

Being up here in DC, I am sorry that I didn’t get to see her in her last days. But I will forever have with me the memories of the good times that we shared together. My abuelita… she brought my mom and dad to God. My parents brought me to God. She was truly God’s worker. I know that my abuelita was the working force that brought my mom and aunt and her daughters together after many years of anger and silence just a few weeks ago. It was my abeulita’s last big accomplishment. I believe that the Lord had this one last task for her to complete. With it done, He was ready for her to come home. She gave us such a great gift – she gave us our family back. I know that she is in a better place now, up there in heaven.

I love you abuelita. I will see you soon.

my abuelita
Eva Rivas

Aug 1, 2004

We got to work today and learned that the feds raised the threat level in DC, NY and So. NJ (NYC has actually been at high since 9/11.) We wonder what this means for us here in the DC area. We can only presume that security will be tighter on government installations. The news says that the feds are saying that the information they have gathered is very detailed and unlike anything some have seen. This sure is a great time to be in DC!

Uneventful weekend… gosh… I can hardly remember what I did. Oh yeah… I went to the PX and Commissary again for stuff. Also drove down to Potomac Mills to check out the shopping center and to find the Sam’s Club. Holly emailed me a bunch of recipes of stuff that we cook at home. I spent Saturday night cooking and doing laundry. I cooked up one of my favorite dishes that Holly makes – I knew it was some kind of chicken bake so I looked it up and it’s called One Dish Chicken & Rice Bake. It was very good! I am definitely going to cook more often now – need to try to save money. I guess we’ll soon find out how will security will be tweaked around the area.

Jul 30, 2004

Maybe it's just me - but isn't all the media coverage of the Democratic National Convention overkill? We are required to have the TV in the IAPC here tuned to the major cable news channels during the day. All they have had for the past few days is coverage of the DNC. First of all - Kerry was a shoe-in for the Dems months ago. I guess the convention is a big event for those that love politics or are hard core party freaks. This thing has been going on for a few days now and it's been the headliner all week. Why can't they just hold the convention in one day and just get it all over with? First his wife, then his running mate, tonight the big news is that Kerry is expected to accept his party's nomination. Duh! I just hate how the media is making such a big deal out of this. They get all excited about the election and seem to loose control. They squeeze in about ten seconds of other news and its back to Boston for an interview with the guy that sets up the microphone stands for the guest speakers. Anyway - I have had enough of it already and this is just the beginning. We still have the Republicans to deal with and then the Holy Grail of political media frenzies - the election itself. Washington DC will be awash in media hype of election coverage. Ho hum...

Thursday's commute was cool. I really like taking metro to work. I wonder how I'm gonna feel about it when it starts getting cold. I'll probably like it since I love the cold weather! I walked to the station again and only had to wait less than five minutes for the train. Then at the next station I had to wait about five minutes again. I got to the last station and was looking to have to wait about fifteen minutes this time. I decided that instead of waiting outside in the heat, I would just wait in the station under an A/C vent and just chill out and read for a while. I went up to street level to wait for the shuttle and it showed up in less than five minutes again. I have to say - my timing was great!

Is there anybody out there?

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Jul 28, 2004

Yesterday I got my MetroCheks from work. They gave me $300 for the next quarter. I looked over my schedules and decided to give it a whirl this morning. I had trouble falling asleep and I don’t think I dozed off until about 1:30am. Then my eyes opened and it was 6:30am!! What’s up with that?!? I tried to go to sleep, but I just couldn’t do it! I laid there and tried to go back to sleep. I watched a little bit of the local news and learned about all the local flooding here from rain last night. I felt a little sleepy and turned off the TV and tried to sleep again, but it was no use. I laid there for a little while longer and gave up before 8am. I guess I was rested or just anxious about taking the Metro for the first time.

Anyway – I finally dragged my butt out of bed and checked email, showered and stuff. I was starving from getting up so early! So I cooked up some breakfast and realized that my entire morning was almost gone. I was cooking eggs and getting dressed at the same time. Then I had to pack my lunch and was having trouble getting my lunch box to fit in my backpack since I had some paperwork in there too. Time was ticking away! I was getting flustered and I started shaking. It was weird – I have not felt that way in quite some time. I got everything to fit and darted out the door. I felt a lot better once I began walking to the Rosslyn Metro station. I put my tunes on and enjoyed the walk and got there in about five minutes. The train came soon after and I got to my next station at L'Enfant Plaza and went to the wrong platform and had to double back to get to the other one. It took me to the last Metro stop at Anacostia and I had to wait for the shuttle for about ten minutes. It dropped me off closer that I would have to walk when I drive which was cool.

The ride home was better. My co-worker, Becky, dropped me off at the front gate. It was a short walk to the bus stop where I sat for a good amount of time. The shuttle doesn't run at night and I have to take the W4 MetroBus in the evening. I obviously got there too early and will have to leave later next time. Maybe I'll just walk! The bus was clean, the driver was nice, and he took me right to the Metro station. I hopped on my train and was surprised to see so many people still out and about. Train change was easy and the walk home took me just minutes. I got quite a bit of reading done was the brisk walk was good exercise since I can’t run yet. All in all – I’d say that the experience has been a good one and I look forward to doing it again. It is nice to have some downtime and just do nothing but kick back and let someone else drive. And besides – one more car off the road is a good thing… and I don’t have to pay a dime!

No more news about my abuelita. She is doing okay and all is well back in Austin. I have been talking to my coworkers back home and am trying to setup a conference call so that we can discuss past, current and future projects in the department. We are almost 90 days into this deployment and I don’t want to be lost when I get back. I figure its easier to spend a little time every few months to catch up instead of trying to comprehend everything at once when I get back. It will be good to talk to them again. I also picked up a consulting gig for a guy from Cherrydale church. He needs help updating, securing and organizing his computer and I replied to his ad on the church’s website. The money is not bad and it will help keep my skills intact. I am supposed to be there at 9am Friday morning. Looks like this might be a lucrative business! I might look for more opportunities if everything works out right.

