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.

Jun 8, 2004

I have been taken aback by the reaction to Ronald Reagan’s death. I don’t remember much about Reagan and his policies during his presidency – I was far too young to understand. In fact, I only remember a handsome, charismatic man, and his hushed voice. I also remember many parodies of him – the best I remember is Johnny Carson. In fact, I knew that he had Alzheimer’s disease, but I cannot recall when it was discovered that he had it. I know that the history books discuss the assassination attempt on his life, but I did know when that was until these past few days. I did some research and found this website that includes an excerpt from his journal describing that horrible day. Here’s an excerpt:
“I was almost to the car when I heard what sounded like two or three firecrackers over to my left - just a small fluttering sound, pop, pop, pop. I turned and said, "What the hell's that?" Just then, Jerry Parr, the head of our Secret Service unit, grabbed me by the waist and literally hurled me into the back of the limousine. I landed on my face atop the armrest across the back seat and Jerry jumped on top of me. When he landed, I felt a pain in my upper back that was unbelievable. It was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt. "Jerry," I said, "get off, I think you've broken one of my ribs." Read the rest here.

Reading this, I learned that Reagan was a very strong Christian. Many of his speeches refer to “a shining city on a hill.” This is in reference to Matthew 5:14-16, which includes, "You are the light of the world, a city set on a hill cannot be hid," a passage that Reagan often quoted in his speeches to project his view of America as a beacon of freedom and hope in the world. I can’t believe the number of people that are streaming through his library in CA. We might go downtown to see the procession from the Ellipse to the Capitol. But we are supposed to go to CTT (Common Task Training) tomorrow which is from 0700 to 1600. How nice, since I have to work until 2200 today. I hope we can get out early so that we can get down there and stake out a spot. I have been intrigued by all the hoopla that has started since his death.

Jun 6, 2004

I love Chinese food. Saturday, James took me to a great restaurant called China Star. I was impressed by the extensive menu of delicacies. They must have had about 100 items on the menu. I told James how much I like dumplings and dim sum. He proceeded to order for us, in Chinese. It seemed like he was talking for along time – I had to idea what he was ordering. Soon, the first item came out. It was very lean slices of beef, served cool. It was marinated in cilantro, peppers and some type of pepper sauce. It looked interesting but smelled delicious… it also smelled hot. I asked James if it was hot. He proceeded to tell me of the four levels of spiciness they serve in the restaurant. They have mild, hot, fire and the highest level, which they call numbing. Wow! I was thinking, “Numbing? Is that safe?!” So, I braced myself and had a taste… it was delicious! It was hot, but not as hot as I thought it would be. It was not like the persistent hot that you get when you eat jalapenos or hot salsa. You know… the kind that just does not go away and you have to stop eating and then when you have food that is just heat hot is burns your mouth? And it was not hot like spicy mustard or wasabe – not the kind that clears out your nose. It truly was numbing… my tongue actually felt kind of numb! It was such an interesting sensation – I had to have more! There was a bit of hotness to it, my nose even started to sweat, but it was not a killer heat. It was very good! In fact, James suggested that I drink some hot tea with it, and the heat from the tea was not exaggerated by the beef.

Next they brought out the fried and steamed dumplings. They were very good! I have never had steamed dumplings like these. They were very soft but not too soggy. The pork flavor came through in every bite. The fried dumplings were fried to the perfect texture… slightly chewy on the outside, and very soft and tasty inside. Both were delicious with the soy dip. The egg roll that came with my meal was just okay. It was a bit under-fried and the wonton wrapping was a little mealy. You could just taste the dough – it was not cooked through. It’s funny – I can’t even remember what I ordered as my main dish. I think I ordered garlic chicken or something. It was just a regular dish – it was good, but not as impressive as the appetizers. As you can tell, the appetizers really made an impression on me – I need to go back and have some of that beef again. You know, it sure seems like I write a lot about food. But you know what; food is one of the things that I truly enjoy… in moderation, of course!

Ronald Reagan died Saturday at his home in California. I wonder if there will be a large celebration of his life.

Jun 4, 2004

So I am back on the second shift. That’s right… 1400 to 2230. Fun fun FUN!! I guess I really do kinda like it since I get to sleep in now and then go to work. I just have trouble going to sleep thanks to the TV. I had that problem the last time I had a TV in the same room as my bed. I don’t think my apartment will have a TV in the bedroom – that’s a good thing.

It has been rather wet here in the DC area. We have gotten some type of rain almost everyday this week. Not that that’s a bad thing – here in the summer time – it stays cool when it rains – unlike Texas where it can stay pretty warm and then muggy. Highs through the weekend should be in the 70s.

I don’t really have a whole lot planned for the weekend. On a high note, I finally went grocery shopping this week. I actually cooked dinner two nights and have had enough food to be able to bring dinner to work with me! I did venture out today for lunch though and got a Panini sandwich at this place called Panera Bread. They have pretty good stuff there! The Panini was not like I have seen on TV – it was not quite what I was expecting, not the same bread, but it was good. Maybe next time I will try a real Panini, or better yet, I can find a real Italian joint here that sells them.

