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?