Jul 26, 2004

What a cool weekend! Literally too… highs have been in the low to mid 70’s over the weekend. It was humid, but cool enough that it didn’t really matter. Reminded me of evening beach weather in Southern California, where I grew up. Friday afternoon I met up with Pili, Matt and Ryan from Grace at the Sculpture Garden for an evening of live jazz. It was a nice cool evening and the rain held off until the show was over. We snacked on some cheeses including brie, sliced meats, crackers, and a very good tomato and mozzarella salad. We had a good time.

Saturday I went to Grace’s men’s group at 8am. It was a very good meeting and I understand they will have it twice a month now instead of just once... We’ll see. After the meeting, I ate breakfast and got very sleepy. I was watching Lance kick butt in the Tour and next thing I know, it’s early afternoon. I shook off the sleepies and went shopping for a few things that I have not been able to find at the PX. Specifically, I am looking for a one handed peppermill and a baking pan big enough for pizza. I found the peppermill that I was interested in at Bed, Bath and Beyond… the Pepperball from Chef’n. There were only two left… one did not have a box and the other’s container was in bad shape. I decided to take it home and give it a whirl. It seems to be okay, but it does not put out as much pepper as I hoped it would with each grind. I think it might have been a return and will just need to keep an eye on it. I kept the packaging, just in case. But I am very happy with it! It’s very cool… when I am cooking I often try to keep one hand clean and the other is dirty in the food. Now I can grab the Pepperball and grind in some fresh ground pepper and not have to wash my hands to do it! Am I lazy? I think not! As for the baking pan – no luck there. I’d like to get one of those pans with two layers of metal with air in the middle, but those are quite expensive. Wal-Mart did have a circular baking ‘stone’ for about four bucks. I figure it is better than a metal pan. I just wonder how durable it is and if might break easy. I was going to run back to Wal-Mart from BBB but my friend James called me. He was up in Rosslyn with a friend and wanted to know if I wanted to grab some dinner. How could I turn that down?

I high-tailed it back to Rosslyn and we chatted for a while. His friend (I can’t remember his name) lives in Orange County, CA, so we had a lot to talk about. We grabbed a bite at a really great Thai place called Singh Thai. I had Pad Thai and it was really good. I also enjoyed some Thai Tea and it was amazing. It was kind of like bubble tea without the bubbles. I will definitely go there again.

Sunday I went to the later service at church again. I really like the later service – there are many more people there in my age group. The only problem is that the service gets out at about 12:45 and then everybody usually goes to lunch together – but they don’t get moving until about 13:00. I need to leave by about 13:15 to get to work on time – so I never get to join them. Oh well… maybe my schedule will change in the future. One cool thing: James came to Grace and he seemed to enjoy it. He was even able to join everyone for lunch. He IM'd my phone and said that he had a great time meeting new people. Join the club!

I cooked up some Johnsonville Bratwurst this weekend to have for dinner this week. They are so fun to cook. How do you cook them? Open three beers (any recipe that starts like that has to be good), pour them in a big pot. Add a package of Brats and a quartered onion. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 15 mins. Remove the Brats and place them on a med-hot grill just to brown the outside. DO NOT POKE THE BRATS!!! This is evil brat abuse! And it will dry them out since it will crate a way for juice to run out and evaporate. That’s pretty much it – people out by the grills were drooling over my brats… mmmmmm. If you want, you can pour off the beer from the pot and caramelize the onions with a little olive oil and cover your brats on the bun with the onions. These are delicious – I guarantee it!

My sister called me on Friday – my grandmother is not doing well. I spoke to my mother and they expect that my Abuelita Eva may not make it through the next few weeks. I spoke to my command and it appears that they will allow me to return to Austin for any services that may take place and to be there for my family. The airfares for something like this (last minute) are very high so, we will just have to see how it all works out. Please pray that my Abuelita does not experience pain during this time and that the family understands that she is going to a better place. I have peace in that I know she is going to heaven.

Jul 22, 2004

Today is my Friday - I'm off tomorrow! I never thought I would look forward to Thursdays so much. My commander pulled me aside the other day to tell me that the branch chief was very happy with the work I have put in on a recent server install project. We hear that they may find more ways to use me for that type of work. I hope so - that kind of work is my favorite and my best.

On the Tour - Lance really showed how versatile he is today. Lance offered the stage win to his teammate, but the Germans wouldn't let him have it. Then when one of the Germans sped ahead and appeared to take the stage, Lance decided he was not going to give it to anyone and stole it away from him in the last 50 meters!! He deserves to win this year - he has outshined everybody.

Some of the folks that I met last weekend from Grace are going to listen to live jazz at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture gardens summer jazz series. I volunteered to pick up some snacks and get there early to stake out a spot. It rained tonight and might rain tomorrow. I hope it holds off in the evening.

So it has been a slow week... Work, sleep, tour, work, sleep, tour, work.... blah blah... Pretty boring week. I did get a chance to work out a few times this week. I'm riding the bike in the gym since I can't run for a few more weeks. My leg is feeling better, but it still hurts a little. Okay - I don't really have anything else new. I haven't really been anywhere and haven't even taken any pictures to post. I guess I am settling into a routine!