You know what I do miss? A dishwasher. It’s cool cooking for myself and stuff, but I only have like, two plates and not a whole lot of cookware. I have to wash dishes after every meal. It would not be that bad if the sink was a little bigger. The one in the room is big enough for one big plate to sit in. And deep enough for maybe one pot without it being completely underwater. It’s a little small, but the way my mom taught me to wash dished when I was younger is paying off. I have to have a small bowl with soapy water and then rinse in the sink. Thanks mom!

CIA director George Tenet resigned yesterday. I guess our organization did a bit of work with the CIA in the past. Why is that such big news? I have no idea – just thought I’d mention it.

Man, I just ate a few hours ago and I am hungry again – I wonder what I can snack on in my lunch bag?… looks like the grapes win.

Jun 1, 2004

Memorial Day Weekend

Friday evening all of us took the metro up to the Ballston area and had dinner at a Mexican/Salvadoran restaurant. It was good, but not great. It was nice to hang out, but on the way back, we were all so tired that the metro ride was not entirely fun.

Saturday was relaxing. I slept in and chilled for most of the day. Frank and I did some shopping and later went down to Old Town Alexandria. The place was packed!! It is a street with lots of restaurants and shops. Since the WWII dedication events were going on, there were tons of people and bikers in town. There were bikes parked up and down the street. It was pretty cool! Lots of rough looking, good old, proud Americans. The only thing I could do without is the thunder from the bikes, but I guess it would not be right without it. We went to another Mexican joint and it was much better than the place we went to Friday night. The food was good and very reasonably priced. They also provided us with very good service. The fact that they were all Mexican was a plus – I was confident that the food would be good.

I went to the new church I was interested in on Sunday afternoon. I wasn’t exactly jazzed by the experience and I felt empty afterward. When the service was over, I looked at my watch and the service at the other church, CrossPoint DC, was just getting started. I hopped in my car and drove about three miles to CrossPoint and made it there just before the pastor started his message. It felt good to walk in there and sit down. The message was good and the music was excellent. After the service I joined everyone for snacks and some of the people invited me to go to the WWII memorial. We carpooled in several cars to get there (thank GOD! I surely don’t know my way around the mall area.) On the way I discovered that two people in the car also work at the office with me… small world! Let me tell you, the planners and designers did a great job. The memorial is a beautiful piece of art. It was nighttime and the lighting was very good. There must have been several hundred people milling about. There were still plenty of veterans handing out and it was good to see them. I wish I would have had my camera, but since it was dark and I had no tripod, it was okay. I will have to make it out again to snap some pictures.

Three of us went to grab a bite after visiting the memorial. My new friends, James and Scott, and I went to a burger joint and I had a very yummy bacon cheeseburger and a blueberry shake. I wish I knew where it was so that I could go there again, but Scott will be able to tell me. Scott is in the Army and is a member of the “Old Guard.” He does special assignments (I think that’s what he said.) He told us that on Monday, he and his comrades were going to line the route of the President and his motorcade as they make their way to the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. I got there but after I walked very quickly uphill for what seemed like a long time, I learned that the ceremony was closed to us mere lowly people. I did see Scott while he was standing at attention on the road though. I stuck near the President’s route and snapped some shots of the cemetery itself. Soldiers from the Old Guard place more than 240,000 US flags on the graves. It is quite a sight to see all the flags lined up. I got some very cool pictures. The President finally made it out of there and I was able to get a few shots of his motorcade. I think you can see Donald Rumsfeld in one car and Laura Bush in the other. They certainly haul butt down the street. They don’t waste any time getting from point A to point B.

I met up with James at Arlington and we went over to a ‘picnic’ with some other church members. It was supposed to be outside, but it was rainy and we had to have it indoors. They used an electric grill and it was so smoky inside! But the food was good and company was great. After that, we went to a gathering for People of the World – a group from the church. I believe that most of the folks there were Chinese. They had a BBQ of all meat. And when I say all meat, I mean it. There was really nothing else but meat there. Ribs, chicken, clams, pork chops, it was unbelievable! The just kept putting more meat on the grill… they took meat off and put more meat on. They were so friendly and it was sooo good. Definitely my kind of get together! I did take some pictures and will post them soon. After that, we went over to a graduation party and I ate a little bit more. More very nice people and good food. It was just such an awesome day, but man was I pooped! On top of it being a long day, we had to drive back to Alexandria in a torrential rain storm! They have had some very wet weather here in the past week or so. But it had kept the temperatures in the 70’s – not bad at all.

Tuesday was a very slow day – I was very tired from Monday and did a lot of reading. I also learned that Kenny and I were back on the 2nd shift. I was going to go to the church men’s group, but decided that I would need to go grocery shopping instead so that I could cook dinner to eat at work. Since I will be on nights now, I needed to finally make the jump and save money on food by cooking dinner. I also had the privilege of washing my clothes again. I can’t wait until I move into my apartment June 14th where I will be able to do laundry in my own place and don’t have to leave to keep checking on it. I now know that I will be on the 11th floor of the building – I wonder if I will have a view of anything good? Well, need to get to bed. I have to cook breakfast and dinner tomorrow morning.