Jul 19, 2004

Lance is the KING of the mountains! He kicked butt over the weekend – recovering nine minutes and moving into second place, just 22 seconds away from first. They will hit the Alps this week – he should be able to move into first and keep it there. I just worry about Ivan Basso – he stayed on Lance’s wheel in the two mountain stages and could be a threat in the mountains. We will see!
I had to take my rental car to Enterprise just to check it in with them again. Then I went to Ft Myer to register my car so that I don’t have to be searched every time I drive onto am Army post. Then I drove down to Ft Belvoir to get a haircut and do some shopping. I picked up one of those Brita tap water filters. You know – the water out of the tap really does taste better! I also picked up some groceries and stuff. Then I went with Larry to grab some dinner. I had some sushi at a place called Café Asia. Then we walked too Whitlow’s on Wilson so he could get something to eat – he says he doesn’t eat sushi.
I had a great time at the concert on Saturday! I also met some really great people. I also found out that I should be going to the later service at church – that’s where the younger crowd is. So, I went to the later service and met a bunch more great people. It was a challenge for me to go to the later service as it ends at 12:40 or so and I usually need to leave for work by 13:15 – so I decided to go to church in my BDUs. I attracted lots of attention and many people came up to me to thank me for serving. I always like to thank them for supporting us. It all worked out… I had a few mins to stop by the apartment, pack up my lunch, and leave for work. I hope to be able to meet up with some of these new folks soon.
That’s it – nothing more to report. There are a lot of concerts coming to the area in the next few months. And I think I have decided to ship my bike out here. It looks like it might be a tad expensive, but it is a nice bike, and I would rather have it than buy a cheap one to use. Kenny might get a bike too – so I’ll have someone to ride with.
Oh yeah… I went to see a doctor today about my leg. She said it appears I have strained a muscle in there somewhere. She was able to tell me the name of the muscle – but it was a very long two word name. Basically, take 400mg ibuprofen twice a day and don’t run for a while. Maybe cycle or do the elliptical trainer. Then ease back into running. I need my bike!

Jul 15, 2004

Here is a test of the new AudioBlogger. The first sountbit doesn't sound too great - too quiet. The second sounds pretty good! I recorded this via a phone call - cool feature!
this is an audio post - click to play
Here are links to the original QuickTime video files I recorded these from. Be warned, they just over 10mb each and the links will open a new window. You need a high speed connection and it will take about a minute to start. Here they are: National Cathedral :: Jazz at the Sculpture Garden.
It looks like Blogger has added some new features to their website.

They have a new feature called blockquote. I have no idea what it looks like yet. I guess it moves text in like an indent or something.

And you can type in one window and it looks like just text with the HTML hidden. Then you can click on a tab and edit the HTML directly. Sorry - probably doesn't make any sense to you. And they have a new AudioBlogger feature where one can call a number and leave a blog over the phone if you can't get to a computer... Very interesting concept. Might have to test it soon.
I was looking for more memory for my MP3 player and found a 512mb SD card super cheap - $92 plus a $25 rebate. That's a really good price especially for a brand like Kingston. It will be good for the metro whenever I get my MetroChecks from the government. I bought one and also got free 2-day shipping. Bring on the tunes!
I also recently ordered some new contact lenses. I used to use Acuvue 2 but my opthomologist gave me a sample pair of Acuvue Advance. And let me tell you - they are the most comfortable lens I have ever worn. They feel like nothing and just hang on to moisture. I can't wait to get them! 
I went for a run last Friday and aggravated my lower left leg around my calf. Not exactly sure what did, but it still hurts. I called the medical clinic here on base to make an appt to get my leg looked at, but they said I had to come in to register for Tricare. Sooooo... I had to go in and fill out some paperwork and then they took my medical records. After all that was done, I was finally able to call and make an appt for Monday at 10:30am. I just want to make sure I didn't mess it up or something - and it's freeeee!
Tomorrow I am going to get up kinda' early and watch the Tour. Lance and the rest of the boys will hit the mountains big time. Lance should be making his move soon.

Jul 12, 2004

I am a bad blogger. I know – it has been like two weeks since I have posted. Before I go into detail on recent happenings, I want to share something very strange happened to me a few weekends ago. I decided to take the Metro to the Smithsonian. I went down to the platform and was standing waiting for my train. As it approached, I tried to gauge when door would stop near me, starting walking toward one, but it passed by me. I stood back and another door passed by me and stopped. It was the closest so I approached it. Behind the glass of the door was a man that looked kind of familiar. As I walked to the door it opened and the man took a step out and looked up at me and said, “What are you doing here?” It was my Trig teacher from Austin Community College last semester!! I asked him the same thing. I was completely taken aback… how could I run into somebody else in this huge urban jungle that isn’t even from here??? Turns out he was in town with his parents to visit the WWII memorial. His father is a WWII vet and they finally had time to come out and see it before he had to go back to Austin for the second summer session at ACC. We had a nice talk for a few minutes and I managed to snap a picture. Then we parted ways. The experience was very interesting and amazing.

Holly came to visit me during the July 4th weekend. She arrived early in the morning of July 1st into Baltimore Washington International Airport. Her flight was slightly delayed and she didn’t arrive until about 1:30 am. We drove back and didn’t get to Arlington until almost 3:00 am. Thursday I had to run to work for a little while and I was able to show Holly Bolling AFB and the building that I work in. Then we went over to the national mall and checked out a folk festival, the US Capitol, Union Station and then we wanted to see the WWII memorial at night. They do a good job of lighting most memorials at night – they look very different at night compared to day.

Friday we visited the Library of Congress, Botanical Gardens, Sculpture Gardens, Old Post Office and Lincoln Memorial. The Library of Congress is a fine example of workmanship. The colors in the murals and in the mosaics are strikingly beautiful. The lighting through the windows from the sun danced off the walls and ceilings and brought out the richness of the tones. This is one place you should come see if you are in the area. The Botanical Gardens were nice. I’m not much of a plant person, but it is interesting to see different plants all together in the same place. They had different environments for different areas of the world. They had a jungle/rainforest, dry area, desert area... it was pretty neat. My favorite was the one that had many plants that we have in Texas – it reminded me of home! The Sculpture Gardens were pretty cool – lots of very large works of art in an outside garden. But the best part was a surprise to us. As we walked closer to the garden, we could hear the smooth sounds of some lively jazz grow louder as we walked closer. When we got there, people were sitting about on the grass on blankets with picnic baskets. Every Friday evening, the museum has live jazz and the café serves simple refreshments and beverages. But you can also bring whatever you want to eat or drink too. We decided to finish some sandwiches that we saved from earlier and then bought a slice of chocolate cake. The crowd grew thicker as the evening progressed. We moved on from there and ventured over to the Old Post Office. It was once the main post office for the DC area back in the early 1900’s. Unfortunately, the area outgrew the facility in a few years and they had to move on. The district wanted to tear the building down, but public outcry saved the building from the wrecking ball and it was restored to its former glory. It is the tallest building in DC (the Washington Monument is the tallest structure by law) and has an observation tower that is accessible by anyone for free. The top of the tower is staffed by a Park Ranger who was happy to answer all and any questions. It was a great view! The tower also houses the congressional bells that are rung for special events. Lastly, we checked out the Lincoln Memorial at night. It was crowded and very busy, so we headed home.

Saturday we visited the Korean War Memorial and World War II Memorial (during daylight this time). The Korean War Memorial is a very well designed one. It consists of a group of soldiers on patrol in Korea. The figures are very life-size and real looking. The fatigue and anguish on the faces of the men is gut wrenching. It looks like the men are actually marching and interacting with each other. In the pictures that I took, it looks like the men are going about their business, but are frozen in time. Check out the pictures if you can. Then we made it back to the WWII memorial for a look during the day. Holly was impressed as I am seeing it again.

Sunday we went stopped by a local restaurant called Cosi for some breakfast before church. They had delicious bagel sandwiches. We went to church and then returned to the apartment for a very wet cook out. The rain came down all afternoon and we had planned to BBQ some meat and enjoy the afternoon by the pool. But the rain hampered that plan. It was great since the families of Kenny, Frank and Del were all in town. But we had to bring the grills under cover so that we could cook! Holly and I enjoyed some grilled rib eyes and lobster with baked potato and a bottle of wine. It was a great supper! After a short break, we all made our way to the shore of the Potomac River on Bolling AFB to watch the fireworks from the Mall. The fireworks were cool, but to tell you the truth, the fireworks were not very impressive. I realized this during the show and thought, “maybe it was because they were a few miles away,” or “maybe it was because we couldn’t clearly hear the crack and book of the fireworks exploding above us in the sky.” But then the finale came… and it was not much of a finale. Just a few sparkly fireworks and then it was over. There really was no finale. So – we all agreed in discussion after the show that it just kinda… well… sucked.

Monday brought us to the National Cathedral. The Cathedral is a beautiful place. The architecture, craftsmanship and artwork are breathtaking. Everywhere you look, inside and out, there is something new. Everything is unique and you will not see the same thing in two places. The stained glass is another thing that is simply amazing. The colors they used are vibrant. But the best part was the sounds. As we walked into the Cathedral, we could hear the sounds or the choir. Their voices gently floated through the air, resonating throughout the inside of the hall. It was an exquisite sound – almost like watching a movie. It was so dramatic, but yet smooth and soft. It is hard to explain, you need to go there if you ever have the chance. Be sure to visit in the afternoon right before a service or during an afternoon weekday service. The choir will be singing and if you stay quiet, you can observe. We took a stroll through the gardens on the property and Holly was very impressed. They were beautiful and picturesque. One very nice touch: there were benches all around the building and garden. You can stop and take in the scenery every few steps if you like.

We returned to the apartment and changed for dinner. We went to a tapas restaurant I have been eyeing for some time now called La Tasca. The food was fantastic and the service was excellent. We ordered four tapas dishes and ended up having to order a fifth to fill us up. We had a great time and enjoyed the meal. It was a first for the both of us.

Tuesday morning we had to wake up quite early so that we could drive up to BWI for her 6:50 am flight. We made it in good time and she even had time to grab a bite before the flight. All in all – we had a fantastic time. It was so good to see Holly again. Seeing her was like a dream! It was weird at first that she was here with me. I hadn’t seen her in more than a month, so we kinda’ had to readjust! But it was like we had just seen each other or something. Then, as Monday approached, I knew that it would be a while before I would see her again. I caught myself thinking several times on Monday, “She’ll be gone in a few hours.” Seeing her face and being able to hold her again was such a morale booster. I can’t wait to see her again in a few months -- hopefully in September. There are quite a few pictures from her visit located in week 9.

This past weekend I explored a little bit. I took metro to the Dupont Circle area just to check it out. There were lots of restaurants, coffee shops and places to hang out. I also saw the documentary “Super Size Me.” It’s about a guy that eats nothing but McDonald’s for 28 days to see what the effects are on his body. He went from being very healthy to a 20+ lbs heavier, high cholesterol, liver clogged fool. It was mostly informational with the drama of his stuffing his face and getting sick. Saturday I helped my friend Wendy move from an apartment on the 4th floor to a 14th floor condo. I met Wendy at Crosspoint and found out that she also works at the office. Her friends Joy (another Crosspointer) and Tom (both also work at the office) also helped out. There was supposed to be more help, but it never showed. It was a heck of a challenge, but we got it done in just under ten hours. I also had to drive the U-Haul a few miles to the new place and then we had to make a marathon run back to the U-Haul before they closed. Man I was sore on Sunday, but I really did enjoy helping her move and spending some time with everyone.

This coming weekend I am going to a Michael W. Smith / MercyMe / David Crowder Band concert with a group from Grace Community Church. I really like MercyMe and David Crowder but am not really familiar with MWS. Looks like it will be hot and humid this week with more rain. When does it cool down here?

Jun 27, 2004

I didn't have any problems with the neighbor - haven't had any since that night... er.. morning.

Thursday I worked all day on servers!! Racking em up baby! That involves placing new Dell servers into a server rack and connecting all the wires so that everything looks and works great. It is what I love to do and I do well at it. I stayed way past the end of my shift to almost 2300 to get it done. It felt good to get something done that I was really in to, know what I mean? I really wish I had some tunes to jam to since I was working in a hallway by myself. I emailed Holly to see if she was using the Rio S50 MP3 player that we have at home, and she said she was. So I did some research and decided that I wanted to purchase a Rio Cali 256. I looked around on the net for one mostly with Froogle, and I found good prices, but everyone that had a good price was out of stock. I ended up turning to BestBuy - they were out of stock online, but I was able to place the order for pick-up at the closest store. How convenient!

Friday, I went to Ft Myer to get a haircut and gasoline on Friday. What a combo, huh? The gas was cheap - only $1.98/gal. The haircut was cheap too - it sucked. One of the worst haircuts I have ever had. Most other military barber shops have a vacuum system that sucks up and stores all hair so that it does not get all over the place. These folks don't use them - that was the first bad sign. Then the guy just chopped away at my head - it didn't feel like he was doing that good of a job - I can just kinda tell. I was nervous through it all... then he gave me the mirror - there was so much cut hair on top of my head that I could barely tell what was cut. I asked him to take more off the top and he used a comb and electric razor. Again, I could just not tell when I looked at it. It looked good enough and I paid and left. I was going to do a few more errands, but I was so itchy and he got hair all in my shirt, that I went back to the apartment to take another quick shower. It was rediculous and I will never go there again. The barbers at Ft Belvoir are much better.

After the shower, I drove down to the Pentagon City mall. I got there in no time, but the parking was crazy and crazy expensive - so get this... I drove back to my apartment and took the Metro instead. And it really was more enjoyable - relaxing - less stressful. I picked up my Rio and stopped at Borders for an iced coffee and also picked up a Lonely Planet travel guide for the DC area. There were several different books on the shelf from different publishers, but my friend Jill gave me a Lonely Planet guide for Holly and my Honeymoon to Puerto Rico and it really saved us lots of time and money, so I figured I should go with them again. It's pretty good and will come in handy, I'm sure. Then I went to dinner with Frank to Red Hot & Blue. Now they have some awesome ribs - good beans and tasty cole slaw. I am going to have to go there again.

Saturday I went to a men's group meeting for Grace Community Church. It was a good meeting and there were lots of good guys there. Too bad they only meet once a month! I wish it was more often. After that, I ventured over to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. It was quite crowded but very interesting. I really wanted to see the historical items, like the Apollo 11 and Mercury 7 capsules - very cool! I found a lot of the displays to be kind of outdated though. But it appears that they are slowly updating everything. There is a new annex out by Dulles airport that I need to go see soon. Maybe when Holly visits?? After that I took a stroll down the mall to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. This was an impressive facility - I think most of it has been updated in the last few years. The dinosaur fossils reminded me of going to the LA museums when I was a kid. And the ancient artifacts from many years ago from Egypt, Asia and such were very cool. I also caught an Imax movie about bugs - it was very 3D and pretty good too. Overall - a very nice experience. I will be back to see more movies and museums in the future. After that, I took a stroll to Chinatown and had some great food. A very long day - lots of walking.

Sunday I went to Grace Community Church again. They have had a good series on health and taking care of one's self. It has been hard to miss. Then I went back to work. I think I am going to try to take the Metro to work soon. I am not getting reimbursed for gasoline, and the government has a program that pays for employees to take the metro - it will take longer to get to work, but I won't have to drive in the traffic anymore. I am just waiting to see how the program works. Man - Holly will be here soon! I can't wait to see her. I have been granted some time off for her visit - it is going to be so good to see her again.

Jun 23, 2004

I have been here for a week with not one problem - until last night. My neighbor decided to watch TV quite loud at about 2am. I hit the wall a few times, but I guess he didn't hear it or didn't care. At 2:15 I finally called the office (which is manned 24 hours a day) and she said she would call him but needed me to get the apt number. I put on my shorts and walked out and the guy's door was cracked open and you could hear the TV in the hallway too! I called her back and she said she would call him.

I got comfortable and waited... and waited.... fifteen minutes rolled by and no change. It was so loud that I could hear that he was listening to a replay of the Tonight Show - that's loud. At 2:40 I called again.... she said she would make a personal visit. The sound soon subsided and I fell fast asleep. I awoke at 8:30am to the loudness again. That's not even six hours of sleep! What kind of maniac was I dealing with?? Well, he turned it off soon as he must have gone to work. Heck - I keep saying him, it might even be a her. If it happens again tonight, I am making a personal visit.

Holly emailed me a list of things she wants to do for sure. They have this tour that goes all around the city, but you can get off and see stuff and then get back on all day long! It's pretty cool - gonna have to look into that. I am also thinking of making reservations to go up to the top of the Washington Monument - that would be cool. Maybe a trip out to the mountains too. Not too much though - we need some time to just chill.

I have posted pictures from the day I volunteered at the food bank and also from the food tasting this past week. I also moved the Reagan pictures to a different page inside week 6. Check it out by going to the pics link on the home page.

Jun 20, 2004

Sure has been a busy week - I am settled in and finally feeling very comfortable. I have tried to put everything in place and it kinda feels like home! The weekend went by too fast. Friday I slept in and went grocery shopping and stuff. I can’t remember if I mentioned this or not – but the grocery store is right across the street. I really can’t drive there. And since I live on the 11th floor and have to carry the groceries up there, I am limited on my grocery runs by what I can physically carry. So, in the store, as the basket gets heavier and heavier, I start to rethink the priorities, “Do I need this 12-pack of soda this trip? Maybe I can go without apples for a few days…” So I lose a few things to lighten the load and then make the trip back to my room. I guess I could drive across the street, right? Wouldn’t that be a waste of gas! At least I could fill up the car and make several trips back down to the garage or just use that wardrobe cart thingie and just hang bags off of it. Sorry… just thinking out loud.

Went to dinner at some Cajun place with James Friday night. He has one of those Entertainment Passbooks, so we spent about half an hour trying to find a place to eat that was close by and in the book. It was pretty tasty. Then we drove down to Georgetown and used another coupon for some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. The Georgetown area is very nice – but darn busy at night; lots of restaurants, bars and shops. Then we ventured over to Union Station to catch a movie, but they were closed. It was just after 10pm! Don’t movie theatres usually have late movies? And since nothing was open to validate our parking, we got to pay $5 for 16 minutes… that’s just wrong if you ask me.

Saturday was a long day. I woke up and looked down at the pool area and saw it was very crowded. I needed to grill some chicken and decided to go down to check out the grills. In the elevator, I noted a sign that said there was a pool party starting at noon. As a result, the grills were being used to cook hotdogs, burgers and chicken. Seeing the opportunity for free food, I went back upstairs, paged everyone to let them know, and changed into pool attire. I went back down stairs and had a bite to eat and then digested it in the sun, laying next to the pool. When I got too hot, I jumped in and the temp was just right! After sunning and cooling off for an hour or so, I was hungry again (I know… I eat a lot!! Darn metabolism!) I grabbed some more food and then saw Larry. He had a bite and we sat for a while and I went up to shower.

I took the Metro to Fairfax and met up with James. We went to an outdoor festival called “Taste of Reston.” A bunch of restaurants setup in booths and offer samples of their foods for $1-5 a taste. You have to shop around to find a good deal or you can blow all your money on a few booths. I got some ginger beer ribs, lobster bisque, awesomely fresh fruit and oysters… all for $8. Then we went to a CrossPoint send off for folks on a mission trip to SW Asia. It was good to see some CP faces again and we watched the movie “Miracle.” It was about the 1980 hockey team beating the socks off the commie Russians in the Olympics at Lake Placid. It was pretty good – the hockey game at the end had me on the end of my seat. They did a very good job recreating the game for the movie.

This morning I went to Grace Community Church again. It was good, but I think I am going to check our McLean Bible Church next Sunday. The series they started today is good and I might have to go to McLean early then Grace afterwards so that I don’t miss it. Work was uneventful. I went to the AF DFAC (Air Force Dining Facility) for dinner. It was pretty good! I have not had a bad meal there yet. What else?... I finally cooked some chicken on the grill this morning. It smelled so gooood! I wanted to eat some right then, but I had to hold back and leave it for later. I’m gonna mix it with some sliced tomatoes and spices and put it over some pasta. Ugh… just thinking about food is making me feel bloated. Time to go to sleep soon… I am going to try to go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier so that I can fit some exercise into my schedule in the morning. I need to do more PT!!!

Photos from the food tasting can be found here.

Jun 16, 2004

I stayed up until 3am last night completely unpacking and putting everything in its place. After a month and a half of living out of a suitcase, it was a relief to get everything out of my bags. I saw stuff in the bottom of my bag that was so wrinkled and deformed... I even forgot that I had packed some items. I was like.. "oh yeah - I remember this!" I am going to have to rewash most of it just to get it smelling fresh and to unwrinkle it all.

Holly will be here in a few weeks to visit! I am so excited - I can't count the days quick enough. I sure do miss her. I'm not liking this living on my own business again. I really miss her cooking and companionship. I can't wait until she gets here!

Del moved in today and Scott moves in tomorrow. We're just waiting for Frank to move in and then we'll all be in the same place again. That's about it for today. I need to wash clothes and cook some food for the next few nights. I wanted to get everything put away so that I can finally relax. Hey! Send me an email - I'd love to hear from you.

Jun 15, 2004

So… Kenny and I were supposed to be able to move into our apartments at 1400 yesterday. Kenny and I get there at about 1345 and we are told that the rooms are not ready yet. Unfortunately, the guy at the front desk wasn’t able to help us out much… you see, the building we are in is actually an apartment building. People rent apartments and sign leases as all other apartment dwellers do. We are leasing our apartments from a company that leases rooms from the apartment building. So, we really have nothing to do with the apartment building other than being able to use its facilities and amenities. All other issues with our rooms must be addressed to the middle man company.

With that said – we sat in the lobby of this really nice hotel, feeling quite out of place, for near an hour. Since we were quite an eyesore in the lobby, with all of our suitcases, duffel bags, boxes and a cart full of bags, and hanging clothes, we decided to head upstairs to check on our rooms. We got up there and checked out Kenny’s room first. He knocked and a voice from within the room, with a Spanish accent, said, “Alo?” The lady that was cleaning the room had stuff everywhere!! Dishes, refrigerator shelves, sponges and spray bottles all over the place. She was very nice in telling us that she still had quite a bit of work to do but that she was almost done. I don’t think she finished until a little after 1500. Larry showed up (he moved in Sunday) and we moved all of our stuff into Kenny’s room and walked the block and a half over to Enterprise to pick up our rental cars. We were standing there and I heard the guy ask Larry for his driver’s license I realized that gave mine to the guy at the front desk so that I could use the wardrobe thinga-ma-bob to move my stuff. I wasn’t able to pick up my car just then – I had to catch a ride back with Kenny. Back at the apartments, Kenny finished moving in and my room was still not ready – I think it was about 1600 or so. I walked back to Enterprise and finally picked up my car. I ended up with a Jetta – more on that later. So I am driving out of the garage and realize that the rental car dude has left his clipboard with Kenny’s paperwork on it on my hood. I grabbed it and decided to drive out of the garage to get a signal to call the guy. I drove out and drove down the street and called the guy. I told him I would drive down the street next to their building and give it to him there. I pulled up, he ran out (a little show if you asked me – I was blocking traffic) and got the clipboard. I made it back and the room still was not done! I had to chill in Kenny’s room to pass the time.

The clock ticked away and soon it was near 1700! We had to leave to go to work and I was hungry. Kenny then discovered that the microwave in his room was not working! How was I going to heat up my food?! Well, the other room was open, she was just cleaning it! So, I grabbed my stuff and went over to my room and used the microwave in there. We had a nice conversation about how it was her day off and they called her in at the last minute to do our rooms, and they told her they would be easy and they were DISGUSTING!! Kenny’s room was the worst! The people that lived in there must have fried everything because there was grease just caked on the cabinets above the stove. His room smells like a grease pit. And right in front of the sofa there are all kinds of stains and spots. They must have eaten dinner on the sofa every night and dripped their greasy stuff all over the floor. Apparently, the management has agreed to shampoo the carpet in his room.

I ate my food and we went to work. I came back to my room and it was finally done. I have to admit – the room is pretty nice. The furniture is nice and the layout is decent enough. It is a heck of a lot better that a hotel room!! I have my own kitchen, dining area, bedroom and bathroom! It even has a top and bottom washer and dryer – which I have already used and can say it works very well. Some of the surfaces in the room could have been cleaned a bit better, but I guess the fact that she was in a hurry contributed to the lack of detail. Nothing a bottle of Clorox Bleach cleaner can’t fix, right? Anyway – I finally got all my stuff moved into my room. And that’s about it. I spent a good part of the evening trying to touch on a few things, but didn’t really get a lot accomplished. I guess I was a little overwhelmed with the prospect of having my very own room that I could unpack into after living out of a suitcase since May 3rd.

This morning, I walked across the street (isn’t that cool?!) to the Safeway to buy some cleaning supplies and some groceries. I spent a good part of the morning re-cleaning surfaces in the apartment and also put most of the dishes in the dishwasher (yahooooo!!!) I was doing so well that I completely lost track of time and had to very quickly get dressed for work and make a lunch to take with me. I grabbed my backpack and took the elevator when I realized that I forgot my lunch. Back up and I went and back into my room. Inside, it hit me that I also did not have my beret. I looked around real quick and could not find it, I jogged my memory real quick and assured myself that it was in Kenny’s car since we car pooled yesterday. I sent him a quick page and hopped back into the elevator back down to the 1st floor… which was the wrong floor… I think… I was so lost trying to find my car. I had to walk up a level to find it. I’ll get the lay of the land soon. I drove to work and was expecting to get a page back from Kenny, but nothing. I drove as fast (but safe) as I could since I was running late. It was on I-295, while trying to pass a car whilst going up thy hill, that I realized that this cool looking Jetta I have has a piece of crap engine. I could not pass the car and had to drop back and get behind it! Can you imagine the humiliation?!? The Sable I had before would have smoked it! I guess you have to have a turbo edition or something to drive like I am used to. I will have to see if I can get another car.

Okay – so I finally got to work and sat in the car waiting for a response… but none came. I paged again… nothing. I was really hoping that he would reply so that I could get it out of his car. It would be very humiliating to have to walk outside with no cover (it’s a military honor thing.) I called him – no answer! Then I thought (don’t ask why I didn’t think this before) I can call him in the office! I called and he just stepped out! Dang-it! They took a message and he finally stepped out to find me and my beret – but he didn’t find it. I guess I lost it somewhere. Heck – It might even be in my room somewhere but in the chaos of moving in it’s probably under something. So, I made the long walk from the garage to the building, sun beating down on my head with shame. I need to find that beret or break out my new one and get it in shape. Not an easy task in one night.

Tonight I need to finish cleaning my apartment up and get to sleep. So – with that – off to clean!

Jun 13, 2004

Work was uneventful but - I get to move tomorrow!!! As you can tell, I am really happy about moving. I had a good time at church this morning. It is about a mile from my apartment. One of the guys at work told me about another church called McLean Bible Church. It looks huge, but they have lots of groups including ones on weekdays in the morning. I think I might check them out next Sunday. Heck – I might even stop by a group this week. Yeah, this is a short post. I need to put groceries in bags and finish packing for the big move tomorrow!

Jun 12, 2004

I volunteered my time this morning with CrossPoint DC to work at the Arlington Food Assistance Center. We brought in the food that was collected by the church. We were broken into two groups: some cleaned and some sorted food. We basically cleaned plastic waiting chairs outside and then organized their kitchen area. I’m not sure if they will like the way we organized it, but we didn’t have a lot of time and it looks a lot better than it did. The other group sorted the 450 pounds of food that we brought in and we called the mission a success.

It was a beautiful day today! Clear blue sky with temps in the 70s – as good as it gets here in DC this time of year. I drove around the area that we will be moving to in Rosslyn. I think I know my way around there pretty good – but lots of stuff is right within walking distance. There are shops and restaurants – and the metro station is only a block away. I am thinking or getting one of the metro SmarTrip cards. They have a RFID chip in them and are rechargeable. You just hold it up to the turnstile and it deducts the fare from the card! You hold it up to a fare machine to recharge it. Pretty cool! I think I will be taking the metro quite often now.

I did some packing since Kenny and I are moving on Monday. I seem to have a lot more stuff now that I have semi-unpacked. OF course, now I have groceries, a box from home and a big o bag or dirty clothes. Why pay to wash it now when I can do it for free tomorrow?!

I have to go to work tomorrow. I think I am going to check out a different church called Grace Community Church to see what it is like. I need to go to bed soon so that I can wake up early for the 1000 service. I hope I can cope with the slight body schedule change tomorrow.

Photos from the food bank can be found here.

Jun 11, 2004

I woke up early this morning so that I could watch the funeral at National Cathedral. Seeing the procession on Wednesday really touched me and peaked my interest. It was a drizzly cool day here in DC... kind of fitting for the events, actually. The ceremony was good and the speeches were good. I thought Thatcher’s comments were very good but my favorite was Bush 41’s. You could tell that he had an emotional connection to the Reagan – after all, Bush was Reagan’s VP for eight years. It was obvious that Bush 41 wrote his own speech – and it was plainly obvious that Bush 43 didn’t lay a hand on his speech – his speech writers concocted it for him. It was devoid of emotion but was all business. I just liked Bush 41’s better. I watched the events as they loaded the casket on to the 474 and took off for CA. It is amazing how punctual the events have been so far. They have been on time for every event so far.

I went shopping during the day in the misty rain. It was cool and dreary – but I actually liked it. I like cold weather, you know. I made it back in time to catch the 747 landing in CA and the procession to Semi Valley. I was taken aback by the views of the motorcade on the freeway on the way to Semi Valley. Cars in the opposite lane of traffic were stopped. It was a Friday afternoon, at rush hour, and these people had completely stopped on the freeway to pay their respects. The entire freeway was a parking lot! It truly was a strange sight! The funeral ceremony at the burial site was not quite as touching as at the cathedral in DC. None of the speeches stood out for me. What did finally get me was when they folded up the flag that was draped over the casket all week long. This flag had been from coast to coast and had been seen by hundreds of thousands of people on both coasts, including me! The flag was given to Nancy and she finally had a chance to approach the wooden casket where she finally broke into tears as her children rushed to comfort her. This woman had carried herself so well in front on the public all week, and everything finally culminated into this final moment. I was choked up at the sight of this strong woman finally releasing some of the sadness that she had perhaps withheld from public view all week long. It seemed inappropriate that we were able to share in that moment with her. It also seemed too short… almost as if her kids had pulled her away. I’m sure she could have spent much more time there with her husband. I feel sorry for her and hope that she was eventually able to express and release all the emotions that she was and is feeling. She is a strong woman – I truly respect her for being able to cope through the past ten years and especially through this past week.

Jun 9, 2004

We made it to the procession and it was amazing. Del and I reported this morning at 0700 for CTT, but CTT did not stand for Common Task Training, it meant Common Task Testing! Del and I were not ready for any kind of testing but were willing to muddle through it to get through the day. Unfortunately, we were told to report with our berets, but when we showed up, everyone had face camo on and were wearing their field caps, not berets! We felt out of place and thank God they called us out of the formation. They basically told us that we could leave and could do it in a few months. We went to work and were able to leave a little early to head downtown. The caisson was scheduled to arrive at the Ellipse from Andrews AFB at 1800. I figured we would need to find a spot by 1600 to make sure we were up front. We went back to the hotel and I managed to grab a quick one hour nap since I only got about 3-4 hours last night thanks to my screwed up body schedule. Scott and I jumped on the Metro. We walked down to 7th and Constitution and found a spot in the shade, just behind a family. They were standing down on the street right behind the barricade so we were able to stand on the curb right behind them. Larry finally met up with us and we waited 1800 to roll around. As we stood there, we all struck up conversation with various people around us; military people in uniform, families, one guy had a mini TV and was able to tell us where the casket was. There were plenty of Secret Service agents up and down the street. We could even see some security forces atop the buildings – snipers perhaps?

The procession reached us led by lots of motorcycles and military color guard. Then one by one – different companies of soldiers passed us. I don’t think any of us expected any troops to pass us like they did! There was at least one company from every force, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and even the Coast Guard. The military academies also sent a company of cadets. It was great to see our present and future soldiers marching. All the major military bands were also in attendance. They sounded great and I was very impressed. It seemed like all the troops were marching at a slower cadence than normal. Maybe this was part of the ceremony – everything seemed to move in slow motion. All the movements of the troops, including salutes, were slow and deliberate. The crowd applauded several times as the sound of the marching feet against the pavement droned on and on. It was inspiring. The troops truly made me proud to be a soldier. Several times during the parade, I thought to myself, “This is sooo cool. I can’t believe this. I am so glad I’m here”

Finally, the caisson approached. The crowd grew silent as the clip clop of the horses grew louder. The flag draped coffin came in to view and it was an awesome sight. I couldn’t believe that the same casket that we had seen on TV earlier in the week was about to pass us. The caisson grew closer and finally passed directly in front of us. I was so fascinated by the sight that I almost forgot to snap some pictures. I snapped a few as the caisson was pulled into the distance. In seconds, the vehicle carrying Nancy Reagan passed us. There she was with her glasses on, peering out of the window, waving occasionally. In the few seconds that I saw her, she looked slightly dazed... expressionless and tired, as she has looked all week long. After all, this was only Wednesday – she will stay in the spotlight for the rest of the week.

The motorcade drove into the distance and was soon out of sight. People started leaving, but we knew that there was going to be a military flyover when the caisson reached 4th Street. We stayed our ground and peered upward as people scattered. Then we heard the low drone of the F-15s. Where were they coming from? I heard that they were flying south to north, perpendicular to Constitution; others around us said they were coming down parallel to Constitution. The first set of four came into sight as they flew over the building across the street from us, perpendicular like I had heard. As the first one flew over us and away, the sound of the jets made it to the ground. The sounds was so intense, my heart was beating hard as I tried to get my camera ready for a shot if the next formation. The roar from the F-15s was awesome! I snapped a few more pictures as they thundered overhead. Finally, the last set came into view, and just as it did, one peeled off and flew straight up in the missing man formation. I snapped a few shots and lowered my camera and just stood there, gazing up at the sky. I felt alone as the roar of the lone jet above me grew quieter. When I could no longer see it, I remembered where I was and we finally left the side of the road where I had witnessed history in the making.

The crowd was just crazy!! We decided we should grab a bite to eat first and let the crowd inundate the metro first. We walked into an area near Chinatown and ducked into a pub called Fadó. Here I thought Fadó was an Austin original. I had no idea they were a chain! We each ordered a sandwich and had a pint. We toasted to the late President Reagan – may he rest in peace.

Photos from the procession can be found here.